When I first started paying attention to the world of fragrance, I carried a healthy disdain for flankers. I saw them as money-making efforts meant to keep a consumer buying the same perfume over and over. Like many of my initial impressions the more I experienced the more I learned that all flankers weren’t cynical cash cows. There are the ones which illuminate exactly what a difference a few exchanged notes can do to my enjoyment. Michael Kors Super Gorgeous! is a much better version of the original because of this.
Gorgeous! was one of the first new perfumes I received for 2021. I found it to be a mostly forgettable mainstream release. The heart of tobacco and tuberose was nice, but it stayed on the safe side not allowing it to fully develop into something more interesting.
I received my sample of Super Gorgeous! just after Labor Day. When I sprayed it on a strip, I found a perfume which was much more to my taste. Three of the original group of perfumers, Nicolas Beaulieu, Anne Flipo, and Laurent Le Guernec make some critical substitutions which create a better experience.
Laurent Le Guernec
There remains a citrus opening focused on mandarin. What makes it better is the baie rose in the original which added nothing is changed to myrrh. This begins to form an ambery through line which will persist to the end.
The tobacco and tuberose are relegated to supporting players. The perfumers focus their floral heart on iris and jasmine. These two florals form a nice give and take between the rhizome and the night-blooming stalwart. This time the tobacco and tuberose fit themselves into the spaces between the lead florals. In this role they continue that ambery thread.
In the base that amber spreads out into a stronger presence. It is paired with the dry sandalwood of New Caledonia. I found this much more appealing than the slightly leathery accord from the original. Once it is all together it forms a woody ambered floral which is ideal for fall.
Super Gorgeous! has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
It just reinforces how much a few integrated choices can take something from forgettable to the opposite of that.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Ulta.
Editor’s Note: For the month of October in the US in support of Breast Cancer Month there is a special bottle with a pink ribbon. 10% of all sales from that will be donated for cancer research.
Regular readers know what I mean when I call a new fragrance a grilled cheese. For those new to the site it means something well-done and basic. There is little to comment upon as far as anything unique. It is a perfume you should seek out if the ingredients appeal to you. Around this time of year I’ve been sniffing a steady diet of debutante rose grilled cheese. Which is why when a mainstream brand offers me a different recipe it makes my day as Estee Lauder Beautiful Magnolia does.
Beautiful has been one of the brand’s pillars since 1985. Over the last fifteen years it has been a collection of flankers. They have mostly been good versions of Beautiful without completely losing the beauty of the original. Things took a different turn with last year’s Beautiful Absolu. It was a refreshing of the original formula for today’s perfume lover. Beautiful Magnolia also is looking for that same demographic. Perfumers Anne Flipo and Laurent Le Guernec turn magnolia into the type of spring floral it should always have been.
Laurent Le Guernec
This opens on a version of magnolia just after a spring shower. There are watery droplets on top of a lilting fresh magnolia. Over a short period of time the magnolia shakes off the dampness and fully blooms. There is an appealing creaminess matched to a woody undertone. Some rose and gardenia help amplify the floral part of things. What happens now is unexpected as a sharp green note of mate tea pierces things. This is an unusual choice for a mainstream release because this is an acerbic quarrelsome ingredient. It provides a spiky contrast which alone sets it apart from other new spring florals. I liked it a lot. Yet Mrs. C commented on one of the days that the perfume I was wearing was “very sharp”. I asked her if it was unpleasant, and she said she thought she might like it as a change of pace. This all settles on a typical cedar base.
Beautiful Magnolia has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
The presence of that mate tea note maybe should elevate this from my grilled cheese category but overall it is a pretty, safe spring floral. Just not a rose. Maybe this is a grilled cheese with a cup of tea.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Sephora.
If there is anything designer Tom Ford is known for is his ability to push at the limits. It has been as true in the fragrances he has designed as it has for the fashion. Lately that has taken its turn in the names of the exclusive perfume collection. They are sniggering double entendres which don’t necessarily pair to the perfume behind the label. Tom Ford Private Blend Bitter Peach takes its turn.
This trend in the Private Blend collection began with 2017’s Fucking Fabulous. It was the second, Lost Cherry, in 2018 which returned a much-needed jolt of originality to the brand. Bitter Peach is closer to Lost Cherry than Fucking Fabulous in originality.
Peach has been a staple of the perfumer’s palette ever since the discovery of aldehyde C-14 early in the 20th century. Although it says aldehyde it is actually a lactone known for its creaminess. Bitter Peach seems to have a lot of this to provide the title note. This can be a tough ingredient to wrangle because at high concentrations it can smell like shampoo. Which is not a vibe a luxury perfume is looking for. Perfumers Jean-Marc Chaillan and Laurent Le Guernec keep Bitter Peach on the right side of that line.
It opens with that peach lactone at overdose. To keep it under control cardamom and davana provide some contrast pulling it back from becoming utilitarian. There is a tiny hint of rum; not enough to make it boozy. Just a pinch to add some richness to the peach. Jasmine then flows into it creating a fleeting fruity floral intermezzo. Cashmeran adds a synthetic link between a dark patchouli and resinous benzoin. This inserts itself into the peach adding shadows to the fruitiness.
Bitter Peach has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I cautioned with Lost Cherry if you are not a fan of peach in perfume Bitter Peach is unlikely to make you a convert. It does share the same feeling as that earlier release of adding some shade to the fruit. Bitter Peach doesn’t go as far but it is for the best. What is here is a chiaroscuro peach ripe enough for fall.
Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
One of the greatest gourmand perfumes is 2004’s Bond No. 9 New Haarlem. Early in the birth of the genre, perfumer Maurice Roucel and creative director Laurice Rahme, produced an incredible coffee-based perfume which is the gold standard. No perfume has been better. It also stood out for taking a lighter tone than the earlier gourmands. Bond No. 9 over the past few years has become a brand which has churned out perfume at a furious pace with a similarity to previous releases that I haven’t been motivated to write about.
A few weeks ago, I received a press release for Bond No. 9 New Bond St. The name caught my attention because the neighborhood around the flagship boutique has changed a lot in the fifteen years since the brand debuted. As I continued to read I learned there was a coffee heart accord. That also made me more motivated to check in and see what this new perfume was all about. Would it live up to the greatness of New Haarlem? Would it come close? Should I really compare the two?
Two perfumers, Carlos Benaim and Laurent Le Guernec, collaborate with Ms. Rahme for New Bond St. If I am looking for similarity to New Haarlem there is a green top accord followed by a coffee heart accord and woody base. That is selling the new perfume short. If I have been critical of an overreliance on cribbing from the past by the brand this is not one of those cases. The creative team has created a different style of gourmand which stands on its own.
Laurent Le Guernec
The top accord uses muguet as the source of green. The perfumers introduce a bit of pepper to provide a sizzle to that floral. The heart is a fancy coffee accord served up by a barista. The coffee source is described as coffee beans in the ingredient list. There is a distinction as the whole beans have an intrinsic oiliness and nuttiness more pronounced than a brewed version. The perfumers pick up on both of those by using cocoa to pick up the oils and chestnut to pick up the nutty. It comes together in a luscious coffee shop accord. It falls into a generic woody base, which has become a signature for the brand, as sandalwood and vanilla present a typical base accord.
New Bond St. has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Since I started this review with the comparison I’ll get it out of the way New Bond St. is not as good as New Haarlem. It is the best new release from Bond No. 9 in a few years. I am happy I took the time to check it out. It reminds me, in a positive way, of what a trend setter the brand was in its early years. If you’ve wanted a reminder of that New Bond St. should do that.
Disclosure: This review based on a sample provided by Saks.
When I was quite young my grandmother took me to see a movie called “Endless Summer”. The documentary followed two surfers on a trip around the world. My grandmother always eager for teachable moments had us look up all the locations in our Atlas. I remember when I got to the tiny island of Tahiti, barely a flyspeck on the map, it seemed like the waves we saw in the movie could swallow the island whole. If I needed reinforcement the 2004 movie “Riding Giants” revisited the tiny island with the big waves. The name of the town they surfed in was called “chopo”; except that is how its pronounced. It is correctly written Teahupo’o. I’ve always imagined the smell of tropical flowers combined with a sea spray accord would feel like riding down the barrel of a wave. A Lab on Fire My Own Private Teahupo’o tries to do just this.
Laird Hamilton riding a Teahupo'o wave
The ad copy is sort of the butterfly effect of wave creation as it mentions a single drop in Antarctica turns into a rideable wall of water in Tahiti. The rest of the copy wants to capture riding in the barrel of the wave surrounded by sea spray as the smell of the indigenous flora is carries to you. Creative director Carlos Kusubayashi collaborates with perfumer Laurent Le Guernec to create the break to ride our olfactory surfboard within.
Laurent Le Guernec
The fragrance is as simple as the description. It opens on a suite of ozonic notes and sea spray aquatics. M. Le Guernec tunes his top accord to capture the sun shining through the top of the curl while the chill of the water surrounds us as we traverse through the spray fraying on the edges. This is a common top accord done well. I appreciate the balance brought to it. Frangipani is the floral used to represent the tropics. To make sure it has the required strength M. Le Guernec supports it with a group of salicylates to build the effect up. As we cruise through the wave we catch the smell of vanilla on the breeze as the unfettered sun beams down in a warm ray of amber. This all comes together in an aquatic Oriental construct which worked nicely for me.
My Own Private Teahupo’o has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
My Own Private Teahupo’o is not the first fragrance to try and translate surf culture into a bottle. It succeeds for me because when I’m wearing it I can close my eyes believe I’m on a surfboard in Tahiti.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Sarah Jessica Parker set the standard for what a celebuscent could be when she released Lovely in 2005. It was widely praised mainly because it was obvious she was directly involved as creative director. Lovely is arguably the best mainstream celebrity perfume ever. It has become a new classic of perfumery. With that foundation I was very curious to try Ms. Parker’s latest release SJP Stash.
In the press leading up to Stash’s release one of the more interesting pieces of information was Ms. Parker had designed Stash before Lovely. She would further elaborate that Coty who owned the rights to Ms. Parker’s brand thought Stash was not “commercial” enough. It has taken eleven years but Ms. Parker now has the freedom to releases Stash with her new deal with the beauty store chain ULTA. Stash is meant to be the first in an ongoing relationship with the store.
The perfumer Ms. Parker worked with has been undisclosed although they are from IFF. If the backstory is accurate it probably means it contains themes from the perfumers behind Lovely, Clement Gavarry and Laurent LeGuernec. With an assist from an IFF perfumer today I would imagine that is the perfume team behind Stash. After trying Stash I can definitely see how there was a vigorous discussion about whether it was commercial in 2005. Now in 2016 I think Stash has found a time period where it won’t stand out as much as a woody oriental. In fact, it could be that woody orientals have become so prevalent that it might have some trouble gaining traction.
Stash opens with a contrasting trio of grapefruit, black pepper, and sage. It is a lively opening but it feels common today. The heart ramps up the woods as cedar cleans up the spicy parts and co-opts patchouli as a running mate. Ms. Parker mentioned wanting a body odor accord and I think the cedar and patchouli are meant to be that. It is subtle to be sure and not as prominent as it would have been if they had used cumin. So if you have read the press releases and seen “body odor” don’t fret because this is the cleanest body odor you will run across. The base is the best part of Stash as a sweetly resinous mixture of olibanum, vetiver, sandalwood, and musk combine.
Stash has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
As I’ve indicated above Stash is not groundbreaking or unusual in today’s mainstream market. In 2005 this would have blazed a similar trail as Lovely did. In 2016 it is following the trail not blazing it. Stash is more complex than much of what can be found at ULTA. If that consumer is enticed by Stash I think it has a chance to open those perfume wearers’ horizons. I can see how passionate Ms. Parker was to get Stash on the market but as the old adage says, “be careful what you wish for”.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from ULTA.
There are fragrances created where there is no middle ground. The accords or notes used are so divisive as to one’s own personal idea of where beauty resides that one either loves it or hates it; not a lot of “meh” heard here. The Brooklyn-based perfume house overseen by Carlos Kusubayashi, A Lab on Fire, seems to really enjoy making perfumes that generate these kind of polar opposite responses. The latest two releases, Paris*LA and Made in Heaven, are the brand’s take on gourmands of a different stripe.
Laurent Le Guernec
Paris*LA is meant to be what Los Angeles looks like to a Parisienne and perfumer Laurent Le Guernec has decided that Coca-Cola and macarons capture this dichotomy. Right there I can already hear people thinking, “Eww! Coke and a macaron.” To be candid I have to admit that was my reaction when reading the notes. M. Le Guernec does a fine job of capturing the brilliance of LA and a Parisienne looking for something to remind her of home.
The opening note of Paris*LA is a bright blast of key lime. It is like stepping off the plane and the sun hits you square between the eyes. The key lime is an olfactory attention getter and it burns off pretty rapidly. The coca-cola accord comes next and it is a combination of fizzy aldehydes, ginger, and caramel. The fizz of the aldehydes are fine tuned to not trip over into their more provocative nature and here provide more effervescent background than anything. Next comes the macaron accord vanilla and almond out front. Then because all the best macarons are flavored M. Le Guernec adds in subtle hints of neroli, coriander, and thyme. They take the dessert-y accord and add some texture to it. The coca-cola accord has persisted and by the final hours this is a mix of sweet and sweeter as the cola and macaron accord combine to form a fragrant sugar rush. You can put me firmly in the love it category as both the cola and macaron accords work really well on my skin. I think for those who are not fond of sweet gourmands this will raise different emotions.
One of my favorite things to observe is when Mr. Kusubayashi hires a perfumer who has done the great majority of their work in the non-niche side of the business and allows them the freedom to create. Made in Heaven by perfumer Pascal Gaurin is what happens. M. Gaurin works for IFF and within the company there is a branch called Laboratoire Monique Remy (LMR) which is the group who produces unique natural absolutes using the latest scientific techniques. By their very nature these are expensive raw materials and most mainstream releases would use a tiny bit of one to stay within budget. M. Gaurin freed of the economic constraints uses five of these exquisite floral absolutes in Made in Heaven. One of the other remaining notes must have been an accord M. Gaurin has had on the shelf and been wanting to use because underneath the diaphanous flowers is a foundation of cereal.
Made in Heaven starts with magnolia absolute and this has lilting woody floral air to which M. Gaurin hangs mandarin and saffron upon it. The saffron provides an exotic effect while the mandarin adds citrus-y energy. While the magnolia is tender and fragile the heart notes stride into view with a brassy white flower confidence. Absolutes of jasmine, tuberose, and orange flower take over the heart of Made in Heaven. All three of these absolutes show off the flower in a pristine jewel-like spotlight. If you concentrate on it you can pick out each note individually. Together it is divine. The base is made up of the cereal accord and to my nose it smells the way a box of Cap’n Crunch smells when you first open the bag. Sugary vanilla sweetness rises through the flowers and mixes with them surprisingly well. The jasmine in particular seems to really take to the cereal. Much later on orris absolute starts to fill in as the orange flower fades. It adds a slightly powdery finish to it all. I really enjoy when perfumers are allowed to use the “good stuff”. The LMR absolutes are the “good stuff” and M. Gaurin has displayed them in a way to show why they are so special.
Paris*LA has 8-10 hour longevity and, except for the key lime blast on top, below average sillage. Made in Heaven has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Both Paris*LA and Made in Heaven continue to show why A Lab on Fire is one of the most exciting niche houses on the scene. Mr. Kusubayashi allowing the perfumers to have as much latitude to create as possible leads to perfumes you may love or hate but you will never be bored by them.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples I purchased from Twisted Lily.
My first exposure to Avon was our local Avon Lady who visited our house regularly. There were commercials with the tag line “Avon Calling!” Many of those companies which sold door-to-door in the 1960’s and 1970’s were made obsolete by the internet. Avon has not only adapted they have thrived with $10 biliion in sales in 2013. They have managed to navigate the shifting fortunes and stake out a place for themselves. As I went through the box of fragrance supplied by my friend who is a current Avon Lady I was impressed with the consistency of the collection as a whole. Current Creative Director Isabel Lopes and her predecessors all understand how to make an appealing fragrance for their customers at a more than appealing price, around $20. The epitome of Discount Diamonds. Here are five more I think are worth giving a try.
Haiku Kyoto Flower by perfumer Pierre Negrin is the latest flanker to 2001’s Haiku, whose gauzy lilting green was also good. The newest member of the Haiku family is a little more outgoing. M. Negrin uses sharp violet made greener with blackcurrant. This is very much a recognizable opening from many niche perfumes but made more palatable by keeping it very light. The heart is peony and orange blossom, pretty and more pronounced then the top notes. It ends on sandalwood and a favorite in many of the feminine marketed Avon fragrances a cocktail of the cotton linen musks. This is very lovely green floral perfume.
Avon Femme is by perfumer Harry Fremont. M. Fremont is one of the best mainstream perfumers working currently. He definitely knows how to interpret a brand’s character and capture it in a fragrance. Avon Femme is a crisp fruity musk perfume. It starts with the snappy pairing of grapefruit and pear matched with a bit of very clean jasmine. There will be no indoles here this is fresh and pretty. Magnolia is the floral keynote supported with a bit of peach. It ends with the sheer musk cocktail I mentioned above. For those who want a skank-free jasmine fruity floral Avon Femme is a good choice.
Avon does make fragrances for men and Avon Exploration by perfumer Laurent Le Guernec is a good example. As I mentioned yesterday the men’s fragrances hew to an aesthetic of bracing and woody, Avon Exploration does that. M. Le Guernec does choose to make Avon Exploration very bracing as he fashions an olfactory slap of cardamom, sage, and rosemary. This is a very concentrated opening and it is typical of the masculine Avon fragrances. It does settle down into a sandalwood, vetiver, and non-sheer musk which is less challenging. If you are a fan of powerhouse men’s fragrances Avon Exploration is a modern version.
Far Away Gold by Calice Becker is a special warm floral. Mme Becker knows how to build a soft warm vanilla and sandalwood base even with the more cost-efficient materials and it is that where Far Away Gold ends. Prior to that osmanthus and peach lead to a jasmine and ylang-ylang heart. A wonderful comfort scent.
Avon does have their celebuscents and one of the more interesting collaborators is musician Bon Jovi. Part of the Bon Jovi collection is Unplugged for Her by perfumer Annie Buzantian. This was the most subtle fragrance of all of the ones I tried. It was very surprising since a rock star is associated with it, although it is unplugged. Mme Buzantian uses a very opaque application of ivy and plum to give a sheer green fruity opening. Rose carries the heart but this is a synthetic rose which carries the fresh floralcy and little of the spiciness or powdery facets. It keeps it on the light side for making that choice. A cocktail of soft woods and even softer white musks close this. Very easy to wear and a perfect office scent for those who work in close quarters and still want to wear perfume.
Now let me reiterate what I stated yesterday, perfume for $20 is not chock full of essential oils. There might be a pinch here and there but this is all synthetic versions of the notes I mentioned. As you can see there are very talented perfumers working for Avon and I think they do a tremendous job at making the most of a limited budget. Enough so that if you need an economical perfume fix contact your local Avon Lady…..Avon Calling!
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Avon.