The business of being an independent perfumer is not easy. Finding a way to get the word out while simultaneously finding places to sell it; each carrying its own degree of difficulty. Into all that the perfumer must find the space to create. Each of the ones I admire have found their path which works for them. The path Ineke Ruhland has chosen is one of small well-chosen steps. The drawback is when there are years between releases it becomes easy to forget about them. The real risk is when you do return being met with indifference. Ms. Ruhland has returned after a nearly five-year absence with her latest for her eponymous brand; Ineke Idyllwild.
Idyllwild is inspired by a park area within the southern California Mount San Jacinto area. I don’t think I’ve been to Idyllwild but I have been to the surrounding National Parks of Joshua Tree and San Bernadino Forest. These parks are the demarcation between the desert east of them and the coastal environment to the west. This natural border is constructed of tall sentinel pines reaching to the sky. Idyllwild is a fragrance celebrating these conifers.
Ms. Ruhland has made the choice to combine the pine with a fougere accord before allowing tendrils of smoke to rise throughout. It makes Idyllwild a shifting frame of reference which never seems to change gears clumsily as each phase provides something of interest before transitioning to the next.
Idyllwild begins with the fougere requirement of lavender and citrus. Ms. Ruhland uses grapefruit as the citrus along with the lavender. She then adds a delicate application she calls “rhubarb tea”; it brings an herbal tint to the grapefruit. This then brings the lavender to its herbal side. At this point a raw green cardamom becomes the entry point for the pine. This is one of the best uses of this more primitive version of cardamom because the citrus nuances of its more refined versions are still present with an almost sticky verdancy. That stickiness stands in for the pine sap as a distillation of pine needles takes over. Crisp sharp terpenes in all their glory sing out. As the top accord fades into the pine forest there is a balanced moment that was pure bliss for me as it all found a precise synergy. Now Ms. Ruhland lights her campfire. In less accomplished hands we would be clobbered by cade oil which would obliterate everything. Ms. Ruhland is not that kind of perfumer so she works for a more delicate effect. By using cypriol and oud she forms a transparent oud accord through which she threads sagebrush. This is not a cloud of smoke it is spirals rising to the stars above in fragrant swirling columns in betwixt the pine not over the top of it. The final transition is to a mixture of musks both the expansive white kind to represent the outdoors balanced with the skin-type versions to capture the person watching the fire burn.
Idyllwild has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I had been missing Ms. Ruhland’s style of perfumery I resorted to writing about one of her earlier creations in my Under the Radar column. I was waiting patiently to be able to write something with “new perfume review” in the header. Idyllwild has satisfied that desire in bravura fashion. I’m not sure if I’ve been missing her or having something new but Idyllwild is so pleasing to me on many levels. If people had forgotten about Ms. Ruhland Idyllwild is a potent “forget me not”.
Disclosure: this review was based upon a sample provided by Ineke Parfumeur.
If you grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s you probably heard a familiar dismissal of this new-fangled rock and roll music, “It will never last.” That would be further supported that there were no Sinatras, Comos, Crosby, etc. doing that crazy music. Of course, it was frustrating to know that the only proof that they were wrong was living long enough to see the truth of it all. I have been in a reflective mood because I have been reminded that thirty years ago there were a trio of albums which in many ways defined the ways this rock and roll music was going to diversify; they are also among the greatest albums of all-time. I am talking about “The Joshua Tree” by U2, “Sign O’ The Times” by Prince, and “YO! Bum Rush the Show” by Public Enemy.
“The Joshua Tree” was the album which was the slingshot to superstardom for the Irish quartet of Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. Their success had been consistently rising but they carried the sometimes-dismissive label of “experimental” especially since the previous album, The Unforgettable Fire was all over the place musically. What often gets forgotten is experimentation leads to discovery and during the process of recording “The Unforgettable Fire” U2 discovered the foundation of their music going forward. Combining with the same production team of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois; “The Joshua Tree” would be the glorious result of that process. The opening track “Where the Streets Have No Name” still rings true three decades hence. “With or Without You” is a song of disaffection but it is the way the guitars and drums diminish at the end which seals the emotion of the lyrics.
All throughout the 80’s the idea of rock and roll was being redefined. Prince was an artist who fused crunching guitar onto a funky foundation matched with his distinct vocals to produce his own corner of the genre. “Sign O’ The Times” is the greatest example of this and I consider it Prince’s best album. Prince has been compared to Jimi Hendrix as a guitarist and most of that has to do with the easy comparison of race. It downplays that he is as elite a lead guitarist as anyone who has ever picked up the instrument. “Sign O’The Times” is the dissertation where he lays it out there to be seen. A double album, many of the tracks carry elongated guitar solos to match with the lyrics and the drum machine laden funk underneath it all. The title track which leads it off is one of the greatest displays of every facet of talent Prince contained. “U Got the Look” where he would duet with Sheena Easton was a giant hit because all of this was distilled into a set of matching vocals trading jabs.
1987 also saw the beginning of what has become one of the most dominant music genres of today; hip-hop. Spending a lot of time in New York City during this time I saw the building blocks of the East Coast version which would assemble into the debut album of one of the seminal hip-hop bands Public Enemy, “YO! Bum Rush the Show”. Public Enemy was fronted by Chuck D, Flavor Flav, and backed by DJ Terminator X. Up until this point hip-hop was all about talking about yourself. Public Enemy would be one of the first to take on what it meant to be black in America. Terminator X used the technique of scratching to lay down unsettling sonic foundations for Chuck D and Flavor Flav to build upon. Those words are what become the percussion and the message. This was not safe it was troubling because these were authentic voices from a portion of society being allowed the chance to express it to a larger audience. This was the year where hip-hop stole into the spotlight; Public Enemy was not going to let it go out which is why it is now so popular.
As my birthday gets closer I begin to realize how much I’ve experienced. Looking back thirty years ago shows rock and roll has lasted. Not that anyone who told me it wouldn’t is around for me to tell them so.
There is so much new perfume it is hard to keep up with some of the best collections out there. One which I think is getting overlooked is the Maison Martin Margiela Replica series. Since 2012 the Replica series has been a set of fragrance meant to evoke a time and place. Over the seventeen releases since it has a very high batting average; succeeding way more than it doesn’t. One thing which surprises me about this success is it comes as part of one of the large fragrance conglomerates; L’Oreal. I usually associate those with the desire to focus group a perfume to its detriment. The remarkable thing about the Replica collection is there is little sign of that. Almost like the perfumers are given a name and told to go off and bring it to life. I am reasonably sure that is not true; yet these are fragrances produced by one of the largest fragrance companies in the world in a way I don’t usually expect. There are three new additions and the one which I like best is Music Festival.
Music Festival connects with me because I spent some time in my younger days at my share. It is why I’m writing about it over the other two which I want to quickly mention. Sailing Days is a fabulous twist on the aquatic style of perfume by Violaine Collas. After the typical ozonic aldehydic opening she juxtaposes sweet salicylates against a briny seaweed and ambergris base. If you like different aquatics it is worth trying. Wicked Love by perfumer Amandine Clerc-Marie has a fun top accord of basil, watermelon and green pepper which forms a sweet vegetal herbal accord that is unique before heading down to a floral woody finish.
When I spent my youth attending rock festivals they were interesting affairs from a scent perspective. In the afternoon, it was the smells of a summer day and a lot of sun-warmed skin with a haze of smoke over it all. After the sun went down it was the combined warmth of the crowd as things became cooler which formed a kind of different group scent. Perfumer Honorine Blanc has spent some time in a field listening to music for a day too as she captures this completely.
Mme Blanc first sets the pastoral scene with the green of violet leaves and the apple trees ringing the stage. The apple and violet leaves provide that crisp sunshine. The next part of this music festival are the haze hanging above as tobacco, cannabis, and incense form what so reminds me of the persistent cloud it could be called a “Woodstock accord”. The base accord is getting right down into the crowd as patchouli has a musky skin accord paired with it. As the evening cools, it gets warmer and some cedar becomes evident.
Music Festival has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Music Festival is one of the best of what I have already mentioned is one of the best overall collections out there. Cue up your favorite live performances on your music player, get your lighter out and hold it aloft for Mme Blanc’s performance.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Maison Martin Margiela.
Tuberose has been having a moment in perfumery over the last eighteen months. Most of those fragrances have concentrated on reining in the most boisterous of the white flowers. Finding ways to make it less extroverted to appeal to a wider swath of fragrance consumers. Thankfully Amouage operates under a different set of principles. Under the creative direction of Christopher Chong, the perfumes under his guidance do not want to be introverted. The ethos of the brand has almost been, “Where’s the line? Okay let me take one step over it.” It makes Amouage near the top as a brand which stands for a specific aesthetic. Figment Woman displays this using tuberose.
I was surprised that Figment Woman is only the fourth Amouage perfume to contain tuberose. The others are: Ubar, Opus I, and Honour Woman. In those tuberose is but a contributor. Figment Woman is all about the tuberose. Collaborating with perfumers Dorothee Piot and Karine Vinchon-Spehner; Mr. Chong has realized an aria in the key of tuberose.
Using an opera term for known aficionado Mr. Chong is easy but when I wore Figment Woman it was the strong voice of tuberose which sings throughout the day. The perfumers have sourced a full spectrum tuberose allowing it all the room in the world to fill up. It is so overbearing if you spray it on paper that is all you will think is here. It isn’t until it was on my skin that I realized there were some supporting singers for that tuberose diva.
Upon first applying Figment Woman it is another white flower which provides the warm-up; gardenia. The perfumers choose to take the strong green thread within the gardenia and bracket it with saffron and Szechuan pepper. It provides an entry point for the diva to take the stage and with a deep breath she begins to sing; right from the top of her range. This is a gorgeous tuberose absolute that ripples with indolic energy. An array of other florals tune the effect as jasmine, orange blossom, and ylang-ylang provide some background vocals. Then the sticky green blackcurrant bud latches on to the green of the tuberose and elevates it. What is waiting to meet it is iris and papyrus. The orris makes it earthier while the papyrus provides a veil of green in a higher octave. It all ends as patchouli and incense provide a foundation.
Figment Woman has 24-hour longevity and above average sillage.
I had forgotten how much I enjoy the unfettered power of tuberose mainly because everyone seems to be running away from it. Thankfully Mr. Chong’s Amouage would rather provide a stage for tuberose to perform upon.
Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Amouage.
When I first got to New York City in the mid 1980’s it was the heyday of the exclusive clubs. Clubs like The Palladium or Area were where you went to be seen. If you were a known NYC scenester you were on the guest list. If you weren’t you lined up behind a velvet rope hoping for the doorman to look at you and say the magic words, “You’re In.” As you approached the door the expectation of magic present behind it would give way to the fact that it was another club with some more famous people in attendance then the one closest to you. It still was a lot of fun to share the dance floor with a celebrity.
"You're In" by Andy Warhol (1967)
If you were to look for the beginning of this velvet rope segregation you might look back fifteen years or so to the world Andy Warhol created in NYC. That was another scene where your entry was predicated on adding something to the overall milieu. As with so many things from Mr. Warhol he was eerily prescient on where these nascent trends would end up. One piece of art he did, in 1967, was called “You’re In” where he painted a case of iconic glass Coca-Cola bottles silver and supposedly filled each bottle with toilet water. That’s water from the toilet not eau de toilette. The idea to poke fun with the homophone of the name of the piece. The soda maker was not amused and hit Mr. Warhol with a cease and desist. It also was revealed that it wasn’t toilet water but a cheap drugstore cologne the color of urine inside. Exactly what made Mr. Warhol interesting.
Fifty years later Comme des Garcons wanted to re-visit this in their own homage to it. Lead by Creative Director Christian Astuguevieille they created a set of six silver cylinders each with its own Warhol quote on it encased in a carboard facsimile of the yellow wooden crate of the original piece of art. One thing I was sure of was M. Astuguevieille was not going to be putting toile water inside. What is inside Andy Warhol’s You’re In is a clever twist on the ubiquitous cheap citrus eau de toilette of the 1960’s. This is a citrus eau de toilette given a Comme des Garcons twist.
The top accord is bitter orange within a cloud of aldehydes. I laughed a bit because where aldehydes often remind people of hairspray these aldehydes reminded me of the smell of the fog machines at those velvet rope clubs of the 80’s. It is an odd set of aldehydes also containing a metallic edge as well. Pittosporum with its hybrid scent of orange blossom and jasmine bridges the citrus to a fuller jasmine. It is a classic floral citrus accord adequately achieved. Coriander bridges this into a synthetic woody base. Later on, the metallic effect from the top accord returns along with a bit of white musk.
Andy Warhol’s You’re In has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is a project where the Comme des Garcons style was a perfect match for looking back at Mr. Warhol to synthesize a 2017 interpretation. I felt like I was allowed past the velvet rope of creativity both brands stand for with Andy Warhol’s You’re In.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Comme des Garcons.
One of the concepts of this series is to point out there is a lot of great perfume available for modest prices. When I set out to do it my list included the bargains I had run across myself which is what populated the early versions of this column. What has become a nice by-product is readers will sometimes write me and say, “did you know this can be found for some nice price?” A few months ago, I got one of these about Versace The Dreamer. It went right to the top of the list of future subjects.
When I tried Versace The Dreamer at my local mall for the first time it was different from most of its brethren on the men’s fragrance counter. There were angles, edges, and spines sticking out of a classical architecture. In 1996 this was dangerous territory and I can remember people dropping the strip on the counter with a grimace. What made this perfume designed by Jean-Pierre Bethouart interesting was the most obstreperous facets were right there out in front. It was early days of the internet and there was significant love it/hate it divide on the perfume internet bulletin boards. I remember thinking The Dreamer would wake up and disappear because of its difference. Except those in the “love it” camp supported it giving it more time to gather new fans; which it has. Now that it has been around for over twenty years it has found some space on the perfume discount shelves. After re-acquainting myself with it in 2017 it doesn’t read as odd. It still carries a sharp early edge but there are others who also share this quality. The rest of the perfume is an exquisitely constructed Oriental accord that is why The Dreamer is a Discount Diamond.
The opening is the place where The Dreamer is at its most challenging. It is a post-modern riff on a classic lavender barbershop accord. M. Bethouart then uses a combination of tarragon and clary sage to provide a rough herbal envelope for the lavender. This is where many of the sharp elbows can be found. The people who don’t like it will say “too synthetic”. Those who like it realize this is a new type of lavender accord. It leads to a soothing geranium and rose heart which feels more expansive for having arisen from the spiky top accord. The base accord is raw tobacco also containing some rough edges. Most tobacco notes go for a deep narcotic effect. M. Bethouart goes for the effect of a green tobacco leaf partway through drying. There is some sappy greenery over the restrained aspect of the more familiar tobacco smell. It smooths out eventually with the warmth of tonka.
The Dreamer has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Smelling The Dreamer again has made me realize that it is more than a Discount Diamond it is a New Classic well worth the cheaper price it can be found at.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
Mrs. C is a cross-stitcher which means she is a lover of the textile arts. Which further means I’ve spent my share of museum time looking at tapestries. It is an art form which I have come to appreciate for the subtle effect just a few strands of different colors have overall. The ability to get close and see these strands is like getting close to a color television and seeing the pixels. You have a better experience standing back and taking it in its entirety; not in its micro form. Perfumery has its own way of practicing the weaving of notes into their own olfactory tapestry. Jul et Mad Mon Seul Desir is inspired by a famous tapestry while also weaving its own magic.
"La Dame a la licorne"
The latest three perfumes from Jul et Mad have been using famous works of art as part of their brief. For Mon Seul Desir the tapestry “La Dame a la licorne” (“The Lady and the Unicorn”) in the Musee national du Moyen Age in Paris. It is the final piece in a series of six tapestries where the first five each depict a lady accompanied by a lion and a unicorn in interpretations of each of the five senses. In the final tapestry, the lady stands under a canopy with the words “mon seul desir” on it. The words mean “my sole desire”. Creative directors Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard collaborated with perfumer Stephanie Bakouche.
Madalina Stoica-Blanchard and Julien Blanchard
For Mon Seul Desir the perfume is primarily an osmanthus and oud construction. I have come to appreciate this pairing more than the more classical rose and oud. The dual nature of osmanthus’ fruit and leather finds a way of making oud leatherier itself which is where Mon Seul Desir spends most of its time.
Mon Seul Desir is begun by building a frame of nutmeg, baie rose, and coriander. The baie rose provides an herbal component which the nutmeg and coriander gives a kind of faux woodiness to. Then Mme Bakouche gets down to weaving as the osmanthus warps itself over the weft of oud. Always the osmanthus is on top the apricot quality floating above the leathery. The oud picks out the leather threads and attaches to them as it keeps to the background. It all evolves into a final weave of amber, benzoin, and musk; warm and comforting.
Mon Seul Desir has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
In tapestry, the warp covers the weft. It is the same effect here as the osmanthus is the focal point while the oud supports in the background. You can get close enough to pick out the threads but it as an accord that it appeals. Mme Bakouche shows she can handle the fragrant loom to get the most out of her threads making Mon Seul Desir as beautiful as its inspiration.
Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Jul et Mad.
When Mona di Orio passed away at the beginning of December 2011 it was reasonable to expect her style of perfume construction would pass with her. Sure, there were probably a couple of fragrances finished at the time of her death but if you had asked me if I’d be talking about Mme di Orio six years later; my reply would’ve been, “unlikely”. It is because of one person that the conversation has continued until today; Jeroen Oude Sogtoen.
Jeroen Oude Sogtoen
M. Sogtoen was Mme di Orio’s partner. When she was gone he refused to let her perfume brand and her chiaroscuro aesthetic go with her. He would release the last of her creations but he would also look to continue the brand. It took him a bit of time to find the new in-house perfumer Fredrik Dalman. That he was the right choice was confirmed by his first perfume for the brand Bohea Boheme. Much of the time I wear that it feels like a perfume which had to have been started by Mme di Orio for M. Dalman to finish. It isn’t. Which makes M. Dalman’s work more impressive. For this year there have been two new releases. For Suede de Suede, M. Dalman displayed more of his signature by taking his leather accord and modifying it throughout. When I first sniffed the other release, Dojima, I again felt the spirit of Mme di Orio as channeled by M. Dalman.
Dojima’s name comes from the Rice Exchange in 17th Century Japan. Dojima wanted to capture the powder version of the grain, which it does, but then M. Dalman in a Monaesque fashion shades that powder into something darker as the light fades and the shadows come out to play.
Dojima opens with that delicate rice powder floating like a cloud above it all. This is seemingly fragile accord only to see it stand up to the other notes which begin to appear. First, is a combination of clary sage and nutmeg as they provide a bit of fleeting duskiness. The rice powder becomes a bit more of a familiar powder as the iris creates a more typical powder accord. This all heads towards a base of sandalwood warmed with the botanical musk of ambrette seeds and labdanum.
Dojima has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Dojima is a seemingly fragile construct which always seems on the edge of being overrun by one ingredient or another. To M. Dalman’s credit it never happens. These notes interweave themselves through the powdery nature early on and along with the sandalwood towards the end. I was reminded of the Japanese art of origami where a beautiful piece of paper is transformed into an animal by a series of folds. Dojima is an example of taking a powdery heart and folding in deeper notes to create origami shadows.
Disclosure: this review is based on a press sample supplied by Mona di Orio.
I have spent the last couple days looking over the preliminary schedule for the upcoming New York Comic-Con. It is part of the fun of going is to look over the upcoming panels and screenings and see which ones I’m most excited about. It becomes a way of my assessing the things I have at the top of my list against some things which have fallen.
In the latter category is the panel for the new Star Trek: Discovery. I looked at it on the list and was surprised I have little interest in it. Star Trek is why I am a 57-year old man on my way to Comic-Con but they have found a way to fatigue my interest. If I hear good things I suppose I’ll catch up but for the very first time I won’t be there for the first episode of something which has Star Trek in the name.
There are many other things I am looking forward to but right at the very top is the American Gods panel on Thursday and The Walking Dead panel on Saturday. Funnily enough the reason I am so fond of both series are characters who are very different from the printed page version.
Pablo Schreiber and Emily Browning in American Gods
In the Starz American Gods series, it is the duo of the leprechaun Mad Sweeney and Laura Moon. As portrayed by actors Pablo Schreiber and Emily Browning they are the reason I tuned in each week. What is crazy is in the book the characters exist but are small supporting characters. On TV, they are the best thing in American Gods.
Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus in The Walking Dead
In The Walking Dead, it is the characters Darryl Dixon and Carol Peletier portrayed by actors Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride. They also form a rough duo within the zombie apocalypse although the story separates them often. Darryl doesn’t exist in the comic book and Carol died a long time ago. On TV, they form the beating heart of the show. Despite many storytelling excesses these characters bring me back week after week.
Darryl and Carol are so popular that when writer Robert Kirkman talks about killing either of them you can almost feel the held breath in the room. I have been considering what it is that makes both characters so important to my enjoyment of this show. I think it is the uncertainty they bring as they don’t exist in the comic which means I have no idea what happens to them. It makes me invest more closely because of that. The other characters are great but because of the comic I know who is eventually going to die which maybe makes me keep them at arm’s length emotionally.
When it comes to Mad Sweeney and Laura it is much easier to pinpoint the reason; the actors. On American Gods, these two actors have created a chemistry which does not exist on the page. These characters were never as alive until Mr. Schreiber and Ms. Browning breathed new life into them. This presents a problem for the writers for season two as I am far from the only one who feels this way. How they will find ways to use the two characters when there is precious little left on the page for them to do is going to be key to a successful run.
I am looking forward to these actors talking about their roles and answering questions in a few weeks. Seeing and hearing from them is the reason I want to be in NYC the first week of October.
There is nothing so frustrating for me as a fragrance line which carries a designer name seeming disconnected from the brand aesthetic. I am aware that fragrance is often an undiscovered country for many brands when they decide to make the move to expand into it. I have observed that a creative director who really takes the time to understand the design concepts behind fragrance can then successfully translate them into liquid form. One of those is Tomas Maier of Bottega Veneta.
Hr. Maier would lead the expansion into perfume with the simply named Bottega Veneta in 2011. The seemingly facille decision to create a leather artisan shop’s accord with some flowers growing just outside the window captured the essence of hand-made luxury. It was one of the best perfumes of 2011 and the best designer release of that year. They have continued to release some excellent mainstream designer perfumes ever since. Bottega Veneta Eau de Velours is another one.
If the original was a floral leather chypre the new one is a fruity floral leather. Perfumer Michel Almairac collaborates with perfumer Mylene Alran in this evolution of the original which M. Almairac was responsible for. The original had a lovely lilting plum blossom amidst the leather and oak. For Eau de Velours the blossom has become the fruit and no longer lilts; it leads the way. There is also an intent to simplify some of the lines of the original to give more prominence to the fruit, the floral, and the leather.
That design intent is evident from the beginning as the ripe plum has moved to the front of the line. It has some support from bergamot and baie rose but this is a plum just as it ripens. It is not sugary sweet but that mix of restrained sweetness tempered by a bit of tart freshness. It is that latter effect the baie rose sharpens the focus upon. Then very deep Damascene rose pairs with the plum in a classic fruity floral accord. The inherent spiciness of this breed of rose is lovely contrast to the plum. It gets better as the leather accord begins to weave itself within it. It is like tendrils of smoke as the first few strands start to become detectable. Over time they eventually weave a complete leather enclosure around the fruity floral. This effect is ably abetted by patchouli slowly adding to the volume of the leather accord.
Eau de Velours has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I again give a hat tip to Hr. Maier for retaining his vision of how fragrance represents the brand. Eau de Velours shows authenticity might not be easy but it is worth the effort.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Botega Veneta.