A Green and Searing Heart of Light – with a giveaway!


– a review of Aftelier’s ‘Haute Claire’

If I were ever to make a list of all the dozens of perfume notes I tend to gravitate towards and dote upon, the ones I tend to seek out as if compelled by some guardian angel of perfumery, at the very top of that list you would find that savage, green beast known as…galbanum.

Galbanum has been used since antiquity in perfumes and incense mixtures. The ancient Egyptians adored it every bit as much as Germaine Cellier, when she put it at the front and center of the greatest green perfume of all, Balmain’s Vent Vert. In the long list of my own personal great immortal perfumes, galbanum has been the green heart and common thread of most of them – Vent Vert, Bandit, Cabochard, Miss Dior, Dioressence, Silences, Chanel no. 19, even my latest favorite green, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ Vert pour Madame.

So imagine how excited I was to learn that in another perfume collaboration instigated by Nathan Branch, Mandy Aftel and Liz Zorn of Soivohle were exploring the challenges of two seeming contradictions – galbanum and ylang ylang. Galbanum, which sings in such a high, green pitch, and ylang ylang with all its lusciously sweet, tropical arias, not giving an inch, not even for galbanum.

Here I sit with Mandy’s ‘Haute Claire’, and since it arrived, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind, my nose and my words around it.

‘Haute Claire’ – sometimes spelled ‘Hauteclere’, meaning ‘high and clear’ or ‘noble and fair’ – was the name of a sword that belonged to the paladin Olivier de Vienne, the protector and teacher of Roland in the medieval French epic, ‘The Song of Roland’. Both the name and the contents suit each other completely, one as sharply defined as the other, both a testament to a unique artist’s sleight of hand that gives a perfect balance and a perfect reach.

First of all, I’ll start by saying this is like no galbanum fiend I have ever encountered before. Just as I had to, you can forget everything you know about green florals, chypres, and fougères.

Haute Claire is indeed very green, it is quite floral, it has slight intimations of chypre, and yet, it resembles nothing I have any kind of reference for, and oh, how I love it when that happens!

That sharp, green and resinous edge of galbanum glows just below a bright, emerald burst of lime and wild sweet orange, the kind to wake up all your sensory perceptions to high alert. Neither the lime nor the orange are so sweet they detract from galbanum, because throughout the complex development of Haute Claire, it beats like an untamed heart beneath every other element. Ylang ylang in both CO2 and extra dance so effortlessly with honeysuckle absolute and clary sage all along that searing galbanum blade, adding another dimension of floral, another, creamier shade of chartreuse to that pulsing heart, all the elements poised on the singular point of that metaphorical, perfume sword.

They whirl around in the emerald light…now ylang ylang in all its wonder, next the heady, sweet air of honeysuckle and the rounded, mellow tones of clary sage binding them together as they dance in tune along the blade…

So many of the notes in ‘Haute Claire’ are such inherent contradictions if not paradoxes in perfume that should cancel each other out and yet somehow they never do. That glowing, pulsing soul of galbanum and the heady ylang are seamlessly, effortlessly balanced in a fragrant duel where one is never stronger than the other. It never turns bitter and always remains green all the way through a spectacular drydown of vetiver and ethyl phenyl acetate with its hint of rose and vanilla adding just a feather-touch of soft and sweet, one final burnish of the blade. It wears equally well on men or women, I’d say, and lasts well past the four-hour mark, and that, too, is no mean feat of natural perfumery.

If ever a perfume were a testament to alchemy and artistry, to the juxtaposition of opposites and a balance of a paradox in essences, it would be Haute Claire. It smells like no other perfume, behaves like no other galbanum, and has an inbuilt architecture very similar to the sword that gave it its name, and that, too, I’ve never encountered before.

I’ve been sideswiped by Mandy Aftel’s skills as a perfumer with all nine of the perfumes I’ve been privileged enough to try. They have all evoked – and invoked – a wide range of responses and reactions, conjured different dreams and associations. But no other Aftelier creation has ever been like this one, both a paradox and a contradiction, yet such a seamless, perfect whole.

I could quote from ‘The Song of Roland’, but to be honest, I found something a little less dramatic and a lot less gory, that seemed to fit it equally well. If a sword can be immortal, then a perfume can be no less, and so I found this from Rumi…

‘Death came, smelled me
and sensed your fragrance instead
From then on, Death lost all hope of me…’

An immortal poem of immortal deeds, an eternal perfume…and a perfumer whose art makes it look as easy as a sharp, verdant edge…

‘Haute Claire’ is available in 30 ml EdP and in sample form from the Aftelier website.

DIsclosure: Sample provided by Aftelier for review.
Original image: ‘Ace of Skies’ from the “Chaos Tarot”, image of ‘Haute Claire’ provided by Aftelier.

Notes:
Top: Galbanum, Mexican Lime, wild sweet orange
Heart: Ylang ylang CO2, honeysuckle absolute, ylang ylang extra, clary sage
Base: Vetiver, ethyl phenyl acetate, vanilla absolute

To read of the fascinating and sometimes frustrating process of creating ‘Haute Claire’ on Nathan Branch’s blog, start here.

Last, but not least – leave a comment! Thanks to Mandy’s incredible generosity, I’m holding a giveaway for a 5 ml sample spray of Haute Claire. One lucky reader will get to experience the Aftelier attention to detail in both perfume and packaging! So..leave a comment! The draw runs until July 25th at midnight CET, and a winner will be determined by random.org.

Love from the Tree of Life


– a review of Honoré des Près ‘Love Coco’
For a summer vacation after my eighth birthday, my stepfather – all his life a merman of the first order – took my mother and I on a sailing trip to the Bahamas. On a Bimini beach at sundown that first day, I saw a sight I’ll never forget, something so incredible, it burned itself into my memory forever.

A local boy, not much older than me, walked up a coconut palm and picked a coconut. In no time at all, he was back on the beach with a huge, oblong, yellow-green nut, whacking off the woody husk with a few deft strokes of a lethal-looking machete. Then, in one stroke he sliced open the coconut and held it out to me, the coconut water gleaming inside in the red-gold of the sunset, and the sharks coming in just visible in the water beyond the reef.

That, my friends, is a coconut! The quintessence of coconut, extrait of tropics, humidity-distilled summer – life as a beach!

So when you can’t get to the beach – never mind the tropics – you can at least wear it!

So ingrained is the scent of coconut with summer, it’s been a mainstay of suntan lotions since the glory days of Coppertone, since even before the SPF was ever invented. Hawaiian Tropic would not be the success it is were it not for all that coconut, all the time.

Christopher Brosius of CBIHP gave us ‘At the Beach 1966’, the scent of my childhood summers, we have the utter fabulosity of Estée Lauder’s Bronze Goddess, whose fans are legion and I’m one of them, we have perfumes that feature coconut as a perfume facet such as Kai, and now, we also have the certified organic, all-natural Honoré des Près Love Coco, created by Olivia Giacobetti.

Giacobetti has a talent for making perfumes as sheer and transparent as gossamer silk, even something that can be as cloying as coconut.

With Love Coco, she doesn’t disappoint, because this coconut is anything but cloying. This is not your usual hypersweet liquid coconut cream pie, this is not some 24/7 Live Nude Coconuts! overload, Love Coco is none of these things. It is, rather, that highly remarkable creature…

A green coconut.

It opens not with coconut, but with fresh, emerald-green coriander/cilantro, and to be honest, if that’s not daring, I don’t know what is. Coriander – cilantro as it’s known in the US – is a culinary herb much beloved in Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and Mexican cuisine for its ability to elevate spicy food to an entirely new level of delicious. On the other hand, there are many people who can’t stand its unique aroma that sits uneasily somewhere between herbal-minty and sweatsock. I’m not one of them and love the stuff, so I have no problems with it, but I can’t for the life of me recall when it was last used in a perfume – and worked so well!
The coriander refreshes the coconut and keeps it right off the tree. This isn’t a sweet coconut, but a sheer, rounded fresh coconut that even stays that way when vanilla – just the merest whisper – enters the scene and stays until the far drydown.

It’s deceptively simple and yet never boring, it’s green and light and yet not too fleeting. It is, in fact, the perfect and perfectly unusual coconut.

Scientific research will have it that coconut has a certain effect on the masculine gender. I can’t say I’ve had the chance to road-test it for real, but I can say that it worked as well on a six-year-old as it did on his father who came by for the day, and I had not a word of complaint, which isn’t always the case with a lot of things I wear!

Even bad boys like a day at the beach!

In tropical countries, the coconut palm is called the-tree-of-many-uses, since every part of it can be used for something. It is also called the tree of life, which is how I like to see it – giving shade and shelter from the hot sun, sustenance and sugar…and a green, fresh, delectable beach-in-a-bottle called…

Love Coco!

Notes: Coriander, coconut, vanilla

Honoré des Près Love Coco is available at Beautyhabit and First in Fragrance

Monday Mini Miscellanea


– or…too many perfumes, too little time!

Not so long ago, I sat down with my ever-propagating collection of samples and reached the conclusion that if something weren’t done, I’d drown. The guilty pleasures I love to wear and have yet to review, the guiltier pleasures of stuff I need to review and I don’t know where to start, the perfumes I really should be reviewing if I want to take this somewhere…and really, people, summer vacations are too precious to tie yourself in knots over all the things you should be writing, when you are in fact supine on the grass painting cloud pictures with Spider-Man Jr.

So in my little blue review box I have five perfumes from five different houses, all different, all neglected and all of them several shades of self-perpetuating headache. Not for being so bad that none of them merited their own review, but simply because…mini reviews are cool! They cut to the chase and free up energy for something truly spectacular to come, and trust me…it’s coming!

I’ve already said too much!

Party Girl Gone Wrong
Angel Garden of Stars Peony Angel, by Thierry Mugler
If I were ever to make up a Top Five of perfumes I loathe, somewhere on that list you would definitely find the original – and for a time nearly ubiquitous – Angel. You may love Angel. You can have her. Any way and any time you please. This flanker, part of the Garden of Stars series, was off to a promising start the first time I tried her. Sweet, as Angel is, heady and very pretty, or so I thought. The second time, not so much. She became the ‘friend’ you invite to a party on that fatal ‘more-the-merrier- premise, only to drink a vat of chocolate mojitos, strip in your kitchen sink, make a pass at your boyfriend, bawl when he turns her down, and disintegrates into a sodden, sorry mess at 3 AM. And worse…she just won’t leave!
There’s peony in there, all right, pretty at first but soon screaming in horror over the company she’s in…patchouli, pepper, chocolate, and Big, Bad Viagra Wolf Vanilla, the second before they all…eat her alive and entire, and you’re left with that gory Wes Craven horrorfest known as ‘Angel’s Revenge’. It comes in a 3D Director’s Cut that runs at least eight hours…too long.
Notes: Pepper, peony, patchouli, chocolate, vanilla

The Hamptons Haughty Go Nicely
Eau d’Hadrien, by Annick Goutal
This is a lemon that went to finishing school in Switzerland, married very well, and now spends her time doing appropriately worthy things with her perfectly appropriate, beautifully turned out children, also lemons like herself, while the Big Lemon Cheesecake does unspeakable things on Wall Street.
There is no room for surprises in Ms. Hamptons Haughty’s universe, because even that slightly risqué touch of grapefruit never overstays its welcome. And when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade you enjoy in a Baccarat glass with a view to the Atlantic on the right stretch of the Hamptons and not even the discreet cypress drydown will ever, ever tell that if pressed hard enough, this lemon will admit sotto voce…she hates Ralph Lauren. That’s just not…nice, and this is a veddy, veddy nice lemon.
On the other hand and the other side of the picket fence, her snarky neighbor calls her Pledge behind her back, and knows exactly what the Cheesecake gets up to in the meatpacking district.
Notes: Citrus, lemon, grapefruit, cypress

The Prettiest Wannabe
Petalia, by Chantecaille
Petalia tries, really, really hard. If I were awarding report cards for effort, she’d surely deserve an A. She is fluffy gardenia, sweetest tuberose and all things gloriously beautiful, and yet somehow, some way…she disappoints. It’s not that she isn’t beautiful, it’s not that she isn’t immaculately turned out and flawlessly coifed, it’s not even the fact she has not one speck of lipstick on her perfect pearly teeth.
No, it’s that Petalia has a deep, dark secret. She wants to be something else, someone else, someone else who had this very same idea several years ago and pulled it off with such panache and èlan. She really, really wants to be Estée Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, but she’s just not…all…the way there yet. Honey, I’m sorry. Really, I’m sorry. But TG got to me first and best and always, and there you have it. Now, Petalia has a major identity crisis. She tried so hard, and for a lot of people, that will probably be good enough. Not me. I’ll keep my EL PC TG, thank you. Because I’m that kind of picky…errr…witch!
Notes: Gardenia, tuberose, woods, musk

Surfing the Island Breezes
Vents Ardents, by Envoyage Perfumes
If happiness is a Caribbean vacation, then here you go, folks…here’s Montego Bay in a spray, here’s take me a-w-a-y…the perfect cure for the miseries of summers in the left armpit of Northern Europe. Shelley Waddington put de lime in de coconut (and just a touch of that), added rum, a few leaves of bay, a good Dominican cigar and stirred. Voilà! Montego, back when it was cool, before it was ruined by ‘all-inclusive’ and package tours, back when you could look up and see Ian Fleming knocking out the next James Bond blockbuster on his terrace, and meanwhile, life was a tradewind breeze on a perfect moon-shaped beach beneath the coconut palms before a sea such an improbable shade of blue. Stella got her groove back in Jamaica, mahn…and yours truly looked up from her wrist and remembered…oh! That’s right! It’s summer…
I’m going to pack this one away for January, when I need all the Jamaica I can get…
Notes: Citrus, vanilla, bay, tobacco and Jamaica rum

The Tattoo Rose
Rossy de Palma, by Etat Libre d’Orange
There are celebufumes, and there are…the Etat Libre versions. No one, but no one does ‘em like ELdO. If Tilda Swinton Like This did wonders for pumpkin and immortelle – which it did! – then surely Rossy de Palma should do miracles no less for Bulgarian rose. Ah, Rossy, heroine and mainstay of so many Almodovar movies, and if ever there were proof that attitude can get you far indeed, that you are as devastating as you can think, it would be you! My neuroses have never been the same since I met you in ‘Women On the Verge’…And then you got in cahoots with Etienne de Swardt and made your eponymous perfume, and I now have twice as much to be grateful for! Because this is a glorious, twisted, unusual rose, the rose with all the thorns and all the petals, a spicy, fiery green and smoky rose, this is a rock’n’roll and Gothic kind of rose, as beautiful and as unique as you. My kind of rose, and I do like the unconventional – in roses as in roll models. I really need a full bottle of this, just to prove to all those wan wannabes what a rose can do for you! And for me. A rose is a rose is a Rossy, too!
Tattoo this rose, somewhere I can show it…
Notes: Bulgarian rose, bergamot, geranium, ginger, jasmine, black pepper, cocoa, frankincense, patchouli, benzoin

Hands down, Rossy de Palma won the day. But Vents Ardents surprised me in all sorts of good ways on a cool, gray day, and I can’t wait to see what it might do for my mood in dismal, darkest January…

My profound thanks to the Great Facilitators, Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass, Lucy of Indieperfumes and Anthony of NkdMan.

Private Follies


– a review of Aftelier Perfume’s ‘Parfum Privé’

Have you ever wondered what it must be like to be a perfumer? To create bespoke perfumes and explore your creative vision through essence and absolute – what would that do to your personal preferences in the perfumes you wear for yourself?

When Mandy Aftel managed to obtain some very rare and very costly ambergris, she wanted to create a perfume for her own use to highlight it. So Parfum Privé, this most extravagant of Aftelier’s perfumes, came to be, and luckily for the rest of us, she decided it was far too good not to share.

Ambergris, that near-mythical substance excreted by sperm whales one way or the other, is unique in that it has to be properly weathered to be of any use in perfumery. Why or even precisely how it’s made is still a matter of some scientific debate, but what isn’t debatable is its singular aroma – at once floral and animalic and sweet, and its ability to fix other, more volatile perfume notes. Once you have encountered the true aroma of ambergris, you will never again be able to forget it or mistake it for anything else.

This is – stated solely on the basis of my past year’s exposure to some truly unbelievable fragrances that have done all sorts of things to my olfactory perspective – no ordinary perfume.

When I first applied that Barbie-sized rollerball applicator and let it dry, my first thought was….

They don’t make them like this any more.

Really, they don’t. Mandy herself states this is the most extravagant perfume in her collection, and considering the splendor of some of her other creations, that says something. The night air of Hawaii, she also says on her website, but I get something else entirely.

Parfum Privè reminds me of nothing so much as those all-out super-opulent Orientals of the Twenties, when opulence was not so hard to find or create. Back in the day when women would wear perfumes such as Shalimar, Mitsouko, Narcisse Noir, Tabac Blond, or Arpège, to name but a few. Potent personal statements that would never dream of apologizing for their existence, statements that left a trail and a fragrant intimation of secrets both profound and tantalizing behind, statements that make you look again, perfume that stopped you in your tracks.

Something sexy this way walked, and that something was a woman with a capital W. And such a woman!

It has the vibrant feel of those vintage scents, and when I say ‘vintage’, I don’t mean ‘old-fashioned/musty/dusty/old lady-ish’ in the slightest.

Right away, there’s a lively, verdant kick from the bergamot and pink pepper, but the heady, spicy heart of orange flower, osmanthus and pimento leaf (which also gives us allspice) is right behind it.

This lady has flower and fire both in her soul, and she’s not afraid to show it, either.

I’ve read elsewhere that this is a perfume that shimmers on the skin, not in any literal sense, but in the way the notes wind around each other, fiery, sweetly floral and heady, not one of them taking a backseat to any other, all of them singing in flawless, fragrant harmony.

I’d say that it sparkles more than it shimmers, sparkles like the jet beads and sequins of the robe in the photo above, not so much revealing as accentuating the allure beneath the bugle beads and handsewn curlicues in jet on chiffon. You have to move exactly right to catch that sparkle in the light, but just like the drydown, it’s all silk and skin and ambergris underneath, once noted and never forgotten.

It’s been years and years since I encountered ambergris, once a major note in one of my all-time favorite perfumes, Dior’s Dioressence. I’m lucky enough to own a little vintage Dioressence, and when I compared the two and waited for the drydown, I noticed the common ground right away, even though they’re otherwise nothing alike. Both contain a generous amount of ambergris, which is warm, thick, floral, animal and sweet all at once, and not even that description comes close to evoking it. Just take my word for it – it’s not something your nose will ever quite let you forget.

I can’t get over the drydown of Parfum Privé. My nose must be deceiving me. It’s not the glorious ambergris, it’s not the musky temptation of ambrette seed, it’s…well, knock me down with a peacock feather already, because I could swear on an autographed postcard that I smell sandalwood, too. Not the sandalwood we know today, that chemically recreated approximation of another, more refined scent engraved on all our memories, but a sandalwood so perfect, so redolent, rounded and polished it positively glows. Sandalwood isn’t listed, but I swear it’s there, or else I’ve sniffed far too many perfumes lately and I’ve begun to have olfactory hallucinations.

I could imagine, if I sniff, close my eyes and let my imagination take flight, that Parfum Privé could have been chosen as the perfume of a Ziegfeld girl like the one pictured above, carefully cultured and costumed to her best, most alluring self, epitomizing the apex of a specific feminine ideal that the rest of us may also aspire to, hinting at the depths we contain rather than putting them all on public display. A woman that knows the value of inciting a sense of mystery and intrigue, of showing only enough to make her admirers curious enough to know more, a woman who knows that creating a sense of anticipation can be very much more fulfilling than promises she might not want to keep. Some secrets are no one’s business but her own. Except for those rare occasions every once in a blue moon, wrapped as you are in a cloud of decadent perfume, cocooned in that heady, mythical ambergris and a swirl of jet-embroidered chiffon, you come across a private folly…that’s far too good not to share!

Parfum Privé is available from the Aftelier website.

Notes:
Top: Bergamot, pink pepper CO2
Heart: Orange flower absolute, osmanthus, pimento leaf
Base: Ambrette, ambergris

Image: Ziegfeld girl Anne Lee Patterson in an Erté (Romain de Tirtoff) designed costume, photographed by Alfred Cheney Johnston, 1920, taken from stylesectionla.com. A larger version available here.

Disclosure: Sample provided by Aftelier for review.

Dianthus in Abstract


– a review of Serge Lutens’ ‘Vitriol d’Œillet’

Life, John Lennon said once, is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. For my first review since Tuesday and some badly needed days off, I had, don’t you know, other plans…Plans to do a grab bag of mini reviews of whatever random samples my greedy little hands hauled out of the ‘yet to try’ cakebox, just so I could ease myself into the swing of things again. That should teach me.

Once in a while, something happens in a stop-press moment, where you just have to give up, give in and roll with it. Like yesterday, when the only thing in my mailbox was a plain padded envelope postmarked Paris, and I just knew it…drop everything, stop the press, OMG!!!….it’s le nouveau Serge Lutens…Vitriol d’Œillet!

Understand, I don’t do this for just anyone. But if I can blame any perfume house for my slippery slide into Vice I Can Ill Afford, it would be Serge Lutens. It was M. Lutens and his eponymous perfumes that reeducated my nose and realigned my amygdala and made me appreciate things I could have sworn I hated until that day I didn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t even live without them.

So there I was yesterday afternoon, dancing around my living room like a Red Injun on the warpath with this plain white envelope. Breaking my rule of one perfume free day a week to clear my nose, tearing it open, yes, that’s what it is, extricating that tiny little sample vial and applying a discreet spray and…

What?

I had to sit down. I had to sit down for a moment, take a deep breath or two, a sniff or three at my wrist, and… laugh.

Laugh, because once again a Lutens perfume has pulled the rug from beneath my feet and foiled all my expectations and misconstrued ideas as to what an ‘angry carnation’ might be. If press releases and debates among perfumistas were anything to go by, this could be the most exciting thing to happen to carnation since…CdG Series 2 Red maybe? Poison, vitriol, acid, caustic, passion…there was no shortage of adjectives and similes on several social networks as to what an ‘angry carnation’ might be.

In my own head, I had an idea that it might be something the editor in my story, nicknamed ‘Caustic Cyd’, would wear for intimidation purposes.

Instead, I had a bad fit of the giggles. I always had an idea there were puns in those bottles and not just their names but puns of an olfactory kind, an unexpected twist on expectations as to what a perfume can be without ever compromising on a vision, a bit of strange, another, more compelling kind of beauty.

Carnations have all sorts of connotations, political, personal or in perfumes. Once upon a time, said Theophrastus, they were sacred to Zeus/Jupiter, later they were purloined and dyed green by the aesthetes of Oscar Wilde’s age (There’s a wicked parody in Robert Hichens’ book ‘The Green Carnation’), used as a symbol of a mother’s love, or in wedding bouquets to symbolize love, fascination and distinction, or alternately, if they’re variegated, an elegant way to say ‘your love cannot be returned.’

Trust the French to put another twist on the carnation. Purple carnations in France are traditionally used in funerals and symbolize misfortune and bad luck.

This vitriol of carnation is dyed a delicate, rather wistful violet hue…

First, forget everything you’ve heard. In fact, forget everything you know about carnation and carnation perfumes. The glories of, say, Caron’s ‘Tabac Blond’, or their famous carnation soliflore ‘Bellodgia’, forget Floris’ ‘Malmaison’, forget Nina Ricci’s ‘L’Air du Temps’ or Etro’s ‘Dianthus’. Please do forget the clove/cinnamon RedHot that is the Comme des Garcons’ Red Series version. Vitriol is nothing like it, and like none of them. It doesn’t have the vintage perfume-y vibe of Tabac Blond or Bellodgia, nor the lush floral bouquet of L’Air du Temps, and certainly not, at least to my nose, anything remotely resembling RedHot. It doesn’t smell old-fashioned in the slightest, and it doesn’t smell like anything else modern, either.

It starts out with a searing punch in the nose of pepper, black pepper, the sweeter and softer pink pepper, and an airy, fragrant carnation as they once were in some expensive florist’s, as cool and as fresh as the dew that still clings to those pinked petals. I do mean it smells fresh, and I do mean it is cool, but wait for it, this is a Lutens, after all, and soon enough, a fiery sotto voce whisper of cayenne pepper kicks up its heels and dances out into the limelight for a pas de deux cancan with that frilly flower as it whirls around and around a still clove center that spins it like a pinwheel. Now peppery, now fiery, now with a slight touch of dentist’s office and oil of cloves, but even as it heats up, it also manages to keep its cool. If that sounds like a contradiction, it’s precisely the kind of contradiction no other perfume house does quite so elegantly.

As it dries down, the clove grows stronger and a bit more emphatic, the nutmeg and the cayenne add a slightly human touch before fading away to a cool, powdery, nutmeg-woody whisper of past dreams of pinks. No floral notes are listed, so I must be imagining that light touch of rose and something that could be a suggestion of violet or is it orris for that melancholy air, that wistful, final wink of fire and pepper.

This won’t knock anyone sideways with sillage, so if that’s what you expect, you will be disappointed.

I can honestly say I wasn’t. Easily unisex, easily wearable, and easily blowing my preconceptions to frilly smithereens, it took me a while to understand the joke. The vitriol is that this is an abstract carnation, a deconstructed dianthus, taken apart to atoms and rebuilt from scratch into another, different kind of pink, an unusual carnation with tiny cayenne teeth to remind you that no matter how beautiful, no matter what color or associations you find in those toothsome petals, it still has enough fire to punch you in the nose if it so pleases!

Nothing like a carnation with an attitude problem. ‘Caustic Cyd’ wouldn’t wear this, but I certainly would, at the drop of a violet carnation…

Notes: Nutmeg, clove, black pepper, pink pepper, cayenne pepper.

‘Vitriol d’Œillet’ is in the export line of Serge Lutens perfumes, and will be made available worldwide in September. For European customers, It can be bought now from the Serge Lutens website.