For me, a long layover in an intrinsically unpleasant airport is always rendered more tolerable if there is a good duty-free shop where I can go and sniff around. Granted, most of what’s there is just the usual lineup of the old familiar Chanels and Guerlains, the upscale celebrity fragrances, and the “classics” that everyone has vaguely heard of and therefore must want.
I have to say that the sprawling duty-free shop in the Heathrow airport in London is an exceptionally fun playground for a perfumista or perfumer. They not only have the usual suspects, they have some things that are new and a little different. Granted, they are mass-market, but the sheer volume of offerings increases the chances that there will be something interesting on the shelves.
After dodging the SAs who spray everyone with whatever generic scent it is that they always spray, I wandered through the aisles, probably killing a good hour sniffing without spraying. After a short while, everything smells pretty much alike. And then, bingo – something different. I came to a counter with an array of bottles from Elie Saab’s “Collection des Essences”. According to Fragrantica, the collection was created last year in collaboration with Francis Kurdjian. The first bottle I opened was No. 3 Ambre, and all of my perfumer alerts went off: “This smells like something I would make!”
And indeed it did. It was for all the world like a cross between my Olympic Amber and Madini Ambre, with a big price tag. There were other “Essences”, too, seven in all, including oud, vetiver, gardenia, and other flowers. I didn’t try them all, being so enamored with the Ambre that I sprayed it all over one arm. On the other arm I sprayed the No. 4 Oud, just because I had to try it. The Oud is OK, a little bit blunt and drab smelling compared to the real thing, but it does have that artisan vibe to it. It is definitely not a fruity-floral celebrity scent or an aldehydic floral chypre. If I had not tried the Ambre, I would probably have been more favorably disposed toward the Oud.
I would like to try all of the scents from this collection at leisure, so looked for samples, but don’t see them for sale in the US. The collection was launched in 2014, so maybe they haven’t yet made it to the usual online purveyors of upscale samples.
In the meantime, I can experiment with layering my amber and Madini’s.
Have you seen evidence of mass-market brands trying to “go artisan”, mimicking and competing with the little guys? What do you think about this trend?
[Bottle photos from Fragrantica; duty-free shop photo is mine from a pervious trip; Madini perfume bottles photo is mine.]