Back in August I received a discovery set of a new perfume brand, Floral Street. I was impressed by the overall set of perfumes. I felt like there were going to be a couple that would be better for me to try in colder weather. Floral Street Ylang Ylang Espresso turned out to be one of those.
The current trend of floral gourmands is producing surprising intersections of ingredients. Ylang ylang is one of those multi-faceted ingredients which practically begs for a similarly versatile partner. I wouldn’t have thought coffee would be that kind of ideal companion. In the hands of perfumer Jerome Epinette it is.
It is my guess that M. Epinette is using a set of ylang ylang fractions in this fragrance. The reason is the inherent salicylates which tend to give a banana-like piece of the scent profile seem almost non-existent. Instead we are left with the floral sweetness which carries a subtle freshness with it. This is still the sexy ylang ylang I like just without the fruit salad hat. M. Epinette then contrasts it with a roasted coffee bean. This is a rich coffee scent given a healthy dose of bitterness capturing the oils on the surface of the roasted bean. Together these two ingredients rock back and forth in a pleasurable teeter totter. M. Epinete sweetens things up with a dusting of cocoa powder over light woods in the base.
Ylang Ylang Espresso has 12-14 hour longevity.
This is one of those style of perfumes you haven’t smelled everywhere. The balance of floral and coffee is exactly what I am hoping for as this floral gourmand trend continues to expand. It is these kinds of unusual pairs which will lead to this trend going far beyond its simplistic description. Ylang Ylang Espresso is one which is going to be a trendsetter for the trend.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Sephora.
As one who tends to sneer at celebuscents you would be interested to know how much I was looking forward to the release of Ariana Grande Thank U, Next. The reason for that anticipation was that last year’s Ariana Grande Cloud impressed me by interpreting the transparent gourmand trend in a compelling way. I would have been interested to see where this would go in any case. When I found out perfumer Jerome Epinette was involved my interest was further piqued.
Thank U, Next is named after the song by Ms. Grande after her recent break-up. Not someone who follows the ins-and-outs of her life I am not sure if I can find an overlap between song and fragrance. What I do find is another different transparent gourmand than Cloud which is equally as good.
I’m not sure if this is intentional or not but Thank U, Next has a similar trio of pear, coconut, and white musks as Cloud does. M. Epinette tunes them to different effects than in Cloud yet there is enough similarity this could be a flanker of Cloud.
That pear is paired with raspberry to give a sweet fruity top accord. Just as it was in cloud this is kept at such an opaque level it is appealing instead of overpowering. The heart accord is coconut cream leavened with a fresh rose. This is a contrast of the fresh floral with the more substantial coconut cream. It is like finding an exotic dessert of rose petals atop a coconut custard. If you are left thinking of that dessert M. Epinette places a coconut macaroon right next to it as a sweet dough-y complement. It all ends with a clean cocktail of white musks to add lift to it all.
Thank U, Next has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
For everyone who was a fan of Cloud Thank U, Next should be next to try. It has everything that made that perfume stand out while having its own personality. I am again quite amazed at how well this creative team is doing in this new fragrance space. It has me in my own way saying, “thank you, next!”
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Ulta.
The ritual of the school dance is where most of us have our first close encounter with someone we are attracted to. It was 1971 and I was attending my first junior high dance. I had decided not to be one of those who sat in the bleachers; I wanted to dance with someone. The girl who had caught my attention had done so for the most pedestrian of reasons, her shampoo. If you grew up in the 1970’s the scent of Clairol Herbal Essence shampoo was amazing. Even 50-years later I still lean into a woman who walks by wafting it from her hair.
In 1971 it was brand new and there was only one girl in our school who used it. I had decided I was going to ask her to dance. Once the music started, I waited for a song I thought I could move somewhat gracefully to. I walked over to the group of girls. In a firm voice I asked Debbie if she would like to dance. She smiled and said, “yes”. It broke the ice in her group and soon we were all on the dance floor. One fast song after another we were having a great time. Then the DJ changed things up as “How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?” by the Bee Gees came on. A slow dance! I looked at Debbie and reached out. She responded by putting her arms around my neck. As we swayed and twirled in a small circle, we progressively got closer until she rested her head on my chest. This was the moment of human contact which remains so precious. Byredo Slow Dance wants to capture that magic in a perfume.
Creative director Ben Gorham and perfumer Jerome Epinette collaborate once again. This is a fragrance where the meeting of two people on a dance floor comes through.
It opens with the gorgeous invitation offered by opopanax. It is the hand offered to the potential dance partner. The remainder of Slow Dance is a juxtaposition of a feminine accord of flowers and a masculine accord of patchouli. The floral accord is geranium and violet supported by labdanum. It isn’t Herbal Essence shampoo but it is a compelling accord all its own. The patchouli fraction, which is the earthier musky version, is sweetened with a little vanilla. Together these two accords sway their way through the night entwined with each other.
Slow Dance has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is a beautiful fragrance just right for the upcoming fall days. If the name and the perfume can take you back to a dance floor of your youth all the better.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Byredo.
In Part 1 I introduced owner-creative director Nadia Benaisa along with perfumers Jerome Epinette and Pierre Wulff who produced the first five releases for Les Soeurs de Noe. Today I will finish with reviews of the remaining three; Amazing Jade, Bohemian Absinthe, and Jardin de Macarons.
One of the things I have been hopeful for from this trend towards transparency is the opportunity to find a new style. Two which seem to have become more prevalent have been gourmands and floral gourmands It is in those areas where Les Soeurs de Noe really takes off.
Amazing Jade is the gourmand one of the three. I was caught right from the top as the perfumers used pistachio and hazelnut as their top accord. They create a toasted nutty effect that is ideally realized. I don’t have too many perfumes which have such an enticingly nut-based opening. They then encase those nuts in swirls of incense and a supple opaque leather accord. The nuts find a harmonic with the leather that was a joy all day. It all ends on a musky base. This is a remarkably light perfume despite the presence of things like leather and incense. I think once the weather turns a tiny bit cooler, I will really find the spot where this perfume excels.
Amazing Jade has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Bohemian Absinthe is the fruity floral member of the debut collection. It is not a typical version of that style as the perfumers pair the tart juiciness of kumquat with the gentle floral quality of apple blossom. Where this begins to feel different is through the mentholated verdancy of eucalyptus adding lift to the fruit and floral. To provide contrast a base accord which grounds this comes courtesy of sandalwood, leather, and vetiver. The woodiness is bracketed with a smoky version of vetiver to give texture while leather provides a more refined effect. This is another which will be fantastic in the cooler weather
Bohemian Absinthe has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
That leaves my favorite of these initial releases, Jardin de Macarons. This is the floral gourmand I mentioned earlier. What makes this style the right choice for transparent aesthetics is by keeping both the floral and the gourmand on the opaquer side it gives more room for both sides of the coin to shine. In the case of Jardin de Macarons it is the combination of rooty orris with a sugary candy floss which holds the center. Prior to that a luscious plum lead into it while an earthy patchouli and sweet woody palo santo support it. All of that is great but it is the sugared orris which takes this to a new level. It felt like I was trying a gourmet macaron of orris all the while I had this on my skin.
Jardin de Macarons has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I said in Part 1, I am looking for those brands and creative teams who will grab this transparency aesthetic and find ways to make it their own. Mme Benaisa has done this through her first five releases. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Les Soeurs de Noe.
We are a couple of years into this widely held belief that transparency in fragrance is the desired aesthetic. During the coalescence around this hypothesis I have found the ones which miss the mark are the ones who become so light they become an anti-perfume; afraid to have presence. There have been exceptions to this. It is why I have hope there is some greatness to be found within this trend because there are too many good people who should know how to make it relevant. I was surprised earlier this summer to find much of what I am looking for in a new brand; Les Souers de Noe.
Les Soeurs de Noe was founded and is creatively directed by Nadia Benaisa. Mme Banaisa spent her childhood between Belgium and Morocco. For her perfume brand she wanted to find the overlap between the Europe and Orient. To achieve her vision she worked with perfumers Jerome Epinette and Pierre Wulff on her first five releases. It has been a long while since a debut collection has captured my attention as fully as this one has. Her choice to work with M. Epinette is a great choice as he is a perfumer who excels in this space of transparent fragrance.
Pierre Wulff (l.) and Jerome Epinette
I am going to spend the next two days writing about all five of the original releases. Today I am going to start with the two which are the most typical styles in the collection; Mitsio Vanille and Oud Rose. Tomorrow I will follow up with the three gourmand inspired perfumes.
Mitsio Vanille is a vanilla-centric perfume which remembers the source of vanilla is the pod of an orchid. The perfumers spend the early moments discovering the orchid in a tropical milieu. This is a fresh green world of freesia and the botanical musk of ambrette seeds. The orchid hangs suspended with a strong floral quality provided by lilac. This vanilla orchid accord especially paired with the ambrette is gorgeously realized. The base deepens the vanilla as if we were making an extract of the pods we harvested. Along with the vanilla the muskiness also becomes a bit more pronounced retaining that duet by giving it some depth in the end.
Mitsio Vanille has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Oud Rose is the classic pairing of Europe and the Orient, Mme Benaisa had to include it. The challenge for the perfumers was to find a way to lighten it up. It is accomplished by using Rose de Mai as the rose counterpart to the oud accord. Both choices allow for a more transparent construct. Oud Rose steps through the classic paces of this kind of fragrance by opening with the golden halo of saffron floating on smoky tendrils of incense. The stars show up as the fresh Rose de Mai and the finely constructed oud accord create a modern version of this ancient pairing. It goes through a leather and patchouli base at the end.
Oud Rose has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
You might not think of Vanilla and Oud as candidates for a transparent perfume, usually they are not. In the hands of this creative team they capture just the right amount of opacity to keep them from being irrelevant.
In Part 2 I will examine the remaining three releases which is where this creative team really hits their stride.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample set provided by Les Soeurs de Noe.
Usually the month of August is a sleepy time here in perfume land. I am receiving lots of fall releases that I can’t write about for a month or so. The summer releases have dwindled. It usually means it is a good time to catch up. Except this time I keep getting new interesting things I can write about. The latest discovery came from my box of new releases from Sephora.
I had head about a British brand called Floral Street which debuted in 2017. It was interesting to me because perfumer Jerome Epinette was the nose behind the collection. I’ll also admit some of the names were enticing, too. I was already interested in something named Ylang Ylang Espresso, Iris Goddess, or Chypre Sublime. Although the name which most enticed me was this year’s release called Electric Rhubarb.
Electric Rhubarb was released this past May in conjunction with the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual Chelsea Flower Show. The brand was founded by Michelle Feeney who collaborated with M. Epinette through a series of moodboards for each fragrance. She wanted to have a light-hearted style of perfume. Based on my sampling of the nine perfumes, so far, she succeeded.
I would love to see what the moodboard was for Electric Rhubarb. Based on the press release I am guessing “bubbly, effervescent, and a little bit unexpected” might have covered it. M. Epinette interprets the “little bit unexpected” by using the rhubarb as a modulator of gardenia. Based on the name I was expecting a kinetic rhubarb. What is in the bottle is a gorgeous green velvet gardenia.
Most of the time when rhubarb is on top in a fragrance you get both the grapefruit-like quality and the green vegetal quality in equal measure. M. Epinette manages to tamp down the citrus aspect while allowing that greenness to find an ideal partner in gardenia. Gardenia in perfume also has a green vein within. It is often sharp in nature. Part of what makes a good gardenia to me. M. Epinette takes the vegetal green and uses it to soften that sharp green inherent in the gardenia. It produces this lushly textural gardenia. Not only is it plush it is also opaque. I wore this on blazing hot days, and it was never too much. The perfume lands on a base of Australian sandalwood in all its desiccated glory. It is the kind of unobtrusive platform for the soft gardenia to shine upon.
Electric Rhubarb has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This same kind of textural alteration of floral keynotes happens throughout the Floral Street collection. There are a trio of them I will wait for a little cooler weather to review because I think they are going to be awesome in cooler weather. If you’re a fan of floral perfumes Floral Street should be an avenue you want to take a walk on; start at Electric Rhubarb.
Disclosure: This revew is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
One of the trends of the last year or so which I have been happy to see is the mass-market perfume executed with niche independence. What I mean by that is there are a few brands which are being distributed at the mall which have partnered with top perfumers and allowed them some freedom to create. The results of this has been some very good perfume; Ellis Brooklyn West is a good example.
Ellis Brooklyn was founded by Bee Shapiro who is a beauty editor at The New York Times. In that position she must have had an insight on where she could create a different mass-market fragrance. Over the last two years the perfume she has produced has borne that out. Ms. Shapiro has made her own space in a crowded marketplace.
For West the press release trumpets this as the “first citrus” for Ellis Brooklyn. I could quibble with that because citrus ingredients have played a prominent role in previous releases. What this translates to me is West is the first summer style of perfume for the brand.
Perfumer Jerome Epinette uses some interesting ingredients to form West. It starts right at the top with the choice of blood orange. Blood orange has been having a moment this summer as I’ve encountered it a few times so far this year. A big reason for that might be because it carries a less exuberant effect than orange. There is a slight bitterness underneath the pulpy sweetness. M. Epinette uses basil to give that an herbal veil. In the heart he employs water lily as a dewy floral to give that refreshing quality of misted water. The base is the fresh green of vetiver warmed with a touch of amber.
West has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
West is one of those perfect beach bag perfumes to take on a summer weekend away. It is the kind of perfume companion which adds to the pleasure of taking some time off. I will be putting a sample of this in my perfume fridge as a summer cooler for the upcoming ravages of midsummer.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
If you’ve lived on either coast of the US, you have a boardwalk somewhere near you. Situated at the top of a strand of beach it has souvenir shops, arcades, and food places on one side. The beach and the ocean on the other side. I have spent many a summer day walking the boardwalk with a snow-cone, ice cream cone, or some other sweet confection in my hand as the sun shone overhead. I hadn’t thought a lot about it, but this is an ideal milieu for the current trend of transparent floral gourmands. It looks like Byredo Sundazed is going to tread the boards first.
When I received my sample and press materials this seemed like a brand who would know just what to do with a concept like this. Creative director Ben Gorham and perfumer Jerome Epinette have spent the last twelve years defining the Byredo minimalistic aesthetic. Over the past few releases a higher level of transparency has also begun to incorporate itself into the brand identity. For Sundazed it is that endless summer on a boardwalk they are attempting to capture.
It is a simple set of accords. On top is the sunshine as represented by citrus. M. Epinette uses primarily lemon given some juicy sweetness with mandarin. The lemon is that sun in a clear blue sky. The mandarin is the set-up for the sweet to follow. That comes in a heart accord of jasmine and neroli. The neroli picks up on the citrus in the top while the jasmine provides the bulk of the flower sweetness. What is also nice about this heart accord is the very subtle presence of the natural indoles present in the flowers. They give that tiny nod to sweaty skin. Then we get to the base where cotton candy is paired with white musks. Ethyl maltol is the usual ingredient to give the cotton candy effect. I’m not sure if M. Epinette is not using some new analog here because it doesn’t carry the heaviness ethyl maltol usually does. Whatever the source of the cotton candy some of the white musks expand it into an airy effect of gentle sweetness instead of sugar crystals crunching between your teeth. The other white musks give that sun-tanned skin effect.
Sundazed has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Sundazed is one of the first of the transparent floral gourmands to really engage me. I’ve thought Byredo could excel in this type of fragrance. With a mid-summer trip to the boardwalk Sundazed shows I was correct.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Byredo.
In 2010 I had an appointment on the beauty level at Bergdorf-Goodman. I was there to meet one of the creative directors behind a new brand of perfume. I was very early in this idea of being a writer about perfume; I was a bit nervous. Sylvie Ganter stood next to the pedestal with her debut collection of five. She welcomed me with a smile then introduced me to Atelier Cologne. She also had one of the perfumers who had done three of the five; Jerome Epinette. He was there to answer my geeky questions about how you make a cologne last. In 2010 when you put cologne on a bottle of fragrance that was synonymous with cheap and diluted. If this brand was going to survive, they had to overcome that perception. Their answer was to create a form they called “cologne absolue”. The simplest way to make a cologne last is to up the oil concentration. That is a simplistic formula but if done without thought you get a fragrance that is sunny ingredients bogged down in its own strength. It might last a long time, but you wouldn’t want to put up with it. The brilliance of the way Atelier Cologne re-imagined cologne for the 21st century was they never lost sight of what made cologne a specific kind of perfume. They just found a way to make it better.
Christophe Cervasel and Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel
2019 begins the tenth year of the brand. They have not just survived they are one of the great success stories in perfumery over that period. Mme Ganter would marry her business partner, and co-creative director, Christophe Cervasel to become Mme Ganter-Cervasel. The brand would become one of the few to take the niche sensibility out to the mall. I’ve lost count at the number of people I’ve sent to try Atelier Cologne to learn of the difference between mainstream and niche. The brand has been the first step to a new perfumed world for many because of that availability. Throughout everything the vision of what “cologne absolue” is, and could be, was never lost. M. Epinette has designed 28 of the 39 perfumes released. He has been as influential at defining the brand as the creative directors. It is why as Atelier Cologne begins its tenth year the perfume which kicks it off is a return to its roots; Pacific Lime.
If you ask someone to describe a cologne to you it is likely they will reply “citrus-y” just before they complain about it not lasting. For perfume 39 the brand focuses on a citrus fruit they have not designed a perfume around previously, lime. M. Epinette has refined both his concepts of cologne and minimalist construction immensely over the ensuing years. Pacific Lime is proof of that.
There are five listed ingredients; lime, lemon, coconut, spearmint, and eucalyptus. Three of the five are traditional cologne components. Coconut and eucalyptus are not. The way both of those are used within Pacific Lime is what gives it that Atelier Cologne signature.
If you’ve ever spent time slicing fresh limes prior to a party, or if you work as a bartender, the first few minutes of Pacific Lime will remind you of that. Piercing the skin of the lime while the juice of the pulp and the citric acid of the skin scent the air. The sticky juice coating your hands. That’s what Pacific Lime smells like out of the bottle. Then if you read that ingredient list above and started thinking baker’s coconut or pina colada that is not what’s here. The coconut is reminiscent of the fresh white meat of the coconut after you’ve drained off the water. Growing up in Florida I husked many coconuts and used my penknife to scoop out the white part. This is not overly sweet it carries a kind of muskiness not unlike a synthetic white musk. For all I know M. Epinette might have made a coconut accord using that. The way the coconut combines with the incredible freshness of the lime is spectacular. It then finishes with twin prongs of mentholated goodness. The spearmint provides a lighter piece of that effect. The eucalyptus is what makes the final stages of Pacific Lime something special. It carries an expansiveness through the menthol inherent within the eucalyptus forming an energetic glow surrounded by lime.
Pacific Lime has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is one of the best citrus colognes Atelier Cologne has produced in their entire line. It continues to show that even when you come full circle there are still new things to say.
Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle provided by Atelier Cologne.
The current landscape of new perfume brands is a minefield which has many casualties to claim. Even the best brands can succumb to something unexpected outside the bounds of the perfume itself. There are brands who have such a clear aesthetic right from the beginning I root for them to come through the other side of this process. One which has seemingly made a safe transit through the danger zone is Vilhelm Parfumerie.
Jerome Epinette (l.) amf Jan Ahlgren
Founded in spring 2015 by owner-creative director Jan Ahlgren it has many of the things I believe are important to succeed. One is finding a perfumer who understands your vision. Mr. Ahlgren has done this in perfumer Jerome Epinette. Theirs seems like an ideal creative partnership. The perfumes they have produced speak to that. Another piece of the puzzle is to convey your style of perfume coherently. Mr. Ahlgren has coupled his love of Golden Age Hollywood with perfume of location as he has designed scents around places he has lived. Vilhelm is one of the brands where the press release represents the perfume in the bottle. Finally, the brand must continue to develop beyond its beginnings. In 2018 the perfumes with Vilhelm on the label have all taken on a “sweet” style that wasn’t evident in the earlier releases. The third release of 2018, Moon Carnival, completes that trend.
The backstory is about a man from Rio who falls in love with a dancer. Her favorite flower is tuberose. To display his love the man traveled the world. Each new bloom of tuberose he found he decorated the moon with. Messrs. Ahlgren and Epinette bring this story to life with tropical fruit and tuberose before landing on a subtle gourmand base accord.
M. Epinette uses passionfruit as an ingredient to locate us in the tropics. This is a beautifully balanced use of this seldom used fruity ingredient. The transition to the tuberose is begun with freesia and gardenia first. As the tuberose gains traction it becomes a compelling partner with the passionfruit. At this point I was imagining the Brazilian dancer from the story. What comes next is a clever shift to an opaque gourmand base. If you aren’t looking for it, you have to wait a bit for the fruity floral fireworks to settle a bit. What M. Epinette does is to take the fluffy sticky sweet marshmallow we all recognize and turn into a meringue-like version; light and frothy. Tonka bean adds a vanilla tint without becoming too treacly. Vetiver arrives as a woody foundation later.
Moon Carnival has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Moon Carnival adds to the Vilhelm style of “sweet” which is best described as subtly transparent. It affirms that this brand will keep evolving as it continues forward. The sweet tuberose of Moon Carnival is proof of that.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Vilhelm Parfumerie.