I have been wondering when the luxury brands were going to start jumping on the floral gourmand bandwagon. In the mainstream sector this has become one of the more consistent styles meant to appeal to younger perfume aficionados. For the most part the independent and luxury niche market has shrugged in response. It looks like Louis Vuitton Attrape-Reves is going to go first.
The Louis Vuitton fragrance foray has been too safe in my opinion. They have done some nice versions of styles without finding anything new. When the recent set of five was released Nouveau Monde provided me what I expected from the Louis Vuitton brand; a fabulous leather. Everything else in the collection has been transparent. I presume also to woo upscale younger consumers. Attrape-Reves is in this vein. The difference is the floral gourmand style has not been around that long allowing for something different. Which allows for it to stand out.
I also have to say that I don’t usually expand my vocabulary due to the press release but in this case perfumer Jacques Cavallier described the perfume like this, “It’s a dialogue between precious ingredients that, in theory, have no reason to cohabit. And yet, on the skin, they converse, crepitate, and command attention.” Crepitate? I had no idea what that was. Turns out the definition is “to make a crackling sound”. Turns out that is a good description as M. Cavallier sets up some nicely orthogonal accords which sort of crackle into each other.
That is where Attrape-Reves starts with ginger and lychee forming what reminded me of an Asian restaurant accord. It is like the scent of those ingredients are lifting off a dish containing both. This isn’t as humid as that description might portend. It is delineated as the zestiness of the ginger interacts with the off-beat sweetness of the lychee. This leads to the heart where a peony accord bolstered by Turkish rose crackles against cocoa flower. The freshness of the floral wrestles with the attempt to be coated in the chocolate. There really is a bit of give and take more than a harmony. Patchouli brings it home with a less earthy fraction continuing the opaque style until the end.
Attrape-Reves has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
It is a curious effect of this transparent floral gourmand style that the quality of the ingredients doesn’t make as much of an impact. There are some great ingredients here but because M. Cavallier is keeping them at such a lighter level some of the deeper complexity is lost. I am left wondering if this style will translate to the luxury side so easily because of this.
I do like Attrape-Reves quite a bit for being a floral gourmand with style. If you’re looking for a step up from the mainstream floral gourmands, this is worth trying. You might enjoy having some crepitation happening on your skin.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Louis Vuitton.
It seems like we are at the beginning of a creative upswing around the gourmand genre of perfume. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is purely creative. The gourmand style has only been in existence for 26 years and it has only seen any kind of serious consideration over the past decade. That means there is room for imagination to flourish. Another reason is the younger perfume generation seems to prefer floral gourmands. These have been some of the early mass-market winners. Which should then lead to the independent and niche perfume brands to provide more sophisticated versions. The great majority of the gourmand perfumes rely on strongly edible sweet central accords. There has been a lack of trying to find a contrasting accord which explores the places they mesh while providing depth. Perhaps Jovoy Remember Me is an example of where gourmand is going.
Creative director for Jovoy, Francois Henin, and perfumer Cecile Zarokian took a trip to Doha, Qatar. They were there looking at the uniquely Middle Eastern ingredients which have become popular in perfumery. While they were taking a break from their business they stopped to visit local friends. Which is where inspiration would strike. They were served a Qatari drink called Karak tea. It is an offshoot of chai tea most are familiar with. The scent of the drink struck both as it was paired with a breeze flowing through the frangipani growing in the garden. They walked away wanting to capture this as a perfume. If that was what ended up in the bottle, and it does, that would have been enough to be a memorable gourmand. What elevates Remember Me is Mme Zarokian contrasts it with one of the best leather accords she has produced.
It opens with the spices of cardamom and ginger. A dollop of lemon chills the heat, of especially the ginger, as Mme Zarokian pushes the concentration of that ingredient. Black tea, milk and vanilla provide the rest of the chai accord. It is creamy with a curl of steam rising off it. Mme Zarokian then floats the frangipani over the top. This sets up the final accord of luxurious suede leather. All refined leather carries a sweetness. This accord picks out that thread, so it can harmonize with the chai and the frangipani. It sets up a fascinating triad. Underneath which slips the rawer, but smooth, aspects of the leather. It is a compelling give and take over the hours it stays on my skin in this state.
Remember Me has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Remember Me occupies a unique space within the gourmand genre. There are few fragrances similar and none which are better than it. These are exceedingly small data sets. Although I think that might be changing. If it does Remember Me might be remembered for being one of the earliest bellwethers of a new day for gourmands.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
Independent perfumer Pierre Guillaume has continued with his re-examination of his original releases. After which he releases a new perfume with the X.1 attached to the number. It has been interesting to observe M. Guillaume as he takes his early inspiration and reconsiders it years later. It look forward to see what M. Guillaume chooses to do with each new concept built upon the old. The latest release is Parfumerie Generale 9.1 Komorebi.
The perfume getting an update is 2006’s Parfumerie General 09 Yuzu Ab Irato. M. Guillaume was attempting to cross a Japanese and Mediterranean aesthetic. This was one of the early misses for me. The mint smelled like mouthwash and it didn’t help the perfume shared the color of the same product. This was one of the few times I felt like M. Guillaume was trying to force a concept into the bottle instead of allowing it to come together from a less manufactured place.
For the first time the update was not going to be taking on one of the perfumes I liked. This was going to be a case where M. Guillaume would have my full attention without my comparing back to something I really liked. The name was already a good sign. Komorebi is a Japanese word which describes sunlight filtered through the leaves of the trees. Gone are the attempts at grafting a Mediterranean style onto something Asian. It also lives up to the name because this is an unrelenting perfume of crushed greenery. I happen to enjoy that smell which is why I enjoyed Komorebi.
It opens with an ozonic accord to capture the sunlight. The mint makes a return but thankfully only for a moment adding a chill to the fresh air. M. Guillaume uses two sources of green; blackcurrant bud and reseda. The latter is an unfamiliar ingredient to most, but it carries a violet aura in herbal packaging. It is a good match with the black currant bud which carries a fruity aura within sappy green packaging. Combined there is an accord as if you took handful of green leaves and crushed them in your hand. Sniffing the sticky places where the sap clings to your fingers. It is the heart of Komorebi and I have enjoyed it in these final days of summer. The base accord comes through with the trees, as a sturdy oak holds the center slightly ameliorated with some tonka.
Komorebi has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Komorebi is not only an update it is also an upgrade over the original. This shows when M. Guillaume allows an idea to arise like the sap in trees he can create something memorable.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Whenever Mrs. C and I are out looking at art we have a conversation which goes like this, “Isn’t that piece incredibly done?” I reply, “Yes but I wouldn’t want to live with it every day.” I find myself having this internal conversation about perfume more frequently. One part of the reason for that is there are a lot of fragrances being made for, and marketed to, a demographic decades younger than me. It is a normal thing, but I now get new perfumes which I have to try and figure out whether it is what that consumer wants. I end up paying more attention to the construction because I understand that. This struggle was front and center on Zadig & Voltaire Girls Can Do Anything.
When Thierry Gillier founded Zadig & Voltaire in 1998 he was looking to dress the cool girl of Paris. He believed that style would find acceptance word-wide. Twenty years on it appears he was correct. The clothes are simple designs modernized with modern tailoring and detailing. When M. Gillier made the move to fragrance it was a bit of a bumpy ride. He partnered with the founders of Le Labo to create two perfumes in 2009 and 2012. They were both Orientals of a similar style that seemed to fall somewhere between the Le Labo and Zadig & Voltaire aesthetic. It didn’t work.
Two years ago, M. Gillier was ready to give it a try again. This time he was the creative director providing a clear vision of what the brand stood for. The most obvious change was a streamlined style with fragrances of a few ingredients mostly dominated by a single keynote. Reacquainting myself with them they are typical designer perfumes.
For Girls Can Do Anything there is a similar aesthetic at work. Except this time the supporting ingredients have more of an obvious effect. Perfumer Quentin Bisch took the style of the brand of tailoring and detail and transformed it to a fragrance.
Girls Can Do Anything starts with a crisp pear which is given a soft green shimmer via a fern accord. Tonka bean provides a toasty sweet nuttiness which M. Bisch floats a veil of orange blossom over. Vanilla and ambrox provide a dry sweet woody base accord.
Girls Can Do Anything has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I wore Girls Can Do Anything I appreciated the details M. Bisch provided around the keynotes. They are tuned to provide a specific effect which I could admire. This is where the second half of my internal conversation takes place as this perfume is not meant for me. I asked a couple of young women I know what they thought, and they seemed to like it. Maybe it is that group who wants this style. I can admire the tailoring and detail, but I will never be a cool girl on the Seine.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Zadig & Voltaire.
I suspect it is quite difficult to maintain a consistent state of enthusiasm for any endeavor. Perfume is unlikely to escape that. Eleven years ago, Tom Ford released one of the boldest collections at the time as he popularized luxury perfume with his Tom Ford Private Blend collection. In 2007 it was unheard of to release ten new perfumes into the luxury market at the same time. Working with creative director Karyn Khoury these perfumes stood out for their unique quality. I own all the first ten and I still think about what they would change in the niche market. It was another groundbreaking fragrance move from Mr. Ford.
Over the past few years I have been wondering if the brand is working a bit on autopilot. My recent favorites have been obvious riffs on some of the originals. It was understandable as it seemed like the naming of the perfumes were meant to be the innovation now. After Fucking Fabulous I rolled my eyes when I received the press release for the latest entry, Tom Ford Private Blend Lost Cherry. I was worried the name was all I would remember.
Lost Cherry is unique in the Private Blend collection for being the first intentionally gourmand entry. Noir de Noir is my favorite of the Private Blends because it is a chocolate-red wine-rose stunner on me. That is all achieved through clever perfumery creating that accord. The perfumer for Lost Cherry, Louise Turner, moves in a more direct fashion as she combines some different sources of cherry.
One cherry comes in the form of the cherry liqueur known as Cherry Heering. The other is the rich fruitiness of black cherry itself. The third is the most interesting as it is the result of headspace analysis of the filling of a cherry cordial. Known as griotte syrup, I use it in cocktails often. Ms. Turner has found a way to re-create it as the third piece of the cherry trio.
Ms. Turner opens with the black cherry fruit on top. It is combined with slivers of bitter almond. It is added to a glass of cherry liqueur as a slightly alcoholic quality begins to appear. It intensifies with a jammy rose inserting itself. If you’re looking for a lost cherry it doesn’t take long to find it as this top accord assembles itself. The rose adds a metaphorical viscosity which is enhanced when the griotte syrup accord oozes onto the scene. Ms. Turner adds in pistachio as a nutty foil to the bitter almond from the top. This is a perfume equivalent of a cherry cordial; if you start at the center first. The remainder of Lost Cherry is building the chocolate casing as an accord of sandalwood, tolu balsam, tonka bean, and vanilla. It is a guess, but I think there might be some of the tonka resinoid used in Fucking Fabulous because the tonka has more of a presence that I expected.
Lost Cherry has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is as good as it gets with a gourmand style of perfume. The only caveat is the same with any of them; if you’re not fond of cherry Lost Cherry isn’t going to find you changing your mind. If you’re looking for something new from Tom Ford Private Blend this is definitely that. It has been a long time since I couldn’t stop thinking about a Private Blend release. Lost Cherry has helped me find my enthusiasm for the brand, again.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Tom Ford.
As I come to know a brand I have an expectation of how each new perfume will fit into what came before. This is especially true of brands which have a long-time association between creative director and perfumer. It is something I think can be critical to creating the defined aesthetic for any perfume brand. Many of my favorites fall into this category. Because of that it can be soothing to get a new release from one of them because it can be an antidote to a bunch of samples from brands just beginning to figure it all out. Except for 2018, Byredo has been seemingly exploring the far edges of their well-known style.
Earlier this year creative director-owner, Ben Gorham, along with longtime collaborator perfumer, Jerome Epinette, worked with Off-White designer Keith Abloh on Elevator Music. For a brand known for a lighter style of fragrance this was out on the edge of that. Now the second release for 2018, Eleventh Hour, goes the other way as Mr. Gorham and M. Epinette make the darkest release for the brand.
The name stands for the final hour of existence. The press copy is a bit arch even, “Eleventh Hour is an exploration around the smell of things ending, a journey to the end of time, the last perfume on Earth.” You’re a better person than me if that gives you any idea what the perfume should smell like. I was half-expecting something that smelled like metal, scorched electronics, and smoke. That is not what is in the bottle. Eleventh Hour is more about how you might face the eleventh hour if you weren’t planning on sticking around.
I have been really interested in the many ways Szechuan pepper has been used in perfumery especially over the last year or so. It is becoming a new top to middle ingredient which seemingly can be tuned to multiple effects. Eleventh Hour is another example of this versatility.
The top accord of Eleventh Hour is Szechuan pepper and fig. A green fig is what I smell first. The Szechuan pepper acts to cleave the fruit into a piquant pulpy accord. M. Epinette also uses carrot seed as an earthy sweetness to further elaborate this top accord. On the night I first smelled this I thought maybe this was going to be a new style of a Mediterranean kind of fragrance. Except M. Epinette pours some rum over the top. It turns it into a decadent boozy fig dessert which is where this lingers. Woods and tonka bean eventually form the foundation in the later hours.
Eleventh Hour has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
This stands out from most of the Byredo brand for its darker aesthetic. It fits right in because of Mr. Gorham and M. Epinette know how to take the aesthetic they’ve created while finding a way to define the limits. Eleventh Hour finds the darkness on the edge of town.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Byredo.
There are a few brands which connect with me. To the point that I am always interested to follow where they lead. I do have to admit there is a bit of a fantasy where I am approached by one of those brands and asked what you would like to see in a perfume. Sometimes it happens through serendipity as it has with Memo Tiger’s Nest.
Incense is probably my favorite ingredient in perfume. Amber is a close second. There are a lot of perfumes on my shelf with that combination. The third ingredient in Tiger’s Nest is a favorite floral; osmanthus. If creative director Clara Molloy and perfumer Alienor Massenet asked me for a suggestion I might have chosen these.
Paro Taktsang a.k.a. Tiger's Nest
Their inspiration for Tiger’s Nest is the temple of the same name in Bhutan. This results in a church-like incense surrounded by facets of polished wood. The osmanthus is like an offering at the shrine as it rests upon the resinous foundation. The creative team has captured this milieu.
Tiger’s Nest opens with a fillip of an accord to represent the altitude of the temple which clings to the side of a cliff. A set of aldehydes freshened with lime capture the clean cool air of the Himalayas. It is fleeting; it is adroitly done. A thread of saffron leads inward to a shimmering silvery frankincense. This is the church-like incense version. There is an austerity to it that can be tough. Mme Massenet ameliorates that with the warmth of amber softening the inherent sharp edges of the incense. Osmanthus takes this in a different direction as the leathery quality of the ingredient finds purchase. Some tolu balsam acts like the polished wood of the surfaces inside the temple. This is where Tiger’s Nest lingers for a long time. Vanilla eventually adds a sweet finish.
Tiger’s Nest has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I will eventually purchase a bottle of Tiger’s Nest because of the way the osmanthus provides the kind of texture I desire in an incense perfume. When I wear it, I will imagines standing on a cliff in Bhutan about to enter a temple through a cloud of incense at the roof of the world.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
When you are a child, teachers provide all kinds of mnemonics, so you can remember things. One which has stuck with me for almost my entire life is the one used to remember the colors of the rainbow or a spectrum; ROYGBIV. That translates to red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Even though I learned it at six it helped when I was faced with the idea of infrared or ultraviolet at later age. It even helps when I want to get the layers of a rainbow cake in the correct order. I hadn’t thought to apply it to perfume until I received my sample of Cartier Carat.
Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent wanted to translate the colors of the refracted light through a diamond, the spectrum, into a perfume. She would go so far as to assign each ingredient a color. The easy one is violet for violet. The others are more interesting analogies; lily for indigo, hyacinth for blue, ylang-ylang for green, narcissus for yellow, honeysuckle for orange, and tulip for red. Mme Laurent doesn’t make a perfume of ROYGBIV hers is a creation VIBGYOR or an inverse spectrum. It is a much more dynamic perfume than even that implies.
Many of the large mass-market perfume companies have made a concerted effort to produce a transparent floral fragrance. This is done to capture the new young generation of fragrance enthusiasts. As I’ve observed this over the past couple of years there have been nicely constructed perfumes but the move to transparency has left me wanting for a richer complexity. Which does not seem to be what the mass-market desires. Mme Laurent puts that to rest because as much as Carat is a transparent floral it is also as intricately constructed a perfume as I could desire.
This rainbow comes together a few colors at a time. Right away there is a watery green accord of violet and lily. Mme Laurent uses both notes tilted towards the green facets. The next color is the unctuousness of ylang ylang. This is so precisely applied it never gets out of control while providing a spine for the rest of the spectrum to hang upon. Hyacinth and narcissus provide the deeper colors in this spectrum, A captivating honeysuckle and a recapitulation of watery floral with the tulip complete the spectrum. Here is where Carat stands apart. Just as you look at light being refracted through a diamond; as you turn it certain colors flare to life momentarily. That is how Carat spends its time on my skin developing as if I was rotating a precious jewel through a beam of light. A bit of narcissus transforms to honeysuckle to violet to ylang. It stays with the same seven ingredients but it sure as heck isn’t linear.
Carat has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Carat is a marvel for its kaleidoscope-like construction while retaining a transparent nature. Mme Laurent has reaffirmed my belief that she is the best of the current in-house perfumers. So many of her contemporaries have taken a swing at this to strikeout completely or hit an uninspiring single. Mme Laurent hits a rainbow arc of a home run to produce the best mainstream perfume of 2018.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Cartier.
The origins of perfume were using what was available to add to your body to smell nice. When the era of modern perfumery began in the late 19th century the combination of new synthetic materials along with the advent of efficient extraction processes changed things. It allowed for such an expansion of ingredients perfumers had new versatility. It allowed for artists to think in abstract terms. They could re-create a natural smell through a combination of synthetic molecules and natural sources. Some of my favorite perfumes are when there is an ingredient in the name and it is nowhere to be found within the note list. The ones I like best are from the perfumers I think most highly of; Providence Perfume Co. Lemon Liada is a new addition to my list.
What I enjoy so much about perfumes like Lemon Liada is when a perfumer, in this case Charna Ethier, allows me to reconsider my thoughts on what is being abstracted. For Lemon Liada Ms. Ethier wanted to create a summery eau de cologne. Lemon is a great place to begin when you are doing that. Ms. Ethier took a different tack. How about a lemon eau de cologne which has no lemon in it? How about a true abstract of lemon? How about a lemon perfume which lies about having lemon in it? That’s what Lemon Liada translates to.
If you’re going to achieve this, you will rely on the lemon-like ingredients within your palette. Ms. Ethier does that with three of these sources; verbena, petitgrain, and citron. The verbena and citron come together to form the frame of the lemon effect in the early moments. My childhood days of picking lemons off the tree smells a lot like this, a combination of external rind and green leaves. The next two part of this are petitgrain and mimosa. The mimosa is the key ingredient to the success of Lemon Liada as it imparts a gauzy veil over the entire construction. The petitgrain provides a brilliance atop that. At this point the lemon accord is complete. The final phase of Lemon Liada is where a bit of powdery iris and watery lotus provide some contrast as the accord begins to fray over the final hours.
Lemon Liada has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I don’t know why I am always so enthralled by these kinds of olfactory illusions. One reason is they don’t come around that often. Another reason is they often don’t hold together. When I encounter one as good as Lemon Liada it reminds me what modern perfumery is.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Providence Perfume Co.
Ever since we moved to the greater Washington DC area I have been surprised at how much politics is woven into the fabric of the region. Even out in Poodlesville which is 18 miles from the front gate of the White House the feel of living in the Nation’s Capital is different from everyplace else I’ve lived. Over the last seven years there have been moments where the voice of protest has been raised up. To see the numbers of people who gather on the Mall to speak up about their issue almost every month is something which makes me happy to be an American where this takes place. It is the essence of being a vital Democracy; the opportunity to step up and speak up. Independent perfume brand House of Cherry Bomb has decided to add scent up to that with the release of Pussy and Resist. Perfumers Alexis Karl and Maria McElroy have composed what they call “Revolution Perfume” as they capture the idea of this current generation of protest.
Maria McElroy (on steps) and Alexis Karl
On January 21, 2017 the world became acquainted with the pink knitted cap known as a “pussy hat” as millions of women worldwide stepped up and made their voices heard. Pussy is a perfume meant to capture that sense of women’s advocacy. The perfumers choose to display that by using a deep floral accord clenched in a leather fist.
Tuberose comes right to the foreground as fig and honey accentuate this forceful floral. The leather accord comes forward and wraps itself around the tuberose. Encasing it in an animalic frame. The animalic part intensifies over the final stages with amber and musk abetting that.
Resist is an homage to the last fifty-plus years of active non-violent protest in the US. Every march has taken place on the streets. The smell of the urban landscape is what the perfumers capture by using sets of accords meant to capture pieces of that.
Resist opens with a duet of metal and cement; a true cityscape in scent. This is marching among tall buildings hearing your voices amplified against the facades. This scent then shifts to a small hopeful jasmine before the march becomes more active as smoke and oud show resistance does not mean unopposed.
Pussy and Resist have 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Of the two perfumes Resist works best for me as both statement and as a perfume. The smell of the streets is nicely captured which is where most resistance takes place.
If you’re interested in adding “scent up” to those moments you want to stand up and speak up these two perfumes might be the right choice.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by House of Cherry Bomb.