Scent Mapping: Diagrams and Aroma Wheels

Scent mapping tries to make sense of the smells in the world around us by mapping them in a variety of ways. This can take the form of various diagrams, tables, and aroma wheels. Usually such diagrams contain categories that classify and group individual smells, but they can also tell us other things, such as how we relate smells to gender, and also how similar or dissimilar certain smells are to one another. They can also tell us something about how we react – both physically and psychologically – to certain smells. There are a number of famous scent maps, including Paul Jellinek’s odour effects diagram, and Michael Edwards’ fragrance wheel from his Fragrances of World book. In this post I’ll be introducing you to some of these wheels and diagrams, which are fascinating to look at in their own right. In a future post, I will be discussing some of the findings of a study by Manuel Zarzo and David Stanton, in which they compared various odour databases, scent maps and wheels and drew some interesting conclusions about our perceptions of scent. Paul Jellinek’s odour effects diagram (a later version here has been modified by his son Joseph Stephan Jellinek and Robert Calkin) originally dates from 1951. Jellinek’s map proposes various categories or types of smell, and also the various effects that such smells have on us, e.g. stimulating, erogenous, calming or fresh.

Jellinek’s Odour Effects Diagram

Michael Edwards’ fragrance wheel, from his Fragrances of the World book, comprises a number of fragrance categories, showing the relationship between one category and the next. In Fragrances of the World, which is released every year, Edwards groups thousands of commercially available fragrances into these categories. The book is intended for industry use so that sales assistants can recommend new fragrances to customers, based on similarities with a customer’s favourite perfumes.

The-Fragrance-Wheel

Michael Edwards’ Fragrance Wheel. c. Michael Edwards

Mandy Aftel’s Aftelier Natural Perfume Wheel consists of categories of scent families, sub-categories within these (like Jellinek’s diagram, labelled with subjective descriptors such as fresh and heavy), and individual notes/ingredients within the sub-categories. The Drom Fragrance Circle is similar to Aftel’s, complete with subjective descriptors, and aligning some scent categories with gender.

Drom-Fragrance-Wheel-BIG

Drom Fragrance Wheel

The aromachemically-literate among us might be interested in Givaudan’s very beautiful scent ingredients map, which reminds me of a stylised subway diagram.

Givaudan-Ingredients-Map-small

Givaudan’s Scent Ingredients Map

There is a well-known connection and cross-sensory interrelationship between the senses of smell and taste, so the following wheels are provided for your interest and comparison with the fragrance-specific diagrams provided above. It’s interesting to me how much overlap there is. First up is Ann Noble’s Wine Aroma Wheel, originally devised in the 1980s.

wine_aroma_wheel_in_wine_wit

Ann Noble’s Wine Aroma Wheel

Below is the Beer Flavour Wheel invented in the 1970s by Dr Morten Meilgaard. wheel

And finally, Niki Segnit’s flavour wheel from her brilliant book The Flavour Thesaurus.

flavour-thesaurus1

Flavour Wheel from Niki Segnit’s “The Flavour Thesaurus”

What do you think of scent mapping? Do you have a favourite map, diagram or scent wheel that I haven’t included here? Does scent mapping help you to understand smell, fragrance ingredients and fragrance better? I’d love to hear what you think – let me know in the comments below! Until next time, Polly Technic

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O’Driù Blind Sniff Challenge

blindfolded

Recently, a fellow perfume enthusiast loaned me a compendium of samples by independent Italian perfume house O’Driù. O’Driù is a rather controversial perfume house: in 2013 they released the divisive Peety – a fragrance that is supposed to be “completed” or supplemented, or “personalised” even, by adding 1ml of the owner’s urine.

Manneken Pis - Bruxelles - Belgique

Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Myrabella

O’Driù describes itself thus (all text quoted from the O’Driù website):

O’DRIÙ is a project by PLEASURE FACTORY, the Italian specialty communications company part of CnC GROUP (www.cnc-group.it) devoted to well being and leisure market.

With O’DRIÙ, the PLEASURE FACTORY aim is to create a new brand in niche perfumery directed to demanding customers, that yearn for really exclusive products.

So, the O’DRIÙ philosophy is simple: high quality, original products, made to create intense emotions, produced in limited series to be rare and identify their customers.

Starting from ancient recipes, Angelo Orazio Pregoni – the perfume creator – designed intensely emotional fragrances that are truly alive and that create a unique, continuously changing, personal aura.

While I didn’t have Peety in my slightly older sample set, I did have access to seven fragrances that contained some very unusual, conceptual fragrance notes. These notes were things like “bitter battle”, “the nightmare that reveals the pleasure” and “the hug of a woman”. As a practising composer and someone with a long involvement and education in the arts, these kinds of concepts excite me. Clearly these more experimental notes are supposed to express a feeling, an event, or some other thing, rather than strictly representing an ingredient that is in the fragrance. As well as these more conceptual ingredients, the perfumes also contain the kinds of notes we are normally accustomed to finding in perfumery: flowers, woods, spices, incense and so on.

Battle_of_Ridgeway

The Battle of Ridgeway. 1869 illustration from Library and Archives Canada. Public Domain.

Process

Anyway, as a fun idea, I decided to subject myself, and my perfume-illiterate partner (his words), Olly Technic, to a blind sniff challenge, with the aim of seeing if we could actually detect these very interesting, conceptual notes, or the emotion or thing that they were supposed to arouse or refer to. As these conceptual notes are something that neither a perfumista, nor a perfume-illiterate person would know or be able to necessarily recognise (to my knowledge they don’t actually exist, nor have they been “expressed” or used in any other fragrance so far), I thought Olly’s opinion would be just as valid as mine. As it turned out, Olly not only had some fascinating smell-based observations, but he also made space-or-place analogies from each fragrance. That is, he wrote down the sense of place or space (or bodily sensation) that each fragrance evoked in him. I found this fascinating, and an interesting way to talk about fragrance, and I hope you do too.

We sniffed each sample, on skin, one by one, and wrote notes about our impressions of what we were sniffing. We had no access to the actual fragrance notes (conceptual or conservative), which were listed separately on cards. All we knew was the name of the fragrance as listed on the vial. We allowed ourselves no more than 2 minutes to write down our first impressions.

Once we’d done this we had a look at the corresponding notes for the fragrance, as listed on the card, and shared our impressions with each other. It was a fun experiment and we had very different impressions at times. Our idea of what we were smelling was often very different to the actual notes in the fragrance too. Here is a transcript of our O’Driù blind sniff challenge:

Sample 1 – Ladamo

Polly says: “Woah! Strong, so strong. Potent! Patchouli? I smell birch tar and cough syrup. It’s sweet, in a cough syrup kind of way (bitter too!). Masculine. Wood varnish.”

Olly says: “Hot celery, spicy Christmas pudding wafted over as you applied the sample, roses. It starts to smell like maple syrup a little later. This one has a homey feel.”

Actual notes

top: earth, roots, wind, magnolia, ginger
middle: liquorice, sandalwood, tobacco, the hug of a woman
base: mimosa, juniper, lichens, a bath in the water

Verdict

Did we smell any of this? Not terribly much. The “earth” note was probably the patchouli, as patchouli has a tendency to smell like dark, dug earth. The ginger may have triggered Olly’s “Christmas pudding” reaction, and maybe the liquorice reminded me of cough syrup. Sadly, neither of us detected “the hug of a woman” or “a bath in the water”. Oh well.

Sample 2 – Leva

Polly says: “Reeling back, my head recoils, but not in disgust. It’s cool, warm, leathery, there’s menthol, camphor, something repellant and bodily and metallic. Blood? Hyper-natural blood orange!”

Olly says: “I smell antiseptic, cool mint, sarsaparilla, lemon with funk. This one feels spacious but busy, like Flinders Street Railway Station.”

Actual notes

top: grapefruit, jasmine, black pepper, under the sun
middle: curcuma, vanilla, jatamansi, the nightmare that reveals the pleasure
base: lemongrass, benzoin, broad bean, a smell in the wood

Verdict

After one hour, this one has settled a lot. It’s sweeter and more balanced; fruity, woody, bitter, yet still quite strange. Olly and I both picked up on citrus notes, and something cool (menthol/mint/camphor), which doesn’t really match anything in the notes. The bloody smell that I thought I detected at first sniff may well be intended to represent the surreal note “the nightmare that reveals the pleasure”.

Sample 3 – Vis et Honor

Polly says: “Mould and fish and female private parts, woods, and floor polish and incense. It’s warm and cool and fishy and off. It smells a bit like Annick Goutal’s Encens Flamboyant but is much more flamboyant and animalic! It reminds me of an old carpet that’s been pissed on by animals years ago and has never been cleaned.”

Olly says: “Warm, mouldy, pine, rubber. Incense. It feels like being in a phone booth – one of those old style, fully enclosed ones. Fairly snug.”

Actual notes

top: bitter battle, smoked notes, chlorophyll, chamomile, fox fur
middle: olive, mimosa, myrtle, juniper, galbanum
base: laurel, cardamom, bitter almond, wormwood, incense, lichens

Verdict

The incense is very strong, and both Olly and myself detected it; thankfully there is incense in the base notes, so we are not going crazy, just yet. Now that I know wormwood is in it, I can smell it, and the smoky notes, but I couldn’t pick them out with a blind sniffing. Otherwise, sadly, I’m not sure this one fits the concept or that many of the notes are detectable. It is a wearable fragrance though, once the fishy, animalic and mouldy notes have worn off, which takes less than an hour, it’s actually quite pleasant: dry, resinous and incensy.

Sample 4 – Xvert

Polly says: “More recoil!  Female private parts again! Intensely fishy, and not in a good way. Salty. I detect a cool note again and something woody. I don’t like this one. This is very challenging! I smell a syrupy blood orange note.”

Olly says: “A fishy something-or-other is hidden in a spice shop, with a dash of maple syrup. It reminds me of hot concrete in summer.”

Actual notes

top notes: magnolia, dill, echo of dead leaves
Middle notes: tarragon, cardamom, any drug
base notes: hay, sandalwood, the degree of suffering with which a woman punishes who she loves

Verdict

Neither of us thinks that this matches the notes listed. Where is the fishy, salty note we are both smelling so strongly? Sadly, neither of us can detect “the degree of suffering with which a woman punishes who she loves”, though we both want to know what that would smell like. What a fun concept!

Sample 5 – Allegradonna

Polly says: “I smell smoke and burnt logs. Smoky tea – Lapsang Souchong! Do I detect a note of birch tar or leather? I’m picking up on that blood-orangey, cough-syrupy sweetness again, that note I’ve already detected in a couple of other samples, but here it’s more in the background. I also smell patchouli – deep dark chocolate and dug earth. Is there clove, or perhaps cinnamon too? This one is relatively pleasant. It’s strong, but all of the samples are: intensely strong and characterful. There is nothing subtle about any of these fragrances.”

Olly says: “Smoky orange. Nowhere.”

Actual notes

top: the last dream memories, jasmine, the sheets, the marketplace
middle: basil quiet, a cup of tea with a cinnamon biscuit, galbanum
base: mimosa, annual wormwood, the listening, the seduction

Verdict

This is the most wearable of the samples that we tried. The cinnamon biscuit note was quite apparent to me. Sadly, we cannot smell the conceptual notes of “the last dream memories”, or “the seduction”. We wish we could! This fragrance is gorgeously rich, sweet and spicy! It reminds me of Eau Lente by Diptyque.

Sample 6 – Linfedele Haiku (Melodia)

Polly says: “Do I smell citrus? There is something cool and camphoraceous here too. Urgh! It’s hitting me! Instant recoil… again! This is so strong and weird, like some kind of liniment or deep heat rub, but not pleasant. A herbal, medicinal smell. I can imagine a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor using something that smells like this.”

Olly says: “Incense in lemonade with a dash of salt. This one feels like a too-small sleeping bag.”

Actual notes

These are not listed in the categories top/middle/base notes. Instead, the back of this card has an extract from a music score on it and the notes are super-imposed randomly onto the image of the score.

The notes are: castoreum, incense, tonka, geranium, black pepper, carnation, pompecolo, pine, vanilla, patchouli, coffee, yerba mate, barley, sounds.

Verdict

Ah! The geranium is so obvious now that I know it’s in there – it’s that cool, camphoraceous smell that I know so well! Why could I not detect it?! The incense is also quite apparent to us both. Neither of us thinks this fragrance “smells” melodious or musical, which is a shame. This one is quite approachable and wearable after about 5 minutes on the skin.

Sample 7 – Jasmine Mean Time

Polly says: “This is jasmine at its best: gorgeously real and indolic, with a slight amount of rotting flesh in the deep dark background. It reminds me of a late spring evening, when the jasmine is in full bloom. There is also something a little cool and minty-fresh hovering behind the jasmine’s indolic overdose. Camphor? There’s not much else going on here. This fragrance is very rich and strong, as are all of the samples.”

Olly says: “Jasmine, but lemony-sharp. A hundred metre race track.”

Actual notes

top: Marrakesh, London, Brindisi
middle: Suez, Calcutta, Hong Kong
base: San Francisco, New York, Liverpool

Verdict

This concept is a complete mystery! The notes are represented by city names only.  Is this supposed to represent the smell of jasmine from all of these places? You know what? I don’t care; this is a gorgeous jasmine fragrance!

Conclusions

Olly and I had a lot of fun blind-sniffing the O’Driù samples. Some of them matched up a bit to their actual or conceptual fragrance notes, as listed, but more often than not, didn’t bear much relation to the notes or concepts. We had fun trying to name and describe what we were smelling anyway, and Olly had fun trying to think up a space-or-place analogy for each fragrance. To be honest, I think his observations are better than mine! O’Driù is a bold, experimental, daring fragrance house. I admire their courage to include conceptual, imaginary ingredients such as “any drug” or “the last dream memories” in their fragrances. It’s a difficult thing to do, to find analogies in art forms, in ways that are recognisable to the observer. I’m not sure it’s really succeeded here, but hats off to them for giving it a try.

O’Driù has a recognisable house style: it’s woody, generally masculine or unisex at least, with bitter and/or savoury notes. All the fragrances we tested are very strong. Many are quite odd, resulting in verbal and/or guttural reactions from us! We both found it hard to identify notes, unlike with traditional perfumes, as there are so many interesting and unusual ingredients and combinations in most of the fragrances. Olly and I both liked and loathed the samples. Several made me recoil: Ladamo, Leva, and Vis et Honor, though not necessarily in a bad way. Sometimes it was the strength of the ingredients, the sheer unusualness of them, or the way that they were combined. Others were softer and more wearable: both Jasmine Mean Time and Allegradonna definitely fell into the realm of wearable and lovely.

All in all, this was a really fun experiment. Have you tried any O’Driù fragrances? If so, what do you think of them? Have you ever blind-tested a fragrance and tried to guess what’s in it? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments section below.

Perfume Review: Tuberose Fragrances by Histoires de Parfums – Part Two – Tubereuse 3: Animale

Tube_Rose_Snuff,_Brown_&_Williamson_Tobacco_Company,_Winston-Salem,_North_Carolina

“Tube Rose Snuff, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company, Winston-Salem, North Carolina,” illustration published by the North Carolina State Fair Premium List 1920. Image courtesy of the Government and Heritage Library, State Library of North Carolina. http://www.flickr.com/photos/statelibrarync/6185312167/

Introduction to Histoires de Parfums Reviews

A few months ago, in my Facebook perfume appreciation group, some of us took part in a perfume review challenge. In this group task, we each chose a fragrance house that we wanted to become more familiar with, and wrote a review on a different scent from that house, every day for seven days. I chose to review seven fragrances by the French company Histoires de Parfums. Over the past few weeks I’ve shared a few of these reviews with you at Perfume Polytechnic. Today’s review of Tubereuse 3 is the final installment of this series.

If you’re interested in reading some of my earlier reviews, click through to the following links:

1740: Marquis de Sade

Olympia

Part One of this “paired” review, in which I reviewed Tubereuse 1: Capricieuse and shared my thoughts on tuberose as an ingredient, can be found here. If you’re interested in some background information about Histoires de Parfums,  it can be found in this post. In this two-part review I will be sharing my thoughts and impressions of two of the Tuberose Trilogy fragrances by Histoires de Parfums, Tubereuse 1 and Tubereuse 3. I won’t be reviewing Tubereuse 2: Virginale at this stage.

Part two – Tubereuse 3: Animale

Both Tubereuse 1 and Tubereuse 3 come from a series of three tuberose-centric perfumes created by Histoires de Parfums.

On its website, Histoires de Parfums (HdP) describes the tuberose flower as follows: “The mythical tuberose flower is a symbol of desire and dangerous pleasures. First discovered in Mexico thousands of years ago, tuberose is now cultivated worldwide, specifically in South India to be devoted to Gods, ceremonies and perfumes. A night-blooming plant that ends in a cluster of corolla flowers, tuberose only blooms once a year and requires meticulous care and cultivation. Tuberose’s fragrance is considered one of the most powerful floral scents and presents a noble challenge for any perfumer to bottle, yet has inspired many legendary fragrances. Tuberose emits a sweet and heady perfume, deeper after twilight when in full bloom. Its warm and velvety scent is sensual and spicy with a hint of sweetness and crystallized sugar. A powerful aphrodisiac, the green top notes gradually fold into a wild and bewitching deep bouquet of fragrance.” (text quoted from HdP’s website)

Tubereuse 3: Animale is a curious fragrance: it seems to straddle scent categories that are usually in opposition to one another. On the one hand, it’s like an 80s powerhouse fragrance: so rich, so intense, so strong, yet its intriguingly original blend of notes and high quality ingredients ensures it remains firmly in the niche camp. Gender-wise, it’s a true unisex fragrance, including sweeter fruity and floral notes (most often considered feminine) and stronger woody and herbaceous notes (usually considered masculine).

Tubereuse 3 is described by HdP thus:

“The mystical flower of the rituals and magic! The tuberose always provokes! More than a poison her nectar of honey is a real invitation to seduction! How not to feel bewitched when you face this mixture of blond Tobacco and Immortelle!” (text quoted from HdP’s website)

The listed notes are:

Top Notes: Tuberose, Neroli, Kumquat
Heart Notes: Tuberose, Aromatics, Prune
Base Notes: Tuberose, Blond Woods, Immortelle

I know this fragrance well, as I own a small travel-sized bottle, and I’ve worn it many times. Tubereuse 3 (T3), on first spray, is strong, one of the strongest and headiest fragrances I have experienced. At first, T3 emits a sweet yet savoury, boozy, rich aroma, and conjures up images of dark maple syrup (from the immortelle), shots of fine aged whisky, pipe tobacco and honey-soaked prunes.

The tobacco used in T3 hits you with a blast, and imparts a dry, masculine layer that balances out the sweet fruitiness of the other dominant notes (immortelle and prune). This tobacco note also reminds me of the old tins of cigarettes that my father once collected. As a child I used to enjoy opening the drawer in the enormously tall antique mahogany display cabinet in the dining room, pulling out one of the beautifully labelled flat tins, and opening it to reveal the dry, sweet, hay-like smell of the cigarettes. These cigarettes smelled nothing like those available in the modern packets and I revelled in these stolen sniffs, feeling like I was doing something slightly naughty, yet pleasurable.

The tuberose, as in Tubereuse 1: Capricieuse, plays a supporting role, but here, it is slightly stronger and more recognisable as tuberose. It’s still not indolic, but it imparts a strong sweetness and richness that matches the syrup of the immortelle and the warm intensity of the prune.

As for the remaining notes, I can’t detect them, so I must assume that either my skin doesn’t augment them, or they’re so well blended that they hide behind the dominant notes.

Longevity is excellent – T3 will last on clothes until you wash them, and for at least 4-6 hours on skin. Projection is enormous for the first couple of hours. You will easily fill a room in this fragrance. This, coupled with the longevity, means you don’t need to spray much of this fragrance for it to go a long way.

Tubereuse 3: Animale is a gorgeously rich, warm fragrance, marvellously comforting in cold weather, but also delicious in the summer, when its warm-dry-sweetness matches the heat of the sun.

As for the subtitle of this fragrance, “Animale”, I’m not sure that I would call T3 an animalic fragrance. Sure, it has the richness and depth that many true animalic fragrances often have, but there are no animal-derived or animal-redolent (whether natural or synthetically mimicked) ingredients here.

Tubereuse 1: Capricieuse and Tubereuse 3: Animale are now two of my favourite fragrances. HdP has used high quality ingredients and combined them in interesting compositions, exploring the note of tuberose in more subtle and unusual ways than many other perfume houses.

I’ve enjoyed discovering and reviewing these two fragrances from HdP’s Tuberose Trilogy. I’ve learnt that tuberose can play a variety of roles in a fragrance, and that it doesn’t always have to be a hot fuchsia mash-up of the indolic, overpowering, and tooth-achingly sweet.

Perfume Review: Tuberose Fragrances by Histoires de Parfums – Part One – Tubereuse 1: Capricieuse

Introduction to Histoires de Parfums Reviews

A few months ago, in my Facebook group For Love Not Money, some of us took part in a perfume review challenge. In this group task, we each chose a fragrance house that we wanted to become more familiar with, and wrote a review on a different scent from that house, every day for seven days. This was a great way to get through some of my samples, which seem to have multiplied faster than Mogwais in the movie Gremlins over the past 18 months, and to really explore both the fragrance house, and their scent compositions.

I chose to review seven fragrances by the French company Histoires de Parfums and I’ll be sharing some of these reviews with you here at Perfume Polytechnic.

A couple of weeks ago I shared my review of 1740:Marquis de Sade with you. You can read that review here. Last week, I wrote about Olympia and you can read that review by clicking on this link. If you’re interested in some background information about Histoires de Parfums,  it can be found in this post.

In this two-part review I will be sharing my thoughts and impressions of two of the Tuberose Trilogy fragrances by Histoires de Parfums, Tubereuse 1 and Tubereuse 3. I won’t be reviewing Tubereuse 2: Virginale at this stage.

PART ONE – TUBEREUSE 1: Capricieuse

Let me start off by saying I’m not sure that I like tuberose. It’s one of those overpowering notes that tends to dominate any fragrance it’s in. I find its indolic, sweet and heady nature too much, most of the time. I can admire its camphoraceous, sarsaparilla-like qualities as found in Serge Lutens’ Tubereuse Criminelle, and I respect Robert Piguet’s Fracas, which renders tuberose in intense, creamy tones. But to me, tuberose is like the colour fuchsia: I just don’t like it. Both fuchsia and tuberose scream “femininity” to me in a way that, as a woman, I don’t want to be represented.

It is with some surprise then that I have to confess I absolutely adore both Tubereuse 1 and Tubereuse 3. This may make me sound like a hypocrite, but, as I will reveal, the way in which this powerful note is used and combined in these two fragrances makes all the difference.

One day early last year I was on one of my perfume self-education sessions in Melbourne. These would go on for hours, several times a week in the early days of my fascination with perfume. On this particular outing I was reeling with excitement from sniffing Tubereuse Criminelle: I had finally learned to identify tuberose! The goal of some of these self-education sessions would be to learn, by elimination and deduction, what a particular note smelled like, then find as many perfumes as I could which contained that note (using Fragrantica and The Guide), and go and sniff them. This is how I discovered the Histoires de Parfums Tubereuse Series. I was fascinated by this trio of perfumes that utilised tuberose as top, middle and base notes. Surely they would all be too overpoweringly “tuberose-y” for me? But, to my delight, when I spritzed Tubereuse 3 (T3), I was pleasantly surprised. T3 is essentially a tobacco and immortelle dominant perfume, with the tuberose playing only a supporting role in this fragrance, adding a sweet, robust layer and strength to the fragrance. I will review T3 in more detail tomorrow.

After being totally smitten with T3, I ordered some samples from the Histoires de Parfums (HdP) line. One of these samples was Tubereuse 1: Capricieuse, which I promptly and utterly fell for.

Tubereuse 1 is described as follows:

“Miss Tuberose is a Super Diva! Stubborn, demanding, temperamental…Yes, she deserves it all! Natural yet sophisticated, she balances between modesty and pride! She delivers her powdered and adorned hypnotic iris and saffron.” (Quoted from the HdP website)

The notes for Tubereuse 1: Capricieuse, are as follows:

Top notes: Tuberose, Bergamot, Saffron.
Heart notes: Tuberose, Iris, Ylang-ylang.
Base notes: Tuberose, Suede, Cacao.

Does Tubereuse 1 (T1) match up to the description above? Not really. Do I mind? No! I adore this fragrance, just as it is. T1 is rich and restrained, warm and cool, flat and vibrant, and simply gorgeous. Six to seven sprays are enough to get me through a full six hours before this becomes a skin scent. It radiates enormously for at least the first two hours of wear. On fabric it will last until you wash your clothes.

On first blast I am almost overwhelmed by the yummiest, warmest almond, not listed in the notes; but my observation is supported by the ingredients list, where I notice farnesol is listed. Farnesol is the main constituent in mimosa (wattle) flowers, which have a similar almondy smell to them. The powdery, earthy note of saffron and the soft, fuzzy suede compliment and blend beautifully with the almond note, with the suede gradually dominating from around the 20 minute mark. The iris, flat, bitter and cool, adds another powdery facet to the composition, yet contrasts with the warmth of the other notes. Cacao seems present, again, in a warm, earthy, powdery form, but it’s not strong.

Predominantly, this is a duet between iris and suede, and a study in powdery notes: it is such a beautiful creation. Tubereuse 1: Capricieuse is a close relative to HdP’s 1889: Moulin Rouge, a similarly powdery fragrance that is heavy on the iris. Moulin Rouge is sweeter, more girlish, while Tubereuse 1 is more modern, original and striking.

But where is the tuberose? It is present, but is so well blended that it only adds a slight sweetness, a warm floral note that underpins the whole composition. During the opening of the fragrance, I occasionally catch the tiniest, most whispery glimpses of indole, as if from the very periphery of my vision, but these soon fade away. Apart from this, the tuberose could really be any sweet, warm floral smell; it isn’t really strongly identifiable to my nose as tuberose. There is no camphor, no screaming fuchsia, there is nothing cloying or overwhelming about it in this composition; it is my kind of tuberose: warm, soft and fuzzy. Dusty, rosy brown. Cosy.

Tubereuse 3: Animale review to come soon…

 

Perfume Review: Olympia by Histoires de Parfums

512px-Olympia_facade

Olympia Music Hall facade. By KoS, c. 2009, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:KoS

A few months ago, in my Facebook group For Love Not Money, some of us took part in a perfume review challenge. In this group task, we each chose a fragrance house that we wanted to become more familiar with, and wrote a review on a different scent from that house, every day for seven days. This was a great way to get through some of my samples, which seem to have multiplied faster than Mogwais in the movie Gremlins over the past 18 months, and to really explore both the fragrance house, and their scent compositions.

I chose to review seven fragrances by the French company Histoires de Parfums and I’ll be sharing some of these reviews with you here at Perfume Polytechnic.

A couple of weeks ago I shared my review of 1740:Marquis de Sade with you. You can read that review here. If you’re interested in some background information about Histoires de Parfums,  it can be found at the same link.

Day 2: Olympia, Music Hall

Olympia is one of Histoires de Parfums’ most recent perfume creations, dating from 2012. As with all Histoires de Parfums (HdP) creations, this fragrance has a back story, which conceptually underpins the composition of the fragrance.

The story of Olympia, a music hall in Paris, is as follows:

“We would like to tell you the story of a legendary Music Hall that was conceived and then patiently built over the years by Bruno Coquatrix.

The famous red neon façade in the heart of Paris has immortalized the names of the world’s greatest performers. On the inside, thick red curtains have embraced musical treasures on stage since 1954, welcoming the likes of artists such as Piaf, the Beatles, the Stones, David Bowie, and Lady Gaga. These performers have shaken the walls with their music and made magic of Parisian nights while the audience sits on the edge of velvet seats, their spirits glowing from the excitement of an unforgettable evening.

It all happens once the spotlights illuminate the stage. Time becomes suspended, breathing is shortened, eyes widened, muscles contracted as thousands of hearts beat to a similar rhythm… The opening chords strike like lightning, liberating the crowd, unleashing a passion and creating an atmosphere that is impossible to understand without having experienced it. Thousands of voices singing in unison for one magical moment.

That is the Olympia!” (Text quoted from Histoires de Parfums website.)

Sure sounds exciting, doesn’t it? As do the notes listed. Olympia boasts a large number of notes for an HdP fragrance. They are as follows:

Top notes: Orange, Bergamot, Lemon, Mandarin.
Heart notes: Pink Berries, Black Pepper, Saffron, Rose, Freesia, Lilac, Peony.
Base notes: Blond Wood, Patchouli, Frankincense, Styrax, Suede, Vanilla, Chocolate, Licorice, White Musk.

From the notes and the vibrant description of the great Olympia Music Hall above, I am expecting something exciting, uplifting, colourful, bold and interesting. A fragrance buzzing with energy, somehow iconic, ground breaking, larger than life.

I’m sorry to say that I am quite underwhelmed by Olympia. When I first smelt Olympia, a few nights ago, the impression I got was that this was similar to Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely, with a soft and subtle musk and patchouli accord, but overlaid with a tiny smear of grapefruit (was the combination of citrus notes playing a trick on my brain?). Last night, and all day today, I have given this fragrance the chance to really show me what it’s made of. Today I sprayed Olympia liberally, at least 10 times, on skin and under fabric, yet this liberal application didn’t offer me much more.

My overall impression of Olympia is that it is nothing more than a wan whisper, a pale watercolour in pastel tones with a strangely muddy grey wash beneath the pastels, providing some contrast to them, and thankfully adding a small amount of interest to the whole composition.

What do I smell when I spray Olympia? The top notes, a citrus quartet of orange, bergamot, lemon and mandarin, present themselves fleetingly and quietly. They are soon replaced by a soft, slightly acidic floral combination of mostly lilac, with hints of freesia and rose. Freesia is a flower I adore, but in this fragrance it is so hidden that its loveliness doesn’t have a chance to shine. Saffron seems to poke its head in somewhere round the ten minute mark, lending a powdery flatness to the composition, more like the yellow, dusty smell of powdered turmeric (pretend saffron) than the real deal. The standout note is, I can only assume, some form of “suede”. I say this as it doesn’t conform to my olfactory knowledge of what suede actually smells like (in real life or in perfumery) at all. Rather, it smells like a cross between car engine oil, rubber, and stale cigarette smoke. It is somewhat reminiscent of the rubber note in Bvlgari Black. This note is, without a doubt, the saving grace of Olympia, and the only aspect of this fragrance that I find interesting. Sadly, this intriguing note is overlaid with an underwhelming blend of soft, chintzy florals (lilac, freesia, rose), which threatens to undermine it.

When I smell this fragrance I think of layers: thin, light, translucent layers. Fabrics like chiffon or organza, in soft pastels without much saturation of colour; pale layers floating above each other in a very gentle breeze. Translucent sheets of tracing paper, beautiful and delicate, but lacking in definite character, masking something underneath it; paper that you can create a copy of something else with, but which isn’t the real thing.

Where is the red velvet of the Olympia Music Hall? Where is the neon?

Olympia is a flat fragrance. It doesn’t have a great deal of development beyond the opening twenty minutes, and the sillage is poor to moderate at best. For such a light fragrance, the longevity is oddly tenacious. I’ve worn it for six hours now, and while it became a skin scent a few hours ago, it promises to linger for a few hours more.

Overall, Olympia is, to my nose, a fragrance that doesn’t live up to its potential. The fragrance, to me, doesn’t accurately represent the creative concept behind it: there is no electricity to it, no excitement, no emotional and physical rush, as promised. As for the lengthy list of exciting notes, I could hardly detect any other than those I’ve mentioned already in this review. I would have loved to smell the chocolate and the smoky incense, to have had more zesty citrus, a gutsier rose, and an earthy patchouli. Amplifying these notes may well have helped turn this faded wash of a watercolour into a strong, bright oil painting, more befitting the spirit of Histoires de Parfums and the Olympia Music Hall.

Perfume Review: 1740 Marquis de Sade by Histoires de Parfums

Depiction of the Marquis de Sade by H. Biberstein in L’Œuvre du marquis de Sade, Guillaume Apollinaire (Edit.), Bibliothèque des Curieux, Paris, 1912.

A few months ago, in my Facebook group For Love Not Money, some of us took part in a perfume review challenge. In this group task, we each chose a fragrance house that we wanted to become more familiar with, and wrote a review on a different scent from that house, every day for seven days. This was a great way to get through some of my samples, which seem to have multiplied faster than Mogwais in the movie Gremlins over the past 18 months, and to really explore both the fragrance house, and their scent compositions.

I chose to review seven fragrances by the French company Histoires de Parfums and I’ll be sharing some of these reviews with you here at Perfume Polytechnic.

Day 1: 1740 Marquis de Sade

Histoires de Parfums: Some Background

Histoires de Parfums describes its fragrances as “an olfactive library that is telling stories about famous characters, raw materials and mythical years. The collection created by Gérald Ghislain is governed by no rules other than inspiration. With his luxuriant imagination, this loquacious individual has chosen to bring his stories to life in perfumes, a sensitive and sensual medium. Histoires de Parfums releases its fragrances in a deluxe edition to be read on skin.” (Text quoted from Histoires de Parfums website.)

Ghislain is both a chef and an ISIPCA (Institut Supérieur International du Parfum, de la Cosmétique et de l’Aromatique Alimentaire) trained perfumer, and while he is clearly presented as the face of Histoires de Parfums (HdP), it remains unclear to me as to whether or not he is the perfumer behind HdP’s creations. Luca Turin, in The Guide, credits Sylvie Jourdet, Professor of Olfaction and Perfumery Accords at ISIPCA in Versailles, as the chief composer of most of HdP’s scents. In one online interview, Ghislain talks of a “small laboratory team” behind his creations. So, it might be that the conceptual ideas for HdP’s fragrances are generated by Ghislain, but translated into fragrance form by others.

Today’s reviewed perfume, 1740 Marquis de Sade, is from the first collection, or “volume” of fragrances released by HdP in 2000 (there have been several other collections added to the HdP fragrance “library” since then). As stated on the HdP website, this first collection was “inspired by famous people who influenced their generation. The name given to the perfume is that of their date of birth.” In this instance, 1740 refers to the birth year of the infamous Marquis de Sade. The HdP description for this perfume describes de Sade thus: “For this man, whose licentious morals had him imprisoned many times, luxury rhymes with literature.” It is from de Sade’s name that the words “sadist” and “sadism” were derived.

De Sade was a French aristocrat and writer of saucy tomes with a violent and/or blasphemous bent. He was a radical and a revolutionary who did not want his actions to be constrained by law, religion or morality; for his behaviour and for his lascivious writings, he spent more than 30 years in prison.

1740: The Fragrance

The following notes are listed on the HdP brochure that came with my samples:

Top notes: bergamot and davana sensualis.
Heart notes: patchouli, coriander and cardamom.
Base notes: cedar, elemi, leather and labdanum.

Last night I sprayed this on the palm of my hand, cupping it and bringing it to my nose, which created an intense little olfactory cocoon, perfect for a first, yet thorough examination. Today, I sprayed it ten times, on pulse points, the hollow of my neck, below my ear lobes and on my throat, and “wore” the fragrance, without reapplying throughout the day, which is my usual habit.

My first impressions of the opening of this glorious fragrance were that it was dark, rich, and intensely earthy: “masculine” in the extreme, and a very bold fragrance. I first visualised a heavy, black leather jacket, not the buttery kind, but the sort you would find in a vintage clothing store, stiff, sturdy and well-worn, like those from the late 1960s. Next, an entire scene came to mind: a drawing-room in an exclusive club, filled with Victorian gentlemen in smoking jackets, puffing on pipes. Men lounge on leather Chesterfields, cedar shelves line the walls, filled with thick volumes bound in embossed leather. Smoke tendrils fill the air, and civilised banter punctuates quiet contemplation. Is this image lascivious? No. Does it represent one aspect of de Sade’s character as an aristocrat (though not of the Victorian era)? Perhaps.

The leather used in 1740 is tinged with the sharp, repellent note of birch tar; which succeeds in somewhat matching, yet somewhat masking, the deep, slightly bitter note of labdanum deep beneath it. There is in intense blast of patchouli too, that extremely earthy type, which smells like cocoa powder and black potting mix combined, the kind used in Serge Lutens’ Borneo 1834. 1740 is a fragrance in which the base notes dominate and define. As for the other notes, I can smell most of them, but they are less integral to the fragrance’s character. I also detect something zingy, a zesty layer hovering somewhere midway above the earthy, grubby base notes. Is it cardamom? Like the labdanum, this note is well blended, perceivable, but not in its entirety. I also smell something very subtly sweet, just around the periphery of the composition. Is this vanilla? Or a sweet green halo of coriander leaf? The absinthe note (aka davana sensualis) makes a brief appearance, but the aniseed-y note blends so well with the other dark, luscious ingredients that it is only perceivable if you know it’s there.

The development of this fragrance seems to take place in two acts: the first, an overwhelmingly rich and exciting, dark brown blast of many co-ordinating notes, as described above, with radiance of at least an arm’s length and promising incredible tenacity. But the intensity fades, as does the complexity, from about an hour in, heralding the start of a very long act two, in which one of the starring ingredients of 1740, immortelle, gradually emerges and takes centre stage. After about two hours, the dry, hay-like note of immortelle becomes clearly obvious. At this stage, the composition is about a 50/50 blend, to my nose, of immortelle and birch tar. Six hours on, as I write this review, 1740 is a skin scent only, with no discernible wafts permeating the space around me.

1740 gets a five-star rating in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. It is a rich, sumptuous fragrance of significant depth and is composed of fine quality raw materials. It is redolent of gentlemen’s clubs and parlours with its dominant, deep and earthy, “masculine” notes, but whether or not it captures the more rebellious, transgressive side of de Sade’s character, I’m not so sure.

Have you smelt 1740 Marquis de Sade? If so, I’d love to know what you think; leave your thoughts on this fragrance in the comments below!