Friday, April 24, 2015

Persolaise Review: Fève Délicieuse from Christian Dior (François Demachy; 2015)

François Demachy still seems to be in something of a retro mood, at least while working on Dior's Collection Privée. Last year, his gorgeous Cuir Cannage was an olfactory teleporter to an era of dense, old-school leathers. And now Fève Délicieuse pulls us back to the opulence of the 1920s and the seductive souls of Habanita and Shalimar. Interestingly, it does so by employing that somewhat more recent sub-genre of oriental perfumes: the gourmand. But if the thought of another Angel is enough to make you renew your Weight Watchers membership, then relax. There's something far more sophisticated at play in Demachy's effort. Yes, he bases his composition heavily on vanilla - and all its lip-smacking associations - but the inclusion of tonka bean (the 'fève' of the name) adds a singular twist, lining the sugar with a welcome edge of sharp bitterness. Each time the powderiness of the vanilla threatens to overwhelm the whole, the hay-like facets of the tonka redress the balance. And whenever the praline notes feel like they're going to drag everything into a glutinous sundae dish, the woodiness pulls them back up again. Finally, cinnamon and what I read as a particularly balmy myrrh heighten the sense of decorum even further. This is no hurried gulp of a chocolate bar grabbed at the corner shop. It's a long-planned pilgrimage to your favourite patisserie, where the light from the crystal chandeliers blankets the tablecloths, the cutlery and the china with a glow of sensuous warmth. An experience to be savoured.

[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Christian Dior in 2015.]


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Our Job Is To Listen" - Antoine Maisondieu At The Launch Of Bottega Veneta Pour Homme Extreme

It's always dangerous to draw conclusions about an artist from their work. By most accounts, T S Eliot wasn't a grey-faced depressive, Charlie Chaplin wasn't exactly child-like and Toni Morrison is possessed of a cheeky sense of humour. But even so, we can't help trying to connect certain facets of interesting artworks to the personalities of those who brought them to life. It was with these thoughts in mind that I headed to London's Rosewood hotel to meet Antoine Maisondieu.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Persolaise Review: Smoke For The Soul from Kilian (Fabrice Pellegrin; 2014)

I've always thought there was something hollow at the heart of the Kilian brand. It goes without saying that it certainly isn't the only perfume house which tries to seduce people with style rather than substance, but its attempts have always struck me as particularly unsavoury, reeking of the worst sort of cynicism. Give people a bit of bling and they won't realise that the product you're selling them is, at best, passable. That seems to have been the company's motto for a few years now. But it reaches a new, problematic level with the release of Fabrice Pellegrin's Smoke For The Soul.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"I Try To Take You By The Hand" - An Interview With Jean-Claude Ellena, Perfumer At Hermès

image: Hermès
"My perfumes are sensual like the women of Hitchcock. I love Kim Novak. I can watch the same Kim Novak movie several times. And Grace Kelly too. There's an extraordinary scene in Rear Window where she leans over James Stewart and kisses him. But if you watch it carefully - because it must be watched carefully - James Stewart isn't there. She actually kisses the camera. You get the impression of being kissed yourself. That's very powerful. All the men watching the movie are being kissed at the same time. But anyway... Christine Nagel's perfumes are joyful, exuberant, full of fantasy. I'm more rational, reflective, intellectual. She's more Monica Bellucci."
To read my recent interview with Jean-Claude Ellena - in which he talks about Le Jardin De Monsieur Li, Hermès and the possibility of making perfumes for other brands - please click on this link to Now Smell This. The article marks my debut on the venerable site. Cue: major excitement on my part!

To find out what's going on here, you'll have to read the article...


Friday, April 10, 2015

Persolaise Review: Cologne Indelebile from Editions De Parfums Frederic Malle (Dominique Ropion; 2015)

As the power of perfumery is so closely associated with memory and recollection, it's no surprise that very few fragrances seem to smell of the future. The vast majority remain either in the territory of today or yesterday. But some of them do manage to pull off the near-impossible: they break away from the shackles of the past and soar towards unimagined landscapes. The latest of these fiercely forward-thinking compositions is Dominique Ropion's Cologne Indelebile for Frederic Malle.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

"A Concept Is Paramount" - Oksana Polyakova On The Opening Of Bloom At Covent Garden

image: Bloom

It doesn't seem possible that London's Bloom perfumery has been around for less than three years. Since it opened its doors at Hanbury Street, it has established itself as an important fixture on the capital's perfume-shopping scene, using a thoughtfully-curated selection of brands, a series of well-received in-store events and an endearing online presence to build a reputation out of proportion with its relative youth.

A few weeks ago, the Bloom story entered another chapter: a new branch of the store has just opened at Langley Court, close to the Covent Garden Piazza. To find out more about the shop's rapid development, I recently caught up with its founder, Oksana Polyakova, an elfin, youthful-looking Muscovite who has lived in London for several years. I started our chat by asking her to explain how Bloom came to life.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Happy Easter 2015

Another Lent comes to an end! Happy Easter to everyone out there celebrating it. Don't be stingy with the Lindor. And may the start of another spring fill your days with optimism and good cheer!


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Persolaise Review: A*Men Ultra Zest from Thierry Mugler (Jacques Huclier & Quentin Bisch; 2015)

What's that you're saying? You want to stick a slice of orange in my coffee? Feel free. If it works as well as it does in this new fragrance, it'll go down a treat.

As soon as Jacques Huclier's A*Men (aka Angel Men) appeared in 1996, it established itself as one of the more interesting masculines on the market. With its combination of herbs, woods, chocolate, coffee and licorice, it made a striking addition to most men's scent wardrobes: an otherworldly cross between a fur coat, a suit of armour and a suede jacket. Since then, Mugler have exploited its success by releasing a never-ending line of limited edition flankers, many of which have been worthy of praise. But this latest one, Ultra Zest, is the first I can remember for a long time which stands on its own as a bona fide extension of the original idea. With some help from Quentin Bisch, Huclier has retained pretty much everything that made the original interesting, but he's cut through it all with a laser beam of blood orange. Both the juice and the peel of the fruit pierce the entire composition with sparkling iridescence, bringing a wonderful sense of contrast not just to the top notes, but also to the middle section and even the fleecy-furry drydown. The angel has been resurrected, ready for these times in which mainstream buyers seem to be demanding greater freshness from their scents. He's still wearing the fur, the armour and the suede, but now he's also sporting one of those neon-coloured, super-light Uniqlo jackets... and despite all the odds, he still looks pretty good.

Now, where was I? Oh yes. Make mine an espresso con panna, please. With a piece of chocolate orange on the side.

[Review based on a sample of eau de toilette provided by Thierry Mugler in 2015.]


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Persolaise Review: Misia from Chanel (Olivier Polge; 2015)

I confess my heart sank a little when I discovered that Misia, Olivier Polge's debut for Chanel (he's gradually taking over from his father Jacques as the brand's in-house perfumer) would make prominent use of iris. The material was at the foreground of the last release in the Exclusifs range, 1932. It makes its presence felt throughout several of the early members of the boutique-only collection. And it has long been associated with Polge himself: what is arguably his most famous creation - the masterful Dior Homme - reinvented the note and brought it into line with modern aesthetic codes. "So why stick to iris?" I wondered. Surely, it would have been more prudent to head into less familiar territory.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Persolaise Review: Pichola from Neela Vermeire Creations (Bertrand Duchaufour; 2015)

Only the sunlight moves. As it rises above the bamboos and the white rooftops, it casts everything it touches into immobility. Even the waters of the lake appear to quieten, grow still and rest in tranquillity.
I'm not sure if Indian literature has an equivalent of a haiku, but it is that form's ability to crystallise a moment in time which finds an echo in Bertrand Duchaufour's latest creation for Neela Vermeire, Pichola. Named after the lake in Udaipur, it sits comfortably next to the brand's earlier offerings - thanks to the repeat use of opulent jasmine, rose and sandalwood - but it also appears to develop the narrative explored in the oeuvre. If the debut trio was an explosion of Indian vitality and the follow-up, Ashoka, combined assertiveness with introspection, then Pichola continues the inward journey. Its soul may be based on two of perfumery's most attention-grabbing materials - orange blossom and tuberose - but it's no diva. Indeed, it is a testament to Duchaufour's skills as a perfumer and Vermeire's vision as a creative director that ingredients which normally come across as egotistical have here been persuaded to behave with dignity and self-control. When linked to cardamom, saffron and that sweet almond accord we last saw in Trayee, they radiate contentment, balance and, above all, complete serenity, just like those rays of sunlight nudging the night away. Beautiful work.

[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Neela Vermeire Creations in 2015.]


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Persolaise Review: Home Scents From L'Artisan Parfumeur, Acqua Di Parma, Diptyque & Alex Simone

I never need an excuse to purchase a new home scent for Maison Persolaise, but the arrival of spring always seems to make candles, reed diffusers and room sprays especially tempting. It's irrational, I know, but for some reason, changing the olfactory landscape inside my house feels like the most effective way of shutting the door on winter and throwing away the key. Equally powerful is hanging out the washing in the garden for the first time each year, but if today's sky is anything to go by, I don't think that's going to be happening any time soon.

Monday, March 23, 2015

ODOU Needs YOU - Make Issue 4 Happen

Although only three issues of ODOU magazine have been printed so far, the publication has won the admiration and respect of many scentusiasts for its original handling of the topic of perfume. Indeed, for two years running, it has won the prestigious Jasmine Literary Award. In order to widen his magazine's reach, editor Liam Moore has decided to seek public backing for issue #4 by initiating a Kickstarter campaign. To find out more about this exciting move, please click here. And please consider supporting what is a truly unique voice in the perfume world.


Friday, March 20, 2015

News: Persolaise Wins Third Jasmine Award

On Wednesday, I was thrilled to win the Jasmine Bloggers Award for my Basenotes piece on the wonderful work carried out by the Osmothèque (please click here to read it). I'd like to thank the organisers, Fragrance Foundation UK, for putting on a wonderful ceremony, the Jasmine judges for choosing to award my writing for the third time, as well as Basenotes for continuing to publish my work. Needless to say, I'd also like to congratulate all the other winners. To find out who they are, please click here and then follow the links to '2015 winners'.

Forgive this self-indulgence, but I'd just like to mention how pleased I was - on a personal level - that Dana El Masri won the Literary Award for a piece she wrote for ODOU magazine. As some of you may remember (click here to refresh your memory) Dana and I had the same English teacher many years ago. As I sat at BAFTA HQ on Wednesday morning, hearing Dana's name being read out as the winner of her category, I couldn't help thinking how mind-bendingly wonderful it was that she and I were taught by the same person whilst we were both living in Dubai, and here we now were - me in Britain, Dana in Canada - winning awards for doing something we had surely not envisaged doing whilst we were at school. I guess that's just one of those delightful surprises life has a knack of springing. Mrs V, if you're reading this: clearly, you did something right. Thank you!


Persolaise Review: Le Jardin De Monsieur Li from Hermès (Jean-Claude Ellena; 2015)

At the Paris launch of his fifth 'garden' scent for Hermès - which he refused to concede would be his last - Jean-Claude Ellena stated that Le Jardin De Monsieur Li is probably more abstract than the first entry in the series, 2003's Un Jardin En Mediterranée. This tension between the concrete and the imagined is perhaps the best way into a reading of his latest creation. Yes, in olfactory terms, it would appear to be much less rooted in the real world than the fig accord at the centre of the 2003 composition. But, unlike all of the other gardens, its name begins with the definite article: it isn't just a garden, it is the garden. Then again, its owner, the eponymous Monsieur Li is a fictional construct... although his name happens to be the most commonly occurring moniker in China. The asbstract is grafted onto the literal, only to produce metaphorical shoots. Its a concern which seems to have preoccupied Ellena in recent years, not least in Jour D'Hermès, whose purpose was to evoke a bouquet of flowers without identifying any specific blooms.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Perfume Mini-Reviews From Twitter - October to December 2014 [part 2]

Part 2 of my digest of mini-reviews from Twitter, spanning October to December 2014

Hommage À L'Homme Voyageur from Lalique (2014)*
The violet leaf of the original leads to a safe woody-amber base, by way of green melons. Uninspiring.

Junky from Jardins D'Écrivains (2014)*
Soapy green opening, followed by grass and a spotless iris. Far too conformist for something inspired by Burroughs.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Persolaise Review: Amber Aquilaria from Electimuss (2014)

Far too many brands around today rely on aspirational marketing, bling and hackneyed ideas to try to make an impact on potential buyers. Cue: Electimuss, a perfect example of rather dubious style over substance. That said, it does offer at least one scent that's worth a second sniff.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Persolaise Is 5 Years Old!

Help yourselves

Well, well, well, talk about taking me by surprise: 5 years have passed since I published my very first post here on It's a cliche, but I honestly don't know where the time has gone. I can still remember the day when I stopped uhmmm-ing and ahh-ing and decided that, yes, I would have a go at this perfume blogging lark...

Quite a bit has happened since then (off the top of my head: the publication of more than 700 posts; the appearance of my perfume guide book; interviews with some of my favourite perfumers) but I'm pleased to say that my appetite for the subject of scent remains as sharp as it was in 2010... even during those times when the demands of the Day Job mean that putting together the next post is almost impossible.

Part of the reason my enthusiasm hasn't diminished is YOU, my wonderful readers. Your comments, notes and emails make all the hard work worthwhile, which is why I want to mark this anniversary by expressing sincere gratitude to each and every one of of you. Thank you so much for your kindness, generosity and support.

I'd also like to thank the brands, industry figures and fellow scribes who have embraced what I try to do on and have appreciated the importance of independent, unbiased writing.

Finally, I have to say a special thank you to Madame Persolaise. If it weren't for her patience - and her very tolerant nose! - this site would have dwindled into nothing ages ago.

The only thing left to say is: let's see if we can manage another 5 years!

With warmest wishes to one and all,



Monday, March 9, 2015

Perfume Mini-Reviews From Twitter - October to December 2014 [part 1]

Here's another instalment of my regular compilation of mini-reviews from Twitter, covering October to December 2014.

Nevermore from Frapin (Anne Sophie Behaghel; 2014)***
Curious mix of metallic rose, ozonic note and parched cedar. There is a sense of the Gothic, but it's too quiet. Still, the image of whitened bones in a graveyard is quite intriguing, while it lasts.

All Good Things from Gorilla Perfume (Simon & Mark Constantine; 2014)*
Rose petals on a candy floss bonfire, with a side order of honeyed leather. Delightfully sweet throughout.


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