If there is any one perfumer who could break me out of my first half of 2016 funk over the amount of pretty, demure roses it would be Francois Demachy. Certainly the sugar coated Rose de Mai he did which was Poison Girl offered me something different than everyone else was doing this year. I have to admit though when I saw the description for the latest Christian Dior La Collection Privee was meant to be a paean to the “flower queen, Rose de Mai.” I was prepared for La Colle Noire to be disappointing. When I finally got the chance to try it when visiting the boutique at Bergdorf Goodman during Sniffapalooza Spring Fling the first sniff did not draw me in. Except the longer I held the card the more I kept coming back to it. La Colle Noire was a pretty, demure rose that was growing on me. After wearing it for a couple of days it finally broke through my general level of disdain for this style of perfume, this year.
The name La Colle Noire comes from the chateau Christian Dior purchased in 1951 not far from the rose fields of Grasse. Grasse is where the Rose de Mai is cultivated. It has become the standard bearer for pretty florals everywhere. There is a part of me that sees its overuse as devaluing what makes it special. M. Demachy wanted to remind me why this particular rose is so prized as a raw material. To do that Rose de Mai is used in overdose and it is practically all you smell for a very long time. La Colle Noire does eventually evolve but if you aren’t a rose lover I don’t think you’ll have the patience to get to where things eventually change.
La Colle Noire feels almost like a linear rose perfume for about an hour on my skin. It is nothing but Rose de Mai. I suspect there is some other source of rose, otto or centifolia, underneath it all. There are moments where there were some facets not generally present in Rose de Mai. Or maybe this is just what you get when there is so much and there is nothing else to distract. At this concentration Rose de Mai loses a little bit of its politeness. Reminded me a bit of a Southern Belle saying, “bless your heart”. It sounds mannered but there is a definitive edge. Eventually the mix of sandalwood and white musks find some traction and begin to add some much needed harmonies. The sandalwood is typical woody contrast. The white musks provided some softening of the overall effect. For much of the last hours I wore La Colle Noire it was much less pronounced than earlier on.
La Colle Noire has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage especially early on.
In the end I feel La Colle Noire is a fragrance primarily for the rose lovers out there. M. Demachy’s presentation of one of the finest sources of rose is worth it for those who can’t get enough rose. It would also be a really fine choice for someone who wanted an excellent representation of Rose de Mai. La Colle Noire stands out for me for the sheer extroverted quality M. Demachy brings to the fore. It took an overdose to get me interested again.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Bergdorf Goodman.
As I’ve looked back over the history of perfume; one of the reasons changes in styles come about is because of societal changes. I’ve written about the change in buying habits as women moved into the workplace during the 1970’s. I am wondering if we are not on the cusp of another change currently. One harbinger of this change came in an article from the information company The NPD Group which gathers data on many different consumer sectors. In a post from earlier this month The NPD Group said that Millennials are now outspending Baby Boomers in the prestige beauty sector for the first time. Furthermore, that younger generation is spending more on fragrance than skincare. Both of these factors are driving the perfume industry to begin to cater to these young fragrance consumers. Already in 2016 I have seen a number of press releases and campaigns with that group in mind, sometimes just flat out saying that. It is interesting because of these perfumes supposedly designed for Millennials I have not detected a common theme. Each company is trying to divine what they want. Dior is no different. Their entrée into the chase for the Millennials is called Poison Girl.
Putting aside the pursuit of the twenty-to-thirtysomethings a perfume called Poison Girl is going to have my attention. The follow-ons to the 1985 Edouard Flechier classic Poison have been uneven but there have been some winners, namely Hypnotic Poison. Perfumer Francois Demachy said in an interview for DiorMag, “For Poison Girl, I wanted a slightly different kind of gourmand. There are flowers at the center of all Dior perfumes, and I thought about a sweet treat from my childhood in Grasse, where rose petals were soaked in sugar. So I tried to capture this sugared rose in perfume, but with that intense, radical Poison composition.” In M. Demachy’s estimation sugary florals is what a Millennial is looking for. He is a man of his word as Poison Girl is accurately described by him.
Model Camille Rowe as part of the Dior Poison Girl ad campaign
Poison Girl opens on a bitter orange and almond accord. In a sense it is a callback to both Poison and Hypnotic Poison respectively. When anyone, including M. Demachy, is talking about “that intense, radical Poison composition” they are talking about the dense spiced floral heart of the original. The room filling accord that had some restaurants include “No Poison” alone with “No Smoking” in the late 1980’s. For Poison Girl M. Demachy dials down the sillage while retaining the power using both Turkish rose and Rose de Mai. The inherent spiciness of the Turkish rose captures some of the spicy character of original Poison while the Rose de Mai lightens the mood without banishing the shadows entirely. As I wore Poison Girl I definitely felt the connection between the heart accords. Then M. Demachy douses the rose in vanilla and tonka bean. This is where I would have like the rose to have more presence and the sweetness be a little more attenuated. It pushes my personal line of becoming cloying never fully crossing it but it tiptoes right up to my tolerance. A nice sandalwood base is the final piece of Poison Girl.
Poison Girl has 10-12 hour longevity and slightly below average sillage. Hard to believe there is a perfume with Poison in the name which doesn’t leave a vapor trail.
The race is on for what appeals to Millennials and the rest of us who love perfume will be dragged along in their wake as this generation becomes the trendsetters. If I had to choose a style for them to latch on to I think floral gourmands wouldn’t be a bad one to have win the hearts and noses of this group. As a designer perfume goes I think Poison Girl is a solid effort which upholds the name on its label.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Dior.
When I was writing my Perfume 101 on Acqua di Parma I had my little collection all sitting in front of me. As I was looking at it I realized that I had neglected the little collection of blue bottles with Blu Mediterraneo written on the label. As I reacquainted myself I was once again struck by the nice balance this set of fragrances strike hovering between an eau de cologne and eau de parfum concentration. I was also reminded of what a nice job these do with the title note. It was funny when a few weeks later I received the latest Blu Mediterraneo release Cedro di Taormina. I was excited to see what could be teased out of cedar.
The Blu Mediterraneo series is meant to not only feature a note but also capture a place in the Mediterranean. In this case we are in the Sicilian beach town of Taormina on the east coast of the island. Taormina features Mt. Etna rumbling off to its west while you look out upon the Ionian sea. Perfumer Francois Demachy wanted to capture some of the fire of the volcano along with the freshness of citrus and cedar. In the end Cedro di Taormina takes you from shore to caldera and back again.
When M. Demachy is working at his best he takes specific pairs of notes to create memorable chords. The opening and heart accords of Cedro di Taormina show this ability. The opening is the lighter citrus feel of citron paired with basil. Because citron is a lighter less tart version of lemon it allows the herbal aspect of basil a little more traction. M. Demachy keeps this opening as light as a Mediterranean breeze. Not so as we move into the heart as lavender and black pepper capture the heat of Mt. Etna. The heart is mostly black pepper and the lavender is pushed into the background. Even though it only exerts a minor presence it is an important modulator keeping the black pepper from being too strident. The lavender also pulls the basil in with it to help keep the pepper well behaved. This volcano is not quite ready to erupt. The base is the promised cedar but it once again picks up a breeze of cistus and vetiver to help cool down the warmth from the heart.
Cedro di Taormina has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
After having found my Blu Mediterraneo collection I know I will be wearing these a lot for my weekend morning jaunts. Cedro di Taormina is going to go right into that rotation.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Acqua di Parma.
There is no single perfume which is ingrained in popular culture more than Chanel No. 5. It has come to represent luxury, style, aldehydes, heck even perfume itself. I’ve left giving Chanel the 101 treatment for so long because of that elephant in the perfumed parlor. The question I kept asking myself was would I introduce someone just beginning to explore perfume to Chanel No. 5 as the first Chanel to try. After almost two years of thinking about this I think the answer is Chanel No. 5 is best appreciated if you come to it after having tried many other perfumes. Below are the five Chanel fragrances I think are the best place to start learning about the perfumed side of Chanel.
Ernest Beaux was a genius and that is borne out because he followed up Chanel No. 5 with a string of successful fragrance one after the other. Bois des Iles was M. Beaux’s ode to sandalwood. Before you get to the sandalwood in the base you go through a phase of coriander and petitgrain followed by a floral mix of jasmine, rose, and ylang-ylang. When you get to the sandalwood it is strengthened with ambrette seed along with other musks. A judicious use of vanilla brings out the creaminess of sandalwood. If you own Bois des Iles you pretty much don’t need another sandalwood perfume in your collection.
Cuir de Russie was M. Beaux’s entry into the leather perfume category. He would create one of the most redolent leather accords using birch, styrax, and cade wood. If this was all there was to Cuir de Russie it would still be good. What makes it a classic is the opening of orange blossom which transforms into jasmine before the leather gallops through the garden. One of the earliest leather perfumes and to this day still one of the greatest.
In 1981 perfumer Jacques Polge would begin his time as in-house perfumer at Chanel. He would bring the perfumed side of Chanel back to life in a big way with Coco. M. Polge worked in a diametrically opposite way from M. Beaux. Coco is a perfume so filled with concepts and flourishes it is like trying to follow a Fourth of July fireworks show on your skin. M. Polge refines the concept of fruity floral by adding in peach to the lightly floral frangipani and mimosa. This top accord is what every fruity floral since has tried, and mostly failed, to achieve. M. Polge mixes clove with a beautiful Rose Otto with jasmine also present. It provides a sultry floral heart. The base is mainly patchouli but with a number of grace notes surrounding it with musk being the most prominent. Coco comes in both Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum. It is the Eau de Parfum you should seek out.
If I was going to pick one perfume to introduce someone to Chanel it would be Coco Mademoiselle. Seventeen years after the creation of Coco M. Polge collaborated with Francois Demachy with whom he co-authored many of the best Chanels during this time period. Coco Mademoiselle as the name portends is the younger fresher cousin to Coco. It is a marriage of orange followed by rose and jasmine before heading to a base which is a bit like a faux chypre. Patchouli and vetiver create a chypre-ish vibe as a cocktail of white musks keep it on the clean side. Coco Mademoiselle is the most accessible of the entire brand.
M. Polge would create a contemporary chypre with 31 Rue Cambon. When Chanel launched the Les Exclusifs M. Polge showed he could make a classical perfume with the best of them. 31 Rue Cambon is a chypre which seduces with softer lines than usual in this style of perfume. It still carries the strong green nucleus but M. Polge blurs the edgy qualities and turns it into something more meditative. It is M. Polge’s modern interpretation which makes it something amazing.
Chanel has become such an iconic perfume brand because it has never rested on its reputation generated by Chanel No. 5. For almost 100 years it has stood for some of the best perfume you can experience. The five above are good places to begin.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.
There is nothing which exemplifies the principle of “it is so bad it is good” than the 1970’s cult movie “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. It was one of the earliest examples of a bad movie kept alive because some people found something lovable about a film containing time-traveling transvestites from the planet Transylvania. One of the things which makes it endearing is the filmmakers just couldn’t stop themselves adding in one more thing to the mix. It means that somewhere within the running time of the movie there is at least one thing which will make you smile. That is the hallmark of most of the movies which fit the “so bad it is good” category; lots of recognizable bits and pieces jammed together.
I was thinking a lot about the “so bad it is good” concept while trying the new mass-market release Dior Sauvage. Francois Demachy who has been in charge of all things fragrant at Dior has made the Dior version of the perfume for a man who only has one bottle of perfume on his dresser. As with many other brands it requires M. Demachy to mash together a number of popular masculine perfume tropes into his own version of a “greatest hits” perfume. That there is a market for this kind of perfume I have no doubt. Other brands have proven there is. When I received my sample and tried it the first time. I immediately dismissed it as boring and derivative. Then I went about my evening cooking and doing blog things. Lo and behold I kept pulling the patch of skin with Sauvage on it back to my nose fairly frequently. If it was so boring and derivative why couldn’t I completely ignore it? I felt I needed to try wearing it at least one day, which turned into two days. Yes I’ve smelled all of this before. Yes it is as unoriginal as it sounds. But I couldn’t stop myself from enjoying it.
"The Time Warp" from Rocky Horror Picture Show
If there is going to be one thing which keeps people at arm’s length it will be that Sauvage wears its synthetic heart on its sleeve. Without doing a thorough analysis I am pretty sure there is only one naturally sourced ingredient in the formula. That ingredient is Szechuan pepper and it is one of four notes which provide a chaotic start to Sauvage. M. Demachy takes geranium, the aforementioned pepper, bergamot, and elemi and smooshes them together. With this he begins to check off boxes; citrus (It’s just a jump to the left), spice (and then a step to the right), masculine floral (with your hands on your hips), and light woody resin (you bring your knees in tight). He adds in synthetic ambroxan (but it’s the pelvic thrust), safe base notes of patchouli (that really drives you insane) and vetiver (let’s do the Time Warp again).
Sauvage has 18 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Sauvage is as fun as doing the Time Warp at a showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Just like that kind of thing you might feel a little guilty for enjoying it so much. Better yet just embrace Sauvage and take a jump to the left.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Dior.
Christian Dior was late to the trend of creating an exclusive niche line of fragrances apart from their mainstream offerings. They really didn’t jump into it wholeheartedly until 2010. Prior to that there was a collection of three fragrances only available at Dior Homme boutiques. In 2010 Francois Demachy took two of those perfumes and added seven new perfumes he composed to create the La Collection Privee. In just five years the collection has grown to 20 perfumes. This is one of the great underpublicized collections in all of perfumery. If you haven’t tried any of them here are five to get you started.
Bois D’Argent by perfumer Annick Menardo is probably my favorite honey perfume of all time. After smelling this I made a special trip to Las Vegas to buy a bottle. Mme Menardo keeps a light tone throughout as she starts with a transparent incense into a fabulous heart of orris, honey, and myrrh. It all ends with a soft leather and patchouli base. The whole composition is so opaque it defies the weight of the components.
Eau Noire by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian is one of the more fascinating studies of immortelle on the market. M. Kurkdjian uses it as the spine of Eau Noire. Clary sage on top turns it herbal and incense-like. Lavender enhances the floralcy of it in the heart. In the base vanilla brings out the inherent maple syrup sweetness. Immortelle can be a hard note to love but Eau Noire makes sure you experience everything immortelle can bring to a perfume.
Mitzah by perfumer Francois Demachy is a fabulous resinous rose Oriental. M. Demachy uses a spice swathed rose as foil to a very concentrated frankincense. A bit of vanilla and patchouli add some nuance but this is the rose and incense show all the way.
New Look 1947 also by M. Demachy takes an expertly balanced heart of three of the heaviest floral notes and makes something powerfully heady. Jasmine, Turkish rose, and tuberose form a heart that one can get lost inside of. A pinch of baie rose on top and some benzoin and vanilla in the base provide some contrast.
Oud Ispahan also by M. Demachy takes the classic rose and oud combination and gives it a Dior spin. This is a Western version of that classic Eastern staple. M. Demachy keeps it simple. Allowing the rose and oud to carry on throughout the development. They are pitched at a much lighter level than most of the other ouds on the market and it allows for the labdanum, patchouli, and sandalwood to provide some texture to the power duo.
As I mentioned this is not the easiest of collections to find. If you do find it the five choices above are great places to start.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.
If you’re looking for the creativity in perfume you have to look no further than the very excellent Christian Dior La Collection Privee composed by Francois Demachy. Starting in 2009 with Ambre Nuit M. Demachy has curated and composed a collection which represents everything Christian Dior stands for. There is no shortage of imaginative perfume making going on throughout the fragrances in this collection. It is also seems to be relatively unknown. I know at every Sniffapalooza when I introduce some one to the line in its in-store boutique at Bergdorf Goodman they also walk away impressed and usually with a bottle in their bag.
The latest release Feve Delicieuse is the first real gourmand in La Collection Privee. Even as I type that I hesitate to call it a gourmand because while it is a vanilla fragrance it is mostly a tonka bean perfume. M. Demachy keeps it very simple but he also uses some really beautiful raw materials. This means that Feve Delicieuse relies upon the ability of those materials to all take their place in the proper order without taking over. M. Demachy ends up turning Feve Delicieuse into a vanilla that is not cloying or syrupy. It has an unusual delineation and a snap to it instead of the more typical treacly kind of vanilla more common within the gourmand family.
Feve Delicieuse starts off with a patina of Calabrian bergamot. Bergamot is such a ubiquitous ingredient in the opening of perfumes it is easy to overlook it. M. Demachy found a bergamot which makes sure you pay attention. It has that lively bright citric tartness but this also has a subtle undertone of crisp apple. I’m not sure if there is another ingredient which helps focus that grace note into something crisp and green. It is almost a palate cleanser as the main course of tonka bean from Venezuela is next. Tonka is one of those versatile notes in perfumery because it has a transparent vanillic character paired with a coumarin-laden nutty hay-like quality. Usually a perfumer picks one side or the other to accentuate. Because the tonka is the star M. Demachy does both. In the early moments of the tonka appearing, there are richer sweet gourmand notes of caramel and chocolate. The nutty part of tonka sinks in to the sticky matrix and forms an abstract hazelnut accord. If that was all there was to Feve Delicieuse I would have been happy. M. Demachy had some more to show me. The vanilla side of tonka starts to become more pronounced because M. Demachy adds in Madagascar vanilla. This is where Feve Delicieuse becomes something more than gourmand. As the tonka and the vanilla combine instead of heading for full-on gourmand territory it finds a lightness of being which then turns almost golden like diffuse sunlight. It is an immensely satisfying place to spend the final hours with Feve Delicieuse.
Feve Delicieuse has 10-12 hour longevity and modest sillage.
M. Demachy on the Christian Dior website talks about how he wanted Feve Delicieuse to portray the “love of harmony” that is the Dior aesthetic. In the case of Feve Delicieuse I have to agree that the harmonies are all spot on as they sing an intricately layered song.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
One of the benefits of being able to look back and find interesting moments in a perfumer’s history is I have the benefit of perfect vision when looking backwards. One of the moments I realized was a real watershed moment in masculine perfumes happened under the aegis of two of the best designer perfumers working. As I’ve covered previously in the late 1980’s men’s fragrance was beginning a shift towards the aquatic and the fresh. Two perfumers who had been working together for about five years were not going to let it go down without offering an alternative. The three men’s perfumes Francois Demachy and Jacques Polge had a hand in from 1987-1990 were Chanel pour Monsieur Concentree, Tiffany for Men, and Chanel Egoiste. Messrs. Demachy and Polge would offer a less burly fragrance that wasn’t quite as aquatic or clean, as the burgeoning trend towards that style was beginning to dominate the market.
They combined on adapting the original Chanel pour Monsieur composed in 1955 by Henri Robert into the Concentree version in 1987. This was a follow-up to their only previous masculine release 1981’s Chanel Antaeus. Where Antaeus was the scent of a player circa 1980’s; with Pour Monsieur Concentree they were trying to define a certain more refined masculine style. If the aquatics were for casual perfume wearing. Pour Monsieur Concentree was for wearing once you came in from the sun. Messrs. Demachy and Polge took the original and intensified it. It was a divisive move as some think it throws the balance off and turns it cloying. I have the opposite opinion. They upped the central note of cardamom until it goes from just a hint of green into something that is no mere trifle at the heart of Pour Monsieur Concentree. This enhanced cardamom follows an energetic lemon opening. This opening would return in 1996’s Chanel Allure. The base was a classic chypre finish but again taken up a couple notches in intensity. I believe they took what was a traditional cologne and beefed it up into something which has much more presence.
Two years later they would return to the themes of Pour Monsieur but while being asked to create a perfume for the jewelry brand Tiffany. 1989’s Tiffany for Men seems like what Messrs. Demachy and Polge wanted to do with Pour Monsieur Concentree but were handcuffed into reprising the original set of notes. Freed of those constraints they would create a uniquely masculine Oriental. They start with bergamot to provide the citrus but juniper berry and coriander provide a bit of a gin accord to go with it. This time instead of just taking cardamom and upping the concentration to create green they take geranium and galbanum to create a seriously green floral heart. The base notes of nutmeg and pepper over a very creamy sandalwood are a fabulous finish. This is one of my favorite men’s perfumes of all-time because it really does have it all. The fresh opening into an intense green down to a spicy woody finish. I knew I didn’t want to smell like the ocean I wanted to smell like Tiffany’s.
In 1990 they would bring all of this together to create the unforgettable Chanel Egoiste. Again they open with citrus but the choice this time is the sweeter tangerine paired with a pale rosewood. Those rose facets will lead into rose in the heart which is enhanced by the presence of coriander. The coriander defines the spiciness underlying a great rose. For the base notes sandalwood is here but they choose to go sweet with vanilla and they use the botanical musk of ambrette seeds to provide a much more delicate muskiness to the final moments. Egoiste is considered to be one of the great masculine masterpieces and continues to be held in high regard.
These three perfumes provided a counterpoint to the perfume trends which wer ein flux. That I can still look back and laud them shows that Messrs. Demachy and Polge succeeded in giving men of a certain aesthetic an alternative.
All of the great design houses have their exclusive luxury line of perfumes and certainly Cartier, Chanel, Hermes, and Tom Ford have represented the names on their bottles admirably. Consistent creative direction has ensured this success. For my money there is a designer line which has produced better fragrances over the past five years and it is tied directly to the moment the current creative director took charge. The line I am speaking of is Dior La Collection Privee and the creative director/perfumer is Francois Demachy. The latest release Cuir Cannage is a terrific example of the creativity and vision M. Demachy has brought to Dior fragrances.
In 2009 when M. Demachy took the reins of the La Collection Privee at Dior he immediately produced an impact with Ambre Nuit. One year later he would add seven new La Collection Privee fragrances. All seven of these were excellent and three of them, New Look 1947, Mitzah, and Leather Oud were among the best perfumes of that year. M. Demachy has captured the brand genetics of Dior with this collection as they all carry a sophistication and willingness to challenge a perfume wearer without making it confrontational. This line is Dior’s best kept secret and every Sniffapalooza I take a few people over to experience the line for the first time and I always get the response, “I didn’t know about these.” Over the fifteen fragrances in the line there is something for every perfumista.
Cuir Cannage shows off everything great about the Dior La Collection Privee. M. Demachy wanted to make a modern floral leather fragrance which would evoke the scent of a Dior leather handbag and some of the things you might find in there, particularly the cosmetics. So you get a grouping of floral notes which harmonize delightfully before the leather of the handbag comes forward. M. Demachy wanted to go for a real old-fashioned leather accord and therefore uses healthy amounts of cade and birch tar to construct it. This is what I speak of when saying M. Demachy likes challenging a perfumista. The florals have structural beauty familiar and comforting which are juxtaposed with the leather full of powerful smells and managing to envelop the florals without extinguishing them. It leaves a lifeline for the wearer to grab ahold of and ride the leather rollercoaster in safety.
Dior Mini Cannage Dinner Bag (2012)
M. Demachy opens with orange blossom in full measure. Orange blossom is the most delicate of the common perfume white flowers. When a perfumer allows it to act more like an indolic white flower and less like a pretty accessory is when I am happiest. M. Demachy allows the orange blossom to stand alone throughout the early moments. He then lets jasmine form an indole-heavy duet with the orange blossom. Rose and ylang-ylang form a complementary higher pitched floral pair. Together they create a full octave of floralcy. Then in thick viscous bubbles the birch tar picks up the indoles and the cade adds texture and intensity. In what seems like a moment it all forms a classic heavy leather accord as the desired new handbag springs to life. The floral notes are all still there but they are now enclosed in the metaphorical purse.
Cuir Cannage has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Cuir Cannage feels like a modern re-telling of the classic leather fragrances of the early 20th century. It is an unusual move because most modern leathers go for the lighter more refined accord. M. Demachy reaches back and creates an accord which reminds you this is the hide of a living thing no matter how refined. I am delighted that M. Demachy is making fragrances with an artistic viewpoint unmatched by few others at the big houses. Cuir Cannage is one of my very favorite new fragrances of this year.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Dior and a sample purchased from Surrender to Chance.