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.
For many years I waited for the entry of one particular luxury brand into the fragrance sector; Louis Vuitton. From almost the beginning of niche perfumery there was one rumor or the other that it was coming. It didn’t happen until 2016 when perfumer Jacques Cavallier began producing perfumes under the Louis Vuitton brand. I have mixed feelings about the first fifteen perfumes released over two years.
It is apparent that M. Cavallier is not finding himself bound to my expectations of fragrances which represent the brand. There are only two leather-focused perfumes, Dans La Peau and Nouveau Monde. The majority of the first fifteen have been high quality examples of safer perfume styles. Which is to say when I received the press release for the new collection called “Les Colognes” I was expecting more of that safe style of perfume.
M. Cavallier was inspired by Los Angeles and wanting to capture the sunny nature of Southern California. He partnered with LA artist Alex Israel for the packaging. In the press release M. Cavallier mentioned he wanted to make a fragrance with an “airiness”; which he does in all three. Sun Song is a blast of citrus expanded into that airy quality via white musks. This is a nicely done luminescent citrus perfume. Afternoon Swim also is expansive citrus over ginger and ambergris for the swim part of the equation. It is a nice aquatic which doesn’t rely on Calone. The one which I really enjoyed is Cactus Garden.
Many people think of the beach when it comes to thinking of LA. I am more drawn to the desert and Palm Springs. Cactus Garden is a fragrance which captures pool society in the desert. To do this M. Cavallier wanted to set up the dryness of the desert with the wet pulpy inside of the cactus. When I’ve been hiking in the desert scooping out the pulp of a cactus is refreshing. It is a contrast to the aridity of the atmosphere. Cactus Garden reflects this.
Just as the other two Les Colognes it opens with citrus, a big dose of bergamot. What comes next is that aridity in the ingredient of mate tea. This ingredient carries that kind of sharpness to it that I get from breathing in low humidity desert air. Along with that also rides a spiky green which is an ideal representative of the outside of the cactus. The pulp comes from the use of lemongrass. The slight citrus and green aspects tie back to both the bergamot and the mate tea as it all comes together beautifully.
Cactus Garden has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’ve probably been unfairly maligning this Louis Vuitton perfume collection for what it is not. I am coming around to believing that there are some really good perfumes which have nothing to do with leather. Cactus Garden has me channeling Glen Frey in his song “Get Over It” I just have to stop “all this whinin’ and cryin’, and pitchin’ a fit” and get over it. Cactus Garden makes it easy to do that.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Louis Vuitton.
I am one of those early adopter types. I owned one of the first iPods converting my music collection into digital. When I got the first iPad I embraced reading my books on the tablet. It changed things dramatically in my relationship to books. It removed the scent and the audible crack of the glue in the spine when opening it for the first time. I can honestly say I don’t miss it. Maison Margiela Replica: Whispers in the Library tries to convince me otherwise.
Whispers in the Library is the second release in 2019. Perfumer Marie Salamagne is asked to create a perfume which captures a library at Oxford in 1997. While I don’t miss the smell of the individual book. The collective smell of old pages on waxed wooden shelves in a contained space is a pleasant scent to contemplate. Mme Salamagne captures the dichotomy of the subtle spiciness along with the sweetness of old vellum and waxed shelves quite deftly.
Marie Salamagne (photo: Jerome Bonnet)
Mme Salamagne forms a paper accord which is the heart of Whispers in the Library. This has a sweet pulpiness which verges on gourmand-like. A swirl of black pepper cuts back that tendency. A very condensed cedar comes next which represents a bookshelf ably. Vanilla does sweeten things at the end to bring out that paper accord, so it doesn’t get lost in the wood.
Whispers in the Library has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Whispers in the Library could as easily be named Whispers in the Bakery. There is a gourmand streak which runs throughout it. Because the name told me to think library, I was pre-conditioned to go that way. What would surprise me is how much it came off like a sweet pastry when I let it surprise me. This is a good choice for those who are looking for a transparent gourmand. It is another in the Replica collection which does what it sets out to do.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
This has been the first warm weekend in Poodlesville this spring. That means I spent some time clearing away the detritus of the winter. It also means I spent some time walking through the adjacent woods with one of the poodles. I enjoy the natural scent of the world as winter gives way to the earliest days of spring. With the snow gone nature presents her prickly self in smell and thorn. On my favorite walk I always come home with a few scratches from the brambles which choke the path here and there. The smell of the woods is equally pointed as the greenness presents itself in sharp hues. There are a few perfumes which do this well; Jo Malone Nettle & Wild Achillea is a new addition.
The creative director at Jo Malone, Celine Roux, likes to take her perfumers out to meet what she wants to capture in a perfume. In April a couple years ago she took Louise Turner and Yann Vasnier out to the canals of England. Upon their return Mme Roux asked them to create a collection based on that trip. This year the Wild Flower & Weeds collection was released as five perfumes. This goes to reinforce that as much as I think something is going to be great based on everything I read; the reality lets me down. I found four of the five releases didn’t contain as many weeds while allowing the wild flowers to have too much of the frame. The one which was weedier was the only one I really connected with. Ms. Turner is the perfumer behind Nettle & Wild Achillea. She has composed a thorny green perfume which captures the freshness of a spring day in layers.
It opens with the “flower” in the title Wild Achillea which is more commonly known as yarrow. That essential oil has a soft herbal quality instead of a more typical floral scent profile. Ms. Turner uses baie rose as herbal counterweight to tilt the top accord even further away from being “pretty spring floral”. This is the soft green of the buds peeking through the soil. The thorns come next as a sharp mate tea slices through the top accord opening the way for even more sharpness due to the silvery nature of violet and the astringent green of the nettles. Ms. Turner completes an adroit balancing act by keeping this just the right side of strong without drawing blood. The fresh air of spring blows through courtesy of a set of white musks carrying a woody green vetiver in the base.
Nettle & Wild Achillea has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you want a perfume which carries all the sharp and fresh scents of early spring Nettle & Wild Achillea will fit the bill. It allows me to ramble through the brambles without checking for snags in my sweater or scrapes on my skin. That’s good enough for me.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.
If there is a perfume ingredient I am picky about it is gardenia. My grandmother’s Florida pine house was surrounded by the bushes. The blooms floated in bowls of water throughout the house. As the overhead fans stirred the humid air I was surrounded by the scent of gardenia. If there is one thing many gardenia perfumes lack for me is the significant green component of the actual gardenia. Many focus on the floral qualities. If they miss out on the underlying green it isn’t for me. Jeroboam Boha gets it right.
Jeroboam is the perfume brand founded by Francois Henin and perfumer Vanina Muracciole. The idea was to create a foundational base accord of musks which they would build upon for each release. It has been a mixed bag for me with the first releases not quite coming together. That changed with Origino and Ambra. All the Jeroboam perfumes are at extrait strength. In conjunction with the musky base accord it creates an intimacy which I find appealing. In Boha it is at its best.
One other thing about gardenia perfumes is they are often quite dense. The power of white flowers wants to trend that way. What sets Boha apart is that Sig. ra Muracciole makes the gardenia more expansive without sacrificing presence.
The green thread is placed right from the start. Green almond, bergamot and violet leaves form a green accord of foliage and stem. Above that blooms the gardenia. Sig. ra Muracciole constructs this with jasmine and orange blossom to round things out. The top accord slides underneath the florals as they become more expansive. The gardenia becomes more effusive without becoming transparent or, alternatively, cloying. She finds a precise balance where the hidden indoles can snake out of the center right down to that musky base. It harmonizes beautifully which is further accentuated by the addition of a rich sandalwood.
Boha has 14-16 hour longevity and very little sillage. This is a skin scent.
Boha is the best of the Jeroboam perfumes to date. M. Henin and Sig. ra Muracciole have fully realized the potential of their aesthetic. Boha is the kind of gardenia perfume I am looking for.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Timing is everything. After I’ve spent weeks smelling one debutante rose fragrance after another; the first to offer something different is sure to get my attention. This year’s refreshing slap came from Edward Bess Last Night.
A little over two years ago Edward Bess began to expand into fragrance with an initial collection of three perfumes. Working with perfumer Carlos Benaim they created a min-max group of simple ingredients chosen for big effects. I was drawn to them for this quality although it was the one which had more subtlety, La Femme Boheme, I enjoyed most. When I saw another spare ingredient list for Last Night I wasn’t sure which way this would go.
Edward Bess (Photo: Ruven Afanador)
One of the things about the previous three releases is M. Benaim takes these chosen ingredients and gives them space to fill. I like it when there is more overlap amongst them. Last Night finds a lot of overlap between the three ingredients of rose, leather, and smoke.
After being fed a steady diet of gentle rose having a diva like Bulgarian rose out in front was the right antidote. This is a rose that wants to be the belle of the ball. She wants to be remembered. She is curved in all the right places with insouciance to burn. When she shows up at the party wearing her biker jacket around her all eyes turn. That is the opening salvo of Last Night as M. Benaim surrounds Bulgarian rose in a leather jacket accord. It is where things pause for a bit before a layer of smoke inserts itself. It is not exactly wood smoke and it isn’t quite cigarette smoke. I’m not sure the source but I think one of the synthetic woods with a prominent smoky scent profile is what M. Benaim is using. This is an abstract smoke effect which I sort of liken to the morning after as our rose, still in her leather jacket, wakes up with a patina of smoke.
Last Night has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Last Night has more of what I like from this style of perfume making by Mr. Bess and M. Benaim. They seem to have an agreed upon aesthetic which Last Night executes as rose spends the night out.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Edward Bess.
There are brands which make the trends. Those are few. There are brands that imitate the trends. Those are many. The least creative is to slightly tweak the trendsetter fragrance. That is all too often the choice. What can set a brand apart which does follow trends is if they can find their own version. That is what I found in Avon Honey Blossom.
For about two years now one of the prevailing fragrance trends is transparent floral gourmands. As I’ve mentioned in the past at least this is not an overplayed sector of perfume space. It is starting to become that way because of the early success of this style with the younger perfume consumers.
For a brand like Avon they are looking to follow the current trends. Which means it was time for a transparent floral gourmand. They turned again to perfumer Gabriela Chelariu. From my perspective it was her participation which made me want to try Honey Blossom. She produced last years Velvet for the brand which I thought was one of the best perfumes of the year. In that case I was impressed with her use of overlapping synthetic ingredients to create a fuller effect than I expected. There is less of that in Honey Blossom because Ms. Chelariu stuck to a simpler formula of floral and gourmand.
The floral is a clever apple blossom on top. This carries a hint of green, a smidge of apple, along with a gentle floral-like quality. This is the kind of multi-faceted ingredient Ms. Chelariu used to construct Velvet. This is kept much simpler with a mixture of what is listed as “honeysuckle blossom” but to my nose is “honeyed water”. It imparts a sweet dewiness to the apple blossom capturing an early morning bloom covered in tiny droplets. It forms a nice honeyed floral effect without becoming sticky sweet. The sweet is on its way as vanilla rounds things out. As before the vanilla is kept opaque so as not to drown out the other ingredients. It finds its space completing the floral gourmand with comfort.
Honey Blossom has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am becoming more impressed with Ms. Chelariu the more I experience her perfumes. She has so far shown she knows how to get the most out of her ingredients; and her budget. Honey Blossom is a great spring floral choice if you’re looking for a floral gourmand.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Avon.