Lists: 80 posts

Leather Scents with a Soft Focus

Although classical leather notes in perfumery are dark and dramatic like Robert Piguet Bandit and Grès Cabochard, this theme offers many variations, including the soft and creamy ones. In my recent FT column, Leather Scents with a Soft Focus, I describe different ways in which leather can be interpreted. I also talk about my idiosyncratic behavior at the vintage shops.

Unconventional is the leather collection of Serge Lutens. The line has a number of fragrances with leather accents, whether Sarrasins, with its interplay of leather, jasmine and musk or Fumerie Turque, which weaves leather into tobacco leaves and rose petals. Cuir Mauresque, however, makes this tanned note the star player. It is buttery and rich, oscillating between the darkness of amber and the spicy bite of clove. What makes its leather tender and luminous is the clever addition of orange blossom and mandarin. Inspired by the old tradition of perfuming gloves with fragrant pomades, Cuir Mauresque conjures up vintage handbags and well-worn armchairs in old libraries. To continue reading, please click here.

Where do you fall on the leather spectrum, dark or light?

Image via FT

Smoke and Fire : Spellbinding Dark Perfumes

The smoky aromas of bonfires, roasted chestnuts, frankincense and lapsang souchong tea are among the most complex, and I know quite a few individuals who fantasize about a fragrance that smells like a smoky charcoal-grilled steak. There is a difference, however, between enjoying a scent in its proper context – charred ribeye at a barbecue or burning leaves in an autumnal park – and wearing a fragrance that reprises such odors. For this reason, perfumery interpretations of smoke tend to blend it into a more familiar setting of woods, spices and resins. In my FT Magazine column, Smoky Perfumes, I explore how smoky notes are used in fragrance and what effects they produce.

One of the best introductions to a smoky perfume is L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Passage d’Enfer (£105 for 100ml EDT). Perfumer Olivia Giacobetti is known for her ability to create olfactory watercolours – airy, transparent compositions. Passage d’Enfer combines lilies and incense, filling the spaces between the white, cool petals with smoke. Giacobetti’s touch is light, and the perfume remains soft and radiant, from the smoky opening to the vanilla- and cedarwood-accented drydown. To continue reading, please click here.

What about you? Do you find smoky fragrances appealing?

Image via FT HTSI

5 Winter Pleasures

Winter has a certain beauty in its austere color palette and the way it slows down life to a bare simmer. Yet, weeks of overcast skies and cold weather can leave one listless and longing for warmth and sunshine. The Belgian winter is almost uniformly grey and damp, with hardly any snow days to remind me of the season’s more exquisite aspects. And yet I wouldn’t trade these three months for any other. Winter’s pleasures more than make up for the late sunrises and heavy layers of clothes.

Big Books

I’m not intimidated by big books. They hold many hours of reading enjoyment. They tempt me with their promise of new facts to learn and new experiences to discover. Such books aren’t satisfying to read on Kindle. I love the heft of a thick volume as I ensconce myself in my favorite bean bag chair. I seem to have more time for reading during the winter, which is why one of my seasonal pleasures is to go through all of the thick volumes that I’ve set my sights on. For instance, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Iryna Vilde’s Sisters Richynski, Charles Dickens’s The Bleak House, Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia, and the letters exchanged by Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller. Finishing Proust’s À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, In Search of Lost Time, is my plan for this winter.

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Golden Mandarins of Winter

If I had to pick only one perfume to wear throughout winter, it would be neither a smoky incense nor a warm amber. I could even survive the cold days without sumptuous white florals or dark spices. I couldn’t, however, go through winter without a citrus cologne. More precisely, my ideal winter fragrance is based around the zesty, bright note of mandarin. In my recent FT column, Mandarin Scents, I describe why I enjoy this ingredient, what makes it different from other citruses and which perfumes one should try.

Take, for example, Prada Infusion Mandarine. Its philosophy is to keep mandarin simple, and that refined minimalism is rewarding. The top notes combine all of the best elements of a citrus cologne – the green vibrancy of mandarin leaves, the sweetness of mandarin zest and the warmth of orange flowers. You notice the delicious bitterness of the peel and then the sweetness of pulp, and the contrast remains vivid into the drydown. To continue reading, please click here.

If you have favorite citrus perfumes for winter, please let me know.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Best of 2018 : 12 Perfumes To Bring into The New Year

Every year when I sit down to summarize the best of the launches, I look at perfumes I’ve reviewed and check my notes for whether I’ve changed my mind about the ratings. Although one could complain about too many launches, too much sameness in the market, too little creativity, the truth is that some fragrances always stand out and demonstrate that it’s possible to be original and interesting even when it seems that all of the possibilities have been exhausted.

I never intend my best of 2018 lists to be definitive, as they’re highly personal. This year I reflected back on what I wore and selected 12 perfumes I’m planning to keep in 2019. They’re not simply well-crafted and memorable; they also spoke to me and helped me create my own fantasies. This year has been a difficult one, but certain pleasures like books, art, music and perfume could make a big difference on even the worst day.

As always, please share your lists. I look forward to them every time. I wish you lots of happiness and good fortune in the new year. 2018 hasn’t been easy for many of us, but it’s my fervent hope that 2019 will be better in all respects. I thank all of you for visiting these pages, sharing your thoughts with me and being the best readers a writer could possibly wish for.

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