When I was reading Perfume Legends II by Michael Edwards last fall it occurred to me that perfume was the less expensive luxury purchase. Throughout the history of modern perfumery fragrance has been in that place. Things have been changing especially over the last few years. There are lots of budget-friendly options to add perfume into your life. I do my best to cover those as well as the luxury lines. Thanks to one of my readers I was pointed to a line I didn’t know existed. That was how I discovered Good Chemistry Queen Bee.
The Good Chemistry line was created exclusively for US department store Target. It debuted at the beginning of 2018 with 16 releases. They were partitioned into different four fragrance collections. They were called Confident & Charming, Cool & Collected, Good & Grounded, and Vibrant & Playful. It is in that last quartet where the concept of Good Chemistry comes to life.
I can’t find anything on who the creative directors or the perfumers are. They have done an amazing job at making modestly priced perfume which smells great. In doing my research it seems like the most popular of the original releases is Queen Bee. One reason is it has more of a development to it than some of the others. Many of the Good Chemistry perfumes are well-blended accords which are linear in their development. The ones in the Vibrant & Playful collection all seem to have tried at something more.
Brainiac is a peppery citrus sweetened with a hint of vanilla. Daydreamer takes the popular pineapple ingredient and pairs it with ozonic and blond woods for a nice fresh scent. Wild Child is a woody coconut beach perfume. All of these are ideal to pack in a beach bag for when the sun goes down. Queen Bee is the last of the collection.
If I have a consistent issue with fruity florals it is, they can be too cloying. Queen Bee is the kind of fruity floral I enjoy because it finds itself in the other direction. It isn’t exactly the transparent style so popular now. It has more presence than that, but it is lighter in tone. It begins with citrus and black currant as the fruity piece. The citrus attenuates the berry just enough. The floral is the fresh scent of peony. This finds that lighter berry and together they radiate a sunniness. It ends as that sunniness drops below the horizon with some warm amber. I suspect that last ingredient is supposed to evoke honey. It arrives more as a comfort note.
Queen Bee has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
If there has been a democratization of perfume because of its wider availability, then Good Chemistry is one of great results of that. I can see that a Target shopper might find their way to a new appreciation of perfume through it. Queen Bee might be that first step for many.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
All my favorite independent perfumers have wonderful stories which found them expressing themselves through scent. Amber Jobin’s is one of my favorites. Her Aether Arts Perfume brand began out on the playa of Burning Man over a decade ago. Ms. Jobin has always made perfumery her contribution to the artistic gestalt of the annual festival. She started designing a specific perfume to complement each edition’s theme called Burner Perfumes. Her star took off when Burner Perfume No. 4 John Frum would win an Art & Olfaction Award. That one was her inflection point where the artist confidently came into view.
Amber Jobin at Burning Man
Every year since discovering Ms. Jobin the arrival of a new Burner Perfume is one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I usually get my sample a few weeks post-Burning Man. 2020 is different of course. The pandemic has canceled the event for this year. It doesn’t mean we aren’t getting a Burner Perfume it is just coming a little sooner. Aether Arts Burner Perfume No. 11 The Space Between keeps the creativity going.
More Amber Jobin from Burning Man
The theme for this year’s canceled version was “The Multiverse”. As she considered this concept that each person is their own universe with each of us making up the multiverse. How to design a scent which allows us to bridge those spaces with a scent that is The Space Between.
Ms. Jobin designed it in three different accords. The first one called “The Place of Potential” is a fleeting citrus and spice affair. This is the rind of citrus over the pulp while cardamom provides a spice complement. Potential is a fragile thing requiring grounding which is what Ms. Jobin provides in the middle accord called, “Everything is Possible”. This is a gorgeous fruity floral accord given a vegetal veil through tomato leaf. It is those glimmers from the top accord given more foundation. Ms. Jobin forms a contemporary version of the classic form. This leads to the final accord, “The Void” this is the attempt to make that connection of one piece of the multiverse to the other. This accord has grown out of her previous Exobotany and AI series. She has become adept at finding a way to capture the empty spaces, which occurs here. Using a series of unusual notes like katrafay, mushroom, and nagarmotha the base accord has a unique harmonic. As if it is coming from its own universe to find me.
The Space Between has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
There won’t be anyone on the playa this year. Ms. Jobin has made sure it survives by creating a virtual playa out of The Space Between.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfume.
The Oriental style of fragrance is one of my favorites. It captures my attention because it takes me to a place I’ve never visited. I am like the Europeans in the 18th and 19th century that relied on the painters of the day to depict it. In the 21st century it is perfume which opens my mind to the East. I wonder how skewed an impression I will have when I eventually visit. I hope it smells as amazing as Une Nuit Nomade Ambre Khandjar.
Alexandra Cubizolles (top) and Philippe Solas
Une Nuit Nomade is the travel-inspired line of perfume overseen by Alexandra Cubizolles and Philippe Solas. For Ambre Khandjar they collaborate with perfumer Jerome di Marino. This is a full-throated Oriental meant to evoke the souk of the capital of Oman, Muscat. Within is the khandjar the curved dagger which is a family heirloom. They are talismans against evil with symbols carved in the silver blade for that purpose. Mr. di Marino finds that metal in the heart of the dark market.
Jerome di Marino
It opens with a fabulously rich plum given a bit of lift through citrus. This is walking through the shadows of the market. Vanilla deepens the sweetness of the plum as we move further inside. It comes to a floral heart of orris and ylang-ylang. This is a shaded fleshy floral duo. I enjoy when ylang-ylang is given more space to have its carnal nature peek out. The iris is colored by that as it comes off more rooty than powdery. We have come to the stall where the khandjar is. Mr di Marino uses labdanum and benzoin to form a shimmering accord like the shadows off a silver blade. The resins have a metallic undercurrent which fits the brief. Sandalwood and patchouli complete the effect with a woody earthy base accord.
Ambre Khandjar has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Ambre Khandjar is one of my favorite new Orientals I’ve tried. The creative team really found the soul of this style of fragrance.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Change is inevitable. When it happens to the great perfume brands it doesn’t mean the end of things it has often created an entirely new creative phase. When it is one of the seminal niche perfume brands where this is taking place the first new release attracts a lot of scrutiny. We are looking for hints of the future. This is where Amouage Interlude Man Black Iris falls.
Amouage became one of the premier artistic perfume brands under the creative direction of Christopher Chong. He left a little over a year ago. His replacement is Renaud Salmon. I will say when I was introduced to him via press release as the “Chief Experience Officer” I smirked at the concept. Really what the heck is that? Are you trying to avoid being compared to the past? Might as well call yourself Creative Director because you can call yourself Minister of Scent and you’re still gong to be compared. It might be unfair, but you are stepping into big shoes. My suggestion is for you to own it. Create your version of Amouage for better or worse. Stop hiding behind a silly fabricated sobriquet.
If I read M. Salmon’s words in that press release correctly, he is still learning the brand. He is looking for the space where his creative imprint can be seen. For his first release he decided to create a flanker of 2012’s Interlude Man. It is an interesting choice to take one of the more popular releases and make it over as your introduction. The original perfumer of Interlude Man, Pierre Negrin, was asked to work on Interlude Man Black Iris.
The name of the perfume pretty much says it all this is Interlude Man with iris added. It reminds me of the old 1960’s commercials when they would say “Same Great Taste! Now! With Mint Added!” This is the same thing as applied to Interlude Man.
Interlude Man Black Iris opens with the same herbal green top accord as rosemary replaces oregano and pimento. It moves into the classic incense and amber heart which is where the iris appears. It is a nice addition to this resinous heart. It is the promised “black iris” so many perfumes promise but fail to deliver. It ends in the same oud and sandalwood base as before with just a bit of vanilla amplifying the sweetness in sandalwood.
Interlude Man Black Iris has 18-24 hour longevity and average sillage.
To use a music metaphor Interlude Man Black Iris is a Renaud Salmon remix of a Christopher Chong chart-topper. What does this say about the future? Hard to say. If M. Salmon is going to spend his time doing remixes of the past, ie. flankers, at least they are high quality versions. If that is the next phase at Amouage then maybe Chief Experience Officer will be apt. There will be no real creativity as he will choose to live off the past. I am more hopeful that M. Salmon will grow into a creative director with his own distinct aesthetic. For now while Interlude Man Black Iris is a nice flanker it is just a luxurious flanker with nothing new to say.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Amouage.
One of the most influential perfume brands in all artistic perfumery has been Amouage. Throughout the two decades of this century the Oman-based house has introduced the perfume buying public to a vision of fragrance as a true luxury, with a price to match. They single-handedly showed there was a market for these kind of products before most others. The best part of that is I rarely heard from those who experienced Amouage that it “wasn’t worth it”. It has lived up to a high standard with aplomb.
Amouage is going through a transition. The creative director Christopher Chong who creatively directed the brand from 2007-2019 has given way to a new team. In a bit of fortuitous timing I received my sample of the last perfume Mr. Chong oversaw within days of the new perfume from the current creative team. It gives me a nice perspective on the brand as it moves forward. I’ll review the new release tomorrow. Today I am going to focus on the last of Mr. Chong’s era, Amouage Overture Man.
Overture Man was released last year as an exclusive to Harrod’s and is currently being released to the rest of the world. It is a curious thing to do because it inevitably invites comparisons. Overture Man is a brilliant example of all that Mr. Chong brought to Amouage over his tenure. Much of that came through his love of music, opera specifically. An overture at an opera is the musical piece played at the beginning by the orchestra. It gives you hints of themes you will hear in the performance to come. Overture Man acts as the opposite as it is a perfume which captures the themes Mr. Chong developed over the years.
Working with perfumer Karine Vinchon-Spehner for the eighth time Overture Man shows a creative team which has a built-in rapport. Mme Vinchon-Spehner knows how to reach the high notes Mr. Chong is seeking.
Overture Man hangs upon a spine of cognac, myrrh, and sandalwood. It evokes the milieu of an elegant gentleman’s private club. This is that opulence for which Amouage has become known for. The cognac comes first. It is a strident booziness which is tempered by a smart bit of perfumery. Mme Vinchon-Spehner uses saffron to round out the edges providing a cask-aged glow to it. A festival of resins comes next with myrrh leading the chorus. Labdanum, frankincense, and lentisk add backing vocals. This is the soul of Amouage the use of resins with meaning. The entire portfolio of perfumes by Mr. Chong is replete with this theme. It is rarely done better than it is in Overture Man. It picks up the cognac and finds a way to create a memorable duet. A hint of leather and smoke introduce the final piece of our trio. Sandalwood comes through the smoke with a patina of benzoin. This immediately finds harmony with the myrrh and cognac. It all settles in for the long run as a comforting delightful companion.
Overture Man has 18-24 hour longevity and average sillage.
A coda is the concluding piece of music at the symphony. For the twelve years Mr. Chong was at the conductor’s podium at Amouage he created a memorable piece of perfumed music. Overture Man is the perfect coda for his time there.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Amouage.
My childhood in South Florida contained many simple pleasures. One of my favorites was biking to my secret fishing spot on a secluded beach. I would try to be in place about an hour before sunset. Which meant I had to get on my bike an hour prior to that. Every fisherman has their special place. Mine was on the back side of Key Biscayne. It was secluded because I had to hike out into the water to get around some of the thicker foliage to find the beach again. It was a place to go when you wanted solitude. Or as I figured out a place for couples to enjoy themselves. I ran into more than a few of those wearing smiles heading home as I headed for my spot.
Surf casting consists of taking advantage of the feeding schools of fish just offshore. With an extra-long rod I would get a running start and with a two-handed technique fling my line out beyond the breakers. It was typically good fishing where I would get a nice size mackerel or two.
While waiting for a bite as the day cooled there were night-blooming flowers which grew at the edge of the sand. The sun was behind me so I couldn’t see it on the horizon. The way I tracked time was the increase in the floral scent as I would sit on a chunk of driftwood. I hadn’t thought of this for years until I received my sample of Ellis Brooklyn Salt.
Bee Shapiro has been overseeing one of the best new brands. Her aesthetic is simple which she has turned into some of the better examples of the current transparent perfume trend. Salt is another extension of that.
When I see a perfume called Salt, I am expecting aquatic. When I sprayed it the first time, I was surprised at the white flowers which came first. Tiare and magnolia are given support through ylang-ylang. A bit of violet leaf gives a hint of green. The white flowers sparkle while the ylang-ylang adds a tropical fruit undertone as banana and coconut seem to come from it. It ends on a mixture of sandalwood and ambergris capturing the driftwood and brine of my fishing spot.
Salt has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have been looking for a new weekend morning running errands scent. I view these as the equivalent of jeans, t-shirt and flips. Salt is a wonderfully easy-going fragrance I think it is going to be accompanying on my current fishing expeditions….at the fish market.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by Sephora.
If you enjoy a brand it is almost a certainty, they will discontinue one of your favorites. Jo Malone has a couple of my very favorites which are no longer available. One is 2008’s Sweet Lime & Cedar. The simple juxtaposition of tart citrus and clean woods through a Southeast Asian lens is perfect for summer days. The brand has returned to that area of the world for inspiration with another citrus and wood; Jo Malone Yuja.
Yuja is part of the Blossoms in Bloom collection. Starting with the iconic Orange Blossom by the brand’s founder it also includes last year’s Frangipani Flower. For 2020, creative director Celine Roux asked perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui for two new compositions. Besides Yuja, Waterlily is the other. I thought that perfume accentuated the first part of the compound word over the second part. Yuja is also part of a popular genre of fragrance too. Sometimes it all comes down to how the creative team seeks to make just enough difference. That is what I experienced with Yuja.
Yuja is the South Korean version of yuzu which is an Asian version of lemon. When I’ve smelled the real thing, I am struck at the significant green scent it has. Very often when it is used in perfume it tends to hew more towards just being lemon in Asian clothing. In this case Mme Bijaoui seeks out the green and accentuates it with herb and wood.
The yuzu is the first thing I smell. It is given some focus with a smidge of petitgrain. Framing the edges in preparation for clary sage to shine a spotlight on the green in the center of it all. Lavender picks up on the herbal while adding a fleeting floral to this part of the development. Fir balsam provides the woody version of green as the yuzu nestles within the needles.
Yuja has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Yuja is going to be a great choice for the warmer days coming. It is refreshing with a satisfying twinkle beneath the citrus. Mme Bijaoui makes this stand out because she found the green.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by Jo Malone.
I learn things in some of the oddest ways. Soon after we moved to the Washington DC area we were out at one of the best restaurants in town. When the waiter came over with a giant pepper mill, I demurred. One of my dining companions asked me if I knew the name of it. I was then informed it was called a Rubirosa. When I asked why I got more than I expected.
The name comes from a famous playboy of the 1950’s and 60’s named Porfirio Rubirosa. He was one who lived up to that sobriquet. He traveled all over the world as “the inspector of embassies” for the Dominican Republic. There were rumors he was also an assassin, but he was more well-known for his ways with famous women. Which brings us back to the large pepper mill. Supposedly the waiters at the Paris restaurant Maxim’s called their large pepper grinders Rubirosas because they were said to be as large as his, ahem, “personality”. I thought that would live in a file drawer within my mind without any use. Then I received my sample of YVRA 1965 L’Essence de Flamboyance.
Yvo van Regteren Altena
YVRA is the line from Dutch independent perfumer Yvo van Regteren Altena. He released two previous perfumes in 2015 and 2017. For 1965 he was funded through a Kickstarter campaign at the end of last year. M. van Regteren Altena was inspired by the life of Sr. Rubirosa for this perfume. What that translates to is a throwback leather fragrance it is not hard to imagine a playboy of the time wearing. The perfume is a pretty simple construct,
It opens with the briefest of citrus before baie rose takes over. This is a nice version of that ingredient with the herbal quality and fruity nuances evident. An austere church-like incense comes next with some intensity. It gets more amplified as a refined leather accord completes the central trio. It ends with a dark patchouli and some synth woods.
1965 has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
In the press release it was mentioned that M. van Regteren Altena was inspired by the classic men’s colognes of the time. There were times where those callbacks were more obvious than others. Overall it made 1965 a new version of an old powerhouse. This one fit for a playboy with, ahem, “a big personality”.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
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.