My title says it all, and it’s no secret cos I mentioned it a month ago. But I have love affairs with many perfumers, and most don’t last four weeks, or sustain that love over more than two perfumes. As a preamble, I’ll list one or two of them who have. First, Bertrand Duchaufour. He is a master at juxtaposing unusual notes or developing a sense of sourness that strangely works in a scent. And, even though I’m no longer incense’s best buddy, he is a crowned prince of that type of fragrance. Take the almost acrid wonder of Timbuktu, the softer Dzongkha, or the so-strong-my-bottle-will-last-several-millenia Bois d’Ombrie. I’ve posted before how he seems to capture moments in space and time with his scents, and every time I sniff something by him, I still get that sense of awe and wonder that borders on the religious. I’m desperate to try his new men’s scent for Amouage. Let me know if you have.
Yann Vasnier is up there too. Although I only know him for three fragrances really (I’ve tested others but not spent any time with them), they’re all wondrous. March sent me her bottle of Comme Des Garcons Palisander, and I’ve been overwearing it. Woody and spicy with an overdose of saffron, it’s become my biggest compliment getter. And I advise anyone who hasn’t tried them to seek out his two men’s fragrances for Divine, L’Homme Sage and L’Homme de Coeur. The first strikes me as a sweeter and smokier reworking of Palisander, darker in quality but perhaps more refined, with an immortelle twist. L’Homme de Coeur is quite simply breathtaking – a rendition of iris (2007’s note of ubiquity) that kicks so many others into the shade. It’s quiet, refined and fresh – possibly the best fresh scent ever made. I’m no stranger to hyperbole.
But Annick Menardo, at the moment, is my queen. She’s long been sending me anonymous love letters, without me knowing her identity. In fact, she likes to keep her identity hidden – look at those photos. There is a video of her available online, but I daren’t embed it here – I nearly blew up the site last week by including that film trailer. She has very slender arms.
When those Christian Dior limited editions for men came out in 04 or 05, I braved the fifth circle of hell (aka Selfridge’s perfume floor) to buy a bottle, and came away with Bois d’Argent. I had no idea this was by the same genius who’d come up with Bvlgari Black, but that combination of honey, incense, iris (again it appears) with a touch of leather had to be mine. If the two perfumes have a commonality, it is a comforting softness in the drydown – both scents quieten into pillows of warmth; discreet layers to keep out the cold. And this is a familiar in much of her work, even when it veers into the urbane and kinky (rubber play of the aforementioned Black) or rustic and dirty (the grubby pick up truck of Patchouli 24).
Even her designer scents often have a clear Menardo quality, in spite whatever limiting brief she is given. At their best they combine exceptional gourmand notes with oriental richness. Take Lolita Lempicka au Masculin – I don’t think I know another fragrance (other than its distaff namesake) where the juice matches the bottle to perfection. It starts with a cold green sparkle of anise that seems almost crystalline, before warming up into a woody bloom just the right side of mainstream. Or Body Kouros, which I love, though I’m probably alone in that. Here, Menardo plays around with a cotton candy synthetic sweetness that’s streamlined by eucalyptus into a very comforting blend. I just wish the 20something crowd would go for this style of fakery in winter, rather than their usual citrus + musk accord x touch of spice = meh. And finally, I have to mention the heliotrope overdose of Jaipur Homme, an elegant comfort scent if ever there was one. I’ll leave March to mention Hypnotic Poison…
Out of all her scents though, the one at the top of the tree, cream of the crop, best of the bunch, loveliest of all lovelies, has to be Bois d’Armenie for Guerlain’s l’Art et la Matiere series. It’s perfection. Immediately warm, it’s more a wispy smoke than incense, tempered by a coriander note that to my mind gives it an almost cumin-like fleshiness, albeit temporarily. The notes are seamlessly blended, or at least my untrained nose can’t pick them out distinctly, though the outline of elements like patchouli occasionally shimmer into view, as though veiled in the softest cashmere. The almond-like quality present in many of her scents plays out here to give the scent its richness. Though it has extreme lightness too – like one of those pastries that flakes into nothing yet is loaded with butter. Smooth, skin-caressing, all-enveloping, sepia-tinged hazy beauty: what’s not to love? Weeeeell, it is something of a skin scent and prohibitively priced, so that might put you off. I took advantage of lovely Louise and the $ to £ exchange rate… Needless to say, decants are available you-know-where. I can’t live without it this winter. I’ve sniffed it alongside the more recent Spiritueuse Double Vanille. I think you know which one I think is the winner, I think.
For a sample of Bois d’Armenie (if you haven’t yet tried it, you crazy fool!) and a few other Menardo marvels, put your name in the draw by leaving a message.
And why this picture of Wentworth Miller? Well, it came up, for some unclear reason (my computer must know me better than I thought), in a search for Annick Menardo – Patchouli 24? Body Kouros? Eau de Hotness? – and to be honest I couldn’t help but share it, even though it’s clearly meant for me and me alone, you hear me! After all, Patty’s allowed her Christian Bale fetish… I only wish the image (clearly for me and no-one else – have I made that point already?) didn’t make me quite so feverish. Hubba hubba. Who says I should be feeling the winter cold by now?