As I became more interested in all things punk during the mid 1970’s I learned there were two sort of puppet masters behind the scenes. One was Malcolm McLaren who was the impresario behind the formation of The Sex Pistols. The early look of the punk movement came from his partner Vivienne Westwood. Ms. Westwood would create the look of a movement spearheaded by the earliest purveyors of the music.
This would be the beginning of a successful fashion designing career where she would always display that early punk sensibility throughout. Even the uniforms she designed for Virgin Atlantic airlines in 2014 has a bit of that with flight attendants in high collars and bright red.
Ms. Westwood has always been one of those I am intensely interested in. So, when she expanded in to fragrance in 1998 I was ready to be impressed. That first release was called Boudoir and it is a provocative kaleidoscopic floriental. Surprisingly that perfume has continued to be available since its release. The best perfume that has ever been released by the brand, Anglomania, was sent to the Dead Letter Office two short years after its release in 2004. Despite it being a dirty leathery rose which fits her aesthetic way better than Boudoir.
Anglomania was composed by perfumer Dominique Ropion under Ms. Westwood’s creative direction. What is odd about a perfume named Anglomania is there is so little Anglo to be found inside as early on it seems more like a Japanese tea room, then a floral record store, and finally a leather jacket. None of that screams British to me but as a fragrance it sure works well.
Anglomania opens with a snappy coriander and cardamom pairing. To this M. Ropion provides a steaming cup of green tea to which he also adds nutmeg. As I said this reminds me of something Asian inspired which continues in the heart. There instead of the traditional English rose M. Ropion trots out a boisterous Bulgarian rose grabbing ahold of the spices and folding them within its petals. Then comes the vinyl accord which inserts itself into the rose. This is the smell of an old vinyl record as you opened it for the first time. It turns this into a post-modern rose as the needle drops on this fragrant record. The base is a leather jacket accord full of animalic charm and sweaty musks.
Anglomania has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Anglomania was a shooting star in its short time on sale. The reason for the discontinuation is the benign neglect Ms. Westwood showed all the fragrances in her line. There has never been a very active attempt to get these perfumes out in to the public eye. A perfume like Anglomania needed some buzz to give it a jump start but it got none of that. Which is how it ended up in the Dead Letter Office.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
I must admit I am amused when I receive press packets full of fancy imagery and wordsmithing meant to convey something unique. In just ten years of writing about perfume I can honestly say I have not encountered a new perspective on fragrance within the press release. Sometimes the harder the brand works with all the campaign imagery it is often meant to cover-up something less than groundbreaking. Sometimes, thankfully, I get to try a perfume before getting all the overcooked puffery. This was a good thing for the new collection from designer Philippe Starck and his new brand Starck Paris.
I tried the debut three perfumes when I attended Tranoi Parfums in NYC in September. I had read about them in a couple of trade publications and my interest was piqued by the perfumers M. Starck chose to work with; Dominique Ropion on Peau de Soie, Annick Menardo on Peau D’Ailleurs, and Daphne Bugey on Peau de Pierre. Trying them that day I was interested to wear them because they all had very interesting evolutions on the piece of skin I had them on. Sniffing those patches over the train ride home had me ready to wear them over the next few days. As I did I was fascinated on the delicacy of the work each of these perfumers produced under the creative direction of M. Starck.
M. Starck was inspired to create perfume because his mother owned a perfume shop and he spent many childhood hours there. It was where his appreciation for the impact scent could have blossomed; leading to this collection. That is a beautiful story and I wish the press stopped there because it is enough to explain why and how the collection is designed. Instead there is a tedious slog through pseudo-intellectualist claptrap. Lot of talk about being intellectual and anti-marketing. The new perfumes are not as out there as M. Starck presumes. Also, the idea of not releasing a note list is also not so revolutionary as he thinks. It made me think that these perfumes were different because of the fragile interplay but the components; those I’ve smelled before and in these combinations. Which maybe makes this all semi-avant garde.
Peau de Soie translates as “silk skin”. The brief M. Starck gave M. Ropion was to wrap a traditional masculine with a feminine covering. It is a fabulous combination of musk and wood to represent that male component which is where Peau de Soie opens. Then M. Ropion wraps it in a powdery iris while simultaneously piecing it with a greenish vector to allow the musk and wood the chance to peek out. As I mentioned above this all holds together like a house of cards that feels like a puff of wind will knock it down; except it is sturdier than that lasting for hours.
Peau D’Ailleurs is harder to translate sort of “skin even more so”. Mme Menardo’s brief was to make this the most androgynous of the three. It isn’t clear to me how much the three perfumers collaborated but based on the structure of Peau D’Ailleurs I am going to assume that Mme Menardo knew some of what her compatriots were doing. That’s because there is a recapitulation of the woods from Peau de Soie and the mineral elements from Peau de Pierre. Mme Menardo spins them on an axis of amber and musk. This all comes together to form a kind of dirt accord but one done with so much finesse it is delightful.
Peau de Pierre which translates to “stone skin” is my favorite of the three. This is meant to be the flip side of Peau de Soie as the feminine evolves the masculine. Not sure I’m there with that because the entire perfume is stolidly in smoky woody territory. I am not sure what the feminine is supposed to be represented by as Peau de Pierre opens with a cleverly composed wet stone accord, definitely some geosmin here, but there is also something else keeping it more expansive. It is like a hologram of river stones. Mme Bugey then adds smoke and vetiver again in a very opaque way. What I enjoyed so much about Peau de Pierre is despite the name it is not as solid as a rock instead it is as ephemeral as a breeze.
All three Starck Paris perfumes have over 10 hour longevity and almost zero sillage; they are skin scents, as advertised.
If I discard all of M. Starck’s pretentiousness and return to him as a child sitting in his mother’s perfume shop I see the genesis of this collection. Imagining translucent spheres of scent traveling above his head intercalating themselves into his vision as they expanded and popped that would have prepared me for the gorgeous set of perfumes which make up this debut collection.
Disclosure; This review was based on samples provided by Starck Paris.
There is nothing more liberating for an artist than to have the freedom to create where your inspiration takes you. Most perfumers must follow the whims of their clients; exerting influence here and there. A true license to create without bounds usually comes when they form their own brand with their name on it. There are a few brands which also provide the leeway for an artist to do as they will. One of the more successful examples of this is the brand A Lab on Fire.
Over 10 releases since 2012 creative director Carlos Kusubayashi has taken one of the most impressive rosters of perfumers out there and set them free. The collection is one of the most diverse for a niche brand because of this. I would imagine that the process is enjoyable enough that it is no surprise that perfumer Dominique Ropion returned to do his second, and the brand’s eleventh, with the new Mon Musc A Moi.
Dominique Ropion (photo: Hajime Watanabe)
M. Ropion is on my highest tier of perfumers. My favorites by him have come from brands which trust him to carry much of the inspiration and creativity. For Mon Musc A Moi M. Ropion seems to be out to recapture vanilla from the gourmand sector of the olfactory spectrum. In recent years vanilla has become the sweet baker’s confectionary component which radiates sweetness; sometimes overly so. Which has led to many forgetting that vanilla was a vital component to many of the great perfumes from the first half of the 20th century. It was often paired with the deeper animalic musk to form a pulsing sultry base. M. Ropion wants Mon Musc A Moi to remind you that vanilla is not just for those with a sweet tooth it is also for those who want the passion of human connection.
The early moments of Mon Musc A Moi are all floral, M. Ropion floats out a mixture of peach blossom, heliotrope, and rose. This is exactly how a Retro Nouveau perfume should begin. The rose and heliotrope feel retro and the peach blossom feels more contemporary. M. Ropion lays it all out right from the first moments. Then in a very sly wink to the gourmand lovers he takes a little bit of toffee and produces a sweet intermezzo from which the vanilla appears. This is full on Nouveau. The Retro comes as the musks arise to swat away the toffee and to capture the vanilla in an amorous embrace.The vanilla musk accord is fine-tuned with a bit of tonka, amber and light woods. Those notes all serve to enhance and frame the beautiful base accord.
Mon Musc A Moi has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Mon Musc A Moi is a romantic fragrance and is maybe a perfume for romance. In this house it is rare anything I wear gets commented upon unless Mrs. C thinks it smells bad. There are a rare few things I wear which bring Mrs. C closer for a more lingering sniff. The second day I wore Mon Musc A Moi she spent much of the day snuggled close breathing it in with a contented smile. Purely as a Retro Nouveau construct it succeeds at every level. It was high time some of our best perfumers went out and took vanilla back from the perfumed bake shop and reunited it with its passionate partner, musk. M. Ropion has successfully achieved this reunion with style.
Dosclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Luckyscent.
You’ve definitely heard of fruity floral but have you heard of a fruity aquatic? You have but they are not encountered that often. When you do find them it is usually just an infusion of basic fruits onto a Calone foundation. For the new brand Orlov Paris one of their debut releases, Sea of Light, is something slightly different.
Like all of the Orlov Paris perfumes they are named after a real-life diamond. This perfume is inspired by the Daria-i-Noor (Sea of Light in Persian) 182 carat pink diamond that might, or might not, have been one of the Iranian Crown Jewels. The actual stone has a tumultuous history including where it can be found today. Either a vault in Dhaka, Bangladesh or Tehran, Iran. It is a stunning looking diamond with the pale pink color adding in a subtle shading and nuance to the natural brilliance of the diamond. Perfumer Dominique Ropion would be inspired to layer a pale shade of fruitiness over a brilliantly sparkling white musk and sea spray accord.
Sea of Light stands out among the five debut perfumes of Orlov Paris for that lightness. The others have the heft of the huge gems they are named after. Sea of Light has the facets of light captured within the cut of the Daria-i-Noor tinted with the watercolor pink.
Sea of Light opens with petitgrain leavened with mandarin. This is a common citrus opening and it is executed here by M. Ropion as if it is a reflection of the light caught in the stone. It pulses with a pinpoint radiance. M. Ropion brings in two stalwarts from the fruity floral category, peach and blackcurrant, to provide a deeper fruit. The peach has its more fizzy nature brought to the fore again evoking the light effects across the surface of a piece of jewelry. The blackcurrant provides the only point of shadow in the whole composition as it tries to dim the shine, unsuccessfully. This leads to the base which is my favorite part of Sea of Light. Here M. Ropion takes a soft combination of white musks and keeps them from being as high-pitched as they can often be. This soft skin accord is then covered with the spray of the ocean as it dries in the sun. It forms an overall accord of the smell of skin covered in the mist off the ocean.
Sea of Light has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
As I already mentioned Sea of Light stands out for being the lightest fragrance in the debut Orlov Paris collection. It also stands out for M. Ropion’s take on the aquatic genre which is surprisingly made better with a fruit cocktail bobbing on the water. The entire debut collection will be coming to stores this month and if you want one to wear right now in the summer Sea of Light should be where you start.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Orlov Paris at Esxence 2015.
Editor’s Note: If you are going to be attending Cosmoprof in Las Vegas over July 12-14, 2015 Orlov Paris will be one of the perfumes featured in the Discover Scent exhibit curated by Karen Dubin and Karen Adams of Sniffapalooza.
Those who read me regularly know I am one of the happiest perfume lovers at the current renaissance in the number of new Eau de Cologne releases. A Colognoisseur by nature of the name has to be a supporter, and I am. I have said on more than one occasion that the creativity in this sector over the last four years has been imaginative leading to some truly great Nouveau Colognes. It was why when I received the press release for the latest release from Editions de Parfume Frederic Malle called Cologne Indelebile by perfumer Dominique Ropion I was anticipating something grand.
In my recent review of Amouage Opus IX I spoke of the contrast between emotional and technical approaches to perfumery. I believed that Opus IX was an example of the emotional and the raw ragged edges that can bring with it. Cologne Indelebile is the paean to the technical. This is an eau de cologne which has been patiently constructed to produce a singular post-modern riff on the form.
M. Ropion builds Cologne Indelibile in a precise manner with each phase distinctly present and accounted for. Eau de Cologne starts with citrus so does Cologne Indelibile. Bergamot and lemon provide a sharply delineated splash of tart citrus. Eau de Cologne usually combines a floral and an herbal component. Cologne Indelebile eschews this for a solely floral heart. Neroli is the floral chosen and it is pretty much all that I smell when I wear this. The note list says narcissus is also here but I never detected it. Eau de Cologne finishes with a bit of spice. Cologne Indelebile in an attempt to live up to the permanency the Indelebile in the name promises uses a collection of white musks. The note list calls them “technical musks” and that is truth in advertising. This is a detailed mixture of multiple musks to provide the laundry-fresh finish they are known for. It is here where I have my problem with Cologne Indelebile. This feels over-engineered to me and it sucks all of the life out of the fragrance for me. I usually love these kind of musk cocktails; this was like a high pitched whine that wouldn’t abate.
Cologne Indelebile, true to its name, lasts 10-12 hours but the great majority of that is the white musk finish; with average sillage.
If you haven’t tried many of the Nouveau Colognes, and you really like white musk, Cologne Indelebile is going to be something that will be perfect for you. For me I found that Cologne Indelebile didn’t bring anything new to the current cologne portfolio. For the first time an Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle fragrance did not engage me. Which makes in not Indelebile but Peu Memorable (forgettable).
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle.
When I got to Esxence this year there were a couple of new lines which were high on my list to try. I am usually drawn to these new brands because of the perfumer they are working with. In the case of the new Orlov Paris line that was the case. Dominique Ropion is one of my favorite perfumers especially when he is working for a niche brand. Orlov Paris was premiering five new perfumes by M. Ropion at Esxence. I think the collection as a whole is very strong but there is one which I just couldn’t wait to spend some more time with, Star of the Season.
Star of the Season Diamond
Each of the perfumes in the Orlov Paris collection is based on a famous diamond which is also the name of each perfume. The diamond Star of the Season is a 100.10 carat diamond which was bought for a record price of $16,548,750 at auction in 1995. That is still the world-record for the highest amount paid for a single piece of jewelry at auction. When I think of diamonds I think of brilliance and sparkle. When I look at the picture of the Star of the Season above I see something which has mutable shades of blue much the way the ocean changes color in relation to the sky. I think M. Ropion looked at this diamond and also saw the deep violet color captured within and decided to make a crystalline iris perfume. I find Star of the Season to be sort of like gazing into a huge cut diamond and each day I wore it I was drawn by different facets and nuances as I allowed the olfactory brilliance to draw me in.
Star of the Season opens on a bold rose note as a sort of traditional harbinger of luxury. This is a dewy pure rose with the spicy core kept deep in the background. The orris comes next and it is a rich rooty iris. This also has its more common powdery elements dialed way back. It is earthier and M. Ropion adds patchouli to keep it tilted that way. Over time the earthy qualities fade and just the iris remains in all of its glory. It has a shine to it like it is those violet colors diffused through its namesake jewel. There is a quality of being captured in a crystal lattice which is what has made Star of the Season stand out for me. This all eventually settles onto a base of creamy sandalwood and warm vanilla.
Star of the Season has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As he has done with all of the perfumes in the debut collection for Orlov Paris M. Ropion has discovered shades of brilliance to display. Star of the Season is the deepest of those shades and perhaps that is why it has captured so much of my initial enthusiasm. I can easily say that Star of the Season is the star of the inaugural Orlov Paris collection.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Orlov Paris at Esxence.
Editor’s Note: Orlov Paris will be available starting in July 2015. For those attending the upcoming Sniffapalooza Spring Fling. Orlov Paris is going to exclusively debut the collection at a champagne, caviar, and perfume reception on the evening of Saturday May 16 at the end of day one of Spring Fling.
One of the things I find interesting about writing these pieces is the opportunity to apply complete hindsight when looking back at a perfumer’s career. With the fullness of time’s perspective it is easier to find that moment when the style associated with them first comes to the fore. What is amusing to me as I do this is I often wore these early fragrances and while memorable I can’t say I was prescient enough to know the milestones they represented. In 1996 I picked up a bottle of Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant and this was my vanilla and spice baseline for many years. It would be followed up a year later with Kenzo Jungle Le Tigre which was a brilliant bit of fruity floral wildness. The entire team behind these two perfumes have been involved with some great perfumes in the years since. Over 1996 and 1997 they all intersected in the perfumed jungle.
The creative director for both of these perfumes was Celine Verleure who has gone on to found her own niche perfume line Olfactive Studio. Two perfumers, Dominique Ropion and Jean-Louis Sieuzac collaborated for both of these. M. Sieuzac was part of the team which had created Yves St. Laurent Opium twenty years earlier. M. Ropion was still defining his style. They had both worked together on Dior Dune in 1991 so a working relationship had been created. Together they would create two perfumes that you would never suspect came from Kenzo if you smelled them blind today.
In 1996 Kenzo was still forming its identity and as such I think they gave Mme Verleure a wide latitude to let her perfumers follow their instincts. It would be four years later with the release of FlowerbyKenzo that Kenzo’s aesthetic would crystallize. With Jungle L’Elephant and Jungle Le Tigre Messrs. Ropion and Sieuzac explored the boundaries of Orientals from two differing vectors.
Jungle L’Elephant is the perfume where M. Ropion would display his ability to soften and refine even the most boisterous of notes. Nowhere is that more evident than in the early moments of L’Elephant. If I tell you the top notes are cardamom and cumin I can imagine many already exclaiming, “No Thank You!” Except the perfumers harness these notes and turn them into a soft spicy pillow to lay one’s head down on. None of the sweatiness or rough green quality is here. Instead it is exotic and plush. That would be enhanced as the heart adds in clove and licorice to make the spicy accord more complex, yet still soft. Ylang-ylang and mango provide a fruity floral combo to add contrast. The transition here happens fairly quickly and it leads to a vanilla laden base made warm by cashmeran and amber. This evolution from soft to comfort will return time and again in M. Ropion’s perfumes but it is here that I first noticed it.
Jungle Le Tigre dispenses with the spices and instead chooses to prowl the jungle with a fruity floral vapor trail. The perfumers choose the sour kumquat and they pair it with davana allowing for its characteristic fruity nature to be enhanced. It heads into a heart of osmanthus supported by ylang-ylang. The perfumers make a smart choice to let the leather and apricot character of the osmanthus hold the center of Le Tigre. It sits there full of restrained potential. It all devolves into a slightly sweet spicy woody base. Massoia wood provides the cream and the wood as cinnamon roughs up the edges a bit. The base of Le Tigre is a bold final statement. M. Ropion would refine and alter this architecture in just four years to result in Une Fleur de Cassie as one of the first Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle releases.
M. Ropion has had one of the great perfume portfolios of the last twenty years and if you want to know where it started you need to head into the jungle.
Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased
Ever since oud was introduced to the west a little over fifteen years ago it has become one of the most used ingredients in perfumery over that time. Especially over the last five years there has been a virtual wave of oud perfumes. The funny thing is most people who have worn those perfumes have never smelled the real thing. Most often it is either one of the synthetic ouds or cypriol/nagarmotha as a substitute in those perfumes. The real oud is so expensive to source, and create, the real stuff is difficult to find. I have spent a lot of time over the past few years buying direct from Asian sources to acquire a little of the real thing. Real oud is one of the most fascinating substances a perfumer can use. What region it comes from, how old the tree being harvested is, how long the oil has aged, all have an effect on its profile. For those of you who want to try real oud the opportunity has arrived with the release of the new Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle The Night by perfumer Dominique Ropion.
The Night is purported to contain an “unprecedented” amount of oud from India. M. Ropion only adds in two other notes, Turkish rose and amber. From the moment I opened my sample there was no doubt in my mind this was indeed real oud. When I, and others, write about oud we remark on it with unflattering adjectives like medicinal, band-aid-y, cheesy, dirty gym socks. Those don’t inspire one to want to put something like that on their body. The funny thing it is the combination of all of those derogatory aspects which make real oud so much fun to wear. I would also be the first to admit that it is an acquired taste. If you let the more confrontational character of oud push you away you will miss something sublime. In The Night M. Ropion clearly understands this and so keeps the perfume simple.
When I put The Night on for at least two hours it is nothing but the Indian oud. It smells like any of the oud oils I own. Indian oud tends to tilt towards the dirty bandage side of the oud spectrum. There is also a bit of cheese here too but it predominantly is the medicinal oud on display. These first two hours you might feel like this perfume is wearing you instead of the other way around. Because I knew what was coming I had a chance to mentally brace myself for the onslaught. There was still a bit of struggle but this Indian oud is an excellent choice to use because it really does display the quirky nature of pure oud. When the Turkish rose does finally make an appearance hours after first application it probably takes another couple of hours for it to even begin to make an impression with the oud. Once it does happen you can really appreciate why rose has been the historical yin to oud’s yang. The Turkish rose used here has an enhanced spicy core and it is that which allows it to gain some traction. The rose feels like it is the chaperone in bringing real oud to a western audience. Amber is used as an opaque shimmer of finishing but The Night is all about the oud and then the rose and the oud.
The Night has ridiculous longevity of over 24 hours. It also has significant sillage. This is a perfume to wear and appreciate around others who enjoy fragrance.
The Night is going to cause a lot of commotion once it makes its way to the usual Editions de Parfums stockists next year. There are many who are going to learn what they always thought was oud was something else. I kept hearing Mick Jagger singing the opening line of “Sympathy for the Devil” imagining these reactions. The ones who persevere will be rewarded with an experience of oud unlike anything they have tried before.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
When I speak with Michael Edwards on the beginning of niche perfumery he can accurately names L’Artisan Parfumeur in 1978 and Annick Goutal in 1980 as the first niche lines. When I think of when niche perfumery really managed to breakthrough I go back to 2000 when Frederic Malle released the first nine perfumes in his Editions de Parfums brand. These were the first perfumes to feature the name of the perfumer on the bottle. It really was the beginning of my starting to take a stronger interest in the people behind the perfume. Over the last fourteen years and 21 total releases I can say that this is one of the strongest collections of fragrances on the market. There is not a mediocre one in the whole group. A particular style might not be to your taste but the quality and creativity is always prominently displayed. This is one of the best places for anyone interested in niche perfume to start and here are the five I would suggest you begin with.
There are a plethora of citrus colognes but Jean-Claude Ellena’s Bigarade Concentree is one that stands way above the fray. There is fantastic bitter orange (bigarade) surrounded by the most gentle aldehydes. The heart is rose, cardamom, and a bit of textural pepper to coax the spiciness from the rose. It finishes with a golden hay note over cedar. This fragrance re-invigorated my interest in citrus fragrances all by itself.
Lys Mediterranee by Edouard Flechier is one of the most luminous perfumes I own. M. Flechier weaves three sources of lily raw materials to render a larger-than-life composite as the core of this fragrance. He adds orange blossom, angelica, and musk as the perfect complements to the uber-lily. If you want lily in your fragrance here is one of the best.
Musc Ravageur by Maurice Roucel has a bit of a rakish reputation as a lady-killer if you believe the stories told on the perfume forums. That has died down over time and now what remains is a fantastic ambery musk by one of the great perfumers working. Starting with a flare of tangerine and lavender which are spiced up wiith clove and cinnamon we reach the base notes which form the ambery musky accord. I was well married by the time I found this but it is one of the few fragrances I wear which generates unsolicited compliments, so maybe its reputation is deserved.
For so many years the baseline tuberose perfume was Robert Piguet’s Fracas and nothing came close until Dominique Ropion’s Carnal Flower. M. Ropion chooses an eclectic company of complementary and contrasting notes for the tuberose. He uses eucalyptus to accentuate the mentholated quality a the heart of the flower. He adds coconut to provide an oily sweet contrast. A few other white flowers join in to create the other great tuberose fragrance.
Pierre Bourdon showed that he was more than the perfumer who created Cool Water when he made French Lover (aka Bois D’Orage). When I smelled this when it was released in 2007 it felt like a more sophisticated version of my old staple Calvin Klein Obsession for Men. It doesn’t smell anything like it but it was the one fragrance I continually chose over it once it was in my perfume cabinet. M. Bourdon uses the rich spiciness of pimento to lead into a finely balanced heart of iris and galbanum. It is a greener floral because of the presence of the galbanum and it keeps the iris from getting powdery. A musk and vetiver base finish this off. If I was still prowling the night looking for a connection French Lover would be one of my choices.
As I mentioned above the entire Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle line is consistently excellent. So start here but do yourself a favor and keep on going through the whole line it is a magical ride.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.