digging into vintage: Guy Robert’s woody florals.

(photo source unknown) Perfumer and one-time President of La Société Française des Parfumeurs, Guy Robert was known for his rich, layered woody florals. Early in his career, Robert hit on an effective formula of aldehydes, flowers, musks and woods. With this framework he created perfumes that have come to define the terms ‘orchestral’ and ‘symphonic’ in perfumery. Robert’s style of woody floral-aldehydes has precedents in…

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digging into vintage: bandit

(Image source unknown) Bandit might have been butch in its day, but that dynamic has changed a lot since 1944. It’s a potent leather with a come-hither lush animalism, the perfect femme-top perfume. I find it easier to read the dynamics of Bandit than many modern dry leathers. It’s calibrated to give the hard and the soft together. When modern dry leathers aim for toughness…

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old/new

(image La Merridienne, Van Gogh) The business of niche perfumery is gridlocked. The combination of two opposing forces is pushing perfumery to a tipping point and the market is on track to slam the brakes soon. The first is the escalating pace of new perfumes and the second is a concept called the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility. The principle holds that the perceived value of…

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Parfumerie Générale Arabian Horse 3.1, 2016

(Image, Empress Catherine II before the mirror, 1779 by Vigilius Erichsen) Perfumer Pierre Guillaume. The name fits. From the very opening Arabian Horse creates a setting that evokes equestrian affairs. It smells like farms, barns and steeplechases. The topnotes are strong and urgent, but the stables-and-tack mis-en-scène is just exposition and dramatic build-up. The heartnotes are the reveal. The pacing of the perfume reminds me of…

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Institut Très Bien Colognes Fines: Rose de Mai, Violette de Parme, Tuberose Absolue

(image source unknown) Perfumers not cited by Institut Très Bien. Institut Très Bien is dedicated to the Eau de Cologne. In 2005 the brand launched three fragrances by perfumer Pierre Bourdon, each a spin classic cologne: Cologne à la Française, Cologne à l’Italienne, Cologe à la Russe. They were not revolutionary and they weren’t intended to be. They were, however, excellent. Multiple releases often have…

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Dana Canoe

(image source unknown ) The fougère has been a yardstick of masculine perfumery since Houbigant released Fougère Royale in 1882. It is a slow moving genre that has sauntered from decade to decade with periodic touchups. The principle accord of lavender and coumarin can support a wide range of alterations. With a few compositional tweeks fougères have ranged from mossy or aromatic to oriental and…

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Lilies and Valleys

(gilded lily of the valley by Tommy Mitchell) Time hasn’t been kind to lily-of-the-valley perfumes. Stylistically they’ve fallen out of vogue. They are considered quaint and proper, two descriptors nobody with a ‘social presence’ would ever want applied to her. Add to that the conditioned olfactory association with toilet cleanser and it’s no wonder muguet perfumes aren’t trending. Another culprit is the often-overstated limitation on…

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Hermès Collection Hermessence

(image, diamondhorse.com)  Jean-Claude Ellena came to Hermès with one of the most impressive CVs in perfumery. With Givaudan training and a thorough grasp of traditional perfumery, he rose to the top of mainstream perfumery at the same time that he became a driving force in the early independent perfume movement. Had he retired before working at Hermès he would still have had one of the…

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Hendley Perfumes Gia, 2015

(Dave Saint-Pierre’s un peu de tendresse, bordel de merde!, photographer not cited) Perfumer Hans Hendley The roaring 1920s and the disco 1970s were both known for hedonism. Fashion and style were considered reflections of character and self-expression kicked caution to the curb. Whether in speakeasies or Studio 54, theatricality and acting out were considered paramount to self-realization. Bathtub gin or blow. Flappers or disco queens.…

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Hiram Green Arbolé Arbolé, 2016

(photo, vintage post card) Perfumer Hiram Green A justifiable complaint against much of natural perfumery is that the compositions can be muddied and vague. Blending botanicals, even when using isolates, can be tricky. Compositions with a limited number of components keep the materials’ personalities front and and center but don’t compel them reveal anything new. When too many materials are used the composition loses precision…

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Aftelier Perfumes Memento Mori and Amber Tapestry

(image, 1734 memento mori tapestry source unknown) Mandy Aftel produced two new perfumes in 2016. Memento Mori, as the name implies, is a contemplation of mortality and consequence. Amber Tapestry is the salve for a wounded spirit. Given the conflict and vitriolic tenor of American politics in 2016, the two perfumes are poignant bookends to the year. Did Aftel create Memento Mori and Amber Tapestry as…

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Tauerville Hyacinth and a Mechanic, 2016

(photo Ernesto Casaretto. Coin du Roi/Société d’Opéra. Apollo et Hyacynthus, Mozart) Perfumer Andy Tauer The Tauerville line started surreptitiously with a perfume called Rose Flash. It was initially a limited release and wore the familiar “Tauer” label, though the small print contained something new: “Tauerville Collection.” By the time it was released more widely it proudly wore the Tauerville badge on the front of the bottle. Hyacinth…

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