Monday, 18 August 2014

The Architects Club

Different cultures have different rules as to what is considered an unsuitable topic for polite conversation around the dinner table. In Germany it's certainly politics, religion and money, in the UK it might be business and sex, I'm really not sure. But I would suggest to add architecture to the list. All art forms can be fascinating and/or devastating discussion topics, but it's architecture that brings out the strongest and often unexpected opinions. Most of my friends are fairly open minded when it comes to modern art or theatre, but throw the Shard or the Walkie Talkie (two new additions to the London skyline) at them and nothing is certain any more. Avid steel and glass defenders sulk stubbornly next to Traditionalists and Brutalism victims will shout down Bauhaus aficionados. People in the UK who yearn for the Good Old Times when buildings were pretty and tasteful, have not only the Prince of Wales, but most of the press on their side. I wonder how it really was in those Good Old Times...? Did Georgian house fronts with their lack of ornamental chichi win public opinion by storm or were they considered plain ugly? And what about Art Deco, the ever popular backdrop to thousands of Hercule Poirot film at first sight?

Carlos Huber, the creator of Arquiste perfumes and an architect himself, used the Art Deco interior of a hotel bar as starting point for his inspiration and brief to his perfumer. As always with his perfumes he tries to capture a very specific moment:

Fumoir at Claridges
"A group of architects gather for cocktails at Mayfair's smartest Art Deco smoking room. As they settle in the warm interior of dark woods, leather and velvet, London's bright young things burst in, frosted martinis in hand, surrounded by a cloud of laughter, white smoke and fine vanilla." 
The first time I smelled The Architects Club, I was in the company of Carlos at Bloom perfumery in London. Things bursting in with frosted Martinis is a pretty accurate description of what hit me: One of the best Gin notes that I've encountered in a perfume. Frozen glass and a bittersweet metallic freshness. Delicious and promising. On my skin the transformation from cold to cosy happens very fast though, almost immediately after the gin comes the smoke, polished wood and the leather. These elements throw a lively party for quite some time, and on different wearing days different notes became more or less dominant while the juniper notes wafted in and out for balance.  I liked it when the tobacco was stronger than the woods, because the latter isn't a favourite of mine and I don't wear those notes well. But overall I am impressed with the development of the scent. It doesn't just represent a bunch of  intense looking men discussing the finer points of modern architecture; enough frivolity and sensuality is thrown in to keep that party interesting. It doesn't really get raunchy or's a rather British affair, I find. Dinner jackets will end up with lipstick on the collar, but it doesn't go any further... 

Every party has to end at some time, and this one does with a sexy, sweaty vanilla note after a few hours. It then also becomes a skin scent, rather fittingly. I enjoyed the ride and the party, The Architects Club is an unusual one, and were it not for that woody middle section I would love it that much more. As it is, I find it more on the masculine side.  Like with all Arquiste fragrances you can let your imagination follow the initial idea but if you're not bothered, the perfume speaks for itself and stays  modern  throughout. 

My visual interpretation of The Architects Club by Arquiste

An opportunity to use an Art Deco theme for the visual was too tempting to let pass, so this one is more on the graphic side and the colour palette follows the muted tones of interiors of the period. 

How and where to wear:
Spray it on your nicest silk scarf and book yourself a table at the Air Street branch of Hawksmoore restaurants in London. Best steaks in town in beautiful Art Deco surroundings. Good martinis and if you must, lobster. 

And just because I can: Here a photo of a vanity table in colonial Art Deco style that would make the most perfect backdrop for a perfume collection and that I dream of ever since I saw it displayed in the luggage arrival hall of Chiang Mai airport. (Yes, weird place, I know)

Monday, 4 August 2014

The Odd Fellow's Bouquet, much better than it sounds

I used to be a smoker and I am sure the habit has done unspeakable things to my sense of smell; just how much it improved after quitting was astonishing. It came therefore as a bit of a surprise when I learnt that many a famous perfumer is happily puffing  away the cigarettes. Very few people in my vicinity still smoke, and those who do have taken to sucking on funky looking plastic sticks that glow in the dark, aka vaping. Before those e-fags, the weaning off method of choice often was pipe smoking. It looked ultimately better than lightening up a rollie, gave you instantaneously an air of sophistication and smelled good. Men who smoked pipes (it was pretty much a male domain) were often in their 40's, with grey strands of hair in their beards, a tumbler of whiskey or brandy in one hand, pipe in the other. Wealthy, classy, cultured...that was more or less the image, the Marlboro man with a university degree, after his mid life crisis and just before the younger, second wife (who will, sooner or later, make him give up the nicotine in any form). I was always quite fond of the typical pipe smoker, not least because I really liked the smell of good, slightly sweet tobacco. Still do, but these days I prefer it to be a perfume note and it's been ages since I last saw someone smoking a pipe.

A few weeks ago I met up with Vanessa of bonkersaboutperfume and after lunch we paid a short visit to Roullier White, which happens to be in my neighbourhood. We sniffed here and  sniffed there, and then Vanessa pointed me towards the Atkinsons line, an old school English brand with an impressive 1799 under their name, reworked&rejuvenated like so many other traditional houses. She had heard good things of the brand and was particularly keen on trying The Odd Fellow's Bouquet, a soft oriental tobacco.

My visual interpretation of The Odd Fellow's Bouquet

A sample went home with me, and I have developed a real liking for the scent. My skin often brings out the sweetness in perfumes, and it does so here as well. The first spritz is a gingery cologne type blast with a woody undertone. Nice, classy and promising. Dressy, M. finds and he is right, this is not a jeans and T-shirt scent. Or, it is, if being under dressed is just right. From then on the smokyness takes over and centre stage. This is the softest, most precious tobacco, the dangerous sort that makes you forget health warnings and doesn't stain your teeth. And it brings with it all the benzoin and the amber, creamy, soft and golden. This scent has absolutely no sharp edge, everything melts and flows and wafts in the most gentle way, like exquisite cognac swirling in a glass, leaving honey coloured tears on the surface. After a few hours the flow and the pulse of the fragrance gets a bit slower, but puffs of sweet benzoin are still coming strong, and even after 6 hours I still get the occasional vanilla tinted incense whiff as a reminder. For an Eau de Toilette this is truly remarkable. But I keep wondering whether it is a men's scent; something that usually doesn't bother me at all. I guess it's the strong image of the pipe smoking gentleman that keeps interfering here, because the perfume itself is perfectly unisex. The name doesn't help though. That's probably my only criticism: The Odd Fellow's Bouquet... Seriously?

How and where to wear:
Nice to play with expectations and miss match this gentle sophistication with whatever feels inappropriate.