While many spend the time after Thanksgiving in the US shopping I spend it a different way. The Friday after Thanksgiving is the beginning of Christmas for me. What that means is I leave the shopping mall behind and head to the Christmas tree lot to buy a tree and pine roping to drape around the house. There are many scents I associate with the holiday season but the clean green coniferous smell of pine is with me every day of the last month of the year. In honor of the beginning of the Holidays I am going to name my five favorite pine perfumes.
When I first moved to Boston I was told of this fantastic little perfume shop in Harvard Square called Colonial Drug. It was the definition of a perfume lover’s paradise as Cathy, the owner, had a huge selection of European perfumes you couldn’t find anywhere else. The first time I went in she was busy extolling the virtues of Pino Silvestre to the male customer. Over many years I would see the green pine cone shaped bottle leave the store in a bag because perfumer Lino Vidal made a pine fragrance which did not smell like an air freshener. Sharp sunny citrus dives deep into a pine note surrounded by clove, sage, and rosemary. It all ends up on a cedar and sandalwood foundation. There is a reason this sits on a lot of men’s dressers in the Boston area.
Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles is one of the few pine perfumes you will encounter where the lighter nature of pine needles are as evident. Christopher Sheldrake composing under Serge Lutens creative direction uses those pine needles in the top to create an airy coniferous experience. Soon enough a host of resinous notes allow the sap to rise. The final camphor note is like breathing in cold air in the middle of the Christmas tree lot.
Christian Dior La Collection Privee Granville was a perfume which had to win me over. When I first tried Francois Demachy’s pine perfume it was not what I expected as strong citrus, herbs, and a particularly strong gorse note all seemed to be competing with each other. Over time Granville’s eclectic kinetic quality has won me over and it is one of my favorites of Dior’s exclusive collection. Tart lemon and herbal thyme open things up. Black pepper and rosemary join the pine in the heart. The gorse blows in soon after before sandalwood finishes things up. Over time I realized Granville is a more modern take on the same themes used in Pino Silvestre. My appreciation and affection for Granville probably was an evolution of my perfume tastes without my being conscious of it.
My final two choices exemplify the reason independent perfume can be so exhilarating when the perfumer finds a unique small batch ingredient. Samantha Rader the perfumer behind Dasein Winter sourced a pine essential oil from the Austrian Alps to use as the centerpiece of her first release. By understanding her raw material was something special she wisely did not complicate the experience and only used cardamom and lavender to complement. The lavender really evokes the Alpine milieu in particular. This is the smell of carrying that Christmas tree home in my arms, face pressed into the branches.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz found a local wildcrafter Eric Bresselsmith of House of Aromatics to source a pinon essential oil infused with fifty-year old pine resin crystals for her DSH Perfumes Seve de Pin. Ms. Hurwitz also keeps it simple but she chooses some notes to be more interactive with the pinon oil instead of framing it. Early on it is a group of green notes to evoke the rest of the forest besides the pine. Once the pine comes out rose and amyris use their floral character to smooth out the rough edges and provide depth. The base is a deeper dive into the resinous as olibanum and labdanum come forward. Seve de Pin is the most photorealistic pine perfume I own. Whenever I want to be in the Holiday mood I just need a drop or two to get me there, even in July.
If you need a little perfume to carry around the pine scentd of the Holidays these five are worth giving a try.
Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.
Once again I tried to smell every new perfume that was released in 2014 and like Wile E. Coyote chasing The Road Runner, I failed. I did smell more this year than I ever have, 614 new perfumes. Unfortunately as of this writing there were 1614 new releases in 2014. I only missed by a 1000. I think we can all agree that there is just too much new product which just smells too similar. The 25 perfumes I highlight below managed to stand out from everything I tried this year.
Top 5 (Fragrance of the Year Candidates)
5. Amouage Sunshine Woman– Creative Director Christopher Chong and perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur have created the most un-Amouage Amouage perfume in Sunshine Woman. With Mr. Chong’s hand on the creative wheel Mme Lancesseur guided Amouage into sunnier places than Amouage usually travels. That they accomplished this without using the typical sparkling ingredients from the perfumer’s palette makes it all the more remarkable. I still don’t think I do justice describing this in words other than it is one of the best perfumes of the year.
4. Maria Candida Gentile Leuco– When I attended Pitti Fragranze I must have tried thirty tuberose perfumes each more boringly generic than the next one. Until Maria Candida Gentile handed me Leuco. As part of her Il Volo del Calabrone (Flight of the Bumblebee) collection she has made a tuberose that does not seek to club you over the head. In Leuco, Sig.ra Gentile has combined it with French beeswax to create a shimmering powdery tuberose perfume.
2. Bogue Profumo Maai– The absolute best surprise of all of 2014 for me. I had heard a little bit of independent perfumer Antonio Gardoni. I didn’t expect such an assured piece of perfumery from a self-taught artist on his third release. Maai feels like a perfume of yesteryear that could be found in the glove compartment of a Tesla. When I speak of Retro Nouveau, if you need an example, try Maai and I think you’ll instantly understand what I mean.
Here are the rest of the Top 25 in alphabetical order:
Aftelier Palimpsest– Natural Perfumer Mandy Aftel is a national treasure as she continues to branch out. Her book Fragrant is the best volume on perfume in years. She also released a transcendent perfume named after the technique used in medieval times of writing over already used parchment. Palimpsest the perfume also has layers upon layers which reward my attention every time I wear it.
Ann Gerard Parfum Rose Cut– Ann Gerard came to perfumery from designing jewelry. Her fourth collaboration with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour is a bright shining diamond that smells like a rose.
aromaM Camellia– Indie Perfumer Maria McElroy makes what I think is her most personal perfume to date. Camellia takes you more than skin deep right to the soul of a geisha in a subtle floral constructed around the titular note.
Arquiste The Architects Club– My Creative Director of the Year Carlos Huber obviously had a great 2014. The Architects Club is the crown on that year as a clash of uptight architects and flappers in 1930 London turns into a citrus, gin, and vanilla laden party. I keep going back to perfumer Yann Vasnier’s fragrant soiree for more.
By Kilian Intoxicated– If you felt that By Kilian has been off on a bit of a tangent you should come back and try the perfumes in the new Addictive State of Mind Collection. Intoxicated is a perfumed take on Turkish coffee by Calice Becker. She combines green cardamom and coffee into something I never want to see in a Starbucks cup but I want to wear over and over.
Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones Wisteria Hysteria– There was no sequel I was more wary of than the second collaboration between Comme des Garcons and milliner Stephen Jones. Perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer created something akin to a new hat. You have to wear it a few times before it really fits. If you give Wisteria Hysteria time you will find a perfume with more subtlety and nuance throughout than almost any other release in 2014.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
DSH Perfumes Seve de Pin– Dawn Spencer Hurwitz finds inspiration in so many places. Once she found Eric Bresselsmith of House of Aromatics and his 50-year old resin crystals in pure pinion oil she turned it into a photorealistic pine perfume like nothing I have ever smelled in this genre. Rocky Mountain high, indeed.
Etat Libre D’Orange Rien Intense Incense– Creative Director Etienne de Swadt asked perfumer Antoine Lie to create an “intense” version of the already intense 2006 release Rien. This could have gone wrong in so many ways but M. Lie created a flanker that is better than the original.
Hiram Green Shangri-La– Hiram Green was inspired by the alpha chypre, Chypre de Coty, to make his own version. His version may not be as groundbreaking as to create a whole new fragrance category but it as good as modern chypres get. Mr. Green has established himself as a new perfumer to watch in just his second release.
Le Labo Geranium 30– I wanted to not like this. A limited edition of only 100 bottles by perfumer Barnabe Fillion in collaboration with lifestyle store Opening Ceremony with added creative direction from floral designer Thierry Boutemy. I wanted to dismiss this, I really did. I can’t. It is the best Le Labo floral since Rose 31. There is no reason for this to be so limited because of some rare ingredient so maybe the new masters at Estee Lauder can release it widely in 2015, y’know as a goodwill gesture.
Map of the Heart Black Heart v.2– If you, like me, have wondered just how dark a perfume can get and still remain wearable this will test that. Perfumer Jacques Huclier makes a perfume that has not even one tiny point of light. If you’ve craved an olfactory heart of darkness, here it is.
Masque Milano Russian Tea– I’ll admit I wasn’t as big a fan of the initial three releases from Masque Milano in 2013. It couldn’t be a more different story in 2014. The second release for 2014, Russian Tea, is fabulous. Perfumer Julien Rasquinet, in the last perfume of his independent career, realized creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi’s brief of having a potent cup of tea on a winter’s day in St. Petersburg.
Naomi Goodsir Or du Serail– Naomi Goodsir and Renaud Coutaudier are two of my favorite creative directors because they are uncompromising in waiting until they get the modification they want. For Or du Serail they pushed perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour into creating one of his best and most textural perfumes of the last couple of years.
Neela Vermeire Creations Mohur Extrait– Neela Vermeire let me have a tiny taste of this over a year before it was finally released. It was a very frustrating secret to keep because Mohur Extrait is the best of this line to date. Mohur Extrait is a quantum leap better than the very good parent Mohur EdP all while staying very personal.
Olfactive Studio Ombre Indigo– The blue liquid in the clear flacon is visually striking all by itself. The photographic inspiration by Gustavo Pelizzon is a study in shadow. The perfume by Mylene Alran under owner Celine Verleur’s creative direction is a study in chasing perfumed shadows cast by tuberose and vetiver. I still haven’t tired of it.
Olivier Durbano Promethee– Experiencing Olivier Durbano’s development as a perfumer for nearly ten years didn’t prepare me for this fully realized creation based on the mythological character Prometheus. It feels like M. Durbano has offered a smoldering firebrand announcing his arrival as one of our best perfumers.
Parfumerie Genrale 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense– Pierre Guillaume has been going back and making variations on his earlier Parfumerie Generale fragrances. This re-working of Cologne Grand Siecle felt like he finally completed that perfume, adding in a proper heart and base to what was, and in 7.1 still is, one of the most brilliant lemon accords I have ever smelled. This was my favorite perfume of the summer of 2014. I really hope he keeps making it.
Roja Parfums Nuwa– There are sometimes I want my perfume to be big as it can be. Say what you will of Roja Dove but he has no fear of going as big as you can. Nuwa is that philosophy applied to a classic chypre.
slumberhouse Sadanne– Perfumer Josh Lobb released this in the summer and I have spent the rest of the year enjoying every time I wear this. Mr. Lobb has created a perfume of abrupt tonal shifts from gourmand to prickly floral to feral beast. This is probably too much for many. I can’t get enough of it.
Tauer Perfumes Cologne du Maghreb– Andy Tauer decides to take cologne and make it something completely Tauer-like. Hr. Tauer challenged himself to create an all-natural, all-botanical cologne. The result was a wonderful bit of inspiration and imagination.
Ulrich Lang New York Aperture– Ulrich Lang has been making a habit of flying below the radar. If I had an award for most underrated perfume brand his would be one of the front runners. Aperture is another example of why this brand should be more lauded. Hr. Lang was inspired by an amazing photograph by Olivia Bee. The perfume captures all that the picture promises. This might be one of the harder perfumes on this list to find. Make the effort, you will be well-rewarded for it.
The Final Cuts: The 18 Which Just Missed the Top 25- Aedes de Venustas Oeillet Bengale, Atelier Cologne Blanche Immortelle, Bottega Veneta Knot, Comme des Garcons Pharell Williams Girl, Dior La Collection Privee Cuir Cannage, Grandiflora Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine, Jardins D’Ecrivains Junky, Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt, Juliette Has a Gun Moon Dance, Le Galion Whip, Masque Milano Tango, Mona di Orio Myrrh Casati, Ormonde Jayne Black Gold, Parfum D’Empire Corsica Furiosa, Parfums de Nicolai Cuir Cuba Intense, Parfums DelRae Wit, Providence Perfume Co. Violet Beauregarde, and Richard Luscher Britos 14oS48oE.
That’s it for 2014. Most of you will be reading this on New Year’s Eve and I want to wish all of the readers of Colognoisseur a happy and healthy 2015. I’ll be here exploring fragrance with you throughout the upcoming year. ACME just delivered my rocket-powered sneakers so maybe I'll be able to keep up this time.
For many years I was quite a hiker. I have hiked a large amount of the Appalachian Trail as well as through some of the great National Parks out west. For someone who loves fragrance the smells of the woods while hiking was one of the joys of walking in the woods. Particularly in the US if there is a consistent base note to the smell of the great outdoors it would be pine. It seems there are pines no matter what trail I am following. Just breathing in the smell of a Christmas tree lot reminds me of being on the trail. Perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz also shares my love of the woods and her new release DSH Perfumes Seve de Pin reflects that.
Ms. Hurwitz has been working for years on a pine scent which would capture “the smell of the night air on my first overnight trip away from my parents…in pre-school summer camp. The trees were speaking to me all night long” I knew what she was talking about as there is a comfort of setting up camp inside a circle of sentinel pines. The smell of the wood, the soft bed of needles on the ground, and the glorious viscous sap oozing out of rents in the trunk. This is the smell of the forest’s bosom on which to rest one’s head on in peace. This is also an extremely hard smell to get right in a perfume. All too often pine fragrances smell like cleaning products or, worse, the cardboard air freshener hanging from way too many rearview mirrors. To get this right Ms. Hurwitz was going to have to find a special material with which to build her Seve de Pin around, for this she turned to Eric Bresselsmith of House of Aromatics.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
Mr. Bresselsmith travels the inter-mountain region of Utah searching for conifers damaged by weather or the depredations of humans. He co-distills many of the fruits of his labor. For Seve de Pin Ms. Hurwitz used a combination of 50-year old resin crystals dissolved in pure pinion oil. When I wax rhapsodically about the glory of independent perfumery and their tendency to use some of the most exquisite materials to build a fragrance upon; this essential oil is exactly what I am talking about. This is the heart of a pine forest, vibrant and resinous.
Having the greatest raw material in the world does not a perfume make. Ms. Hurwitz had some work in front of her to find the right set of complementary notes to display this fantastic raw ingredient in the best way. She keeps it simple by adding green facets on top and a full house of resin notes to provide the foundation upon which to build Seve de Pin.
The green accord Ms. Hurwitz employs on the top is like the wind soughing through the branches of the pine trees. It is always the first thing I smell before the rest of the pine forest milieu catches up. In Seve de Pin the same is true as after the green has made its presence known the pinion oil arises and Ms. Hurwitz uses two important grace notes to help focus this, in amyris and rose. Amyris with its slightly lemony woodiness and rose with its spicy floral aspect add an intoxicating depth as they smooth out any rough edges the pinion oil might have. It is a perfect choice. Olibanum, oppopanax, and labdanum form the resinous base on which Seve de Pin rests. These resins in combination with the pinion oil really create the smell of dried droplets of sap clinging to the trunk. When I wore Seve de Pin and it reached this part I almost felt like my fingers should’ve been sticky with sap it is so photorealistic.
I tested Seve de Pin as an extrait and it is amazingly gorgeous in this concentration. As a result it has overnight longevity and minimal sillage. This forest walk is for the wearer exclusively.
There are a group of pine perfume aficionados who have named themselves “Coneheads” and I have to imagine Seve de Pin will be as close to a Holy Grail fragrance for them as there could be. I know I will treasure my sample of extrait because it is as near and dear to me as my time walking in the woods. Seve de Pin is tonic for the forested soul.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.