One of the most important sentences I write in every review is that which contains the longevity and sillage of the perfume I am writing about. I tried leaving it out and the vox populi let me know it was missed; a lot. It is an interesting set of statistics and I worry that it carries too much importance but the readers and the customers should have the information they want. Which makes it difficult for me to write about fragrances which last less than four hours. Although if it is a Discount Diamond it might go down a little easier especially since you can get 100 ML of this month’s choice, Yardley English Lavender, for around $10.
I like these short-lasting perfumes because they can be worn for just a morning, or an afternoon, or in the evening. When it comes to Yardley English Lavender it is my raking leaves perfume. I spray myself liberally and go out and rake leaves on a couple of chilly fall afternoons. By the time I come in and take a shower it is gone but not forgotten.
Yardley English Lavender is one of the original perfumes of the late 19th century opening the new age of modern perfumery. Created in 1873 it has been re-formulated twice in 2010 and 2015 by perfumers Paul Fraysse and William A. Poucher. It was one of the perfumes my grandmother wore which I always associated with her. Lavender has become one of my favorite florals over the years and I re-visited English Lavender right before the end of the 20th century. It quickly became a favorite choice for a quick boost of fragrance on a busy day or night. It is a simple construct designed to accentuate all the facets of lavender.
It opens with bergamot providing an amplification of the fresher nature of lavender. It transitions to clary sage bringing out the herbal nature. It is joined by a very crisp cedar which brings out the slight camphor-like undertone in lavender. A bit of musk reminds me that there is an animalic heart deep inside the purple spear.
English Lavender has 3-4 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
The biggest difference I have noticed in my versions is the musk used in the base. The earliest versions have a more animalic one. It has given way to a typical white musk in the latest version I tried. English Lavender is an example of the enjoyment that can be gained from embracing the transitory.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.
When a new technology comes along it generally means something is replaced. Throughout the 1970’s as photocopy machines became more prevalent the use of carbon paper to make copies of correspondence declined. The only remnant of it today is the abbreviation on your e-mail “cc” which stands for “carbon copy”. It used to be what was handed to a typist with the list of recipients to receive cc’s. They would place these sheets of carbon paper between sheets of paper underneath the original they were typing on. The purple color of the paper would be transferred on the copies underneath with each keystroke. While the copies were like the original the process gave the type a different color while also adding a slight blurriness to the overall documents. It resulted in a copy but not an exact copy of the original. Perfumery is full of carbon copy perfumes but it is usually between two different brands. It turns out Guerlain is reaching back to make a carbon copy of a previous fragrance with Guerlain Lui.
Even the advertising campaign feels like a relic of the past as they claim in their promotional materials, “inspired by a generation breaking free from gender norms”. Which generation are they talking about Baby Boomers? Gen X? Millennials? This reads like Maison Guerlain has been interred in a time warp bubble. Which might explain how perfumers Delphine Jelk and Thierry Wasser have turned Lui into a carbon copy of 2006’s Guerlain L’Art et La Matiere Bois D’Armenie by perfumer Annick Menardo. Lui is a near slavish reproduction which provides an opaquer experience than Bois D’Armenie but it is at its heart a reproduction.
Lui opens with the same papier d’armenie inspired benzoin accord found in Bois D’Armenie. In the original there are bold keystrokes of florals and spice throughout. Lui has a bit of floral from carnation a bit of spice from clove but it mostly has a cloud of benzoin made smoky through a leather accord and a touch sweeter with vanilla.
Lui has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
The bottom line is I like Lui but it feels like a carbon copy of Bois D’Armenie which begs the question do I need both? For me the answer is no because I can get a similar effect to Lui by spraying once with Bois D’Armenie. It is the best release Guerlain has released since Terracotta Le Parfum three years ago but it is accomplished by cribbing from their own past. If Bois D’Armenie didn’t exist I’d be raving about this but it does; Lui is a carbon copy of it which carries its own message about the creativity within Guerlain these days.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Guerlain.
If there is a consistent criticism I carry of the mainstream fruity floral perfumes it that they are overwhelming. Worse is it isn’t usually one or the other it’s both working in concert. It is part of my general antipathy to the genre. I usually try all the new ones which come in with the similar thought that I wish they just dialed it back a bit. I like sweet, it is cloying I am not fond of. I generally file them away with the damning classification in my spreadsheet of “typical fruity floral”. When I received my sample of Anna Sui Fantasia just after Labor Day I expected it to join the others department store fruity florals with the same description. Turns out this was a fruity floral with the right balance to stand out.
If I was going to point to a brand which exemplified much of what I disliked about fruity florals Anna Sui would’ve done the trick as well as many others. Then about a year ago they began working exclusively with perfumer Jerome Epinette. The change was heralded when I received my sample earlier this year of M. Epinette’s Romantica Exotica. Romantica was so overwhelming to me on a strip I didn’t even give it a patch of skin. Romantica Exotica was a set of crisp accords that carried a focus through each stage of the development. Fantasia is an even better example of how to do fruity floral right and that is with including a gourmand praline accord right in the heart. Except M. Epinette is nothing if not a master of keeping all his raw materials in their lanes only crossing over when necessary.
He starts Fantasia with grapefruit, baie rose and a green underpinning of blackcurrant bud. That green goes especially well with the herbal nature of the baie rose and the slightly sulfurous nature of the grapefruit. This provides a shimmery opening which raspberry shades a bit. I braced myself for the raspberry to become too loud but M. Epinette never lets that happen. He adds in a deep Bulgarian rose as support turning the raspberry into jam. This then coats a praline accord which is designed to have a slighter sweet quality than you might expect. The raspberry does supply most of the sweet through the heart without becoming out of control. The base is a clean woody combination of cypress and cedar which also provides some contrast to the sweetness, too.
Fantasia has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Fantasia is a different kind of fruity floral for the department store counter. I wonder if fans of the genre will gravitate to its less intense style. It could also draw in new fans like me because it finds just the right sweet spot for those who have stayed away in the past.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Anna Sui.
I first became aware of Tom Petty when he played a show in July 1978 at the Miami Jai-Alai Fronton. I was deep in the middle of my punk rock infancy and the main reason I went to the show was because of the opening act Patti Smith. Tom Petty was an afterthought. Which is pretty much metaphor for his career. Tom Petty was the overlooked influencer of a generation.
Tom Petty (1950-2017)
That show in 1978 was momentous for another reason it was the night Mr. Petty’s heart stopped, for the first time. It was a typically rainy S. Florida July evening. The jai-alai fronton was old and the roof leaked; right over the space where Mr. Petty’s microphone was. It wasn’t until he returned for the encore and he stepped forward to touch the microphone that it became obvious. There was a thunderous pop through the speakers and Mr. Petty was thrown backwards; only to get up and finish the song. He walked off stage and it was months later I found out, reading in Rolling Stone, that he collapsed and had to be resuscitated. That meant the show went on while his heart was giving out. It is what made him stand out he just kept going and doing his thing.
Another by-product of that 1978 show was he had already won my respect before the encore. I was enjoying punk rock because I felt the rock played on the radio had left behind being made up of guitars, drums, and keyboards in place of synthesizers and orchestras. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers were closer to what I found so appealing in the punk aesthetic. I went out and picked up his first two albums. Songs like “American Girl” and “You’re Gonna Get It” found a place on my mix tapes next to “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “God Save the Queen”. He was the radio-friendly punk rock star.
As the video age arrived with MTV Mr. Petty would produce some of the very best videos. He was an act for whom the visual added another layer to his musical vision. My favorite is the one accompanying 1985’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More”. Mr. Petty plays an especially sinister Mad Hatter menacing a bratty Alice sneering the title line where the acid drips from every syllable. The ultimate revenge at the end of the clip seems appropriate. As with so much of his career his isn’t the first name you think of if I say “best videos” but his were right up there.
That’s the story of his career one of quiet excellence. It is always those you end up missing most because their importance doesn’t become clear until they’re gone which is probably exactly the way Tom Petty wanted it.
There have been several acquisitions of some of the founding brands of niche perfumery. For the successful brands which have been acquired by the experienced cosmetics companies it has turned out to see expansion of availability and greater visibility. Of the brands acquired over the last few years; Le Labo, Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, Atelier Cologne, By Kilian among them it has been a positive. I can say I had worries about the brands losing what made them stand out enough to warrant being acquired. So far, the creative teams have remained in place and the biggest change has been finding new points of sale. Three years on from the first of these I would say any concern has been misplaced because they all have continued to be niche while part of a conglomerate.
In hindsight I can say the experience in marketing and distribution a big beauty brand brings to the partnership makes sense. If you want to see what happens when those who know nothing about the beauty sector decide there is money to be made you just have to look at the acquisition of Clive Christian by a consortium of investment houses led by EME Investments. One big difference is that the brand had fallen into debt and needed an infusion of capital to stay afloat. This is when EME came along with three other investors and bought the brand.
Prior to the acquisition Clive Christian was one of the first ultra-luxe perfume brands. Starting in 2001 they positioned themselves at exclusive stores around the world touting the quality of their ingredients as part of the reason they were so highly priced. For many years they had that part of the new niche sector all to themselves. As the years went by there was more competition for what had to be a limited consumer base.
From 2001 until 2014 they released six pairs of perfumes one each for men or women. Overall, they were a collection which stood for a specific aesthetic centered on luxury and exclusivity which made the modest release schedule part of the larger strategy. Within those twelve releases over thirteen years; one of them, C for Men, is one of my all-time favorites.
Now with the new owners Clive Christian has released 26 (!) new releases since June of 2016. I’ll do the math 26 releases over 15 months. At the same ultra-luxe prices for the most part. There is no reputable perfume brand which would ever take that level of release rate if there was an experienced beauty company behind it. I cannot imagine there is more support for an additional 26 Clive Christian perfumes than there was for the prior twelve.
Worse the whole enterprise cheapens the brand. We can argue about the merits of the perfumes but the way they cultivated their exclusivity and quality matched their aspirations. What does 26 new perfumes communicate? Avon released 25 new perfumes over the same time frame for a tenth of the price…or less. It certainly isn’t exclusivity or quality.
There have been several financial people who have convinced themselves that there are profits to be found in the niche sector. They seemingly misunderstand how much part of the brand reputation plays into the desire to own it. You can’t just say, “look luxury and lots of it” the truth must be in the bottle. In the current collection of 26 these are as cynical a group of perfumes as you can imagine. There is not a single one of them I would want on my skin for any extended period of time.
The answer to “what happened to Clive Christian?” is the moneychangers entered the temple armed with spray paint and covered it with graffiti.
It was a few years ago when Mrs. C and I were having dinner in an Asian-themed restaurant. A couple of tables away were two parents who had a very active young boy with them. He was having trouble staying seated, silverware was hitting the floor, and he was loudly babbling nonsense words. It all culminated in him taking the silver topper off a rice bowl and pitching it like a frisbee. It ended up at my feet. I picked up the object to hand back to the father. The son had followed him over and was peeking at me from behind his dad. There was such an air of innocent mischievousness it was hard not to smile. This is that fine line that young children straddle between obnoxious and precocious. They probably oscillate back and forth every day. The latest release from Editions de Parfums Sale Gosse tries to find that balance in a perfume inspired by this.
Sale Gosse translates to “dirty brat”. It is the first niche composition by Dominique Ropion protégé Fanny Bal. Mme Bal has been a name I’ve heard about as another of the young next generation of perfumers. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to try a perfume she has had the responsibility for composing. M. Malle asked his perfumer to create an eau de cologne which represents childhood. Mme Bal took this brief and created a combination of the classic cologne recipe and candy. Depending on your tolerance for either, especially the latter, will decide your impression of Sale Gosse.
Mme Bal probably produced the traditional eau de cologne recipe hundreds of time during her training at ISIPCA. She takes those ingredients; petitgrain, bergamot, neroli and rosemary producing the typical top half of a classic eau de cologne. Repetition makes for a lively version where it seems the petitgrain and rosemary are dosed a bit higher than in the tradition eau de cologne. It is the back half of Salle Gosse where Mme Bal shows her ability to move in new directions. The note list is Malabar and violet candies. For those who are not European, Malabar is the European version of Bazooka Joe bubble gum. Candied violets have been a staple of niche perfumery for many years. It is the Malabar accord which is exciting to experience. Bubble gum has a kind of odd sweetness and there is a powder which also covers each piece. It provides an attenuated type of candy accord. The violet is much more pronounced in its sweetness as I can almost feel the crystallinity of the sugar coating them. When it comes together it forms a different accord for me. There is a violet flavored chewing gum called C. Howard’s which was sold in my local drugstore as a kid. The latter phases of Sale Gosse are a dead ringer for that.
Sale Gosse has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage
If there was anyone wondering if being purchased by a big conglomerate would change Editions de Parfums; Sale Gosse is proof that it hasn’t. Particularly the candy accords show Mme Bal is another of the young perfumers to keep an eye on. Sale Gosse turns out not to be a dirty brat but a beatific devil of a perfume finding the right balance between precocious and obnoxious.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Editions de Parfums.
Tom Ford Private Blend new release names are starting to feel like challenges. The last one, Fucking Fabulous, led me to ask; “is it?” Now there are two more additions to the Tom Ford Private Blend collection what are going to beg the same question; Oud Wood Intense and Tobacco Oud Intense.
Intense is another of those names which often seems to mean more concentrated. When that is what it translates to in the bottle it isn’t that interesting. I was particularly concerned about a perfume called Oud Wood Intense. If there is a masterpiece in the Private Blend collection Oud Wood is in the running for that accolade. To go back and alter that was worrisome. Tobacco Oud Intense was less of a concern because I could see less destructive ways to make that intense. It helps that the original perfumers were involved in both. Richard Herpin returns for Oud Wood Intense while Olivier Gillotin gets an assist from Yann Vasnier on Tobacco Oud Intense. What both have produced are perfumes which are more like second cousins of each other there are some common blood lines but both are distinct from the other perfume they share a name with.
It doesn’t take any time at all to see the difference in Oud Wood Intense as the entire top accord is re-orchestrated. M. Herpin combines ginger, nutmeg and angelica root on top of the blond wood of cypress. There are faint echoes of the Szechuan pepper and cardamom opening of the original but this group of ingredients does create a top accord with more presence. M Herpin brings the oud to the forefront out of that top accord. He captures the rougher edges of oud by using sage, juniper berry, vetiver, and oakmoss. This is meant to make an oud accord which shows off some of the more difficult parts of oud. The base doesn’t let up as a huge slug of castoreum really doubles down on that. This creates an accord full of animalic depth which is probably not going to be to everyone’s taste. A clean woody base of sandalwood and patchouli finish this. Oud Wood Intense is that country cousin to the refined city cousin of Oud Wood. M. Herpin decided to let the deeper tones of oud free to make Oud Wood Intense.
Oud Wood Intense has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Olivier Gillotin (l.) and Yann Vasnier
Tobacco Oud Intense becomes the city cousin in this pair to the country cousin of Tobacco Oud. For Tobacco Oud Intense the perfumers work together to turn down the smoke while adding in gourmand aspects. The first of those is the near-signature Tom Ford addition of raspberry as the companion for coriander instead of the herbs of the original. Some Givaudan Orpur Olibanum sets the stage for the title notes. The purity of this Orpur version adds a level of refinement to the setting for the tobacco and oud to rise. As they do, this time they don’t smolder instead they become entwined with toasty tonka giving an entirely different style of heart accord from the original. Labdanum and patchouli provide the finishing touch for Tobacco Oud Intense.
Tobacco Oud Intense has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am gratified to find both perfumes to not be more of the same but kissing cousins instead.
Disclosure: This review is based on press samples provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
For me one of the smells of the fall is that of the annual wine crush. It is when all the harvested grapes are fed into the crusher-stemmer right around this time of year. It varies based on the weather. It has always surprised me that there are not more wine-inspired perfumes. So much of the pleasure of wine is associated with swirling in the glass and breathing deeply before sipping. Perhaps one of the reasons is because one of the earliest attempts at this was so good it is hard to compete against it. If you love wine and perfume Ginestet Botrytis needs to be on your radar.
This overlap became the source of conversation when Christian Delpeuch the Managing Director of Ginestet Wine Merchants met perfumer Gilles Toledano. They decided to collaborate on three perfumes which capture the great wines of Bordeaux. Le Boise evokes the smell of the barrels used to age the wine right down to the slightly sweet nature of the wood used to make them. Sauvignonne is an elegant translation of a sauvignon blanc with the snap of grapefruit to the luscious fruit represented by peach. I like both but neither of them really make me think “Wine!” Botrytis does.
The name refers to the mold which grows on late harvest grapes which helps to remove the water from the grape increasing the concentration of sugars within. This is the kind of grape which is the foundation of many of the sweeter wines on the shelf. What M. Toledano and M. Delpeuch capture here is the moment when these grapes are converted to that sweet nectar. As their inspiration they used perhaps the greatest dessert wine in the world; the Sauternes of Chateau d’Yquem.
The perfume opens on a rich accord of honey and quince forming a densely sweet opening. This is the concentrated sugar of the harvested grape. Botrytis is one of my favorite honey perfumes because of this opening. Over time M. Toledano adds in other dried fruits as you can almost feel the mold drying out the grape. Just when it begins to approach the level of becoming cloying M. Toledano cuts it all with a fantastic accord built on pain d’epice. The French spice bread is here with the yeasty doughy feel infused with a mélange of spices. It breaks the sweetness as you can imagine the fermentation process beginning to take place. The final part of this is a combination of jasmine and tuberose adding an indolic exhalation across the entire construction.
Botrytis has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
There have only been a couple of perfumes which have expertly captured the place where perfume and wine intersect. Botrytis is the best of them all.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
In my little town in Maryland I am a known quantity in my local post office. They even accentuate the word “perfume” when asking me the contents of a package I am sending. When I go to pick up one of my packages from Europe they will joke with me that it was making the storage area smell good. When I arrived to pick up my latest package from England the woman behind the counter mentioned she really liked what she was smelling. I did too. I told her there were a lot of things in there but I’d let her know what it was. This is always a difficult moment because I worry that it is one of the expensive ones impossible to get in the US. When I got home the smell of neroli and something else arose from the box. I was thinking what neroli perfume I had asked for then it hit me; it must be Roger & Gallet Neroil Facetie.
In England, Roger & Gallet is essentially a drugstore fragrance available in the outlets with a perfume section. Roger & Gallet is one of those brands which has been taking a break not releasing much new since 2015’s Fleur de Figuier which was another example of the great perfume this brand can create. In August of this year they released a five-fragrance collection called Extraits de Cologne. I knew I was going to have one added to my latest care package. I chose Neroli Facetie because it combined the neroli with immortelle in the note list. With Fabrice Pellegrin as the perfumer I felt like it was a pretty safe blind buy.
M. Pellegrin interpreted the idea of extraits de cologne as providing a construction of airiness grounded with a few deeper notes. The neroli reaches for the sky but the immortelle keeps it from drifting away.
Neroli Facetie opens with the neroli out front. It is expansive and given some texture with angelica flower. Petitgrain intensifies the citrus effect while the neroli finds itself melding with the maple syrup beauty of immortelle. M. Pellegrin uses the immortelle with a light hand which allows it to keep the neroli on top. Ylang-ylang is also present but it is almost irrelevant to the neroli and immortelle. The base is vetiver spiced up with some angelica seeds making a nice circle with the angelica flower in the top accord.
Neroli Facetie has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I’ve already made a sample of Neroli Facetie to give to my postal worker with the good news that this will eventually be available in the US. This has been a congenial companion for these early days of autumn.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
One of the most exotic women I met as child was a young woman named Patrice. Near our house in Miami there was a kind of commune which sprang up in 1970. I hesitate to say full-fledged because in hindsight I realized it was more a place for the erstwhile hippies of South Florida to congregate. It was in bicycle riding distance and I spent many weeks riding by with my eyes on this collection of unusual adults. They sure didn’t act like any of the adults who populated the rest of my life.
Hippies in Coconut Grove in 1970
One day while having my eyes turned towards the mise-en-scene within the park my bicycle came to a sudden stop. When I looked forward Patrice had grabbed my handlebars to keep me from running into her. Before I could focus my eyes the scent of patchouli washed over me. She let go of the handlebars. Then with a laugh she hugged me and said, “I’m Patrice.” I am sure it took me a moment or two to answer, “I’m Mark.” She said she had seen me ride by previously and asked if I wanted to come meet the others. At eleven years old my mind was awash with whether it was “bad” to talk to them while my curiosity was driving me towards going with her.
Five minutes later I would meet the women Patrice shared a tepee with. Even today forty-plus years removed from it the visual cues are a jumble. The way I was spoken to not as a kid but as someone worth talking to was amazing; but I don’t distinctly remember the conversation. But the smell? That found indelible purchase in my memory. All the women wore patchouli oil. This is that accord often referred to as “head shop” patchouli. I’ve always associated it with the smell of discovery. I haven’t thought about this in years until I tried the new Tauerville Patch Flash.
Tauerville is the “simple” and/or “experimental” line of perfumes from independent perfumer Andy Tauer. It has been a year since the last release Tuberose Flash. Patch Flash falls into the “simple” side of the Tauerville equation.
Patch Flash is a mixture of 40% patchouli oil combined with a fraction of patchouli called patchoulol. The fractionating process as it exists with patchouli has produced some fascinating effects. Patchoulol is a huge sesquiterpene molecule found in the heart of patchouli. Through careful distillation it can be isolated. By itself it produces a hazy softer version of patchouli. Laid over a lot of patchouli oil it rises off it like heat shimmers off the tarmac in summer. The overall accord is patchouli but it is more like veiled memory then head shop. The patchouli is not all that is there Hr. Tauer mainly supports this with a lovely simple leather accord as hints of flowers and spices flit in and out like sprites.
Patch Flash has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I hadn’t thought about Patrice for years then with one spray of Patch Flash I was sitting on the ground listening to these women talk about things I barely understood. While their words didn’t make an impression the way they smelled clearly did. Patch Flash captures the patchouli, the flowers in their hair, and the leather of their moccasins. I didn’t know the term at the time but Patch Flash is the smell of an Earth Mother circa 1970.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Tauerville.