Sandalwood is one of the more common ingredients in perfumery. Along with cedar it could be called the “safe wood”. The one that gets used because it is so likeable. I also think it gets used because sandalwood has multiple scent profiles to provide to the woody part of a fragrance. One type of sandalwood I enjoy is a creamier version. I like it because it is easy-going while providing a comforting scent to me. Van Cleef & Arpels Santal Blanc is a perfume designed around that.
Santal Blanc is part of the Collection Extraordinaire collection. This time perfumer Michel Almairac’s brief was in the name, white sandalwood. M. Almairac interpreted that in two ways. One is to amplify the creamy parts of sandalwood. Second it is to use a set of white musks to wrap it in crisp linen. It creates a compellingly simple woody perfume.
M. Almairac begins with fig. This is called “fig milk” in the ingredient list but fig on its own has a milky nature without creating something. That is the kind of fig M. Almairac uses here. It is joined straightaway by the sandalwood. Together this creates an opulently creamy sandalwood. A lot of times sandalwood can be dry. To prevent this from happening M. Almairac sweetens the woody accord with tonka bean. It adds a lovely roundness to the central accord. The base accord is something M. Almairac has become quite good at; a layering of white musks into a plush fabric-like accord. It all comes together in a precisely realized white accord.
Santal Blanc has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Santal Blanc fits in with the rest of the Collection Extraordinaire collection of luxurious versions of well-known perfume ingredients. In this case Santal Blanc felt less like “fig milk” and more like milk of sandalwood.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Neiman Marcus.
I would certainly plead guilty to the charge of taking perfume seriously. The defining question is whether I take it too seriously. I hope not, but a recent experience gave me pause. As readers know the whole transparency to the point that it seems like it doesn’t want to be perfume irritates me. When I received the three fragrances which make up the Azzaro Time to Shine collection I expected to feel the same. To the point that I sort of got them out of the way the night they arrived at Colognoisseur HQ. I was more interested in other things in the mail that day. As happens occasionally, one of those strips I want to ignore finds its way back to my nose. What really surprised me was it was these Azzaro ones. They are little more than single accords but every one of them caught my attention. The Time to Shine collection consists of Fun, Sea, and Shine. They are described as “feel-good” fragrances and I must admit that in the right circumstances they were.
Fun is composed by perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto. It is an off-kilter citrus accord where blood orange and rhubarb form a tart vegetal citric duet which has akigalawood providing a subtly spicy foundation.
Sea is composed by Michel Almairac. It is a clever transparent take on a classic aquatic accord. Orange infuses the set of marine/ozonic ingredients with the melon quality of Calone pushed forward to make it more fruity than citrus. Regular patchouli provides the foundation here.
Shine is composed by Sidonie Lancesseur. It represents the sand of the beach with a mineralic accord. It reminded me of the scent of the sand when the sun is at its zenith. Ambroxan, used judiciously, provides a heat mirage effect off of the sand accord.
All three have 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I was testing these while we had our first concerted heat wave and they were “feel-good” companions. They provided just the right amount of fragrance in the humidity that they were welcome. As I mentioned in the opening these are little more than single accords. Maybe there are circumstances when good perfumers can please me with just that. Making me look myself in the mirror and ask, “Why so serious?”
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Azzaro.
It wasn’t that long ago that a minimalist perfume was perceived as flawed. They were considered cheap. Over the last twenty years that changed mainly because of a group of perfumers who knew how to get the most out of a few ingredients. What they produced were perfumes which found hidden accords within the overlaps. They displayed a precision of balance to find just the right amount of each ingredient. I’ve remarked in the past that this might be the most difficult type of construction to pull off. One poorly chosen ingredient or too much of one at the expense of others and it all falls apart. When a perfumer who has shown the ability to achieve this not so simple balance time and again, I look forward to their latest release; as I did with Parle Moi de Parfum Gardens of India 79.
Parle Moi de Parfum is the brand begun by perfume Michel Almairac in 2016. The entire ethos of the collection is simple minimalism. I have enjoyed the entire line so far because M. Almairac has lived up to that standard beautifully. With Gardens of India 79 he has chosen to take the three perfume ingredients emblematic of that country; jasmine, tuberose, and sandalwood. He joins them in a joyous celebration of all three.
Jasmine comes first. M. Almairac chooses an absolute of jasmine buds which impart a more innocent scent that jasmine can carry. Tuberose arrives in all its indolic glory. This is the kind of balance I speak of that is difficult to attain. The jasmine could easily be overwhelmed by the tuberose. M. Almairac uses the freshness of this version of jasmine as foil to the blowsy aspects of tuberose. It makes the familiar something to admire again. If this was a true perfume of India the sandalwood used would be Mysore. M. Almairac, or anyone else, must use the sustainable varieties. In this case the New Caledonian version. This sandalwood provides a creamy sweet woodiness which meshes perfectly with the jasmine and tuberose.
Gardens of India 79 has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Gardens of India 79 is a masterclass in balance and minimalism. At every turn these three Indian ingredients delighted me with their not so simple balance.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
One of the things I wonder about is when a perfumer moves to their own brand, do they ever revisit a previous perfume they made. They produce so many mods in pursuit of a final formula for a client is there one they liked more than what was marketed? The creative director is probably the final word but without a place to release it the discarded versions never see the light of day. One thing I know is perfumer Michel Almairac was the perfumer behind some of the greatest mainstream perfumes ever. The question is was there another version of one of those that could have also been as influential. The new release from his Parle Moi de Parfum brand, Papyrus Oud 71, might answer that.
If there was a particularly fertile creative partnership for M. Almairac it was with Tom Ford when he was overseeing the Gucci fragrances. Starting with Gucci Rush in 1999 they would make a memorable trilogy ending with Gucci pour Homme in 2003. That perfume has been discontinued for a few years but I, and many others, consider it to be one of the best. When I saw the name Papyrus Oud it was hard not to make a leap because papyrus was a keynote in that earlier fragrance. It turns out that it is less than that; which in the end makes it more.
The aesthetic M. Almairac has employed at his own brand is one of simple constructs which create their impact where they intersect. It has been one of the reasons I have enjoyed many of the releases, so far. Papyrus Oud is another piece of that continuum.
The papyrus appears right away, but rather quickly a delineated frankincense marries itself to it. This reminds me of ancient Egyptian scribes writing on papyrus scrolls as a stick of incense smolders nearby. This is a gorgeous duet. It is a dynamic match as the resinous incense slides across the lightly green papyrus. The oud appears as an accord. M. Almairac can tune that accord such that it provides a supporting role to the other two ingredients. This is finished off with a set of the more animalic musks.
Papyrus Oud 71 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is not Gucci pour Homme Take 2. The presence of the papyrus and incense are going to lead many to make that comparison. Papyrus Oud 71 is more emblematic of current minimalistic perfume trends, thankfully so. Was this an early mod that Mr. Ford rejected? I doubt we’ll get an answer to that question although I could see this being a very early mod showing how papyrus and frankincense work together. The bottom line is Papyrus Oud 71 stands on its own upon pillars of papyrus and frankincense.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Parle Moi de Parfum.
One of the enduring perfume challenges of recent years is how to make a chypre when one of the key ingredients is no longer allowed. That ingredient, oakmoss, has a kind of low calorie substitute where the problematic ingredient has been removed. That low-atranol oakmoss always feels lesser to me. Perfumers have found ways to use other ingredients to fill in the missing character. That success is a reason the chypre has continued to thrive.
There is also a more difficult path to take. Forget about that oakmoss altogether. Instead look for another set of ingredients which create the vibe of chypre without compromise. This is a less successful endeavor at completing this high degree of difficulty maneuver. It has still produced perfumes which I have liked even though I would not call them chypres. Parle Moi de Parfum Chypre Mojo falls in this category.
Parle Moi de Parfum is perfumer Michel Almairic’s own brand. It has extolled a minimalistic aesthetic using only a few ingredients. It is this which does not allow Chypre Mojo to fully come together into something I would classify as a chypre. What it does turn out to be is a fantastic summery perfume.
The reason this is summer in a bottle is the top note of mango. M. Almairac captures the juicy, fleshy nature of the fruit as you peel the skin off to get to the good stuff underneath. We had a mango tree in the yard in my boyhood home. There were summer days where my shirt was covered in the juice which ran off my chin onto my t-shirt. The mango M. Almairac uses is that scent. Next comes the two ingredients, carnation and patchouli, M. Almairac wants to use to create his chypre accord. The carnation provides the green. My issue is carnation doesn’t have enough green to it to really rise to chypre level. The patchouli comes closer. M. Almairac seems to be using one of the fractions which is very dry with a bitter edge to it. This feels like it has some of the pieces I would describe as chypre-like. Together they produce a really beautiful contrast to the mango just not the kind advertised on the bottle.
Chypre Mojo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you come here looking for a chypre I think you will not find that; unless your definition is different than mine. Which should not keep you from trying this. Chypre Mojo is a gorgeous tropical fruit perfume that is among my favorite of the year; it just needs to be renamed to Mango Magic.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
As a long-time gamer there is a concept in the roleplaying versions of gameplay called min/max. The idea is that when you design a character you put all your resources into enhancing a couple of specific traits; that’s the max. Which means many of the other traits are so low they become obvious weak spots; that’s the min. If you are part of a team that can cover for the min then your max can be extremely valuable allowing you to punch above your level. I was reminded of this gaming concept as it pertains to perfume with Parle Moi de Parfum Orris Tattoo.
Perfumer Michel Almairac founded his personal line in 2016 with a set of eight inaugural perfumes. The brand aesthetic is to keep to minimal ingredients while looking for maximum effect. Over the first eight this balance was achieved more often than it wasn’t. In Orris Tattoo it reaches an apotheosis.
If you are going to design perfume like this, you require a keynote which is multi-faceted. In the case of Orris Tattoo that is already baked into the name. Orris has so many facets it takes some skill to design, so the different facets have some time in the spotlight. M. Almairac finds ways to max out his orris butter.
Orris Tattoo first displays its carroty style. In some uses orris butter has an earthier nature. In this perfume it comes off with a sweeter tint. I suspect some carrot seed in a tiny amount was added to pick this thread out in the early moments. It then transforms into one of my favorite incarnations of orris as a yeasty scent of rising dough arrives. This is a lovely example of how orris shifts. Again, I’m not sure what is used as a supporting note to enhance this, but something is there. I was sort of expecting powder to be next but got thrown a curveball as it instead tilts towards an astringent floral quality. Much less flamboyant than I expected but it falls right in line with what came before. This heads towards a nutty final phase bolstered by a tiny amount of a synthetic woody ingredient.
Orris Tattoo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Orris Tatto is an excellent iris perfume. If you like the note this is one worth trying. If you are put off by powdery iris I would also think you might want to try this, too. By using several min ingredients M. Almairac produces a max orris.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
There is nothing so frustrating for me as a fragrance line which carries a designer name seeming disconnected from the brand aesthetic. I am aware that fragrance is often an undiscovered country for many brands when they decide to make the move to expand into it. I have observed that a creative director who really takes the time to understand the design concepts behind fragrance can then successfully translate them into liquid form. One of those is Tomas Maier of Bottega Veneta.
Hr. Maier would lead the expansion into perfume with the simply named Bottega Veneta in 2011. The seemingly facille decision to create a leather artisan shop’s accord with some flowers growing just outside the window captured the essence of hand-made luxury. It was one of the best perfumes of 2011 and the best designer release of that year. They have continued to release some excellent mainstream designer perfumes ever since. Bottega Veneta Eau de Velours is another one.
If the original was a floral leather chypre the new one is a fruity floral leather. Perfumer Michel Almairac collaborates with perfumer Mylene Alran in this evolution of the original which M. Almairac was responsible for. The original had a lovely lilting plum blossom amidst the leather and oak. For Eau de Velours the blossom has become the fruit and no longer lilts; it leads the way. There is also an intent to simplify some of the lines of the original to give more prominence to the fruit, the floral, and the leather.
That design intent is evident from the beginning as the ripe plum has moved to the front of the line. It has some support from bergamot and baie rose but this is a plum just as it ripens. It is not sugary sweet but that mix of restrained sweetness tempered by a bit of tart freshness. It is that latter effect the baie rose sharpens the focus upon. Then very deep Damascene rose pairs with the plum in a classic fruity floral accord. The inherent spiciness of this breed of rose is lovely contrast to the plum. It gets better as the leather accord begins to weave itself within it. It is like tendrils of smoke as the first few strands start to become detectable. Over time they eventually weave a complete leather enclosure around the fruity floral. This effect is ably abetted by patchouli slowly adding to the volume of the leather accord.
Eau de Velours has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I again give a hat tip to Hr. Maier for retaining his vision of how fragrance represents the brand. Eau de Velours shows authenticity might not be easy but it is worth the effort.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Botega Veneta.
Back at the beginning of the year I had a friend who was visiting Paris over the Holidays and I gave her a shopping list. One of her stops was the new line by perfumer Michel Almairac called Parle Moi de Parfum. These kinds of blind buys are difficult for me because I really only have two pieces of information; the name and the note list. I tend to defer to lists that have things I like, which was what I did here. Of those first three, Gimauve de Noel, Woody Perfecto and Tomboy Neroli; I could glean a little bit about the aesthetic M. Almairac was designing for his own line. Minimalist compositions with three or four distinct ingredients chosen for their ability to mesh together in accords of their own, Tomboy Neroli was the one I liked best of those first three which mixed a neroli isolate, orange blossom, and amber into a real tomboy of a perfume. I closed that first review wanting to try the other five in the debut collection. It has recently become available in the US and I ordered samples of the other five.
Once the samples arrived I learned why I am not smart enough to translate a name and a note list. When I was looking at my choices one of the first I crossed off the list was one called Milky Musk with a note list of, “milk notes”, sandalwood, and musk; I was not excited. I was expecting creamy woodiness with darker synthetic musk. Which shows I was wrong because it is entirely different than that. The milk notes turn out to be a synthetic fig aromachemical. The sandalwood is a version which does have enhanced sweetness and creamy qualities. The musk is a layering of different white musks to form a pillow soft accord which arises when you combine a number of them.
That opening surprised me as I suspect it is stemone mixed with one or two of the creamier lactones. Yes, it is milky but this is like cream skimmed off the top not a hint of sourness anywhere; which was what put me off based on the note list. The sandalwood is another aromachemical with the creaminess amped up. This blends with that fig accord like a long-lost family member. Then this almost olfactory illusion of combining a set of white musks into a soft foundation.
Milky Musk has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
As much as I enjoyed Tomboy Neroli, Milky Musk has become my favorite of the debut collection especially as the weather warms up.
Disclosure: This review based on samples I purchased.
One of the things about the Holidays is it is one of the times of the year when fragrance is placed front and center at points of sale. I was reminded of this when standing in line to check out. There always seemed to be a display of perfume minis near the cash register. I spent a lot of time looking at the selection of perfumes in those plastic packages. I thought about how I had written about almost all of them over the three years of doing Discount Diamonds. That time was well-spent because there was one which I haven’t written about and it is sort of the epitome of what this column is all about: Zino Davidoff.
In 1988 the Davidoff brand ensured its place in the perfume hierarchy with the release of Cool Water. Two years earlier Zino Davidoff was released and it is the polar opposite of Cool Water. Named after the man who steered the Davidoff tobacco enterprise from 1912 until his death in 1994. It isn’t clear why in 1980 they entered the luxury goods market from their position as tobacco purveyors. Fragrance was one of the earliest parts of that expansion.
Zino Davidoff was the second fragrance release between the now-discontinued Davidoff and Cool Water. I knew about the perfume before I knew about the man behind the name. What I find interesting is a brand which was founded in tobacco has never released a tobacco perfume. Zino Davidoff is a powerhouse Oriental. The perfume was composed by a trio of perfumers; Jean-Francois Latty, Michel Almairac, and Pierre Bourdon. It was kept simple but each phase is excellently done.
Zino Davidoff opens with a particularly prominent bergamot opposite lavender. This is a classic top accord and the lavender matches the bergamot precisely. The heart is rose made a shade greener by geranium followed by patchouli. Again, patchouli and rose is not an unheard-of combination but it is executed professionally here. It all comes to an end with sandalwood, amber, and musk.
Zino Davidoff has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Zino Davidoff is collection of accords you’ve smelled previously. What sets it apart is the perfumers mange to put them together in a way which makes it feel classically new. Even now thirty years on it doesn’t smell dated. You can find it as a mini for $5 which is a great deal. A full bottle is easily found for around $20. This is a fragrance which glitters as bright as any of the previous Discount Diamonds.
Disclosure: this review was based on a bottle I purchased.
I am always interested when one of the successful mainstream perfumers chooses to strike out on their own. It is not a slam dunk that someone who has success at the popular can make the transition to independent niche aesthetics. The new brand Parle Moi de Parfum is perfumer Michel Almairac’s branching out. He is doing it with his entire family on board. His sons Benjamin and Romain are providing creative direction. His wife Elisabeth designed the Paris boutique which is the only place they are being sold, now. It took me a while for the trans-Atlantic perfume underground railroad to get me some samples. I requested three of the eight perfumes which make up the inaugural collection; Guimauve de Noel, Woody Perfecto, and Tomboy Neroli.
The overriding design of each perfume seems to be based on simplicity. When I was looking over the note lists they name three ingredients and only three. It is a departure from M. Almairac’s mainstream work which can sometimes seem overcrowded. In these three perfumes I tried, there is a stripped down feel. M. Almiarac is working with some more precious ingredients and perhaps doesn’t feel like there needs to be a lot of things to get in the way. In the case of Guimauve de Noel I wanted something more than the orange blossom pastry that it is. It ended up feeling like a trifle while I wanted cake. Still what shone through was a spectacular orange blossom matched with an equally beautiful vanilla. I asked for Woody Perfecto because the idea of coffee, leather, and vetiver sounded perfecto; and it was. As with Guimauve de Noel there is a richness to the coffee and vetiver along with a strong leather accord. Of the three it was the most kinetic. The one which grabbed me was Tomboy Neroli.
I’m not sure if my newfound enjoyment from Neroli is because there has been a steady stream of excellent neroli perfumes over the past fifteen months but Tomboy Neroli is another to add to that list. M. Almairac uses one of the isolates of neroli that allows for the terpene-like quality to have a little more traction. It is those molecules which add the bite. The neroli in Tomboy Neroli stands its ground as if defying anyone to challenge it. A subtle use of orange blossom scrubs some of the dirt off the tomboy and gets her to braid her hair. A sublimely chosen amber warms things while also framing the neroli further giving it something to really interact with.
Tomboy Neroli has 10-12 hout longevity and moderate sillage.
I must commend the Les fils D’Almairac for providing the creative direction which convinced him simple was the correct choice for his own perfume line. Based on these three I will need to endeavor to get the other five. For the time being these will hold me over and Tomboy Neroli will lead the way.
Disclosure: These samples were obtained from the Paris Parle Moi de Parfum store.