There are times I get almost wholly inappropriate associations when I am trying a perfume. I don’t know if it is because New York Comic-Con is approaching but when I finally got around to trying the new Van Cleef & Arpels Moonlight Patchouli I had one. What kept springing into my mind was the question the comic book villain The Joker asks just before he guns down Bruce Wayne’s parents, “Did you ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” It has nothing to do with the perfume which is quietly beautiful; as far from being a super villain as it can get.
What got me thinking about The Joker is the difficulty many perfumers have with patchouli as a keynote. There are so many ways it can unbalance an architecture. Especially when it is used in high concentrations. One technique which is used less frequently is to dial it back making it less obstreperous. In Moonlight Patchouli perfumer Sonia Constant chooses to take this path. The patchouli here is made opaque then combined with some familiar partners which are also treated with similar opacity. It truly felt like Mme Constant took her patchouli out for a spin in the rose garden underneath the full moon.
Moonlight Patchouli presents its transparent version of the titular note with a flourish of bergamot. As the patchouli rises it begins to circle in a holding pattern before some of the more challenging facets become apparent. Instead there are hints but mostly it is an herbal quality which suffuses Moonlight Patchouli. Mme Constant brings in powdery orris and spicy Bulgarian rose. As she did with the patchouli Mme Constant treats these as veils instead of scarves. What this does is form an atypical iris rose patchouli accord notable for its softness. The final flare is an equally soft leather which wraps all of this up in a gentle embrace.
Moonlight Patchouli has 12-14 hour longevity but below average sillage.
There are many within my perfume circle who do not like patchouli for all of its characteristic earthiness. I am going to be interested to see how they react to Moonlight Patchouli. I believe like it is something which might attract them because it isn’t so aggressive. I appreciate it because of the feather-light touch Mme Constant applied throughout the construction. With a deft hand she was able to take patchouli out for a dance in the pale moonlight.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Van Cleef & Arpels.
Of the mainstream designer fragrance collections; Tom Ford has consistently been one of the best. Since the release in 2006 of Black Orchid I could make the case that the 16 releases in the Signature collection are overall more cohesive and better than the pricier Tom Ford Private Blends. The newest release Orchid Soleil actually seems to improve upon one of the most recently released Private Blends.
Orchid Soleil was composed by perfumer Sonia Constant. The press release says this is meant to be a “summer” version of Black Orchid. It is definitely a summer style perfume but its relationship to Black Orchid is tenuous at best, bar sharing half of the name on the bottle. Orchid Soleil has a much closer relationship to another Tom Ford fragrance with which it shares half of its name as well; the Private Blend Soleil Blanc released a few months ago. That perfume was a tuberose exploration of the suntan lotion style of fragrance. Orchid Soleil also contains tuberose but in a more prominent way. It also provides that viscosity endemic to suntan lotion by using a sweet whipped cream accord, making this feel like an edible version.
Mme Constant opens with a sun flare of bitter orange and pink pepper. She also employs the top-note musk of Sylkolide to provide that hint of tanned skin. The tuberose comes next and it is as if a floral scented suntan lotion has been applied with enough SPF to block out the citrus. There is a bit of greenish lily to modulate the tuberose a bit. Then Mme Constant literally whips up a creamy accord of patchouli, vetiver, vanilla, chestnut cream, cypress, and cashmeran. Taken together this is an unctuous creamy accord that the vanilla and chestnut make into a subversive gourmand.
Orchid Soleil has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I likened Soleil Blanc, in my review, to the soft lingering smell of suntan lotion on a beach wrap the next day. Orchid Soleil is probably the smell of that very suntan lotion right after you apply it. I have been wearing this in the heat of the early summer and this might be the most purely fun Tom Ford perfume ever. It is summery. It is gourmand-y. It seems to be winking at me with a sly smile. I am happy to wink back and luxuriate in this all summer long.
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
One of the most reasonably priced fragrance lines is Yves Rocher. Sold only through their website it is often a bit of a gamble to try one of the fragrances blind. If you buy anything they are very generous with their samples which can help make a choice a little less sightless. Like many of the modestly priced brands it takes a bit of trial and error to find the ones which stand out. The first Yves Rocher release of 2016, Cuir Vetiver, is one which stands out.
One thing which made me interested in Cuir Vetiver was the shape of the bottle. One of the very best releases by Yver Rocher was 2013’s Ambre Noir. Cuir Vetiver comes in a similar looking container with the same font. Sonia Constant is the perfumer behind it all. On the website Mme Constant states, “I imagined a leather fragrance with bright facets…” What I like about that statement is a perfume named Cuir Vetiver you might imagine being very heavy. Mme Constant does brighten it up quite a bit while still having enough cuir and vetiver to make the name still have meaning.
The brightness comes right away with a lively bergamot. As a partner Mme Constant adds a bit of lavender. The lavender is the more floral form of the ingredient. It provides a contrast to the heart notes of cedar and vetiver. The very strong lines of both notes provide the framework for the leather accord to appear. This leather accord is composed of amyris, patchouli, and tonka. It’s not quite refined enough to remind me of suede nor is it animalic enough to be a rawer version of leather. It seems to sit closer to the suede side of the spectrum. It definitely has the brightness and lift Mme Constant described. The base is amber and vanilla; a sweet warm comfort.
Cuir Vetiver has 4-6 hour longevity and below average sillage.
For those who consider longevity something important in the fragrances you buy Cuir Vetiver like most of the Yves Rocher releases has some of the lowest amount of longevity. On the other hand, they are so modestly priced that I have never had a problem reapplying in the middle of the day.
Cuir Vetiver is another really good perfume in the Yver Rocher collection. Mme Constant pulls off an interesting take on leather and vetiver while keeping the cost down. Cuir Vetiver feels like a triumph of brains over budget.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from Yves Rocher with purchase.
When I was in Florence I had the opportunity to spend time at the Villa La Tana which is the home of Simone Cosac Naify the owner and creative director of Simone Cosac Profumi. The Villa La Tana and its previous occupant Bianaca Cappello the consort to Frederic I de Medici. Ms. Cosac has much to be inspired by. For the perfume side of the business she has worked exclusively with perfumer Sonia Constant. Mme Constant has spent time at the Villa la Tana soaking in the atmosphere and together she and Ms. Cosac have begun to create a specific aesthetic which captures the beautiful Villa and its history. 2014 has seen the release of four new fragrances, Bianca, Ose, Peccato, and Sublime; each display this burgeoning creative nous.
Simone Cosac Naify
Bianca is inspired by Sig.ra Cappello and the gardens she tended while Frederic was off scheming. It is the perfume which most closely captures the beauty of the outdoor gardens at the Villa La Tana. It opens with tart mandarin made sticky green by blackcurrant buds. A floral heart of iris, gardenia, and violet is well-balanced and not nearly as overpowering as you might think. This is the smell of the garden at noon with more transparent hues of the florals on top. It ends with a woody base of cedar and sandalwood. The floral heart is the star of Bianca mostly because of its opacity.
If Bianca is a subtle peek at the gardens of Villa La Tana, Ose is the moment when everything is in its fullest of glory and redolence. Ose is much more extroverted and that power is led by a few notes which are very expansive. It opens on a juicy orange which is contrasted with the woody nuttiness of almond. The early moments are mostly citrus but the almond adds texture in a minimalist fashion. Lilac is the core of the heart and around it Mme Constant adds acacia, muguet, and heliotrope. These are fresher florals and the volume is turned way up on them. The lilac at this level is a tricky thing to use because it can be confused with deodorizing products. Mme Constant’s use of the greener fresher florals keeps that from happening. Here the lilac carries the day with force and beauty. A musky patchouli is the finishing touch for Ose.
Peccato is my favorite of the new releases as it sets up a bit of dynamic tension between top notes of cardamom and neroli in conjunction with the heart of violet and orris. Those are four of my favorite notes and Mme Constant has employed the Givaudan Orpur version of cardamom which adds so much to the early moments. The cardamom has the green citrus spice quality but it also carries some stronger aspects as this cardamom doesn’t whisper it speaks in audible tones. Those tones begin a conversation with orris and violet that was captivating for me. After a few hours I was almost sorry to see the patchouli and vanilla base begin to take over.
Sublime is meant to be a meditative perfume, perfect for strolls along the garden paths at Villa La Tana. Mme Constant creates a jasmine perfume out of Sublime. Before we get to that jasmine, mandarin and crisp pear provide the top notes. The jasmine then arrives and it is a proper jasmine with much of the indoles scrubbed away. Violet leaves and gardenia help fil in the spaces where the indoles usually reside. Cedar and patchouli are the base notes. Sublime is the most familiar smelling of these new releases.
All four perfumes had 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Ms. Cosac and Mme Constnat have done a nice job at expanding the Simone Cosac line without becoming repetitive. At the same time there is a kind of Italian Classicism which runs through all of the perfumes in the collection. It isn’t as specific as a consistent grouping of notes. It is more like a similarity in architecture and design. The four new release only add to this.
Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Simone Cosac.
There are multiple stories of the places that inspire creative directors and perfumers. I have always wanted to visit the specific place which inspired a perfume. On my recent trip to Florence, Italy for Pitti Fragranze that opportunity presented itself to me. I stayed in the Villa La Tana on the outskirts of Florence while attending the fair. This is where Simone Cosac Naify as the creative director and owner of Simone Cosac Perfumes lives, along with her family. It is also where Mme Cosac has looked to for inspiration when designing her perfumes.
When I met Mme Cosac, nearly two years ago in New York, she presented her perfumes to me while showing sketches of the beautiful villa she had renovated after purchasing it. With her words she painted a picture of bucolic serenity. She spoke of the history of Villa La Tana as the home of Bianca Cappello consort to Frederic I de Medici in the 16th Century. She felt like Bianca spoke to her as she walked the gardens. Mme Cosac needed to enlist a perfumer to help realize her internal conversations with Bianca. She would invite Sonia Constant to spend some time at Villa La Tana. During her stay Mme Cosac and Mme Constant would traverse the gardens speaking of Bianca and what a perfume which would embody her would smell like. From those discussions and walks they would collaborate to produce Trama and Trama Nera.
I believe it has to be walking through the rose garden above that Trama was conceived. By the edge of fall there were only a few roses left on the bushes but as I walked around the path I imagined what this would smell like on a midsummer’s day with all of the bushes in full bloom. I can imagine Bianca standing in the center of that garden looking up at Frederico who had ridden out from the city to see her. Trama the fragrance captures the bouquet of myriad rose sources but it also carries the greenery of the bushes and the gravel of the path. Mme Constant captures the riot of this rose garden, with Bianca standing fulgently in the center, a queen among the roses.
Bianca Cappello by Alessandro Allori
Trama Nera was meant to capture the beauty and intelligence of Bianca as a woman capable of holding her place in a Medici court. Beauty would be a given but to survive there would have to be more to Bianca than that. Besides romantic rendezvous I could feel that Villa La Tana was where Bianca could consult with Frederico on how to navigate the intrigues and real dangers of court. I imagined them walking the paths in the morning as the flowers would scent the planning between the lovers. There would always be a thread of real danger in place. Mme Constant weaves a dark thread throughout Trama Nera from saffron on top through orris and violet in the heart down to oud and patchouli in the base. Around the axis of intrigue softer notes of bergamot, jasmine, rose, sandalwood, and amber place a soft façade hiding the steel underneath. Bianca was a beauty but she was nobody’s fool.
The time I spent at Villa La Tana gave me insight into how a sense of place can create a distinct aesthetic which can carry as much impact as the people behind the perfume. The best part of this story is Villa La Tana, Mme Cosac, and Mme Constant have new tales to tell with three new perfumes Ose, Sublime, Peccato. I know as I wear these it will be impossible for me to not be transported back to the garden paths and hospitality of Villa La Tana.