If I describe a perfume with the adjective “tropical” I would bet manty of you are thinking of something dense with sweet flowers and fruits. It has always been a funny thing for me because having grown up in South Florida and traveling throughout the tropics that is not the scent of the actual region. It is the scent of cocktails served at tourist areas. My idea of the tropics is the scent of the fruit ripening on the trees. A lighter scent of florals reaching me as if on a breeze. Turns out that a perfume called Vilhelm Mango Skin agrees with me.
I’m sure you’re all tired of reading this but Jan Ahlgren the owner-creative director of Vilhelm is one of the great success stories of the last three years. Mr. Ahlgren has defined a brand aesthetic which allows him to find new ways to position the new releases. He has so far exclusively worked with perfumer Jerome Epinette. Another reason for the coherence of the collection overall. Earlier this year Poets of Berlin was the first perfume from the brand I would have called “sweet”. Mango Skin continues the sweet trend at Vilhelm but it is less sweet than that previous release.
Jerome Epinette (l.) and Jan Ahlgren
M. Epinette has always found surprising new ways to use different ingredients. The note list of Mango Skin is a roster of typical tropical components. M. Epinette uses violet as the linchpin to what is a fantastic perfume of the tropics.
From the first moments the mango is here. In the very early going this is the smell of a ripe mango on the tree. There is some green from the skin. M. Epinette adds orange to flesh out the mango. Then the violet adds a candied floral bridge to frangipani and ylang-ylang. Those florals are pitched at a transparent level which allows for the violet to act as connective tissue between the fruit on top and the florals in the heart. The last part of the construction is an effervescent blackcurrant accord bubbling up through the other notes.
Mango Skin has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mango Skin is that combination of fruit and floral without being a typical fruity floral. The entire composition feels like a carefree day in the sun. If tropical could be like this all the time I’d be quite happy.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Vilhelm.
One thing I try to do is not get enchanted with the new shiny object in my writing about perfume. I try to remind myself that even when I try a new release and it is a simple soliflore or duo there can still be something which is worthy of comment. This is basic perfumery which is no less enjoyable for being simple and straightforward. Back at the end of winter I received a sample set of these kinds of perfumes from Lancome. I put them aside because all three seemed like they would be better in warmer weather. That has turned out to be the case for the three new releases for the Maison Lancome Collection; Iris Dragees, Oranges Bigarades, and Santal Kardamon.
The Maison Lancome Collection has been in existence since 2016. It has landed on an aesthetic of two keynotes with a few modulators for each release. There is not a poor perfume in the entire bunch. They’re just straightforward what you see is what you get fragrances. The three I’ll do short takes on are not really different than the previous eight. They all are worth seeking out if you particularly enjoy the two listed keynotes on the bottle. It is certainly the case that one of the new releases fits that bill for me which led me to write about them.
Iris Dragees is composed by perfumer Nathalie Lorson. This is a combination of iris and sugared almond. One of the things that sets this collection apart is the perfumers tend to use multiple sources of the listed keynotes. In this Mme Lorson gilds orris with a more traditional iris source. As it is combined with the sweet almond it forms an odd powdery iris macaron accord. This really bloomed in the warmer weather.
Oranges Bigarades is composed by Christophe Raynaud. This is a combination of orange and black tea. Here M. Raynaud combines the bitterness of bigarade with a juicier sweeter orange. By adding in the black tea it provides a kind of luxurious contrast to the citrus by inserting itself betwixt the two orange sources.
Santal Kardamon is composed by perfumer Amandine Clerc-Marie. This is the perfume which caused me to write about Maison Lancome. Sandalwood and cardamom are two of my favorite perfume ingredients. Mme Clerc-Marie uses two different sandalwood extracts which she chooses to combine with the stickier green cardamom. Together it forms my kind of simple perfume with two ingredients I can’t have enough of. It has been fantastic as a summertime perfume.
All three perfumes have 8-10 hour longevity and average silage.
If you are looking for a nicely executed perfume around two of your favorite perfume ingredients and you see them listed on a Maison Lancome bottle; give it a try. Santal Kardamon does the trick for me.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Lancome.
Someday, somewhere, a perfume PR person is going to explain the reasoning behind putting the same name as a classic within the brand on a new perfume which smells nothing like it. I’ve never figured it out because those who loved the original version feel “cheated” when faced with the new version. It must be especially jarring when the new version very pointedly goes for a contemporary vibe. This is the case for Penhaligon’s Elisabethan Rose.
Back in 1984 the original Elisabethan Rose, composed by perfumer Michael Pickthall, was released. It was a big powerful aldehydic rose sandalwood affair. When smelling it for the first time in the early 2000’s I felt this was Exhibit A of what people meant as “old lady perfume”. It felt like it should have a warning sticker of “only for those with grandchildren”. I received a press release announcing that Penhaligon’s was bringing back Elisabethan Rose. My first snarky thought was there must be a new generation of grandmothers by now. As I read further into the press release I saw that perfumer Alienor Massenet has been asked to produce the new version. Once I saw the note list I became much more interested in trying it. Mme Massenet has a very lean style which was just what a new Elisabethan Rose needed.
If the original Elisabethan Rose was the perfume of a Dowager Queen the new one is for the Princess first in line to the throne. Rose has always been one of the most regal perfume ingredients which something with the name Elisabethan Rose should reflect. With all of the aldehydes in the original you felt the crown was perched on a heavily hairsprayed coif. Mme Massenet creates a rose with vitality and verve for the lively Princess.
Mme Massenet substitutes a green opening for the aldehydes of the original. This comes via hazelnut leaves. This is a foliage type of accord. Almond is used in a judicious way to provide a kind of nutty woodiness. What comes next is what really drew me in as Mme Massenet uses cinnamon to add some shimmering heat to the top notes. Out of this a classic rose begins to increase in presence. It becomes very forthright; reaching a kind of sticky, near cloying, level. Mme Massenet has a firm grip on the reins which keeps it from tipping over into an unpleasant level. This is the regal spine of both versions. The cinnamon amplifies the spicy core of the rose making it a spicy jammy rose. The sandalwood is back from the original as the rose wanes. It is accompanied by a splash of vetiver, bringing back the green, and a bit of musk.
Elisabethan Rose has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I like this new version quite a bit more than the original. It feels like a rose for 2018 represented by a vivacious Queen-in-waiting telling her admirers to “Sniff the Roses!”.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bloomingdale’s.
Floral gourmands are one of the styles brands have decided will be popular with a younger perfume consumer. Particularly over the last two years there have been an increase in these kinds of fragrances. For the most part they have been on the lighter, more transparent side of the spectrum. One of the outliers was last year’s Elie Saab Girl of Now. That chose to leave the transparency behind, going for a fuller gourmand accord. In that case I felt like a groom whom the bride had smushed a particularly fine pistachio vanilla cake up his nose. It was a case I wondered if it would benefit from some of that opacity so many others were using. I guess the same idea occurred to the people at the brand because we now have Elie Saab Girl of Now Shine.
Most of the time I am going to complain when a flanker rehashes an original with a couple of changes. This is one of those infrequent cases where that all worked to the better along with a lighter tone overall. Perfumers Sophie Labbe and Dominique Ropion re-team, after composing the original, for Girl of Now Shine.
What I didn’t care for in the original was it was so aggressively cake-like. It was cloying in every bad definition of that word. Girl of Now Shine captures the earlier iteration of that cake as it is being baked. It is much airier, and that expansiveness allows more room for the florals to find some balance; all for the better.
The note added to Girl of Now Shine is pineapple. Despite my antipathy to the note in general the perfumers use it as an alternative sweetener. Like using fruit juice in an actual cake recipe. It underpins a crisp pear. If there was one thing I really liked about the original it was the use of pistachio. It adds an unusual roasted nutty quality. It is again given a prominent place in Girl of Now Shine. As it begins to combine with the fruit the florals in the presence of jasmine and orange blossom provide a lilting white flower duet. Vanilla provides the finishing amount of traditional gourmand sweet. It is used in a much lower amount than in the original. It closes out a perfume which is much the better for the restraint.
Girl of Now Shine has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is the aesthetic I prefer when it comes to floral gourmands. It allows for the florals to shine alongside the gourmand aspects. Finding the right balance means this is a better perfume than the original.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Elie Saab.
I grew up in the flattest of flatlands in South Florida. Which meant any elevation was treated as something of wonder as a child. Even better it was something to play upon. Near my house they had built up an artificial elevation for a new highway. By the time I was out of school for the summer the new grass on this mound had fully grown in. Someone in the neighborhood had received a large appliance delivery and the giant box it came in was on the street for disposal. I imagined a different use.
Slicing down each corner seam with a steak knife I had four long panels of carboard. I took them over to the new hill and walked to the top. I sat on the cardboard on one end pulled the other end up in a curved cover to my feet and nudged myself over the edge. I hurtled down the grassy slope on my cardboard-a-boggan. It was not long before my friends showed up on their bicycles and the other three panels of cardboard were also flying down the hill. If I was asked for a perfume which captures the scent of that day it would be a combination of crushed vegetation, sun-warmed cardboard, and freshly washed clothes. Not something I expected to find its way into a bottle until I received my sample of Goutal Chat Perche.
Creative director and owner of Goutal, Camille Goutal, has been overseeing a shift in the brand aesthetic over the last couple of years. It is not an easy thing to accomplish but I have been impressed with the latest releases for this long-time niche perfume brand. Ever since the 2016 release of Tenue de Soiree it has felt like there is new vitality at Goutal. One thing which has remained a constant is Isabelle Doyen who has been there for most of the last thirty years. She is the perfumer behind Chat Perche.
The name of the perfume comes form a child’s game which is a variant of “Tag”. In this game the Chat (cat) stalks Perche (perched) mice who are not allowed to have their feet on the ground. Once the cat touches a perched mouse they yell out “Chat!” and the mouse has now become the Chat; then the game continues. The perfume is meant to represent that spirit of outdoors play as a child. Mme Doyen has created a fantastic fragrance of green growing things and the scents produced when running through them.
Chat Perche begins with a fabulous accord of green grass. I am reasonably sure this is a mixture of oximes to provide the scent of a field of grass. To this there is a lovely piece of nuance as a peppery green floral accord identified as nasturtium in the note list. Nasturtium essential oil is quite pungent and I guess it could be a new isolate I am unaware of but I think Mme Doyen has fashioned a fascinating variant of the grass accord. Together there is this natural effect that might be the product of a perfumer who knows how to get the most out of her synthetic palette. There is a diffuse citrus accord from lemon blossom which captures the hazy sunlight of a summer’s day. It finishes with a set of clean laundry musks which feels like just right as grass stained clothing would be the order of the day.
Chat Perche has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Goutal suggest this is an all-ages perfume starting from age three. I am not sure if I subscribe to that as I have had many e-mail conversations with readers about the right time for them to share their perfume with children. Age three has never been one of my recommendations. For the older perfume lovers Chat Perche captures the joy of child’s play in the summer. Even at 58 it has me eyeing the large cardboard box out for recycling across the street.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Goutal.
I talk a lot about the early brands which really cemented my love of niche perfumery. Because they were my entry into the world of perfume which has become such a large part of my life. Most of those brands have had their trials and tribulations which I chronicle. The ones which I feel badly about are those which never seem to find their place. Miller Harris is one of those brands. Early in my exploration of niche brands I found the perfumes being produced by owner perfumer Lyn Harris to be some of my favorites only to disappear by 2011. Like a difficult to start gas lawnmower I watch as they try to get this hard to catch engine in gear. A year ago, I began to have hope something might change.
The reason was the hiring of Sarah Rotherham as Chief Executive. Ms. Rotherham has been one of those who joins a fragrance brand shaking it out of its rut. The first three releases of her tenure have just arrived; the Miller Harris Forage collection.
Her stamp is immediately apparent as a collection named Forage conjures up the country to me. To Ms. Rotherham it is finding the country within the urban landscape. It was a mixed bag for me. Hidden on the Rooftops, by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, is a lightly honeyed floral. Lost in the City, by perfumer Mathieu Nardin, had an interesting concept of green growing through cracks in the concrete jungle. The green is all here; the concrete accord is not. The last one, Wander Through the Parks also by M. Nardin, captured the theme in the way I desired.
Wander Through the Parks is the kind of summery perfume which captures the time when everything is at full growth in the parks. Which means it is great foraging. In England it is said stinging nettles are also rampant. Making foraging a bit of a semi-hazardous effort. M. Nardin captures this all in a strongly green perfume.
Wander Through the Woods opens with a bit of citrus representing the sunlight through the tree canopy. The other ingredient in the top is a good amount of blackcurrant bud. M. Nardin uses enough to bring out the sappy quality of this ingredient when used at higher concentration. It’s a tricky balance and M. Nardin carefully counterbalances it with galbanum and the nettle flower. This results in a spiky green accord which is fitting based on the nettle inspiration. Violet leaf forms a bridge from that green accord to the patchouli base with some musk.
Wander Through the Parks has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
While it was only Wander Through the Parks which caught my attention in this new collection I did see the glimmers of a hopeful new future at Miller Harris. Perhaps Ms. Rotherham will remind me why I fell in love with the brand in the first place..
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Miller Harris.
There is a series of commercials in the US where they show one half of a married couple acting like their mother or father. I’m getting old enough it isn’t my parents I’m acting like but my grandparents. My grandmother used to always see the potential bad outcome to everything. If there were 99 ways things could go right she would make sure to mention the one which would be terrible. She always looked for the warning signs of the disaster she knew was right around the corner. I’ve watched the decay of some of the great perfume brands into happy mediocrity, or worse, over the last few years that my grandmother’s voice greets every stumble by my very favorite brands. I’ve spent a couple of months with Mugler Alien Man trying to decide what it portends.
Mugler is one of the great perfume brands ever. It is the product of consistent creative direction by Pierre Aulas and Thierry Mugler which has always gleefully gone against the grain. If I say Angel, A*Men, and Alien to you if you are a perfume fan you’ve tried them or smelled them on another person; and you are not indifferent about the way you feel about it. It has been the Mugler credo to ask perfume aficionados to come over to their way of thinking. If there was a bit of change it maybe came with last year’s release of Aura. It felt like the Mugler attempt to woo the younger perfume generation. It definitely had a presence just one lighter in character. I liked it better the more time I spent with it. Which is why it has taken me so long to write this review I expected Alien Man to win me over.
Alien Man, I think, wants to be the counterpart to Aura on the masculine side of the fragrance counter. Perfumer Jean-Christophe Herault puts together something which is so typical of the other perfumes in this sector; that was the main surprise. Except for the top accord which is where there may have been an attempt at something Mugler-like which just doesn’t come together.
The top accord is named “The Electronic Vibration”. It definitely does not shock it doesn’t even sizzle a bit. M. Herault creates an herbal dill opposite apricot and anise. This was unpleasant for me, reminding me of a refrigerator crisper door where the dill and the apricot got left together. I gritted my teeth every time to get through to the heart. There I found a refined leather accord which is great but nothing different than many others out there. Pairing it with osmanthus to bridge the apricot and leather is also as typical as it gets. If I was waiting for a surprise ending beechwood and white amber provide another reminder of many other perfumes out there.
Alien Man has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’m not sure if Alien Man is a warning sign, or not. There were many who thought Womanity was a warning sign eight years ago; and were wrong. I also wonder if that top accord just never coalesced into that envelope pushing style Mugler is known for. Time will tell if this is the beginning of something or just a stumble.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Thierry Mugler.
Patience is not a virtue of mine. Especially when it comes to perfume from brands and perfumers I admire. Which makes it frustrating when there are perfumes I am very interested in trying that are out of reach. When it comes to the work done by Francois Demachy for the Christian Dior Collection Privee there is so much that I admire. Starting in the fall of 2017 I heard rumors of a release of multiple Collection Privees coming as Dior sought to expand this collection. As 2018 began I received a preview of one Souffle de Soie with the information more were right on the horizon. Within a month I received press releases on the other eleven new releases along with a new name for the overall collection; Maison Christian Dior.
Even with a brand I admire I was taken aback by twelve new releases. It turns out four of them are very slight soliflore-like constructs. All four failed to connect which reduced what was left down to seven for me to explore. One of the things I mentioned in my previous review of Souffle de Soie is M. Demachy is working on a more transparent aesthetic across all of his Dior creations in the last year or two. This style is going to be part of what will make or break your affection for many of the new Maison Christian Dior releases. I am not a fan, in general, but M. Demachy seems to find a level in the ones I do like of providing just enough structure underneath that it draws me in. The best example within these new releases is Balade Sauvage.
According to the press materials M. Demachy wanted Balade Suavage to evoke sitting under the shade of a fig tree on a coastal cliff overlooking the Mediterranean. Taken at face value what that means is far-away impressions of everything mentioned in that. To his credit he succeeds.
The opening is that ripe fig but dialed way down when compared to other perfumes which use this as a keynote. Then a listed “sea breeze accord” arrives simultaneously. This is the typical ozonic notes but this time with just a hint of the ocean and best of all a hint of the stone of the cliff we’re sitting upon. It also brings a bit of the citrus groves it has blown through on its way to me sitting under the tree. The creamy woodiness of the fig tree itself starts to arise. It all ends on a base of labdanum and light airy musks.
Balade Sauvage has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Balade Sauvage translates to “wild ride” this is not truth in advertising. The perfume with that name is more akin to an afternoon spent under a fig tree meditating.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Christian Dior.
Sometimes delays work to a new perfume’s advantage. I have commented that it is difficult to judge a perfume which is meant for the opposite season from which I receive it. There are times when I try it in its proper season which causes me to see it as it should be. Unfortunately, the calendar and PR firms do not subscribe to my desire. As the first rush of this fall’s new releases have begun to arrive in the middle of a 100-plus degree heat wave. Then there are those who just take more time to arrive. Because of ongoing postal delivery issues my samples of the new By Kilian Miami Vice Collection were significantly delayed. I think it was better that I got them just as summer was heating up.
The Miami Vice Collection is a two-fragrance release; Love the Way You Feel and Love the Way You Taste. Creative Director Kilian Hennessy chose to work with two of the perfumers who have been there from the beginning. Sidonie Lancesseur composed Love the Way You Taste. It is a Kilian take on a mojito fragrance. The evocation of boozy accords has been a staple of By Kilian. Love the Way You Taste captures it, but it felt like a higher quality version of other mojito perfumes I’ve tried.
For Love the Way You Feel M. Kilian and perfumer Calice Becker returned to something they’ve done so well in the past creating a near-perfect accord of something which exists. In this case it was to be a re-creation of Monoi Oil as perfume. Monoi Oil is the skin softener and hair spray of choice in Polynesia. It is made by soaking tiare flowers in coconut oil. Those will be the tentpoles that Mme Becker will build upon. She effectively chooses some complementary notes to complete the effect.
The perfume opens on the sun-glistened accord of bergamot and neroli. The neroli allows for the tiare to echo the floral quality as it appears. Tiare in this form has a kind of sparkly quality, too. To begin to give it the depth of Monoi Oil Mme Becker uses the oily nature of ylang ylang to provide a slippery floral nature. This becomes more prevalent as coconut starts to complete the accord. The final ingredient is vanilla, as modulator, providing the right amount of sweetness to the overall effect.
Love the Way You Feel has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
When Mme Becker does these kind of perfumes I almost hear an audible click as it all assembles into a single beautifully realistic accord. Once the vanilla arrives it is like I am in the middle of a Polynesian dream. Which is exactly where I want to be in the middle of summer.
Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by By Kilian.
I enjoy cooking with hot peppers. The hotter the better but not these whacky hybrids which just go for high concentrations of heat with dumb names like Carolina Reaper. Just go buy some capsaicin and put it on your food and be done with it. When I cook I don’t get hotter than the habanero or scotch bonnet. It can be tricky to find the right balance with those peppers where they provide heat but not only that. I’ve learned over the years less is more. I wouldn’t have thought to find a fragrance parallel but Guerlain L’Homme Ideal L’Intense is one.
The main source of hot pepper in perfumery has been the recent use by many new releases of Szechuan pepper. Through the new extraction techniques there emerges a versatile fragrance ingredient which can be used for piquancy or as a replacement for other spices providing a kind of desiccated quality especially to top accords. I was curious what it would be like if used in higher concentrations. When I received my sample of L’Homme Ideal L’Intense I got an answer.
L’Homme Ideal has been one of the men’s pillar lines for Guerlain since the 2014 release of L’Homme Ideal Eau de Toilette. Since then there has been a Cologne version, an Eau de Parfum, and a Sport. They were all instantly forgettable. To write this review I had to remind myself of all of them; it wasn’t fun. The good news is L’Homme Ideal L’Intense is different enough in a good way I could forget about them again.
In-house perfumer Thierry Wasser uses the Szechuan pepper as the contrast for the keynote of all of the L’Homme Ideal line; almond. In the past he has taken that ingredient towards a sweeter destination. In L’Homme Ideal L’Intense it is the exact opposite heading to a darker Oriental destination I greatly preferred.
L’Homme Ideal L’Intense opens with that hot pepper at an equal volume of bitter almond. The almond brings a woody nuance out of the spicy core. The pepper acts like a flame roasting the almond into something warmer while still retaining some of the nutty character. Cardamom provides a cooling effect for a moment. A full-on spicy Bulgarian rose comes next. The pepper continues to simmer right into the rose. It was here I sort of wanted it to die down, just a little. It was living on past what should have been its expiration date. A refined leather accord helps achieve the purpose of sweeping away the pepper. From here on L’Homme Ideal L’Intense follows a predictable rose to leather to sandalwood and patchouli base.
L’Homme Ideal L’Intense has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
My overall impression of this perfume is similar to when people come over to visit and see my pile of hot peppers chopped up. They ask me to hold the hot pepper please. I wish M. Wasser had done the same here. For all that the Szechuan pepper is an interesting ingredient it is out of balance here especially as the transition from top to heart takes place. It is hard to level that criticism because this is one of the more interesting male releases from Guerlain in years. It just doesn’t fully get it right. Guerlain has become such a shadow of itself that I’m applauding a good attempt at originality says something. Maybe you like a little more hot pepper in your perfume than I do which means L’Homme Ideal L’Intense might work for you.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Guerlain.