There is nothing so frustrating for me as a fragrance line which carries a designer name seeming disconnected from the brand aesthetic. I am aware that fragrance is often an undiscovered country for many brands when they decide to make the move to expand into it. I have observed that a creative director who really takes the time to understand the design concepts behind fragrance can then successfully translate them into liquid form. One of those is Tomas Maier of Bottega Veneta.
Hr. Maier would lead the expansion into perfume with the simply named Bottega Veneta in 2011. The seemingly facille decision to create a leather artisan shop’s accord with some flowers growing just outside the window captured the essence of hand-made luxury. It was one of the best perfumes of 2011 and the best designer release of that year. They have continued to release some excellent mainstream designer perfumes ever since. Bottega Veneta Eau de Velours is another one.
If the original was a floral leather chypre the new one is a fruity floral leather. Perfumer Michel Almairac collaborates with perfumer Mylene Alran in this evolution of the original which M. Almairac was responsible for. The original had a lovely lilting plum blossom amidst the leather and oak. For Eau de Velours the blossom has become the fruit and no longer lilts; it leads the way. There is also an intent to simplify some of the lines of the original to give more prominence to the fruit, the floral, and the leather.
That design intent is evident from the beginning as the ripe plum has moved to the front of the line. It has some support from bergamot and baie rose but this is a plum just as it ripens. It is not sugary sweet but that mix of restrained sweetness tempered by a bit of tart freshness. It is that latter effect the baie rose sharpens the focus upon. Then very deep Damascene rose pairs with the plum in a classic fruity floral accord. The inherent spiciness of this breed of rose is lovely contrast to the plum. It gets better as the leather accord begins to weave itself within it. It is like tendrils of smoke as the first few strands start to become detectable. Over time they eventually weave a complete leather enclosure around the fruity floral. This effect is ably abetted by patchouli slowly adding to the volume of the leather accord.
Eau de Velours has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I again give a hat tip to Hr. Maier for retaining his vision of how fragrance represents the brand. Eau de Velours shows authenticity might not be easy but it is worth the effort.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Botega Veneta.
Back at the beginning of the year I had a friend who was visiting Paris over the Holidays and I gave her a shopping list. One of her stops was the new line by perfumer Michel Almairac called Parle Moi de Parfum. These kinds of blind buys are difficult for me because I really only have two pieces of information; the name and the note list. I tend to defer to lists that have things I like, which was what I did here. Of those first three, Gimauve de Noel, Woody Perfecto and Tomboy Neroli; I could glean a little bit about the aesthetic M. Almairac was designing for his own line. Minimalist compositions with three or four distinct ingredients chosen for their ability to mesh together in accords of their own, Tomboy Neroli was the one I liked best of those first three which mixed a neroli isolate, orange blossom, and amber into a real tomboy of a perfume. I closed that first review wanting to try the other five in the debut collection. It has recently become available in the US and I ordered samples of the other five.
Once the samples arrived I learned why I am not smart enough to translate a name and a note list. When I was looking at my choices one of the first I crossed off the list was one called Milky Musk with a note list of, “milk notes”, sandalwood, and musk; I was not excited. I was expecting creamy woodiness with darker synthetic musk. Which shows I was wrong because it is entirely different than that. The milk notes turn out to be a synthetic fig aromachemical. The sandalwood is a version which does have enhanced sweetness and creamy qualities. The musk is a layering of different white musks to form a pillow soft accord which arises when you combine a number of them.
That opening surprised me as I suspect it is stemone mixed with one or two of the creamier lactones. Yes, it is milky but this is like cream skimmed off the top not a hint of sourness anywhere; which was what put me off based on the note list. The sandalwood is another aromachemical with the creaminess amped up. This blends with that fig accord like a long-lost family member. Then this almost olfactory illusion of combining a set of white musks into a soft foundation.
Milky Musk has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
As much as I enjoyed Tomboy Neroli, Milky Musk has become my favorite of the debut collection especially as the weather warms up.
Disclosure: This review based on samples I purchased.
One of the things about the Holidays is it is one of the times of the year when fragrance is placed front and center at points of sale. I was reminded of this when standing in line to check out. There always seemed to be a display of perfume minis near the cash register. I spent a lot of time looking at the selection of perfumes in those plastic packages. I thought about how I had written about almost all of them over the three years of doing Discount Diamonds. That time was well-spent because there was one which I haven’t written about and it is sort of the epitome of what this column is all about: Zino Davidoff.
In 1988 the Davidoff brand ensured its place in the perfume hierarchy with the release of Cool Water. Two years earlier Zino Davidoff was released and it is the polar opposite of Cool Water. Named after the man who steered the Davidoff tobacco enterprise from 1912 until his death in 1994. It isn’t clear why in 1980 they entered the luxury goods market from their position as tobacco purveyors. Fragrance was one of the earliest parts of that expansion.
Zino Davidoff was the second fragrance release between the now-discontinued Davidoff and Cool Water. I knew about the perfume before I knew about the man behind the name. What I find interesting is a brand which was founded in tobacco has never released a tobacco perfume. Zino Davidoff is a powerhouse Oriental. The perfume was composed by a trio of perfumers; Jean-Francois Latty, Michel Almairac, and Pierre Bourdon. It was kept simple but each phase is excellently done.
Zino Davidoff opens with a particularly prominent bergamot opposite lavender. This is a classic top accord and the lavender matches the bergamot precisely. The heart is rose made a shade greener by geranium followed by patchouli. Again, patchouli and rose is not an unheard-of combination but it is executed professionally here. It all comes to an end with sandalwood, amber, and musk.
Zino Davidoff has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Zino Davidoff is collection of accords you’ve smelled previously. What sets it apart is the perfumers mange to put them together in a way which makes it feel classically new. Even now thirty years on it doesn’t smell dated. You can find it as a mini for $5 which is a great deal. A full bottle is easily found for around $20. This is a fragrance which glitters as bright as any of the previous Discount Diamonds.
Disclosure: this review was based on a bottle I purchased.
I am always interested when one of the successful mainstream perfumers chooses to strike out on their own. It is not a slam dunk that someone who has success at the popular can make the transition to independent niche aesthetics. The new brand Parle Moi de Parfum is perfumer Michel Almairac’s branching out. He is doing it with his entire family on board. His sons Benjamin and Romain are providing creative direction. His wife Elisabeth designed the Paris boutique which is the only place they are being sold, now. It took me a while for the trans-Atlantic perfume underground railroad to get me some samples. I requested three of the eight perfumes which make up the inaugural collection; Guimauve de Noel, Woody Perfecto, and Tomboy Neroli.
The overriding design of each perfume seems to be based on simplicity. When I was looking over the note lists they name three ingredients and only three. It is a departure from M. Almairac’s mainstream work which can sometimes seem overcrowded. In these three perfumes I tried, there is a stripped down feel. M. Almiarac is working with some more precious ingredients and perhaps doesn’t feel like there needs to be a lot of things to get in the way. In the case of Guimauve de Noel I wanted something more than the orange blossom pastry that it is. It ended up feeling like a trifle while I wanted cake. Still what shone through was a spectacular orange blossom matched with an equally beautiful vanilla. I asked for Woody Perfecto because the idea of coffee, leather, and vetiver sounded perfecto; and it was. As with Guimauve de Noel there is a richness to the coffee and vetiver along with a strong leather accord. Of the three it was the most kinetic. The one which grabbed me was Tomboy Neroli.
I’m not sure if my newfound enjoyment from Neroli is because there has been a steady stream of excellent neroli perfumes over the past fifteen months but Tomboy Neroli is another to add to that list. M. Almairac uses one of the isolates of neroli that allows for the terpene-like quality to have a little more traction. It is those molecules which add the bite. The neroli in Tomboy Neroli stands its ground as if defying anyone to challenge it. A subtle use of orange blossom scrubs some of the dirt off the tomboy and gets her to braid her hair. A sublimely chosen amber warms things while also framing the neroli further giving it something to really interact with.
Tomboy Neroli has 10-12 hout longevity and moderate sillage.
I must commend the Les fils D’Almairac for providing the creative direction which convinced him simple was the correct choice for his own perfume line. Based on these three I will need to endeavor to get the other five. For the time being these will hold me over and Tomboy Neroli will lead the way.
Disclosure: These samples were obtained from the Paris Parle Moi de Parfum store.
The ranks of discontinued perfumes are full of examples of fragrances released at the wrong time. I am often lamenting that if that particular scent was released today it would be a big seller. It is rare but some of those early out-of-step perfumes have managed to survive until the trends caught up with them. Because they have been around so long it is no surprise that they have fallen off most people’s radar screens. This month I’m going to try and put Paloma Picasso Minotaure back into play.
Paloma Picasso was the daughter of famed modern artist Pablo Picasso. In 1984 she released her first perfume called Mon Perfume. It was a very classical chypre done very well and it sold pretty well. Eight years later Ms. Picasso would follow-up with a masculine fragrance called Minotaure. She worked with perfumer Michel Almairac to create a wonderfully complex perfume which struggled to find an audience in 1992. It would go out of production for a time but it has been placed back on the shelves as of 2012.
Where Mon Parfum nodded to a classical composition Minotaure was doing anything but playing it safe. M. Almairac used a very green geranium as the core which he surrounded in bright citrus, vibrant herbs, woods, and leather. Today this kind of structure is not unusual if not necessarily common. In 1992 this was not on trend.
Minotaure opens with a big bright flare of citrus to which lavender is added. This was a common opening but M. Almairac added what he called a “marine accord” trying to nod to the beginning of the aquatic trend. This set of ozonic and salt spray notes makes it feel like you are standing on a cliff overlooking the ocean with fields of lavender and citrus at your back. Tarragon, sage, and rosemary provide a strongly herbal transition into the heart. M. Almairac takes geranium and uses it in a concentration not usually found, as this time it is the star instead of providing support and depth. It makes it the perfect pairing with the herbs as at this concentration the green qualities of geranium are amplified. This all gives way to a lovely leather accord and sandalwood in the base.
Minotaure has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage. It is a 1990’s powerhouse go easy when applying.
M. Almairac produced a perfume twenty years ahead of its time. If Minotaure had been released in 2012 I think it would have been talked about and lauded. Just because it is from 1992 doesn’t mean it’s not relevant in 2015. It means its time has finally come.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
One thing I am certain of in the vast wasteland of designer fragrances if there is not a Creative Director who understands the “je ne sais quois” of the brand it is the first step to a poor perfume representing that name. One of the good examples of what to do right comes courtesy of Bottega Veneta and the Creative Director Tomas Maier. Hr. Maier has presided over the resurgence of this luxury brand after Tom Ford appointed him to this post in 2001 after Gucci bought it. His vision has consisted of four guiding principles of high-quality materials, timeless design, modern functionality, and extraordinary craftsmanship. Bottega Veneta does not use a logo but instead relies on a distinctive woven pattern which finds its way onto everything they produce. When it comes to the fragrance all of the four principles are on display and since 2011 with the release of Bottega Veneta this has been one of the more recent successes within the designer fragrance space. As his craftsman Hr. Maier has chosen perfumer Michel Almairac who has composed four of the five releases. The most recent release Essence Aromatique holds up the other three principles as they use the timeless design of a cologne, add in high-quality essential oils, and make this feel completely contemporary.
Tomas Maier (Photo: Matteo Volta)
In the press material Hr. Maier explained that he wanted Essence Aromatique be “an unexpected crisp cologne that lingers like the essence of understated confidence” of whomever is wearing it. To create this cologne M. Almairac went for a traditional opening, a floral heart, and ends with a very modern “amber” to create what they call an “ambery cologne”. I have been pleasantly surprised at how well this works as I have enjoyed wearing this very much.
The traditional opening is citrus matched with herbal and M. Almairac chooses bergamot and coriander as his pairing. I really like the choice of coriander as it adds a bit of bite to the bergamot and makes the opening bracing, as a good cologne should be. The heart is a well-chosen Turkish rose whose spicy undertones complement the coriander perfectly. Patchouli picks up where the coriander leaves off and it all leaves a very sophisticated rose accord in place. Sandalwood anchors the base and vanilla tilts it to the sweeter side. This is where Essence Aromatique gets modern as this is not a traditional cologne finish it has a little more depth and persistence than the traditional cologne base notes.
Essence Aromatique has 8-10 hour longevity but half of that is really the sandalwood vanilla base and how much you like that will inform your enjoyment of this cologne. I liked it quite a bit and so it worked well for me. The sillage is average.
As I’ve mentioned before we are in a Colognaissance and Essence Aromatique is another example of talented creative people taking a venerable form and finding a way to simultaneously honor it and, yet, adapt it for the present day. Essence Aromatique accomplishes this as well as holding up the cornerstone principles of the brand. This is why the Bottega Veneta fragrance line is a cut above their competitors on the department store shelf.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample of Essence Aromatique provided by Bottega Veneta.