The 10 best smells of now

Volume 4 Issue 002: The former New York Times perfume critic shares 10 cult fragrances you need to nose.

Arti­cle taken from The Face Volume 4 Issue 002. Order your copy here.

Kalimantan

This was created by one of the greatest scent artists of the past numerous decades: Pierre Negrin. Negrin was commissioned by [posh cosmetics person] Sylvie Chantecaille to create Kalimantan. This is like man-made fires in the Asian equatorial jungle – the wood is smouldering and smoking under tropical stars and the silence is mesmerisingly absolute.

COMMES DES GARÇONS 2

This was created by the great artist Mark Buxton. It’s the most perfect work of scent ever created. Structure, diffusion, persistence, beauty – it needs to be experienced. Strangely warm, abstracted, uncategorisable, hypnotic.

Paestum Rose

Bertrand Duchaufour’s talent is remarkable in its breadth. This is not nature; this is much better. Heft, depth, a beauty that has a few small wrinkles and is all the more sexy for it. The breath of a very, very handsome man on your neck.

Yuzu Rouge

I can’t find out whether 06130 [a line of fine fragrances created and manufactured in Grasse] has stopped making this, but if they have, it’s both an aesthetic and moral loss for our entire species. Created by Raphael Haury, it’s translucent and feels like the scent equivalent of [Chinese-American architect] I. M. Pei’s most beautiful glass wonders. It has references to succulent, tangy, Freon-cooled Japanese citrus – like Haury has made a glass knife. 06130 better bring it back or I’m heading to Grasse with my game face on.

New Haarlem

Created by Maurice Roucel for [New York-based perfume house] Bond No 9. This folds memory into desire like a pastry chef spatulating rich, sepia-toned batter into a purplish night sky. The content of sugar approximately equals that of the velvet opium smoke, and if you have never worn mink – and nothing but mink – on a cold night, then keep a bottle of New Haarlem on ice.

Menthe Fraîche

The English perfume designer James Heeley was commissioned by David Maruitte to create this flawless flight through a blue, crisp sky. No airplane – just you. The more reasonable metaphor would be a minty, slightly chilled summer spa treatment, but the sheer exhilaration of it sweeps you into the wind. Maruitte ingeniously cut the mouth-watering mint with styrallyl acetate’s fresh green grass and rhubarb angle. If you ever achieve nirvana in a yoga class, your aura will smell of Menthe Fraîche.

Carnal Flower

This is one of the magistral artist Dominique Ropion’s many works for Frédéric Malle. It’s exceedingly painful to have to choose just one, but here is a work composed on the theme of tuberose (one of the most difficult components in the palette) that slams you with the material’s massive calla lilyesque power, batters you with its mentholic winds and brushes you with feathers on giant wings. 

(Untitled)

Laurent Le Guernec once gave me a scent he’d made for himself. We were leaving a party on New York’s East 79th at the same time, and I said: What the fuck are you wearing?” He sent it to me. It doesn’t have a name. I have around 20ml left in the lab spray in my fridge. It’s abstract. Not odd at all. Not traditional. Not identifiable. I think of it as being very East 79th on a summer night, and I suppose that’s a pretty good description.

COMMES DES GARÇONS Series 3: Incense Avignon

Avignon is another piece by Bertrand Duchaufour. It registers as a gentle balm on a dry wind; less incense and more like an undiscovered lavender, say (except not at all lavender). The Comme des Garçons collection delves into territories from the psychedelic to the freezing high-concept. Avignon is as humane as a hand gently brushing hair back from one’s temple.

You Or Someone Like You

Etat Libre d’Orange founder Etienne de Swardt commissioned a scent from me, so I commissioned the talents of artist Caroline Sabas, and I love what she created. What does it smell like? If there were a crisp, intensely private Englishwoman named Anne, a lover of gardening and of her American husband Howard, if they lived in a house on Macapa Drive in the Hollywood Hills and if Anne wore a perfume – that is what You Or Someone Like You smells like.


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