I continue to extol the creative direction of Celine Roux at Jo Malone because her tenure has seen the first part of her title return to one of the original niche brands. One of the things which has seemingly been a part of this is Mme Roux’s habit of working with a single perfumer for five or six releases. Over the last two years it was Mathilde Bijaoui and Yann Vasnier. Her current partner in perfume is Sophie Labbe. The holiday 2018 release is their third collaboration; White Moss & Snowdrop.
If there is one release every year that I look forward to it is the Holiday release from Jo Malone. I realize I own almost all of them. The brand has excelled at releasing a festive style of perfume just in time for the season. The two releases from this summer from Mmes Roux and Labbe, Tropical Cherimoya and Catlleya Flower Mist, were tropical floral styles ideal for the summer. White Moss & Snowdrop is a winter floral wrapped in green garland shot through with sparkles of light.
The perfume opens with the lemon tinted zest of cardamom over orange and petitgrain. As an admirer of cardamom heavy top accords this is top of my list. Mme Labbe uses the cardamom as a chill breeze over the citrus elements. The fruit and the tart never take the lead. They are there as a way of enhancing the inherent citrus in the cardamom. The balance achieved here is beautifully realized. Neroli rises out of this. it is the greener neroli which has been appearing a lot this year in perfume. The chilly effect is provided by the titular snow drop although this remains more neroli than snowdrop on my skin. This is the kind of connective note which captures the transition from top notes to base notes. Those base notes are surrounding a key note of white moss. I wanted to determine if this white moss was the same ingredient used in Estee Lauder Private Collection Jasmine White Moss. After many days of comparison my answer is I’m not sure. I also think the comparison maybe overshadows what is here. The moss note in White Moss & Snowdrop has that pillowy green effect of moss but continues the slight chill carried on from the top and heart. Mme Labbe uses a bit of tonka and amber to leaven the white moss a bit but this is where things come to an end.
White Moss & Snowdrop has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
The overall effect from this perfume is that of green holly garland wrapped in white lights on the fireplace mantel. It is an ideal Holiday style of perfume. So much so I felt like my sample of White Moss & Snowdrop was like an early present under my tree.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Nordstrom.
Floral gourmands are one of the styles brands have decided will be popular with a younger perfume consumer. Particularly over the last two years there have been an increase in these kinds of fragrances. For the most part they have been on the lighter, more transparent side of the spectrum. One of the outliers was last year’s Elie Saab Girl of Now. That chose to leave the transparency behind, going for a fuller gourmand accord. In that case I felt like a groom whom the bride had smushed a particularly fine pistachio vanilla cake up his nose. It was a case I wondered if it would benefit from some of that opacity so many others were using. I guess the same idea occurred to the people at the brand because we now have Elie Saab Girl of Now Shine.
Most of the time I am going to complain when a flanker rehashes an original with a couple of changes. This is one of those infrequent cases where that all worked to the better along with a lighter tone overall. Perfumers Sophie Labbe and Dominique Ropion re-team, after composing the original, for Girl of Now Shine.
What I didn’t care for in the original was it was so aggressively cake-like. It was cloying in every bad definition of that word. Girl of Now Shine captures the earlier iteration of that cake as it is being baked. It is much airier, and that expansiveness allows more room for the florals to find some balance; all for the better.
The note added to Girl of Now Shine is pineapple. Despite my antipathy to the note in general the perfumers use it as an alternative sweetener. Like using fruit juice in an actual cake recipe. It underpins a crisp pear. If there was one thing I really liked about the original it was the use of pistachio. It adds an unusual roasted nutty quality. It is again given a prominent place in Girl of Now Shine. As it begins to combine with the fruit the florals in the presence of jasmine and orange blossom provide a lilting white flower duet. Vanilla provides the finishing amount of traditional gourmand sweet. It is used in a much lower amount than in the original. It closes out a perfume which is much the better for the restraint.
Girl of Now Shine has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is the aesthetic I prefer when it comes to floral gourmands. It allows for the florals to shine alongside the gourmand aspects. Finding the right balance means this is a better perfume than the original.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Elie Saab.
I write often about how growing up in South Florida in the 1960’s and 70’s was such an advantage. As a melting pot of many different Latin American cultures it also was a gateway for me to experience culinary delights from the region, too. Most of that came through my friends’ mothers who would serve us different snacks when visiting. When I was at my friend Herbie’s home his mother, Sra. Lopez, brought out this hard-looking scaly fruit. I was too young to make the comparison at the time but as an adult it looked a bit like one of the dragon eggs from Game of Thrones. Sra. Lopez cut it in half and scooped out the flesh. The taste was amazing. Sweet, tart and a hint of milkiness. It is that latter quality which gives it the name of “custard apple”. Whenever they show up in my local market I always buy a couple because there is nothing like it.
I was very interested when I received my sample of Jo Malone Tropical Cherimoya if they could capture the kind of multi-sensorial taste of cherimoya in a perfume. Creative director Celine Roux teams up with perfumer Sophie Labbe to make the attempt.
The perfume opens with a very crisp and green pear. It captures the tartness of cherimoya. A set of sweet fruity notes provide the main cherimoya accord in the top. Mme Labbe uses a thread of passion flower to pick up both the green and to accentuate the tropical character. The base opens with a bit of tonka bean standing in for the “custard” although it feels more toasted on my skin. it all ends on a soothing copahu balm base.
Tropical Cherimoya has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I enjoyed this perfume interpretation of cherimoya quite a bit. I thought Mme Labbe succeeded by not trying to make a photorealistic recreation but by using a set of ingredients to form a similar set of layers as in the real thing. Tropical Cherimoya is going to be an ideal summer beach bag spritz.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Nordstrom.
If there is something I feel very sure of is that when a perfume I didn’t care for in its first release reaches its fourth iteration; I am not going to feel any differently. Of course, I wouldn’t be starting with that sentence if I hadn’t found an exception. This exception is particularly noteworthy because the version that was released just a few months before it was particularly wretched. This exceptional exception is Valentino Uomo Noir Absolu.
Valentino began their Uomo collection in 2014 with a particularly pedestrian interpretation of the masculine iris fragrance. Last year was an equally uninspired Uomo Intense. At the beginning of this summer Uomo Acqua was described in the press release as evoking the “fading grandeur” of an Italian palace. This had nothing grandiose about it as it was a harsh mixture of aromachemicals that was repellant. When I received my sample of Uomo Noir Absolu I remember thinking, “It couldn’t be worse.” I was right; it was amazing because they chose to go for a real Oriental instead of the faux attempts which preceded this.
Perfumer Sophie Labbe has been responsible for the Uomo collection after Olivier Polge did the original. Mme Labbe breaks through with Uomo Noir Absolu because she actually goes for a darker opulent style of perfume which is diametrically opposed from any other perfume with Valentino Uomo on the bottle. This works by diving straight away to the essence of an Oriental, the base accord.
A spicy duet is the opening movement as Mme Labbe combines cinnamon and black pepper. They are combined in an accord which has presence while also conveying a simmering heat. Incense swirls through this as it is particularly good with both top notes. I’ve always found the combination of black pepper and incense to work together but the cinnamon is also lifted by the resin as well. The iris, which is the connective tissue within the collection, shows its face here as the rootier less powdery version. It is not a focal point but it is also not a complete background player either. It rests on a rich woody base of sandalwood lightened with guaiac wood.
Valentino Uomo Noir Absolu has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Uomo Noir Absolu is one of the best mainstream fragrances of 2017. It is the ideal perfume for scarves and sweaters as the air turns colder. I should have been able to ignore this collection but Mme Labbe has turned out an exceptional exception of a fragrance.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Valentino.