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.
I have been laudatory of the recent releases from Jo Malone. The creative director Celine Roux has found the ability to re-energize the brand in new ways. Because of the recent success when I receive a new release lately I am excited to give it a try. Except when I saw the name on the bottle my expectations dropped. The name was Jo Malone Rose & White Musk Absolu; I probably stifled a yawn looking at it.
One of the things I have been pleased with over the last three years is Mme Roux has pushed the envelope at the brand more than retreating to safer constructs. Which was what I thought looking at the name; safe. It turned out once I actually tried the perfume it falls somewhere in-between. The ingredients are crowd pleasing but the perfumer, Anne Flipo, was given some leeway to move it towards something less generic. I found there were a couple thorns among the roses which is why I liked it. Mme Flipo says in the press materials this is meant to be a single linear accord. She is correct for the most part although I did find the places where a sharpness hid among the petals. Which was where Rose & White Musk Absolu was at its best.
Mme Flipo has combined some different rose sources for the core rose effect. There is something which makes it feel a bit like a debutante rose being escorted by her femme fatale sister. That sexier sister is a Turkish rose which is given a dewy shine by the lighter rose ingredients. In the early going this is a deeply sharp rose. Mme Flipo hones that with the white musk and oud accord. These are my thorns. The white musk pierces the floral character like a knitting needle. The oud accord does the same from the other side of the scent spectrum. The rose rises above it all before Mme Flipo adds in more white musks, softening that effect and providing a slow diffusion over the hours the perfume remained on my skin.
Rose & White Musk Absolu has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
This is something much more typical of a Jo Malone perfume than almost anything released so far this year. What surprised me is even when trying to be safer the brand is still interested in finding a way of adding in some thorns which makes it better.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Jo Malone London.
The perfume business is a strange beast. Here’s the latest exhibit. Paco Rabanne’s fragrance releases have been solid mainstream offerings over the past few years. For my tastes I keep finding myself drawn to one of the flankers over the original pillars. One of those flankers was Invictus Aqua which was released at the beginning of 2016. Composed by perfumer Anne Flipo this was a nice take on the masculine aquatic which stood out among the other choices at the mall. Then inexplicably it was removed off the perfume counter in 18 months. I was fascinated to find out why because I wanted to use the story as a Dead Letter Office column subject. As I shot off emails and made phone calls trying to ascertain the reason; I was contacted by the PR company representing the brand. I was told Invictus Aqua was going to be re-released early in 2018 followed by the offer of a press sample. I took them up on it and waited for my opportunity to review it; which is here.
Invictus Aqua 2018 Perfume Team
Before we go too far I will say that Invictus Aqua 2018 is overall fresher than Invictus Aqua 2016. I do think they are similar enough that you probably don’t need both in your collection as they both cover enough of the same ground it would likely seem redundant. Besides the scent profile the perfume was composed by a trio of perfumers who joined Mme Flipo; Nicolas Beaulieu, Juliette Karagueuzoglu, and Dominique Ropion. It seems like a lot of firepower for the slight difference on display.
The biggest difference I found shows up in the first few moments. Aqua 2016 opened on a sunny citrus mix before the typical ozonic aquatic accord arrived. Aqua 2018 opens with that set of aquatic notes making the first few seconds slightly sharper. When the grapefruit comes forward in Aqua 2018 it begins to dovetail with the previous version more closely. From here until the finish the two perfumes are on the same track but when wearing them side-by-side the Aqua 2018 always felt a little cleaner and a little lighter than Aqua 2016. So, the green violet leaves, the light woods, and the synthetic amber are close enough.
Invictus Aqua 2018 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage. The sillage is another difference from the Aqua 2016 version; 2018 has a bit less of it.
I think Invictus Aqua 2018 takes its place on the department store counter in the same place it was when it left as one of the better aquatics in that sector.
Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Paco Rabanne.
If I ask someone to name a Ralph Lauren perfume I suspect the most common answer would be, “Polo”. For the last forty years Ralph Lauren has become a pillar in the masculine perfume world. If I also told you that there was a feminine counterpart to Polo released at the same time I’d bet that would surprise many. Lauren was its name it was composed by perfumer Bernard Chant formed on a lovely green spine of petitgrain, tagete, and vetiver it was gorgeous. Except that it never caught on. That would be a phrase to describe the attempts by the brand to court the women consumers. It is almost a fascinating case study in how the creative team is so successful with men and equally unsuccessful with women. I must give them credit they are back with another attempt; Woman by Ralph Lauren.
When I received my sample, I expected Woman to be aimed directly at the young women. When I sprayed it on a strip my first impression was they were still chasing the older women that got away in the past. Perfumer Anne Flipo has fashioned a very traditional fruity floral which seemingly is meant for the white flower fans out there.
The opening is a very brash pear which Mme Flipo reins in only slightly with blackcurrant bud and rhubarb. The early moments of Woman are the pear making sure you notice it. Orange blossom provides some floral complements to the fruit before the tuberose comes out. The tuberose is kept more controlled than the pear is. Which means the tuberose rises to a significant intensity but the strength of the pear pushes back from allowing it to take over entirely. Woman stays as primarily a tuberose and pear duet for most of the time I wore it. Over the final stages sandalwood leavened with some hazelnut is where it all ends.
Woman has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
Woman is a nicely executed department store fruity white floral except it misses the trends the younger buyer wants. It isn’t very transparent. The hazelnut is the only thing slightly trending towards gourmand. It is odd but the whole time I wore it I thought that Woman was meant to get the girl(s) that got away.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Ralph Lauren.
Nearly every perfume I smell conjures up a vision. Different places, specific kinds of ingredients, memories of the past. A few of them resonate with my imagination as to what event I might wear them to. When it comes to Jo Malone there are a disproportionate number of fragrances which seem perfect for a summer garden party. The qualities I find, which is part of the brand aesthetic, that put me in a linen suit on a lawn are these; transparency, brightness, and ease of wear. The latest release Star Magnolia captures all of that.
Perfumer Anne Flipo composed her first fragrances for Jo Malone a year ago with the five perfume Herb Garden Collection. She would follow that up with Basil & Neroli in the fall. Star Magnolia gets her out of the herbal side of Jo Malone and places her square in their floral wheel house. In those first six releases for the brand Mme Flipo had a clear command of what the brand has stood for since its founding. With Star Magnolia, she shows that understanding again.
Star Magnolia is primarily a lemon-magnolia-sandalwood construction. Mme Flipo adds in supporting notes especially in the heart but those three notes I just listed is what you will mostly remember after wearing it.
The opening moments are a sunny lemon. When it comes to my summer scents lemon is one of my more favorite choices as the lead citrus note. Here Mme Flipo adds some zip with ginger and some leafy green. The heart is where the magnolia shows up. Magnolia has a lemony character to it and the note sort of appears from within the lemon. Neroli helps amplify the floral while the green from the top persists into the heart. The final note is sandalwood leavened with a moderate amount of amber.
Star Magnolis has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
One reason I enjoyed Star Magnolia is the same reason I enjoy walking the lawn at a real garden party. There is something simply beautiful about the combination of flowers, grass and sun. Star Magnolia captures all of that. It makes for a perfume ideal for the warmer months coming.
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by Jo Malone.