The perfume side of Chanel is in the midst of a generational takeover as son Olivier Polge takes over as in-house perfumer from his father Jacques Polge. The first release by the new man at the helm was last year’s Misia. It gave some indication of what direction the new Polge was taking the grand maison. One point does not make a trend we needed some more evidence. The second data point has arrived with the release of Boy in the Les Exclusifs collection.
Arthur "Boy" Capel and Coco Chanel
The name is not meant to be taken literally it refers to Coco Chanel’s lover Arthur “Boy” Capel. Boy was her muse during the years they were together. It was he who would finance her first boutiques. It is also said his fondness for blazers was what led Coco to include them in her fashion at the time. From 1909 until his death in 1919 he was one of the great loves of Coco’s life.
The perfume bearing his name is meant to be a masculine fougere according to the press materials. It also mentions it being genderless in homage to those blazers being worn by both genders. I am not a fan of using titles like genderless or unisex when writing about perfume. Even less so when directed to do it. Perfume is a simple equation you should wear what you think smells good on you. Unlike wearing a dress or lipstick perfume doesn’t immediately step out as having a gender preference. If you feel good in it you will never have anyone thinking you smell like a particular gender. Despite those misgivings M. Polge does take what are considered some masculine and feminine tropes and blends them together. I think it comes out like an interesting variation on fougere but it is also easy to see it as a perfume which contains both genders in a duality.
Boy opens on the traditional fougere citrus and lavender opening. It not only opens on it, it comes in with a lot of power as the lavender really carries a presence. I like lavender and the level was pitched just right for me. In the heart is where using a set of floral notes M. Polge tries to bring in the softer side of things. Rose, orange blossom, and heliotropin form the floral trio. There is a freshness to it as well as a soft fuzziness which mellows the lavender. If you are looking for gender wars this is where you will locate them. For me I enjoyed the floral variation on the strong fougere accord. I think if I didn’t have the press materials talking about it so much I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it. The base is back to the traditional fougere architecture. What I particularly like is M. Polge has returned coumarin to its fougere roots. The use of coumarin was what defined modern perfumery when it was used in a fougere. Matched up with vanilla, sandalwood and white musks it is a very Chanel kind of finish.
Boy has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
While I was wearing Boy I never felt like this was a new step forward for Chanel, fougeres, or genderless perfumes. My overriding feeling was one of classical forms being varied in a very brand conscious way. I think Boy could only be a Chanel perfume. It feels like somewhere in the note list there should be a secret ingredient called “Coco” because it feels so much like her style. In a time where many of the grand maisons feel like they are trying to lose that distinctiveness Boy feels like it is embracing it.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.
I have definitely evolved on the concept of large outdoor installations as something artistic. I know when I first heard of the artist team of Christo and Jean-Claude I thought their idea of art was ridiculous. In 1972 they erected a 24.5-mile fence covered in fabric in California. A fabric covered fence was art? Nonsense I thought. I would soon get a chance to revise that thinking because the artists were coming to my hometown.
Jean-Claude and Christo
Christo and Jean-Claude wanted to surround eleven small islands in Biscayne Bay with pink fabric. As they started the permitting process in 1981 there was a fierce debate about whether this was environmentally wise. If the money needed was going to drain local arts funding. Finally, was it all just a self-aggrandizing stunt. I can say when this was all being kicked around I was firmly in the camp that this was ego and not art.
By May of 1983 Christo and Jean-Claude were ready to unfurl their project. Once I actually saw it and experienced it live I was mesmerized. The color of the fabric was an interstitial band between the turquoise water and the green growth on the islands. Each island presented its own unique canvas. The moment which really turned me around was a sunset I was out sailing by one of the wrapped islands. Twilight was falling the lights of the city skyline were turning on as the water was transitioning from turquoise to inky black. In those moments I was treated to a different view of my hometown milieu all because of a few panels of pink fabric. Standing at the tiller of my sailboat my opinion was being transformed as surely as the day was turning into night. I became a fan from then on.
It would be twenty years before I would once again feel the power of Christo and Jean-Claude in person again. In February of 2005 they set up an installation within New York City’s Central Park called “The Gates”. Running throughout the park were gates which held a panel of saffron colored fabric. I walked all the way through all of the gates. What was magical was Mother Nature helped to change things as a snow storm blanketed the ground in white about midway through the two weeks the exhibit was up. It was just after that when I made my second visit to The Gates, again at sunset. Facing west as the sun began to descend it lit up the fabric making them glow. With the stark white snow as a background it was another reminder how these installations provided me unique perspective on that which I know well.
I am reminded of these two moments because the latest Christo and Jean-Claude project “The Floating Piers” just opened yesterday om Italy’s Lake Iseo. For this project a floating walkway covered in orange fabric provides an opportunity to walk on water from the mainland out to, and around, an island in the lake. The picture I saw of it today almost makes me want to jump on a plane. If I did I would make sure to be out on the walkway at sunset because, at least for me, this is when the artistry of Christo and Jean-Claude is at its most vibrant.
What if I told you there was a perfume brand which had some of the greatest perfumers designing fragrances for them. What if I further told you that brand would also be considered a Discount Diamond as the entire line can be had for $50 or less. You would think that brand would be front and center at the local mall. Instead that brand, Roger & Gallet, can be frustratingly hard to find. It is extensively available at multiple online sellers. If you’re looking for a great value perfume purchase here are five to start with.
Roger & Gallet was founded because they were the exclusive producer for the Eau de Cologne invented by Jean Marie Farina. Now called Jean Maria Farina Extra Vieille it is perfume history in a bottle as the original eau de cologne formula of lemon, neroli and rosemary is faithfully recreated. This is as close as you get to owning the alpha perfume.
Until 1990 Jean Marie Farina Extra Vieille was the only real fragrance the brand produced. There were a couple of attempts in the !970’s and 1980’s but it wasn’t until 1990 when the fragrance arm was really expanded. In 2003 Eau de Gingembre was released by perfumer Jacques Cavallier. This is a natural follow-on to Extra Vieille as it is the cologne structure fused with the gourmand note of gingerbread. When you first smell it the neroli is very cologne-like and then the bake shop where the gingerbread is cooking comes in behind that. Ambrette seeds provide a very light botanical musk to finish it. This is one of those early gourmand experiments which works on every level.
Bambou was released in 2007 by perfumer Alberto Morillas. It is also another one which builds upon the cologne ancestry of the brand. M. Morillas works a different set of ingredients as grapefruit segues into the green damp woodiness of the bamboo accord before turning more aggressively green with vetiver in the base. Bambou is a fresh woody perfume ideal for warmer days.
My favorite perfumes by perfumer Dominique Ropion are many of his more intense compositions. Which was why I was shocked to find out he was responsible for 2009’s Bois D’Orange. M. Ropion fashions a cheery voluptuous citrus fragrance. It is very reminiscent of the smell of the orange orchard as it captures the fruit the leaves and the trees. A fun perfume from a perfumer who is not necessarily thought of that way.
The most recent release is 2013’s Fleur de Figuier by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian. M. Kurkdjian wanted to also capture the entire fruit tree experience. This time it was fig. One of the reasons I enjoy this perfume so much is he uses caraway instead of bergamot with his citrus in the top notes. I have long thought caraway could be a great substitute for bergamot. In Fleur de Figuier it shows how good it can be as a replacement. This leads to a fig accord of the still-ripening fruit on the tree amidst the leaves. M. Kurkdjian in fact lets the fig leaves dominate for much of the middle part of the development enhancing the green of the unripened fig. This gives way to a creamy woody effect as cedar stands in for the trunk of the tree. I still think this is one of the best perfume bargains out there as it is some of M. Kurkdjian’s best work of the last few years at a very affordable price.
As I mentioned above these fragrances can be difficult to find but when you do these five will make the reward worth the hunt.
Disclosure: I purchased bottles of all the perfumes reviewed.
One of the things I find interesting about independent perfumers is they are olfactory ambassadors of where they live. It shouldn’t be surprising to find an artist inspired by their surroundings. I first learned of Shelley Waddington in 2010 as I tried her Debut de Carmel. At that time, she lived on the Monterey Peninsula in California. Over the next few years she would let that area of the world spark her creativity. Also, particularly, in the last two years she has hit her most creative phase as a perfumer. I have enjoyed her artistic growth and have looked forward to her new releases because of it.
Ms. Waddington has left California for the Pacific Northwest. She has set up her atelier in Portland, OR. When I heard this I was wondering how long it would be until we received a fragrance based on this new location. The answer was the sample I received a month ago called Rainmaker.
When I heard the name my mind was pulled towards the old tent shows in Dust Bowl America in the 1930’s where the preachers claimed to be able to use faith to make it rain. Ms. Waddington turned out to be more literal. She wanted Rainmaker to be a rainy day in the forests of the Northwest. Rainmaker is a perfume of soaring trees in a damp forest.
The first drops of Rainamker focus on pine. Ms. Waddington surrounds it with rose leaf, incense, and iris. Together these sharpen the pine effect rendering it almost metallic to my senses as I wore it. I say almost because every time I really felt it was heading that way it would snap back to pine. A rich patchouli sets up the smell of the damp forest woods. In the base is cedar, fir, and redwood. They are a woody fantasia. What pulls together the rainy milieu is Ms. Waddington’s use of petriichor. Petrichor is that smell of the forest after a rain. It is caused by the rain releasing the oils that have gathered on the surface of the leaves. It is Nature’s way of adding a base note to a thunderstorm. Ms. Waddington, doing her best Mother Nature impression, adds petrichor to Rainmaker to provide that same effect. It is a literal keynote as when it arrives it coalesces everything which has come previous to it.
Rainmaker has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have to say if Rainmaker is a preview of things to come from Ms. Waddington I think I’m going to be delighted she decided to move on up to the NW side of the country.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by En Voyage.
As I begin to follow a brand I am always interested in trying to define a particular brand aesthetic. I believe if a brand can create this it allows for a perfume buyer an opportunity to connect more strongly to it. Through the first ten releases Ex Nihilo was forming what I thought might be an emerging aesthetic. With the eleventh release, Love Shot, that aesthetic is mostly left behind. Which leaves me wondering if it is outlier or is it more similar than I think?
Love Shot is the second of two new Ex Nihilo releases helmed by perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto. Creative directors Sylvie Loday, Benoit Verdier, and Olivier Royere asked Mme Gracia-Cetto to create a modern floral chypre. The previous florals within the Ex Nihilo collection have had a very extroverted presence which hearken back to the powerhouse florals of the past. It has been that embrace of the structures of perfume from decades ago which had me thinking this was the eventual identity of Ex Nihilo as a brand. Love Shot is a very modern version of a classic perfume type.
Mme Gracia-Cetto chooses a fruity floral beginning with peony supported with a bit of raspberry. The raspberry imparts a tartness instead of the sweetness which I find so off-putting in this style. Having the fresh floralcy of the peony in place it allows jasmine to be the real star floral of this floral chypre. I like the expansiveness of the jasmine as it adds a tremendous amount of lift to Love Shot. So much so that the raspberry peeks out again. Then we head to the chypre base accord which Mme Gracia-Cetto constructs from patchouli, vetiver, and musk. This combination is starting to become the standard go-to for a modern chypre. What makes it different is how each perfumer chooses to balance the ingredients. Here the musks are amplified a little more so the vetiver and patchouli add a little less bite than they might. The choice works particularly well in Love Shot because Mme Gracia-Cetto matches the chypre accord with a leather accord. This is a classical leather accord very refined but not so far as to be suede more motorcycle jacket. Together this leathery chypre is a wonderful foil to the jasmine and raspberry.
Love Shot has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Love Shot represents a contemporary quality that most of the rest of the Ex Nihilo collection does not display. I think if I smelled it blind I would have guessed a whole lot of other brands before probably giving up and being surprised at the answer. Where it is similar is in its desire to push towards the limits of a style. As a fruity floral chypre I found Love Shot to be much more interesting than most perfumes of this ilk. That’s because it feels modern and vintage at different turns. Which might be the reason Love Shot is not an outlier just a different perspective on a vintage aesthetic.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Ex Nihilo.
L’Artisan Parfumeur was one of the earliest niche perfume lines. Started in 1978 by Jean-Francois Laporte it was meant to be a riposte to the larger brands’ offerings. For nearly forty years the brand has had its ups and downs but it has never stopped taking risks. If there in any legacy M. Laporte would be proud of I would imagine it is that.
Throughout the lifetime of the brand they have identified some of the best perfumers working and given them budget and freedom to realize a vision. The very best of the line are some of the masterpieces of niche perfumery. That doesn’t mean they are immune to sending some miscalculations to the Dead Letter Office. One of those miscalculations was the 2001 release Verte Violette.
Perfumer Anne Flipo had made her name with L’Artisan with her release Mimosa pour Moi. It was a greener version of mimosa tinted that color with violet leaf. If there was a consistent criticism of that perfume it was that the violet was too sharply green; closing in the mimosa. In 2001 when Mme Flipo was asked to create two more fresh florals I think she wanted to revisit a green violet. What results is a classic Goldilocks perfume where the perfumer takes the keynote and tries not to make it too green or too sweet. In the case of Verte Violette Mme Flipo would strike this balance near perfectly. While I think the Goldilocks approach was not the right tack to take with niche consumers who wanted something different it probably wasn’t the main reason for its discontinuation.
That reason was probably due to its longevity. Mme Flipo designed Verte Violette as a fragile veil meant to be a close wearing skin scent. Particularly at this point in the expansion of niche a perceived lack of longevity was going to be seen as a significant drawback. Verte Violette has almost no sillage and while it does stay on my skin for a long time it requires me to bring my nose close to detect it. What I detect when I do this is a slightly sweet fresh green floral.
Verte Violette opens with a similar riff that Mme Flipo used on Mimosa pour Moi; violet leaves and raspberry. The green of the violet leaves is only slightly sweetened be the fruit. This is the typical sharp green quality of that note. A slew of ionones make up Mme Flipo’s violet accord in the heart. It is a densely layered construct meant to convey a weight between transparent and full-throated. As I mentioned Mme Flipo finds a really beautiful balance here. The violet accord grows deeper over time as rose and orris provide some strength but not too much. Cedar provides the woody frame for the florals to exist within.
Verte Violette has 8-10 hour longevity but almost zero sillage.
Verte Violette was discontinued after just ten years on the market in 2011.
I have always enjoyed Verte Violette for that Goldilocks quality Mme Flipo managed to create. I am not surprised that others did not share that feeling. The longevity and lack of sillage is something I have never cared about but I understand those who do. The combination of fleeting and just right makes Verte Violette a Short-Lived Goldilocks. At least in this case I am that Goldilocks.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.
The chemist who writes this blog is to no body’s surprise enchanted with the perfumes named after elements that Nu_Be has been putting out since 2012. Not only do they smell great but they have done an admirable job at capturing the essence of the element they are invoking. For 2016 things are changing. First the name of the brand is being changed from Nu_Be to One of Those. Second the first new release since 2013 is here, Curium.
The brand has begun a slow descent lower in the periodic table over the previous seven releases. With Curium we finally find one of the earliest radioactive elements discovered. In 1944 when it was isolated at the University of California at Berkley the team decided to name it after Marie and Pierre Curie the scientists who discovered the first radioactive elements.
For the perfume Curium perfumer Evelyne Boulanger was inspired by Mme Curie. Her attempt was to capture “a brilliant mind, strongly accurate yet vivid, joyful, and imaginative” The concept extends to using the botanical musk of ambrette to match the synthetic musk later on. In between there is a dense floral nucleus.
Curium opens with that botanical musk provided by ambrette. When this is used correctly it provides a lovely opaque muskiness to the early moments of fragrance. In Curium that is exactly what it does. When I read the note list before sniffing it I saw a heart made up of violet and orris. These are one of my more beloved pairs of notes. Mme Boulanger chooses to make them a little less lush as if they are the radioactive nucleus emitting floral emissions periodically. It is an interesting effect. On one of the days I wanted it to have more presence. It steadfastly stayed at arm’s length. When wearing it for the second time on a much warmer day I was much happier with the restraint. This ends on a combination of vetiver and musk. The vetiver here is the most prominent note in the composition. It exudes its own kind of pulsing glow which the musks radiate outward from.
Curium has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
As I wore Curium I was reminded that radioactivity is the decay of the nucleus of an atom. Curium feels like something on the verge of an entropic event. While waiting for that to happen the nucleus that is in place is mighty enjoyable.
Disclosure: This review was based ona sample provided by One of Those at Esxence 2016.
One of my favorite perfumes brands is M. Micallef. In this case the reasons are very easy to explain they feel French to me. This is a brand which has always exuded a Gallic sense of style from the day I first smelled Gaiac through to the present day. The founders and creative directors Martine Micallef and Geoffrey Nejman are French. The perfumer, Jean-Claude Astier, who has worked on all of the releases is also French. So maybe it is in the blood. Or maybe it is something else.
Martine Micallef and Geoffrey Nejman
When I say these smell French to me I mean they carry an undeniable elegance above the everyday. There may be no country which wears its elegance on its sleeve more effortlessly than France. M. Micallef also display an effortless elegance. These have always felt like perfumes to be worn when I want to project my own personal sophistication. Even if I am wearing an M. Micallef fragrance under one of my ever-present Hawaiian shirts in my mind I see it as elevated because of its presence. The latest release Osaito has become one of my favorites within the entire line because it takes one of the most pedestrian styles of perfume, citrus, and infused it with this indigenous grace.
Osaito is the follow-up to last year’s Akowa but it is diametrically different. I found Akowa to be a delightfully overstuffed expression of olfactory ideas. Osaito is minimalist in comparison. Throughout the development of Osaito the very familiar is infused with something more. Mme Micallef was the creative director in charge of Osaito and with M. Astier they have made a fantastic citrus.
Osaito opens with a very typical Mediterranean accord of grapefruit, lemon, along with Calone and ozonic notes. The first few moments are not going to prepare you for the rest of the development. You might even stifle a yawn. Then M. Astier adds in immortelle and myrtle. This combination is a rich riff on typical citrus developments. Immortelle adds a treacly maple syrup which the top accord is happy to ride on top of. The myrtle applies a variation where an herbal aspect is twinned to a floral. This has also been a staple of Mediterranean inspired fragrances. With the immortelle it sheds that common quality for something more sophisticated as it is allowed to breathe a little more freely in Osaito. As in Akowa there is a “secret ingredient” which is a wood. I would describe it as mahogany-like. Deeper than a lighter cypress or cedar. Sandalwood adds in the familiar. Taken together it is a luxurious woody foundation.
Osaito has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Osaito is one of the best citrus perfumes I have tried in the last couple of years. When I tried it at Esxence it didn’t impress me as much as it has when given the opportunity to be the sole focus of my attention. Since my return I keep wanting to go back and revise my 10-best list from the show. Osaito belongs on it. It is an elegant French citrus which is no surprise considering the brand from which it comes from.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received at Esxence 2016.
There was a time during the mid-1970’s when everything European was cooler. Punk Rock was cooler in Europe. Clothes were cooler in Europe. I heard there were even amazing perfumes in Europe. My source of this information were the many British tourists who discovered Miami Beach at this time as a bargain beach destination. In these days they were a source on many things I was interested in.
As a comic geek there was always an issue of something on me as I would move among the British chatting them up. During one of these I met a French man my age who told me about these amazing European comic artists/writers. The names were Moebius, Philippe Druillet and others. He promised to send me some examples when he returned. Good to his word he did and I had a small taste of something happening outside of my reach.
Heavy Metal 1977 Cover by Moebius
I remember walking into my local bookstore in 1977 and glancing at the rack. There was a magazine with a drawing which looked like it had been done by Moebius. I immediately beelined right for it. It was called Heavy Metal. Upon opening it I was delighted to find an American magazine that was going to try and do comics European style. I immediately subscribed and was a reader for twenty years. By the end one of the consistent criticisms was it was more about boobs than brains. Certainly by 1997 I was able to get hardcover collections of all my favorite Europeans. Since then I really haven’t thought much about it.
In March I received a press release announcing a new Editor-in-Chief who would be starting with Issue 280. The new man in charge was going to be Grant Morrison. I became aware of Mr. Morrison through a sort of competitor to Heave Metal called 2000 AD. Published in 1993 it was where his envelope pushing style would begin to be sharpened. In the mid 2000’s DC would hire him to work on a number of their titles. His run on Superman and Justice League are among my favorites of those long-time series. He is a legitimate superstar in the world of comics.
Heavy Metal #280 Cover Art by Mozchops
His involvement with Heavy Metal got me to go down to my bookstore and pick up his first copy as EIC #280. It starts with Mr. Morrison giving us an idea what his version of Heavy Metal is. Based on what I read I think he is hoping to raise its profile again. As much as things might change; in the second story in the issue there were some boobs on display. Some things change some stay the same. The opening piece by Mr. Morrison felt like something from his 2000 AD days which I liked as a throwback. My only quibble is the presumed twist seems telegraphed.
Throughout the twelve stories I found myself enjoying this return to an old friend. The final story called Salsa Invertebraxa by Mozchops is the one which will get me to purchase #281. I really want to see where this goes. Much in the same way I want to see what a Grant Morrison Heavy Metal looks like. I’m not sure if this is just a dalliance or full-fledged rekindling but for now I’m willing to read and see.
There comes a point when we evolve in our perfume tastes. As we do that we leave behind the places we first discovered perfume had the ability to be a part of our lives. Very few of us start with Chanel or Guerlain. Most of us start at one of the stalwarts of the mall. One of those is The Body Shop. When I go on my mall field trips I try to make it a priority to check in to The Body Shop a couple times a year. On my recent spring outing I found a new entry in their musk series, Black Musk.
When The Body Shop broke in to fragrance in 1981 White Musk was their signature scent for over ten years. I have always admired it as a benchmark of the clean linen kind of musk. I keep a bottle on hand because it is such a good example of that. In 2003 The Body Shop really expanded their fragrance offerings. Over the next few years there would be a number of solid White Musk flankers. Two years ago Red Musk entered the musk collection. This was a perfume which would be familiar to any niche perfume lover; pepper aldehydes, vetiver, and tobacco. A baby niche kind of perfume.
When I was in a few weeks ago I found the musk series had added a new member Black Musk. Composed by perfumers Cecile Matton and Ralf Schwieger, Black Musk is like a beginner’s gourmand with a mix of sweet notes fused with the darker synthetic musks.
Black Musk opens on a crisp pear note juxtaposed with pink pepper. You are not going to find anything here you haven’t seen elsewhere. Yet you will find perfume composition of commonly used ingredients employed well. Pink pepper has become one of those almost overused notes but I am liking it most when it is paired with a greenish fruity note. It seems to be a natural pairing. A cracking serving of licorice whips takes you into the vanilla and musk finale. The licorice is the sweet less herbal version. The vanilla is the sweeter baker’s version. The musk is one of the weightier ones less like laundry and more similar to its animalic origins. Together it forms a gourmand accord with nice depth.
Black Musk in the eau de toilette version has 6-8 hours longevity and average sillage.
The eau de toilette bottle goes for $23. There are oil and eau de parfum versions for a few dollars more. Not all Discount Diamonds are last year’s model sometimes there is something new to be found even at the mall. Next time you have a few minutes nip in to The Body Shop you might find a really good bang for your buck fragrance. Black Musk is a great place to start.
Disclosure: this review was based on a bottle I purchased.