British perfume maker James Heeley has excelled in creating perfumes which capture a basic truth in their composition. Cardinal is the Catholic Church Mass incense. Sel Merin is the sea spray in your face. Hippie Rose is one of my favorite rose and patchouli fragrances ever for the depth of both of those notes. Mr. Heeley has worked in mixed media using synthetic raw materials along with high quality naturals. With the release of Vetiver Veritas he is moving into the world of botanical all-natural perfume.
When someone like Mr. Heeley embraces natural perfumery it helps to broaden the appeal. His starting point for Vetiver Veritas was to use the natural Haitian Vetiver he had been wearing as a straight dilution for years. For Vetiver Veritas he takes that vetiver and makes it 90% of the composition. Then to keep it completely simple he only adds four other notes two of them to comprise a leather accord. This kind of perfumery really allows for maximum appreciation of the central note. It allows for the truth of that Haitian vetiver to radiate.
That Haitian vetiver is where Vetiver Veritas begins. By using it in such a high concentration it allows for nuances that are not usually detected to show up. The vetiver mainly comes forward with an intense green quality, very vegetal in nature. There is also a deep rooty and earthy quality which matches the green. All of this is familiar territory. What I also detected was a bit of sugar cane-like sweetness lurking underneath. At the level of vetiver it could have been very standoffish. But as it grows in power this unusually natural sweet leavens the harshness and reveals an undiscovered truth about vetiver. Mr. Heeley adds a bit of grapefruit and mint to help define the green. Together they provide an astringent framework for the vetiver to be displayed in. Finally a smoky leather accord appears to sweep away the green and allow the roots and earth to have the final say.
Vetive Veritas has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I know I’ve smelled Hatian Vetiver as a raw material but that sweetness never presented itself until I had Vetiver Veritas on my skin. This is what Mr. Heeley does so well he takes something and allows the wearer to discover their own truth within the perfume. With Vetiver Veritas I found there was an all-natural truth about vetiver I had never experienced. If you are a fan of vetiver especially in its smokier darker variety I think there will be some truth to be found in Vetiver Veritas.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Heeley.
I have been part of many enthusiast communities on the internet. I have always thought they were special groups of people. Over the past few days the group of perfume lovers who connect digitally all over the world have flown into action and shown that they are ready to help in any way they can.
The unfortunate reason which precipitated this outpouring was the announcement that my former colleague at CaFleureBon Tama Blough has terminal cancer. I have known Tama for years but it was only this past March that we actually met in person at Esxence in Milan. I thought how funny it was we both had to travel to Europe to finally meet. Tama was the same in person as she was electronically. A warm presence always smiling. I got a kick out of watching her meet some of her favorite perfumers and then communicate that in her daily post for CaFleureBon. I remembered my first trip to Esxence and the doors it opened up for me and was thrilled to see Tama opening her own doors. I knew she would create personal relationships that would last. She has done that for years as the organizer of her hometown SF Sniff and has created a local community of perfume lovers who regularly met up to go sniff perfume.
As the word of her illness was revealed late last week one of those local people Nina Zolotow took it upon herself, with Tama’s permission, to rally the perfume community to help by starting a Give Forward donation site called Tama Blough’s Cancer Fundraiser. In just five days it has raised $12,000 of its $20,000 goal. That money is critical to Tama’s ability to face her cancer on her own terms, in her own home, surrounded by the things she loves and her cat Buster. As someone who works within the cancer community I know the importance of keeping a hold of all of the things you love in life and allowing that to raise your spirits. I believe Tama also has to be drawing strength from the level of genuine love that has been displayed. Not only by donations to her website but different efforts to raise money using perfume as the vehicle. There are multiple sale threads on Facebook where people are selling their unwanted bottles and donating what they sell those bottle for. Perfumer Tanja Bochnig of April Aromatics and CaFleureBon Editor-in-Chief Michelyn Camen have made a limited edition perfume called San Francisco Rose which can be purchased here. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is donating 15% of the sales for her The PLP Project perfumes; Peace, Love, and Perfume.
So often when a person is facing a terminal disease there is a reaction by many to pull away to not want to face the inevitable. What makes me proud to be part of the perfume community is from all parts of the world it has come together to give Tama a virtual hug. We can only hope that Tama allows that love and caring to help her through the difficult times ahead.
The Brooklyn section known as DUMBO (Down Under The Manhattan Bridge Overpass) has become a vibrant creative nexus in Brooklyn. There have been a couple of perfumers who have gotten their start in this section. Maria McElroy of Aroma M perfumes and Alexis Karl of Scent by Alexis work on their own creations in their ateliers in Brooklyn. What has come to be special is when Ms. McElroy and Ms. Karl decide to collaborate for their shared brand House of Cherry Bomb. While their first two releases Truth or Dare and Rebel Angel were constructed for a different perfumista than I there was a great energy in those compositions. Last year’s Cardamom Rose and Tobacco Cognac were very much constructed for a perfumista like me. That energy I detected in the first two fragrances was even more assured here. It seemed like Ms. McElroy and Ms. Karl had really found a collaborative harmonic from which more perfumes would come. That next perfume has come and it is called House of Cherry Bomb Pink Haze.
Pink Haze is part of The PLP Project. PLP stands for the Facebook perfume group Peace-Love-Perfume started by Carlos J Powell, also known as YouTube reviewer Brooklyn Fragrance Lover, three years ago. For this third anniversary Mr. Powell has reached out to the perfumers who are part of the community to help celebrate by making perfumes in celebration of PLP. Pink Haze is more about Brooklyn than the Facebook group but that seems right as that is where Mr. Powell calls home, too. On the House of Cherry Bomb website Pink Haze is described as “the scent of tree lined Brooklyn streets, of stone buildings, both old and new, and of the hot metal of subway cars.” Pink Haze is the smell of midsummer twilight in DUMBO as the sun hits the horizon. The stone of the bridge and the smell of the sun charged aluminum on the side of the subway train roaring past all the while the summer flowers release their natural fragrance into the cooling air. Pink Haze paints a perfect Brooklyn still life on a summer evening.
Maria McElroy (l.) and Alexis Karl
Pink Haze opens underneath the Manhattan Bridge as the smell of the stone is juxtaposed with the smell of hot aluminum. Ms. McElroy and Ms. Karl have created an authentic city accord as the stone has the feel of seeing the heat shimmer in waves off of it. The same holds true for the hot aluminum which also feels like it is radiating its scent in heated pulses off of its surface. I was drawn in by this opening and I think it takes a city dweller to get this just right and the Brooklynites nail this. As the stone and aluminum cools in the night the florals begin to come out and on this street lilac, muguet, and gardenia are what is growing. The muguet leads the way and the lilac and gardenia come a bit later. The strength of these are kept well-modulated and that help keeps Pink Haze more true to its name. A bit of cedar provides the base note for the end of Pink Haze.
Pink Haze has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
Pink Haze is the best perfume by House of Cherry Bomb to date. I think that is because this was a very personal project. Not only to evoke the place where they create but to also celebrate the online place where they congregate. Taken all together Pink Haze is a celebration of Peace-Love-Perfume and Brooklyn.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Carlos J Powell.
Editor’s Note: For more information on all of the perfumes that are part of The PLP Project check out the Facebook link here.
When it comes to the great houses of perfume Guerlain never fears alienating their core audience. I would say that the opposite is truer in that Guerlain has been the most active in trying to snare the younger perfume wearer. Because of this penchant for luring in younger perfumistas it can sometime clash with those of us who have loved Guerlain for years. I sit somewhere in the middle of this. As long as the great older Guerlains are still around in-house perfumer Thierry Wasser can put out as many figurative olfactory honey pots as he would like to capture his desired demographic.
The most difficult part of this equation is M. Wasser want to use Shalimar as the gateway to the Guerlain kingdom. M. Wasser has taken to heart the criticism by the young that Shalimar smells too “old lady”. This isn’t a new idea as perfumer Mathilde Laurent was responsible for three “light” versions of Shalimar a little over ten years ago. M. Wasser would also try to go the lighter route as well. The last two years saw two variations around adding vanilla to Shalimar and Ode a la Vanille in 2010 and Ode a la Vanille Sur la Route du Mexique in 2013 went with making it sweeter. It looks like that experiment has also not produced the desired result. This year for the latest flanker to Shalimar M. Wasser has returned to making Shalimar lighter. The new releases is called Shalimar Souffle de Parfum.
As the name portends this is meant to be an airy version of Shalimar meant to be served up quickly without having it linger. The way M. Wasser chooses to achieve this is to largely neuter the base notes leaving behind only the vanilla.
The opening of Souffle de Parfum is the traditional bergamot and lemon with a bit of mandarin added for additional sweetness. Jasmine is present in the soufflé but instead of rose M. Wasser goes with the much lighter orange blossom. This is where the soufflé begins to fall down for me. The combination of rose de mai and jasmine is what creates the essential beauty of Shalimar. With the Souffle de Parfum M. Wasser doesn’t want even the hint of heft to appear thus the choice of orange blossom. The same applies to the base as out goes the orris and opopanax leaving only the vanilla matched with white musk and patchouli.
Shalimar Souffle de Parfum has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am not sure there is ever going to be a light version of Shalimar which does justice to the name, certainly Souffle de Parfum is not that fragrance. In his attempt to make Shalimar lighter and more accessible M. Wasser succeeds; as taken on its own merits Souffle de Parfum is a perfectly easy to wear floral. It is no way related to Shalimar and has none of the character and depth of that. I am not sure this would even bring new consumers over to the brand because it doesn’t feel like it is part of the rest of the flacons which share the name Guerlain. For me this Souffle de Parfum has fallen flat but perhaps there are others who will delight in a fluffy simulation of a perfume called Shalimar.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Guerlain.
When I spent time in New York City during the mid-1980’s one of the things I was most fascinated by was modern art. In those first years of my time in The Big Apple I was a glutton for seeing the artists I had admired. Even better was the opportunity to discover new artists who I had never heard of. One of these discoveries was Charles Demuth and he was my introduction to the concept of Precisionism.
My Egypt by Charles Demuth (1927)
Precisionism arose from the more widely-known schools of Cubism and Futurism. The preferred subject of the Precisionist movement was the industrial landscape, in particular the American industrial landscape. Mr. Demuth would become one of the major artists within this genre. The painting which captivated me was the one seen above “My Egypt”. I would come to find out this was part of a seven painting set by Mr. Demuth that he did between 1927 and 1933. These seven paintings would be the capstone to his career. What I saw was a recognition that through the creation of the large industry of the early twentieth century America was creating its own pyramids. When I look at My Egypt through the fractured planes Mr. Demuth uses I see it as a flawed reflection which has come true in the nearly one hundred years since he painted them.
Incense of a New Church by Charles Demuth (1921)
Mr. Demuth did most of his work in the house he shared with his mother in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Precisionist style flourished from about 1916-1936 and Mr. Demuth’s earliest examples come from 1921. The one seen above, “Incense of a New Church”, has become one of my favorite paintings by Mr. Demuth. The tendrils of resinous smoke put together in overlapping segments so that it almost looks like reptilian. The smokestacks of the factory replacing the altar of the old church. I have a lithograph of this which is one of my daily inspirations.
Charles Demuth (Photo: Alfred Stieglitz)
The 2008 retrospective that was held at the Whitney Museum in New York is still one of my favorites as I was able for the first time to take in many of his earlier pieces. It also confirmed that for me once he made the move to Precisionism that was where his best work was. He was a contemporary and close friend of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. Upon his death in 1935 he left all of his paintings to Ms. O’Keeffe trusting her to be the proper arbiter of their eventual resting place. The picture of Mr. Demuth above was taken by Mr. Stieglitz and it is one of the few pictures of him we have.
Ever since I first encountered the Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 line of perfume at Esxence in 2013 I have very slowly and deliberately taken my time to understand each one. Many perfume collections would fall apart underneath this much scrutiny. M. Humbert Lucas, working for himself, has authored a body of olfactory art that almost demands you spend time with it to allow it to fully reveal all that is present in each perfume. Therefore even though it has been almost a year and a half I am still getting to the last couple of entries from the line. Most recently I’ve spent time with 2022 Generation Homme and like every one of the 777 perfumes there was much to enjoy.
One of the reasons that I held off on 2022 Generation Homme is that on a strip this was the oudiest of the entire collection. On a strip it never seemed to open up. When I finally sprayed some on my skin it was like there was an entire experience hidden from detection. The oud was there but there was also an array of spices surrounding a yuzu. These offer a fresh crisp contrast to the very complex oud mixture M. Humbert Lucas uses.
Stephane Humbert Lucas
2022 Generation Homme opens with yuzu floating like a shimmery veil over an intense oud. Very often many see yuzu as a stand-in for grapefruit but when it is appropriately allowed to have a personality in a fragrance it is more like a hybrid of lemon and grapefruit. It has a snappy brightness that neither lemon nor grapefruit have on their own. M. Humbert Lucas takes that and adds even more snap with mint coming along for the ride. It is just a touch of mint but it is present and adds an important effect underneath the yuzu. The final addition to the top notes is a very green blackcurrant bud. This is used at such a level that it has a urine-like characteristic. On its own it would be offputting. Placed in the middle ground between the yuzu-mint and the oud it works surprisingly well. The rough sticky green smell forms a bridge to the more sulfurous aspects of the yuzu and the more medicinal qualities of good oud. This is not an easy part of the development as it sort of pushes forward many of the more challenging aspects of both the yuzu and the oud. It took me some time to learn to roll with it instead of struggling to make it something it wasn’t. 2022 Genration Homme finishes on a peru balsam matched with a second source of oud. This oud has less of the medicinal and more of the woody nuances. Matched with the peru balsam is ends this on a final woody platform.
2022 Generation Homme has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.
2022 Generation Homme is one of the hidden gems within the entire 777 line. I think it is imperative that it is worn on skin to truly experience it completely. It took that for me to finally realize how good it was and bring it out from Under the Radar.
Disclosure: This review was based on a samples provided by Stephane Humbert Lucas and Osswald NYC.
Pop stars and perfume are a combination which usually leads to something which rarely reflects well on the singer or perfumery. I have even come to believe that the bigger the celebrity name on the label the more likely the perfume is going to be insipid. It can be a huge disappointment if I like the musician and a bit of rough karma if they are someone I don’t care for. The common thread is the perfume is boring and safe. In 2012 Lady Gaga released the first fragrance with her name on it called Fame. It promised “blood and semen” and, of course, delivered a safe floral. It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t as innovative as the name on the bottle. Fame sold extremely well and there was no doubt there would be a follow-up. That perfume has just been released Lady Gaga Eau de Gaga. This time it is a much simpler construction and also a much better perfume.
Lady Gaga worked with perfumer Ursula Wandel for Eau de Gaga. Fame was a team of three perfumers and I believe Eau de Gaga is better for less cooks in the kitchen. Ms. Wandel chooses simple ingredients and blends them adeptly into something way above the normal celebuscent dreck. Reduced to terms Eau de Gaga is a citrus-floral-leather and that might seem common but Mme Wandel turns in something very uncommon in this space.
The citrus chosen for Eau de Gaga is primarily lime and it is a very synthetic lime. For a woman who changes the color of her hair as often as Lady Gaga does I see this as a green wash over her blond locks. It is striking and the artificial quality works to its advantage. The heart is violet and violet leaf together. The lime persists to combine with the violet. Every so often during the day while I was wearing it I thought I got a bit of green tea but almost like an olfactory illusion once I tuned in it was violet and lime. Ms. Wandel has created an excellent harmony between the lime and violet and after a couple of hours her leather accord starts to come through and provide a bit of animalic foundation. This is fine leather processed until it is soft as butter and consequently it is a whisper of leather throughout the later stages of Eau de Gaga.
Eau de Gaga has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.
For all that the first fragrance, Fame, was meant to be an edgy evocation of Lady Gaga I think Eau de Gaga captures the artist better. It is a bold synthetic composition made up of modern molecules placed over a classic soft leather accord. I was thinking of a line from Lady Gaga’s song Applause, “To crash the critic saying “Is it right or is it wrong?” In the case of Eau de Gaga this critic thinks it is very right.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle provided by Coty Beauty.
Editor’s Note: Eau de Gaga is available in Europe right now. It is due for an early January 2015 debut in the US.
It has been seven weeks since I was in Florence for Pitti Fragranze and there is one perfume which has consumed my thoughts since trying it there. One of my favorite new lines I discovered at Pitti was Map of the Heart. Map of the Heart is a debut line from co-founders Sarah Blair and Jeffrey Darling. They have collaborated with perfumer Jacques Huclier on three perfumes. They also have brought in bottle designer Pierre Dinand to fashion heart shaped flacons. Map of the Heart Clear Heart v. 1 and Red Heart v. 3 are nicely executed aquatic and tuberose perfumes, respectively. They are good but the middle volume Black Heart v. 2 is something wholly unique, a perfumed journey into darkness that never compromises by letting in even a tiny sliver of light.
Black Heart v. 2 has been one of those perfumes which has been difficult for me to write about because I don’t think I am going to communicate what a completely consuming sensual experience it is. The creative team wanted M. Huclier to be inspired by the Australian brushfires from where Ms. Blair and Mr. Darling live. The quote from the press release is they wanted M. Huclier to capture “the moment the flames subside and the blackened tree trunks remain smoldering in a snow of white ash- the piercing sunlight slicing through.” The first part of that inspiration is expertly re-created. The sunlight not so much as there is not any light in this composition of smoke, spice, and the hope for renewal from near-complete destruction.
M. Huclier uses a trio of spices, in overdose, as cinnamon, cardamom, and black pepper add the black shroud to the early moments. Just to make sure the point is not missed a little bergamot and orange are consumed in the dark flames like a sorcerer’s spell of eldritch origin. Through the spices M. Huclier adds in a significant amount of eucalyptus which adds sharp green over a camphor-like effect. This is the smell of tree trunks detonated by the heat of the fire. A chilling reminder of natural immolation. Then M. Huclier begins to waft smoke first in gentle puffs and then as a pervasive fog. The smoke lies heavily on top of Australian sandalwood. I have found Australian sandalwood to have an almost ashy quality just on its own. In Black Heart v. 2 M. Huclier finds that same characteristic and enhances it so the sandalwood note feels like I am experiencing it after it has been burned through and through.
Black Heart v. 2 has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
When I spoke with Ms. Blair at Pitti she told me that there was an earlier mod she sought feedback on and one person told her it should be darker. I don’t know who that person was but I am so very happy that advice was adhered to. The best perfumes are those where the creative vision is realized without compromise. Black Heart v. 2 is a glorious paean to the art of not compromising. If you love dark smoky artistic perfumes you will find no new perfume for 2014 which delivers on all three qualities any better than Black Heart v. 2.
Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Map of the Heart at Pitti Fragranze.
When it comes to designer floral perfumes of the last two years it seems the style is to knock you over with a massive bouquet of floral notes. If that doesn’t do the trick then the perfumer loads it up with a bunch of fruit. The fresh floral perfume has been shunted aside. One of the earliest examples of the fresh floral was 2000’s FlowerbyKenzo composed by Alberto Morillas.
In the late 1990’s into the early years of the 2000’s perfumers were actively experimenting with the floral perfume architecture. M. Morillas was one of the foremost innovators during this time. He would define numerous perfume styles which continue to this day. When it came to FlowerbyKenzo M. Morillas wanted to capture a crisper flower but he also wanted to capture the entire flower and the early moments are focused on the green stem and leaves. Then to make sure that the wearer doesn’t necessarily identify it as a specific flower M. Morillas uses a mix of synthetic and natural floral notes to create a hybrid perfumed flower which has never seen life in any greenhouse or garden. It is this supernatural flower which makes FlowerbyKenzo such an interesting example within its genre.
The first fleeting moments of FlowerbyKenzo are a fabulous green stemminess. It is the smell I associate with trimming the stems of cut roses to put them in a vase. I think this was M. Morillas’ intent to sort of let the wearer experience the stem before getting to the supernatural bloom on top. The natural ingredients are violet, hawthorn and rose. To this is added hedione and cyclosal the synthetic versions of jasmine and cyclamen respectively. Once these are all together in the heart of FlowerbyKenzo they form something which smells completely floral but a collage of the ingredients chosen by M. Morillas. It is another case where spending too much time analyzing the components destroys the effect trying to be created. After so many years wearing this I can now just let the floral accord make me smile without trying to pick it apart. The finale is a slightly soapy musk cocktail over amber and vanilla.
FlowerbyKenzo has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
FlowerbyKenzo in its very elegant glass cylinder which looks like a poppy can be found at most discount perfume sites for less than $30/oz. I think it is one of the forgotten trailblazers of perfumery and if you’re looking for a different kind of floral than what you’re finding in the current marketplace give FlowerbyKenzo a try I think it will be the alternative you’re looking for.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.
The 1920’s and The Lost Generation make up one of my favorite eras. Not only from a historical perspective but also that of societal change. I would say that it would take until the 1960’s before society would undergo a similar change driven by the youth of the time. It seems that perfumer Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes has also become interested in this time and place. Her interest was piqued by working on her homage to Zelda Fitzgerald called Zelda which came out last year. Ms. Waddington began to delve into the perfumed history of the time and also began to wonder what Zelda might have worn. The 1920’s were great years for perfumery with Ernest Daltroff’s work at Caron right at the top of the class. Ms. Waddington came to the conclusion that Caron Bellodgia from 1927 would be Zelda’s choice.
Caron Bellodgia was M. Daltroff’s carnation-centric floral on a base of sandalwood and musk. For her re-interpretation, Fiore di Bellagio, Ms. Waddington adds some well-chosen additions to the florals from Bellodgia to create modern perfume with the inspiration of M. Daltroff’s classic. All of the ingredients present in Bellodgia are found in Fiore di Bellagio. Ms. Waddington carefully chooses some new additions like citrus on top, gardenia in the heart, and resins and vanilla in the base. All of these extra notes work very well and never disturb the 1920’s vibe Ms. Waddington is attempting.
The same ylang ylang Belodgia opens with is in Fiore di Bellagio. Ms. Waddington decides to add a green shrubbery accord along with lemon. The lemon in particular adds depth and contrast to the ylang ylang. This opens onto a floral blockbuster of a heart. The carnation is front and center but it is just part of a floral fusillade of gardenia, jasmine, rose otto, orris, muguet, and violet. Ms. Waddington makes it so each of these notes can be picked out like concentrating on a single instrument in an orchestral work. While you can do that you are better served by enjoying the overall effect. Fiore di Bellagio feels like a throwback and it only becomes more pronounced in the base. Ms. Waddington trots out a beautiful aged sandalwood and civet to have the Bellodgia base notes present. She chooses to round those out with a rich vanilla to turn the sandalwood sweeter and creamier as well as a group of resinous notes which keeps the civet from being as feral as it could be.
Fiore di Bellagio has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Ms. Waddington has done a marvelous job creating a companion piece to Zelda. Both creations create a wonderful “out of time” sensation without feeling like museum pieces. If you are a fan of Zelda or Retro Nouveau perfumes Fiore di Bellagio is one to put on your sampling list.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by En Voyage Perfumes.