Pierre Guillaume has been one of my favorite independent perfumers because his aesthetic has significant overlap with mine. It doesn’t mean I like everything but I do like, and own, most of what he has done. For the last few years M. Guillaume has been doing a collection called the Rework series where he takes one of his previous releases and re-conceptualizes it. Starting in 2012 he has been working through his Numeraire collection adding a new release with the X.1 designation depending on the original number. Up until now he has done this with perfumes of his I like including some of my favorites. I knew we would eventually get to one of the originals I didn’t care for. Would I find some joy in the Rework? The first data point has arrived in Parfumerie Generale Suede Osmanthe 5.1.
Suede Osmanthe is the Rework of L’Eau de Circe. What does not appeal to me in the original 5.0 is that it is aggressively fruity floral which buries me beneath all of it. Part of it is my reticence to embrace fruity florals. Part of it was the osmanthus was overthrown by the other florals. Just by the name I had a feeling Suede Osmanthe was going to rectify much of what I found lacking in L’Eau de Circe.
Those of you who have followed my reviews know that osmanthus is one of my favorite ingredients. It is the dual nature of this floral as it carries an apricot and leather character within it. Even the apricot appeals because it carries a darker shading due to the leathery nature of the flower. As the name portends M. Guillaume is looking to explore the deeper aspects of osmanthus.
As much as I was ready for dark osmanthus M. Guillaume wanted to give the apricot its due in a beautifully creative way by loading it on an aldehyde bottle rocket and lighting the fuse. When I sprayed my first spritz of Suede Osmanthe I was expecting the apricot to lead. M. Guillaume packs in a bunch of the fizziest aldehydes and uses them to explode the apricot. It is a literal olfactory explosion which as it dies down leaves an afterimage of the apricot to lead into the leather heart. The synthetic Suederal is there waiting to provide that soft suede effect. As the leathery face of osmanthus peeks out the Suederal embraces it. A black tea blends in to provide a gentle smokiness to this part before a set of the animalic musks bring it home.
Suede Osmanthe has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Suede Osmanthe is as good as it gets from M. Guillaume and especially this Rework collection. I have been very impressed with the last few releases but Suede Osmanthe is the first to turn around my initial opinion of 5.0 with a much better 5.1. The fruity aldehyde transition to the deep leather is excellent every time I wear it; this makes it my kind of fruity floral.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Independent perfumer Pierre Guillaume has been doing an interesting thing within his collection; he has been going back and re-doing his older Parfumerie Generale perfumes. This is not re-formulation this is looking at them again and using them as inspiration for new fragrances. It unfortunately sets up an unintentional competition in my mind. I have owned the original version of everything M. Guillaume has redone. After I’m done I end up debating on whether it is better or worse than the original. The tenth release under this Parfumerie Generale Rework collection, 19.1 Neroli ad Astra, has shown there is a different way for me to experience the two different versions.
The original 19 Louanges Profanes was released in 2008. In it M. Guillaume layered a fabulously rich neroli over incense and benzoin. It is one of my favorite shoulder season florals, ideal for cool mornings and warm afternoons. The neroli was from Tunisia and carries a spicy facet that complemented the resins it will float upon. One of the best features of the Rework collection is it gives M. Guillaume the opportunity to re-imagine a perfume using a different source of the keynote. For 19.1 Neroli ad Astra he changes to the Moroccan neroli.
The neroli from Morocco is more luminous it carries a delicacy to it which the Tunisian version does not. Something else the Moroccan version lacks is a significant green thread which runs through my favorite neroli sources. The version in 19.1 Neroli ad Astra is all flower no stem. It seems M. Guillaume realized that as well and so uses a couple of other ingredients to provide some of the missing verdancy.
Before we get to the neroli in 19.1 Neroli ad Astra we transition through a fruity top accord cut with baie rose. Pear and mandarin provide a juicy effect tamped down by the herbal nature of baie rose. Then like a sunrise the neroli arrives as it spreads across the fruity opening and whisks it away as if it was tendrils of fog. The neroli exalts in its lightness until blue agave and geranium come around to add back that green grounding quality. The blue agave provides an unusual green which makes the neroli effect kind of abstract while also feeling natural at others. Jasmine is used as a floral foundation while providing some expansiveness to the overall neroli accord. A mixture of vetiver and white musks provide even more volume as the base accord.
19.1 Neroli ad Astra has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
In the past with the Rework versions I end up choosing “this or that” as one of them becomes my favorite almost to the exclusion of the other. For the first time 19.1 Neroli ad Astra has me thinking “this and that”. It is because 19.1 Neroli ad Astra has been so good in the summer heat. It is opaque without being a trifle but it isn’t going to be something I’d wear in the upcoming fall. Then I am going to reach for my old favorite 19 Louanges Profanes. Which makes this the first Rework where each version has a time and place for it.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
One of the fun things about attending Pitti Fragranze is seeing what independent perfumer Pierre Guillaume has made just for the fair as a one-off. When I attended in 2014 he showed me this fabulously watery cologne of cucumber. In many ways it was like the amuse bouche served by a chef before the meal. A simple statement of aesthetic in a trifle. The funny thing was that silly trifle got stuck in my head. So much so that when I saw him the next year I asked about it. He then told me that he was definitely going to release a version of it. He just wasn’t sure when. The answer is he has released it a couple months ago; Phaedon Concombre.
We always talk about wanting a perfume that can be worn on the hottest of days which will not turn cloying in the heat. Concombre is that design wish come true. One of my favorite summer meals when it is just too hot to turn the oven on is to thinly slice cucumber and place it in ice water. After the slices are cooled I drain them and sprinkle balsamic vinegar over it. For dessert a similarly ice-cold watermelon rounds out the meal. We’ve never discussed it but M. Guillaume must also have the same summer routine of some kind because Concombre has cucumber and watermelon as its nucleus.
Concombre starts with that fresh chilly watery cucumber note. M. Guillaume livens it up just a little with a sprig of mint. It is almost as if it came over on the breeze from the mint on top of my iced tea. He freely uses freesia to provide that watery quality. It also provides a chill which is not something I usually ascribe to freesia but in Concombre it definitely does cool things down. Then as the watermelon accord arises you get this lightly vegetal with the sweet melon floating on top of cool water. It is delightfully refreshing. It is all framed in clean lines of cedar.
Concombre has 6-8 hours of longevity and moderate sillage.
There is no practical reason to keep perfume in a refrigerator. I do it with some of my favorite colognes because they go on more refreshing when they are chilled. Concombre is another which also benefits from being in a refrigerator. It enhances all of the chill elements throughout Concombre. The days I wore it I refreshed it twice and each time it elevated my spirits. Concombre is a summer special.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Phaedon.
When it comes to movies I am not a big fan of the remake. The concept of when they take an older movie and take a modern look at it. Sometimes they will flip the genders of the central roles. Sometimes they will slavishly copy the original word for word. Which often displays how important an acting ensemble can be. Very rarely the remake can become more of a rework as the creative team decides to use the outlines but shade them differently. 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers turned a classic B-movie into a taut thriller which also contained a pointed commentary on the 1970’s yuppies.
In perfumery remakes are most often represented by flankers as the same basic story is told over and over again. Then there is independent perfumer Pierre Guillaume who has been releasing a set of perfumes called the Rework Collection within his larger Parfumerie Generale line. The perfumes in the collection each carry a number which is currently up to number 26. For the Rework Collection M. Guillaume has decided to return to earlier releases and rework them numbering them as X.1. What has been nice about the first four releases were they did not feel like flankers. They felt like M. Guillaume returning to the drawing board with a sketch already in place but this time it would result in a different end product.
When I spoke with M. Guillaume in Florence at Pitti Fragranze last September I asked him what was next and he told me the rework of Aomassai 10. I have to say while I smiled outwardly; inside I shriveled up a little. I think Aomassai is one of the best perfumes ever made in the independent space. M. Guillaume took a unique perspective on the gourmand fragrance genre. This was like hearing someone was re-making the movie Casablanca in my mind. I was worried where this would go. In January I received the press release for Bouquet Massai 10.1. Now it was reality.
One of the things M. Guillaume has been exploring in these reworks is the concept that if you take the core accord and surround it with different things can you make something as compelling. For Bouquet Massai the central accord of coffee and Cashmeran from Aomassai is brought over; then immersed in floral notes of peony, magnolia, and karo karounde. What results is a much more defined version of that central accord in which the bitter qualities are enhanced and the roasted nature attenuated.
Bouquet Massai opens with the coffee and Cashmeran nucleus in place. It is rapidly hung with lei of the three main florals. I noticed peony first. The heady jasmine-like nature of karo karounde next. Finally, the magnolia. Each new floral serves to sharpen the bitter nature of the coffee. They gave it more bite. Where Aomassai was a smoother softer gourmand; Bouquet Massai has taken the softness away leaving a different feeling. Bouquet Massai comes together with a snap. Within that crispness I realized how versatile the coffee-Cashmeran accord is to anchor two disparate versions. Bouquet Massai finishes with some soothing sandalwood to take some of the sting out of things.
Bouquet Massai has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As was done with Invasion of the Body Snatchers M. Guillaume has presented a rework which allowed me to see Bouquet Massai as a creation all its own.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Parfumerie Generale.
Even the scions of independent perfumery must bow a little bit to creating with an eye towards sales. The advantage is an independent perfumer has a much smaller bottom line than a conglomerate. Even so by the very nature of being outside of mainstream business forces you still have to keep the ship afloat. Two of the most successful independent perfumers are Pierre Guillaume and Andy Tauer they have made Parfumerie Generale and Tauer Perfumes the examples for those who have followed. Their success is because they provide a different fragrant experience to perfume lovers. But even they want to break free every once in a while and give in to a creative urge they feel might not be worth including in their brand offerings. M. Guillaume and Hr. Tauer have each made a recent one-off experimental fragrance. Both have in common a challenging nature asking the wearer to embrace the near un-embraceable.
Hyraceum (Photo via africanaromatics.com)
M. Guillaume’s inspiration for Lumiere Fauve which he made in a small batch to giveaway at Pitti Fragranze 2015 was an online criticism. It was a short pointed comment saying, “Your perfume is shit.” This inspired M. Guillaume to actually make a shit perfume. More precisely a perfume based on hyraceum. Hyraceum is the solidified extract of urine and feces of a small South African mammal called the Hyrax. I can’t even begin to imagine who first thought this would be a good perfume ingredient. M. Guillaume allowed me to smell the unadulterated raw material and it smelled like what it looked like. I nearly gagged because I took in too deep a breath. Like other ingredients like indoles which at 100% also induces revulsion once it is reduced it becomes more palatable. M. Guillaume didn’t want to reduce the hyraceum to too low a level. He wanted a shit perfume wrapped up in beauty. In this case a floral bouquet wraps itself around the hyraceum making it more approachable. I love perfumes like this but even wearing this for a whole day was a bit of an experience. It reminded me of The Elephant Man as there is a fierce intelligence under a disfiguring surface.
Painting by Andy Tauer to accompany Dark Mysterious Woods
Hr. Tauer I think wanted to live down his “nicest guy in perfumery” label with Dark Mysterious Woods. I think he left out an adjective, dangerous. When wearing Dark Mysterious Woods it made me edgy as if there was something out there in the moonlight. Hr. Tauer’s choice for these woods are none of the usual soothing choices like cedar or sandalwood. Nope this is all the villains of the woody end of the perfumer’s palette. Because there was no place for me to find a place of comfort I let the mystery sweep me away. It means Dark Mysterious Woods evokes emotions I probably don’t want provoked on a regular basis. The day I wore it I thought of the movie The Blair Witch Project as it felt like there were things out there in the dark. The more I tried to find them the more lost in the forest I became. Dark Mysterious Woods was unsettling in the most pleasant of ways like an olfactive haunted house.
I suspect we will never see either of these for sale as they are meant more as single experiences. I do think we will see some of the themes that each of these perfumes contains to be worked into a future release. I won’t be surprised if M. Guillaume takes his hyraceum and spins it into gold. Hr. Tauer might take the rougher dangerous woods and use them as contrasting foundation for a more traditional beautiful opening reminding us there is danger underneath the fairest of them all. I thoroughly enjoyed being taken on two such excellent adventures by Pierre and Andy.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Pierre Guillaume and Andy Tauer.
Pierre Guillaume is seemingly ever in motion as he moves from one collection to the next. One of my favorites is the one he started in 2010 called Huitieme Art. The concept is to showcase a new raw material or accord. It has been a consistently evolving enterprise over the last five years. The thirteenth release called Shermine is a great example of what I admire about this collection.
M. Guillaume’s brief for Shermine was “Fourrure D’Iris” which translates to “Iris like Fur”. Before I ever got a sniff that had me interested. Even the name reflects this as it is a portmanteau of the last letter of iris and ermine. He mentions in the press release that this is a “materials-driven” fragrance. Most of the time when you can see the architecture in such a severe way it leads to something a bit sterile. What keeps this from happening in Shermine is that the material, or more properly accord, which is doing the driving is anything but reserved.
Shermine opens on an alternating piquant and bright top accord of lemon and pepper. The note wrinkling nature of the pepper prepares the stage for the “iris fur” accord. M. Guillaume has built this on a foundation of iris mixed with rosewood, cardamom, and lavender. This is a fabulous artifact of the perfumer’s skill. The iris is in a fur coat. That mix of wood, spice, and floral does not leap out and say “fur” to me but in Shermine it sure achieves the desired effect. To further define it M. Guillaume adds some of the animalic musks and a pinch of vanilla. This is an iris with a hairy-chest; thrusting it out for all to see. The base is meant to support but not supplant the heart. As such guaiac, vetiver, and patchouli provide a more restrained foundation than you might expect. From about thirty minutes in until the end this is all about this hirsute iris.
Shermine has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is exactly what makes the Huitieme Art releases so much fun. This is an iris with no hint of powder. The rootiness is much more in the foreground. Basedon a couple of side projects M. Guillaume showed me at Pitti Fragranze It feels like he is starting to re-examine the more animalic materials and accords in his palette. If Shermine is the first in a line of unique animalice I can’t wait for what is to come next.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Huitieme Art at Pitti Fragranze.
When I was with Pierre Guillaume at Esxence back in March he gave me a preview of all six perfumes in the Collection Croisiere. The previous five releases have been M. Guillaume’s perfumed version of a resort collection. They all carried aquatic, beachy themes. By the time I had gone through those I probably had an impression in my mind what was coming next. For the recently released sixth member of the Collection Croisiere, Metal Hurlant, it is a very different type of cruising M. Guillaume is talking about.
When I met my wife she was a motorcycle rider. I never caught the bug but I did accompany her on many of her trips, following behind in the car. These were invariably summer trips and when we would get to our destination there was a distinctive accord to the crowd. It smelled of gasoline, the leather of the riding wear, and the human musk of having sweated through a day’s ride. There are a number of unusual smells I find appealing; gasoline is one of them. I don’t know if it is the chemist that draws me to the smell of refined petroleum but I have always found it pleasant. M. Guillaume must also find it so, as well. Metal Hurlant is the smell of the open highway astride a motorcycle with nothing left out.
Metal Hurlant opens with that gasoline accord. Trust me when I say this is a realistic gasoline accord. If the smell of gasoline is unpleasant to you the first minutes of Metal Hurlant will be a tedium. If you want a perfume which presents something different this gasoline accord is most definitely that. This isn’t the smell of gas in a tank. Instead it is the smell of a bit splashed on the chrome fuel tank evaporating into the air. It has all the acrid facets you would imagine to be there. But because it an expansive version it makes it more approachable. The expansion of the accord over the first few minutes was completely fascinating on the days I wore Metal Hurlant. Soon enough I was slipping on my riding leathers. This is a leather accord of well-used leather. It is the raw transformed into something semi-refined over years of wearing it. The leather becomes the primary horsepower in Metal Hurlant but the gas is not gone. The final bits are the animalic musks. If you’ve ever sweated underneath a leather jacket when you finally take it off there is that unmistakable smell of musk and leather. That is what M. Guillaume captures over the last few hours.
Metal Hurlant has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
After five very pleasant releases I was overjoyed that M’ Guillaume decided to move away from the beach and straddle a motorcycle. Metal Hurlant captures all the smells which represent cruising between the white lines of the highway. If you are looking for a different perfume experience take Metal Hurlant out for a ride.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Pierre Guillaume at Pitti Fragranze 2015.
There are times when I get a sneak preview of an upcoming fragrance from a perfumer that I just count the days until it is released. When I was at Pitti Fragranze last September Pierre Guillaume showed me his idea of a fun in the sun perfume. I sprayed a little on that day and it was easily one of the best things at the entire expo but it wasn’t to be released yet. Flash forward seven months to Esxence and the same sequence as the perfume now had a name Mojito Chypre and it would be the fifth fragrance released in Collection Croisiere. My waiting is over and Mojito Chypre has now been released.
Having grown up in South Florida musician Jimmy Buffet was a Native Son and Partier-in-Chief especially in the Florida Keys where we had a weekend place. There were way too many nights we sang at the top of our lungs, “wasting away in Margaritaville!” with Mr. Buffett. There was a smell to warm liquor infused nights on the outside deck. Mojito Chypre captures that sense of carefree fun except the drink of choice is the rum and mint concoction called a mojito. M. Guillaume adds in a strawberry to his perfumed cocktail which definitely makes everything even more fun.
The first half of Mojito Chypre is that party. The rum is flowing the lime, mint, and strawberry are being muddled and releasing their flavors along with their scents. There are so many boring strawberry-themed mass-market perfumes out there. I want to grab them by the collar and have them smell this and see how it is done. There is never any moment in the opening hours, when the mojitos are flowing, when this perfume becomes too sweet, too fruity, or too much. M. Guillaume has mixed a perfect cocktail. If Mojito Chypre was just this it would be wonderful. M. Guillaume does not forget the second half of the name and there is this moment when the bottles are empty and you’re just left with the smell of late night woods and water. That is represented by a shift to patchouli and veitver as they provide the foundation for the oakmoss to rest upon. All together it makes for an excellent chypre accord. Just to make sure all the fun hasn’t disappeared M. Guillaume adds a bit of vanilla as a reminder there was a party going on here.
Mojito Chypre has 10-12 hour longevity with above average sillage.
I’m having a lot of fun describing Mojito Chypre with lighthearted terms. What I don’t want to get lost is what an accomplished perfume this is from M. Guillaume. There were so many ways this could have gone wrong. Instead it has gone deliriously right. I know I will be humming a lot to myself this summer, “wasting away in mojitoville” as I wear Mojito Chypre.
As a special bonus those who read my The Sunday Magazine column know I like making cocktails. This seems like the place to share my Strawberry Mojito recipe.
½ fresh lime
Six leaves of mint
1 ½ sliced strawberries
2 oz of white rum
2 oz club soda
In a large glass place squeeze the lines and place the limes in the glass. Add in the sliced strawberries, and the mint. Use a muddler to crush all of them together. Add in ice, the rum and the club soda and give it a stir.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Pierre Guillaume.
Continuing the reviews of the new Pierre Guillaume Collection Croisiere with Jangala and Long Courrier.
In most of the islands there is this wonderful mix of rainforest which grows right next to the ocean. If you spend anytime walking thorough these jungles there is this bit of natural scent collision as the breeze off the ocean carries the smell of the sea deep into the verdancy of the rainforest. It is a heady mixture of green and ozonic. M. Guillaume’s attempt at this is called Jangala. M. Guillaume is the second perfumer who has recently used a bit of eucalyptus to simulate the smell of fresh scrubbed air as you breathe in. This air is what you experience after the rain has fallen in the rainforest. Everything is dripping with water but the air smells clean and sweet. M. Guillaume uses cardamom and ginger blossoms primarily to simulate the tropical forest. Then the sea breeze makes its way between the trees infusing everything with a marine lift. The damp earth of the rainforest floor is recreated with an accord of sandalwood, coconut, and vetiver. It is a moment in time and place captured in perfume.
Long Courrier is what happens when M. Guillaume’s deft touch with gourmand notes decides to set sail. It is like fusion cooking as cocoa and vanilla bob upon the ocean. In the press materials M. Guillaume says he wants Long Courrier to be “the delicious scent of suntan lotion”. I think he did his job too well because it is much more delicious than it is skin product. There is much of the sea and sand around to not let you forget this is aquatic, though. It opens with a sea accord buoyed with the use of a particularly luminous orange blossom. It transforms into something opaque and ethereal as it slowly drifts away. What is left behind is a strong vanilla and cocoa accord along with the smell of the ocean underneath. I found this combination oddly compelling each day I wore this. It was always confusing as it felt like I was eating confections while floating on the ocean. M. Guillaume makes this work and in the final part of the development it is mostly vanilla and ocean on top of sandalwood which finishes Long Courrier off.
These four fragrances are just the start and I got previews of the upcoming four releases which will happen over the rest of 2015. The one called Mojito Chypre I have smelled on a strip twice and now I am eagerly awaiting its release as it is the perfect bartender’s scent. M. Guillaume has lived up to his promise to make me love aquatics all over again without using a drop of Calone.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Pierre Guillaume at Esxence 2015.
Over the past year or so some of my favorite perfumers have decided to take on one of the most tired perfume tropes there is; the aquatic. What has made this particular fragrance genre so banal is the overuse of the aromachemical Calone. The great majority of aquatics start and finish with a huge quantity of this and no matter what you try and put around it the Calone is most of what you experience. The aquatics which have made me sit up and notice again have been largely a “Calone-Free” zone.
Prior to seeing Pierre Guillaume in Milan at Esxence 2015 he had told me he was working on a collection of aquatics. I didn’t hide my disappointment very well and he promised me he would do it without Calone. In what will eventually be a collection of eight fragrances I have the first four. The collection is called Pierre Guillaume Collection Croisiere. M. Guillaume did what he had asserted he could do he has created an entirely Calone-Free set of perfumes which take a very tired style of fragrance and re-invigorate it. I like all four of these and I am going to split my review up into two parts. I will start with Entre Ciel et Mer and Paris Seychelles.
As one who grew up next to the ocean I think one of the things which bores me to tears is that perfumers and creative directors don’t realize there are so many different natural fragrances to the seashore. M. Guillaume does understand this and in Entre Ciel et Mer captures one of the key odors I connect with the ocean; the slightly iodine-like smell of the sea spray. M. Guillaume employs a new molecular distillation of sea algae from the Pacific. When you hear algae I imagine you are thinking “low tide” and the pungency which goes with that. Scrub that from your mind and instead think of the spray as the waves crash and you breathe it in fresh and damp. It really is a remarkable evocation of the crashing surf that M. Guillaume has achieved. He adds in a bit of thyme and ambergris but the star of this show is the algae. It all eventually ends on a sandalwood finish.
Paris Seychelles is all about the smell of the person sunning themselves on the beach. M. Guillaume wants the smell of sun warmed skin coated with suntan lotion on top of the milieu of the beach and the tropical flowers growing at the ocean’s edge. The bite of black pepper grabs my attention before we dive into his skin accord. He starts with the mixture of salicylates that form the typical suntan lotion accord. A bit of lily picks up the floral facets. Some coconut milk finds the creamy parts. Monoi oil brings in the tiare and completes the foundation of the skin underneath. All of this is accomplished while it is clear the sand and the surf are still around but off in the distance. It is the memory of beach vacation as it lingers for days after your return.
On Monday I’ll cover the remaining two perfumes, Jangala and Long Courrier.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Pierre Guillaume at Esxence 2015.