The use of leather in perfumery is one that seems to have multiple variations. It spans a spectrum from raw untreated animal hide at one end to refined buttery suede at the other. Because leather is an accord and not a specific raw material it allows a perfumer to adjust to fit their vision. There are many brands for which their leather accord has become a signature. One of those brands is Mancera which has seemingly perfected a patent leather accord which I like quite a bit. Their latest release to feature it is called Wild Leather.
Mancera, like its sister brand Montale, is notoriously difficult to find out anything about the perfumes as they are released. I generally get my information from their Facebook and Twitter feeds. When Wild Leather was released late in 2014 there was a Tweet which showed the picture of model Vivien Solari taken by photographer Txema Yeste as the inspiration for the fragrance. I liked the sort of stylish dominatrix look of the photograph and hoped for a leather which would live up to the adjective on the label.
Vivien Solani; Photo by Txema Yeste
If I was hoping for Wild Leather to be something dangerous that was not what I received when I finally got my sample. The pictorial inspiration should not have been seen as something dangerous. Instead it should have been seen as a fashion forward kind of perfume. Viewed through that lens Wild Leather is not wild because it is illicit; it is wild because it dares to be very modern in construction and style. It is so modern that I think it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Once I settled into wearing it for a few days I really enjoyed the risks the perfumer took.
The opening of Wild Leather is a really beautiful bergamot which sticks around a little longer than the usual bergamot. As the perfume develops the heart forms around Bulgarian rose, violet and patchouli. The use of the patchouli works extremely well as underpinning for the rose and violet. I really like the effect that patchouli provides when used in modest quantities especially with heavy hitter florals. In this case it complements the spicy nature of the Bulgarian rose and brings it more forward. With the violet it acts as a softener to the sharp edges violet can have. From here that patent leather accord comes bubbling up. What I like so much about this accord is it reminds me of the smell of opening the box of patent leather loafers I got prior to each school year. It smells like equal parts leather and plastic. That accord is what is present in Wild Leather. It is so well done I can almost see the gloss on the leather as I wear it. The base of Wild Leather is oakmoss and white musks to give a green and clean finish to it all.
Mancera Wild Leather lasts 24 hours with prodigious sillage.
How much you like Wild Leather will depend on how much you like this patent leather accord. If you like the modernistic quality it brings I think you will like Wild Leather a lot. If the smell of patent leather is equivalent to cheap in your mind you might have a hard time getting past that. I am in the first camp and I think Mancera does this accord as well as any perfume brand does. Which makes Wild Leather a winner for me.
Diisclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from Babalu.
In my part of the world the past week has been filled with arctic cold and frozen precipitation. That combination keeps me house bound for way too long for my own good. As we enter the final days of winter I just want it to be over and fast forward to spring. Alas I have no more magical powers than the groundhog does at speeding up the approach of spring and just have to wait it out. Thankfully a lot of the spring releases I’ve been receiving have helped me create a little spring in my office. The new Dasein Spring has been a great companion over the last week as it immerses me in the wet dirt of green and growing things.
Spring is the second release from Dasein following up last year’s Winter. On the website perfumer and owner Sam Rader promises Summer and Autumn will appear before year’s end. She has even put up note lists to give us something to look forward to. In her description of Spring Ms. Rader states, “The blend evokes a sunny spring morning, with a gentle breeze carrying the scent of wet earth, budding flowers and green things to your cute little nose.” Just reading that made me look forward to it because I really love the smell of fresh-turned earth. It has been addressed in perfume but it is rarely done well. Dasein Spring is one of those which succeeds at creating that early spring milieu where the damp earth sticks to your hands as you dig in the garden in the morning.
Ms. Rader starts with sunrise as yuzu adds a citrusy brilliance to the first moments. Then as you kneel down to dig in the dirt you get that subtle spicy earthy smell which in the case of Spring is represented by black pepper. Ms. Rader balances this just right; it is more than a pinch but not enough to tickle your nose. As you take another breath the violets and roses on the other side of the garden make their presence known. As with the black pepper Ms. Rader keeps it transparent enough so that it has presence but that it stays at arm’s length. Finally you plunge the spade into the ground and dig. Ms. Rader uses a fabulously complex vetiver equal parts green and woody. Very often a perfumer tilts the use of vetiver one way or the other. Ms. Rader amplifies both and it is that enhanced vetiver that forms the dirt accord. The pepper and florals have lingered to combine with the vetiver and sandalwood provides a bit more foundation for the woody character.
Dasein Spring has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have to say that in these last few days where I felt the walls were closing in on me Ms. Rader’s perfume was the cure. It made me feel surer that all of the cold will eventually recede and let me outside again. Dasein Spring has been my cure for cabin fever.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
It is nice when brands have an identifiable aesthetic that mostly rings true. It allows for me as a consumer to have an idea of what I’m getting if it is consistent. One perfume brand which has this kind of consistency is Penhaligon’s. It has always stood as the epitome of British style. The great majority of the collection possesses a refinement that somehow seems very English to me. It might be the same infatuation many Americans have for things from Britain but I just like the style. When it works it really works. The latest release in the Trade Routes Collection, As Sawira, applies this aesthetic to one of the more recalcitrant notes out there; oud.
As Sawira is inspired, as are all of the Trade Routes collection are, by the old shipping trade when it was transported by tall ships. For As Sawira perfumer Christian Provenzano was asked to interpret the city of Essaoiura which was the first seaport in Morocco. M. Provenzano assembles many of the more exotic Eastern ingredients in perfumery; saffron, davana, cardamom, myrrh, and oud. At the time of these great ships crossing the oceans these provided an interpretation of the rest of the world most would never see. M. Provenzano takes As Sawira and provides a very British re-telling of a trip to Morocco.
Before M. Provenzano gets down to his tale he pours himself a glass of absinthe and the boozy licorice starts things off. In fairly short order the darkly woody davana and saffron join it. It immediately sets this as coming from the East. The saffron really does a nice job at taking the wood and licorice and making it seem alien. The heart is centered on a beautifully poised jasmine. M. Provenzano has used a source which has only a trace of indoles, sort of cleaning up his story for English audiences. The three notes which surround this jasmine are clove, cardamom, and peach. The cardamom adds a spicy green effect to the jasmine while the peach makes it creamier. Clove is almost a stand-in for the missing indoles from the jasmine. This all leads to a base of oud and myrrh. M. Provenzano uses the myrrh as a foil to the rougher edges of oud. He has done a fine job as he dresses up the oud in bow tie and blazer before unleashing it on society. The first time I wore As Sawira I kept expecting the oud to tear the tie off and throw the jacket on the ground as it would eventually take over the final stages of development. Instead, M. Provenzano keeps it completely well-behaved allowing it to interact with sandalwood, and amber for the very end stages.
As Sawira has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage. One of the least projecting oud fragrances I have tried.
When a perfumer undertakes the effort to modulate the effect oud has in a perfume very often it leads to one of the better oud creations. In As Sawira M. Provenzano has done an excellent job of making oud behave like a gentleman and the perfume is much the better for it.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample I purchased.
As the circle of societal and regulatory pressures increase at a steady pace you can’t fault a fragrance brand for looking for ways to prosper in this atmosphere. One of the obvious ways is to stop calling it perfume or cologne. If people don’t hear those words perhaps they will see things differently. Maybe the brand doesn’t want to call it perfume anymore and are looking for semantic alternatives. Diptyque is a perfume brand which has been one of the most influential for over 40 years now. Which is why I have such mixed emotions at their first release of 2015, Eau Plurielle. Diptyque is calling it a “multi-use fragrance”.
In the press materials I received announcing this at the beginning of the year they say, “It is the link, the connection that delicately perfumes both skin and fabric, the body and all the materials that encompass it.” That is a worthy goal but at least for me the perfume I wear and the fragrance I spray on bed linens or scarves have very different constructions. There is an old proverb which I think describes Eau Plurielle, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” In trying to please two very different masters there was no way it could succeed unless it chose to hew to one or the other. Instead Eau Plurielle charts a middle course which satisfies neither.
Eau Plurielle opens on that citrus and geranium green-tinged fruity floral that Diptyque does so well. This by itself would do well as a room spray it has a lift to it and a diffusion that would make a room feel less claustrophobic, especially in the winter months. The heart of ivy and rose does almost the opposite as it is pitched at a very intense concentration and it made me feel as if the walls were closing in on me. It flips back to the lighter side of things using a cocktail of musks to produce a linen accord of its own paired with sandalwood. This has become so common now that it feels like it is Eau Plurielle’s attempt to be inoffensive so as to forget the over exuberant heart.
Eau Plurielle has 12-14 hour longevity on skin with above average sillage and on fabric it has 24-36 hour longevity with above average sillage.
When I spray room fragrances I want something which helps me feel like the four walls of the room have expanded. When I wear perfume on a scarf I want it to be a hint of fragrance, transparent and distant. When I wear perfume on my skin I mostly want it to have a presence which comes from a complete composition containing development. Eau Plurielle never rises to the level of any of those desires. It is funny that one of Diptyque’s earliest home fragrances Essence of John Galliano is one of my favorite perfumes to wear. That fails as a home fragrance because it is too complex for its own good. Eau Plurielle fails as a home fragrance because it was irritating when I had it on a scarf and sprayed it in the room. The rose and ivy were too much. As a perfume that I wore I liked the rose and ivy but for all intents and purposes that is all there is. The top and base notes barely have any presence. There might be a great “multi-use fragrance” out there which can be all things to all fragrance lovers. Eau Plurielle is not that because it tried to be a jack of all trades and mastered nothing.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
Continuing my reviews of the new Atelier Cologne Collection Azur I take a look at Cedre Atlas and Figuier Ardent. One of these has become one of my favorites in the entire line.
Cedre Atlas is composed by perfumer Jerome Epinette and it is going to be a personal litmus test on how much you like cedar. M. Epinette uses an overdose of cedar in the heart of Cedre Atlas making me feel like I was standing in a lumber mill slicing up cedar planks. Before I got to that heart a fleeting application of citrus flies by as quick as a matador’s cape evading the onrushing wooded bull. The note list claims lemon and blackcurrant but all I really detect is lemon and it is in a hurry to get out of the way. In what seems like seconds the cedar lands with an all-encompassing thud. The first time I wore this it was too much. Cedar has a distinctive profile most often described as pencil shavings. This felt like being trapped in a pencil sharpener. It was aggressive and borderline irritating. After about four hours I started noticing there was this beautiful fruity floral woody fragrance coming from the places where the cedar had previously been pushing me away from. That accord would further improve as vetiver and papyrus added a watery green tint to the final stages. The last few hours of Cedre Atlas were a real joy to wear. The first couple of hours taught me how much I like cedar; not as much as I thought. Cedre Atlas has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Figuier Ardent is composed by perfumer Ralf Schwieger and is one of the best fig perfumes of the last five years. Fig is one of those ingredients which has been interpreted in so many ways and I wasn’t expecting to find Hr. Schwieger’s version to be so compelling. He focuses on a green fig hanging on the tree not yet ripe enough to be picked. He places that fig in the center of a sirocco of spices chosen to enhance the central note. Bergamot and anise form the early moments of Figuier Ardent. Within an hour a fig leaf note carrying vegetal facets announces the arrival of the fig itself. This is a fig which is greener and a lot less pulpy than the riper version many perfumers tend to prefer. Cardamom is used to enhance the un-ripened nature of the fig as it complements the green. Black pepper is used as contrast to the almost salty character this young fig has. Then like a time lapse photo as Figuier Ardent moves into the base the green fig ripens into a mature fig. Hr. Schwieger uses iris and tonka bean as ripening agents. They transform the immature into the experienced over the course of hours. It is a fabulous olfactory illusion and it all finishes on a very lightly woody cedar foundation. Every day I have worn Figuier Aredent I have been more and more impressed at the effect Hr. Schwieger has accomplished here. This is a great fig perfume. Figuier Ardent has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
As I said in Part 1 yesterday the whole Collection Azur feels like the culmination of five years of experience by the Creative Directors/Owners Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel. They have applied that knowledge and are still taking Atelier Cologne in new directions. Figuier Ardent is proof that those journeys can end in paradise.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Atelier Cologne.
As Atelier Cologne celebrates the end of its fifth year with the release of Pomelo Paradis to the original collection of colognes. They open the future with a brand new collection dubbed Collection Azur. As I experienced these new cologne absolues over the last few days I was struck that it feels a bit like Atelier Cologne 2.0. Five years ago Creative Directors and owners Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel knew what they wanted to achieve by exploring the boundaries of cologne. Over the last five years they have produced a collection which has hewed to that vision. Now just like when computer software gets updated the new four fragrance Collection Azur feels like the next evolution of Atelier Cologne. It also reminded me of the day five years ago when Mme Ganter introduced me to the line for the first time. I looked forward to seeing this line succeed and they have. I am going to review all four of the new colognes over the next two days. Today I’ll start with Manadarine Glaciale and Sud Magnolia.
One of the unifying themes of the Collection Azur is that of citrus as all four have it featured in their development. Manadarine Glaciale, by perfumer Jerome Epinette, is the citrusiest of them all. Mandarine Glaciale opens with the mandarin along with lemon and bergamot. It is a snappy beginning but it also lives up to the second part of the name. There is a feeling like this is frozen citrus almost encased in a chilly block of ice. That effect is produced by M. Epinette using ginger and petitgrain. Often citrus colognes feel like a gentle slap on the cheek. The early going of Mandarine Glaciale feels like it has been hidden behind an opaque material as it works to break free. After a couple of hours when it finally sheds some of the chill jasmine emerges along with it. M. Epinette uses a well-behaved jasmine which adds a floral vector without getting too floral or feral. The base slides into vetiver over amber and white musk. As with the jasmine the vetiver is kept from being too influential and the citrus stays throughout the development. Manadarine Glaciale has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Sud Magnolia, also by perfumer Jerome Epinette, pins a flower to its citrus lapel. Over the last six months there have been a number of magnolia perfumes which have made it in front of my nose. I am not sure why the sudden increase but Sud Magnolia is one of the better ones, of this recent group. M. Epinette goes for a lip-puckering sour citrus top combining bitter orange and pomelo. He marries them to lush blackcurrant to further add some depth. This opening is all about getting your attention and it is hard to ignore when wearing it. I really like the enhancement of the sour over the sweet during the early going. This time the citrus is swept away by the magnolia and M. Epinette has found a really striking source of magnolia to use as a focal point. It is at turns creamy and woody while maintaining its floralcy. He supports this beauty by adding in rose and saffron. Together they make a floral accord that is just made for a garden party in the spring. It all finishes upon a foundation of sandalwood and cedar wood, more of the latter than the former. That makes the finish a bit more austerely woody than warm. Sud Magnolia has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I will conclude these reviews with Cedre Atlas and Figuier Ardent tomorrow.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Atelier Cologne.
When I was at Pitti David Seth Moltz the perfumer behind D.S. & Durga handed me a preview of the next release. As we were spraying it on strips he told me the name was Debaser. There are times that something as simple as a name can tell you when two people share some common ground. I looked quizzically at him and said, “Is it named after….” Before I could complete the words Mr. Moltz finished for me, “Yeah, it’s named after The Pixies song.” Now there are many things which might inspire a perfume but this particular song would not be high up on anyone’s list, except Mr. Moltz’s.
David Seth Moltz
The Pixies were part of that late 1980’s wave of alternative rock bands. What set them apart were the lyrics of singer/guitarist Black Francis. The band covered a myriad of subjects but for the song “Debaser” Mr. Francis chose a particularly obscure bit of surrealism to sing about, the film Un Chien Andalou. That film was co-directed by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali. Over the running time of 21 minutes each chapter is a tableau separated by time-based title cards, like “sixteen years ago”. There is much to chew on for any fan of surrealism. The one thing most everyone speaks about is the opening scene which opens on a title card of “once upon a time”. In it a man sharpens a razor walks over to a woman holds her eye open and approaches her eyeball with a razor. After a cut to clouds moving across the moon in the night sky it returns to an eyeball being slit, not the woman’s but that of a dead calf. Mr. Francis was also fascinated by this imagery and one of the verses in the song is this:
Got me a movie
Ha ha ha ho
Slicing up eyeballs
Ha ha ha ho
He goes on to sing, “I am Un Chien Andalusia” purposefully mangling the name. As I said not the kind of stuff you would look for to make a perfume. Mr. Moltz is inspired nonetheless as he turns out an alternative version of a fig-based summer scent.
Simone Mareuil and a razor from "Un Chien Andalou"
Debaser opens on a very Morticia Addams pruning roses and placing the thorny stems back into vases vibe. Mr. Moltz plays with the idea of what is left of a fruity beginning if you remove the fruit. A green leafy accord and a pear stem accord are where things start. There are hints of what is growing but they have been excised from the scent via an olfactory straight razor. The heart starts to move into something more relatable as a rich fig arises through the stemmy top notes. Just as it seems this might normalize a veritable torrent of coconut milk arrives and swamps the fig. Just as I start to process that, iris appears. This is a weirdly satisfying, completely discordant, heart. These notes collide and recede for hours while wearing Debaser. It is definitely one of the more interesting heart note combinations I’ve tried so far this year. Debaser stays at this point for quite a while before taking a turn toward a dry woody finish that is almost too normal compared to what has come earlier.
Debaser has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Debaser is a fragrance which revels in its unusualness. I also think Mr. Moltz had a ton of fun composing this combining all of the competing elements into a perfume. This succeeds so well I think it is the best perfume in the entire D.S. & Durga line. I know I’ve emphasized the point that it is a bit weird. Debaser is different but if you are looking for a fig perfume which has a sly intelligence at play look no further than Debaser.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by D.S. & Durga.
On a trip to Central America in the late 1980’s I spent a week following the very nascent La Ruta Maya which was meant to connect up all of the Mayan ruins. Nowadays the route is marked out and all of the sites have been refurbished to look their best. When I did this there were few road signs and when I would ask for directions I was most often met with “No se” (I don’t know). It made it a bit more of an adventure than I had planned. The one site I was looking most forward to seeing were the ruins at Tikal. You might think it was the historical significance that drew me to this amazing site. You would be wrong. I wanted to go because this was where they filmed the final scenes in Star Wars, the first film. While I had geeky reasons for wanting to see it the effort was worth it. There was a long trek through the jungle from the closest place I could park the jeep. This was as close to being Indiana Jones as I would ever get as I followed the trail markers until I emerged onto the plain that houses the temples. What I will never forget about that day was the smell of the jungle and the plain. When I received my sample of the new Strange Invisible Perfumes Emerald Moss and dabbed some on I was immediately standing on the edge of the jungle overlooking the temple plain.
When I read what inspired natural perfumer Alexandra Balahoutis to compose Emerald Moss it turns out it was a similar experience. She visited an old yerba mate plantation in the jungles of Argentina. Years later she would source a mate extract which she would use to build Emerald Moss around. Ms. Balahoutis was fascinated by the deep green color of the mate extract and she has kept the color of Emerald Moss an eye-catching emerald green. One of the things which always separates independent perfumers is their dedication to unique and precious materials. The materials in Emerald Moss are in such small quantities that it is part of a new Reserve Series and as such are limited editions and will only be produced intermittently. If you look at the name and are expecting oakmoss and such you should recalibrate your thinking. Emerald Moss is the heat and humidity of the jungle canopy with trees covered in lichens growing on their trunks. It is a perfume of the wild places.
"Tikal12". Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tikal12.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Tikal12.jpg
Emerald Moss opens with a blast of mandarin and ginger. For my taste orange and ginger are a great pairing as the lushness of the mandarin is energized by the zing of ginger. It is the anticipation of exploration. The mate comes next and because this is a hydro-distilled mate it carries a lot less of the rough edges that mate often has when used in other fragrances. In Emerald Moss it insets itself in between the mandarin and ginger growing in presence. Over about an hour the mate finally takes complete control. Once that happens you will understand why Ms. Balahoutis wanted to work with this raw material. It has an incredible depth as if you look around into the jungle and all you see are trees. Then like my trip all of a sudden it blossoms into this brilliant open magnificent presence as you encounter majesty. I would dearly love to smell some of this mate extract on its own because it is just not like any other mate I have encountered. Ms. Balahoutis realizes she is working with a special ingredient and as such uses a light hand for the final stages of Emerald Moss’ development. A bit of rose and lavender pulled my focus to these sweeter characteristics of the mate. In the base she uses the Indian vetiver distillation called khus rus to take the mate and turn it into something more familiar as some of those rough edges come out. It leaves me standing on an open verdant plain surrounded by soaring temples and I smile.
Emerald Moss has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
When an independent perfumer like Ms. Balahoutis gets ahold of a one-of-a-kind ingredient like this mate extract this defines the soul of niche perfumery. There are no other perfumes that smell like Emerald Moss because there are no other perfumes that have this mate extract in them. It is a Mayan temple in the jungle exemplifying the past in the present.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Strange Invisible Perfumes.
I am a big fan of the singing competition American Idol. Every year at this part of the competition they reach the point where all those who made the initial cut at auditions come together in Hollywood so that the judges can further winnow them down to a final 24 contestants from around 200. One of the ways a contestant tries to stick out is to take a well-known song and re-interpret it. The bad ones destroy the song so it is unrecognizable and the good ones put a fresh spin on it. The judges will often remark after the performance that the singer did a good job of not losing the melody. The new re-interpretation of Hermes Amazone called Rose Amazone felt like in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena’s attempt to make a younger hipper version of the original, without losing the melody.
The original Amazone was released in 1974 and was composed by perfumer Maurice Maurin. That original version was meant to be a luxury alternative to Revlon’s Charlie for this nascent “working woman” who needed something to wear on the job. M. Maurin used the incredible green of blackcurrant buds with a healthy dose of raspberry. That it wore its fruit so unabashedly on its sleeve was different at that time. Fifteen years later M. Ellena would reformulate for a different time. Now he would really amplify the fruit throughout the design making the citrus zing and the berries boisterous. It lost some of the blackcurrant bud underneath all of that. The base notes were made creamier woody as a sandalwood played a more prominent role. These two versions are markedly different enough so that even a non-perfume lover who only wore Amazone noticed when her 1974 bottle was done and she bought a 1989 bottle. This would not be the first time I explained reformulation to a confused consumer. To maintain the singing analogy I would say the 1989 version of Amazone was sung out at the top of its lungs and if you like power ballads, it was like that.
Even though Rose Amazone has a different name it really could be called Amazone 2015 because it definitely is constructed around the same melody. The stated objective is to appeal to a modern younger woman. The idea seems to be that this woman wants a perfume with a slower stripped down melody from the original. That is just what M. Ellena attempts to deliver.
Rose Amazone starts off with a much more pronounced citrus opening as the blackcurrant bud is moved into the heart leaving a very sparkly shiny opening. The grapefruit is the leader of this citrus pack but they’re all here. The rose comes out and this is a big change as the original has a lot more floral notes. Here M. Ellena leaves the rose to do the job by itself. The blackcurrant bud and the raspberry show up near simultaneously with the rose. This is where Rose Amazone slows the beat down so that you focus on these three keynotes of all three versions. I really liked this combination very much. The woodier base of the 1989 version of Amazone is what you finish on in Rose Amazone, as you return to the original melody.
Rose Amazone has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I think M. Ellena has done a creditable job at making a more modern younger version of Amazone with Rose Amazone. He stayed true to the melody by going unplugged and letting the keynotes in the heart sing out beautifully.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Hermes.