I’ve written many words on this blog about the effect Davidoff Cool Water had on fragrance designed for men. I’ve received a few e-mails from women readers asking if there was a similar women’s fragrance which exemplified the fresh style for that gender. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it to finally arrive at a conclusion. It wasn’t the first; but it was, and continues to be, the best-selling of this style released in the mid 90’s. It is also the answer I most receive from men in their 40’s when I ask what the women in their life wear. The perfume is Clinique Happy.
In women’s fragrances throughout the 1970’s and 80’s the trend was deep chypres and boisterous florals. It was the gender equivalent to the men’s powerhouse leathers and uber-fougeres. As the 90’s dawned the time for a course correction was due. The generation which came after the Baby Boomers, Gen X, wanted a style to call their own. Those who loved perfume also wanted to find new styles to explore. By the latter half of the decade two new styles would provide the change; fresh was one of them.
Evelyn Lauder (l.) and Raymond Matts
For men fresh was synonymous with aquatic. For women it wasn’t as simple. There was a large selection of fresh linen style perfumes centered around the laundry and linen musks. The style Happy fits into is the other major one, the fresh floral. It is also the first credited perfume to Rodrigo Flores-Roux who collaborated with Jean-Claude Delville. The creative team, Evelyn Lauder and Raymond Matts, was also early on in their influential term. Clinique was created by Ms. Lauder; by 1997 she became more dedicated to the fragrance part of the brand. She would work with some of the best perfumers early in their careers spotting talent before others. Mr. Matts would also become one of the most influential creative directors but at the time of Happy he was also just starting down that path. With Happy they designed a perfume which exemplifies fresh and floral.
Jean-Claude Delville (l.) and Rodrigo Flores-Roux
Happy opens on a, I have to say it, happy mixture of citrus. It is difficult to not smile in the early going because this is a sun-kissed grapefruit top accord. It leads to fresh jasmine scrubbed clean of indoles. This is a slightly dewy version of jasmine. It is expansive and transparent. Magnolia will eventually take the lead while retaining the same opacity. A similarly transparent synthetic wood is the final ingredient.
Happy has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Happy is successful because it does everything perfume is supposed to do. The citrus is uplifting. The florals are lilting. The woods are simple and light. It is why Happy is successful because it is so easy to be the perfume for a woman who only wants a couple bottles on her vanity. It continues to be a best-seller because even after twenty years few do it better.
Happy is another of the cases where its longevity is why it is a Discount Diamonds choice. It can be purchased from 10mL rollerball up to 100mL for anywhere from $4.99- $34.99 respectively. Heading into the summer if you want something fresh to add to your holiday overnight bag Happy is as good as it gets within the style it helped start.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
As we reach the last day of 2015 it is time to look forward to 2016. Here are some things I am anticipating and/or hoping for.
The first fragrance from Christine Nagel for Hermes. This is a holdover from last year. I expected this to happen in 2015 but I will be very surprised if I am typing this for the third time at the end of next year. I firmly believe she is the right successor to Jean-Claude Ellena. I just want to see what she does first.
I want another great Guerlain. Over the last two years Guerlain has fallen into that pitfall of complacency. They have made solid perfume which has been so safe. It has been three years since the release of Rose Nacree du Desert, which was the last one to slay me. Surely when you are releasing over a dozen new releases per year there is a spot for something less safe and more different.
I still want that big crossover success for an independent perfumer. This has been a hope for as long as I’ve been blogging. It hasn’t quite come true yet. Although the move of Christi Meshell of House of Matriarch and Raymond Matts taking their perfumes into Nordstrom is one element that will be needed to make this come true.
I want the inaugural edition of The Perfumed Plume to be a big success. For too long as a US writer I’ve been envious of my European colleagues who have yearly awards for their writing. Lyn Leigh and Mary Ellen Lapsansky have established The Perfumed Plume to be the American version. I think there is a lot of great writing happening in the fragrant blogosphere and I want to see it recognized appropriately.
I wish for new brands to start with no more than three to five debut releases. 2015 saw more new brands coming to the market with ten or more entries. This kind of business plan is unsustainable because the little boutiques which are the life blood for a new niche brand can’t just give over shelf space for ten new perfumes with no audience. If you have ten great ideas please pick your three best and build an audience; for the other seven.
I am hoping for a new Vero Kern release. After taking 2015 off I suspect that 2016 will bring us the follow-up to Rozy. Please don’t make me wait too long Vero.
I hope for the continued success of initiatives like Tauerville. Andy Tauer’s Tauerville line is a great introduction to independent perfumery at an attractive price point paired with perfumes which display that indie ethos. I would like to see some others make an effort to try something similar.
I ended last year’s column with this:
One non-perfume hope is for the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens to be the Star Wars movie I’ve been waiting thirty years for. I think JJ Abrams is the man who can actually pull that off.
Sometimes wishes do come true.
On this New Year’s Eve I convey to all the readers of Colognoisseur the Happiest of New Year’s wishes. May all of them come true in 2016.
One of my very favorite perfumes in my collection is the discontinued Brioni which came out in 2009. It was one of the few perfumes which I completely fell in love with from almost the first moment I put it on my skin. It was based on the Italian luxury men’s suit line of the same name. I have never owned a Brioni suit but the perfume I have worn over and over again. I don’t speak about it often because it is discontinued and I might be the only person left who remembers it.
I was very excited to see an article in Women’s Wear Daily in October announcing the release of a new Brioni fragrance. In the original fragrance the perfumer and creative direction behind it was unknown in this new version two of my favorite people would be involved. Brendan Mullane the creative director of Brioni would also collaborate with Raymond Matts as they asked perfumer Frank Voelkl to bring their ideas to fruition. There was one quote by Mr. Mullane, in the article, which gave me a lot of hope for this new fragrance, “we didn’t want it to smell like a best seller”. That is a promise I have seen broken over and over again as I end up smelling something all too derivative. In this case the entire creative team lived up to Mr. Mullane’s aspirations.
When I walk into a tailor to buy a suit I really enjoy the smell of the fresh pressed fabric with a hint of wood and leather underneath. That would have been the easy way to go in constructing a perfume based on a line of men’s clothing. The only one of those scents M. Voelkl tries to re-create is that of the crisp pressed fabric. The rest of the perfume is as unique as the brand with which it shares its name.
Brioni opens on a brilliant mix of lemon tinted with lime. The first few minutes is all about the lemon. The lime adds a bit of tart along with blackcurrant buds adding a shade of green. This is a lively opening which leads to a floral heart. The core of that heart is magnolia with its woody floralcy. M. Voelkl chooses to complement it with violet, orris, and juniper berry. The magnolia soars and expands with the other three notes adding texture as it opens up over a few hours. Brioni ends on a fresh pressed fabric accord. Cedar forms the foundation of this accord but it is the other notes which make it stand out as Laotian oud, saffron, and licorice come together to form one of the cleanest richest fabric accords I have ever encountered.
Brioni has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Even with the excellent creative team behind this new version of Brioni I expected to like it; but not as much as I did the original. I am very surprised to like it every bit as much as that older version. I am also very happy it is an entirely new creation bearing little similarity. It means that both of them can be part of my regular rotation. Brioni is as unique and beautiful as the suits which also carry the same name.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample I received at Sniffapalooza Spring fling 2015.
When I got my first sniff of the Raymond Matts Aura de Parfum collection at the end of November I immediately felt it was something noteworthy. I spent a good hour going from strip to strip as I began my process of understanding what Mr. Matts was after. In the never-ending debate about the concept of olfactory art there is a school of thought that goes something like this; the use of synthetics is what separates artistic endeavor from commercial enterprise. Or more prosaically unnatural versus natural. I think it is a false argument and something to consider more deeply at a different time. What the Raymond Matts Aura de Parfum collection has added to my personal consideration is that in the hands of focused creative direction a perfumer can turn out something completely unlike anything in nature but yet which calls out to the familiar. Of any perfume in the Aura de Parfum collection Kaiwe is the one which exemplifies this best.
When I was doing my initial assessment Kaiwe was the one I kept coming back to over and over. It was because of this unconventional look at the concept of fresh and green. Kaiwe is described, at its most basic, as a citrus ozonic Ambrox fragrance. It should smell like thousands of other similar fragrances which fit that description. In some ways it was exactly that which had me returning to it over and over. It smelled so like so many but not like anything else. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin puts together three distinct accords but while they seem to tread old ground they really are a step off of the well-traveled path.
M. Gillotin opens Kaiwe with a citrus accord made up of the soapy group of aldehydes which is what I detect first. This is the smell of a freshly washed body stepping out of the shower. Cocktails of green synthetics and citrus synthetics coalesce underneath the aldehydes deepening the fresh feeling. This is an example of what I’m talking about; the synthetics M. Gillotin uses provide no discernable handle to grab ahold of. It smells citrusy but not obviously one fruit or the other. The green accord is slightly aquatic and opaque. It undulates to my senses almost like a sheer green scarf rippling on a breeze. The shifting nature of the green notes creates subtle kineticism. The heart again is comprised of floral synthetics such that it is not any one floral but aspects of many florals. A hint of green lily, a bit of violet, a pinch of jasmine; but not really. To make sure you don’t spend too much time trying to dissect the bouquet M. Gillotin adds eucalyptus and juniper berry. The eucalyptus almost single-handedly forms the ozonic feel. The juniper adds an icy gin-like quality. It sets up perfectly as another note from the liquor cabinet, rum, joins in. Then in a very unique take warm milk also enters the picture. This forms a bizarre never made cocktail of gin, rum, and warm milk. It is odd but compelling. I sure don’t ever want to drink it but I really enjoyed breathing it in. Kaiwe ends on a swirl of Ambrox adding its unique character to all that has come before.
Kaiwe has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Kaiwe is one of those perfumes I just want to wear over and over because every time I wear it I find something new to admire. It is my favorite of what is an incredibly diverse collection Mr. Matts has put together. If you are someone who equates synthetic raw materials with “cheap” I think this collection might change that opinion. I know that I find what Mr. Matts is attempting here to be laudatory for boldly staking out this space as well as creating with great vision. If you give this line a chance it can change the way you think about what makes a great perfume.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Raymond Matts.
As I continue my reviews of the new Raymond Matts Aura de Parfum collection I turn to a pair which are complete opposites. One celebrates all of the promise of a spring day. The other is the smell of attraction from afar traveling the paths of imagination wherein the feeling is returned. Maiaday and Pashay are those perfumes.
There are instructions for how to pronounce the names in the press materials. Maiaday is supposed to be pronounced (My*a*day). Ever since wearing it I’ve been calling it May*a*day because it embodies that day in May when we acknowledge the return of green and growing things. Perfumer Annie Buzantian composes a perfume which captures that pent-up energy of the coming of spring after the long winter. Ms. Buzantian keeps it all very supple and soft as a sunny floral green haze enveloped me when I wore Maiaday. Ms. Buzantian opens with her greenery floating on a pond which she marries to a citrus grouping of notes. It adds that zing to the opening as it amplifies and complements the green accord. Maiaday moves into a floral heart with that May Day flower, muguet, at the center. Ms. Buzantian brackets it with the expected, in violet leaves, picking up the greener facets of muguet. The unexpected is saffron which adds a bit of outre´ charm. Saffron works here because it is such a softly assertive spicy note. Something a little more aggressive would have thrown off the vibe Ms. Buzantian is building. This carries through into the base as she uses a number of synthetic woods to form a translucent woody accord to evoke the trees waking up on May Day. As much as I’ve been enjoying wearing Maiaday on these winter days I am really looking forward to wearing it on a mid-summer’s day. Maiaday has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Christophe Laudamiel (Photo: Marcus Gaab for NY TImes)
The inspiration for Pashay came from a chance encounter on a Fifth Avenue bus Mr. Matts was riding. Also sharing his ride was “a beautiful black woman…with flawless skin and an exposed shoulder.” When Mr. Matts approached perfumer Christophe Laudamiel with this inspiration he also had an interesting request for a starting point for M. Laudamiel. By looking at this olive toned skin he wanted to use a Kalamata olive note as the focal point of Pashay. M. Laudamiel thought it a crazy idea but once he and Mr. Matts started working on Pashay they found there was some latitude to realize their vision while starting from such a different beginning. Pashay opens on a fruity flurry of citrus and pear. This leads to the heart where they chose seaweed and narcissus to join the Kalamata to form their desired salty skin accord. If you look at those ingredients on face value you might not see how this comes to be. By using the oily salty olive to build upon; the seaweed pulls out the hidden marine facets as well as a sense of clean sweaty skin. The narcissus takes this and uses its intense floralcy to frame and enhance the illusion. It really is the smell of a woman’s shoulder after she has worked up a sweat. This all fades into a woody base of sandalwood and guaiac wood. This is a cleaned up sandalwood synthetic stripped of the sweet facets and the guaiac wood provides a more versatile clean wood than something like cedar might have. The final stages of Pashay are the dream of that woman on the bus as it pulls away and you watch it move down the street. Pashay has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Disclosure: These reviews were based on samples I received from Raymond Matts.
The new Raymond Matts perfume line calls their fragrances “aura de parfum”. The phrase does a really good job of describing some of the entries in the collection. With Jarro and Sunah the name is not only a descriptor but the perfumes themselves formed a transparent aura around me as I wore them. In an e-mail exchange with Raymond Matts he described the way he works with his perfumers, “I never brief perfumers actually! When I start a fragrance I sit with and go over sensations, emotions, experiences, textures with colors I want the fragrance to be. We then will discuss notes and will create three different accords representing top, middle and back.” Then he told me they will go through 200-300 modifications searching for just the right balance to realize the shared vision. This shows the dedication of both creative director and perfumer as trying to find that perfect balance between the synthetics and natural ingredients can be difficult and I think many other brands would have given up earlier and accept a less-than-perfect formula. Both of these show the dedication to quality and collaboration.
Jarro is signed by Christophe Laudamiel. If I asked most to describe M. Laudamiel based on his perfumes in one word I am guessing I would get a lot of variations on edgy or dark. I knew he was the perfumer behind three of the seven entries in the collection. If I was asked to pick the three he worked on blindly Jarro would not have been one because it seems too light. Mr. Matts also addressed that in his e-mail and said, “Christophe and I have been working together for many years. He is dark and I'm not so this makes for interesting collaborations.” Jarro is a burst of optimism wrapped up in green brilliance. M. Laudamiel constructs complex accords and Jarro opens with two of those. The citrus one is that bit of sunshine in a jar as there is a complement of citrus facets all shining like sunbeams. Matched to this is a green aquatic accord composed of calone and labdanum among other ingredients. This is one of those classic perfume accords but M. Laudamiel puts his spin on it by keeping it on the light side. The green deepens with muguet as the focal point in the middle part of Jarro’s development. M. Laudamiel enhances the hidden spiciness of muguet by using it in significant quantities and complementing it with other spices so it can’t be overlooked. The base is Ambrox and woods; and in keeping with the whole tone of the construction it stays lighter. Jarro has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
As Mr. Matts mentioned he has worked with M. Laudamiel for many years. I think he has probably worked with perfumer Jean-Claude Delville for a shorter period of time. One of the pieces of information that tells me this might be the case is Mr. Matts shared the number of modifications that went into refining the concepts that would eventually become Sunah; over a thousand. If I admired the stick-to-it-iveness of 200 modifications more than a thousand had to be frustrating until the right one emerges out of the pile of flawed vials. What caused all of this olfactory angst was an attempt to make a saffron focused perfume which also was soft. M. Delville opens with a contrast of tart and crisp with citrus and apple. It is a high-pitched downbeat which then rises up the scale as mimosa forms an opaque fruity floral early phase. Sunah transforms as the saffron rises to prominence in the heart. M. Delville allows the saffron to eventually exude an exoticism at the middle. M. Delville then chooses a mix of woody synthetics which are layered precisely to effect a pillow soft base for this intense saffron to lay upon. It is this which must have have occupied Mr. Matts and M. Delville during many of those one thousand modifications. To get this just right. To keep the synthetics all purring together without one rising up to be disruptive all while the saffron still exudes its influence. This effort really shows as Sunah moves from the fruity floral into this exotic end phase and it is completely fascinating to wear. Sunah has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I really like both of these for the effort the perfumers put in with Mr. Matts. In both cases I think that effort shows in the finished product. Sunah especially for the effect of saffron on top of soft woods is brilliantly realized.
Discalosure: this review was based on samples provided by Raymond Matts.
I am not sure when I met Raymond Matts for the first time. I am sure about the where, at a Sniffapalooza lunch during a Spring Fling or Fall Ball. He gave a talk which spoke to the room about the state of perfume at that moment in time. He boldly declared perfume blogging as irrelevant. I was just starting to write and I wondered if he was right. Here was a man with a wealth of experience from nearly thirty years in the fragrance business. I like people who take provocative stances and I listened to all he said and considered his hypothesis.
Mr. Matts has shown the same surety whenever our paths have crossed in the years since. Late in 2014 I found out he was going to have his own brand of perfume. Like so much about Mr. Matts these perfumes are declarative statements of intent. In my initial testing I have found all seven to have distinct pleasures. I want to really give all of them a little more time than I would normally and so my reviews of the entire line are going to happen in a series over the next few weeks. For this first installment I am going to focus on Tsiling and Tulile.
The names of all of the fragrances are made up words meant to convey something about them. In the press materials it is said they are meant to smell the way they sound. More than any other Tsiling lives up to this. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin was given a brief to capture a plastic flower which exudes a natural scent. This makes Tsiling a lively exercise with M. Gillotin having to strike just the right balance between the artificial and the natural. His choice is to start with the natural and allow for the artificial to provide the finish. The top notes are a mix of an aquatic accord, some green notes, and pear. The pear is most prominent and the other notes provide the more natural watery green of nature. As you move into the heart orris comes first and it is a rooty version. After M. Gillotin adds honeysuckle and what is named as rice notes the whole thing seems to plasticize in a time-lapse fashion. It just goes from natural to unnatural over the course of an hour or so. Then for the majority of the time I wore Tsiling it smells like a plastic flower scented with natural oils. Very late a bit of patchouli comes out but it is very minimal in nature. Tsiling has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Lots of perfumes marketed to men are said to be bracing. That usually means loud and overpowering most of the time. For Tulile Mr. Matts asked perfumer Christophe Laudamiel to create a masculine perfume which was embracing, instead. It starts off with a traditional zing of citrus over some aquatic notes. This is a common trope for men’s perfume. M. Laudamiel then starts to shift the paradigm as he uses lily of the valley as the floral heart of Tulile. This is a very floral muguet which combines very well with the watery citrus. It is because the citrus sticks around that Tulile doesn’t become overtly floral. For the base notes M. Laudamiel mixes two woody aromachemicals, Polywood and Ambrox. There is an interesting effect I have found with synthetics like both of these. By themselves they often irritate me. But if they are the right two synthetics they form an accord which is very pleasant. In the case of Tulile the Polywood and Ambrox form an opaque woody accord which is surprisingly soft for something composed of synthetic components. Tulile has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I’ll be back over the next few weeks with reviews of the other five perfumes in the line.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Raymond Matts.