Rodrigo Flores-Roux is one of my favorite perfumers because he creates perfume that finds ways of making the common, uncommon. He has done it again with tobacco in Xinu Ummo.
Xinu is the Mexico City-based independent brand creatively directed by Veronica Alejandra Pena. She opened her boutique in 2017 and released four perfumes. All of them were composed with Sr. Flores- Roux. I enjoyed all four with Monstera standing out among those early perfumes. At the time I wrote that this felt like the kind of perfume Sr. Flores-Roux might have made if he had started his fragrance career as an independent perfumer from Mexico. His path instead took him to becoming a perfumer for Givaudan. I still think there is that independent spirit lurking underneath, Ummo allows it to peek out.
For Ummo the idea was to make a perfume capturing the sacred nature of tobacco. Many of the indigenous people of North America used tobacco as part of their rituals. Ummo would take the shape of one of those rituals as a fragrance.
It is easy to imagine a penitent entering a sweat lodge as I wore Ummo. This is a claustrophobic tobacco perfume. It feels as if it has a pent-up energy which I enjoyed. There is a smart use of the flower and leaves of tobacco to create a development from green leaf to dried leaf.
Ummo opens with the tobacco flower. It is recognizable as tobacco in its early form. Using juniper berry and agave it is kept on the vegetal side of the profile. The more familiar tobacco appears with a scent of the sweaty scent of muscone. Overlaying it all is the floral sweetness of jasmine. The floral quality expands on the sweetness in the smell of sweat and tobacco. This is the heart of the ceremony. A leather accord provides more animalic facets. Tonka and honey add in their versions of hay and viscous versions, respectively. This is the moment where the dance among the smoke takes place until it ends with the rising of the sun.
Ummo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you are looking for a different spin on tobacco Ummo is worth trying. I like the way it evolves from green to narcotic depths. Deep in a trance as I can find a place within.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I have spent many days in a boat on the open ocean. Once you lose sight of land there is realization how small you are in relation to the water you’re skimming over the top of. There is a scent to those times. As I would move back and forth adjusting sails in my leather Top Siders there came a natural comingling of the shoe material and the ocean water. It was always one of my favorite combinations for it reminded me, I was out on the ocean wind in my sails. It has been a few years since I’ve done that. Memo Ocean Leather reminded me of it.
Ocean Leather is the latest release in the Cuirs Nomades collection for Memo. It has been one of my favorite collections of any perfume. Some of it has to do with the long-time partnership between creative director Clara Molloy and perfumer Alienor Massenet. They have one of the more creative partnerships in all of perfumery.
For Ocean Leather Mme Molloy had a dream of Moby Dick. Not as Ahab hunting the elusive whale but as a penitent sharing the ocean with the leviathan. The beauty of it moving through the water. She asked Mme Massenet for, “a perfume excessive…. like a quest, an epic, a sailor’s tale”. Through a re-working of classic marine notes the fragrance delivers.
As I’ve mentioned the scent of the open ocean is much different than that of the sea spray of the waves crashing on the beach caught in the breeze. There is a weight to that sea experience. Mme Massenet captures that by taking a typical marine accord without the accompanying ozonic notes which give the expansiveness of a generic accord. In its place she lashes it down with two herbs and violet leaf. The herbs are sage and basil which become equally as piercing as the violet leaf. They add a textural depth to the marine notes making them rise and fall like the deep-sea swells. A combination of cedar and elemi find the wood of the deck awash in the ocean. The sweeter spice of nutmeg connects to the leather accord in the base. This is a rich leather accord which works ideally with the aquatic accord from earlier. Vetiver adds back some woodiness to the latter phase of development.
Ocean Leather has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Ocean Leather is another recent perfume which has me looking forward to new aquatic releases from brands with imagination. Mmes Molloy and Massenet have consistently shown that. Ocean Leather was a fantastic companion on these spring days. Even as I was walking on dry land, I smelled the days I spent at sea. I also smiled to myself as I recalled Mme Molloy’s Inspiration. There was a part of me that imagined Mme Massenet chronicling her time with Captain Molloy through a perfume which says, “Call me Alienor!”
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Memo.
I am not opposed to powdery fragrances. They do have a line they can cross. I prefer them in smaller quantities. Once it wanders into the area where I can almost see the cloud that I am smelling that is too far for me. This is purely a matter of taste. There are women in my life that carry off the latter style beautifully. I just have a problem spending a few hours with it. Which is why when one in the style I like comes along I smile. Maison Crivelli Papyrus Moleculaire is one of those.
At the end of 2018 creative director Thibaud Crivelli released a collection of perfume in which he wanted to focus on textural accords. Over the first six releases he has largely succeeded. The perfumes all have a moment, or two, where the scent has a tactile feeling. In Papyrus Moleculaire this aesthetic becomes further refined.
M. Crivelli encountered the titular note as papyrus powder in an encounter with cigarillo smoking women. It made him want to turn this version of papyrus into a perfume. He turned to perfumer Leslie Girard. Mme Girard took the inspiration and combined it with other powdery ingredients. It results in a compelling piece of perfumery.
Papyrus when it is usually used has a watery woody green scent profile. Mme Girard in thinking of it as a powder focuses on the woodiness. It forms a kind of sawdust-like effect. In the early going coriander and elemi coax what remains of the green out from the papyrus. In the heart is where the powdery texture is achieved as carrot seed, amyris, and iris fold themselves in. Now the sawdust takes on a more floral powderiness. The papyrus does not lend itself to being overstated. Mme Girard feathers in her heart notes to give the powder a different feel altogether. This is where I feel the textural shift the brand speaks about. It finishes with softly sweet facets of tonka and resinous frankincense.
Papyrus Moleculaire has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am rapidly becoming quite fond of this brand. It is not often that the aesthetic stated is achieved. In addition as M. Crivelli oversees each new release he is seemingly becoming more assured in how he wants it to be achieved. Papyrus Moleculaire succeeds because of it.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
A few weeks ago I reviewed Loewe Solo Mercurio. I was curious to see the impact of a new creative team upon the brand. At the time I mentioned it was going to take a few releases to see if the promise I perceived in that first effort would be borne out. My second opportunity has arrived with Loewe Paula’s Ibiza.
Nuria Cruelles Borrull
Loewe has always worked with an in-house perfumer. Ever since the calendar changed to years which begin with 2 it had been Emilio Valeros. There was a contiguous aesthetic through the nearly two decades of his fragrances. At the end of 2019 Nuria Cruelles Borrull took over the job. Solo Mercurio was her first release. I saw a perfumer who seemed to enjoy working in dualities. Forming accords of two ingredients looking for harmony or contrast. For Paula’s Ibiza it seems that has expanded as the accords seem to be trios this time around.
The name comes from a now-closed famous fashion store on the resort island of Ibiza called Paula’s. It was where you went to get your island style before you turned yourself over to the rhythm of the island. Creative director Jonathan Anderson and Sra. Cruelles Borrull spent summers of their youth on the island. It was important to them to get the smell along with the ambience right.
Sra Crulles Borrull moves away from the typical beach fragrance tropes of Calone, ozonic notes, and sand. This portrait of Ibiza is much more interesting for its variety. The top accord consists of galbanum and coconut water with just a pinch of mandarin. If you’re used to beachy perfumes being citrus and fresh air, this trends differently. The galbanum is given some sparkle through the manadarin. It is still a sharply green effect given a watery sheen via the coconut water. Using this ingredient instead of coconut adds in a bit of the muskiness of the copal with a less sweet version of coconut. With the galbanum it forms a unique holiday accord. The heart accord is a very desiccated sandalwood with lily and frangipani growing upon it. As if a large piece of driftwood had been beached long enough for the flowers to grow through the gaps. The scent of the ocean comes through a synthetic version of ambergris and patchouli with a small amount of vanilla. The ambergris gives the sense of the ocean as the patchouli provides the scent of the island. Vanilla adds in the sweet fun of being on vacation.
Paula’s Ibiza has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am impressed again at the way Sra. Cruelles Borrull is willing to work away from the common fragrance genres. She is showing an admirable degree of independence which bodes well for the future of the fragrance side of Loewe. Paula’s Ibiza is here to take you on an island trip without leaving home.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Loewe.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the American southwest hiking in the desert. It remains one of my favorite places to have experienced. Over the years my impression of the desert as a place lacking life was changed to one of the most dynamic places I have spent time. When you come to the desert with that mindset it rewards you with some of the subtlest pleasures of nature if you look for them. The Different Company Al Sahra is inspired by the most famous desert.
Al Sahra is the local name for the Sahara Desert. I’ve never visited, and it might be fallacious to extrapolate that all deserts smell alike. When I tried Al Sahra it was the desert which greeted me. Perfumer Emilie Coppermann forms a perfume of shifting finely-drawn accords.
Creative director Luc Gabriel turned to Mme Coppermann for the ninth time. They have formed one of those creative director-perfumer collaborations which has created some memorable perfumes. Al Sahra is among the best of their concoctions. They wanted to make a perfume style they dubbed “mineral Oriental”. While I was waiting for my sample to arrive, the perfume that phrase promised in the press release piqued my interest. It is because perfumers have been given a set of new materials with which to form these mineralic scents. Mme Coppermann is one of the more innovative which further heightened my expectations. What is in the bottle is a creation which moves as the sands do on the desert. Allowing the wind to bring you the scent of things in the distance. Making you find the life that is on the sea of sand.
Mme Coppermann opens with an accord of sun heated sand. She uses some of those mineral ingredients as well as violet and salt. It is the salt which takes the mineralic accord from dried earth to flowing sand. The ingredients used for mineralic effects tend to be concentrated like hard-packed earth. This top accord has the flow of sand carrying a languorous kinetic aspect. Then a transparent lily rises gaining strength as you notice it growing. A fantastic sizzle of cinnamon reminds you the sun is still high in the sky. It all cools down as night falls. The woods bleached by the sun are represented by sandalwood. Incense and labdanum give a resinous tint to the evening. Patchouli assists the transformation from mineralic to earthy. As you lift your eyes to the sky the evening zephyr blows across it all.
Al Sahra has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Al Sahra fits with the series of colognes Mme Coppermann produced in her first The Different Company releases. This isn’t as heavy as Oriental might make you believe. It should be a great choice in the summer months. Al Sahra found the beauty of the desert within its shifting sands.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by The Different Company.
I was having a teleconference with an Italian perfume journalist. He asked me who I thought was doing the best creative direction in independent perfumery. I think there are two names which come right to the top of mind. One of them is Victor Wong of Zoologist. I have lauded Mr. Wong extensively but I will add this onto the pyramid. The biggest reason I think this, is he has remained true to his vision of creating different perfumes. The collection runs the gamut from crowd-pleasers to challenging. He has seemingly never compromised the creativity for commercial considerations. He has also managed to coax some of the best work from some of the best independent perfumers. It seems as if his reputation for this now has perfumers approaching him.
When Mr. Wong was in London for the 2018 Art and Olfaction Awards one of his fellow finalists approached him about a collaboration. The perfumer was Prin Lomros. They had corresponded previously when Mr. Lomros had described perfumes he had imagined paired to a specific animal. They decided now was the time to collaborate leading to Zoologist Sloth.
They decided they wanted to create a slowly unfurling perfume to mimic their totem animal. To achieve this they imagined their sloth hanging high in the trees safe from the predators below pillowed on a mossy branch. It forms a sleepy green perfume.
Mr. Lomros combines chamomile, lavender, marigold, and violet leaf. This is a cleverly different way of making a vegetal green accord. Chamomile and lavender have herbal facets which Mr. Lomros uses the violet leaf to accentuate and blend. The marigold has an astringent floral quality which provides a connection to the jasmine in the heart. This is what creates the tropical humidity of the rainforest. A very precise amount of cumin represents the sloth among the leaves and flowers. Beeswax adds in its gentle slowly oozing animalic character in sloth-like movement. The fecund scent of the forest comes in the base accord via tonka, myrrh, and oakmoss. Mr. Lomros uses enough of the oakmoss to notice. This is a classic velvety oakmoss effect. It feels just like the perfect place to lay a sloth’s head for a nap.
Sloth has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Within the spectrum of Zoologist perfumes Sloth is in the middle between crowd-pleaser and challenging. Although it has bits of both at different times. It speaks to all the things I think is great about Mr. Wong’s creative direction. It doesn’t smell like anything else in the collection. Mr. Lomros has made one of his best perfumes. Even when its sleepytime in the rainforest Sloth makes you take notice.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Zoologist.
Every perfume brand will have a breakout moment if they are good. In 2016 that moment happened for Victor Wong with the release of Zoologist Bat. To that point he was building a presence slowly and confidently. Bat would be the inflection point of attention. Mr. Wong would be lauded for his creative direction. Bat became the way many people discovered the brand. Then a disagreement with the perfumer had Mr. Wong facing a difficult decision. Do I just discontinue the perfume? Or do I try again? To his credit he has chosen to try again with Zoologist Bat (2020).
He met Thailand-based perfumer Prin Lomros a few years ago. Mr. Lomros approached him about making a perfume for Zoologist. He even had some perfume sketches for Mr. Wong to try. That has led to the release of Zoologist Sloth. When Mr. Wong made the decision to re-make Bat he asked Mr. Lomros to take the wheel.
The original perfumer, Dr. Ellen Covey, based the perfume on research she had done as part of her scholarly work studying bats. She wanted to capture the cave they lived in. The success speaks for itself. Mr. Lomros was asked to make a few slight changes a fruit here, a resin there. Make it your own but try and stay close to the way the original smelled, Mr. Wong asked. Instead Mr. Lomros created a version of Bat that reflects his part of the world and the species of bats that live there. This isn’t the same as the first Bat but it delivers different pleasures while staying true to the theme.
The keynote of the first version was geosmin; the perfume ingredient which smells like soil. Mr. Wong wanted that to be in the new version. Mr. Lomros takes his Bat to a different cave in a different part of the world.
Bat (2020) opens with an intensely fruity accord comprised mainly of guava while gaining depth through fig and passion fruit. This is a fruit forest of Asia where the fruit bats happily perch. The first hint of the bat comes though a full spectrum jasmine. The indoles let you know there is a furry animal within the florals and fruit. I enjoyed immensely the way the bat feels like it is trying to hide from detection but the animalic indoles give it away. Now is when the geosmin comes out as if it is the dirt of the forest floor. It has that tropical humidity to go with the soil. It is a fabulously different take. Along with the intense fruits and florals it comes together very well. The hidden bat takes wing and flees to its cave over the final stages as the stone and dirt become more pronounced. Olibanum, vetiver, and teakwood form the moss-covered walls of its lair.
Bat (2020) has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Bat (2020) is nothing like the original Bat it is its own beast. I have to give credit to both Mr. Wong and Mr. Lomros for seeing this through. It would have been so easy to walk away. That they chose to release another equally compelling version into the wild deserves praise. I enjoy it as much as I did the original because of the differences.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Zoologist Perfumes.
As much as I complain about the numerous spring rose releases I receive each year there is always one which stands out. This year that is Aesop Rozu.
Dr. Kate Forbes
I only discovered the Aesop line of perfumes a few years ago because I was a fan of their shaving products. The collection is small, Rozu is the fourth release, but particularly well-curated. Dr. Kate Forbes has been teaming with perfumer Barnabe Fillion for the previous two releases which continues here.
The inspiration for Rozu was the life of architect Charlotte Perriand. M. Fillion spent time with her family doing background research. He decided to feature the time Mme Perriand spent in Japan during 1940-41. It also intersects with a visit M. Fillion made to the Japanese town of Wabara where he visited the rose producing farm there. While there he would learn of the newest variety cultivated named after Mme Perriand. This is the rose used as the keynote in Rozu.
The reason I tend to be so dismissive of the spring rose releases is they all go for the same fresh scrubbed debutante aesthetic. Rozu goes for a modern design with a rose which carries a different scent profile. The Charlotte Wabara rose carries a richer fruitier scent profile. M. Fillion’s job is to highlight the differences while also designing the right frame.
Rozu opens with the Charlotte Wabara rose right there. M. Fillion pairs it with an icy green frost of shiso leaf. It is like finding an interesting bloom with the last hints of the overnight frost. Baie rose coaxes out the fruity facets. A gorgeous slightly smoky guaiac finds the black tea grace note within this unique rose. The green of the shiso is recapitulated through an equally sharp vetiver. It all comes to rest on a sandalwood focused base accord given warmth through myrrh and patchouli.
Rozu has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Because this is not the typical fresh rose of so many spring releases it is wearable by either gender. I think this will be a hit among male rose perfume lovers. I like it because it proves a better designed rose can rule the spring.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Aesop.
The joy of writing about perfume is I never know when I will find a new voice. A little over a year ago I was sent a perfume by independent perfumer Shawn Maher. Over the ensuing months I have come to believe he is one of the best young perfumers we have. There is a dedication to formulating his compositions that is admirable. You can enjoy his perfumes because they smell great. If you are a perfume geek, he will give you a peek behind the curtain with his extensive blog posts about his perfumes. He offers you his fragrances to enjoy at the level you choose. His brand has been Chatillon Lux since the beginning but that is about to change. On April 28th, his birthday, a new brand Maher Olfactive will debut.
Maher Olfactive is the place where Mr. Maher will work in smaller batches with more precious materials. When he told me about this at the beginning of March I was quite enthused. Coming on the heels of his limited edition for American Perfumer, Madame Chouteau, this sounded like an extension of that. To further sharpen my expectations he told me the first new release was going to feature osmanthus. Long-time readers will know my affection for that. I began heading to the mailbox hoping the sample would be there. When Maher Olfactive Crystal Moon arrived, I was given a new perspective on a favorite note.
As always Mr. Maher has published an extensive Scent Notes column which you can find here. His inspiration came from the story of Princess Chang’e who was banished to a crystal palace on the moon. Her companion was gardener Wu Gang who had the never-ending task of trimming back the osmanthus tree next to the palace to keep it from overgrowing it. Mr. Maher uses that inspiration to form a perfume where the osmanthus is impaled on a shaft of moonlight.
Osmanthus is a two-sided ingredient one side is apricot-like the other is leathery. It is just this which causes my affection for it. In the hands of my favorite perfumers I enjoy seeing which part they amplify. In the case of Crystal Moon it is the apricot side which rises.
To achieve this Mr. Maher uses a set of fruity complements. From the early moments the apricot nature of osmanthus is given a more expansive presence through these ingredients. While I always mention the apricot, osmanthus is also a flower. Mr. Maher reminds us of that with a lavender oil made only of the flowers. jonquil adds more flower power. It makes for a rounding effect even while the apricot stays on top. Now the moonlight glows by creating an expansive amber accord the keynote of which is a patchouli synthetic derivative called Clearwood. It forms an accord of diffuse luminescence which adds an appealing opacity overlaying the osmanthus. The base is a clever accord of hinoki, galbanum, juniper, and tincture of Yirgacheffe coffee. This provides an incense-like effect as if a brazier is burning in the crystal palace as we keep up our battle with the burgeoning osmanthus tree. It is a lovely reminder of the inspiration for the perfume.
Crystal Moon has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Crystal Moon will take its place next to two earlier Chatillon Lux releases, Nefertiti, and Santal Auster, as the founding collection of Maher Olfactive. All three display Mr. Maher’s precocious talent. None better than the osmanthus under the pale moonlight of Crystal Moon.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Maher Olfactive.
One of the greatest things about the vision Michelyn Camen had for CaFleureBon ten years ago was the idea that perfume could also be multimedia. When I worked with her in the early days, she always pushed the boundaries of a what a blog about perfume could be. She believed there was more than just the juice. Her blog was going to cover the people who make and love perfume, shining a spotlight on them. One of the perfumes she creatively directed for the anniversary, Bogue Profumo OOOH, reverses the process with a perfume which represents that credo.
Ms. Camen assembled a team of perfume communicators who use different mediums. She was the writer and the Editor-in-Chief/ Creative Director. She asked photographer Alex C. Musgrave aka The Silver Fox for an inspiration piece. The perfumer to interpret that was Antonio Gardoni of Bogue Profumo. Lastly artist Massimo Alfaioli would create a piece based on the finished perfume. The full story can be found on CaFleureBon at this link.
Photo by Alex C. Musgrave
The photo above, by Mr. Musgrave, is what Sig. Gardoni used as his focal point. The image of blurred roses would lead him into an idea of dust. He wanted to create a fragrance of “multiple layers of dust, levels of powders that hide and shows reflection of smells.” What he would do is take a multitude of materials to create these levels of powders. Throughout there is a sense of memories past.
It opens with a distinctive rose scented powder. It has that blurry effect of the inspiration piece. There are other florals vying for ascendancy. Yet the rose holds the center for a while. Then it gives way to a subsequent layer of mimosa. This the idea of the floral puffballs caught on a stiff breeze. He forms an opaque honey accord for it to drift through. Now comes the herbal part which is Sig. Gardoni’s trademark. A set of vetivers form the basis for the crushed dry herbal accord to get caught up in. The last layer of dust is that of resins. Incense has always captured a sense of age within perfumery. Sig. Gardoni folds in a set of resins to form the final pinch of magic dust.
OOOH has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
OOOH feels like the natural extension of last year’s 0.7738 which was completely improvisational. In that perfume Sig. Gardoni kept adding ingredients until he felt he was finished. It taught him how to wrangle a plethora of ingredients into something compelling. OOOH is that technique given intent. To create the most complex yet transparent perfume I have tried. It is a marvelous coming together of creativity.
This could only have happened through the creative insight of Ms. Camen. She chose to represent all that her blog has offered perfume lovers, for ten years and counting, in a perfume as unique as her “scented salon”.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.