The second soliflore from Le Galion is Tubereuse and it was these creations of specific soliflores that inspired perfumer Paul Vacher to branch out on his own. As a perfumer he was drawn to the creative challenge in essentially creating a perfume featuring one singular note. What I have always enjoyed is seeing the different visions every perfumer brings to their version of a fragrance of a single flower. M. Vacher’s vision for Tubereuse is very different than most other tuberose soliflores out there. Tuberose is a floral that is hard to like, for many, and one of the reasons they will cite is that it is too much, too bold, too flowery. In short tuberose is a pushy note. M. Vacher wanted to display a softer side of tuberose and he has made a downy soft version of it in Tubereuse.
M. Vacher, I believe understood that the natural exuberance of tuberose, if turned inward, could create a special effect and so the construction of Tubereuse is all about taking the showy aspects of tuberose and calming them down. The taming of tuberose starts with a fruity foil of raspberry and pear. You might think this would make the tuberose sweeter but it has an effect here of adding a crisp fruity quality more than sweetness. Galbanum and mandarin also provide opposition to the sweeter nature. It takes all of this to keep tuberose from getting out of control and it works surprisingly well. In the current day of fruity florals this exudes a sophistication not often seen within the genre. Tuberose displays its floral charms in the heart but it also has competition from rose and orange blossom to, again, temper the tuberose. The base uses cedar to add a clean woody outline to allow amber and musk the opportunity to welcome tuberose to the finish.
Tubereuse has 8-10 hour longevity and modest sillage, unusually modest for a tuberose fragrance. If you’re looking for an office friendly tuberose this might be the one.
There are three of the nine fragrances in this re-launch of Le Galion which were able to be re-made from M. Vacher’s original recipes, 1947’s Special for Gentlemen is one of them. At this point Le Galion has survived World War 2 and France was beginning its post-war revival as the center of style. M. Vacher has positioned Le Galion as a major perfume player in that. Along with Jean Carles he would create the iconinc Miss Dior also in 1947. For his own line he wanted a gentlemen’s fragrance that also exhibited a savoir faire. I wonder if he envisioned a stylish Parisian couple wearing these two fragrances walking alongside the Seine as he composed Special for Gentlemen. It is definitely a throwback to a time when men wanted a fragrance that was less clean and had some oomph to it.
Special for Gentlemen opens on a duet of lavender and galbanum. I like this combination a lot as galbanum reminds me that lavender has a bitter underpinning lurking underneath the more familiar floralcy. Cinnamon and labdanum hold the central part of the development and as with the tuberose in Tubereuse M. Vacher makes the cinnamon atypically soft. The use of the labdanum is what makes this work as it provides foundation for the cinnamon to push against. The base is castoreum modulated with a bit of vanilla, oak moss, and patchouli. This is the kind of animalic finish masculine fragrances had until the words “Sport” started showing up on bottles. Special for Gentlemen reminds me how much I miss those perfumes and how happy I am that the pendulum might be swinging back a bit.
Special for Gentlemen has 6-8 hours of longevity and moderate sillage. This is for a night out on the town.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Le Galion.
If you remember anything about Le Galion you probably remember Sortilege. Sortilege was the first perfume Paul Vacher created for his brand new Le Galion line in 1936. By this time the use of aldehydes had become de rigeur in perfumery and M. Vacher wanted to create his version of a floral aldehyde as his first fragrance. M. Vacher created three distinct floral layers before his base notes set things into a deep musky foundation. Thomas Fontaine’s challenge in re-formulating was to get that layered effect and to keep the depth in the base while using modern ingredients that could replace the restricted earlier ingredients.
When it comes to the perfumes of this era there is almost a “No.5” like intensity to any aldehydic perfume and the early moments of Sortilege are no different. The aldehydes carry energy and power with which to elevate the floral layers to come. The first layer is muguet, lilac and ylang ylang. Muguet provides a bit of green, lilac a bit of light floral and ylang ylang sweetness. The second layer is provided by jasmine, narcissus and a tiny bit of mimosa. This is indolic white flower territory and it is pure and extensive reaching for the bass notes of the florals. The remaining aldehydes add a bit of St. Elmo’s Fire crackling around the perimeter. The last floral layer is rose and iris and the transition from indolic to pure beautiful rose underpinned by the powdery aspects of the iris is striking and it occurs languidly as the rose seductively pushes its way forward and eventually the trailing iris catches up and adds to the effect. The base leaves all of this floral stuff behind as sandalwood, musk, vetiver, and amber combine into a musky woody finish. M. Fontaine pulls off the musk here especially well as it has the power of the old nitro musks M. Vacher undoubtedly used in 1936 but M. Fontaine cannot use in 2014.
Sortilege has 10-12 hour longevity and prodigious sillage.
M. Vacher followed up Sortilege a year later with his first soliflore Iris. Iris is a deceptively simple construction with much of the pleasure coming from the places where the simplicity of the phases overlap. Iris reminds me of something much more modern and it is hard for me to accept that this was made 77 years ago. If I sniffed this blind I would spend a lot of time naming current perfumers for whom Iris feels like their style. This is also one of the many reasons I like the whole Le Galion line so very much. While these are vintage fragrances made fresh through M. Fontaine’s efforts they feel much more contemporary to me. Iris perhaps is the one which carries this characteristic the most of any of the Le Galion fragrances.
Iris opens up with the iris and it is matched with green mimosa and ambrette seed. The iris used here is very powdery and these notes accentuate that quality. Galbanum adds a green intermezzo before lily and rose return the powdery feel. The base notes are cedar and amber which provide a delineated framework for the iris to take root upon.
Iris has 8-10 hour longevity and modest sillage.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Le Galion.
Editor’s Note: Sortilege has never been out of print in the US because Irma Shorell of Long Lost Perfume has provided her re-formulation of Sortilege for many years and she holds a US Patent for the rights to Sortilege in the US. As such that might mean the Le Galion Sortilege reviewed above may only be available in markets outside the US.
It is exciting to be in a place where you can feel an organic groundswell of approval begin to form. When I attended Esxence in March of 2014 I watched this happen. Esxence is one of the largest perfume expositions in the world and their well curated exhibitors show off the best of niche perfumery. As such it attracts a pretty knowledgeable crowd and as you meet people the most common question you ask is, “Smelled anything good?” Everyone usually has a different answer but when you start hearing the same answer from a number of people you might want to make sure to check it out. This year the answer to that question was almost overwhelmingly, “Have you tried Le Galion yet?” I met Roja Dove in the lobby of our hotel on the morning of day two and this was the exchange we had. I had already heard enough the previous day and so set out to visit the booth.
When I arrived Nicolas Chabot greeted me and told me the story of the line. In 1936 perfumer Paul Vacher purchased Le Galion so he could produce his own fragrances. M. Vacher was most known for his Lanvin fragrances that he co-created with Andre Fraysse; Scandal and Arpege. He would work for other houses as he continued to expand Le Galion, most notably working with Jean Carles to create Miss Dior in 1947. M. Vacher would guide Le Galion through the post-war world and continue to make perfume for Le Galion until his death in 1975. The brand was sold in 1980 and was mismanaged into oblivion; another classic line of perfume lost, or so it seemed.
M. Chabot acquired the brand and began the work of resurrecting it. One bit of good fortune was unearthing M. Vacher’s original notebooks containing the recipes for all of the perfumes he created for Le Galion. Obviously one of the challenges for bringing back to life perfume that was created originally in the early 20th century is the sourcing of some of the raw materials and the restrictions don’t allow for the ability to just use the same ingredients. M. Chabot had to turn to a current perfumer to help with those and he chose Thomas Fontaine. M. Fomtaine is currently taking on the monumental task of re-formulating the classic Jean Patou collection and his early efforts there have made me hopeful. After experiencing the six fragrances he worked on for Le Galion I am now more than hopeful as M. Fontaine has done a fantastic job for Le Galion. There are three of the new Le Galion that didn’t need any re-working as their raw materials were still able to be used. The real proof of how well M. Fontaine did is I wasn’t able to pick out the three “untouched” ones as being different from the rest of the collection.
As I wrote in my wrap-up of Esxence when I named my top 10 fragrances from the whole exhibition I could have just listed these nine and added one more and been done. The Le Galion collection might be the best Nouveau Retro collection to be released so far. I have spent the last two months getting to know these fragrances and want to share that. So for the next week I am going to give extensive reviews on all nine perfumes in the “new” Le Galion line.
When it comes to the perfumes I find that are supposedly targeted to me as a man I am very disappointed. With Father’s Day coming my trips to the mall have been especially dispiriting as the reps are spraying these aggressively overloaded woody fantasias or citrus cocktails more suited to the bar than my skin. I know woody or citrus is what I as a man should desire but it isn’t what defines me as a man. What I want is a fragrance that exemplifies my modern exterior but never forgets underneath there is an uncultured beast who wants to be let out from time to time. Those fragrances are few and far between and no mass-market perfume brand is going to be interested in selling something like that these days. Which is why I am always thankful for the community of independent perfumers as they don’t have to hew to the popular and can let their imagination and creativity hold sway. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is one of my very favorite indie perfumers and her latest creation, under her DSH Perfumes label, for men called Metropolis is a spectacular example of what I want in a men’s fragrance.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
On her website Ms. Hurwitz sets out what she wants Metropolis to be, “Modernism. Minimalism. An abstract masculine design with notes of brushed steel, glass, and motor oil.” She achieves all of that as Metropolis has a very modern glossy feel to it at first but later on there is a steady beat of a strong human heart beneath all of the contemporary trappings.
The brushed steel is represented by a combination of bergamot and aldehydes; a bunch of aldehydes. Very often in this kind of concentration they give off a hairspray aspect but Ms. Hurwitz chose her grouping well and it is the metallic aldehydes which are dominant. The bergamot is like the afternoon sun glinting off the surface with a single point of brightness diffused across the metallic surface. Geranium and oakmoss adds a greenish tint to it all like you’re looking at it through sunglasses. Then the glossiness gives way to something more primal as castoreum, patchouli, leather, and musk take Metropolis into something human. Ms. Hurwitz wanted this to be a motor oil accord and there are times I get a hint of that but I am more enchanted by the animalic ingredients separately and so the petroleum products never coalesce for me and I prefer it this way.
Metropolis has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I would pay a lot of money to arm a faux sales rep to stand next to the real ones in my local department store and spritz them with Metropolis. I think they wouldn’t get a lot of takers but for those few who did stop they would be entering a brave new world of perfume appreciation. I entered Ms. Hurwitz’s world many years ago and it is still one of my favorite places to visit. Metropolis, and Ms. Hurwitz, make my kind of men’s fragrance.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample of Metropolis provided by DSH Perfumes.
It is difficult for me to believe that it has been fifteen years since I first tried Keiko Mecheri Loukhoum, her first fragrance. There might be no more emblematic first fragrance of a line than Loukhoum has been for Keiko Mecheri. In the years since Ms. Mecheri has continually explored all of the potential paths away from that original first release. I always visualize the entire line as a sort of fragrant family tree with Loukhoum as the sturdy trunk from which the other fragrances branch off of. Ms. Mecheri has found fertile ground and has tilled it incessantly turning out fascinating perfumes. The latest release Bois Satin is a little closer to Loukhoum than some of the more recent releases and as such feels like a cyclical return to the beginning and a start of a new creative cycle.
Many of the best perfume lines have a signature note or accord and what ties Ms. Mecheri’s together is the use of vanilla. Vanilla is probably the ultimate comfort scent but Ms. Mecheri has displayed its multiple personalities ably over the years. Bois Satin is a vanilla fragrance made exotic by adding in saffron. Citrus, floral, and an ambery finish combine with the vanilla backbone to create a comforting unconventional vanilla fragrance.
Bois Satin opens with a bright mandarin adding citrus sparkle over the vanilla and saffron. The vanilla-saffron axis that Bois Satin spins around smells gourmand-like at first but fairly quickly it becomes soft spicy warmth. It stays this way for the duration. Jasmine, with rose in a supporting role, provide a sweet floral accord in the heart. This is my favorite part of the development and it lingers here for a long time. The base is amber and patchouli and it is more amber than patchouli. Together with the vanilla this is an olfactory soft pillow to finish on.
Bois Satin has 8-10 hour longevity and modest sillage.
Ms. Mecheri may have been one of the original indie perfumers but Bois Satin shows the development of her aesthetic since Lokhoum. It shows a creative director still finding new paths to explore. Long may she add more branches on to this family tree.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Keiko Mecheri at Esxence and another sample I purchased.
I tend to remember the fragrance which makes me sit up and notice a perfumer for the first time. Diptyque is responsible for two of those moments. When I tried Philosykos in the late 1990’s I had never considered fig to be something I would want in a perfume, Phiolsykos changed that. It was one of my earliest impulse buys because I couldn’t walk away from it. It wasn’t until years later that I found out the perfumer was Olivia Giacobetti. A similar encounter happened in 2003 at the same Diptyque counter as I tried Tam Dao and found one of my favorite sandalwood fragrances of all-time. Perfumers Fabrice Pellegrin and Daniele Moliere were the co-creators but this was the start of M. Pellegrin’s amazing run at Diptyque. It is really the work of these two perfumers, Mme Giacobetti and M. Pellegrin, that I consider to represent the continued artistic excellence of the Diptyque brand. It is why I was delighted to see that both of them were back at work each doing one of the two new releases from Diptyque, Geranium Odorata and Eau de Lavande.
In Geranium Odorata M. Pellegrin returns to green themes he explored previously at Diptyque in 2006’s Eau de Lierre. That fragrance was the smell of ivy growing on a brick wall. Geranium Odorata is the smell of a geranium stem snipped away from the bush. M. Pellegrin combines the “green rose” quality of geranum with very different green notes on top and bottom. It has the same realistic aspect as the ivy in Eau de Lierre but there is also more artistic flair in how that is achieved in Geranium Odorata.
Cardamom is one of my favorite notes in all of perfumery and by pairing it with bergamot M. Pellegrin highlights the lemony and minty aspects of that raw material. The geranium arrives at first smelling a lot like rose before its characteristic green aspects begin to take hold. It is this rougher, rawer kind of rose that makes me like geranium as a perfume ingredient and here M. Pellegrin displays it beautifully. There is a bit of pink pepper to allow the spicy facets to not get lost. The last bit of green comes from a powerful Haitian vetiver. This vetiver leaps into a clinch with the geranium and together they dance a green tinted quickstep through to the finish.
Geranium Odorata has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mme Giacobetti’s trademark is the creation of perfumes that seem almost inconsequentially lightweight but have surprising structure and power for that fragility. I’ve always likened them to a soap bubble floating on the breeze. You can see through it as if it is clear but if you look closer there are all of the colors of the rainbow swirling on the surface. This is Mme Giacobetti’s gift and it is on full display in Eau de Lavande. Lavender Water is one of the earliest fragrances known but Mme Giacobetti also wants to do something different and she does so by combining the two major sources of lavender oil and infusing them with spices.
There is the more precious and expensive Lavender oil from the L. angustofolia species. Lavandin is the more plentiful L. x intermedia species. Because of the lower cost this is the smell of lavender in most laundry products and soaps. Mme Giacobetti uses almost equal amounts of each as the spine of Eau de Lavande. Early on she uses coriander seed and basil to create a haze of green to surround the lavender. In the heart cedar is used to accentuate the more familiar lavandin. This will give you a soapy moment but it is quickly removed form that by cinnamon and nutmeg and together they banish any thought of the laundry room that was beginning to form. The base is a beautifully composed mix of the lightest sandalwood and incense. This is where Mme Giacobetti always impresses me as when I read those notes I’m expecting something strong and instead I get delicacy, she does it to me nearly every time.
Eau de Lavande has 4-6 hour longevity and deceptive sillage. I often thought it was gone only to catch a sniff again.
Both perfumers have very different styles but their success at Diptyque has helped define the way I think about the brand. Geranium Odorata and Eau de Lavande both contribute to that history quite ably.
Disclosure: this review was based on samples I purchased.
I think every young boy goes through a phase where they are fascinated by rocks and minerals. The texture of different types, the density, or unusual lightness, of something which looks so hard. I remember going to the store which sold pieces to trade in a gift certificate. From the moment I received the gift I knew with a certainty what I wanted; a piece of obsidian. I was enraptured by the different textures on display in the hunk I purchased. On one side it was smooth as glass and black as night, it felt like it was drawing me in to an alternate dimension. On the other side it was rough with whorls and sharp edges. Like a cloud I could stare at it for hours seeing shapes forming in the complexity of the lines and topography. Of the few things I still have from my childhood that piece of obsidian is one and it sits near my desk. When I received my bottle of Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 Oumma I realized almost immediately that it was my obsidian in olfactory form.
Stephane Humbert Lucas
Stephane Humbert Lucas’ eponymous 777 line is one of the best new entries into the ultra-luxe perfume market. M. Lucas uses large quantities of high quality raw materials and this collection is heavily tilted towards Middle Eastern influences with many of them containing oud. Oumma has probably the highest concentration of oud in the entire 777 collection. It seems like almost every ingredient in Oumma is present in near overdose quantities. M. Lucas shows a precise hand in taking the disparate loud voices and finding a harmony that allows them all to sing in unison albeit at high volume. Prima facie Oumma is a typical woody rose oud combo and it is certainly that. It is also so intense it draws you in like that smooth surface of the obsidian into a dimension defined by the familiar but made unconventional by its energy. Once inside, the development abounds with remarkable textures which allow imagination free rein.
There is no easing into a fragrance like Oumma, M. Lucas tosses you into the deep end of the pool and you are floating in a bath of jasmine and rose. It inhabits every receptor in your nose and then as you break the surface you take a deep breath of oud. It is so prominent in all of its schizophrenic glory. The woodiness, the odd medicinal quality, the subtle floral aspect, the smoke; it forms its own fragrant whorls and ridges to let one decide where they want to place their attention. The source of the oud is a Burmese oud which also carries a significant peppery character and M. Lucas takes that and ups the ante by adding in cade. It makes everything that can be fractious about oud even more cantankerous in quality. This ridge is so sharp it could cut if you’re not careful. The base is a cocktail of tolu and Peruvian balsams which are also very strong but they are the easiest thing to cling to throughout the entire torrid development.
Oumma has 24 hour longevity, and then some. It also has prodigious sillage a little goes a very long way.
There are many oud fragrances on the market and there are even many woody rose oud fragrances on the market. None of them approach the mesmerizing intensity of Oumma. It feels as ageless as my piece of obsidian swallowing all of the surrounding light in its inky beauty. If you like oud dive in to the Stygian depths and breathe deeply there are rewards in excess.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle of Oumma I purchased.
Pierre Guillaume is always worth paying attention to because he is always exploring the limits of his perfume composing abilities. When a perfumer does this it grabs my attention because in this “play it safe” world of fragrance M. Guillaume takes risks. As a result I find everything he does captures some part of my imagination. For 2014 M. Guillaume has begun the Signature Collection wherein he returns to some of the original fragrances from his Parfumerie Generale line and give a new spin to them. Earlier this year Coze, Cuir Veneum, and L’Eau Rare Matale were the first three to get this treatment. I enjoyed them but there wasn’t one I preferred over the original and it wasn’t close. At least in those cases M. Guillaume was picking a part of the fragrance to alter which I preferred he left alone. Even now I had to go back and look at my notes to remind myself about them. The newest Signature Collection, Parfumerie Generale 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense, will share neither of those issues as I definitely think it is better than the original and I won’t be needing a mental nudge to remember this one.
I have held a fond space for 07 Cologne Grand Siecle which was released in 2005 because M. Guillaume made one of the most realistic lemon accords I’ve ever smelled. He also did this using almost exclusively all-natural ingredients. All together the juice in the bottle represents the fleshy pulp, the slightly green rind, and the tart juiciness of a lemon fresh off the tree. I would stack the first 15-30 minutes of Cologne Grand Siecle up against anything I own and it would be a competition. Even just revisiting it for this review I am once again in love with this olfactory lemon. But there is a problem for all that the lemon is as good as it gets it is also pretty much all that is there. I said I’d stack up the first 30 minutes against anything else because after that it is pretty much gone. That’s on me whose skin actually holds even the most transient of fragrances for hours. Cologne Grand Siecle is almost undetectable after an hour. I have always been left wanting M. Guillaume to go back and add a heart and base to that lemon note worthy of it. In 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense he turns the intensity of the original lemon into a more diffuse brilliance while losing none of the captivating subtleties. He then adds in depth with a real warm heart and a fabulous green base.
The combination of bergamot, bigarade and lemon leaves create the lemon accord of the original but this time it has a gauzy quality to it. By which I mean instead of blinding you with its light it is like experiencing it behind sunglasses. Because it is more easily experienced it allows for a slightly closer examination and that is worth doing. The lemon leaves add a bitter green character that truly stitches together the bigarade and bergamot into the key accord. A really well-chosen minty flare of green draws your attention to the earthier smells of hay and tobacco. The base continues with the green as vetiver and oakmoss dominate the final phase. This time the lemon is present throughout the entire development over many hours.
Parfumerie Generale 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense has 6-8 hour longevity and modest sillage. It is an Eau de Parfum concentration and that also contributes to its longevity and sillage.
7.1 Grand Siecle intense has taken the original and made it a complete composition. In computer lingo when you name something X.1 it generally represents a slight upgrade. 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense feels like a whole new olfactory operating system and should be called 8.0 except Intrigant Patchouli already has that number. Know this, 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense is no mere iteration it is the realization of the brilliant single phase of the original into a beautifully complete perfume.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample purchased from Luckyscent.
They don’t make them like they used to is a familiar refrain. It usually is shorthand that quality has taken a backseat to function. It is why when there are those who are uncompromising in the quality of their work it can often be described as old-fashioned or retro. Roja Dove is devoted to making the perfumes which bear his name on the label the epitome of quality. That quality does have a collateral effect of feeling like something from a bygone era. The excellent thing is that era is when men dressed for dinner and women wore gloves and pearls. We may live in a world where casual prevails but I know I want to occasionally wear something that makes me feel like Cary Grant rather than Brad Pitt. Mr. Dove does just this with his perfumes. A particular part of his collection which is truly magnificent are his extraits. Each of the previous five extraits; Bergamot, Gardenia, Lilac, Neroli, and Vetiver take the idea of soliflores to an entirely new level.
Roja Dove speaking at Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2014
When I met Mr. Dove at the recent Sniffapalooza Spring Fling he told me his goal is to make his extraits, especially his florals, so real you can’t tell the difference from the real thing. He achieved this with Gardenia Extrait when he offered a blindfolded subject a real bloom and a strip of the extrait and the person said they couldn’t tell the difference. I personally believe the Extraits are really the soul of the Roja Parfums line. They are beyond photorealistic as they also ask the wearer to explore all the nuances of the featured note. All of this is why I was so excited to receive to receive a sample of the new Lily Extrait. Lily is a bloom with unfortunate funereal references but I have always loved the heady narcotic beauty and the spicy heart of the real thing. Other fragrances work very hard to scrub out that spicy core and leave a clean floralcy which frankly does seem lifeless to me, perfect for last rites. With Lily Extrait Mr. Dove creates a lily soliflore that is as vivacious as Mr. Dove himself.
The opening of Lily Extrait is a pinprick of sunlight from bergamot and lemon to awaken the flower. The lily heart uses muguet as the nucleus to then add in precise amounts of rose, ylang ylang, jasmine, carnation, and tiare. Each of those floral notes form a supporting cast for the muguet which uses the carnation to support the green facets and the jasmine and ylang ylang to complement the sweetness. Rose adds the hint of the spicy heart of the real thing. Clove picks that up and carries it deeper and this is where if blindfolded I think I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the real thing and the perfume. Like a coloratura soprano hitting her high notes Lily Extrait holds this singular beauty for hours. Over time a bit of vanilla, wood, and musk provide some contrast as the lily eventually fades.
Lily Extrait has overnight longevity and modest sillage.
Most modern lily perfumes try to hew to the current clean aesthetic to, in my opinion, their detriment. Real lily is meant to exude the same bit of spice in the core as great rose perfumes do. Lily Extrait stands out because it produces a fully alive lily and in that ineffable effervescence turns it from funeral to fun. In an incredible collection of exquisite perfumes Lily Extrait is the best of them all.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Osswald Parfumerie NYC.
There is a moment with every independent perfumer where they hit an inflection point. From then onward they enter a better more complete phase of perfume-making. Often you see the threads of things in their early fragrances strengthened and a real development of a personal aesthetic. It is a joy when I get a sample from the indie perfumers I think are on the verge of this kind of success to see if that will be the inflection point. In 2013 over the course of her two releases, Zelda and A Study in Water, perfumer Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes hit that place where her fragrances truly came of age. In both of those perfumes Ms. Waddington reached back for classic inspiration as starting points to go off in two delightfully distinct directions. Of course for these to truly signal the sea change I expected it would depend on what Ms. Wadidngton followed them up with. For 2014 she has created three fragrances within what she has called the Souvenir de Chocolate collection. As promised in Café Cacao, Captured in Amber, and Indigo Vanilla there is chocolate; but it is what else is included that truly delivers on Ms. Waddington’s talent.
In Café Cacao Ms. Waddington was going for a scented version of “Parisienne café mocha” crossed with Marie Antoinette, who added ambergris to her hot cocoa; and Empress Josephine who impregnated the walls of the palace with musk. In the early going it is all steaming hot café mocha. In Paris they must sprinkle some cardamom on their mochas because it provides spicy contrast to the sweetness of the cream and vanilla present around the chocolate. From here the French historical divas have their way as Marie adds some real ambergris, beachcombed from New Zealand, and Josephine embeds the musk. Together they provide a combination of animalic, briny, sweet coffee. That might sound like something you wouldn’t want to experience but Ms. Waddington has worked with her raw materials and positioned them just so to result in something very unique.
Amber is a resin which can preserve things trapped within in a timeless matrix. Captured in Amber is Ms. Waddington’s nod to “the opiated Oriental fantasies that gripped turn-of-the-century Paris and London.” The key here is through the arts was how most of Europe was becoming acquainted with the Orient and so it led to emphasis on the more attention getting aspects of behavior encountered by those translating it into art. Captured in Amber also captures that larger-than-life quality as Ms. Waddington goes for opulent to the nth degree. It starts with a swish of bitter orange before her amber accord takes over. Ms. Waddington tames a whole cornucopia of resins to create this sumptuous amber accord. You can pick the strands apart, but why bother, because the whole is so much greater than the parts. For all the complexity in creating her amber accord the rest of Captured in Amber is simplicity as first a very dark chocolate and more of the real ambergris combine to provide the foundation of Captured in Amber.
I’m not sure where Ms. Waddington hangs out when in New Orleans but I need to find out because in Indigo Violet her inspiration is “New Orleans hot chocolate” which seems to have violet sugar added to the traditional ingredients. For this last fragrance in the Souvenir de Chocolate collection she starts with a sugared violet. This is crystalline violet sparkling with sweetness. It slowly sinks into a creamy luxuriant accord equal parts chocolate and cream. I think many perfumers would have continued the gourmand theme and finished with more foodie notes. Instead Ms. Waddington resurrects the French royalty from Café Cacao and ambergris and musk again provide the finish. This time they seem much more sensual and intimate than they do in Café Cacao, which again shows Ms. Waddington’s ability to tune similar notes to disparate effect.
All three fragrances in the Souvenir de Chocolate collection have 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
The virtue of being an indie perfumer allows Ms. Waddington the freedom to use exquisite ingredients, like the New Zealand ambergris, in her small batches. That it shows up in all three of these fragrances means she could easily have called it Souvenir de Ambergris. Really though it is the different forms of chocolate and the skill Ms. Waddington brings to bear which are the true stars of this fragrant show. Take a bow Madame your star continues to ascend.
Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by En Voyage Perfumes.