This is the time of year referred to as shoulder season. Not quite full spring with reminders of winter still present. Just as you wear a sweater or jacket in the morning only to be carrying it on your arm in the afternoon. There are a select few perfumes I enjoy wearing on these variable days. They are among the best constructed perfumes I own because they must be versatile enough to handle the variability of the day. From the moment it was released in the spring of 2008 Chanel Allure Homme Edition Blanche has epitomized the ideal shoulder season perfume.
Chanel has always been blessed with incredible in-house perfumers. Enough that it would be difficult to parse which is better. When it comes to a set of masculine perfumes it would be hard to argue that Jacques Polge and Francois Demachy set the standard for twenty years at Chanel. Allure Homme Edition Blanche would add the exclamation point to this era.
Allure Homme Edition Blanche succeeds by being what I call a high-low style of perfume. Something which starts out light and ends up deep. The original Allure Homme was a soft fresh citrus woody perfume. Even though it shares the name Allure Homme Edition Blanche is entirely different.
It is apparent right away with one of my favorite lemon top accords. This is bright sunshine for a spring, or fall, day. Sun hanging lower in the sky still brilliant but a little softer around the edges. This lemon infuses the perfume with energy which carries into the heart where sandalwood and tonka await. The sweet of both ingredients cover the lemon. Adding more depth without completely overwhelming the citrus. The base uses vetiver and vanilla to provide the final rounding. Vetiver takes the sandalwood to a more traditional woody direction. The vanilla harmonizes with the tonka for a comforting accord. All while the lemon pulses in the middle of it all.
Allure Homme Edition Blanche has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
While I am lauding this for being perfect in spring or fall it is also just as good in the summer as an alternative citrus cologne. There are few better men’s fragrances out there than this. If you’ve come to Chanel because of Bleu de Chanel; Allure Homme Edition Blanche should be another bottle from the brand you add to your radar screen, or dresser.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
One of the reasons I enjoy spring as much as I do is it the one time of the year where the green scents of nature have precedence. Before the flowers bloom and the fruits and vegetables ripen; the world smells green. The perfume ingredient which captures that best for me is clary sage. The sharp slightly spicy herbal note is what my morning walks with the dogs smell like. When a new perfume shows up featuring it, I am interested. As I was with Yves Rocher Bois de Sauge.
I expected this version to be more sage-centric because it comes from Yves Rocher which tends to produce simple constructs. I’ve rarely been disappointed in the ones which feature my favorite ingredients. For Bois de Sauge perfumer Sonia Constant is able to make my morning walk come alive in three well-chosen ingredients.
The first ingredient is the clary sage. Mme Constant uses it to full effect at high concentration. There is the sharp green herbalness. There is a hint of floral and earth too. If you are out walking in these early days of spring this is what I smell most mornings right when I start out. My walk leads me into a stand of trees which is what comes next in Bois de Sauge. The clean woodiness of guaiac wood picks up on the sage adding the woods to the mix. The final ingredient is patchouli which amplifies that earthy undercurrent in the sage. At this point I am completely at peace on my morning walk as well as Bois de Sauge.
Bois de Sauge has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you want a spring perfume which captures the moment of rebirth Bois de Sauge shows that sage springs eternal.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Yves Rocher.
There is no other mass-market perfume brand which interests me more than Gucci. The reason is back in 2002 when Tom Ford was the creative director for all things Gucci he took charge of fragrance, too. The perfumes that were generated at that time were brilliant envelope pushing fragrance for any market sector. At the mall they were top of the class. The perfume which made me take notice was 2003’s Gucci Pour Homme. Mr. Ford and Michel Almairac pushed back against the prevailing fresh and clean trends of that day. It is one of my favorites still.
Those were the greatest times of Gucci’s fragrance history. I would suggest it was because the brand creative director was also interested in perfume. It took almost fifteen years until another Gucci creative director wanted to take charge of the fragrance piece. Alessandro Michele has reinvigorated Gucci fragrance from stagnant drift to something to be paid attention to again. Sig. Michele has worked almost exclusively with perfumer Alberto Morillas since he took an interest in 2017. It hasn’t been a flawless rebirth. There have been some stumbles here and there. Gucci Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum is not one of them.
Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum follows last year’s Guilty Pour Homme Cologne. That was one of those stumbles I mentioned. The Cologne version was lacking anything different. The Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum returns to what I like so much about the partnership between Sig. Michele and M. Morillas.
What has been so refreshing about Sig. Michele’s vision for fragrance is he isn’t looking to follow trends but set them. That has meant the recent Gucci releases aren’t part of the transparent wave of fragrance. The other thing is M. Morillas is encouraged to use ingredients outside of the typical mass-market palette. When it succeeds it is one of the reasons I am excited about perfume with Gucci on the bottle again. For Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum the different ingredient choice is chili pepper.
It is right out front paired with a full-spectrum rose. The heat of the pepper ignites the spicier facets of rose. Bringing them to the foreground. This is a kind of rose I can get behind. It heads towards more typical fougere country with a heart of lavender and neroli. They turn the overall profile towards that, but the rose continues to burn freely above it all. Patchouli and cedar comprise the base accord which just provide a solid foundation for the fiery rose fougere.
Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I like the way Sig. Michele is providing consumers a vivid counterpoint to most of the current releases. It will become another perfume collection where the Gucci name means something again. Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum sets a rose on fire to get your attention.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Gucci.
One of the effects of being home now is I’m reading much more. I’m also just taking the time to catch up on my favorite urban fantasy series where I had not read the last one or two installments. While I was on the internet forum where I chat with other fans, I noticed a new hot topic for a new release. I have discovered some of my favorite series from the little flaming file folder icon. This time it led me to Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas.
Crescent City is the beginning of a new series by Ms. Maas. Her third and first away from the young adult series she had written previously. I had not read those. House of Earth and Blood was the first I have read from her. One of the things I enjoy most about urban fantasy is it wraps up the hard-boiled detective novel in fantastical doings. This is a mystery of tracking down a serial killer who may or may not be supernatural. In a place where such things exist.
Sarah J. Maas
Our protagonist is Bryce Quinlan who is the prototypical half-human half-something magical. In her case she is half-Fae. When we meet her at the beginning, she is out to have fun with her friends. Until one night they get killed. Bryce believes it is a demon who did it. Yet there is a man who was arrested and convicted for the murders. Two years later the murders start happening again. Bryce still suffering from losing her best friends goes after the killer. Along the way she meets her crime solving partner; fallen angel Hunt Athalar. There is the typical romantic tension, but Ms. Maas finds some nice ways to keep it fresh.
This is a very long book for this genre clocking in at almost 800 pages. That Ms. Maas doesn’t make that length seem like filler is testament to her skill. This is an excellent beginning to what I hope is a long-lasting series. Besides our central pair there are many parts of Crescent City I would like to explore in the future. Ms. Maas has at least two more books planned. I’ll be there waiting for those when they are published.
Disclosure: This review is based on a copy I purchased.
As person who grew up on the beach in S. Florida I’ve always missed the presence of that in most of the aquatic style perfumes. What I’m talking about is the hot dry mineralic scent of the sand. It wasn’t until I learned more about perfume making that it wasn’t a matter of not being able to be done. It was because the brands didn’t think it would be enjoyable by consumers. I don’t know whether that is true. I do know that when I find a perfume which does have it in it, I generally enjoy it. As I have with Memo Vaadhoo.
Vaadhoo is named after the tiny island of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. This is the island where the sight of bioluminescent plankton is seen most nights during the summer. Sparkling stars in the indigo water on a tropical night. Creative director Clara Molloy along with consistent collaborator perfumer Alienor Massenet capture the sparkle of the plankton amidst the sand and surf.
The early moments are meant to capture this natural phenomenon. Ginger, rhubarb, and bergamot achieve this. So often the latter ingredient is the sparkle in a perfume. Here Mme Massenet makes it a more diffuse version of that through the ginger and rhubarb. It is a slow lapping motion akin to the waves lapping the beach. The freshness of the flowers comes next with jasmine, violet, and geranium. This is a different version of that. It befits the topical setting trying to be evoked here. Now it is time for the cooling sands of the beach to appear. Mme Massenet finds this in an accord of Immortelle seed, vetiver, patchouli, and oud. This is the scent of a beach at night. The mineralic sand has cooled a bit making it less arid. This is a fabulous place for the sparkling top accord and the floral heart to rest upon. It comes together in a compelling scented tableau.
Vaadhoo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is a gorgeous take on the tropical beach style of perfume. It is ideal for spring with the florals nested within the heart of it. I floated on the sparkling waves this was based upon each time I wore it.
Disclosure: This review is based upon a sample provided by Memo.
There are perfumes I don’t care for where I walk away wondering how it would have been if one ingredient was added or removed. I’ve learned over the years that a perfume I am not crazy about is only one change away from being one I do like. There are rare occasions when it happens on the perfume shelf but By Kilian Good Girl Gone Bad Eau Fraiche shows it off.
The original Good Girl Gone Bad was released in 2012 as a collaboration between creative director Kilian Hennessy and perfumer Alberto Morillas. The idea was to create a sultry white floral with the added opulence of osmanthus. Regular readers know that should have been right in my wheelhouse. It was but the more I wore it the more crowded all the “bad girl” florals seemed. There were too many of them. I found myself craving a lighter version with the same aesthetic using less. Mssrs. Hennessy and Morillas provide me what I wanted with Good Girl Gone Bad Eau Fraiche. The biggest alteration is the removal of osmanthus and narcissus. What is left behind, orange blossom, jasmine, tuberose, and rose still manage to be “bad” while also being good.
For the Eau Fraiche version orange blossom has a more pronounced presence. It is the lightest of the white florals, but it still has enough indoles to remind you it belongs. M. Morillas adds Rose de Mai, another lighter version of a flower which retains the sultry core. This is that “bad girl” on holiday walking in a sundress with a pop in her step. Jasmine and tuberose call back to the original without being quite as loud. It seems as if they are on holiday too. As the florals come together this is a summery white floral which exudes energy. It all glides along on a base of white musks providing a warm breeze to ruffle our “bad girls’” hair.
Good Girl Gone Bad Eau Fraiche has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you were not a fan of the original because you share my feel of it being overcrowded this version should be better. I know there are some who told me the original smelled like pickle juice on their skin. I think that was probably from the osmanthus. This version should also be more enjoyable if the other florals are to your taste. I like it very much especially on the spring days I tested it. It seems like the creative team found the good place for the “bad girls” to be Eau Fraiche.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
When a brand offers their long-time consumers a change it is interesting to see how that works. For mass-market fragrance releases the best way to know the new direction went well is a follow-up. Two years ago Chloe Nomade marked a significant departure from the Chloe fresh aesthetic for a fruity chypre. I thought it was one of the best mainstream releases of 2018. Apparently, consumers and the powers at Chloe also saw the results they wanted because Chloe Nomade Absolu de Parfum has arrived.
Perfumer Quentin Bisch harnessed a gorgeous plum and freesia duo to go with his modern chypre base. For the flanker he has decided to take the remnants of the brighter Chloe DNA and soften them while adding depth. It makes for a much more satisfying experience.
The plum remains from the original, but it is secondary to a cherry ingredient. The plum can be too sweet. The cherry adds just the right amount of tart to offset that. This is a rounding off of a corner which might have been seen as too saccharine in the original. Freesia supplied that fresh floral in the predecessor. M. Bisch uses Davana which is the antithesis of freesia. It has a real depth to it. This is the kind of warmth that makes this version very different. The chypre base this time has more of the oakmoss than before. This provides a velvety cushion for this all to rest upon.
Nomade Absolu de Parfum has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am delighted that Chloe allowed M. Bisch to push what they did with Nomade to a more intense place. I like this version much better than the original; and I liked that one a lot. It seems as if they were willing to believe by rounding off the corners for a cozier experience, they would retain the audience they built. Time will tell if there is another version in a couple of years. I am rooting for that if it is as good as this.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
If you’ve ever spent time on an ocean beach there is a part to the crash of the waves that doesn’t get mentioned. After the wave has crested and crashed on the beach there is a coating of bubbles on top of the water which fizz and pop. It is one of those scents of the beach which hasn’t made it into a perfume. Ever since I heard of a new aromachemical from IFF called CristalFizz I was wondering if that was going to bring that to fragrance. Ralph Lauren Polo Deep Blue is my first chance to see.
Polo is perhaps the most venerable men’s fragrance brand ever. It has spawned numerous flankers ever since its debut in 1978. I’ve lost count. There is a durability to the basic structure that perfumer Carlos Benaim created back then which has been ripe for creating new versions from. In 2016 an aquatic version Polo Blue was released. It was exactly that; aquatic facets added into the herbal core of the original. As Polo flankers go it was above average. With the release of Deep Blue, a flanker of a flanker, I probably would have paid cursory attention but for the presence of the novel CristalFizz. M. Benaim incorporates it into another aquatic take on Polo.
I’ve never smelt CristalFizz by itself so I’m unsure how much of the top to attribute to it. What is there around a tropical mix of grapefruit and green mango is a fresh aldehydic scent. This is a different effect than Calone which is the standard aquatic ingredient. There is a hint of that real-life fizz because it reminds me of the typical way aldehydes act in a perfume. There is an airy lift to the fruit which I am going to attribute to the CristalFizz. From here the traditional Polo DNA appears clary sage doing the herbal part over the fir balsam. Some ambrox and patchouli make it contemporary feeling.
Deep Blue has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is also a better than average flanker of Polo. If you’re looking for a different type of aquatic to add to your warm weather rotation this might fit. I was looking for the fizz of the waves. I almost found it.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Ralph Lauren.
There are brands which make excellent perfume that are not well-known enough. One of those are the fragrances under the luxury car imprint of Bentley. It isn’t an unusual thing to see a luxury car brand on a bottle of perfume. The brand identity is worth its weight in gold. As well as the aspirational ability to own something from a car line you might never otherwise be able to afford. As a result the perfumes are made under the auspices of one of the larger beauty companies. The results have been mixed overall. Lalique, who oversees the Bentley fragrance line has seemingly put more effort into making something as memorable as the car. Bentley Beyond Rich Pimento continues that.
Most of the credit for the sustained excellence of these probably goes to Lalique creative director Marc Roesti. Last year he oversaw a collection dubbed Bentley Beyond. All three releases were very good with Wild Vetiver my favorite. I was hoping for more and Rich Pimento is here to fulfill that wish.
Mr. Roesti wanted a fragrance redolent of Cuba. He turned to perfumer Karine Dubreuil-Sereni to compose it. I was expecting something brash. They upended that by making a soft Oriental which whispers of tropical nights.
The opening is bright citrus through grapefruit leavened with rhubarb. This is becoming my favorite citrus top accord because of the vegetal quality of the rhubarb against the sulfurous nature of the grapefruit. It makes me think of spring whenever I encounter it. The promised pimento comes along with baie rose. This is such a pleasing soft herbal peppery accord. Geranium and rum provide a boozy floral pool to float them on. Patchouli and olibanum provide a soft shadow to wrap around it all. It ends on a plush amber providing the warmth of a humid night in Cuba.
Rich Pimento has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I wore this, I always felt I was walking in Havana after the bars had closed before the sun rises. It is that after hours feeling of possibility in the tropics that embodies Rich Pimento.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bentley.
The 1920’s were one of those societal inflection points that influenced much of the social change for the rest of that century. The Great Depression cut short the wave that was building through the Roaring 20’s. Now that we are entering the 20’s for the current century there is some desire to have it roar too. Perfume can be one of the ways some perspective can be brought on both decades. This is especially true for Heritage brands which can span the times. JF Schwarzlose 20/20 makes the first attempt to do this.
JF Schwarzlose was an early perfume brand which ceased operations in 1976. In 2012 it was resurrected under the creative direction of Lutz Herrmann. Hr. Herrmann has wanted this Heritage brand to use the vintage formulas of the past and update them. He has worked exclusively with perfumer Veronique Nyberg since the beginning. They have refined the aesthetic of vintage ingredients with a modern feel over the years. 20/20 might be the best example of it to date.
The inspiration was a JF Schwarzlose from the 1920’s called CHIC. That perfume was analyzed to find a way to modernize the patchouli-centric perfume of then to one of now. The key to this is to rely on one of the new synthetic woody ingredients along with a fuller extraction of baie rose through MANE’s Jungle Essence. In these last thirty years both new synthetics and more efficient extractions of natural materials have allowed perfumers to do more. Mme Nyberg uses her new tools to create a modern version of CHIC.
It opens with the Jungle Essence baie rose. I have smelled this at a presentation all by itself. It is a remarkably faceted ingredient. There is the herbal quality familiar to many. There is also this through line of fruitiness that becomes more apparent in this Jungle Essence version. It sets the green tone that will tint the entire structure of this perfume. Rose and benzoin come next with the sweetness of the benzoin capturing the fruity aspect of the baie rose drawing it into the rose. At this point is where 20/20 feels like 1920. It moves ahead 100 years as the patchouli and amberwood present themselves. I suspect the patchouli of CHIC was a fuller hippie chick kind of patchouli. This patchouli is desiccated using the synthetic woody ingredient. Mme Nyberg doesn’t allow it to become too sharp but this is what modern patchouli accords are made of in 2020. Geranium replaces rose over the later stages making 20/20 a cool aloof floral in the end.
20/20 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Hr. Herrmann and Mme Nyberg have created other JF Schwarzlose perfumes which have straddled the past and present. 20/20 does it the best; with a roar.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.