One of the things I’ve noticed over the years living in the northeastern quadrant of the US; summer comes in a day. Every year everything is cool mornings temperate afternoons. Then overnight humidity and heat takes hold for the next 100 days. When that happens there is one perfume ingredient which seems as if it was designed to be worn in the warmth, vetiver. There are lots of great vetiver perfumes out there. When I am asked to recommend a luxury vetiver my answer has been the same for a decade now, Chantecaille Vetyver.
Vetyver was one of a trio of fragrances released by Sylvie Chantecaille in 2010. They weren’t the first Chantecaille branded perfumes, but they are the beginning of the line that currently is available. All three are full throttle examples of their keynotes. patchouli in Kalimantan, gardenia in Petales and Vetyver wears its exuberance in its name. Pierre Negrin was the perfumer for all three. They rank among his best. Its one thing to go big. It is entirely another thing to make it compelling.
What makes vetiver so good for the summer is its dual nature of green grassiness and earthy woodiness. Depending on what you choose to surround it with one or the other of those faces takes the lead. M. Negrin uses a top accord to enhance the green and a base accord to find the woody depths.
That opening is built around grapefruit given some texture through nutmeg. The freshness finds a harmony with the greener pieces of vetiver. This is a luxurious tonic to begin the day. The citrus and the vetiver are like a crisp linen shirt. What makes me enjoy this perfume is the slow evolution over hours from that into a darker version. It occurs as sandalwood displaces the citrus. Once that happens the earthy piece of vetiver comes forward to meet it. This is the flip side of the first few hours. It has gone from crisp linen to sultry looks exchanged at twilight. This is one of the perfumes I own which really does change dramatically from the morning until the evening as if it has an internal sundial.
Vetyver has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you are looking to add something new to your vetiver fragrance shelf for this summer, you need to put Chantecaille Vetyver on your radar.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
There are certain perfumes where my inner Billy Idol sings to me “more, more, more”. They are full of ingredients that I think I would like to have more of. At this point I know it isn’t as easy as just putting more of everything into a bottle. Sometimes it dissolves into a fallen souffle as everything great about the original collapses under the weight. I was interested to see if Amouage Interlude 53 would hold up.
The new creative director at Amouage, Renaud Salmon made a really interesting decision at the beginning of his new job. Instead of immediately jumping in and designing new perfumes he chose to take one from his predecessor and create a couple of flankers. Out of everything that came before I do not know what made him choose Interlude Man as the place he would begin. Just over a year ago the first new release under his review was Interlude Man Black Iris. It was recognizably Interlude Man with iris skillfully woven into it. I thought it was a luxurious flanker that fans of the original would really enjoy.
At that time it wasn’t obvious if M. Salmon was going to strike out on his own or make flankers. It has turned out that he has his own vision which appeared at the end of last year and is coming this year with two new releases. I no longer have the concern about Amouage under his stewardship becoming a flanker operation.
Which makes me kind of sheepish to admit this second flanker really appealed to me. Perfumer Pierre Negrin who did the original and the flanker is also behind Interlude 53. The 53 represents 53% as in that’s the amount of perfume oil in the formula. That’s a whopping amount of perfume oil. My inner Billy Idol curls his lip in appreciation. I adored the original for its quirky development. Once things get more concentrated one of the biggest surprises was how that smoothed out the transitions.
It again opens with herbs as allspice and oregano form the top accord. In the original this was fresh and vegetal. In this deeper version it is denser leaving the freshness behind. It also shows some of the grace notes inherent in all the ingredients. The oregano and allspice show off subtle sweet nuances. The biggest change was in the heart of amber and frankincense. In the original it was cool and austere. At 53% it is diffuse and warm. It was so much fun switching arms back and forth to really experience this difference. The oud and sandalwood base are the piece where they are both identical although Interlude 53 does have more depth because of the strength.
Interlude 53 has 24-hour plus longevity and average sillage.
I enjoy this much more than the original because it is “more, more, more”. To be fair I still think this is for someone who enjoyed the original even though it is different. I’m not sure higher concentration will convert new admirers. If you are a fan of the original and Billy Idol whispers to you when you wear Interlude Man, then you should let yourself try Interlude 53…..with a Rebel Yell.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Amouage.
When flankers come out of what I consider the pillars of masculine marketed perfume I look closely. These can be signposts of how the mass-market brands view the current market. They count on the affection for the original to get a consumer to try a new version. This is the reason for the existence of flankers. This month I am going to look at the new flankers Ralph Lauren Polo Cologne Intense and Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb Nightvision EDP.
Ralph Lauren Polo Cologne Intense is the latest flanker to the masterpiece Polo released in 1978. The brand has not been shy about releasing flankers of this. There are years where there are multiples. The quantity makes it a hit-or-miss effort. Polo Cologne Intense is a hit.
Perfumers Carlos Benaim, who did the original and Pascal Gaurin take the strong herbal woody leather of the original and interpret in a lighter form. Even though it is labeled “cologne intense” this is a classic cologne construct using the ingredients from the original which fit the theme. What that means is a citrus top of grapefruit. It means an herbal piece of clary sage and thyme. It ends on the modern equivalent of woods ambroxan. This is a nice warm weather version of Polo without slavishly nodding to it.
Polo Cologne Intense has 12=14 hour longevity and average sillage.
While I know calling Polo a masterpiece finds wide agreement, I am not sure how many thinks 2012’s Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb is. I think it is the 21st century equivalent to Polo. The brand here has been much more judicious in releasing flankers. When they released the Eau de Toilette (EDT) version of Spicebomb Nightvision in 2019 I was disappointed. This was a lighter version, but it lost a lot of the DNA of the original. This recent Spicebomb Nightvision Eau de Parfum (EDP), by perfumers Pascal Gaurin and Nathalie Lorson finds the middle ground closer in style to the original.
Spicebomb Nightvision EDP retains the spicy core of the original as the hot pepper is part of that. In this case it is used to coalesce around grapefruit. The differences come in an herbal lavender meshing with all the spices and a mixture of balsamic notes in the base in place of the leather. This all adds up to a darker shaded version of the original which is a nice change of pace without straying too far astray.
Spicebomb Nightvision EDP has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.
Those who have followed my reviews over the years know I think most celebrity scents are cynical. They use the name of the person on the bottle while that person has no idea what is in the bottle. I’ve been told of many celebrities who don’t smell the perfume until their first publicity experience. It irritates me that a fan of the celebrity coughs up their money for a product which has nothing from the person they admire.
Those who have read my reviews over the years know I am not a fan of multi perfumer teams. It may not be true, but it always reeks to me of focus groups and compromises. That the perfumes designed by committee also seem to have no soul anecdotally proves my point.
To everything there is an exception. Sean John Unforgivable manages to prove both of my thoughts incorrect.
Unforgivable was released in 2006 as the first fragrance from Sean Combs aka P.Diddy’s Sean John clothing line. He certainly found a dream team of creative people to work on this. Evelyn Lauder and Karyn Khoury would be co-creative directors overseeing a team of four perfumers; David Apel, Aurelien Guichard, Pierre Negrin, and Caroline Sabas. There isn’t a name I just listed that I don’t admire the heck out of. I just carried my usual skepticism over too many perfumers at the organ serving too many managers. However it happened Unforgivable turned out way better that I thought it would.
It opens with a burst of citrus as lemon and grapefruit add a tart initial impression. A smart use of Calone takes the melon-like quality of it as a lighter fruitiness underneath along with its fresh sea spray scent. It shifts to a fougere-like heart of iris, lavender, and herbs. Clary sage is the most prominent but there are some other green herbal pieces here too. It ends with a light sandalwood focused base accord given some warmth through amber and tonka bean.
Unforgivable has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
When it comes to perfume by committee celebrity scents Unforgivable stands out as one of the best. It can be found for less than $20 at almost any discount fragrance seller.
Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle I purchased.
During the holiday season of 2006 a new perfume hit the shelves which had the perfume forums buzzing. It was the first time there would be a mass discussion of a mainstream fragrance targeted to women which appealed to a lot of men who smelled it. Even so recently the idea of a man wearing a woman’s perfume was worth discussion. The perfume which set this off was Tom Ford Black Orchid. The idea of unisex, or shared, styles was not really embraced. It put a mass-market brand in a bind, especially if you had something that would appeal to a fragrance lover not a gender. The original Black Orchid was that kind of perfume. It helped it was in a black bottle so a guy could keep it on his dresser. As he has done throughout his time overseeing fragrances Mr. Ford would expand the boundaries.
As much as I admire the original my favorite is the version released for the fall nine months later, Black Orchid Voile de Fleur. It has been discontinued for a long time, now. The only other flanker of Black Orchid was an Eau de Toilette release in 2015. In 2020 we have the latest Tom Ford Black Orchid Parfum.
The original perfumers David Apel and Pierre Negrin have been the noses behind all the Black Orchids. Karyn Khoury has been the creative director overseeing them. Each iteration has illuminated an aspect of the original. Black Orchisd Parfum the press release tells me is the original but more. While that is true there is a sensuality which runs throughout which is new. This version feels as if it is designed for after hours.
The signature keynote of Black Orchid is black truffle. This is a like a variant of patchouli carrying earthiness and gourmand-like qualities. In Black Orchid Parfum the perfumers pair it with a full-bodied ylang-ylang. It becomes deeper as plum picks up the truffle and the black orchid accord meshes with the ylang-ylang. What I am describing is a fruity floral on the surface. Except it is something much deeper than that as all the ingredients resonate in the bass section of the olfactory scale. There is depth which sems to know no end. It is taken another level down with patchouli and rum in the base. I never realized it, but Black Orchid was begging for a boozy ingredient because the rum here pushes this to new heights (lows?). As this all comes together it is fantastic.
Black Orchid Parfum has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Black Orchid Parfum embraces its shared style this time not asking to be seen as one gender or the other: that’s progress. It is also the kind of perfume seemingly intended for close encounters of the sensual kind. Which means either or both could wear it. I now have a new favorite in this collection. It is also the best mainstream release of 2020 so far.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Sephora.
Change is inevitable. When it happens to the great perfume brands it doesn’t mean the end of things it has often created an entirely new creative phase. When it is one of the seminal niche perfume brands where this is taking place the first new release attracts a lot of scrutiny. We are looking for hints of the future. This is where Amouage Interlude Man Black Iris falls.
Amouage became one of the premier artistic perfume brands under the creative direction of Christopher Chong. He left a little over a year ago. His replacement is Renaud Salmon. I will say when I was introduced to him via press release as the “Chief Experience Officer” I smirked at the concept. Really what the heck is that? Are you trying to avoid being compared to the past? Might as well call yourself Creative Director because you can call yourself Minister of Scent and you’re still gong to be compared. It might be unfair, but you are stepping into big shoes. My suggestion is for you to own it. Create your version of Amouage for better or worse. Stop hiding behind a silly fabricated sobriquet.
If I read M. Salmon’s words in that press release correctly, he is still learning the brand. He is looking for the space where his creative imprint can be seen. For his first release he decided to create a flanker of 2012’s Interlude Man. It is an interesting choice to take one of the more popular releases and make it over as your introduction. The original perfumer of Interlude Man, Pierre Negrin, was asked to work on Interlude Man Black Iris.
The name of the perfume pretty much says it all this is Interlude Man with iris added. It reminds me of the old 1960’s commercials when they would say “Same Great Taste! Now! With Mint Added!” This is the same thing as applied to Interlude Man.
Interlude Man Black Iris opens with the same herbal green top accord as rosemary replaces oregano and pimento. It moves into the classic incense and amber heart which is where the iris appears. It is a nice addition to this resinous heart. It is the promised “black iris” so many perfumes promise but fail to deliver. It ends in the same oud and sandalwood base as before with just a bit of vanilla amplifying the sweetness in sandalwood.
Interlude Man Black Iris has 18-24 hour longevity and average sillage.
To use a music metaphor Interlude Man Black Iris is a Renaud Salmon remix of a Christopher Chong chart-topper. What does this say about the future? Hard to say. If M. Salmon is going to spend his time doing remixes of the past, ie. flankers, at least they are high quality versions. If that is the next phase at Amouage then maybe Chief Experience Officer will be apt. There will be no real creativity as he will choose to live off the past. I am more hopeful that M. Salmon will grow into a creative director with his own distinct aesthetic. For now while Interlude Man Black Iris is a nice flanker it is just a luxurious flanker with nothing new to say.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Amouage.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed when looking at older paintings is these were the social media of the day. There were no photographs to convey what far-off lands and peoples looked like. Western civilization saw the rest of the world through the interpretations of a painter. One movement which began in fin de siècle 18th century is grouped as the Orientalist paintings. These were fascinating because there were artists who would make the arduous journey to the Middle East and paint from experience. Then there were others who would create from the tales told to them without ever leaving home. Creative director at Amouage Christopher Chong was interested in converting this dichotomy into a perfume; Opus XI.
In the press release he likens the Orientalists who never visited the country as the first example of “fake news”. How do you turn that into a perfume? The answer is you get perfumer Pierre Negrin to do the same trick with perhaps the most Middle Eastern perfume ingredient there is; oud.
In perfumery there is an Orientalist separation of real oud and oud accord. Real oud speaks for itself. Oud accords represent themselves as “real” oud in many fragrances. Instead they are comprised of a few well-known ingredients which create an oud accord without ever using a drop of real oud. The purpose of making an accord is you don’t have to work around the more irascible qualities of the real thing. In Opus XI M. Negrin juxtaposes authentic oud with an oud accord.
Opus XI opens with the real oud as M. Negrin particularly enhances one of those difficult aspects of its scent. To do this he uses the unusual perfume ingredient of marjoram which has a soft green herbal-ness. It acts as a magnifier of the medicinal qualities of the real oud used in Opus XI. There is a richness to it while the medicinal effect is made prominent. Now that you’ve traveled to the real source M. Negrin then creates a parallel oud from styrax and a Firmenich exclusive Woodleather. The latter comes from a suite of recently synthesized molecules designed to have an oud-y scent profile. This is the real oud scrubbed of its problematic medicinal facets. Leaving behind a dry oud-like woodiness. To add back a metered amount of the rougher edges is where the styrax comes in. M. Negrin roughs up the Woodleather to a facsimile of the marjoram and real oud. What you get is a compelling perspective on oud as the two versions harmonize.
Opus XI has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’m not sure but this might be the shortest ingredient list for an Amouage perfume. It is no less interesting for that. The idea of having a discussion of Orientalism through perfume via oud is outstanding. I have spent many weeks enjoying and thinking about Opus XI. If you love oud this perfume is one you must try.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Amouage.
I sometimes need a reminder to lighten up. To have fun. To stop taking things so seriously. I am such a believer in the art and creativity of perfume I can become a humorless drone in it’s pursuit. What I need is a perfume that just wants to be a solid commercial perfume. Paired with an equally fun bottle. For these dreary waiting for spring days of the end of winter Moschino Toy 2 brought some fun back to perfume.
Creative director Jeremy Scott is known for wanting to make Moschino and fun synonymous. The clothing and the fragrance arm reflect that. Toy 2 as you might surmise is the sequel to 2014’s Toy. That perfume was housed inside a teddy bear with a classically structured citrus perfume. It isn’t ground-breaking. It is a light-hearted perfume asking you to enjoy the combination of bear bottle and bright perfume. Like the best sequels Toy 2 doesn’t alter that script overmuch.
The bear bottle is back but in a frosted glass version hugging the clear flacon. It really is just the right side of campy. Before I even sniffed the perfume, I was in a better mood. Perfumers Alberto Morillas and Fabrice Pellegrin switch from citrus to fresh floral without losing the plot.
Toy 2 opens with mandarin reminding me of the original. White currant and apple provide a crisp fresh effect around the citrus. The heart is one of the synthetic jasmines expansive as a blue sky. Magnolia adds a subtle creaminess while peony continues the freshness from the top accord. The creamy version of sandalwood holds the center of a base accord swathed in fresh musks.
Toy 2 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
A fresh citrus floral is hardly an original idea. Toy 2 isn’t meant to be enjoyed with that kind of mindset. It is more like a walk down the carnival midway. Eating cotton candy or funnel cakes trying to figure out if the ring toss is rigged so you can win the giant pink teddy bear. Or you can spray on some Toy 2 for a similar fun effect. I’ll be back to reviewing with a more critical eye tomorrow for today I’m just looking for a little fun in all the right places.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
I made my first trips to New York City in the 1970’s. I experienced a very different Big Apple. There was uptown and there was downtown. In between was the insanity of Times Square which was crammed with sex shops and porn theatres. You didn’t stop to take pictures bathed in neon back then. If you moved uptown there were the museums and upscale shopping. Downtown was the grungy counterpoint. The beginnings of punk rock were emerging in a place which embraced it. Moving between them was like traveling between two worlds. Anyone who experienced this carries an inward smile at how this has all been tamed with retconned history. While at the same time being turned into another roadside attraction. This was my experience as a young man.
The two new perfumes from Amouage, Imitation Woman and Imitation Man, are based on Creative Director Christopher Chong’s visit to New York City in the same time. It was the first time he would see snow. He observed the cultural melting pot as his family moved from uptown to downtown. In the press materials he says, “Imitation is a personal account of how one moment and one experience can alter a child’s perception of the world.” Working with perfumer Pierre Negrin for Imitation Woman and Leslie Girard for Imitation Man it fells like they encapsulate Mr. Chong’s reminiscence with two very different bites from The Big Apple circa the 1970’s
One thing about both perfumes is they function as a pair which felt to me as Uptown and Downtown. Except quite cleverly the perfumers made sure to put a little of the other in each. If Imitation Woman takes you to the Upper East Side it makes sure to thread a bit of the Bowery through it. The converse is true for Imitation Man.
Imitation Woman opens on a blast of hairspray aldehydes over a floral trio of rose, orange blossom, and jasmine. It is the scent of perfectly coiffed society woman. Then M. Negrin sneaks in a bit of the Battery with a duet of licorice and blackcurrant bud. The latter is amplified to its sticky urine-like level while the licorice acts like a punk walking on Madison Avenue. It all returns to the wood paneled safety of sandalwood and patchouli.
There was a cocooned decadence which defined Uptown NYC in the 1970’s. It was over-the-top with no risk. Imitation Woman gets that as the exuberance is on display but within there is a reminder it isn’t as safe as you think.
Imitation Man is rough around the edges right away. Black pepper and nutmeg create a piquant reminder you aren’t Uptown anymore. You shrug your shoulders into your black leather jacket. Mme Girard infuses it with castoreum to make it seem like the snarl from any Punk waiting for a show in the Bowery. Then some of those Upper East Side “tourists” come slumming, trailing their floral smells of rose and powdery orris; trying to live life on the wild side for a night. The real scents of the area return with vetiver and patchouli leading the charge. Underneath it all is a simmering myrrh, a resinous bit of rebellion in progress.
At this point the Punks were just finding their footing as Downtown was about to put its Doc Martens footprint on the music scene. Imitation Man captures the burgeoning scene just before it is discovered.
I like both versions of Imitation, there is an authenticity which tracks with my memory of NYC in the 1970’s.
Disclosure: this review is based on press samples provided by Amouage.
The fragrance part of designer Ermenegildo Zegna has not been a story of consistency. That might be changing. Over the course of the last year I have seen an uptick in the brand’s aesthetic. I would credit that to long-time creative director Trudi Loren. Ms. Loren took charge of the Zegna fragrance portfolio after Estee Lauder acquired the brand. In those first few years she upped the quality of the ingredients in the perfumes. They may not have been imaginative, but they were well-made. Last year there were two collections released; Essenze and Elements of Man. Now there was something in addition to quality ingredients; a contemporary interpretation of masculine tropes. In Zegna Acqua di Neroli Ms. Loren subverts the classic cologne architecture showing something more than just quality.
In the previous Acqua release, Acqua di Bergamotto, that was just a reiteration of the classic cologne recipe. This is an example of what I was describing above. Acqua di Neroli has the same cologne spine with perfumer Pierre Negrin filling it out with other ingredients to provide a new take on the venerable form.
Acqua di Neroli opens on a citrus sunbeam focused through a magnifying glass. Using lemon and bergamot for the citrus, petitgrain provides the focusing effect. Just as it becomes a bit too intense a damp green accord douses it. This has a transforming effect to the citrus as it goes from brilliant point of light to something more diffuse. The green accord sets up rosemary as the predecessor to the neroli. The neroli carries both green and citrus facets with the floral aspects. It then takes an interesting turn as M. Negrin uses a light application of watermelon to form a fleeting fruity floral phase. Lavender drags it back to more typical cologne territory. It completely leaves cologne-land in the base as a cypriol and sandalwood accord combines with another green moss-like accord along with some mid-weight musks. This provides some heft to the typical lightness of a cologne.
Acqua di Neroli has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
We are living in a time of some excellent re-interpretations of cologne into a Cologne Nouveau style for the 21st century. I wouldn’t have expected Zegna to be a brand to enter into that. Zegna Acqua di Neroli indicates I am mistaken as this belongs next to the others in this New Cologne Revolution.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Ermenegildo Zegna.