I am not one who says prayers. Yet there is a piece of poetry which has spoken to me from the time I first read it as a teenager; “If” by Rudyard Kipling. It is a poem of couplets each of which are meant to inspire a boy to be a man. My favorite is “If you can dream-and not make dreams your master; If you can think- but not make thoughts your aim”. This is taped over my computer monitor where I write for this blog. As I said I don’t formally pray but I regularly recite couplets from “If” when life presents situations which fit. My esteem for “If” made me very wary of a perfume attempting to use it as a brief. Despite those misgivings Frapin If by R.K. wants to try.
Those of you who have followed me know that Frapin is one of my very favorite perfume brands. Creative director David Frossard releases new product sporadically. It has been two years since there was last a new Frapin fragrance. I have always found that slower pace of production has produced perfumes which have spoken so strongly to me that it is one of the few brands I own a bottle of everything. If there was a brand I would want to turn my mantra into perfume this would be one of them.
M. Frossard collaborated with perfumer Anne-Sophie Behaghel. They had previously worked together on the only other poetry inspired fragrance in the collection, 2014’s Nevermore. For If by R.K. their vision was to capture the India of Rudyard Kipling by using perhaps its most famous perfume ingredient Mysore sandalwood.
The opening of If by R.K. is a spice-laden affair of ginger, pepper, and cinnamon. Mme Behaghel balances the kinetic heat of these ingredients into something which adds verve without taking over. She figuratively attenuates the spiciness with the creaminess of fig. I have long enjoyed a mixture of spice and fig. The accord here is as good as it gets. Underneath it all is the Mysore sandalwood. There is a quality to this source of the ubiquitous wood which is hard to match. Mme Behaghel wants to not step on the beauty of this. She adds in an earthy patchouli and allows this to form a container for the spicy fig accord from earlier. The final piece is a teasing out of the inherent sweetness of Mysore sandalwood as tonka and vanilla do such a good job it almost turns into a figgy custard gourmand in the later stages.
If by R.K. has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is a gorgeous perfume that I will be wearing throughout the next few months. It is the ideal choice for my favorite scarves. I think it is among the best Frapin has ever produced. Clearly M. Frossard knows both how to dream and think.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
In the latest edition of “Why I Love My Readers” after reviewing Gucci Memoire d’Une Odeur I received an e-mail with a provocative question. “If you think chamomile is a challenging perfume ingredient have you tried Roberto Greco Oeilleres?” I replied I hadn’t tried it and began the process of finding a sample. If the Gucci perfume was attempting to broaden the perfume palate of the masses, then Oeilleres is a perfume only for those who appreciate something different.
Self-Portrait by Photographer Roberto Greco
Roberto Greco is a French photographer who wanted a perfume to accompany his latest book of thirty-one photos of flowers. He turned to one of the most creative independent perfumers we have, Marc-Antoine Corticchiato. The desire was to create an “anti-flower” perfume to match the style of M. Greco’s photographs. It would take two years of work for the two creative minds to agree they had made something which lived up to that.
In further reading on the website they decided early on an “anti-flower” would also be animalic and vegetal. Instead of turning to traditional floral ingredients the two they chose are chamomile and broom. M. Corticchiato uses a clever set of green and sweaty skin accords to flesh out the final construct.
It opens with overdoses of chamomile and broom. In the case of Oeilleres M. Corticchiato wants to accentuate the deep green herbal-ness of chamomile. If it was left on its own it would become difficult to wear because at this concentration it also has some spikes among the green. It is why the broom is used to soften that. Broom has a sweetly honeyed aspect over its own green scent profile. It is the sweetness which tempers the chamomile while the green adds in a softer layer underneath. The other piece of the top accord is the icy chill of eucalyptus. It provides contrast and lift. Some lavender is also present to support the herbal effect. The animalic change comes with the use of cumin again in a dose which will challenge those who are cautious of its presence in a perfume. The cumin here brings that slightly dirty sweaty skin as if the chamomile and broom were covering the back of a perspiring worker in the fields harvesting them. That picture comes into further focus as a lot of coumarin provides the sweet hay scent among the sweaty herbs. It turns more deeply animalic as M. Corticchiato layers some of the animalic musks to create that.
Oeilleres has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Oeilleres is exactly the kind of perfume designed to accompany an artist’s visual works. It isn’t interested in finding the masses. It is focused on finding those who already enjoy the different in perfume and want more. Count me among that smaller group.
Disclosure: This review is based upon a sample I purchased.
One of the recurrent themes within perfumery are pairs of ingredients which seem tailor-made for each other. One of the pairs which has always evolved from the earliest days is iris and musk. The reason is the evolution of musks over the years.As the chemists have produced more and more of them perfumers are given the ability to take a different perspective on a classic pair. By Kilian Rolling in Love does this with iris and musk.
Creative director Kilian Hennessy’s vision was as a “skin musk” with textures of “white”. In the case of Rolling in Love that translates to a perfume of florals and musks by perfumer Pascal Gaurin.
That concept is where it opens. M. Gaurin uses a mixture of almond milk and ambrette seeds to nod to both. The almond milk has a creamy nuttiness which the botanical musk of ambrette is added like a flavor swirl. The heart is the powdery iris which M. Gaurin enhances with supporting florals; rose, orange blossom, and tuberose. Those three are kept at low doses such that they add a richness to the iris without the heart becoming a more varied bouquet. The skin musk returns with the synthetic musks that represent the scent of warm skin all together. In a reverse of the top accord M. Gaurin adds a sweet flavor swirl of tonka and vanilla. This all comes together as rapidly as it takes you to read this paragraph. What it means is there is a predominant duet of iris and musk given some depth and texture by the other ingredients.
Rolling in Love has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Iris and musk are not an original pairing. What is different in Rolling in Love is turning it into a deep powdered skin scent. It is a well-executed version of that.
Disclosure: this review is basedo n a sample provided by By Kilian.
I’m not sure why this year has seen me notice the longevity of what I consider the pillars of independent and niche perfumery. The earliest innovators are all seeing significant milestone anniversaries is probably one reason. One which has lasted for thirty years is Parfums de Nicolai. When Patricia de Nicolai blazed her own path, leaving her family brand Guerlain behind, it was not the perfume business landscape it is today. She would build her own aesthetic and brand, perfume by perfume. At this point Mme de Nicolai has given back by being one of the guiding lights of the Osmotheque in Versailles. Preserving the history of modern perfumery for all to learn from. She remains a vital creative perfumer as her latest Nicolai Baikal Leather Intense proves.
Mme de Nicolai was inspired by the classic Cuir de Russie leather perfumes. Those are creations which mostly have a significant birch component to create the desired concentrated leather accord. Mme de Nicolai creates her leather accord from a different set of woods, guaiac and pine. This turns Baikal Leather Intense into a different kind of animalic accord which feels modern.
Patricia de Nicolai
That leather accord is where Baikal Leather Intense starts. Mme de Nicolai says she uses smoked pine and guaiac wood as the two pieces of her leather accord. The charred terpenic aspect of the pine is apparent, especially in the early going. The guaiac needs a little help gaining a foothold. Saffron along with yuzu and black pepper give it the needed assist. The saffron adds its typical warm glow to the opening while tart yuzu and piquant pepper provide framing. As they push back on the smoked pine the guaiac does complete the accord. After a few minutes a tanned supple leather appears. As that accord moves forward it is altered with a floral trio of rose, violet, and iris. This meeting of rich florals and leather is the acknowledgement of the Cuir de Russie perfumes of the past. Except the difference is this floral leather phase is kept at a much lower intensity. I wouldn’t call this transparent. I also wouldn’t call it intense. It falls more towards the latter, but it doesn’t become that obstreperous saddle leather of the inspiration. Baikal Leather Intense remains like this for hours. Very slowly tonka and some white musks provide warmth and lift respectively.
Baikal Leather Intense has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you’re looking for a vintage Cuir de Russie from Baikal Leather Intense I think you’ll be disappointed. I was looking for Mme de Nicolai to create something modern with her own spin. That’s what I got, her own personal Cuir de Nicolai.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
If you’ve been keeping up with pop culture lately you will know that directors Martin Scorcese and Francis Ford Coppola leveled some criticism of the current state of moviemaking. In separate interviews in France Mr. Scorcese said, “That’s not cinema.” Referencing the Marvel movies specifically. Mr. Coppola would amplify that remark by saying, “Martin was being kind when he said it wasn’t cinema. He didn’t say it was despicable, which is what I say.” While I could attack the messengers, their thesis has merit; I will ask one simple question. Are your compatriots Steven Spielberg and George Lucas directors of “not cinema” and “despicable”? I feel pretty certain the two directors responsible for creating the blockbuster movie culture in the 1970’s is not thought of by Mr. Scorcese or Mr. Coppola in those terms. They are seen as their peers in cinema.
What all good thought processes should start with is a provocative statement. Over the last week I’ve been thinking is there a difference in the terms “cinema” or “movie”. It seems the crux of the argument being proffered is stories of depth (cinema) are being supplanted by spectacle on celluloid (movie).
Cinema or Movie Theatre?
I spent the early years of owning a VCR catching up on the classics of “cinema”. Hitchcock, Fellini, Kurosawa, Ford, Truffaut, etc. opened a whole world of storytelling to me. At the same time I was going to the theatre to see “Star Wars” and Raiders of the Lost Ark”. To me every example of a great story thrilled me. I sat in the darkness of my living room or the theatre and when it was great, I was elevated and transported. That’s the “Magic of Movies”. That is the Oscars motto every year; one I believe in. the answer to the question posed at the beginning is right there they are all movies.
Are there movies which aim for loftier themes? There are. Should that give them a different name? For me it doesn’t matter. Having a director tell me a story that is heartfelt is all I care about. That is as true for “Apocalypse Now” or “Taxi Driver” as it is for Peter Jackson’s interpretation of “Lord of the Rings”, James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”, or Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther”. All these movies represent the reason I love the process.
If part of the thesis from Mr. Scorcese and Mr. Coppola is the best young filmmakers are being enticed to the “despicable” “not cinema” world forswearing the ability to produce something different. I would point to two recent releases which contradict that. Taika Waititi directed “Thor: Ragnarok” and his latest “Jojo Rabbit” is a whirling dervish madhouse. If you pay attention the same sense of vision in a Marvel movie extends to the not-Marvel movie. The other example is what director Todd Philips did with “Joker”. This director of comedies like “Old School” and “The Hangover” completely transformed the story of a well-known comic book character into a story which carries weight. If the concern is a young filmmaker can’t create their own space in the world of comic book movies “Joker” eradicates that argument.
I live in a place where everything I watch are movies I don’t care about cinema. Just tell me a story from your soul. That’s what makes movies great, now and forever.
In the history of modern perfumery perhaps the most influential outside event was World War II. Just as the great European perfume producers were hitting their stride everything changed. When peace was declared modern perfumery would be just another, albeit minor, thing which would need to be rebuilt. Of the brands which would make a mark post-war one would be Rochas with the release of Femme. It was one of the ways perfumery was able to say “I’m still standing”.
Femme would be the return to perfume for Rochas which prior to the war had sold three perfumes, Air Jeune, Avenue Matignon, and Audace. All three perfumes were never produced again after the war. Rochas would largely rely on Femme as the flagship fragrance for twenty-five years. By the late 1960’s Rochas wanted to get back into the fragrance game with attention getting perfumes. Monsieur Rochas and Eau de Rochas would signal that return. The perfume which was meant to cement it was the 1972 version of Audace.
This version of Audace was not a reformulation as much as a reinterpretation by perfumer Guy Robert. The original Audace was said to be a full-bodied floral chypre. M. Robert, perhaps in a nod to changing trends, composed a version of Audace which I think of as a quiet chypre. This was the 1970’s so quiet is a relative term. If you were to compare Audace to the classic green chypres of twenty years earlier, it is much easier to see what I mean. Compare it to the modern chypres of today and quiet would probably not be the adjective which springs to mind. Even so I find the less extroverted style to be almost more engaging.
Audace opens on an acerbically green duet of juniper berry and pine needles. M. Robert finds a stained-glass effect of refracted light through these two ingredients. As the oakmoss rises so does a combination of florals headed by carnation. M. Robert uses a judicious amount of galbanum to extend the green effect from the top accord downward to join the oakmoss and the florals. The choice of the lightly spicy carnation gives the florals some ability to push back against the green without becoming overwhelming. Sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver and musk are all waiting for the oakmoss to complete the chypre base accord. M. Robert’s ability to keep this at a middle level of intensityis impressive.
Audace has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage in its extrait version. 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage in its Parfum de Toilette version.
Audace was released with great fanfare by Rochas in 1972. It spawned a dress and a hairstyle at the same time. It was removed from the market six short years later. It seemingly did not find an audience for its subtle beauty.
As I look back at Audace it makes me think about walking in to an imaginary party where all the mid-century chypres were there. As much as the more flamboyant extroverts draw the eye the quite elegant one on the edge of the circle is the one which makes the biggest impact by being the quiet chypre.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample of the extrait I received from a generous reader and a bottle of the Parfum de Toilette I purchased.
As the Holidays approach every year it seems a perfume brand wants to release a collection of soliflores meant to be combined. Most of the time I find these collections lacking. They are generally a single accord without really being a perfume that develops over time. Occasionally it seems like the quality control is lacking enough that something with some complexity slips through. Chloe Herba Mimosa seems to be the one for the new Chloe collection.
Herba Mimosa is part of the L’Atelier des Fleurs collection. Nine fragrances designed to be a single accord which you can mix and match. The other ones are exactly what they say on the label; Cedrus, Lavanda, Neroli, Verbena, Rose Damascena, Jasminum Sambac, Magnolia Alba, and Hibiscus Abelmoschus. All eight of those are straight forward representations of what is on the bottle. I was hoping the Hibiscus Abelmoschus might stand out. Instead it was the one which had two ingredients, herbs and mimosa, in the name that stood apart.
Marie Salamagne (photo-Jerome Bonnet)
Herba Mimosa was designed by perfumer Marie Salamagne. What she did was to add a significant green thread to the powdery expansiveness of mimosa. It is more grassy than herbal. It comes closest to a field of mimosa on a grassy slope.
Herba Mimosa opens with that grassiness matched to the powdery puffy mimosa. It is a golden ball of fuzzy green. Mme Salamagne then also amplifies the powdery nature almost as if inflating the mimosa. It grows into a gigantic puffball which is tethered to a woody base. This is a delightful take on mimosa because it shifts and moves instead of being a linear accord.
Herba Mimosa has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am definitely not the target audience for these collections of accords. I find them a bit cynical in the way they ask the consumer to finish the job by buying two or three bottles to make their own concoction. Which is why the only one I enjoyed is the one which didn’t need another one to be interesting. If you’re looking for one from this collection Herba Mimosa is probably it.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Nordstrom.
I’ve written way too many words on the damage IFRA restrictions have wreaked on one of the classic perfume styles, chypre. I marvel at the way contemporary perfumers have found ways to keep chypre alive through innovative uses of other ingredients. Even though I adore many of the modern chypres I still return to the original classic chypres I own. It always shows that there was something there when a perfumer could use the proscribed materials that can’t completely be re-created. I accept the current state of affairs. Until I was recently introduced to a perfume which doesn’t give a damn about everything I just wrote; Rogue Perfumery Chypre-Siam.
Rogue Perfumery was begun by chef turned perfumer Manuel Cross. On his website he writes that he spent ten years experimenting with essential oils looking to understand how to create accords and effects. One of the perfumes which fascinated Mr. Cross was Chypre de Coty; the alpha chypre. That perfume set the template which created a sector of perfume throughout the first half of the twentieth century which holds some of the masterpieces of modern perfumery. In the second half of the century the chypre was systematically stripped of all the ingredients which made chypre capital C chypre. The beauty of the name of Mr. Cross’ brand is it describes his way of returning to those ingredients, IFRA be damned, to make the classic chypre live again. Mr. Cross could have just put together the old ingredients and most perfume lovers would have been thrilled. What he has done instead is to give the chypre an Asian veneer which elevates Chypre-Siam from copycat to something more.
Chypre-Siam opens with what I think of as the Thai soup “Tom-Yum Goong” accord. Mr. Cross combines Kaffir lime, lemon grass, and basil into a vibrant green top accord. It has an astringent bite which is appealing every time I wear it. The heart of Chypre-Siam are the florals jasmine and ylang-ylang upon a leather accord. This is where things begin to turn animalic. The leather captures the indoles and fleshiness of the floral ingredients. It then comes together over a classic no nonsense chypre accord. Real velvety shadowy oakmoss covers sandalwood along with civet providing the continuation of the animalic facets from the heart.
Chypre-Siam has 24-hour longevity and above average sillage.
In the case of Chypre-Siam Mr. Cross’ inspiration to give a different spin to an otherwise formal re-telling of a classic elevates the entire process. If you ever wanted to smell what old school chypre smelled like, before the regulators changed things, Chypre-Siam is as close as you will get.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
I love learning about new perfume ingredients. Once I encounter something, I look forward to it being used in a perfume. I had the opportunity to smell the ingredient Noreenal. It is an exclusive ingredient for the Mane perfumers to use. My chance to smell it came about through a discussion with a Mane chemist about the effect adding branching and double bonds to long chain aldehydes has. What Mane discovered is if you add both branching and a double bond you get an unusual scent profile for an aldehyde. It still has the effervescence typical of these molecules. In the case of Noreenal it adds a fresh citrus-like scent to it. This is like a stiff breeze from out of a citrus orchard. I expected to encounter it in a Mediterranean style perfume. Instead it is used as a nose-catching opening for a classical rose and musk perfume, Armani Prive Musc Shamal.
It seems appropriate that the first perfume I am aware of to use Noreenal is named after a Middle Eastern wind, shamal. I wonder if perfumer Julie Masse was waiting for a brief which mentioned a fresh wind to add Noreenal to. It fits ideally in a perfume named Musc Shamal.
That Noreenal is where Musc Shamal opens. Mme Masse uses enough to capture the natural effect it is mimicking. The freshness fused on the kinetic energy of an aldehyde makes this compelling. Mme Masse amplifies the citrus quality to add to the desired effect. The breeze crashes into a floral heart of deep rose before the other ingredient on the label flows into sight. Mme Masse forms a mixture of musks capturing both fresh and animalic aspects. The cleaner musks reiterate the opening Noreenal breeze while the deeper musks combine with amber and vanilla for a warmer accord.
Musc Shamal has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
My affection for Musc Shamal is due to the way Mme Masse unleashes a new breeze across a classical fragrance form.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by Neiman-Marcus.
When I received my samples of the five new perfumes from Comme des Garcons to celebrate their twenty fifth anniversary in the fragrance world, there was one which I was most interested in. Over this time period one thing Comme des Garcons has stood for is pushing unusual accords to extremes. Two of my favorites are the pair of perfumes called Odeur 53 and Odeur 71. Both are fragrances of metallic heat. Synthetic to their core. They are representative of those odd comforting smells like electronics overheating. It has been since 2000 that Odeur 71 was released. Now we can add another to the collection Comme des Garcons Odeur du Theatre du Chatelet.
Theatre du Chatelet is a theatre on the banks of the Seine in Paris. The current creative director for the theatre, Ruth Mackenzie, was asked to join Comme des Garcons fragrance creative director Christian Astuguevieille to oversee the new Odeur. The perfumer they chose to work with is Caroline Dumur. The fragrance they envisioned is a mixture of the old and the new on the floorboards of the Theatre du Chatelet.
Mme Dumur nods back towards the earlier Odeurs with her top accord. She takes the botanical musk of ambrette and combines it with the metallic floral of rose oxide. This is further enhanced with black pepper. It creates this sizzling electric pink accord as if you smell the pink filter over the spotlight in the theatre. This is exactly what I wanted from a new Odeur. It is right on the edge of harsh for my sensibilities. I have a feeling it is going to go way past many others’ tolerances. That is what this series is meant to do. Every time I wear it, I am more and more enchanted by this top accord it is so unique. In the heart it moves to the orris powder used by the actors cut subtly with a bitter coffee from the cups on the apron during rehearsal. It settles on the cedar floorboards for the final moments with a woody base accord.
Odeur du Theatre du Chatelet has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Odeur du Theatre du Chatelet is why Comme des Garcons is still among the premiere niche perfume makers after so long. It carries aspects from which a thoroughly contemporary perfume takes center stage bathed in electric pink.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Dover Street Market.