A Mischievous Muse

lavenderkiki

 – a review and a tale of vero profumo Kiki

Today was one of those breathless summer days in Paris with the metallic taste of impending thunderstorms in the air, a hot tetchy, moody afternoon where the dark gray clouds that loomed so ominous to the south had somehow worked their humid, moody, tetchy ways into the very paint and canvas, and even Foujita had to give up and shrug that Gallic shrug he worked so well, to say…

“Pas plus aujourd’hui, ma chèrie. The paint…it sweats even more than I!” At that, he mopped his brow and polished his glasses, shrugged again, and laughed that laugh an artist laughs when he knows the moment may be lost for now, but the time will come again, as time always does.

And even though I lay on the chaise as naked as the day I was born under the dappled shade of the plane tree in the courtyard, finally cool after a long, sudsy soak in his bathtub, I could only agree, and we said our amiable goodbyes as I dressed, tweaked his nose with a laugh as I left, and made my way down the Rue Delambre.

What could happen on such a hot afternoon, what to do and who to see? I felt the summer work its way beneath my dress, felt my stockings rustle against my skin. Even they seemed too much, too thick for such a summer day, where all the windows down the street were open to the still air, when all of Montparnasse and therefore all of Paris groaned beneath that leaden sky, and so I turned the corner and came to La Rotonde, which was nearly empty at this hour, most of the clientele sleeping off the wine of dejeuner in their studios with their loves and muses.

“Gaspard!” I called to the waiter as I walked in. So much cooler in here, out of that merciless heat. “A pastis today, I think, cigarettes of course and perhaps a citron pressé as well. Make sure the water is very cold!”

“Kiki! Foujita paid your tab this morning, Said you were posing for him this afternoon. So how is l’art moderne on this hot afternoon?” he laughed back as he wiped the counter down with a rag.

Très moderne and très artistique, Gaspard, always!” I pointed to a banquette table beyond the bar, unoccupied except for a dark man with an interesting face who sat at the other end and eyed me with a great deal of interest, but then again, they always did at La Rotonde.

I headed for the Ladies room to wash off a dark green splotch of paint on my hands I must have received when I tweaked Foujita’s nose and to take off those beastly hot stockings and the garters that held them much too close and far too tight to my skin. Even silk was too torrid for such a day.

Madame Lenois, who normally tended the Ladies’ powder room, snored away in her chair behind her counter full of face powders, feminine sundries and eaux de toilettes, overcome by the July afternoon, but someone had left a pink felt pochette tied with a silk string behind on the sink since she slept, or it should not be here…

I glanced to the door, but it remained closed.

I removed the garters and rolled my stockings off with a sigh of relief as I felt the air on my legs. After washing the paint off my hands with Madame’s excellent Marseilles soap, I opened up the pochette and discovered two small vials. Perfume? The elixir of youth? Divine madness?

Only one way to find out!

Perfume! Alors! Oh…and such a one…

As I dabbed a few drops of one on my left hand and down my décolletage, a few sprays of the other on my right, I was transported in a heartbeat, far, far away from Montparnasse to Bourgogne and grand-mère so long ago, to M. Simon’s lavender field beyond the village church, blooming such a burning shade of purple amid the endless vineyards it seemed to dance beneath the summer sun, when simply to breathe in became its own singular happiness, that happiness I kept so close in spite of all the hard lessons and sharper secrets Paris taught me. There was no hard and no sharp in these two little vials, no secrets I couldn’t sing in any cabaret with all the conviction of my almost twenty years, just the eternal green, herbal, floral dance of lavender itself repainted sweet as crème brûlée and more daring, reinvented as new and as artless as a limitless blue sky.

On my right, that lavender bloomed as just as purple but perhaps not so sweet. It wore its mischief cut a little lower and a not a little fruitier, and danced a measure of its own around and around its lavender heart, no less grand and no less burning.

I had to sit down a moment on the setee in front of the mirror, overcome by the memory, as Madame Lenois snored her siesta away and all of Paris groaned beneath a heatwave outside, as Gaspard prepared my pastis and my citron pressé, as the dark man with the burning eyes in the corner no doubt waited to watch me again.

These two little perfume vials were like nothing I had ever encountered before. I was so surprised, surprised at how lavender could dance not just in the wind but in a perfume, overtaken by a memory of long-forgotten Bourgogne and grand-mère and the Alice Prin of long ago, astonished most of all that a memory of my childhood and the scintillating life of my present had somehow come together all in a rush, all in a moment, all of it entirely contained in these two perfumes that now defined me, Kiki. Fresh from Foujita’s chaiselongue and canvas in a Rue Delambre courtyard in search of new adventures and new mischief and …

Wearing this, I could well end up anywhere – on a wall, caught in a sculpture, capturing that concealed thread all those artists needed me to pull out and call forth inside them with a laugh, a bawdy joke, an impromptu dance among the pastels and tubes of paint on a dusty studio floor, or another kind of dance…

Wasn’t that what muses did?

Somehow, these two little vials had found a way to define me as deftly, as brilliantly and as assuredly as Soutine, as Foujita, as Derain had ever done.

I breathed in their promises, breathed in that dusky purple laughter and delicious crème brûlée, and then I checked my hair, reapplied my lipstick, pulled my neckline a little lower, and walked out to introduce myself to that dark man, his own eyes burning with the fires of any artist in any era, a cool tendril of the thunderstorm – or was it that lavender? – twining itself up my legs in the heat of the afternoon, chill with future possibilities.

I slid into the banquette with a sideways glance. That dark man was still there, looking toward the end by the bar where I sat down, and even at the other end, I could recognize another kind of mischief when I saw it, a mischief not unlike my own.

“Monsieur? We have not yet introduced ourselves, you and I.” I lifted up my glass of pastis, mercifully cool and wet on such a hot summer’s day.

“I am Kiki. No more, nothing less.”

“The Queen of Montparnasse!” shouted Gaspard from behind the bar. “Nothing less than that!”

“Ah.” I saw him hesitate for a moment as he wrestled with his words.

Un Americain? They were everywhere in Paris these days.

The next instant, he rose and slid in beside me on the banquette.

Indeed an artist with indeed a vision, I could see it so clearly in the fires behind his eyes, tell in the way he held his glass of pastis, the way his shoulders shifted towards me as he spoke.

“Pleased to meet you, Mademoiselle Kiki. I call myself Man Ray.”

For a long moment, we simply sat and watched each other over the edge of our pastis, breathed in the purple promises of lavender and the sweeter pledges of crème brûlée beneath it.

And in that moment, life and even art was reinvented and made anew, wrapped up in all its burning purple promises, on a July day on Montparnasse.

________________________________________________

Notes for Kiki extrait: Bergamot, citron, blackcurrant, lavender, geranium, musk, patchouli, opoponax, amber, caramel

Notes for Kiki eau de parfum: Bergamot, citron, passionfruit, blackcurrant, lavender, geranium, musk, patchouli, opoponax, amber, caramel 

With a thank you to the beyond wonderful and hugely inspiring Vero Kern.

vero profumo perfumes are available from Luckyscent and First in Fragrance.

My samples were sent by Campomarzio70 as part of a promotional Facebook draw.

Original photo of Kiki de Montparnasse (Alice Prin) by Man Ray.

The Best of 2012 – Phrases, Friends and Facilitators

christian5crown

(Note: The following information may be disturbing to some readers)

True Confessions: I don’t consider myself a perfume blogger. While I have nothing but the utmost respect for those who are, I’ll tell you straight away that the idea of me being a pefume blogger makes me break out in hives. Why?

Because I’m not a blogger at all.

I am – for better and (likely) for worse – a writer. I’m currently working on a revamp of Quantum Demonology and a translation into Danish for publication. (Otherwise, my sister will kill me if I don’t!) I sometimes still write about whatever grabs my feminist goat hairs on The Termagant Tarleisio. At the back of my mind and in yet another notebook, a QD sequel is bubbling away. So is a story I began because of perfume, the ‘sequel’ of Théophile Gautier’s ‘Clarimonde’ I began when I reviewed House of Cherry Bomb’s ‘Immortal Mine’ for the Clarimonde Project. Instead of celebrating Christmas, I applied myself to submitting a story to an online erotica publisher (who has published me before) as a warm-up exercise for an erotica novel a fellow perfume writer dared me to write after I bellyached loudly over the pathetic ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’, which at this point is in sections, research and sketches in longhand in a notebook. Let’s just say it won’t be for the faint of heart…

Oh. Yes. I also have a quite a few friends who are sweet enough to say… “You should really write a book about perfume…”

Last, but not least, I also…write about perfume. I began back in the day with the absurd idea that I could do that, too – so I thought. Yet even as I thought I reviewed as straightforwardly as I could, I came to discover that the writer overruled the perfume blogger and sometimes, the perfumoholic, too! Maybe that was a good thing?

I dare say it was, for I have received far and away more enthusiasm and encouragement for my perfume writing than anything else I’ve ever written, and at this point in time, I have more followers, more hits (and more notoriety!) than ever before.

Thank you.

But the very idea of just writing reviews also makes me break out in hives. For one, I would be bored out of my mind when so many other aspects of Planet Perfume are so fascinating. For another, words  – even fragrant words – have power. Since the advent of social media, more power than I ever anticipated when I thought out loud this summer on TAG about Planet Perfume, social media and other things worth mulling over since completing vocational training in social media marketing this past spring. I never expected the eminent Andy Tauer would pick it up, but he did. Of all I’ve written on TAG this past year, the two posts I wrote on the topic (here’s the other one) were the most read/shared/retweeted of all. They even prompted further discussion elsewhere in 2012, and I feel a bit guilty that Andy Tauer – one of my own Primeval Forces of Perfume – was one perfumer I didn’t have a chance to review nearly enough. Dear, darling  Andy – we should certainly remedy that in 2013…;-)

2012 was a year that threw my offline life in a bit of a tailspin, and since the beginning of October that tailspin meant that I couldn’t review at all. All the same, it did make it possible for me to rant/vent/think out loud on other aspects of my fragrant life, and now that I’m back in full-on writing mode, I have the backlog from Hades…

Ask any writer – whatever avoidance actions they can take to avoid nailing their posteriors to a chair and letting rip are always justified. We have to do our ‘cat-chasing-its-tail’ routine before facing the inevitable terror of the empty page. This year, I came to discover something truly great– as even the media did elsewhere. More men are writing/blogging/vlogging/thinking about/buying perfume than ever before. Suddenly, it’s dead hip to take an interest in or find a passion for the good stuff, and I’m thrilled to find several other new bloggers whose perspectives I’ve come to appreciate.

I’m very proud to celebrate a friend and fellow blogger who published a very well-received perfume book this year. Kudos and congratulations to Persolaise for the publication of Le Snob: Perfume. I always suspected you’d be trouble! Now, I have proof! 😉

A few new friends and favorites have also snuck upon me unawares, or should I say, found me when I wasn’t looking?

One of them was Aussie national treasure Portia Turbo of AustralianPerfumeJunkies. Portia is so good, she also writes for the Perfume Posse, but this past year of trials and tribulations, Portia and her dazzling self has been a constant source of encouragement, as well as introducing me to a few new lines I otherwise would never know. Bless you, lovely! You do know that in the not-too-unlikely event I make it Down Under, it will never be the same again?

The Goodsmellas – those fabulously fragrant specimens of testosterone – made quite a splash in the media this year, to my own total lack of surprise. The more we can spread the word, the more magnificent males everywhere can waft something infinitely better than Dior/Chanel/Dolce&Gabba Aqua High Sport Intense Extreme BS what-have-yous. Therefore, fellas, your mission, should you choose to accept it… is to save the world from these travesties. There can never be enough testosterone bombs wearing Amouage’s Memoir Man on Planet Earth. Or Devs. Ever.

Other notable blogs that crept up on me and I read voraciously are…The Scented Hound and The Scentrist, with their refreshing, no-nonsense prose. I should be so lucky.

I am, actually, so long as the perfumosphere also contains the writing of Memory of Scent, who has done so much to recalibrate my nose and my prose. He’s so good, I can’t even be envious!

That Devil Thang

This was the year that launched that little item of dubious repute and seriously seismic perfumes known as…The Devilscent Project. What began as a double-dare inspired by my review of Andy Tauer’s Incense Extreme in 2011 became my own personal baby of a project, for which I can never thank my partner-in-crime/fellow instigator and friend Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids enough, nor the bloggers who chose to participate.

Ladies, you have all of you completely blown me away…

If there were alternate reality awards for PR and promotion –  of the DSP – and indeed several other projects she has curated so flawlessly – then Monica Miller of The Perfume Pharmer would win them all. Her infectious enthusiasm, loyalty, unrelenting support for indie perfumers and perfume writers and the astonishing generosity of heart and soul she pours into everything she does has been a constant inspiration and (tough) example to follow. So far as I’m concerned, that perfume Oscar is already sitting on your mantel, Monica. Now you know!

I’ve already stated in Part One just how supremely proud I am of all my participating perfumers. I’m not one whit less proud of my bloggers, including one surprise who was not only persuaded to participate (not by me), but also (was I ever bowled over!) brought in yet another elevated eminent perfumer, and that was Neil Morris. Chayaruchama – long a supremely respected writer and Eminent Entity on Planet Perfume– joined the DSP to my everlasting wonder and delight. She’s another reason I can’t get back to the US fast enough. We have a dinner date with Destiny, she and I…

Speaking of destiny…I swear, not even my twisted imagination can make this up. Not long after my initial post on the Devilscent Project, I received a comment in my inbox from an unlikely and unexpected source. A reader of QD had suffered through the first thirteen chapters I originally posted on the QD blog, and now, she simply begged me for the rest. I really couldn’t say no. In due course, I recruited her for the project – how could I not after that ego boost? Maggie of Architecture of Perfume gave her unique spins on both the project and the perfumes and is a highly talented perfumer in her own right at Lalun Naturals. The Oxford Concise Dictionary has a word for such occurrences. Serendipity!

But my dyed-in-the-juice friends made several huge splashes of their own. When my Scent Twin Suzanne of The Perfume Journal asked to do a DSP post on her site, I was far too flattered to refuse. Lucy of Indieperfumes did what Lucy so excels at – delved so deeply and beautifully into my story, making it something marvelous not even its creator could have guessed.

The amazing Jen of This Blog Really Stinks and the stellar Nat of Another Perfume Blog rose magnificently to the challenges of the Devilscent Project. Since I wrote it, I had some (vague) idea of what to expect – but even in my isolated eyrie on the wrong side of the Atlantic, I detected the aftershocks of seismic perfume ripples on their behalf. I dare say neither of them are quite what they were before they began. Maybe that’s a good thing?

In the brief I sent out to both perfumers and bloggers, the supreme commandment was this: Have fun!  Fun with the brief, with the concept, with the perfumes, perhaps even with the reviews themselves – the style, the form, the inspirations – and just follow those fragrant Devils and see where they take you. So darling Donna of Perfume Smellin’ Things did just that. She used the brief as the starting point for her own perfumed story in parts One and Two (which was my secret hope all along), and if I don’t know what happens next in her diabolical tale, I don’t know what I’ll do!

Meanwhile, these heretical elixirs of blackest Alchymie certainly inspired some of the best perfume writing I’ve ever done. My personal favorite reviews of the DSP, where I just followed those Devils…are The Four Devils of My Undoing, of Olympic Orchids Dev no. 1-4, Midnight Places, of Neil Morris’ Midnight at the Crossroads Café, and Sweet Damnation, of House of Cherry Bomb’s Dev.

Find all the DSP reviews here.

Inspiration can be a terrible or terrifically perilous thing. A Dialogue in Definition, of Amouage Beloved, and A Dance Through a Heart, of Serge Lutens’ Santal Majuscule, literally wrote themselves. That doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it provides the very raison d’etre for Why I Write, besides the obvious. (I suck at everything else!)

Here’s an example of what I’m up against in my offline life. My insignificant spot on the European mainland is in the Perfume Empty Quarter, which is to say, everything they sell at Macy’s they also sell here, but that’s about as exclusif as it gets.

Since last year, one colleague who went over to the dark side of the Perfume Force is now on her second bottle of Etat Libre d’Orange’s Jasmin et Cigarettes (and boyfriend no 3). Another acolyte, also from last year, is working her way through acquiring as many bell jars as she can stand, over the increasingly meek protests of her husband. They would be meek when you’re up against the power of El Attarine…

A dreary Wednesday during a lunch break, I tried to convert/contaminate the colleagues I’d overlooked before.

“Me,” said one tough-as-nails young lady after sniffing her way through assorted classic Guerlains, the more benign Serge Lutens, and a Neil Morris creation I happen to love above all reason, “I don’t care about perfume. Paris Hilton is good enough for me, and I’ve had no complaints so far…”

You see what I’m up against here? Not only did my boss proclaim the glories of Robert Piguet Bandit parfum as ‘not safe for work’ (he might have a point there), but Paris Hilton????

As Charlie Brown would say… “Good grief!”

So the importance of finding likeminded souls can never be underestimated. One commenter on TAG broke my heart this year when she described a visit to Paris and greatly anticipated her grand initiation into that Holy of Holies, the Parfums Serge Lutens boutique at the Palais Royal – only to find it closed. She was flying back to South Africa the next day. It broke her heart. And mine when I found out. I gathered up a Red Cross package of different (actually, a crash course in indie/niche) wonders pronto and sent them off to the Western Cape. Of such things are true friendships made!

When everything in your personal offline life is up in the air and subject to seismic disasters on a far-too-frequent basis, when you yourself are in the process of redefining your own life from scratch and deciding never to settle for less than your dream ever again, people who inspire you, encourage you and give you the guts to perservere or bust, darn it! –  are worth their weight in rubies, emeralds, pink diamonds and vintage Cabochard parfum. I was so incredibly lucky this year to meet two epically spectacular inspirations.

Not long after my beloved grandmother died this past winter, that great Remover of Obstacles, Ganesha (one of my favorite gods) took pity and sent me… a friend.

She’s nothing in the slightest like my grandmother (except in common sense), but although we met through perfume (hers) and words (mine), over the course of this year, I’ve had to wonder – how did ever I manage without the utterly wonderful, vivacious Neela Vermeire in my life? Our first phone conversation was almost three hours of champagne for the brain – a lot of it shared laughter, bawdy jokes, and an instant connection. We’ve had many of those l-o-n-g conversations since – about life, love, literature, art, music, architecture, perfume, history, people, and everything that makes life truly worth living. We’re very different women who live vastly different lives, but nevertheless – when the going got rough as it sometimes did, the virtual scaffolding we’ve given each other at different times and the inspiration she gives me to follow my dream has meant and still means – only everything.

Likewise, another great inspirational story – indeed, she’s the perfect embodiment herself – came through perfume. After I reviewed Vero Kern’s brand-new and spectacular Mito, I received an email so beautiful, I wanted to frame it. And read it whenever I felt blue. I’m out to find that perfect frame tomorrow…Vero has been incredibly encouraging, supportive and endlessly inspirational – always when I needed that extra little nudge to remind me to ‘Keep on keeping on’. I’m going for it, Vero, also thanks to your shining example!

Two women took that great leap of faith in spite of it all and followed their dream. If they can do it, then so can I!

Yet the dream of taking that fatal plunge and deciding that 2013 will be the Year Of Kicking Max A** (and all hail the August Personage who gave me that title!) would never have happened without those who make it possible – and make it possible for this particular starving artist to sniff marvels I would otherwise neither be able to afford nor acquire. For that and for laughter, virtual hugs and fervent discussions about perfume…I would personally like to thank that brother-from-another-mother, Carlos J. Powell and also the collective membership of the Facebook group Peace Love Perfume. As I use Facebook not just as a personal bulletin board but also as a tool to market myself as a writer, I have to be a bit careful of what goes up on my wall. Therefore, if any location on Facebook sees yours truly in all my real life less-than-Epic splendor, it would be here, among the family I would choose for myself if I could. As indeed I have.

Last, but never, ever least – thanks to all the perfume fairies whose astonishing generosity and friendship have made these words possible. You know who you are. I’d send gold bullion if I could, but since I can’t, I’ll send you my words – and pray you find the sincere, 24K gold bullion intentions behind them!

Stay tuned for part Three – Worn and Adored!

The Best of 2012 – Perfumes and Perfumers

C4crown

 – Perfumes and perfumers

It’s that time of the year again when I have the agonizing task of determining the best perfumes of 2012. What did I love, what did I loathe? What did we write and what did I wear?

Just as last year, my Best of list will be in three (long) parts. First, the perfumes and perfumers that – and who – blew my mind in so many different ways. This list is limited to those I’ve actually tried and/or reviewed. I can’t keep up any longer, and I’m not sure what irritates me most – that so many perfumes were launched, or that no matter how I try, I just can’t try them all, darn it! Next comes an ode to the words, the friends and the facilitators who did so much to improve upon what I otherwise consider an annus horribilis of my own, and last, but not least, my personal list of what I wore and adored this year.

The more I’ve written about perfume, the more I’ve discovered the truth of that maxim – it doesn’t get any easier. If anything, quite the reverse. What does get easier is determining the duds from the dudes (and dudettes), the spectacular from the super-bad. As the saying goes – experience is a witch! 😉

Meanwhile, I have three fervent pleas.

Dear EU. You have a problem. Several powerful political lobbies and the IFRA wish to strengthen the substance ban and add far more natural substances used in perfumery for fear of allergic reactions. You also have a billion-euro industry of unparalleled history and heritage who depend on those very substances to make their money and so employ growers, suppliers and the thousands who work in the worldwide perfume industry. Here’s your problem. Do you give in to the political pressure – and lose all those thousands of jobs and billions of euros that pay your salary? Or do you wise up to an irrefutable fact – the people who might react are not the people who wear perfume. I hope for the best – and try to quell that tiny smidge that makes me fear for the worst…

Dear perfume houses – niche, indie and otherwise. Please. For the love of contraband oakmoss – no more oud ANYTHING, OK? Enough is enough. Let those poor, overharvested aquilaria trees just grow for a change, and get back to me in about 30 years.

One more thing. I do hope you’re listening. If you’re going to call something ‘Noir’, make sure it emphatically IS…Noir. (This doesn’t apply to Tom Ford, who knows better.) Instead, I got saddled with Chanel’s Coco Noir. I had such high hopes. Once again, they were dashed to smithereens. Note to Jacques Polge – next time, call it Chanel Greige.

Here are my fragrant epiphanies of 2012 – the best and the worst of what this year had to offer.

Best New Line:

Although technically launched at the very end of last year, the trio of carefully curated perfumes from Neela Vermeire Creations has taken the perfume world by storm this year – for a very good reason. Orchestrated with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, her fragrant odes to her native India past and present – Trayee, a numinous song of the distant past and sacred ceremony, the luminous Moghul rose that is Mohur, and the Bollywood extravaganza of exuberance that is Bombay Bling  – an homage to India’s dynamic, fast-moving present and future – are all richly complex, ever-evolving, multi-layered and textured tapestries, a bit like the mood rings I wore as a teenager, since I never quite know what magic carpet rides they will provide this time or what stories will follow, except they will be as fabulous, as colorful and as kaleidoscopic as India surely is and ever was.

Best Discovery:

Sometimes, I suspect that Fate/Destiny/Kismet has plans for me. I rarely enter draws or competitions, but one competition I did enter was a Facebook competition from Roman luxury retailer Campomarzio70 for a chance to try vero profumo’s newest launch, and vero profumo was at the very top of my Dying to Try list and has been for years. Lo and behold, I was one of the lucky ones, and lo and behold – not only did I receive a sample of Mito, I also received samples of both the extraits and eaux de parfums of Vero Kern’s line. I’ll have more to say about vero profumo, but I’m thoroughly, utterly delighted to state that they were all of them everything I could have hoped for and so very much more.

Theme songs

1. The War of the Roses

2012 was a year of some spectacular roses, not simply variations on a theme but roses reinvented and made into new, improved versions of themselves, and this year brought me three breathtaking roses – and one I have yet to review, but I’ll be getting back to that one. My personal 2012 Trinity of Rose – I can’t choose between them and wouldn’t dare to try – consists of the decadent, mossy, silk-velvet Ballets Rouges by Olympic Orchids, Aftelier’s joyously delicious Wild Roses and Neela Vermeire Creations opulent, majestic Mohur. The war referred to in the heading is simply the one that goes on in my mind deciding which one to wear!

2. The Color Of My Hopes

This diehard green-floral fan was thoroughly delighted to see that she wasn’t the only one who loved her greens and wore them, too. The most original take on that particular theme was definitely vero profumo’s Mito, which is my Green of the Year. But another new line’s highly original spin on that well-loved riff deserves singling out, and that is the Green Feral Thang that is Kerosene’s aptly named Creature. Alas, I loved that tiny sample so much I have nothing left to review it with.

3. The Chypre Continuum

Despite whatever the IFRA might say to the contrary, three stellar chypres were launched this year that bear no resemblance to those wan, pathetic, patchouli-laden wannabes called ‘chypres’ in mainstream perfumery. These three are far, far above and way beyond them all. Two I’ve already reviewed, Amouage’s Beloved and the effervescent Parfums d’Empire’s Azemours L’Oranger, the last of the three came to me fairly recently thanks to a perfume angel. MDCI’s Chypre Palatin – yes, expect to see a review soon – is a blatant, deliriously great gauntlet thrown in the face of all who would do away with those dark, earthy, mossy depths so many of us love – and wear with no ill effects whatsoever.

4. Perfume stories

Two tales involving perfume have become a huge part of my own personal scent trail in 2012, and I say this in all humility since one of those stories was my own. The one that wasn’t (which I have yet to read) was L’Artisan Parfumeur’s showstopping Seville à l’Aube, created by Bertrand Duchaufour (I swear, the man was everywhere this year!) in collaboration with Denyse Beaulieu of Grain de Musc for her book ‘The Perfume Lover’. Once that fatal word ‘orange blossom’ began to be thrown around as the rumors grew before its launch, I swept in like a hawk on the hunt and acquired a decant of Seville à l’Aube blind – and never in the history of this perfume blogger did the level of perfume drop so fast in a decant, not for lack of alternatives. This blend of rose-tinted memory and glorious orange blossom, beeswax, a most unusual lavender and thick, dancing swirls of incense is, in a word, flawless. Rumor has it that Denyse and Bertrand have plans for an extrait version called ‘Duende’. I pale to contemplate what it might be like. When that decant goes, I will cry. Buckets. Streams. Rivers!

About that other one…Once upon a time, I concocted a story out of boredom that I wrote all the way to the day I wrote ‘The End’ – and have rewritten several times since. Thanks to my partner-in-crime, Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids, the Devilscent Project was resurrected as a group project involving some of the very best bloggers in the blogosphere – and the very best indie perfumers in the US. Neil Morris, no stranger to danger and a monumentally talented perfumer, joined the project and then proceeded to blow my poor proboscis to smithereens by bottling up the first chapter of the tale – and calling it Midnight at the Crossroads Café. All the elements of that first chapter are contained within its depths: the smoky, late-night café, the chill of looming winter, the cinnamon and spices wafting from the mulled wine, the remnants of an evening to remember, the danger, the desire, the Devil, the deal…There’s nothing at all on Planet Perfume quite like it. I cried my immensely flattered, floored, grateful tears the day it arrived and many times since whenever I wear it.

Speaking of invoking my inner Drama Queen…one august personage loves nothing more than to induce apoplexy at the post office, apoplexy that means a large, smoking trail of blackest profanity, a not-at-all clandestine spray because I can’t bloody help myself and eff-what-they-think, followed by that unfortunate I-so-have-to-sit-down-now moment. Christopher Chong has had not just an awful lot on his plate this year, he also has that on his conscience! As well as…

Best Post Office Apoplexy – and my Amber of the Year:

Amouage Opus VI. If anything redefined amber as something new and audacious, surely it was Opus VI. Dry, smoky, woody, complex and raspy, it’s extraordinary and yet a definite Amouage, and that’s precisely how I like my ambers – and my Amouages. Meanwhile, I’ve received funny looks at that post office ever since. They probably think I’m getting controlled substances in the mail. I am. And it’s all HIS fault!

Finest WTF moments:

Amouage Interlude Man & Woman

But Beloved wasn’t enough for this Perfume Torquemada. Opus VI wasn’t enough. Then came the coups-de-grace that were Interlude Man and Woman, and my doom was as total as my confusion, since I came by necessity to discover that the labels has been switched on my samples. Interlude Woman was Interlude Man, and vice versa. Or his vice was my versa. Or something. Whatever the case, these two bottled odes to the cacophony and chaos of modern life – and the deep, deep breaths we take in order to cope with them – were astonishing. And nearly impossible to review, since I barely knew where to start. Even now, even today, I wrestle with those obstinate genies who refuse to give anything away, yet insist all the same… “We haff vays to make you talk…” Oh, yes. In tongues long dead and likely forgotten, but talk, I do! The problem, as my readers are surely aware, is shutting up!

That other Christopher (Sheldrake) whose work I so adore – and the devious if not diabolical Creative Director he works in tandem with, M. Lutens  – was no slouch this year, either. Parfums Serge Lutens gave us…

My Favorite Bottled Air Conditioning:

The Serge Lutens line known as L’Eaux tend to be a bit divisive. I happen to like the original L’Eau, (a decided minority), but ‘like’ turned to love when L’Eau Froide arrived in February during an epic spell of freezing weather. It since became a summer staple on those (rare) hot summer days with its unique combination of rosemary/pine/eucalyptus and chilly Somali incense. No matter where I went or what I did, I was – literally – Cool, Calm and (very) Collected. If there were two words that encapsulate all L’Eau Froide is to me, they would be Chill and Out.

Got Wood?

Sandalwood? If we’re talking the fabled Mysore sandalwood, the answer is probably not. Over-harvested to near-extinction, adulterated and even counterfeited, the real Mysore sandalwood is nearly impossible to come by any longer. Australian sandalwood, however – a different species of tree and a different fragrance – is not. Frankly, I don’t mind too much, since the arrival of Santal Majuscule – using that Australian sandalwood – will likely completely make you forget you even miss the real thing, with its spicy cocoa-rosy ribbons wrapped around a rich, creamy sandalwood heart. Obey my commands if not my deeds, ye sandalwood lovers. Try it!

Most Dangerous/Sexy Perfumes of 2012, Masculine:

Anything named Dev, from Esscentual Alchemy, Neil Morris Fragrances, House of Cherry Bomb, Olympic Orchids or the Perfume Pharmer. Trust me. I know.

Most Dangerous/Sexy Perfumes of 2012, Feminine:

Anything named Lil or Lilith from Neil Morris Fragrances, House of Cherry Bomb, Olympic Orchids, and certainly Babylon Noir from Opus Oils, too. Trust me. I know.

Tropical Escape Hatch

Another line that was new to me (if not to the rest of Planet Perfume) was Micallef, and my shameless self-promotion on Facebook and Twitter meant that a sample package arrived in the mail one sunshiney day – with one broken vial, but I won’t hold that against them. There will be more reviews of Micallef to follow – but for now, let’s just say that whenever the winter blahs blow too hard, I now have the tropical escape hatch that is their beautiful Ylang in Gold. Just knowing it’s there glowing in my cabinet tends to make the snow, the rain, the wind somehow easier to bear.

Disappointment, Guaranteed!

It was a spectacular campaign. It was a no less spectacular premise. Even the bottle was, well…spectacular. What wasn’t quite so spectacular were the contents of Lady Gaga’s ‘Fame’. I wish I could say that might have been the whole idea – you’ve been had by a concept – but alas, that might be asking for more meta than even Lady Gaga could supply. Likewise, the much-anticipated ‘Truth or Dare’ by Madonna was a monumental…letdown. I’ll give celebufumes a chance, but throwing Fracas into the cotton candy-machine and calling this fluffy-bunny over-sugared Da-Glo pink tuberose ‘Truth or Dare’ is neither truthful nor particularly daring. C’mon, Madge. We had expectations. Until we didn’t. Sic transit…For one, I never in my wildest flu-ish phantasmagorias expected to write ‘fluffy bunny’ about a tuberose. ‘Nuff said!

From the overthought Unintentional Hilarity Department:

Brad Pitt for Chanel no. 5 could have really rearranged everyone’s mental furniture. It did, but in ways not even the marketing department of Chanel could have anticipated. We were howling with laughter…over the pretension of it all. Since Brad Pitt as a rule doesn’t make me laugh and neither does Chanel these days, that’s…something, just not what Chanel might have been hoping for.

Dear readers, you have all been so patient, so forgiving of all the verbiage. But wait! There’s more! For this year, I hand the baton of Truly And Epically Spectacular Perfumers to…a collective united by a project that took them places and made them create perfumes as perfumes might never have been created before, and an individual that means I’ll likely cook my goose most thoroughly. Since I’m not afraid of controversy – or flying bottles of Britney Spears Circus Fantasy – I’ll plow in regardless.

Perfumers of 2012 – Collective

The perfumers of the Devilscent Project as a whole claim one half of the Perfumer’s Prize. I had no idea one snowbound weekend in January preparing the brief, just what would lie in store or what marvels would be created. But in essence and absolute, Amanda Feeley of Esscentual Alchemy, Neil Morris of Neil Morris Fragrances, Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids, Monica Miller of Perfume Pharmer, Katlyn Breene of Mermade Magickal Incense Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl of House of Cherry Bomb and Kedra Hart of Opus Oils threw away all the rules and the book they were written in, too – and made my Faustian tale of desires, dreams, love, rock’n’roll and redemption into something brand-new and most wondrous strange – strange for being impossible to classify, wondrous for being, well, some of the sultriest, sexiest, most salaciously hair-raising, inhibition-killing, zipper-popping, bodice-ripping perfumes ever made – anywhere, so long as you parked your preconceptions by the wayside and followed them down the rabbit hole, the Chelsea Hotel, a street in Ditmas Park – or that midnight café.  I’ll have much more to say about them – I have four reviews to go and a wrap-up post, but for now and for always, the technical skills and all-out sinfulness of all the Devilscent Project’s seventeen scents are staggering testaments to a maxim I learned while writing the book – that inspiration is everything, and so long as you dare to follow where it takes you, anything can happen, and sometimes, miracles, too.

Independent Perfumer of 2012

I’ve been writing this post off and on in my head since October, thinking about what should make my list and who I should single out for praise. Yet no matter which ways I sliced or diced it, my mind kept coming back to a man with a stunning string of massive successes just this year alone, and he’s given us perfumistas so many epiphanies in so many bottles for quite some time.

Therefore, I’m going to court controversy and hand it to… Bertrand Duchaufour. For his work with Neela Vermeire Creations, for his work with L’Artisan Parfumeur and Denyse Beaulieu, for the breathtaking Chypre Palatin and for never, ever falling back on a formula and repeating his own artistic predilections. Like all the best of any art in any genre, a Duchaufour is always recognizable, yet always surprising.

Having said that, one of his artistic collaborations blew up in his face and all over the blogosphere as well as perfume boards – namely, his creation of a line of perfumes for Gulnara Karamova, the daughter of Uzbekistan’s dictator, who apparently has plans to become either a fashion designer or a pop star with a celebufume of her own. The problem isn’t that she at least had the supreme good taste to go for the best – the problem, of course, is whether an artist is ethically responsible for the questionable actions of his patrons.

Never mind we mortals will likely never even see these perfumes in our part of the world. The rest of Planet Perfume learned about it via an article in the UK newspaper The Independent, which was picked up by a number of perfume blogs. Next we knew, all hell broke loose as so many rushed to deride the ubiquitous M. Duchaufour, his works and his choice of collaborators. People swore never to buy another of his perfumes again. People threw out entire, costly bottles. Planet Perfume felt somehow betrayed in its illusions of the beautiful world of perfume, when the fact is – it’s every bit as dirty, as filthy, as infested and as cutthroat as any other business these days. And much as it pains me to say it – it IS…a business, for all we prefer or hope to believe otherwise.

It was an interesting debate, not least for what it never really said. If M. Duchaufour were to lose his professional reputation over his trip to Uzbekistan (one commenter stated his career was over, which is a tad over-dramatic) – one of the most severely repressed countries in the world – shouldn’t it by rights follow that the august fashion houses of Dior, Chanel, Balenciaga, Balmain, Dolce & Gabbana et al. should surely be shunned/boycotted, too, for clothing Miss Karamova? After all, it is the precise same problem.

Or – if the questionable ethics of patrons really were the point, then how do you explain the Italian Renaissance – financed by a whole bunch of emphatically and epically questionable so-called ‘nobles’ in Florence, Milan, and Rome? Do we now boycott the Mona Lisa since Leonardo Da Vinci was employed by Cesare Borgia (no Snow White!) at one point in his illustrious career? Would Da Vinci be responsible for what Cesare Borgia and the Papal armies did to Italy? He did make several lethal war-machines, after all…

Or do we simply say…even artists are people, too, and people do like to eat and support themselves and their families as best they can. So artists will go where the money is and hope for a creative challenge if they’re lucky, and the rest is…what it is. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

Here’s what I believe. Anyone can make mistakes. If they’re smart – as I definitely suspect M. Duchaufour is – they’ll learn from them and…move on. As I suspect he will, and hopefully, his legions of enlightened fans will follow. The art supersedes the artist, and the art Duchaufour has created and unleashed upon the world this year alone has done so very much to improve upon my world and my life.

As for the artist – I also have reasons to believe he still has a few aces up his sleeve, and is just waiting to unleash them upon an eager world. Here’s hoping! Bertrand Duchaufour, this was your year. You do have a few more left, yes?

So many perfumes – and so little time! What were your favorites of 2012? What trends did you love – or hate – and what do you hope lies in store for 2013?

Stay tuned for Part Two of the Best of 2013 – in friends, in phrases and in facilitators…

Note: This blog expresses my own independent opinions and views and I am never compensated for any reviews or review lists.

The Hidden Art

– Is it… the art of perfume or perfume as art?

Whiling away a dismal Sunday November afternoon can be a most perilous undertaking. For one thing, I have been known to wade my way through all the internecine happenings on blogs, magazines and online newspapers I might have missed out on during the week. For another, this sudden surfeit of information overload has been known to cause something much, much more dangerous to my mind.

It makes me think. Watch out, world!

No kidding, there I was in my usual Sunday demeanor of microwaveable death-warmed-over beneath several layers of ratty wool and a cozy cloud of a favorite perfume, when my Facebook newsfeed alerted me to an item that somehow had managed to pass me by.

Chandler Burr, perfume writer and author of ‘The Perfect Scent’ as well as curator of Olfactory Art at New York’s Museum of Art and Design, has created an exhibition called The Art of Scent, the first major exhibition to highlight perfume as an artistic medium of expression in its own right, and to focus on how perfumes have evolved since the 1889 ground-breaking game changer that was the addition of synthetic coumarin in Houbigant’s Fougère Royale and Guerlain’s Jicky, the latter included in the exhibition itself.

You will find no iconic bottles, no advertising, nothing to distract you from the experience of the perfume itself, inhaled through specially designed snifters created expressly for this exhibition. In other words, not unlike Burr’s recent OpenSky experiment, where decants could be bought in plain bottles of the scents he chose to include, devoid of all marketing mystique.

But is it art? How can it be in an age that provides so many opportunities for redefining sensory artistic expression that relatively few exhibitions have focused on that most atavistic, primitive sense of all – our sense of smell?

After all, scents travel that little-understood information highway from our nasal receptors straight to our memories, emotions and associations, and completely bypasses that neocortical off ramp to language – just like another and not unrelated art form – music. And while no one will argue that an artist isn’t equally artistic in whichever medium he or she chooses whether it’s paint, Carrara marble or decomposing pork carcasses, the idea that perfume is every bit as valid as an expressive medium raises a few eyebrows among many non-perfumistas, simply for being such an unorthodox idea – or is that for turning a much-needed spotlight on the least-understood of all our senses?

Can it be that perfume straddles that great divide between ‘artistic medium’ and ‘artisanal product’, being not enough of one and too much of the other? In which case, perhaps it’s a good thing Mr. Burr chose that loaded headline-grabber for his exhibition…The Art of Scent, for no other reason that it brings us – the audience – to question and maybe even to redefine what we name ‘art’.

I haven’t seen the exhibition, so I can’t say anything you can’t already read in the press release. What riled me up and made me think, however, was Alyssa Harad’s take on Chandler Burr’s intiative, since her excellent blog post echoed many of the thoughts that ran through my own overheated Sunday afternoon mind, and Denyse Beaulieu’s own blog post did not much more to prevent me chewing on my nails.

I’m in no position to argue whether or not perfume is an art form in its own right and with its own merits – and limitations. For one, you could say I have a vested interest.

I’m a perfume writer, and perfume happens to be one of my own personal passions. To me, perfume is a means of artistic expression as valid, as rich, as rewarding, as challenging and as complex as any painting, sculpture or piece of music. To my fellow perfumoholic friends and acquaintances, I rattle off the names of famous perfumes and perfumers as easily as I can reference works by Titian, Gentileschi, or Alexander Calder. These liquid epics and novels, these allegorical redolent poems and metaphorical operas in magic, however, all exhibit a few characteristics in common no painting or sculpture can claim.

For one, I take issue with the general perception of ‘art’ (you insert your own definitions here) as a mode of creative expression that exists in a vacuum, outside any context or touch points with our ‘real’ lives. Art as a means of cultural expression  – in the sense of being ‘fine art’ – often ends up on private hands and out of reach to the general public or in the museums and art galleries who can afford to lend or buy them whereupon they exhibit them as ‘works of art’ to accentuate whatever statements the museum – or the curator – is trying to make. Art to me is something much more inclusive and dare I write it – quotidian. It is whatever enriches your life, makes you appreciate beauty, makes your personal horizons wider and maybe takes you somewhere out of yourself and into a place you would otherwise never know.

Perfume, on the other hand, is a democratic, inclusive art form. It is an instant mode of transport and mood elevator available for the price of a bottle for anyone who can afford to buy it. You can and often do take it with you anywhere and everywhere you go. It exists in a physical, concrete form in the bottle as a chemical concoction of ingredients both ‘natural’ and/or synthetic, yes – but the true story, the true art, is written on your skin every time you wear it, and no two wearings will ever be entirely alike, depending on such factors as your genetic makeup, your diet, your very mood, weather and so on.

You may have been seduced to buy it by the story of its inspiration, by the aesthetic considerations and heritage of the perfume house behind it, but as any perfumista and not a few perfumers know, the ‘story’ is nothing but a marketing ploy to lure you in, and the real story – and my own test criterion of a truly ‘artistic’ perfume – is what happens in that sublimely seductive, intimate space above your skin where it blooms. Not in whatever abstract or elusive inspirations the perfumer/creative director chooses to share with the world to sell the juice.

You may buy into the perfumer’s aesthetic, but the real reason you buy it and love it as you do is what it does to you and for you – in other words, how that perfume sings in its infinite variety…to you alone. Your family and friends, your colleagues and even total strangers can define or explain you by your choices in clothing, hair, and general demeanor – but that hidden art form, that art that may trail behind you and explicate you when you’ve left – that is the true art…of perfume.

In other words – also as Alyssa Harad stated – perfume art is ephemeral art. It exists only in the moments it breathes its wonders on your skin and invents new, untold stories of you, of its materials, of its very existence and the spaces the perfumer chose to give expression.

Even the very language we use to evoke that art form somehow lacks the ability to crack through the fourth wall and open the doors for our readers to perceive it. Which is why the best perfume writers have a large reference frame of history, literature, art and last, but not least, music to call upon. It’s no accident at all that perfumes are often described in notes, whatever Chandler Burr might argue to the contrary.

I applaud Chandler Burr’s decision to create an exhibition around the Art of Scent. I can appreciate his endeavor to create a neutral, association-free space in which to approach it anew, from another, more radical and perhaps more abstractly intellectual, unbiased angle. The question is, if perfume is an art form, is there such a thing as a lack of bias?

And yet. And yet. I look to my little sea grass basket full of wonders, signed by the perfume world’s Titians and Caravaggios, Francis Bacons and Lucian Freuds and Magrittes, the Afteliers, the Jacques and Aimé and Jean-Paul Guerlains, the Dawn Spencer Hurwitzes, the McElroy/Karls, the Tauers, the Kerns, the Lutens/Sheldrakes and the Duchaufours, the Chong/?s,  the Shoens, the Orchids and the Harts and the Morrises too, and I shake my head at such marvelous ideas and laugh and laugh.

Perfume is indeed a form of art, a medium of artistic expression, a story unfolding its unique and ephemeral pages. And as it does, as we who love its art as we do, redefine those stories each in our own individual ways, every time we wear it and every time we breathe it.

Caravaggio’s works should have been so lucky.

For an entirely different take, I can highly recommend Legerdenez.

With thanks to Legerdenez, Lucy Raubertas, Alyssa Harad and Denyse Beaulieu.

Image: ‘La Dame et Le Licorn’, ‘Smell’, late fifteenth century Flemish tapestry, from the Musée du Moyen-Age, Cluny, Paris

Rubj, Baby!

–       a review of vero profumo’s Rubj in parfum and eau de parfum

The List. Every perfume writer or blogger has it. That list of the ones you’re dying to try, the list of the lines you somehow missed in your endless curiosity of Things That Must Be Sniffed, Perfumes To Experience, olfactory epiphanies that beg to be discovered, because you never know where the next love may find you, grab you and dip you to the floor in a tango swoon.

Even I have that list, and well before I even began to write about perfume, I had my own little dirty secret, a habit of mine I’d indulge when no one was looking. I’d sneak off into cyberspace and on to the websites of those wonders that intrigued me most, the ones I had this intuition about, the ones I somehow knew in that locked, private drawer of my heart would be another kind of love in waiting, and once there, I would dream of the day when I could breathe in their beauties whenever I liked, dream of the day I would own those marvels, to love, cherish and adore forevermore.

To be fair, it was an exercise in a refined kind of torture. Yet nothing kept me away. Every so often, I’d have to fall down that rabbit hole of my imagination and dream those impossible dreams…of gardens and flowers and transport to elsewhere and otherwise, of fraught emotion glowing in the space above my skin and through its own unique alchemy breathing that new, improved more beautiful me into being, exuding those new possibilities I can dare to believe in and believe I have the power to manifest.

In my personal top three Dirty Perfume Browsing Secrets was Swiss perfumer Vero Kern’s website vero profumo, and at the very top of her work and my wish list was…Rubj. Even then, even before my own perfume journey began, I had a hunch that told me…Rubj would be special, would be magical, would be one to steal my heart away and never, ever give it back!

My perdition wasn’t helped at all when my friend Lucy of Indieperfumes wrote me to say that Rubj would get me in so much trouble, that it was the quintessence of everything that spelled my perfume doom and quite a lot that described my own personality, that it really, truly did have my soul stamped all over it.

Lo and behold, a little luck and outrageous fortune landed me samples of Rubj in extrait and eau de parfum, and lo and behold…I’m really in trouble now!

Any reader of this blog will know my love of orange blossom. It is without a doubt the most represented flower in my ever-growing collection of florals, and many of my greatest perfume loves are orange blossoms. Something about their heady, opulent aura and unapologetic sensuality connects with this writer’s soul in ways I can scarcely articulate except to say that if I were a flower, I would surely bloom on an orange tree.

Even so, even with what I now know, love and have experienced, nothing could quite have prepared me for Rubj – or indeed what makes Vero Kern so unique as a perfumer. I first discovered her through her new launch ‘Mito’, but I quickly discovered that personal touch, that ribbon of soul that runs through all her creations, even though they are otherwise not at all alike.

The territory is as familiar as a well-beloved face…Moroccan orange blossom, Egyptian jasmine, a delicate, clever touch of tuberose. But Rubj is nothing like those other orange blossom gals, and sings her siren song in a different key. I can tell all those heartbreaker chords are there, but surely this is a song I’ve never heard before?

Lush, luscious, lascivious orange blossom…something about this calls for synonyms and similes beginning with the letter L…or should that be P for Pure Peerless Pleasure?

Pleasure proven by that diaphanous, silky veil of jasmine and tuberose, but don’t be fooled – neither of those two divas are at all obvious and merely add their own sweet soprano harmonies to Rubj’s star of the show. It would have been too easy, too apparent to turn up their volume in the mix, and to a mind that has been fantasizing about this very perfume for a very long time, this lifts Rubj into the stratosphere of As Good As It Ever, Ever Gets.

Don’t be fooled. Rubj will cocoon you in its incandescent pleasures, but as she blooms and you bloom right along with her, she makes no attempt to hide that other secret folded into her charming laugh and those pearl white flowers, and that is her sensuous, seductive side, the one not you nor anyone audacious enough to get closer will be able to resist. The sexy allure of musk breathes its intimations of promises and passions she may even want to show or keep, but from the joyous opening to the starlit aura of the far drydown many hours later, the orange blossom beats its floral heartbeat throughout.

Rubj in eau de parfum – contrary to what you might expect in an eau de parfum, which is usually simply a lesser concentration – is different enough to be another perfume. In eau de parfum, Rubj is greener, brighter and much more diffusive. I’m not sure whether the tangy petitgrain is added or it is the passionfruit that makes it sharper and fruitier, but even this Rubj is far, far removed from ‘fruity-floral’ clichés. This Rubj is every bit as luscious – and even more playful than her sister, daring you to define her in that laugh she leaves behind on your skin.

Heaven help you, you can’t. All you can do is surrender to her many charms and whims, and that’s all you need to do.

Other reviews have called Rubj a diva, a filmstar perfume who stops everyone in their tracks and calls attention to herself. I don’t see her that way at all.

Divas to my mind have too much to prove, too much to declare, are all too busy tooting their virtues (or vices!) to listen to anything or anyone else. They’re too predictable by their very diva status, and Rubj to me (and let me say it – it is indeed, very much…me!) is far too intelligent and much too mischievous to be that apparent.

She is a lilting, laughing, love affair of a perfume in either version and a laughing, not at all conventional woman. She doesn’t need to rewrite the rules for herself, has no need to prove anything at all except the marvel of that laugh and that definite echo of mischief and sumptuous allure she leaves in her wake in either version. Much like the timelessly beautiful Evelyn Tripp in the image I’ve chosen for my review. Look closely, and you’ll surely discover that laughing imp in her eyes…

As for me, I’m doomed. All I can do is to sing along with this particular song (that she surely inspired?) and dream my perfumed dreams of that fatal, flawless, perfect day…

Rubj, baby, when will you be mine?

Notes for Rubj: (in parfum): Moroccan orange blossom, Egyptian jasmine, musk.

In eau de parfum: Passionfruit, and likely a few more wonders Vero chooses not to reveal! 😉

Rubj in extrait and eau de parfum is available from Luckyscent, Jovoy Paris, the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie of Harrods,  First in Fragrance and Campomarzio70. A full list of retailers is available from the vero profumo website, or by contacting Campomarzio70. 

With thanks to Campomarzio70, and to the always inspiring Vero Kern.

Original image of Evelyn Tripp from myvintagevogue. Photoshop: my own.

Et In Elysium Ego

From the gardens of the Villa d'Este at Tivoli

–       a review of Vero Profumo’s ‘Mito’

Gardens have inspired famous paintings, music and certainly perfumes, catching that interplay of light and shadow, the fragrance of grass and flower and moment into a time capsule that can take us back in a sniff and a heartbeat. Taking us back to where nothing exists except an ideal ‘now’ and even an ideal self we can savor and remember long after the garden has faded, the petals dropped, and time has marched onward, as time always does.

One such garden is the Villa d’Este garden in Tivoli outside Rome, that wonder of Renaissance engineering and Roman ideals, with its many fountains and waterworks, statues and groves, and just as Liszt was inspired to make music and painters were inspired to paint its mannered, symmetrical lines, now Vero Kern of vero profumo has created ‘Mito’, a liquid ode to the timeless miracle of the Villa d’Este in green and white.

Say that magic word: green, and you will have my attention at ‘Hello!’ Those many green chypres and florals and fougères that have run like a verdant, fragrant river throughout my life have perhaps defined me as no other perfume families have. Some are no more, some are reformulated, and some are a memory as fleeting as a flawless summer day. I thought, until a few short days day, that I knew what could be done and what could be said about ‘green’, and the rest were simply variations on a theme, like improvisations on a Chopin ètude, and ‘green’ would surely hold no more surprises?

Along came the epiphany that was ‘Mito’ and the phenomenon that is Swiss perfumer Vero Kern, and yet again, my continents have shifted and my perspectives changed and what I define as ‘green’ and ‘white’ will never quite be the same again.

vero profumo has been at the very top of my Try Before I Die list for quite some time, ever since a dear friend rhapsodized about Rubj in a recent phone conversation. What she didn’t know – and I didn’t tell – was that I’ve been stalking the vero profumo website for quite some time, dreaming my romantic dreams of some day calling those fragrant wonders my own.

Everyone said it…Vero’s creations were unusual, unique, artlessly spinning stories around classical perfumery phrases and inventing them anew, so you can imagine …my curiosity simmered away for years. A few short weeks ago, I was gathering up the courage to order samples because I could stand it no longer, I simply had to know, to sniff, and to dream them for myself…

So serendipity and Fate landed a sample set of all of vero profumo in my lap and a sensual seismic tremor rearranged my synapses and all I thought I knew about perfume, about olfactory evolution, about breathing in the beauties of a captured moment in time…a flower, a song, a famous garden high in the Lazio hills…

Here I have Mito, now it breathes on my skin, and everything I imagined I once knew about ‘green’, about ‘white’ and about artistry have once again been redefined.

Vero explained in a recent interview with Extrait that she wanted to create a perfume in green and white as a ode to that revelation of beauty the Villa d’Este was when she discovered it.

Forget what you think you might know about ‘green’, forget the list of notes, forget all all your preconceived categories of ‘floral’ and ‘chypre’. Mito is all of these and none of these, it is at once heartbreakingly beautiful and yet eccentric, just unnerving enough to keep you on your toes.

I could tell you the list of notes, I could tell you I can smell all of them. I could tell you I’m thinking about throwing the entire concept of top-heart-base completely out the window. I could tell you all of this, and it wouldn’t be enough.

Mito is a whirling, laughing, living waltz of a perfume, dancing through all the colors of its notes, the exuberant, sunshine bright of citrus, the shady depths of galbanum and cypress and moss, and above all, that vibrant verve of magnolia, champaca, cool hyacinth and a touch of ethereal jasmine. The magnolias – both grandiflorum and white – are the stars of this, weightlessly suspended in midair by the high, cool hyacinth and anchored by the basso profondo of cypress and moss, but these are no watery, aquatic magnolias, these are indeed grand, opulent, magnificent blooms that sparkle on my skin from that initial burst of laughter all the way to the twilit drydown many, many hours later.

What myth does Mito refer to, what story does it tell? To me, it dances a dream of a perfect moment in a flawless day, of simply…being entirely present, where nothing exists but the interplay of green shade and sunlight sparkling like a thousand airborne diamonds through the fountains, where the symmetry of Renaissance lines and Roman statuary draw the eye up and around to discover a new vista, a hitherto unknown perspective that catches you unaware and takes your breath away and makes you laugh with the pure joy of being alive to appreciate it. It is the myth of perfect nature in perfect harmony, and it is the reality of one moment in time, when that diamond sunlight shimmer makes you think only happy thoughts…

Et in Elysium Ego. But this is no ideal, and I am every inch and every breath entirely alive, laughing underneath that Lazio sun, dreaming the stories that I can hope some day will become…myths …as real and as vibrant as Vero’s Mito.

vero profumo Mito will be available in September.

Notes: Citrus blend, magnolia grandiflora, white magnolia, champaca, jasmine, galbanum, hyacinth, cypress blend, moss.

With special thanks to the immensely inspiring and encouraging Vero Kern herself, and to Campomarzio70.

Illustration of Vero and Mito taken from the Mito press release. Diego Comi photography, design by Sofo Berdzenishvili.