vendredi 24 mars 2017

Spring has sprung in Paris: My top 10 scents

© Marin Montagut, courtesy RMN

The picture above is the design of a scarf by the young artist Marin Montagut, exclusively sold at the Grand Palais boutique during the Jardins exhibition, depicting one of my two favorite places in Paris, the Luxembourg Gardens. My other being the Palais-Royal, a technicolour riot of hot-pink magnolias, purple hyacinths and yellow daffodils these days. It’s hard to resist springtime in Paris, despite the news being unrelentingly dismal. So I’ll share a few pictures I took last week along with our seasonal top 10!


The Jardins exhibition at the Grand Palais
Perfumes are our immaterial gardens; and like gardens, they are ways of framing and dreaming the vegetal world. Last week I celebrated spring slightly ahead of the calendar -- but the thermometer read 20°C -- by visiting the beautiful “Jardins” exhibition at the Grand Palais. From Dürer’s violets to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s herbarium, Gerhard Richter’s hazy, haunting Sommer Tag or Patrick Neu’s obsessively detailed watercolour portraits of wilting irises (see above), it’s incredibly rich, and it lasts until 24 July, so if  you’re in Paris, book yourself a visit


Sous les magnolias, Pierre Bourdon
I wore this bright chewy fruity floral chypre in the same room as the great perfumer A.M., aka the Human Chromatographer. “Someone’s wearing a very good Diorella”, she said. And it is. Sous les magnolias is as close to a signature scent as I’ve had these past few months. So here it is again, heading my list.


White song, Dear Rose
The brand’s co-founder, singer-songwriter Alexandra Roos, used to wear Poison (much to the chagrin of her mother, the tremendous Chantal Roos, who worked on the Opium team and created the Issey Miyake and Jean-Paul Gaultier perfume brands). Fabrice Pellegrin’s spicy almond blossom White Song is Poison gone cool French rock chick, L’Heure Bleue without the blues.



Le Sillage Blanc, Dusita
Its author, the self-taught Thai perfumer Pissara Umavijani, named this after one of her father’s poems. Something must’ve been lost in translation, because it’s hard to think of any scent smelling less “blanc”. This is Bandit’s love child grown up wild in Phuket: a bracingly bitter green earth brew that connects with the past without feeling retro.

Totally White, Parle Moi de Parfum
Michel Almairac is a perfumer’s perfumer: the name that comes up when they have to praise a colleague still in activity. He’s cut loose in the brand created by his son, not by doing crazy niche-y stuff, but by giving them cherished formulas he’d never sold, on one condition: no tweaks. Totally White is a gift to his wife, who asked for an evocation of the Parc Monceau shrouded in a frothy white nebula of lilac, hawthorn and mock orange. This is, quite simply, springtime in Paris bottled. You need it.


Bleu Framboise, Jean-Michel Duriez
Now gone indie, the former nose of Patou and Rochas conceived this while crossing the Pont Alexandre III on the Seine, just as sunset turned the sky blue and red. Hence the name, which translates into a mouthwatering raspberry accord and a touch of blue chamomile. This is a fruity floral chypre with a cheerful verdant twist (rhubarb, galbanum, geranium, oakmoss…) and a hefty animalic kick from jasmine sambac. This smells like Paris filmed by Wes Anderson.


L’Eau Bleue, Miu Miu
Most things in life can be improved by the mere fact that kittens exist. And few songs are more empowering than Lesley Gore’s “You don’t own me”. The film for L’Eau Bleue features both. And both make me feel pretty sappy. It’s the operational word for Daniela Andrier’s second Miu Miu fragrance though this time in the original sense: a day-glo green sap dotting the bells of her lily-of-the-valley. Like Diorissimo in its day, this is not “the flower, but an arabesque around the flower” (to quote Edmond Roudnitska). Dew, sap, and the moist earth of a Givaudan captive, akigalawood (a mutant patchouli obtained through enzymatic reaction). And kittens.

Grace by Grace Coddington, Comme des Garçons
You’d expect the flame-haired Ms. Coddington’s rose to come fully equipped with claws (here be lions). But then, anything that comes out of a pouch adorned with twee drawings of cats and capped with the kind of pussyhat a space explorer would wear to land on Planet Claire can’t be too feral. Twisted with a bunch of basil and mint and tossed on a Cashmeran throw, Coddington’s rose exudes a playful, I-woke-up-like-this charm.

Parco Palladiano V, Bottega Veneta
How often do we get to smell aromatic notes outside of fougères -- and their dread “fresh” men’s deodorant accord -- in fragrance? Composed by Daniela Andrier for Bottega Veneta’s exclusives line, Parco Palladiano V plucks a bouquet garni from an Italian herb garden and serves it up as is. Rosemary, laurel and sage, no longer used as olfactory condiments, reveal their fresh, spicy and ambery facets. Pity such a simple, embraceable scent should be featured in such a costly collection. Its salubrious scent evokes the half-medicinal, half-fragrant recipes that preceded Eau de Cologne as European fragrance blockbusters, such as the Eau de la Reine de Hongrie. I’d splash it on every morning.

 Woodissime, Thierry Mugler
You could say this is Féminité du Bois led astray from Morocco -- its notes spanning the Orient from the Middle-East to China. Here, the violet/pit fruit and cedar/sandalwood accords are shifted on the scent-map to, respectively, osmanthus and oud. The principle of Mugler’s Les Exceptions is twisting a classic form with what they call an “unexpected guest”: in the present case, osmanthus. Which makes more sense than you’d think: Jean-Christophe Hérault hooks them up by teasing out the phenolic facets in both (leather, beaver butt, ink, black olive -- after all, osmanthus, an Oleaceae like jasmine, is related to the olive tree). The result is what may well be the sole smiling oud on the market.



For more Spring round-ups:




 All pictures are mine, taken at the Jardins exhibition or at the gardens of the Palais-Royal, except the topmost.

24 commentaires:

  1. Lemming Sous les magnolias.
    The news is so dismal these days, I wish perfume were the answer

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    1. I wish so too. At least it's a bit of beauty to take comfort in!

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  2. The Jardins exhibition sounds wonderful, I went to the 'Painting The Modern Garden' exhibition 'From Monet to Matisse', last spring at The National Gallery in London, and my mum gave me the book that accompanied it to me for my birthday, I'm soaking up the gorgeous images now, and imagining you're gorgeous perfumes!
    I'm going to see if I can get samples of some of them in the UK.
    Thank you for this lovely list!

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    1. Oh, I'd have loved to see that exhibition! Of course I couldn't resist getting the Jardins book after visiting the Grand Palais -- along with two or three others. You can't love perfume without being fascinated by gardens!

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  3. So many of your choices evoke colors- which is so fitting for this type of year when the grey is giving way to something a little more lovely.
    I think we're all feeling the pull of spring fragrances- I just wrote about a few new favorites of mine yesterday (https://listmimsy.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/a-handful-of-spring-perfumes-sneaking-into-my-icy-winter-heart/).
    Maybe in a year I can add some of your recommendations to the list :)

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  4. Hi Connie! It's true, I did think of adding red to the white and blue, but that didn't quite click with the spirit of spring. There's purple, pink and yellow too!

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  5. Kittens! You're so right .... as long as there are kittens in the world ....

    A beautiful list made even better by your championing of the gorgeous Sous les Magnolias! I have become quite addicted to this now!

    Jillie

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    1. Hi Jillie! I was researching the French version of Colette's quote by Kevin over at Now Smell This, about no object of love being too small... Kittens are pretty much up there in the "small thing, huge love" category, aren't they?
      I'm a bit concerned about the Pierre Bourdon though. They need to find more retailers or the compagny that makes the brand might decide it's not worth the bother -- they're not players at all in the niche world... I'm quite addicted too, so I'm thinking of stocking up!

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  6. We've had this conversation about Pierre Bourdon before. I just can not fathom what is going on there.

    I saw Kevin's article too and it made me cry. It reminded me of our robin who adopted us for three years and became as important to us as our cats, coming to us when called and sitting on our hands. Then one day he didn't turn up and we were bereft. How can such a tiny thing become so hugely important?
    Jillie

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    1. Re: Bourdon, from what I've understood, the company that makes his line is run by an old friend of his in Austria. But niche perfumery is not their area of expertise, and Bourdon's retired, pretty much outside the circuit. So it's always been a half-baked project.

      As for robins... isn't it a tiny miracle when wild creatures elect us? It's the purest form of love, in a way, isn't it?

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  7. I blind bought Sous les Magnolia in February on your recommendation, and while I was at it, also La dame en rose :)
    It seems I got them in the very last minute, because the e-shop on the website doesn't work anymore and shows only a description of the fragrances. (even previously they had a super limited distribution, delivery to Germany and Austria only).
    So this could mean the end of the line unfortunately :(

    I was also curious about La fin d'un ete, but it was already out of stock in February. Have you smelled that one Denyse, how is it?

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    1. I actually wanted to buy La Fin d'un été, which is a limpid plum and gingerbread chypre (a modern twist on Femme by way of Dolce Vita). I'm not optimistic about the brand either. They're looking for more outlets, so if any retailers are reading this, please consider carrying the brand, it's miles above most of what's out there!

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  8. I'm now desperate to try the Pierre Bourdon line but it seems I have absolutely zero chances. I have emailed the company to no avail. If anyone could point me in the direction of an e-tailer I'd be super grateful

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    1. They're not very big on answering, are they? I just know one place (brick & mortar) selling them in Paris, and that's it!

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    2. If it's any help, the company's name who produces the perfumes is Cura Brands.
      If you email me, I can send you the contact detail of the person who confirmed my e-shop purchase (back when there still was an e-shop...)
      love.makeup in gmail land.

      Denyse: which shop in Paris sells them?

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    3. Thank you Kata! I have been directly in contact with the product manager (apparently no one handles PR specifically) for an article I wrote. It's just that they're really not responsive!
      In Paris they're sold in the Astier de Villatte boutique of the rue de Tournon. I really need to go back to get more backups of the magnolia!

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  9. I ordered a small sample of Sous Magnolias
    I hope I don't want a full bottle
    Enabler pin to Grain de Musc

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    1. Oh dear! At least, if you do, it's not the most expensive thing to fall in love with...

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  10. Thanks for continuing to write Denyse. It takes the edge off the shocking state of the union. My yoga teacher described the crook of the arm as the "eye of your elbow" this weekend. I've been pondering that. It's where I like to put perfume. Today I have Feu d'Issey on the left and Aromatics Elixir on the right. Two fragrances I "don't like" but am challenging myself to understand. I'm looking forward to another book from you because I find your writing and point of view to be spot on and a pleasure to read.

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    1. Le Feu d'Issey is challenging indeed -- it's not even far ahead of its time, it's a glitch! By contrast, Aromatics Elixir was amazingly influential -- yet it's got such a specific signature it can be sniffed out at thirty paces!
      I'm actually still writing quite a lot, but for French publications, although now NEZ is out in an English edition (In which I translate myself). I am taking notes for a new book... I'm happy you enjoy the writing, and that it helps a bit.

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  11. Merveilleux, I'll check out Nez then. Thanks. Yes, I decided that Feu just continued to remind me of syrup spilled on a truck stop restaurant table. I can't shake it. Aromatics Elixir is so dry it's like champagne, a reminder that I have peasant taste in wine...

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