puredistance : M

Created by : Roja Dove

Date : 2010

Genre : Oud leather

Concentration : perfume

When I researched this perfume after wearing it for two days, it didn’t really surprise me that Roja Dove, noted Professeur de Parfums, had created it because M has so many references to masterpieces of French and British perfumery of the late 19th and 20th centuries… the dark rose note from Penhaligon’s Hammam Bouquet (1872), the smoky-leather accord from Tabac Blond (1919), the cumin note of Eau d’Hermes (1951) and the overly-sexy oud note of Yves Saint-Laurent’s M7 (2002).  Add to all this, a frankincense that popped in and out of the mix throughout the day giving it an oriental feel.  This one, readers, is a lesson in perfume history… and it is gorgeous!

M starts with a deep-orange, mouth-watering bergamot that floated ever so slightly above the heart which is powerful and sexual.  Although not listed, I picked out the decidedly “down-under” male scent that only oud can produce… bringing to mind L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Al Oudh.  But what is so special about M is the way it evolves… sometimes leathery, sometimes woody, sometimes smoky, but always interesting.  The drydown surprised me many hours later leaving me with a powdery, clean vanilla-musk accord… all the sexy notes gone.

In short, M is intelligent, rich and researched. It feels like a fragrance that Edwardian men might have worn… big and unapolagetic. They don’t make perfume like this anymore, or rarely… complex and controversial and with “space between the notes” as FiveoaksBouquet would say.

When I thought of who might wear it, I thought of King Edward VII and his frequent trips to Parisian brothels, notably Le Chabanais, his favourite room being the Hindu room with its “siège d’amour”.  As depressed as I’ve been about the state of perfumes recently, this one was a very welcome trial.

On both men and women, M could easily seduce both sexes.  Its sublime, fleshy animalic qualities are universal.

Have a nice week everybody!

Top image : Portrait of King Edward VII (1905)

Bottom image : Male nude by Dan Lacey

Jean Patou : Joy eau de parfum (UK version)

Created by : Henri Giboulet

Date : 1955

Genre : Aldehydic animalic

Concentration : Eau de parfum

What used to be called Eau de Joy has since been renamed Joy eau de parfum and as far as I’m concerned, it’s false advertising.  It should be called Joy eau de civet.  I mean I knew that the eau de parfum would be less floral and more aldehydic than the eau de toilette but all this synthetic civet is way too much.  So, it doesn’t surprise me that the people in charge of the Jean Patou line, Designer Parfums, have hired Thomas Fontaine to oversee “the fragrance development for its heritage brands… Worth, Jean Louis Scherrer and Jean Patou.”  And from the same press release, “Today Fontaine is recognised as a leading specialist in recasting vintage formulas for modern times.”  The man for the job!  (Thanks to FiveOaks from Perfume of Life for this link.)

Joy eau de parfum needs a “parfum initial” treatment à la Shalimar from Guerlain.  Joy edp is too heavy, too dense and too animalic.  It needs some lightening up with bergamot or powder or something.  Hopefully Thomas Fontaine will be able to bring it in step with modernity otherwise I can’t imagine it will be around very much longer.  I’ll admit though that in the first 15 minutes, I smelled the most beautiful rose note and I kept hoping that it would keep going in that direction… but no.  It went to civet and stayed there.

I understand that Joy eau de toilette is still beautiful.  The first time I sniffed the edt was a few years back and I remember the sheer beauty of it just knocked me over.  The rose and jasmine notes were so very clear… the most beautiful duet I think I’ve ever experienced.  But this eau de parfum needs a makeover.

I don’t mean to be catty (ouch) but this next duet pretty wells sums it up.

Today, I went to Montréal’s Expozine -Small Press, Comic and Zine Fair!  It was crowded and smelly but kudos to the participants who showered this morning with patchouli soap and oil!  Honestly, it was the best smell blast I’ve had in a long time.

Guerlain : Shalimar

Created by : Jacques Guerlain

Date : 1925

Genre : Animalic amber

Concentration : Eau de toilette

After a couple of downer posts, I decided to write about something that I love… Guerlain’s Shalimar.  With my novice nose, there are few perfumes I can pick out of a lineup and Shalimar is one of them.  For instance, the last time I recognized Jacques Guerlain’s masterpiece was last week when Ricky asked me to go with him to the Brahms concert simulcast by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The opening piece was the Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A Minor, Op. 102, Gustavo Dudamel conducting with classy Renaud Capuçon on violin and his alterego/brother, animalic Gautier Capuçon, on the cello.  It was a concert to remember… so beautiful… and what made it even more perfect was the Shalimar that was wafting from the row in front of us.

Shalimar is one of the most storied fragrances in history… the stories being either fact or fiction or “faction”, as Diana Vreeland would say.  Supposedly, Jacques Guerlain created Shalimar in an instant by simply pouring newly discovered ethyl vanillin  into a bottle of Jicky (1889).  And supposedly, Shalimar was inspired by Coty’s Emeraude (1921) and the fragrance was adopted by American women first and by French women later.  We’ll never know how much all of this is true but what we do know is that Shalimar was officially launched in 1925 at the “Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes” and this was hugely important because it placed perfume firmly in the realm of decorative arts… which is where it belongs.  I, for one, look forward to the day that I visit a decorative arts museum and among the gowns, vases, lamps, furniture pieces and carpets we’ll be able to sniff the perfume of the day!

Shalimar is a beautifully balanced, sensuous vanilla-centric amber with a rich animalic subtext that reminds of a deep basso profundo.  The much talked about animalic notes are nowhere near the skanky notes of Serge Lutens Muscs Koublaï Khän but more like a resinous, smoky note.  Shalimar does smell powdery sometimes but just when you think you’ve defined it… the powder disappears.

I think that Shalimar is perfect for men now that women have vacated the perfume middle-ground and moved uptown to whatever is sweet and ultra-floral.  To test it, I wore Shalimar to the Montreal Grand Prix F1 street festival Friday night and among the hairy-knuckled Guccis, Armanis and Hugo Boss’s… it outdid the competition.  Let’s just hope that Guerlain never plays around with the formula… it’s perfect just as it is.


Top image : The original bottle of Shalimar designed by Raymond Guerlain

Bottom image : Photo of Gautier Capuçon by Erin Baiano for the New York Times

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