Thursday, October 8, 2015

Reader's Mail: Suggest things similar to Le Labo Patchouli 24 and Chanel Coromandel

The lovely reader Denise is kindly asking: "Can you please let me know if anything is similar to Patchouli 24 (Le Labo)? I tried Bulgari Black more than once & I don’t think it’s remotely similar to Patchouli 24; also anything similar to Chanel Coromandel? These 2 are so very expensive, so that’s why I’m wondering if there’s something similar. I read Prada is similar but have no clue which Prada. I like anything smokey, incense, nothing flowery or sweet."

My initial thoughts run to Zino by Davidoff and Borneo 1834 by Serge Lutens (a comparison of both fragrance with Chanel Coromandel perfume on this link) and to La Troisieme Heure by Cartier (XIII, in their boutique circuit) though that one doesn't come cheap either, Mona di Orio Cuir and Sonoma Scent Studio Fireside Intense as alternatives to Patchouli 24. Despite the name one has to remember that the Le Labo scent smells mostly of birch tar.

The Prada referred to is the original Prada eau de parfum by Prada for women (2004). In my personal view it's not a smell alike to Coromandel (and even less so to Patchouli 24) but in the same family.

 For incense suggestions we have Incense Week, where I categorize lots of incense fragrances and review them in detail. Denise and anyone interested in that sort of fragrant vibe can also check the Woody Oriental section and Woody Chypre section of these pages.

Can you help her out? Please write your suggestions in the comments below this post.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Twin Peaks, a guide of smell alikes 

Monday, October 5, 2015

"Perfume does not have a function. It's more than a function. It's not necessary. It's not particularly useful."

Thus presents the aphorism perfumer Jean Claude Ellena. And Christine Nagel, co-head perfumer at Hermes perfume development, quips: "It's impossible to wear a perfume that you don't like. If you took more time to smell people rather than looking at them you would understand them better. If you took the time to do that."

A very interesting interview of both Jean Claude Ellena and Christine Nagel is uploaded on the NY Mag on this link by Kathleen Hou. They explain how we can't be with people whose smell we don't like, whether Hermes soap is superior to all the other soap around, how marketing and perfumery work in weaving fragrant stories and how the two perfumers have almost fallen in love...with each other's work that is. Read on for interesting insights.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Miu Miu eau de parfum: fragrance review

Has Miuccia Prada exhausted the fragrance concepts for her own brand and has expanded into its sister brand, Miu Miu? More like the youthful yet sophisticated Miu Miu label needed that which it was lacking; a lifestyle fragrance. Miu Miu eau de parfum comes along to fill that void (and alas not   the one in perfume lovers' hearts) and, although nothing seismical, it is a decent enough composition aiming to be the introduction to perfume for the quite young ladies who look up to the unique Prada fashion sense.

Unsurprisingly the formula was developed by Daniela Roche Andrier, the fetish perfumer of the Prada fragrance stable (and also famous for her creations for Bvlgari, Bottega Veneta, Martin Margiela Untitled and Marni), and bears a quota of her graceful trademark. Although when I first smelled Miu Miu eau de parfum I wasn't bowled over by the innovation and in fact wracked my brains to put my finger on what it reminded of (read on), I have to admit that it is not unrepresentable, at least compared to all the syrupy stuff around, and would probably sell quite well.
The collaboration of Miu Miu with Coty Inc. (the Prada frags are developed with Puig) definitely meant that the perfumer was subject to several focus group tests as well as meetings with the project managers team. This usually means creativity isn't given free rein.

The composition in Miu Miu eau de parfum tethers between the freshness of green notes and quite sharp floralcy of lily of the valley, rendered through modern synthetics, since the old golden standard, hydroxycitronellal has been heavily rationed, and the warmth of something that is almost patchouli-like, yet it's not.

The sharp lily of the valley fragrance note and the green jasmine (similar to the ethereal one in Marc Jacobs' discontinued Blush) is fitting the neopuritan aesthetics of the Miu Miu brand, so one can totally see the choice from a strategic, branding point of view. The woodsier background can be explained via the need for something that resonates with the sweeping trend in feminine launches of the past 15 years: something with patchouli notes...

The familiar faint patchouli chord that is indeed pack & parcel of almost every new fragrance launch aimed at the under-45 crowd (and even some aimed above), at least ever since the introduction of Narciso for Her, the pioneer of the "nouveau chypre" fragrances [refer to this for chypre definition & perfume examples], is, astoundingly enough, not exactly patchouli oil. In Miu Miu eau de parfum the note has a hint of pepper and mainly a wood hue, sans the usual dark chocolate facet of natural patchouli essence. In fact the base note (especially on paper, as on skin it is more fleeting) reminds me of older aldehydic florals with green notes, like Lancome's Climat, but very faint. A wink by the perfumer?

We have touched the subject of fractioned essences before, when perfumers take a complex natural structure and extract only the odoriferous molecules they're interested in, tossing the things that give off notes for their particular purpose. For Miu Miu eau de parfum this involved what the producing company, Givaudan, calls "akigalawood" (try saying that 5 times quickly) which is basically a Givaudan trademark (submitted in May 2012 if that's of interest) made in alliance with Soliance.

This is how Boris, a leading biochemist within Givaudan explained it: “The mission of the Ingredients Centre of Excellence in Zurich, Switzerland is to employ enzymes to develop new fragrance ingredients, and it was within this context that the Biosciences team recently created Akigalawood®, where an enzyme known as laccase was used to transform a natural starting material into a new natural and captive perfume compound. Akigalawood® has recently been commercialised in a leading men’s fragrance for the Brazilian market. This novel material has a profile similar to that of patchouli, combined with vibrant spicy aspects of pepper and noble agarwood facets. This enzymatic process, which only requires mild processing with salt and water, is also a far more environmentally friendly way to develop new raw materials for fragrance use.”

Miu Miu eau de parfum seems to be that triumph of new things that don't really feel new. Perfect for the nostalgic brand then with its 60s cat eye makeup and retro hairstyles, but not for the hardcore perfume lover.

The splendid bottle is inspired by the coveted Miu Miu matelassé leather handbags and the odd color combination reminds me a bit of Cacharel Loulou. The model in the campaign is Stacy Martin, shot by Steven Meisel. Song is Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me" (recorded in 1964).

There is also a dedicated website to the Miu Miu fragrance.

Shopping info: Exclusive to Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman from September to December 2015 in the United States. Already available in department store counters and Sephora (where I tested it) in several European countries. Starting from 55€ /£48 /$75 for 30ml/1oz eau de parfum. Ancillary body products also to be available. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

2015 Limited Edition Spray Perfume from Serge Lutens

In the tradition of years past, the French niche cult brand Serge Lutens issues a limited edition in a spray 50ml bottle of one of their more exclusively distributed fragrances packaged in bell jars containing 75ml. They introduce the scent in question with the familiar cryptic manner of description:

The religion of iron needed a Virgin, and the Virgin, a lily.

“Have you smelt it?”
“Yes, I have.”
“And how is it?” 
“As striking as the fleur-de-lis seal on the arm of a criminal.” 
“And deep down, as itchy as a hair shirt on the skin. In fact, a sublime torture!”

~Serge Lutens

This year's limited spray edition is therefore La Vierge de Fer. 

According to Lutens himself: "The lily in Vierge de Fer is more glorious than in Un Lys. That one was fresher, more lily-like, actually. It played on the whiteness of lily. This one [Vierge de Fer] plays on the heady aspect. It's a lily whose pollen hasn't been dusted off, it has kept its stamens and anthers. This is a lily which affronts, once again."

You can read more on Serge Lutens perfume reviews & news on this link

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sinful fragrances, you say?

Names like Cabochard (headstrong) or My Sin made perfumes of the first half of the 20th century seem so decadent and provocative. But more modern fragrance are also exploring the forbidden, the lustful, the envious...

Going Nowhere -copyright Sammy Slabnick via LIFO 

Find out 8 of these perfumes promising sinful rewards on this link.

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