If you really want to know – look in the Mirror…

crystal-ball-2

 

A report in the Times last week – buried under the news from America – was all about current British food fashions and forecasts, as reported by the Waitrose analysts. Health and efficiency is – naturally – key: but so, too, is an interesting appreciation and cultivation of a sense of smell. So, seaweed, cactus water and coconut flour are among the hard-hitters now trending. And it seems that Polynesian cuisine is going to be the next big sensation, the taste of 2017. Vegetable yoghurt will be all the rage; also promised – thrillingly – are perfume-themed cocktails.

I felt quite intoxicated by the idea of a Polynesian diet – so, the other evening I went down to my nearest ethnic eaterie. I rang the bell. The menu was rich and evocative: including chicken long rice; lomilomi (that means “massaged”) salmon; kalua pork; and masses of poi, both leaf and root. The scent and taste of the islands. All that succulent golden aromatic fruit exhaling honey dew and sunlight. Crackling roasts basted in coconut oil and brought to table wreathed in tiare flowers. (Thoughts of cultural appropriation recrudesce but are rapidly dismissed*). No wonder that early western visitors to the Pacific islands thought they had reached the outer shores of Paradise. Sailors reared in the slum rookeries of London and Toulon were ravished by the unknown and delicious scents floating out to their ships from the mountains and lagoons of “the new Cytherea”. I once sailed out from Galway on a warm spring morning to the Isles of Aran: the perfume of spring flowers – violets, cowslips, bluebells – drifted over the water to the ferry passengers with amazing power and radiance.  This is a singular beautiful phenomenon – the fragrance of a new land sweeping over the salty billows like an ambassadorial suite. Our CORSICA FURIOSA is a perfume that presents Napoleon’s birthplace thus: rain-drenched minty lentisticus, honey and tomato leaf. TULUM is a garland of roses, limes and mangoes, thrown down by the old Aztec gods from a sapphire sky into the Yucatan Caribbean.  Come by one day soon, and try.

But to return to the newspapers. What strikes me most in these dietary ruminations is the comforting reflection that we at Les Senteurs have always been – and still are –  very much in the van of style & fashion. We have – thank goodness – our fingers on the pulse of the Zeitgeist. We are currently looking at all kinds of cacti though we may not plant them in our perfume nursery quite yet. We are awash with coconut and seawater. Last month our Egeria  collaborated with the Daily Mail on a feature celebrating the cocktail as perfume and vice versa. Right back in 2012 we had hosted a Valentine’s Event to explore this same intriguing theme. Like ancient shamans and wizards, our minds are opened and stimulated by the divine fog of fragrance in which we spend our days. Mind reading and telepathy are in the air, especially in this super-weird year. Like the Sibyl at Delphi, we inhale the scents which exude from the innards and skin of Mother Earth to be caught in a thousand bottles. We have heard and tasted – merely metaphorically, mind! – the Shrieking Mandrake.¤

Some seers look into the future by gazing into a bowl of water which blooms with visions of things to come. Some perfumers refresh their noses by inhaling from vessels of clear cold water. We use coffee beans for this at Les Senteurs: not maybe as picturesque but more practical. Water needs endlessly replacing as it becomes corrupted with scent; just as in the prophet’s dish it is clouded and disturbed with jostling phantoms.

As to the coming use of vegetables in yoghurt: it’s about time. We most of us enjoy yoghurt as a marinade and a dressing. Some of us have  experimented with it on the skin, as a purifying masque and moisturiser. Most foods can be applied both within and without. Centuries ago this was also true of perfumes. Different foods feed different parts of the body – helping us to see in the dark; to fade freckles; to nourish our brains; to make our hair curl. Taste and smell are inextricably linked in the human sensory system. That old Polynesian poi root, when cooked, will eagerly absorb all surrounding odours and flavour. Perfumes which celebrate food have long since moved on from the traditional accords of cake, chocolate and cream. Gourmand flowers are now all the go: a return to the eighteenth century idealisation of feminine beauty as rose petals laid in cream. From the kitchen garden come carrot, cucumber, celery, coriander, cumin – and a vast range of herbs – all extensively used in perfumery¤¤. Some of the more intense and earthy tuberoses carry a powerful suggestion of their own tubers – and of sacking, soil and humus. There is a whiff of a fine cabbage-leaf cigar in Killian’s LIGHT MY FIRE ; and of course, botanically, the divinely scented velvet wallflower is a cabbage-cousin. I have waited years for the honeyed smell of bean flowers to grace the perfumers’ palate: the overwhelming redolence of broad beans in bloom. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

Finally, it’s a funny thing but no sooner do we take on a new scent referencing the Marquis de Sade – ATTAQUER LE SOLEIL – than it all hatches out at Penguin Books, too. One of de Sade’s tales is being prepared in a new English translation. Apparently it caused a ruckus at the publisher’s. One of the translators said it made him feel physically sick – “upsetting to read and edit”. The editor at Penguin wept when presented with the final version.¤¤¤ So you might want to have another gander at the perfume which is fascinating and compelling but not, we think, traumatic. Mind you, I’ve always been very very wary of that old Marquis myself.

The old year fast fades but everything at Les Senteurs is wonderfully new and fresh in spirit. See you soon.

* to coin a phrase of the great E.M.Delafield.

¤ years ago we sold Annick Goutal’s celebration of the weird root – MANDRAGORE. “And its carton was gleaming in purple and gold”. We still heed Pierre Guillaume’s advice to taste perfume on the tongue.

¤¤ ANGELIQUES SOUS LA PLUIE – the smell of gentle February rain on a walled kitchen garden.

¤¤¤ See The Times 5.11.2016 – for full report & enthusiastic Editorial.

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Interview: Papillon’s Elizabeth Moores

Elizabeth

Papillon Artisan Perfumes are one of the most innovative and exciting fragrance houses to emerge in recent years. The three fragrances, each unique yet somehow connected, created by Elizabeth Moores have been met with great excitement with those inside the fragrance world.

Elizabeth is not only charming but most extraordinarily talented; a natural and spontaneous ‘Nose’. Self-taught, she has produced 3 divine scents of stupendous imagination and quality: not for a long time have I smelled such richness, depth and volupte. She is also a mother, keen gardener and equestrienne. A Renaissance personality!

I sent Elizabeth a few questions about her experiences, and approach to fragrance.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be the creator of these 3 unique beauties?

I have always adored perfume, although it wasn’t until later in my life that I started creating my own fragrances. After realising that many of the traditional routes into perfumery were closed to me, I embarked upon a period of self-study, training and reading with the sources available in order to make perfumes for myself. This often led to friends and family asking what I was wearing and slowly I began to create unique fragrances for others. At the time I was a single mum of four, and upon insistence from friends that I should begin selling my perfumes, I decided to create a business with its heart set in my long love of fragrance.

Your scents have tremendous opulence and dazzling shine, a glow, a polish. How do you achieve this superlative expansion and depth?

I weave accords within accords inside each composition; each one layers across the next, like a Patina, if you will, across the perfume to create olfactory depth. I wanted the perfumes to have strong evaporation curves: perfumes that move and display their various facets at different times. Perpetuating the classical composition of perfume, that adopts a roughly 50/50 ratio of natural and synthetic materials, was important to me as I believe it creates texture and the polished finish that you have mentioned. After I have blended the raw materials, I then allow this compound to macerate for 8 weeks. The compound is then diluted with perfumers alcohol, and the finished bottle then macerates for a further 6 weeks.  Through early trial and error I have found that this process is essential in creating the finished perfume.

I love the way your scents have total individuality, and yet seem somehow connected to one another. Maybe this has to do with your source of inspiration: where do you find your ideas?

Inspiration can come from many sources. I have found nature to be particularly influential in the initial emergence of my ideas, but I also find literature, people, places and experiences all play their part in conceptualising the initial sketches for my perfumes. When I first began creating Anubis it was a nameless leather fragrance, a genre I have great love for, which started to take its true form after reading a book on ancient Egypt. Perhaps without even realising it the intense Egyptian imagery began to permeate my imagination and find its way into the perfume. I’m very fortunate that I am not restricted by focus groups and am free to create in my own way. This might go some way towards explaining the connection that people have identified between the collection.
I have never struggled to find my inspiration, in fact quite the opposite. I often find myself overwhelmed with ideas, and have to be selective in choosing which ones will become a fragrance.

Anubis - Paillon Artisan Perfumes

Do you have favourite ingredients? Are your creations influenced by your love of certain oils?

I’ve yet to use a material that I have not liked. I go through bursts with my tastes, one week I am in love with vertiver, but the next week it might be Sandalwood. Anubis was very heavily influenced by a rich Egyptian jasmine absolute I was desperate to use in a composition.   I adore rose in all its forms, and I’m going through a period where I am in love with Rose de Mai. Maybe it’s because the roses are blooming in my garden that I am feeling a particular affinity to this material at this moment in time. I used Rose de Mai and Bulgarian rose in Tobacco Rose.  Angelique allowed me the freedom to use mimosa which always evokes such happy feelings for me. Orris concrete is one of my favourite materials to work with, tiny amounts within a composition can softly blur the edges of a perfume and create a glorious downy finish. I used a huge amount of Orris concrete in Angelique because I simply couldn’t resist! I sometimes smear the concrete on my wrists, and the deep intense smell always reminds me of the backs of my children’s necks when they were babies.

Tobacco Rose from Papillon Artisan Perfumes

If you were to define yourself in terms of fragrance, which perfume would you be?

I resisted the temptation to come up with something highly amusing, and have instead handed this questions over to my daughters who are probably better qualified to answer it honestly!

There can only ever be one fragrance that can come close to defining my mother. It is one which delicately falls as a backdrop to our childhood memories, and still offers its powdery comfort now we have grown. It is Shalimar by Guerlain. From the hundreds of perfume bottles than adorn our house, it is the feathered neck and royal blue top of the Shalimar bottle that is marked with the finger prints of each of us, sneaking in to spritz some, foolishly hoping we wouldn’t get caught, and secretly wishing that it would bring with it the effortless class and glamour that our mother has always exuded. It is not only the memories that we associate with this perfume, but the essence of the perfume itself that makes it so much like her. It is quiet in its power, but is as determined in its morning vanilla burst, as it is in its soft goodnight kiss. It turns heads not with loud insistence, but with a delicate and timeless sophistication that is warm, encompassing, and never fails to catch you off guard and take your breath away. It will never tire of bringing happiness to those around it, weaving new dreams and memories. It is beautiful, and it is constant.

Angelique from Papillon Artisan Perfumes

If we were to ask you for a top tip, one golden nugget of advice, concerning any aspect of perfume?

There are so many things I have learned, but if I were to offer just one piece of advice it would be to step outside your comfort zone. This can evoke new emotions and often our greatest works are constructed in the difficult space outside familiarity. If you dislike rose, wear rose fragrances for a week; try to pinpoint your dislike, and more often than not you may realise that an aversion to a material can be dissected, and trigger new understandings. Be brave, because I promise you, you will amaze yourself!  

         

 

Play with the Devil

pan

Just to get you licking your lips and smacking your chops, I’ll tip you the wink as to a gloriously degenerate new scent coming into stock at Les Senteurs at the very beginning  of October. Get your head round this corker. Kilian’s PLAY WITH THE DEVIL is a luscious fruity creation that toys with all sorts of pagan references: the great god Pan, the horned and cloven-hoofed god, let loose and running wild in the autumn woods   “spreading ruin and scattering ban”. Even today in country areas folk say that you must finish gathering blackberries on by 1st October the day on which the Devil poisons them with his spittle.

Kilian and his inspired perfumer Calice Becker dish up an orgiastic banquet of  blackcurrant, peach, lychee and blood orange, all juicy-sweet and flowing like diabolical nectar. Here’s the deadly sin of sensual greed leading you most appetisingly into bosky tangles of jasmine and roses (” no rose without a thorn”) and the dark musky woodiness of the forest floor. Appropriately enough this will be the 4th fragrance in Kilian’s Garden of Good + Evil Collection: Satan storms into Eden…”. Prepare yourself by popping into the shop now and tempting yourself with the entire Kilian range.