Ever since I picked up a copy of JRR Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” the fascination with epic fantasy was begun. That book introduced me to many of the non-human creatures which inhabit the genre. One of the most memorable from The Hobbit is the villain of the book; the giant dragon Smaug. An ancient creature who has spent so much time lounging on his pile of treasure it has clung to his scales forming a glittering armor over his belly. Smaug was one of the first creatures whose scent I imagined. The idea of smoke curling from his nostrils as the fire laid in wait to be called. When I received my sample of Carner Barcelona Drakon I was back in that cave.
Drakon is part of a three-perfume subset called the Bestial Collection. Creative director Sara Carner wanted to create her own version of an epic fantasy through scent. For Drakon she worked with perfumer Jordi Fernandez.
This is a perfume of three accords which capture their subject matter as Sr. Fernandez finds the dragon at rest. Only to be roused before too long. Some quite clever choices make this entire trip a lot of fun.
Those choices come right at the top as black pepper is given a keener edge through cypress and palm. Pepper evokes heat through its piquancy. Already provided the imagery through the name this felt like the curls of steam from the dragon’s nostrils. As the beast yawns I can see the glow of banked flame further down its throat. The scent of that comes from an oud accord of akigalawood and nagarmotha. This is a rough oud accord. Sr. Fernandez adds in a playful counterbalance with a healthy dose of orange blossom. I smiled as I imagined my dragon picking up a perfume bottle and eating it. The dragon having tired of my company now calls up his flame. As I run down the cave, I am pursued by an animalic leather accord surrounded by fir and sandalwood.
Drakon has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This was a perfume I was happy to get caught up in the flames of. I admire the effort not to go for the traditional smoky elements of perfumery. By choosing something more imaginative Drakon leaves a stronger impression. If you want to do battle with your own mythical beast Drakon will give you the opportunity.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Carner Barcelona.
Every great city I’ve visited has its own scent profile. They are specific to the season and the locale. One of my favorite cities and seasons is spring in New York City. In those days the city emerges from its hiding indoors during the winter to get back on the street. What that means is as you wander around the city there is a freshness attendant to the new growth on the trees. Blossoms fall in a gentle cascade if the wind blows. Street vendors are selling their wares. When I received my sample of Widian New York it reminded me of all of this.
Widian is the re-branded name of the former AJ Arabia line of perfume. Ali Aljaberi is the creative director overseeing it all. The early perfumes from 2014-2018 were all Middle Eastern inspired styles. I tried some here and there and thought the quality was high, but the perfumes never connected. That changed a year ago when there was a change in inspiration.
Mr. Aljaberi retained the quality and decided to use the great cities of the world as the briefs for the Sapphire Collection. London was an interesting oud-y fruity floral that was different than what came prior to that. New York is the follow-up to London.
The perfumer for New York is Jordi Fernandez. It is not surprising that I was reminded of springtime in the Big Apple because that was the brief behind New York. One of the things I didn’t think they would be able to capture is that sense of overlapping smells enveloping you as you stand in midtown on a sunny day. Mr. Fernandez captures this by using a spine of baie rose, the patchouli analog akigalawood, and a warm amber. On this he hangs all the things which make a spring day in NYC fun.
It opens with a flash of citrus sunlight as lemon beams out. Underneath it is the herbal, slightly fruity green of baie rose. To that Mr. Fernandez captures the early green of spring as coriander, juniper, and geranium rise to meet it in an accord of new growth. This is where the spicy woody akigalawood finds its way to the foreground. It carries a bouquet of flowers as rose, lavender, and jasmine create a rich floral harmony. As we move to the base a bit of the grit of the city comes through as ambrox and cypriol provide an edge. It becomes sweeter as we pass a street vendor making caramel covered nuts. There is a gourmand caramel accord here which Mr. Fernandez keeps from being too sweet or overpowering. The final touches are a set of warm ambers as we pull our sweaters close on our way home.
New York has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
This change to city inspired fragrances has changed the way I look at Widian. New York is another in a positive new direction.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
One of my favorite department store men’s perfumes to recommend as an office-ready scent is Montblanc Legend. It is an example of a mass-market release done right, without pandering, while intelligently choosing popular trends to include. I have no idea whether this is true, but this seems less perfume by focus group with more directed design at play instead. They followed that up with Montblanc Emblem in 2014. It again was nothing especially original put together in a solid crowd-pleasing way. When I went to my local mall for my unscientific crowd watching, the newest perfume for the brand was being displayed; Montblanc Explorer.
I’ve mentioned this before; my way of telling whether a new perfume will be popular is the garbage can extrapolation. I set myself up near the closest waste receptacle to where the sales associates are handing out strips. I keep a count of how many people get rid of the strip as quick as they can versus continuing to sniff it while they walk. A good score I’ve found is around 60% retention of the strip. On this visit Explorer had an 85% retention rate. It motivated me to get a sample and find out more.
(l. to r.) Jordi Fernandez, Antoine Maisondieu, and Olivier Pescheux
Anne Duboscq has been the creative director for Montblanc since the release of Legend. It seems like she has clear vision of the market the brand wants to serve. For Explorer she used a trio of perfumers; Jordi Fernandez, Antoine Maisondieu, and Olivier Pescheux. What I found interesting when receiving the press release is this set of Givaudan perfumers liberally laced a set of proprietary company ingredients throughout Explorer. Orpur versions of bergamot and vetiver along with Akigalawood. I always refer to the Orpur collection as the crown jewels of the company. As the creators of Akigalawood the Givaudan perfumers have more experience in using it. It adds a kind of high-class niche veneer to a mass-market fragrance.
The perfumers open with a lot of Orpur bergamot and pink pepper. What the pink pepper does is to provide an herbal contrast to the sparkle of the bergamot making for a tart green top accord. The green is intensified with the Orpur vetiver along with sage in the heart. The base is woody ambrox and the altered version of patchouli that is Akigalawood. The akigalawood adds in a spiciness to the ambrox to keep it from being as monolithic as it can sometimes be.
Explorer has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Besides my garbage can census another reason I predict Explorer will be a success is in a few steps I watched two men stop talking; turn around and each buy a bottle. This is not a perfume for those who have a diverse collection of niche perfumes. You will already have a better version of anything you might be drawn to in Explorer. What I saw on a Saturday afternoon in February is for those men who want an office-ready perfume Explorer is going to end up on a lot of dressers.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Montblanc.
I was fascinated with volcanoes as a child. I don’t think it was the very first, but it was one of the earliest scientific things I wanted to know more about. When I had to do a report in school and I could make the subject “volcanoes” that was what it was. I’ve never been to an active volcano to see the pulsing orange lava bubbling up from beneath the earth. I’m also not sure I want to see it any better than National Geographic shows me in their documentaries. Because of the lack of actual experience there is a shortage of information which my imagination is happy to take the place of. My mind’s nose tells me that the smell would be acrid and sulfurous. What is fun about fragrance is when one is designing a perfume, they probably don’t want acrid and sulfurous as their keynotes. It was interesting to see how Carner Barcelona Volcano would interpret their title as a perfume.
Sara Carner is the creative director for the brand which bears her name. In the first few years it was an exploration of her hometown of Barcelona. Starting two years ago Sra. Carner began to spread her wings into less geographical inspirations for the new releases. These have shown Sra. Carner has much more to say in fragrance than stories of her her birthplace. She has shown a more adventurous style which Volcano might be the apotheosis of. She collaborates with perfumer Jordi Fenrnandez on his second perfume for the brand; following last year’s Latin Lover. The perfume volcano has a bit of mineralic bite, but the eruption of hot materials are all resins.
Volcano opens with spicy Turkish rose out front like a sacrifice to the god in the crater. The rose is lapped in spicy flames of ginger and nutmeg. The whole floral accord goes up in flames as smoky nagarmotha and similarly styled frankincense from Somalia come together in the heart accord. These notes form a kind of hot stone effect. Sr. Fernandez then sets off a flow of benzoin, labdanum, and vetiver to mimic the oozing lava. Except this is a warm viscous resinous feeling unfurling on my skin in slowly radiating waves over the hot stone accord in the heart.
Volcano has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’m not clever enough to have thought what I think a volcano inspired perfume should smell like. Having smelled Sra. Carner and Sr. Fernandez’s version I think an eruption of resinous ingredients is a great choice.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Carner Barcelona.