Etienne de Swardt the owner and creative force behind Etat Libre D’Orange is one of my favorite people in all of perfumery. His fragrances perfectly mirror his personality. They both carry a broad pleasure in provocation while having a laugh at the absurdity of it all. The ability to not take it so seriously has led to some seriously amazing perfumes from Etat Libre D’Orange. The other thing I like about the brand is M. de Swardt has steadfastly kept from developing an identifiable olfactory trademark which represents the brand. One reason for that is he keeps working with a number of the best perfumers in the business. Inviting them to run away with him for a good time making a new perfume. For the latest release, Remarkable People, M. de Swardt convinced perfumer Cecile Matton to go for a ride with him to make an exuberant paean to those who choose to be unconventional.
Etienne de Swardt
Mme Matton is collaborating with M. de Swardt for the first time. Remarkable People is actually the re-branding of the 2010 release called Josephine Baker made exclusively for European Sephora. It was made in small quantity and has been long discontinued. I never got the chance to try it because I hadn’t quite developed my system of getting European perfumes into my hands. Now with it as a part of the permanent collection it will see a little more exposure. I can honestly say I see very little of the chanteuse in this perfume and so the name change I think is for the better. What I do get is a perfume which is a good companion to last year’s Cologne. Both carry an infectious joie de vivre throughout. Remarkable People has a bit of a cologne architecture early before turning woodier at the end.
Remarkable People opens with a fabulous mix of grapefruit and cardamom. The cardamom in particular is noteworthy for the way it melds with the slightly sulfurous quality of the grapefruit. I love cardamom in perfumes and Mme Matton has definitely found my sweet spot with the early moments of this one. Jasmine provides a floral change of pace before Mme Matton brings back the spices with a pinch of black pepper and curry as extracted via Mane’s Jungle Essence Process. This makes the curry presence less hirsute and more cleanly polite while still retaining some bite. The cardamom also remains into the heart to mix with all of this. The base is sandalwood and labdanum combined with one of Mane’s proprietary synthetics Lorenox. Lorenox is described as “woody, ambery, leathery, and aromatic.” In Remarkable People it is the leathery quality that comes out most directly.
Remarkable People has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
There have been a number of new perfumes this year which have made me smile due to their desire to be fun. I should’ve expected M. de Swardt to be one of those who could keep the party rolling. Remarkable People should put a smile on any perfume lover’s face.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Etat Libre D’Orange at Esxence 2015.
Jardins D’Ecrivains translates to Garden of Authors.Anais Biguine has collected six authors since the creation of her line in fall of 2012. I have really enjoyed her interpretation of literary figures especially the last two releases Orlando and Junky. Both of those took a very modern approach to their construction which made them stand out from the first four releases which had a bit more of a classical feeling to them which matched their literary inspiration. For the newest release Marlowe it looks like Mme Biguine wanted to find a middle ground between the two.
A Supposed Portrait of Christopher Marlowe c.1585- Artist Unknown
Christopher Marlowe was a contemporary of William Shakespeare during the Elizabethan Era. His best known play is Doctor Faustus. His life was cut short as he dies of a stabbing just after his twenty-ninth birthday. Those are the facts of his life which are broadly agreed upon. If it ended there Mme Biguine would probably not be putting his name on a bottle of perfume. Mr. Marlowe lived a life of many unconfirmed layers. He was rumored to be the actual writer of some of Shakespeare’s plays. There was talk he was a spy for the Crown. The circumstances of his death were maybe caused by a cuckolded husband or a jilted love, perhaps both. Or as an outspoken atheist perhaps the church did him in. What is speculated is much more fascinating than what is known. It is this mix of innuendo that Mme BIguine captures in Marlowe.
Marlowe opens with a scrubbed clean tuberose. I am exhausted at the amount of times this polite tuberose has found its way into the latest perfumes. Thankfully Mme Biguine doesn’t just let it sit there she pairs osmanthus and elemi with it. The osmanthus has a bit of a battle in the early going to gain some ground against the tuberose but once it does the apricot facet forms a rich fruity floral accord. Elemi provides a lightly wooded lemony nuance to the tuberose and osmanthus. This is one of the few new fragrances I’ve tried with the cheerier tuberose which doesn’t feel like it just sits there wanting to be admired. The osmanthus really provides a lively partnership for it. They are so lively that they fairly trample the bit of myrrh that shows up in the heart. It is as fleeting as a matador’s cape and there is a slow amplification of the floralcy throughout the middle stage of development. The base is where Mme Biguine returns to her mix of white musks she used so successfully in Orlando. Here it washes away the florals in preparation for a leather accord which is greatly softened by the musks. A bit of oakmoss and labdanum provide a bit more steel to the base notes leaving Marlowe on a chypre-like final act.
Marlowe has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I really enjoyed the middle ground Marlowe carved out for itself. While it reminded me of all that has come before from Mme Biguine’s literary garden it is enough of its own creation to find its own solitary patch of sunlight.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Marlowe provided by Jardins D’Ecrivains at Esxence 2015.
I think you would have had to work really hard over the last few days to have missed seeing the new trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. I think every geek in the world is hoping for something great with the continuation of the Star Wars saga begun in 1977 by George Lucas. I think that the reason most of us carry that hopeful outlook is because of one person, J.J. Abrams.
Mr. Abrams first jumped onto my radar with his television series “Alias” from 2001-2006. It was a loopy spy show with a crazy mythology around an inventor’s incredible artifacts which held amazing powers. There were times it was too complicated for its own good but it was always fun. For those of you who watch all of the new dramas which call themselves “twisty”; Alias was doing that well before those shows were ever a concept.
Mr. Abrams would transition to the silver screen, directing 2006’s Mission: Impossible III. This seemed a natural progression from small screen spy shenanigan to big screen ones. It was one of the better movies in that franchise but it was what Mr. Abrams did next which really began his upward trajectory.
In 2009 he would take what is one of the two tentpole sci-fi franchises and attempt to reboot it. When it was announced he was named as the director of the new Star Trek movie I was very skeptical. On one hand Star Trek has been ridden into the ground and lumbered under the accumulated years of mythology. There wasn’t much left to screw up. On the other hand I read Mr. Abrams’ unproduced screenplay he wrote in 2002 for Superman. On another property which also suffered from a restrictive historical mythology he completely lost what it was that makes Superman the superhero he is. I worried if that approach was used he would drive the final nail in the Star Trek coffin.
What happened was he found a way to celebrate everything that made Star Trek so much fun while at the same time wiping the slate clean and allowing this cast and this story to essentially start over. It was reverential and revolutionary in respect to the source material and it was incredible. My life as a geek began in front of a television screen watching Star Trek and Mr. Abrams gave it back to me. He had been able to fully exercise his creativity within a universe which seemed impossible to work in. He would direct the sequel Star Trek Into Darkness and then he announced his next project.
If Star Trek is one sci-fi tentpole then Star Wars is the other. After Disney had acquired George Lucas’ Lucasfilm they announced there were going to be more Star Wars movies starting in 2015 with Episode VII. Then they announced Mr. Abrams would be writing and directing. This time there was no skepticism there was just relief that they were putting this in the hands of someone who I think gets it.
We are a few months away from the December release but this week the first full-length trailer was released. It starts with a voice over of Luke Skywalker and ends with Han Solo and Chewie. In between we get glimpses of our new trio of heroes and their new nemeses. If there is any chance of this being great Mr. Abrams might be the only person I would trust this to.
Come December as a scroll of words with the heading Episode VII The Force Awakens begins to move up the screen we will all know if Mr. Abrams has succeeded in bringing home the geek Daily Double. I am betting he will.
When Thierry Mugler created the gourmand category of fragrance with 1992’s Angel with its signature chocolate heart it fired the imagination of others. Where else could one go with notes that smelled of food? One of the early answers was to make a coffee centered fragrance. 1996’s Thierry Mugler A*Men would be the first on the market but over the nearly twenty years since the release of A*Men there have been almost two hundred coffee inspired perfumes.
I love the smell of coffee. I start everyday with an espresso and even before I take my first sip I breathe deeply taking in the rich aroma. I think I own a virtual Starbucks worth of coffee perfumes and can serve up any style one would like. When I am playing olfactory barista for myself there is one coffee perfume which rises above them all, Bond No. 9 New Haarlem.
When Bond No. 9 released its first set of perfumes in 2003 Creative Director and Owner, Laurice Rahme’s fragrant tour of New York was an instant hit. It was so successful that many were wondering what the follow-up would be. In 2004 she would oversee what I think are two of the flagship perfumes for the brand in Wall Street and New Haarlem. For New Haarlem Ms. Rahme would collaborate again with perfumer Maurice Roucel. They had worked together on Broadway Nite and Riverside Drive in the inaugural collection. This time they would serve up the quintessential to-go cup of coffee for that New Yorker on the move.
What sets New Haarlem apart for me is that too many of the early gourmands tried to imitate A*Men’s power. That all too often turned them into cloying miasmas that made you feel as if you were one of the misbehaving children in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. M. Roucel made one of the first gourmands with restraint. There is never a moment where the coffee smell is not apparent but the exquisite balance he achieves throughout is what makes New Haarlem special.
From the moment I spray it on the aroma of freshly-brewed coffee rises to my nose. The first movement is a green, slightly herbal, contrast. It has the effect of making the early moments a little more coffee bean than coffee drink. The green reminds me of the natural oil which covers a whole bean. The heart is where the coffee really gets brewing. Again M. Roucel makes a wonderfully balancing choice of framing the deeply redolent coffee with cedar. Those clean woody lines delineate and amplify the central note. The base is where he adds a shot of flavor to our coffee. M. Roucel uses amber, vanilla, and tonka bean to create a hazelnut accord. It is a well-chosen accompaniment as the nuttiness is tinted with a little sweet. A great patchouli recalls some of the herbal beginning as the final ingredient is added.
New Haarlem has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I already mentioned it is the incredible balance M. Roucel achieves which makes New Haarlem the Gold Standard for coffee perfumes. Head out and grab a bottle, to-go.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
At the end of 2011 when I was first introduced to the Olfactive Studio line of perfume I was immediately drawn in. Owner and Creative Director Celine Verleure has married photography and perfumery in a striking package. Through the six fragrances that have come over the last four years there has been a consistent progression towards a more modern aesthetic. Last year’s Ombre Indigo began the transition and it is the latest release Panorama which unabashedly completes it.
Photo: Miguel Sandinha
Mme Verleure always begins with a photograph and usually it is one which already exists as part of a photographer’s collection. For Panorama she already had in mind the subject of the photographic brief, The Sheats Goldstein House in Los Angeles. The Sheats Goldstein House is an example of modern architecture from one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s students John Lautner. It is one of the finest examples of modern architecture to be found. The unique nature of the house has found it in multiple movies. Mme Verleure commissioned Miguel Sandinha to photograph the residence and she would pick one of the shots as the brief for Panorama. You can see the picture she chose above.
Next step was to enlist perfumer Clement Gavarry in turning that visual into a fragrance. One of the things to notice about that picture is the actual part of the house takes up only a small portion of the overall photo. The great majority of it is the verdant greenery which surrounds the house and far off in the distance you see the skyline of LA. If you look at that photograph and take all that in you will get an idea of what is to come in Panorama as M. Gavarry makes a fragrance of varying hues of green including some truly inspired unusual choices. All together it makes one of the boldest artistic statements this brand has ever made.
The accord that many will be talking about when trying Panorama appears in the first moments. M. Gavarry has constructed a wasabi accord and like that dried horseradish paste which accompanies sushi it captures your attention. When Mme Verleure told me about this being one of the components of Panorama I had to admit I was skeptical. That concern remained right up until I sprayed some on my skin. M. Gavarry has indeed created a recognizable wasabi accord, it has a cold spiciness with an accompanying desiccated quality. It is weird. It is also wonderful. Oft times something weird can be interesting but when you wear it all day it continually begins to rub you in the wrong way. On the days I wore Panorama it was exactly the opposite as I spent much of my time wanting more. One of the reasons that I think it doesn’t become irritating is because M. Gavarry uses bamboo and fig leaves to keep the oddness under control. Over an hour or so like a light show the bright vivid green of the wasabi changes hues and gets a few shades deeper. A freshly-cut grass accord leads down to a pairing of galbanum and green cardamom with violet leaves. This is where you get the clean lines of the glass and concrete structure of The Sheats Goldstein House. It is still green but it is a sleek metallic green like the reflection of the plants in the glass of the house. The final shade of green comes through a deeply coniferous fir balsam. It is given even more depth by the skillful use of myrrh, labdanum, and vanilla. Like the bamboo and fig on top these alter the fir balsam into something completely modern.
Panorama has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Panorama is the most experimental fragrance release from Olfactive Studio. I applaud Mme Verleure for being willing to move the brand in this direction. Panorama smells like nothing else in the collection and it is all the more fascinating for that. I have found it to be one of the few fragrances I have tried recently which has me completely intellectually engaged throughout its development. It is as architecturally unique in its construction as the edifice which inspired it.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Panorama provided by Olfactive Studio at Esxence 2015.
The word classic, when used to describe something, can be a double-edged sword. On the one side of the sword it can mean old or outdated. On the other side of the sword it can mean timeless. In perfumery it also holds the same double-edged impact. It can mean an old style of perfume which seems like something only people of an older generation would wear. On the other side it is a perfume that transcends trends and is relevant no matter the time period. One line which I think understands how to always stay on the positive side of the classic conundrum is Von Eusersdorff. The latest release Classic Opoponax is an example of a prototypical Oriental perfume.
Camille Henfling began the Von Eusersdorff line in 2010 and Classic Opoponax is the sixth release to date. Each release is centered on a single note around which a perfume is built. All five of the previous releases have represented one of the more common styles of perfume. Classic Opoponax returns to the same Oriental ground Classic Patchouli did back in 2010 as the first Von Eusersdorff release. Five years on Classic Opoponax shows the evolution of the brand as it has a much more assured sense of itself. When I think of what I consider an Oriental perfume this one checks off all of the boxes I need to like it very much.
Classic Opoponax opens with a shimmering floral layer of rose and jasmine. Typicaly those florals present themselves in a very extroverted way. In this case they form a floral layer with an opacity that draws you further in. what you find when you get to the heart is the promised opoponax. Opoponax is one of those notes which almost defines what I think of when I think of Oriental perfume. It is also called sweet myrrh and it is exactly that as it carries a sweet resinous glow. To make sure that glow is well stoked a very creamy sandalwood and a rich benzoin form the heart. As it slowly develops the rest of the Oriental mise en scene arrives as amber, castoreum, black patchouli, and vanilla form the base. This is really where classic steps forward in an excellent way as these are the bones of the typical Oriental base.
Classic Opoponax has 10-12 hour longevity and modest sillage.
Mr. Henfling clearly understands how to use the word classic in the most appropriate way. Classic Opoponax is a fabulous example of an opulent Oriental perfume that will carry you away to a different time and place. A classic time and place.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Von Eusersdorff.
As much as I enjoy my perfume my first encounter with fragrance comes every morning on the end of my shaving brush. It should be no surprise that there is a veritable metropolitan skyline of stacked pots of various shaving creams on my vanity. Along with my old-style Gillette Red Tip double edge razor my whole morning routine is a throwback. Like my knowledge of perfume my experience with different shaving products came through an internet site called Badger and Blade. While I was familiar with all of the aftershaves and colognes the members were talking about there was one which I had never heard of, Alt-Innsbruck.
In the 1930’s menthol cigarettes were invented with the idea of the menthol somehow soothing the throat. They were sold under the brand name Kool. Menthol as a soothing adjunct to tobacco was also on Austrian pharmacist Franz Gatterer’s mind when he designed Alt-Innsbruck in 1953. Hr. Gatterer wanted his fragrance to do double duty as both aftershave and eau de cologne. The idea was the menthol would soothe the razor burn early on and the tobacco would provide a rugged masculine scent for the rest of the day. Hr. Gatterer quite adroitly achieved his dual purpose as Alt-Innsbruck works well on both levels.
Menthol itself can be a problematic note for many and what your tolerance is for it will decide how much you like Alt-Innsbruck. Most often when menthol is in a perfume it has a sharply delineated purpose. In Alt-Innsbruck Hr. Gatterer’s menthol comes off like an emulsion. The menthol is very intense but made diffuse. I most often think of Vicks Vapo-Rub in the early moments when I apply it as it feels like the menthol is in a thick petroleum matrix. If you’ve ever smelled a curing barn with racks of tobacco leaves drying you will know there is a natural mentholated quality present. That is the transition from the opening skin soothing moments to the tobacco eau de cologne phase. Hr. Gatterer uses both the tobacco flower and tobacco leaf. As a cologne it carries a richness that the menthol helps by adding to it with a faint echo of its power from the opening.
Alt-Innsbruck has 4-6 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Like all Eau de Colognes from the 1950’s this is a temporary fragrance or it requires topping up throughout the day. The difficulty to that is you get the menthol blast at the top again. Where I like it in the morning after my shave it is more problematic when I apply it a second time in the afternoon. The bright spot is the menthol phase also moves pretty quickly. The real bright spot is the tobacco part of Alt-Innsbruck is really amazing. It is as good as tobacco perfumes that are sold at ten times its $34.00/100mL price tag. If you’re a fan of menthol and tobacco or you’ve kicked the smoking habit and miss your old Kools give Alt-Innsbruck a try.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.
The collaboration between Neela Vermeire, of Neela Vermeire Creations, and perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour has been a pretty spectacular success. Over the course of five fragrances they have explored much of Mme Vermeire’s Indian heritage. There is a lot to like about the collection but four of the first five releases definitely are on the deeper, more intense side of the perfumed spectrum. My personal favorite of the line is the one which plays against this, Bombay Bling. When I first wrote about it I described it as a Bollywood production number in a bottle. Bombay Bling wears its infectious spirit on its sleeve. I’ve been wondering when Mme Vermeire and M. Duchaufour might feel like getting a bit more playful again. The sixth release, Pichola, is that return to joy.
The name comes from the lake at the heart of city of Udaipur. There is a lot of talk, in the press release, about reflections on the lake and regal flowers. Reading that I expected to get another deep white floral like most of the rest of the collection. While the imagery is functional it does not describe the way Pichola wears on my skin. There is a moment in the very earliest going where Pichola does seem like it is going to be serious perfume. Just like every Bollywood production you’ve ever seen all of a sudden huge handful of flowers explode through the hard shell and the dance number is on. The transition from tight green opening into explosive transparent white flowers raining down is beautiful.
M. Duchaufour creates a hard green barrier consisting of cardamom, juniper, saffron, cinnamon, and, clementine. The early moments are wound as tight as an accountant’s nerves during tax season. This lasts a very short time before a troupe of white flowers come dancing through the stiff upper lip of Pichols forcing it to break into a smile. The winsome star of our show is a fabulous fresh tuberose absolute. Most hear tuberose and expect intensity. Of late there have been a lot of wan pretty tuberoses scrubbed clean and made insipid for the effort. The tuberose M. Duchaufour employs here has an incredible expansive quality without becoming overwhelming. You are never unaware of its presence but the other florals like orange blossom, ylang-ylang, and jasmine have plenty of space to dance happily alongside. It is in this phase of floral fandango where Pichola settles for hours. When it finally starts to move on it is time to rest from our exertions on a sweet woody bed of benzoin and sandalwood.
Pichola has 8-10 hour longevity and below average sillage.
I am so happy to see Mme Vermeire return to a lighter style of construction. There is so much positive emotion on display it is infectious. I was uplifted each day I wore Pichola. Yes I want to smell good but some days I want to also have a barely suppressed laugh to go along with that, Pichola does that for me.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Neela Vermeire Creations.
Violet is one of my favorite floral notes in perfumery.Bertrand Duchaufour is one of my favorite perfumers. Over the years M. Duchaufour has been using a set of accords which he employs like a maestro calling forth the desired effect from a section of the olfactory symphony. Most recently he has perfected a leather accord, a vegetal green accord, and a violet accord. In the new I miss Violet for The Different Company he uses all of them in very different ways than he has in the past. It is another example, in a career full of them, of how he uses these proprietary constructs as the spine of many of his perfumes.
Creative Director Luc Gabriel envisioned the titular Violet as a woman forever in motion as she moves from place to place. As she leaves her temporary paramours behind she gives them a scent to remember her by and to miss her. M. Duchaufour imagines this scent to be a floral leather and he designed Violet’s parting gift to reflect our heroine’s wanderlust and her femininity. What is great about I miss Violet is the leather and the violet are present from beginning to end almost as a constant. The rest of the supporting cast is there to provide context.
The soft supple leather accord and the violet accord slip into place from the very first moment. That vegetal green accord I mentioned is what compliments them early on. It makes the violet more alive by giving it an earthy foundation. That is no surprise. What I did find surprising was it took the softness of the leather and give it a bit of an unrefined roughness. Maybe a reminder that Violet will trample your heart eventually. M. Duchaufour creates a floral heart with osmanthus giving a floral which carries both a leather and fruity character making it a perfect connecting note between the top notes and the heart. The rest of the florals, mimosa, cyclamen, and iris combine with the violet. Underneath all of this is a healthy dose of Calone providing a bit of the open ocean for the flowers to float upon. This all settles on a soft kiss of musk, mahogany, and vanilla pulling the leather to the foreground in the end.
I miss Violet has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
M. Duchaufour has aptly drawn the fictional Violet out in three unique acts from heartbreaker, to ocean traveler, to the woman who enchants the next admirer in the new port of call. It is a great example of a very modern floral leather by M. Duchaufour.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received at Esxence 2015.
Getting a different perspective on something you think you know well, something you think you know really well, is invaluable. Over the last three years there has been a recurring bit on American late night television which has taken the biggest pop hits, right at the point they have become intolerable, and given them a fresh new makeover.
In June of 2012 you could not escape hearing Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit song “Call Me Maybe”. Besides being on every device which played music there were multiple sports teams publishing YouTube videos lip synching to it. Just at the point I was ready to call “No mas!” I was tuning into Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. He introduced us to the “music room” backstage and inside was Jimmy Fallon, Carly Rae Jepsen and The Roots. For the next 3 minutes and thirty seconds they did a version of “Call Me Maybe” using classroom instruments. Instruments we played while in primary school like recorders, triangles, kazoos, ukulele, toy xylophone, and melodica provided the music for Ms. Jepsen to sing what I think is the definitive final version of the song. How do I know that? You hardly saw another amateur lip synching video show up after this was seen.
The pinnacle moment was when Idina Menzel did “Let It Go”. Just as with “Call Me Maybe” “Let It Go” had reached critical mass and the gang in the “music room” turned it on its head.
Despite what is undeniably a simple concept this could not be accomplished without the incredibly talented musicians who make up The Roots. They have been Mr. Fallon’s house band from the beginning. If there is anything that makes these videos and versions so enjoyable it is the palpable sense of fun radiating off of everyone on screen. Watching these guys play these instruments with these huge smiles shows how much fun music can be. I’ve also heard it said that great singers can sing the phone book and be compelling. I am pretty sure I could challenge The Roots to make music with sticks and stones and they would create a joyful sound.
The current state of late night television in America is as good as it gets and if you need a reason to stay up late Jimmy Fallon and The Roots provide one of the happiest reasons to lose some sleep.