by Kilian Liaisons Dangereuses, 2007

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(image, Xiao Cao)

Perfumer Calice Becker

Rose is a difficult flower in perfumery. It is both common and beautiful, two facets that can be difficult to reconcile. A wild rose bush is simple and pretty, yet a formal rose garden can seem conventional and staid in a way that makes rococo architecture seem light and breezy. Consider also that the rose is the most symbolically overburdened flower in history and you’ll realize the rose is anything but easy. And then, the inherent conundrum of the solifor: is it worthwhile to attempt to re-create the scent of the rose?

So, what to do with the Rose? Do you dress it to the nines, gilding the lily, so to speak? Give it the sexy librarian trick: tying up it’s hair, putting on clunky glasses and just letting a little bit of slip show through on the stepstool? Should you play it like a fresh scrubbed youth, all heart-aching freshness and promise? In perfumery, the Rose speaks with many voices, from the screaming queen (see Guerlain Nahema) to the seductive vampire of Rossy de Palma, to the boys’ choir of Noontide Petals. I love rose chypres for the combination of rose’s growl and the huskiness of the chypre base. It’s an inherently sexy form. Patchouli-roses combine the woody aspects of the two elements, leaving a perfect balance of crudeness and chic. Musky, ambery  and vanillic roses demonstrate the opulence and exuberance of the floriental.

Liaisons Dangereuses is one of my favorite roses for its simplicity. It is gorgeous and direct, neither pristine nor unapproachable. It has that simple desirability of a perfectly honed object or piece of clothing. Not easy, but perfectly simple. A well-worn saddle, a perfectly fitted shift dress, form-fitting jeans, old work gloves.  No adornment necessary. The beauty is implicit and complete.

High-priced perfume lines are generally known for their most opulent, their grandest perfumes. Look closely, though, and you’ll fine that some of the best fragrances put out by luxe, niche, high-end, exclusive… firms are the simplest. I could happily toss the whole Tom Ford grand-poobah line, but Azure Lime is a lovely eau de cologne if you can afford to spend so readily. Francis Kurkdjian’s Cologne pour le Soir is the most beautiful and simple reinvention of the cologne concept. by Kilian line has two simple, wonderful perfumes: A Taste of Heaven’s acerbic lavender and Liaisons Dangereuses.

In this post-bling era simple, precise luxury might be harder to come by than shallow extravagance, but Liaisons Dangereuses demonstrates that it’s worth the search.


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  1. MaggieToo says:

    Every time I come to this blog I wind up losing hours & hours of my day. I came here to see if you had any thoughts on Lauder’s ‘Private Collection’ and somehow I wound up reading every piece you wrote on Calice Becker. Every. Single. Time.

    Well, I guess it won’t kill me if the laundry has to wait another day.

    1. jtd says:

      Love Private Collection. One of the best bangs for a buck in all perfumery. And Becker? Fascinating. She’s enormously influential in mainstream perfumery and she’s found a specific place in high end independent perfume. That covers a lot of ground.

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