One of the things I find hardest to do in my lab work (apart from keeping my mouth shut) is changing only one thing at a time when trying to perfect an experiment. If you make several changes, you’re not quite sure which made things better and you have to backtrack. The same applies to exceptional meals. If you go to a great restaurant and you order a dish you never even knew existed, it’s going to be hard to figure out whether the chaud-froid de grives is exceptional or you’re just impressed by the place because, statistically speaking, n=1. My mother once told me that she was treated to lunch at La Pyramide in Vienne in the late ‘fifties, at a time when it was a 3-star Michelin and supposedly the best restaurant in France. In those days before Nouvelle Cuisine, plates were round, balsamic vinegar was safely cooped up in Modena, portions were large and five courses would probably kill you. She ordered only things she cooked at home, and reported being amazed by a familiar but completely transfigured boeuf bourguignon.
Perfumes work that way too. Anyone familiar with my reviews will know that I prize originality above all. But there are two ways of being original: discovering completely novel accords ( Miyako, Angel), and finding something new and wonderful in existing ones (Tocade, Mitsouko). CoS is a shining example of the latter. They sent me six fragrances. None elicited the feeling of disorientation that novel accords give you, but every single one brought a smile to my face, because it did something I was familiar with, only done differently and better. Let me start with that most hackneyed of compulsory figures in perfumery, the amber oriental. Fire Amber Baby is a seemingly straight up amber, but it hits a spot slightly above and to the side of the usual solid, comfortable amber. There is in FAB a silken, rice-like note which I suspect is bergamot and which reminds me of Lutens’ Ambre Sultan and Goutal’s Sables (but without the everlasting flower). FAB has the quality you encounter in truly great middle eastern pastry shops, of somehow making lethally sweet desserts seem lighter than they really are.
The Hedonist plays the same trick in a different register. At first blush, you could assign it to the category of all-out smoky leathers that niche perfumery made popular in recent years. But again, it does not quite work the same way, and veers off in the direction of Knize Ten by adding a small, almost imperceptible touch of bright fresh color amidst all the dark browns. Sweet Libertine is a lovely woody floral. In the Woods is a new take on Eau de Cologne, with an austere dusty-dry note of incense among the familiar citrus. My favorite is the aptly named Something Beautiful, an accord of orange flower, neroli and tonka beans which manages somehow to elicit something novel, melodious and ample from this very familiar territory. SB felt like sweet music to me when I first smelled it, and I was interested to see it had been created for a singer to wear at a debut concert. All in all, great skill displayed and great pleasure dispensed.
Categories: niche houses