When there is a mass-market brand which has spawned many flankers my chance of liking it is dependent on what I thought of the original. The idea of most flankers is to make something new but not so new that it smells significantly different than the original. Since that is the case I should like the original if the flankers are just simple variations. The corollary is if the flanker dramatically changes that underlying architecture there is an opportunity to make me take notice. This is what has happened with Boss Bottled Tonic the tenth flanker of 1998’s Boss Bottled.
In the late 1990’s the era of fresh and clean perfumes had become dominant in men’s fragrance. Except for one small sector; the “clubbing” scent. There was some product meant to be worn out for the evening. The original Boss Bottled was in this category. Perfumer Annick Menardo made a fruity woody oriental. It was the fruit which put me off right away as apple and plum were on top which headed through a spicy heart to a vanilla sweetened woody base. Boss Bottled was successful and I smelled it often when I was out and about. If you had asked me what I wanted in a Boss Bottled flanker at the time I almost perversely would have asked for something fresher and cleaner. Nearly twenty years later Mme Menardo gives that thought a try in Boss Bottled Tonic.
In the top Mme Menardo jettisons the problematic plum and diminishes the apple significantly. In their place comes a sparkly citrus barrage lead by grapefruit supported by lemon and orange. The apple provides a crisp quality to the citrus. If there was a part of the original I liked it was the geranium, clove and cinnamon heart. That has been retained as the geranium gathers the citrus up and carries them to the spices. Cinnamon and clove have always been good companions to citrus. Ginger adds a lot of fresh energy to this heart accord. It gives it some zest. Finally, the vanilla is also gone and the woody grouping of olive wood, vetiver, sandalwood, and cedar present an opaque lighter woody foundation.
Boss Bottled Tonic has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
Boss Bottled Tonic is going to be the antithesis of the original as this new fragrance is going to be at its best as a summer daytime scent. If you like the original it is going to be a perfect set-up perfume for the nighttime version. I will spend much of my time in the daylight in Boss Bottled Tonic.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Hugo Boss.
In the early days of the internet and my participation on the fragrance forums I was deep in the throes of acquisition syndrome i.e. Gotta Have Them All. I chased all over the world looking for things that sounded interesting. Nowadays I am fortunate to be able to have many brands who send things to me but not everything. The network I created back in the beginning still exists and when I want to track something down I can still do it. I activated it to get a new perfume released in Europe because it was done by one of my favorite young perfumers. It took a couple of months but the bottle of Betty Barclay Pure Pastel Mint arrived.
Betty Barclay seems to be a mass-market fashion and beauty line. They’ve been producing fragrance since 1994. Pure Pastel Mint is the twenty-fifth perfume for the brand. Pure Pastel Mint was paired with another fragrance Pure Pastel Lemon. These were released as springtime fresh releases. What piqued my interest was the involvement of perfumer Quentin Bisch for Pure Pastel Mint. Those who read my reviews regularly know I have issues with mint in perfume and its unfortunate association with my daily dental routine. Besides trying another of M. Bisch’s works I was equally intrigued because the mint referred to on the label was not the herb it was the color as promised in the name. I have mentioned in the past that I am not a synesthete where I experience color in conjunction with fragrance. So that component also drew me to wanting to try this. Could M. Bisch make me experience color over herb?
In the early moments of Pure Pastel Mint M. Bisch uses yuzu matched with baie rose and blackcurrant buds. Yuzu is lemon with green undercurrent. Blackcurrant buds are raspberry with a similar shading while baie rose adds an herbal effect. This is where I can most easily see a pastel mint color occurring as M. Bisch forms his top accord. Of course, this being a spring scent rose must be in the heart, and it is. Cyclamen adds dew drops, ylang-ylang adds brightness with the interesting twist coming by the addition of tea forming a figurative tea rose heart accord. The finale is a mixture of sandalwood and synthetic linear musk with an expansive musky-woody effect.
Pure Pastel mint has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
My color-blind sense of smell really only got the color association in the early stages and not overwhelmingly so. I did find Pure Pastel Mint to be a nice take on the spring rose motif worth the effort in sourcing it.
Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle I purchased.
As I noted in my recent review of Penhaligon’s Portraits Much Ado About The Duke the brand is undergoing another of its metamorphoses. The current version of the brand wants to make perfume inspired by an absurdist version of Downton Abbey. The perfumes are gathered under an umbrella called Penhaligon’s Portraits. Based on the first four releases each is meant to stand for a particular character in this perfumed serial.
No good story of the classes is complete without the patriarch of the family fathering an illegitimate heir which is what the two latest releases are meant to portray. Both Clandestine Clara and Roaring Radcliff represent the mistress and the bastard child. Clandestine Clara was composed by Sophie Labbe. It is an interesting mixture of rum, vanilla, cinnamon, and amber. This is one of those perfumes that I kept feeling I should have liked more but never connected with. I guess unlike Lord George I was unmoved by Clara’s charms. Radcliff was another matter, though.
Roaring Radcliffe was composed by Daphne Bugey and she captures the reckless nature of the son who will never be recognized but secretly indulged by the father who shall not be named. Mme Bugey captures the scent of an eccentric ne’er do well living fast.
The scented thread which runs through Lord George, Clara and Radcliff is rum. Each perfume has a part of that note. In Roaring Radcliff it is the core upon which the entire fragrance is built. The top accord is an over spiced gingerbread as Mme Bugey uses a bit of cinnamon to amplify the warmer facets. It adds a nice twist to an otherwise normal gingerbread accord. Honey sweetens the mix and sets the stage for the silver flask of rum to make its appearance. The rum accord here is made quite rich, a well-aged version carrying a veil of smoke. That smoke deepens into a full-on tobacco. Early on the narcotic qualities of tobacco are well-balanced with the rum. Then vanilla repeats the use of sweetness to ameliorate the boozy narcotic mixture. It all settles down as the night of cake, cigars, and rum comes to an end.
Roaring Radcliff has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I will give Penhaligon’s some credit here at least through these first six Portraits releases they seem to have as firm an idea, and how to execute upon that, that they have ever had. Mme Bugey does a nice job here. She has evoked the case of the ne’er do well and his devil may care attitude quite capably.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Penhaligon’s.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is one of my favorite people in all of perfumery. I am not alone in this. The reason I adore her is because her love of perfume is all-encompassing. The first time we met was at a Sniffapalooza. We connected as kindred spirits almost immediately and the largest portion of the weekend was the two of us discussing the perfumes we were finding along our path. Ms. Hurwitz is one of the best independent perfumers in the world. She is also as big a lover of perfume as anyone who reads this blog. There is an adage about other artists that they love their art so much they would do it for nothing. I believe that is true of Ms. Hurwitz. Fortunately, she has made a living from her passion for many years.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
One of the corollaries of this is Ms. Hurwitz will collaborate on anything she finds interesting. For almost as long as I have been writing about perfume there have been projects of one type or another and Ms. Hurwitz has participated in nearly all of them. It is my belief that she likes the challenge of most of them. Whether ingredient specific or thematic she dives in. When Michelyn Camen, Editor-in-Chief of CaFleureBon, told me of the Project Talisman effort I knew Ms. Hurwitz would participate not only because of Ms. Camen but because it is who, and what, she is.
The concept of Project Talisman was to create “eau de protection” to ward off unwanted influences. Many of the participants focused on objects, literal talismans. M. Hurwitz’s interpretation was to create a perfumed spell in which she concocted a fragrance consisting of different important civilizations in the Americas. If these ancient forces could be combined they could keep anything away. This is what comprises DSH Perfumes Become the Shaman.
The first influence comes from the Incas and their use of palo santo wood as part of a spirit purifying anointment. Ms. Hurwitz accentuates the terpene-rich core of the essential oil which provides a pine-like effect but softer. Next, she uses the Native American custom of smudging with sage and tobacco and does the same to her perfume. These twin notes swirl over the palo santo feeling like the center of the spell is deepening in power. The Aztec ingredient for magic comes from copal resin. This recapitulates some of the terpenes from the palo santo providing a bookend to that with a fresher feeling. It is like the magic spell is now giving off tiny points of light. It comes together with what Ms. Hurwitz describes as a “milkweed accord” which is a creamy vegetal scent to tie the spell together and release the energy into the world.
Become the Shaman has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I will admit while wearing Become the Shaman I had a vision of Ms. Hurwitz in her studio as magical lights swirled around her smoking brazier. The truth is more prosaic if no less powerful. A supernatural independent perfumer has again used her skill to create magic.
To read Lauryn Beer’s review of Become the Shaman on CaFleureBon follow this link.
To read my previous Project Talisman reviews of En Voyage Perfumes Figa and Aether Arts Perfume Touchstone click on the names.
I want to again express my thanks to Michelyn Camen and the perfumers for allowing me to play along on the Project Talisman project. It was a great pleasure.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.
Fair, or not, I have perfumers categorized in certain categories in my head. I use these imperfect classifications as foundations from which to observe their latest work. When it comes to Rodrigo Flores-Roux I think of him as one of the greatest floral perfumers working today. I can’t remember the review but it was a fragrance which was primarily incense. I made the comment within that piece that Sr. Flores-Roux rarely worked with the resinous end of the palette. He, rightfully, reminded me that there were plenty of examples from his portfolio. Even then the stubborn persistence of Sr. Flores-Roux as a floral specialist remained in my faulty reasoning. With Carner Barcelona Black Calamus Sr. Flores-Roux makes his most compelling argument to date on how poor that line of thinking is.
Black Calamusis part of the three fragrances within the Black Collection, all composed by Sr. Flores-Roux. Creative director Sara Carner wanted the perfume to represent, “The bright sweetness of calamus…..sumptuously blending with exotic resins and balsams.” Using the cinnamon-like core of calamus as a platform for spice and resins seems like a natural fit. Sr. Flores-Roux proves that assumption to be correct.
Black Calamus opens with the title note present. Calamus has spiciness most often compared to cinnamon. I also see a bit of ginger lurking underneath. Coriander and pepper seem to elicit a little more of that ginger character. It provides a lively opening before the woods and resins come to the foreground. There is a fleeting floral intermezzo of osmanthus and rose before labdanum leads the resinous charge. A silvery high-grade frankincense joins in. Then Sr. Flores-Roux constructs an oud accord. Most of the time these accords are there to add in a tamer version of oud. Sr. Flores-Roux goes the other way by using cade oil to add some of those rough edges back to the oud accord. Some vanilla smooths out the latter stages but for the most part Black Calamus is frankincense and oud for many hours.
Black Calamus has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am happy to be proven mistaken in my presumptions. With Black Calamus Sr. Flores-Roux makes his point to me that he is not just a specialist in florals; he is just a special perfumer who can do it all.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.
When I was in college I had to broaden my knowledge of chemistry to obtain my degree. In the analytical chemistry lab course I came across a piece of equipment called a crucible. It was a porcelain container in which I could place a material followed by heating it up to extreme temperatures safely. Within that container, the contents would be transformed by the heat without losing their inherent nature. What resulted wasn’t scorched ashes but altered perspective. Independent perfumer Bruno Fazzolari has achieved an olfactory version of this with his latest, Feu Secret.
Iris is one of the cornerstones of perfumery. It has been there from the beginning. It is also indelibly ingrained in the everyday because of its use in lipstick and face powder. To those of a specific age iris means Coty lipstick. If you were to ask people to use an adjective to describe iris I would venture “powdery” would be the winner. Because of that nature iris is sometimes seen as less varied. I would have been one of those who shared that opinion prior to discovering niche perfume. Over my time down the perfume rabbit hole I have learned just what a multivariant ingredient iris can be to a perfume. One reason this isn’t more widely known is the richest most faceted from of iris is also one of the most expensive ingredients to obtain and use.
Orris Butter from Mr. Fazzolari's blog
That ingredient is orris butter or orris concrete. It is obtained by harvesting the root of the iris, not the bloom. Drying it for three to five years then extracting and distilling that material. I was given a small grape sized globe of orris butter a few years ago. It is a more fascinating ingredient than ambergris to spend time with. It seems Mr. Fazzolari also shares this fascination. In a blog post on his website he dives even deeper into orris butter than I just did.
As I wore Feu Secret, which translates to Secret Fire, I was struck about how Mr. Fazzolari was firing metaphorical jets of warmth at the orris butter at the heart of Feu Secret making me think of it as a crucible to allow all that is there to be exposed.
Orris butter has a bit of an ice princess at its frontiers. Early in Feu Secret Mr. Fazzolari chooses to show that off a bit with eucalyptus using its mentholated quality to lift that up into the embrace of green hemlock. The chill is thrown off by the warmth of pink pepper and turmeric. It is the turmeric that is the guide to a rooty sweaty quality I don’t think I’ve ever noticed to this degree when wearing other orris-centric perfumes. It isn’t body odor sweat but that clean honest sweat of digging in a flower bed. A bit musky in many ways. The final amount of heat comes as the orris butter is subsumed in birch tar and cedar. This is where the orris butter is truly transformed into something special. The cedar sets up the framework for the birch tar to connect to the orris upon. There is not a hint of powder to be found here. This is where the earthiness of orris butter is brought to the foreground. It carries a bit of yeastiness which pushes back against the pungency of the birch tar. The muskiness also rises to greater prominence before, after all of the heat recedes, leaving the beautiful main ingredient as the last thing to depart.
Feu Secret has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
This is by far my favorite of Mr. Fazzolari’s work so far. I have enjoyed everything he has made so far but there hasn’t been one which grabbed me as potently as has Feu Secret. It is my favorite new perfume of 2017 at this point.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bruno Fazzolari.
I have a fond spot for Acqua di Parma Colonia. It was one of my earliest niche purchases and I wore the heck out of a bottle over one spring and summer. It I was forced to consider owning one fragrance the original would be on the list of finalists. Acqua di Parma has been releasing variations on the original Colonia formula starting in 2003 with the equally memorable Colonia Assoluta.
In recent years, the brand has started a sub-collection of Colonia flankers where a specific named ingredient is grafted on to the Colonia architecture. It worked quite well with last year’s Colonia Quercia where the “quercia” (oakmoss) provided a bite to the base of Colonia. When it misses; the Colonia components overwhelm the added ingredient.
Myrrh on a Plate
I received the two flankers for 2017; Colonia Ebona and Colonia Mirra. Colonia Ebona is a case where the dark ebony wood is lost within the best parts of Colonia. I had high hopes for Colonia Mirra because myrrh seemed like a note which would be an excellent complement to that which I love about Colonia. Imagine my surprise to find no Colonia in Colonia Mirra. There is lots and lots of myrrh but if you’re looking for anything to do with Colonia you’ll need to look elsewhere.
It is an interesting tack to take as Colonia Mirra is nothing much more than a myrrh soliflore. I like myrrh because of the sweet underpinning to it. In Colonia Mirra it is displayed as any keynote in a soliflore is. The myrrh here is good enough to be the centerpiece. There are some supporting notes; mainly nutmeg as a spicy signpost to the sweeter aspects. Patchouli is used in a similar role to focus the resinous core of the myrrh.
Colonia Mirra has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Just to make sure there was no hint of Colonia hiding under the myrrh I actually tested them side by side hoping the original would facilitate my nose to discover it underneath it all. It didn’t. When I say, there is no Colonia here I mean it. If you’re inclined to purchase this because of a myrrh-infused Colonia; think again. If on the other hand, you are one who enjoys the warm sweet resinous beauty of myrrh Colonia Mirra is a good version of that.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Acqua di Parma.
In 2013 Frederic Malle announced he was going to create a sub-collection within the Editions de Parfums. M. Malle was going to work with other creatives with whom he shared inspiration with. The first release Dries van Noten Par Frederic Malle is the last great release from the brand. It absolutely captured the overlap of creative influences of the two minds on the label along with perfumer Bruno Jovanovic. Perhaps naively I was hoping for one every couple of years. Four years on the second has arrived; Alber Elbaz par Frederic Malle Superstitious.
Frederic Malle (l.) and Alber Elbaz
M. Malle returns to the world of fashion to collaborate with Alber Elbaz. M. Elbaz was the head designer at Lanvin from 2001-2015. His collections for Lanvin were influenced by the silhouettes from the 1920’s. As he began to work on the fragrance he was introduced to perfumer Dominique Ropion. M. Ropion and M. Malle have worked together from the beginning of Editions de Parfums. They always have something on the drawing board. One which had been tricky for them was an aldehydic floral which had never quite coalesced into the fragrance they wanted. When M. Elbaz smelled the work in progress he asked if that could be their starting point.
It was an interesting place to start especially since 1927’s Lanvin Arpege is one of the greatest aldehydic florals in all of perfumery. Could M. Elbaz do with perfume what he had done with fashion; modernize the Lanvin of the 1920’s into a child of the 2010’s?
It is difficult to know what was there before M. Elbaz entered the process. What is in the bottle is a clever softening of the aldehydic part by using the apricot and peach versions. They fizz but they don’t overwhelm. There is a softening of the intensity that existed in the past. This carries throughout the development. Turkish rose is there but jasmine is its partner keeping it from turning powdery like the classics generally did. The base is also a deft inversion where M. Ropion lets vetiver take the lead over the patchouli, sandalwood, and labdanum. This adds a blurriness which is appealing. Very late on there is a surprising amount of animalic musk which is the final nod to the classics.
Superstitious has 10-12 hours longevity and average sillage.
Superstitious is like the recollection of something from the distant past. It carries a dreamy hazy kind of memory. Superstitious is that kind of remembrance of a classic aldehydic floral. I think it will appeal to the current consumer of perfume while also pleasing those who love the vintage inspirations behind it. Not an easy balance to strike but Messrs. Malle, Elbaz, et Ropion do it with style.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle.
I have used public transportation on my commute to work for twenty-five years. From the beginning to avoid contact with those I was traveling with I threw up my metaphorical shields. In the early days that consisted of a book to hold in front of my face and headphones attached to my Walkman. I can’t see you or hear you; I am traveling through space alone. If the train was sufficiently crowded that only part of my protection could be put in place I felt exposed. It still exists in its current evolution as headphones to music on my cellphone and book or game on my iPad. In truth, this is a modern talisman meant to ward off the perceived unwanted influences outside my control. I wouldn’t have thought about that except perfumer Amber Jobin has turned it into perfume; Aether Arts Perfume Touchstone.
Ms. Jobin is one of the perfumer participating in the CaFleureBon Project Talisman. (For more on that follow this link). All the other perfumers participating looked to the past for the known items meant to ward off bad spirits. Ms. Jobin looked right in front of her and realized our cellphones are the same thing. In her words, “The cellphone has become the talisman of our age. A kind of metaphorical worry stone or touchstone if you will, we can’t keep our hands off of it.” It is this kind of thinking which makes these projects as enjoyable as they are for me. Michelyn Camen, the Editor-in-Chief at CaFleureBon, asked for “eau de protection” Ms. Jobin translates that into “cellphone perfume”.
Michelyn Camen EIC of CaFleureBon and I at the 2017 Perfumed Plume Awards
Where Ms. Jobin turned for inspiration were the materials, glass and metal; followed by the signal itself sent out over the air. This results in a perfume of dualities as the ethereal and the corporeal form the two sides of Touchstone.
Ms. Jobin employs a set of aldehydes to provide both qualities in the early moments. Aldehydes can have a metallic glint married to an ozonic quality. The use of them in the early moments sets up the signals emanating from the metallic cellphone case. Then a mineralic accord around a geosmin-like note provides a clean stony façade. Each bottle of Touchstone has a small quartz crystal which is mean to be the vibrating heart of our technology. The mineralic aspect of the accord supplies that for this perfume. It would be easy to say this grounds the fragrance but in reality it releases it. It opens up the aldehydes’ expansiveness and provides solidity to the metallic aspects.
Touchstone has 8-10 hour longevity and wears very close to the skin as it is at extrait strength.
While I was wearing Touchstone on my way to work I felt like I had an extra set of shields in place. It really was an “eau de protection”. Touchstone is exactly what something like Project Talisman is meant to do; allow fragrance to open our eyes.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfume.
To read Robert Herrmann’s review of Touchstone on CaFleureBon follow this link.
To read my review of En Voyage Perfumes Figa the first Project Talisman I reviewed follow this link.
Another point of interest for me is how brands evolve to attempt to appeal to the new younger fragrance enthusiast. If there is a concern, the brands which have previously thrived with stronger structures might find difficulty trying to lighten up. One brand which seems to have a good understanding on how to navigate this is By Kilian. Creative director and owner Kilian Hennessy seemingly got ahead of the trend of lighter gourmands; whether through prescience or serendipity he has staked out some space around his brand. It started with the 2014 Addictive State of Mind collection as Intoxicated created a memorable coffee entry in the collection. There have also been a number of liquor themed releases as city exclusives; again all kept to the lighter side than the earlier L’Oeuvre Noire releases which introduced By Kilian to the world. The most recent release is called Black Phantom and it takes all of these previous influences and splices them in to something different, but similar.
Mr. Hennessy has always seemed a bit like the Jack Sparrow of perfumery. The picture above does little to dispel that comparison. I have admired the confidence he has displayed over the nearly ten years since he first introduced his fragrant perspective. It is that confidence which makes me think he can have the necessary flexibility to find his way. Part of the reason for the success is he has mostly worked with two perfumers. One of them Sidonie Lancesseur, is who composed Black Phantom.
Mme Lancesseur began her By Kilian career with a rum-soaked Straight to Heaven. For Black Phantom she returns to rum as a focal point. In Straight to Heaven it is a deep dive into rum. Black Phantom provides a less immersive experience mostly by adding in a “caramel mocha” accord that would do any barista proud. It makes Black Phantom more compelling than I expected.
Mme Lancesseur opens on the rum. It is a richer rum than she used in Straight to Heaven. This rum is aged in charred wood barrels which provide a halo of smoky woodiness around the boozy nature. Like stories where you think you know where it is going Black Phantom takes me someplace unexpected; to the coffee bar. The combination of coffee, steamed milk, chocolate, and caramel has a distinctive odor. Mme Lancesseur balances her “caramel mocha” accord brilliantly. This could be heavy but instead this is as vivid as the moment the actual coffee drink is handed to you in the morning. Sandalwood provides the right amount of sweetly tinted woodiness for this all to rest upon.
Black Phantom has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
If we are entering a phase of perfumery where these kind of opaque gourmands are going to be ascendant; Black Phantom shows they can soar as easily as any other genre. I think Black Phantom is that first one which gets it completely right.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by By Kilian.