Opulent: 155 posts

Fragrance with rich, complex characters that feel like cashmere wraps

In Search of Dark, Opulent Musk

“Bring, bring that musk-scented wine! That wine is the key to joy, and it must be mine…” The medieval Persian reader scanning these lines by the 12th-century poet Nezami* would have understood instantly the subtle nuances of the word “musk.” Since natural musk was black, the reader would have envisioned a dark potion. Also, musk was considered the most sumptuous and alluring of scents, and musk-scented wine would surely be a libation to intoxicate one to the point of ecstasy. Most importantly, however, musk evoked seduction and passion, and in Nezami’s masterpiece about star-crossed lovers, Layla and Majnun, musk is the scented leitmotif.

The topic of my new FT column, In Search of Dark Musk, is the dark, intoxicating musk, and I search for a perfume with such a character. No white musks, clean musks or baby-skin musks will do. I want a musk that smolders and that would have been as close as possible to the kind of fragrance the Persian poet described.

You can read about the results of my search here, and of course, I look forward to reading your ideas on a perfume that smells dark and musky.

*Nezami or Nizami, Hafez or Hafiz? The Persian reading of these poets names’ is Nezami and Hafez, with a short “e”.  Nizami and Hafiz is an old-fashioned spelling, which still tends to be preferred by Western academics.

Image via FT; Persian miniature

 

Comme des Garcons Black : Perfume Review

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If you’ve never tried any Comme des Garçons fragrances, think of the stuff you might smell at your car mechanic–tar, machine grease, burnt rubber. Today’s collection includes more than a dozen perfumes, and by and large, they have an industrial, deliberately synthetic feel (even if created with natural materials.)  To some people, these are the ultimate edgy perfumes, to others–smells to avoid.

kandinsky

Whatever camp you belong to, Black Eau de Toilette is likely to be a love it or hate it perfume. The name doesn’t lie–it’s a dark, potent brew. If you’ve ever dreamed of smelling like molten asphalt or barbecued ribs or a cross between the two, then your wish has come true.

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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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By Kilian Noir Aphrodisiaque : Perfume Review

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Tonka bean, ginger, vanilla, Sichuan pepper, coriander, rose, mint… The flavors Jacques Génin uses in his confections might as well be taken straight from a perfumer’s palette. The Parisian chocolatier is known for his daring combinations of flavors and his impeccable craftsmanship. His caramels are legendary. His millefeuille is a towering delight of cream and shards of pastry. His pâtes de fruits look like jewels. He pairs chocolate with spices, roots and herbs, but the result is rarely predictable. Even an ingredient as ubiquitous as cinnamon becomes a surprising note in his hands, as it reveals its floral and woody nuances.  Not for nothing, the epithets used to describe Génin include “wizard,” “madman,” and “genius.”

Génin’s most recent collaboration is with by Kilian, an artisanal fragrance house led by Kilian Hennessy, and perfumer Calice Becker.  As an inspiration for a perfume, chocolate is a complicated note. It tastes sweet, but it smells animalic and pungent. Part of the flavor in most commercial chocolates is given by vanilla, which softens the animalic tang but also rounds out and simplifies the scent. So instead, Becker looked to Génin’s favorite ingredients such as Ceylon cinnamon and Calabrian bergamot to craft her perfume.

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A Perfumer’s Guide to Benzoin

Luang Prabang in northern Laos is a city of magnificent temples and old royal palaces. Although far from undiscovered by tourists, it still has a quaint ambience and mellow pace of life. It stretches languidly along the Mekong, glittering with the numerous golden spires that grace its pagodas. Visitors are attracted here by Luang Prabang’s beautiful architecture and even more by its splendid cuisine, but I made the journey for the aromatic material called benzoin.

Benzoin is one of the most essential ingredients in a perfumer’s palette, and whether I’m creating accords for my perfumery courses or as part of my research, I often turn to this rich, balsamic note for warmth and sweetness. In my new FT column, A Perfumer’s Guide to Benzoin, I describe my track to the benzoin plantations in Laos and then discuss how this ingredient is used in fragrances. If you’re curious to try it, I give a few interesting options, from both niche and department store brands alike.

Benzoin is also used in Papier d’Arménie, a type of incense. I once wrote about making your own: Papier d’Arménie At Home.

To read all of my FT Magazine columns, please click here. They appear on a bi-weekly basis.

Do you know that benzoin is also a popular flavor used in candy and even toothpaste?

Image via FT

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Latest Comments

  • Victoria in Lahore and Roses: Thank you very much, Tara! There is so much to discover. December 9, 2018 at 4:26am

  • Victoria in Lahore and Roses: Thank you. You found the right crowd then. 🙂 December 9, 2018 at 4:25am

  • Victoria in Lahore and Roses: Thank you very much, Annie. Sharing with all of you makes me relive these journeys. December 9, 2018 at 4:25am

  • Victoria in Lahore and Roses: I started about three months ago. That’s generally how long it takes me to get to a comfortable conversational level. I speak Persian, so it helps a lot with Urdu.… December 9, 2018 at 2:57am

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