There is no perfumer for whom I have more nicknames for than Bertrand Duchaufour. His very profligacy almost demands he gets them. Because he is such perfumed gadfly moving from one project to another I have likened him to a freebooter and called him the Pirate of Perfume. The body of work he has produced for London brand Penhaligon’s has been one of his strongest collections for any brand he has worked for. The seventh perfume he has made for them is part of their Trade Routes Collection and it is called Lothair.
Lothair is named after the Tea Clipper ships which were the FedEx of their day even if it took more like weeks instead of days. A neat bit of synchronicity is Lothair was the last Tea Clipper ship to be built in Rotherhithe in 1870, the year Penhaligon’s was founded. M. Duchaufour wanted the perfume named after the ship to be a day at sea with a hold full of goods heading home. M. Duchaufour could have kept it simple by constructing a tea-centric fragrance. He does do that but he adds some inspired modern choices which make Lothair something similar to modern day Rotherhithe which has become part of the upscale Docklands area of London.
As the Lothair races through the waves you look over the lip of the hold and a whiff of cardamom arises as the crewman next to you eats his grapefruit. The smell of gin comes from somewhere in the scent of juniper berries. Finally you spy the bags of dark black tea in their canvas bags adjacent to other bags filled with figs. The heart of Lothair is the green version of fig and the black version of tea. M. Duchaufour swirls them together adroitly. He creates a floral contrast with geranium and lavender to further develop the heart accord. As the ship nears port you lean on the rail taking in the smell of the wood in the sun and the brine of the sea rushing by. This is accomplished by cedar, oakmoss, ambergris, and a few musks.
Lothair has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I was thinking of the Jimmy Buffet song “A Pirate Looks at 40” while wearing Lothair. It almost feels like my modern Pirate of Perfume is looking back 145 years ago to make something relevant in 2015. Lothair is another fantastic perfume from M. Duchaufour; long may he sail the perfumed waves.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
When I got my first sniff of the Raymond Matts Aura de Parfum collection at the end of November I immediately felt it was something noteworthy. I spent a good hour going from strip to strip as I began my process of understanding what Mr. Matts was after. In the never-ending debate about the concept of olfactory art there is a school of thought that goes something like this; the use of synthetics is what separates artistic endeavor from commercial enterprise. Or more prosaically unnatural versus natural. I think it is a false argument and something to consider more deeply at a different time. What the Raymond Matts Aura de Parfum collection has added to my personal consideration is that in the hands of focused creative direction a perfumer can turn out something completely unlike anything in nature but yet which calls out to the familiar. Of any perfume in the Aura de Parfum collection Kaiwe is the one which exemplifies this best.
When I was doing my initial assessment Kaiwe was the one I kept coming back to over and over. It was because of this unconventional look at the concept of fresh and green. Kaiwe is described, at its most basic, as a citrus ozonic Ambrox fragrance. It should smell like thousands of other similar fragrances which fit that description. In some ways it was exactly that which had me returning to it over and over. It smelled so like so many but not like anything else. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin puts together three distinct accords but while they seem to tread old ground they really are a step off of the well-traveled path.
M. Gillotin opens Kaiwe with a citrus accord made up of the soapy group of aldehydes which is what I detect first. This is the smell of a freshly washed body stepping out of the shower. Cocktails of green synthetics and citrus synthetics coalesce underneath the aldehydes deepening the fresh feeling. This is an example of what I’m talking about; the synthetics M. Gillotin uses provide no discernable handle to grab ahold of. It smells citrusy but not obviously one fruit or the other. The green accord is slightly aquatic and opaque. It undulates to my senses almost like a sheer green scarf rippling on a breeze. The shifting nature of the green notes creates subtle kineticism. The heart again is comprised of floral synthetics such that it is not any one floral but aspects of many florals. A hint of green lily, a bit of violet, a pinch of jasmine; but not really. To make sure you don’t spend too much time trying to dissect the bouquet M. Gillotin adds eucalyptus and juniper berry. The eucalyptus almost single-handedly forms the ozonic feel. The juniper adds an icy gin-like quality. It sets up perfectly as another note from the liquor cabinet, rum, joins in. Then in a very unique take warm milk also enters the picture. This forms a bizarre never made cocktail of gin, rum, and warm milk. It is odd but compelling. I sure don’t ever want to drink it but I really enjoyed breathing it in. Kaiwe ends on a swirl of Ambrox adding its unique character to all that has come before.
Kaiwe has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Kaiwe is one of those perfumes I just want to wear over and over because every time I wear it I find something new to admire. It is my favorite of what is an incredibly diverse collection Mr. Matts has put together. If you are someone who equates synthetic raw materials with “cheap” I think this collection might change that opinion. I know that I find what Mr. Matts is attempting here to be laudatory for boldly staking out this space as well as creating with great vision. If you give this line a chance it can change the way you think about what makes a great perfume.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Raymond Matts.
There is a branch of music where a producer or artist takes two different styles of music and combines them into a new version; this is called a mash-up. Musical examples of this are the combination of The Beatles White Album and Jay-Z’s The Black Album by producer Danger Mouse to become The Grey Album. Or one that got a lot of radio play was the combination of Numb by Linkin Park and Encore by Jay-Z who released and performed it live. When it works it illuminates something new from both source materials. It is a reason why some people layer perfumes as they look to create a whole experience from two or three fragrances to fill in the spaces. Now we have the first perfume mash-up with the release of Etat Libre D’Orange True Lust.
Etienne de Swardt
Creative Director Etienne de Swardt is playing the part of the producer as he takes two of his previous perfumes 2006’s Putain des Palaces by perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer and 2012’s Dangerous Complicity by perfumer Violaine Collas and combines them. For True Lust it is a mash-up of the softly floral aspects of Dangerous Complicity, along with the rum, with Putain des Palace’s animalic dry woods. What M. de Swardt says he wanted was, “a marriage of mystery, an uneasy merger of hearts and minds and flesh.” What is surprising is True Lust works for me on that level as each of the perfumes serve to fill in the empty space the other one left which results in something both recognizable and unique.
The early going of True Lust is all Dangerous Complicity as the ginger and rum which opens that perfume opens this perfume. The violet of Putain des Palaces arrives fairly quickly. Right here is a good example of why True Lust works. The ginger and rum have a boozy kind of energy but the violet tempers it with a bit of edgy floralcy. The heart is a mix of the floral hearts of both originals as muguet, ylang-ylang, rose, jasmine, and osmanthus combine. While all of these notes are in one or the other of the perfumes in True Lust they come together in a way different than they presented themselves previously. This is the moment of the perfumed mash-up where the harmonies are overlaid to the point that you know this is something new from something old. The base is mostly the animalic leather of Putain des Palaces matched with the sandalwood of Dangerous Complicity. This time it is the leather of Putain des Palaces which ends up on top, pun intended.
True Lust has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
True Lust is a perfume for people who love smelling like they are wearing perfume. What I mean by that is by taking two different sources and bringing them together it can’t help but be very extroverted and out there. If you like your perfume well-behaved and demure this is not what True Lust is serving up. It is bringing you a Technicolor perfume experience and if you’re in the mood for it, it is awesome. I wanted an old-time broad shouldered perfume experience and True Lust delivered it.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
Back in 2010 while I was working at CaFleureBon we participated in a project sponsored by the Natural Perfumers guild called The Mystery of Musk. The idea was to have natural perfumers create a botanical musk accord and then use it in a perfume created for the event. Twelve natural perfumers educated me in the myriad ways a real musk could be created using all-natural ingredients. Perfumer Tanja Bochnig of April Aromatics was just getting started in 2010 and was not part of The Mystery of Musk. When I tried her latest release Erdenstern it felt like it was a lost entry in that project.
Fr. Bochnig has become one of the leading natural perfumers over the last four years. I have been an admirer for a long time but I realized this is the first time I am writing about one of her perfumes. That lack of attention is not due to anything but my inability to cover everything I like and I like Fr. Bochnig’s perfumes a lot. She states on her website, “I strongly believe that people can feel the love and energy I give into my perfumes.” Speaking for myself I have always felt the passion she has appears in the quality of her perfumes. Fr. Bochnig comes from a background of aromatherapy and yoga and that shows up in her perfumes. While they aren’t meant to speak to specific chakras per se they do attempt to evoke specific feelings.
Erdenstern translates to “Earth Star” it was inspired by Avalon, the holy place between the worlds of gods and mortals. Naming Erdenstern after a place where two worlds coincide is a perfect analogy for the perfume. Erdenstern captures a combination of damp earth and wood along with the animalic accords of what lives among the trees.
As I mentioned above Fr. Bochnig has fashioned a botanical musk accord and it is where Erdenstern opens. The advantage of a botanical musk is the ingredients themselves add a texture not available from a traditional synthetic musk. As a result I really enjoy the more natural feel of these botanical musks and Fr. Bochnig’s version is as good as I’ve encountered. She pairs it with a very strident vetiver. So often perfumers try and pull the reins in on vetiver. Fr. Bochnig allows her vetiver to gallop freely alongside the botanical musk. Together they create the smell of the damp forest floor as you walk through it. The heart transitions to tobacco and opoponax. This is a very gradual shift from woods and earth to sweet tobacco. It always took me by surprise while wearing it in a very good way. Fr. Bochnig finishes Erdenstern with another botanical version of an animal ingredient as she constructs a botanical ambergris accord in the base. There is a delicacy to this accord that is mesmerizing and Fr. Bochnig wisely leaves it pretty much by itself to finish Erdenstern.
Erdenstern has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I mentioned that I haven’t written about Fr. Bochnig much prior to this but I have tried all of her perfumes. Over time I have seen another independent perfumer come into their own as each successive release built upon what came before. In Erdenstern it culminates in the best perfume Fr. Bochnig has made, so far.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
As I continue my reviews of the new Raymond Matts Aura de Parfum collection I turn to a pair which are complete opposites. One celebrates all of the promise of a spring day. The other is the smell of attraction from afar traveling the paths of imagination wherein the feeling is returned. Maiaday and Pashay are those perfumes.
There are instructions for how to pronounce the names in the press materials. Maiaday is supposed to be pronounced (My*a*day). Ever since wearing it I’ve been calling it May*a*day because it embodies that day in May when we acknowledge the return of green and growing things. Perfumer Annie Buzantian composes a perfume which captures that pent-up energy of the coming of spring after the long winter. Ms. Buzantian keeps it all very supple and soft as a sunny floral green haze enveloped me when I wore Maiaday. Ms. Buzantian opens with her greenery floating on a pond which she marries to a citrus grouping of notes. It adds that zing to the opening as it amplifies and complements the green accord. Maiaday moves into a floral heart with that May Day flower, muguet, at the center. Ms. Buzantian brackets it with the expected, in violet leaves, picking up the greener facets of muguet. The unexpected is saffron which adds a bit of outre´ charm. Saffron works here because it is such a softly assertive spicy note. Something a little more aggressive would have thrown off the vibe Ms. Buzantian is building. This carries through into the base as she uses a number of synthetic woods to form a translucent woody accord to evoke the trees waking up on May Day. As much as I’ve been enjoying wearing Maiaday on these winter days I am really looking forward to wearing it on a mid-summer’s day. Maiaday has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Christophe Laudamiel (Photo: Marcus Gaab for NY TImes)
The inspiration for Pashay came from a chance encounter on a Fifth Avenue bus Mr. Matts was riding. Also sharing his ride was “a beautiful black woman…with flawless skin and an exposed shoulder.” When Mr. Matts approached perfumer Christophe Laudamiel with this inspiration he also had an interesting request for a starting point for M. Laudamiel. By looking at this olive toned skin he wanted to use a Kalamata olive note as the focal point of Pashay. M. Laudamiel thought it a crazy idea but once he and Mr. Matts started working on Pashay they found there was some latitude to realize their vision while starting from such a different beginning. Pashay opens on a fruity flurry of citrus and pear. This leads to the heart where they chose seaweed and narcissus to join the Kalamata to form their desired salty skin accord. If you look at those ingredients on face value you might not see how this comes to be. By using the oily salty olive to build upon; the seaweed pulls out the hidden marine facets as well as a sense of clean sweaty skin. The narcissus takes this and uses its intense floralcy to frame and enhance the illusion. It really is the smell of a woman’s shoulder after she has worked up a sweat. This all fades into a woody base of sandalwood and guaiac wood. This is a cleaned up sandalwood synthetic stripped of the sweet facets and the guaiac wood provides a more versatile clean wood than something like cedar might have. The final stages of Pashay are the dream of that woman on the bus as it pulls away and you watch it move down the street. Pashay has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Disclosure: These reviews were based on samples I received from Raymond Matts.
I’ve been using an old-fashioned double edge razor to shave for a little over ten years now. I finally kicked the habit of the multi-blade monstrosities and have never looked back. In truth my morning shave is where I get my first fragrance stimuli of the day. I don’t have as many shaving creams as I do perfume but there is a whole cabinet stacked high with little pots of different scented creams. I can say that before my shave I might be considering one perfume for the day and after my mood has entirely changed. The smell of shaving products and hair products remind me of my trips to the barber’s with my father to get a crew cut. I invoke the barber shop description when describing fougeres quite often. All of this had me very interested in the new Maison Martin Margiela Replica At the Barber’s.
Louise Turner (Photo: Rui Camilo)
The Maison Martin Margiela Replica line is all about re-creating a specific place and time. This particular barber shop is in Madrid circa 1992. I’m not sure I get the Madrid part but the barber shop is completely realized by perfumer Louise Turner. The hot towels, the herbal shaving cream, the lavender water, and the sweet hair wax are all here. Ms. Turner captures each of the facets to create a virtual barbershop accord.
At the Barber’s assembles itself very rapidly and I would say it doesn’t really have a development so much as an assembling of the parts of the accord. Ms. Turner keeps it very simple and At the Barber’s is all the better for it. Basil and lavender are what I first notice and within minutes there is a hot cotton accord of white musks followed by the coumarin-laden sweetness of tonka bean. Each of these calls out to a specific part of the environment named but together they form a delightfully realistic accord.
At the Barber’s has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Of any of the Replica line, so far, At the Barber’s is the most straightforward replication of the name on the bottle. As I said I don’t get the Madrid and I’m not sure you couldn’t have chosen any year because this is just the smell of a classic barber shop no matter what the year. At the Barber’s is a true replica of my barber shop experience as a child and I’ll always insert Miami 1966 when I wear it. If you are a fan of old style fougeres it will cost you a bit more than two bits for this shave and a haircut but it is well worth it.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Barney’s.
While the three new releases from Amber Jobin’s Aether Arts Perfume were my first new perfumes of 2015 I can’t say I didn’t know they were on their way. Ms. Jobin like so many of her compatriots in the independent perfume world shares her thoughts on how her new designs are coming along online. Ms. Jobin’s posts give us a peek into her creative process and I always like taking my first sniff knowing a bit about how the perfume came to be. The two I am reviewing here Magic Mushroom and Love for 3 Oranges were Ms. Jobin’s forays into gourmand and eau de cologne territory.
Magic Mushroom seems like it should be a natural companion to the other new 2015 perfume Holy Hemp! Instead Ms. Jobin was after another mood altering substance to build this mushroom, chocolate. She takes cocoa absolute which, instead of adding the slightly dusty quality of cocoa, it forms a more viscous base of melted chocolate. Floating on that metaphorical pool are freshly harvested mushrooms with the earth still clinging to them. On the days I wore this I kept imagining the weirdest chocolate fountain with mushrooms floating in the bowl at the bottom. Ms. Jobin describes Magic Mushroom as an earthy gourmand and, especially in the first part of the development, it is exactly what this perfume delivers. She leavens the rich opening with a bouquet of jasmine and orris. It adds a bit of high harmonics to a perfume which has been all bass to this point. Coffee and tobacco absolute return Magic Mushroom to the lower register and transform it into something trending more sweet as the chocolate has the upper hand over the final phase. Magic mushroom has 8-10 hour longevity and slight sillage due to being extrait strength.
Love for 3 Oranges was inspired by Prokofiev’s opera of the same name. The opera was staged to be a cross between Commedia dell’arte and Surrealism. Needless to say it flew over most audiences' heads when first performed in the 1920’s. As Surrealism rose in prominence so too did the opera and it has become one of the staples of the opera company repertory. Ms. Jobin heard about the staging in 1988 which provided the audience with Scratch n’ Sniff cards to go along with the action on stage. One of those dots was the scent of oranges which was matched to fairy princesses emerging from giant oranges as if they were cocoons. Mixed into all of this were memories of Ms. Jobin’s memories of her grandmother’s orange trees at her home in Florida. You will be unsurprised to know the Florida boy in me was particularly interested in that.
Amber Jobin accepting her 2014 Art & Olfaction Award
She has subtitled the fragrance “Flower, Fruit & Tree” to indicate she wanted to capture an orange tree where the orange blossoms and the fruit were all growing at the same time. By choosing to go with an eau de cologne architecture at extrait strength Ms. Jobin eschewed the surreal aspect and instead went for a “whole body” approach to capture that tree with all three phases in it which describe the three phases the perfume goes through on my skin. It opens with that lush juicy orange smell. The one I remember from my Florida childhood eating one while sitting on a limb in the tree. I also remember the smell of the tree when it was full of blossoms as that was the smell of Spring to me when living in a part of the world where it might always seem Spring. Ms. Jobin uses a high concentration of orange blossom and it really brings out the creamy quality of the raw material. Most often it is used as a light bit of floralcy. Ms. Jobin has to use a lot so it can co-exist with the orange from the top. Her success is that I would imagine myself in my tree at both times I described at the same time. Getting orange and orange blossom right is easy the smell of an orange tree is not so easy. It is woody but it also has a bit of an acrid edge to it and Ms. Jobin’s orange tree accord captures that. She blends some green notes with woody base notes. This would not have been a trivial task, I think. This is a simple perfume but it is not a simple to make perfume. Ms. Jobin shows her skill throughout in getting all of the players to create the effect she wanted. In the end for this Florida boy she has spectacularly captured any orange tree I have ever known. Love for 3 Oranges has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Ms. Jobin continues to shine brightly as one of the best new independent perfuers we have and all three of her new perfumes have begun my 2015 on a high note.
Editor's Note: My review of the other 2015 release Holy Hemp! can be found here.
The winner of first new perfumes received in 2015 were the three new perfumes by Amber Jobin for her Aether Arts Perfume label. It has been a winning year for Ms. Jobin as last year she won one of the inaugural Art & Olfaction Awards in the Artisan Category. There has been no perfumer who has started with quite this much momentum in years. Not only were these the first new perfumes I would start 2015 with they show the nearly fully formed artist Ms. Jobin has become in just two short years. I am going to review all three of the new perfumes today and tomorrow. I’m going to start with Holy Hemp! because it follows on her previous exploration of the use of the cannabis note in her other perfumes A Roll in the Grass & Burner Perfume No. 5-Incense Indica. It also is very illustrative of why Ms. Jobin has stood out among the newer independent perfumers.
Particularly for a lot of the new independent perfumers who send me samples that I don’t end up reviewing the main reason is they have combined a bunch of nice smelling ingredients into something that smells nice but has no soul. Ms. Jobin has spent time studying perfumery under the tutelage of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. What that means is really understanding not just how to build a perfume around a specific note but how to shape that note to achieve a desired effect by altering the concentration and/or the accompanying notes. This process requires patience and a clear vision. Ms. Jobin seems to have both of these attributes.
Her first cannabis perfume A Roll in the Grass concentrated on the way cannabis smells when it is smoked the skanky smoky smell was front and center. Ms. Jobin paired it with a fresh cut grass accord as contrast and it made the name of the perfume a double entendre. In Incense Indica Ms. Jobin imagined the sticky concentrated smell of the buds as a substitute for frankincense or other resins. She allows the resinous quality to rise from out of the smoke and Incense Indica pivots beautifully about a third of the way through its development. Holy Hemp! is the smell of the entire plant as not only the leaves and the buds but also the stalks. There is a wonderful vegetal quality underpinning the rest of what is a very luminous green perfume.
Holy Hemp! opens on an herbal note of Holy Basil also called Tulsi. The Holy Basil adds that vegetal foundation I was speaking of. Ms. Jobin bleeds in just the right amount of galbanum to support that accord of green and growing things. She chooses to add Cananga which is a fruity floral oil obtained when the flowers which produce ylang-ylang oil are distilled. Cananga is a much more transparent version of ylang-ylang as it is both less floral and a bit fruitier. In Holy Hemp! it provides a focal point to find the fruity facets within cannabis. Once you’re led in that direction by the Cananga you almost can’t help but smell it. This all comes to an end with a balsamic base.
Holy Hemp! has 8-10 hour longevity and very little sillage because it is at extrait strength.
Holy Hemp! completes a trinity of cannabis perfumes by Ms. Jobin; but most importantly it shows a young independent perfumer working with an assured artistic aesthetic rare within this community.
Duisclsoure: This review was based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfumes.
If there is anything which is going to harm perfumery in the long term it is not going to be the usual suspects of draconian regulations or astronomical prices. The death of perfume is going to come with the incessant homogenization going on in the mass-market sector. The perfume business which is making new perfumes in this sector has shunted aside creativity and promoted the focus group. By gathering average perfume wearers and letting them in to the creative process they end up creating perfume afraid to be anything but not to offend any sensibility. It also has the effect of making all of them smell the same by recycling older tropes from more ambitious earlier releases. The final decision on what goes in the bottle is not coming from a creative director with a specific vision. It is instead coming from averaging the results of questionnaires and picking the one which appeals most broadly. Except every great perfume which has ever existed has always made a bold statement about what it was and dared an audience to come to it instead of the other way around. One of the first perfumes I can remember doing that was 1977’s Yves St. Laurent Opium. If there was a perfume of the disco era Opium was it. Because so many women wore it there were many mornings following a night out where I could easily pick up the sweet vanilla laden base notes on my clothes. Opium was a trendsetter for years.
Now in 2015 there is a new flanker of Opium called Black Opium. The press release claims it is an Opium for a contemporary Rock Chick. The ad campaign features model Edie Campbell looking very Joan Jett while spraying on Black Opium. Except while I know the younger generation makes a habit of looking unimpressed about anything the look on Ms. Campbell’s face borders on apathy. It’s almost like there should be a thought bubble above her head going, “This is a quick buck.” When I received the press materials prior to receiving my sample I found it all very incongruous. Within days something even more ominous would create more concern. Creative Director of Yves St. Laurent Hedi Slimane posted on Twitter, followed up with a press release, disavowing any involvement in the creation of Black Opium. Who was minding the store? I am not sure but after wearing Black Opium it feels solidly like the product of a thousand focus groups.
The Creative Directors? (Photo: From the TV Series "Mad Men")
A group of four perfumers are credited with Black Opium, Honorine Blanc, Olivier Cresp, Nathalie Lorson, and Marie Salamagne. That is a great team of artists who if left to their own devices under appropriate creative direction could make a great “Rock Chick” perfume. What they have produced is something generic with aspects of hundreds of fruity florals and gourmands of the past all smooshed together into something afraid to take a stand on anything for fear of offending.
Black Opium opens with pink pepper, very sweet manadarin, and crisp pear matched with mimosa. It is modern fruity floral territory being trod upon for the umpteenth time. It eventually evolves towards a bland attempt at coffee, vanilla, and patchouli over cedar. Clean woody gourmand territory, encountered many times previously.
Black Opium has 10-12 hour longevity and prodigious sillage, probably the only thing it shares with the original.
Black Opium is not a bad perfume. It is a safe perfume. It is a perfume engineered through social means to appeal to many. It is devoid of character and as boring as Ms. Campbell looks in the advert. If the creative directors for the designers don’t have the opportunity to apply their brand vision to the perfumes which carry that designer name this will work like Continental Drift, in reverse, and every new release will eventually smell the same creating an olfactory Pangea. As one who loved the way the original Opium defined a moment in time via scent it is sad to see an opportunity for Black Opium squandered for safety’s sake.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Yves St. Laurent Beaute.
The new Raymond Matts perfume line calls their fragrances “aura de parfum”. The phrase does a really good job of describing some of the entries in the collection. With Jarro and Sunah the name is not only a descriptor but the perfumes themselves formed a transparent aura around me as I wore them. In an e-mail exchange with Raymond Matts he described the way he works with his perfumers, “I never brief perfumers actually! When I start a fragrance I sit with and go over sensations, emotions, experiences, textures with colors I want the fragrance to be. We then will discuss notes and will create three different accords representing top, middle and back.” Then he told me they will go through 200-300 modifications searching for just the right balance to realize the shared vision. This shows the dedication of both creative director and perfumer as trying to find that perfect balance between the synthetics and natural ingredients can be difficult and I think many other brands would have given up earlier and accept a less-than-perfect formula. Both of these show the dedication to quality and collaboration.
Jarro is signed by Christophe Laudamiel. If I asked most to describe M. Laudamiel based on his perfumes in one word I am guessing I would get a lot of variations on edgy or dark. I knew he was the perfumer behind three of the seven entries in the collection. If I was asked to pick the three he worked on blindly Jarro would not have been one because it seems too light. Mr. Matts also addressed that in his e-mail and said, “Christophe and I have been working together for many years. He is dark and I'm not so this makes for interesting collaborations.” Jarro is a burst of optimism wrapped up in green brilliance. M. Laudamiel constructs complex accords and Jarro opens with two of those. The citrus one is that bit of sunshine in a jar as there is a complement of citrus facets all shining like sunbeams. Matched to this is a green aquatic accord composed of calone and labdanum among other ingredients. This is one of those classic perfume accords but M. Laudamiel puts his spin on it by keeping it on the light side. The green deepens with muguet as the focal point in the middle part of Jarro’s development. M. Laudamiel enhances the hidden spiciness of muguet by using it in significant quantities and complementing it with other spices so it can’t be overlooked. The base is Ambrox and woods; and in keeping with the whole tone of the construction it stays lighter. Jarro has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
As Mr. Matts mentioned he has worked with M. Laudamiel for many years. I think he has probably worked with perfumer Jean-Claude Delville for a shorter period of time. One of the pieces of information that tells me this might be the case is Mr. Matts shared the number of modifications that went into refining the concepts that would eventually become Sunah; over a thousand. If I admired the stick-to-it-iveness of 200 modifications more than a thousand had to be frustrating until the right one emerges out of the pile of flawed vials. What caused all of this olfactory angst was an attempt to make a saffron focused perfume which also was soft. M. Delville opens with a contrast of tart and crisp with citrus and apple. It is a high-pitched downbeat which then rises up the scale as mimosa forms an opaque fruity floral early phase. Sunah transforms as the saffron rises to prominence in the heart. M. Delville allows the saffron to eventually exude an exoticism at the middle. M. Delville then chooses a mix of woody synthetics which are layered precisely to effect a pillow soft base for this intense saffron to lay upon. It is this which must have have occupied Mr. Matts and M. Delville during many of those one thousand modifications. To get this just right. To keep the synthetics all purring together without one rising up to be disruptive all while the saffron still exudes its influence. This effort really shows as Sunah moves from the fruity floral into this exotic end phase and it is completely fascinating to wear. Sunah has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I really like both of these for the effort the perfumers put in with Mr. Matts. In both cases I think that effort shows in the finished product. Sunah especially for the effect of saffron on top of soft woods is brilliantly realized.
Discalosure: this review was based on samples provided by Raymond Matts.