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.
As I received my many new spring rose releases for this year I kept waiting for the ones which applied some of the assumptions about what millennials want in their fragrance. If I was to summarize the perfume brands collected wisdom for what this new generation of perfume lovers desires it would be: transparent, gourmand, and floral. If you had asked me in January what would be hitting my mailbox I would have placed a large bet on transparent candied roses. Thankfully there are no bookmakers accepting bets on such speculation for I would have lost. As I look back over the samples received only one fit my description, Mademoiselle Rochas.
Rochas, as a brand, is sort of the aging dowager of perfumery. The brand which was founded with the great masterpiece Femme in 1944 has irregularly built on that auspicious beginning. My collection of discontinued Rochas fragrances is one of those which is its own museum of greatest perfumers ever. When they hired Jean-Michel Duriez as in-house perfumer I hoped for a renaissance but that never materialized. With his departure in 2014 it seems like Rochas has set its sights on this younger fragrance consumer. Both 2016 releases seemed designed to appeal to that demographic. That made it unsurprising that their spring rose perfume would also go there.
Mademoiselle Rochas was composed by perfumer Anne Flipo. The model for the mademoiselle Mme Flipo would use as a brief is a modern-day Parisienne. She is described like this in the press materials, “Frenchic”. Which I guess translates to transparent gourmand rose.
Mme Flipo opens with a cleverly assembled candy apple accord. Combining blackcurrant buds, red currants, and blackberries it all forms a hard-red sugared shell over crisp fruitiness. If there is anything I am enjoying about this presumed preference for sweet gourmands is perfumers are producing some interesting accords. This is one of them. The floral heart is less imaginative as rose de mai, jasmine, and violet form an opaque floral heart. It is serviceable and kept on the light side. The base is a mixture of clean white musks some sweet sandalwood and a modest ambergris.
Mademoiselle Rochas has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I am interested to see how well Mademoiselle Rochas connects with their target audience. I would be happy to have next spring’s rose fragrances have a gourmand twist. It does make it seem less trite. If you’re looking for a millennial spring rose for 2017 that is what Mademoiselle Rochas delivers.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Rochas.
It was in the early 1990’s that a London-based aesthetician named Jo Malone burst on to the fragrance scene with a true original perfume called Lime Basil & Manadrin. The herbal citrus perfume has become a standard not only within the line but in general. In 1999, Ms. Malone sold her fragrance business to Estee Lauder in one of the earliest niche acquisitions by a large beauty company. In the seventeen years since that acquisition I think Jo Malone has done pretty well staying true to the style Ms. Malone pioneered in her early days. I tend to look forward to receiving new releases because I think the large company has not squashed the spirit of the small company it acquired.
In particular the last couple of years has seen some releases which have been among the best the line has released; 2014’s Wood Sage & Sea Salt along with last year’s Mimosa & Cardamom are but two examples. I was really looking forward to the latest release Basil & Neroli for a couple of reasons. The first was that this is the first time basil has been used as a keynote in a Jo Malone perfume since that long ago original release. Secondly perfumer Anne Flipo seemed to be extending the Herb Garden collection she did earlier in the year for the brand. I really liked the way she used the herbs throughout those fragrances.
Basil & Neroli is real deep dive into the two notes on the label. Mme Flipo uses three different sources of basil throughout. Two of them are sort of spliced together which give some unique perspective to this herbal ingredient. The neroli is also incredibly rich matching the variations in basil.
In the top accord Mme Flipo takes a version of basil called Grand Vert. That is some truth in advertising as the first hint of basil is very green. It is sharpened by the use of cedar leaves to bring it into hyper-focus. Then the second variation of basil to be used is called a “basil-verbena twist” this takes the green tinted verbena twisted with a lees Grand Vert version of basil so that the lemon quality can peek through. Once this is in play it is like finding a lemon amongst a dense bush of basil. The lemon connects to the other titular note as neroli finds its way out of the green. Bitter orange helps push some of the green down too. The third basil comes from doing a combined headspace isolation of basil and neroli together. This lays down an interstitial foundation where the top accord and the neroli combine in a luminous uber-accord. The base is vetiver to keep the green theme through to the base. Mastic to extend the citrus character a bit. Finally, some white musks to add a bit of expansive lift.
Basil & Neroli has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Basil & Neroli is one of my favorite Jo Malone fragrances I’ve tried. The last time I enjoyed one as much on first try it was 2008’s discontinued Sweet Lime & Cedar. That bottle is getting sort of low these days but I think I just found a replacement.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Jo Malone.
L’Artisan Parfumeur was one of the earliest niche perfume lines. Started in 1978 by Jean-Francois Laporte it was meant to be a riposte to the larger brands’ offerings. For nearly forty years the brand has had its ups and downs but it has never stopped taking risks. If there in any legacy M. Laporte would be proud of I would imagine it is that.
Throughout the lifetime of the brand they have identified some of the best perfumers working and given them budget and freedom to realize a vision. The very best of the line are some of the masterpieces of niche perfumery. That doesn’t mean they are immune to sending some miscalculations to the Dead Letter Office. One of those miscalculations was the 2001 release Verte Violette.
Perfumer Anne Flipo had made her name with L’Artisan with her release Mimosa pour Moi. It was a greener version of mimosa tinted that color with violet leaf. If there was a consistent criticism of that perfume it was that the violet was too sharply green; closing in the mimosa. In 2001 when Mme Flipo was asked to create two more fresh florals I think she wanted to revisit a green violet. What results is a classic Goldilocks perfume where the perfumer takes the keynote and tries not to make it too green or too sweet. In the case of Verte Violette Mme Flipo would strike this balance near perfectly. While I think the Goldilocks approach was not the right tack to take with niche consumers who wanted something different it probably wasn’t the main reason for its discontinuation.
That reason was probably due to its longevity. Mme Flipo designed Verte Violette as a fragile veil meant to be a close wearing skin scent. Particularly at this point in the expansion of niche a perceived lack of longevity was going to be seen as a significant drawback. Verte Violette has almost no sillage and while it does stay on my skin for a long time it requires me to bring my nose close to detect it. What I detect when I do this is a slightly sweet fresh green floral.
Verte Violette opens with a similar riff that Mme Flipo used on Mimosa pour Moi; violet leaves and raspberry. The green of the violet leaves is only slightly sweetened be the fruit. This is the typical sharp green quality of that note. A slew of ionones make up Mme Flipo’s violet accord in the heart. It is a densely layered construct meant to convey a weight between transparent and full-throated. As I mentioned Mme Flipo finds a really beautiful balance here. The violet accord grows deeper over time as rose and orris provide some strength but not too much. Cedar provides the woody frame for the florals to exist within.
Verte Violette has 8-10 hour longevity but almost zero sillage.
Verte Violette was discontinued after just ten years on the market in 2011.
I have always enjoyed Verte Violette for that Goldilocks quality Mme Flipo managed to create. I am not surprised that others did not share that feeling. The longevity and lack of sillage is something I have never cared about but I understand those who do. The combination of fleeting and just right makes Verte Violette a Short-Lived Goldilocks. At least in this case I am that Goldilocks.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.