When I get grumpy about the deluge of fresh rose perfumes every spring, I have had a couple friends push back. What kind of rose do you want Sad Colognoisseur? What makes me frown is these dewy debutante rose based creations. There are so many other roses to choose from which would make a fine spring floral. Which is why when a perfume like Ella K Rose de Pushkar comes along to break the tedium I take notice.
Ella K is the brand co-founded by perfumer Sonia Constant. Her perfumes are meant to chronicle the travels of an early 20th century heroine. They are fragrances designed to capture the scent of a place and time. Rose de Pushkar is the second time the brand has landed in the sacred city of India on the edge of the Thar Desert. On the other side of town from the sandy expanse is Pushkar Lake. There is where pilgrims toss rose petals on the lake where they float all day. Mme Constant designs a perfume of rose on the edge of the desert.
To create her sacred rose she forms an accord of rose otto and oud. This has become a famous pairing in perfume. In the hands of every perfumer they have the chance to tune it to a desired effect. Mme Constant wants her perfume to glow in the desert air. Her use of oud helps achieve that as the core of Rose de Pushkar.
In the earliest moments we are on the side of the lake. Lychee, saffron, and frankincense form an accord of sacred offering. The rose is just starting to awaken underneath it. It grabs a firmer hold as the oud becomes more apparent. It forms a rose which has tendrils of oud smoke rising from the petals. Sandalwood and patchouli form a classic interlude leading into a bomber jacket leather accord. I’ve always imagined our fictional traveler in a leather jacket, this seems to be the scent of it. Some labdanum and musk round out everything.
Rose de Pushkar has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
This more than any of the other Ella K perfumes I’ve tried feels like a scent of an adventurous woman traveler. It is a rose of someone assured of who they are and where they want to be. Which I’ll take every day over another debutante.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I met Carlos J Powell the way most of us met him. It was when we got an invitation in 2011 to join a Facebook Group called Peace, Love, & Perfume. For almost ten years Carlos has been one of those central figures in the perfume community online.
Peace, Love, & Perfume was one of the earliest and would grow to one of the largest Facebook Groups dedicated to perfume. Carlos was the ringmaster. If I wanted to find out the pulse of the perfume lovers, this was the place I could do it. There are so many people I would encounter for the first time through a discussion there. These are relationships which endure because Carlos created the type of environment in which they could take root.
We would meet in real life a few months after I joined at an event in New York City. It was here where another piece of Carlos’ ability to capture a moment appeared. When I met him, he introduced me to three other guys with him. They all smiled and said they called themselves the “GoodSmellas”. I remember laughing in appreciation. A few months later they would be the subject of an article in “Elle” magazine on guys wearing perfume.
Where he really made his mark on the perfume fragosphere was as a video reviewer on his YouTube channel Brooklyn Fragrance Lover. He has grown that into one of the top tier perfume video sites on YouTube. One of the ways he accomplished his success was breaking out of his home studio.
When we had a conversation on one of my visits to NYC I told him that he had the ability to be the perfume chronicler of one of the perfume capitals of the world. I am sure it wasn’t just my advice because Carlos had an innate ability to find new ways to present his videos. One of them was his visits to different stores to film remote reviews. Another was for him to bring some of his co-workers into a video to rate different perfumes. These were always fascinating peeks into what the non-perfume public thought about fragrance.
Another development was his alliance with fellow video reviewer Steven Gavrielatos and his Redolessence channel. The two of them had an instantaneous chemistry which allowed for them to provide different perspectives on a single perfume. I have always enjoyed this in the other arts. Carlos and Steven would do it for perfume.
Through it all Carlos did this with a happy energy fueled by his love of all things which smelled good. I hope he is at Peace on a cloud of Love from those of us who miss him which were brought together through Perfume.
It is always a conundrum that the perfume world puts me into spring while there is still snow on the ground. During the month of February I get swamped by the releases of all the new spring florals. Which means my desk smells like April, but it is the weeks away from that. Which is why when I get a sample of a new floral which has no interest in being a harbinger of greener days to come it breaks through as Armani Prive Ikat Bleu has.
Armani Prive as the up-scale luxury fragrance offerings of Giorgio Armani has had a checkered run ever since its first release in 2004. I own many of them but there is an equal amount that are too easily forgettable. It always is an element of uncertainty when I receive a new sample. Ikat Bleu is part of a pair, with Ikat Rouge, in the Fashion Collection sub-group within the brand. That indicates a more haute couture sensibility with the perfume. I don’t detect that level of envelope pushing that portends. What does come through is a use of some higher quality materials. For Ikat Bleu perfumer Juliette Karagueuzolglu carries out that part of the line with aplomb.
Ikat is an Indonesian dyeing technique where different yarns are dyed in tied-up bundles to form a pattern which is then used as part of a greater whole. Ikat roughly translates as “to bind”. Mme Karagueuzolglu employs a fragrance equivalent as she ties together orris and patchouli in the center of Ikat Bleu.
This is a pretty simply constructed perfume. It begins with orris and baie rose. For a few moments, the powdery nature of the orris is coaxed to the foreground. A bit of incense keeps it from getting too out of control. A deep dark patchouli comes next as its earthiness calls forth the similarly styled rooty quality of the orris. Spring may be coming but this is reminiscent of the damp soil just after the snow has melted. A smoky vanilla layers in a sweetness underneath the fertile earth to finish this.
Ikat Bleu has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
There are weeks until the world catches up to the pile of perfume on my desk. Ikat Bleu is a reminder the scent of those days is just as enjoyable.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Giorgio Armani.
In these early days of the new year it seems like lavender is going to be one of the keynotes for the coming spring. Anything that can take some of the space from rose after rose is welcome to me. Because of my proximity to a lavender farm I am getting a wider knowledge of all this multi-faceted ingredient offers. One of the things I have noticed when out at the farm is while the lavender is still on the plant there is a freshness to it. This isn’t usually the way a perfumer chooses to interpret it most of the time. Which is why Jovoy 21 Conduit St. stands out.
Jovoy owner and creative director Francois Henin has been expanding from his Paris store. One of those is to London in Mayfair. The name of the perfume is the address of that store. Oli Marlow is part of the staff at the store. He had been working for a while on his own lavender accord which captured that brightness I was speaking of. When he showed it to M. Henin they decided to flesh it out into a fully formed perfume. to help with that perfumer Marie Schnirer would collaborate with Mr. Marlow to create 21 Conduit St.
I don’t have any way of knowing this, but I suspect that the accord that Mr. Marlow showed M. Henin was what I sensed at the top. Where Mme Schnirer’s hand might be seen is in the latter stages where a woody liqueur forms to match it.
If you were going to harness the brightness of lavender, it makes sense to surround it with citrus. That is what the opening moments of the perfume do. Grapefruit and orange add that typical sunny quality that they are known for. Where this turns is rhubarb and pine are used to further give lift and light. The rhubarb already has the grapefruit-like part down. What it also imparts is a green vegetal piece. This is what the pine resonates with, creating a spring fresh breeze over the lavender. If I am right this early going is why Mr. Marlow caught the nose of M. Henin. The remainder of the development goes in an unexpected direction as an amaretto accord creates a syrupy boozy almond which vetiver and ambroxan add themselves to. This forms an accord which made me think of a liqueur I would never want to drink but I would like to smell like. It is also notable for the balance of the ambroxan in not letting it become monolithic and boring.
21 Conduit St. has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am probably simplifying the pieces of who did what in composing this. What I don’t want to get lost in my amateurish need to pick things apart is how good this is. It moves through its two phases wonderfully. I know I’ll be writing about many more lavender perfumes over the next few weeks. There will not be many better than this one.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
As I wrote about last week the streaming services have been releasing compelling series which are full of surprises. Unfortunately, the Internet is full of idiots hellbent on spoiling those surprises. I’ve written about the sad people who must post a key plot twist within hours of the show being released. They’re jerks but it is easy enough to avoid them by staying away from the places they thrive. Except lately there has been a new front in the rush to put out that spoiler information, the big entertainment websites.
Like many I have my favorite websites for entertainment news. Whenever I find one I like, I agree to have announcements from them as part of my news feed on my phone and iPad. I like getting the alert of a new article to see if I might be interested in reading it. I’ve never had a problem with them being the source of spoilers before. Something has changed in the last few months. Now these sites are writing stories about the same thing the trolls did within hours of them being released. The problem is I wake up to them in my news feed.
The first example came with a December episode of Star Trek: Discovery which was the second part of a two-part episode. In the first part there was a character which elicited a lot of speculation on who or what it was. I spent the week going back and forth trying to figure it out. That’s part of the fun. Except at 7:30 AM on the morning that the second part was released I picked up my phone to see the answer spoiled in a headline from an entertainment site. I made sure to go on to their comments section and explain to them that this was ridiculous. I also explained that I was removing them from my news feed and thus they lost one pair of eyeballs seeing their ads because I no longer would be regularly visiting.
The very next morning I smartened up and did not pick up my phone before watching the season finale of The Mandalorian and the huge surprise within that episode. After enjoying it I did pick up my phone only to see a different entertainment website with a headline spoiling that surprise. Again less than six hours after it was released a large advertiser driven entertainment site saw the need to start trumpeting it. I again expressed my displeasure and removed the site from my feed.
Only to have it happen again this past Friday with the most recent episode of WandaVision. There is a great surprise right at the end of this episode. Again I made sure not to look at my phone before watching. Just as before when I turned it over there was a different entertainment website happy to blow the surprise. At this rate I won’t have any left in my feed.
I have been thinking about a way to solve the desire of these sites to be jerks. I think the solution comes down to the streaming services. Almost all new content is released at 12 midnight Pacific Coast Time 3AM East Coast. It gives a window for these sites to get out in front before most of the US is awake. The solution is for them to move the release time from midnight Pacific to noon pacific. Now everyone is awake and can get ahead of the pinheads who feel the need to take away others’ fun and enjoyment.
So hey Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime, CBS AllAccess/Paramount+, and Peacock could you please move the release time just twelve hours. That way the inconsiderate jerks can’t continue to ruin the fun for the rest of us.
If there is a masculine counterpart to the ubiquitous spring rose it is lavender. I have noticed that more of the spring men’s releases rely on this floral recently. I received two flankers where its addition is a positive.
Armani Code Eau de Parfum
Ever since its release Armani Code has acted as a cash cow for the brand. They would pump out releases which were uninspired copies. Something changed a couple years ago as the last couple of Armani Code flankers have been much more interesting. Some of that might have something to do with Antoine Maisondieu being involved or maybe being given the ability to color outside the lines. The New Armani Code Eau de Parfum benefits from whatever the reason is.
What is nice is at every phase there is a substitute for the original. It starts as lemon replaces grapefruit. This is a very warm lemon instead of bright. The floral herbal piece of this Eau de Parfum version is lavender and rosemary. Each is a change from the original while still cutting close enough to feel like part of the family. The base accord has a higher concentration of tonka bean which adds in another warmer ingredient. Overall it confirms that warmth a parfum version would likely have. I also think this is a good choice for the spring and fall.
Armani Code Eau de Parfum has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Yves St. Laurent Y Le Parfum
I have been mostly disappointed in the last few years at YSL. The original release of Y Eau de Toilette is an example of fragrance by focus group. It works for people who don’t really like perfume. Just like Armani Code, YSL has cranked out multiple flankers all of which retained that lack of ingenuity. By featuring lavender among many other changes, perfumer Dominique Ropion has made the best version of Y yet.
The opening is a collision of tart fruit in grapefruit and green apple. The tartness is a nice opening for the lavender to walk through. The floral is kept more on its herbal side with a little sage making sure of that. It closes on a sweetly woody accord of cedar and tonka bean.
Y Le Parfum has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by the manufacturers.
There are moments when I am introducing myself to a new perfume brand that I can see the potential. It doesn’t mean what is there is not enjoyable but there is room for something more. Usually that has something to do with the people behind the perfume. In the case of Maison Sybarite it had to do with their unique formulation technology.
Most of the time I get the press release and begin reading about new technologies with skepticism. In the case of Maison Sybarite they were touting their water formulation. As I read that information before receiving the samples, I wasn’t thinking there was anything new here. Once I had the fragrances in hand, I noticed the non-alcoholic blend of water, olive oil, and saponin had an effect. In those first four releases the carrier added a softer diffusive quality. The perfume didn’t leap off my skin in an alcohol cloud propelled via evaporation. I enjoyed the first four perfumes, but I was wanting for the creative team to take advantage of the formulation with some of the divas of perfume ingredients. In Maison Sybarite Amber Gaze that is what I get.
Perfumer Antoine Lie is again behind the composition. I saw a note list featuring jasmine, tuberose, patchouli, sandalwood, and vanilla. Those are five strong personalities. Amber Gaze would apply a stress test to this new formulation.
The advantages of the formulation are most apparent in the opening moments. The white flowers of tuberose and jasmine lead the way. Here they radiated off my skin in opaque waves. These are cleaned-up low-indolic versions. They have more presence because they aren’t leaping off my skin. The spreading out of these flowers is really appealing. Because of that the set of spices which come next have some new places to find traction. Cardamom breezes over it all while cinnamon provides some warmth from beneath. Nutmeg adds in the sweetness which connects to the base accord. Vanilla and sandalwood form the core while patchouli and tolu balsam provide an earthy piney counterpoint. Usually these have deep effects. I think because of the formulation they also come off much lighter in tone. It all combines to form a compelling whole.
Amber Gaze has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
One of the things I thought of while wearing Amber Gaze is how this non-alcoholic formulation adds an expansive transparency all its own. All five of the Maison Sybarite collection have a level of that currently trendy style. These are all just a notch less airy and that is where I think I find it more to my taste. Maybe the secret to transparency is the formula. Amber Gaze would imply that is the case.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I received from Maison Sybarite.
Much of the fun of continuing to write about perfume is my confounded expectations. There are times that I think I am getting something only to find I am not. There may be no perfume brand which has done this more to me than Louis Vuitton.
For a long time I was told there was a perfume coming from the luxury leather brand. Finally in 2016 it happened. I remember getting my discovery set of samples in anticipation of a refined leather perfume, or two, or more in that box. Only to find none. Those who read my early reviews of those fragrances must have become weary of my “where’s the leather?” every time I wrote about it. Over the course of time they would provide me what I wanted. I finally realized there was an interesting non-leather aesthetic growing here.
Perfumer Jacques Cavallier has been behind every Louis Vuitton release. When his creations have worked for me it is when he subtly plays with existing styles and forms. Which brings me to the latest Louis Vuitton Etoile Filante. I get the press release days before I receive the sample. This press release told me this was a strawberry and osmanthus fruity floral. Before the perfume arrived, I was already planning on not writing about it. Once I received it, I found something very different than my initial thoughts.
Osmanthus is one of my favorite florals in perfumery but it has been recklessly crushed in too many fruity florals as perfumers seek to use the apricot nature of the floral to full effect. It usually makes me hold a test strip at arm’s length. I knew something was different when I first sprayed Etoile Filante. It wasn’t a fruit bomb. It was something I couldn’t have anticipated.
The difference comes in the first seconds. The strawberry M. Cavallier is using is not the ultra-ripe over-the-top version. This is the smell of slightly unripe strawberries. It reminds me of the ones I pick and let ripen a week or so on my kitchen counter. There is the characteristic strawberry scent, but it has a tarter slightly greener overall quality. This is the kind of fruit at the opening of Etoile Filante. When osmanthus meets up with that the apricot is given space to mix in a jammy kind of fruitiness. The leatheriness of osmanthus also provides a nice contrast. A creamy magnolia and fresh jasmine turn the overall floral effect into a spring-like accord. That is reinforced through a suite of white musks which add a lot of expansiveness to it all.
Etoile Filante has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am not a fan of fruity florals, yet this one was enjoyable on the days I wore it. Just another confounded expectation. Par for the course.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by Louis Vuitton.
Going into 2015 it was an interesting moment for Chanel fragrances. They were changing their in-house perfumers as Jacques Polge retired and his son, Olivier Polge took over. With almost six years of Olivier’s perfume making I believe he has been a positive force to the brand at this time. Looking back over his time it seems like there are two styles he seems to design towards. There is a set of perfumes which seem to move the perfumes of Chanel into the current time. The Les Eaux collection or No.5 L’Eau are examples of this. The other large part is his desire to capture that classicism that is at the heart of Chanel as a brand. He has managed to capture that effectively starting with his first Chanel release Misia. It also reappears in the latest Le Lion de Chanel.
Le Lion was released in the Middle Eastern market last spring. It is just now becoming available everywhere else. Because of that I bought a split of Le Lion back in the summer. It has allowed me to live with it a little longer than the typical new perfume review I do. This is a case where that time worked to Le Lion’s advantage.
M. Polge’s classic inspired creations I have found take me a little time to assess all their pleasures. Because he doesn’t shy away from the most recognizable styles there is a tendency to compare the new perfume to the older one it might remind you of. In some cases that has been my snap judgement. Le Lion was one of them. This felt too familiar to other things. I was glad to have a few months to see if that impression persisted.
When I first tried it there were moments which strongly reminded me of other classic perfumes. But not for the entire time. That is what having some time with Le Lion showed me. M. Polge does find the echoes of Guerlain Shalimar, Chanel Coromandel and Chanel Cuir de Russie but this is its own strong voice. The way he achieves it is through balance.
Le Lion opens with a very present citrus accord of bergamot and lemon. M. Polge uses this at a high concentration. This is so when the amber appears next it doesn’t steamroll it. M. Polge finds that precise amount of amber for it to be present without becoming annoyingly overbearing. The citrus cleaves it like a sunbeam through a magnifying glass. Labdanum adds a resinous burnishing to it all. Next comes a fantastic call back to the Chanel past as a modern Cuir de Russie leather accord is paired with that rich sandalwood found often in Chanel. A set of animalic synthetic musks fly in on a carpet of patchouli. This is where Le Lion becomes a complete Oriental style of perfume.
Le Lion has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I’ve been turning over my thoughts about Le Lion, I also came to understand it is similar to my thoughts about M. Polge’s tenure so far. He has admirably found a balance between new and classic. It has been often achieved through the balance of ingredients he uses in his work for the brand. As they say when taken on balance, he has achieved a remarkable run in the last six years.
Disclosure: this review is based on a decant I purchased.
I frequently talk about the potential of the gourmand fragrance style for innovation. That’s because it is the least explored perfume genre. Which is not equivalent to unexplored. We are at the point that it is mature enough to have generated its own characteristic ingredients and accords. Which means it doesn’t have to always be finding new frontiers. Sometimes it can sit back and enjoy what has already been elucidated as Skylar Vanilla Sky does.
Skylar is another of the “clean” fragrance brands which have arisen over the last few years. Founder Cat Chen has created a full-service beauty brand of which perfume has been a part of. There have been six previous releases since their beginning in 2017. Ms. Chen has made an impression because she is not creatively directing towards the transparency trend. Her perfumes have had an extra bit of complexity along with some more heft than the typical “clean” perfume.
Vanilla Sky is the brand’s first foray into gourmand territory. Ms. Chen has shown that she is willing to have a collection which is representative of the prevailing trends. Vanilla Sky checks off a box. It is done through an axis of coffee, vanilla, and caramel.
It opens with what is being touted as a cappuccino accord generated through the proprietary “Smell-the-Taste” technology. Developed by Firmenich over ten years ago it has been used as a way of bridging food into fragrance. In this case the cappuccino is not as strong as I was hoping for. There is as much steamed milk as the bitterness of espresso. It is nice but it becomes overwhelmed by what comes next. A sweet vanilla and jasmine form the heart. As the caramel begins to ooze into sight so does a creamy sandalwood. It all forms a classic gooey gourmand fragrance.
Vanilla Sky has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I like that Vanilla Sky carries itself with a little more presence. I think with gourmands it works better. Ms. Chen has added another nice interpretation to her collection. If you want a good time gourmand Vanilla Sky can fill that order.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.