The Sniff Box – Perfume In Plain English

Tagged With ‘Jacques Cavallier’

Louis Vuitton

Au Hasard

Almost alone among major luxury brands, Louis Vuitton did not have a single perfume to its name until 2016. That was the year when – after four years of rumours and the appointment, in 2011, of Jacques Cavallier as the company’s in-house perfumer – the company released seven scents in smart but simple bottles designed by Marc Newson. Floral and feminine in style, they were excellent examples of their kind.

Two years on Vuitton and Cavallier have turned their attention to the male sex, with ‘Les Parfums’ for men – five new fragrances that, in their words, ‘pay homage to the adventurer on a quest for self-revelation’. Sensibly they’ve kept the same design for the bottles and packaging, with only subtle changes: each eau de parfum is a different pale colour, while the black magnetic bottle stoppers are stamped with the silver LV logo.

Sur la Route is Vuitton’s take on eau de cologne, with the evanescent but always refreshing scent of Calabrian lemon – specifically the zingy fruit and the bitter-fresh pulp around it – extended with a special grade of cedar and a touch of bergamot. The green note of freshly cut grass is balanced with the softer smell of Peruvian balsam which, Cavallier says, ‘includes the freshness of citrus and spicy notes of pink peppercorn and nutmeg’.

Orage uses the sexy, earthy smell of patchouli and pairs it with long-lasting top-quality iris, which adds a plush note of luxury to any scent. Though it’s not as stormy as its name suggests (or as woody as the press release describes it), Orage does have a hint of the green freshness that follows a summer downpour in the countryside.

L’Immensité has, perhaps, the most in common with the general run of men’s ‘sports’ fragrances such as Dior’s Sauvage, mainly because it has an overdose of the synthetic molecule Ambroxan. Some people love its mineral, slightly peppery note, but it reminds others of an electrical fire. Here, it’s framed by bitter grapefruit, ginger and labdanum.

For lovers of gourmand perfumes, there’s Nouveau Monde, which uses an extract of natural cocoa from the former French colony of Ivory Coast in combination with oud to create a rich and exotic scent with a touch of saffron underneath. Despite being an eau de parfum strength, it’s restrained rather than overpowering, like all the fragrances in the range.

My personal favourite, though, is Au Hazard, which takes another classic ingredient of men’s perfumery, sandalwood, using a sustainably cultivated variety from Sri Lanka. It’s a gentle, slightly spicy fragrance, with hints of cardamom and ambrette seeds, which would smell equally comfortable as a day or evening scent.

Yves Saint Laurent

M7

Tom Ford’s relatively short tenure at Yves Saint Laurent, from 2000 to 2004, won him both fans and detractors – among them YSL himself, who used to pen helpful letters criticising Ford’s latest shows. But it was Ford’s own considerable design talents and his genius for publicity dragged the declining fashion house back into the limelight, no more so than with the launch of M7 in 2002.

In a nod to Jeanloup Sieff’s legendary 1971 photograph of a naked Yves Saint Laurent that was used to promote the first YSL men’s fragrance, Ford launched M7 in 2002 with a full-frontal nude of martial-arts star Samuel de Cubber shot by Swedish photographer Sølve Sundsbø.

The all-too predictable storm of controversy may have long since been left behind, and sadly the perfume has since been reformulated and dumbed down, which is a real shame as it was originally an unusual and (to me at least) extremely appealing scent.

Tom Ford’s influence is most obviously apparent with the original bottle (pictured), which was a crisply designed rectangle of brown glass, the colour of medicine bottles. The brown perspex cap clipped on with a satisfying clunk, and the spray mechanism was set two-thirds along the top, giving it a cool asymmetric outline which has ‘designer’ written all over it. (Not literally – keep up!) It’s since been redesigned and the perfume reformulated, which is sadly typical of the industry.

What makes the perfume itself immediately striking is its odd yet somehow very successful combination of fruity sweetness with the almost catch-in-the-throat smell of woodsmoke, which gives it a masculine edge it would otherwise lack. Not very noticeable is an initial burst of  citrus provided by bergamot and mandarin, though that probably adds something to that first impression of fruitiness.

What I hadn’t realised was that perfumers Alberto Morillas and Jacques Cavallier also added a touch of rosemary to the mix. It’s not something that jumps out at you, but smelling it again I twigged, for the first time, that rosemary’s herby smell has something a bit smoky about it too.

It’s a very clever way to emphasise this fragrance’s appealing smokiness, whose dryness is also underlined by a touch of that ultimate in male-perfume ingredients, the bitter earthy smell of vetiver. M7 lasts well too, and if some people find it either too fruity or slightly medicinal, then let them; I really don’t care.

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