I mention this every time I write about Montale; subtle they are not. It probably says something about me that I own over a dozen of the metal bottles from the brand. The thing which I don’t think they get enough credit for is power is not just an exercise in increasing the amounts of the ingredients. There is a finer effort required to produce power with style. That is Montale’s stock-in-trade.
What I also enjoy in the Montale perfumes that I own is within all that presence there are teased out character I don’t experience in other perfumes with the ingredient in it. Two of my favorites which do that are Red Vetyver and Patchouli Leaves. Those perfumes are classic releases from the brand. When I received the new Vetiver Patchouli it felt like the child of those two previous releases.
Vetiver Patchouli opens with the vetiver in its greenest form. It is rapidly surrounded by mandarin and baie rose. They each find some of that undercurrent I spoke of earlier as they find threads of citrus and green to bring forward. This is a beautifully refreshing version of vetiver early on. It begins to change as carrot is used to give an earthy sweetness to capture those qualities in the vetiver. It dives right into the topsoil as the patchouli comes into play. This is that dark patchouli I so loved in Patchouli Leaves given a more vibrant cool partner in the vetiver which provides some points of light within the patchouli darkness.
Vetiver Patchouli has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you do not enjoy dark patchouli in your perfume stay away because this is that type of patchouli as done by Montale. I find it a beautifully rich version of patchouli. What makes Vetiver Patchouli so good is the vetiver stabs that density with daggers of light. The vetiver as transformed by the mandarin, baie rose, and especially the carrot can find space within that depth the patchouli provides. This is going to be another addition to my shelf of Montale as I think it is their best release of the last couple of years.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
Of the many things I cherish about the independent perfume community; the option to follow your creative urging wherever it leads is near the top. When it really comes together for me is when those perfumers color outside of the lines. Making perfume which is adventurous and intelligent. The Aether Arts Perfume Exobotany Series is a continuation of the recent work, in that vein, by perfumer Amber Jobin.
It seems to me that Ms. Jobin’s imagination was nudged in a new direction when she composed 2017’s Touchstone. That was meant to represent a smartphone. A year later she followed up with The AI Series which explored the nature of artificial intelligence over three remarkable perfumes. For the Exobotany Series we are traveling to three planets where Ms. Jobin imagines what they would smell like. Each planetscape provides a new scented horizon to explore.
Garden on a Far Planet– In this iteration we arrive in the tropical zone of the planet. There is a burgeoning green quality. Ms. Jobin captures the sweeter nature of dense greenery along with the expected vegetal beats. Underneath it all is a rocky mineral-like accord representing the surface of this new world. The interplay between the rockiness and the greenness is captivating.
Specimen 3– Our landing craft finds a slope covered in flowers to set down upon. As we step outside the craft the metallic tang of our craft settles into the floral riot in front of us. Ms. Jobin has found a malleable metallic accord over those perfumes I mentioned earlier. It is on display again here with it providing a chilly metal container for the florals.
Specimen 9– That metallic accord returns here. It acts as a vein of metal through a stony escarpment. We stand on a thick layer of topsoil which has some lichens and flowers growing. Ms. Jobin uses patchouli to form an intergalactic soil which the metallic accord runs through. Rose and moss provide the contrast of plant life in hues of red and green.
All three perfumes are further evidence of the active mind Ms. Jobin is bringing to her perfume making. You might read the descriptions above and think these seem too experimental. As I wore these, I learned that they are all very wearable wonderful extraterrestrial accents. If you want to know why independent perfumery so vital go across the universe with the Exobotany Series.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Aether Arts Perfume.
During Sniffapalooza Fall Ball 2015 I met a young independent perfumer from Vermont named Beckie Sheloske. At that time she was collaborating with a friend on a new line of perfume. What I found interesting about Ms. Sheloske was her ability to work outside the typical independent perfumer’s palette. I expected to hear more from her because of her distinct style of composition. Then I didn’t. Until earlier this year when I was contacted by, Serena Rogers, the creative director of a new brand, Curata. I found that Ms. Sheloske had collaborated with her on the brand’s first perfume Dulceo.
Ms. Rogers wants Curata to be a brand which represents “sustainable luxury”. A part of that is to create products which exemplify the second word in that. The idea that if something is compellingly rich enough the other word carries meaning, too. When working with botanical products one of the difficult aspects of finding that luxury tipping point is having enough depth to a perfume. Most botanical perfumes are only a few layers deep. The best botanical perfumes have sustainability in an artistic aesthetic which finds something more. That is what I found with Dulceo.
Dulceo fits squarely within the current trend of floral gourmands. Where it parts ways is in the transparent part which has become so prevalent in the commercial versions of this style. This is no wispy veil; it is perfume which wants you to notice it. Ms. Sheloske again uses alternative ingredients over what might have been “obvious” even in an all-botanical setting. For Dulceo it is in those selections where it soars.
The top accord is tropical fruits of orange and guava bound together with neroli and palmarosa. That last ingredient is what I am talking about when I say Ms. Sheloske works off a different palette. Palmarosa has a very green effect it complements the green within neroli with more strength. Those two notes support the orange and guava to form a tropical accord that is not insipid. Ms. Sheloske shows the same skill at balancing jasmine, frangipani, cassie flower, and tuberose in the heart. You can read that list and expect white flower power on the way. Ms. Sheloske instead blends them together in a perfumed lei which forms a luminous whole. I particularly like the way she manages the indolic nature of her ingredients. She doesn’t scrub them clean, but she does find a way to make them purr instead of growl. Then we get to the gourmand base. When I saw the name Dulceo my mind went to the caramel sauce “dulce de leche” used in Latin American cooking. It is a lighter version of caramel. Ms. Sheloske also uses a lighter version of caramel in the base. Where she adds remarkable depth is in the addition of cocoa to the caramel. Cocoa usually has this nature of dustiness when used. Ms. Sheloske finds a way to make it lusher through adding vanilla. When this comes together it forms a delicious gooey candy accord.
Dulceo has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
As an introduction to a new brand Ms. Rogers has lived up to her desire for sustainable luxury in Dulceo. As a re-introduction to Ms. Sheloske I hope I am not waiting four more years before trying another perfume from her; it is just too long. If you are looking for an all-botanical floral gourmand with depth; Dulceo is where you should be searching.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Curata.
I have come to acknowledge my music playlist mirrors my perfume rotation. There are songs, and fragrances, which are better in a specific season. The other thing music has in common with perfume is it can conjure up time and place. One musician who is a summertime staple and a reminder of my life in South Florida is Jimmy Buffett.
Jimmy Buffett has become known over the last thirty years as one of the great concert performers with group of adoring fans called “parrotheads”. It reflects an artist at ease with the style of music he makes who openly embraces his fans joining in the fun. I’ve never considered myself a “parrothead” because my fandom came about before all of that.
Jimmy Buffet in 1975
Mr. Buffett was a staple on South Florida FM radio and at dockside bars where even in the early 1970’s his songs could turn the party up a notch. The song I heard on the radio which caught my attention was “Why Don’t We Get Drunk” the reason it made an impression is the next two words, “and screw”. In 1973 these kind of parody songs had a place on the FM radio playlists. I would pick up the album it was on “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean” to find a set of songs that spoke of living a casual life in the tropics.
Over the next few years each subsequent release would become part of any mix tape I made. On his next album “Living and Dying in ¾ Time” it is another comedy song “God’s Own Drunk” which has always been one of my go-to choices when I need a smile.
For a long time Mr. Buffett was a musician who felt like he was going to be a regional attraction. Then in 1977 with the release of the album “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” and the monster hit “Margaritaville” that thought was blown out of the water. Suddenly everyone was looking for their “lost shaker of salt” and wanting in on the party.
That party has gone on ever since. For me when I listen to his music from 1973- 1985 it reminds me of where I grew up. The people I spent time with. A casual summer lassitude where life is on hold. I can sit on my porch in Poodlesville put in the headphones and be in the Florida Keys. There is magic to that.
I may not identify as a “parrothead”, but I will be spending a lot of time this summer with Mr. Buffett at the top of my playlist.
I have been fortunate to spend my share of summer days at the beach towns of Cape Cod or the far end of Long Island. One of my favorite parts of the day was sunrise. I would walk out during false dawn with a cup of coffee and sit on the dunes to watch the sun appear. This was also the time when a freshening breeze from off the water would meet me in the dune grass. There was a sweet smell to the beginning of a new day. I was reminded of these mornings with Juliette Has a Gun Vanilla Vibes.
Romano Ricci is another of the early niche perfume success stories. Since 2006 he has produced an eclectic collection which contains some of my favorites of the last few years. Vanilla Vibes is his first attempt to make a gourmand style perfume. That he also chose to give it an aquatic twist is typical of the kind of aesthetic which has defined his brand over the years.
Vanilla Vibes opens with that salty breeze from an ingredient he calls “fleur de sel”. Fleur de sel is the salt which is harvested from evaporating seawater. As a perfume ingredient it seems like a delicate accord of ozonic and sea spray ingredients. This is kept very transparent. The vanilla comes forward which the salt accord swirls around softening the sweetness quotient. M. Ricci also provides a hint of tropical breezes with orchid acting as a supporting note. That airiness is enhanced with a suite of musks while tonka bean further keeps the vanilla from becoming overwhelming. Sandalwood provides the woody base for it all to rest upon.
Vanilla Vibes has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As a vanilla fragrance this could have become a sticky out of control mess. To M. Ricci’s credit he keeps the entire composition at a comfortable opacity. Spraying on Vanilla Vibes is another way to start my day with a smile dreaming of vanilla on the dunes.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
When I’m deciding what perfume to wear in the summer my eyes always pause on my collection of favorite vetivers. Warm weather and vetiver go together like peas and carrots. (Sorry Forrest Gump) Vetiver is also one of the most versatile ingredients in all of perfumery having a multi-faceted profile. Over recent years perfumers have been using various fractions of vetiver to enhance certain parts of that profile. They have been part of some excellent perfume. Except my summertime shelf of vetiver is only populated by those fragrances which want to give me a full-spectrum vetiver at their heart. I have recently found a new perfume which achieves this; Bentley Beyond Wild Vetiver.
The perfumes inspired by the iconic luxury car Bentley are one of those unsung collections which has produced above average fragrances. Many of the car brands which have perfume affiliated with them are through the bigger beauty corporations. For Bentley that means Lalique is responsible for the collection which began in 2012. I think the second fragrance released under the Bentley label; Bentley for Men Intense is one of the best designer fragrances of the last ten years. There has been a noticeable aesthetic which has formed over the last seven years which is probably due to Lalique creative director Marc Roesti. He has overseen perfumes which capture a sophistication befitting the brand.
Mr. Roesti’s latest addition is a series of three perfumes called the Bentley Beyond collection; Exotic Musk, Majestic Cashmere, and Wild Vetiver. This is a different direction than what has come before. The previous Bentley releases have been complex masculine-style perfume. The Beyond collection is still focused on a masculine aesthetic but with stripped down construction focused on the note listed in the name. I like all three, but Wild Vetiver is the one which connected with me. Mr. Roesti asked perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur to take vetiver and display all the kaleidoscopic hues of this versatile ingredient.
She uses an Indonesian version of vetiver as the core. In the early moments she uses pepper to tease out the grapefruit quality of vetiver. It adds a roughness which becomes a recurring theme throughout Wild Vetiver. Verbena comes next and the citrus-tinted green of that ingredient connects the grapefruit along with the sharp green aspects of the vetiver. This is a gorgeous refreshing vetiver at this point. What takes it up a level is when Mme Lancesseur takes the dry woodiness of amberwood and roughs it up with birch. It is where the wild in the name is found. The birch makes the amberwood less monolithic which then allows the woody earthiness of the vetiver a place to find purchase.
Wild Vetiver has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you like vetiver and are looking for something different Wild Vetiver is that kind of fragrance. It might take some doing to find where Bentley perfumes are carried. If you want a full-spectrum vetiver for summer Wild Vetiver will be worth the search.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bentley.
I think those who read this blog regularly know how much I enjoy finding new perfumes. It is one of the things which keeps me going that sense of search. Even though I try I just keep ending up behind the curve of certain brands. There is one brand I keep finding out about because someone else is wearing or talking about it.
In 2006 I was told about Zaharoff pour Homme by a friend who told me it was the only perfume he owned. At the time I had never heard of it. Once I tried it, I wondered why I hadn’t heard of it. George Zaharoff was a men’s fashion designer who made classic men’s clothing. I knew of him because of my time in New York City. I had no idea he had made a men’s fragrance in 1999 called Zaharoff pour Homme. When my friend introduced me to it, I was impressed at the niche-quality construction in a mainstream release. Perfumer Claude Dir made a fantastic men’s Oriental which has remained one of my favorites since obtaining a bottle in 2011 when it re-launched. Zaharoff pour Homme is one of the most successful fusions of niche sensibility inside a mainstream framework.
Now in 2019 I was going through a couple of my favorite vloggers on perfume and what do I see there is a new release; Zaharoff Signature pour Homme. It took me a couple of months to finally track down a sample. When I did, I had a bit of déjà vu as the same creative team of Mr. Zaharoff and M. Dir have again taken current niche trends and fused them into a mainstream style fragrance.
What is also quite nice about Zaharoff Signature pour Homme is it is a clear follow-up to Zaharoff pour Homme sharing a central axis of lavender, allspice and ginger, along with oud and sandalwood. Where it is very different is M. Dir adds in some newer trends to that foundation.
Lavender is used as the focal point of the top accord but this time M. Dir spears it with twin spicy prongs of black pepper and cardamom. These add a freshness to the lavender by teasing out the herbal quality. The transition to the heart comes via a precisely balanced iris it matches the lavender in intensity as the ginger and allspice make their return. The base accord become a paean to woods with some resinous depth thrown in. Sandalwood, oud accord, cedar, and balsam provide that sturdy masculine woody base loved by many.
Zaharoff Signature pour Homme has 12-14 hour longevity an average sillage.
Like Zaharoff pour Homme, Zaharoff Signature pour Homme is the kind of perfume for the man who only has a couple of bottles of perfume on his dresser. What sets it apart is Mr. Zaharoff and M. Dir know how to make that style of perfume smell just like it could be your signature scent, as well. I have enjoyed this new Zaharoff Signature pour Homme even though I am hopelessly behind the curve, again.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Nordstrom.
The sources of most musks in perfumery are derived from animal sources. Those musks have a presence to them which sets them apart. There is a source of musk in fragrance which does not come from animals. It comes from the seeds of the ambrette plant. Particularly over the past few years it has become one of the more interesting musks to use. One reason is it can be used as part of a top accord. It can substitute for the heavier musks when a lighter touch is needed in a base accord. It also is the musk I most enjoy wearing in warm weather because it is lighter. Here are five of my favorites.
The perfume which probably put ambrette on the map is 2007’s Chanel No. 18. A mixture of ambrette and iris this is one of the most lilting Chanel perfumes. One of the interesting aspects of ambrite is it has tinges of green and fruit to its scent profile. Perfumers Christopher Sheldrake and Jacques Polge take advantage of all the nuance available from the ambrette as they wrap it around a luxurious iris. Most perfume lovers had never heard of ambrette prior to this. After this I never forgot about it.
The reference standard musk perfume is 2009’s Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan. Most people remember it for the combination of rose and the animalic musks. What few people realize is perfumer Christopher Sheldrake uses a high concentration of ambrette as the interstitial tissue between the rose and animalic musks. The ambrette is what makes this the king of musk perfumes.
One of perfumer Christine Nagel’s last perfume for Jo Malone was 2014’s Wood Sage & Sea Salt. Working with creative director Celine Roux they wanted to make a different aquatic. Mme Nagel uses ambrette in the top accord in place of the typical ozonic notes of most aquatics. It is the ambrette that brings the fresh to push back against the briny mineralic accord. This is a great example of how flexible ambrette is in the hands of perfumers.
In 2017’s Parfum D’Empire Le Cre de la Lumiere perfumer Marc-Antoine Corticchiato uses ambrette as the sole ingredient in the top. He takes advantage of that by teasing out the threads of subtlety he wants to use. Most importantly a powdery aspect which entwines around a similarly styled iris. This forms the most beautiful opaque globe of light musk and iris which get a rose tint before it is done. A gorgeous fragile piece of perfume.
In 2017’s Frassai Verano Porteno creative director Natalia Outeda asked perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux for a perfume of summer nights in Buenos Aires. The opening is a beautifully realized air of night flowers on the breeze. In the base he uses ambrette to form a lighter musk accord by combining it cleverly with mate tea. It is just the right partner to add some edge to the ambrette without it taking over.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased of each perfume.
I’ve noticed a pleasing trend over the last year or two. For so long there were new brands who wanted to test the limits of how luxury-minded they could be. Often with a matching price tag. There were times where it seemed there was an arms race to see who could put the most opulent perfume in an equally extravagant bottle. There were brands who held that perspective honestly. Those are the brands which are still around because there was heart over cynicism. I have no problem with that kind of perfume. My only concern is it puts up a barrier to being able to experience some of the best perfume. The trend which I am enjoying is the opposite of this.
Frederic and Shirin Fekkai
It seems like since 2017 there have been several brands which have begun not by trying to find the high-end of the market. Instead they are trying to find the balance between creativity and budget at the more affordable end. They offer their perfumes in smaller rollerball sizes to allow for more sampling of the line. The packaging is also kept simple; you’ll find that budget inside the bottle. The final ingredient it to work with perfumers who are known for some of the best-known niche perfumes while giving them leeway to create.
An example of this kind of perfumery comes from husband-and-wife Shirin and Frederic Fekkai and their brand Bastide. Started in 2017 they wanted to capture the scents of Aix-en-Provence as perfumes. I discovered them a little over a year ago and have enjoyed the perfumes they have produced. The fifth perfume, Bastide Verveine du Sud, continues what has worked so far.
Perfumer Mathieu Nardin has been behind all the Bastide releases. In the first three releases I thought I detected a kind of sunny aesthetic forming. Last year’s Figure Amour was more grounded confounding my earlier thoughts. Verveine du Sud is also working in a similar direction.
The brief is to capture the scent of midsummer’s twilight in Provence. Once the sun has set in summertime there is coolness to the air which allows for the flowers and fruit to peek out from behind the heat and humidity. That is what appears in Verveine du Sud.
A really refreshing combination of grapefruit, lemon, and mint form the top accord. The mint is used to evoke that chill in the air just after the sun has disappeared for the night. It lifts the citrus with a coolness. Verbena matches its lemon-tinted green with the citrus while peony picks up on the mint adding in a cool and fresh floral. A swirl of white musks add an expansive quality to everything. The base rests on a warm mixture of amber and light woods as a metaphorical fire pit to warm your hands.
Verveine du Sud has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Bastide has now become another of these new brands looking to make perfume for a wider audience. Verveine du Sud shows there is still more to come from M. and Mme Fekkai as they translate Provence into perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bastide.
As I go through my time learning about perfume materials there are little factoids, I file away to use in a future review. Some of them are so interesting to me, as a chemist, that I want to find a perfume so that I can trot it out. One I learned about last summer had to do with seaweed absolute. As aquatic perfumes have evolved, I have been happy to see newer versions more willing to go against the “fresh and clean” quality which launched the genre towards something more realistic. One of the ways is to use seaweed absolute to provide a more realistic scent of the shore at low tide. The predominant scent it provides to perfume is a vegetal briny effect. By itself it provides that powerfully. What was really amazing was a trick the chemist I was with showed me. When you take a drop of the absolute and spread it out on a strip you can detect a hint of jasmine in-between the iodine and the vegetation. It turns out that in this specific variety of seaweed they have found through chemical analysis a small percentage of methyl jasmonate. The scientist’s mind was afire with how nature would do this. I also knew I was going to write about it as soon as I found a perfume which used seaweed absolute. That time has come with Berdoues Azur Riviera.
Azur Riviera is part of the Grand Cru collection within Berdoues. I have found this collection to be above average versions of well-known styles of perfumes. They tend to be simply constructed good fragrance. Sometime that is all anyone needs. As the name portends it is meant to capture the scent of the French Riviera. In that sense it is a typical Mediterranean type of fragrance with sea spray and ozonic notes over florals. The difference is the use of seaweed absolute as the base note. Perfumer Jean-Marie Sanantoni uses it to provide a slightly different twist on this style of fragrance.
The first two-thirds of Azur Riviera is familiar territory. The top accord is that beachside accord of ocean and wind. The florals chosen are a lively orange blossom and an expansive jasmine. Then M. Santantoni brings in the seaweed absolute. This provides a more grounded brininess than the top accord version. This is seaweed that has freshly been washed up glistening with the ocean water on it. It adds a bit of nature to the fantasy beach milieu. What I enjoy, and I admit this might be my overactive imagination, is how the jasmine seems to find a place within the iodine and brine.
Azur Riviera has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Like all the other Grand Cru releases this is another above average version of the style of perfume they are making. What attracted me to it was my chemist’s curiosity at the jasmine within the seaweed.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.