As reliable as the first robin; when my mailbox starts to fill up with new rose perfumes it must be spring. Rose perfumes, when done well, carry a vivaciousness to them that matches the season of renewal. The other thing about rose perfumes is despite the hundreds of them out there a creative new life in a classic theme. The new L’Artisan Parfumeur Rose Privee is a lively new take on a rose fragrance.
Rose Privee is co-signed by longtime in-house perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour along with his apprentice Stephanie Bakouche. M. Duchaufour has made rose perfumes previously but I believe this is his first for L’Artisan. Also in the past it seems like he has been more partial to the Turkish rose. For Rose Privee he chooses Rose de Mai as the source of the titular note. Rose de Mai has a gorgeous gentle quality to it. M. Duchaufour and Mme Bakouche make sure that everything that is great about Rose de Mai is displayed throughout the development.
The perfumers choose an engaging grouping of top notes. They lead with a bit of fruitiness with mandarin. It doesn’t last long as it is fairly rapidly wrapped up in leaves of basil and violet as well as pierced by blackcurrant buds. That latter note has been employed a lot recently by M. Duchaufour. As always I am captivated by how he takes a specific raw material and can alter it seemingly at will to provide a specific effect. In Rose Privee the blackcurrant bud provides a bit of tart fruitiness with much less of the sticky green it often brings. As a whole the top notes provide a fresh vibe for the Rose de Mai to bloom within. The heart is that special rose given a foundation of carnation and magnolia for depth. What I like about Rose de Mai is it feels introverted at first but once it is coaxed out by other notes it flowers into power. That power sets it up to be the equal to the oakmoss-free chypre base. M. Duchaufour has been at the forefront of creating a chypre accord that will pass regulatory standards. The accord in Rose Privee shows there is no need to worry about the future of chypres plus he is teaching the skill to another perfumer. There is a bit of musk used to replace some of what the oakmoss provides but it really is its own contemporary chypre. Together with the Rose de Mai the final stages of Rose Privee are lovely.
Rose Privee has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Rose Privee is a perfect spring perfume. It has heft without being overwhelming. Despite it translating to Private Rose I don’t think anyone who wears it will want to keep it a secret.
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by L’Artisan Parfumeur.
This should have been a story for the Dead Letter Office series. Indult Paris released three perfumes at the beginning of 2007, Isvaraya, Manakara, and Tihota. A year later a fourth, Reve en Cuir would arrive and two years after that the brand would be out of business. The perfumes reached a sort of legendary kind of acclaim over the next few years. Then an angel appeared. One fan of the perfumes acquired the rights to the formulas and resurrected the line in 2013. Original perfumer Francis Kurkdjian ensured the new versions were identical to the original versions. All four perfumes in the collection are very good but for me there is one which stands out, Tihota.
Tihota is the word for sugar in Polynesian. M. Kurkdjian really keeps the construction simple as it is vanilla over a grouping of musks which make a skin accord. Over the years M. Kurkdjian has frequently explored multiple iterations of musk in his perfumes. Tihota is one of the rarer cases where he eschews the cleaner musks for the richer more sensual ones. This is a vanilla that also leaves behind the overly sweet versions that appeal to adolescents.
M. Kurkdjian uses a rich source of vanilla and he allows it to come to life over time. This is done by adding in each musk gradually. Early on the vanilla reminds me of vanilla bean custard. As the first musks appear it becomes more vanilla sugar cookie. Once the musks form the skin accord underneath the vanilla does not remind me of dessert, it leans much more carnal in nature. Another thing about this is many vanilla perfumes can be very intense and almost cloying. Tihota does not do that. Instead it creates an aura which radiates warmth and sensuality.
Tihota has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
It is very unique thing that something that fell off the radar completely has found its way back. It is even more unique to find its way back unchanged and unaltered. Everyone involved has treated these perfumes as the jewels that they are. Seek all of them out but if you are a vanilla lover start with Tihota.
Disclosure: This review based on a bottle I purchased in 2007 and a sample of the 2013 version provided by Luckyscent.
There are times most recently when I am presented with a marketing campaign for a new perfume brand where I can tell more time was spent on the publicity than the perfume. It has gotten so bad that the more elaborate the presentation the more my expectations plummet. It was with skepticism turned to maximum that I started to read through the materials from new independent perfume brand Euphorium Brooklyn. The founder of the line, Stephen Dirkes, has created a mythology around his perfumes where it is difficult to determine what is true and what is fiction. What was true for me was I had fun reading through it but I expected the perfumes to be not nearly as compelling. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Cilice and Wald the first two releases.
Based on the amount of fact-checking I could do I can’t really confirm whether any of this is true and the press materials mention it is a combination of fiction and non-fiction. So what comes next is straight out of those press materials. The brand is based on the story of the Euphorium Bile Works which was founded in Brooklyn in 1860. There were three perfumers attached to the enterprise Etienne Chevreuil, Christian Rosenkreuz, and Rudolph Komodo. They are represented in the logo as the stag, bear, and dragon respectively. Each of the perfumers will have one of their perfumes reproduced for the brand. Cilice is by M. Chevreuil and Wald is by M. Rosenkreuz. The third fragrance will be called Usar by M. Komodo. One final bit from the background is M. Komodo invented a process by which the fragrances induce euphoria called, wait for it, The Komodo Process.
As I said it was all great fun to read through but I have to give the team behind Euphorium Brooklyn credit Cilice and Wald live up to this fanciful tale. They have a fascinating roughhewn unfinished quality. Usually I find it irritating but maybe this time they wore me down with a Komodo Mind Trick. Both Cilice and Wald are very simple but they are also fun.
To give you an idea of the prose on the website here is the description of M. Chevreuil’s inspiration for Cilice, “Etienne sought to capture and convey the sensuality of the environment and intensity of emotion when a young nun is encountered in her cloistered cell. An intimate and ecstatic moment is observed as she becomes transcendent.” When you read that you might expect a cold stone cell infused with incense amid the leather bound books on the acolyte’s desk. That is exactly what Cilice delivers. There is no real development off of that mixture and that is what gives it a primal quality that I found particularly enjoyable. As for euphoria well this time The Komodo Process missed its target.
I can’t even begin to reproduce the story of M. Rosenkreuz’s inspiration for Wald. It is so broadly melodramatic that I couldn’t stop laughing. Wald is another of these forest milieu fragrances that a number of independent perfume brands have undertaken recently. Wald is a simple scentscape of a forest containing cedar and pine with a bit of smoke from a fire hanging in the boughs while the scent of the decomposition rises up to meet it. This time The Komodo Process maybe had its way with me as Wald really hit a sweet spot for me and I really enjoyed the time I spent with it.
Cilice and Wald are perfume oils and as such they have 8-10 hour longevity but almost no sillage.
These perfumes are not anything terribly original or unique. They are well done and by making them oils they allow a wearer to have something quite bold on without projecting it around the room. I am looking forward to the last in the trilogy, Usar, because M. Komodo should have his process finely tuned in that one. In the meantime if you find me out wearing Wald or Cilice you might be able to convince me about a great deal on a bridge.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Twisted Lily.
Editor's Note: If you want to check out the website here is the link. Be warned subtle it is not.
One of the more successful line of flankers has been those which have descended from the 1996 classic Thierry Mugler A*Men. The perfumer behind that creation, Jacques Huclier, has spent every year since 2008 designing a new version enhancing or adding to the classic formulation. A*Men has been a powerhouse perfume since its inception and most of the original members of the “Pure” collection have been heavy hitters as well. Last year’s A*Men Pure Wood showed a different aesthetic as it was surprisingly, and delightfully, softer than any of the previous A*Men flankers. I was wondering if that was going to be a singularity or the beginning of a trend. The latest, A*Men Ultra Zest, provides an answer.
One of the reasons I think this set of flankers has been so successful is M. Huclier has been the perfumer behind all of them. His intimate knowledge of the construction of A*Men makes him the most qualified to alter it without harm. That has been accomplished quite efficiently with Pure Coffee and Pure Malt, my preferred versions of A*Men when I am in the mood. Even so they are powerful perfumes with equally powerful projection. They are not something I wear to work. Pure Wood was constructed such that not only have I wore it to work but it is almost an ideal work fragrance because the power is controlled as M. Huclier dials down the gourmand base. For Ultra Zest M. Huclier got some help from fellow Givaudan perfumer Quentin Bisch. Ultra Zest is in a bright orange bottle and that is the foreshadowing of the composition of the perfume inside. This could have been called Pure Orange and it wouldn’t be far off the mark.
The opening of Ultra Zest is all about the orange but not the typical juicy orange. The perfumers use blood orange to add a bit more tart added to tangerine to keep it sweet but not as sweet as a traditional orange. This is all placed on a rapidly moving flying carpet of ginger. This makes the opening moments go by almost too fast. The flying carpet lands at a coffee shop as the citrus is surrounded by rich coffee notes. There is cinnamon and spearmint listed on the note list but I never detected them. The heart felt like the coffee heart of most A*Men iterations. The base is very similar to Pure Wood as the perfumers again make a much softer chocolate accord consisting of patchouli and tonka bean. As I wore Ultra Zest I was always wondering if it was going to ramp up in power or settle into a comfortable hum. It was definitely the latter.
A*Men Ultra Zest has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I am not sure why Thierry Mugler has decided to rein in the powerful nature of A*Men but it makes Ultra Zest perhaps the most versatile in the line. It is light enough to be worn to the office. It has enough presence for a night out. It has enough bright citrus character to be worn in warm weather. There might be entries which do any one of those things better but none of them do all of them as well. A*Men Ultra Zest is one you should add to your A*Men collection if you’re a fan. It is also one to try if you maybe weren’t a fan of the original and the earlier flankers. It is my favorite of the flankers since 2012’s Pure Havane.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample I purchased.
It is a curious thing when a song begins to stand for something diametrically opposed to the lyrics. There are many examples of this but it is always this time of year that makes me shake my head over the misuse of the 1973 hit by The O’Jays, “For the Love of Money”.
If you have watched television at all over the past month and don’t fast forward through the commercials you have heard the iconic bass line and the opening lyrics, “money, money, money, money….money” advertising income tax specialists H&R Block. If you’re a fan of the reality television show The Celebrity Apprentice the same combination provides the theme song to the series. In both of these cases the song is used to promote the actual love of money, as in greed, as a desirable thing. The sad thing is if they paid attention to more than the first sixty seconds of the song they would hear a song which speaks about the love of money as a bad thing. After talking about stealing from your brother or your mother, lying or beating some on up, or prostitution. The song concludes with the lyrics, “don’t let, don’t let, don’t let money rule you”. How a song preaching against the love of money has become the theme song for greed is fascinating to me. That people who extol the accumulation of wealth like Donald Trump use it makes me wonder what the song writers think about how their song has been used. I was unable to find a quote from any of them on the subject. It will remain a mystery.
When I looked up the song writing credits I found something which did make me smile because it seems the lyric writers walked the walk. As I already mentioned that bass line which runs throughout the song is maybe the most recognizable bass line in rock music. Bass player Anthony Jackson was fooling around with new equipment in the studio and running his bass line through a device called a phaser. A phaser takes a guitar line and transforms it. Mr. Jackson was already using a wah-wah pedal when the engineer took the bass line and put it through the phaser. Right there was when the bass line was born. What is special about it is Mr. Jackson was given co-songwriting credit with Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff who wrote the lyrics. Even they recognized the bass line was as important as any word being sung. It is not a common practice in the music business. What I think it shows is Mr. Gamble and Mr. Huff lived up to the lyrics they were singing over Mr. Jackson’s bass line. By allowing him songwriting credit he gets a residual check every time the song is played. So while H&R Block and Donald Trump might not “get it” at least Mr. Jackson is reaping the rewards of their ignorance. For the love of money, indeed.
If you say Hermes to most people they will respond with Birkin Bag or Scarves. While the leather and silk are what Hermes is more famous for; among perfume lovers it also produces some great fragrances. Since 2003 Hermes perfumes have become almost synonymous with in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena. M. Ellena has produced an impressive body of work but there were some other Hermes perfumes worth remembering from before his tenure. If you’re looking to dive into the brand here are five I think would be good starting points.
My introduction to Hermes came in a shower at a luxury resort in the mid 1980’s. There was this striking colored miniature blue bottle with my toiletries which had this incredible smell of oranges. After asking I found out it was Eau D’Orange Verte. Perfumer Francoise Caron makes a perfume which lives up to its name with a fabulous orange and for the verte, lily of the valley and oakmoss. I still wear this a lot every summer because it is so good.
In 2004 perfumers Nathalie Feisthauer and Ralf Schwieger would collaborate on a more briny take on citrus with Eau des Merveilles. Opening on a blast of orange and lemon which lead to an ambergris accord. It all settles on a balsamic vetiver base.
One of the great collections within the Hermes brand is the Un Jardin Collection composed by M. Ellena. Of the five in the collection my favorite is Un Jardin Sur Le Nil. This is M. Ellena at his most evocative as he captures a night spent next to the Nile. The top notes of grapefruit, tomato leaf, and carrot are still one of the most unique accords I’ve encountered. Together they form a vegetal green accord with a hint of sulfur. The heart is the smell of the river from lotus and calamus paired with the lush fruitiness of mango. The base is the best part as M. Ellena captures the smooth river stones as incense skirls across the wet surfaces. Every time I wear this I feel transported.
In 2006 M. Ellena created one of the great masculine perfumes of the 21st century in Terre D’Hermes. He placed a tart citrus top into a woody heart to end on another brilliantly constructed mineral accord. The grapefruit is rich and tart. The woodiness comes through a high percentage of aromachemical Iso E Super. This all ends on a parched earth accord. Terre D’Hermes was an instant classic from the very moment it debuted.
The other great collection within Hermes is M. Ellena’s Hermessences. These have often been described as M. Ellena’s olfactory haiku. He manages to create perfume with impact using a much abbreviated set of raw materials. That simplicity makes every one of the collection worth experiencing but the place to start is with 2011’s Santal Massoia. For this entry M. Ellena takes a candied coconut on top which segues into a creamy heart before getting to a transparent woody base of sandalwood and massoia wood.
Hermes is one of the best of the designer houses when it comes to perfumes and has shown their commitment to quality over the years. There is plenty to enjoy after trying the five above.
Disclosure: This review based on bottles I purchased.
When there is a changing of the guard it also attracts a level of scrutiny depending on the success of who is leaving and who is arriving. On the perfume side of Chanel, 2015 will mark that change from Jacques Polge to his son Olivier Polge. Over the past few months since the change has been announced there has been a lot of talk of what might change and what might stay the same. The time for hypotheticals are over as Olivier Polge has released his first perfume as in-house nose at Chanel, Les Exclusifs Misia.
In those discussions I was expounding the theory that Olivier Polge would be an upgrade from his father’s recent desire to play it safe. What I admire about Olivier Polge is his ability to make perfumes full of bold slashes of raw materials. If there is anything Chanel has been missing of late it is that desire to be bold. Misia would be a test of whether the son would be willing to step up and lead Chanel into the future.
Misia Sert by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1904)
Misia is named after Coco Chanel confidante Misia Sert. Mme Sert added Coco to her artistic salon of writers, dancers, and artists in 1917. They would form a tight friendship which would last the rest of their lives. For the perfume named after Mme Sert Olivier Polge was not trying to capture the lady herself. He has said he was inspired by her patronage of the ballet and imagined Coco and Misia attending a performance of the Ballets Russes. He wanted to capture the smell of the lipstick and powder the ladies wore matched with the leather of the backstage milieu. In choosing to interpret a point in time rather than an entire life it allowed Olivier Polge the freedom to use those bold strokes I am so fond of.
One thing I like about Misia is there are really are only two phases to its development. Olivier Polge chooses to work on two separate accords. The earlier developing one is the lipstick and powder accord. For this Olivier Polge chooses Rose de Mai and Rose Otto combined. To the roses he infuses orris and violet. This all comes together with a metaphorical snap on my skin. I also see this as not crimson red lipstick but something in a more muted shade of red. It feels more sophisticated than provocative. There is also an unusual contemporary almost artificial vibe underneath all of this. It gave it an almost Madame Tussaud’s quality of plastic simulacrum. I really like the choice by Olivier Polge because if this was just another lipstick accord it wouldn’t have differentiated itself. This gives it an almost unstuck in time quality. Most of what is interesting in Misia is in this phase and I found plenty to keep me engaged while wearing it. The base is a traditional transparent leather accord made up primarily of benzoin and tonka bean.
Misia has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I am more excited about Misia than I have been about a Chanel fragrance in a long time. I think he is the infusion of new blood the brand needs to stay relevant. Based on his first effort Misia smells like she just might herald the beginning of a new creative era for the fragrances of Chanel.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
One of the stalwarts of men’s perfumes for over thirty years has been Ralph Lauren Polo. That perfume composed by Carlos Benaim has stood the test of time. It has, deservedly so, found its place in the metaphorical perfume Hall of Fame. Like all mass-market perfumes it has spawned a number of flankers with a mixed record of success. The general rule of thumb is the closer it hews to the original the more likely it is to sell well. I am guessing that rule was first brought home with the release of the first flanker in 1992 Polo Crest.
By 1992 Polo had become one of the most successful men’s fragrances of all time after fourteen years on the market. It was so successful that Ralph Lauren decided it was time to make a companion ostensibly for the warmer months. The concept was a version of Polo that was lighter. If the original Polo was men’s drawing room full of tobacco and wood; Polo Crest was going to be more like being at a polo match in the sunshine and fresh air. Carlos Benaim was asked to re-interpret his original composition with this in mind. What M. Benaim would do is call up more of the fresh cut grass smell of the polo field and the sweaty players. It ends up feeling like a more sophisticated version of Polo.
The original Polo opens with a strongly herbal beginning of basil and thyme over pine. M. Benaim retains the herbal facets and embellishes them as both the basil and thyme are present but for Polo Crest he lets rosemary take the lead. This is a much smoother opening with both the thyme and basil dialed way back. The really brilliant addition is a tiny amount of cumin which gives that tiny bit of sweaty polo player. Where Polo Crest really diverges is in the heart. As M. Benaim brings back the pine but this time he adds in two floral notes of geranium and jasmine. This is an interesting choice as at this time florals for men were not yet big sellers and the florals are more than just nodded at. They stand up with the pine to be counted. I felt like it captured that feel of a well-manicured greensward when taken as an accord but it is easy to detect the components separately. The divergence is over as Polo Crest moves into the base as the leather, patchouli, and oakmoss which will eventually become the signature Polo accord are here. The biggest difference is the tobacco is gone replaced with olibanum. The other difference is M. Benaim pushes the oakmoss into a more prominent position, as well.
Polo Crest has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I was a wearer of the original Polo but I don’t think I ever saw a bottle of Polo Crest appear at my local department store. It is my conjecture that the floral nature of the heart made Ralph Lauren unsure of how to market it. I also think they went right back to the drawing board and in a little more than a year Polo Sport would arrive. That Polo Sport is still available and Polo Crest is discontinued tells you which generated more sales. Aesthetically I think Polo Crest is the best of the Polo flankers. I don’t think it could be released today because I suspect the oakmoss levels are too high. Lack of sales and lack of interest cause many perfumes to end up in the Dead Letter Office. Polo Crest was a casualty of both.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.
When I received my first five samples from the new brand Ex Nihilo there was one which captured my attention straight away. It caught my attention simply by its name, Vetiver Moloko. I think Stanley Kubrick’s movie “A Clockwork Orange” based on Anthony Burgess’ novel is one of the great movies of the 1970’s. At the beginning of the film our protagonist Alex is sitting in the Korova Milkbar sipping a Moloko Vellocet, drug laced milk. The drink will lead the gang out to a night of “ultraviolence” and catalyze the rest of the movie. What was brilliant about that opening scene is visually it set the tone for everything in less than a minute. Seeing a fragrance called Vetiver Moloko made me wonder if the same could be done with a perfume.
The Korova Milkbar as depicted in Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange"
The Ex Nihilo creative team of Olivier Royere, Sylvie Loday, and Benoit Verdier would ask perfumer Guillaume Flavigny to create something “unusual and addictive”. To not only take something as well-trodden as vetiver but to also give it a twist worthy of the name. M. Flavigny succeeds beyond my expectations. He keeps it simple but he creates milky addictive vetiver as requested.
M. Flavigny opens this with Bulgarian Rose. The slight citrus haze over a spicy core draws you in. Brilliant bergamot provides sparkle. M. Flavigny brings his milk accord forward to mix with the rose in equal parts. This is a fabulously entertaining part of the development. It is almost as if a rose has been pulled out of a glass of milk dripping white liquid off of the petals. I was sorry to see things move along but there are things left to do this night. Cypress and amyris form a woody bridge to the vetiver. M. Flavigny chooses an earthy vetiver as his source. It has the smell of the ground trod under my boots. The final nod to the Moloko is a shot of vanilla to keep it sweet and to connect back to the milk.
Vetiver Moloko has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Vetiver Moloko is easily my favorite of the first five Ex Nihilo perfumes I’ve tried. I still have four more to track down but I will be surprised if they are better. There is a real aesthetic at play in these Ex Nihilo perfumes which I really enjoy. There is a lot of interpretation of classic perfumery design and it shows this creative team carries a unified vision for the brand. My advice is to try them all but if you’re only going to try one Vetiver Moloko is the one you should get my droogies. Viddy that!
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample purchased from Surrender to Chance.
If you go to the Ex Nihilo website and read the bios of the three founders; Olivier Royere, Sylvie Loday, and Benoit Verdier you might notice one commonality. They all share a desire to understand the underlying design of things. The very architecture of the world around them. In two of the perfumes for their brand Ex Nihilo you can see their love of the classical with Cologne 352 and Jasmin Fauve.
Cologne 352 is named after the address of the flagship store on the Rue Saint-Honore in Paris. On the website it is said that Cologne 352 is “the olfactory signature” of that address. There is another description on the website more on point, “Parisian cologne”. Cologne 352 is the sophisticated take on one of the very first perfume architectures, eau de cologne. Perfumer Jacques Huclier has taken that classic form and given it a Parisian makeover.
Cologne 352 opens in the cologne style with a brilliant lemon and petitgrain blazing like a sunbeam. M. Huclier chooses a vegetal crushed leaves accord and juniper berry to put some sunglasses on the top notes. The crushed leaves accord substitutes for the more traditional herbal component. The heart takes orange blossom, a usual component of eau de cologne, and brackets it with rose and muguet. As with the top notes the addition of the rose and muguet take Cologne 352 into different territory. The heart is more floral than a cologne is usually but M. Huclier balances it expertly so that it never gets too expansive. It stays buttoned down and compact. This is what creates an aura of floral sophistication which really drew me in when I wore Cologne 352. Those florals persist into the base where a set of clean woods and cleaner musks provide the foundation. Cologne 352 is not an eau de cologne it is at eau de parfum strength and therefore lasts 10-12 hours with average sillage.
Jasmin Fauve is described as a “poisonous leather flower” on the website. Perfumer Aurelien Guichard takes one of the most interpreted florals in jasmine and wraps it in a raw leather. The love of leather is not surprising because two of the three founders of Ex Nihilo mention shoes as a passion and it’s not the woman. M. Guichard creates a fantastic soliflore presented on a swatch of fresh leather.
Before we get to the jasmine M. Guichard pulls in muguet and lily. This doubles down on the green floral quality each of those notes possess. It is an appetizer for the main course of white flowers. Jasmine is in the name and jasmine is the leader of the pack in the heart. M. Guichard adds in orange blossom and tuberose as white flower wingmen. Jasmine is in front but the other two are also present. Finally a raw new piece of unrefined leather is rolled out for these white flowers to be portrayed upon. Ambox makes sure the leather never goes supple and refined and instead stays raw and primal. This mixture of powerhouse florals over leather is a lot of fun to wear. Jasmin Fauve has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I like where the creative team has taken these early efforts to keep them recognizable but also contemporary. Both of these perfumes exemplify classic architecture and embrace modern design.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples I purchased from Surrender to Chance.