While I realize it is probably economically untenable I have an irrational desire for perfume brands to have a place to take chances. I want a brand to have a subset where they attempt to push the limits of their core aesthetic. One of the few brands which seems to be doing this is Juliette Has a Gun. Owner-perfumer Romano Ricci debuted the Luxury Collection in 2013 following with a new release every year since.
I admire M. Ricci for doing this because each of these perfumes have made the effort to go beyond what you find in the main collection. They have also elicited very different reactions from me. The first release, Oil Fiction, was an admirable miss. Moon Dance was among the best things ever to come from the brand with a thoroughly modern violet composition. White Spirit, sadly, did not do the same for white flowers. Last year’s Into the Void felt like it wanted to explore the vacuum of space but with an overload of ambrox and norlimbanol it more explored my tolerance of those ingredients. This is what experimentation should be; a low success rate but the opportunity for the brand to breathe. I think those previous misses lead to Metal Chypre being another winner for me.
M. Ricci has an almost fetishistic desire to include ambrox in most of his fragrances. It means he has probably spent a lot of time learning the limits of its versatility. In Metal Chypre that experience turns into him using the ambrox in an austere effect which he uses to hyper focus the rest of the ingredients in Metal Chypre into something much more representative of the chill of space than Into the Void.
Ambrox provides that austerity right from the start. There is a sharpness to ambrox that puts it on my love it-hate it list. In Metal Chypre the needle-sharp spiky nature works because early on baie rose provides a sharp herbal contrast. Twin paths of rooty iris and leather come next. Each provides the setting for base notes of patchouli and tonka. These all are subservient to the ambrox which predominates.
Metal Chypre has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is among my favorite uses of ambrox as a keynote I’ve tried. It comes from M. Ricci’s deep knowledge of the ingredient through his near-constant use of it. I could waggishly call him the Master of Ambrox. It is exactly what I like to see from a brand willing to try something different. Metal Chypre succeeds on that level.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Juliette Has a Gun.
I have written in the past how much I enjoy when a perfumer stamps their virtual signature on a creation with an accord. Just the construction of it can be revelatory to the aesthetic of the perfumer. The more fragrance I encounter the more I am drawn to those effects which are created rather than sourced from nature. In Juliette Has a Gun Sunny Side Up perfumer Romano Ricci shows the flexibility working like this can give someone.
The art of modern perfumery is that of composing an accord to mimic something in nature. It provides an abstraction as a perfumer homes in on what they find interesting. It also allows for a more precise way of having a specific effect within an overall perfume by being able to tune it to the desired volume and presence. In Sunny Side Up there are two accords M. Ricci creates one of coconut and one of sandalwood which provide the core of the fragrance. Sunny Side Up is meant to be a beachy perfume and the coconut does give it a suntan lotion vibe, but it is the sandalwood which is the prime focal point which I guess I can stretch to being similar to driftwood.
Sunny Side Up opens with that coconut suntan lotion accord. M. Ricci uses the tropical oiliness of jasmine lactone along with actual jasmine sambac, salicylates, and vanilla. It comes together in an unctuous creamy accord that smells of coconut and fruit. It is a happy fun opening. Iris provides a powdery interlude before the sandalwood accord comes up. M. Ricci is using one of the sandalwood aromachemicals. To which he might be adding some other woody synthetics. The result is a desiccated sandalwood lacking some of the sweeter creamy aspects of the real essential oil. It also has cleaner edges more akin to cedar. To provide even more of this effect there is a lot of Iso E super in the base. The only thing modulating it is the use of the botanical musk of ambrette seeds.
Sunny Side Up has 18-20 hour longevity and average sillage.
Both the top accord and the base accord are made up of things which many perfume lovers have issues with; I am one of them. Which is why I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Sunny Side Up. It comes together with a restrained mirth that overcomes my reticence with good humor. Maybe I need more simulation in my life.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Juliette Has a Gun.
It can be difficult to have a recognizable surname and yet forge your own path, especially when you choose to work in the same field. It is why since 2006 when Romano Ricci started his own fragrance line called Juliette Has a Gun it took some time for him to create his own brand DNA. By 2015 that aesthetic has been refined and perfected. I think it is an important component of success to create a recognizable brand identity in the ever more crowded niche perfume sector.
M. Ricci has always presented his fragrances as chapters in a story following his contemporary version of Shakespeare’s Juliette. In this fragrant story Juliette has never been demure about inserting herself into the action and shunting Romeo, or anyone else for that matter, to the stage apron. Assertiveness in a heroine is often confused with masculinity. For this thirteenth chapter of Juliette’s story, Gentlewoman, she has embraced the characterization and re-cast herself as the “neo-dandy”. What would a neo dandy wear? Why a neo-cologne of course.
Gentlewoman is M. Ricci’s exploration of that most classical of perfume architectures, eau de cologne. Like his Juliette it is also a modern re-telling of something deemed classical. It also takes eau de cologne and makes it softer around its more traditional spine. There has always been a visual component to M. Ricci’s releases. For Gentlewoman he chose photographer Sonia Sieff to lend some pictures of this thirteenth version of Juliette. The three I’ve chosen to illustrate this show her as she slowly transforms from tuxedoed neo-dandy into seductress. Gentlewoman also does the same kind of deconstruction from classically appointed to musky enticement.
Gentlewoman opens on the typical eau de cologne ingredients of bergamot, petitgrain and neroli. There are many colognes which start this way but in the case of Gentlewoman I think the neroli is a little more opaque which forms a less percussive cologne opening than is expected. The person in the tuxedo looks like a woman, is she? The heart of this is where the lavender which often makes up the heart of a cologne is now surrounded by different choices. For Gentlewoman it is the twin choices of coumarin and almond which turn this cologne onto a different path. The almond provides a slightly sweet nutty quality. The coumarin adds a slightly sweet hay-like quality. Together the subtle sweetness over the more substantial nutty and hay qualities is really enticing. Again as in the top notes orange blossom is added to soften the potential rough edges. This is when the bow tie is loosed. The jacket thrown over the top of a chair. Juliette looks appraisingly at you, are you game? The base notes answer that question with a mix of three synthetic musks: ambroxan, muscenone, and ambretolide. Together these form that very sexy skin accord with a bead of sweat rolling tantalizingly down it. Juliette has made her choice clear and you will be forever lost to her charms.
Gentlewoman has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage. This might be a modern eau de cologne but it definitely is at a much higher oil concentration than the typical eau de cologne and as a result lasts much longer.
M. Ricci has continued to evolve his brand while staying true to his titular heroine. Gentlewoman takes her into a new place; one which any lover of cologne should enter.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by the US distributor Europerfumes.
All photographs, except package shot, are copyright Sonia Sieff for Juliette Has a Gun.
The first four releases from Juliette Has a Gun; Lady Vengeance, Miss Charming, Citizen Queen and Midnight Oud were some of my favorite releases of 2006-2009. They shared a common strength which made them stand out. All brands develop and Creative Director Romano Ricci moved away from that style over the next four releases. I thought they were all nice compositions but I wanted a return to the style of the first four. I heard that last year there was a very limited edition called Oil Fiction which did this. It was such a limited edition I never had the opportunity to try it. Then I received a press release announcing the new Luxury Collection which would be represented by Oil Fiction and a new entry, Moon Dance.
With it more available I was able to try Oil Fiction finally. As much as I wanted it to be like the first four it felt more like the more recent compositions which weren’t as compelling to me. Because of my dashed expectations I wasn’t expecting Moon Dance to be any more engaging. That turned out be an erroneous supposition. Moon Dance does for violet what the early four did for rose making it feel completely contemporary. Violet can have a natural vintage feel because of its use in so many of the older classic perfumes. It is one reason I think the more modern perfumers shy away from using it. Why have to deal with pre-conceived notions when you can go pick a different floral without the baggage. What I have found is in the rare cases where a perfumer will take on the challenge, if successful, the violet can be twisted to have something new to say. Moon Dance is a violet perfume with something new to say.
Moon Dance opens on a mix of sparkly bergamot over a full spectrum violet. To distinguish from old-fashioned violets this violet embraces all of the prickly metallic character of violet adding in the violet leaf to add sharp green facets. An inspired choice of another old-fashioned note, tuberose, forms the heart note which tries to tame the fractious violet. It doesn’t quite succeed but it does set up a delightful paso doble between the two as each stalks the other across the olfactory dance floor. There was never a moment during the first half of the development dominated by the violet and tuberose where this didn’t feel different and new. If Moon Dance ended here I would have been very happy. Instead my enjoyment is greatly increased by the decision to finish Moon Dance on an equally full-spectrum animalic musk. This makes the passion of the dance the violet and tuberose lead to something so primal it almost emits an audible growl. A tiny amount of oud and patchouli round off some of the more feral tendencies but Moon Dance ends with a snarl of desire.
Moon Dance has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Moon Dance is the best Juliette Has a Gun release since the original four. It carries much of the same brand DNA which existed back then. I am hopeful that this new Luxury Collection will be a place where M. Ricci will return to some of those themes he so excitingly explored in the early days. Moon Dance reminds me of a line from the Eagles’ song “Life in the Fast Lane” to describe Moon Dance, it is brutally handsome and terminally pretty.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Moon Dance I purchased from Twisted Lily.