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.
I’m not sure why it is the case but when I am on vacation at the beach, I drink cocktails which come with umbrellas in them. Fruity alchololic trifles meant to add to the fun of time away from home. This sense of fun is not found as often within fragrance as I would like. There isn’t a perfume bottle with an umbrella sticking out of it to let you know its time to kick back for fun. There might not be an umbrella sticking out of it but Thierry Mugler Angel Eau Croisiere is exactly what I’m talking about.
Three years ago Thierry Mugler began the evolution of Angel towards a new audience. The original Angel was a powerhouse. With Angel Muse there was a distinct effort to make the aesthetic less confrontational while retaining that special Angel magic. This was achieved by altering the gourmand heart of the original into something much lighter. I thought it was a brilliant re-invention of Angel. In the years since the subsequent releases haven’t captured that as well as I’d hoped; until Angel Eau Croisiere. Perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur does that by following a similar recipe infused with insouciance. It is fruits leading to a more transparent gourmand, but this carries a glint in its eye.
Angel Eau Croisiere opens with a trio of fruits which are both sweet and tart. Mme Lancesseur balances them right on that defining line. She also does something else quite clever. One of the fruits is listed as “blackcurrant sorbet”. This is conjecture but I think she uses a supercritical fluid extraction source of the blackcurrant. It gives the sense of the chill you see when you open up a quart of ice cream on a summer day and you see tendrils of frost rising from the surface. The blackcurrant has that chilly airy feeling. Grapefruit provides its typical citrusy sparkle. The star of the top accord is mango. This is the tart fleshy fruitiness kept to an opacity to not allow it to overwhelm the other two ingredients. This creates a joyful back and forth between fruits I don’t usually find. Then we head to the base where Mme Lancesseur chooses to follow the praline-focused base of Angel Muse instead of the chocolate-caramel version of the original. I extolled its use in Angel Muse. For Angel Eau Croisiere Mme Lancesseur employs it equally well. There is a nuttiness which goes nicely with the patchouli also present in the base. This is a gourmand with a light touch.
Angel Eau Croisiere has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
Angel Eau Croisiere extends the trend I was so happy with in Angel Muse. Mme Lancesseur does it with a grin and an umbrella.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Thierry Mugler.
Like many perfume lovers as the weather warms up there are certainly styles of perfume which get pushed to the back of the shelf. As a writer on perfume I don’t always have the luxury of adhering to that completely. I have to take what comes no matter what the weather. It was a mixed blessing when I received my sample of Marc-Antoine Barrois Ganymede. That was because last year’s debut perfume Marc-Antoine Barrois B683 was a gorgeous refined leather perfume. Ganymede was said to be using the same leather accord. What I found was something delightfully different in both style and weight.
Quentin Bisch (l.) and Marc-Antoine Barrois (Photo: Fred Zara)
Marc-Antoine Barrois and perfumer Quentin Bisch were the creative team behind B683 and continue into Ganymede. I described B683 as the scent of luxurious leather. Ganymede is a lighter version of the same leather among an entirely different set of supporting notes. The name comes from the largest moon of Jupiter. This planet has captured the imagination because it has a large frozen salt-water ocean, a magnetic field, and traces of oxygen in its atmosphere. For the purposes of the perfume version Messrs. Barrois and Bisch imagine what would a frozen aquatic smell like over their leather accord.
Ganymede opens with a vibrant mandarin providing sunny citrus energy. Saffron provides a corona around the mandarin as a diffuse glow. The same leather accord of B683 comes in with a stealthy step. It almost infuses itself underneath the top accord. Then immortelle is used as the center of that “frozen ocean” accord. Immortelle is most often described as having a maple syrup-like scent profile. M. Bisch attenuates that in favor of the dried grass aspect it also contains. It is used to create that concentrated salinity you might imagine Ganymede the planet smelling like. Contrasted with the subtle vitality of the leather accord this is out of this world.
Ganymede has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Ganymede is a very transparent leather perfume. I rarely pull out my leather perfumes on a summer day. Ganymede will not fall in that category. I will happily wear this out on a midsummer’s evening. I am not sure if there is a trilogy of leather scents to be completed in the future from this creative team. I selfishly hope so. I also am quite curious to see what they might come up with in a non-leather style of perfume. If they can pull off a summer-weight leather it seems there is nothing out of their reach.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Anyone who has read my writing knows how excited I get when a new perfumer catches my nose. At the end of 2017 I learned about Mackenzie Reilly with her first perfume release A Lab on Fire California Snow. She showed an uncommon skill to shift from dry to moist through precisely measured accords. I finished that review waiting to see what came next. It’s been more than a year but the release of A Lab on Fire Hossegor is that perfume.
I mention in nearly every A Lab on Fire review that the creative freedom given the perfumers by creative director Carlos Kusubayashi has resulted in some great things. To allow a senior perfumer working on her first commercial releases the opportunity to bring her vision to life in this environment must be a dream for Ms. Reilly. With Hossegor she repays that faith with another perfume of distinct phases.
Hossegor is the French surf town in the southern part where the waves from the Bay of Biscay provide a mecca. Ms. Reilly wanted to capture this sense of the coastal surf village. Her vision is of walking through a forest to reach the beach. As you stand at the interface of sand and trees the waves beckon you with an aquatic come-on. You dive in watching the horizon for a swell to ride. As she did in California Snow everything I described is realized as Hossegor develops.
It starts in that seaside forest. Ms. Reilly uses as the source of her pine tree scent the resin known as lentisque. It has a pine-like smell with resinous diffusion. It isn’t sharp, it is soft. Juniper berry is used to further add some tone to the pine-y top accord. As you emerge from the forest the smell of the ocean arrives with the bite of black pepper on the breeze. This turns the overall scent into a resinous aquatic. It turns subtly as olibanum and clary sage pick up on the resin and spice. The base does the same kind of switch from arid to moist as you get closer to the water. Ms. Reilly assembles an accord of mineralic ingredients to capture the water-soaked rocks. There is the breeze of white musks off those rock walls bringing a tiny thread of green from the moss. Time to stop looking and dive in.
Hossegor has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Hossegor is a fascinating perfume of different emotional moments stitched together through the intelligent use of precise materials. I said I couldn’t wait to see what was next for Ms. Reilly; thanks to Mr. Kusubayashi her precocious talent was set free on a surf beach in France.
Disclosure: This review is based upon a sample provided by A Lab on Fire.
Kevin Costner hears a voice tell him “If you build it, he will come.” at the beginning of the movie “Field of Dreams”. It is a call to do what you think is important to bring an outcome you desire. The saying has been altered by many to replace the “he” with “they”. This has then gone on to define efforts which willingly go outside of the mainstream. I have no idea if the creative director-owner of Zoologist Perfumes, Victor Wong, is a fan of the movie or the saying. What has become evident over five years of Zoologist making perfume is the belief that if you build interesting perfume, they will find it. The latest to be found is Zoologist Chameleon.
One of the reasons for the success of his line is Mr. Wong finds his collaborators by also being a perfume fan. For Chameleon he met perfumer Daniel Pescio when he bought some vintage perfumes from him and M. Pescio added a sample of his own to the box. According to the interview with M. Pescio on the Zoologist website, Mr. Wong thought the perfume smelled very “French”. He filed the name away until he had the idea to do an ylang-ylang and vanilla focused perfume called Chameleon. One thing about M. Pescio is he is one of those shadows behind the scenes of the fragrance world. Chameleon is the first perfume I have smelled by him. In the interview he says he strives for “quality” of ingredients, “the balance”, and “the evolution”. Those are all things which come together to make compelling perfume.
For Chameleon M. Pescio didn’t want to retread the typical ylang-ylang vanilla style which is out there. Instead of exploring the sweet floral aspects of ylang-ylang he focuses on my favorite part of the scent of this flower; its fleshiness underneath the sweet.
Chameleon opens with a bouquet of fruity notes representing a tropical style. Threads of aquatic breezes blow through. The ylang-ylang rises to meet the fruits. In the first moments it smells like many ylang-ylang centric fruity florals. Rather quickly it drops into a lower harmonic as that quality I enjoy in ylang-ylang begins to be noticeable. I have enjoyed this because it was the basis of so many vintage perfumes where it would be paired with animalic ingredients for an incredible sensuality. M. Pescio moves towards a similar effect as he harnesses the confluence of cashemran, vanilla, and musks to farm a “salty skin accord”. This comes together to form a fascinating Retro Nouveau perfume.
Chameleon has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Chameleon is another Zoologist release which asks perfume lovers to come to what Mr. Wong is building. Over the past five years many have found it worth the trip. Chameleon is just another all-star player in Mr. Wong’s Field of Perfumes.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Zoologist Perfumes.
Editor’s Note: For those of you who enjoy the visual with your perfume Mr. Wong has teamed up with artist “The Big in the Small” to create four unique prints based upon Chameleon. You can read, and see, more at this link.
One of the poodles at the Colognoisseur home office can usually be found every afternoon asleep in the sunbeam which comes through our glass door. Once we hit that part of the day I almost always know where he is. I envy him that opportunity to curl up in a bar of sunlight drifting on pleasant thoughts. Jo Malone Frangipani Flower gave me the opportunity to do that with a perfume.
I know this is becoming redundant, but I must call out creative director Celine Roux for everything she is doing at Jo Malone. She is starting to settle into a bit of a rhythm with the way releases have been coming. Her direction is also shaping things Jo Malone was known for with her own flair. Last year Tropical Cherimoya created a soliflore made up of layers of other florals. It was a fascinating recreation of a flower as perfume. A year later with Frangipani Flower the same thing is being done with a more known floral. To achieve the same effect Mme Roux asked for a headspace analysis of frangipani. Working with perfumer Marie Salamagne they took what was found to create another layered soliflore.
Marie Salamagne (Photo: Jerome Bonnet)
Frangipani Flower opens on a sunburst of lemon and jasmine. This is given a lighter feel as the lemon adds sparkle to an already expansive jasmine. Jasmine and frangipani are related so that the shift to a different kind of floral sweetness is done in tiny steps until you realize something is different. This is pushed to a more opaque feeling by using a set of ozonic and aquatic notes. There is an airiness throughout the first two-thirds of the development. It only becomes a tiny bit more grounded as sandalwood provides a woody tether in the base.
Frangipani Flower has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Frangipani Flower is equally as clever as Tropical Cherimoya in the way differing layers of accords form a soliflore. On the days I wore it I joined my poodle luxuriating in the sunbeam I had found.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.
One of the classic perfume styles is the “lipstick rose”. In the earliest incarnations it was meant to capture the smell of a lady’s cosmetic bag. During that time period it was Coty red lipstick which was the most popular. It was known for adding some iris to it to give it a distinctive smell. Anyone who grew up in the latter half of the 20th century has a female relative who owned a cosmetic bag which smelled of iris, rose, and leather. It fell out of favor as we crossed into the new century. Mainly because that accord had the pejorative “old lady perfume” attached to it. It didn’t entirely disappear, but it diminished in presence. The pairing is so good I was wondering how long the style would have to live in perfume purgatory before making a return. Over the past year there have been a few which have made the effort. Perhaps the best is Goutal Etoile d’Une Nuit.
Ever since 2016 Camille Goutal has made the business decision to make new perfumes in the transparent style seemingly desired by the younger generation. It has created some new collections within the Goutal brand. Oiseaux de Nuit has been one of the earliest. This was a collection on which Mme Goutal has exclusively collaborated with perfumer Mathieu Nardin. The concept is to appeal to twentysomething Parisiennes. The two previous releases, Tenue de Soiree and Nuit de Confidences, have chosen crowd-pleasing themes with clever twists over an opaque scent. While lipstick rose was crowd-pleasing a couple decades ago would Etoile d’Une Nuit find its way to a new generation?
Mme Goutal and M. Nardin have now formed a good working relationship where they understand the kind of fragrance they want to create. Etoile d’Une Nuit shows their improvement over time. Even with a construct as simple as this one is.
The difference to the old style of lipstick rose is evident from the first moments. The iris here is a shimmering powder instead of a concentrated lacquer. It adds a veil for the equally transparent rose to add another layer underneath. This is beautifully realized as it stays lilting and not heavy. Then the base of a leather accord infused with raspberry provides the finish. Neither of those notes add to the heaviness they jut arise and mesh with the rose and iris. I found the raspberry had an interesting grounding effect on the iris and rose. It keeps them tethered to the ground so that they don’t just dissipate away.
Etoile d’Une Nuit has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am interested to see how Etoile d’Une Nuit will be received. I believe Mme Goutal and M. Nardin did a great job of updating the venerable lipstick rose by making it lipstick lite.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Neiman-Marcus.