Instead of reading or binge watching I’ve been spending some of my quarantine time in the perfume vault. One of the things I wanted to do was spend some time with my favorite perfume house, Jean Patou. I learned of Jean Patou early in my internet lurking on the perfume groups. When the nonsensical query of what the best men’s perfume is, I didn’t hear the names I knew. Instead this knowledgeable group asserted it was Patou pour Homme. I would hunt down a bottle soon after. It would begin my adoration of the perfumes as I began to acquire all of them I could. This collection of perfume has probably done more to shape the way I view perfume than any other.
Jean Patou was a fashion designer throughout the 1910’s and 20’s. His clothing was found on many of the women of the Lost Generation. He provided alternatives to the popular flapper style. In the mid-1920’s he branched out into fragrance. Hiring perfumer Henri Almeras they would make fourteen perfumes from 1925-1946.
Over these releases a distinct aesthetic formed. This is where I learned what it meant to have a single perfumer along with a single creative director form a tapestry perfume by perfume. The perfume Patou is known for, Joy, came out right in the middle. It remains one of the great floral perfumes ninety years on.
I came to know the other perfumes of the early Jean Patou when I purchased a still sealed set called Ma Collection. Inside were 12 X 2ml minis of almost all the early Henri Almeras Jean Patou perfumes. I would never get the opportunity to experience an entire collection in this way. As I worked my way through them each one spoke to me. There were subtle variations on a theme as the first three releases gave different carnation-based constructs. I think one of the reasons I adore carnation perfumes is because of Adieu Sagesse, Amour Amour, and Qui Sais-Je?.
Patou would have another period of greatness from 1972-1998 under the creative perfumer Jean Kerleo. The first perfume he did, 1000, would sear my love for another floral ingredient. He placed osmanthus atop a classic chypre base, If Joy was a floral which came out of its era the same was true of 1000.
Patou pour Homme does live up to its reputation as one of the best masculine perfumes ever. For all of that, it is the re-invention of the fougere in Ma Liberte that I think is the masterpiece of the Kerleo years. Adding a fresh floral heart amidst the spices and woods it remains my favorite modern fougere.
As I spent time over the last few weeks, I was struck by how similar M. Almeras and M. Kerleo were at pushing the edges. So many of the perfumes they made for Jean Patou would be the first of their kind. It is why the loss of this great house of perfume is so tragic.
If I had one perfume wish it would be for Jean Patou to be given the chance to be seen again in all of its glory.
One of the things about this challenge is it caused me to think back. To identify the first memory I have associated with scent. Being born in South Florida that memory should be the Florida Water which probably scented my crib. I don’t remember that. It turns out it is tied to another major event in a child’s life, the removal of training wheels from my bicycle.
It probably happened sometime in the mid 1960’s. I had convinced my father that I was ready to have the training wheels taken off my bicycle. I wanted to ride on two wheels like the big kids. It also was a freedom thing. With the wheels on I was confined to traveling only the sidewalk around my block. Once I was on two wheels there was more of the world I could see.
The first task was straying upright on the bike. It took us some time for me to get the hang of keeping my balance. I had a couple of decent scrapes on knees and elbows by the time I could keep myself going. Once that was accomplished, I had to go beyond the single block I had been seeing. I looked up at my father and asked if we could go to my grandmother’s house.
It was only one block over and one block up. It was like traveling to the moon. Undiscovered Country awaited. My dad smiled and said, “Sure, sport”. It was work to pedal my small bike with my child’s legs by the time we were close I was exhausted. The thing which helped was the scent of the gardenias in the yard of Grammy’s house. As we got close it was the smell of those flowers that let me know I was near my destination.
My grandfather had built this house from Florida pine with an understanding of the airflow. There was no air conditioning just a number of windows which could be opened to capture any breeze. It would be given some help by overhead fans lazily spinning in the ceilings. Completely surrounding the house were gardenia bushes. Within the house there were bowls of water with a fresh gardenia bloom floating there gently scenting the air. Gardenias slowly begin to turn brown after they have been removed from the bush. I knew what time of the day it was just by looking at the condition of the blooms in the bowls.
I believe it is one of the reasons I enjoy gardenia in perfume because it has been the alpha scent. Gardenia fragrances have been part of the white flower style of perfume since they became a thing in the first half of the 1900’s. Most of the time they are lush over the top styles. One example I have of that is 1932’s Tuvache Jungle Gardenia. It is a prime example of the gardenia and tuberose pairing which defines the white flower genre of perfume. Gardenia would go out of style because it had become too strongly associated with what has recently been dubbed “old lady perfume”.
The two most recent versions where that concept was modernized are Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia and Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia. Then there are two which capture the raw scent of the soil along with the gardenia; JAR Jarling and Van Cleef & Arpels Gardania Petale.
I am not sure any of those have fully shaken off the undesired sobriquet of perfume for senior citizens. I don’t care because they all find that place where gardenia lives in my memory. A young child venturing out into the world beyond the front door. Destination: the gardenia scented yard of my grandmother.
Those who are close to me know I am not one for these “challenges” which spring up on social media. Thankfully, they also know me well enough not to tag me as someone to keep the challenge going. It has been an easy thing to ignore. Until there was a challenge that I did find interesting.
When I was part of the original team at CaFleureBon editor-in-chief Michelyn Camen gave Pierre Benard of OSMOART the opportunity to create a piece for the blog. I did not know M. Benard back in 2010 when his first piece was published. I would become an enthusiastic fan of his ability to tie scent, emotion, and art together in personal ways. Whenever I see there is a new piece from him, I always go right to it. It always provides a unique perspective on scent.
Starting at the end of April, with Ms. Camen, M. Benard challenged each person tagged to “post ten smell, perfumes or posters that infused your life”. Ms. Camen has dutifully tagged people who have tagged people and so on. Some of the best part of my Facebook feed has been seeing what various friends in the social media fragosphere have answered. Some I kind of knew and others were total surprises. None bigger than this time, for the only time, I wanted to play.
Then I remembered I have a blog. I also have only been receiving a trickle of new perfumes to consider for review because of the pandemic. Instead of doing posts about the best perfumes of the decade or something like that. I’m going to spend the next ten days doing the challenge with one post per day. Because I have a blog I can be as wordy, or nerdy, as I like. Join me on Monday for Day 1.
Unlike many when I desire a spring floral I tend to run away from rose in search of other parts of the garden. One flower which has become synonymous with spring is magnolia. Some of that comes from my grad school days in Georgia where it becomes one of the first scented flowers to pop after winter recedes. It also comes from owning some excellent perfumes which feature it. One of those is Grandiflora Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine.
Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine was released at the beginning of 2014. It was one of two debut fragrances for the brand. Grandiflora was begun by Australian floral artist Saskia Havekes. For her first two perfumes she invited two perfumers to interpret the same flower, magnolia. One was composed by perfumer Michel Roudnitska called Magnolia Grandiflora Michel. The other perfumer was Sandrine Videault and hers was named Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine. Each of them is excellent interpretations of magnolia. M. Roudnitska’s appeals to me in the colder weather when I want a fuller floral. Mme Videault’s take is to find magnolia just as it bursts from its bud.
What she noticed when spending time with the natural source was an inherent green that read as “chypre” to her. Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine is a fragrance which takes that in a different direction by the end.
At the beginning we get grapefruit and pepper. This is such a spring morning accord. The slightly sulfurous grapefruit and the pepper picks up the dewy green and damp soil of dawn in the garden. The magnolia appears next as if it has just peeked out from its bud. This is where that significant green Mme Videault noticed is given some space. I always expect it to get greener. Mme Videault has other ideas. The flower comes more clearly out, giving a velvety floral quality taking the lead from the green. Now that the sun has risen, and the dew has burned off, the afternoon breeze of white musks expand and lift the magnolia up to be appreciated. A subtle suite of dry woods provides the base accord.
Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine has 18-24 hour longevity and above average sillage.
This perfume represents a beginning and an end. It was the beginning of Mme Havekes Grandiflora perfume brand. She has gone on to add three more floral perfumes to the original two. All of them show the creativity she is known for in her floral designs.
It was also the last perfume made by Mme Videault as she passed away soon after finishing it. There are many who consider other perfumes she made as her best. I think Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine holds that honor.
If you have never heard of Grandiflora or Sandrine Videault they both should be on your radar now.
Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle I purchased.
As we approach May 1 it is one of those days where perfume has a moment. It is centered around the perfumes which focus on muguet or lily-of-the-valley. On May Day it is tradition to wear a sprig, or two, in celebration of spring. From Dior Diorissimo to Annick Goutal Le Muguet or Guerlain’s yearly release of Muguet on May 1 the perfume version is an option. I think all those perfumes are fantastic, but I never equated lily-of-the-valley with spring. My spring flower is bit different as is the perfume which represents it.
For most of my life I have had lilac bushes growing near the places I have lived. As the winter has receded enough for me to open my windows. It was the scent of lilacs which let me know the season had profoundly changed. I look forward to this every year. One thing which also seems to happen annually is one of those proverbial April showers comes through. After the rain has passed there is one of my favorite natural mixtures of scent; green leaves, wet soil and lilac. Perfumer Olivia Giacobetti has bottled this in one of the greatest perfumes of the last twenty years; Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle En Passant.
En Passant was part of Frederic Malle’s groundbreaking inaugural collection in 2000. For the first time the heretofore anonymous perfumer’s names were right there on the label. All the perfumes would make their perfumers something to be celebrated.
In the years before the release of En Passant Mme Giacobetti had been refining a transparent aesthetic. En Passant was where it reached perfection. She became expert in forming opaque accords without sacrificing impact. In En Passant she had to walk the fractious line lilac presents a perfumer. If you construct your accord with too much you run the risk of reminding the wearer of aerosol air freshener. Too musky and it loses any hint of spring freshness. The accord she constructs finds the perfect balance through translucent lilac. It is then given the wet soil accord through the ingenious combination of cucumber and wheat. The green comes though the acerbic quality of orange leaves.
En Passant has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I consider En Passant to be the best perfume of this century. It is a fragrance which manages to succeed at being photorealistic and impressionistic simultaneously. Mme Giacobetti was years ahead of her time when it came to this style of perfumery. There are many who think a perfume needs to shout to be great. En Passant asks whether it can whisper of spring showers in a garden of lilacs instead. Give me the quiet beauty of it all.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
Anyone who is of the Baby Boomer generation likely had a woman in their family who wore White Shoulders. It featured the white flowers of gardenia, tuberose and jasmine in a heady cocktail. It was a perennial best-seller for years. Then in the 1970’s it began a process of being sold to different brands each who would tweak the formula a little bit. Trying to make it more profitable. The original is a classic of its time which any perfume lover of white flower types of fragrance would enjoy. The current formulation of White Shoulders is a much lighter replica of that original perfume. It is the rare occasion where a formulation might have coincided with finding the current trend.
The original White Shoulders formulation was the epitome of what younger perfume lovers called “old lady” perfume. It was chock full of essential oils along with sandalwood, oakmoss, and civet. The white florals reeked of indoles to go with it. It is a perfume from a different era. The small bottle I have of that White Shoulders is just what I adore of perfumes from that time. It is a take no prisoners floral perfume. Not so the current formulation.
In the current version all the ingredients which were essential oils have been replaced by low-cost synthetics. Along with the problematic oakmoss and civet which have also been removed. In its current formulation it is like a classic Rolls-Royce has been entirely refurbished with everything being replaced with modern car parts. As much as I like the original, I also like the version it has been altered into.
This reformulation begins with tuberose, gardenia, and jasmine. Except these are the indole-free synthetic versions. These were created by perfume houses to give a floral lift. As used here they are much more expansive. Which works well with the aldehydes which have carried over from the original. This version now feels like a spring morning as the flowers are just scenting the air. Because the civet and oakmoss are gone the sandalwood has more work to do here. A less sweet synthetic version tries to put back some of the bite missing. It provides a nice woody grounding effect.
White Shoulders has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
For anyone who loved the original White Shoulders this is different enough that it is not going to remind you of it. You might come to like it or miss what is gone. For any younger perfume consumer who is looking for a lighter spring floral this current reformulation of White Shoulders should be ideal. It is right on trend. That it can be bought for around $20US almost anywhere makes the current version a Discount Diamond.
Disclosure: This review based on bottles of White Shoulders I purchased.
This is the time of year referred to as shoulder season. Not quite full spring with reminders of winter still present. Just as you wear a sweater or jacket in the morning only to be carrying it on your arm in the afternoon. There are a select few perfumes I enjoy wearing on these variable days. They are among the best constructed perfumes I own because they must be versatile enough to handle the variability of the day. From the moment it was released in the spring of 2008 Chanel Allure Homme Edition Blanche has epitomized the ideal shoulder season perfume.
Chanel has always been blessed with incredible in-house perfumers. Enough that it would be difficult to parse which is better. When it comes to a set of masculine perfumes it would be hard to argue that Jacques Polge and Francois Demachy set the standard for twenty years at Chanel. Allure Homme Edition Blanche would add the exclamation point to this era.
Allure Homme Edition Blanche succeeds by being what I call a high-low style of perfume. Something which starts out light and ends up deep. The original Allure Homme was a soft fresh citrus woody perfume. Even though it shares the name Allure Homme Edition Blanche is entirely different.
It is apparent right away with one of my favorite lemon top accords. This is bright sunshine for a spring, or fall, day. Sun hanging lower in the sky still brilliant but a little softer around the edges. This lemon infuses the perfume with energy which carries into the heart where sandalwood and tonka await. The sweet of both ingredients cover the lemon. Adding more depth without completely overwhelming the citrus. The base uses vetiver and vanilla to provide the final rounding. Vetiver takes the sandalwood to a more traditional woody direction. The vanilla harmonizes with the tonka for a comforting accord. All while the lemon pulses in the middle of it all.
Allure Homme Edition Blanche has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
While I am lauding this for being perfect in spring or fall it is also just as good in the summer as an alternative citrus cologne. There are few better men’s fragrances out there than this. If you’ve come to Chanel because of Bleu de Chanel; Allure Homme Edition Blanche should be another bottle from the brand you add to your radar screen, or dresser.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
With some time I can look back and point at some incredible perfumery. One of the things new independent perfume brands did a lot of in the mid-2000’s was to rely on one perfumer to help refine the desired aesthetic. Spouses Sebastian Alvarez Murena and Marina Sersale wanted to create perfumes based on their hotel La Sireneuse on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. They turned to perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour to help create their line of perfume. From 2004-2011 he created the eight perfumes which would set the template for the brand to thrive. Those eight perfumes when seen together show the artistry of the entire creative team. I own all of them and they are pinnacles of what independent perfumery stands for. It is this kind of perfume brand I like to highlight in this Under the Radar column. Today I will focus on the last of the perfumes M. Duchaufour did for the brand Eau D’Italie Jardin du Poete.
Regular readers will not be surprised to know the scent I associate with spring has nothing to do with rose. I am a fan of the greener herbal perfumes for this season. Jardin du Poete is one of those with a fantastic pivot at the end that I never tire of experiencing. Jardin du Poete captures a springtime dawdle in a garden near La Sireneuse.
It opens with a typical Mediterranean cocktail of citrus. In this case M. Duchaufour captures the bitter side of these fruits. Using grapefruit and bitter orange this is isn’t the juicy ripe citrus of a summer scent. It is more closed in as the sulfurous quality of the grapefruit and the bitterness of the orange create a citrus accord of fruit not quite ripe enough to eat. M. Duchaufour then adds in an overdose of basil. This pungent green herbal note accentuates the greener qualities of the citrus. Baie rose adds in more herbal support. The basil and baie rose form an abstract tomato leaf accord over time on my skin. Then the pivot I spoke of happens as the maple syrup scent of immortelle flows over the herbal nature. Immortelle can dominate the fragrances it is used in. M. Duchaufour uses it here in one of the most transparent ways I have encountered it. It forms a rugged green garden accord as the immortelle reminds me more of broom flower or hay as the basil provides the green beneath. A grassy vetiver brings it all full circle.
Jardin du Poete has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
These early perfumes of Eau D’Italie are all worthy of being on your radar. If you need to find one appropriate for spring Jardin du Poete is a good place to start.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
I am a generally happy person. The current coronavirus pandemic has worn away at that. I like to be informed but this time the more I learned the bluer I felt. Over the last few days I’ve unplugged from the news streams except for watching the local and national news for an hour. It has helped. The other thing that has helped is my love for perfume.
To fill up the time I’ve been working in the perfume vault. I am surprised at how much beauty there is to be found. I shouldn’t be, I write about it every day. On those shelves are history lessons, trips to faraway places, exceptional artistic visions; all of which are fascinating. I’ve been allowing myself the luxury of letting scent take me away.
I have spent some of my time getting lost in my favorite perfume house, Patou. The Art Deco bottles seem appropriate as we enter this century’s own 20’s. The great Joy was created in 1925. I was struck by the way that perfume seems timeless. It is what a floral perfume should be at any time.
I turned to the Japanese inspired perfumes by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz for serenity. My favorite perfume by one of my favorite perfumers is her Bancha. I usually demur when asked to name a single perfume when asked what is the one I like best. Bancha is one which is unequivocal in my affection. I always wear Bancha on the first day of spring. The same sense of tranquility and hope descended upon me with each breath I took as it does every year. It is especially appropriate now.
Alessandro Brun, Me, Riccardo Tedeschi (l. to r.)
I hadn’t thought about what a great collection the Masque Milano perfumes have become until I spent an afternoon with them covering different patches of skin. It is such a varied collection that I smelled like a pile-up on the perfume interstate. Yet there is a real sense of vision now that there are several perfumes to examine. Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi are in the midst of creating perfume which will stand the test of time. To spend this time with them has been illuminating.
I decided to go around the world while sitting at my desk. Perfumes took me to every continent all while never leaving the house.
I’ve never had the best answer when asked why I have so much perfume. Maybe I was just waiting for a time when all that I enjoy can be there as emotional support. I think those days have arrived. Perfume in the time of coronavirus will be what gets me through.
As my closet is testament to, if you wait long enough every trend eventually comes back into style. As I wrote that I gazed at the perfume vault and realized the same thing holds there. As perfume trends go the 1990’s was one of the most vital at creating new genres and styles. Despite it being all the rage today, transparency was one of those. It was also a time where perfumers who were behind-the-scenes artists had some latitude. It would be another ten years before their names were as known as the brands they worked for. The first star perfumer is probably Jean-Claude Ellena. The perfume which probably defined the style he would refine for the next 25 years is Bvlgari Eau Parfumee Au The Vert.
To perfume lovers if you speak M. Ellena’s name they think of their favorite minimalist perfume from his time as in-house perfumer at Hermes. Many are surprised when I show them that style was apparent in 1993 with Au The Vert.
The simple brief given him was to create a perfume evoking a Japanese tea ceremony. He took this to heart considering the minimalist aesthetic of Japan. His thought was to streamline the composition down to a few essential ingredients. To keep the focus on the tea as you would at an actual tea ceremony. What comes to life is a vibrant perfume in just a few well-chosen notes.
The opening is the soft floral citrus of orange blossom. It is given definition using coriander and cardamom. The cardamom gives lift to the citrus character. The coriander captures the green undertone of the flower. The floral nature is given some depth with jasmine. This brings us to the green tea. It is a bit bitter. It is also very transparent. It rises in tendrils of steam through the top accord. Underneath it all is a light application of smoky woods as if the brazier the tea was heated on enters the scene.
Au The Vert has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
At the time this was released it was a best seller because there was nothing like it on the market. It was a perfume which wasn’t as forthright in its charms as the others on the department store fragrance counter. It is entirely on trend for today’s perfume customers. The nice thing is it falls into my Discount Diamonds cutoff as you can find bottles available for right around that $40 limit. I can tell you there are few perfumes out there which are better.
As M. Ellena would evolve the style begun here his creations would be called “Perfume Haiku”. Au The Vert was the first of those verses.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.