10 January 2011

Winter Wardrobe, Part 3: The Gift Certificate

(In which I solicit the sage advice of my dear readers)

Update: The winner, by one vote, is Cozé. Thanks to everyone who voted!

You read it right. My big holiday gift this year was a generous gift certificate to Lucky Scent, run by the good people behind L.A.’s brick-and-mortar Scent Bar, where I once spent almost three hours on a stool sniffing whatever the patient ‘bartender’ could think to hand me before I made off with a bottle of Sel de Vetiver (it was December, but Celine Ellena’s beach-skin and salted caramel miracle made enough sense on the West Coast to warrant the splurge).

But now I need your help, reader. As I mentioned in my last post, I hate making decisions, so I’ve turned to you (and to Polldaddy) to help me decide how I should spend my Lucky Scent dollars. I’ve already winnowed down my initial list of around two dozen candidates by eliminating any scents I can buy locally in New York (Fille en Aiguilles, Sienne L’Hiver, Shiloh, anything from Le Labo or CB I Hate Perfume) and, in a mostly gestural nod to practicality, anything that’s occasional, extravagant or simply expensive enough that I couldn’t bring myself to drop my own hard-earned dollars on it, much less 'free' money (Absolue Pour le Soir, Stoned, Comme des Garçons x Stephen Jones, etc.). Maybe that’s the kind of thing gift certificates are for, but I’m determined to buy something I’ll get a lot of mileage out of, so to speak, rather than something merely to prove what a robust aficionado I am.

The elimination process has left me, bizarrely, with a choice between two scents from the same house: Pierre Guillaume’s Parfumerie Générale.  I’ve been acquainting myself slowly with Guillaume’s numbered portfolio and “Private Collection” of fragrances, and have grown to recognize the ultra high-quality sense of cohesion in them, which no doubt arises from his background as a skilled chemist. His technical prowess goes beyond the expert linking of disparate ingredients to the interaction of those ingredients with environmental factors like light and heat; many of his scents utilize a proprietary process called “photo-affinage,” whereby “olfactory peaks”  are smoothed out by ultraviolet radiation. He’s also the pioneering beneficiary of a new extraction technology that’s enabled him to plant alarmingly accurate fresh fruit accords among the "olfactory spheres" in his newly-launched second brand, Huitième Art Parfums.

Guillaume’s body of work appeals to me not because it’s the work of a “rockstar” like Francis Kurkdjian or even an avant-gardist like Geza Schoen or the Antoines (Lie & Maisondieu), but because it’s the work of a committed nerd – albeit a French nerd, meaning a sexy one. Rather than proposing the sort of arch-cerebral, almost confrontational ideas that sprout incessantly in the overcrowded world of niche perfumery (ambrox trend, anyone?), he reserves his skill and talent for exploring subtle, precious moods and emotions with a cartographer's precision.

And with apologies for that sycophantic introduction, here are the two candidates:

Private Collection: L’Ombre Fauve
Its name translates to something like “beastly shadow”, and true to form, this scent is dark, dense and alternately scary and cuddly. The official list of five notes (amber, musks, wood, incense and patchouli) suggests a simple, minimal construction – a notion quickly belied by the sheer opulence of the experience, from the first spray to the lingering whiff you’ll get on your coat collar two days later. Animalic musks and patchouli do much to expand the powdery amber and wood, but the true heart of L’Ombre Fauve is an otherworldly tint or texture that repeatedly makes the quietest of entrances and exits. Many fans call it the “fur” or “wild animal” note. Some call it “metallic.” Luca Turin (a fan himself) calls it “raspy.” Whatever it is, however he did it, Guillaume managed to make a sweet ambery oriental that doesn’t bore me to tears after ten minutes.

02: Cozé
Despite its salutatorian name, Cozé is actually the fragrance that launched Parfumerie Générale. Originally a blend that Guillaume had created solely for his own and his father’s personal use, it caught the attention of a Swiss art collector and perfume enthusiast who all but demanded it for himself and his circle of connoisseurs. Surprisingly easy to wear, Cozé subjects the dozy herbal funk of PG’s exclusive hemp seed oil extraction to a Kevyn Aucoin-worthy makeover involving heady pimento, camphoreous patchouli and an especially bitter dose of coffee and chocolate. A heavily-refined mossiness sets the overall tone – somewhere between a misty forest and a hotboxed Bentley. “Hippie luxury,” this scent seems to argue, is not a contradiction.

And now to the poll! Thanks for reading and voting, and of course, feel free to suggest other ideas in the poll box or in comments.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe it's the phrase/ idea of a "hotboxed Bentley," or the tint of
    intimacy cast by its anecdotal conception, or the pink peppercorns in
    the arty photo of the bottle ( I love pink peppercorns), or all of the
    above, but I am immediately inclined towards Coze.

    It appears that I cast a tie-breaking vote, which makes me feel pretty cool.