Estée Lauder Cinnabar, 1978

Perfumer Bernard Chant? Spicy, resinous amber perfumes are a feel-good genre in perfumery. The individual components (vanilla, benzoin, labdanum…) are like prefab bases and can single-handedly provide the blueprint for an Oriental perfume. The risk is the kitchen-sink syndrome. Cinnabar’s topnotes juxtapose a bright, aldehyde/bergamot accord against a boozy amber mix, a trick learned from Youth Dew. The segue from citrus to…

Guerlain Mon Guerlain, 2017

Perfumer Thierry Wasser. So, what is the recipe for a big-budget, got-to-be-successful, no-room-for-error, if-you-build-it-they-will-come perfume? To judge by Guerlain’s approach: Mix equal parts imitation, predictability and risk aversion in a large bowl. Bake in a lukewarm focus-group until stale. Sprinkle with olfactory least common denominators. Serve in a bottle replete with historical Awethenticity™. Buon appetitio. Am I cynical? Clearly, but…

Take One Thing Off

  I just read the entire site Take One Thing Off, an online investigation of perfume by writer Claire Vukcevic. Well, reread, actually. I’ve followed the site since it was launched in 2015. The site’s name is a reference to Coco Chanel’s fabled editing method: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” Vukcevic…

Bruno Fazzolari Feu Secret, 2017

Feu Secret is an exploration of orris, a tricky material to describe in notes. Combined with other components in a composition it has an olfactory range of that lands it squarely in the woody-floral category. Of course orris butter can also make a perfume powdery, metallic, papery, chocolatey or yeasty depending on the angle of approach so to speak. It…

Zoologist Perfumes Macaque, 2016

Perfumer Sarah McCartney. Victor Wong has used a model of art direction to build the Zoologist Perfumes line. As the brand’s owner and artistic director Wong commissions work from independent perfumers and collaborates with them to shape the perfumes. I’m interested in commissioned work because it allows an artist to step outside of herself to try on a new persona/style.…

digging (into) vintage: Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel, 1975

Perfumer André Fomentin. Forthright, stark accords have a broad legibility that I find appealing. Fundamental accords keep some degree of some degree of virtuosity even when the notes harmonize. The best potential for synergy is when different elements are connected by a couple of associative links, as in the seemingly Kevin Baconish degrees between bergamot, oakmoss and labdanum in a…