There are some perfume notes which I think are problematically labeled as “cheap”. Cherry is one of those; the result of being the ingredient of too many plug-in air fresheners. It means more opportunity for perfumers to find gold within the dross. There aren’t a lot of cherry perfumes I own but the ones I do show the previous assertion is true. Here are my five favorites.
The People of the Labyrinths Luctor et Emergo– Before perfumer Alessandro Gulatieri would go on to found his Nasomatto line, he caught the attention of many perfume lovers with this gorgeous experimental fragrance. He at first uses a strong cherry but wraps it in an artificial cellophane accord. Then he embeds it in a Play-Doh casing for a different kind of artifice. One of the earliest groundbreakers in niche perfumery.
Serge Lutens Rahat Loukoum– Perfumer Christopher Sheldrake also uses cherry as a keynote in the top accord in this release to help further define the nascent gourmand style of fragrance. He takes a marzipan almond and matches it to a syrupy cherry liqueuer. Based on the Turkish Delight confection it eventually heads deeper into sweet confectionary territory, but it is always the cherry-almond opening which stays with me.
Ramon Monegal Cherry Musk– This is a perfume which simply lives up to its name as perfumer Ramon Monegal takes a concentrated cherry followed by a cocktail of white and animalic musks to provide a fascinating counterbalance. It is very strong and some days I’m not up for it; on the days I am spraying it on I like being swept away by it.
Beyonce Heat Rush– Within the celebuscent category Beyonce has produced a better than average collection since 2010. I liked the original Heat but the one bottle I own is the second flanker Heat Rush and it is all down to the cherry note. Perfumer Honorine Blanc re-works the fruity nature of Heat as she uses a top accord of cherry, passionfruit, and orange instead of the peach of the original. It turns this into a summer party.
Prada Candy Gloss– Perfumer Daniela Andrier completely leaves behind the formula from Candy for this flanker. It revolves on an axis of cherry, orange blossom, and vanilla. This is a transparent version of those usually heavy notes full of effervescence. I have come to like it better than the original.
Disclosure: These reviews based on bottles I purchased.
There are fashion designers I know are having fun. Lazaro Hernanadez and Jack McCollough the artists behind the Proenza Schouler clothing brand show it in every collection which comes down the runway. At the recent debut of their Fall 2018 collection they rolled out a neo-1960’s grouping of elegant tie-dye and fantastic macramé weaves. These are designs for hippies who live on the Upper East Side. It does capture the breezy aesthetic which is part of the brand hallmark.
Proenza Schouler RTW Fall 2018
Of course, there was a desire to branch out into fragrance and I had forgotten there was a deal in place with L’Oreal for a few years. I was reminded of it when one of my friends told me of a party they attended at the recent New York Fashion Week and asked me if I wanted them to send me the bottle of the new Proenza Schouler perfume they had received. I said yes and while it made its way to me I looked up what I could find.
Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollogh
In numerous interviews the perfume, called Arizona, arose from the trips Mr Hernandez and Mr. McCollogh take after each collection is released. They have found the American Southwest one of the best places to unwind. When they discussed fragrance concepts they kept returning to a desert-inspired one. This is what makes it into the bottle.
I could not find out who the perfumer, or perfumers, they worked with. (UPDATE: The perfumers are Carlos Benaim and Loc Dong) What has been produced is a transparent fragrance typical of the current perfume trend. What is atypical is the two keynotes in the top and base accords. It comes together into an excellent designer fragrance.
On top the keynote is cactus flower which is really a transparent sweet floral accord paired with a set of expansive warm luminous ingredients to form a “solar accord”. This takes the floral and expands it greatly. As the cactus flower accord spreads out the pulpy heart of the succulent also begins to peek out. Orange blossom grounds all of this in traditional citric floral territory. This is the heart of Arizona and it is a classic floral version. The base is where it again moves in a different direction as a mineral accord of dried out sand composed of Iso E Super or one of its kindred aromachemicals. This is further tuned by using a few white musks and cashmeran. It is an abstract version of the well-known petrichor ingredient. It is my favorite part of Arizona and where it lasts for the longest time on my skin.
Arizona has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mr. Hernandez and Mr. McCollogh have effectively translated their fashion style into a fragrance which feels completely Proenza Schouler. Even high fashion tie-dye and macramé feels like the right clothing choice for Arizona.
Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle provided by Proenza Schouler at NYFW 2018.
There are perfumers who reprimand me for pigeonholing them as I write about them. I try to offer a weak defense that it means there is a perfume you’ve done which is memorable to me. It is good-natured conversation, but I admit there is truth to the perfumers’ assertion; I do associate certain perfumers with certain styles. Which of course doubles down when I learn they are working on a new release in that style. Which was why I greeted the press release for the new Jo Malone English Fields collection with some excitement. Perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui has made some of my favorite gourmand perfumes and she was going to be responsible for all five.
Creative Director Celine Roux has really taken to working with specific perfumers over a series of releases. In 2017 Yann Vasnier was the collaborator on seven new fragrances. Mme Bijaoui jumped the gun a bit as she provided the Holiday 2017 release, Green Almond & Redcurrant. I mentioned in that review that Mme Roux seemed to be interested in featuring a different palette of ingredients along with working with perfumers who are adept at that style. Mme Bijaoui shows that Mme Roux’s instincts are right on as she produces a fantastic collection featuring grains as a focal point.
I just received my sample set of all five recently so I have initial impressions of all of them but there was one which grabbed me right away; Oat & Cornflower. I think I’ll probably do another post summarizing the other four English Fields perfumes another day because I think they are all interesting. Oat & Cornflower is the most interesting.
We’ve all probably eaten our share of oatmeal. You almost must add something to it to make it less bland. Mme Bijaoui does the same thing except she also makes sure the creamy graininess of the oat does not get lost throughout.
What greets you in the first moments is an ethereal use of hedione to provide a lilt of floral quality as the slightly musty dry oats come in underneath. Over minutes the oats become creamier as if they have been warmed in boiling water. Mme Bijaoui takes hazelnut and in using that makes it seem like it is when I add some nuts to my breakfast bowl of oatmeal. There is a nutty quality to oats; the hazelnut picks that thread out and examines it. The depth is provided by the base accord of benzoin gently supported by tobacco and vetiver. It turns into a stick to your bones gourmand.
Oat & Cornflower has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This exploration of grains is so well done in Mme Bijaoui’s hands that it is the first set of perfume this year which has really captured my attention fully. I encourage you to start with Oat & Cornflower then find out which one appeals to you.
Disclosure: This review based on a sample provided by Nordstrom.
There are times when I worry that one of my favorite literary forms is slowly disappearing; the short story. With less and less of the print literary outlets available the basic topsoil, where the form thrived, is eroding away. I was talking to a colleague about what we were reading, she told me she was reading an incredibly relevant book of short stories about women. When I asked she told me the name of the book was Back Talk by Danielle Lazarin. After finishing it I am still considering the perspective that was presented to me.
I am not sure how Ms. Lazarin convinced a publisher to release a book of short stories. One way might have been that there is a connective thread which runs throughout. These are stories of women at all stages of life mostly dealing with experiences anyone has gone through. In one story a girl experiences the loss of her mother and the bloom of first love. There is one which covers the nature of how women experience power as a transaction becomes a battle. An emotionless summary of the men a woman has no love for until she ends her narrative with, “I’ve forgotten too much, or maybe I just refused to learn it.” It is that kind of summation that recolors the story I just finished in a different hue. Is the narrator a free spirit or an empty one? Allowing every experience to flow through her without sticking?
Danielle Lazarin (Photo: Sylvie Rosokoff)
Throughout all the stories they feel like snapshots of the mundane female perspective. Like a conversation I will never be privy to because of my gender. Ms. Lazarin finds a way to make it all seem spontaneous
The story which continues to rattle around in my head is “Gone”. It is the story of two teenage girls who start keeping a book of the dead in a composition notebook. Entwined through the incidents they would record are the joys of best friends who, at that age, feel like the only one who understands you. As the ledger is discovered, with lots of parental concern, there is a pivotal moment of defiance practiced with silence and crossed arms. This leads to their separation and knowledge that this relationship was on its way to being added to their list. Ms. Lazarin’s style of writing is evocative in every single story here but the loss of friendship feels like a death in this story.
In these early days of 2018 with #MeToo movement in ascendance stories of women living their lives showing that each of those acts also carry significance too seems especially prescient.
One of my most memorable experiences was going spelunking. When I was in graduate school there was a nearby cave system and the school organized regular trips with appropriate professors to turn the adventure into a teachable experience. As we got deeper and deeper into the mountain there were so many sensorial experiences. For the first time I learned what dark was when we stood in one of the open galleries and turned off our headlamps. It seemed like it carries weight and motion. A black light showed us the veins of minerals running through what seemed monolithic stone. The final experience was walking into a wide-open field of limestone stalactites. The elongated hazards of every movie which ends up in a cave were all slowly dripping water into a pool underneath. Each drop was saturated with the limestone making it look like a pond of milk. When we emerged hours later back into the light the intensity of it all remained. Stora Skuggan Moonmilk is inspired by those milky stalactites and provides its own intense experience.
With its first two releases the brand was alternatively amateurish and intriguing; Silphium being the latter. With Moonmilk as the third data point I was wondering which face I would see. It turns out it is sort of in between as the early going feels amateurish before perfumer Tomas Hempel uses a firmer creative hand to outline the contours of his cavern.
The opening of Moonmilk is a grating lime and black tea accord which set my teeth on edge. It is made slightly worse as black pepper adds even more irritating screechiness. It is like having to squeeze into a very narrow crack scraping your skin along the wall. Once you get past it what is left is inspirational. This cave is an overdose of sandalwood. Mr. Hempel uses this as the basis to construct the rest of the fragrance upon. As I look towards the entrance a last breeze of fresh air comes in the presence of cardamom. Then in what really makes Moonmilk stand out Mr. Hempel uses lily-of-the-valley as the predominant contrast to the creamy wood. All my previous annoyance is soothed by this combination. As we go deeper, leather provides the animalic sense of darkness. Because of the high concentration of sandalwood it never rises to equality it provides the same kind of detail as the lily-of-the-valley.
Moonmilk has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Moonmilk is a 90% fabulous sandalwood perfume if there was anyway I could spelunk my way past the opening I would do it every time. Others may not find it as off-putting as I did. What I am urging is to make sure you work your way into this sandalwood cave there is a lot to see once you’re inside.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
Over the last two years it has been an enjoyable experience watching Olivier Polge take over as in-house perfumer from his father Jacques at Chanel. In this early part of his tenure he has stamped his own signature upon the well-known Chanel aesthetic. Over the first releases it has seemed as if he has an eye on a younger generation of perfume consumers who like things lighter and more transparent. When I received the press release for Coco Mademoiselle Intense I realized it was going to be something entirely different.
I could make an argument that Coco Mademoiselle is the best designer perfume of the 21st century. It sits in a place where it exemplifies everything I think is important about the Chanel fragrance empire. To compose an intense version Olivier Polge was going to invite direct comparison to his father. I also wondered how intense this would be. It turns out that in both cases Coco Mademoiselle Intense succeeds better than I might have imagined.
One of the things which concerned me prior to smelling the perfume was the press release which promised an overdose of patchouli. If there is anything which makes Coco Mademoiselle soar it is the precise balance of orange, rose and patchouli which make it so good. Telling me one part of that is about to become unbalanced was worrisome. What M. Polge does is to only nod to the other two Mademoiselle ingredients while also amplifying a couple supporting notes from the original.
Coco Mademoiselle Intense opens with a whisper of orange and rose before the patchouli rises to the forefront very quickly. The first time I wore this the rapidity with what made the original special to me was dispensed with irritated me a little bit. It felt pushy but that is probably just me. This is a fabulously sophisticated patchouli which helps ameliorate my bruised desires. Tonka comes next providing its toasty nutty warmth. This is where I bought into Coco Mademoiselle Intense as this turned into a warm comfort scent. This only deepened as vanilla provided more warmth. With the concentration of patchouli the vanilla never turns treacly; it is in balance.
Coco Mademoiselle Intense has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
M. Polge also provides a precise balance of three ingredients like his father did with the original. His choice was to do it with traditional base notes. It is what makes this intense. Most time intense in the name of a perfume means blaringly so. Instead, Coco Mademoiselle Intense is a warm hug from Chanel.
Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle I purchased.
The more compact the art form the greater importance each component takes on. The poetry known as haiku is a good example. A Japanese style of poetry with a precise structure; three lines of five syllables, seven syllables and five syllables. While the structure can be restrictive, the writer is released from rhyming or meter conventions allowing for freer choice of subject matter. What it does emphasize is in a haiku every syllable counts. Perfumers who work in a minimal style of just a few ingredients often have their fragrances described as fragrant haiku. Like the written kind these kinds of perfumes also place a premium upon each ingredient.
John and Clara Molloy
The husband and wife team, John and Clara Molloy, behind Memo Paris embraced this kind of perfumery with a collection released exclusively to Harrods last year called Floraiku. It just arrived in the US at Saks. The Molloys worked with their longtime collaborator on Memo, perfumer Alienor Massenet as well as perfumer Sophie Labbe on the original eleven debut releases. I was very excited to try the collection, but I would find like a haiku almost all of them had a syllable or two out of place. I thought the grapefruit, mate, and vetiver trio of Between Two Trees was going to be very appealing, but it started sour and never recovered. Sound of a Richochet was a treacly vanilla syrup. I See the Clouds Go By just overwhelmed with one syllable of cassis along with all the unfortunate character that ingredient provides when left hanging out all alone. If there was a consistent set of feedback throughout ten of the eleven Floraiku releases it was one ingredient took over, washing away any chance at development or character. There was one that made wading through the collection worthwhile; My Shadow On The Wall. Mme Massenet was the perfumer for this one. In this case she more precisely balanced her three ingredients. It allowed for a haiku-like feeling which I found lacking elsewhere in this collection.
The first line of My Shadow On The Wall is five syllables of violet leaf. Here the watery and grassy nature is put forward. There is also a shimmery metallic nature like silver threads running through the green. Mimosa provides the seven-syllable second line starting with its fresh floral nature and the slightly powdery feel filling that piece. This is an ideal partner to the violet leaf as it feels like a natural progression from that start. The final line is rich sandalwood, creamy and deep. It takes what has been lighter and allows the two first lines to cast a shadow upon it.
My Shadow On The Wall has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
If this line holds any interest I would encourage you to give all of them a try because the haiku nature of them might be more appealing to a different nose. I was happy to find one of them worth spending some time with where every syllable counted.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Saks.
Designer brands which stay true to their roots are preferable to the ones where the connection gets lost completely. Tomas Maier the Creative Director of Bottega Veneta wants to have a fragrance collection which is as luxurious as the leather goods they are known for. Since they started releasing perfume in 2011 I would say the overall collection has lived up to that. Over the last few years there have been two of my favorite designer releases of their respective year; 2017’s Eau de Velours and 2014’s Knot. The latter embraced the idea of the leather weaves characteristic of the Bottega Veneta purse of the same name. Now the second flanker to Knot has arrived; Knot Eau Absolue.
Perfumer Daniela Andrier, who did the original, has returned for Knot Eau Absolue. This is a deeper style of luxury as Mme Andrier goes for luxury with only a few ingredients each of which provide a twist in this olfactive knot.
The fragrant signature of Knot is the combination of lavender and neroli. In the previous releases they were freshened up with partners who made them lighter in style. For Knot Eau Absolue Mme Andrier decides to give them the top accord all to themselves. She also decides to use them in higher concentrations. I have always liked this floral combination and the early going here confirms why I do. The lavender is more floral than herbal while the neroli is more white flower with the green quality also in the back ground. What comes through are two florals singing lead while the herbal and green nature of each ingredient provide backing vocals. After some time, a real diva, jasmine, arrives and the floral amplitude rises. Knot Eau Absolue rests upon this trio of floral ingredients entwining in a knot of beauty. The deep leather of the purse this is named after is provided by myrrh. Mme Andrier allows it to slowly build until a noticeable warmth is simmering underneath the flowers.
Knot Eau Absolue has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I really like Knot Eau Absolue especially now with chilly mornings and warm afternoons. It seems a delightful shoulder season choice. The original will be better as things get warmer but in the months before and after those days Knot Eau Absolue will be more enjoyable.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Nordstrom.
My least appreciated style of perfume is the fruity floral. If you ask me to only have one half of that I would have said give me the floral. It isn’t that there aren’t fruity perfumes which retain interest, but it sometimes becomes difficult for a creative team to keep it from smelling like candy. Which is a shame because fruity notes offer some of the same promise that their floral partners do. The latest Vilhelm Parfumerie release, Poets of Berlin, shows how that is done.
Creative director of Vilhelm Parfumerie, Jan Ahlgren, has done a fantastic job of using musicians as inspiration but I must confess this time the connection has passed me by. In the press copy it says Poets of Berlin is inspired by David Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy of albums. I will leave it to better minds than mine to make the connection between a fruity woody perfume and Bowie’s Berlin portfolio. Once again M. Ahlgren calls on his collaborator on the entire collection to date, Jerome Epinette, to find a way to add something to fruity fragrance.
Jerome Epinette (l.) and Jan Ahlgren
The choice that is made is to take a combination of sweet and tart fruit ingredients and let them open with a crystalline sweetness before slowly adding in woody ingredients from light to heavy to provide unexpected depth to the fruit.
The two fruits M. Epinette uses are lemon and blueberry. When they first hit my skin, they project predominantly as sugary sweet reminding me a bit of those sugar-coated jelly candies. Then M. Epinette uses the green tinged woodiness of bamboo to turn my attention to the tart underneath the sugar. That green thread is picked up and amplified with vetiver which also notches the woodiness up a level, too. This is where the sweetness of the fruit returns to the foreground pushing back against the woods. Sandalwood and vanilla comprise the base accord creating depth to both the sweet and the woods.
Poets of Berlin has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Poets of Berlin is an excellent spring fragrance. I wore it on an unexpected warm day and it really sang on my skin. It is surprising that I am happier wearing fruity rather than floral on a warm day, but Poets of Berlin has made me crave fruity woods.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Vilhelm Parfumerie.
It has been almost exactly eight years since I first met Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel in New York City. She was showing me her new brand Atelier Cologne. The first question out of my mouth was, “does it last?” She then explained the concept behind the bottle was to create a new version called “cologne absolue”. On that day, and ever since, Atelier Cologne has been at the forefront of the 21st century re-interpretation of cologne. One of those first releases showed the possibilities within the concept, Orange Sanguine. That simple fragrance took the traditional citrus cologne adding depth and nuance along with longevity and projection. It is the perfume I send many to seek when I want to display why a niche perfume might be worth a little more. Mme Ganter-Cervasel has continued to collaborate with the perfume behind Orange Sanguine, Ralf Schwieger; their latest is called Iris Rebelle.
The current fragrance customer is in flux with a seeming desire for a lighter style of fragrance. For a brand there must come adaptations with that. I have been wondering whether Atelier Cologne must also bend towards this trend. One release is not a direction but Iris Rebelle is the most transparent Atelier Cologne released to date. Having Hr. Schwieger on hand to translate the original concept into something more on trend for the present day makes sense. What has been produced is a floating iris-colored veil on a breeze.
Hr. Schwieger cleverly uses a very rooty iris as his keynote. This is the iris which I prefer over the more traditional powdery style. By accentuating the earthiness, it also allows for it to not become an overbearing puffball. In the early going orange blossom combines with the iris to form an incredibly grounded accord. There is a slightly sweet carrot-like nature which comes forward which is very pleasing. Hr. Schwieger then uses a judicious amount of lavender to add a hint of floral quality so that you are reminded that iris is more than a root. Rose also provides a slightly more intense floral underpinning, too. This settles onto a base accord of guaiac wood continuing to keep the mood light along with some white musks and a bit of patchouli.
Iris Rebelle has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
It will be interesting to see how Iris Rebelle is received by long-time admirers of the brand. It is so much more transparent than anything else in the collection it stands out. As one of those I feel like it upholds that original ethos laid out eight years ago from a different perspective. I like it. What is still to find is does Iris Rebelle create new consumers. David Bowie says in “Rebel Rebel”, “You love bands when they're playing hard”. What happens when they play a little softer?
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.