As a child one of the few alcoholic things I begged for from my parents was Crème de Menthe. I would ask to have a drizzle on my ice cream or to sip a small amount over crushed ice. I craved the coolness of the mint over cold things. To eat, or as part of a cocktail, I still enjoy mint. I even drizzle some Crème de Menthe on my Ben & Jerry’s. (Pro Tip: put it on Chocolate Fudge Brownie) I don’t know why it is such a problematic ingredient in perfume for me. It is one of those ingredients which needs to find the right concentration. Alternatively it can be part of an interesting effect which was what I found in Diptyque Eau de Minthe.
As soon as I saw the name, I recoiled a bit. This was going to be a perfume which featured mint as a keynote. I expected not to enjoy what perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin had put in the bottle. The press release mentions the name comes from Greek mythology. Minthe was a water nymph who was having an affair with Hades; until Persephone found out. As is the norm in these tales poor Minthe was turned in to the herb mint. When I read that I’m thinking some classic type of perfume. Which shows why press releases are not predictors of the perfume they promote. Eau de Minthe was much more sci-fi than mythology.
One of the tends in perfumery is to try and smell “natural”. I put that word in quotes because it is also mainly PR speak. I understand what it means. What it translates to are perfumes which do not embrace the overtly synthetic. Eau de Minthe chooses an un- “natural” approach.
The boogeyman I was worried about most wallops me right out of the sprayer; mint. This is the mint scent of every antiseptic you’ve ever smelled. It is the kind of mint which usually has me looking for a cosmetic wipe. Except M. Pellegrin embraced those hard aspects and encased them in a synthetic heart of rose oxide and geraniol. He turns the mint from mouthwash to something subtly metallic and even more stridently green. I liked it. This was the mint of the android coolly calculating possibilities. The final ingredient is a patchouli fraction which also fits in to the whole synthetic vibe. An engineered version of a common perfume ingredient.
Eau de Minthe has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I suspect there are going to be people who try Eau de Minthe and keep it at arm’s length. This is not really a crowd pleaser type of fragrance. There are going to be a few who will love the sleek modernity of it all. I admire the choice to go in this direction by Diptyque., While this might sound like damnation via faint praise; M. Pellegrin got me to enjoy a perfume with a high amount of mint in it. There is a part of me that want this Termin(t)ator to tell me “I’ll be back!”
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Diptyque.
Sometimes it is hard to tell what the reason is for a flanker’s existence. The two choices in this month’s Round-Up do not suffer from that.
Mr. Burberry Indigo
I think the marketers have decided that the word “sport” added to a fragrance name is no longer a sales aid. What they have seemingly settled upon in its place are colors. The sport style of fragrance definitely has a place and within the Mr. Burberry line of perfume Indigo is code for “sport”.
Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian freshens up the Mr. Burberry style with a traditional cologne duet of rosemary and lemon. It diverges with a heart of mint and violet leaves. It comes off as a cool heart accord. Just the thing after a workout. What makes me like this the best of the Mr. Burberry releases is the use of oakmoss in the base which provides a more aggressive green to offset the heart accord. Some amber and musk combine with the oakmoss to finish this off. This is the kind of versatile perfume which is a good choice if you’re looking for a “sport” perfume.
Mr. Burberry Indigo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Azzaro Wanted by Night
When I reviewed Azzaro Wanted last year I remarked that it was an outlier in the idea that consumers wanted something lighter. It was closer in style to the original hairy-chested Azzaro pour Homme. If you had asked me to guess which direction a flanker of that would take I would have said lighter. Well Azzaro Wanted by Night goes way in the other direction in what almost seems like a throwback to the masculine powerhouses of the 1970’s.
Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin completely reworks the pyramid in Wanted by Night. This is less a flanker than a different perfume which shares a name. Cinnamon provides a simmering heat right from the start. A nice parade of ingredients follow that up, as cedar and tobacco take the lead. The cinnamon doesn’t get lost as cumin gives it a boost to match the other two. I have to mention this is a huge powerhouse of a men’s perfume. It seems out of place in today’s market. There’s a lot of press nonsense which came with my sample claiming this to be a “seduction perfume”. Not sure about that unless you catch a DeLorean ride back to the 70’s.
Azzaro Wanted by Night has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by the manufacturer’s.
In my little town in Maryland I am a known quantity in my local post office. They even accentuate the word “perfume” when asking me the contents of a package I am sending. When I go to pick up one of my packages from Europe they will joke with me that it was making the storage area smell good. When I arrived to pick up my latest package from England the woman behind the counter mentioned she really liked what she was smelling. I did too. I told her there were a lot of things in there but I’d let her know what it was. This is always a difficult moment because I worry that it is one of the expensive ones impossible to get in the US. When I got home the smell of neroli and something else arose from the box. I was thinking what neroli perfume I had asked for then it hit me; it must be Roger & Gallet Neroil Facetie.
In England, Roger & Gallet is essentially a drugstore fragrance available in the outlets with a perfume section. Roger & Gallet is one of those brands which has been taking a break not releasing much new since 2015’s Fleur de Figuier which was another example of the great perfume this brand can create. In August of this year they released a five-fragrance collection called Extraits de Cologne. I knew I was going to have one added to my latest care package. I chose Neroli Facetie because it combined the neroli with immortelle in the note list. With Fabrice Pellegrin as the perfumer I felt like it was a pretty safe blind buy.
M. Pellegrin interpreted the idea of extraits de cologne as providing a construction of airiness grounded with a few deeper notes. The neroli reaches for the sky but the immortelle keeps it from drifting away.
Neroli Facetie opens with the neroli out front. It is expansive and given some texture with angelica flower. Petitgrain intensifies the citrus effect while the neroli finds itself melding with the maple syrup beauty of immortelle. M. Pellegrin uses the immortelle with a light hand which allows it to keep the neroli on top. Ylang-ylang is also present but it is almost irrelevant to the neroli and immortelle. The base is vetiver spiced up with some angelica seeds making a nice circle with the angelica flower in the top accord.
Neroli Facetie has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I’ve already made a sample of Neroli Facetie to give to my postal worker with the good news that this will eventually be available in the US. This has been a congenial companion for these early days of autumn.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
Cologne is arguably the oldest form of perfume. Ever since Jean Marie Farina created it in 1709 it has inspired numerous interpretations and continues to do so. That original cologne was lemon, rosemary, and cedar. The variations generally focus on the citrus or the woods; the herbal heart is less enticing to would-be modern cologne designers. Which is a bit disappointing because the perfumers have many more herbal ingredients at their disposal than M. Farina did. When I received my sample of L’Artisan Parfumeur Au Bord de L’Eau I found a cologne which thrived by focusing on the herb which started it all.
Au Bord de L'Eau by Claude Monet
Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin was not inspired by M. Farina instead he was thinking about Claude Monet’s painting of the same name. The name roughly translates to “by the water” and I expected it to be an aquatic style of perfume. When you look at the painting above you should not notice the water and instead notice the deep green hues elsewhere because it is that which comes closest to defining the perfume named after that. M. Pellegrin creates a typical cologne architecture with many of the classical ingredients except the star of this is rosemary.
M. Pellegrin opens with lilting lemon accord buttressed with bergamot. M. Pellegrin creates a citrus tinted cloud which drifts across the early moments. Then the rosemary arrives with brio. It shoves the citrus out of the way which requires M. Pellegrin to sandwich it with orange blossom and violet. The metallic violet acts like a container for the rosemary while the orange blossom softens the acute edges. Au Bord de L’Eau remains with this accord for much of the time I wore it. I found this remarkably refreshing on the summer days I wore it. The rosemary at this concentration carries a verdant aromaticity which the florals accompany. The base is a mix of usual musks which add some depth to the heart accord in the later stages.
Au Bord de L’Eau has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I can’t say I thought Monet while I was wearing Au Bord de L’Eau. It would be hard to find anything very Impressionistic about this cologne. Instead it was another innovative artist who I thought of a lot while enjoying Au Bord de L’Eau; M. Farina. I kept thinking this might be what he came up with if he was designing cologne today. By focusing on the herb M. Pellegrin found something worthy of the original cologne.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by L’Artisan Parfumeur.
In the last eighteen months, I have received eight different collections from well-known brands focused on soliflores. I am not sure what set off this latest competition among brands but it has become a persistent force in fragrance. I can believe that it is thought among these brands that simple perfumes focused on high-quality single materials will have appeal to those wanting their perfume easy. For the most part this has been the case. There hasn’t been skimping on the focal point notes but no-frills perfumery can lack for the presence of those details. The latest version of this is the six-member collection called Boucheron La Collection.
The analogy I use when approaching these kind of fragrances is of a single note which acts as a diamond in the middle of a setting where a few tiny gems enhance the overall effect. Boucheron La Collection has done a good job of using ingredients which qualify as olfactory diamonds. The five perfumers who worked on the six perfumes have also crafted fine settings for these raw materials to shine within. Except the problem is the subtle grace notes don’t really change the equation that whatever is on the bottle is essentially what you will be smelling for the length of time these last on your skin. The orris in Iris de Syracuse is lovely. The oud in Oud de Carthage is darkly compelling. Amber D’Alexandrie is a golden amber. Vanille de Zanzibar captures the depth of vanilla. Tubereuse de Madras is a creamy version of that white flower. These are straightforward, nice, and no different from one or more from the previous seven collections. There was one which I enjoyed the most; Neroli D’Ispahan.
I have recently become much more interested in neroli focused perfumes. One reason is excellent neroli has a green counterbalance to the floral nature. For Neroli D’Ispahan perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin sourced a neroli which displays that. A dual-natured note like neroli is a good place to begin with a soliflore because one ingredient acts like two. This is what happens here. M. Pellegrin sets up the neroli front and center. To that a pinch of green cardamom, elemi, and ginger buck up the green. Baie rose, labdanum, and patchouli do the same to the floral side. None of the notes listed in the last two sentences persist for any appreciable time. They are there to add the sparkle to the gem that is the neroli in the heart, which they do.
Neroli D’Ispahan has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I have a hard time believing the marketplace can bear the amount of luxury soliflores that are now out there. Especially since they are sort of indistinguishable from each other. There is no brand identity at play in something as facile as a soliflore. Which makes for a problem when brands want to claim the space as the most luxurious soliflore. The consumer will show whether there is an appetite to keep this soliflore arms race on its current trajectory. Boucheron La Collection, especially Neroli D’Ispahan, is the latest launch; I sort of hope détente is not far off.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Boucheron.
Sometimes, a brand which has been about being totally different must feel like throwing in the towel. These brands probably tire of writers, like me, saying I admire the perfume but I wouldn’t wear it. The Swedish perfume brand Agonist has a lot of these kind of perfumes. Despite my wariness to spend more time with them I have admiration for their ability to make fragrance on their own terms. When I write that I want something different it should be right on the bleeding edge of being wearable. Which made the latest release White Lies perplexing because this is a fairly straightforward niche spring floral.
The Agonist creative team of husband and wife Niclas and Christine Lydeen continuing to work with perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin decide to create a snappy white flower dominated fragrance. There is nothing here which is dramatically different from many other spring florals. Which makes it stand out among the Agonist collection while not necessarily among the overall niche fragrance sector. All of that might lead you to think I didn’t care for it but I did for a couple of reasons. The use of boisterous white flowers as the centerpiece of a spring floral is different from the plethora of roses. The other reason is there is a quite zippy fruity top accord that I enjoyed much more than I usually do.
Christine and Niclas Lydeen
White Lies opens with a tart sparkly lemon, a juicy raspberry, and sweet lychee. This forms a fruity accord of contrasts that was like a gourmet Sweet Tart. Then the white flowers arrive with jasmine and tuberose taking the lead. They are well-balanced within White Lies. The nice choice is to add heliotrope to provide a powdery softening of the two co-stars. The base is a standard patchouli, ambrox, and vanilla ending. Woody with a touch of sweet.
White Lies has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
If Agonist was planning on White Lies being their “normal” fragrance within the collection; they succeeded. The only thing that is bad about it is despite enjoying it I’m just as unlikely to wear it as some of the more avant-garde offerings. Not because it isn’t good but because it isn’t different enough. I understand the desire to just give the consumer what they want. Hopefully the next Agonist release will go back to giving the customer something to think about.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Agonist.
I’m going to start this review off with a question. How do you know when it is time to harvest a rose? I have been part of the wine harvest in California and it is a scientifically determined level of acidity and sugar in the grape that triggers the harvest. Oranges, apples and other fruits on trees signal their ripeness by their color. So how do you know when a rose is ready to harvest? A few years ago, I learned the answer to that. In Grasse, the people responsible for the fields of Rose de Mai get up in the morning and break off a petal and bite in to it. If the taste is sweet the rose flowers are “ripe” and ready to be picked. It makes sense as the natural sugars of the bloom would move outward to the petals as the flower reaches its peak. It is one of my favorite anecdotes about perfumery I have heard. I was thinking about this with the new Diptyque Essences Insensees 2016.
Diptyque started releasing yearly versions of soliflore fragrances highlighting a particularly good harvest and calling them Essences Insensees. Essences Insensees 2014 was mimosa and Essences Insensees 2015 was jasmine. Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin has been the one tasked with overseeing these precious ingredients. For Essences Insensees 2016 M. Pellegrin focused on Rose de Mai.
I have never visited Grasse. In my imagination, it is the perfume version of Willy Wonka’s Perfume Factory with fields of some of the most prized raw materials in fragrance growing everywhere. I’m sure the reality is less prosaic while the truth of the raw materials is grounded in reality. When Rose de Mai makes it into a perfume it has a sparkle to it as it sits in a sweet spot between the demure English rose and the spicy Turkish rose. For Essences Insensees 2016 M. Pellegrin is using what is an exceptional harvest of Rose de Mai while using only two other notes as companions.
M. Pelegrin uses different isolates of Rose de Mai to form his central note. It is a glittering central axis around which he uses a red fruity note above and a honey accord below. What these accomplish is to accentuate the inherent sweetness of the Rose de Mai. It is what makes me think of it as a perfume which represents a “ripe” rose.
Essences Insensees 2016 has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I will eventually make my way to Grasse someday. I will bite a petal of Rose de Mai off the bush. Until then Essences Insensees 2016 fits my imagination about what a ripe rose should be.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Diptyque.
Before niche really took off just after the year 2000 there were a few creative directors who were working on the early outlines of a niche aesthetic. One of those was Chantal Roos. From 1992-2002 she was among the most creative creative directors in perfumery. Because of that ability to challenge the status quo many of those fabulous perfumes were discontinued and are now highly sought after. Most recently she has been working with her daughter Alexandra Roos on their own perfume brand Dear Rose. I met both of them in Esxence in Milan in March. Soon after I returned I received a package of samples of all eight Dear Rose releases since its inception in 2014. Joining them in this endeavor Is perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin who has composed all eight. M. Pellegrin has worked a lot with the elder Mme Roos on other brands so it is natural to believe they had built up a rapport. What is refreshing about the entire Dear Rose line is these are not box checking easy fragrances. These are complex constructs which reward the time spent with them. The most recent release Mentha Religiosa is a good example.
Alexandra and Chantal Roos
Mentha Religiosa is loosely translated to religious mint. How the creative team has interpreted this is to combine mint with church-like frankincense. Now that combination sounds like there was a collision as a dental products truck ended up in the apse of an old church. I have very little affinity for mint in fragrance because it is so fresh. Especially when I take a leaf of peppermint and slowly crushing it in my hand it doesn’t release treacly insipid sweetness but an herbal green matched equally with the sweet mint. This is the mint M. Pellegrin serves up with Mentha Religiosa.
How M. Pellegrin goes about doing that is to take peppermint essential oil and combine it in equal parts with petitgrain and a very bitter version of bergamot. The petitgrain adds back the green and the herbal bitterness as contrast. The bergamot adds a different kind of bite but one which creates that minty herbal accord. The very austere frankincense comes next. Together they form a delightfully quirky duo. I don’t think this is going to appeal to everyone but for me it was so off-beat I got lost in its oddness. A bit of iris tries to attenuate that but it isn’t until cedar and patchouli really grab ahold in the base that it becomes a bit more approachable.
Mentha Religiosa has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I enjoyed getting to know all eight fragrances in the Dear Rose line because the entire creative team of The Roos and M. Pellegrin seem to want to make perfume interesting again. If you need to know what that smells like pick up some Mentha Religiosa.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Dear Rose.
I think Diptyque is having a period of quiet excellence. Some of it is easy to attribute to the simple fact that they have been a part of the niche perfume landscape for nearly thirty years. When there are brands that come and go in thirty months it can become simple to forget that which has always been there. Much of this renaissance at Diptyque I can lay at the nose of perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin who has been doing some of his best recent work for the brand. It is reminiscent to the body of work that Olivia Giacobetti did for ten years starting in 1996 at Dipryque. There is something about this brand which allows perfumers the opportunity to create with abandon. I was excited to receive the latest by M. Pellegrin Kimonanthe.
Kimonanthe is part of The 34 Collection calling back to the very first Diptyque shop on 34 boulevard Saint Germain. This has become emblematic of the quality I was describing above. For Kimonanthe M. Pellegrin wanted to make a perfume which evoked the powdered incense of Japan called zukoh. Zukoh is meant to be worn on the body directly. It was also used as body purification by Buddhist monks prior to ceremonies. Paired with the incense in Kimonanthe the other keynote is a fulgent osmanthus which has been powdered with zukoh.
Kimonanthe opens with a distinct apricot note very prominent. Out of that M. Pellegrin allows the osmanthus to reveal itself. It happens in tiny steps as apricot dominates things and then the leathery component of osmanthus is there slowly gaining in intensity. As that happens the incense also begins to insert itself. M. Pellegrin uses clove as a connective note between the osmanthus and incense. A pinch of camphor provides a lift to the incense making it seem as if it is more ephemeral as it nestles into the petals. It Kimonanhte ended here I would have been very happy. M. Pellegrin then takes a risk by forming a base accord of sandalwood and leather infused with a milk accord. It adds a wonderful foundation to the zukoh infused osmanthus.
Kimonanthe has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
M. Pellegrin gets the balance on this just right. These are notes and accords which can fill a room. In Kimonanthe they are kept at half that volume throughout. This is going to be a fabulous choice which with to spray my scarves this coming winter. Surrounded by a smoldering incense laden osmanthus is just the way to keep warm.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Diptyque Paris.
I received my latest package from Amouage courtesy of creative director Christopher Chong with delight. I have been a long-time admirer of the way Mr. Chong has transformed Amouage into a perfume brand which excels in doing the unconventional. When I receive a new sample I generally give it some time all on its own without anything else I received in the mail getting in the way. This was the process as I opened my sample of the latest release Bracken Man. Imagine my surprise when I was greeted by a ginormous fougere although I should have known; it was right there in the name.
Christopher Chong (Photo: Ben Rayner for Forbes)
Bracken is a huge ground covering fern, the basis of fougeres. Bracken Man is also a large ground covering fern as a perfume. Mr. Chong worked with perfumers Olivier Cresp and Fabrice Pellegrin. I am probably underselling this a bit because while it is a fougere through and through there are some recognizable Amouage aesthetics throughout.
The most Amouage-y thing about Bracken Man comes right at the beginning as the perfumers create a wet earth accord out of primarily lavandin, nutmeg and clove. Before this accord really takes hold a ray of citrus sunshine courtesy of lemon and bergamot take you down in to the earth. The sparkliness of the citrus grounds itself into the earth and gets swallowed up. This is a challenging beginning which is not going to be loved by all. I am fascinated with the way these notes form the accord as I can pick them out individually but when I stop analyzing it snaps right back to wet soil. A marvelous olfactory parlor trick. From here on we are in traditional fougere territory writ a bit larger than most of the contemporary versions. The perfumers use cypress, cedar and sandalwood to form the woody nucleus. A smidge of cinnamon. Some geranium. All leading to a patchouli and musk base. The patchouli and musk bring Bracken Man back full circle to a more traditional earthy quality.
Bracken Man has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Of the many things I could have requested from Mr. Chong a large fougeres was not one I would have thought of. Which shows why he is a creative director and I am a reviewer because despite a structure which is typical I still found enough Amouage in there to make Bracken Man fun to wear.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Amouage.