I have a few friends who are artists for a living. It is always interesting to visit their studios. As I sit talking with them, I see the beginning of future pieces, the lengthening of vision, and the near completion. It is a process always in flux. When I return months or years later all the categories will have changed as each piece develops. One of the things I have enjoyed about the 1+1 series of fragrances that come with each current issue of NEZ magazine is this process is given some light for a perfume.
NEZ Kraft Gomme is the latest release tied to Issue eleven of NEZ. As the series name implies it has been an artistic collaboration between a non-perfume artist and a perfumer. For Kraft Gomme musician Woodkid and perfumer Marie Salamagne provide the pieces to this equation. With every one of the releases there has been an accompanying booklet describing the creative effort which results in the fragrance in hand. It is among the best written pieces explaining how a perfume can come together in a purely artistic way. There are no commercial concerns only decisions of vision.
When Mme Salamagne met Woodkid for the first time she brought three different mods. Two of them were inspired by his latest music called “S16” which is the symbol and atomic number for sulfur. Those were smoky. The third was inspired by the scent of clay as used on a potter’s wheel. Interestingly when she presented the mod to him, he smelled his old art studio beginnings and books. They would move forward on all three but over time it was his desire to return to his art school roots which began to be where the process was heading. Once that was decided there were additional notes to flesh out the concept. The name comes from the adhesive backed paper tape used to mask and wrap things.
When I received my bottle of Kraft Gomme I wasn’t reminded of art school. I was closer to Mme Salamagne’s clay. Which is where this begins as beeswax, myrrh, and linseed oil form the top accord. This is what she presented on that first day. This hit me completely as what I experience when I sit in the room with my friend who makes ceramics. As she spins the wheel and molds the wet clay the early moments of Kraft Gomme smell just like it. The catalyzing ingredient is the linseed oil. The myrrh and the beeswax have a recognizable scent profile. The linseed oil finds places to stitch the two together into something unlike either of them. In these early moments I smell that wet mound of clay being shaped by my friend.
The accent ingredients are cigarette smoke, cedar, and tolu balsam. This smells like many of the art studios I visit. A smoldering ashtray, sharpened pencils, and polished wood the creative’s milieu. Over time the clay reasserts itself as ambrox becomes its partner over the later stages.
Kraft Gomme has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am not sure how easy it is to enjoy the clay accord. To me it reeks of the raw materials of an artist. To others it might just be a sodden dense gray lump. I do think the fingers of Mme Salamagne and Woodkid shape it into something interesting. But you will have to like the clay to enjoy this because it is there throughout. It is yet another testament to this project and the way it brings new life to perfume making.
Disclosure: The review is based on a bottle supplied by NEZ.
When I received my press release on the newest collection from Jo Malone I began humming one of my favorite Beatles tunes. The five-fragrance set is called the “Marmalade Dreams” collection. Which had me singing the first line of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, “Picture yourself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies”. Creative director Celine Roux was more inspired by thoughts of local fairs and the marmalades sold there.
There are three new perfumes in the collection; Orange Peel, Tangy Rhubarb, and Rose Blush. Before I review these the two re-releases are worth mentioning. 2012’s Blackberry & Bay by perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin is one of those perfumes which has always evoked the feel of fruit preserves with a savory twist. The other one is 2013’s Elderflower & Gooseberry, renamed Elderflower Cordial. Perfumer Christine Nagel embodies the inherent tartness of both ingredient which fit the theme of this new set of fragrance.
Orange Peel is composed by perfumer Marie Salamagne. It represents the most widely-known British marmalade ingredient. What she does here is to capture a freshly-made batch of marmalade just as it is finished. This is the scent of the steam in the kitchen infused with the orange. It has an expansiveness along with some substance. It is three ingredients of orange, rhubarb, and blonde woods. The rhubarb adds in the bite of the orange rind within the jelly. Because of that it lives up to its name as the peel holds sway over the pulp. The woods gently cradle it all.
Tangy Rhubarb is composed by perfumer Nicolas Bonneville. In Orange Peel the rhubarb behaved as I usually experience it. In Tangy Rhubarb it reminds me of when I cook it in strawberry-rhubarb pie. When cooked the vegetal qualities are removed. What is left is a surprising sweetness with just a hint of the garden. Which is what’s happening here as the rhubarb is mostly lighter in effect with the sweeter aspect on display. Clary sage stands in for that garden as it also ends up on a warm woody foundation.
Rose Blush is also signed by M. Bonneville. This is that very English creation of the savory marmalade. I have described rose many times as having a jellied scent. M. Bonneville leans into that. What transforms this is a clever use of basil as the counterweight. Now you have this gelatinous matrix of floral and herbal precisely balanced. It is much more compelling than I was imagining before I tried it. As with the other the cleanliness of woods, in this case cedar is the finishing note.
All three of these are at cologne strength and have longevity of 8-10 hours and average sillage.
Mme Roux wants me to think of the fair. All I’m thinking about is marmalade skies while wearing these while drifting on a river.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples supplied by Jo Malone.
It has been awhile since I received an envelope containing a large collection of new releases that made me sigh with frustration. I couldn’t get out of 2020 without having one. Shoe designer Christian Louboutin has decided to double down and repeat some of their previous missteps on a larger scale.
It always surprises me when a creative director who is so smart in their field seemingly loses that when they move to perfume. In 2016 the brand released their first three perfumes. They were mostly dreary utilitarian tropes done competently. I liked Trouble in Heaven best because it was the only one which had a glimmer of imagination. I pretty much thought that was going to be it for Christian Louboutin fragrance.
Unfortunately, they are back with the same boring attitude with seven new perfumes in the Loubiworld collection. This time the bottles seem to be the selling point because they are easily the most interesting thing about all of them. Glass bottles in Louboutin red topped with fanciful silver ornamental caps. The perfume inside. Want a faux-oud? You have two choices Loubicroc or Loubicrown. Want a rose fruity floral? Choose from Loubidoo or Loubifunk. As boring a white floral as you can imagine? Loubikiss will make you yawn. Loubiraj is the functional lipstick iris. Despite my collective shoulder shrug I did find one which wasn’t bad, Christian Louboutin Loubirouge.
Perfumer Marie Salamagne is behind Loubirouge. Probably why I like it more than the others is it falls into the floral gourmand trend which hasn’t been repeated incessantly into meaninglessness. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing unusual in the way the perfume is built. It is just a good example in a perfume style that isn’t played out.
It opens with that green cardamom which has a nice combination of the citrus and herbal. Some coriander gives a hint of woodiness. Iris comes with its rooty and powdery aspects on display. It is the former which merges with a rich vanilla to form a tasty gourmand accord. Leather surrounds that with a reminder of exactly what the designer makes. Eventually the monolith of ambrox sweeps it all away.
Loubirouge has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
For a perfume line based on one of the most iconic shoe designers Loubirouge is the only one to have just a hint of leather in it. Someday a marketer is going to have to explain to me why these kinds of decisions are made. As you shop this Holiday season these bottles are going to undoubtedly catch your eye. Just think of them as ornaments for your dresser. If you must buy one to wear Loubirouge is your best option.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample set provided by Saks.
I have received my share of questions about what, or whether, to wear in the summer. More than any other time of year a poor choice can turn fragrance from a welcome companion into a frenemy. My best answer is to point to a style of fragrance known as Mediterranean. It is designed to mimic a summer day in a coastal town somewhere on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. They are among my favorite warm weather perfumes because they remind me of holidays at the beach even when that is far away. Because it is seen as a slighter type of fragrance it is not often the place where the luxury brands are interested in being. Atelier des Ors Blanc Polychrome makes a case for why that should be different.
Marie Salamagne (l.) and Jean-Philippe Clermont
Over the past 18 months it seems like creative director Jean-Philippe Clermont has been interested in upping the level of some of the most popular fragrance styles. Last year’s Riviera Collection did this for aquatics. Working again with perfumer Marie Salamagne they don’t necessarily re-interpret what a Mediterranean perfume is. It is like getting a burger made with Kobe beef and Wyke cheddar. The basic cheeseburger is good this is luxurious. Blanc Polychrome is that type of Mediterranean.
It opens with a gorgeously photorealistic lemon. It is joined straightaway by the grapefruit tinted green of rhubarb. For a few sparse moments, this opening is nose puckering tart. Then an ingredient typical to the style, fig leaves, adds a diffusing effect through the creamy green scent of it. This is what I am trying to describe as being luxurious. The lemon feels very real, but the rhubarb and fig leaves give it a sophisticated veneer. Jasmine and lavender come next in a bit more quantity than you might usually encounter while also keeping it light. There is a purr of indoles with the jasmine while the lavender adds a powdery shine to its floral partner. The next piece is a velvety moss which is an ideal way of imagining lounging underneath a lemon tree on a vast greensward. The base is Ambroxan and white musks. It could have ruined the entire perfume by becoming its typical strident screechy selves. Mme Salamagne uses a judicious amount such that it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of what she has built.
Blanc Polychrome has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I liked the idea of luxing up a Mediterranean. Turns out I enjoyed it even more in execution. If you want a luxurious Mediterranean, Blanc Polychrome is your perfume.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
One reason I am drawn to the Oriental style of perfumes is because the region fascinated me as a child. When I would see depictions of the nomads leading their goods-laden camels across the Sahara it felt romantic. The reality was probably much different. Brutally hot days moving recalcitrant animals across an unforgiving landscape. While acknowledging the probable reality I retain my fanciful thoughts of my youth. One part of my early learning was of the caravanserai. These were the waystations that a caravan would spend the night at. My imagination saw it as a crossroads of rogues complete with scimitars through sashes. A sandy version of pirates. I was reminded of this childish fantasy when I tried Atelier des Ors Rouge Saray.
Over the last five years creative director Jean-Philippe Clermont has assembled an impressive collection. He has worked exclusively with perfumer Marie Salamagne since beginning. It is another of those creative director-perfumer pairings which finds a harmony within the artistic vision of both people. It has been at its best within the lush parameters of the Oriental style of perfume. Rouge Saray adds to that.
M. Clermont wants this perfume to capture an imaginary night in a caravanserai. Imagining the different goods scent the air in equal amounts as the flowers in the trellises lining the central courtyard. It is a moment of stolen rest in between strenuous days.
This evening begins with those night-blooming flowers, jasmine. Mme Salamagne freshens them up a touch with heliotrope. Although that latter floral seems to be added for just the hint of almond it carries. It sets up a gourmand heart as an indigenous dessert is passed around. It is centered around the dried fruit quality of dates. It is spiced with cinnamon and sweetened with vanilla. My imagination sees a date infused custard with cinnamon dusted over the top. As you lean back to enjoy dessert the scent of the woods of the structure surround you as sandalwood and balsam provide a pillowing effect to rest until morning.
Rouge Saray has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I don’t know if the days of the caravanserai have become an anachronism. I do know the nights can be found in a bottle of Rouge Saray.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
As the Holidays approach every year it seems a perfume brand wants to release a collection of soliflores meant to be combined. Most of the time I find these collections lacking. They are generally a single accord without really being a perfume that develops over time. Occasionally it seems like the quality control is lacking enough that something with some complexity slips through. Chloe Herba Mimosa seems to be the one for the new Chloe collection.
Herba Mimosa is part of the L’Atelier des Fleurs collection. Nine fragrances designed to be a single accord which you can mix and match. The other ones are exactly what they say on the label; Cedrus, Lavanda, Neroli, Verbena, Rose Damascena, Jasminum Sambac, Magnolia Alba, and Hibiscus Abelmoschus. All eight of those are straight forward representations of what is on the bottle. I was hoping the Hibiscus Abelmoschus might stand out. Instead it was the one which had two ingredients, herbs and mimosa, in the name that stood apart.
Marie Salamagne (photo-Jerome Bonnet)
Herba Mimosa was designed by perfumer Marie Salamagne. What she did was to add a significant green thread to the powdery expansiveness of mimosa. It is more grassy than herbal. It comes closest to a field of mimosa on a grassy slope.
Herba Mimosa opens with that grassiness matched to the powdery puffy mimosa. It is a golden ball of fuzzy green. Mme Salamagne then also amplifies the powdery nature almost as if inflating the mimosa. It grows into a gigantic puffball which is tethered to a woody base. This is a delightful take on mimosa because it shifts and moves instead of being a linear accord.
Herba Mimosa has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am definitely not the target audience for these collections of accords. I find them a bit cynical in the way they ask the consumer to finish the job by buying two or three bottles to make their own concoction. Which is why the only one I enjoyed is the one which didn’t need another one to be interesting. If you’re looking for one from this collection Herba Mimosa is probably it.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Nordstrom.
One of the poodles at the Colognoisseur home office can usually be found every afternoon asleep in the sunbeam which comes through our glass door. Once we hit that part of the day I almost always know where he is. I envy him that opportunity to curl up in a bar of sunlight drifting on pleasant thoughts. Jo Malone Frangipani Flower gave me the opportunity to do that with a perfume.
I know this is becoming redundant, but I must call out creative director Celine Roux for everything she is doing at Jo Malone. She is starting to settle into a bit of a rhythm with the way releases have been coming. Her direction is also shaping things Jo Malone was known for with her own flair. Last year Tropical Cherimoya created a soliflore made up of layers of other florals. It was a fascinating recreation of a flower as perfume. A year later with Frangipani Flower the same thing is being done with a more known floral. To achieve the same effect Mme Roux asked for a headspace analysis of frangipani. Working with perfumer Marie Salamagne they took what was found to create another layered soliflore.
Marie Salamagne (Photo: Jerome Bonnet)
Frangipani Flower opens on a sunburst of lemon and jasmine. This is given a lighter feel as the lemon adds sparkle to an already expansive jasmine. Jasmine and frangipani are related so that the shift to a different kind of floral sweetness is done in tiny steps until you realize something is different. This is pushed to a more opaque feeling by using a set of ozonic and aquatic notes. There is an airiness throughout the first two-thirds of the development. It only becomes a tiny bit more grounded as sandalwood provides a woody tether in the base.
Frangipani Flower has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Frangipani Flower is equally as clever as Tropical Cherimoya in the way differing layers of accords form a soliflore. On the days I wore it I joined my poodle luxuriating in the sunbeam I had found.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.
I am one of those early adopter types. I owned one of the first iPods converting my music collection into digital. When I got the first iPad I embraced reading my books on the tablet. It changed things dramatically in my relationship to books. It removed the scent and the audible crack of the glue in the spine when opening it for the first time. I can honestly say I don’t miss it. Maison Margiela Replica: Whispers in the Library tries to convince me otherwise.
Whispers in the Library is the second release in 2019. Perfumer Marie Salamagne is asked to create a perfume which captures a library at Oxford in 1997. While I don’t miss the smell of the individual book. The collective smell of old pages on waxed wooden shelves in a contained space is a pleasant scent to contemplate. Mme Salamagne captures the dichotomy of the subtle spiciness along with the sweetness of old vellum and waxed shelves quite deftly.
Marie Salamagne (photo: Jerome Bonnet)
Mme Salamagne forms a paper accord which is the heart of Whispers in the Library. This has a sweet pulpiness which verges on gourmand-like. A swirl of black pepper cuts back that tendency. A very condensed cedar comes next which represents a bookshelf ably. Vanilla does sweeten things at the end to bring out that paper accord, so it doesn’t get lost in the wood.
Whispers in the Library has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Whispers in the Library could as easily be named Whispers in the Bakery. There is a gourmand streak which runs throughout it. Because the name told me to think library, I was pre-conditioned to go that way. What would surprise me is how much it came off like a sweet pastry when I let it surprise me. This is a good choice for those who are looking for a transparent gourmand. It is another in the Replica collection which does what it sets out to do.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
When a mass-market perfume hits the market it is generally following a current trend or two. As in any creative effort; following the trend has some difficulties. It leaves you open to second guessing about whether you made the correct choice. Sometimes it seems like a brand tries again. This seems like what I experienced when I tried Salvatore Ferragamo Amo Ferragamo Flowerful.
From 2002-2008 Salvatore Ferragamo fragrances weren’t going along with the latest trends they were helping set and refine what commercial perfume could be. I’m not sure what changed but over the past ten years they have become a perfume brand which found more success in going with the flow instead of surfing on top of it. Because of that earlier time period I always give the new releases a try. Last year they released Amo Ferragamo. That was more of the same as a gourmand-like floral was right on trend. It wasn’t anything I wanted to try anymore than on a strip and file it away.
As I received my sample of Amo Ferragamo Flowerful when I sprayed it on a strip, I was quite surprised. Unlike most flankers, especially first ones, this did not smell anything like the original. Perfumer Marie Salamagne, who did the original, completely changed the style; to fruity floral. Fruity floral is not a terribly original kind of fragrance. Mme Salamagne adds in a few interesting quirks which I liked.
The first change was to the Japanese citrus of yuzu, instead of bitter orange, along with blackcurrant buds. What caught my attention right away was Mme Salamagne’s use of an Amaro accord. Amaro is an herbal aperitif. Mme Salamagne uses the boozy herbalness as a unique contrast to the yuzu. This is what sold me on this perfume. This top accord is great. As it moves to a plum and jasmine heart accord the Amaro accord persists for a short time to provide a garden milieu undertone. The base is mixture of light synthetic woods, white musk, and vanilla for a transparently sweet woody foundation.
Amo Ferragamo Flowerful has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I was wearing Amo Ferragamo Flowerful I kept reflecting on the original. I am sure that it is not correct, but this new perfume felt like it was the other mod in final consideration to become the first Amo Ferragamo. Now a year later it gets a second chance. I applaud the brand for going in a different direction instead of just enhancing a facet of the original. Amo Ferragamo is a nice new spring fruity floral.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Salvatore Feragamo.
It is easy to commend the perfume brands which develop their aesthetic and stick to it. Those are the minority. The majority are made up of brands which never find their identity. This means a perfume with that name on the bottle comes to stand for nothing. Then there comes a moment when it seems like things start to coalesce from the chaos. It’s still a little early to be sure but Ermengilido Zegna Essenze Madras Cardamom might be a further signal this brand is finding its character.
Ermengilido Zegna got into the fragrance game in 2003. They were a trend follower in those early days looking for their own version of the popular styles of the time. After a few years of doing this Estee Lauder assigned one of their best creative directors Trudi Loren to revitalize the brand. It was better but still frustratingly unfocused. There were individual releases which were good without creating a Zegna style of fragrance. There was one collection which showed something approaching a unified perspective; the Essenze Collection.
Marie Salamagne (photo: Jerome Bonnet)
Launched in 2012 there were sporadic releases which all showed a similar style in highlighting a keynote without becoming soliflore-like. I’m not sure what the reasoning is but Ermengilido Zegna has decided to bring back five of the original Essenze releases along with one new one. That is Madras Cardamom.
Perfumer Marie Salamagne creates a sweet Oriental featuring cardamom which is where the perfume starts. The cardamom is a strong presence. So strong it took me some time to notice the other ingredient in the top accord. That ingredient was a cleverly placed coffee note. Don’t come to Madras Cardamom looking for a rich coffee presence. What Mme Salamagne does with it is to use it as a focusing element of the citrus parts of cardamom. Like pulling a thread I was enjoying the cardamom and started focusing on the citrus character only to find a roasted nuttiness at the end of that thread. It is very subtle which continues into the heart as cedar takes the lead with vetiver playing the same behind the scenes role. This is a green cedar which matches the cardamom. It is very clean. Mme Salamagne uses vanilla to sweeten the final stages.
Madras Cardamom has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
The work by Ms. Loren, over the last two years especially, maybe portends Ermengilido Zegna has finally found its way out of the woods. If that’s so Madras Cardamom might be remembered for being the fragrance which signaled that.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Ermengilido Zegna.