31.5.15

Slumberhouse Kiste: More Lobbs and Less Bull****.

I've been a huge fan of Slumberhouse since day number one when I originally interviewed Mr.Lobb for both my blog and Basenotes but, admittedly, it took me a while to warm up to Kiste. Not because it's challenging but because it includes a bunch of my most despised notes in perfumery. Well, with much of my joy I've to say Josh Lobb nailed it once again and made me like something I would have never thought I'd do.

Kiste is probably the more *friendly* Slumberhouse to date. I've read people consider it almost mainstream but I've to disagree here. It's surely one of the *easiest* in the house's range but it's still way far from being a simplistic department-store kind of fruity thing or a tonka bomb for sweet-tooth kind of fragrance bros. It still shows several of the house's hallmarks including a certain post-Lutens sirupy quality,  the deepness of Lobb's best works, a certain sweetness that never really borders into gourmand territories. All of these aspects have been mastered through several fragrances that have undergone countless tweakerings during the past bunch of years and Kiste smells like the result of all this work. It basically takes all of the best elements that made Lobb's style of perfumery popular amongst fragrance-aficionados and paired them together in a little masterpiece that speaks of maturity, wisdom and, finally, self-awareness.

From the addictive boozy-peach opening to the patch-driven, tea-infused woody tobacco base, Kiste never relies on weirdness or over the top accords. It feels effortlessly exceptional more than for its originality, for how it behaves on skin and how it wears. It constantly claims the wearer's attention without feeling intrusive or overly complex. It's easy to wear without giving up on complexity and in this context it feels easy just like a master musician makes the most complex Stravinsky's piece look like it's easy to play. Slumberhouse's style is becoming pure and if Kiste is the next step, I can't wait for what's next.

My support for lines such as Slumberhouse will never end. A natural outsider that have been able to create one of the most innovative and exciting range of fragrances of the last couple of decades without selling out to the market pressure.  A range that, without following any trend, has reached an incredibly coherent aesthetic and now reeks of perfection. Again, contemporary perfumery needs more *Josh Lobbs* and less pretentiousness and bullshit.

Highly recommended.

Now please, Mr.Lobb, do something for the overseas distribution.

Rating: 8.5/10

27.5.15

UNUM: An Interview With Filippo Sorcinelli By Alfarom.



As an artist, you have quite a relevant biography which includes collaborations with big museums such as the Louvre, you’ve been the official organist of some relevant Italian cathedrals, you’re a painter, a photographer, you organize music festivals and you’re the founder of Lavs, an atelier which focuses on studying, projecting and manufacturing religious vestments and regalia. How did you get to perfumes and decided to co-found together with Marcello, UNUM?

At this point, my activity concerns all of me, my background. Things who fascinate and trouble me become a language, everything I do is all about myself and my life. I don’t allow anymore people threatening my artistic freedom, which is also my private one and my personal life’s mirror. In this evolution process there are no compromises. UNUM is the result of it, an exigence. At first it concerned LAVS, the excellence robes and vestments atelier. Marcello is by my side since the beginning of LAVS, he is a perfect right hand man and put my visions into practice. We use to add perfume to the vestments. Here came the idea of a scent able to make our work even more unique.

What’s the main concept behind UNUM? Do you have a general theme you’d like to explore within your line of fragrances?

UNUM world embrace arts, truth, Spirit, reasons of life. It has roots in the intimate universe where the most contrasting sentiments dwell. A painful mysticism, a sort of madness that fuels beauty, through forest sounds. UNUM concur to create Music, writes painting and paints poetry. Into the most fruitful silence uproar, from the deepest world.. UNUM is the bright light of a new Middle Age, maybe it is a wrong word, but is into this that I draw part of my sensibility. A restless heart who emits archaic sounds, a mystic geometric symphony.

Unum is an intelligent and cultured mix of avant-garde and classicism. How these two elements interact in your vision as an artistic director for a line of fragrances?

The artist’s task is to go towards the dark side of reality, always evoking hidden drives and releasing secret potentialities of the self. Not the unexampled , not the selfish, the individualist, but the one who is also plural, formed by many faces. Perhaps this is the possible turn, in the artistic fragrances world. We are artists , children of this time and researchers outside of power games, without commercial interests, without academic ambitions, without critic acclaims, out of the worldliness who put fake artists into golden cages. Avant-garde allows to act rapidly, without soppy romances, catching what lies beyond things. The energy is strong and it hurts, creating blood dashed images. It ’s like digging with his hands until the centre of the earth into a symbiosis between substance and our own unconscious. here is the idea who scratches the page, engraving the material.

One of your fragrances is called LAVS which is, as far as I understand, both the acronym of your atelier’s name Laboratorio Atelier Vesti Sacre and the latin word Laus. How this fragrance is related to your work as an ecclesiastic tailor and how is related to the word Laus (latin word for praise, glory, fame)?

This question contains his answer. LAVS (laus) means laud, praise in latin. We wanted to strengthen the bond between the latin word “laus“ and our work. The Atelier concurs to the praise to God through the expert works of ours hands. This is the base of sacred art. That ‘s the way UNUM chooses to celebrate The Atelier with LAVS at first, LAVS is synonym of enchantment, incense, a real hymn to the Spirit of Bois de Rose, Rosewood and Tonka bean, all tied together by a Opoponax base, the golden resin‘s sweet myrrh.

Opus 1144 is conceived to celebrate the gothic style from it’s very early days in year
1144 to nowadays. In you personal vision, how the final result translates this artistic style into olfactory language?

In my opinion, the St.Denis foundation is not a stone, is like a blade producing sparks from where precious clouds spread all around and persist in the centuries. Gothic is a vertical flower, is a light out of the substance’s darkness, an infinite and uncertain perfume, a sort of music which is not here, it is an ecstatic journey, is the way itself.

It’s a lyric who has to be silently listen and throw us into a non ordinary dimension. It is very close to the pain : when men suffer interrupt rough things and go beyond. Only sounds and perfumes who comes from horrible depth can be true witness. We, the artists, the musicians, we live a suspended life, out of the common time, we touch just for an instant something similar to eternity and we naturally think about our work the same way as religions think about “glory“.

The gothic vaults carry you into an other dimension, raise the spirit and perfume the infinity.Opus 1144 is the sky, the scented leaden grey of Normandy, is stone and Music, thick and delicate, pure energy. Concerning OPUS 1144, we have White Musks “in concerto“ with Grey Amber, Leather, Vanilla and Sandal, and then Cashmere Wood, finishing with Elemi’s resins and Jasmin fantasies… we also feel Tangerine and Bergamot’s acute archs . Like gothic cruises they cross each others,and generate the extrait spiritual composition’s harmony.

One can feel the scented grey, one can listen to the stone and to the intense but delicate Music.

The disturbing charm of Gothic.

Your general aesthetic both as an artist and as an individual seems pretty far from what you’ve done with your atelier LAVS. How did you decided to start LAVS and how did you get to dress two Popes (Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis)?

The commonplace : “Never judge a book by its cover“ doesn’t belong to me nor should belong to any other artist. Art is free spirit. Without freedom there is no truth. Sometimes ago someone had identified a “watershed“ event in my life. I was 38. This number always walk with me. Recent facts trigged strong changes in my life .today I ‘m a new person, aware of receiving many incitements that have been reason of renaissance. I think that freedom is the noblest feeling one can get. I thank all the people who tickled my inner torment, because ,unawares, they pushed me to change , certainly for the better. To be an artist is not a job. One born artist, and to be aware of being one embody the capacity to absorb everything is around you. Artists are alive , always able to change , until the end. Painting, sculpture, photography, music..people, friends, enemies. I didn’t know of the existence of this figure : the sacred clothes designer ! LAVS is born during the years of my musical studies in Vatican. At the end of my studies, going back to my hometown I asked to myself : ‘ And now ? What have I to do ? “ I studied, drawn,I was inspired, I choose. My mom always said to me : no matter what you will do, do it aiming at the top, we always have the possibility to go down, eventually.. That’s what I have done. LAVS is also a fruit of this thinking. One day I received the call from the Papal Liturgicals Celebrations’ office.

Yohji Yamamoto once said: “Black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy - but mysterious. But above all black says this: I don’t bother you - don’t bother me”. One of the first things immediately noticeable about Unum is that it relies a lot on the color black. What’s your relationship with this color?

Yamamoto was right, and UNUM will have reason to exist if its character will remain black. Black as divorce from society, even being part of it. Black as an underground life, without roots, a mysterious journey into the self ’s subversive imperatives . One can love this way, too. Alone. ten steps forward, going through the existence and trying to avoid pain. But you can’t . You can’t avoid pain. Free. Black. This is the true aristocracy.The real achievement: decide what to do tomorrow, in spite of everything. A black wind that move one only soul. UNUM is the traveler’s bag, a traveler who is nomad and free . I hope that, in spite of his packaging, UNUM could keep talking about Black, that is the summa and the rejection of every colors. As well as my life: summa and rejection.

What influenced you the most when it comes to fragrance?


I’m always struck by what is new and by the desire to get involved. As I already said, the perfume was a need, and everything developed as the will to embrace a new public, elitist, but certainly wider. A public who shown interest in our history, in the bravery to have told it . We are happy, we didn’t expect such a clear and positive response, such a beautiful response. So..now, perfume is part of our lives, too. It is among arts, one of the most complete sensory, mystique and spiritual experiences.

What’s next at Unum?

We are working on others ambitious and beautiful projects. During the Esxence days in Milan we announced the closure of the three fragrances project and the entry, next September of environment fragrances. At this moment I just finished writing a news having Music as leading actor. I’ll cooperate with people able to get even closer to me.We’ll talk about free spaces, Gothic again, meetings, nights,but also about life.. Only the Music produce metamorphosis of thought. Because the sound is untouchable and shapeless , I decided to juxtapose it to UNUM . I believe that perfume and music are strongly tied and connected to the nature. The work takes shape like a tree (I know trees very well…people who look at my pictures know that..) an object able to create his form by itself. I will let myself go towards this Nature, into a black sand desert, between the rocks, in solitude, looking for surviving,the mine and the art’s one , that live of its own strength.

By Alfarom.

To find ou more about Unum, check their website here.

This Interview Originally Appeared on Basenotes.

20.5.15

Sammarco: A Sotry Of Craftmanship With No Frills

Only one word to describe me: artisan.

"All my perfumes are hand-made and hand-bottled. The artisan behind the logo is myself.

I moved to Switzerland to make perfumes, because I love Switzerland and because it’s a great place to live and be an independent perfumer.

All raw materials used in my perfumes are carefully chosen by myself from a selection of the best quality raw materials produced around the world.

I love Switzerland, I love raw materials, and I love to make artisanal perfumes". 



Alter

"Alter is the jasmine of sensuality and seduction.

Sambac Jasmine with rose and incense create a secrete mix of old fashioned beauty.

A little bit of mimosa and an hint of animal mystery.

A perfume for woman, for man and for woman and men together".

Sammarco is all about the juice. No verbose backstories, no fancy packagings and, most of all, no hype and no cheap-poetry. A bunch of extremely high-quality ingredients effortlessly blended into little masterpieces that are way more complex than an initial look might suggest. A great example of a lost kind of perfumery that relies on the main player: perfume.

Alter is basically a massive indolic jasmine of rare beauty enriched by a subtle and yet quite remarkable civet note and something bitter and kind of almondy (mimosa or maybe heliotrope). The opening is extremely vivid and portraits the main ingredient in all its natural raw quality. Indolic, unprettified with a sort of freshly-cut mushroom facet and obviously very floral. The pairing with civet is perfect and instead of enhancing the potential challenging aspect of the combo, it provides a warm and carnal vein while other smooth yellow florals serve as refinements. It's a striking fragrance that doesn't need to rely on volume to make its statement. Instead it's calm, close to the skin and yet somehow, dangerous and daring.

If you're up for a *pretty* jasmine, you should probably look somewhere else. Instead, if a true to life, high-end quality white floral is what you're after, Alter will most definitely fit your bill. A fragrance that's fascinating, visceral and educational at the same time. Think about some of the best JAR minus the pretentiousness and you're there.

Sammarco doesn't need to promise, it just delivers.

Rating: 8.5/10

Bond-T

"Bond-T is a perfume born in Pisa, during a tour in the chocolate factory of the best Italian Maitre Chocolatier.

It is the smell of the chocolate factory, it is a smell of exotic place, the cocoa absolute with patchouli and a touch of osmanthus.

A gourmand dark perfume for anyone who want a powerful and dark perfume".

Sammarco's fragrances are great examples that you don't need much complexity to deliver something noteworthy. None of their offerings is particularly complex as they all revolve around very few accords and essential notes list. This doesn't mean they're simplistic…au contraire.

Bond T makes no exception and deliver a top quality earthy patch paired to a dark, unsweetened cocoa note. It has an overall headshop-vibe and yet, somehow, it avoids speaking of bongs. The pairing with the cocoa, despite not being very original, is handled with class and avoids the gourmand aspect of this combo by enhancing the general darkness of this fragrance. Subtle and yet remarkable animalic notes serve as an essential element of disturb while the fragrance shines in all its brooding earthiness.

Think about a unlimited budget, high-end version of Borneo 1834 minus the opening and with smooth leathery animalics thrown in the mix and you're there.

Very good.

Rating: 8-8.5/10

Vitrum

"Vitrum is a perfume made for a journalist: Federica, who loves vetiver and ask me to make her bespoke vetiver.

It is based on an extraordinary vetiver oil mixed with rose to give a touch of softness and black pepper to give power.

Very smoky, very gentle.

Federica likes it".

Vitrum reached me during a personal phase in which I thought I was seriously getting bored by vetiver-centered fragrances…and it proved me wrong. It made me realize I was probably bored by average quality vetiver essential oils diluted in alcohol and sold as a *compositions*.

Yes, Vitrium is still quite a simple fragrance but the outstanding quality of the ingredients sets it apart from most other similar offerings available on the market. It's basically all about a tremendously multi-faceted vetiver note that ranges from smoky to fresh, via salty, earthy, woody and even mossy undertones. The opening is quite straight forward but the fragrance unveils soon an incredibly elegant and sophisticated essence when the rooty note is paired to a never overdone rose which enhances both the dark and the fresh sides of the main player providing quite some movement. There's something really special about Vitrum, something simple and yet so striking which I guess is that certain *je ne sais quoi* that makes the difference between something good and something really exceptional.

Fantastic. Surely a must have for anyone into vetiver but also highly recommended to people more simply interested in great quality fragrances. Reference type of stuff in my book.

Rating: 8.5-9/10

Ariel


"Ariel is the most feminine perfume of my collection.

It could be called a green floral poudré.

The key of Ariel is the angelica-tuberose heart, enriched with luxury flowers as jasmine, osmanthus, violette and rose, a creamy base of sandalwood, a top of mandarine and ginger, a little bit of tobacco and davana and an hint of orris concrete.

A romantic and sensual perfume dedicated to redheads".

From the notes I expected Ariel to be my least favorite in the Sammarco's range but it comes out I was wrong. Another extremely good fragrance and probably the most complex out of the four from this line.

The opining is a juicy citrusy-fruity thing pervaded by a sweet tobacco note. It quickly moves into a magnificent floral middle phase in which smooth white florals are paired to rose. There's also a soft powderiness going on, probably provided by the orris / violet combo, but nothing to worry about for me. Again, the overall quality is honestly undeniable and while I'm generally not drawn to these kind of fragrances, there's something so nailed about Ariel that makes of it something noteworthy. It's a familiar, classic accord that, at the same time, doesn't rely on nostalgia or old-fashioned themes. The white florals are plush and devoided of any angular facets but they still feel rough and visceral as opposed to overly polished and prettified. 

The base breaks in pretty soon unveiling a sweet-n-dry sandalwood that I find completely intoxicating. Ariel strikes as an ageless fragrance, something that doesn't follow any trend or style, something that goes beyond genres while maintaining a relevant perfumey allure throughout. In this context, it's quintessentially perfumey and kind of a textbook-type woody-floral. My only complain about Ariel is that it gets pretty calm a bit too soon. Projection is really moderate after the initial phase even if longevity is decent, especially considering it's apparently an all-natural composition. With that said, I still find Ariel completely noteworthy and, composition-wise, probably my favorite in the whole range.

Note: It does miracles on fabric.

Rating: 8/10

For further infos about the brand, check their website here.

18.5.15

An Interview With Angela Ciampagna by Alfarom

One of the hits at the recent Esxence in Milan was the fragrances of Angela Ciampagna. Alfarom speaks to the founder.



Angela Ciampagna has a quite striking aesthetic as a brand. A fascinating mix of post-gothic imaginary, a rustic / artisanal design which is quintessentially Italian and a strong mediterranean vibe. Can you explain your concept as an artisanal line of fragrances?

The artisanal mindset is something we have to deal with everyday. We work in the fire-line… I mean that Enrico Maraffino and I concretely and straightly work with the raw materials, everyday. Our perfumes are the result of the combination of my creative effort, I work with the formulas, and Enrico’s technical effort in developing the laboratory procedures. We study the formulas, we choose the suppliers of the raw materials, we build the tinctures, we follow the ageing out, the mixture, filtration, packing, etc. Everything has a unique handmade feeling, but using innovative processes, prepared ad hoc to have “faded” fragrances. For this reason we have made our debut conveying an appearance with no misunderstandings. Not a glowing perfumery, full of redundant luxuries. Our style of perfumery is the result of a genuine passion, research, tests, work and the will to constantly improve ourselves.

We live in Atri, a small town in Central Italy, and we have chosen the rose window of the cathedral of Atri as the symbol and signature of our perfume house, because, in Italy, everything happens in the shade of the rose window, or the campanile. And the genuine craftsmanship is often hidden in the web of pathways, typical of every ancient Italian village, just like a treasure covered with dust, waiting to be unveiled. In our fragrances, you can find that treasure, concealed by dusty bricks, mouldy woods, smoke and fog, and the majestic but quiet nature. The excellence of every batch is guaranteed by our small-scale manufacturing process, so you can have your own numbered perfume,with its serial number exhibited on the bottle and box, because each and every single perfume is a unique piece.

How did you get involved with fragrances?

The history of our perfumes is the history of our workshop, Label Laboratorio Artigianale di Profumeria. When we decided to professionally devote our life to the perfumery we started from ground zero… Before opening a production workshop, in 2011, we had taken the first steps making perfumes for third parties or creating custom-made perfumes for clients that were simply niche perfumery lovers. Every and each project was very important to improve our skills. For example, we have created long lasting perfumes for clothes, committed by some leading international fashion brands together with olfactive set-ups, scented candles, etc. That’s school! Practice is a very good teacher.


Your line is run by Angela and Enrico. Are you both perfumers or do you cover different roles?

Enrico and I are “partners in crime”. We are husband and wife, we’ve been living together since we were both 23 and now we’re 37. “Fortunately”, we spend a lot of time in the workshop with the mask on our mouths, so we don’t have many chances to argue… seriously, our roles are rather different and precise, even if we could intervene in the tasks of the other. I create the compositions, he follows the laboratory techniques and then the production processes. We work together during the ageing and maceration steps, when we have to check the performance of the fragrance. If everything is ok, we can finally say “we’ve got it!”. Anyway, I often ask for Enrico’s opinion during the study of the essays: if he embraces a certain facial expression, it just means “throw that stuff away”. If he says nothing, that usually means he approves.

Your fragrances are clearly and by all means artisanal but they never feel rustic or
overly unpolished as many artisanal perfumes often do. What’s your training when it comes to perfumery?

No industry schools. I was lucky to have the occasion to develop my own production techniques with an important Italian industrial chemist, that has in part designed our manufacturing processes. But, beyond the procedures, I think that it’s equally essential to know carefully the raw materials, their “behaviour”, alone or mixed with other materials. That requires dedicated practice and research. I have paid special attention to the smells since I was very young, collecting and memorizing many smells and scents, so I have spontaneously enhanced this feature of mine. I remember that when I was just eight I paid my aunt a visit in a small village of the Veneto region. It was fall. The landlady of the flat, that we had taken for rent, guided us to the upper floor. Well, for the first time I had a kind of “Stendhal syndrome”, when I met the smell of the bedroom where I had to sleep: mothball, dry flowers, dust, clean sheets and a woman with her violet perfume that opened the riverside window. Oh my God! It was neither good nor bad. It was lively… It’s my pleasure to create perfumes that are able to tell a story, just like the scents in that bedroom. Perfumes shouldn’t be good or bad, they should be a fist to the breastbone.

You could say that I learnt this job in an odd way, and it’s quite true, because I wasn’t in a school or in a corporation, that’s why you can find a “dirty” track in my own way to create a perfume formula. I don’t want to loose that track. Enrico is the chemical side of the workshop and he’s an excellent working partner. We have a similar approach and even in the production steps we look for innovative solutions to accentuate the “imperfect” tone of every composition. The brand is not only the outcome of my creativity, but also of our laboratory experience. For both of us, “imperfection” is something the always has a story to tell, something that wants to show exactly what it is. And our products want to show our genuine artisanal excellence.

How do you source your ingredients? Do you create your own extraits and absolutes or you just buy them from bigger suppliers?

We follow the extraction of several raw materials, but many more are produced in different locations: Vietnam, Africa, India, etc., even Europe, of course. Acquiring premium raw materials is not so easy, it requires a great competence and too much money… this is one of the reasons why we have decided to work even on olfactive projects for third parties designed for the selective market.

For how long have you been working on your former range and how did you assembled it?

When we started to work in Label we had just one purpose in mind: to launch our niche perfumery brand. Since then, together with the third-parties projects, we have worked to build what the Angela Ciampagna brand is now. And we have two more fragrances, we created during the last years, that we are going to introduce in the near future. Why too many years before launching our own brand?
We struggled to get our deserved credibility. We had not partners, agents or big distributors that supported us. We are not well-born. Our everyday work supports our everyday work. Diligence is our sole ally.

I find most of your fragrances to have an incredibly solid bone-structure which can only be achieved via objective skills but mot of them are also competently twisted to introduce an element of ‘disturb’. What does this element mean in your way of creating perfumes?
Life is made of imperfections: the train is late, you punctured a tyre, your pizza is burnt, that special date was a failure, your daddy is going to die… that’s life. When I deal with raw materials, first of all, I give them my respect, it doesn’t matter if they are natural or synthetic. Only after I listened to them in depth, I’m able to find the best way to let them speak and to let them tell people my story. Every composition is then scratched, blemished and covered with dust, so it’s made really lively, more true, just like all the imperfect things.

Is there a common theme in your line?

Imperfect is perfect.

How living on the italian countryside influenced your way to conceive and create fragrances?

Enrico and I move many times. At the moment, we live in Atri with our two daughters, Blu (8) and Era (3). A tiny village on the hills, located very few kilometers away from the Adriatic Sea, is the perfect place to raise your kids and company. Living there surely helps us to focus on easy things and to look at the sky. You should have enough humility and moderation to do this job, to do every job actually, so it’s better if the sky is at hand.

What’s next at Angela Ciampagna?

To have the favorable opinion of the fragrances lovers. To convey that there are hardworking people behind this brand, there are study and research, and we offer the outcome of all this work in some tens of ml.

You can find out more about the company at their website here.

This interview originally appeared on Basenotes.

by Alfarom

20.4.15

Pekji Perfumes: The Turkish Renaissance.

I'm glad to welcome Pekji to the world of fragrance. An exciting indie line from Turkey made by that multi-talented individual called Omer Ipekci. Musician, graphic designer, photographer, food-lover, calligraphy's freak, couch philosopher, hardcore Louis CK's fan, perfumer and, most of all, a good friend. Someone might be led to think I'm biased towards this brand because of my real-life friendship with the guy behind the line but, as a matter of fact, I hadn't been excited by a *properly-indie* line since I discovered Slumberhouse back in 2011.

Pekji is all about tradition and modernity paired together, about honesty and no-nonsense, no compromise, about substance and style as opposed to just style, about craftsmanship but, most importantly, Pekji is about good fragrances and good people, not shallow luxury.




Holy Shit

Holy Shit!



Yes, this is exactly the first thing that comes to mind as soon as this fragrance touches your skin. Just like Cuir 6 and Odoon (both from the same line), Holy Shit takes a theme and push it to the limits. I could try to dissect this fragrance into notes but it would honestly be reductive as the main charm of this composition relies on its incredibly evocative power. Ancient woods, a stable where you played hide-n-seek as a kid, a subway station in a metropolis, a catacomb, moldy walls, smoke, incense, animalic notes, oxidized metal, art, sacred art, modern art, traditional art. People, sidewalks, dried herbs, wrinkles on your mother's face, your father's hands, craftsmanship, joy, pain, love and hate.



There's nothing even barely similar to Holy Shit and, beside being two completely different fragrances, its evocative and striking power is only comparable to Norma Kamali's infamous Incense. If you like unique and *hardcore* stuff, this is something not not miss. For any reason. An iconic fragrance from a true pioneer.



Bravo!

Rating: 8.5-9/10

Cuir6

Cuir6 opens with a rough, assertive and unapologetic blast of smoky leather that feels like an assault to your senses and leaves no room for compromise.  A foghorn of smoke with a claustrophobic and yet mesmerizing character. Something I could only relate to early Swans' music. It's modern and primitive at the same time, rough but not simplistic as it actually relies on a classic bone-structure. It takes a while to Cuir 6 to properly settle down as the opening is quite brutal but once the middle phase and the base break in, it's time for gratification. An old-school patch / labdanum driven masculine with a multifaceted leather component provided by birch-tar, ionones, castoreum and boatloads more of leathery paraphernalia.

Forget about trendy aromachemicals, forget about overly polished leathers, forget about *leathery* stuff. Cuir 6 is the primordial magma of leather. Cuir 6 is the hyper-leather.

A few keywords to have a better idea on which ballpark this stuff plays in. Think about Le Labo's Patchouli 24 minus the barbecue accord and with the vanilla brutally toned down. Tauer's Lonestar Memories minus the amber. Lisa Kirk's Revolution without the urban feel or an *ungroomed* version of Mad Et Len Black Aghan. Ok, think about all of the above and you're still far from the real treat you will experience with this fragrance.

Striking, straight to the point and absolutely unique. Leather freaks you've been warned: this is holy grail stuff.

Rating: 8.5/10

Eaumer

If there's something I learned from Pekji's fragrances is that there aren't good notes and bad ones but only either a good use of them or a bad one.

Eaumer opens with something I perceive as citrusy-green. I guess a mixture of green notes, petit-grain / neroli and other fizzy things. It immediately makes you think of an Eau De Cologne but, at the same time, it doesn't feel *retrò* or *old-fashioned*. Intstead, because of its gasoline-like undertones, it's reassuringly modern and even edgy if you want. There's also a jasmine component thrown in the mix that together with a chlorine-like kind of ozonic accord, enhances the overall airy character of this fragrance. It sounds challenging but, honestly, it's anything but. Compared to either Holy Shit or Cuir 6, this is definitely on the *easier* side of the spectrum. More versatile, easier to like and more *tradionally* perfumey especially during the amber / vetiver-driven drydown. It's basically a fresh fragrance with a twist but whereas most other similarly themed fragrances fall either on aquatic or flat white musky synth kind of stuff, Eaumer is vibrating, alive and extremely satisfying thourhout.

Very Good!

Rating: 7-5-8/10



Odoon

Odoon is the hyperwood. I can't think of a better start for describing Odoon than the incipit of the fragrance's own ad copy. Odoon is indeed the hyperwood. The quintessential woody fragrance. It's smoky, creamy, dry, sweetish, dusty, angular, smooth, deep, fresh, warm, rounded, edgy, earthy, clean, dirty…it's wood in all its facets and it has umami too. As simple as that. Think about either Wonderwood or Wonderoud with even more woods and with a thicker and smokier bone-structure. There's a hint of something floral somewhere but it's just a refinement while a resinous vetiver base enhances the general *woodyness* to the maximum. 

A no-brainer for woods lovers.

Rating: 8-8.5/10



Ruh

Ruh is most probably the crowdpleaser of the whole line. A very solid take on the oriental-rose theme. It opens with a decadent but not overly opulent jammy rose accord immediately joined by the most realistic and vivid green cardamom note I've experienced in a while. There's a transparent quality to this opening that preserves the fragrance from taking the *heavy* route. Saffron is perfectly merged to rose providing a dark yellow / orange hue while a roasted coffee accord together with oud play baritonal notes. The fragrance revolves around a benzoin / amber bone structure with woody notes thickening the base.

Immediately likable, smooth and effortless in its beauty. A piece of work that reeks of perfection.

Rating: 8.5/10

For more infos about Pekji Perfumes, click here.

10.4.15

Angela Ciampagna: Post-Goth In Full Colors.

With an aesthetic that's never too rough but it ain't overly polished either. italian *artisanal* line Angela Ciampagna, is currently standing out amongst the plethora of unnecessary brands for having a solid concept, simple and striking packagings, extremely good fragrances and, most of all, for being nice people…  A rural vibe that's quintessentially Italian. An intelligent mixture of sacred and profane, of paganism and religion. The best part though, is how these people are bringing the *artisanal* word back to its original meaning: *actual quality* and *craftsmanship* as opposed to *rough unfinished fragrances* or *massified products*.

Now, forget the usual *apothecary* vibe of several indie lines, forget *wierd* fragrances being weird just for the sake of standing out or for the lack of skills by the perfumer and get ready to discover a plain solid, beautiful range of fragrances that's claiming its place amongst the best discoveries of 2015.

From their official presentation:

"We are proud people, artisans by nature and nobles by heritage. We are of christian upbringing and of pagan ancestry. We worship the fire of the sacred heart and that of the hearths and bonfires; we live among prayers, rural rituals, monastic mysticism and familiar superstitions."



Rosarium

Rosarium is probably my favorite release in this utterly compelling range. A smooth and highly comforting take on liturgical incense. There's something very familiar about this fragrance and yet, somehow, while bringing to mind of other similarly themed fragrances, there's still something incredibly unique about it.

The incense is clean, waxy, white and with a crystal quality. It feels fragile in its beauty but never ephemeral. There's a sense of detachment that pervades Rosarium throughout its evolution but it's juxtaposed to something warm and comforting. In this context, it reminded me of L'Orpheline by Serge Lutens. Mind me though, the two are pretty different in smell but they share the same fragrance profile. Several shades of gray (I promise less than fifty) with a lilac dye thrown in the palette. They're both aloof and affable at the same time but while the Lutens feels somewhat like a Comme Des Garcons wannabe, the Ciampagna takes the rural / rustic route. There's the violet-incense combo of Maria Candida Gentile's Exultat, something to enhance the general grayness probably provided by the iris-cedarwood duo (Carthusia 1681) while the waxy incense give a remarkable sense of cleanliness.

The drydown is all about a super warm and enveloping vanillic-woody-incense base with vetiver keeping the general powderyness / sweetness perfectly in check. Cedarwood is never overdone so that the fragrance can keep a well rounded structure from top to bottom. As most others *Ciampagnas*, Rosarium is incredibly easy to like while being slightly twisted to preserve its subtle but very defined identity. Fantastic presence and extraordinary longevity.

Well refined, easy to wear and completely addictive. A winner.

Rating: 8-8.5/10

Hatria 

A good way to realize a fragrance is exceptionally good is when it involves a good amount of notes you're generally not very keen to, and it's still able to completely catch your interest. This is Hatria for me. I'm definitely not a rose-oud combo fan but this composition is so serious that's basically impossible to overlook.

So, it's a saffrony-rose on top. Very arabic in feel, thick, dark and kind of unpolished and yet completely devoided of the challenging aspect that certain similarly themed fragrances can often show. It's a butch, rich opening but it's immediately joined by a hint of burnt-caramel that tames it a bit while providing some roundness and, paradoxically, even more body. A woody base remarks its presence right away with a leathery-oudy bone-structure and vetiver facets (probably the nagarmotha). It's far removed from the usual dry-woody stuff we're used to when it comes to westerner iterations of oud. The fragrance feels deep and dark yet somewhat smooth, airy and weightless while maintaining a certain thickness throughout. It's bold but not heavy-handed, with an insane lasting-power while being completely able to not result exhausting.

So classy and masterfully executed to have absolutely nothing to envy to the biggest *hits* in its genre. Seriously, very solid stuff.

Rating: 7.5/10

Aer

What really compels me about most of the fragrances in the Ciampagna's range, is the level of competence these people transmit. Aer makes no exception.

A summery take on vetiver loaded with  hyper-realistic and never overly synth citruses (a great grapefruit note here), greens and subtle smoky notes. Think about an hypothetical mash up between Roucel's Kenzoair (the anisic, slightly sweet aspect of the vetiver), the smoky-minty facets of Harmatan Noir by Parfumerie Generale and the transparency of some of the most successful latest Hermes. Yes, Aer is all of the above but it also has that subtle twist that makes all the compositions by Angela Ciampagna, something that stand on their own. That certain twist you would expect from, say, Etat Libre D'Orange or even from one of the *easiest* Comme Des Garcons.

A personal favortie.

Rating: 8/10

Liquo


Here's another (big) hit. Definitely on the darker side of the spectrum if compared to other deliveries from the same house, Liquo is a vibrating mix of dark salty licorice, anise and hay. Something that immediately made me think about artisanal italian licorice-based liquors / amari. The hay note is remarkable from the very early stages but it gets more dominant as the fragrance evolves towards the drydown during which it's joined by a moderately sweet and dry woody-tonka base with incensey undertones. Moody and kind of blue too but comfortingly so.

Again, the rustic and the modern paired together, a rural villa renovated with modern finishings, it's the goth represented in full colors as opposed to just black, it's a fragrance aimed at smelling good and modern by skipping relying on *weird* notes and / or aromachemicals. As with most others Ciampagnas, fantastic presence and great longevity. 

Kudos.

Rating: 7,5-8/10

Nox

Another aspect that's immediately noticeable while exploring this line, it's its diversity. Ciampagna's offerings cover several themes in perfumery and all of them with a very personal quote and style. Nox is what I would probably describe as a woody aromatic that relies on an original mix of notes.

There's the hinoki's kind of cypress / dark green quality as the main player and it's paired to an ozonic mix of genderless white florals, other astringent / pungent green notes and a remarkable salty vibe (which is present in several other fragrances from this house). Other smooth woods and clean musky notes serve as a base. The overall result is pretty original and charming if not a tad *bizarre*. A light / transparent woody thing with a remarkably modern twist. Could easily be an hypothetical love child between an Hermessence and a Comme Des Garcons but with that certain italian / mediterranean je ne sais quoi which is typical of this firm.

Nice but not amongst my favorites.

Rating: 6,5-7/10

Ducalis

Ducalis is the typical iteration of oud westerner style that relies on sharp dry woods and spices. Think about a slightly less aggressive Montale and you're there. Cedarwood, synth-mysky-leather, norlimbanol (or any other similar woodyamber) *adorned* by subtle florals such as a rosy pattern and maybe some geranium and with an overall aquatic vibe. If you like Montale's style or certain Nasomattos, you might dig this one but for me, Ducalis is way too late to the party.

Potent, aggressive and extremely long lasting.

Probably my least favorite in this otherwise fantastic range.

Rating: 4,5-5/10

Kanat

Kanat is quite a nostalgic fragrance in my personal experience. I'm probably completely off here but upon application, I can't help it from being immediately teleported to when I was a kid in school and, more precisely, the smell of Coccoina. A kid-safe and extremely popular italian glue which had a fantastic and quite unmistakeable almondy smell. Now, given the notes disclosed, the only thing that could make me remotely think of almonds is probably acacia but it might still be kind of a stretch. Anyway, Coccoina and those days spent cutting images from magazines for doing collages. The warmth of mid-may sun, long days of light and a sense trepidation for the incoming vacations.

Kanat is all of that for me. It's an evocation of my childhood.

Beside Coccoina, I smell smooth florals, a hint of medicinal saffron and a soft white musky / vanillic base. Not a fragrance I'm crazy for but if you're drawn to light florals with a twist, give this a chance. 

As with most other fragrances in this line, Kanat never feels cheap or even rushed and it's pretty original too without going necessarily for the weird route.

Rating: 6.5-7/10

For more informations about Angela Ciampagna, please click here.




5.4.15

UNUM: Black Whole Of Love.




When it comes to fragrance, there's nothing more exciting than a new line with a solid concept showing up in this market that seems to be more and more crowded by useless brands and their greed, faux promises of luxury and exclusivity. We often tend to focus on who's considered to be the only star of the fragrance-sphere, the perfumer but, today more than ever, it's really all about the synergy between the curator / artistic director and the *nose*. All you need to hire the *parfumeur du-jour* is a good amount of money but, unfortunately, a skilled perfumer alone is way too often not enough to make a good fragrance…let alone an entire line.  We need solid concepts, people with a relevant cultural background and concrete ideas.

Unum has them all. Born from the mind of tout-court artist Filippo Sorcinelli (painter, photographer, musician, church organist and ecclesiastic tailor)  and his team  at L.A.V.S. (Laus),  Unum is definitely one of the most interesting new-comer brands for 2015. A dark / gothic aesthetic with an eye to the future and one to history. An intelligent mixture of avant-garde and tradition that's paradoxically able to be both opulent and sober at the same time. Unum started their range with a trio of fragrances (all in Extrait De Parfum strength) in collaboration with Cererie Terenzi and the result is so solid, that they will stand out no matter what your favorite genre is. 



LAVS

Formerly a room spray used to scent the ecclesiastic garments that Sorcinelli's atelier L.A.V.S tailored for both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis amongst several others. Now re-worked into an *extrait de parfum*, LAVS is hands down the definitive catholic liturgical incense. Forget Avignon, Cardinal, La Liturgie Des Heures and all the other similarly themed fragrances. Forget also the more *oriental* takes on the main theme such as Bois D'Encens, Sahara Noir and the plethora of others, LAVS is completely on another level. It's the opulence of a mass in the Basilica Papale, it's the whole ritual, the majesty of gold the smell of sacristy, the canonicals. It's white smoke and resins galore, it's deep and dark but never brooding or funereal…instead it's introspective, meditative and comforting. 

It's not a secret I'm a frankincense freak but, honestly, LAVS is a concrete step forward in its genre and a very substantial one for countless reasons. For starters, it's tremendously striking for its incredible evocative power. Its uniqueness, its ability to get so close to the main theme while skipping being too simplistically literal and, last but not least, the quality of the ingredients involved. Boatloads of resins that range from elemi to frankincense via labdanum, myrrh and opoponax concocted around what's one of the best woody bases I've experienced since Bois D'Ascese. Cloves enhances a certain medicinal vibe before settling down and give birth to a clean undertone that gets more and more remarkable as the fragrance evolves into an endless, pure-incense driven drydown which also relies on the most solid woody-ambery (as opposed to *woodyamber*) foundation I've smelt in a while. Forget the usual cedarwood, forget the typical mono-dimensionality of most incense-soliflores, forget those exhausting woodyambers. LAVS is incredibly alive, vibrating and vivid as only this biblical resin can get.  Addictive, introspective, dark and deep as well as spacious, airy and yes, even epic. 

Saying this fragrance is compelling would honestly be reductive. My personal standout in this line and something I'll never want to be without.

An instant classic.

Rating: 9.5/10

Opus 1144

Opus 1144 is aimed at celebrating the gothic style. From architecture to sculpture, panel painting, stained glass, frescos, illuminated manuscripts and all its other artistic declinations. It's a bold and complex fragrance that's so hard to describe just like it's so objectively multifaceted.

If you, like me, struggle with  sweet fragrances, the opening of Opus 1144 could result a bit challenging for being so incredibly thick and powerful to the point to make yourself questioning your sanity. Forget about any avant-garde trickery or modernist type of perfumery as Opus 1144 is really all about solid classicism. A dense, kind of syrupy, vanillic floral opening juxtaposed to a typically-french citrus counterpart. If you can't deal with its sweetness, I'd say hang in there because the best has yet to come and keep in mind that extraits de parfum are generally slower to properly settle down…

The fragrance starts then to evolve into an opulent and decadent dusty oriental that has nothing to envy to a bunch of the best Amouage feminines (the most balmy-oriental ones such as Opus VI, Epic Woman and Lyric Woman). The overall sweetness of the opening is remarkably tamed down by a plush musky-leathery bone-structure that, together with smooth creamy / woody notes and resins starts lurking in the back to then slowly drive the fragrabce towards what is in my opinion its real essence: the majestic drydown. There's definitely something classically french about Opus 1411, something familiarly comforting while all this is paired to a dark nature that gives this composition a brooding character. Like falling into an abyss of powdery decadence. An endless echo that gets lower and lower  in tone as time goes by…and it goes on and on and on for hours…darker, more dusty, drier. It's quintessentially gothic and agrees with red / purple velvet and black marble.

If you're drawn to bold and complex fragrances, Opus 1144 is a mandatory stop and, trust me, it won't leave you indifferent.

Rating: 8-8.5/10

Rosa Nigra

Rosa Nigra, despite its name, is defintely the bright side of Unum. It's a transparent fruity woody concoction that's able to feel aloof and affable at the same time and it's pervaded by a sort of detached sophistication that reaches martial levels. Almost snob and yet, somehow, nice and gracious at that. Rose is more of a suggestion than an actual note but said suggestion is present throughout the fragrance's evolution and it's probably achieved via how they rendered the fruity notes. From the crystal clear and perfectly executed peach-driven opening to the warmer and slightly powdery sandalwood drydown. The peach and the florals perfectly melts together and give birth to a classic accord that, in this context, brings to mind of an hypothetical love-child between Lyric Man and…Samsara? A fragrance for a mature youth which is light-hearted but never superficial, happy but with a darker and more meditative side as well. Just like Opus 1114, Rosa Nigra has a classicism inherent to it that immediately brings to mind of traditional french perfumery but there's also a certain minimalism that speaks about the orient. It's a tight composition that leaves nothing to the case. Calculated and calm, remarkably present but never intrusive. It's a reassuring familiar voice, it's like listening to your own breath, it's the outdoors on a chilly and sunny morning while you breathe at full lungs capacity. 

Very good.

Rating: 7.5-8/10

For further infos about Unum, L.A.V.S. and Filippo Sorcunelli, please check the following links