There are times I am just too stubborn. If there is anything which makes me dig my fragrant heels in it is celebrity perfume or as they are called, celebuscents. Too often they are quick creations heavily influenced by focus groups who are asked inane questions like, “Which one of these do you think smells like the name on the bottle?” This is not to say celebuscents are completely devoid of quality just 99% of them. You might glean from this why when I receive a new celebuscent it very quickly gets buried. I think when Elizabeth and James Nirvana White and Nirvana Black appeared in the spring I should have given them more than a cursory sniff. While cleaning up the pile of perfumes I came across my samples again. I guess I was in a more receptive mood and this time they connected.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
The template for a successful celebuscent was laid out by actress Sarah Jessica Parker, in 2005, as she collaborated closely with the perfumers behind her fist perfume for Coty, Lovely. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen did the same with perfumer Pierre Negrin. It took over two years for them to arrive at a final version which would become Nirvana Black. I would guess that process was a learning experience; because as they were putting the finishing touches on Nirvana Black they decided they wanted a second fragrance to go with it. This time the collaboration with perfumer Honorine Blanc went much quicker and Nirvana Black and Nirvana White were released in January of 2014.
What I like about both of these perfumes is that they are very simple and that simplicity captures the goth boho chic design aesthetic of the Elizabeth and James clothing and accessories. The three note structure of both makes it difficult; for the perfumer needs to make sure those three notes harmonize well together and in this case M. Negrin and Mme Blanc did a tremendous job.
Nirvana White is the more boho of the two as it works with two fresh florals before ending on a beautiful soft musk. The top floral is peony and the peony source Mme Blanc employs is that spring garden fresh floral version. It is uplifting until the other floral, muguet, adds a significant green aspect. Together this is an elementary vernal floral accord. What is not elementary is the cocktail of musks Mme Blanc uses in the base. With white in the name you might expect the laundry-fresh musks but Mme Blanc decides to create an accord that runs the spectrum of synthetic musks. At the end this musk accord has a soft authenticity to it that feels like a bit of an illusion.
Nirvana Black is that boho girl heading out to her favorite Goth club in the evening. M. Negrin also uses primarily three notes for his fragrance but I can see why they took so long to find the right balance. The top note is violet and there are a variety of violets they could have chosen. The one which makes it into the bottle is a rich slightly candied version. It segues smoothly into a sandalwood heart and the synergy they hit is perfect as the candied facets are bolstered by the sweeter nature of sandalwood. Nirvana Black comes to an end with an austere less sweet vanilla.
Nirvana White and Nirvana Black have 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are to be commended for taking their time and being uncompromising in getting what they wanted. That dedication shows and it is why Nirvana White and Nirvana Black stand out from the rest of the celebuscent pack.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Elizabeth and James.
As a perfume collection matures over the years it tends to swing back and forth like a pendulum. The Tom Ford Private Blend Collection has been around since 2007, under the creative direction of Tom Ford and Karen Khoury. Most of the early fragrances had an intensity to them and that depth is what drew me to the line in the first place. Noir de Noir’s mix of chocolate, rose, oud, and patchouli is a good example. In 2010, things lightened up a bit and Jasmin Rouge is a good example of where the pendulum had swung to as the jasmine was kept cleaner and the notes surrounding it were kept in check. That kind of restraint added a sense of ephemeral beauty to those that I came to appreciate very much. But, but, but I wanted another Private Blend which swaggered with audacity. Little did I know it had been released last September.
Tom Ford Private Blend London was an exclusive to the new Sloane Square Tom Ford boutique which opened in 2013 in London. There was little enthusiasm for it among the London contingent of perfumistas and as a result without an attendant buzz I had a very difficult time getting a sample. I did finally get one from online decanting site Surrender to Chance. What I was greeted with was a fragrance which seemed to encompass something more than trying to assay London as a fragrance. This was a fragrance of the East; exotic spices, opulent florals, and deep woods. This was the London of the Royal Geographic Society as their members brought back things seen for the first time from all over the globe. In a wood paneled drawing room, furnished in leather, one explorer shows off the cinnamon and cardamom he acquired. On another table a species of jasmine from the Himalayas scented the room. Raw vanilla pods from the West Indies mixed with these very intense smelling oud wood chips from Egypt smoking in a censer. This is the smell of Tom Ford Private Blend London.
Perfumer Yann Vasnier opens London up with a spicy mélange centered on cinnamon but heavily influenced with cardamom, ginger, and black pepper. This captured my attention immediately as M. Vasnier swirls all of this up into a spicy sirocco which blows with an airy potency. The jasmine in the heart is full on indolic jasmine and it has to be to make any headway against the spices. This skanky jasmine fits in perfectly with the spices and it is heady stuff. It gets even deeper as oud over leather makes up the key notes of the base. It is sweetened with a bit of vanilla and amber but this is drawing room leather and oud mostly.
London has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
My wish has been answered as London feels like it belongs to the original collection more than the more recent releases. It seems appropriate if London is the signal that the pendulum is swinging back because y’know; London swings like the pendulum do.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample purchased form Surrender to Chance
Editor’s note: I expect London will be available worldwide sooner than later as the previous exclusive fragrance to a boutique, Lavender Palm, became widely available about a year later. As of this writing it is still only available in London.
One of the purposes of Under the Radar is to give me a chance to extol the virtues of a fragrance which might have fallen through the cracks. I’m also using it to make sure the fragrances that got bumped and moved off the review schedule get a second chance to be discovered. I really enjoy the opportunity I have to try new perfumes but sometimes their getting into my hands can be a story in and of itself. The three The Different Company L’Esprit Colognes, South Bay, Kashan Rose, and White Zagora seemed like they were never meant to be in my hands. The initial samples were lost in transit then I couldn’t seem to get a sample from the stores carrying them. It wasn’t until meeting creative director Luc Gabriel at Esxence that I finally had the set to try. It turns out that was the first fortuitous event in this complicated tale.
The L’Esprit Cologne collection are all signed by perfumer Emilie Bevierre-Coppermann and it is one of the best nouveau cologne collections of the last couple of years. Of the new ones Mme Bevierre-Coppermann has added to the original three and helped define the evolving new aesthetic for the lowly cologne. The one which does this the best is South Bay.
In South Bay Mme Bevierre-Coppermann chooses to turn in a very citrus focused fragrance over an intense bed of woodiness. There is a floral transition within the heart where South Bay transforms from fresh citrus into clean woods. Throughout the development South Bay is energetic and sunny.
South Bay uses grapefruit as the main citrus note and Mme Bevierre-Coppermann takes mandarin leaves to add leafy green and to accentuate the sulfurous aspects of the grapefruit. Tamarine base provides the juicy sweetness of tangerine and clementine. This a gorgeous citrus fantasy and I enjoy this opening so much it almost beckons me to re-apply often, which I do. Grapefruit wood begins the transition to the base and it is joined with freesia and a very mannered application of Eglantine Rose. That very sweet rose contrasts the grapefruit and complements the Tamarine with the grapefruit wood completing the transition. The base of South Bay is simply sandalwood and vetiver. The sandalwood is dry and creamy and the vetiver is woody with a green tint. There is nothing terribly groundbreaking here. Sometimes a perfumer needs to know when to keep it simple and Mme Bevierre-Coppermann has made the correct choice here.
South Bay has 6-8 hour longevity on me and average sillage.
I just returned from my summer beach vacation and South Bay was frequently my scent of the morning, afternoon, and evening. As I mentioned above, the opening is enchanting and topping it up multiple times a day allows me to keep enjoying it. The rest of the development is no slouch, as well. The opening is just magical for me. If you’re looking for a new summer fragrance don’t overlook South Bay even though it has been around for a year.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by The Different Company at Esxence.
I spent the weekend cleaning up the area around my desk and it is sort of like archaeological layers of perfume samples. On top is the most recent and on the bottom it turns out were samples I had received from last fall. If they make my desk it means I like them enough to want to write about them. Having the time to write about them, well there are sometimes where it seems perfume samples arrive in an avalanche and the fall is most definitely one of those times. Which means things get left behind; unless I notice them during infrequent clean-ups as I did with Odin 11 Semma.
Odin 11 Semma is a classic case of an Under the Radar choice as it just got lost in the cascade of new releases at the end of 2013. Once I had the space to give it some more time to impress me I was amply rewarded. Odin New York is a men’s clothing store in NYC and brought out their first fragrance in 2009. Odin has had a pretty successful beginning to their perfume enterprise. 04 Petrana was widely praised as a masculine iris. 06 Amanu was formally praised as the first winner of The Fragrance Foundation Indie Perfume of the year in 2012. I like the overall line and always look forward to trying the new ones and so a little tardy here is my review of Odin 11 Semma.
Semma was composed by perfumer Corinne Cachen who had previously done 07 Tanoke for the brand. Semma was designed to be a warm spicy fragrance and Mme Cachen wraps her spices in a tobacco leaf impregnated with chili pepper. That chili pepper is what makes Semma interesting as it adds some restless energy to the smooth tobacco and spice.
Mme Cachen lays out her tobacco leaf and when I initially put this on it feels familiar until another familiar smell that of sliced Szechuan chili peppers arrives. The chili pepper can border on unpleasant but by cocooning it in the tobacco it surprisingly works. I think Mme Cachen probably spent a lot of time getting this balance right because a little too much pepper and this would be tough to wear. Now the more traditional spices of clove and cinnamon arrive and they also help in the continued taming of the chili pepper although both the clove and cinnamon add a fine-drawn kind of complementary heat themselves. The base notes are sweet myrrh, sandalwood, and tonka. Like a bit of sweet dessert at the end of a Szechuan meal these provide sweet solace at the end.
Semma has 8-10 hour longevity and moderat sillage.
I am sorry it took me so long to excavate Semma from the deepest layers on my desk, it deserved a better fate. The unfortunate thing is it is now back on the bottom layer. The silver lining is when I re-discover it again in a few months it will probably be perfect cool weather to wear it in again.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Odin New York. (I think)
There are times when a new release comes out and it is just the wrong time of year to be fully appreciated. In October of 2013 one of these instances occurred when I tried the new fragrance Maria Candida Gentile Finisterre. I met Sig.ra Gentile at Twisted Lily as she debuted Finisterre. She shared with me some of the raw materials and accords she used. Every so often I have the opportunity to smell one of these accords which just illustrate what skill a master perfumer brings to their art. As Sig.ra Gentile passed me the marine accord she used in Finisterre I was struck by how photorealistic it was. Finesterre refers to Cape Finisterre a rocky peninsula in the Galicia region of Spain. Finisterre is a way station for pilgrims on the Way of St. James. They traverse the path along the water with the waves crashing against the cliffs. The marine accord Sig.ra Gentile is the smell of brine and wet rock as the ocean water sluices out of the honeycomb of rocks in between waves striking the cliff face. This single accord is turbulent and earthy. Even now over six months after encountering it I pull my little envelope of the strip with it on it to regularly re-experience it.
Sig.ra Gentile wanted Finisterre to represent the worshiper’s journey along the coastline. To the marine accord she adds immortelle and pine to evoke the trees and brush growing on the path. All together this is an Atlantic seaside olfactory pastiche, it could be a still life in smell of this milieu. There is a spirituality and humanity I rarely find in a fragrance.
Maria Candida Gentile
Finisterre opens up with those waves crashing against the cliff face. There is a mix of ozonic notes, a hint of the seaweed left hanging on the wall, the fizz of the foam, and finally the mineral feel of the rock. This is unquestionably an aquatic accord but it is like no aquatic accord I have tried previously. Instead of sea breeze this is the power of waves and stone in constant opposition. From here the immortelle adds its unique character to the construction. If it wasn’t listed I would probably have thought this note was genet but once clued in the characteristics of immortelle are there to be experienced. Then the pine trees on the landward side of the path make their presence known as the sea breeze soughs through the branches. It is gently green adding a tinge of pine instead of a more focused version. The base is a mix of ambergris and sandalwood as we return to the ocean for the final moments.
Finisterre has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
There has been no fragrance I have been looking more forward to wearing once the weather got hot than Finisterre. Over this past weekend I finally had the chance to do just that. As I suspected on a hot day Finisterre explodes to life, it was good in the winter but in the summer it is glorious. If you tried Finisterre back when it came out last fall make it a point to give it another try now in the season it was really made to be worn in. You will find what I think is the best aquatic fragrance released in the last five years.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle of Finesterre I purchased.
In Under the Radar I want to highlight a recent release, within the last 18 months, which I think has not received enough attention. In the never ending flow of new releases it is not hard to believe one can miss something good, perhaps even something great. The explosion of blogs is supposed to help this not happen but even with over 1,000 blogs devoted to perfume and fragrance there are still those which manage to slip through the cracks.
Bentley for Men Intense was released in April 2013 and was signed by Nathalie Lorson. I got a preview sniff at Esxence in Milan last March but I didn’t receive a sample until a few weeks ago. I think smelling something in the middle of one of the biggest perfume expos in the world is never ideal. As I spent some quality time with Bentley for Men Intense I really came to realize this is one of the best designer fragrances of the last two or three years and it just might be the best car inspired fragrance ever.
Mme Lorson particularly thrills me when she works the deeper notes of the perfumer’s palette. In Bentley for Men Intense she makes it feel like I am in the back seat of Bentley surrounded by the smell of leather seats and polished wood paneling. Winding in and out among the luxurious facets are resins and spices. It feels opulently decadent.
The opening moments of Bentley for Men Intense are clove-like geranium, pepper, and clary sage on a swirling spiral of rich sweet incense. The heart is a rich leather accord refined and plush. There are no sharp edges this is a debonair dashing leather like Charles Lindbergh’s flying jacket. The base notes are a mix of cedar and sandalwood over patchouli. As with the leather the wood feels like it has been polished to a high gloss, shimmering with cedar’s cleanliness and sandalwood’s creamy nature. The patchouli adds depth to the woods.
Bentley for Men Intense has all-day longevity and above average sillage.
For those who love fragrances with spices, resins, woods, and leather Bentley for Men Intense is as good as it gets. When it comes to designer fragrances with cars in their name this is simply the best in class like the car it shares its name with.
Bentley for Men Intense can be found online at a number of places. It widely available in Europe. I was told they expect to have a US point of sale soon.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I obtained from Surrender to Chance.