I sometimes get an e-mail from a reader asking me, “What’s the point of flankers?” Trust me when I receive them in the mail that is something I ask myself. The cynical answer is the large companies are trying to part consumers from their money who feel brand loyalty. It is probably closer to the truth. Yet I have observed there might be a more positive perspective to have on flankers.
When I give someone a perfume to try on a strip and they tell me they don’t like it; I ask why. The most frequent answer is there is one thing which doesn’t make them happy. Too floral. Not floral enough. Too sweet. Too strong. A flanker can address this by making the one small change which might bring in someone who was put off by something in the original. This was my frame of mind when I received the two latest flankers from Giorgio Armani.
Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio Profondo
To their credit Giorgio Armani has not overexposed Acqua di Gio by releasing a ton of flankers of the 1995 original. It is also commendable that they have been clearly different from each other. The original was one of the early uses of Calone as the source of the sea spray beachy quality. The big difference in Acqua di Gio Profondo is the use of an analog called Cascalone. This is a deeper version of the sea with a more concentrated effect. It is what perfumer Alberto Morillas uses in the opening moments. Lavender replaces jasmine from the original. The lavender goes well with the Cascalone in creating a slightly darker shade of fragrance. It ends with a mineralic accord in the base,
If you were someone who found the original Acqua di Gio too fresh and clean; Profondo is just a shade less of both.
Acqua di Gio Profondo has 8-10 hour.
Giorgio Armani Armani Code Absolu Gold
With Armani Code the brand doesn’t seem as protective; releasing nearly a flanker a year since its initial release. That kind of process leads to a cynical view. All the Armani Code flankers have been offshoots of the original’s woody Oriental construction. I had easily ignored them until last year’s Armani Code Absolu which did change things. I wasn’t fond of an odd boozy accord in the middle but I appreciated the effort to try something new. This year’s version Armani Code Absolu Gold makes a change which made me like it much more.
Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu was behind both of the Absolu versions. In Armani Code Absolu Gold the booze is replaced by a fantastic iris and saffron heart. This flows much more naturally from the crisp fruits of apple and tangerine on top into benzoin and tonka bean in the base. It is difficult to get the floral balance right in a perfume marketed to men. I think if you are looking for a subdued floral for a change of pace and you like the Armani Code DNA this is a good alternative.
Armani Code Absolu Gold has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Giorgio Armani.
This month’s Flanker Round-Up I look at new releases from two masculine fragrance lines. One which has become a big seller and another which I consider to be an underappreciated mass-market gem.
Dior Sauvage Parfum
The original Dior Sauvage Eau de Toilette was released in the fall of 2015. It has become one of the perennial men’s fragrance best sellers ever since. Its appeal lies in the way perfumer Francois Demachy smooshed together most of the popular masculine perfume tropes into a monolithic whole. It works because there is something to appeal to everyone. The only thing I didn’t care for was the wall of Ambrox at the end of it all. With Sauvage Parfum M. Demachy remedies that.
Sauvage Parfum is a much sweeter fragrance without having that sledgehammer of Ambrox waiting at the end. A juicy mandarin and cardamom comprise a citrus top accord which moves toward a creamy sandalwood heart. This finishes with vanilla and cedar providing twin amplifiers of the sweet and woody aspects of the sandalwood. I can see Sauvage Parfum becoming an excellent winter alternative for fans of the original. It isn’t exactly the same, but it is recognizable as a kissing cousin.
Kenneth Cole Mankind Legacy
I think the Kenneth Cole Mankind series of perfumes is better than most of what is found on the men’s fragrance counter in the mall. In 2014 perfumer Claude Dir was ahead of the curve using some of the more contemporary men’s trends before they became trends. For Mankind Legacy perfumer Stephen Nilsen creates an herbal green woody fragrance.
It opens with a pairing of nutmeg and clary sage. The sweetness of the nutmeg is a nice contrast to the dry green of the sage. Baie rose and rosemary shade the herbal quality a bit deeper. A rich fir and cedar provide the woody foundation for a bridging vetiver to unite the herbs and the woods. I like Mankind Legacy as a weekend hiking kind of perfume. Almost feels like a flannel shirt should come as a gift with purchase.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by the manufacturers.
When it comes to summer flankers it usually means adding something tropical to the DNA of the brand. The majority of the time it feels awkwardly placed as well as being redundant or inconsequential. Of the flankers for summer 2019 I found two which did a nice job of adding a tropical attitude to their respective lines.
Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Le Beau
Jean Paul Gaultier adds a summer flanker to their Le Male line every year. As a whole this is one of the better summer flanker collections with many more successes than misses. For 2019 they created Le Male Le Beau by crossing the fresh aesthetic of the original through a fantastic coconut at the heart of it.
Perfumers Quentin Bisch and Sonia Constant collaborated on Le Male Le Beau. What they’ve produced is a perfume version of a summer book as a perfume. The freshness is provided by bergamot and they then use what the notes call coconut wood. It seems more like a mixture of coconut and wood. Tonka bean is also present to make that coconut sweeter and fleshier. So many coconut fragrances goo too far to the sweet. By using the wood to keep things drier the coconut has a better effect.
One caveat the name I gave you is what I was supplied by the brand. There are also other flankers which are Le Beau or Le Male. If this perfume interests you look for the exact bottle in the picture above.
Bulgari Rose Goldea Blossom Delight
The original Bulgari Goldea is one of the best commercial releases nobody talks about. The unfortunate upshot of that is Bulgari has become a flanker machine over the last decade. Their success rate is surprisingly low for all the effort they put into it. When they released Rose Goldea three years ago I thought it was a nice summery companion to Goldea which had some personality. For Rose Goldea Blossom Delight I can say the same thing.
Perfumer Alberto Morillas has been responsible for all the Goldea releases. Rose Goldea Blossom Delight is distinctly different from either of its predecessors. M. Morillas sets that difference right from the start with a green top accord made up of papaya and violet leaves. Papaya is a naturally musky fruit and M. Morillas uses that faux-muskiness to create a lightly fruity musky opening. It dovetails nicely into the rose in the heart and the amber in the base. This is a delightful end of summer choice that will also do well as the weather cools post-Labor Day.
Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.
There has been an interesting trend among the Tom Ford Private Blend collection; flankers. In what has been one of the, arguably, most influential perfume collections the recent choice to release flankers stands out. In most of the cases it has been to make “intense” or “eau” forms indicating darker or lighter. The ones they’ve chosen to do that with allow for a choice between styles with similar construction at different volumes. The sub-collection which has seen the most flankers are the blue bottled Neroli Portofino collection. These flankers have had “acqua” appended to their name. While it might seem natural to think this means aquatic it generally doesn’t. It means a subtle shifting of ingredients. It makes it a true kind of flanker. This month’s Flanker Round-Up covers the two most recent additions to the neroli Portofino sub-collection.
Tom Ford Private Blend Fleur de Portofino Acqua
What I enjoyed about the original Fleur de Portofino was it was the most floral of the Neroli Portofino collection. It was an exuberant floral collage that remains a favorite. For Fleur de Portofino Acqua the exuberant florals remain but they are shifted in concentration to create a similar style as in the original.
The same summery citrus mélange is back in all its glorious tart juiciness. The difference is violet leaf is given more presence which teases out the green undercurrents inherent within the citrus accord. The key combination in the original was the honey nuance of acacia attached to honey in the base. For Fleur de Portofino Acqua, orange blossom joins with the acacia in equal presence. It provides a clearer connection to the citrus on top through to the honey in the base.
Fleur de Portofino Acqua remains a fantastic summer floral like the original.
Tom Ford Private Blend Sole di Positano Acqua
Sole di Positano is more emblematic of the overall Mediterranean aesthetic which runs through the Neroli Portofino collection. Especially with the classic citrus-floral-woody axis upon which many of this type of fragrance spins upon. Sole di Positano Acqua doesn’t disrupt this but it adds a little more to the bones of the original.
Sparkling lemon and bitter orange open the new version with an enhanced amount of shiso leaf. The sharp green quality of the shiso finds purchase among the brilliant tartness of the lemon. It accentuates the sunniness of the citrus. In the original I mentioned I liked the use of the lighter versions of jasmine and ylang-ylang. In the new one, versions of both florals which have a slight tint of the indoles inherent in both are used. It works because of the presence of the higher concentration of the shiso. It all coalesces into a sandalwood base with some moss growing on it.
Sole di Positano Acqua is an overall greener version than the original.
Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Nordstrom.
When a trend begins to filter down into the flankers, I presume that means it has been a best seller. Over the past two years transparent floral gourmands have become a persistent trend especially on the mainstream side of the fragrance world. For once this is a trend which I am fully behind as it isn’t an area where a lot of perfume has been created. It doesn’t feel to me like we’ve had that great version which will be the benchmark within the genre yet. In the meantime this style continues to expand and in this month’s Flanker Round-Up I look at Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Sun and Marc Jacobs Daisy Love Eau So Sweet.
Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Sun
Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue was launched in 2001 and has been one of the best-selling perfumes since then. This year’s summer flanker Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Sun tweaks the formula a bit more than the typical flanker without going too far away from what works. Perfumers Olivier Cresp and Alberto Morillas team-up to find a way to insert a gourmand element into the Mediterranean feel of the original.
The citrus top accord has always been a part of the Light Blue DNA the perfumers add in a crisp apple note to add a snap to it. Then a very light use of coconut inserts itself between that focused top accord and the jasmine in the heart. This is where the floral gourmand comes to life as the apple and citrus along with the coconut and jasmine form a summery accord at just the right intensity. The base is bit of vanilla sweetened cedar also kept light. One note there is also a Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Sun pour Homme. This is not a review for that.
Marc Jacobs Daisy Love Eau So Sweet
Here is the insanity of flankers as Marc Jacobs Daisy Love Eau So Sweet is the flanker of 2018’s Daisy Love which is a flanker of 2007’s Daisy. I can’t even keep up. Perfumer Alberto Morillas was there in the beginning and is here for Daisy Love Eau So Sweet. Last year Daisy Love went for floral gourmand territory, but it left the transparent part out. For Daisy Love Eau So Sweet M. Morillas adds that back into the mix.
The same berry top accord is back from Daisy Love but pitched in a much lighter shade of fruitiness. The floral heart is also equally expansive. Then as the fruity floral accord settles in; a wash of sugar and white musks adds a whole new level of expansiveness. It does it so ingeniously that it goes from being sugary sweet to almost fresh in the way it rises off my skin. It is just this happy sugar coated fruity floral bubble to spend a summer’s day within.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.
As much as I spend the first few months of the year complaining about the avalanche of new spring rose perfumes; I’ve been asked if there is a men’s corollary. The answer is, kind of. As Father’s Day in the US gets closer, I get a significant increase in colognes from the big perfume brands. The reason it doesn’t bother me as much is there are more variations within a cologne architecture. Most of them are flankers of established best sellers which try to freshen and lighten things up. Boss Bottled Infinite and Givenchy Gentleman Cologne are two recent examples.
Boss Bottled Infinite
Hugo Boss has surely milked the popularity of 1998’s Boss Bottled. Boss Bottled Infinite is the thirteenth flanker. I was not one of the fans of the original. I felt perfumer Annick Menardo overloaded things. I was in the minority as it has been a consistent best seller. Usually a flanker keeps much of the original formula while adding in a couple new ingredients. Which is a description of most of the Boss Bottled flankers. What made me give Boss Bottled Intense a second look was that it went in the opposite direction by stripping it down to the essential keynotes. Mme Menardo was again behind the wheel for the new flanker.
For this new version the top accord is simplified to mandarin and apple, with the citrus out front. Cinnamon and sage form the heart with some lavender as underpinning. This is more spicy than previous versions without becoming heavy. The significant change is olive wood for sandalwood. What that adds is less dry woodiness. It has a richer quality which complements the early accords nicely. If you’re a fan of the original I believe this will be a nice summer alternative.
Givenchy Gentleman Cologne
The Givenchy Gentleman released in 1974 is one of the masterpieces of that decade of perfume. When Givenchy decided to release a new perfume with that name in 2017, they did it in Eau de Toilette concentration. I was not happy it shared nothing of the sophistication of the original; it was a mess. A year later they released an Eau de Parfum version. This felt like the heir to the original I was looking for. When Givenchy Gentleman Cologne arrived it fell in the middle but closer to the Eau de Parfum side.
Perfumers Olivier Cresp and Nathalie Lorson continue to design the new Givenchy Gentleman collection. They keep it simple, too. In the Eau de Toilette there was a pear note on top that really turned me off. For Cologne the top note is a brilliant lemon in high concentration. It is a summery blast of sunlight. Some rosemary provides the herbal component of the cologne recipe. The perfumers substituted iris for the more typical lavender. It is a fantastic choice. The early moments are as good as it gets. My only drawback is a high concentration of synthetic woods. It lands like a sledgehammer. The lemon and iris nearly get obliterated holding on by a thread. If there was a bit better balance to the base, I would have liked this as much as the Eau de Parfum. Whether it is for you will come down to your tolerance for the synthetic woody in high concentration.
Disclosure: These reviews are based on samples from the manufacturers.
This is the time of year when I receive an overwhelming amount of rose perfumes. In the minds of the brands rose equals spring. It is seemingly such a lucrative market that if there isn’t something new to go that means finding a flanker to be ready. Most of what I receive are flankers. I could tell even if I didn’t know the original. When the name starts to get longer by a few words it almost inevitably is a flanker. For this month’s Round-Up these are the two rose flankers I liked the best out of this year’s crop.
Givenchy Live Irresistible Rosy Crush
Last year’s Givenchy Live Irresistible Blossom Crush was one of my top spring rose flankers. Perfumer Dominique Ropion follows a year later with Givenchy Live Irresistible Rosy Crush. This one is more in keeping with the other Live Irresistible releases as it goes back to being very sweet. M. Ropion hews more to the previous formula of opulent fruity floral. What set it apart was a very earthy base.
It opens with the classic fruity floral of berries and rose. It says it is goji berry in the ingredient list but that has always been tarter in other fragrances I’ve encountered it. This is a full-on sweet berry accord poised to accentuate the rose in the heart. This is that dewy spring rose with the berries teasing out a bit of the jamminess which is buried deep in these types of rose fragrances. The base is a rich earthy patchouli which feels like it wants to be a chypre but is just darkness to tint the bright berries and rose. Based on the last two years maybe Givenchy has this spring rose flanker thing figured out.
Issey Miyake L’Eau D’Issey Pure Petale de Nectar
I’ve lost count of how many flankers the classic 1992 perfume L’Eau D’Issey has launched. I couldn’t bring myself to count. What does happen is when you make so many a few manage to stand out. That’s the case for Issey Miyake L’Eau D’Issey Pure Petale de Nectar. The original defined the fresh aquatic floral. This current iteration honors that by finding a way of nodding back to the L’Eau D’Issey formula without being shackled to it.
Perfumer Dominique Ropion reprises the pear-honey-rose triad from last year’s L’Eau D’Issey Pure Nectar. This latest version has a much lighter overall effect which allows for synthetic woods and ambergris the opportunity to add in the “L’Eau” to the recipe. The use of the honey is what captured my attention as the way it is used as a thin film with the spring rose is really appealing on a spring day.
Disclosure: These reviews were based on samples provided by the manufacturers.
This month’s Flanker Round-Up sees an improvement on one of the most cynical mainstream perfume releases along with a great version of an underrated mass-market fragrance.
Yves St. Laurent Black Opium Intense
I think 2014’s Yves St. Laurent black Opium is one of the most cynically made perfumes of the last five years. A sterile construct of focus groups and marketing, it lacked soul. I’ve written the whole thing off. Then I received my box of samples from Sephora. There was a card with Black Opium Intense written on it. I sprayed it on a strip expecting to stifle a yawn. I didn’t exactly have my eyes popping out of my head, but this felt like an interesting take on a mainstream release.
The same team of four perfumers, Honorine Blanc, Olivier Cresp, Nathalie Lorson, and Marie Salamagne, worked on Black Opium Intense. What made me take notice was the adjective in the name felt relevant. That happens with a boozy licorice-laced absinthe and boysenberry top accord. The same jasmine and orange blossom as the original remain but this time the coffee is given more prominence. The bitterness is nice contrast to the floral. The base gets back to safer territory with an amber and sandalwood base. If they had released this first, I’d be feeling a whole lot better about a modern version of Opium.
Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb Night Vision
When I’m asked about the best mainstream men’s fragrances, one I always have on my list is Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb. I think it is one of the best spicy perfumes you can find at the mall. Spicebomb often feels like the hidden gem on the fragrance counter. The new flanker Spicebomb Night Vision stays true to its roots with a clever substitution of some different ingredients from the perfume spice cabinet.
Nathalie Lorson and Pierre Negrin step-in for the original perfumer team of Carlos Benaim and Olivier Polge. They create something different while still being Spicebomb. It starts with a nice citrus top accord of grapefruit and mandarin. The perfumers lace it with apple and cardamom providing a crisp framing effect. The spices come next; clove, sage, black pepper, and chili pepper. The last ingredient is the reminder of its more elevated position in the original. In Spicebomb Night Vision it plays a more supporting role to the other spices which all coat the green floral quality of geranium. The base has a toasty sweet quality with tonka bean and almonds over woods. I have admired every flanker to Spicebomb; Night Vision is another in that series.
Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by the manufactuers.
January is a time for me to clean up loose ends from my desk. This month’s Flanker Round-Up allows me to tie off a couple of those; Dolce & Gabbana The Only One and Prada L’Homme Absolu.
Dolce & Gabbana The Only One
I have been very critical about the number and quality of flankers of the original 2006 Dolce & Gabbana The One. Almost annually I received an example of why flankers are held in such low esteem. This year with The Only One I received something which broke that trend; mainly by following one of the prevailing fragrance trends.
Perfumer Violaine Collas was not working off the blueprint from Christine Nagel’s original. Mme Collas was designing a perfume for the current day. That meant she came up with a floral gourmand.
The Only One opens with a zippy citrus top accord. It gives way quickly to the heart accord where violet and coffee form the floral and the gourmand components. The violet is a slightly candied version which contrasts with a similarly shaded bitter coffee. It adds some vanilla cream to the mix before patchouli brings things to a close. If you are enjoying the floral gourmand style The Only One is a good addition to that genre.
Prada L’Homme Absolu
Perfumers sometimes fall in love with a set of notes or accords. You see it crop up again and again. For Prada in-house perfumer Daniela Andrier it is the triad of neroli, iris, and cedar. It has been hard to improve upon her original Infusion D’Iris. When L’Homme Prada came out in 2016 she returned to this and I wasn’t impressed. Prada L’Homme Absolu is also another interpretation but by enhancing the spices I liked it better.
The main alteration happens right at the start as cardamom and black pepper are given a more prominent place with the iris. I liked this change and it carries forward into the neroli and geranium joining in. The typical ambery cedar which is the traditional base accord is the end. I still haven’t found anything better than Infusion D’Iris but the added spiciness in Prada L’Homme Absolu will be appealing to someone looking for that.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.
This month’s round-up looks at two flankers of what I think are some of the best mainstream perfumes ever. Usually when you see “absolu” as the name on a flanker what I have come to expect is a warmer more intimate version of the original. What is interesting about both of this month’s choices is they went for the intimacy without going deeper.
Dior J’Adore Absolu
I know I’m going to sound like a broken record but her we go again with Dior and names. J’Adore was released in 1999 immediately becoming a best-seller within the fruity floral style of perfume. It is one of my all-time favorite mainstream perfumes. In the nearly twenty years since there have been multiple flankers most of them typical tweaks to the original formula. Including in 2007 J’Adore L’Absolu which was the typical absolu flanker described above. Now in 2018 they are releasing J’Adore Absolu which is one letter away from the other perfume which is still on the market. Dior seems to be a brand which excels at trying to confuse the consumer with its names. Despite this nonsense the new J’Adore Absolu is very different than any other J’Adore flanker.
In-house perfumer Francois Demachy says he wanted to create a “floral nectar” which I get. J’Adore Absolu is overall a floral dripping with honey. I found it the most sensual of any of the flankers released so far.
M. Demachy takes a set of floral absolutes as his keynotes. The J’Adore DNA is defined by jasmine, rose, and tuberose. All of those are here. The two additions are magnolia and orange blossom. Through the early moments the magnolia is out in front followed by the jasmine and rose. There is a pause while the tuberose sets up a bassline to the other florals. What makes this perfume take off is the use of orange blossom which provides a sparkle to things just before honey oozes over everything. This comes together as a bright set of sunny florals captured in viscous honey. It is intimate but not as warm as something with absolu in the title might indicate. Which makes it a uniquely good flanker.
Bottega Veneta L’Absolu
In 2011 leather goods designer Bottega Veneta entered the fragrance market with an eponymous mainstream perfume. Designed by creative director Tomas Maier and perfumer Michel Almairac it was a fragrance which captured the leather of the company fused with jasmine and patchouli. It was my favorite mainstream release of that year and remains a favorite now. Hr. Maier has gone on to oversee a coherently excellent mainstream collection of Bottega Veneta fragrances. There have been flankers but not a ton of them for each of the pillar lines for the brand. Bottega Veneta L’Absolu is just the second flanker of Bottega Veneta. These have all been correctly described as dry leather woody fragrances. I was expecting something similar but perhaps a bit less dry for a L’Absolu. M. Almairac had something else in mind creating the driest version yet for the L’Absolu.
The construction is much simpler for L’Absolu. It is stripped down to pink pepper, jasmine, leather and ambroxan. There is very little else in here. The pink pepper provides an herbal lift to the jasmine before the same delicate leather accord from the original arrives. Then using ambroxan the entire composition is dehydrated. Leaving a desiccated effect that is really compelling, only ameliorated by a pinch of vanilla and an equally small amount of patchouli. Those latter ingredients are critical to keeping L’Absolu from becoming too sharp. What is left is like looking at a leather memory book and finding a dried jasmine flower in its pages.
Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.