I’m starting this edition of Dead Letter Office a little bit differently. In the almost four years I’ve been writing on my own at Colognoisseur I am very happy that certain columns connect with specific readers. This usually leads to delightful conversations via e-mail or chat. One big fan of this column has decided to move beyond that. Over the past year I can count on seeing a chat pop-up the next morning after a Dead Letter Office piece. This reader has a crazy collection of discontinued fragrances. At the beginning of the summer I was asked how many more Dead Letter Offices I had in me. I responded that I was getting to the end of my list that I own. I was asked for my address and a few weeks later the most amazing surprise arrived; a box full of samples of discontinued gems. There was a little note which accompanied it, “this should keep you busy”. I’ve asked, I’ve pleaded, I’ve begged for the reader to allow me to name them. I feel like I should be able to call this the “Person’s Name Collection” when I write about it. For now, it will remain an anonymous random act of kindness.
When you get something like this there is a giddy moment of colognoisseur in the rare perfume store. I wanted to try everything. As the temperatures were cooling there was one which I had heard about which was purported to be a “perfect chocolate gourmand”. I felt like that was where I wanted to start, with Trussardi Python.
Trussardi is an Italian fashion design house which began by selling leather goods in 1911. Over the next seventy years the brand would expand into accessories of all kinds. In an interesting turnabout the fragrances which bore the brand name came before the clothes. In 1982 they would release their first branded fragrance; the women’s ready-to-wear collection would come a year later. The rest of the 1980’s would see a dramatic worldwide expansion for all things Trussardi.
As they reached the turn of the century they decided to jump on the fledgling gourmand perfume trend with Python. At this point in time Thierry Mugler Angel had spawned multiple follow-ons. To stand out perfumers Louise Turner and Nathalie Gracia-Cetto decide to create a photorealistic chocolate accord and serve it up on a sandalwood platter. It turns out to be all of that.
The perfumers raise the curtain with a raucous fanfare of orange, jasmine, and rose. It is loud and proud to be on your skin. Soon enough the chocolate comes forward as it seems to kick the florals to the curb while embracing the orange. The perfumers pull a neat effect by using plum to add depth to the chocolate. This then allows cardamom and nutmeg to gently spice the overall accord. The base is all sandalwood in overdose. It is sweet and creamy and kept there with a little vanilla.
Python has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
The chocolate in the heart of Python is not an abstraction in any way. The perfumers successfully present the smell of a fine chocolate bar. Evidently the abstract fireworks of Angel were preferred by the segment of consumers who wanted to buy a gourmand perfume. Which meant Python would join many other early gourmands in the Dead Letter Office.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by a reader.
Sometimes I get a second chance. Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male is one of those great perfumes of the 1990’s. It put Jean Paul Gaultier on the fragrance map. For twenty years, there has been a summer release and they have been near slavish retreads of Le Male. Which was why when I received last year’s version I put off giving it a try until months later as I was filling out my database. This was not an imitator of Le Male this was different. An Eau Fraiche with Popeye on the bottle. I was mentally kicking myself for not having written about it. It was a limited edition so I felt like I had missed my window of opportunity. Then my second chance came as the Eau Fraiche was re-released this year with Superman replacing Popeye on the bottle. This time I was not hesitating because Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Superman is a fantastic update which is going to be a great summer choice.
Perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto was asked to be the one to undertake this new interpretation. By choosing an Eau Fraiche Mme Gracia-Cetto had to use ingredients with impact. Subtlety is undetectable when the fragrance is at such low concentration. I don’t think subtle is an adjective that would be often used to describe Le Male. For Le Male Superman each ingredient is pieced together like a comic book gizmo which eventually saves the day. The only holdover notes from Le Male to Le Male Superman are mint and orange blossom in the early going. It eventually converges with a similar base accord but even that has recognizable differences.
Mme Gracia-Cetto wraps that mint in a swirl of aldehydes and ozonic notes. It is an uplifting accord with the mint grounding the less earthbound notes around it. The orange blossom leads into a heart dominated by sage. This is a place where keeping it lighter makes the overall effect better. This is sage and orange blossom as brought to you on a warm breeze. Never more powerful than a locomotive more like a scooter. That is not a criticism as it works very well especially for a perfume designed to be worn in the summer. In the base the mixture of woods and vanilla are still here from the original. The biggest difference is Mme Gracia-Cetto relies on Ambrox as the predominant source of woodiness. The vanilla and tonka bean are still there to make it close enough to the sweet woody foundation that defines Le Male.
Le Male Superman has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Just so people are aware last years’ Le Male Popeye and this year’s Le Male Superman are identical. There is no need to buy one if you have the other. If, like me, you missed Popeye then faster than a speeding bullet you should give Le Male Superman a try.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jean Paul Gaultier.
As I begin to follow a brand I am always interested in trying to define a particular brand aesthetic. I believe if a brand can create this it allows for a perfume buyer an opportunity to connect more strongly to it. Through the first ten releases Ex Nihilo was forming what I thought might be an emerging aesthetic. With the eleventh release, Love Shot, that aesthetic is mostly left behind. Which leaves me wondering if it is outlier or is it more similar than I think?
Love Shot is the second of two new Ex Nihilo releases helmed by perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto. Creative directors Sylvie Loday, Benoit Verdier, and Olivier Royere asked Mme Gracia-Cetto to create a modern floral chypre. The previous florals within the Ex Nihilo collection have had a very extroverted presence which hearken back to the powerhouse florals of the past. It has been that embrace of the structures of perfume from decades ago which had me thinking this was the eventual identity of Ex Nihilo as a brand. Love Shot is a very modern version of a classic perfume type.
Mme Gracia-Cetto chooses a fruity floral beginning with peony supported with a bit of raspberry. The raspberry imparts a tartness instead of the sweetness which I find so off-putting in this style. Having the fresh floralcy of the peony in place it allows jasmine to be the real star floral of this floral chypre. I like the expansiveness of the jasmine as it adds a tremendous amount of lift to Love Shot. So much so that the raspberry peeks out again. Then we head to the chypre base accord which Mme Gracia-Cetto constructs from patchouli, vetiver, and musk. This combination is starting to become the standard go-to for a modern chypre. What makes it different is how each perfumer chooses to balance the ingredients. Here the musks are amplified a little more so the vetiver and patchouli add a little less bite than they might. The choice works particularly well in Love Shot because Mme Gracia-Cetto matches the chypre accord with a leather accord. This is a classical leather accord very refined but not so far as to be suede more motorcycle jacket. Together this leathery chypre is a wonderful foil to the jasmine and raspberry.
Love Shot has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Love Shot represents a contemporary quality that most of the rest of the Ex Nihilo collection does not display. I think if I smelled it blind I would have guessed a whole lot of other brands before probably giving up and being surprised at the answer. Where it is similar is in its desire to push towards the limits of a style. As a fruity floral chypre I found Love Shot to be much more interesting than most perfumes of this ilk. That’s because it feels modern and vintage at different turns. Which might be the reason Love Shot is not an outlier just a different perspective on a vintage aesthetic.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Ex Nihilo.
There is an interesting subsection of perfume genres titled suntan lotion. There are some great examples from some of our best perfume brands. It should be no surprise that Tom Ford Private Blend wants to join in the fun in the sun with the new release Soleil Blanc.
Growing up in South Florida the smell of suntan lotion was one of the consistent smells of my day-to-day life. Which is why I probably enjoy this niche within a niche. To get this right there is a certain amount of tropical touchstones which need to be present. Perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto working under the creative direction of Karyn Khoury has chosen to go in a slightly different direction. Soleil Blanc eschews the deeper, oilier nature some of the other sunscreen fragrances conjure. As a result, Soleil Blanc is kept very sheer almost like the scent of the afternoon’s suntan lotion as it remains on a wrap hanging on the door.
Soleil Blanc speaks sotto voce right from the start as breezy cardamom is matched up with bergamot and baie rose. The cardamom is the focal point and its slightly lemony nature conjures up the sun. The tropical nature is carried off by ylang-ylang bolstered with jasmine and a very precise amount of tuberose. Ylang-ylang has this oily quality when taken on its own. The jasmine used here is meant to lighten that up. The tuberose is very controlled and it is meant to enhance the tropical feel without getting out of control. Again this is all done at the volume of a whisper. The base forms an interesting sun-kissed skin accord of benzoin, tonka, and cocoa. That last note is there for a very interesting alternative to Ms. Gracia-Cetto using a bunch of musks. Together this is the smell of your skin as you get up after a day sunbathing. A very distant fragrant reminder of the afternoon.
Soleil Blanc has 14-16 hour longevity and very low sillage. This is one of those perfumes where you will think it is gone after a few hours. Because of the low sillage it can seem that way but it does last a decent amount of time.
Ms. Gracia-Cetto has composed the cleanest of the suntan lotion scents. The low wattage on it is going to be an issue for some. I found the transparency of it all to be very appealing. It is such a clean scent that it doesn’t remind me of the beach but instead sunning by the pool or as Ellie May Clampett says the cement pond. Soleil Blanc is by far the quietest of the Private Blend collection but sometimes there is beauty in the softer moments.
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.