My least appreciated style of perfume is the fruity floral. If you ask me to only have one half of that I would have said give me the floral. It isn’t that there aren’t fruity perfumes which retain interest, but it sometimes becomes difficult for a creative team to keep it from smelling like candy. Which is a shame because fruity notes offer some of the same promise that their floral partners do. The latest Vilhelm Parfumerie release, Poets of Berlin, shows how that is done.
Creative director of Vilhelm Parfumerie, Jan Ahlgren, has done a fantastic job of using musicians as inspiration but I must confess this time the connection has passed me by. In the press copy it says Poets of Berlin is inspired by David Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy of albums. I will leave it to better minds than mine to make the connection between a fruity woody perfume and Bowie’s Berlin portfolio. Once again M. Ahlgren calls on his collaborator on the entire collection to date, Jerome Epinette, to find a way to add something to fruity fragrance.
Jerome Epinette (l.) and Jan Ahlgren
The choice that is made is to take a combination of sweet and tart fruit ingredients and let them open with a crystalline sweetness before slowly adding in woody ingredients from light to heavy to provide unexpected depth to the fruit.
The two fruits M. Epinette uses are lemon and blueberry. When they first hit my skin, they project predominantly as sugary sweet reminding me a bit of those sugar-coated jelly candies. Then the M. Epinette uses the green tinged woodiness of bamboo to turn my attention to the tart underneath the sugar. That green thread is picked up and amplified with vetiver which also notches the woodiness up a level, too. This is where the sweetness of the fruit returns to the foreground pushing back against the woods. Sandalwood and vanilla comprise the base accord creating depth to both the sweet and the woods.
Poets of Berlin has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Poets of Berlin is an excellent spring fragrance. I wore it on an unexpected warm day and it really sang on my skin. It is surprising that I am happier wearing fruity rather than floral on a warm day, but Poets of Berlin has made me crave fruity woods.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Vilhelm Parfumerie.
It has been almost exactly eight years since I first met Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel in New York City. She was showing me her new brand Atelier Cologne. The first question out of my mouth was, “does it last?” She then explained the concept behind the bottle was to create a new version called “cologne absolue”. On that day, and ever since, Atelier Cologne has been at the forefront of the 21st century re-interpretation of cologne. One of those first releases showed the possibilities within the concept, Orange Sanguine. That simple fragrance took the traditional citrus cologne adding depth and nuance along with longevity and projection. It is the perfume I send many to seek when I want to display why a niche perfume might be worth a little more. Mme Ganter-Cervasel has continued to collaborate with the perfume behind Orange Sanguine, Ralf Schwieger; their latest is called Iris Rebelle.
The current fragrance customer is in flux with a seeming desire for a lighter style of fragrance. For a brand there must come adaptations with that. I have been wondering whether Atelier Cologne must also bend towards this trend. One release is not a direction but Iris Rebelle is the most transparent Atelier Cologne released to date. Having Hr. Schwieger on hand to translate the original concept into something more on trend for the present day makes sense. What has been produced is a floating iris-colored veil on a breeze.
Hr. Schwieger cleverly uses a very rooty iris as his keynote. This is the iris which I prefer over the more traditional powdery style. By accentuating the earthiness, it also allows for it to not become an overbearing puffball. In the early going orange blossom combines with the iris to form an incredibly grounded accord. There is a slightly sweet carrot-like nature which comes forward which is very pleasing. Hr. Schwieger then uses a judicious amount of lavender to add a hint of floral quality so that you are reminded that iris is more than a root. Rose also provides a slightly more intense floral underpinning, too. This settles onto a base accord of guaiac wood continuing to keep the mood light along with some white musks and a bit of patchouli.
Iris Rebelle has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
It will be interesting to see how Iris Rebelle is received by long-time admirers of the brand. It is so much more transparent than anything else in the collection it stands out. As one of those I feel like it upholds that original ethos laid out eight years ago from a different perspective. I like it. What is still to find is does Iris Rebelle create new consumers. David Bowie says in “Rebel Rebel”, “You love bands when they're playing hard”. What happens when they play a little softer?
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
I was fortunate as a child to be able to visit almost all the Caribbean Islands. I am probably stretching a point but one of the great things about arriving on a different island was each had its own scent. There were things which grew more abundantly on each different destination. There was some significant overlap but when I smell certain ingredients I have a specific memory of an island come to mind. The latest reminder is one which combines three specific ingredients into a kind of all-star perfume, Berdoues Hoja de Cuba.
Hoja de Cuba is part of the Grand Cru collection which is all about capturing the scent of a place. They have tended to be simple styles of three or four ingredients. As I’ve mentioned in the past if one of those ingredients doesn’t work well it tends to cause the entire perfume to fall apart. In the case of Hoja de Cuba perfumer Ane Ayo spent some time in Cuba taking in the smells of the tobacco fields which is one of the three notes in the fragrance. She also must have been based in Santiago de Cuba on the southeast shore of the island because the other two ingredients come from Jamaica to the southwest and Haiti to the east.
The Jamaican contributor is allspice. For those who cook with a jerk seasoning this is one of the ingredients. In perfume it has a warm nutty quality along with the spice mélange promised in the name. Mme Ayo pushes the allspice out in the early moments and allows it to display its style. Haiti adds in the well-known vetiver as the woody character matches to the nutty part of the allspice. It also provides the vegetal greenery indigenous to every tropical island. When the tobacco arrives as the final note it provides a dried sweet narcotic wrapper to embrace everything into a lovely perfume cigar.
Hoja de Cuba has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I know the middle of February is the time of year many of us wish we were in the Caribbean for a long weekend. Hoja de Cuba can at least provide the scent of a mid-winter trip to the islands.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
If there is anything the dream machine that is Hollywood does best, it makes subversive safe for general audiences. I would get great enjoyment at watching the “dangerous streets of Miami” depicted in many Hollywood productions. I probably first became aware of it as they co-opted the hippie movement of the late 1960’s even building a cop show around the concept of disaffected youth called “The Mod Squad”. They were just a little too clean and a lot too establishment; except when the plot needed them to get a little uppity.
Carlos Quintero (l.) and Karl Bradl
When it comes to perfume the most recognizable ingredient associated with hippies is patchouli. It was the smell of head shops everywhere which also made it a problematic ingredient in perfume. Many consumers associated it with also being cheap. Perfumers love patchouli because it is such a mutable ingredient that they would work through that impression. The chemists behind the scenes also were working on “cleaner” versions of patchouli through technology and chemistry. One of the best innovations around patchouli was the Firmenich ingredient called Clearwood. The scientists found a way to strip out all the dirty character leaving behind something still recognizable as patchouli but not so hippie-like.
In the latest perfume from the Nomenclature line overseen by Karl Bradl and Carlos Quintero they feature Clearwood in their latest release holy_wood. Working with perfumer Frank Voelkl they were after a 1970’s Hollywood vibe. I couldn’t help thinking of The Mod Squad’s advertising slogan, “one black, one white, one blonde” as I experienced holy_wood. In this M. Voelkl combines one rose, one patchouli, one leather into a perfume version of The Mod Squad. While that might sound like a perfume combination you’ve smelled many times when it gets reformed using modern cleaner synthetics it provides a contemporary overall effect.
holy_wood opens with a synthetic rose from Firmenich called Rose Petal Nature Print which is meant to replicate a headspace extraction of rose. It has an airiness rose usually doesn’t carry. Early on a bit of pink pepper adds some of the missing green back in. Then the Clearwood arrives and what this shows most of all is a light woodiness coupled with warmth. As the two ingredients interact I found myself expecting the missing pieces to show up until I stopped. Then I began to appreciate what was on my skin. holy_wood is an example of what synthetics can bring to a well-known combo like rose and patchouli. This is all tied up in a suede leather accord to complete The Mod Squad.
holy_wood has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
One of the things Nomenclature has been doing well is displaying some of the more novel synthetic ingredients to their fullest potential. holy_wood might be patchouli-rose-leather as only Hollywood could imagine them; safer and cleaner. I still want to spend time with this modern Mod Squad.
Disclosure: this review based on a sample from Nomenclature.
If there is a predominant emotion I have when seeing the name of a perfume it is bemusement. Sometimes I am happy that the name matches what’s in the bottle. In very rare cases the name has nothing to do with the ingredients, but it completely captures the fragrance. The latest addition to the Christian Dior La Collection Privee, Soufflé De Soie, is one of those.
Soufflé De Soie translates to “breath of silk”. When I read that I envisioned a soft transparent construct which has the inherent strength of silk. I am not surprised at the transparent aspect because in the perfumes Francois Demachy is composing for Dior recently he has been working on the opaquer side of things. What I was quite interested in was how M. Demachy would transform three powerhouse florals; jasmine, tuberose, and rose into something delicate.
The opening whisper of breath is a gorgeous trio of lemon added to the herbal notes of basil and tarragon. I adore the tart citrus over the green. This is a veil which whispers across my senses. Clove is used as piquant transitory note to take you into the floral heart. This is a bit of the kind of alchemy I find appealing from M. Demachy. Jasmine comes out first along with some peach underneath. In a typical perfume this would slowly climb in volume. In Souffle De Soie what happens is the tuberose and rose come in at the same intensity. Just as this seems like a typical fruity floral accord costus provides a funky depth without making it stronger. The costus is joined by a set of musks to finish the effect.
Souffle De Soie has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
There has seemingly been a race to see who can make the least obtrusive, or noticeable perfume. Most of the time that transparency is equivalent to insipidness. Soufflé De Soie is the first of these which is anything but that. There were times while I was wearing it I felt as if I was trying to catch a will o’ the wisp with my nose. Because of the quality here that was not as frustrating as it has been for other perfumes designed in this style. In this case it was a positive as I wanted to chase this silken sprite throughout the day. In the end it disappeared with a silken caress after hours of enjoyment.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Christian Dior.
One of Jean-Claude Ellena’s early landmark perfumes was 1998’s Cartier Declaration. It was a surprising retort to all the clean and fresh masculine perfumes of the day. M. Ellena created a top accord which many describe as “sweaty curry”. It was not clean or fresh but if it appealed it was something amazing. It was also a primer on themes which would reverberate throughout the remaining years of M. Ellena’s career. Declaration is one of the best releases in the entire Cartier line.
When I received my sample of the new Cartier Declaration Parfum I was not sure what to expect. The current Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent was going to make a more concentrated version of Declaration. It is a rare moment when I spray on a flanker wondering what will appear.
Mme Laurent’s choice was to accentuate the deeper bass tones of the original Declaration while stripping out the perspiration and the curry. She turns up the volume on the woods and adds in her own leather accord as her signature.
The original Declaration had a tight citrus flare before the spices arrived. Mme Laurent brings the spices out from the beginning, jettisoning the citrus entirely. This is a warm comforting spicy accord. If the original is the dirty side of spice. Mme Laurent wraps you in a blanket of the snuggly side of spices. Cedar was the keynote in the original composition and it is present here but there are some balsams which again remove the cleaner edges of cedar softening and amplifying the woodiness in the overall heart accord. The leather accord in the base is the smell of a Cartier leather handbag. Amber is also present to keep things on the intimate side. Declaration Parfum smells rich in every meaning of the word.
Declaration Parfum has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
If you’re expecting Declaration Parfum to be a stronger version of Declaration you will have to define what you mean by that adjective. If by stronger you mean more spices and more sweat that is not what Mme Laurent delivers. If by stronger you mean lasts a long time and projects off the skin. It isn’t that either. It lives up to its Parfum description and wears closer to the skin the longer you have it on. If by stronger you also mean deeper then Declaration Parfum should be a winner. Mme Laurent has composed a perfume which epitomizes the Cartier sophistication and style. I’m not sure which version of stronger will be yours, but mine is the one which is in the bottle.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Saks Fifth Avenue.
There has been an initiative for niche perfume brands to display the sustainability of their ingredients as the reason for purchasing the fragrance. Sometimes that leads to releases which are just whatever ingredient there is to be featured; and little else. I always feel like these brands miss the opportunity to show the difference in quality their sustainably sourced ingredient can bring to a perfume. Of course, that takes a creative team and a perfumer to work together. I was sent a sample set from a new brand, Sana Jardin, which does it correctly.
Amy Christiansen Si-Ahmed (center)
Sana Jardin was founded by Amy Christiansen Si-Ahmed and released their first seven perfumes in 2017. Her concept is to make Sana Jardin an “eco-luxe” brand. As a founder of the Beyond Sustainability Movement, Ms. Christiansen Si-Ahmed wants to reach out to the communities in the developing world who cultivate some of the most recognizable ingredients in perfume. Through her project she wants to teach the communities how to turn their tradition of growing a raw material into a local economy which can support many. She started in Morocco with a small group of women who harvest orange blossom. She has helped expand their horizons into other fragrance-containing products. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Moroccan orange blossom perfume oil makes it into two of the Sana Jardin perfumes; Berber Blonde and Sandalwood Temple.
M. Benaim takes the orange blossom keynote and works it in two different directions. He goes for a simple construct in Berber Blonde and it is here where the orange blossom is displayed more fully. In Sandalwood Temple it is part of a comfort scent style playing as part of the chorus instead of the diva.
One thing about orange blossom that people forget is that it is a white flower with its own indolic profile. When sourced as it is by Sana Jardin those indoles are more prominent which is what M. Benaim highlights in Berber Blonde by pairing it with musk. This ends up creating a simple harmonic which hums with depth.
For Sandalwood Temple the orange blossom is not doing all the work. Only in the beginning does it have the spotlight. Fairly rapidly the clean woodiness of cedar captures the inherent green quality while vanilla captures the nascent citrus aspect. It forms a creamy accord which is complemented by an equally smooth sandalwood. A bit of vetiver dials back the sweetness level so it doesn’t enter gourmand territory.
Berber Blonde and Sandalwood Temple have 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Both Berber Blonde and Sandalwood Temple display the promise of what Ms. Christiansen Si-Ahmed is working so hard to do. If she keeps along this same path there offers some opportunities for Sana Jardin to combine sustainability and great perfume.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Sana Jardin.
It is gratifying to see a well-known perfume brand take some risks with their overall aesthetic and succeed. Clean, when it was established by Randi Shinder, wanted to live up to that adjective. For twelve years the perfumes which had Clean on their label were straightforward fragrances of linen, or soap, or fresh cleaned skin, or rain, they were as advertised. In 2015, Ms. Shinder developed a new collection with the name of Clean Reserve. Early on it was just deeper versions of earlier releases Rain and Skin. Within a year Ms. Shinder was collaborating with some great perfumers in a new direction. The first releases had trouble fully letting go of the Clean aesthetic. Last year with the second set of Clean Reserve releases there was more of a separation with Sel Santal standing out for being quite different. Because of this I was surprised when I was cruising Bloomingdale’s and found a new set of six Clean Reserve releases.
This a sub-collection dubbed Avant Garden which is an interesting concept for a brand which has very much not been about being avant-garde. Just as before there is still a little reluctance to let go of what Clean does well and so Galbanum & Rain, Muguet & Skin, and White Amber & Warm Cotton feel like Clean fragrances in both brand and adjective. The other three are intent on carving a different path. Saguaro Blossom & Sand grafts green succulent into a traditional floral. Sweetbriar & Moss lets the green come through a citrus and floral opening via vetiver and moss. The last one was the one I took home as a sample Hemp & Ginger.
There is little information to be found on this collection at this point and so I was not able to track down the perfumer. Which is a shame because whomever composed this did a fantastic job at creating a hemp accord in the heart of this which deserves to be recognized.
The ginger shows up in the beginning matched with bergamot for a typical top accord featuring that ingredient. In the heart the hemp accord is made up of two ingredients a sticky green Guatemalan cardamom and Sichuan pepper. Hemp has a slightly stinky green quality when dried out. The green cardamom provides the green and the Sichuan pepper provides the slightly stinky quality along with a mustiness which completes the accord. The ginger is a great choice as foil to the hemp accord which is where this lingers for quite a while. When it moves onto the base an oud accord and saffron are waiting.
Hemp & Ginger has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
For the first time there is a Clean fragrance which is a little dirty. Don’t get me wrong this is not a skankfest, in any way, but it does show Ms. Shinder is willing to see if there is a Clean way to get dirty.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Bloomingdale’s
The perfume business is a strange beast. Here’s the latest exhibit. Paco Rabanne’s fragrance releases have been solid mainstream offerings over the past few years. For my tastes I keep finding myself drawn to one of the flankers over the original pillars. One of those flankers was Invictus Aqua which was released at the beginning of 2016. Composed by perfumer Anne Flipo this was a nice take on the masculine aquatic which stood out among the other choices at the mall. Then inexplicably it was removed off the perfume counter in 18 months. I was fascinated to find out why because I wanted to use the story as a Dead Letter Office column subject. As I shot off emails and made phone calls trying to ascertain the reason; I was contacted by the PR company representing the brand. I was told Invictus Aqua was going to be re-released early in 2018 followed by the offer of a press sample. I took them up on it and waited for my opportunity to review it; which is here.
Invictus Aqua 2018 Perfume Team
Before we go too far I will say that Invictus Aqua 2018 is overall fresher than Invictus Aqua 2016. I do think they are similar enough that you probably don’t need both in your collection as they both cover enough of the same ground it would likely seem redundant. Besides the scent profile the perfume was composed by a trio of perfumers who joined Mme Flipo; Nicolas Beaulieu, Juliette Karagueuzoglu, and Dominique Ropion. It seems like a lot of firepower for the slight difference on display.
The biggest difference I found shows up in the first few moments. Aqua 2016 opened on a sunny citrus mix before the typical ozonic aquatic accord arrived. Aqua 2018 opens with that set of aquatic notes making the first few seconds slightly sharper. When the grapefruit comes forward in Aqua 2018 it begins to dovetail with the previous version more closely. From here until the finish the two perfumes are on the same track but when wearing them side-by-side the Aqua 2018 always felt a little cleaner and a little lighter than Aqua 2016. So, the green violet leaves, the light woods, and the synthetic amber are close enough.
Invictus Aqua 2018 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage. The sillage is another difference from the Aqua 2016 version; 2018 has a bit less of it.
I think Invictus Aqua 2018 takes its place on the department store counter in the same place it was when it left as one of the better aquatics in that sector.
Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Paco Rabanne.
When it comes to Armani Prive I am starting to realize there is a trend which I can begin to apply to this extremely inconsistent collection; if there is an iris keynote it is likely to be good. It might have something to do with the fact that iris was said to be one of Sig. Armani’s favorite flowers. it might also be that the corporate creative team overseeing each perfume is doing a good job of hiring talented perfumers and it is coincidence that they do their best work with iris. The perfume which has made me conceive of this rule is Armani Prive New York.
New York was released in fall of 2017 as a city exclusive to Bergdorf Goodman. When I finally got to the store to try it recently I was surprised to find a completely modern composition. I was very curious to find out who the perfumer was behind it. When I was able to search on my phone I found out it was Fanny Bal. Ms. Bal is another of the young perfumers who are working to create perfumes for their generation. With only a few perfumes to her name, so far, she is an exciting artist to keep an eye on. Her signature in these early releases is for a light style of composition managing to take an ingredient like iris and find a way to make it modern.
New York opens on an attention getting trio of white pepper, neroli, and aldehydes. If I read that to you and you think piquant citrus hair spray that might be what you find with a different perfumer. Mme Bal uses the pepper as the focal point while taking the green aspect of the neroli to provide contrast, using just enough aldehydes to give some fizz to it all. It is all done with a delicate touch. The iris comes forward and is tilted towards its powdery side via peony. Ambrette provides a light muskiness while tea floats throughout the heart accord. This is like a silk scarf with iris and tea airbrushed upon it. The base goes for a similarly transparent incense and woods to finish New York.
New York has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
New York is the most modern perfume within the entire Armani Prive collection. If it can be positioned to be seen by the younger perfume lovers I think it has much of what they seem to want in a fragrance. As for Mme Bal it is another data point perhaps foreshadowing her ability to be the perfumer who best knows what her contemporaries want; modern transparency.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Bergdorf Goodman.