Independent perfumer Josh Meyer has been producing perfume for his Imaginary Authors brand since 2012. He has embodied that indie ethos of doing things his own way. From the start his fragrances showed a lot of promise but they also felt like we were undergoing some on-the-job training with him. This leads to a place where if there is something there all the lessons learned come together and there is a period of sustained creativity. In my estimation that happened with 2014’s Yesterday Haze. Since that release there has been not only releases for Imaginary Authors, but also a collection for Portland, OR store The Sum and a collaboration with Sam Rader of Dasein on Winter Nights. Through all of this I have felt like the work for The Sum was him experimenting with restraint which has been in short supply in his original brand. Winter Nights was a true collaboration which wove magic as Ms. Rader and he found an incredibly balanced construct. All of this comes home in Imaginary Authors O, Unknown!
The faux literary inspiration for O, Unknown! is the final installment of the Philip Sava trilogy who was the author behind Memoirs of a Trespasser and Cape Heartache. For O, Unknown! Mr. Sava is faced with his mortality he tells, “the story of a man grappling with the meaning of life as he grasps to life’s last vestiges.”
The perfume captures the final wanderings of our author as he moved from Bangladesh into Nepal, Tibet and rural China. This translates into the rich black tea found in Bangladesh and the Chinese Lapsang Souchong over a traveler’s accord which captures the final journey.
Mr. Meyer takes black tea and combines it with a tincture of Lapsang Souchong. The tincture has the effect of pulling the focus to the tea instead of the smokiness. It is there but it lilts instead of creating a fog. It is a gorgeously realized delicacy unlike any other beginning Mr. Meyer has used before. The keynote for O, Unknown! Is a rich orris butter where the powdery is jettisoned in place of the rhizomal earthiness. It is that which provides some weight to the tea accord. This all leads to a forest walk of sandalwood, moss, and musk as the last hike ends.
O, Unknown! has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
This is the best perfume Mr. Meyer has made because he is willing to walk the tightrope of delicacy and heft. O, Unknown! has the ability to stay high in the clouds while keeping the ground below in sight. This might be the final story of our imaginary author but it the best perfume by the non-imaginary perfume author behind it.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Imaginary Authors.
One of the fun things about the gathering of perfume lovers that the internet spawned was when lemmings were spawned. The typical life cycle for this was for someone to stumble over a press release describing a perfume to come which sounded amazing. The next stage was a general amplification of desire as it was imagined what it would smell like. Then the first people would get the chance to try it. If they came back and reported it was as good, or better, the stampede was initiated, and we rushed headlong to the cliff…um…I mean the store. The final stage was a kind of post-coital languor as we all talked about how good it was. In 2008 one of the largest lemmings ever born was Comme des Garcons x Monocle Scent One: Hinoki.
Comme des Garcons had serious perfumista cred in 2008 as creative director Christian Astuguevieille had defined what it meant to be a niche fragrance. Merging that aesthetic with a non-fragrance brand was another interesting step. Monocle was a lifestyle magazine founded by Tyler Brule in 2007, Besides lifestyle there were also international affairs stories in between the sleek furniture and cutting-edge fashion. The sensibilities seemed like a good match.
Towards the end of 2007 it was announced that the first perfume from this collaboration was going to be called Scent One: Hinoki. Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu was going to bring the juice to life. Scent One: Hinoki was meant to evoke a soak in a hinoki wood tub amidst a pine forest in Japan. What was great about this perfume when we were in the imagining what it would smell like phase of the lemming cycle was the inclusion of this top note, turpentine. Turpentine? You mean mineral spirits? Lots of debate on whether that was going to be good or not. It, plus another challenging note, would become the acid test on whether it was worth the chase.
That other note is camphor and along with the turpentine that is what you get at the start. It is challenging in a nose wrinkling kind of way. When I first tried it on a paper strip it put me off in a big way. When I finally put some on my skin it was completely different as the challenging aspects became more diffused on my skin. Then the camphor and turpentine turn into a raw wood accord. If you’ve ever worked with green wood this is the smell of that. As that fades a more finished wood appears; cypress and pine are the choices. Green is introduced via vetiver, thyme, and moss adding back some of the rawer character lost with the more refined woods ascension. In the base the incense burning just outside the tub swirls over it all.
Scent One: Hinoki has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
During 2008 I was tracking what the most reported scents in the Scent of the Day thread in the forum were. On the men’s forum Scent One: Hinoki was one of the top 5 for the year. The really final stage of a lemming is it is forgotten as the crowd chases the next one. Scent One: Hinoki is good enough it shouldn’t be forgotten or found Under the Radar.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
No white after Labor Day. Red wine for meat and white wine for fish. Citrus perfume is for summer. These kinds of pseudo-rules are supposed to make our lives easier. They can also have the effect on never allowing us to color outside the lines. Which is silly on my part because it is out on the margins where things can be the most exhilarating. This is the second year in a row when a new citrus focused release has challenged my assertion that citrus is for the dog days.
Masaya Kuroki and Gildas Loaec
When it comes to coloring outside the lines Maison Kitsune has been doing that with their multi-platform stylings founded by Masaya Kuroki and Gildas Loaec. Beginning in 2002 the pair would use the DJ nightlife of Paris as a platform to show off their clothing designs. They opened their first New York Boutique last fall. When I heard they were collaborating with James Heeley and his Heeley brand for their first perfume I was interested enough to get a sample. The trio seemingly enjoyed meshing the Japanese, French, and British aesthetics into a fragrance. The result is Maison Kitsune x Heeley Note de Yuzu.
The basis for the framework are the yuzu baths popular in Japan during the autumn months. Soaking in a wooden tub filled with salt-laden water upon which float slices of yuzu is a fall ritual for many. I was excited because I think one of the very best salt water perfumes is Heeley Sel Marin. I was interested to see if Mr. Heeley and Messrs. Kuroki and Loaec could find some spaces on the margins to create a memorable fragrance.
The yuzu is present right away, but it is presented differently than usual citrus. There is a real sense of humidity around this version of lemon. Instead of crisp brightness there is a muted diffusive effect which is made more pronounced as the sea salt accord rises for the yuzu to float upon. To really give the saltiness some extra texture a bit of seaweed adds a vegetal iodine facet which threads its way through the hot lemon water. I was enthralled by this opening because of the way it renounces the airy sunshine of most sea spray and citrus perfumes. Instead this has a kind of comforting warmth as if I was in the bath. Vetiver provides the sense of the wooden bath tub while the green overwrites the seaweed with something more typical. The final hours of Note de Yuzu are a set of white musks providing a soft slightly powdery final phase.
Note de Yuzu has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I would have never believed Mr. Heeley could have improved on Sel Marin but Note de Yuzu is much better. I think it is because by collaborating with rulebreakers like Messrs. Kuroki and Loaec it brought out a freer style within. Note de Yuzu is what happens when perfumery is practiced outside the lines.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Maison Kitsune.
Looking back with science to find out about our ancestors has become all the rage. There is a desire to understand where you came from to inform where you are going. Unlike the fanciful stories in the commercials I found out my genealogy is exactly as I had been told my whole life. The only thing I discovered is my grandfather’s claim that there was some Cherokee blood was not borne out by science. I found that confirming my ancestry in this way was comforting. My place in the flow of history is anchored by the generations before. When you ask a perfumer to use “roots” as an inspiration you expect the literal application of ingredients which have roots to be used. Independent perfumer Tanja Bochnig took this a step further for April Aromatics Pink Wood.
The beginnings of Pink Wood came from Ms. Bochnig’s entry into the OSA! Competition at the Smell Festival in Bologna, Italy in May of this year. The theme all the perfumers were asked to interpret was “Roots”. I think these kinds of projects can have the effect of taking a perfumer in a different direction than when left on their own. In this case Ms. Bochnig sought to tie notes that are roots to the concept that “home is where the heart is”. This results in a perfume where a heart of layered rose is surrounded by the rooting effect of the earth grounding it all.
Pink Wood opens with a suite of dried fruits, they provide a concentrated effect without becoming too exuberant. The rose heart is a mixture of geranium and Turkish rose. The latter has a rich spicy core which is enhanced here. The remnants of the fruits provide sweet contrast while the geranium drapes it in a green tinted veil. This is a rose accord which evolves minute-by-minute and as the roots ensnare it that is when Pink Wood takes off. Oud, sandalwood, labdanum, oak wood, and aged patchouli are the roots below the rose. The oud swirls through the heart, like smoke from a brazier with oud chips burning within. Sandalwood provides a steady platform for the heart accord to rest upon. Oak accentuates some of the rougher aspects of the oud while labdanum coats it all in a resinous shell. The linchpin to the base accord is an aged patchouli from Indonesia. Used sparingly it unites the disparate genes in the base into a cohesive whole upon which the rose heart can rise above in glorious waves.
Pink Wood has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Pink Wood is among the best perfumes Ms. Bochnig has released. It has a dynamic profile not often found and my description above does not capture that quality adequately. There is the concept of life in motion grounded by the earth below. In the OSA! Competition Pink Wood finished third which makes me wonder how good the other two above it were. For 2017, Pink Wood is one of the best perfumes of the year.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by April Aromatics.
Earlier this week in the hive mind that is Facebook a friend put out the following question, “Could you recommend a not bloody horror movie to watch with her teenager?” Always happy to participate in these kinds of things I immediately typed out “The Sixth Sense”. That was when it got interesting as one of the other worker bees responded, “that isn’t horror that is suspense.” As soon as I saw it I knew I agreed which got me thinking about the difference.
I began my thought experiment with Alfred Hitchcock who was dubbed the “Master of Suspense”. His movies were all about slowly bringing a viewer along with a plot where the threads slowly braid together, then continue to tighten until the strands break. One of the best examples of this type of suspense is in the 1954 film “Rear Window”. The main protagonist is confined to a wheelchair and spies on the neighboring building. Early on he thinks he sees a murder. The rest of the movie is the question of whether he saw what he saw and if he did is he in danger?
Much of what we consider suspense these days are new artists riffing on the playbook Mr. Hitchcock created. Despite the sobriquet lauding his skill at suspense he also made two of the all-time horror movies; “Psycho” and “The Birds”. The difference in both is the monster is evident with our heroes trying to find a way to survive.
Which is what makes “The Sixth Sense” suspense. The movie spends its running time revealing a secret. The pinnacle of modern suspense is director David Fincher’s “Se7en”. The movie chronicles two detectives tracking down a serial killer inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins. As each murder scene is discovered it brings the policemen ever closer to the killer until the movie reaches a chilling climax. “The Silence of the Lambs” is another movie where the monstrous villain is but a piece of the ever-tightening tension within the overall movie. Because both are seen from the perspective of law enforcement instead of the killer we are drawn in as an audience to want resolution while it seemingly stays out of reach.
Horror displays its wares out in the open from early on. From the moment the young girl Regan is possessed by the demon in “The Exorcist” the question is not where is the monster but how can we stop this? It applies equally as well to the slasher automatons like Michael Myers of “Halloween”, Jason of “Friday the 13th” or Freddy Krueger of “Nightmare on Elm Street”. One of my favorite scenes in this movie is after Michael Myers has been stabbed in “Halloween” the young child says, “Don’t you know you can’t kill the boogeyman?” Just as he rises up in the background. The audience screams and the final act is underway.
There are elements of both horror and suspense in many of the films mentioned but in the end they tend to reside mostly on one side of the horror/suspense divide more completely. It is the time of year to for fear to be in the air whether it is through suspense or horror it is part of what makes movies magical.
Whenever I speak about perfume with people who are not into fragrance I try to gently point out they are surrounded by it. The easy ones are their soaps and shampoos, their fabric softener, and their spray room freshener. I point out that even the places they go have specific scents; the bakery, the coffee house, the movie theatre, or the pizza place. I almost always end up using the mall as one of those examples because for fifteen years there has been an actual perfume which is the smell of every mall which has an Abercrombie & Fitch store in it.
For those who are unfamiliar with the story Abercrombie & Fitch actually adds their cologne Fierce to their air system. Which not only permeates the store but generally the entire level of the mall the store is situated on. It can make for an interesting confluence when it is in the proximity of the food court or movie theatre. I have always thought Fierce is one of the best mass-market fragrances. It has been said it is the current generation’s version of Ralph Lauren Polo. Which is why it being this fragrance of the mall was fitting.
At the beginning of the summer as part of a number of changes Abercrombie & Fitch are going through they announced that Fierce was no longer going to be the scent of the store anymore. They were replacing it with one of their new unisex collection, Ellwood. Times change and brands which don’t keep up will find themselves left behind. I thought it was a good idea and sought out a sample set of the new perfumes. If Ellwood was going to be the new scent of the mall I wanted to give it a try.
All three of the perfumes are depressingly simple; Ryder is clean cedarwood with white musk, Hempstead is cypress and vetiver. Ellwood is white musk and bergamot. I am sure the store knows the consumer they want to attract with these but compared to Fierce these are so lacking inspiration it is perplexing to me.
Ellwood is subtitled White Bergamot which is probably because White Linen was already taken. Ellwood is a mixture of the laundry-inspired white musks cut with a bit of the bright citrus of bergamot. That’s it; that’s all there is. It smells like that from the first second to the twelfth hour.
Ellwood has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I think when I visit the mall over the Holidays I am going to be disappointed to walk by Abercrombie & Fitch and have the clean linen smell of Ellwood greet me instead of Fierce. Maybe I’ll head down to Cinnabon to get my scent of the mall from now on.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Abercrombie & Fitch.
When I got my first real job in Connecticut the person who had grown up in South Florida was going to have to adjust to New England. It was a gradual effort, but I remember one of my earliest revelations of the joys I would find in my new home.
Candlewood Lake in Fall
I lived near Candlewood Lake and wanted to spend time sailing there as a replacement for my time spent on the ocean. It was a crisp October weekday when I headed down to rent a sailboat and explore the new expanse of water. As I raised the sail and angled it to catch the wind I finally looked up to see the narrow glacier carved lake with the colorful trees covering the ground sloping down to the shore. As the wind sung through the canvas of the sail and the schuss of the water off the bow created an aural component I felt an unusual relaxation I’ve only felt a few times in my life. Every care or worry seemed to dissipate. For the next few hours it was just me, the lake, and the trees. I’ve often wondered what a fragrance which captured that might smell like; Atelier Flou Hora Fugit comes very close.
Atelier Flou is the perfume brand founded in 2009 by Jean-Francois Cabos. Back then I remember trying Katana and liking it quite a bit. Since then the brand sort of fell off my radar. They added a couple more to the original set of eight in 2014. They got back on my radar when many of the attendees at Esxence 2017 spoke highly of Hora Fugit. Having recently received a sample I saw why from the moment I opened the vial. It is a comfort scent from first to last.
M. Cabos has worked exclusively with perfumer Jacques Chabert on all eleven Atelier Flou releases. M. Chabert has been turning up in many interesting places of late. Most of the time he is harnessing new materials in unique ways. Hora Fugit is something different where some of the comfort comes with familiarity but much more of it comes from the seamless blending of the notes into a comfy perfume.
Lavandin is the focal point early on. It carries a slightly mentholated air which laurel and bergamot enhance. It is like a breath of cool, not cold, air. I found it gently refreshing. M. Chabert then constructs a hull of cedar and sandalwood. These are the clean lines of wood in fragrance writ large. Vetiver and patchouli help add some variety to the stolid woods. A soft transparent leather accord gently spiced with nutmeg and sweetened with benzoin finish the accoutrements on this fragrant vessel.
Hora Fugit has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Hora Fugit is an interesting perfume it is familiar tropes done in a way which makes it seem less familiar. The overall effect is enjoyable because of that. If you’re looking for a perfume of New England Autumn. Hora Fugit will suffice.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Thomas Paine in “The Age of Reason” opines that there is but one step between ridiculous and sublime. It is a defining juxtaposition that within the absurd there can be found something grand. When I received my sample of Nicolai Patchouli Sublime I realized, the name notwithstanding, here was a perfume analog of Mr. Paine’s wisdom.
Patricia de Nicolai has been creating perfumes in either Intense or Sublime versions for many years. Long enough that there are sometimes pairs, as is the case here. In 2009, Patchouli Intense was a dark earthy gourmand patchouli. For 2017 the follow-up Patchouli Sublime has arrived. For the Sublime version Mme de Nicolai wanted to fashion a version that was airier than the Intense. To achieve this an opening fougere-like accord gave me the ridiculous as I struggled mightily with it. Only to find about an hour later the sublime beauty of patchouli and geranium to combine into something grand.
Patricia de Nicolai
The reason I have for my laughter at the opening is it feels like mint, coriander and lavender come together in a mixture of mouthwash, gin, and room freshener. I understand the desire to create an airy style of top accord except for me it comes off laughably pedestrian. When I first tried my sample on a strip it was only the hints of what was underneath that made me give it a sniff an hour later only to find something entrancing. When I wore Patchouli Sublime the cheap opening took about forty-five minutes to dissipate before the patchouli and geranium thankfully take over. Mme de Nicolai is using a few sources of patchouli where the earthy qualities are tamped down and the greener herbal nature is enhanced. This makes its duet with the green rosiness of the geranium a lovely harmonic. This is a gorgeous heart accord which is given some rounding with tobacco, tonka, and musks. The first two provide a sweeter outline around the keynotes. The musks add their typical animalic sensuality.
Patchouli Sublime has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I admit I have problems with mint in perfume and the mint here is one which makes me think of dental products exclusively. The coriander and lavender also come off poorer because of that. If you are a fan of these notes the opening will probably be much better for you than me. What I can unequivocally say is after that top accord disappears the patchouli and geranium are beautifully realized together. Enough so that Mr. Paine would see his truth within Patchouli Sublime.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I have written in the past how much I enjoy when a perfumer stamps their virtual signature on a creation with an accord. Just the construction of it can be revelatory to the aesthetic of the perfumer. The more fragrance I encounter the more I am drawn to those effects which are created rather than sourced from nature. In Juliette Has a Gun Sunny Side Up perfumer Romano Ricci shows the flexibility working like this can give someone.
The art of modern perfumery is that of composing an accord to mimic something in nature. It provides an abstraction as a perfumer homes in on what they find interesting. It also allows for a more precise way of having a specific effect within an overall perfume by being able to tune it to the desired volume and presence. In Sunny Side Up there are two accords M. Ricci creates one of coconut and one of sandalwood which provide the core of the fragrance. Sunny Side Up is meant to be a beachy perfume and the coconut does give it a suntan lotion vibe, but it is the sandalwood which is the prime focal point which I guess I can stretch to being similar to driftwood.
Sunny Side Up opens with that coconut suntan lotion accord. M. Ricci uses the tropical oiliness of jasmine lactone along with actual jasmine sambac, salicylates, and vanilla. It comes together in an unctuous creamy accord that smells of coconut and fruit. It is a happy fun opening. Iris provides a powdery interlude before the sandalwood accord comes up. M. Ricci is using one of the sandalwood aromachemicals. To which he might be adding some other woody synthetics. The result is a desiccated sandalwood lacking some of the sweeter creamy aspects of the real essential oil. It also has cleaner edges more akin to cedar. To provide even more of this effect there is a lot of Iso E super in the base. The only thing modulating it is the use of the botanical musk of ambrette seeds.
Sunny Side Up has 18-20 hour longevity and average sillage.
Both the top accord and the base accord are made up of things which many perfume lovers have issues with; I am one of them. Which is why I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Sunny Side Up. It comes together with a restrained mirth that overcomes my reticence with good humor. Maybe I need more simulation in my life.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Juliette Has a Gun.
I try not to use sport metaphors in perfume reviews but every once in a while, it fits what I am thinking. In the sport of basketball as you are on offense and looking for a path to the basket the player with the ball is expected to use their skills to “create space”. What that means is you use footspeed, ball handling skills, or some assistance from a teammate to get free and drive towards the basket for an open shot. When it comes to perfume I think when a brand enters a crowded genre they also must look to create space from their competitors. One of the most crowded spaces for new perfumes is the cozy vanilla. Annick Goutal Nuit et Confidences looks to see if it has the skills to create some space in that sector.
A year ago, with the release of Tenue de Soiree creative director Camille Goutal began the Oiseaux de Nuit collection. In my review of that first release I mentioned that this seemed like a pivot point for Annick Goutal to try to attract a younger consumer to the brand. Working with perfumer Mathieu Nardin they managed to keep the Annick Goutal aesthetic within a more transparent style of perfume. Seeing that M. Nardin was once again the perfumer for Nuit et Confidences I presumed this would be the blueprint to be followed again. It is, sort of, but there is a clever twist to add something just a tiny bit more which is where I think they were trying to create some differences.
The early going is likened to “champagne bubbles and sequin dresses” which I guess I can somewhat see. It is a lively mixture of bergamot, incense, black pepper, and florals. It doesn’t fizz and sparkle so much as smolder on my skin, but this may be semantics. This is a very transparent accord which sets the stage for the vanilla to arrive. The vanilla early on sets up shop in the middle of the spectrum between airy and heavy. Then M. Nardin uses a set of white musks to stealthily push it towards the airy end of the scale. It is a nice effect where it allows the vanilla to move from heavy to light rather than the opposite which is what is most often encountered. This is where Nuit et Confidences makes its move towards the basket.
Nuit et Confidences has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I am liking the direction Annick Goutal is moving in which preserves what made the brand one of the original niche brands while carving out a new space to remain relevant. Mme Goutal and M. Nardin seemingly share a vision of what this looks like as Nuit et Confidences shows that shared confidence.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Annick Goutal.