New Perfume Review Roger & Gallet Feuille de Figuier- Refreshing Green

I have written many times in the past about my belief that Roger & Gallet is one of those “best bang for your buck” brands. Using some of the best perfumers available while giving them latitude to provide something different in the drugstore venue has produced a collection which should be more widely known. Until the end of last year it seemed like Roger & Gallet had given up on bringing their version of quality to the masses. After a two-year hiatus they came back with a five-fragrance collection which captured all that I praise the brand for. I was hoping this was a sign there would be more regular output. When I received my package of Feuillle de Figuier I was happy to see things were back on track.

I was particularly pleased to see the name of this new release because one of the highlights of the Roger & Gallet collection is 2013’s Fleur de Figuier. Composed by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian it is still one of the best fig perfumes I own. Feuille de Figuier seeks to interpret fig in a different more austere paradigm.

Mathilde Bijaoui

Perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui decides to focus on creating a perfume with refreshing shades of green. This befits a perfume named after fig leaves. Throughout the entirety of its development there is a consistent green spine which is delivered in a lighter style ideal for warm weather months.

The best example of Mme Bijaoui tempering some of the stronger ingredients is her use of galbanum in the top accord. Most often this is a deep green powerful effect. By pairing it with sunnier citrus and controlling the concentration there comes a refreshing quality that will be repeated throughout Feuille de Figuier’s development. The citrus gives way to neroli and its green underpinnings. The galbanum amplifies that. The orange blossom part of neroli finds itself adding some joie de vive to the fig leaves. Fig leaves a carry a creamy aspect along with the obvious leafy nature. That creaminess is enhanced by benzoin in the base while cedar brings in the raw green woodiness to keep things on the light side.

Feuille de Figuier has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mme Bijaoui has delivered a genial transparent green perfume which is just the kind of sparkling green the days of summer call out for.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone English Fields Collection- Grainy Gourmands

When I received my sample set of the new Jo Malone English Fields Collection a couple months ago I was instantly enthralled by Oat & Cornflower. It is still my favorite of the five releases in the collection. I also think the other four are quite good and thought I’d do a quick take on each of them. Creative Director Celine Roux collaborated with perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui on the entire collection which lends to a cohesion throughout this exploration of a different kind of gourmand fragrance type.

Green Wheat & Meadowsweet is a nicely realized version of those moments in the spring as the green shoots of new growth appear. Mme Bijaoui uses one of the grassy aromachemicals along with a healthy dose of grapefruit. That concentration of that citrus allows for its slightly sulfurous facets to blend with the fresh grassy part to form an accord which captures that early spring moment of the return of the green. Over time this warms, as if the sun is rising, making it slightly sweeter sort of hay-like by the time it reaches the base accord. It is an alternative to all the florals as a perfume to celebrate spring.

Celine Roux

In Crocus & Honey it starts off with a hay-like quality as Mme Bijaoui uses broom flower and coumarin in the top accord. Lavender matched with sage provides an herbal floral heart which fits in with the top accord pleasantly. The honey is then drizzled in at the same time almond and vanilla are also used to form a kind of honey butter accord. It is this final accord which I found the best part of Honey & Crocus.

Poppy & Barley is my second favorite mainly because of the floral not listed, violet. Mme Bijaoui uses a blend of violet and fig in the early going. That is a combo which appeals to me quite a bit. Blackcurrant bud turns it greener before the floral interlude of poppy accord carries you through to what really stands out here. The base accord is a texturally grainy affair made up of bran and barley. It is like running your hands through a filed of grains and bringing them to your face. A set of white musks leave you under the clothesline with linens drying in the sun.

Mathilde Bijaoui

Primrose & Rye seems like it comes from an English Field on one of the Caribbean Islands. The reason it seems like it comes from that part of the world is the use of coconut in the top accord along with sweet corn. It is a unique combination closer to sunscreen than gourmand. As it gives way to the florals in the heart the primrose is equally matched by an effervescent mimosa. The grain comes forward as the rye is leavened with a bit of vanilla. It reminds me of the smell of freshly baking rye bread. There is a slight sweetness paired with the graininess.

I found all five of the English Fields perfumes to have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I think what Mme Roux has been bringing to Jo Malone has been a sense of adventurousness. She has overseen several perfumes for the brand over the last couple of years which really stand out. English Fields is part of that trend.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by Nordstrom.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Jasmine Sambac & Marigold- Jasmine Dawn

Over the last couple of years Jo Malone creative director Celine Roux has been doing an outstanding job at expanding the overall aesthetic at Jo Malone. Last year’s English Oak collection. The previous Bloomsbury Collection and the recent English Fields collection have all shown her penchant at pushing beyond what you think of when the brand is spoken of. Of course, that kind of risk taking will naturally appeal to me. It can’t go on unabated which is why Mme Roux has sprinkled in several classically designed Jo Malone florals in between the collections.  While those were steeped deeply in the brand aesthetic I was wondering if the more adventurous spirit might make it into that side. I think Jo Malone Jasmine Sambac & Marigold is my answer.

Celine Roux

Jasmine Sambac & Marigold are part of the Cologne Intense collection within Jo Malone. I think this is one of the more underappreciated group of perfumes in the niche sector. I own most of them because they have always seemed to reach for a slightly more artistic vibe from the beginning. With Mme Roux overseeing some more adventurous attempts in the main brand it is not surprising that Jasmine Sambac & Marigold fits right in.

Mathilde Bijaoui

Mme Roux has been collaborating extensively with a perfumer for a few months lately. We are currently in the middle of her partnership with perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui. They have been producing some memorable perfumes starting with the Holiday release, Green Almond & Redcurrant, and the aforementioned English Fields set of five. Those all had subtle takes on a gourmand style. That is not the goal here. This is meant to capture the beauty of spring in full bloom as heralded by the two flowers on the label.

Marigold, also called tagete, is one of my favorite flowers in perfume meant to evoke spring. It has a pungent green aroma which also carries a fruity character along with it. It always reminds me of green growing things pushing up through the dirt. Mme Bijaoui starts this with the marigold out front given some depth with ylang-ylang. That is what allows it to stand up to the jasmine in the heart. The jasmine here Is lush without fully deploying its indoles. They are there but attenuated. Mme Roux was inspired by jasmine fields she saw at dawn in India. Mme Bijaoui threads through a watery accord to capture dew speckled petals of jasmine. The marigold is an excellent contrast forming an enjoyable duo for those spring mornings which start cold and end warm. It all settles on a cozy benzoin and amber base.

Jasmine Sambac & Marigold has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mme Bijaoui and Mme Roux are having one of those serendipitous collaborations which produce special results. I don’t know what comes next, but I’ll spend my spring in Jasmine Sambac & Marigold awaiting it.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Nordstrom.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Oat & Cornflower- Stick To Your Bones Perfume

There are perfumers who reprimand me for pigeonholing them as I write about them. I try to offer a weak defense that it means there is a perfume you’ve done which is memorable to me. It is good-natured conversation, but I admit there is truth to the perfumers’ assertion; I do associate certain perfumers with certain styles. Which of course doubles down when I learn they are working on a new release in that style. Which was why I greeted the press release for the new Jo Malone English Fields collection with some excitement. Perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui has made some of my favorite gourmand perfumes and she was going to be responsible for all five.

Celine Roux

Creative Director Celine Roux has really taken to working with specific perfumers over a series of releases. In 2017 Yann Vasnier was the collaborator on seven new fragrances. Mme Bijaoui jumped the gun a bit as she provided the Holiday 2017 release, Green Almond & Redcurrant. I mentioned in that review that Mme Roux seemed to be interested in featuring a different palette of ingredients along with working with perfumers who are adept at that style. Mme Bijaoui shows that Mme Roux’s instincts are right on as she produces a fantastic collection featuring grains as a focal point.

Mathilde Bijaoui

I just received my sample set of all five recently so I have initial impressions of all of them but there was one which grabbed me right away; Oat & Cornflower. I think I’ll probably do another post summarizing the other four English Fields perfumes another day because I think they are all interesting. Oat & Cornflower is the most interesting.

We’ve all probably eaten our share of oatmeal. You almost must add something to it to make it less bland. Mme Bijaoui does the same thing except she also makes sure the creamy graininess of the oat does not get lost throughout.

What greets you in the first moments is an ethereal use of hedione to provide a lilt of floral quality as the slightly musty dry oats come in underneath. Over minutes the oats become creamier as if they have been warmed in boiling water. Mme Bijaoui takes hazelnut and in using that makes it seem like it is when I add some nuts to my breakfast bowl of oatmeal. There is a nutty quality to oats; the hazelnut picks that thread out and examines it. The depth is provided by the base accord of benzoin gently supported by tobacco and vetiver. It turns into a stick to your bones gourmand.

Oat & Cornflower has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This exploration of grains is so well done in Mme Bijaoui’s hands that it is the first set of perfume this year which has really captured my attention fully. I encourage you to start with Oat & Cornflower then find out which one appeals to you.

Disclosure: This review based on a sample provided by Nordstrom.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Green Almond & Redcurrant- Nuts and Berries

I’m beginning the process of looking back over the year as I start to consider my end-of-year lists. Part of the fun of this is as I look back at specific brands some of them sneak up on me with the quality of their releases for the year. One of those that I’ve realized has had an awesome 2017 is Jo Malone. One of the reasons is creative director Celine Roux has taken the brand in some new directions this year. It started on an auspicious note with one of my favorite perfumes of 2017 Myrrh & Tonka by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui. In a nicely symmetrical way the Holiday release for 2017, Green Almond & Redcurrant, is also by the same team.

Celine Roux

Jo Malone is known for their floral perfumes. This year Mme Roux has spent more time exploring new ingredients which are at the darker end of the perfumer’s palette. Oak, whisky, hazelnut, and tobacco have all been keynotes in releases this year. There has also been a trend towards gourmand-y styles within this year’s collection. Green Almond & Redcurrant removes the modifying “y” and goes full gourmand for this seasonal release.  

Mathilde Bijaoui

Green almond is another of these accords of something that cannot be extracted. It gives the opportunity for a perfumer to fine tune the effect they are going for. In Green Almond & Redcurant, Mme Bijaoui accentuates the contrasting textures of tart and milky so that the green is supplied by an accompanying note.

Before we get there Mme Bijaoui takes the other note in the name and sandwiches it between mandarin and petitgrain to form a very rounded fruity accord. It can seem slight but it is worth focusing on the first few moments. These kinds of fruity accords are seemingly commonplace but this one meshes seamlessly. Which then sets up the green almond accord as the tarter quality of the accord resonates with the petitgrain. The mandarin slides into the milky aspect. Then blackcurrant buds provide a more primitive version of the redcurrant. Which is a nice connection but it is those buds which provide the real green in the green almond heart. The buds have a slight acerbic quality to them, here they provide the rawness that the green in green almond refers to. It all comes together beautifully. Tonka comes to give this the rounded toasted vanilla nature to make it feel like some exotic Holiday confection from a far-away place. The base is straightforward cedar and amberwood.

Green Almond & Redcurrant has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

In my press materials it is mentioned that Green Almond & Redcurrant should be layered over Myrrh & Tonka. This is not something I am fond of but in this case with the same perfumer behind both it seems to create an even more festive fragrance. Green Almond & Redcurrant brings 2017 to a close with the same quality with which Jo Malone opened it. A combination of nuts and berries seems appropriate.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample from Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Myrrh & Tonka- Opaque Oriental

Light is one of the words frequently used to describe the perfumes of Jo Malone. There is an easy-going nature about almost every release from the brand. It is their definitive brand aesthetic as well as a reason for their success. I know it is a place I take many who are wanting to take a step away from the mass-market fragrance offering. One of the reasons is the fragrances are simpler constructs using ingredients less seen in the best sellers. After twenty years of releasing these kind of perfumes, in 2010, a new sub-collection was created; Cologne Intense. This was a group of Jo Malone fragrances which would explore the idea of taking even the deepest notes and making them lighter while not necessary making the journey all the way to light. The releases in this collection are among some of my favorite from the entire brand because sheerer versions of classic perfume combinations are appealing when I want my lighter fragrances to still have some spine. The latest member of this collection, Myrrh & Tonka is the best example of this kind of perfume design.

 

Mathilde Bijaoui

The perfumers who have worked on the Cologne Intense has been impressive. The perfumer behind Myrrh & Tonka is Mathilde Bijaoui who is composing her first Jo Malone perfume. Celine Roux the Fragrance Director for Jo Malone gave her this brief; “Namibia, with its sand dunes and warm desert colors”. Mme Roux also believed that the collection was missing an Oriental and she felt Myrrh & Tonka could be that Oriental. Those might have been conflicting missions for some but Mme Bijaoui manages to capture both by turning Myrrh & Tonka into an opaque Oriental.

Celine Roux

Lavender is the keynote whose name is not on the label and where Myrrh & Tonka begins. This is a lavender which has more of its herbal nature on display. Mme Bijaoui keeps it that way with a judicious use of cinnamon which has an effect of drying out the lavender and constricting its natural expansiveness. The same technique will be used with the myrrh in the heart. Usually myrrh is an exuberant sweet resinous ingredient. Mme Bijaoui uses some cypriol to make it less sweet. The cypriol also sets the stage for the tonka. This is that toasted version of tonka where the hay-like coumarin has a little more of the scent profile. A tiny bit of vanilla brings it back some of the sweetness while guaiac wood provides the woody frame for all of it.

Myrrh & Tonka has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

On the days, I was wearing Myrrh & Tonka it was a like an old friend relating a quick story of travel to the East. There was only time for the highlights but together it makes for one amazing trip.

Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

Etat Libre d’Orange 101- Five to Get You Started

One of the perfume lines which lives up to the ideals behind niche perfumery is Etat Libre d’Orange. There is almost no other niche brand which so fearlessly pushes the boundaries. Owner and creative director Etienne de Swardt is audacious in the perfumes he oversees for his label. Right from the first eleven fragrances released in the fall of 2006 he laid down a marker that Etat Libre d’Orange was going to be very different. In those first releases is the perfume widely regarded as the worst smelling perfume ever, Secretions Magnifiques. Just do a search and you will see videos of people pulling horrified faces and blog or forum posts plumbing new depths of verbiage trying to describe the experience. I, personally, think it is a masterpiece of perfumery but it is really only for those ready to approach it on its own terms instead of as a rite of passage.

etienne_de_swardt

Etienne de Swardt

Because of Secretions Magnifiques there are many who are wary of exploring the other fragrances in the line and that is a shame because I believe Etat Libre d’Orange is one of the best niche lines on the market. There is not a boring fragrance in the collection and many of them are exciting for the singularity of their existence. If you’ve been wanting to give Etat Libre d’Orange a try and want to sort of slowly expose yourself to the aesthetic and attitude of the line I have five suggestions which might make things a little easier.

Fat Electrician was released in 2009 and was composed by perfumer Antoine Maisondieu. M. Maisondieu created a fantastically nutty vetiver by combining chestnut cream with the vetiver. It is bracketed by fulsome olive leaves on top and sweetly resinous myrrh and opoponax in the base. This is vetiver given a new twist.

Fils de Dieu was released in 2012 by perfume Ralf Schwieger. Hr. Schwieger created a Technicolor fragrance which pays homage to all things Southeast Asian. It percolates early with a palpable humidity which contains lime, ginger, shiso, cardamom, coconut and rice. By the end it turns into a sensual accord of leather, vetiver, and castoreum. One of my top 5 new fragrances in 2012.

Tilda-Swinton-ELO

Like This was released in 2010 by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui. Like This was Tilda Swinton’s celebuscent and she chose to collaborate with Etat Libre d’Orange. If every celebrity labeled fragrance was as good as Like This that segment of the market would be less looked down upon. Mme Bijaoui uses immortelle as the core of Like This and then proceeds to swaddle it in layers of ginger, tangerine, neroli, pumpkin, vetiver, and musk. This all comes together gloriously and Like This has been my Thanksgiving fragrance for the last three years.

Noel au Balcon was released in 2007 also by Antoine Maisondieu. Based on the name this is supposed to be for the Holiday Season but I wear it year-round because it is an easy to wear honey focused fragrance. M. Maisondieu uses the honey as a matrix to trap apricot and tangerine along with labdanum and cinnamon. It all eventually releases to vanilla, vetiver, and musk base.

Rien was released in 2006 by perfumer Antoine Lie. Of all of the very challenging Etat Libre d’Orange fragrances I think Rien is the most approachable. M. Lie created a dynamic intense fragrance which starts with the fizz of aldehydes which reveal a cumin and pepper-laced rose before ending on a leather and frankincense base. It is sharp and piquant and resinous and animalic and completely gorgeous. Of all of the first releases it was Rien which really sealed my enjoyment of the line.

M. de Swardt has a very arch sense of humor which plays itself out over the labels and names of the fragrances but if you can put aside your wariness because of Secretions Magnifiques and your raised eyebrows at the names and imagery an exploration of Etat Libre d’Orange is as good as it gets in niche perfume.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of these perfumes that I purchased.

Mark Behnke