Davidoff Cool Water and Mugler Angel: Built for Each Other

(Image, Hubpages.com) (Cool Water, Pierre Bourdon. Thierry Mugler Angel, Yves de Chiris and Olivier Cresp.) Cool Water was released in 1986. Angel, 1992. We’ve never really recovered. They hit the scene at different times and suited their eras slightly differently. Cool Water fit the oversized, go-go 1980s.  Popular culture was loud and crass and aspiration trumped consideration every time. Reflection was considered a character flaw. It was a miserable time for introverts. It was the perfect time for Cool Water. Angel landed 6 years later…

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Dana Ambush, 1955

(image wisconsinhistory.org) Ambush is a bit of a gender-fuck. It was a perfume for women, based on a perfume first designed for women but then marketed to men, Dana Canoe. Both were composed by perfumer Jean Carles. Canoe was a fougère initially marketed to women. It turned out that Canoe fit the masculine barbershop style that was taking shape in the USA between the World Wars, so it was repurposed for men, who bought it in droves from 1932 to the present. There’s no record…

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Hermès Eau de Néroli Doré, 2016

Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena. For an established luxury goods producer, the trick to remaining relevant is to promise both the past and the future. The authenticity of heritage and a bright future of previously unimaginable luxury. This two-step is nothing new for Hermès. Their products are exceptional specimens of craft, but their true artistry lies in manipulating perception. The brand’s Eau de Cologne series shares the standard Hermès bottle with the Hermessence perfumes but come in in bright, lollipop colors, a carefree alternative to the austere…

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Three eaux de cologne for summer, sort of.

(image of Bruce Lee, source unknown) The standard Eaux de Cologne* seem like an obvious choice for summer. Citric, bright, refreshing. They don’t have a lot of duration, but they’re a break from the heat and cast a spell of cleanliness long enough for a first impression if you move very quickly. The traditional EdC is the most democratic of genres. The difference between the $8 bottle of EdC and the $200 bottle is minimal and you can get a bottle at the corner bodega…

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Christian Dior Dioressence 1969/1979

(What a difference a decade makes. Uncredited photos of Washington, DC from 1969 and 1979.) 2013–I’ve seen some discussions online about the merits and pathologies of vintage perfume collecting. I’m live-and-let-live on this one. If it feels good, do it. But how far will you go for vintage? Me, not far. Of course my consolation prize is all of contemporary perfumery, so I’m not panicking. But sometimes you can’t say no, yes? I’ve come across an old/new bottle of Dioressence edt from the ‘90s-‘00s. Dioressence the Tease, the…

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Cognoscenti No. 30: Hay and Incense, 2016

Perfumer Dannielle Sergent. Cognoscenti No. 30: Hay and Incense sells itself as a simple accord, but don’t believe the non-hype. It is a full-bodied, moving target of a perfume. Incense and hay are at the center of the perfume but they pop up in different ways at different times. At the outset, it seems like the nominal notes are circling each other, like a tango or an episode of Drag Race. In the heart, they give the composition an interesting juxtaposition of tones. Incense builds…

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mythology

(photo, UK Business Insider) Despite a frequently cited lack of common knowledge, perfumery is spring-loaded with all sorts of information, often in the form of misinformation and disinformation. Secrets, gossip, anecdotes, lies. The occasionally verifiable account of an event or discussion. Given the historic secrecy of perfumery it’s no surprise that small talk from one era becomes the mythology of the next. There is a sense that we’re unearthing the hidden history of perfume–continually reframing the present in light of the past. Also, we like…

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Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady, 2010

(photo of Christy Turlington by Peter Lindbergh) Perfumer Dominique Ropion. The rose and patchouli pairing is such a good fit that it seems like proof of fate. It’s been the basis for a range of leathery, ambery, woody and mossy perfumes spanning woody-floral, chypre and oriental genres. The Malle PR boasts that Ropion used surpassing doses of rose essence and patchouli coeur, a fractionated patchouli. Fractionated naturals are botanical materials that have been separated into their constituent parts by chemical and physical processes, especially molecular…

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Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle Une Fleur de Cassie, 2000

(image, Ex Machina) Perfumer Dominique Ropion Ropion knows how to make monster florals. Ysatis, Amarige, Alien. Jarring and disturbing to some, ravishing to others. (Count me in the disturbed category.) The key is in the synth-natural play of Ropion’s aesthetic. Take Amarige and Alien (co-authored with Laurent Bruyère). They are considered versions of the soliflor yet to my nose they are so unequivocally chemical in tone as to be science-fiction. Ropion’s mainstream florals are so exaggerated, so counterbalanced with potent synthetics that they can seem…

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Editions Parfums de Frédéric Malle Dans tes Bras, 2008

Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle launched in 2000 with a rock-star lineup of perfumers, including Maurice Roucel, who composed the culty Musc Ravageur for the brand. Art direction and commissioning independent perfumers was nothing new in 2000. In fact, it was the founding model of niche perfumery. Early examples Diptyques (1961), l’Artisan Parfumeurs (1976), Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier (1988) were still going strong. The Serge Lutens brand (1992) had attained permanent revolution and were the leader in experimentation. Hip and trendy were taken, so Frédéric…

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Cadavre Exquis, 2016

(image le Lido de Paris) Cadavre Exquis is a gourmand perfume from two perfumers known for exploring ‘classy’ genres like animalic chypres and aldehydic florals. It was made following the rules of a surrealist parlor game called exquisite corpse. In an exquisite corpse the participants take turns adding words or images, or in this case accords and materials, until the project is complete. The final product might be nothing that the participants imagined. The corpse is rigged to favor unpredictability and can give rise to…

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l’Artisan Parfumeur Rose Privée, 2015

Stéphanie Bakouche’s sensational Invasion Barbare for Parfums MDCI is a hard act to follow, and it’s worth considering that early-career success is not without its downside. The expectation following a Luca Turin 5-star rating of a first perfume is stratospheric. Rose Privée is Backouche’s second perfume, released a full ten years after Invasion Barbare and co-authored by Bertrand Duchaufour, cited by l’Artisan as Bakouche’s mentor. In the intervening years she’s been at the heart of the l’Artisan Parfumeur line, first as a Trainer and then…

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