As August begins we are right in the middle of the period of summer called the “dog days”. They have been called that because of the rise of the dog star, Sirius, not because canines are in charge. Although here in Poodlesville the canines are always in charge. The Greeks associated the rising of one of the brightest stars in the sky with the hottest days of summer. This is also the part of summer where things seem to slow to a crawl. Even in my free time I just want to find a shady place to snooze. I also need a fragrance which also wants to take it easy; Aerin Eclat de Vert was what I look for in that.
I was not the biggest fan of Aerin Lauder’s eponymous line when it first came out in 2013. For the first few years there was too much, too fast coming. I felt that if there was just a little more time taken there could have been something I would have appreciated more. I figured I wasn’t the desired audience and moved on. Until the beginning of last year when I tried Linen Rose. It impressed me with a fully realized beachy rose. Hibiscus Palm was another winner for me earlier this year. I had enjoyed both of those so much I looked forward to Eclat de Vert.
Eclat de Vert is based on Ms. Lauder’s memories of summers in the south of France. It is funny because it is also reminiscent of my memories of childhood summers in the south of Florida. What seems to be common to both experiences is that moment when the green leaves and grass have overtaken the flowers as the predominant scent. Perfumer Honorine Blanc captures this.
That sense of green opens with a gauzy veil of galbanum underneath which lemon shimmers with shaded sunlight. A set of green ingredients form a leafy accord while the galbanum takes a more prominent position. A set of florals provide backing vocals instead of focal point as jasmine, magnolia, rose and iris form the quartet. Magnolia sings a little louder than the others providing a smooth creamy contrast to the building green. Vetiver provides the green grounding in the base to which mastic adds a terpene-like edgier green at the end.
Eclat de Vert has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Eclat de Vert reminded me of those early days of August. School is still a few weeks away and I was happy to sit under a tree and let the sun shine through the canopy as my eyelids drooped. When I breathed in, Eclat de Vert is very close to what I smelled.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Nordstrom.
I mentioned in my overviews at year-end and mid-year that celebrity branded perfumes, celebuscents, have been waning in popularity. On the whole I am thrilled to see this happening because the great, great majority of these perfumes had nothing to do with the style of the celebrity. They were almost all another cynical play to separate fans from their money. Most of the time the celebrity smelled “their” perfume just before it was released. It was a bad joke which was only funny to those profiting from it. Which is why the few celebrities who actually care about a fragrance product which carries their name are to be commended. Those names are also pretty well-known because they have lasted for years because of their involvement. One of the best sellers within the mass-market sector are the perfumes which carry the name of Britney Spears.
Starting in 2004 with the release of Curious her perfumes has been among the best of celebuscents. Starting then and ending with the release of 2007’s Believe she produced four perfumes which still remain best-sellers. Part of this is you can search for interviews with Ms. Spears and she knows the name of the perfumer she is working with. She also knows about the ingredients. What she is doing is what any creative director should do. With the support of the Elizabeth Arden team she helps make the decisions. For the last few years the brand has been focused on flankers of 2005’s Fantasy. They were typical flankers; none of them better than the original. I had thought that was it for the brand for the foreseeable future.
I received my press sample of Britney Spears Prerogative and was strongly reminded of those early entries. Like Ms. Spears herself who has continued to perform in residence at Las Vegas; Prerogative shows she still has all the moves on the fragrance stage, too.
Prerogative is composed by perfumer Honorine Blanc. One decision that was made is to make Prerogative another of these floral gourmands so many of the big brands believe is what a younger perfume consumer desires. It is also pitched at the also presumed desire for lighter fragrances. Prerogative is more appropriately a fruity floral gourmand.
It opens with the tart goji berry. I am reminded of a kind of nutty cranberry when I’ve smelled goji berry. Mme Blanc chooses baie rose to attenuate the tartness while apricot provides a slightly juicier effect. Lily is the floral at the heart of Prerogative. This is a very typical lily with the green aspect dialed way back. The gourmand counterpart is coffee. The fruity top accord, lily and coffee come together in a pleasant wave. I found myself enjoying this part of the development a lot. It ends on an ambered sandalwood base accord which will make Prerogative a good fall fragrance choice.
Prerogative has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Ms. Spears has traded in the notoriety of her youth for a quieter success these days. Prerogative could be a signal she is interested in getting more involved in the perfume world. I think that would be a good thing.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Elizabeth Arden.
There is so much new perfume it is hard to keep up with some of the best collections out there. One which I think is getting overlooked is the Maison Martin Margiela Replica series. Since 2012 the Replica series has been a set of fragrance meant to evoke a time and place. Over the seventeen releases since it has a very high batting average; succeeding way more than it doesn’t. One thing which surprises me about this success is it comes as part of one of the large fragrance conglomerates; L’Oreal. I usually associate those with the desire to focus group a perfume to its detriment. The remarkable thing about the Replica collection is there is little sign of that. Almost like the perfumers are given a name and told to go off and bring it to life. I am reasonably sure that is not true; yet these are fragrances produced by one of the largest fragrance companies in the world in a way I don’t usually expect. There are three new additions and the one which I like best is Music Festival.
Music Festival connects with me because I spent some time in my younger days at my share. It is why I’m writing about it over the other two which I want to quickly mention. Sailing Days is a fabulous twist on the aquatic style of perfume by Violaine Collas. After the typical ozonic aldehydic opening she juxtaposes sweet salicylates against a briny seaweed and ambergris base. If you like different aquatics it is worth trying. Wicked Love by perfumer Amandine Clerc-Marie has a fun top accord of basil, watermelon and green pepper which forms a sweet vegetal herbal accord that is unique before heading down to a floral woody finish.
When I spent my youth attending rock festivals they were interesting affairs from a scent perspective. In the afternoon, it was the smells of a summer day and a lot of sun-warmed skin with a haze of smoke over it all. After the sun went down it was the combined warmth of the crowd as things became cooler which formed a kind of different group scent. Perfumer Honorine Blanc has spent some time in a field listening to music for a day too as she captures this completely.
Mme Blanc first sets the pastoral scene with the green of violet leaves and the apple trees ringing the stage. The apple and violet leaves provide that crisp sunshine. The next part of this music festival are the haze hanging above as tobacco, cannabis, and incense form what so reminds me of the persistent cloud it could be called a “Woodstock accord”. The base accord is getting right down into the crowd as patchouli has a musky skin accord paired with it. As the evening cools, it gets warmer and some cedar becomes evident.
Music Festival has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Music Festival is one of the best of what I have already mentioned is one of the best overall collections out there. Cue up your favorite live performances on your music player, get your lighter out and hold it aloft for Mme Blanc’s performance.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Maison Martin Margiela.
As soon as I see “noir” in the name of a fragrance I have learned to temper my expectations. I feel much like Inigo Montoya saying “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means”. If there was one offender I would consistently point at, it was the Tom Ford Noir collection. It was something which was a pleasant perfume but in no way “noir”. If I was to define “noir” I would want it to be a shifting style of perfume, innocent and dark, throughout its development. The literary and cinematic form which spawned the word are tales of moral ambiguity often accompanied by the corruption of innocence. So, imagine my surprise when the new flanker Tom Ford Noir Anthracite gets it correct.
The time-tested creative direction of Karyn Khoury is combined with perfumer Honorine Blanc. This is the first Tom Ford fragrance by Mme Blanc. The concept on the website is to explore the “light in the dark”. I would say Noir Anthracite explores the struggle of light within the dark.
Mme Blanc opens with the first bit of light as bergamot sparks Noir Anthracite to life. Then she uses Szechuan pepper to add in the dark. It would have been so easy to just use black pepper here. Szechuan pepper carries a different piquancy along with a kind of subtle muskiness. It works especially well here because Mme Blanc also uses ginger as a foil to the sunny bergamot too. This is a very different top accord from most of the other mainstream offerings which this will be next to on the fragrance counter. I enjoyed it a lot but I am curious if this is going to be generally accepted at the mall. The heart is another unique accord as galbanum acts as an overarching green presence to which a light application of jasmine and tuberose are used to provide some lift to it. The galbanum is so powerful you might not notice the florals. This is what I mean as the scrubbed clean white florals never really overcome the green of the galbanum. The base is a straightforward sandalwood and cedar.
Noir Anthracite has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Noir Anthracite is quite different from the other Tom Ford Noir releases. I think if you are a fan of those you might not find Noir Anthracite as nice as I did. Although if you are looking for a perfume which calls itself noir, and means it; Noir Anthracite seems to know what the word means.
Disclosure: this review was based on a press sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
If there is anything which is going to harm perfumery in the long term it is not going to be the usual suspects of draconian regulations or astronomical prices. The death of perfume is going to come with the incessant homogenization going on in the mass-market sector. The perfume business which is making new perfumes in this sector has shunted aside creativity and promoted the focus group. By gathering average perfume wearers and letting them in to the creative process they end up creating perfume afraid to be anything but not to offend any sensibility. It also has the effect of making all of them smell the same by recycling older tropes from more ambitious earlier releases. The final decision on what goes in the bottle is not coming from a creative director with a specific vision. It is instead coming from averaging the results of questionnaires and picking the one which appeals most broadly. Except every great perfume which has ever existed has always made a bold statement about what it was and dared an audience to come to it instead of the other way around. One of the first perfumes I can remember doing that was 1977’s Yves St. Laurent Opium. If there was a perfume of the disco era Opium was it. Because so many women wore it there were many mornings following a night out where I could easily pick up the sweet vanilla laden base notes on my clothes. Opium was a trendsetter for years.
Now in 2015 there is a new flanker of Opium called Black Opium. The press release claims it is an Opium for a contemporary Rock Chick. The ad campaign features model Edie Campbell looking very Joan Jett while spraying on Black Opium. Except while I know the younger generation makes a habit of looking unimpressed about anything the look on Ms. Campbell’s face borders on apathy. It’s almost like there should be a thought bubble above her head going, “This is a quick buck.” When I received the press materials prior to receiving my sample I found it all very incongruous. Within days something even more ominous would create more concern. Creative Director of Yves St. Laurent Hedi Slimane posted on Twitter, followed up with a press release, disavowing any involvement in the creation of Black Opium. Who was minding the store? I am not sure but after wearing Black Opium it feels solidly like the product of a thousand focus groups.
The Creative Directors? (Photo: From the TV Series "Mad Men")
A group of four perfumers are credited with Black Opium, Honorine Blanc, Olivier Cresp, Nathalie Lorson, and Marie Salamagne. That is a great team of artists who if left to their own devices under appropriate creative direction could make a great “Rock Chick” perfume. What they have produced is something generic with aspects of hundreds of fruity florals and gourmands of the past all smooshed together into something afraid to take a stand on anything for fear of offending.
Black Opium opens with pink pepper, very sweet manadarin, and crisp pear matched with mimosa. It is modern fruity floral territory being trod upon for the umpteenth time. It eventually evolves towards a bland attempt at coffee, vanilla, and patchouli over cedar. Clean woody gourmand territory, encountered many times previously.
Black Opium has 10-12 hour longevity and prodigious sillage, probably the only thing it shares with the original.
Black Opium is not a bad perfume. It is a safe perfume. It is a perfume engineered through social means to appeal to many. It is devoid of character and as boring as Ms. Campbell looks in the advert. If the creative directors for the designers don’t have the opportunity to apply their brand vision to the perfumes which carry that designer name this will work like Continental Drift, in reverse, and every new release will eventually smell the same creating an olfactory Pangea. As one who loved the way the original Opium defined a moment in time via scent it is sad to see an opportunity for Black Opium squandered for safety’s sake.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Yves St. Laurent Beaute.
There are times I am just too stubborn. If there is anything which makes me dig my fragrant heels in it is celebrity perfume or as they are called, celebuscents. Too often they are quick creations heavily influenced by focus groups who are asked inane questions like, “Which one of these do you think smells like the name on the bottle?” This is not to say celebuscents are completely devoid of quality just 99% of them. You might glean from this why when I receive a new celebuscent it very quickly gets buried. I think when Elizabeth and James Nirvana White and Nirvana Black appeared in the spring I should have given them more than a cursory sniff. While cleaning up the pile of perfumes I came across my samples again. I guess I was in a more receptive mood and this time they connected.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
The template for a successful celebuscent was laid out by actress Sarah Jessica Parker, in 2005, as she collaborated closely with the perfumers behind her fist perfume for Coty, Lovely. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen did the same with perfumer Pierre Negrin. It took over two years for them to arrive at a final version which would become Nirvana Black. I would guess that process was a learning experience; because as they were putting the finishing touches on Nirvana Black they decided they wanted a second fragrance to go with it. This time the collaboration with perfumer Honorine Blanc went much quicker and Nirvana Black and Nirvana White were released in January of 2014.
What I like about both of these perfumes is that they are very simple and that simplicity captures the goth boho chic design aesthetic of the Elizabeth and James clothing and accessories. The three note structure of both makes it difficult; for the perfumer needs to make sure those three notes harmonize well together and in this case M. Negrin and Mme Blanc did a tremendous job.
Nirvana White is the more boho of the two as it works with two fresh florals before ending on a beautiful soft musk. The top floral is peony and the peony source Mme Blanc employs is that spring garden fresh floral version. It is uplifting until the other floral, muguet, adds a significant green aspect. Together this is an elementary vernal floral accord. What is not elementary is the cocktail of musks Mme Blanc uses in the base. With white in the name you might expect the laundry-fresh musks but Mme Blanc decides to create an accord that runs the spectrum of synthetic musks. At the end this musk accord has a soft authenticity to it that feels like a bit of an illusion.
Nirvana Black is that boho girl heading out to her favorite Goth club in the evening. M. Negrin also uses primarily three notes for his fragrance but I can see why they took so long to find the right balance. The top note is violet and there are a variety of violets they could have chosen. The one which makes it into the bottle is a rich slightly candied version. It segues smoothly into a sandalwood heart and the synergy they hit is perfect as the candied facets are bolstered by the sweeter nature of sandalwood. Nirvana Black comes to an end with an austere less sweet vanilla.
Nirvana White and Nirvana Black have 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are to be commended for taking their time and being uncompromising in getting what they wanted. That dedication shows and it is why Nirvana White and Nirvana Black stand out from the rest of the celebuscent pack.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Elizabeth and James.