When a perfume brand evolves sometimes it evolves with the perfumista who loves it and sometimes it grows away. Artists have to be encouraged to follow their muse and that doesn’t always mean that old fans will remain fans and new fans won’t try the new direction. I am one of those who is having a hard time sticking with the new direction Serge Lutens has taken over the last three years. Ever since the advent of the L’Eau series M. Lutens has decided he wants to walk in the light. My problem is I don’t want to walk in his version of the light. The latest release L’Orpheline finally made me see the light.
M. Lutens has said in a few published interviews that many of his fragrances are meant to pay tribute to his mother who abandoned him during World War II. Without going all Sigmund Freud a perfume which translates as The Orphan is probably dealing with some of these issues. An artist’s life experiences often make for compelling art but L’Orpheline is just painful to me. When I received my sample of the spring release Laine de Verre I couldn’t bring myself to wear it. It was full of jagged aldehydes, an overdose of cashmeran, all over synthetic musks. The worst Serge Lutens fragrance ever. In L’Orpheline, perfumer Christopher Sheldrake, recycles the aldehydes and cashmeran and this time adds in incense in place of the musk. Which is an improvement because I at least was able to wear L’Orpheline for a couple of days and I couldn’t wear Laine de Verre at all.
Those aldehydes are the beginning of L’Orpheline and for me it is a collection of all of the most unpleasant aldehydes. It is overtly metallic, unnecessarily sharp, and irritating. It is an example of all of the worst qualities aldehydes bring to a fragrance. At least in L’Orpheline the cashmeran is kept a little more under control but just as in Laine de Verre I am not sure what M. Sheldrake is going for in this aldehyde-cashmeran accord but I just don’t like where it takes me. It lingers around for way too long like this before I get some relief from incense and patchouli in the base; which actually serve to remind me of other perfumes from the brand I like better.
L’Orpheline has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Over the last three years only La Fille de Berlin has been the kind of fragrance I want and love about Serge Lutens. Everything else has been an attempt to take things in a different direction. If you have enjoyed the L’Eaus then I think L’Orpheline will be another which you will enjoy as it is that audience for whom it is made for. Alas I am not that audience.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
Every perfumer has a particular style that, in essence, becomes their signature on a fragrance they have composed. That doesn’t mean they can’t make perfumes outside of that but there is a sweet spot or comfort zone where these perfumers can seemingly make a memorable fragrance at will. Rodrigo Flores-Roux has a portfolio of many varied and fantastic perfumes. When he chooses to work on a floral centered fragrance that is where I think he has done his best work. The recent release Aedes de Venustas Oeillet Bengale is as good as Sr. Flores-Roux gets.
One of the reasons I think he is so deft with florals is he spent a year in college before going to Versailles to begin his perfume training. That year at university in Mexico City he spent studying biology. In an alternative universe where he wasn’t accepted into ISIPCA to become a perfumer I imagine him becoming a botanist presiding over a magnificent greenhouse of the most unique, and fragrant, blooms. In the universe we live in Sr. Flores-Roux is a perfumer and he brings the observant eye of a scientist when he chooses to interpret a flower as a perfume. There is always an elegance of precision to Sr. Flores-Roux’s scents but when it comes to the florals it often seems like it is being dissected into its component notes to be put back together. Oeillet Bengale is a type of China rose and owner of the perfume boutique Aedes de Venustas, Karl Bradl, saw a still life of it and knew he wanted this to be the inspiration for their third fragrance. Without the assistance of the press materials I saw “oeillet” and expected carnation. What Sr. Flores-Roux has produced is a simulation of the China rose by using carnation as the foundation to create the accord. A number of spice notes have to be balanced exactly to bring to life the desired “fiery rose”. All of this is placed on a foundation of smoking incense.
Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner Owners and Creative Directors of Aedes de Venustas
The first few minutes of Oeillet Bengale show off Sr. Flores Roux’s highly evolved citrus accord. It is paired with herbs and a surprising bit of strawberry. Together it creates a snappy opening full of refreshing notes. The carnation comes up next and this is the current version of carnation stripped of its clove-like nature because that version is no longer IFRA-compliant. Sr. Flores-Roux puts back in what IFRA has removed by using his own mix of spicy notes; clove (of course), cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper return the spicy heart to the carnation and improves upon it. The heart of Oeillet Bengale really does feel as if it is a rose on fire as the florals and the spices feel right on the verge of spontaneous combustion. To add a calming effect Sr. Flores-Roux takes frankincense, labdanum, and tolu balsam to form a smoky resinous base to rest the smoldering bloom upon. For a long time on my skin this is where Oeillet Bengale lingers as the carnation and spices float on a resinous cloud of pungent vapor.
Oeillet Bengale has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Oeillet Bengale is one of the most compelling perfumes Sr. Flores-Roux has created and it takes its place among my favorites by him. This is my favorite of the three Aedes de Venustas fragrances released to date. I look forward to whatever Sr. Flores-Roux will release next but when he is in his floral sweet spot there is nobody better.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Creative people are fascinating to watch especially those who have multiple outlets for that urge. Liz Zorn is one of those polycreative people. It is her perfumes that brought Ms. Zorn to my attention under her brand Soivohle. For the last few years her energies have been focused more on visual arts than olfactory ones. Thankfully she still returns to the perfume aspect of her artistry to occasionally produce a new perfume. Just recently she released Amun Re The Tears of Ra.
Ms. Zorn is one of my favorite independent perfumers because of the effort she puts into her raw materials. She often works with all natural materials and Amun Re is one of those instances. When Ms. Zorn chooses to work with an all-natural palette I am impressed with the textural effects she manages to weave into her fragrances. In Amun Re she was inspired by the story of The Tears of the Egyptian sun god Ra who was said to have cried tears of honey which as they fell turned to honeybees which upon landing on earth became the first men. Just thinking about the concept of tears of honey I envision viscous sweet droplets oozing down the side of a sweaty face picking up the tang of skin all along its track. The early moments of Amun Re are all about the viscosity and the gravity drawing it downward. The heart transforms to a flight of florals before ending with a botanical musk centered skin accord.
Amun Re opens with the welling up of that metaphorical tear of honey. The sweetness has a heft to it which Ms. Zorn cuts with a very light application of aldehydes. The spice of tears comes in a bit of cinnamon supported with citron as contrast. Together this makes for a beautifully complex opening as the honey is evolved into something almost tactile. The heart is focused on ylang-ylang in its more fleshy character. Opopanaz, hawthorn and linden assist in creating the floral heart of Amun Re. The final note in the heart is henna leaf and if you’ve ever smelled henna hair dye you know this smell. It is a fascinating choice and it really adds a great quality to the floral heart. The base goes sweeter as vanilla starts off followed by amber. Ms. Zorn’s botanical musk is the star of the base. Her version of an all-natural musk is really brilliant in its ability to feel completely animalic while not being of an animal. Ms. Zorn’s botanical musk is among the best I have found in the natural perfume community.
Amun Re The Tears of Ra has 6-8 hours of longevity and moderate sillage.
I have been enjoying seeing the paintings Ms. Zorn has been posting on her website but when I try something as good as Amun Re I can’t help but wish for more perfume. For now it is enough to let Amun Re cry my figurative tears for me. The real ones will only come if Ms. Zorn gives up perfume all together.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Amun Re I purchased from Soivohle.
Atelier Cologne feels like such a mature perfume brand I have a hard time reminding myself that they are just under five years old. Creative Directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel were clear-eyed about what they wanted Atelier Cologne to be about. Over the last five years that clarity of vision has made one of the most consistently pleasing line of perfumes from any perfume producer going. They have taken a staid form of fragrance and re-invigorated it with their creativity. The latest release is called Rendez-Vous and as they have done so often they offer something new to the whole concept of cologne.
Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel
Perfumer Jerome Epinette is back for his eleventh fragrance in the Atelier Cologne line. The keynote for Rendez-Vous is a Chinese osmanthus that carries a particular luminescence to it unusual in this floral note. The apricot and leather components of osmanthus are here but this has a sun burnished glow to it, as well. It makes it a different but wholly appropriate heart note to build a cologne around. M. Epinette takes traditional bracing elements on top and after the osmanthus appears he lets Rendez-Vous turn plush and soft as if you were sinking into a soft chair or a feather pillow. It is this overtly subdued finish which takes Rendez-Vous into unexplored territory within the cologne genre.
M. Epinette begins in very familiar cologne territory with bergamot, lemon, and pink pepper as his opening stanza. This is classic cologne architecture. What comes next is not. The osmanthus comes to the foreground and as I mentioned above it is like it exists in its own private ray of sunshine. The remainders of the top notes almost act like dew being burned off by that sunbeam. The apricot quality comes out and it is rich and chewy. Orris combines with this to create a decadent duet, this is a fruity floral combination I can completely enjoy. As the osmanthus begins to shift towards the leathery qualities, violet leaves sharpen that transition with slightly metallic green borders. The base is an indulgent suede leather accord accompanied with a gentle white musk cocktail. All of this is as soft as a loved one’s caress. Rendez-Vous comes to an end in a most unexpected place, serenely.
Rendez-Vous has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Rendez-Vous is why I look forward to the latest release from Atelier Cologne. Every single release to date has been recognizably a cologne. Every single release to date has given me something new to consider on what that word, cologne, really means when I use it. Rendez-Vous fits right in with the family. I look forward to my next rendezvous with Atelier Cologne.
Editor’s Note: Mme Ganter-Cervasel and M. Cervasel were married a few weeks ago and the picture above is from their wedding via their Facebook page.
The history of perfume raw materials has been a trail of tears when a unique natural ingredient is identified. The story of overharvesting Mysore sandalwood so that it now lives in protective custody of the Indian government is a cautionary tale. With the advent of oud-based fragrances, particularly over the last ten years, the old trees throughout its indigenous areas were being harvested at an alarming rate. Because oud requires time for the biological rot which forms the aromatic heartwood it looked like we were well on our way to another bad situation. Then scientists learned how to artificially induce and speed up the process. This lead to the growing of oud plantations and just this year the first harvests of this sustainable oud has found its way into perfumes.
It should be no surprise that a leader in using this new oud is Comme des Garcons as it is the centerpiece of their latest release Wonderoud. Creative Director Christian Astuguevieille worked with perfumer Antoine Maisondieu on creating a perfume which would display the new oud with the typical Comme des Garcons style. You might remember 2010’s Wonderwood and the intent here is similar. Antoine Lie was the perfumer for Wonderwood and it was an exploration of sandalwood which was layered with other woods. Over time I have come to think Wonderwood is an underrated sandalwood perfume. M. Maisondieu wants to take a different tack as he explores this new oud and uses herbal and spicy notes to capture the unguent nature of real oud in the early going before letting the woods come out to play in the end.
M. Maisondieu lays down a pepper and thyme runway to start the journey in Wonderoud. The thyme adds rough green facets and the pepper grabs ahold of the decaying heart of the oud and brings out the beauty within the rot. M. Maisondieu also makes a stylistic decision to keep Wonderoud very dry. To accentuate this point he uses a fraction of Cedarwood from the Givaudan exclusive Orpur raw material collection. This cedarwood is as good as it gets and by choosing a fraction which picks up the greener woody aspects of cedar he makes an inspired choice. In my very limited experience with this new oud it shows its youth by being a bit greener and almost seems like it has a cedar component. It doesn’t but by using the cedarwood fraction it is made very apparent how this oud is different than others. Vetiver is the other keynote in the heart and it also works on both the green and woody parts of the composition in a supporting role. Australian sandalwood and synthetic sandalwood molecule Pashminol provide the remaining wood. Patchouli recalls the herbal beginning as it shows up at the end.
Wonderoud has 8-10 hours longevity and above average sillage.
The Harvested Sustainable Oud
Wonderoud is everything that is great about Comme des Garcons as they take the most ubiquitous perfume raw material of the past few years and find a way to make it new. It has been twenty years since the original Comme des Garcons fragrance was released. What Wonderoud displays is that Comme des Garcons still has the ability to be cutting edge without sacrificing approachability. Wonderoud is simply wonderful.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Comme des Garcons.
Some of my favorite interactions in my perfume career are with independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. We have spent most of our time together walking, sniffing, and talking about perfume. We have chattered about the reality of vintage perfumes and which fragrances we think are the best ever. One we both agree belongs in that category is Jacques Fath Iris Gris. I know for myself it is the benchmark an iris fragrance has to live up to for me to think it extraordinary. Finding a bottle these days is a very expensive proposition.
One of the things I admire so much about Ms. Hurwitz is she spent the early part of her independent career reconstructing the great fragrances of the past. She is a believer in the adage that says to study an art form you must also try and reproduce it. That stage of her development is long past and now she is on the top tier of independent perfumers in the world. Earlier this year one of her clients who was fighting cancer asked Ms. Hurwitz to make an exception and to recreate Iris Gris for her. Through a happy confluence of events Ms. Hurwitz agreed. This has been named Scent of Hope.
Ms. Hurwitz has always let us into her creative process and for the task of making a new Iris Gris it was no different. On her blog DSH Notebook there are three parts about the whole process behind Scent of Hope and if you’re interested in the process I highly encourage you to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. The two things I took from those posts was how Ms. Hurwitz didn’t just take some of her original Iris Gris and get it analyzed. Instead she looked to two invaluable resources in the fragrant blogosphere; Barbara Herman and Octavian Coifan. Ms. Herman has been writing about perfume for many years at her blog Yesterday’s Perfume and she recently published a book “Scent and Subversion”. M. Coifan was the iconoclastic voice behind the now-defunct blog 1000 Fragrances. M. Coifan had exquisitely used his own nose to dissect Iris Gris and this gave Ms. Hurwitz a framework to start from. Ms. Herman has a way of using words to make a fragrance seem to arise from the computer screen. When I eventually try something she has described I find her description to be spot on. The second thing is Ms. Hurwitz let her nose and her client’s nose as well as their skin be their guide on when Scent of Hope was done. The scent strips were dispensed with and they let their feelings guide them to a final product.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
How did they do? I’ll cut to the chase; fantastically well. It is only the use of a couple of modern equivalents which give away Scent of Hope’s contemporary birth. The genius of Iris Gris is the use of a particular aromachemical called aldehyde c-14 which is not an aldehyde but a different chemical class called a lactone. This lactone imparts a gauzy peach veil over the entire composition of Iris Gris and Ms. Hurwitz had to work with it in Scent of Hope. The trick is not to let the iris blunt this shimmering layer but to somehow support it as if you are looking at an iris through a peach colored scarf. If the balance is off the whole thing falls apart. Ms. Hurwitz’s previous experience studying the great perfumes had to come into play here because she manages this with what seems preternatural ease. Based on her blog posts she reached the finished product in very few mods.
I compare my bottle of Iris Gris and Scent of Hope and these are very close. The aging process has made the orris suppler in Iris Gris. In Scent of Hope it still has a lot of its chill and steel on display. What is absolutely identical is the use of aldehyde c-14 to caress and float above the iris. That is recreated perfectly. Scent of Hope lacks a bit of the animalic bite of the original mainly because those raw materials are no longer available. Even so Ms. Hurwitz has chosen a good group of modern musks to come very close. It is right here where the biggest difference between original and modern versions are apparent.
Ms. Hurwitz is a unique combination of passion and precision; both of those qualities were necessary to produce Scent of Hope successfully. This is a great iris fragrance and if you love iris you want to own this.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.
Editor’s Note: 30% of the proceeds of Scent of Hope will go to a Denver-area support center for those battling breast cancer called, “Sense of Security”.
It has been almost a year since I joined the Fragrance Republ!c. For those unfamiliar with the concept behind Fragrance Republ!c it is an effort to allow some of the biggest perfumers working the opportunity to work on special small batch perfumes. This time the perfumers are allowed to create their own brief and encouraged to go where their creativity takes them. The perfumes are then shared with the membership of Fragrance Republ!c and I receive a new 15mL bottle as each creation is released. I look forward to my new box every time it arrives as a perfumer who I admire gets to try out an idea they have wanted to try. Fragrance Republ!c is the subscription service for the perfume lover who already has a lot of perfume and wants to try something which goes in a different direction form the purely commercial. This review will cover the latest four released over the first part of 2014: 01/05 by Antoine Lie, 01/06 by Karine Chevallier, 01/07 by Jean Claude Delville, and 01/08 by Jean-Christophe Herault.
01/05 was given the name “Eau Verte” by M. Lie and what he wanted to accomplish was to create perfume made up of overdoses of notes used to make up the fresh fragrances so ubiquitous on the market. Now if he had just overloaded the perfume with a bunch of explosive green notes it just would’ve been a loud boisterous mess. Instead he chose to use the wormwood used in absinthe as his nucleus and then puts into orbit around it electrons of mint, star anise, oak moss, galbanum, and vetiver. These are in overdose so there is no missing these notes and they each find a place to complement the wormwood at the heart of the perfume. I found 01/05 to have an off-kilter kind of freshness and the more I wore it the more I found it to be just the right perfume for the summer.
Mme Chevallier was enchanted by a Persian lime raw material she encountered while attending the World Perfume Congress. It was this she used to make the centerpiece of 01/06. What caught her attention about this particular lime was besides the typical citric zest it also has floral facets of rose and lavender, creamy coconut, and woodiness. From when she smelled it she knew she wanted to pair it with vetiver to tease out that woody quality. She also wanted to use fig to get the creamy coconut quality. All of this rests on a base of sandalwood. This comes off very simple on a strip but it absolutely soared when I wore it. The full impact of this very special lime at the heart of 01/06 completely comes alive and each of the notes Mme Chevallier chose to go with it work seamlessly.
Jean Claude Delville
The inspiration for 01/07 was the “grace of a woman”. In M. Delville’s olfactory world this woman is wearing a sheer cotton dress edged with black, the antithesis of the little black dress. 01/07 opens on a fresh cotton accord that has been washed with mandarin blossom fabric softener. It has a softness that the best cotton gets from being used. This opening is everything I want from a Fragrance Republ!c experience. M. Delville is able to go to an extreme in creating this textured fabric based accord. Since this is a woman we are talking about orchid and freesia make up a sweetly floral heart before a soft mix of cashmere woods and white musks add that bit of sensuality. The outline of black on the figurative white dress I spoke of at the beginning of the paragraph.
Osmanthus was the ingredient M. Herault wanted to explore in 01/08. I have always loved the fantastic nature of osmanthus to be floral but also to carry distinct aspects of apricot, leather, and tea along with it. When in the hands of a skilled perfumer they can take that chameleon-like nature and play to it. M. Herault does exactly that as he first allows you to appreciate the osmanthus in its pristine glory before letting other notes start to attract your focus elsewhere. Bergamot and apricot bring you to the fruity character. Violet leaf brings forward the tea. Jasmine and orange blossom get their white flower bluster out to turn fully floral in the heart. Finally, the leathery quality forms a faux chypre with a deep patchouli. Of the eight fragrances which have been released 01/08 is my favorite so far.
If what I’ve written has made you curious a sample program is now available on the Fragrance Republ!c website where you can try any three of the releases from 01/01 through 01/07 for the cost of shipping. I would recommend checking out the three you think sound best to you. This is really one of the great new initiatives for perfume lovers.
Disclosure: This review was based on the bottles I’ve received from being a member of Fragrance Republ!c.
I am not sure what it is about Harrod’s but when a perfume line designs an exclusive for the Knightsbridge luxury department store they seems to go all out. I could name five perfume lines where the best perfume in their collection is their Harrod’s exclusive. I can add a sixth name to the list as the new Ormonde Jayne Black Gold is the best fragrance from Ormonde Jayne in many years.
Ormonde Jayne owner Linda Pilkington has been working with perfumer Geza Schoen from the very beginning of the brand back in 2002. From the very early days of their artistic partnership they have had a more intimate relationship than the traditional Creative Director-Perfumer hierarchy. Ms. Pilkington has used her love of travel to also allow for her to discover and access some of the more unique raw materials, from all over the world, being used in niche perfumery. As she finds her ingredients she has Hr. Schoen assist her in striking the right balance and by adding in a supporting cast so the special ingredients are displayed prominently. Black Gold is a prime example of this style of collaboration and composition.
In the press notes for Black Gold Ms. Pilkington describes the five keynote raw materials for this perfume. Two of the ingredients are fractionations of the absolute where a second distillation is performed and the oil is collected within a very specific, and narrow, temperature range. The concept is you can fine-tune an absolute down to a very specific scent profile. In Black Gold it is sandalwood and ambrette which are afforded this treatment. The other three are carnation absolute, labdanum resinoid, and an Andean version of pink peppercorn called Schinus Mole. All five of these are some of the most precious raw materials you could choose to work with and Ms. Pilkington literally took years to find and source all five. She brought these ingredients back to her home base in London and together with Hr. Schoen they created Black Gold.
Black Gold opens with top notes that are all Hr. Schoen as his adeptness with citrus and herbs is right out front. Bergamot, mandarin, and lemon provide the tart and juicy citrus spine for clary sage and juniper berry to interact with. The result is a lively fresh olfactory appetizer. But now it is time to tuck into the main course as the first two of the focal points come forward. The carnation is one of the finest versions of carnation I have encountered and is combined with this Peruvian pink peppercorn which picks up the clove-like aspect of the carnation. I would say that I think this species of pink peppercorn is a bit less rough adding in a sophistication I usually don’t get from pink pepper. Jasmine, rose, and waterlily provide a floral foundation so that the carnation does not get lost in the spice cabinet. The base starts with the two fractions of sandalwood and ambrette. The sandalwood fraction is all about the arid quality the finest sandalwood has. The ambrette fraction swaddles that very dry woodiness with a powdery aspect along with the botanical musk that ambrette provides. The final piece to the Black Gold construction is the labdanum which provides a green glowing heartbeat to the final phases of this perfume. A very intricate underpinning of patchouli, vetiver, moss, and vanilla provide all the grace notes these three jewels need to shine to their fullest.
Black Gold has 24 hour longevity and very little sillage as it is extrait strength.
Black Gold is a beguiling fragrance that enchants with a whisper and fascinates with a unique set of ingredients. It is my favorite Ormonde Jayne fragrance since 2006’s Orris Noir. Ms. Pilkington and Hr. Schoen have created a spectacular sensuous perfume.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample purchased from Surrender to Chance.
In the war of attrition that is exclusivity I think Le Labo is winning. There are many perfume companies which play the exclusivity game. Boutique exclusives, special collaborations, city exclusives, genetic exclusives; okay the last one isn’t reality, yet. In any case the lines come up with ways to entice you to want to try these exclusives. The nice thing for me is that so often when I get a chance to sniff it I am usually not smitten enough to want it, except for Le Labo. Le Labo has been making city exclusives that are only sold at the Le Labo boutique within that city. I went through many gyrations to own four of those; Gaiac 10, Poivre 23, Vanille 44, and Aldehyde 44. Thankfully Le Labo allowed the rest of the world to get in on the fragrances and for one month every other fall the city exclusives are available everywhere Le Labo is sold. But now they have a new exclusive even more exclusive than the city exclusives.
Le Labo partnered with lifestyle and clothing store Opening Ceremony to create a fragrance, Geranium 30. Geranium 30 would have floral designer Thierry Boutemy as creative director overseeing perfumer Barnabé Fillion. M. Boutemy is known for his fantastic floral designs most notably as part of the set design for director Sofia Coppola’s movie “Marie Antoinette”. M. Fillion is not a well-known name in perfumery circles but he has been exploring fragrance in most interesting ways. Last November he was part of a show in conjunction with Belgian design house Unfold where he added fragrance to different ceramic diffusers created via 3-D printing. This was a very exciting partnership and as I was reading the press release I got more excited until I reached the end and read this, “Limited Edition: 100 bottles”. Surely this must be a typo and they meant 1000 bottles. Nope 100 bottles was it. When I knew it was only going to be so few I fervently hoped this would be one of those rare Le Labo misfires. Nope this might be the best Le Labo floral since Rose 31; of course.
Barnabé Fillion at Unfold November 2013
Geranium 30 is an example of what Le Labo does so well in allowing creatives to follow their instincts. In this case M. Boutemy had created a series of smashed and stomped upon flowers for the Opening Ceremony collection with his name on it. M. Fillion picks up on that and creates a floral that captures a physical grinding of flowers against the concrete. On the surface Geranium 30 is a spicy floral fragrance but taken together it is a collision of the garden against the sidewalk.
M. Fillion takes a brilliant grapefruit as the top note of Geranium 30 and uses that to segue into the geranium. Geranium is one of my favorite floral notes because it carries greener facets closer to the surface. M. Fillion ups that by adding just the right amount of galbanum to tint the green a few shades darker but not to overwhelm it. For that he uses black pepper and it is used as a flame to consume the floral heart of Geranium 30. Where cumin consumes the rose in Rose 31 the pepper does the same thing to the geranium here. As much as I love Rose 31 this might be a more balanced effect as some remnants of the geranium linger after the pepper flamethrower has died down. The base is a wet concrete accord and a cocktail of white musks.
Geranium 30 has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I have been very conflicted about writing this review because Geranium 30 is one of my favorite new fragrances of the year and as of this writing is sold out. Bottles are popping up on auction sites for crazy prices. I wanted to write this because I am going to hope that when the next sale of city exclusives comes around they will relent and add Geranium 30 in to the list of exclusives. It is a great fragrance which deserves a very wide audience especially for those who are appreciative of the line. The exclusivity game may be a war of attrition but, damn them, Le Labo plays it so well they will probably be the last perfume line left standing.
Disclosure: This review was based on a split of a bottle I purchased.
One of my favorite side effects of being a perfume blogger has been the opportunity to be the Master of Ceremonies at the Sunday lunch at Sniffapalooza for the past few years. Twice a year I get to introduce a group of independent perfumers to an appreciative audience. Most of the time I have already made the acquaintance and so I don’t often get the opportunity to share the experience of trying something for the first time. At last May’s Spring Fling I did get that opportunity as independent perfumer Gauri Garodia introduced her perfume line Code Deco.
Mme Garodia lives in Singapore and she has spent much of her career working for the Asian subsidiaries of some of the big perfume companies. This prepared her to create her own line in 2013. The name Code Deco was chosen because they are anagrams of each other and they also capture a couple of concepts near to Mme Garodia’s heart. She is an aficionado of the Art Deco time in history and she also believes there is a hidden code to fragrances which is deciphered by one’s preferences. There are currently thirteen fragrances in the line and the majority of them are jazz inspired. Mme Garodia told me when we met at Sniffapalooza music is a mandatory component of her creative process and there are pairs of her fragrances which feel like riffs on each other. One of those pairs are A Minor and B Minor.
For both fragrances there is a spicy clove heart which leads down to a leather and tobacco base. These provide the backbeat and bass line. The different riffs are in A Minor which starts with dark fruit as opposed to B Minor’s gin and grapefruit. The heart contains different spices and floral notes to go with the clove and the bases use different woods to mix in with the common components.
A Minor always catches me off guard as it opens with a brilliant bergamot but it is quickly eclipsed by dark plum. This is a crackling transition and it is a bit like a perfumed attention getter. The clove comes next and with it is the green rose quality of geranium, cinnamon, and bay leaf. This is a very green heart and it is very deep when it all comes together as both the clove and cinnamon add a simmering heat to it all. Mme Garodia definitely paid attention to creating excellent bases and the leather and tobacco base she uses for both of these is very well composed. For A Minor a bit of sandalwood adds creamy warm woody highlights.
B Minor is exactly the opposite as Mme Garodia goes for the cool and it begins with an icy gin accord paired not with lime but grapefruit. This is a fabulous choice as the grapefruit adds some depth without heft. The cool theme continues in the heart as a bouquet of white flowers are dusted with cardamom and the clove comes back to remind us of its kinship to A Minor. If A Minor was heat at this point B Minor has a frosty cool aspect to it. The gin and grapefruit ligers to combine with the clove, cardamom, and white flowers. This eventually heads down to the leather and tobacco base but this time, in keeping with the cool theme, cedar adds its definitive lines to the final measure of B Minor.
A Minor and B Minor have 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mme Garodia has coded both of these as masculines but I would say they are very much genderless. I have really come to enjoy B Minor a lot throughout this summer. A Minor has its pleasures as well but I suspect it will be worn a bit more in the cooler weather of the fall. All thirteen fragrances have made it to the US and are currently exclusive to MiN New York. In the end I think I’m just a jazz guy and Mme Garodia’s perfume jazz riffs make beautiful music on my skin.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Code Deco at Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2014.