Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tauer Perfumes Rêverie au Jardin

Please find buying information as well as a short bio of Andy and a run-down of his line here.

If it seems I have been ignoring my blog this last week, it is not only because our little family is moving this Saturday. It is also because I find myself having a great deal of trouble reviewing Andy Tauer's new scent, Rêverie au Jardin. Launched this month, the fragrance contains: high altitude French lavender, galbanum, fir balm absolute, bergamot, Bulgarian rose, frankincense, ambrette seed, orris, vetiver, tonka, oakmoss, vanilla, ambergris, sandalwood and cedar.

Well, this is just a puzzler. I should love it. It's beautiful - another seamless piece of art by Andy. But it is profoundly 'Not Me' and I do not understand why. It is very similar to my beloved Nicolaï Pour Homme and indeed remedies some of the things I find difficult about that fragrance: the clanging, jumbled topnotes, the sweaty fruit moments, the mediocre lasting power. Rêverie is initially fresher and more herbaceous, and yet ends up being very grounded overall. I am tempted to blame my problem on what Andy calls "tangy galbanum", as it's a note I always find difficult, and I do find the opening moments rather too tangy for me. I think, however, that the pine is a nice balance here and what really makes the fragrance wrong for me is the solidness of the base.

I find that many of my favourite perfumes have a bright transparency of the topnotes (citrus, neroli, green notes, lemony spices and sharp, almost chemical smells) laid over a creamy base ("waxy" florals, sandalwood, gourmand notes like rice or chocolate, lactones, musks, oakmoss, smoother woods and the softest leather notes). Even if they are very dry (not sweet) or airy/smoky, there is a soft richness to them. Rêverie has too mineral and solemn a base to work this way. I admire the austerity of it, the frankincense, vetiver and woods giving off the feeling of chilled stone, as in a church - but I am unable to see myself wearing it often, because the texture doesn't work for me. Despite the name's reference to gardens, I do not get living plants or green landscapes from the perfume. Rather, if I get any "outdoor" sense of it at all, I visualize the scent as Andy writes: "twinkling like a star". All this to say it is a wonderful scent that I will leave to the numerous Andy fans who will appreciate it in the way it deserves. The lasting power is fabulous, by the way, but the fragrance remains closer to the skin than Andy's other scents.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Serge Lutens Chêne

For my previous brief review of this fragrance, read Les Eaux Boisées here.

Chêne was created in 2004 by Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake for the Palais Royal exclusives line. It contains oak-bark tannin, cedar crystals, birch, immortelle, saps, black thyme, beeswax, tonka bean, rum absolute and moss. From that list of notes, you might expect it to smell like wood, and, well... you would be right. Many reviewers write of shadowed, primeval forests, with undergrowth and fallen leaves and autumnal hush - but Chêne has always conjured cut or curing wood and sawdust for me, with that familiar blend of airy, bitter freshness and powdery warmth. The Serge Lutens website in English aptly describes it as "the comfort and magnitude of oak", while the French booklet substitutes ampleur (or "fullness") for the latter word: both terms convey the expansive, radiant quality of the scent. As Luca Turin writes in The Secret of Scent: "If you've spent any time in a covered timber yard, you will know that it is hard not to feel good when in one of these natural cathedrals." The smell of wood feels cleansing and Chêne is a perfume built around this feeling.

The opening seconds of the fragrance are sharp, with an astringent, almost apple-like smell that hovers between a rum drink, aged vinegar and turpentine. This quickly calms into a very lightly sweet and diffusive woodiness. The richness from the rum and wax comes without the bottom-heavy sensuality that often accompanies scents based on sandalwood - while deep, Chêne is an uplifting, rather than grounded scent. The cedar is handled with a very light touch, adding a freshness that is particularly evident in the middle stages. The scent overall is medicinal, but also soft. Oak tannins, like all tannins, are bitter and have that bracing quality found in quinine and other tinctures of barks, but like the tannins in tea, wine, chocolate and tonic, there is something soothing and round about them in dilution. Indeed, bitterness is often a sign of comfort to come, as is implied by our understanding of "medicinal". (Oak bark teas have been used for centuries as anti-diarrheatics and gargles for sore throats. I try not to wonder how our ancestors figured out such a treatment worked for both problems.) Oakmoss, too, is bitter, but with a powdery, skin-warm finish and the later stages of the perfume are cozily bedded on the moss and tonka. The sillage of Chêne is gentle, and it therefore comes as a surprise that the lasting power is excellent. It is a personal, contemplative fragrance, oddly abstract in the way of some Serge Lutens perfumes: the core quality of the natural scent is amplified until there is a weird, almost alien solidity to the fragrance.

For now, Chêne is only available at the Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido in Paris for 100 Euro for a 75 ml bell jar. It is rumoured to be joining the export collection as a limited edition in the fall.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

A taste of the terror of anosmia

Darn it all, I have a cold and am completely blocked up. I'll be back as soon as it clears with a review of Andy's new Rêverie au Jardin and Serge Luten's Chêne. I'm hoping to have a tea week soon, too, with Creative Universe , Parfums de Nicolaï Fig Tea, some of the CB I Hate Perfume tea scents, perhaps Hermessence Osmanthe Yunnan or maybe one of the Parfumerie Generale teas.