Review: Liquides Imaginaires Peau de Bête — 4.0 points

I love horse riding. I love the thrill of galloping and the cool breeze that buffets my face, bringing the scent of grass, stables, and animalic sweetness of the beautiful beast. I have recently been reminded of that whirlwind of an experience as I tried Peau de Bête (Liquides Imaginaires, 2016). Its French name literally translates to ‘skin of the beast’, and I find that to be rather apt because of its rich animalic nature as the name would suggest. But it is in the accord with powdery woody sweetness that Peau de Bête has the element of surprise, turning what would otherwise be merely a blend of animalic tinctures into a memorable experience for me.

peaudebête

Perfumer Carine Boin brilliantly orchestrates Peau de Bête around a theme that contrasts animalic sensuality and dry woods. In the opening, herbaceous chamomile, cumin, and leathery saffron conspire to suggest something racy. Soon, creamy animalic notes dominate, with civet and castoreum so rounded and smooth it seems as though they were a dark chocolate ganache. The puffs of civet, in particular, seems to pulsate throughout the development, and this reminds me of the civet in Jicky (Guerlain, 1889) but in a more soft-spoken manner.

The animalic richness soon finds its balance in the dryness of woods. Atlas and Texan cedarwood lend the characteristic powdery, sweet wood shavings, and it is accented by a smoky, woody touch of guaiac wood, patchouli, cypriol, and amyris. As the composition develops, its dry character becomes prominent. The animalic direction embraces musk and the crispness of ambergris, whilst the woods acquire the dry sweetness of vernal grass and styrax. Towards the end, Peau de Bête still maintains its juxtaposition of animalic and woody notes but with the accent falling on dryness.

The pairing of creamy animalic notes and dry woods creates an enjoyable sensation: at times rich and heavy, at others dry and aloft. It is the scent of animals, woods, and hay. Peau de Bête has the right balance that triggers a cherished memory for me. Though it sits quietly, it has an unapologetically animalic side that I would recommend trying it first if you have not had experience with animalic perfumes. Else, one could also layer it with florals to give a distinctive animalic richness, and I can vouch for its wonder with the bright geraniums of Égoïste (Chanel, 1990) or Géranium Pour Monsieur (Frédéric Malle, 2009). Nonetheless, Peau de Bête is just as sublime an equestrian portrait on its own.

Source: fragrantica.com

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Review: Christian Dior Ambre Nuit — 3.5 points

If one wants a gentle amber, this is it. Ambre Nuit (Dior, 2009), despite the name, is perfect for day, night, and just about any season. It is not the rich, dark, classical amber accord à la Shalimar (Guerlain, 1925), Ambre Fétiche (Annick Goutal, 2007), or the slightly gourmand Ambre Sultan (Serge Lutens, 2000). Ambre Nuit, instead, focuses on the transparent warmth of the mix of a classical perfumery accord called amber and throws in a nice measure of rose. A nicely done modern rose-amber by perfumer François Demachy.

ambre nuit

Ambre Nuit opens with the freshness of bergamot and is somewhat aromatic due to the lavender-recalling dihydromyrcenol. From there, it plays on the interesting metallic facet of its rose to complement the amber. It begins with the metallic tonality of pink pepper oil at 0.25%. Then, the tone is extended towards the rather metallic musk fond comprising 11.2% each of Habanolide and ethylene brassylate. This firmly establishes the metallic character of its blooming rose at the centre.

Later, the composition gradually unfurls its sweet amber. There are the vanillic sweetness and balsamic labdanum. The ambery warmth of 5.1% Ambrox is present as a warm ambergris accent, which is in turn extended by the woody-ambery tone of 28% Iso E Super and a touch of cedarwood oil. The ambery warmth feels more like a gentle caress than the enveloping warmth at the fore of Bois d’Argent (Dior, 2004) and Allure Homme Édition Blanche (Chanel, 2008).

Such a well composed composition is thoroughly enjoyable. It presents a well-done oriental accord of rose and amber accented by an ambergris note. Also, the metallic aspect is a quirky twist to the rose. Ambre Nuit is nothing ground-breaking, but I say we always have room for another well-done amber that delights all day long.

Sources: dior.fr, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odor

Review: Christian Dior Bois d’Argent — 4.5 points

Bois d’Argent (Dior, 2004) is not only a great perfume in terms of quality, but also a salient example of how its shades of iris are played to open the material to a unisex effect. We would later see a ground-breaking success a year later of the ‘masculine iris’ in Dior Home (2005) which truly demonstrates the potential of iris. For this reason, this excellent Bois d’Argent by perfumer Annick Ménardo is ahead of its time.

dior

At the heart of the composition is a combination of musks and 0.8% orris butter. Accents of vanilla lend its sweetness, and completes the powdery musky iris theme. In contrast, the woody shades of iris are expanded by patchouli and a noble whiff of frankincense oil at 1.1%. Thus, the character is powdery deep down, but with an interesting woody incense subtext.

The woody tone is kept warm and salty like driftwoods. Here, the unprecedented amount of Ambrox at 13.6% plays a major role with its crisp ambery note. It also gives an interesting warm sillage and a lift to the musky iris theme of Bois d’Argent.

Often, when I have already forgotten that I put on Bois d’Argent, I would still catch its warm, powdery, faintly sweet, and woody semolina hours later. It recalls somewhat the late dry down of Chanel N°19 Poudré, but is inflected with a warm woody accent.

Interestingly, Bois d’Argent explores the warm woody shades of iris whilst remaining easily accessible to both men and women’s shelves. At the centre is iris. The woody aspects are played up by ambergris, patchouli, and frankincense, meanwhile the soft powdery element is expanded by vanilla and musks. My favourite part is in the interesting pairing of the warm ambergris note and the musky flour of iris. It gives not only a beautiful contrast, but also a signature warmth. It is a brilliant composition.

Sources: dior.fr, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors

Reformulation is not the end of the world

There are various reasons for reformulation of a perfume: production cost, market preference, availability of raw materials, or environmental and health issues. It is no surprise that companies cut corners by reformulating the original recipe to increase profits. Also to drive sales, they attune their products to consumers’ taste for stronger fragrances with powerful synthetics. But, more often than not, reformulation is inevitable because certain raw materials are no longer available, limited in distribution, or of a very different quality. For example, if synthetic musks did not replace their natural counterparts, the ravenous demand for perfumes would probably drive the musk deer to extinction. And, in the case of ambergris, the amount harvested from the shores of New Zealand alone cannot sustain such a demand. With tuberose, the characteristic richness from enfleurage extract cannot be maintained due to the prohibitive cost of the laborious method, and only the greener solvent-extracted absolute is available to fill the gap. More importantly, however, modern technology has informed us of the potential health risks of these raw materials that necessitate the reformulation of our favourite perfumes.

musky deer

Musk pods (left) and Siberian musk deer (Moschus moschiferus) (right)

bbc

Ambergris

tuberosea

Simple enfleurage of tubersoe flowers (Polianthes tuberosa)

Regardless of the actual reason for reformulation, the International Fragrance Association (IFRA), which provides the safety guideline, often comes under fire for its lists of restricted materials. Whilst such changes can render your favourite compositions mediocre, I do not think it is fair to lambaste the IFRA. They are not there to destroy the future of perfumery; in fact, they even safeguard it by ensuring that we do not develop rashes or sun burns and begin suing fragrance companies for such cases. The craft of perfumery will not be lost simply because one door is closed. I sincerely believe, as my late mentor in science often said whenever I was stuck with an inexplicable result, that ‘one finds a way around it’. It is the creativity and passion that drives perfumery and keeps it alive. And, such challenges actually open a new door. A blessing in disguise, perhaps?

Sources: bbc.co.uk, wikipedia.com, profumo.it, Luckyscent, Dabney Rose