When it comes to the great houses of perfume Guerlain never fears alienating their core audience. I would say that the opposite is truer in that Guerlain has been the most active in trying to snare the younger perfume wearer. Because of this penchant for luring in younger perfumistas it can sometime clash with those of us who have loved Guerlain for years. I sit somewhere in the middle of this. As long as the great older Guerlains are still around in-house perfumer Thierry Wasser can put out as many figurative olfactory honey pots as he would like to capture his desired demographic.
The most difficult part of this equation is M. Wasser want to use Shalimar as the gateway to the Guerlain kingdom. M. Wasser has taken to heart the criticism by the young that Shalimar smells too “old lady”. This isn’t a new idea as perfumer Mathilde Laurent was responsible for three “light” versions of Shalimar a little over ten years ago. M. Wasser would also try to go the lighter route as well. The last two years saw two variations around adding vanilla to Shalimar and Ode a la Vanille in 2010 and Ode a la Vanille Sur la Route du Mexique in 2013 went with making it sweeter. It looks like that experiment has also not produced the desired result. This year for the latest flanker to Shalimar M. Wasser has returned to making Shalimar lighter. The new releases is called Shalimar Souffle de Parfum.
As the name portends this is meant to be an airy version of Shalimar meant to be served up quickly without having it linger. The way M. Wasser chooses to achieve this is to largely neuter the base notes leaving behind only the vanilla.
The opening of Souffle de Parfum is the traditional bergamot and lemon with a bit of mandarin added for additional sweetness. Jasmine is present in the soufflé but instead of rose M. Wasser goes with the much lighter orange blossom. This is where the soufflé begins to fall down for me. The combination of rose de mai and jasmine is what creates the essential beauty of Shalimar. With the Souffle de Parfum M. Wasser doesn’t want even the hint of heft to appear thus the choice of orange blossom. The same applies to the base as out goes the orris and opopanax leaving only the vanilla matched with white musk and patchouli.
Shalimar Souffle de Parfum has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am not sure there is ever going to be a light version of Shalimar which does justice to the name, certainly Souffle de Parfum is not that fragrance. In his attempt to make Shalimar lighter and more accessible M. Wasser succeeds; as taken on its own merits Souffle de Parfum is a perfectly easy to wear floral. It is no way related to Shalimar and has none of the character and depth of that. I am not sure this would even bring new consumers over to the brand because it doesn’t feel like it is part of the rest of the flacons which share the name Guerlain. For me this Souffle de Parfum has fallen flat but perhaps there are others who will delight in a fluffy simulation of a perfume called Shalimar.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Guerlain.
When I spent time in New York City during the mid-1980’s one of the things I was most fascinated by was modern art. In those first years of my time in The Big Apple I was a glutton for seeing the artists I had admired. Even better was the opportunity to discover new artists who I had never heard of. One of these discoveries was Charles Demuth and he was my introduction to the concept of Precisionism.
My Egypt by Charles Demuth (1927)
Precisionism arose from the more widely-known schools of Cubism and Futurism. The preferred subject of the Precisionist movement was the industrial landscape, in particular the American industrial landscape. Mr. Demuth would become one of the major artists within this genre. The painting which captivated me was the one seen above “My Egypt”. I would come to find out this was part of a seven painting set by Mr. Demuth that he did between 1927 and 1933. These seven paintings would be the capstone to his career. What I saw was a recognition that through the creation of the large industry of the early twentieth century America was creating its own pyramids. When I look at My Egypt through the fractured planes Mr. Demuth uses I see it as a flawed reflection which has come true in the nearly one hundred years since he painted them.
Incense of a New Church by Charles Demuth (1921)
Mr. Demuth did most of his work in the house he shared with his mother in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Precisionist style flourished from about 1916-1936 and Mr. Demuth’s earliest examples come from 1921. The one seen above, “Incense of a New Church”, has become one of my favorite paintings by Mr. Demuth. The tendrils of resinous smoke put together in overlapping segments so that it almost looks like reptilian. The smokestacks of the factory replacing the altar of the old church. I have a lithograph of this which is one of my daily inspirations.
Charles Demuth (Photo: Alfred Stieglitz)
The 2008 retrospective that was held at the Whitney Museum in New York is still one of my favorites as I was able for the first time to take in many of his earlier pieces. It also confirmed that for me once he made the move to Precisionism that was where his best work was. He was a contemporary and close friend of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. Upon his death in 1935 he left all of his paintings to Ms. O’Keeffe trusting her to be the proper arbiter of their eventual resting place. The picture of Mr. Demuth above was taken by Mr. Stieglitz and it is one of the few pictures of him we have.
Ever since I first encountered the Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 line of perfume at Esxence in 2013 I have very slowly and deliberately taken my time to understand each one. Many perfume collections would fall apart underneath this much scrutiny. M. Humbert Lucas, working for himself, has authored a body of olfactory art that almost demands you spend time with it to allow it to fully reveal all that is present in each perfume. Therefore even though it has been almost a year and a half I am still getting to the last couple of entries from the line. Most recently I’ve spent time with 2022 Generation Homme and like every one of the 777 perfumes there was much to enjoy.
One of the reasons that I held off on 2022 Generation Homme is that on a strip this was the oudiest of the entire collection. On a strip it never seemed to open up. When I finally sprayed some on my skin it was like there was an entire experience hidden from detection. The oud was there but there was also an array of spices surrounding a yuzu. These offer a fresh crisp contrast to the very complex oud mixture M. Humbert Lucas uses.
Stephane Humbert Lucas
2022 Generation Homme opens with yuzu floating like a shimmery veil over an intense oud. Very often many see yuzu as a stand-in for grapefruit but when it is appropriately allowed to have a personality in a fragrance it is more like a hybrid of lemon and grapefruit. It has a snappy brightness that neither lemon nor grapefruit have on their own. M. Humbert Lucas takes that and adds even more snap with mint coming along for the ride. It is just a touch of mint but it is present and adds an important effect underneath the yuzu. The final addition to the top notes is a very green blackcurrant bud. This is used at such a level that it has a urine-like characteristic. On its own it would be offputting. Placed in the middle ground between the yuzu-mint and the oud it works surprisingly well. The rough sticky green smell forms a bridge to the more sulfurous aspects of the yuzu and the more medicinal qualities of good oud. This is not an easy part of the development as it sort of pushes forward many of the more challenging aspects of both the yuzu and the oud. It took me some time to learn to roll with it instead of struggling to make it something it wasn’t. 2022 Genration Homme finishes on a peru balsam matched with a second source of oud. This oud has less of the medicinal and more of the woody nuances. Matched with the peru balsam is ends this on a final woody platform.
2022 Generation Homme has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.
2022 Generation Homme is one of the hidden gems within the entire 777 line. I think it is imperative that it is worn on skin to truly experience it completely. It took that for me to finally realize how good it was and bring it out from Under the Radar.
Disclosure: This review was based on a samples provided by Stephane Humbert Lucas and Osswald NYC.
Pop stars and perfume are a combination which usually leads to something which rarely reflects well on the singer or perfumery. I have even come to believe that the bigger the celebrity name on the label the more likely the perfume is going to be insipid. It can be a huge disappointment if I like the musician and a bit of rough karma if they are someone I don’t care for. The common thread is the perfume is boring and safe. In 2012 Lady Gaga released the first fragrance with her name on it called Fame. It promised “blood and semen” and, of course, delivered a safe floral. It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t as innovative as the name on the bottle. Fame sold extremely well and there was no doubt there would be a follow-up. That perfume has just been released Lady Gaga Eau de Gaga. This time it is a much simpler construction and also a much better perfume.
Lady Gaga worked with perfumer Ursula Wandel for Eau de Gaga. Fame was a team of three perfumers and I believe Eau de Gaga is better for less cooks in the kitchen. Ms. Wandel chooses simple ingredients and blends them adeptly into something way above the normal celebuscent dreck. Reduced to terms Eau de Gaga is a citrus-floral-leather and that might seem common but Mme Wandel turns in something very uncommon in this space.
The citrus chosen for Eau de Gaga is primarily lime and it is a very synthetic lime. For a woman who changes the color of her hair as often as Lady Gaga does I see this as a green wash over her blond locks. It is striking and the artificial quality works to its advantage. The heart is violet and violet leaf together. The lime persists to combine with the violet. Every so often during the day while I was wearing it I thought I got a bit of green tea but almost like an olfactory illusion once I tuned in it was violet and lime. Ms. Wandel has created an excellent harmony between the lime and violet and after a couple of hours her leather accord starts to come through and provide a bit of animalic foundation. This is fine leather processed until it is soft as butter and consequently it is a whisper of leather throughout the later stages of Eau de Gaga.
Eau de Gaga has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.
For all that the first fragrance, Fame, was meant to be an edgy evocation of Lady Gaga I think Eau de Gaga captures the artist better. It is a bold synthetic composition made up of modern molecules placed over a classic soft leather accord. I was thinking of a line from Lady Gaga’s song Applause, “To crash the critic saying “Is it right or is it wrong?” In the case of Eau de Gaga this critic thinks it is very right.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle provided by Coty Beauty.
Editor’s Note: Eau de Gaga is available in Europe right now. It is due for an early January 2015 debut in the US.
It has been seven weeks since I was in Florence for Pitti Fragranze and there is one perfume which has consumed my thoughts since trying it there. One of my favorite new lines I discovered at Pitti was Map of the Heart. Map of the Heart is a debut line from co-founders Sarah Blair and Jeffrey Darling. They have collaborated with perfumer Jacques Huclier on three perfumes. They also have brought in bottle designer Pierre Dinand to fashion heart shaped flacons. Map of the Heart Clear Heart v. 1 and Red Heart v. 3 are nicely executed aquatic and tuberose perfumes, respectively. They are good but the middle volume Black Heart v. 2 is something wholly unique, a perfumed journey into darkness that never compromises by letting in even a tiny sliver of light.
Black Heart v. 2 has been one of those perfumes which has been difficult for me to write about because I don’t think I am going to communicate what a completely consuming sensual experience it is. The creative team wanted M. Huclier to be inspired by the Australian brushfires from where Ms. Blair and Mr. Darling live. The quote from the press release is they wanted M. Huclier to capture “the moment the flames subside and the blackened tree trunks remain smoldering in a snow of white ash- the piercing sunlight slicing through.” The first part of that inspiration is expertly re-created. The sunlight not so much as there is not any light in this composition of smoke, spice, and the hope for renewal from near-complete destruction.
M. Huclier uses a trio of spices, in overdose, as cinnamon, cardamom, and black pepper add the black shroud to the early moments. Just to make sure the point is not missed a little bergamot and orange are consumed in the dark flames like a sorcerer’s spell of eldritch origin. Through the spices M. Huclier adds in a significant amount of eucalyptus which adds sharp green over a camphor-like effect. This is the smell of tree trunks detonated by the heat of the fire. A chilling reminder of natural immolation. Then M. Huclier begins to waft smoke first in gentle puffs and then as a pervasive fog. The smoke lies heavily on top of Australian sandalwood. I have found Australian sandalwood to have an almost ashy quality just on its own. In Black Heart v. 2 M. Huclier finds that same characteristic and enhances it so the sandalwood note feels like I am experiencing it after it has been burned through and through.
Black Heart v. 2 has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
When I spoke with Ms. Blair at Pitti she told me that there was an earlier mod she sought feedback on and one person told her it should be darker. I don’t know who that person was but I am so very happy that advice was adhered to. The best perfumes are those where the creative vision is realized without compromise. Black Heart v. 2 is a glorious paean to the art of not compromising. If you love dark smoky artistic perfumes you will find no new perfume for 2014 which delivers on all three qualities any better than Black Heart v. 2.
Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Map of the Heart at Pitti Fragranze.
When it comes to designer floral perfumes of the last two years it seems the style is to knock you over with a massive bouquet of floral notes. If that doesn’t do the trick then the perfumer loads it up with a bunch of fruit. The fresh floral perfume has been shunted aside. One of the earliest examples of the fresh floral was 2000’s FlowerbyKenzo composed by Alberto Morillas.
In the late 1990’s into the early years of the 2000’s perfumers were actively experimenting with the floral perfume architecture. M. Morillas was one of the foremost innovators during this time. He would define numerous perfume styles which continue to this day. When it came to FlowerbyKenzo M. Morillas wanted to capture a crisper flower but he also wanted to capture the entire flower and the early moments are focused on the green stem and leaves. Then to make sure that the wearer doesn’t necessarily identify it as a specific flower M. Morillas uses a mix of synthetic and natural floral notes to create a hybrid perfumed flower which has never seen life in any greenhouse or garden. It is this supernatural flower which makes FlowerbyKenzo such an interesting example within its genre.
The first fleeting moments of FlowerbyKenzo are a fabulous green stemminess. It is the smell I associate with trimming the stems of cut roses to put them in a vase. I think this was M. Morillas’ intent to sort of let the wearer experience the stem before getting to the supernatural bloom on top. The natural ingredients are violet, hawthorn and rose. To this is added hedione and cyclosal the synthetic versions of jasmine and cyclamen respectively. Once these are all together in the heart of FlowerbyKenzo they form something which smells completely floral but a collage of the ingredients chosen by M. Morillas. It is another case where spending too much time analyzing the components destroys the effect trying to be created. After so many years wearing this I can now just let the floral accord make me smile without trying to pick it apart. The finale is a slightly soapy musk cocktail over amber and vanilla.
FlowerbyKenzo has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
FlowerbyKenzo in its very elegant glass cylinder which looks like a poppy can be found at most discount perfume sites for less than $30/oz. I think it is one of the forgotten trailblazers of perfumery and if you’re looking for a different kind of floral than what you’re finding in the current marketplace give FlowerbyKenzo a try I think it will be the alternative you’re looking for.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.
The 1920’s and The Lost Generation make up one of my favorite eras. Not only from a historical perspective but also that of societal change. I would say that it would take until the 1960’s before society would undergo a similar change driven by the youth of the time. It seems that perfumer Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes has also become interested in this time and place. Her interest was piqued by working on her homage to Zelda Fitzgerald called Zelda which came out last year. Ms. Waddington began to delve into the perfumed history of the time and also began to wonder what Zelda might have worn. The 1920’s were great years for perfumery with Ernest Daltroff’s work at Caron right at the top of the class. Ms. Waddington came to the conclusion that Caron Bellodgia from 1927 would be Zelda’s choice.
Caron Bellodgia was M. Daltroff’s carnation-centric floral on a base of sandalwood and musk. For her re-interpretation, Fiore di Bellagio, Ms. Waddington adds some well-chosen additions to the florals from Bellodgia to create modern perfume with the inspiration of M. Daltroff’s classic. All of the ingredients present in Bellodgia are found in Fiore di Bellagio. Ms. Waddington carefully chooses some new additions like citrus on top, gardenia in the heart, and resins and vanilla in the base. All of these extra notes work very well and never disturb the 1920’s vibe Ms. Waddington is attempting.
The same ylang ylang Belodgia opens with is in Fiore di Bellagio. Ms. Waddington decides to add a green shrubbery accord along with lemon. The lemon in particular adds depth and contrast to the ylang ylang. This opens onto a floral blockbuster of a heart. The carnation is front and center but it is just part of a floral fusillade of gardenia, jasmine, rose otto, orris, muguet, and violet. Ms. Waddington makes it so each of these notes can be picked out like concentrating on a single instrument in an orchestral work. While you can do that you are better served by enjoying the overall effect. Fiore di Bellagio feels like a throwback and it only becomes more pronounced in the base. Ms. Waddington trots out a beautiful aged sandalwood and civet to have the Bellodgia base notes present. She chooses to round those out with a rich vanilla to turn the sandalwood sweeter and creamier as well as a group of resinous notes which keeps the civet from being as feral as it could be.
Fiore di Bellagio has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Ms. Waddington has done a marvelous job creating a companion piece to Zelda. Both creations create a wonderful “out of time” sensation without feeling like museum pieces. If you are a fan of Zelda or Retro Nouveau perfumes Fiore di Bellagio is one to put on your sampling list.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by En Voyage Perfumes.
One of Diana Vreeland’s quotable quotes was, “Style, all who have it share one thing: originality.” If you’re going to do a perfume line which carries the name of Diana Vreeland, originality should be a given. The new five fragrance Diana Vreeland line of perfumes which was creatively directed by her grandson Alexander Vreeland is almost entirely devoid of originality. Four of the five fragrances are routine reworks of popular styles of perfumes. Like a box checking exercise there’s an oriental, a rose, a tuberose, and an amber. They are all so forgettable and banal that it seems almost a crime they carry Ms. Vreeland’s name. They are all so unoriginal that as I started to try the fifth one Perfectly Marvelous I was already stifling my yawn. In a true contest of diminished expectations it is by far the best of a bad lot. As I wore it for a couple of days my attitude brightened somewhat toward it.
Perfumer Celine Barel was, according to the website, inspired by another of Ms. Vreeland’s quotes, “If it isn’t a passion, it isn’t burning, it isn’t on fire, you haven’t lived.” Mme Barel does not deliver a fire with Perfectly Marvelous but she does deliver something a bit different on a basic jasmine theme. She takes a few variations on well-understood tropes and makes Perfectly Marvelous the only one of this collection I could enjoy.
Diana Vreeland surrounded by red
Ms. Vreeland’s favorite color was red and she was known for the red décor of her home and her red nail polish. Another of the descriptors from the website was for Perfectly Marvelous to evoke red lacquered sandalwood. In that desire I think Mme Barel comes closer to the mark. She starts with a soft swirl of spices centered on pimento. The pimento is probably the most original ingredient used in all five perfumes in the collection. Mme Barel doesn’t squander it as she uses jasmine sambac as floral contrast. This version of jasmine is the kind with the indoles mostly neutered. Every time I wore this I wondered how much better this might have been with a bit of feral indole in the mix. What is here is pleasant and in place of the indole she uses cashmeran to add its very polite muskiness along with sandalwood. The cashmeran feels too proper for a trailblazer like Ms. Vreeland.
Perfectly Marvelous has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
Perfectly Marvelous suffers from a distinct desire to play it safe something which can be used to describe the other four perfumes in the line. At least in the case of Perfectly Marvelous Mme Barel was allowed one tiny moment to allow Ms. Vreeland to channel some originality her way. It makes Perfectly Marvelous sort of original which is a very sad thing to say about something which carries Diana Vreeland’s name.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples I received at Sniffapalooza Fall Ball.
One of my favorite musical memories was standing on a hill next to the South Stage at Woodstock 1994. As I’ve mentioned many times I was an original punk during the 1970’s and early 80’s but it had faded. The next band scheduled for the stage was a trio from California called Green Day. I had worn out the cassette of their debut album “Dookie” by this mid-August day. I turned to my two friends and said, “This might be the day punk comes back.” Over the next hour Green Day took the stage ripped through their set while engaging in a mud fight. Also notable was in the middle of the musical chaos a security guard mistook bassist Mike Dirnt for a stage invader and swept his legs out from underneath him breaking some of his teeth. He got up and without missing a beat continued shredding his bass. From that moment I knew punk was back.
Green Day post Woodstock 1994 set Mike Dirnt in the middle showing off his chipped teeth.
Green Day is lead singer and guitar Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tre Cool. Like the best bands they have evolved over the past twenty years. I am very happy to see that they are nominated to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year at their first opportunity. When punk first came around it burned itself out within ten years. Since its rebirth in 1994 it has stormed along for the last twenty years and I believe it has much to do with the success of Green Day.
Green Day in 2014
Off of that momentum from Woodstock the band would have a spectacular five years of success releasing three more albums in that time. Then they took a well-deserved break. When they returned to the studio in 2004 I think they produced one of the great albums of the 21st century, “American Idiot”. American Idiot was the first punk rock opera in the tradition of other rock operas of the past as it follows its musical protagonist Jesus of Suburbia through his life. It was a scathing indictment of America at that time. It hearkened back to the disillusioned youth of England that spawned the punk rock movement in the first place. The title song encapsulates all of this as it is very punk in its lyrics but the band has gone from a stripped down sound to something very much more powerful and together. As much as I adored Dookie I listen to American Idiot frequently because it is one of my favorite contemporary releases.
American Idiot would be adapted to become a proper Broadway musical and played for a little over a year in 2010-2011. Billie Joe Armstrong played in the cast for a few of the performances and also appeared on some of the show’s touring dates.
There have been four more releases since American Idiot and while the sound continues to change underneath it all is still the snarl and crack of the three young men I saw re-start punk rock in 1994. I really hope to see them inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year I think they deserve it.
One of the more common questions I get is, “Can perfume go bad?” The answer to that is yes. The corollary to that question is one of the more pervasive myths as I often will get the follow-up, “How long will my perfume last?” The answer to that is not as simple but in >95% of perfume on the market if you store it properly the answer is for a very long time. Perfume is not like milk and does not spoil after a set amount of time no matter what.
It is the first question which leads to the inaccurate assumption of the second. You can find a bottle of perfume which smells bad, or off, but it probably has nothing to do with time and much more to do with how it was handled. There are three enemies of perfume in the bottle; temperature, light, and oxygen.
If a perfume is stored at elevated temperature it will cause many of the more volatile components, usually the top notes, to evaporate. This leaves the less volatile notes behind and that completely changes the smell. This can happen very quickly if you keep the perfume above 90F/32C as things like aldehydes will be gone very quickly. Store your perfume below 65F/18F and this doesn’t happen very quickly. A perfume stored at this temperature will still have much of what you enjoyed when you first bought it.
Light, particularly sunlight, is the real enemy of perfume. Sunlight is ultraviolet radiation and many of the molecules used in perfumery can react with UV radiation and chemically change to something less pleasant to smell. If you store your perfume on a windowsill which gets direct sunlight this process can happen pretty fast. Keep your perfume out of the sunlight and it really doesn’t happen at all. Regular fluorescent light doesn’t have the same effect as sunlight and while I would still recommend keeping your perfume out of the light entirely it is the sun that does the most damage.
The first two things can easily be controlled by anyone just storing their perfume properly. The last thing which will have an effect is oxygen. The presence of oxygen happens as you use your perfume. The more you use it the more of that empty space in the bottle contains oxygen from the air. Now where temperature and sunlight can damage a perfume fairly rapidly oxygen does it much slower. One reason is the air in the bottle is only interacting with the surface of the liquid in the bottle. That is a very small surface for things to be happening. Compare that to light or temperature which interact with all of the liquid in the bottle. If there is any slight truth to the idea of an expiration date it is probably that the more you use a fragrance the more you keep adding oxygen and allowing for it to slowly interact with the perfume. Let me stress again this is a very slow process, we are talking years not months.
The answer to the question “Does perfume have a definitive expiration date?” is “No!” Any perfume you will have for a very long time will eventually change. That is a process which will take many years before it is apparent. So don’t feel like you need to use your favorite perfume up before it spoils that is just a myth.