I am a fan of the musical form known as the mash-up. It is where they take two disparate songs and combine them into something entirely new. It turns pop songs I think banal into something I play over and over. When it comes to perfume those who layer their fragrances are essentially doing the same thing. I don’t think a brand has consciously done it until I received my sample of By Kilian Love: Don’t Be Shy Rose & Oud.
When Kilian Hennessy made his entrance on the fragrance shelves in 2007 he was selling a unique luxurious version of perfume. Especially his first set of releases which were all memorable. One of those was Love: Don’t Be Shy which was a wonderful floral gourmand based around a fantastic accord of marshmallow water. I think of it as one of the forerunners of this style becoming the current trend. Three years later M. Hennessy would branch out with the first of his oud focused fragrances, Rose Oud. This is still one of my very favorite uses of oud in perfume. Both perfumes were composed by perfumer Calice Becker.
Working with Mme Becker, M. Hennessy seemingly wanted the marshmallow water accord of the original Love and the titular notes of Rose Oud to come together in a perfume mash-up. It does give me new thoughts on these accords.
This perfume opens with the fabulous marshmallow accord Mme Becker thrilled me with twelve years ago. It has a sugary floral quality underpinned by a watery orange blossom. All that returns. In the original Love that became sweeter over time. In this case Mme Becker slowly brings the rose and oud into play. She has a careful balancing act here because the marshmallow accord is way opaquer than either rose or oud. In the early moments of detecting the rose and oud is where this fragrance is at its most intriguing. Over time the rose and oud do take over but there is a decent amount of time where the three components are beautifully singing in harmony.
Love: Don’t be Shy Rose & Oud has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
One thing I thought, and proved to myself, you can’t get the same effect by layering the two scents which are brought together here. This is a purer attempt to find the places where these three things can co-exist. Especially in the middle as the marshmallow accord holds its own with the rose and oud, I find this to be a decadent floral gourmand. I would’ve like that to hold on for longer. But just as in musical mash-ups they have to give both songs the time to shine. Love: Don’t Be Shy Rose & Oud does this very well.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Kilian.
I am not sure what has caused this coincidence within the perfumed universe but 2019 has seen several good new Mediterranean style fragrances. It has always been one of my favorite summer types of perfume to wear in the heat. It has as simple an architecture as classic cologne with many of the same simple pleasures when done well. The latest is Maison Lancome Figues & Agrumes.
Maison Lancome has been a collection which celebrates those simple pleasures of a couple well-chosen keynotes interacting in harmony. I have enjoyed all the releases since this collection started in 2016. I don’t think there is a poor perfume in the entire fifteen bottle collection. This isn’t where I turn for deep kaleidoscopic development. It is where I turn when I want to smell good.
Figues & Agrumes fits in with its collection mates. As advertised, it is a fig and citrus scent composed by perfumers Alex Lee and Patricia Choux. It is a time-tested orange, fig, and jasmine Mediterranean construct. The perfumers do have a couple tiny frills up their sleeves, but this is a perfume predominantly about those three notes I mentioned.
Figues and Agrumes opens with the juicy citrus of mandarin. One of those frills I mentioned is the use of the sticky green of blackcurrant buds to provide some texture. It keeps it from being just orange. Orange blossom begins the floral connection to the jasmine sambac in the heart. It forms a summer floral water type of accord with the mandarin. The creamy fig inserts itself here providing a bridge down to the woods in the base. In this case a clean cedar leavened by some white musks and made a bit less austere with tonka.
Figues & Agrumes has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’m not sure how many Mediterranean style perfumes are too many to own. I do know I’m starting to test where that limit might be. I will be adding Figues & Agrumes because I still have room for one more good Mediterranean.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Saks.
There are a few of the major perfume brands which have just lost me over the past few years. They’ve gone in a direction where I don’t care to follow. It bothers me that the perfume houses which sparked my passion have lost my interest. The grandest perfume maison of them all, Guerlain, kind of fits this description. Except my irritation with them is a torrent of mediocre product every year. My negative feelings also increase because every year there is one of those voluminous releases which reminds me why I love Guerlain. This year’s model is Guerlain Embruns d’Ylang.
Embruns d’Ylang is part of the L’Art et la Matiere collection. This has been one of the best group of perfumes within Guerlain over the past few years. One reason for that is this seems to be the one place left within Guerlain where they are willing to take a step outside of the very comfortable boundaries, they usually produce perfume within.
In-house perfumer Thierry Wasser wanted to place his ylang-ylang keynote on a beach just as a squall line approaches. The sense of the wind blowing through the flowers as the storm nears with the hint of crackle in the air. This is what Embruns d’Ylang captures.
Embruns d’Ylang opens with a remarkable aquatic accord M. Wasser calls a “salt crystal note”. All perfume lovers are familiar with the common suite of ozonic notes which usually make up the sea breeze. This accord is much more compact, and perversely, dry. If you’ve ever stood on a beach watching a line of thunderstorms approach you will know there is this moment when the air goes dry and the wind in front of the storm intensifies as it rushes towards the shore. It carries a deeper brininess. This is what this “salt crystal note” reminds me of. M. Wasser takes that and lets it crash into a fleshy ylang-ylang. It is a gorgeous duet of contrasts as the desiccated gale off the water dives into a deep sweet floralcy. M. Wasser adds a spicy frisson as clove acts as St Elmo’s Fire around the ylang and salt accord. As the storm passes a soft floral accord of iris and jasmine join the ylang on top of a rich earthy patchouli.
Embruns d’Ylang has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am as enthralled with Embruns d’Ylang because it is so different than everything else Guerlain has released this year. I’m learning to live with the notion that once a year Guerlain will remind me why it is still a grand maison de parfum. For 2019 that will be Embruns d’Ylang.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Guerlain.
The character of Sherlock Holmes has always been a part of my life. From reading the original stories by Arthur Conan Doyle to watching the different visual interpretations. If I’m told a book, tv show, or movie has a connection I am generally enticed to watch it. I have realized, as it is coming to its end, that the version being shown on CBS called “Elementary” has become one of my favorite versions.
Elementary was created by writer Rob Doherty. Mr. Doherty decided to set it in the present day with a Sherlock who has fled London for New York City. His father hires Dr. Watson as a sober companion for his recovering son. Besides the change in locale Dr. Watson is a woman in this version. From the very beginning Mr. Doherty promised that there would be no romantic tension and he has kept that promise. What that has opened is a different relationship to their cases. It has allowed Watson to achieve more of an equal status than in almost any other interpretation of Sherlock. Throughout the series there are winks and nods back to the original source material. The show has a particularly original take on the romance with Irene Adler and the way that ties to his great nemesis Moriarty.
What has made the show so watchable has been the actors in the two lead roles. Jonny Lee Miller has portrayed a Sherlock in battle with his demons throughout. Mr. Miller has a wonderful way of showing his inner battles wordlessly. The stories allow him the opportunity to explore his negative feelings and where they take him. He still has his misanthropic streak intact it just shows in alternative ways.
Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson
Dr. Watson has been portrayed by Lucy Liu. Ms. Liu has developed the character throughout the seasons. In the early going as she makes the shift from sober companion to assistant; she really sells her fascination with the way Sherlock operates. As Sherlock realizes he has a partner it is where Ms. Liu has shone. She has become more confident in her own instincts and there is much less of Sherlock showing her to be incorrect. It is one of the biggest changes between Elementary and almost every other version. This Watson becomes more of a colleague instead of a chronicler. It has proven to be a more interesting choice to follow over the seasons.
Elementary will be finishing their final season on August 15. At that point Mr. Miller and Ms. Liu will have portrayed Holmes and Watson for 151 episodes. The longest of any actors to ever play the roles. It has been a joy to spend that time with them.
One of my favorite drinks during the summer is lemonade. At its heart it is simple: water, sugar, and lemons. Nothing wrong with that version. Except that the chemist in me couldn’t resist tinkering with it. Honey was substituted for the sugar that added a more syrup-like sweetness. I make lavender water by steeping some lavender buds in water. Finally I add some basil for some herbal bite. These are the ingredients for basil lavender lemonade at Chez Colognoisseur. It takes something simple and adds more depth. The same is true about Aerin Limone di Sicilia.
Limone di Sicilia is the fifth fragrance in the Premiere Collection meant to highlight a specific ingredient. It has been one of the quiet triumphs of the Aerin line. The same creative team of creative director Aerin Lauder and perfumer Honorine Blanc returns from last year’s Eclat de Vert. I really liked the way that perfume captured the lazy days of summer sitting under a tree. Limone di Sicilia is the lemonade waiting on the porch when I come home.
One of the things that Mme Blanc does with her bright lemon keynote is to do what I did with my lemonade. She makes it deeper, floral, and more herbal.
That lemon is like a ball of sunlight right away. Mme Blanc banks some of the intensity by using baie rose to provide an herbal counterweight. Muguet provides a green clean floral contrast in the early going as well. Jasmine becomes the main floral partner to the lemon. This is clean mostly indole-free jasmine which adds lift to the lemon. The final bit of bite comes with the use of oakmoss supported by the dry woodiness of Ambrox.
Limone di Sicilia has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Just as Eclat de Vert did last summer Limone di Sicilia also provides an ideal dog days style of citrus perfume. It succeeds because the creative team took their lemon into some deeper places.
Disclosure; this review is based on a sample provided by Aerin.
One of the ingredients which defines perfume of the mid-20th century is aldehydes. From their appearance in Chanel No. 5 they were prevalent in many of the great floral perfumes which followed. It was so entwined with that era in perfume it also came to represent it. It also is the one ingredient which elicits the damning reaction, “oh that perfume is for someone older than me.” It is the keynote of the dreaded descriptor “old lady perfume”. This has kept it from being used very often in new perfumes. Tom Ford Metallique is going to try to change that.
Metallique is part of the more widely available Signature Collection. As much as we write about the Private Blend collection the Signature Collection is equally as impressive. Creative director Karyn Khoury makes sure any fragrance with Tom Ford on the label lives up to the reputation the brand has built. For Metallique she partners with perfumer Antoine Maisondieu.
The name is appropriate for the way aldehydes present themselves within a fragrance. In those classic perfumes it was described as smelling like “Aqua-Net” hairspray. M. Maisondieu has found a way to lighten up the aldehyde accord he uses here. This is a much more restrained effect overall.
Metallique opens up with the aldehydes springing to life. M.Maisondieu rather quickly brings in bergamot and petitgrain to give some sparkle. It is a smart way of balancing out the metallic quality. It allows baie rose to add a green herbal quality further softening the aldehydes. In the past the florals would be the heavy hitters. M. Maisondieu goes for a less powerful trio of aubepine, heliotrope, and muguet. The green of the baie rose connects to the green of the muguet then expanding into the heliotorope and aubepine. M. Maisondieu then uses the botanical musk of ambrette and the warmth of balsam to provide the foundation.
Metallique has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
What makes Metallique stand apart from those classic aldehydic florals is this modern version does not fill the room. Ms. Khoury and M. Maisondieu have designed a version which is much less extroverted even though it retains the aldehyde-floral-musk spine. It still has some verve without becoming overwhelming. I will be curious to learn if they have found the path for aldehydic florals to appeal to a new audience with Metallique.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
As perfumery moved into the 21st century there have been so many changes. One of the largest was the introduction of the Middle Eastern perfume ingredient oud into Western fragrance. For almost twenty years now this ingredient has been one of the most popular across all of perfumery. It is hard to pin down what makes it so popular. One reason might be how multi-faceted an ingredient it is. When in the hands of a skilled perfumer it can spring to life. Which is what happens in D.S. & Durga Notorious Oud.
Notorious Oud is supposed to be inspired by the late rapper Notorious BIG. But it can also easily stand on its own as oud has a notoriety for some of its rougher edges. Perfumer David Seth Moltz embraces all that fractious character by using an Indonesian oud as his keynote. By using a genuine source of oud it allows Mr. Moltz the opportunity to find complementary ingredients to display all that oud has to offer.
David Seth Moltz
One of the typical descriptions of oud is it has a “medicinal” or “band-aid” scent. As a someone who likes odd smells and regularly sniffs a bandage on my finger it is one of the reasons I like oud. Mr. Moltz uses a clever trio of camphor, galbanum, and saffron to make it more of that “band-aid” kind of accord in the early going. I enjoyed the way the camphor softened some of the edgier aspects of this part of the oud. As Notorious Oud develops into the heart it finds one of the typical partners of oud waiting, rose. This is a spicy Bulgarian rose and usually this is such a classical pairing there isn’t much more that is needed. Except Mr. Moltz adds enough lavender to lengthen the green thread begun by the galbanum in the top accord. That thread follows into the base as papyrus anchors it. Mr. Moltz then brackets the later development of the oud with animalic civet and the dry synthetic woodiness of Cetalox.
Notorious Oud has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Notorious Oud is for those who embrace oud in all its quirkiness. Mr. Moltz softens many of the sharper aspects, but they are still present. For me this is an oud which struck the right balance in its oddness and beauty.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by DS & Durga.
There is always a heat wave, every summer. It is always a challenging time for me because I look at the perfume I want to wear to review and I know it will wilt in the heat. Another thing that happens every heat wave is I just go for the perfume which looks like it will be the most refreshing in the heat. This year that choice was Azzaro Chrome Aqua.
Azzaro has been putting out an annual summer version of Chrome under the name Chrome Summer. Those were also better than average flankers of the 1996 original. For 2019 it looks like Chrome Aqua is taking the place of Chrome Summer. Perfumer Jean-Christophe Herault composes a green tinted aquatic that was just right for midsummer.
One thing I have really appreciated about many of the modern aquatics is that they have stopped using Calone. There are many alternatives out there. In the case of Chrome Aqua M. Herault uses them.
Chrome Aqua opens with that suite of ozonic notes which form the typical sea breeze accord. It is matched with another accord to provide the surf. Things take an interesting turn from there. M. Herault pairs grapefruit with a crisp green apple. It turns the typical tart grapefruit into a fresher citrus accord. This all goes very well with the aquatic vibe of the opening moments. Chrome Aqua then uses basil supported with aniseed to give a uniquely herbal accord. There is something about basil that just feels great on a hot day. The use of the aniseed to give a licorice undercurrent is clever. It ends on that most classic of summer perfume ingredients with a green grassy vetiver.
Chrome Aqua has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Chome Aqua was just the kind of perfume I wanted to wear in the middle of a heat wave. There is not a moment while I had it on where it wasn’t a fitting companion in the heat. It made me think of amending the old saying to “only mad dogs and vetiver go out in the midday sun.”
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Azzaro.
When I started writing about perfume, over ten years ago, there was a perception of all-natural perfume as somehow lacking. It was frustrating to me because that wasn’t my experience. I found those artists who chose to work in this style to be every bit as inventive as those who didn’t. Despite that misperception one of the things which has happened over the last three years is an expansion of this sector with better and better perfumes. One of the brands which has been part of this is Abel. Founded three years ago by Frances Shoemack and perfumer Isaac Sinclair they have released a collection of seven beautifully composed all-natural fragrances. The eighth is now here, Abel Pink Iris.
As the name would portend iris is the focal point of this perfume. Iris tends to have two prominent facets. The more familiar one is the powdery one. The less common one is the silvery rooty one. It is that one Ms. Shoemack and Mr. Sinclair choose to highlight in Pink Iris. As they have with most of the Abel perfumes, to date, they use three keynotes and that continues here.
The keynote in the top accord is Szechuan pepper. I know I’ve gone on a lot about how versatile this relatively new ingredient is, but Mr. Sinclair finds a new way of using it. He employs raspberry leaves to add a green-tinted fruitiness while basil adds an herbal undercurrent. This turns the Szechuan pepper towards a simmering fruity herbal accord. This finds a high quality orris butter waiting in the heart. The top accord softens the iris accessing that rootiness I find so appealing. Then like fireflies rising out of the summer grass the sparkle within the iris arises. This is a subtly compelling version of iris that is quite enchanting. A suite of linen musks wrap this in a clean cotton embrace.
Pink Iris has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you are one who still thinks all-natural perfumes cannot be that good Abel Pink Iris would be a good choice to allow you to reconsider that. If the sparkle of iris doesn’t change your mind, I’ll be surprised.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
When I talk about writing on perfume with people who don’t wear fragrance, I point out they may not wear it but they are surrounded by it. You can’t walk into a coffee shop without being surrounded by the smell of brewing beans. A bakery smells of bread. The produce section in the grocery store is a wonderful mélange of fresh smells. Perhaps the most recognizable of these ambient scents is the smell of Earl Grey Tea. Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has made an all-natural Earl Grey inspired cologne called DSH Perfumes Royal Grey Cologne.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
Ms. Hurwitz has been producing great colognes for a while. Last year’s Summer Cologne was one of my favorites of the year. You might think designing an Earl Grey cologne would be easy. Get some bergamot and combine it with any one of the black tea ingredients. I am not sure what exactly that would smell like, but I suspect it would be flat, missing an essential sparkle. Royal Grey Cologne does something different as Ms. Hurwitz uses a tea accord comprised of four different tea sources.
Royal Grey Cologne opens with that bergamot in high concentration. Underneath Ms. Hurwitz adds ambrette seed to add some lift to this very identifiable top note. The tea follows rather quickly. I’m expecting black tea and that is what I notice first. Then three green tea extracts provide a lively boost to the black tea. Yerba mate especially finds a place within this accord. Then a lovely rose finds itself floating on this cup of tea. The transition to the base takes an earthy turn as ruh khus, the green balsamic version of vetiver, connects to patchouli before resting on sandalwood sweetened with a pinch of vanilla.
Royal Grey Cologne has 6-8 hour longevity and low sillage.
Royal Grey Cologne is a skin scent as was last year’s Summer Cologne. I find that an advantage when wearing fragrance in hot temperatures. I enjoyed Royal Grey Cologne as much for its sense of familiarity as its underlying freshness. Just like a cup of the real thing.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.