Monday, 28 November 2016

Divin' Enfant Review

Given that the shops have now started to pipe Christmas music over their tinny systems, a review of Divin’ Enfant (named after the French carol) seems timely. 
An orange-blossom fragrance, the musty-powdery, concord-grape smell of methyl anthranilate (which ester is one of the key odiferous components of the oil) is here integrated into a massive, sweet musky base that wouldn’t be out of place in a Jean-Paul Gaultier perfume.  A subtle dark, moka coffee note (so described in the official pyramid) meanwhile, adds contrast in the opening. 

Nose: Antoine Lie
House: Etat Libre d’Orange
Release date: 2006
Notes (per Fragrantica): orange-blossom, marshmallow, rose, moka, leather, amber, musk, tobacco. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Afternoon of a Faun Review

Back in 2000, Ralf Schwieger - who was at that time only just starting out in his perfume career, won critical acclaim for his Lipstick Rose creation with another former Roure employee, Frédéric Malle. A perfumed paean to cosmetics, Schwieger offered up a deliciously jammy rose smothered in powdery orris and violet ionones. 
In The Afternoon of a Faun, a little bit of that is carried forward, the fragrance having at its heart a raspberry rose accord sweetened up with iris and a judicious amount of immortelle. A streak of incense glimmers from behind but the real co-star of the production is oakmoss - dark, earthy, musty oakmoss. And not just an Evernyl-type replacer either as was stuffed into his Vanille Insensée (Atelier Cologne, 2011), but the real stuff. Schwieger has spoken of his childhood growing up near the forest in Westfalen and from the top to the base of The Afternoon of a Faun, his love for woody, mossy green notes is loudly declared.
If Afternoon of a Faun is IFRA compliant, then what Schwieger has achieved is doubly impressive. Or if, like Creed and some others, ELd’O have simply decided to quietly ignore their recommendations and just follow EU regulations, then they are to be congratulated for taking such a stance. 

Nose: Ralf Schwieger
House: Etat Libre d’Orange
Release date: 2012
Notes (per Fragrantica): bergamot, pepper, cinnamon, incense, immortelle, orris, myrrh, leather, benzoin, jasmine, rose, oakmoss. 

Saturday, 19 November 2016

How To Compose A Perfume In Sanskrit

A folio from the Sanskrit manuscript add.2329 (Cambridge University Library) containing the Bṛhatsaṃhitā.

As perfumery has grown ever more sophisticated in its aims and execution, so the fragrance houses have invested in the development of algorithmic software to aid perfumers and technicians. But whilst the technology behind this innovation may be new, the basic thinking is not.
Already in the 6th century (CE), perfumers in India were calculating combinatorics using matrices. One of the earliest such examples is attested in the Bṛhatsaṃhitā, or Great Compendium -  a stupendous Sanskrit work attributed to the Indian astronomer and mathematician Varāhamihira.
Within its expansive range, which covers everything from house building to prognostication by the appearance of penises (and the smell of semen) is the Gandhayukti, or section on perfume (ch.77). Here we find formulae for such preparations as hair-waters, flavoured tooth-picks and perfumes carrying evocative names like Smaroddīpana ‘kindler of passions’. Perhaps most interesting though, are the descriptions of a perfume compounding method by means of a kacchapuṭa ‘grid’, realised physically as a board with indentations in which raw materials were placed. In a Sudoku-like mathematical play, formulae are derived by selecting sets of squares that sum a particular value, e.g.18.
To illustrate, I have translated below stanzas 77.23-26 which describe one such method. Note not all of the primary materials can be identified with certainty. Also, as was common in Sanskrit texts, numbers are sometimes indicated by objects with corresponding numerical values, e.g. ‘the senses’ = five (there being five senses), ‘the seasons’ = six (the Indic system counting six seasons) etc.

dvitrīndriyāṣṭabhāgair aguruḥ patraṃ turuṣkaśaileyau /
viṣayāṣṭapakṣadahanāḥ priyaṅgumustārasāḥ keśaḥ // 23

With two, three, the senses [=five] (or) eight parts (of) agarwood, patra, and both olibanum and śaileya,
The (sense) objects [=five], eight, sides [= two] (or) fires [= three] (of) priyaṅgu, mustā, rasā, keśa.

spṛkkātvaktagarāṇāṃ māṃsyāśca kṛtaikasaptaṣaḍbhāgāḥ /
saptaṛttuvedacandrair malayanakha śrīkakundurukāḥ // 24

Of spṛkkā, cinnamon, tagara and of māṃsī, kṛta [name of a particular dice throw = four], one, seven (or) six parts,
With seven, the seasons [=six], the Vedas [=four], the moon [=one] (of) sandalwood, nakha, śrīka, kunduruka.

ṣoḍaśake kacchapuṭe yathā tathā miśrite caturdravye /
ye ’trāṣṭādaśa bhāgāste asmin gandhādayo yogāḥ // 25

In a box with sixteen compartments, when four substances (are put) in a mix, in whichever way (combining vertically, horizontally, diagonally),
there you (get) eighteen parts in (each of) the perfume compounds and so forth.

nakhatagaraturuṣkayutā jātīkarpūramṛgakṛtodbodhāḥ /
guḍanakhadhūpyā gandhāḥ kartavyāḥ sarvatobhadrāḥ // 26

Blended with nakha, tagara, olibanum, freshened up with mace, camphor and deer musk,
(the compound) is to be censed with guḍa and unguis odoratis. The perfumes that are to be made (in this way) are (known as) Sarvatobhadra.

Tabulated this information appears so, with each cell containing a particular material together with its ‘weight’ (i.e. the number of parts thereof to be used in the final formula):

2 Agarwood

3 patra
5 olibanum
8 śaileya
5 priyaṅgu

8 mustā
2 rasa
3 keśa
4 spṛkkā

1 tvak
7 tagara
6 māṃsī
7 Sandalwood

6 nakha (unguis odoratis)
4 śrīka
1 kunduruka

To compound a fragrance using this method, the perfumer would select four items along a vertical or horizontal or diagonal. In each case, the total ‘weight’ is 18.
E.g. aguru (i.e. agarwood) + patra + olibanum + śaileya = 2+3+5+8 = 18.
Or, sandalwood + tvak + rasa + śaileya = 7+1+2 +8 = 18.
Squares of four cells also sum to 18.
Referencing the ludic quality of the method, fragrances derived by way of this particular scheme bore the name Sarvatobhadra which means ‘lovely in every way’.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Fat Electrician Review

Subtitled ‘a semi-modern vetiver’, Antoine Maisondieu’s creation flirts with some of the ideas explored by J.-C. Ellena for his fully-modern Vétiver Tonka (Hermès) released some 5 years earlier. 
Like its predecessor, Fat Electrician elaborates on Vetiver’s nutty facet, dragging the composition (at least initially) in an oriental direction. Where Vétiver Tonka however, went sweet, sweet, sweet all the way through the drydown with vanilla, coumarin/tonka and ethyl maltol, Fat Electrician somehow manages to shake its gourmand qualities by the midpoint, thereafter becoming ever drier and woodsier and retaining a slightly sulphurous, grapefruity inflection. 

Nose: Antoine Maisondieu
House: Etat Libre d’Orange
Release date: 2009
Notes (per Fragrantica): Vetiver, olive leaf, opoponax, myrrh, vanilla, marron glacé, whipped cream. 

Monday, 7 November 2016

Charogne Review

Given the lily’s long association with death, the idea of a funereal take on the flower is an interesting one. 
Given also the name Charogne (cf. carrion, ultimately < Latin caro ‘flesh’, ‘meat’), that’s presumably the brief Shyamala Maisondieu was working to. 
To me however, this composition falls very wide of the anticipated mark. Opening on a vivid bubblegum note, the perfume soon falls apart leaving a spicy, woody oriental base with a pronounced clovey inflection that has a burnt, methyl diantilis like quality to it and which I suppose is meant to stand for lily. 

Nose: Shyamala Maisondieu
House: Etat Libre d’Orange
Release date: 2008
Notes (per Fragrantica): leather, ginger, lily, pink pepper, vanilla, jasmine, incense, ylang-ylang, bergamot, cardamom, osmanthus, styrax, labdanum, ambrette, musk.