I’ve noticed a pleasing trend over the last year or two. For so long there were new brands who wanted to test the limits of how luxury-minded they could be. Often with a matching price tag. There were times where it seemed there was an arms race to see who could put the most opulent perfume in an equally extravagant bottle. There were brands who held that perspective honestly. Those are the brands which are still around because there was heart over cynicism. I have no problem with that kind of perfume. My only concern is it puts up a barrier to being able to experience some of the best perfume. The trend which I am enjoying is the opposite of this.
Frederic and Shirin Fekkai
It seems like since 2017 there have been several brands which have begun not by trying to find the high-end of the market. Instead they are trying to find the balance between creativity and budget at the more affordable end. They offer their perfumes in smaller rollerball sizes to allow for more sampling of the line. The packaging is also kept simple; you’ll find that budget inside the bottle. The final ingredient it to work with perfumers who are known for some of the best-known niche perfumes while giving them leeway to create.
An example of this kind of perfumery comes from husband-and-wife Shirin and Frederic Fekkai and their brand Bastide. Started in 2017 they wanted to capture the scents of Aix-en-Provence as perfumes. I discovered them a little over a year ago and have enjoyed the perfumes they have produced. The fifth perfume, Bastide Verveine du Sud, continues what has worked so far.
Perfumer Mathieu Nardin has been behind all the Bastide releases. In the first three releases I thought I detected a kind of sunny aesthetic forming. Last year’s Figure Amour was more grounded confounding my earlier thoughts. Verveine du Sud is also working in a similar direction.
The brief is to capture the scent of midsummer’s twilight in Provence. Once the sun has set in summertime there is coolness to the air which allows for the flowers and fruit to peek out from behind the heat and humidity. That is what appears in Verveine du Sud.
A really refreshing combination of grapefruit, lemon, and mint form the top accord. The mint is used to evoke that chill in the air just after the sun has disappeared for the night. It lifts the citrus with a coolness. Verbena matches its lemon-tinted green with the citrus while peony picks up on the mint adding in a cool and fresh floral. A swirl of white musks add an expansive quality to everything. The base rests on a warm mixture of amber and light woods as a metaphorical fire pit to warm your hands.
Verveine du Sud has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Bastide has now become another of these new brands looking to make perfume for a wider audience. Verveine du Sud shows there is still more to come from M. and Mme Fekkai as they translate Provence into perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bastide.
One of the classic perfume styles is the “lipstick rose”. In the earliest incarnations it was meant to capture the smell of a lady’s cosmetic bag. During that time period it was Coty red lipstick which was the most popular. It was known for adding some iris to it to give it a distinctive smell. Anyone who grew up in the latter half of the 20th century has a female relative who owned a cosmetic bag which smelled of iris, rose, and leather. It fell out of favor as we crossed into the new century. Mainly because that accord had the pejorative “old lady perfume” attached to it. It didn’t entirely disappear, but it diminished in presence. The pairing is so good I was wondering how long the style would have to live in perfume purgatory before making a return. Over the past year there have been a few which have made the effort. Perhaps the best is Goutal Etoile d’Une Nuit.
Ever since 2016 Camille Goutal has made the business decision to make new perfumes in the transparent style seemingly desired by the younger generation. It has created some new collections within the Goutal brand. Oiseaux de Nuit has been one of the earliest. This was a collection on which Mme Goutal has exclusively collaborated with perfumer Mathieu Nardin. The concept is to appeal to twentysomething Parisiennes. The two previous releases, Tenue de Soiree and Nuit de Confidences, have chosen crowd-pleasing themes with clever twists over an opaque scent. While lipstick rose was crowd-pleasing a couple decades ago would Etoile d’Une Nuit find its way to a new generation?
Mme Goutal and M. Nardin have now formed a good working relationship where they understand the kind of fragrance they want to create. Etoile d’Une Nuit shows their improvement over time. Even with a construct as simple as this one is.
The difference to the old style of lipstick rose is evident from the first moments. The iris here is a shimmering powder instead of a concentrated lacquer. It adds a veil for the equally transparent rose to add another layer underneath. This is beautifully realized as it stays lilting and not heavy. Then the base of a leather accord infused with raspberry provides the finish. Neither of those notes add to the heaviness they jut arise and mesh with the rose and iris. I found the raspberry had an interesting grounding effect on the iris and rose. It keeps them tethered to the ground so that they don’t just dissipate away.
Etoile d’Une Nuit has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am interested to see how Etoile d’Une Nuit will be received. I believe Mme Goutal and M. Nardin did a great job of updating the venerable lipstick rose by making it lipstick lite.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Neiman-Marcus.
I talk a lot about the early brands which really cemented my love of niche perfumery. Because they were my entry into the world of perfume which has become such a large part of my life. Most of those brands have had their trials and tribulations which I chronicle. The ones which I feel badly about are those which never seem to find their place. Miller Harris is one of those brands. Early in my exploration of niche brands I found the perfumes being produced by owner perfumer Lyn Harris to be some of my favorites only to disappear by 2011. Like a difficult to start gas lawnmower I watch as they try to get this hard to catch engine in gear. A year ago, I began to have hope something might change.
The reason was the hiring of Sarah Rotherham as Chief Executive. Ms. Rotherham has been one of those who joins a fragrance brand shaking it out of its rut. The first three releases of her tenure have just arrived; the Miller Harris Forage collection.
Her stamp is immediately apparent as a collection named Forage conjures up the country to me. To Ms. Rotherham it is finding the country within the urban landscape. It was a mixed bag for me. Hidden on the Rooftops, by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, is a lightly honeyed floral. Lost in the City, by perfumer Mathieu Nardin, had an interesting concept of green growing through cracks in the concrete jungle. The green is all here; the concrete accord is not. The last one, Wander Through the Parks also by M. Nardin, captured the theme in the way I desired.
Wander Through the Parks is the kind of summery perfume which captures the time when everything is at full growth in the parks. Which means it is great foraging. In England it is said stinging nettles are also rampant. Making foraging a bit of a semi-hazardous effort. M. Nardin captures this all in a strongly green perfume.
Wander Through the Woods opens with a bit of citrus representing the sunlight through the tree canopy. The other ingredient in the top is a good amount of blackcurrant bud. M. Nardin uses enough to bring out the sappy quality of this ingredient when used at higher concentration. It’s a tricky balance and M. Nardin carefully counterbalances it with galbanum and the nettle flower. This results in a spiky green accord which is fitting based on the nettle inspiration. Violet leaf forms a bridge from that green accord to the patchouli base with some musk.
Wander Through the Parks has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
While it was only Wander Through the Parks which caught my attention in this new collection I did see the glimmers of a hopeful new future at Miller Harris. Perhaps Ms. Rotherham will remind me why I fell in love with the brand in the first place..
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Miller Harris.
There has been a quiet success story taking place at the mall. The brand is called Commodity. It started when Ash Huzenlaub and Konstantin Glasmacher decided they wanted to create a fragrance line which could stand on its own without needing all the PR trappings to find its audience. One thing they did very differently was they realized they were entrepreneurs not creative directors leading to a bold decision for a mainstream perfume; we’ll leave the creativity up to the perfumers we hire. They gave the perfumers a budget along with an ideal to keep it minimalistic; then turned them loose. It has formed a collection where the perfumers are able to push at certain mainstream tropes. One of the recent successes Is Commodity Nectar.
The perfumer chosen for Nectar is Mathieu Nardin. M. Nardin has shown a deft touch when given latitude to explore a specific keynote. For Nectar that focal point is neroli. Neroli has an inherent scent profile of green tinted floral citrus. It is why it has been a versatile complement throughout the history of perfumery. In the past few years neroli has been stepping into the spotlight as perfumers have been using it more often as a keynote.
Nectar opens with a zippy trio of citrus; pomelo, tangerine, and bergamot. It produces a tart, pulpy top accord. It is a bit of summer sunshine right from the start. The neroli begins to take charge soon after. M. Nardin uses a decent concentration of it which allows for all the multi-faceted appeal to be displayed. To accentuate the floral, honeysuckle provides the support. For the green M. Nardin first uses the green woodiness of cedar to pick the thread out, then with vetiver develop it into something distinct down into the base. He finally swathes it in a swirl of white musks providing lift to the overall effect.
Nectar has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As the official start of summer is rapidly approaching Nectar is the kind of perfume which could live at the beach. It provides a genial fragrant companion which shares all the fun and sun of the season.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Comodity.
Late last year on a trip to my local Nordstrom’s my contact there introduced me to the Bastide brand of perfume. Bastide is a part of a new comprehensive beauty brand based in Aix-en-Provence, France. Founded by husband-and-wife Frederic Fekkai and Shirin von Wulffen the concept is to use Provence as inspiration for the entire line. What I like is it is a moderately priced line and the perfumes released are bargains. Of the first three releases from 2017 I purchased a rollerball of Neroli Lumiere. I’ve worn it a couple of times, but I am especially looking forward to wearing it in the spring. I was planning on doing an Under the Radar column on it next month after I became more acquainted with it. Instead my daily search results informed me of a new release which was ready to wear now; Figue Amour.
Frederic Fekkai and Shirin von Wulffen
The creative team has so far exclusively worked with perfumer Mathieu Nardin over all four releases. There seemed to be an early aesthetic forming over the first three, but Figue Amour seems different which means that might not be as apparent yet. What had me so excited about Figue Amour was when I saw the note list; the heart accord was violet, fig, and orris. Those are three of my very favorite notes, my hopes were high.
In the description I am told nearly all the figs in France come from Provence. I’m not sure how many of them have violets and iris growing underneath them but that is the effect M. Nardin achieves. I spend an early spring day underneath a fig tree surrounded by purple flowers.
A stiff March breeze blows through the early moments, cardamom carries the smell of fresh berries and bergamot to me. Then as the breeze dies down the violet and orris lift me up into the figs ripe on the branches of the tree. M. Nardin uses the fully ripened fig around which the candied violet version of the ingredient coats. The orris provides a grounding effect without becoming powdery. The trunk of the tree is a smooth sandalwood given some warmth with a few musks.
Figue Amour has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I really want to point out the entire line of Bastide perfumes they are worth giving a try on your next visit to the mall. You can pick them up in 10mL rollerballs which I think is a fantastic way to encourage sampling. If you’re looking for a perfume to tame the lion of March then give Figue Amour a run it will definitely get you to the calm end of the month.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
One of the characteristic smells of the Holidays in my environment is spices. The potpourri and candles all seem to be spice laden. The mulled wine is full of spice. The baking is nothing but non-stop spice. Most people like to wear a perfume which might provide something different. I turn into a glutton and pull out my heaviest spicy perfumes, so I can wallow in it. There are samples I receive during the year that I know are going to be added to my Holiday rotation. At the beginning of the fall as soon as I took my first sniff of Perris Monte Carlo Cacao Azteque I knew this was going to be added to that shelf.
For 2017 creative director Gian-Luca Perris wanted to make a pair of perfumes celebrating the Aztec society. Working with perfumer Mathieu Nardin they produced Cacao Azteque and Tubereuse Absolue. They were originally envisioned as Eau de Parfum (EdP) strength but after they began the process they also decided to release both in an extrait concentration. Two releases became four. The two versions of Tubereuse Absolue are nicely executed tuberose soliflores with the extrait having a more intense white floral central accord as M. Nardin adds in a couple more than are in the EdP. When I tried the EdP version of Cacao Azteque M. Nardin creates a spicy perfume which floats on a surface of rum, tuberose, sandalwood, and leather.
Cacao Azteque opens with one of my favorite raw ingredients, cardamom. M. Nardin is using a very arid version of it in Cacao Azteque. To it he adds black and pink pepper, both of which keep the early moments on the dry side. This is so dry it might be difficult for some who are not fond of this style. It is right in my wheelhouse which meant I couldn’t get enough. Eventually it moves on to the heart as an unusual ingredient, pittosporum, is used as the connective note. Pittosporum has a slightly indolic citrus blossom character. It links up with the slightly lemony facets of the cardamom bringing it into the heart where rum and tuberose are waiting. The rum is sweetly boozy, with a bit of smokiness, while the tuberose picks up where the pittosporum leaves off. There are moments in the middle part of the development while the spiced tuberose is in ascendency that I felt this was the one which should have been called Tubereuse Absolue. It isn’t until after the transition to the base is made where a leather accord and sandalwood provide the foundation that the titular cacao finally makes a cameo appearance as dusty cocoa powder ghosting over it all.
Cacao Azteque EdP has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
The extrait version of Cacao Azteque focuses more on the leather and that is enhanced in that version. If you’re fonder of leather over spices that might be the concentration for you to try. If you like the spices, then it is the EdP version which has more of that. I expect both to have their fans. For me it is the mulled rum effect of Cacao Azteque Eau de Parfum that will be getting some use this Holiday season.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Perris Monte Carlo.
I try not to use sport metaphors in perfume reviews but every once in a while, it fits what I am thinking. In the sport of basketball as you are on offense and looking for a path to the basket the player with the ball is expected to use their skills to “create space”. What that means is you use footspeed, ball handling skills, or some assistance from a teammate to get free and drive towards the basket for an open shot. When it comes to perfume I think when a brand enters a crowded genre they also must look to create space from their competitors. One of the most crowded spaces for new perfumes is the cozy vanilla. Annick Goutal Nuit et Confidences looks to see if it has the skills to create some space in that sector.
A year ago, with the release of Tenue de Soiree creative director Camille Goutal began the Oiseaux de Nuit collection. In my review of that first release I mentioned that this seemed like a pivot point for Annick Goutal to try to attract a younger consumer to the brand. Working with perfumer Mathieu Nardin they managed to keep the Annick Goutal aesthetic within a more transparent style of perfume. Seeing that M. Nardin was once again the perfumer for Nuit et Confidences I presumed this would be the blueprint to be followed again. It is, sort of, but there is a clever twist to add something just a tiny bit more which is where I think they were trying to create some differences.
The early going is likened to “champagne bubbles and sequin dresses” which I guess I can somewhat see. It is a lively mixture of bergamot, incense, black pepper, and florals. It doesn’t fizz and sparkle so much as smolder on my skin, but this may be semantics. This is a very transparent accord which sets the stage for the vanilla to arrive. The vanilla early on sets up shop in the middle of the spectrum between airy and heavy. Then M. Nardin uses a set of white musks to stealthily push it towards the airy end of the scale. It is a nice effect where it allows the vanilla to move from heavy to light rather than the opposite which is what is most often encountered. This is where Nuit et Confidences makes its move towards the basket.
Nuit et Confidences has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I am liking the direction Annick Goutal is moving in which preserves what made the brand one of the original niche brands while carving out a new space to remain relevant. Mme Goutal and M. Nardin seemingly share a vision of what this looks like as Nuit et Confidences shows that shared confidence.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Annick Goutal.
I’ve probably watched too much election coverage lately. There is a word which is used often in describing the issues a candidate talks about, “pivot”. It means the candidate will move to a different perspective depending on the dynamics of the race. Particularly over the past year it seems like the dynamics of the typical perfume customer is also in flux causing brands to decide if they want to “pivot” towards existing trends. The group of consumers up for grabs is the Millennials. It has been one of the grand influences of 2016 and looks likely to continue into the next few years until there is some consensus on what this demographic wants. Which means the brand which can identify it earliest can perhaps gain some brand loyalty. Many of the niche brands seem to be watching and mostly waiting; Annick Goutal is jumping into the fray.
At the beginning of the year, with the release of Rose Pompon, creative director Camille Goutal said she was reaching out to twentysomething Parisiennes. Working with a different perfumer than Isabel Doyen she collaborated with Philippine Courtiere. That alteration already signaled a pivoting to a new demographic. Now at we get to the fall Mme Goutal completes that transition as she works with a different perfumer on a fragrance that is also very different from the rest of the line with the release of Tenue de Soiree.
The brief behind Tenue de Soiree is to capture that anticipation as a young woman is preparing to get dressed before an evening out. Mme Goutal chose to work with perfumer Mathieu Nardin to form a gourmand chypre. Tenue de Soiree succeeds at that better than I expected.
The perfume does not begin promisingly as there is a very typical fruity opening of berries and pear. The best part of it is M. Nardin makes it hazy instead of intrusive. He has better things to get to which is to use a vibrant orris which he supports with violet and freesia. The orris is as close as I get to finding the “getting ready to go out” vibe as I can imagine an iris-scented powder or lipstick being used although this orris is not that powdery. It has a richness to it which sets itself up to be part of the gourmand chypre base M. Nardin assembles. The chypre parts are courtesy of patchouli and low-atranol oakmoss. This is the chypre-ish nature without the heavy bite as M. Nardin also keeps it lighter. The finishing touch is a sweet praline accord; sugary, nutty, and bready. It adds a unique vector to a chypre focused base. It isn’t something I would have expected to like as much as I do. The praline fits with the patchouli and oakmoss in a sweet earthy way.
Tenue de Soiree has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
In conjunction with Rose Pompon it seems like Mme Goutal is thinking the new generation of fragrance customers will want a lighter floral in the spring and a similarly weighted gourmand in the fall. Her instincts are shared by many of the other bigger brands also working to bring this audience to their product. Tenue de Soiree is an excellent example of how to display your brand to that group without dumbing it down. Tenue de Soiree completes the “pivot” begun earlier. I am hopeful that Mme Goutal will find her audience because I would like to see more of the same next year from Annick Goutal.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Annick Goutal.