I have long been a fan of Ormonde Jayne but I had feared their best days had passed them by. In 2014 with the release of Black Gold that hypothesis was shattered by one of the best perfumes in the entire collection. It was followed up in 2016 with Rose Gold which was a luxurious rose bridging Arabic and European aesthetics. When I received the press materials for the final release in the Gold Trilogy I thought the new one, White Gold, would be hard pressed to be as good as the other two. It isn’t; it’s better.
Creative Director Linda Pilkington has really outdone herself overseeing her longtime collaborator Geza Schoen on White Gold. Now that there are three releases it is easier to see the central axis upon which all three were constructed upon. The top accord was citrus combined with clary sage. The heart accord was a carnation, jasmine, and orchid triad which would be accentuated with other florals. The bases all contain ambrette seeds and their botanical musk. As I’ve now had the opportunity to compare them side-by-side it shows the precision of Hr. Schoen to take that spine and choosing different support and keynotes make it very different on a macro level while remaining the same on a micro level. Once I recognized the commonality it was hard not to notice it upon subsequent wearings of all three.
For White Gold, we begin with mandarin as the citrus source for the herbal clary sage to wrap around. The herbal quality will be enhanced using baie rose and a green leafy aromachemical. The effect is of trying to find a ripe fruit among the leaves. What makes it fun is as you search through those leaves what appears is jasmine. For White Gold jasmine is a keynote; more than just a component of the central spine. This is a gorgeous source of jasmine fully fleshed out with all its many facets on display. Hr. Schoen brings a bit of orris in to refine the effect. The base is a fabulous duet of botanical and synthetic musks as the ambrette seeds are met by some of the white musks from the laboratory. They rapidly find some common ground which cedar, vetiver, and tonka provide a sweet woody finishing flourish.
White Gold has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
The jasmine in White Gold is so beautiful that there are times it seems like it is a soliflore but that is an olfactory illusion. It is more that it is the most compelling ingredient in the room and it is difficult to remove your attention from it. You should because what surrounds it is every bit as good. The three perfumes which make up the Gold Trilogy are among the very best Ormonde Jayne has to offer and the best of those three is White Gold which finishes the effort strongly.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I don’t know this for a fact but I suspect that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have been successful because they have a clear vision of their brand. That vision seemingly is not compromised by anything as the women collaborate on a burgeoning fashion empire in which their celebrity is being replaced with a reputation for quality. I think, besides knowing what they want, they also get involved to insure it happens. This has been true for their fragrance brand Elizabeth & James.
The name comes from their other two siblings; the less famous ones. Starting in 2013 they have released two previous pairs of Nirvana scents. The debut pair were Nirvana Black and Nirvana White followed by last year’s Nirvana Bourbon and Nirvana Rose. The brand style has been to feature a tight core of three keynotes. I have found the first four to be some of the best things to be found at Sephora. When I received my new Sephora box and found samples of Nirvana Amethyst and Nirvana French Grey they were the first thing I tried.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
Just as before I found another set of perfumes designed around three simple notes. I didn’t wear French Grey for the time necessary to review it but I found the mixture of lavender, neroli, and musk well done. I mentioned this in my review of Nirvana Bourbon that a simple construction like these fragrances are risky because they will fall apart if there is one part out of balance. French Grey shows the care necessary to pull this off.
Nirvana Amethyst was always going to be the one I gravitated to because tobacco was one of the notes. Honeysuckle and cedar provide a clean floral canvas upon which the rich narcotic tobacco can coat. This is where these notes must be so precisely chosen. The honeysuckle is kept at a medium volume while the cedar is a bit louder to provide a solid foundation. The tobacco is the trickster as it intersperses itself throughout the other two notes. As I focused on the honeysuckle the sweetness of the dried tobacco was apparent. The cedar brought out the darker facets as it contrasted the tobacco. Eventually it is all tobacco over the last couple hours.
Nirvana Amethyst has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have been unable to find who the perfumers that are behind the Elizabeth & James line; whomever they are they are doing excellent work. The entire Elizabeth & James line of fragrance is one of the very best bang for your buck brands. They are sold in an array of sizes including rollerballs that allow you to buy all six for the price of a normal bottle of another brand. The marketing is as smart as the perfume. I am going to be adding a bottle of Nirvana Amethyst to the other three I own.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Sephora.
As soon as I see “noir” in the name of a fragrance I have learned to temper my expectations. I feel much like Inigo Montoya saying “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means”. If there was one offender I would consistently point at, it was the Tom Ford Noir collection. It was something which was a pleasant perfume but in no way “noir”. If I was to define “noir” I would want it to be a shifting style of perfume, innocent and dark, throughout its development. The literary and cinematic form which spawned the word are tales of moral ambiguity often accompanied by the corruption of innocence. So, imagine my surprise when the new flanker Tom Ford Noir Anthracite gets it correct.
The time-tested creative direction of Karyn Khoury is combined with perfumer Honorine Blanc. This is the first Tom Ford fragrance by Mme Blanc. The concept on the website is to explore the “light in the dark”. I would say Noir Anthracite explores the struggle of light within the dark.
Mme Blanc opens with the first bit of light as bergamot sparks Noir Anthracite to life. Then she uses Szechuan pepper to add in the dark. It would have been so easy to just use black pepper here. Szechuan pepper carries a different piquancy along with a kind of subtle muskiness. It works especially well here because Mme Blanc also uses ginger as a foil to the sunny bergamot too. This is a very different top accord from most of the other mainstream offerings which this will be next to on the fragrance counter. I enjoyed it a lot but I am curious if this is going to be generally accepted at the mall. The heart is another unique accord as galbanum acts as an overarching green presence to which a light application of jasmine and tuberose are used to provide some lift to it. The galbanum is so powerful you might not notice the florals. This is what I mean as the scrubbed clean white florals never really overcome the green of the galbanum. The base is a straightforward sandalwood and cedar.
Noir Anthracite has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Noir Anthracite is quite different from the other Tom Ford Noir releases. I think if you are a fan of those you might not find Noir Anthracite as nice as I did. Although if you are looking for a perfume which calls itself noir, and means it; Noir Anthracite seems to know what the word means.
Disclosure: this review was based on a press sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
I am in full agreement with the thesis that Italy has taken the lead when it comes to artistic perfumery. One of the reasons I believe this is true is there is a refreshing ideal where the brands and artists seem unafraid to make a perfume that does not try to smell like anything else. Which of course is a bit of high-wire act, easy to fall off if you lose your balance. One of those brands is Sammarco overseen by the independent perfumer Giovanni Sammarco. The latest release is called Naias which shows both the highs and the lows that can be hit.
Naias is described on the website as “not a violet perfume, you can recognize a violet aura”. It is exactly what I have enjoyed about the work Sig. Sammarco’s contemporaries have achieved. There has been an almost dedicated movement towards re-examining the cornerstones of modern perfumery. That Sig. Sammarco was going to do this with violet, one of my favorite notes, was exciting. I should have been paying attention to the phrase “violet aura”.
If I was going to describe Naias I would call it a tale of two very distinct phases. One of the most intensely pleasant fruity floral constructs which transitions into an irritating, almost painful, mixture of unpleasant woods and animalic notes. As much as I love the first few hours, is how much I dislike the final hours.
Sig. Sammarco opens Naias with an incredible apple note. I don’t think I’ve ever smelled this in overdose previously to Naias. There is probably a reason as Sig. Sammarco pushes it right up to the edge of being bearable. Just as it runs the risk of becoming annoying Sig. Sammarco plants a giant red lipstick kiss on top of it. This is a classic lipstick rose accord. It is here the “violet aura” appears. It is mostly a violet characteristic of its use in cosmetics. The lipstick rose is as luscious as a pair of lips coated in moist carmine lipstick. It leaves lip prints all over the apple. This early accord is clever, balanced, almost perfect. If only there was a way to stop what comes next. Over time the apple and rose begin to fade which allows the other ingredients to come forward. One is blackcurrant buds which again seem to be used in high concentrations. It provides a funky green stickiness which runs through the other base notes like an erratic javelin missing the mark. It unbalances everything that has come before. It makes the osmanthus and sandalwood into grating versions of themselves.
Naias has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
It is rare that once I choose to wear a perfume for the two days I use to assess it for review I regret it. On day two of Naias I had to get out the alcohol scrubs because that was how unpleasant I found the final hours. What was more tragic was there are remnants of the apple and lipstick rose which made it all seem worse. I can say for the first few hours Naias is one of my favorite perfumes of the year I wish the rest of the fragrance lived up to the “kiss my apple” top.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample I purchased.
When I was five -years old; and when I had hair, I was not one of those children who resisted going to the barbershop. My father and I would go every four weeks. I would get a crew cut and he would get a shave along with his trim. This was in the mid 1960’s before barbershops tried for cachet. They were functional emporiums who took more pride in turning the chairs over efficiently. I think, unlike some of my other friends, I enjoyed my visits to the barbershop because of the scents within. There was lavender, orange blossom scented Florida Water, the talcum powder, polished wood, and for me a piece of vanilla taffy after I was done. I can close my eyes and still smell it all over fifty years later. I haven’t encountered a perfume which captured this until I received my sample set of the new Franck Boclet releases. In there, my memories were waiting.
Franck Boclet is a European designer of men’s clothing. Starting in 2013 he began a fragrance line with four debut releases. Each perfume was named for an ingredient which would be the putative keynote. Which in most of the cases it was. I have found the perfumes to be a solidly executed concept through all the ones I have tried. I am interested enough that the samples don’t get shunted aside when they arrive because I always sort of expected there would be one which would resonate for me. The new release Geranium is that perfume.
This works because it is not just geranium and a bunch of supporting players. It is a fragrance of three distinctive phases which perfumer Sebastien Chambenoist blends together quite pleasantly. The geranium is more like the first among equals.
Geranium opens with a tart citrus and lavender top accord. It is like a bracing tonic. The lavender elevates the lime and grapefruit. Orange blossom connects the top accord to the geranium in the heart which is then given a light powdery finish with heliotropin. The base is sandalwood sweetened with vanilla and deepened with a bit of musk.
Geranium has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Everything about Geranium has crisp attached to it. It is an all-business versatile fragrance that could easily be used for any occasion. When my dad and I would walk outside after our haircuts he would look down and give me a wink. Geranium feels like that wink turned into a perfume.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Franck Boclet.
If there was a word cloud about how I am described by other people; impatient would be one of the larger words. That quality has sent me chasing after so many perfume blind buys with a low percentage hit rate you would think I might have found a way to make that word shrink some as I’ve aged. That is, of course, an incorrect statement. It rears its head most often, recently, when there is a European release that is months off, or never, in the US. When the service I use to buy for me lets me know a trip is in the offing I start looking. For the trip in March I noticed that there were four new additions to the Prada Olfactories collection being sold in the UK exclusively. Despite my internal voice howling at me to “get it now!” I managed to pass. Then I made a phone call to the Prada flagship boutique in New York and got the typical lack of knowledge about their own exclusive luxury perfume line. My little voice was saying, “told you so!” The June trip approached and I was asked again; this time I decided to allow my impatience to win and asked for a bottle of Prada Olfactories Soleil au Zenith.
This group of four Olfactories are given the subheading of Mirages. In-house perfumer Daniela Andrier has described this overall collection as “potent concoctions of the unexpected”. The Mirages are meant to be explorations of the themes of the Orient within fragrance. Each perfume is given a name and a style parenthetically. The names are Dark Light (Amber), Midnight Train (Patchouli), Miracle of the Rose (Oud Rose), and Soleil au Zenith (Spices). Of those four it was always going to be the one labeled “spices” which would entice me to take the plunge.
Through the original nine releases the Olfactories seem to have broadened Mme Andrier’s experimental nature. It is a collection where I would be surprised to find that there is a person who is in love with all nine but for the ones which connect it is a real love affair. It is that way for Double Dare and Pink Flamingos for me. It is exactly Mme Andrier’s hand at using spice notes which makes Double Dare the reason I dared to get Soleil au Zenith based on a list of spice ingredients.
Soleil au Zenith opens on a cloud of peach aldehydes which are coated with allspice. If there was any doubt the opening moments washed them away. One of the concepts Mme Andries seems to be exploring within the Olfactories is the duality of expansiveness and density. In Soleil au Zenith, the heart accord coalesces around a very full ylang-ylang which is first combined with nutmeg. That combination is a neat transition from airy to grounded. To further tether it cinnamon and cumin add to the nutmeg providing some heat to the effect. The base is a luscious sandalwood and vanilla really amplifying the sweet creamy nature of the wood.
Soleil au Zenith has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Soleil au Zenith is so good it seems like a reward for a character flaw. It has become a fast favorite of any of the discontinued Exclusives and the Olfactories. The only upside is it will definitely hold me over until the Mirages make it Stateside. Although that little voice is talking to me again.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
For any brand to remain relevant it must adapt to the changes within its consumer base. It is one of the reasons I am so fascinated with the current consumer landscape. With two large generations for brands to court they will obviously tilt towards the younger one. Over the last 18-24 months this has played out in the fragrance area. The older the brand the more they will have had to figure out the changes and try to stay ahead of them. When it comes to perfume I can make the case that Chanel as a fragrance brand has not only signaled the changes they have called the tune for others to dance to. Because of that the new releases from Chanel have larger significance than just a new fragrance from one of the founders of modern perfumery.
Last year No. 5 L’Eau was the first look at where Chanel might be heading. In-house perfumer Olivier Polge is given the opportunity with this change to claim the next era of Chanel fragrance as his own. No. 5 L’Eau was M. Polge’s attempt to find a middle ground between the past and the present. I thought it was a fantastic perfume brilliantly executed. M. Polge’s next fragrance is meant to be a new pillar for the house it is called Gabrielle.
M. Polge describes Gabrielle as an “abstract floral”. I am coming to realize when a fragrance brand uses “abstract” that is PR speak for a transparent style of perfume. The more correct description of Gabrielle is as a transparent floral. What is fascinating here is M. Polge is doing what he did with No. 5 L’Eau. He is taking some of the heavier perfume ingredients; finding a way to make them more expansive. Gabrielle succeeds with this task as M. Polge finds that same middle ground that he did with No. 5 L’Eau.
Gabrielle opens with a transitory citrus top accord using grapefruit as the focal point. The flowers begin to arrive straightaway. Neroli and ylang-ylang come first as they pick up on the sunny quality of the citrus transforming it to a floral version. There is a faux-aldehydic sparkle to this. The heart is all white flowers, orange blossom, tuberose, and jasmine. M. Polge doesn’t remove the indoles completely. They are dialed down but they are there and that choice makes the heart a more relevant accord than if M. Polge played it safe using non-indolic versions of the notes. What is here is an effusive version of this white floral bouquet without being insipid. The base is sandalwood and a few white musks which provides a linen-like closing accord.
Gabrielle has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Coco nee Gabrielle Chanel
The name of this perfume is Ms. Chanel’s name that she was born with before she became Coco. While wearing this and bearing that in mind it made me think Gabrielle the perfume represents Gabrielle the aspiring fashion icon. Still searching for exactly what she stands for while knowing there are some things which are going to be part of Gabrielle or Coco. This is also going to be how many perfume lovers approach this. If you have come to Chanel through Coco; Gabrielle might seem to be a trifle. If you are someone who has stayed away from Chanel because it is “too strong” or “too old” I believe Gabrielle might bring you to Chanel for maybe the first time. I do think Chanel is trying to send the message that you don’t have to go as far towards the transparent as many other brands seem to believe. Chanel seems to be saying that things change but the underlying style is ever present.
Disclosure: this review was based on a preview bottle I purchased.
I am a sucker for a good bergamot focused perfume. I probably smell no ingredient more that bergamot. It is a staple of top accords of a huge amount of various fragrances. It is so common it is easy to forget it can be beautiful when given an opportunity to shine. Allowing the forgotten ingredient some time in the spotlight.
The most recent example of a fun bergamot perfume has come from a brand I sort of forget about, too. I receive a box of samples from Sephora quarterly. The brand Commodity has been a part of these boxes since their inception in 2014. The overall brand aesthetic is one of creating a minimalistic style of fragrance which reflects strongly whatever is on the label. For the most part I have found this stripped-down style to not have engaged me enough to wear one for a couple days so I could review it. This is not to say that I tossed the strips to the side. Most of the perfumes are done by some of my favorite perfumers and they deliver what is asked of them. When it came to Commodity Bergamot, perfumer Stephen Nilsen turns this style to his advantage.
The reason there are not many bergamot perfumes is because it doesn’t last very long. Even if a perfumer empties their bag of tricks the bergamot will be gone in a few short hours. Mr. Nilsen does his best to keep the bergamot around. Which is why there are only two other ingredients to note; amber and violet leaf.
The fragrance opens with a giant shot of bergamot. Every time I experience bergamot in this quantity I am reminded of the way light moves on silk fabric with flow and presence. Bergamot is a fast-moving ingredient. To extend its stay Mr. Nilsen uses some mandarin oil to extend the citrus feel although there is nothing like the first half-an-hour as the bergamot shines by itself. As the mandarin begins to become more present violet leaf gives a green platform from which amber eventually warms things up in the end.
Commodity Bergamot has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
There is a shiny fabric called brilliantine that was used in fashion. As I wore Commodity Bergamot I kept thinking this was a perfume of sparkle given flow. It is a brilliant choice for midsummer because its simplicity makes it a refreshing unobtrusive companion.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
The best perfumes are all about harmonics. The ability to have a fixed focal point over which several specific notes provide overtones in a pleasant way. At least that’s the idea. There are lots of brands which mention this as a principle but Masque Milano Mandala used it as inspiration.
Riccardo Tedeschi and Alessandro Brun
The creative directors of Masque Milano, Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi, were inspired by the manner of singing by Tibetan monks. It is called overtone singing. It is a concept of two parallel singers finding a middle path between them by sticking to their choral lane. It is at its most compelling when widely different styles find within the combination something not found in either by themselves.
Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi brought in perfumer Christian Carbonnel to try and accomplish something similar with Mandala. They wanted to take a resinous track and in parallel run a fresh one. A mixture of deep and airy. It makes for a tricky effect to pull off for the entire time you wear Mandala. I also found less of the fresh line and more of a consistent spicy through line which was in the same pitch as the resins.
Sig. Carbonnel uses a silvery austere frankincense to set up the first moment of the resin line. The other line is nutmeg and a bit of angelica. This is where I got thrown a bit because the nutmeg is much more prominent than the angelica. Which is like another singer arriving and shoving the fresh one out of the way. That is compounded in the heart as cinnamon picks up the tune laid down by the nutmeg and asks clove and cardamom along. I think the cardamom was meant to be the fresh but it is happier playing with the warmer clove and cinnamon. The incense becomes stronger and some cedar is used to separate it from the other notes keeping it humming along. In the base myrrh adds some sweet tonality to what has been something severe to this point. The spices finally give way to ambergris which finally does provide the briny contrast to the resins. The woods remain as chaperone keeping the two sides apart.
Mandala has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Based on the description I was looking for something which really attempted to work disparate fragrance tracks into something memorable. I can see where there was meant to be that fresher presence but it never makes any impression until the end. Up until then it is spices and resins. Mandala is a good version of that style of fragrance as it still finds something worth sniffing even if this harmonic has been seen before.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Masque Milano.
The Gucci fashion empire is amid change. Two years ago, the creative brain trust at the brand was overturned with young designer Alessandro Michele becoming the Creative Director. Of course, first on his list was to oversee the fashion aspect. Now he finally turns to the fragrance business with the first release under his creative direction; Gucci Bloom.
Alessandro Michele (Photo: Jamie Hawkesworth)
When it comes to fragrance Gucci has really never had a consistent brand identity. It doesn’t mean there haven’t been some great perfumes with Gucci on the label just nothing approaching cohesion from release to release. In many of the interviews Sig. Michele gave after being named to his post he would talk about how fashion is an emotional experience when it is at its best. I would also say that kind of attitude would be paramount in designing a perfume.
For his first fragrance Sig. Michele couldn’t have chosen a better collaborator than perfumer Alberto Morillas. When I saw the photo of the bottle which accompanied my sample I didn’t even need the prompting from the PR to think it was in #Millennial pink. Which lead me to expect a transparent floral gourmand inside that container. Imagine my surprise to find a full-throated white flower fragrance instead.
The construction of Bloom is kept very simple with it being most easily described as a tuberose and jasmine perfume. Except where nearly everyone else is going for opaque Sig. Michele and Sr. Morillas go to the opposite. There is meant to be a fragrance with presence here.
Describing this is facile. It opens with tuberose and it is the creamy, buttery version of tuberose. The indoles are here but are the only part of the white flowers which are dialed back a little bit. Not gone but not enough to provide the full-on skank you find elsewhere. The jasmine is kept just a notch below the volume of the tuberose making it a supporting note but one which has an important role to play. The final note I experience is iris which provides a powdery finishing effect. There is supposed to be a proprietary note used here for the first time called Rangoon creeper, a version of Chinese honeysuckle. If it is here it is being used so subtly I was unable to experience it as a distinct presence. Maybe when I smell it in something where it is most prominent I’ll be able to re-visit Bloom and go, “Oh, yeah now I see it.”
Bloom has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Sig. Michele is definitely willing to allow a perfume lover’s emotion to carry the weight of how they will feel about this. It is an excellently executed white flower mainstream release. How you feel about that will probably decide your emotion when it comes to Bloom.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Gucci.