Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Shopping at Dior La Collection Privée - Eau Noire and brilliant sales boys

Saturday found me fanatically seeking out the new reform of the celebrated but elusive Yohji Homme. I didn’t find it. Selfridges has not yet stocked it yet in Manchester. What I did hit upon however was two marvellously enthusiastic sales assistants and a shrine to perfume junkies courtesy of Dior’s La Collection Privée counter at Selfridges Exchange Square.

I hear stories of snooty SAs frequently though I haven’t really encountered the ‘snooty SA’ phenomenon here in Manchester. Maybe it’s our Northern souls? But ours are friendly, chatty, charming and even tolerant of my frumpy appearance when I’ve rejected stylish clothing in favour of a distinctly outdoorsy hiker’s jacket on days of shockingly Mancunian rain. That said, I’ve not dared approach Chanel wearing Regatta!

What does vary however, is the level of knowledge and/or fanaticism held by the SAs. Some have been employed because they are presentable and personable. Fine, but the ones I like the best are the true perfume lovers, the ones who will spend plentiful time yakking on with me about the wonder of smell, the ones who will impart a little bit of additional knowledge to those of us who could probably already name at least 3 key notes in everything we are given to smell. In short, fellow perfume junkies.

And so it began. Arriving at the niche brands counter, I encountered David who quickly delivered the sad news of the missing Yohji. The disappointment was spirited away with the offer of a spray of Piguet’s new delightfully chewy ‘Alameda’ and a tour around a few of the Maison Francis Kurkdjian fumes. 
This is where the fun started. If you’ve smelt his ‘Absolue Pour le Soir’, you may be aware of the ‘unusual’ effect of the initial top notes. I couldn’t possibly repeat my partner Andy’s cutting (and accurate) analysis but if you’ve ever: a) been to Glastonbury, b) camped away from showers/rivers for more than 3 days or c) walked through an alleyway in the city after the pubs close, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The peculiar thing is that I smelt it on the arm of another SA who had applied it a few hours ago and it had transformed into an utterly beautiful honeyed and smoky affair. Now there is nothing I love more than the discovery of a bonkers perfume so this excited me enormously and initiated a quirk fuelled conversation, whereupon I was introduced to his colleague on Dior Privée, Jake.

“Have you smelt our collection before?” he enquired.

I mumbled my response “yes, a few of them, not, erm, properly..” (long gap as my wide eyes lingered on a small bottle labeled ‘Mousse’) Yes, ‘mousse’, alongside ‘labdanum’ and ‘ambergris’! Behind the main counter of full size bottles of Privée fume lies a smaller counter of bottles to play with, a veritable shrine to scent. In addition to bottles of each fragrance in the line, there are bottles of the afore-spotted essences, which to me is the most thrilling thing I can gift to my nose’s experience.

Jake at his table of temptation

‘Mousse’ translates as moss. For me – the heart of my beloved Mitsouko and the base of so many of those thunderingly lovely Carons from the mid twentieth century. With IFRA now restricting the use of Oakmoss in contemporary fragrances, we seem to have become obsessed with this long adored earthy note.

And so it was that Jake encouraged me to have a good play with the essences, this is how they smelt:

Mousse: slightly bitter yet soft, earthy (wet soil?), green without any astringency – a little like a gentle vetiver note, slight underlying sweetness, edge of smokiness, definite ‘bark’ feeling. I’m now smelling the card 5 days later and it’s dried to one of the most extraordinarily wonderful things I’ve ever smelt.

Ambergris: Sweet, oceanic, subtle, musky, dusty, tobacco like and very similar in smell to Balmain’s ‘Ambergris’ perfume – it’s a fairly literal translation. Again, beautiful.

Labdanum: Surprisingly different to what I’d imagined. As a key ingredient to ‘amber’ bases I’d imagined it to be a dark, syrupy and resinous scent but what I smelt instead was a sharp edged wood – similar to cedar or oud in their pure state. Despite being a wood devotee, this was my least favourite as a single note.

I think that by this point (where I must have displayed toddler style excitement, manic eyes and unusually fast speech), Jake had clearly understood that I was a note geek and a fume junkie. Which is where we relaxed on comfortable chairs into a long leisurely sample of all the fragrances.

My tour of the collection was a collective play time, with Jake, David, Andy and I fast firing observations, memories and opinions at each other in the manner of people who genuinely care about fragrance. At times I tuned out as the joy of holding blotter to nose overtook and rendered me momentarily lost in fragrant space. Chat merged from the Dior friendly i.e. Talk of perfumers, innovation and design history, though to the less comfortable, courtesy of Andy who raised the sore point of Christian Dior’s dubious role in encouraging women back into traditional glamorous wife roles after their foray into doing something useful during WW2!
So what of the fragrances? I was impressed. I don’t know why I haven’t given this line much consideration in the past. Perhaps it’s the fact that I prefer to smell something that will give me change from £100 if I actually buy it. Though with the large size of the bottles (starting at 125 ml), they are in fact a fairly reasonable price per ml for niche perfumery. The promotional booklet that I was given (a luxuriously illustrated delight in itself) states:

“A collection of rare, authentic, refined fragrances for both men and women, composed with noble and rigorously selected ingredients. These are true olfactory creations, with a flower at the heart of each, a signature of Dior fragrances.”

The range is eclectic, featuring both current trends (interpretations of patchouli, amber and oud) and more excitingly, some curious creatures. Here are my favourites:

Eau Noire: It had me at first whiff. Regular Odiferess readers will have already ascertained that the words ‘liqourice’ and ‘lavender’ render me babbling with joy. This fragrance uses them to great effect ands adds to the combination a curious ‘curry’ note which I assume could be a whiff of Immortelle flower. It reminds me a little of Parfum D Empire’s ‘Fougere Bengale’, although it’s more subtle and less International supermarket flavoured. Eau Noire represents a daring side to the collection, as everyone will happily plump for an oud or an amber these days but it will take a sense of adventure to wear this curiously charming concoction. Interestingly, it’s perfumer is Francis Kurkdjian, of the aforementioned Glastonbury-esque scent. Personally, I adore it and I hope it’s eccentricity doesn’t make it one for discontinuation.

New Look 1947: My initial reaction was ‘boring pleasant floral’. I shouldn’t like this. It has all the ingredients of an Odiferess yawn. However, I was gifted a little sample and after applying it to skin I can honestly say it’s a stunner. Creamy, woody and floral in the ‘non screechy’ vein, it purrs sensuality. I feel that overtly feminine florals do tend to create an olfactory image of the type of woman that might wear it. This reminds me of Diana Dors – a buxom blonde bombshell with a sense of humour and a waist small enough to squeeze into one of Monsieur Dior’s curvaceous gowns.

Mitzah: An enormous lush spice bomb reminiscent of Lauder’s Cinnabar or Luten’s Arabie. Immensely heady and loud in all the right ways.

I was less enamoured by:

Patchouli Imperial: An almost aquatic take on Patchouli with a lot of coriander. Very bright and peppery and largely missing the sandalwood detailed in the booklet. I see it as a fresh masculine fragrance that would be pleasant in hot weather but it’s not particularly exciting.

I will certainly re-visit Dior Privée to explore the fragrances that I can’t remember, armed with (good tip alert) some teeny plastic bags to retain the smell of the blotters. I think Eau Noire deserves a full review in it’s own right so keep your eyes out in upcoming articles. Jake and David - if you read this article, thank you for a wonderful afternoon, it was junkie heaven.

In traditional Mancunian shopping style, our day ended with a beer garden pint at Sinclair’s Oyster Bar (handily located outside Selfridges and Harvey Nichs) where we sniffed at Andy’s bargain sale purchase of Gaultier’s Kokorico (£18!) and discussed the cherubic skin of Sales Assistants. How do those boys look so radiant?

Friday, 21 June 2013

3 Guest Writers - stories and poems inspired by scent

I am lucky to know a talented circle of women writers based in Lancaster who met whilst studying. After completing a Creative Writing A Level, they agreed to convene regularly to continue to set each other creative briefs and critique their resulting work. Some years later they remain supportive friends and passionate writers. 
I asked them to consider scent, either in the nature of perfume or indeed the act of smelling itself. Here are their responses:

by Jean Lindsay (a factual memoir)

 She had this buttercup yellow dress – my mum. I watched her sewing it on the treadle machine that stood in the hallway and thought it was the loveliest dress I’d ever seen. It was made of figured taffeta, and had a skirt that spun out into a perfect circle with a sweetheart neckline and little cap sleeves. I suppose it would be the height of fashion in post war Britain of the early 50s. She was a single mum, and in those days it wasn’t a fashionable thing to be, unless of course your dad had been a missing soldier - and mine hadn’t. I know for certain that money was tight, but she loved dancing, and whenever she could, she went to the local dance hall on a Saturday night with her friend, Alice, and I stayed with my granny who I loved dearly.
            But before she went out, I loved watching her go through the ritual of getting ready. The careful make up - so much more basic than nowadays: powder, a little spot of rouge on her cheeks and the red lipstick – always red – and the combing of her flame red curls into little fat sausages. Her eyes sparkled with excitement and I thought she looked beautiful.
            The highlight of this lengthy preparation however, was the moment when the dark blue, glass bottle ofEvening in Paris was taken out of her dressing table drawer. I would hold my breath as she dabbed a little of the precious elixir behind each ear. Then, heaven of heavens, she would dab some behind my ears as well, and we would both breathe in deeply and sigh at the exquisite scent. Once ready, she would give me a hug, tell me to be good and we would walk hand in hand to Granny’s house.
            All my life, just like my mother did, I’ve loved this ritual of sitting at my dressing table getting ready for an evening out, and of course the last thing I do is apply my perfume. I can’t imagine that I would feel properly dressed without that finishing touch.
             Mum wasn’t the only one to enjoy her night out, granny and I used to enjoy ours too. We would watch television on her tiny black and white screen in the centre of a great big wooden cabinet – we didn’t have a television at home, and granny would put a pinch of snuff on the back of my hand. I would sniff it gingerly and sneeze and splutter. I don’t think I ever told my mum though. Then she’d have a milk stout and I’ve have some cream soda. The odd thing is that although I can’t remember the smell of Evening in Paris I can distinctly remember the smell of the snuff. It was a menthol, eucalyptus, camphor sort of a smell and to this day I love anything that smells similar. I’m in my element when I have a cold because I can rub Vic on my chest, and steam under a towel with boiling water and Olbas oil.
            As for my own perfume tastes, I am addicted to Clinique Aromatics Elixir and have been faithful to it for thirty years. I try new perfumes but can’t fall in love with another scent. I just dread the day that Clinique decides to discontinue it. I’m not familiar with the ingredients of Aromatics Elixir but wonder if there are any notes in it that subconsciously transport me back to my childhood and Evening in Paris or more likely granny’s snuff.

The smell of love

by Eve Edmonds

Soft and crumpled sheets on an unmade made
The pillows lying on the ground
The duvet rumpled on the floor
A locked door!

A room now silent at the dawn of day
But for the chorus of the birds
That twitter in the trees
Where no one sees

The curtains drawn, the day awakes
with myriad insects in the air
The light announces that it's day
Or so they say!

The taste of love is on the sheets
And on the bedclothes too
The juice of love is on the bed
And in the head

The smell of love is in the air
The smell of sweat and scent
I wonder why it lingers on
When you are gone...

Smells like Deceit
 by Dee Daglish

After working all day on the perfume counter, her senses were almost overloaded with the onslaught of musky, flowery and spicy scents, but as she opened her front door and stepped into the hall, she couldn’t help but notice the unmistakable scent of ‘Poison’.  She thought she’d caught the occasional heady aroma of it in the house for the past few weeks now, but had always put it down to it being a remnant from work.
‘Hi,’ she called out to her husband.  She walked into the kitchen just as he was switching on the washing machine.
         ‘Oh, hi love.  Have you had a good day?’ he asked, kissing her cheek. 
         The scent of perfume was so strong.  She felt a wave of anger and fear rush through her body as she noticed his lips, redder than usual, with what looked like the remains of lipstick embedded in the crease of his lower lip.  She stared at him, unable to even speak.
         ‘What up?’ he asked, the smile disappearing from his face.
         ‘Has someone been here?’ she asked, clenching her fists until her knuckles turned white.  ‘You reek of perfume, and you’re covered in lipstick!’ she shouted, pushing him away from her. 
         He hung his head for a moment, then looked up, sighing deeply.  ‘It’s not what you think,’ he said, taking hold of her hands.
         ‘Don’t give me that!’ she snapped, ‘Just tell me the truth.’
         He led her by the hand, across the kitchen towards the cellar door.
         ‘Let me show you,’ he said, switching on the light and leading her down the steps towards the corner of the cellar.  He reached under his work bench and pulled out an old suitcase.  He unlocked it and lifted the lid. 
         ‘I meant to tell you, but there never seemed like a good time,’ he said, lifting out a selection of women’s clothes, shoes and a transparent holdall filled with makeup and bottles of perfume.
         ‘I don’t understand,’ she said, staring at the pile of clothes on the workbench.
         He held up one of the dresses.  It was massive.  Big enough to fit – well, a large man.
         ‘It’s mine.  They’re all mine,’ he said.
         She stared at the dresses, shoes and makeup then looked back at her husband and began to laugh.
         ‘Oh my God, I’m so relieved’, she said, hugging him tightly.
         ‘So it’s ok then, you’re not going to leave me or anything?’ he said, hugging her back.
         ‘Well, it’s a bit of a shock, but better than you having an affair.’  They kissed - the scent of his perfume strong in the confines of the musty cellar.

         Later, as she prepared dinner, he popped out to the shops to buy a bottle of wine to mark the occasion.  On his way there he made a call on his mobile, listening for a few moments before speaking.
           ‘You’d better delete this voice mail after you’ve listened to it, but just wanted to tell you that, well, she fell for it, just like you said she would,’ he laughed.  ‘And you were right, you don’t have to worry any more about your perfume when you come round, or about leaving lipstick marks,’ he laughed again.  ‘So see you next week, same time, same place.  Love you.’  He walked into the shop, assuaging his sense of guilt by buying a box of chocolates and a cheap bunch of flowers for his sweet, yet gullible wife.

         She stood in the kitchen and quickly prepared a salad to go with the leftover chicken from yesterday’s dinner.  Her mind raced with the events of the past half hour.  How could he have kept something like that hidden from her for all these years?  It seemed a bit strange.  She felt the same wave of fear and anger rush over her again.  He was seeing someone else, she just knew it.  Maybe she’d finish work early next week, she thought, forcing a smile as she heard his key in the lock.  As he entered the kitchen, bearing a guilty man’s gifts, her smile almost slipped as the smell of another woman’s perfume overpowered her once more. 

Friday, 14 June 2013

Quirky White Florals - A review of Trish McEvoy, Gardenia Musk No 4 and Miller Harris, La Pluie + giveaway

I grew up in a rural village complete with all you would expect from this pastoral idyll; tousled hedgerows, dense cool woods, a riverbank, warm baked hay during the baling season, wild flowers thriving in meadows and my parent’s own fragrant garden. I also remember of course the abundant cow pats, the stench of our neighbour’s vile chrysanthemum filled industrial greenhouse and my friend’s terrifying turkey cabin so it wasn’t entirely beautiful. I do think however, that this mass of supersized smells probably initiated my curiosity with scent.

Perhaps my favourite scented memory is the beguiling but slightly lewd smell of the pretty white flowers of hawthorn hedges. They were at once startlingly rich, sweet and opulent but also tended to make me check my trainers (or more frequently, rollerboots) for traces of the numerous animal effluences that graced the country lanes.

The white floral is my least favourite genre. I have tried hard to love classics such as Robert Piguet’s Fracas or La Chasse aux Papillons by L Artisan Parfumeur but a proliferation of Tuberose and Jasmine brings about an extraordinarily queasy response. I appreciate the importance of these notes and indeed the orange blossom, in particular, the manner in which they play a crucial supporting role in so many pleasing fragrances. However, when they play a leading role, my nose withers in distaste at the indolic fetidity.

For me, I need an alternative take on the white flower, one which either surprises me with a quirky note combination or seduces me with the offer of a true replication of nature.

One perfume that replicates the white flower in nature is Trish McEvoy’s Gardenia Musk No 4. This is about as ‘putrid voluptuousness’ as it gets and is perhaps the sexiest fragrance in my collection. By ‘sexy’, I mean ‘come hither’ in the way that hawthorn or honeysuckle smells when warmed by the sun. With their pallid ghostly petals playing second fiddle to the other brightly coloured blooms in the garden, they need to release an almighty fertile stench to attract the bees.

I don’t recall the aroma of a gardenia flower, nor have I ever sniffed an isolated synthetic molecule that replicates it but my sense of ‘gardenia’ within perfumery is that of a lactonic floral, a slightly honeyed milky sweetness with absolutely no sharp edges. In that way it is to flowers what sandalwood is to wood. That’s exactly what you get with Gardenia Musk – a creamy, musky, rounded scent with a slight suggestion of honey and the warmth of a teeny bit of wood. I smell a highly realistic and decadent note of honeysuckle at night, captivating, as I’ve yet to smell another honeysuckle fragrance that does not smell of pound shop shampoo.

In contrast to an aldehyde laced floral, it feels like it contains no top notes and certainly no screechy aspects, as in numerous harsh floral compositions. I think the ‘sexy’ aspect is amplified by the fact that it’s almost drowsy. With no vivacious top notes to make it sparkle it is literally pleading to go to bed.

It’s white floral opposite is Miller Harris’s magnificent La Pluie, translating as ‘the rain’. Miller Harris describe the heart of this fragrance as ‘wet white flowers’, hence it’s name. The ‘wetness’ is increased by an abundance of vetiver, adding a grassy tropical forest vibe.
I wore my sample several times before I could write about it. Why? Because it’s so multi-faceted, as complex and surprising as Gardenia Musk is simplistic. It is most definitely gender neutral and I imagine it would appeal to others who also find white florals generally sickly.

The most curious aspect of this fume is that it seems to wear ‘backwards’. Vanilla bourbon and vetiver bourbon appear at the top of the composition instead of at the drydown where you would expect them to nestle. The vanilla is ‘pure’ vanilla in that is lacks sugary connotations, hoorah for Miller Harris! Instead, it reminds me a little of Shalimar in that there is a very adult smoky and leathery sensation to the vanilla/vetiver combination. Bergamot and tangerine seep in to add a little citrusy sparkle, again with a distinct nod to Shalimar EDT/EDC formulations.

Soon into it’s wear the ‘wet white flower’ heart transforms the smoky beginning into an exotic island floral interpretation. Jasmine and ylang ylang combine in a fresh partnership, ‘lifting’ the experience. The heady quality of jasmine is tempered by the sharpness of ylang (think of ylang as having the same euphoric effect as citrus). Both of these notes play out with subtlety, contributing rather than dominating. I feel that Miller Harris has a link across it’s fumes in that a number share a herbal, aromatic and soapy theme. La Pluie has this in buckets, a relief for me as I adore the way that the camphorous lavender is used to offset what could otherwise be too floral, bringing a little herbal integrity (nature at it’s most authentic) to every stage of it’s wear.

My mission to discover more alternative takes on the genre is ongoing. Therefore I’d love to hear your comments or suggestions about others that might surprise me. Or indeed your opinions of the fumes featured in this article.

I am giving away a sample of Gardenia Musk No 4 to a commenter drawn at random. To enter, simply leave a comment below and I’ll draw a winner at the end of June. Sadly It’s only safe to post it within the UK due to our Royal Mail postal restrictions, however EU commenters are welcome to enter but be aware that your sample might be end up being worn by a customs official!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The paltry power of the 'skin scent' - How to amp up projection.

"I can't smell it" is a common complaint amid our enthusiastic community. We all know the aching disappointment of buying an astonishing beauty, then discovering that it somehow escapes our body an hour into the relationship, leaving us confused and bereft. 

Price, it seems, is not a factor. A single spritz of Clinique's tenacious Chypre 'Aromatics Elixir' lasts for 24 hours, making a £30 50 ml bottle last for years. The lid of an empty bottle has lurked in my lingerie drawer for over two years now and still smells like it's getting dressed up for a huge night out! This irks me. When I compare it to some of the wimpish throws of niche fragrances that cost me three times the price of the Clinique. What's the point of anointing ourselves with something that we simply can't smell unless we directly press our noses to our skin? 

Jean Claude Ellena, Uber Perfumer and current author of the Hermes brand, is famed for creating 'watercolour' washes of perfume. I find this an odd concept. As an artist, I know that watercolour equals water plus paint. Yes, there is the connotation of a subtlety of colour, transient hues merging together and a skillful rendering of form, all very romantic if we compare him to Turner or Klee. Yet do we really want a subtle watered down paint in our fragrant compositions? I'd much rather have a big exuberant splodge of oil paint decorating my body's canvas. 

My beef with Ellena stems from the discovery of his extraordinarily beautiful creations for the Hermessence line. My favourite, Brin de Reglisse, is an aromatic coupling of licquorice and lavender. A deep inhalation of Brin de Reglisse is quite possibly the most moving olfactory sensation I've encountered. The trouble is though, I need a deep inhalation. I can drip two tracks all the way up both arms and literally smell it for about ten minutes. After that, nothing unless I weld nose to skin (which admittedly is something I do all day, every day and quite often in bed through the night).

So what to do about this problem? Answer number one is to only buy huge orientals and chypres, 'perfumey' perfumes. Not a winning solution for me as I love a great many genres. I need to go further to get a little more gusto out of my wimpish floral woody musks and citric colognes. Another answer could be to move to a hot country where the sun can warm your skin and allow it to act in the same manner as a fragrant oil burning diffuser. Heat really does increase projection. 
The only real solution though is to prepare your skin for it's anointing process by exfoliating and applying body cream. Well moisturised skin with very few old dead cells allows fragrance to hold on a little longer. We also have the opportunity to match our body creams to our perfume or indeed play with layering scent upon non matching creams to give an extra dimension to the notes. Here are my favourites:

Step one, exfoliate:

As long as it contains a large proportion of exfoliating granules, be it salt, rice powder or whatever scientific grain or acid is the latest trend, you can use anything. Exfoliating 'shower gels' are pointless, not enough grains. Go for a 'scrub', don't spend a fortune, do spend a little time making sure that you've given yourself a good working over.

Step two, moisturise:

Unscented moisturisers are a great way to prep for Monsieur Ellena's watercolours. My favourites are good old fashioned E45 body lotion which is cheap, lightweight and quickly absorbed or Kiehl's Creme de Corps, significantly more expensive but it imparts a lovely rich sheen to the skin and feels delightful to apply.

Lightly scented moisturisers are fun to play with and can add an extra dimension to your fragrance. Yves Rocher's Nutrition Nourishing Body Lotion for Dry Skin is delicately scented with a slightly woody and gourmand feeling almond note. I adore wearing this underneath Guerlain's L' Instant Magic as it amps up the volume of the almond note. It's also priced cheaply (Yves Rocher always have great value offers on their website) and has a luxurious rich texture. 
Vaseline's Essential Moisture Body Lotion with Oat Extract is another subtly fragranced delight that fits well with woody and musky scents, again, a bargain and easily found in the supermarket. I particularly like this worn underneath Serge Luten's Jeux de Peau.

Matching scented moisturisers are a great way to increase longevity and projection bomb your perfumes. I currently have YSL's Opium Creme which I adore. It smells almost the same as Opium EDP but somehow better, with the quirky spice notes very evident but less of the floral aspect appearing. Guerlain's Mitsouko Body Creme smells exactly like Mitsouko and increases the effectiveness of my EDT. I imagine that I knock out any nose within several metres of my Opium/Mitsouko radius but I don't care, "Take that you floral fruity misses, smell my trail!"

That said, we could just all consistently wear Aromatics Elixir or Midnight Poison and stop messing about with these fleeting watercolour nymphs, but that would be boring eh?

J W Turner

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Salty sea dogs, a review of Miller Harris, Fleurs de Sel and Comme de Garcons, Series 4 Vettiveru Cologne.

With the sun finally breaking through Manchester’s semi-permanent cloud cover my thoughts have turned to the seaside. Being entirely landlocked, I’m using scent as way to travel beachwards until I get the opportunity to turn my face to the salty spray. Two fragrances are aiding my olfactory trip, Fleurs de Sel and Vettiveru.

New from Miller Harris, Fleurs de Sel is said to be inspired by “the herbs and flowers that surround the famous salt fields of the Cote Sauvage”. It also claims to have “astringent salt at it’s heart”. How do we interpret a salt note? I’ve smelt both my bog standard cooking salt and my chef partner’s posh sea crystals, they don’t exude much of a whiff, giving off more of a sensation than a smell. Upon inhaling the aroma, the salt hits the back of my throat and exudes a recognisably salty, savoury feeling. I’m not sure that I can literally smell salt in Fleurs de Sel but what I do experience is a summery ozonic vibe that’s amplified by a beautiful herbal hit of thyme, clary sage and rosemary. Although rose and iris are listed as notes they are virtually undetectable underneath the herb garden posy, perhaps only serving to balance the composition with a little ‘perfumy-ness’.

This is an intensely aromatic perfume with a great emphasis on the concept of nature. With oakmoss and vetiver creating an additional base layer of bitter greenery, Fleurs de Sel could most certainly take you on a coastal camping trip (if only in your imagination).

As you would expect from the highly conceptual Comme de Garcons, Series 4 Cologne: Vettiveru is a contemporary interpretation of a summer holiday scent. As a committed lover of Colognes, I was keen to have this one in my collection as it projects an alternative take on the standard neroli/bergamot/citrus composition of the genre. Yes, these notes are all in there but they feature as a backdrop to a strident vetiver.

I adore vetiver, particularly how it seems to shape-shift in every composition. It’s recognisably there but displays a greatly differing character in the vast number of scents that lead with this note. Vettiveru introduces a quirky vetiver, made vibrant rather than traditional.
Upon the initial spritz, you are hit with a gargantuan burst of fresh floral and citrus vivacity, typical of a cologne’s uplifting sensation. The floral aspect is composed of neroli and jasmin, although neither shout out their presence, they simply contribute a little smoothness to what would otherwise be a spiky scent. After a few minutes the vetiver appears in abundance, gifting a grassy, earthy and indeed salty presence. In this fragrance I can most definitely smell the ocean, or specifically the way that your skin smells after a dip in the waves: savoury, iodine, seaweed and perhaps even a hint of Piz Buin sun tan cream.

At it progresses through it’s wear, Vettiveru becomes very ‘Comme de Garcons’, giving you a few surprise associations. I first wore this in bed on the day after an operation. Having been woken up by the postman delivering this thing of wonder, I quickly spritzed my wrists and returned bedwards to sleep off the dizzying effects of the surgery. Upon waking, I could smell both a faintly TCP antiseptic and one of my childhood favourite sweets – Floral Gums. I wrote it off as a sleepy post-anaesthetic olfactory trip until after several sober wears when I ascertained that yes, it indeed smells of faintly of TCP (from the clove and cardamom note?) and Floral Gums (which remains unfathomable).

Quirkiness aside, it is a shockingly good take on a traditional product, bending the concept of ‘cologne’ and ‘vetiver’ into a refreshingly pungent juice for the hot summer months. Happily it retails at a price that allows you to literally bathe in the stuff..

Original photo by Sarah Waite

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