When I first started paying attention to the world of fragrance, I carried a healthy disdain for flankers. I saw them as money-making efforts meant to keep a consumer buying the same perfume over and over. Like many of my initial impressions the more I experienced the more I learned that all flankers weren’t cynical cash cows. There are the ones which illuminate exactly what a difference a few exchanged notes can do to my enjoyment. Michael Kors Super Gorgeous! is a much better version of the original because of this.
Gorgeous! was one of the first new perfumes I received for 2021. I found it to be a mostly forgettable mainstream release. The heart of tobacco and tuberose was nice, but it stayed on the safe side not allowing it to fully develop into something more interesting.
I received my sample of Super Gorgeous! just after Labor Day. When I sprayed it on a strip, I found a perfume which was much more to my taste. Three of the original group of perfumers, Nicolas Beaulieu, Anne Flipo, and Laurent Le Guernec make some critical substitutions which create a better experience.
Laurent Le Guernec
There remains a citrus opening focused on mandarin. What makes it better is the baie rose in the original which added nothing is changed to myrrh. This begins to form an ambery through line which will persist to the end.
The tobacco and tuberose are relegated to supporting players. The perfumers focus their floral heart on iris and jasmine. These two florals form a nice give and take between the rhizome and the night-blooming stalwart. This time the tobacco and tuberose fit themselves into the spaces between the lead florals. In this role they continue that ambery thread.
In the base that amber spreads out into a stronger presence. It is paired with the dry sandalwood of New Caledonia. I found this much more appealing than the slightly leathery accord from the original. Once it is all together it forms a woody ambered floral which is ideal for fall.
Super Gorgeous! has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
It just reinforces how much a few integrated choices can take something from forgettable to the opposite of that.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Ulta.
Editor’s Note: For the month of October in the US in support of Breast Cancer Month there is a special bottle with a pink ribbon. 10% of all sales from that will be donated for cancer research.
One of the things that has happened over the last twenty years is I have become a fan of green perfumes. What that means is intense biting fragrances featuring vegetal smelling ingredients. The perfume I credit with putting me on this path is Chanel No. 19. The mixture of florals and green remains one of my favorites. It was with interest when I was watching the video announcing Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Synthetic Jungle that perfume was mentioned as a starting point. Creative director Frederic Malle uses Chanel No. 19 and Este Lauder Private Collection as inspirations for this new fragrance. He asked perfumer Anne Flipo to find the best of those and use it to synthesize a new modern green perfume.
What the video goes onto say is M. Malle wanted a perfume of galbanum and sap like those two earlier perfumes. What Mme Flipo took was to make that fresher in effect. More akin to 2021 trends instead of the 1970’s when both of the inspirations were released.
The concept of galbanum and sap comes right away. Using galbanum and blackcurrant bud. The latter has a very sticky green reminiscent of sticky sap. It also is an ingredient which perches on a knife edge at the concentration where that becomes apparent. When it goes just a bit too far it smells like a well-used urinal. When it is just right as it is here it exudes this green matrix for others to imprint themselves upon. Mme Flipo slides an equal concentration of galbanum into it. This would be extremely intense if not for the third piece of the top accord. Basil adds its own vegetal verve as it lightens up these intense greens with its own unique freshness.
The heart accord of florals is led by the fresh green of muguet. This carries an expansiveness which contrasts the darker green of the top accord. It is made fuller by adding in some jasmine and ylang ylang. Muguet can be inconsequential sometimes. The supporting florals provide some spine to it, allowing it to stand up to the top accord. At this point I compared it to the inspiration perfumes. Synthetic Jungle is fresher and lighter. Not transparent just a lot less intense than those 1970’s powerhouse florals.
The base accord required a shift of thinking because Mme Flipo couldn’t create the leathery chypre of the inspirations. There are two choices use the atranol-free oakmoss and add something back to create the lost bite. The other option which she chooses is to create a modern chypre using the modern source of oakmoss and patchouli. This creates an abstraction of a chypre accord. It was here where this made me realize the entire composition was an abstraction of those 1970’s inspiration.
Synthetic Jungle has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
While I have enjoyed many of the current releases from this brand it has been years since I have been as engaged as I was with Synthetic Jungle. It does exactly what they wanted by taking the best of the past to make a perfume of today.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
Back in the mid 1990’s when every new perfume was trying to be a fresh aquatic, one brand went a different way. In 1994 when Calvin Klein ck One hit the scene it focused on defining a different take on fresh which had nothing to do with an aquatic. It was a brilliant call by the creative team. As much as any of the aquatics it is also a defining perfume of those times. Now while I praise that decision, every year since has seemingly had an aquatic style flanker with summer in its name. Calvin Klein Defy represents the brand’s efforts to create an alternative to the current transparent trend.
One of the ways they seemingly approached the design it to make a perfume for a man who only has a few, or one, bottles on their dresser. The difficulty comes in being a fragrance that can cross from office to gym to date night. It is one thing that this lighter style plays very well into. Perfumers Loc Dong, Anne Flipo and Pascal Gaurin team up to put it together.
This is as simply constructed a perfume as it gets. A bit of citrus and lavender tangle together at the start. This is that masculine more herbal lavender popular in this sector. The difference is as an older wearer of perfume I like this combination to be more burly. Defy goes in the opposite direction. The citrusy floral is as gentle as a far-off breeze. The transition in the back half comes as vetiver in its greener grassier aspect connects with a synthetic amber in the base which dries things out while keeping it opaque.
Defy has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I don’t think this is as big a difference as was apparent back in the 90’s. I do believe it is a perfume designed to sell to a casual fragrance wearer. In that regard I think it hits the desired target right in the bull’s eye of today’s trends.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample supplied by Calvin Klein.
One of my favorite moments of my perfume blogging life happened about 10 years ago. I was invited to Robertet. As I sat there, they introduced me to the idea of fractionation as it applied to perfume ingredients. Because I am a chemist, I understood the process immediately. The idea is when you are distilling an essential oil you collect it, as an example, over a ten-degree range. That’s the full spectrum stuff. The question that was asked was what if you took smaller pieces of that temperature range. Collect only the first two degrees, then the next two, and so on. They showed me what that looked like for ylang-ylang. I was blown away. There was a fraction which smelled like lily, another which was intensely fruity, it was like seeing the layers of fragrance nature used to create the scent.
Ever since I’ve been fascinated with the use of fractions of all the main perfume ingredients. Each of them can smell entirely different than the parent. When I received the new Paco Rabanne Phantom there were three fractions which show off the best part of why you use them. Luc Dong, Anne Flipo, Juliette Karagueuzoglu, and Dominique Ropion form the team of perfumers working on their fractions.
It begins with the brightness of lemon. The perfumers use the old-school synthetic ingredient styrallyl acetate to add fruity green to the citrus. This is where the first fraction appears. It is from patchouli, and it carries an apple piece of its scent profile. This finds its partner in the synthetic green which also has an apple piece to it. It forms a hinge point where the lemon sits between.
The next fraction arrives, and it is one of vetiver. This captures all the green freshness with only a hint of the deeper woodiness of the full version. It adds another hinge point as there is a slight woodiness to the patchouli fraction. What comes to sit in between those two pieces is a fraction of lavender. This has a stronger green profile closer to the grassiness of the vetiver than the herbal-ness of the full extract. The perfumers add back small amounts of lavender to create an echo of it. It is as if the floral-herbal piece is coming from a distance. Some vanilla adds depth and warmth to the smooth lavender accord.
Phantom has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Phantom is a fun summer fling. What makes it engaging is the sum of its fractions.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
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.