Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Graham & Pott Imperial Amber: fragrance review

 Imperial Amber is the sort of fragrance one would expect from a truly established, traditional parfumerie, that catered to a refined aesthetic and discerning customers. The name itself is revealing. And Graham & Pott, though recently evolved in perfumery itself, being a cloth manufacturing company established in 1890, stroke gold with it. The scent of Imperial Amber juxtaposes contrasting layers of bright and sparkling citruses (bergamot and grapefruit, to be specific), vibrant flowers combined with a rich oud accord, and a spicy and sweet cinnamon note laid on a warm and deep base of amber, patchouli, and cedarwood.

Amber is probably the world's oldest mystical, orientalized blend.  Its transliteration into fragrance can take sweet and resinous, almost powdery soft scent tonalities, or instead it can veer into salty and animalic-smelling. On that score, it might interest you to read our definitive article on the differences between amber and ambergris linked here

The sweetish combination of labdanum resinoid and vanilla can soften the harsher notes of oudh (also known as aloeswood or agarwood, a prized material coming from the fungus of the aquillaria tree). The classic example of woods softened by amber chords is in Chanel's perfume Bois des Iles. And though I never expected oudh to become soft and pliant, the note itself being musty and rather demonically complex in its raw form, it seems like Graham & Pott managed to accomplish just that delicious effect of softened woods, deepening the chord, giving it spicy piquancy, and sweetening it just so, rendering a wonderful oriental composition that makes you close your eyes and swoon in pleasure. It melts on the skin, imparting a delicious aura that is haunting.

The Graham & Pott brand is one of those historical houses which evolved into fragrance making, attending to the art of perfumery in a changing world that demands pleasure and exquisite detail from the moments that define our being. A haut-de-gamme parfumerie.

 The wonderful deep orange of the packaging also recalls the momentous moment of inspiration, from the scented paper that would fold the precious cloths; orange-y like the finest homemade marmalade. The cartons and insides are deliciously beckoning, with their rich, saturated hues of this sunny color, inviting to fondle, to caress the heavy glass bottles with their streamlined contours. 2019 saw the introduction of Noble Vicuna and White Sable, imagined from the furs of animals now protected, while in 2020, the firm launched Royal Llama and White Vicuna Parfum. The year 2021 sees the launch of Imperial Amber, Mon Jasmin, and Ruby Staple, inspired by rubies.

Graham & Pott Imperial Amber is available as a 50ml Parfum (with amazing persistence on the skin, easily an entire day and night) at the price of 305 Pounds and as a 100ml Parfum at the price of 395 Pounds through the Graham & Pott official website.


Thursday, July 15, 2021

Pierre Cardin: Choc de Cardin, Paradoxe, and Rose Cardin fragrance reviews

  Regarding Pierre Cardin fragrances, his first officially documented release has been Pierre Cardin pour Monsieur in 1972 and Cardin for women (Cardin de Pierre Cardin) in 1976. However the official Pierre Cardin website does not mention them and begins the story from Choc de Cardin. Now that the great designer has passed, they will be the subject of speculation and furtive bidding wars on auction sites. Celebrated for his avant-garde style and Space Age designs which, alongside those of Courreges and Paco Rabanne, Cardin catapulted the fashions of the 1960s, and partly made that decade what it is.

Choc de Cardin in 1981 was indeed for many their first distinct memory of a Cardin-signed scent. The evolution of a citrus cologne given a shadowy chypre mantle in the way of Diorella and Le Parfum de Thérèse, Choc is neither shocking, nor chocolate-evoking; it's as French as it possibly gets, and in many ways "a forgotten masterpiece" worth hunting down. Seriously, if only warm weather fragrances were that nuanced and that balanced nowadays.

 Rose Cardin from 1990 also has many fans. Indeed the latter is among the few rose-centric fragrances which has something to draw me in, maybe because it does what niche fragrances today do at tenfold the price. Created by the same perfumer who gave us Choc de Cardin, Françoise Caron, it's noted for its sureness of execution more than its innovation. The rose is fanned on coriander, which puts a fresh and rather soapy spin on the blossom's nectar, and on patchouli, which makes it seem like it's endlessly unfurling, but softly, not angularly, with a smidgen of incense and musk.

In the meantime, in 1983 Paradoxe by Cardin was launched. This was a sandwich of two main ideas by Raymond Chaillan, who also created Givenchy III: the fresh, sour and bitterish top note of galbanum and green gardenia, and the animalic-leather growl coming up from the base in between lovely florals, all womanly and plush. It's enough to make a (chypre loving) girl dream.

As my colleague Miguel put it, "Paradoxe is an assertive chypre and it's almost an academic example of that style. From the top we get a freshness that is aldehydic, green and citrusy. The galbanum note is very evident and grounds a certain fizziness from the aldehydes and bergamot.[...] This is not a powdery scent at all. It is crisp, transparent and angular. This angular aspect is worked mostly through the hardness of the somewhat ashy base notes."

These are fragrances that collective memory passed them by, but they need to be rediscovered.


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Halston Classic: fragrance review & footnote on Netflix

 Adapted from the 1991 book Simply Halston by Steven Gaines, a TV mini-series of five episodes was ordered by Netflix in September 2019, and it premiered on May 14, 2021, starring Ewan McGregor in the eponymous role of Roy Halston Frowick. The man who invented himself came from a dreadful Midwestern background, a childhood spent in a farmhouse with an abusive father who yelled, and a mother who was cheered up by the boy's own handicraft, a feathered hat. So he started as a milliner. Much like Chanel, for that matter. As exhibition curator Patricia Mears notes on Halston's style, “One of the great aspects of his success was his ability to balance beauty and modernity." Nowhere is this more evident than in his eponymous fragrance, Halston for Women, also referred to nowadays as Halston Classic.

(pic via)

 There is a great scene in episode three, Sweet Smell of Success, in which Halston sits down with a respected woman perfumer, called Adèle, played by Vera Farmiga, to talk about developing his first fragrance, Halston. He is asked to select things which are meaningful to him. In the script, the designer selects orchids, because they're beautiful; tobacco, because he's constantly drawing from a cigarette; and his lover's jockstrap, because he's a semi-closeted gay man. (We're even shown the alleged perfumer sniff the used jockstrap deeply at some point...) At the time, the lover referred to was Victor Hugo, a Venezuelan student who arrived at Halston's studio to work as an assistant, and who became his lover for a decade.

But great as the perfume-making scene might be dramatically, giving a glimpse into the consulting process with a client—replete with tiny bottles of essences and blotters being dipped into them and sniffed—it fails to convey the true spirit of the fragrance in question. It was a tall order no doubt, as a passing mention of three things that seem to serve as symbols, rather than tales in themselves, is no more revealing than the fragrance industry's recent tendency to drop three notes to consumers and expect them to get crazy over their newest launch. There was definitely ground for exploration and tense dramatic antithesis, serving as a psychological outlet for the hero, letting us glimpse his repressed emotions, but it's mainly that. There is no really controversial element in the actual perfume, as I recall. It's actually one of the starchiest and loveliest of the classic chypres of the 1970s.

 The formula was developed with one of the truly greats, but not by a woman—by a man. Bernard Chant is a legendary perfumer at IFF, who is revered for the majority of Aramis men's fragrances and most Estee Lauder women's fragrances, from the starchy aldehydic Estee to the big floral Beautiful, as well as seminal chypre fragrances such as Cabochard Gres, Clinique Aromatics Elixir, Imprevu Coty, and Lauren Ralph Lauren. Halston Classic was one that cemented his good taste and excellence of execution.

There is something creamy, warm, and intimate about Halston Classic, although one would never in a million years classify it as animalic. But it's definitely a product of its time, still relevant after all these years because it's streamlined, feels high class, and exudes good taste. One can never offend in Halston, but it's much more memorable than innocuous "office friendly fragrances." The oakmoss, while there, is never in your face, much like the case with Caleche, making it an easy-to-adopt woody chypre, even for chypre-phobics.

Official perfume notes for Halston for Women (Halston Classic)

Top notes: Green Leaves, Mint, Melon, Bergamot, and Peach
Middle notes: Marigold, Carnation, Cedar, Orris Root, Rose, Jasmine, and Ylang-Ylang
Base notes: Oakmoss, Amber, Vetiver, Incense, Patchouli, Sandalwood, and Musk

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Emanuel Ungaro Diva: fragrance review & reminiscences

People sometimes say things are not what they used to be, and in the case of fragrances, they're unequivocally right. Despite a certain glamorization of the past, which usually indicates dissatisfaction with the present, the fragrance game has changed radically in the past 20 years. Not necessarily for the worse overall, but the bite and edge of fragrances in the mainstream sector has suffered indeed. Some of them, nevertheless, show a predisposition for resisting. Diva by Ungaro seems to be one of them, apparently surviving relatively unscathed. It's still a glorious chypre with an indestructible "hear me roar" bawl that can be heard from the rooftops

I was offered a bottle of Emanuel Ungaro's Diva when I was 19. By my young boyfriend, no less. In today's standards, that would be the equivalent of being offered a petal dress in organza silk, combined with diamond-encrusted earrings to match, to wear to a black-tie ball. Talk about a glamazon! Those were different times, though; we weren't afraid to be adventurous with fragrance or over-apply occasionally. 

Jacques Polge, the legendary perfumer who is the father of the current in-house perfumer at Chanel, Olivier Polge, made sure to include everything and the kitchen sink while composing the byzantine formula of Diva back in the early 1980s. There is the standard big, voluminous, and arguably synthetic rose of the1980s, immortalized in creations such as L'Arte di Gucci, Knowing, and Paris (YSL). It's balanced with a big dollop of patchouli and oakmoss, which give a very distinct aloof quality to the flower, eschewing the prim and romantic allusions of those blossoms and instilling a glamorous and somewhat demanding vibe. You can definitely see how it was an offer of supplication from a boyfriend to one's mistress...

 This wonderful and classic chord is then cleverly wrapped in a honey note, which only sweetens it just so, and a string of animalic notes, from civet to musk (it's almost YSL Kouros-like in its intimacy of warm naughty notes under the clean starchness). It is these elements that help make Diva congenital even to warm ambery perfume lovers. People who like Paloma Piccaso Mon Parfum but find it a bit harsh might find the Ungaro fragrance more simpatico to their sensibilities; it's worth trying and comparing to see the common lineage at the very least.

There is warmth and plush in Diva, as well as a dollop of other flower essences than rose, which enhances its femininity, and it all makes it less of a boardroom fragrance, unlike the way Knowing can appear austere and buttoned-up, especially nowadays. This quality brings it effortlessly into the salon and the boudoir. It's ladylike but still naughty; in the case of Diva, the lady is a tramp. And hey, even Lady Gaga reworked the classic song, so fragrance lovers should probably seek out Diva and give it a spin. It's worth exploring anew.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Agent Provocateur Blue Silk: fragrance review

 Blue Silk, part of a flanker duet launched in 2018 by lingerie brand Agent Provocateur (the other being Lace Noir) is credited to Beverly Bayne, shifting from the usual Christian Provenzano creative umbrella. 

The company presented it thus: "Making a sensuous entrance into the Agent Provocateur fragrance collection, Blue Silk is an unforgettable perfume, feminine, provocative and deeply romantic. Piquant top notes of woody, rosy pink pepper, revitalizing citrus from lemon and mandarin and exhilarating, fresh juniper combine with floral middle notes from classic rose and rich, sweet, precious jasmine, alongside the honeyed peach tones of nectarine and the warmth of spicy cinnamon. Leaving a lingering feeling of deep, almost smoky sensuality are the base notes of hypnotic musk, cooling, earthy vetiver, creamily sweet sandalwood and the vanilla, praline-like tones of aromatic tonka bean."

What is uncanny about Blue Silk is its delicious top note of bright and lightly sweet spices. It almost creates the impression of the opening of YSL's discontinued Nu eau de parfum, a fragrance overseen by Tom Ford (and this is telling in so many ways.) The spices are almost rejoicing, they never come across as sharp like the air within the spice cabinet. The composition is redolent of the steamed puddings of Jungle Elephant, but done in miniature form; there is none of the bombastic sillage of Kenzo's mastodont. 

The muskiness surfaces like a silky undergarment peeked through a crepe dress; it does feel silky and soft, very wearable and romantic, melding with the wearer's skin, and creates erotic imagery without prompt. Priceless.

As with most Agent Provocateur fragrances Blue Silk is available in 100ml Eau de Parfum at advantageous prices online and is highly recommended.

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