Now that I have been writing about perfume for a while, I have attained some perspective through longevity. A part of that is seeing independent perfumers who have navigated the years while staying true to themselves. I admire anyone who can find a vision while seeing it evolve through the years. In 2005 Olivier Durbano began a collection of perfumes he called “Parfums de Pierres Poemes”, Stone Poem Perfumes. All his perfumes were named after a gemstone which he interpreted as a fragrance. I didn’t discover him until 2007 with his third perfume Black Tourmaline. It was the entry to a brand which has delighted me with every release.
His releases in 2018 and 2019 moved away from the gemstone theme in lieu of spiritual themes. The perfumes remained just as interesting. When I read the press release for Olivier Durbano Aram it seems as if he was merging the spiritual and Pierres Poemes in something larger. He says the fragrance has twin inspirations. One is the full moon, perhaps the biggest stone to write a fragrant poem about. It is also influenced by his first, and only trip to Syria. What he takes from there is the scent of the terroir, the very ground under his feet. A poem about the stone we live upon. Aram is a construct of moon and earth.
Aram opens on a movement of bitter ingredients in harmony. M. Durbano uses grapefruit in its slightly sufurous citric profile. I adore this on its own. It is joined by the biting green of artemisia, and green tea. All of these have an edge to them. In combination it could have become raspy. Somehow, they find an appealing coexistence despite those rough spots. The heart is where the stone resides. Early on it is the dustiness of a Syrian street as incense, myrrh, and olibanum form that. The lunar surface glows through vetiver, benzoin, and cedar. In between both is an ingredient identified as “gum ammoniac”. Based on what I can find it is a sour scented resin. It sits in Aram as a piece of connective tissue to the top accord and the earth and moon faces. From in between all of it comes a rose as if to offer an ameliorating effect. A plea to find beauty wherever you are.
Aram has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Aram feels like the largest stone poem ever. A grande pierre poeme? It has three accords connected through the rose and gum ammoniac. It is an example of how assured a perfumer M. Durbano has become that even the stones of Earth and Moon still respond to his touch.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I have always been a fan of game shows. The ability to play along at home creates a lot of the appeal. The other part is the host of each game show. The best hosts eventually find the right game which fits their demeanor. If this happens, they usually become as much a part of the success and enjoyment of things.
When I was a child there were three gameshow pairings which fell in this category. Alan Ludden on “Password”, Hugh Downs on “Concentration”, and Art Fleming on “Jeopardy!”. Not only did they keep things moving it seemed like they genuinely enjoyed the game they were the moderators for.
That original incarnation of “Jeopardy!” ran for fifteen years from 1964-1979. It was always a personal barometer for how much I knew about a subject. When I got Final Jeopardy right it was a big moment.
Five years after it went off the air, they decided to bring it back in syndication to play in the early evening after the local and national news in most markets. I was happy to have it back but when I heard who the host was, I wasn’t that excited. They had asked Alex Trebek to take over from Art Fleming with Mr. Fleming’s blessings. I didn’t think this guy was a great host. He was on the game show “High Rollers” which was not one of my favorites. I also felt he kind of went through the motions. It felt like it was a job for him.
From almost the first moments I saw him as host of “Jeopardy!” in 1984 I realized this was entirely different. He like Mr. Fleming prior to him was much more engaged with the rhythm of the game and the players. By the end of the first year it was his show.
What I always appreciated about the way he approached “Jeopardy!” was he knew how important it was to the players to show off their smarts. He commiserated with them when they were close. Rooted for them to get an answer in on a Daily Double. Like the audience he genuinely enjoyed emceeing a close back and forth game. All of this came through the television screen.
When he passed away last November it was hard to think of a world where he wasn’t going to be there every evening. Because of the taping schedule he didn’t leave my television screen until January. I still watch the show but through just a couple of guest hosts it doesn’t feel like they have found the right successor.
I hope there is someone out there as genuinely interested in giving smart people a chance to shine for a half-hour five days a week.
One of the great collections of inexpensive fragrance is the one created by the twin celebrities Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Starting in 2014 they released pairs of perfumes under the label of Elizabeth & James. Back then when I wrote about it, I mentioned the name came from the ladies’ younger, less famous, siblings. Revisiting that statement in 2021 the distaff side of the name is no longer the less anything to her sisters. Elizabeth Olsen has been a brilliant actor in the streaming series WandaVision. The twins turned out to have their own version of precocious vision as they moved into fashion and fragrance.
When it came to these perfumes the idea was to design simple easy-to-wear constructs. That isn’t an uncommon target for many modestly priced brands. What always seemed to set this collection apart was the choice of three tightly integrated keynotes. Each of the six releases are designed with this in mind. Elizabeth & James Nirvana French Grey was part of the lest set of two in 2017. Perfumers Nicole Mancini and Linda Song use lavender, neroli, and musk as the trio to build this with.
What all the perfumes do in this collection is to sandwich one multi-faceted ingredient between two others. Using the variability to move back and forth between the two it forms a more dynamic fragrance than you might expect from just three ingredients.
Lavender plays the part of the ingredient with facets. In French Grey it is sandwiched between neroli and musk. The herbal nature of the lavender resonates with the green floral scent of neroli. Early on you get a slightly green floral accord. As the lavender shifts towards the musk it shows off its powdery side. It creates a lightly powdered skin accord. Over the hours it stays on my skin the lavender seemingly pivots back and forth between the neroli and musk until it finally fades.
Nirvana French Grey has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
All six Elizabeth & James fragrances qualify as Discount Diamonds they are that good. Nirvana French Grey is just the best choice for these early spring days. If you are enjoying Elizabeth’s acting, you should see the vision her twin sisters bring to perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
One silver lining about being at home is I’ve had more substantial perfume conversations than I have in a while. The connectivity of the online messaging world provides the mechanism for it. When I posted my review of Byredo Tobacco Mandarin I got a message asking if it was different enough from the rest of the line. It led to a discussion of the Byredo expansively minimal aesthetic, my words versus transparently bland, his words. I’m sure I didn’t change his mind. What it did for me was to make me think about why this type of opacity appeals to me. The latest release Byredo Mixed Emotions offers me a chance to write about it.
It seems like a good place to do it since Mixed Emotions is the 50th release since the brand began in 2007. One of its strengths is the relationship between creative director Ben Gorham and perfumer Jerome Epinette. Together for all 50. This seems like one of those collaborations where both men were interested in what you could do with a minimalist mindset. Over the years the answer has been to create expansive versions of ingredients known for their weight. It is that quality which draws me to this collection.
Mixed Emotions is an on-point example because of the way birch is used here. Usually the foundation of a leather accord. In this perfume it is given a quite different profile. M. Epinette turns it into something delightfully airy.
It starts with a smoky fruity accord. Combining blackcurrant bud and two teas, black Ceylon and mate. Blackcurrant bud can be a problematic note when concentrated. Used in a more open way it just carries a lilting berry scent. The two teas rise up in steaming spirals to surround the fruit. The black tea adds the hint of smokiness. The mate adds back some of the green the blackcurrant bud would have displayed if denser. As an accord it is an abstraction which allows for a desired effect to be achieved. Papyrus and violet leaf add back some deeper shading to the green. Then we come to the birch. I am not sure how he did it, but this is not the biting proto-tar of most birch in fragrance. It is the scent of birch trees in winter carrying a slightly mentholated quality with the clean woodiness. I don’t recall finding a birch displayed in a perfume in this way. It is what makes this great.
Mixed Emotions has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mixed Emotions is everything Byredo does well just refined after having done it 49 previous times. The name may portray ambivalence, I don’t share it. Mixed Emotions is an ideal reason why Byredo remains one of my favorite perfume brands.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Byredo.
One of the biggest things which separates art and commerce is intent. The latter is done to appeal to the masses and make a buck. The former is what makes us human. It is the perspective of an imagination who looks at the world through a distinct lens. The visual arts are replete with examples. Places for an artist to display and discuss their thoughts. It is something I feel the art of perfume is lacking. The examples of perfumers standing with their creation speaking about why scent is the right medium are few and far between. I especially yearn for it from the perfumers I know create with the intentionality of art through fragrance. Which was why I was happy to see Amber Jobin of Aether Arts Perfume do a guest piece on CaFleureBon about her latest creation. (link here) In it she explains the process behind Aether Arts Perfume Contact.
I urge you to read the piece, but I will boil it down to a few words. Of all the things we have lost in this pandemic the simple act of human contact has been one of the most debilitating. The simple act of holding someone close is lost for the moment. There is the physical contact of it. There is also the scent of it. It is something perfume is especially proficient at doing. There are lots of skin accords built around musk. Contact is a perfume built around the concept of holding a loved one close.
When I hug at first my nose is closest to the person’s hair. A lot of people use fruity shampoos. The top accord of Contact is composed of peach mélange, carrot seed, and a CO2 extraction of coconut. This is that moment when I pull back to smile and share my joy at seeing the person. We are still close enough to experience the humanity of each other. Through calamus, liatrix, and the keynote of contact an attar of jasmine, sandalwood, and ambrette that is portrayed. This is the soul of Contact. Ambrette provides the skin musk to the pleasure of jasmine and sandalwood all together. This is that shared smile of affection. As I pull closer for another hug the skin of my friend is now what I experience. Some cumin, white pepper, beeswax, Africa stone, and muskrat tincture form the slightly spicy funky smell of another human being. A final touch is the powdery shine of orris as if to smile at each other in the pleasure of fellowship.
Contact has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I can’t hug Ms. Jobin or any of my favorite perfume people today. Hopefully, that changes soon. Until then Contact will remind me of the necessity of human touch. All through the artistic intention of one of my favorite perfumers.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Aether Arts Perfume.
There are a distinct set of perfume brands which I consider the foundation of the independent-niche perfume sector. One of them is Diptyque. In 2021 they are celebrating their 60th anniversary. To begin this celebratory year Diptyque Orpheon calls back to the early days.
Diptyque Founders: Yves Coueslant, Christiane Gautrot, and Desmond Knox-Leet
The perfume is meant to capture those exciting times as the founders Yves Coueslant, Christiane Gautrot, and Desmond Knox-Leet were creating their business. Like so many young businesses after a long day you would retire to the local bar. I am not sure how many great ideas for a small company have been spawned in a bar. I would wager it must be a lot. The founders spent a lot of time at the Orpheon which was right down the street from their 34 Boulevard Saint-Germaine atelier. There is no one left at the company to provide the knowledge of those days. It posed a challenge to perfumer Olivier Perscheux who would have to imagine the scene. His vision of the Latin Quarter in Paris 1961 is to keep it simple. Find the darkness of the polished wood, the cigarette smoke, a splash of gin around the floral keynotes that will spawn an influential brand.
I am guessing M. Pescheux was told the founders favored gin. That’s because the opening accord is an icy gin and tonic accord complete with a lime. Juniper berry is the core the slice of lime sparkles in the glass. There is a fizz of aldehydes providing chill and effervescence. With the drinks served it is time to brainstorm. M. Pescheux creates a dynamic heart of multiple florals. Headed up by jasmine, ylang-ylang, magnolia, and rose are all there as well. It is as if they are trying to decide which floral their first perfume should be based upon. The cigarette smoke hangs in the air through a tobacco accord. As they sit back the highly polished wood of the bar makes itself known. Cedar is given a high-gloss shine through vetiver, and benzoin.
Orpheon has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Something you can do on milestone anniversaries is to romanticize the past. I don’t know if the first fragrance Diptyque L’Eau was conceived at the Orpheon. I do know M. Pescheux tells a great story about the early days of the brand through perfume.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by Diptyque.
In the five years from 2007-2012 there was a vitality to the ideas and concepts being applied to fragrance. Every time I would turn around there was something new hoping to gain traction. These were also the years when every designer seemingly wanted into the perfume game. This was a particularly grim time for those designers who looked for mainstream success. The real creativity was coming from those who chose to create a fragrance to go with their fashion in the niche space.
The designers which made it work created lines which have survived until today. One of the most interesting concepts within this time-period came from Joseph Quartana. He created a collection called Six Scents. He would match young up and coming fashion designers with a perfumer. Six designers and six perfumers would make up a series. It remains one of my favorite fashion and perfume partnerships because there seemed to be a real attempt to marry the fashion and fragrance aesthetics.
I liked it so much I bugged Mr. Quartana anytime I ran into him. He knew what was coming as soon as he saw the Hawaiian shirt and fedora moving towards him. He was always kind enough to send me a sample set. In 2012, Series No.4 was coming out. I would review all six of them while I was writing at CaFleureBon. Little did I know that one of them never made it to the shelf. Now almost nine years later it has become available. I thought it would be interesting to revisit Six Scents Nappa Noir again.
The team put together by Mr. Quartana for Nappa Noir was shoe designer Raphael Young and perfumer Calice Becker. Mr. Young was known for creating footwear as sculpture. He had a discerning customer who wanted to wear an artistic statement. Mme Becker had experienced a rapid rise to one of the most sought-after perfumers. In 2012 when she worked on Nappa Noir she had also become the singular muse for By Kilian creating some of the most memorable perfumes for that collection. When these two artists were brought together, they created a perfume as precisely balanced as one of Mr. Young’s shoes.
They decided to make a floriental with gourmand nuances. Those come right at the start. It is as if having a cigarette at a café with a coffee and cookie was needed. Mme Becker swirls the tobacco of a lit cigarette over a bitterly strong coffee. Underneath is a subtle pastry accord based on speculoos cookies. This means a lightly sweet gingerbread inserts itself between the smoke and coffee. We then enter the workshop and take out a fresh piece of leather to shape. This is freshly processed still containing the bite of birch tar. Mme Becker uses violet, orris, and ylang-ylang to refine the obstreperous beast into something more elegant. Violet is the main floral to interact with the leather. Patchouli, vanilla, and musk continue to shape the leather into something as delightful to smell as the shoes are to look at.
Nappa Noir has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
In the years since I first tried Nappa Noir violet and leather have become a favorite. It wasn’t as prevalent in 2012 as it would become. I like Nappa Noir better now than I did then and I liked it a lot. As I went back over all the Six Scents releases, I am surprised at how durable they have been. They don’t seem dated. That seems to show what a good matchmaker Mr. Quartana was. You might think a floriental leather perfume form 2012 wouldn’t fit in 2021. Allow Nappa Noir to change your thinking.
Disclosure: this review based on a sample provided by Six Scents.
There is nothing which makes me more pleased than to watch a perfume brand begin to hit their stride. I call this the inflection point. What it signifies is a brand has developed their core principles and aesthetics. Then they produce a perfume which shows the development phase is over as all these ingredients take it to a new place of creativity. Maison Crivelli Osmanthe Kodoshan represents that kind of transition.
Creative director-founder Thibaud Crivelli began Maison Crivelli in 2018. What made me interested in them from their beginning was M. Crivelli’s belief in creating perfume which had texture from a specific keynote. That is a difficult aesthetic to achieve. I’ve read that statement numerous times. It has been a mark of failed aspirations almost all of the time. M. Crivelli has lived up to his artistic vision admirably.
There has been a steady improvement in each succeeding release. Over the last year it really seemed to coalesce. With Citrus BatiKanga and Iris Malikhan it was right on the verge of something special. Osmanthe Kodoshan is that perfume.
Another thing to be admired about M. Crivelli is he has imparted his vision of texture and keynote to different perfumers. I would’ve thought this was a concept which would have flourished better under a single partnership of creative direction and perfumer. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Perfumer Stephanie Bakouche returns for her second collaboration with M. Crivelli.
I’ve written hundreds of words about my affection for osmanthus. It is another of those two-faced ingredients which I think is what speaks to me. it also means it is an ideal choice for the focal point of a textural type of fragrance. It brings its own with it. Here they delve into the darker parts of it finding the shadowy pockets within.
One thing which is becoming a consistent piece of a Maison Crivelli perfume is an opening accord which sets the textural table without employing the keynote. It is at its zenith in the combination of star anise and Szechuan pepper used to begin Osmanthe Kodoshan. The black licorice whip intensity of star anise lays down lashes across the fruity spiciness of the pepper. There is a graininess to this which is so appealing. The first time I tried this I wished there were a pause button on my nose so I could hold this for a few seconds longer. What was to come was even better.
The osmanthus leads the way. This is appealing to me because of the natural apricot and leather scent profile it carries. Both pieces can be turned in a direction using the supporting ingredients. Here the concept is to take it in a deeper darker direction. A back alley osmanthus. This is done with a slightly smoky black tea taking the apricot in a dried fruit direction. This concentrates the fruitiness. It is helped by the remnants of the anise and pepper top accord. An insistent swirl of frankincense brings attention to the leathery side of things. It is anchored there through a rich narcotic tobacco, earthy patchouli, and a velvet oakmoss. These recapitulate the graininess of the opening accord as you slide your fingers across a grained leather swatch. Taken together it is mesmerizing
Osmanthe Kodoshan has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is the best perfume Maison Crivelli has made to date. It achieves higher levels of everything the brand says it desires to. If you haven’t discovered them yet, you should before they really take off. Everything I could want from an osmanthus perfume with texture is found in Osmanthe Kodoshan.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
There are actors who do such a great job in a role I want to see them in something like it again. One of those is Rosamund Pike who starred in the 2014 movie “Gone Girl”. She plays a delightfully duplicitous character trying a unique way to end a marriage. She has done plenty of things including a great turn as Marie Curie in “Radioactive” since. I just wanted her to play another morally ambiguous badass. The new movie “I Care A Lot” delivers.
Ms. Pike plays Marla Grayson who has built a career of becoming the legal guardian of elderly people. That might sound nice, but she does it for all the wrong reasons. Once she is given her guardianship, she uses it to sell off all their belongings. She is a shark and in voiceover narration she lets the audience know it. The first act of the movie is the mechanics of how easy it is for her to do this. In cahoots with unethical physicians they can turn anyone into a mark while taking everything away from them.
The movie then asks the question, “what happens when you do this with the wrong target?”. Marla is given the head’s up on a “cherry”. Slang for an elderly person with no family. The rapid-fire sequence of how Jennifer Peterson, played by Dianne Wiest, goes from beautiful home to a room in a nursing facility is frightening. The twist that the rest of the movie will play out upon is she does have a son. A Russian Mafia kingpin who is unhappy to find out his mother has been taken from her home. The mobster is played by Peter Dinklage.
The movie is then a game of two criminals facing off in a game of survival. All three actors I mentioned are pitch perfect in their roles. The movie is full of twists and turns right up until the end. This is one of those movies where among the main characters there are no good guys. Yet just as it was in “Gone Girl” Ms. Pike plays this kind of part so well I end up rooting for her.
This is also a movie which exposes just how easily the system allows for our senior citizens to be taken advantage of. The early part of the movie as you follow Marla indicts the way the laws are set against some of the most vulnerable in our society. It becomes a different movie once it becomes Marla vs. the mobster. Which is where it spends most of its time.
If you also wanted to see Ms. Pike at her nihilistic best again “I Care A Lot” is just for you.
When it comes to my morning hot beverage of choice, I am an equal opportunity imbiber. We have shelves filled with loose teas and bags of coffee beans. It generally isn’t until I am standing in front of the cabinet that I make my choice. I have found I have seasonal preferences. One is for the green teas as the transition from winter to spring happens. To stand on the porch while the poodles run with a cup steaming in my hand is my idea of a good morning.
Tea inspired perfumes are also a significant piece of the perfumery landscape. I haven’t noticed a seasonal inclination to my wanting to wear those. I do own quite a few of them. It is often because some of the best perfumers create some of their best work around a tea-centric concept. That continues with Maison Margiela Replica Matcha Meditation.
I have found this Replica collection to be one of the best in mainstream fragrance. The reasons for it are top perfumers given a focused brief along with some room to realize it. In the case of Matcha Meditation perfumer Maurice Roucel is asked to interpret “Zen scents of matcha tea” which he does. It is a fabulous curveball thrown in over the later stages that turns this into something memorable.
It opens with a tea accord of green tea and matcha. The combination tamps down the bite of the matcha while still allowing it to provide more depth to the accord. It is joined by orange blossom and jasmine. For those familiar with jasmine green tea balls there is a similar scent to this part of Matcha Meditation. M. Roucel allows the floral to float on top of the tea accord. He also chooses to add in cedarwood given more oomph with oakmoss. It all flows in an homage to green tea. What happens next sneaks in on little cat’s feet. An unctuous cacao oozes in underneath. This is waxy chocolate as if a square were on the saucer next to your teacup. Despite the unexpectedness it fits in a gourmand way the entire construction prior to it.
Matcha Meditation has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
The addition of the chocolate to the end of this is what makes this so good. It adds a different type of grounding to the tea accord. It is so good to my nose I am going to reach into the chocolate drawer to have a chunk next to the next cup of green tea I brew. M. Roucel’s choice forms a gourmand tea of excellence.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Maison Margiela.