Monday, 7 November 2016

The Patchouli Pigment

I have neglected the blog for a long time... and I don' even know why. Yes, there are other things on my mind, and may be I just needed a break, but more importantly, I didn't find the inspiration to write. After a while this inspiration hurdle becomes higher and higher and somewhat impossible to overcome. A bit like having missed going to the gym for months and finding it harder and harder to overcome the guilty laziness. I'm therefore quite relieved to have discovered something exciting that sparked that all important interest again. And true to the blog, but with a reversed direction, it's all about colour. 

Patchouli is one of my favourite perfume ingredients. The hippy association doesn't bother me in the slightest, and is anyway not really justified. The unassuming bushy plant is not as precious as, let's say, jasmine or roses, but equally potent. Rich, deep, earthy, fresh, herbal, mossy, damp, smoky, rank, green, soft, balmy, medicinal, dirty, woody, glowy. The attributes for patchouli span over a wide range. Like so many natural ingredients, the actual quality of the scent varies, depending on batch, origin, cultivation and age. So how to describe all this in just one single colour, or pigment? I don't even try. Or, I normally wouldn't, and approach the note via a perfume composition, making it easier to be specific. In one fragrance the patchouli is a mossy green, or a woody brown, and in the next one it  pops up as a minty nile green. As I said, I normally wouldn't...

But then, suddenly, a new colour appears in my watercolour palette, and I realise: 
I have found the Patchouli Pigment! 

 Colour swatch of Daniel Smith "Rich Green Gold" watercolour on paper

Pigment PY 129. Even its name points towards the patchouly (the PY actually stands for Pigment Yellow). According to the Art Pigment Database  it's a copper derived, metallic complex. A rich deep greenish gold, equally dark and bright, it blends wonderfully with either earthy and bright tones. In this case the pigment comes in a tube of Daniel Smith watercolours, an American fine art paints brand, and my newest art supply obsession. Just squeezing the paint out of the tube is a delight. Like most watercolour paints, it's transparent, allowing for a multiple of layers. If applied thinly in a wet wash, it is beautifully translucent gold while thicker application produces a very muddy, yellowish green. For me it's a perfect visual representation of patchouli's qualities.

While writing this blog I'm wearing the truest patchouli in my collection: Les Nereides, Patchouli Antiques. A retro style perfume, in which the patchouli has centre stage and is rendered in a balmy, and ever so slightly dirty way. I thought about creating a separate image for it, but decided against. Let the patchouli note and colour speak for itself this time. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Chypre 21 by Heeley

What is better than opening a brand new bottle of perfume? Opening a brand new bottle of perfume that you have won in a competition! 
Thanks to the excellent online magazine and their generosity, I am the proud owner of Heeley's Chypre 21, a chypre for the modern (ish) times we live in. Heeley is a favourite brand in this Franco German household and many of his creations have been tried, tested and shared. There is an effortless elegance to the scents, a perfect combination of British and French perfumery. Understated and yet...complicated enough to be intriguing, and ever so slightly coquettish. 
Chypre 21 is no different. Sparkling, golden, shimmering, soft, powdery, woody, spicy with a hint of bitterness, and bright bright bright. I was fully prepared to share it with Mael, but he declared it too feminine for him. So much for the daring Frenchman! As for me: I will wear it happily whenever I need a bit of backbone support. It's one of those scents that make you sit straighter and give you a red carpet walk.

My visual interpretation of Chypre 21 by James Heeley

Please read the excellent review on the candyperfumeboy's blog here:

How and where to wear:
Brexit negotiations in Brussels (both sides)

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Blomma Cult

Perfumers often have interesting biographies and it's not uncommon for them to arrive at their profession after long careers in other fields, be it science or art, architecture, music, or fashion. Former experiences in other creative corners of the world are incorporated into new brands and fragrance creations and make for a fascinating fusion of ideas.  Dr. Mike is a good example of this (relatively) new indie movement. A former pharmacist/musician, he founded his perfume brand Room 1015 in an attempt to "unite his two passions into one fashion." Inspired by music and with a decidedly rock and roll aesthetic, the house has 4 scents on offer so far. When you order the sample pack you get a little promo vinyl, something I certainly haven't seen for a while, and the website is quite a feast on the eyes as well. I really like the design of the brand -  it's fresh, modern, a bit grungy, colourful and different. The focus is on creating a multi sensual experience, incorporating smell, sound, video, photography and colour. No wonder I am intrigued.

Power Ballad, Electric Wood, Atramental and Blomma Cult. After a good trying session I  really liked Electric Wood and Atramental, really disliked Power Ballad, and loved Blomma Cult. I'm undoubtedly showing my age here by falling for a scent that was inspired by the 60's and 70's, rather then one that seems to be based on whatever young people regard as music these days .... 

My visualisation for Blomma Cult, by Room 1015

As you can see, the image is not quite as abstract as usual, but for Room 1015  I wanted to base my visuals on photographs rather than digital illustrations. A bunch of tulip petals served me just right. For the perfume's 60's vibe I opted for a few solarisation filters to bring out the pinks, purples and creamy/peachy tones I wanted to feature in the image.  

Blomma Cult is a wonderfully soft violet patchouli mix, creamy and fresh and sensual. Patchouli is of course an obvious choice for a flower power perfume, but here the note is used with balance and only hints at the hippy shops of good old times. What I enjoyed most about Blomma Cult was how it rendered the violet in a modern way without losing its delicacy. It's a sweet affair, especially at the beginning, but there is a lot of light to counter any heaviness, and in the end the patchouli dances with a vanilla musk until the party is over. 

How and where to wear:

Blissfully awaiting another Age of Aquarius

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Puredistance, the sketchbook

It's not often that I focus on an entire collection for my coloured reviews. The last time I did, the range - Oriza LeGrand- was nicely "ueberschaubar" as we say in German. So many perfume houses launch new bottles at frightening speed these days, making it difficult to keep track, and impossible to find the brand's fragrant identity. 4, 5, 6 - these are good numbers for a small niche brand, at least  in my view.
Another reason for my reluctance to do combined posts is that the designer pedant in me doesn't feel comfortable with creating a blog post with 4 or 5 images without a common theme or feel to them. That would just look higgledy-piggledy. Thankfully some brands do believe in less is more, and when I received a lovely and generous sample set from Puredistance last Christmas I knew I wanted to find a way to cover the entire range in one post. 

There are currently 6 fragrances in the range, all in high pure perfume concentration, a luxurious  indulgence with the price point to match. Created by different perfumers, they nonetheless share a radiant elegance. I'm not attempting to write in depth reviews for all of the scents, but to give a sketchbook-like impression. Stepping away from my usual digital approach and playing around with watercolours seemed like the right way to achieve that.

Once I was satisfied that I had found the right colours for each perfume I used the cropping tool of the past - 2 L-shaped pieces of cardboard- to find the best possible details before finalising the images with the help of various digital filters. 


My impressions of the perfumes in order of their release dates:


Puredistance I

A green and fresh floral with a backbone. There is lot going on here: citrus, mimosa, rose, magnolia, but  blended to abstraction. An idealised bouquet, created to enhance whoever is wearing it. A very elegant, slightly aloof scent, that's never overpowering but strong in attitude. It's advertised as for women, but I think its a great floral for a man. The right type of men. As for myself : yes, I would happily wear it, although it's a bit out of my comfort zone.


Puredistance M

Hmm...this is spicy, warm and edible. Opens classically with a splash of citrus, but a hint of spice and touch of rose are coming along already. Cinnamon, coriander and cumin (not too sweaty, no fear) give way to patchouli and turn into a warm worn out leather. Unsurprisingly, I like this a lot. For a spicy oriental leather it also stays remarkably cool. I wouldn't say understated - it's pretty rich - but its opulence comes without a hint of bling and is not overpowering or cloying. Lovely.


Puredistance Antonia

A lot of green. This, in combination with white flowers and rose, makes it a very difficult experience for me. I don't mind indolic scents, but need them to be on the warm, animalic side. Combined here with a metallic freshness from the greens it gives me an immediate headache. Sorry, Antonia, you are not made for me and I can't do you any justice, so let's move on to...


Puredistance Opardu

Powder floral with a punch. Now that I can understand better. Lilac or hyacinth paired with white flowers. While the jasmine and tuberose are not exactly dirty here (far from it), it's nonetheless a sensual fragrance, if you give it the time to get there. Opardu has undeniably a strong old fashioned vibe in a No sex before marriage sort of way and while I admire the quality of the perfume, I'm not loving it. I'm ultimately not prim and proper enough to wear it and would feel like a fraud if I did. 


Puredistance Black

I had covered Black in more depth here, but of course it will also play it's part in these colour sketches. An astonishing number of perfumes are called Black, or Black this-and-that, and more often then not they contain not even a whiff of darkness. Black by Puredistance definitely deserves its name, and like I described in my original post, the black serves as a layer of mystery to hide what's really underneath and within. I detect sour cherries and booze with a hint of bitter chocolate. A whiskey based cocktail of very adult fruitiness- indulgent and intoxicating. Love it.


Puredistance White

I remember when I got a sample of this about a year ago and thought:"Oh, no, a white. That's going to be either an ultra clean musk thing, or a tuberose bomb." Fortunately it is neither. What it is instead should still be, in theory, totally not up my street, and yet... it is. It seems I have found a clean rose floral that I can enjoy, certainly helped by accompanying notes of tonka bean, orris and sandalwood. Very radiant and sparkling, super feminine, white, red, gold and purple. If it was an outfit, it would be a casual silk blouse in creamy white over a pair of white Marlene Dietrich trousers. A timeless classic, whether you're barefoot, in trainers, or sporting your 10 inch stilettos. Beautiful.

So these were my sketch like impressions of the perfumes Puredistance currently has in its range. All the scents - even my dislike Antonia - are very sophisticated and of high end quality. Not necessarily pushing the boat out in terms of innovation, but if you make things that well, you can afford not to care much for the new and the trendy. My personal favourites are Black and M, with White on a surprise 3rd rank. The idea to use watercolour to illustrate the fragrances was initially based on my wish to create sketch-like first impressions, but the longer I worked on this post the more I realised that the art of watercolour and Puredistance's approach to perfumery have a few things in common: 

Lightness of touch and clarity