When there is a mass-market brand which has spawned many flankers my chance of liking it is dependent on what I thought of the original. The idea of most flankers is to make something new but not so new that it smells significantly different than the original. Since that is the case I should like the original if the flankers are just simple variations. The corollary is if the flanker dramatically changes that underlying architecture there is an opportunity to make me take notice. This is what has happened with Boss Bottled Tonic the tenth flanker of 1998’s Boss Bottled.
In the late 1990’s the era of fresh and clean perfumes had become dominant in men’s fragrance. Except for one small sector; the “clubbing” scent. There was some product meant to be worn out for the evening. The original Boss Bottled was in this category. Perfumer Annick Menardo made a fruity woody oriental. It was the fruit which put me off right away as apple and plum were on top which headed through a spicy heart to a vanilla sweetened woody base. Boss Bottled was successful and I smelled it often when I was out and about. If you had asked me what I wanted in a Boss Bottled flanker at the time I almost perversely would have asked for something fresher and cleaner. Nearly twenty years later Mme Menardo gives that thought a try in Boss Bottled Tonic.
In the top Mme Menardo jettisons the problematic plum and diminishes the apple significantly. In their place comes a sparkly citrus barrage lead by grapefruit supported by lemon and orange. The apple provides a crisp quality to the citrus. If there was a part of the original I liked it was the geranium, clove and cinnamon heart. That has been retained as the geranium gathers the citrus up and carries them to the spices. Cinnamon and clove have always been good companions to citrus. Ginger adds a lot of fresh energy to this heart accord. It gives it some zest. Finally, the vanilla is also gone and the woody grouping of olive wood, vetiver, sandalwood, and cedar present an opaque lighter woody foundation.
Boss Bottled Tonic has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
Boss Bottled Tonic is going to be the antithesis of the original as this new fragrance is going to be at its best as a summer daytime scent. If you like the original it is going to be a perfect set-up perfume for the nighttime version. I will spend much of my time in the daylight in Boss Bottled Tonic.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Hugo Boss.
In the early days of the internet and my participation on the fragrance forums I was deep in the throes of acquisition syndrome i.e. Gotta Have Them All. I chased all over the world looking for things that sounded interesting. Nowadays I am fortunate to be able to have many brands who send things to me but not everything. The network I created back in the beginning still exists and when I want to track something down I can still do it. I activated it to get a new perfume released in Europe because it was done by one of my favorite young perfumers. It took a couple of months but the bottle of Betty Barclay Pure Pastel Mint arrived.
Betty Barclay seems to be a mass-market fashion and beauty line. They’ve been producing fragrance since 1994. Pure Pastel Mint is the twenty-fifth perfume for the brand. Pure Pastel Mint was paired with another fragrance Pure Pastel Lemon. These were released as springtime fresh releases. What piqued my interest was the involvement of perfumer Quentin Bisch for Pure Pastel Mint. Those who read my reviews regularly know I have issues with mint in perfume and its unfortunate association with my daily dental routine. Besides trying another of M. Bisch’s works I was equally intrigued because the mint referred to on the label was not the herb it was the color as promised in the name. I have mentioned in the past that I am not a synesthete where I experience color in conjunction with fragrance. So that component also drew me to wanting to try this. Could M. Bisch make me experience color over herb?
In the early moments of Pure Pastel Mint M. Bisch uses yuzu matched with baie rose and blackcurrant buds. Yuzu is lemon with green undercurrent. Blackcurrant buds are raspberry with a similar shading while baie rose adds an herbal effect. This is where I can most easily see a pastel mint color occurring as M. Bisch forms his top accord. Of course, this being a spring scent rose must be in the heart, and it is. Cyclamen adds dew drops, ylang-ylang adds brightness with the interesting twist coming by the addition of tea forming a figurative tea rose heart accord. The finale is a mixture of sandalwood and synthetic linear musk with an expansive musky-woody effect.
Pure Pastel mint has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
My color-blind sense of smell really only got the color association in the early stages and not overwhelmingly so. I did find Pure Pastel Mint to be a nice take on the spring rose motif worth the effort in sourcing it.
Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle I purchased.
When I look back over the perfumes which have been discontinued to add to the list of future Dead Letter Office columns sometimes I am a little sad. Most of the time that emotion arises because the first perfumes that connected me to a brand are no longer being made. Those first impressions are what made me look forward to every future release. One of the reasons those fragrances end up here is because they were also part of the brand evolving their aesthetic. A good example of this is the M. Micallef Seas Collection.
I became aware of M. Micallef and the Seas Collection through my participation on the Basenotes forums. They sounded interesting and through the generosity of other members I swapped for the first two; Black Sea and Red Sea. They were two distinct points in my discovery of the difference between European and American aesthetics. Even in the early 2000’s Americans were continuing with clean and fresh. When I tried Red Sea there was the fresh and clean but creative director Martine Micallef and perfumer Jean-Claude Astier added in cumin which added in the body odor character that ingredient is known for. Black Sea would provide a contrast as it added in a prominent saffron note which I found to be the best representation of that particular note I had tried at that point in my perfume testing. I came away from trying those two wanting to try more from the brand and went on an acquisitional spree. What I found was the other perfumes by Mme Micallef and M. Astier were very different; they had an ineffable French-ness to them. That quality is what would define the brand but they weren’t done with the Seas at this point. When Yellow Sea was released in 2008 that Gallic sense of style was added to a sunny plush citrus fragrance.
The early moments are sunny lemon and bergamot which then is transformed by one of the best uses of castoreum to provide the sweet muskiness as contrast. Unlike the earlier Seas this time the stronger note added into the mix works very well. Patchouli and incense provide a richly resinous heart but it is pitched at a much more transparent level than you normally get from the rest of the brand. The base is a clean cedar framing with a bit of amber and benzoin adding some length to the resinous tail from the heart.
Yellow Sea has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
None of the M. Micallef Seas is like anything else the brand has released. It seems clear that consumers were more interested in the different aesthetic being presented in the other releases; Note Ambree is a good example of that which was released contemporaneously with Yellow Sea. I miss the loss of my first impressions of M. Micallef but the brand has mostly delighted me over the years even if I wanted more of what ended up in the Dead Letter Office.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
As I noted in my recent review of Penhaligon’s Portraits Much Ado About The Duke the brand is undergoing another of its metamorphoses. The current version of the brand wants to make perfume inspired by an absurdist version of Downton Abbey. The perfumes are gathered under an umbrella called Penhaligon’s Portraits. Based on the first four releases each is meant to stand for a particular character in this perfumed serial.
No good story of the classes is complete without the patriarch of the family fathering an illegitimate heir which is what the two latest releases are meant to portray. Both Clandestine Clara and Roaring Radcliff represent the mistress and the bastard child. Clandestine Clara was composed by Sophie Labbe. It is an interesting mixture of rum, vanilla, cinnamon, and amber. This is one of those perfumes that I kept feeling I should have liked more but never connected with. I guess unlike Lord George I was unmoved by Clara’s charms. Radcliff was another matter, though.
Roaring Radcliffe was composed by Daphne Bugey and she captures the reckless nature of the son who will never be recognized but secretly indulged by the father who shall not be named. Mme Bugey captures the scent of an eccentric ne’er do well living fast.
The scented thread which runs through Lord George, Clara and Radcliff is rum. Each perfume has a part of that note. In Roaring Radcliff it is the core upon which the entire fragrance is built. The top accord is an over spiced gingerbread as Mme Bugey uses a bit of cinnamon to amplify the warmer facets. It adds a nice twist to an otherwise normal gingerbread accord. Honey sweetens the mix and sets the stage for the silver flask of rum to make its appearance. The rum accord here is made quite rich, a well-aged version carrying a veil of smoke. That smoke deepens into a full-on tobacco. Early on the narcotic qualities of tobacco are well-balanced with the rum. Then vanilla repeats the use of sweetness to ameliorate the boozy narcotic mixture. It all settles down as the night of cake, cigars, and rum comes to an end.
Roaring Radcliff has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I will give Penhaligon’s some credit here at least through these first six Portraits releases they seem to have as firm an idea, and how to execute upon that, that they have ever had. Mme Bugey does a nice job here. She has evoked the case of the ne’er do well and his devil may care attitude quite capably.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Penhaligon’s.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is one of my favorite people in all of perfumery. I am not alone in this. The reason I adore her is because her love of perfume is all-encompassing. The first time we met was at a Sniffapalooza. We connected as kindred spirits almost immediately and the largest portion of the weekend was the two of us discussing the perfumes we were finding along our path. Ms. Hurwitz is one of the best independent perfumers in the world. She is also as big a lover of perfume as anyone who reads this blog. There is an adage about other artists that they love their art so much they would do it for nothing. I believe that is true of Ms. Hurwitz. Fortunately, she has made a living from her passion for many years.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
One of the corollaries of this is Ms. Hurwitz will collaborate on anything she finds interesting. For almost as long as I have been writing about perfume there have been projects of one type or another and Ms. Hurwitz has participated in nearly all of them. It is my belief that she likes the challenge of most of them. Whether ingredient specific or thematic she dives in. When Michelyn Camen, Editor-in-Chief of CaFleureBon, told me of the Project Talisman effort I knew Ms. Hurwitz would participate not only because of Ms. Camen but because it is who, and what, she is.
The concept of Project Talisman was to create “eau de protection” to ward off unwanted influences. Many of the participants focused on objects, literal talismans. M. Hurwitz’s interpretation was to create a perfumed spell in which she concocted a fragrance consisting of different important civilizations in the Americas. If these ancient forces could be combined they could keep anything away. This is what comprises DSH Perfumes Become the Shaman.
The first influence comes from the Incas and their use of palo santo wood as part of a spirit purifying anointment. Ms. Hurwitz accentuates the terpene-rich core of the essential oil which provides a pine-like effect but softer. Next, she uses the Native American custom of smudging with sage and tobacco and does the same to her perfume. These twin notes swirl over the palo santo feeling like the center of the spell is deepening in power. The Aztec ingredient for magic comes from copal resin. This recapitulates some of the terpenes from the palo santo providing a bookend to that with a fresher feeling. It is like the magic spell is now giving off tiny points of light. It comes together with what Ms. Hurwitz describes as a “milkweed accord” which is a creamy vegetal scent to tie the spell together and release the energy into the world.
Become the Shaman has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I will admit while wearing Become the Shaman I had a vision of Ms. Hurwitz in her studio as magical lights swirled around her smoking brazier. The truth is more prosaic if no less powerful. A supernatural independent perfumer has again used her skill to create magic.
To read Lauryn Beer’s review of Become the Shaman on CaFleureBon follow this link.
To read my previous Project Talisman reviews of En Voyage Perfumes Figa and Aether Arts Perfume Touchstone click on the names.
I want to again express my thanks to Michelyn Camen and the perfumers for allowing me to play along on the Project Talisman project. It was a great pleasure.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.
It will be unsurprising to know that my eyes have been turned towards Orlando over the past few days. Since Thursday Star Wars Celebration 2017 has been going on which means news about all things Star Wars has been coming out over the last few days. It is also the 40th anniversary since the release of Star Wars in 1977. To begin the weekend, they had a panel celebrating the original cast. It was bittersweet because of the recent death of actress Carrie Fisher who played Princess Leia in the original movie. The end of the panel was her daughter Billie Lourd appearing dressed in a Tom Ford Leia-inspired dress making her first appearance since her mother’s death. She gave a moving tribute to how much Star Wars and the fans meant to her family. There was one line in the speech (entire text can be found here) which has resonated with me since I saw the video of it. Ms Lourd said to the fans, “That is why she loved you, because you accepted and embraced all of her; the strong soldier of a woman she was, and also the vulnerable side of her, who openly fought her own dark side, knowing early on that we all have a dark side of our own, whatever it may be.”
Billie Lourd at Star Wars Celebration 2017
Those words connected with me because I realize that is what I receive from all of my different communities of which I share passions with others. On the night those words were being spoken I was happily among the local Washington DC perfume group gathered at Arielle Shoshana to meet Robert Gerstner of Aedes de Venustas. The perfume was the focus but it is the camaraderie which means as much to me. I walked away with a glow of friendship mingling with the new perfume.
Attending New York Comic Con connects me with a long-time friend once a year which gives us a chance to catch-up. In between, the different panels connect the passionate to their passion. I sit and talk with people from all over the country about something we adore. That common ground leads to learning there is even more than just the initial connection. Importantly that common ground provides an opportunity for different opinions to be listened to. It is an interesting dynamic that has repeated itself multiple times throughout my over forty years of being a fan.
It is only in these gatherings where I truly feel the acceptance of being passionate about something. Nobody questions why I love perfume as much as I do on Thursday night at Arielle Shoshana. On Friday morning at work that acceptance is more difficult to locate. It is why I look forward to each time I can spend time with people who share my interests because acceptance of passion is also just plain acceptance.
When I make my monthly run through the local discount store fragrance bins I have mixed feelings when I see what I consider to be a great perfume in there. On one hand, it gives that fragrance the chance to be re-discovered by a consumer for whom $20-25 is what they can spend to add a new bottle to their dresser. The flip side is the look how far this once lauded perfume has fallen. From the bright lights of the department store beauty counter to a giant “Bin O’ Perfume”. I must admit that I was surprised to see Calvin Klein Eternity there in the last couple of months.
Calvin Klein Eternity was released in 1988 as the follow-up to their extremely successful launch of Obsession three years earlier. At this time in the 1980’s Calvin Klein was a brand which had attained the highest levels of exposure a designer brand could aspire to. Much of that had come on being provocative in a sexual way, Calvin Klein was the latest examples of the old adage “sex sells”. Which was why when the press release for Eternity came out it used as its inspiration Mr. Klein’s 1986 marriage to Kelly Rector. This was a pivot to the purity of love which by itself was interesting. Ann Gottlieb was responsible for the creative direction and she chose perfumer Sophia Grojsman to work with on Eternity.
Mme Grojsman was in the middle of a twelve-year run at the beginning of her career from 1978’s White Linen through to her masterpiece Lancome Tresor in 1990. Eternity falls in the middle of that run temporally as well as aesthetically. There is a cleanliness reminiscent of White Linen and the fully rounded rose of Tresor was just beginning to take shape as she worked the same with muguet for Eternity.
Eternity opens with a fresh top accord of mandarin and freesia. This is some of the fresher aspects that was so prevalent during this time in fragrance. The lily of the valley comes forth and it rumbles forward with power. This kind of floral intensity will become a hallmark of many of Mme Grojsman’s constructs; Eternity is one of the earliest examples. How she builds the intensity is by also adding in smart supporting ingredients. In this case marigold to amplify the green parts with narcissus doing the same for the white flower aspect of the lily of the valley. It is supported by a sturdy sandalwood foundation as the final piece of Eternity.
Eternity has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
One of the reasons Eternity has probably fallen into the discount bins is that intensity it exudes. At the moment, it doesn’t seem to be congruent with current fragrance trends. In its heyday, Eternity was inspired by marriage which made it a popular wedding day perfume for many brides in the 1980’s and 1990’s. It is a great perfume from a great creative team and for the price it is hard to beat that marriage.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.
Fair, or not, I have perfumers categorized in certain categories in my head. I use these imperfect classifications as foundations from which to observe their latest work. When it comes to Rodrigo Flores-Roux I think of him as one of the greatest floral perfumers working today. I can’t remember the review but it was a fragrance which was primarily incense. I made the comment within that piece that Sr. Flores-Roux rarely worked with the resinous end of the palette. He, rightfully, reminded me that there were plenty of examples from his portfolio. Even then the stubborn persistence of Sr. Flores-Roux as a floral specialist remained in my faulty reasoning. With Carner Barcelona Black Calamus Sr. Flores-Roux makes his most compelling argument to date on how poor that line of thinking is.
Black Calamusis part of the three fragrances within the Black Collection, all composed by Sr. Flores-Roux. Creative director Sara Carner wanted the perfume to represent, “The bright sweetness of calamus…..sumptuously blending with exotic resins and balsams.” Using the cinnamon-like core of calamus as a platform for spice and resins seems like a natural fit. Sr. Flores-Roux proves that assumption to be correct.
Black Calamus opens with the title note present. Calamus has spiciness most often compared to cinnamon. I also see a bit of ginger lurking underneath. Coriander and pepper seem to elicit a little more of that ginger character. It provides a lively opening before the woods and resins come to the foreground. There is a fleeting floral intermezzo of osmanthus and rose before labdanum leads the resinous charge. A silvery high-grade frankincense joins in. Then Sr. Flores-Roux constructs an oud accord. Most of the time these accords are there to add in a tamer version of oud. Sr. Flores-Roux goes the other way by using cade oil to add some of those rough edges back to the oud accord. Some vanilla smooths out the latter stages but for the most part Black Calamus is frankincense and oud for many hours.
Black Calamus has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am happy to be proven mistaken in my presumptions. With Black Calamus Sr. Flores-Roux makes his point to me that he is not just a specialist in florals; he is just a special perfumer who can do it all.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.
When I was in college I had to broaden my knowledge of chemistry to obtain my degree. In the analytical chemistry lab course I came across a piece of equipment called a crucible. It was a porcelain container in which I could place a material followed by heating it up to extreme temperatures safely. Within that container, the contents would be transformed by the heat without losing their inherent nature. What resulted wasn’t scorched ashes but altered perspective. Independent perfumer Bruno Fazzolari has achieved an olfactory version of this with his latest, Feu Secret.
Iris is one of the cornerstones of perfumery. It has been there from the beginning. It is also indelibly ingrained in the everyday because of its use in lipstick and face powder. To those of a specific age iris means Coty lipstick. If you were to ask people to use an adjective to describe iris I would venture “powdery” would be the winner. Because of that nature iris is sometimes seen as less varied. I would have been one of those who shared that opinion prior to discovering niche perfume. Over my time down the perfume rabbit hole I have learned just what a multivariant ingredient iris can be to a perfume. One reason this isn’t more widely known is the richest most faceted from of iris is also one of the most expensive ingredients to obtain and use.
Orris Butter from Mr. Fazzolari's blog
That ingredient is orris butter or orris concrete. It is obtained by harvesting the root of the iris, not the bloom. Drying it for three to five years then extracting and distilling that material. I was given a small grape sized globe of orris butter a few years ago. It is a more fascinating ingredient than ambergris to spend time with. It seems Mr. Fazzolari also shares this fascination. In a blog post on his website he dives even deeper into orris butter than I just did.
As I wore Feu Secret, which translates to Secret Fire, I was struck about how Mr. Fazzolari was firing metaphorical jets of warmth at the orris butter at the heart of Feu Secret making me think of it as a crucible to allow all that is there to be exposed.
Orris butter has a bit of an ice princess at its frontiers. Early in Feu Secret Mr. Fazzolari chooses to show that off a bit with eucalyptus using its mentholated quality to lift that up into the embrace of green hemlock. The chill is thrown off by the warmth of pink pepper and turmeric. It is the turmeric that is the guide to a rooty sweaty quality I don’t think I’ve ever noticed to this degree when wearing other orris-centric perfumes. It isn’t body odor sweat but that clean honest sweat of digging in a flower bed. A bit musky in many ways. The final amount of heat comes as the orris butter is subsumed in birch tar and cedar. This is where the orris butter is truly transformed into something special. The cedar sets up the framework for the birch tar to connect to the orris upon. There is not a hint of powder to be found here. This is where the earthiness of orris butter is brought to the foreground. It carries a bit of yeastiness which pushes back against the pungency of the birch tar. The muskiness also rises to greater prominence before, after all of the heat recedes, leaving the beautiful main ingredient as the last thing to depart.
Feu Secret has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
This is by far my favorite of Mr. Fazzolari’s work so far. I have enjoyed everything he has made so far but there hasn’t been one which grabbed me as potently as has Feu Secret. It is my favorite new perfume of 2017 at this point.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bruno Fazzolari.
I have a fond spot for Acqua di Parma Colonia. It was one of my earliest niche purchases and I wore the heck out of a bottle over one spring and summer. It I was forced to consider owning one fragrance the original would be on the list of finalists. Acqua di Parma has been releasing variations on the original Colonia formula starting in 2003 with the equally memorable Colonia Assoluta.
In recent years, the brand has started a sub-collection of Colonia flankers where a specific named ingredient is grafted on to the Colonia architecture. It worked quite well with last year’s Colonia Quercia where the “quercia” (oakmoss) provided a bite to the base of Colonia. When it misses; the Colonia components overwhelm the added ingredient.
Myrrh on a Plate
I received the two flankers for 2017; Colonia Ebona and Colonia Mirra. Colonia Ebona is a case where the dark ebony wood is lost within the best parts of Colonia. I had high hopes for Colonia Mirra because myrrh seemed like a note which would be an excellent complement to that which I love about Colonia. Imagine my surprise to find no Colonia in Colonia Mirra. There is lots and lots of myrrh but if you’re looking for anything to do with Colonia you’ll need to look elsewhere.
It is an interesting tack to take as Colonia Mirra is nothing much more than a myrrh soliflore. I like myrrh because of the sweet underpinning to it. In Colonia Mirra it is displayed as any keynote in a soliflore is. The myrrh here is good enough to be the centerpiece. There are some supporting notes; mainly nutmeg as a spicy signpost to the sweeter aspects. Patchouli is used in a similar role to focus the resinous core of the myrrh.
Colonia Mirra has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Just to make sure there was no hint of Colonia hiding under the myrrh I actually tested them side by side hoping the original would facilitate my nose to discover it underneath it all. It didn’t. When I say, there is no Colonia here I mean it. If you’re inclined to purchase this because of a myrrh-infused Colonia; think again. If on the other hand, you are one who enjoys the warm sweet resinous beauty of myrrh Colonia Mirra is a good version of that.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Acqua di Parma.