An open letter to the coming EU Public Consultation


* NOTE: As you are probably aware, the coming regulations to the EU’s proposed ‘approved substances’ will mean the death of the European perfume industry as we know it, whether niche, indie or even mainstream perfumery. TAG will have much more to say about this as the May 11th deadline approaches, but yesterday, this open letter from The Different Company‘s Creative Director Luc Gabriel was posted on Ines’ blog All I am – a redhead. If you’re interested in further reading, I strongly recommend Kafkaesque’s excellent post, as well as Persolaise’s template for an open letter to the EU Public Consultation, as well as Perfume Shrine‘s eloquent post on the coming IFRA/EU restrictions. This post was reblogged with the kind permission of Ines and Luc Gabriel.* 

Save the independent perfumery

March 19th 2014 – We are perfumers, perfumeries, brand owners. We drive our energy towards creating olfactory beauty and each of us is a key part of this amazing process that turns components into olfactory emotions, futile for some, of the essence for us and our clients.

The recent proposals made by the European Commission, if they become law, threaten to destroy fine perfumery as we know it, an art slowly built for centuries by creators and craftsmen and part of our cultural common good.

This destruction will end up in modifying formulas of mythical perfumes, in restraining the freedom of using key ingredients that are absolutely necessary for a creative high end perfumery (some of these components being used for centuries in our fragrances), in losing a unique know-how and in destroying thousands of jobs.

Our goal is to have our line of work recognized by the institutions and the general public as it is and always have been: a collective cultural good, a pillar of our history, an art which contributes to the beauty of the world.

We want to have the concept of Freedom recognized along the concept of Safety and Precautions and have perfumers free to create, brands free to develop and customers free to choose, our profession being already widely regulated.

Eventually, we intend to inform the general public and the institutions on the reality of our business and our products and communicate as widely and transparently as possible so that they make their choices fully aware and informed.

If you share our values and wish to contribute to saving a perfumery in danger, thank you for signing this manifest. We will inform you on a regular basis about the actions taken and we might also ask you to contribute to the ”think-tank” and our actions.

Truly yours.

Luc GABRIEL/The Different Company – François HENIN/JOVOY

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Ooh La Laugh Fraise


a review of DSH Perfumes Amouse Bouche from the Passport to Paris Collection

In a winter that has dragged on for what seems like an eternity as one wet, super-extended November, life ground itself down to a dark gray powder as plaintive and as melancholy as any early Bergman film.

Melancholy is no state of mind with which to celebrate the coming arrival of spring. For spring, we need exuberance, beauty and above all things else, a perfume to put a smile on our faces, a cancan laugh on our skin and not a little sunshine in our souls.

Of all the perfume families I have become enamored with over the course of my life, few make me run for the hills faster than the dreaded fruity floral/oriental. In fact, the mere term ‘berry’ anything turns me green in all the worst ways. I am neither so young nor so naïve to think it necessary to waft any berry in my wake to add to my dubious allure.

Nothing pleases me more than to eat my words and give myself over with a rueful laugh to the wonders of my all-time favorite berry of all.


Imagine it. A succulent, fragrant, red berry in front of you with all its promises of a carefree summer’s day dances its exuberant Galop Infernal around crème frangipane and a flaky, warm brioche. I double dare you not to feel your wintry cares drop to the flowering ground like so many superfluous woolen overcoats.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ Amouse Bouche – part of her triptych of perfumes created for the Denver Art Museum’s Passport to Paris exhibition – is that kind of strawberry.

Amouse Bouche (the misspelling is an intentional visual pun) was inspired by the Paris of the Belle Époque and by a humorous sketch by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec called The Dunce’s Cap.

I dare you to look at that simple sketch without smiling.

I dare you to look at that simple sketch without smiling.

With such inspirations, it would figure that this is a) neither an ordinary strawberry nor b) an ordinary fruity-floral gourmand.

I don’t know what I expected, and you’d think I’d have a few ideas by now. Nevertheless, here it is. Yours truly, conquered by a laughing strawberry extravaganza as swirling and dizzying as any Art Nouveau curves, as lighthearted and flirtatious as the cancan dancers at the Moulin Rouge and with all of La Goulue’s unrivalled appetite for all of life’s most delectable pleasures.

Follow me now Messieurs et Madames, in through these ruby red doors into a sparkling, ever-present heart of luscious strawberry (with optional lemony champagne). Do you feel your cares melting away by the minute, can you sense how winter all but burns to an wisp of fog in your mind in that juicy, happy heart of light?

Come in, come in! Our show is only just beginning as all your winter-worn cares vanish like smoke in the limelight, for here come our belles of the ball in their strawberry skirts and their flashing black stockings, les dames fleuries, the blushing jasmine and the queenly rose, the neroli with her saucy winks and the ylang with her sunshine yellow laugh.

Cold? What cold? Impossible to be cold in such warm and happy company as the troupe dances out and in again as the crowd roars its approval, as the strawberries twirl in aldehyde champagne and dulcet buttery vanilla whirls its pas de deux with caramel until at long, long last, only the sandalwoody gloss of tonka bean and vetiver fade away as the sun rises over Montmartre.

When you know that in those hours in the magical dark only laughter and sunshine breathed, when all winter woes and worries fled far, far north. All that remained was the joyous memory of an ooh la laugh of strawberry bliss and even your soul was very amused indeed.


Notes: Aldehydes, strawberry, bergamot, lemon, grandiflorum jasmine, Bulgarian rose, neroli, ylang ylang, butter CO2 extract, Tahitian vanilla, ambrette seed CO2 extract, caramel, tonka bean, Australian sandalwood, vetiver.

Amouse Bouche is available from the DSH Perfumes website, where sample sets of the entire Passport to Paris collection are also available and absolutely recommended.

Disclosure: A sample of Amouse Bouche was provided for review by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. For which I thank her with my words, a wink and a laugh and a half! 

Personal Geography


–  a review of Body Made Luminous by Scent By Alexis

If my evolution as a perfume writer these past three and a half years has taught me anything at all, it is to fervently believe in the Jungian concept of synchronicity, in other words, that everything that transpired since that slightly tipsy August night in 2010 has happened for a reason and with the precise epiphanies and people I needed. Or as a 19th-century lawyer once said in another context:

In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences.

One of those consequences of my perfume writing was being invited to participate in Lucy Raubertas’ Clarimonde Project, a perfume project of perfumers and bloggers created to celebrate and elaborate upon Thèophile Gautier’s haunting 1837 short story La Morte Amoureuse. The perfumes created for the Clarimonde Project were all so incredibly evocative I can honestly say that from that October onward, my life and my perspectives really did change in ways it took me a very long time to appreciate.

The Clarimonde Project was also my first ‘proper’ introduction to perfumer Alexis Karl of Scent By Alexis and co-founder with Maria McElroy (of aroma M) of the House of Cherry Bomb, who contributed with their perfume Immortal Mine.

Immortal Mine changed everything for me, brought me into the story and elaborated upon it in ways no other medium could, and literally blew my mind. I have never before and rarely since (with the exception of the scents created for my own Devilscent project) sniffed anything so dangerous in my life. Even today, even after over four hundred reviews, I still consider my story/review of Immortal Mine (a fictional continuation of Gautier’s story) among my finest and proudest moments in writing, and that stoppered vial of amber perfume oil with its red lacquer seal stands among my most cherished possessions.

Except the fun didn’t end there, for along the way and ever since, Alexis has become one of my dearest friends and closest inspirations, for we have countless preoccupations and interests in common. Like Alexis, I, too, had a cemetery for a playground as a young child. (True story!) And we both have the Gothic aesthetic – in the widest, most encompassing sense of the word – built into our very DNA.

Only one word can truly describe something of Alexis Karl  – musician, singer extraordinaire, art instructor, teacher, painter, sculptor and perfumer – and that is polyhistor.

When she chose to resurrect her perfume line, she was inspired by Michel Foucault’s essay Utopia of the Body, in which Foucault ponders how our physical bodies define and explicate us, and yet, there is that inevitable dichotomy of body and soul. But is it really a dichotomy? Or could it be, as Foucault himself says in the essay:

It will last a long time, my soul, more than “a long time”, when my body comes to rot. It is my body made luminous, purified, virtuous, agile, mobile, warm, fresh.

Body Made Luminous is a perfume made for that moment when body and soul come seamlessly together as an indivisible entity, when we are so infinitely more than our physical skin, the moment we are clarified and elucidated by a loved one’s gaze or touch and body and soul are knit together whole and entire from all our disparate, fragmented selves.

Having been lucky enough to have tried her collaborations with Maria McElroy, I’m thrilled to say that Alexis’ voluptuous aesthetic is everywhere in evidence right from the first spray. There’s a lot of base (and lots of bass) in her perfumes, so much so it feels pointless to discuss anything so banal as top-heart-base architecture, because this perfume – as indeed did Immortal Mine – operates on an entirely different scale.

This is very, very heady stuff.

Imagine… chocolate. Some artisanal, arcane and very hard to obtain single estate Criollo where the cocoa beans are cosseted and coaxed into their most kaleidoscopic expressions to end their glory days as the ultimate manifestation of some Celestial Law of Chocolate.

Any fellow chocolate lover will understand what I mean. This is the scent of that 80% chocolate lovingly tempered over the embers of fossilized Moroccan amber, before it is transformed by skill and dedication into some other occult revelation hidden in the Nahuatl word ‘xocolatl’.

Amber may be petrified tree resin, yet there is nothing in the slightest vegetal about this amber. This amber is the animal within, the animal all of us take such pains to conceal, the animal that perhaps more than any other defines and delineates Michel Foucault’s ‘utopia of the body’, the utopia within us that is nowhere because it is everywhere inside us, waiting for its moment to emerge and growl its reasons upon our skin or in the air between us and someone we love.

But that low, animal purr is tempered somewhat by a floral caress of … rose? Tuberose? A smidge of jasmine and orange blossom? I don’t know for certain – I don’t have the notes – and by this time in its evolution, neither do I care.

Body Made Luminous is a total seduction of all the senses, a gourmand for gluttons and voluptuaries, libertines, decadents and sworn sybarites, a symphony in chocolate and a lesson in mapping out our selves, our spaces and the uniquely personal geography that defines us all.

Body Made Luminous is available as an eau de parfum (with 14+ hour longevity on me!) from Indie Scents and from the aroma M/House of Cherry Bomb studio in Dumbo, NY, which is open between 1 & 6 PM on Mondays and Fridays at 68, Jay Street, Dumbo, # 1007.

Notes (via Indie Scents): Moroccan fossilized amber, chocolate and flowers.

Disclosure: A sample of Body Made Luminous was made available by Alexis Karl, for which I thank her from the bottom of my ink-black, Gothic, gluttonous heart.

For much more on Alexis Karl, I highly recommend Lucy’s portrait at Indieperfumes.

Find Scent By Alexis here.

Bad To The Bone


–  a review of Kinski by Kinski

In the normal state of affairs, I tend to shun celebrity scents like the plagues upon humanity they are. I find most of them poorly composed according to the ten-second sale philosophy (usually by Coty, who once upon a storied time never catered to the lowest common denominator), or created to exploit Hot Celebrity X, Y or Z’s personal brand of ‘style’.

But every once in a blue moon, a perfume comes along that seems to wrap that idiosyncratic ‘style’ and tie it all up with a beautiful bow to add another layer of definition to an iconic figurehead. I could mention Etat Libre d’Orange’s Eau de Protection and Like This, for Spanish firebrand Rossy de Palma and Tilda Swinton, patron saint of Perpetual Cool, or even the few perfumes I’ve tried by Dita Von Teese, all of which were made with a far greater deal of care and dedication.

And then came this one. Only this time, it was not at all market hype or perfumista buzz that caught my attention.

This time, it was personal.

You see, two 21st-century sisters of definite literary bent and inclination independently of each other decided that Anne, Emily and Charlotte Brontë shouldn’t have all the fun for themselves.

One was a graphic artist, the other a journalist, but both were writers on the sly in between family cares and career woes, sneaking off to commit either unspeakable acts of depravity or unspeakably depraved prose to the virtual page, one writing within the framework of a crime novel, the other from a Gothic horror perspective, one in her native Danish and the other in English.

No matter how life tried to get in the way – as it certainly did – they would finish these two books, they would scrawl their names on the walls of literature in bloody ink and seal the deal with a bloody handprint, they would both of them do what it took to get themselves out there… and any detractors could think whatever they pleased.

So between late September and December of last year, they both did just that and were published – by a big-name Danish publisher and by an indie Austin ditto. One to (mostly) rave reviews, the other to… four, all told.

To commemorate her epic feat of imagination and determination in the face of distraction, one of them bought a perfume.

This perfume. This perfume which promptly blew the other sister’s mind.

The perfume buyer – and crime writer – was my sister Stephanie, and the other sister – and Gothic novelist – was yours truly.

The biggest surprise of all was this one: My dearly beloved sister and I have completely opposite tastes in perfume. She is a petite brunette, and has favored what I’ve come to call skank bombs for either gender for as long as I can remember her wearing perfume. I am a slightly less petite blonde who has vastly preferred epic, steely green chypres for nearly as long as I can remember.

Yet one sniff of this masculine wonder did me in.

Kinski by Kinski was made by perfumer Geza Schoen to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of actor Klaus Kinski’s death in 2011, and apart from it being one of the most unusual perfumes I’ve ever sniffed, it is also one of the most evocative, conjuring up Klaus Kinski’s ghost as effectively as any Werner Herzog masterpiece marathon at your favorite arthouse cinema.

The remarkable thing about Klaus Kinski the actor was that more than his personality, his physiognomy or the roles he chose, was his ability to literally eat the scenery – and sometimes, his fellow actors – in everything he played. Watch any of the movies he made with Werner Herzog, and I dare you to look away, because you can’t. His intensity was so ferocious, it’s a wonder we have any film stock left with him that didn’t self-combust in the can. I double-dare you to forget those roles in those movies, because you can’t do that, either.

Yet great artists are rarely paragons of virtue, and Klaus Kinski the man was no exception. Whether or not he fell prey to his own self-concocted outrageous, eccentric public persona or simply had to constantly live up to his own disrepute, the fact remains he was at least as complex a man as he was as an actor.

So how on Earth do you manage to bottle all that masculine eccentricity and iconoclasm?

Geza Schoen chose to add in many of the things Klaus Kinski loved in life. White wine accord (according to the Kinski website), a viridian vetiver, flowers, juniper, a pounding lecherous animal heartbeat that pulses from beginning to distant end and the most genius subversive ganja accord this side of Maui Wowie.

If you’re thinking Kinski the perfume will get you arrested in public spaces and get you sidelong smirks and full-body searches from TSA officials, think again. That ganja is less the aroma of inhaling with a fury and more the texture and feel of green, crystalline buds. But it’s rolled so tight into a glossy green spliff of castoreum and vetiver, you wonder why no one has ever done this before.

All of it so wrong, so impossible and so improbably, off-the-charts sexy I’m profoundly grateful I’ve never encountered this on a man. I’d devour him, and to Hell with the fava beans and a good Chianti.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, it does.

Because that animal pulse never strays, that scrumptious vetiver never departs – and neither does the Maui Wowie – but suddenly, a salty marine tang splashes in on a high tide, and it’s neither the dreaded ‘aquatic’ or (almost worse) ‘ozonic’, but simply sunshine, sand, salt and sea. And animal, vetiver and spliff.

So give yourself over to this summer’s afternoon of dolce far niente to find flowers blooming, too, not in any obvious, easily demarcated way, but simply as a sweetly scented posy to seduce you past caring.

No worries – this jungle cat is still purring along beneath it all, still lazily flexing his claws well into the mossy, salty, spicy-musky drydown many, many hours later, until you suddenly realize with a start…

You’ve been had – and by a perfume.

I pay no attention to the gender divides in perfumery – I wear what I like. So when I want to walk on the wild side, when I want to air out my inner rock chick, when I want to define myself in the spaces of my contradictions and defy convention and propriety, I’ll wear Kinski.

You see, if Klaus Kinski with his outsize personality had been born twenty or thirty years later, the only thing he could have possibly become was a rock star.

A rock star who would be, as indeed he always, always was…

Bad to the bone.

Notes (from Fragrantica): Cassis, juniper berry, pink pepper, castoreum, marihuana accord, nutmeg, plum, orchid, magnolia, orange flower, rose, benzoin, vetiver, cedar, patchouli, styrax, cistus, ginger, musk, moss, ambergris.

Kinski by Kinski is available as a 100 ml eau de toilette (with outstanding 12+ hour longevity) at Luckyscent.

With a kiss, a hug and bathetic gratitude to my sister and fellow author, Stephanie Caruana.

Thanks to Du Dumme Sau for invaluable research.