Perfume names carry weight. They bear certain promises, or hint at things to come. “Tabac Tabou” is a name that portends a hedonistic, sensual, or illicit exploration of tobacco. That last part turned out not to be the case for me. In fact, judging by what appeared on my skin, I wouldn’t consider Parfum d’Empire‘s latest fragrance to be any sort of tobacco soliflore whatsoever. Now, hay and narcissus…. that’s a different matter.
1892 was a year of empires, part of The Golden Age when aristocrats flourished and opulence was the order of the day. It was also the year when Oriza L. Legrand released a leather fragrance designed to appeal to its imperial Russian clients. A few weeks ago, the modern Oriza re-released the scent which it called Cuir de l’Aigle Russe. The name translates to “Leather of the Russian Eagle,” and the fragrance is based on the 1892 original formula with only a few tweaks to conform to modern perfume regulations.
The scent is quite different from what I had expected. To the extent that there is leather, it is the Spanish leather or Peau d’Espagne of Catherine de Medici, not the tarry, smoky birch leather of the Russian cossacks. And the first three hours were something else entirely.
Imagine yourself immersed in a field of lavender that stretches out for miles like an aromatic, herbal, and medicinal sea of purple. A nearby citrus orchard adds a neon Pop Art explosion of colour from saccharine-coated fruits that strongly resemble pink Pez candy. The landscape is dotted by green clumps of herbs that smell like thyme and rosemary, and lies at the base of snow-tipped Alpine mountains blanketed with juniper trees hanging heavy with ripe berries. Their strong scent is redolent of gin and, later on, a fiery, green eau de vie liqueur. A brisk, chilly wind takes their scent, mingles it with the pink, powdery, candied Pez, and casts it like a thick blanket over the fields of purple.
A short distance away, something dark and brooding makes its way forward, a rushing river made thick and heavy with treacly, smoky licorice. It slashes through the lavender like a knife, oozing blackness amidst the neon colours. The wound is eventually healed by silky vanilla crème anglaise that rises from the base to act as a bridge and mediator, bringing the two parts together in a swirl of aromatics, smoke, and cream, before ending up as simple sweetness smudged with smoke. This is the story of Sunshine Man, the newest fragrance from Amouage.
Every week, I get at least three or four emails from people seeking fragrance recommendations. The vast majority of them are men, but there are some women, too. Most of them are not long-time readers of the blog and have simply stumbled upon it, so they don’t know my long-time favorites that I talk about often, but a few are subscribers who seek specific suggestions. Sometimes, people start by giving me a brief idea of their tastes and/or names of prior fragrances they’ve worn. Typically, though, the information is insufficient for me to know what might really suit them, so I write back with a list of questions, trying to narrow down what notes they have issues with or love best, how they feel about sweetness or animalics, how their skin deals with longevity or projection, and what sort of power they want in both of those last two area.
What I’ve noticed is that I tend to make certain recommendations time and time again for particular genres or fragrance families. So, I thought I would share them with all of you. However, please keep in mind that these names are in response to some pretty set criteria given to me by the person in question, even though many of those factors end up being quite similar. For example, the men who like dark, bold, rich or spicy orientals all seem to want a certain sillage or “to be noticed in a crowd,” as several have put it. In contrast, most of those who want clean, crisp scents prefer for them to be on the discreet side and suitable for professional business environments. Men whose favorites are classical designer scents that fall firmly within the fougère, green, fresh, or aromatic categories (like Tuscany, Guerlain’s Vetiver, or vintage Eau Sauvage, for example) tend to want very traditional scents, even “old school” in vibe, and not something sweet, edgy, or with a twist. So, that is what I try to give them as recommendations, which means that there are a whole slew of fragrances that fall outside the category.