Last year was the 25th anniversary for what I think of as one of the most influential perfume brands. It was a real festive end of 2019 which saw a half-dozen new perfumes. It was like a literal Holiday present for me. It has taken a year for the next new release, Comme des Garcons Rouge, to appear.
I don’t truly think there is a signature to the brand. There is a commitment to experimenting around the edges of current trends. That kind of innovative thinking appears in Rouge. Creative director Christian Astuguevieille collaborates with perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto on a perfume of earth and incense.
I am unsure why so many recent releases are using the color red as part of their inspiration. It is an odd coalescence in the fragosphere. For the Comme des Garcons version it is all about using beetroot.
This is only the second perfume I’ve tried with this in it. Beetroot adds an odd vegetal earthiness in both cases. It could verge a bit on unpleasant. In this case Mme Gracia-Cetto captures all of what I described plus the sweetness of the vegetable in a memorable way.
Rouge begins with that strong vegetation effect. Rapidly ginger and baie rose are employed as modifiers. These entice the sugar at the heart of the beet to the surface. It reminds me strongly of the crystallized sugar effect I encounter in violet in perfumery. This is like taking a shrubbery and adding some sugar to it. That might not sound pleasant, but it is a reminder of cleaning out the vegetable beds in these early days of October. It is a fascinating accord. As Rouge develops geranium adds a green floral quality as the bridge is made to a base of the patchouli analog Akigalawood. It is an interesting choice because this biological degradation of patchouli removes the earthiness. The beetroot more than makes up for it. It is like they are making a patchouli accord from the two. Now a beautifully serene incense begins to swirl in curls of smoke as if there are joss sticks in my empty vegetable bed. It increases in presence until it is the main scent over the latter phases.
Rouge has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Rouge is reminiscent of last year’s Copper in the way it changes shades throughout its development. It is one of the things I enjoy a lot in a perfume. It makes it a fantastic fall choice. I have enjoyed it immensely on these cool rainy days around my neck of the woods. If someone were to ask me for a shade of the titular color which describes this it would be easy, beet red.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Comme des Garcons.
1995’s Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male is one of the great perfumes because it redefined a style of fragrance for a generation. Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian composed a true classic. It has also been a veritable cash machine for the brand where they have released flanker after flanker. If you have ignored those because of their ubiquity that would be normal. Many of them were lesser than the original. The problem is within that steady flow of product they manage to sneak in something worthy of attention. That brings us to Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Le Parfum.
Quentin Bisch, Nathalie Gracia-Cetto, Louise Turner (l. to r.)
When you look at that name you might think this is just a parfum version of the original. You would be half right as it uses the keynotes of Le Male. Where it differs is the team of perfumers; Quentin Bisch, Nathalie Gracia-Cetto and Louise Turner add depth befitting a parfum with something different.
It opens with the same cardamom which is part of the best Le Male flankers. Then what the perfumers do is allow the complementary original note of artemisia more agency in the perfume. It elongates the cardamom with a slightly licorice bite. It gives it the same herbal green of the original without using mint. The heart is made up of lavender given the same additional depth using iris. Here it is to give an earthier floral to enhance the herbal part of the lavender. It gives top and heart accord a connection through that. The biggest difference comes with vanilla in the forefront of the base. There are still the woods from before, but they are given the warmth of vanilla to add to it.
Le Male Le Parfum has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I wore Le Male Le Parfum I kept thinking this was the dress-up version of Le Male. If the original was the carefree casual one. Le Parfum is the one gussied up for the evening. Maybe that is all that is needed for a successful flanker the opportunity to dress up a classic.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Jean Paul Gaultier.
Since my desk is currently covered in new perfume releases featuring rose it must be popular. I know I’m in the minority in wanting some other floral to represent spring. It is like grabbing onto a life preserver in a sea of rose essential oil if I get a sample of a new spring floral that isn’t rose. When they are good, I feel dutybound to point out these alternatives like Coach Dreams.
Coach is one of those mass-market brands which makes solid, usually unremarkable, fragrances. They have been making perfume since 2007. They tend to discontinue their older releases fairly brutally. Allowing them to remain on the shelves for a few years before moving on. Almost all of them are created via a committee of perfumers. I would love to observe this process. I try to imagine Nathalie Gracia-Cetto, Antoine Maisondieu, Shyamala Maisondieu, and Olivier Pescheux sitting in a board room discussing what goes into Coach Dreams. I wonder if they started designing this one with the premise of a different floral than rose for spring. It is what they ended up with.
Dramatic Re-Enactment of the Design Process for Coach Dreams
Coach Dreams opens with an interesting pairing of bitter orange and pear. This is a crisp slightly unripe pear matched to a tart orange. As a citrus top accord it carries a green freshness under the fruit which is nicely realized. Instead of rose the perfumers chose gardenia as the focal point floral. This is not that narcotic indolic heady gardenia. This is a version meant to appeal to a younger demographic who want their florals cleaner. This is a gardenia which is similar to the fresh debutante rose in almost every other spring floral out there. It is a nice version of gardenia where the greener aspects have the chance to find some space. It works especially well with the fruit from the top. A fresh green ingredient deepens the gardenia a touch. It is called “Joshua tree” in the ingredient list but it comes off as a dried herbal green not anything like a Joshua tree. It ends with the typical dried woodiness of Ambrox.
Dreams has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you are looking for an alternative to rose as a spring floral Coach Dreams asks, “How about some gardenia?” It is a good choice if that is what you are looking for.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Ulta.
On the rare occasion I am asked about the most influential perfume brand I have a definitive answer. The earliest niche perfume brands were founded in the 1970’s and 80’s. it is my belief it was twenty-five years ago when the fragrance brand which would come to define much of what niche means came into being; Comme des Garcons. From the very beginning creative director Christian Astuguevieille has influenced many of the larger trends by being one of the first to execute them. If I had to, I could learn all I needed to know about the last quarter century of fragrance from the Comme des Garcons collection alone. I was wondering if they were going to commemorate the length of this sustained excellence. Right at the end of the summer I learned there would be a set of new releases to mark the anniversary. The one which had me most interested were the three perfumes in the Series 10: Clash collection.
Starting in 2000 with Series 1 each set of perfumes have explored something specific. They have been among the most adventurous perfumes within the overall collection. For Series 10 M. Astuguevieille asked three perfumers to find beauty in the confrontation between two dissimilar ingredients. Each perfume displays why Comme des Garcons still pushes at the boundaries of perfume.
The first is Celluloid Galbanum by perfumer Domitille Bertier. Each of the Clash entries is meant to capture a collision of sorts. Celluloid Galbanum is that of technology and nature. Mme Bertier takes the sweet plasticky smell of cellophane and wraps the deep green of galbanum in it. Mme Bertier uses jasmine to modulate the sweetness of her celluloid accord while lemon adds a sharper edge to the galbanum. It forms an engineered green behind a barrier of plastic which is fascinating. It ends on a base of synthetic woods.
Chlorophyll Gardenia is the least confrontational of the three Clash perfume. Perfumer Caroline Dumur uses a set of green notes to coax out the green quality inherent within gardenia infusing the white flower with a verdant glow. The inquisition of the gardenia begins with its presence from the start. Mme Dumur threads galbanum, spearmint, the synthetic Cosmofruit, and baie rose through the creamy floral. As each of those ingredients come forward, they find a complement in the similar scent deep within gardenia. As they each add to it the gardenia begins to shade green before it glows in an almost neon abstraction. A set of white musks whisper through the glimmering flower.
My favorite of the three is Radish Vetiver by perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto. The reason I like this so much is it is what the Comme des Garcons Series perfumes have done so well over the years. They create a perfume around an unusual ingredient like radish. If you’ve ever sliced fresh radishes for a salad you will know what Mme Gracia-Cetto’s radish smells like it has an acerbic earthiness. She sets that against the grassy woodiness of vetiver. At first the softer quality of vetiver gently caresses the radish before the rootier nature finds a kindred spirit. Mme Gracia-Cetto cleverly uses the patchouli analog Akigalawood to provide an unusual piece of ground for these roots to find purchase in. The base is made woodier with guaiac adding to the Akigalawood.
All three Clash perfume have 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
For those who are less adventurous Chlorophyll Gardenia will be most to your liking. For the others who have followed where Comme des Garcons and M. Astuguevieille have led us for the past twenty-five years I suspect Celluloid Galbanum and/or Radish Vetiver will be part of your collection. I can’t wait for what comes next.
Disclosure: this review is based on samples supplied by Dover Street Market.
If you live in a big metropolis you treasure the greenspace carved out of the urban landscape. When you cross the boundary from concrete and steel to grass and trees it is a soothing feeling. It is a serene island within the big city. It is a place where nature has a tenuous ascendancy. For Comme des Garcons + Monocle Scent Four: Yoyogi they seek to capture one of those.
The collaboration between Comme des Garcons and Tyler Brule’s global media brand, Monocle, has been one of the best of all the perfume brand’s partnerships. Scent One: Hinoki released in 2008 is one of the best Comme des Garcons releases. Scent Two: Laurel and Scent Three: Sugi retained the high level of quality. It has been six years since Sugi was released and I had no idea a Scent Four was on its way until it landed on my desk.
For Scent Four: Yoyogi M. Brule and Comme des Garcons creative director Christian Astuguevieille ask perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto to interpret the scent of an early morning jog in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo Japan.
Yoyogi Park is in the Shibuya section of Tokyo. It is like Central Park in New York City in the way that it draws people of all kinds during the day. The one part of the day in an urban greenspace which is given over to the runners are the early morning hours. As they wend through the park with the dew damp upon the grounds and leaves it is probably the moment of every day where the scents of nature are the most apparent. This is what Mme Gracia-Cetto captures in Scent Four: Yoyogi.
Yoyogi opens on the scent of dewy grass. I think it is a mixture of the different hexenals along with a small amount of an aquatic ingredient. It comes together to form a wet grass accord which also carries a slight chill to go with it. Then it takes an unusual turn as Mme Gracia-Cetto uses wormwood next. Wormwood is the ingredient in absinthe liqueur and that is what I am reminded of as it rises out of the damp grass. It carries a sweet anise-like scent across the pedestrian green on top. I don’t run in the morning, but I do a lot of walking. On a dewy morning there is a sweetness in the air that is captured by this wormwood and grass pairing in Scent Fout Yoyogi. The wormwood turns less sweet allowing for the herbal licorice scent profile to take us back to a greener place. The base is all light woods with cypress the most prominent.
Scent Four: Yoyogi has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I wore this for my morning walk a couple days ago on the first slightly cool day we had. I was surprised to find how attuned I was to the natural sweetness that was there. It formed my thinking about how well Mme Gracia-Cetto captured the milieu. Scent Four: Yoyogi is another excellent perfume from the partnership formed eleven years ago. Take it out for a quick run in the greenspace in your mind.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Comme des Garcons.
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.
We are now at the point of the summer where my fragrance desires regress to simplicity. It is ironic as my mailbox fills up with new fall releases which are not simple. When I received my sample set of the debut collection of Essential Parfums I was happy to find a brand which embraces simplicity.
Essential Parfums is a new brand where the creative direction is given over to the perfumer partnered with. They are choosing well with whom they asked to deliver a perfume to make their first impression. The only “rule” they asked of the perfumer was to rely on sustainable ingredients. What has resulted is a nice coherent collection which focuses on that. The perfumes are simple constructs allowing for the keynotes to shine individually. The one which fit my summer need of a cool linen suit, in perfume form, was Orange X Santal.
Perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto states that she wanted to realize what is on the label; a cross of bitter orange and sustainable Australian Sandalwood. If it was just that it wouldn’t be so interesting but Mme Gracia-Cetto adds in a refreshing suite of three green ingredients to form a chypre-ish tonic.
It opens with the orange which early on isn’t as bitter as expected. It comes off sweeter in the first moments. That is remedied by adding in basil. The intense green of that ingredient teases out the bitterness of the orange. As it does that it overwrites the juicy quality with one of orange zest. Australian sandalwood comes next. This is a creamy smooth version of sandalwood which returns to a sweetly woody effect. Then as with the orange Mme Gracia-Cetto transforms that with cedar and oakmoss. The cedar is that fresh cut slightly mentholated version. The oakmoss is a bitingly green version. This adds a kind of green sappy quality to sandalwood as if it was harvested young and raw. The total effect of herbal orange crossed with sappy sandalwood is lovely.
Orange x Santal has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Essential Parfums is another new brand worth seeking out especially if you want something well-made around a few ingredients. If you look through this first collection and see a list of ingredients you enjoy I’ll bet the perfume does, as well. Orange X Santal is a good example of everything this brand is doing right at the start.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
I sometimes ascribe intent to something when it doesn’t exist. Which means I overlay something that was never meant to be by the brand or the creative team. Part of that is I like looking for patterns and when I think I find one I want to write about it. One which crops up from time to time is when a version of a perfume is released, and it is derided as being “too light” or “too strong”. What often comes next is something in-between those perceived extremes. It is easy to see Goldilocks saying that one is “just right”. As a brand Tom Ford Private Blend has certainly releases sets of similar perfumes which run the gamut from “too light” to “too strong” and a few releases in the middle.
Two years ago, the “too light” version of a suntan lotion style of perfume was released with Soleil Blanc. I enjoyed it for its almost extreme transparency. I am guessing I wasn’t joined by many. Six months later as part of the Tom Ford Signature collection I found Orchid Soleil to be the “too strong” version. It was stronger, and it had a deep gourmand base accord to boot. I’m not sure this was flying off the shelves either. Now Tom Ford Private Blend Eau de Soleil tries to satisfy Goldilocks.
What sets it apart is a generally brighter tone as perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto and Creative Director Karyn Khoury, who did Soleil Blanc, up the brightness. This is done by adding fresher alternatives to what came before which provides something more present without potentially overwhelming.
The freshening agent in the top accord is a set of citrus notes; cedrat, bitter orange, and petitgrain. It comes together like a focused beam of brightness as if you were focusing the sunlight through a magnifying glass. It becomes a bit fuzzier as cardamom and caraway provide some spicy underpinning. It is further ameliorated by the arrival of the floral heart still dominated by jasmine but in this formulation also matched by ylang-ylang. The latter ingredient provides a kind of unctuous floral effect which fits the whole suntan lotion vibe. What seals it into place is the coconut quality of Mme Gracia Cetto’s “Coco de Mer” accord. It is very reminiscent of many of the suntan lotions I smelled at the beach growing up in South Florida. It ends on a toasty accord of tonka and benzoin.
Eau de Soleil Blanc has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage. To give a reference if you thought Soleil Blanc was a skin scent and Orchid Soleil left a vapor trial this is exactly between those two.
I have liked all three of the Tom Ford interpretations of a suntan lotion style of perfume. If pressed to pick one I think the transparency of the original Soleil Blanc keeps me at arm’s length. The life of the party Orchid Soleil keeps me up too late. Like Goldilocks, Eau de Soleil blanc is “just right”.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I received from Tom Ford Beauty.
I’m starting this edition of Dead Letter Office a little bit differently. In the almost four years I’ve been writing on my own at Colognoisseur I am very happy that certain columns connect with specific readers. This usually leads to delightful conversations via e-mail or chat. One big fan of this column has decided to move beyond that. Over the past year I can count on seeing a chat pop-up the next morning after a Dead Letter Office piece. This reader has a crazy collection of discontinued fragrances. At the beginning of the summer I was asked how many more Dead Letter Offices I had in me. I responded that I was getting to the end of my list that I own. I was asked for my address and a few weeks later the most amazing surprise arrived; a box full of samples of discontinued gems. There was a little note which accompanied it, “this should keep you busy”. I’ve asked, I’ve pleaded, I’ve begged for the reader to allow me to name them. I feel like I should be able to call this the “Person’s Name Collection” when I write about it. For now, it will remain an anonymous random act of kindness.
When you get something like this there is a giddy moment of colognoisseur in the rare perfume store. I wanted to try everything. As the temperatures were cooling there was one which I had heard about which was purported to be a “perfect chocolate gourmand”. I felt like that was where I wanted to start, with Trussardi Python.
Trussardi is an Italian fashion design house which began by selling leather goods in 1911. Over the next seventy years the brand would expand into accessories of all kinds. In an interesting turnabout the fragrances which bore the brand name came before the clothes. In 1982 they would release their first branded fragrance; the women’s ready-to-wear collection would come a year later. The rest of the 1980’s would see a dramatic worldwide expansion for all things Trussardi.
As they reached the turn of the century they decided to jump on the fledgling gourmand perfume trend with Python. At this point in time Thierry Mugler Angel had spawned multiple follow-ons. To stand out perfumers Louise Turner and Nathalie Gracia-Cetto decide to create a photorealistic chocolate accord and serve it up on a sandalwood platter. It turns out to be all of that.
The perfumers raise the curtain with a raucous fanfare of orange, jasmine, and rose. It is loud and proud to be on your skin. Soon enough the chocolate comes forward as it seems to kick the florals to the curb while embracing the orange. The perfumers pull a neat effect by using plum to add depth to the chocolate. This then allows cardamom and nutmeg to gently spice the overall accord. The base is all sandalwood in overdose. It is sweet and creamy and kept there with a little vanilla.
Python has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
The chocolate in the heart of Python is not an abstraction in any way. The perfumers successfully present the smell of a fine chocolate bar. Evidently the abstract fireworks of Angel were preferred by the segment of consumers who wanted to buy a gourmand perfume. Which meant Python would join many other early gourmands in the Dead Letter Office.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by a reader.
Sometimes I get a second chance. Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male is one of those great perfumes of the 1990’s. It put Jean Paul Gaultier on the fragrance map. For twenty years, there has been a summer release and they have been near slavish retreads of Le Male. Which was why when I received last year’s version I put off giving it a try until months later as I was filling out my database. This was not an imitator of Le Male this was different. An Eau Fraiche with Popeye on the bottle. I was mentally kicking myself for not having written about it. It was a limited edition so I felt like I had missed my window of opportunity. Then my second chance came as the Eau Fraiche was re-released this year with Superman replacing Popeye on the bottle. This time I was not hesitating because Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Superman is a fantastic update which is going to be a great summer choice.
Perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto was asked to be the one to undertake this new interpretation. By choosing an Eau Fraiche Mme Gracia-Cetto had to use ingredients with impact. Subtlety is undetectable when the fragrance is at such low concentration. I don’t think subtle is an adjective that would be often used to describe Le Male. For Le Male Superman each ingredient is pieced together like a comic book gizmo which eventually saves the day. The only holdover notes from Le Male to Le Male Superman are mint and orange blossom in the early going. It eventually converges with a similar base accord but even that has recognizable differences.
Mme Gracia-Cetto wraps that mint in a swirl of aldehydes and ozonic notes. It is an uplifting accord with the mint grounding the less earthbound notes around it. The orange blossom leads into a heart dominated by sage. This is a place where keeping it lighter makes the overall effect better. This is sage and orange blossom as brought to you on a warm breeze. Never more powerful than a locomotive more like a scooter. That is not a criticism as it works very well especially for a perfume designed to be worn in the summer. In the base the mixture of woods and vanilla are still here from the original. The biggest difference is Mme Gracia-Cetto relies on Ambrox as the predominant source of woodiness. The vanilla and tonka bean are still there to make it close enough to the sweet woody foundation that defines Le Male.
Le Male Superman has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Just so people are aware last years’ Le Male Popeye and this year’s Le Male Superman are identical. There is no need to buy one if you have the other. If, like me, you missed Popeye then faster than a speeding bullet you should give Le Male Superman a try.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jean Paul Gaultier.