I’ve spent a lot of time in the American southwest hiking in the desert. It remains one of my favorite places to have experienced. Over the years my impression of the desert as a place lacking life was changed to one of the most dynamic places I have spent time. When you come to the desert with that mindset it rewards you with some of the subtlest pleasures of nature if you look for them. The Different Company Al Sahra is inspired by the most famous desert.
Al Sahra is the local name for the Sahara Desert. I’ve never visited, and it might be fallacious to extrapolate that all deserts smell alike. When I tried Al Sahra it was the desert which greeted me. Perfumer Emilie Coppermann forms a perfume of shifting finely-drawn accords.
Creative director Luc Gabriel turned to Mme Coppermann for the ninth time. They have formed one of those creative director-perfumer collaborations which has created some memorable perfumes. Al Sahra is among the best of their concoctions. They wanted to make a perfume style they dubbed “mineral Oriental”. While I was waiting for my sample to arrive, the perfume that phrase promised in the press release piqued my interest. It is because perfumers have been given a set of new materials with which to form these mineralic scents. Mme Coppermann is one of the more innovative which further heightened my expectations. What is in the bottle is a creation which moves as the sands do on the desert. Allowing the wind to bring you the scent of things in the distance. Making you find the life that is on the sea of sand.
Mme Coppermann opens with an accord of sun heated sand. She uses some of those mineral ingredients as well as violet and salt. It is the salt which takes the mineralic accord from dried earth to flowing sand. The ingredients used for mineralic effects tend to be concentrated like hard-packed earth. This top accord has the flow of sand carrying a languorous kinetic aspect. Then a transparent lily rises gaining strength as you notice it growing. A fantastic sizzle of cinnamon reminds you the sun is still high in the sky. It all cools down as night falls. The woods bleached by the sun are represented by sandalwood. Incense and labdanum give a resinous tint to the evening. Patchouli assists the transformation from mineralic to earthy. As you lift your eyes to the sky the evening zephyr blows across it all.
Al Sahra has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Al Sahra fits with the series of colognes Mme Coppermann produced in her first The Different Company releases. This isn’t as heavy as Oriental might make you believe. It should be a great choice in the summer months. Al Sahra found the beauty of the desert within its shifting sands.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by The Different Company.
Briefs for perfumes can take all forms. They can be abstract paragraphs full of adjectives and nouns with little structure. They can be stories of a time period or a specific place. They can be photographs. The brief is not necessarily the best indicator of the quality of the perfume. Except some of my favorite perfumes of the last few years have some of the simplest inspirations. The new The Different Company Adjatay is one of those.
The story of the inspiration comes from owner and creative director Luc Gabriel. After returning from a trip to Grasse he left a tuberose flower in his leather traveling bag. When he returned to his bag a few days later he was greeted with this wonderful combination of leather and tuberose. He thought of it as “cuir narcotique” (narcotic leather). Working with perfumer Alexandra Monet he gave her the task of turning the real-life combination of tuberose and well-worn leather into a perfume.
This is what draws me to Adjatay the brief is simple. The perfume is not simple when it is on my skin. The tuberose is narcotic. The leather does have that sense of being lovingly used over years. In essence it is a give and take between two very obstreperous accords with neither achieving ascendancy and balance maintained throughout.
Adjatay opens with that tuberose bloom. Mme Monet surrounds it with a number of other florals; ylang ylang, jasmine, and heliotrope. Tuberose is one of those difficult to tame raw materials to get the effect you want. Mme Monet uses these other florals to expand on the heady parts while downplaying the indolic qualities. The animalic facets will come from the leather. Which means the tuberose comes at you in ever intensifying waves in the early moments. Then the leather bag fits itself underneath and slams the lid shut enclosing the florals. For a while in the middle part of the development the leather encases the tuberose. Mme Monet used styrax, castoreum, and papyrus as the primary components of her leather accord. It does carry the sense of being a well-loved piece of luggage used often. I can envision the stickers of faraway places on the side of it. This leather accord cannot keep the tuberose down for long and those narcotic waves again build in intensity until precise balance is achieved. Eventually a sandalwood and musk base accord provides a landing pad for Adjatay.
Adjatay has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Adjatay was my favorite new perfume at Esxence 2016. The intensity of the tuberose paired with the depth of the leather appealed to me. Adjatay is a simple story told well, in perfumed prose, of packing up your tuberose in a leather suitcase.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from The Different Company I received at Esxence 2016.
In the “things which make me feel old” category is the number of perfume brands which are celebrating double-digit anniversaries. It is a wonderful thing that these forerunner brands of artistic perfumery have found their respective audiences and thrived. But I remember when they started just after the new millennium began. It seems like forever ago. The latest brand to remind me of my mortality is The Different Company with their anniversary release, Le 15.
As I wrote in my Perfume 101 piece on The Different Company it has been one of those consistently good producers of perfume for these last 15 years. For this celebratory fragrance Luc Gabriel who has served as CEO and Creative Director for the brand since 2004 collaborated with perfumer Alexandra Monet. M. Gabriel wanted Le 15 to be “a perfume of immortality”. To capture that very grandiose brief Mme Monet chose to use the wood palo santo known for its mystical qualities. If you’re attempting immortality beginning with the wood of the gods is probably a good place to start.
For me one of the hallmarks of a fragrance of The Different Company is minimal amount of ingredients which produce an effect beyond what you might expect. It has been so from Jean-Claude Ellena in the beginning and continues with the current set of perfumers because of the creative direction provided by M. Gabriel. Le 15 fits right into the collection as the palo santo holds the center and it is surrounded by spices and resins.
The opening of Le 15 is an attention getter as Mme Monet mixes citrus and nutmeg in a spicy slap and tickle. It heads straight into the palo santo nucleus which is supported on the woody side by cedar. Mme Monet also uses Hedione to tease out the floral nuances present but the main reason it is present is to provide lift and expansiveness. Once the woodiness has expanded sufficiently Mme Monet slides in sweet myrrh and arid frankincense. The palo santo accord has the feel of a kind of woody incense and so the additional resinous notes fit right in. Later on a selection of skin musks provide the finishing touch.
Le 15 is an extrait de parfum and has 14-16 hour longevity with minimal sillage.
Le 15 is a fitting bookmark for a brand which has produced a few iconic perfumes over the last 15 years. That it comes from a perfumer new to the brand shows M. Gabriel is not stuck in the past but looking towards the future. Le 15 is a beautiful way of moving towards that horizon wrapped in a woody resinous embrace.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by The Different Company at Pitti Fragranze 2015.
Editor’s Note: The header photo is also from M. Gabriel. I suspect pretty soon he will be designing the bottles.
Violet is one of my favorite floral notes in perfumery. Bertrand Duchaufour is one of my favorite perfumers. Over the years M. Duchaufour has been using a set of accords which he employs like a maestro calling forth the desired effect from a section of the olfactory symphony. Most recently he has perfected a leather accord, a vegetal green accord, and a violet accord. In the new I miss Violet for The Different Company he uses all of them in very different ways than he has in the past. It is another example, in a career full of them, of how he uses these proprietary constructs as the spine of many of his perfumes.
Creative Director Luc Gabriel envisioned the titular Violet as a woman forever in motion as she moves from place to place. As she leaves her temporary paramours behind she gives them a scent to remember her by and to miss her. M. Duchaufour imagines this scent to be a floral leather and he designed Violet’s parting gift to reflect our heroine’s wanderlust and her femininity. What is great about I miss Violet is the leather and the violet are present from beginning to end almost as a constant. The rest of the supporting cast is there to provide context.
The soft supple leather accord and the violet accord slip into place from the very first moment. That vegetal green accord I mentioned is what compliments them early on. It makes the violet more alive by giving it an earthy foundation. That is no surprise. What I did find surprising was it took the softness of the leather and give it a bit of an unrefined roughness. Maybe a reminder that Violet will trample your heart eventually. M. Duchaufour creates a floral heart with osmanthus giving a floral which carries both a leather and fruity character making it a perfect connecting note between the top notes and the heart. The rest of the florals, mimosa, cyclamen, and iris combine with the violet. Underneath all of this is a healthy dose of Calone providing a bit of the open ocean for the flowers to float upon. This all settles on a soft kiss of musk, mahogany, and vanilla pulling the leather to the foreground in the end.
I miss Violet has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
M. Duchaufour has aptly drawn the fictional Violet out in three unique acts from heartbreaker, to ocean traveler, to the woman who enchants the next admirer in the new port of call. It is a great example of a very modern floral leather by M. Duchaufour.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received at Esxence 2015.
One of the purposes of Under the Radar is to give me a chance to extol the virtues of a fragrance which might have fallen through the cracks. I’m also using it to make sure the fragrances that got bumped and moved off the review schedule get a second chance to be discovered. I really enjoy the opportunity I have to try new perfumes but sometimes their getting into my hands can be a story in and of itself. The three The Different Company L’Esprit Colognes, South Bay, Kashan Rose, and White Zagora seemed like they were never meant to be in my hands. The initial samples were lost in transit then I couldn’t seem to get a sample from the stores carrying them. It wasn’t until meeting creative director Luc Gabriel at Esxence that I finally had the set to try. It turns out that was the first fortuitous event in this complicated tale.
The L’Esprit Cologne collection are all signed by perfumer Emilie Bevierre-Coppermann and it is one of the best nouveau cologne collections of the last couple of years. Of the new ones Mme Bevierre-Coppermann has added to the original three and helped define the evolving new aesthetic for the lowly cologne. The one which does this the best is South Bay.
In South Bay Mme Bevierre-Coppermann chooses to turn in a very citrus focused fragrance over an intense bed of woodiness. There is a floral transition within the heart where South Bay transforms from fresh citrus into clean woods. Throughout the development South Bay is energetic and sunny.
South Bay uses grapefruit as the main citrus note and Mme Bevierre-Coppermann takes mandarin leaves to add leafy green and to accentuate the sulfurous aspects of the grapefruit. Tamarine base provides the juicy sweetness of tangerine and clementine. This a gorgeous citrus fantasy and I enjoy this opening so much it almost beckons me to re-apply often, which I do. Grapefruit wood begins the transition to the base and it is joined with freesia and a very mannered application of Eglantine Rose. That very sweet rose contrasts the grapefruit and complements the Tamarine with the grapefruit wood completing the transition. The base of South Bay is simply sandalwood and vetiver. The sandalwood is dry and creamy and the vetiver is woody with a green tint. There is nothing terribly groundbreaking here. Sometimes a perfumer needs to know when to keep it simple and Mme Bevierre-Coppermann has made the correct choice here.
South Bay has 6-8 hour longevity on me and average sillage.
I just returned from my summer beach vacation and South Bay was frequently my scent of the morning, afternoon, and evening. As I mentioned above, the opening is enchanting and topping it up multiple times a day allows me to keep enjoying it. The rest of the development is no slouch, as well. The opening is just magical for me. If you’re looking for a new summer fragrance don’t overlook South Bay even though it has been around for a year.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by The Different Company at Esxence.
I thought when I was reviewing the three new Jo Malone London Rain fragrances by perfumer Christine Nagel those were going to be the last new releases before she took up her new position at Hermes. It turns out that my assumption was in error. When I met Luc Gabriel owner and creative director at The Different Company I learned that Mme Nagel had one last fragrance to do before she started with Hermes. According to M. Gabriel the final version of her new fragrance for The Different Company, Nuit Magnetique was delivered on March 4th and she started her collaboration with Jean-Claude Ellena as co-in-house perfumers at Hermes two days later.
Christine Nagel (Photo: Matthieu Dortomb)
For her first fragrance for The Different Company she wanted to create both magnetic attraction and repulsion throughout all of the phases of Nuit Magnetique. Mme Nagel explains it in the press release as, “I created this perfume thinking about the physical principle of the magnet. The raw materials that I chose get married by affinity and get repelled by contrast inside a magnetic field whose olfactory nucleus is an amber-woody accord.” It sounds a lot like typical PR copy but Mme Nagel actually pulls this off as the top and heart exemplify this dual magnetic push and pull before getting pretty normal with the promised amber-woody base.
The attraction pair in the top notes is ginger and bergamot. Together there is a great vivacious quality which gets separated by a blueberry note that feels like it cleaves them apart. The blueberry has a slightly astringent nature to it which helps it split the happy couple up. The heart is a group of heavy hitter florals, jasmine, rose, and tuberose which Mme Nagel tames in her trademark way of not letting the more boisterous ingredients get out of balance. The orthogonal note here is prune in all of its concentrated dried plum glory. The use of dried fruit in fragrances has become more prevalent but in the use of prune as contrast to the florals it gives an atypical energy to it. Instead of weighing things down it adds a luscious underpinning which allow the florals something to push off of. The base is, as promised, a combination of amber, benzoin, and woods. It is so normal it almost doesn’t feel like it fits but that perhaps is the final bit of magnetic repulsion on display.
Nuit Magnetique has all-day longevity and above average sillage.
I didn’t get around to trying Nuit Magnetique until my last day at Esxence. I was so entranced with the ginger and blueberry along with the florals and prune I spritzed a little on my wrist for the plane flight home. It turned out to be a more delightful companion than my seatmate. I, like many others, are looking forward to what Mme Nagel will bring to Hermes. My expectation is she will be a smashing success because all of the broad creativity necessary to succeed in that position have been on display for many years now. With Nuit Magnetique she left us one final reminder of just how innovative she can be.
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by The Different Company at Esxence 2014.