Sunday, 24 November 2013

Review: Jovoy - Psychédélique. The Best Patchouli Ever Created?

It’s uncommon for me employ the term ‘the best’. ‘The best’ is a grand declaration that allots influence and superiority to it’s recipient. However, when Jovoy’s Psychédélique found me, I found the best ‘true’ patchouli. So enchanted am I, that I will be creating a new page for Odiferess called The Best. On this page (which I’ll post this week on the page bar) you’ll find what I believe to be the greatest scents of their genre. They’ll appear rarely, as the Eureka moment occurs very infrequently. Here’s the Inception:

Jovoy - Psychédélique

The aroma of patchouli suggests all of the following;

‘Crusties’ at festivals, typified by white folk with dreadlocks, art students (I once was one, I can make this sweeping statement with authority!), art studios e.g linseed oil, turpentine and oil paints, goths, vintage shops, joss sticks, dirty hair/ greasy scalp, old leather jackets, narcotic, euphoric, sedative, erotic, soil and decomposing leaves in Autumn, damp/fustiness/junk shop books, barnyards, sex in the 60s (I imagine Nico of Velvet Undergound fame reeking wonderfully of this note).

Niko, the blonde bombshell of Warhol's darling band.

This demure little plant crops up everywhere in perfumery. In recent years it replaced Oakmoss as an IFRA friendly ingredient for chypres prompting the rise of best selling ‘fruitchoulis’ and frequently providing the ‘noir’ in the noirs. The big cosmetics and designer houses have of course used it for years, Aromatics Elixir, Dioressence, Givenchy Gentlemen and Cabochard to name a few of the classics that reek of the earthy and heady qualities of this spirit in a bottle. Many of the niche perfumeries have a patchouli in their range, the dry and bitter Patchouli Patch by L’ Artisan Parfumeur and the leathery Patchouli 24 by Le Labo are good examples of edgy interpretations.

What rarely occurs is the use of patchouli simply as patchouli. There’s not a lot of difference between a bottle of Jovoy’s Psychédélique and a bottle of pure patchouli essential oil. So why bother spending the extra £80 or so? It’s worth it for the journey. Psychédélique is a transformative perfume that develops and morphs within it’s wear, providing a fragrant ride through distinct states. For this reason, it’s impossible to grow bored of an over familiar note.

My mum, ardent patchouli lover, upon sampling Psychédélique exclaimed “cow muck”! That’s the second time cow muck has been spluttered to me on a sampling session, the first was in relation to a sample of castoreum fragrance oil. I don’t quite get cow muck from this fragrance but I do get my mum’s point. It’s feral ad a little bit filthy. The opening shares the same barnyard quality that a potent Shiraz wine emits i.e. a beautiful but slightly beastly whiff. One of it’s prominent notes is labdanum, often a component of what perfumers pair with vanilla to become an ‘amber’. As the vanilla doesn’t play much of a role in the opening, the labdanum appears as a leathery nuance, could this be the cow hide that connotes the feral whiff?

The slightly dirty opening soon calms into the heart of the scent, where we feel the truly spiritual side of patchouli. There’s a good reason why it’s used in aromatherapy, rituals and incense - it’s deeply relaxing and sensual. It’s also a little trippy, I’m once again drawn back to Nico and her melancholically ethereal Germanic drawl through the lyrics of All Tomorrow’s Parties. Alike Nico’s voice there is a baritone depth and darkness to Psychédélique that makes you want to recline in a state of semi conscious reverie, probably wearing something from Biba.

New York Art Rock - All Tomorrow's Parties.

As we reach the dry down stage (or perhaps in the spirit of Nico, the ‘come down’ stage), the sweetness kicks in. Although still abundantly psychedelic, an opulent vanilla takes over and tames the trip of this narcotic journey. In contrast to the roaring opening, it exits our skin with tenderness.

Upon my first wear of this extraordinary scent, I was instantly convinced that it was ‘the best’ patchouli I’ve ever smelt. However, if confirmation were needed, this happened;

At my day job (in an inner city comprehensive), smells abound and they are rarely good ones. Perfume has to be really quite a phenomenon to get noticed amongst the smell of teenage feet, hormones and stagnant air breathed by too many hundreds of people. As I walked towards the staffroom to drink my breakfast coffee, a colleague emerged from the lift and stopped still, wearing a look of bewilderment.

“What’s are you wearing? It’s incredible?”

This wouldn’t be such a strange occurrence had said colleague been the sensitive literary type that is the English Assistant or any of the Art or Music Teachers, just hippie enough to appreciate a good patchouli. But it wasn’t. It was an overtly laddish IT Teacher who openly admits that his primary passions are football, fast food and computer games, upon whom I’ve never detected a perfume. As far as I’m aware he doesn’t even particularly like me.
So surprised was I that I don’t think I actually managed to tell him what it was, I think I just uttered something along the lines of “Erm.. thanks, it’s a patchouli”.

Proof indeed.

If you’re a patchouli fan, you might like to peruse my review of a very different one, M/Mink by Byredo. Though you’ve been warned, it’s a challenging scent! Click here to read it.

Monday, 18 November 2013

The Lure Of The Christmas Perfume Gift Set, Some Tips For The Festive Season

It’s that time of year, when we fumies are bombarded with emails advising us of ALL THE DAZZLING FRAGRANT STUFF WE CAN BUY when we really should be shopping for our loved ones i.e. Christmas gift set season.

If only Harrods sold penguins at Christmas..

When we signed up to the ‘yes, send me news of offers and promotions’ box at the online stores of our favourite perfume houses through the year, we forget about the chronic agony of repeatedly denying ourselves the joy that is buying a perfume + body lotion + shower gel + fantastically designed box etc.. that would render us unable to pay for other people’s presents.

Gift sets are an extremely good deal. Most of the mainstream houses offer at least one free subsidiary product for the price of just the perfume. This is especially useful if you are a lover of the ‘projection beast’. One Christmas I received a YSL Opium body lotion that when used alongside the perfume, could burn off the olfactory organ of a person half a mile away. It was a very pleasing present.

Niche houses are less generous at Christmas, probably due to the fact that not all of them actually create body or home fragrance products. Those who do however, should really join in the festivities and stop being scrooges.

Here is a round up of some of the best sets from the larger niche houses and mainstreams on sale this year. But before you take a look, consider your approach to the gift set season. I think there are 4 ways you can benefit from it:

  1. Buy a set before Christmas but wait until you are offered a discount. For instance, last week Debenhams announced 10% off all beauty and fragrance effectively making an already bargainous set more bargainous. No doubt the other department stores will make similar bids for our custom. 
  2. Buy a set in store after Christmas. In last year’s January sales, sets from YSL, Clinique, Lauder and Guerlain were all reduced by about 30%. You had to be quick to grab one though.
  3. Buy a set from Ebay. This is a graveyard of unwanted gifts in January. You can pick up a set that might have been sprayed once or twice to test and then discarded in disgust by someone who was gifted something brilliant that was not to their taste. Used scent = cheap scent.
  4. Lastly, you could sod it and just buy everything you want and worry about later when the obscenely greedy energy companies send you your extortionate January heating bill. At least you can scent your chunky knit jumpers with something beautiful as you shiver at home.

So here we go, more ways to spend your money this month:


Ormonde Jayne: The Sloane Square shop are offering a 20% discount on everything by phone and in store this Wednesday (20th November). UK postage costs £8 so this would effectively make an £80 50 ml scent cost £72 by post or £64 in store. Plus if you go to shop between 6pm and 8pm there's a party with champers. Phone to enquire about International postage which they are attempting to make reasonably priced. Tolu, Ta'if, Ormonde Woman and Orris Noir are stunningly well crafted scents that I imagine would appeal to anybody. They are not challenging, just beautiful. To read my review of the marvelous pagan fantasy - Ormonde Woman, click here.

Belle of The Ball Gift Set in Orris Noir - £115
(reduced to £92 with the 20% discount)

Penhaligon’s: have a truly covetable range of gifts sets this year in beautifully illustrated tins, my favourite is the Gentlemen’s Miniature Collection at £35 including Sartorial and Blenheim Bouquet. To read my review of these two masculine lovelies, click here.

Gentlemen’s Miniature Collection

L’ Artisan Parfumeur: The ‘pop up’ style gift boxes of the season are a fine example of contemporary design in the perfume industry and a treat for those who collect the brand, however they don’t offer the grandest saving. This is a good option for those on a budget who are fond of purse size fumes:

Christmas Discovery Gift Set £35 with 4 x 7 ml vapo tubes of:
•Mûre et Musc 
•La Chasse aux Papillons 
•Premier Figuier 
•Nuit de Tubéreuse 

I’d rather smell of festival toilets than the death by Jasmine that is Le Chasse aux Papillons (Luca Turin gave it 3 stars so my opinion may not be definitive!), but the others are wonderful and it’s a collectible box.

Discovery Gift Set

A quick search brings up very little in the form of niche gift sets but an alternative is a large sample set which is huge treat for a fumie. The most diverse and exciting ones come from: Ormonde Jayne, Parfum D’ Empire, Le Labo, Olfactive Studio, Amouage, Les Parfums De Rosine, Scent On Canvas, Jovoy and Histoires De Parfums. To read my post on the Olfactive Studio sample set, click here.
A browse on their online boutiques will reveal the goodies. It’s useful to know that the French word for sample is Echantillons. Though I imagine that if you’re geeky and obsessive enough to read Odiferess you’ll probably know this already..


This is where the real bargains are to be had.

Givenchy: I maintain that the original Givenchy Gentleman is the greatest masculine Patchouli ever made (not to be confused with Givenchy Gentleman Only which is scent nonsense). A set containing 100 ml EDT and 75 ml All Over Shampoo is available for about£56.50 at all of the main department stores.

Miller Harris: Yes, I don’t consider them mainstream either, but the range is being sold in Debenhams. For £60 you can buy a miniatures collection in either ‘Woody’ or ‘Citrus’. Woody contains 3 x 15 ml EDPs of: La Fumée , Feuilles de Tabac and Fleurs de Sel. All delightfull.
Estee Lauder: Queen of the gift set. They’ve released several desirable sets this year. Though be warned, I tested Youth Dew with my Mum this weekend (both of us wore it in the past) and we agreed that it is a reformulated shadow of it’s former self. That said, Knowing and Cinnabar are still projection beasts of the highest caliber. Knowing is an epic mossy/woody/aldehydic chypre, well worth a try if you love Mitsouko/Aromatics/Paloma Picasso etc.  At £39 for 30 ml of EDP and 100 ml of body lotion this is the one that I shall be hunting come January.

Acqua Di Parma: As always, are gifting us their full range of fumes in a quirky hat box style presentation with 75 ml tubes of shower gel and body lotion for the price of the just the perfume. £78 from all the big stores and online at Escentual. Grazie!

Other sets of note this year come from Cartier, Bottega Venetta, Carven (who have re-released the superb Ma Griffe in a pretty new bottle), YSL, BVLGARI, Guerlain and Hermes.

Now, get yourself on ebay, flog anything you can live without and start re-spending!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Review: Celtic Fire By Union Fragrance - The Scent Of Bonfire Night

As bonfire night approaches my thoughts turn to the smells of Autumn. A peculiar season full of contrasts, autumn provides both a little romance (in the joy of rooting out your warmest woolly jumper or sipping a good malt whiskey by a pub fireside) and a sense of foreboding (as the green leaves turn to mudded sludge in the gutters and the trees transform into skeletal bare branched ghosts).

British landscape painter - Ivon Hitchens portrays Autumn.

It’s no wonder that at this harsh and wind strewn time of year perfume lovers seek ‘cosy’ scents. The perfume houses, aware of this opportunity, market scents with a seasonal theme, for instance cashmere crops up in the title of scents by Donna Karan and Parfumerie Generale, providing a woolly jumper association to seduce us with the suggestion of comfort. As temperatures drop, we turn to notes that imply warmth such as vanilla and spices, redolent of the mulled wine of Christmas markets or a smoky birch tar to conjure up a real log fire.

The smell of bonfire night is superbly recreated in Union Fragrance’s ‘Celtic Fire’. Here’s the PR:

“Celts, bonfires, cold salty sea breeze, these are the strangely associated top notes of this fiercely tribal fragrance, combined with more familiar aromas of British hearth and home: log fires, leather, tea and toast!
To be sure ‘Celtic Fire’ contains some unusual and rather controversial ingredients. Tribal Bog Myrtle, known for firing the Vikings into battle, Peat Tincture, and Marmite™ (Britain’s iconic classic still produced to this day in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire), combine to produce this startlingly original fragrance.” 

The predominant note of Celtic Fire is most definitely fire smoke (birch tar). This tricky note appears in a number of perfumes; CB I Hate Perfume’s ‘Burning Leaves’ reeks of sooty chimneys/burning garden detritus and offers not a lot else to accompany it. Chanel’s ‘Sycomore’ is another ‘get your laundry off the line quick before your neighbour’s bonfire taints it’ kind of whiff. Though there is much to be said about the gorgeous symphony of Sycomore’s lush woody notes.

Bonfires smell brilliant. That is, as long as you’re not wearing one. What Union fragrance cleverly managed to do is select a quirky bunch of additional notes to quell the ‘recently on fire’ nuance that drifts around you. They are only just discernible in the opening but evolve beautifully further into it's wear as the birch tar recedes a little. Although sandalwood is not listed, there is a definite soft woodiness that I associate with this beloved note. Thankfully it doesn’t smell of tea, toast and marmite, but it does project a ‘warm butter’ sensation that feels cosy. It reminds me of a bitterer version of the Serge Lutens creation – Jeux De Peau, which is celebrated for it’s spiced patisserie notes. Marmite is surely a curious ingredient. Perhaps that is what Union refer to with the implication of ‘salty sea breeze’, for Marmite is indeed a salty little beast.

Perhaps the greatest thing about Celtic Fire is that it smells of two of my favourite olfactory sensations; single malt whisky and damp earthy woods. As I sat yesterday in Manchester’s finest chilly weather pub - The Briton’s Protection, I sipped at a peaty Laphroaig whisky and smiled at the thought of the Celtic Fire. Those clever folk at Union Fragrance have bottled my winter romance.
Odiferess recommends spending the cold months sozzled on good whisky.