With new perfumers there are times they want to just turn the volume up and see where it leaves them. Most of the time it leaves a poorly constructed mess akin to too many people talking at the same time all trying to gain your attention. That style of perfumery wears me out. Less of the time the balance is struck precisely right and I walk away thinking that shouldn’t have worked but it did. Even more rarely is a perfume which teeters on the edge of olfactory cacophony and perfumed precision managing to stay poised on the knife edge of good and bad. The second release from Unum called Opus 1144 is one of those balancing acts.
When I reviewed the first Unum perfume LAVS I praised perfumer and owner Filippo Sorcinelli for keeping it simple. In Opus 1144 Sig. Sorcinelli is anything but unassuming in his construction. Opus 1144 is over stuffed with ideas. Sig. Sorcinelli wanted to reach back to the beginning of Gothic architecture and culture’s beginnings in 1144. The result is a fragrance full of detail some of which almost makes no sense only to find its place in time.
The opening is as soft as Opus 1144 gets as Sig. Sorcinelli uses bergamot, tangerine, elemi and vanilla to sweeten the citrus. It makes it reminiscent of a candy cream felling almost gourmand-like very early on. That gets washed away on a tide of intense amber and Cashmere woods, actually not exactly as the vanilla hangs in there making this a very sweet amber for a long while in the heart. These early moments tread up to the limit of my sweetness tolerance. I imagine for some it will cross that line. If you allow just a little more time Sig. Sorcinelli abandons the sweet and goes for the animalic as musks and leather are combined with benzoin and ambergris. It forms an accord full of life pulsing with its own heartbeat. The dramatic switch from sweet to animalic is one of my favorite parts of Opus 1144 because it is done with a subtle shift of components and not a whiplash inducing snap.
Opus 1144 has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Opus 1144 has one of the characteristics I look for in perfumes; the ability to change dramatically over the hours I am wearing it without feeling like it is just going through the motions. I felt the real shifting of notes as they would move towards their next stage of development. This is what I was talking about in the first paragraph in a different perfume all of this would’ve felt like a mess. In Opus 1144 it feels like a huge homage to all things Gothic.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received at Esxence 2015.
You’ve definitely heard of fruity floral but have you heard of a fruity aquatic? You have but they are not encountered that often. When you do find them it is usually just an infusion of basic fruits onto a Calone foundation. For the new brand Orlov Paris one of their debut releases, Sea of Light, is something slightly different.
Like all of the Orlov Paris perfumes they are named after a real-life diamond. This perfume is inspired by the Daria-i-Noor (Sea of Light in Persian) 182 carat pink diamond that might, or might not, have been one of the Iranian Crown Jewels. The actual stone has a tumultuous history including where it can be found today. Either a vault in Dhaka, Bangladesh or Tehran, Iran. It is a stunning looking diamond with the pale pink color adding in a subtle shading and nuance to the natural brilliance of the diamond. Perfumer Dominique Ropion would be inspired to layer a pale shade of fruitiness over a brilliantly sparkling white musk and sea spray accord.
Sea of Light stands out among the five debut perfumes of Orlov Paris for that lightness. The others have the heft of the huge gems they are named after. Sea of Light has the facets of light captured within the cut of the Daria-i-Noor tinted with the watercolor pink.
Sea of Light opens with petitgrain leavened with mandarin. This is a common citrus opening and it is executed here by M. Ropion as if it is a reflection of the light caught in the stone. It pulses with a pinpoint radiance. M. Ropion brings in two stalwarts from the fruity floral category, peach and blackcurrant, to provide a deeper fruit. The peach has its more fizzy nature brought to the fore again evoking the light effects across the surface of a piece of jewelry. The blackcurrant provides the only point of shadow in the whole composition as it tries to dim the shine, unsuccessfully. This leads to the base which is my favorite part of Sea of Light. Here M. Ropion takes a soft combination of white musks and keeps them from being as high-pitched as they can often be. This soft skin accord is then covered with the spray of the ocean as it dries in the sun. It forms an overall accord of the smell of skin covered in the mist off the ocean.
Sea of Light has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
As I already mentioned Sea of Light stands out for being the lightest fragrance in the debut Orlov Paris collection. It also stands out for M. Ropion’s take on the aquatic genre which is surprisingly made better with a fruit cocktail bobbing on the water. The entire debut collection will be coming to stores this month and if you want one to wear right now in the summer Sea of Light should be where you start.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Orlov Paris at Esxence 2015.
Editor’s Note: If you are going to be attending Cosmoprof in Las Vegas over July 12-14, 2015 Orlov Paris will be one of the perfumes featured in the Discover Scent exhibit curated by Karen Dubin and Karen Adams of Sniffapalooza.
I like leather perfumes in all of their many iterations. Whether it is suede soft or raw untanned skin I find the accords perfumers come up with to evoke leather one of the more interesting aspects of this style of fragrance. One perfumer who has evolved his leather accord over the last few years is Bertrand Duchaufour.
There have been distinct stages to M. Duchaufour’s leather accord and over the last few releases it seems like he has settled on one he likes best and tunes it to whatever effect he desires. Having followed this process there were a couple of the earlier rougher iterations I also liked. For his second perfume for The Vagabond Prince, Land of Warriors, M. Duchaufour takes all of his leather accords and combines them into a leather perfume lover’s smorgasbord.
The description of the notes for Land of Warriors lists three separate leather accords; vegetal leather, mineral and spicy leather, animalic leather, and smoky leather. Each of these by themselves are quite wonderful but in Land of Warriors they overstuff it a bit as the four accords clunk a little bit through the transitions. Land of Warriors is at its best when one of those leather accords is right out front. It gets muddled when a couple of them start to tussle for attention.
The first accord is the vegetal one. M. Duchaufour turns to three of his most-used ingredients to compose this; angelique seed, tomato leaf, and blackcurrant bud. The accord these notes form has the odor of well used leather gardening gloves as the scent of crushed green things mixes with sweaty leather. This is a very challenging accord as it has some rough edges to it. The sticky green of the blackcurrant stays just the right side of not smelling urinous but it is a close thing as the strength of the accord wants to drag it into the WC. It is a very bold choice to open with this especially when the second accord starts to appear. Again M. Duchaufour is working with some of his favorite ingredients like frankincense, davana, cistus, and saffron. The name promises mineral but I get mostly spicy on my skin. It should work better but the significant amount of oakwood absolute tilts this into woody spicy territory. My favorite of the accords is the third one the animalic accord. It is simple as M. Duchaufour uses castoreum and ambergris. The ambergris provides a neat bit of aquatic while the castoeum provides the primitive animal quality. The final accord is a typical styrax and birch tar accord. It is unctuous and I can feel the slow goopy bubbles quietly popping on the surface of the tar pot. The animalic and the smoky finish Land of Warriors on a high note.
Land of Warriors has 19-12 hour longevity and below average sillage.
I like Land of Warriors but this is a fragrance I feel like I should’ve loved. What is holding me back is the transitions are very distinct. I would have enjoyed a bit more of a nuanced transition instead of the punctuated phases. Even so there is a lot to like here for anyone who likes leather perfumes, not the least of which is the sort of Duchauforian master class on leather accords present. If you’re patient with the awkward moments the in-between moments are worth the effort.
Dsiclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by The Vagabond Prince.
One of my favorite books is “The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe. It chronicles the adventures of Ken Kesey and his band of counterculture heroes The Merry Pranksters as they travel on their bus. They used LSD and other psychedelics to see what they could learn from the trip or “test”. One of the trio of debut fragrances from Malbrum called Psychotrope is its own version of a perfume “test”.
Creative director Kristian Hilberg and perfumer Delphine Thierry were interested in creating a very synthetic fragrance experience with Psychotrope. Mme Thierry combines some of the more expansive synthetic aromachemicals to evoke a mind-expanding experience. Through the first few months of 2015 I have been pleasantly surprised at the number of perfumes which are wearing their synthetic building blocks in an overt way. I have noticed in these perfumes that these synthetic materials provide a prominent post-modern feel. Psychotrope achieves this vibe by letting the synthetics fill up every available space leaving nothing else to experience.
Psychotrope opens with a powerful slug of cypress. There is no gentle warm-up as Mme Thierry lets it hit you with a woody rush swathed in pimento and elemi. You’ll have to hunt for those because the cypress really does push everything out of its way. Cashmeran forms the core of the heart and it also dominates the landscape. This time the other notes of incense and saffron find a way to shade the power down a couple notches. The saffron sometimes feels like a hallucination as it tends to flit in and out on my skin. When it is there it really completes the heart. Into the base Ambrinol and Timbersilk form a smooth woody foundation enhanced with a sandalwood synthetic. This is where the synthetics really feel like they are filling up every bit of the olfactory horizon. Mme Thierry manages to achieve this effect without letting these aromachemicals become so dominant it feels like a perfume chemistry project. On the contrary it seems once you have a certain amount of synthetics in a professional perfumer’s hands these intense notes find another softer form. This is the third perfume in the first six months of 2015 I have observed this effect with. These focused synthetics can form something unexpectedly delicate without forfeiting structure. It makes wearing these perfumes an interesting experience.
Psychotrope has 18-24 hour longevity and average sillage.
I don’t have a preference in the never-ending debate of synthetic v. natural. My preference is for interesting compositions and both deliver that experience to me. Psychotrope is another all-synthetic perfume which has opened my eyes to the real potential of what can be achieved in skilled hands. Mme Thierry and Psychotrope have expanded my perfumed mind.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Malbrum at Esxence 2015.
I love sushi and am an avid proselytizer when trying to get those reluctant to try eating raw fish to let me guide them through it. The one thing I warn all of them is my favorite final piece of any sushi outing is something only for those who really like sushi. I order sea urchin in a hand roll topped with a raw quail’s egg. The overall texture of this as sea urchin, or uni as it is called in Japanese, is very soft can be challenging. Combine this with the smell of fresh sea urchin which has a strong iodine component along with a distinct briny smell. I love the smell of fresh uni it feels like the living ocean to me. I can honestly say I never expected to find it in a perfume but now I have in the new Medittorosa Sogno Reale.
Stefania Squeglia is the owner and creative director at Medittorosa. Sogno Reale is the perfumed realization of a dream Sig.ra Squeglia had. She asked perfumer Amelie Bourgeois to create a fragrance which evoked her dream the trio of smells Mme Bourgeois had to work with was lemon, sea urchin, and leather. Sogno Reale has the feeling of a waking dream full of seeming contradictions which somehow make sense when lost in the subconscious.
Sogno Reale opens with that lemon as brilliant as you will find in a perfume. It provides stark contrast to the uni accord which Mme Bourgeois forms from iodine and ozonic notes. This captures that smell of fresh ocean and something living precisely. It is a very odd combination but it works for me. It is going to be too weird for some. If you can find something to enjoy, the next phase as Mme Bourgeois constructs her leather accord makes it worth it. First patchouli is used to lead into an unrefined leather accord. Mme Bourgeois takes olibanum, styrax, hyraceum, and sandalwood. This leather accord has a primitive quality to it. That matches the remainder of the uni accord perfectly. Very late in the drydown there is a boozy shimmering finish around rum and amber.
Sogno Reale has 8-10 hour longevity and very little sillage.
I always want perfume brands to take chances and Sig.ra Squeglia has done that with Sogno Reale. Like my finishing dish at the sushi restaurant Sogno Reale is not for those who like their perfumes safe. Sogno Reale is for the perfume lover who truly wants to try something very different. Sogno Reale is that kind of perfume. I was not able to wear it on a really hot day where I think it might be at its best. I did wear it on a trip to the beach and to the sushi restaurant afterwards. As I got ready to take a bite of my uni hand roll a slight whiff of it rose from my wrist. It was a perfect combination of two forms of uni.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Medittorosa.
There is another thing I’ve noticed about many of the most successful independent perfumers; they have a primary source of inspiration. That inspiration is as varied as the styles I find in this sector of perfumery. For Alexis Karl it is poetry.
I spent some real time with her on the day before last May’s Sniffapalooza Spring Fling talking about her way of making perfume. As we talked I could tell Ms. Karl loves the power of words. The way they sound as we speak them. The meanings they have both obvious and subliminal. The way they can form an intimate connection. She even has a perfume she will only let you smell if you pay the price of supplying her a piece of poetry. Her perfume brand, Scent by Alexis, represents the ongoing composition of a poem. With The Harmony of Being we have reached the third line. Here is what exists to date:
"A body made luminous,
a body secret, sacred, cyphered,
you are the harmony of being…"
The new perfume is that attempt to achieve harmony by just being. Ms. Karl has composed a fragrance of balance between light and dark. The constant necessity to find a point of balance between those is represented throughout the development of The Harmony of Being.
Ms. Karl starts off with the light of delicate florals as lilac and neroli combine with petitgrain sur fleur to form a shimmering opening. Shadows begin to arise as rose deepens the floralcy. A high concentration of muguet is a bit greener than I normally find which makes it more shaded into a deeper verdancy. The base is constructed on a matrix of beeswax into which Ms. Karl embeds labdanum, coffee flower, and ambergris. The final note and the true keynote for this perfume is black agarwood. This is another example of an ingredient only an independent perfumer can use because it can’t be sourced in massive quantities. This black agarwood has this fabulous amount of nuance which makes it sing in both light and shadow. There is a hint of a floral quality. There is an aged quality as if this was excavated from a tree as old as time. There is more than a little bit of a cocoa feel to this. The black agarwood does kind of cast the final shadow but it also has points of light so the dark contains the harmonizing qualities Ms. Karl is shooting for.
The Harmony of Being has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Ms. Karl has been steadily developing her perfumes, much as the poem they are based on is doing the same. With The Harmony of Being I feel like she really has composed her most assured perfume to date. There is a cognizant intelligence at play underneath it all. That is what truly makes The Harmony of Being represent the weight of words in all their myriad forms.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Scent by Alexis.
There are times when I get a sneak preview of an upcoming fragrance from a perfumer that I just count the days until it is released. When I was at Pitti Fragranze last September Pierre Guillaume showed me his idea of a fun in the sun perfume. I sprayed a little on that day and it was easily one of the best things at the entire expo but it wasn’t to be released yet. Flash forward seven months to Esxence and the same sequence as the perfume now had a name Mojito Chypre and it would be the fifth fragrance released in Collection Croisiere. My waiting is over and Mojito Chypre has now been released.
Having grown up in South Florida musician Jimmy Buffet was a Native Son and Partier-in-Chief especially in the Florida Keys where we had a weekend place. There were way too many nights we sang at the top of our lungs, “wasting away in Margaritaville!” with Mr. Buffett. There was a smell to warm liquor infused nights on the outside deck. Mojito Chypre captures that sense of carefree fun except the drink of choice is the rum and mint concoction called a mojito. M. Guillaume adds in a strawberry to his perfumed cocktail which definitely makes everything even more fun.
The first half of Mojito Chypre is that party. The rum is flowing the lime, mint, and strawberry are being muddled and releasing their flavors along with their scents. There are so many boring strawberry-themed mass-market perfumes out there. I want to grab them by the collar and have them smell this and see how it is done. There is never any moment in the opening hours, when the mojitos are flowing, when this perfume becomes too sweet, too fruity, or too much. M. Guillaume has mixed a perfect cocktail. If Mojito Chypre was just this it would be wonderful. M. Guillaume does not forget the second half of the name and there is this moment when the bottles are empty and you’re just left with the smell of late night woods and water. That is represented by a shift to patchouli and veitver as they provide the foundation for the oakmoss to rest upon. All together it makes for an excellent chypre accord. Just to make sure all the fun hasn’t disappeared M. Guillaume adds a bit of vanilla as a reminder there was a party going on here.
Mojito Chypre has 10-12 hour longevity with above average sillage.
I’m having a lot of fun describing Mojito Chypre with lighthearted terms. What I don’t want to get lost is what an accomplished perfume this is from M. Guillaume. There were so many ways this could have gone wrong. Instead it has gone deliriously right. I know I will be humming a lot to myself this summer, “wasting away in mojitoville” as I wear Mojito Chypre.
As a special bonus those who read my The Sunday Magazine column know I like making cocktails. This seems like the place to share my Strawberry Mojito recipe.
½ fresh lime
Six leaves of mint
1 ½ sliced strawberries
2 oz of white rum
2 oz club soda
In a large glass place squeeze the lines and place the limes in the glass. Add in the sliced strawberries, and the mint. Use a muddler to crush all of them together. Add in ice, the rum and the club soda and give it a stir.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Pierre Guillaume.
Independent perfumer Irina Adam of Phoenix Botanicals has been one of my favorite of the young natural perfumers working currently. What sets her apart in my mind is her very keen curiosity on finding new materials to base her perfumes around. For her latest Ella it took a friend who had some vintage essences from around the 1920’s-1940’s.
Picture of a couple of the actual vintage essences found in Ella
In the description on her Etsy site of Ella Ms. Adam tells of her friend artist Anne Arden McDonald who shared three vintage essence with her to use in a perfume. For Ella these were vetiver, hay, and hyacinth. The last note would be the keynote to build Ella around. Ms. Adam introduced Ella at the Sunday lunch of the recent Sniffapalooza Spring Fling where she brought tiny samples of all three vintage essences. Besides this being a special experience I also got to share smelling these raw materials with perfumer Christophe Laudamiel and Michael Edwards of Fragrances of the World. The three of us remarked on how all of these typical perfume ingredients had gained a lot of depth with nearly one hundred years of age. They were exceptional ingredients to build a perfume around. Ms. Adam is definitely one who is up to this challenge and she uses one of each vintage essence in each phase of Ella.
The vintage hyacinth is what predominates throughout all of the development. I am a big fan of hyacinth and this vintage version has layers to it I have never experienced previously. Ms. Adam wisely uses a bit of galbanum as green contrast before allowing the floral bouquet of the heart to bear the hyacinth up on to their shoulders. Those florals are ylang ylang, honeysuckle, gardenia, and jasmine. In other circumstances the hyacinth would be trampled by those florals. This vintage version never lets that happen as it stays on top all the way through this phase. Next is a human skin accord constructed around the vintage hay mixed with tobacco, botanical musks, and clove. This accord is where Ella snaps into brilliant focus for me. As the hyacinth continues to ring out the hay forms a shimmering human skin accord underneath it all. It is something very special. The base notes provide the concept of this all being kept in a timeless curio cabinet. Sandalwood and moss combine with the vintage vetiver. The vintage vetiver on its own is so smooth and deeply woody it was nearly unrecognizable. As part of Ella there are enough other notes to sort of resurrect the green familiar qualities but they seem like whispers of its normal volume.
Ella has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have been impressed by Ms. Adam’s technical abilities for a while now but they have never been displayed as conspicuously as they are in Ella. Given exquisitely precious ingredients she has produced an exquisite perfume. This is obviously a limited edition because of the ingredients and it is going to be one of the top perfumes of 2015. This is one you will be sorry if you miss it.
Disclosure: This review based on a sample provided by Phoenix Botanicals.
One of the great things about Facebook is the anticipation it builds in me for upcoming perfumes from many of my favorite independent perfumers. Early this month Mandy Aftel posted a picture with the caption “Working at my organ on a new chypre perfume!” In a response to one of the comments she promised, “it has all the “real” stuff in it.” It would be barely a week later when Ms. Aftel contacted me to let me know a sample of her new solid perfume for Aftelier Perfumes, Bergamoss, was on its way.
Picture from Mandy Aftel's Facebook page of her working on Bergamoss
Ms. Aftel often releases her perfumes as solids versus liquid applications. The biggest difference I notice is how wearing a solid perfume might be the most intimate experience one can have in perfume. The act of taking a finger and dipping it into a pot and choosing where to apply it only adds to that feeling.
Bergamoss is indeed a chypre with all of the “real” stuff. It is also a chypre made personal which is a side effect of it being produced in a solid form. By making it in this form Ms. Aftel takes something well-known and transforms it into something more transparent. Because it has all of the appropriate components it makes one lean in looking for more. Bergamoss makes me take what it is willing to give. Once I stopped chasing and actually accepted the level of engagement it became much more compelling than it was on first sniff. By the time I had worn this a couple more times it was all about the compulsion to bring it closer.
Botanical drawing of flouve
Bergamoss opens with the promised “berg” of bergamot. The citrus quotient is doubled with orange added which provides a juiced up “berg” to start things. The heart is where things really come together. Ms. Aftel employs a particularly juicy peach in combination with citronellol and nutmeg for the heart. Nutmeg has a wonderful spiced sweetness which opens up the sweeter qualities of the citronellol and peach while also providing necessary grounding effects. After the first two acts we finally get to the “real” stuff. The base of Bergamoss is the “amoss” from the name and much more. The note which leads you into the base is called flouve absolute. Ms. Aftel says in the press release it is from the tops of French sweet grass. She also says it can be chameleon-like in a fragrance and the base of Bergamoss does have a seemingly shifting frame of reference and I am going to chalk that up to the flouve. The core of the base is real oakmoss and antique civet. Coumarin provides a bridge between the muskiness and the woody green. That leaves the flouve to provide the grace notes which it does throughout the great majority of time Bergamoss is on my skin. It goes from narcotic sweetness to intense greenness. This makes Bergamoss feel in constant motion.
Bergamoss lasts 6-8 hours and has almost no sillage to speak of.
Bergamoss is going to be one of those perfumes where my already high estimation of it only climbs higher the more I become familiar with it. Ms. Aftel has put the “real” stuff in a really excellent perfume. Dip your finger in and find your personal olfactory bliss in its intimate excellence.
Disclosure; this review was based on a sample provided by Aftelier Perfumes.
There are so many leather perfumes out there it is a challenge to stand out among them. Unlike single floral notes though leather perfumes have a bit of an advantage because the smell of leather in a perfume is an accord. An accord is as close as we get to an olfactory signature from a perfumer. I really like having the opportunity to compare the use of a leather accord by a perfumer when I can get a couple of new releases within a few months of each other. In the case of perfumer Vanina Murraciole it was her two recent releases for Le Galion which gave me an opportunity to examine her perfumed John Hancock.
Le Galion has begun to evolve away from being a heritage perfumery by moving away from re-creating Paul Vacher’s original releases into creating new perfumes based on the style of those early releases. Owner and creative director Nicolas Chabot has made a wise decision to do this. In Mme Murraciole he has found a perfumer who can capture that retro vibe and splice it onto something more modern. In my review of Aesthete I felt that one skewed so contemporary that it is the most modern of the line. For the other new one composed by Mme Murraciole, Cuir, this feels more akin to the originals with a very retro feeling to it. Both perfumes have Mme Murraciole’s leather accord in use. In Aesthete it is used as foundation for the other notes. It has a supple quality by being used at a lower concentration. In Cuir, as the name suggests, it is not part of the ensemble it is the star of the show with its name up in lights, or at least on the bottle. This transforms the leather into something less soft, more intriguing, and much more present.
Cuir opens up with bergamot and elemi. Mme Murraciole uses a lot of elemi and the lemon-tinted resin complements the bergamot. The opening is very reminiscent of many of the classic men’s fragrances of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. The leather accord comes next and it does nothing to break Cuir out of that time period. The leather accord smells like that well-worn biker jacket lovingly oiled and cared for. What I like about this leather accord is there is a strong oily character within which really makes it different for me. That aspect adds a slightly funky quality which might not be to everyone’s taste. I found myself drawn to it each time I wore Cuir. Mme Murraciole takes her accord and drapes it over a chair made of sandalwood where you can smell the sweaty body that had it on. The final notes of musk and sandalwood again return to feeling like they are directly from a perfume fifty years older.
Cuir has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
I found it interesting how well Mme Murraciole’s leather accord was able to be soft when used in support and to roar when it was the keynote. If you like your leather loud and uncomplicated Le Galion Cuir is one to add to your list.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Le Galion at Esxence 2015.