Beauty Without Fuss

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

We Want the Funk: Ripe and Ready Perfumes for a Heatwave

By Laurin

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the predicted highs in my hometown of Mobile, Alabama and London were exactly the same – 29 degrees Celsius. The local press in Mobile referred to this turn of events as “an unseasonable autumn-like chill”. Meanwhile, in London, the headlines read “OMG HEATWAVE APOCALYPSE PREPARE A VIRGIN SACRIFICE TO APPEASE THE SUN GODS!”

In Mobile, we deal with the heat by hopping from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car, and if we’re lucky, into backyard swimming pools. In London, our primary extreme-weather coping strategies are outrageous hyperbole and whinging. It’s one of the many ways in which I’m proud to be British.

Unfortunately, Tube travel and lack of air-conditioned buildings can take its toll on the most stringent of personal hygiene regimes. I experienced this last week as I was leaving work on an especially humid day and suddenly realised I had experienced a regrettable deodorant malfunction. Fortunately, I had a bottle of Francis Kurkdjian’s Absolue Pour Le Soir tucked away on my desk, so I was able to style out the funk with lashings of sweet honey and dirty knickers. That smell? Yeah, that’s me. What of it?

This, then is my plea to you: when the heat is on, be a lover not a fighter. Save the sunny citruses for your gin and tonic. They’ll evaporate within hours during hot weather anyway. Instead, reach for one of these out and proud animalic fragrances:

 Serge Lutens Mucs Koublai Khan, £79 for 50ml at Fenwicks of Bond Street. I can’t find it online, so you’ll just have to come to London.
This is what Frederic Malle’s Musc Ravageur would have been if it had been raised by hyenas in the jungle (note to self: find out if hyenas live in jungles; do hyenas prefer orientals to chypres?). Instead of the come-hither bedroom eyes, we have the flasher on the street corner in the stained trenchcoat. But if you’d just get past that, you’d see he’s a really nice person, okay? And as it turns out, he is. Though the unwashed combination of civet, musk and caraway is a bit seedy at first, the composition is beautifully softened out with amber, rose, patchouli and vanilla. Highly wearable, though still not suitable for a blind buy.

Le Labo Oud 27, from £45 for 15ml at

There is no way to pretty this up: this is the filthiest porno-perfume that ever was. Although the official notes are oud, civet, cedar, patchouli, ambergris and rose (so, noble rot, cat bum, whale vomit and FLOWERS), whatever, this fragrance ain’t never seen the inside of Jane Packer in its life. Oud 27 will never turn up on your doorstep bearing a bouquet, but if you ask it nicely, it just might let you see what’s in the black bag at the bottom of the closet. Wear with a fur coat and crotchless knickers.

Robert Piguet Fracas, £95 for 50ml at
A big stinking heatwave calls for a big stinking flower. Creator Germaine Cellier was something of an enfant terrible of the 1940’s perfume world. In Barbara Herman’s book “Scent and Subversion”, we are told that Cellier’s first fragrance for Robert Piguet, Bandit, was inspired by the scent of models changing their underwear during fashion shows. Had I read that about her other masterpiece Fracas, I’d believe that as well. This is the Vagina Dentata of tuberoses: all soft, inviting flash with a deadly bite. Fracas is tuberose shorn of its angular, camphorous top note and instead given bombastic T&A with jasmine, rose, carnation, ripe peach and even riper musk. Wear this for taking a lover back to your web for the first (and maybe last) time.

Frederic Malle Le Parfum de Therese, from £80 for 30ml at
Michel Roudnitska, son of Le Parfum de Therese’s creator Edmond called this “the masterpiece of my father”. Considering that he was speaking of the man who created Rochas Femme, Diorella and Eau Savage, this is high praise indeed. Exclusively worn by Roudnitska’s wife Therese for nearly fifty years, it was only released after his death in 2000, when Frederic Malle persuaded Therese to allow him to publish it as part of his Editions de Parfums line. I hesitate to describe this as “animalic”, for it is actually a placid, watery fruit accord that preceded the fresh aquatic fragrances of the 90’s by over forty years. But laid over the plum, melon, mandarin and vetiver that forms the heart of this quietly confident work is a note of leather that transforms it from the coldly beautiful to something altogether more warm and intimate. I have no idea what the Roudnitska’s marriage was like, but when I smell the perfume he made for her, I can only imagine that this was a man who deeply loved and understood his wife. It manages to be dark and light and human and ethereal all at the same time, and I would wear it any day over the hundreds of candyfloss concoctions proclaiming themselves the essence of the eternal feminine. Wear this when you have nothing to prove to anyone.

Better You Magnesium Oil, £9.29 for 100ml at

Not a perfume, but a neat trick if you’d rather funk by choice than out of necessity. A quick slick of this after a shower and before deodorant somehow seems to neutralise body odour on hot days. I have tested this extensively on the Victoria Line in July and it never once failed me. You're welcome.

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1 comment

  1. Ha! I haven't commented here in years (I think), but I just had to say: great article. You've captured those fragrances hilariously and perfectly. I was surprised to see LPdT on the list, but agree with your assessment. It's such a lovely perfume, and is indeed the one to wear when you have nothing to prove to anyone.


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