Big Sillage: 65 posts

Fragrance with a big presence and strong diffusion

Tom Ford Lost Cherry : Perfume Review

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Expensive fragrances get more scrutiny, and that’s only fair. If a brand wants you to pay over $200 for a bottle of scent, then you should be certain that you’re getting your money’s worth. In the case of Tom Ford, you’re paying for the name, luxurious packaging and the whole style factor that gives Ford an edge. That being said, the collection has a number of perfumes where even the special markup can be justified. Lost Cherry is one of those fragrances, because when Ford wants a bombshell perfume, he doesn’t hold back.

The name, only a touch less vulgar than Tom Ford’s F*cking Fabulous, suggests fruits and sweetness, but Lost Cherry is a sophisticated blend of woods in the style of Serge Lutens’s original Feminité du Bois. Lutens commissioned it as a woody fragrance for women, a request that at the time made a few eyebrows rise. 27 years later, nobody is surprised by “feminine woods,” but many brands still shy away from embracing the idea fully. In other words, woods play a secondary role to fruit, caramel, flowers or vanilla. Women who want woods, without too many embellishments, might well turn to the masculine side of the fragrance counter. 

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Ormonde Jayne Cuir Imperial : Perfume Review

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A certain type of leather scent is guaranteed to catch my attention. Dark, spicy, with a hint of birch tar smokiness. Think Chanel Cuir de Russie on the elegantly austere end of the spectrum or Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque on the opulent dimension.  Ormonde Jayne Cuir Impérial falls somewhere in between. It places a trimmed down and polished leather accord against a Nezami garden of pleasures–rose, sandalwood,  saffron and iris.

Cuir Impérial reveals all of its treasures readily, and its opening is exciting. The blend of spicy and lemony notes makes for a bright start, and if you wonder how a spice can be zesty, try crushing a pod of cardamom. The lemony bite in the top notes of Cuir Impérial is fueled by cardamom, along with a dose of bergamot and pink pepper.

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Carnal Flowers

No fragrance type elicits more polarized reactions than white flowers. For some, they’re the ultimate love potion. For others–a bottled nightmare. I realize that the term “white flowers” covers too many botanicals to be useful, but let’s pretend we’re talking about night-blooming plants like jasmine, gardenia and tuberose. Jasmine can smell like horse sweat. Gardenia has a distinct whiff of mushrooms. But at least jasmine and gardenia can be tamed and made pretty and gentle. Tuberose, on the other hand, doesn’t do demure well and it also stands no competition. Add a touch of tuberose to a perfume, and it takes over everything with its warmth and luxurious heft. It’s perfect for those of us tired of wan floral perfumes that smell as if they need to be on life support.

My favorite tuberose is Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower. It’s been around since 2005, and I’ve rhapsodized about it for about that long. It thrills me with the richness of the sensations it evokes, from the brightness of green notes to the warmth of the tuberose petals. But that’s not why I selected it for my modern classics series, On White Flowers. Over the past decade it has become one of the gold standard tuberose fragrances against which others are judged. Love it or hate it, but it’s a modern classic.

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Thierry Mugler Angel Muse : Perfume Review

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Elisa on the Angel tribe and Angel Muse.

To my mind, the original Thierry Mugler Angel is pretty much unimproveable. Nevertheless, I enjoy almost all of its many flankers and spin-offs too. It’s like one of those great songs whose greatness is preserved in multiple cover versions. (“Wild Horses” and “Landslide” spring to mind.)

The latest version of Angel, Angel Muse, was billed in the ad campaign as “the new fragrance you will hate to love.” I’m pleased that the folks at Mugler have embraced Angel’s inherent divisiveness and want to nurture, rather than overwrite, that reputation. After all, is there any perfume from the past 30 years that inspires such strong love-it-or-hate-it reactions? I do, in a sense, hate to love it, since it’s so unpopular and so recognizable I wouldn’t really feel comfortable wearing it, say, to work or on an airplane, and I wear it most often at home.

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Can You Bottle Bollywood?

Today it’s fashionable to proclaim one’s mastery of minimalism and a clutter-free lifestyle. Open any fashion magazine, and you’ll be treated to endless spreads of high key photographs flooded with white light and suggestions on how to make your life perfectly streamlined. I like Marie Kondo as much as the next person, but there is only so much minimalism I can take. So I seek refuge in Bollywood and its world where the idea of “less is more” means only that thing invented by the 6th century Indian mathematicians–zero.

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The topic of Bollywood and perfume is the subject of my weekly FT column, Can You Bottle Bollywood?

“Many people outside the Bollywood sphere of influence find the genre puzzling. Everything is over the top — the acting, the plots, the songs, the outfits. But for me, it’s “cinema that exists slightly outside the everyday world”, in the words of writer Rana Dasgupta. This fantasy space is shared by perfumes, intangible messages in a bottle. So, those wishing to take a break from KonMaring their sock drawers and making their apartment look like an Ikea showroom are welcome to follow along with me. Please continue here.”

Are you a fan of Bollywood? Any recommendations for favorite films–and correspondingly opulent perfumes.

Image: Aishwarya Rai’s screenshot from Devdas (2002), via Pinterest.

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