Haute Parfum

A Blog about my love in perfumes, the aesthetics, the hedonism, the greatness of these artistic creations of the olfactory world. It is about my wish, my dream to create something like this one day.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Coco Madamemoiselle

It is a fragrance that I did not like when I initially smelt it. It really turned me off with its overdose of the heavy florals, with something like a coconut cream overtones, so much so I thought I was smelling a rather expensive sunscreen lotion, rather than a perfume.

Its when I bought a bottle of the parfum and in really small doses, started to understand and appreciate this fragrance. I wondered, since this fragrance is one of the success stories in Europe, I wondered how people grew to love this fragrance? I really wanted to know!

The Osmoz website states that “After Coco, Coco Mademoiselle is a tribute to Gabrielle Chanel's contrasting personality. It's an expression of femininity, a sparkling fragrance, fresh and sophisticated for an elegant and sensuous woman”.

At the heart of Coco M., the key to this sweet floral fragrance is a crystalline amber note that is both solid sweet like a block of crystalline rock sugar, yet smooth and heavy like a black abyss. It is this note that is the seed and foundation of the sensuality of the fragrance. It contributes to the sense of darkness and the sense of mystery. This amber note is beautifully married to a sweet vanilla, making the whole construction even more rock hard crystalline.

Around this deep amber base, is built a huge column of a floral rose note, that seems like a tornado swirling around the amber. This is not the big blossoming blood red cabbage rose that gives out a rich syrupy scent, but this rose is sharp, green, clear (a little like PEA (phenylethylalcohol, the principal leafy rose odour combined with the sweetness of Irises (ionones) and somewhat like a thousand shards of glass flying out at you. It is a beautiful effect however, because it shimmers and gives a sort of architectural structure above the equally structural amber base.

After this, is where I lost it, and cannot follow the rationale behind the composition.

At the top, the citrus notes, mandarin, bergamot and orange, I think gives this a rather sweetish, soda soft drink like feel, throw in a syrupy honey feel and the whole thing starts to look really bizarre to me.

And then, they decided to put in a heavy blooming floral and dressed it with sandalwood, vetiver and patchouli, around this massive structure, like drapping a heavy curtain around a steel frame pyramid, it simply obscures the beauty of the structure below, and makes the whole perfume so heavy and ponderous.

The creaminess is reminiscent of Madam Rochas, with the accord of rose, lily, adehydes and a rich creamy sandalwood linking of them together. However, in this context, it was off, we did not have the nice lily notes to lift the fragrance or the aldehydes to countpoint the overwhelming sweetness.

To improve, as a personal suggestion, I think if the lily note, and a slight dewey rose aldehyde (rosalva perhaps) would fill up the perfume. Otherwise, the sandalwood should have been toned down, for a more edgy, lighthearted feel.

Nevertheless, the overall perfume is a successful one, and has gone on to inspire other similar structures. The idea of the crystalline amber note, has in my view, inspired other beautiful renditions like L’Instant, and Omnia.

And even so, the heavy iris and sandalwood, patchouli and vetiver combination is once again found in Attraction of Lancome.
I don't know, after thinking about this fragrance for a week, it still eludes me. Perhaps the vanilla and the rose remind me of No. 5. But otherwise, it does nothing for me…
Image from Chanel.com

Friday, June 15, 2007

Chanel : Coco

As it unfolds, a flurry of fruity and floral notes rush at you. It was like you were entering a closed up room, and suddenly the door opens at you and the warm air within gushes out, laden with odours within, fruits from the bowl of ripening peaches sitting on the dinning table, and the bouquet of roses, green and full of life, and the brewing cup of cocoa with the creme brulee served up beside.

Michael Edward's book, Perfume Legends, gives some insights on this fragrance. Jacques Polge who visited Coco’s hotel apartment noted that she had this baroque side to her. Amidst all her girlish simplicity and cold Parisian elegance, there was this side to her that revealed that she was full of passion and complexity, in her life story, in the way she wanted to live it.

Coromandel screens, asian antiquities, Chinese porcelain litter the cramped apartment. Yet Jacques did not immediately take this and go out to create an oriental. (Well he eventually succumb to it, when he made the very beautiful Coromandel Exclusifs).

He mentioned that Shalimar will bring you to India, and Opium will bring you to Marrakech, but Coco will be neither of those. Because Chanel never lived in those exotic lands, she just reveled in their mystery. And her baroque dream of the orient chic was what Jacques noted as Venetian at best. So he said that Coco will bring you to Venice, in its olden apartments cramped with curios overlooking the distinctly European cityscape. Coco brought you to Venice!

What a wonderous line of thought!, such brilliant inspiration that led to this brilliant brilliant floriental. And it was well that he did not just go out to create yet another oriental, but merged the best of two worlds, no, three worlds, to create such an object of sublime beauty.

As we continue, the flurry of fruity and floral notes remind me of summery florals like orchids, roses and jasmines. The fruity note is reminiscent of Opium, with its melonish opening, and a bit like Femme, with its jammy prune like opening. All these, perfectly balanced against an oriental background. Now, orientals are split between ambery orientals (eg. Shalimar) and mellis orientals (eg. Youth Dew). Jean Louis Sieuzac was one of the pioneers to combine the two into the enigmatic Opium. Mellis orientals have fallen largely out of favor, as its note is a bit overly spicy and after several decades of the success of Youth Dew and Blue Grass, seems a bit dated. Opium revived that with the addition of the evergreen ambery oriental notes, which gave it a breath of new life.

And of course, Coco added on to that, with flowery and fruity notes. This allowed the fragrance not to be confined to winter days or night time wear as a perfume like Opium would be confined to, but it would open it up to more moderate days where the fragrance will not so much overwhelm a lovely spring day, but just add a touch of warm and indoors to a cool breezy day.

Coco was an example again of an evolution of a family, from the inter-marriage of ambery and mellis orientals and then a further inter-marriage. New “categories” are created everyday, but not everyday, you see an object of beauty and imagination come to the fore such as Coco.

Photo from www.staleywise.com/collection/dahl_wolfe/revised4_03/8.html

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Chanel Exclusifs : 28 de la Puasa

I have left this to the last of the Exclusifs to review, however, that does not mean that it would be the best of the six new launches. Only that it intrigued me long enough to keep coming back to it again and again.

Sometimes fragrances are just like that. At first, you might not like it very much and after many tries, and given lots of chances, you grow to like it or even fall in love with it. It may be the other way around. Love at first sight, but after a while, simply boredom, and little death.

28 was something old and something new. In the long line of iris perfumes, it was the newest luminary to be added to that list of perfumes constructed around this noble note. Yet, for all its newness on the market, it really was something old. I could say the lineage of this watery iris note started all the way from Apres L’ondee. That enigmatic fragrance, a little sad and grey, yet tinged with a touch of hope of new life. It truly was a masterpiece.

Thereon, fastforward, the next great piece I smelt was Hiris by Hermes, constructed, or rather painted by the genius Olivia Giacobetti, the note was simply like layered chiffon on the glidden body of the goddess Isis.

My latest love affair with the Iris fragrance was with the Homme by Dior. In such a traditionally feminine note, sprung an invention of utter understated elegance.

How does 28 compare? It is good to know that perfumery ideas continue to evolve and to be borrowed, and like so many of the other Exclusifs, 28 did just borrow an idea, abeit too closely, from Homme.

I did not really fall in love with it, merely was captivated with it at the start, and immediately, I said, “Ah! a female Homme de Dior!” The strong iris heart is evident with the powdered lavender, amber and powdered musky heart. Yet it was not strong and elegant like L’Homme. As I smelt on, it had the lively carrot notes of Hiris, a bit vegetal, warm and a bit steamy.

The second day, and then the third day, and then I started to tire of this. There is nothing original in its construction. There are no intricate little stories. Just predictable little elaborations, of themes I have long known before.

It is a sad little fragrance, grey like Apres but it had no little spark to make you happy once again. It is all doom and gloom, there are no highlights in the fragrance. It is beautiful yes, but it is boring as it is refined ad nauseam, it is featureless as it is subtle ad nauseam.

There goes the problem. Sometimes when you try to be too greedy, and start taking good things from everywhere, doesn't mean you get the best. Something new and something old, but that did not make something great.

Image from http://www.waple.net/bbs/data/gallery_color/sad_b.jpg

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Evaporation Model Incorporating Top, Middle and Bottom Notes.

An Essay on the Evaporation Curve
Within the entire perfume, which I shall call total evaporation curve, there are a mix of 3 evaporation curves, ie. Of the top, middle and bottom notes.

In these three, they blend together to form a harmonous total evaporation curve.

Quantity of MaterialsThe top notes start at the top and mostly evaporate by the time they reach middle of the evaporation curve. The middle notes are perceivable I the start of the evaporation but takes the greatest effect in the middle of the evaporation cycle and the bottom notes become more and more perceivable by the time the end of the evaporation cycle is reached.

Total Evaporation Curve

The total evaporation curve will determine how much the top, middle and bottom notes are in the perfume. For heavy perfumes, more bottom notes are being used. For fresher perfumes more top notes are being used. Perfumes with large amounts of bottom notes, like orientals, chypes etc. Well Balanced perfumes with equal proportions of top notes, middle and bottom notes, eg. Florals, aldehydics etc. Citrus Type perfumes, or fresh perfumes with a high percentage of top notes

Materials linkage within Evaporation Curves

The role of a perfumer is to find materials that blend well a single note within a perfume to form distinct Notes within the perfume. For example, a floral perfume will consist of a blend of Rose, Muguet and Jasmin notes. The perfume will design these three notes with Rose top notes, Rose middle notes and Rose bottom notes, and like wise for muguet and jasmin. The “idea” of the perfume is carried through from top to bottom this way and a good harmony is achieved.
Examples of Fragrance Materials in the Evaporation Curve

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Chanel : No 19

19 is one of those rare beauties that come out once in a blue moon. Some perfumes borrow ideas from other people and build on them, and once in a while, someone comes out with an entirely original creation of such abstract beauty that once you experience it, you will simply sigh.

I must qualify, of the three concentrations, Parfum, EDP and EDT, all reflect different part of the personality.

The parfum version is the only version I feel reflects truely the main intention of the creator. The green galbanum top note is carefully controlled to reflect the grassy note of a very expensive extract of irises or tuberoses. It does not overpower the fragrance, in many ways, I feel the green note is not the defining moment in the fragrance but the beautiful interplay between the roses and the irises.

There were many perfumes full of irises before and after I guess, but the real iris root butter has a smell which is a bit creamy (you would say buttery), sweet, powdery, woody (or rooty, earthy, some would put it) and has this sweet violet note which distinguishes it. When introduced into fragrances, many believe it will smoothen out any rough edges and give it a suede like effect, a bit fuzzy yet soft.

And 19 is really about irises, boosted with a very beautiful rose note, the same rich blood red roses present in the No. 5 parfum version, rich and beautiful. Two very expensive and noble materials combined to give something wonderful, rich and elegant.

In the base, a leathery mossy note, probably built around Isobuty quinolenes (like in Bandit), which has both a leathery and mossy smell, and also a strong sweet spicy anise like effect, gives the whole base of 19 a chypre animal effect. It introduces something interesting, because not, it is not some fuddy old grandmother's floral, but a sensual animal dressed up in a soft floral tops. This duality is again something I have explored in Shalimar and Anais Anais, and would be exploring further in L'Heure Bleu.

To top off the rather heavy and sweet floral construction and dark and heavy leather mossy base, a light jasmine note has been added that is both the idea behind a chypre as it strives to lighten the whole fragrance and gives it diffusion and lightness. The jasmine then link to the citrus in the top note and the iris link to a raw, elemental galbanum green note. These additions of jasmin, citrus and galbanum brings a spring like youthfulness about the fragrance. This deceptive youthfulness lends 19 to be generally perceived as a fragrance for the younger market, the daugthers of the Chanel mothers, and generally serve to initiate these younger ones into the club.

In some ways, I am once again reminded of the the earlier theory that Coco wanted No. 5 to be uncopieable given the richness of its homegrown jasmines and roses coupled with the raw energy of aldehydes ie. only such soft richness of the jasmines and roses can tame the powerful rough aldehydes. In 19, the raw energy of galbanum (you only need to smell Vent Vert to feel its raw energy) and the quinolenes can only be tamed by the iris and roses to make a fragrance of such polish and yet such uncopieable originality.

The parfum smells really young and youthful in the first 15 minutes, thereafter the iris notes begin their effect, which makes you feel as if a lady has stepped out of her initial girly outfit. Then after a full 2 hours, the leather moss note is apparent and the whole picture starts to get a bit dangerous and mature. So I think the parfum will be as suitable for a mature lady as it would a younger lady.It is really an interesting fragrance to watch as it evolves.

The EDP and EDT are another story altogether. The EDT is so strong on the citrus and green notes, the initial spray, and I feel I am walking through an overgrown grassyard, stomping and falling every step of the way. The EDP is no better, the green galbanum overtakes the whole fragrance for a good hour, before the heart is to be heard. However, perhaps these two will appeal to an even younger crowd that likes the green outdoors and the citrus vibrancy of the fragrance.

These 3 versions are somehow like different manifestations on a same theme. One is like an evening gown, and the other two like short dresses but on the same theme.

Photo from Biblioparfum.net

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Chanel : Cristalle

Sometime ago, a perfumer friend taught me a lesson about accords. An accord, in simple terms, is a harmony of perfumery notes, that forms an idea or gives a distinctive perfumery note.

I used to think that accords are huge things, like the most obvious smelling things that makes up the idea of the perfume. Like woods, amber and vanilla can give oriental accord. I used to think they have to shout out loud, be made of materials that smell hideously strong, that paints everything the same shade of colour.

But when he presented me with one of the little secrets behind Cristalle, a well known secret in the industry, one that Henri Robert spent many months trying to get just right, I was just blown away.

Four little materials formed this accord, one smelling like raspberries, one of pineapples and violet, one of roses, and the last, of just some light chemical. Even when you combined them together, they did not really smelt like anything, it was just a chemical smelling mixture. An accord that is indestructable, even though it is present in the final formula in less than 1%. Its like a sequin flower pattern sparkling on a perfectly made yellow dress.

When we put this accord, which he liked to call “Sparkle” in one of the trial formulas, wow, the sleepy little composition took on a little life of its own. It was as if, on top of the faceted faces of the diamond little bits of light began to dance. The twinkle, sparkling effect floated above the structured cut stone, lending an air of magic and charm.

Cristalle opens with a lemon citrus with a smart green and herb note. Then the peach/raspberry/melon(helional?)/jasmin accord starts to show itself, carrying on from the citrus opening. It is very sweet, but only for a while, when suddenly the whole thing is over, and all you smell is the lingering woody note, light, woody and powdery ghost of a dusting on your skin. A very befitting end, clean and dry.

And so it is with Cristalle, such a beautiful composition that was somehow a little overshadowed by its bigger sisters No. 5, No. 19 and Coco for a while. While No. 5 was into classic heritage, No. 19 into haute parfumerie elegance, and Coco into heavy duty seduction, Cristalle had a much simpler calling, a summer sprizz to refresh its wearer on a hot sweltering day, it was launched in a time where light summery chypres like Ma Griffe (1946) were the rage of the day.

Had a Chanel perfume been launched as a man’s perfume, like the immortal and much higher profile Eau Sauvage, which I much believed it has evolved from, lemon, herbs, jasmine heart (hedione!), moss and musks, I think it would have seen the profile that it deserves.

Some 20 years later, a EDP version was launched by Jacques Polge, which tried to revive this. Unfortunately, I did not think it was a very good job. The top notes were not green and tart and refreshing, as I would have liked it to be. The heart notes, simply brutal, too much tangerine and peaches, and it smelt like someone rubbed overripe fruit on the skin. The delicate, shimmering citrus chypre accord was destroyed!

In my view, Cristalle EdT stays true to its calling, the original calling that Eau Sauvage set out to solve, prolonged freshness.

H&R states that Cristalle has top notes of bergamot, lemon, basil, cumin, hyacinth, peach, middle notes of jasmine, melon, narcissus, cyclamen, muguet, tangerine, and bottom notes of oakmoss, musk, civet, patchouli and sandal.

The citrus notes is given a spring fresh with a taut note of hyacinth. This leads, after a while, seamlessly lead into the herbal / jasmine heart notes, with a lively jasmine / hedione dance, with the sparkle accord topping it off. Try it, you will smell it, try to look for a sweet crystalline raspberry note floating on top of the citrus/jasmin base.

As the heart note carry on, honey and other phenolic notes (narcissus) provides it the essential hint of girlish sexiness in the heat of summer, oakmoss gives it depth and longlastingness, and musks for the diffusion.

Voila, like a sip of a perfect lemonade in an hot summer afternoon in Chanel haute pre-a-porter, of course.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Chanel Exclusifs: Cuir de Russie

Cuir de Russie is really a fragrance of its time. Again a creation of Ernest Beaux and created in an age and time when women were gradually taking charge of their lives. In this era are milestones like the “smoking jacket” by YSL, and the many smoking women, and of course the large variety of tabac type (Tabac Blond (Caron), Emeraude (Coty) and leather type fragrances (Cabochard(Gres), English Leather, Jolie Madame (Balmain), Cuir de Russie (Guerlain, Chanel)) or even orientals with a a captive leather note, like in Shalimar.

Top notes, Orangeblossom, Bergamot, Lemon, Clary sage, middle notes Carnation, Orris, Yasmin, Ylang, Cedarwood, Vetiver, Base Note, Leather, Opopanax, Heliotrope, Vanilla (from H&R)

Having a leather note in a fragrance is nothing new, because in Europe, one of the first areas where fragrances found extended use was in perfuming leather gloves. After the tanning process, the leather usually had a very pungent leather smell. Glove owners often sent these gloves to be impregnated by perfumes to mask or harmonize this pungent leather note.

Over time, when the smell of leather has become highly coveted, perhaps due the fact that a leather smell is indicative about the quality of the leather, and a sign that it is real, amidst the large variety of synthetic leather materials that does not possess that rich authentic smell. Anything with the feel and smell of leather had a decidedly luxurious feel about it.

In Cuir de Russie, these same ideas come through; a sense of luxury, a sense of empowerment, a sense of daring and independence.

The parfum explodes off my skin and it was as if I put on a pair of really expensive leather gloves. The first notes I sense are a cologne-like top note, with neroli, herbs and bergamot, and immediately I noticed the dry animalic chypre structure. This quickly gives way to a floral and leather accord, which is dry and woody. Irones (dry woody iris material) and isoeugenol (carnation) forms the floral component, and that surrounds the core of the fragrance a leather note and a sweet liquorice/moss note typical of Isobutyl Quinolene (together with the resinous tar like sweetness of opopanax) and vanilla, similar to the combination found in Shalimar. The dryness and smoky notes supported by careful use of cedarwood, coupled with styrax. The drydown is vanillic sweet.

In many ways, this fragrance feels like wearing animal skins lined with fur, smoking a cigarette. This fragrance works well for a man too, as the fragrance is rather androgynous, smoldering sensuality that is neither too feminine, nor overtly masculine.

The leather note is not a new leather smell, which would have made you feel as if you had put on some artificial leather conditioning fluid. Neither is the leather note totally taking the center stage, as in some other fragrances. The spices, carnation and resins help to lend a warm and “age” this leather, making it something convincing. The iris note lends a certain elegance to an otherwise brutal leather and IBQ combination. Finally, the tabac and woody notes create a story of a woman who dears to dress with assertiveness, of a certain bohemian chic.

I would say overall, this is really a fragrance that is very classy, luxurious and rich.

Photo from Chanel.com

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Article by Chandler Burr

Discovered this really good article by Chandler Burr on the background of the Chanel Exclusifs for The New York Times.
Do give it a read.

Photo from Chandler Burr.