My only experience with the Midnight Sun came on my honeymoon when we cruised to Alaska, followed by a tour of the state. It was an experience which illuminated the effect daylight has on one’s emotional state. I would be happily moving along and would look at my watch to see it was 11PM when it felt like 4PM. The light was almost magical in the way it energized and sustained me. In conjunction with the extended daylight there was a great crispness to the air we were breathing which also seemed especially rejuvenating. I hadn’t considered the idea of a fragrance attempting to evoke the Midnight Sun. If I did give it some thought I would’ve imagined Niclas and Christine Lydeen, owners and creative directors, of Agonist to be capable of doing it. The ninth release Solaris is exactly this.
Christine and Niclas Lydeen
The Lydeens have forged a durable partnership with perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin and through the eight previous perfumes created a very Nordic aesthetic for the Agonist line. This aesthetic has a bit of an aloof personality and many find Agonist to be a perfume line which requires too much effort to get close to. I have always found that slightly chilly antipathy the perfumes tend to wear defiantly something which perversely makes me want to give them an extra spritz when wearing them. If you have found this style one you have had issues with in the past Solaris might be a great perfume to give it a try again. M. Pellegrin has made the easiest to wear Agonist to date by turning Solaris into an unnaturally long lasting citrus fragrance whose sun finally sets on the woods in the distance.
M. Pellegrin uses a veritable olfactory produce section of citrus notes with pink grapefruit, mandarin, lemon, and petitgrain combining to make a mega-citrus accord. To add some variation black pepper adds spice and black currant adds dark berry features. The pepper and currant have the effect of turning all that citrus into something less bracing and more diffuse in effect. It is a really beautiful combination. Galbanum anchors the heart with a green focal point. M. Pellegrin then uses peach, ginger, an ozonic accord, and litsea cubeba. That last note is an evergreen shrub found in Southeast Asia. Its essential oil is mostly the lemon scented molecule Citral. The rest of it is as you would expect from an evergreen, lighter greens and a very subtle floral component somewhere between iris and violet. It isn’t often used but based on Solaris I would like to see it used a little more. It is what extends the citrus vibe from the top notes. The peach and ginger balance it out with fruit and spice. The ozonic accord is that of a lungful of clear cool crisp air inhaled with gusto. The base notes are centered on labdanum. Tonka and benzoin add sweetness, patchouli and amber add depth. As befits a fragrance inspired by the Midnight Sun the base notes don’t show up for a long time and when they do they are there for a shorter time than normal.
Solaris has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I didn’t know I wanted a Midnight Sun perfume. Solaris has shown me the fallacy of that thinking. M. Pellegrin has made a fragrance of opaque strength which captures a feeling, a place, and the light just right
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Agonist.
Pierre Guillaume has been producing perfumes since 2001 when he releases his first fragrance under his Parfumerie Generale label. That first perfume PG02 Coze was my introduction to this idiosyncratic perfumer. M. Guillaume is a perfumer who works on the more ethereal side of the perfumed spectrum. Many of his perfumes have an opaqueness to them that sets them apart from many other lines. That gauziness can be seen as a drawback by those who like a lot of oomph in their perfume. I find it draws me in close; to lean in to gather up the delicate tendrils with care. Over the past fourteen years the collection has grown to over 30 perfumes. Here are the five I would suggest are a good starting place.
PG10 Aomassai– M. Guillaume has a reputation for composing great gourmand perfumes. In my opinion Aomassai is the greatest within the collection. A roasted hazelnut accord is decorated with caramel, cinnamon, licorice, and herbs. This is not an opulent gourmand it is a droll gourmand.
Querelle– This is the fragrance which makes me ask over and over why caraway is not used as a topnote alternative to bergamot. In Querelle M. Guillaume uses black caraway and sweet myrrh to draw you into a heart of rose and vetiver. Frankincense and ambergris finishes this which is my favorite of the entire Parfumerie Generale line.
L’Ombre Fauve– Even though I’ve said M. Guillaume likes to keep it lighter L’Ombre Fauve shows what he can do when he turns to the dark side. I have seen some of the more intense entries in the Parfumerie Generale line described as having a “furry” quality. L’Ombre Fauve might be the most prominent of the “furry” PG’s. Intense red amber, civet, and a cocktail of woods keep it simple but incredibly animalic.
PG24 Papyrus de Ciane– M. Guillaume is a student of the history of perfume and for Papyrus de Ciane he wanted to use the classic Mousse de Saxe base that forms the foundation of the great Caron perfumes. M. Guillaume takes that starting point and imposes his style upon it. A veil of green galbanum, a watery green accord, and incense set up the darkness of the Mousse de Saxe. The success of this perfume is I never think of the original source of Mousse de Saxe I just enjoy a modern take on a classic base.
PG25 Indochine– M. Guillaume’s inspiration was a sepia toned photograph of the Mekong River. Indochine is a perfume of tints. A bit of pepper is cooled off by a breeze of cardamom. Rich honey is drizzled over a woody thanaka accord. Benzoin is the final ingredient. Indochine feels like it is unstuck in time both vintage and contemporary at the same time.
Parfumerie Generale is a line I often recommend and it has become much easier to experience as it is more widely available these days. Give these five a try and if they appeal to you there are many more worth trying.
Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.
Rouge Bunny Rouge the English beauty line overseen by Alexandra de Montfort has two fragrance collections that they offer. The Fragrant Confections Collection has not really resonated with me although I think they are well-done. The other collection Provenance Tales has been a complete success for me. I really enjoyed the three initial releases and now they have been followed up by two new releases, Silhouette and Tundra.
Both perfumes were composed by Nathalie Lorson under Mme de Montfort’s creative direction. Both fragrances share a spicy opening but then head in different directions. Silhouette is a rose leather fragrance; Tundra is woods and vetiver. Mme Lorson has done a really nice job with both of these.
Silhouette opens with a nice coriander and nutmeg pairing. The greener aspects of coriander are enhanced by the sweeter aspects of nutmeg. From here the rose really takes a hold and it is a delicate fragile rose. The note is called rose petals in the press release and it does feel like a gentle wash of petals flowing over my consciousness. Sandalwood provides a sweetly woody foundation to the rose. The leather accord comes next and this is modern refined leather, like the kind you smell in the leather department at a store. A touch industrial, a touch animalic. Ambergris and musk provide the final touches. Silhouette has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Alexandra de Montfort
Tundra is a fabulous woody fantasia which also begins in the spice cabinet. Here Mme Lorson takes pink pepper along with nutmeg, as well. Just as with Silhouette they form a spicy harmonic which is then enhanced with juniper. The juniper adds a superb bit of sharpness from a different vector. Patchouli holds the heart along with violet and elemi. The early moments of the patchouli seems sort of common. That changes as vetiver insinuates itself within the patchouli and eventually overwhelms it. Mme Lorson has a particularly dexterous hand when it comes to using vetiver. In Tundra she turns it into an unusually soft presence which tames the patchouli leaving a velvety green effect behind. Moss keeps the green beat going before cedar adds its deeply clean woody individuality. It really adds a distinct frame to all that has come before. Tundra has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Rouge Bunny Rouge has really made a splash in the overall beauty sector over the last year. That they are not leaving their fragrances to secondary afterthoughts is to be admired. The Provenance Tales Collection is just getting better and Tundra and Silhouette continue the trend.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples from Twisted Lily.
Brooklyn-based Independent perfume brand D.S. & Durga branched out in 2013 by producing the HYLNDS collection. The first four fragrances were evocations of the Highlands myths and folklore. The fifth release Foxglove continues that tradition as it is focused on the man who was considered the greatest poet of Ireland, Oisin. Perfumer David Seth Moltz was inspired by a visit to the gravesite. He says, “When I walked up to Oisin’s grave, I found one foxglove flower facing it 20 feet from the site. It was if Nieve was sitting watch over her lost love.”
One of the characteristics of the HYLNDS collection of perfumes is they all have a distinctive sense of place within their composition. When I smell all of these fragrances I feel very much aware of the inspiration surrounding me. Foxglove does a fantastic job of fusing the legend of Oisin with the idea of standing near his grave on a damp moor with a single bloom in front of you. Mr. Moltz has chosen a slightly vegetal citrus top. Champaca absolute centers the heart. Leather combined with immortelle makes up the base. It is a fragrance of open green spaces.
David Seth Moltz
Mr. Moltz uses citron peel, rosewood, and Queen Anne’s lace as his opening trio. One should always remember that Queen Anne’s lace is a member of the carrot family and as such while floral it also carries a significant vegetal quality. The citron is well-chosen contrast for that with the rosewood adding gentle woody aspects underneath it all. Champaca rises to the foreground next and it is buttressed with orris and neroli. The two supporting notes help the champaca from being overwhelming as they temper the more boisterous qualities of the absolute. We are standing near a grave and should show some respect. The base is my favorite part of Foxglove as Mr. Moltz starts with a smooth leather. This is the leather of a saddle ridden upon often, well-oiled, and taken care of. The leather accord has a wonderfully broken in feeling to it. The choice of immortelle is also a great decision and it blends well with the leather accord. The final two ingredients in the base are ambergris and peach. These shouldn’t be as good with the leather and immortelle as they are. Together this carries a hint of the sea, the dampness of the highlands, and the leather of a warrior poet. This last phase of Foxglove is what I look forward to whenever I wear it.
Foxglove has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I really believe this HYLNDS collection is the best most cohesive set of fragrances D.S. & Durga has produced. I am not sure if Mr. Moltz is just especially inspired by the subject matter or if this is just the evolution of his skills as an independent perfumer. Foxglove is my favorite of the five and it is because of that leather and immortelle base as it conjures up its location as well as a perfume possibly can.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by D.S. & Durga.
I am a city mouse. I’ve lived in cities for the great majority of my life. Mrs. Colognoisseur is a country mouse. When I describe us I often say we are a reverse “Green Acres” Mrs. C is Oliver and I am Lisa. When I changed jobs to move down to the Washington DC area we have ended up living the country life in Poolesville, MD. After three years I have become surprised at how much I have enjoyed it.
Poolesville is right in the middle of the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve. This was an initiative where 93,000 acres of the county was protected from development and encouraged to become working agricultural businesses. The effect is, thirty years later, we live in the middle of a flourishing farming community. From May through early November the local farms are our produce section. We go from vegetable farm to fruit farm and buy what is in season. While we aren’t interested in tilling the soil ourselves this allows me to see the change in harvest as the calendar moves on. As I have started to get a handle on when things will be ready I find myself looking forward to the crop of beets as much as I look forward to the seasonal lattes at Starbucks. I have truly come to dislike having to go back to the grocery store for the winter months.
Besides the farms there is the town of Poolesville itself which is the smallest place I have ever lived. The population is just around 5,000 people. It is very interesting to live in a place where the guys who run Poolesville Hardware know who we are and what we need, often before we do. There is a town green which has events on a near weekly basis. It brings the town out to spend some time together. I have always heard about this concept of a “sense of community” but living in the city that get buried under the hardness of the urban landscape. In Poolesville it is a reality and it is something many feel is worth the effort to maintain.
Like all small communities there are some changes coming Poolesville’s way. Poolesville High School has been the #1 high school in the state for many years and is annually ranked in the top 100 high schools in the entire country, #47 for 2014. This has made Poolesville a desirable location for parents who want their children to go to a good school. This is where the foresight of the Agricultural Reserve runs head-on into upper middle class values. There are few areas which can be subdivided into the prototypical Mc Mansion but there are some and they have grown steadily. This is changing the socio-economic makeup of town and it is unclear how that will impact the town. A couple of signs is the arrival of two national chain stores which will directly compete with existing family-run stores. As I hear many of the older residents say their goal is to “Keep Poolesville, Poolesville.” So far that task has been easy but it might become more difficult over time.
It has turned out that Poolesville has been more interesting than my inner Lisa was worried it would be. I haven't been longing for Fifth Avenue that much. To be honest I’ve found out there is a little more Oliver in me than I suspected. So far the country life has agreed with me.
I am very flattered that a number of fledgling independent perfumers ask me to try their fragrances. It is as close as I will ever get to being a perfume evaluator, which is probably a good thing. I just finished assessing a new line this past week. As I was writing up my e-mail to the perfumer I realized one part of my missive was coming out almost formulaic, as if I had written it many times before. I then realized that maybe this was good advice to be able to find before beginning your independent perfumery. What is most often lacking from early efforts is the proper base.
When I use the word base I am not speaking of base notes. A perfume base is a mixture of notes which are meant to form the foundation of a fragrance. The most famous example of a perfume base is one called Mousse de Saxe which was the signature finish to all of the Caron perfumes. By having a consistent place to start perfumer Ernest Daltroff would build many diverse olfactory architectures. That is a key point to also understand; a great perfume starts from the base upward not the top down. It is that thinking which I run into most often when trying a new perfumer’s early efforts as they spend a lot of effort getting the top right but end up just leaving it hanging. It is also the answer to many early perfumes’ longevity issues, as a proper base can also be the last thing left at the end of the drydown.
A perfumer for a commercial firm spends years doing nothing but making bases as they train. By the time they are given their first commercial brief starting from a base is second nature to them. It is precisely the raw talent and unregimented vision that sets the independent perfumer apart from those more corporate perfumers and it is what makes independent perfumery such fun to experience. The principle still remains the same you need a base to start to build your perfumes upon.
Another reason for doing this is to give your perfumes a signature. I smell Mousse de Saxe and it is hard not to think of many of my favorite Caron perfumes. Guerlain has its own base called Guerlinade which is the thread which connects every Guerlain fragrance. They even bottled it and sold it as a perfume, too. Andy Tauer of Tauer Perfumes has had his characteristic woody incense base dubbed Tauerade. As a perfumer it is a way to add your figurative John Hancock to every perfume you make.
Usually after one of these e-mails I get a question on where to start. My advice is something I have learned from two of my favorite people in perfume, Michael Edwards and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. Ms. Hurwitz spent the early years of her independent career trying to make the classic perfumes herself. It was a valuable exercise because she came to understand the value of each ingredient and how they impacted each other. That is the best, more laborious, way. Mr. Edwards has the easier way. Just go to the mall and take a few small Ziploc bags and spray a bunch of strips all from one perfume brand and lock each of them away in their own Ziploc bag. After a few hours go back open the Ziploc and sniff. What you should be left with is the base used for those perfumes. From there you will gain an understanding of what this particular perfumer used as their starting point and you will be surprised to find out how different they smell at this point.
If you start from a good base it is much easier to create a memorable perfume, and you’ll save me from writing the same words to another young independent perfumer.
When a perfume brand evolves sometimes it evolves with the perfumista who loves it and sometimes it grows away. Artists have to be encouraged to follow their muse and that doesn’t always mean that old fans will remain fans and new fans won’t try the new direction. I am one of those who is having a hard time sticking with the new direction Serge Lutens has taken over the last three years. Ever since the advent of the L’Eau series M. Lutens has decided he wants to walk in the light. My problem is I don’t want to walk in his version of the light. The latest release L’Orpheline finally made me see the light.
M. Lutens has said in a few published interviews that many of his fragrances are meant to pay tribute to his mother who abandoned him during World War II. Without going all Sigmund Freud a perfume which translates as The Orphan is probably dealing with some of these issues. An artist’s life experiences often make for compelling art but L’Orpheline is just painful to me. When I received my sample of the spring release Laine de Verre I couldn’t bring myself to wear it. It was full of jagged aldehydes, an overdose of cashmeran, all over synthetic musks. The worst Serge Lutens fragrance ever. In L’Orpheline, perfumer Christopher Sheldrake, recycles the aldehydes and cashmeran and this time adds in incense in place of the musk. Which is an improvement because I at least was able to wear L’Orpheline for a couple of days and I couldn’t wear Laine de Verre at all.
Those aldehydes are the beginning of L’Orpheline and for me it is a collection of all of the most unpleasant aldehydes. It is overtly metallic, unnecessarily sharp, and irritating. It is an example of all of the worst qualities aldehydes bring to a fragrance. At least in L’Orpheline the cashmeran is kept a little more under control but just as in Laine de Verre I am not sure what M. Sheldrake is going for in this aldehyde-cashmeran accord but I just don’t like where it takes me. It lingers around for way too long like this before I get some relief from incense and patchouli in the base; which actually serve to remind me of other perfumes from the brand I like better.
L’Orpheline has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Over the last three years only La Fille de Berlin has been the kind of fragrance I want and love about Serge Lutens. Everything else has been an attempt to take things in a different direction. If you have enjoyed the L’Eaus then I think L’Orpheline will be another which you will enjoy as it is that audience for whom it is made for. Alas I am not that audience.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
Every perfumer has a particular style that, in essence, becomes their signature on a fragrance they have composed. That doesn’t mean they can’t make perfumes outside of that but there is a sweet spot or comfort zone where these perfumers can seemingly make a memorable fragrance at will. Rodrigo Flores-Roux has a portfolio of many varied and fantastic perfumes. When he chooses to work on a floral centered fragrance that is where I think he has done his best work. The recent release Aedes de Venustas Oeillet Bengale is as good as Sr. Flores-Roux gets.
One of the reasons I think he is so deft with florals is he spent a year in college before going to Versailles to begin his perfume training. That year at university in Mexico City he spent studying biology. In an alternative universe where he wasn’t accepted into ISIPCA to become a perfumer I imagine him becoming a botanist presiding over a magnificent greenhouse of the most unique, and fragrant, blooms. In the universe we live in Sr. Flores-Roux is a perfumer and he brings the observant eye of a scientist when he chooses to interpret a flower as a perfume. There is always an elegance of precision to Sr. Flores-Roux’s scents but when it comes to the florals it often seems like it is being dissected into its component notes to be put back together. Oeillet Bengale is a type of China rose and owner of the perfume boutique Aedes de Venustas, Karl Bradl, saw a still life of it and knew he wanted this to be the inspiration for their third fragrance. Without the assistance of the press materials I saw “oeillet” and expected carnation. What Sr. Flores-Roux has produced is a simulation of the China rose by using carnation as the foundation to create the accord. A number of spice notes have to be balanced exactly to bring to life the desired “fiery rose”. All of this is placed on a foundation of smoking incense.
Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner Owners and Creative Directors of Aedes de Venustas
The first few minutes of Oeillet Bengale show off Sr. Flores Roux’s highly evolved citrus accord. It is paired with herbs and a surprising bit of strawberry. Together it creates a snappy opening full of refreshing notes. The carnation comes up next and this is the current version of carnation stripped of its clove-like nature because that version is no longer IFRA-compliant. Sr. Flores-Roux puts back in what IFRA has removed by using his own mix of spicy notes; clove (of course), cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper return the spicy heart to the carnation and improves upon it. The heart of Oeillet Bengale really does feel as if it is a rose on fire as the florals and the spices feel right on the verge of spontaneous combustion. To add a calming effect Sr. Flores-Roux takes frankincense, labdanum, and tolu balsam to form a smoky resinous base to rest the smoldering bloom upon. For a long time on my skin this is where Oeillet Bengale lingers as the carnation and spices float on a resinous cloud of pungent vapor.
Oeillet Bengale has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Oeillet Bengale is one of the most compelling perfumes Sr. Flores-Roux has created and it takes its place among my favorites by him. This is my favorite of the three Aedes de Venustas fragrances released to date. I look forward to whatever Sr. Flores-Roux will release next but when he is in his floral sweet spot there is nobody better.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
The smell of lime seems synonymous with summer to me. From the slice in my gin and tonic. Squeezing it lavishly into my guacamole or over grilled shrimp. Key Lime Pie never tastes better than in August. I use so much lime this time of year my hands seem naturally perfumed from the most organic of sources. There are some great perfumes which allow me to smell of limes as much as I want. Here are five of my favorites.
Jo Malone Lime, Basil & Mandarin– Probably the fragrance which put Jo Malone on the map. Perfumer Lucien Piguet creates one of the greatest citrus top note accords ever. Lime and mandarin are the key notes but grapefruit also plays a significant role. The basil, along with thyme, provides a fascinating herbal contrast before finishing with a refreshing vetiver base. 2008’s discontinued Sweet Lime & Cedar replaced this in my affections until the bottle ran out.
Floris Limes– I doesn’t get simpler than this venerable English brand’s lime and musk perfume. Really many of the classic English brands like Geo F. Trumper and Truefitt and Hill also do single lime perfumes but Floris’ choice to go with a musky finish instead of woods makes it stand apart and above the others.
Frapin L’Humaniste– My favorite Gin and Tonic fragrance complete with a big wedge of lime included. You can almost feel the beads of condensation running down the side of the glass while wearing this. I think perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur must like the smell of G&T, too.
Creed Virgin Island Water– Whenever I wear this I sing Harry Nilsson’s most famous lyric, “She put de lime in de coconut”. Creed turns that song into a perfume where the lime is in the coconut along with jasmine and musk.
Charenton Macerations Christopher Street– Douglas Bender’s debut fragrance, with an assist from perfumer Ralf Schwieger, is much more than the lime top notes but they are fantastic and prominent. There are many who never get beyond the limes but the rest of Christopher Street is full of the joys of life lived well. The lime may pull you in but the rest of Christopher Street is just as exhilarating in a different way.
Grab a slice of Key Lime Pie make yourself a G&T and wait for the lime marinated shrimp to come off the grill all while wearing one of my favorite lime perfumes.
Disclosure: I purchased bottles of all the fragrances mentioned.
Creative people are fascinating to watch especially those who have multiple outlets for that urge. Liz Zorn is one of those polycreative people. It is her perfumes that brought Ms. Zorn to my attention under her brand Soivohle. For the last few years her energies have been focused more on visual arts than olfactory ones. Thankfully she still returns to the perfume aspect of her artistry to occasionally produce a new perfume. Just recently she released Amun Re The Tears of Ra.
Ms. Zorn is one of my favorite independent perfumers because of the effort she puts into her raw materials. She often works with all natural materials and Amun Re is one of those instances. When Ms. Zorn chooses to work with an all-natural palette I am impressed with the textural effects she manages to weave into her fragrances. In Amun Re she was inspired by the story of The Tears of the Egyptian sun god Ra who was said to have cried tears of honey which as they fell turned to honeybees which upon landing on earth became the first men. Just thinking about the concept of tears of honey I envision viscous sweet droplets oozing down the side of a sweaty face picking up the tang of skin all along its track. The early moments of Amun Re are all about the viscosity and the gravity drawing it downward. The heart transforms to a flight of florals before ending with a botanical musk centered skin accord.
Amun Re opens with the welling up of that metaphorical tear of honey. The sweetness has a heft to it which Ms. Zorn cuts with a very light application of aldehydes. The spice of tears comes in a bit of cinnamon supported with citron as contrast. Together this makes for a beautifully complex opening as the honey is evolved into something almost tactile. The heart is focused on ylang-ylang in its more fleshy character. Opopanaz, hawthorn and linden assist in creating the floral heart of Amun Re. The final note in the heart is henna leaf and if you’ve ever smelled henna hair dye you know this smell. It is a fascinating choice and it really adds a great quality to the floral heart. The base goes sweeter as vanilla starts off followed by amber. Ms. Zorn’s botanical musk is the star of the base. Her version of an all-natural musk is really brilliant in its ability to feel completely animalic while not being of an animal. Ms. Zorn’s botanical musk is among the best I have found in the natural perfume community.
Amun Re The Tears of Ra has 6-8 hours of longevity and moderate sillage.
I have been enjoying seeing the paintings Ms. Zorn has been posting on her website but when I try something as good as Amun Re I can’t help but wish for more perfume. For now it is enough to let Amun Re cry my figurative tears for me. The real ones will only come if Ms. Zorn gives up perfume all together.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Amun Re I purchased from Soivohle.