Over the last year and a half I have often received an anguished e-mail after an entry in this series. It goes like this, “Noooo! Why did you have to send me on another quest for a bottle of perfume that will be so hard to find.” I feel your frustration so this time I am going to write about a perfume which has only recently been discontinued. I also think it is among the very best perfumes Bertrand Duchaufour has created.
Penhaligon’s Amaranthine was released in 2009 and discontinued earlier this year. When it was released the press release described it as a “corrupted floral oriental…..reminiscent of the scent of a woman’s thigh”. Right there is the reason I think this perfume was discontinued. There is a child’s game called “Which Doesn’t Belong and Why?” You show a child something like a duck, a goose, and a lifejacket. They answer the lifejacket doesn’t belong because it is not a bird. Amaranthine never belonged as part of Penhaligon’s well burnished aesthetic. Even upon its release M. Duchaufour did such a fantastic job of living up (down?) to the press release it never felt like a bottle which should read Penhaligon’s on it. The tragedy here is it is one of the most sensual perfumes on the market.
M. Duchaufour starts this off with an exotic spicy vibe. He uses banana leaf and green tea to throw a gauzy green veil over the early moments. Then he uses a precise mix of coriander and cardamom to create a human body odor accord. What is particularly notable is he could have used cumin and I would be surprised if he didn’t in a lot of the early mods. I would also suspect that it was overpowering. The body odor he wanted here is that sweet post-coital smell of sweat beaded skin. To get that right he had to not use the easy note. Instead he had to form a different chord of spices. This woman still vibrating from the aftermath of passion gathers jasmine and orange blossom and crushes them to her bosom. This is where the corrupted floral part shows up. This is also where for the first time I really experienced ylang-ylang as a fleshy floral. Carnation and clove provide more decay around the floralcy. The base is what happens as that sweat dries on the skin leaving a salty residue. This is that accord of sun-warmed skin except M. Duchaufour adds a twist with the addition of a milk note. This turns the clean skin into something less pure and once again more carnal. It is almost like Amaranthine is looking over its shoulder, with a crooked smile, asking you if you want another round.
Amaranthine has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Amaranthine is one of the most unabashedly sexy perfumes I own. Which is why it is gone. Sexy, carnal, Penhaligon’s…..which doesn’t belong and why? Penhaligon’s seems to make a regular foray off into the truly different from the rest of their brand. What is amusing is they are often very good perfumes which the brand doesn’t know how to market next to their other more very stiff upper lip entries. As of this writing Amaranthine is still available at most stockists of Penhaligon’s. If you want a bottle it is out there to be had for its normal price. It is well worth getting it before it becomes a legend years from now.
Disclosure: this review was based on a bottle I purchased.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder is a truism. In the Early 1990’s I beheld supermodel Helena Christensen when she was at the height of her fame. In a room full of other professional models it was apparent to me why super was attached to her. She carried a special quality which ran from the top of her head to her toes. When having any discussion on beauty she is one of my prime examples. I have always followed her career. Last year she stepped into the niche perfumery world as the creative director on Strangelove NYC (nee ERH1012) deadofnight. It has been eighteen months since that release and the second perfume has recently arrived Strangelove NYC meltmyheart.
Ms. Christensen worked with perfumer Christophe Laudamiel who also was responsible for deadofnight. Ms. Christensen says she wanted meltmyheart to be “tender and poetic”. M. Laudamiel has taken some of the more powerhouse notes in the perfumer’s palette and made them live up to that description. When I tell you that the heart of meltmyheart is dark chocolate, oud, and orris I suspect tender and poetic does not rise to the top of the adjectives you might expect to use for that mixture. If there is one thing I have learned while following M. Laudamiel over the years is he is one of the few who can make the most obstreperous notes behave like they never deserved that reputation. For meltmyheart he has achieved that as he does make those notes tender and poetic as the core of this perfume.
M. Laudamiel uses a zingy opening of ginger and bergamot. If meltmyheart is all about falling in love this is the frisson of meeting someone special for the first time. Nutmeg provides the transition into the heart. The chocolate comes out first as it picks up the sweetness of the nutmeg. The oud comes next and I am struck once again by what a perfect partner chocolate is for oud. It doesn’t get used as much as I would like even though in meltmyheart it is an excellent choice. For a short while I begin to wonder where the orris is. As the chocolate and oud have my attention. The orris is there but it takes a little time to find its position as it catches some of the bitter components of the chocolate and powders over some of the more intense facets of oud. What the orris does is provide the harmonic to allow the best qualities of the chocolate and oud to predominate. The skill of M. Laudamiel to pull this off and to keep it almost transparent in its effect is fabulous. When I wore meltmyheart I expected this phase to just expand and evolve into something overpowering. It never does. Instead it is a relationship of equals which has an unusual fragility I never expected. Many hours later a bit of smoky sage absolute winds its way through the orris/oud/chocolate making it seem like it is all melting away in a cloud of smoke.
Meltmyheart is a perfume oil and has 24-hour longevity with no appreciable sillage.
Ms. Christensen and M. Laudamiel have made a perfume around a perfectly executed central accord. I spent an entire weekend wearing this. Like Ms. Chritensen when I saw her back in the 1990’s meltmyheart is a perfume of beauty to behold.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Strangelove NYC
There are times when I hear a new vanilla perfume is coming from one of my favorite brands I get a nervous feeling. What I should remember when this happens again is these perfumers and brands are my favorites because they don’t do what is expected. Even so when I received an e-mail from perfumer Mandy Aftel announcing her new release Aftelier Perfumes Vanilla Smoke that nervous feeling returned unbidden.
What it is that I worry about is that especially in the case of vanilla there is a tendency to use vanillin as the source. This ingredient is where most of the vanilla focused perfumes go over the top in overdose and leave me wanting something more, or more correctly less. Ms. Aftel gives me that extra something I am looking for as she eschews vanillin for a Madagascar vanilla absolute as one of two keynotes in Vanilla Smoke. I will admit I am also tiring of perfumes which layer on the woodsmoke and incense. As with the vanilla source Ms. Aftel shows she is not a perfumer who trods the expected path. The source of the smoke here is Lapsang Souchong tea. Together they form the titular notes for this perfume.
Vanilla Smoke opens with a wry knowing smile as Ms. Aftel brandishes many of the components of a more pedestrian construction in the early moments. A bit of sunny mandarin, a touch of light wood and some vanillin. The first couple of minutes had me worried but like a trickster Ms. Aftel rapidly shifts gears into her very clever version of vanilla and smoke. The interstitial note is saffron absolute as it imposes itself on the top notes and immediately makes them more interesting. It provides a bit of camouflage for the keynotes as they begin to rise up in prominence. Real vanilla absolute has the sweet you are familiar with but it also contains much more. There is much more complexity as gentle facets of spiciness and woods make this something more easily found in a jungle than on a baker’s sheet. I say it every time I review a fantastic independent perfume that the ingredients they use are what set them apart. Ms. Aftel’s Lapsang Souchong is an extract of the tea leaves that were further smoked over pinewood. This allows for this Lapsang Souchong extract to have the heft necessary to stand up to the vanilla absolute as an equal. This ingredient captures the strong black tea and the smokiness inherent within it without ever smelling like a campfire. It is an exotic source of smoke. The final ingredients are coumarin to help accentuate the sweet vanilla qualities and ambergris which adds its unique foundation forming an incandescent veil over the final stages.
Vanilla Smoke in the Eau de Parfum concentration had 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage. In the Perfume concentration it had 16-18 hour longevity and almost no sillage.
Ms. Aftel sent me both of the concentrations available: the Eau de Parfum and the Perfume versions. The Eau de Parfum is much more expansive and the notes which particularly shine in that are things like the saffron and the coumarin as they have more obvious effects. The Perfume concentration is much more contained in its development and it is the keynotes which are mostly in evidence throughout. I thoroughly enjoy both concentrations as I could say the Eau de Parfum is more smoke as it expands to fill up the space around it. The Perfume is more vanilla as the absolute has more influence over the Lapsang Souchong. I think it will all be personal preference which to choose as both are spectacularly good.
I had to laugh when I was looking on Ms. Aftel’s website to see how she categorized Vanilla Smoke. Right at the top of the page it says “gourmand”. I could not disagree more with that as I think of gourmands as something entirely different than what I experience in Vanilla Smoke. If I was categorizing this I would call it a Modern Oriental. Ms. Aftel has taken the traditional Oriental tropes and transformed them into something that feels like an update to that family. It is as satisfying as anything I own in that genre.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Aftelier Perfumes.
I have written often in this column about how things have changed for almost everything that was once thought the domain of the geek or the nerd. In 2015 I sit here with a lot of satisfaction that comic books, science fiction, fantasy, gaming, and movies have all been embraced as part of popular culture; which I’ve loved my entire life. For many of these it is arguable what changed the popular perception and began to make it something which could break out into wider acceptance. When it comes to comic books it is very clear what and when it happened.
In 1986 just after the New Year I went to my local comic shop to pick up my weekly supply of new releases. In those days I was pretty much a Marvel-only comic reader. DC was such a mess at portraying its two most iconic characters of Batman and Superman it was easier to pretend they didn’t exist. The owner of the store pointed to this unusually bound comic book which looked more like a trade paperback and said you might want to give that one a try. The comic was called “The Dark Knight Returns” and was written and drawn by Frank Miller. Inside were glossy pages full of a dystopian near future version of Batman. It was all of the nihilism which was underneath the Batman persona exposed. This was like nothing else in the comic book store. Along with Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” which would begin later in 1986 this was when the modern age of comic book story telling was born. Which would inspire many of the current crop of superhero movies.
From this point on our heroes went on darker grimmer journeys. Mr. Miller would bring his style to multiple projects. He would return to The Dark Knight universe with “The Dark Knight Strikes Again” in 2001. This time the story was overstuffed with way too many nods to other DC heroes and the story careened around maniacally for most of the first two issues. The emotion and grittiness only returned in the final act as Batman’s choices have caught up to him.
Alternate cover art for The Dark Knight III by Frank Miller
Now in 2015 Mr. Miller is returning for the final installment “The Dark Knight III: The Master Race” which will be released in two weeks on November 25 2015. Mr. Miller is overseeing the project but this time there is as strong a team of writers and artists to help bring this final story to life as exists in the comic book world. Mr. Miller’s Dark Knight Universe deserves a conclusion as fitting as the story he started nearly thirty years ago. Based on everything I’ve seen and heard I think we are going to get it.
These last couple of months of 2015 are providing a couple of particularly trenchant moments where the things which made geeky things cool, attempt returns. Everyone knows about Star Wars Episode VII but another set of Roman numerals after a title are just as important to me. I have every reason to believe both will remind me why I am as happy to be a geek, now, as I was when nobody wanted to join in.
Even the scions of independent perfumery must bow a little bit to creating with an eye towards sales. The advantage is an independent perfumer has a much smaller bottom line than a conglomerate. Even so by the very nature of being outside of mainstream business forces you still have to keep the ship afloat. Two of the most successful independent perfumers are Pierre Guillaume and Andy Tauer they have made Parfumerie Generale and Tauer Perfumes the examples for those who have followed. Their success is because they provide a different fragrant experience to perfume lovers. But even they want to break free every once in a while and give in to a creative urge they feel might not be worth including in their brand offerings. M. Guillaume and Hr. Tauer have each made a recent one-off experimental fragrance. Both have in common a challenging nature asking the wearer to embrace the near un-embraceable.
Hyraceum (Photo via africanaromatics.com)
M. Guillaume’s inspiration for Lumiere Fauve which he made in a small batch to giveaway at Pitti Fragranze 2015 was an online criticism. It was a short pointed comment saying, “Your perfume is shit.” This inspired M. Guillaume to actually make a shit perfume. More precisely a perfume based on hyraceum. Hyraceum is the solidified extract of urine and feces of a small South African mammal called the Hyrax. I can’t even begin to imagine who first thought this would be a good perfume ingredient. M. Guillaume allowed me to smell the unadulterated raw material and it smelled like what it looked like. I nearly gagged because I took in too deep a breath. Like other ingredients like indoles which at 100% also induces revulsion once it is reduced it becomes more palatable. M. Guillaume didn’t want to reduce the hyraceum to too low a level. He wanted a shit perfume wrapped up in beauty. In this case a floral bouquet wraps itself around the hyraceum making it more approachable. I love perfumes like this but even wearing this for a whole day was a bit of an experience. It reminded me of The Elephant Man as there is a fierce intelligence under a disfiguring surface.
Painting by Andy Tauer to accompany Dark Mysterious Woods
Hr. Tauer I think wanted to live down his “nicest guy in perfumery” label with Dark Mysterious Woods. I think he left out an adjective, dangerous. When wearing Dark Mysterious Woods it made me edgy as if there was something out there in the moonlight. Hr. Tauer’s choice for these woods are none of the usual soothing choices like cedar or sandalwood. Nope this is all the villains of the woody end of the perfumer’s palette. Because there was no place for me to find a place of comfort I let the mystery sweep me away. It means Dark Mysterious Woods evokes emotions I probably don’t want provoked on a regular basis. The day I wore it I thought of the movie The Blair Witch Project as it felt like there were things out there in the dark. The more I tried to find them the more lost in the forest I became. Dark Mysterious Woods was unsettling in the most pleasant of ways like an olfactive haunted house.
I suspect we will never see either of these for sale as they are meant more as single experiences. I do think we will see some of the themes that each of these perfumes contains to be worked into a future release. I won’t be surprised if M. Guillaume takes his hyraceum and spins it into gold. Hr. Tauer might take the rougher dangerous woods and use them as contrasting foundation for a more traditional beautiful opening reminding us there is danger underneath the fairest of them all. I thoroughly enjoyed being taken on two such excellent adventures by Pierre and Andy.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Pierre Guillaume and Andy Tauer.
The axiom “absence makes the heart grow fonder” rarely gets a workout when it comes to my favorite perfumers. Only in a very few cases do I wait very long for something new to be produced. One of those perfumers who by his absence does make my heart pick up a few beats when he decides to turn to perfume again is Michel Roudnitska. M. Roudnitska has made a grand total of twelve perfumes since 2000. Number twelve is the second fragrance by him for the new brand Grandiflora called Madagascan Jasmine.
Saskia Havekes outside her store Grandiflora (Photo: Nikki To for The Design Files)
Grandiflora is the brand owned and creatively directed by Sydney, Austalia florist Saskia Havekes. Ms. Havekes’ experience with artistic floral arrangements has led to her wanting to design fragrances every bit as original. The first two perfumes released in 2013 examined magnolia from the viewpoint of two different perfumers; M. Roudnitska and Sandrine Videault. M. Roudnitska’s version, Magnolia Grandiflora Michel, had a very expansive quality to it which I compared to Gauguin’s paintings while in Tahiti. Madagascan Jasmine is the opposite as it is a very tightly controlled experience. While it has its moments where it is big; it spends most of its time in an introspective place. It is here where M. Roudnitska passes a few different influences past the central jasmine followed by observation at what happens. This is a probing technique full of precise movements as together we use these interactions to explore the nature of jasmine.
Madagascan Jasmine does not have a traditional three phases of development. M. Roudnitska places his source of jasmine front and center. This is full spectrum jasmine, very heady showing off its narcotic floralcy along with its skanky heartbeat. This is the kind of jasmine I live for in perfume as I don’t want it civilized I want it full of life. That is what M. Roudnitska delivers. Over the next few hours the very few other notes interact with this jasmine. First up is a translucent green accord. Jasmine is night blooming and I associate it with the latest part of the evening as the mist begins to settle on its petals and the grass below has a muted feel. This is the early moments of Madagascan Jasmine as if you’ve discovered a vine of fully bloomed jasmine growing just outside your window at 4AM. This is as good as a jasmine soliflore gets and if it stayed here it would have been enough. M. Roudnitska has something else in mind as he begins to add a series of musks to the proceedings. A clean laundry musk provides a foil for the indoles. By adding in freshness it almost seems like it provokes a response from the indoles. Next comes one of the more animalic musks and this accentuates the floralcy while it harmonizes with the indoles. The musk here provides a thrumming backbeat for the incredibly sweet nature to rise up on top of it. Finally there is a sweet honeyed musk which provides the final bit of perspective as it pulls together all that has come before into a complete accord which captures a complex whole.
Madagascan Jasmine has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
It would be fair to say I wish M. Roudnitska was more prolific. On the other hand it is the time he spends away from perfumery pursuing the other passions in his life which I believe makes his perfumes so special. M. Roudnitska spends his life observing as much of it as he can from differing points of view. When that is applied to designing a perfume the result is something as wonderful as Madagascan Jasmine. It is among the finest jasmine soliflores I have tried.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Grandiflora.
I continue to be enchanted with Creative Stephenr Dirkes as he adds to the story being told with perfume for his Euphorium Brooklyn brand. In this version of a perfumed penny dreadful chapter six entitled 100 Tweeds has just been released.
Mr. Dirkes has been telling the fanciful tale of the men who founded the Euphorium Bile Works in Brooklyn circa 1860. The three men; Etienne Chevreuil, Rudolph Komodo and Christian Rosenkreuz are our protagonists. The first four perfumes released were stories of them together. Now the next three are clearly going to be the “backstory” of each of the Bile Works boys. 100 Tweeds is the story of how Hr. Rosenkreuz needed to leave his native Bavaria and find a new life in the New World.
The story is told in much more enjoyable detail on the website but here is the Cliff’s Notes version. While working in his study on the edge of the Schwarzwald he sends his only daughter out to walk in the forest. He insists she wears her tweed hunting jacket. Not knowing tweed was a natural attractant for bears the obvious tragedy was set into motion. After the death of his daughter Hr. Rosenkreuz was obsessed with making a tincture of tweed. Not just one tweed but all tweeds. 100 Tweeds is that story.
100 Tweeds is the most challenging of the six Euphorium Brooklyn releases to date. Mr. Dirkes really does capture the smell of a cedar chest with 100 versions of tweed jackets hanging within. For the first time a Euphorium Brooklyn release is tilted much more towards an avant-garde edge. The previous five had their moments but 100 Tweeds is unusual from beginning to end.
The early moments of 100 Tweeds is that musty sort of closet smell overcrowded with woolens. This accord hangs very heavily over the first half an hour or so. I’ve never had a cedar lined closet full of clothes but this accord is much of what I imagine it would smell like. The heart is an evocation of the Bavarian countryside in the Schwarzwald. Calamus is chosen as the nucleus of the heart and it is surrounded by all sorts of herbal and green effects. Hemlock, ivy, celery seed, and parsley seed create a very pungent heart note which again will push many who try this right to the edge of their tolerances. The base starts off slightly contemplative with a honeyed tobacco which is trampled in short order by cypriol, cade and a peat accord. Here is the heath brought to life in all of its peaty glory.
100 Tweeds has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage. This is also an alcohol formulation as was Suedois and Petales.
100 Tweeds is going to be a chapter to get through that I won’t be eager to return to. Mr. Dirkes makes 100 Tweeds challenging at every turn. For a project such as Euphorium Brooklyn it is a little surprising it took six releases to finally fully embrace the odd perfume notes and fold them into the story. If you’ve been following along 100 Tweeds should be experienced just so you don’t skip Hr. Rosenkreuz’s chapter. Under no circumstances should 100 Tweeds be the one used to introduce the line as it stands outside on its own. Waiting to see if the bear is on its way.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Euphorium Brooklyn.
Growing up in South Florida some of my favorite moments were in my canoe paddling through the Everglades. When you are on the water the sobriquet of the “river of Grass” is never more apparent as there are long moments where you are paddling through a green field of sawgrass waving above your head. It was easy to lose your direction when surrounded by the fronds taller than my head in the boat. There was a specific combination of water and green; which was the smell of those canoe trips.
Joyce Lanigan the creative director behind Nomad Two Worlds handed me a sample of the latest release Raw Spirit Summer Rain and I was struck by that mix of water and green I was so familiar with from the back of my canoe. When she told me perfumer Harry Fremont was attempting to make a fragrance which captures summer in the Everglades it carried me right back there, via scent, from New York City.
Summer Rain is a consistent meditation on green floating on top of water. M. Fremont slowly turns up the intensity of his green components as Summer Rain develops. He adds in other indigenous qualities of the South Florida milieu like citrus and orange blossom but in the end this is a watery green perfume.
Summer Rain opens on a citrus burst of grapefruit, bergamot, mandarin, and lime. That covers most of the citrus notes. M. Fremont then lays down the first layer of green as he uses basil and lime leaves to form a fairly transparent green accord. In a nod to the Florida Water sold in the area orange blossom and jasmine open the heart. Very quickly galbanum now adds a sterner green quality. A tiny bit of mint is used to tune the strident green of galbanum into something more fresh. M. Fremont get this balance right as the mint never becomes intrusive. The base is vetiver and moss over cedar. As I would paddle under trees covered in tendrils of Spanish Moss the smell of green alive on the air is what the base of Summer Rain smells like to me.
Summer Rain has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Perfume has the ability to unlock memories like a fragrant time machine. Summer Rain is a spot on olfactory evocation of the smells I associate with canoeing in the Everglades. On the days I wore this it was hard to believe I was hundreds of miles away from where my mind was. The Nomad Two World Raw Spirit collection has been very adept at creating this sense of place by using indigenous raw materials. Summer Rain is a day on the water surrounded by the green stalks with the sun shining overhead.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Nomad Two Worlds.
I always find it amusing when I am conversing with other perfume lovers and they exclaim, “Please not another oud!” The source of my smile is rose perfumes are equally abundant as oud perfumes but I’ve never heard “Please not another rose!” It probably has more to do with the nature of both notes than anything else. Rose is pretty on its worst day and oud is not so pretty even on its best days. One point of comparison between the two notes is where it comes from and how it has been harvested and extracted can make a lot of difference in the way it is displayed. A perfumer should only take the best ingredient if they are planning on making either note a focal point. The newest release from Byredo called Rose of No Man’s Land is an example of a beautifully sourced rose being allowed to shine brilliantly in a minimal construction.
Ben Gorham (l.) and Freja Beha Erichsen
Ben Gorham the owner and creative director of Byredo wanted to do a perfume inspired by the World War I nurses who served on the front lines where the space in between the armies was dubbed “no man’s land”. A song sung by the soldiers of the time called these nurses the “rose of no man’s land”. Mr. Gorham once again turned to the only perfumer this brand has ever known Jerome Epinette of Robertet. One thing I learned from M. Epinette in previous conversations is he enjoys taking one of the best raw materilas from Robertet and to have the opportunity to turn it into a perfume. Byredo is a brand which has allowed him to do this more often, I think, than others he works with. For Rose of No Man’s Land he is using a Turkish rose as the olfactory solitaire to which he feels he only needs to add a few notes to coax all of the nuance inherent in this particular version of rose.
Rose of No Man’s Land is a case of M. Epinette taking his rose note and then asking it to interact with one note in each phase of development. The top phase asks baie rose to be the partner. Turkish rose has an inherent spiciness in its core. The baie rose serves to elicit those qualities from among the more floral ones. The note listed in the heart is called raspberry blossom. I am not sure what it is entirely. What I smell is an attenuated berry note which also has an equivalent green component. If this was just berry it would’ve felt like traditional fruity floral territory. The greenness pulls at those same aspects in the rose while the berry enhances the sweetness. Papyrus is what combines in the base and it adds a translucent watery green to replace the leafier one from the raspberry blossom. A mix of white musks provide the late finishing touches.
Rose of No Man’s Land has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
If a rose perfume is going to make an impression it is going to be the rose raw material itself which is going to grab my attention. Rose of No Man’s Land fulfills that requirement and then sets it up as if a precious jewel twinkling under the attention. If you have room for another rose perfume this is one worth considering.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Byredo.
Le Labo is perfume brand which likes to keep its customers guessing with its naming. All Le Labo perfumes have a note followed by a number representing the number of ingredients. There are a few of them where that note is readily apparent. Most of them have the note named on the bottle in a discernable position within the fragrance framework but not the keynote. Then there are the ones I call the “bait and switch” releases where I believe the listed note is there but I never smell it. The newest release The Noir 29 is one of these.
Fabrice Penot (l.) and Edouard Roschi
These are certainly interesting times for the brand founded by Edouard Roschi and Fabrice Penot. It was almost a year ago it was announced this flagship niche brand was acquired by the Estee Lauder Group. There was a lot of written and said about that covering all possible reactions from happiness to rage. I fell in the middle with a “wait and see” attitude. While I imagine The Noir 29 was probably already in the pipeline prior to the acquisition it is going to be looked upon as the first data point. Which is why I admire Messrs. Roschi and Penot for deciding to go with a perfume that displays everything that is offbeat about Le Labo.
They worked again with perfumer Frank Voelkl who since 2009’s Oud 27 has composed eight of the eleven releases since then. M. Voelkl is definitely a perfumer who understands Le Labo as he has made releases in all the styles I mentioned in the first paragraph. For The Noir 29 it is about fig, smoke, and wood definitely not tea.
The Noir 29 opens with a healthy amount of bergamot and a similar amount of bay leaves. There was a moment in the very early moments where this smells like the old bay seasoning used in cooking. That seasoning then gets sprinkled on fig. This is what forms the top accord. As the fig gains more traction the bay leaves start to smolder with a smoky quality. The smoke is even further enhanced with a cigarette tobacco accord. Hay adds a needed bit of balancing grassy sweetness. It all comes to rest on a vetiver and musk base. The vetiver is defined more to its woodier aspects by adding in cedar. The musks provide some depth to what has been a pretty opaque development for most of the time.
The Noir 29 has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I am pretty sure The Noir 29 does not provide the tea leaves necessary to know what Le Labo will look like under the Estee Lauder umbrella. The Noir 29 feels like part of the family which came before it. I believe Messrs. Roschi and Penot wanted to make sure all those who were worried would see things weren’t changing. I think The Noir 29 is really going to appeal to those who loved M. Voelkl’s Santal 33 from 2011. This is a different kind of woodiness entirely complimentary to that perfume. There may not be any black tea in The Noir 29 but the smoky figgy woods more than make up for it.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Le Labo.