Even though I retain my belief that perfume is not gendered I am not blind to others who think differently. There are brands which seemingly know they are popular with one gender over the other. One I would put in that category is Parfums de Marly. For the last decade they have been producing fragrances which resonate with the guys. Creative director Julien Sprecher has leaned into this popularity. One of the things it has resulted in has been a slow drift towards the desires of that audience. In the most recent releases there are pieces which seem intentionally designed to appeal to their main demographic, the guys.
What that has meant is when they design for a female audience there is some freedom to try things. The last two releases for this audience, Delina and Cassili exemplify this. The most recent feminine release Parfums de Marly Oriana continues this creative trend.
M. Sprecher works with a team of perfumers this time. Nathalie Lorson and Hamid Merati-Kashani combine to create a fun-loving gourmand. What I have always admired about this brand is M. Sprecher understands what a mainstream perfume lover might be looking for in trying to breakaway from the mall. Oriana displays this as it captures the current trends without seeming to hew to them too strongly.
Oriana opens with a fresh citrus top accord built around mandarin and grapefruit. This is a lively attention getter for what comes next. The brief was to create a fragrance around Chantilly cream. The heart is where this begins to come together. Raspberry and blackcurrant form an array of juicy berries. Orange blossom captures the citrus from the top and swirls it in a creamy spiral. The cream accord rises to this and is further elaborated through marshmallow water. This is a fully realized gourmand as it feels like a bowl of cream and berries drizzled with marshmallow water. A subtle musk through ambrette adds the final piece.
Oriana has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Oriana once again shows the creativity at the brand when allowed to have a little more leeway. I’m happy to wear these over the men’s designed ones because they are just more interesting. I guess it’s because girls just want to have fun.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Parfums de Marly.
I say this a lot, the names of perfumes confound me. My most recent example comes from Patricia de
Nicolai. Regular readers know powdery types of fragrances aren’t high on my list of favorites. When my sample of Nicolai Poudre de Musc Intense was headed my way, I saw everything in a name to set off my alarms. Translated into “musk powder intense” I was expecting a huge powderpuff made even bigger because it was intense. When I received it, the powder is muted, while the musk is where the intense sort of applies, and I really like it.
Patricia de Nicolai
I am unsure whether this is meant to be a sequel to 2012’s Musc Intense. It is certainly not a flanker since it shares few of the same notes. What it does share is a desire to explore musc as an ingredient when it is interrogated by fruit and floral. The predecessor was a full rose and pear accord wrapped around a sensual musk. This new creation still goes with fruit and flowers with an added idea of making it more expansive.
That concept flows from the first moments. Lemony petitgrain and raspberry form the fruity half while orange blossom is the floral antagonist. The petitgrain has its sharpness blunted with the juiciness of the raspberry. The orange blossom also retains its core of indoles reminding you it is a white flower. If you’re looking for powder it is here where the floral has the most presence. Things change rapidly after this.
Using hawthorn and aldehydes she agitates her fruity floral accord. The aldehydes add lift while the hawthorn strums the indoles in a gentle way. Then the animalic musk adds some slinkiness to it. Mme de Nicolai is not looking to unleash a musky skankfest here. She is trying to strike a balance between the deeper axis of hawthorn and musk with the fizz of the aldehydes and the brighter pieces prior to it. Over time the musk draws depth out of the fruity floral pieces. Where it ends on an ambery sandalwood base.
Poudre de Musc Intense has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
For all that the name made me cautious the perfume has delighted me. It has been a great choice on these first cool days of the fall. This is going to be an ideal shoulder season fragrance choice. Just don’t let the name fool you.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
I receive a box of samples from Sephora every two or three months. For many consumers this store is the interface between them and perfume. When I first started paying attention to fragrance one of the attractions of going in the store was, they would make samples of anything on the shelf. Twenty years ago the mainstream was found on those shelves. What was going on in the independent niche perfumery world was unseen. In 2021 that is not the case. There are new releases which show how much influence niche has had on the fragrances for the mass-market. In my most recent box of samples I found Kayali Invite Only Amber 23 which solidified these thoughts I’ve been having.
Huda Beauty is the brand begun by sisters Huda and Mona Kattan. As the brand has expanded across the beauty sector the sisters have divided and conquered the different pieces. When it comes to fragrance it is Mona Kattan who creatively directs that piece. In 2018 she created the Kayali brand with a debut collection of four. This year there have been three releases of which Invite Only Amber 23 is the fall release.
The influence of niche shows in the number at the end of the name. It represents the number of mods before they finally reached the one in the bottle. There are many independent brands who have allowed the consumer inside the creative process through a simple number. As long as you know what it represents.
What’s in the bottle is perhaps the greatest representation of how niche has influenced things. If I said to someone at the mall, I’d like a woody gourmand with hints of oud. They probably would have given me directions to the food court. Today they might likely hand you Invite Only Amber 23.
Ms. Kattan works with perfumer Ilias Ermenidis to create this. One thing I’ve enjoyed about the Kayali releases to date is they are not as transparent as most of their contemporaries. Ms. Kattan seemingly believes a little weight is not a bad thing in a perfume.
The perfume opens with a cherry-flavored tobacco accord. Mr. Ermenidis makes this more tobacco than fruit, but it is the presence of the cherry which makes it. Hazelnut flavored chocolate adds a gourmand layer under the tobacco. This results in an appealing gourmand accord.
The base is where the influences of the last twenty years also appear. Oud has become one of the most used ingredients in perfumery. It has an exotic quality on its own. In this case Mr. Ermenidis constructs an oud accord. This allows him to create a piece which is less edgy than oud itself. Because that is kind of sterile, he makes a smart choice to add in a tiny amount of the real stuff. This catalyzes the whole construct to add a potent woody contrast to the gourmand half.
Invite Only Amber 23 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
The world of perfumery has changed so much. That in twenty years a perfume like Invite Only Amber 23 exists at the mall is a testament to what niche has wrought.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
There is a hazard to naming a perfume “Imagination”. Should a fragrance lover expect something unique and different? Or does the name point out a lack of it? With Louis Vuitton Imagination I can make a case that two-thirds of it lives up to its name.
Longtime readers know I have struggled with the fragrances under the Louis Vuitton brand. I have desired leathery variations. Perfumer Jacques Cavallier-Belletrud who has been the perfumer of all 28 perfumes released over the last five years wants a broader collection. One part where he has begun to stake out some interesting territory is in the fresh style of fragrance. Even though they are the opposite of the leather I want I am coming around to enjoying these types of entries within the collection. Imagination falls into this group.
The opening is a juicy orange given some shadow and texture through tea. M. Cavallier-Belletrud turns the orange from the sunlight surrogate into something a little less bright. I found it an appealing alternative.
The heart is a soapy mixture of neroli and ginger. When it first appears it is as if you’ve just unwrapped a fine milled soap. It takes over for a short period before the citrus accord comes back. A slight sizzle of cinnamon completes this part of the perfume. Right here is a nice take on a fresh summer fragrance.
What happens next is something which happens all too often, ambrox blots out the sun. It eclipses everything that came before in a dry woody torrent. I’ve got enough examples to know it doesn’t have to be this way. There are more restrained uses of ambrox which can be appealing. I continue to believe that it is used in this quantity, so the perfume lasts a long time which is prized by some consumers.
Imagination has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Combination of luxurious soap and shadowed citrus did show some of what the label promised. Too bad the final stages are the antithesis of that.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Louis Vuitton.
I spent a lot of time on boats growing up. One of the greatest things was when I was on a long sailing trip there was a moment when there was no land to see. It always made me feel small and insignificant. I would walk around the deck and all I could see were the dark swells of the open ocean. There was a scent to this. Not the lively sea spray, a deeper solemnity to the depths we moved above. Even now thinking about it I have a hard time describing it except it was devoid of nature. Aesop Miraceti tries its hand at interpreting this.
Dr. Kate Forbes
Miraceti is one-third of the “Othertopias” collection. It is one of the two which have the ocean in mind. Karst describes a rocky coastline with a mineralic perspective. Miraceti which translates to “the boat” is nowhere near a harbor. Creative director for the brand Dr. Kate Forbes collaborated with perfumer Barnabe Fillion for all three. Miraceti is meant to project an austerity. M. Fillion uses a well-chosen trio of ingredients in seaweed, frankincense, and labdanum to form his vision.
I said the open ocean is devoid of nature. That’s not exactly true. There are large patches of seaweed covering the surface. You might associate the smell of dried-up clumps on the beach with it. Out on the ocean there is a cleaner scent with just a hint of iodine within. In Miraceti the seaweed exudes that damp aquatic vegetal minus the elemental tinge. If there is a surrogate for that the astringent silvery frankincense provides it in a small way. This is the smell of concentrated cones of incense. Slightly metallic over a resinous depth. It is a fitting choice to represent the open seas.
The base accord returns to the boat itself as the labdanum adds in the sun-bleached planks of the deck. Styrax represents the sharp scent of the rigging while ambrette seeds remind you there is a person on the boat with its botanical musk. It is surrounded by the seaweed and frankincense to complete the effect.
Miraceti has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Miraceti doesn’t exactly mimic my memory of standing on deck in the middle of the Atlantic. It comes close enough that it takes me far enough away from the shore to make it worth the trip.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Aesop.
There are some perfumers who have a deft touch with some of the most obstreperous materials in perfumery. Two of those materials are paradisone and ambox. The former is the amped up version of the synthetic jasmine hedione. The latter is the desiccated synthetic wood which has ruined many a perfume with its crushing presence. When I see an ingredient list containing both, I expect to get slapped on one cheek and then the other. Which was what faced me when my sample of Mizensir Vert Empire arrived.
Mizensir is the perfume brand founded by perfumer Alberto Morillas. For the last six years he has been designing perfumes which feature the synthetic palette. It has been an excellent collection that even when I don’t care for one, I do learn a bit more about the featured synthetics. With Vert Empire I must admit I was hoping in the hands of a Master Perfumer I might learn to love, or at least tolerate these twin sledgehammers.
The concept is this is the scent of a citrus grove at the beginning of spring. Just as the fruits begin to ripen on the trees of the orchard. My S. Florida childhood found me in citrus orchards just as the growing season began. The familiar citrus is still a bit green. Its lurking underneath but not quite there. M. Morillas interprets that for this perfume.
That green with the citrus peeking out shows in the top accord. Orange and petitgrain give the twin sources of citrus. The orange is more zest than pulp. The petitgrain is a focused source of lemon. He wraps them in green cardamom, angelica root, and sage. They provide the “vert”. The citrus plays a supporting role to them.
Now is when the paradisone is used. This is one of the most expansive florals a perfumer has. It is like blowing up a balloon with jasmine-scented helium. You must stop just as the globe is filled and doesn’t pop. This is what happens. The paradisone takes this concentrated green and citrus to an airier gentle place. A breeze through the orchard carrying blossom and young fruit.
The base is sandalwood fortified with ambrox while being warmed by benzoin. Here M. Morillas uses the ambrox to provide a pleasing aridity to the woody base.
Vert Empire has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am not sure there are many perfumers who could have made me enjoy a perfume featuring these two ingredients. M. Morillas again shows me there is a way. Especially in this case it felt like paradisone found.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Mizensir.
Not all relationships are intended to last. When they end it is usually because one or both have changed in ways that seem difficult to overcome. It happens between people, but it also happens between myself and perfume brands. There are brands I consider the pillars of how I experience fragrance. Some of them have delighted me for decades now. There are others that have made decisions I don’t understand. They seemingly throw away all that made them special. Like any relationship I try to hold on. Like many relationships the changes eventually become too much to take. I think Maison Cristian Dior Vanilla Diorama has become the place where I walk away.
The exclusive collection for Dior fragrance, Maison Christian Dior has been amazing. When I received a sample of 2004’s Bois D’Argent I purchased a bottle. It is one of those perfumes I will always own because it is that good. In 2010 the line was aggressively expanded with a set of perfumes that were all different from what was currently out there. Perfumes like Mitzah and Granville are also personal favorites. For the next eight years there were a couple of annual releases which remained in the same sphere of creativity. This was one of those collections I tried to recommend to anyone looking for something unique.
In 2018 something changed. They spammed the market with fourteen new releases. This was almost as many as they had released since the beginning of the brand in 2004. Worse they were mostly designed without any of the creativity that has marked the previous releases. You might be thinking they must have changed the perfumer. That would be incorrect. Perfumer Francois Demachy has been behind all the releases for the brand. He is one of the perfumer all-stars. The recent documentary about him “The Nose” confirms his love of the art or at least it was edited that way.
In trying to give some benefit of the doubt maybe fourteen is too much for even a talent like M. Demachy. Except once they went back to releasing two or three a year the quality never approached what had come before. There were some okay ones, but I looked at the bottles from the past on my shelf and wondered.
This year has seen three additions to the line. Eden-Roc is a flaccid floral aquatic which has had competitors so much better it needs a life jacket to stay afloat in the deep end. I never thought I’d find a tobacco scent based on a hookah boring. Tobacolor continues to make me yawn.
Which brings me to Vanilla Diorama. As have most of the recent releases it feels like Maison Christian Dior has traded chasing trends instead of setting them. Warm vanilla gourmands are a trend. Need a fall release for 2021? What’s selling? Vanilla gourmands you say? I can do that in my sleep. Which is how this seemed to be designed.
A citrus top accord a little chocolate and booze in the heart bomb it with a load of vanilla frame it in sandalwood. That’s it nothing more to see here.
Vanilla Diorama has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
M. Demachy is a master perfumer and the blend of these show his skill. What is more damning, it is done without passion. These perfumes carry a more indicting one-word assessment than “bad”, they are boring. So M. Demachy I am breaking up with you. You’ve moved to a different space I don’t care to follow. In this case “It’s not me, it’s you.”
Disclosure: This review was based on samples from Maison Christian Dior.
There are days when I reach for one of the 1970’s powerhouses that I feel I am showing my age. I don’t care but fifty years on these old warhorses feel like a relic. They remain great perfumes just not part of today’s fragrance landscape. In the current transparent world of scent I’ve been wondering if you could convert one of those older styles into a 2021 version. Ferragamo Spicy Leather comes close to doing that.
Earlier this year the brand released Intense Leather. I found that an interesting effort to lighten up a leather accord as part of a spring floral. Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu crafted a lightweight leather accord that fit the intent. He is also the nose behind Spicy Leather. This time he takes some of pieces of the 1970’s and re-assembles them into a modern analog.
M. Maisondieu achieves this concept by again featuring a lighter leather accord. This is a more compelling version than what he used in Intense Leather. It has a little more grit. Just enough to be an interesting nucleus.
The leather accord is present from the start. He adds in saffron to create the early contrast. The saffron shimmers over the leather instead of impregnating it. What does penetrate the leather accord is a healthy dose of black pepper. Most of the time this would get pushed to the side by a fuller leather accord. Here it adds the promised spice. Clary sage and nutmeg attenuate some of the rougher parts of the pepper. The base is a fraction of patchouli and dry sandalwood. This completes the opaque construction.
Spicy Leather has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is a smart modernization of those classics of fifty years ago. It doesn’t necessarily smell like any one of them. What it does is offer a 2021 perspective on a similar recipe perhaps leading to today’s version of powerhouse.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Salvatore Ferragamo.
When we lived in Massachusetts, we had a trellis next to the front porch where roses grew. One of the pieces of caring for them is to prune them back after the first frost of the fall. It was not one of my favorite tasks. I always ended up with scrapes from the thorns. Many was the year that I thought about digging them up at this time. After I was done, I’d take off my gloves and apply some antiseptic to my cuts. As I would pick up the gloves the scent of rose scented vegetation came off them. I thought it was a nice natural fragrance. Trudon Aphelie seemingly is designing a perfume to mimic that memory.
Trudon is the perfume brand of the well-known luxury candle makers Cire Trudon. Creative director Julien Pruvost guided the brand into the perfume business four years ago. What I admire about his direction is he avoids being a trend follower. He is willing to ask his perfumers to think beyond them.
For Aphelie he reunites with perfumer Antoine Lie who did Bruma in the debut collection. In this instance the name refers to the aphelion or when the earth is at its furthest point from the sun. It fits with my autumn day pruning being close to that moment. Aphelie is designed to be a very green vegetal fragrance.
This begins in a tangle of ivy. This is one of my favorite vegetal notes. It doesn’t get used enough. There is a strong leafiness attended by a slightly peppery spiciness. M. Lie cranks it up. He then laces a simple rose through his vines. They never come close to being on top. They act as an ameliorating presence. Blackcurrant bud adds a sticky sap to this. This was that smell off my gloves where the sap was stuck. Moss adds in a soft green contrast. Like a plush green upholstery. As it all clicks in place the rose sticks up among the thick vines. The whole thing is framed by a dry sandalwood.
Aphelie has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This makes the eighth Trudon perfume. M. Pruvost is assembling a formidable collection thorns and all.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
When I was in graduate school, I drove cross-country with one of my roommates from Georgia to California. We picked up I-10 and drove west. Of the 2400 miles of the highway a third of them are in Texas. There was a time when it felt like we would never get out of the state. This was especially true once we left San Antonio behind. There were small towns and truck stops dotting the West Texas landscape. It was high summer in the desert. When we would stop to stretch our legs there was a scent to this part of the world. The access roads were lined by wooden telephone poles soaked in creosote. The dry winds always carried the sharp smell. There was also the scent of the green vegetation that grew and a bit of the flowers that thrived in this environment. DS & Durga Sweet Do Nothing reminds me of all this.
David Seth Moltz
This is the second Texas inspired fragrance from independent perfumer David Seth Moltz. Six years ago he was inspired by the city of Marfa in creating El Cosmico. It was a relentlessly dry woody style impregnated with creosote. It was monolithic. With Sweet Do Nothing it seems as if he is giving it another attempt.
The biggest difference this time is the telephone pole is part of a more complex landscape. Mr. Moltz doesn’t even get to it first. He opens with an accord built around neroli and orange blossom. The green piece of neroli finds some vegetal partners. The orange blossom is made creamier through fig. Incense evokes the dryness of the West Texas air.
It is now where the creosote comes in. Creosote has a smoky terpenic scent profile. It is sharp. It can also be unpleasant. Mr. Moltz finds a place for it to thrive among the green and florals. Cedar rises in prominence over the later stages as if the late afternoon heat is washing things out. This time when it is just the creosote and cedar it feels like a completed journey.
Sweet Do Nothing has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is an interesting contrast to El Cosmico. I enjoyed it much more than the strident predecessor. Sweet Do Nothing seems as vast as the plains of West Texas.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.