Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lacoste Eau de Sport Review : A Blast From the Past!

Lacoste Eau de Sport is a perfume created in 1968 by Jean Kerleo of the house of Patou under license to compliment the Lacoste line of sportswear. It is a long discontinued but supreme classic, a perfume which manages to tie the fleeting freshness of petitgrain, verbena, bergamot and lemony citrus to a spicy heart of laurel, pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, oldschool woods, slight powder and a touch of rockrose. The opening is reminscent of the natural citrus of Crown Imperiale or Annick Gourtals Eau d'Hadrien, and the heart is a masterpiece example of the classic gentleman's EDT genre. Contrary to its name "Eau de sport" it doesnt have the spirit of a typical citrus "water", instead it feels a bit viscous, but not oily - I would like to use the french word "seve" which means sap; this is a light sap/resin, the scent to me evokes the image of a fresh cut into an imaginary species of "Lacoste" tree. The development is pure Jean Kerleo: no note stands out as they are all perfectly blended into one unified scent. Due to this perfect balance the layers of evaporation are extremely sublte which could almost fool you into thinking that it is more linear than it really is! Most notably, even the perception of citrus is very long lasting in this high quality blend. I have only this carded sample (in photo) which has managed to remain fresh for over 40 years! This is very astonishing for a citrus cologne but the few people with which I have had contact that also own this cologne say the same thing: it appears to be perfectly preserved. My late 60's Eau Sauvage on the other hand smells foul! This is long discontinued and impossible to track down, but I would someday like to own a full bottle of it and wouldn't mind paying even astronomical prices for this forgotten gem. Alas, right now that would be difficult on a student's budget!

My Question to anyone knowledgeable on this subject is what is the difference between the version with the small black cap and clear bottle vs. the frosted glass bottle w/ the taller gold top? Is it just a design change over the years? Ligne Sport Lacoste

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Visit to the Havana Perfume Museum

Here are some photos and descriptions from my recent trip to the Havana Perfume Museum located in Havana, Cuba. It is a very small museum in Old Havana which includes displays of vintage perfumes and related products, a retail section selling modern Cuban perfumes, as well as two demonstration areas where perfumes are mixed and materials can be tested. The Cuban people are very poor and their institutions' budgets are no exception to the rule - this must be kept in mind when visiting any Cuban museum. Despite these financial hurdles the museum was still very enjoyable. I hope you like the photos and virtual tour; I'm sorry if some of them came out a bit blurry, it was VERY dark inside and I could not use the flash due to the items being behind glass ;)

This is a display of commonly used animal products, from left to right we have ambergris, castoreum and civette.

Here are some old Avon products.

A copper still which is the type used to extract essential oils from plants, woods etc.

This is the section where the demonstrations take place, unfortunatley on the day we visited the lady who usually teaches about materials and the perfume pyramid structure was not there. I took this photo of the organ anyways :)

Here are some dry plant matter of materials which are used in perfumes.

Of all of the french perfume houses, the museum had the most Guerlain bottles.

Guerlain again

Heres one including Vol de Nuit in a very old bottle

Vintage edition of a famous Cuban perfume "Mariposa" which means "butterfly", I tested the modern version (included in the photo below), it is a very clean jasmine scent.

Modern Cuban perfumes in the retail section.

A Molinard display including Habanita (of course!)

Here the perfumer is filling a bottle with perfume for a customer

This is a very old scale used to measure out dry matter for tincturing

Femme - Rochas (Vintage)

In the middle you will find the most important ingredient in men's perfumery, sandalwood, and to either side there is Romarin and Hyssop.

Here is a display of vintage bottles by Cuban perfume producer Suchel. They also produce Mariposa and many other famous Cuban perfumes such as Coral Negro, Alicia and Alonzo. Suchel also produces most of the island's soap and other fragrance related products.

Finally some perfumes housed in giant glass decanters with little spouts to pour into bottles for customers, similar to the set up at Caron :)

Address: Oficios Street between Obispo and Obra Pía, Old Havana.Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 14:30 - 21:45; Sundays 9:00 -13:00.
*The museum is also the headquarters of the Arabian House of Havana

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Al Khaleej vs. Al Khaleej : Arabic Perfume Naming and Classification

Here are two bottles by two different houses (Ajmal and Al Haramain), both are named Al Khaleej but do not smell alike, one is an alcoholic eau de parfum and the other is an oil based attar. How can these two producers produce perfumes with the same name? what is the connection? In order to answer this I will have to give a bit of information regarding Eastern perfumery conventions, specifically Arabic perfume. Since Arabic perfume was traditionally sold by market vendors before the days of mass production and coordinated commerce, standardized names had to be created to give a customer an understanding of what to expect from the scent in terms of ingredients, as well as to communicate quality level and expected price. For example, Mukhallath (which means mix) was used to mean a perfume containing but not limited to Oud, Sandalwood, Rose, Jasmine, Musk and Amber (Indian Amber aka Benzoin + resins and spices). To indicate that a mix used higher quality ingredients, a modifier would be added to the name such as Mukhallath Al Maliki (mix of/for kings/royalty). Another common word used to describe perfumes is Ateeq, which means "old", indicating that the agarwood oil used has been aged to mellow the sesquiterpenes. As is expected, these modifiers indicate price as well as quality. We can liken these perfume names to our concept of fragrance families (Fougere, Oriental, etc) in the way that fragrances named Dehn Al Oud in the Arabic world (meaning oil of wood) will contain a high concentration of agarwood, and fragrances including the word Suifi will be inspired by traditional Sufi formulas. For example a customer seeing a fragrance named Dhen Oud Al Maliki would understand that he or she is purchasing a high quality (for royals) perfume that was mainly based around the agarwood note, regardless of the producer. There are also other names that are not as clear cut such as Jannatul Firdaus or Sultan (sometimes called Sultan Brunei) that come from traditional blends which have become popular. In example, Jannatul Firdaus would be a very floral and sweet musky blend which comes from the name of the higher levels of Paradise in Holy Islamic texts; If I am correct there are rivers in this level of paradise that flow with this perfume, but this may be something I have heard that was taken out of context. Another way to look at these Arabic naming conventions is to see them as interpretations of a theme, such as Guerlain's vs. Creed's Vetivers or Chanel vs. Creed's Cuir de Russie.

Pictured above is a bottle of Jannatul Firdaus that I have collected a few years ago, it is generally as seen here, a very dark green meant to mimic the colour of Kasthuri musk. 99.9% of this type of perfume on the market today uses colouring agents and synthetic musks of course.

So getting back to our Al Khaleejes; the Ajmal is intensly fresh and citrussy with an agressive mossy and musky base, it is ozonic/aquatic and modern in the late 90's sense of the word but with a signifigant oldschool "oomph" to it. The Al Haramain combines its citrus blast with amber, spices and woods instead. The common denominator between these perfumes however is the theme of freshness and the citrus top, a perfect example of how different two interpretations of one theme can be.

Liquid Glass: Patou Pour Homme

If there is any perfume in which the smell perfectly matches with the bottle it comes in, oddly enough I would have to say it is Patou Pour Homme. You are probably wondering what I could possibly mean since it is such a simple bottle? In this case I am not talking about the graphics, colour or shape of the bottle... but in fact what it is made of. Many people who review Patou PH will talk about the perfectly balanced blending, the noble woods, the sensual burning spices, but while I agree that all these facets of the fragrance are notable indeed, I don't think any of them are what make it the truly special perfume that it is. For me, the "je ne sais quoi" in PPH comes from the accord that is the combination of a very lean jasmine and a touch of a semi sweet and most transparent orris note; I can describe it only as liquid glass. If one takes a look at the spray bottle of PPH it is similar in shape to the top of the older (1924 in the chart below) chanel #5 bottles, and a type of bevelled glass from the front view, like an art-deco mirror.

Yes the accord is subtle and easy to miss at first, but the design of the bottle speaks volumes about its' importance behind the scenes of the more obvious olfactory design elements. The sparkle of this special accord is present in PH from the very first spray until quite deep into the drydown; it is very sharp and its transparancy is complimented by the choice of herbal notes used as well. I believe this accord is also important as a modifier to the resinous basenotes, making them exceptionally liquid and sharpening their resolution like the highest quality ground glass Nikon lense. The liquid glass accord acts almost like the HDTV for this perfume ;)

If anyone has got Patou Pour Homme I invite you to test it again and see if you think I have been accurate, I'd love to know your opinions - please write anytime :)