For years, I’ve complained about the backwardness of the perfume industry. The mainstream was – and still is – full of identikit scents, sexist marketing, stereotypes and flankers. Niche brands tend to do better on these fronts, but have their own issues: inflated prices, gimmicky concepts and, my personal pet peeve, a tendency to launch new fragrances way too often.
So despite my yearning for modern perfumes that would look, feel and smell contemporary, I have a love-hate relationship with brands like Byredo and Le Labo. They certainly appeal to people who want to wear a scent that would go with their ripped jeans and Gucci loafers (guilty as charged), but the products often prioritise style over substance. Maybe that’s what makes them so 21 century?
Anyway, moving on to the point of this post. I’ve generally lumped Vilhelm Perfumery in with the examples above: great design, great branding, great stories, but the scents themselves – although definitely not bad – never entirely convinced me, at least not for this price point. That is until I smelled Morning Chess, which had so far always been out of stock when I visited Vilhelm’s counter at Liberty.
I really like this one. It’s supposed to capture the Swedish summer and playing chess with one’s grandfather and this is a pretty good description. To me, it’s a cross between a classic cologne and a fruity, green summer scent plus some leather (grandpa!). It starts out with bergamot and what I swear is blackcurrant, although the latter is not mentioned in the notes. From there it gets drier and greener and more leathery.
The mix of leather and galbanum makes me think of Robert Piguet Bandit, although Morning Chess is much, much, much more approachable (and no fruit ever came into contact with Bandit). If you want to be gendered about it – I don’t recommend it, but you can – it leans more masculine. Still, I think it’s wearable For most women women, it would in fact go perfectly with a tweed jacket, white shirt, ripped jeans and loafers. It is also great for the Baltic summer, be it Estonian or Swedish: it’s bright and bracing, but robust enough for a typical 20-degree day with some rain.
Even considering all this I would probably not have bought the scent, if they hadn’t done my favourite thing: the travel size! As you know, I own an obscene amount of perfume and I avoid buying big bottles if I can. 18 ml is exactly what I need. For most people, the bigger bottle represents better value, but if you’re like me, do check out the small flacons. They do look rather stylish…