Woods: 13 posts

Cartier L’Envol : Perfume Review

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Despite dire prognoses that perfumery is dying and that “there is nothing good anymore”, this year brought a number of fragrances I was happy to discover, namely, Azzedine Alaia, Galop d’Hermès and L‘Envol de Cartier. I point out these three perfumes in particular, because I not only liked them, I wore them so much that they now can be called staples. That all three are easily available from the department store is a bonus point. I’ve reviewed Alaia and Galop here, while my discussion of L’Envol de Cartier appears in my FT column, Fragrance Inspired by Flight.

cartier-envol

“The idea of a fragrance inspired by flight has two iconic precedents, both from the 1930s. Caron’s marvellous orange chypre En Avion was dedicated to the first women pilots such as Hélène Boucher and Amelia Earhart, while Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit paid homage to the writer and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. These are fitting associations because flight is key to understanding fragrance – perfume takes off in the air the moment the liquid touches the skin. Perfumers control the effects of their compositions by using materials of different volatilities – citrus and green notes soar in an instant; musks and woods are slower to become airborne.

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Yves Saint Laurent Oriental Collection Majestic Rose : Perfume Review

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It’s easy to dismiss the Oriental Collection from Yves Saint Laurent as yet another banal attempt to capture the attention of the Gulf markets. Hence, we have the luxury packaging, high prices and a trite press release. Noble Leather, Majestic Rose, Supreme Bouquet and Splendid Wood are said to be inspired by “the splendor of the East.” But overload of orientalism aside, the collection judged only on its olfactory merits is very good. The ideas are clever, interesting and well-executed. And, as I discovered when traveling in Oman, traditional Gulf perfumery is spectacular enough to emulate.

rose-india

In traditional Middle Eastern and Persian Gulf perfumery, rose and oud are important players. With the discovery of oud by European and American perfumes, dark roses have become common enough, and every line worth its prestige brand name has attempted them with varying levels of success. Blend rose with enough dark woods, and even a novice can approximate something vaguely “eastern”, but what makes traditional perfumery and fragrances like Majestic Rose interesting is their use of bright accents. Harmony, especially if we’re talking about dark, rich notes, is hard to achieve.

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Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey : Fragrance Review

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Many like to knock contemporary masculine perfumery. It’s boring. It’s bland. It’s all fake citrus and sharp lavender, fly the accusations. I have often been the accuser, but today I’m going to defend the valiant attempts to make a sensible masculine fragrance. Folks, making a good masculine is just so darn hard. As far as the audience goes, many men, especially in North America and Germany, are a conservative bunch. The consumer data tell the story: they are more hesitant to try something different. They prefer to wear fragrances similar to what their fathers wore. Many don’t want to admit they even wear scent. “I don’t wear perfume,” says my cousin as he walks around in a huge cloud of Axe body spray.

nuitissey

If perfume companies assume that men will wear anything under a familiar label, they make a mistake. Even if your average guy doesn’t want to push his boundaries with new scents, he still wants quality and classical good taste. When my cousin’s beloved Axe Apollo got reformulated and lost in diffusion and finesse, he instantly noticed it. What resulted was a soliloquy worthy of a Greek tragic hero.

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Aedes de Venustas Palissandre d’Or : Perfume Review

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Aedes de Venustas is a niche’s niche. A brand developed by Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner, the owners of the eponymous New York artisanal perfume boutique. In collaboration with several renowned perfumers, they’ve released Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum, Copal Azur, Iris Nazarena, and Oeillet Bengale, all four standing out in the crowded niche field. The fifth launch, Palissandre d’Or, likewise has much to recommend itself.

aedes

The concept is a new take on woods. Palisander, rosewood, is a precious variety, with a bright, crisp aroma that doesn’t resemble a wood as much as a flower. At the same time, it has sharpness and vigor, ideal qualities to weave into woody and oriental perfumes. Rosewood, on its own, is not a common theme, however, so Aedes’s decision to let it strike out solo is brave. Even more so is the request to perfumer Alberto Morillas to make it new and modern.

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B. Balenciaga : Fragrance Review

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As I take whiffs from a blotter of B. Balenciaga, I think of curves. Or to use French perfumery jargon, gras. Call it whatever you want–richness, unctuousness or fat, it denotes a certain voluptuous quality. Chanel No. 22 has plenty of it. Robert Piguet Fracas is positively wallowing in opulence. Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum, to use a recent example, has a discrete but well-judged dose. By contrast, B. Balenciaga is a slender creature.  Not many curves on it.

balenciaga

The lack 0f curves in B. doesn’t entirely detract from its charm. It’s true that many big launches are so market tested and panel judged that by the time they hit the store shelves, they’re nothing but pale bones. (If you want gras, then you have to explore boutique brands, but that, forgive the pun, requires a fat wallet.) B. is much better than most. Yes, it’s sheer and mild mannered, but it makes up for the lack of lush, soft layers with sparkling accords of green buds, spring blossoms and crisp amber. It has a contemporary radiant aesthetic, and the kind of versatility that makes B. suitable for all sorts of occasions.

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