As we head to the final weekend of summer I always find that I turn to neroli to help me keep the lessening of the sunlight at bay. Neroli the blossom that eventually will turn into bergamot is more thought of as a spring fragrance ingredient. Of course I wear it as the warmth is on its way out. I like neroli perfumes at this time of the year because they have a vitality to them I need with that eventual turn of the season just around the corner. Here are five of my favorites.
The new version of Jacques Fath Green Water has been a constant companion since trying it at Esxence in March of this year. Perfumer Cecile Zarokian held her ground on the high concentration of neroli oil in this reformulation. It is why it is not an embarrassment to compare it to the Green Water of the past. As the spices and oakmoss make their presence known it is the neroli which never gives up the spotlight.
Vero Profumo Rubj reminds me that neroli is a white flower too. Independent perfumer Vero Kern makes this crystal clear by matching it with the queen of white flowers tuberose. This is a throwback floral full of snarling indoles and feral musks. In other words, a lovely untamed beast; give yourself over to it.
My favorite neroli straight no chaser version is Annick Goutal Neroli. As part of the Les Colognes collection perfumer Isabelle Doyen takes her neroli and supports it with pettigrain, heliotrope, and white musks. It is simple and compelling in that simplicity.
One of the more unique uses of neroli I have is Le Labo Neroli 26. Perfumer Daphne Bugey gives you a tidal basin with neroli blossoms floating on top of the water. Mme Bugey uses an over-the-top aquatic accord of calone and salt which accentuates the melon-y parts of calone which the neroli plays off of nicely. As the neroli gains more of a foothold a swirl of white musks and driftwood capture the floral again. I love this for the mixture of sea and floral.
When Atelier Cologne was introducing the world to their concept of Cologne Absolue in 2010 the poster child might have been Grand Neroli. Most neroli perfumes have short lifetimes on the skin. Grand Neroli not only had longevity it also took the neroli into deeper places. Perfumer Cecile Krakower turns her neroli richer by surrounding it with galbanum, vanilla, and musks. This taking of traditional lighter cologne ingredients deep into the shadows has become a bit of the brand DNA of Atelier Cologne this was the alpha to that.
If you’re looking for a way to push back the encroaching night these five neroli perfumes might allow for you to keep the light close a little bit longer.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.
There is probably no more difficult task for a perfumer to try and come up with a modern version of one of the early 20th century classic perfumes. The best of those fragrances have achieved near mythical status as perfume lovers attempt to find vintage bottles. This desire has led to companies wanting to release new versions to take advantage of this. The biggest problem facing the current perfumer is trying to make a perfume where many of the ingredients are no longer allowed to be used or have risen in price so dramatically that synthetic equivalents need to be employed. This usually has the effect of the newer version having the feel of a lithograph; lacking the vibrancy of the original. It can be particularly frustrating when I know how much lesser the new version is. I am still hopeful especially when the perfumer behind the new version is one I admire. The new Jacques Fath Faths Essential Green Water was one I was hopeful for.
The original Jacques Fath Green Water, from 1946, is one of the few perfumes which manages to use mint without reminding me of dental care products. Original perfumer Vincent Roubert uses it as part of a citrus and neroli accord before really getting green in the foundation with vetiver and oakmoss. The amount of neroli being used here is massive. The use of the mint and the cost of getting the orange blossom concentration correct were but two of the challenges facing perfumer Cecile Zarokian as she took on the challenge of making a 2016 version of Green Water.
Mme Zarokian dealt with the easiest of the problems by convincing the powers at Jacques Fath there was no substitute for lowering the neroli concentration. In that case she was able to hold the line and the neroli in this new version is as densely potent as it was in the original. The mint was going to be another thing. Mme Zarokian decided to take the mint and make it the leader of a selection of herbal notes. It helps control the mint and remind one that it is also an herb. It keeps it from being the presence that it is in the original but in this case it seemed less important to me. Keeping the neroli at the previous level was the more important battle to win.
The new version of Green Water opens with that mixture of citrus as lemon and orange add a snappy beginning. Then the lush neroli rises up on all sides. It is beautifully encompassing. The mint arrives with caraway, tarragon, and basil in attendance. The basil in particular really attenuates the mint. I like this change as it is more herbal than in the original. It is what really separates it from that. The base is vetiver and the low atranol version of oakmoss. Mme Zarokian adds in a bit of ambergris to add interesting depth to the variant on the original base accord.
Green Water has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mme Zarokian has successfully taken on the challenge of reinterpreting a classic. Her diligence at getting something close to the original without feeling like something lesser is laudable. I am looking forward to wearing this new version of Green Water during this upcoming spring and summer. It feels like seeing an old friend after many years with changes for the better.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from Jacques Fath at Esxence 2016.