JCE really was some kind of magician. The way he weaves ice and fire together in Déclaration is quite remarkable. It’s a skillful aromatic concoction of powdery sweet and bitter spicy; Gin & Tonic and black masala tea.
There’s no denying it’s impressive (and influential) ... but it doesn’t move me. Like other of his works it feels synthetic, intellectualised, lacking heart and soul.
I can see the greatness behind it, and, putting aside the fact that I’ll probably never wear it, I’ll give it a weak thumbs up.
A rich dark fruity-flora, like dregs of red wine in a goblet the morning after. It has the power of synthetic materials but the theme is archaic, an earthy witches brew filled with magic potency. Hatria is dense and very powerful – and only sold in extrait. Perhaps doing an EdT would be a good idea, I find this gets a bit too much, like Kenzo World - although not quite as bonkers as that. Even so, it sticks in the nose, handle with care!
I guess it makes sense ... those who excel with the floral bouquet would have trouble with the aquatics, and the strain is laid bare in Volupté. A frankenstein monster of oversized chemical head and Grojsman's fluffy pink sweater, which instead of being angora is now made of nylon. Weirdly prudish.
Thinking of intense patchouli, I imagine a dark raw patchouli oil, the sort of thing with a stinging top note.
By contrast, here you have a sour gloopy melange: dusty wood, resin and dandified rose that later becomes the most desiccated sillage I know, a real sirocco wind. Not my thing.
Going by the smell this should be a negative review, but - as the previous writer notes - it’s ‘imperative to locate a bottle that has been stored properly’.
I can only agree.
My sample, even though full and still in its cardboard tube, may not have been stored properly.
It smells like a varnish-coated melon-heavy attempt at l’Eau d’Issey.
Whether it has turned or not is hard to say, but the combination of lemon and oakmoss is notorious for playing nasty tricks in the bottle.
As jtd pointed out in his perceptive article below, Jean-Louis Sieuzac straddled the 80’s and 90’s with Dune, but that wasn’t the first time he’d crossed the decades.
With a sweet debut of orange flower and tuberose, Oscar has the elements of an 80’s honey monster - full and heady; but underneath that, there's a dusty green base that recalls the charming naiveté of Vacances (1936).
Oscar (1977) is both a bit brash - and lovely by turns, and this is one reason why it’s overshadowed by its big sister Opium, also 1977, and also composed by Sieuzac (et al).
Where Opium is a juggernaut, Oscar is made of two parts - and doesn’t have the same force. It’s a liminal scent that spans the decades and pulls in two different directions, forward to the brave new world of Margaret Thatcher, and back to a romanticised flower meadow.
It’s tempting to see T Rex and Sikkim as two sides of the same coin. They both appeared in 1971, and, capturing something about their age, both were successful. The appearance of T Rex singer Marc Bolan wearing glitter on Top of the Pops (with Elton John guesting on piano) is generally thought to be the start of Glam Rock, a cross-dressing style of pop that was huge in the early seventies.
They were soon followed by Bowie, posing as Ziggy Stardust in multicolour bodysuit, dyed hair and snow white tan. The campery reached a climax in ‘73 with The Sweet, pouting in lipstick and make up.
While it was getting hard to tell the boys from the girls, (some of) their mothers were retreating into a different, more reserved kind of androgyny - with matching ‘his & hers’ trouser suits (!) and fitted blazers.
Every fashion needs its perfume - and there was Sikkim, a cool, formal, starchy green aldehyde, a bit like the original Y (1964) with dark woody leather. A dry pink floral and amber baseline are concessions to ‘feminine’ codes, but it’s so distant from the fruity florals we know today it’s hard to imagine many women thinking it a feminine. The box of the original release, with it’s marbled pale brown Aramis-style pattern, straight lines and square bottle, only serve to reinforce the message; this is not a hearts and flowers pong. Its roots go back to the green chypres of Bandit (1945) and Miss Dior (1947); hard perfumes born of hard times.
But Sikkim was not exceptional in its green androgyny.
GIII (1970), No19 (1970) and Silences (1978) were also part of the green movement, perfumes which favoured unsexy, dark and woody themes; more carapace than cuddly.
Like the present moment, the seventies were uncertain times and it was natural that perfumes, like other productions, reflected them.
So perhaps, with Green awareness and Social Distancing, this rather phlegmatic style is due for a comeback.
I hope so, it may not have been fun but perfume was much more grown up in those days.
Texture plays a role in this, which is good - because the theme is simple and doesn't change that much.
Fizzy, milky, powdery-woody and plastic, there is plenty for the nose to latch on to, as well as coriander, white flowers and patchouli.
I say milky 'texture' but it’s better to call it milky hued; pale and lactonic.
Rush has an alien feel, like Feu d’Issey (1998), and - with the red box and eccentric bottle - they have a similar modern aesthetic.
Seeing how it’s a good two decades since, those who don’t remember it from the first time could get some mileage out of this, it's not like anything else on the street - and better than most things that are.
The main downside is the juice is weak.
You might think Sultan de Muscat would be an orientalist fantasy of amber and spice...
Well, you’d have got the spicy bit right, but the rest of it is a watery aromatic with a louring base of so-called leather.
Stomach churningly bad.
Trying to find out what Ispahan means I did some internet digging. It turns out that it’s a Damask rose, a city in Iran, and the name of a cake : a haute patisserie dessert of rose petal cream with lychee and raspberry, enveloped in macaroon.
Hmm, looks good ... think I’d rather wear that than this sickly vanilla and carboard rose.
Are Valley Girls a thing anymore?
I can imagine designer-clad teenagers wearing this cherry soda & tuberose, but if they’re virginal - or not - is outwith of my ken.
I couldn’t imagine their mothers wearing it though.
After a fun start it gets stronger and more chemical as it dries down, so unless you’ve got more money than taste - and you shop on Rodeo Drive - I would say look elsewhere for your tame tuberose.
Doing a heavier version of an ethereal scent is kind of bizarre.
The violet is deeper set, incense is now fizz, and there’s a dark woody undercurrent. It feels enclosed, musky, less distinct.
Overall, less characterful.
It’s an indictment of English perfumery that its most famous name is Yardley. I’ve always found them second rate, and the same applies to this.
As you’d expect, Black Label is based around lavender. It’s not a soliflor, and not really a fougère, it’s something in between; a lavender-focused blend with fougère elements. In my small bottle, there's also a metallic note which spoils the smell of this old fashioned cologne.
It feels similar to Yardley’s own Wild Fern; Skin Bracer / Wild Moss by Mennen, and other pharmacy colognes - which couldn't hold the candle to Caron's Pour un Homme; which is Old - but still the yardstick for mens lavender.
Like the name, Flowerbomb is made of two different parts - with no rational link between them.
I get the bomb part, although this isn't really a frag bomb as such - it's too restrained for that; and the flowers are way back in the mix ... so neither flower nor bomb.
It sounds better than VanillaBomb though.
The start is good, a JHAG-style black tea and 'cough syrup fruchouli' but the fun runs out when it fades into a boring woody-musky vanilla.
Thrawn - and winsome, it was -surprisingly- a hit :
all things to all women ... I smell a focus group.
Having been stymied by its apparent lack of odour I blasted the whole of a 1ml sample onto my shirt, trying to get something to sniff.
At first I thought the juice must be off in some way. Instead, I think it's some kind of technical oddball; the odour is weak up close but the sillage is there.
And their smells are quite different.
Where I complained in my notes about 'anonymous woody Amber' and 'boasts about two varieties of rose and smells of none', when I came back into the room later a sour rosy-pink amber was floating in the air.
And if you put your nose in close there are milky-sandal, tobacco and animal facets that give depth and texture.
On reflection, Alahine has something to do with the bouyant fruity twang of Aziyadé, as well as the DNA of a stereotyped powdery amber.
The odour yield is low for the amount of juice; possibly a by-product of the amount of benjoin used - known to have an odour suppressing quality, and on top of that, longevity is poor - even on cloth.
In short, if you're in love with Powdery Ambers - try a sample of this; if not, I wouldn't recommend it.
After fourteen Angels the muse must have been getting tired.
This one is just grapefruit and hazelnut cream added to a slimmed down formula.
[One interesting aside: comparing them head-to-head makes Angel smell of nutmeg...]
Francis Kurkdjian is playing a game here.
A rose-patchouli Parfum Fourrure: dark, bitter, furry, and yeasty-musty, endowed with a (brief) mushroom cloud of radiance.
It's a playful, postmodern mixing of tropes; an old fashioned fur bomb with a chemical charge.
(I’m sure he would accuse me of over interpreting his craft, he very much denies being a perfume artist.)
You’ve gotta hand it to him all the same...
If there is no oud in this it's doing a good imitation of it.
Dark, antiseptic and a bit cheesy, it's also smoky and bitter, and slightly dried-fruity; a pungent woody composition with a slight metallic undertone.
And that makes it classically Masculine, but not stereotyped; it's unlike anything I can think of - except oud.
For someone with a name that means Son of the Smith, I have a strange dislike of metallic things, especially odours.
And there's a metal odour to this; like 'metallic urinal cake' or ivory soap - wrapped in medicated toilet tissue and soaking in a metal dish.
It's a woody amber - 'ood', a hint of clean urinal, a strong metallic note; no leather anywhere.
Almost straight-up patchouli, earthy with green coriander, semi sweet with a touch of floral.
It takes a while to get going, as though the head notes had been suppressed, and that reminds me of a comment by Black Narcissus.
He would almost prefer a good patchouli oil, he writes, if he didn’t have to wait for the head notes to calm down before he could go out and meet people.
Well, I’m in accord with that, and my favorite patchouli right now is a blend of two patchoulis and burnt cedar oil. Very noir-ish; it makes this feel like a bit of a compromise.