There is a story of ancient horse-borne warriors which has always interested me. It is said in those cultures where they fought on horseback, they would rub the indigenous flowers into their saddles. It was probably one part camouflage and more parts taming the raw smell of the tanned leather. I’m not even sure if it is true. I only know I want it to be. I have an unreasonable desire to take a basket of a favorite flower and crush it into a leather saddle. Which is why the name of Van Cleef & Arpels Orchid Leather piqued my interest.
This is an entry in the Collection Extraordinaire series. This is the first one of these to feature leather. Perfumer Julien Rasquinet mentioned he was inspired by the subtle leathery quality of some plants as part of a way of building in additional layers. I didn’t get my flowers crushed into leather. I did get another different vision of something being added to it. The result is a richly satisfying perfume.
It opens on deep fruity plum swirled with the zestiness of cardamom. Plum can have a syrupy presence the cardamom lifts it away from that. A processed leather accord appears next. This is a very refined version. It has a waxy shine it has been so well taken care of. An application of incense adds a resinous scent over the top. The botanical leather M. Rasquinet chooses is cistus. My experience with this ingredient is it reminds me of decaying earth. I have to squint a bit to see leathery. When it shows up that type of decaying earth does harmonize with the leather. It takes it from being hung up in the tack room to being taken off after a vigorous ride. There is an animalic overtone which appears. Now I didn’t get my flowers being crushed into all of this. The replacement is the vanilla pods of the orchid they grow from. This saddle is treated with vanilla pods rubbed into the sweaty leather accord. It adds in a contrasting sweetness without overwhelming everything.
Orchid Leather has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
We have had a few cold morning warm days in this early part of spring. I ended up wearing this on both of those days. I usually wear my leather jacket this time of year, but it was warm enough I didn’t need it. Orchid Leather allowed me to wear some leather on my skin anyway. I still haven’t got my flowers and saddles, yet. I must say vanilla pods and leather is a pretty good substitute.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Neiman-Marcus.
New creative director at Amouage Renaud Salmon makes his first impression with the new Renaissance Collection. He decided to start fresh. There is the use of perfumers who haven’t previously worked for Amouage. There is also a different approach to the perfumes which is evident within these perfumes. Today I’ll look at Amouage Enclave and Amouage Crimson Rocks.
For Enclave M. Salmon asked perfumer Julien Rasquinet to collaborate with him. The concept was to capture the sunset over the fjords in Oman. Now I know when you think of fjords the Middle East is not where you think to find them. If you travel to Musandam you will find warm weather fjords. What this means for a perfume is steep rock walls over crystalline blue water. The perfume reflects the contrast between those two natural features.
It begins with a unique accord to represent the water. It isn’t an aquatic accord. It is an aromatic herbal accord expertly constructed by M. Rasquinet. Spearmint and cardamom are the primary pieces. The cardamom interacts with the herbal mint in a way which forms an exhilarating effect as if looking at the turquoise water from on high. Baie rose and cinnamon add in a sense of the warmth of the breeze. It begins to shift towards a leathery heart where the earthy fraction of patchouli, incense, and rose are present. This is where Enclave begins to display the long-standing Amouage rose and resin which is a hallmark. I kind of wished the perfume stopped here. The choice to use AmberXtreme in the base acts as the moon does to the sun in an eclipse. It blots out everything. I know this is there for longevity, but I really wish they just went with something less overwhelming. What comes before the AmberXtreme exerts its will is quite nice.
Enclave has 24 hours plus longevity but that is mostly the AmberXtreme and average sillage.
Crimson Rocks is also inspired by Omani geography but in this case, I don’t find the connection. Working with perfumer Domitille Michalon-Bertier they design a honey soaked rose which drips with intensity.
Before we get to that we get a concentrated blast of cinnamon and baie rose. If you are familiar with the smell of the cinnamon candies called red hots this is exactly what the first moments of this smell like. I adore the smell of this. The candied cinnamon is its own unique perspective on sweet. A more traditional sweet comes as the honey begins to flow. In its way is a sturdy Damascene rose. early on the rose is powdery before turning a lusher spicier face towards the honey. It is here where the cinnamon provides a corona to the honey and rose where Crimson Rocks sings. This time they choose to use vetiver and oak as the base accord which allows the sticky spicy confection to find a new contrast.
Crimson Rocks has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
Tomorrow I’ll complete the overview of the Renaissance Collection with Ashore and Meander.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples supplied by Amouage.
In the morning I take the dogs out the back gate onto a path through a forest of birch trees. One of the ways I mark the transition from summer to fall is the smell of woodsmoke on that walk. As the mornings gain a little chill there are a set of houses in the distance which fire up their wood stoves. The sunlight slices through the haze. I have a perfume which captures this perfectly; Naomi Goodsir Parfums Bois d’Ascese.
Bois d’Ascese was one of the first two releases by Australian hatmaker Naomi Goodsir in 2012. Along with co-creative director Renaud Coutaudier they collaborated with perfumer Julien Rasquinet. Ever since then the brand has released three more fragrances. Every one of them have been among the best perfumes the year they were released. Because they are a brand which releases perfume infrequently it is easy for them to fall off the radar. To put them on your radar I will let Bois d’Ascese introduce you to it, as it did me.
When talking to Ms. Goodsir and M. Coutaudier they have an uncompromising vision which they will take their time to realize. M. Rasquinet was early in his career and was just beginning to show his skills off. Bois d’Ascese exemplifies this because they use one of the most common ingredients, cade oil, as the smoky component. I’ve smelled way too many smoky perfumes where the cade oil turns into choking billowing clouds of smoke. This creative team takes that same ingredient to a lighter place where it is that morning woodsmoke haze I recognize.
The way the cade oil is given that effect is through a precise amount of incense. It gives a foundation for the cade oil to not have to carry all the weight of a woodsmoke accord. That keeps it with a consistently strong but not overpowering presence. The woods come into focus through oakmoss, tobacco, and labdanum. This is the smell of birch trees on an autumn morning.
Bois d’Ascese has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Bois d’Ascese is one of my favorite smoky perfumes I own. It has engaged me ever since I tried it eight years ago. If you like smoky perfumes it should be on your radar. Naomi Goodsir Parfums should be there because this is the epitome of what independent perfumery can be.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
Perfumery is full of examples of pleasant smells. Yet that is not what makes up the entirety of the scent spectrum. Odd odors and strangely compelling things we sniff furtively because they shouldn’t appeal are also part of it. There have been precious few perfumes which attempt to travel this path of fascination with the possibility of finding beauty from the outré. NEZ 1+1 Folia looks for it in the decaying vegetation of a damp forest floor.
Julien Rasquinet (l.) and Eva Jospin
Folia is the second within the 1+1 collection from the perfume magazine NEZ. It can be included in the order for the latest issue, #9, if you order from their website. The idea of the collection is to take a perfumer and add them to an artist from a different discipline as inspiration and creative director. For Folia, the perfumer is Julien Rasquinet. The artist is French sculpture artist Eva Jospin who uses cardboard as her medium. Based on the story in the magazine the place where their experiences intersected was where a small brook has collected dead leaves atop some wet stones and roots. This is reminiscent of what you find in the early spring as the snow has almost all melted. A compact sense of dank vegetal decay.
The scent of damp rotting leaves is where Folia begins. If you’ve ever been in the woods in early spring, you will recognize this. It has an unusual sweetness that isn’t unpleasant, but I wouldn’t ever define it as pretty. It sets you up for the remainder of the development. The dampness is intensified as violet leaf and a mineralic accord provide water and stone. There is also a chill which runs through it at this point. It goes very earthy and mushroom-like as geosmin, patchouli, and vetiver form the base accord. This is that slightly stinky wet earth waking from underneath the snow. I like the oddity of it all when it comes together. They say there is a tiny hint of orange blossom in here. You have a better nose than I if you find it. Maybe it is there in what I describe as the sweetness of the decayed leaves, but I can’t say for sure.
Folia has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I enjoy the audacity of making a perfume which embraces these kinds of weird scents. It seems a natural as an add-on to a magazine for perfume lovers like NEZ. I loved being asked to consider the beauty of decay.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
In these days of being home bound one of my only outlets for experimentation is in the kitchen. For all the options available I’ve been trying to make the best grilled cheese sandwich ever. It has been my lunch of the last couple of weeks. I’ve gone through many versions. All of them still basically the ingredients of toasted bread and cheese. Perfume has what I think of as their version of grilled cheese perfumes. It is where two well-matched ingredients are given a slightly new interpretation. The latest is BDK Parfums Tabac Rose.
David Benedek founded BDK Parfums four years ago. He had extensive family connections to the fragrance business. It gave him a perspective for his brand where he seemed to want to explore many of the classic perfume pairings throughout history with contemporary twists. I’ve tried all of them. Mr. Benedek has succeeded in that endeavor if that was what he was attempting. It isn’t a collection which surprises you with the focal point ingredients. It does offer pleasures in the way Mr. Benedek and the perfumer he works with choose to augment them. Tabac Rose does this the best of all the ones I’ve tried.
Mr. Benedek asked perfumer Julien Rasquinet to create a variation on the tobacco-rose combination. This is one of my favorite fragrant pairings because when a deep rose is matched to an equally narcotic tobacco it becomes luxurious. M. Rasquinet produces one which seems especially so.
It begins with the Turkish rose. This is the rose which has a prominent spicy core. M. Rasquinet will use that throughout. Baie rose first adds a green stem to this rose. A fascinating set of plum and lemon provide sweet and tart fruit to go with the floral. The sweetness takes a different turn as patchouli and chocolate add a candy shell to the rose. This is where the tobacco comes into play. It flows in waves of dried leafiness which reminds me of the cigar shops in Little Havana. A sizzle of cinnamon brings the titular notes together. This adds a kinetic quality to the rose and tobacco I enjoyed. Labdanum adds the final resinous ingredient to give the tobacco even more depth.
Tabac Rose has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have a bunch of tobacco rose perfumes. Like my grilled cheese sandwiches there’s always room for one more if it is good. Tabac Rose is.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
Most perfume brands which claim rock and roll inspiration come out more closely related to Muzak. It makes me suspicious of the quality of so-called rock perfumes. Over the past year one brand which has lived up to this has been Jusbox Perfumes.
The brand was started in 2016 by siblings, Andrea and Chiaro Valda; or as they have dubbed themselves V Monkeys. When they have gotten it right, I have enjoyed the result. Even when they miss there is a hint of the messiness of the early rock legends. Up until now the perfumes have captured different eras in rock. The thirteenth release, Siren & Sailors, captures a specific singer and her home of Camden Town.
Amy Winehouse exploded onto the musical scene with the release of her second album “Back to Black” in 2006. Her distinctive voice would invade the airwaves as she found fame. What set her apart was her jazz-inspired way of singing paired with a singular voice. Her voice had an emotional depth which captured a sense of desperation. It turned out the desperation would come from a real place inside Ms. Winehouse who would take her life in 2011. V Monkeys turned to perfumer Julien Rasquinet to compose a perfume worthy of her.
The opening of Siren & Sailors is seemingly a nod to the striking appearance of Ms. Winehouse. It is an effusive accord of peach and osmanthus. The apricot quality of the osmanthus and the lushness of the peach captures an over-the-top fruitiness that would be annoying except for the rose which comes along with it. M. Rasquinet uses the Laboratoire Monique Remy (LMR) version of rose. The LMR natural ingredients are the best of the best. The rose here is that rich jammy velvety one. It is that sultry siren Ms. Winehouse portrayed onstage. Underneath it all runs a current of the demons that would eventually catch up to Ms. Winehouse as rum and whisky form a boozy underpinning. The base is where the depth of Ms. Winehouse’s vocals and emotions come together. M. Rasquinet uses an LMR patchouli fraction enhancing the earthier qualities. It is wrapped in a suede leather accord which also envelops the osmanthus and rose. It is here with these four ingredients where Sirens & Sailors holds a gorgeous perfume note for hours. A set of growly musks provide the final ingredient.
Siren & Sailors has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Siren & Sailors is the best perfume by Jusbox to date. It is also the most emotional fragrance they’ve produced. As I wore it, I was reminded of my favorite song by Ms. Winehouse; “Back to Black”. In the song she says farewell to a lover by lamenting “we only said goodbye with words”. Siren & Sailors allow me to say goodbye with perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
When Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle released The Night five years ago I thought it would be the first time for many to smell real oud in concentration. At the time I wondered what the eventual concept was going to be. I now know The Night was the first of the Desert Gems collection celebrating oud as an ingredient. Since then there have been two other releases, Promise and Dawn. The latest addition to the sub-collection is called The Moon.
As in the previous releases The Moon is created around a focal point oud. Perfumer Julien Rasquinet takes the most rambunctious oud in the series, so far, out for a spin on top of a fruity floral set of ingredients. As I wore it, I realized The Moon was the stinky fruity floral I’ve always wanted.
I couldn’t find out the source of the oud being used here. Suffice it to say this is one of the more pungent varieties. If you like the qualities of oud described as “dirty gym socks”, “cheesy”, or “a touch fecal” this is your kind of oud. What I found interesting about what M. Rasquinet designs here is the genuine version of many department store fruity florals which have an oud accord. The accord is designed to be exotic and inoffensive. This specific oud can’t do anything but put your nose right into the heart of the real stuff while not caring a whit about being offensive.
The Moon rises with the scent of that real oud up front. M. Rasquinet uses raspberry as his fruity contrast. I think he also adds lychee to make the raspberry even sweeter so it can stand up to the oud. The classic oud ingredient pairing of rose follows given a resinous shine via olibanum and frankincense. The resins also gives the Turkish rose a little bit of an edge to push back against the oud. I’ve smelled too many raspberry-rose fruity florals; most of them eminently forgettable. The presence of the oud makes this one unforgettable. It provides a funky contrast to the classic fruity floral duet. It does it by picking up on the rose, finding the sour obstreperous parts of that ingredient and bringing them forward. M. Rasquinet uses all that this rose can bring to find new facets of the oud to highlight. There is a moment when the oud has that cheesy scent for the slightly sour rose and the sweet raspberry to contrast. It made me think The Moon was an outré gourmand. It isn’t because it is only a passing phase.
The Moon has 24-hour longevity and average sillage.
The Moon is first of the Desert Gems to really push the oud with one which contains a scent profile of its less crowd-pleasing qualities. For those who enjoy real oud The Moon is a treat as it takes an insipid form like fruity florals and gives it some soul.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle.
The trend towards transparent perfumes has been one I’ve not been completely onboard with. The other trend which has arisen over the past couple of years is something I am enjoying; floral gourmands. In some ways these kinds of fragrances are the natural evolution of the popular fruity floral perfumes. It isn’t a huge step to replace the fruit with foodie counterpoints. One of the early successes is the combination of rose and chocolate. Van Cleef & Arpels Rose Rouge is another addition to this kind of floral gourmand.
Rose Rouge is part of the ongoing Collection Extraordinaire. I have found this to be a reliably solid group of perfumes. The idea is generally to highlight an ingredient whose name is usually found on the bottle. Rose Rouge is no different. Although “red rose” seems uninspiring. What makes it more than its name is a nice high-low effect for the rose from perfumer Julien Rasquinet.
Rose Rouge opens on top notes of an herbal baie rose and the sticky green of blackcurrant buds. M. Rasquinet unfurls a rose essence as the first evocation of the title note. This is followed by the hints of the chocolate as a dry cocoa. Right here is where most modern floral gourmands would end. At this point this is a lighter rose and chocolate. It all changes as a more full-bodied Turkish rises along with patchouli and a deepening of the chocolate takes place. M. Rasquinet moves Rose Rouge from an ephemeral surface effect towards something with more substance. The Turkish rose carries a jam-like quality which the chocolate, carrying a bitter edge, meshes ideally with. The patchouli supplies an earthy depth. Vetiver comes along in the base to recapitulate the green top accord while a set of woods form the foundation.
Rose Rouge has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
The first hour of Rose Rouge is so reminiscent of the typical transparent floral gourmands currently on trend. Once rose Rouge moves from that high to the low of the fuller chocolate and rose it really improves. It is this dichotomy which I enjoyed the most on the days I wore Rose Rouge.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Van Cleef & Arpels.
When I look back on my childhood in South Florida I realize how lucky I was to grow up in a community with so many different influences from the Caribbean and Central America. As I rode my bicycle through town I would cross invisible boundaries moving from neighborhood to neighborhood. While there wasn’t necessarily a sign indicating a change there was something else. In the warm weather of Florida most places had their windows open. Coming out of those windows was the music of their island homes. That was my introduction to ska and reggae music. I didn’t have a name to put to it until the release of the 1973 film, “The Harder They Come”. That was when most Americans used the word reggae for the first time and the soundtrack was the first time those same people listened to this music.
Andrea and Chiaro Valda
Jusbox Perfumes has been releasing fragrances inspired by different decades and genres of music. For their reggae influenced Green Bubble they moved forward thirty years to 2003 when reggae has become a part of the popular music landscape. They also focused on the Rastafarians who made the music part of their faith. Another part of their faith was the smoking of cannabis as sacrament. When the brother-sister team of Andrea and Chiaro Valda wanted to turn this to perfume they collaborated with perfumer Julien Rasquinet.
They start with a sticky green cannabis accord. This has a deeply herbal effect. M. Rasquinet skillfully uses the absinthe precursor of wormwood and grapefruit to provide a fuller accord. The grapefruit is particularly great in the early moments as its sulfurous quality is allowed free rein. Then a very raw green cedar elongates the top accord. The bass line which is such a part of reggae music begins to warm up with a sweet honey accord. It goes even deeper as patchouli, labdanum and sandalwood provide the ultimate bass heavy accord.
Green Bubble has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Green Bubble is an aggressively herbal green perfume which might not be to everyone’s taste. It has an offbeat charm which might not be readily apparent. I found it to be the best evocation of music in the Jusbox Perfumes line. If you’re a fan of this style Green Bubble will rock steady all day, and night, long.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Bloomingdale’s
When I hear of European-only perfume distribution I must decide how much I want to try it. Which was why when I read about a new Italian brand, Jusbox Perfumes, I decided not to chase it down. The main reason; it was another collection inspired by rock and roll. This is a common well of non-creativity that too many new brands choose to lean on. Because of previous brands which have been unable to successfully capture the essence of what ever rock artist or genre they are touting; I passed. The other good thing I find is if it is better than I think it eventually finds its way to North America. This just happened for Jusbox Perfumes. That meant I finally had a sample set to try.
V Monkeys: Andrea and Chiaro Valda
The creative directors are a brother-sister team, Andrea and Chiaro Valda, who go by the name V Monkeys. Born in Milan they are a good example of the kind of perfume coming out of Italy. When they started the line with four perfumes in 2016 they worked with perfumers Antoine Lie and Dominique Ropion; who each did a pair. Those first four perfumes each covered a decade. They were where I started learning from my samples. I was impressed that it wasn’t as trite as I feared. After those first four I was wondering where the leather jacket rebel was. I found it in the last sample I tried, Black Powder.
If there is a single scent which connects to rock and roll it is the smell of the black leather jacket. When I was a young man spending evenings standing in front of a stage losing my hearing a guitar riff at a time it was what I wore. So did everyone around me. The smell of overheated humanity underneath a leather jacket is my Eau de Rock and Roll. Perfumer Julien Rasquinet does an excellent job at coming very close with Black Powder. M. Rasquinet does this by taking a very supple suede leather accord and breaking it in with some interesting choices of ingredients.
Black Powder opens with the first seconds having a too tame suede leather. M. Rasquinet begins the process of roughing it up with allspice, blackcurrant buds, and apple. The more you wore your leather jacket there was always a subtle spiciness imbued into it. The allspice produces that. The blackcurrant is at that kind of urine-like sticky green level. Which works because the smell of overworked restrooms was also a scent of many clubs in the 80’s and 90’s. Tobacco plays up the inherent sweetness of leather. Incense tans it with resins. Sandalwood provides a foundation. Patchouli adds a bit of earthiness. Once it comes together it is that black leather jacket I was searching for.
Black Powder has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If I was designing this style of perfume the only thing which was missing was that musk of sweaty skin. What is here in Black Powder is enjoyable. I can say that about my early impressions of the rest of the Jusbox Perfumes collection. They have just become available in North America and are worth giving a try. I will probably do mini reviews of the others after I spend some time with them.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Bloomingdale’s.