There are some perfumers who have a deft touch with some of the most obstreperous materials in perfumery. Two of those materials are paradisone and ambox. The former is the amped up version of the synthetic jasmine hedione. The latter is the desiccated synthetic wood which has ruined many a perfume with its crushing presence. When I see an ingredient list containing both, I expect to get slapped on one cheek and then the other. Which was what faced me when my sample of Mizensir Vert Empire arrived.
Mizensir is the perfume brand founded by perfumer Alberto Morillas. For the last six years he has been designing perfumes which feature the synthetic palette. It has been an excellent collection that even when I don’t care for one, I do learn a bit more about the featured synthetics. With Vert Empire I must admit I was hoping in the hands of a Master Perfumer I might learn to love, or at least tolerate these twin sledgehammers.
The concept is this is the scent of a citrus grove at the beginning of spring. Just as the fruits begin to ripen on the trees of the orchard. My S. Florida childhood found me in citrus orchards just as the growing season began. The familiar citrus is still a bit green. Its lurking underneath but not quite there. M. Morillas interprets that for this perfume.
That green with the citrus peeking out shows in the top accord. Orange and petitgrain give the twin sources of citrus. The orange is more zest than pulp. The petitgrain is a focused source of lemon. He wraps them in green cardamom, angelica root, and sage. They provide the “vert”. The citrus plays a supporting role to them.
Now is when the paradisone is used. This is one of the most expansive florals a perfumer has. It is like blowing up a balloon with jasmine-scented helium. You must stop just as the globe is filled and doesn’t pop. This is what happens. The paradisone takes this concentrated green and citrus to an airier gentle place. A breeze through the orchard carrying blossom and young fruit.
The base is sandalwood fortified with ambrox while being warmed by benzoin. Here M. Morillas uses the ambrox to provide a pleasing aridity to the woody base.
Vert Empire has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am not sure there are many perfumers who could have made me enjoy a perfume featuring these two ingredients. M. Morillas again shows me there is a way. Especially in this case it felt like paradisone found.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Mizensir.
Smelling as much new perfume as I do each year it is frustrating to smell the amount of repetition I do. When a brief calls for a “fresh” perfume the brand rounds up the usual suspects. That this style of fragrance has remained popular for thirty years is proof that the tried and true has an audience. Part of what makes independent perfumery interesting is when those brands hear “fresh” it seems like they exclude those usual suspects. In these fragrances “fresh” is a starting point for diversity. That’s what I found in Mizensir Blue Gin.
Mizensir is the brand owned by perfumer Alberto Morillas. If there has been a consistent aesthetic, I would say it has to do with M. Morillas displaying a couple of synthetic ingredients per release. He shows that when these maligned ingredients are given some space, they are equally compelling to any of the essential oils.
In Blue Gin, the featured components are Irone Alpha and Cetalox. Irone Alpha is one of the molecules present in natural iris. When isolated it has a more diffuse presence than when joined by its other isomers. Cetalox is another of the molecules which are used in laundry detergents. The concept of Blue Gin is of clean denim accompanied by a gin and tonic.
Juniper berry is the keynote throughout. In the early going a bit of mandarin provides the lime substitute. Szechuan pepper and cardamom provide fuller profile for the juniper berry. Finally the freshwater analog of Calone, Cascalone provides the tonic, sans fizz. That comprises the gin half of things.
The denim half comes from the expansive powderiness of Irone Alpha and the laundry fresh Cetalox. Together they form that scent of clean cotton. Hidden within is a just a bit of tonka bean which uses its inherent coumarin to make the jeans lived in, just a bit.
Blue Gin has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mrs. C and I spend a lot of summer evenings sipping on a gin and tonic. Some of those evenings the fabric softener scent can be carried to us on the deck. This is a lot of what Blue Gin reminded me of. As might be expected this is a fantastic fragrance for the summer. This is a different version of “fresh”; one which comes through jeans and gin.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Mizensir.
I feel as if I’m repeating a Public Service Announcement every month when I remind you to go to Zara to try their fragrances. Part of this is the brand has an irritating habit of releasing a lot of perfume all at once. Two months ago I received an envelope of samples covering the 32(!) new releases. One of the things which keeps me from being too grumpy about it is there are discrete groupings of perfumes in collections. One of those collections of three were composed by perfumer Alberto Morillas. My favorite was Zara Morning Sunray in Sevilla.
All three perfumes are named after a time of day in a Spanish city. The others Bohemian Sunset in Barcelona and Nightfall in Madrid finish what I think of as the Spain Grand Tour collection. What the brand seems to ask of its perfumers is to distil popular styles down to their simplest components. Then balance those. For example in Bohemian Sunset in Barcelona M. Morillas takes a classic beachy aquatic accord and adds the sun of bergamot and the driftwood of cedar. Nightfall in Madrid is an Oriental base accord as perfume with cardamom and tonka bean forming a classical construct around sandalwood. They are so easy going they are ideal for these warmer months. What sets Morning Sunray in Sevilla apart is it goes in a different direction than I expected with more of a complex design than the other two.
Sevilla is known for its orange groves and orange blossom. Which is what first surprised me as it begins with a very herbal duo of rosemary and tarragon. I use this as dry rub on certain meats I grill. This opening is what my fingers smell like after rubbing them on the surface of the meat. I went in expecting soft citrus and got a snappy sharp herbal opening instead. Jasmine floats among the herbs without overwriting them. I enjoyed this clean expansive jasmine as it caught up the herbal pieces. Based on the others I kind of expected this to be where it ends. Then I got a delightful surprise as M. Morillas adds austere silvery church incense. It swirls through in shiny resinous threads. In my mind’s eye I saw sprigs of tarragon and rosemary intertwined in a jasmine vine with incense smoking in a brazier below.
Morning Sunray in Sevilla has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I keep telling you dear readers if you’re feeling up to venture out to shop again stop by Zara. There is a hidden treasure chest of fragrance there. If you start your journey in Spain, make Morning Sunray in Sevilla your first stop.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Zara.
The more common fragrance types are boring because everyone does the same thing. Produce something that smells good using the same set of ingredients in the same order. This has been going on for nearly thirty years in the aquatic category. Just like other popular styles the general consumer seems happy to try the same scent over and over with a different name on the bottle. There are lots of ways to shake things up if you have a mind to. Armani Prive Cypres Pantelleria is willing to give it a try.
The recipe for most aquatics is some ozonic sea spray over an aromachemical like Calone followed by a lighter tropical floral leading to some light woods. It has been a crowd-pleaser since it appeared. Perfumer Alberto Morillas chooses to change the run of show to create a different aquatic experience.
This opens with a sunny neroli. If you experience the first couple of minutes you would have no idea an aquatic will follow. This is a bright lively version of the floral. By pushing it to the front of the pyramid it creates a different effect. The cypress comes next also advanced from its usual position in the base. The light wood and the floral make it seem as if you are reading the last page of the story. The typical opening of ozonic water notes and sage finally come crashing in. There is a pronounced saltiness to these sea spray pieces. They coat the neroli and cypress with a briny mist. Another change is to form a heftier base accord of patchouli and vetiver. It has an effect of adding earthy green to everything else.
Cypres Pantelleria has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
By shuffling the aquatic deck M. Morillas has formed something which feels enough different without losing any of the pieces which makes the recipe popular. I wish more would do the same.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Neiman-Marcus.
I’ve been observing and writing about perfume long enough I can recognize a change in aesthetic at a brand. Most of the time this change is due to consumer preferences. That is usually predictably boring. The one which interests me is when a new creative director comes in to oversee things. The result can be a brand which bears watching. Chopard Black Incense Malaki seems to be asking me to pay attention again.
Chopard is a Swiss-based luxury jewelry and watches manufacturer. They got into the fragrance business in 1985 and have intermittently been very active followed by a few gap years. Starting last year I noticed a change with the release of the Chopard Collection. There was a clear change to richer more powerful fragrances. That continued into this spring’s release of Love Chopard which was a very classic rose with gourmand highlights. I wondered about the change and was told Artistic Director Caroline Scheufele was now overseeing the fragrance side as well as the rest of the brand. Based on the recent releases she is not following the current trends. She is working on perfumes which have presence. All the most recent releases have been composed by perfumer Alberto Morillas. Black Incense Malaki is their boldest statement yet. To be clear there is incense here but it is in service of a raw dark leather accord which is the heart of this perfume.
When it comes to leather accords most perfumes go for a refined softer version. Those of you who own a black leather biker jacket will be familiar with the real smell of a new one. A slightly pungent gasoline scent overlays the processed cowhide. This is the accord M. Morillas brings to life in Black Incense Malaki.
In the earliest moments, an herbal lavender is surrounded by a swoosh of cardamom. If you’re drawn to incense, for a fleeting moment it is detectable before the rest of the leather accord assembles around it. Cumin and clary sage provide the herbal component. The ingredients of a medicinal oud accord created from nagarmotha, patchouli, and labdanum form the spine of the leather accord. Amber fleshes it out. when it all comes together this is a leather accord which is what niche perfumery is about. It has a high-octane scent with a bit of burnt rubber. As if my biker jacket is on an actual motorcycle peeling out of the gas station. A bit of cedar provides some woody relief in the end.
Black Incense Malaki has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
This is a powerfully projecting fragrance with an unusual accord. It feels like it belongs from a few decades ago. But that is a bit unfair of me because this is just the kind of envelope pushing fragrance I plead for. If you like unusual leather accords this should be given a try. What I take from this is it is time for me to pay attention to Chopard again. Especially if the mistress’ hand stays on the creative wheel.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Chopard.
There is a trend in niche perfumery I find very irritating; the city exclusive. It is even more troublesome when I see a note list from a brand I like in a city I have no way of getting access to. Which was how I learned of By Kilian Lemon in Zest.
In 2014 creative director owner Kilian Hennessy began to open stand alone boutiques all over the world. For each opening there was a corresponding city exclusive to be sold only at that store. All of them were based on alcoholic beverages indigenous to the city the store was in. New York. Moscow, Paris, Doha, and London I had ways of getting a sample of those. As I managed to try all of them Lemon in Zest remained the stubborn outlier I couldn’t source. It was at the boutique in Lugano, Switzerland. Lugano is on the Swiss-Italian border and is not a large metropolis. I just couldn’t manage to pull the strings I needed to get a sample. Now it seems as if all the city exclusives have become available more widely. I got my sample of Lemon in Zest a little over a month ago.
What had me interested from afar was that it was based on the Italian liqueur limoncello. It also had perfumer Alberto Morillas as the perfumer. I had liked the previous city exclusives for their booziness. I was thinking that M. Morillas could make a limoncello perfume with the bite it would need. I wasn’t wrong.
Limoncello is made from the rind of the lemon and not the pulpy fruit itself. Those rinds are marinated in alcohol for days before being combined with simple syrup. It is served ice cold from the freezer carrying the bite of cold matched to the alcohol and the tart lemon. Limoncello is best drunk as the sun sets on a summer day. M. Morillas makes his own limoncello.
It begins with that tartness of the rind of lemon. Besides the lemon there is a subtle green underneath which is very appealing. These early stages are photorealistic lemon perfume at its best. Then he takes it and adds it to the sweet alcohol. The note list calls it “orange liqueur”. There is a hint of orange, but it is there as a surrogate for the simple syrup adding in some sweet. The alcohol here has that kind of bite I was hoping for. This isn’t a warm comfy cognac or whisky accord. This is a bracing shock to the system full of lemon energy. The same experience a shot of cold limoncello makes in my mouth. It ends as it does for me in real life as I look out over my back yard in summer twilight. Vetiver gives an earthy feel through a judicious use of patchouli. It is an ideal base accord for this.
Lemon in Zest has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I admit that once I got my sample, I was motivated to make some limoncello. I also put my sample in the refrigerator. About a week ago I took both out to enjoy the fireflies and the comet visible overhead from my deck. It felt like I was living my best limoncello life inside and out.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
If there is anywhere where the resurrection of the Gucci fragrance fortunes can be found it is in Gucci Bloom and its flankers. Ever since overall creative director at Gucci, Alessandro Michele, has taken a hand in the fragrance side things have noticeably improved. Gucci Bloom in 2017 was the first marker that things were going to be different under Sig. Michele. The fifth flanker Gucci Bloom Profumo di Fiori continues the ascending trajectory.
Since Sig. Michele has taken over perfumer Alberto Morillas has become his exclusive creative partner. There is a wonderful new Gucci aesthetic which is coming from this. One thing about it which sets it apart is it isn’t going along with the transparent trend so many other brands are following. When Bloom debuted it decided to go with a substantial floral core of tuberose and jasmine. That has been the starting point for every successive version as M. Morillas finds a new partner for his keynote florals. For Bloom Profumo di Fiori it is ylang ylang.
I adore the version of that floral M. Morillas uses here. There is a fresher ylang ylang fraction which gets used a lot by those fragrances seeking opacity. The one here is that fleshy sensual version which finds a couple of willing partners in tuberose and jasmine.
The jasmine and tuberose come to life immediately along with the green vegetal Rangoon creeper adding a bit of contrast. This is the essential DNA of Bloom from past to present. One of the things I admire about this line is they don’t scrub the indoles away. They are kept to a more modest effect, but they add a lot of character to these perfumes. This is where the full spectrum ylang ylang finds harmony as the carnal floral dances a pas de deux with the indolic parts of tuberose and jasmine. If you like sexy florals this is your accord. M. Morillas adds a bit of rooty orris to connect to a sandalwood, benzoin, and musk base.
Bloom Profumo di Fiori has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Even though this review is coming out in midsummer Bloom Profumo di Fiori is a post-Labor Day fall floral. It is one of the best new releases for the upcoming season. Once again Sig. Michele and M. Morillas have added to their winning record. It all comes down to adding a fleshy floral to everything.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Gucci.
There is no other mass-market perfume brand which interests me more than Gucci. The reason is back in 2002 when Tom Ford was the creative director for all things Gucci he took charge of fragrance, too. The perfumes that were generated at that time were brilliant envelope pushing fragrance for any market sector. At the mall they were top of the class. The perfume which made me take notice was 2003’s Gucci Pour Homme. Mr. Ford and Michel Almairac pushed back against the prevailing fresh and clean trends of that day. It is one of my favorites still.
Those were the greatest times of Gucci’s fragrance history. I would suggest it was because the brand creative director was also interested in perfume. It took almost fifteen years until another Gucci creative director wanted to take charge of the fragrance piece. Alessandro Michele has reinvigorated Gucci fragrance from stagnant drift to something to be paid attention to again. Sig. Michele has worked almost exclusively with perfumer Alberto Morillas since he took an interest in 2017. It hasn’t been a flawless rebirth. There have been some stumbles here and there. Gucci Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum is not one of them.
Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum follows last year’s Guilty Pour Homme Cologne. That was one of those stumbles I mentioned. The Cologne version was lacking anything different. The Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum returns to what I like so much about the partnership between Sig. Michele and M. Morillas.
What has been so refreshing about Sig. Michele’s vision for fragrance is he isn’t looking to follow trends but set them. That has meant the recent Gucci releases aren’t part of the transparent wave of fragrance. The other thing is M. Morillas is encouraged to use ingredients outside of the typical mass-market palette. When it succeeds it is one of the reasons I am excited about perfume with Gucci on the bottle again. For Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum the different ingredient choice is chili pepper.
It is right out front paired with a full-spectrum rose. The heat of the pepper ignites the spicier facets of rose. Bringing them to the foreground. This is a kind of rose I can get behind. It heads towards more typical fougere country with a heart of lavender and neroli. They turn the overall profile towards that, but the rose continues to burn freely above it all. Patchouli and cedar comprise the base accord which just provide a solid foundation for the fiery rose fougere.
Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I like the way Sig. Michele is providing consumers a vivid counterpoint to most of the current releases. It will become another perfume collection where the Gucci name means something again. Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum sets a rose on fire to get your attention.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Gucci.
There are perfumes I don’t care for where I walk away wondering how it would have been if one ingredient was added or removed. I’ve learned over the years that a perfume I am not crazy about is only one change away from being one I do like. There are rare occasions when it happens on the perfume shelf but By Kilian Good Girl Gone Bad Eau Fraiche shows it off.
The original Good Girl Gone Bad was released in 2012 as a collaboration between creative director Kilian Hennessy and perfumer Alberto Morillas. The idea was to create a sultry white floral with the added opulence of osmanthus. Regular readers know that should have been right in my wheelhouse. It was but the more I wore it the more crowded all the “bad girl” florals seemed. There were too many of them. I found myself craving a lighter version with the same aesthetic using less. Mssrs. Hennessy and Morillas provide me what I wanted with Good Girl Gone Bad Eau Fraiche. The biggest alteration is the removal of osmanthus and narcissus. What is left behind, orange blossom, jasmine, tuberose, and rose still manage to be “bad” while also being good.
For the Eau Fraiche version orange blossom has a more pronounced presence. It is the lightest of the white florals, but it still has enough indoles to remind you it belongs. M. Morillas adds Rose de Mai, another lighter version of a flower which retains the sultry core. This is that “bad girl” on holiday walking in a sundress with a pop in her step. Jasmine and tuberose call back to the original without being quite as loud. It seems as if they are on holiday too. As the florals come together this is a summery white floral which exudes energy. It all glides along on a base of white musks providing a warm breeze to ruffle our “bad girls’” hair.
Good Girl Gone Bad Eau Fraiche has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you were not a fan of the original because you share my feel of it being overcrowded this version should be better. I know there are some who told me the original smelled like pickle juice on their skin. I think that was probably from the osmanthus. This version should also be more enjoyable if the other florals are to your taste. I like it very much especially on the spring days I tested it. It seems like the creative team found the good place for the “bad girls” to be Eau Fraiche.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
I sometimes get an e-mail from a reader asking me, “What’s the point of flankers?” Trust me when I receive them in the mail that is something I ask myself. The cynical answer is the large companies are trying to part consumers from their money who feel brand loyalty. It is probably closer to the truth. Yet I have observed there might be a more positive perspective to have on flankers.
When I give someone a perfume to try on a strip and they tell me they don’t like it; I ask why. The most frequent answer is there is one thing which doesn’t make them happy. Too floral. Not floral enough. Too sweet. Too strong. A flanker can address this by making the one small change which might bring in someone who was put off by something in the original. This was my frame of mind when I received the two latest flankers from Giorgio Armani.
Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio Profondo
To their credit Giorgio Armani has not overexposed Acqua di Gio by releasing a ton of flankers of the 1995 original. It is also commendable that they have been clearly different from each other. The original was one of the early uses of Calone as the source of the sea spray beachy quality. The big difference in Acqua di Gio Profondo is the use of an analog called Cascalone. This is a deeper version of the sea with a more concentrated effect. It is what perfumer Alberto Morillas uses in the opening moments. Lavender replaces jasmine from the original. The lavender goes well with the Cascalone in creating a slightly darker shade of fragrance. It ends with a mineralic accord in the base,
If you were someone who found the original Acqua di Gio too fresh and clean; Profondo is just a shade less of both.
Acqua di Gio Profondo has 8-10 hour.
Giorgio Armani Armani Code Absolu Gold
With Armani Code the brand doesn’t seem as protective; releasing nearly a flanker a year since its initial release. That kind of process leads to a cynical view. All the Armani Code flankers have been offshoots of the original’s woody Oriental construction. I had easily ignored them until last year’s Armani Code Absolu which did change things. I wasn’t fond of an odd boozy accord in the middle but I appreciated the effort to try something new. This year’s version Armani Code Absolu Gold makes a change which made me like it much more.
Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu was behind both of the Absolu versions. In Armani Code Absolu Gold the booze is replaced by a fantastic iris and saffron heart. This flows much more naturally from the crisp fruits of apple and tangerine on top into benzoin and tonka bean in the base. It is difficult to get the floral balance right in a perfume marketed to men. I think if you are looking for a subdued floral for a change of pace and you like the Armani Code DNA this is a good alternative.
Armani Code Absolu Gold has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Giorgio Armani.