Grab Bag Round-Up – June 2015

Hello everyone, I hope you’re all having a good weekend. It’s time for this month’s Grab Bag, with a look at random things from news articles on popular fragrance genres, top Arabian perfume brands, synaesthesia, and the science of smell, to the more personal things occupying my attention this month.

Scientific Articles on Smell & Scent:

  • The Guardian had something really interesting to me: “Smell, evolution and the sex brain: why we’re monogamous and use perfume.” The piece argues that “Today we have a global fragrance market equal to the GDP of a medium-sized country, because of a gene mutation that made smells less sexy to us.” Basically, we used to have a gene — nicknamed “Adam” by its discoverers — that transmitted sexual scent messages (largely about ovulation) to our brains, but we lost it about 16m years ago because of evolutionary pressure to maintain monogamy and the family bond. However, the neural pathways that responded to such messages will still respond to “sensual perfumes made from – among other things – the sexual signals of musk deer, beavers and civets.”
  • From Science News: “Sense of smell is strictly personal, study suggests.” The article’s focuses primarily on genetics, neuroscience, and how we have “olfactory fingerprints,” thanks to a “new test [that] can distinguish individuals based upon their perception of odors, possibly reflecting a person’s genetic makeup[.]” However, there are obviously indirect implications that support what most perfume bloggers always say, that smell is subjective and subject to wholly personal variables.
  • From Aeon Magazine, a really fascinating piece asks “Are we all born with Synaesthesia?” It covers synaesthesia in literature (Nabokov’s Lolita, Mary Shelley, and the Enlightenment philosopher, Rousseau) before looking at the neuroscience, child psychology studies, and different forms of synaesthesia (musical notes, numbers, letters, or one poor woman who reacted viscerally to mere fabric textures). It’s a really interesting, in-depth piece that covers some unexpected issues.
Source: artsfon.com

Source: artsfon.com

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Art, Beauty & Perfumes: Roberto Greco Part II

"Girl and Grapes."

“Girl and Grapes.”

Last year, I wrote about Roberto Greco, a photographer whose works transcended mere pictures and involved actual Art reminiscent of oil paintings by the great Masters. With his camera, he could replicate the look of a Vermeer still-life or the textural feel of a woman’s naked skin in a Rubens. I was left speechless. Yet, there was also great range to his talent, one that extended to other styles of art like Surrealism, Warhol Pop Art, and the baroque. Many of those photos involve perfume, which is an original twist in and of itself. Instead of the trite, typical images of a Commes de Garcons perfume that you’d see in mainstream advertising, he had a more symbolic representation where Amazing Green was a living entity unexpectedly sprouting hair that was twisted to grow like living bushes, all in the candied simplicity of Pop Art psychedelic colours.

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

You can see that photo and many others in last year’s article, Part I, but I wanted to highlight Mr. Greco’s latest work today because I think he’s grown even further as a photographer when it comes to perfume, intersecting commercialism with art in a manner that makes him stand out in the field. I should disclose that Mr. Greco has since become a personal friend, but that is not the reason for today’s post. I truly believe, from the bottom of my heart, that he is brilliant, enormously talented, and should be the first choice of every perfume house when it comes to capturing their creations in print. In today’s busy world, people are flooded by images, data, and information, so they rarely stop to give something a second or third look unless it really grabs your attention. Roberto Greco’s photos do that. Others go even further in their impact. Some of his images (like the jewel-toned ones you will see below for Room 1015) have made me want to try a fragrance when I previously had zero interest — and I think that is the ultimate compliment to a photographer, not to mention a positive inducement for other companies to retain his services.

Personal photo of Musc Tonkin by Parfums d'Empire.

Personal photo of Musc Tonkin by Parfum d’Empire.

So, today, I’d like to share some of his latest work for Bogue, SHL 777, and Frapin, amongst others, as well as his more purely artistic, non-perfume photos. One series that you will see is a personal project that sought to portray the inspiration behind various Serge Lutens fragrances like Iris Silver Mist or MKK, and the women whom he sees as symbolizing those scents. Others range from editorial work for magazines or metaphoric art pieces for gallery exhibitions. In all cases, I’d like to thank Mr. Greco for kindly permitting me to share so much of his work, a lot of which is not currently shown on his main business website. He’s an incredibly sweet man with enormous modesty and much shyness, but he is a talented artist above all else and I’m grateful for the opportunity to showcase his work.

So, onto the photographs, starting first with the new, upcoming trio of fragrances from Jovoy:

Jovoy. Jus Interdit.

Jovoy. Jus Interdit.

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2014 In Review: 30 Personal Favorites

Source: designzzz.com

Source: designzzz.com

My list of favorite fragrances that I’ve tried this year is quite different from yesterday’s list of the best new releases of 2014. The latter centered largely on scents that I thought were good, very elegant or interesting representations of their genre, regardless of whether they were my personal cup of tea, and they were only things that debuted in 2014. Today’s list is purely about what I really enjoyed and does not consider the date in release at all. So, this time around, there are very few qualifications and caveats, and the vast majority of these fragrances are things that I bought for myself, am thinking about buying, or would love to buy were their price not a consideration.

You will notice that a good number of the fragrances are not complex masterpieces at all, but quite simple in nature. One reason for that is that I love cozy, comfort scents, and they are generally not very nuanced or multifaceted to begin with. Plus, mindlessly simple but really well-done fragrances that combine richness with soothing warmth are, in all honesty, a huge relief to me after a long day where I do nothing but analyse every nuance and change in a scent for hours (upon hours) on end.

Ferdinand Leeke,  "The Last Farewell of Wotan and Brunhilde," (1875). Source: Wikipedia.com

Ferdinand Leeke, “The Last Farewell of Wotan and Brunhilde,” (1875). Source: Wikipedia.com

A few other points. As always, I have to repeat my mantra regarding the subjective, personal nature of reviewing in general, and how a list like this is even doubly so. With regard to the rankings, it’s always an utter nightmare, but the Top Ten chosen here are generally quite firm in order. There is a bit more leeway with the next 10 names, as a tiny handful could go up or down one to two places of where they are at the present time. I’m most undecided about the placement of the last 10 which are the most subject to fluctuations in order. One reason why is because perfumistas are a fickle bunch who can change their mind from one month to the next, and I’m no exception. The other reason is that I’ve gone back and forth on a few scents, switching their places repeatedly until I just gave up in the end. So, for now, this is where things are, for the most part. Finally, you will notice that some of my summary descriptions are verbatim from my list of best, new releases of 2014 or from my mid-2014 best or favorites list. My apologies in advance. Covering almost 60 fragrances in two days is rather an exhausting process, so I hope you will forgive me.

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Mid-2014 Best & Favorites List

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

We’re more than half way through 2014, so I thought it would be a nice time for a mid-year look at some of the perfumes that caught my attention. I used to do a list of favorite things that I had tried after every 100 posts, but that practice has fallen by the wayside due to the demands of my schedule. A few weeks ago, I was thinking of some of the fragrances I have covered since the beginning of the year, and the ones on my personal list of things to buy, so it seemed like a good time for an updated list.

Perfume reviewing is subjective and personal by its very nature, so winnowing fragrances down to a list like this is even more so. My criteria for selection varied. Some of the fragrances were not really for me, but I think they’re good examples of their genre and done very well. Others are on the list for the most subjective reason of all: I either bought full bottles for myself, plan to get them, or would love to do so, if their high price were not a consideration. Ranking things is an utter nightmare, but the Top Four are firmly placed in accordance with my feelings. The remainder of the perfumes are generally ranked within one to two slots, plus or minus, of where they are in my wholly subjective estimation. None of the 25 fragrances on this list are based on their date of official release, but on what I’ve covered since January 1st through to the end of June. And all of them are current releases, not vintage fragrances. Continue reading