Luca Turin's perfume reviews @perfumes_ilove


There is a tendency among arty niche houses to insist on simultaneously being about less and more than mere perfume. The less part has to do with minimalism, that sterile hybrid of classic modern and germophobia. The more part has to do with adding a fragrance angle to the great adventure of navel-gazing. Two examples among many: “scent as an open-ended adventure in self-expression […]  opens a window on a new horizon of human possibility  where scent interacts with creativity.” Note that in this particular case the prose was, unusually, written by someone who finished high school. A more average sample: “Spirit without religion, but as a reason for living [ …] which arises, passionate and suffered, from the depths, from that scent of a life lived and not invented.”

Having read that, you expect a some-assembly-required leaflet to come with the frags that will tell you what to do that will let rip your dormant inner creative volcano, and/or open the sliding doors of consciousness. That would be the more, and I am still unenlightened. The less part is more easily assessed: I have, for example, six little spray samples of this kind of fragrance in front of me. All of them smell somewhere between nice and very nice when taken individually, and if I place myself downwind of the row of smelling strips they add up to a very agreeable breeze, not a million miles from an actual perfume. From which a little mathematics leads me to conclude that each of these samples is approximately one-sixth of a perfume.

There is a basic distinction between the sublime and the beautiful. The sublime is natural beauty, i.e. rose, lemon oil, oud, musk etc. The beautiful is what you do with it. Many niche houses think they can get away with selling little pieces of the sublime while steering well away from fully worked-out beauty. What they are doing is what Jo Malone did years ago by giving simple ingredient names to their fragrances. In some ways this type of fragrance serves a useful purpose by providing an —expensive— education in basic perfumery accords, one step up from the aromatherapy rack at the local organic grocery, and two steps down from real perfumery, which ranges from Lynx deodorants to Mitsouko.

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