Why Mainstream Perfumery?

(Image, The Secret Lives of Stepford Wives) Mainstream perfume—how and why? How? Know your enemy. Why? It has a great track record. It’s become the norm to name the perfumer, and I’m all for the practice. Until not long ago, the perfumer was in the closet. Today the perfumer might compose the formula for the perfume that winds up in the bottle, but there is still more hidden in the process than is shown. Although the perfumer was camouflaged in the past, the process seems…

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M. Micallef Royal Vintage, 2013

  (Image source American Psycho.) Perfumer Jean-Claude Astier. The ’80s were the decade of the ten-octave woody delinquent that came to be known as the Power Frag, as in power fragrance. As in power tie, power lunch, power suit. The 1980s were the 1970s with more volume, more cocaine, higher aspirations and not even a vestige of conscience. Chanel Antaeus, Puig Quorum, Krizia Uomo, Calvin Klein Obsession for Men, Patou pour Homme. They followed closely on the heels of the big aromatic fougères like Paco…

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Why niche?

    (Photo Victoria Beckham, source unknown.) Why niche? For ease of discussion, I’d say plug in your own definition of niche to whatever you read here. Myself, I think the Independent Film model, or moving quickly and unabashedly from the fringe to the mainstream, is applicable to niche perfume. Studios gobbled up any production company that was trying something new. Soon every studio was cranking out the same variety of ‘indie-style’ movies. Niche perfumery has its roots in dissatisfaction with the limits of mainstream perfumery.…

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Why vintage?

(image suzanne-vintage.com) I have two reasons for delving into vintage perfumery. First, excellence. Second, it’s ripe for excavation. ** In perfume, the word vintage is a little like the word niche. It means different things to different people and tends to cause confusion in a discussion. Here are few definitions, all of which I’ll accept: Perfumes no longer produced. Early versions of extant perfumes that that have been changed significantly from their original forms. Perfumes from ‘extinct’ genres. Fragrances from before the 2000s/1990s/1980s—you choose the cut-off…

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What interests you in perfume?

(Image, l’Osmothèque) I’m working on a thee-part piece that asks: 1) Why Vintage?  2) Why ‘niche’?  3)Why mainstream? I’ve realized looking at my perfume collection that, with the exceptions of a few particular categories that I’m drawn to, I have a fairly eclectic selection of perfumes. Do you? Or do you have 10 fruity-florals for each chypre? Or 80% fougères? How do we compile our collections and what do we hope to get from each genre/category/era of perfume that we have? Also, whom do you read?…

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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 1988. Angel, 1992. We’ve never really recovered. They hit the scene at different times and suited their decades 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 4 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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