When large collections have interesting sub-collections it is usually because the creative team is inspired. Ever since 2013 the Cuirs Nomades collection at Memo has been that kind of exploration of the versatility of leather accords. I am fascinated at how each perfumer creates a leather accord. I’ve always thought it is on the fashioning of such an abstraction where the artistry of a perfumer shines through.
Throughout the Cuirs Nomades creative director Clara Molloy has placed those leather accords in the center of the perfumes. That changed with last year’s Moroccan Leather which was a give and take between intense green notes and orris with the leather in a supporting role. It was an excellent departure, but I was wondering if this was going to be the next generation of Cuirs Nomades. Memo Oriental Leather answers that question affirmatively.
To not feature the leather in a perfume with it in the name means the other half of the name better produce something compelling. In the case of Oriental Leather the choice is to lean into the benzoin and spices which are characteristic of Oriental perfumes.
The spices are on fire, literally, at the beginning. Pimento and cinnamon go the red hots route. Before it gets all Halloween candy-like, coriander and anise bank the confectionary flames smoothing it out into a more traditional spice accord. Lavender provides an herbal tinted floral enhanced with clove. It is here that the leather makes its appearance as the transitory effect from the spices to the warm benzoin in the base. That rich benzoin is matched with an earthy patchouli and enough vanilla to sweeten without becoming cloying.
Oriental Leather has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is an Oriental fragrance without the leather anywhere near being a focal point. It reminded me of a shaman who showed me his leather bag of herbs and spices. It didn’t smell like this perfume but when I did smell it all that came through were the contents and not what the bag was made of. Oriental Leather is also a magic spice bag fragrance.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Neiman-Marcus.
Every September for the last six years I look forward to an envelope in the mail with a Colorado postmark. It means one of my favorite independent perfumers has renewed herself at the annual Burning Man festival. For Amber Jobin of Aether Arts Perfume this means a new Burner Perfume is here.
Ms. Jobin has always used perfume as her contribution to the spontaneous society which springs up on the playa every summer. It has been the source of some of her very best creations because these are fragrances which are born of passion and intellect. Ms. Jobin uses each year’s theme as the jumping off point for that year’s Burner Perfume. For 2019 the Burning Man theme was “Metamorphoses”. The way Ms. Jobin chose to interpret that was to imagine the process which gives us a Monarch butterfly. Specifically the forming of the chrysalis as the caterpillar nears its change into winged beauty. That is where Aether Arts Perfume Burner Perfume No. 10 Chrysalis comes from.
Ms. Jobin was inspired by the color of the chrysalis of the Monarch butterfly which is a lacquered green. To translate that into a perfume she uses a set of fantastically different green notes before allowing the beginning of the transformation to be represented through the later development.
When I say green opening it would be normal to think of the grassy notes or the leafier ones, perhaps grapefruit. This is where I enjoy independent perfumers, they think green but in the case of Ms. Jobin she goes on a tangent. Her green top accord consists of tomato leaf, aldehydes, rhubarb, and green coffee. The sulfurous quality of rhubarb with the oiliness of the green coffee harmonizes with the acerbic tomato leaf and the aldehydes to create a vivid green accord which captures the color of that chrysalis. The stirring of the creature within is represented by a transitory floral green as violet and clover form the heart. This is a softer green than the top accord with violet signaling a change. The base is a brilliant accord of musks capturing the butterfly inside with a subtle animalic effect.
Chrysalis has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage because it is at extrait strength.
Chrysalis is another brilliant perfume from an independent perfumer who allows her imagination to take wing with the Monarch butterflies who inspired her.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfume.
Italy has become one of the predominant perfume countries because of the originality which many of the releases display. Bois 1920 was one of the original Italian brands to embrace the creativity which seems endemic to any perfume from the country now. Bois 1920 Cannabis Fruttata is what I mean when I say that.
The owner-perfumer is Enzo Galardi who resurrected his grandfather’s perfume brand in 2005. For twelve years there was a consistent output of perfumes which took chances. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t. I admire a fragrance brand that willingly takes this route. Although I wonder how it affects the bottom line. It had been since 2017 which saw the last new release. It made me wonder if the attitude had caught up to them. My answer came in seven new releases this year. All of which upheld what had come before.
Part of those releases were the two perfumes in the Cananbis collection. One fittingly named Cannabis is a straight soliflore style fragrance which smells like sticky green buds of cannabis with a dose of patchouli to boot. It is a Summer of Love flashback in a perfume. I liked it fine, but it was the other one, Cannabis Fruttata, which took the cannabis accord Sig. Galardi created for Cannabis and uses it in a modern fragrance.
Cannabis Fruttata opens with what I believe to be a sly wink. In the 60’s people were regularly ripped off when an unscrupulous dealer would sell a bag of oregano as cannabis. Sig. Galardi uses the sweet herbal quality of oregano along with rosemary and fig leaves to create a slightly milky herbal top accord. It was hard not to smile when the real thing replaced the oregano as the cannabis accord takes hold. Sig. Galardi has constructed a slightly bitter green accord which captures the real thing beautifully. He cleverly brackets it in the heart accord with the green floral of lily and the sweetness of blueberry. The blueberry is an inspired choice as it captures the resinous nature of a fresh bud of cannabis with its sweetness. This is a great use of the cannabis as part of something greater. The base goes woody with ambrox and cedar leavened with a bit of patchouli.
Cannabis Fruttata has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Cannabis Fruttata reminds me why I enjoy this brand so much. Sig. Galardi makes a contemporary interpretation of cannabis in perfume by rolling his own.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
When you love a particular perfume and you hear a more concentrated version is coming it usually induces a smile. After all more of what you enjoy should be an improvement. Except in perfumery that isn’t usually possible. If you just up the oil concentration what you end up with is a distorted version of the original. To do it correctly a perfumer has to re-work the proportions while hewing to the original while also making something more. It’s not easy. Now imagine you are the son of the original co-perfumer who is making a parfum version of one of the best perfumes his father was responsible for. That adds another degree of difficulty. Happily Chanel Coromandel Parfum overcomes all of these hurdles.
Chanel Coromandel was originally released in 2007 as one of the first Les Exclusifs. Composed by Jacques Polge and Christopher Sheldrake it was an Oriental style of perfume in every way that term applies in the positive. It has always been one of my favorites of the Les Exclusifs. Now Jacques Polge’s son Olivier Polge, who has succeeded his father as in-house perfumer at Chanel, creates a Parfum version.
The press release says it is meant to be an “intensely ambery Oriental fragrance”. What that means in execution is M. Polge has enhanced the warmer elements of the original Coromandel. What that further means is a near-decadent opening before a second phase which simmers for hours.
Coromandel Parfum opens with a smokier version of the jasmine-pine-patchouli trio of the original. That smoke comes through frankincense and labdanum. The original triptych had a green core from the pine and patchouli which the jasmine gave a sweet floral veneer. In the Parfum version the sweetness is pulled back so the resins can warm the top notes. It is a gorgeous re-invention of the top half of Coromandel. I like it as much as the original. Over an hour or so the Parfum transitions into the promised intensely ambery base accord. This is made that way though benzoin warming up the more earthy patchouli while the resins persist. It becomes elegant over the long run as it just goes on and on.
Coromandel Parfum has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage as befits a parfum strength fragrance.
Coromandel Parfum is a compelling re-telling of the original Oriental perfume. It works because M. Polge allowed things to get warmer and more intimate.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Saks.
It is always interesting when the famously creative cosmetic brands decide to branch out into fragrance. Francois Nars has waited 25 years to add a perfume to the NARS beauty collection. I was interested from the moment I heard this was happening early this year. What really sharpened my anticipation was the announcement that M. Nars would be working with perfumer Olivia Giacobetti. They have produced a provocative perfume which lives up to its NARS pedigree; NARS Audacious.
They say if you keep doing something long enough the trends come around to where you are. This could easily be true for Mme Giacobetti. Back in the mind 1990’s when M. Nars was revolutionizing the lipstick palette; Mme Giacobetti was composing transparent perfumes. Both met initial resistance from their respective worlds only to succeed despite that. The NARS success story is on display at any luxury department store you visit. Mme Giacobetti’s is less apparent as she has mostly made perfume for her single Paris storefront, IUNX. Audacious is the first perfume she has made outside of that in five years. It seems like the right time for the way Mme Giacobetti makes fragrance because transparency is one of the predominant trends.
M. Nars and Mme Giacobetti wanted to use contrasting notes of light and dark throughout Audacious. That the theme is coherently expressed while working in an opaque style is testament to the skill of Mme Giacobetti.
That skill shows up right away as the tropical floral frangipani and incense are combined. This is an exuberantly sweet floral shaded by smoky incense swirling among the petals. I can see a single flower of frangipani against a black background as an incense stick sends swirls of smoke to surround the bloom. This is all as if it was etched on a fine silk veil as you lean into it expecting it to get louder and it enchants with a whisper instead. In the heart the sparkle of tiare is fortified with a touch of ylang-ylang. While an austere sandalwood provides the shading. This is a more traditional light-dark dichotomy. It gives way to a brilliant base accord. Mme Giacobetti returns to the smoke as she uses cedar smoke. Through that she expands the lightness with a set of white musks that form a pillow soft musky pillow for that smoke. So often smoke is used to blunt effect. The base of Audacious uses it as a foil to the lightness of the white musks.
Audacious has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Audacious is setting NARS on another challenge to the current fragrance common wisdom. M. Nars believes that a consumer who goes to NARS for cosmetics to stand apart will also want a fragrance which provides the same. Audacious is that perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by NARS.
Tuberose is one of the most powerful ingredients in all of perfumery. It is the queen of the white flowers. it is also a versatile ingredient having many aspects for a perfumer to seize upon. One of those aspects which has been seeing more presence lately has been the creamy nature. This is because of the newfound popularity of floral gourmands. One which does it well is Bulgari Splendida Tubereuse Mystique.
The Bulgari Splendida collection began in 2017. I found last year’s Magnolia Sensuel to be a particularly nice study of that floral. What I liked most about it was the use of a high concentration of the floral keynote. That is repeated in Tubereuse Mystique. Perfumer Sophie Labbe takes that concentration and then finds the right ingredients to find the creaminess at the core of tuberose.
Mme Labbe lets her tuberose take center stage. In the early going she uses blackcurrant bud to strum the green chord within. Just as quickly vanilla comes along to allow the cream to rise to the foreground. It keeps it at that level while davana adds a subtle woodiness. The final ingredient which makes this come together is the resin myrrh. As the myrrh oozes into the accord it tunes the sweetness to a warmer level while the vanilla keeps it traditionally sweet. A lot of times myrrh can make a sweet perfume seems medicinal, like cough syrup. Mme Labbe finds the balance which keeps it far away from that.
Tubereuse Mystique has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you like your tuberose sweet and creamy this is a perfume you should try. Mme Labbe manages to tease out all of those facets while still retaining a bit of the green and indolic nunaces. It makes for a different take on tuberose.
Disclosure; This review is based on a sample supplied by Bloomingdale’s
As we are on the cusp of October, we firmly begin harvest season. Besides all the pumpkin flavored things which most people associate with this time of year I have a different one. For me the smell of the apple orchard with apple pie spices and apple cider are one pillar. The other revolves around my love of wine. On a mid-October trip to the Finger Lakes region many years ago I was present for a late harvest at one of the vineyards. The reason for late harvest is to have grapes where the sugar is a bit more concentrated due to the added length of time on the vine along with the cooler temperatures. In this region of the US they are known for some of the best late harvest wines in the world. The wines are elegantly sweet with a flowery nose. I hadn’t expected a perfume to capture that until I received my sample of the extraordinary Chatillon Lux Weinstrasse.
Shawn Maher is the independent perfumer behind this Saint Louis-based perfume brand. He has always looked to his locality for inspiration. In the case of Weinstrasse he wanted to pay homage to the Germans who emigrated to the area and set up vineyards on the slopes of the Missouri River. As I’ve mentioned in the past Mr. Maher often has a post on his website about the creation of his perfumes; here is the link for the one on Weinstrasse. In that post he mentions that he wanted to try and re-imagine the classic fougere through a vinous lens. He succeeds.
The top accord is those bunches of grapes hanging on the vine on an October morning. The ingredient he uses for his grape effect is green cognac essential oil. To capture the green foliage of the vine blackcurrant bud adds in its fruit tinted leafiness. This is those grapes as they are about to be snipped in the low autumn sunlight. The brightness of this top accord is that low horizon sun which glows. The heart of Weinstrasse is a mixture of sweet floral notes. If you’ve ever drunk a great late harvest muscat this accord in Weinstrasse is that scent of the wine amplified. Mr. Maher uses a nucleus of immortelle made sweeter by pairing it with a honeysuckle accord. The green parts of the top accord reach down into the florals to provide some contrast to the overall honey and floral scent. To make sure this finishes with as much brio as it has opened with Mr. Maher goes full classic fougere with an overdose of coumarin. It harmonizes with the florals beautifully while providing some grounding to allow the rest of the base accord to evolve. That comes through a creamy sandalwood and oakmoss providing a furry green complement. It all ends back in the earth with patchouli and a few musks reminding us where this late harvest day began.
Weinstrasse has 14-16 hour longevity.
Weinstrasse is a brilliant perfume. It is one of the very best perfumes of this year, or any year. That it comes from a perfumer as new to the field as Mr. Maher is incredible. Part of the joy of writing about perfume is experiencing a new talented nose. Over this past year Mr. Maher has impressed me repeatedly. I can’t think of another independent perfumer who has had this strong of a start in many years.
Weinstrasse displays everything which sets him apart. His careful choice of materials. His clear understanding of the history of perfume matched with a vision of what he wants to change. The updated fougere which is Weinstrasse is as good as it gets. Finally there seems to be a passion to get it right. The beauty of Weinstrasse lies in how throughout Mr. Maher infuses that autumn sunlight through everything. It is a subtle shading that only very few can achieve. Weinstrasse is the very best of what independent perfumery can be.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Chatillon Lux.
Every great city I’ve visited has its own scent profile. They are specific to the season and the locale. One of my favorite cities and seasons is spring in New York City. In those days the city emerges from its hiding indoors during the winter to get back on the street. What that means is as you wander around the city there is a freshness attendant to the new growth on the trees. Blossoms fall in a gentle cascade if the wind blows. Street vendors are selling their wares. When I received my sample of Widian New York it reminded me of all of this.
Widian is the re-branded name of the former AJ Arabia line of perfume. Ali Aljaberi is the creative director overseeing it all. The early perfumes from 2014-2018 were all Middle Eastern inspired styles. I tried some here and there and thought the quality was high, but the perfumes never connected. That changed a year ago when there was a change in inspiration.
Mr. Aljaberi retained the quality and decided to use the great cities of the world as the briefs for the Sapphire Collection. London was an interesting oud-y fruity floral that was different than what came prior to that. New York is the follow-up to London.
The perfumer for New York is Jordi Fernandez. It is not surprising that I was reminded of springtime in the Big Apple because that was the brief behind New York. One of the things I didn’t think they would be able to capture is that sense of overlapping smells enveloping you as you stand in midtown on a sunny day. Mr. Fernandez captures this by using a spine of baie rose, the patchouli analog akigalawood, and a warm amber. On this he hangs all the things which make a spring day in NYC fun.
It opens with a flash of citrus sunlight as lemon beams out. Underneath it is the herbal, slightly fruity green of baie rose. To that Mr. Fernandez captures the early green of spring as coriander, juniper, and geranium rise to meet it in an accord of new growth. This is where the spicy woody akigalawood finds its way to the foreground. It carries a bouquet of flowers as rose, lavender, and jasmine create a rich floral harmony. As we move to the base a bit of the grit of the city comes through as ambrox and cypriol provide an edge. It becomes sweeter as we pass a street vendor making caramel covered nuts. There is a gourmand caramel accord here which Mr. Fernandez keeps from being too sweet or overpowering. The final touches are a set of warm ambers as we pull our sweaters close on our way home.
New York has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
This change to city inspired fragrances has changed the way I look at Widian. New York is another in a positive new direction.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
One of the things about perfume I adore is the sense of social history within. I know I am probably hypersensitive to this after reading Michael Edwards’ Perfume Legends II. When you think of all the classic perfume styles, they reflect the times they were released in. It tends to allow those of us who wear perfume the luxury of choosing an era to spend the day in when choosing one for the day. There is something about the extroverted perfumes of the 1950’s and 1960’s which carry an appeal to me.
It was a time when the world was expanding again post-World War 2. It was time when the style was driven by celebrities using the visual medium of movies and television. You dressed up to go out. that meant a jacket for men and a dress for women. For certain men and women it also meant perfume. Those perfumes carried the same dressed up aesthetic. I was reminded of all of this by a new perfume from an independent brand, Sarah Baker Charade.
Sarah Baker is an independent perfumer who released her first perfumes in 2016-2017 collaborating with perfumer Ashley Eden Kessler and Sarah McCartney on two each. I admired the line for an immersive style of perfumery. This is not transparent constructs for those who don’t enjoy bold fragrances. At the time they reminded me of those fragrances which seemed as classic as a blue blazer for men.
When I received the newest four releases that aesthetic has been more firmly refined. All four still have an immersive quality where you sink into the perfume. They are all worth seeking out if you enjoy that style of perfume. For me, Charade was always going to be the one which I gravitated towards because Ms. Baker called out Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. It is the style they represented as the inspiration for perfumer Andreas Wilhelm to use for Charade.
If you’re going for that old school style you almost must think chypre. Hr. Wilhelm uses some of those classic ingredients of the fragrances I think of from that era. Predominantly tuberose and leather along with the chypre accord.
Charade opens with tuberose in all its extroverted charm. Hr. Wilhelm ups the ante, using ylang-ylang to add a fleshy supporting floral while he drenches it all in a sticky matrix of honey. The heart is a rugged leather accord given a polish through styrax and benzoin. The animalic aspect of the leather reverberates against the indolic heart of the tuberose. Hr. Wilhelm then puts together a chypre accord that carries all the dark green charm which makes it so compelling. Sandalwood, patchouli, and moss are all present. They are balanced into an excellent version of the chypre accord.
Charade has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
I admire Ms. Baker’s choice to make perfumes in this style. These are perfumes which carry an enveloping time machine quality without feeling dated. Charade makes me want to dust my blazer off and take Mrs. C out for dinner and a movie while being wrapped in a Movie Star chypre.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Sarah Baker.
Christopher Chong is one of the most innovative creative directors in perfumery. For the length of his tenure at Amouage he sought to define the edges of modern perfumery. It is why I eagerly await what is next for him. Until then we have his final two perfumes from Amouage to look forward to. The penultimate release Amouage Love Mimosa finds a perfume which embraces some of the most unique synthetic ingredients in combination with similarly versatile natural ingredients.
Love Mimosa is the final perfume in the Secret Garden collection. Through the first three releases I remarked on how it was the entryway to the wider Amouage aesthetic. Focusing on lilac, cherry blossom, and tuberose the first three were opulently designed florals carrying gourmand-y twists to match the floral keynote. Love Mimosa is not a floral gourmand instead perfumer Elise Benat was looking to highlight the synergy between some of the most dynamic synthetic ingredients and natural ingredients. Each phase of its development highlights this harmonic.
The first phase matches violet leaf and the Calone analog Cascalone. Cascalone was developed by the chemists at Firmenich to remove the melon and low tide facets of the parent molecule. What is left behind is a purer sea spray effect. The violet leaf replaces the melon with a shimmering vegetal green piece of the top accord. This is a cool breeze off the ocean through the grass of the dunes. In the heart the mimosa shows up. In the early going some orris provides amplification to the powdery nature of mimosa. Mme Benat uses the expansiveness of the jasmine-on-steroids synthetic Paradisone to expand that powderiness into an opacity which allows the other half of mimosa to take precedence. That occurs as ylang-ylang brings out the richer slightly animalic quality buried underneath the powder. Ambrox is the synthetic in the base which acts as a late day sunbeam setting the mimosa aglow. The Ambrox is a catalyst to allow the deeper carnality of the mimosa to stand next to the powdery bubble created by the Paradisone.
Love Mimosa has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
If the first three Secret Garden scents were meant to entice someone into the Amouage aesthetic; Love mimosa asks them to step more fully into that. Love Mimosa doesn’t feel as much an introductory perfume but a place to go after that. The composition that Mme Benat achieves makes Love Mimosa an ideal fall floral. In one of his final statements, from his position at Amouage, Mr. Chong seems to ask you to come deeper into a different style of perfumery.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Amouage.