Anyone who has read my writing knows how excited I get when a new perfumer catches my nose. At the end of 2017 I learned about Mackenzie Reilly with her first perfume release A Lab on Fire California Snow. She showed an uncommon skill to shift from dry to moist through precisely measured accords. I finished that review waiting to see what came next. It’s been more than a year but the release of A Lab on Fire Hossegor is that perfume.
I mention in nearly every A Lab on Fire review that the creative freedom given the perfumers by creative director Carlos Kusubayashi has resulted in some great things. To allow a senior perfumer working on her first commercial releases the opportunity to bring her vision to life in this environment must be a dream for Ms. Reilly. With Hossegor she repays that faith with another perfume of distinct phases.
Hossegor is the French surf town in the southern part where the waves from the Bay of Biscay provide a mecca. Ms. Reilly wanted to capture this sense of the coastal surf village. Her vision is of walking through a forest to reach the beach. As you stand at the interface of sand and trees the waves beckon you with an aquatic come-on. You dive in watching the horizon for a swell to ride. As she did in California Snow everything I described is realized as Hossegor develops.
It starts in that seaside forest. Ms. Reilly uses as the source of her pine tree scent the resin known as lentisque. It has a pine-like smell with resinous diffusion. It isn’t sharp, it is soft. Juniper berry is used to further add some tone to the pine-y top accord. As you emerge from the forest the smell of the ocean arrives with the bite of black pepper on the breeze. This turns the overall scent into a resinous aquatic. It turns subtly as olibanum and clary sage pick up on the resin and spice. The base does the same kind of switch from arid to moist as you get closer to the water. Ms. Reilly assembles an accord of mineralic ingredients to capture the water-soaked rocks. There is the breeze of white musks off those rock walls bringing a tiny thread of green from the moss. Time to stop looking and dive in.
Hossegor has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Hossegor is a fascinating perfume of different emotional moments stitched together through the intelligent use of precise materials. I said I couldn’t wait to see what was next for Ms. Reilly; thanks to Mr. Kusubayashi her precocious talent was set free on a surf beach in France.
Disclosure: This review is based upon a sample provided by A Lab on Fire.
One of the most striking cities I’ve visited is Palm Springs, California. Post-World War 2 it became the place for Los Angelinos to have a second home and many of the Hollywood stars would spend time there. Because of this the architecture of the bigger homes in the area carry that modernist style of the late 1950’s into the 1960’s. They all have swimming pools beyond the typical rectangle. Besides the architecture there is also the geography as it sits squarely in the Sonoran Desert surrounded by Joshua Tree National Park to the east, San Bernadino National Forest to the north, the Salton Sea to the south and Mount Saint Jacinto State Park to the east. This means the scents of the desert combine with the scents of the manicured gardens of the houses just as twilight falls; A Lab on Fire California Snow captures that.
Frank Sinatra's Palm Springs home, Twin Palms
Creative director for A Lab on Fire, Carlos Kusubayashi, has created a brand where he has delighted in allowing the perfumers wide latitude to make their perfume. Until now those have all been perfumers whom have had a portfolio. For California Snow he is giving that freedom to a new perfumer from IFF, Mackenzie Reilly. When reading the bio on the A Lab on Fire website I was struck with this passage where she describes where her minimalist style comes from, “Sophia Grojsman taught me: know the ingredients you love and work with them over and over – it won’t make you boring; it will make you good!” I think this is a laudable approach to take to perfume design. It also explains why California Snow is such a striking debut.
One of the things that struck me about Palm Springs is all of the glass in the architecture. It has a clarity to it which makes it feel like a crystal city. Ms. Reilly spends the early moments of California Snow interpreting that kind of transparency with a focused set of ingredients that captures the setting of the sun. By the time we pass through the sunset things cool off and the smell of the earth and the florals arise. Finally the breeze brings the smells of the nearby forest and a relaxing neighor.
California Snow opens with a very arid sage note this is made a little less astringent by using some coumarin to give that kind of hay-like sweetness to the sage. A small amount of chamomile provides the harbinger of the rose to come in the heart. Early on this is as focused a rose as the sage is on top. Over time it starts to become less delineated. The coumarin is still here to provide some of that effect. Vetiver heralds the final cooling off as a damp soil accord around patchouli takes over. In the final stages a warm breeze of musks carry the scents of the cedar trees in the forests and the smell of the neighbor smoking a joint.
California Snow has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I like the progression from warm and dry to cool and moist that happens throughout the development of California Snow. Ms. Reilly shows a deftness at making this set of transitions without it seeming abrupt. This is a remarkable first impression. I will be very interested to see what comes next as her follow-up. In the meantime I’ll sit poolside breathing in the scent of twilight in Palm Springs.
Disclosure: This review based on a sample from A Lab on Fire.