2018 First-Half Recap

Before I plunge into the fall releases starting to show up in my mailbox I want to recap the world of perfume for the first half of 2018. Especially here in the Poodlesville HQ of Colognoisseur.

For those who have followed my writing for the over ten years I’ve been doing reviews I am sure you’ve tired of my whining about too many spring roses. Guess what? This year I got my wish. I’m not sure what caused the change but even a perfume called Miu Miu L’eau Rosee was not a rose. That one was a very nice lily perfume. I got Bvlgari Magnolia Sensuel. I got Nest Wisteria Blue. I got the neroli of Commodity Nectar. I got the crazy blackberry of Gucci Guilty Absolute Pour Femme. I got Jo Malone Jasmine Sambac and Marigold. Yes, there were plenty of pretty roses, but the spring of 2018 found new perfumed ways of celebrating the season.

One of those ways was the return of the classic ambrette-iris-musk so embodied by Chanel No. 18. There were many of these, most of which I liked. There were two which stood out for taking this classic accord in a modern direction; Diptyque Fleur de Peau and A Lab on Fire Hallucinogenic Pearl. Perfumers Olivier Prescheux and Emilie Coppermann, respectively, found a way to freshen this triad up. In Mme Coppermann’s case it was by incorporating the De Laire base Iriseine; which made this one of my favorites of the first half of 2018.

Christine Nagel

Christine Nagel continued her strong showings for Hermes. If there was a last question left for her it was, “How would she make the Hermessences her own?” She released five in the spring. They were all good, but it was her move towards an “essence de parfums” oil-based formulation where she confirmed her stamp on this collection. Cardamusc is another favorite of 2018, so far.

The independents also thrilled me in the first six months of the year. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz finished her Haiku Series for DSH Perfumes with Tsukimi and Shimotsuki. Among the very best work of hers I have experienced.

Hiram Green Slowdive was a textural marvel as a tobacco accord traverses a viscous mixture of honey and others.

Sarah McCartney’s 4160 Tuesdays Freeway is So Cal car culture in search of an exotic sorbet. Sounds odd but it is fabulous.

Andy Tauer provided a contemporary version of the “golden age” in Tauer Les Annees 25.

There were three other perfumes which really caught my attention so far in 2018.

A Lab on Fire And the World is Yours by perfumer Dominique Ropion is perhaps my favorite from the brand ever. The opening bergamot, neroli, and cumin accord is spectacular.

Louis Vuitton Nouveau Monde is the leather perfume which should have Louis Vuitton on its label. I may be a bit let down by the others in this collection, but Nouveau Monde, and perfumer Jacques Cavallier, gives me the leather I wanted.

The leader at the midway point of 2018 is Neela Vermeire Creations Niral. The collaborative energy between creative director Neela Vermeire and perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour has always produced excellent perfume. Niral is better than that. The iris shimmers over a subtle leather accord. I still haven’t got enough.

This covers what I was able to write about in the first six months. Just in the next couple of weeks I have some reviews coming which are also among the best of 2018.

As always, thanks for reading.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Hermes Hermessence Cardamusc & Musc Pallida- Nagel Makes It Her Own

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When someone is tasked with having to follow a highly respected predecessor they know there will be comparisons. One way to approach this is to make significant changes making the enterprise your own. Another option is to understand what made the previous occupant successful and find a way to evolve that. It is the latter which has been occurring at Hermes as Christine Nagel has taken over from Jean-Claude Ellena as in-house perfumer. She has worked her way through most of the collections adding her imprint upon them. One of the few left is also one of the most important, the Hermessence collection. She has now opened the Nagel era of Hermessences with the release of three eau de toilettes and two ‘essence de parfums”.

I reviewed the three EdTs; Agar Ebene, Cedre Sambac, and Myrrhe Eglantine yesterday. Those are the slow evolution which has been happening as Mme Nagel provides her artistic perspective on that style. What has captured my attention more fully in this new set of Hermessences are the two “essence de parfums”; Cardamusc and Musc Pallida. These are significantly different from what has come before. Oil-based formulations which give an entirely different textural feel. They still hew to the minimal ingredient concept with which this collection was founded. What really changes is we leave the ethereal behind for shimmering depths.

Christine Nagel

Cardamusc is what the name portends cardamom combined with not one musk but a few. Mme Nagel uses cardamom in overdose. This has to be the single loudest ingredient in any Hermessence, ever. As is typical when a high-quality ingredient is used in overdose there are unexpected nuances not usually noticed. Cardamom at typical concentration adds a woody-tinged citrus effect. Cardamom in Cardamusc provides a multi-faceted single ingredient accord. The lemony citrus effect is enhanced as is the woody underpinning. What also becomes more evident is a set of nuanced green facets which hide underneath. There is a mint-like aspect, a leafy herbal one, and a slightly grassy vein. This is cardamom like I have never experienced previously and since it is one of my favorite notes I was hypnotized. It gets better as tendrils of a warming musk accord start to intersperse itself throughout. The cardamom is never cool as it can be in other perfumes. It starts warm but the musks provide a heat mirage style effect. I felt like this rose off my skin in waves.

Musc Pallida is also what is given in the name, iris and again not one musk but a suite of them. As with Cardamusc the iris is what comes first but this is not at high concentration. It is an iris effect seen in better perfume versions. I presume Mme Nagel is using an orris butter of some kind because it has that nuanced feel of the better ones I’ve encountered. What it means for Musc Pallida is Mme Nagel uses a set of musks which cover the entire octave of musk. Early on it is a white musk which makes the powdery nature of iris expand on the transparent bubble it provides. A mid-weight musk captures and enhances the violet-like floral quality. A slightly earthy-animalic musk teases out the rhizomal rootiness. Together as it was in Cardamusc it makes up this shimmery style which also waxes and wanes on my skin. It is a lovely combination of ingredients.

It is with these “essence de parfum” Hermessences where Mme Nagel makes this collection her own. Both are like nothing else in it. Also it is early but I can not get enough of Cardamusc. Right now, it is close to all that I want to wear. If you feel about iris the way I do about cardamom I believe Musc Pallida has the same quality to entrance you. If you’ve stayed away from the Hermessences because they seemed too light or ethereal you might want to see if Mme Nagel’s “essence de parfums” provide a more satisfying experience. With the release of both Mme Nagel has completed the process of making the fragrance side of Hermes her own.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples I received with purchase from Hermes.

Mark Behnke