Have you noticed there are Potions & Elixirs currently abounding in fragrance form – tapping in to our need for a way to add some magic and feelings of strength and control over our lives, perhaps? Well, we certainly feel the best way to empower yourself – and feel magical – at any time of year is through the power of of perfume…
Penhaligon’s recently-launched Potions collection offers fragrant remedies for modern living that evoke William Penhaligon’s experiments with aromatic concoctions. Beckon courage with Eau the Audacity, energise with Va Va Vroom, ignite desire with Liquid Love, banish worries with A Balm of Calm, or feel euphoric after a spritz of A Kiss of Bliss. Visit the website to explore them – it’s a joyous experience!
Penhaligon’s says: ‘William Penhaligon laboured for his legacy to be delightful. One to cure all ills, one that he and future generations would be rightly proud! You are about to discover the result of his travails… Discover five new fragrances filled to the brim with miraculous ingredients to boost your mood.’ All Penhaligon’s Potions£195 for 100ml eau de parfum penhaligons.com
Encased in molten gold, this deeper, darker take contrasts the supple ripples of woody smoothness of oudh and radiantly hushed yet ultra long-lasting musk with succulent fig and rose to add even greater allure. Irresistible!
The spellbinding scent you reach for when a touch of magic is required to whisk you through a humdrum day, a single drop of the vanilla-stroke, peach-nuzzled, rose and raspberry-infused nectar making ‘skies become bluer’. Yes please!
Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble… this sailor’s so hot his torso all a-smoulder (as are the senses of all who encounter him). Gilded amber melts gold flecks through the warmly resinous composition – a sensual deep dive into new scented waters that’s bound to cause long-term fans to storm the decks, while captivating a whole new jolly crew. Far too sexy not share, all the nice (and naughty) girls (and boys) certainly do love an amber-infused, elixir-powered sailor.
Magical waves of a Muglerian bouquet follow your every move, swathes of white flowers juxtaposed by the bold amber trail, the heady exoticism of ylang ylang cocooned by the creamy, twice-distilled sandalwood and simmering spices.
An amber-gleamed, intensified glory with smoked cardamom, black tea and fig accord atop a sinful patchouli and tonka base. Powerfully addictive, one to swagger in the full knowledge that the answer to ‘who smells so good?’ is YOU.
A cool breeze of silvery cardamom throbs through ripples of frankincense resin, wet earthiness of patchouli and vetiver evoking the glorious sensation of petrichor, with cedar and labdanum smouldering, charmingly in the long-lasting trail.
£73 for 50ml eau de parfum theperfumeshop.com
Ralph’s Club Elixir
Reinterpreted to reveal warmer, more lingering facets, the sensual woody notes conjur glowing amber, green mandarin and grapefruit. Wafts of incense drift to dry lavandin, aromatic geranium and a fiery patchouli / leather base.
As we saw in our last feature, Chanel meticulously grow and harvest their jasmine in Grasse, exclusively for use in their fragrances; and so after looking in great detail at how this process is achieved, we thought it time to dig even deeper and explore just some of the glorious Chanel fragrances we’ve so loved wearing over the decades.
The legendary, almost alchemically intriguing mix of jasmine and vivacious aldehydes has ensured No5 always transcended fashion: No single flower can be easily identified in its construction – not ylang ylang, or that luminous jasmine, or rose, nor those bubbly aldehydes, nor any of the other 80 or so ingredients in its closely-guarded formula. Over a century ago, it was certainly unlike anything smelled before, and the abstract effect has kept it relevant, decade after decade.
Sun-drenched, thirst-quenching and filled filled with freshness, this is a beautiful modern play on the classic, with a fizz of aldehydes dancing on lemon, mandarin and orange atop a honeyed shimmer of jasmine and luminescent ylang ylang. As the opening chords drift away and the floral heart warms on the skin, a thrum of warm cedar and vetiver mellow to a harmonious trail of soft white musks. Glorious.
‘Allow yourself to be swept up in the whirlwind of Chance’ says Chanel. And, oh, what a sparkling wonder this is – the eau de parfum an ‘Unexpected Floral’, created by Jacques Polge, like wearing an entire constellation of scented stars. The heady absolutes of exotic jasmine and Iris are warmed by vanilla and more pronounced than the eau de toilette. White musk weaves mystery, and as it warms Chance becomes even rounder, ever more generous and entirely enveloping… like a new love (or the reigniting of an old flame).
Perfumer Oliver Polge constructed his composition around a far higher proportion of patchouli leaves atop a richly resinous amber base, swirled through with toasty tonka bean and addictive vanilla in their absolute (strongest) form. Lovers of the original need not fear – your dose of Sicilian orange and Calabrian bergamot is still there, as are the fulsome garlands of rose and that stunning, sunny jasmine in the heart. The character is definitely even more mysterious, wavering between the freshness and a minxishly seductive trail that lingers all day.
The stronger parfum concentration of their bestselling Bleu de Chanel, crafted by Olivier Polge (whose father Jacques composed the original), is certainly recognisable, yet cleverly rebalances the wood and citrus notes, upping the sandalwood that follows the freshness, with gloriously undulating waves of bright jasmine, aromatic lavender and geranium notes, and the powerful cedarwood heart beating throughout. Intensely wonderful – and wonderfully intense.
Sarah Baker recently ramped up the ravishing longevity of their fragrances by adding Extrait to their collection. But hang on… WHAT does ‘extrait’ mean, and how does it differ from an eau de parfum? Or, come to that, a ‘parfum’? Here, we’re de-bunking the fragrance myths, finding out how you can try sample-sizes to compare and contrast, and feast your nose on even longer-lasting, full-size fragrances…
Contemporary artist Sarah Baker’s photography, sculpture and films are inspired by ‘fashion, luxury and celebrity’, but little did she know that when she created a fictional fragrance house as part of her artwork, her passion for the project (and the public’s reaction to it) would result in a real-life fragrance house. Still very much artistically inspired, luckily for us they’re now ready to (actually) wear… and now these intensified, ultra-long-lasting versions of the scents are on the menu and even more voluptuously desirable!
From Colognes to extraits, ‘splashes’ to after shaves – there are SO many differing types of fragrance strength descriptions now that it can get really confusing!
Terms like Eau de Toilette or Eau de Parfum are used to identify the strength or concentration of oil in the carrier (or base – usually alcohol) in a fragrance composition. These concentrations can vary from fragrance to fragrance, brand to brand, depending on how that particular house like to blend their scents, but this is a very general rule of thumb (or nose!)
Extrait / Parfum – 20-30%+
Perfume – 15-25 %
Eau de Parfum (EDP) – 8-15%
Eau de Toilette (EDT) – 4-8%
Cologne (EDC) – 2-4%
Body cream/lotion – 3-4%
After Shave/Splash – 2-4%
Soap – 2-4%
Don’t think of higher scent strengths as simply turning up the volume, it’s rather more nuanced than that…
An extrait (often also called Parfum or ‘extract’) is generally the highest percentage of fragrance-to-base that a house creates. These differing strengths perform differently on your skin, too. An extrait will stay on your skin for far longer than an EDP, but it may not project as much, so although it might not kick open a door of a party and announce itself by shouting into the room, it will linger longer, warming with your body throughout the day and night (and into the next day!) creating a sensorial, sensual bubble of intimacy for you – and those lucky enough to be near you – to share the pleasure of.
Some people like to layer scent strengths throughout the day. Here’s how:
Begin with a refreshing splash of Cologne to get those senses revving, and then wear an Eau de Toilette for day time.
In hot temperatures, consider layering a Cologne or Eau de Toilette with a matching (or unscented) body lotion, as dry skin makes fragrance fade faster.
Try one of the many new hair perfumes – a delightful way to wear your scent, often imbued with moisturising, protective properties as a bonus when temperatures soar (and alcohol-based scents can sizzle dry hair).
As evening falls and you head out on the town, switch things up by adding a spritz of Eau de Parfum to leave a sultrier trail that will last as long your night does.
And for the boudoir – a dab of pure Parfum or Extrait will tempt until the next day (or night) but wont project as far as an Eau de Parfum. Think of them as stronger concentrations, but in a hushed form – only for you and whomever you allow to get that close to nuzzle your neck and admire…
Is your nose twitching to find out more? See our brilliant FAQsection – there to answer your questions and put the sense into scents.
Meanwhile, if you’re ready to take the extrait perfumed plunge, let’s look at Sarah Baker’s transportive, evocative (and often deliberately provocative) scents to explore, and scroll down tosee the sample set of extrait fragrances for you to try…
‘Why be a star when you can be a legend?’ asks the always artistic, eternally glamorous Sarah Baker, introducing perfumer Chris Maurice’s enticing composition for her house. Balancing bergamot’s brightness with the honeyed headiness of orange blossom, petitgrain pierces through the sweet swirl of butterscotch and dusting of sinfully dark chocolate. Cradled in Laos oudh, Suyufi agarwood and amber, it’s the ’24 Karat glow’ of celebrity’s golden age, made manifest.
This is a classic of the collection that’s been adored since the scents were first launched. Sarah Baker, the nose for this one, is better known as the founder of quirky British house 4160 Tuesdays, but here collaborated with Baker to compose this marvel. Picture it: A fire is roaring in the library. You savour a rare single malt. Warmth and heritage envelope you after a walk through mossy ruins in Scotland’s Highlands. Autumnal.
Oh now this is completely addictive, we warn you… One to wear when you simply want to smell irresistible – we’ve heard tell of several glossy mag beauty editors who cannot be without this having tried it on their own skin, and having sampled it ourselves, we totally understand why. Playful and sweet with the flavours of childhood appetites, it dries down to something seriously grown-up. A beloved game encountered in the attic, realising years later it was the seed of your adult prowess; the sensual, sexy and clever you.
Another from the original collection we fell in lust with at first sniff, this swaggers with glamour, it’s that ‘shoulder pads in a bottle’ scent which we all need sometimes for an instant spritz of confidence. It evokes the strength within, a purr of suggestiveness, a soap-opera bottled that could get out of control if you allow. An epic night out. Heady excess and a whiff of scandal. A big cat signifying power and the right to luxury. The only choice when good behaviour is not an option. Decadent.
Now this one will surround you in a shield of perfumed protection, but in the most audaciously fabulous way. Too much or not enough? We think it’s the perfect perfume to wear when you need to let your inner diva take the steering wheel and drive you to beyond the limits of your own imagination. Inspired by cult star Divine. A bubblegum mélange of tropical fruits, seductive flowers and predatory tones. A scandalous first impression unveils a balance of audacious combinations. Dare to walk your own path.
This may well have been the first fragrance we ever smelled from this incredible niche house. Having just launched, we were blown away by the freshness, both of this breezey scent (which wafts the promise of holidays and happiness) and the inventiveness of their collection. Here, fragrance floods Aegean isles, turning fresh on crystal waters. A yacht where a famous affair plays out above and below decks.The sun glistens on your body. A drama that remains fresh forever.
What a scent, oh boy, you’d better be ready to fall headlong for the lustful trio of tuberose, honey and ylang ylang. It’s fragrances like this that linger so longingly on the skin – like the tingle of a passionate kiss that seemingly last forever in this strength. One to waft when you desire others to follow your trail for hours, unbidden, helplessly seeking another sniff. Ah yes. Cross and double-cross. Who’s fooling who when the stakes are high? A lingering vapour of classic silver screen sophistication. Impeccable.
There are occasions that a scent rises above a smell and becomes a texture, a colour, a shimmering sensation that evokes so much and plunges you into an olfactive memory. Here, we find ourselves half dreaming, half remembering, waves kissing our legs, warm sun caressing the skin, a feeling of nakedness that sighs contentedly. In a mythical ocean, a sea shell gives birth to the goddess of love. Desire lingers beneath the shimmering surface. Fresh and beautiful, with an undertow. Salty.
£145 for 50ml extrait de parfum
Try Extrait Samples…
We’re thrilled to be able to offer you a way to try these fabulous new extraits altogether – so you don’t have to choose between them, giving each a chance to drape itself irresistibly over your skin and radiate ravishingly in turn. Only then can you truly decide which one(s) must be yours…
There’s no doubt about it: oudh divides opinion. It’s one of those ‘Marmite’ perfumery ingredients, which people either swoon over or clutch their pearls and scream while avoiding at all costs.
But if you think you hate oudh – or any one of the other fragrant materials we’ll be discussing over the coming weeks – get ready to have your perfume preconceptions challenged, and allow yourself to experience some of the newer scents using it as more of a background note. Think of it in the same way you’d use a seasoning, like salt, in cooking. You wouldn’t want the whole dish to be dominated by it, but a judicious sprinkle can utterly alter the way the other ingredients behave and react with one another.
So, let’s go back to basics before we plunge in to the perfumes you should sniff out.
What is oudh?
When we blithely say ‘oudh’, we are actually referring to agarwood – the resinous heart-wood from fast-growing evergreen trees – usually the Aquilaria tree. The agarwood is a result of a reaction to a fungal attack, which turns this usually pale and light wood into a dark, resinous wood with a distinct fragrance – a process that can take hundreds of years.
From that ‘rotten’ wood, an oil is produced, tapped from the tree like maple syrup, and then blended into perfume. The aroma of ‘natural’ oudh is distinctively irresistible and attractive with bitter sweet and woody nuances: seriously earthy and, in small quantities, supremely sexy. Depending on the type of oudh, how long it’s been aged and the quantity used, it can be smooth as velvet, smell like fresh hay drying in sunshine or like a particularly busy barnyard on a rather ripe summer’s day. Just like anything else used in a fragrance, it depends entirely on the expertise of the perfumer, how much they are using, and in conjunction with which other ingredients.
A key ingredient in old and new Arabic perfumery, renowned for centuries as an element within high-quality incense in Arabic, Japanese and Indian cultures, oudh has gone from a ‘trend’ ingredient we saw emerging a few years ago on our scented shores, to now having definitively crossed over to the west as something you can find everywhere – even in fabric conditioners and deodorants. And yet, true oudh is rare, seriously expensive and even endangered: as it’s become more popular, high-quality oud is becoming difficult to source.
Collection of agarwood from natural forests is now illegal under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endanged Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), but some is now beginning to be plantation grown in Vietnam. As an alternative, many perfumers have turned to synthetic oudh, although highly trained noses will tell you it can smell less nuanced, still woody and leathery, but without the warm, balsamic qualities.
So now, we want you to challenge your own nose and seek out some of our favourite fragrances, below. We’ve chosen scents that use oudh as that ‘seasoning’ we spoke of – a way of subtly adding depth, smoothness and velvety plushness within a perfume. Go on, even you oudh naysayers, we double dare you: and bet at least one of these will become a firm fragrant favourite in your collection…
Here we travel to the land of Assam via the richly resonant aromas of the East. Cinnamon leaf oil and nutmeg make for a lively opening with the heart notes giving way to the wonderfully exotic citrus-fresh elemi oil so prized by perfumers. Black tea accord marks our fragrant journey with its smoky tendrils slowly opening to the deeper base and that sweet, wet earthiness and smooth wood played out with notes of oudh and vetiver. Honey is drizzled to sweeten the mix but never becomes sickly, the stunningly smooth tobacco accord putting us in mind of freshly-rolled cigars and dense canopies of greenery outlined against mountains beyond.
Molton Brown Mesmerising Oudh & Gold Accord £45 for 50ml eau de toilette
Buy it at Molton Brown
This feels like an homage to the very origins of perfume – ‘per-fumum’ meaning ‘through smoke’ – this exploration of incense, made exclusively for Harrods, melding the gentle fruity notes of fresh Turkish rose petals plucked from a misty, dew-specked garden, with a fragrant drift of exotic spices. There’s a myticism, somehow, to wearing this. A pure parfum, it lingers beguilingly on the skin for many hours, waves of wamth unfurling, tendrills of smoky woodiness curling around you as you move – your own invisible velvet cloak to swirl, joyously, all day. Just as perfect as night falls, the scent swoons duskily onto the skin like a sunset kissing the earth. Sumptuous.
Atelier Cologne Rose Smoke £325 for 100ml pure parfum
Buy it at Harrods
We automatically began smacking our lips at this, even before we’d sprayed. And oh, once you do, it’s every bit as delicious as you’d hope – if it did come in a jar we’d want to spread buttered crumpets with it, and most definitely smother ourselves from neck to ankles. Probably best it’s bottled, then. With a truly honeyed note that deepens as the sustainably-sourced oudh kicks in, this is intensely nuzzle-able, and there’s nothing whatever to frighten the horses. A gourmand-esque take on oudh, think soft rose and creamy sandalwood rippled with dark seams of oudh, amber and vanilla-specked deliciousness.
Floris Honey Oud £160 for 100ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Floris
Unashamedly salacious, the Turkish and Bulgarian roses entwine the heart, bereft of thorns they mingle with the gently powdered violet – a sheer dusting bestowed from a swan’s-down puff – and the most opulently creamy vanilla base you’re likely to encounter. The evocation of luxuriously stretching out on a satin bedspread and enjoying the feel of the silky material beneath your limbs is hard to resist – add to this image a silver bowl of decadent white chocolates decorated with sugared violets, and you’ll be in seventh Heaven! An animalic (thank you, oudh) smokiness underpins the sensuously draped covers, making this the perfect after-dark fragrance for illicit encounters…
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood £200 for 70ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Selfridges
Named after a small Turkish village on the banks of the river Euphrates and famed for its intensely dusky roses that bloom so deeply crimson they appear to be black, Halfeti is certainly not your ‘blushing English rose’. A balmy breeze of bergamot wafts forth saffron’s warmth, followed by a sizzle of spices perfectly blended with a bouquet of jasmine, rose, lavender and lily of the valley. In the base there’s a flex of supple leather, sensuous oudh swirled through glowing amber, chocolate-y patchouli and finally, a smooth dry down of deliciously almond-like tonka bean, sandalwood and a gently powdered musk. Take us away, immediately…
Penhaligon’s Halfeti £175 for 100ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Penhaligon’s
Over a year since it first threw open its doors, seven new boutiques have opened at Harrods prestigious Salon de Parfums, all the better to seduce your senses. So we thought it was time for an update. Armani Prive, Penhaligon’s and Burberry have settled into luxuriously appointed spaces alongside Bond No.9, Sospiro and Frédéric Malle (we loved the scent booth – what looks like a full-sized shower cubicle, in which perfume is sprayed and wafted for you!)
A worldwide exclusive sees the launch of beautifully presented, Japanese-inspired brand, Floraïku (above) – brought to you by the creators of MEMO, immersing visitors in a Japanese style tea ceremony as they learn about the fragrances and two layering scents the house call ‘shadows’ to amplify their individual characters…
Meanwhile, back at Armani Privé, you can be ushered through gilded doors to strecth out on a chaise lounge and invited to enjoy the immersive ‘Privé Experience’, relaxing as you breathe in gentle wafts of scent until you find your favourite.
Both Sospiro and Frédéric Malle will be offering personalisation and monogramming services within their boutiques, while perfumistas visiting Penhaligon’s and Bond No.9 will be able to create, to varying degrees, their own custom fragrance. Surely the ultimate gift…?
It may seem a bit of a marathon trek up the escalators to the Sixth Floor of the world-famous department store. (Although we’ve figured out a nifty short-cut: up to Fifth, through shoes, and up the final escalator).
But however you get there, and wherever you’re coming from, we promise you it’s worth the trip – particularly when you can browse and sniff in a completely unhurried manner (where else can you legitimately lie down and relax in a shop, without getting thrown out?!) and be treated to advice from true experts on-hand. Harrods Salon de Parfums is on the Sixth Floor at Harrods, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7XL
Written by Suzy Nightingale
Missoni Parfum por Homme is the first foray into male fragrance for the Maison in some years, and having had a sneaky sniff before it launched – although Missoni describe the scent as being ‘…unquestionably masculine’ – we think many ladies might feel the same as us, and not only want to cuddle up to this, but permanently ‘borrow’ it… Missoni say: ‘The captivating freshness of the Missoni Parfum pour Homme is inspired by the Mediterranean landscape warmed by the sun. A woody frgrance both fresh and luminous, full of contrasts.’ Top notes: green lemon leaves & pulp, pink pomelo, lavender aspic Heart notes: Mediterranean Maquis herbs, ginger, pomarose, jasmine Base notes: patchouli, sandalwood, oakwood, birch, musk
So how does it smell? Imagine a walk through the lemon groves at dawn, dew-speckled leaves swirled with an early morning mist that precedes a scorching day to come… The unexpected mix of freshly cut ginger and aromatic lavender proves opposites definitely can attract – zingy spice meeting soothing wafts in a snuggle we want to last forever. Talking of snuggling (and we very often do), there’s a particularly cuddle-some quality to this fragrance, and a deliberate one, at that…
We note from the press release that the dry-down – smooth sandalwood melting into the musky woodieness of the base – was composed to be ‘as enveloping as a precious Missoni cardigan.’ We’re never quite sure how perfumers can translate fragrant ingredients to smell exactly like certain materials feel [shhh! See the Fashion & Fragrance edition of our Scented Letter magazine for more on this olfactory alchemy, next month!] but that’s exactly what’s happened, here. All the cosiness of borrowing your other-half’s best sweater and delighting in the comfort of the soft texture while breathing in their scent.
With the juiciness of the fruity top notes working well in the heat and the soft muskiness of the base just perfect for cooler temperatures, it’s almost enough to have us wishing for snow, so we can get super snuggly in a lavishly scented way…
Missoni Parfum pour Homme £33 for 50ml eau de parfum
Exclusive to Harrodsfrom 7th August (nationwide, October 2017)
Written by Suzy Nightingale