When a mass-market perfume hits the market it is generally following a current trend or two. As in any creative effort; following the trend has some difficulties. It leaves you open to second guessing about whether you made the correct choice. Sometimes it seems like a brand tries again. This seems like what I experienced when I tried Salvatore Ferragamo Amo Ferragamo Flowerful.
From 2002-2008 Salvatore Ferragamo fragrances weren’t going along with the latest trends they were helping set and refine what commercial perfume could be. I’m not sure what changed but over the past ten years they have become a perfume brand which found more success in going with the flow instead of surfing on top of it. Because of that earlier time period I always give the new releases a try. Last year they released Amo Ferragamo. That was more of the same as a gourmand-like floral was right on trend. It wasn’t anything I wanted to try anymore than on a strip and file it away.
As I received my sample of Amo Ferragamo Flowerful when I sprayed it on a strip, I was quite surprised. Unlike most flankers, especially first ones, this did not smell anything like the original. Perfumer Marie Salamagne, who did the original, completely changed the style; to fruity floral. Fruity floral is not a terribly original kind of fragrance. Mme Salamagne adds in a few interesting quirks which I liked.
The first change was to the Japanese citrus of yuzu, instead of bitter orange, along with blackcurrant buds. What caught my attention right away was Mme Salamagne’s use of an Amaro accord. Amaro is an herbal aperitif. Mme Salamagne uses the boozy herbalness as a unique contrast to the yuzu. This is what sold me on this perfume. This top accord is great. As it moves to a plum and jasmine heart accord the Amaro accord persists for a short time to provide a garden milieu undertone. The base is mixture of light synthetic woods, white musk, and vanilla for a transparently sweet woody foundation.
Amo Ferragamo Flowerful has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I was wearing Amo Ferragamo Flowerful I kept reflecting on the original. I am sure that it is not correct, but this new perfume felt like it was the other mod in final consideration to become the first Amo Ferragamo. Now a year later it gets a second chance. I applaud the brand for going in a different direction instead of just enhancing a facet of the original. Amo Ferragamo is a nice new spring fruity floral.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Salvatore Feragamo.
The end of February always drives me to drink. I hate the colorless world which greets me at the end of winter. One of my favorite winter drinks is a snifter of fine cognac to sip. This is also the time of year when the perfume I own which has cognac in it find their time to shine. Here are five of my favorites.
Banana Republic Black Walnut was a perfume which challenged my perfume snobbery. By the time I walked in to the store at my local mall I expected to be underwhelmed. What I found was a simple mixture of cognac, tobacco, and cedar. Perfumer Harry Fremont could have named this “Cigar Bar” and it would have been as accurate.
A more creative version of cognac and tobacco comes from House of Cherry Bomb Tobacco Cognac. Independent perfumers Alexis Karl and Maria McElroy. This is the indie flip side to the commercial quality of Black Walnut. Tobacco Cognac does everything just a bit better and adds in the rare ingredients of ambergris, oud, along with a fabulously viscous honey accord. This is that secret hideaway where pleasures are more complex.
Pierre Guillaume Liqueur Charnelle is a pure cognac accord. I enjoy these perfumes where the pieces of the accord come forth individually until they all snap together. When Liqueur Charnelle does form the cognac accord it is a monument of the skill of perfumer Pierre Guillaume. I know how good it is because Mrs. C accused me of spilling cognac on myself while I was wearing it.
Krigler Established Cognac 66 is one of the most unique perfumes I own. Ben Krigler forms a rich cognac accord which he makes the nucleus of an outstanding gourmand style of fragrance. To do that he surrounds that boozy heart with apple, caramel and a fabulously odd banana. I am always reminded of having a decadent dessert prepared tableside with a whoosh of flaming cognac.
You might not think a cognac brand would also be a perfume brand. Frapin manages to straddle both worlds. It is no mistake that their first perfume, Frapin 1270, was an abstract version of what it smells like in the cellars where cognac is made. Perfume Sidonie Lancesseur creates the milieu from the sharp scent of the grapes, the woods of the barrel, a hint of the mustiness of the cellar. It carries a more transparent aspect of cognac as this is more what goes into it rather than the final product. I think this is one of Mme Lancesseur’s best perfumes of her career.
Instead of drink the winter away join me in sniffing it away.
Disclosure: This is based on bottles I purchased.
A frequent conversation I have when I tell people I write a perfume blog is, “what is there to write about?” My first answer is I think perfume is art when done by creative people who share that intent. I tell them that what you find at the mall tends to be the commercial form of olfactory art. What really inspires my love of perfume is when the members of independent perfumery go for a visionary aspiration of olfactory art. There are not a lot of brands which regularly have this as a raison d’etre.
One creative director who passionately believes this is Stefania Squeglia. I have had the opportunity to be able to sit with her a couple of times. The depth of her commitment to making perfume which inspires thought about what perfume can be shines throughout her brand, Mendittorosa. It is especially prevalent in the Talismans collection. The latest release Sirio is a gorgeous example of capturing an early spring night gazing at the stars.
Sig. ra Squeglia has worked with perfumer Amelie Bourgeois on almost all the Talismans. For this most visionary of perfumery the creative director needs a perfumer who can translate an inventive brief into an equally original perfume. It is what has allowed this collection to examine the edges of what we consider perfume.
For Sirio, Sig. ra Squeglia wanted to capture the connection between the terrestrial Garden of Eden and the universe of stars above. What I experience is what happens when I step out at midnight on a moonless night in the early part of April. There is a chill to the air forming an icy crystallinity around the early plants which have just started to grow. Above are the glittering pinpoints of starlight so clearly seen they must be miles instead of light years away. Sirio captures the connection between terrestrial and extraterrestrial.
The keynote to the opening moments is something I always associate with early spring, rhubarb. As one of the earliest crops to harvest it is the harbinger of more to come. Rhubarb has become more of a perfume staple in the past few years. Here Mme Bourgeois gives it a high enough concentration, so it is the predominant scent. She then cleverly captures that chilly night with the addition of crisp apple and white musks. They come together to form that climactic iciness effect. It feels like there is frost on the spear of rhubarb. The white musks then add an expansiveness which begins to form as floral notes of rose and peony along with the sweet fruit of plum coat the chilled rhubarb. This is an enchanting accord as it feels like our garden milieu has left the earth in a transport bubble. Once we attain the stars a base accord of cashmeran and amberwood add a synthetic woodiness which also retains the expansiveness. It is here where we float in space looking back towards the garden we left.
Sirio has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Italian independent perfumery seems to have more than its share of members who think perfume as art is something worth pursuing. Sig. ra Squeglia made that decision from the moment she founded Mendittorosa. Five years later she can still take me from the garden to the stars.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Mendittorosa.
I am full of cabin fever as we come to the end of February. I want to feel the sun on my face combined with the smell of green growing things. These final days of winter are always the worst for me. Thankfully I have found perfume can often fill my desire for the scent of spring. I found Thomas Kosmala No. 8 Tonic Vert provided some of what I was craving.
Thomas Kosmala is an independent perfumer based in London. After selling locally for a few years in 2018 he released his debut collection internationally. Nine perfumes numbered 1-9 provided a set which mostly focused on Orientals. Six of the nine were in that style. I think Mr. Kosmala is a good perfumer but having most of your collection clustered in one style tended to blur it into something indistinct. It was the three which were not Orientals which stood apart for me. None more so than No. 8 Tonic Vert.
Tonic Vert is an unrelenting green perfume. Mr. Kosmala keeps layering it on. By the time he reaches his base ingredients it glows like the deep green facets of an emerald.
The first layer is the tart citrusy green of lime. Mr. Kosmala uses lemon and mandarin to tune the lime to achieve a specific effect. By softening the tartness with the sweeter citrus it enhances the zestiness of the lime; making it greener. Grapefruit bolsters the citrus effect while the green rosiness of geranium and mint take the green a shade deeper. The mint works better than I would have imagined in contrast to the grapefruit. If there is a breathtaking tonic within Tonic Vert here is where I was nearest to encountering it. The base notes are a very green vetiver partnered with a sharp oakmoss. This would be a spiky accord if left on its own. Mr. Kosmala uses a set of musks to blunt the sharpness. What remains is a velvety green accord to wrap around you.
Tonic Vert has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
The Thomas Kosmala line has just arrived in the US. Besides Tonic Vert I also enjoyed No. 1 Tonic Blanc and No. 7 Le Sel De La Terre. Mr. Kosmala gave me an image of spring with Tonic Vert which is helping get me through to the actual thing.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bloomingdale’s.
I have always embraced being a geek; even when it wasn’t a great thing to be called. The wonder of time is if you live long enough sometimes things change. Over the last 15-20 years it has become a good thing to be a geek. Pop culture has reflected that. It has also dramatically expanded from the early days of convention rooms of a couple hundred white guys to the 150,000 at New York Comic-Con. I am amazed, and gratified, at the diversity of the attendees representing something much closer to real-life demographics.
I’ve written in the past what a golden age it is for representation in the geek world with heroes that look like any race or gender. Nothing has made me smile more than seeing little girls wearing Wonder Woman or Rey from Star Wars costumes. As they make sound effects with their mouths to represent their strength. With another candidate coming in a few weeks with the release of “Captain Marvel” it is the best of times. Except from one small corner of the internet; there the cries of week geeks threatened by seeing strong women are heard.
It started with the weeks prior to the release of “Wonder Woman”. There were multiple online campaigns about how the movie was going to fail because it featured a woman hero. This tiny minority bombed the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes with derisive comments prior to and after the release of the film. Sadly it was covered as if this was representative of the geek community. Box office don’t lie and $821 million later that they were spitballs off a battleship.
Nothing breeds sticktoitiveness like failure and so these idiots turned their eyes to the addition of a female Asian character to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This time not content to just try and use Rotten Tomatoes they harassed the young actress, Kelly Marie Tran. Causing her to delete her social media accounts. Ms. Tran’s character, Rose Tico, was a classic Star Wars hero type who proves her worth over and over. Along with Rey as the central protagonist this was double trouble for the weak geeks. This time they were as effective as tissue versus a lightsaber. Star Wars: The Last Jedi would rake in $1.3 billion at the box office. I want to point out that these trolls were covered as if they were representative of something other than flawed thinking. There were many articles that wanted to use them as a device to speak about the direction of Star Wars instead of treating them as drunk hecklers who should be ignored.
Now they’re back in these days before the release of “Captain Marvel”. They’re also being covered as if their opinion again represents a large group of fans. They’re criticizing Marvel for casting, wait for it “a feminist” in the role of what was one of the first feminist superheroes. She was Ms. Marvel before she became Captain Marvel. Then the star Brie Larson asked for more female and people of color to be included in her press tour promoting the film. Not at the expense of the white critics but in addition to them. As in add a few more rows of folding chairs for some new blood. Now the jerks are at it again working overtime on Rotten Tomatoes and blasting Brie Larson for being a “feminist”.
If there was any description of me which got under my skin, it was being called a “fanboy”. I always felt it indicated a lack of ability to be critical of the geeky things I enjoyed. I now realize I want to use it to describe this small group of weak geeks because they are immature boys who purport to be fans.
I know the answer to this kind of behavior is the continued success of movies with strong women in the lead roles. Eventually there will be enough female fans who will drown out the weak geeks. I know I’ll be standing with them.
Upon the death of Karl Lagerfeld earlier this week I began considering what was a fitting tribute to him and his impact on perfume. I spent a few days reminding myself of the perfumes he released under his own name. If there was something which surprised me was, outside of a few, there was a lack of a recognizable aesthetic. All the perfume releases under the Karl Lagerfeld brand tended to veer from one trend to the other without necessarily being the one at the leading edge but the fast follower. Which is why many of them are in the Dead Letter Office. In looking back I found one which best sums up the iconoclastic designer; Lagerfeld for H&M Liquid Karl.
In 2004 clothing store H&M wanted to start collaborating with the biggest fashion designers in the world on affordable couture. They thought, if successful, this could become a regular event. For their first collaboration they went right to the top convincing Karl Lagerfeld to kick this concept off. Mr. Lagerfeld wanted a full-service collection, including a fragrance. He had founded his own perfume brand in 1978 making it an easy extension for the H&M collaboration.
The perfume was called Lagerfeld for H&M Liquid Karl. He worked with a team of three perfumers; Pascal Gaurin, Bruno Jovanovic, and Sandrine Malin. What they produced is one of the best of the early gourmand perfumes because it went in such a different direction.
Liquid Karl starts with the smell of baking bread. The perfumers build that doughy sweet scent of every bakery. In the early moments there are hints of some of the other bakery spices. This opening shows where gourmand perfumes will go. Then as cocoa and frangipani add to the bread the entire effect goes from savory to sweet. From bread to bread pudding; sort of. Maybe bread to chocolate pudding is closer to accurate. The base is a set of clean woods given depth from oakmoss.
Liquid Karl has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
When the collection was released in November of 2004 it sold out immediately. This is an occurrence which happens yearly as H&M has partnered with another high-end fashion brand every year since on an anticipated capsule collection. Many of them contain a perfume because of Mr. Lagerfeld’s inclusion of one at the beginning.
Liquid Karl is not well-known because it was produced in limited quantities as part of the H&M collaboration. This is in the Dead Letter Office because it was a limited edition not through business reasons. You can find bottles frequently on the online auction sites.
I chose Liquid Karl as a way of honoring the vision of Mr. Lagerfeld because of any perfume he made it displayed his sense of the coming trend. His fashion set the trends. His perfumes not as much. Looking back on that fragrance portfolio Liquid Karl was another case of Mr. Lagerfeld charting the course which others would eventually follow.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
First world perfume writer problems. About a year ago I heard of a new brand from one of my favorite perfumers had debuted. This shows the value of writing things down; because I didn’t. I read eagerly that perfumer Sonia Constant had branched out into her own brand, Ella K. I told myself I needed to contact them for some samples. The date on this review is evidence it slipped my mind. It wasn’t until the Holidays that one of my European connections asked me if I wanted a sample set of Ella K. After a face palm I typed back to send them to me.
Mme Constant along with her partner Olivier Gagliardi founded Ella K Parfums at the end of 2017 opening a boutique in Paris. Mme Constant was inspired by the women travelers of the early part of the 20th century. She cites Karen Blixen, Ella Maillart, and Alexandra David-Neel on the website as some of the people she used to create her fictional heroine, Ella K. The perfumes will chronicle her travels.
The seven perfumes I have send Ella across Asia and Africa except for one in which she pauses in Florence, Italy for a romantic adventure. That’s the one which caught my attention. It is called Baiser de Florence.
The backstory describes Ella and a paramour enjoying the wonders of Florence. After visiting the Uffizi Gallery they push their way into one of the churches. A stolen kiss within the cathedral is the moment captured in Baiser de Florence.
Mme Constant captures that moment of standing in an old church after coming from outside. The smells are the incense and the polished wood over the cold stone. That is where Baiser de Florence opens. Silvery incense and polished cedar are first. The incense has that preferred metallic edge I enjoy. The cedar is dulled as if it has been waxed over and over. It is a more diffuse effect for what usually comes off as a clean woodiness. There is a chill to their combined scents which is the stone surrounding you. Mme Constant slowly adds myrrh to the incense making things warmer. The scent of the iris cosmetics reminds you that Ella is standing next to you. This is a shimmering iris powder effect which finds an ideal set of partners in the resins of incense and myrrh. As you lean in for a kiss the scent of musky skin adds an underpinning to a kiss so sweet a figurative drop of vanilla represents it in the perfume.
Baiser de Florence has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am late to discovering this new endeavor of Mme Constant, yet I always am happy to discover new perfume. My impression of Ella K, as a whole, is Mme Constant is enjoying the travels of her heroine. For me to follow on her journeys it begins with a kiss in Florence courtesy of Baiser de Florence.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples I purchased.
I enjoy heist movies or books. The ones where a team of thieves take on a large target; devising a plan to steal it without being apprehended. These are fantasies but there are some real-life examples which are tantalizing examples these might not be so fictional. One of those is the story of the Patiala necklace.
Maharaja Bhupinder Singh commissioned Cartier to make him a necklace fit for a maharaja. He provided the raw materials; thousands of diamonds, several Burmese rubies and the centerpiece 234 carat yellow diamond named the “DeBeers Diamond”. The maharaja wore it from its presentation in 1928 until his death in 1938. At that point it was locked away in the Royal Treasury of Patiala. In 1948 it was reported to no longer be in the vault. It would be lost until 1982 at an auction at Sotheby’s in Geneva where the DeBeers Diamond by itself showed up. In 1998 the necklace, minus all the larger jewels, would be found in a London antique shop by a Cartier employee. Just like my favorite heist movies the thieves got away with it and years later are selling off the pieces after breaking down their purloined treasure.
The creative director and owner of the perfume brand Thameen, Basel Binjabr, has been using famous jewels as the inspiration for his fragrances. The story above has produced Thameen Patiala. Mr. Binjabr has not disclosed the perfumer he is working with. For Patiala the perfume is in three very distinct pieces the DeBeers Diamond, the missing Burmese rubies, and the re-discovered necklace.
The DeBeers Diamond is the top accord consisting of citrus and aldehydes. This forms the sparkling yellow facets through the citrus while the aldehydes provide the crystalline angularity. It is the kind of rich citrus effect I enjoy most. As we move into the heart a precisely balanced duet of rose and orange blossom takes over. The rose is velvety while the orange blossom provides the deeper sparkle of the rubies. The base is a combination of amber, musk, and moss. It has a chypre-like aspect, but it is missing some of the pieces of that classic accord; just like the denuded necklace discovered in the antique shop.
Patiala has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Within the group of Thameen perfumes I have tried Patiala is the most successful at making a connection back to its jewelry inspiration. It does feel more compartmentalized than the other Thameen perfumes. In this case because of the heist background that felt right. Somewhere there are some Burmese rubies waiting to come out of hiding. My imagination thinks the diamond chop shop they are in smells just like Patiala.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I sometimes need a reminder to lighten up. To have fun. To stop taking things so seriously. I am such a believer in the art and creativity of perfume I can become a humorless drone in it’s pursuit. What I need is a perfume that just wants to be a solid commercial perfume. Paired with an equally fun bottle. For these dreary waiting for spring days of the end of winter Moschino Toy 2 brought some fun back to perfume.
Creative director Jeremy Scott is known for wanting to make Moschino and fun synonymous. The clothing and the fragrance arm reflect that. Toy 2 as you might surmise is the sequel to 2014’s Toy. That perfume was housed inside a teddy bear with a classically structured citrus perfume. It isn’t ground-breaking. It is a light-hearted perfume asking you to enjoy the combination of bear bottle and bright perfume. Like the best sequels Toy 2 doesn’t alter that script overmuch.
The bear bottle is back but in a frosted glass version hugging the clear flacon. It really is just the right side of campy. Before I even sniffed the perfume, I was in a better mood. Perfumers Alberto Morillas and Fabrice Pellegrin switch from citrus to fresh floral without losing the plot.
Toy 2 opens with mandarin reminding me of the original. White currant and apple provide a crisp fresh effect around the citrus. The heart is one of the synthetic jasmines expansive as a blue sky. Magnolia adds a subtle creaminess while peony continues the freshness from the top accord. The creamy version of sandalwood holds the center of a base accord swathed in fresh musks.
Toy 2 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
A fresh citrus floral is hardly an original idea. Toy 2 isn’t meant to be enjoyed with that kind of mindset. It is more like a walk down the carnival midway. Eating cotton candy or funnel cakes trying to figure out if the ring toss is rigged so you can win the giant pink teddy bear. Or you can spray on some Toy 2 for a similar fun effect. I’ll be back to reviewing with a more critical eye tomorrow for today I’m just looking for a little fun in all the right places.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
I watch my fair share of cooking shows. My favorites are the one where chefs are asked to work with a set list of ingredients to create a few different dishes. It is fascinating to watch them consider the flavor and texture of the ingredients in deciding which to accentuate for each dish. In the pair of perfumes from Maison Francis Kurkdjian; Gentle Fluidity Silver and Gentle Fluidity Gold the same concept is applied to perfume.
Francis Kurkdjian by nature is an adventurous perfumer. In his own brand is where he has pushed concepts which clearly excite him. For this pair of perfumes M. Kurkdjian wanted to make two different styles of perfume from the same ingredient list. The idea, reflected in the name, was to create a fluidity between the two compositions which make them gender-free. The ingredient list: juniper berry, nutmeg, coriander, musks, ambery woods, and vanilla was easy to imagine different perfumes could arise. The fun, like on my cooking shows, would be to see which ingredients became keynotes in which style of perfume.
For Gentle Fluidity Silver the keynotes are the juniper berry, nutmeg, and ambery woods. This makes a fresh neo-fougere style of perfume. The first half of Silver is dominated by the juniper berry with its gin-like aroma uplifted with the nutmeg and coriander. Even though the nutmeg is using its sweetly spicy nature to do most of the work the green woodiness of coriander also adds a subtle harmony. Vanilla picks up the sweetness of the nutmeg while setting the ambery woods accord in the base. This is stolid woodiness as foundation for the freshness of the earlier ingredients.
Gentle Fluidity Gold takes for its keynotes; coriander, vanilla, and musks. This forms a gourmand-like vanilla style of fragrance. Coriander is an ingredient which can add a thread of green and a thread of nuttiness. As M. Kurkdjian pushes the concentration both of those aspects move forward. It leaves little room for the juniper berry and nutmeg to find much traction. The vanilla and musks arrive to coat the coriander. This makes for a delightful lightly spicy warm vanilla accord. The ambery woods provide even more warmth to what ends up being a vanilla comfort scent.
Gentle Fluidity Silver and Gentle Fluidity Gold have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Returning to my test kitchen analogy Silver seems like an appetizer of freshness while Gold is a rich vanilla dessert. The results of this are a bit mixed. I found the two perfumes to be nicely executed and enjoyable; especially playing within the rules of only these six ingredients. It is exciting to see the two very different styles M. Kurkdjian was able to create. The thing which kept running through my mind, which also runs through my mind on the cooking shows. These are good but could they have been great with the ability to add a few small choices from off the menu? The bottom line is as two courses from M. Kurkdjian’s Test Kitchen they are delectable.
Disclosure: this review is based on samples supplied by Maison Francis Kurkdjian.