This time of year perfume bloggers around the world often post their “best of” lists: new release fragrances, perfume houses, perfumers, etc. that made a mark on them during the year. As Perfume Polytechnic is not just about fragrance releases and reviews, and is by no means comprehensive in its coverage of such things, I feel unqualified to write such a list. However, as Perfume Polytechnic is about all kinds of olfactory matters and the sense of smell, its role in art, science, food etc., I am going to list my favourite olfactory moments of 2015 instead, in no particular order. Perfume Polytechnic also investigates the connections between people and the function that scent plays in bringing people together, as well as interconnections between the various art forms and mediums, including scent. This year’s list deals with some of these themes.
Getting an Ouducation
I’m not one to pretend I can do something I can’t: in the end it always catches up with you. So, when perfumer Mark Evans of Evocative Perfumes sent me a sample of his recently released fragrance Nirvana to try a few months back, I had to admit I was stumped. Nirvana is an exploration of oud, a trendy note that is notoriously, and almost always faked in perfumery, due to its exorbitant cost. But I hadn’t yet got my nose round oud, and had to confess to Mark that I couldn’t review his Nirvana until I worked out what oud smelt like. It didn’t seem right. Thus began my ouducation. What a wonderful journey I had, exploring some real oud essences (thanks to Mark) and various faux oud notes in commercial perfumes. You can read about my ouducation in two parts, here and here. Mark’s Nirvana is an amazing fragrance, it’s rich and very well composed. I highly recommend it if you want to try a realistic take on oud. You can find out more about it at the Evocative Perfumes website.
Indigo Vanilla by En Voyage
This is a beautiful creation: creamy, floral, ambery and neo-vintage. I love the plushness of Indigo Vanilla, one of three scents in the Souvenir de Chocolate Trio range from En Voyage. I wore it frequently in the cooler weather and found it comforting and warming, so much so that I chose to wear this as my calming scent during eye surgery earlier this year. Shelley Waddington, perfumer at En Voyage, and a friend, offered much support to me during my surgery. Wearing Indigo Vanilla made me feel like I had Shelley’s support with me during the procedure, which made all the difference. You can read my detailed review of Indigo Vanilla here.
Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series
Why am I including my own interview series in my list of favourite things, you may ask? Because when I started this interview series early in 2015, I took a leap of faith and I learnt so much in the process. It took me out of my comfort zone to contact perfumers I’d heard of but did not know, and the risk paid off! I’m so glad I did it. I’ve interviewed fifteen indie perfumers this year, and in the process have made connections and friendships with those perfumers, have learnt an enormous amount about how perfume is created, and oodles about each perfumer I’ve interviewed. It’s been a crash-course in learning about perfumery and it’s been wonderful to engage with such creative and interesting people.
Thanks to all of the perfumers I’ve interviewed for taking part and for opening up about your creative processes: Mark Evans, Emma Leah, Angelo Orazio Pregoni, Paul Kiler, Ellen Covey, Mandy Aftel, Shelley Waddington, Yosh Han, Andy Tauer, JoAnne Bassett, Sarah McCartney, Josh Meyer, Dana El Masri, Hiram Green and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz.
You can find all of the interviews here.
Design Age: Dulux Colour Forecast 2016 With Room Fragrances by Fleurage
This was a multi-sensory product launch like no other. Being a synaesthete and a general all round creative gal, I was pretty excited to attend this launch of Dulux’s latest paint colour palette. Being a launch event for a multi-national company, I was genuinely surprised at how creative and intimate this event was. Mebourne-based artisans, including perfumer Emma Leah of Fleurage, were each asked to design objects (in Emma’s case, room scents) influenced by one of the colour palettes. The results included wonderful furniture, ceramics, textile decorations and room scents, and there were very exciting gourmet canapes and cocktails that matched the colour concepts to a tee. You can read my full report of the launch here and see some photos too.
The Smell of Homemade Bread Baking
My partner-in-crime, Olly Technic, has become an avid bread baker this year. While I can only eat the odd slice or two (I have issues with certain grains, yeast, etc.), the smell of it is always a delight, during all the processes of making and baking. I wrote about it in a Smell of the Day post a few months ago:
“First, the measuring and mixing stage, during which the scent of dusty, grainy wheat flour predominates. The yeast and salt are dry until the water is added, and don’t really permeate the air as smells yet. Once the water is added and the yeast is left to do its microbial thing, the smells of salt and yeast fill the kitchen, fungal and wet, slightly funky, a bit cheesy. Through the various stages of rising and shaping the smell of yeast gets wetter and stronger. Finally, the baking of the bread, and a smell so good, so toasty, warm, a tad salty and reeking of nourishment, that I want to devour the whole loaf.”
Thanks Olly, for keeping the olfactory smellscape in our house so damn yummy!
Interviewing Angelo Orazio Pregoni of O’Driu
Early this year I interviewed Angelo Orazio Pregoni for Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series. His answers to my questions read like a Dada manifesto: if you understand the cultural and artistic references, you will get a real kick out of this interview. It is playful, intensely creative, cheeky and it mocks me, the interviewer. At first I was a little miffed, then I figured out what Angelo was up to, had a good laugh, and decided to go along for the adventure. My first interview with Angelo turned my idea of what perfume and perfumers could be on its head and I’ve been engaging with Angelo ever since, both as a fellow artist, and as a friend. As I got to know Angelo better, both he and I decided it would be good to do another interview, with a series of tailor-made questions that probed more deeply into his work and his creative processes. Art, Carnality and Consumerism: A Conversation With Angelo Orazio Pregoni is the result of this process: I urge anyone who has struggled to understand O’Driu to give it a read. Those who already love O’Driu and Angelo’s work will enjoy it too.
Discovering Aftelier Perfumes’ Chef’s Essences
Perfumer Mandy Aftel has been instrumental in introducing us to the notion of cooking with essential oils, isolates and absolutes. First, she co-authored a book called Aroma with chef Daniel Patterson, in which they both used certain essential oils to create recipes for both food and perfumed items. This led to the creation of the Chef’s Essences range of edible essences. Some of the flavours in the range are already used in cooking in other forms (like pepper, chocolate, saffron and coriander leaf), although many are not. All of them are intense and surprising. I felt like my world opened up when I discovered these essences. Already an avid home cook and a perfume nut, I embraced the idea of new flavours, especially those that were usually reserved for the realm of perfumery. Mandy kindly sent me some samples to try, and, after several months of cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, I produced a six-part review series on seven of her Chef’s Essences, including Sarsaparilla, Magnolia, Violet, Litsea Cubeba and Frankincense. I came up with some really yummy recipes and suggestions for using the essences. Go check it out.
The Smell of Canola
Olly and I are lucky enough to live in a little cottage surrounded by a vastly enormous farm, sweeping fields and rolling hills. We had sheep here for a while, but when a new farmer tenant moved in to work the land around our cottage last March, we ended up being surrounded instead by fields of vivid, yellow canola. For as far as the eye could see. And as far as the nose could smell. Though surprisingly not overpowering (given how many flowers there were), I got to know the smell of canola flowers for the first time. This is what I wrote in one of my Smell of the Day posts when the canola was in full bloom:
“The scent of canola shares similarities with other yellow flowers: I think of the bright, rich scent of yellow daffodils when I inhale. There is a faintly urinous note and something deeper, more animalic and fleshy almost. Overall however, canola is a sweet, bright and semi-powdery smell, slightly reminiscent of wattle, but much more gutsy. It’s narcotic, syrupy, rounded, rich and sharp all at once. As far as I’m aware, canola is not used in perfumery, which is a shame. This magical ingredient would work beautifully in a vintage-style floral-oriental fragrance.”
If you ever see a field of canola, do stop and have a sniff!
Discovering Lots of Fantastic Indie Perfumes
Over the course of this year, and through connecting with many indie perfumers, I’ve had the chance to try lots of wonderful indie perfumes, both new releases, and ones that have been around a bit longer. Some of my favourite discoveries for the year include:
- Evocative Perfumes’ Nirvana (see above), a very realistic oud fragrance oil, without a drop of real oud in it.
- O’Driu’s Peety, a warm, rich, animalic amber. It smells gorgeous. Perfumer Angelo Orazio Pregoni says of Peety: “Peety is a fetish: the fetish is considered by anthropologists as a key element of the most primitive human religiosity. Without valuing the magic that a human instills in an object, that object will never be a fetish. This is the only magic value intrinsically unique to humans and not God. Peety is not the defeat of a taboo, is the affirmation of the individual in a world where identity is no longer important.”
- En Voyage’s Frida, a uniquely different fragrance that all perfume aficionados should try. It captures the feisty spirit of artist Frida Kahlo beautifully and is heady, fresh, dry and cooling all at once. A realistic garden scent with loads of character, interest and complexity.
- Aftelier Perfumes’ Bergamoss solid perfume and EDP: a zesty mossy citrussy chypre that reminds me of chinotto and is enlivening, chic, neo-vintage in style and sophisticated.
- Aftelier Perfumes’ Cepes and Tuberose: a truly cross-sensory experience. This mushroom-floral fragrance is a revelation. Do I eat it, or do I inhale it?
- 4160 Tuesdays’ Sunshine and Pancakes. The name doesn’t do this beautiful, rich fragrance justice. Gorgeously rustic Australian sandalwood, citrus, vanilla and rosewood combine to create a magical fragrance full of character that I just couldn’t stop sniffing. This one’s really unique.
- Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s Giverny in Bloom Collection: for bringing the experience of being in Monet’s Garden to me. I tried to visit Giverny when I was in Europe in 1999, and failed. Dawn’s amazingly realistic garden collection brings these famous gardens to my nose at long last. Thank you Dawn! My favourite from the set is l’Opera des Rouges et des Roses, a pulsatingly rich rose, peony and carnation fragrance.
This concludes Perfume Polytechnic’s top olfactory experiences rundown for 2015. I hope that this list leads you on a journey of discovery and helps you find some new olfactory treasures along the way! Thank you to everyone who has read this blog in 2015, and helped me develop Perfume Polytechnic in what has been a very exciting, educational and rewarding year. I look forward to bringing you many new topics of olfactory enquiry next year. And so I say farewell to 2015, and wish you all a very Happy New Year. See you in 2016!