Monday, 30 November 2020

Tom Ford - Black Orchid, the re-emergence of my scent nemesis

 


I was never destined to love Black Orchid. 

My first experience with Tom Ford’s blockbuster scent was being engulfed in the deafening sillage of a work colleague. The glamourous blonde wore buckets of the stuff and topped it up frequently throughout the day. The shiny black bottle would often appear in the staff room at lunch time, you could taste it in your sandwiches. On my drive home, I felt as if she were in the car with me, her perfume sat like a patchouli laden ghost in my passenger seat.  

As the brand’s popularly began to soar, it gained an ardent fan base in online perfume groups. People paid a fortune for ‘Private Blends’, falling hard for the stylish point of sale displays in upmarket department stores. Bestsellers such as Oud Wood and Tuscan Leather gained a following that rivalled that of the notorious Aventus by Creed. 

Advertising campaigns for the brand divided opinion. Featuring explicitly depicted isolated female body parts, bottles of perfume were wedged between cleavage, bums and open thighs, fans of the brand applauded the shock factor. Others were horrified by the fact that many of the women featured in the campaigns looked controlled and objectified. The term ‘badvertising’ was used to describe Tom Ford campaigns in marketing industry articles, as advertising professionals mocked the graphically naff ‘sex sells’ throwback theme. 

It’s no wonder I left the Tom Ford counters well alone, I didn’t want to contribute to the hype of a brand that left me cold. 

Never has a campaign invited so many spoofs!


Many years have passed since I baulked at the monstrous sillage of my colleague.     This year I’ve found myself craving fragrances with a dominant fruity note. I’ve worn the pants off my bottle of Cristalle, revelling in it’s joyous ‘fruit salad in a basket of hay’ aroma. Piguet’s Visa sated my more decadent moments, my bottle seemed to spray humour as it brought to mind an image of over-ripe peaches squished up inside dirty leather trousers. As I pondered the possibilities of what else I could get my nose around, I was hit by the desire to once again smell Black Orchid. I recalled that amongst the dense syrupy proliferation of patchouli and chocolate, there nestled a good wallop of fruit. And so, with a sense of moral unease, I purchased a small decant from a friend. 

Do I like it?
I’m not sure. A single spray still fills a room, two sprays could induce the gag reflex the area of my postal code. It’s bossy and domineering and synthetic to the point that a bottle could come accessorised with pointy nail extensions and giant lip fillers. It’s not me. 

But a little part of me sniffs at my wrists and marvels at the oddity of how distinctive it smells. There is an abundance of fruit, swimming in a peculiar wash of aquatic waves. Chuck a load of dense oriental notes into the mix and it becomes a unique whiff. In a marketplace where there is a multitude of scents that the smell almost the same as their shelf-fellows, Black Orchid smells like Black Orchid. 

My tiny decant was enough for me to satisfy the curiosity of my memory. I’ll pass it on to a friend (who lives a very long way away!). 


Sunday, 4 October 2020

Review & Giveaway - Puredistance RUBIKONA, a heritage patchouli

The history of perfumery is a constant source of intrigue for me. I’m fascinated by so many aspects of how artfully scented water influenced (and also reflected) the society it entered. I believe perfumes were often ‘better’ in the past; created and released at a slower pace, with substantial concepts rather than gimmicks, an exhilarating olfactory journey through a pyramid structure and an aspirational desire that you could subscribe to without the wallet of an oligarch. 



I have a grand collection of books about perfume, one of my favourites being Roja Dove’s beautiful coffee table slab - The Essence of Perfume. Chapters within celebrate the history of perfumery, featuring advertisements from renowned scents that shaped each decade. The fragrances manifest the design aesthetic of each decade, with those of fashion houses being the most captivating reflections of each era. 


It’s no surprise that there are few perfume houses from the 21st century that I am loyal to, whilst I’ll race to smell the latest creations from Guerlain or Hermes, I can wait patiently for a sniff of most of the contemporary niche creations that line the ‘drop em’ if they don’t shift’ shelves of Selfridges and the like.


There are exceptions.

I am deeply loyal to Puredistance Master Perfumes. They create considered, classic and elegant perfume. The upcoming release of RUBIKONA marks 13 years of trading, in this period there have been only 12 carefully curated fragrances. In comparison to similarly placed brands such as Amouage or the aforementioned Roja Dove, this is a tiny output. For comparison, Roja Dove has released 135 scents in just 15 years. With the arrival of a press release from Puredistance comes the knowledge that you are about to smell something that has been a year or more in the making, regardless of ‘wether it’s you’ or not, it will smell of the type of craftsmanship that graced the classic scents of a slower era.





RUBIKONA smells like a scent from the past. Whilst not remotely old fashioned, its potent personality is intensely memorable. It’s almost as if you’ve recalled something that didn’t previously exist. And as you raise your wrist to nose and inhale, you realise with mystified affection that you’ve missed it. 


The overall composition pays a grand homage to patchouli in a way that we don’t encounter today. Patchouli has existed in so many guises, from a single note redolent of the 1960s bohemian, to an earthy substitution for oakmoss in the era of IFRA regulations, and, in it’s current role - as the title of many a niche perfume where ingredient focused names and compositions have become a significant trend. 


Created by C├ęcile Zarokian, RUBIKONA treats patchouli as a warm and earthy foundation to a deeply decadent perfume. It isn’t a cool Chypre composition, more a sumptuous giant of a scent, a sensual fragrance for a grand evening. As with the similarly characterful WARSZAWA, RUBIKONA is a truly harmonious creation. Whilst patchouli sings clearly to the wearer, a seamless heart of luxurious floral absolutes and juicy citrus top notes ensure that RUBIKONA is indeed a complete and fulsome perfume rather than an homage to a dominant note. 

 

The pyramid structure of RUBIKONA, for me, offers its greatest treat at the close of wear. The dry down is utterly sublime. My journey lands on a soft cushiony bed of musky vanilla with a creamy hint of iris still present, offering a sophisticated nuance to the ice cream sweetness. It is at this point that I can’t keep my nose away from my wrist. 


If it were to magically appear on the pages of The Essence of Perfume, I could find it in the chapter dedicated to the 70s where it would nestle alongside the syrupy patchouli archetype that was the original formulation of Givenchy Gentlemen. Maybe it could jump to the 80s and match the carnal animalic florality of YSL Kouros, or even step into 21st century to join Mugler Alien in a battle for vanilla rich headiness. Whichever era it landed in, we would certainly remember it today. 

 Top Notes - Grapefruit, Bergamot, Mandarin. 

Middle Notes - Rose, Iris, Ylang, Clove, Orange blossom, Creamy notes. 

Base Notes - Patchouli, Cedarwood, Vanilla, Solar notes, Musk.



Claire Waight Keller revisits heritage 

evening wear for Givenchy Menswear collection 2019


If you would like the opportunity to try RUBIKONA, leave a comment below (or on the related post at https://www.facebook.com/odiferess) for the chance to receive an official sample, a collection of scent cards and a notebook featuring beautiful illustrations from the team at Puredistance. I will pick a winner at random on the release date of the 18th of October. 

Apologies, but due to postal law, this draw will be open only to readers with an address in the UK.


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Sunday, 12 July 2020

Bathing in the classics, 4711, Badedas and Fenjal





I’ve been bathing a lot lately.

There’s something about the cocooning effect of a warm bath that’s deeply tranquil, or the zingy bombardment of a shower with the pressure turned up to max. 


I’ve always revelled in the joy of bathing, but with the outbreak of Covid 19 it’s become even more of a necessity. When I return home from a day’s teaching, I immediately strip off and bundle my clothes into the washer, then comes the race past the window as I leg it to the shower, hoping that I haven’t shocked the neighbours with a high speed nude bounce!


For the perfume lover, choosing a bathing potion is a joy. It’s yet another way to feed our fragrant obsession. In recent months I’ve gone vintage (not literally, I’m not using putrid bottles of bacteria from the 80s), but vintage as in ‘I’ve been around for a long time and there’s a damn good reason why’.

As we know, brands come and go with products being discontinued as quick as they were launched. But these products have been on the shelves for donkeys years, their unique fragrances and super utility commanding a loyal following. Here’s what I’m using:





4711 Original Eau de Cologne Shower Gel

Exactly as it sounds, a shower gel fragranced with the iconic scent that’s been around since 1792.  The bright turquoise gel creates a lush lather with exactly the same effect of dousing yourself with the EDC, a bracingly bright burst of citrus and herbal notes that cool your body and spark your spirit joy-wards. Nothing feels as perky as 4711. 

My bottle marks the transition from an anxiety ridden day to a restful evening, show me a therapist that can do that for less than a fiver.  





Badedas Original Bath Gelee

Another reviving delight hailing from Germany (these guys really know how to bathe). Badedas is probably best known for its saucy advertising campaigns from the 70s and 80s. The strapline ‘things happen after a Badedas bath’ promised bathers anything from a handsome peeping Tom lurking outside their window to a leather booted goddess striding from a helicopter. Sadly after a Badedas bath I usually just have a glass of wine and watch some telly. 

That said, it’s gorgeous. 

Badedas is one for the forest scent lovers. The lurid green bath soak offers up deeply aromatic woody foam, with oodles of coniferous sap and a calming earthiness. Its therapeutic circulation boosting ingredient is extract of Horse Chestnut. I’m not sure wether the extract imparts a scent or if it’s added with perfume, but there is definitely a whiff reminiscent of peeling open a conker ready to thread and bash over someone’s knuckles. 

This is my go to relax bath, soothing and invigorating in equal measure. Its a real treat year round but particularly beautiful in the winter when I crave the scents of nature around me to banish the dark nights.
You can find a large bottle for less than a tenner online and in big pharmacies. 




Fenjal Classic Creme Bath Oil

If Badedas is your reviving soak, Fenjal is your dreamy one. Launched in Switzerland in 1962 (yet another German speaking country), Fenjal has been lulling us to sleep with its pthalo blue goop since the days before most people indulged in a nightly bath. Back then, it must have been a treat for those with time and money. Nowadays most Europeans have indoor plumbing and it costs about £7, a utilitarian treat indeed!

Fenjal is strong, a little capful scents the upstairs rooms of my house with a heady oriental whiff. The fragrance is deeply sensual and soporific, ideal for a late night pre-bed bath. Even the bottle looks sensual, she has a waist!
According to their website, the notes are vanilla, rose and pine, yet neither of those notes dominate. There is a distinct terpene whiff, slightly reminiscent of pine but it reads more as an aged patchouli, underpinned by a sweet vanillic, earthy and powdery nuance that lulls you into a deep state of relaxation. 

Fenjal released a range of fragrances a few years ago which seem to have disappeared from the shelves as fast as they were launched, unless they just didn’t come to the UK? I’m not sure I’d buy one anyway as veering away from the original scent would feel like an act of infidelity. 


In the current crisis I’m staying close to home with my woefully expired passport. But I’m still dreaming of where I’ll travel in the future. Perhaps a trip to Berlin is in order? Whilst tourists flock in their thousands for the city’s arts scene, I’ll revel in the wonder of German toiletry shopping…


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Avid bathers may also like to click here to read a post on another delightful forest bath from Aromatherapy Associates. 

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Life in lockdown and the joy of the outdoors


It’s 3 weeks into lockdown here in the UK.

The enforced isolation is affecting us in so many different ways. As a Teacher, I came to terms with the oddity of remotely teaching my students, seeing photos of their Art homework ping into my inbox ready for feedback or a deeply sought well done. I checked in on a vulnerable student via Facetime, we had a virtual brew together whilst she cuddled her dog on the sofa. The absence of the formality of the classroom felt peculiar and I realised how much I craved the normality of seeing these young folk at school again, even if they ordinarily drove me a little bonkers. 

A rota system was created to look after the children of fellow keyworkers. Upon my turn to go in, I approached the door handle with trepidation, fearing the presence of the virus on everything I touched. My imagination turned my cosy art classroom into an environment that could potentially kill me. The trouble is, it’s not just my imagination is it?

Mercifully, I’ve spent the duration of the Easter holiday safe at home, in the grand fluffy company of my beloved cat. As time passed, I’ve grown calmer. In some ways I’ve become used to the isolation. What began as extraordinary has turned into the new way of living, the lack of pressure to ‘do something’ is unexpectedly gratifying. 

The saviour of my mental health has been exercise. As The Government released the order that we were only allowed to exercise close to home, I began to take to local untrodden paths. Living close to some truly picturesque moorland, I’d previously driven to my hiking spots, but now I began to explore my immediate surroundings. The thing is, you have to walk very steeply uphill for a couple of miles before the good bit starts. The journey involves shady woods full of plastic waste, an estate where folk queue for strong lager outside the local shop still in their slippers and gangs of bored teenagers ignore social distancing whilst sharing a spliff. If you’re lucky, you’ll avoid being mown down by topless traveller lads racing through the streets on a quad bike. By the time you’ve reached the top of the hill you feel so invincible that you want to carry on. And I do, I carry on for miles and miles. 

Never has a little green sign been so valued

Once out on the hills a network of trails weaves through the moor and farmland. Narrow lanes are lined with Hawthorn busting into fragrant blossom. Clumps of Narcissus and Bluebells sway a gentle scent into the breeze and remind me that despite the human horror, new life blooms. Up here there are few others, but there is so much beauty in the isolation of the natural world. Bees and butterflies fill the air. A Red Admiral appears to accompany me, landing periodically to spread its wings and bathe in the unseasonably early heat.



I begin to make new friends. A chestnut horse becomes a regular morning pal. I stop to say hello and scratch his neck as he reaches over the fence to nuzzle his enormous head into my belly. Every day I rue the fact that I’ve forgotten to bring him an apple yet again. I keep an eye out for the ginger farm kitten, a confident little fella who strolls over for affection, then prances off proudly displaying his surprisingly large furry orange balls. They remind me again that new life emerges just as it always will. 



I follow a stream through the woods and take a pause to stand on a slate slab over the trickling water. The sun beats down and I find myself raising my arms high in salute to the rays. It feels like a prayer. 

Right now, the relentless pursuit of perfume is far from my mind. I’m reaching for familiar scents that blend with the landscape, mossy chypres, oily green florals and fresh herbal colognes that fit these energetic hikes. Just a little spray, nothing noisy. I want to smell the world around me and connect with the fragrance of life. 


To all my friends in the fragrance community, I wish you good health and happiness and hope that you find some peace and harmony in this unthinkable situation.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Easy listening with harmonious chypres

I have a passion for the easy listening music genre. I still love to dance myself daft to some grizzly drum and bass or steep a dark mood in the haunting howls of Beth Gibbons. But there is a peaceful joy in the honeyed jazz of Henri Mancini or the soulful samba of Brasil 66 from Sergio Mendes.

It’s all about mood. 

Moody marbles - it's a thing now

Our moods fluctuate. At times there may be euphoria, excitement and thrill or darkness, anxiety and melancholia. We hope for contentment punctuated by frequent moments of joy, but the reality is that much of the time we are in stasis, a state of unremarkable equilibrium as we go about our daily routines and habitual behaviour. 

Easy listening complements that equilibrium. 

When I prepare for a night out, I consider my scent choice with great care. Do I want to ooze glamour? Or lay a scented trail of indie quirkiness? Do I want to immerse my companion in a cloud of exotic spice? The selection of a special occasion scent is pleasurable, and one of the reasons why many fragrance lovers own far too many bottles of perfume!

When I consider my own collection, these ‘special’ fragrances are not my most valued. I often fear for their molecular breakdown as they are worn so rarely. I buy the smallest bottles available and store them with the care of a Museum Curator. I don’t own many.

My true love lies in my easy listening scents. The bottles that I can reach for early in the morning, those that will anoint me with companionable grace. Throughout the day I will catch gentle whiffs as they harmonise with my surroundings rather than shout for attention.  

My most melodic easy listeners are the classic chypres: Guerlain Mitsouko, Chanel Cristalle and Clarins Eau Dynamisante. There’s a theme here, they all smell natural. 



Mitsouko and Cristalle both feature an earthy dollop of oakmoss and lush layer of fruit. The mossy undergrowth is reassuringly grounding, the fruit, cheering and summery. They are the opposite of a Northern Winter. Whilst Mitsouko is warm, subtle and sensual, Cristalle is vibrant and full of daylight. Both have the capacity to be sprayed through my skin into my soul. They feel like me.

Oakmoss - prozac for witches

I rocket through bottles of Eau Dynamisante, at least one supersize Scarlett flacon per year. It’s the only bottle that I keep in my bathroom, safe in the knowledge that I’ll have used it up before the light and the humid heat can get their molecular meany mitts on my scent. Nothing refreshes like Eau Dynamisante and I will never be without her. 

A browse through the forums of Fragantica or Facebook often reveals threads where members ask ‘how much is too much?’ Or ‘when does a hobby become an addiction?’.  The answer is a personal one, we all know what we can and can’t afford to buy, what we can realistically use up before it turns and what will make us feel joy rather than guilt. 


When I observe my own collection, I see fragrant friends, the number of easy listeners far outweigh those that will only anoint only ‘the right’ mood. These infrequently worn exotic beauties are loved, but ruthlessly edited. I am happy in the knowledge that I will actually wear most of my perfumes to the end of the bottle. Maybe this is the answer to a carefully curated collection? 

Henry Mancini breezes easy in the med

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Ill communication


Just a quickie to say thanks to anyone who comments on the blog and an apology to say that you won't get a response from me!
For some reason I can no longer comment on my own blog. I may have unwittingly banned myself. 
I shall try and sort it out before I offend my readers and nobody ever comments again. In the meantime, please bear with...

UPDATE - FIXED

Well not really. It's a problem with Safari. But if I switch to Chrome it's fine. I imagine that's probably the best option for anyone with disappearing comments. 

Puredistance GOLD, a tender Oriental

I can divide my perfume collection into roughly two camps. On one side sit the fabulous oddities, scents like Robert Piguet Visa with its strange odour of overripe fruit and leather trousers, and the original Gucci Eau de Parfum, an exercise in darkly spiced vanilla with an air of antiseptic dental clinic. Whilst I adore them, I wear these scents infrequently, their personalities being so huge that they serve to accompany a specific mood, usually a gregarious one!
On the other side sit my faithful companions, those with a tender beauty, gentle compositions that I’m happy to let in to my space whilst dressing for work at 6.30am. Mitsouko is often reached for at this sensitive hour, as her subtly earthy aroma caresses rather than engulfs me, a hint of peach peeping through to perk up the dark morning. 
These tender beauties are a rarity in contemporary perfumery, especially within the niche market, who’s creations are often either artfully odd or bombastically bold, sometimes linear creations, ‘full on’ from the first spritz. 
A rarity is the perfume house who refuses to follow contemporary trends, a house that simply desires to make extraordinarily splendid perfume. No novel quirky concept, no loud space domination, simply sprayable beauty. One such house is Puredistance
When I smelt GOLD, their latest release, I was immediately struck by the complete absence of novelty. The brief was simple, Jan Ewoud Vos, founder of the company, desired an exceptionally fine fragrance that would synesthetically communicate the concept of Gold. 

With the release of GOLD, Perfumer Antonie Lie describes his latest creation for Puredistance as “naturally rich, warm and harmonious”. The aspect of synesthesia relates very much to the colour of Gold. Aesthetically, gold radiates warmth in the same way as silver emits iciness. Gold is voluptuous and sensual whilst silver is spartan and cool tempered. Gold welcomes us into her glow, Silver shines from a distance. Lie’s GOLD is a sprayable good mood, a cosy embrace, she's a deeply congenial scent. 
Gold could alternatively signify prestige, superiority and wealth, Amouage have a Gold creation, popular in Arabia where Gold is a much utilised sign of wealth. Kim Kardashian and Jay Z have their own Gold scents, again hinting (or pointing obviously!) to a lavish lifestyle. But that is most certainly not what Puredistance GOLD is about. 
JAY Z loves a bit of bling

I’ve said it before, Puredistance make ‘proper’ perfume. GOLD harks back to a time when perfume was a mysterious elixir that we applied with joy rather than ingredient analysis. Indeed Gold smells vintage, almost as if you remember it from the past but realise it never existed. 
The notes for GOLD are:
Top Notes
Green Mandarine Essence - Italy, Bergamot Essence - Calabria, Pink peppercorn Essence - Reunion Island, Rosemary Essence - Morocco, Clove buds Essence - Madagascar

Middle Notes
Jasmin Absolute - India, Ciste Absolute - Spain, Geranium Essence - Morocco,
Cinnamon Bark Absolute - Madagascar

Base Notes
Styrax Essence - Honduras, Benzoin Resinoide - Laos, Myrrhe Resinoide, Patchouli Essence - Indonesia, Vanilla Green Beans - Madagascar, Tonka Beans Absolute - Venezuela, Castoreum Absolute, Vetiver Essence - Haiti.

But you don’t really need to know that. 
You’ll most certainly smell the Cinnamon, Pepper and Clove buds. They’ll greet you from the first spritz and dance around your olfactory bulb energetically. But then everything seems to become one, a harmonious composition where no individual fights for domination. Despite some strident notes, the overall effect is soft and mellifluous, a grand oriental with the volume turned low. 

GOLD is not a ‘statement’ perfume, she’s your companionable accessory. And you’ll always feel content in her glow.