Monday, 26 May 2014

Review: Caron - Muguet Du Bonheur & Frederic Malle - En Passant, The Superior 'Eau De Toilet'

It smells like Pledge!

Have you uttered these words before? Or indeed, toilet cleaner, cheapo air fresheners, little hanging cardboard car de-funkers and washing up liquid?

Some olfactory joy for the 50s housewife

Certain notes are synonymous with ‘eau de toilet cleaner’ and it’s sibling domestic hygiene products. This is the sweetly scented land of pine, lavender, lily of the valley, lilac and lemon and lime. Perhaps it’s a scent phenomenon that those of us in our middle and older years will understand more readily, being that there are some mighty clever folk working in labs to create increasingly exotic aroma chemicals for the home (or British seaside B &B) nowadays. My gorgeous Asda own brand washing up liquid bears a distinct resemblance to Comme Des Garcons – Incense Avignon, which I’m sure can’t be a coincidence.

Eau de toilet cleaner is not necessarily an unappealing thing. In fact, I find myself attracted to all of the above notes and will actively seek them out for a sniff. There’s a reason they’ve become commonplace in popular domestic products. That is because they bring the outdoors inside. If my bathroom emits the whiff of a wood in springtime I’m rather chuffed! The almighty turpenic pine of Serge Lutens - Fille En Aiguilles reminds me of those pine scented little hanging car-tree thingamees and Ecover ‘Pine Fresh’ toilet cleaner. I’ve worked my ecstatic way through 40 mls of it. I’m also a fair way through a large beloved bottle of Penhaligon’s – Lavandula (Pledge lavender furniture polish).

So here are some thoughts on two of my favourite fragrances that have bravely defied the hygiene connotations and made magnificence with the familiar household notes of lilac and lily of the valley.
Van Gogh's Lilac Bush

Firstly, is Olivia Giacobetti’s nostalgic creation for the Editions De Parfums Frederic Malle collection – En Passant, a lilac scent with some extraordinary notes. En Passant translates as ‘in passing’, which is an unusually relevant name. A lilac tree tends to ambush you with it’s beguiling fragrance as you pass by. A walk through a suburban neighbourhood can be delightful thing if you are lucky enough to encounter one of these heady shrubs cutting through the smell of, well, not much. If you get really lucky you’ll find one close to a recently cut lawn and be in all kinds of olfactory heaven.

En Passant features an eclectic mix of lilac, cucumber, petitgrain and wheat, an unimaginable combination. But how this works is to make lilac ‘more lilacky’. The accompanying notes are not intrusive but they do add a kind of ‘after the rain’ sensation that takes me right back to countryside of my childhood. En Passant is a hyper-realistic lilac, bearing the oily green quality of the real thing. Crucially, it’s delicate and it wears close to the skin which stops it being an almighty headache of a fragrance as soliflores can often be.

It fits into the category of ‘journey scents’, i.e. that which allows your imagination to create a dreamed up location rather than smelling ‘like perfume’. I can imagine En Passant scenting the scene for Rene Magritte’s surrealist painting ‘Empire Of The Light’. Alike honeysuckle, lilac throes out it’s come hither beauty on a warm summer evening. When I peer at the intriguingly illuminated house in this picture, I can sense the unseen apparition of it’s garden. It would smell like En Passant.
Magritte, Empire Of The Light

Another vividly natural scent is Caron’s ethereal Muguet Du Bonheur. This is a long way removed from the lily of the valley that we associate with those old fashioned solid gel air fresheners, so popular in budget hotel bathrooms.

Alike En Passant, Muguet Du Bonheur is spookily realistic. I use the word ‘spookily’ in that lily of the valley has a slightly supernatural feel to me. Perhaps it’s because we find it emerging magically through the forest floor as the light of spring emerges from the dark depths of winter. In France, sprigs of lily of the valley (Muguet) are gifted on the 1st of May as a symbol of good luck for the year ahead, again carrying a bewitched connotation.

Ludmila Anderson's spooky muguet

Caron’s interpretation of this lucky flower is vibrantly green, oily, sappy and soapy. A spritz of this scent post shower is capable of making me feel euphoric at 7am, quite a feat in that there is very little that can bring me out of my grumpy night-owl slumber with anything resembling joy. ‘Outdoorsy’ scents are my favourite genre and this one contains a clear whiff of the country life. Just for a little while, I can pretend to be off to explore the woods instead of battling through the city traffic to work.

Caron’s fragrances are always complex multifaceted creations. Within it’s composition, Muguet Du Bonheur hints at lilac (which comes across slightly anisic here) and woods (sandalwood). Although there is no oakmoss in the composition, a ‘mossy’ note can be sensed  in the general earthy quality of the scent.

I tried the current version of Dior’s famous Muguet scent - Diorissimo recently, which smelt ‘like pleasant perfume’. In comparison, Caron’s Muguet smells like some sort of picnic in a pastoral paradise.

The soapy aspect could be described in this one of Degas’ bather paintings. As his elfin model bathes, a shaft of sunlight from the window illuminates the room and casts a green and white reflection across the water. She is outdoors inside.

Bather, Degas

To read more on the lovely Muguet, take a peak at this romantically penned post over at The Black Narcissus. It’s rather good. 

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Saturday, 17 May 2014

Odiferess Is 1 year Old!

Happy birthday to my blog, 1 year old today! I am astounded that I've managed to blather a total of 55 posts over 56 weeks. As a result, I've stopped painting and drawing, taken to washing my hair and cleaning my flat less often and ceased applying for alternative day jobs that I should be applying for (much more fun to blog than to fill in application forms!). However, it's been utterly brilliant and I'm enormously grateful to everybody who has supported me, either by reading my posts, joining in discussions in the comments box or sending me beautiful scent samples to review. Thank you, you are greatly appreciated. 

Here's some things I've learnt over the year:

  • I started the blog thinking that Caron's Eau De Reglisse is the greatest feat of contemporary perfumery ever. 1 year and a very many samples later, it's still my opinion.
  • The concept of 'taste' is very malleable. Mine has slithered around all over the place, gaining cravings for all sorts of previously unloved notes and genres. Bizarrely it is currently enjoying floral aldehydes above all others. I never thought that would happen.
  • The posts that I have enjoyed writing the most have been the rather silly ones, it appears I should be doing stand up comedy. 
  • Indie perfumers are a friendly bunch who are a delight to communicate with. 
  • These are the top 5 posts that gave me the biggest pleasure to write:
  1. On Ormonde Woman and Witchcraft
  2. On Chambre Noire and Adam Ant's pants
  3. On The Scent of British Spirit and why I'll never be a royalist
  4. A guest spot at the Penhaligon's Journal on traveling Victorians and Heinz Salad Cream
  5. On the delights of perfume shopping and lovely sales assistants
I've amassed a great stash of fumes to review in the coming months. The next post will be about 'eau de toilet' and the notes we associate with cleaning products! I have found some delightful scents that should bust the myth that lilac is for air fresheners. 

Cheers chaps!

Monday, 12 May 2014

Nobile 1942 Vespri Series: A Review Of Classic Citrus

Citrus perfumes have always delighted me. They are the perfume equivalent of a gin and tonic; revitalizing, sparkling and summery. It’s no wonder that Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Italy have a tradition of utilising these notes in fragrance to counteract the soporific effects of the hot weather. 

A landscape for lemons - The Amalfi Coast

An Italian brand that have explored the citrus theme with great effect is Nobile 1942. They are not that well known in the UK, probably due to very limited distribution. In order to get a whiff of their wares we have to venture into the black lacquered perfume palace of camp that is Roja Dove’s Haute Perfumery in Harrods. I’ve been once. I felt like I was breaking into to an upmarket escort’s boudoir.

Nobile 1942 created three themed unisex citrus scents. They are: Vespri Aromatico (a citrus marine), Vespri Esperidati (straight up citrus) and Vespri Orientale (a curious oud citrus). All three are in EDP concentration and grounded in a woody base. This means that they are a lot more tenacious than many of our beloved but fleeting lemony whiffs.

Italians are not known for creative extravagance, as a nation, they tend to prefer a minimal style of cool. Take fashion.  Prada, Armani and Fendi have continually focussed on immaculate tailoring and luxurious fabrics. They do not have the ‘whack out’ factor of British maverick -Vivienne Westwood or French baroque master of excess – Christian Lacroix. On my two trips to Italy I observed a nation of unfeasibly well groomed citizens looking distinctly more ‘sophisticated’ than ‘avant-garde’. The classic Italian style was portrayed superbly in ‘The talented Mr Ripley’, a film responsible for turning actor Jude Law into a phenomenal sex symbol. For me, it was all about his bare ankles atop a classic loafer. Menfolk, this works. A flash of ankle is not just a thrill for a Victorian.

How to look cool - Jude Law style, I wonder what he smelt like?

Food is another good representation of Italian taste. The nation’s cuisine is renown for presenting high quality ingredients in a simple form. Perhaps the best pasta I’ve ever eaten was in Milan, a basic cheese ravioli dripping in extraordinarily aromatic sage butter. It probably consisted of only a few ingredients but the excellence of the ingredients was immediately evident.

Which leads me to the Vespri series. Each one is a variation on a theme – natural citrus created from the perfume equivalent of the sage butter pasta i.e. good stuff, lovingly sourced.

Beginning with Vespri Esperidati, this is a super powered ‘classic cologne’ . Think of Guerlain’s ‘Eau’ series on steroids. It’s obviously my favourite being a huge fan of this genre. As a kid, we’d holiday in Spain and Greece. This was the smell of exotic foreign men as they stepped out for the evening to promenade in much more pleasing clothing than their British equivalent. Linen and lemons basically. Lemony cologne fans need a good note descriptor to tell one from the other. There are many notes, but the ones that stand out are bergamot, lemon and petitgrain. The neroli and jasmine white floral aspect is very low key and the composition warms up towards the end on an amber and woody base.

Vespri Aromatico is a significantly more green composition with herbal notes of fennel, rosemary and juniper competing for attention with the citrus. I have absolutely no idea what the ‘criste marine’ that is listed in the note descriptor actually is. I can only guess that it’s something to do with the ozonic seaside sensation that breezes out upon first squirt. It could be described as a little mineral and salty alike iodine.  Whilst Esperidati feels truly unisex, Aromatico feels a tad more masculine to me and would make a splendid move into niche for fans of classics such as Acqua di Gio.

Lastly, Vespri Orientale links the citrus theme to oud. It is very difficult for me to be objective about this one as I find oud mostly repellent! However, it’s interesting to smell it in such a summery context, a rarity as most oud fragrances are traditionally blended with rich and oozy sensual notes such a labdanum and vanilla. Vespri Orientale is a luminous scent that sits it’s oud under a canopy of citrus top notes; bergamot, lemon, tangerine and grapefruit brighten this woody whiff and give it a much more vibrant character than I’ve smelt previously. Oddly, I smell a very distinct coriander which is perhaps what arises when you place oud in this unusual setting? I’m never going to feel adoration for this scent but I imagine that oud fans would find it both enchanting and highly unusual in a genre full of sterotypes.

Who would I recommend the Vespri series for?
  • Those who would like to emit a European feeling scent, so obviously not Nigel Farage.
  • Those who enjoy the scent of Mediterranean cuisine and ‘herbs in the hills’ on holiday.
  • Those who appreciate a sparkling facet to their fragrances.

If you enjoyed reading this post, you may also wish to take a peek at a review of Caron’s Les Eaux De Caron Fraiche by clicking here.