2017 sees the tenth anniversary of the Tom Ford Private Blend collection. It has been one of the most important perfume collections of recent times. In May of 2007 I remember seeing this group of brown square bottles in my local Neiman-Marcus. It was an audacious attempt to capture this new thing known as a “niche perfume” market. Ten years on it is easy to say under the creative direction of Tom Ford and Karyn Khoury they hit every target, and then some, they probably aspired to. They’ve been so successful it has become an arguable point that Tom Ford Private Blend is no longer even “niche”.
One of the best-selling entries in that first group was Neroli Portofino. Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux presented a luxurious version of the lowly drugstore cologne. It made Neroli Portofino a standard bearer for the vibe the Private Blend collection was aspiring to. Neroli Portofino was so successful Mr. Ford and Ms. Khoury decided to create a sub-collection named after it, in 2014. They also changed the bottle color from brown to blue so to make it visually evident when there are new entries. Since 2014 there have been five more releases each continuing the examination of the Mediterranean Hesperidic style of perfume. The latest release is called Sole di Positano.
Ms. Khoury invited perfumers Aurelien Guichard and Olivier Gillotin to compose this latest entry. It is based on a quote from John Steinbeck Mr. Ford admires, “Positano is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone”. The challenge is to create a very light version of the Neroli Portofino aesthetic.
Sole di Positano opens on the twinkling of sunlight off the Mediterranean represented by lemon and petitgrain. To keep it from being too tart the perfumers use mandarin to smooth out that character. The green of the petitgrain is then connected with shiso to add a couple shades of verdancy to the citrus. Jasmine and ylang-ylang provide the floral heart. These are cleaner lighter versions of both of those notes. No indoles in the jasmine along with no oiliness in the ylang-ylang. The green returns with moss, along with sandalwood, in the base.
Sole di Positano has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
In the past year, there has been a lightening up of the Private Blend releases. I wonder if it is a calculation for the collection to transition to appealing to a younger consumer. Sole di Positano is the most floral of the Neroli Portofino collection since Fleur de Portofino. If you like your Mediterranean perfumes on the lighter side Sole di Positano is going to please you.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
Most of the time flankers have a clear relation to the other perfumes within a brand for which it shares its name. It is a pleasant surprise when I receive a new flanker which has almost nothing to do with the previous releases. This was the case when I tried the new Ralph Lauren Polo Red Extreme.
One of the reasons I probably looked sideways at my sample of Polo Red Extreme was because I am not a fan of the original Polo Red, released in 2013. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin did a by-the-numbers lemon, lavender, and cedar perfume. When the first flanker, Polo Red Intense was released two years later, it was a bit unfocused as M. Gillotin shoehorned some extra notes like cranberry, saffron, and leather into the basic Red architecture. It was not an improvement on the original.
When I sprayed my sample of Polo Red Extreme I was so surprised at how much M. Gillotin had changed the pyramid I had to go find the other two just to make sure my memory was accurate. Polo Red Extreme goes for a much deeper style of fragrance which is more a gourmand than the woody versions the first two were.
The citrus changes for Polo Red Extreme to blood orange and if it was just that it would be similar enough to what has come previously. Instead he goes a bit more tropical with ginger and pineapple providing contrast. It still is mostly the citrus but the other two notes provide a very different fruity opening moment. The one note which is the connecting tissue between all three Red fragrances is clary sage in the heart. It is a supporting note in all three cases. What it does in Polo Red Extreme is to provide that 3AM in the diner roughness to the coffee at the heart of this new release. There is a kind of coffee found only in the wee hours of the morning which is just the right side of burnt and that is the accord M. Gillotin constructs here. It goes from straight black coffee to a mocha as cocoa flavors it in the base along with amber, and ebony wood. This isn’t an intense gourmand but it is a pleasantly different take for a mainstream perfume.
Polo Red Extreme has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
It is a low bar, for me, but Polo Red Extreme is my favorite of the Polo Red collection. It can be different within the department store offerings around it even though it is so unlike its siblings it should have been called The Anti-Red.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Ralph Lauren.
When I got my first sniff of the Raymond Matts Aura de Parfum collection at the end of November I immediately felt it was something noteworthy. I spent a good hour going from strip to strip as I began my process of understanding what Mr. Matts was after. In the never-ending debate about the concept of olfactory art there is a school of thought that goes something like this; the use of synthetics is what separates artistic endeavor from commercial enterprise. Or more prosaically unnatural versus natural. I think it is a false argument and something to consider more deeply at a different time. What the Raymond Matts Aura de Parfum collection has added to my personal consideration is that in the hands of focused creative direction a perfumer can turn out something completely unlike anything in nature but yet which calls out to the familiar. Of any perfume in the Aura de Parfum collection Kaiwe is the one which exemplifies this best.
When I was doing my initial assessment Kaiwe was the one I kept coming back to over and over. It was because of this unconventional look at the concept of fresh and green. Kaiwe is described, at its most basic, as a citrus ozonic Ambrox fragrance. It should smell like thousands of other similar fragrances which fit that description. In some ways it was exactly that which had me returning to it over and over. It smelled so like so many but not like anything else. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin puts together three distinct accords but while they seem to tread old ground they really are a step off of the well-traveled path.
M. Gillotin opens Kaiwe with a citrus accord made up of the soapy group of aldehydes which is what I detect first. This is the smell of a freshly washed body stepping out of the shower. Cocktails of green synthetics and citrus synthetics coalesce underneath the aldehydes deepening the fresh feeling. This is an example of what I’m talking about; the synthetics M. Gillotin uses provide no discernable handle to grab ahold of. It smells citrusy but not obviously one fruit or the other. The green accord is slightly aquatic and opaque. It undulates to my senses almost like a sheer green scarf rippling on a breeze. The shifting nature of the green notes creates subtle kineticism. The heart again is comprised of floral synthetics such that it is not any one floral but aspects of many florals. A hint of green lily, a bit of violet, a pinch of jasmine; but not really. To make sure you don’t spend too much time trying to dissect the bouquet M. Gillotin adds eucalyptus and juniper berry. The eucalyptus almost single-handedly forms the ozonic feel. The juniper adds an icy gin-like quality. It sets up perfectly as another note from the liquor cabinet, rum, joins in. Then in a very unique take warm milk also enters the picture. This forms a bizarre never made cocktail of gin, rum, and warm milk. It is odd but compelling. I sure don’t ever want to drink it but I really enjoyed breathing it in. Kaiwe ends on a swirl of Ambrox adding its unique character to all that has come before.
Kaiwe has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Kaiwe is one of those perfumes I just want to wear over and over because every time I wear it I find something new to admire. It is my favorite of what is an incredibly diverse collection Mr. Matts has put together. If you are someone who equates synthetic raw materials with “cheap” I think this collection might change that opinion. I know that I find what Mr. Matts is attempting here to be laudatory for boldly staking out this space as well as creating with great vision. If you give this line a chance it can change the way you think about what makes a great perfume.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Raymond Matts.
I am not sure when I met Raymond Matts for the first time. I am sure about the where, at a Sniffapalooza lunch during a Spring Fling or Fall Ball. He gave a talk which spoke to the room about the state of perfume at that moment in time. He boldly declared perfume blogging as irrelevant. I was just starting to write and I wondered if he was right. Here was a man with a wealth of experience from nearly thirty years in the fragrance business. I like people who take provocative stances and I listened to all he said and considered his hypothesis.
Mr. Matts has shown the same surety whenever our paths have crossed in the years since. Late in 2014 I found out he was going to have his own brand of perfume. Like so much about Mr. Matts these perfumes are declarative statements of intent. In my initial testing I have found all seven to have distinct pleasures. I want to really give all of them a little more time than I would normally and so my reviews of the entire line are going to happen in a series over the next few weeks. For this first installment I am going to focus on Tsiling and Tulile.
The names of all of the fragrances are made up words meant to convey something about them. In the press materials it is said they are meant to smell the way they sound. More than any other Tsiling lives up to this. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin was given a brief to capture a plastic flower which exudes a natural scent. This makes Tsiling a lively exercise with M. Gillotin having to strike just the right balance between the artificial and the natural. His choice is to start with the natural and allow for the artificial to provide the finish. The top notes are a mix of an aquatic accord, some green notes, and pear. The pear is most prominent and the other notes provide the more natural watery green of nature. As you move into the heart orris comes first and it is a rooty version. After M. Gillotin adds honeysuckle and what is named as rice notes the whole thing seems to plasticize in a time-lapse fashion. It just goes from natural to unnatural over the course of an hour or so. Then for the majority of the time I wore Tsiling it smells like a plastic flower scented with natural oils. Very late a bit of patchouli comes out but it is very minimal in nature. Tsiling has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Lots of perfumes marketed to men are said to be bracing. That usually means loud and overpowering most of the time. For Tulile Mr. Matts asked perfumer Christophe Laudamiel to create a masculine perfume which was embracing, instead. It starts off with a traditional zing of citrus over some aquatic notes. This is a common trope for men’s perfume. M. Laudamiel then starts to shift the paradigm as he uses lily of the valley as the floral heart of Tulile. This is a very floral muguet which combines very well with the watery citrus. It is because the citrus sticks around that Tulile doesn’t become overtly floral. For the base notes M. Laudamiel mixes two woody aromachemicals, Polywood and Ambrox. There is an interesting effect I have found with synthetics like both of these. By themselves they often irritate me. But if they are the right two synthetics they form an accord which is very pleasant. In the case of Tulile the Polywood and Ambrox form an opaque woody accord which is surprisingly soft for something composed of synthetic components. Tulile has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I’ll be back over the next few weeks with reviews of the other five perfumes in the line.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Raymond Matts.