Sunday, July 29, 2018

Manos Gerakinis Immortelle: Treackly Burnt Sugar - fragrance review

The name Immortelle comes from the golden-hued plant of everlasting flowers (immortelle in French) or helichrysum. The scent of immortelle absolute in its raw state is difficult to describe, somewhat similar to sweet fenugreek and curcuma, spices used in Indian curry, with a maple-like facet. Quite logical, if you consider the fact that the substance contains alpha, beta and gamma curcumene. Manos Gerakinis, a niche Greek line that is aiming ambitiously and delivers in sillage and lasting power most admirably, tried to harness exactly this precious oil, the one from everlasting flowers.


A cross between burnt sugar and dry straw is a rather valiant effort at conveying immortelle's nuanced profile, but the more the immortelle oil warms up on the skin, the more it reveals human-like, supple nuances of honeyed notes, waxy, intimate... It pairs well in chypres and oriental fragrances, where it is placed next to labdanum, clove, citruses, chamomille, lavender and rose essences.

In Manos Gerakinis's Immortelle niche offering, the immortelle accord takes on a sweet and deep aspect, with spicy accents, a dark gourmand. The cinnamon is pronounced, making me passingly think of a Middle Eastern dessert carré. The result is resinous without becoming heavy, nor suffocating, nevertheless. Benzoin, a resin with caramelic aspects, pairs with the rustic roughness of immortelle that recalls the Corsican maquis and Greek insular landscape.

There are some ways in which Immortelle reminds me of Goutal's classic Sables (probably the reference point for immortelle scents, for daring to be the first one seriously highlighting it) and of Serge Lutens's Jeux de Peau with its whiff of toasted bread and its subtly caramelized notes. People who love L de Lolita Lempicka and Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur might also find in Immortelle a trusty ally for their moments of daytime sensuous abandon.

The Manos Gerakinis brand has an official website by that name, where all the shopping options are mentioned clearly with international presence in the Middle East and Russia.

Parfums Berdoues Arz El Rab: fragrance review

Ginger has a peculiar quality of appearing at the same time fresh and fiery. It's got an energizing zing to it, which is great for giving lift and energy to compositions that would otherwise remain dull and/or maudlin. Its shared facets with citrus make it a wonderful addition to classic eau de cologne compositions, elevating them to a quirky refreshment for summer wear, as exemplified by Origins Ginger Essence. Its classical inclusion in gingerbread gives warmth and comforting nuances in cooler weather fragrances, which recall those evenings spent by the fire nibbling on said cookies. Ginger's allusion to Far Eastern cuisine, where it's also very popular, is another culturally rich pool of pleasurable referents.

My favorite ginger fragrance falls rather far from either of those categories.
Parfums Berdoues Arz el-Rab can't be said to be particularly fresh or cologne-y, nor is it a gourmand ginger scent. Instead it has a gauzy feeling of canopies atop a wooden four-post bed made out of solid, polished wood, a tiny bit dusty. It's comforting, but it's a whole other comfort association. The ginger is allied to a tiny citrusy facet which dissipates almost upon spraying; the energetic blast is vibrant for the first hour or so, with the ginger holding first violin role. What follows possesses the starched quality of a subdued and low-key scent of woods and fluffy iris, with no metallic contraptions. It's as if one is actually invited to rest their wary body atop that four-post bed surrounded by pencil shavings. I happen to like pencil shavings (the classic Virginia cedar wood smell) and this bodes well for me personally. Pencil shavings recall academic pursuits and ginger provides that needed energy boost that academic pursuits would need, so it's a good mental match.

 More masculine or unisex, at the very least, rather than traditionally feminine, at least as defined by the presence of florals or sweetness in the current vernacular, Arz el-rab is perfect for all those situations where you want a tiny jolt of energy without appearing too invasive or self-conscious, and can be worn summer or winter without much wavering to its medium projection.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Smell of War: The Senses on Alert (part 2)

It was Shakespeare who wrote, ""Cry havoc!, and let loose the dogs of war, that this foul deed shall smell above the earth with carrion men, groaning for burial."
In part 1 of my article on The Smell of War (HERE) I extrapolated the scents that plagued the combat fields of WWI and the fragrances which were created in that fateful era as solace and as memory.

Since chemical weaponry had been so notoriously used during WWI to great impact, as we have elaborated before, by the time WWII soldiers were fully engaged there were posters warning them about the smells they should avoid to protect themselves from terrible pulmonary harm and skin burning, an olfactory compass that directed them away from musty hay or green corn (for phosgene), geraniums (for lewisite), flypaper smell (for chlorpicrine), and garlic-horseradish-mustard (rather predictably for mustard gas).

Amidst the newer weapons of smelly compounds for WWII, one catches our attention by its intricate psychological concept behind it. Who Me? was a top secret sulfurous stench weapon developed by the American Office of Strategic Services in the 1940s to be used by the French Resistance against German officers. This stinky bomb smelled strongly of fecal matter, and was issued in pocket atomizers, sort of like modern pepper spray, intended to be unobtrusively sprayed on a German officer, humiliating him and, by extension, demoralizing the occupying German forces. Needless to say that the fact that the fecal smelling compounds were largely based on sulfur, a light molecule that easily leaked into the clothes and skin of the assailant, a fact which confirmed the swift failure of such putrid, but essentially harmless, weaponry as Who Me?.

Perfumery rose to the challenge of bypassing the foul and the fragrant, of vicious and frightening smells, to bring a respite after the war that would celebrate the return to normalcy. Boys raised on farms, coming to pee themselves out of terror for garlic or geraniums that would signal risk of death, would come home to find themselves greeted by fragrances that needed to soothe, but also to heal, which is not quite the same thing. Feeding the longing for serenity was a mission. Naming the new fragrances gave half the game away sometimes.

Air Nouveau by Houbigant was ushering the new era, full of optimism and willing to put to rest the angst that plagued Europe and the world for more than a decade with repercussions lasting beyond that time frame.

This is a small part of a longer article which I published on Fragrantica. You can read it in its entirety here.

Friday, July 6, 2018

July Fragrance Selections: A Mix of the Cult and the Classic

The month of July started with a heatwave after a mellow June that drowned us in downpour and median temperatures. So action is required in order to wean through the collection and pick just the right stuff in order to pass the litmus test of 36C outside and pretty humid inside. I got the bottles out and took them for a camera ride. These are my personal selections for the upcoming days. Each one, a small story unto itself.

photo by E.Vosnaki© 

Diorissimo (Dior) Les Creations de Monsieur Dior eau de toilette: The fairly recent bottle is an attempt to recapture the insouciance that the older classic by Christian Dior provided in its vintage forms in an easily replenished format. The experiment runs well so far, though I do miss the divine natural jasmine of the retro formulations (if you want to hunt for vintage, please refer to this chronology & dating guide for Diorissimo by Dior). The scent is of course the crispiest lily of the valley without scratching one's sinuses.

Y (Yves Saint Laurent) eau de toilette: 'The chypriest of them all', as I had written in a previous Y by YSL perfume review. Crisp, green, soapy too in a way, like some chypre fragrances can be, though it's a bit slit-eyed this one still possesses that ineffable good taste that Yves Saint Laurent used to be famed for. Now the brand is issuing things like hundreds of flankers of Black Opium and mocking its heritage. We know better.

Fleurs d'Oranger (Serge Lutens): Not too old, not too young, just perfect in that middle ground between contemporary and traditional, a potent yet fresh (!) mix of lush orange blossom and insinuating tuberose, likened to a heaving blossom. A true compliment getter too! I was stung by a bee, outside a graveyard, wearing this scent, one fateful Easter, and forever since I subconsciously seek to touch the sting spot when I wear it....

Passage d 'Enfer (L'Artisan Parfumeur): This was among my first incense purchases and it still remains a firm favorite for summer-wear (not that it does not shine in winter equally well). Passage d' Enfer gives me the eerie feeling of a trance-like session, lost in the spiritual reveries of a body ritualistically sprayed with all the lilies of the field. It balances on the edge of sanity sometimes, clean (thanks to the white musk) but mysterious at once, ethereal yet subtly odd, like an emo-goth type dressed in top-to-bottom white.
More on frankincense and resinous, smoky scents HERE and a guide with different incense scents HERE.

Rem (Reminiscence): Behold the aquatic that does not restrict itself to merely Calone, dihydromyrcenol or any of those nasty aroma molecules that have drenched the genre into the filth and mud of bad reputation among serious perfume lovers. This smells like a humidifier, a tiny bit salty too, with a faint whiff of algae and blanched vegetation (an odd byproduct of the tiniest bit of patchouli) and works perfectly in a tropical downpour as it does on dry heat that shatters asphalt. It's deservedly a cult fragrance in Europe!
For more beach-smelling fragrances for every style and taste, visit THIS link

What are YOU wearing this month? Please share in the comments and I will try to reply to all of you.

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