Opulent: 152 posts

Fragrance with rich, complex characters that feel like cashmere wraps

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

Neela Vermeire Creations Niral : Fragrance Review

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My saris are my personal archaeological layers. The turquoise and saffron one was bought from a market in Pune on my very first trip to India. The magenta one with the border of gold thread woven into the peacock pattern came from a cavernous shop in Gujarat, where I sat in a hot daze surrounded by towering stacks of silks. The hot pink one with the silver embroidery was a nod to Mumbai fashions circa 2005 picked up on a whim, along with matching bangles. The sienna and orange one was given to me on my wedding day by my parents-in-law.

My saris live in a box and I wear them only when I’m in India. Here, in Belgium, they don’t feel right. A sari needs the context–the music, the movement, the heat, the chaos of an Indian wedding. So I spread them out on the furniture to enjoy their colors, but I drape myself in a sari-like perfume of layers and folds. Like Neela Vermeire’s Niral, for instance.

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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

The Garden of the Seven Beauties of Nezami

For the Persian New Year and the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, I would like to take you to a secret garden with thousands of blossoms and thousands of scents. The passage will be provided by the twelfth-century Persian poet Nezami, who described this enchanting place in his poem Haft Peykar, The Seven Beauties.

Nezami (1141-1209), also known as Nizami Ganjavi, lived in the city of Ganja, the area of Azerbaijan that was part of the Persian empire until the 19th century. Like most poets of his day, Nezami had skills in various branches of arts and science. He was a philosopher, a mathematician, an astronomer, a historian, and a botanist, to name only a few fields in which he was skilled, and his marvelous erudition and knowledge of Persian literature and folklore make his works vivid.

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