Monday, July 19, 2010

The Beautiful Mind Series Vol.1 - Intelligence & Fantasy : Perfume Review

Today I've got a special review for you guys, one that I'm very excited about for more than one reason. First and foremost, today's perfume is absolutely summery which is wonderful as I've had a hard time getting excited about new summer releases lately and goodness knows I've been on the lookout since the season definitely calls for it (are you also having a really hot summer?). Second, this is a perfume which despite the fact that it was released this past winter hasn't managed to generate almost any reviews so I feel lucky to be able to give you a detailed review here on Fragrance Bouquet. And finally, this is a fragrance with not only a soul but also a story, and I definitely love to tell those!

The perfume in question is Intelligence & Fantasy, Vol. 1 of the Beautiful Mind Series, a new series of fragrances created by Geza Schoen (known best for his Escentric Molecules series). The Beautiful Mind Series can be seen as an anti-establishment move against the flooding of the perfume market with celebrity fragrances. As the name of the series suggests, these perfumes aim at honoring the mind and establishing it as the new sex-appeal, instead of bowing to celebrity and appearance. As such, each of the volumes in the series will be developed in colaboration not with a celebrity, but with a prominent mind. The choice for the first fragrance, Intelligence & Fantasy, was memory prodigy Christiane Stegner, who became Grandmaster of Memory by the time she was 12 and who'd go ahead and become champion at the Junior World Memory Championships thrice by the time she was 18. The goal in this collaboration was to create a perfume that would speak to both mind and heart, using memory as its conduit. According to Essenza Nobile's website (where I received my sample from) the result is a perfume that captures the essence of summer by evoking "the feelings of luck from realizing that the summer arrives in big steps as far as to these beautiful melancholic memories of it, when it comes to the end of summer".

To me this wonderful summer fragrance is best worn at sunset as, in my opinion, its beautiful development will suit the transition from the warmth of the setting sun and its golden light to the coolness of the moonlit romantic evening. The opening is astoundingly fresh and utterly addictive, a perfect refreshment for skin that's parched for a cool delight after a day spent at the beach. Do you know that moment, when you step out of the shower, hair still wet, getting ready to go out for a sunset drink on a summer island? (Oh how I long for that by the way!) This seems to me like the perfect pick me up to wear at that moment, femine yet fresh, sexy and playful. The scent absolutely encapsulates that moment for me. This opening is all about the mandarin, juicy and succulent, citrucy fresh yet lightly sweet, like a golden drop of dew. And green too, as the scent slowly gains in the bitterness of the crushed mandarin leaves. In all honesty, even if the scent didn't change one bit after this grand opening, I would still probably be as excited by it as I am now, so gorgeous is it. But change it does, and this is one perfume that will keep your interest going for hours to come - that's a promise. Conversely, this sparkly, fresh opening might fool you into thinking you can spray deliberately like you would a cologne - don't. As time goes by the scent becomes all the more exotic and warm meaning that a few hours later an overapplication will seem rather regretful in summery weather. The sillage too begins moderate, but gains progressively as time goes by. As the juicy freshness of the mandarin subsides, a calmer facet of freshness emerges, spiced with a sexy, piquant helping of pink pepper that smells gently peppery and resinous at once. Magnolia lovers should rejoice as well, as this stage features a prominent and beautiful magnolia note that serves as a cushiony embrace for the piquancy of the pink pepper with its lemony-powdery softness. The heart notes are glorious - the floral appricot scent of osmanthus bathed in the warm glow of hedione. Around here is where you should start to become thankful that you didn't overapply during that delicious, fresh tangerine opening by the way! Through the light, effulgent, girlishly feminine notes of osmanthus begins to emerge a far more ravishing, heady scent. The exotic feel of the perfume is amped tenfold as the tiare absolute debutes, tinged (ironicaly!) with the most innocent of rose scents. I find myself amazed at the curious use of rose here, as it is light as a feather, stripped of any hint of experience or wisdom and smells sweet and drunken, like the purest rose petal liquer. The humor in this combination of notes strikes me as incredibly intelligent and amusingly incredulous. And now you know why I suggested you wear this at sunset, don't you? Isn't this a magnificent transition to live through? A wonderful freshness to enjoy in the last golden rays of warmth, a playful transition into feminity at dusk, an exotic debut as the stars and the moon come out to play... This is a very long-lasting perfume and the floral notes will continue to lure with their exotic whispers for hours and hours. The difference you will notice in the drydown is a softer kind of sultriness (curtesy of the heavy dose of cashmeran) and a woody backdrop that is at once dry (cedar) and sweet (sandalwood).

Vol. 1 - Intelligence & Fantasy can be bought from Essenza Nobile's webshop for 150 EUR per 100 ml. The bottle is essentially the same as the ones used for the Escentric Mollecules series, but wrapped in a lenticular foil on which Christian Stegner's face is printed. I must admit that I am not a fan of the bottle at all, however as you can surmise from my review the fragrance is top notch.

Images: Bottle - Essenza Nobile, Santorini Sunset - Flickr by . l i q u i d . b l u e . o c e a n, Rose Petals with string of water pearls - Flickr by audreyjm529

Friday, July 9, 2010

Miroir des Envies by Thierry Mugler : Perfume Review

When the Thierry Mugler's Miroir Miroir collection finally launched I could hardly contain my excitement; having read the pre-launch buzz online I was prepared to love every single one of the fragrances with seductive names. I prayed that Dis-moi Miroir would be my thing, just so I could wear the fragrance bearing that name. (Do you ever get that? Unfortunately I do, often. The fragrance mostly turns out to be something I don't actually fall in love with, darn it. Such is the case with Le Besair du Dragon as well - surely the most beautiful name EVER given to a perfume. The juice, while attractive enough, is just not special enough for me to buy although god knows I try every now and again.) Anyway, back to the Miroir Miroir collection. As you have probably guessed by now, Dis-moi Miroir was decidedly not for me, in fact none of the perfumes were, hence the laaaate review, ages after the launch in fact. Most of the perfumes in the collection are loud, shrieking in fact. The fact that they are also mostly linear in nature adds insult to injury: This deadly combination - loud, bombastic nature and linear progression - make them appear like brainless bimbos (I'm so sorry Thiery), too much make-up, too little cerebration between the ears. Thankfully it's not all bad. One perfumes in particular, Miroir des Envies, stands out among the rest. This are still rather linear and quite loud as well, but it does bear a certain attraction that has made me return to my sample time and time again throughout the past year so today I am finally giving it a review.

Miroir des Envies (my favorite of the two, and yes, I fell for the one with the worst name out of the WHOLE collection. Wonderful.) is a bittersweet gourmand with an old-fashioned nature, completely unbefitting the current mainstream market, which if you know me, you know is not meant as a derision. In fact Miroir des Envies smells like an '80s perfume through and through which is a quite impressive feat considering it presents notes that weren't to be found on any perfume shelf in the actual decade itself. The opening is sueded and soft, presenting a gorgeous hazelnut note. This nutty impression is followed by a brief dash of cream. I would hesitate to say that these two beautiful notes disappear - for they actually don't - but unfortunately all too soon they are both overpowered by an emerging green note that seems quite dissonant. This greenness in turn brings with it a fresh impression. While my next remark is possibly misleading (for it ain't all that bad as it'll undoubtedly sound), it has to be said: this freshness is rather aqueous in nature, a salty freshness of almost marine quality. Such fresh notes have always troubled me personally, and are one of the reasons why I have not yet managed to take the plunge and spring for a bottle of Chanel's Allure Sensuelle. I bring this up right now for I think that while the two perfumes are nothing like each other in terms of smell, it can help illustrate what I mean with the dissonance I perceive here. As with Allure Sensuelle I am at a loss as to whether I should proclaim the combination of such dissonant notes as novel and genius or as cowardice - that is, why not commit to making a gourmand? Regardless, this whole conversation might be moot, for five minutes later (I jest not) everything has melded into one whole and the perfume proceeds in a linear fashion from there on. Fortunately, what you are left with cannot be called boring because it's so darn interesting. The salty freshness subsides enough for everything else to gain a voice and then it's all cuddly confidence, curves and sex-appeal. It is bittersweet and green and there's that sueded, bizarre softness in the background, like the green casing of a young, unripe almond. It is gourmand without being the least bit foody. It is sexy and daringly retro, unafraid to be different. It is definitely the most perfect miror of the Miroir Miroir collection. Most importantly perhaps, it is deeply unique.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Smelly Facts: The Making of a Best-Seller

Have you ever wondered what it takes to make a best-selling perfume? The obvious answer should be a combination of quality (first and foremost one would argue), capturing the zeitgeist of the period of release and of course some sort of universal appeal. But of course as we perfume lovers well know, far from all best-selling perfumes comply with these or similar criteria. In fact, most of the time it is marketing that drives a best-seller, with unfortunate, deleterious consequences for the sensitive noses and sensibilities of connoiseurs who end up disparaging the mainstream market as a result. For me one such perfume whose continuing success leaves me rather bewildered is Dior's J'Adore, a veritable golden goose for the company. Countless women profess their adoration (ugh, forgive the accidental pun) for J'Adore, much to my dismay and confusion. Well, I seem to have come across an (at least partial) explanation for its success while studying for Consumer Psychology, one of my elective courses this year, and now that I've more time I finally get to share it with you. According to Hoyer & MacInnis (2008, p. 34) it is not uncommon for modern marketing efforts to be driven by neuroscience:

Neuroscientists are seeking to understand consumer behavior by looking at brain activity using functional resonance imaging (fMRI). To do this, they examine which parts of the brain become activated when consumers are engaging in activities such as making a decision, viewing an ad, or selecting an investment. For instance, Christian Dior used fMRI research to test consumer's reactions to music, colors, and ad placement when planning its highly successful introductory campaign for J'Adore perfume. Although neuroscience research raises concerns about manipulation, one advertising executive notes: "Observing brain activity and setting up models for behavior is not the same as forcing a brain into making a consumption decision."

Although I cannot with certaintly refute the validity of this claim without further information, one has to question the extent of its truthfulness. Specifically, in the event that marketing is heavily based on automatic brain responses, what sort of defense is left for us against it? What do you think? Considering that not every household currently contains a bottle of J'Adore it is clear that freedom of choice still remains secure, but with more technological advances in the future I foresee this ethical debate heating up.

To briefly return to one of my initial points regarding universal appeal in perfume, I found another interesting little tidbit elsewhere in the book (idem, p. 84). According to the authors "Only one smell is universally regarded as pleasant. No, it's not vanilla... It's cola! Considering this, I am surprised we've yet to come across a perfume with cola notes! Or have I missed something?

References: Hoyer, D. W. & MacInnis, D. J., 2008. Consumer Behavior. North Way: GB, South-Western, Cengage Learning

Emphasis in original text added by author.