There are many fragrance styles which have taken hits due to the ingredient restrictions handed down by the European oversight agencies. The one ingredient which has caused the biggest change is that of oakmoss. Full oakmoss has been proscribed from being used in perfumes. When something like this happens in perfumery it initiates a two-pronged approach; one scientific and one creative. The scientific part is to find ways of making synthetic alternatives. The creative way is to create accords which give the same effect as oakmoss. Le Labo Mousse de Chene 30 is an example of both coming together.
Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi
Mousse de Chene 30 is the city exclusive for Amsterdam. Like all the other city exclusives don’t strain yourself looking for a connection; it might require an advanced yoga pose to find the right perspective for that. Despite that many of the city exclusives are among the best perfumes with Le Labo on the label. For Mousse de Chene 30 perfumer Daphne Bugey with creative directors Edouard Roschi and Fabrice Penot want to make a “neo-chypre”.
The loss of oakmoss was a blow to the chypre style of perfume; being one of the main ingredients. Over the last ten years I have seen many good versions without oakmoss in them. Mousse de Chene 30 is another of them. In this case two prominent synthetics from Firmenich, Clearwood and Crystal Moss, are used with low-Atranol oakmoss and patchouli to form an evolutionary chypre.
Before we get to the meeting of synthetic and natural we start with a spicy flare of cinnamon, baie rose, and bay leaf. This is a curtain raiser to the main event. Low-Atranol oakmoss caries the green but the loss of the Atranol takes some of the “bite” out; to get that back Crystal Moss is used. I find it is like the effect Ambrox brings to woods. Crystal Moss is a spiky green synthetic which has to be used in moderation or that sharpness can overwhelm. Mme Bugey uses it well in Mousse de Chene 30 it returns the bite to the oakmoss accord. The patchouli when paired with Clearwood, itself a patchouli derivative, enhances the woody nature of the patchouli while attenuating the deeper aspects. Together they create a fresher patchouli accord for the oakmoss accord to interact with. As they come together at first it creates a more expansive type of chypre which over time contracts to a denser version as the synthetics begin to outlast the naturals.
Mousse de Chene 30 has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mousse de Chene 30 shows science employed by a top-notch creative team can build a 2017 chypre which is compelling as any other modern version of that style.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
Abstract is a word which gets used a lot in relation to perfume. At its root, it is accurate as most perfume is an abstraction of using fragrance ingredients to re-create something in nature. Of late it has come to mean transparent. As fragrance has shifted to a lighter style “abstract” has become the favored adjective to describe that aesthetic. Accurate, I suppose, but it lacks intent. A recent collection from the Histoires de Parfums brand seems to want to bring some relevance back to the concept.
Gerald Ghislain has been one of the best creative directors in the niche perfume sector because he has been willing to push the perfumers he works with to achieve his vision. For the This Is Not A Blue Bottle collection M. Ghislain is having some fun as his artistic inspiration was surrealist Rene Magritte. The perfume name is a riff on the 1964 Magritte painting “This Is Not an Apple”. The first release now relabeled This Is Not A Blue Bottle 1.1 was composed by Julien Rasquinet and released a couple years ago. The two new releases 1.2 and 1.3 are done by perfumers Luca Maffei and M. Rasquinet, respectively. 1.3 feels like an evolution of 1.1 and as such I found it a bit derivative. 1.2 showed me something different.
Sig. Maffei forms a wall of climbing ivy bursting with flowers that never are found within that milieu. It is a surreal floral fragrance honoring Magritte as inspiration.
Sig. Maffei lays down a solid wall of green ivy which is given an herbal edge through baie rose. Besides green real ivy also has an acerbic green edge which is what the baie rose adds in. Then out of the green pops muguet which doesn’t feel so odd as the green foundation within muguet nestles among the ivy. Lilac and ylang-ylang do feel like party crashers. The lilac lilts over the muguet turning it more floral. Ylang-ylang provides that unctuous mixture where methyl salicylate is more prominent. The sweet salicylate is paired with vanilla in the base along with a creamy sandalwood. A flurry of white musks finish things.
This Is Not A Blue Bottle 1.2 has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Of all the perfumes in this collection I found 1.2 the truest to the concept laid out by M. Ghislain. This Is Not A Blue Bottle 1.2 but it is a very green perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Independent perfumer Pierre Guillaume has been doing an interesting thing within his collection; he has been going back and re-doing his older Parfumerie Generale perfumes. This is not re-formulation this is looking at them again and using them as inspiration for new fragrances. It unfortunately sets up an unintentional competition in my mind. I have owned the original version of everything M. Guillaume has redone. After I’m done I end up debating on whether it is better or worse than the original. The tenth release under this Parfumerie Generale Rework collection, 19.1 Neroli ad Astra, has shown there is a different way for me to experience the two different versions.
The original 19 Louanges Profanes was released in 2008. In it M. Guillaume layered a fabulously rich neroli over incense and benzoin. It is one of my favorite shoulder season florals, ideal for cool mornings and warm afternoons. The neroli was from Tunisia and carries a spicy facet that complemented the resins it will float upon. One of the best features of the Rework collection is it gives M. Guillaume the opportunity to re-imagine a perfume using a different source of the keynote. For 19.1 Neroli ad Astra he changes to the Moroccan neroli.
The neroli from Morocco is more luminous it carries a delicacy to it which the Tunisian version does not. Something else the Moroccan version lacks is a significant green thread which runs through my favorite neroli sources. The version in 19.1 Neroli ad Astra is all flower no stem. It seems M. Guillaume realized that as well and so uses a couple of other ingredients to provide some of the missing verdancy.
Before we get to the neroli in 19.1 Neroli ad Astra we transition through a fruity top accord cut with baie rose. Pear and mandarin provide a juicy effect tamped down by the herbal nature of baie rose. Then like a sunrise the neroli arrives as it spreads across the fruity opening and whisks it away as if it was tendrils of fog. The neroli exalts in its lightness until blue agave and geranium come around to add back that green grounding quality. The blue agave provides an unusual green which makes the neroli effect kind of abstract while also feeling natural at others. Jasmine is used as a floral foundation while providing some expansiveness to the overall neroli accord. A mixture of vetiver and white musks provide even more volume as the base accord.
19.1 Neroli ad Astra has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
In the past with the Rework versions I end up choosing “this or that” as one of them becomes my favorite almost to the exclusion of the other. For the first time 19.1 Neroli ad Astra has me thinking “this and that”. It is because 19.1 Neroli ad Astra has been so good in the summer heat. It is opaque without being a trifle but it isn’t going to be something I’d wear in the upcoming fall. Then I am going to reach for my old favorite 19 Louanges Profanes. Which makes this the first Rework where each version has a time and place for it.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
This has been the week of the local county fair here in Poodlesville. Ever since I was a young child I make sure to attend the local summer fair wherever I have lived. One reason is I love the rides. As I walk down the central aisle flanked by all sorts of thrill rides, called the midway, I am greeted by a sensory overload. There are screams of delight in every tone as the rides spin, flip, and swoop. The smells of the food stalls drifts across, bbq ribs, funnel cakes, cotton candy, and caramel apples. When you are standing in the midway you are at the crossroads of everything going on at the fair. Most of the time a perfume that I would describe in those terms would be overloaded to distraction. The recent release Thameen The Cora shows me there can be some speedy thrills in overload.
Thameen is the perfume brand owned and creatively directed by Basel Binjabr. It was begun in London in 2013 and he has slowly been expanding into countries ever since. It only recently arrived in the US and I purchased a discovery set of samples to get a feel for the line. Mr. Binjabr has stated he did not want the collection to necessarily affect an Eastern influence. There is an impressive breadth across the entire collection but there was nothing that was standing out for me until I got to The Cora.
The Cora Sun-Drop
Each of the perfumes is named after a famous gemstone. The Cora is the short name for the largest yellow diamond known called more fully The Cora Sun-Drop. As you can see above in the right light it almost looks like a crystalline bit of sunlight. As I look at that I imagine a perfume full of sunny notes which usually means citrus. Mr. Binjabr looks at that and sees white flowers, lots and lots of them. The Cora stages itself through two distinct floral phases which do impart a bit of lightness but they also have some spin, flip, and swoop, too.
Jasmine is the keynote in the top accord. It is one of the cleaner versions of jasmine. The depth and spicy quality comes from a Bulgarian rose using its spicy core in place of the indoles. Magnolia and wisteria provide some different white floral tonality to the overall effect. The heart accord is muguet made greener by carnation and sweeter by benzoin and vanilla. A bit of nutmeg along with the carnation is what connects the two accords as we swoosh from the high of the expansive top into a deeper heart. The base takes us on a ninety-degree turn into a patchouli, amber and white musk finish.
The Cora has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
The Cora keeps adding in more and more notes which should just become a cacophony but like standing on the midway it is instead a synthesis of white flowers spinning, flipping and swooshing around me in a fragrant thrill ride.
Disclosure; This review was based on a sample I purchased.
Cologne is arguably the oldest form of perfume. Ever since Jean Marie Farina created it in 1709 it has inspired numerous interpretations and continues to do so. That original cologne was lemon, rosemary, and cedar. The variations generally focus on the citrus or the woods; the herbal heart is less enticing to would-be modern cologne designers. Which is a bit disappointing because the perfumers have many more herbal ingredients at their disposal than M. Farina did. When I received my sample of L’Artisan Parfumeur Au Bord de L’Eau I found a cologne which thrived by focusing on the herb which started it all.
Au Bord de L'Eau by Claude Monet
Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin was not inspired by M. Farina instead he was thinking about Claude Monet’s painting of the same name. The name roughly translates to “by the water” and I expected it to be an aquatic style of perfume. When you look at the painting above you should not notice the water and instead notice the deep green hues elsewhere because it is that which comes closest to defining the perfume named after that. M. Pellegrin creates a typical cologne architecture with many of the classical ingredients except the star of this is rosemary.
M. Pellegrin opens with lilting lemon accord buttressed with bergamot. M. Pellegrin creates a citrus tinted cloud which drifts across the early moments. Then the rosemary arrives with brio. It shoves the citrus out of the way which requires M. Pellegrin to sandwich it with orange blossom and violet. The metallic violet acts like a container for the rosemary while the orange blossom softens the acute edges. Au Bord de L’Eau remains with this accord for much of the time I wore it. I found this remarkably refreshing on the summer days I wore it. The rosemary at this concentration carries a verdant aromaticity which the florals accompany. The base is a mix of usual musks which add some depth to the heart accord in the later stages.
Au Bord de L’Eau has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I can’t say I thought Monet while I was wearing Au Bord de L’Eau. It would be hard to find anything very Impressionistic about this cologne. Instead it was another innovative artist who I thought of a lot while enjoying Au Bord de L’Eau; M. Farina. I kept thinking this might be what he came up with if he was designing cologne today. By focusing on the herb M. Pellegrin found something worthy of the original cologne.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by L’Artisan Parfumeur.
I have been very pleased with the direction that Christine Nagel has been taking as she begins her tenure as in-house perfumer at Hermes. The earlier release of Eau des Merveilles Bleue this year has shown Mme Nagel imparting her sensibility on the brand as she diverges from the previous style of Jean-Claude Ellena. Through her first set of releases it appears she will retain the minimalistic aesthetic that has become synonymous with Hermes fragrances; refined over M. Ellena’s time as in-house perfumer. With the latest release, Twilly D’Hermes, it also appears she is going somewhere different as she has designed something unabashedly fun but which manages to retain enough style to not be dismissed as a trifle.
Hermes Twilly scarf on a Hermes Birkin bag
The name Twilly D’Hermes refers to the narrow Twilly scarves sold by Hermes. Those Twillys have been used to wrap the handles of Birkin bags. They have also been tied into bracelets, hair ties and other fashionable accessories. It is the versatile Hermes scarf that lends itself to being interpreted in lighthearted ways. That sense of fun is one of the things Mme Nagel is trying to capture. The other is she states this is a perfume for a younger person; a young girl. I can almost see a subliminal label of “My first grown-up perfume” underpinning all of this.
7 Ways to wear a Twilly
As I was wearing Twilly D’Hermes I thought about what that would mean if you were aiming to introduce a young girl to perfume. You would keep it on the floral side you might add a fruity partner and finish with a light woody note. This is meant to be an enticement to add perfume to your day to a young woman who hasn’t done that.
As I wore it I also reflected on whether it was so facile that it wasn’t enough to hold my interest as I am very much not the target audience. What I want is a solid floral keynote paired with some interesting companions. I never found it so slight that I didn’t enjoy wearing it.
Twilly D’Hermes has three listed notes ginger, tuberose, and sandalwood. When I saw tuberose on that list I thought that is just going to be too intense. What I was greeted with when I applied Twilly D’Hermes is a fresh slightly buttery version of tuberose which has only a tiny amount of the more confrontational indoles. It is that choice which exemplifies how smart Mme Nagel is. If you scrub the indoles out completely it becomes insipid. Give the indoles too much play and the young girls will shove it away as smelling like old ladies. The choice here is to keep them here but they are like the purr of a contented kitten coming from within the soft floral moments. The tuberose is so light I expect many are going to think orange blossom is the central floral note. As I wore it there were moments when I thought the same. The ginger used here is different from how it is usually presented. Most of the time it adds a kinetic presence lifting the notes underneath it. Mme Nagel doesn’t need any lift what she needs is an atypical fruity note which is what the ginger provides it reminds me a bit of the smell of ginger ale. The base is a sandalwood where the sweeter creamy aspects are amplified and dovetail with the creamy nature of the tuberose. It is another intelligent choice.
Twilly D’Hermes has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I can’t really speak to whether this is going to be appealing to young women. I know I will be watching with interest and I suspect it has a chance to do well with the desired demographic. There doesn’t seem to be anything which should be off-putting to them. From my perspective wearing this during the summertime was ideal. It was a light tuberose floral that wasn’t too strong. The ginger and sandalwood provided pleasant accompaniment to the tuberose. I found it to be the fragrance equivalent of a Twilly scarf; not as rich as a full Hermes scarf but a fun versatile thrilling frill.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Hermes.
It was the mid-1970’s was when logo mania began. There was a desire by consumers to wear or own something with a conspicuous brand logo which showed off their taste/affluence. One of the earliest of these were the active wear produced by French clothing brand Lacoste. The logo was a little alligator and if you were wearing one you were on trend; for that time. I was part of it and owned my share of Lacoste shirts made for playing tennis in. I actually would play tennis in them because where else better to show off the alligator on my shirt? From these beginnings Lacoste has become an evergreen brand producing a full line of activewear, ready-to-wear, accessories, and fragrance.
The fragrance piece of Lacoste started in 1984 with the legendary perfumer Jean Kerleo creating an elegantly classic fougere. This was pretty much all that was released until 2002 when Lacoste really embraced fragrance as part of the overall collection. In this iteration Lacoste fragrances have become mainstream styles of perfume. There are some nice ones in there but they aren’t particularly different than others on the same shelf. I think this is an overall adequate collection with generally good perfumes within it. Which means when I receive a sample that I always give it a try. The new L’Homme Lacoste caught my attention.
The reason it caught my attention was perfumer Michel Girard created a beautifully crisp top half over a generic base. This is an unfortunately common practice where some creativity is displayed early on only to fade to the commonplace. Which means the things up front need to be extra compelling. In L’Homme Lacoste they were.
M. Girard uses rhubarb and its grapefruit-like vegetal scent profile. He matches it with the sweet pear-like quality of quince. This is not a common combination which is why it struck me. The two ingredients form a lively duet. This is made even more kinetic with ginger and black pepper. These turn the duet into a snappy quartet. The pepper functions as a pivot for the greener aspect of rhubarb. The ginger takes the quince for a quick spin. For about 45 minutes these four notes are as good as mainstream perfume gets. Then it all gets consumed in a wave of bland cedar and ambrox which is where L’Homme Lacoste spends many hours; unfortunately.
L’Homme Lacoste has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
The early moments of L’Homme Lacoste are such a good representation of mainstream perfume creativity I had to carry my sample around and re-apply after a few hours because I needed a reminder of why I thought this was good. Those early notes are like a tennis player rushing the net to lay down a perfect drop shot only to go back to a long exchange of boring groundstrokes. I do wish the base wasn’t so crushingly generic because the opening is not.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample supplied by Lacoste.
Summer is the time of the year when we slow down. School is out. Family vacations abound. Weekends at the beach beckon. Once we are at our destination, even if it is the backyard, we give ourselves permission to just be. As the day unspools in front of us it is the simple pleasures which provide a large portion of the enjoyment. The glass of iced tea sweating in the humidity as you walk the beach never tastes better. One of the great places to go for a summer vacation is the island of Bermuda which offers many of these distractions; allowing for maximal relaxation.
If you do visit Bermuda and are a perfume lover there has been a perfume brand on the island since 1928. For almost ninety years it has been inspired by the indigenous plant life for their perfumes. On a visit, back in the 1970’s, a bottle of Jasmine became the scent track of our time on the island. Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone has been perfumer-owner of The Bermuda Perfumery and their fragrance brand Lili Bermuda since 2003. She reached out to me and sent me a discovery set of samples of the entire current line along with the new release SunKiss. What I found inside was an island aesthetic full of lush florals, fresh aquatics, sun bleached woods, and juicy fruits. Taken all together like this there is an apparent lightheartedness which runs throughout the line. SunKiss might be the apex of this style.
If there was one note which shows up the most it is neroli. In SunKiss it comes as part of a gourmand style of fragrance which evokes an orange creamsicle ice cream bar. Ms. Ramsay-Brackstone is the perfumer for the recent releases; in SunKiss she uses some interesting citrus fruit choices to set off the neroli and vanilla in a fun way.
SunKiss opens with a putative citrus fruit accord which is formed around bitter orange. Grapefruit is the easy complement picking up on the tart qualities. The truly fabulous choice is loquat. Loquat is a tiny tart fruit which when extracted as an essential oil it is composed of mainly limonene and alpha-pinene. Those molecules smell like their names and so you have lemon speared with a few pine needles. Then the lift of a few peach aldehydes along with juicy pineapple finishes this lively citrus accord. The green floral neroli along with a rich dessert type vanilla provide the resting spot for the top notes. Once it all falls into place it becomes an orange creamsicle fresh from the freezer.
SunKiss has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Wearing SunKiss on a couple of summer days made me feel like I was on vacation holding a stick topped with a cool orange vanilla treat. What was best was SunKiss lasted much longer than any creamsicle which reached my hand. It is the simple pleasures of summer which make it fun. SunKiss is a stand out simple pleasure of the summer.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by The Bermuda Perfumery.
Growing up in the south one of my favorite expressions was describing a formidable woman as a “steel magnolia”. The words are meant to convey a woman who is a combination of femininity and strength of character to withstand all that life throws at them. It means that even if the world was falling apart around them their outward appearance and courtesy was flawless. The phrase became more widely known after the movie of the same name was released in 1989. It may be parochial but that movie never captures the combination of gentility and grit the actual steel magnolias I met had.
La belle ferronniere by Leonardo da Vinci (c. 1490-1496)
The new releases for the Jul et Mad Les Whites collection reminded me of this because one of them was inspired by the Leonardo da Vinci “La belle ferronniere” Ferronniere translates to iron worker and so the picture is iron worker’s woman. The perfume inspired by this is called Bella Donna with creative direction by Madalina Stoica-Blanchard and Julien Blanchard working with perfumer Luca Maffei. All three of the made a trip to the Louvre, where it hangs, prior to beginning work on Bella Donna. They would decide Bella Donna would be a contrast of the rigidity seen outwardly matched by the warmth of the passion underneath. That passion is symbolized by a central floral accord shaped around magnolia.
Luca Maffei, Julien Blanchard, and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard (l.to r.) getting inspired at the Louvre
Bella Donna opens with a zingy ginger and mulberry top accord. It is an energetic fleeting accord which I would have liked to have stick around a tiny bit longer. The florals are in a rush to get here and so they run over it with magnolia leading the charge. Magnolia can be a heady floral and most of the time perfumers choose to bring it down a notch by using woods to rein it in. Sig. Maffei is going the other direction turning it loose to form the nucleus of the heart of Bella Donna. He delicately powders it with iris and rose, adds heft with ylang-ylang, and uses jasmine to expand it all. Once it is all together this is a huge floral accord combining beauty and presence. The base is the warmth of benzoin, opopanax, and sandalwood.
Bella Donna has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Bella Donna expertly captures the idea that within femininity can also lie iron; or steel. Which makes Bella Donna the perfume of a Ferronniere Magnolia.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Jul et Mad.
Tiffany’s has always stood as one of those cultural touchstones where the name is synonymous with luxurious things. Very few brands can be identified by just the color of the container but Tiffany blue indicates something beautiful, and expensive, inside. There are many other references spread throughout pop culture. One of the most famous is the 1961 movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” based on the short story by Truman Capote. The film is much more beloved because it contains a happy ending for the central character Holly Golightly who is portrayed by Audrey Hepburn. I was reminded of all of this as I received my press sample of the new Tiffany & Co. eau de parfum.
Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly looking in Tiffany's in the movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961)
This is not Tiffany’s first foray into the fragrance sector. Back in 1987 they would work with the Chanel creative team for six fragrances until 2003. Of those six, Tiffany and Tiffany for Men, were the stars. Perfumers Francois Demachy and Jacques Polge would design two classic fragrances which embraced the fragrance equivalent of the little blue box.
After 2003 they seemed to lose interest in fragrance and it was just those two first perfumes which were readily available for many years. I’m not sure when those disappeared from the stores but Tiffany has been without a branded fragrance for a few years, at least. When I received the press release in advance of the fragrance I was intrigued because this was going to be something very different from what had come before.
One consistency was working with one of the best perfumers available; for Tiffany & Co. Daniela Andrier would begin the second phase of Tiffany fragrance. The major difference was for this to be a soliflore around iris. I have frequently described soliflores as perfume solitaires with that central note the radiant jewel. It seems appropriate for Tiffany and Mme Andrier to follow through on this analogy. Finally, this is part of the overall lightening of fragrance to appeal to a younger consumer. Tiffany & Co. is brilliant and sparkling in an opaque style.
Mme Andrier uses iris as her core note. This is not an iris which displays its rootier, earthy qualities. It instead is more focused on its higher register character with the powdery style more evident. Mme Andrier clearly wants to keep a firm hand on the powder quotient and so she surrounds the iris with a set of notes to hem that in. Early on it is an acerbic green mandarin providing a citrusy green contrast. To replace the earthiness lost, patchouli replaces a little bit of it providing a type of abstract iris accord. The rest is all fresh white musks providing lift and volume making the whole construct airy and light.
Tiffany & Co. has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I wore Tiffany & Co. I easily imagined a current day Holly Golightly wafting this. Mme Andrier has captured the Tiffany style in a different way than what came before. Probably a more contemporary way which will appeal to this generation who dream of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Tiffany & Co.