All the way down here at Colognoisseur HQ we had a visit from the aurora borealis. Watching the undulating lights from my porch was a surprise. It was also serendipity as I was wearing a perfume inspired by that phenomenon, Maison Crivelli Aurora Boreale.
I only recently obtained the collection of five perfumes released by creative director Thibaud Crivelli starting last year. One of the things that made me seek the brand out was the idea of combining texture and keynote. When a creative director seeks to add a conscious textural element it can elevate the fragrance beyond the ordinary. When I tried all five perfumes, I found M. Crivelli was not just writing press releases he was achieving his desired aesthetic. The one which captured my attention most fully was the brief of absinthe over snow colored by the aurora overhead. Working with perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer, M. Crivelli imagined a frosty fougere over which absinthe and shadow reigns.
Absinthe Boreale opens on an icy accord of artemisia, lemon, and geranium. That’s the chilly field of snow you stand upon. Mme Feisthauer finds a pleasantly balanced chill so that the lavender rises over it with an herbal-focused floral scent. It pulls at the geranium as along with the wormwood the sky begins to undulate in waves of glowing green. This is a wonderfully realized accord of shadow and light. Mme Feisthauer further adds texture with oakmoss representing the darkness of the night sky behind the aurora. The scent of the nearby woods adds the finishing touch.
Absinthe Boreale has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Absinthe Boreale is a great fall fougere. It complements the frost in the air with an olfactory version all its own. I would also encourage readers to try the other Maison Crivelli releases if you also enjoy textural perfumes. M. Crivelli is doing a great job of living up to his potential.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I am usually a proponent for change. Even when it comes at the expense of something that works well. A year ago the fragrance side of fashion designer John Varvatos announced a three-fragrance collaboration with musician Nick Jonas. It seemed like a natural synergy because Mr. Varvatos’ aesthetic has a rock-and-roll inspiration. The change which I wondered about was not using perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux who had been the perfumer on every fragrance before this. I was hoping change would add new perspective.
John Varvatos (l.) and Nick Jonas
Then a year ago the first two perfumes were releases JV X NJ Blue and JV X NJ Crimson. After trying those I was no longer a supporter of change. They were generic synth wood monoliths. I had never been underwhelmed by a perfume with John Varvatos on the label and these would be the first two I had no desire to own. I wasn’t expecting much from the promised (threatened?) third perfume in the deal. When JV X NJ Silver arrived, I put it aside because I didn’t want to be let down again. What it showed me is that being derivative can also have some room to not be generic. Perfumer Nathalie Benareau takes a couple of popular masculine styles and mashes them together. It ends up being familiar but not insipid.
The first masculine trope is displayed on top as a citrus mélange is placed over an aquatic accord. The difference is the aquatic accord is of sea spray on rocks carrying a significant mineral character over the freshness of the brine. The citrus sparkles like sunlight off the little water-filled crannies in the rocks. This leads to the second trope, the use of iris as a men’s floral. A perfumer must make sure it doesn’t get all powdery. Mme Benareau does that by using sage to rough the iris up so its rootier character comes forward. JV X NJ Silver still ends on a cocktail of synth woods but Mme Benareau mixes in patchouli which keeps it from being too boring.
JV X NJ Silver has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
JV X NJ Silver is the only one of these three perfumes I would want to own. It still hearkens back to other, better, contemporaries. If I do decide to get a bottle it will be the stony iris which is the reason.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by ULTA.
Two years ago when premiere candle makers Cire Trudon finally entered the liquid fragrance game with Trudon Parfums it was an event. The original five perfumes were memorable for not trying to check boxes. Creative director Julien Pruvost wanted to have Trudon Parfums stand out by not following trends. I concluded my reviews of those perfumes looking forward to what was next. Two years later M. Pruvost has my answer with Trudon Parfums Elae and Medie.
M. Pruvost works with perfumer Yann Vasnier again after creating Mortel in the debut collection. This time the pair of perfumes are evocations of summer effulgence. M. Vasnier pushes both perfumes to embrace the saturated brightness of late summer.
In Elae M. Vasnier creates a heady floral. He could hardly do otherwise by making tuberose his keynote. Before the white flower makes its entrance, he uses a snappy fruit top accord of apple and neroli to set the scene. Neroli acts as harbinger of its louder sister tuberose. The apple provides a crisp fruit which will push back at the creaminess of the tuberose. The floral diva is shrouded in a stole of benzoin and akigalawood in the base. The benzoin adds snuggly warmth while the akigalawood adds a spicy contrast.
Elae has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Medie is a fresh summery citrus perfume modulated with spices. M. Vasnier uses grapefruit as his citrus focal point. I enjoy the choice because grapefruit carries a sulfurous undertone along with the bright fruitiness. M. Vasnier uses the spicy woody chemical Pepperwood to tease out that pungency. It adds depth to what would have otherwise been a typical citrus top accord. The clean woody lines of cypress and cedar provide guardrails for the citrus as it heads towards the base. Awaiting it there is Akigalawood and incense. If there is a commonality between both Elae and Medie it is the Akigalawood. In Medie it continues the synthetic spicy beat begun by the Pepperwood. The incense adds a silvery resinous sheen to it all.
Medie has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am very pleased that M. Pruvost is taking time between releases. Elae and Medie seem the better for it. If you need a little summer sunbeam as the world around you cools Elae and Medie offer two versions.
Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by Trudon Parfums.
Now that summer seems to have finally passed, I can start enjoying my spicy perfumes. Spice heavy perfumes might be my very favorite style of perfume, but they are best in colder temperatures. It is one of many reasons I look forward to fall. Perfume companies also are aware of this dynamic and so I get new spicy perfumes to consider this time of year. The latest to catch my nose is Comptoir sud Pacifique Eclats d’Amandes.
Comptoir sud Pacifique is one of the long-time perfume producers few know about. They have a very narrow corridor of distribution. I have always kept an eye on them because when you can find them there are some excellent perfumes within the collection. For 2019 Comptoir sud Pacifique wanted to try for a gourmand style. Working with perfumer Vanina Muracciole they produced two perfumes. The first Vanilla Café hewed closely to the South Pacific tropical vibe characteristic of the collection. The one which captured my attention because it was all gourmand without the island milieu was Eclats d’Amande.
Mme Muracciole chooses two interesting keynotes in cinnamon and almond. Cinnamon is a tough ingredient to use well. Too sweet and it smells like red-hot candies. Pull back on it and it just smells woody with no fire. Find the sweet spot and cinnamon causes a perfume to simmer. That’s the kind of cinnamon here. By pairing it with the nuttiness of almond she allows that quality to tease out the woodiness of the cinnamon. It is a kind of cinnamon not encountered often in fragrance, but one I enjoy. Tonka bean provides a toastier almond as it mixes with it. Cedar arrives to continue to amplify the woods in cinnamon. It heads to a sandalwood base given some character with some heavier musks.
Eclats d’Amandes has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Eclats d’Amandes is just the kind of spicy perfume to ease me into the autumn. The choice to interrogate the woody facets of the keynote spice without losing the fire makes it different than most cinnamon based perfumes.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Comptoir sud Pacifique.
Most perfume brands which claim rock and roll inspiration come out more closely related to Muzak. It makes me suspicious of the quality of so-called rock perfumes. Over the past year one brand which has lived up to this has been Jusbox Perfumes.
The brand was started in 2016 by siblings, Andrea and Chiaro Valda; or as they have dubbed themselves V Monkeys. When they have gotten it right, I have enjoyed the result. Even when they miss there is a hint of the messiness of the early rock legends. Up until now the perfumes have captured different eras in rock. The thirteenth release, Siren & Sailors, captures a specific singer and her home of Camden Town.
Amy Winehouse exploded onto the musical scene with the release of her second album “Back to Black” in 2006. Her distinctive voice would invade the airwaves as she found fame. What set her apart was her jazz-inspired way of singing paired with a singular voice. Her voice had an emotional depth which captured a sense of desperation. It turned out the desperation would come from a real place inside Ms. Winehouse who would take her life in 2011. V Monkeys turned to perfumer Julien Rasquinet to compose a perfume worthy of her.
The opening of Siren & Sailors is seemingly a nod to the striking appearance of Ms. Winehouse. It is an effusive accord of peach and osmanthus. The apricot quality of the osmanthus and the lushness of the peach captures an over-the-top fruitiness that would be annoying except for the rose which comes along with it. M. Rasquinet uses the Laboratoire Monique Remy (LMR) version of rose. The LMR natural ingredients are the best of the best. The rose here is that rich jammy velvety one. It is that sultry siren Ms. Winehouse portrayed onstage. Underneath it all runs a current of the demons that would eventually catch up to Ms. Winehouse as rum and whisky form a boozy underpinning. The base is where the depth of Ms. Winehouse’s vocals and emotions come together. M. Rasquinet uses an LMR patchouli fraction enhancing the earthier qualities. It is wrapped in a suede leather accord which also envelops the osmanthus and rose. It is here with these four ingredients where Sirens & Sailors holds a gorgeous perfume note for hours. A set of growly musks provide the final ingredient.
Siren & Sailors has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Siren & Sailors is the best perfume by Jusbox to date. It is also the most emotional fragrance they’ve produced. As I wore it, I was reminded of my favorite song by Ms. Winehouse; “Back to Black”. In the song she says farewell to a lover by lamenting “we only said goodbye with words”. Siren & Sailors allow me to say goodbye with perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Growing up in S. Florida I saw my share of thunderstorms. One of my favorite natural scents was the way the air smelled after the storm had passed. I couldn’t put a name to it until I started writing about perfume. One of the chemists at IFF clued me in when he gave me some geosmin to try. From that moment on it fascinated me. I wrote a column on it in the Olfactive Chemistry series. I found an incredible story in The Atlantic from 2015 about a village in India that essentially harvested this as a natural perfume source called petrichor. In the hands of a few perfumers it has been part of some outstanding fragrances. I never expected it to succeed as the feature note in a soliflore. Leave it to Le Labo to prove me wrong with Baie 19.
Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi
Creative directors Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi could have just ordered up some petrichor and labeled it Petrichor 1. Instead they did something more difficult.They asked for an accord which smells like petrichor. This is what modern perfumery is meant to be; an interpretation of nature instead of a replica. I don’t know who the perfumer is (UPDATE: the perfumer is Frank Voelkl) but whomever did this succeeded. What works so well by using an accord, instead of the actual material, is it allows things to build like a thunderstorm then after it breaks you’re left with the scented aftermath.
Baie 19 opens with the gathering ozone ahead of the storm front. Juniper berry and an assortment of green leafy notes represent the stiff breeze through the bushes crackling with kinetic energy. An aquatic accord captures the downpour itself. As the rain stops that watery effect soaks an earthy patchouli. Where this all comes together is the perfumer’s use of precise amounts of cade oil and Ambrox to complete the petrichor accord.
Baie 19 has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Baie 19 is one of those perfumes which captures my attention because it is a true abstraction of nature. The technical aspects make me dissect every nuance. It takes me time to just revel in the after the storm beauty of Baie 19. It is an incredible petrichor soliflore.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Le Labo.
Among the success stories of niche perfumery is that of Laurice Rahme and her brand Bond No. 9. Started in 2003 Ms. Rahme has released multiple perfumes each year. Most of them inspired by a part of New York City where Bond No. 9 has its headquarters. It is a huge collection and I have a dozen of them. It can be daunting to keep up with the pace Ms. Rahme sets. On a recent visit to Saks I was struck by how much her latest release, Bond No. 9 FiDi, reminds me of the early days of the brand.
FiDi is shorthand for the Financial District at the southern end of Manhattan. It includes Wall St as well as a new place to go on weekends with restaurants and bars in the surrounding area. This part of NYC is no longer a ghost town after trading hours. Ms. Rahme wanted to capture the dichotomy of financial masters of the universe by day and happy hipsters at night. To accomplish this she worked with perfumer Harry Fremont.
It isn’t the first time Bond No. 9 has traveled to this part of the city. Back in 2004 Ms. Rahme and perfumer David Apel produced Wall Street. Back then they decided an energetic aquatic captured the buzz of the traders. Fifteen years later the area and the vibe has changed. Which is why Ms. Rahme and Mr. Fremont go for a spirited woody style of perfume.
The first steps in FiDi are paved with baie rose. Mr. Fremont surrounds it with citrus to tease out the subtle fruitiness while black pepper adds a piquant contrast. Nutmeg then rises to be the main counterweight to the baie rose. Mr. Fremont finds a nice balance between the sweet spice and the herbal baie rose. Lotus flower reminds us that FiDi is also near the water with its dewy floral quality. It all rests on an assertive woody base of ambrox and cedar attenuated with a touch of the sweetness of tonka bean.
FiDi has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Just as it is in NYC, you must keep watching as things change. The same can be said for Bond No. 9 you have to keep watching so you can find good perfumes like FiDi.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Saks.
Every brand stakes out there place on the perfume spectrum. Parfums de Marly has been of interest to me because they have acted as a niche alternative to mainstream styles. I think the concept of doing department store perfumes in a slightly better version of materials with a touch more imagination works. Parfums de Marly Kalan is another on that path.
Creative director Julien Sprecher works with two perfumers, Celine Ripert and Nathalie Templer. The style they are reworking is the classic floriental. Throughout Kalan there is an extra ingredient here or a higher concentration there which results in a richer fragrance.
In the top accord the perfumers use blood orange as the citrus focal point. Blood orange provides a tart and juicy citrus component. A selection of spices adds warmth and piquancy. If you’re attempting to understand what I mean when I say the Parfums de Marly aesthetic is to do things similar, but different, this top accord is an example of that. The heart is a compelling duet of lavender and orange blossom in higher concentration. The floral quality of the lavender is more prominent as it melds with the orange blossom, as echoes of the blood orange persist. The floral duo is tilted sweeter with tonka bean. The base opens on a dry sandalwood which is given some shadows with a bit of moss snaking through the woods.
Kalan has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I know the approach by M. Sprecher is working because I have been recommending the brand often. Which has generated positive feedback when I have. Kalan will be another crowd pleaser I suspect. It will be easy to point department store floriental fans towards a better version.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Parfums de Marly.
On the rare occasion I am asked about the most influential perfume brand I have a definitive answer. The earliest niche perfume brands were founded in the 1970’s and 80’s. it is my belief it was twenty-five years ago when the fragrance brand which would come to define much of what niche means came into being; Comme des Garcons. From the very beginning creative director Christian Astuguevieille has influenced many of the larger trends by being one of the first to execute them. If I had to, I could learn all I needed to know about the last quarter century of fragrance from the Comme des Garcons collection alone. I was wondering if they were going to commemorate the length of this sustained excellence. Right at the end of the summer I learned there would be a set of new releases to mark the anniversary. The one which had me most interested were the three perfumes in the Series 10: Clash collection.
Starting in 2000 with Series 1 each set of perfumes have explored something specific. They have been among the most adventurous perfumes within the overall collection. For Series 10 M. Astuguevieille asked three perfumers to find beauty in the confrontation between two dissimilar ingredients. Each perfume displays why Comme des Garcons still pushes at the boundaries of perfume.
The first is Celluloid Galbanum by perfumer Domitille Bertier. Each of the Clash entries is meant to capture a collision of sorts. Celluloid Galbanum is that of technology and nature. Mme Bertier takes the sweet plasticky smell of cellophane and wraps the deep green of galbanum in it. Mme Bertier uses jasmine to modulate the sweetness of her celluloid accord while lemon adds a sharper edge to the galbanum. It forms an engineered green behind a barrier of plastic which is fascinating. It ends on a base of synthetic woods.
Chlorophyll Gardenia is the least confrontational of the three Clash perfume. Perfumer Caroline Dumur uses a set of green notes to coax out the green quality inherent within gardenia infusing the white flower with a verdant glow. The inquisition of the gardenia begins with its presence from the start. Mme Dumur threads galbanum, spearmint, the synthetic Cosmofruit, and baie rose through the creamy floral. As each of those ingredients come forward, they find a complement in the similar scent deep within gardenia. As they each add to it the gardenia begins to shade green before it glows in an almost neon abstraction. A set of white musks whisper through the glimmering flower.
My favorite of the three is Radish Vetiver by perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto. The reason I like this so much is it is what the Comme des Garcons Series perfumes have done so well over the years. They create a perfume around an unusual ingredient like radish. If you’ve ever sliced fresh radishes for a salad you will know what Mme Gracia-Cetto’s radish smells like it has an acerbic earthiness. She sets that against the grassy woodiness of vetiver. At first the softer quality of vetiver gently caresses the radish before the rootier nature finds a kindred spirit. Mme Gracia-Cetto cleverly uses the patchouli analog Akigalawood to provide an unusual piece of ground for these roots to find purchase in. The base is made woodier with guaiac adding to the Akigalawood.
All three Clash perfume have 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
For those who are less adventurous Chlorophyll Gardenia will be most to your liking. For the others who have followed where Comme des Garcons and M. Astuguevieille have led us for the past twenty-five years I suspect Celluloid Galbanum and/or Radish Vetiver will be part of your collection. I can’t wait for what comes next.
Disclosure: this review is based on samples supplied by Dover Street Market.
Technology is slowly encroaching on everything. Even perfume. Givaudan has come up with an Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a reference for perfumers called Carto. From what I understand it is a giant database of perfume formulas matched with some sense of the style each formula represents. Givaudan perfumers can ask Carto for suggestions and go from there. It seems roughly analagous to Computer-Aided Design (CAD). I have no idea how widespread its use has been at Givaudan but for the first time we have a perfume which admits using it; Etat Libre d’Orange She Was an Anomaly.
Creative director Etienne de Swardt seems to have abdicated his duties to Carto for She Was an Anomaly. Perfumer Daniela Andrier is who will take the AI suggestion and turn it into She Was an Anomaly. When Mme Andrier fed in her input it seems Carto suggested she design a perfume around two overdosed keynotes. My guess is Carto suggested iris and musk as those.
Mme Andrier had to take that suggestion and weave in a few other ingredients. After all iris and musk are not particularly unique even in overdose. One thing which does set them apart is Mme Andrier used the Orpur versions of both. Orpur are the highest quality natural ingredients in the Givaudan library.
She Was an Anomaly opens on tangerine as a juicy citrus to set things up for the iris and musk. Those keynotes arrive next. The iris is a powdery version with the carrot-y quality in abeyance. The musk is a refined version of ambrette. This is the replacement for that carrot-y quality from iris. It provides a solid accord which is kept on the lighter side. It goes very sweet with vanilla and sandalwood in the base. The sweetness adds to the iris and musk to find the overall place She Was an Anomaly remains in for most of the time on my skin.
She Was an Anomaly has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I can’t say I am able to see the artificial influence of Carto without being told it was used. Which means it probably isn’t going to replace the perfumer yet. If there is something I can hypothesize it is Carto will trend towards what it has the most data on. By landing on iris and musk it tells me it will always be suggesting crowd-pleasing best-selling formulae. Without the hand of a perfumer it will probably converge on something nondescript. To keep that from happening it will require the human touch.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Etat Libre d’Orange.