Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Histoires de Parfums Petroleum (Edition Rare): fragrance review

All the colors of a bruise: black and blue, teal green edging out in purple, fading to rosy, ending in ochre yellow like ancient parchment.

The electrical buzz of arc-welding, fiery orange sparks filling out the skies, the rusty mine of the shipwreck. The air filled with a mineral, scorched feel. The plank-plank of cork wedges hitting the iron ore at the loading decks.

A leather cloth, all smeared with wax. The musty smell of the hold of an old ship. He had his hair loose and oily with sweat and ambery brilliantine. My hand aching from trying to hold tight onto the lower mast. I said "I'm hurt". He should have said, "honey, let me heal it", like Bruce. Only he never said it; not in so many words.

John Klingel

Petroleum by Histoires de Parfums is Gerald Ghislain's story on oudh, the prophylactic defensive rot on Aquillaria trees and its resinous, nutty, woody, complex scent. Infused with fizzy orange, musty patchouli and a prolonged furry, white musk aftertaste, lasting hours, purring after the roar, Petroleum is the gift of the earth in an unassuming bottle. This oudh étude surpasses many others, in a masterful cadenza of chromatic tonalities: from black and blue, teal green edging out in purple, fading to rosy, ending in ochre yellow like ancient parchment. The chromatics in a drop of "liquid gold", in an old bruise that still aches when pressed.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Chanel Les Exclusifs Misia: new fragrance

The fragrance line Les Exclusifs by Chanel has been having its ups and downs through the years, but it has always appealed to customers who are interested in perfume first and foremost, with the famous logo as an addendum rather than the whole raison d'être of the purchase.

Les Exclusifs Misia, named after the best friend of Gabrielle Bonheur (Coco) Chanel, joins the wondrous juices of 31 Rue Cambon, Sycomore, Coromandel, Beige et al, in the exclusive circuit sold at Chanel boutiques and online at the official site of Chanel.com, encased in magnetic closure bottles holding either 200ml or 75ml.

Misia Les Exclusifs by Chanel comprises fragrance notes of violet, May rose from Grasse, Turkish rose, orris, benzoin, tonka bean, and musks. The fragrance of Misia is composed by in-house perfumer Olivier Polge.

Chanel is after all busy in business as usual, with even news of "looking to open a new factory in the Compiègne area of France, creating several hundred jobs and perhaps 10,000 tangential jobs for suppliers in the region", according to French local newspaper, the Courrier Picard.

For those interested in the story between the two women, Lisa Chaney's biography Chanel: An intimate life and Justine Picardie's classic tome Chanel: Sa Vie are both thorough and highly recommended. You can order them following the highlighted links.

notes via Fragrantica

Friday, January 23, 2015

Penhaligon's & L'Artisan Perfumeur: Niche Fragrance Brands Bought by Puig

I have tired of saying it: we're experiencing the end of niche. Niche was a marketing tool to grow companies and then sell them to the highest bidder. The sale of Editions de Frederic Malle and Le Labo last autumn to the Lauder Group is followed by the sale of British traditional house Penhaligon's (established in 1870 as they boast) and of French artsie proto-niche (well, at least when it was founded by Jean Laporte in the late 1970s) L'Artisan Parfumeur to the Spanish group of Puig.

Jenner Studio photo via archdaily

Puig is at least no LVMH....They do nevertheless cater to a more mainstream perfume portfolio: Carolina Herrera, Prada, Paco Rabanne, Valentino....but also Comme des Garcons, which is anything but conventional in their fragrances.

Two years ago I was complaining on L'Artisan Parfumeur losing the grip on niche. In fact actively seeking to distance itself from the Jean Laporte, Olivia Giacobetti, Anne Flipo and Jean Ellena past. They were commissioning hundreds (or so it seemed, at least) new fragrances on Bertrand Duchaufour and seemed to branch out. Now it's evident even to the most well-meaning why that was.

Penhaligon's (funnily enough employing the same indie perfumeur, the Mitsotakis of niche apparently) was following a similar trajectory, a markedly different business model than its small shop cutesy of its long past.

All the same it's another tombstone on niche perfumery. How much longer will Serge Lutens withhold after having bought his rights for handling his name from the Japanese giant Shiseido?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Serge Lutens La Religieuse: new fragrance

The divide between darkness and light, between sanctity and profanity, between spirituality and carnality, and the overtones of a Catholic upbringing with its clash of good & evil have for long haunted the imagination of the master, mr.Serge Lutens himself. The contrast of white on black is another of the recurring themes in the canon of Lutens perfumes composed by perfumer Christopher Seldrake. (Just remember the furore about the white skin of his imaginary heroine when Serge Noire was luanched).

Jared Kubicki-Alafoto Photo Gallery via

La Religieuse ("the nun") is the latest Lutensian scent opus, a new unisex fragrance launching on January 30th 2015, focusing on the contrast between white jasmine (the flower of carnality and the South), incense (the religious reference par excellence) and the skin-compatible animalic notes of civet and musk. The monastic name isn't that hard to pin down, it being the title of a famous 18th century epistolary novel by Denis Diderot, posthumously published (and itself a reflection of Lettres Portugaises). In it, the fictional nun in question finds the life in the convent insufferable and pleads with the Marquis, a friend of the French author, to deliver her from her vows.
Can the fragrance be a social commentary in our modern age when religion is again exerting a powerful grip on impressionable minds?

The new Lutens perfume, La Religieuse, is part of the export line, encased in the familiar oblong bottles of the house and tinted an ecclesiastical purple.

Uniting only favorite notes of mine and a concept simpatico to the Lutensian universe, if it proves half as wearable as L'Orpheline I'm sold.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Serge Lutens fragrance news & reviews

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Ancient Fragrant Lore: The Scents of the Bible (part 5)

The most intriguing aspect of reading the Bible in search of aromatics is how the spices and sweet unguents are used to denote both sanctity and the pleasure of the bodily senses.

"All your garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made you glad"—Psalm 45:8

Dieric the Elder Bouts, Christ in the House of Simon the Pharisee, 1440s (wikimedia commons)

The sacrificial woman who comes to the Savior with an alabaster jar with pure spikenard oil which was extremely costly at the time in a pre-figuration of the embalming rites. She is Mary of Bethany (Matthew 26: 6-13) who pours the fragrant oil on Jesus's feet. There is also the unnamed "sinner in the city" who comes into the house of Simon the Pharisee and washes Jesus' feet with her tears and wipes them with her hair and pours fragrant oil on him. However for centuries the Catholic Church conflated this penitent sinner (a whore? an adulteress?) and the disciple sister of Martha and Lazarus, with another Mary, Mary Magdalene, who is, not coincidentally, the patron saint of apothecaries and perfume makers. Perhaps the connection is that Magdalene is one of the "myrrhophores" depicted in a Syrian fresco dating from the 3rd century AD, the women who bring myrrh resin to embalm Jesus's body and finding the sepulchre open and devoid of its rightful inhabitant, thus being the first witness to the Anastasis.

Please read my historical research into the Scents of the Bible (biblical fragrances) on this link on Fragrantica. (You're welcome to comment here or there).

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