There are so many times when a perfume brand plays it safe and we ask for something different. What happens when a brand listens to that desire and produces a perfume which is an example of not playing it safe but in going for that it doesn’t necessarily come together completely. The two latest releases from Xerjoff, Blue Hope & Red Hoba have me pondering this.
Xerjoff, as a brand, has been primarily about luxury and precious materials over making artistic statements. Many of my favorite perfumes from the line like Iriss or Richwood are exceedingly simple perfumes centered on iris and sandalwood respectively. There were some more adventurous exploits within last year’s Join The Club collection but those didn’t stray far from the Xerjoff brand DNA, really. It seems like creative director Sergio Momo gave a little more freedom to the perfumers to maybe redefine that brand characteristic and try and change the overall perception of Xerjoff. Both of these new perfumes tried to do this with different amounts of success.
The perfumer behind Blue Hope is Carlo Ribero who is signing his fourth perfume for the label. Blue Hope is a weirdly compelling combination of jasmine, saffron, and cedar. These are not notes which find harmony they mostly convey dissonance and they seem to circle each other like three gunfighters in a Mexican standoff. After a simple bergamot and mandarin opening the three protagonists take their equally placed spaces. The cedar the good guy full of clean lines. The saffron the local exotic guide knowledgeable about the indigenous ways. The jasmine the bad guy who exudes a dirty core of indolic malice. Throughout the long middle period of development it is like these three notes sit on my skin waiting for the other two to blink to take over. Instead they stay perched in equilibrium. Here is the funny thing I like this tension in small doses. For the first hour or so it was interesting but as it wore on for a few more hours it became a bit tedious. I welcomed the castoreum and vanilla base notes just to break up the tension.
Cecile Zarokian was the perfumer who composed Red Hoba. This seems to Mme Zarolkian’s take on a contemporary Oriental. When she gets this modernizing of a familiar architecture right it can be joyous. In Red Hoba it is undeniably Mme Zarokian adding different beats to the traditional Oriental melody but they cause it to lurch a bit in a noticeable way. The early moments of Red Hoba are right up my alley as cardamom and cinnamon rise off my skin in a spicy sussurus, whispering of things to come. The heart opens with orris, patchouli, and jasmine fulfilling that promise. Then Mme Zarokian adds smoke, a lot of smoke, probably too much smoke as it overwhelms the evolving accord of the other three heart notes. For a significant time the smoke buries everything and is the only thing I smell. By the time it recedes it leaves behind a wonderfully animalic base of castoreum framed with cashmeran. Red Hoba is so close to being something very good before it all goes up in smoke.
Blue Hope has 10-12 hour longevity and average silage. Red Hoba has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I am one of those who ask creative directors to take a risk and now Sig. Momo has done just that. I admire that Sig. Ribero and Mme Zarokian were given a little more latitude to color outside of the lines and they did just that. I think there will be a few who absolutely love these perfumes for their differences from the norm. I should have been one of them. In the end I am reminded of the old proverb, “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.”
Disclosure: This review was based on samples purchased from Twisted Lily.