There is too much perfume being produced. There is no sector of perfumery that is not flooded with releases. One question I have always had is whether there is enough shelf space for it all. If there isn’t it is only logical to expect some good perfumes will get crowded out. If you need a recent exhibit, I give you Dunhill Century.
Dunhill has been a real under the radar brand. They haven’t had a consistent presence while not releasing a lot of new perfume. For those who read about perfume, earlier releases; Dunhill Signature and Dunhill Icon, have found their fans. I own both and find them to be excellent examples of mainstream perfume.
Dunhill is a British brand and has been released there first with it usually making its way to the US in 4-6 months. At the end of the summer of 2018 I saw that Century had been released. The British bloggers/vloggers covered it. It made me want to find a sample. When my European buyer was putting together my autumn list, I asked her to see if she could find me a sample. A few weeks later there were two samples in with my order. I’ve been sitting on them since then because Century is a warmer weather style. I thought I’d review it when it released in the US. Imagine my surprise when it never made it to the mall it went directly to the online discounters.
I had been asking since the first of the year about it to my contacts at all the department stores. No knowledge of it. When I was doing some research on prices for a Discount Diamonds column I go to the new arrivals and see Century. I was floored it didn’t even get a season in the mall. It isn’t a rare event, unfortunately, but it is sad to see something of the quality of Century never get the chance to find its audience.
The perfumer behind Icon, Carlos Benaim, returned to compose Century. It is a simple spicy neroli over musky woods. It is another above average mainstream perfume.
Century opens on a typical citrus accord which falls away quickly. What comes next is neroli and cardamom. M. Benaim finds a beautiful balance between the floral and the spice. Then to transition to the base incense adds in a resinous connector. Sandalwood and cypriol form a fresh woody base.
Century has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
The market forces have consigned a good perfume to the discount websites. That might be a win. I worry that this is just another exhibit that even quality can get buried under the tsunami of new releases. If you’re looking for a great spicy woody neroli for the warmer weather do a search for Dunhill Century.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Dunhill.
The Colognoisseur Home Office is in a large agricultural area zoned to encourage farms. Ever since we moved here, I have tried to take as much advantage of the local farms as I can. One part of that which I enjoy quite a bit is berry picking season. It starts at the end of May with strawberries and ends when the raspberries appear at the end of the summer. Each time I go I enjoy the natural scent of the task. The green of the leaves. The smell of the berries on my fingers. The honest sweat of exertion. As I drive home that is the scent profile of my car. L’Occitane Herbae is reminiscent of the days I go picking blackberries.
Nadege Le Garlantezec
First let me get the misnomer on the label out of the way. When I received my sample I was looking forward to a celebration of green growing things. If you also look at that name and think that; you will be disappointed. This is a wild fruity floral that has zero to do with herbs of any kind. If that sounds good even with the silly choice of name keep reading.
Perfumers Nadege Le Garlantezec and Shyamala Maisondieu teamed up to create Herbae. I must believe they weren’t given a brief with the name attached to it. On the other hand if they were told the name they happily ignored it. Herbae is a fragrance of mid-summer in the blackberry field.
The only slight bit of herbal character comes from the early use of baie rose matched with the botanical musk of ambrette. It is an accord of a hot summer day. As I walk into the fields the blackberries ripening in the sun reach my nose. In Herbae the perfumers also bring the blackberry forward. It is given some contrast using rose and sage. When I focus, I find the rose, but the overall effect is vegetal green as a grace note to the blackberry. As I get up from having filled my containers, I have the smell of a clean sweat coming through my t-shirt. A combination of linen musks, honey, and coumarin form a nice sweaty cotton accord as the base of Herbae.
Herbae has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
While I would still like a L’Occitane fragrance which was all about herbs, Herbae was still a pleasure to wear. It makes me look at the calendar waiting to go pick some blackberries.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by L’Occitane.
When I began working in a chemistry lab, I tired of people walking in and saying, “It stinks in here!” It took me a few years to come up with my standard response, “I’m sorry. You needed to take a left if you were looking for the bakery.” Even so one of the foundational reasons I love perfume is my time in the lab working with the organic chemicals which do not stink. I was always fascinated with how one additional atom could change the smell of something completely. If there was a time when things came closest to smelling like a bakery it would be if my starting materials were esters. Esters are one of the largest chemical classes used in perfumery. Many of the fruity notes are esters.
I once had a project which required a large amount of the ester molecule, amyl acetate. Amyl acetate smells just like a banana. Even more it smells like an overripe banana. As I learned more about the ingredients that go into perfume, I learned about isoamyl acetate. This is the predominant compound isolated from bananas. When I had the opportunity to experience the two side-by-side the isoamyl acetate was much subtler than amyl acetate. Less overripe. It was years later when I was speaking with a chemist at IFF when this subject came up. He told me that the major fruity scent from jasmine is due to isoamyl acetate. I retreated to my home-grown lab set and did the comparison. When placed next to each other it is easy to detect. I always thought a perfume which took advantage of this overlap could be interesting. I no longer must hypothesize about this as L’Artisan Parfumeur Bana Banana is here.
Jean Laporte arrived at the same hypothesis from an entirely different starting point. As he was founding L’Artisan Parfumeur, which was one of the first brands of niche perfume, he got a request. A friend wanted a banana perfume to round out his Folies Bergere banana costume. M. Laporte thought to macerate banana and jasmine together and “Et voila!” Except it wasn’t. This became a story shared among perfumers. Through telling it to Jean-Claude Ellena it would find its way to his daughter Celine Ellena. It stuck in her mind and she wanted to make a real effort to make perfume taking advantage of the overlap between banana and jasmine in perfumery. That is what Bana Banana is.
I don’t know which of the banana-like esters Mme Ellena chose. I suspect there are at least three to four here. She puts them together into a curvy banana accord. Then because this is meant to be more than a single note perfume, she spices it with a lot of nutmeg and a pinch of pepper. The nutmeg imparts a creaminess to the fruit. It is just the right complement to add. The pinch of pepper sets up the arrival of violet leaves to provide the subtle greenery of the wide banana leaves. Then the jasmine comes in as if flowers bloomed from the banana splitting the peel as they unfurl. That these two ingredients were meant to be together chemically, and aesthetically, comes to life. Tonka bean, amber, and musk provide a comforting base accord to end this.
Bana Banana has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I admit I adore this perfume because it confirmed my thought of how good banana and jasmine would be together. I think this is a perfume which is a cut above the typical fruity floral fare even with my predilection to liking it. I have also enjoyed wearing it in the early spring because it is so exuberant. Mrs. C laughed at me on the mornings I applied this because I breathed deep and said out loud “Hail esters!”. Give Bana Banana a try and you might join me.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by L’Artisan Parfumeur.
When it comes to the tropes of gender in perfume there is a question I am asked frequently. Is it too floral for a guy? This is hardly a new question it has been around for as long as I have worn fragrance. Even I was a bit susceptible to it when I made the decision to wear a “feminine” floral perfume out into the world many years ago. I survived. Now I wear what smells good to me. Even though the occasional co-worker will ask me if what I’m wearing on the day isn’t too floral for me. Over the years florals have been a hard sell on the masculine side of perfume. What has also interested me is the floral partner in many perfumes marketed to women is fruit. For some reason a fruit forward style of fragrance isn’t seen as only for women. I’m happy that this is true because there have been many excellent masculine fruity perfumes to which I can add Parfums MDCI Bleu Satin.
Owner-Creative Director of Parfums MDCI, Claude Marchal, has released a new three perfume set called “The Paintings Collection”. Each of the three fragrances has a famous painting reproduced on the label of the bottle. They are all varying interpretations of leather colognes. I’m reviewing Bleu Satin first because it is much more fruit than leather.
M. Marchal collaborates again with perfumer Cecile Zarokian. The clever decision made by the creative team is to infuse a kind of classic drugstore leather perfume of the 1970’s with a contemporary fruity counterpoint. To up the degree of difficulty they chose watermelon as the fruit.
I don’t know whether watermelon as a perfume ingredient is difficult to work with. I do know for my sensibilities it is hard to find the balance between fresh sweetness and kid’s sugar candy. Mme Zarokian finds the sweet spot as she surrounds it with a throwback leather perfume my father would have owned.
Bleu Satin opens with a green tinted citrus accord. Mme Zarokian keeps it fresh. Then the fruit comes as the watermelon supported by blackcurrant forms a lusher fruitiness. This is a lively opening set of ingredients. An indole-free jasmine expands the fruity accord into something opaquer. Then the classic cologne leather accord appears. To give it some more polish Mme Zarokian infuses it with saffron. This ups the sophistication level from the drugstore to the atelier. It ends with a mix of woods which also hearkens back to the classic leather colognes of yesteryear.
Bleu Satin has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Even though Bleu Satin has some of that powerhouse leather cologne heritage in it Mme Zarokian keeps the volume turned down. You won’t be leaving 100-yard sillage behind you. Bleu Satin is more personal than that. I enjoyed Bleu Satin on the two spring days I wore it because it wasn’t so “loud”. Bleu Satin is another fruit forward perfume I think a lot of men are going to enjoy.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Osswald.
I am a long-time admirer of Celine Verleure. Her days as Creative Director at Kenzo perfumes produced fragrances that were trendsetters. Ever since she started her own brand, Olfactive Studio, in 2011 she has reaffirmed my belief that she is one of the elite Creative Directors in all of perfumery. She has practiced a particularly interesting form of artistic direction with Olfactive Studio. Instead of a brief for the perfumer consisting of words; she has chosen a photograph. It has resulted in one of the top niche perfume collections.
At the end of last year she tried something a little bit different in overseeing the three perfume Sepia Collection. She worked with the same photographer and the same perfumer. It has been one of the things which has made the brand so vibrant that it has been a different photographer and mostly a different perfumer. For the Sepia Collection she chose the photos of Martin Hill who along with his wife, Philippa Jones, create natural temporary sculptures out of the geography and what is available nearby. His photographs are all that preserves the work.
Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour is one of the most prolific independent perfumers we have. That amount of output naturally has its ups and downs. If there has been any pattern to his better perfumes, I would posit that a strong artistic vision from the brand which doesn’t compromise is the best barometer for success. In 2017’s Woody Mood Mme Verleure showed she could bring out the best in M. Duchaufour.
Photo by Martin Hill
I will eventually review all three Sepia Collection perfumes but as usual there was one which needed to be worn first, Leather Shot. If you look at Mr. Hill’s picture, above, used as the brief you will be surprised at what you find in the bottle. Leather Shot is a spicy iris leather construct.
It is the spice and iris where Leather Shot opens. This is the high quality rooty iris with its carrot-like earthiness ascendant. M. Duchaufour uses a high-low combination of spices as cardamom cools things down while cumin heats things up. This is a compelling opening which swirls with complexity. It requires an equally intricate leather accord to stand up to it. One of the things I have lauded M. Duchaufour for is the flexibility of his building block accords. His leather accord might be his most adaptive. In Leather Shot he lets the animalic roughness come from the cumin. The actual leather accord has a supple refinement while the cumin provides the bite. It settles down into a desiccated woody accord.
Leather Shot has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
All the Sepia Collection releases are extrait strength. In the case of Leather Shot the more constricted expansiveness is a plus. This is better for it being so concentrated. This arrived just at the right time as winter turned to spring. The cool mornings felt just right for Leather Shot.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Olfactive Studio.
There are certain motifs which crop up in perfumery over and over. The inspiration of the desert. The story of “One Thousand and One Nights” is a particularly fertile vein of inspiration. I’ll admit when I see something attached to either, or both, I know an Oriental perfume is in the bottle. As a classic fragrance form plowing the same row so many have traveled before asks the new perfumer for something outside of what has come before. In Fort & Manle Forty Thieves I found that.
Fort & Manle is the line of perfumes from independent perfumer Rasei Fort. He released his first perfumes in 2016 but I only had the opportunity to try them a little over a year ago. Mr. Fort has impressed me with each successive release. One thing I mentioned in the previous reviews is since he is self-taught, he isn’t as beholden to the “rules”. Over the last three releases he is turning that into a feature of his fragrances. For Forty Thieves he moved away from the soft spices to be replaced with a sharp herbal accord. It is a great alternative.
That top accord starts with a healthy dose of baie rose. Many perfumers don’t up the concentration of this ingredient because after a certain point it adds sharp herbal-ness to the scent profile. Mr. Fort pushes it right to the place where it might be unpleasant for some. I have come to enjoy the unique way baie rose acts, especially as a top note. Here it captures the aridity of the desert. Mr. Fort then pierces it with the bitterness of petitgrain and bergamot. Labdanum transitions the top accord into a honeyed floral heart of orange blossom and rose. This is more traditional Oriental territory. It ends on the classic Oriental base of sweet ambered woods.
Forty Thieves has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Particularly over the two previous releases and Forty Thieves Mr. Fort is beginning to solidify an ability to find new ways to see classic styles. In this case it was by plowing outside the well-worn furrow. In Forty Thieves he steals away the traditional Oriental architecture for something more modern.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
If you live anyplace which gets significant snow, then you are familiar with pothole season. This happens as winter wanes and spring is coming in. The alternating freezing and thawing open up cracks in the pavement which become bigger and bigger potholes. They can crop up incredibly quickly. One day a smooth ride, the next giant axle-breaking craters you can’t avoid. I’ve never thought about a perfume brand having pothole season but the last six months from Gucci finishing with the recent release Gucci Bloom Gocce di Fiore sure feels like the axles have taken a beating.
Ever since the creative director at Gucci, Alessandro Michele, took a hand in the fragrance side of the brand it felt like Gucci was getting its groove back. Gucci Bloom in the spring of 2017 laid down the first marker that Gucci was serious about perfume again. For the next year that impression was reinforced as a new aesthetic was seemingly being forged. Sig. Michele was working exclusively with perfumer Alberto Morillas; this seemed like a dream team in the making. The road ahead was smooth. Then the cracks began showing up.
It started when I received a package heading into the Holidays containing the thirteen (!) perfumes in the Gucci: The Alchemist’s Garden. The press material mentioned this was meant to be a collection of accords which you could layer to grow your own garden. This is as much of a cynical kind of release as I can imagine. When I received a follow-up package with the fourteenth addition. I just looked at the entire mess as a speed bump. A giant fourteen bottle speed bump. Instead it was a warning shot because the pothole was coming.
I thought if there was anything which was going to get Gucci back on track it was a return to the Gucci Bloom Collection. The previous two flankers were part of what I saw as this creative resurgence. When I sprayed Gocce di Fiore I knew the pothole had opened wide beneath me.
The two previous flankers had taken the core ingredients of Bloom; honeysuckle, tuberose, jasmine, and iris and enhanced them with new ingredients added in. Gocce di Fiore doesn’t do that it instead tries to recalibrate the concentrations of the core four ingredients. What ends up in the bottle seems like a discarded version on the way to the original. It is a screeching white floral which overwhelms anything approaching subtlety. It made me want to go get the iris Alchemist’s Garden sample and see if I could make it better. When I thought things couldn’t have reached a lower level than The Alchemist’s Garden, Gocce di Fiore turns the cracks into a pothole.
Bloom Gocce di Fiore has at least two hours longevity. I don’t know how much more because I scrubbed it off. Sillage seemed average.
Pothole season eventually gives way to paving season when the potholes are filled in and smoothed over as if they were never there. I hope Sig. Michele and M. Morillas do some roadwork and put Gucci back on the path it was on before the last six months because that was seeming like something worth looking forward to.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Gucci.
I am a perfume nerd. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that. You probably don’t know how much of a nerd I am. I comb the sites which discuss new perfumery materials for what is coming from each of the major ingredient producers. That is where chemistry nerd and perfume nerd intersect. When I read about an interesting material, I add it to a spreadsheet with a link to where I read about it. Waiting for the day it will find its way to perfume I’m reviewing. Such was the case for Bigarane.
Sophie Truitard accepting her ABIHPEC Award as "The Perfumer" in 2017
I have also taken to paying attention to who is doing great work in Brazil. Brazil is where the bleeding edge of perfume innovation takes place. It is where new materials are often used for the first time. This is for one of the national societies that is crazy for perfume. Every major perfume oil house has a large presence in Brazil. It is the test lab for the rest of the world. Which means there are perfumers who are working almost exclusively in that market. The perfume nerd catalogs those names, too. One which hit my list a year and a half ago was Sophie Truitard. She was named “The Perfumer” in the 2017 ABIHPEC Awards. I expected there would be a time when she made a perfume I could try.
One of the most successfully creative independent perfume lines is Andrea Maack. Created by the graphic artist of the same name from Reykjavik, Iceland, in 2011, she has shown a tendency to look for new exciting young perfumers to work with. I always look forward to a new release because it won’t be boring. When I received my sample of Andrea Maack Cornucopia everything came together.
I was kind of expecting a perfume from Mme Truitard because after ten years in Brazil, culminating in her award, she moved to the Paris office. That she was collaborating with Ms. Maack seemed like a perfect fit. Then when she decided to use Bigarane I knew this was a perfumer who had spent time working with it. The reason I was interested in Bigarane is it had been described as a greener analog of petitgrain. I have always enjoyed perfumes where the green aspects of petitgrain are amplified. An ingredient that started there always was going to end up on my spreadsheet. Befitting the three creative aspects I was so interested in Cornucopia turns out to be a three-layered perfume.
The first layer is a fresh green accord. Here is where I find the Bigarane. Mme Truitard displays it front and center. There is that focused brightness of petitgrain, but it is diffused through a green opaque lens. It provides a subtle citrus sunniness. It is an interesting ingredient which Mme Truitard supports with the odd enhancement of green pepper and crisp green apple. Those two ingredients play up the green of Bigarane and the snap of the lemon-like undercurrent. The heart accord takes this and goes herbal with it as angelica and cumin find a fascinating balanced pungency. It could have been a little too much except that it is counterbalanced with a green fig. This adds a fleshy fruitiness which tilts the heart accord into something weirdly gourmand-y for a minute or two. The base accord is a nuanced mix of incense, styrax, and black musk. The resins insert themselves into the heart and consume it in waves of incense and musk which is where Cornucopia ends.
Cornucopia has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Cornucopia satisfied the desires of the perfume nerd completely. If you have been a fan of previous Andrea Maack perfumes, this fits right into the overall collection. If you just want to try something delightfully different it is also not like any other new spring perfume this year. I am excited to see what comes next from Ms. Maack, Mme Truitard and Bigarane but they will all have work to do to better Cornucopia. For the time being The Perfume Nerd Abides.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
There have been a few perfume brands which started life as an online-only effort. So far, the ones which have succeeded have had to branch out to traditional retail to thrive. Pinrose began life five years ago with an interesting concept. Co-Founders and Creative Directors Christine Luby and Erika Shumate asked consumers to check out the perfume offerings on the website followed by ordering sets of samples to find the one you like best. Two years after that they branched out to Sephora with two new releases followed by two more in 2017. Now they return with Pinrose Mystical Misfit.
Erika Shumate and Christine Luby
Ms. Luby and Ms. Shumate have been quick to embrace trends by having a Pinrose release early on which becomes a fast follower. The current consumer trend is for transparent styles of perfumes. Mystical Misfit is that type of fruity floral. I’ve been grumpy about this trend in the past because it feels like it can get too wispy. I’ve also been grumpy about fruity florals; they are my least favorite style of perfume. Mystical Misfit had me re-examining both of those stances.
Perfumer Richard Herpin uses the classic ingredients of that style of fragrance. What surprised me was when made opaquer I found it much more appealing. It all comes together with a clever grounding mechanism which really pulled this all together for me.
The fruit on top is blackcurrant and peach. Mr. Herpin swirls the two together using peach lactone to give a creamy aspect. It never gets very strong as the transparency is in place from the start. This is not an uncommon fruity top accord. At full strength I usually don’t care for it. Here it has a much different feeling to me. Jasmine and rose at a similar lightness interact with the fruits. This is all kept expansive and engaging. Mr. Herpin then uses a smart version of patchouli which literally grounds the perfume with an earthy scent profile. It is an ideal counterweight.
Mystical Misfit has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is another good release from Pinrose. They are continually finding their own space within the current trends. Mystical Misfit allowed for me to see the light on transparent fruity florals.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
There are few stories in independent perfumery as successful as that of Victor Wong. Mr. Wong went from being part of the gigantic group of people who talk about making perfume on Facebook to actually doing it. Even more remarkable is his business plan of asking some of the best independent artisan perfumers to design something for his Zoologist brand. He has acted as a creative director allowing the perfumers to create something he would like to smell. Mr. Wong has taken the way he wanted independent perfume to be and brought it to life. A little over four years ago he released his first perfume. At the beginning of his fifth year comes Zoologist Dodo.
Following up last year’s Tyrannosaurus Rex it seems like Mr. Wong is working on the extinct side of the animal kingdom. For Dodo he collaborated with perfumer Joseph DeLapp. Mr. DeLapp has his own artisanal line of attars he distills himself called Rising Phoenix. According to his interview on the Zoologist website Mr. DeLapp only rarely works in alcohol based Eau de Parfum. He has a line ready to go but it seems like Dodo will be his first. He also mentioned in the same interview that he wanted to make an EdP which was as dense as an attar. He doesn’t quite manage that. What he does achieve is something more open and appealing.
Mr. Wong wanted a fougere as part of his line. Mr. DeLapp had been working on a fougere as part of his own brand. They met in the middle in producing Dodo. This is a fougere which only comes from this kind of creative genetics.
Dodo opens in a tropical jungle redolent of green foliage and exotic fruits of lychee, lime, and raspberry. Mr. DeLapp deftly chaperones the three fruity ingredients allowing them to create a humid tropical jungle accord. This transitions into a floral heart accord of rose over ambergris and fir. The fir deepens the foliage effect from the top accord into something more pine-like. This s where Dodo becomes most like an attar. Rose is a classic attar ingredient and the one used here has all the rich quality of an attar rose. Mr. DeLapp uses the ambergris as the supporting ingredient to lift that rose up. The base accord continues the slowly intensifying green with oakmoss anchoring it with its noir-ish quality. Mr. DeLapp threads through a lightly animalic musk, patchouli, and amber to complete the tropical jungle milieu.
Dodo has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
One of the things I have admired about Mr. Wong is he has often brought out the best work of the perfumers he has worked with. Dodo is another case of this. I like this better than any of the attars I’ve tried from Rising Phoenix; and those are very good. I am now very much hoping Mr. DeLapp finds a way to produce his own line of Eau de Parfums. Dodo is another success of Mr. Wong’s extinction protocol for perfume.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Zoologist.