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“What do you think about it?” – he asked, softly.

“It smells like fear…bitterness of loss… and…hope.” – I answered.

 

Epicentro, the first fragrance in the Filippo Sorcinelli’s new collection Delire de Voyage, was presented for the first time at Esxence Milan 2019, and a multimedia art installation, featuring a synesthetic journey, took place on the evening of the last day of the exhibition.

Délire. Delirium. A perfume, a sensation that kicks you out of normality, even for just a couple of seconds, and raises your awareness of what is happening in you and around you. Linked to Beauty, for Beauty is life, and life is Beauty.

All can change in a single, disturbing moment:

“The earthquake is a particularly disruptive and violent event which enters with arrogance into the lives of those involved, taking possession of their “normality” in a few seconds.

External earthquakes increase our own inner earthquakes as if with the loss of the safety of the earth beneath our feet, a profound internal tremor is determined, as a consequence.”

This fragrance is dedicated to the region in Italy from which Filippo Sorcinelli comes – Marche, hit by devastating earthquakes in 2016 and 2017, leaving behind “Ground 0” ruins and many deep scars of lives lost.

Filippo visited the small town of Bolognola after these terrible events, and this perfume is his olfactory impression of the aftermath of the first, 2016 earthquake.

I met with Filippo that evening, and he led us to a dark presentation room inside Hotel Straf near Duomo. The multi-sensory exhibition featured bits and pieces of everyday life found in ruins, artistic video footage of destruction these earthquakes left behind, and one single bottle of Epicentro.

He was wearing a pendant, shaped like a small silver rock – a part of the presentation package of Epicentro. The bottle, just like the others by Filippo Sorcinelli Brand, is a piece of art by itself: round and smooth with a big, silver, rock-shaped cap, a part of which is this piece of jewelry.

Shock art, by definition: “…contemporary art that incorporates disturbing imagery, sound or scents to create a shocking experience. It is a way to disturb “smug, complacent and hypocritical people.”

The Epicentro multisensory journey left me, an empath, thinking about the ways I react to immediate threats, primal fears. My “Lizard Brain” tends to react differently, although involuntarily and instinctively, adjusting to the situation.

I’ve never experienced an earthquake of this force, but I do remember my first-ever earthquake, in California. The movement and swaying of the ground under my feet, the deep, threatening rumble, a growl coming from somewhere deep below the surface, the cold sweat of uncontrollable fear: I tend to freeze.

The order of my reactions in this specific situation was: freeze-flight-fight, meaning that my first reaction to an earthquake was to just stand still (“freeze”), shocked by what is going on (a totally new experience), then, unaware of what I was doing, I fled (hid under the kitchen table), and when the earthquake stopped, I started to assess and repair the damage (“fight”), which luckily didn’t amount to more than just a misalignment of a couple of photos hung on the wall.

I believe that the overwhelming adrenaline rush tends to change your body chemistry and smell, therefore I believe that primal fears influence our body odor, which then, in turn, can be felt.

I know very well how human fear, loss, and pain smell like. And hope! Yes, hope: I associate the scent of incense notes and accords in perfume – with hope. Maybe it’s because of my Catholic upbringing, maybe its because I tend to think about it in regards with the healing power of incense, as used in aromatherapy – reducing and calming stress and fear, maybe it’s because it is one of the oldest fragrant ingredients ever used…it just smells like hope to me. Hope…and resurrection.

Despite the shock-art concept, what I always find interesting, Epicentro is a very wearable fragrance. After experiencing, reviewing, and falling in love with but_not_today, with notes of “blood, dust, and metal”, this fragrance felt smoother, fresher, invigorating, and suitable for any season of a year.

Epicentro draws you in from the first moment, opening with sharp, piercing notes, almost metallic, like crushed, bitter citric leaves cutting swiftly and with unexpected precision into your personal space,

This awakening moment soon gains another dimension, as if pulling you deeper, opening other layers of reality. I feel scattered pieces of a white marble baptistery covered with white dust while soft and gentle trails of incense used ages ago are evaporating in air and swirling in the breeze coming through windowless walls.

Smoky, aldehyde tainted, old oak wooden roof beams bear traces of candle wax, laying on the ground covered with bright, multicolored shiny pieces of a broken vitrail. The rhythm of the fragrance slows down, warming up on the skin after the initial brief and apocalyptic episode, memories of which still protrude every now and then, sparkling softly in now a bit sweeter and muskier layout, soothing and calming.

The complete presentation, down to perfume samples, follows the concept aiming to activate all five senses: even the black Epicentro box is carefully crafted, with a moving base enabling the perfume bottle to shake and vibrate when touched.

Filippo never discloses perfume notes: if we are approaching perfume as an art form, then letting ourselves be seduced, moved, touched or emotionally drawn in is the best part of the experience! It’s just you and the perfume: what’s in it is shaped by what’s in you, so I’ll just list the “notes” as I felt them:
Top notes: piercing metal, a rush of cold wind blowing through broken windows, crushed citric leaves.
Middle notes: fresh white dust, pieces of concrete scattered on street pavements, broken white marble releasing traces of incense.
Base notes: old oak church rooftop beams, multicolored parts of a broken vitraille shining brightly, strangely soothing peacefulness after the apocalypse, hope.

Epicentro, an Extrait du Parfum, feels abstract and fresh, disturbing and calming, introspective and stimulating. It’s all about an inner, olfactory voyage, and endless movements in time and in yourself.

With this review published, I head toward Florence: Pitti Fragranze awaits! I promise to report live as much as possible on Instagram, follow me: @the_plum_girl!

The Plum Girl

Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: The Plum Girl, Filippo Sorcinelli

The sample was graciously given to me during Esxence Milan, opinions and feelings belong, as always, to me.

Disclaimer

There are perfumes that make me smile immediately. Just like that, one spray, and that inner feel-good spark brightens up my day.

I feel then like hugging that perfume, hugging myself and the whole World – to share that feeling, and make you feel the same.

This happened while I was running like crazy around Esxence Milan on its final day (check out my overview: “Ave Perfumes” here).

I guess that the fear of missing out hit me like a truck: will I miss something important? Where should I go first? I asked couple of friends if they have any recommendations for me. Strangely enough, a few of them told me the same thing: “Go and try Menta y Menta by Miller et Berteaux if you haven’t yet!”

Some more rushing around, and there I was: what I first noticed were mint plants placed on the center stage of their stand. I was greeted with a kind smile: “Would you like to smell a perfume that features mint, but doesn’t smell like toothpaste or breath freshener?”

Yes! (Please, let it be good…)

It was good: it put that “Mona Lisa smile” on my face. Not that I associate mint with toothpaste: my childhood memories spin around most horrid strawberry-flavored, sickeningly sweet pink mess squeezed on my toothbrush, the one for which I always thought it made more damage than good for my teeth.

Mint or Mentha for me means pitchers of cold lemon water with mint leaves on a hot Summer day after wandering around the island in the Adriatic Sea early in the morning, before sunrise, looking for herbs and picking small leaves of dark green wild mint, to be used later in salads, cold drinks, and cocktails, or dried to take home and brew some strong mint tea. Another thing my grandma taught me: always keep a mint plant on your dining table if you are eating outside in the evening, rub its leaves every now and then: mint keeps mosquitos and ants away!

There have been quite a few mint-themed perfumes around lately, it’s refreshing and cool notes flirting with Mojito associations, paired with chocolate, citruses, or just spearmint-peppery sharp fresh not-so-demanding compositions. Menta y Menta is different.

It smells…so sophisticated in an unobtrusive way! Its style is minimalistic, both in perfume construction, in presentation and packaging – yet there is something compelling about it.

Menta y Menta greets you with a cup of freshly brewed mint tea in a simple, delicate porcelain white cup.

As you squeeze just a couple of drops of lemon into it, soon after taking the first sip you forget about the tea itself: the bright greenery made of small mint leaves forms a comfortable shade all around you, feeling just slightly refreshing-peppery.

A single jasmine flower drops in your teacup and swirls around it, white, dainty, and fragile, adding a slight touch of smoothness and delicate warmth, weaving its whiteness through all this greenery in a relaxed rhythm.

It’s a perfect day, and all is well. Simple as that, so I won’t attempt to write an extensively complicated review.

The perfume remains very skin close and airy on my skin, moving with me as I move around, quietly present and unobtrusive.

Contemplative, contemporary, refined minimalistic. Lovely in its seemingly uncomplicated appearance. Classy, with moderate longevity and sillage: nothing ravishing, just joyful!

This line of perfumes carries names of Parisian designers Francis Miller et Patrick Bertaux: partners, fashionistas, travelers, and promoters of wellbeing.

“Fragrances for the body and the soul, dedicated to those who choose the balance of being and appearance.”

Notes: mint, tea leaf, citruses, roasted coffee beans and jasmine.
(mentha spicata / menthe marocaine feuilles de thé, zests d’agrumes, café torréfié, jasmin évoqué)

Menta y Menta (released in 2019) is available online here, Eau de Parfum 100 ml/99 EUR.

Keep reading The Plum Girl blog for more reviews to come! If you like what I do please share with your friends, and make sure to subscribe!

The Plum Girl

Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: The Plum Girl, Miller et Bertaux

The sample was graciously given to me by Miller et Bertaux at Esxence Milan, opinions of my own.

Disclaimer

Days turning into months have quickly passed since EsxenceThe Scent of Excellence closed its doors, but here I go again: a flashback, bringing you more behind-the-screen stories about people of perfumes, events, and extras, all that jazz that took place outside The Mall!

I could probably write more about different aspects of this exhibition, but let’s just say that I’ll wrap up all my hard work with this one – the last of my 2019 Esxence reports: if you haven’t yet, do take a look at Part I and Part II!

These additional activities are an important part of the Esxence-experience: meetings with makers/perfumers, brand owners, and managers – not exhibiting but visiting, attending private parties, cocktails, events or informal dinners, secret previews…or just whispering about new releases that are soon to be revealed. Yap, there’s life outside The Mall:

As you might have noticed on my IG account (the_plum_girl), this year I wrote about “beautiful noses” of Esxence. Noses? Yes, this is one of the rare places and events where all noses are – beautiful! Fully in use, too! It feels so good to be among people that value their sense of smell very much, to run with “your” pack and (ab)use your nose to maximum! The interesting part is that no one I asked objected to having their profile “nose” photo taken! The wonderful people of Esxence are so proud of their noses!

This lovely nose belongs to Tanja Bochnig, owner of April Aromatics whose newest fragrance – Irisistible is an Art&Olfaction Awards, 2019 Finalist!

Let’s take a quick sniff:

Irrisistible (love that play with words, too) is an ode to Iris-the goddess of Dawn and Rainbow, connecting heavens and Earth. It feels like you’ve been gently touched by this messenger of gods with pink fingertips: a flash of vibrant yet milky opening with morning dew made of citruses. Different facets of Iris (the flower) follow. It becomes rooty, flowery and smooth at the same time, at moments even slightly bitter. This buttery flow turns velvety, thick, at times powdery, with floral whiffs. Later on, its inner, musky-smooth warm glow of rainbow spectrum colors begins to shine from within, glowing softly. Keep in mind that this is a “natural”, it settles close to the skin and shifts with your body movement, so give it time and patience.

We ran into Mark Buxton outside and chatted a bit catching some sunshine. It was fun just to say “Genau” a couple of times:

Meeting and having a chance to spend some time with Tanja is a bonus: she also pulled me out from The Mall, made me sit and eat something, drink water (I felt like a camel after a long day in desert), and talk about things other then perfumes: all the stuff I tend to forget to do while roaming around all those stands…Tanja is a tall long-legged blonde, self-taught, self-financed, working with “naturals”, Berlin-based and if this isn’t enough to raise a couple of eyebrows – she laughs and dances like nobody is watching!

Nick Stewart of Gallivant Perfumes was visiting Esxence as well, gallivanting around:

He told me that a new Gallivant fragrance shall be launched soon, and yes, it’s all about yet another city. I’m really not allowed to tell you which one -because it was confidential! All that I may say is that I lived in that city for a couple of years (and know it well) so we talked about which specific part of this city the new fragrance feels like. I think we both agreed upon one certain area, marked by a very famous street! Keep an eye on Gallivant, and check out my review of previous releases here.

I also managed to visit the hotel located near The Mall, where some brands shared Carbonnel showroom. I had a meeting scheduled there, with the owner of this nose:

Yes, this is Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes! We finally met, and he kindly and patiently walked me through his ZOO, introducing me to and allowing me to take a better sniff of all the fragrances that were new to me. You see, I had a parcel coming from Canada earlier this year, the Canadian post was at strike, it got delayed, then when it finally reached Croatia it was never delivered to me, so after a couple of months, it just arrived safely back to Canada…Argh. I sniffed everything and sniffed hungrily again, and got to meet all the creatures in his collection at last:

I guess you’ll be reading some of my Zoologist Perfumes reviews soon enough! That’s not all: Victor let me sniff one of his new, not yet released fragrances, and told me how he plans to proceed with it. I think he won’t mind this association:

Well, I’m not allowed to tell you how it’s going to be named, but you can start guessing which creature this new perfume is dedicated to. Some new fragrances are coming up, some “old” ones face “Perfume Heaven”: by the time I’ve decided to publish this post, Bat is about to be discontinued! If you are a Batman or Batwoman – go and get your bottle while you can…or wait for the new Bat, coming from a different cave!

I also ran again into Miguel Matos in Carbonell Showroom, exhibiting four new signature fragrances:

Here you can see Miracle of Roses, Germaine, Silver Stone, and Sailor Stories. Miguel was quite busy this Esxence: in addition to having his own line presented, together with Veneno, he was also all over the place as perfumer behind Nishane’s Unutamam, as well as Sarah Baker’s Jungle Jezabel (I wrote about it here), and Rules of Attraction!

On the blotter-sniffing-first-impressions spree I found the Miracle of Roses and Sailor Stories (aquatic with a twist) quite interesting, but I honestly need to go back to these perfumes and give them some proper wearing. Since this is my “year of roses” I do want to get to know this unusual, smooth, fresh bread with cinnamon and roses better…no rush: I’ll get to it, sooner or later: the inspirational story behind it is intriguing, and it fits the concept well.

It doesn’t stop here, around the exhibition hall. Just when you finish 10AM-6PM crawl-around-The Mall and its surroundings, you have like an hour and a half to make it to some carefully chosen and glamorous place: party time!

One event that you shouldn’t miss during Esxence: the Masque Milano Corso Como Party. Why? Well, because Masque IS Milano based, this is their home turf, and they do cover it with style.

Masque Milano launched two new perfumes at Esxence 2019: Love Kills and Kintsugi:

I tried to arrange a meeting at Masque Milano stand with Alessandro Brun and/or Ricardo Tedeschi on that same day, but didn’t succeed: maybe they were too busy handling all the previously arranged meetings, maybe I wasn’t pushy enough (never!), or my timing was just bad, whatever. Tip for all the brands located in the “Main Brands” part of the exhibition: it’s better to have your meetings booked in advance…note to myself, again. Next year I’ll fail better, I promise.

Anyway, since I didn’t have time to lose on waiting and hanging around: I stopped by and was greeted by a very nice young man, representing their distributor, who briefed me quickly about these two new releases. Sadly, I got no chance to take a sniff at that famous raw materials cofrett…I did manage to try out both new releases:

Love Kills…of course, the first one I reached for. And a good thing I did, because the other way around wouldn’t be a good idea. On the first impression basis, I wasn’t impressed. A rose it is, and I always have high expectations of a rose perfume: it was a young, bright, just budding rose…Oh, was I wrong!

Since I impatiently jumped and moved around the stand, this might’ve helped it warm up on my skin and it transformed, moving through phases from a fresh bud to a magnificent flower in full bloom, and even in this very brief moment, I watched it wither, darken and fade, becoming more goth, never letting you forget that it was a fresh, young rose once upon a time, even in moments of its dark and potent decay. Additionally, I really fell in love with the drawing on the bottle, almost tattoo-like contoured rose with a dagger going straight through it. Yes, to this rose I shall return! (perfume related tattoo? Now I’m thinking about that…hmmmm)

Time was running out, we had to leave the fair and go to the party, so what did I do next? Sprayed abundantly Kintsugi from the tester bottle all over any perfume-free skin left on me at the end of this very busy day: well, if I was going to their cocktail party, the least I could do is to dress appropriately and wear Kintsugi!

My friends did the same. This turned out to be very interesting because Kintsugi developed differently on our skin (we kept sniffing each other the whole evening: on Lukasz (aka Chemist In The Bottle) Magnolia seemed dominant, on Ana (aka Ana Y El Perfume) it was almost lemony-green, and on my skin patchouli dominant, the kind of soft, sweet, lovely, silky skin patchouli I’m happy to run into.

It was interesting to follow its development in time over quite a few Aperol Spritzes! Bonus: chatting and spending some time with Ermano Pico, perfume connoisseur, writer and evaluator whom I admire (love his smile), here with Ricardo:

Nishane Party was something we were all waiting for: No Limits!

Mert Guzel and Murat Katran were presenting six new creations made by Cecile Zarokian – ANI, Chris Maurice – NEFS, MUSKANE and FLORANE, Miguel Matos – UNUTAMAM and Jorge Lee – SAFRAN COLOGNISE!

This private party took place in a wonderful palazzo, perfumes were displayed, people gathered and chatted, but what impressed me the most was the moment when we all stood in silence, listening to a touching folk song Sari Gelin/Sari Gyalin (in Armenian) that took us to a place where ANI (memory in Turkish) is something that connects people…music, like perfumes – connects people!

I really look forward to exploring these perfumes thoroughly, this is just my first-sniff draft of Florane I wrote for Murat’s birthday, just recently:

Florane smells like pulpy bitter-fresh grapefruit, ripe cassis carelessly cut and served with vanilla spiced brown sugar cubes on a festive table decorated with dainty Lily-of-the-Valley and jasmine flowers floating above trails of soft hinoki and musks. It feels like spending a sunny Summer’s day afternoon in a beautifully kept green and lush garden with a simple wooden table and chairs set in the shade of a big tree – filled with scattered, randomly picked flowers in small glass vases, bowls of fresh fruit cut into cubes, cold creamy-powdery fluffy cakes, laughter and sharing with friends and family you love and joy of living!

Filippo Sorcinelli Brand

Epicentro Promotion Event

I love Filippo, you already know that. Last year it was but_not_today, this year he shook me up with Epicentro, a new perfume starting a new collection: Delire de Voyage.

You see, I remember. I remember terrible news coming from a small town of Bolognola, devastated by an earthquake hitting the Marche Region…leaving destruction as its aftermath, breaking buildings and hearts of the people.

What you might notice is this quite original bottle, round glass with the usual oversized cap looking like a piece of metallic silver rock. Details matter, so this bottle is placed in a black box and it moves and sways inside it. Furthermore, I noticed Filippo wearing a pendant, a part of this silver rock which you can detach and wear as a piece of art.

Notes are not disclosed, as usual, and I approve of this approach: wear it. Feel it. Listen to it. Interpret it in your own words and emotions…once you find them.

This time Filippo took us to the STRAF Hotel near Duomo, presenting a synesthetic installation to help us grasp all the aspects of this fragrance:

While I was looking, smelling and feeling, Filippo came to me and asked: What does it smell like to you? I was already very emotional: I know the smell of fear and destruction. I know it well.

I just said: “Epicentro smells metallic like cold sweat and human fear.” At first.

Bitter and sharp like a shock that takes the ground from under your feet in just a couple of seconds. Smokey, like the rubble of your home destroyed, covering all the material things you ever owned, ancient buildings that you took for granted, the life that you once had. With a touch of incense, radiating from the church in the middle of the village which no longer exists. Warm and sweet like relief that you and your dearest ones are alive. Quiet and skin-close musky like when you accept all your loses and fight to find traces of hope in your soul again and take one step at a time through all stages of loss and acceptance before you are even capable to start thinking about new beginnings. There’s a certain brightness in all this: a spark of new life…Thanks, Filippo: once again you made my eyes swell with tears and my heart race faster! A full review is coming up!

That same evening we headed off to Duomo and had dinner at this rooftop restaurant overlooking it:

You’d think we had enough. No. Together with Chemist in the Bottle I went to La Rinascente Perfumery to check out their niche department.

And voila! Take a look at perfumes they offer, some exclusive ones only to be found in Milan:

No, it’s never enough!

I’m happy. I’ve found perfumes to write about in months to come. By closing up this Milan chapter, I already look forward to the new one: my registration for Pitti in September is submitted, and a nice and cozy apartment in Florence booked well in advance. Florence, oh, Florence is always a good idea!

The Plum Girl

Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: The Plum Girl, Esxence Official

Disclaimer

It took me nearly a week to sit down and start writing about days spent in Milan. Esxence related adrenaline flow started to diminish right after I returned home, and I needed some time for things to settle down, to rest, sort out all impressions, regain objectivity and figure out where to begin…

Upon exiting M1 Metro line at 9.30 AM on that Day1 cloudy Thursday, I was so happy to see the skyline of Porta Nuova! I’ve been dreaming about and living for this moment for months ahead. The joy of meeting old friends and finally seeing in person new ones, all wonderful people of perfumes! Good people. My people. They know who they are and that I love them dearly. That’s really the best part of Esxence!

This year I chose a theme for my Esxence– related posts: The Beautiful Noses of Esxence.

Here are my thoughts: we all tend to find something to complain about our noses, avoid taking close-up profile photos, choose positions and lightning to make it „look better“, some even consider reshaping it when feeling constantly insecure about it. Let’s celebrate our noses, for a change!

Noses, noses, noses. Esxence is a „safe place“ for noses, all types of noses, be it fleshy, turned-up, Greek, Roman, celestial, Nubian, hawk, bumpy, snub, Bulbous or by any other name – (beauty is in the eyes of beholder) there, at Esxence – all noses are beautiful and fully in function! They are in service of art, craft, and beauty (ideally speaking) and they were offered an Inspiration Flow in Milan, an abundant offering of niche perfumes from all over the world, served on a 6000m2 buffet table to their majesties – our noses. Abundance, yes. Art? Not as much as expected.

I managed to take some great „nose“ photos (you can already check out a few on my IG account The Plum Girl), connected to their rightful owners and their perfumes!

Most of my Esxence Day 1 was spent on meeting and greeting people, from the first moment I walked down to the entrance. Much later I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked up the time and realized that it was pretty late…

I haven’t done „anything“ that day, by anything meaning serious sniffing and testing of perfumes. I realized that it was 5 PM (!) and that I haven’t stopped once since 10 AM, eaten or drunk any water at all. Like a camel, really…I guess that „great expectations“ adrenaline kick kept me going like crazy for all three days, from 10 AM until 6 PM.

I don’t know how many miles I walked each day, but obviously quite a lot. And yes, my previously planned „must do’s“ went down the drain…again. If you wish, you can read my sort of „Esxence For Beginners“ report, written after my visit last year, here.

The first sniff of Esxence, even before entering through spaghetti curtains…oh! Right at the entrance, I noticed that there are many visitors waiting for their accreditations at the press booth, much more than last year. The Mall was crowded: the siege has begun…I felt a little twitch in my stomach. Little did I know…but my intuition obviously knew better.

Facts&figures: 7.890 guests (25% more than in 2018) coming from all over the world. 221 brands (+19% compared to 2018) – 91 Main Brands and 130 Spotlight Brands, meetings, round tables, workshops, presentations, and parties. 6000 square meters of exhibition space (including Villa Quartzo). Organizers did a great job (again!), congratulations and thank you!

That little twitch in my stomach? I became aware right then and there that there’s no way I could possibly cover everything I planned. Fear of missing out, I guess. I decided to go with the flow. Inspiration Flow.
Could I’ve done better? Maybe. Could I’ve planned better? Maybe. Could I’ve tried out more perfumes, visited more brands? Maybe.

Now, when I look back, I think I did just fine, considering everything. There’ll be a few perfume reviews to follow…and quite a few not.

There were great moments at stands, some unexpected, some simply horrifying. Ah well, in such a big basket there must be a couple of rotten apples, right?

Let me tell you more about good things (I’m an eternal optimist…) and three wonderful opportunities to learn which I enjoyed, my definite recommendations: Esxence is also a place to learn.

The first one: L’Osmotheque!
This year they had even more exhibits at their stand, chosen from their archive of more than 4.000 perfumes (800 no longer found at all).

This is really a must-sniff pit-stop for any serious perfume lover or reviewer. I visited it every now and then, and it’s never enough. I could probably spend all four days of Esxence right there, just sniffing and taking notes. Actually, I dream of being locked inside L’Osmotheque for a month, at least 😀

Really, how can you seriously talk about Chypre genre perfumes without meeting Papa of all the Chypres, Coty 1917? Know thy classics:

Or just take one more sniff, one more time, of Joy / Patou 1935? The Joy of all Joys:

Or just stroll through some Guerlain classics? (I swear Anne-Cecile will start pulling out a box of Kleenex when she sees me approaching their stand in future! I cry every single time when I’m with her, sniffing some of the classic beauties):

Actually, I would proclaim that visiting L’Osmotheque stand is obligatory for all visitors. Especially perfume reviewers.

Secondly (and this is not in order of importance): I enjoyed tremendously a raw materials work-shop organized by Histoires de Parfums.

What a wonderful idea! Even if you think that you „know everything“ about the most common raw materials used in the perfumery, this is so worth every second of your time. Although not the first time I ever attended similar or even more elaborate workshops, raw materials presented were really basic ones that each and every perfume lover (let alone reviewer) simply must know.

These two hours of exploring raw materials and how they relate to each other, hosted by extraordinary Alexandre Isaie Helwani-Rober of „The Perfume Chronicles“ were pure bliss for me (I’m blessed to have you as a friend, Alexandre!). Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Well, there’s an idea for perfume brands: if you don’t wish your perfumes to be reviewed as „Great, great, nice, nice, smells good, huuuge projection, big bottle, awesome, top, rocking, amazing etc.“ – why not try to educate your audience and offer learning opportunities during Esxence like Histoires de Parfums did? Not that I’ve seen any so-called, massively present „influencers“ attending these workshops, but hey! – it’s worth a try…

I will happily share with you some of my short notes from this workshop, the blotters still intensely fragrant: Rose – we sniffed essential oils, reminded that one drop of extrait contains the breath of 70 roses. Make sure to differentiate and find your own words to describe different roses. Rose Centifolia is fresh, tea-like, garden dewy. Rose Damascena is more jammy, thicker, loaded with Eugenol. Rose Taif (oh!) is more transparent, with a touch of lemon-like notes, multi-faceted. Man-made Taif appears more “green”…
Sandalwood: milky, smooth, you can add it practically in any perfume…Mysore Sandalwood is buttery creamy, the one from Ceylon – with almond tones…
Tonka Bean Absolute: cherry-like, almondy, like smelling dry cherry pits…in short.
Moving on to man-made materials:
Aldehydes: stuff that makes perfumes smell clean, crispy, some even a bit salty.
Calone – star of the ’90ties: it can be like watermelon, sea, fruity…
Allyl Caproate: fruity, ripe pineapple…
And more: ISO E, Ambroxan (Ambergris-like, not nearly as beautiful as real Ambergris…), Alpha Ionine, Galaxolide (musks), Hydroxycitronellal, Synth Oud, “Real” Oud and so much more! Loved it.

Last but not least, one of my scheduled meetings was with Mr. Patrice Blaizot from PCW France, thanks to Megan!
Why you might ask? Well, because they are a one-stop-shop for perfume, fragrance & flavor needs. They provide quality raw materials, development and creation of perfumes. The company is founded in 1986 in Grasse and blooming.

They produce perfumes, from creating formulas on, including bottles, bottle caps, artwork, packaging, regulatory conformity…everything you need to make perfume, actually. Some brands that just sign those fragrances and say “made in Grasse”.

Patrice is Grassois, the 5th generation in the industry and his son is studying- to become a perfumer. Their team is young, small and flexible, and Patrice very knowledgeable, with years of experience.

I enjoyed our brunch meeting so much: we talked about Grasse, the company’s history, raw materials, perfume creating process, Grasse (again, never enough), and this was yet another chance for me to smell some exceptional raw materials: their saffron really colored my day sunny yellow! Check out their ingredients list: nearly 1000 references listed!

What did I do? Listen carefully to Patrice, sniff&learn, making plans to most certainly visit them in Grasse. And remain locked up in their facility for a week, preferably 😀

End of day 1, 7.30 PM: I finally got fed, surrounded by my “fragrant family”! Lukasz from “Chemist in the Bottle” organized everything and took us to a lovely restaurant on Corso Como that night. Here you can see him, Ana from Ana y el Perfume and her sister, Dana/A Nose Knows (IG profile), Tanja/April Aromatics, Kate/Kate Nose from Australia, Nick/Gallivant and Bibi. Felt like a family reunion…Thank you for having me in your lives!

(getting sentimental just looking at this photo…)

I hope you enjoyed your read and found some useful information, although I mentioned no perfumes at all!

Part II – featuring perfumes & people is coming up…soon.

The Plum Girl
Elena Cvjetkovic
Photos: The Plum Girl, Esxence – The Scent of Excellence
Disclaimer

It’s funny how things in life sometimes take unexpected turns. Last summer, while I was staying in Grasse and frenetically driving around Cote d’Azur, I got a DM on Instagram. “Are you in Cannes now?” – “Not today, I was there yesterday…” I replied to Sulékó.
It turned out that Anastasia was there, at the Croisette, and she wanted to meet in person. Unfortunately, every second of my stay was planned in advance and we didn’t manage to meet in France.

Later on, we wrote to each other over months to follow, postponing our meeting for Esxence 2019 in Milan in April – where Sulékó shall exhibit this year.

The longer we talked, the more curious I got. In the meantime, I tested and wore Sulékó perfumes, and decided to bring you this brand closer by arranging an interview with Anastasia and Cécile! Let’s find out more about Sulékó!

Sulékó Paris
The brand was founded in 2013, and the name Sulékó recalls a Georgian poem, which became a very popular Russian song – “Souliko”. The poem is about a young man, seeking his soul mate. There are five fragrances in Sulékó’s portfolio, all created by Cecile Zarokian: Midi Eternel, Albho– its name is the Indo-European root of Lebed – Russian for swan; Vy Rosa -in reference to Tatiana, the heroine of A. S. Pushkin’s novel, Eugene Onegin (I was so fascinated by A.S. Pushkin in my teenage years that I managed to read Eugene Onegin in original, in Russian); Djélem is a Gypsy song which became the anthem of the Gypsies (to hear the song click here); Baba Yaga is the terrifying witch, which appears in many Russian tales…or is she so scary?

Sulékó perfume bottles are beautiful Limoges porcelain sculptures, created by artists Joelle Fèvre and Alain Fichot.

Anastasia Sokolow: The Designer

Tell us more about the way that led you to start your own perfume brand? Why did you pursue a path in perfumery?

– My first encounter with the universe of perfume creation took place while I was working at the Yves Saint Beauté marketing team in New York. I realized that this universe was not for the experts only who passed their secret knowledge on, from generation to generation… In fact, that world was accessible to anyone who wanted to explore it; also I realized that there is much more to explore that you might think and much more that should be shared with the buyers of fragrances.

Back in Paris, I took various classes and went through several training programs focusing on the many facets of the world of fragrances; at the same time, I was working at a major hair designer company on its international development programs. But I was hooked: I became a member of the French Society of Perfumers and took specific courses at ISIPCA – the school of perfumers. In just a few years of intense training and exploring, I noticed how much my sense of smell developed – I had opened myself to a whole new world. Scents became to me a form of expression and I decided that I should share my new philosophy of life with others in a more organized fashion.

What are your favorite dish and a bedtime story that your grandmother made/told you when you were a child?

– One of my favorite dishes from my grandmother is her “krendel” when it comes straight out of the oven. It is a sort of Panettone with vanilla, dry fruits, and fresh almonds…

My grandmother, when I was in bed, would tell me all sorts of Russian folk stories but I remember vividly her reading of Pushkin’s poem, “Lukomorye” which told about all the main characters of Russian folk stories such as Baba Yaga, Rusalka, Kaschey… Nature was shown as powerful, rich and beautiful, full of magic and mystery…

How did you meet Cécile? What was the (brand) story you tried to convey to her? How did you two click together?

– I first met Cécile at the opening of her exhibition IP01. I loved her work and her ability to translate illustrations into scents. A few years later, when I started working on my perfumes, I reached out to her. At that time, she had her own laboratory and worked with a major supplier of raw ingredients.

I told her about my language of scents, explained to her the story behind each of the perfumes that I wanted to create and how in my view each story should be “translated” into scents and detailed the ingredients that should be selected. She was able to fully immerse herself into my universes and my way of conceiving perfumes. Cécile is sensitive to Arts: she shares my view that a fragrance is not only about scents, it is also about texture, rhythm, colors, and emotions. I enjoyed working with Cécile —it was real teamwork, a real constructive dialogue.

How do you intend to separate yourself from all the niche brands and offerings that flourish today?

Sulékó is one of the very few brands which combines artistic craftsmanship and perfume and which seeks to trigger all the senses; our sculpture-bottles were created as a visual and tactile reflection of the perfume: you slide your fingers through the bottle of Vy Roza and it is as if your hand is touching fresh grass; you linger on the soft curvy sides and you are caressing the soft petals of a rose! Sulékó highlights the riches of French artistic craftsmanship in the creation of perfumes and in the design of a unique porcelain bottle.
Our bottles and our perfumes are the results of the work of a man/woman and not the result of processing by a machine.
Sulékó also collaborates with artists to explore the links between scents, colors, textures, and movements; an example of such collaboration, “Baba Yaga, a movie for the senses”, was presented by Sulékó at Osme, during Art Basel. The perfume then fully becomes Art.

Which scent do you relate most to Russia?

– Our perfumes are all inspired by Slavic art and culture and they involve many scents …
Russia is such a wide and diverse country that it is very hard to pick just one scent representing it without it making a bit of a cliche…but I would say the scent of wheat fields in summertime.

Your favorite perfume and why?

– Aside from my own creations, I use several perfumes which I love, one of my favorites is Chanel N°22 created by Ernest Beaux (a Russian perfumer of French descent). To me, it is a classic. It is timeless. It is rich and light at the same time, it is full of youthful energy and joy with a hint of solar sensuality.

SULÉKÓ perfume bottles are porcelain sculptures. Why such a high level of bottles-art?

– Because seeing beauty makes us happy!
I believe that holding an object, which is unique, handmade using traditional know-how, creativity, attention to detail and passion is precious.

I also think that nowadays more and more customers want to buy authentic products, products with a story, a meaning, that will enrich their everyday life. With these bottles, our customers uncover new artists, learn about their art and how they reinvent centuries-old know-hows while adding a contemporary touch. There is something fascinating about the work of clay, knowing that men have been working this material for thousands of years, creating beauty with earth and fire. That is actually why we chose the name «Talisman» for our travel spray, there is something primeval about porcelain biscuit.

By buying such objects, customers get involved in the preservation of unique traditions and know-how and will enjoy bringing beauty to their home!

How would you define the current state of Russian Haute Parfumerie?

– Russian Haute Parfumerie was at its high at the beginning of the twentieth century before the Revolution. Nowadays, a few Russian perfume brands are emerging; maybe it is a new beginning, a resurgence of Russian Haute Parfumerie…Sulékó believes that for sure, in its own original way, it is a part of that resurgence.

Please define perfumes that represent different seasons of the year in your collection, Sulékó Spring, Summer etc?

– One can easily connect specific smells, notes, scent ingredients to each season. Spring shall bring into your mind the watery freshness of lily of the valley and hyacinths, luminous and light scents! If I mention fall, you will most likely think of the scent of dead leaves and the dark, earthy, woody scents of a forest after the rain.
Furthermore, we do live through phases in our life, which influence our state of mind, these phases are not necessarily linked to our age and can be qualified as seasons; many poets and writers have used seasons as metaphors to describe their state of mind and their emotions. Fall, for instance, is used to describe a state of « spleen », when sadness and melancholy prevail whereas spring is synonymous with new beginnings, it is a celebration of life and everything luminous and joyful. Therefore, we can say that within each Sulékó season, scents meet emotions and create a specific language.

Each Sulékó perfume, because of its scent ingredients and because of the emotions, which it translates, can be classified in one of the four seasons; it is a small facet of one season. This is a very intuitive classification of perfumes. We currently have 5 perfumes: *Albho– is part of Sulékó Winter, Vy Roza is part of Sulékó Spring, Djélem and Midi Eternel are part of Sulékó Summer and Baba Yaga is part of Sulékó Fall.

Do you plan any new releases soon?

We have several creations in the pipeline and will be happy to tell you more about them soon!

Cécile Zarokian: The Perfumer

Cécile Zarokian graduated from ISIPCA, she was trained for four years in Robertet, at first in Grasse, then in Paris. She was still a trainee when she created her first fragrance, Amouage Epic Woman.
In 2011, Cécile decided to found her own company, CECILE ZAROKIAN SARL, and to set up her laboratory in Paris, in order to be able to dedicate her entire time to working freely as an independent perfumer.

Cécile has been very busy lately. She created an impressive list of perfumes, and I’m a fan of quite a few she did for various brands. Let me just mention Uer Mi OR, Jacques Fath, Puredistance, Evody, Masque Fragranze or Jovoy Paris. You can find the complete list here. And I’m a fan of Cécile’s big smile, fast spoken French (too fast for me…), and bubbling personality. I’m looking forward to more of her creations, and seeing her again, soon! Let’s see her side of the Sulékó story:

You are a very busy lady. Why did you accept to create for Sulékó?

– I was very interested in the universe of Sulékó. Anastasia told me what she had in mind for her brand, the story behind each perfume. Her approach was different and I was passionate about her briefs, fully detailed with very inspiring ideas.

„Baba Yaga“ is a scary story. What is Baba Yaga to you? What is the purpose of this fragrance?

Baba Yaga is the witch that frightens lost children in the forest, kind of the bogeyman of Russian fairy tales. But in particular cases, she can be seen as a dark force who scares you but in a way she’s forcing you to face and overcome your fears. And it’s the same for the fragrance, it was very challenging to create an edgy fragrance that would be a bit dark but not too much because at the end you have to light it up. A bewitching dark scent that still has to be pleasant because it’s a perfume after all and you have to want to wear it.

What would you say is specific about Sulékó, the point of difference in concept?

– A lot of attention to every detail. The story, the raw materials, the handmade ceramic bottles, the perfume, the distribution, education…being able to explain the whole creative process behind each perfume, every step of the way, directly to the customer.

Which fragrance from this line was the most challenging for you to create?
Baba Yaga definitely. Because of the above reasons, racing on the edge…

What defines Sulékó to you, in short?

– A unique brand embodied in its founder’s personality, with a very artistic approach and niche distribution.

Now, let’s take a closer look at these four fragrances:

Baba Yaga

My first memory of Baba Yaga character dates to my early childhood and times when I was reading Russian Fables and Tales, every night before sleep. The book was a gift from my mother who thought I should read stories and books coming from different cultures, to widen my horizons. My favorite story from this book was the one about Vasilisa The Fair, and to this day I remember her words of wisdom: “Mornings are smarter than evenings.”

Baba Yaga didn’t scare me at all, although always portrayed as a mean, (allegedly) child-eating witch. I thought of her as of a strong, independent, no-nonsense woman, living on her own, helpful to those that deserved her help. Dark, intense, different… then the rest. Daring. Powerful and aware of her strengths, dressed in black, uncompromising, everything I was not (at that time).

Baba Yaga (the perfume) begins its spell with a sensation of a dark yet crisp Autumn day somewhere deep in the forest. Multicolored leaves are ruffling as you walk, clouds turn darker and the forest starts to murmur, branches of big, old trees making a crackling sound. This bitter-fresh opening is now tainted with a pinch of cinnamon and a healthy dose of nutmeg, brownish-orange, resembling oak leaves you are walking upon.

Berries protrude – red berries on layers of dark pepper. A spell is cast, with black pepper rising in the air, sprinkling away nutmeg and introducing a bitter orange. It sways from bittersweet to sweeter tones, still spicy.

With time it begins to feel like you are lying on the ground in this dark forest, on soft layers of black earth, leathery-patchouli blankets, and moss-covered oak branches, still feeling traces of spices that sprinkled your clothes, with bursts of nutmeg and pepper rising every now and then…Intriguing.

Djelem

Warm Summertime evenings, light cotton dresses imprinted with flowers, music, dance, loud laughs and an open fire crackling in the dark.

These images are portrayed by spicy notes, hay, amber, vivid red carnations and cloves, and that feeling of freshly mown hay is addictive!

The hay settles and warms everything up, relaxes its vividness by becoming more powdery, yet never too heavy…

Gypsies have stopped singing and dancing and are now relaxed and simply- happy!

Vy Rosa

Vy Rosa: an ode to great A.S.Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin…The first verses of this fragrance are starting with sweet springtime freshness of lilies of the valley, very white and green, clean and light, almost soapy. The heart of this fresh, bright, soft smelling rose is surrounded by this bouquet until it becomes more bitter-woody, a bit too bitter for my taste.

Albho

Albho, a word for swan, Lebed, labud: a cold breath of Winter, grace, and elegance. Russian Winter. It took me back to St. Petersburg, my evening walks along Nevski Prospekt, the sight of frozen Neva river and the warmth of the Hermitage Museum hallways which I roamed for days.

It opens with cool mints, like when you inhale sharply cold Winter air above the surface of water, rivers or lakes, underneath a pine tree. Woody and balsamic notes take over, it becomes warmer, suaver. A nice play of cold-warm transitions, ending in quiet, subtle and balsamic tones. I enjoyed its drydown, it was so comforting. This fragrance has an inner beauty, poise and elegance, while darker tones are lurking underwater. Like looking at a swan gliding across a lake so clear that you can see its feet pedaling under the surface. Quite different. My favorite.

You can purchase these perfumes at Sulékó online shop here. Prices vary according to chosen combinations/bottles. The sample-set is available for 15EUR.

Dear Anastasia and Cécile, thank you and see you soon – at Esxence Milano 2019!

The Plum Girl
Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: The Plum Girl/ Sulékó/Cécile Zarokian
Samples were provided by Sulékó, opinions of my own.
Disclaimer