I love this song by Sparks even though I guess the message is a bit anti-perfume. So many cool namechecks…
I would very much like to tell you that Clive Christian‘s superb new fragrance ‘L’ was created just for me (it does bear my initial after all) and in my deluded mind it absolutely was. Alas, it turns out that the ‘L’ in question stands not for Lee but for Love.
Part of the ‘L’ private collection (there’s a female fragrance too) ‘L’ For Men is a sweet, sensual and – above all else – a ferociously woody scent. It features a fairly heady combination of grapefruit, vetiver and rose with a touch of smoky oud wood and a slightly pornographic musky base but the overriding smell is one of intensely woody pencil shavings (courtesy of atlas cedar). It’s sexy without being licentious, complex without being pretentious and, for men who like their fragrances to have stamina, has the kind of tenacity on the skin that means it can easily survive a hot bath or shower. Impressive stuff.
Available exclusively from Harrods from August
Layering is useful way to build up a long-lasting fragrance ‘impression’ by using products from your favourite scent’s body range and is the perfect way to smell great all day long, without having to reapply your fragrance.
To layer, simply use the fragranced shower gel, soap, deodorant and aftershave balm in tandem, finishing off with some eau de toilette. Using body products from the same range as your fragrance also helps you avoid nasty antiperspirant/shower gel clashes and, if your favourite range includes a fragranced body moisturiser, will help the scent last a little longer on the skin. Layering’s also great for achieving a subtler effect too, however. If you’re going for an interview or just want to smell good for work, for example, apply everything but the eau de toilette.
Stuck for a present idea for the woman in your life? How about these glorious gifts?
There are scented candles and then there are Fornasetti scented candles, which don’t just smell great but turn the humble room fragrance into a mini work of art. This one, the Flora di Fornasetti candle, fills the room with gloriously intoxicating notes of lily of the valley, jasmine and tuberose and comes in the most exquisite ceramic vessel and gift box. £99 from Selfridges.com
Face facts, how a bottle of fragrance looks is just as important as how it smells when it comes to gift giving. And who could not be won over by this orb-topped fragrance from Vivienne Westwood? Deliciously feminine, with notes of bergamot, red english rose and heliotrope, Boudoir is a no-brainer when it comes to gifting so go buy! £34 for 30ml eau de parfum from escentual.com
I always think that Molton Brown products look like colourful little jewels. And if that’s the case then this Orion Gift Set, featuring six colourful bath and shower gels is a veritible treasure trove for beauty magpies. Looks fab and best of all, is easy to wrap! £36 from nivenandjoshua.com
I love REN as a brand and suspect she’ll love you if you gave her this Neroil Duo Gift Set featuring a Neroli and Grapefruit Body Wash and Body Cream. They smell fantastic and the great thing is that, once they’re on the side of the bath, you can can proceed to steal them for yourself. £28 from renskincare.com
Though the contents of a woman’s handbag largely remain a mystery to me I’ve seen enough friends rummaging around in them to know that they’re clearly a bit like the Tardis inside (i.e big and very messy). This dinky little Aspinal Handbag Tidy solves part of that problem by safely housing a few essentials like lipstick, lipgloss and contact lenses. £65 from aspinaloflondon.com
You probably know by now how much I love Tom Ford fragrances. Well, Black Orchid is one of his best selling signature fragrances for women and this gift set, featuring a 50ml bottle of the rich, sensual fragrance along with a 75ml body lotion, is guaranteed to make a big impression on Christmas morning. £75 from selfridges.com
I must confess I don’t know much about make up (the last time I wore any myself was back in the Eighties when it was de rigueur for men to slap up) but what I do know from reading the posts and tweets of my fellow beauty press and beauty bloggers is that Clinique’s Chubby Sticks* have been a bit of a sensation this year. So much so that this Whole Lotta Colour gift set has sold out on their own website and it’s pot luck whether you’ll be able to find a store near you that has a set. But since it’s clearly one of this year’s must have gifts you’ll get extra points if you do find one. So what are you doing reading this? You’d better get shopping! £30 from a store near you (hopefully).
*they’re lip colour balms in case you were wondering
A shameless stab at the Middle Eastern fragrance market (it openly claims to have been developed especially for the Arabian consumer) it’s a fantastically rich, heady, supersweet and faintly intoxicating blend of cardamon, myrrh, patchouli, amber, musk and (of course) oud wood.
It’s absolutely not for the fainthearted and has an intensity that will be alien to many a western nose, weaned as we are on a diet of insipid scents where a black pepper note is about as daring as things get. There’s something about it, too, that reminds me of some of perfumier Roja Dove’s muskier moments.
I myself had a surprisingly complex reaction to it. I kind of love it but can’t wear it, being strangely attracted to the muskiness but unable to live with it on my own skin (not at this time of year anyway, maybe in winter). I must say, it’s a reaction I find rather refreshing because I’m terribly black or white when it comes to fragrance, either loving something or recoiling – as I did when I first got a whiff of Dolce Gabbana’s The One Sport – in utter horror.
In what I’ll admit is quite possibly the strangest analogy imaginable for a fragrance review it’s like stumbling across something dead in your garden – you don’t want to look but you simply cannot resist doing so. Basically, compelling.
Available exclusively from Harrods priced £105 for 100ml eau de parfum
The other day I read a great interview with Francis Kurkdjian on the excellent Persoliase blog. It’s a fascinating insight into the mind of a true artist but it’s proved somewhat controversial too because of some of the comments Mr K made about how fragrance is reviewed.
One paragraph in particular has attracted some attention – and understandably so. Asked what he thinks about perfume critics, the master perfumier says: “They’re so boring. And the reason why they’re so boring is that, to prove their legitimacy, they try to drop ingredient names, chemical names, just to prove to their readers that they have the know-how…people are trying to critique perfumes without knowing what it is to critique a perfume. They don’t have the knowledge.”
Understandably, these comments have stimulated quite a debate on Persolaise’s blog about what exactly is the right way to critique a perfume and who amongst us has ‘legitimacy’. I commented there briefly myself but wanted to expand here with my take on the matter.
To be honest, I hate the idea that you have to be knowledgeable before you can critique something. When artists in any field believe this it’s a sure sign they’ve not only caught sight of the ivory tower but have booked the removal van so they can take up residence on the top floor.
Yes, expertise brings depth and an added dimension and it most certanly has its place but it’s not the be-all and end-all. This is especially true, I think, when reviewing products. Sure, I known what parabens are and what nano-technology is and I’m more acquainted with a tonka bean than any man should be. But hey, so what? The questions on most reader’s lips when it comes to a new product are: is it any good? Does it work? Will I like it? Is it worth the money?
The whole issue of expertise has come up before. I remember one Beauty Editor having a pop at beauty bloggers several years ago because she didn’t consider them expert enough to comment properly (the very same person now has their own blog of course but is an industry expert so that’s okay). This attitude riles me beyond belief, partly because many experts (especially those on magazines) conveniently conceal the fact their recommendations are influenced by advertising. I’m a journalist. I’ve been there so I know the score.
To me, the opinion of a beauty blogger who smells a fragrance in a department store is just as valid as that of someone who’s been writing about fragrance all their lives and gets sent one for free by a PR. In fact, I sometimes think more so because the blogger takes time, effort and often spends their own money to explore what’s out there.
Personally, though, I don’t care whether someone wants to write a 2,000 word forensic ‘expert’ review, simply list the notes (and on that matter ingredient names are also dropped on the official FK site to give customers a steer I notice) or just wants to say ‘to me this smells like creosote mixed with roses and custard powder.’ What’s important, surely, is that people remain passionate enough to write about fragrance in the first place?
The fact is, reviewing a fragrance is as much a nebulous, imperfect and subjective art as creating one is. To me, having critics approach the subject from all different angles, with different spins, expertise and opinions is the only true way to build up a rounded picture of something. If a new fragrance hits the shelves I want to hear what the beauty editor of Vogue thinks about it but I also want to know what my favourite bloggers think about it, what the readers of basenotes.com think about it, what my mum thinks about it and what the woman who sells it in Debenhams thinks too. Fragrance is deliciously multi-faceted – that’s why it’s so enthralling right? So why should fragrance criticism be any different?
To read the interview that sparked this post on Persoliase click here.