If there is anything the dream machine that is Hollywood does best, it makes subversive safe for general audiences. I would get great enjoyment at watching the “dangerous streets of Miami” depicted in many Hollywood productions. I probably first became aware of it as they co-opted the hippie movement of the late 1960’s even building a cop show around the concept of disaffected youth called “The Mod Squad”. They were just a little too clean and a lot too establishment; except when the plot needed them to get a little uppity.
Carlos Quintero (l.) and Karl Bradl
When it comes to perfume the most recognizable ingredient associated with hippies is patchouli. It was the smell of head shops everywhere which also made it a problematic ingredient in perfume. Many consumers associated it with also being cheap. Perfumers love patchouli because it is such a mutable ingredient that they would work through that impression. The chemists behind the scenes also were working on “cleaner” versions of patchouli through technology and chemistry. One of the best innovations around patchouli was the Firmenich ingredient called Clearwood. The scientists found a way to strip out all the dirty character leaving behind something still recognizable as patchouli but not so hippie-like.
In the latest perfume from the Nomenclature line overseen by Karl Bradl and Carlos Quintero they feature Clearwood in their latest release holy_wood. Working with perfumer Frank Voelkl they were after a 1970’s Hollywood vibe. I couldn’t help thinking of The Mod Squad’s advertising slogan, “one black, one white, one blonde” as I experienced holy_wood. In this M. Voelkl combines one rose, one patchouli, one leather into a perfume version of The Mod Squad. While that might sound like a perfume combination you’ve smelled many times when it gets reformed using modern cleaner synthetics it provides a contemporary overall effect.
holy_wood opens with a synthetic rose from Firmenich called Rose Petal Nature Print which is meant to replicate a headspace extraction of rose. It has an airiness rose usually doesn’t carry. Early on a bit of pink pepper adds some of the missing green back in. Then the Clearwood arrives and what this shows most of all is a light woodiness coupled with warmth. As the two ingredients interact I found myself expecting the missing pieces to show up until I stopped. Then I began to appreciate what was on my skin. holy_wood is an example of what synthetics can bring to a well-known combo like rose and patchouli. This is all tied up in a suede leather accord to complete The Mod Squad.
holy_wood has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
One of the things Nomenclature has been doing well is displaying some of the more novel synthetic ingredients to their fullest potential. holy_wood might be patchouli-rose-leather as only Hollywood could imagine them; safer and cleaner. I still want to spend time with this modern Mod Squad.
Disclosure: this review based on a sample from Nomenclature.
When a store puts their name on a bottle of perfume they take a risk in potentially diminishing the overall brand. When a brand does it right it has the effect of burnishing the reputation of all involved. This has been the case in the line named for the iconic New York perfume store Aedes de Venustas. In 2012 when they released the first perfume under their name it was what I expected. A fragrance which was honed from decades of serving customers in the store and finding what styles leave lasting impressions. Owners Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner teamed up with Francois Duquesne as the creative directors. Over five more releases since that first one they have done nothing but confirm that initial impression. If there is an overall aesthetic to the line it is for richer, opulent constructions. The latest release Pelargonium adds in a formal elegance to that.
Karl Bradl (l.) and Robert Gerstner
Perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer was asked to work on Pelargonium. Her desire was to create a perfume which was like a still life painting done by a Dutch Master. Still Life as an art form was at its height during the latter years of the 1700’s. The name itself comes from an anglicizing of the Dutch word “stilleven”. The idea was to arrange common everyday objects and capture them using shadow, light, and color to provide new perspective. What it accomplished was to allow a viewer to see the everyday as something to appreciate. Mme Feisthauer takes one of the most common of floral notes, geranium, using it as the focal point around which she arranges the rest of her composition.
From the first days of my perfume obsession I have been very fond of geranium. The “green rose” effect it adds to a perfume has appealed to me. Only rarely is it allowed to stand out on its own. Mme Feisthauer chooses an Egyptian Geranium essential oil as the centerpiece of Pelargonium.
Before that geranium arrives Mme Feisthauer uses the lemon-tinted resin, elemi, as the opening. As the geranium begins to come forward so do a series of notes meant to surround but not override. Green cardamom and clary sage are used to support the green leafy nature of the geranium. Orris and carrot are here to give the rosy floral nature a bit of a modification. One of the reasons I think you don’t see geranium as a focus is it becomes very easy to experience it as a half-hearted rose. Which is why by using two rooty notes Mme Feisthauer turns that into something primitive and earthy. It also allows that green accord more traction, too. The earthiness is continued into the base with vetiver. The vetiver here carries a bit of smokiness with it which I liked more than if a straight vetiver was used. A little gaiac wood, moss, and musk round out Pelargonium.
Pelargonium has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
A Stiil Life is meant to find something beneath the common. Mme Feisthauer’s Still Life of Geranium does that. Every choice illuminates the focal point along with the other things in the picture. Pelargonium carries the elegance of a fine piece of art.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Arielle Shoshanna.
There are certain inspirations which seem to resonate with specific perfumers. It is not necessarily the only thing which get them excited but it seems when they can match that inspiration to a project it often produces something worthwhile. In numerous interviews perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour has mentioned his fascination with Japan. The creative team behind Nomenclature, Karl Bradl and Carlos Quintero, give him the opportunity to explore green from a Japanese perspective in Shi_so.
Carlos Quintero (l.) and Karl Bradl
The place where Mr. Bradl and Mr. Quintero start every Nomenclature perfume with, is a specific aromachemical. For Shi_so the choice is Glycolierral. The most predominant use of Glycolierral has been as a green vegetal component reminiscent of ivy. It has the colloquial name of “ivy dioxolane”. By itself it reminds me of crushed sharp green leaves. I have never found it reminiscent of ivy so much. When I saw, it was being used as the focal point in Shi_so I realized I found it closer to the shiso leaves I use to cook with. By itself Glycolierral is probably too sharply green to be pleasant. M. Duchaufour’s task is then to surround it with modulators to enhance the shiso vibe while making it wearable. What comes out is an evolutionary interpretation of Eau de Cologne where the traditional citrus-floral-herbal tripod is replaced with green, greener, greenest.
Shi_so opens with a combination I didn’t expect to work well when I saw it listed, cardamom and spearmint. The green cardamom here is becoming my favorite version of the ingredient because it adds this significant green character to the freshness inherent to it. Spearmint often adds an oily fresh sweetness that I thought would obliterate the subtlety. M. Duchaufour enhances that green in the cardamom I like so much by keeping the spearmint on the herbal side of its spectrum. The spearmint provides only a hint of its cool minty face. That hint is the way Glycolierral is drawn into the mix. There is a chilly component of the aromachemical which the spearmint bridges to. The base accord is the sticky green of blackcurrant bud matched with verbena. These amplify the Glycolierral into a sparkling emerald jewel.
Shi_so has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
It has been a while since M. Duchaufour has produced a perfume which pushes the envelope as much as Shi_so does. It feels like he is offering his interpretation of Japanese green as a new style of cologne. It is a gorgeous summertime fragrance.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Nomenclature.
Drug discovery and perfumery share a similarity in the scientific approach to trying to improve on what is known. In both fields, it is down to the chemists in each discipline to find a new molecule which does the same thing but better than what is currently on the market. In pharmaceuticals, it is a little easier to define “better”. In perfumery “better” is more often in the hands of the perfumer using the newer material. Which is why the Nomenclature brand is so much fun for me to wear. The brand creatively directed by Carlos Quintero and Karl Bradl seeks to highlight the new aromachemical raw materials as the key components in the perfumes they oversee. The first collection of four did an excellent job of this. Which is why when I received my sample of the fifth release lumen_esce I was ready to be introduced to another aromachemical.
Carlos Quintero (l.) and Karl Bradl
For lumen_esce the new aromachemical is called Violettyne. Violettyne was discovered by chemists at Firmenich who were looking to improve the violet leaf molecules which were typically esters attached to triple-bonded carbons. The chemists replaced the esters with chains of carbon which did and did not have some double bonds. Violettyne was the structure which added a five-carbon chain containing two double bonds in place of the ester. The effect was to enhance the galbanum-like qualities of violet leaf while also adding a grace note of fruitiness. Perfumer Frank Voelkl was asked to incorporate this molecule in to lumen_esce.
The typical use of these kind of substances is as top notes and so Mr. Voelkl sets up his top accord as a “compare and contrast” between Violettyne and violet leaf itself. The Violettyne provides a much greener quality than the violet leaf. In this case Mr. Voelkl tunes the violet leaf to give off the slightly metallic nature which it seems Violettyne uses as a conductor on which to come to life upon. This all develops through a freesia and jasmine heart. The green intersects with the florals cutting through them. Then in the base Mr. Voelkl introduces another modern innovation in raw materials Patchouli Prisma. This is a sort of reconstruction of patchouli after it has been fractionated via distillation. By combining a few of the fractions back together you get a patchouli which has been broken down as if it has been shined through a prism. The effect is to make the patchouli cooler which makes it a better partner for the Violettyne. In lumen_esce it provides a place for that violet leaf energy to ground itself. Over time the warmer facets of patchouli become more prominent as lumen_esce comes to an end on my skin.
Lumen_esce has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
So far all the Nomenclature releases have been great examples of the versatility of chemistry as it pertains to perfume. Lumen_esce shows the energy a straight-chain can add to a molecule.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I received from Nomenclature.
There are a few perfumers who always capture my attention no matter what they do. One of those is Alberto Morillas. He has been responsible for some of the greatest mainstream perfumes of the last 30 years. Before I knew who he was I knew him through his perfumes that I owned. In those days knowing who it was who had made the perfume was unheard of. Since 2000 that has changed and it allows M. Morillas the opportunity to be seen as the artist that he is. The overwhelming majority of his perfume making still takes place in the mainstream sector. Except over the past few years he has been making some forays into the niche space. 2016 looked like it was going to come to an end without that happening. Then I received my sample of the new Aedes de Venustas Grenadille D’Afrique.
Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner
Starting in 2012 the owners of the New York City boutique Aedes de Venustas, Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner, have been creatively directing a compact collection bearing the store name. Grenadille D’Afrique is the seventh of these. Working with M. Morillas for the second time, after last year’s Palissandre D’Or, they return to woody themes. This time they describe the new perfume as “a tribute to ancient ebony”. While it does get up to that concept, especially in the base, the early going is all modern fougere territory.
The opening is that fougere accord. M. Morillas uses juniper berry, lavender, and violet. They form a gin-tinted set of purple flowers. The violet works to keep the lavender from hewing too close to its herbal nature because the juniper berry surely tries to accentuate this. M. Morillas balances this perfectly as it achieves a contemporary lavender effect. Now that promised ebony wood shows up. M. Morillas mixes some of the cleaner woods, like cedar, with a particularly lively vetiver. That vetiver provides the sappy nature that the creative direction called for making it feel as if the wood is straight from the tree. The final phase is a lilting smoky vanilla over a few musks. It provides a soothing ending to a brisk woody fougere.
Grenadille D’Afrique has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Grenadille D’Afrique is a great example of everything I think makes M. Morillas stand out. As a perfumer who has probably made dozens and dozens of fougeres he still manages to find new areas to explore. The final “ebony accord” shows his way at intricately constructed chords. His accords are so layered that they always seem to be subtly in motion while still retaining the overall effect. I am very happy that M. Morillas found his way back to the niche side of the street before the end of the year. Grenadille D’Afrique is another triumph for him.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Aedes de Venustas.
Besides the crush of rose-based fragrances over the first half of 2016 there have also been a number of above average gourmands. I think I have more patience with the gourmands because the genre doesn’t seem as played out. That being said if there is a style of gourmands which has been prevalent it would be the vanilla-based ones. There is still plenty of flexibility for something different than what has come before to stand out. That is what the new Aedes de Venustas Cierge de Lune has done.
Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner
In just four years creative directors Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner have established a strong brand identity over just a few releases. Cierge de Lune is just the sixth addition to the brand. What has been interesting is they are able to communicate this brand identity even though they have worked with five different perfumers. For Cierge de Lune the perfumer they chose was Fabrice Pellegrin.
M. Pellegrin is one of the more prolific perfumers working currently; designing fragrances up and down every economic sector. I think when a perfumer like M. Pellegrin has the opportunity to work with a bit more of a budget he takes that flexibility and runs with it.
Cierge de Lune is inspired by the night-blooming cactus flower Selenicereus Grandiflorus. It is the found at the top of the vanilla cactus so named because of the scent. It is often called the “queen of the night”. Cierge de Lune is the French name for it which translates to “moon altar candle”. The task set forth for M. Pellegrin was to capture the fragility of the flower which only lasts for the night; wilting in the first rays of the sun.
I have mentioned in other fragrances inspired by the desert there is an inherent spiciness to the smell of the desert over the mineral smell of the sand. M. Pellegrin opens Cierge de Lune with his version of that; comprised of pink pepper and black pepper. The black pepper stands in quite nicely for the sandy landscape. The pink pepper adds in the transparent piquancy along with some sense of the plant life, as well. The plant life dominates in the heart as ylang ylang adds its fleshy floralcy for the cactus flower accord to unfurl upon. In the early stages that means the vanilla is paired with some incense. This is also kept on the light side. Cierge de Lune picks up some heft as it transitions into the base where the vanilla has a much firmer foothold over a base accord of ambrox and chocolate. When I say this has some more presence it is still on the light side when compared to most vanilla chocolate gourmand base accords.
Cierge de Lune has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
When I tried Cierge de Lune at Esxence I was initially underwhelmed. Like the delicate flower it is based upon I needed some time to get to know Cierge de Lune by itself. In that time, I have come to appreciate what M. Pellegrin has assembled a delicate vanilla floral which seems ephemeral. That fragility is what appeals to me so much. It reminds me that even something which only lasts for a short time can be as inspiring as something built to last. Cierge de Lune is an homage to that fleeting beauty.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Aedes de Venustas at Esxence 2016.
Perfume is a timeline of unique materials being used. Many of the trends within perfumery start with the introduction of a new tool for the perfumer to use. Easily one of the most influential of these since 2000 is Iso E Super. Iso E Super is actually a mixture of three closely related molecules called isomers. Depending on the concentration of the isomers the overall scent profile can be tweaked. As a result each aromachemical producer has their own version. For Takasago theirs is called Orbitone and it was the starting point for one of the inaugural new releases for the brand Nomenclature called orb_ital.
Orbitone provides a slightly more floral aspect along with the transparent dry woodiness. Perfumer Patricia Choux, working with creative directors Karl Bradl and Carlos Quintero, would take that nature and pair it with another Takasago ingredient Hindinol. Hindinol provides a sandalwood with the creamier attributes enhanced. Mme Choux makes a few smart choices on what to use which complements, and contrasts, each of the synthetics on display.
For the Orbitone Mme Choux brings out black pepper and it shows that at least in Orbitone the more mineralic aspect of this aromachemical family has been tamped down a bit. By using pepper to bring it back to life it sets the stage for violet and rhubarb to provide an appropriate vegetal floral contrast. The sharp green of the rhubarb and the silvery floralcy of violet almost set the Orbitone apart as something not natural. The Hindinol comes in about this point and it is like a fractionation of sandalwood as it carries most of the creamy rich qualities of sandalwood. The pepper now acts as the contrast with its nose-tickling nature. The complement is a cool resinous olibanum providing a very nice partner for the Hindinol.
Orb_ital has >24 hour longevity as the Orbitone and Hindinol will still be present after a long night’s sleep. The sillage is deceptive as these large molecules sometime seem to be close to the skin on the wearer but are more projecting than you think.
Orb_ital is a really beautifully interpretation of a pair of modern synthetic woody notes. Mme Choux has combined them in such a way that it is easy to understand their popularity. If you have love Iso E Super fragrances orb_ital provides a nice new alternative. If you are anosmic to Iso E Super or are one of those who find it unpleasant then this is a perfume to avoid. I like orb_ital quite a bit because I feel Mme Choux has given a well-known molecule a makeover for the better.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Nomenclature.
Let me admit this up front; I am the bullseye on the target audience for the new fragrance brand Nomenclature. Any perfume which is going to be bottled in a stylized Erlenmyer flask and feature a specific synthetic aromachemical has my full attention. When I was at Pitti Fragranze this brand was high on my list to experience.
When I finally worked my way to the booth where co-founders and creative directors Karl Bradl and Carlos Quintero were displaying the four debut releases I was delighted with what they are attempting to do. Working with perfumers Frank Voelkl and Patricia Choux, who each composed two of the initial four, each Nomenclature shows off the beauty of chemistry in perfume. Over the next few weeks I will eventually review all four because not only are all pretty good but they will be good jumping off points for a couple of Olfactory Chemistry columns. I am going to start with my favorite Efflor_esce.
The featured aromachemical in Efflor_esce is Paradisone. Paradisone is the culmination of thirty years of research at Firmenich in trying to improve one of the most important materials in all of perfumery Hedione. If you are interested in the chemistry you can read my Olfactory Chemistry post from a few months ago. Hedione is used primarily because of the diffusive jasmine-like quality it adds to a fragrance. Paradisone is like Hedione on steroids as it is orders of magnitude stronger on every level. If Hedione is candlelight, Paradisone is a halogen spotlight. In point of fact it can become too much of a good thing as it can muscle out everything around it in a poorly constructed fragrance. Just sticking it an alcohol base and exclaiming “Voila!” is not going to make a perfume. Mr. Voelkl had to find some complementary and contrasting notes which displayed Paradisone to its fullest without becoming overbearing. Efflor_esce does this extremely well.
For the opening of Efflor_esce it has a sunny citrus vibe as bergamot and bitter orange provide the sunshine. As the Paradisone begins to make its presence known it takes those citrus notes and allows them to ride on the expanding bubble of the expansive synthetic. If you wonder what I mean when I write about the expansiveness of a synthetic aromachemical the early moments of Efflor_esce are as good an example as I could mention. As the Paradisone expands until that imaginary bubble pops it releases two other florals captured inside as tuberose and osmanthus now combine with it. The tuberose is all complement as it amplifies the intense floral quality. Osmanthus provides contrast with its apricot and leather nature providing a lighter application of dried fruit and animalic facets. This is where Efllor_esce spends the majority of its time on my skin.
Efflor_esce has greater than 24 hour longevity as Paradisone is one of the more tenacious synthetics out there. It also has above average sillage.
If you have enjoyed previous perfumes which featured synthetic ingredients the entire Nomenclature line is going to scratch the same olfactory itch. As I said at the beginning for the chemist all of these lift me to different levels of bliss. Efflor_esce takes me the highest of all of them.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Nomenclature at Pitti Fragranze 2015.
I remember the first time I walked into the New York perfume boutique Aedes de Venustas. I think I stood inside the door with my mouth slack from the sensory overload of all these perfumes I had never heard of. Owners Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner were there to gently guide me through the offerings in the store. One thing I’ve come to realize over time is what an amazing job they do in curating what they offer for sale. They have few peers in the business who sell from a single storefront. Since 2012 that same careful consideration has carried over to their efforts to create a perfume brand which carries the name of their store. Over four previous releases they have covered a wide array of styles using some of the best perfumers working. For their latest release Palissandre D’Or they have outdone everything they have produced to date.
Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner
Mr. Bradl and Mr. Gerstner also collaborate with Francois Duquesne on the creative direction side for these fragrances. The brief was to create a “scent of precious Oriental woods, in a smoldering palette of burnt sienna, lacquered red, and molten gold.” For the perfumer to realize this they chose Alberto Morillas.
M. Morillas is one of the greatest perfumers working today. The great majority of his work is on the more mainstream side of the perfumed avenue. Especially in the last few years he has been enticed to the niche side of the street to work there. What I am guessing entices him is the opportunity to work with some of the unique raw materials that just don’t fit the budget of a more commercial release. In Palissandre D’Or the ingredient he wanted to showcase was an Alaskan cedar which carries a rich leathery character along with the more familiar clean woody lines. Before we get to that in the base M. Morillas paints bands of “burnt sienna” and “lacquered red” which lead to the “molten gold” of the cedar.
If there was any doubt I was going to like this perfume it is washed away by the early spices on top. M. Morillas takes nutmeg, baie rose, and coriander as a pedestal to display a fantastic cinnamon. If you’ve ever cooked with a high quality cinnamon you know there is a deep richness to it. The cinnamon which opens Palissandre D’Or carries the contrasting hot and sweet character of the very best Vietnamese cinnamon. There are very few perfumes which get cinnamon right but Palissandre D’Or can be added to the short list. M. Morillas uses the botanical musk of ambrette to lead to a Sri Lankan sandalwood in the heart. The heat of the cinnamon lacquers the sandalwood in a spice-laden shine. The moment where the cinnamon, ambrette and sandalwood come together is mesmerizing. M. Morillas wants me to be even more fascinated as in the base he combines three forms of cedar each with their own personality. Virginia cedar is that clean cut All-American wood. Chinese cedar carries a hint of smoky black tea to smudge that boyish charm a bit. The Alaskan cedar wraps that All-American in a leather jacket and turns him into a bad boy. Together this turns what, in other hands, would be a routine cedar base into something full of interesting texture and nuance.
Palissandre D’Or has 12-14 hours of longevity and below average sillage.
All five perfumes in the Aedes de Venustas line have been memorable and among the best perfumes of the year they were released. The entire team behind Palissandre D’Or have raised their collective bar to new heights. Palissandre D’Or is the realization of everything Aedes de Venustas stands for in terms of quality and discernment.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I received at Esxence 2015.
It is no secret that one of my favorite fragrance categories is incense fragrances. One of my favorite perfumers within that category is Bertrand Duchaufour. As I recounted in Perfumer Rewind from 2002-2007 I called him The High Priest of Resins for his facility with all kinds of incense notes. After that article was published I received an e-mail letting me know M. Duchaufour was returning to his resinous roots for an upcoming new perfume which would have a higher concentration of incense than any that came before. Often more is better but sometimes more is just too much. With M. Duchaufour at the helm the new release Aedes de Venustas Copal Azur reveals, in the hands of the master insense perfumer, more is just a new kind of beauty realized.
Karl Bradl (l.) and Robert Gerstner
Aedes de Venstas is the line from the perfume store of the same name in New York City. Owners Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner have been the creative directors for three previous fragrances. They return to working with M. Duchaufour who was the perfumer behind the first Aedes de Venustas perfume in this collection. They clearly felt that M. Duchaufour could bring something new to the incense perfume. One of the new things for M. Duchaufour was to work with a new incense source, copal. Copal comes primarily from Central America where it was used as an indigenous incense source during pre-Columbian times. It is also a component in some varnishes. M. Duchaufour had to be careful in how he used it in Copal Azur because if he used too much he would risk it smelling like varnish. He did not disappoint as he incorporated the new resin into his existing arsenal of resins.
Copal Azur starts with a bit of an oceanic aspect as a mix of salt and ozone evoke a turbulent ocean. The copal comes next and it has a bit of a sharper edge to it than other incense sources. I think if this had gone much higher in concentration it might have been unpleasant. In Copal Azur it just sets the stage for frankincense to match it with its own slightly metallic nature that all fine frankincense seems to have. Cardamom and patchouli add some levity to the incense action. The base is the sweetness of myrrh matched with tonka and amber. The myrrh elides away the rough edges and takes Copal Azur deeper and softer. The final phase of Copal Azur is almost a study in the contrast of strength and softness. Whenever Copal Azur reached the late stages of development I always felt it culminated in a full spectrum incense accord.
Copal Azur has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
It was a pleasure having M. Duchaufour return to that with which he was so successful with and create another perfume that is amazing. Copal Azur is a perfume for incense lovers which delivers it with an unmatched power.
Disclsoure: This review was based on a sample provided by Aedes de Venustas at Pitti Fragranze.