I am always impressed with the continued excellence shown by Diptyque. They have stayed true to their brand, and what it represents, for forty years. Over the last few years it has been given over to the hands of mainly two perfumers, Fabrice Pellegrin and Olivier Pescheux. That has resulted in one of the stronger runs of releases for Diptyque in their long history. As each new release arrives I look for signs of a downturn. The latest Eau des Sens continues the trend of quality.
One of the earliest perfumes by Diptyque, Philosykos, is a study of the fig tree in its entirety. One of the best orange fragrances I own is L’Eau de Tarocco which was composed by M. Prescheux. Eau des Sens is a study of the orange tree in the same vein as Philosykos with the same perfumer as L’Eau de Tarocco. It makes Eau des Sens a hybrid of two of the best fragrances within the line. It actually lives up to this pedigree.
As a boy who spent way too much time sitting in the branches of an orange tree while growing up in S. Florida that smell is imprinted in my memory. One of my favorite remembered smells of that time is when the tree would be covered with orange blossoms. As the wind would blow through; the softest floral smell on top of the wood of the tree came to my child’s nose. When those blossoms became fruit the smell of the tree would change. M. Pescheux captures both of those transitions within the development of Eau des Sens.
Eau des Sens opens with the fruit, as a bitter orange comes up first. M. Pescheux chooses juniper berry to enhance the bitter quality just a bit. For those who are fans of L’Eau de Tarocco this is that orange made less effusive and a bit more conservative. It sets the stage for the orange blossom to arrive on its own breeze of angelica which plays the part of the tree. After climbing an orange tree I would have the smell of the wood on my hands; which always had a bit of a spicy smell to it along with the smell of my sweaty skin. This is what the angelica imparts to Eau des Sens. The orange blossom is tuned to just the right intensity. Not too transparent and not too concentrated. M. Pescheux balances the orange blossom and angelica just right. A great earthy patchouli provides the soil the tree is rooted upon as the base note.
Eau des Sens has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
M. Pescheux has successfully called back to two of the standouts within the Diptyque brand while making something different enough from both of them to stand on its own. It is a complete experience of being aloft within the branches of an orange tree without a care in the world.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Diptyque.
If robins are the harbinger of spring in the natural world; the release of a lot of new rose centered perfumes is the same in the perfume world. Every year as we move into February my mailbox fills up with versions of new rose perfumes. There are countless rose perfumes out there and it is difficult for a new release to carve out something different. As a result, they generally look to make a variation on a popular trend. Spring rose perfumes fall into two categories; the garden rose or the debutante rose. The latest release from Annick Goutal called Rose Pompon is one of the latter.
Rose Pompon is notable for another reason. For the first time since 1989 perfumer Isabelle Doyen is not involved. Annicjk Goutal’s daughter Camille Goutal has been co-perfumer with Mme Doyen for almost all of the releases since 2001. For Rose Pompon she has found a new partner in perfume, Philippine Courtiere.
Mme Goutal wanted Rose Pompon to be a perfume for twentysomething Parisiennes. What seems to be popular among that subset is fruity florals. Rose Pompon is just that but made to be sort of irreverent as if a perfumed pompon stitched on a hat.
The perfume Mme Goutal and Mme Courtiere made does open with a very recognizable fruity accord. Grapefruit, blackcurrant buds, and raspberry. Baie rose adds some texture. This is a very berry opening with the grapefruit along for the ride. A very dewy light rose is the heart of Rose Pompon. The perfumers add peony for depth without adding intensity. I like that it stays on the light side through this part of the development. A bit of patchouli and cedar provide the beginnings of the base accord. Then a zippy cocktail of white musks provide an energetic finishing flourish.
Rose Pompon has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
This is by far the most lighthearted Annick Goutal perfume ever. I kept thinking it had to come from a different brand. I think Mme Courtiere provided a different point of view for Mme Goutal to work with. Is Rose Pompon something different? Not within the panoply of rose perfumes. Within Annick Goutal? Most definitely. As an inaugural collaboration I like the beginnings of what I see from Mme Goutal and Mme Courtiere. It will be intriguing to see what they do next.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Annick Goutal.
Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle can be attributed to bringing the perfumers out from behind the curtain. Not only did it expose them to the light of day it shone a spotlight on all of the ones who have their name listed on a bottle. It is an exclusive club for which the perfumers are given a lot of latitude in designing their creations. That latitude can result in perfumes which can be very polarizing. There have been a few of the more recent releases which have not grabbed me right away. Over time I return to them and, usually with someone who really likes them, get a second chance to find something I had previously missed. I’ve had my sample of the most recent release, Monsieur, for a few weeks. It is another one which is not drawing me in, yet I believe there might be more here than I might be giving it credit for.
Monsieur is the twenty-fourth release from the brand and it is the second composed by perfumer Bruno Jovanovic. Monsieur is meant to be a companion to 2010’s Portrait of a Lady, composed by Dominique Roipion. Portrait of a Lady is one of those previous releases I was speaking about as I’ve spent the last five years running hot and cold in my emotions about it. Portrait of a Lady is a bone dry version of rose and patchouli. It is that very aridness which makes it difficult for me to wholeheartedly love it. I admire the construction but it seems standoffish. Monsieur goes the other way with an overdose of a molecular distillation of patchouli. By going almost to the other extreme I am having the same difficulty in embracing it although Monsieur is more like someone who is standing too close while my back is against a wall.
Monsieur opens with the juicy citrus of tangerine lightly combined with rum. The rum is not truly boozy as it is contrast for the citrus. Then the patchouli lands with a huge presence. According to the press materials the patchouli is over 50 % of the oil. If this was straight patchouli this would have been that dirty hippie smell so commonly associated with patchouli. The fraction M. Jovanovic chose is that child of the 60’s given some refinement. This fraction has a much reduced earthy quality while I found the herbal and spicy facets to be more pronounced. The fraction also sometimes has a bit of a leathery quality which I kept noticing from time to time. It never persists and it might just be my imagination but every time I started wearing and sniffing Monsieur I would have a moment where I encountered a very transparent leather. M. Jovanovic takes the patchouli fraction and frames it with a very clean cedar. After a long time, amber and vanilla provide a cozy sweet warmth.
Monsieur has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
If Portrait of a Lady is so mannered that it leaves me wanting more; Monsieur gives me too much making me want to push it away. The overdose of the patchouli fraction does this no favors. I wonder if instead of overdose; a balance was sought if I would have liked Monsieur better. What is here is going to appeal to those who wanted something different than Portrait of a Lady. It is also going to appeal to those who really love patchouli. I am not either of those people.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample I purchased.
I think my distaste for flankers has been apparent from the first moment I started writing about perfume. The great majority of the time they are lazy, cynical fragrances with barely there differences. The reason for their existence is sales, as by putting another note or two into the composition its new enough to make someone buy a bottle all over again. Of course there has to be an exception to every rule. The exception to “all flankers are bad” is the variations Thierry Mugler has produced on the classic A*Men. There have been fourteen flankers to A*Men starting with 2006’s A*Men Summer Flash. Two years later the Pure Series would begin with A*Men Pure Coffee. The latest flanker is a continuation of that called A*Men Pure Tonka.
A*Men Pure Tonka is the eighth release in the Pure Series. One thing which has made this set of flankers rise above is that the original perfumer behind A*Men, Jacques Huclier, has been the man behind all of the flankers. What that has helped with is M. Huclier knows the nuances of his A*Men foundation. Instead of shoehorning a note or two in the Pure Series he has done on overall fantastic job of adding in a few new materials. This allows you to re-examine the A*Men you generally know so well. A*Men Pure Tonka is focused a bit on the coffee from the original. It also adds another bean in the tonka. There is a roasted quality to both beans which help give a new perspective on the A*Men foundation.
Pure Tonka starts with a naked lavender. In the original A*Men lavender is but a component of the top accord. In Pure Tonka it is out there all by itself. I am a big fan of lavender so I didn’t miss the aldehydes and mint that are present in the original. The lavender is pitched at a moderate level which allows the herbal quality to slightly take the lead. Roasted coffee has always been part of the A*Men formula. In Pure Tonka it is much more pronounced. Patchouli is paired with it in the heart which allows for it to feel like its parent without being entirely derivative. Then the tonka arrives. When tonka is around in quantity there is a combination of toasted nuttiness as well as a subtle hay-like quality. Both of those are on display in Pure Tonka. Together with the coffee the middle part of the development, where the two beans are out in front, is very good. I was worried that the chocolate and caramel of A*Men were going to come along and crash the party. Instead M. Huclier just adds a bit of vanilla to up the sweetness quotient without turning it completely deeply gourmand.
A*Men Pure Tonka has 16-18 hour longevity and way above average sillage. Very easy to spray too much.
M. Huclier has once again deconstructed his creation and found new places to elucidate by allowing some of the parts of the A*Men ensemble the chance to solo a bit. The lavender, coffee, and tonka take advantage of the spotlight. This is another winner in the Pure Series while being different enough to justify owning it.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Thierry Mugler.
Every spring Jo Malone releases a limited edition collection. For 2016 the collection is called Herb Garden and it has five perfumes composed by Anne Flipo. As a collection this holds together in a very clear coherent thread of herbal notes threaded throughout each perfume. For purposes of a review I had to pick one to wear for a couple of days and that was Lavender & Coriander. I’m going to give some capsule impressions, from testing on a strip and a patch of skin, of the other four before diving into the full review.
Carrot Blossom & Fennel has a fantastic fennel note on top that I wish stuck around until the carrot comes to the forefront within the heart. Instead a fruity floral heart of iris and apple dominate. The carrot is here. I would’ve like it to have more of a presence throughout.
Nasturtium & Clover is a weird mixture I’m not sure of. The top accord is composed of the slightly peppery green of arugula paired with lemon and the softness of clover. Nasturtium turns towards a greenish floral before vetiver completes the green effect.
Sorrel & Lemon Thyme is the most straightforward of the collection. Lemon and petitgrain on top combine with thyme in the heart to finish on geranium in the base.
Wild Strawberry & Parsley was the one I almost chose to review over Lavender & Coriander. The top accord of tomato leaf, blackcurrant bud, and parsley is snappy and soft at the same time. I was worried the strawberry would verge on too sweet but it never does. Mme Flipo pairs it with basil and violet leaves and the heart reminded me of a spring dessert. This rides on a lot of white musks in the base.
My affection for lavender has been evident throughout the ten years I’ve written about perfume. I was probably pre-disposed to liking Lavender & Coriander best. Mme Flipo uses the coriander combined with juniper berry to give the outline of a gin accord. There was a part of me that was expecting lime next to finish off the gin and tonic early vibe. Instead lavender takes over forming an exotic floral martini. The coriander and juniper bring out the herbal nature of the lavender. Sage shows up later on to really enhance that effect. The quality of the lavender used here is marvelous, coming from England and France. All together it makes Lavender & Coriander feel like an herbal riff on fougere.
Lavender & Coriander has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I really like the overall Herb Garden Collection. I think I will be re-visiting them, especially as spring shows up. If you like herbal notes in perfume this is a collection one should check out. If you’re a lavender lover Lavender & Coriander is a must try.
Disclosure: This review was based on press samples from Jo Malone.
One of the more interesting perfume stories is the ongoing changing of the guard in the fragrance business at Hermes. Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena has been the in-house perfumer for over 10 years. Last year Christine Nagel was hired to eventually take over the reins when M. Ellena chooses to retire. I have been very interested to see Mme Nagel’s first perfume for Hermes and I’ve been kept waiting for over a year. Finally, at the end of January it was announced that there would be two new releases in the Les Colognes series. What was exciting was each perfumer would be responsible for one. As prime a compare and contrast moment as one could ask for.
This series is among the simplest fragrances from a perfume brand which has made minimalistic perfumes part of their aesthetic. Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate by Mme Nagel and Eau de Neroli Dore by M. Ellena don’t fully answer the question of how different Mme Nagel’s Hermes fragrances will be from M. Ellena’s. Yet I think there are some interesting observations to be found even within something as simple as these two perfumes are.
Mme Nagel composes Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate with two listed notes, rhubarb and white musks. Notice the “s” on that last ingredient. It gives some insight into how this perfume has much more than that note list might portend.
The rhubarb comes out from the very first second mixing that vegetal quality with a citrus-like quality. This is a very tricky note when hung out to be all on its own and it is for about 30-45 minutes. Either you will like it and be drawn in or it will annoy you enough you won’t notice what happens next. Like tendrils of fog Mme Nagel uses a selection of white musks to entwine themselves around the rhubarb. It was M. Ellena in Jour D’Hermes, who showed me how the right mix of multiple white musks could have a softening effect. Mme Nagel also knows this. The result is as the white musks increase in presence the rhubarb’s intensity is softened while being made much more transparent. So much so that when I thought this had worn off one of my co-workers commented on it. It is a perfume which shows the power of white musks to transform even the most obstreperous note. Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
M. Ellena’s entry Eau de Neroli Dore is equally short in notes; neroli and saffron. According to an article on Wallpaper M. Ellena’s affection for Neroli comes from his early days, “When I started out as a perfumer I learned to distill raw materials, including orange blossom. When you enter the world of stills, you are also immersed in a scent, impregnated with it, you become it. To reproduce this sensation, where normally one uses very little neroli in fragrances, I used it abundantly.” He further claims in the article that Hermes had to buy up half of the annual neroli crop from Morocco and Tunisia. Hyperbole or not this is a very concentrated neroli.
Eau de Neroli Dore opens with that neroli attempting to immerse you within it. Neroli is the only listed ingredient and it is so immersive that I feel like there might be some orange behind it all but I wonder if that is a trick of the concentration. Another aspect of having it in such high concentration is subtle green facets are apparent with nothing else to override them. The modulator for M. Ellena is to use saffron to take this neroli and evolve it. The saffron carries a dusty floralcy as well as a warm spicy glow. It adds a beating heart underneath the neroli. This never reaches the intensity of rhubarb in the Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate. Throughout it is a soft floral pitched at a volume just above a whisper. Eau de Neroli Dore has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Of course, I am going to look for signs of what is to come from these two perfumes. I think Mme Nagel shows that she has grasped the aesthetic M. Ellena has put into place while also showing she has some new ideas to explore. M. Ellena returned to an experience of his beginnings as a perfumer to create one of his final releases. Both perfumes are well worth seeking out and will be very good once summer arrives. I am excited to see what’s next from both of these talented perfumers.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Hermes.
While I think there are some amazing perfumes being produced, the brands I categorize as the Grand Maisons are not where I currently find them. These brands have entered an era of safety first. In most of the cases there are perfumers who I admire seemingly working while wrapped up in cotton. I can only conjecture that the extremely large enterprises that back these brands must prize profits over artistry. The latest example of this is Guerlain Ambre Eternel.
Amber Eternel is the second release within the Les Absolus D’Orient collection following up last year’s Santal Royal. When I reviewed that I considered it akin to “perfume by numbers”. Ambre Eternel seems less cynically constructed. Except there are moments where I was hoping for more. Wishing perfumer Thierry Wasser would get off the straight and narrow, leaving convention behind. I think that time has not arrived early in 2016.
Ambre Eternel is a nice piece of two versions of the title note. The familiar ambergris in the top accord with the warmer slightly spicy amber accord in the base. The ingredients used are nice. The effect is nice. Overall the perfume is nice. I’ve used nice five times in this paragraph but that’s what playing it safe gets you.
If there was anything I was hopeful for it was when I saw in the note list the top accord consisted of ambergris, cinnamon, and coriander. I was hoping for M. Wasser to maybe use the heat of cinnamon on top of the salty aspect of ambergris tinted green with coriander. Within seconds of putting this on I am instead greeted with a nice ambergris only slightly altered by the presence of faint tendrils of cinnamon and coriander. If everything had been pitched at something approaching equality of presence this could have been really great, instead of nice. The “perfume by numbers” approach is back with a crushingly pedestrian fruity floral heart; orange blossom and plum the most recognizable. The more traditional amber base note found in Orientals thankfully sweeps that away. But again M. Wasser uses very tame applications of a leather accord and woods. I really would have liked more leather. It still would have been safe but not quit so mannered; and nice.
Ambre Eternel has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Ambre Eternel is like that friend of a much more interesting friend. You see where they are connected but this person is just not as interesting. In the end Ambre Eternel is just nice. I leave it up to you whether you think that is good enough.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from Guerlain.
Limited editions are the bane of my existence. As a blogger I can often get a small sample of even the most expensive perfumes. On a visit to the Baccarat shop in New York City, in the Fall of 2014, I was able to get a small sample of the perfume designed for the 250th anniversary called Rouge 540. I would later learn it was composed by Francis Kurkdjian. When I spoke with the person in the boutique I was informed there were only 250 pieces made and there were only a few not already spoken for. I felt it was a tragedy because I kept sniffing the spot on my forearm where I sprayed some. I took care of my sample in hopes that M. Kurkdjian might return to the themes on display. Right after the New Year I got a very pleasant surprise as I received a sample of Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540. I immediately located my sample from before and happily found them to be identical.
The name comes from the temperature necessary to achieve red colored Baccarat crystal. While I admire the connection Baccarat Rouge 540 is not a perfume of heat. It is instead something more akin to the finished product; sparkling and depthless. What I liked when I first tried it was the use of some extremely well-chosen raw materials to create that effect.
M. Kurkdjian uses blood orange to open Baccarat Rouge 540. This is all of the blood orange: pulp, pith, and rind. It falls somewhere between the bitterness of bergamot and the juiciness of regular orange. Neither of those would have been the right choice, blood orange is. M. Kurkdjian next uses a bridging note of saffron. This more than any note used in Baccarat Rouge 540 imparts the luxuriousness of its inspiration. Saffron in all of its exotic dusty floral quality is the perfect lead in for the duet of lavender and sage in the heart. Lavender and sage are classic partners found in many colognes. The presence of the saffron changes it enough that I never get a cologne vibe. It comes to rest on a mix of woods, ambergris, and oakmoss. It is the ambergris which provides a marine-like foundation which the woods and oakmoss push against.
Baccarat Rouge 540 has 14-16 hour longevity and very little sillage wearing as a skin scent on me.
M. Kurkdjian is at his best when he is giving his interpretation of something modern. Baccarat Rouge 540 feels like a perfume less interested in 250 years of history than making a mark on the present day. Baccarat Rouge 540 is one of my favorite Maison Francis Kurkdjian releases.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.
Perfume brands can sometimes become known for a particular style of perfume. The Italian brand Profvmvm is one of those. Overseen by the Durante family, Profvmvm has produced some of my favorite gourmand fragrances. All of the releases hew to a simplistic construction of three to five notes. They are chosen most of the time to deliver a singular effect which doesn’t evolve once all the notes come together. I have likened this to perfume making in the era of Twitter. Communicating an olfactory idea in a few well-chosen characters.
Because of this past I was very interested when Osswald NYC informed me they were getting an exclusive for the store. It is called Meringa and is based on the equally simple baked good, meringue. Meringues are as easy as beating egg whites and sugar together until they stiffen enough to be shaped by a couple of spoons of a pastry bag. They are very commonly flavored with light flavors of citrus or almonds. My favorite use of meringue comes from a French dessert called Ile Flottante. Ile Flottante translates to floating island. It is visually exactly that as an island, or islands, of meringue float on top of crème anglaise. In one tropical French restaurant their variation was to use orange blossom water. When I first smelled Meringa that is exactly what sprung to mind.
Meringa opens with a breezy orange blossom. It is also given a bit more power with a bit of jasmine in a supporting role. This is the lightly sweet meringue. The crème anglaise comes from a basic combination of vanilla and tonka bean. The tonka bean imparts a bit of a toasty sweetness but this is really a vanilla foundation. That’s it. Just like the dessert I am reminded of the orange blossom as it floats atop the vanilla.
Meringa has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
What I found very enjoyable about Meringa was that as a gourmand representing something very sweet over two days of wearing it I never felt like it became cloying. It is something I have problems with many times as a sweet gourmand just becomes treacly and irritating towards the end of the day. Meringa is constructed with such a light hand it does float with presence without annoyance. It is another gourmand triumph from a brand which seems to know how to do this style of perfume.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Osswald NYC.
When corresponding with Victor Wong owner and creative director of Zoologist Perfumes on the making of the latest release, Bat; there was a very telling phrase in the words he sent me. He said, “I might add that Zoologist is such a small indie perfume it should take some risks.” I think throughout the five releases to date Mr. Wong and the perfumers he has worked with have not shied away from taking some risks. In the partnership with Dr. Ellen Covey, as the perfumer on Bat, I think this is the furthest the envelope has been pushed so far. It results in a fascinating perfume that captures the animal on the label.
Dr. Covey has studied bats as part of her scholarly work at the University of Washington. As a result, she had spent time in the caves they live in during the day. It was her desire to see a bat perfume that caused her to approach Mr. Wong. Together their long-distance back and forth has produced a fragrance that captures not only the creature but its environment. Throughout wearing Bat I felt as if I was searching for a cavern where they were sleeping the day away.
My journey begins by finding some assorted tropical fruit half-eaten outside a large limestone cave. Dr. Covey uses a variety of fruit notes on top of a really great moist soil accord. It is as if I reach down to pick up the fruit to observe it as I inhale. The entire top accord is refreshingly different with the mixture of soil and fruit. The next steps are deeper into the cave. Dr. Covey has an array of mineralic notes forming a cave accord. This cave is also covered with vines and roots so she has also added a deep vegetation accord. The fruit has receded but not disappeared as they still litter the cave floor. As the light dims we hear the leathery flutter above our heads and the musky smell of living things comes to the fore. Dr. Covey constructs a fabulous accord which feels furry and alive. It also is modulated by a truly inspired set of notes like myrrh, sandalwood, and leather. These notes impart a depth. Mr. Wong mentioned he wanted darker and Dr. Covey delivered.
Bat has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Bat is an unusual fragrance. In a world where everything converges on the trends it is pleasing to see two people eschew that thinking and head off to their own Bat cave of creativity. Definitely one of the standout new fragrances of 2016.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Zoologist Perfumes.