It was soon after he released the first fragrance under his Charenton Macerations line, Christopher Street, that I met Owner and Creative Director Douglas Bender. Like a demented version of Oliver Twist I was already asking him what was next. Mr. Bender has no shortage of inspirations and on that day over a year ago he said quietly to me the next release would be based on “street art”. That was something I knew I would be very interested in and my wait is over as that perfume has just been released, Asphalt Rainbow.
Flower Thrower by Banksy- On a wall in Jerusalem 2003
The evolution from graffiti to street art has been a gradual thing but there have been a few inflection points where it has been seen as creativity over vandalism. There are two artists, among many, who have helped the public also share that opinion; Shepard Fairey and Banksy. Mr. Fairey would go from creating a stencil of wrestler Andre the Giant with the words “Obey” underneath to designing Presidential Candidate Barack Obama’s campaign poster with the word “Hope”. Banksy is the name of a British artist who has never been seen. He has traveled all over the world placing his work on different walls. He spent October of 2013 in New York City putting up a piece a day. His entire career, and a commentary on street art itself, can be seen in the brilliant 2010 documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop”. To be successful the street artist has to work in the middle of the night without getting caught by the authorities. It leads to a furtiveness but it also can lead to something with incredible visceral impact. The piece above by Banksy called “Flower Thrower” was placed on a wall in Jerusalem as a commentary on the ongoing conflict there.
I don’t know if Mr. Bender is a fan of Banksy, or not, but after smelling Asphalt Rainbow I was very strongly reminded of that Banksy piece. (For the actuual street art inspiration here is Mr. Bender's blog post on it) Working with perfumer Cecile Hua, Mr. Bender has created a rose disguised as a spray paint can Molotov Cocktail. They fashion a rose perfume which explodes across a concrete face and instead of burning alcohol it is replaced with the smell of the urban landscape. It has the same primal impact as a provocative piece of street art as something as pretty as a rose can be laid over something distinctly artificial and create a different form of beauty.
Asphalt Rainbow opens with the rose right out front. The early moments are a pretty, soft rose but then Ms. Hua lights the fuse. Fairly quickly the rose begins to fray as galbanum and cistus pry apart the rose with slashes of green. An odd vibrant saffron provides a Day-Glo aspect as other florals, most prominently magnolia, try to put the rose back together. Then like a magic trick each day I wore this Mr. Bender and Ms. Hua found an accord which captures that slightly sweet smell of aerosol paint as it leaves the nozzle. This is the transformative moment in Asphalt Rainbow as it plows headlong into a concrete wall. Mr. Bender gave me a preview of this accord and as I told him at the time he showed it to me it smells like a vast field of concrete in the morning, just when you would discover a new piece on a local wall. Patchouli and amber go extremely well with this, grounding Asphalt Rainbow in something a little more tractable for most wearers.
Asphalt Rainbow has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am very impressed with the effort Mr. Bender and Ms. Hua have put in getting just the right vibe for this. There were so many ways this could have gone poorly and they managed to avoid all of them. Asphalt Rainbow is a more experimental fragrance than Christopher Street was. As a result it is going to be too unusual for some. For those who want a very different take on rose as if it was a piece of street art, you should grab a piece of Asphalt Rainbow.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.
“For me, Savannah's resistance to change was its saving grace. The city looked inward, sealed off from the noises and distractions of the world at large. It grew inward, too, and in such a way that its people flourished like hothouse plants tended by an indulgent gardener. The ordinary became extraordinary. Eccentrics thrived. Every nuance and quirk of personality achieved greater brilliance in that lush enclosure than would have been possible anywhere else in the world.”- From “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story” by John Berendt
The quote is from one of the books about the American South which only exists in a few outposts which allows eccentricity to thrive. Savannah, Georgia is a smaller more insular version of the more well-known New Orleans, Louisiana. Both cities pride themselves on their ability to march to their own beat. It is those eccentrics that allow those of us less willing to take risks the opportunity to step into their world, in these cities, and let our freak flag fly for a short time.
In the world of independent perfumery if there is a section of the world which seems to have a thriving eccentric mix of creators it would be the American Pacific Northwest. Josh Lobb of slumberhouse is one of those who has flourished like a figurative hothouse plant. Mr. Lobb approaches each of his perfumes like a man working in a hothouse as he examines and sources each material within his perfumes to find the exact right balance he is looking for. In his latest release Kiste Mr. Lobb was inspired by summer in Savannah and he has created another nuanced fragrant tale from his fertile mind.
Savannah Home via mariontrips.typepad.com
If you’ve ever spent summer in Savannah there is a physical weight to the humidity and it is something Mr. Lobb captures perfectly within Kiste. The other effect humidity has is it makes odors linger as they just can’t escape the moisture laden air. So if you were to be sitting on the porch of a Savannah house with a fan twirling overhead, a pitcher of sweet tea, surrounded by dense foliage with a cigar as the sweat rolls down your face. Then you know what Kiste smells like.
Kiste opens on an overripe peach note next to the tea accord. This is what passes for the sweet tea portion of Kiste. It was what got my attention from the moment I first tried it. I have never smelled anything like this in a perfume before. It is so well done I can see the condensation on the pitcher and the sweat on my forehead racing to see who can reach the bottom first. The foliage accord comes next and this is also the smell of leafiness made more pungent by heat. The note which pulls this together is henna as it adds that sense of living decay to the leaves. This all leads to the star of Kiste a specific tobacco note Mr. Lobb created especially for Kiste. He commissioned a bespoke pipe tobacco which was made to his specifications and then he performed his own extraction of it. I don’t know what was in the bespoke tobacco but what shows up on my skin is what I would describe as a candied tobacco with a hint of Jack Daniels. There is a sweet syrupy quality along with the bite of good whiskey. It all comes together to make Kiste as warm as that red ball of sun setting on the horizon.
Kiste has 18-24 hour longevity and above average sillage.
For those of you who have been challenged by Mr. Lobb’s “wall of scent” aesthetic in his previous creations I think Kiste might be the easiest of his collection to approach. It is still way more intense than the average commercial release but it is the least intense of anything he has made. When I am introducing someone to slumberhouse in the future Kiste is going to be where I start. For those who have been fans you might at first think this is the least complex slumberhouse to date and at first impression I probably shared that opinion. But in the 72 hours I’ve been wearing it there are hidden depths especially around that very special tobacco in the base. It is exactly why Mr. Lobb’s “every nuance and quirk of personality achieved greater brilliance in that lush enclosure than would have been possible anywhere else in the world.”
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by slumberhouse.
There are many things which start with volume one and you wonder when volume two will eventually arrive. One of the earliest fragrances I reviewed in my blogging career was Geza Schoen’s The Beautiful Mind Series Vol. 1 Intelligence & Beauty. Hr. Schoen spent time with Grandmaster of Memory Christiane Stenger and she was the creative director for that first perfume. Hr. Schoen wanted to create a fragrance that captured the brilliance of a brilliant mind. Of course volume one made one think there would be more but for five years there hadn’t been a follow-up. Then I received that promised volume two almost out of the blue two weeks ago.
For The Beautiful Mind Series Vol.2 Precision & Grace, Hr. Schoen teams with ballet dancer Polina Semionova. Ms. Semionova is a principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre in New York City where she has been since 2012. The inspiration for Precision & Grace comes from this quote of Ms. Semionova’s, “Without intelligent work, there is no result, even if you have a great gift. The precision only comes with hours of work in the studio. Then, when I go on stage, I don’t think anymore. I release myself to the music. I fly.” This is a great place to start designing a perfume which captures early precision only to soar with grace, and humanity, at the end. This is what Hr. Schoen and Ms. Semionova have produced with Precision & Grace.
There would be very few perfumers who I think are as precise as Hr. Schoen who also know how to fly. For Precision & Grace the early moments are delineated fruit and florals which lead to a base full of animalic abandon as the dancer soars.
Precision & Grace starts off with a crisp pear note. When I first wore this I thought that was all there was but the second time I wore it I detected the other notes which act as modulators for the central pear note. Mandarin, bergamot, and especially lemon form an olfactory magnifying glass and it is their presence which creates that crispness that I can almost hear the snap as I bite into this pear. The same thing happens in the heart but this time it is two notes which combine, jasmine and plum. As with the pear it is the other notes which create the desired effect. Hr. Schoen takes mimosa and osmanthus and lets the mimosa act as tulle to the weight of the jasmine. The apricot quality of the osmanthus provides the same effect to the plum. They supply the figurative ballet dancer’s tutu to the body of the perfume. All of this has a clear purpose of construction but if Precision is all about exactitude; Grace will be something a little more human. For that part Hr. Schoen goes for a base consisting of real sandalwood and castoreum. A real sandalwood has a slightly animalic quality. The castoreum is present to make sure that slight becomes prominent. This is the seemingly wild abandon of the dancer unleashed. The transition from the fruity floral to the woody animalic is really well done. Every time I wore this the tonal shift made me grin with pleasure.
Precision & Grace has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
There are many times Hr. Schoen gets very experimental in his perfumed creations. I think that is the equivalent of Ms. Semionova’s “intelligent work”. It allows Hr. Schoen to take his cues from The Beautiful Mind of Ms. Semionova and produce one of the prettiest perfumes he has made in years. While I know Beautiful Minds are few and far between I am hopeful it won’t be another five years before volume three arrives.
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by The Beautiful Mind Series.
Bruno Fazzolari Au Dela is a modern chypre inspired by the music of French composer Olivier Messaien. Specifically Mr. Fazzolari based it on the Fifth Movement of M. Massaien’s last work “Eclairs sur L’Au Dela” (Flashes of the Beyond). This movement is the only soft dreamy movement within the work everything else is full of percussion and flash. Only here are you expected to linger and smell the roses. The perfume based on this also asks you to let it develop in a less flashy way. It asks you to take it in as it fully forms a chypre on your skin.
Au Dela opens on an herbal shot of coriander with a bit of bergamot. For the first few minutes it is all about the coriander. The heart is all white flowers neroli, orange flowers, and jasmine. I love indoles and white flowers can have a lot or a little and usually a perfumer picks one side of the coin and works from there. Mr. Fazzolari stakes out a more difficult middle ground where he domesticates the snarling ferocity of the indoles into something docile. They have an unusual luminosity to them made even more brilliant by the floralcy that goes with them. As I wore Au Dela many times I expected the indoles to slip the leash and start growling but they never do, they stayed perfectly behaved. Mr. Fazzolari trots out the oakmoss and amber to provide the traditional chypre basics. Because he is independent this is the real stuff and it is glorious in its depth. It creates a platform upon which the white flowers rest to complete the chypre picture. Au Dela has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
From Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
Mr. Fazzolari’s newest release is Room 237. If you are a fan of the Stanley Kubrick movie “The Shining” then you get the reference. For those who aren’t, a quick summary. A family is left to be caretaker of a Rocky Mountain summer resort over the long winter. The hotel is called The Overlook and the young son in the family, who has psychic powers, is warned by the cook before he leaves not to go into Room 237. It wouldn’t be a horror movie if everyone in the family didn’t eventually end up in Room 237 at some point. One of the hallmarks of The Shining was Mr. Kubrick’s almost glacial pace at building up to a jolt. No sawing violins to denote the impending terror here it is all seen through the eyes of the protagonists. Room 237 as a perfume is meant to capture that sense of opening doors into dangerous forbidden places. As a result Room 237 is a perfume that is going to deeply unsettle some and others are fearlessly going to turn the key and enter. Follow me as I take you inside.
As we turn the key on the door a mix of angelica, fleabane, and tarragon form a weird accord. It has a sort of miasmic shifting quality as the fleabane and the tarragon have off-center herbal characteristics and the angelica is the only normal kind of note. You can feel the hair on the back of your neck rise as we push into the room. There is a woman stepping out of bath she carries a fresh washed skin smell courtesy of oppoponax and olibanum. She also carries an aura which seems like decomposing wood along with the cleanliness which comes from costus. We should run now but we stand transfixed as she beckons us closer. In the mirror we see she has been in the water too long as flesh sloughs off her back. As we get close she wraps us up, too tightly, in the plastic shower curtain as we are enveloped in it. Mr. Fazzolari has created a powerful plastic accord reminiscent of freshly unpacked shower curtain and it dominates the final part of the development of Room 237. I know my fanciful story might make you wary of Room 237 and in less prosaic terms it really is Mr. Fazzolari working on a perfume which is meant to be emotionally provocative. If you’re willing to go along for the ride you will have a singular experience which only an independent perfumer can provide. Room 237 has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
All four of the fragrances I tried by Mr. Fazzolari show a perfumer inspired by art, music, and film. They show a perfumer who can comfort and discombobulate. They show an artist who is fearlessly exploring all that perfume can attempt to communicate. If you haven’t already look these perfumes up they are exquisite examples of one man’s vision.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Bruno Fazzolari.
Some of my favorite independent perfumers have come to it from a beginning in the visual arts, particularly painting. I have known about San Francisco-based artist Bruno Fazzolari for over a year but I only really had a chance to sniff the one of his early perfumes, Lampblack, which has garnered the most press. Mr. Fazzolari contacted me just after the beginning of the year and subsequently sent me four samples of his creations and I’ve now had a real opportunity to live with them. All four of them have a fantastic “visual” component to them as he creates perfumes which drew me into a world of color and texture. Over the next two days I’m going to review all four. Today I’ll start with Monserrat and Lampblack.
All of Mr. Fazzolari’s perfumes match a painting with the fragrance. Monserrat came from a painting which was exhibited at the Jancar Jones Gallery in Los Angeles. Mr. Fazzolari was “thinking of worn and repainted urban walls and the matte surfaces of Italian fresco painting”. He was also inspired by the paint color Montserrat Orange which is an orange with a distinct pink quality to it. I consider it a skewed orange not pink nor orange but something in between. Mr. Fazzolari seems to be working towards that kind of marriage of influences looking for something like a fruity floral but not really what we think of as a fruity floral.
Monserrat opens with a burst of tart pink grapefruit sweetened with carrot seed. The carrot seed has a really pleasant balancing effect with the grapefruit. This moves into a jasmine and osmanthus floral heart. Here Mr. Fazzolari uses the osmanthus to make the jasmine less indolic and floral and something with more prominent fruity aspects. The apricot and leather quality of osmanthus is very evident. The base is the smell of plaster walls or wet dry wall, whether classic or modern this accord provides a distinctly grounding aspect as Mr. Fazzolari primarily uses a mixture of white musks to produce his accord for his fruity floral color to settle upon. Monserrat has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
If Monserrat is an affable fruity floral, Lampblack is a deeply threatening meditation on inky darkness. Mr. Fazzolari describes his goal with Lampblack to “create a transparent, colorful darkness.” He succeeds at those diametrically opposed goals by using nagarmotha in one of the more unique applications of the note most usually called “oud” in other fragrances. Here he takes that faux-oud and gives it its own distinct identity.
Lampblack opens on a citrus and black pepper duet. The pepper is more forward as it should be the citrus adds interesting contrast. Mr. Fazzolari then begins to assemble his fast moving shadows as nagarmotha, benzoin, and vetiver ghost through my consciousness like wraiths in the night. There are times that it seems one surrounds me only for another to chase it off. The whole construction of Lampblack feels like an exercise in chasing shadows in a dark alley. There is a reason Lampblack is so acclaimed because it has a unique layering of textures not often found in perfumery. Lampblack has 8-10 hour sillage and moderate sillage.
Tomorrow I’ll review Au Dela and Room 237.
Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Bruno Fazzolari.
All paintings by Bruno Fazzolari.
One of the first signs of spring for those of us in the snowier climates is the sale of daffodils in our local markets. Often before the snow has melted and before the calendar tells us it is spring, vases full of yellow blooms let us know warmer days are coming. Of course daffodils are also narcissus and that note is one of my favorites in all of perfumery. For me the difficulty in getting a daffodil accord correct is in the real flower there is a green astringency that is usually not seen as an asset in a fragrance. In the new Penhaligon’s Ostara perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour makes what I consider a real daffodil perfume.
How M. Duchaufour goes about doing this is to use a cassette of notes made to create that astringent underpinning to the narcissus that makes me think daffodil. Early on he lets Ostara be expansive and sweet before tilting it into something that carries the scent of renewal. There is no perfumer for whom I enjoy analyzing what he has done to create an effect more than M. Duchaufour. Because of his output I have more opportunity with him than others to see multiple uses of the same note or accord. In Ostara he has once again found a new use for the blackcurrant bud which has found its way into so many of his recent creations.
The opening of Ostara is a flurry of aldehyde wrapped berries. It strongly reminds me of blackberry picking in the late part of spring plucking juicy berries from within the foliage. The use of the aldehydes give an almost “fresh air” feeling to the early moments. The beginning of the green foundation for the narcissus begins with violet leaves, spearmint, and blackcurrant buds. In the past he has used the last note in so many different ways that I thought I knew what to expect. In Ostara he is using a CO2 distillation and it has stripped away much of the denser qualities the essential oil provides. This allows for it to have a more luminous green quality than I have experienced previously. The heart is the narcissus but the green accord is an equal partner in this part of the development. Hyacinth adds a bit of a watery spring shower vibe and it really does make this like smelling daffodils growing in the earth after a spring rain. Right here is where Ostara achieves my idea of a spring daffodil accord. Ostara moves into the base with a smooth beeswax and benzoin partnership. Eventually a bit of musk and vanilla provide the finishing touches.
Ostara has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I really like Ostara for the very green qualities M. Duchaufour provided to go with the narcissus. There is that moment in the heart where this just makes me feel like everything has been reborn. It is as good as any narcissus perfumes I own and at least for me is the only true daffodil I own.
Disclosure: This review was based on press sample provided by Penhaigon’s.
Title Illustration by Melissa Bailey for Penhaligon’s.
If you came of age in the late 1970’s there was a book which was omnipresent among teenagers and young adults. Unlike today where it would be a series about vampires or dystopian futures; this book was a new iteration of astrology. The book was called Linda Goodman’s Love Signs and the red covered trade paperback was read by many. What set it apart was she broke each sign down into gender characteristics and even gave advice on which signs went together. I still blame her for being unable to convince one of the women I wanted to date for turning me down because I was a Scorpio. It couldn’t have been me, right? I have been reminded of this as Alexandra Balahoutis of Strange Invisible Perfumes has finally finished her perfumed take of all twelve signs of the zodiac. She left my sign, Scorpio, as one of the last five. I thought I’d have a little fun with this review comparing Ms. Goodman and Ms. Balahoutis’ impressions of my sign.
Ms. Goodman says of the Scorpio man, “He's sizzling underneath his deceptively controlled manner.” Ms. Balahoutis seems to agree as she opens Scorpio with a sizzling flash of cinnamon. This is the cinnamon of candy red-hots. They look sweet until you put them in your mouth. Same for the cinnamon here it builds in presence until it smolders.
Ms. Goodman says, “Just behind his frosty reserve is a huge pot of boiling steam that bubbles and seethes continually.” Ms, Balahoutis uses a very cool frankincense to provide a cooling effect to the cinnamon. It takes a little bit of time but Scorpio eventually slams that frankincense “frosty reserve” over the bubbling cinnamon.
Ms. Goodman says, “The dark, magical and mysterious power of Pluto turns desire into reality with cool, careful, fixed intent.” Ms. Balahoutis uses vetiver as that green woody “reality” at the core of Scorpio.
Ms. Goodman says, “Normally, Scorpio will surround himself with luxury.” Ms. Balahoutis also brings a sense of luxury into the base with a mix of cognac and leather. This is definitely the luxury version of both of these accords. You can almost see the Scorpio man lounging holding a snifter on a leather couch inviting you in.
I am narcissist enough to say that my favorite of the Zodiac series is Scorpio but it is mainly because Ms. Balahoutis has used some of my favorite notes. Now I need to go see how my Virgo wife feels about it.
Diaclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Strange Invisible Perfumes.
As reliable as the first robin; when my mailbox starts to fill up with new rose perfumes it must be spring. Rose perfumes, when done well, carry a vivaciousness to them that matches the season of renewal. The other thing about rose perfumes is despite the hundreds of them out there a creative new life in a classic theme. The new L’Artisan Parfumeur Rose Privee is a lively new take on a rose fragrance.
Rose Privee is co-signed by longtime in-house perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour along with his apprentice Stephanie Bakouche. M. Duchaufour has made rose perfumes previously but I believe this is his first for L’Artisan. Also in the past it seems like he has been more partial to the Turkish rose. For Rose Privee he chooses Rose de Mai as the source of the titular note. Rose de Mai has a gorgeous gentle quality to it. M. Duchaufour and Mme Bakouche make sure that everything that is great about Rose de Mai is displayed throughout the development.
The perfumers choose an engaging grouping of top notes. They lead with a bit of fruitiness with mandarin. It doesn’t last long as it is fairly rapidly wrapped up in leaves of basil and violet as well as pierced by blackcurrant buds. That latter note has been employed a lot recently by M. Duchaufour. As always I am captivated by how he takes a specific raw material and can alter it seemingly at will to provide a specific effect. In Rose Privee the blackcurrant bud provides a bit of tart fruitiness with much less of the sticky green it often brings. As a whole the top notes provide a fresh vibe for the Rose de Mai to bloom within. The heart is that special rose given a foundation of carnation and magnolia for depth. What I like about Rose de Mai is it feels introverted at first but once it is coaxed out by other notes it flowers into power. That power sets it up to be the equal to the oakmoss-free chypre base. M. Duchaufour has been at the forefront of creating a chypre accord that will pass regulatory standards. The accord in Rose Privee shows there is no need to worry about the future of chypres plus he is teaching the skill to another perfumer. There is a bit of musk used to replace some of what the oakmoss provides but it really is its own contemporary chypre. Together with the Rose de Mai the final stages of Rose Privee are lovely.
Rose Privee has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Rose Privee is a perfect spring perfume. It has heft without being overwhelming. Despite it translating to Private Rose I don’t think anyone who wears it will want to keep it a secret.
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by L’Artisan Parfumeur.
There are times most recently when I am presented with a marketing campaign for a new perfume brand where I can tell more time was spent on the publicity than the perfume. It has gotten so bad that the more elaborate the presentation the more my expectations plummet. It was with skepticism turned to maximum that I started to read through the materials from new independent perfume brand Euphorium Brooklyn. The founder of the line, Stephen Dirkes, has created a mythology around his perfumes where it is difficult to determine what is true and what is fiction. What was true for me was I had fun reading through it but I expected the perfumes to be not nearly as compelling. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Cilice and Wald the first two releases.
Based on the amount of fact-checking I could do I can’t really confirm whether any of this is true and the press materials mention it is a combination of fiction and non-fiction. So what comes next is straight out of those press materials. The brand is based on the story of the Euphorium Bile Works which was founded in Brooklyn in 1860. There were three perfumers attached to the enterprise Etienne Chevreuil, Christian Rosenkreuz, and Rudolph Komodo. They are represented in the logo as the stag, bear, and dragon respectively. Each of the perfumers will have one of their perfumes reproduced for the brand. Cilice is by M. Chevreuil and Wald is by M. Rosenkreuz. The third fragrance will be called Usar by M. Komodo. One final bit from the background is M. Komodo invented a process by which the fragrances induce euphoria called, wait for it, The Komodo Process.
As I said it was all great fun to read through but I have to give the team behind Euphorium Brooklyn credit Cilice and Wald live up to this fanciful tale. They have a fascinating roughhewn unfinished quality. Usually I find it irritating but maybe this time they wore me down with a Komodo Mind Trick. Both Cilice and Wald are very simple but they are also fun.
To give you an idea of the prose on the website here is the description of M. Chevreuil’s inspiration for Cilice, “Etienne sought to capture and convey the sensuality of the environment and intensity of emotion when a young nun is encountered in her cloistered cell. An intimate and ecstatic moment is observed as she becomes transcendent.” When you read that you might expect a cold stone cell infused with incense amid the leather bound books on the acolyte’s desk. That is exactly what Cilice delivers. There is no real development off of that mixture and that is what gives it a primal quality that I found particularly enjoyable. As for euphoria well this time The Komodo Process missed its target.
I can’t even begin to reproduce the story of M. Rosenkreuz’s inspiration for Wald. It is so broadly melodramatic that I couldn’t stop laughing. Wald is another of these forest milieu fragrances that a number of independent perfume brands have undertaken recently. Wald is a simple scentscape of a forest containing cedar and pine with a bit of smoke from a fire hanging in the boughs while the scent of the decomposition rises up to meet it. This time The Komodo Process maybe had its way with me as Wald really hit a sweet spot for me and I really enjoyed the time I spent with it.
Cilice and Wald are perfume oils and as such they have 8-10 hour longevity but almost no sillage.
These perfumes are not anything terribly original or unique. They are well done and by making them oils they allow a wearer to have something quite bold on without projecting it around the room. I am looking forward to the last in the trilogy, Usar, because M. Komodo should have his process finely tuned in that one. In the meantime if you find me out wearing Wald or Cilice you might be able to convince me about a great deal on a bridge.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Twisted Lily.
Editor's Note: If you want to check out the website here is the link. Be warned subtle it is not.
One of the more successful line of flankers has been those which have descended from the 1996 classic Thierry Mugler A*Men. The perfumer behind that creation, Jacques Huclier, has spent every year since 2008 designing a new version enhancing or adding to the classic formulation. A*Men has been a powerhouse perfume since its inception and most of the original members of the “Pure” collection have been heavy hitters as well. Last year’s A*Men Pure Wood showed a different aesthetic as it was surprisingly, and delightfully, softer than any of the previous A*Men flankers. I was wondering if that was going to be a singularity or the beginning of a trend. The latest, A*Men Ultra Zest, provides an answer.
One of the reasons I think this set of flankers has been so successful is M. Huclier has been the perfumer behind all of them. His intimate knowledge of the construction of A*Men makes him the most qualified to alter it without harm. That has been accomplished quite efficiently with Pure Coffee and Pure Malt, my preferred versions of A*Men when I am in the mood. Even so they are powerful perfumes with equally powerful projection. They are not something I wear to work. Pure Wood was constructed such that not only have I wore it to work but it is almost an ideal work fragrance because the power is controlled as M. Huclier dials down the gourmand base. For Ultra Zest M. Huclier got some help from fellow Givaudan perfumer Quentin Bisch. Ultra Zest is in a bright orange bottle and that is the foreshadowing of the composition of the perfume inside. This could have been called Pure Orange and it wouldn’t be far off the mark.
The opening of Ultra Zest is all about the orange but not the typical juicy orange. The perfumers use blood orange to add a bit more tart added to tangerine to keep it sweet but not as sweet as a traditional orange. This is all placed on a rapidly moving flying carpet of ginger. This makes the opening moments go by almost too fast. The flying carpet lands at a coffee shop as the citrus is surrounded by rich coffee notes. There is cinnamon and spearmint listed on the note list but I never detected them. The heart felt like the coffee heart of most A*Men iterations. The base is very similar to Pure Wood as the perfumers again make a much softer chocolate accord consisting of patchouli and tonka bean. As I wore Ultra Zest I was always wondering if it was going to ramp up in power or settle into a comfortable hum. It was definitely the latter.
A*Men Ultra Zest has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I am not sure why Thierry Mugler has decided to rein in the powerful nature of A*Men but it makes Ultra Zest perhaps the most versatile in the line. It is light enough to be worn to the office. It has enough presence for a night out. It has enough bright citrus character to be worn in warm weather. There might be entries which do any one of those things better but none of them do all of them as well. A*Men Ultra Zest is one you should add to your A*Men collection if you’re a fan. It is also one to try if you maybe weren’t a fan of the original and the earlier flankers. It is my favorite of the flankers since 2012’s Pure Havane.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample I purchased.