One of my favorite warm weather styles of perfume are the Mediterranean ones. Working from the obvious inspiration I have found the combination of fruit and green with just a whiff of the ocean to be the kind of perfume ideal for summer. One of the classic building blocks for this style is fig. Most of the time a perfume will choose to go with the richer fruit or the creamier leaves; but not both. Which was why I it was nice to see Carner Barcelona Fig Man take the route less traveled.
Fig Man is part of a trio of Mediterranean inspired perfumes released by Carner Barcelona. The other two Bo-Bo and Salado plumb the same thematic territory as Fig Man with less variation. Creative director Sara Carner claims the inspiration for Fig Man is the illustration “Homme Fig” by artist Salvador Dali. If you read that and are thinking surrealist fig; think again. This is one of those times where I never get the connection the press release tries to impart on me. This is far from a surrealistic experience. I could claim it is the opposite a more realistic version. The brand has not revealed the perfumer, but I will update when I find out.
One of the clever twists in Fig Man is the choice to lead with the fruit instead of the fig leaves. The reason why is it allows for a very nice interaction between the ripe fig and cardamom. The fig has this richness which is uplifted by the cardamom. It takes the lush quality and gives it a freshness more like picking the fruit right from the tree and eating it. In the heart the fig leaves come forward with a lot of presence. This is the creamy slightly green version of this ingredient. It takes in the cardamom and fig with a warm embrace. As you luxuriate in the uber-fig accord from far off an ocean breeze swirls through. The base accord brings you down to earth with patchouli sweetened by tonka bean.
Fig Man has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Fig Man is a perfume for people who love fig fragrances. It is like having an all-you-can-smell version of the ingredient. Wearing this in the early summer it just my kind of thing. This realistic fig is a beauty.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Everyone who loves perfume has at least a few ingredients they are not fond of. Some of it can just be that the ingredient just doesn’t smell great to you. I would venture to guess most of it is when an ingredient becomes overused. When it feels like every new release you pick up has it in it. What once might have been special has become trite. By the early 2000’s that ingredient was Calone for me. It was the keynote which launched the aquatic perfume genre in the 1990’s. As everyone scrambled to make their own, Calone was the keynote over and over and over. As much as I adored the early aquatics, I came to hate the ingredient over time. With this as background you will understand why I groaned inwardly when Nomenclature fluo_ral was going to feature Calone as the keynote synthetic.
Carlos Quintero (l.) and Karl Bradl
I have generally enjoyed the efforts Nomenclature creative directors-owners Karl Bradl and Carlos Quintero featuring some of the finest synthetic perfume ingredients in new ways. But Calone? Seriously? What were you going to show me here? Working with perfume Nathalie Feisthauer they did find a new angle which allowed me to appreciate this maligned ingredient from a different perspective.
How this is achieved is they return to the origins of Calone and when it was called watermelon ketone. Instead of seaside they went for a garden. Using a set of three vegetal notes to tease out that watermelon inside Calone.
Right from the start the Calone is there. Mme Feisthauer pairs it with baie rose in those early moments to set the stage for the green ingredients to come. The herbal-ness of the baie rose attenuates some of the wateriness. Then rhubarb, blackcurrant buds, and tomato leaves obliterate that beachy aspect in favor of the smell of the garden. Rhubarb provides an acerbic slightly sour contrast. The blackcurrant buds find a sticky green of dense foliage. While the tomato leaf provides the main contrast to the Calone with its vegetal quality. Once this comes together you will find the beach has been replaced by a lovely watermelon growing among the green things. It is a remarkable transformation. The base accord swirls some smoky frankincense and clean cedarwood among the vegetation to complete fluo_ral.
Fluo_ral has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have found fluo_ral an ideal summer companion for its evocation of the garden milieu. I must commend the creative team for allowing me to find a new way to embrace an old nemesis.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Nomenclature.
It wasn’t that long ago that a minimalist perfume was perceived as flawed. They were considered cheap. Over the last twenty years that changed mainly because of a group of perfumers who knew how to get the most out of a few ingredients. What they produced were perfumes which found hidden accords within the overlaps. They displayed a precision of balance to find just the right amount of each ingredient. I’ve remarked in the past that this might be the most difficult type of construction to pull off. One poorly chosen ingredient or too much of one at the expense of others and it all falls apart. When a perfumer who has shown the ability to achieve this not so simple balance time and again, I look forward to their latest release; as I did with Parle Moi de Parfum Gardens of India 79.
Parle Moi de Parfum is the brand begun by perfume Michel Almairac in 2016. The entire ethos of the collection is simple minimalism. I have enjoyed the entire line so far because M. Almairac has lived up to that standard beautifully. With Gardens of India 79 he has chosen to take the three perfume ingredients emblematic of that country; jasmine, tuberose, and sandalwood. He joins them in a joyous celebration of all three.
Jasmine comes first. M. Almairac chooses an absolute of jasmine buds which impart a more innocent scent that jasmine can carry. Tuberose arrives in all its indolic glory. This is the kind of balance I speak of that is difficult to attain. The jasmine could easily be overwhelmed by the tuberose. M. Almairac uses the freshness of this version of jasmine as foil to the blowsy aspects of tuberose. It makes the familiar something to admire again. If this was a true perfume of India the sandalwood used would be Mysore. M. Almairac, or anyone else, must use the sustainable varieties. In this case the New Caledonian version. This sandalwood provides a creamy sweet woodiness which meshes perfectly with the jasmine and tuberose.
Gardens of India 79 has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Gardens of India 79 is a masterclass in balance and minimalism. At every turn these three Indian ingredients delighted me with their not so simple balance.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
When a fashion designer launches their first perfume I am always curious to see what direction they take. For Elie Tahari if it was going to be inspired by his designs there were two possibilities. It could be a throwback to the emergence of his line in the 1970’s when his dresses were seen on many disco dance floors. It could also be an homage to the women’s power suits he championed in the 1980’s where his fashion found its place along with the women who wore them in a business milieu. If I’m going to say what I think Elie Tahari, the perfume, hews closest to it is those power suits with a bit of Mr. Tahari’s travels thrown in for good measure.
He couldn’t have chosen a better team of perfumers in Nicole Mancini and Rodrigo Flores-Roux as his partners for his debut fragrance. Mr. Tahari wanted a fragrance which “reminds me of my summers past”. The perfumers translate that into a fruity floral design.
Nicole Mancini (l.) and Rodrigo Flores-Roux
The perfumers open with a fulsome pear kept in check by using the silvery green of violet leaves. This is a more refreshing accord than I usually experience with pear focused beginnings. The heart is where I was connected as the perfumers balance creamy magnolia, green figs, and tea blossoms. They find that creamy overlap between the magnolia and the figs which benefits from the tea blossom adding contrast as it intersperses itself between the two. It finishes with a mixture of woods, amber, and musks providing a warm base accord.
Elie Tahari has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Elie Tahari perfume is an above average fruity floral mainly because of the different choices in floral ingredeients in the heart. This should be an all-season kind of perfume; much like Mr. Tahari’s power suits.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Macy’s
All perfumers who take their place as an in-house perfumer at a prestige brand they must think of two main things. First, don’t screw it up. Second, how do I make it my own. Over the three years since Olivier Polge took over as in-house perfumer at Chanel, he has certainly achieved the first. The second seems to still be a work in progress. There are some definite trendlines forming; Chanel Paris-Riviera affirms many of those.
Last summer Chanel launched the “Les Eaux de Chanel” collection. They are meant to represent the connection of Coco Chanel and the specific city in the name. The collection is also meant to be an off-shoot group within the Les Exclusifs available at the boutiques. The first three Les Eaux defined their own space within that Les Exclusif oeuvre. As M. Polge has been doing throughout his tenure he has been giving the fragrances he has produced a more pronounced lightness. This is pushed to its extreme with the Les Eaux. Not to an extreme within lighter fragrances just an extreme within Chanel as these are the lightest Chanel perfumes. Which captures the idea of Coco Chanel on vacation exuding an air of sophisticated insouciance. Paris-Riviera continues in that style.
The inspiration is Coco Chanel’s home “La Pausa” built on the Cote d’Azur in the 1920’s. this would be where she would entertain others vacationing on the French Riviera. When M. Polge looked at photographs of the time he noticed a lightheartedness to Coco when surrounded by friends. To capture that M. Polge creates a Mediterranean style perfume with Chanel bloodlines.
This begins with a focal point of sun kissed citrus as orange is given delineation by petitgrain. This is a sunny flare typical of summery fragrances. This continues into a heart of jasmine and neroli. I like this combination and M. Polge finds a nice lighthearted balance. The green tinted neroli finds a slightly indolic jasmine an ideal partner. The hint of indoles impart that sunny skin scent usually provided by musks. This ends on a lovely softly comforting benzoin and sandalwood base accord that is pure Chanel.
Paris-Riviera has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
M. Polge has been assiduously lightening the Chanel fragrance aesthetic. In the Les Eaux de Chanel collection I think he is refining that thinking with precision. Paris-Riviera is a laughter filled Mediterranean perfume which feels completely Chanel.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
There are a lot of creative people within the fashion industry I would like to see take the creative direction over a perfume line. Near the top of that list is the former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris, Carine Roitfeld. Her sense of artistic direction for the magazine was so clear during her time in the post from 2001-2011 it would be interesting to see what she would do in the world of fragrance. Having worked closely with both Karl Lagerfeld and Tom Ford she would have a good idea on what kind of perfume should have her name on it.
Mme Roitfeld has debuted a line of seven perfumes called the “7 Lovers” collection. Even though each perfume carries a man’s name they really are perfumes of place. For this collection the press materials say she has worked eight years on it. She certainly chose three talented perfumers to work with; Aurelien Guichard, Pascal Gaurin, and Yann Vasnier. I’ve had a sample set for a month, and I am happy to report that Mme Roitfeld did not disappoint I like all seven of her “lovers”. I will be giving full reviews to Aurelien, Kar-Wai, and Sebastian over the next few weeks. Of course there always must be one which rises above; which for me it was Carine Roitfeld George.
George was composed by M. Vasnier meant to capture London and its punk rock aesthetic. The perfume is a floral heart sandwiched between two compellingly green accords one very contemporary and the other as classic as it gets in perfume.
The contemporary green accord is where George begins. M. Vasnier employing the Givaudan ScentTrek process to create a fabulously sticky green cannabis accord. This is that sappy green scent you smell from a container of high-quality marijuana buds. He tunes it with a couple of other green ingredients, galbanum and violet leaf. M. Vasnier finds just the right side of illicit over vegetal with this top accord. Jasmine provides a floral contrast as if someone found a few blooms among the buds. The indolic quality of the jasmine fits right in with the cannabis. Then we turn towards classic perfumery as M. Vasnier fashions a leathery chypre base. This is a modern chypre with animalic bite the perfect complement to the top accord.
George has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
So many perfumes have attempted to capture the punk vibe of London only to miss the mark. George finds it by using a perfumer’s punk mentality at re-inventing a chypre. In the doing they connect like few have before them.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample set supplied by Carine Roitfeld.
If you catch me with a frozen treat on a stick in the summertime it will almost definitely be an orange creamsicle. Orange and vanilla are one of my very favorite taste combinations. I have a homemade breakfast beverage which is also focused on those two ingredients. When it comes to perfume it has also been a popular combination. When I received the press release for Mizensir Solar Blossom I expected another one; I should’ve paid attention to one other ingredient.
Mizensir is the brand owned by perfumer Alberto Morillas. I always mention that this appears to be the place where he can expand his familiarity with ingredients in new directions. Over the last four years he has produced an excellent collection because of this. Solar Blossom fits right in.
One of M. Morillas’ most well-known attributes are his ability to use the newest ingredients to their best effect. One of those is the jasmine synthetic Paradisone. Paradisone is the most dramatic version of jasmine in a perfumer’s palette. A little goes a long way. It also can make an impact if you just use a little. This is what M. Morillas does in Solar Blossom.
Solar Blossom opens on a fabulous duet of neroli absolute and Paradisone. M. Morillas threads the powerful jasmine in tendrils through the heady neroli forming a floral layer between the green and the orange inherent in neroli. Paradisone has an ability to add expansiveness when it is used. There is some of that here, but it mostly just finds some space to call its own. The heart matches both ingredients with floral counterparts. Jasmine itself for the Paradisone and orange blossom for the neroli. Both florals have a tiny hint of indoles within which add some texture. This is a fantastic fresh citrus and floral accord. Then for a final twist M. Morillas goes gourmand. He uses an ingredient listed as “vanilla hyper absolute”. Looking at that name you think overwhelming blast of vanilla on its way. Except what appears is a way more restrained sweet than that name would imply. It inserts itself indelibly finding the orange parts of what Is there and forming a creamsicle accord. What is most surprising is I never realized some jasmine with that creamsicle would be so delightful.
Solar Blossom has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
All throughout Solar Blossom I kept expecting to get hit with ingredients known for their intensity. M.
Morillas showed me that those ingredients can be balanced into a memorable floral gourmand that smells like a jasmine creamsicle.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample from Mizensir.
When I first made perfume a part of my life it was all about the brand on the bottle. Until 2000 the perfumers who made my favorites were “ghosts”. After the growth of niche and some exposure by the early writers on perfume the “ghosts” became material. We who loved perfume knew who they were. In the words of my editor-in-chief, Michelyn Camen, at CaFleureBon they became “rockstars”. I began to follow my favorite perfumers the same way I followed my favorite brands. With all of that it didn’t mean the “ghosts” disappeared. There is a whole tier of perfumers who work relatively anonymously with little fanfare in fragrance across all sectors. In an October 2016 article in Perfumer & Flavorist author Pia Long wrote a profile of one of these, Wessel-Jan Kos. It remained in my memory for his enthusiasm for working in the fragrance industry even though only a few would ever know his name. Which is why I was pleased to find that Mr. Kos is the perfumer behind Goldfield & Banks Velvet Splendour.
This is the first perfume Goldfield & Banks owner-creative director Dimitri Weber has collaborated on with Mr. Kos. Velvet Splendour is meant to celebrate spring in Australia when the mimosa blooms. I know for many years mimosa was a spring kind of floral ingredient but there have been so many good recent releases it has crept into my summer rotation. Velvet Splendour is that kind of sunny summer floral.
Mr. Kos opens with mimosa in the kind of concentration where you also find some of the grace notes in there. In this case it is a powderiness which lives up to the velvet in the name. Mr. Kos uses a bit of hedione to give it some expansiveness. He simultaneously grounds it with a mixture of orange blossom supported by jasmine. The tether is the tint of indoles within both floral ingreidents. The perfume returns to its Australian roots with a good amount of sandalwood from there. Mr. Kos has his most fun in this base accord as he sweetens the sandalwood with a bit of tonka bean, gives it a resinous shine with opoponax, and a bit of earthiness with patchouli and vetiver.
Velvet Splendour has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Velvet Splendour is a smile-inducing mimosa perfume ideal for the warm weather. While I am not sure Mr. Kos really wanted to be seen, content in his anonymity, I am glad the “ghost” managed to peek out.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
Editor’s note: I’ve linked the Perfumer & Flavorist profile on Mr. Kos but it does require registration to read the full article.
Sometimes perfumes excite me just by their name. Such is the case with Boucheron Orange de Bahia. The reason is one of the best trips I ever took was an extended tour of Brazil in the 1980’s. One of the most memorable parts was the time I spent in Bahia. It was the closest place I have found to the casual way of life I adored in the Florida Keys. I always believed because I knew how to channel that Keys attitude that I fit in as a tourist. My days in Bahia were begun in the same way having breakfast with a street vendor; fresh squeezed orange juice and “americano sandwich” which felt like an Egg McMuffin given a Brazilian twist. I would sit in the plaza with the palm trees swaying above. Life has rarely been better. So when I see the name Orange de Bahia I am thinking, “Yes!” here is my scent memory. Then I read the press release to find out is was inspired by an orange gemstone from Africa, The Mandarin Garnet. Once I got to the description of the perfume, I realized my initial thoughts might not have been as far off as it seemed.
Orange de Bahia is part of La Collection; Boucheron’s luxury line of soliflore-like perfumes. It has been a hit or miss series because sometimes there is nothing more than a high-quality version of the material named on the bottle. When it hits it is because the perfumer finds some complementary notes to display the keynote in a more interesting way. For Orange de Bahia perfumer Michel Girard accomplishes that.
Orange de Bahia opens with a slightly tart juicy orange. This was the smell of my street vendor squeezing my orange juice. There is a hint of green which floats above the juice and that is on display here. Where this perfume takes off is M. Girard uses the creamy green of fig leaves and amplifies the creaminess with a dollop of coconut milk. It is such a clever way to transform Mediterranean to Brazilian tropical. Rose threads its way through the creamy green and orange. A dry woody accord forms the base.
Orange de Bahia has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am sure some other perfume reviewer will find the gemstone inspiration here. I can’t keep from doing my version of Brazil Dreamin’ of lazy days in Bahia.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Boucheron.
I mention this every time I write about Montale; subtle they are not. It probably says something about me that I own over a dozen of the metal bottles from the brand. The thing which I don’t think they get enough credit for is power is not just an exercise in increasing the amounts of the ingredients. There is a finer effort required to produce power with style. That is Montale’s stock-in-trade.
What I also enjoy in the Montale perfumes that I own is within all that presence there are teased out character I don’t experience in other perfumes with the ingredient in it. Two of my favorites which do that are Red Vetyver and Patchouli Leaves. Those perfumes are classic releases from the brand. When I received the new Vetiver Patchouli it felt like the child of those two previous releases.
Vetiver Patchouli opens with the vetiver in its greenest form. It is rapidly surrounded by mandarin and baie rose. They each find some of that undercurrent I spoke of earlier as they find threads of citrus and green to bring forward. This is a beautifully refreshing version of vetiver early on. It begins to change as carrot is used to give an earthy sweetness to capture those qualities in the vetiver. It dives right into the topsoil as the patchouli comes into play. This is that dark patchouli I so loved in Patchouli Leaves given a more vibrant cool partner in the vetiver which provides some points of light within the patchouli darkness.
Vetiver Patchouli has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you do not enjoy dark patchouli in your perfume stay away because this is that type of patchouli as done by Montale. I find it a beautifully rich version of patchouli. What makes Vetiver Patchouli so good is the vetiver stabs that density with daggers of light. The vetiver as transformed by the mandarin, baie rose, and especially the carrot can find space within that depth the patchouli provides. This is going to be another addition to my shelf of Montale as I think it is their best release of the last couple of years.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.