One of my favorite things to do on a spring evening is to sit among the lilacs. It was not by design but happenstance that lilac has become my spring harbinger. When we bought our first house in the Boston-area it came with fully mature lilac bushes. It also came with a blizzard in the first month which had the effect of pruning them via nature. Over the eighteen years we lived in that house I would sit on our little patio in the spring and enjoy watching the lilacs once again regain their fully-grown glory. I knew our current house was the right choice when I found a similar growth of lilacs. The lilacs have provided me multiple moments of Zen for over twenty-five years now. One of the great things about perfume is it allows me to extend the May lilacs into the rest of the year; DSH Perfumes Lilas de Minuit does a great job of capturing my lilacs of spring.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
Perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz groups her perfumes in different series. Lilas de Minuit is part of her “Flowers for Men” collection. It is the follow-up to last year’s Il Marinaio Da Capri which was honeysuckle focused. For Lilas de Minuit Ms. Hurwitz must find a careful balance with lilac. Lilac is used in so many air fresheners and detergents it can unintentionally communicate “cheap”. By pitching this as a masculine floral Ms. Hurwitz has a bit more license to turn the floral more butch. It is those choices which make Lilas de Minuit a fully rounded perfume.
There is a smell of the early spring as the newly defrosted top soil carries a kind of peppery scent. Ms. Hurwitz picks up on that along with a sunny flare of citrus. That grounded-ness is reinforced through a nucleus of oakmoss. From this the lilac can bloom unfettered. Ms. Hurwitz uses a set of other florals to tune her lilac accord to blend with the oakmoss. This combines into a wet soil and lilac accord which was lovely. A set of resinous and animalic notes provide the base accord. Incense swirls up through the heart accord. Civet and musks give an animalic heartbeat which livens the final stage up.
Lilas de Minuit has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Lilas de Minuit is an exceptional lilac perfume for spring. I had held off reviewing this until I could compare it to my lilacs at home. On one of the first days where I could sit out well into the evening Lilas de Minuit provided harmony to nature’s natural lilacs. When it gets to be July and I want the cool of my May lilacs I know which bottle to pull off the shelf.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.
There are brands which have picked a perfume lane to travel in. Those brands will mine every shade and nuance of the style they have chosen. This is certainly true of Narciso Rodriguez who have been doing this with musk-centric perfumes for fifteen years. Over thirty-plus releases they have kind of exhausted the variations. Now maybe it is time to try to improve on the more well-known. Narciso Rouge feels like that kind of perfume to me.
A team of perfumers, Sonia Constant and Nadege le Garlantezec, are responsible for designing Rouge. They go back and design around tropes familiar to those who love musk perfumes. Rose and iris as the floral, check. Cedar and vetiver as the base, check. Here is the difference, while the ingredients are nothing new there is an overt sultriness to Rouge that the perfumers manage to evoke I found engaging.
Nadege le Garlantezec
The opening is a lipstick rose accord of iris and rose. when this accord is done right it gives off a sense of sophistication and seduction. The perfumers do a great version here. It reminds me of lips perfectly lacquered in crimson lipstick; almost velvety in nature. The musks are titrated in over an hour or so. As the time goes on there is a classically sensual style of musk against the rose accord. It is sort of like a rough kiss on the perfect lips mussing up the perfection. The cedar comes in to try and clean things up with a greenish woody base. Vetiver accentuates the green quality of the wood finishing things off in a reliable manner.
Rouge has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I think it can be easy to dismiss new Narciso Rodriguez releases because there has been so many released. There is a bit of a sense of repetition beginning to set in. Rouge caused me to consider whether composing in a more typical style of musk isn’t still worth the effort.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Narciso Rodriguez.
There are a few brands which seem to preternaturally stay out of the limelight. Brands which make some nice perfumes. One of those is the Italian brand Carthusia. Carthusia Uomo has been a summer staple for me since I first discovered it over a decade ago. There is a consistent Mediterranean aesthetic which defines the brand. There is also a kind of vintage-like feel to many of the perfumes as they have been reformulated. They have not consistently released new perfumes preferring to rest on the collection of timeless standards. I was interested to hear about a year ago that was going to change.
I received a press release announcing the pending release of two new perfumes working with perfumer Luca Maffei. One, Gelsomini di Capri was a re-formulation of an original 2009 release. If you want a prime example of what I am talking about with the Mediterranean aesthetic Gelsomini di Capri is a good one. It is It is sunny citrus, sultry florals led by jasmine, finishing on a musky woody base. I like it, but I admit I was much more curious to see what Sig. Maffei could do if he brought his innovative style to a brand like Carthusia. The second new release, Terra Mia, is what I was looking for.
If you’ve ever traveled in this part of the world and are fortunate enough to have a balcony with a water view you might remember the scent of the morning. On the only occasion I had to experience this there was an orange grove in the distance and a rose garden right below. I would breathe in while my latte was sitting on the small breakfast table. It was just right. Sig. Maffei captures that as he delicately mixes in a couple of gourmand ingredients into the Mediterranean formula.
Sig. Maffei opens with a high concentration of bergamot matched with baie rose. This is like a “dawn accord” with the bergamot sparkling off the water far below. The baie rose captures the greenery waking up to the sun. It moves into a floral heart of neroli, orange blossom and rose. This captures the green of the baie rose and intensifies it through the neroli. The orange blossom provides a lilting contrast to the slightly dewy rose. From here is where we take a gourmand turn. Sig. Maffei pours a cup of coffee next to a sweet hazelnut-flavored pastry. This slides in under the florals as if serving them up on its own platter. It heads to an ambroxan focused base which captures a bit of the ocean off in the distance right at the end.
Terra Mia has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Sig. Maffei has done a fantastic job finding the space within the Mediterranean to insert the gourmand accords. It makes everything richer and deeper. On the days I wore Terra Mia I was on a Mediterranean balcony in the morning.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
I live in the Washington DC metro area which means we take cherry blossoms seriously. There is a month-long festival. The local news keeps us updated on the state of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin letting us know when peak bloom will arrive. It is the spring version of determining peak leaf color in the fall. Mrs. C and I visit every year but to avoid the crowds we go at night when there is moonlight to enjoy them by. I find this a magical moment stolen in the urban landscape. For me there is a delicacy to the cherry blossoms which is rarely captured in fragrance; L’Occitane Fleurs de Cerisier Eau Fraiche does a nice job of it.
The Fleurs de Cerisier collection began in 2007 and has been followed up with annual flankers. I have never warmed to any of the releases because I’ve always felt they miss the natural transparency of the cherry blossoms in real life. It was why I had to do a double take to make sure I had sprayed on a strip what I thought I did. I expected an intense fruity floral and instead found a feather light version.
I may like seeing the cherry blossoms by moonlight, but the unnamed perfumer was channeling a sunny spring day. The perfume opens with lemon and grassy notes providing sunlight on the sward. Then as if I am walking up to the grove; a breeze brings the cherry blossom scent from afar. Over time it grows in intensity but never crossing the line into too-sweet floral. A set of florals provide fresh support as peony, heliotrope, and jasmine keep the heart accord opaque. There is also a slight aquatic shimmer underneath it all; which fits my sense of taking a walk in the local grove. The freshness becomes expansive as a set of white musks provide that effect. Cedar keeps it slightly green as a spring scent should.
Fleurs de Cerisier Eau Fraiche has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
It looks like I won’t have to rely on my local news to determine the peak cherry blossom days anymore. All I will have to do is spray some Fleurs de Cerisier Eau Fraiche.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from L’Occitane.
Independent perfumer Andy Tauer has been one of the more communicative artists out there. Right from the beginning he has written in his blog. A little over a year ago that evolved to a published magazine, Tauer Mag. Hr. Tauer is one of the few who has the ability to communicate complex perfumery concepts in easy to understand posts/stories. One of the early threads through his blog was his disdain for perfumes which claimed they contained “oud” but were actually accords of the genuine costly material. As he would receive requests for a Tauer oud perfume he resisted because he had decided he wouldn’t go the way of using an accord instead of the real thing.
In parallel to this stance science was working on a way to create a sustainable version of oud. Finding a way to accelerate the decay process of new agarwood trees has allowed for this to happen. Once Hr. Tauer found a sustainable plantation in Laos he decided it was the time to produce Tauer L’Oudh.
I have a little treasure box of almost 40 real oud oils. I spend lots of time comparing and contrasting the different sources. So far, the sustainable versions feel like oud but compared to the other ouds I have they also feel immature. One of the most common aspects of the sustainable ouds is a prominent gasoline aspect. This Laotian oud Hr. Tauer uses brings that along. What I really liked about L’Oudh is Hr. Tauer adds a set of ingredients to provide an aged oud feel to the overall effect.
It is that gasoline quality which hits me in the first moments. I like odd smells, this is surely that. As the fumes clear away a more typical medicinal, often compared to Band-Aids, scent moves forward. Hr. Tauer uses a trio of ingredients, cistus, castoreum, and vetiver to accomplish what I mentioned above. The catoreum adds in the skanky animalic. The cistus adds a decaying rot but not as much as you find in other ouds. The vetiver sharpens the frame as it enhances the earthier qualities. This is a tried and true technique when creating a soliflore and it works similarly with oud. Sandalwood provides a less obstreperous wood as the base note.
L’Oudh has 12-14 hour longevity and minimal sillage; it is a skin scent.
People are often spoken of as being “blunt objects” when they speak unvarnished truths. L’Oudh feels like Hr. Tauer beoming a blunt object as it refers to the use of real oud in perfume. If you want to experience all the quirky aggressive quality to be found in real oud, then L’Oudh is a good choice.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Forrest Gump tells us that ‘life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.” When it comes to my favorite perfumers that isn’t usually the case; I tend to know what I am going to get. There are a few collections which do create a Forrest Gump-ian sense of surprise. One is the Les Infusions de Prada. Some of this is due to the aesthetic in-house perfumer Daniela Andrier brings to this collection. They are meant to be gauzy opaque constructs focused on whatever the main ingredient listed on the bottle is. The line has missed for me when that transparency turns to near insubstantial-ness. I have found it frustrating chasing wisps of what I sprayed on just a few hours before looking for what I was enjoying. The ones which I own are the ones which have overcome this. I think I’m going to break that streak with the latest to be released, Infusion de Mandarine.
Mme Andrier has spoken in the past of seeing Les Infusions as her version of perfume watercolors. Infusion de Manadarine might be her version of a still life of an orange. She has assembled all the pieces of an orange growing on a tree, translating them to a perfume.
To start she makes a top accord which accentuates the bitter nature of the rind. There is an acerbic orange nucleus around which green foliage is also present. We move inside as the juicy pulp appears through a clever neroli blended with carrot seed. This is an abstract version of the fruit itself gorgeously realized. Right next to this is the slightly indolic orange blossom reminding us of the nascent orange to come. This is the type of accord Mme Andrier excels at. She chooses the soft warmth of opoponax to provide the base note for this to rest upon.
Here is the drawback; Infusion de Mimosa has 5-6 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
As I mentioned this collection misses for me when it is so transparent it almost isn’t there. Infusion de Mandarine is one of those. If longevity is important to you then this is going to be a non-starter. For me it usually is, too. Except in this case the overall effect is so beautiful I am overlooking it. I am on the dregs of my press sample and will be going to the mall to pick up a bottle because I think when the thermometer reaches triple digits this summer Infusion de Mandarine is going to be the ideal cooler.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I received from Prada.
Givenchy has been one of the most recognizable fashion brands in the world almost from their beginning in 1952. Much of that can be laid at the feet of the recently deceased Hubert de Givenchy who defined the sophisticated aesthetic that has lasted over sixty years. It was a frustration that it never fully translated over into the fragrance side of the brand. This is another case of masterpieces among mediocrity. It makes it difficult to generate brand loyalty.
One of those I consider a masterpiece of the past was 1974’s Givenchy Gentleman. Composed by perfumer Paul Leger is one of the best examples of a masculine powerhouse of the 1970’s. I would have preferred the brand did not attempt to revisit it. They felt differently and last year released Givenchy Gentleman Eau de Toilette. I was not fond of it. It barely felt like it shared anything of the same brand genetics. When I received my sample of Givenchy Gentleman Eau de Parfum I was expecting to feel similarly. I ended up feeling like this was the way a modern version of Givenchy Gentleman should be.
When the original was released Hubert de Givenchy wanted a perfume to define “masculine elegance” to go with his new men’s ready-to-wear boutique. At that time that meant woody, vetiver, leather hairy-chested perfume. This was the style that gave “men’s cologne” a bad name when men wore too many sprays. If you move to the current day one of the styles of fragrance that has risen to the level of “masculine elegance” has been an iris focused perfume. That is what perfumers Olivier Cresp and Nathalie Lorson deliver.
Gentleman Eau de Parfum opens with a nose-tickling black pepper. Used like this it also carries a bit of a woody character along with the spiciness. Then the perfumers use a full-blown iris concrete which means the powdery aspect of iris is almost completely deleted. A bit of lavender makes sure it has no chance to catch any traction. A warm balsamic patchouli leads to a gorgeous rich vanilla base.
Givenchy Gentleman Eau de Parfum has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Givenchy Gentleman Eau de Parfum captures both the current trends of iris and vanilla at the men’s fragrance counter. The perfumers have done an excellent job at adding in the pepper and balsam to make them sufficiently different than their brethren on the department store counter. This feels like the closest rendition of “masculine elegance” from Givenchy in years. Hubert de Givenchy would have been proud.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I received from Bloomingdale’s.
Bertrand Duchaufour is one of the most prolific perfumers of the past ten years. That he is also among our best perfumes while being this productive is also something to admire. It is now getting to the point where it becomes difficult not to see pieces, or accords, of previous compositions within new ones. That could be seen as a flaw, but I don’t think it is as easy as picking one from Column A then B then C, et voila! I choose to see it more as a concept we use in drug discovery known as repurposing. When there is a new drug which works via a new biological mechanism there is an effort to see if there are older drugs which might combine with it to make it work better. M. Duchaufour is responsible for two of the three debut fragrances for a new line called Pont Des Arts. I received a sample of A Ce Soir in a subscription box. As I tried it out it was hard not to think that M. Duchaufour was repurposing some of his best accords to create a new effect.
Geraldine and Bernard Siouffi (via Pont Des Arts Facebook page)
Based on the website husband and wife, Bernard and Geraldine Siouffi, are designing fragrances meant to be Parisian in style. Which is why the brand is named after the famous bridge which until recently was covered in locks which represented lovers’ commitment to each other. They also want perfume to be a bridge of the senses as the Pont des Arts is the only dedicated pedestrian bridge over the Seine. They only used French perfumers for their debut collection which made M. Duchaufour almost a shoo-in to be asked.
I found it interesting that in the accompanying brochure in the subscription box that the writer describing A Ce Soir also found echoes of previous releases by M. Duchaufour calling out L’Artisan Havana Vanille and Penhaligon’s Ostara. Which makes it interesting to bring back pieces of those now-discontinued perfumes. There are similarities, but I found a stronger through line as I wore it which knitted this together more seamlessly than a collection of pieces.
A Ce Soir opens with a lens flare of lemon and mandarin. Then a slowly intensifying thread of green begins with bamboo providing the first hues. One of the things M. Dcuhaufour has become very good at is a boozy top accord. Here the rum slowly decants itself over the citrus. Cinnamon provides warmth to the alcoholic nature. The green is notched up another level via blackcurrant bud. This leads to a fantastically narcotic floral heart accord centered on narcissus. Narcissus is made more sensual by swirling in ylang-ylang. M. Duchaufour has made these kinds of carnal floral accords in the past; this is another one. Then like sharing a dessert after the carnality the base accord is all comfort as rich vanilla is used surrounded by benzoin and amber. Vetiver completes the green thread as it anchors the entire effect.
A Ce Soir has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I think you can focus on what A Ce Soir reminds you of from M. Duchaufour’s past. I think that does this a great disservice as M. Duchaufour has blended his past into something entirely new, well worth enjoying on its own terms.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample received in a subscription box.
When I received my sample set of the new Jo Malone English Fields Collection a couple months ago I was instantly enthralled by Oat & Cornflower. It is still my favorite of the five releases in the collection. I also think the other four are quite good and thought I’d do a quick take on each of them. Creative Director Celine Roux collaborated with perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui on the entire collection which lends to a cohesion throughout this exploration of a different kind of gourmand fragrance type.
Green Wheat & Meadowsweet is a nicely realized version of those moments in the spring as the green shoots of new growth appear. Mme Bijaoui uses one of the grassy aromachemicals along with a healthy dose of grapefruit. That concentration of that citrus allows for its slightly sulfurous facets to blend with the fresh grassy part to form an accord which captures that early spring moment of the return of the green. Over time this warms, as if the sun is rising, making it slightly sweeter sort of hay-like by the time it reaches the base accord. It is an alternative to all the florals as a perfume to celebrate spring.
In Crocus & Honey it starts off with a hay-like quality as Mme Bijaoui uses broom flower and coumarin in the top accord. Lavender matched with sage provides an herbal floral heart which fits in with the top accord pleasantly. The honey is then drizzled in at the same time almond and vanilla are also used to form a kind of honey butter accord. It is this final accord which I found the best part of Honey & Crocus.
Poppy & Barley is my second favorite mainly because of the floral not listed, violet. Mme Bijaoui uses a blend of violet and fig in the early going. That is a combo which appeals to me quite a bit. Blackcurrant bud turns it greener before the floral interlude of poppy accord carries you through to what really stands out here. The base accord is a texturally grainy affair made up of bran and barley. It is like running your hands through a filed of grains and bringing them to your face. A set of white musks leave you under the clothesline with linens drying in the sun.
Primrose & Rye seems like it comes from an English Field on one of the Caribbean Islands. The reason it seems like it comes from that part of the world is the use of coconut in the top accord along with sweet corn. It is a unique combination closer to sunscreen than gourmand. As it gives way to the florals in the heart the primrose is equally matched by an effervescent mimosa. The grain comes forward as the rye is leavened with a bit of vanilla. It reminds me of the smell of freshly baking rye bread. There is a slight sweetness paired with the graininess.
I found all five of the English Fields perfumes to have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I think what Mme Roux has been bringing to Jo Malone has been a sense of adventurousness. She has overseen several perfumes for the brand over the last couple of years which really stand out. English Fields is part of that trend.
Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by Nordstrom.
As a long-time gamer there is a concept in the roleplaying versions of gameplay called min/max. The idea is that when you design a character you put all your resources into enhancing a couple of specific traits; that’s the max. Which means many of the other traits are so low they become obvious weak spots; that’s the min. If you are part of a team that can cover for the min then your max can be extremely valuable allowing you to punch above your level. I was reminded of this gaming concept as it pertains to perfume with Parle Moi de Parfum Orris Tattoo.
Perfumer Michel Almairac founded his personal line in 2016 with a set of eight inaugural perfumes. The brand aesthetic is to keep to minimal ingredients while looking for maximum effect. Over the first eight this balance was achieved more often than it wasn’t. In Orris Tattoo it reaches an apotheosis.
If you are going to design perfume like this, you require a keynote which is multi-faceted. In the case of Orris Tattoo that is already baked into the name. Orris has so many facets it takes some skill to design, so the different facets have some time in the spotlight. M. Almairac finds ways to max out his orris butter.
Orris Tattoo first displays its carroty style. In some uses orris butter has an earthier nature. In this perfume it comes off with a sweeter tint. I suspect some carrot seed in a tiny amount was added to pick this thread out in the early moments. It then transforms into one of my favorite incarnations of orris as a yeasty scent of rising dough arrives. This is a lovely example of how orris shifts. Again, I’m not sure what is used as a supporting note to enhance this, but something is there. I was sort of expecting powder to be next but got thrown a curveball as it instead tilts towards an astringent floral quality. Much less flamboyant than I expected but it falls right in line with what came before. This heads towards a nutty final phase bolstered by a tiny amount of a synthetic woody ingredient.
Orris Tattoo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Orris Tatto is an excellent iris perfume. If you like the note this is one worth trying. If you are put off by powdery iris I would also think you might want to try this, too. By using several min ingredients M. Almairac produces a max orris.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.