No one who reads this site will be surprised to hear I have a huge iTunes playlist of my favorite summer songs. If is use the play count as a metric to determine my favorite summer songs coming in at #2 would be 1983’s “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves. Even when I don’t have the headphones in the song plays in my head as I take the dogs for an afternoon walk. There is something summery about it that just feels right. Independent perfumer Shawn Maher has given me a perfume to accompany this in Maher Olfactive Sun Dazed.
What is inspiring about Sun Soaked is it has sunshine to spare. If it had just stayed with the accord which represents this it would have been great. What has made Mr. Maher such an interesting artist to me is he always finds a depth to even the lightest subjects he undertakes. In this case he adds an earthy gravity which holds it all together. As I do whenever I review Mr. Maher’s creations if you’re interested in the nuts and bolts of designing perfume you should begin by reading his “Scent Notes” blog on this.
If I ever do play a word association game with scent the smell of neroli and citrus would make me say “sunshine”. Perfumers have used these to create a brilliant accord almost from the beginning of modern perfumery. What Mr. Maher does is to take neroli and pair it with bitter orange. Then instead of getting lost in sunbeams he consciously grounds it through an ingredient which I would associate with “fertile earth”, narcissus.
The neroli opens things and the bitter orange joins it right away. This is a classic pairing. The quality of the specific ingredients used adds wonderful grace notes. One of the things Mr. Maher lets us see in his blog is how precise use of complementary notes can take something shopworn and give it new life. He uses a suite of smart choices to delineate every drop of light in the keynotes. From the moment I spray it on it is high noon even if it is morning.
The effect of the narcissus is amazing. At first it is that earthiness I enjoy about it so much. It exerts a pull on the top accord without dulling it. Then just the right amount of blackcurrant bud coaxes the floral part of narcissus to the foreground. This finds harmony with the neroli in beautiful ways. It finishes with an amber accord built around some of the more animalic musks and some Iso E Super. It is dry as a patch of summer ground.
Sun Dazed has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Every time I look at my sample of Sun Dazed Katrina sings to me “and don’t it feel good?” Yes, yes it does.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Maher Olfactive.
In S. Florida the pursuit of the perfect tan was a way of life. When I was growing up there was no talk of SPF just what could make you have the best skin tone. People used baby oil (SPF 0), Coppertone, Hawaiian Tropic, Bain de Soleil, or straight cocoa butter. None of it protected, all of it was to turn your skin brown. While none of these kept out a single UV ray, they all had their own distinctive scent. As I walked around, I could define suntan society. The hardcore tanners had the slightly mineralic baby oil wafting off them. The middle-class kids were wearing Coppertone. Our mothers were wearing Hawaiian Tropic. The hipsters were using cocoa butter. The upper class had on Bain de Soleil. The background was the waves with the sea spray or the slightly chlorinated pool water. It continues to the present day, Vacation x Arquiste captures the scent of this current suntan society.
The perfume inspired by suntanning products is a niche within a niche. It is one that I enjoy immensely. Capturing sunny days on a beach towel or pool lounge are sure to induce a smile. Creative director at Arquiste, Carlos Huber was asked by the makers of Vacation sunscreen to create the scent of their product as a perfume. He turned to long-time collaborator, perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux to bring it to fragrant life.
It begins with deep coconut accord of coconut milk and coconut water. There is a fluidity to this which mimics the water somewhere close by. Petitgrain is like the sun glinting off the surface of the water. Ten seconds after you spray this on you will look down to make sure you aren’t in your swimming attire. It then transitions into the fruity part of a lot of tanning products as banana and pineapple are spread atop an expansive musk meant to convey the sun and open air. It forms a less intense version of the fruits than you might expect. It is just the right volume to evoke a poolside memory. It ends with the gentlest accord of slightly chlorinated pool water, sea spray, and lycra. This is a delightful reminder of the idea of being out in the sun without becoming too loud. It perfectly finished the milieu being represented here.
Vacation has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is without a doubt the most palpable fun I have encountered from Srs. Huber and Flores-Roux in all the time that I have known them. I feel nearly certain there were laughter-filled conversations as they closed in on a final version. That joy is not an ingredient you will find on the side of the box. It is necessary if you’re going to find just the right tone for suntan society.
Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle provided by Arquiste.
The more common fragrance types are boring because everyone does the same thing. Produce something that smells good using the same set of ingredients in the same order. This has been going on for nearly thirty years in the aquatic category. Just like other popular styles the general consumer seems happy to try the same scent over and over with a different name on the bottle. There are lots of ways to shake things up if you have a mind to. Armani Prive Cypres Pantelleria is willing to give it a try.
The recipe for most aquatics is some ozonic sea spray over an aromachemical like Calone followed by a lighter tropical floral leading to some light woods. It has been a crowd-pleaser since it appeared. Perfumer Alberto Morillas chooses to change the run of show to create a different aquatic experience.
This opens with a sunny neroli. If you experience the first couple of minutes you would have no idea an aquatic will follow. This is a bright lively version of the floral. By pushing it to the front of the pyramid it creates a different effect. The cypress comes next also advanced from its usual position in the base. The light wood and the floral make it seem as if you are reading the last page of the story. The typical opening of ozonic water notes and sage finally come crashing in. There is a pronounced saltiness to these sea spray pieces. They coat the neroli and cypress with a briny mist. Another change is to form a heftier base accord of patchouli and vetiver. It has an effect of adding earthy green to everything else.
Cypres Pantelleria has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
By shuffling the aquatic deck M. Morillas has formed something which feels enough different without losing any of the pieces which makes the recipe popular. I wish more would do the same.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Neiman-Marcus.
I often have an issue when I receive a pair of new perfumes from a brand. One can be perfect for the time of year I received it. While the other needs six months to pass for its time to arrive. This was what happened when I received my samples of the two new releases from Nishane just after Thanksgiving last year. One of them Nanshe was a great fall fragrance. The other I put it in my box to be tested when the weather turned warmer. That time has come for Nishane Ege.
Mert Guzel (l.) and Marat Katran
Ege is part of the “No Boundaries” collection from creative directors Mert Guzel and Marat Katran. The name is a short slangy version of Aegean. This is a summery Mediterranean style scent. With that name you might be thinking aquatic. Working with perfumer Ilias Ermenidis they form a scent for the heat laden with spices, citrus, and licorice.
One other thing to mention is these types of perfumes are usually released in the lighter concentrations. Ege is the opposite as it is an extrait. This could have been a drawback as that kind of intensity could become overwhelming in this type of fragrance. What happens is it creates a situation where the concentration allows for some of the nuance for these ingredients to be detected.
It begins with the summery citrus of yuzu. There is a lively green piece of this lemon analog which sets up what is to come. The other ingredient is star anise. It also sets up another piece of things to come with its lighter licorice-like scent profile. The heart is a refreshing mixture of herbs basil and mint. Violet leaves add their more cutting green while cardamom connects back to the yuzu. The licorice makes a return in its more herbal almost medicinal character. It takes the slight effect of the star anise and deepens it. Where this might have gone too deep the freshness of the basil and mint prevent that from happening. Lazy swirls of incense add the final touch
Ege has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I wore this on two scorching 90-degree plus days. It was as good as I expected. You might think that a fragrance at this concentration is too much for the heat. Let Ege introduce you to the concept of a summer extrait.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
There is a sports term to describe the skill of the most elite athletes in a team sport. It is called “creating space”. It means through a combination of skill and ability they can make a place on the playing surface where they are on their own. Only the best players can do this. When I received my sample of Chanel Paris-Edimbourg I am beginning to think there might be a perfume equivalent.
Paris-Edimbourg is the fifth release in the Les Eaux collection. They are meant to represent the travels of Gabrielle Chanel. In this case it is 1924 and her current paramour is the Duke of Westminster. He introduced her to the rugged beauty of Scotland as an antidote to the high society world. It would also become an inspiration to some of the most recognizable Chanel fashion items. In-house perfumer Olivier Polge would go and visit the estates where she stayed to help him design the perfume.
He came away with the idea of two contrasting pieces, “icy” juniper berry and “peaty wood”. As one who enjoys his peaty flavored scotch, I was dubious about a perfume featuring that not becoming overwhelmed by it. Especially a collection like Les Eaux which have been on the lighter side. This collection has come to feel as if M. Polge is defining his vision of the fragrance side of Chanel in the 21st century.
The promised cool juniper berry is where this begins. If you’re expecting the gin-like scent profile it is instead one which accentuates the citrus facets of the ingredient. It surprised me because I was expecting a gin and tonic and got the lime without the alcohol. There is the promised chill it just comes from a different direction.
The “peaty wood” is also set upon the Scottish heath as he pulls together lavender and a smoky vetiver. This is like looking out over a gently sloping field of purple flowers as the peat gently scents the air. The vetiver is added in such a precise amount to give that hint of peaty smoke while keeping this light. The lavender adds its herbal version which has a mentholated interaction with something else, probably the juniper berry. Recapitulating the promised “icy”. It finishes with a warm comfort accord of vanilla, musk, and cedar.
Paris-Edimbourg has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
After five releases I think the “Les Eaux” collection is where M. Polge is creating his own space. Paris-Edimbourg doesn’t smell like any other Chanel ever made. Yet it is constructed with the same precision the brand is known for. He is unafraid to oversee a collection of perfumes which will create a new type of Chanel fragrance lover. Paris-Edimbourg proves it.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I hear it all the time, we want perfume to last for a week on my skin. Yes, a slight exaggeration except that sentence at the end of every review is important to a lot of readers who care about longevity. I am not one of those. If a perfume can go off like fireworks on my skin and fade away just as fast; as long as its good, or fun I’m happy. This becomes especially true in the summer months as it can sometimes be a benefit to have the fragrance you sprayed in the morning to have faded a bit by the late afternoon. It can also be a refreshing experience to spray some more on at the same time to cool your senses down. Diptyque Ilio does all of this exceptionally.
Diptyque is going all out celebrating their 60th anniversary. Ilio is part of what they are calling the Summer Essentials collection. Besides the Eau de Toilette there is also a hair mist version of Ilio. Another way to enjoy fragrance in the warmer months. Everything about Ilio is familiar to those who enjoy Mediterranean style scents. Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin makes one change in a nod towards the current trend towards transparency. Which in this case is a plus.
It begins with the refreshing green of prickly pear. This is an ingredient that doesn’t get enough spotlight. Here it shows off its refreshing green scent profile. There is also a bit of citrus and floral as part of it too. This is given a boost through one of the non-indolic clean jasmines. I often compare the effect these have to forming a floral soap bubble for the other ingredients to float upon. That is true for the prickly pear. It seems to form pale green spirals on the surface of the jasmine. The last note is something different in this kind of concentration. Orris completes the trio of keynotes for Ilio. This is a light dusting of powder along with a sun-baked earthiness. The latter is the part I find so interesting. The usual carrot-like rootiness is turned to an opaque dried earth. it is as if that soap bubble has just landed on the dry ground.
Ilio has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
I wore this on a couple of pretty hot days. I applied it liberally and often over the time I had it on. It checked all the boxes I have for a summer trifle of a perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Diptyque.
There is a large part of my personality I define as punk. When I first learned of the music in the late 1970’s it fit my idea of what rock and roll should be. The sneering take no prisoners attitude appealed to me too. In those days it was slam dancing in front of screaming guitars and vocalists. I’m over 60 but that part of me still peeks out from behind the gray. Because it is important to me when a perfume brand claims to want to take it on, I am suspicious. As I was when I received my sample of Room 1015 Cherry Punk.
Room 1015 was founded in 2015 by Michael Partouche aka Dr. Mike. His aim has been to make perfumes which capture the era of the 1970’s rock and roll scene as fragrance. I love the idea, but the execution has not always been as emblematic of that era in music. Maybe it is because I lived it, I have a different perspective. I want rougher edges around something full of life. The other new release from the brand called Sweet Leaf might be the politest marijuana perfume I’ve ever smelled. It should have had tendrils of lung tickling smoke. Instead it comes straight from a modern-day apothecary. It is a nice cannabis perfume, but it is not 70’s rock and roll. Cherry Punk hits closer to home despite my initial skepticism. Dr. Mike works with perfumer Jerome Epinette for the third time.
The cherry comes from a maraschino-like version. Except it is roughed up with Szechuan pepper and saffron. If you have ever ground up a cherry pit this is what this accord reminds me of. The syrupy fruitiness is present but the pepper and saffron dial that sweetness way back. The heart is a powdery mimosa which also has a counterbalance in violet. One of my best friends who shared my punk passion chewed violet scented gum. It may not mean anything to anyone who didn’t have a friend like that. For me, the violet toning down the powdery mimosa felt right. It leads to a battered black leather jacket accord. This is that jacket which has been on tour. There are some slices in the hide and some studs on the collar. Maybe the name of your favorite band painted in red on it. It is a barely refined accord. The birch tar in it has a great bite which is when this feels the most punk to me. A classic 70’s head shop patchouli completes everything.
Cherry Punk has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Cherry Punk isn’t as much a representative of that 70’s music scene as I’d like. It also has enough of the punk attitude in places that it doesn’t feel like a sellout. It at least brings back some good memories of those days.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Room 1015.
My antipathy towards rose perfumes is that all too often their reason for being is to smell good. Now you might think that is the primary goal of perfumery. I hold it to a higher standard. There is so much more to the best besides being pleasant. Rose fragrances are the biggest perpetrators of doing little other than displaying the floral. Which is why you might think I would not be excited about Heeley Rose Aria.
Independent perfumer James Heeley has been one of my favorites because he manages to make the generic less so. Three years ago in Poudre Blanc he did a brilliant interpretation of fresh laundry. It was subtly layered and one of the best constructed perfumes I have ever come across. Rose Aria has a little bit of that as Mr. Heeley takes on rose.
The press material mentions it wants this to be a true garden rose with the green as important as the flower. That’s a good description of the first half of this. Underneath it is a gorgeous musky woody base which is where this really hits the high notes.
It opens with an overdose of galbanum. In these concentrations I experience it as a crystalline solid green. To break that up there are some softer green ingredients which cut though. This is the green of the rosebud, but I imagine it with little glittery flecks of galbanum. A classic rose centifolia explodes to life out of this. The rose bud opens to reveal a floral which is also keeping the green which came before. It is that which makes this rose less generic.
The base accord is a fantastic contrast as he takes a very dry amber and sandalwood to form the outlines. In between saffron and musk act like their own accord bursting out of the amber-sandalwood frame. It is the same kind of transformation I encountered with the rose and galbanum in the first half. Together this turns into a dry musky ambery green rose.
Rose Aria has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage at extrait strength.
I wish all rose fragrances would rise to this level of interpretation. Or maybe I don’t. It makes it easy to distinguish the brilliant from the mundane.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I respect brands which know what they do well and stick to it. If there is a drawback it comes as the desire to release annual versions can stretch the concept thin. The fragrance line of Narciso Rodriguez is a good example of this. Starting in 2003 they decided this would be a line of perfumes which feature musk. The first couple of releases remain some of the best musk perfumes I own. Then the pressure of continual release began to extend the concept in ways both slight and large. The problem for me is neither choice worked. Where the brand always seemed to find its best work was in smaller combination of ingredients which had their own muskiness. Narciso Neroli Eau Ambree is one of these.
This is ostensibly a flanker to 2020’s Narciso Ambree. This was one of the releases which fell flat. It just turned into a generic diffuse woody amber. The same perfumer, Aurelien Guichard is behind this new fragrance. The difference is this is a much more delineated construct taking advantage of the inherent muskiness of orange blossom.
Neroli is where it begins. This is a softer version of this with the green piece made less so through the presence of frangipani. It forms a summery floral pair. The heart is orange blossom and musk. People tend to forget that orange blossom is a white flower with its own set of indoles at its core. M. Guichard finds just the right musk to harmonize with it. This is where Eau Neoli Ambree shines. It is a tiny bit powdery as the citrus-tinted floral with the indolic soul dances with a subtly animalic musk. It finishes on the same amber and cedar base the original did. The difference this time is everything that came before was better.
Eau Neroli Ambree has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you are a fan of the other muskier efforts from Narciso Rodriguez this is one to try. It is surprisingly good in the heat of summer. I expect my sample will be finished by Labor Day.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Narciso Rodriguez.
When I was in high school, I had a friend who was allowed to cover her bedroom in posters. These weren’t just any posters these were the ones which looked best under black light. She even had light bars with black lights replacing the typical fluorescents. We were both fans of the big synthesizer based rock bands of the time. Bands like Yes or Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. A whole side of an album would be one song. She would light some incense sticks cut the lights over to black light and we would listen to the music while watching the colors glow. I hadn’t thought about this until I received my sample of Etat Libre d’Orange Soul Of My Soul.
Etienne de Swardt
Creative director Etienne de Swardt and perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu were inspired by the Thousand and One Nights of Scheherazade. The name comes from the story where the phrase “soul of my soul” is spoken by Aladdin. Their inspiration was Hindu cosmology. For almost anyone else I am sure there is lots of parallels to find. Every time I sniffed it; I was in the dark listening to synthesizers under a black light. What was always fascinating about looking at things under that was the typical colors had an unusual shade. More vivid seeming as if they were rising from the surface of the poster. Much of what Soul Of My Soul does is similar as it takes some of the deeper notes of perfumery and gives them an alternative spin.
One more thing I must mention is each oil house has a set of top shelf ingredients which are just better. For Givaudan where Mme Shyamala works these are given the name Orpur. All the ingredients in this are Orpur level except for one accord and one synthetic woody. I think this might be the highest level of Orpur ingredients I have encountered. It is one reason I believe there is so much to uncover here.
It begins with a top accord of bergamot, baie rose, and incense. This is where the quality of the Orpur shows. The bergamot carries an extra sparkle while the fruitiness of the baie rose is livelier. The incense swirls in columns of resinous curls around and through them. This is like the opening guitar chords to Yes’ song “Roundabout”. There is a connection of chords plucked in rapid succession. It leads to a heart dominated by the Orpur version of orris. This is a gorgeous version of this ingredient. To make it even more opulent the Orpur version of rose adds depth. These are the synthesizers in response to the opening guitar strains. The accord and the synthetic wood appear now as soft suede and the dry woodiness of Georgywood act like a leather covered piece of polished wood. It ends on a base accord of sandalwood and vanilla. This is not gourmand at all. The vanilla adds in some texture to the dry Australian sandalwood. These are the vocals to bring it all together in a resounding crescendo.
Soul Of My Soul has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
There is such vitality to these deeper ingredients it really makes me see them in a new perspective. Just the way I saw colors under the black light.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.