abstract gourmand: 5 posts

Sugar Free

If you’ve been asking yourself why so many fragrances are sweet these days, then you are not alone. Even non-gourmand blends are getting sweeter, be they floral or woods. In my latest column in the FT magazine, Six Sugar-Free Perfumes, I explore various options that veer away from sweetness.

“Why does every perfume turn so sweet on me?” complained a friend, sparking a mission to find her a fragrance that didn’t have caramel, chocolate or other patisserie notes. With the success of Thierry Mugler’s Angel and other popular gourmands, perfumes have been growing sweeter and more edible over the years. While only recently a cotton candy accord of Lancôme’s La Vie est Belle would have been considered more suitable for pudding than perfume, today it’s a new benchmark. Our appetite for sugar seems to have found a parallel in the olfactory realm, and every season there are more perfumes promising to replicate famous desserts from crème brûlée to apple pie. To continue reading, please click here.

What other non-sweet perfumes can you recommend, for men and women?

Photography via FT HTSI

Hermes Hermessence Santal Massoia : Perfume Review

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Sm

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

There are linear, vertical woods like cedar, and others that are horizontal, round, supple and velvet-smooth, such as sandalwood and massoia. With this understanding in mind, I composed this enigmatic, inviting yet distant perfume of milky woods, with its unusual, pungent hints of resin and dried fruit, and familiar smells of dulce de leche and flowers.” This description by Jean-Claude Ellena, the creator behind the newest launch from the Hermès’s Hermessence line, Santal Massoïa, captures the idea of this creamy woody composition. It is unusual and surprising in its treatment of sandalwood, the impression of which oscillates between the characteristic milky rose and sweet fig. At the same time, Santal Massoïa also smells hauntingly familiar and intimate: a mélange of warm skin, cold cream and green tea.

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Hermes Hermessence Vetiver Tonka : Perfume Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Although I enjoy the airy softness of Osmanthe Yunnan and the smoldering sensation of Ambre Narguilé, the only fragrance from the Hermès’s Hermessence collection for which I truly feel strong affection is Vétiver Tonka. Created by Jean-Claude Ellena, this composition is a startling tender vetiver melody. The pungent and woody root is often made even richer and smokier as in Frédéric Malle Vétiver Extraordinaire or the original version of Guerlain Vétiver. Or, in another extreme, it can be rendered as weightless and fresh as in The Different Company Sel de Vétiver. Either treatment can accent the fascinating tonalities of this amazing material, yet it is rare to discover vetiver transformed into a velvety, enveloping veil. This is exactly what Vétiver Tonka succeeds in achieving. …

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Guerlain L’Heure Bleue : Fragrance Review (New and Vintage)

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Guerlain L’Heure Bleue is the embodiment of refinement. When I read that Catherine Deneuve wore it for many years as her signature fragrance, I was not at all surprised. Its luminous orange blossom is beautifully contrasted with the rich plushness of vanilla, iris and incense.  L’Heure Bleue’s sillage is among the most beautiful of great classics—bright, radiant, enveloping.

Lheure bleue

It was also the first Guerlain perfume to use aldehydes (distinctive starchy-metallic notes) to give a lift to the rich floral accord.  The carnation, ylang-ylang and anise introduce L’Heure Bleue, but then you become aware of its velvety layers–iris, vanilla, incense, musk, tonka bean. The leitmotif of anise persists through the layers of L’Heure Bleue.   The eau de parfum concentration is plusher and warmer than the musk inflected eau de toilette. The extrait de parfum is even more memorable, a mouthwatering confection of orange blossom, iris, and vanilla with a touch of licorice.

L’Heure Bleue has set many trends in its day and it continues to do so. It is one of legendary perfumer Sophia Grojsman’s favorite fragrances, and her Kenzo Kashaya, Lagerfeld Sun, Moon, Stars and Laura Biagotti Sotto Voce were inspired by its structure of plush richness and opulent floral notes. Recent launches like Costume National Scent, Iris Ganache, Insolence and Kenzo Flower pay tribute to L’Heure Bleue.

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Guerlain Shalimar and Shalimar Eau Legere : Perfume Review

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Shalimar

According to Guerlain, Shalimar was inspired by a love story of Shah Jahan and his wife, Mumtaz Majal. Upon her death, Shah Jahan build a mausoleum in her honor, which is Taj Mahal. The fragrance was named after the Gardens of Shalimar, so beloved by Mumtaz Majal. Whether the story is true, or just an example of clever marketing playing upon the contemporary fascination with the exotic, the magic of Shalimar is indisputable. Ever since it was launched in 1925, it has been an important trendsetter for so-called oriental fragrances, perfumes inspired by the aromas of the East.

Shalim

The initial sensation is of cool citrus burst that quickly melds into a rich floral heart. The undercurrent of dark sensual pervades even the initial chilly note, setting the stage for the warmth of the base. Vanilla stands out rather strongly against the backdrop of bergamot, which while fading by the time fragrance dries down, nevertheless maintains its pleasant astringency. The interplay between cold and hot is the most magnificent aspect of Shalimar. The eau de toilette and eau de parfum are lovely, but the extrait de parfum is incomparable, as is the case for most of the Guerlain fragrances. Bergamot is much softer, while the dry down is remarkably luminous and rich.

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