New Perfume Review Alexander McQueen Sacred Osmanthus- The Two Faces of Osmanthus

Once the big perfume producers get ahold of a brand they usually find a way to ruin it for me. The first step is to take something kind of exclusive and release a bunch of by-the-numbers releases. The fragrances which have Alexander McQueen on the bottle were in that exclusive category of reflecting the influential designer’s aesthetic via scent. Even 2016’s McQueen Parfum managed to feel like it belonged with the earlier releases of Kingdom and My Queen from a decade earlier. One reason that McQueen Perfume worked was that Sarah Burton, the creative director of Alexander McQueen, took an active hand in developing it. She worked with Pierre Aulas as a consultant. When I received the press release announcing eight new releases called the McQueen Collection I worried that the moneychangers had overrun the temple again. The McQueen Collection is eight mostly soliflore style fragrances from eight different perfumers. Overseen by Ms. Burton and M. Aulas I hoped for the best.

Sarah Burton

This is one of the rare collections where there are far more hits than misses. I will be reviewing many of these over the next few weeks. It should not be surprising to regular readers that the one I was most interested in was Sacred Osmanthus.

Domitille Bertier

The perfumer behind this is Domitille Bertier. The entire McQueen Collection works as a set of simple constructs. Mme Bertier surrounds osmanthus with a gorgeous set of supporting notes. She uses ingredients to accentuate the two faces of osmanthus; apricot and leather.

The perfume opens with the apricot character pushed forward. Mme Bertier cleverly uses petitgrain as a figurative magnifying glass upon the apricot quality. In the first few moments I wondered if there was some apricot itself in the formula. The next two ingredients transform the apricot over to the leather face. First smoky Lapsang Souchong black tea steams up through the apricot. There is a moment it feels like an apricot jam pot is next to a cup of fresh brewed tea. The note which really captures the leather facet is the use of the botanical musk of ambrette seed. Ambrette seed has this vegetal animalic nature which is an ideal complement to the botanical leather of osmanthus. This is where Sacred Osmanthus captured me completely. Cashmeran finishes this off with a lightly woody effect.

Sacred Osmanthus has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Sacred Osmanthus is not as bold a fragrance as the original Alexander McQueen perfumes. If you’re looking for that kind of aggressive aesthetic it won’t be found in any of these new perfumes. Sacred Osmanthus is a more delicate style of perfume. Which is as it should be in soliflore perfumes. Sacred Osmanthus is a study of the two faces of osmanthus which is more than enough.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Alexander McQueen.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review B. Balenciaga- Alexander Wang Takes the Wheel

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One of the things that can be tough to watch is when a perfume brand loses its way. This more frequently happens within the designer mainstream sector. As creative direction at the fashion house changes direction it will eventually trickle down to the ancillary products like fragrance. Balenciaga has recently undergone one of these changes. In 2012 Alexander Wang took over from Nicolas Ghesquiere at Balenciaga. For my tastes the perfumes that were released under M. Ghesquiere’s tenure like Florabotanica and Balenciaga Paris did not live up to the heritage of a brand which produced Le Dix back in the 1950’s. I was interested to see in what direction M. Wang would choose to take the perfume side of Balenciaga. The first data point has arrived with the release of B. Balenciaga.

gisele-bc3bcndchen-by-steven-klein-for-balenciaga-fall-winter-2014-20152

One of the things I like about M. Wang is he very much wants to integrate the perfumes which carry the Balenciaga name with the couture that name represents. He used B. Balenciaga to scent the Spring 2015 runway show in Paris. The B. Balenciaga bottle is meant to remind you of the marble floor in the Balenciaga flagship store in Paris. The runway carried the same pattern. Beyond aesthetics the photo of Gisele Bundchen by photographer Steven Klein is a visual example of M. Wang’s desire to break Balenciaga free of the past. On the perfume side M. Wang partnered with perfumer Domitille Bertier to create B. Balenciaga.

domitille-bertier

Domitille Bertier

From the first moment I sniffed B. Balenciaga I was drawn in by a steamy vegetal accord. When I saw the list of notes there it was right on the page, edamame accord. Mme Bertier has constructed a very green accord which is suffused with steam and humidity. She tempers some of the ability to feel like you are being made to figuratively eat your olfactory vegetables by using violet leaf and muguet to give a floral place to orient oneself. I found all of this quite fascinating and it lasts for a couple of hours this way on my skin. After that it proceeds pretty normally through a finish of cedar and cashmeran.

B. Balenciaga has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

After his predecessor’s habit of playing it safe with a collection of bland florals I am pleased to see M. Wang seems to be trying something different. B. Balenciaga is a floral but that edamame accord makes it anything but bland. I am looking forward to what comes next at Balenciaga.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample of B. Balenciaga I received at Sniffapalooza Fall Ball.

Mark Behnke