Now that there has been about five years of this trend of transparency, I have some preferences. I still have issues with a fragrance designed to be so light it is barely present. Those always seem like perfume made for people who don’t like perfume. There is a level where things become just a little opaquer. As difficult as it has been to embrace this style it is these types of constructs which I can find some pleasure in. Les Soeurs de Noe Call Me Iris fits right into what I like.
I discovered Les Soeurs de Noe two years ago with their debut release of five fragrances. Founder-creative director Nadia Benaisa wanted to design perfumes which reflected her Belgian and Moroccan world where she grew up. The first releases were smart combination of Eastern and Western influences. She worked with perfumers Jerome Epinette and Pierre Wulff to create one of my favorite discoveries of 2019. The same creative team is in place for Call Me Iris.
Pierre Wulff (l.) and Jerome Epinette
The Eastern and Western pieces here are frankincense and iris. I have lots of perfumes which have these two ingredients as their nucleus. What makes Call Me Iris different is the transparency without becoming ephemeral. Here those two ingredients knot them selves together like two silk scarves as the wind blows underneath.
Orris and frankincense come together immediately. In the early going it is as if the incense is coated with a fine dusting of iris powder. I’m not usually a fan of the powdery part of orris. In this case the opacity works to make it more interesting. A lemon zephyr blows in adding a hint of citrus luminescence. Baie rose asks for that rhizomal side of orris to come out. As that happens the frankincense also slightly shifts from soft to a silverier scent. The base has vanilla waiting to interact with the orris and fir balsam to add to the frankincense. As this comes together, they add an extra layer to both keynotes.
Call Me Iris has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am quite pleased to see that Mme Benaisa has returned with all the things which made me so happy about her first releases. Call Me Iris has been a wonderful companion on these summer days because it is as transparent as it is. I have found myself closing my eyes and letting the scent take me to a different place. It has become my meditational iris.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
There are many things about Colognoisseur HQ which make me happy. One of them is a patch of wild violets which grow along the property line for about ten yards. When I let the dogs out in the morning, I often follow them on their morning ablutions. In the summer I tend to head back towards the violet patch. Since our poodles tend to like to wake me up around dawn, I will be observing a shade of different purples spotted with dew. DSH Perfumes Violettes de L’Aube captures this in a stunning violet solitaire.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
This is one of independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s “Violet Trio”. Of the three it is the one which wants to be the most realistic. There are few solitaires which attempt to get this real. Ms. Hurwitz captures the flower, the dew, and the dirt it grows in. She achieves it through a series of intricate accords.
Violettes de L’Aube painted by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
It begins with a humid summer morning as she mixes the green of clover, a set of ozonic notes, and ambrette. This is the scent of daybreak. The ambrette provides a little humidity. The clover is a smart surrogate for grass. The rest is that hazy morning light.
This brings us to the violet accord. She uses a lot of violet, but I think there is almost as much iris. Together they make a hyper-real violet scent. She then uses petrichor to coat it in droplets of dew. Violet leaf and vetiver form a green underpinning of leafiness.
The base accord is the slightly damp dirt they grow in. The iris helps here as the rhizome meets the use of geosmin to form the accord of dark soil. As all three accords come together it is what my patch of violets smells like first thing in the morning.
Violettes de L’Aube has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage in the Voile de Parfum concentration I tested.
I usually try not to compare other perfumes but this one constantly had me thinking of another dewy floral; Olivia Giacobetti’s En Passant. She captures lilac after a spring rainstorm right down to the ground it grows in. Violettes de L’Aube is its contemporary. In this case Ms. Hurwitz produces a spectacular purple (D)awn. (pun intended)
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes
There are some perfume brands which are happy to interact with the fragrance community. George Zaharoff is one of those. He is always available for a quote from the writers or an appearance on a video. One thing shines brightly, he loves making fragrance. He also loves talking about it. I seemed only a matter of time until he invited some of those from the fragrance online community to collaborate with him. Zaharoff Brass & Soul is the result of this.
Mr. Zaharoff calls this the Zed Creators collection. He invited three different YouTube reviewers the chance to create a perfume with him. For Brass & Soul he asked Justin Copeland the man behind Stay Fresh Productions to make a fragrance. Perfumer Vincent Kuczinski would complete the creative team.
The brief was to create the “experience of performing as a musician in a jazz concert.” Based on my experience I would amend that to after midnight at a jazz bar. They wanted a cool accord and a warm accord. One to represent the brass of the instruments the other the vibe of great jazz.
The choice of a cool accord is to make an icy gin and tonic accord surrounded by citrus. In the earliest moments there is a flare of citrus along with the bite of juniper berry. The wateriness of the tonic appears to complete the G&T effect. This is a refreshing choice that is as cold as a glass of gin over ice sweating droplets meandering down the side. The cool is tuned in a fresh floral direction as muguet adds a vegetal green.
The warmth is that sense of a crowded club. Body heat adding to a humidity the players on stage use handkerchiefs to blot off their forehead. A smooth leather and an earthy patchouli form the core. As with the top accord there are a couple of clever choices to round it out. One is bushman’s candle which is a sweet ambery resin. It has a unique scent profile especially the sweetness. Vanilla is the complement to it. It creates a deeper overall amber accord with more of the desired warmth.
Brass & Soul has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is the first of the Zed Creators collection I’ve tried. It has made me want to track down the other two. I suspect they are going to be good as well. That’s because the passion of Mr. Zaharoff has an infectious way of elevating everyone around him. Brass & Soul is the result of an invigorating collaboration.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I have written frequently about how much I enjoyed growing up at the same time rock-and-roll did. Throughout the 1960’s and 70’s there was a crazy kind of possibility to everything. Musicians could try to do almost anything. The summer of 1969 was the eye of this particular storm. Most think Woodstock was the defining moment. Thanks to Ahmir Thompson better known as Questlove of The Roots there was another equally impactful moment now having a moment to be seen in the documentary Summer of Soul.
Summer of Soul chronicles the six-week Harlem Cultural Festival in NYC from June to August 1969. Producer Tony Lawrence would oversee six weekly concerts over that time. They would draw over 300,000 people in total to Mt. Morris Park in Harlem every Sunday. The shows were recorded to video, but they were never given the same treatment as the Woodstock footage. These tapes were “lost” until Mr. Thompson “found” them and made this movie. They are a time capsule with a soundtrack of some of the greatest soul music acts of the time. They also show the wider vision of the societal change happening.
It begins with the music. Many of those who are still around are given the opportunity to watch their performance from back then. One of my favorite passages is seeing Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis watching their Fifth Dimension show which was the headliner one of the weeks. They speak about the importance of an act seen as “white” playing on a stage in Harlem. They speak about the background behind their perception of the crowd. Finally the camera lingers on their beaming faces as they watch their younger selves singing on that stage.
Sly and the Family Stone use their performance as a warm-up for their show at Woodstock a week later. The temperamental leader of the band is who he is. Yet once they start playing, they are amazing. Gladys Knight and The Pips, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Mann, and BB King are equally compelling.
One thing the movie does not shy away from is showing the black activism of the time. Rev. Jesse Jackson leading the show on Gospel Week. Preaching to the crowd from the stage weeks after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Nina Simone seemingly grows into her power as an activist on that stage. Hers is one of the most impactful segments. She realizes her voice on a stage as a musician can have impact. The crowd lifts her up with validation.
There is some time given to why it has taken fifty years for this to be seen. It comes down to no movie distributor felt there was an audience. In 2021 there is not only an audience but a message which still retains its relevance. It just means this movie makes this summer a new Summer of Soul.
One of the stock answers I provide to someone who doesn’t live near a place to buy fragrance is to go to their drugstore. When people think of the points of sale for fragrance, they often forget the local drugstore. These are very commercial economic choices. That does not mean poor. There are lots of the perfumes on those shelves that have made this column over the years. I’m going to add Aspen for Men to the roster.
Aspen for Men came out in 1989. It was part of the turning of the men’s fragrance tide towards fresh. All the companies were vying for their place within the category. As we know eventually the aquatic based ones would win the day. Back then that was still undecided. If there was a style that was giving those aquatics a run for supremacy it was the fresh woody. In most of those cases the fresh wood of choice was fir or pine. The terpenes which define the scent profile are refreshing which made it easy for perfumers to build around them. Harry Fremont was the man behind Aspen for Men. Just as it was with the competition the idea was to capture the sensation of mountain hillside under the sunshine.
Lemon with some mint form the high-altitude sunlight accord. This is typical of these open-air top notes. The fir trees come forth wreathed in the green of galbanum. This is like being surrounded by evergreens. Combined with the top notes it is a very pleasant experience. It finishes with oakmoss, amber, and musk to add in just a hint of that lumberjack aesthetic.
Aspen for Men has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
You can find a bottle of this for less than $10.00 right on the corner where you pick up your prescriptions. As I revisited this I wondered if I would have liked it as much on re-examination if it had won the fresh war of the 90’s. It didn’t. Thirty years later it is still fresh as fir.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
If you’ve ever lived on or near a beach, there is a distinct scent to the dog days of summer. It is the amalgamation of the different sunscreens being used. Underneath it is either the chlorinated water of the pool or the salty breeze of the ocean. I can close my eyes and imagine walking around the pool or on the beach breathing it in. Comme des Garcons ERL Sunscreen captures this hazy scented milieu.
Eli Russell Linnetz
Eli Russell Linnetz has been refracting his childhood growing up in Venice, California into fashion since 2018. In those endeavors he uses his initials ERL. His clothing line has become a quiet sensation. It sells at the Comme des Garcons Dover Street Market stores. He is one of those prodigious creatives who does it all. Besides designing the clothes he also photographs the models wearing them. It ensures a purity of vision. This year he decided to expand into fragrance tapping into the long expertise of Comme des Garcons and creative director of parfum Christian Astuguevieille.
ERL wanted to dial up that same memory I have of sunscreen in the air and water below. He collaborates with perfumer Nelly Hachem-Ruiz. Together they create a perfume which matches the clothing, a distressed realism.
Mme Hachem-Ruiz opens things with the citrus brightness of bergamot matched to the expansive ozonic notes to form a high noon accord. This is the brilliance of the sun in the middle of the day. Instead of using the typical freshening ingredients she chooses the green tinted muguet. This reminded me of the grass growing around the pool deck. Within the earlier ozonic notes comes a whisper of the sea.
The sunscreen accord begins to form around the trio of heliotrope, peach, and a coconut accord. The heliotrope and its slightly almondy profile connected to the creamy peach lactone forms the unctuousness of sunscreen. The piece which is all ERL is the choice to go with a coconut accord. This forms an accord which doesn’t represent the lotion just out of the bottle. It is that late in the day attenuated version where droplets of sweat have left trails through it. A humid musky accord adds that piece. It represents an abstraction of a memory.
ERL Sunscreen has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is the second perfume by Mme Hachem-Ruiz which has impressed me. She has become a new name for me to watch out for. When given the freedom to create she has shown an ability to run with it admirably. I am equally impressed by ERL’s ability to fulfill his fashion aesthetic so completely as a perfume. It seems as if they both know how to abstract the best of summer.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Comme des Garcons.
Editor’s Note: You will be unsurprised to know that completely unique packaging is also a product of ERL’s imagination. He also took the picture.
There are lots of perfume ingredients which are notoriously difficult to work with. Most in this category are bulldozers. They can just appear in a fragrance and take over everything. It can sometimes be disappointing when I perceive an attempt to cage the rambunctious ingredient, only to watch it break free and take over. Montale Oud Pashmina is an example of completing the enclosure.
Montale is the brand of record in bringing actual oud into perfume lover’s homes. Black Aoud was the introduction of real oud in concentration to many. Over the last twenty years they have displayed every shade there is of oud. If there is a type of oud you desire, there is probably a Montale to satisfy it. Oud Pashmina is part of that continuum. It is a typical rose-oud pairing. What I enjoyed is the other ingredients form a gilded cage around that classic duo. One of the effects of that is to soften the scent profile of the oud. It forms a more accessible oud.
It begins with the oud and rose together. There is a reason this is a classic they smell sophisticated without doing anything else. The cited source of the oud is Nepal. In my little collection of oud oils I don’t have one of those. It seems to be woodier in profile with hints of that bandage scent underneath. The floor of this cage is an earthy patchouli another frequent partner to oud. The bars begin to be built as saffron, incense, and leather begin to close it in. Each of these attenuates some of the rougher edges of the oud. The final pieces to the cage come from musk and vanilla. The musk used here is not a growling animalic nor is it an expansive white. This is in between, slightly shaded towards the animalic. It also forms a harmonic with the vanilla. They form the top of the cage. Once it is all together you have the rose-oud surrounded by patchouli, musk, and vanilla.
Oud Pashmina has 24-hour plus longevity and above average sillage.
Twenty years on I think Oud Pashmina is a gentler introduction to oud than Black Aoud was. All it took was finding a way to cage it.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Due to a generous reader I was able to experience the earliest days of Trussardi. From 1993-2004 the brand put out a series of perfumes which were taking advantage of the new freedom beginning to show up in modern perfumery. I suspect it was a little bit ahead of the curve as none of these perfumes were commercial successes. I think if they had been released a decade later, they would have been lauded instead of left behind. Over the years since, the brand went the other way producing more consumer-friendly fragrances which have seemingly had better sales. One of my readers asked if I had tried Trussardi Eau de Parfum (EDP). I would get it in an envelope of samples a few days later. The correspondent was right this was new ground for the brand.
What is frustrating with perspective is to realize the Trussardi of the 90’s was artistically sound and chronologically adrift. What I realized as soon as I tried Trussardi EDP was this was a perfume firmly anchored in the current modern trends. Perfumers Violaine Collas and Julie Masse create an opaque summertime floral which is constructed of gauzy layers which add up to something substantial.
The first layer is a sharply delineated neroli. The perfumers soften it with mandarin giving the citrusy parts of the flower some volume. A smart use of tomato leaf picks up that characteristic green in neroli with a slight vegetal twist. This is a like a white scarf with a silk screen of oranges and tomato vines.
The heart uses jasmine as the keynote. It is surrounded by the powder of lavender and the intensity of dahlia. It forms a deeper hued accord of flowers. The top accord settles right into it. Violet comes along to stitch it all together. It ends on a base of suede and patchouli which is way lighter than it sounds. The soft leather accord comes across in whispers. The patchouli also has a similar lighter presence. The earthy and animalic find a pleasant harmony.
Trussardi EDP has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have not explicitly followed the most recent efforts from Trussardi but the ones I have tried still seemed safe to me. Trussardi EDP works its magic inside the current contemporary state of perfumery with panache. It just might be the harbinger of waking up the echoes of those glory days of the 90’s.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
Five years ago L’Artisan Parfumeur released a six-fragrance collection called Natura Fabularis. All the perfumes were composed by perfumer Daphne Bugey without active creative direction. Her only brief was to make them “whimsical”. That opened multiple interpretations of simple three-keynote compositions. I found it a solid effort which I enjoyed the more Mme Bugey pushed the envelope of her compositions. They have released two new additions 25 Obscuratio and 63 Crepusculum Mirabile.
They have decided to re-name the entire collection La Botanique. Mme Bugey is back to work in the same way she did before. An explanation of the number before the name, it represents the number of mods she made before the final one.
25 Obscuratio is what I mean about pushing at the borders. It is meant to be a perfume of the canopy of the tropical rainforest. The three keynotes are ylang-ylang, patchouli, and vanilla. It was one of those rare times when I correctly predicted the positioning of the ingredients. What I didn’t anticipate were the three partnering notes which altered each of them.
In the opening the ylang-ylang is here in all its tropical glory. What adds to it is the freshness of freesia. Now that could have just lightened up the lusty floral. It also portrays the dense humidity underneath the trees. The patchouli renders the rich earthy scent of the floor of the rainforest. To it some cedar adds in the woodiness of the trees. Next comes the vanilla. This is the version of the pod that comes from the orchid not the confectioners. There is a hint of vegetation to which a clever smidge of a synthetic amber adds in a subtle spiciness.
63 Crepusculum Mirabile is meant to evoke that moment at twilight when the night-blooming jasmine just begins to scent the air. In this case the three keynotes are jasmine, sandalwood, and tonka bean. In the dusky failing of the light jasmine acts as the harbinger of the end of the day. This is a perfume which represents that.
It opens with the jasmine. She keeps it reined in for a few moments. In that early phase the piquancy of cumin finds the hint of indoles in the jasmine. It feels like the scent of honest work as you put away the implements of the day. Tuberose intensifies the jasmine without raising it to suffocating levels. Sandalwood and tonka bean form a sweet woody counterbalance to the jasmine and tuberose. A gentle give-and-take with which to watch the sunset.
Both perfumes have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I enjoyed both and am hoping I won’t have to wait another five years for more from Mme Bugey. For now I’ll just enjoy alternating between the tropics and twilight.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples I purchased.
Smelling as much new perfume as I do each year it is frustrating to smell the amount of repetition I do. When a brief calls for a “fresh” perfume the brand rounds up the usual suspects. That this style of fragrance has remained popular for thirty years is proof that the tried and true has an audience. Part of what makes independent perfumery interesting is when those brands hear “fresh” it seems like they exclude those usual suspects. In these fragrances “fresh” is a starting point for diversity. That’s what I found in Mizensir Blue Gin.
Mizensir is the brand owned by perfumer Alberto Morillas. If there has been a consistent aesthetic, I would say it has to do with M. Morillas displaying a couple of synthetic ingredients per release. He shows that when these maligned ingredients are given some space, they are equally compelling to any of the essential oils.
In Blue Gin, the featured components are Irone Alpha and Cetalox. Irone Alpha is one of the molecules present in natural iris. When isolated it has a more diffuse presence than when joined by its other isomers. Cetalox is another of the molecules which are used in laundry detergents. The concept of Blue Gin is of clean denim accompanied by a gin and tonic.
Juniper berry is the keynote throughout. In the early going a bit of mandarin provides the lime substitute. Szechuan pepper and cardamom provide fuller profile for the juniper berry. Finally the freshwater analog of Calone, Cascalone provides the tonic, sans fizz. That comprises the gin half of things.
The denim half comes from the expansive powderiness of Irone Alpha and the laundry fresh Cetalox. Together they form that scent of clean cotton. Hidden within is a just a bit of tonka bean which uses its inherent coumarin to make the jeans lived in, just a bit.
Blue Gin has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mrs. C and I spend a lot of summer evenings sipping on a gin and tonic. Some of those evenings the fabric softener scent can be carried to us on the deck. This is a lot of what Blue Gin reminded me of. As might be expected this is a fantastic fragrance for the summer. This is a different version of “fresh”; one which comes through jeans and gin.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Mizensir.