There are a few of the major perfume brands which have just lost me over the past few years. They’ve gone in a direction where I don’t care to follow. It bothers me that the perfume houses which sparked my passion have lost my interest. The grandest perfume maison of them all, Guerlain, kind of fits this description. Except my irritation with them is a torrent of mediocre product every year. My negative feelings also increase because every year there is one of those voluminous releases which reminds me why I love Guerlain. This year’s model is Guerlain Embruns d’Ylang.
Embruns d’Ylang is part of the L’Art et la Matiere collection. This has been one of the best group of perfumes within Guerlain over the past few years. One reason for that is this seems to be the one place left within Guerlain where they are willing to take a step outside of the very comfortable boundaries, they usually produce perfume within.
In-house perfumer Thierry Wasser wanted to place his ylang-ylang keynote on a beach just as a squall line approaches. The sense of the wind blowing through the flowers as the storm nears with the hint of crackle in the air. This is what Embruns d’Ylang captures.
Embruns d’Ylang opens with a remarkable aquatic accord M. Wasser calls a “salt crystal note”. All perfume lovers are familiar with the common suite of ozonic notes which usually make up the sea breeze. This accord is much more compact, and perversely, dry. If you’ve ever stood on a beach watching a line of thunderstorms approach you will know there is this moment when the air goes dry and the wind in front of the storm intensifies as it rushes towards the shore. It carries a deeper brininess. This is what this “salt crystal note” reminds me of. M. Wasser takes that and lets it crash into a fleshy ylang-ylang. It is a gorgeous duet of contrasts as the desiccated gale off the water dives into a deep sweet floralcy. M. Wasser adds a spicy frisson as clove acts as St Elmo’s Fire around the ylang and salt accord. As the storm passes a soft floral accord of iris and jasmine join the ylang on top of a rich earthy patchouli.
Embruns d’Ylang has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am as enthralled with Embruns d’Ylang because it is so different than everything else Guerlain has released this year. I’m learning to live with the notion that once a year Guerlain will remind me why it is still a grand maison de parfum. For 2019 that will be Embruns d’Ylang.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Guerlain.
One of my favorite drinks during the summer is lemonade. At its heart it is simple: water, sugar, and lemons. Nothing wrong with that version. Except that the chemist in me couldn’t resist tinkering with it. Honey was substituted for the sugar that added a more syrup-like sweetness. I make lavender water by steeping some lavender buds in water. Finally I add some basil for some herbal bite. These are the ingredients for basil lavender lemonade at Chez Colognoisseur. It takes something simple and adds more depth. The same is true about Aerin Limone di Sicilia.
Limone di Sicilia is the fifth fragrance in the Premiere Collection meant to highlight a specific ingredient. It has been one of the quiet triumphs of the Aerin line. The same creative team of creative director Aerin Lauder and perfumer Honorine Blanc returns from last year’s Eclat de Vert. I really liked the way that perfume captured the lazy days of summer sitting under a tree. Limone di Sicilia is the lemonade waiting on the porch when I come home.
One of the things that Mme Blanc does with her bright lemon keynote is to do what I did with my lemonade. She makes it deeper, floral, and more herbal.
That lemon is like a ball of sunlight right away. Mme Blanc banks some of the intensity by using baie rose to provide an herbal counterweight. Muguet provides a green clean floral contrast in the early going as well. Jasmine becomes the main floral partner to the lemon. This is clean mostly indole-free jasmine which adds lift to the lemon. The final bit of bite comes with the use of oakmoss supported by the dry woodiness of Ambrox.
Limone di Sicilia has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Just as Eclat de Vert did last summer Limone di Sicilia also provides an ideal dog days style of citrus perfume. It succeeds because the creative team took their lemon into some deeper places.
Disclosure; this review is based on a sample provided by Aerin.
One of the ingredients which defines perfume of the mid-20th century is aldehydes. From their appearance in Chanel No. 5 they were prevalent in many of the great floral perfumes which followed. It was so entwined with that era in perfume it also came to represent it. It also is the one ingredient which elicits the damning reaction, “oh that perfume is for someone older than me.” It is the keynote of the dreaded descriptor “old lady perfume”. This has kept it from being used very often in new perfumes. Tom Ford Metallique is going to try to change that.
Metallique is part of the more widely available Signature Collection. As much as we write about the Private Blend collection the Signature Collection is equally as impressive. Creative director Karyn Khoury makes sure any fragrance with Tom Ford on the label lives up to the reputation the brand has built. For Metallique she partners with perfumer Antoine Maisondieu.
The name is appropriate for the way aldehydes present themselves within a fragrance. In those classic perfumes it was described as smelling like “Aqua-Net” hairspray. M. Maisondieu has found a way to lighten up the aldehyde accord he uses here. This is a much more restrained effect overall.
Metallique opens up with the aldehydes springing to life. M.Maisondieu rather quickly brings in bergamot and petitgrain to give some sparkle. It is a smart way of balancing out the metallic quality. It allows baie rose to add a green herbal quality further softening the aldehydes. In the past the florals would be the heavy hitters. M. Maisondieu goes for a less powerful trio of aubepine, heliotrope, and muguet. The green of the baie rose connects to the green of the muguet then expanding into the heliotorope and aubepine. M. Maisondieu then uses the botanical musk of ambrette and the warmth of balsam to provide the foundation.
Metallique has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
What makes Metallique stand apart from those classic aldehydic florals is this modern version does not fill the room. Ms. Khoury and M. Maisondieu have designed a version which is much less extroverted even though it retains the aldehyde-floral-musk spine. It still has some verve without becoming overwhelming. I will be curious to learn if they have found the path for aldehydic florals to appeal to a new audience with Metallique.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
As perfumery moved into the 21st century there have been so many changes. One of the largest was the introduction of the Middle Eastern perfume ingredient oud into Western fragrance. For almost twenty years now this ingredient has been one of the most popular across all of perfumery. It is hard to pin down what makes it so popular. One reason might be how multi-faceted an ingredient it is. When in the hands of a skilled perfumer it can spring to life. Which is what happens in D.S. & Durga Notorious Oud.
Notorious Oud is supposed to be inspired by the late rapper Notorious BIG. But it can also easily stand on its own as oud has a notoriety for some of its rougher edges. Perfumer David Seth Moltz embraces all that fractious character by using an Indonesian oud as his keynote. By using a genuine source of oud it allows Mr. Moltz the opportunity to find complementary ingredients to display all that oud has to offer.
David Seth Moltz
One of the typical descriptions of oud is it has a “medicinal” or “band-aid” scent. As a someone who likes odd smells and regularly sniffs a bandage on my finger it is one of the reasons I like oud. Mr. Moltz uses a clever trio of camphor, galbanum, and saffron to make it more of that “band-aid” kind of accord in the early going. I enjoyed the way the camphor softened some of the edgier aspects of this part of the oud. As Notorious Oud develops into the heart it finds one of the typical partners of oud waiting, rose. This is a spicy Bulgarian rose and usually this is such a classical pairing there isn’t much more that is needed. Except Mr. Moltz adds enough lavender to lengthen the green thread begun by the galbanum in the top accord. That thread follows into the base as papyrus anchors it. Mr. Moltz then brackets the later development of the oud with animalic civet and the dry synthetic woodiness of Cetalox.
Notorious Oud has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Notorious Oud is for those who embrace oud in all its quirkiness. Mr. Moltz softens many of the sharper aspects, but they are still present. For me this is an oud which struck the right balance in its oddness and beauty.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by DS & Durga.
There is always a heat wave, every summer. It is always a challenging time for me because I look at the perfume I want to wear to review and I know it will wilt in the heat. Another thing that happens every heat wave is I just go for the perfume which looks like it will be the most refreshing in the heat. This year that choice was Azzaro Chrome Aqua.
Azzaro has been putting out an annual summer version of Chrome under the name Chrome Summer. Those were also better than average flankers of the 1996 original. For 2019 it looks like Chrome Aqua is taking the place of Chrome Summer. Perfumer Jean-Christophe Herault composes a green tinted aquatic that was just right for midsummer.
One thing I have really appreciated about many of the modern aquatics is that they have stopped using Calone. There are many alternatives out there. In the case of Chrome Aqua M. Herault uses them.
Chrome Aqua opens with that suite of ozonic notes which form the typical sea breeze accord. It is matched with another accord to provide the surf. Things take an interesting turn from there. M. Herault pairs grapefruit with a crisp green apple. It turns the typical tart grapefruit into a fresher citrus accord. This all goes very well with the aquatic vibe of the opening moments. Chrome Aqua then uses basil supported with aniseed to give a uniquely herbal accord. There is something about basil that just feels great on a hot day. The use of the aniseed to give a licorice undercurrent is clever. It ends on that most classic of summer perfume ingredients with a green grassy vetiver.
Chrome Aqua has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Chome Aqua was just the kind of perfume I wanted to wear in the middle of a heat wave. There is not a moment while I had it on where it wasn’t a fitting companion in the heat. It made me think of amending the old saying to “only mad dogs and vetiver go out in the midday sun.”
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Azzaro.
When I started writing about perfume, over ten years ago, there was a perception of all-natural perfume as somehow lacking. It was frustrating to me because that wasn’t my experience. I found those artists who chose to work in this style to be every bit as inventive as those who didn’t. Despite that misperception one of the things which has happened over the last three years is an expansion of this sector with better and better perfumes. One of the brands which has been part of this is Abel. Founded three years ago by Frances Shoemack and perfumer Isaac Sinclair they have released a collection of seven beautifully composed all-natural fragrances. The eighth is now here, Abel Pink Iris.
As the name would portend iris is the focal point of this perfume. Iris tends to have two prominent facets. The more familiar one is the powdery one. The less common one is the silvery rooty one. It is that one Ms. Shoemack and Mr. Sinclair choose to highlight in Pink Iris. As they have with most of the Abel perfumes, to date, they use three keynotes and that continues here.
The keynote in the top accord is Szechuan pepper. I know I’ve gone on a lot about how versatile this relatively new ingredient is, but Mr. Sinclair finds a new way of using it. He employs raspberry leaves to add a green-tinted fruitiness while basil adds an herbal undercurrent. This turns the Szechuan pepper towards a simmering fruity herbal accord. This finds a high quality orris butter waiting in the heart. The top accord softens the iris accessing that rootiness I find so appealing. Then like fireflies rising out of the summer grass the sparkle within the iris arises. This is a subtly compelling version of iris that is quite enchanting. A suite of linen musks wrap this in a clean cotton embrace.
Pink Iris has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you are one who still thinks all-natural perfumes cannot be that good Abel Pink Iris would be a good choice to allow you to reconsider that. If the sparkle of iris doesn’t change your mind, I’ll be surprised.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
When I talk about writing on perfume with people who don’t wear fragrance, I point out they may not wear it but they are surrounded by it. You can’t walk into a coffee shop without being surrounded by the smell of brewing beans. A bakery smells of bread. The produce section in the grocery store is a wonderful mélange of fresh smells. Perhaps the most recognizable of these ambient scents is the smell of Earl Grey Tea. Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has made an all-natural Earl Grey inspired cologne called DSH Perfumes Royal Grey Cologne.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
Ms. Hurwitz has been producing great colognes for a while. Last year’s Summer Cologne was one of my favorites of the year. You might think designing an Earl Grey cologne would be easy. Get some bergamot and combine it with any one of the black tea ingredients. I am not sure what exactly that would smell like, but I suspect it would be flat, missing an essential sparkle. Royal Grey Cologne does something different as Ms. Hurwitz uses a tea accord comprised of four different tea sources.
Royal Grey Cologne opens with that bergamot in high concentration. Underneath Ms. Hurwitz adds ambrette seed to add some lift to this very identifiable top note. The tea follows rather quickly. I’m expecting black tea and that is what I notice first. Then three green tea extracts provide a lively boost to the black tea. Yerba mate especially finds a place within this accord. Then a lovely rose finds itself floating on this cup of tea. The transition to the base takes an earthy turn as ruh khus, the green balsamic version of vetiver, connects to patchouli before resting on sandalwood sweetened with a pinch of vanilla.
Royal Grey Cologne has 6-8 hour longevity and low sillage.
Royal Grey Cologne is a skin scent as was last year’s Summer Cologne. I find that an advantage when wearing fragrance in hot temperatures. I enjoyed Royal Grey Cologne as much for its sense of familiarity as its underlying freshness. Just like a cup of the real thing.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.
I think everyone who becomes a perfume lover goes through the same phases. The most fevered one is after you’ve discovered the internet resources. Once you realize there is more perfume than is what is available at the local mall you start figuring out how to try it. This is the time when many people go from a few bottles to filling a bookshelf with fragrance. When it happened to me, I called it “acquisition phase”. I would read abut a perfume somewhere on the internet and then figure out where I could buy it. This happened in the early 2000’s. Just like finding a favorite musician or artist I would then find a perfumer I liked and wanted to try anything by that perfumer I could get my hands on. The perfume which introduced me to Bertrand Duchaufour has just recently been re-issued; Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Cipresso di Toscana.
Cipresso di Toscana was the first release for the Blu Mediterraneo collection. I’ll admit the first day I noticed it was because of the blue bottle. Once I finally bought the bottle I was already hooked. It was one of those times where I kept smelling the patch of skin I sprayed the tester on. It has always been one of my favorites in this line and I was sorry to see it discontinued in 2012.It has just returned in time for summer of 2019. What attracted me then still appeals to me today Cipresso di Toscano is a fresh herbal pine fragrance. M. Duchaoufour weaves herbs through a woody matrix.
Cipresso di Toscano opens with a citrus flare of grapefruit and petitgrain. It is a classic citrus top accord. It gives way to a set of herbs as clary sage leads a parade of coriander, rosemary, and basil to surround a deeply resinous pine. This is an exhilarating pine which the herbs make sure to keep that way. The woodiness of the cypress grows through this accord providing a blond wood spine to let these ingredients hang out upon.
Cipresso di Toscana has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage in its current formulation.
There is only one tiny change I detected when comparing my old bottle with a new sample. There was a touch of oakmoss in the original which I don’t detect in the new version. It was a grace note then and I don’t think it makes the new version significantly different. Which is great because I suspect there are some new perfume neophytes who will be following in my footsteps.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle of the original I purchased and a sample of the new version from Sephora.
As we enter the final weeks of summer this is my chance as a reviewer to start plucking samples out of the “maybe” box. These are the reviews which keep getting bumped because something newer arrives that captures my attention. One chance is for me to re-visit a new collection where I only reviewed a single release. Today I am returning to review Pont des Arts A Chaque Instant.
Geraldine and Bernard Siouffi
Geraldine and Bernard Siouffi founded Pont des Arts in 2018 with a debut collection of three perfumes. Named after the famous pedestrian bridge over the Seine, the Siouffis want these perfumes to be very French in style. They turned to perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour to realize that vision in A Chaque Instant.
A Chaque instant is meant to be a modern chypre. M. Duchaufour is one of the few current perfumers who has successfully created contemporary versions of this venerable fragrance style. The reason for that is his ability to find overlaps between ingredients which provide the depth and bite of the classic chypre. For A Chaque Instant those overlaps are found in spices, florals, and resins.
A Chaque Instant opens with an overdose of baie rose. In this concentration the green herbal quality is much amplified. Some galbanum hones that to a sharper edge. Angelica provides a more vegetal green to this super-green top accord. The heart accord is comprised mainly of jasmine and tuberose. They come together in white flower harmony that is enhanced by M. Duchaufour’s use of beeswax as the connecting note. It provides a matrix for the white flowers to push back against the green. What remains is the chypre accord. That comes from the low atranol version of oakmoss given a resinous polish via myrrh and benzoin. Vetiver provides the bite the loss of the atranol removes. Patchouli finishes this with an earthy grounding.
A Chaque Instant has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
You might not be feeling a green floral chypre with the midsummer sun beating down. Keep this one in mind once we move into the cooler months. It is going to be a great addition to any chypre lovers collection.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
When I was a young child there was a doll that was sold which had a tiny reservoir on the back for a child to put a fruit fragrance in. It had the scent of plastic soaked in fruit. I hadn’t thought about it for fifty years, probably. When I opened my sample of Moth and Rabbit Dolls it came back to me.
Moth and Rabbit is the new name of the previous brand Folie a Plusieurs. It still retains the ideal of interpreting avant garde films as perfume. I have not tried all of them but the ones I have are all unapologetically different. Asking wearers to embrace the oddness. The ideal perfumer for this is Mark Buxton who has made all the Moth and Rabbit releases.
I think it helps to know the film being interpreted. I had never heard of the 2002 film by Japanese director Takeshi Kitano. It moves through the seasons which is what Mr. Buxton wants to do beginning in spring and ending in winter. I can’t say I got any of the seasonal shift. What I did get was a dose of plastic doll head and fruit. Which brought back my childhood memories. Mr. Buxton has always found ways to explore the fringes of the perfumer’s palette. In Dolls he finds the plastic.
The plastic doll head accord centers on an unctuous ylang-ylang. Most of the time when I smell this I think a perfumer missed the mark on the right amount. I don’t think that here. Instead Mr. Buxton wraps it in the subtle fruitiness of cherry blossom followed by apple blossom. This is that fruity doll head I remember. The final stages transition to woods with maple and cedar over a selection of white musks. The latter is probably meant to evoke the snow of winter, but I never felt that.
Dolls has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’m not sure how many will be running for fruit scented plastic doll head as something they want to wear as a perfume. I found it to be quite easy to wear even in the heat of summer. I’m sure I’m going to return to it in the cooler weather because I think this plastic is fantastic.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.