When I’m deciding what perfume to wear in the summer my eyes always pause on my collection of favorite vetivers. Warm weather and vetiver go together like peas and carrots. (Sorry Forrest Gump) Vetiver is also one of the most versatile ingredients in all of perfumery having a multi-faceted profile. Over recent years perfumers have been using various fractions of vetiver to enhance certain parts of that profile. They have been part of some excellent perfume. Except my summertime shelf of vetiver is only populated by those fragrances which want to give me a full-spectrum vetiver at their heart. I have recently found a new perfume which achieves this; Bentley Beyond Wild Vetiver.
The perfumes inspired by the iconic luxury car Bentley are one of those unsung collections which has produced above average fragrances. Many of the car brands which have perfume affiliated with them are through the bigger beauty corporations. For Bentley that means Lalique is responsible for the collection which began in 2012. I think the second fragrance released under the Bentley label; Bentley for Men Intense is one of the best designer fragrances of the last ten years. There has been a noticeable aesthetic which has formed over the last seven years which is probably due to Lalique creative director Marc Roesti. He has overseen perfumes which capture a sophistication befitting the brand.
Mr. Roesti’s latest addition is a series of three perfumes called the Bentley Beyond collection; Exotic Musk, Majestic Cashmere, and Wild Vetiver. This is a different direction than what has come before. The previous Bentley releases have been complex masculine-style perfume. The Beyond collection is still focused on a masculine aesthetic but with stripped down construction focused on the note listed in the name. I like all three, but Wild Vetiver is the one which connected with me. Mr. Roesti asked perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur to take vetiver and display all the kaleidoscopic hues of this versatile ingredient.
She uses an Indonesian version of vetiver as the core. In the early moments she uses pepper to tease out the grapefruit quality of vetiver. It adds a roughness which becomes a recurring theme throughout Wild Vetiver. Verbena comes next and the citrus-tinted green of that ingredient connects the grapefruit along with the sharp green aspects of the vetiver. This is a gorgeous refreshing vetiver at this point. What takes it up a level is when Mme Lancesseur takes the dry woodiness of amberwood and roughs it up with birch. It is where the wild in the name is found. The birch makes the amberwood less monolithic which then allows the woody earthiness of the vetiver a place to find purchase.
Wild Vetiver has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you like vetiver and are looking for something different Wild Vetiver is that kind of fragrance. It might take some doing to find where Bentley perfumes are carried. If you want a full-spectrum vetiver for summer Wild Vetiver will be worth the search.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bentley.
I’m not sure why it is the case but when I am on vacation at the beach, I drink cocktails which come with umbrellas in them. Fruity alchololic trifles meant to add to the fun of time away from home. This sense of fun is not found as often within fragrance as I would like. There isn’t a perfume bottle with an umbrella sticking out of it to let you know its time to kick back for fun. There might not be an umbrella sticking out of it but Thierry Mugler Angel Eau Croisiere is exactly what I’m talking about.
Three years ago Thierry Mugler began the evolution of Angel towards a new audience. The original Angel was a powerhouse. With Angel Muse there was a distinct effort to make the aesthetic less confrontational while retaining that special Angel magic. This was achieved by altering the gourmand heart of the original into something much lighter. I thought it was a brilliant re-invention of Angel. In the years since the subsequent releases haven’t captured that as well as I’d hoped; until Angel Eau Croisiere. Perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur does that by following a similar recipe infused with insouciance. It is fruits leading to a more transparent gourmand, but this carries a glint in its eye.
Angel Eau Croisiere opens with a trio of fruits which are both sweet and tart. Mme Lancesseur balances them right on that defining line. She also does something else quite clever. One of the fruits is listed as “blackcurrant sorbet”. This is conjecture but I think she uses a supercritical fluid extraction source of the blackcurrant. It gives the sense of the chill you see when you open up a quart of ice cream on a summer day and you see tendrils of frost rising from the surface. The blackcurrant has that chilly airy feeling. Grapefruit provides its typical citrusy sparkle. The star of the top accord is mango. This is the tart fleshy fruitiness kept to an opacity to not allow it to overwhelm the other two ingredients. This creates a joyful back and forth between fruits I don’t usually find. Then we head to the base where Mme Lancesseur chooses to follow the praline-focused base of Angel Muse instead of the chocolate-caramel version of the original. I extolled its use in Angel Muse. For Angel Eau Croisiere Mme Lancesseur employs it equally well. There is a nuttiness which goes nicely with the patchouli also present in the base. This is a gourmand with a light touch.
Angel Eau Croisiere has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
Angel Eau Croisiere extends the trend I was so happy with in Angel Muse. Mme Lancesseur does it with a grin and an umbrella.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Thierry Mugler.
I will start with another “I love my readers” interlude. In a comment on my Sidonie Lancesseur 201 column I was asked about my opinion of her perfumes for Gustave Eiffel perfumes. My answer was I don’t have one let me see if I can find samples. After putting some requests out I received a sample set and here we are.
Gustave Eiffel as a brand was established in 2016 which is when they released five perfumes. Four composed by Mme Lancesseur and the other by Dorothee Piot. I also received a sixth release from 2018 by perfumer Herve Bruno. You can tell by the name these are perfumes inspired by the French civil engineer known for his eponymous tower in Paris and the Statue of Liberty in New York. When you think back on that time period of building things the idea of this kind of big construction was the equivalent of trying to fly to the moon. These were grandiose imaginings of minds who couldn’t understand the concept of limits. Early perfumery was a lot like that too. The memorable perfumes all go for their own kind of big construction.
As I was going through my sample set it is that thought which shone through, these form a collection of large soaring fragrances. While there are Gustave Eiffel perfumes which celebrate his most famous engineering feats it was one which was his last which captured my attention the most; Bois de Panama.
At the end of the 19th century another of these grand projects was underway; The Panama Canal. After coming to the realization they weren’t going to be able to just dig a giant trench connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean they had to re-think things. Which is where Gustave Eiffel enters the picture. He would conceive of the giant locks which would become part of the eventual construction. This is what Mme Lancesseur captures in Bois de Panama.
Bois de Panama opens with a beautifully engineered top accord of violet, cardamom, and peach. You might look at that and think fruity floral but Mme Lancesseur has something else in mind. The violet is focused on its silvery sharp aspects while the cardamom is a green version with a sharp sticky character. The peach is there not to provide a fruity contrast but as a softener. To keep the sharper aspects from becoming rough edges. This is an accord that is more than the sum of its parts. Mme Lancesseur then increases the spiciness with nutmeg and cinnamon. It takes things in a more humid direction; fitting for perfume inspired by the tropics. The base comes together with sandalwood, amber, and some skin musks. This is where I catch a little bit of a clean sweat underneath it all. The labor of constructing big things. There is a tiny amount of vanilla to act as the peach did in the top accord to keep things in line.
Bois de Panama has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I mentioned above the intelligently engineered aspects of Bois de Panama are reflected throughout the Gustave Eiffel collection where big construction leads to impressive perfumes.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples supplied by Gustave Eiffel.
One of the aims of this series will be to allow me the opportunity to put the spotlight on perfumers I think are underrated. Sidonie Lancesseur has been releasing perfume since 2006. She is one of my favorite perfumers because she can create special effects within her perfumes. What I mean by that is she creates accords which do things any perfume lover is familiar with. What sets it apart is she does it while bending ingredients you don’t normally think of as having that characteristic. The brand which exposed her name to me, and most others, is By Kilian. She is another perfumer where I could use her work just for that brand to write this column. I limited myself to one because her work for other creative directors is also worth knowing about. Here are five perfumes which I think represent Sidonie Lancesseur.
By Kilian Cruel Intentions (2007)- I remember being in New York City trying the perfumes in the debut collection of Kilian Hennessy. M. Hennessy was debuting a collection of luxury niche perfume. I was enticed by all of them but there was one I kept going back to; Cruel Intentions. What struck me was Mme Lancesseur managed not to go overboard with the oud. At that point in time it seemed like perfumes were in a race to see who could have the oudist oud. Mme Lancesseur used it so the other ingredients could interact with that. What it means is violet, rose, sandalwood, vetiver, and castoreum can find space. Each tease out different pieces of the oud. Cruel Intentions was my favorite By Kilian on day one and remains so to this day.
Frapin L’Humaniste (2009)– This begins what I think of as the “sunlight trilogy” of Mme Lancesseur’s perfume portfolio. When you think of perfume ingredients which capture light it usually starts with citrus. In L’Humaniste she uses a palette of herbal notes wrapped around a gin and tonic core. This is a perfume that reminds me of sitting on the deck with a clear sweaty glass of gin and tonic as the sunlight reflects off the drops of condensation with the smell of freshly cut grass from the neighbor mowing their lawn. It is a staple summer perfume for me.
Olfactive Studio Lumiere Blanche (2012)- Creative director Celine Verleure would ask Mme Lancesseure to interpret a photograph by Massimo Vitali. The photo shows white sands reflecting off still water. Mme Lancesseur would translate the heat of the sun with a set of simmering spices. The whiteness of it all with a milky accord of iris and almond before warming it back up with sandalwood. All of this carries an intensity of summer sunlight via warm perfume notes. I return to this perfume often because of the sunny warmth it exudes.
Amouage Sunshine Woman (2014)– Under Christopher Chong’s creative direction Sunshine Woman is a perfume which lives up to its name. What is amazing is Mme Lancesseur does this with ingredients like almond, magnolia, patchouli, and cade. Cade is the ingredient most commonly used to add smoke; the furthest thing from sunlight. What she does here is she uses it as the far-off edge of a thunderstorm; the definition of the end of the sunlight. This is one of the most solidly constructed perfumes of her career.
Jul et Mad Nin-Shar (2015)– Creative Directors Madalina Stoica-Blanchard and Julien Blanchard wanted to take their brand in a darker direction. It is here where Mme Lancesseur shows she know the dark as well as the light. It opens with a fantastic accord she calls “rose liquor” that reflects a boozy powerful rose. She then throws in a very indolic jasmine into the mix to create even more depth. This might sound blaring and monotonic. It isn’t. there is so much to see here in the swirling darkness that this accord shifts like a wraith over the early hours. There are few perfumers who can make the dark kinetic in the way Mme Lancesseur does.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.
Another point of interest for me is how brands evolve to attempt to appeal to the new younger fragrance enthusiast. If there is a concern, the brands which have previously thrived with stronger structures might find difficulty trying to lighten up. One brand which seems to have a good understanding on how to navigate this is By Kilian. Creative director and owner Kilian Hennessy seemingly got ahead of the trend of lighter gourmands; whether through prescience or serendipity he has staked out some space around his brand. It started with the 2014 Addictive State of Mind collection as Intoxicated created a memorable coffee entry in the collection. There have also been a number of liquor themed releases as city exclusives; again all kept to the lighter side than the earlier L’Oeuvre Noire releases which introduced By Kilian to the world. The most recent release is called Black Phantom and it takes all of these previous influences and splices them in to something different, but similar.
Mr. Hennessy has always seemed a bit like the Jack Sparrow of perfumery. The picture above does little to dispel that comparison. I have admired the confidence he has displayed over the nearly ten years since he first introduced his fragrant perspective. It is that confidence which makes me think he can have the necessary flexibility to find his way. Part of the reason for the success is he has mostly worked with two perfumers. One of them Sidonie Lancesseur, is who composed Black Phantom.
Mme Lancesseur began her By Kilian career with a rum-soaked Straight to Heaven. For Black Phantom she returns to rum as a focal point. In Straight to Heaven it is a deep dive into rum. Black Phantom provides a less immersive experience mostly by adding in a “caramel mocha” accord that would do any barista proud. It makes Black Phantom more compelling than I expected.
Mme Lancesseur opens on the rum. It is a richer rum than she used in Straight to Heaven. This rum is aged in charred wood barrels which provide a halo of smoky woodiness around the boozy nature. Like stories where you think you know where it is going Black Phantom takes me someplace unexpected; to the coffee bar. The combination of coffee, steamed milk, chocolate, and caramel has a distinctive odor. Mme Lancesseur balances her “caramel mocha” accord brilliantly. This could be heavy but instead this is as vivid as the moment the actual coffee drink is handed to you in the morning. Sandalwood provides the right amount of sweetly tinted woodiness for this all to rest upon.
Black Phantom has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
If we are entering a phase of perfumery where these kind of opaque gourmands are going to be ascendant; Black Phantom shows they can soar as easily as any other genre. I think Black Phantom is that first one which gets it completely right.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by By Kilian.
For a brand to thrive they need to be willing to take on new directions. They also need to be aware that the new direction needs to feel connected to what has come previously. When I learned about the new Jul et Mad Les White Collection I was interested to see how, what seemed like, a new direction would feel.
Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard
Jul et Mad is the perfume brand owned and creatively directed by married couple Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard. The first four perfumes in the line were chapters in their love story from first meeting to marriage. With Les White it is inspired by ancient civilizations that they admire. Those first four perfumes had sprightliness along with the frisson of a new relationship. They also were mostly on the lighter side of things. Les White was going to head for the deeper richer style of perfume that hadn’t really been represented by Jul et Mad so far.
When I stepped up to the booth at Esxence 2015 I had the inspiration explained to me. Then I had the chance to try all three. I was very pleased to find they all adhered to what I would consider the Jul et Mad aesthetic as they all took a dive into the deep end of the perfumed swimming pool. Perfumer Luca Maffei was responsible for Nea and Garuda. Perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur did Nin-Shar. I am going to review all three and will save Sig. Maffei’s for another day. Mme Lancesseur’s entry is a good place to start.
Nin-Shar is the Goddess of Plants in Sumerian mythology. The ancient civilization Mme Lancesseur was asked to interpret was that of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The Hanging Gardens didn’t really hang they were the original rooftop gardens on the Royal Palace of Babylon. As you can imagine Nin-Shar would be a busy goddess overseeing all of this. In Mme Lancesseuur’s perfume we find her in the section of the garden where roses grow. Nin-Shar is a decadently rich rose fragrance.
Mme Lancesseur uses an interesting rose accord to open Nin-Shar called Rose Liquor. It smells to me like rose which has been marinating in rum. It imparts a boozy floral quality to the early moments. It also has a kind of dark fruits character to it as it dominates for almost an hour and it slowly evolves over that time. The heart of Nin-Shar is actual Turkish rose along with Egyptian jasmine. A lot of time these raw materials are used so as to moderate their spicy and indolic facets, respectively. Mme Lancesseur couldn’t afford to allow that or they would have been lost to the rose liquor. She uses everything those notes have to give. This makes for a floral heart with an intensity of deep floral highlights that is in constant evolution on my skin. I think because Mme Lancesseur doesn’t try to hold back it makes for an overall effect which is much more kinetic than you might expect from something this intense. We head for a woody base with one of the Robertet patchouli fractions which accentuates the more herbal nature of patchouli. Mme Lancesseur blends oud, cedar, and sandalwood as her foundation. Unlike the heart accord this is kept tightly controlled. That allows the rose to linger much longer over the final stages. A bit of sweet vanilla and frankincense round things out.
Nin-Shar has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Nin-Shar is without a doubt the deepest and strongest perfume in the entire Jul et Mad Collection. Even so it does not feel out of place. It feels like the deeply emotional connection between two individuals in love. Had they chosen to make this Chapter 5 of the perfumed love story it would have fit. Instead we have an opulent rose which seems like its own Ancient Wonder.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Jul et Mad at Esxence 2015.
It brings a smile to my face that the scion of one of the greatest names in cognac is making perfumes around different liquors. What doesn’t bring a smile to my face is these perfumes are city exclusives. Owner and creative director of By Kilian, Kilian Hennessy, released Apple Brandy for the opening of his New York boutique. This was followed by Vodka on the Rocks for the Moscow store. I liked both of them and they are good takes on the liquor named on the label but I only try to write about city exclusives when I think they are truly exceptional because of their limited availability. The reason you’re reading this is the latest release for Harrod’s in London, Single Malt, is one of the best in the By Kilian line in years.
For much of the last four years M. Hennessy has been broadening his brand by adding in very specific styles of perfumes. At this point in time it is probably safe to say there is a By Kilian perfume that should appeal to anyone. That is good business. What I have been missing over the recent releases has been the deeper slightly dangerous vibe of the original releases. The most recent Addictive State of Mind collection sort of returned to that but Single Malt really feels like the one that hearkens back to the origins of the brand.
For most of the perfumes in the line M. Hennessy has worked with two perfumers. For the olfactory liquor cabinet he turns to one of them Sidonie Lancesseur. Mme Lancesseur has a great understanding of what M. Hennessy wants. It has led to her making some of my favorites in the line. For Single Malt she is constructing a whisky accord from a disparate group of notes. This is another characteristic of some of the best By Kilian scents. I like being able to pick out the individual raw materials and then all of a sudden, like magic, they all snap together to form something that is recognizable.
Single Malt starts off like a typical fruity floral as plum is the first thing I notice. It is a restrained plum not juicy but maybe a day or two from being fully ripe. It is restrained but it is a sweet fruity beginning. What comes next is a rich wheat absolute. This is the core upon which Mme Lancesseur will build her whisky accord. Right away the plum seems to be wrapped up in the wheat and altered. The clean woodiness of cedar and the resinous quality of tolu begin to refine the accord. Then the last piece, vanilla, comes and just like the way a drop of water releases the best single malt the vanilla zips all of this together into the promised whisky accord.
Single Malt has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Single Malt is reminiscent of what I think is the best fragrance in the line Back to Black. Where that perfume was all about tobacco this one is all about whisky. Both of them are fascinating studies in the art of capturing an effect. Hopefully this one will eventually be released more widely than just in London. I think it is worth the effort to try and acquire now especially if you are a fan of the early By Kilian releases. I am going to sit back with a glass of Balvenie 12 yr Doublewood and breathe deeply, surrounded by some of my favorite odors in the world.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
Where I am living now we get these very intense thunderstorms throughout the summer. The sky is covered in angry dark clouds and the rain lashes down punctuated by bolts of lightning and the rumble of thunder. Then after about twenty minutes of this it passes through and quite often leaves behind the most brilliant blue sky and a vivid rainbow in its wake. I have always been enchanted with the sudden change from dark to light within minutes. The new Amouage Sunshine Woman has me thinking that this is very much a perfume like those moments after a thunderstorm has passed.
Christopher Chong (Photo: arabia.style.com)
My admiration for Amouage Creative Director Christopher Chong is well-known. He has always imparted a clear artistic vision to Amouage which has led to a consistency which is unmatched in perfumery over the last five years. I have also admired the slow evolution of Amouage from thunderous powerhouse perfumes prior to Mr. Chong’s creative stewardship to one of the most complex collections of fragrance on the market. It has been like watching that figurative thunderstorm move on and now with Sunshine Woman the sun shines on a crystal blue sky with an arc of prismatic color through the middle of it. The perfumer Mr. Chong chose to work with was Sidonie Lancesseur who is signing her first perfume for Amouage. These are two of my very favorite people in all of perfume and the perfume they collaborated on creating is simply amazing.
When I use words like sparkling, bright, sunshine, or brilliance; that usually means citrus, bergamot, maybe some of the higher register florals. What Mme Lancesseur has accomplished with this composition is to create something which lives up to all those adjectives I mentioned without using any of those notes I mentioned. Sunshine Woman is an expansively bright young thing in liquid form. It is also brilliant in the way that word means when used to describe creativity.
Mme Lancesseur opens Sunshine Woman with a trio of notes davana, almond, and blackcurrant liqueur. The woody nuttiness of the almond forms the core for the herbal fruity quality of the davana and the straight up syrupy fruity of the blackcurrant liqueur to converge upon. You read that and you think, how can that be light? It can be because the almond is the lead in the early moments and the davana and blackcurrant are used in such restrained quality that they add contrast and texture more than a distinct fruity presence. The almond segues into a floral heart of magnolia supported by jasmine and osmanthus. If the top notes were mainly almond with some support. The heart notes are a meeting of equals although the magnolia is a little more out front. Osmanthus and jasmine are becoming a favorite combination among florals as they complement each other almost perfectly. Here the magnolia adds a slightly woody aspect. Together this is crystal blue sky in vivid crisp tones. The figurative rainbow is supplied by an arc composed of papyrus, patchouli, tobacco, and cade wood. Mme Lancesseur uses these notes to etch a bold slash of olfactory color across the sky of Amouage Sunshine Woman. Her use of cade especially in this grouping is amazing. Cade usually adds smoke and deep black facets to a fragrance. Mme Lancesseur has used it in such a way to have it seem like it comes from a far distance as if you see the back edge of that line of thunderstorms as it moves away. The papyrus is an opaque green which is misted in smoke from the cade and given roots in the earth by patchouli. Finally a vanilla and tobacco accord add a bit of sweet narcotic air after the maelstrom has passed.
Amoauge Sunshine Woman has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
It is rare that I say this but my description of this perfume does not do it justice. As you can see by the list of notes up there this should not be a fragrance which gets compared to a sunbeam. Except it is and I have spent days trying to dig deeply inside of it to find a way to communicate this. I finally have to admit failure and tell you of any new perfume release in 2014 you simply have to try Amouage Sunshine Woman and then you will understand.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Amouage Sunshine Woman provided by Amouage.
Editor’s note: Currently Amouage Sunshine Woman is only available at the 17 stand-alone Amouage boutiques around the world. As of February 2015 it will be available elsewhere.
Photo via The GoodSmellas blog
Smoke ‘em if you got ’em. Smoke gets in your eyes. Smokin’. The thought of smoke, of all kinds, has saturated pop culture for decades. The swirling, curling tendrils of scent are a natural for a perfume collection. Creative Director Kilian Hennessy of By Kilian is in that frame of mind with his latest collection Addictive State of Mind. There are three debut releases; Light my Fire, Smoke for the Soul, and Intoxicated, in the line each touching on fragrant wisps.
Light my Fire is composed by perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur and is inspired by Monte Cristo cigars. I have to say before trying Light my Fire I thought it was not a good idea to have another tobacco fragrance in a line which contains Back to Black which I think is one of the best tobacco scents ever. Mme Lancesseur works a different angle as her tobacco in the cigar is sweetened with vanilla and honey. It adds a fragrant sweetness to the tobacco to start before eventually ending up on an amber foundation. Light my Fire is a lighter take on tobacco and very different from Back to Black so that I think it will find its fans.
Smoke for the Soul is signed by Fabrice Pellegrin and is inspired by cannabis. Smoke for the Soul get this just right. If you have ever opened up a container with sticky buds of cannabis in it you will know exactly what this smells like. The notes M. Pellegrin used to create the cannabis accord are grapefruit, green cardamom, mate, eucalyptus, and tobacco. This is the cannabis counterpart to Back to Black as M. Pellegrin opens Smoke for the Soul with the cannabis accord in place and over the next few hours it slowly starts to fray and decompose until you are left with a woody base of birch and cashmere woods. Smoke for the Soul is beautifully realized by M. Pellegrin and I enjoyed it immensely.
Intoxicated is formulated by Calice Becker and is inspired by Turkish coffee. Maybe it is because coffee is my choice among these three addictions but Mme Becker’s take on strong dark coffee is my favorite of the three. Mme Becker brews her coffee accord and it comes out redolent and steaming from the first moments and the green cardamom she pairs the coffee with makes an exotic mix that has never been seen in a Starbucks. The lemon tinged spice made more sappy because of the greenness is, as the name promised, intoxicating. From there Mme Becker swirls in some more spices in nutmeg and cinnamon but they are not as interesting as the cardamom. This all rests on a woody foundation at the end.
All three perfumes have 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
The Addicitve State of Mind Series feels like the sequel to the L’Oeuvre Noire series that M. Hennessy started the By Kilian line with. Unlike most sequels these three new fragrances are as good as any in that collection. If you have taken a break from By Kilian because Asian Tales and In the Garden of Good & Evil were different then I suggest you tune back in as I think these three will make you feel like things have returned to the older aesthetic. I am happy to spend some time in Kilian’s Smoke Shoppe and breathe in all of the wonderful smells.
Disclsoure: this review was based on samples provided by By Kilian.