Atkinsons’ Amber Empire (2015)

Atkinsons' Amber Empire (2015) © Victor Wong
Atkinsons’ Amber Empire (2015) © Victor Wong

I remember listening to a radio show on which the host asked listeners to call in and talk about their favourite movie director. A guy called in and said his was Tim Burton. When asked which movies of Tim Burton he liked most and why, he could only name “Nightmare Before Christmas”. Ridicule ensued.

I was like that listener when I declared Maurice Roucel to be my favourite perfumer two years ago, partly because he was one of the very few high-profile perfumers whose name I could remember (due to CRNCNTWS, Can’t Remember Non-Chinese Names Too Well Syndrome), and also he was the nose of one of my favourite perfumes, Le Labo’s Jasmin 17. (I was senselessly madly in love with Le Labo back then.) However, I was very troubled by the fact that I didn’t care about his most famous work, Musc Ravageur.

Now I don’t think I have any favourite perfumer, although I have a few favourite perfumes and perfume genres.

I admire Mr. Roucel’s ability to create hits out of shoestring ingredient budgets, like DKNY’s Delicious (2004) and Nautica Voyage (2006). His style to me seems to be all over the place, but when he is given a bigger budget and freedom (this is purely my speculation), his affinity towards certain style of perfumes becomes more apparent.

When I found out recently he had created a perfume named “Amber Empire” for the British brand Atkinsons, I was very intrigued. To my knowledge, I don’t think he has designed any amber themed perfume before. And the main supporting note that he picked was unexpected, too – oolong tea (a type of Chinese green tea.) This big amber/tea combination is quite novel to me (Annick Goutal’s “Duel” being the only one that comes to mind), and neither ingredient steals the show. The opening is mildly sweet and herbal, like an ice tea sweetened by light brown sugar. Shortly after, the shy tobacco flavoured tea note appears and disappears. A rather simple and intoxicating perfume, both grand and unassuming at the same time, and it’s a joy to wear.

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Adidas’ Originals by Jeremy Scott (2015)

Adidas Originals by Jeremy Scott © Victor Wong
Adidas Originals by Jeremy Scott © Victor Wong

Recently I was reminded by a friend that I liked “weird shit”. We were sniffing new perfumes at a department store and I showed him some of the newer perfumes that I liked, and he didn’t like any of them. “Nah, this smelled like an old man”, he said. His girlfriend said, “I bet there’s Indian oil in this perfume. Go check out Fragrantica.” I didn’t, because I was sure that no company would ever put “Indian oil” in their notes breakdown. Frankly, all I had shown them was a chypre perfume.

Actually that made me think… Do I prefer “weird shit” to “good stuff”? I only know the type of perfumes that my friend likes are designer and mainstream niche, and in my opinion, his “fragrance palate” is not very broad. (Hmm… Did I sound like a pompous asshole? In retrospect, my palate wasn’t very broad either, but I didn’t brush off challenging scents too easily.) I told him I liked “weird shit” last time we met because I was a bit tired and didn’t want to elaborate. (This also reminded me of my other friend Fifty-Fifty who absolutely hates Mac computers, and when he asked me why I loved Mac, I just told him it’s a “fashion statement”. He nodded his head in glee while spending a full day cursing and removing Windows Vista.)

In fact, the real reason why we met at the department store was that he wanted to sell me his “Adidas Originals by Jeremy Scott” perfume. He bought it on an impulse, and he regretted it. I had never smelled it before we met, and really, no one needed to because, come on, look at that bottle – it’s a collector’s item, the perfume is just icing in the shoe.

He told me that he didn’t like the smell, which was expected, not because he liked only a small subset of “normal” masculine perfumes, but I expected it to smell subpar. But to my surprise, it smelled good – pepper, rose and incense, something you don’t find in a regular pair of sneakers or any regular $15 Adidas sports scents. While It doesn’t smell rich, resinous or oudy, it smells modern, sweet and fresh, and definitely “niche”. (It reminds me of Le Labo Baie Rose 26, too.) However, I can see soccer jocks finding this perfume too strange to match their masculine persona and their armpits not accepting a rose scented perfume.

While we were strolling through the department store, he mentioned that he liked Maurice Roucel’s work. Later I found out that Adidas perfume was co-designed by Maurice Roucel. Oh, the irony.

Le Labo’s Jasmin 17 (2006)

Le Labo Jasmin 17 © Victor Wong
Le Labo Jasmin 17 © Victor Wong

This is a story about crap and perfume.

In the middle of the giant office there was a big room with glass walls on four sides where everyone could see inside. The “aquarium”, as I called it, sat some of my special coworkers. Everyday I had to swim into the aquarium to talk the shark, the lazy clam, the slimy eel and the copycatfish about the projects that I was working on.

One morning I walked into the aquarium to return a binder and a wall of stink hit me in the face. Wow, this room needed some air freshener, I thought. Later in the afternoon I sat down with copycatfish to talk about some project details and holy cow, he smelled like shit. Suddenly I knew what happened – he had stepped on dog poop. I told him about that and he immediately went to the washroom to clean up, and when he returned he said, “wow, dude, I thought it was you, and I almost wanted to ask you if you had ever taken a shower!”

And Luca Turin gave Le Labo’s Jasmin 17 a one-star rating and described it as “crap jasmine”. My only conclusion is that he must have stepped on some great dane dog poop while writing his review. What crap? I smell only lemon meringue pies, jasmine and amber, and it’s so finger-licking good. However, Jamin 17 doesn’t last long on my body. So one day I went bat-shit crazy and sprayed 8 times on my neck before I went to work.…

The scent did last long enough, so long that I could still smell it when I took the bus home. However, on that trip the bus driver had turned the heat so high up that the whole bus was like a sauna; all the windows were fogged up with human sweat, and suddenly I doubted, did Jasmin 17 really smell like shit? I kept calm and sweated quietly.