There are a few creative directors of independent perfume brands who have shared their personal bespoke fragrance with the wider public. I enjoy these expressions of how those creative directors desire to experience fragrance in their daily life. It informs how that translates to the rest of the brand. I had heard that Jan Ewoud Vos of Puredistance was going to be sharing his own perfume. When I finally received my sample and heard the story of Puredistance Aenotus it turned out to be slightly different.
Jan Ewoud Vos
The briefs for many of the Puredistance perfumes have been so interesting. For Aenotus it is perhaps the simplest brief as Mr. Vos asked perfumer Antoine Lie to create “my signature scent”. Mr. Vos had an idea a “perfume that would first refresh (then) transform into a sensual but subtle skin scent.” It presented many challenges not the least of which is defining the concept of refreshing from Mr. Vos’ perspective. I bet if I asked a hundred readers to define “refreshing” in a perfume I’d find little consensus. I find refreshing to be a mixture of citrus and herbs if I was directing someone to make this style of perfume that would be where I started. With Aenotus it seems like Mr. Vos and I have a similar, but not exact, vision of refreshing. The other part of that brief, to simmer down to a skin scent, is another tricky piece of engineering. M. Lie employs a set of heavier green notes to achieve that.
Aenotus opens with a fantastic flair of citrus notes, mandarin, yuzu, and petitgrain. It feels like a cool mist on a hot day. M. Lie then uses mint in its most herbal form to add a green aspect of freshness. I usually don’t like mint in perfume; that’s not the case here because the herbal is as present as the sweet. The linchpin ingredient of Aenotus is blackcurrant bud. This is one of those difficult to work with ingredients. If you go too high in concentration you get a urine-like effect. If you go too low, you get an insipid vegetal component. A perfumer must find the way the other ingredients can be guardrails preventing either extreme. In the first moments the blackcurrant bud appears it is complementing the mint with a sticky green quality. Over time as the citrus and mint fades it is the entry to the skin scent side of Aenotus. That skin scent accord is made up of oakmoss, patchouli, and a mix of synthetic woods. That sticky green finds the oakmoss; together they sing of green in a lower key. The patchouli adds depth and grounding. The synthetic woods provide a dry finish to it all.
Aenotus has 18-24 hour longevity and low sillage. This is 48% perfume oil it will last forever on fabric as well as skin.
The evolution of Aenotus has been enjoyable on the two very warm days I wore it. The refreshing part energizes me through the first part of the day before it settles into a pleasant skin scent. I don’t often get unsolicited compliments but one day I wore this was my weekly day of errands. The cashier at the grocery store, the clerk at the county office, and the waitress where I had lunch all remarked on how good I smelled. Aenotus might be Mr. Vos’ signature scent but I suspect there are going to be a lot of other people who find it to be theirs, too.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Puredistance.
Two of my best friends shared a love of wine with me. When we were in college together, we learned through experiencing what we could. I would say that is when we began to develop out ability to distinguish the different varieties of wine. Our shared knowledge would soar when we found ourselves living in the New York City area after graduation. I don’t remember which one of us found the book first but when we opened “Bordeaux: The Definitive Guide for the Wines Produced since 1961” by Robert M. Parker Jr. we were captured by the matter-of-fact talk about wine. Mr. Parker would become the most influential wine critic in the world because of it.
Robert M. Parker Jr.
Mr. Parker’s fascination with wine happened because of a girl he fancied. He followed her to Alsace France and besides finding his wife he also found French wine. When he returned to the US, he finished his law degree, but his inspiration was in a bottle of French wine. Over time he would realize the current wine publications were mainly shilling for the brands who advertised on their pages. He wanted to run a publication which survived only on subscriptions while producing unbiased wine reviews and commentary. “The Wine Advocate” was born in 1979. Mr. Parker would begin a career of visiting the wineries. In the early 1980’s he would correctly predict some of the great French Bordeaux vintages from barrel tastings. He would become especially known for being the first to laud the 1982 vintage using this method. Many others felt differently. My friends and I knew nothing of this. Our introduction was through his book.
“Bordeaux” was just what we needed as a reference text to refine our knowledge. Our experience had given us a foundation Mr. Parker would show us how to build our own chateau upon it. We could try the wines he wrote about and compare what we experienced with what he said he felt. We all came to love the style of wines from certain Chateaus he seemed less enthused about and vice versa. What we were gaining was our own personal critical perspective. It has provided a lifetime of pleasure for all three of us I believe.
Mr. Parker’s influence rose rapidly along with the subscribers to The Wine Advocate. He would become a champion of non-European wines. I know one of my favorite moments was tasting a Shiraz wine from Australia while thinking this is amazing for $6/bottle. Only to find in the next issue that Mr. Parker was writing about them, too. It is one of those times where I felt I had learned some of what he had to teach me. Whenever I try wines from a new region in the world I approach with an open mind because I have been rewarded most of the time.
There was a backlash to Mr. Parker by some who felt he had too large an influence on the wine-buying public with his ratings. That always felt like a false narrative to me. I followed his writing because he pointed me to wine I enjoyed. That was always the most important piece of Mr. Parker to me that wine was here to enjoy.
Which leads to my favorite story of my personal interaction with him. A local restaurant was having a wine tasting event with Mr. Parker in attendance. I couldn’t buy a ticket fast enough. It was a small affair and he spent time with each table taking questions and talking about what we were drinking. Someone who was less starstruck than I asked him if he ever visited any of his reader’s wine collections. He then told a story about being invited by a reader who he knew had an extensive collection to dinner. He was surprised when the hosts served younger wines. After the meal was done, he asked when they drank some of the wines in the cases around them. The host replied, “Never! We’re saving them!” Mr. Parker looked around our table and said to us “don’t do that, the joy of wine is in drinking it.” It is those words which have stuck with me.
This week Mr. Parker announced he was retiring from The Wine Advocate and from active reviewing. Because of his trailblazing The Wine Advocate has a staff that will continue the good work.
For me part of the way I write about perfume was directly affected by the way Mr. Parker approached wine. I try to approach every new fragrance with the same open mind he encouraged me to have about wine. I am always pleased when I find a new brand that I like because of it.
Tonight I’ll raise a toast to Robert M. Parker Jr. he made wine fun.
I’m not sure why it is the case but when I am on vacation at the beach, I drink cocktails which come with umbrellas in them. Fruity alchololic trifles meant to add to the fun of time away from home. This sense of fun is not found as often within fragrance as I would like. There isn’t a perfume bottle with an umbrella sticking out of it to let you know its time to kick back for fun. There might not be an umbrella sticking out of it but Thierry Mugler Angel Eau Croisiere is exactly what I’m talking about.
Three years ago Thierry Mugler began the evolution of Angel towards a new audience. The original Angel was a powerhouse. With Angel Muse there was a distinct effort to make the aesthetic less confrontational while retaining that special Angel magic. This was achieved by altering the gourmand heart of the original into something much lighter. I thought it was a brilliant re-invention of Angel. In the years since the subsequent releases haven’t captured that as well as I’d hoped; until Angel Eau Croisiere. Perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur does that by following a similar recipe infused with insouciance. It is fruits leading to a more transparent gourmand, but this carries a glint in its eye.
Angel Eau Croisiere opens with a trio of fruits which are both sweet and tart. Mme Lancesseur balances them right on that defining line. She also does something else quite clever. One of the fruits is listed as “blackcurrant sorbet”. This is conjecture but I think she uses a supercritical fluid extraction source of the blackcurrant. It gives the sense of the chill you see when you open up a quart of ice cream on a summer day and you see tendrils of frost rising from the surface. The blackcurrant has that chilly airy feeling. Grapefruit provides its typical citrusy sparkle. The star of the top accord is mango. This is the tart fleshy fruitiness kept to an opacity to not allow it to overwhelm the other two ingredients. This creates a joyful back and forth between fruits I don’t usually find. Then we head to the base where Mme Lancesseur chooses to follow the praline-focused base of Angel Muse instead of the chocolate-caramel version of the original. I extolled its use in Angel Muse. For Angel Eau Croisiere Mme Lancesseur employs it equally well. There is a nuttiness which goes nicely with the patchouli also present in the base. This is a gourmand with a light touch.
Angel Eau Croisiere has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
Angel Eau Croisiere extends the trend I was so happy with in Angel Muse. Mme Lancesseur does it with a grin and an umbrella.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Thierry Mugler.
Like many perfume lovers as the weather warms up there are certainly styles of perfume which get pushed to the back of the shelf. As a writer on perfume I don’t always have the luxury of adhering to that completely. I have to take what comes no matter what the weather. It was a mixed blessing when I received my sample of Marc-Antoine Barrois Ganymede. That was because last year’s debut perfume Marc-Antoine Barrois B683 was a gorgeous refined leather perfume. Ganymede was said to be using the same leather accord. What I found was something delightfully different in both style and weight.
Quentin Bisch (l.) and Marc-Antoine Barrois (Photo: Fred Zara)
Marc-Antoine Barrois and perfumer Quentin Bisch were the creative team behind B683 and continue into Ganymede. I described B683 as the scent of luxurious leather. Ganymede is a lighter version of the same leather among an entirely different set of supporting notes. The name comes from the largest moon of Jupiter. This planet has captured the imagination because it has a large frozen salt-water ocean, a magnetic field, and traces of oxygen in its atmosphere. For the purposes of the perfume version Messrs. Barrois and Bisch imagine what would a frozen aquatic smell like over their leather accord.
Ganymede opens with a vibrant mandarin providing sunny citrus energy. Saffron provides a corona around the mandarin as a diffuse glow. The same leather accord of B683 comes in with a stealthy step. It almost infuses itself underneath the top accord. Then immortelle is used as the center of that “frozen ocean” accord. Immortelle is most often described as having a maple syrup-like scent profile. M. Bisch attenuates that in favor of the dried grass aspect it also contains. It is used to create that concentrated salinity you might imagine Ganymede the planet smelling like. Contrasted with the subtle vitality of the leather accord this is out of this world.
Ganymede has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Ganymede is a very transparent leather perfume. I rarely pull out my leather perfumes on a summer day. Ganymede will not fall in that category. I will happily wear this out on a midsummer’s evening. I am not sure if there is a trilogy of leather scents to be completed in the future from this creative team. I selfishly hope so. I also am quite curious to see what they might come up with in a non-leather style of perfume. If they can pull off a summer-weight leather it seems there is nothing out of their reach.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Anyone who has read my writing knows how excited I get when a new perfumer catches my nose. At the end of 2017 I learned about Mackenzie Reilly with her first perfume release A Lab on Fire California Snow. She showed an uncommon skill to shift from dry to moist through precisely measured accords. I finished that review waiting to see what came next. It’s been more than a year but the release of A Lab on Fire Hossegor is that perfume.
I mention in nearly every A Lab on Fire review that the creative freedom given the perfumers by creative director Carlos Kusubayashi has resulted in some great things. To allow a senior perfumer working on her first commercial releases the opportunity to bring her vision to life in this environment must be a dream for Ms. Reilly. With Hossegor she repays that faith with another perfume of distinct phases.
Hossegor is the French surf town in the southern part where the waves from the Bay of Biscay provide a mecca. Ms. Reilly wanted to capture this sense of the coastal surf village. Her vision is of walking through a forest to reach the beach. As you stand at the interface of sand and trees the waves beckon you with an aquatic come-on. You dive in watching the horizon for a swell to ride. As she did in California Snow everything I described is realized as Hossegor develops.
It starts in that seaside forest. Ms. Reilly uses as the source of her pine tree scent the resin known as lentisque. It has a pine-like smell with resinous diffusion. It isn’t sharp, it is soft. Juniper berry is used to further add some tone to the pine-y top accord. As you emerge from the forest the smell of the ocean arrives with the bite of black pepper on the breeze. This turns the overall scent into a resinous aquatic. It turns subtly as olibanum and clary sage pick up on the resin and spice. The base does the same kind of switch from arid to moist as you get closer to the water. Ms. Reilly assembles an accord of mineralic ingredients to capture the water-soaked rocks. There is the breeze of white musks off those rock walls bringing a tiny thread of green from the moss. Time to stop looking and dive in.
Hossegor has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Hossegor is a fascinating perfume of different emotional moments stitched together through the intelligent use of precise materials. I said I couldn’t wait to see what was next for Ms. Reilly; thanks to Mr. Kusubayashi her precocious talent was set free on a surf beach in France.
Disclosure: This review is based upon a sample provided by A Lab on Fire.
Kevin Costner hears a voice tell him “If you build it, he will come.” at the beginning of the movie “Field of Dreams”. It is a call to do what you think is important to bring an outcome you desire. The saying has been altered by many to replace the “he” with “they”. This has then gone on to define efforts which willingly go outside of the mainstream. I have no idea if the creative director-owner of Zoologist Perfumes, Victor Wong, is a fan of the movie or the saying. What has become evident over five years of Zoologist making perfume is the belief that if you build interesting perfume, they will find it. The latest to be found is Zoologist Chameleon.
One of the reasons for the success of his line is Mr. Wong finds his collaborators by also being a perfume fan. For Chameleon he met perfumer Daniel Pescio when he bought some vintage perfumes from him and M. Pescio added a sample of his own to the box. According to the interview with M. Pescio on the Zoologist website, Mr. Wong thought the perfume smelled very “French”. He filed the name away until he had the idea to do an ylang-ylang and vanilla focused perfume called Chameleon. One thing about M. Pescio is he is one of those shadows behind the scenes of the fragrance world. Chameleon is the first perfume I have smelled by him. In the interview he says he strives for “quality” of ingredients, “the balance”, and “the evolution”. Those are all things which come together to make compelling perfume.
For Chameleon M. Pescio didn’t want to retread the typical ylang-ylang vanilla style which is out there. Instead of exploring the sweet floral aspects of ylang-ylang he focuses on my favorite part of the scent of this flower; its fleshiness underneath the sweet.
Chameleon opens with a bouquet of fruity notes representing a tropical style. Threads of aquatic breezes blow through. The ylang-ylang rises to meet the fruits. In the first moments it smells like many ylang-ylang centric fruity florals. Rather quickly it drops into a lower harmonic as that quality I enjoy in ylang-ylang begins to be noticeable. I have enjoyed this because it was the basis of so many vintage perfumes where it would be paired with animalic ingredients for an incredible sensuality. M. Pescio moves towards a similar effect as he harnesses the confluence of cashemran, vanilla, and musks to farm a “salty skin accord”. This comes together to form a fascinating Retro Nouveau perfume.
Chameleon has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Chameleon is another Zoologist release which asks perfume lovers to come to what Mr. Wong is building. Over the past five years many have found it worth the trip. Chameleon is just another all-star player in Mr. Wong’s Field of Perfumes.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Zoologist Perfumes.
Editor’s Note: For those of you who enjoy the visual with your perfume Mr. Wong has teamed up with artist “The Big in the Small” to create four unique prints based upon Chameleon. You can read, and see, more at this link.
One of the poodles at the Colognoisseur home office can usually be found every afternoon asleep in the sunbeam which comes through our glass door. Once we hit that part of the day I almost always know where he is. I envy him that opportunity to curl up in a bar of sunlight drifting on pleasant thoughts. Jo Malone Frangipani Flower gave me the opportunity to do that with a perfume.
I know this is becoming redundant, but I must call out creative director Celine Roux for everything she is doing at Jo Malone. She is starting to settle into a bit of a rhythm with the way releases have been coming. Her direction is also shaping things Jo Malone was known for with her own flair. Last year Tropical Cherimoya created a soliflore made up of layers of other florals. It was a fascinating recreation of a flower as perfume. A year later with Frangipani Flower the same thing is being done with a more known floral. To achieve the same effect Mme Roux asked for a headspace analysis of frangipani. Working with perfumer Marie Salamagne they took what was found to create another layered soliflore.
Marie Salamagne (Photo: Jerome Bonnet)
Frangipani Flower opens on a sunburst of lemon and jasmine. This is given a lighter feel as the lemon adds sparkle to an already expansive jasmine. Jasmine and frangipani are related so that the shift to a different kind of floral sweetness is done in tiny steps until you realize something is different. This is pushed to a more opaque feeling by using a set of ozonic and aquatic notes. There is an airiness throughout the first two-thirds of the development. It only becomes a tiny bit more grounded as sandalwood provides a woody tether in the base.
Frangipani Flower has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Frangipani Flower is equally as clever as Tropical Cherimoya in the way differing layers of accords form a soliflore. On the days I wore it I joined my poodle luxuriating in the sunbeam I had found.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.
One of the classic perfume styles is the “lipstick rose”. In the earliest incarnations it was meant to capture the smell of a lady’s cosmetic bag. During that time period it was Coty red lipstick which was the most popular. It was known for adding some iris to it to give it a distinctive smell. Anyone who grew up in the latter half of the 20th century has a female relative who owned a cosmetic bag which smelled of iris, rose, and leather. It fell out of favor as we crossed into the new century. Mainly because that accord had the pejorative “old lady perfume” attached to it. It didn’t entirely disappear, but it diminished in presence. The pairing is so good I was wondering how long the style would have to live in perfume purgatory before making a return. Over the past year there have been a few which have made the effort. Perhaps the best is Goutal Etoile d’Une Nuit.
Ever since 2016 Camille Goutal has made the business decision to make new perfumes in the transparent style seemingly desired by the younger generation. It has created some new collections within the Goutal brand. Oiseaux de Nuit has been one of the earliest. This was a collection on which Mme Goutal has exclusively collaborated with perfumer Mathieu Nardin. The concept is to appeal to twentysomething Parisiennes. The two previous releases, Tenue de Soiree and Nuit de Confidences, have chosen crowd-pleasing themes with clever twists over an opaque scent. While lipstick rose was crowd-pleasing a couple decades ago would Etoile d’Une Nuit find its way to a new generation?
Mme Goutal and M. Nardin have now formed a good working relationship where they understand the kind of fragrance they want to create. Etoile d’Une Nuit shows their improvement over time. Even with a construct as simple as this one is.
The difference to the old style of lipstick rose is evident from the first moments. The iris here is a shimmering powder instead of a concentrated lacquer. It adds a veil for the equally transparent rose to add another layer underneath. This is beautifully realized as it stays lilting and not heavy. Then the base of a leather accord infused with raspberry provides the finish. Neither of those notes add to the heaviness they jut arise and mesh with the rose and iris. I found the raspberry had an interesting grounding effect on the iris and rose. It keeps them tethered to the ground so that they don’t just dissipate away.
Etoile d’Une Nuit has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am interested to see how Etoile d’Une Nuit will be received. I believe Mme Goutal and M. Nardin did a great job of updating the venerable lipstick rose by making it lipstick lite.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Neiman-Marcus.
My love of camping came from being a Boy Scout. The camping trips we took throughout Florida every summer were transformative. I learned to love the geography and wildlife of my home through spending time in it. If there is something which reminds me of those days, it is the smell of the Florida pine. We would hike all day through forests of them and camp at night underneath them; sentinels from the darkness outside our campfire. It is one of the beautiful things about perfume when I smell something for the first time, and it connects to a memory. When I received my sample of Aftelier Perfumes Embers & Musk I was back in the woods of Florida surrounded by pine trees.
Mandy Aftel is one of our greatest independent perfumers working with an all-natural palette. She has been one of the most important members of the American indie perfumery community. Every new perfume from her is a new opportunity to learn what the possibilities are for natural perfumery. In Embers & Musk she chose pine tar to represent the embers and ambrettolide as the botanical source of musk. I am a fan of the pungency of pine tar in perfume. I was worried that the delicate ambrettolide would get stuck in the stickiness of the tar. What happens is why I write about perfume and Ms. Aftel makes perfume she knew exactly how to give both room to shine.
When I climbed my share of Florida pine trees as a boy, I always came away with some of the resin on my hands and legs. If I got enough on me, I could roll it up into a pea-shaped ball which I would roll around in my fingers. That fresh scent comes forth in the earliest moments of Embers & Musk. Yuzu and apple add a crisp framework for the pine. This is the fresh smell of the pines at sunset. Baie rose comes along to begin to modify the piney keynote nudging it in an herbal direction. This sets the stage for the smoke to arise. So many perfumers go right for the cade oil and often unbalance their perfume. Ms. Aftel has alternatives to that. Here she uses guaiacol as the source of her smoke. Guaiacol is a component of whisky and if you really focus on it you will get that. Ms. Aftel is not after a boozy effect she wants that smell of campfire clinging to clothing. The guaiacol is threaded through the pine tar with a precision to achieve just that. This is where the ambrettolide comes in. It adds a clean sweaty skin scent underneath the smoke. It would remind me of sitting in my tent before going to sleep. The remnants of the smoke from the campfire over the smell of my skin.
Embers & Musk has 10-12 hours of longevity and average sillage.
Ms. Aftel has created a perfume with a large presence while adding in the subtlety you might not think possible in a perfume where pine tar is the keynote. It is why she remains one of my favorite perfumers. Embers & Musk took me back to those summer nights hiking into the pine woods of Florida.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Aftelier Perfumes.
Lavender is one of the most common ingredients in all of perfumery. It is one of a set of florals which seems to not ascribe itself to one gender or the other. It has been the focal point of some of the great perfumes ever. It was always going to be a part of the Tom Ford Private Blend collection. The first attempt was the completely modern take called Lavender Palm which was an exclusive to the Beverly Hills boutique. Even though it has been discontinued it remains one of my favorites of the entire Tom Ford Private Blend collection for how audaciously contemporary they went. Earlier this year the decision was made to go in the other direction with Belle de Jour. This was an elegantly made crowd pleaser. Now with the release of Tom Ford Private Blend Lavender Extreme, and for once, that last word should be taken literally.
When it comes to the ubiquitous perfumery ingredients, I have some affection for lavender. It is because there is a big difference between the most common source lavandin and the harder to extract Provence version. The Provence version is harvested after being left to dry in the fields for days before extraction and distillation. It has the herbal quality of lavender more prominent because of the drying process prior to extraction. In this year’s Beau de Jour it was a nearly equivalent amount of lavandin and Provence lavender used in a softly satisfying way. For Lavender Extreme perfumer Olivier Gillotin working with creative director Karyn Khoury the Provence lavender is given a much more prominent role.
The only time I really notice the lavandin is in the very early moments of Lavender Extreme. M. Gillotin combines it with eucalyptus to form an abstract accord of the real Provence lavender to come. That lavender comes in with a rush. You notice it immediately as the herbal nature of it washes across that earlier lavender accord with gusto. I enjoyed the way the lavender seemed to grow more extreme throughout the middle part of the development. It then begins to be modified in some clever ways. M. Gillotin uses a bit of carrot seed to provide a sweet rooty contrast. Tolu balsam complements the herbal-ness. Tonka bean comes with its roasted sweetness to keep the lavender from getting too strident. Benzoin provides a sweet resinous polish to the final stages.
Lavender Extreme has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have often complained that perfumes with “extreme” on the bottle are not truth-in-advertising. Not so with Lavender Extreme. This is a soaring spire of lavender spelled with a capital L.
Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.