When I really started expanding my perfume horizons one of the brands which thrilled me was Gucci. This was during the time Tom Ford was in charge of Gucci as creative director for everything. Mr. Ford showed the power of cohesive creative control. When he left Gucci to form his own eponymous brand those principles have created one of the great success stories in fashion retail. What he left behind at Gucci descended into soulless corporate fragrance with few exceptions. There is a new creative director for all things Gucci again, Alessandro Michele, and he actually cares about the fragrances which carry the Gucci imprint. The proof of that has been the releases over the last eighteen months. The latest addition to the new era at the brand is Gucci Guilty Oud.
Sig. Michele has again turned the brand into a forward-thinking fragrance one. An aspect of the early phase is he has chosen to work almost exclusively with perfumer Alberto Morillas. As I remark upon frequently this kind of creative director-perfumer partnership has a positive effect; especially when trying to design a brand aesthetic. Just a few perfumes into this collaboration there are the outlines of what that might be for Gucci 2018 and beyond.
One thing I have been enjoying is Sig. Michele is not signing on to the “lighter and transparent is better” bandwagon. He is defining something which has much more presence than the other masstige brands he is competing with. It is too early to see if consumers share his vision. I am hoping that there is room for something beyond lighter and transparent in the current landscape. Guilty Oud will be one which helps let us know if there is.
Guilty Oud is really a flanker of Gucci Guilty Absolute pour Homme. I was not a fan of that perfume. Guilty Oud is almost take two on that perfume. It uses some of what I really liked about the earlier release this year of Guilty Absolute pour Femme; the blackberry. That perfume was an effusive fruity floral. Guilty Oud is not that but the blackberry along with some other similar ingredients improves greatly on Guilty Absolute pour Homme.
It is that blackberry which opens Guilty Oud. In this perfume it is a quick fleeting bit of fruit. I like it for that kind of effect; here then gone. It moves into a patchouli and rose heart which has been the Guilty DNA. Here it is made to stand out without too much support. The oud comes from using a small amount of natural oud within a larger oud accord. One thing which I found to be a nice touch was using a cypress extract called Goldenwood to provide a blonde wood counterweight to the oud accord. It smooths out the entire fragrance providing an overall sophistication.
Guilty Oud has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
These are exciting times at Gucci perfume. Guilty Oud gives me more reason to believe we are at the beginning of something great again.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Gucci.
I have been laudatory of the recent releases from Jo Malone. The creative director Celine Roux has found the ability to re-energize the brand in new ways. Because of the recent success when I receive a new release lately I am excited to give it a try. Except when I saw the name on the bottle my expectations dropped. The name was Jo Malone Rose & White Musk Absolu; I probably stifled a yawn looking at it.
One of the things I have been pleased with over the last three years is Mme Roux has pushed the envelope at the brand more than retreating to safer constructs. Which was what I thought looking at the name; safe. It turned out once I actually tried the perfume it falls somewhere in-between. The ingredients are crowd pleasing but the perfumer, Anne Flipo, was given some leeway to move it towards something less generic. I found there were a couple thorns among the roses which is why I liked it. Mme Flipo says in the press materials this is meant to be a single linear accord. She is correct for the most part although I did find the places where a sharpness hid among the petals. Which was where Rose & White Musk Absolu was at its best.
Mme Flipo has combined some different rose sources for the core rose effect. There is something which makes it feel a bit like a debutante rose being escorted by her femme fatale sister. That sexier sister is a Turkish rose which is given a dewy shine by the lighter rose ingredients. In the early going this is a deeply sharp rose. Mme Flipo hones that with the white musk and oud accord. These are my thorns. The white musk pierces the floral character like a knitting needle. The oud accord does the same from the other side of the scent spectrum. The rose rises above it all before Mme Flipo adds in more white musks, softening that effect and providing a slow diffusion over the hours the perfume remained on my skin.
Rose & White Musk Absolu has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
This is something much more typical of a Jo Malone perfume than almost anything released so far this year. What surprised me is even when trying to be safer the brand is still interested in finding a way of adding in some thorns which makes it better.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Jo Malone London.
The fragrance part of designer Ermenegildo Zegna has not been a story of consistency. That might be changing. Over the course of the last year I have seen an uptick in the brand’s aesthetic. I would credit that to long-time creative director Trudi Loren. Ms. Loren took charge of the Zegna fragrance portfolio after Estee Lauder acquired the brand. In those first few years she upped the quality of the ingredients in the perfumes. They may not have been imaginative, but they were well-made. Last year there were two collections released; Essenze and Elements of Man. Now there was something in addition to quality ingredients; a contemporary interpretation of masculine tropes. In Zegna Acqua di Neroli Ms. Loren subverts the classic cologne architecture showing something more than just quality.
In the previous Acqua release, Acqua di Bergamotto, that was just a reiteration of the classic cologne recipe. This is an example of what I was describing above. Acqua di Neroli has the same cologne spine with perfumer Pierre Negrin filling it out with other ingredients to provide a new take on the venerable form.
Acqua di Neroli opens on a citrus sunbeam focused through a magnifying glass. Using lemon and bergamot for the citrus, petitgrain provides the focusing effect. Just as it becomes a bit too intense a damp green accord douses it. This has a transforming effect to the citrus as it goes from brilliant point of light to something more diffuse. The green accord sets up rosemary as the predecessor to the neroli. The neroli carries both green and citrus facets with the floral aspects. It then takes an interesting turn as M. Negrin uses a light application of watermelon to form a fleeting fruity floral phase. Lavender drags it back to more typical cologne territory. It completely leaves cologne-land in the base as a cypriol and sandalwood accord combines with another green moss-like accord along with some mid-weight musks. This provides some heft to the typical lightness of a cologne.
Acqua di Neroli has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
We are living in a time of some excellent re-interpretations of cologne into a Cologne Nouveau style for the 21st century. I wouldn’t have expected Zegna to be a brand to enter into that. Zegna Acqua di Neroli indicates I am mistaken as this belongs next to the others in this New Cologne Revolution.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Ermenegildo Zegna.
The path to having a Louis Vuitton branded perfume was a long and winding road. In 2016 it finally came to fruition with the release of seven perfumes. As a collection I had a difficult time embracing them. They all seemed to tilt towards the prevalent trend of simplicity paired with transparency. Perfumer Jacques Cavallier had created a collection which was missing what makes Louis Vuitton famous, the leather. When I heard of the collection I was hoping for something which captured all of the faces of leather in perfume. M. Cavallier has produced brilliant leather accords in the past surely there would be one in a Louis Vuitton collection. Except there wasn’t. As close as it came was Dans La Peau which captured the smell of the store as the collection of leather goods scent the air. Except that was not what I wanted. I wanted a Louis Vuitton that was L-E-A-T-H-E-R damnit! When I heard there were five new perfumes being released in 2018 I was hoping it might be there. I am delighted to say that Nouveau Monde is what I wanted.
The other four releases; L’Immensite, Au Hasard, Le Jour se Leve, and Orage are similar to the original seven. They share the same light and opaque quality with a slightly more masculine vibe. When I visited the Louis Vuitton store the day after release I tried all five. Going in I was most excited to try Nouveau Monde because based on the ingredient list it had potential. As soon as the sales associate sprayed it on a card I had already received a hint this was what I was looking for. I became a pest after the visit to receive a sample which I did. After wearing it for two days now I have what I wanted.
Nouveau Monde is at heart a linear leather accord. It is not blessed with lots of development. It is blessed with the presence of L-E-A-T-H-E-R damnit! M. Cavallier uses only a few ingredients to form his accord and it snaps together within the first moments.
Those three ingredients are saffron, oud, and cocoa. It is simple but at the heart there is a mixture of real oud and an oud accord along with the saffron and cocoa. That oud accord allows for M. Cavallier to dial in a specific effect which would not be possible by just relying on only a natural version. The presence of the natural oud is what gives this accord its animalic depth. It also provides the flip side to Dans La Peau’s civility as the leather in Nouveau Monde is way less polite. The accord is gorgeous in its depth. Over the time I’ve been wearing Nouveau Monde there is a lot of nuance provided by the cocoa. It provides that unique sweetness underneath every motorcycle jacket. The saffron provides a hint of the human being inside of that garment. After many hours Nouveau Monde dries down to a synthetic incense and woods duo which makes me miss what came before.
Nouveau Monde has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Nouveau Monde was exactly what I wanted from a Louis Vuitton perfume. Forget the simple transparent constructs I want L-E-A-T-H-E-R damnit! Nouveau Monde gives me just what I wanted.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Louis Vuitton.
I grew up in South Florida where people would drive two blocks instead of walking to the store. I have never lived in Southern California but I’ve been told it is the same. It is a silly thing, of course, to live somewhere for the weather only to avoid it by finding ways to stay out of it. On a visit to Scent Bar, in Los Angeles, independent perfumer Sarah McCartney seemed to also pick up on this. Which then turned into a perfume, 4160 Tuesdays Freeway.
Throughout 2018 in celebration of their 15th anniversary Scent Bar/Luckyscent has been commissioning a number of perfume brands to create something new. Ms. McCartney on her visit was interested in trying to capture the intersection of orange blossom and hot asphalt for Freeway. Which is a good description for the first two-thirds of Freeway. The final third turns out to be the ice cream shop nearby.
Freeway opens with a mandarin petitgrain out front. This is not the typical lemon-tinted petitgrain which most are familiar with. Manadarin petitgrain has a completely different scent profile it comes off as a focused style of fruitiness with a bit of turpentine in the background. As Ms. McCartney allows the orange blossom to blend with the mandarin petitgrain she creates a kind of LA orange blossom accord of brilliant sunlight, orange blossom and the smell of car exhaust. The heart is composed of a sun-warmed leather car interior. Ms. McCartney uses a nice refined leather accord which she scorches with some cigarette smoke. As the top and heart accord combine the exhaust and cigarette smoke provide the hot asphalt accord. There is a pungency over the middle part of the development that is going to be off-putting to some. I am a sucker for these kinds of urban accords when done well, which it is here. What really captured my attention on the days I wore Freeway is the final accord as we have driven to an ice cream shop which only exists in LA where they make boozy fruit sorbets. Ms. McCartney adds in vanilla, rum, and more orange blossom to form a crazy so-good I hope it exists rum orange sorbet accord. This goes from urban sprawl to hipster foodie in an LA minute.
Freeway has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
A word of caution especially if the top and base accords are whetting your appetite for Freeway. The middle accord is a classic indie perfume unique accord. It was mentioned by two different people on the days I wore Freeway that I smelled like a used ashtray during the time the heart accord is on display. When it was mentioned, I sort of get that but it still felt like hot pavement to me. This is one to definitely test to see what you experience. For me it was a perfect pivot from intensely floral top to the decadent sorbet base just a couple blocks away.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
As the weather gets warmer there also comes with it a desire for simplicity. It is the time of year my linear style of perfumes receives the most use. It is generally because once it gets hot the simple beauty of a great ingredient done well is just the right choice. Van Cleef & Arpels Neroli Amara uses neroli in just this way.
This kind of style of perfume has become a staple of the Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extaordinaire. When it gets it correct these become perfume still lifes featuring a single ingredient. For Neroli Amara perfumer Quentin Bisch was asked to do this with neroli.
The name of the perfume and the brief is inspired by the real-life Princess of Nerola. In 1675 when she married to the Prince of Nerola she found the province north of Rome covered with Amara Orange trees. The story goes that the Princess scented her clothes with orange blossom, adding them to her gloves. The scent would become so entwined with her it would become the etymology of the perfume ingredient neroli. M. Bisch captures a regal version of neroli in Neroli Amara.
Neroli Amara opens on a top accord of citrus. It is as if M. Bisch wanted to have every citrus note pay court to the princess to come. Then like an announcement trumpet a bit of baie rose commands the citrus to calm down. Over the next few minutes the neroli rises in presence. The princess has arrived. M. Bisch has black pepper and petitgrain escort her to the throne. The neroli chosen is all of what I enjoy in the ingredient; a soft citrus-like floral atop an astringent green underpinning. The use of the petitgrain, in particular, focuses the neroli more towards the floral but the green is also a presence. Much later on there is a bit of light woody cypress but by then the princess has retired to the palace.
Neroli Amara has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is one of the least complex perfumes I have encountered by M. Bisch. That’s not a bad thing it just means if you have come to expect something innovative from him Neroli Amara isn’t that. It is a perfumer showing off his still life of Princess Neroli; in this case that is more than enough.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Van Cleef & Arpels.
It was last year during Esxence 2017 that independent perfumer Anatole Lebreton landed on my radar. I was getting reports that the debut at that exposition, Grimoire, was among my correspondent’s favorites. It would take a few months for me to try that one to confirm that M. Lebreton was making interesting perfume.
The same thing happened a couple months ago during the 2018 version of Esxence. This time M. Lebreton debuted Cornaline. When I asked them to compare it to Grimoire I got a near-unanimous response of “very different”. I was excited to see for myself. I received my sample a few weeks ago and “very different” was an excellent description although imprecise. Let me see if I can add to that.
In the description on the website M. Lebreton describes “a barefoot Empress in an exotic garden caressing the blooming ylang-ylang”. Cornaline is a floral perfume centered around the fleshy carnality of ylang-ylang. Many perfumers labor to keep that thick quality tamped down. M. Lebreton allows it to have some room to caress the rest of the construction. It forms a hedonistic style of perfume that I enjoyed.
Before we get to the ylang-ylang M. Lebreton forms a delightful top accord around carrot. By itself carrot can sometimes smell like plastic. To keep that from happening a hint of berries and bergamot provide guardrails for the carrot to remain sweeter than it would by itself. The ylang-ylang begins to ooze into the top accord. When ylang-ylang has this unctuous quality, I like it, but it can be a bit much for some. Which is why in the early moments a bit of spicy geranium and hyacinth pump the brakes a bit. Not for long though because M. Lebreton ignites the ylang-ylang with peach. It explodes with intensity. It is a clever bit of olfactory pyrotechnics. After it calms down some orris provides a calming effect before benzoin takes over. The benzoin is the comforting note you need after the heart. Some vanilla sweetens it but it is mostly a warm comforting finish.
Cornaline has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Cornaline is very different than Grimoire mostly in its extroverted style. It also really embraces its keynote finding ways to go beyond mere amplification to shouting from rooftops. Which means if you are not a fan of ylang-ylang and peach Cornaline will unlikely appeal to you. For someone who wants to throw myself into the sins of the flesh ylang-ylang brings to perfume; Cornaline is just what I desire.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
During the summer there are few things more attractive that a tan young woman in a sun dress. The simplicity of the sun dress. The expanse of bronze skin. Sun bleached hair. The smile made carefree by being free of responsibility. When I was a young man many summer evenings were spent in the company of women like this. It was what being young was all about. Even thinking about from forty years later I can see some of them in my mind’s eye. As often happens it is a perfume which triggered the reminiscence. This time it came from Ellis Brooklyn Fawn.
Ellis Brooklyn is the brand founded by Bee Shapiro in 2016. Over the course of 2017 through the releases of Rives and Sci-Fi Ms. Shapiro refined the brand aesthetic. Ellis Brooklyn has become one of the new brands I want to keep an eye on because I believe in the potential I see.
For Fawn Ms. Shapiro collaborates with perfumer Pascal Gaurin. They wanted to create a summer perfume focused on summertime fun. They produce something which is all of that.
Fawn opens with a sturdy neroli at the center of the top accord. Bergamot teases out the citrus quality through the early going. It gets more floral as lily of the valley picks up on both the green and floral characteristics. M. Gaurin then adds in the suntan lotion staple of coconut. It comes in as the remains of the day’s application; transparent and light. The neroli is on top. Vanilla significantly sweetens the coconut along with a musk accord of warm skin. I enjoy immensely when this kind of skin musk appears in a perfume like Fawn. M. Gaurin has designed one which also carries a hint of soap to it. It all comes together in a beautiful overall accord.
Fawn has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have received a number of summer perfumes this year which are meant for that time after the sun goes down. Ellis Brooklyn Fawn is among the best of them.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Sephora.
I grew up around snakes in South Florida. I was fascinated with them. One thing which always kept me intrigued was that they were cold-blooded. If I was handling a non-poisonous snake the lack of warmth, as it slithered around my forearm and through my fingers, was an interesting contrast. Because of the scales it always felt like a dry kind of cold to me. Mrs. C is terribly afraid of snakes and my interactions are now limited to getting them out of her vegetable garden. Ex Nihilo Viper Green captures the serpentine chill without turning venomous.
Ex Nihilo Creative Team
Ex Nihilo has been a brand in transition over the last year or so. When the creative team of Sylvie Loday, Olivier Royere, and Benoit Verdier started the brand it was only available in a Paris boutique with a design aesthetic which allowed a consumer to add the last note to their perfume. After two years they have steadily expanded the places they can be found which makes it difficult for that bit of personalization to be added in. It has been a move for the better because it has produced perfumes which feel more complete which Viper Green benefits from. Perfumer Nadage Le Garlantezec uses a spine of cool green ingredients which allow for florals and patchouli to slither over.
Nadege Le Garlantezec
Viper Green opens on a tart green mandarin paired with angelica root. This is the beginning of the green thread which runs throughout. Galbanum intensifies that thread while Mme Le Garlantezec uses a synthetic ingredient called Rosyfolia. What that does is provide a rose tinted muguet. That bit of muguet that is green is very present in Rosyfolia which allows it to pick up the galbanum just in time for jasmine to pick up the floral baton. Some powdery iris softens the central part of the development and provides a bit of the cold-blooded nature. A very potent vetiver supported by a slightly earthy patchouli is the final part.
Viper Green has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Viper Green is not a fanged fragrance despite the name. It is the sense of a cool green snake slithering languidly over your skin. I have enjoyed handling this snake in these early days of summer.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Ex Nihilo.
One of the enduring perfume challenges of recent years is how to make a chypre when one of the key ingredients is no longer allowed. That ingredient, oakmoss, has a kind of low calorie substitute where the problematic ingredient has been removed. That low-atranol oakmoss always feels lesser to me. Perfumers have found ways to use other ingredients to fill in the missing character. That success is a reason the chypre has continued to thrive.
There is also a more difficult path to take. Forget about that oakmoss altogether. Instead look for another set of ingredients which create the vibe of chypre without compromise. This is a less successful endeavor at completing this high degree of difficulty maneuver. It has still produced perfumes which I have liked even though I would not call them chypres. Parle Moi de Parfum Chypre Mojo falls in this category.
Parle Moi de Parfum is perfumer Michel Almairic’s own brand. It has extolled a minimalistic aesthetic using only a few ingredients. It is this which does not allow Chypre Mojo to fully come together into something I would classify as a chypre. What it does turn out to be is a fantastic summery perfume.
The reason this is summer in a bottle is the top note of mango. M. Almairac captures the juicy, fleshy nature of the fruit as you peel the skin off to get to the good stuff underneath. We had a mango tree in the yard in my boyhood home. There were summer days where my shirt was covered in the juice which ran off my chin onto my t-shirt. The mango M. Almairac uses is that scent. Next comes the two ingredients, carnation and patchouli, M. Almairac wants to use to create his chypre accord. The carnation provides the green. My issue is carnation doesn’t have enough green to it to really rise to chypre level. The patchouli comes closer. M. Almairac seems to be using one of the fractions which is very dry with a bitter edge to it. This feels like it has some of the pieces I would describe as chypre-like. Together they produce a really beautiful contrast to the mango just not the kind advertised on the bottle.
Chypre Mojo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you come here looking for a chypre I think you will not find that; unless your definition is different than mine. Which should not keep you from trying this. Chypre Mojo is a gorgeous tropical fruit perfume that is among my favorite of the year; it just needs to be renamed to Mango Magic.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.