Nose is a more than a documentary following Dior perfumer François Demachy, it’s a paean to the raw ingredients of perfumery, and the hardworking people who grow and harvest the ingredients around the world.
Having first premiered at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival, the film has just been released – watch the trailer, below, read our review and find out where you can watch…
Dior describe it as ‘A true “smell good movie” Nose sheds light on one of the most secret jobs in the world.’ And while we mostly remainly quarantined, what a wonderful way to travel by your nose it is.
‘Perfumes are a language everyone understands, but few people can speak’ Demachy explains as he sits in his office, filled with endless bottles and piles of books, later commenting that ‘For me, a perfume is a land of sharing.’ Fascinatingly, when asked what his first ever perfume was, he reveals ‘The first thing I did was a perfume intended to whet the appetites of bovine, so they would eat the fodder.’ Quite a leap to his life, now, and yet in this film we get to see how he works with the growers of the materials he so loves, eventually whetting all our appetites with their distilled passion.
In Sulawesi, Indonesia, Demachy travels for three days to visit the patchouli plantations, and says for him, it was the most rewarding part of filming Nose.
‘We took a small plane, then a four-wheel drive, followed by a hike through a few isolated villages in the middle of nowhere. That in itself was already an enjoyable adventure, but then there was this magnificent reward at the end, and I finally got to see my favorite ingredient in its natural environment, on these steep slopes… It’s quite moving to see this… This is where it all begins for perfumery.’ François Demachy remarks as he watches the freshly picked patchouli being washed (and having covered his arms in the fragrantly oily residue).
Fragrance writer Eddie Bulliqi makes an apperance at several points during the film, discussing the links between music and fragrance, and the creative process; but again, it’s the growers who are most celebrated in Nose, even more than the often romanticised life of a great perfumer.
From the idyllic fields of jasmine and rose in Grasse, we meet the women who own the land and discover exactly how hard it is to work those so-pretty fields. And we hear from Patrick Lillis, a ‘Celtic ambergris broker’ from County Clare, Ireland. As the wind and rain lash the shore, Patrick and his dog walk beside the broiling sea, and this gruff-voiced, sou’wester-wearing man waxes lyrical on the magic of ambergris in perfumery.
‘It’s a personal taste thing, you know?’ he says, while sniffing a white (and therefore older, stronger) lump of the precious material. ‘It’s quite a profound, animatic smell… Some people say it adds another dimension to perfumery, that a normal perfume is 2D and this is 3D. It’s the best natural fixative for perfume, and it’s oleophilic – it grabs hold of the oils. But it also does another thing which is a little bit magical: it transforms other fragrances.’
Simply put, Nose is a feast for the senses, and a much-needed way for us to feed the wanderlust we’re all experiencing. Gorgeous, swooping shots of landscape and sumptuous close-ups of dew-speckled flowers accompany this portrait, that goes beyond the work of Demachy, and invites the viewer to fall as passionately in love with the world of perfumery as he and all the people behind the scenes so obviously are…
Due to the current global pandemic of the Covid-19 virus, many fragrance houses are turning their production of perfume to that of hand-santisers, which are much-needed and now often difficult to obtain for health workers and those at risk.
Hand-santisers should ideally contain 70% professional grade alcohol base to be effective, and most over the counter hand sanitisers contain varying amounts and types, often between 60% and 95% and usually isopropyl alcohol.
Because alcohol is used as the base of the majority of fragrances, fragrance houses have to pre-order this in bulk, and so it makes perfect sense for them to be using their stocks of this material – once taken foregranted, and now a precious commodity – to turn it into hand-santisers.
It turns out that all Dior, Givenchy, and Guerlain liquid soaps and creams have a viscosity very similar to that of hand-sanitiser gel, which means LVMH is able to continue using their usual filling machines, plastic bottles, and pump dispensers to mass-produce hand-santiser, which they have been distributing free of charge to French health authorities and hospitals.
Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive of LVMH, said that ‘Through this initiative, LVMH intends to help address the risk of a lack of product in France and enable a greater number of people to continue to take the right action to protect themselves from the spread of the virus.’ And they have been highlighting the work they’re doing on social media with the hashtag #LVMHJOINSFORCES.
Sarah Baker has made gorgeously scented hand-santisers available to the public, that conform to the WHO recommended hand-rub formulations. Named ‘Jazz Hands‘, a set of four long-lasting 50ml bottles, fragranced with her perfumes Greek Keys, Charade, Jungle Juice and Atlante, can be purchased for £40. The price includes a £5 donation to Médecins Sans Frontièrs (Doctors Without Borders), and Sarah will send all those who purchase a pack of Jazz Hands a special discount code, allowing you to take the full price of the hand-santisers off a 50ml bottle of perfume of your choice.
Ormonde Jayne started making batches of hand-santiser several weeks ago, gifting them to all their employees and families, and are now giving away a free spray bottle of hand-santiser with any purchase from their website. Founder Linda Pilkington commented that, ‘As a privately owned perfume house that manufactures its own perfume, we are in a unique position, having a denatured alcohol license, to be able to manufacture a hand sanitiser. Our formula contains 80% denatured alcohol, 20% aniseptic aloe vera and tea tree oil.’ And she continued, ‘On behalf of all the Ormonde Jayne team, we wish you all the most important things in life, good health and happiness.’
In America, other indie brands are stepping forward, including L.A-based perfumer Sarah Horowitz , who has introduced the Stay Safe Sanitizing Spray ($10 for a 1-ounce bottle or a free 0.34-ounce bottle with every online order over $75. The spray consists of an 80% concentrate of organic alcohol, which isl mixed with essential oils often used for their antibacterial properties, such as clove, lemongrass, lavender maillette and patchouli.
Some of our most beloved flowers and fragrant ingredients are, in fact, powerful poisons with a rich heritage of folklore traditions, used for centuries in suspected witchcraft practices, to render scented gloves quite deadly, and by spurned lovers sprinkling petals into potions. Once, during the reign of King Louis XIV, a murderer supposedly used poisoned perfume to kill so many royal courtiers it sparked a witchhunt ten years before those fingers started pointing in Salem. A notorious case named ‘The Affair of the Poisons’ by sensation-seeking newspaper headlines, it simultaneously delighted and horrified a public who began looking at perfumes in a new light…
You see, perfumes aren’t merely ‘pretty’ – they can work as potent brews to bewitch, beguile and welcome you over to the darker side of scent, albeit in the most enticingly elegant manner. For ‘spooky’ scents must do more than simply scare, that’s far too obvious and crass – very few people wish to be terrified by their own fragrance, and I say that even as a mostly reformed ex goth. What I yearn for are fragrances whose beauty belies a more sinister undercurrent – we must first be enchanted to be fully ensnared. Something history teaches us time and again.
Catherine de Medici’s perfumer (and expert in poisons), Rene lé Florentin, was said to have made perfumed poisoned gloves at her behest, killing Catherine’s rival, Jeanne D’Albret, who fell ill following a shopping trip and died under mysterious circumstances. No matter nothing was proved: the story was far too delicious not to spread the scandalous rumour of death by scent.
Laced fragrances were supposedly used to kill members of ‘the perfumed court’, with 194 individuals arrested and 36 executed between 1677 and 1682. In fact the whole ‘Affair of the Poisons’ masked a crime ring, and the growing concern of womanly wiles being granted by satanic pacts, which writer Anne Somerset thoroughly doccuments in her book The Affair of the Poisons: Murder, Infanticide and Satanism at the Court of Louis XIV (sadly out of print I believe, though you can often find second-hand copies). But the links between glorious smelling scents and deadly intents were now firmly ingrained in the public consciousness.
For the morbidly curious, the Poison Garden of Alnwick Castle provides modern visitors a chance to see the types of plants grown and harvested by alchemists and wannabe witches throughout the years. When Jane Percy became the Duchess of Northumberland, her husband asked her to do something with the neglected gardens. ‘I think he thought, ‘That will keep her quiet, she’ll just plant a few roses and that’ll be it,”‘ the Duchess commented to The Smithsonian magazine; ‘…but I thought, ‘Let’s try and do something really different.'” Despite the many signs and stern guides warning people of the danger of picking or even smelling some of the plants, apparently each year, several visitors sneak a sniff, with some being taken ill following their reckless actions. What is it about forbidden smells that makes them so… irresistable? Let’s dare to find out.
Cyanide smells like almond, cleverly cloaked here in clouds of fuzzy apricot, luscious plum and milky coconut. Waxy white flowers have their narcotic tendencies softly smothered by a blushing rose, creamy sandalwood and a fluffy base flecked with wildly addictive vanilla. Revisit this, and I defy you not to spend the entire day being enraptured by your own smell. Vanity’s supposedly a sin, but oh! How wonderful to adore yourself.
Dior Hypnotic Poison £65 for 50ml eau de toilette dior.com
Mandrake roots, often used in Wiccan rituals, were believed to emit a blood-curdling scream when dug up, but smell pleasingly of red apples. Happily married to sharp rhubarb, pomegranate and bergamot, the shriek is stifled by a deep, loamy patchouli, smoked birch and a caramel-like undertone swirled with cream. You’ll be screaming for more of this poison-inspired range, I wager.
Parfums Quartana – Les Potions Fatale – Mandrake £115 for 50ml eau de parfum roullierwhite.com
Socrates drank black hemlock to poison himself, but it’s used here to far greater effect – oodles of the absolute lending mysterious shadows to a dusky forest, otherworldly whispers amidst the verdant undergrowth, all set against the backdrop of a violet-streaked, vetiver rich, amber-tinged, sunset. This one captivates crowds, and could easily conquer a whole court, should you so wish.
Commemorating women burned as witches – such as Agnes Finnie, killed at Edinburgh Castle in 1645, screaming ‘may the devil blow you blind’ – hazelnuts are shot through with the red juice of blood oranges, woven with curiously curling tendrils of tobacco smoke, a hint of damp tweed and the mineral freshness of misty moorlands. Delightfully unsettling for those who dare ask the provenance of your perfume.
REEK Perfume Damn Rebel Witches from £85 for 50ml eau de parfum reekperfume.com
Foxglove, a.k.a. Digitalis, is cultivated for its great beauty, though every single part of the plant can be lethal if swallowed. Imagining a scent for the odourless flower, this heady perfume oil oozes botanical history, blending blood orange with salt meadow grass, hyacinth leaves, jasmine and white cedar. It smells like tear-stained love letters tied in silk ribbons, tossed in a lake but never forgotten.
A slowly unfurling intoxication of transparent jasmine and white narcissus work their magic beneath greedy handfuls of succulent berries snatched in darker woods – a sense of half-glimpsed, tulle-draped ghosts flitting between the trees. Inspired by the notorious Deadly Nightshade, by the time you reach the chocolate-y patchouli base and musky vanilla dry down, it will already have cast its spell.
Light and shade have rarely been so beautifully juxtaposed: a dry, green rustle of fig leaves, luminescent orange blossom and herbaceous woodiness with the lingering, subtly sweet scent of white oleander. Oleander once accidentally poisoned hundreds of Napolean’s troops, who’d roasted food on its branches; deliberately deployed in Janet Finch’s White Oleander, when a scorned woman slowly poisons her lover by lacing his food (even sprinkling his bedsheets) with its lovely, lethal petals. ‘How lovingly she arranged the dark leaves, the white blooms…’
Hermés Un Jardin en Méditerranée £48.80 for 50ml eau de toilette johnlewis.com
Those of you who’d like to further indulge the heritage of fragrance and poisons, might like to consider a perfume bottle necklace engraved with belladonna. Fill the rollerball with your scented weapon of choice, and dangle wickedly at the next dinner party bore, perhaps? Then flamboyantly annoint yourself with the fragrance while smiling, beatifically.
The fragrances I recommend, above, can of course all be safely sniffed – though swooning may occur for for other reasons. They have been created by perfumers celebrating a darker side of fragrant history, but in a truly wearable and devastatingly compulsive way. I enjoy using them in the murkier months as a remedy against the seemingly endless Stygian gloom – for none of them smell ‘dark’ or oppressively heavy, despite their nefarious inspirations. And there’s a particular pleasure at being complimented on them (something that will happen a lot when you wear any of these, I assure you), while knowing I trail a history of scented superstitions and olfactory aprehensions in my wake…
‘The Dior Couture Collection transforms landmark pieces into exquisite biscuits, bakes and fancies. From the Junon Dress worn by Theo Graham at Le Pré Catalan in Paris 1949 to the Bar Jacket which has been synonymous with Dior since it took to the catwalk in 1947 as part of the ‘New Look,’ each piece this season takes inspiration from Dior’s fashion history.
Your tea also includes a flavoursome collection of miniature savoury skewers, taster spoons, elegant canapés and tea sandwiches. To drink, choose a loose leaf tea from our extensive collection…’
Or you could go all-out and add some bubbles to the perfumed proceedings – a special treat for their Mother’s Day sitting on March 31, perhaps – or simply a way to celebrate the scents and treat yourself?
Prêt-à-Portea is priced at £60.00 per person.
Champagne Prêt-à-Portea, with a glass of Laurent-Perrier, £70.00 per person.
Signature Mocktail Prêt-à-Portea, with a glass of a refreshing Mango & Rooibos mocktail, £70.00 per person.
Couture Champagne Prêt-à-Portea, with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Rosé, Bollinger Rosé or Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, £76.00 per person.
This menu will be refreshed every six months, to reflect the catwalk trends, but right now we’re salivating over the thought of the rose pink Miss Dior cake and the Muguet pavlova, both directly inspired by the perfumes… Perfume and cake, could it honestly get any better?
‘Perfume is the indispensible complement to the personality of women, the finishing touch on a dress.’ – Christian Dior
Showcasing couture gowns worn by Princess Margaret, Margot Fonteyn and Jennifer Lawrence, in Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, the V&A has opened the world’s largest exhibition ever staged in the UK on the House of Dior. We went to gawp at the gowns, and of course, to swoon at the scent bottles…
How telling that – amidst room after room of sumptuous designs and rainbow walls of vivid colours, unless one peered at the labels – it was practically impossible to accurately date the array of garments and accessories. And how welcome that so many iconic fragrances are displayed as part of the overall design aesthetic of Dior.
‘The exhibition highlights Christian Dior’s total design vision,’ explain the V&A, ‘encompassing garments, accessories and fragrances. Flowers are emblematic of the Couture house and have inspired silhouettes, embroidery and prints, but also the launch of Miss Dior in 1947, the first fragrance created alongside the very first show.’
Fragrance and fashion have always gone hand in (scented) glove, but never more so than with Dior. No designer has simultaneously launched a new brand new fashion line and a fragrance. It was an audacious act that marked their groundbreaking, breathtaking course to this very day.
Lined-up in cabinets, perched on plinths or variously housed within a stand resembling a miniature palace; the Dior fragrances are shown as being vital to the overall development of the house, and their continuing success shows how warmly we have clasped the scents to our (in our dreams) Dior-clad chests.
Arranged into eleven sections, the exhibition traces the skill and craftsmanship of the ateliers, along with highlighting many of the designers who have worked under the Dior banner, always pushing the boundaries while keeping an elegant insouciance that remained true to Dior’s ethos.
Noses pressed against the glass, oh how we would have loved to smell some of the originals – an impossible task at such a large exhibition, of course, but merely gazing at the original sketches for the bottles, a saved invitation from that orginal fashion and fragrance launch, and the most lust-worthy flaçons you’ll see all year – it’s enough to transport most of your senses. We advise wearing your favourite Dior fragrance and inhaling deeply as you get giddy with the glamour of it all…
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams runs from now until 14th July 2019, with tickets from £20. All concessions £15.
We highly advise booking your tickets now, as a day after opening they were sold-out until April. Even so, believe us, it’s worth the wait.
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