Every morning I go through three levels of fragrance. The first is the soap or shower gel I use. Knowing what perfume I am planning to wear influences what I choose in the shower as I try to match one of the base notes of my upcoming scent of the day. The second level of fragrance comes between my shower and applying my perfume.
Around ten years ago I made switch away from the commercial multi-blade shavers and returned to the traditional double-edge shaver my dad taught me to shave with. As I discovered the joys of what is called wetshaving I also embraced the joy of adding a new fragrant phase to my morning routine with the shaving cream I would use.
Part of what I like about wetshaving is the reminder to slow down a bit in the morning and take care of yourself. Even though I can go pretty fast now it still takes longer to make four passes with my single edged blade than it would to do one pass with a multi-blade razor. I have learned to relax and breathe in the scent of my shaving cream and enjoy the feel of the brush lathering up my face.
When it comes to which shaving creams to use there is a simple rule to start with, “go with the three T’s”. Just like midtown New York perfume shoppers know the three B’s; Bergdorf’s, Barney’s, and Bendel’s; wetshavers usually start with the creams of Geo F. Trumper, Taylor of Old Bond St., and Truefitt & Hill. I have three that I use in heavy rotation although all of the creams from these three producers are great places to add a bit of extra fragrance to your day.
Geo F. Trumper Violet Shaving Cream is probably my favorite of all the creams I own. It is a deep purple solid in the pot which lathers to the very faintest tinge of lavender as I apply it to my skin. The smell of violets surround me and it is as good as any violet fragrance in a perfume bottle. It wasn’t until Atelier Cologne Sous le toit de Paris that I found a fragrance which matched this perfectly. When I want to have a violet day it is this pair which is my go to combo.
Taylor of Old Bond Street Avocado Shaving Cream is one of the most uniquely smelling shave creams I own. One characteristic of all Taylor’s shaving creams is their exceptional lathering ability. With the Avocado version it is so rich I often think I’m slathering white guacamole on my face. I use this as a companion to a lot of my lighter fragrances and as a base to slumberhouse Pear + Olive, the connection is sublime.
Truefitt & Hill Sandalwood Shaving Cream is the most fragrant of the three T’s especially the Sandalwood version. The creamy sweet woodiness feels like it seeps into my pores. Even when I’m rinsing it off I feel like it has lingered longer than most of the other shave creams I own. I always shave with this before wearing Diptyque Tam Dao or Chanel Bois des Iles. It lays down a bit of sandalwood foundation for those fragrances to build upon.
Even if you don’t want to go full wetshave and still want to use your modern multi-blade definitely meet the movement halfway by adding a tub of one of the three T’s and a shaving brush to your shaving routine. If you love fragrance it truly adds an extra bit of it to every morning.
One of my favorite books is Eric Hansen’s “Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo”. In the book Mr. Hansen describes his eight months of crossing the large Island of Borneo back and forth. Throughout the book his experiences with the indigenous Penan people who were his companions on his trek through the dense rainforest added a wonderfully distinct contrast to the modern civilized way of life. After reading the book I worried that the pace of modern expansion would destroy the more primitive civilization that was happily flourishing without the rest of the world interfering. Mr. Hansen painted a vivid portrait of his surroundings and often I felt I could feel the humidity and smell the jungle, which of course I couldn’t.
Perfumer Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Co. has also been inspired by Borneo for her latest release Samarinda. Samarinda is the capital city of the Indonesian province of East Kalimantan. Borneo also contains two Malaysian states, Sabah and Sarawak along with the tiny sovereign state of Brunei. The slow creep of deforestation described in 1988 by Mr. Hansen has continued apace and Ms. Ethier is donating 5% of all proceeds to the World Wildlife Fund for the protection of the indigenous and endangered species in Borneo.
Choya Distillation Vessels
Samarinda continues a trend in Ms. Ethier’s perfumery begun with 2012’s Moss Gown and continued with last year’s Branch & Vine. She has dramatically expanded her palette of notes to work with and during that expansion she is taking thoughtful time with each of these unusual notes to bring out the best in them. For Samarinda the unusual note is Choya Nakh which is the smell of roasted seashells. If you’ve ever walked a beach which has a lot of shells drying in the heat of the day you know what this smells like. It can be overwhelming and in less assured hands it would have thrown everything out of balance. Ms. Ethier knows what effect she wants and spent a year on Samarinda perfecting it.
Samarinda opens right away with a lush intensity as a full juicy orange, sheer piquant pink peppercorn, and a cardamom made rawer by the pink peppercorn so it is less smooth and more unrefined. This is how we enter Ms. Ethier’s trek into Borneo. A combination of heliotrope, carnation, and orange blossom advance the tropical vibe but there was a hint of sun scorched earth underneath and that must be from the coffee note listed. I can’t distinctly pick it out but it is the only thing that could be responsible for it. This is the smell of tropical flower garden but it also carried a bit of humid weight as well. It is high noon in the rainforest heady and beautiful. The base is where the Choya Nakh comes in as we leave the jungle behind and walk towards the ocean. The floral part of the jungle is over our shoulder, not gone just diminished. Now a scotch leather layover and rum ether add a bit of boozy diffusion while vanilla and a tincture of jasmine rice add a soupcon of ethnic food to everything. Underneath all of this is the Choya Nakh as an exotic underpinning precisely balanced with everything else. It is the signature note to tie this entire olfactory journey together.
Samarinda has all-day longevity and average sillage.
Ms. Ethier is becoming one of those perfumers for whom I can’t wait to see what is next. There is a dedication on her part to composing with the outliers in the pantheon of notes. Like playing with the less used colors in a big box of Crayola crayons. What she is slowly gathering is a signature style combining exploration and artistry into completely unique fragrances. Samarinda is as good, and maybe better, than Moss Gown; time will tell. What I do know is I will go anywhere with my nose that Ms. Ethier wants to lead me.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Providence Perfume Co.
Maurice Roucel is one of our greatest perfumers and he just as easily produces a fragrance for Victoria’s Secret, 2012’s Simply Gorgeous; as he does for Frederic Malle, 2000’s Musc Ravageur. There is a broad spread to the perfumes he makes. From a gourmand like 2004’s Bond No. 9 New Haarlem to a fruity floral like 2006’s Guerlain Insolence there is always a dashing sense of style underlying all that he creates. M. Roucel feels like one of the last of the old school perfumers just turning out things that smell good. One of my favorites by M. Roucel is also one of the best perfume bargains you can find, one of the best perfumes you can buy; Rochas Tocade.
M. Roucel created Tocade in 1994 and it was one of his earliest forays into what would eventually become the gourmand style of perfume. For Tocade which translates to “whim” he centers the perfume on two notes, rose and vanilla. Vanilla had been used in a more restrained way with rose in many previous fragrances but the change here was to really up the vanilla and that in turn makes Tocade feel like an olfactory version of Turkish Delight. It is a typical Oriental and in that way it carries a heft to it appropriate for the confection it imitates.
Tocade opens with a bit of light green aspects from bergamot and geranium. It gives way to a transparent rose which is given some structure with iris as support. Through the first few moments, all of this is fairly traditional pretty rose. It all changes as the vanilla makes its presence known. M. Roucel pulls off a fabulous effect with his vanilla as it never tilts into a pedestrian kind of vanilla. It never seems to get sweet and buttery, or saccharine and sugary. Somehow it straddles a knife’s edge of balance between the two. Because of the translucence of the rose it comes off almost watery. It is difficult to say M. Roucel has a signature move but if there is one this watery sheer floral effect is probably it. Once the vanilla rises fully Tocade feels like a beautiful sticky piece of Turkish Delight. To further deepen the comfort aspects amber and benzoin add a softly sweet resinous complement while a bit of musk adds a twinge of animalic contrast.
Tocade has average longevity and above average sillage.
Tocade has survived the ravages of reformulation pretty much intact for twenty years. I picked up a 1Oz. bottle for $9.99 at my local TJ Maxx to compare to my original bottle and the only difference is in the very top notes as the new bottle feels a little brighter for those first few minutes; which is probably to be expected. Once Tocade gets down to its rose and vanilla business my mid 1990’s bottle and the 2014 bottle are identical on my skin. As I mentioned above this perfume is easily obtainable from a number of sources for less than $20/Oz. I think Tocade is one of the great perfumes of the last thirty years and the fact that it isn’t more well-known is a shame; the price certainly shouldn’t be a barrier. This is an example of a master perfumer fashioning a simple construction which contains subtle shadings and brushstrokes to take it far above being a simple rose and vanilla perfume. For $10 how can you go wrong?
Two of my favorite notes in perfumery are violet and iris. The molecules which provide the smell of both of these notes are from a family of closely related molecules called ionones and irones. As you can see below the structures are amazingly similar:
By just adding the CH3 group (in red), what we call a methyl group, to the ring of ionone you get alpha-Irone. If you add the methyl group to the end of the string of atoms to the right of Ionone you get alpha-methyl ionone.
The ionones, irones, and methyl ionones are arguably the second set of synthetic molecules to mark the beginning of modern perfumery. The use of synthetic coumarin in Fougere Royale in 1882 is the acknowledged beginning of modern perfumery. The three molecules above would be isolated in 1893 and have formed the building blocks of many of the synthetic aromamolecules in the 121 years since their discovery.
The olfactory differences in these three molecules are dramatic considering the tiny change in their structure. Alpha-Ionone gives off a woody violet quality with a bit of raspberry to it. Alpha-Irone is the smell of iris. Alpha-Methyl Ionone is softer and imparts the powdery quality to iris. If it was just these three molecules that would be more than enough but the reality is far richer as you can see below by just moving the double bond in the lower half of the molecule you create a new set of molecules called beta or gamma-Ionones and the analogous irones and methyl ionones.
Beta-Ionone has a fruitier and woodier quality compared to the alpha-Ionone. Gamma-ionone is the standard violet you find as an aromachemical.
This all leads to a discussion I had on one of my Facebook perfume groups. One of the members asked about the difference between orris and iris when listed in the perfume notes. The difference is orris is a natural source of irones. Orris is the dried root of iris and contains six of the Irone variations described above. The idea is that the combination of all six naturally occurring Irones present in the root together forms that complex iris effect so prized by perfumers. Because of the need to dry the root for five years after harvest makes orris one of the costliest ingredients in all of perfume. This is why you will usually only see it on the more expensive niche brands note lists. It provides a singular effect but at a high cost. As a result when a perfumer wants a bit of iris character in their fragrance without breaking the budget they will turn to the isolated synthetic molecules like alpha-irone and use that as it is much less costly than orris concrete or orris butter.
In the past thirty years these molecules have been the starting point for the discovery of numerous synthetic molecules which have seen widespread use like Norlimbanol and Iso E Super.
So when you smell a bit of purple in your fragrance it is likely due to one of the molecules related to the ionones, irones, or methyl ionones.
A number of perfume companies have looked to the Asian markets of Japan and China as the next growth opportunities for their brands. As a result you have seen the niche companies also follow that lead, trying to establish their own beachhead in those territories. I know my first impression of the difference between the way Japanese and Western tastes were different came from a 2005 column by Chandler Burr for the NY Times magazine. Where he described a culture where perfume was frequently given as a gift but never worn. This also went along with an anecdote from a sales associate where test strips were left out next to their bottles so that top notes would be gone because according to the article “apparently the Japanese dislike top notes”. The article also touched on other market forces in the Japanese market which were tied to luxury brands like Bvlgari where the jewelry image has a halo effect on the fragrance.
Beijing Perfume Counter (Photo:Alan Chin/NYT)
The Chinese market is much less understood but it does seem like the same considerations that are good for the Japanese market are also good for the Chinese market. The overall beauty sector in China has been growing consistently year-by-year. By Kilian and Serge Lutens, among others, have made series of fragrances meant to target these potential fragrance consumers. It seems the agreed upon design aesthetic is for something which is lighter in nature than typical releases from those lines. They also seem to be designed to not last as long as the other releases. What I don’t understand is why the great majority of these fragrances I have tried to date have been so disappointing.
I am also suspicious of the hypothesis that this aesthetic truly exists. At the Elements Showcase two years ago I was intorduced to a perfume line called Kaze which is created and sold in Japan. As I stepped up I expected to find a collection which matched my assumptions. I couldn't have been more worng and I kept saying over and over, "these sell well?" The only apparent eastern influence was the use of particular indigenous ingredients.
I am a big fan of perfumes with a lighter touch. Le Labo’s Tokyo exclusive Gaiac 10 seems to be the pinnacle of the kind of perfume which should be successful in Japan if the above assumptions are true. Comme des Garcons X Monocle Scent One: Hinoki is another example of this desired aesthetic. I know both of these fragrances are widely appreciated by the western fragrance community.
This is contrasted with the Asian Tales collection from By Kilian which feels like it was so calculated in design that somewhere along the assembly line it lost its joie de vivre. What has really brought this point home for me is the third of the Serge Lutens’ L’Eaus which has just been released. The newest one is called Laine de Verre and after sniffing it on a strip and a patch of skin I just can’t bring myself to wear it for a couple of days to properly review it. It is wan and anemic and yet has some irritating sharp aspects to it as well. I am completely flummoxed how two of my favorite perfumers in Calice Becker who did the By Kilians, and Serge Lutens’ Christopher Sheldrake can miss the target so completely.
I haven’t been able to get any current sales figures on these markets but the blog Kafkaesque recently published a very comprehensive worldwide economic review of the fragrance sector using the best available data to the public. In that article there is a very sobering statistic she reported from a Euromonitor study of the Chinese market, “No remarkable changes have been seen in consumers’ acceptance of fragrances – the Chinese account for 20% of the world’s population, but only contribute 1% to value sales of fragrances.” This seems to indicate that despite all of the targeting by adhering to a, perhaps, non-existent Asian aesthetic the perfume houses are making no headway.
That is the source of this Eastern Paradox, instead of trying to design a specific fragrance for the market; try and just design a good fragrance. I believe the free market principles will let the brands be guided by what sells in those markets. The idea that you can cobble together a fragrance for Japanese or Chinese markets which will make a culture of people who don’t wear perfume all of a sudden start wearing it seems like something out of a novel. As I sit here disappointed in yet another attempt to create this magical Eastern Elixir I just hope for a little less focus group thinking and more free artistic expression from these brands I like so much.
As we move into March you begin to feel like winter is on the run and just up ahead is spring. Along with spring comes the new floral perfume releases. For a spring floral to resonate with me it has to have a great amount of sheer floral quality. I want a lot of flowers but I don’t want to be consumed by them. Insert “Little Shop of Horrors” joke here. I want my spring florals to mimic that moment when I step out and it feels like everything is blooming. Last March perfumer Jerome Epinette provided that for me with his lily of the valley creation for Byredo called Inflorescence. Now one year later he is following that up with another amazing spring floral for Byredo called Flowerhead and this time the central note is jasmine sambac.
Ben Gorham is the owner and Creative Director at Byredo and he wanted Flowerhead to speak to his mother’s, and his, Indian heritage. According to an interview in Cosmetics Business he related the story of giving his cousin away at a traditional Indian wedding. This is what he said he wanted Flowerhead to represent, “This fragrance was about capturing that idea of an Indian bride, rather than just the wedding and I called it Flowerhead, because it was really the fictional memory that I can imagine from my own Indian wedding. The idea of marrying someone you don't know was very interesting. There's anxiety and excitement. And I described this person as a 'flowerhead', because the bride is completely covered in floral hair arrangements.” Flowerhead captures that sense of heady anticipation as you cover yourself in floral garlands of jasmine, rose, and tuberose.
M. Epinette starts Flowerhead off with a tart combination of lemon, cranberry, and ligonberry. Citrus and berries is not unusual fruity floral territory; these three notes together are. They provide a lip puckering pop to the initial moments that I wish would last a little longer, but we have a wedding to get to. Now M. Epinette starts adding the floral lei to Flowerhead. The jasmine sambac is the star of the perfume and it is a complete jasmine fully displaying its indolic nature. With all of that the skank is more hinted at than allowed to become too pronounced. Part of the reason is the other two lei of rose and, in particular, tuberose amplify the sweeter floral nature. The indoles add depth and hint at the bride underneath all of the flowers. The base of Flowerhead sneaks up on you with a soft suede leather and an even softer and warmer amber. Together they add a refined filigree to the base notes to go with all of the fruity floral pyrotechnics previously.
Flowerhead has all-day longevity and above average sillage.
Like most I look to the return of the robins and the appearance of green buds on the trees to let me know spring is here. Now, for the second year in a row M. Epinette has provided another signal for me to look for as Flowerhead is a perfect perfume for new beginnings.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from Barney’s New York.
The first thing I think I really strived to learn about experientially was wine. When I was in college there was an upscale mall near campus that had a by the glass wine bar in it. It also had Paul who would become my guide to the wide world of wine as I sat at the bar. Every other week my friends and I would let Paul pour us a few glasses of wine and tell us where they came from. Those were the first steps on my way to becoming what my friends call a wine snob. I love being called a wine snob because I take it to mean this, I won’t drink bad wine. I would also happily embrace the phrase perfume snob, for the same reason.
One of my rules of being a wine snob is it has nothing to do with price it has everything to do with quality. That was something Paul taught me over and over again. One of my favorite wines he served us was one of the least expensive. It was this full-bodied red wine as powerful as the California Cabernets or French Reds but it came from Spain. The wine was called Monastrell and it was from a region in Spain called Jumilla. I loved these wines and the added bit of interest was that they had a flaw that I actually liked. The grape used in the Monastrells is called Mouvedre and it is more widely known as the grape used in jug and box wines. When grown under the particular climate in Jumilla these bland grapes take on an unexpected power. Another reason they aren’t used more widely is they have that flaw I mentioned called reduction which gives it a gamey quality. In perfume terms it is like the L’Artisan Parfumeur Dzing! of the wine world.
Phylloxera infesting a vine
The reason you haven’t heard much about these wines is because in 1989 the entire region was struck by an infestation of an insect parasite called phylloxera which destroys the vines. As a result all of the vines in the region had to be destroyed as a firebreak to keep it from spreading to the rest of the wine regions in Spain. While this was a disaster it had a silver lining which would take twenty years to become apparent. As the vineyards replanted they used the newer hybrid versions of the vines. This would make the vines a little more pest resistant and even though the vines were new, the soil and the climate remained the same.
When I went to my wine store in 2012 and saw this old familiar silver label in the Spanish section I was very excited. The Monastrell Paul served me back in 1979 was from Juan Gil and there it was again. When I took the bottle home I was so pleased to see that nothing had really changed. Better vines and better winemaking methods have made for a better wine but the same characteristics remained.
Jumilla Monastrells are available for less than $15 and they are one of the best bargains in the wine section if you want a big red wine. It is a perfect companion for barbecued ribs, and more obviously gamier meats like lamb, rabbit, and pork. I like grilling steak with some olive oil and sprinkled with rosemary and opening a Monastrell to go with it.
Here are some labels to look for at your local store:
Bodegas Juan Gil
Bodegas Olivaros Altos de la Hoya
These wines benefit from being opened and allowed to breathe. Which means not just opening the bottle it means pouring it into another container. I use an old-fashioned milk bottle as my everyday carafe.
If you’re looking for the next great red wine bargain in your wine store head over to the Spanish section and give the Jumilla Monastrells a sip.
I am often asked why I include a sentence about longevity in all my reviews. One of the reasons is I think there are many who equate the length of time a perfume hangs around as a signal of quality. I don’t particularly subscribe to that sort of thinking but I understand where it comes from. Longevity is more closely related to perfume oil concentration as, probably, the biggest single reason a perfume lasts for many hours. When it comes to what’s in the bottle there is very little any of us can do about that. What we can do, is make our skin the best canvas it can be for our scent of the day.
When a painter gets a raw canvas the first thing they do is coat it with a substance called gesso. It is meant to make the canvas more absorbent to the paint to be applied. It also has a secondary effect of adding a bit of texture for the oil or acrylic paint to “bite” on to the surface. This provides a uniform surface which allows for the best display of the artist’s materials.
When it comes to applying fragrance there are two things you can do which similarly make your skin uniform to allow for the best chance at longevity. The first is to exfoliate the skin you apply your perfume to. I’m not suggesting you go out and buy some expensive beauty product. I am suggesting you use a loofah or a rough washcloth whenever you shower or bathe. That will remove the top layer of dead skin cells and allow for a clean uniform skin surface. Now you need to help the perfume “bite” on to your skin and for that you need to moisturize prior to applying perfume. The idea is that by adding a layer of unscented moisturizer your skin is busy absorbing that, instead of the perfume you will be applying after that. If you just remember to exfoliate and moisturize you should see a marked improvement in the time your perfume hangs around.
If you want to take it one step further I’m going to share one of my secrets to perfume application which again is based on a painting technique. After a painter has gessoed their canvas they will often add a monochromatic covering called a colored or toned ground. The idea is this basic light color can be used to add subtle shading in the spaces underneath the primary application of the paints.
I’ve come up with my own method for creating a toned ground for my skin. When I get ready to moisturize after my shower I take a small paper cup and add a palm sized amount of my unscented moisturizer. Then I take my perfume for the day and give it two good sprays. I then take a finger and swirl it around mixing in the perfume with the moisturizer. Then I apply it to my arms, neck, and chest which is where I apply my perfume every day.
I don’t have any large pool of data to rely upon to say whether this works for everyone. What I can say is that everyone I have told to do this, when asked about perfume longevity, has reported back to me that it helped.
One final note is there are now a few commercial skin primers saying that they extend the longevity of a perfume. On the surface the claim is true they do work in making a perfume last longer on anyone’s skin. The price you pay is it alters the development of the perfume distorting the normal progression of the pyramid. It causes some notes to stay longer than the perfumer intended and it causes some of the heavier base notes from appearing until much later than the perfumer intended. Bottom line on these primers is if you just want the smell to last longer they will do the trick but it will be like looking at the fragrance in a fun house mirror; recognizably similar but fatter in some places and thinner in others. It is up to you if added longevity is worth the different profile.
Like everyone who loves perfume we all want it to stay around as long as possible. I think if you use the simple suggestions above you’ll find you get a little more time to spend with your favorite fragrances.
Maison Martin Margiela was late to the designer perfume game but under the Creative Direction of Karine Lebret and Pauline Zanoni they have built steadily upon the foundation provided by perfumer Daniela Andrier’s brilliant Untitled in 2010. In the summer of 2012 they began the Replica series where the idea is to capture a specific place and time. Each label carries the information that the perfumer is trying to capture. The first three, Beach Walk, Flower Market, and Funfair Evening; were the work of Jacques Cavallier and Marie Salamagne. My favorite of that first collection was Funfair Evening which was meant to capture a Santa Monica, California evening at a summer fair in 1994. It did a really nice job at capturing the smells of the carnival; candy apples along with sweet and sultry accords capture the humidity of the evening. I really liked the attempt to try and stay true to the source material.
I just received my samples of the newest set of three Replicas, Lazy Sunday Mornings, Promenade in the Gardens and Jazz Club. Much like the first three all of them are pretty good but one really stands out for me and that one is Jazz Club.
Replica Jazz Club is signed by Alienor Massenet who is familiar to many as the de facto in-house nose for Memo Paris. For Jazz Club the place and time on the box is Brooklyn 2013. The label also describes the fragrance as a combination of “Heady cocktails and cigars”. Despite the non-smoking rules which persist across the US the idea of the smoky jazz club remains and while I think a Brooklyn club in 2013 would be smoke free with nary a cigar in sight; Mme Massenet’s choice to base Jazz Club on the twin pillars of booze and tobacco works very well.
Jazz Club opens on a strong brilliant riff of pink peppercorns with lemon and neroli. The citrus is like the glint off the bell of a trumpet under the spotlight and the peppercorns are the blare of that opening trumpet’s first sounds. It captures your attention and it carries you to the bar for Mme Massenet’s olfactory craft cocktail wherein she adds clary sage to a rich dark rum accord and garnishes it with green vetiver. There is an almost mentholated quality which overlays the depth of the rum accord and it is another piece of brightness continued from the top notes. Finally we take up a cigar and roll it between our fingers and run it under our nose. The narcotic richness of tobacco leaves is front and center. Styrax and vanilla accentuate the sweeter qualities of that tobacco leaf. The final phases of Jazz club is the promised combination of cocktails and cigars without any of the deleterious health effects.
Replica Jazz Club has overnight longevity and above average sillage.
Replica Jazz Club is one of the best new designer offerings of the last few years. Mme Massenet paints a perfect picture of a night in a jazz joint enjoying the fine music, alcohol, and cigars. It accentuates the fun of that kind of evening perfectly.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample purchased from The Perfumed Court.
I often get asked to name my top 10 fragrances and of all the questions I get asked this is probably the most difficult for me to answer. There are so many perfumes out there I admire and I always fret I’ll miss one when making any list of any kind. Now that I have my own blog I feel like I should try and sort of answer the question. So once a month I’ll share my favorite things and the five I think are the best examples of that note or style. For the first version I’m going to tackle incense fragrances.
Saying incense fragrances can be problematic all on its own but what I mean are fragrances where the incense note is prominent throughout. The five choices below all hit the spot when I’m craving an incense perfume.
Amouage Jubilation XXV- I have facetiously named Bertrand Duchaufour the “High Priest of Resins” as over a five year period starting with 2002’s Comme des Garcons Series 3: Incense Avignon & Kyoto he would refine his incense accord until it all came together in this brilliant luminous incense fragrance, in 2007.
Juozas Stakevicius (aka Joe Stat)- There are a number of perfumes which capture the church incense vibe with cold stone walls and smoky censers, none of them do it better than this one by perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Passage D’Enfer– Most of my incense fragrances are on the heavier side and I rarely take them out as the weather turns warmer. Passage D’Enfer is the exception to that rule as perfumer Olivia Giacobetti turns in an incense that feels like it is miles away even though it is right underneath my nose. It is like an optical illusion as I expect it to get stronger every time I wear it but it just stays sheer and gorgeous.
Serge Lutens Encens et Lavande- This was the Serge Lutens fragrance which made me find a way to get a bell jar flown back here to me. From the first moment I smelled the lavender, sage, juniper berry, rosemary, and incense core I was, and am continually, in love with Christopher Sheldrake’s ability to make all of that work.
Sonoma Scent Studio Incense Pure– Independent Perfumer Laurie Erickson has captured a cross between campfire and incense as Incense Pure has a glowing heart of frankincense, smoky cistus, and myrrh. This is the most comforting of my favorite incense fragrances and it immediately makes me feel better every time I wear it.
This is one of those categories where others could come up with their top five and it would be entirely different than mine and I would admire all of the choices in that list. If you need a place to begin your exploration the five above are a good place to start your own list of your favorite things.