A few years ago, when attending a Sniffapalooza one of the stops was the Molton Brown store in Soho. I have been a longtime fan of the bath products but the fragrances had been underwhelming. On that day, they presented a collection based on different countries. I was surprised at how much I liked them despite being examples of most of the prevailing perfume trends. Since that day I have continued to carry that same thought as I have tried their new releases looking for one which would offer a something a little bit different. The latest release Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel doesn’t create a new direction in aquatic fragrances but it does have a couple nice wrinkles to it.
Over the past few years the Molton Brown fragrances have followed the lead of the bath products by naming themselves after the main ingredients. If you like the fragrance all the ancillary products are available and if the bath product appeals the converse is true. Perfumer Carla Chabert succeeds by tracking closely with the refreshing nature of the bath gel. She focused on a composing a perfume which was akin to a cool shower after a day at the shore. The wrinkle I wrote about is the use of cardamom and jasmine in significant quantities enough so that their names could have been added to the name, too.
Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel opens with a very typical marine accord. The first few moments almost have a by-the-book aquatic accord. Mme Chabert works to change the mundane with a healthy dose of cardamom. The cardamom has that lemon-tinged character that provides a bit of muted luminosity while also adding some weight grounding the more expansive aspects of the marine accord. Fig leaf and violet leaf provide the sea fennel effect as it comes off as a soft green. Mme Chjabert then uses one of the synthetic non-indolic jasmines to provide significant expansiveness before the cypress shows up. It is listed as “salted cypress” in the note list but I don’t get that as much as weathered cypress. This is like driftwood, sun bleached and transparent, which fits in with the jasmine. Later on, cedar and some laundry musks tie Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel off.
Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate silage.
There is a nice fragrance collection quietly growing at Molton Brown. Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel even portends something greater for the future.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Molton Brown.
Sometimes I get a second chance. Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male is one of those great perfumes of the 1990’s. It put Jean Paul Gaultier on the fragrance map. For twenty years, there has been a summer release and they have been near slavish retreads of Le Male. Which was why when I received last year’s version I put off giving it a try until months later as I was filling out my database. This was not an imitator of Le Male this was different. An Eau Fraiche with Popeye on the bottle. I was mentally kicking myself for not having written about it. It was a limited edition so I felt like I had missed my window of opportunity. Then my second chance came as the Eau Fraiche was re-released this year with Superman replacing Popeye on the bottle. This time I was not hesitating because Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Superman is a fantastic update which is going to be a great summer choice.
Perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto was asked to be the one to undertake this new interpretation. By choosing an Eau Fraiche Mme Gracia-Cetto had to use ingredients with impact. Subtlety is undetectable when the fragrance is at such low concentration. I don’t think subtle is an adjective that would be often used to describe Le Male. For Le Male Superman each ingredient is pieced together like a comic book gizmo which eventually saves the day. The only holdover notes from Le Male to Le Male Superman are mint and orange blossom in the early going. It eventually converges with a similar base accord but even that has recognizable differences.
Mme Gracia-Cetto wraps that mint in a swirl of aldehydes and ozonic notes. It is an uplifting accord with the mint grounding the less earthbound notes around it. The orange blossom leads into a heart dominated by sage. This is a place where keeping it lighter makes the overall effect better. This is sage and orange blossom as brought to you on a warm breeze. Never more powerful than a locomotive more like a scooter. That is not a criticism as it works very well especially for a perfume designed to be worn in the summer. In the base the mixture of woods and vanilla are still here from the original. The biggest difference is Mme Gracia-Cetto relies on Ambrox as the predominant source of woodiness. The vanilla and tonka bean are still there to make it close enough to the sweet woody foundation that defines Le Male.
Le Male Superman has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Just so people are aware last years’ Le Male Popeye and this year’s Le Male Superman are identical. There is no need to buy one if you have the other. If, like me, you missed Popeye then faster than a speeding bullet you should give Le Male Superman a try.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jean Paul Gaultier.
We are in mud season here in Poodlesville. The rains are moving through on schedule the trees are nearly full of leaves while the dead wood is being broken up to be burned in the fire pit. There is a smell to this time of the year. Mud is sharper than moist soil. Conversely the green is softer. Breaking up damp wood releases this wet woodiness. It is an odd accord and it is one which you might not expect to make a fragrance around. Amouage Bracken Woman shows there is a perfume within.
One of the reasons I have consistently enjoyed Christopher Chong’s creative direction for Amouage is this ability to find beauty from things like mud season. Mr. Chong is one of the premiere perfume creative directors because he truly does think “out of the box” followed by working with perfumers who bring that vision to fruition. For Bracken Woman he works with two of his more recent collaborators as Dorothee Piot and Karine Vinchon-Spehner return as the perfumers.
Bracken Man which came out previously was a Fougere, capitalization intentional. Bracken Woman pulls back on the intensity while still providing an alternative interpretation of green. From a very green opening Bracken Woman segues through leather which in conjunction with some florals form a wet mud accord to my nose. Before ending with my damp wood by the fire pit.
The perfumers open with a much softer green opening reminiscent of new leaves. Galbanum, violet leaves, and fern form the green which have a pinch of berries to remind one of the early fruit growing on runners underneath the green. Early in the transition to the heart a smoky slightly unrefined leather accord sets the stage for the mud. Narcissus provides an indolic modulation which begins the transition from animalic to sharp earthiness. Lily adds back the green while chamomile attenuates the overall effect. The base is my favorite part of Bracken Woman as the perfumers use birch, vetiver, and patchouli to form a damp wood accord. When I am breaking up the dead branches there is an expansive woodiness form the particles being captured in the air which is contrasted by the heavy dampness of the large pieces I’m stacking up. The perfumers capture this as the birch evokes the solid wood while the vetiver is the airier woods. Patchouli adds a lighter version of wet earth for this final phase of Bracken Woman.
Bracken Woman has 24 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’ve had my sample of Bracken Woman for a couple of months. I was so intrigued by this “mud season” perfume I wanted to compare it to the actual thing. I also always enjoy spending extra time with an Amouage release; Bracken Woman was one which paid back that time. As for how close it is to the smells of my backyard right now; I am thrilled to have mud season all year round.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Amouage.
Just over two years ago I became aware of the Paris perfume brand Ex Nihilo. It has become a brand for whom I look forward to their new releases because the creative direction of the three founders of the brand; Sylvie Loday, Olivier Royere, and Benoit Verdier. They began with a well-thought out brand vision and for the last two years have stuck to that. Starting this past April, they announced a new collection called Iconoclaste meant to celebrate the free thinkers among us. The first release is called Citizen X.
Ex Nihilo Creative Team
The group of perfumers the Ex Nihilo creative team has worked with so far have fit the brand concept. For the first Iconoclaste they chose one of the best perfumers working who has always impressed me with his ability to work creatively when given that freedom, Yann Vasnier. With Citizen X it seems like M. Vasnier has found a place to stretch his ingenuity. Citizen X is a resinous iris perfume. M. Vasnier uses a couple different resins to sandwich the heart of iris.
The resin on top of Citizen X is mastic. Mastic is a lighter version of the green galbanum usually provides to perfumes. By using it for Citizen X M. Vasnier uses that brighter verdancy to good effect as he boosts it with white pepper. The pepper adds a clean piquancy to the lemony woody nature of the mastic. Next come the iris. This iris has some powdery parts but they are mostly background as the earthier character is enhanced by the mastic. The second half of the resins arrive with incense. This is typical incense and it provides both complement and contrast to the mastic. It also helps to keep the powder well in the background. This is where Citizen X spends most of its development. Over hours some musk provides the final roundness to Citizen X.
Citizen X has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Citizen X is a good start to the Iconoclaste collection. M. Vasnier’s use of resins and iris is creatively done while expanding the Ex Nihilo brand overall.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Ex Nihilo.
There are times when I just want a perfume I’m trying; to go there. What I mean by that is for it to stop attempting to be accommodating by being polite. Sometimes a perfume which is the equivalent of a loud talker has its pleasures. While it doesn’t happen often there are creative teams who do “go there”. One which does is the team behind Amouroud.
Gun (l,) and Donald Bauchner
Amouroud was released in 2016 as an auxiliary brand from The Perfumer’s Workshop. The Perfumer’s Workshop is known to many as the brand behind 1971’s Tea Rose. Tea Rose is one of the best examples of rose soliflore which remains relevant to today. The creative mind behind Perfumer’s Workshop and Amouroud is Gun Bauchner who with her husband Donald created the company. What I like about the idea of Amouroud as an extension of Ms. Bauchner’s previous work is she took on an overcrowded sector of niche perfume and stepped into it with her own vision. Within the name, you can tell that oud was going to be a focal point but it is more than that. It seems like Ms. Bauchner also wanted to take the fundamentals of Middle Eastern perfumery and blend them to her own personal Western aesthetic. Over the six perfumes of the original collection there was an admirable fearlessness to work towards that. To a degree, they all succeed but there was one which rose above the others, Safran Rare.
For Safran Rare Ms. Bauchner collaborated with perfumer Claude Dir. It shows what Ms. Bauchner’s vision for the brand is. Too many people who made “oud” fragrances made it the centerpiece without really understanding the note, trusting on its uniqueness to carry the day. Ms. Bauchner doesn’t want to lose that quality but she does want to find something else within oud. In Safran Rare she uses the oud primarily as the linchpin of a leather accord suffused with saffron to provide a sweaty lived-in leather fragrance.
If the perfume is called Safran Rare M. Dir surmised you should linger on that ingredient in the early going. The bronze filigree of the spice is presented on a pillow of olibanum which anchors it. Saffron can be the most ephemeral of perfume ingredients, by encasing it in resin M. Dir allows it to persist as the leather accord arises. M. Dir uses oud as one of the pieces which brings sandalwood, benzoin, and vetiver together to form a rich leather accord. What is nice about this accord is it isn’t refined, it is the smell of your favorite leather jacket after you’ve been out dancing and it has the smell of your body in it. It isn’t musky or body odor but it is a dead ringer for the scent which escapes my sleeves when I remove my leather jacket after a night out. The trapped in resin saffron then spreads out over the leather accord into a lusty duet which lasts a long time.
Safran Rare has 10-12 hour longevity and average silage. When I say Amouroud goes there it is this leather accord I am talking about. Most of the time leather is refined or tipped firmly to the animalic. In Safran Rare Ms. Bauchner and M. Dir provide a leather that has lived.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Osswald NYC.
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.
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.
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.