The look and smell of luxury

WRY BREAD - Philip Cu-Unjieng () - December 30, 2007 - 12:00am

There are several name brands out there that stake a claim within the territory of high-end luxury goods and products. But if one is looking for quality that’s combined with provenance and tradition, it’s hard to top the rich history of Guerlain. Founded in 1828 (yes, they’ll be celebrating their 180th year in 2008), the House of Guerlain began its ascendance when the Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, appointed Jean Pascal Francois Guerlain as official perfumer to the royal court. You fast forward through those 180 years, and one finds Guerlain still at the top of the game, providing excellent products that run the gamut from fragrances and cosmetics, to skincare. If one is looking for that rich smell of luxury, and one wants to have the right “look,” one can’t go wrong with Guerlain.

Two men’s colognes hit the market recently and can be found at your Guerlain counters at Rustan’s Makati and Shangri-La, and at Marionnaud, Mall of Asia. The fresh new scent is L’Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme; and that grand favorite, Vetiver, has a new look. L’Instant calls itself a skin fragrance and heralds the birth of the olfactory concept “luminous-woody.” In an expressive sculptured bottle, the luminous is provided by the top notes of lemon, bergamot, bediane and elemi pepper; while the sensual, warm nature of the scent is produced by the jasmine, sandalwood, tea, cacao, hibiscus and patchouli. Have been using L’Instant and the great thing about it is how the scent really lingers. Unlike others that seem to evaporate after a couple of hours, L’Instant has impressive staying power and the scent evolves subtly as the day progresses — to something milder, but still very recognizable and distinct.

Guerlain’s Vetiver first came to life in 1959, fast becoming one of their best-sellers. Now in updated packaging, Vetiver is one of those fragrances that just gets better with time. The base notes of vetiver, tobacco and tonka bean are complemented by the heart notes of pepper and nutmeg, and the top notes of orange, bergamot and lemon. There may be some common elements with L’Instant, but don’t be misled, Vetiver is its own experience and fully deserves its exalted status in the family of Guerlain creations.

The third Guerlain product I want to mention is from the Issima skincare line. It’s called Midnight Secret, touted as a Late Night Recovery Treatment. Especially in this season of late night revelry and countless parties and functions one has to attend, Midnight Secret is today’s secret weapon. You place some of the oxygenating drops on your face and puffy areas, and presto, Midnight Secret allows your skin to recover faster, erasing signs of fatigue. A true invigorating skin “solution,” this is great to buy for your loved one and have on hand for yourself. Or just go out and get one, and ignore the stares or commentary from the sales people who think this product is exclusively for women. Guerlain should really pat itself on its back for having come up with this product.

Mixed bag of holiday reading

Today’s three books are perfect for the holiday season. Well written and astute, they provide subtle humor, while delving with insight and providing razor sharp observation into the worlds they create. One novel deals with suburbia and the shifting nature of the bedrock of ideals and values, while the second novel is a cautionary look into our future. The third book is a detective tale that transports us to 19th century Istanbul.

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta (available at Powerbooks): Tom Perrotta is known for having two novels adapted very successfully by Hollywood. Election with Matthew Broderick and the largely ignored but wonderful Little Children with Kate Winslet were both novels of Perrotta. His milieu is the world of suburbia, and this time out, his novel revolves around the encroaching values of born-again Christians and their fundamental take on morality, up against the more liberal bedrock of democracy and tolerance. Ruth is the local high school’s Sex Education teacher and we chuckle and laugh as we read of her travails negotiating the minefield of conservatism. Her foil is the soccer coach, Tim, a recovered druggie and alcoholic who used to play in a rock band and now struggles for  acceptance within his church’s community. What’s great with Perrotta is that he dissects his characters and the issues without playing favorites or coloring them in black and white. This is an absorbing and compelling read, very human, and very real.

Blind Faith by Ben Elton (available at Fully Booked): In this world of YouTube, Friendster, Multiply and Facebook, privacy has taken a backseat to our desire to publicize the minutiae of our lives. Elton takes this propensity to its illogical conclusion in Blind Faith, and one gets the uneasy feeling that he isn’t too far-fetched. His is a future where society is one big confessional, and we can take it as a cautionary tale that entertains while it warns. Trafford has his nuclear family of wife Chantorria and daughter Caitlin. A Mr. Everyman of the future, Trafford harbors private reservations about the world he now lives in. Obsessed with workmate Sandra Dee, Trafford stumbles onto a secret society of like-minded individuals; but this is a world where nothing is ever what it seems, and it’s Elton’s particular charm to weave true humor into his novel while giving us grim shades of Orwell and Kubrick. There is something of a drastic shift into this more cautionary element of Elton’s tale and it gives the book a bittersweet but powerful conclusion.

The Snake Stone by Jason Goodwin (available at Powerbooks): Author of last year’s sensation, The Jannissary Tree, Goodwin brings back his court eunuch/detective in The Snake Stone. The setting is Constantinople/Istanbul in the 19th century (1838 to be exact), and it’s a fascinating detective/murder tale that allows us a learned glimpse into the world of the Ottoman Empire. Goodwin has a deep understanding of the culture and era, and he uses this knowledge as underpinning for a crime story that can stand on its own. It’s populated by engrossing characters; like the Valide, the West Indies born mother of the dying Sultan, Mahmud II. There’s a shadowy French archaeologist, and a doctor who had been Lord Byron’s doctor at the time of the Lord’s untimely death. This is a world where life is cheap, where secret societies prospered, and where conquest, compromise and deceit were part of everyday life. The amazing part of this book is how immediate and real Goodwin makes his characters. The past centuries disappear with this tale.

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