Spir­ited fra­grances

Cock­tails’ scents fill lit­tle bot­tles

Los Angeles Times - - IMAGE - By Denise Hamil­ton im­age@latimes.com

When we en­joy a cock­tail or sa­vor fine wine, part of the en­joy­ment lies in the aroma. Whether it’s the icy ju­niper in gin or the peaty smoke of scotch, smell is an im­por­tant com­po­nent of taste, which may ex­plain why cock­tail cul­ture has seeped into the per­fume world and pur­vey­ors of liqueur and wine have en­tered the per­fume busi­ness.

“As a per­fume de­signer, I am al­ways search­ing for themes that can have an ol­fac­tive trans­la­tion.... Work­ing on a Co­gnac-inspired scent was in my mind for a long time,” says Kil­ian Hen­nessy, a Hen­nessy Co­gnac heir who’s found suc­cess with an epony­mous per­fume line.

Chris­tian Delpeuch, a man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Mai­son Ginestet, says his firm branched into per­fumery be­cause “we wanted to ad­vance the pri­mary aro­mas [that] are in wines of Bordeaux. Even the col­ors have been thought out.”

Ginestet’s Botry­tis, named af­ter the “noble rot” fun­gus on grape skins that boosts sugar con­cen­tra­tion, is a hon­eyed or­ange blos­som flo­ral that may re­mind some of Sauternes dessert wines such as Château d’ Yquem. To ex­tend the vine­yard anal­ogy, the del­i­cate flask is topped with a gold-foil grape leaf.

In­dus­try watch­ers say the trend of in­fus­ing liqueur and wine notes into per­fume isn’t sur­pris­ing.

“The foodie move­ment has con­nected with the niche per­fume move­ment in a very log­i­cal way since peo­ple who ap­pre­ci­ate fine liqueurs and ar­ti­san cof­fees also ap­pre­ci­ate ar­ti­san per­fumes,” says Saskia Wil­son-Brown, founder of L.A.’s In­sti­tute for Art and Ol­fac­tion.

Wil­son-Brown says she’s also seen ris­ing in­ter­est in cock­tail aro­mas in the weekly per­fume-mak­ing work­shops the in­sti­tute of­fers.

French wine and Co­gnac mak­ers un­der­score the sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween their busi­ness and per­fumery. For both oe­nol­o­gists and per­fume “noses,” scrupu­lous at­ten­tion is de­voted to ter­roir— the soil in which the grapes and flow­ers are grown; the harvest; and the pro­duc­tion process.

The big­gest poster boy in this field is Kil­ian Hen­nessy, who launched his line in 2007 with a hand­ful of scents and now has more than two dozen, in­clud­ing Back to Black, a nod to the late Amy Wine­house, with notes of peaty smoke, aged Co­gnac, vanilla and oak bar­rels. And Hen­nessy re­cently un­veiled his Ad­dic­tive State of Mind col­lec­tion, which in­cludes Vodka on the Rocks, Ap­ple Brandy and Le­mon in Zest, inspired by the Ital­ian liqueur li­mon­cello.

Fas­ci­nated by scent as a child, Hen­nessy later ap­pren­ticed with the best noses in per­fumery and even­tu­ally made fra­grances for Chris­tian Dior and Paco Ra­banne. Strik­ing out on his own, he sought to cap­ture what Co­gnac mak­ers call the “an­gels’ share,” the tiny per­cent­age of al­co­hol that evap­o­rates from cel­lars as the liqueur ages and is con­sid­ered an of­fer­ing to the gods.

The pur­chase of Kil­ian per­fumes can also re­quire wal­lets of the gods— they run $165 to $335 per bot­tle. But there are al­co­hol-re­lated per­fumes for ev­ery pock­et­book. Deme­ter, which pop­u­lar­ized ev­ery­day scents with Snow and Earth­worm, of­fers $30 scents. Sake is a pop­u­lar $60 per­fume from Fresh, a line avail­able at Sephora. In­de­pen­dent L.A. per­fumer Opus Oils’ M’Eau Joe sug­gests a glam­orous New Or­leans speak-easy where the bour­bon flows freely. Caron’s Eau de Reglisse is a brac­ing herbal apéri­tif.

And the whiskey and vodka notes of Am­bre Russe by Par­fums d’Em­pire con­jure up Pushkin strid­ing off for a duel as his sec­ond scur­ries along­side with oiled pis­tols.

Most of these con­tem­po­rary per­fumes are uni­sex and ref­er­ence the aro­matic essence of drinks rather than a boozy drunk. The idea can be traced to 1930, when Henri Alméras cre­ated Cock­tail for Jean Pa­tou. In1955, the cou­turier Lu­bin brought out Gin Fizz in homage to the el­e­gant beauty of Grace Kelly.

Bu­tit took 80 years for the trend to catch fire. Now, Lu­bin has re­vived Gin Fizz, and U.K. cologne pur­vey­ors Pen­haligon’s, inspired by Bri­tish dry gin, re­cently launched Ju­niper Sling.

For to­day’s pur­vey­ors of wine and spir­its, per­fume isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a cash cow, but another chan­nel to pro­mote their brand. “Per­fumes po­si­tion the com­pany in a lux­ury sec­tor, of ex­i­gency and qual­ity of French style thatwe are also in through to our wines,” says Lau­rent Dupin, Ginestet’s man­ager for fra­grance sales.

KirkMcKoy Los An­ge­les Times

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