Perfumes Inspired by Intelligent Women - The Beautiful Mind Series

Perfumes Inspired by Intelligent Women - The Beautiful Mind Series

Mayfair’s Jovoy boutique is clearly the place to be if you want to catch a fun fragrance event - not least The Perfume Society’s recent get-together with world-famous ‘nose’ Geza Schoen, together with his muse, ‘memory grandmaster’ Christiane Stenger.  Geza (pronounced ‘gey-zer’, not ‘geezer’ as I found out the hard way), is best known for creating the modern classic Molecule 01, Liberty and Cult Beauty’s best-selling perfume. It’s based around a single synthetic molecule called Iso E Super, which mingles with the wearer’s natural scent to create more of an ‘effect’ than a smell, to the alleged bewitchment and delight of passers-by. Hence Molecule 01 and the wider Escentric Molecules collection has since amassed a cult following, but his lesser-known series (currently a duo) The Beautiful Mind is also worth sniffing out – which is precisely what Geza was there to talk to us about.

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Is this the ‘Netflix’ of perfume shopping?

Is this the ‘Netflix’ of perfume shopping?

Given the huge popularity of algorithm-driven subscription services like Netflix and Spotify, can this model effectively be applied to selecting scent? One Swedish company seem to think so. Sniph are a quirky new subscription service, which serves you up a medley of miniature perfumes Netflix-style according to your personal preferences.

And when you start to think about it, it makes sense. Splashing out on a niche scent can normally feel like Russian roulette - it might have smelled nice in the shop but becomes too heavy or cloying a few hours on the skin. Plus for many, the thought of going to a crowded department store, bombarded by marketing materials and eager sales assistants might not be the best way to find your perfect perfume.

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Parle Moi de Parfum (and my Sophie Dahl obsession...)

Parle Moi de Parfum (and my Sophie Dahl obsession...)

Parle Moi de Parfum are a new luxury French perfumery I really rate – founded by Benjamin Almairac, and his father: the renowned perfumer Michel Almairac who is the man responsible for mainstream classics like Dior Fahrenheit, Gucci Rush, Chloé’s signature scent that every other woman I know is obsessed with. So it’s fair to say he knows his proverbial oignons when it comes to knocking up an olfactory hit.

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Juliette Has A Gun, Moscow Mule

Juliette Has A Gun, Moscow Mule

Juliette Has A Gun was a perfume line I feel in love with after reading Sophie Dahl’s description of one of their scents in her column for Vogue about ten years ago. She talked about ‘Lady Vengeance’ as being akin to (paraphrasing here) smelling like a cashmere cardigan after the naughtiest girl in school had borrowed it for the day.

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Floraïku, Harrods

Floraïku, Harrods

During a grey, overcast morning (to match my state of mind), I’m trying one of Floraïku’s scents called First Dream of the Year. It’s a cheery concoction of grapefruit and orange blossom oils, as well as iris concrete absolute as the Floraiku assistant explains,  “In Japanese it’s said the first dream of the year is the most important dream, as it indicates how the rest of your year will go. If you dream of egg plants, or the phoenix bird, or Mount Fugi it means you will have a very lucky year ahead of you.”

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Jovoy, Mayfair

Jovoy, Mayfair

Jovoy is aptly named as stepping into this place is pure joy - no exaggeration. With its chic red and black interiors, it's home to a whole host of gorgeous niche brands from far flung corners of the globe. As well as their own perfume line, you can sniff out high end brands like Aedes de Venustas, Beaufort London, Eight & Bob and Grossmith London, as well as Nejma, Evody and The House of Oud. Together with the perfumes themselves, there are also a number of curiousities for scent lovers to discover - not least several bling-tastic perfume bottles, some of which go for a cool £6000  - you can also head downstairs to admire ambergris displayed in its raw form behind a glass cabinet (ambergris is whale phlegm basically, and the most expensive ingredient in perfumery).

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An Evening of Patchouli with The Perfume Society

An Evening of Patchouli with The Perfume Society

Patchouli has been given a bad rep over the years – dismissed as a hippie scent, you’re likely to find some form of oil being flogged from every other stall in Camden Market. Indeed, so strong are the connotations, one whiff makes you want to start singing “My Sweet Lord”, tambourine in one hand, spliff in the other.

But in fact, there’s so much more to this humble herb than covering up the smell of hash. It’s present in so many scents, whether nestled among oakmoss and labdanum to form the enveloping base of many chypre fragrances, or having a starring role in many modern classics (Tom Ford’s White Patchouli and La Labo’s stunning Patchouli to name but a few).  You’ll know patchouli if you smell some – there’s nothing else quite like it, and the potency is second to none, giving it somewhat of a polarising, “Marmite” quality. We were very lucky to be invited by The Perfume Society to an evening they’d dedicated to exploring the history and use of patchouli – aptly titled “Patchoulimania” – to find out more.

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Floris, A Rose For...

Floris, A Rose For...

Floris is one of those historic brands that had been on my radar for a while, but I’d hitherto overlooked in favour of more ‘edgy’ perfumeries, to my detriment. With the rise of niche fragrances, English heritage brands are coming out of the shadows and getting the attention they’re rightfully owed. Floris is one such line – having been in business since 1730 with the original 89 Jermyn Street store still standing today.

Many of their new creations are future classics, I really love their Fragrance Journals series paying scented homage to different time periods in London – the recent 1927 is a zesty aldehydic floral delightful time-travel back to the Roaring 20s, Evelyn Waugh, Diana Mitford and the like.

But their latest offering: A Rose For… really is something else.

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Prosody London

Prosody London

Whilst I applaud ‘naturals’ in skincare and cosmetics (provided they are 100% or near enough and the company haven't just thrown in a few natural ingredients just to jump on the bandwagon), when it comes to perfumery I’ve always been on the fence. Discussing it with a perfumer a few years ago, he likened the issue to buying a t-shirt that’s primarily natural cotton but has a small percentage of polyester, to allow it to ‘bounce back’ after washing and help it retain its shape. Similarly with perfumery, while naturals are the stars of the show, you still need synthetics as the “special effects”, to add structure and 'seasoning' to the other notes. For example, Chanel No 5 wouldn’t be what it was without a good glug of sparkling aldehydes, a synthetic ingredient without which this concoction would just be another perfectly pleasant floral scent but nothing special (although saying that, Madame Chanel would have probably got people buying it anyway but that’s another story). Hence why up until now, I always thought fragrances were by and large a little dull without a few synthetics in the mix. That was until I stumbled across new British perfumery Prosody, who launched in Fortnum & Mason last week.

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The Burlington Arcade, Mayfair

The Burlington Arcade, Mayfair

Decorated with hearts and lights there are no better places to shop for perfume than The Burlington Arcade – its history and old-school charm make it beloved with Mayfair’s well-heeled locals, eccentric dowagers, Middle Eastern ex-pats and tourists alike. Formerly only famous for its jewellery shops and tailors, it’s recently become London's go-to olfactory sweet spot, with more and more luxury perfumeries moving in with each year. Among them is perfume maverick Frederic Malle, who commissions some of the world's finest noses to concoct some seriously memorable scents (with few creative or budgetary restrictions). While Penhaligon’s are a heritage London brand whose apothecary-style bottles are filled with equally offbeat and dazzling fragrances. Atkinson's are another classic perfumery who have recently undergone a revival, whose dapper scents used to be popular with 18th Century man-about-town Beau Brummel. And for no-holds-barred glamour, it has to be Roja Parfums, whose diamante-topped bottles are just as dazzling as their contents. 

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Bulgari Parfums Le Gemme Reali

Bulgari Parfums Le Gemme Reali

As  Ms. Monroe famously sang, "diamonds are a girl’s best friend" – but if you can’t afford said sparklers, perfume is your next best option (in my humble opinion). Especially when it comes to the latest dazzling offerings from Bulgari which are as mood-lifting as any pretty gem.

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London Literary Salons with Alice-Azania Jarvis

London Literary Salons with Alice-Azania Jarvis

While scents remain an all-consuming obsession, I haven’t focused on ‘The City’ part of this website for some time – which is a shame as there are so many wonderful things currently happening in the capital – especially when it comes to books and literature (I’ve yet to meet a perfume-lover who isn’t also a bookworm).

Case in point is the literary salons run and hosted by journalist Alice-Azania Jarvis, which at the moment take place at The Ned. A relatively new hotel and members club, described by CN Traveller as “a bank reupholstered as a bordello”, it doesn’t seem the obvious choice for bookish gatherings. But there’s something about these slightly surreal, larger-than-life - and incredibly glamorous - surroundings that lends itself rather well to storytelling (I imagine the likes of Dorothy Parker and Nancy Mitford would have felt right at home here). Previous salons have taken place in the old bank vaults below ground (which feel like you’ve wandered onto the set of Ocean’s 11), as well as the roof conservatory, which affords glorious views of the cityscape. In short, there are worse places to find yourself on a slow Sunday morning. It's here (for the present) where Alice speaks to different new female authors each month, not just about their books, but also their journey into getting published and any advice they have for others hoping to do the same.

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Talking Scents and Stones with Paolo Lai

 Talking Scents and Stones with Paolo Lai

More and more in this digital world where we're glued to screens, we're searching out ways of feeling more grounded, energised and attuned with how our bodies and minds are feeling. I've written before about how scent can be instrumental in helping to drown out digital 'noise', but there's also something magical and alchemic in combining essential oils with healing crystals. Case in point is facial reflexologist Paolo Lai's Moon Mist, which he mixes up himself and hands out to clients post-treatment (but hopefully he'll make them available to buy on his website - hint hint!). Misting a halo of this clever concoction of essential oils (like uplifting neroli) in crystal-charged waters is just the thing before a big meeting or just before bed, to help restore equilibrium and diffuse tense emotional states.

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New Hermès Fragrances: Agar Ébène, Cardamusc, Cèdre Sambac, Musc Pallida & Myrrhe Églantine

New Hermès Fragrances: Agar Ébène, Cardamusc, Cèdre Sambac, Musc Pallida & Myrrhe Églantine

Designer scents can be inevitably much of a muchness, as is often the case when perfumes are predominantly presided over by marketing committees. Happily, this isn’t the case with Hermès who allow their perfumers complete creative freedom, resulting in modern classics that stand head and shoulders above today’s typical fashion house fragrance. (E.g. you can normally detect the famous Eau de Merveilles on anyone wearing it.) What's more, the type of scents we wear are changing, less ‘pretty perfumes’ with more animalic concoctions coming to the fore, and in-house perfumer Christine Nagel’s five new creations are case in point. These are gutsy affairs for the seasoned fragrance fan - three eaux de toilette (£180 for 100ml) and two oil-based perfume essences (£275 for 20ml) - showcasing historic notes like musks, agarwood, cedar and myrrh.

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Mon Premier Cristal Hirondelles by Lalique

Mon Premier Cristal Hirondelles by Lalique

For the uninitiated, René Lalique is the reason you have such beautiful jewel-like perfume bottles adorning your dressing table –the glassware and jewellery designer invented the concept (before perfumes were housed in medicinal style apothecary bottles). One iconic Lalique creation is Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps – René’s son Marc created the bottle with its iconic stopper bearing the beautiful doves of peace (to commemorate the end of WWII) which he designed in collaboration with Robert Ricci. These doves have provided the motif for the current 130th anniversary celebrations, which has been commemorated with the launch of their latest scent 'Mon Premier Cristal Hirondelles'.

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Lawn by Angela Flanders

Lawn by Angela Flanders

There’s no denying it - British perfumery is having a moment. Over the past few years we’ve seen earthy, timeless, beguiling perfumes and a number of heritage brands having a much-needed revival. We’re being treated to the kind of scents you can easily imagine the Mitford sisters dabbing behind their ears before being presented to London society, but now we’re spritzing them on to complement our Stella McCartney oversized cotton shirt. These types of fragrances seem to have a strange ability to conjure up a different England, at a different time but still remain stylish and relevant. Some of them – to go off on a tangent here - remind me of visiting my granny’s house in Winchester 25 odd years ago. Her remote rural bungalow was world away from our flat in the city suburbs. There was actually garden for one thing – throughout the year it smelled variously of hay, chopped wood, lavender, compost and other scents that seemed from a past era, as did the eerie silence of the countryside (punctuated by the occasional radiator clang and rustle of a field mouse running along the skirting boards).

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Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody

Sarah Rotheram, CEO of Miller Harris – is famed for her offbeat, somewhat maverick approach. We caught up over cheese and cocktails (our kind of girl) to chat all things fragrance...

I first met Sarah when she was Group CEO of Penhaligon’s, at a dinner party held in an NCP car park to launch the brand’s (now well-loved) fragrance ‘Juniper Sling’. They’d decked the place out to look like an underground speakeasy, complete with bathtubs full of gin. Needless to say, it was a memorable evening. Sarah held court, striking with her white-blonde cropped hair and red lips (reminding me of a childhood fixation with Annie Lennox) and knew this was someone I had to get to know better.

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4160 Tuesdays

4160 Tuesdays

Not many perfumers can lay claim to creating a scent for Jarvis Cocker “to keep by his bed for emergencies”. Once can only speculate as to the nature of these said emergencies. But it certainly gives a glimpse into the world of 4160 Tuesdays and its founder, self-taught ‘nose’ Sarah McCartney.

Sarah started out in business at age 7, “buying wooden beads, making them into things and selling them on to my friends.” That is until her mother found out, was aghast and swiftly put a stop to it. Fortunately this didn’t dampen her entrepreneurial and creative spirits, and after stints writing for The Guardian, and LUSH (as editor of ‘The LUSH Times’) she set up in Acton as 4160 Tuesdays. (The name is taken from the number of Tuesdays we should expect to see if we live to see 80 – stressing the importance of making the most of every day).

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Santal 33 by Le Labo

Santal 33 by Le Labo

There are few perfumes I return to in times of strife more than Le Labo’s Santal 33. Inspired by The Marlboro Man – Santal 33 is that country song you listen to again and again to get over your lost love. It’s for those times when life hits you like a gut-punch and you’re left floundering, with a strange feeling comparable to homesickness when you were little, except this time you’re not sure if or when you’ll be going home.  And then somehow, you find the strength to put one foot in front of the other and just hope you’re headed in the right direction. If you’ve had your heart broken, Santal 33 is the scent to move on with. But more than just a mere rebound fling, it imbues the wearer with a “masculine” strength and resilience; attributes you thought you’d have to seek out in a soul mate, but - like clicking your heels together - you yourself were capable of summoning all along.

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Hervé Gambs, Harvey Nichols

Hervé Gambs, Harvey Nichols

... La Baie Des Anges showcases pretty notes of grapefruit and rhubarb, with a heart of jasmine and vanilla. The type of scent you’d wear to take a lazy walk down Santa Monica Beach (or Harringey in my case). It’s bright and easy-going, much like former interior designer Hervé himself. “I wanted to create something addictive, very happy. The type of scent where I think - I want to show everyone I am happy today!” ....

 

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