There is a sports term to describe the skill of the most elite athletes in a team sport. It is called “creating space”. It means through a combination of skill and ability they can make a place on the playing surface where they are on their own. Only the best players can do this. When I received my sample of Chanel Paris-Edimbourg I am beginning to think there might be a perfume equivalent.
Paris-Edimbourg is the fifth release in the Les Eaux collection. They are meant to represent the travels of Gabrielle Chanel. In this case it is 1924 and her current paramour is the Duke of Westminster. He introduced her to the rugged beauty of Scotland as an antidote to the high society world. It would also become an inspiration to some of the most recognizable Chanel fashion items. In-house perfumer Olivier Polge would go and visit the estates where she stayed to help him design the perfume.
He came away with the idea of two contrasting pieces, “icy” juniper berry and “peaty wood”. As one who enjoys his peaty flavored scotch, I was dubious about a perfume featuring that not becoming overwhelmed by it. Especially a collection like Les Eaux which have been on the lighter side. This collection has come to feel as if M. Polge is defining his vision of the fragrance side of Chanel in the 21st century.
The promised cool juniper berry is where this begins. If you’re expecting the gin-like scent profile it is instead one which accentuates the citrus facets of the ingredient. It surprised me because I was expecting a gin and tonic and got the lime without the alcohol. There is the promised chill it just comes from a different direction.
The “peaty wood” is also set upon the Scottish heath as he pulls together lavender and a smoky vetiver. This is like looking out over a gently sloping field of purple flowers as the peat gently scents the air. The vetiver is added in such a precise amount to give that hint of peaty smoke while keeping this light. The lavender adds its herbal version which has a mentholated interaction with something else, probably the juniper berry. Recapitulating the promised “icy”. It finishes with a warm comfort accord of vanilla, musk, and cedar.
Paris-Edimbourg has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
After five releases I think the “Les Eaux” collection is where M. Polge is creating his own space. Paris-Edimbourg doesn’t smell like any other Chanel ever made. Yet it is constructed with the same precision the brand is known for. He is unafraid to oversee a collection of perfumes which will create a new type of Chanel fragrance lover. Paris-Edimbourg proves it.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I hear it all the time, we want perfume to last for a week on my skin. Yes, a slight exaggeration except that sentence at the end of every review is important to a lot of readers who care about longevity. I am not one of those. If a perfume can go off like fireworks on my skin and fade away just as fast; as long as its good, or fun I’m happy. This becomes especially true in the summer months as it can sometimes be a benefit to have the fragrance you sprayed in the morning to have faded a bit by the late afternoon. It can also be a refreshing experience to spray some more on at the same time to cool your senses down. Diptyque Ilio does all of this exceptionally.
Diptyque is going all out celebrating their 60th anniversary. Ilio is part of what they are calling the Summer Essentials collection. Besides the Eau de Toilette there is also a hair mist version of Ilio. Another way to enjoy fragrance in the warmer months. Everything about Ilio is familiar to those who enjoy Mediterranean style scents. Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin makes one change in a nod towards the current trend towards transparency. Which in this case is a plus.
It begins with the refreshing green of prickly pear. This is an ingredient that doesn’t get enough spotlight. Here it shows off its refreshing green scent profile. There is also a bit of citrus and floral as part of it too. This is given a boost through one of the non-indolic clean jasmines. I often compare the effect these have to forming a floral soap bubble for the other ingredients to float upon. That is true for the prickly pear. It seems to form pale green spirals on the surface of the jasmine. The last note is something different in this kind of concentration. Orris completes the trio of keynotes for Ilio. This is a light dusting of powder along with a sun-baked earthiness. The latter is the part I find so interesting. The usual carrot-like rootiness is turned to an opaque dried earth. it is as if that soap bubble has just landed on the dry ground.
Ilio has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
I wore this on a couple of pretty hot days. I applied it liberally and often over the time I had it on. It checked all the boxes I have for a summer trifle of a perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Diptyque.
When we are watching the form of entertainment known as a whodunit the audience wants to play along. Some of the biggest television phenomena have revolved around the identity of a killer amongst us. When every poster before the release of “Twin Peaks” in 1990 had the tag line “Who Killed Laura Palmer?” we went along for the ride. It continues until today. I was thinking about how satisfying the resolution of the series “Mare of Easttown” was. Which got me thinking about what makes a good ending versus a bad ending.
I think the cardinal rule to this kind of storytelling is not to cheat. Which means the resolution can’t come from out of nowhere. The killer can’t show up in the final episode without having been mentioned. It also can’t be a plot twist for the sake of shock value. Another recent series ‘The Undoing” learned this lesson the hard way. The reason for the enduring popularity is we want to feel like we are discovering our own clues as each episode unfolds.
The second rule is the resolution can’t be too simple. The corollary is it can’t be so complicated either. The best fun is considering and discarding suspects from our sofa. As an audience we often get more information than the protagonists. The best writers use that extra information to send us down our own blind alleys. I’ll write more about this when I review the series but as the penultimate episode of Mare of Easttown ended there were at least four viable suspects. Each of them had done things which made it possible to think they had done the crime. The final episode made it clear the eventual killer came from what came before. The writers of “Sharp Objects” also did that extremely well. Even including a few clips during the credits showing how the killer had committed the crimes.
The third rule is the detective must be cut from the cloth of Sherlock Holmes. We don’t want to follow around Inspector Clouseau in a dramatic show. They can be flawed human beings, but they must be outstanding investigators. The competence of the lead character is what gives us belief in the clues we find. It also allows us to feel their emotions when the cases become personal to them. The first season of Broadchurch did that magnificently. The second season was all about the fallout of the events of the first season.
If I’m going to spend some time trying to figure out whodunit these three rules better be followed.
There is a large part of my personality I define as punk. When I first learned of the music in the late 1970’s it fit my idea of what rock and roll should be. The sneering take no prisoners attitude appealed to me too. In those days it was slam dancing in front of screaming guitars and vocalists. I’m over 60 but that part of me still peeks out from behind the gray. Because it is important to me when a perfume brand claims to want to take it on, I am suspicious. As I was when I received my sample of Room 1015 Cherry Punk.
Room 1015 was founded in 2015 by Michael Partouche aka Dr. Mike. His aim has been to make perfumes which capture the era of the 1970’s rock and roll scene as fragrance. I love the idea, but the execution has not always been as emblematic of that era in music. Maybe it is because I lived it, I have a different perspective. I want rougher edges around something full of life. The other new release from the brand called Sweet Leaf might be the politest marijuana perfume I’ve ever smelled. It should have had tendrils of lung tickling smoke. Instead it comes straight from a modern-day apothecary. It is a nice cannabis perfume, but it is not 70’s rock and roll. Cherry Punk hits closer to home despite my initial skepticism. Dr. Mike works with perfumer Jerome Epinette for the third time.
The cherry comes from a maraschino-like version. Except it is roughed up with Szechuan pepper and saffron. If you have ever ground up a cherry pit this is what this accord reminds me of. The syrupy fruitiness is present but the pepper and saffron dial that sweetness way back. The heart is a powdery mimosa which also has a counterbalance in violet. One of my best friends who shared my punk passion chewed violet scented gum. It may not mean anything to anyone who didn’t have a friend like that. For me, the violet toning down the powdery mimosa felt right. It leads to a battered black leather jacket accord. This is that jacket which has been on tour. There are some slices in the hide and some studs on the collar. Maybe the name of your favorite band painted in red on it. It is a barely refined accord. The birch tar in it has a great bite which is when this feels the most punk to me. A classic 70’s head shop patchouli completes everything.
Cherry Punk has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Cherry Punk isn’t as much a representative of that 70’s music scene as I’d like. It also has enough of the punk attitude in places that it doesn’t feel like a sellout. It at least brings back some good memories of those days.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Room 1015.
My antipathy towards rose perfumes is that all too often their reason for being is to smell good. Now you might think that is the primary goal of perfumery. I hold it to a higher standard. There is so much more to the best besides being pleasant. Rose fragrances are the biggest perpetrators of doing little other than displaying the floral. Which is why you might think I would not be excited about Heeley Rose Aria.
Independent perfumer James Heeley has been one of my favorites because he manages to make the generic less so. Three years ago in Poudre Blanc he did a brilliant interpretation of fresh laundry. It was subtly layered and one of the best constructed perfumes I have ever come across. Rose Aria has a little bit of that as Mr. Heeley takes on rose.
The press material mentions it wants this to be a true garden rose with the green as important as the flower. That’s a good description of the first half of this. Underneath it is a gorgeous musky woody base which is where this really hits the high notes.
It opens with an overdose of galbanum. In these concentrations I experience it as a crystalline solid green. To break that up there are some softer green ingredients which cut though. This is the green of the rosebud, but I imagine it with little glittery flecks of galbanum. A classic rose centifolia explodes to life out of this. The rose bud opens to reveal a floral which is also keeping the green which came before. It is that which makes this rose less generic.
The base accord is a fantastic contrast as he takes a very dry amber and sandalwood to form the outlines. In between saffron and musk act like their own accord bursting out of the amber-sandalwood frame. It is the same kind of transformation I encountered with the rose and galbanum in the first half. Together this turns into a dry musky ambery green rose.
Rose Aria has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage at extrait strength.
I wish all rose fragrances would rise to this level of interpretation. Or maybe I don’t. It makes it easy to distinguish the brilliant from the mundane.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I respect brands which know what they do well and stick to it. If there is a drawback it comes as the desire to release annual versions can stretch the concept thin. The fragrance line of Narciso Rodriguez is a good example of this. Starting in 2003 they decided this would be a line of perfumes which feature musk. The first couple of releases remain some of the best musk perfumes I own. Then the pressure of continual release began to extend the concept in ways both slight and large. The problem for me is neither choice worked. Where the brand always seemed to find its best work was in smaller combination of ingredients which had their own muskiness. Narciso Neroli Eau Ambree is one of these.
This is ostensibly a flanker to 2020’s Narciso Ambree. This was one of the releases which fell flat. It just turned into a generic diffuse woody amber. The same perfumer, Aurelien Guichard is behind this new fragrance. The difference is this is a much more delineated construct taking advantage of the inherent muskiness of orange blossom.
Neroli is where it begins. This is a softer version of this with the green piece made less so through the presence of frangipani. It forms a summery floral pair. The heart is orange blossom and musk. People tend to forget that orange blossom is a white flower with its own set of indoles at its core. M. Guichard finds just the right musk to harmonize with it. This is where Eau Neoli Ambree shines. It is a tiny bit powdery as the citrus-tinted floral with the indolic soul dances with a subtly animalic musk. It finishes on the same amber and cedar base the original did. The difference this time is everything that came before was better.
Eau Neroli Ambree has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you are a fan of the other muskier efforts from Narciso Rodriguez this is one to try. It is surprisingly good in the heat of summer. I expect my sample will be finished by Labor Day.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Narciso Rodriguez.
When I was in high school, I had a friend who was allowed to cover her bedroom in posters. These weren’t just any posters these were the ones which looked best under black light. She even had light bars with black lights replacing the typical fluorescents. We were both fans of the big synthesizer based rock bands of the time. Bands like Yes or Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. A whole side of an album would be one song. She would light some incense sticks cut the lights over to black light and we would listen to the music while watching the colors glow. I hadn’t thought about this until I received my sample of Etat Libre d’Orange Soul Of My Soul.
Etienne de Swardt
Creative director Etienne de Swardt and perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu were inspired by the Thousand and One Nights of Scheherazade. The name comes from the story where the phrase “soul of my soul” is spoken by Aladdin. Their inspiration was Hindu cosmology. For almost anyone else I am sure there is lots of parallels to find. Every time I sniffed it; I was in the dark listening to synthesizers under a black light. What was always fascinating about looking at things under that was the typical colors had an unusual shade. More vivid seeming as if they were rising from the surface of the poster. Much of what Soul Of My Soul does is similar as it takes some of the deeper notes of perfumery and gives them an alternative spin.
One more thing I must mention is each oil house has a set of top shelf ingredients which are just better. For Givaudan where Mme Shyamala works these are given the name Orpur. All the ingredients in this are Orpur level except for one accord and one synthetic woody. I think this might be the highest level of Orpur ingredients I have encountered. It is one reason I believe there is so much to uncover here.
It begins with a top accord of bergamot, baie rose, and incense. This is where the quality of the Orpur shows. The bergamot carries an extra sparkle while the fruitiness of the baie rose is livelier. The incense swirls in columns of resinous curls around and through them. This is like the opening guitar chords to Yes’ song “Roundabout”. There is a connection of chords plucked in rapid succession. It leads to a heart dominated by the Orpur version of orris. This is a gorgeous version of this ingredient. To make it even more opulent the Orpur version of rose adds depth. These are the synthesizers in response to the opening guitar strains. The accord and the synthetic wood appear now as soft suede and the dry woodiness of Georgywood act like a leather covered piece of polished wood. It ends on a base accord of sandalwood and vanilla. This is not gourmand at all. The vanilla adds in some texture to the dry Australian sandalwood. These are the vocals to bring it all together in a resounding crescendo.
Soul Of My Soul has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
There is such vitality to these deeper ingredients it really makes me see them in a new perspective. Just the way I saw colors under the black light.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
As the trends began to shift five years ago, I was concerned this was going to represent a line I wasn’t eager to cross. Some of that first impression was because the big brands released their opening efforts in a rush. They were insipid lacking any kind of style. Yet I was watching them being purchased on my trips to the mall. I was keeping an open mind because I was hoping for my favorite perfumers who had some artistic license might make something of it.
In 2018 Cartier Carat was the first of these types of perfumes I completely embraced. Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent proved to me there is a subtle complexity to the lighter shades of scent. If there is a concern it is this represents a fine line. If you can’t assemble it properly it just lies flat. Even Mme Laurent has not become as sure handed at it as she could be. Lat year she released a set of three fragrances where one of them, Pur Kinkan was another example of the heights of this style. The other two never came together as completely. A year later she is back with another trio with similar results.
The new collection is called Les Rivieres. In the press release it is meant to capture rivers flowing giving off the scent of what they encounter as the flow along. Insouciance is a nice opaque violet, iris, and fruit which feels as if each ingredient is socially distancing themselves from each other. Luxurious is a set of shades of green from herbs to fern to geranium to oak it also doesn’t mesh as well as it seems like it should. Cartier Allegresse is the best of this group because it is also the one which feels more like the motion of a river.
One of the difficulties of working in an opaque style is trying to wrangle the larger presence notes down to a whisper. One of the ways I have learned to enjoy these perfumes is to let that susurration in. Not to look for more but to enjoy what is there. For Allegresse it is tuberose and blackcurrant bud which are speaking at way below their usual levels.
In the opening it is that blackcurrant bud which arrives as a veil of green. It never gets to that sticky sappiness or the pungent fruitiness. It lilts with hints of those only underneath. Hyacinth comes along to provide the watery sense of a river. Petitgrain is the sparkle of sunlight off the tip of the wavelets. This is good at this lighter level. Instead of focused sunlight, in combination with the hyacinth this gives the abstraction of a flowing river. We finally find ourselves amid the tuberose. I expected the creamier aspects to be more prevalent. Yet Mme Laurent finds the subtlest green thread to resonate with the blackcurrant bud to bring this full circle.
Allegresse has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Every one of the transparent perfumes by Mme Laurent I have liked are the ones which have a subtle kinetic feel to them. I think it comes because the ingredients used find more interactions. She seems to be designing right at the line of great and good. Allegresse is another great transparent floral.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples supplied by Neiman-Marcus.
We have had about five years of the big perfume brands assessing what the new younger demographic wants. There are some trends which are beginning to take a firmer hold. The most important is for a lighter perfume experience. The biggest sellers among this group of consumers are all transparent. There does seem to be a threshold. You can’t become so ephemeral to be invisible.
There is an experiment I would like to run among these types of perfume lovers. I’d like to see their reaction to the original Thierry Mugler Angel. This is the beginning of gourmand style perfumes, but it is miles away from opaque. This is an unrelenting aesthetic which was part of the Thierry Mugler fragrance DNA for a decade or more. My suspicion is these new perfume users would back away slowly. Which is why what the brand has done since 2016 has been so remarkable.
Starting with 2016’s Angel Muse they took that DNA and turned it into something more on trend. Perfumer Quentin Bisch would lay down the path to be followed. Keep the gourmand but make lighter substitutions up and down the pyramid. It has begun a winning streak which has seen Angel Eau Croisiere, Angel Eau Croisiere 2, and Angel Nova follow at the beginning of every summer. Angel Iced Star is the latest addition to that.
M. Bisch is joined by perfumer Louise Turner behind this. I have spoken a lot about the lightness but there is one more essential ingredient to these, fun. There hasn’t been an annual release which has done a better job of that vibe of being on holiday drinking cocktails with umbrellas in them. Angel Iced Star adds pina colada to the drink selection.
Frozen pina coladas are one of my favorite beach chair cocktails. The opening of this captures it as icy coconut and pineapple are slurried together. There is a frostiness that is refreshing in the warm temperatures. Part of this recent success has been not to abandon the Angel DNA but to update it. What it means is the praline part and the patchouli piece of the original remain. Except the perfumers have some more leeway with both. The patchouli is a less intense fraction one where the chocolate-like quality is toned down. The praline gives that caramel a doughier scent profile. It means that chocolate caramel is still there but in different guises. It is what has made these current Angel evolutions so good.
Angel Iced Star has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
It seems like this might become an every year beginning of summer tradition. Angel Iced Star belongs in your beach bag to take away for your weekend getaway. It is the ideal way to get your mind in the right place to have fun.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Thierry Mugler.
One of the great things about the current streaming platforms is the opportunity for adaptations of my favorite novels. I can finally get the depth and length I want to see in an adaptation over more than the typical length of a theatrical film. It is rare that I don’t look forward to seeing it come out. The recent series “Shadow and Bone” has taken an interesting path to its screen version.
The story is based on the trilogy from author Leigh Bardugo. The story is of a land rent by a physical darkness called The Rift. To cross through it is full of risk. The original trio of books tells the story of orphans Alina and Mal as they get caught up in the political machinations when one of them is revealed to have unique powers. The first three books are all about that. Here is the thing those are not Ms. Bardugo’s best writing. They set up the characters but it kind of moves predictably through the typical fantasy motions. I really became a fan of the author when she published her second set of two books based around a group of thieves called The Crows. These are far more interesting than Alina and Mal. On the way to the small screen the television adapter Eric Heisserer must have also thought the same thing. With the help of Ms. Bardugo they retconned The Crows into the original story retaining some of the plot from the printed version which takes place after the original trilogy. It makes all the difference.
In the beginning we learn that one of our protagonists is a Sun Summoner who can broadcast light allowing travel through The Rift. There is a belief that kind of being might even be able to banish The Rift altogether. They are the target of many who have plans to use that power for their own ends.
This is where The Crows come in. Their leader Kaz takes on a contract to kidnap the Sun Summoner and bring them back across The Rift to be used by the crime lord there. There are three members of The Crows, Kaz, Inej, and Jesper. Inej’s religion believes in the Sun Summoner as an omen of new times. Her loyalties are tested between faith and friendship.
The inclusion of The Crows makes this first season much better than the books, either of them. There are moments it is heist then Game of Thrones-like politics then a love story of orphans who keep finding each other.
This is what a smart adaptation can achieve when all involved don’t just blindly follow the printed page. By making the effort to combine the two books the series “Shadow and Bone” summons its own bright light of intelligence.