I haven’t given Strength the muscle it deserves. But I’m determined not to let the year end without mentioning it. One of five scents in Zegna’s high-end Elements Of Man range (well worth checking out as a whole) it’s focussed on a gentlemanlike tobacco note that couldn’t be further removed from the mind-crushing, cardboard-cutout creations which so many brands aim at men these days. Playing skilfully on hints of the illicit - there are strong echoes of film noir intrigue here - it links its central note with honey, green facets and a suave, almost powdery labdanum in the base to create a thoroughly grown-up effect that dares young hipsters to ditch their silly pretences and display some real character. Thankfully, the days when smoking was associated with manliness are behind us. But Strength is a nicotine-free reminder of why that particular idea remained so potent for so long. Highly recommended.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Ermenegildo Zegna in 2017]
Did someone say Yardley? During a key sequence in Battle Of The Sexes - a well-constructed account not just of Billie Jean King’s match against Bobby Riggs, but also of her struggles with her own sexuality - the women on the newly-formed WTA are treated to a pre-press-junket hairstyle makeover. King (played by Emma Stone) takes her seat, is approached by her hairdresser Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough, as excellent and underused as ever) and suddenly looks up in surprise. Is that lavender oil she can smell, she asks. The answer is yes. Marilyn likes dabbing a few drops on her wrists to help her customers relax.
Tighten that corset and sweep all that lust under the silk rug. For my latest segment on Francine Stock's Film Programme on BBC Radio 4, I'm delving into the extravagant and asphyxiating olfactory world of Martin Scorsese's The Age Of Innocence. The programme will be aired today at 4:00 pm UK time (11:00 am New York time).
In case you hadn't realised it, we're less than a month away from that day when the odd present is exchanged beneath a tree, so my latest Feelunique article recommends a few sure-fire fragrance choices that would make excellent gifts. To find out which scents made the final cut, please click here.
I also wanted to let you know that episode 9 of my Facebook Live series, Love At First Scent, should be broadcast on Friday 1st December at 4:00 pm UK time (11:00 am New York time). Please try to tune in by visiting my Facebook page (click here).
And finally, I'm excited to announce that this Thursday, 30th November, will see the broadcast of another instalment of my Cinema Scent discussions on BBC Radio 4's Film Programme, presented by Francine Stock. This time, I'll be turning my attention to Martin Scorsese's masterclass in repressed passions and overflowing bouquets, The Age Of Innocence. To listen to the programme as it's being broadcast (4:00 pm UK time) please click here.
Here comes another round-up of my mini-reviews, which for the first time features thoughts I've posted on Instagram. That's why some of these are less mini than others, in case you were wondering. And of course, Twitter now allows more characters than it used to, so I expect the next instalment of these reviews will have its mini-ness diminished even further.
Wow! from Joop! (Christophe Raynaud; 2017)*
Petrol, patchouli & pine, with shades of burnt medicine cabinet. Very 'whisky-on-ice boardroom'. Preening musks in the base.
Lui from Guerlain (Thierry Wasser & Delphine Jelk; 2017)*
Low-on-clove, claw-less carnation, wrapped in sweet, creamy benzoin. Baby-soft at its core, therefore both safe and likeable. VE Velvet from Uèr Mì (Jean Jacques; 2014)*
Pretty straightforward vetivert, after cologne-like opening of citrus and rosemary. More earthy and rooty than velvety.
XX Latex from Uèr Mì (Antoine Lie; 2014)*
Knock-your-head-back glue notes with weird florals produce glossy, stretchy, spicy, kinky, crimson gorgeousness. A triumph.
Tears Of Eros from Paul Schütze (2016)*
Undergrowthy, sappy, peppery ivy/hyacinth shifts to curious, hard incense/vetivert. Stony. Tears of a statue?
Three aspects of the new Une Amourette - an Etat Libre D'Orange collaboration with fashion designer Roland Mouret - are worthy of attention. The first is that it marks a welcome instance of a Daniela Andrier perfume that isn’t green or centred around iris. Sure, an objective glance through her portfolio reveals that she is more than capable of working with a range of materials; after all, she’s made or co-made scents as diverse as Prada’s Candy, Gucci’s much-missed Envy For Men and Bottega Veneta’s Pour Homme. But there’s no doubt that in recent years, she’s developed a reputation for being the Iris Lady, throwing the plant’s rooty personality into a large number of her compositions, not least the Olfactories range for Prada, Miu Miu’s debut scent and Margiela’s Untitled. Thankfully, Une Amourette shows her at her innovative best, trying out new ideas, refusing to rest on her laurels.
Bow ties, sparkling dresses and impossible heels are all over the shops again, which must mean it's party season. So for my latest piece for Feelunique, I've turned my attention to perfumes that create a bold, nocturnal impact. To read it, please click here.
As soon as the podcast of the episode is available, I'll post a link to it here. Here we go... You should be able to listen to the episode by clicking on this link; on the same page, you'll also find a 'Podcast' link with various options for Apple, Android et al. I hope you'll listen to the entire episode, but if you're interested only in my bit, fast forward to the 24 minute mark.
Episode 8 of Love At First Scent - featuring my suitably Halloween-esque orange shirt - is now on YouTube; please watch it by clicking above or by going directly to the YouTube site (click here). In this edition I covered
Illusion Captive from Lalique (at the start of the video)
Warszawa from Puredistance (at the 33 minute mark)
Le Frenchy from Guerlain (at the 43 minute mark) Oud from Spirit Of Dubai (at the 50 minute mark)
As always, the original video is still on Facebook. Click here to check it out.
I know I usually let the videos speak for themselves, as it were, but I would particularly like to draw your attention to the Puredistance; a new composition from Antoine Lie, it completely took me surprise and I can't wait to revisit it. As for the Creed... well... see for yourselves...
A little while ago, I published a post bemoaning the fact that many new perfume releases aimed at young women don’t treat their target audience with the intelligence they deserve. They tend to be dull, safe and patronising. But I didn’t want to leave the subject on a negative note. Surely, I told myself, even though there is a great deal of dross being heaped onto the market, there must be a few modern compositions that manage to capture some facets of 21st century femininity without resorting to cliches.
As you can imagine, that immediately prompted me to set myself a challenge: if those perfumes are out there, THEN FIND THEM! So, here is my attempt to meet that challenge.
If all goes according to plan, I hope to bring you the next episode of my Facebook Live series - Love At First Scent - this Thursday, 2nd November, at 6:00 pm UK time (2:00 pm New York time) on my Facebook page. To watch the other instalments, please click here. It'll probably be the last episode I'm able to broadcast for several weeks as this is the season when various other commitments take over and I have much less free time than I'd like. If only we had more hours in the day...
The layer of scent that is forever hovering a few inches above the surface of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (still his best work, arguably) is almost unremittingly scatological. Based on the Irvine Welsh novel and telling the story of a group of addicts stumbling through Edinburgh's drug scene, the film is populated by people who look as though they eat, sleep and get high in the same clothes all the time. It's not surprising that their surroundings - those relentless stretches of peeling wallpaper, the depressing pavements - seem to absorb the odour of sweat, alcohol and cigarettes. Even the colours appear to project a smell: the stench of the interior of Mother Superior’s flat is somehow made more despairing, more piercing, through the use of that deep indigo for the walls.
A little while ago I had the honour of being invited into Feelunique's London studio to record some videos for their YouTube channel. The first result of our efforts is now online, so I'd be extremely grateful if you could spare a few moments to watch it... and maybe even give a 'thumbs up' and leave a comment. The topic of this particular instalment is the tricky issue of choosing a perfume for someone when you don't know exactly what they like.
My teachers were right: perspective is everything. When you get close to Noir Anthracite (a flanker which, despite its name, shares few features with the original Noir from 2012) your experience is promising. Moonlit minerals. Brooding gunpowder. Sparks lining the edges of polished flint. Maybe some flames too, but no towering ostentations. This isn't a raging bonfire, which is apt, given that the Oracle (ie Wikipedia) tells us anthracite “burns with little flame and smoke”. However, things change when you take a step back. Instead of forming an attractive sillage when they coalesce, all those elements turn into a wall of brash, typically 70s-inflected, Tom Ford patchouli, with an off-putting wood facet and a dubiously aggressive attitude. Ford makes no apologies about his love for older scent codes - and so he shouldn’t, as they’ve often led him to gorgeous creations - but here, the time warp idea reminds you that the decade of flares and disco balls was also the era of bigotry towards women and mass social disillusionment. In other words, it’s just a bit too chest-wig-heavy. When not one, but three people come up to you, pull a face and say, “You smell like my dad,” you know the retro vibe has probably been overplayed. Apply with caution. Or maybe only when you’re going to be within stroking distance of everyone around.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Tom Ford in 2017.]