Tuesday, 23 November 2010

One note wonder? Not a Perfume by Juliette Has A Gun

Disclosure - PR sample
Juliette Has A Gun - Not A Perfume. (Well, maybe she should put the gun down and head to the nearest department store?)

Having previously encountered Miss Charming and Lady Vengeance, and liked both, I was especially pleased to be able to try the latest from quixotic French fragrance house Juliette Has A Gun.

JHAG nose Romano Ricci has an established penchant for Ambroxan, a synthetic version of ambergris. It's a musky, woody, warm scent that's usually used as a base note, and it appears regularly in the JHAG fragrance library. In the case of Not A Perfume, Ricci has brought the anchoring background player to the forefront and created a fragrance that's dedicated entirely to this single note.

Not A Perfume has been received with puzzlement by some fragrance afficionadoes. (In particular see the comments on this review at Now Smell This.) How can a scent with just one constituent be called a perfume? Isn't that just a raw ingredient bottled and sold as a finished composition? How is this different from Escentric Molecules Molecule 02 (also pure Ambroxan)?

Perhaps they're valid questions. The production costs probably don't tally with the retail price. (Although when do they ever?) But this is a dilution of Ambroxan, a specific and deliberate concentration. And concentration can make a huge difference when it comes to fragrance. Dilution can unpack a range of hidden nuances from an ingredient, like the colours that appear in chromatography when you add water to pigment. For example, indole smells floral at low concentrations but at high concentrations it's redolent of sewage.

I can't comment on the similarity to Molecule 02, as I don't own it (although I have sniffed it in the past). I would like to compare the two fragrances carefully, but would do so with an open mind, rather than assuming JHAG's version is a copy. I suspect that the dilution will make a difference. I doubt very much that you could short-cut to a cheaper DIY Not A Perfume just by purchasing the raw ingredient, although I've seen this suggested on several fragrance blogs.

So what does it actually smell like?

Not a Perfume has a gentle, almost creamy softness that clings to the skin. At first spritz I got a strong impression of apples, or maybe more like apple pie - apples softened and warmed.  I'd draw parallels with Sarah Horowitz Perfect Veil, although Not a Perfume is more subtle and less overtly sexy. It lasts phenomenally - one spritz first thing in the morning will easily carry through until late evening. Personally, I adore it.

Not A Perfume is available from Selfridges, costing £77 for 100ml EDP.

What do you think - is this a loving meditation that brings out a hidden gem in perfumery, or just an "Emperor's new perfume" whose bluff should be called? Let us know in the comments!


  1. I'd love to give that a sniff, I'm curious now!

  2. I absolutely ADORE this! I have just sampled it and will be ordering a large bottle in the next few days.

    I didn't get apples, or apple pie - in fact, what I did get was so hard to define that this is probably why I love and am so intrigued by this fragrance!

    It certainly has great longevity on the skin, as you say - and no 'morphing' into anything strange as the day progresses, either (which is very, very good in my book).

    I can invisage wearing this anywhere, at any time of the year - wonderful!

  3. @KittenMittens I strongly recommend trying it!

    @arcanethings I agree, it's the kind of thing you could wear as a daily staple. Wouldn't be without it now.


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