jtdjtd's Perfume Reviews

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jtd 2 years ago 5

amazone
When Amazone launched in 1974 the woody floral was a sensible and well-populated genre. Ranging from heavily aldehydic numbers like l’Air du Temps and Fleurs de Rocailles to glowing classics like le Dix and le De, woody florals had always been above reproach. But the times they were a-changin’ and the perfumes that weren’t keeping pace were starting to seem perfunctory and stale. Floral aldehydes had been dominant for so long that they had developed coded meanings to those in the know. Chanel 5 was sophisticated, l’Air de Temps was naive, Estée was tight-assed. But to the great majority of people who smelled them they were just soapy and antiquated. Woody florals struggled to strike the attitude that would appeal to the young woman of the 1970s. New green perfumes like Chanel 19 and Diorella spoke to a more provocative femininity and found an eager audience. Amazone seems designed to find a middle ground between old and new styles. Whether it was successful is difficult to answer.

Amazone would likely have seemed too blatantly fruity to the woman who wore Calèche, Guy Robert’s aldehydic woody floral that was the only other female fragrance Hermès offered in 1974. Traditional woody florals carried the citrus topnotes needed to create a pyramid but Amazone put fruit front and center. It was a starchy green floral built from taut spring flowers and apparently a whopping dose of blackcurrant. It was crisp rather than lush and while it was a new style for Hermès, it had the conservative sensibility of the house.

To the modern nose shaped by florals like Escada Chiffon Sorbet and Alain Delon Samourai Pinkberry (an actual perfume, apparently) Amazone comes off like most other woody florals from previous generations. Pick your favorite word of disdain–they’ve all been used. Mumsy, frumpish, dowdy, démodé. Amazone was Hermès’s first attempt to find a young female market and the brand wasn’t known for nurturing a socially progressive buyer. Amazone didn’t try—or didn’t try hard enough—to target the boho bougie style that Dior and Chanel nailed with Diorella and Cristalle. The perfume’s warrior name implied an audacious femininity that the perfume didn’t deliver. Hermès seem to have gotten a foot in the door to the rising feminism of the decade but never quite opened it and marched through. The image of femininity it conjured was conflicted and contradictory, a bit like another oddity of the era, the folk-singing nun.

With Amazone, Hermès mediated the youth movement of the era by effectively ignoring it, a pattern the marque would repeat when it launched the jaunty Eau de Cologne Hermès/Eau d’Orange Vert into the heart of the punk era in 1979. Denial or cultural tone-deafness. Pick your choice.

But time heals all blah, blah and vintage Amazone is an excellent wear today for anyone who chooses to reclaim it. (There are plenty of vintage bottles still available.) The florals are dynamic and the woods are rich but understated. The perfume has an acidulated snap that flouts today’s ongoing trend for sweetened fruits and florals. It’s a wonderful bit of irony that defying trend–which made Amazone seem out of place in 1974–makes it seem novel today.

Maybe it’s a result of my Catholic schooling by nuns. Maybe it’s my contemplation of the the self-restraint involved in wearing a full religious habit. Either way, the singing nun routine strikes me as just the right kind of kink and I happily wear Amazone while the refrain of “Dominique” echoes through my head.

from scenthurdle.com

jtd 2 years ago 5

la vierge de fer
In their roles as artistic director and perfumer, Lutens and Sheldrake have explored their central woody accord many times, taking it in a syrupy-spiced direction with Arabie, Miel de Bois and Daim Blond and in a more overtly gourmand direction with Un Bois Vanille and Five O’Clock au Gingembre. Overall, there’s been a tendency to hold close their to their signature wood/fruit compositional style but with their soli-floral perfumes Sheldrake and Lutens range much further afield. The perfumes run from pretty and tame (Sa Majesté la Rose & Un Lys) to ferocious (Tubereuse Criminelle & Iris Silver Mist*). La Vierge de Fer falls in line with two other perfumes the brand, A La Nuit (2000) and Datura Noir (2001). Let’s call them the Crass Florals.

All three of the Crass Florals share an over-the-topness that defuses any solemnity the Lutens line might have accrued over the years. Lutens himself has seen enough fashion over the years that he seems to know to pepper ‘serious’ design with camp. La Vierge de Fer’s depiction of lily is less olfacto-realistic than A La Nuit’s jasmine but only slightly so. The unexpected lily-pear pairing takes a moment to come into focus clearly but once it does, it makes perfect sense. The two aromas, the flower and the fruit, share a musky connection that might not be obvious but is smartly manipulated by Sheldrake, who makes the unexpected pairing fit together perfectly. The prickly mouth feel of a bite of pear is recreated with a shellac-like musky tone that cuts sweetness and allows flavor to shine through just as it does in a pear on the cusp of ripeness. La Vierge de Fer’s lily is green and expansive, quite different than the wafting vanillic lily Sheldrake composed for Lutens Un Lys. The pairing of flower and fruit is angular but not jarring and has less sting than the lost pear–florals Jean-Michel Duriez created for Jean Patou.

La Vierge de Fer lacks Datura Noir syrup but shares the luminosity and billowing projection suggestive of tropical climes. Also like Datura Noir, La Vierge maintains super-sized proportions into the hearnotes but finds a more tenable scale by dry-down. The lily remains coherent throughout and the perfume neither loses its shape nor collapses into a ‘skin scent’ and demonstrates Sheldrake’s particular talent for coherent, satisfying drydowns.

La Vierge de Fer provided a welcome break in the grey drift of Lutens’s recent Oedipal florals. 2013’s La Vierge de Fer was preceded by the receding-carnation of 2011’s Vitriol d’Oeillet and followed by the bleak white-out of 2014’s l’Orpheline and grey skies of 2015’s La Religieuse. The muffled, blanketing tones of these woody florals seem at odds with the specificity of many of the line’s earlier florals. They were framed by cryptic allusions by Lutens to revisited childhood memories and distant female authority figures. I believe they were intended to convey a sort of meditative sense of distance and isolation but as a collection they don’t build on each other to express anything but an uncomfortable listlessness.

Vierge de Fer started in the Palais Royal Exclusive line (the bell jars) and eventually found its way to the export line (the rectangular spray bottles.) I came to The Iron Maiden out of sequence, well after The Caustic Carnation, The Orphan and The Nun. The name and the general trend in the Lutens line led me to expect a dirge of a perfume but La Vierge de Fer is neither torturous, as the name implies, nor grim like the other latter-day Lutens florals.

* Yeah, iris is a root but is described qualitatively as a floral scent.

from scenthurdle.com
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jtd 2 years ago 3

clair de musc
Clair de Musc’s musk accord isn’t as much like Muscs Koublai Khan’s as Fleur de Citronnier’s is. It’s ‘cleaner’ and higher pitched and has the hallmarks of the ‘white’ musks: soap, sweetness and soft-cuddliness. But here’s also where you’ll find Clair de Musc’s resemblance to Muscs Koublai Khan. Muscs Koublai Khan has just enough cleanliness to it to make you realize how dirty it is. The honeyed rose creates a feeling of purity that gets completely run over by the bawdiness of the the musk. If there is a narrative of innocence lost embedded in the perfume, the story is told in about as long as it takes to say, “Wow. Innocence lost.”

Clair de Musc tips the balance way in the other direction. The clean musk accord aims to cover any errant animalism but every now and again something unclean pops through. The scent of scalp, a whiff of armpit. It makes you realize this perfume isn’t about cleanliness. It’s about hygiene not quite holding its own against the scent of the human body. Remember the story of the first use of historical eaux like Eau de Cologne and Florida Water? They were for covering up the funk of unwashed bodies. Clair de Musc gives you that experience without you ever having to have a funky body yourself.

Some of the best musk perfumes are a variation on the idea, though perfumes like Kiehl’s Musk No 1, Amouage Gold Man and Les Nereides Fleur Poudrée de Musc all land much further in the funk than Clair de Musc. The perpetual resurfacing of bodily scents emphasizes the degree of restraint needed to keep from falling into the indulgence of the flesh. There’s a sexiness to the perfume that’s easy to miss if it’s not your bag.

From the angle of 2018 Clair de Musc is an interesting alternative to the trend in women’s perfumery toward dull white musky drydowns. The perfume’s musk notes are more detailed than the default pillowy basenotes built into so many mainstream florals.

from scenthurdle.com

jtd 2 years ago 3

fleur de citronnier
Fleur de Citronnier is transparent. Not radiant or sheer but straightforward. The arc of the perfume is an easy but entertaining wear. There are no curveballs—spend one minute in this perfume and you pretty much know where your day is headed. Boozy citrus and a raspy, juicy floral accord take you into the heart of the perfume. A honeyed waxy foundation outlasts all the other notes. It’s the framework of the entire perfume, lasting through the lightly animalic floral drydown. Fleur de Citronnier isn’t the most complex wear, but the ride is so smooth and the moments are so lush that I find myself reaching for the bottle the minute I lay eyes on it. Waxy lipstick and a mouthwatering floral-citrus note combine to make Fleur de Citronnier a big tongue-kiss of a perfume.

Fleur de Citronnier has a musk accord that’s shaped a bit like the one in Muscs Koublai Khan. The two have a waxy sweetness that runs on the boozy side and a big, sculptural floral accord. Muscs Koublai Khan’s sweaty rose makes it a more down-and-dirty wear than FdC’s upstanding petitgrain-inflected citrus flower but not by a lot. They’re both seductive–they just move differently. Muscs Koublai Khan is an irresistible force, albeit a slow one. Fight it and it will likely take you down. But give in? There’s some serious pleasure there. Fleur de Citronnier has a much more buoyant quality than Muscs Koublai Khan. It’s built for gentleman-drag, the Vienna Waltz and garden parties.

from scenthurdle.com

jtd 2 years ago 5

l'eau d'ambre
Back in the day, counter-culturalism had style. The movement’s cri de coeur that the personal was political gave fashion new political significance. Style became a function of free speech and Hippies and Yippies groomed and dressed both to identify themselves to fellow travelers and to scare the stiffs. But costume wasn’t the only prop. The culture war of the ’60s and ’70s took place on an olfactory level.

As much as hair and costume, scent drew the line between us and them. To the straights, head shop scents like musk, patchouli and amber oils meant poor hygiene and the imagined miasma of a Haight Ashbury commune. To counter-culturalists traditional perfumes and colognes would have been the stink of The Man. A problem with this sort of transactional style is that it’s easy to co-opt symbols and drain them of their meaning and intent. In 1967, bellbottoms and peasant blouses were far out. By 1972 the patterns for them could probably be found in the back of issues of Family Circle Magazine. In the early ’70s amber was the scent of rebellion. By 1978, the hippie-amber gave way to fancy French perfume. If niche was an alternative to the mainstream perfume, the scents embraced within the counter-culture were a logical place for the early indies to plant their flag and l’Artisan Parfumeur had already made its reputation on amber. The brand’s famous amber balls were its first product when the line launched in 1976. Perfumes didn’t enter the line-up until 1978 when l’Eau d’Ambre launched the perfume line, along with Mure et Musc, Santal, Vanilia, Tuberose.

The perfume is simple in that it derives from its principal materials–at no moment during its evolution would you ever imagine that you’re not smelling a potent amber-patch accord. Yet even as early as 1978, Jean-Claude Ellena’s ability to make resins sheer was apparent. A mercifully unsweetened dose of vanilla keeps the perfume from ever falling into goopy head shop syrup. The perfume has been attributed to both Ellena and Jean-François Laporte. Perhaps Ellena was perfumer and Laporte was artistic director, as was the case with some of the other l’Artisan perfumes. The two might have looked to the head shop for inspiration, but l’Eau d’Ambre was no sloppy copy. As an artist trained in compositional rigor and the dynamics of his materials Ellena managed to create something that, as hippies would appreciate, smells really fucking good, but stands up to the interrogation of olfactory art.

Ellena navigated the risks of his chosen materials smartly, avoiding both the lotus-eating laziness of head shop oils and the orientalist theatricality of the Shalimar set. He focussed on labdanum’s mineralic side, giving the perfume a whiff of paint or putty that reminds me of the scent of an artist’s studio. The top and heartnotes are boosted by geranium. In the setting of an overtly resinous accord geranium acts like a breeze that blows out the cobwebs that can gather around patchouli and labdanum. It counteracts the density of the central amber accord, a trick performed by bergamot in oriental perfumes from Emeraude to Youth Dew to Opium. l’Eau d’Ambre’s aromatic geranium creates a tension that distinguishes the perfume from its head-bobbing hippie predecessors. Rather than complicate the composition, geranium streamlines it, reminding the nose that despite the perfume’s simplicity it has deliberate point of view.

L’Eau d’Ambre’s success lies in its simplicity, perhaps one reason that it has weathered materials restrictions and any possible reformulation so gracefully. The materials are allowed to state their own case without adornment or needless complexity. L’Eau d’Ambre wasn’t the first indie perfume but it was a frontrunner and demonstrated how well the niche movement bridged the desire for new, clear, materials-based fragrances and the long history of oriental perfumes.

from scenthurdle.com
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