I probably treat the concept of writing about perfume too seriously. Dissecting new releases looking for something new under the sun. There are some brands and perfumers who mange to not take it all so seriously. There are also some perfumers who find the time to let their less serious side out to play. It often becomes clear over time. With the release of Prada Candy Sugar Pop it sure seems like Prada in-house perfumer Daniela Andrier is finding some joy in making perfume.
This has been an evolution from the original Prada Candy which was the next evolution, itself, of the modern gourmand style of fragrance. That was a seriously imagined construct which I consider one of the best designer releases of the last ten years. Through three flankers Mme Andrier began to lighten the tone. By the time last year’s Prada Candy Gloss arrived the mirth was fully on display. If you needed to know if that was going to continue the name, Candy Sugar Pop, give it away. I’m thinking Ice Cream wouldn’t fit on the label.
This is like the sugar candy Sweet Tarts. There is a lot of sweet and some tart in contrast. A beautiful floral synthetic holds the heart while a nod to the gourmand roots of the original reminds you what this is a flanker of.
The top accord is a mixture of three different types of fruit. A tart lime finds crisp green apple to form an acerbic fruit accord. Peach drenches that in pulpy creamy sweetness. What is particularly nice about this accord is it is formed in a transparent style. A normal volume fruity floral accord of these ingredients would’ve set my teeth on edge. Mme Andrier finds the right balance giving it a powdered sugar candy style. To add the floral component Mme Andrier use Mahonial, a lily-of-the-valley variant, which also has a significant jasmine character. This complements the sweet tart top accord by being that in floral tones. This settles onto a vanilla base ending on a sweet note.
Prada Candy Sugar Pop has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I wore this I felt like I could hear the joyful laughter of Mme Andrier behind it. Candy Sugar Pop is proof Daniela just wants to have fun.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Prada.
When someone is tasked with having to follow a highly respected predecessor they know there will be comparisons. One way to approach this is to make significant changes making the enterprise your own. Another option is to understand what made the previous occupant successful and find a way to evolve that. It is the latter which has been occurring at Hermes as Christine Nagel has taken over from Jean-Claude Ellena as in-house perfumer. She has worked her way through most of the collections adding her imprint upon them. One of the few left is also one of the most important, the Hermessence collection. She has now opened the Nagel era of Hermessences with the release of three eau de toilettes and two ‘essence de parfums”.
I reviewed the three EdTs; Agar Ebene, Cedre Sambac, and Myrrhe Eglantine yesterday. Those are the slow evolution which has been happening as Mme Nagel provides her artistic perspective on that style. What has captured my attention more fully in this new set of Hermessences are the two “essence de parfums”; Cardamusc and Musc Pallida. These are significantly different from what has come before. Oil-based formulations which give an entirely different textural feel. They still hew to the minimal ingredient concept with which this collection was founded. What really changes is we leave the ethereal behind for shimmering depths.
Cardamusc is what the name portends cardamom combined with not one musk but a few. Mme Nagel uses cardamom in overdose. This has to be the single loudest ingredient in any Hermessence, ever. As is typical when a high-quality ingredient is used in overdose there are unexpected nuances not usually noticed. Cardamom at typical concentration adds a woody-tinged citrus effect. Cardamom in Cardamusc provides a multi-faceted single ingredient accord. The lemony citrus effect is enhanced as is the woody underpinning. What also becomes more evident is a set of nuanced green facets which hide underneath. There is a mint-like aspect, a leafy herbal one, and a slightly grassy vein. This is cardamom like I have never experienced previously and since it is one of my favorite notes I was hypnotized. It gets better as tendrils of a warming musk accord start to intersperse itself throughout. The cardamom is never cool as it can be in other perfumes. It starts warm but the musks provide a heat mirage style effect. I felt like this rose off my skin in waves.
Musc Pallida is also what is given in the name, iris and again not one musk but a suite of them. As with Cardamusc the iris is what comes first but this is not at high concentration. It is an iris effect seen in better perfume versions. I presume Mme Nagel is using an orris butter of some kind because it has that nuanced feel of the better ones I’ve encountered. What it means for Musc Pallida is Mme Nagel uses a set of musks which cover the entire octave of musk. Early on it is a white musk which makes the powdery nature of iris expand on the transparent bubble it provides. A mid-weight musk captures and enhances the violet-like floral quality. A slightly earthy-animalic musk teases out the rhizomal rootiness. Together as it was in Cardamusc it makes up this shimmery style which also waxes and wanes on my skin. It is a lovely combination of ingredients.
It is with these “essence de parfum” Hermessences where Mme Nagel makes this collection her own. Both are like nothing else in it. Also it is early but I can not get enough of Cardamusc. Right now, it is close to all that I want to wear. If you feel about iris the way I do about cardamom I believe Musc Pallida has the same quality to entrance you. If you’ve stayed away from the Hermessences because they seemed too light or ethereal you might want to see if Mme Nagel’s “essence de parfums” provide a more satisfying experience. With the release of both Mme Nagel has completed the process of making the fragrance side of Hermes her own.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples I received with purchase from Hermes.
Much to their credit the changeover from Jean-Claude Ellena to Christine Nagel as in-house perfumer at Hermes has been a gradual effort. Mme Nagel has been adding new releases to the existing Hermes fragrance collections. Except for one. Perhaps the most important one, the Hermessence collection.
Begun in 2004 by M. Ellena it is the private collection which all designer brands have. It also consisted of the most diverse display of his minimalist aesthetic. The individual perfumes were frequently described as haiku. One of the reasons I was enthusiastic over Mme Nagel’s appointment as M. Ellena’s successor was she had done a version of Hermessence-like perfumes when she was at Jo Malone; 2010’s Cologne Intense Collection. In the press release for that collection she said, “I chose to take potentially opposing ingredients of very high quality to create unexpected yet harmonious fragrances”. Remove the “potentially opposing” out of that sentence and it is a description of the Hermessence aesthetic.
M. Ellena’s last Hermessence was 2016’s Muguet Porcelaine. I was waiting for Mme Nagel to begin her Hermessence collection. In what I think is another smart move Mme Nagel opens the new era of Hermessence with a set of five releases; three are the same eau de toilette concentrations as the previous releases with two additional released in “essence de parfum” concentration. I am going to review all five over the next two days. I’ll start with the three eau de toilette releases today and continue with the “essence de parfum” releases tomorrow.
Agar Ebene has had a lot of fuss made about it as being the first Hermes perfume to feature oud. After wearing it I’m not sure that line has truly been crossed. The press release makes a big deal that this is “agarwood” the uninfected tree which becomes oud. Which is sort of the small print to keep the oud pledge still in place. All of that should tell you the star of Agar Ebene is not the agarwood but the other ingredient, fir balsam. Mme Nagel uses a rich version around which, I believe, she wraps a precisely balanced oud accord. It allows for only a touch of the agarwood to “infect” the balsam. There are moments when it smells like the beginning of a leather accord. It ends up making this, unexpectedly, a comfort scent. If you’re looking for a Hermes oud this isn’t the one.
Cedre Sambac is the one which calls back to that desire to take “potentially opposing” ingredients looking for the harmony. Mme Nagel takes a strong cedar and finds that the indolic jasmine sambac doesn’t clash. Cedar is the most pedestrian of perfume ingredients. By taking a fully indolic jasmine and allowing it to grow up the trunk of that cedar. The skanky effect of the prototypical white flower snaking around the slightly green woodiness of the cedar was compelling each day I wore it. It is my early favorite of these three.
Myrrhe Eglantine is a spring rose and myrrh duet. It is my least favorite of the three eau de toilette versions. Some of that is probably because the rose is a slightly spicier take on the typical debutante rose rampant in spring rose releases. The myrrh is a whisper underneath the rose which rises in intensity the longer it was on my skin. I suspect this will be the best-seller among the new collection because it is the easiest to wear.
The three eau de toilette releases are Hermessences but they are recognizably Nagel Hermessences. Which I am happy to see. For where Mme Nagel is really making her mark on the Hermessence collection come back tomorrow for my reviews of the two “essence de parfum” releases.
Disclosure: this review is based on bottles I purchased.
Self-taught perfumers are a mixed bag to be sure. By not knowing the “rules” they break them. The great majority of the time it leads to reinforcing why the “rules” exist. Much more rarely there is a new perspective revealed. On the plus side the more common result is time learning through trial and error leads to a true independent interpretation of the “rules”.
Towards the end of 2017 I was introduced to the line of perfumes done by self-taught perfumer Rasei Fort called Fort & Manle. Over seven releases the ups and downs of being self-taught showed throughout. There were nice glimmers throughout, but it seemed like the florals were the weakest entries in the group. Mr. Fort couldn’t seem to get the style right. When the follow-up Impressions de Giverny arrived, I wasn’t expecting much when I ordered a sample. Maybe it took the process of releasing some clunky florals previously but this time everything I found lacking is gone leaving a beautiful spring floral behind.
The name tells you Mr. Fort was inspired by Monet’s garden which was the muse to his paintings. Mr. Fort wanted to capture “Monet’s vision for a Japanese garden in the heart of Normandy”. This leads to layered effects which surprised me at every turn.
The opening duet of yuzu and red apple was my first indication this was going to be better than the previous florals. You might think that is odd but in the previous releases Mr. Fort would have an idea like this but unbalance it; not here. The tart citrus of the yuzu is contrasted with the crisp sweetness of the apple. Before heading into the floral heart, a watery green intermezzo provides a separation. The first layer of florals is led by a delicately sweet magnolia also supported by orange blossom. It is a transparent accord. Over time tuberose and rose add some structure to the lilt. Throughout there is a subtext of green herbal background vocals to all the florals. Hours in, this settles into an excellent benzoin and musk base accord.
Impressions de Giverny has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Impressions de Giverny is one of those perfumes which got much better in the trip from strip to skin. It became more expansive on the days I wore it. It was hard for me to wrap my mind around how much better Impressions de Giverny was versus all the previous florals. I kept waiting for the flaw to appear; it never did. I ended my first review of the brand believing better days were ahead. I didn’t count on Mr. Fort being such a quick learner that it would be the very next release.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
My taste for rose perfumes has evolved over the years. I’ve gone from the classics through all the different phases and I have favorites within all of them. Currently though I like my roses weird. I want it paired with odd contrasts or unique amplifiers. There aren’t a lot of them. I also sometimes must decide to embrace the difference. It has taken me some time to come around to liking Maisom Martin Margiela Replica Wicked Love.
The Maison Martin Margiela Replica collection has been one of the unsung successes within the mainstream sector since 2012. It has worked while maintaining an artistic aesthetic. It has become a reliable brand I look forward to trying. Which was the case when I received samples for the most recent releases at the end of the summer. Music Festival was exactly what I expected it to be. Wicked Love had such an odd top accord I wasn’t immediately drawn in. Through the busy end of the year period it got sidelined easily. I was doing some cleaning up of my desk getting ready for the spring and Wicked Love was there. I remembered it being not to my liking. I sprayed it on a strip to confirm that. This time the oddness was exactly what I needed after a few months of straightforward roses. Perfumer Amandine Clerc-Marie’s unique opening finally broke through.
That unique opening is made up of basil, green pepper, and watermelon. I imagine there are more internal expressions of disbelief in reading that than those who are thinking it sounds fab. It is the green pepper which has this slightly spicy, green vegetal quality that is fractious all by itself. Add in the strong herbal-ness of basil along with the sugar water effect of watermelon. First time I tried this I could not get past the green pepper it felt too weird. Months later it felt less so as the green pepper felt like a kind of fragrant gremlin asking me to follow it into the garden.
That green pepper is what I first encounter; it is not a typical ingredient I suspect it will never be listed as a crowd pleaser. Yet on the second look it came across as a substitute for the leafier green ingredients usually used. As the basil deepened the vegetal effect and the watermelon provides watery contrast it can be too much. The one thing I can say is after the top accord has done its thing the rest of the development is typical. A rich rose and jasmine in the heart down to vetiver and cedar in the base.
Wicked Love has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is something you must sample before considering purchasing. I think there are a segment of consumers who will enjoy this for not being a typical spring rose. If nothing else I suggest spraying this on a strip on your next visit to the mall. It might not be to your taste but there are no other top accords like this in the mainstream sector.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Maison Martin Margiela.
As I began to expand my perfume horizons the first style I latched on to was the Mediterranean aesthetic. It was enough different than the plethora of fresh aquatics, which were crowding my department store counter, while allowing me to take small steps towards different. There are plenty in this style which play up the Sea they are named after. The best are a balance of herbs, citrus, and florals which capture everything about the place they are named after. Nicolai Cap Neroli is one of the latest to get this style right.
Patricia de Nicolai has been working with her son Axel recently on the new Nicolai releases. The collaborative mere et fils have shown an evolution of the Nicolai style. There is a freshening up of the aesthetic. It hasn’t always worked for me but the effort shows another Nicolai is ready to carry on the perfumed family name. In Cap Neroli this turn towards that effect pays dividends especially early on. A Mediterranean style perfume should be bright, and a precise top accord leads to the title note followed by a biting base accord.
Axel and Patricia de Nicolai
The perfume team’s choice is to use the bitter call of bigarade to open things. Orange sweetens the bitterness. The herbal nature of rosemary and mint capture the exhilaration of standing on a cliff looking down at the Mediterranean far below. They bring a hint of the water, but they mostly provide green complement to the citrus. It isn’t stated what the source of the neroli used here but it is a top quality one where both the floral and the green are prominent. Which means the bigarade meshes with the floral while the herbs combine with the green. This forms that fresh effect I mentioned earlier. It has the frisson of summer writ large. To prepare for a deeper base the Nicolais begin to add depth with jasmine and ylang-ylang. That’s so the oakmoss which arrives doesn’t startle. It is a bitingly green version to which a set of mid-weight musks provide amplification of those qualities.
Cap Neroli has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’ve been watching a bit too much basketball this weekend. Wearing Cap Neroli while watching the March Madness tournament made me think of this as Mediterranean Madness; thrillingly so.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
As I’ve come to know the perfumes of independent perfumer Russian Adam through his Areej Le Dore brand I have consigned them to my “wall of scent” category. What I mean by that is they are solid constructs of ingredients only an independent distiller could source. These kinds of materials have nuances and grace notes not experienced in more industrial isolations. It is what makes the Areej Le Dore perfumes stand apart. Because of that, balance is sometimes less apparent because the volume is so turned up. It is like listening to punk rock turned up to maximum volume; the pleasure is all in the intensity not necessarily the precision. In the group of fragrances, I put in this category there is always an anomaly where the perfumer chooses to show me there is an ability to play at a lower volume, if not necessarily something I’d call soft, while also displaying a subtler hand in putting together things. That is how I view Areej Le Dore Walimah Parfum.
Before we go any further this is a review of the Parfum version of Walimah. Russian Adam released an attar version of Walimah as well. That is so different from the Parfum I am going to give it its own review. This is also where I’ll mention that this is a review based on the version released in February 2018. I also need to thank Kafkaesque for all the information on Walimah contained below.
Photo: Heather Kincaid
Walimah was inspired by Russian Adam’s marriage at the end of 2017. He describes it as, “the beautiful union of two souls from different corners of the globe”. Walimah is an evocation of the Russian groom and the Indonesian bride as there is a suite of ingredients which represent each. For the bride it is tropical flowers. For the groom it is genuine musk, rare oud, and vetiver. What captured me throughout the development of Walimah was the interlacing of complementary notes in celebration of this union.
It opens with the bride swathed in a silky dress of magnolia. The magnolia used here has a creamy floral nature underscored with its woody nuance. The groom is dressed in an authentic musk tuxedo. The depth of the musk provides a solid platform for the magnolia to drape itself upon. The ceremony complete, the first kiss is of white flowers and oud. Tuberose and gardenia form the bouquet. The oud is described as coming from “incense-grade wood” from Bengal. As the magnolia and musk settle into the floral indoles and oud it forms an exquisite accord which captures this ceremony. Russian Adam uses a special Champaca distillation which rains down upon the happy couple. It has an interesting tempering effect to the white flowers. The same is achieved with a ribbon of tobacco which tames the musk and oud. Just as many of the Areej Le Dore begin to ramp up in intensity Walimah finds a plateau where it remains until the end. Through the final phase there are more ribbons to tie onto the heart accord. Cocoa passes through accentuating the chocolate vibe of the oud. Saffron adds a happy glow to the champaca. Cinnamon provides spicy contrast to the musk. Once this all moves along to the base it is a rounded vetiver accord which uses labdanum and Peru balsam to make the vetiver a smooth closing effect.
Walimah has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
I like my perfume “loud” and when I do the Areej Le Dore perfumes are where I often look for that. Walimah will not be on this list because it is a union of dualities made whole with a kiss.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I must say that as I’ve now received most of the spring releases it looks like one of my wishes has come to be; less rose perfumes for the beginning of the year. I have reviewed several mass-market releases which have left rose on the shelf without leaving behind the seasonal vibe. It just means there are alternatives to rose not that they stopped making rose perfumes for spring. For me to find a rose, at this time of year, of any interest I have to see something a bit different; Givenchy Live Irresistible Blossom Crush manages to achieve this.
Givenchy started the Live Irresistible in 2015 with an Eau de Parfum composed by perfumer Dominique Ropion. That was a fall-themed pineapple, rose, amber grating megaphone of all three notes. Almost a year later M. Ropion did enter the spring rose sweepstakes with, Eau de Toilette, another grating fruity floral where pear and raspberry accentuated the debutante rose. Then last year with Delicieuse M. Ropion thought we’d like some cake with our rose in a misguided gourmand. My expectation that Blossom Crush would be enjoyable was near zero. Except M. Ropion puts his bullhorn away in favor of something much less aggressive along with a modulating note cleverly chosen.
In the ever lightening of fragrance overall and especially at the department store Blossom Crush is an example of where it is an asset. M. Ropion keeps it completely simple with a dewy rose matched to a mid-weight musk. That is common, this time M. Ropion chooses to use a gourmand note in a precise way to give an unusual effect to the rose which allows for the musk to pick it up in a different way.
In the first moment and for a few minutes beyond that this is that dewy rose that crowds the fragrance counters. In this case it is made a bit fresher with peony. Then the use of cocoa is what sets this apart. Like a needle slowly entering within the floral accord a subtle bitterness tunes the floral sweetness. If there was a common complaint from me on the earlier Live Irresistible releases, they were way too sweet. In Blossom Crush the cocoa works to remove some of the natural floral sweetness. What I found really smart was to never allow the cocoa to become gourmand-level strength. It acts as only as a background effect. It also bridges the floral to musk which is not so fresh but one which also has a few bitter facets for the cocoa to attach to.
Live Irresistible Blossom Crush has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
At the end of the day Blossom Crush is mostly a typical spring rose but if you’re looking for a new one for 2018 there are much more banal choices. Give the bitter rose of Blossom Crush a chance.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Macy’s.
Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has such a diverse imagination I am always impressed when I receive a new package of her latest releases. Within are usually three very different types of perfume. I must admit for the past year one of the seasonal releases has been more anticipated than the other. Last spring Ms. Hurwitz began her Haiku Series with Gekkou Hanami capturing the cherry blossoms of spring under the moonlight. Since then with Tsukiyo-en and Tsukimi she has provided similar moonlit vistas for summer and autumn. Which meant winter had to be coming. When my package arrived, I opened it and looked for the vial with the Japanese name, what I found was called Shimotsuki.
I have mentioned in my previous reviews within this series how much I have come to appreciate Ms. Hurwitz’s Japanese aesthetic. Of any of the four Haiku releases Shimotsuki might be the most equivalent to the actual poetic inspiration. Shimotsuki is meant to capture the diffuse light of a full moon on the snow. The way moonlight interacts out in the Maryland countryside has always been an enjoyment as I spend time on my back porch during full moons. The winter version on a snowfall is special as the moonlight is doubled by the reflection off the white stuff. It is the ultimate light diffuser and amplifier. It is also coming in the depths of winter when the smell of the outdoors is scrubbed clean of all that vegetal green floral interference. The light comes with a diffuse cleanliness. This is all captured in Shimotsuki.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
The chill is provided by yuzu and a familiar Hurwitz ingredient, rice. In the past when she has used rice it is accompanied by steam or powder. In Shimotsuki it is accompanied by the citrus making it seem frozen in place. The moon is represented by artemisia which is named after the goddess of the moon. Ms. Hurwitz adds seaweed underneath the sage-lite nature of artemisia to provide a light green patina. Out of that arises the slightest hint of the spring to come as a lilting hawthorn arrives along with the sturdiness of hinoki wood. As the moon moves across the sky allowing the light to dim and fade with the dawn sandalwood, orris, and white musk combine to form an accord heralding the changing of the light.
Shimotsuki has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
There are only a few perfumers from whom I would want a bespoke perfume from; Ms. Hurwitz is one of them. If you had asked me when I first discovered her fragrances I would have desired something spicy and floral. Now after this final Haiku I realize I would desire something Japanese-inspired and simple. Shimotsuki is as good a closing of the loop of the Haiku series as I could have imagined; austere perfumery which leads to beauty.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.
There is something voyeuristic about photographs of celebrities. Certainly, there is a cottage industry of poorly taken “gotcha!” photographs taken by paparazzi. Those I have little interest in. The ones which capture my attention are the ones where well-known professional photographers have the opportunity to shoot during a particular time in a celebrity’s career. One of the more memorable pictures in that category was one taken by photographer Terry O’Neill in 1977. His subject was actress Faye Dunaway sitting by the pool at The Beverly Hills Hotel at 6AM the morning after she won her Best Actress Oscar for “Network”. Looking like she still hadn’t been to bed (she had) Mr. O’Neill captured the moment after you’ve won an Academy Award with the newspapers headlines of your win at your feet and your trophy on the table considering what’s next. It is an iconic picture for so many reasons; the early morning light, the Old Hollywood vibe, and a spectacular actress in her prime. I don’t know if this begged to have a perfume made from its inspiration but it has arrived; A Lab On Fire And The World Is Yours.
Faye Dunaway as photographed by Terry O'Neill (March 1977)
The perfumer hired by creative director Carlos Kusubayashi to take this on is Dominique Ropion. M. Ropion had converted a classic Hollywood photograph into a perfume two years previously with one of Douglas Kirkland’s photos of Marilyn Monroe. The opening to that was gorgeous but an overly aggressive musky gourmand base put me off. With And The World Is Yours that problem does not exist this is a stunning companion to the inspiration. What is especially pleasing about And The World Is Yours is that M. Ropion is not playing it safe which is apropos of an actress who won her Academy Award by also taking risks.
What I so expected in the early moments of And The World Is Yours was a sparkly bergamot-y dawn sun kind of opening. M. Ropion embraces the “morning after” vibe instead. As the dawn signals the end of the night not the beginning of the day. M. Ropion deploys neroli and orange blossom in a weary evocation of daybreak. There is no sparkle but there is a banked luminosity to them maybe as you close your eyes to the rising sun. You also catch a whiff of yourself which is where M. Ropion uses cumin to cleave the floral duet. I adore when perfumers are unafraid to use cumin as an effective contrast as it is here. The cumin really deepens the sense of a long night’s day. It persists through a heart of rose and heliotrope. This ends on a mixture of tolu balsam and sandalwood sweetened by tonka bean and vanilla. The sweet smell of success.
And The World Is Yours has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is one of my favorite perfumes from A Lab On Fire ever. It is near-perfect as M. Ropion never puts a foot wrong for my tastes. That being said, if you find cumin a problem in perfume I think there is little chance you will be as enthusiastic about this as I am. If you can get past it, or embrace it, what is to be found is the smell of the morning after success.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.