Style » Grooming

Fragrance Finds: Sex and Silver, Blood and Fire

by Mark Thompson
EDGE Style & Travel Editor
Tuesday Sep 20, 2011

For some people, there's only autumn. Autumn and its feast of fragrances: spiced pears and pumpkins, chestnuts and smoky teas, honeyed vanilla, boozy cherries, patchouli and ginger.

Now is the time to wander aimlessly through the park; get lost in the woods. And everywhere you go, breathe in the heavy richness of autumn: oakmoss and balsam, overripe berries, and cedar. Then wear it all the way home.

Winter is coming - but, for now, it's all about the smells of autumn.


Blood Concept: AB Parfum

In the chill of winter, in the throes of adolescence, you might’ve licked an icicle that you broke from a window - and the taste was like cold metal, reminding you of when you’d licked the jungle gym, just to see if your tongue would stick to the frozen steel, just to see if it would draw blood in winter and if your blood would freeze.

Blood Concept fragrances provoke such reveries, not only for their subliminally suggestive advertising, but also because of the brilliance of the packaging. The four unisex perfumes are labeled by blood type, from O to A, B, and AB - and sold in gleaming silver antique medicine bottles with red-lined droppers. The concept is deliberately inflammatory - and immediately evocative of a medical spa, where someone like Keith Richards might get his blood changed.

Established by Giovanni Castelli and Antonio Zuddas, Blood Concept’s fragrances each end with a metallic basenote, meant to convey blood’s essence, our own mineral content. Perfume AB opens like asphalt in spring rain, a hint of something citrus on the air as you sit in the middle of your macadam driveway, waiting for something to happen. Sipping from a can of Fresca, you can taste the aluminum as much as the lemon-lime tang - and as you lie down completely on the driveway, you mouth open to the rain, you’re thinking about what happened in wood shop, the last period of the school day. There was sawdust on the floor.

Perfume AB is the scent of adolescence, when hormones and pheromones are all and everything - and blood flows with greater intensity than ever before: to the groin, to the heart, to the head.

On the driveway, you turn your head, eyeing a cedar wood chip from the mulch your father spread along the hedgerow. But it’s your teacher that you’re thinking about - and the chalk on the blackboard, writing his name, without him knowing.

You don’t yet know the word "iconoclast" - but already you are one.

PRICE: $180 / 40 ml EDP, w/fragrance dropper
LINK: Blood Concept AB Parfum


Elie Saab: Le Parfum

Candis Cayne. That’s the first thing that comes to mind with a spritz of Elie Saab’s debut fragrance Le Parfum. The first transgender actress to play on prime time television in ABC’s "Dirty Sexy Money," Cayne seems the personification of Elie Saab’s first fragrance: an elegant white floral, bursting with honey, money, and sex.

For more than 25 years, the Lebanese couturier has been synonymous with femininity, his dresses the embodiment of Monet’s "Water Lilies." Saab’s dresses twirl and swirl with air currents of their own, much the way that Candis Cayne worked a room (and the streets) with her New York cabaret act.

This is a big girl fragrance, voluptuous with curves and bada-bing sensuality. Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian opens the fragrance with a blast of orange blossom and jasmine. "What I found fascinating was the idea of radiant femininity," said Kurkdjian. It’s as if you’ve been invited into Candis Cayne’s dressing room, where rows of dresses are punctuated with a profusion of blooms: jasmine and gardenia.

Ultimately, about the time that Candis Cayne pulls a dressing gown from the closet, her slip falling to the floor, Le Parfum settles into basenotes of cedarwood and patchouli. Candis glances over her shoulder at you, as elegant and sexy as Jessica Rabbit - and it strikes you then that love takes many forms.

PRICE: $90.00 / 1.7 fl oz EDP
LINK: Elie Saab Le Parfum


Lubin: Idole de Lubin

One whiff of Idole de Lubin and you’re traveling on the "African Queen" with Bogie and Kate, the scent of rum and smoked ebony permeating the air as you head for Lake Victoria.

Originally introduced in 1962, Idole de Lubin was reformulated and relaunched in 2005, when former Guerlain creative director, Gilles Thévenin, took over the house of Lubin. One of the world’s oldest and most illustrious fragrance houses, Lubin was founded in 1798, serving as the official perfumer for European royalty throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

According to Thévenin, "Lubin fragrances have their own character; they have a strong personality" - and there’s little question that Idole de Lubin, the house’s first 21st-century fragrance and the 466th from the house, is as assertive as it is seductive. The bottle, created by Serge Mansau, evokes the sail of a felucca, a wooden boat traditional to Africa, with a carved African mask as bottle stopper.

Idole de Lubin opens with cumin, saffron, and bitter orange in a cloud of rum. Think of it as Bogie’s breakfast, with Kate fanning the air. Yet in the jungle heat, the rum burns off, leaving a sugary, smoky sweetness - and by drydown, as evening falls, Kate has succumbed to the leather and sandalwood that closes in around her as Bogie hovers near.

Idole de Lubin’s perfumer was Olivia Giacobetti - and her touch with such dominant components is equivalent to witnessing Kate tame Bogie in the jungle. "Set the jungle on fire," says Giacobetti - and that’s exactly what will happen to your heart while under the spell of Idole de Lubin.

PRICE: $120 / 75 ml
LINK: Idole de Lubin


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Jean Paul Gaultier: Classique Silver My Skin

We first went to France with a bottle blonde who had first been to France when she was sixteen, where she fell in love with her chaperone/professor and lost her virginity in the lake town of Evian.

And so it was to Evian we traveled with the bottle blonde so that she could relive her first France infatuation. For most of that winter weekend, she flipped through French fashion magazines, sighing heavily like a Henry James heroine - and periodically spritzing the air and her peroxide blonde hair with fragrance.

All of this came back to us as we gazed at Jean Paul Gaultier’s latest limited edition fragrance Classique Silver My Skin. Packaged in Gaultier’s signature tin can, the Gaultier Classique torso is lacquered in pale metallic pink and overlaid with adjectives in calligraphy: "sexy" and "coeur," "sensuelle" and "charnelle" - and "forte" and "strong." In other words, there’s little question about the assertive strength of this bombshell.

Perfumer Jacques Cavallier opens this version of Classique with orange blossom, plum, pear, and mandarin - but it’s a pink rose as seductive as spring that pulls you into the fragrance’s heart. And there it settles for a while, as if seated in a secret garden, high above a distant lake.

It’s not likely that our bottle blonde friend imagined Daisy Miller while in Evian, but we see James’s heroine walking amongst the garden, twirling her parasol in hand as she twirls with her suitor’s emotions.

From the garden’s iris and orchids, Classique Silver My Skin shapeshifts into something more fitting for gloaming, a touch of autumn’s spice. Musk in the air and a hint of vanilla. Spring has passed; the bloom is off the rose - and memories are best preserved in amber.

Never one to rue the past, our bottle blonde friend subsequently moved through a series of suitors, always trailing beautiful fragrance in her wake. As sexy and sensual as a screen siren, Classique Silver My Skin makes it clear who’s boss - and not only in the bedroom.

(Also, for those unfamiliar with Jean Paul Gaultier’s signature packaging, do not use a can opener: the bottom of the can twists off. This is a stunning collector’s item - and you might consider purchasing two bottles, in order to shelve one for the future.)

PRICE: $90.00 / 3.3 fl oz EDT
LINK: Jean Paul Gaultier Classique Silver My Skin


Narciso Rodriguez: essence in color

As everyone who follows his fashion line knows, Narciso Rodriguez loves color - particularly when it’s pure. Pure color for Rodriguez serves as a conduit to the emotions.

For his new limited edition fragrance "essence in color," Rodriguez offers a stunning iridescent purple vessel that radiates a refulgent appeal as strong as Murano glass. With its rounded edges, the abstract bottle evokes a brilliant amethyst, large enough for jewelry for the entire cast of "Downton Abbey."

Imagine a well-heeled traveler in espadrilles and linen wandering through a bazaar in Marrakesh. The sun, the smells, the crowd - and our intrepid visitor lightly glistening in the heat.

Rodriguez has enhanced his original "essence" fragrance with a drop of incense and a hint of tiara blossom. The powdery rose petals of the original are deepened by the incense, which complements the musk and amber at the fragrance’s base.

Returning to the hotel, reclining on the bed, the ex-pat notices that a bouquet of iris has been moved from the sun, the fragrance almost imperceptibly perfuming the air near the pillow.

Launched at the conclusion of New York Fashion Week, "essence in color" is Narciso Rodriguez’s tribute to the sensual richness of an afternoon, full and heavy with color.

PRICE: $84.00 / 1.6 fl oz EDP
LINK: Narciso Rodriguez essence in color


Strange Invisible Perfumes: Limited Edition Astrological Collection / Pisces

Once when we were young, as we prepared to leave for a long journey across the globe, someone told us that we wouldn’t actually be that far apart - because we’d still be staring at the same moon.

Alexandra Balahoutis, founder of Strange Invisible Perfumes, has always been fascinated with the cosmos and its connection to astrology. Recently, Strange Invisible Perfumes announced the launch of their Limited Edition Astrological Collection, which ultimately will consist of twelve botanical fragrances representing each zodiac sign.

Founded in 2000 by botanical perfumer Balahoutis, Strange Invisible Perfumes is dedicated to creating fragrances from real botanical essences. All of the company’s fragrances are designed, hand-blended, and bottled in Venice, California, which is also where the Strange Invisible Perfumes boutique is located.

To gaze into the night sky, charting the constellations, is to dream a little - and in keeping with that dreamy quality, the first release from Strange Invisible Perfume’s Astrological Collection is Pisces.

If you’re a Pisces, or know one, you might immediately connect to the notes of frankincense, cedarwood, and pepper, all of which fuel the imagination. For creativity, there’s also white jasmine and lime, with a touch of bay leaf at the fragrance’s base. Complex and romantic, Pisces, the fragrance, is a testament to the allure of the twelfth zodiac sign. Copernicus, the father of modern astronomy, was a Pisces. Wear this fragrance - and swim in the sky.

PRICE: $275.00 / 1.7 fl. oz. EDP w/custom engraved bottles, hand-painted with sterling silver
LINK: Strange Invisible Perfumes: Limited Edition Astrological Collection / Pisces


A long-term New Yorker and a member of New York Travel Writers Association, Mark Thompson has also lived in San Francisco, Boston, Provincetown, D.C., Miami Beach and the south of France. The author of the novels WOLFCHILD and MY HAWAIIAN PENTHOUSE, he has a PhD in American Studies and is the recipient of fellowships at MacDowell, Yaddo, and Blue Mountain Center. His work has appeared in numerous publications.


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