When Mrs. C and I moved out to farm country six years ago I was worried about how I would handle it. My wife and I are the reverse of Green Acres, she loves the fresh air and I want Fifth Avenue. After seventeen years of urban living in Boston it was her turn to have the lifestyle she wanted. Surprisingly I have come to love this life. Much of it is because of the farms which surround us and the relationships we have with all of them. As a result, I have become more intimately acquainted with the source of the food I eat. One of those foods is honey. I have gone to the hives and seen the honey being harvested. There is a fantastic scent of the raw honey as it comes off the beeswax of the hive in viscous sheets. That has been captured as a perfume in Sonoma Scent Studio Bee’s Bliss.
One of the things I’ve learned about honey is it has a strong scent of the source of flower nectar that the bees have been harvesting. It is fabulous as the floral quality leaps out of the sticky liquid. The honey that is in your local supermarket is blended from many sources and so this quality is diminished. When you get honey directly from the hive you know where most of the nectar has come from.
Laurie Erickson the perfumer behind Sonoma Scent Studio must have also had the same opportunity living out in Sonoma Valley in California. In California, orange blossom or mimosa are going to be one of the main sources of nectar for the bees meaning the raw honey Ms. Erickson might be familiar with should carry those floral scents within. That is where Ms. Erickson starts with Bee’s Bliss keeping it very simple.
It is the mixture of mimosa and orange blossom that comes first. Then as if the bees are carrying the nectar back to the hive it slowly is subsumed in a sweet honey matrix. In this early phase Bee’s Bliss is a soft sweetly floral ride. Another thing I’ve learned form the local hives is there is a substance called Propolis which the bees use as caulk for the gaps in the hive. That comes from the sap of the local trees and smells very green. Ms. Erickson’s fragrance equivalent is vetiver modulated with oakmoss. This is where the smell of harvesting honey comes through to me. For the base Ms. Erickson takes inspiration from the color of fresh honey as waves of amber and benzoin finish Bee’s Bliss.
Bee’s Bliss has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Living in the country I have come to appreciate the simple pleasures; Bee’s Bliss is one of those with its sunny personality. Despite that it is simple it is an excellently realized perfume of the hive. As I wore it the best phrase I could think of to describe it is an old one from the 1920’s; Bee’s Bliss is the bee’s knees.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sonoma Scent Studio.
The first time I became aware of the word “chypre” came while I was reading the classic detective novel “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett. One of the habits I had when reading was if I ran across a word that I didn’t know I’d try to infer it from context followed by opening the paperback dictionary I carried with me. The very last sentence in the paragraph which described the character Joel Cairo was, “The fragrance of chypre came with him.” In my mind I pronounced it ki-per while the context made me think it was perfume. The entry in the dictionary said it was “a non-alcoholic perfume containing oils and resins”. While the pronunciation instructed me to say sheep-ra. Years later as I truly became fascinated with perfume I would think back to how inadequate that definition is.
Chypres have been one of the most interesting style of fragrance from the moment I began to care about understanding more. They have evolved, and every great perfumer has their version of it. The new generation has been working with material restrictions while creating innovative new chypre accords. Occasionally the young guns get the chance to go back and try and make a chypre like they used to. For Ex Nihilo French Affair perfumer Quentin Bisch takes his opportunity.
Ex Nihilo Team (l. to r.) Olivier Royere, Sylvie Loday, Benoit Verdier
M. Bisch wears his love of perfumery out in the open. There is no doubt that he adores everything about its history and his part in the future of it. I would have enjoyed hearing the conversation when creative directors Sylvie Loday, Olivier Royere, and Benoit Verdier asked him for an old-fashioned chypre for the “new Dandies” of the 21st century. Which is what the brief for French Affair seems to be. M. Bisch decided the base was going to be as traditional a chypre accord as he could produce. Where he would innovate is in the top and heart accords leading to that base.
If there is an ingredient which is becoming a bit of a M. Bisch fingerprint it might be lychee which he uses to add some off-kilter sweetness to the more typical bergamot. It still has that lens flare kind of quality but through a kind of musty sweet. I like it a lot as it is a contemporary twist on that most pedestrian citrus opening. Slicing through the sweetness like a razor is violet leaves which cut straight through to a lush rose in the heart. Its dewy floral depths hold the focus until the patchouli, oakmoss, and vetiver which form M. Bisch’s chypre accord rise up. The rose and violet leaves fall right in line as the earthy patchouli, the bitter oakmoss, and the sharp woody green of vetiver combine into a classic chypre accord. This is perfume classicism at its best.
French Affair has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage. It could get you a line in a novel if you wear too much.
M. Bisch’s enthusiasm is contagious and given the opportunity with French Affair he delivered his version of classic chypre brilliantly. So much so that if there is a remake of The Maltese Falcon in 2018 San Francisco this is the perfume that Joel Cairo should be wearing.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Ex Nihilo.
One of the characteristic smells of the Holidays in my environment is spices. The potpourri and candles all seem to be spice laden. The mulled wine is full of spice. The baking is nothing but non-stop spice. Most people like to wear a perfume which might provide something different. I turn into a glutton and pull out my heaviest spicy perfumes, so I can wallow in it. There are samples I receive during the year that I know are going to be added to my Holiday rotation. At the beginning of the fall as soon as I took my first sniff of Perris Monte Carlo Cacao Azteque I knew this was going to be added to that shelf.
For 2017 creative director Gian-Luca Perris wanted to make a pair of perfumes celebrating the Aztec society. Working with perfumer Mathieu Nardin they produced Cacao Azteque and Tubereuse Absolue. They were originally envisioned as Eau de Parfum (EdP) strength but after they began the process they also decided to release both in an extrait concentration. Two releases became four. The two versions of Tubereuse Absolue are nicely executed tuberose soliflores with the extrait having a more intense white floral central accord as M. Nardin adds in a couple more than are in the EdP. When I tried the EdP version of Cacao Azteque M. Nardin creates a spicy perfume which floats on a surface of rum, tuberose, sandalwood, and leather.
Cacao Azteque opens with one of my favorite raw ingredients, cardamom. M. Nardin is using a very arid version of it in Cacao Azteque. To it he adds black and pink pepper, both of which keep the early moments on the dry side. This is so dry it might be difficult for some who are not fond of this style. It is right in my wheelhouse which meant I couldn’t get enough. Eventually it moves on to the heart as an unusual ingredient, pittosporum, is used as the connective note. Pittosporum has a slightly indolic citrus blossom character. It links up with the slightly lemony facets of the cardamom bringing it into the heart where rum and tuberose are waiting. The rum is sweetly boozy, with a bit of smokiness, while the tuberose picks up where the pittosporum leaves off. There are moments in the middle part of the development while the spiced tuberose is in ascendency that I felt this was the one which should have been called Tubereuse Absolue. It isn’t until after the transition to the base is made where a leather accord and sandalwood provide the foundation that the titular cacao finally makes a cameo appearance as dusty cocoa powder ghosting over it all.
Cacao Azteque EdP has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
The extrait version of Cacao Azteque focuses more on the leather and that is enhanced in that version. If you’re fonder of leather over spices that might be the concentration for you to try. If you like the spices, then it is the EdP version which has more of that. I expect both to have their fans. For me it is the mulled rum effect of Cacao Azteque Eau de Parfum that will be getting some use this Holiday season.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Perris Monte Carlo.
It is hard to start your own perfume brand. To find your own space within the niche perfume sector at this point is but one of the roadblocks. One of those spaces is the area of geographical perfume. To create a brand identity around the concept that a spritz or two will take you to the place on the label. Which leads to another difficulty if the named places are cities the wearer knows well; then there are expectations. Which is how I came to the first four releases earlier this year from Gallivant.
Gallivant was founded by Nick Steward who had spent his career previously at L’Artisan Parfumeur. He also chose to work exclusively with two perfumers for the early releases Giorgia Navarra and Karine Chevallier. With that creative team along with the idea of having them focus on evoking the great cities of the world I approached it with hope only to find it a group of perfumes which zigged when I wanted them to zag. Each one had a moment of olfactory dissonance which kept me from wanting to write about them. When the latest two releases showed up, Berlin and Amsterdam, I was a little more cautious but my belief in the talent behind the bottle had me opening the vials. Berlin was a repeat of the things I didn’t care for from the first four. As I reached for Amsterdam I was losing my mojo, only to be met with the kind of perfume I was expecting from Gallivant.
The description on the Gallivant website describes Amsterdam as a perfume of “Autumn going into winter.” Sig.ra Navarra is asked to capture the Dutch word “gezellig” which is an all-over feeling of contentedness and coziness. What this means in fragrance terms is an early phase of spices and flowers before finding the warmth of an Oriental base.
Amsterdam opens with one of the most genial pepper top accords I’ve tried in years. Most perfumers take black pepper and serve it up in all its nose-tickling character. Sig.ra Navarra works to dial that way back using pink pepper, elemi, and saffron to wrap it up in a gauzy scarf. This forms a peppery accord which diffuses in waves across the early moments. The floral heart is described as a “black tulip” accord. What it seems to be is tulip made deeper with rose. For a perfume which wants to capture autumn, this does it well; especially with a flower like tulip which is so emblematic of spring. In Amsterdam the tulip is holding on against its eventual final wilting. The rose, which I think is Turkish, picks up on the spices from the top accord while providing a bit of elegiac charm to the tulip. The Oriental base is constructed of sandalwood and cedar along with amber and musk. In keeping with the tone of the perfume this is a soft Oriental and really where Amsterdam truly gets gezellig.
Amsterdam has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Amsterdam is a bulky sweater of a perfume. It is something which expertly captures the effect of gezellig.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Gallivant.
This year has been an interesting experience for me vis-à-vis the big Italian fragrance expositions. It is the first time in many years that I didn’t attend either Esxence or Pitti Fragranze. What made it fun was I had a crew of Colognoisseur Irregulars who were texting me reports of the standouts from each show. It would take a few weeks but eventually envelopes of samples finally arrived. One of my associates in this enterprise was very excited about Laurent Mazzone Veleno Dore and was sure I was going to like it. I was cautious because I have admired Sig. Mazzone’s adherence to his opulent aesthetic but none of them have made a true connection with me. I have expected that there would be one which would eventually cross the divide because of the quality of materials Sig. Mazzone uses.
Veleno Dore is another perfume this year to use snake imagery as its visual. Not sure why there have seemingly been a run on serpent inspired perfumes, but it feels like there has. He again collaborates with perfumer Richard Ibanez. They previously produced Black Oud and Hard Leather for the brand which are some of the more well received entries in the collection. They didn’t resonate with me because they lived up to that adjective in the latter, “hard”. They were well composed, but they felt so solid I had trouble finding my way in. Veleno Dore is not hard, and it entices you into a den of earthly delights of rum, tobacco, and fruit.
Sig. Mazzone describes Veleno Dore as a tobacco chypre which it is; kind of. I would describe it as closer to a tobacco gourmand, but I think this is truly semantics. From the early swirls of rum and narcotic tobacco down to a vanilla Oriental base it drew me into its depth effortlessly.
M. Ibanez opens with the tobacco and rum providing two prongs of narcotic bliss. The rum is boozy and smooth. The tobacco is the smell of dried leaf cured in the drying barn a slight bit of mentholated grace note flitting through the deeply sweet essence. This is the scent of a fine Corona cigar and snifter of 5-star rum. A pinch of spice provides some texture as chili pepper and nutmeg bring forward some of the rawer and sweeter aspects of the central notes. The transition to the base is signaled by a black cherry note which is intense as a dried form of the actual fruit is. It rises out of the rum and tobacco and carries them into a vanilla base. Here it turns into a gourmand style of fragrance with the vanilla coating the rum, tobacco, and black cherry. The later drydown features the warmth of patchouli and amber.
Veleno Dore has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Veleno Dore is released at extrait strength which is another reason I think I am as fond of it as I am. At that concentration if it was hard it would be off-putting. It isn’t. Instead it wraps me in coils of earthly delights so effectively I don’t realize I’m happily ensnared.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Laurent Mazzone.
When I first discovered the world of independent perfumery I entered the acquisitional phase where I bought samples of anything which sounded interesting. My guides for this were the internet resources that existed but primarily the blogs. They were going even further afield to find things that were interesting. That still applies today as the bloggers I read still introduce me to something new. One blogger who has been bringing into the light some of the most dedicated indie perfumers is Kafkaesque. After a brief sabbatical Kafkaesque returned a few months ago with a number of series on some lines I had not heard of. The stories on Ensar Oud and Feel Oud illuminated the dedicated artists behind these brands. Kafkaesque shows through these profiles the passion these men have for their fragrances. There are links within the sentences above and I highly encourage a visit to read about these singular creatives. Because there was now a stoked curiosity when Kafkaesque announced that perfumer Russian Adam of Feel Oud was releasing four new perfumes in the Areej Le Dore line I purchased a sample set immediately.
What is so fascinating about perfumers like Russian Adam is they aren’t looking for mainstream success they are only focused on making fragrances you can’t find anywhere else. One way this is achieved is using exquisitely sourced natural materials. This results in small batches of each perfume being made and if there is a second version a particular ingredient might be altered because of availability. To make it clear to future readers all comments here are on the versions released in October 2017. Also all information about the perfumes comes from the Kafkaesque blog.
This set of four Areej Le Dore releases remind me of perfumed mazes. Just as I feel as if I am finding a path I am familiar with things shift kaleidoscopically and I’m heading down a different path. This makes this a difficult line of fragrance to review because I am reasonably certain that the density of the architecture allows for different experiences dependent upon which fixtures you focus upon. To bear this out I haven’t read anyone else’s experience who has published online to be the same as mine. (Kafkaesque's review is here) There are similarities but I reiterate that I think it is just because there is so much to experience none of us are up to the task of capturing it all. I’ll end up writing about all of them after the New Year but I wanted to make sure I highlighted my favorite of the four new releases before the end of the year; Flux De Fleur.
Russian Adam has created an interesting take on incense and white flowers. He has ended up creating an incense that evokes the cheap incense sticks sold on the street. These are draped with floral garlands of jasmine and tuberose. Surrounding all of it is the street vendor milieu of a large city in India.
Flux De Fleur opens on a crystalline candied grapefruit paired with incense. When I use “cheap” to describe it what I mean is this is not the typically silvery pure frankincense we usually encounter in high-end fragrances. It is described in the note list as “dissolved green and black frankincense” which has the effect of blurring that precision of high quality incense into something more opaque. With the sweet candied nature of the citrus it is an engaging accord. This also carries more power than my description might suggest. As the jasmine and tuberose begin to appear the incense embraces them wrapping them up in a resinous envelope. From here there is a layering of spices which harmonizes with the incense. As mentioned above Russian Adam works with some amazing sources of oud. For Flux De Fleur he uses a 10-year old Cambodian oud along with Sumatran oud soaked in coconut water. With the florals dominating, the ouds provide a dark almost gourmand layer. It might be the power of suggestion but I swear I catch a whiff of a Mounds candy bar in this phase. The final phase is around a Shamama attar which provides an ambery nucleus for some real musk and castoreum.
Flux De Fleur has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is another of those reviews where my words are inadequate which I will end up saying three more times as I finish all the reviews of the new releases. One thing I want to communicate especially about Flux De Fleur is despite being full of power it is not a “wall of scent” it is more muted than you might suspect reading the above. It is a predominantly white floral incense perfume but the supporting characters are all memorable additions in the time they spend with the main ingredients. Flux de Fleur is magnificent in its depth while not ever becoming overwhelming.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples I purchased.
I always feel overwhelmed at this time of the year as I look at my list of reviews left to-do and the number of days left on the calendar. I also realize there are perfumes which have been getting pushed down the queue since I received them. It’s now or never to get my thoughts down and so I’m going to gather my thoughts on a perfume I received back in the spring, Malin + Goetz Dark Rum Eau de Parfum.
Andrew Goetz (l.) and Matthew Malin
Malin + Goetz is a full-service beauty brand founded by Matthew Malin and Andrew Goetz. I have used their facial scrub from the moment I first discovered the line. That affection does not extend to the fragrance part of the line. The earliest releases were short lasting bursts of energy. Nice, but gone before I got to spend more than an hour or two with them. After 2005’s Rum Tonic it looked like they might have given up on the fragrance game. Except starting in 2015 they made a comeback with some new releases. This time the fragrances were a little more complex, but they still had the same issue with longevity. I liked many of them, but this was one of those cases where the longevity was a flaw I couldn’t over look. My favorite of this second round was last year’s Dark Rum. I kept thinking if it would just last longer this would be great. Which leads to the release this year of Dark Rum Eau de Parfum.
Both versions of Dark Rum were composed by perfumer Claude Dir. The Eau de Parfum (EdP) is at 20% concentration as opposed to the 12% of the original Eau de Toilette (EdT). The perfume is meant to be a contemporary twist on Bay Rum. M. Dir uses that as a base but adds in some extras which make this memorable.
Right from the first moments the rum is apparent as it swirls in a boozy haze. A bit of star anise brings some spice to the booze. Then the real star of this perfume comes to the fore as a rich leathery plum comprises the heart accord. M. Dir replaces the rum with plum liqueur on a leather coaster. This is heady and is the major difference between the two concentrations. I wanted to spend time lost within this jammy plum and in the EdT concentration it is gone quickly. In the EdP it allows me to luxuriate in it. The base is a very modern accord of milk, patchouli, and amber. It comes together in an outre kind of hot milk cocktail.
Dark Rum Eau de Parfum has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
My profligacy in getting around to this review turned out to be useful because this is much more of a cooler weather fragrance. For the first time Malin + Goetz manages to stick around for awhile without overstaying its welcome.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Malin + Goetz.
I have admired the eponymous perfume line of Icelandic artist Andrea Maack because they have all been interesting takes of interpreting her vision into fragrance. I met Ms. Maack in 2012 at the Elements Showcase. From the very beginning she impressed me as someone who was doing this because she had something to say on an olfactory canvas. Over the past five years there have been releases on an irregular schedule. The latest, Andrea Maack Birch, has just arrived.
Ms. Maack has managed in some of her perfumes to dwell on her geographic identity. This is best exemplified by her 2014 release Coven which captures the lush damp soil of the spring thaw. Birch takes place six months later as the ground has just refrozen. Working with perfumer Alienor Massenet the first milder days of winter are captured.
As the winter winds blow more gently in the early days so does Birch open on a chilly breeze of bergamot, baie rose, and ginger. Mme Massenet does a nice job at melding this accord. The ginger gives that sense of the chilly bite of the breeze on bare skin. Bergamot represents the low-angled sun while the baie rose adds the intangible sense of far-off trees. The heart is where we get closer to those trees with a pairing of guaiac wood and cypriol. This has some sharp edges almost oud-like in nature. It is not surprising because cypriol is one of the main ingredients in many oud accords. Here it captures another roughhewn wood forming a birch accord. The cypriol also imparts a gentle wreath of smoke around it all. The base is an earthy patchouli enhanced with a few musks.
Birch has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
When I saw Birch attached to Andrea Maack I was expecting some penetrating rubbery tar construct similar to the power of Coven. What I found in the bottle was a more meditative style of perfume. On the days I wore Birch it imparted a very peaceful feeling upon me. Coming as it did, in between my testing of some other challenging fragrances, it was a welcome respite. Birch is an ode to the approach of winter.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Andrea Maack.
One of the more interesting new brands has been Beaufort London. Founder and Creative Director Leo Crabtree spent the first five releases, called the “Come Hell or High Water” Collection, interpreting the scent of the time when the British Empire ruled the waves. What made this stand out was Mr. Crabtree unflinchingly captured all parts of that. That included Tonnerre (initially released as 1805) which vividly captured the smells of naval battle. I wasn’t fond of it when I wrote my review because it seemed too realistic of a vision as not only the gunpowder but also the blood made it into the perfume. It was disturbing in its intensity. I have since spent some more time with it over the past two years coming around to the view that it was exactly what Mr. Crabtree wanted to achieve. Now Beaufort London wants to find the traditional battlefield with a new collection Revenants and the first release Iron Duke.
Revenants is going to be perfumed impressions of British historical figures. Iron Duke is based on Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington (1769-1852). Duke Wellington oversaw the British forces in the Battle of Waterloo versus Napoleon. It is this part of Duke Wellington’s career that Iron Duke interprets. Mr. Crabtree continues his collaboration with perfumer Julie Dunkley with whom he has worked on all the previous perfumes.
As in Tonnerre it is the scent of battle that is being captured. This time it is that of a cavalryman atop his horse riding through the battle. It is that sense of being less isolated within the chaos of war which makes Iron Duke a more enjoyable perfume.
Ms. Dunkley opens with the same gunpowder accord she previously used in Tonnerre. Except this time, it is joined by the smell of saddle leather which is what leavens it from being completely acrid. This is still a top accord more gun fight than fox hunt, but those genteel elements make it less neve jangling. There is then a musky animalic funk reminiscent of the sweaty steed underneath the saddle. There are also a hint of soapy musks, too, which is as if the saddle soap is rising up from the perspiration of the horse. This all finally comes to rest on a soft tobacco and coumarin foundation. It is after the battle and the hay has been given to the horse while the Duke puffs on a pipe.
Iron Duke has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
It is the inclusion of the horse and the deletion of the blood which makes me enjoy Iron Duke better than Tonnerre. Mr. Crabtree is one of the very few producing challenging perfumes which smell like nothing else available. Iron Duke starts off a new collection with a fabulously full-throated, “Charge!”
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Beaufort London.
I have mentioned what an innovator independent perfumer Andy Tauer has been. In many ways the template for doing business as an indie was pioneered by Hr. Tauer. His perfumes have been equally adept at pushing at the fringes of what an independent perfume business can successfully cover. I have also mentioned that perhaps my greatest perfume regret was missing out on his limited edition of Tauer Orris when he first released it. He very politely explained to me it would never return because he used materials in small quantities he wasn’t sure he could replicate. There was one resolution I made to myself that if Hr. Tauer ever released a limited edition again I would not dilly dally a second time. Just a few weeks ago the release of Tauer Attar AT tested my resolve.
I had indirectly been hearing about Attar AT ever since early in the year when Hr. Tauer went on tour with a traveling selection of perfumes only available during his appearances. I heard from many that there was an “oud attar” he was showing which might or might not be released. I wanted to try this ever since, believing Hr. Tauer could do something special with the concept of an indie attar. When I received my first notification of Attar AT along with the mention it was a small-batch limited edition; I ordered a bottle.
Hr. Tauer was inspired by a trip to the Saudi Arabian desert where he got into a discussion of oud attars indigenous to that region. By the time he returned home to Switzerland that seed had grown into a compulsion to create his version of an attar. He began to assemble a grouping of some of the most precious materials to create his “modest” attar. What he has accomplished is a very close to the skin perfume oil which is an indie perspective on a classic attar.
It isn’t listed as a note but in his blog Hr. Tauer mentioned that he was gifted an authentic oud oil while on his Saudi Arabian trip. I suspect that it is in here but in a tiny quantity. The reason I feel confident of that assessment is the very first moments when I dab Attar AT on. There is what I call a “dirty socks and cheese” smell which my collection of straight oud oils has. In Attar AT that ghosts across the early going before a pungent birch tar appears. It has the effect of providing a sticky matrix for this pinch of oud to reside in. As the birch tar arises it becomes intensely rubbery in effect before a lush jasmine provides a floral juxtaposition. Traditional attars use rose but Hr. Tauer’s use of the jasmine works better as the indoles in the jasmine fall right in line with the pungency already here. Hr. Tauer then alleviates it with Mysore sandalwood, vetiver, and cistus. It turns the latter phase into a creamy woody comfort.
Attar AT has 8-10 hour longevity and very little sillage as it is a perfume oil.
If there is one thing I love about Orris it is the way Hr. Tauer altered the European tradition of perfumery by turning an indie eye upon it. By amplifying certain things while drawing back on others he created one of the best perfumes I have ever smelled. Attar AT is taking the Arabic tradition and filtering it through the same lens. I am still in my early days with Attar AT and I am not ready to say it is on the same level as Orris. What I am ready to say is Hr. Tauer has once again released an indie version of a classic architecture that only could have come from him.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.