Film Noir: 54 posts

Dark and brooding perfume fantasies

A Rose Like No Other

Rose is a classical flower in perfumery, along with carnation, jasmine and violet. Yet, it need not be interpreted in a classical manner. It can be made either daring or innocent, dark or pale, smoky or soft. I like roses in all of their guises, but some of my favorites are roses with a twist. My FT column, Unusual Roses, was originally prepared for Valetine’s Day, but since I wear these roses all year round, I’d like to take them further into spring.

When the Spanish actress Rossy de Palma decided to create a fragrance, she selected rose as her main theme. While the choice of such a classical flower from the star of Pedro Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown might have struck some as surprising, the perfumers Antoine Lie and Antoine Maisondieu weren’t taken aback. They were the co-authors of de Palma’s scent, and when it was released as Eau de Protection (£82 for 50ml EDP) by the niche perfume house Etat Libre d’Orange, the result was anything but staid. As the perfumers knew, rose had many faces, and it could be made as smouldering or as innocent as an artist’s skill allowed.  To read more, please click here.

What are your favorite unusual roses?

Pablo Picasso, 1905, Garçon à la pipe, (Boy with a Pipe), fragment. Private collection

Best Perfumes with Coffee Notes

Merry Christmas! I hope that all of you had a wonderful holiday and are enjoying the seasonal festivities as well as moments of rest with a good book and a cup of tea or coffee. Speaking of which, coffee is the topic of my recent FT column, Perfumes with Coffee Notes. I talk about the reasons why perfumers find this note difficult, how it can be used in fragrances and what perfumes showcase it to its advantage. From Arquiste Nanban to Atelier Cologne Café Tuberosa, I cover my favorite compositions.

“Coffee notes, for all of their complexity and addictive richness, are complicated to use. The solution is to approach coffee notes creatively. Instead of mimicking nature, a perfumer instead might fashion a blend that hints at coffee’s pleasing bitterness and heady richness. Such is Arquiste’s Nanban. The composition uses a plush backdrop of woods to frame the smoky, spicy notes of myrrh and incense, with an accent of coffee to lend the composition a dark, delicious twist. It teases with its smoky, nutty warmth, but keeps its presence mellow behind layers of sandalwood and leather. To continue, please click here.”

As always, I’d love to hear about the coffee perfumes you like.

Image: Atelier Cologne

Lapsang Souchong Tea : Smoky Harmony

A heart of darkness. Andy’s homage to lapsang souchong tea.

Intensely smokey, tarry, beguilingly dark…It sounds like the description of a fragrance I’d like to spray on my wrists, but instead these words are about Lapsang Souchong, perhaps my most beloved tea. It’s rare I select a singular favorite, but there is something so intrinsically satisfying about brewing a cup of broodingly dark Lapsang that I can’t help but come back for more.

andy-lapsang1

Upon opening a tin of Lapsang Souchong, the aroma of spent ashes permeates the air, like smelling last night’s bonfire lingering on your clothes. Once hot water saturates the tea leaves though, the impression is that of a fire reincarnated—the fragrance rising from the cup is unmistakably that of fresh woodsmoke and crackling flames slicing through the flinty chill of a winter’s night. Lapsang Souchong is the tea equivalent to film noir, with the mysterious femme fatale, disconcerting plot twists, and menacing darkness and shadows condensed into a mere cup.

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Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady : Perfume Review

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The news of Frédéric Malle selling his Editions de Parfums house to Estée Lauder reminded me that I haven’t gotten around to writing about one of the most intriguing fragrances from his collection, Portrait of a Lady. Why intriguing? Well, consider the name. If it brings to your mind the cool elegance of Henry James’s heroines, then you’re not alone. I also expected something along these lines–ultra refined, sophisticated and feminine. Except that it is all wrong. Portrait of a Lady is interesting precisely because the scent is not at all what you expect. It’s a twist on a Middle Eastern theme, and it’s not all that lady-like.

Picasso-Boy-with-Pipe

If you’ve already smelled traditional Middle Eastern perfumes or western blends inspired by them (Amouage, Kilian’s oudsArmani Privé Rose d’Arabie), then you might recognize similar elements in Portrait of a Lady. It has a generous dose of classical “oriental” notes–sandalwood, amber, patchouli, dark woods smoked over incense, and of course, rose. It has a similar dramatic and mysterious character that makes this perfume genre so distinctive.

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Caron En Avion : Perfume Review

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I’m not sure why exactly I decided to revisit Caron En Avion after so many years, but it might have been inspired by my reading of Miklós Bánffy’s The Transylvanian Trilogy. An epic novel set in the Austro-Hungarian Empire just before the First World War, it paints the vanished world of the Hungarian aristocracy, the era that was quickly coming to a close. There is something equally poignant and nostalgic about En Avion, a perfume created by Caron’s owner Ernest Daltroff in 1932, just a year before Count Bánffy started writing his masterpiece.

caron

En Avion, as the name suggests, was inspired by the first pilot women such as Helen Boucher and Amelia Earhart. It was a luminous but dark orange, dipped in the sweetness of jasmine and the incense-like warmth of opoponax. It was spicy but also cool and mossy. The kind of fragrance that could only have been the product of Daltroff’s eccentric pairings and the era’s penchant for perfumes thick as fur coats.

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