I sometimes am completely confused at the timing of certain perfume releases. Most of the time the new fragrances I receive are for the current season or the one adjacent to it. Less frequently I get one that is going to be perfect six or nine months from when I received it. Which makes reviewing it a bit challenging. Finding a day which at least resembles the normal temperature of that future season in the current season is one. Another is the thought that writing about something for the autumn before Memorial Day seems like it will be forgotten by the time it is right to wear it. Unfortunately, Lubin Epidor has decided to provide that kind of challenge.
Lubin Epidor is based on a previous version from the brand in its early days in 1912. Perfumer Thomas Fontaine was again tapped to perform another act of perfume restoration. If you think I’m kidding about this being a harvest scent here is the copy from the website: “The ripe wheat swayed yesterday in the summer breeze. The blond sheaves now lie scattered on the ground and the laborers have filled their jute sacks with the golden grain. The village girls lay down their sickles, and in a shady copse, quench their thirst in the stream. They’ll dance tonight to celebrate harvest’s end. A peddler came by yesterday, and now, their skin is fragrant with orange blossom, mingling with jasmine and violet. Their rough smocks have a musky scent, and notes of fresh-cut hay and frangipane tart swirl in the air. While darkness descends upon the fields, they close their eyes for a moment, giving way to their dreams.” If I needed more there are animated wheat pinwheels. I caught a bit of a break as we had some unusually cool weather recently and I jumped on the opportunity to give Epidor a test run. What I found was a rich hay and orange blossom perfume.
Epidor opens on one of my favorite fruity floral combinations, violet and plum. M. Fontaine also adds a bit of musk in the early going. The sweat of the field workers perhaps? It is a body musk and not the cleaner laundry musks. It supplements the richness of the violet and plum setting the stage for the focal points in the heart to arrive. First orange blossom joins the violet and plum until jasmine moves the orange blossom more firmly into the foreground. Then tonka bean and its natural source of coumarin is enhanced by even more coumarin to really accentuate the hay nature of the tonka. This mixture of the sweet dried grass and orange blossom is gorgeous I found this part of Epidor to be enchanting. Vanilla is the base note over a few woods. The vanilla serves to tease out the sweet but M. Fontaine keeps it at the appropriate pitch so that it doesn’t harm the balance previously attained.
Epidor has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Epidor is a wonderful autumn fragrance redolent of the wheat harvest and orange blossom. I will be returning to it in six months.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Lubin.
I have mentioned this in the past but growing up near Little Havana in Miami during the 1960’s was like having another country a bicycle ride away. In our neighborhood, we had many displaced Cuban families. Their children were part of my circle of friends. As a result, their mothers introduced the anglos to lots of new things. On a hot day, Peter’s mother would make us “batidos” what were like a cross between a smoothie and a milkshake. One day she handed us a glass with a deep orange hue. In response to my quizzical look she said “mamey batido”. Mamey is a tropical fruit that tastes like a hybrid of pumpkin and cantaloupe with added sweetness. From that day, I preferred mamey in my batidos and learned to eat it out of the skin with as much pleasure as I did any orange. No trip home is complete unless I have some mamey.
Maurizio Piazzi and Francesco Gini
As I followed this year’s version of Esxence from an ocean away I was looking to see how a few of the new brands which had impressed me in 2016 were doing now. It was with great interest when the brand founded by Francesco Gini and Maurizio Piazzi, Homoelegans, debuted their third fragrance Paloma y Raices that right there in the note list was mamey. Really? Oh! Was I interested. As far as I know there has never been a perfume with mamey in its ingredient list. I was obsessed to see what perfumer Maurizio Cerizza did to create a mamey accord. As the perfume made its slow way to me my anticipation grew.
All the Homoelegans perfumes are inspired by an artist. For Paloma y Raices it is Frida Kahlo. The creative team was focused on evoking the Mexican smells which surrounded Sra. Kahlo. I am sure there is Mexico here but there was as much my childhood on Calle Ocho on display in Paloma y Raices.
One thing you will notice if you spend any significant time in the tropics is the scent of flowers are always there. One reason is the warmth is the ideal environment for many of the most extroverted white flowers. Therefore Sig. Cerizza chooses tuberose as the heartbeat of Paloma y Raices. Early on it is fruity floral before transforming to a rich oriental base.
I’ll get this out of the way Sig. Cerizza nails the scent of mamey. Mamey has a savory melon scent which is easily realized. As the mamey holds its part the tuberose forms one of the most unique fruity floral top accords you will experience. There is a humid tropical vibe which is transitioned more to the tuberose and away from the fruit. A judicious use of peppermint to find the camphor-like heart of tuberose along with ylang-ylang to provide floral depth rounds out the tuberose. It glows with vitality through the middle hours. Then a duet of tobacco and coffee remind me of the smell of cigars and Cuban coffee in the bodegas. It ends on a mixture of balsams.
Paloma y Raices has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I know Sigs. Gini and Piazzi want me to think Frida Kahlo but Paloma y Raices takes me back to summer days of tuberose and mamey on Calle Ocho.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Homoelegans.
That the Dead Letter Office is full of celebrity perfumes is not surprising. Most of the time the reason is the scent and the celebrity bear no relationship to each other. The few successes usually have a perfume loving star who does want to make a fragrance which does represent something about them. Even in those cases timing is also a large part of eventual commercial success. If the process of designing the perfume causes it to be released as the supernova begins to cool it can miss its window of opportunity. The first perfume by Madonna had a celebrity who loved perfume but she was so determined to get what she wanted it took a long time; perhaps too long before Madonna Truth or Dare was released to the world.
Madonna had spoken often of her fascination with Robert Piguet Fracas and going in she wanted Truth or Dare to be a modern take on Fracas. What she meant was a thinning out of the boisterous tuberose to something more accessible. She also wanted all of the skank that was in Fracas, indoles and musk, to not be present in Truth or Dare. Over eighteen months she would work with perfumer Stephen Nilsen on her vision.
First Mr. Nilsen had to come up with a base accord which would not become obliterated by the tuberose. His choice was to go with a gourmand accord of caramel and amber. It was the first thing Madonna and Mr. Nilsen agreed upon. From there it was the typical give and take of perfumer and creative director as they tried to find this modern tuberose accord. This was where the bulk of the process was stuck for months until they were happy. In the spring of 2012 Truth or Dare was released.
Truth or Dare opens with the tuberose matched with its white flower cousins, gardenia and jasmine. As she apparently desired these are white flowers scrubbed clean of their dirtier components. It does allow for it to feel a bit greener at the expense of the creaminess that the mixture of these florals usually provide. As the white flowers move towards that caramel and amber base the gourmand nature turns it into an exotic dessert perfume.
Truth or Dare has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Truth or Dare was discontinued as of the end of 2016; it never gained much of a foot hold. One of the reasons was despite the promise to be exclusive to specific department stores by Memorial Day 2012 it was on sale at Walmart and Target in the US. That was a remarkable lack of faith in the fragrance to move it onto those shelves in a matter of weeks. As I was reacquainting myself with it I was thinking if the tuberose was made even more transparent it would fit in the current day trend of light gourmand florals.
The basic reason Truth or Dare is in the Dead Letter Office is trying to make a modern version of a classic perfume is not easy no matter how dedicated to the task you are. It ends up pleasing nobody. While she might be a Material Girl; Truth or Dare showed she was not a Fragrance Girl.
Disclosure: this review was based on a bottle I purchased.
Ever since we moved to the Washington DC area we have not taken advantage of all that the area has to offer. There is one thing we have done every spring since we moved here and we do it in a way different than most. In 1912 Japan gifted 3,000 cherry trees to the United States which were planted around the Tidal Basin in Washington DC. It took a lot of care and replacement of trees that died to keep the grove thriving; which it has. There is always a huge cherry blossom festival in the city during March and the area swells with tourists. This is where being local has its advantages as Mrs. C and I avoid the crowds by visiting after midnight on an evening with a full or near-full moon. The moonlight provides what I believe to be the perfect illumination to the spring shower of petals as they rain down with the breeze. As we sip our sake and walk through the trees we are met with the vitality of the young as they seal their attraction with kisses under the cherry trees. Mrs. C and I share a kiss of affirmation of many years of happiness. One thing which has always struck me on these evenings is the overall milieu of scents, there is an inherent delicacy as the grass, the flowers, the wood of the trees, the sake, the water, and the moonlight provide the veil over it all.
I would receive my sample of the new DSH Perfumes Gekkou Hanami a few days after this year’s visit. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz translates that to “sakura gazing in the moonlight” where she seemingly was inspired by the same thought.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
Ms. Hurwitz mentions that the Japanese reverence for the sakura cherry blossoms is they are a symbol of beauty and death. It is part of the process as the shower of the beautiful petals comes as the blossoms begin to expire over a couple weeks. Ms. Hurwitz captures the delicacy and weight of those two terms within Gekkou Hanami.
Yuzu is the gateway to the grove. Ms. Hurwitz uses it as a tart kiss with which to enter into Gekkou Hanami. First up is the green of the grass with an accord of different green ingredients. This isn’t photorealistic it is the green blades as washed out by moonlight. It is sheer as is almost every phase in this perfume. The stage for the cherry blossoms is set by rose, lilac, and honey. Honey can be a problematic note but recently perfumers have been using it as an opaque effect upon which to float some other notes; which is what happens here. Then a triumphant cherry blossom accord arrives. All too often in a perfume based on this the perfume goes for overtly almost cough syrup sweet. That is not what you experience in a rain of cherry blossoms. What I smell both in reality and in Gekkou Hanami is the delicate sense of petals paired with the green of newly budded trees. Ms. Hurwitz captures it all as beauty has been served. For the death half of the duality she brings a base of cedar and frankincense. These are pitched with a little more strength as they tend to overwhelm the delicacy as the incense in the cedar paneled temple provides a meditative space to end upon.
Gekkou Hanami has 8-10 hour longevity and very little sillage.
Ms. Hurwitz has a special touch when she allows Japan to inspire her perfumery. Many of my very favorites are when she produces fragrance in this vein. Gekkou Hanami is an ephemerally beautiful piece of perfumery capturing midnight in the garden of beauty and death.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes
When a store puts their name on a bottle of perfume they take a risk in potentially diminishing the overall brand. When a brand does it right it has the effect of burnishing the reputation of all involved. This has been the case in the line named for the iconic New York perfume store Aedes de Venustas. In 2012 when they released the first perfume under their name it was what I expected. A fragrance which was honed from decades of serving customers in the store and finding what styles leave lasting impressions. Owners Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner teamed up with Francois Duquesne as the creative directors. Over five more releases since that first one they have done nothing but confirm that initial impression. If there is an overall aesthetic to the line it is for richer, opulent constructions. The latest release Pelargonium adds in a formal elegance to that.
Karl Bradl (l.) and Robert Gerstner
Perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer was asked to work on Pelargonium. Her desire was to create a perfume which was like a still life painting done by a Dutch Master. Still Life as an art form was at its height during the latter years of the 1700’s. The name itself comes from an anglicizing of the Dutch word “stilleven”. The idea was to arrange common everyday objects and capture them using shadow, light, and color to provide new perspective. What it accomplished was to allow a viewer to see the everyday as something to appreciate. Mme Feisthauer takes one of the most common of floral notes, geranium, using it as the focal point around which she arranges the rest of her composition.
From the first days of my perfume obsession I have been very fond of geranium. The “green rose” effect it adds to a perfume has appealed to me. Only rarely is it allowed to stand out on its own. Mme Feisthauer chooses an Egyptian Geranium essential oil as the centerpiece of Pelargonium.
Before that geranium arrives Mme Feisthauer uses the lemon-tinted resin, elemi, as the opening. As the geranium begins to come forward so do a series of notes meant to surround but not override. Green cardamom and clary sage are used to support the green leafy nature of the geranium. Orris and carrot are here to give the rosy floral nature a bit of a modification. One of the reasons I think you don’t see geranium as a focus is it becomes very easy to experience it as a half-hearted rose. Which is why by using two rooty notes Mme Feisthauer turns that into something primitive and earthy. It also allows that green accord more traction, too. The earthiness is continued into the base with vetiver. The vetiver here carries a bit of smokiness with it which I liked more than if a straight vetiver was used. A little gaiac wood, moss, and musk round out Pelargonium.
Pelargonium has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
A Stiil Life is meant to find something beneath the common. Mme Feisthauer’s Still Life of Geranium does that. Every choice illuminates the focal point along with the other things in the picture. Pelargonium carries the elegance of a fine piece of art.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Arielle Shoshanna.
Three years ago, if I had asked anyone to name the members of the Guardians of the Galaxy I am pretty certain the most common response would have been, “Who?” Now I think I would get the correct answer from a large majority. It is credit to director/writer James Gunn and the actors who made the roles that this is so. Now comes the opportunity to see if they can do it a second time with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
This second version picks up after our band of misfit heroes have been living together a while. One of the main themes of this movie is the concept that the family you choose is as important as the family you are born into. The Guardians are family by choice; every decision they make throughout the movie is meant to protect that. The forces trying to wedge themselves in between are the family by blood of some of the characters. As each of these characters are faced with an option it plays on the idea of friendship over genetics. Mr. Gunn pens a funny fast-moving story but throughout is the same heart of a group of outcasts having found a home. It is that heart which makes both movies stand out among the other movies concerned with those who save the galaxy, world, city, or neighborhood.
There are two incredible performances which illustrate this quality. The first is the one you’ve seen in many of the commercials, Baby Groot; voiced by Vin Diesel. After Groot sacrificed himself to save everyone in the first movie he is growing back from a twig. In Vol. 2 he is a precocious toddler doing the things which end up on Facebook feeds i.e. being generally cute. It is the subtler moments as the rest of the crew protects him from danger and he reaches out for all of them, not just Rocket, for comfort. Groot saved them last time and this time he is their responsibility.
Michael Rooker as Yondu
The other performance is Michael Rooker as Yondu the Ravager who captured Peter/Star-Lord on Earth and instead of delivering him to his father kept him as part of his crew. That choice was part of something broader which is not fully explained until midway through the story. When that happens Yondu becomes something else than what we have seen previously. Mr. Rooker portrays the character quite beautifully becoming the largest confirmation that family by choice is best.
Mr. Gunn has written and directed a sequel which takes us deeper into every one of the Guardians past; providing new perspectives on each character. The fusion of seventies pop music with 2017 action moves is better this time. The title sequence done to the music of Mr. Blue Sky by ELO sets the mood and re-introduces us to the gang all in the time it takes to list the stars’ names.
I thought Vol.2 was better than the original movie because this time the Guardians were at risk of losing this family they chose. The personal stakes were higher even if the galaxy was once again being threatened. Mr. Gunn has made a movie about how he feels about that well worth spending a couple hours with. Just remember to sit through the credits as there are five extra scenes sprinkled throughout.
When I was regularly attending New York Fashion Week there was one show I always looked forward to, Nautica. The reason was they almost always had a bottle of perfume to give away. Nautica is known for its sportswear inspired by the water. When it comes to fashionable American beachwear Nautica is one of the leading brands. Once they began producing fragrance in 1992 you will not be surprised to know the original Nautica perfume was a classic aquatic. Unlike the clothing, it didn’t stand out from the other aquatics on the shelf in the department store. They would sort of stumble along for years imitating whatever was popular in competent but uninspiring ways. That would change in 2005.
When I attended a Nautica show around that time I was given a bottle of Nautica Blue as a giveaway. By this time, I can say I wasn’t excited to receive it. It took weeks, maybe months, before my curiosity got me to give it a try. I received quite a surprise as Blue did something completely different than the other mainstream aquatics. Perfumers Maurice Roucel and Patricia Bilodeau added in a watery violet at the heart of the aquatic bracketed by pineapple and basil. It was an evolution of the boring to something invigorating. Consumers seemed to also enjoy the change and Blue has become the evergreen tentpole for the brand. I admire Blue so much when my press sample of the new Blue Sail arrived I wondered whether it would be as innovative for 2017 as Blue was for 2005.
Laurent Le Guernec
Perfumer Laurent Le Guernec wasn’t looking for innovation it seems like he was more intent on working within the classic fougere architecture with a few contemporary flourishes. While not boundary pushing, Blue Sail is a good mainstream aquatic fougere.
Blue Sail opens with an orange rind in place of the typical orange pulp. Paired with the very typical rosemary the rind has more pronounced green facets which allow the rosemary to intersect with it more smoothly than if it was just the fruit. The heart is lavender supported by the light woody cypress and the acerbic juniper berry. The juniper gives a transparent gin vibe to the citrus herbal lavender traditional core. Sandalwood and vetiver finish Blue Sail off where many fougeres find their base.
Blue Sail has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Blue Sail does feel a bit like a throwback to the early days of the fragrance part of Nautica except I like the modern twist M. Le Guernec adds to the fougere more than I liked any of those. If you’re looking for a good fougere to throw into your beach bag Blue Sail is a good choice.
Disclosure: this review is based on a press sample provided by Nautica.
Nearly every perfume I smell conjures up a vision. Different places, specific kinds of ingredients, memories of the past. A few of them resonate with my imagination as to what event I might wear them to. When it comes to Jo Malone there are a disproportionate number of fragrances which seem perfect for a summer garden party. The qualities I find, which is part of the brand aesthetic, that put me in a linen suit on a lawn are these; transparency, brightness, and ease of wear. The latest release Star Magnolia captures all of that.
Perfumer Anne Flipo composed her first fragrances for Jo Malone a year ago with the five perfume Herb Garden Collection. She would follow that up with Basil & Neroli in the fall. Star Magnolia gets her out of the herbal side of Jo Malone and places her square in their floral wheel house. In those first six releases for the brand Mme Flipo had a clear command of what the brand has stood for since its founding. With Star Magnolia, she shows that understanding again.
Star Magnolia is primarily a lemon-magnolia-sandalwood construction. Mme Flipo adds in supporting notes especially in the heart but those three notes I just listed is what you will mostly remember after wearing it.
The opening moments are a sunny lemon. When it comes to my summer scents lemon is one of my more favorite choices as the lead citrus note. Here Mme Flipo adds some zip with ginger and some leafy green. The heart is where the magnolia shows up. Magnolia has a lemony character to it and the note sort of appears from within the lemon. Neroli helps amplify the floral while the green from the top persists into the heart. The final note is sandalwood leavened with a moderate amount of amber.
Star Magnolis has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
One reason I enjoyed Star Magnolia is the same reason I enjoy walking the lawn at a real garden party. There is something simply beautiful about the combination of flowers, grass and sun. Star Magnolia captures all of that. It makes for a perfume ideal for the warmer months coming.
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by Jo Malone.
One of the great things about independent perfumers is they can design their perfumes to satisfy their vision. A few years ago, I met west coast-based perfumer Sherri Sebastian at an Elements Showcase in New York City. On that day, she introduced me to her new line of perfume. There was one which just grabbed me; Purusa Root. It was a vetiver based perfume in which ginger played a prominent role. I eagerly awaited more from Ms. Sebastian.
It took nearly five years for that to arrive funnily enough at another trade show in New York City, Tranoi Parfum. I had been used to seeing Ms. Sebastian and her informing me something was coming; I expected more of the same. Instead she ushered me to a pedestal with her new brand and three new releases. The new brand is called Provision and it is a full-service beauty line covering body as well as fragrance. Ms. Sebastian was inspired by her current hometown of Los Angeles when designing the line. The three fragrances are all quite nice. Resonance is a warm resinous perfumed hug. A lovely comfort scent. Las Flores is an expansive mix of orange blossom and amber reminiscent of the blue sky over the Hollywood Hills. The one which intrigued me most was Maitri.
Maitri is an evolution of Root as it is again centered on a core of vetiver and ginger. In Root Ms. Sebastian took that combination deep in to the soil. Maitri goes the other direction as it climbs the tree above the ground as Ms. Sebastian adds both bark and bite to Maitri.
Maitri opens with a sparkly bergamot to provide a nod to the never-ending sunny days of LA. Then the vetiver Ms. Sebastian has sourced is a spectacular transparent version. Vetiver can sometimes wear very heavily. This version does not; it comes off equal parts green and woody. The ginger picks up on the former becoming an energetic dancing partner. This same duet is what made Root so memorable for me and it does so in Maitri, too. Where Maitri differs is in Ms. Sebastian’s use of oakmoss to provide some bite to the woody aspect of vetiver. The final piece of Maitri is what Ms. Sebastian describes as a “Mandarin musk accord” which appears as an opaque botanical musk.
Maitri has 8-10 hour longevity and below average sillage.
Ms. Sebastian has been one of the independent perfumers who has always been able to communicate a clear vision for her fragrances followed by execution. It is not as easy to do as it was for me to write. If you are looking for a great vetiver for the summer Provision Maitri is one to try.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Provision.
One thing I want to do with this series is also point out good brands which have good perfumes for a modest price. I would also like these to be easily available but the one I am recommending this month isn’t as accessible as it should be. I became aware of Korres through my participation on the online perfume forums. The first release was Pepper Jasmine Gaiac Wood Passion Fruit. I was completely enthralled with this peppered jasmine. I still wear some during the summer. This was released at the end of 2009 yet finding a bottle is problematic.
Korres is a Greek brand which is part of its US distribution issue I think. What this leads to is re-stocking after inventory sells out seems to be problematic. Which is too bad because each release wears its main ingredients on its label. You almost know if you’re inclined to like it before you even pick up a bottle. There is an admirable WYSIWYG aspect of that as there is not one of these where the named ingredients don’t sing out. Only in the case of a few of them do I know who the perfumer is. There is no evidence at all who is doing the creative direction although the brand has been founded by George and Lena Korres. I would love to give credit to the creative team because these are worth knowing who is responsible for them. For the purpose of the column I am going to focus on the last new release I received; Blue Sage Lime Fir Wood.
As I mentioned the name tells you what you will be experiencing if not in the order you will detect it. To show this it is the lime that comes first. It is supported by grapefruit and given a sprightly green herbal contrast by mint leaves. The heart uses geranium to draw out the green quality of the mint before the sage and fir arrive with a flourish. You really have to enjoy sage and fir because they are here at full volume. I like the way all of the Korres perfumes are not attempting to shy away from their focal points. The base is patchouli and vetiver also not presented in a delicate way.
Blue Sage Lime Fir Wood has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
The apothecary influence which is paramount for all of the Korres releases also leads to powerful perfumes. If you are not a fan of this style it is probably not worth the effort to track Korres down. If you do like the occasional powerhouse you can find many of the Korres releases on the online auction sites as well as every now and then the bigger perfume e-tailers. If this sounds good make the effort I think you’ll be rewarded with something nice for a good price.
Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle I purchased.