Bespoke Perfumery

Bespoke Perfumery


Givaudan Perfumery

Fragrance articles are always an exciting find, especially when they cover in depth topics. The most current edition of the French weekly Le Point (English version) arrived last weekend and to my surprise there were several pages devoted to the topic of bespoke perfumery. For those of you French readers unfamiliar with the publication, I have enclosed a link to Le Point below.

A bespoke fragrance, much like any bespoke creation, is developed with the individual tastes of the intended wearer in mind. While the concept of bespoke perfumery has been around for hundreds of years, executed perhaps most successfully by Guerlain, newer houses and individual perfumers are offering this ultimate luxury to those lucky few who can afford it (prices range anywhere from $12,000 to $45,000, though I have heard of people paying more).

The article focuses on Francis Kurdjian, Mathilde Laurent and Thierry Wasser, each of whom dedicate time to this extreme niche creation. The process in itself sounds memorable and luxurious, offering the opportunity to meet with the perfumer personally in order to create an olfactory profile. Personal scent preferences and olfactory memories are discussed and of course the process involves lots and lots of sampling to narrow down genres and individual notes.

While I will not likely be commissioning a bespoke fragrance for myself any time soon, I love the idea of having a perfume created solely for one individual, reflecting the many complexities and passions of scent. While it will certainly be profitable for the fragrance companies, it does bring back some of the allure of traditional perfumery, exploring the art rather than the commercialism.

Estée Lauder – Aliage

Estée Lauder – Aliage

aliage Fragrance Ad2

Mention high perfumery and everyone immediately thinks of the long history of French fragrances as the height of sophistication. But did you know that stateside we have several fragrances executed in the French style which hold their own when compared to their sisters across the pond?

I have been having a love affair with American perfumery recently, specifically those which are a nod to the French classics. Unfortunately, these suffer the same fate as their French sisters and many have been stripped of their former glory, though some are still readily available in acceptable forms.

Aliage is one such of these gems. Launched in 1972 and hailed by Estée Lauder as the first “sports fragrance”, it was marketed via photos depicting the sumptuous Estée Lauder lifestyle. Tennis at the club, light hikes through rolling hills and a few laps in the pool – the smell of sporty sophistication and leisure, the sense of occupied idleness that only money can provide. Aliage is a bold green fragrance, with references to many of the great French classics. As a chypre rounded by a peach note, it is like a bridge between the beauties of Chanel No 19 and Mitsouko, marrying elements of each into a gorgeous new creation.

Aliage Fragrance Ad

The opening is dry, bitter and sharp but the strong herbal tones mellow over time and are softened by the roundness of peach. The fragrance has a dry, Champagne-like quality, which keeps the peach element dry as silk, rather different than the fullness of Champagne’s peach chypre.

This dry quality is due in part to an abundance of galbanum, which gives the fragrance its strong green impression. In fact, the quality of the galbanum in my vintage bottle is excellent, a definite reference to the sharpness of Chanel 19 and Vent Vert. The galbanum’s green force is supported in the drydown by subtle notes of earthy pine, vetiver and thyme, which carry on the outdoors theme.

The base is a gorgeous deep blend of oakmoss and musk with a hint of myrrh, lending the fragrance a delicious depth often found only in the French classics, though Aliage is drawn in bolder, broader strokes than many of its French sisters.

Aliage can still be found today in a relatively similar form, though it has been toned down a bit due to regulations on materials, and the vintage version makes an appearance every now and then. For those of us who have explored French perfumery to its fullness but still want more, Aliage (sometimes found under the name Alliage) hits the spot.

Notes: Peach, Green Notes, Jasmin, Rosewood, Pine, Thyme, Galbanum, Vetiver, Myrrh, Musk, Oakmoss

Gucci – Rush

Gucci Rush

Gucci Rush

Like many dedicated perfumistas, my fragrance collection spans a wide variety of genres: from the ultra-rare and “très cher” to the timeless and chic, without discrimination for cost, high or low as it may be. After all there are still bargain fragrances out there, and while the folks at Chanel would have us forget, there was a time when Chanel No 5 could be found in drugstores.

All of this by way of introduction. While some fragrances are no doubt contemplative à la Serge Lutens or intellectual (here’s looking at you Guerlain), we must all leave a bit of room for pure, unadultered joy.

No fragrance lends itself better to this category in my opinion than Gucci Rush. Though it has references to some of the great classics, like Mitsouko and Diorella, they are delivered with the tongue in cheek, larger-than-could-possibly-be-tasteful style of Gucci under Tom Ford’s reign.

Gucci Rush starts off with a blast reminiscent of hairspray and fruit – in fact it feels like poking your head into a young woman’s room as she is preparing for a fun night out with friends: scented bath gel, fruity shampoo, hairspray, perfume and body lotion. Rush is like a cacophony of scents that should not work together but absolutely do, as evidenced by the number of suitors this young woman has attracted after a night of dancing.

Rush’s white florals are sparkling and playful, leaving the heavier indoles to its more serious floral sisters. A hint of coriander lends dry spice and drama to the fragrance and keeps it from veering into a traditional fruity floral. The drydown is pure, if not strange, olfactory heaven.

Rush morphs into a synthetic milky peach which lacks Mitsouko’s solemnity but is nevertheless beautiful. Similar to Dior’s Diorella, Rush’s peach is warmed and mellowed by patchouli, but Rush manages to maintain a modern, slightly plasticky edge.

Rush is a terrific fragrance for going out, or for those days when the gravity of life is too much to handle. Despite the beauty and elegance of its composition, Rush does not take itself too seriously (as evidenced by it’s plastic, cassette-like flacon) and maintains a joyful edge.

While with most posts I search for an image to convey the visual equivalent of the olfactory sensation, Rush couldn’t be contained to a two-dimensional image. Embedded then is a link to a remix of French singer Yelle’s “A Cause de Garçons” – the perfect combination of fun, trash, brash and the simple joy of movement. What a genius Michel Almairac has proven to be.

Notes: Gardenia, Freesia, Jasmine, Rose, Coriander, Vanilla, Patchouli, Vetiver.


Marni – Marni Eau de Parfum

Marni – Marni Eau de Parfum

marni eau de parfum

It’s been a long time since I fell in love. In fact, as most of you know, most of my loves are old flames who have been around for a while. So imagine my surprise when I fell in love with a young upstart – the first fragrance release from the Italian fashion label Marni.

The fragrance was composed by the supremely talented Daniela Andrier, who created another love of mine, Infusion d’Iris. While Marni’s character is miles away from Prada’s Iris, they share a similar transparent quality which allows for fragrant complexity to be rendered with a light touch.

Marni starts out with a gorgeous bergamot that smells of high quality without being overpowering. As the fragrance unfolds, it reveals itself as a peppery rose which melds into an elegant woodsy scent with smoky incense undertones. I love how Marni remains dry as silk and never veers into the sweet floral territory, a factor which makes it stand out in the crowd of a thousand fruity florals.

I will forgive Marni its singular flaw and that is its lack of lasting power. It quickly settles to a comfortable hover just above the skin like a warm embrace. It makes a wonderful daytime scent with its elegant treatment of woods and subtle smoky florals. Marni feels grown-up without being characterless. In a word, Marni is delicious. Marni is easily found at major retailers and would make an excellent last minute gift for a special Valentine.

Notes: Bergamot, Cinnamon, Clove, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cardamom, Pink Pepper, Rose, Incense, Vetiver, Cedar, Patchouli


Serge Lutens – Sa Majesté La Rose

Serge Lutens – Sa Majesté La Rose
Sa Majeste la RoseFragrances are, for the most part, an exercise in artifice: by combining a series of notes, perfumers are able to weave together a cohesive scent that evolves over time. At times, the notes work in harmony to create complementary accords or impressions, while other fragrances charm us with seemingly incongruous themes that somehow work together beautifully (think Missoni Eau de Parfum, with its alternating layers of fruit and chocolate).

While Serge Lutens is a master of olfactory tales, Sa Majesté La Rose is a distinct departure from his standard fare. Instead of an opulent romance of exotic, far away lands, the fragrance is a perfect illusion, a realistic study of the majestic rose for which it is named.

Sa Majesté La Rose opens with a pert, slightly spicy rose tinged with a hint of fruity liqueur. While it possess a fuller, richer body, at the opening it is not unlike Rose by Caron. As the fragrance progresses however it takes on a subtle complexity that reveals just how multi-faceted a rose can be. Sa Majesté softens into a warm, slightly smoky rose with hints of honeyed camomile. It is somewhat astonishing in its realism and yet it is never tiresome.

Red Rose Bouquet

In fact, Sa Majesté La Rose reminds me of walking into a room and witnessing a bouquet of roses unfolding over the course of the day. Starting out slightly tart in the morning when first placed into the vase and sharing the opulence of its scented gifts in the evening as the soft, velvety petals unfold.

While Sa Majesté possesses enough character to be worn on its own, it makes a delicious fragrance for layering, adding a rosy fullness to whatever it comes into contact with. It lends itself especially well to layering with other fragrances in the Serge Lutens line. One of my personal favorite combinations is with Muscs Khublai Khan, with Sa Majesté enhancing the subtle rose qualities of Muscs. While the combination may sound like an olfactory overdose, the meeting of these two powerhouses has the effect of tempering the more extreme aspects of each, much like a successful romance brings out the best in us.

Notes: Moroccan Rose Absolute, Gaiac Wood, Clove, White Honey, Musk

February – Everything’s Coming Up Roses

pink roses

February, as we all know, signals the coming of St. Valentine’s – a day dedicated to romance which is celebrated in many parts of the world. In addition to chocolates and the exchange of love-notes, flowers are a popular romantic gift choice.

Roses, ancient symbols of love, beauty and friendship, are perhaps the flower most commonly associated with Valentine’s Day. With their myriad petals and lush, complex aroma, roses are not unlike a woman: her many faces deepen and unfurl, achieving uncomparable beauty through the fullness of time.

rose bloom

Rose is one of my favorite notes in perfumery – in part for its elegance, but largely for its adaptability. Rose can be green and youthful, like newly sprouted buds; spicy and sharp like a tightly bound rose, or lush and provocative as a rose in full bloom. Over the next weeks, I shall explore various rose fragrances which highlight the beauty of this note in different manifestations.


red rose cluster

Robert Piguet – Baghari

Robert Piguet – Baghari

Woman in Fur

While we often have a mental picture of the 1950s as a time of feminine restraint, the fragrances of that era paint a different picture altogether. Perhaps due to the fact that woman essentially inhabited a different sphere than men, far away from stuffy office corridors with their recycled air, their perfumes seemed to have some lifeblood in them. Even the airy aldehydic florals had something hefty lurking within to give them a backbone.

When Francis Fabron’s vintage Baghari walks into a room, she commands attention. The opening aldehydes have a kick to them, as they heave rather than sparkle. The waxy, tallow-like opening has an orange-amber richness similar to Caron’s Nocturnes and Givenchy’s L’Interdit, interestingly another fragrance created by Fabron.

Baghari Robert Piguet

The opening is suggestive of the animalic undercurrent of the fragrance to follow, and while Baghari reveals a bosomy floral bouquet, it shares a complexity with Piguet’s Bandit by Germaine Cellier – the hint of something beneath the surface.

The fragrance, like others of its time, is remarkably well-constructed and gives an impression of roundness and depth, like an embrace from an old friend on a cold night, the scent of her fur tinged with perfume and smoke to create a scent that is more than the sum of its parts, the scent of a woman.

Baghari was reformulated by Aurélien Guichard and while the fragrance is suggestive of the original Baghari, it lacks its driving force and personality. Still, it makes a lovely daytime companion for stuffy office corridors.

Notes: Aldehydes, Bergamot, Citrus, Rose, Lilac, Ylang-Ylang, Lily of the Valley, Jasmine, Vetiver, Benzoin, Musk, Amber, Vanilla.

Last Minute Shopping – Sephora

Last Minute Shopping – Sephora




Hopefully all my readers are safely tucked away, either at home celebrating with loved ones or out enjoying themselves at holiday festivities. For those last minute shoppers, or even for those who carefully plan every gift only to receive an unexpected present from a kind neighbor or co-worker, Sephora is a great choice for an impulse gift. Their stores have tend to have a nice selection of fragrances, as well as numerous non-fragrance items like cosmetics and specialty creams and shampoos.

A friend of mine in France and I were recently comparing notes on Sephora. While the one in my local mall is decent size, one of the Paris Sephora stores measures 2,500 square meters! For the rest of us, that’s equal to 26,910 square feet!!! While I would have no problem picking out a nice gift at my local store, I think I would get lost in the Paris store in the fragrance section alone! But then perhaps that is LVMH’s strategy (yes, they own Sephora as well).

Please check out the photos below for a store by store comparison. I will let you – my discerning reader – determine which is which! Happy Holidays!

Store #1


Store #2


Diptyque – L’Eau

Diptyque – L’Eau


There are many fragrances, beloved though they may be, which are clearly the product of the olfactory fashions of their time. Whether it be an over-abundance of aldehydes, oakmoss or civet, like tiny wrinkles gathering at the corners of a woman’s face, they serve as tell-tale signs of age. I am repeatedly amazed then by the timelessness of certain fragrances and of certain houses, which continue to enchant as the years go by.

While Diptyque came on to the fragrance scene in the 1960s, one would be hard-pressed to tie them to a specific era. Their simple flacons with spare black and white lettering are at once indisputably modern, and yet suggest a bit of Roman antiquity in their designs. No single fragrance in the Diptyque line-up better exemplifies this quality more so than L’Eau, the house’s first personal fragrance which was launched in 1968.

Somewhat ironically named, L’Eau is a somewhat polarizing rendition of pot-pourri, with its rich notes of clove and cinnamon. If you are not a fan of these notes, stop right here, for while they temper over the life of the fragrance, they never dissipate completely. Indeed, the opening is reminiscent of the spice and sizzle of red hots, the tiny heart-shaped candies so popular on Valentine’s Day as an emblem of romantic love. As the fragrance unfurls and warms like branches over a fire, the initial spicy burst mellows into a clove-tinged rose, warmed by the richness of woods. A hint of soapiness gives the fragrance a retro appeal.

L’Eau is without a doubt a cold-weather scent, in part for the associations which the rich notes bring to mind, but also because it can be somewhat cloying in warmer weather. In some respects L’Eau clearly seems like a child of the Sixties, where social boundaries were being broken and wearing pot-pourri would seem très anti-establishment. Every time I catch its lovely spicy scent rising up however I have strong visions of a distant past; of winter hoods trapping the scent of mulled wine and homemade holiday gifts, as the bearer traveled through the cold to personally deliver holiday cheer.


If one can call what feels like a 500-year old fragrance recipe “retro”, then it is this timeless quality that makes L’Eau so appealing. And similar to other fragrances which contain notes with strong seasonal associations such as this and this, once these notes are seen in a new context, the result is unforgettable. Wearing it today feels supremely modern, much in the way that the pop-art of the mid-1950s still retains a modern edge.

Notes: Cinnamon, Clove, Geranium, Sandalwood, Rose

Celebrating the Magnificent Bee Bottle


Image courtesy of Bragmayer and Guerlain


For the past 160 years, Guerlain’s Bee Bottle has epitomized luxury and distinction in the world of perfumery. The Bee has served as a long-standing symbol of royalty, but since the day its image was emblazoned upon a bottle of Eau de Cologne Impériale offered to Empress Eugénie, then-wife of Napoleon, it has become nearly synonymous with the venerable House of Guerlain.

It is fitting then that in commemoration of its 160-year anniversary, it is the Bee Bottle itself which will be receiving the royal treatment. Following are links to a short video produced by Guerlain here, as well as a post describing the many new faces of the Bee here. The designs are so special, it is impossible to pick a favorite.

Readers will note that new Bee Bottle collection was not included in my list of favorite holiday gifts posted here earlier this week. While they are certain to be high on anyone’s list after a glimpse, they come with a price tag which is truly fit for royalty!