Review: By Kilian Moonlight in Heaven — 4.0 points

Now is the hottest time of year in Thailand, but I am still forgiving of its scorching 38°C because this is the time when mangoes become ripe and I can enjoy the fine treat of mango sticky rice or Khao Niao Mamuang. The comforting dessert pairs juicy mango with creamy glutinous rice and coconut milk, and Moonlight in Heaven (By Kilian, 2016) evidently takes up this vibrant contrast.

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‘Khao Niao Mamuang’ — mango sticky rice

The tropical air of mango is suggested by a tart note of blackcurrant. Peppery and lemony notes lend their bright clarity to it, whilst a creamy nuance of fig softens its tang. A vivid green contrast recalling the green ivy of J’adore (Dior, 1999) tames the fruity sweetness. Perfumer Calice Becker is the creator behind both J’adore and Moonlight in Heaven, and her finesse is reflected in their fruity accords, which seem to possess the supernatural perfection of a Dutch still life.

Soon, the powdery sweet accord of glutinous rice dominates, rounded by floral hints of jasmine and orange blossom. A creamy note suggests the rich flavour of coconut milk, much like the sensuality of a moon-lit woman in the photograph by Patrick Demarchelier that also inspired the composition. The floral and milky rice powder juxtaposed with a tart mango is the lively tropical idea of the composition until the dry down, in which the sweet tonka bean of coumarin and the woody nuts of vetiver complement the idea.

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The contrast between sour fruit and powdery sweetness gives it a vibrant character. The mastery with which its radiant fruity accord is woven alone is worth exploring, and its toasty sweetness is just as refined. I especially like the way its tart cassis courses through to the dry down of sweet powder. And unlike most sweet fruity bombs, Moonlight in Heaven is composed. Yet, it is tenacious enough for the hottest days of Bangkok, during which I have been wearing it. Moonlight in Heaven proves that a dessert-inspired, fruity perfume does not have to be another boring tutti-frutti: it can be just as evocative.

Sources: bykilian.com, wikimedia commons by Terence Ong

An Infusion of Jasmine and Climbing Ylang Ylang

Our garden always mesmerises me with an array of flowers and herbs. One of the most familiar smells is the narcotic sweet scent of jasmine sambac (Jasminum sambac) at dusk. But as the evening breeze blows, it brings also the fruity, ylang-ylang-like aroma of karawek or climbing ylang ylang (Artabotrys siamensis)* from the neighbour’s. These two fragrant floras have long been used in Thai perfumery and cuisine. My mother, as I recall, would extract their essences for the traditional desserts. So, when I chanced upon these blooms, I felt inspired to share a simple infusion that she would often make.

The recipe is fairly straightforward, but there are some tricks to getting it right. Knowing when to pick requires careful observation. The flowers should be collected when they are most fragrant, which is at dusk. The jasmine sambacs can be picked even when they have not opened; these unopened flowers will eventually bloom and release their scent overnight. But only the ripe yellow karaweks, which are fragrant, should be picked. And each of the six petals should be separated from the calyx.

The flowers are quickly rinsed before being gently placed in a bowl of water. The water is allowed to absorb the scents overnight. Care should be taken not to cause disturbance because the flowers would otherwise become ‘bruised’ and the infusion would acquire a sharp vegetal note of crushed leaves. The spent flowers are removed and the process is repeated once more with a new set of flowers to saturate the infusion with their perfume.

One can use this infusion for a number of purposes. My mother often uses it to make a syrup, and the aroma still lingers on even after the infusion is boiled with sugar. One can also include other fragrant flowers for a complete water-based eau de cologne. I, on the other hand, simply use it to spike a glass of chilled water. It makes for a refreshing beverage with a pleasant lingering after-taste. But be warned: it is potent, and a tablespoon suffices to perfume a whole jug of water.

A note on classification*: The family Annonaceae includes the classical ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) used in perfumery and other plants with similarly strongly fragrant flowers. Karawek (Artabotrys siamensis) belongs to the Artabotrys genus of this family, which explains why it shares some olfactory characteristics with ylang ylang.

Photograph of the Day: Nostalgia

In Bangkok, I came across these nostalgic Tiffin carriers also known as pinto in Thai. It is a series of stacked stainless steel or cream-coloured tin containers. They are the forerunners of modern plastic containers. They can be used to carry a few side dishes to go with a staple, which is rice or noodle, separately. By the time one is ready for lunch, the rice will not be soggy.

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It was an invention for a time when people did not have the purchasing ability for outside food, and often brought their own homecooked meals to work. But nowadays they come in all sorts of colour and with more advanced materials like microwavable plastics or enamels. Still, there is no denying its inherent vintage vibe, and many restaurants employ these to serve their dishes.

Review: Liquides Imaginaires Saltus — 3.5 points

As one of its Latin meaning implies, Saltus (Liquides Imaginaires, 2015) has the character of fragrant resins derived from evergreen trees. Created by perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu, it captures a rich exudate, from the turpentine sharpness of an oozing sap to the musky treacle of a dried resin. Smelling it, I tend to think of Saltus as a close examination of nature.

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The emerging sap has short-lived green accents of cedar and eucalyptus leaves, and most of it is embodied by camphor. It has such an unprecedented brightness, to which I am unaccustomed in a perfume. I immediately think of Vicks VapoRub and find this comforting in a quirky way.

As the sap dries up, the camphor lessens. Now, one begins to glimpse its resinous depth. Styrax imbues the composition with smoky, spicy, and balsamic notes. Patchouli and incense enhance the character of resinous woods. Yet, the thick resins are surprisingly contrasted by the milky note of ethyl laitone. Musk and castoreum give their sweet animalic touch that also softens the sharp resins. The result is both resinous and rubbery. It is not loud, but it lasts well. For that, it takes some adjustment on my part to appreciate the strange duality.

Saltus offers an interesting portrait of an exudate that balances the two sides. On the one hand, it is bright and sharp; on the other, it is dusky and sensual. This I appreciate, but wearing it is another story. The sharp camphor-resin versus the soft animalic rubber may be the dynamic pairing of nature, but it is not easy. The old caveat applies: try it on first.

Source: liquidesimaginaires.com

Review: Arquiste Aleksandr — 4.0 points

Inspired by the fatal duel of the poet Alexander Pushkin, the namesake Aleksandr (Arquiste, 2012) isll a story of Pushkin riding into the fir forest on the fateful day, wearing leather boots and a copious splash of an eau de cologne.

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But without reading the accompanying story, I tend to think of Aleksandr by perfumer Yann Vasnier as a leathery iris with a splash of eau de cologne-type freshness. This idea of iris for men is not entirely new, considering that it has already begun with the advent of Dior Homme (2005) that sets its iris in a cocoa and somewhat leathery theme. Nevertheless, there is always room for a good tweak.

The beginning of Aleksandr is a cool sparkle of neroli and citrus, and there is a lot of it because it veils the bulk of Aleksandr so well that I never would imagine that there is a dense theme at heart. Its bright freshness is a beautiful contrast to the dusky iris.

In a moment, the iris heart reveals itself. I first notice its green carrot vibes, followed by the sweetness of violets. Then, a leathery musky accent gives the impression of a soft suede – not exactly what Pushkin would have worn, but it has the modern appeal of soft leather that I like. The iris theme is also kept dusky by oakmoss and fir balsam, noticeably prominent in the dry down. It is gentle and understated, but it has a good lasting power.

An iris for men has a familiar ring of Dior Homme, but it is the accents that give Aleksandr a different character of its own. Its violet and suede impart a charming note. Its mossy and balsamic note has a rough-hewn appeal. And, the copious neroli makes Pushkin radiant, I imagine. Aleksandr is surely an interesting update to the masculine iris.

Source: arquiste.com

Review: Annick Goutal La Violette — 4.0 points

Nothing spells quaint like a good old violet scent. It was a defining note of perfumery during the early twentieth century when most, if not all, down puffs, toiletries, and fragrances were perfumed with violet notes. Therefore, anything that boasts violets certainly has a vintage vibe.

But for La Violette (Annick Goutal, 2001), it is not just about reminiscing that vintage powder puffs, violet corsages, and candies of era past. There is also a natural quality and an interesting accent to it that make La Violette a special soliflore.

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Perfumer Isabelle Doyen must have revisited this seemingly old-fashioned and outworn note with such a focus. One is greeted with the veiled sweetness of rose and fruity raspberry. These come on strongly at first and settle into a palpable element throughout. Along with these is the characteristic powdery note of violets. Here, La Violette contains as much as 48% of isomethyl-α-ionone and 19% β-ionone, mirroring nature’s very own proportion of 35.7% α-ionone and 21.1% β-ionone. And, with a green violet leaf touch, the composition is convincingly photorealistic.

But these overdosed ionones are just part of the violet story, for there is a special peppery, woody touch to La Violette. It becomes more prominent as time passes and lasts until the musky dry down. I find that this adds an interesting dusky contrast to the sweetness of the ionones.

It is by no means a complex or ornate composition, but the simplicity is key. The nuances that make violets charming are captured here along with the subtle but assertive peppery, woody contrast. Simply put, La Violette keeps it short and sweet, which is why it is a memorable delight.

Sources: annickgoutal.com; M Cautschi, JA Bajgrowicz, P Kraft, Chimia 2001, 55, 379; Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors

Review: Chanel Jersey — 2.5 points

Chanel is one of the few fragrance houses whose quality and consistency I admire. From the aldehydic and floral cascade of Chanel N°5 (1921), the citrus chypre of Pour Monsieur (Chanel, 1955), to the verdancy and chilly iris amidst the chypre of Chanel N°19 (1970), and even the generic and not-so-original Bleu de Chanel (2010) and Chance (Chanel, 2003), one can smell quality in the juice. In fact, sniff Sauvage (Dior, 2015) and Bleu de Chanel side by side, and one easily sees the difference already in the opening. From such experience, it follows naturally that Jersey, both the eau de toilette (Chanel, 2011) and the extrait de parfum (Chanel, 2014), by perfumer Jacques Polge from the Les Exclusifs line does ‘smell of money’.

An exquisite lavender is at the centre of the composition. It takes the spotlight here, with compliments from a little rosemary in the top. Replete with aromatic facets and floral sweetness, the lavender in Jersey is a Provençal dream. This is especially so in the rich extrait de parfum.

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Its lavender is also shaped by vanilla and a nuance of caramel, showing yet another sign of promise. One often thinks of lavender as perfumes marketed to men or as a perennial favourite note of grandmothers, but Jersey revamps its lavender with sensuality and an almost edible quality. It is somewhat reminiscent of the lavender gourmand direction of Brin de Réglisse (Hermès, 2004).

It is all well and promising for good fifteen minutes when the lavender recedes and the first hints of musks appear, especially in the eau de toilette. They seem to play a role in softening the agrestic herb, which is fine. But the trouble is that I am reminded of toiletries and fabric softeners. The combination of lavender and soapy musk is quite the slippery slope. Such a pairing is popularly employed by consumer goods so much so that most of us have come to subconsciously associate lavender and musk with functional products. And, this is where Jersey falls short.

To be fair, it does employ quality materials and touches upon an interesting facet of lavender. The vanillic gourmand and cosy side of such a rustic material is a nice surprise. Moreover, Jersey also has the longevity of easily six hours on skin. I do like it for this, and smelling it from my clothes, it brings a sense of clean comfort.

Nevertheless, the olfactory implication of such a lavender-musk pair remains: it recalls fabric softeners. Jersey might offer a glimpse into a new side of lavender, but that is not enough to dispel the overwhelming association with functional products, especially when the lavender is paired with strong soapy musks. Without leaving the tried-and-tested accord, the fine material alone will not suffice to produce originality. There is a need for audacity and experimentation to ever challenge the way lavender is orchestrated.

In sum, Jersey is a first-rate lavender whose orchestration, sadly, does not quite flatter it.

Source: chanel.fr