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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Sali Hughes

Boozy, velvety or salty? ‘Tis the season to splash out on a new fragrance

Finger tapping a bottle of perfume sitting on a Christmas pudding with holly decoration

I’d already picked out my two most noteworthy new fragrance brands before I had a clue they shared the same nose. Perfumer Jérôme Epinette has made a name in creating high-street fragrances that are far better than they need to be.

Arket, & Other Stories, Banana Republic and Zara have all seen their perfumes overdeliver, thanks to the classically trained Epinette, whose particular strength, to my nose, is the sort of modern, woody gender neutrality popular with lovers of understated scents or the previously perfume averse. Only he’s now gone and helped create Victoria Beckham and Bibbi’s lines – luxury brands with bolder identities and price tags to match.

Let’s start with Beckham. Given her fashion label’s classical, chic, clean-lined clothing, I would have bet on her first creation being a slightly androgynous, smart, musky skin scent (and I’d still like one, please), but, instead, we have three fuller-bodied creations with an autobiographical theme.

San Ysidro Drive I expected to like the least, but the opposite is true. Fellow oud haters can safely turn back – this is boozy fruit punch spilled on the rosebush at a lively summer garden party. It lasts all day and I’m happy to host it.

Suite 302 is more of an acquired taste. Big, overtly sexy but with the sourness of unripened cherries, I enjoy its opacity and kind of velvety texture, though others may find it stifling.

Portofino ’97 (a bold move, given Tom Ford Beauty’s Neroli Portofino is packaged in the same turquoise – albeit that’s where any similarity ends) is the crowd pleaser – an airier, slightly salty younger cousin to Byredo’s Bal d’Afrique (another Epinette creation). Its warmth and dash of incense make it reminiscent of a surfers’ beach bonfire.

All are a somewhat breathtaking £170 for 50ml, but you needn’t take a risk – a small discovery set of the three will stuff a stocking for £30.

Even more expensive, but less gutsy in its choices, is new French brand Bibbi. The nine fragrances (exclusive to Liberty) somehow succeed in being both intriguing and wholly inoffensive. There’s so much to love here – and so there should be at £225 for a 100ml bottle.

My husband has asked for Santal Beauty for Christmas (leather bindings on the heaving bookshelves of a warm study), while I’m obsessed with Radio Child, a melancholic yet deeply comforting, clean musky-cuddle sort of a scent with wood sap and green figs. I’ll tuck Swimming Pool, a delicious, bright-green Italian basil, grass and spearmint concoction, away for summer.

Photography assistant: Declan Slattery. Nails: Sarah Cherry using Nailberry. Model: Corinna Cherry. Perfume: Victoria Beckham San Ysidro Drive. King George Christmas Pudding from Fortnum & Mason

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