I am not sure what has caused this coincidence within the perfumed universe but 2019 has seen several good new Mediterranean style fragrances. It has always been one of my favorite summer types of perfume to wear in the heat. It has as simple an architecture as classic cologne with many of the same simple pleasures when done well. The latest is Maison Lancome Figues & Agrumes.
Maison Lancome has been a collection which celebrates those simple pleasures of a couple well-chosen keynotes interacting in harmony. I have enjoyed all the releases since this collection started in 2016. I don’t think there is a poor perfume in the entire fifteen bottle collection. This isn’t where I turn for deep kaleidoscopic development. It is where I turn when I want to smell good.
Figues & Agrumes fits in with its collection mates. As advertised, it is a fig and citrus scent composed by perfumers Alex Lee and Patricia Choux. It is a time-tested orange, fig, and jasmine Mediterranean construct. The perfumers do have a couple tiny frills up their sleeves, but this is a perfume predominantly about those three notes I mentioned.
Figues and Agrumes opens with the juicy citrus of mandarin. One of those frills I mentioned is the use of the sticky green of blackcurrant buds to provide some texture. It keeps it from being just orange. Orange blossom begins the floral connection to the jasmine sambac in the heart. It forms a summer floral water type of accord with the mandarin. The creamy fig inserts itself here providing a bridge down to the woods in the base. In this case a clean cedar leavened by some white musks and made a bit less austere with tonka.
Figues & Agrumes has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’m not sure how many Mediterranean style perfumes are too many to own. I do know I’m starting to test where that limit might be. I will be adding Figues & Agrumes because I still have room for one more good Mediterranean.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Saks.
Back in 2003 there were a great number of people looking to find a way to catch a ride on the rising fragrance tide. One opportunity was for independent brands to provide alternatives to the bigger brands. Randi Shinder was one of those who took the chance on marketing her perfume which evoked the smell of being freshly showered called Clean. Clean was a big success story eventually being picked up by Sephora. Over the next twelve years the brand would make many, many variations on fragrances which matched the name on the bottle. These were perfumes for people who wanted fragrance on the down low; unobtrusive and unchallenging. Then in 2015 Ms. Shinder decided she wanted to try something different and the Clean Reserve collection was born. Over that first year there were nine Clean Reserve releases and I could feel the creative team looking to diverge from the long-time Clean fragrance formula. There seemed to me to be a hesitation to really embrace the change. Of those 2015 releases, there was always a part of the development where it would touch base with the brand DNA. There was one, Smoked Vetiver, where it tried with a very warm base of myrrh, vetiver, and amber that came close but the early moments were crisp citrus and cotton accords. At the end of 2016 two more were added to the Clean Reserve line and this time Sel Santal managed to finally break away.
One thing about the Clean Reserve collection is they are working with some excellent perfumers. For Sel Santal, Patricia Choux was the perfumer. Mme Choux was very familiar with the brand having made three previous Clean fragrances. Sel Santal is the most different perfume that has ever had Clean on the bottle. It is a gourmand heart over an Oriental base. On the bottle it calls itself a “Green Oriental”. Not sure where the green comes from because it isn’t particularly green.
Sel Santal opens on a rich nutmeg paired with mandarin leaves. The latter is the only green in the entire perfume and it is more used as a contrast to the nutmeg than a primary focal point. The heart of Sel Santal is where this gets different as hazelnut and fig combine into a ripe fig coated in Nutella. A sugared violet along with iris provide lovely floral shading. The one thing which is true to the Clean brand is even though this might sound heavy Mme Choux keeps it much lighter than that set of notes might sound like. This goes to a sandalwood base where amber, styrax, and musk complete the Oriental base accord.
Sel Santal has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
There is a place for traditionally heavy genres to be made lighter, less intrusive. In other words if Clean Reserve can Clean them up there is the early building blocks of a collection which can fill a spot in the fragrance counter spectrum. Sel Santal is a great start towards that.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Sephora.
Perfume is a timeline of unique materials being used. Many of the trends within perfumery start with the introduction of a new tool for the perfumer to use. Easily one of the most influential of these since 2000 is Iso E Super. Iso E Super is actually a mixture of three closely related molecules called isomers. Depending on the concentration of the isomers the overall scent profile can be tweaked. As a result each aromachemical producer has their own version. For Takasago theirs is called Orbitone and it was the starting point for one of the inaugural new releases for the brand Nomenclature called orb_ital.
Orbitone provides a slightly more floral aspect along with the transparent dry woodiness. Perfumer Patricia Choux, working with creative directors Karl Bradl and Carlos Quintero, would take that nature and pair it with another Takasago ingredient Hindinol. Hindinol provides a sandalwood with the creamier attributes enhanced. Mme Choux makes a few smart choices on what to use which complements, and contrasts, each of the synthetics on display.
For the Orbitone Mme Choux brings out black pepper and it shows that at least in Orbitone the more mineralic aspect of this aromachemical family has been tamped down a bit. By using pepper to bring it back to life it sets the stage for violet and rhubarb to provide an appropriate vegetal floral contrast. The sharp green of the rhubarb and the silvery floralcy of violet almost set the Orbitone apart as something not natural. The Hindinol comes in about this point and it is like a fractionation of sandalwood as it carries most of the creamy rich qualities of sandalwood. The pepper now acts as the contrast with its nose-tickling nature. The complement is a cool resinous olibanum providing a very nice partner for the Hindinol.
Orb_ital has >24 hour longevity as the Orbitone and Hindinol will still be present after a long night’s sleep. The sillage is deceptive as these large molecules sometime seem to be close to the skin on the wearer but are more projecting than you think.
Orb_ital is a really beautifully interpretation of a pair of modern synthetic woody notes. Mme Choux has combined them in such a way that it is easy to understand their popularity. If you have love Iso E Super fragrances orb_ital provides a nice new alternative. If you are anosmic to Iso E Super or are one of those who find it unpleasant then this is a perfume to avoid. I like orb_ital quite a bit because I feel Mme Choux has given a well-known molecule a makeover for the better.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Nomenclature.