vendredi 23 juin 2017

10 Scents for a Burning Summer

First off: you can now follow me on Instagram @graindemusc, where I’ll randomly post pictures of the perfume events I attend (plus the usual flowers, cats and landscapes).

I was in London this week for the intelligent, elegantly-executed Perfume, a Sensory Journey through Contemporary Scent at Somerset House, curated by Claire Catterall and Lizzie Ostrom. The heat-seared city felt like a remake of the 1961 nuclear-scare movie The Day theEarth Caught Fire. But Hyde Park was irradiated with a fine gauze of linden blossom, just like Paris: a heady, honeyed scent whose volume can’t be conveyed by any bottled perfume. The closest may be my first seasonal pick...

Grand Chalet  
by Françoise Caron for Astier de Villatte
This tribute to the great lime trees shading the late painter Balthus’s Swiss home, the Grand Chalet, captures what the writer Colette called “a volcano of bees, a bush of russet flowers, the rival of the orange tree, the insidious lover, the golden rain of pollen”.

Jasmin de Nuit  
by Céline Ellena for The Different Company
Spilling out in scented nebulae from hidden city gardens, star jasmine smells somehow oilier and spicier than true jasmine. The cinnamon and star anise-spiked Jasmin de nuit, though named after Cestrum nocturnum, captures its early-summer headiness.

Fathom V 
by Julie Marlow for Parfum Beaufort London
The 2017 winner of the Independent category of the Art & Olfaction Awards given out in Berlin, which I had the honour of both judging and presenting. Inspired by Ariel’s Song in The Tempest -- Full fathom five thy father lies” --  an eldritch land breeze wafting lilac and crushed leaves; the latter, the acrid swig of brine inhaled just before drowning, its saline sting of vetiver, salicylates and moss whipped into foam-crested waves by a peppery gale.

Rosa America 
by Annick Menardo for Une Nuit Nomade
With Peau d’Ailleurs for Philippe Starck, Menardo gave us what was, to my mind, the most original fragrance of 2016, a mutation on Féminité du Bois that was sadly overlooked by the Prix des Experts at the French Fifis (but a finalist of the blogger-led Olfactorama Awards). Rosa America is another radically contemporary interpretation of the aquatic floral: a seaspray-splashed Atlantic rose. Algae absolute takes on the role of oak moss; fenugreek adds an extra lick of saltiness. 

Memory Motel  
by Annick Menardo for Une Nuit Nomade
A rework of the Patchouli 24 theme, minus vanilla, with added tobacco absolute and a big, sun-seared carnation planted in its heart, a ghost of L’Origan. Like Rosa America, this is a riff on Warhol-era Montauk, sparked off by a picture of the Rolling Stones rehearsing Black and Blue. And it’s been my go-to scent since I got hold of a preview decant, even in the blistering heat: fighting fire with fire.
by Delphine Jelk for Guerlain
Another flare-up in this season’s Carnation Revolution, Lui feels as though Delphine Jelk (now an in-house Guerlain perfumer) had skimmed L’Heure Bleue’s carnation and benzoin to whip them into an ethereal floral oriental. Totally unrelated to Jacques Guerlain’s 1929 Liu.

Sweet William  
by Rodrigo Flores Roux for Carner Barcelona
After the fireworks of Oeillet Bengale for Aedes de Venustas, Rodrigo Flores Roux revisits the iconic Spanish clavel in a more naturalistic style: Sweet William is built around a headspace capture of Dianthus Superbus.

Jimmy Choo Man Ice 
by Michel Almairac for Jimmy Choo
To fend off the heat, Michel Almairac’s mint-cool splash, built on a rosemary-ambroxan-patchouli axis, offers a chill, chic, original alternative to classic colognes. The maestro says he’s particularly pleased with it, as it was practically accepted as is by the brand. Proof that the mainstream can go stealth-radical.

Hot Cologne  
by Jean-Christophe Hérault for Thierry Mugler
Another twist on cologne: the smell of the business class on an early-morning flight, after the citrus-scented hot towels, and while coffee is being brewed in the galley -- a distant waft that somehow seems to float above the scent.

Jasmin Perle de Thé  
by Fragonard
The Grasse-based Fragonard’s Fleur d’Oranger has a cult following among arty Parisians. Jasmin Perle de Thé offers the titular jasmine tea scent at a fraction of the price of Guerlain’s now-discontinued Aqua Allegoria Teazzurra or By Kilian’s Imperial Tea, in an adorably colourful packaging. 

For more summer round-ups, please see

vendredi 24 mars 2017

Spring has sprung in Paris: My top 10 scents

© Marin Montagut, courtesy RMN

The picture above is the design of a scarf by the young artist Marin Montagut, exclusively sold at the Grand Palais boutique during the Jardins exhibition, depicting one of my two favorite places in Paris, the Luxembourg Gardens. My other being the Palais-Royal, a technicolour riot of hot-pink magnolias, purple hyacinths and yellow daffodils these days. It’s hard to resist springtime in Paris, despite the news being unrelentingly dismal. So I’ll share a few pictures I took last week along with our seasonal top 10!

The Jardins exhibition at the Grand Palais
Perfumes are our immaterial gardens; and like gardens, they are ways of framing and dreaming the vegetal world. Last week I celebrated spring slightly ahead of the calendar -- but the thermometer read 20°C -- by visiting the beautiful “Jardins” exhibition at the Grand Palais. From Dürer’s violets to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s herbarium, Gerhard Richter’s hazy, haunting Sommer Tag or Patrick Neu’s obsessively detailed watercolour portraits of wilting irises (see above), it’s incredibly rich, and it lasts until 24 July, so if  you’re in Paris, book yourself a visit

Sous les magnolias, Pierre Bourdon
I wore this bright chewy fruity floral chypre in the same room as the great perfumer A.M., aka the Human Chromatographer. “Someone’s wearing a very good Diorella”, she said. And it is. Sous les magnolias is as close to a signature scent as I’ve had these past few months. So here it is again, heading my list.

White song, Dear Rose
The brand’s co-founder, singer-songwriter Alexandra Roos, used to wear Poison (much to the chagrin of her mother, the tremendous Chantal Roos, who worked on the Opium team and created the Issey Miyake and Jean-Paul Gaultier perfume brands). Fabrice Pellegrin’s spicy almond blossom White Song is Poison gone cool French rock chick, L’Heure Bleue without the blues.

Le Sillage Blanc, Dusita
Its author, the self-taught Thai perfumer Pissara Umavijani, named this after one of her father’s poems. Something must’ve been lost in translation, because it’s hard to think of any scent smelling less “blanc”. This is Bandit’s love child grown up wild in Phuket: a bracingly bitter green earth brew that connects with the past without feeling retro.

Totally White, Parle Moi de Parfum
Michel Almairac is a perfumer’s perfumer: the name that comes up when they have to praise a colleague still in activity. He’s cut loose in the brand created by his son, not by doing crazy niche-y stuff, but by giving them cherished formulas he’d never sold, on one condition: no tweaks. Totally White is a gift to his wife, who asked for an evocation of the Parc Monceau shrouded in a frothy white nebula of lilac, hawthorn and mock orange. This is, quite simply, springtime in Paris bottled. You need it.

Bleu Framboise, Jean-Michel Duriez
Now gone indie, the former nose of Patou and Rochas conceived this while crossing the Pont Alexandre III on the Seine, just as sunset turned the sky blue and red. Hence the name, which translates into a mouthwatering raspberry accord and a touch of blue chamomile. This is a fruity floral chypre with a cheerful verdant twist (rhubarb, galbanum, geranium, oakmoss…) and a hefty animalic kick from jasmine sambac. This smells like Paris filmed by Wes Anderson.

L’Eau Bleue, Miu Miu
Most things in life can be improved by the mere fact that kittens exist. And few songs are more empowering than Lesley Gore’s “You don’t own me”. The film for L’Eau Bleue features both. And both make me feel pretty sappy. It’s the operational word for Daniela Andrier’s second Miu Miu fragrance though this time in the original sense: a day-glo green sap dotting the bells of her lily-of-the-valley. Like Diorissimo in its day, this is not “the flower, but an arabesque around the flower” (to quote Edmond Roudnitska). Dew, sap, and the moist earth of a Givaudan captive, akigalawood (a mutant patchouli obtained through enzymatic reaction). And kittens.

Grace by Grace Coddington, Comme des Garçons
You’d expect the flame-haired Ms. Coddington’s rose to come fully equipped with claws (here be lions). But then, anything that comes out of a pouch adorned with twee drawings of cats and capped with the kind of pussyhat a space explorer would wear to land on Planet Claire can’t be too feral. Twisted with a bunch of basil and mint and tossed on a Cashmeran throw, Coddington’s rose exudes a playful, I-woke-up-like-this charm.

Parco Palladiano V, Bottega Veneta
How often do we get to smell aromatic notes outside of fougères -- and their dread “fresh” men’s deodorant accord -- in fragrance? Composed by Daniela Andrier for Bottega Veneta’s exclusives line, Parco Palladiano V plucks a bouquet garni from an Italian herb garden and serves it up as is. Rosemary, laurel and sage, no longer used as olfactory condiments, reveal their fresh, spicy and ambery facets. Pity such a simple, embraceable scent should be featured in such a costly collection. Its salubrious scent evokes the half-medicinal, half-fragrant recipes that preceded Eau de Cologne as European fragrance blockbusters, such as the Eau de la Reine de Hongrie. I’d splash it on every morning.

 Woodissime, Thierry Mugler
You could say this is Féminité du Bois led astray from Morocco -- its notes spanning the Orient from the Middle-East to China. Here, the violet/pit fruit and cedar/sandalwood accords are shifted on the scent-map to, respectively, osmanthus and oud. The principle of Mugler’s Les Exceptions is twisting a classic form with what they call an “unexpected guest”: in the present case, osmanthus. Which makes more sense than you’d think: Jean-Christophe Hérault hooks them up by teasing out the phenolic facets in both (leather, beaver butt, ink, black olive -- after all, osmanthus, an Oleaceae like jasmine, is related to the olive tree). The result is what may well be the sole smiling oud on the market.

For more Spring round-ups:

 All pictures are mine, taken at the Jardins exhibition or at the gardens of the Palais-Royal, except the topmost.