I’ve been using an old-fashioned double edge razor to shave for a little over ten years now. I finally kicked the habit of the multi-blade monstrosities and have never looked back. In truth my morning shave is where I get my first fragrance stimuli of the day. I don’t have as many shaving creams as I do perfume but there is a whole cabinet stacked high with little pots of different scented creams. I can say that before my shave I might be considering one perfume for the day and after my mood has entirely changed. The smell of shaving products and hair products remind me of my trips to the barber’s with my father to get a crew cut. I invoke the barber shop description when describing fougeres quite often. All of this had me very interested in the new Maison Martin Margiela Replica At the Barber’s.
Louise Turner (Photo: Rui Camilo)
The Maison Martin Margiela Replica line is all about re-creating a specific place and time. This particular barber shop is in Madrid circa 1992. I’m not sure I get the Madrid part but the barber shop is completely realized by perfumer Louise Turner. The hot towels, the herbal shaving cream, the lavender water, and the sweet hair wax are all here. Ms. Turner captures each of the facets to create a virtual barbershop accord.
At the Barber’s assembles itself very rapidly and I would say it doesn’t really have a development so much as an assembling of the parts of the accord. Ms. Turner keeps it very simple and At the Barber’s is all the better for it. Basil and lavender are what I first notice and within minutes there is a hot cotton accord of white musks followed by the coumarin-laden sweetness of tonka bean. Each of these calls out to a specific part of the environment named but together they form a delightfully realistic accord.
At the Barber’s has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Of any of the Replica line, so far, At the Barber’s is the most straightforward replication of the name on the bottle. As I said I don’t get the Madrid and I’m not sure you couldn’t have chosen any year because this is just the smell of a classic barber shop no matter what the year. At the Barber’s is a true replica of my barber shop experience as a child and I’ll always insert Miami 1966 when I wear it. If you are a fan of old style fougeres it will cost you a bit more than two bits for this shave and a haircut but it is well worth it.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Barney’s.
Today’s perfume cliché was last year’s game changing raw material. One raw material, Norlimbanol, has followed this trajectory from its early exciting use in 2001 to today’s overused woody basenote. From a chemical point of view there are a couple of interesting aspects about its structure.
One is that the structure you see above (+)-Norlimbanol is one of the most powerful woody notes in all of perfumery. If you just change the geometry by taking the bonds which have the solid wedge or the dashed wedge and reverse all three of them so the solid wedges are now dashed and the dashed wedge is now solid. You have (-)-Norlimbanol. So it is the same structure but the solid wedges are coming out of the page and the dashed wedges are going behind the page. These two structures are what are called enantiomers. They are mirror images of each other. That enantiomers have dramatically different properties is not just confined to perfume. This phenomenon extends to drug discovery as well. There are drugs where one enantiomer has the positive effect and the other enantiomer causes a bad side effect. Separation chemistry has evolved so much that separating these isomers has become easy and it allows for a chemist to isolate the specific enantiomer with the desired character almost at will. This is why even though it is a single enantiomer it is one of the more economical ingredients to be found in perfumery.
Norlimbanol was discovered by Firmenich chemists and patented in 2000. In 2001 perfumer Olivier Cresp would use it in two of the best designer perfumes ever released. M. Cresp didn’t just use Norlimbanol by itself he mixed a potent mix of Norlimbanol and two other synthetics Ambrox and Z-11. The two perfumes this mix was used in were Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue and Paco Rabanne Black XS. If the idea of strong long-lasting woody bases has become a cliché these were the two perfumes which popularized the concept. Nowadays Norlimbanol is often used by itself and because it has a great longevity and projection perfumers add it in because they believe this is what consumers want. I would say that the perfumer who takes the time to balance it out with other raw materials to deliver a specific effect can still use Norlimbanol effectively and creatively. Unfortunately those perfumes are few and far between especially on the department store counter. Next time you are there take a sniff of Light Blue or Black XS and keep in mind how Norlimbanol is used there. Then pick up any other perfume next to it that has a woody base and you will instantly see the difference.
Norlimbanol may have become trite due to overuse but it is still one of the most versatile and interesting synthetics on the perfumer’s palette.
While the three new releases from Amber Jobin’s Aether Arts Perfume were my first new perfumes of 2015 I can’t say I didn’t know they were on their way. Ms. Jobin like so many of her compatriots in the independent perfume world shares her thoughts on how her new designs are coming along online. Ms. Jobin’s posts give us a peek into her creative process and I always like taking my first sniff knowing a bit about how the perfume came to be. The two I am reviewing here Magic Mushroom and Love for 3 Oranges were Ms. Jobin’s forays into gourmand and eau de cologne territory.
Magic Mushroom seems like it should be a natural companion to the other new 2015 perfume Holy Hemp! Instead Ms. Jobin was after another mood altering substance to build this mushroom, chocolate. She takes cocoa absolute which, instead of adding the slightly dusty quality of cocoa, it forms a more viscous base of melted chocolate. Floating on that metaphorical pool are freshly harvested mushrooms with the earth still clinging to them. On the days I wore this I kept imagining the weirdest chocolate fountain with mushrooms floating in the bowl at the bottom. Ms. Jobin describes Magic Mushroom as an earthy gourmand and, especially in the first part of the development, it is exactly what this perfume delivers. She leavens the rich opening with a bouquet of jasmine and orris. It adds a bit of high harmonics to a perfume which has been all bass to this point. Coffee and tobacco absolute return Magic Mushroom to the lower register and transform it into something trending more sweet as the chocolate has the upper hand over the final phase. Magic mushroom has 8-10 hour longevity and slight sillage due to being extrait strength.
Love for 3 Oranges was inspired by Prokofiev’s opera of the same name. The opera was staged to be a cross between Commedia dell’arte and Surrealism. Needless to say it flew over most audiences' heads when first performed in the 1920’s. As Surrealism rose in prominence so too did the opera and it has become one of the staples of the opera company repertory. Ms. Jobin heard about the staging in 1988 which provided the audience with Scratch n’ Sniff cards to go along with the action on stage. One of those dots was the scent of oranges which was matched to fairy princesses emerging from giant oranges as if they were cocoons. Mixed into all of this were memories of Ms. Jobin’s memories of her grandmother’s orange trees at her home in Florida. You will be unsurprised to know the Florida boy in me was particularly interested in that.
Amber Jobin accepting her 2014 Art & Olfaction Award
She has subtitled the fragrance “Flower, Fruit & Tree” to indicate she wanted to capture an orange tree where the orange blossoms and the fruit were all growing at the same time. By choosing to go with an eau de cologne architecture at extrait strength Ms. Jobin eschewed the surreal aspect and instead went for a “whole body” approach to capture that tree with all three phases in it which describe the three phases the perfume goes through on my skin. It opens with that lush juicy orange smell. The one I remember from my Florida childhood eating one while sitting on a limb in the tree. I also remember the smell of the tree when it was full of blossoms as that was the smell of Spring to me when living in a part of the world where it might always seem Spring. Ms. Jobin uses a high concentration of orange blossom and it really brings out the creamy quality of the raw material. Most often it is used as a light bit of floralcy. Ms. Jobin has to use a lot so it can co-exist with the orange from the top. Her success is that I would imagine myself in my tree at both times I described at the same time. Getting orange and orange blossom right is easy the smell of an orange tree is not so easy. It is woody but it also has a bit of an acrid edge to it and Ms. Jobin’s orange tree accord captures that. She blends some green notes with woody base notes. This would not have been a trivial task, I think. This is a simple perfume but it is not a simple to make perfume. Ms. Jobin shows her skill throughout in getting all of the players to create the effect she wanted. In the end for this Florida boy she has spectacularly captured any orange tree I have ever known. Love for 3 Oranges has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Ms. Jobin continues to shine brightly as one of the best new independent perfuers we have and all three of her new perfumes have begun my 2015 on a high note.
Editor's Note: My review of the other 2015 release Holy Hemp! can be found here.
The winner of first new perfumes received in 2015 were the three new perfumes by Amber Jobin for her Aether Arts Perfume label. It has been a winning year for Ms. Jobin as last year she won one of the inaugural Art & Olfaction Awards in the Artisan Category. There has been no perfumer who has started with quite this much momentum in years. Not only were these the first new perfumes I would start 2015 with they show the nearly fully formed artist Ms. Jobin has become in just two short years. I am going to review all three of the new perfumes today and tomorrow. I’m going to start with Holy Hemp! because it follows on her previous exploration of the use of the cannabis note in her other perfumes A Roll in the Grass & Burner Perfume No. 5-Incense Indica. It also is very illustrative of why Ms. Jobin has stood out among the newer independent perfumers.
Particularly for a lot of the new independent perfumers who send me samples that I don’t end up reviewing the main reason is they have combined a bunch of nice smelling ingredients into something that smells nice but has no soul. Ms. Jobin has spent time studying perfumery under the tutelage of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. What that means is really understanding not just how to build a perfume around a specific note but how to shape that note to achieve a desired effect by altering the concentration and/or the accompanying notes. This process requires patience and a clear vision. Ms. Jobin seems to have both of these attributes.
Her first cannabis perfume A Roll in the Grass concentrated on the way cannabis smells when it is smoked the skanky smoky smell was front and center. Ms. Jobin paired it with a fresh cut grass accord as contrast and it made the name of the perfume a double entendre. In Incense Indica Ms. Jobin imagined the sticky concentrated smell of the buds as a substitute for frankincense or other resins. She allows the resinous quality to rise from out of the smoke and Incense Indica pivots beautifully about a third of the way through its development. Holy Hemp! is the smell of the entire plant as not only the leaves and the buds but also the stalks. There is a wonderful vegetal quality underpinning the rest of what is a very luminous green perfume.
Holy Hemp! opens on an herbal note of Holy Basil also called Tulsi. The Holy Basil adds that vegetal foundation I was speaking of. Ms. Jobin bleeds in just the right amount of galbanum to support that accord of green and growing things. She chooses to add Cananga which is a fruity floral oil obtained when the flowers which produce ylang-ylang oil are distilled. Cananga is a much more transparent version of ylang-ylang as it is both less floral and a bit fruitier. In Holy Hemp! it provides a focal point to find the fruity facets within cannabis. Once you’re led in that direction by the Cananga you almost can’t help but smell it. This all comes to an end with a balsamic base.
Holy Hemp! has 8-10 hour longevity and very little sillage because it is at extrait strength.
Holy Hemp! completes a trinity of cannabis perfumes by Ms. Jobin; but most importantly it shows a young independent perfumer working with an assured artistic aesthetic rare within this community.
Duisclsoure: This review was based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfumes.
Like the search for a signature scent many of us tend to settle on one alcoholic drink that we order when we are out to dinner or at a party. These drinks are the kind made up of ingredients found at any bar from the one on the corner to the Rainbow Room at the top of the Chrysler Building. Seven and seven, rum and coke, gin and tonic, scotch and soda, screwdriver, or martini; I would venture anyone who drinks that is reading this has had one or more of those. I would also go further that there is one of those which you ordered on multiple nights out. My signature drink has been The White Russian.
The Dude as played by Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski
I started drinking it during the disco nights of the late 1970’s; most of my contemporaries were drinking Tequila Sunrises but I found those too sweet because of the grenadine. Then one night a friend ordered a White Russian and I asked for a sip and that became my drink. It would fade from popularity at about the same time as disco died. Except I still ordered it. It would come back into favor after the release of the 1998 movie The Big Lebowski. The character The Dude played by Jeff Bridges drinks White Russians. The movie is a confirmed cult classic and now the White Russian is a cult classic too. Whenever I order it these days it almost always elicits a Big Lebowski comment of some kind.
The White Russian was first introduced in an ad, seen above, in The Boston Globe on March 21, 1965. The makers of Southern Comfort had recently introduced a coffee liqueur called Coffee Southern. Like any good new product they wanted to entice customers to buy by giving out some drink recipes. The recipe is as simple as it gets 1 part vodka, 1 part coffee liqueur and one part cream. As with all simple drinks there are variations and as I’ve become more interested in the more complicated cocktails there have been times where I have experimented with some interesting off shoots. One of my favorites is to replace the cream with Bailey’s Irish Cream. Just be careful because that is three shots of liquor which goes down very easily. When I want to change it up and make it less potent I substitute the vodka with amaretto and you have a Toasted Almond. The new breed of vanilla infused vodkas is the perfect choice for a White Russian or any of the variations. After many years of drinking them I will share the current favorite formula.
The Colognoisseur White Russian
1 part vanilla infused vodka
1 part Kahlua Peppermint Mocha liqueur
1 part half and half
Pour all of the ingredients over ice and stir thoroughly.
See simplicity itself. If you’re still looking for your signature drink give The White Russian a try. At the very least you’ll learn a lot of about The Big Lebowski. “Careful, man, there's a beverage here!”
When I look at the way too many bottles of perfume that I own it is interesting to see where there are concentrations of multiple bottles. One node within my collection is formed around sandalwood. One problem with the way I started my sandalwood perfume experiences was with Crabtree & Evelyn Extract of Mysore Sandalwood. It is like starting to drink champagne by having Dom Perignon. I have the very slight remains of a bottle of this remaining and it is gorgeous but it is what it says on the label an extract of Mysore sandalwood. To be a Gold Standard my choice has to be a perfume with the sandalwood as the most prominent note. There are many great sandalwood perfumes and if you want to see others that I considered, read My Favorite Things- Sandalwood article of last year. I said in that piece that Xerjoff XJ 17/17 Richwood is the best sandalwood perfume I own, which makes it my Gold Standard for sandalwood.
Richwood benefits from owner and creative director Sergio Momo’s fanatical desire for the finest natural ingredients to be used in his fragrances. There are a number of Xerjoff fragrances which use these unique notes, in the hands of a talented perfumer, and display them as the singular beauties that they are.
For Richwood perfumer Jacques Flori was given a supply of Mysore sandalwood to work with to compose Richwood. M. Flori studied his central raw material and then surrounded it with complementary notes which would point the wearer’s senses towards all of the fantastic depth inherent in Mysore sandalwood.
Richwood starts with the sticky green quality of blackcurrant buds and grapefruit. It is a slightly sulfurous attention getter and as it glazes over the sandalwood it exposes a bit of a harsh edge that Mysore sandalwood has, especially in the early moments. Rose is the partner for the heart of Richwood and it gives a floral underpinning for the more wood part of sandalwood. These two phases develop fairly rapidly down to where Richwood lingers. The base is at first patchouli along with the sandalwood and this turns it creamy and smooth. M. Flori later on adds in coumarin and vanilla to pull out the sweet facets and finish Richwood as a comfort scent.
Richwood has 24 hour longevity and prodigious sillage.
Richwood never fails to thrill me when I wear it. I feel as if I am swathed in an aura of sandalwood of the highest quality. There are many great sandalwood perfumes but Richwood is the one I think is The Gold Standard.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
If there is anything which is going to harm perfumery in the long term it is not going to be the usual suspects of draconian regulations or astronomical prices. The death of perfume is going to come with the incessant homogenization going on in the mass-market sector. The perfume business which is making new perfumes in this sector has shunted aside creativity and promoted the focus group. By gathering average perfume wearers and letting them in to the creative process they end up creating perfume afraid to be anything but not to offend any sensibility. It also has the effect of making all of them smell the same by recycling older tropes from more ambitious earlier releases. The final decision on what goes in the bottle is not coming from a creative director with a specific vision. It is instead coming from averaging the results of questionnaires and picking the one which appeals most broadly. Except every great perfume which has ever existed has always made a bold statement about what it was and dared an audience to come to it instead of the other way around. One of the first perfumes I can remember doing that was 1977’s Yves St. Laurent Opium. If there was a perfume of the disco era Opium was it. Because so many women wore it there were many mornings following a night out where I could easily pick up the sweet vanilla laden base notes on my clothes. Opium was a trendsetter for years.
Now in 2015 there is a new flanker of Opium called Black Opium. The press release claims it is an Opium for a contemporary Rock Chick. The ad campaign features model Edie Campbell looking very Joan Jett while spraying on Black Opium. Except while I know the younger generation makes a habit of looking unimpressed about anything the look on Ms. Campbell’s face borders on apathy. It’s almost like there should be a thought bubble above her head going, “This is a quick buck.” When I received the press materials prior to receiving my sample I found it all very incongruous. Within days something even more ominous would create more concern. Creative Director of Yves St. Laurent Hedi Slimane posted on Twitter, followed up with a press release, disavowing any involvement in the creation of Black Opium. Who was minding the store? I am not sure but after wearing Black Opium it feels solidly like the product of a thousand focus groups.
The Creative Directors? (Photo: From the TV Series "Mad Men")
A group of four perfumers are credited with Black Opium, Honorine Blanc, Olivier Cresp, Nathalie Lorson, and Marie Salamagne. That is a great team of artists who if left to their own devices under appropriate creative direction could make a great “Rock Chick” perfume. What they have produced is something generic with aspects of hundreds of fruity florals and gourmands of the past all smooshed together into something afraid to take a stand on anything for fear of offending.
Black Opium opens with pink pepper, very sweet manadarin, and crisp pear matched with mimosa. It is modern fruity floral territory being trod upon for the umpteenth time. It eventually evolves towards a bland attempt at coffee, vanilla, and patchouli over cedar. Clean woody gourmand territory, encountered many times previously.
Black Opium has 10-12 hour longevity and prodigious sillage, probably the only thing it shares with the original.
Black Opium is not a bad perfume. It is a safe perfume. It is a perfume engineered through social means to appeal to many. It is devoid of character and as boring as Ms. Campbell looks in the advert. If the creative directors for the designers don’t have the opportunity to apply their brand vision to the perfumes which carry that designer name this will work like Continental Drift, in reverse, and every new release will eventually smell the same creating an olfactory Pangea. As one who loved the way the original Opium defined a moment in time via scent it is sad to see an opportunity for Black Opium squandered for safety’s sake.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Yves St. Laurent Beaute.
The new Raymond Matts perfume line calls their fragrances “aura de parfum”. The phrase does a really good job of describing some of the entries in the collection. With Jarro and Sunah the name is not only a descriptor but the perfumes themselves formed a transparent aura around me as I wore them. In an e-mail exchange with Raymond Matts he described the way he works with his perfumers, “I never brief perfumers actually! When I start a fragrance I sit with and go over sensations, emotions, experiences, textures with colors I want the fragrance to be. We then will discuss notes and will create three different accords representing top, middle and back.” Then he told me they will go through 200-300 modifications searching for just the right balance to realize the shared vision. This shows the dedication of both creative director and perfumer as trying to find that perfect balance between the synthetics and natural ingredients can be difficult and I think many other brands would have given up earlier and accept a less-than-perfect formula. Both of these show the dedication to quality and collaboration.
Jarro is signed by Christophe Laudamiel. If I asked most to describe M. Laudamiel based on his perfumes in one word I am guessing I would get a lot of variations on edgy or dark. I knew he was the perfumer behind three of the seven entries in the collection. If I was asked to pick the three he worked on blindly Jarro would not have been one because it seems too light. Mr. Matts also addressed that in his e-mail and said, “Christophe and I have been working together for many years. He is dark and I'm not so this makes for interesting collaborations.” Jarro is a burst of optimism wrapped up in green brilliance. M. Laudamiel constructs complex accords and Jarro opens with two of those. The citrus one is that bit of sunshine in a jar as there is a complement of citrus facets all shining like sunbeams. Matched to this is a green aquatic accord composed of calone and labdanum among other ingredients. This is one of those classic perfume accords but M. Laudamiel puts his spin on it by keeping it on the light side. The green deepens with muguet as the focal point in the middle part of Jarro’s development. M. Laudamiel enhances the hidden spiciness of muguet by using it in significant quantities and complementing it with other spices so it can’t be overlooked. The base is Ambrox and woods; and in keeping with the whole tone of the construction it stays lighter. Jarro has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
As Mr. Matts mentioned he has worked with M. Laudamiel for many years. I think he has probably worked with perfumer Jean-Claude Delville for a shorter period of time. One of the pieces of information that tells me this might be the case is Mr. Matts shared the number of modifications that went into refining the concepts that would eventually become Sunah; over a thousand. If I admired the stick-to-it-iveness of 200 modifications more than a thousand had to be frustrating until the right one emerges out of the pile of flawed vials. What caused all of this olfactory angst was an attempt to make a saffron focused perfume which also was soft. M. Delville opens with a contrast of tart and crisp with citrus and apple. It is a high-pitched downbeat which then rises up the scale as mimosa forms an opaque fruity floral early phase. Sunah transforms as the saffron rises to prominence in the heart. M. Delville allows the saffron to eventually exude an exoticism at the middle. M. Delville then chooses a mix of woody synthetics which are layered precisely to effect a pillow soft base for this intense saffron to lay upon. It is this which must have have occupied Mr. Matts and M. Delville during many of those one thousand modifications. To get this just right. To keep the synthetics all purring together without one rising up to be disruptive all while the saffron still exudes its influence. This effort really shows as Sunah moves from the fruity floral into this exotic end phase and it is completely fascinating to wear. Sunah has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I really like both of these for the effort the perfumers put in with Mr. Matts. In both cases I think that effort shows in the finished product. Sunah especially for the effect of saffron on top of soft woods is brilliantly realized.
Discalosure: this review was based on samples provided by Raymond Matts.
One of the benefits of being able to look back and find interesting moments in a perfumer’s history is I have the benefit of perfect vision when looking backwards. One of the moments I realized was a real watershed moment in masculine perfumes happened under the aegis of two of the best designer perfumers working. As I’ve covered previously in the late 1980’s men’s fragrance was beginning a shift towards the aquatic and the fresh. Two perfumers who had been working together for about five years were not going to let it go down without offering an alternative. The three men’s perfumes Francois Demachy and Jacques Polge had a hand in from 1987-1990 were Chanel pour Monsieur Concentree, Tiffany for Men, and Chanel Egoiste. Messrs. Demachy and Polge would offer a less burly fragrance that wasn’t quite as aquatic or clean, as the burgeoning trend towards that style was beginning to dominate the market.
They combined on adapting the original Chanel pour Monsieur composed in 1955 by Henri Robert into the Concentree version in 1987. This was a follow-up to their only previous masculine release 1981’s Chanel Antaeus. Where Antaeus was the scent of a player circa 1980’s; with Pour Monsieur Concentree they were trying to define a certain more refined masculine style. If the aquatics were for casual perfume wearing. Pour Monsieur Concentree was for wearing once you came in from the sun. Messrs. Demachy and Polge took the original and intensified it. It was a divisive move as some think it throws the balance off and turns it cloying. I have the opposite opinion. They upped the central note of cardamom until it goes from just a hint of green into something that is no mere trifle at the heart of Pour Monsieur Concentree. This enhanced cardamom follows an energetic lemon opening. This opening would return in 1996’s Chanel Allure. The base was a classic chypre finish but again taken up a couple notches in intensity. I believe they took what was a traditional cologne and beefed it up into something which has much more presence.
Two years later they would return to the themes of Pour Monsieur but while being asked to create a perfume for the jewelry brand Tiffany. 1989’s Tiffany for Men seems like what Messrs. Demachy and Polge wanted to do with Pour Monsieur Concentree but were handcuffed into reprising the original set of notes. Freed of those constraints they would create a uniquely masculine Oriental. They start with bergamot to provide the citrus but juniper berry and coriander provide a bit of a gin accord to go with it. This time instead of just taking cardamom and upping the concentration to create green they take geranium and galbanum to create a seriously green floral heart. The base notes of nutmeg and pepper over a very creamy sandalwood are a fabulous finish. This is one of my favorite men’s perfumes of all-time because it really does have it all. The fresh opening into an intense green down to a spicy woody finish. I knew I didn’t want to smell like the ocean I wanted to smell like Tiffany’s.
In 1990 they would bring all of this together to create the unforgettable Chanel Egoiste. Again they open with citrus but the choice this time is the sweeter tangerine paired with a pale rosewood. Those rose facets will lead into rose in the heart which is enhanced by the presence of coriander. The coriander defines the spiciness underlying a great rose. For the base notes sandalwood is here but they choose to go sweet with vanilla and they use the botanical musk of ambrette seeds to provide a much more delicate muskiness to the final moments. Egoiste is considered to be one of the great masculine masterpieces and continues to be held in high regard.
These three perfumes provided a counterpoint to the perfume trends which wer ein flux. That I can still look back and laud them shows that Messrs. Demachy and Polge succeeded in giving men of a certain aesthetic an alternative.
One of the best perfumed collaborations of the past few years has been the work perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has done in conjunction with various exhibits at the Denver Art Museum. For these shows she creates a collection of perfumes to go with what is being displayed. This time the exhibit which inspired the perfume is “Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century”. Perhaps more than any exhibit she has been asked to make accompanying scents for this one tickles two of Ms. Hurwitz’s creative zones. The idea of capturing jewels as fragrance is a long standing inspiration for perfumers. Ms. Hurwitz is also a jewelry designer herself. I know that the history of both of her creative outlets has always been a foundation for her to create contemporaneously. For The Brilliant Collection both sets of design skills as perfumer and jeweler come together. Three of the four perfumes are inspired by pieces and the women who wore them from the exhibit. The fourth is a bit of fantasy but still remains on theme.
Deco Diamonds was inspired by the Flamingo Brooch seen above worn by Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor. Ms. Hurwitz goes with the set of hairspray aldehydes cut with galbanum and peach. This all leads into a white flower fusillade of indoles with jasmine, gardenia, and tuberose providing deep floral flares. It all ends on a chypre base of oakmoss, vetiver, civet, and ambergris. All together Deco Diamonds delivers on having a real Art Deco feel. Ms. Hurwitz knows how to channel the great perfumes of the 1920’s as she creates new perfumes nearly 100 years later.
Rubis Rose was inspired by the necklace above given to Elizabeth Taylor by Mike Todd. When he gave it to La Liz she had no mirror so she leaned over the pool to see the reflection. The perfume is more of a study of just the rubies as Ms. Hurwitz equates rose with the red gemstone. She pairs her rose with a deep raspberry note sticking with the red theme. It is those two notes which predominate throughout most of Rubis Rose’s development. There is a bit of pink pepper on top and there is a bit more incense and gaiac in the base. This is more evocative of the lavender-eyed beauty than any of the perfumes which bear her name.
Jacinthe de Sapphir was inspired by a flawless blue sapphire worn by Queen Marie of Romania in 1922. As with Rubis Rose Ms. Hurwitz is working on a perfume equivalent of matching colors. This time she is using hyacinth as the central note. The opening is the smell of fresh earth just after the winter thaw as spring finally takes hold. Then like a time-lapse film she zooms us forward a few weeks to the hyacinth in full bloom accompanied by rose de mai, tuberose, and narcissus. This is a deeply mesmerizing floral that feels like you are falling in to that sapphire pictured above. A balsamic finish with some civet added rounds it off perfectly.
Gold Smoke by etafaz
Fumee D’Or is what Ms. Hurwitz imagines a Paris goldsmith’s workshop should smell like. This is my favorite of the four because Ms. Hurwitz pulls together a disparate number of some of my favorite materials. On top a leather accord is combined with the more metallic aldehydes. The early going has an almost dangerous sensuality to it making me think this goldsmith has an interesting private life. The core of the leather accord is a huge amount of birch tar. This is a throwback to the great leather perfumes of the past. She them picks a skanky jasmine to pick up the lascivious leather from the top notes. She finally brings it home with civet in the base. There is never a moment during this where it doesn’t feel like Fumee D’Or is not oozing a kind of unctuous carnality. This is the least evocative of jewelry but I think that was what Ms. Hurwitz was going for.
All four of The Brilliant Collection perfumes have 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.
As she has done in the past Ms. Hurwitz has provided a fantastic scented tour through an exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. The Brilliant Collection lives up to its name on every level.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by DSH Perfumes.