When I got my first real job in Connecticut the person who had grown up in South Florida was going to have to adjust to New England. It was a gradual effort, but I remember one of my earliest revelations of the joys I would find in my new home.
Candlewood Lake in Fall
I lived near Candlewood Lake and wanted to spend time sailing there as a replacement for my time spent on the ocean. It was a crisp October weekday when I headed down to rent a sailboat and explore the new expanse of water. As I raised the sail and angled it to catch the wind I finally looked up to see the narrow glacier carved lake with the colorful trees covering the ground sloping down to the shore. As the wind sung through the canvas of the sail and the schuss of the water off the bow created an aural component I felt an unusual relaxation I’ve only felt a few times in my life. Every care or worry seemed to dissipate. For the next few hours it was just me, the lake, and the trees. I’ve often wondered what a fragrance which captured that might smell like; Atelier Flou Hora Fugit comes very close.
Atelier Flou is the perfume brand founded in 2009 by Jean-Francois Cabos. Back then I remember trying Katana and liking it quite a bit. Since then the brand sort of fell off my radar. They added a couple more to the original set of eight in 2014. They got back on my radar when many of the attendees at Esxence 2017 spoke highly of Hora Fugit. Having recently received a sample I saw why from the moment I opened the vial. It is a comfort scent from first to last.
M. Cabos has worked exclusively with perfumer Jacques Chabert on all eleven Atelier Flou releases. M. Chabert has been turning up in many interesting places of late. Most of the time he is harnessing new materials in unique ways. Hora Fugit is something different where some of the comfort comes with familiarity but much more of it comes from the seamless blending of the notes into a comfy perfume.
Lavandin is the focal point early on. It carries a slightly mentholated air which laurel and bergamot enhance. It is like a breath of cool, not cold, air. I found it gently refreshing. M. Chabert then constructs a hull of cedar and sandalwood. These are the clean lines of wood in fragrance writ large. Vetiver and patchouli help add some variety to the stolid woods. A soft transparent leather accord gently spiced with nutmeg and sweetened with benzoin finish the accoutrements on this fragrant vessel.
Hora Fugit has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Hora Fugit is an interesting perfume it is familiar tropes done in a way which makes it seem less familiar. The overall effect is enjoyable because of that. If you’re looking for a perfume of New England Autumn. Hora Fugit will suffice.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Thomas Paine in “The Age of Reason” opines that there is but one step between ridiculous and sublime. It is a defining juxtaposition that within the absurd there can be found something grand. When I received my sample of Nicolai Patchouli Sublime I realized, the name notwithstanding, here was a perfume analog of Mr. Paine’s wisdom.
Patricia de Nicolai has been creating perfumes in either Intense or Sublime versions for many years. Long enough that there are sometimes pairs, as is the case here. In 2009, Patchouli Intense was a dark earthy gourmand patchouli. For 2017 the follow-up Patchouli Sublime has arrived. For the Sublime version Mme de Nicolai wanted to fashion a version that was airier than the Intense. To achieve this an opening fougere-like accord gave me the ridiculous as I struggled mightily with it. Only to find about an hour later the sublime beauty of patchouli and geranium to combine into something grand.
Patricia de Nicolai
The reason I have for my laughter at the opening is it feels like mint, coriander and lavender come together in a mixture of mouthwash, gin, and room freshener. I understand the desire to create an airy style of top accord except for me it comes off laughably pedestrian. When I first tried my sample on a strip it was only the hints of what was underneath that made me give it a sniff an hour later only to find something entrancing. When I wore Patchouli Sublime the cheap opening took about forty-five minutes to dissipate before the patchouli and geranium thankfully take over. Mme de Nicolai is using a few sources of patchouli where the earthy qualities are tamped down and the greener herbal nature is enhanced. This makes its duet with the green rosiness of the geranium a lovely harmonic. This is a gorgeous heart accord which is given some rounding with tobacco, tonka, and musks. The first two provide a sweeter outline around the keynotes. The musks add their typical animalic sensuality.
Patchouli Sublime has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I admit I have problems with mint in perfume and the mint here is one which makes me think of dental products exclusively. The coriander and lavender also come off poorer because of that. If you are a fan of these notes the opening will probably be much better for you than me. What I can unequivocally say is after that top accord disappears the patchouli and geranium are beautifully realized together. Enough so that Mr. Paine would see his truth within Patchouli Sublime.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I have written in the past how much I enjoy when a perfumer stamps their virtual signature on a creation with an accord. Just the construction of it can be revelatory to the aesthetic of the perfumer. The more fragrance I encounter the more I am drawn to those effects which are created rather than sourced from nature. In Juliette Has a Gun Sunny Side Up perfumer Romano Ricci shows the flexibility working like this can give someone.
The art of modern perfumery is that of composing an accord to mimic something in nature. It provides an abstraction as a perfumer homes in on what they find interesting. It also allows for a more precise way of having a specific effect within an overall perfume by being able to tune it to the desired volume and presence. In Sunny Side Up there are two accords M. Ricci creates one of coconut and one of sandalwood which provide the core of the fragrance. Sunny Side Up is meant to be a beachy perfume and the coconut does give it a suntan lotion vibe, but it is the sandalwood which is the prime focal point which I guess I can stretch to being similar to driftwood.
Sunny Side Up opens with that coconut suntan lotion accord. M. Ricci uses the tropical oiliness of jasmine lactone along with actual jasmine sambac, salicylates, and vanilla. It comes together in an unctuous creamy accord that smells of coconut and fruit. It is a happy fun opening. Iris provides a powdery interlude before the sandalwood accord comes up. M. Ricci is using one of the sandalwood aromachemicals. To which he might be adding some other woody synthetics. The result is a desiccated sandalwood lacking some of the sweeter creamy aspects of the real essential oil. It also has cleaner edges more akin to cedar. To provide even more of this effect there is a lot of Iso E super in the base. The only thing modulating it is the use of the botanical musk of ambrette seeds.
Sunny Side Up has 18-20 hour longevity and average sillage.
Both the top accord and the base accord are made up of things which many perfume lovers have issues with; I am one of them. Which is why I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Sunny Side Up. It comes together with a restrained mirth that overcomes my reticence with good humor. Maybe I need more simulation in my life.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Juliette Has a Gun.
I try not to use sport metaphors in perfume reviews but every once in a while, it fits what I am thinking. In the sport of basketball as you are on offense and looking for a path to the basket the player with the ball is expected to use their skills to “create space”. What that means is you use footspeed, ball handling skills, or some assistance from a teammate to get free and drive towards the basket for an open shot. When it comes to perfume I think when a brand enters a crowded genre they also must look to create space from their competitors. One of the most crowded spaces for new perfumes is the cozy vanilla. Annick Goutal Nuit et Confidences looks to see if it has the skills to create some space in that sector.
A year ago, with the release of Tenue de Soiree creative director Camille Goutal began the Oiseaux de Nuit collection. In my review of that first release I mentioned that this seemed like a pivot point for Annick Goutal to try to attract a younger consumer to the brand. Working with perfumer Mathieu Nardin they managed to keep the Annick Goutal aesthetic within a more transparent style of perfume. Seeing that M. Nardin was once again the perfumer for Nuit et Confidences I presumed this would be the blueprint to be followed again. It is, sort of, but there is a clever twist to add something just a tiny bit more which is where I think they were trying to create some differences.
The early going is likened to “champagne bubbles and sequin dresses” which I guess I can somewhat see. It is a lively mixture of bergamot, incense, black pepper, and florals. It doesn’t fizz and sparkle so much as smolder on my skin, but this may be semantics. This is a very transparent accord which sets the stage for the vanilla to arrive. The vanilla early on sets up shop in the middle of the spectrum between airy and heavy. Then M. Nardin uses a set of white musks to stealthily push it towards the airy end of the scale. It is a nice effect where it allows the vanilla to move from heavy to light rather than the opposite which is what is most often encountered. This is where Nuit et Confidences makes its move towards the basket.
Nuit et Confidences has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I am liking the direction Annick Goutal is moving in which preserves what made the brand one of the original niche brands while carving out a new space to remain relevant. Mme Goutal and M. Nardin seemingly share a vision of what this looks like as Nuit et Confidences shows that shared confidence.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Annick Goutal.
Pierre Guillaume has been one of my favorite independent perfumers because his aesthetic has significant overlap with mine. It doesn’t mean I like everything but I do like, and own, most of what he has done. For the last few years M. Guillaume has been doing a collection called the Rework series where he takes one of his previous releases and re-conceptualizes it. Starting in 2012 he has been working through his Numeraire collection adding a new release with the X.1 designation depending on the original number. Up until now he has done this with perfumes of his I like including some of my favorites. I knew we would eventually get to one of the originals I didn’t care for. Would I find some joy in the Rework? The first data point has arrived in Parfumerie Generale Suede Osmanthe 5.1.
Suede Osmanthe is the Rework of L’Eau de Circe. What does not appeal to me in the original 5.0 is that it is aggressively fruity floral which buries me beneath all of it. Part of it is my reticence to embrace fruity florals. Part of it was the osmanthus was overthrown by the other florals. Just by the name I had a feeling Suede Osmanthe was going to rectify much of what I found lacking in L’Eau de Circe.
Those of you who have followed my reviews know that osmanthus is one of my favorite ingredients. It is the dual nature of this floral as it carries an apricot and leather character within it. Even the apricot appeals because it carries a darker shading due to the leathery nature of the flower. As the name portends M. Guillaume is looking to explore the deeper aspects of osmanthus.
As much as I was ready for dark osmanthus M. Guillaume wanted to give the apricot its due in a beautifully creative way by loading it on an aldehyde bottle rocket and lighting the fuse. When I sprayed my first spritz of Suede Osmanthe I was expecting the apricot to lead. M. Guillaume packs in a bunch of the fizziest aldehydes and uses them to explode the apricot. It is a literal olfactory explosion which as it dies down leaves an afterimage of the apricot to lead into the leather heart. The synthetic Suederal is there waiting to provide that soft suede effect. As the leathery face of osmanthus peeks out the Suederal embraces it. A black tea blends in to provide a gentle smokiness to this part before a set of the animalic musks bring it home.
Suede Osmanthe has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Suede Osmanthe is as good as it gets from M. Guillaume and especially this Rework collection. I have been very impressed with the last few releases but Suede Osmanthe is the first to turn around my initial opinion of 5.0 with a much better 5.1. The fruity aldehyde transition to the deep leather is excellent every time I wear it; this makes it my kind of fruity floral.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
It has taken awhile but I finally had to scrape some ice off the windshield earlier this week. The warmer weather has kept me from reaching for my fall stalwarts. I always notice as I perform my autumnal perfume rotation how many are ambers. There is something about the sense of warmth and comfort I get from amber which makes it the right choice for me this time of year. My favorites are the ones which wear close to my skin so they scent my sweater allowing them to gently accompany me throughout my day. It was with some interest I received a sample of Jeroboam Ambra.
Jeroboam is a collaboration between creative director Francois Henin and perfumer Vanina Murraciole. I tried the debut collection of four at Esxence 2015. The connective tissue of the Jeroboam releases is they feature musk. All the Jeroboam fragrances are at extrait strength which means they wear close to the skin. This can sometimes lead to a perfume feeling less exuberant. An extrait done well though is like riding on a fragrant cloud. It wasn’t until the Holiday release of Origino at the end of 2015 where Jeroboam came together as a concept for me. A warmly enveloping nutmeg and sandalwood fragrance on a musky foundation; it was made for the festive time of year. It took almost two years for M. Henin and Mme Murraciole to release two more. Vespero is a nice geranium, cedar, patchouli and musk perfume. Ambra is the one which caught my attention.
Amber as the ingredient in an Oriental construction is an accord. Mme Murraciole constructs a compellingly dense one for Ambra. It plays into the advantages the extrait concentration brings by keeping it banked like embers in a fireplace.
Geranium is where Ambra opens and this is becoming a consistent characteristic of Jeroboam as a single ingredient puts the welcome mat out only to be left behind. In Ambra it is the four legs upon which Mme Murraciole builds her amber accord; incense, patchouli, peru balsam, and musk. The musk provides a nice complementary roundness to the overall amber accord. This is so restrained but it has hidden depths which I could feel myself chasing down on the days I wore Ambra. It is the pulsing heart which beats for hours. Over time vetiver finds a way into the spaces within to add the finishing touch.
Ambra has 12-14 hour longevity and little sillage.
I have a hard time believing I need another amber perfume but Ambra gives me something different from my other favorites. I think it is the concentration which imparts an intimacy. In any case it looks like I’ll be making room to add one more to my group of amber fragrances.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples I purchased.
When I was quite young my grandmother took me to see a movie called “Endless Summer”. The documentary followed two surfers on a trip around the world. My grandmother always eager for teachable moments had us look up all the locations in our Atlas. I remember when I got to the tiny island of Tahiti, barely a flyspeck on the map, it seemed like the waves we saw in the movie could swallow the island whole. If I needed reinforcement the 2004 movie “Riding Giants” revisited the tiny island with the big waves. The name of the town they surfed in was called “chopo”; except that is how its pronounced. It is correctly written Teahupo’o. I’ve always imagined the smell of tropical flowers combined with a sea spray accord would feel like riding down the barrel of a wave. A Lab on Fire My Own Private Teahupo’o tries to do just this.
Laird Hamilton riding a Teahupo'o wave
The ad copy is sort of the butterfly effect of wave creation as it mentions a single drop in Antarctica turns into a rideable wall of water in Tahiti. The rest of the copy wants to capture riding in the barrel of the wave surrounded by sea spray as the smell of the indigenous flora is carries to you. Creative director Carlos Kusubayashi collaborates with perfumer Laurent Le Guernec to create the break to ride our olfactory surfboard within.
Laurent Le Guernec
The fragrance is as simple as the description. It opens on a suite of ozonic notes and sea spray aquatics. M. Le Guernec tunes his top accord to capture the sun shining through the top of the curl while the chill of the water surrounds us as we traverse through the spray fraying on the edges. This is a common top accord done well. I appreciate the balance brought to it. Frangipani is the floral used to represent the tropics. To make sure it has the required strength M. Le Guernec supports it with a group of salicylates to build the effect up. As we cruise through the wave we catch the smell of vanilla on the breeze as the unfettered sun beams down in a warm ray of amber. This all comes together in an aquatic Oriental construct which worked nicely for me.
My Own Private Teahupo’o has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
My Own Private Teahupo’o is not the first fragrance to try and translate surf culture into a bottle. It succeeds for me because when I’m wearing it I can close my eyes believe I’m on a surfboard in Tahiti.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
As the weather cools off some of my evenings are spent with a snifter in hand sipping either a 15-year Rhum Barbancourt or Louis Royer Force 53. These appeal because they provide an inner warmth underneath my sweater. Like wine, fine liquor also has a scent and a nuanced flavor like any of my favorite perfumes. Which is why I tend to gravitate towards perfumes with boozy hearts. When I received samples of the five perfumes which make up the new Ermenegildo Zegna Elements of Man it was the one which felt like it belonged in a snifter which was my favorite, Passion.
The fragrance side of Ermenegildo Zegna has been a story of fits and starts as they search for a perfume identity as tailored as a Zegna suit. For most of their history they have kept it simple; often too simple. Focusing on something that stripped down there needs to be a lot of care taken to not have something dissonant within. That has been the story and it continued as I was initially trying the Elements of Man collection. A couple of classic citrus in Wisdom and Talent. A fougere, Integrity; and a smoky tobacco oud in Strength make up four of the five. In each case there was the familiar experience of finding something not quite coming together. Only in the last one Passion does it.
When Ermenegildo Zegna allied with Estee Lauder creative director Trudi Loren was asked to oversee it. She has consistently asked for quality keynotes and worked with some great perfumers. There are some signs that Elements of Man might be a slight change in direction. For Passion Ms. Loren works with perfumer Ilias Erminidis. Together they create a collaboration of rum and cognac I almost wanted to drink.
If there is an advantage to the style of fragrance represented by the brand they cut right to the chase. For Passion that means it is awash with rum and cognac. Great cognac has a deep molasses facet, rum has caramel on the nose. Passion leads with both as molasses and caramel come forward in a rich accord that carries a 90-proof pop underneath as it swirls in the nose. M. Erminidis then uses a few complementary notes to make this all glow. It starts with a toasty saffron continues with amber and really pulses with resinous olibanum in place. This all comes together rapidly and lingers over many hours; as if it is being sipped by my nose.
Passion has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Wearing Passion, I ended up having a two-fisted drinking night as I poured a bit of Barbancourt and Louis Royer to see if they could be layered into something resembling Passion. They don’t really approach the richness of Passion. When I wore Passion all I wanted to do was grab a snifter and sit back and luxuriate in my senses.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Ermenegildo Zegna.
I am notoriously difficult to but a gift for because I buy what I want as I want it. Yes, I’m one of those. One of the beneficial aspects is when I get gifts they are things I didn’t know about. A couple years ago I received a gift of Moroccan Neroli Shaving Serum from an Australian brand I had never heard of called Aesop. When I used it up a few months later I ventured to the local Washington DC store to replace it. When I walked into the store I didn’t know they made perfume. It turned out to be my lucky day because they were featuring their perfume, Marrakech Intense. This was a perfume right in my spicy woody sweet spot it has been one of my favorite fall scents since I bought it.
Dr. Kate Forbes
I again headed to Aesop a few weeks ago and this time I coincided with the release of a new perfume. I wasn’t sure I’d like it as much as I did Marrakech Intense. The new perfume is called Hwyl. Hwyl is inspired by ancient Japanese hinoki forests. Creative director at Aesop, Dr. Kate Forbes, re-teams with perfumer Barnabe Fillion, who was responsible for Marrakech Intense, for Hwyl.
Hwyl does carry a strong cypress facet evoking hinoki but what is really striking is the use of incense. There seem to be multiple sources which form an overlapping resinous accord at the heart of Hwyl. There is also strong green thread running throughout. It is different style from Marrakech Intense entirely. The definition of hwyl is “a stirring feeling of emotional motivation and energy” The perfume delivers on its name
Hwyl opens with very herbal thyme which provides a place for baie rose, elemi, geranium to attach to. The very clean cedar-like nature of cypress provides the hinoki inspiration point. Then the incense starts to form up at first a familiar metallic frankincense finds a dynamic partner with the thyme. Softer myrrh and olibanum add softer facets. Finally, there is a smoky version of incense I couldn’t place. It is combined with a classic vetiver for the base accord. The smoky incense and the vetiver particularly provide a pleasing final few hours.
Hwyl has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
The layered incense accord at Hwyl has captured me from the moment I smelled it on a strip. M. Fillion has delivered a delightful resinous layer cake on a cypress plate. If you like incense you should discover your local Aesop boutique. There are surprises to be discovered there.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample form Aesop.
When you look around the world to witness change over the last 20 years there is nothing to rival Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. In just two decades the skyline in the city has sprouted skyscrapers one after the other with the 2,722-foot-tall Burj Khalifa, the tallest man-made structure in the world, the biggest. These are the modern versions of the ancient pyramids to the northwest in Egypt. While bigger might be better I like a bit of a twist in my design which I find literally in the 90-degree twist of Cayan Tower. I also like a bit of twist in my perfume pyramids too.
Burj Khalifa (l.) and Cayan Tower at night
Indian-born fashion designer Shalini released her first perfume, Shalini, back in 2004. That perfume was a collaboration with perfumer Maurice Roucel. It was a magnificent study in how to take tuberose and create haute couture out of it. M. Roucel considers it one of his best which I have no argument with. When I heard there was a new perfume to come from the same team I was interested to see what the second act would smell like.
Shalini Jardin Nocturne is based on the nighttime air in Dubai. The idea is you’re driving through the city as night-blooming flowers and a scented haze of oud form the background to the lit-up skyline. One thing which has been interesting is Shalini has encouraged M. Roucel to use high concentrations of exquisite sources of the keynotes in these perfumes. For Jardin Nocturne this means an Indian Jasmine absolute in overdose along with a significant amount of real Assam oud. While both of those notes provide the height M. Roucel adds in a few complementary notes to add a twist to the overall architecture.
The ride begins awash in the smell of jasmine. This is a ton of jasmine which displays everything about jasmine at full volume, including the indoles. It is that skanky core of this white flower which makes people gravitate to the cleaner synthetic versions. In Jardin Nocturne the depth of a high-quality absolute puts the jasmine in sharp focus. Then M. Roucel adds the first twist as he uses saffron to warm up the jasmine smoothing out the rougher edges. As we move along the oud begins to permeate the indoles. It almost comes as a surprise because it seems to rise out of the indoles. One moment it is indolic the next moment it is the resinous oud ruling at the heart of the jasmine. This is what the central accord of Jardin Nocturne is; balanced and compelling in its strength. What is particularly enjoyable is the Assam oud M. Roucel uses has a floral aspect which becomes apparent over time. Which means as the accord evolves it becomes more floral and the more challenging parts of the oud and jasmine get pushed to the background. The final twist is to find a complement for the oud in its final stages; M. Roucel uses Mysore sandalwood to round out the edgy woodiness of the oud. To make sure it doesn’t get too safe some musks arrive to make sure there is still a hint of indolic depth to the very end.
Jardin Nocturne has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Shalini has said Jardin Nocturne is the middle piece of a planned perfume trilogy with M. Roucel. I am very interested to see where this all ends. Jardin Nocturne is the perfume equivalent to these modern pyramids comprising the skyline of Dubai. It is sleekly constructed glowing with illumination.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Shalini.