Three Odes to Osmanthus

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three osmanthus-based perfumes for Spring

This morning, as I trudged to one of the few open grocery stores for milk for my coffee, something very obvious hit me on the way.

It is (still) a glorious, calm, bright blue, perfect Spring day. The sun is blazing away, there’s a hint of actual warmth in the air, and after being blasted by a wicked Easter nor’easter for over a week that kept the garret nearly arctic, the contrast is intoxicating. Somewhere in that shriveled black, cynical heart I call my own, all that daylight through my opened windows is wreaking havoc with wintery pessimism and however-shall-I-survive-exam-season-with-my-integrity-intact speculations. I might actually survive exam season, after all. (Especially if I read up!)

There might even … dare I write it … be possibilities for a perfume writer of dubious repute?

Because it’s Spring! And what better way to celebrate Spring than by wearing a flower that blooms in August and September? Anyone?

The flower is osmanthus fragrans, or as it’s known in English, sweet tea olive. Osmanthus the flower (last sniffed at the CPH Botanical Gardens in September) is a whole, opulent perfume in itself. It somehow manages to exude floralcy, fruity-apricots-with-a-tinge-of-marzipan and animalic leather/suede all at once.

So once I returned this morning, I hauled out three odes to osmanthus. They all contain differing interpretations of this humble little flower with the big odor profile I so adore, and few florals exemplify Spring quite so nicely.

The fruity flower

Parfum d’Empire Osmanthus Interdite (2007)

Perfumer: Marc-Antoine Corticchiato

A very long time ago, I blind-bought 10 ml of an Osmanthus Interdite split on the theory that a) I loved osmanthus and b) Marc-Antoine Corticciato has never, to my knowledge, made a bad perfume.

I’m not familiar with all of Parfum d’Empire’s perfumes, but of the ones I have tried, they are rather spectacular and highly unusual. I could write volumes on Azemours Les Orangers‘ orange grove perfection (and wail that my decant is practically empty), but Osmanthus Interdite  – another fast-diminishing decant – did not prove me wrong with either a) or b).

Inspired by the Forbidden City of Beijing, Osmanthus Interdite puts the flower front and center with an epic green tea note – a sibling of that other green tea note I once loved allthe way to discontinuation in Bvlgari’s ground-breaking Eau du Thé Verte. It begins with airy, lemony osmanthus, who introduces herself and slyly retreats as the green tea steps forward. Half an hour later, she makes another, grander entrance, bolstered by a hint of rose and jasmine, and now, we can sense her for what she truly is: a stunning, fruity floral for sophisticated grownups, blowing juicy apricot kisses to the adoring crowds, bridging the gap between smell and taste, which is smaller than you think.

The rose and jasmine hold her in place for the duration (6+ hours on me), and accentuates a hint of the soap she also conceals in her orange-yellow depths, before she finally drifts off on an exquisitely tanned suede accord to gild her edges.

I say ‘her’, since osmanthus in general strikes me as very much a feminine note, and Osmanthus Interdite  – ‘forbidden Osmanthus’ is very feminine to my nose. But don’t let that stop you – this would be fantastic on a man with the fortitude to thumb his nose at perfume conventions. Feminine, yes, but not frilly and with no perfume-y flou in sight, just a beautifully rendered osmanthus perfume that is always – again, a hallmark of Parfum d’Empire – always sophisticated, flawlessly delineated, and perfectly rendered.

Notes for Osmanthus Interdite:

Osmanthus, green tea, apricot, jasmine, rose, musk, suede

The Sultry Blooms

Perris Monte CarloAbsolue d’Osmanthe(2016)

Perris Monte Carlo came to my attention about two years ago when a perfume writer friend of mine reviewed their Ylang Ylang Nosy Be so beautifully, I wanted to forfeit a rent check and just buy it already. So I ordered a few samples from First in Fragrance, but for whatever reason, my order for a sample of Ylang Ylang Nosy Be didn’t go through, nor did my comment requesting it on my order. Absolue d’Osmanthe, however, arrived instead. If it’s any indication of the quality of the rest of the line as I suspect, then I’m done for.

Creative Director Gian Luca Perris took a very different tack with this osmanthus. This osmanthus is sourced from Guinan in China, famous for the quality of its osmanthus absolute.

Quality is the operative word here. Absolue d’Osmanthe exists in two incarnations – as do the other members of the Perris Monte Carlo Black Line – as an eau de parfum, and as a hyper-luxe extrait. Although I only have a sample of the eau de parfum, you’ll hear no complaints. As it is, Absolue d’Osmanthe has heft and sultriness to spare.

Sultry, I hear you ask? Sultry! Is my emphatic reply, for M. Perris avoided all the obvious traps of airy-fairy, girly osmanthus and decided to accentuate the, ahem, sexier side of osmanthus, by pairing it with the animale hidden within sandalwood, tolu balsam, vanilla (a dry and very woody vanilla without sweetness) and tied it all up with a pretty jasmine sambac bow. Voilà! Sultry osmanthus. I would never have guessed that sandalwood and osmanthus could sing such a duet, but sing, they do. The osmanthus is apparent right from the start, apricot and marzipan tones all accounted for, but the sandalwood makes the heart beat faster – in both the wearer and the perfume, before the tolu, labdanum and vanilla sashay in on orange-tinted sunbeams to show you just what osmanthus can also do. It is easily unisex and would be spectacular on the right guy. It lasted a full day through all its many twists and turns, and that, too was a surprise. Now, I have to hunt down samples of the rest of the Perris Monte Carlo Black Line (to start). Damn it.

Notes for Perris Monte Carlo Absolue d’Osmanthe: Osmanthus, jasmine sambac, sandalwood, vanilla, tolu balsam, labdanum.

The Silken Suede

Parfums Serge Lutens Daim Blond(2004)

Perfumer: Christopher Sheldrake

My gateway osmanthus is remarkable for not listing any osmanthus at all, but a not-at-all abstract representation of its listed notes that somehow, some way, all add up to an elegantly restrained, decidedly chic flower I shall henceforth refer to as ‘osmanthus-with-extras’.

Daim Blond came under my nose by way of a sample courtesy of the superlative perfume writer Lucy of Indieperfume, and it was – and eight years on, still is – love at first and four-hundred-and-fortieth sniff. I’ve worn it a lot this past winter when I needed to be reminded of alternatives to blustery, frigid days, or simply something besides my January disillusioned self.

It gets stranger still. One of my most loathed perfume notes in nature – the smell of flowering hawthorn, which induces instant, all-encompassing nausea – is listed as a top note, and although I can detect faint traces of hawthorn, I don’t care nearly enough to make a fuss about it, since the rest of it is simply glorious.

Apparently, Daim Blond is quite divisive, if the reviews on Basenotes and Fragrantica are anything to go by. Some smell a derivative Feminité du Bois, some a reworking of the great Iris Silver Mist, some a truckload of ‘tamed’ Arabie (a criminal thought!), and some just complain that M. Lutens was simply repeating himself and his famous Orientalist aesthetic. YMMV.

Yet I named Daim Blond my gateway osmanthus, because it was the first osmanthus-tinged perfume I encountered that I actually loved, enough to remember it when a friend asked about a birthday present and I suggested Daim Blond off the top of my head. Since it arrived, it has remained in constant rotation for the past three years, appropriate whether April or August or January, whether a school day of linguistics for ADHD students, or a night out in Copenhagen.

Like most masterpieces of perfumery and a few humans too, it exists between the spaces of its contradictions. Just as the odor profile of osmanthus itself, it is simultaneously fruity, floral and suede-leathery all at once, and this suede has the texture of melted Isigny butter. Wherever that suede came from, I’ll wager that was one exceedingly pampered goat/pig/cow.

But I would be hard pressed to name notes as such, for no other reason than on my skin, I get osmanthus in all its orange-gold glory, a smidge of a very discreet musk, and that flawlessly prepared suede. That’s all, and that’s already more than I deserve.

Notes for Daim Blond: Hawthorn, cardamom, iris, apricot stone, (iris?) pallida, musk, heliotrope, leather.

The osmanthus may bloom in August in Guinan, but few flowers put quite so much Spring in my steps as osmanthus. If you like yours bold with a side of opulence, I recommend Amouage Journey Woman. There is another fragrant traveler in my test drawer, but that one gets its own review. Stay tuned!

A Violet Tsunami

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– A review of Guerlain Insolence eau de parfum

On my way to purgatory/school every morning, the train passes through a series of beechwoods that line a deep river valley – the ‘deepest’ (we’re not talking a gorge here) in Denmark. And every morning, I keep my eyes peeled for the sheltered, south-facing spots beneath the trees and under the bracken, a telltale patch of tiny, round, emerald leaves. From what I’ve seen, it won’t be long before one of my personal favorite things about Spring arrives – the tiny, unassuming and deeply fragrant wood violet.

Pity the poor violet. Already, I’ve written unassuming. One hundred and twenty years ago, violet was arguably one of the most popular soliflores, adored by dandies and debutantes, grandes dames and ingénues alike, for its innocence, its lack of assumption, its sweet, green floralcy, and if not the violet, then its leaves, exuding grass and haricot vert, both flower and leaf containing the promise and the deliverance of spring.

I’ve loved violet for a long, long time, ever since a wax sample of Bois de Violette landed on my desk and for all its autumnal woody swags and flourishes, it brought me back in an instant to the beechwood floor and a tiny, purple-white bloom.

Violets and roses share common notes, and in combination give us the impression of expensive lipstick. Later, the heartbreaking violet note in another Lutens/Sheldrake creation, De Profundis, came along to blow my proboscis to smithereens, and yet another passionate violet-tinged love affair began, before I was gifted with a vintage mini of one of the greatest and grandest of them all, Germaine Cellier’s Jolie Madame for Balmain, which not only brought back indelible childhood memories of my mother’s perfume and the fur coat it saturated, but just about did the adult perfume writer mein, for being so perfectly rounded, delineated and composed.

You may have Guerlain’s Après l’Ondée at the top of your purple passions (I haven’t spent nearly enough time with it), but for me, Jolie Madame is at the very top of my own as one of the three Last Words On Violet(s).

It may be that to your mind, violets skew feminine or girly. Not so. Oriza L. Legrands Violettes de Czar is a very elegant, nostalgic and highly refined masculine, broad-shouldered violet that all but twirls its metaphorical Edwardian moustache, and if modern violet is your jam, I recommend Mona di Orio’s staggering Violette Fumée, an easily unisex, surprising twist on everything we thought we knew and not a few things we didn’t – about violets.

We have Italian violets in Borsari’s Violetta di Parma, and the sugary, sweeter violets of Toulouse in Berdues’ violet perfumes.

To the extent they have any common denominator, it’s that these violets – all of them justifiably famous violets – tread lightly on the ground. These are not insistent violets so much as insistently – and consistently – great violets, each with their own qualities, profiles and personalities.

Then came Insolence. If it came with an epithet, I could call it the Beast (of a) Violet.

Insolence, created in 2006 in a collaboration with the great Maurice Roucel and Sylvaine Delacourte at Guerlain, began life as an eau de toilette, and went on to encompass seven different flankers, one of which is the bottle now sitting on my desk in its dark purple bottle – the eau de parfum.

The eau de toilette – despite all our wailing that Guerlains no longer have any longevity (debatable) whatsoever – was a raspberry-violet-orange blossom bombshell with jaw-dropping sillage, created like most Guerlains these days for the ‘modern young woman’, but no ‘modern young woman’ – I personally know fifteen below twenty-five who fit the bill – would ever dare to be quite so … audacious in these perfume-phobic times. They’re all about blending in, whereas I am far past caring, and by Golly, if I want to be audacious, then audacious it is, and let them think what they may.

That attitude may be why I finally pulled the trigger at an online discounter last fall and bought a bottle of the eau de parfum in the ‘dirty dishes’ Serge Mansau bottle, and to hell with all consequences.

The first surprise was Ms Hare, who heard herself saying: “But this is good!” Later that same day, when I confronted the Dude with it, the second surprise was his reaction: “That smells delightful!”

Delightful? Seriously? Have I become so accustomed to perfumery avant-garde that I’m shocked when my immediate surroundings actually like my perfume?

Well … yes. Because it took me – a perfume writer these eight years and counting – not a little time before Icame around to Insolence. It was a bit like your first trip to the beach after an endless winter. You know the water will be cold, so you take in the ocean one toe at a time before diving in. For a long time, I took in Insolence one teeny spray at a time for fear my neighbor, the check-out girl, my study group, my teachers, the canteen ladies and my entire class of teachers-to-be would complain.

Loudly.

An inappropriate TL; DR way to describe Insolence compared to the rest of the Guerlains would be this:

Imagine Après l’Ondée has had her heart broken –again. One fatal night, she downs an entire bottle of 180-proof methyl ionone in her despair, and calls up her BF Tonka Imperiale, who drops everything and comes running over, all friendly concern, TLC and one forlorn, secret hope. And that was a whole bottle of 180-proof methyl ionone. Nine months later, Insolence arrives as a souvenir.

Accurate or not, this is not how perfume writers are made.

Insolence starts her life with a fog horn of an opening. I do mean – fog horn. Violet – this one is emphatically not shy, not unassuming, not, in short, anything like any violet tropes you might think you know, but loud AND proud – is hitting up the town with her friends raspberry and orange blossom, and this night of all nights, they’re all more than a little … tipsy. By the time iris and tonka bean arrive to chaperone them home, violet is still dancing on the tables to hoots and acclamation singing Piaf as she does into the table lamp, raspberry and orange blossom have long disappeared with two highly disreputable gentlemen, and everyone wakes up with a hangover the next day.

The iris adds deep, powdery facets, but we’re nowhere near baby powder territory here, this is a hard-to-obtain-even-in-Parisian-pharmacies face powder, which makes me suspect a smidge or two of damask rose deep within those purple depths. Some long, long time later, that violet is still in party mode, dancing her pas-de-deux with tonka bean, somehow becoming more true to her sweet, woody origins.

If Insolence contains any Guerlainade, I’d be hard-pressed to detect it, but being a Guerlain, crème patisserie always underpins the whole. It’s sweet, but not quite cloying, not quite over the top, not quite entirely… vulgar. It walks a line between extreme sophistication (I’ll get back to that) and outright brash vulgarity, but lucky for us, never dives all the way in.

Which brings me to my other main peeve.

Whoever among the marketing department of Guerlain came up with ‘modern young woman’ (because screw les femmes d’un certain age) should be shot on sight – or sniff. Just as I’d never recommend L’Heure Bleue to an ingénue, I hesitate to recommend Insolence to anyone below the age of twenty-five. It takes a kind of audacity to wear only achievable by age, and a degree of sophistication obtainable only by experience to appreciate. So I’ll go with ‘modern woman’, and ingénues need not apply. One way and another, I came around to Insolence, for all I wanted to loathe it. It’s precisely that tightrope between sophisticated and vulgar I so admire – and precisely why I think it’s brilliant. That too, is not something I’ve had to say about any newish Guerlain in a very long time.

A word of caution. If the eau de toilette was a bombshell, the eau de parfum is a violet H-BOMB. Meaning a little goes a l-o-n-g, long and LONG way. Three sprays have been known to last a full 16+ hours, something I’ve only experienced with certain extraits, most Tauers and all Amouages. The violet remains from topnotes to base notes, and that’s another first. Don’t wear this to a fancy dinner, darlings. Or if you do, apply lightly. Bring a decant. You can always apply more before hitting up that club, where you’re known by another name.

The Violet Tsunami. Take care it doesn’t sweep you, too, far, far away.

Notes for Insolence eau de parfum (from Fragrantica):Red berries, violet, iris, African orange flower, sandalwood, tonka bean, woody notes.

Insolence was originally created by Maurice Roucel and Sylvaine Delacourte for Guerlain in 2008. Available at perfume discounters, but be aware of the bottle – all previous Guerlain eaux de parfums in bottles of separate design are since 2017 sold in the “bee” bottles. I own the purple “stacked dirty dishes” edition shown below. Comments on Fragantica claim Insolence has since been reformulated and is now weaker and less tenacious.

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An invasive species

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 – a review of Amouage Bracken Man

Are you rubbing your metaphorical hands in anticipation? Looking forward to another Amouage “story”, where the perfume is used as a starting point for a short story that may – or not – tell you something about this perfume and set your own imagination alight? In which case, I apologize in advance for disappointing you. This won’t be one of thosereviews. But it very much will be a review of something I’ve literally been dying to try since its release in 2016.

Because … fougère! Because … Amouage! And last but never least, because this review is the mother and father of all avoidance actions. I have things to read, notes to take, empirical material to organize according to theoretical models and premises and other hazards to my sanity, and even an oral exam to prepare for in a week’s time. Screw all of that.

I’m reviewing a perfume, damn it!  To keep myself sane in the midst of academic anxiety. To retain the five readers who haven’t given up on me – yet. Because … perfume.

Damn it.

Amouage Bracken Man was released – along with its feminine counterpart, Bracken Woman, which I have yet to try, along with every other Amouage release since Myths – in 2016.

The reception was a bit more tepid than usual with Amouage releases, and since then, in remote corners of perfume discussion boards and other places where Planet Perfume tends to congregate, some members have come to dismiss Amouage altogether as a brand for committing that Cardinal Sin: going mainstream.

As evidence, they offered up all the floral Loves; Lilac, Blossom and Tuberose, as well as Beach Hut, Imagination and Figment. And of course, Bracken in either permutation.

These are the people who can’t get perfume avant-garde or edgy enough, ‘new’ enough, or perhaps I should say conceptualenough in order to applaud it. If it utilizes a raw material only obtainable in a tiny patch of rainforest accessible by two weeks in a canoe in some undisclosed, remote location on Borneo to capture the headspace before two weeks’ journey back to Port Moresby, say, or glorifies creosote, gunpowder, asphalt, or industrial-grade concrete as a perfume to wear, so much the better.

Serious perfume houses should be serious, damn it. They should push the envelope and the limits of what perfumery can do, and basically forget about, well, the basics; creating something beautiful, and if you’re (very) lucky, liquid literature, perfume someone like you or me would actually want to wear.

I have no particular interest of any kind in wafting industrial-grade concrete or creosote in my wake as I go about my day in classrooms, study halls or the library, but that’s just me. (You do YOU, readers!)

Most of the time, I just want to waft enough fabulosity to cut through the fug of ubiquitous Marc Jacobs Daisy whatevahs. Because by Golly, life’s too short for such ‘target demographic’ juice. Again, this is me.

It’s not that they’re horrible, because they aren’t. It’s that they’re – and this is where I show my own perfumista stripes – so goddamned ordinary and devoid of vision and creativity, transparent as chiffon in that millenial-pleasing, unobtrusive way. And Generation Y and Z buy them, wear them in their megagallons without so much as a smidgeon of irony, and search no further.

I would never in a gazillion alternate realities categorize the justly celebrated Amouage brand as ‘mainstream’. They have since Christopher Chong’s inception as Creative Director in 2007 indeed pushed the envelope and created perfumes that were liquid literature, fragrant epiphanies that had – indeed, still has – Planet Perfume in a swoon.

In terms of material quality, presentation and olfactory heft, you very much get what you pay for with Amouage, and if all you’ve known of perfume is the mainstream, you are really in for a visceral shock, which also applies to the price tag.

Mainstream pays nowhere so much attention to detail, but then again, you pay for that, if and as you can afford it. I can’t on a student grant, and it pains me infinitely more than you know.

So … does Bracken Man smell mainstream? Unobtrusive? Devoid of vision? My personal TL; DR version of those questions in that order would be yesno and depends on your perspective.

That may sound like a prevarication. Let me qualify.

Bracken Man is a fougère, by concept and association. Fougère = fern, bracken is the most ubiquitous variety of fern, therefore it follows that Bracken = fougère, that most ubiquitous of masculine perfume genres.

What many people tend to forget is that ubiquity tends to occur for a reason. Starting with the great revolution that was the original Houbigant Fougère Royale, and even more since the masculine fougère’s 1970s heyday, the green, spicy, herbal and earthy fougère has a lot to answer for. Barbershops. Shaving cream. Late nights in smoky clubs with super-obvious-scented ‘manly’ men who try those fatal nanometers too hard to impress. (These days, younger versions of those men who also fancy themselves perfume connoisseurs search for guaranteed panty-droppers. Argh.)

Those guys. The ones who wore Polo, Aramis, Azzaro pour Homme, or YSL Kouros to name but a few – all variations on the same overall, Fougère Royale-inspired theme of bergamot, lavender, spice and earth. Or to paraphrase Guy de Maupassant’s comment on the original 1880 Fougère Royale, an abstract representation of greenery, rather than a literal interpretation. And the fact is, that ‘abstract representation’ smells fantastic, not just to, but on very many people.

Many reviews on Basenotes and Fragrantica name Fougère Royale as a direct relative to Bracken Man, and even before you sniff it, one glance at the notes list confirms just how much DNA they have in common. It shows in the structure, if not the evolution, of both perfumes. To my nose, they are alike, but different, like brothers who share both parents.

My own bottle of the reorchestrated Fougére Royale – now reduced by the Dude’s heavy usage to fumes and a few droplets – is heavier on the bergamot, geranium, cinnamon and lavender. It is most emphatically g-r-e-e-n, a humid, well-manicured and maintained jungle green.

In contrast to Fougère Royale, Bracken Man is far dryer, more austere and pared back, without sacrificing any of the rich satisfaction of a) smelling a superlative-quality perfume or b) one fougère, flawlessly executed. Cypress – which could explain the dry feel of Bracken Man – and clove haul out the big guns for the lavender and nutmeg, and once you’re done for, the patchouli wraps you up for a soft, earthy landing in the bracken. Provided, of course, that you like fougères – and like how they unfurl as elegantly as any fern on you or on someone you care about.

If that reads as ‘mainstream’ to you, so be it. When the Dude took it for a five-spray test drive last Monday, he reported back on a lot of compliments from both men and women. Many more than he was used to wearing (my press sample) Opus VI.

Unobtrusive? As if. Amouage is NOT a brand for the perfume commitment-phobic. If your maximum attention span is below 10-12+ hours, stay well away from Amouage – anyAmouage, even this one. It will be noticed by your surroundings. It will remain on your sweaters for d-a-y-s, and your coat for weeks. A little goes a long way. Although Bracken Man doesn’t have the drop-dead sillage of Epic, Fate, Memoir or Lyric, and nestles closer to the skin after the first two hours or so, it still packs a mighty punch.

In unwrapping and dissecting Bracken Man, I also researched the name – or should I say, researched the fernPteridium Aquilinum, or Common Bracken. Common Bracken is considered one of the most common – and invasive – species of plant on Earth, and grows on every continent except Antarctica. We might admire them for their lush, green fronds, or their aura of fin-de-siècle curly excess, but they’d take over the planet if they could. Much like hairy-chested, gold-chain-wearing masculine fougères took over the 1970s Planet Perfume, only then, no one dared complain.

Devoid of vision? As I wrote above, that would depend on your perspective. If you’re coming from an avant-garde perspective, if you’re searching for industrial-grade concrete/creosote/gunpowder and ground-breaking, earth-shaking conceptualism, then yes.

It’s just a fougère.

On the other hand, it could also be that the original vision for Bracken Man was quite simple: Make a fougère. Make it inspired by the first of them all, but make it its own thing, give it its ownspin on ubiquity.

So they did. In so doing, they created their own kind of invasive species. And made it beautiful.

Like something people would actually want to wear.

A very, very special thank you to Ali Saif of Illum in Copenhagen, without whose kindness and enthusiasm this review would not have been possible. Find him on Instagram as @itsalisaif – he’s one of us.

Notes for Amouage Bracken Man (via Basenotes):Lemon, berganot, cypress, lavandin, nutmeg, clove, geranium, cinnamon, cedarwood, sandalwood, patchouli, musk

True Perfume

a tribute to Vero Kern.

Do you know that feeling when you’re scrolling your Facebook feed on a train and suddenly – pardon the pun – stop dead in your tracks, because one recurring item just has “No. No. No and OMG HELL NO THIS. IS. SO. NOT. HAPPENING!” all over it?

That was my experience yesterday, when it became known that Vero Kern of vero profumo had passed away. It was indeed all too true, alas. A world-class and truly unique artist of perfumery – and make no mistake, Vero Kern was very much an Artist with a capital A of her chosen métier of perfumer – was no longer with us, would no longer grace us with her presence, her laugh, her observations or her incredible personality.

I say this, because Vero andher creations have had a super-special place in my heart for almost as long as I’ve known of niche and indie perfumery.

Some time around 2008, when the extrait versions of Rubj, Kiki and Onda were setting Planet Perfume on its ear, I would often practice a unique form of olfactory masochism. I would stalk the vero profumo website. I would dream about Rubj in particular, because something in the description pushed some button of intuition in me. There was somethingthere, and I dearly needed to find out what it was, or else die trying.

That opportunity came in 2012, when I won a complete sample set of vero profumo through a Campomarzio 70 Facebook draw. I was over the moon for joy, because finally, I’d get to see what the fuss was about.

There was, I came to discover, an awful lot to fuss about. Rubj was indeed, ALL OF IT, and so was Kiki, Onda was far more sophisticated that I was ready for at the time (although I’ve since come around), and Mitooh, man. I could write volumes on the gorgeousness of Mito alone. So I did. I wrote my review of Mito. And received a thank you email so beautiful from Vero herself, I had a complete out-of-body experience. I printed and framed her email. Whenever I needed a reminder of why I do what I do – or did what I did – I could look to that email, and to the astonishing creativity, artistry, sleight-of-hand and unique vision contained in those sample vials tucked away in their fuchsia felt pouch and say … Yeah. THAT’S why.

Because people like Vero Kern existed.

Vero never had any consideration for commercial success as an end in itself, never bumped up the releases to satisfy demand, never, in short, compromised on her own unique vision of the perfumes she wanted to create in the way she wanted to create them.

In my time as a perfume blogger doing my own thing, I have been (very slightly) lionized and pilloried (a bit more than slightly).

When I came to Florence for Pitti Fragranze in 2013, I came to discover that greeting-with-a-sneer that some perfume houses use in dealing with perfume bloggers of dubious distinction, and was completely taken aback. Surely, they should be grateful we even bother to write about them?
Surely, they only had time for those – today, we’d call them influencers – they thought important enough, and just as surely, I was informed in frigidly polite terms I was never one of them, because I was too <cough> unique in my particular reviewing style. Just as Vero herself was always, but always far too unique to be dubbed simply … a perfumer. She was indeed a supremely gifted perfumer, and showed all her own sleight-of-hand in just five perfumes, voiles and EdPs. Five. In a year that has had over 2500 releases of “perfumes”, Vero made her own interstellar reputation, her company and her accolades –  with just five. Five.

At Pitti that year, Vero debuted her collection of voiles d’extraits. So I spent the better part of my first day at Pitti simply waiting for my chance to say hello and pay my respects to one of perfumery’s absolute Greatest.

When Vero finally recognized me, I received a bear hug to end all bear hugs, was pulled into at least two conversations, received more bear hugs and was introduced like nonentity I was a super-important someone, talked with a few of her colleagues, and immediately invited to a launch party held at the newly opened Caffé Florian in Florence.

It was one of the best nights of my life. The free-flowing prosecco notwithstanding, Vero and I talked of art, perfume, literature, music, philosophy, Italy and life itself. It was a conversation I never forgot.

Vero herself did so very much to make me feel a part of THE Pitti conversation over the course of the weekend. It really did hurt to say goodbye that Sunday, but ever since, her amazing kindness, encouragement and generosity of soul would pop up at strange times in emails, Facebook PMs, a post or two on my timeline – always when I felt a bit low, always when I needed it most, and always – it meant the world to me.

Throughout her life, Vero took so many roles, tried so many things and somehow managed to bottle them all up. Outrageous sensuality was Rubj, and resistance was – indeed is! futile. Somewhere in the world, which could only mean Italy, bloomed a garden full of hope on a perfect summer day (Mito). Far away in the incendiary purple-blue distance, a reimagined sweet lavender yet sassy caramel laugh named could be heard, smelled and felt. Underneath an ancient tree, she caught the interplay of shadow and light, the contrast and juxtaposition and ever-shifting perspective that is Onda. In a far-distant garden, in an overgrown corner of a crumbling terracotta wall, a wild and secret rose unfolds her own twists and turns, ever-changing yet still … a Rozy.

The serpent’s kiss of Naja – her latest, and some have said, her greatest – I have yet to try. But knowing a thing or two about snakes – in the grass, in the heart, in the heart of a perfume bottle – I know it will be beautiful.

Because Vero made it.

This day, there is less beauty in the world. Vero is gone. But if we’re really lucky, we can appreciate the beauty she left behind for us, and in so doing, make it possible for her to stay with us still, just a little longer, with a laugh and a fragrant trail, of an incredible life and indelible, unforgettable, interstellar, true … perfume.

Requiescat in pace, Vero. xoxo

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Vero in her lab, with her beloved dog, Isi.

 

Resurrection Royale

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– a review of Houbigant Paris Fougère Royale (2010)

Imagine you consider yourself a Parisian gentleman of some class and discernment. You know your forks, your knives, your ps and your qs. You are fortunate enough to be a gentleman of thought or at least a certain degree of leisure to indulge whatever impulses you might have. And although clean linen of course has never gone out of fashion for the discerning, particular gentleman of a certain class, perfume has somehow in this age of steam and noise become a decided afterthought. Pleasant enough in warm weather to cool with some eau de cologne or such, yet their thrill is too brief and linear, never complex enough to engage all your senses in one sudden, sharp and unexpectedly deep inhalation.

In this day and age (1884), it would appear that all things manmade assault the senses even as they exhilarate the minds; the possibilities in science, in the arts, in the electric and increasingly electrified currents of change in the very air, in the hiss and roil of billowing steam engines.

And then, the perfumer of Houbigant Paris, a gentleman named Paul Parquet, has an idea inspired by the great strides happening in chemistry, when he encounters a new synthetic material named coumarin. Be gone, ye soliflores and linear démodé colognes, adieu simplicity – and bonjour to a brand-new era in olfactory epiphanies: the abstract perfume.

From this day forward, perfumes can – and emphatically will! – tell stories, evoke moods and fire imaginations in ways both great and small, and nothing much at all in perfumery will ever quite be the same again.

Parquet called his new creation ‘Fougère Royale” – “Royal Fern”, and stated with all the hubris of someone who knows his own master stroke:

“If ferns had a smell, they would smell like Fougère Royale!”

Or as another highly discerning Parisian gentleman, a devoted fan himself – eloquently put it:

“It is a prodigious evocation of a forest’s scent, or maybe the moorlands, not at all a floral expression, but a portrait of its greenery.”

Say whatever you like about Guy de Maupassant (one of my favorite writers), but he knew a grand thing when he sniffed it!

Fougère Royale went on to have such a massive influence on perfumery in general and perhaps masculine perfumes in particular, that by the time Houbigant was relaunched as a luxury perfume brand and decided to reinvent their flagship perfume in collaboration with perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux, fougères had become so ubiquitous, they were their own worst olfactory cliché.

Whether shaving cream or eau de toilette, most men – in the Eighties in particular, judging by my own haunted twenty-something memories of Guy Laroche’s Drakkar Noir or Yves Saint Laurent’s Kouros to name only two, just about every man I’ve ever dated, married or lived with since my teens has a Really Big Thing for ‘manly’ fougères. Never ‘manlier’ in my opinion than Kouros, a perfume that makes me shudder to this day due to a former colleague’s habit of ODing his surroundings by wearing every single permutation of it at once. We used to joke M. Saint Laurent could smell him in Marrakesh, which is a l-o-n-g way away from Copenhagen.

No one alive has had the opportunity to sniff the original 1884 version with its overdose of coumarin. A select and lucky few have had the opportunity to sniff the Osmothèque’s recreation of it (M. Flores-Roux among them), but apart from those who own the rare 1950s version, this is what we have.

Before I say anything else, let me be as clear as possible. I’m only too aware that this version of Fougère Royale is nothing like the original, nor even its 1950s incarnation, but an altogether singular reinvented perfume. As M. Flores-Roux stated in this interview, it was, in architectural parlance, restored with respect.

Manly – schmanly! Masculine or not, I had to try it. The first perfume I ever chose for myself was Jicky extrait, itself massively inspired by Parquet’s original. I’m also a green fiend. So when I first encountered the new Fougère Royale at Pitti Fragranze in 2013, I nearly swooned where I stood.

Somewhere between that first hyper-green, citrus herbal blast, that winning combination of lavender, carnation, rose, geranium and cinnamon and the long, luscious amber-y drydown was, I’m sure of it, a love affair waiting to happen. For everything I sniffed at Pitti, Fougère Royale stuck in my mind and refused to budge.

Two years later on a Facebook perfume group, a friend had half a bottle of this gem for sale at a price even an impecunious perfume writer could afford. Before I could sneeze, I bought it. To wear, of course! Or so I thought …

Enter the Dude. True to form and my own shady past, he’s a fougère fiend. And although Jean-Paul Gaultier’s Le Male is an excellent fougère (as well it should be, being created by the astonishing Francis Kurkdjian), he wasted no time at all ditching it like so many old and overheated loves as soon as he encountered Fougère Royale. Less than a month into our relationship, he appropriated my precious bottle with the words “This is mine now!”, and wore it on an almost daily basis from then on, only alternating with another fougère, Amouage’s Memoir Man. Colleagues and schoolgirls complimented him everywhere, superiors sat up and took notice, and even his own family remarked that he suddenly smelled miles better than usual. (The perils of dating a perfume writer!) There, he happily remained until that sad and sorry day the bottle was as empty as a daydream.

Along the way, both he and I noted a few things. On my hyper-pale skin, it pulled greener and more floral alongside the train tracks of a spectacular chypre, even in the drydown. I detected a lot of geranium and rose with the carnation and spice. With his not-so-pale, dark-haired, hirsute, green-eyed chemistry, it slanted much spicier, classier and in a plusher, darker, amber green and fern-ish direction. I also noted something else neither of us were quite prepared for.

It had a truly remarkable effect on Janice Divacat. She refuses to leave him alone for even a minute when he wears it. Half-joking spats ensued between the Mrs. (Janice Divacat!) and the sidechick (Yours truly) over who got to sit next to him. We eventually reached a compromise once she realized the Dude has two sides, and one could be hers. She’d bury her nose in his elbow with a sigh of pure pleasure – and promptly go to sleep with a purr.

I’ve been wanting to review Fougère Royale for a long, long time, ever since that hot Saturday afternoon in Florence, but I never imagined quite how much it would literally perfume my life since then for all the right reasons. Fougère Royale, you see, has become the Dude’s ‘The One’, that perfumed self definition he had been looking for, a few scant millimeters above that other one – Memoir Man. It is incredibly classy, elegant, and is virile without trying too hard or overstating the issue. (Drakkar Noir, that would be you!) Longevity is excellent – I can get 12 hours wear out of two tiny sprays, but the Dude gets at least 15 out of four. It smells staggering on me, but on the Dude, it’s a marvel – of modernity, of intricate perfumed art and not clichéd in the slightest.

Like so much else these past two years, it’s a revelation. I call it Resurrection Royale. As soon as I can afford it, the Dude gets a refill bottle. And when I can afford the extrait, I’ll buy that for him, too. Resurrection is a wonderful thing, especially in emerald green.

Houbigant Paris Fougère Royale is available as eau de parfum and as extrait from Luckyscent, First in Fragrance and directly from the Houbigant Paris website.

Notes: (via Fragrantica) Bergamot, lemon, chamomile, lavender, clary sage, carnation, geranium, cinnamon, rondeletia accord, rose, lilac, oak moss, patchouli, tonka bean, labdanum.

Disclosure: My sample came as part of a stunningly presented and very reasonably priced sample pack from Houbigant Paris, paid for by me. (At the time of writing, it is currently unavailable.) My reviews and the opinions I express are always my own.

With gratitude and thanks to Jan Gonzalez for The Bottle.

Photo: A macro of a fern, via lukeobrien.com.au

 

 

Writing On Fumes

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– the future of alembicating, and also the Genie…

Ladies, Gentlemen, Fragrant Humanity all —

Perhaps you might have noticed over the course of the past year or so how the blog posts and reviews on this blog have become few and far between. It would be far beyond the scope of this blog to state exactly why, or how that happened, except to state that life has been sprouting monumental roadblocks all across the superhighway of my creative process, especially the creative process that is and was part and parcel of my perfumed self – writing about perfume.

Excuses, excuses

Over the course of the past eighteen months, my life has changed to an incredible degree. A certain Dude moved in, old detritus moved out, and finding the space to get any writing done became an exercise in logistics and diplomacy, when all my former writing habits went flying out the window for getting involved with an ultra hardcore gamer who was not at all about to divorce either the monster TV or the PS4, and the garret has exactly two (tiny) rooms.

Along the way, I had to do some very serious thinking about this blog, the other blogs I own and write for on occasion, my presence on social media which has become virtually non-existent lately and even the state of Planet Perfume itself, and asked myself a rather pertinent question:

Was this really, truly what I wanted to do any longer? Why? Or more to the point: why not?

Believe it or not, and I’m still not sure I do, I have been writing about perfume – in fits and starts and stops – since August 2010. In those seven years, I’ve seen blogs come and go, I’ve seen the landscape of Planet Perfume change and evolve and not always for the better, and I’ve seen the meteoric rise of YouTube vloggers who speak fluent Adobe Premiere/Garageband, do all their own special effects and have followers numbered in the thousands.

Yet this is emphatically not YouTube but WordPress, and probably not why you, dear readers, are devouring these very words. You read this blogger’s idiosyncratic/iconoclastic words on perfume because you are a reader, not a spectator. You appreciate not just literature but liquid literature, which is to say, perfume writing with a literary bent and a metaphorical ear for prosody and phrasing.

Many of you – bless you! – have followed this blog since its beginnings and stuck with me ever since, well aware that I can’t write like anyone else, not even about perfume, which could very well be the precise reason why you’re here.

Thank you.

The Writer’s Lament

Remember those monumental roadblocks of a few paragraphs ago? Two of them will become pertinent to the future of this blog, but bear with me a moment.

The thing about reviewing perfumes, researching them, wading through acres of hyperbole-blasted PR copy, reading other blogs who reviewed this new It release, keeping up with the Joneses of Planet Perfume – it all became so much work. Work was the one thing I haven’t lacked these past eighteen months, and sometimes, it took all I had to just ignore that squeaky voice in my head berating me for not writing the next review, and the one after that, not because I had nothing to say about it, not because my inspiration ran dry, but because it felt like shouting into a void – a whole lot of headache, hassle and heartache for not a lot of payback or feedback which became harder to justify given that this blog alone costs me almost $200 a year I can ill afford and that I don’t get to blow on perfume. Somewhere, somehow, I forgot to have fun with it, which begged the question: what would make it fun again? How could I recapture the joy of 2011 in particular, when I posted twice a week Tigger-bouncing all over my keyboard and couldn’t wait to review something new?

Money, honeys!

How do you know you’re a professional writer? When you get paid to do it. After one published novel and three upcoming projects, I may now look in the mirror, shriek in horror at the sight and scream:

“Well, at least I get paid…” Not a lot and not often, but still…

Since I began on Blogspot all those years ago, I’ve resolutely steered past any notion of monetizing my perfume writing. I did not want to be beholden to advertisers or perfume houses, thank you very much, and ad clicks surely meant a sellout of my integrity, such as it was. The concept of charging perfume houses for reviews (this happens!) left a very bad taste in my mouth or my soul, pick one.

Then, two things happened. First, thanks to the aforementioned Dude, I was suddenly exposed to the biggest form of entertainment on Earth – video games. Along with that bombardment of sensory overload came exposure to a whole new kind of review; the cutthroat world of game reviews, and some of the best ones were monetized, not by ads but by subscription, via something called Patreon.

That made me think long and hard. Yet, I still wouldn’t do it.

The Dude and I had many, many discussions about Patreon, about money, about writing-for-hire and about, as he put it, “being way too good not to get paid for it.” (He was referring to yours truly.) Still, I sat on the fence, hoist on the petard of that wretched ‘integrity’.

About that second thing … In March, I applied for what the US would call college, but the rest of us education, to become a teacher in four years. In May, I was summoned for a two-part interview that would determine whether or not I was accepted on the basis of my 36-year-old classics baccalaureat, my life experience and my general (questionable) intellectual capacity. Two case studies, interview sessions and days later, I was informed that I passed my interviews and fulfilled the criteria for acceptance, although I won’t know for certain until July 28th. What this means for me personally is invaluable (I get to go back to school, yippieeee!), and yet, it will also mean that for the next four years, I’ll be living off what you’d call a student grant which is, all told, about USD$400 a month less than the pittance I pay bills with now, or roughly what it costs me to be an independent blogger every year. Meanwhile, I’m writing up a storm and will likely continue to do so – a novel is on its way, more short stories (one of which is coming to Amazon in July/August), a perfume book of stories I’m rewriting, flotsam, jetsam and …

Back to that daily morning horror story in the mirror. Am I a professional writer, or just a ditzy middle-aged D-list blonde throwing away her ‘brand’ for free? And if that’s the case, the brutal bottom line is the ‘free’ part has become a luxury I’m sadly no longer able to afford.

Future Fuming

After a lot of soul-searching, wrestling that damned integrity and removing myself from the perfume community so I could gain some degree of static-free clarity, I had some very hard decisions to make.

I could a) shut down TAG, say goodbye and sayonara and vanish into the sunset. Which made me all sorts of sad, since the perfume community – that means YOU! – had made me what I’ve become over the course of the past seven years. Each and every interaction everywhere, each comment, each blog post hit has made my soul sing in ways nothing else does except writing – about perfumes.

Or there was option b) move the blog to a free WordPress site, leave it for posterity and walk away. I could sit there among company, all teary-eyed and nostalgic, and tell stories of those halcyon days when ‘I used to be a perfume writer of dubious repute …

But what about option c) Throw caution to the wind, sign up for Patreon and dangnabbit, see how that goes? What’s the worst thing that can happen?

I can lose every tattered shred of perceived integrity I might have, lose every subscriber/follower/perfumista friend I have acquired in the past seven years for being considered a money-grubbing, avaricious louse and swan-dive right bang-smack onto dry land from a lofty height, with the added hashtag #epicfail. A distinct probability.

So far as I’m aware, there are no perfume blogs on Patreon. There are monetized blogs and vlogs via ad revenue, but that’s all.

I would be the first of my kind on Patreon, and I can handle that. I can handle that after almost seven years, a fury/passion for perfume has got me about as far as I can go, but passion won’t pay the web hosting bills, alas.

My idea was to make TAG a subscription service. For the princely sum of USD$5.00 a month and not one penny more! (about the price of a Starbucks latte), you, dear readers, would get early access to two reviews/perfume stories a week posted every Wednesday and Saturday, smartphone wallpaper, video bottom line reviews, a monthly newsletter of coming attractions and ‘insider’ info if there’s an interest and a guaranteed ticket for sample giveaways. After a week, those early access reviews go public – which is to say, are available to read for free – by which time you will have two new reviews to read. Whatever I might earn goes toward blog upkeep, web hosting (since I’ll have to move TAG to wordpress.org) blog templates and reader goodies. You would of course have the option to cancel your subscription at any time. TAG could be kept ad-free. Yours truly would be obligated and exceedingly motivated to bring you the best dang perfume writing I can possibly supply, and it goes without saying – at least, it should?! – my reviews as always are my own opinions and impressions.

Say USD$5.00 every month is way more commitment than you can handle, but you’d still like to share your appreciation of my writing. For you, there will be a ‘tip jar’ which will give you access to the latest review at 99 cents a read, and that’s the most I’d ever ask for thanks to that damn integrity.

Yesterday – Midsummer’s Eve, an auspicious date in my part of the world, I signed up for Patreon. The Patreon page and the new format for TAG goes live in early July, but I’ll announce it everywhere when it does; my Facebook profile, a few perfume groups if I’m allowed, the TAG Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram as well as a (free-to-read) post on THIS version of TAG.

As of this moment, I have samples from … Houbigant, Ormonde Jayne, Amouage, Serge Lutens, DSH Perfumes, House of Cherry Bomb, Scent By Alexis, Opus Oils, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Memo Paris, Atelier Cologne, Le Jardin Retrouvé, Neela Vermeire Creations, Perris Monte Carlo and Oriza L. Legrand to review. Most of those samples were paid for by me in the hopes of revitalizing TAG with a bit of the ‘new’, and all of them are fully worthy of alembication. I can not w-a-i-t to sink my purple prose fangs into each and every one of them.

Would YOU be excited to read about them?

Do you think I’ve completely lost my mind? Would you subscribe or leave a tip and if not, why not? Should I just slink away and die, already?

Let me know what you think in the comments, thank you for reading and sharing our fragrant journey so far and as always, here’s to the wonders we all have yet to discover!

Love, always!

The Alembicated Genie

The Interstellar Clean Machine

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– a review of Parfums Mugler Mugler Cologne

You might be one of those people, the ones who love to trail complex, intriguing stories in their wake, the ones who leave an imprint in the atmosphere – of their presence, their essence, their plans or their purpose. If you’re reading these words, you very likely are.

In which case, read on.

But what if you’re not? What if you’re oblivious to perfume as anything but a toiletry item, elevated somewhere above the level of soap, yet below the appalling and intricate, complex-smelling perfume-y stuff? Something you’ve used since you were a teenager because it came with the territory of Growing Up and was considered a prerequisite for polite human interaction? Plus, the bottle was a birthday present from Aunt Joan or Uncle George (we all know it was Aunt Joan), it was free and wth. A shame to just let it evaporate, right? It’s not like you go out of your way to seek that stuff out, and it arrives without fail on every birthday, and.

If you’re that reader, read on.

Then again, maybe you belong in that box titled “All and/or Neither Of The Above”. The So Frazzled and Frantic All My Effs Have Left box. The ain’t nobody got time for that box. The this-is-my-life-with-a-snooze-button-and-now-I-have ten-minutes-for-everything-on-a-!§12346?!-Monday category. On those mornings, you can hope for nothing more than a mindless miasma, just enough to simultaneously camouflage any leftover weekend sins, advertise yourself as a substantive individual of the human race, and pull you through your quotidian purgatory as painlessly as possible.

The End.

Is that your box? Read on.

Maybe you’re a guy, a gal or a garden-variety alien trying to assimilate as seamlessly as possible into the general population. And maybe, just maybe, you want to get out the door with minimum fuss and maximum efficiency, so you are clear and focused enough to work for far more important causes and effects. Like changing the world, one of several or simply your own.

Maybe most of the time, perfume, personal scent, or any kind of olfactory experience isn’t something you want to be reminded of in your waking hours, you just want it to be there somewhere, a low, subsonic hum in the background frequency of You, just to say you are, you were, you do and you did.

On some sub-molecular, subconscious level of existence, we humans need to smell of something. No matter whatever our skin chemistry may cook up on our behalf, in this super-sanitized, anti-perspirised, squeaky-clean twenty-first century (at least in my part of the world), that something is usually soap.

Soap is the universal bottom layer to which we add all our other variables; the qualities of our water with its own variations on local minerals and trace metals, physical activity, diet, ambient temperature and humidity, the time of year. Add to that the scent of our laundry soaps and dryer sheets, fabric softeners or fresh air, hair products, and finally, lotions and potions, colognes, eaus and extraits. Then, of course, there’s the cherry on top of it all – your very mood.

All told, there lies the sum total of your “mindless miasma” – at least five different layers of differently scented products that all have their complicated contributions to your fragrant baseline on top of ambience, skin chemistry and mindset, all of which add their odiferous two cents.

Then again, maybe you have somehow by might and by right Marie Kondo-ed your life. Every single pencil in your possession has its proper place. Your entire wardrobe fits into an overnight bag, and your mental processes are the perceived realities of Sartre’s Being and Nothingness in action. You really cannot believe how much simpler your life became since you hyper-streamlined and revised both your life and your material testament, and in so doing discovered midcentury moderns, the work of the Bauhaus studios or Hans Wegner and the clothes of Helmut Lang. Life itself – messy, chaotic, whirligig primeval life – has been reduced to baseline essence, distillate and purity of line.

But perfume? Soap would be more efficient, less expensive and effusive.

Should you by chance or design be that person, I have news for you. And it comes from a most unexpected source.

Say what you will about the perfumes of Mugler – but each and every one of them is a supremely singular creature. The overwhelming majority of mainstream designer releases may be conjured and attuned via marketing committee with an eye towards the trend-o-meter, but not chez Mugler, who have marched to the beat of their unique drum since the release of their groundbreaking, trend-setting Angel in 1992. Angel somehow fit the brand aesthetic of Thierry Mugler, a space-age Brutalist monochrome exercise in super-human Hyper-Baroque, wide-shouldered, wasp-waisted Glamazon/Master of the Universe perfectly in keeping with the fashions that made his name. Loathe it or love it, you can’t possibly mistake it for anything at all else. A’men – another Mugler release of 1996 – was another game changer with its own agenda and DNA. Alien turned a perfumery trope on its head, kicked it sideways from above and gave us Intergalactic Jasmine Audaciousness in many permutations, and again – at least to my addled mind – there were no contradictions between the statement, the brand or the perfume. Womanity came along in 2010 and again upset the perfume world’s apple cart by giving us not fruitchouli, caffeine or intergalactic jasmine, but a salty, juicy fig, leaves – and a truckload of puns – included.

Not to mention, those bottles, people! Mugler has hands-down the coolest bottle designs this side of Agonist and Kosta Boda limited editions. At least, I think so.

But soap?

Soap! Luxury soap – we’re still well within the confines of aspirational luxury here – but soap, nevertheless.

Personally, I adore it when a brand upsends our expectations of their releases. Soap is not at all what any perfumista would expect from a brand like Mugler. Having said that. simplicity has its own appeal in these trying times. Hence the success of Marie Kondo and her acolytes.

Mugler Cologne is from top to bottom yet another perfumery trope – indeed, one of the oldest – turned sideways and drop-kicked into an imagined twenty-second century. You’ll find everything present and accounted for, because there’s precious little to account for: a bergamot so incandescent, fluorescent bitter-green it’s borderline lime, a truckload of very high grade neroli that hangs on for dear life for the duration, and white musk, to add a little searing white, impeccably laundered skin chemistry-enhancing edge to the neroli. Some have claimed vetiver – indeed, a striking similarity to Creed’s Original Vetiver which arrived five years later- but never having tried any Creeds, I’m unable to comment.

That’s it. That’s all.

The End.

To some, it could be a massive snooze fest, soapy, green, hyper-simplistic and utterly unisex. To others, this could be a Marie Kondo of Planet Perfume – just smell good and get on, never mind through – with your day. So you have the sang-froid to take over the world.

It would be a paradox to claim that androids would ever wear perfume, that exercise in superfluity. But this is something the Maschinenmensch of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis would wear, or perhaps Star Trek’s Borg Queen, for maximum efficiency with a minimum of fuss before taking over the Alpha Quadrant and assimilating us one and all.

Should that be more hyper-baroque space-age imagination than even you can handle, look at Mugler Cologne another way.

Think of it as an interstellar Clean Machine, a time capsule from a future so blinding, bright, so immaculate we’re all wearing shades.

Resistance is futile!

Notes: bergamot, neroli, white musk.

Mugler Cologne can be had at many online perfumery locations for a bargain. Which it is.

Photo of Brigitte Helms in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1925), Photoshop manipulations, my own.