One of the more interesting presentations at Pitti Fragranze was the one for the new release from Masque Milano. When I walked through one of the aisles I was met with a stand which had a Russian samovar as its centerpiece. When I focused a little more I saw Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi, the Crative Directors for the brand, standing behind it. I knew that the promised fifth fragrance from Masque Milano called Russian Tea was ready to be tried.
Masque Milano display at Pitti Fragranze 2014 (Photo: Fragrantica)
Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi had visited Russia and were treated to a Russian Tea Ritual while in a snowy Saint Petersburg. They wanted to capture in a perfume not only the tea ritual but also the journey of the tea leaves by train across Siberia to their eventual location. As they would tell me, before giving me some to try, Russian Tea when being transported by train is kept dry by wood burning fires underneath. This causes the tea leaves to take on a smoky character. Another component of the transportation is the use of mint to also modulate the smokiness of the fires and keep the tea fresh. Once the tea is presented as part of the ritual a teaspoon of raspberry preserve is added. To encompass the journey from tea leaves to samovar, perfumer Julien Rasquinet was asked to bring this to life. For M. Rasquinet this would be his last independent perfume before taking a job with IFF. He would deliver this perfume on December 31, 2013 and on January 1, 2014 he would destroy his lab to take on his new duties. As a final nod to his independent career M. Rasquinet goes out on a high note.
Riccardo Tedeschi (l.) and Alessandro Brun
The opening of Russian Tea is all of the things around the tea ritual. There is a hint of mint as the leaves are prepared. The raspberry preserves are placed in a pot on the table. The leaves give off a piquant aroma carried by a pinch of black pepper in the top notes. The tea then begins to brew, thick and savory, in the olfactory samovar. M. Rasquinet uses a very intense black tea accord and to keep it from being too dark he cleverly uses immortelle to temper the strength. It is really a quite brilliant choice as the maple syrup feel of immortelle adds just the right amount of contrasting sweetness to make the black tea comforting. As the cup is placed before you the steam arises carrying all the scents of the journey as birch and leather form a smoky duet. Incense wafts across the base notes as a wonderfully eccentric grace note.
Russian Tea has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
When I drink tea I enjoy it dark and smoky. Russian Tea serves me up a fragrance that is not only dark and smoky it is also full of all the splendor of the Russian Tea Ritual throughout. This is a perfume which is as comforting as a cup of strong dark tea on a winter’s day in St. Petersburg.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Masque Milano at Pitti Fragranze.
How does one continue when tragedy strikes? How does one carry on in the name of a creative spirit lost to us? In December of 2011 perfumer Mona di Orio passed away suddenly. In the years since there have been new releases of perfumes she had finished before her passing. Mona di Orio the brand was now at a crossroads; become a legacy brand re-releasing the previous perfumes made by Mme di Orio or move forward with new perfumes that capture Mme di Orio’s signature aesthetic of light and shadow. Creative Director and partner of Mme di Orio, Jeroen Oude Sogtoen has decided to do both. Two of Mme di Orio’s early releases Lux and Nuit Noire are now being re-launched. Concurrently M. Sogtoen has decided to ask perfumer Melanie Leroux to take the brand forward and they have created the new release Myrrh Casati.
Jeroen Oude Sogtoen
A key component to moving forward is to create perfumes in the style of Mme di Orio. They have chosen to coin a phrase to define this, Monaesque. The definition in the press release is, “It is the harmonious nature between light and dark notes, the olfactory chiaroscuro, which distinguishes each scent as Monaesque. The melody of the notes reveal an orchestrated arc of the claire obscure, unconventional, richly faceted, and completely original.” With M. Sogtoen to oversee the new perfumes to come and having worked so closely with Mme di Orio there could be no better person to make sure these principles are upheld.
La Marchesa Luisa Casati by Giovanni Boldini
Marchesa Luisa Casati is the inspiration for Myrrh Casati. Marchesa Casati was known for arriving at fetes with her leashed cheetahs or wearing live snakes as accessories. Her style would inspire fashion designers John Galliano and Alexander McQueen. Now it was time for her to inspire a fragrance. Perfumer Melanie Leroux would construct a fragrance around the sweet intensity of myrrh but she adds her version of olfactory cheetahs and snakes with licorice and saffron playing a prominent role.
Myrrh Casati opens on a duet of red berries and pink pepper. This sets a bit of the spicy shadow over the bright fruit to lead into the appearance of the myrrh. Myrrh is one of my favorite incense notes as it carries the darkness of frankincense but with an inherent sweetness which makes it more opulent. When used well it can form a kinetic core to a fragrance. Mme Leroux does a good job of allowing it to form a foundation early on. Then she swirls in three notes which make Myrrh Casati for me. First a bit of green cardamom adds contrast. Saffron adds that exotic spicy quality unique to it. Finally, licorice makes an appearance in rich herbal strands. This is the heart of Myrrjh Casati and all of this blends together fantastically. As we move towards the end Mme Leroux adds in some more incense and benzoin to bolster the myyrh so it can stand up to the patchouli, nagarmotha, and guaiac. These last three notes form a sort of faux oud accord. It is never as pushy as real oud would be it is a lighter hint of oud and it goes well at the end of Myrrh Casati.
Myrrh Casati has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
If you are going to carry on a tradition as rich as that Mme di Orio left behind then you need to make a strong statement. Myrrh Casati is that statement of intent to carry on the aesthetic Mme di Orio honed and refined over so many years. M. Sogtoen and Mme Leroux have provided with Myrrh Casati the definition of what it means to be Monaesque.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Mona di Orio at Pitti Fragranze.
Pierre Guillaume has successfully spread himself over three distinct lines each containing their own aesthetic. Huitieme Art Parfums has come to be the one in which M. Guillaume experiments. He has featured new raw materials or attempted to create specific accords new to his palette. For the latest release Liqueuer Charnelle it is a “cognac bouquet” he is working towards.
Cognac is one of the more complex bouquets to try and capture because it is a complicated process which leads to the bottle. After taking grapes and allowing them to ferment it is distilled multiple times to concentrate and raise the alcohol level. This concentration has an effect of also making even the most subtle of aromas when it was more dilute now more prominent. After being aged in oak barrels it is blended to produce what goes in the bottle. When drinking a snifter of cognac I spend as much time inhaling the sweet slightly fruity fragrance as I do sniffing it. To re-create this is not so easy because the pleasures of a fine cognac is the fragility of the bouquet. To turn it into a perfume was going to take precision and patience.
M. Guillaume takes the approach of allowing a few of the components of the eventual accord to have a little time by themselves in the early moments. As a result the opening carries a mix of pink pepper and black pepper. Then the other pieces of what will eventually form the accord begin to assemble. A bit of violet and a pinch of astringent green. A touch of elemi along with a soupcon of raspberry. These allow for vanilla, oak, and tobacco to form the spine upon which these notes will flesh out the cognac accord. There is a moment about an hour in where Liqueur Charnelle rises like the finest cognac being swirled in a snifter. As Liqueur Charnelle proceeds to the end the cognac accord decays and what you are left with is sweet tobacco and wood.
Liqueur Charnell has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
There is a fantastic atmospheric feel to Liqueur Charnelle that made me feel as if I should be sitting in a private club while wearing it. That the cognac accord is so well realized is part of it but it is also the richness of the perfume itself. It feels elegant in a very louche way. I like the way it makes me feel refined while in my everyday clothes instead of a smoking jacket. If you like boozy fragrances Liqueur Charnelle is one of the best in this category.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Huitieme Art Parfums at Pitti Fragranze.
Imaginary Authors is the amusing concept by independent perfumer Josh Meyer in which he houses his perfumes in bottles made up to look like the spine of books which never were. In 2012 he released the first seven volumes in his scented library and followed up in 2013 with two more. I have always loved the idea of making up literary inspirations for perfume. The perfumes were all above average but none of them really motivated me to write about them. I look forward to each new release to see if the latest edition will be the page turner I’ve been waiting for. It looks like the tenth volume Yesterday Haze is the one I want to take down from the shelf and spend some time with.
Before you even try the perfume you are greeted with a bottle and packaging so arch they bring a smile to your face. Yesterday Haze is penned by “author” Lenora Blumburg (1909-1983). Ms. Blumburg wrote one of the earlier volumes, Violet Disguise. Yesterday Haze is described as a “subtly sinister follow-up” around a love triangle between a crop-duster who is having an affair with his employer’s wife. Each volume comes with a quote and here is the one for this perfume, “Just as sunsets are more beautiful on hazy days, so, too, are the memories of yesterday.” What is clear after wearing Yesterday Haze is all of this takes place in a fig grove as that is what Yesterday Haze evokes.
Mr. Meyer is working the complete fig tree experience in Yesterday Haze, not just the fruit. As a result the opening of the perfume has not only the creamy aspects of the fruit but also the smoothly woody facets of the tree. Tonka is used to tilt the fruit of the fig more towards the creamy. Iris is used to powder over the potentially rough edges of the bark. This is where Yesterday Haze lingers for quite a long time on my skin. Very late in the development there is a bitter note matched with a slate-like minerality. These notes are identified as walnut bitters and orchard dust in the note list. They are much more common aromachemicals but the fancified names convey the feeling that in the end this story ends in bitterness and dust as there seems to be no happy ending.
Yesterday Haze has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Mr. Meyer has “penned” a diverse collection which should find one volume to appeal to most. Take your time with the line and give each one a try. Somewhere within the ten stories there is probably one which will have the right ending for you. Yesterday Haze is definitely the one I want to read over again.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.
There is a new artisanal line of perfume out of England called Papillon Artisan Perfume. The creator and perfumer behind the line is Liz Moores. In June of 2014 she released her debut fragrances, Tobacco Rose, Angelique, and Anubis. These fragrances have only recently become widely available outside of the UK. As it is with many independent perfumers the first offerings can be a bit uneven but I often see the foundation of someone who has the potential to grow into a creative force. This is the case with the first three release for Ms. Moores. Each of them have moments when I start to see a complete idea form only to have a couple of notes throw it off kilter and make it feel like there was never an idea there in the first place. This is a common issue with first-time perfumers they need someone who is not friend or family to let them know more is not necessarily better. Of the three inaugural releases Anubis feels the most finished to me.
Liz Moores (Via Papiilon Perfumery website)
Anubis is the Egyptian god of the afterlife and he is a man with the head of a jackal. Anubis the fragrance feels a bit like that depiction as it has elements in it which feel as if they shouldn’t go together and are sort of shoehorned in. Ms. Moores seems to envision the Egyptian afterlife as a smoky place as the early going of Anubis is all about smoke and how much you can add. For the first hour or so it is almost all smoke and then Ms. Moores attempts a transition but she uses immortelle and this is where Anubis figuratively clunks for me. The immortelle feels out of place like after I’ve waved the smoke away the maple syrup aspect of immortelle is just lying there. Through the early part of Anubis’ development this was disappointing but then Ms. Moores turns the back half of Anubis into something quite wonderful. Once the fans have cleared all the smoke and maple syrup away what is left is a supple suede leather accord that she ingeniously uses jasmine to complement. This part of Anubis is as good as it gets. It has the richness of jasmine over the softness of leather. This time Ms. Moores’ transition is perfectly executed as she uses benzoin and myrrh to lead to a frankincense dominated base. All of this together is really quite wonderful and I particularly enjoy the latter half of the ride.
Anubis has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I am looking forward to seeing Ms. Moores further develop her line as the latter half of Anubis definitely convinces me there is talent there. Now if she’ll just find someone who can serve as editor I think the future can be bright.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples I purchased.
Photo via The GoodSmellas blog
Smoke ‘em if you got ’em. Smoke gets in your eyes. Smokin’. The thought of smoke, of all kinds, has saturated pop culture for decades. The swirling, curling tendrils of scent are a natural for a perfume collection. Creative Director Kilian Hennessy of By Kilian is in that frame of mind with his latest collection Addictive State of Mind. There are three debut releases; Light my Fire, Smoke for the Soul, and Intoxicated, in the line each touching on fragrant wisps.
Light my Fire is composed by perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur and is inspired by Monte Cristo cigars. I have to say before trying Light my Fire I thought it was not a good idea to have another tobacco fragrance in a line which contains Back to Black which I think is one of the best tobacco scents ever. Mme Lancesseur works a different angle as her tobacco in the cigar is sweetened with vanilla and honey. It adds a fragrant sweetness to the tobacco to start before eventually ending up on an amber foundation. Light my Fire is a lighter take on tobacco and very different from Back to Black so that I think it will find its fans.
Smoke for the Soul is signed by Fabrice Pellegrin and is inspired by cannabis. Smoke for the Soul get this just right. If you have ever opened up a container with sticky buds of cannabis in it you will know exactly what this smells like. The notes M. Pellegrin used to create the cannabis accord are grapefruit, green cardamom, mate, eucalyptus, and tobacco. This is the cannabis counterpart to Back to Black as M. Pellegrin opens Smoke for the Soul with the cannabis accord in place and over the next few hours it slowly starts to fray and decompose until you are left with a woody base of birch and cashmere woods. Smoke for the Soul is beautifully realized by M. Pellegrin and I enjoyed it immensely.
Intoxicated is formulated by Calice Becker and is inspired by Turkish coffee. Maybe it is because coffee is my choice among these three addictions but Mme Becker’s take on strong dark coffee is my favorite of the three. Mme Becker brews her coffee accord and it comes out redolent and steaming from the first moments and the green cardamom she pairs the coffee with makes an exotic mix that has never been seen in a Starbucks. The lemon tinged spice made more sappy because of the greenness is, as the name promised, intoxicating. From there Mme Becker swirls in some more spices in nutmeg and cinnamon but they are not as interesting as the cardamom. This all rests on a woody foundation at the end.
All three perfumes have 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
The Addicitve State of Mind Series feels like the sequel to the L’Oeuvre Noire series that M. Hennessy started the By Kilian line with. Unlike most sequels these three new fragrances are as good as any in that collection. If you have taken a break from By Kilian because Asian Tales and In the Garden of Good & Evil were different then I suggest you tune back in as I think these three will make you feel like things have returned to the older aesthetic. I am happy to spend some time in Kilian’s Smoke Shoppe and breathe in all of the wonderful smells.
Disclsoure: this review was based on samples provided by By Kilian.
Andy Tauer has been making perfume for almost ten years. He is one of the independent perfumers who has developed a very distinct aesthetic. There is even a characteristic base of woody incense which has been dubbed Tauerade by other writers. I agree there is definitely a strong DNA running through many of Hr. Tauer’s fragrances and the Tauerade is part of it. There is also another accord he has revisited a number of times. I describe it as a Pixy-Stix accord after the flavored powdered sugar candy I ate as a child. It has also been compared to Pez candy as well. It adds a granulated kind of opaque sweetness to the perfumes Hr. Tauer employs it in. One’s tolerance for it is going to determine whether you like the latest release Sotto La Luna Gardenia.
Sotto La Luna Gardenia is the first in a series of Sotto La Luna perfumes Hr. Tauer intends on producing. For Sotto La Luna Gardenia he wanted to capture the titular bloom under the wash of a full moon as it scents the night air. Getting just the right balance with a gardenia fragrance is a tricky proposition. Too much and it is overpowering and cloying. Too little and it is wan and green. The difficulty with finding that balance is the gardenia never feels as if it is in full bloom; it can feel restrained. This is why Hr. Tauer adds in the sugar to amplify the sweet without turning it treacly.
As one who grew up with gardenia bushes around my house in South Florida I know the vibe Hr. Tauer is attempting to create. To start with he blows a gentle zephyr of spices across your conscience. This is the smell of the night of the full moon, full of portent. The gardenia first comes in as the restrained more green gardenia I mentioned above. The greener, woodier aspects are as prominent as the floral aspect. Over about an hour that changes as the flower expands and so does the fragrance. This is where Hr. Tauer dusts all of this with his “Pixy-Stix” dust. I like the crystalline sweet quality it adds as it makes the gardenia feel like a candied version of itself. Sotto La Luna holds this position for a few hours on my skin and this is why the sugar sweet accord will make or break one’s enjoyment of this perfume. I think Hr. Tauer has used it well and I enjoy it quite a bit. The base notes are sandalwood, vanilla and a bit of tonka; no sign of Tauerade this time.
Sotto La Luna Gardenia has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I like when an indie perfumer starts to display some character with recognizable accords to define their aesthetic. In Sotto La Luna Gardenia Hr. Tauer shows how it can be used to create a special effect rendering the gardenia something supernatural in its power.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.
Most days when choosing which perfume to wear I will probably opt for something full of fascinating nuance and multiple levels of development. Then there are the days I want my perfume to just give it to me straight in a smooth progression from top to base notes. There are always a few new perfumes which delight me with a vivid progression of usual ingredients. The latest perfume to keep it simple is Penhaligon’s Bayolea.
Penhaligon’s released Bayolea as a full-service men’s grooming line named The Gentleman’s Grooming Range. The Eau de Toilette is part of a collection that includes shaving products, bath gel, facial scrubs, hair products, and deodorant. Everything carries the basic scent of the EdT. For something which was going to have to be tuned across a number of different uses, perfumer Mike Parrott was smart to keep the construction elementary. Which is not synonymous with boring. At each phase of Bayolea’s development Mr. Parrott adds one ingredient to add some contextual detail. This makes Bayolea’s trip from citrus to spicy floral to a patchouli base; straightforward but with some interesting roadside attractions along the way.
Bayolea opens with what at first blush seems like a traditional citrus opening of mandarin, tangerine, and lemon. Except the lemon isn’t lemon as Mr. Parrott chooses to use lemongrass instead. It adds a bit of green and a bit of far eastern exotic character. The heart takes lavender and neroli combined with a green cardamom and black pepper. I have really liked that perfumers have begun to use spices to accentuate the herbal quality of good lavender. That is the case here as the green coriander picks up the green of the lemongrass and transitions to a greener more herbal lavender truer in character to the real thing. A pinch of black pepper keeps it tilted to the herbal side and neroli acts as a balancing note to keep it from going too far that way. The base notes are centered on a rich patchouli framed with cedar and sandalwood. This all eventually concludes with an amber and musk accord.
Bayolea has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have to congratulate Mr. Parrot on creating a fragrance which works across so many different uses. I also have samples of the shaving products and face washes. Bayolea works all the way through my morning toilette because Mr. Parrott keeps it simple. Sometimes the simple pleasures are all you need to start your day.
Disclsoure: This review was based on a sample of Bayolea provided by Twisted Lily.
For many years I was quite a hiker. I have hiked a large amount of the Appalachian Trail as well as through some of the great National Parks out west. For someone who loves fragrance the smells of the woods while hiking was one of the joys of walking in the woods. Particularly in the US if there is a consistent base note to the smell of the great outdoors it would be pine. It seems there are pines no matter what trail I am following. Just breathing in the smell of a Christmas tree lot reminds me of being on the trail. Perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz also shares my love of the woods and her new release DSH Perfumes Seve de Pin reflects that.
Ms. Hurwitz has been working for years on a pine scent which would capture “the smell of the night air on my first overnight trip away from my parents…in pre-school summer camp. The trees were speaking to me all night long” I knew what she was talking about as there is a comfort of setting up camp inside a circle of sentinel pines. The smell of the wood, the soft bed of needles on the ground, and the glorious viscous sap oozing out of rents in the trunk. This is the smell of the forest’s bosom on which to rest one’s head on in peace. This is also an extremely hard smell to get right in a perfume. All too often pine fragrances smell like cleaning products or, worse, the cardboard air freshener hanging from way too many rearview mirrors. To get this right Ms. Hurwitz was going to have to find a special material with which to build her Seve de Pin around, for this she turned to Eric Bresselsmith of House of Aromatics.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
Mr. Bresselsmith travels the inter-mountain region of Utah searching for conifers damaged by weather or the depredations of humans. He co-distills many of the fruits of his labor. For Seve de Pin Ms. Hurwitz used a combination of 50-year old resin crystals dissolved in pure pinion oil. When I wax rhapsodically about the glory of independent perfumery and their tendency to use some of the most exquisite materials to build a fragrance upon; this essential oil is exactly what I am talking about. This is the heart of a pine forest, vibrant and resinous.
Having the greatest raw material in the world does not a perfume make. Ms. Hurwitz had some work in front of her to find the right set of complementary notes to display this fantastic raw ingredient in the best way. She keeps it simple by adding green facets on top and a full house of resin notes to provide the foundation upon which to build Seve de Pin.
The green accord Ms. Hurwitz employs on the top is like the wind soughing through the branches of the pine trees. It is always the first thing I smell before the rest of the pine forest milieu catches up. In Seve de Pin the same is true as after the green has made its presence known the pinion oil arises and Ms. Hurwitz uses two important grace notes to help focus this, in amyris and rose. Amyris with its slightly lemony woodiness and rose with its spicy floral aspect add an intoxicating depth as they smooth out any rough edges the pinion oil might have. It is a perfect choice. Olibanum, oppopanax, and labdanum form the resinous base on which Seve de Pin rests. These resins in combination with the pinion oil really create the smell of dried droplets of sap clinging to the trunk. When I wore Seve de Pin and it reached this part I almost felt like my fingers should’ve been sticky with sap it is so photorealistic.
I tested Seve de Pin as an extrait and it is amazingly gorgeous in this concentration. As a result it has overnight longevity and minimal sillage. This forest walk is for the wearer exclusively.
There are a group of pine perfume aficionados who have named themselves “Coneheads” and I have to imagine Seve de Pin will be as close to a Holy Grail fragrance for them as there could be. I know I will treasure my sample of extrait because it is as near and dear to me as my time walking in the woods. Seve de Pin is tonic for the forested soul.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.
There are perfumers I just enjoy seeing what they will do next. Alberto Morillas is one of those who straddles every aspect of perfume making. He has been creating perfume since 1983 and he has seen trends come and go all while adapting and innovating with the times. M. Morillas has been so prolific he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Fragrance Foundation. His body of work is so broad it is difficult to say he is known for a single thing. One thing he is known for is the first use of the so-called white musks in 2001. Over the last thirteen years he has continually shown that he has an ability to make these very ubiquitous materials seem less common. A Lab on Fire Oxymusc shows there is still something new to discover from the white musks.
A Lab on Fire is becoming one of the most consistent niche brands on the market. For the last three years they have taken some of the most elite perfumers working and given them a platform to explore freely. What that has produced is a line of perfumes from recognizable perfumers who have taken their distinguishable aesthetic and pushed it. This has made the entire collection something which has always been nothing less than interesting. For Oxymusc M. Morillas is not only revisiting the white musks he pioneered but also the aquatic genre he helped create. In Oxymusc he has turned both genres into a fragrance that is as soft and ethereal as a cloud floating over an expanse of ocean.
M. Morillas knows how to construct an aquatic accord. In Oxymusc he is going for an aquatic accord similar to a watercolor. The contrast and texture is all about subtlety. When taken together it has a maximal impact. This aquatic accord is held up by three tentpoles of muguet, lavender, and thyme. Underneath the tent made by those notes is a couple of white musks. This creates a sea spray accord as when the wind carries the spray to you from afar. It is never strong but it persists at a very consistently pleasant level. The typical freshly ironed white musk vibe is present in the base. M. Morillas turns it into a set of well-loved sheets which are soft to the senses. Often these kind of mixtures of the larger macrocyclic musks can have a bit of bite to them. In Oxymusc M. Morillas has removed any hint of a rough edge. It goes perfectly with the sea spray accord and at the same intensity.
Oxymusc has 10-12 hour longevity but it is going to be a deceptive longevity on most. You will think it is gone after a few hours but find yourself smelling it again. When I say this is light, it is light but it is a fabulously fragile fragrance. Obviously the sillage is moderate on something as light as this.
We so often laud the perfumes that have the loudest voices. Oxymusc speaks to me in wisps of water vapor and whispers of the sea. Leaning in to experience it completely is well worth the effort.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.