Monday, September 8, 2008

The Return of Perfume, the Guide (online)

Lucca Turin and Tania Sanchez have decided to publish quarterly installments of their Bible, Perfume: The Guide, which is a relief to those of us who've been wondering what they think of Calvin Klein Euphoria, Acqua di Gio, Allure Homme Edition Blanche, Estee Lauder Sensuous, Giorgio, et al. Some of these were omitted from the original publication. Some have since been released. Others had fallen outside the authors' radar, which is hard to believe but there you go.

In case you're wondering, Giorgio gets four stars. "It is considered polite to deplore the excesses of the eighties (and to trot out Opium, Poison, and Giorgio as exhibits)," writes Turin. Consider Turin impolite. Those eighties mainstays might have OVERstayed their welcome at the time, but you can hardly blame the salt someone used to rub into your wound. And to deprive yourself of salt forever after doesn't make much sense, unless you simply want to punish yourself.

The authors are champions of the forgotten, the neglected, and the wrongfully maligned. Conversely, they remain the best bullshit detectors in the field when it comes to the overrated and the ridiculously hyped. Serge Lutens' Five O'Clock au Gingembre is commended for its "pleasantly salty, meaty note" but ultimately "settles for the smoky vanillic smell of plain benzoin."

The writing is so literate you sometimes wonder if in fact you're reading about perfume. Sanchez and Turin are to perfume what Pauline Kael was to film. They are just as wonderfully opinionated, as passionate, informed, and insightful. Like Kael they manage to write poetry disguised as criticism, and one of their chief accomplishments, to my mind, is an ability to break things down without lobotomizing them. They elevate perfume and the people who love it in the process.

This writer much appreciates the entries on Heeley in particular. If you haven't smelled them and can somehow, get to it. Cuir Pleine Fleur is as wonderful as Turin tells you it is, and then some. "CPF should serve as an object lesson to all, from Hermes to Cartier," he writes, "who hanker after a new type of beauty in masculine perfumes." What that new type is? Wondrously strange, hay and leather, the smell of the stall and the flower beds beyond it. CPF lasts and lasts, and of all the fragrances I own, it elicits the most interesting, exclamatory reactions, often from strangers. It's that lovely.

The first installment of the online addendum to the Guide can be downloaded on the book's website. What are you waiting for?


Aimée L'Ondée said...

hear hear! I agree. And yes, after reading the latest Turin and Sanchez installment, I am anxiously awaiting a chance to sample Heeley's Cuir Pleine Fleur and also Iris de Nuit.

luca said...

Thank you ! High praise indeed, and much appreciated. LT & TS

Brian said...

No, thank you, LT & TS, and if you ever care to do yet another interview, let us know.

Aimee L'Ondee, I remember Iris de Nuit best of all, second to Cuir. At the time I smelled it I thought, well, I have so many iris scents, whereas this leather is unlike anything I've ever smelled. As if having so many is ever having too many when it comes to fantastic perfume.

Smelling Cuir I had that instant elation you get from a perfume that truly surprises you. I got animal hide from it, but living, breathing animal, and much the rest of the zoo in the bargain. Much more than Dzing, which, though lovely, has never evoked "carnival" for me, Cuir paints a vivid picture. It's as if one of the dioramas at the Museum of Natural History sprang to life and a buffalo charged right at you, kicking up dust. You can smell the sweat on the animal's back.