One of the things I’ve noticed over time is brands begin to reach middle-age and settle for a consistent aesthetic over anything else. It makes me a bit sad when a brand which began with fresh ideas and directions reaches this stage. They begin to look like that person who doesn’t realize they’re not young and hip anymore. There are exceptions some of the seminal brands which provided the foundations of niche perfumery have managed to not lose their youthful vision while getting their senior citizen discount.
One which has lived up to keeping it going has been Diptyque which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. It has been a reminder of what this brand has stood for. Diptyque Venise is emblematic of this.
Creative director Myriam Badault wanted to capture the gardens of Venice. If you’ve ever visited a private residence in the Italian city behind the walls are these gorgeous gardens/courtyards. When I’ve visited sitting outside hearing the water traffic while sipping wine among the flowers is as good as life gets. Mme Badault wasn’t thinking of a flower garden for her Venetian fragrance. She was thinking about what an Italian might grow to use in their kitchen. Working with perfumer Cecile Matton they create just that. This results in a very green and vegetal perfume.
It begins with a green Bell pepper accord. If you’ve ever sliced a green pepper, there is a pungency as you slice through it. Mme Matton captures the entirety of that. A citrusy accompaniment adds an extra bit of sharpness. The heart of Venise is tomato particularly the vines they grow on. Tomato leaf has become a popular ingredient. Here it is given more room to spread out intertwining with the green pepper on the vine next to it. Through it all runs an herbal thread of basil. This is the garden part.
The water part comes in the presence of vetiver. There are vetiver fractions which have a subtle aquatic undertone. I am guessing that is what Mme Matton uses here. The grassy green of vetiver softens some of the sharper edges of the garden trio. While that subtle watery aspect reminds you where you are.
Venise has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Venise is the sixth release in this anniversary year. It is an ideal place for Mme Badault to take a curtain call on her ability to keep things relevant for this long.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Nordstrom.
One of the changing of the guards as it relates to perfumery took place from the 1980’s into the 1990’s. It was when the era of burly chypres gave way to clean and fresh fragrances. By the time the century turned the takeover was complete as fresh linen and sea spray dominated the scene. Inspired by a Hollywood photo creative director Etienne de Swardt asks if there isn’t a place where they meet in Etat Libre D’Orange Exit the King.
Etienne de Swardt
M. de Swardt saw a picture of Rock Hudson shaking hands with Michael Jackson while the latter was working on his “Thriller” video. It was a meeting of then and now icons of their time. When M. de Swardt saw this he got the idea to create something which took the same then and now mentality and translate it to fragrance. He asked perfumers Cecile Matton and Ralf Schwieger to interpret his vision. What comes from this is an oddly compelling juxtaposition of fragrance styles.
One piece of this was they didn’t go for the clean and fresh of the 90’s. They went for the more recent iteration centered around clean smelling soapy skin. There is a fabulous soap accord at the beginning of this that sets up everything that comes after.
That soap accord is where Exit the King begins. It seems to be a collection of synthetic musks, aldehydes, and floral fractions; I think. I’ve spent a lot of time smelling it trying to pick it apart that’s my best guess. What it smells like is a lathered-up cotton washcloth with the best bar soap you can find. Microscopic bubbles tickle my skin and nose while I am surrounded by the smell of clean soapy skin. This is a marvel of the perfumer’s art of accord building in getting this right. The clever intent continues as a mixture of baie rose and Timur pepper provide just a bit of green contrast to the soap accord. Think of the soap foam having a faint green tint to it. The remainder of the development will be in deepening that until it is nothing but green. That is accomplished in steps as muguet shades it a few degrees deeper before oakmoss and patchouli complete the transition with the classic chypre base duet. The perfumers allow the lighter musks from the soap accord to replace the traditional animalic versions. This is where the interface of clean and chypre come together. I found this to be a mesmerizing experience where I kept wanting to smell it after it all comes together. Sandalwood provides the final piece, but I hardly notice it.
Exit the King has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I know there are readers who dislike soapy fragrances and might think this is not for them. I would suggest you try it when you have the opportunity. The creative team came up with a way of making the soapiness a virtue rather than a flaw. For those who are fans of this brand this is one of the best perfumes they’ve released because it is so creative. Only M. de Swardt could convince me I wanted a clean and fresh chypre.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
It’s the beginning of February and my desk is awash with this year’s crop of the new spring rose perfumes. As they are most years it is an unremarkable collection of fragrance. I usually end up finding a rose perfume less interested in being innocent to cleanse my palate towards the end of spring. Also to remind me that rose doesn’t have to be this bland. I thought for 2020 I’d change things up by beginning the process with a rose perfume that is exactly what I look for, Etat Libre d’Orange500 Years.
Etienne de Swardt
One of the mysteries of the way rose is currently being used is that it isn’t being featured in more gourmand style fragrances. The best roses have an inherent sweet depth that is often described as jam-like. My favorite rose perfumes have a gourmand undercurrent even if it only comes from the rose. If there is one gourmand ingredient which perfumers have not been reluctant to use it is chocolate. Taking the rich depth of good cacao with a similarly deep rose is a natural pairing. For 500 Years creative director Etienne de Swardt and perfumer Cecile Matton take this to a joyful extreme.
500 Years starts with the keynote Turkish rose in place from the start. In the early going it has that silky velvet quality which bergamot and cardamom breeze over the top of. Saffron begins to find that jamminess while amplifying it. It is like the rose transforms from crushed textural material into rich gooey jelly. Rarely does a textural shift seem so natural as it does here. Mme Matton then layers on the cacao. There is a fattiness to this cacao and it really meshes well with the rose because of it. A tiny smidge of oud is what completes the chocolate rose accord. A dark patchouli helps to accentuate the cacao over the later stages as some leather finishes things.
500 Years has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
While it is still cooler out is the ideal time to be wearing 500 Years. It will be overwhelmed by the pile of new releases on my desk soon enough as the temperature warms up. Until then bite down on this gorgeous gourmand rose.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
There comes a point when we evolve in our perfume tastes. As we do that we leave behind the places we first discovered perfume had the ability to be a part of our lives. Very few of us start with Chanel or Guerlain. Most of us start at one of the stalwarts of the mall. One of those is The Body Shop. When I go on my mall field trips I try to make it a priority to check in to The Body Shop a couple times a year. On my recent spring outing I found a new entry in their musk series, Black Musk.
When The Body Shop broke in to fragrance in 1981 White Musk was their signature scent for over ten years. I have always admired it as a benchmark of the clean linen kind of musk. I keep a bottle on hand because it is such a good example of that. In 2003 The Body Shop really expanded their fragrance offerings. Over the next few years there would be a number of solid White Musk flankers. Two years ago Red Musk entered the musk collection. This was a perfume which would be familiar to any niche perfume lover; pepper aldehydes, vetiver, and tobacco. A baby niche kind of perfume.
When I was in a few weeks ago I found the musk series had added a new member Black Musk. Composed by perfumers Cecile Matton and Ralf Schwieger, Black Musk is like a beginner’s gourmand with a mix of sweet notes fused with the darker synthetic musks.
Black Musk opens on a crisp pear note juxtaposed with pink pepper. You are not going to find anything here you haven’t seen elsewhere. Yet you will find perfume composition of commonly used ingredients employed well. Pink pepper has become one of those almost overused notes but I am liking it most when it is paired with a greenish fruity note. It seems to be a natural pairing. A cracking serving of licorice whips takes you into the vanilla and musk finale. The licorice is the sweet less herbal version. The vanilla is the sweeter baker’s version. The musk is one of the weightier ones less like laundry and more similar to its animalic origins. Together it forms a gourmand accord with nice depth.
Black Musk in the eau de toilette version has 6-8 hours longevity and average sillage.
The eau de toilette bottle goes for $23. There are oil and eau de parfum versions for a few dollars more. Not all Discount Diamonds are last year’s model sometimes there is something new to be found even at the mall. Next time you have a few minutes nip in to The Body Shop you might find a really good bang for your buck fragrance. Black Musk is a great place to start.
Disclosure: this review was based on a bottle I purchased.
There have been a few moments, especially at the beginning of this year, where I fear I might be on perfume overload. I receive so many samples and when deciding what I am going to wear, and subsequently review, that first impression out of the envelope is critical. I always liken my evening snap evaluation of what has come in the mail to speed dating. Each perfume has the time it takes for me to smell a strip and a patch of skin to make their case for a chance to get to know me better. While I was attending Esxence and Sniffapalooza there have been a few perfumes which would get a second chance because they were presented again during the event. I admit as they were placed under my nose again I still had the first impression in my mind only to find something which was more interesting on the second sniff. The latest perfume to make a more favorable impression the second time around is the new Armani Prive Pivoine Suzhou.
Armani Prive is the exclusive fragrance line of Giorgio Armani started in 2004. It has all the Armani hallmarks of exquisite tailoring for these fragrances. As a collection the perfumes might be a little too obviously engineered and it is what makes it a collection which when it hits for me as with Bois D’Encens or Cuir Amethyste it really makes an impact. Other times it just feels like a competently constructed perfume but almost unemotionally so. When I received my sample of Pivoine Suzhou, by perfumers Cecile Matton and Julie Masse, in the depth of winter I was probably not in the mood for a sprightly spring fruity floral. I do remember that it was one of the earliest spring florals I received this year and in this case being first might not have been an advantage. After my initial spray it went into the “not for review” pile. Flash forward to May at Sniffapalooza Spring Fling and the swag bag from Bergdorf’s, a nice tester of Pivoine Suzhou was included. On my bus trip home something happened and mine began to leak. By the time I unpacked I got hit with an intense wave of the perfume. Which I really liked. It took me awhile to track down the culprit in a bag full of almost 75 samples but I was surprised to find out what it was. What I found was Pivoine Suzhou was a perfume which I needed to spray on with abandon to find the parts of it I enjoy.
Pivoine Suzhou opens with a fruit duet of tangerine and raspberry contrasted with baie rose. I have really come to appreciate the use of baie rose as an instrument of texture in the fruity opening of this style of fragrances. In Pivoine Suzhou it really makes the fairly common opening feel less pedestrian. It leads into the floral mix of peony and Rose de Mai. This is where wearing more really made a difference. On a strip this comes off watercolor weak and it was overridden by the fruit. On my skin with multiple sprays it not only stands up to the fruit but it takes a fairly standard combination of fruity floral components and injects new life into them. This is not a watercolor it is a pop art day-glo fruity floral fragrance which radiates in intense waves. The base is the usual mix of Ambrox, patchouli, and white musks.
Pivoine Suzhou has 10-12 hour longevity and the way I tested it, with 8 sprays, above average sillage.
As I considered the way I would review this I was wondering whether a perfume which requires me to spray a lot on myself to make a memorable impression is a well-constructed perfume. Shouldn’t I have been able to realize this from a quick preliminary test? I’m not sure I have a final answer but in the case of Pivoine Suzhou more was definitely better.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Giorgio Armani and a sample received at Sniffapalooza Spring Fling.
Etienne de Swardt the owner and creative force behind Etat Libre D’Orange is one of my favorite people in all of perfumery. His fragrances perfectly mirror his personality. They both carry a broad pleasure in provocation while having a laugh at the absurdity of it all. The ability to not take it so seriously has led to some seriously amazing perfumes from Etat Libre D’Orange. The other thing I like about the brand is M. de Swardt has steadfastly kept from developing an identifiable olfactory trademark which represents the brand. One reason for that is he keeps working with a number of the best perfumers in the business. Inviting them to run away with him for a good time making a new perfume. For the latest release, Remarkable People, M. de Swardt convinced perfumer Cecile Matton to go for a ride with him to make an exuberant paean to those who choose to be unconventional.
Etienne de Swardt
Mme Matton is collaborating with M. de Swardt for the first time. Remarkable People is actually the re-branding of the 2010 release called Josephine Baker made exclusively for European Sephora. It was made in small quantity and has been long discontinued. I never got the chance to try it because I hadn’t quite developed my system of getting European perfumes into my hands. Now with it as a part of the permanent collection it will see a little more exposure. I can honestly say I see very little of the chanteuse in this perfume and so the name change I think is for the better. What I do get is a perfume which is a good companion to last year’s Cologne. Both carry an infectious joie de vivre throughout. Remarkable People has a bit of a cologne architecture early before turning woodier at the end.
Remarkable People opens with a fabulous mix of grapefruit and cardamom. The cardamom in particular is noteworthy for the way it melds with the slightly sulfurous quality of the grapefruit. I love cardamom in perfumes and Mme Matton has definitely found my sweet spot with the early moments of this one. Jasmine provides a floral change of pace before Mme Matton brings back the spices with a pinch of black pepper and curry as extracted via Mane’s Jungle Essence Process. This makes the curry presence less hirsute and more cleanly polite while still retaining some bite. The cardamom also remains into the heart to mix with all of this. The base is sandalwood and labdanum combined with one of Mane’s proprietary synthetics Lorenox. Lorenox is described as “woody, ambery, leathery, and aromatic.” In Remarkable People it is the leathery quality that comes out most directly.
Remarkable People has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
There have been a number of new perfumes this year which have made me smile due to their desire to be fun. I should’ve expected M. de Swardt to be one of those who could keep the party rolling. Remarkable People should put a smile on any perfume lover’s face.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Etat Libre D’Orange at Esxence 2015.