As I spend these final days of 2020 looking back over the year, I am trying to identify trends. If you had told me in January that in December one of those trends would be horse accords, I would’ve laughed. But it is and Sarah Baker Bascule joins in.
Sarah Baker has been making perfume ever since 2016. She has been deliberate about the way she releases her collections. For 2020 she has the S. Baker Collection. It is notable that she is stepping into the shoes of perfumer on two of them. If she is intent on taking the reins of her brand going forward Bascule closes the loop she began as she returns to working with her first collaborator Ashley Eden Kessler. Those early perfumes, Greek Keys and Leopard, were fragrance as hedonism. They struck just the right level of intensity to keep it from being mawkish. With Bascule they are in an entirely different frame of mind. This is the scented version of horse and rider as a single entity. Ms. Kessler finds the milieu of the tack room and the barn along with the horse itself.
Ashley Eden Kessler
This begins with an inverted pyramid as the leather of the tack room has the early moments. Ms. Kessler has composed a remarkable leather accord which evokes the polished version of riding boots and saddle. She even gives a hint of saddle soap running through it. As we enter the stall the hay lining the ground lifts into the leather. This is a gorgeous mixture of sweet leather and sweet dried grass. Into this comes a rich juicy peach. As if we were giving a treat to our riding partner as we feed it quarters of peach while getting the saddle situated. There is a metallic ingredient which slides through things as we get in the saddle. Now it is time to ride. Ms. Kessler has a wide-open green field accord to race across. Using vetiver, muguet, and grass oximes she finds the sense of the turf underneath the hooves of our steed. At this point the leather hay, metal and greenery form that horse accord I have become acquainted with. The ride comes to a finish with amber and musk capturing the setting sun as we leave our riding partner to rest for the night.
Bascule has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
In their previous collaborations Ms. Baker and Kessler were happy to let loose with a rebel yell of hedonism. In Bascule they find the sensual pleasures of horse and rider as their well-mannered equine gallops with abandon.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Sarah Baker Perfumes.
One of the things about perfume I adore is the sense of social history within. I know I am probably hypersensitive to this after reading Michael Edwards’ Perfume Legends II. When you think of all the classic perfume styles, they reflect the times they were released in. It tends to allow those of us who wear perfume the luxury of choosing an era to spend the day in when choosing one for the day. There is something about the extroverted perfumes of the 1950’s and 1960’s which carry an appeal to me.
It was a time when the world was expanding again post-World War 2. It was time when the style was driven by celebrities using the visual medium of movies and television. You dressed up to go out. that meant a jacket for men and a dress for women. For certain men and women it also meant perfume. Those perfumes carried the same dressed up aesthetic. I was reminded of all of this by a new perfume from an independent brand, Sarah Baker Charade.
Sarah Baker is an independent perfumer who released her first perfumes in 2016-2017 collaborating with perfumer Ashley Eden Kessler and Sarah McCartney on two each. I admired the line for an immersive style of perfumery. This is not transparent constructs for those who don’t enjoy bold fragrances. At the time they reminded me of those fragrances which seemed as classic as a blue blazer for men.
When I received the newest four releases that aesthetic has been more firmly refined. All four still have an immersive quality where you sink into the perfume. They are all worth seeking out if you enjoy that style of perfume. For me, Charade was always going to be the one which I gravitated towards because Ms. Baker called out Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. It is the style they represented as the inspiration for perfumer Andreas Wilhelm to use for Charade.
If you’re going for that old school style you almost must think chypre. Hr. Wilhelm uses some of those classic ingredients of the fragrances I think of from that era. Predominantly tuberose and leather along with the chypre accord.
Charade opens with tuberose in all its extroverted charm. Hr. Wilhelm ups the ante, using ylang-ylang to add a fleshy supporting floral while he drenches it all in a sticky matrix of honey. The heart is a rugged leather accord given a polish through styrax and benzoin. The animalic aspect of the leather reverberates against the indolic heart of the tuberose. Hr. Wilhelm then puts together a chypre accord that carries all the dark green charm which makes it so compelling. Sandalwood, patchouli, and moss are all present. They are balanced into an excellent version of the chypre accord.
Charade has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
I admire Ms. Baker’s choice to make perfumes in this style. These are perfumes which carry an enveloping time machine quality without feeling dated. Charade makes me want to dust my blazer off and take Mrs. C out for dinner and a movie while being wrapped in a Movie Star chypre.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Sarah Baker.
My days of chopping wood are long behind me but on the few occasions that I did take on that task there was a scent which I enjoyed. When you take pieces of wood which you will be drying out and quarter them with an axe there is a smell I would call “raw wood”. It still has some life to it which means there is some green quality. There is also a kind of mentholated grace note which also arises off the wood. It has a kind of energetic scent of wood. Weeks later when I would go get the dried-out pieces there was hardly anything of that left until it got tossed into the fireplace which released just the woods. The smell of a fireplace is why we still set a fire or two here in Poodlesville. There aren’t a lot of perfumes which remind me of both the raw wood and the fireplace, but Sarah Baker Perfumes Tartan manages to complete that.
Sarah Baker is a London-based artist who expanded to perfume releasing her first two in 2016 working with perfumer Ashley Eden Kessler. In 2017, she would team-up with Sarah McCartney to add two more to the line. The entire line shows a creative direction of immersion into specific themes. When I say immersion, I mean it. These are all big evocative fragrances which are geared to those who enjoy the keynotes. Tartan attracted me with its overdose of cedar. Ms. Baker and Ms. McCartney are looking for a Scottish Highlands feel but my overwhelming evocation was sitting in a leather chair next to a fieldstone fireplace.
It is cedar which opens Tartan as Virginian and Atlas cedarwoods are combined. In this kind of concentration, it passes through the more common comparisons of pencil shavings into something with more character. I like it when cedar is used in this way. To give that raw wood feel Ms. McCartney threads through some cedar moss. After the first blast of cedar that moss forms a green network within the cedar. Then as it dries out and the cedar begins to lose some of its fresh-cut quality, leather and tobacco provide some of the fireside milieu. The cedar logs burning return with a slug of timbersilk which causes the cedar to flare up yet again as the flames rise high. A bit of labdanum provides a hint of smoke.
Tartan has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Tartan is a perfume for those who love cedar. Ms. McCartney manages to explore all there is in cedar in Tartan which turns it into a true cedar experience.
Disclosure: This review was based on sample provided by Sarah Baker Perfumes.