Back when Bleu de Chanel Eau de Toilette was released in 2010 I wrote on CaFleureBon, “Bleu de Chanel is very likely going to be a huge commercial fragrance and make a lot of money.” It doesn’t prove any prescience on my part to state that. It has become true because then in-house perfumer Jacques Polge created a fragrance consisting of building blocks which represented the greatest hits of masculine perfume trends. As I also wrote in that review if I judged Bleu de Chanel on a scale of innovation it fails. If I judged it on the ability to be more generally pleasing to a large swath of consumers it succeeds. Time has proven that, as ever since its release it has been one of the best-selling masculine perfumes in the world.
Chanel has been protective of its brand over the past eight years only releasing one flanker, an Eau de Parfum strength version in 2014. That was also overseen by Jacques Polge in one of his last releases before retiring from Chanel. In that release it seems like the intent was to amplify the cedar heart while mellowing it a bit with amber leaving most of the rest of the architecture in place. When talking with others I facetiously call it Cedre de Chanel. I could see the appeal to those who are more attracted to clean woods over fresh citrus and ginger accords. From a consumer perspective it was successful if not quite as much as the original.
Now for 2018 we have the second flanker, Bleu de Chanel Parfum, another increase in strength. There is also another change which made me interested as Olivier Polge has taken over from his father as in-house perfumer. M. Polge’s freshening up of the Chanel aesthetic without becoming boring has been a success story I have enjoyed following. I was curious to see how he would approach Bleu de Chanel Parfum. The answer was he followed the old maxim, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
What that means about the fragrance is if the Eau de Toilette was all about the fresh opening. Followed by the Eau de Parfum’s focus on the cedar heart. Then Parfum amplifies the sandalwood in the base.
Bleu de Chanel opens with a much-attenuated fresh citrus almost like the sun setting. It is dialed way back from the original. Still enough to be recognizable. The amber heart captures that last bit of warmth before the sandalwood comes forward and dominates. The cedar is there to provide a bit of the clean contrast but this comes off more like something I could call Santal de Chanel.
Bleu de Chanel Parfum has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I realize if I did call this Santal de Chanel I am forgetting one of the greatest sandalwood perfumes ever; Chanel Bois des Iles. That is a perfect counterpoint when I say there is artistry versus populism. Bleu de Chanel Parfum is the latter. It is like providing three versions of a similar perfume and allowing the consumer to choose which part they prefer. I return to my original judgement from my review of the original. This is a great choice for the man who wants a single bottle of perfume on his dresser. Now he has a choice to go Fresh (Eau de Toilette), Clean (Eau de Parfum), or Woody (Parfum). There is a reason these are greatest hits of masculine perfume and having three different strengths does nothing to change that.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Chanel.
Every year as the weather gets warmer a little row of blue colored cylinders form a line at the front of a shelf. Every year I am reminded at the success of the Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo collection at producing compelling fresh, often citrus-based, colognes. Over the next six months or so all the eight bottles I own will allow me to wear something in the heat of the summer that refreshes without boring me. When I made my trip to Bloomingdale’s a month ago to pick up my samples from the fragrance counter I noticed a box with the familiar blue packaging and a new name on the label; Chinotto di Liguria.
One of the things I like about this collection is having such a Mediterranean-style focus it doesn’t lend itself to overwhelming exploration of the aesthetic. Since its inception in 1999, Chinotto di Liguria is only the ninth release in almost twenty years. They have also used one of the great perfumers for the last four, including Chinotto di Liguria, Francois Demachy. The Blu Mediterraneo perfumes he has composed all display his ability at finding two-note accords defining top, heart, and base. Chinotto di Liguria is another example.
The note being explored is a rare Mediterranean citrus called Chinotto. To be honest it smells like a greener version of bergamot. I have never encountered the fruit in real life so this might be an accurate description of it. This has more sweetness for the green to contrast. Matched to it in the top accord is a marine note capturing the crashing sea spray on the beach. This is a typical Mediterranean accord M. Demachy uses with a detectable shading on the citrus. The heart accord is a continuation of the green through cardamom and rosemary with jasmine. My favorite part of this perfume is as the cardamom and rosemary intertwine they ride on an expansive bubble of jasmine. It is airily beautiful. This is where it feels like a beach walk between ocean on one side and orange trees and jasmine vines on the other. The expansiveness remains as white musks do the same to the patchouli in the base.
Chinotto di Liguria has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I returned to Bloomingdale’s to buy a bottle after wearing through my sample. It would have been a surprise not to add to my row of blue bottles. There is nothing groundbreaking here but if you want excellently designed warm weather colognes you can’t make a bad choice within this collection including Chinotto di Liguria.
Disclosure: This review based on a sample provided by Bloomingdale’s and a bottle I purchased.
The fin de siècle of the past century was a time of transition in perfume, too. As the 1990’s gave way to the 2000’s the rise of niche and independent perfumery was shaking things up. If you look at the period just prior to this, you begin to see the elements we might take for granted twenty years later. At that time, they were riskier attempts to create something different for an audience that might not have existed with no internet to provide word-of-mouth. Many of the people who have become the standard bearers released some amazing perfumes which deserve to be known now when the concepts they represent have a receptive audience. This month in Under the Radar I introduce you to Mark Birley for Men.
Frederic Malle is much of the reason I write about the perfumers behind the fragrances. Prior to him putting their names on the bottles in his Editions de Parfum Frederic Malle brand they were ghosts. Now they are known personalities. M. Malle transitioned into creative direction after working at Roure Bertrand Dupont. He would collaborate with perfumer Pierre Bourdon on Mark Birley for Men. M. Bourdon was the unsung creative behind classics such as Creed Green Irish Tweed, Yves St. Laurent Kouros, and (in collaboration with Christopher Sheldrake) Shiseido Feminite du Bois. These two would create perfume which redefined masculine trends going for sophistication over the prevailing fresh and clean.
Mark Birley was a British proprietor of multiple members-only nightclubs throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. His was a name which conjured velvet rope elegance. When he put his name on a perfume that sense of private club sophistication was exemplified by not hewing to the popular trends. Messrs. Malle and Bourdon chose to subvert them instead.
The perfume opens with a very typical lemon top note. A sunny lens flare which is tamped down with subtle applications of pineapple and melon. The melon gives a smirking call back to the Calone used in M. Bourdon’s aquatics. The pineapple makes the lemon acerbic instead of tart. This falls into a floral heart accord of violet and iris. More violet than iris although a detectable powderiness does arise. Carrot seed provides a rooty sweetness in complement to the iris. The base eschews the sweetness working for a desiccated woodiness via sandalwood, vetiver, and patchouli overlaid with sharp silvery incense and green woody cedar.
Mark Birley for Men has 6-8 hour longevity and average silage.
The seeds of Frederic Malle’s brand were probably planted with Mark Birley for Men. M. Bourdon had the freedom to show off. Together Pierre and Frederic made an excellent perfume which deserves to be lifted from Under the Radar.
Disclosure: This review based on a bottle I purchased.
One of the pleasures of living in an agricultural preserve is coming in just a couple of weeks; berry picking season. I’ll be spending a few mornings over the next couple of months picking fresh berries right off the vine, bush, or tree. The smell of the fresh fruit mixed with the smell of equally fresh sweat is not easily replicated in perfume. Although one of the great early niche releases is known for just this.
L’Artisan Parfumeur was created forty years ago by Jean-Francois Laporte. One of the perfumes which displayed what niche perfume could be about was a fabulous combination of blackberries and musk named appropriately Mure et Musc. Whenever I need a reminder that fruity fragrances don’t need to be insipid I can reach for my bottle. This perfume is probably one of the main reasons I hold fruity florals to a high standard, I know what it can be. It also is why I hold the subsequent L’Artisan releases to an even higher standard. Champ de Baies meets those standards by finding a contemporary interpretation of berries and musk. It is one of two simultaneously released colognes interpreting sunrise in a garden (Champ de Fleurs) or berry field (Champ de Baies). Perfumer Evelyne Boulanger is responsible for bringing the berries at dawn to life.
Mme Boulanger makes this contemporary by making a lighter version of a berries and musk adhering to the current popular aesthetic. When I read that I was worried this could become too transparent. Mme Boulanger finds a nice balance because when you are in a field at dawn the scent of the natural scene is a bit stronger because the cooling of the night hasn’t fully let go. Which makes Champ de Baies pitched at just the right volume.
It opens with a compelling rhubarb and pear top accord. Mme Boulanger allows some of the sulfurous aspects of rhubarb to contrast with the crisp pear. This flows into a duet of blackberries and raspberries. The latter have been one of my least favorite berry notes in perfume. One of the reasons is the raspberry usually runs riot within compositions. Here it is excellently balanced with the blackberry in an odd way freshening it up. Then Mme Boulanger provides a cool morning breeze of white musks carrying along some patchouli to represent the earth the berries are growing in.
Champ de Baies has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
L’Artisan has been one of the standard bearers for niche perfumery. Champ de Baies shows it can still be found in the vanguard; perhaps berry picking at dawn.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from L’Artisan Parfumeur.
One of my favorite things to do on a spring evening is to sit among the lilacs. It was not by design but happenstance that lilac has become my spring harbinger. When we bought our first house in the Boston-area it came with fully mature lilac bushes. It also came with a blizzard in the first month which had the effect of pruning them via nature. Over the eighteen years we lived in that house I would sit on our little patio in the spring and enjoy watching the lilacs once again regain their fully-grown glory. I knew our current house was the right choice when I found a similar growth of lilacs. The lilacs have provided me multiple moments of Zen for over twenty-five years now. One of the great things about perfume is it allows me to extend the May lilacs into the rest of the year; DSH Perfumes Lilas de Minuit does a great job of capturing my lilacs of spring.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
Perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz groups her perfumes in different series. Lilas de Minuit is part of her “Flowers for Men” collection. It is the follow-up to last year’s Il Marinaio Da Capri which was honeysuckle focused. For Lilas de Minuit Ms. Hurwitz must find a careful balance with lilac. Lilac is used in so many air fresheners and detergents it can unintentionally communicate “cheap”. By pitching this as a masculine floral Ms. Hurwitz has a bit more license to turn the floral more butch. It is those choices which make Lilas de Minuit a fully rounded perfume.
There is a smell of the early spring as the newly defrosted top soil carries a kind of peppery scent. Ms. Hurwitz picks up on that along with a sunny flare of citrus. That grounded-ness is reinforced through a nucleus of oakmoss. From this the lilac can bloom unfettered. Ms. Hurwitz uses a set of other florals to tune her lilac accord to blend with the oakmoss. This combines into a wet soil and lilac accord which was lovely. A set of resinous and animalic notes provide the base accord. Incense swirls up through the heart accord. Civet and musks give an animalic heartbeat which livens the final stage up.
Lilas de Minuit has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Lilas de Minuit is an exceptional lilac perfume for spring. I had held off reviewing this until I could compare it to my lilacs at home. On one of the first days where I could sit out well into the evening Lilas de Minuit provided harmony to nature’s natural lilacs. When it gets to be July and I want the cool of my May lilacs I know which bottle to pull off the shelf.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.
I usually hold off writing about the new movies until they have been out for a few weeks because I want to talk about plot points freely. With Avengers: Infinity War I realized talking about the plot points at any time would ruin the movie. So, I’m not going to do that. There will be mentions of things shown in the trailers and tv ads as to who is doing things in the movie with who but not the plot itself. I just haven’t been able to think of anything else for the last week since seeing this for the first time.
I have written in the past on how the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has found the secret ingredient for success; optimism. Leading up to watching Infinity War I watched a few of the movies I thought were the right appetizers. That sense of fighting for what each hero believes is right often at personal cost is written large across the MCU but particularly Infinity War. Our heroes believe in something. They don’t all necessarily believe in the same path to that something. That has allowed for some conflict. One of the things that the MCU has done so well is not to throw away what has happened in the past with a funny one-liner and press the reset button. In Infinity War the stress lines which have existed over the last two years of movies remain and are used for story purposes. Ten years of dangling plot threads are being picked up by the directing team of The Russo Brothers and used as jumping off points for Infinity War in the first act.
One of the thing The Russos do on a magnificent scale is to make each part of the movie as we move around feel like it is that set of characters’ movie. An example is when the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive on screen it feels like a Guardians movie. When we get to Wakanda it feels like Black Panther has continued. The other part of this is that into each of these settings we add in a few of the other characters. That they mesh so well again speaks volumes about the vitality of the MCU. What I can say is the character who spends the most amount of time with the Guardians needs to be in Vol. 3 because they fit right in as each Guardian interacts with them.
Finally, I am going to end on the villain Thanos. This is the second MCU movie in a row where the villain’s motives are more fully fleshed out on screen. Like Killmonger in Black Panther, Thanos also has a deep personal motivation for seeking out the Infinity Stones. In a movie full of heroes we want to see, that the time is taken to not make Thanos just something in their way is important. It is why when we reach the final act of the movie the stakes are definitively laid out. The audience knows the consequences and why each side is motivated to win.
Infinity War is a fitting culmination of ten years of movie storytelling every beat in the movie is spun from the past decade. The next year is going to be a long one to see how what is left at the end of Infinity War is handled. Based on this movie I have no doubt it will be amazing.
There is an increase in stories in the news about people who wear perfume in the same way people talk or play music too loud; as if the world wants to share in their magnificent taste. The latest story comes from a poll on the travel site Expedia. In their annual Airplane and Hotel Etiquette Survey here were the top five annoying travel behaviors:
The Seat Kicker- 51%
The Aromatic Passenger- 43%
The Inattentive Parent- 39%
Personal Space Violators- 34%
Audio Insensitive- 29%
I winced when I saw the number two response.
Image via Quora.com
One of the reasons I was dismayed is because it is exactly this kind of insensitivity to others by perfume wearers which allows for office-space bans. In any enclosed space if you’re going to wear perfume you should be considering the same thing you do when you fire up your music player or take a phone call in a shared space.
I love perfume, but I do not wear it while traveling because I don’t know if the person sitting next to me will be as enthralled with the effervescent citrus woody perfume I am wearing. What I do is choose something from my group of smaller travel sizes or samples of perfumes I own. Put them in a zip-lock bag. Keep them in my carry-on. When I hit the restroom at my final destination then I give a single spray to the base of my throat. I have never found the occasion where wearing perfume onboard a plane is a necessity. I’ve actually found when flying overnight flights my single spray can be a bit of a tonic after the long flight.
I think this is not done in a conscious way by many whom this critique is named for. I think they apply what they normally apply without thinking they are going to be in a plane for a few hours with others. This dovetails with the correlation between strong sillage equals quality to a lot of fragrance consumers.
I’m asking all of us who wear perfume to think about whether wearing it while traveling is a necessity. So many flights are only a few hours it isn’t that much of a sacrifice. I am hoping that the 43% number can be reduced over time because I know I don’t want to be an “Aromatic Passenger” up in the air.
There are brands which have picked a perfume lane to travel in. Those brands will mine every shade and nuance of the style they have chosen. This is certainly true of Narciso Rodriguez who have been doing this with musk-centric perfumes for fifteen years. Over thirty-plus releases they have kind of exhausted the variations. Now maybe it is time to try to improve on the more well-known. Narciso Rouge feels like that kind of perfume to me.
A team of perfumers, Sonia Constant and Nadege le Garlantezec, are responsible for designing Rouge. They go back and design around tropes familiar to those who love musk perfumes. Rose and iris as the floral, check. Cedar and vetiver as the base, check. Here is the difference, while the ingredients are nothing new there is an overt sultriness to Rouge that the perfumers manage to evoke I found engaging.
Nadege le Garlantezec
The opening is a lipstick rose accord of iris and rose. when this accord is done right it gives off a sense of sophistication and seduction. The perfumers do a great version here. It reminds me of lips perfectly lacquered in crimson lipstick; almost velvety in nature. The musks are titrated in over an hour or so. As the time goes on there is a classically sensual style of musk against the rose accord. It is sort of like a rough kiss on the perfect lips mussing up the perfection. The cedar comes in to try and clean things up with a greenish woody base. Vetiver accentuates the green quality of the wood finishing things off in a reliable manner.
Rouge has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I think it can be easy to dismiss new Narciso Rodriguez releases because there has been so many released. There is a bit of a sense of repetition beginning to set in. Rouge caused me to consider whether composing in a more typical style of musk isn’t still worth the effort.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Narciso Rodriguez.
There are a few brands which seem to preternaturally stay out of the limelight. Brands which make some nice perfumes. One of those is the Italian brand Carthusia. Carthusia Uomo has been a summer staple for me since I first discovered it over a decade ago. There is a consistent Mediterranean aesthetic which defines the brand. There is also a kind of vintage-like feel to many of the perfumes as they have been reformulated. They have not consistently released new perfumes preferring to rest on the collection of timeless standards. I was interested to hear about a year ago that was going to change.
I received a press release announcing the pending release of two new perfumes working with perfumer Luca Maffei. One, Gelsomini di Capri was a re-formulation of an original 2009 release. If you want a prime example of what I am talking about with the Mediterranean aesthetic Gelsomini di Capri is a good one. It is It is sunny citrus, sultry florals led by jasmine, finishing on a musky woody base. I like it, but I admit I was much more curious to see what Sig. Maffei could do if he brought his innovative style to a brand like Carthusia. The second new release, Terra Mia, is what I was looking for.
If you’ve ever traveled in this part of the world and are fortunate enough to have a balcony with a water view you might remember the scent of the morning. On the only occasion I had to experience this there was an orange grove in the distance and a rose garden right below. I would breathe in while my latte was sitting on the small breakfast table. It was just right. Sig. Maffei captures that as he delicately mixes in a couple of gourmand ingredients into the Mediterranean formula.
Sig. Maffei opens with a high concentration of bergamot matched with baie rose. This is like a “dawn accord” with the bergamot sparkling off the water far below. The baie rose captures the greenery waking up to the sun. It moves into a floral heart of neroli, orange blossom and rose. This captures the green of the baie rose and intensifies it through the neroli. The orange blossom provides a lilting contrast to the slightly dewy rose. From here is where we take a gourmand turn. Sig. Maffei pours a cup of coffee next to a sweet hazelnut-flavored pastry. This slides in under the florals as if serving them up on its own platter. It heads to an ambroxan focused base which captures a bit of the ocean off in the distance right at the end.
Terra Mia has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Sig. Maffei has done a fantastic job finding the space within the Mediterranean to insert the gourmand accords. It makes everything richer and deeper. On the days I wore Terra Mia I was on a Mediterranean balcony in the morning.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
I live in the Washington DC metro area which means we take cherry blossoms seriously. There is a month-long festival. The local news keeps us updated on the state of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin letting us know when peak bloom will arrive. It is the spring version of determining peak leaf color in the fall. Mrs. C and I visit every year but to avoid the crowds we go at night when there is moonlight to enjoy them by. I find this a magical moment stolen in the urban landscape. For me there is a delicacy to the cherry blossoms which is rarely captured in fragrance; L’Occitane Fleurs de Cerisier Eau Fraiche does a nice job of it.
The Fleurs de Cerisier collection began in 2007 and has been followed up with annual flankers. I have never warmed to any of the releases because I’ve always felt they miss the natural transparency of the cherry blossoms in real life. It was why I had to do a double take to make sure I had sprayed on a strip what I thought I did. I expected an intense fruity floral and instead found a feather light version.
I may like seeing the cherry blossoms by moonlight, but the unnamed perfumer was channeling a sunny spring day. The perfume opens with lemon and grassy notes providing sunlight on the sward. Then as if I am walking up to the grove; a breeze brings the cherry blossom scent from afar. Over time it grows in intensity but never crossing the line into too-sweet floral. A set of florals provide fresh support as peony, heliotrope, and jasmine keep the heart accord opaque. There is also a slight aquatic shimmer underneath it all; which fits my sense of taking a walk in the local grove. The freshness becomes expansive as a set of white musks provide that effect. Cedar keeps it slightly green as a spring scent should.
Fleurs de Cerisier Eau Fraiche has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
It looks like I won’t have to rely on my local news to determine the peak cherry blossom days anymore. All I will have to do is spray some Fleurs de Cerisier Eau Fraiche.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from L’Occitane.