I have been fortunate to spend my share of summer days at the beach towns of Cape Cod or the far end of Long Island. One of my favorite parts of the day was sunrise. I would walk out during false dawn with a cup of coffee and sit on the dunes to watch the sun appear. This was also the time when a freshening breeze from off the water would meet me in the dune grass. There was a sweet smell to the beginning of a new day. I was reminded of these mornings with Juliette Has a Gun Vanilla Vibes.
Romano Ricci is another of the early niche perfume success stories. Since 2006 he has produced an eclectic collection which contains some of my favorites of the last few years. Vanilla Vibes is his first attempt to make a gourmand style perfume. That he also chose to give it an aquatic twist is typical of the kind of aesthetic which has defined his brand over the years.
Vanilla Vibes opens with that salty breeze from an ingredient he calls “fleur de sel”. Fleur de sel is the salt which is harvested from evaporating seawater. As a perfume ingredient it seems like a delicate accord of ozonic and sea spray ingredients. This is kept very transparent. The vanilla comes forward which the salt accord swirls around softening the sweetness quotient. M. Ricci also provides a hint of tropical breezes with orchid acting as a supporting note. That airiness is enhanced with a suite of musks while tonka bean further keeps the vanilla from becoming overwhelming. Sandalwood provides the woody base for it all to rest upon.
Vanilla Vibes has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As a vanilla fragrance this could have become a sticky out of control mess. To M. Ricci’s credit he keeps the entire composition at a comfortable opacity. Spraying on Vanilla Vibes is another way to start my day with a smile dreaming of vanilla on the dunes.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
When I’m deciding what perfume to wear in the summer my eyes always pause on my collection of favorite vetivers. Warm weather and vetiver go together like peas and carrots. (Sorry Forrest Gump) Vetiver is also one of the most versatile ingredients in all of perfumery having a multi-faceted profile. Over recent years perfumers have been using various fractions of vetiver to enhance certain parts of that profile. They have been part of some excellent perfume. Except my summertime shelf of vetiver is only populated by those fragrances which want to give me a full-spectrum vetiver at their heart. I have recently found a new perfume which achieves this; Bentley Beyond Wild Vetiver.
The perfumes inspired by the iconic luxury car Bentley are one of those unsung collections which has produced above average fragrances. Many of the car brands which have perfume affiliated with them are through the bigger beauty corporations. For Bentley that means Lalique is responsible for the collection which began in 2012. I think the second fragrance released under the Bentley label; Bentley for Men Intense is one of the best designer fragrances of the last ten years. There has been a noticeable aesthetic which has formed over the last seven years which is probably due to Lalique creative director Marc Roesti. He has overseen perfumes which capture a sophistication befitting the brand.
Mr. Roesti’s latest addition is a series of three perfumes called the Bentley Beyond collection; Exotic Musk, Majestic Cashmere, and Wild Vetiver. This is a different direction than what has come before. The previous Bentley releases have been complex masculine-style perfume. The Beyond collection is still focused on a masculine aesthetic but with stripped down construction focused on the note listed in the name. I like all three, but Wild Vetiver is the one which connected with me. Mr. Roesti asked perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur to take vetiver and display all the kaleidoscopic hues of this versatile ingredient.
She uses an Indonesian version of vetiver as the core. In the early moments she uses pepper to tease out the grapefruit quality of vetiver. It adds a roughness which becomes a recurring theme throughout Wild Vetiver. Verbena comes next and the citrus-tinted green of that ingredient connects the grapefruit along with the sharp green aspects of the vetiver. This is a gorgeous refreshing vetiver at this point. What takes it up a level is when Mme Lancesseur takes the dry woodiness of amberwood and roughs it up with birch. It is where the wild in the name is found. The birch makes the amberwood less monolithic which then allows the woody earthiness of the vetiver a place to find purchase.
Wild Vetiver has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you like vetiver and are looking for something different Wild Vetiver is that kind of fragrance. It might take some doing to find where Bentley perfumes are carried. If you want a full-spectrum vetiver for summer Wild Vetiver will be worth the search.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bentley.
I think those who read this blog regularly know how much I enjoy finding new perfumes. It is one of the things which keeps me going that sense of search. Even though I try I just keep ending up behind the curve of certain brands. There is one brand I keep finding out about because someone else is wearing or talking about it.
In 2006 I was told about Zaharoff pour Homme by a friend who told me it was the only perfume he owned. At the time I had never heard of it. Once I tried it, I wondered why I hadn’t heard of it. George Zaharoff was a men’s fashion designer who made classic men’s clothing. I knew of him because of my time in New York City. I had no idea he had made a men’s fragrance in 1999 called Zaharoff pour Homme. When my friend introduced me to it, I was impressed at the niche-quality construction in a mainstream release. Perfumer Claude Dir made a fantastic men’s Oriental which has remained one of my favorites since obtaining a bottle in 2011 when it re-launched. Zaharoff pour Homme is one of the most successful fusions of niche sensibility inside a mainstream framework.
Now in 2019 I was going through a couple of my favorite vloggers on perfume and what do I see there is a new release; Zaharoff Signature pour Homme. It took me a couple of months to finally track down a sample. When I did, I had a bit of déjà vu as the same creative team of Mr. Zaharoff and M. Dir have again taken current niche trends and fused them into a mainstream style fragrance.
What is also quite nice about Zaharoff Signature pour Homme is it is a clear follow-up to Zaharoff pour Homme sharing a central axis of lavender, allspice and ginger, along with oud and sandalwood. Where it is very different is M. Dir adds in some newer trends to that foundation.
Lavender is used as the focal point of the top accord but this time M. Dir spears it with twin spicy prongs of black pepper and cardamom. These add a freshness to the lavender by teasing out the herbal quality. The transition to the heart comes via a precisely balanced iris it matches the lavender in intensity as the ginger and allspice make their return. The base accord become a paean to woods with some resinous depth thrown in. Sandalwood, oud accord, cedar, and balsam provide that sturdy masculine woody base loved by many.
Zaharoff Signature pour Homme has 12-14 hour longevity an average sillage.
Like Zaharoff pour Homme, Zaharoff Signature pour Homme is the kind of perfume for the man who only has a couple of bottles of perfume on his dresser. What sets it apart is Mr. Zaharoff and M. Dir know how to make that style of perfume smell just like it could be your signature scent, as well. I have enjoyed this new Zaharoff Signature pour Homme even though I am hopelessly behind the curve, again.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Nordstrom.
I’ve noticed a pleasing trend over the last year or two. For so long there were new brands who wanted to test the limits of how luxury-minded they could be. Often with a matching price tag. There were times where it seemed there was an arms race to see who could put the most opulent perfume in an equally extravagant bottle. There were brands who held that perspective honestly. Those are the brands which are still around because there was heart over cynicism. I have no problem with that kind of perfume. My only concern is it puts up a barrier to being able to experience some of the best perfume. The trend which I am enjoying is the opposite of this.
Frederic and Shirin Fekkai
It seems like since 2017 there have been several brands which have begun not by trying to find the high-end of the market. Instead they are trying to find the balance between creativity and budget at the more affordable end. They offer their perfumes in smaller rollerball sizes to allow for more sampling of the line. The packaging is also kept simple; you’ll find that budget inside the bottle. The final ingredient it to work with perfumers who are known for some of the best-known niche perfumes while giving them leeway to create.
An example of this kind of perfumery comes from husband-and-wife Shirin and Frederic Fekkai and their brand Bastide. Started in 2017 they wanted to capture the scents of Aix-en-Provence as perfumes. I discovered them a little over a year ago and have enjoyed the perfumes they have produced. The fifth perfume, Bastide Verveine du Sud, continues what has worked so far.
Perfumer Mathieu Nardin has been behind all the Bastide releases. In the first three releases I thought I detected a kind of sunny aesthetic forming. Last year’s Figure Amour was more grounded confounding my earlier thoughts. Verveine du Sud is also working in a similar direction.
The brief is to capture the scent of midsummer’s twilight in Provence. Once the sun has set in summertime there is coolness to the air which allows for the flowers and fruit to peek out from behind the heat and humidity. That is what appears in Verveine du Sud.
A really refreshing combination of grapefruit, lemon, and mint form the top accord. The mint is used to evoke that chill in the air just after the sun has disappeared for the night. It lifts the citrus with a coolness. Verbena matches its lemon-tinted green with the citrus while peony picks up on the mint adding in a cool and fresh floral. A swirl of white musks add an expansive quality to everything. The base rests on a warm mixture of amber and light woods as a metaphorical fire pit to warm your hands.
Verveine du Sud has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Bastide has now become another of these new brands looking to make perfume for a wider audience. Verveine du Sud shows there is still more to come from M. and Mme Fekkai as they translate Provence into perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bastide.
As I go through my time learning about perfume materials there are little factoids, I file away to use in a future review. Some of them are so interesting to me, as a chemist, that I want to find a perfume so that I can trot it out. One I learned about last summer had to do with seaweed absolute. As aquatic perfumes have evolved, I have been happy to see newer versions more willing to go against the “fresh and clean” quality which launched the genre towards something more realistic. One of the ways is to use seaweed absolute to provide a more realistic scent of the shore at low tide. The predominant scent it provides to perfume is a vegetal briny effect. By itself it provides that powerfully. What was really amazing was a trick the chemist I was with showed me. When you take a drop of the absolute and spread it out on a strip you can detect a hint of jasmine in-between the iodine and the vegetation. It turns out that in this specific variety of seaweed they have found through chemical analysis a small percentage of methyl jasmonate. The scientist’s mind was afire with how nature would do this. I also knew I was going to write about it as soon as I found a perfume which used seaweed absolute. That time has come with Berdoues Azur Riviera.
Azur Riviera is part of the Grand Cru collection within Berdoues. I have found this collection to be above average versions of well-known styles of perfumes. They tend to be simply constructed good fragrance. Sometime that is all anyone needs. As the name portends it is meant to capture the scent of the French Riviera. In that sense it is a typical Mediterranean type of fragrance with sea spray and ozonic notes over florals. The difference is the use of seaweed absolute as the base note. Perfumer Jean-Marie Sanantoni uses it to provide a slightly different twist on this style of fragrance.
The first two-thirds of Azur Riviera is familiar territory. The top accord is that beachside accord of ocean and wind. The florals chosen are a lively orange blossom and an expansive jasmine. Then M. Santantoni brings in the seaweed absolute. This provides a more grounded brininess than the top accord version. This is seaweed that has freshly been washed up glistening with the ocean water on it. It adds a bit of nature to the fantasy beach milieu. What I enjoy, and I admit this might be my overactive imagination, is how the jasmine seems to find a place within the iodine and brine.
Azur Riviera has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Like all the other Grand Cru releases this is another above average version of the style of perfume they are making. What attracted me to it was my chemist’s curiosity at the jasmine within the seaweed.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
There are independent brands which are turning important milestones the last few years. It is an indication of a fragrance collection which spoke to an audience over time. One of those early trendsetters who is celebrating their 15th anniversary is Eau d’Italie. Creatively directed by husband-and-wife team of Marina Sersale and Sebastian Alvarez Murena they were inspired by the hotel they own La Sireneuse in Positano, Italy. Over the past fifteen years they have used the history of the area and the hotel as launching points for their perfumes. To celebrate an anniversary they decided to keep it light and summery in Eau d’Italie Easy To Love.
Sebastian Alvarez Murena (l.) and Marina Sersale
The first half of the Eau d’Italie perfume collection had a serious perfume quality to it. Since the release of 2012’s Un Bateau pour Capri there has been a distinct lighter playful quality. This is where Easy To Love fits right in. Working with perfumer Dora Baghriche they create a clever twist on the classic Mediterranean style cologne.
The perfume shelves are full of takes on citrus, fig, and woods concepts to capture an afternoon in the Mediterranean. What the creative team does here is to provide a Tyrrhenian spin for the part of the Mediterranean that faces Positano and La Sireneuse. The only thing which remains is the fig. On either side is a richer fruit, a fresh floral, and a sweetened skin musk.
Mme Baghriche uses white currant as her opening fruity blast. It is exuberantly fruity, enough so that it had to be carefully measured so the green fig could contrast it with its creamy green quality. In a smart pivot she uses the freshness of peony to lift the currant and fig away from becoming too heavy. It turns it into a Tyrrhenian breeze. As delightful as this was it is the base which connected most with me. Mme Baghriche uses honey, tonka, and ambrette to form a sweet warm skin accord. So often in this style of perfume the skin musk is given a salty tint. The idea to drizzle it in honey and tonka is very pleasurable. It also gives this enough weight to be worn on a summer evening as well as the daytime.
Easy to Love has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Easy To Love is a fantastic variation on a classic perfume trope. It lives up to its name. I have a set of three go-to summer errand perfumes. Easy To Love looks poised to join that group.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I have always been fascinated with large gemstones. It is why even though I live in the Washington DC area my favorite museum is the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History just so I can walk through the gemstone room again. One of the things which becomes evident when you can compare so many side-by-side that it is the cut of the stone that adds to its brilliance. Over my many visits the cut I’ve come to enjoy most is a “radiant-cut”. It can take the light which surrounds the stone deep inside itself and then reflects itself back through the center providing a soft glowing pulse right at the heart of it all. This also has an added benefit of making the gemstone look bigger than it is. When it comes to perfume, I use jewelry analogies whenever I describe soliflores. I think of them as diamond solitaires given a setting where they can be as brilliant as they can be. Hiram Green Lustre is a radiant-cut rose soliflore.
Hiram Green has been building one of the strongest portfolios in independent natural perfumery. Since the debut of Moon Bloom in 2013 each new release has shown continued expansion of what a natural perfume can be. That belief is becoming more wide spread as last year’s Hyde won the Art & Olfaction Award this year. It was why when I was chatting with people at Esxence this year I kept asking about Lustre which was premiered in Milan. I think because I was so annoying one of my friends sent me a sample from the booth. What I found was a rose soliflore as only Mr. Green could conceptualize.
The rose Mr. Green uses is a rich Bulgarian version knows as Rose Damascena. It is one of the most famous roses in the world. Mr. Green takes this gorgeous essential oil and treats it as a rough gem using four ingredients to add cuts until it achieves the desired radiance. The first cut comes via citrus. This is the light which surrounds things being pulled inward. It is like the sun reflected off dew drops on the rose petals. Orris comes next to more fully shape the rose with its rooty and powdery aspects. It accentuates those characteristics within the rose. Olibanum creates a resinous focal point to draw your attention to the softly glowing drop of honey underneath it all.
Lustre has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I repeatedly commend Mr. Green for finding an intensity from his natural palette that is uncommon in this kind of perfumery. Lustre is a long-lived jewel of a rose that draws you in to its radiant-cut depths.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Hiram Green as relayed by a friend from Esxence.
There are ingredients in perfume which are meant to be the equivalent of scented fireworks. They are usually top notes to only last for a short time with maximum impact. One of the best examples of this are the citrus ingredients. They often act like the opening act for perfumes which contain them. In Memo Winter Palace the citrus is used in a different way.
Memo has been one of my favorite brands for many years now. Creative director Clara Molloy and perfumer Alienor Massenet have defined an identifiable brand aesthetic. To keep that from becoming stale they have collaborated on several sub-collections within the overall collection. Winter Palace is the third entry in the Art Land collection following Marfa and Tiger’s Nest. The perfumes are inspired by places. Winter Palace is inspired by the resting place of the Imperial Dragon of China. When he wakes up spring and summer return to the land. The perfume evokes that moment of awakening.
What Mmes Molloy and Massenet do is to use resins and oils to create a perfume which whispers its notes in long-lasting exhalations; drawing you in. The citrus oils are especially intriguing for their ability to last as resins along with a red tea accord swirl together.
Grapefruit, orange, lemon, and bergamot are easily recognizable perfume notes. In the early moments of Winter Palace they carry a soft unctuous effect because the citrus oils are used in a way to eschew ostentation. They whisper through the early moments before the red tea accord rises in swirls of scented steam. Mme Massenet uses some mate tea to tune the red tea to have a little more presence. Not a lot more just enough to insert itself into the citrus mélange of the top accord. These early moments of Winter Palace are testaments to the beauty of subtlety. As the resins begin to appear, they also tend to ooze into place without fanfare. Styrax, tolu balsam, and benzoin are used in their high potency resinoid forms. This also acts like coals on a brazier warming things up . This finishes on an arid woody base accord sweetened with a pinch of vanilla.
Winter Palace has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
One of my favorite synonyms for whispering is susurration. On the days I wore Winter Palace I felt like it was a perfume susurration, especially the citrus. This is a fragrance which captures your attention like a dragon languidly uncoiling from a long winter’s sleep. When it is fully exposed it is magnificent.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Memo.
There are a few creative directors of independent perfume brands who have shared their personal bespoke fragrance with the wider public. I enjoy these expressions of how those creative directors desire to experience fragrance in their daily life. It informs how that translates to the rest of the brand. I had heard that Jan Ewoud Vos of Puredistance was going to be sharing his own perfume. When I finally received my sample and heard the story of Puredistance Aenotus it turned out to be slightly different.
Jan Ewoud Vos
The briefs for many of the Puredistance perfumes have been so interesting. For Aenotus it is perhaps the simplest brief as Mr. Vos asked perfumer Antoine Lie to create “my signature scent”. Mr. Vos had an idea a “perfume that would first refresh (then) transform into a sensual but subtle skin scent.” It presented many challenges not the least of which is defining the concept of refreshing from Mr. Vos’ perspective. I bet if I asked a hundred readers to define “refreshing” in a perfume I’d find little consensus. I find refreshing to be a mixture of citrus and herbs if I was directing someone to make this style of perfume that would be where I started. With Aenotus it seems like Mr. Vos and I have a similar, but not exact, vision of refreshing. The other part of that brief, to simmer down to a skin scent, is another tricky piece of engineering. M. Lie employs a set of heavier green notes to achieve that.
Aenotus opens with a fantastic flair of citrus notes, mandarin, yuzu, and petitgrain. It feels like a cool mist on a hot day. M. Lie then uses mint in its most herbal form to add a green aspect of freshness. I usually don’t like mint in perfume; that’s not the case here because the herbal is as present as the sweet. The linchpin ingredient of Aenotus is blackcurrant bud. This is one of those difficult to work with ingredients. If you go too high in concentration you get a urine-like effect. If you go too low, you get an insipid vegetal component. A perfumer must find the way the other ingredients can be guardrails preventing either extreme. In the first moments the blackcurrant bud appears it is complementing the mint with a sticky green quality. Over time as the citrus and mint fades it is the entry to the skin scent side of Aenotus. That skin scent accord is made up of oakmoss, patchouli, and a mix of synthetic woods. That sticky green finds the oakmoss; together they sing of green in a lower key. The patchouli adds depth and grounding. The synthetic woods provide a dry finish to it all.
Aenotus has 18-24 hour longevity and low sillage. This is 48% perfume oil it will last forever on fabric as well as skin.
The evolution of Aenotus has been enjoyable on the two very warm days I wore it. The refreshing part energizes me through the first part of the day before it settles into a pleasant skin scent. I don’t often get unsolicited compliments but one day I wore this was my weekly day of errands. The cashier at the grocery store, the clerk at the county office, and the waitress where I had lunch all remarked on how good I smelled. Aenotus might be Mr. Vos’ signature scent but I suspect there are going to be a lot of other people who find it to be theirs, too.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Puredistance.
Two of my best friends shared a love of wine with me. When we were in college together, we learned through experiencing what we could. I would say that is when we began to develop out ability to distinguish the different varieties of wine. Our shared knowledge would soar when we found ourselves living in the New York City area after graduation. I don’t remember which one of us found the book first but when we opened “Bordeaux: The Definitive Guide for the Wines Produced since 1961” by Robert M. Parker Jr. we were captured by the matter-of-fact talk about wine. Mr. Parker would become the most influential wine critic in the world because of it.
Robert M. Parker Jr.
Mr. Parker’s fascination with wine happened because of a girl he fancied. He followed her to Alsace France and besides finding his wife he also found French wine. When he returned to the US, he finished his law degree, but his inspiration was in a bottle of French wine. Over time he would realize the current wine publications were mainly shilling for the brands who advertised on their pages. He wanted to run a publication which survived only on subscriptions while producing unbiased wine reviews and commentary. “The Wine Advocate” was born in 1979. Mr. Parker would begin a career of visiting the wineries. In the early 1980’s he would correctly predict some of the great French Bordeaux vintages from barrel tastings. He would become especially known for being the first to laud the 1982 vintage using this method. Many others felt differently. My friends and I knew nothing of this. Our introduction was through his book.
“Bordeaux” was just what we needed as a reference text to refine our knowledge. Our experience had given us a foundation Mr. Parker would show us how to build our own chateau upon it. We could try the wines he wrote about and compare what we experienced with what he said he felt. We all came to love the style of wines from certain Chateaus he seemed less enthused about and vice versa. What we were gaining was our own personal critical perspective. It has provided a lifetime of pleasure for all three of us I believe.
Mr. Parker’s influence rose rapidly along with the subscribers to The Wine Advocate. He would become a champion of non-European wines. I know one of my favorite moments was tasting a Shiraz wine from Australia while thinking this is amazing for $6/bottle. Only to find in the next issue that Mr. Parker was writing about them, too. It is one of those times where I felt I had learned some of what he had to teach me. Whenever I try wines from a new region in the world I approach with an open mind because I have been rewarded most of the time.
There was a backlash to Mr. Parker by some who felt he had too large an influence on the wine-buying public with his ratings. That always felt like a false narrative to me. I followed his writing because he pointed me to wine I enjoyed. That was always the most important piece of Mr. Parker to me that wine was here to enjoy.
Which leads to my favorite story of my personal interaction with him. A local restaurant was having a wine tasting event with Mr. Parker in attendance. I couldn’t buy a ticket fast enough. It was a small affair and he spent time with each table taking questions and talking about what we were drinking. Someone who was less starstruck than I asked him if he ever visited any of his reader’s wine collections. He then told a story about being invited by a reader who he knew had an extensive collection to dinner. He was surprised when the hosts served younger wines. After the meal was done, he asked when they drank some of the wines in the cases around them. The host replied, “Never! We’re saving them!” Mr. Parker looked around our table and said to us “don’t do that, the joy of wine is in drinking it.” It is those words which have stuck with me.
This week Mr. Parker announced he was retiring from The Wine Advocate and from active reviewing. Because of his trailblazing The Wine Advocate has a staff that will continue the good work.
For me part of the way I write about perfume was directly affected by the way Mr. Parker approached wine. I try to approach every new fragrance with the same open mind he encouraged me to have about wine. I am always pleased when I find a new brand that I like because of it.
Tonight I’ll raise a toast to Robert M. Parker Jr. he made wine fun.