As I was walking back to my hotel room in Milan during Esxence 2016 I ran into Joseph Quartana in the lobby of the hotel. Mr. Quartana was co-founder of one of my favorite independent brands Six Scents where they took up-and-coming fashion designers and paired them with perfumers. The results were never less than fascinating as the fashion designers and the perfumers came up with their olfactory designs. I asked him if there was going to be more. He shook his head negatively. He told me he was doing something else. I stopped to sit down and hear about it. Mr. Quartana told me he was developing a line based on poisonous flowers. He had some for preview in Milan but I just couldn’t make it over to the hotel where he was at during the show. I followed up on our return to the US and received sample of all nine of the new line called Parfums Quartana Les Potions Fatales.
Mr. Quartana decided to work with the very deep roster of perfumers at Symrise. Each of the nine has a different perfumer. This is in keeping with the way Six Scents also operated. I am a big proponent of the idea that a single collaboration between creative director and perfumer produces the best results. Except Mr. Quartana keeps providing me with data points which are in conflict with that hypothesis. For Les Potions Fatales it makes each one of these first perfumes feel like its own discovery with the concept being the connective tissue rather than an aesthetic or particular style. I am going to spend most of this week introducing you to this very good collection of perfumes. Today I start with Bloodflower.
Bloodflower is most known as the preferred food of Monarch butterfly larvae. In the places where bloodflower grows its sap is used to poison the arrows of the indigenous primitive peoples who live there. I knew this history so I was surprised that the perfume based upon it was something quite different. Perfumer Alexandra Carlin and Mr. Quartana wanted to go for a “haute Goth” style of fragrance. The nod to the plant was to mimic the transformation of the larvae into the butterfly having a metamorphosing style throughout. It does capture what they wanted.
Bloodflower opens with the first syllable, a blood accord. I have always loved the description of the smell of freshly spilled blood as smelling of freshly sheared copper. That imparts the concept of a chilly metallic accord. Mme Carlin assembles just that. The early moments have a clean metallic edge to them, almost like a used scalpel would smell like. The first transformation occurs as the blood changes into a licorice laden mix meant to emulate Sambuca liqueur. As with the top accord Mme Carlin also captures the sugary sweet quality of the liqueur as well as its viscosity as it feels like this oozes over the blood accord. In the base the flower part shows up as a very deep rose is made even deeper with clove and patchouli. This is a Goth black rose to finish upon.
Bloodflower has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I will be repeating myself a lot over the next few days but Mr. Quartana did a fantastic job as creative director. Bloodflower shows how he was unafraid to move away from slavish devotion to the name of the collection with a willingness to end up someplace different. Bloodflower is a great example of everything that is good about this collection.
Tomorrow I am going to review Venetian Belladonna and Midnight Datura.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Parfums Quartana.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Quartana plans on producing and directing original videos for all of the perfumes within the collection. Bloodflower is one of the ones which already has one. You will see Mr. Quartana has a similar adventurous nature in his filmmaking as in his perfume making. The link is here.
I do most of my writing for this blog late in the evening. Mrs. C and the poodle are usually in bed. I am not a fan of a silent house so like many the television is my mostly neglected companion. Most often I find a movie I have seen before and let the familiar be my background. This has been my way for as long as there have been cable and movie channels. There are movies I love having on while I do other things because just hearing the lines is enough. Over the last month I’ve added two new ones to the rotation; Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2.
Pitch Perfect was released in 2012. I did not see this in the theater it was one of those things I found on cable. The movie tells the story of rival a-capella singing groups at Barden College. The men’s group The Treblemakers are the defending national champions after the women’s group the Barden Bellas had an unfortunate mishap during the same finals. The movie chronicles the inclusion of new freshmen Becca, played by Anna Kendrick and Fat Amy, played by Rebel Wilson. From auditions through to the final performance this is a familiar story to anyone who watches movies about underdog athletes. The difference here is the look inside a niche competition. Based on the non-fiction book by Mickey Rapkin there are a lot of amusing details to what goes into making one of the performances. The joy of these movies are the performances by Ms. Kendrick and Ms. Wilson. They provide the oversize personalities necessary for them to work at their best.
Most of the time a sequel will lose much of what made the original enjoyable. Pitch Perfect 2, released in 2015, manages to tell roughly the same story; opening performance mishap to final competition, while filling in some of the spaces with different conflicts. The other thing Pitch Perfect 2 has to do is introduce the next generation and does so with a heartfelt performance by Hailee Steinfeld as legacy freshman Emily. Her genuine excitement at becoming part of the same singing group her mother was a part of when she attended Barden College is played just right. The rest of the group is dealing with the decisions about what to do after they graduate. Pitch Perfect 2 manages to be a sequel which stands as an equal to its predecessor.
What attracts me to both movies is the singing performances which occur frequently throughout both movies. The movie casts many of the current professional a-capella singers who have risen to prominence on TV shows like The Sing-Off. It is those songs which are the real companion for me while I spend the late hours of the night writing about perfume.
I once had a colleague who owned a horse farm. Every year about this time he would be waiting for the moment that it was time to go harvest the hay that would feed the horses through the winter. I went to visit during the harvest one year. The smell of the dried sweet grass was beautiful in the midsummer heat. Because of that experience I always think of hay as a summer style of perfume. Most others see it as something to be worn in the fall. Because it is the right time of year I thought I’d share my five favorite hay perfumes.
My first perfume encounter with hay came from Serge Lutens Chergui. Named after a desert wind that blows through Morocco, perfumer Christopher Sheldrake would set the table for most hay perfumes to come. He chose immortelle and tobacco as the companions for the hay to replicate the hot wind. On that stiff breeze is also carried sage, orris, sandalwood, leather, and honey. It is one of the best of the entire Serge Lutens collection.
Parfumerie Generale Bois Blond was inspired by the smell of the hay harvest in summer. Perfumer Pierre Guillaume comes the closest to capturing the smell of that harvest. He cleverly marries a green grass accord which as it develops dries out to the hay with tobacco providing more sweetness. It all rests on a desiccated cedar base. This is usually my yearly reminder perfume of the hay harvest.
Santa Maria Novela Fieno is named after hay but doesn’t contain any hay absolute. Instead the heart is a hay accord which is a bit of an abstraction as hawthorn, jasmine, myrtle, and coumarin combine to form this olfactory illusion. When I wear Fieno I always notice the pieces at first. It is only when I stop focusing that I get this beautifully composed facsimile of hay.
Diptyque Volutes is a perfume which has continued to impress me more every time I wear it. Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin uses the same immortelle, hay, and tobacco nucleus as Chergui. The difference is he infuses his with resins and spices namely black pepper and myrrh most prominently. It is a perfectly balanced perfume that is nearly flawless.
I have only had my sample of the last choice for a few months but Cognoscenti No. 30 Hay Incense has imprinted itself on me. Independent perfumer Dannielle Sergent keeps it simple. Hay absolute and frankincense intertwine. Immortelle also makes a late appearance as well as birch leaf and vetiver. It is a gorgeous perfume.
I will not be standing in a field this summer but any of the five perfumes above can transport me there if I breathe deep and close my eyes.
Disclosure: I have purchased bottles of everything except Cognoscenti No. 30 Hay Incense which is courtesy of a sample from Cognoscenti.
I really enjoy receiving my packages from Europe which have new brands within. It is always an exciting moment when I try something entirely new to me. I received my sample set of the new Ideo Parfumeurs line about a month ago. The four initial releases surprised me.
Ideo Parfumeurs are the creations of husband and wife Antoine and Ludmila Bitar. M. Bitar is described as “The Storyteller” on the website less prosaically he is the creative director. His stories provide the inspiration for Mme Bitar to create the fragrance as the perfumer. Their heritage plays into this brand as he is Lebanese and she is Algerian. They are based in Beirut which they see as a “gateway” city to multiple cultural influences. One of the things which stands out upon trying their perfumes is this idea of fusing differing influences into one. It is most apparent in London to Mumbai where they mix a very proper British lavender-based fougere with an Indian tuberose and cinnamon heart. It could just be a clash but it works; perhaps better than it sounds. Malika’s Temptation takes a fabulous praline accord and drops it into a woody base accord dominated with oud. Weekend a Fontainebleau is the most typical as it is a riff on a floral chypre. The one which enchanted me right from my first sniff was Prison Blues.
Antoine and Ludmila Bitar
To get an idea of the storytelling as brief that M. Bitar uses here is the description of Prison Blues from the website, “Inside a tent in the desert, Khan is sitting on his Kilim, a rugged sabre on his knees. A woman serves his cardamom rice. The young man smiles, but his thoughts are elsewhere. He remembers his daring escape from the palace of the governor. At regular times, the incense blended with the agar wood walls. The aromas diffused in the air, and mixed with the patchouli and geranium radiating from the clothes of the governor’s wife. She often watched him from a small pit in her maid’s room. Khan escaped, but he somehow misses the aromas of his luxurious prison.”
Where Mme Bitar goes from that is to use cardamom, geranium, and oud as the keynotes. With the cardamom she adds in a humid effect to mimic the rice from the brief. That dish is also spiced with bay leaves and pepper in tiny but noticeable quantities. I love cardamom and this steamy effect is marvelous. Using the green hued rose character of geranium along with a spiral plume of incense the oud has partners to work with as it comes to the foreground. The three notes from the exotic walls of the gilded prison. The base accord is patchouli, labdanum, and musk. All of these deepen the trio at the heart of Prison Blues.
Prison Blues has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am impressed with this debut collection. M. and Mme Bitar have done a creditable job in their first attempts as an independent perfume brand. If their future releases are similar to Prison Blues I’ll happily stay in this fragrant gilded cage.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Ideo Parfumeur.
When I tried the first three releases from Beaufort London I admired creative director Leo Crabtree’s adherence to his brand’s story. As part of the “Come Hell or High Water” collection he used his three initial releases to explore the naval life when wind powered the ships and exploration was part of the mission of a British naval ship. Since I reviewed East India earlier in the year it has been re-named Vi et Armis. 1805 has also been re-named to Tonnerre. These were very specific milieus of the ship going experience without compromise. There are few creative directors who would steer so faithful a course. The first three dealt with the cargoes, the ink, and the warfare found onboard these ships. The fourth release Lignum Vitae touches on the exploration these ships did while out on the ocean.
We’ve seen the scene captured on video many times of a great sailing ship anchored in a cove as a landing party rows towards shore. As a watcher we wonder what they will find knowing something will be there to provide conflict. In reality these landing parties more often found a new source of hardwoods or spices without something emerging from the jungle to surprise them. One of the things found during one of these trips was the wood lignum vitae (wood of life). It is the densest hardwood known to be traded. The other naval connection is clockmaker John Harrison was able to replace the metal gears of his clocks with lignum vitae versions which allowed the first marine chronometers to be brought aboard ship without the salt spray corroding the metal. The fragrance represents that first landing party on the beach looking at this new hardwood.
Mr. Crabtree has been working with the same team of perfumers for all four releases to date; Julie Dunkley and Julie Marlow. Together they definitely seem to have an underlying understanding of what they are trying to create with each of these perfumes. They made some really interesting choices to capture that unknown land vibe they seemingly wanted to achieve.
Lignum Vitae opens with the smell of that sea spray as you are rowing to shore. A citrus mélange provides a facsimile of the sun overhead. Once you reach the shore you look into the jungle and you are greeted with this overripe sweet fecund vegetation accord. The perfumers used an ingenious set of notes to convey this; black pepper, ginger, baie rose, and juniper berry are part of it. The next two notes surprisingly are what stitch it all together; caramel and madeleine cake accord. The sweetness of the caramel is kept as a support but the cake accord adds that yeasty bread-y nature of wild foliage. This is an excellently balanced opening stanza. The heart gets a little more literal with a mixture of oud, vetiver and guaiac providing the lignum vitae tree itself. Lignum vitae is a member of the guaiacum species so using that note is appropriate. After the work team has felled the tree the final phase of development is the transport back to the beach. For this the perfumers use moss to represent the crushing of the jungle as the trunk is dragged through it. There is a lot of animalic musks to create the sweaty exertion. Finally, there is a mineralic sand accord as the sailors collapse on the beach with their efforts.
Lignum Vitae has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
When it comes to this brand I find it is the times when it is focused on the exploration and commerce it is most appealing to me. Lignum Vitae is right next to Vi et Armis as my favorite.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.
I started the final day of Cosmoprof North America 2016 learning about the new brand i smell great. Co-founded by Randi Shinder of Clean and actress Sophia Bush. i smell great is a full-service beauty line but it was the fragrance part I was most interested in. They currently have four releases; Angel Cake, Wild Honey, Candy Crush, and Beach Babe. It is a line with Millennials in mind. They have dedicated social media channels for users to post what they’re wearing and layering daily. Ms. Bush also joins in with her scent of the day. The first three are all variations on sweetness with Wild Honey having the most balanced approach. Beach Babe is an outlier for its suntan lotion and ocean vibe. The other interesting thing is the perfume is formulated in micro encapsulated spheres which over the course of the day open up as you apply friction to where you applied. I put some on today and found I would get a surprising boost of scent throughout the day. I also got a kick how my scent strips from the morning turned in to scratch and sniff by the evening. This is another one of those Millennial targeted fragrances which I will be following.
It was great to have the opportunity to reconnect with Mark Crames of Demeter. I have always admired his straightforward sensibility when it comes to making perfume. Oh and he also has a lot of fun at the same time. Mr. Crames gave me a preview of something that will be a bit of a new direction for Demeter. In time for the Holidays they will release a Zodiac collection. One perfume for each of the astrological signs. The fun part is those signs which are supposed to be attracted to each other have been formulated so they can be ideally layered. Brings a whole new twist to the old pick-up line, “What’s your sign?”
Myself and the Karens of Sniffapalooza
My last two stops were to acquaint myself with two fragrance collections; one new and one which has been around for a few years.
Parfums Berdoues is the one which has been around. I had tried their original 1902 collection of which the Violet is still a favorite. Over the years they just sort of drifted away from my awareness. Jose Penalba of Amerikas brought me up to date. Starting last year Berdoues released a six fragrance collection which has a new entry Vanira Moorea. They also did a three fragrance Grand Cru collection focused on oud. My favorite of that line was the Oud Wa Misk. The brand has evolved significantly from the last time I checked in. The new direction and perfumes are worth taking a look at if you also let Berdoues fall off your radar.
Then new line is called Paglieri 1876 and will be launched in the fall. An Italian line Working with perfumers Henri Bergia and Eric Fracapane. Each of the first six releases is inspired by a city in Italy. Each bottle has a laser etched colorful logo to also go along with the fragrance to identify its city. It is a well-balanced collection which I enjoyed but the one which stood out for me was Romae based on Rome. It had a wonderfully sophisticated spicy core sweetened with rose and vanilla.
I had a fabulous time in Vegas covering Cosmoprof North America 2016.
For the last time Colognoisseur has left the building.
One of the overarching themes of this year’s Discover Scent at Cosmoprof North America 2016 is that there is more to fragrance than just perfume. I started Day 2 speaking with the team behind X Sense. Co-founder Dr. Ashok Gowda presented a product where specific scent blends are meant to provide boosts to memory (worksense), sleep, (restsense) and athletic endurance (playsense). Each of these were studied in clinical trials which showed significant percentage increases. The blend is meant to be rolled on underneath your nose with a rollerball design to make it convenient. I find the idea interesting backed up with data gathered in clinical settings. Dr. Gowda has his degree in biomedical engineering which makes me more confident in their conclusions.
The next stop was my first meeting in real life with perfumer Christi Meshell the founder of House of Matriarch. This past year or so has been a transformative time for Ms. Meshell’s brand as she is one of the rare independent perfumers who has expanded into a wider retail space. She began having her perfumes carried by Nordstrom. I’ve written often about how important I think it is to have an independent perfumer breakthrough at the mall. Having the opportunity to check in with her shows a perfumer and brand representative who is passionately dedicated to trying to achieve this. More importantly I got a preview sniff of her next new release, Kazimi. I wore this on one arm for most of the day. My first impression is this is one of her best.
Abby Wallach co-founder of ScentInvent Technologies introduced me to Linger Lasting Fragrance Primer. Certainly one of the more prevalent consumer complaints is the lasting power of some of their favorite perfumes. Linger is a skin treatment you apply prior to spraying on your perfume. This morning I treated one arm with Linger and the other with nothing. The perfume I sprayed on the Linger patch lasted hours longer than the untreated arm. If you have wanted something which can increase the longevity of a lighter perfume Linger seems to be able to do the trick.
As a blogger with a long time relationship with many brands it can sometimes be frustrating waiting for something I’ve smelled years ago to be released. This was the case with Raw Spirit the fragrance line which has made it a point to use indigenous materials from around the world. What had me anticipating this new release, Mystic Pearl, is the second word in the name. The perfumers have made an extract of pearl which adds an incredible brininess. It is very different than ambergris. This seems saltier which allows it to become more of a focal element to the rest of the perfume.
One more day left in Vegas.
Until then Colognoisseur has left the building.
As I walked back to my hotel room, through the Manadalay Bay casino, at the end of Day 1 of Cosmoprof North America I realized my thought processes on “the world of fragrance” that according to my logo I like to muse upon had expanded. My HQ for the exposition is the cross roads right inside the entrance where the Discover Scent exhibition is set up. Up and down two crossing aisles are a curated selection from the women behind Sniffapalooza; Karen Adams and Karen Dubin.
For the first part of the day I spent time at the Sniffapalooza booth and talking a bit with the other brands in the Discover Scent section. What I saw was the most diverse international crowd I have seen at an exposition. It is also the largest by a lot. It is an interesting experience to see fragrance in the form of perfume playing a smaller part. Even with that reduced footprint there was constant interaction. I spoke with attendees from every continent except Antarctica. They also had very different ways they want to use scent for the consumers in their countries. This new perspective would be reinforced as I wandered around the show floor.
The Sniffapalooza booth on Day 1
There are two other curated sections similar to Discover Scent; Discover Green and Discover Beauty. As I walked through them I was struck at how much a factor scent was for these brands.
Discover Green is as you might imagine the section highlighting the eco-conscious natural and organic brands. It could also be subtitled Discover Millennials. It was very clear that the products were aimed directly at that demographic. Nearly every product was scented according to aromatherapy principles. There is a clear desire to use the natural oils which have a cleaner profile. It means there was citrus, lavender, rose, and most unusually avocado. I realized those scents have become an important part of the natural/organic brands. Seeing it all in one place it brought home something I had never put together which in hindsight seems obvious.
Walking in Discover Beauty which gives the opportunity for small entrepreneurial brands a chance to participate in Cosmoprof. In the hair and nail categories scent wasn’t as important. Skin care was another thing. There were choices to make some products smell “serious” by eschewing additional scent. Most of these products touted a new ingredient. There seems to be a thought that you need to smell that ingredient without having some more usual floral ingredient masking it out. It made me consider if the scent of “serious” actually makes an impression on consumers.
By the time I returned to Discover Scent the announcement that the convention hall was closing for the day rang out over the loud speakers.
Tomorrow I will be spending more time with the exhibitors in Discover Scent returning to my more traditional part of the “world of fragrance”
Until tomorrow Colognoisseur has left the building.
I am in one of my favorite cities in the world for the next three days. I’ll be covering Cosmoprof North America which is taking place in Las Vegas. I have loved this city from the first time I visited. I got married in Vegas. I’ve had memorable times with my friends every time I have come here. There is a fascinating energy here which goes beyond the gambling. It draws together people who are looking to take some time off from responsibility. It has created one of the more memorable tag lines in tourist advertising; “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.
The history of the city has always fascinated me from a literal Gangster’s Paradise to a pop culture nexus in less than 100 years. There may be no major city in the world which has re-invented itself so many times. It is what makes it so interesting as someone who visits years apart. This never ending evolution means there is always something different. For a world which usually resists change; fearing it, Las Vegas rides the crest of that wave like a champion surfer.
My first visit was in the late 1970’s. From the first moment I laid eyes on The Strip where all of the big hotels’ marquees lit up the night I think I realized I had found a place I wanted to visit often. As I experienced the different resorts I couldn’t help laughing at the cones of hair the female waitstaff had to wear at Caesar’s Palace with the hair colors usually a shade different. I imagined a dressing room full of cones of hair in different shades. That was my first lesson in Vegas if you look too closely the illusion falls apart. That is part of what Vegas sells that idea of perfection but only illusory, at best.
I had my weeding in Las Vegas because Mrs. C also shared an appreciation of that quality. We were married by Elvis in the Graceland Chapel. We had our reception at the Las Vegas Hilton where Elvis played all of his sold-out shows. It was a fantastic weekend surrounded by our friends and family where that love became as much part of the tapestry of the city as anything else.
I’ve spent a weekend during the NCAA basketball tournament watching people scream at television sets over a game where a team was winning by 62 points but the line was 63 points. I always imagine that every time I know a sporting event is close to that in my mind I call it the “Vegas Zone” knowing in some part of Las Vegas somebody is getting apoplectic.
This trip is going to be different yet as I participate in one of the largest beauty conventions in the world. I don’t know what is in store for me but I know it will add to my memories.
Byredo is a brand which has a very distinctive aesthetic which has been in place from their very beginning in 2006. Founder and Creative Director Ben Gorham wanted to make understated fragrances which use top-notch raw materials. Over the past 10 years and 29 releases working with perfumer Jerome Epinette they have created a recognizable Byredo-ness for every new release. When faced with choosing five to start with it was a difficult choice. One reason is there might not be a line I’ve done Perfume 101 for which has entries which might be called Perfume 201 because they are very good but I think not good entry points. That group includes some of my favorites from the line: Pulp, M/Mink, and Black Saffron. They are impressive to me because while staying true to their desire to keep it lighter those have undeniable strength. Those are not where one should start. The five below are where I think you should begin.
Encens Chembur was one of the inaugural releases. M. Epinette was able to provide one of the most transparent incense-centered perfumes I own. Through a veil of lemon buttressed with elemi he combines a mannered ginger with an opaque frankincense. It all ends with a sheer amber and musk base. This is one of the few incense perfumes I wear in the summer.
Bal D’Afrique was inspired by a romanticized version of Africa as seen through Parisiennes of the 1920’s. The fragrance is also an impression as if M. Epinette watched a few National Geographic specials on Africa. A beautifully lilting neroli is contrasted with a shot of astringent marigold. Buchu leaves take up the case with the marigold turning it greener. Before this gets too strident a floral heart of jasmine, cyclamen, and violet bring things back to a floral heart. The base is vetiver and cedar classically framing this picture of Africa.
Baudelaire might be my favorite of all the perfumes M. Epinette has made. Inspired by the poet of the same name; M. Epinette compose a three stanza perfumed poem of his own. Starting with a fabulous duet of juniper berry and black pepper. The second verse is led by hyacinth caressed with incense and caraway. The final part is the beginning of a style which will reappear frequently in other Byredo releases as M. Epinette creates an arid desiccated accord of papyrus, patchouli, and amber.
When I first tried Sunday Cologne the name on the bottle was “Fantastic Man”. I laughed out loud at that name feeling like I should put my hands on my hips and jut my chest out while saying it. Thankfully Byredo also realized the name was silly and in less than a year changed it. The new name describes it perfectly; a cologne for a lazy Sunday. It is a classically constructed lavender cologne tuned to the Byredo transparency. Starting with a breath of cardamom into lavender and incense followed by patchouli and vetiver.
Bullion is another Byredo which takes one of my favorite notes, osmanthus, and shows how it can be made more interesting for having it used with a lighter hand. The osmanthus is the focal point. M. Epinette uses plum in the top notes to blend with osmanthus’ apricot nature. He then doubles down on the flower’s leather character by adding in even more. It all rests on another arid sandalwood foundation.
There are some who find the lightness of the line to be an issue. I appreciate it because it allows me to wear some of my favorite notes on the hottest of days. Give the five above a try and see what you think.
Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.