When a perfume is being developed it goes through an iterative process. The perfumer presents their interpretation of their instructions. Usually more than one. The client who has hired the perfumer gives input. The perfumer goes back altering those initial attempts based on the notes. Back and forth until they get to a final decision point. Each vial along the way is called a mod, short for modification. There is no magic correct number to get the best result.
One of the things I’ve often thought is that mainstream perfumes make their initial choice. Perhaps from two different styles. There are times when a few months later another version of fragrance with the same name appears smelling entirely different. I have no way of knowing of course but I snarkily think this was “the other mod” or the path not taken. This is what Givenchy Irresisitible Eau de Toilette made me think of.
One of these leads to the other mod
Irresistible Eau de Parfum was released last year about this time. It was not what I enjoy. It was an overwhelming fruity floral at volume. I remember thinking this flies in the face of the current trend towards transparent florals. It was so loud the strip on my desk overpowered things. I had to remove it from the office. When I heard Irresistible Eau de Toilette was heading towards me I was expecting something lighter.
The same perfume team of Fanny Bal, Anne Flipo, and Dominique Ropion worked on both. That is where the similarity ends. Every place where the Eau de Parfum was gratingly loud the Eau de Toilette is enticingly discrete. This is all done with an entirely different set of ingredients.
It begins with blackcurrant buds showing off the fruity side of its scent profile. This can be a sticky green effect a lot of the time. Here it is a fizzy cassis floating on top of a pool of rose water. This is a typical fruity floral pairing given some life through a lighter hand. This extends to the clean cedar which provides the woody foundation.
Irresistible Eau de Toilette has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
This Eau de Toilette version is so different in temperament it feels like it had to be “the other mod”. It is a much better version of a spring transparent fruity floral than last year’s version.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Nordstrom.
Regular readers know what I mean when I call a new fragrance a grilled cheese. For those new to the site it means something well-done and basic. There is little to comment upon as far as anything unique. It is a perfume you should seek out if the ingredients appeal to you. Around this time of year I’ve been sniffing a steady diet of debutante rose grilled cheese. Which is why when a mainstream brand offers me a different recipe it makes my day as Estee Lauder Beautiful Magnolia does.
Beautiful has been one of the brand’s pillars since 1985. Over the last fifteen years it has been a collection of flankers. They have mostly been good versions of Beautiful without completely losing the beauty of the original. Things took a different turn with last year’s Beautiful Absolu. It was a refreshing of the original formula for today’s perfume lover. Beautiful Magnolia also is looking for that same demographic. Perfumers Anne Flipo and Laurent Le Guernec turn magnolia into the type of spring floral it should always have been.
Laurent Le Guernec
This opens on a version of magnolia just after a spring shower. There are watery droplets on top of a lilting fresh magnolia. Over a short period of time the magnolia shakes off the dampness and fully blooms. There is an appealing creaminess matched to a woody undertone. Some rose and gardenia help amplify the floral part of things. What happens now is unexpected as a sharp green note of mate tea pierces things. This is an unusual choice for a mainstream release because this is an acerbic quarrelsome ingredient. It provides a spiky contrast which alone sets it apart from other new spring florals. I liked it a lot. Yet Mrs. C commented on one of the days that the perfume I was wearing was “very sharp”. I asked her if it was unpleasant, and she said she thought she might like it as a change of pace. This all settles on a typical cedar base.
Beautiful Magnolia has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
The presence of that mate tea note maybe should elevate this from my grilled cheese category but overall it is a pretty, safe spring floral. Just not a rose. Maybe this is a grilled cheese with a cup of tea.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Sephora.
You’ve all been treated to my grouchy spring impatience with all the debutante rose perfumes out there. I get contacted by many readers who want to know what the alternatives are for a nice spring floral. It turns out this spring has seemingly wanted to answer that question on its own. Orange blossom has featured in more releases this spring than I can remember in previous years. It turns out that it can be as much a beguiling innocent floral as rose. Rochas Girl proves the point.
Rochas is one of those perfume brands I keep hoping for bigger things from. Their fragrances are a running history of perfumery in the post-war world. They have helped to steer the major trends of modern perfumery through their releases since then. They always manage to catch my attention with their interpretation of current modern trends. Girl takes on the transparent floral.
One of the things about this fresh-faced style of floral perfume is I wonder if it is even relevant anymore. Are today’s debutantes looking for a partner or to become a partner in a business they start? Which is one of the things I found enjoyable about Girl. Perfumer Anne Flipo forms a more vibrant style of opacity which seems to me more representative of today’s girl.
What has made orange blossom come out of its shell as a fresh floral has been perfumers pairing it with neroli. It adds some depth to the floralcy while adding in a spring green underpinning. It is here where Girl begins. Mme Flipo uses the sticky green blackcurrant buds to add a hint of fruit and a hint of green each working with the orange blossom or the neroli. Baie rose is used as the bridge between while its fruity and herbal nature bring it all together. This is a spring floral with intent. The green adds some power underneath the floral. With all this, it is a transparent construct. It is as opaque as a stained-glass window. It is framed with a woody base accord of vanilla impregnated sandalwood and cedar. The vanilla draws the floral accord into a warm embrace at the end.
Girl has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is my idea of a spring floral. It doesn’t skimp on a fresh floral effect it also has a little bit of attitude to go with it. Which is befitting the new spring debutante in town.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Rochas.
The origin of the name perfume as derived from the Latin “per fumus” has always seemed right to me. The history of adding scent to a person came through capturing the smoke in your clothing. We no longer must stand over a brazier to add fragrance to our lives. I am atavistically attached to the concept. When a perfume attempts to evoke it, I am happy to experience it; Van Cleef & Arpels Oud Blanc achieves this.
Oud Blanc is part of the Collection Extraordinaire subset of the brand. It is a companion to the earlier release this year of Santal Blanc. In that case the wood was surrounded by white linen as the source of “blanc”. Perfumer Anne Flipo chooses a set of white musks for her “blanc”.
Oud comes to the perfume world from the practice of burning it in Middle Easter households. It has become a more familiar scent to Western audiences through its use in perfume. Most of the time it doesn’t try to go back to its original use. Mme Flipo wants that to be the oud she represents here.
The opening is a dried fruit ingredient of dates. Mme Flipo uses it so that it feels like it has a scented chewiness to it. It also is a fruit indigenous to the region where oud has come from. The oud comes next in persistent waves of smokiness. Oud can have some rough edges. In this case Mme Flipo has rounded off many of the sharper ones. It leaves something which moves in slow waves across the dates. Then the white musks and aldehydes appear to blow things up. They add an expansiveness to the oud. Simultaneously vanilla partners the dates to create a sweet gourmand-like baseline underneath the cloud of oud.
Oud Blanc has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
I enjoyed this interpretation of oud quite a bit. I think it is because Mme Flipo took me into the smoke as it was in the beginning.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Neiman-Marcus.
Current events have had their impact on the fragrance industry, obviously. I was comparing my spreadsheet of perfumes I’ve tried this year to last year. The raw number is lower. Along with that many of the typical seasonal offerings were cut back. It looks like the calendar is beginning to reassert itself as I am starting to receive the Holiday releases for many of the brands. There are a few of them which have proven to be good most of the time. The latest for a brand like that is Jo Malone Midnight Musk & Amber.
The Holiday offerings from Jo Malone have been consistently among the best. Under the creative direction of Celine Roux they have even stepped it up a little more. While Jo Malone doesn’t currently have an in-house perfumer Mme Roux is working with a small circle of perfumers. For this year’s Seasonal offering she tapped Anne Flipo.
When I think of the Holiday season a big part of it has been visiting friends. There is a scent to a Holiday party. A bit of alcohol, a bit of spice, a lot of warm bodies under sweaters. This is what Midnight Musk & Amber is all about.
It begins with gin-like juniper berry along with a twist of orange. Kind of like a gin and tonic with an orange wedge in place of the lime. The choice of citrus shifts the accord from summery to fall-like. A warmly spicy amber makes up the heart. This is the scent of the ingredients in Holiday baked goods. Mme Flipo adds a strand of neroli which elongates the orange from the top accord into the amber. The base is that musk on the label. There is this pleasant smell of humid humanity which fills the air at the height of a Holiday party. The musk is like that plus a little benzoin to add a sweet patina.
Midnight Musk & Amber has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I don’t know if there are going to be many Holiday parties to attend this year. If I need a reminder I can reach for my sample and close my eyes.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.
I’ve mentioned that Colognoisseur HQ is out in farm country. One of those farms grows lavender. You will be unsurprised to learn I have become great friends with the owners. I taught them my lavender lemonade recipe and one summer day all about the great lavender perfumes. If you’ve read my reviews of lavender-centric perfumes you will know I like the ones which feature the herbal quality as much as the floral. When I had a table full of different lavender perfumes among a group of people who grow it, I noticed an interesting trend when I asked them to pick their favorite. It split almost perfectly along gender lines with the women all choosing the powderier versions while the men went for the ones with the herbal quality. I remember thinking on the way home that a powdery mainstream lavender might be a big seller. Yves Saint Laurent Libre has arrived to test that hypothesis.
Usually when the press releases drifts into gender nonsense I tune it out. In this case when they were mentioning that the intent was to have Libre be a feminine fougere I had two reactions. One is I am surrounded by women who regularly wear fougeres in the spring and fall; that kind of assignation seems arbitrary. Then I thought back to my experience at the lavender farm and wondered if Libre was a fougere which would go powderier because it was meant to appeal to those who like that. Perfumers Anne Flipo and Carlos Benaim succeed at creating the latter.
Libre opens on a juicy citrus accord of mandarin given focus with petitgrain. The lavender here is supposedly a Yves Saint Laurent proprietary ingredient called “diva lavender”. Seems like a lot of hype over what seems like a fraction of lavender which has removed almost all the herbal character. The citrus provides an active light contrast at first. As that recedes orange blossom and blackcurrant bud provides an abstract green floral replacement for the missing herbal part. It makes this a lighter fresher lavender accord overall. It ends with a clean mixture of cedar and white musks.
Libre has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am heading over to the lavender farm in a couple weeks and I will have Libre with me to do my own market research. I predict it will be a hit at the farm and the mall.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
There is so much I am enjoying about the current wave of Jo Malone releases. Creative Director Celine Roux has re-invigorated this venerable line through her enthusiastic direction. I’ve listed the multiple efforts she has brought to the brand in previous reviews. One of those was initiated with last year’s Rose & White Musk Absolu. Working with perfumer Anne Flipo they came up with a perfume with more character than the name implied. Mme Roux promised there would be more and a year later Jo Malone Violet & Amber Absolu has arrived.
It is difficult to know how much to buy into the press release babble. For Rose & White Musk Absolu there was a lot of chatter about adding the fresh Jo Malone aesthetic on top of a Middle Eastern set of ingredients like oud, white musk, and amber. If I squinted, I could have mentioned that in my review of that earlier release. To be honest that didn’t jump out at me. I remembered that when I tried Violet & Amber Absolu for the first time; I got that. This more recent press release is all Arabian Nights, “yadda, yadda, yadda”. I want to tell them this is where you talk about Jo Malone combined with Middle Eastern perfumery. Mme Flipo creates a perfume of violet warmed by those ingredients.
Violet & Amber Absolu opens with rich violet on display. Violet is one of my top tier favorite perfume ingredients. This is a great one to use. Mme Flipo threads through filaments of labdanum and patchouli. These take what was already fully-rounded violet and makes it three-dimensional. The patchouli adds an earthiness which is the right support for the violet. The base accord are those Middle Eastern ingredients. Amber is the focal point but there is an expansive white musk and subtle oud which rise off the warmth of the amber. It as if they are a brazier warming the violet accord above.
Violet & Amber Absolu has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
This has been a spring morning standout since I received it. It is an ideal shoulder season perfume. Mme Roux promises even more Absolus. Bring ‘em on. They have found a new way to make Jo Malone modern again by warming up violet.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.
We all have perfume ingredients we adore which are less admired by perfume lovers in general. Two of my favorites in this category are narcissus and immortelle. Both are oddly scented polarizing ingredients. For those who are in search of something different in their fragrance these deliver that. I wouldn’t have thought a perfume brand would put both in a perfume; L’Artisan Parfumeur Mont de Narcisse does.
Mont de Narcisse is another entry in the Les Paysages collection which is meant to cover specific geographical regions of France. This is inspired by the narcissus covered fields in Auvergne at the height of the summer. Despite that description this is not a summery perfume. This is a composition of strong ingredients in search of harmony. The perfumer who has the task is Anne Flipo.
It is a difficult balancing act using the deeply vegetal green of the narcissus with the maple syrup-like quality of immortelle alongside a birch tar leather accord. There are a couple of moments where Mme Flipo grinds some gears climbing this Mont.
The green of the narcissus is where the trip begins. Mme Flipo uses black pepper and cardamom to add a spicy complement. The pepper is more prevalent while the cardamom makes the narcissus a bit cooler than it already is. The immortelle lays down a gourmand-like contrast with the maple syrup part of the scent profile out front. It warms the standoffish narcissus while adding a contrasting floral. The leather accord which makes up the base is formed around a smoky birch tar. It opens with a bit of a smudge pot quality because of that. This is one of those clunks I was speaking about. For a short period, the tar is overriding everything else. Once it pulls back into becoming a part of a leather accord the narcissus and immortelle infuse in different ways. Once all three notes are together Mont de Narcisse hits its stride.
Mont de Narcisse has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mont de Narcisse is a perfume for people who love the ingredients. I am one of those. If you are not a fan of any one of them I think Mont de Narcisse is a hill you should travel around. Each of them is not only prominent but at levels which make it hard to overlook. Except for a couple of moments when all three come together I enjoyed it immensely. If you are a fan this is a Mont well worth climbing.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by L’Artisan Parfumeur.
Someday I’m going to be able to sit down with a fragrance marketing person and get an explanation to a burning question. Why do big perfume brands use the name of a classic perfume for something that smells nothing like it? On one hand it is their own brand they are cannibalizing. At least they aren’t buying some other company and stealing a name form them. On the other they want to keep the name because they believe there is some recognition to it but when the perfume doesn’t match the memory isn’t that an issue? Clearly there isn’t an issue because it keeps happening. These are the times I wish I didn’t have knowledge of the vintage version because it is difficult to divorce the past from the present. It is also irritating when I think the new version is good but nothing like the old version. The 2018 version of Givenchy L’Interdit checks off everything I’ve just mentioned.
The original version of L’Interdit was released in 1957 in celebration of the relationship between fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy and actress Audrey Hepburn. Ms. Hepburn wore Givenchy clothing with most of her most iconic looks coming while wearing those designs. Perfumer Francis Fabron designed a stylish aldehydic floral. It was as elegant as its muse. For some bizarre reason in 2002 they released a version in celebration of the Givenchy 50th anniversary which smelled nothing like the original. No aldehydes. Different floral. No sandalwood in the base. This would be followed five years later with a celebration of the 50th anniversary of L’Interdit. This was better as perfumer Olivier Gillotin did a creditable effort with the thankless job replacing materials which were no longer allowed to be used.
We now come to 2018 and the creative forces at Givenchy think its time for another L’Interdit. They’ve assembled three perfumers to co-produce, Fanny Bal, Anne Flipo, and Dominique Ropion. They’ve again decided to make an entirely different perfume. Out of the five listed ingredients only one was in the original. If you’re looking for Audrey Hepburn or a floral aldehydic retro nouveau version; look away. Nothing to see here. What is here is a stripped down straightforward white flower perfume which is one of the better versions of this style.
The perfumers open with orange blossom trailing a lightly indolic core along with it. Jasmine and tuberose join in for the rest of the white flower chorus. There is a nice balance here especially where the intersection of the florals forms a kind of fruity accord running underneath. Makes it a floral fruity kind of perfume without using any fruit. A lighter version of patchouli provides an earthy piece of the base accord while vetiver stands in as an alternative to the woods.
L’interdit has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I said above if the name has you hearkening back to a perfume you remember from your past; keep on walking. This will probably just annoy you at how different it is. If you never heard anything about the history and this is the first version of L’Interdit you’ve encountered, you will find a very good mainstream white floral. When I can forget the name, I focus on that.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Givenchy.
I delight in finding new perfume brands. It is part of what makes me enjoy writing about perfume. Like an olfactory Lothario I am always looking for a new relationship. The bad part of that behavior is the possibility to ignore one of the longer-lived brands when it is doing something extraordinary. I hope that I am a better correspondent than that, but it is human nature to put the new over the old. One point in my favor is I have been very impressed with the current direction at Jo Malone overseen by creative director Celine Roux. 2018 is shaping up as a prime example. The new Jo Malone Honeysuckle & Davana continues a fantastic year.
I often write about how a strong creative director paired with a strong aesthetic is a formula for success. Mme Roux has placed her very distinctive direction upon one of the more recognizable perfume aesthetics by not being afraid to explore the fringes of that. Jo Malone is a classic British line which honors that in every perfume. Mme Roux has embraced that in the best releases over the last few years. Honeysuckle & Davana shows all of that.
The press materials for almost every new Jo Malone release offers quotes from Mme Roux and the perfumer about the creative process. For Honeysuckle & Davana the collaborator is perfumer Anne Flipo. Honeysuckle is not a flower which can be extracted easily. The alternative is for a perfumer to undertake headspace analysis where they capture and analyze the material in its natural state. By seeing the chemical makeup of the natural scent, they can then undertake an effort to produce that scent in the lab. The press release tells of Mme Roux and Flipo spending a full day at The National Arboretum in Gloucestershire. They took headspace samples throughout the day including one at midnight. They discovered an ever-altering scent profile. It was the late-night version which captured their attention as they felt it fit into a chypre construction. This effort pays off.
I didn’t speak about the other ingredient on the label; that one shows up right away. The top accord is rose oxide and davana. Both ingredients bring a fruit-tinted green to things. The rose oxide also has some earthiness from which the honeysuckle can spring. The honeysuckle accord comes next. It starts off very bright but Mme Flipo really turns it into an after dark version with osmanthus to contribute its leathery floral quality. There is the movement from innocent farmgirl to femme fatale. That is deepened as Mme Flipo uses the classic patchouli, moss, and sandalwood chypre base. Innocence is gone as the bad girl comes forward. It is this final stage of the perfume which impressed me. Even using the low-atranol oakmoss it is one of the few times I have not missed the bite of full octane oakmoss. The honeysuckle accord struts right through it all.
Honeysuckle & Davana has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Honeysuckle & Davana is my favorite Jo Malone release of 2018. It is also one of my favorite new releases overall in 2018. Mme Roux is making this Lothario take another look at the one he left behind; gloriously so.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Nordstrom.