I cannot believe it’s the second Sunday of December: where did the year go?! I was so busy recently that I skipped a couple of Sundays moving posts originally planned for this series to be just posts. Lucas (Chemist in the Bottle) and Old Herbaceous (Serenity Now) were smarter about their Monday Quick Sniffs and Scent Sample Sunday correspondingly: they get 4 or sometimes even 5 days per month to choose from when it comes to running the next episode of their series. But since the second Sunday comes just once a month, all I can do is to either make it or wait for the next one. I decided to do the last episode this year, especially since perfumes about which I’m writing fit perfectly to this season – even though by the not observing the back to the Standard Time shift WP’s clock it’s technically Monday already.
When it comes to perfumes and perfumistas, there are luxury perfume brands existence of which we acknowledge and either splurge on from time to time (Tom Ford or By Kilian) or mostly ignore (Creed or Clive Christian). Then there are brands’ luxury divisions which, although added later in the brand’s life, were rather welcomed and appreciated: L’Art et La Matiere from Guerlain, Les Exclusifs de Chanel, Hermessence or Dior’s La Collection Privee (though, it seems that the most recent revamp/rename to the “Maison” collection didn’t get any enthusiasm from the part of Perfumeland that I know). Of course, most of the brands that released their “top shelf” collections were in perfume business probably from the time when their “regular” lines were luxury not easily affordable for most buyers, so with everything being “dumbed down” as well as priced down to fit mass market, it felt somewhat justified that high quality and creativity was elevated into a separate collection and price category.
But that was 2004 – 2007. And then the levees broke: not talking about an avalanche of new super-niche super-expensive brands with real, bought or invented history, but all luxury brands, with or without the regular perfume portfolio, forayed into the luxury perfume space. And most of them are being ignored by the “old guard” perfumistas. Have you tried any of Louis Vuitton or Bottega Veneta’s Parco Palladiano Collection?
Yves Saint Laurent, a brand that had all the reasons and pedigree to be among the first creators of a luxury perfume branch, came to the party really late: they released their first five perfumes in the Le Vestiaire des Parfums (the Perfume Wardrobe) Collection in 2015. The collection name explains individual perfume names: they represent pieces of clothes designed by the brand or, later, once they ran out of significant attire articles, fabric used for those creations.
I can’t tell you how many times I went by this stand at my local Neiman Marcus without even pausing. The reason was that on those rare occasions when I get to the NM’s perfume area, I usually have something else I want to try, and since I usually do not buy perfumes there, I try to minimize time I do the browsing since there’s only that many samples you can score from the same SAs without making a purchase. I mean, I can sniff my head out at any random place where I do not plan to come again but in the not that crowded local perfume “watering holes,” to which I keep coming back, I try to maintain some reasonable balance.
But recently when I finally decided to make a purchase (for the first time on my memory NM had 20% off, Beauty & Fragrances included, and there was something that I couldn’t buy elsewhere anyway). Can you imagine having all the possible good will from the SA and … absolutely nothing that I’d really want to try? (Our local store isn’t the most impressive in the perfume department.) I desperately looked around… and realized that I had never tried any perfumes in that 2015 YSL’s collection. So I asked and got generous 3.5 ml official samples for 3 perfumes from the original collection as well as small hand-made samples for two later additions.
Tuxedo (2015, perfumer Juliette Karagueuzoglou – the name didn’t sound familiar to me so I checked: among mostly unfamiliar to me mass-market perfumes, last year she created Un Air de Bretagne for L’Artisan and Savoy Steam for Penhaligon’s) is described by the brand as “smoked patchouli blended with ambergris accord.” To my nose, it’s a warm amber-y perfume on a drier side with a dab of spices added. Based on the history of this garment, I’d expect some tobacco note but it’s not there – either listed or perceived.
Have you seen pictures of women in tuxedos? Even though they might look beautiful and sexy, looking at those pictures you still know that traditionally it’s a part of men’s wardrobe. Tuxedo perfume, in my opinion, is precisely like that: I can imagine a woman (maybe even myself) wearing this perfume but I think it leans masculine. Because of that I gave it just 3.5 sea stars but I plan to try it on my vSO to see if I 4-star-like-it on him.
Trench (2015, perfumer Amandine Clerc-Marie – MDCI’s Peche Cardinal, Mugler Angel EdT and Aura), “a citrus scent featuring dry cedarwood and white musk,” does start with a beautiful citrus that I’d love to keep smelling. Unfortunately, it subsides quickly into a more soap-y scent – still pleasant but not spectacular. Trench is supposed to feature fig and iris but my nose doesn’t catch either – even though these are some of a few notes that I usually easily recognize. Despite that as I said Trench is nice. Not its price-nice but good enough to try if you come across it without paying for it.
Caftan (2015, perfumer Calice Baker) is a straight-forward amber perfume. It’s not Ambre Russe or Mitzah-type amber with resins punching you in the nose without warning, and it’s less sweet than, for example, Floris Honey Oud or EnVoyage Perfumes Captured in Amber, which makes it more unisex and easier to wear by a man. I wouldn’t refuse a travel spray of Caftan (it doesn’t come in one, I’m speaking theoretically) but I probably do not need this amber in addition to all the great ambers that I already have in my collection. But do try Caftan if you see it: it might work better for you, especially if you’re not a hardcore amber lover.
Velours (2016, perfumer Carlos Benaim), yet another amber in this collection (can you even have too many ambers?) proved to be my favorite. I often get black tea note mistaken in perfumes for very supple leather, which happened here. Until I read notes, I was sure that this perfume, despite of the name, contains leather or at least suede note. But tea makes more sense. Velours is not a perfume to win any creativity or originality awards (well, the bottle is very nice – so, maybe for the packaging) but it’s easy to wear, smooth and refined. I saw several people comparing it to Dior Homme Parfum, which is supposed to be a good thing, I think, but since I’m not familiar with that Dior’s perfume, I don’t have that reference point to offer you. Too bad, unlike the original collection, the “de Nuit” addition to it (Velours being one of the three perfumes in it) comes only in 125 ml bottles, with is a lot even if not to consider the price.
The latest addition to the original collection – Blouse (2018, perfumer Quentin Bisch – Mandarin Corsica for L’Artisan, Mugler Angel Muse and Ambre Imperial for Van Cleef & Arpels) has won me by surprise. Being a floral perfume lover, I probably appreciated finally prominent floral notes in a slew of wood, amber and vanilla ingredients of perfumes I wore for the last month for my NovAmber project and tested from this collection. Despite the name that I find stupid (“Blouse” is such a non-descriptive name, and it’s completely out of sync with the rest of the collection.) and, again, stupid ad copy for the perfume on the brand’s site (they use words “sensual” and “sensuality” six times in a 7-sentences’ description), I like Blouse because it smells of a very natural and delicate (not sensual!) pink rose, and it lasts for a very long time for a light perfume. But I’m not buying 125 ml (again, the only size available now) of a pink (!) rose musk niceness.
– You smell nice. What are you wearing?
– YSL Blouse…
Images: my own