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EDGE Holiday Gift Guide: Fragrance & Grooming

by Mark Thompson
EDGE Style & Travel Editor
Wednesday Dec 7, 2011
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One of the more thoughtful gifts we ever gave was when we were sixteen. Our best girlfriend was turning sixteen that summer and her parents orchestrated a dinner party at a country club. Because she was the girl "Most Likely to Move to Manhattan" and also "Best Dressed," and therefore, most fashionable, we knew almost intuitively what to buy her: Chanel No. 5.

The purchase took more from our wallet than we had anticipated, but the department store gift-wrapped it - and when the perfume was opened that evening, it was clear that we had scored points - not only with our best girlfriend, but also with her parents.

For as far back as the Three Kings, fragrance has symbolized a gift of great largesse. Two of the three Magi brought fragrance, while the third brought jewelry. You can’t go wrong with that combo.

Fragrances are gifts that imply considered thought. In all likelihood, the giver has tested the fragrance and imagined it on the recipient. As Marilyn replied when asked what she wore to bed, "Chanel No. 5."

Fragrance is a personal thing - and one that keeps the giver in mind with each inhalation. Take time to inhale - and imagine what you’d like to smell on the ones you love.

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Maison Francis Kurkdjian: Aqua Universalis Forte

’I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills,’ wrote Isak Dinesen.

Years ago, we had a country house on the Cape, where the winter could linger through April - and where a lily of the valley might peep through a spring snow. Aqua Universalis Forte is an homage to that transition between seasons.

A floral woody musk, determinedly for both men and woman, Aqua Universalis Forte is perfumer Francis Kurkdjian’s continuation of his fascination with bright and sparkling scents that he explored in his eau de toilette Aqua Universalis. While the addition of the word "Forte" denotes the fragrance as a more potent eau de parfum, "forte" also implies both strength and, as used musically, a loudness.

What is strong and loud about Aqua Universalis Forte is equivalent to the sight of that green shoot of the lily of the valley rising from a bed a white. For what is stronger and louder than the announcement of spring on a field of snow?

With a remarkable concentration of 40%, Aqua Universalis Forte has strength in its silage, leaving a splendid trail that lingers throughout the day. Similar to its eau de toilette sibling, the fragrance opens with Sicilian citron, enhanced in this version by a brilliantly bright bergamot. A bouquet of white flowers follows - the lilies of the valley with white lilacs and Egyptian jasmine and Moroccan roses - and the effect is exhilarating.

A green and white fragrance, radiant and effervescent, Aqua Universalis Forte is as elegant as a watercress sandwich eaten in a conservatory redolent with winter blossoms: the cress, the butter, a tangle of savory with a hint of sweetness. Light wood appears in the drydown, alongside musk and a bit of tobacco.

A maestro of tasteful seduction, Kurkdjian has packaged Aqua Universalis Forte in his signature soft mauve with gold engraved lettering. The sliding box with brocade pull is a stunning container for such a splendid fragrance, which is bottled with a solid golden stopper. Aqua Universalis Forte is made for presentation and celebration.

According to Kurkdjian, "A good perfume is...when the scent and the person become one." Many fragrance aficionados will be tempted to claim Aqua Universalis Forte as their signature scent. With an impeccable pedigree complemented by a refined sensibility, Aqua Universalis Forte is a modern classic.

PRICE: $265.00 / 70 ml. / 2.4 fl. oz.
LINK: Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Universalis Forte

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Jouany: Marrakech

For years, all through childhood, there were oranges at the bottom of our Christmas stockings. Every year, there was a ripe orange, its bittersweet smell emanating from the red felt fabric. No Christmas was complete without the smell and taste of a fresh orange.

For more than a quarter of a century, Christophe Jouany has been celebrated as a fashion photographer - but it was a decade ago that Jouany began wearing a fragrance of his own making, one that evoked his home in the Caribbean.

Recently, we found ourselves at the launch of Jouany’s new fragrance line - and if the crush of people was any indication, there’s little question that Jouany’s career as a perfumer will be every bit as successful as his years as a photographer.

Jouany’s concept marries fragrance to locale. As a photographer, Jouany traveled to some of the world’s most exotic and beautiful destinations, and in creating his own fragrance line, he sought to evoke an olfactory odyssey.

A bitter orange bursts forth from Jouany Marrakech - as if you’ve arrived at the end of a long journey across a desert to find that an oasis has materialized. A grove of orange trees beckons and you are immersed in an intoxicating cloud of citrus. Orange blossoms fall across your table as you sip from a glass of freshly squeezed juice. The scent of grapefruit mingles with orange. You could linger here all afternoon, in this citrus sanctuary. Later, in the gloaming, there’s a whiff of jasmine mixed with neroli. Nightfall has cooled the air and as you stretch across your bedding, Herodotus at your side, the scent of patchouli hangs about your pillow. How fitting that Herodotus has written of the ritual use of cannibis by the Scythians.

With all the complexity of a bittersweet orange in a land of arid beauty, Jouany’s Marrakech is an ode to Paul and Jane Bowles and Michael Ondaatje’s "The English Patient" - and to a city that inspires with the mere mention of its name.

PRICE: $125.00 / 1.7 fl. oz. EDP
LINK: Jouany Marrakech

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Blood Concept: B Parfum

One winter, due to the abrupt loss of a godparent and the unexpected find of a gift from a well-known oenophile, we sat in the library of my godfather and drank from a bottle of 1906 Chateau Margaux. It was a ceremonial occasion, filled with a kind of reverence as we uncorked the heralded bottle and let the notes of deep, dark stone fruit waft through our nostrils and across our palate.

My godfather who loved all things woody and spicy, along with the smoke of incense and black tea, would have been over the moon for Blood Concept B Parfum. The fragrance opens with a rich black cherry note, evocative of a winter liqueur, mixed with red apples. I recall a potent elixir brought back to him from the hinterlands of Russia, something profoundly resonant with imperialist lineage.

From there, Blood Concept B Parfum glides gracefully into notes of pepper and pomegranate, with a hint of artemisia. Think of dark breads and caviar, and rooms swathed in crimson velvet. There’s patchouli in the basenote, with Blood Concept’s signature metallic note, which evokes both Bram Stoker’s "Dracula" as well as a wink at Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

Blood Concept fragrances are labeled by blood type, from O to A, B, and AB. Sold in gleaming silver antique medicine bottles with red-lined droppers, the concept is deliberately inflammatory - and precisely the sort of gift that would have sent my godfather into paroxysms of unmitigated joy. A wicked sense of humor is not necessary to appreciate Blood Concept, but B Parfum’s decadent allure works best on those who are wise enough to appreciate the darker elements of life - especially night owls.

With uncanny timing, given the planet’s obsession with "Twilight" and "True Blood," the Italian perfumers Giovanni Castelli and Antonio Zuddas have given us a fragrance that mirrors the zeitgeist. Let Blood Concept B Parfum bite into your soul and see where you land.

PRICE: $130.00/ set of four 10 ml EDP, each w/fragrance dropper
LINK: Blood Concept B Parfum

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Holiday Gift Guide: Fragrance & Grooming continues on next pages...)



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