One of my favorite carnival confections is kettle corn. That is popcorn which is coated with sugar during the popping process. It is that classic mixture of sweet and salt. I happily traverse the midway eating freshly made kettle corn from a paper bag. I didn’t think I wanted a perfume version; The House of Oud What About Pop changed my mind.
The House of Oud has been trending towards a unique gourmand collection. Last year’s Keep Glazed created a case of fruit tarts from the bakery as perfume. What About Pop does the same for popcorn. The same creative team of Andrea Casotti and Cristian Calabro collaborate again.
Popcorn isn’t unknown in perfumery. If you’re looking for an herb popcorn fragrance, that’s Etat Libre d’Orange La Fin du Monde. Sigs. Casotti and Calabro weren’t interested in that version. They form something like sweet and salty kettle corn before dumping it all into a creamy vanilla swirl.
The popcorn scent is right there. It is recognizable from every movie theatre you’ve ever walked into. A salty steamed scent. Soon after you get your popcorn coated in liquid butter. Then it is tossed in sugar. Within minutes it is like I am breathing in the steam from the copper kettles used to make the real thing at the county fair. This could have stayed here for as long as it wanted and I would have been happy. When they decide to dunk it in sweet vanilla cream it turns into a wild gourmand as the sweet milkiness has the popcorn floating on top. Towards the end the popcorn note becomes more prominent again. As if there is a fresh batch popping somewhere.
What About Pop has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage wearing close to the skin.
If you are looking for the places where the gourmand style of perfume is going to expand it is becoming apparent Sig. Casotti is going to have The House of Oud be one of the brands which is right there.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I have written in the past about how important it is to good perfume making to have a great base accord. It has become a literal raison de etre for the Jeroboam perfume collection. Before they even designed their first perfume creative director Francois Henin and perfumer Vanina Muracciole created a base. The idea was to use the same musky base for every Jeroboam perfume. I loved the idea but was a bit disappointed in the original set of perfumes released in 2015. It seemed like they were still figuring out how to use their accord to its best effect. That would change in the ensuing releases culminating in last year’s release of gardenia focused Boha. It was exactly the kind of perfume this type of construction should result in. I suspected they had finally found the pathway forward; the latest release Jeroboam Ligno confirms this.
For Ligno M. Henin and Sig. ra Muracciole turn to two of the most recognizable pillar ingredients, patchouli and ambergris, to build a magnificent edifice atop the musky base.
Ligno opens with what I suspect is a fraction of patchouli because the greener herbal qualities are amplified. She adds clary sage and pine to provide sharp edges to the patchouli. This top accord has an almost minty freshness to it which is fun. The full spectrum patchouli comes forward in the heart as the earthier qualities I enjoy about it are now more prominent. At the same time a briny ambergris forms an odd complementary harmonic. I liked the juxtaposition of earth and sea, not opposites but two phases of a greater whole. Then that musky base comes to form the place where the patchouli and ambergris will float on. As this triangle comes together a few grace notes of geranium, saffron, and castoreum each find purchase on one side of the polygon.
Ligno has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage as an extrait.
Ligno is another excellent use of this base developed in the beginning of the brand. Each new release has been better than the last; Ligno continues that trend.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
All good perfumers are versatile creators. The ones I tend to like best can make any style of perfume. That doesn’t mean they may have one or two styles where they seem to have a greater affinity towards them. For perfumer Bruno Jovanovic he has become one of the best producers of what I call Cologne Nouveau. That is a modern interpretation of the venerable cologne formula. M. Jovanovic seems to truly enjoy finding new life in the style that was created over 200 years ago. L’Homme Rochas is the latest by him. For this version he uses newer pieces of the palette to find a new path to the simple classic.
L’Homme Rochas is the first masculine release for this brand since 2007’s Desir de Rochas Homme. Considering that my favorite vintage masculines are Rochas releases it is high time they tried to be as influential as they used to be. It seems like M. Jovanovic is trying to find that path within the current transparent trend.
Cologne opens with citrus. Usually lemon. M. Jovanovic finds the modern compromise in blood orange. The source of blood orange used in perfume finds a middle ground between the tartness of lemon and the juiciness of orange. It is then supported by two other ingredients to accentuate both of those facets. Cardamom provides its herbal lemony breeze just as pineapple provides a juicy sweetness. The balance M. Jovanovic finds in this top accord is delightful. The heart of a cologne is floral and herb. Here it is geranium and basil where they together provide a green tinted veil to observe the citrus top accord through. In another contemporary touch M. Jovanovic uses the gin character of juniper to make a dry martini out of all of it. To give this some depth M. Jovanovic turns to an Oriental inspired base accord of tonka bean and patchouli. It tethers all the above to an earthbound hay colored patchouli.
L’Homme Rochas has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
While it has been unusually warm for January, when I tested this, I think it is going to be especially good when things warm up. This is going to be at its best when the mercury is popping. I can add L’Homme Rochas to the other Cologne Nouveau creations I wear during that time of year.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Rochas.
Concluding my reviews of independent perfumer Euan McCall’s jorum Studio Progressive Botany Vol.1. For Part 1 follow this link.
Nectary is described as a “brutal floral” on the Jorum Studio website. I get the description, but it tracks more closely to the Instagram photos of Mr. McCall’s I mentioned yesterday. In those pictures they are close-ups of the growing things of Scotland. Nectary is a close-up of the flowers and growing things of Scotland. It opens with a classic fruity floral duo of peach and rose. It is given a tart contrast through cranberry. Mr. McCall wanted this to be a wild milieu and so he surrounds this accord with that unkempt wilderness. He threads oud, castoreum, civet and musk together to remind you of the creatures living here. More intriguingly ambergris, labdanum, and olibanum provide an oddly briny resinous undercurrent. This forms a snapshot of rose in the wild.
Phloem is described as “a diabolical assemblage of odourants”. If I thought Nectary was one of Mr. McCall’s photos as perfume; Phloem is one of those with a kaleidoscopic filter on top. This is a fruity floral of rivals not interested in playing nice. In the vigorously kinetic development that ensues the joy of contrast can be experienced. Mr. McCall chooses the very sweet passion fruit to find its antagonist in rhubarb. This is a conflict of tartness pushing back against the sweet. The kind of tension between opposites repeats itself. Blueberry pushes back against honeysuckle as fruit and flower reverse roles in tart and sweet. Savory sesame tries to prevail over the sweet hay-like tonka. Green gorse flies into the citrus tinted amyris. Everywhere you look odiferous struggles are happening. It makes Phloem a busy type of perfume that some will find to be too unrestrained. I found that after spending some time wearing it, falling into the battle royale of perfume was fun.
Trimerous stand out from the other fragrances in Progressive Botany Vol. 1 as the only soliflore. You could make the case Nectary might be a rose soliflore but not to the degree Trimerous displays the orris butter at its heart. When a perfumer chooses to take one of the most precious perfume ingredients as the core of a soliflore they show their perspective in what they use to set it off. The rich thick butter of aged iris roots is one of the ingredients which commands the price because of the quality within it. Mr. McCall takes my favorite rooty part and amplifies it. The opening is the opulent orris butter out in front as carrot seed and angelica root find that doughy rootiness coaxing it to the foreground. Subtle touches of herbal green with thyme and baie rose along with the citrus sparkle of bergamot and nectarine remind me of light reflecting off a precious jewel. There is a lesser silvery shimmer fine orris butter has that is often lost in a perfume. Mr. McCall finds that polished veneer with the acerbic nature of juniper and kombucha. It is like shadows off the fine flatware. The powdery iris rears its head atop an animalic trio of oud, leather, and musk. Instead of powder puff it feels like the powdered lash of a luxurious dominatrix. Vanilla and incense provide a soothing balm for the return of the rooty iris over the final phases.
All three have 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Just as I had experienced with the perfumes Mr. McCall produced for Senyoko his own creations show the same breadth of design. Any perfumer that can bridge the gap between the iris soliflore of Trimerous with the kinetic furor of Phloem knows what he is doing.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Jorum Studio.
As much as I grumble about the dearth of new releases in January it does have an upside. Over the past few years it has allowed me the time to explore a new young perfumer’s line. For 2020 it is the work of Scotland-based perfumer Euan McCall for his own brand Jorum Studio.
I became acquainted with Mr. McCall last year for the work he produced for Senyoko. I was quite impressed with his ability to make perfume of subtlety or power. Many independent perfumers find a single key to compose in. Based on the Senyoko releases I was wondering if Mr. McCall was producing his own perfumes. I had a feeling under his own creative eye there might be something worth learning about.
I contacted him and he graciously agreed to send me a sample set of the latest collection Progressive Botany Vol. 1. I had an idea these were going to be fascinating before I ever got a whiff of any of them. It was because through the process of connecting to Mr. McCall I began to follow him on Instagram. I wake up most mornings to a photo of the Scottish flora. These pictures showed me an artist’s eye who sees beyond the broader strokes to find the grace notes which make for a compelling aesthetic. The perfumes live up to that. I am going to spend the next two days reviewing all six perfumes in the Progressive Botany Vol. 1 collection.
Arborist is “an ode to enchanting woodlands”. When I saw the name it made me think or Mr. McCall’s Instagram photos. This is the fragrance of perfumer as arborist as he walks through the Scottish landscape. It opens on a leathery osmanthus which is provided an acerbic tart contrast via quince. Arborist then finds the woodlands promised as Mr. McCall forms a powerful woody accord of fir balsam and spruce resin. This reminded me strongly of the Florida pine trees I grew up with including the sap. That stickiness is enhanced with a precise use of honey. It becomes particularly interesting over the final stages as malt and myrrh provide grain and resin to the final construct. I can’t put my finger on what comes together to form a clean sweat accord, but it reminds me of a fall hike when I remove my sweaty flannel shirt.
Carduus is an homage to the Scottish Order of the Thistle. I have a bramble thicket where I walk once or twice a week. It has a fresh herbal natural scent to it. Mr. McCall finds that same quality in Carduus. Before describing it, I want to mention how tonally different it is from Arborist. Arborist is a burly Scotsman building in power as it goes. Carduus goes the opposite direction; its most intense at the beginning before finding a lovely light touch at the end. The intensity of the opening is all from a mixture of herbal ingredients. Primarily chamomile, clary sage, Bengal pepper, and clove. This is the green slightly woody quality of the bramble patch. It then does a fantastic pivot through Mr. McCall’s use of a cocoa absolute which doesn’t come off as gourmand. It provides a divider of sorts as a set of tobacco infused woods of cherry and mahogany form a platform for the top accord to spread out upon. Woven throughout are subtle florals, rose and tuberose find purchase among the vines. Over the latter stages Carduus is a delicate herbal woody reverie.
Medullary-ray is one of the most unique interpretations of fig I’ve encountered in a long time. Mr. McCall was trying to catch the scent of a woodworker shaving down a plank in the Tuscan sunshine. The location of this woodworker is on the edge of a grove of fig and olive trees. Mr. McCall re-interprets the concept of a fig-centric Mediterranean fragrance as he combines the fig and olive. The fig is the creamy green of the fig leaf wile the olive is the oleaginous viscosity of the pressed fruit. Cardamom provides lift to the fig leaf as juniper and frankincense provide the borderlines for them to interact within. I adore this accord. It has an odd decadence to it I just wanted to immerse myself in. It gets better as orris provides the rooty transition to the woodworker in this tableau. There is a rich mixture of woods here. Sandalwood, guaiac, cedar, birch, and papyrus. You might think that last would get lost. Instead it provides the glue which holds all the woods together. It closes with a sweaty castoreum reflecting the person doing the woodworking.
All three perfumes have 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’ll conclude tomorrow with the remaining three perfumes in Progressive Botany Vol. 1 at this link.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample set provided by Jorum Studio.
I spent too much time over the Holidays binge watching various things. Because I was on Netflix, a lot, I kept getting recommendations for this new series “The Witcher”. I was familiar with the characters because I played the video game of the same name a few years ago. I kind of knew it was based on books, but I never sought them out. I finally gave into the Netflix nudging and started watching. Only one episode. Which turned into watching all eight. It was like eating epic fantasy junk food. I couldn’t stop until the bowl was empty.
The Witcher is that kind of fantasy which verges on bring bad but knows how to wink at you to know its not trying to be great. It reminds me of the syndicated series of “Hercules” and “Xena, Warrior Princess”. Or if you need a deeper cut the Arnold Schwarzenegger “Conan the Barbarian” films. None of these take their material so seriously while keeping it fun. That is what “The Witcher” does.
The titular hero is Geralt of Rivia played by Henry Cavill. Geralt travels around as a bounty hunter of mystical creatures who threaten villages and kingdoms. He gets paid by the townsfolk to kill the offending beast. He is a “mutant” which makes him not part of the society of anyplace, so he is cursed to move around.
The stories in the books also revolve around two other characters sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg and Princess Ciri of Cintra. The clever trick the writers use is we see each character in their earliest days in the early episodes. It is only about halfway through we realize we are watching three separate timelines from many different decades. The entire first season is towards bringing all three of these characters to the same place at the same time.
This kind of storytelling allows for time jumps which have fun payoffs. The one which is funniest is when Geralt picks up a bard, Jaskier, who follows him. By the end of the episode Jaskier has written a song about Geralt, “Toss a Coin to your Witcher”. When they meet again ten years later the song has helped create a mythology around Geralt. The choice of three timelines moving in parallel makes for a new way to tell an origin story.
As I mentioned there is a video game based on this world. It was amusing to see each fight scene as a level in the video game as they tend to have that quality to them.
If you need some goofy fantasy fun queue up “The Witcher”. One warning you will be singing “Toss a Coin to your Witcher” once you hear it.
The process of releasing perfume flankers is an exercise in diminishing returns. Each successive release tends to remind you of how good the original was. By the time they get down the line it is difficult to even know what the purpose of naming it after the original is.
There are exceptions to this. The one that I have pointed to is the line of flankers of 1996’s Thierry Mugler A*Men. A*Men is one of the great perfumes of the last twenty-five years. That Thierry Mugler would want to make flankers is obvious. In 2008 when they released A*Men Pure Coffee they showed they were going to not phone it in. Pure Coffee would initiate a series of releases which made this the best flanker line ever. I own almost all of them. I admire almost all of them. The reason for that is because the original perfumer of A*Men, Jacques Huclier, kept finding new things to say within his original structure. Each new release would illuminate something about the original while also being different enough to warrant being produced. There was always a bit of the original A*Men to be found in these flankers. Which is why I have found the latest release Thierry Mugler A*Men Ultimate so confounding.
A*Men Ultimate is the first of these releases to not have even a tiny bit of the A*Men formula present. When I saw the note list, I guessed the “mochaccino” accord was going to provide the chocolate-coffee DNA of A*Men in a new way. Except there is no coffee and chocolate; A*Men Ultimate is a straightforward woody fragrance.
Ultimate is really just a simple construct of citrus, cedar, and fir. That’s it. There is nothing different from any other perfume with those ingredients. It would have been nice if that promised “mochaccino” accord arrived it might have been similar to 2014’s Pure Wood. I have become so used to this set of flankers being so good I am perplexed at how generic this has turned out to be.
A*Men Ultimate has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
With the rebranding and extension of the Thierry Mugler Cologne series added on top of this very common flanker of A*Men I am left shaking my head. I wonder if Thierry Mugler has finally succumbed to the law of diminishing returns when it comes to perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Thierry Mugler.
There were a few years where I spent a lot of time hiking in the desert southwest of the US. Those days and nights in the supposed barren wasteland of the sand taught me that beauty truly was in the eye of the beholder. One of the best things about that time were the moments of contrast when there were little outposts of greenery amidst the sand. I remember the scent of vegetation laid over the dusty mineral sand as the buried feel of the underground water feeding it all burbled below. It is a fascinating thing to see life where none should be able to survive. It seems like other deserts in the world have this same natural contrast based on Ella K Cri du Kalahari.
Ella K is the brand founded by perfumer Sonia Constant two years ago. Ella K is a fictional heroine based on the real-life women travelers of the past like Karen Blixen or Ella Maillart. The perfumes are meant to capture the fictional Ella K’s travels. At the end of 2019 her wanderings have brought her to Africa.
Baobab tree in the Kalahari
Cri du Kalahari is named after the large desert which covers most of Botswana. What sets this desert apart is the presence of massive baobab trees. That these trees can grow so large in the middle of a large desert is impressive. Mme Constant wanted to capture the dichotomy of the trees versus the sand of the desert. I imagine Ella K leaning against the trunk of one of the baobabs while sketching one nearby. Cri du Kalahari is what she might be smelling in the air.
It opens with top accord of green pepper and cedar. The pepper provides that vegetal piece of the green growing by the tree. Cedar is its typical clean woody self. In a perfume meant to capture the arid desert climate it seems ideal. A silvery frankincense adds texture to this. The frankincense is similarly austere as the cedar is. It descends to a base of sandalwood and patchouli. The sandalwood provides some release to the austerity that came first. It softens the woodiness. The patchouli adds some earthiness to it all in more subtle way that it usually appears. The patchouli acts like the subterranean sources of water covered up but detectable.
Cri du Kalahari has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mme Constant captures the contrast of life in difficult environments. In Cri du Kalahari a tree grows in the desert.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
As we enter midwinter my black leather jacket begins to get used a lot. I’ve owned this jacket for well over twenty years. It is beyond broken-in it has become a tame cowhide over the use of decades. Of all the leather pieces of clothing I own the scent of my leather jacket is one that pleases me most. The reason is that smell has become as soft as the leather itself. Instead of the oily strong typical leather odor, I now have something much subtler. Byredo Sellier also wants to be this kind of soft leather.
Sellier is part of the Night Veils collection. It is the seventh release within the collection. It follows the last three released in 2016 all of which had a leather keynote as well. I own a bottle of La Botte because it captures a sexy leather boot. In that fragrance long time collaborators creative director Ben Gorham and perfumer Jerome Epinette designed a leather of sharp lines. Sellier moves in a more diffuse direction.
That effect of diffusion comes right at the start with a top accord of black tea and cashmeran laid over the leather accord. The cashmeran flows across the leather while the tea provides a tannic complement. Tobacco provides a multiplier for the sweetness at the heart of any good leather accord. M. Epinette is using these complementary notes to expand the leather effect. A figurative breaking-in of his leather accord. In the base he adds an accord made up of birch and oakmoss. The birch gives back the bite to the low-atranol oakmoss. It also provides echoes of the birch tar it could become as if a cuir de Russie was off in the distance. When it is all together it is a soft leather spreading out.
Sellier has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Sellier is an extrait strength perfume. I think this wouldn’t have been as pleasant if it was at a lower concentration. The way it is now makes it more personal just like my well-loved leather jacket.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Byredo.
I’m going to start this review the way I usually end them with a disclosure statement. This is going to be a lengthy disclosure statement instead of the usual single line. The reason is one of my first friends in fragrance has finally done what I suggested would happen over ten years ago.
Back when I decided to stop lurking on the Basenotes forums in 2008 I began to gravitate toward a group of like-minded perfume lovers. It is the way all the forums I post in work. You find the people you enjoy sharing conversations with. One of these was a woman who went under the nickname Nukapai. Besides perfume we found we shared other interests. A confirmation of found camaraderie. As I began to start posting reviews on Basenotes; Nukapai aka Pia Long made the brave leap to enter the fragrance industry from the ground level. She began working for LUSH. From there she had the courage to walk up to one of the founders of the brand with her own blend. The owners then sponsored her perfume education while making her a “trainee perfumer”. She told us on the forums what was going on. She would write about it on a feature article on Basenotes. (http://www.basenotes.net/features/454-study-notes-back-to-school) We had an exchange where I told her, “one day I am going to write a review of a perfume you’ve made for someone.” Today is that day as she is the perfumer behind Beaufort London Terror & Magnificence. She sent me a sample at the end of the year. She has done her job; now it’s my turn. End of Disclosure.
Beaufort London is the brand overseen by creative director Leo Crabtree. Terror & Magnificence is the third volume of the Revenants series where British historical figures are used as inspiration. This time it is architect Nicholas Hawksmoor who designed in the Baroque style in the first half of the 18th century. He is known for his churches. The one seen below is an example. Mr. Crabtree has developed a Beaufort style wherein the perfumes are darker stories told in broad strokes. Ms. Long delivers on that established aesthetic with a perfume of old church walls and the resins within.
Christ Church in Spitalfields in London Borough of Tower Hamlets England, UK is an Anglican church built between 1714 and 1729
If you’ve ever visited an old church of this time period they often smell like the smoke of countless braziers of incense and candles have been impregnated into the stone of the walls. So many church incense styles of fragrance keep it much cleaner. Mr. Crabtree and Ms. Long embrace the history that smoke represents.
So many perfumers when going for a smoke effect pull out the cade oil. Ms. Long turns to a more classic source of olfactory smoke, birch tar. This is just as fallible to become a sledgehammer in untrained hands. Ms. Long can use it subtly while still retaining presence. She cleverly adds black pepper to the smoky tar which adds in that scent of aged timbers amidst the smoke. She then uses a set of resins to form the incense part. Starting with Somalian incense which carries its own smokiness in its scent profile she adds in the Egyptian kyphi. Kyphi adds a contrasting resinous sweetness. Tobacco and myrrh extend the sweeter resins while benzoin and labdanum do the same to the Somalian incense. This ends with a base accord of stone and vetiver. This is where I broke into a big smile. Ms. Long creates an accord which smells of the stone walls which have bits of green moss growing on them as the vetiver establishes the green while re-establishing the spicy woodiness from the top accord. Once it all comes together it is a real church incense perfume.
Terror & Magnificence has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Ms. Long is a partner in her own independent oil house, Olfiction, these days. Back in those Basenotes days I doubt either of us imagined we would end up where we have found ourselves in 2020. Finally I got to write a review about a perfume made by my friend, Nukapai. You did great. This is only the beginning. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Disclosure: Read the first two paragraphs.