As we move into the latter half of this decade we are now approaching the moment when many of the early niche brands begin to hit ten-year anniversaries. These are occasions which should be celebrated. All one must do is to look at what brands never made it past a couple of years. If a brand does make this kind of anniversary I would say it shows they have found an audience which has followed it for those years. Memo Paris is observing their ten-year anniversary in 2017. What creative director Clara Molloy and perfumer Alienor Massenet have created over those years is wonderful example of what niche perfumery is all about. Perfume for someone who wants something more. In celebration of this milestone they have released Eau de Memo.
The Raison de Etre for the brand has always been Ms. Molloy’s desire to have perfume become a magic carpet to another place. Together with Mme Massenet I have globetrotted from my desk with a spray of perfume on skin my passport. Memo has been one of my favorite brands because of this. For Eau de Memo there is no distinct destination. Eau de Memo is also no greatest hits collection of the best accords from previous releases. Instead Ms. Molloy and Mme Massenet create something which serves as shining example of ten years of their mutual passion. Eau de Memo evolves from a tea accord into a floral heart down to a leather accord. Each phase illustrates why the brand had thrived.
Eau de Memo opens with lemon and bergamot providing a tart snap. Underneath a slightly bitter green tea accord arises. There are times when working with green tea some perfumers try and soften the inherent bitterness. Mme Massenet allows it to join the lemon and bergamot to form something that put a smile on my face each day I wore this from the first moment. The heart is centered upon jasmine. It is a well-mannered version of that ingredient which allows orris and saffron to find some space next to it. The saffron is a particularly interesting choice as it acts as if it is gilding the jasmine in its copper colored coils. It is that addition which elevates a normal floral into something more compelling. In the base Mme Massenet provides a fully animalic leather accord. It is refined but not so much so that you forget this is a processed animal hide. Moss and an array of white musks provide support.
Eau de Memo has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
From the moment, I tried my first Memo Paris perfume I hoped that this was a brand in it for the long haul. As they celebrate this anniversary it is apparent that they are. That they are also ready for the next ten years is also apparent. Eau de Memo is one of my favorites within the entire collection. I also think it is an excellent introduction into how Memo continues to be one of the stalwarts in all artistic perfumery.
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by Memo Paris.
For those who read my The Sunday Magazine columns my love of gin has been the topic of many of them. I think it started when as a child a family friend used to stand on his pool deck with freshly-made gin and tonic and would say, “g and t, ice and a slice, nothing nicer”. It would be a few years before I had my first cocktail but I knew it would be a “g and t”. Which it was. I even learned how to make my own gin and as a poor student had something better to drink than just beer. From a fragrant perspective, the heart of gin is juniper berry. Now that we have kicked off the summer I thought I’d share my favorite juniper berry perfumes.
For the purest “g and t” fragrance experience it is the recently released Art de Parfum Gin & Tonic which does it best. Creative director Ruta Degutyte and perfumer Sofia Koronaiou create a near-photorealistic fragrance. The juniper berry is the heart surrounded by citrus, cucumber, and cardamom. What sets this apart is a very well-constructed tonic accord. You can almost see the condensation on the outside of the glass.
In 2011 perfumer Olivier Cresp created a gin-based floral cocktail in Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling. M. Cresp has the juniper berry out front until it duets with orris and leather. Turns out gin goes with everything.
Atelier Cologne Cedrat Envirant is inspired by a champagne and gin cocktail called a French 75. Perfumer Ralf Schwieger captures the effervescence of the champagne with cedrat. He twists it with mint and basil before the juniper berry arrives. This is all over a sweet woody base. After smelling this perfume for the first time I went out and made myself a French 75; the perfume is better. Gin was the drink of Prohibition and the 1920’s.
In Arquiste The Architects Club creative director Carlos Huber and perfumer Yann Vasnier use the juniper berry to represent the gin portion of a party in a wood-paneled men’s club in London. M. Vasnier captures the clash of bright young things and the establishment with an exquisitely designed woody observation on how the old and the new interact.
Frapin L’Humaniste has perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur create a spring floral infused version of “g and t”. A pinch of pepper along with thyme and nutmeg form the introduction to heart of peony and juniper berry before Mme Lancesseur uses her tonic accord as part of an oakmoss and tonka bean base. It is another close to reality interpretation of gin and tonic.
This was a funny list as there are five other juniper berry perfumes I had thought to include only to find they were currently discontinued. If you want your summer to have a bit of gin and tonic in your fragrance try these five.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased except for Art de Parfum Gin & Tonic which is from a press sample provided by the brand.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the month I believe the Ulrich Lang New York collection is underrated. Turns out I should have been speaking to myself as Hr. Lang contacted me after that piece and asked whether I had smelled his most recent release, Apsu. I had come to realize during the writing of the Under the Radar piece that I was pretty sure I hadn’t. When I went to my master spreadsheet it turns out I had smelled it on a strip but left a note to request a sample; which I never did. Then Hr. Lang made sure to rectify that and sent me a bottle of Apsu. It probably turned out okay because Apsu is a perfume of late spring early summer. Wearing it a couple times it seemed like a mirror version of the world becoming greener around me.
Hr. Lang once again collaborates with perfumer Frank Voelkl. If there has become an Ulrich Lang aesthetic it has been for transparent to opaque constructs. It has really stood out as the brand doesn’t knock you over it wraps you up in silk. Apsu is one of those as I believe Mr. Voelkl worked with a few new isolates of time-honored notes. What results is a perfume which reminds me of the beginning of the second verse of The Beatles “Yellow Submarine”; “So we sailed up to the sun/Until we found the sea of green.” If you are a fan of the smell of dew covered grass and foliage that is what Apsu delivers.
Mr. Voelkl uses a host of green notes in the early moments. Most of these seem like different isolates or molecules of the typical aromachemicals which are used for fresh-cut grass. It gives it an abstract interpretation of dewy grass which seems more alive despite its not perfectly resembling it. One note on the list that stands out is cilantro which provides a bit of an edge to the overall effect. The moist garden theme is deepened with orris and jasmine in the heart. They are joined by a faint tea and water lily duet. The florals do not override the green in the top but act more as support while making the watery nature more present. The base is clean woods with dry frankincense.
Apsu has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage. Apsu reflects the natural as seen through a perfumer’s lens. It doesn’t represent the actual so much as form a figurative “sea of green”. If you want a lightweight green perfume for summer set your Yellow Submarine for Apsu.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Apsu supplied by Ulrich Lang New York.
A few years ago, when attending a Sniffapalooza one of the stops was the Molton Brown store in Soho. I have been a longtime fan of the bath products but the fragrances had been underwhelming. On that day, they presented a collection based on different countries. I was surprised at how much I liked them despite being examples of most of the prevailing perfume trends. Since that day I have continued to carry that same thought as I have tried their new releases looking for one which would offer a something a little bit different. The latest release Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel doesn’t create a new direction in aquatic fragrances but it does have a couple nice wrinkles to it.
Over the past few years the Molton Brown fragrances have followed the lead of the bath products by naming themselves after the main ingredients. If you like the fragrance all the ancillary products are available and if the bath product appeals the converse is true. Perfumer Carla Chabert succeeds by tracking closely with the refreshing nature of the bath gel. She focused on a composing a perfume which was akin to a cool shower after a day at the shore. The wrinkle I wrote about is the use of cardamom and jasmine in significant quantities enough so that their names could have been added to the name, too.
Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel opens with a very typical marine accord. The first few moments almost have a by-the-book aquatic accord. Mme Chabert works to change the mundane with a healthy dose of cardamom. The cardamom has that lemon-tinged character that provides a bit of muted luminosity while also adding some weight grounding the more expansive aspects of the marine accord. Fig leaf and violet leaf provide the sea fennel effect as it comes off as a soft green. Mme Chjabert then uses one of the synthetic non-indolic jasmines to provide significant expansiveness before the cypress shows up. It is listed as “salted cypress” in the note list but I don’t get that as much as weathered cypress. This is like driftwood, sun bleached and transparent, which fits in with the jasmine. Later on, cedar and some laundry musks tie Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel off.
Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate silage.
There is a nice fragrance collection quietly growing at Molton Brown. Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel even portends something greater for the future.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Molton Brown.
It was a couple weeks after Labor Day 2016 and we were having our last backyard soiree. I had an array of new botanical gins I had just unearthed. I asked one of the later arrivals to please bring some tonic water. As sometimes happens tonic water turns to soda water in the process which happened this time. Faced with a dilemma I decided to try out my panel of gins on a different cocktail. What happened would remind me that the best answers are sometimes the standards as I re-discovered the cocktail known as the Tom Collins that day.
I have always loved the story of how this cocktail came to be. In 1874, there was a joke that the men who were out in bars played on each other. It went like this. As a friend would walk in to the bar you would begin to shake your head in dismay. As your friend arrived and asked what the look was for you would tell him this guy Tom Collins is telling people you have the ankles of a girl and your father was a blacksmith. In 1874 that would send our dishonored man off in search of Tom Collins who did not exist. Somewhere during the heyday of this prank an enterprising New York bartender decided to make a drink named after the man everyone was looking for.
What this bartender came up with is the best alternative to Gin & Tonic for a summer drink. It is simple as you add a shot of gin, an equal amount of lemon juice, and a half shot of simple syrup into a glass filled with ice. Stir. Then top off with soda water. What I discovered last year is with the advent of the small-batch botanical gins that are out there the Tom Collins is an excellent platform on which to display them. For alterations, you can substitute lime juice for the lemon juice. You can add in almost any herb growing in the garden. I’ve found a bit of crushed basil, thyme, and rosemary add a lot. This is especially true with the new gins. We also found a float of St. Germain elderflower liqueur or Crème de Violette also added something to the mix.
As I spend the first summer weekend looking out over the backyard as the poodles run, the ribs smoke, and the sun shines on Poodlesville I am purposefully buying soda water; for this is going to be a Tom Collins summer.
If you were on Facebook a month or so ago there was a game going on where you named ten musical acts you saw in concert with one being a lie. Your friends commented with which one they thought was the lie. I decided to do a perfume version where I listed ten long lost perfumes that were extremely difficult to get. My friends are pretty smart and many of them figured out the one which I did not own a bottle of was Jean Patou Lasso.
Lasso was the Jean Patou perfume which has fallen so far through the cracks that it is also very difficult for me to confirm any of the details. It isn’t even listed in the Fragrances of the World database it is so lost. Going by many places on the internet the year of release has been listed as 1936, 1956, and “sometime in the 1960’s”. The perfumer is also impossible to track down although if it was released in 1936 it seems likely it would be Henri Almeras. If it was 1956 Henri Giboulet is most likely as he did 1955’s Eau de Joy and 1964’s Caline. Then in a fantastic article on Fragrantica Sergey Borisov says it is Guy Robert. What’s correct? Nobody is left to unambiguously clear it up.
The only thing I know is Lasso exists. Thanks to some kind friends I have generous samples even though in my “gotta have them all” desire to have a bottle of every Jean Patou perfume my collection has a Lasso-sized hole in it. Lasso is not the greatest Jean Patou fragrance it is not even in the top 10 overall. The reason for that is it is the most derivative perfume within the entire collection. When I use a simple descriptive phrase for Lasso I call it a violet-hued butch version of Guerlain Mitsouko. I like it because the violet and leather improve the aldehydes and peach to something different but not so far that, in particular, the opening is very recognizable.
Lasso opens with the aldehydes and peach doing their fizzy fruity dance. The violet comes forth with the same presence as rose and jasmine. This is a classic power floral heart accord typical of any of the decades Lasso is presumed to come from. What becomes the biggest change is a beautifully soft leather accord which envelops the early accords in a sexy refined embrace. This leather imparts a more overt sexuality to Lasso than there is in Mitsouko. The base is a classic chypre again as was seen during the timeframe which Lasso existed in. Which means musky sandalwood, patchouli, oakmoss, and vetiver. Overall it leaves an effect of Lasso being a scent of seduction.
Lasso has 14-16 hour longevity and way above average sillage.
Within the Fragrantica article Mr. Borisov comprehensively covers the details that this was being marketed to women as a way of roping a man might explain why it is such a forgotten fragrance. It might also be the derivativeness. It just might be wrong time, wrong place. Like so much with Lasso it is all lost in translation.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by personal friends.
Sometimes I get a second chance. Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male is one of those great perfumes of the 1990’s. It put Jean Paul Gaultier on the fragrance map. For twenty years, there has been a summer release and they have been near slavish retreads of Le Male. Which was why when I received last year’s version I put off giving it a try until months later as I was filling out my database. This was not an imitator of Le Male this was different. An Eau Fraiche with Popeye on the bottle. I was mentally kicking myself for not having written about it. It was a limited edition so I felt like I had missed my window of opportunity. Then my second chance came as the Eau Fraiche was re-released this year with Superman replacing Popeye on the bottle. This time I was not hesitating because Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Superman is a fantastic update which is going to be a great summer choice.
Perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto was asked to be the one to undertake this new interpretation. By choosing an Eau Fraiche Mme Gracia-Cetto had to use ingredients with impact. Subtlety is undetectable when the fragrance is at such low concentration. I don’t think subtle is an adjective that would be often used to describe Le Male. For Le Male Superman each ingredient is pieced together like a comic book gizmo which eventually saves the day. The only holdover notes from Le Male to Le Male Superman are mint and orange blossom in the early going. It eventually converges with a similar base accord but even that has recognizable differences.
Mme Gracia-Cetto wraps that mint in a swirl of aldehydes and ozonic notes. It is an uplifting accord with the mint grounding the less earthbound notes around it. The orange blossom leads into a heart dominated by sage. This is a place where keeping it lighter makes the overall effect better. This is sage and orange blossom as brought to you on a warm breeze. Never more powerful than a locomotive more like a scooter. That is not a criticism as it works very well especially for a perfume designed to be worn in the summer. In the base the mixture of woods and vanilla are still here from the original. The biggest difference is Mme Gracia-Cetto relies on Ambrox as the predominant source of woodiness. The vanilla and tonka bean are still there to make it close enough to the sweet woody foundation that defines Le Male.
Le Male Superman has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Just so people are aware last years’ Le Male Popeye and this year’s Le Male Superman are identical. There is no need to buy one if you have the other. If, like me, you missed Popeye then faster than a speeding bullet you should give Le Male Superman a try.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jean Paul Gaultier.
We are in mud season here in Poodlesville. The rains are moving through on schedule the trees are nearly full of leaves while the dead wood is being broken up to be burned in the fire pit. There is a smell to this time of the year. Mud is sharper than moist soil. Conversely the green is softer. Breaking up damp wood releases this wet woodiness. It is an odd accord and it is one which you might not expect to make a fragrance around. Amouage Bracken Woman shows there is a perfume within.
One of the reasons I have consistently enjoyed Christopher Chong’s creative direction for Amouage is this ability to find beauty from things like mud season. Mr. Chong is one of the premiere perfume creative directors because he truly does think “out of the box” followed by working with perfumers who bring that vision to fruition. For Bracken Woman he works with two of his more recent collaborators as Dorothee Piot and Karine Vinchon-Spehner return as the perfumers.
Bracken Man which came out previously was a Fougere, capitalization intentional. Bracken Woman pulls back on the intensity while still providing an alternative interpretation of green. From a very green opening Bracken Woman segues through leather which in conjunction with some florals form a wet mud accord to my nose. Before ending with my damp wood by the fire pit.
The perfumers open with a much softer green opening reminiscent of new leaves. Galbanum, violet leaves, and fern form the green which have a pinch of berries to remind one of the early fruit growing on runners underneath the green. Early in the transition to the heart a smoky slightly unrefined leather accord sets the stage for the mud. Narcissus provides an indolic modulation which begins the transition from animalic to sharp earthiness. Lily adds back the green while chamomile attenuates the overall effect. The base is my favorite part of Bracken Woman as the perfumers use birch, vetiver, and patchouli to form a damp wood accord. When I am breaking up the dead branches there is an expansive woodiness form the particles being captured in the air which is contrasted by the heavy dampness of the large pieces I’m stacking up. The perfumers capture this as the birch evokes the solid wood while the vetiver is the airier woods. Patchouli adds a lighter version of wet earth for this final phase of Bracken Woman.
Bracken Woman has 24 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’ve had my sample of Bracken Woman for a couple of months. I was so intrigued by this “mud season” perfume I wanted to compare it to the actual thing. I also always enjoy spending extra time with an Amouage release; Bracken Woman was one which paid back that time. As for how close it is to the smells of my backyard right now; I am thrilled to have mud season all year round.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Amouage.
If there is one person who has been one of the stalwarts of niche perfumery from the earliest days who doesn’t get enough credit it would be Gerald Ghislain. M. Ghislain created one of the first niche brands in 2000 called Histoires de Parfums. This has been one of the most successful brands over the long haul. It has also become impressive for the ability to change with the trends. Histoires de Parfums is one of those brands it is easy to overlook because you have always seen the bottles on your favorite website or in your favorite boutique. I am hoping I can get you to stop and try these five because Histoires de Parfums is worth it.
My first encounter was in a New York city store. When the sales associate told me that 1740: Marquis de Sade was a combination of immortelle and leather I was already sold. Up until recently the sole perfumer for Histoires de Parfums was Sylvie Jourdet. I am a big believer in how that continuity between creative director and single perfumer can be critical for creating a brand identification. M. Ghislain and Mme Jourdet laid down an early marker as to what that aesthetic would be. 1740 transitions quickly through an iris dominated beginning until Mme Jourdet brings together her leather accord with amber, at first, followed by immortelle. It is one of the great niche perfumes of this century.
Mme Jourdet used amber in its more traditional base component in 1740. For Ambre 114 she serves it up as the core of a luscious gourmand. Using nutmeg early on to set the gourmand style she moves through a floral intermezzo down to a mixture of sandalwood, amber, benzoin, tonka bean, and vanilla. Together it forms an abstract “warm cookies from the oven” accord. It takes amber from Oriental standard to yummy.
1969: Parfum de Revolt was meant to evoke the Summer of Love in San Francisco. What I’ve always found here is another more modern take on the gourmand with cardamom and coffee forming that aspect. Before we get there Mme Jourdet opens with a rambunctious peach from which the coffee and green cardamom bubble up from. Patchouli and chocolate provide the finishing touches.
In 2011 M. Ghislain created the Editions Rare collection within the brand. The first three releases were amazing but I am recommending Rosam for the contemporary take Mme Jourdet gave to the staid rose and oud combination. Oud on its own provides an exotic vibe. Mme Jourdet adds to it by using saffron as companion to the rose. Incense completes Rosam with a resinous kick.
A year later another trio was added to Editions Rare of which Vici was the floral part of the triptych. Mme Jourdet used osmanthus and iris as her focal point. Surrounded on top with aldehydes, cardamom, and galbanum. In the base musk, cedar, and patchouli give the woody foundation to Vici.
M. Ghislain has continued to produce perfume and even though this list doesn’t have any of the most recent releases they are worth experiencing, too. These are just the five I think will entice you in to one of the pioneers of niche perfumery.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.
Just over two years ago I became aware of the Paris perfume brand Ex Nihilo. It has become a brand for whom I look forward to their new releases because the creative direction of the three founders of the brand; Sylvie Loday, Olivier Royere, and Benoit Verdier. They began with a well-thought out brand vision and for the last two years have stuck to that. Starting this past April, they announced a new collection called Iconoclaste meant to celebrate the free thinkers among us. The first release is called Citizen X.
Ex Nihilo Creative Team
The group of perfumers the Ex Nihilo creative team has worked with so far have fit the brand concept. For the first Iconoclaste they chose one of the best perfumers working who has always impressed me with his ability to work creatively when given that freedom, Yann Vasnier. With Citizen X it seems like M. Vasnier has found a place to stretch his ingenuity. Citizen X is a resinous iris perfume. M. Vasnier uses a couple different resins to sandwich the heart of iris.
The resin on top of Citizen X is mastic. Mastic is a lighter version of the green galbanum usually provides to perfumes. By using it for Citizen X M. Vasnier uses that brighter verdancy to good effect as he boosts it with white pepper. The pepper adds a clean piquancy to the lemony woody nature of the mastic. Next come the iris. This iris has some powdery parts but they are mostly background as the earthier character is enhanced by the mastic. The second half of the resins arrive with incense. This is typical incense and it provides both complement and contrast to the mastic. It also helps to keep the powder well in the background. This is where Citizen X spends most of its development. Over hours some musk provides the final roundness to Citizen X.
Citizen X has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Citizen X is a good start to the Iconoclaste collection. M. Vasnier’s use of resins and iris is creatively done while expanding the Ex Nihilo brand overall.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Ex Nihilo.