Back in 2007 I remember meeting Kilian Hennessy at a personal appearance. He had traveled to Boston to launch his new fragrance collection, By Kilian. In those days the price tag and presentation staked out new ground in the rapidly expanding niche perfume market. As he introduced us to his line, I kept thinking how good it was. These were perfumes which were taking the idea of artistic perfumery to new places. The brand has become one of the most recognizable luxury perfume brands in the world.
Out of that first collection one which has always been one of my favorites was A Taste of Heaven. Calice Becker spliced absinthe into a traditional fougere architecture. It was an abstraction of absinthe taken for a crew cut. Fourteen years later absinthe takes center stage again in By Kilian L’Heure Verte.
L’Heure Verte is the newest addition to “The Liquors” collection. So far, the previous releases have been focused on not creating an abstract of alcoholic ingredients. It is closer to assembling a realistic version. Working with perfumer Mathieu Nardin they create a flip side to that earlier fragrance.
I drink my fair share of absinthe. What I enjoy is the herbal licorice-like bite as it flows over my tongue. M. Nardin uses that as a place to begin. The wormwood accord to represent absinthe has a boozy quality without getting syrupy. It has its nose pointed towards those licorice aspects. He amplifies them by adding licorice. To those who think of this as Twizzlers it is the European version. What that means is an edgy herbal-based candy. It finds the absinthe and forms the fragrance version of the bite on my tongue. To make sure it doesn’t go all dark some violet leaf revives the green pieces of the top accord.
One of the most important ingredients to be fractionated is patchouli. It has provided perfumers a broader vision when they want to use it. M. Nardin chooses one which has the dirty earthy part accentuated. It made me think of clandestine evenings drinking absinthe to distraction. Vetiver acts as the green anchor to keep things from becoming too strident. A dry sandalwood provides the foundation for this bottle of absinthe to rest upon.
L’Heure Verte has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you also like A Taste of Heaven, L’Heure Verte adds a more focused experience than that. I will want both because sometimes the flip side is preferred.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Neiman-Marcus.
As we enter the figurative final weekend of summer represented by Labor Day in the US it feels melancholy. The summer has always represented a time of free-spirited exploration. More than any other season it carries a hint of laughter with it. The first verse of Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” captures the loss of it, “Nobody on the road/Nobody on the beach/I fell it in the air/The summer’s out of reach”. This is where perfume steps in to save the day with a fragrance which captures the summer in a bottle. Goutal Le Temps des Reves does this nicely.
Camille Goutal has done an admirable job transitioning the venerable line for a new generation. She made the conscious decision to make perfume to appeal to a twentysomething European woman. For the last four years she has been more successful than most in achieving this. I have found the releases since this change to be of the kind of style within this trend that appeals to me. Le Temps des Reves continues this.
Perfumers Mathieu Nardin and Julie Masse were asked to design a perfume which captured their memories of summers in the South of France. It is composed of classic Mediterranean ingredients with one clever twist.
The ingredient which they use as their keynote is orange blossom. Before it arrives the unique twist, I mention comes first. In the wine country of France there is a kind of green vegetal undergrowth called garrigue. The perfumers wanted to add an accord of that which is where this begins. Using bergamot and myrtle they form the kind of undergrowth you tramp through on the way to the orange grove. When you break through the scent of orange blossom is there to greet you. This is the joy of a sunny day as the mellow floral comes to greet you. Sandalwood represents the wood of the trees. A set of white musks then add the expansiveness to it all to find the transparency desired.
Le Temps des Reves has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is my favorite of the recent transparent Goutal creations. It has a sunny disposition to spare which just says summer to me. In a few weeks when it seems the summer’s out of reach Le Temps de Reves will let me dream it is still here.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I get all kinds of PR material surrounding every new release. I spend as much time reading between the lines as I do what is printed. Sometimes they are done with a self-deprecating humor that it makes me smile. When I received the latest text from the London-based brand Atkinsons they wrote they were celebrating over two centuries of “perfume snobbery”. This is done with that typical British charm like comedian Ricky Gervais delivers. You laugh but there is truth inherent within the joke. In celebration the new perfume, Atkinsons 44 Gerrard Street, is named after the location of their first shop back in 1799.
The press release goes on to say this will be a classic cologne structure. If there is something many self-proclaimed perfume snobs’ disdain it Is the lowly cologne. “It smells cheap”, is a regular commentary on the style. Atkinsons decided to take the opposite tack. Collaborating with perfumer Mathieu Nardin they asked him to use the exquisite Mane Jungle Essence ingredients in composing 44 Gerard Street. The snobs may have other issues but with these ingredients in use they won’t be calling it cheap.
As I say often the recipe is simple; citrus-herb-floral-woods. If you’re going to go for a new twist it can’t just be top shelf ingredients it also has to be something slightly different than the traditional. M. Nardin deploys his Jungle Essence ingredients to impressive effect. There is a depth which sets this apart.
The opening lays this out. Using green lemon as the citrus piece this is not the sunbeam version of the citrus it carries an unripe vegetal aspect. This leads into the keynote of the early going eucalyptus. This is a beautiful version of this ingredient. It is leafy, slightly woody, and mentholated. That first quality meshes with the green lemon ideally. If that isn’t enough energy for you it becomes supercharged with ginger. This is the turbocharged version of cologne. For the floral part jasmine takes the wheel with a similar energy. Through to this point this is as advertised. It was slightly disappointing to have the base be the same synthetic woods of Orcanox which have become so ubiquitous. The thrill ride ends on a banal note.
44 Gerrard Street has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
It seems likely the synthetic wood was added to ameliorate the other criticism of cologne, “It doesn’t last”. I wish they had the courage to overlook that criticism because the rest of the perfume puts to bed the cheapness debate. I think this does succeed at being a cologne for perfume snobs.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
One of the very first perfume styles, cologne, was inspired by one man’s walk in the Alps near his home. It is the essence of perfumery to capture the smells of the great outdoors in a liquid form. It is one of the reasons cologne is one of my favorite styles. There is an inherent openness to those who honor the original form. Of course we don’t typically walk in the Alps anymore, we drive. Bastide 1958 captures the scent of driving around in a convertible through Provence.
Frederic and Shirin Fekkai
Bastide is the brand overseen and creatively directed by couple Shirin and Frederic Fekkai. They have assembled a great collection of perfumes inspired by their home in Aix-en-Provence. In 1958 this is the memory of M. Fekkai growing up here. He and his friends would take his father’s convertible, radio on loud, through the fields and hills. This is what an Alpine walk looks like in the 20th century. Working with perfumer Mathieu Nardin they create a classic cologne structure infused with the summer scents of Provence.
The structure of cologne is simple citrus, herbs, flowers. 1958 hews to that recipe. It opens on a brilliantly sunny citrus accord of petitgrain. I think the focused nature of petitgrain is the ideal choice to represent the late summer sun above a cruising convertible. The herbs chosen are clary sage and rosemary. They set up a green duet which is supported by an herbal lavender. To complete the cologne triad orange blossom appears. At this point it is a perfect classic cologne composition. M. Nardin has one extra twist to add, a light skin musk. This is the scent of tanned skin with a sheen of moisture. It inserts itself into the cologne providing a hint of carefree days of youth in the final days of the summer.
1958 has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’m not sure why the brand shies away from calling 1958 a cologne. In every way that matters it is; which is a great thing. I really wished they has added a subtitle to 1958. If they had, Cologne de Provence would be perfect.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bastide.
There are some fragrances which grab me just because of their name. Miller Harris Violet Ida is one of those. It was released in the spring in England and it took me a few months to get a sample sent to me. One of the reasons the name appealed to me was it was based on a character from a classic mystery, Graham Greene’s “Brighton Rock”. Ida Arnold is the ostensible detective who resolves the central plot in the book. She is the only “good” person in the novel. She also wears violets in her hair. When I heard this was the inspiration and based on the name, I wanted to try this badly because I was expecting a violet perfume. When I received my sample with the ingredient list that wasn’t what was in the bottle. It was so different that I put off really trying it. Then the “good” angel, or Ida, on my shoulder told me to give it another try minus the unrealistic expectations. This time I found a powdery iris fragrance that will be great as the weather gets cooler.
Velvet Ida is composed by perfumer Mathieu Nardin. This is a perfume which celebrates the powdery nature of orris. I mean really celebrates it. If you like powdery iris fragrances this is one for you. I prefer my iris rooty over powdery. What turned me around on Violet Ida is M. Nardin gave me just enough root before going all in on the powder.
That bit of rootiness comes with the presence of carrot seed in the top notes. It pulls out the rooty, slightly bread-like quality, of orris; for a short period of time. Like snowfall, grains of iris powder begin to fall almost immediately subsuming everything else. Eventually it is a giant powder drift of iris. It is warmed in the base with some amber and vanilla but only slightly. Once the powder takes hold it doesn’t let up.
Violet Ida has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you are excited about the potential of the name as a fragrance this is not the perfume you’re looking for. If you love powdery iris perfumes and can’t get enough this might be the perfume you’ve been waiting for.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Miller Harris.
Over the last two years I have been impressed with the number of new brands who seem to have the motto “keep it simple, keep it good”. Current market trends seem to match this. The list of brands doing this has kept expanding because there is an audience. I can add one more to that list; Kierin NYC.
Mona Maine de Biran
Kierin NYC was founded last year by husband and wife Mona and Didier Maine de Biran. They wanted their brand to capture the vitality of living in New York City. They mention a fondness for the street art of the city but that doesn’t make it through to the perfume. The bottles on the other hand are decorated with that street art. What they do get from the perfume are solid simple constructs. They collaborate with perfumer Mathieu Nardin who has had a touch with this style of perfume making especially recently.
I like all four of the debut collection but as usual there were two which I liked most; Santal Sky and Sunday Brunch.
Santal Sky was inspired by an afternoon in Central Park as you walk through the incongruity of this greenspace in the middle of the metropolis. M. Nardin interprets this with a keynote of sandalwood which he cleverly surrounds with three supporting notes to bring the most out of it. The first ingredient is saffron which provides a hazy glow to the sandalwood. Cardamom breezes across the combination like a wind from the trees. The final ingredient is a green vetiver tuned more to its grassier facets. If you enjoy sandalwood focused perfumes this is one you should try.
Sunday Brunch is the one of the debut collection which most closely reminded me of my days in NYC. I spent a lot of Sunday afternoons recovering from the night before at a table with mimosas and Earl Grey tea to help. M. Nardin finds that mixture of citrus and tea to still be the same. It opens with a sparkling citrus accord that mimics the effervescence of the champagne underneath. The Earl Grey tea accord matches ideally with that. Then a lovely lilting jasmine wends its way through the beverage collection tying it all together. Sunday Brunch is going to be a great summer perfume even if it isn’t Sunday.
Santal Sky and Sunday Brunch had 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
The Maine de Birans have done an excellent job at defining their brand with this debut collection. If you are also looking for simple and good Kierin NYC should be on your list of new perfume to try.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Kierin NYC.
I’ve noticed a pleasing trend over the last year or two. For so long there were new brands who wanted to test the limits of how luxury-minded they could be. Often with a matching price tag. There were times where it seemed there was an arms race to see who could put the most opulent perfume in an equally extravagant bottle. There were brands who held that perspective honestly. Those are the brands which are still around because there was heart over cynicism. I have no problem with that kind of perfume. My only concern is it puts up a barrier to being able to experience some of the best perfume. The trend which I am enjoying is the opposite of this.
Frederic and Shirin Fekkai
It seems like since 2017 there have been several brands which have begun not by trying to find the high-end of the market. Instead they are trying to find the balance between creativity and budget at the more affordable end. They offer their perfumes in smaller rollerball sizes to allow for more sampling of the line. The packaging is also kept simple; you’ll find that budget inside the bottle. The final ingredient it to work with perfumers who are known for some of the best-known niche perfumes while giving them leeway to create.
An example of this kind of perfumery comes from husband-and-wife Shirin and Frederic Fekkai and their brand Bastide. Started in 2017 they wanted to capture the scents of Aix-en-Provence as perfumes. I discovered them a little over a year ago and have enjoyed the perfumes they have produced. The fifth perfume, Bastide Verveine du Sud, continues what has worked so far.
Perfumer Mathieu Nardin has been behind all the Bastide releases. In the first three releases I thought I detected a kind of sunny aesthetic forming. Last year’s Figure Amour was more grounded confounding my earlier thoughts. Verveine du Sud is also working in a similar direction.
The brief is to capture the scent of midsummer’s twilight in Provence. Once the sun has set in summertime there is coolness to the air which allows for the flowers and fruit to peek out from behind the heat and humidity. That is what appears in Verveine du Sud.
A really refreshing combination of grapefruit, lemon, and mint form the top accord. The mint is used to evoke that chill in the air just after the sun has disappeared for the night. It lifts the citrus with a coolness. Verbena matches its lemon-tinted green with the citrus while peony picks up on the mint adding in a cool and fresh floral. A swirl of white musks add an expansive quality to everything. The base rests on a warm mixture of amber and light woods as a metaphorical fire pit to warm your hands.
Verveine du Sud has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Bastide has now become another of these new brands looking to make perfume for a wider audience. Verveine du Sud shows there is still more to come from M. and Mme Fekkai as they translate Provence into perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bastide.
One of the classic perfume styles is the “lipstick rose”. In the earliest incarnations it was meant to capture the smell of a lady’s cosmetic bag. During that time period it was Coty red lipstick which was the most popular. It was known for adding some iris to it to give it a distinctive smell. Anyone who grew up in the latter half of the 20th century has a female relative who owned a cosmetic bag which smelled of iris, rose, and leather. It fell out of favor as we crossed into the new century. Mainly because that accord had the pejorative “old lady perfume” attached to it. It didn’t entirely disappear, but it diminished in presence. The pairing is so good I was wondering how long the style would have to live in perfume purgatory before making a return. Over the past year there have been a few which have made the effort. Perhaps the best is Goutal Etoile d’Une Nuit.
Ever since 2016 Camille Goutal has made the business decision to make new perfumes in the transparent style seemingly desired by the younger generation. It has created some new collections within the Goutal brand. Oiseaux de Nuit has been one of the earliest. This was a collection on which Mme Goutal has exclusively collaborated with perfumer Mathieu Nardin. The concept is to appeal to twentysomething Parisiennes. The two previous releases, Tenue de Soiree and Nuit de Confidences, have chosen crowd-pleasing themes with clever twists over an opaque scent. While lipstick rose was crowd-pleasing a couple decades ago would Etoile d’Une Nuit find its way to a new generation?
Mme Goutal and M. Nardin have now formed a good working relationship where they understand the kind of fragrance they want to create. Etoile d’Une Nuit shows their improvement over time. Even with a construct as simple as this one is.
The difference to the old style of lipstick rose is evident from the first moments. The iris here is a shimmering powder instead of a concentrated lacquer. It adds a veil for the equally transparent rose to add another layer underneath. This is beautifully realized as it stays lilting and not heavy. Then the base of a leather accord infused with raspberry provides the finish. Neither of those notes add to the heaviness they jut arise and mesh with the rose and iris. I found the raspberry had an interesting grounding effect on the iris and rose. It keeps them tethered to the ground so that they don’t just dissipate away.
Etoile d’Une Nuit has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am interested to see how Etoile d’Une Nuit will be received. I believe Mme Goutal and M. Nardin did a great job of updating the venerable lipstick rose by making it lipstick lite.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Neiman-Marcus.
I talk a lot about the early brands which really cemented my love of niche perfumery. Because they were my entry into the world of perfume which has become such a large part of my life. Most of those brands have had their trials and tribulations which I chronicle. The ones which I feel badly about are those which never seem to find their place. Miller Harris is one of those brands. Early in my exploration of niche brands I found the perfumes being produced by owner perfumer Lyn Harris to be some of my favorites only to disappear by 2011. Like a difficult to start gas lawnmower I watch as they try to get this hard to catch engine in gear. A year ago, I began to have hope something might change.
The reason was the hiring of Sarah Rotherham as Chief Executive. Ms. Rotherham has been one of those who joins a fragrance brand shaking it out of its rut. The first three releases of her tenure have just arrived; the Miller Harris Forage collection.
Her stamp is immediately apparent as a collection named Forage conjures up the country to me. To Ms. Rotherham it is finding the country within the urban landscape. It was a mixed bag for me. Hidden on the Rooftops, by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, is a lightly honeyed floral. Lost in the City, by perfumer Mathieu Nardin, had an interesting concept of green growing through cracks in the concrete jungle. The green is all here; the concrete accord is not. The last one, Wander Through the Parks also by M. Nardin, captured the theme in the way I desired.
Wander Through the Parks is the kind of summery perfume which captures the time when everything is at full growth in the parks. Which means it is great foraging. In England it is said stinging nettles are also rampant. Making foraging a bit of a semi-hazardous effort. M. Nardin captures this all in a strongly green perfume.
Wander Through the Woods opens with a bit of citrus representing the sunlight through the tree canopy. The other ingredient in the top is a good amount of blackcurrant bud. M. Nardin uses enough to bring out the sappy quality of this ingredient when used at higher concentration. It’s a tricky balance and M. Nardin carefully counterbalances it with galbanum and the nettle flower. This results in a spiky green accord which is fitting based on the nettle inspiration. Violet leaf forms a bridge from that green accord to the patchouli base with some musk.
Wander Through the Parks has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
While it was only Wander Through the Parks which caught my attention in this new collection I did see the glimmers of a hopeful new future at Miller Harris. Perhaps Ms. Rotherham will remind me why I fell in love with the brand in the first place..
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Miller Harris.
There has been a quiet success story taking place at the mall. The brand is called Commodity. It started when Ash Huzenlaub and Konstantin Glasmacher decided they wanted to create a fragrance line which could stand on its own without needing all the PR trappings to find its audience. One thing they did very differently was they realized they were entrepreneurs not creative directors leading to a bold decision for a mainstream perfume; we’ll leave the creativity up to the perfumers we hire. They gave the perfumers a budget along with an ideal to keep it minimalistic; then turned them loose. It has formed a collection where the perfumers are able to push at certain mainstream tropes. One of the recent successes Is Commodity Nectar.
The perfumer chosen for Nectar is Mathieu Nardin. M. Nardin has shown a deft touch when given latitude to explore a specific keynote. For Nectar that focal point is neroli. Neroli has an inherent scent profile of green tinted floral citrus. It is why it has been a versatile complement throughout the history of perfumery. In the past few years neroli has been stepping into the spotlight as perfumers have been using it more often as a keynote.
Nectar opens with a zippy trio of citrus; pomelo, tangerine, and bergamot. It produces a tart, pulpy top accord. It is a bit of summer sunshine right from the start. The neroli begins to take charge soon after. M. Nardin uses a decent concentration of it which allows for all the multi-faceted appeal to be displayed. To accentuate the floral, honeysuckle provides the support. For the green M. Nardin first uses the green woodiness of cedar to pick the thread out, then with vetiver develop it into something distinct down into the base. He finally swathes it in a swirl of white musks providing lift to the overall effect.
Nectar has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As the official start of summer is rapidly approaching Nectar is the kind of perfume which could live at the beach. It provides a genial fragrant companion which shares all the fun and sun of the season.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Comodity.