As it gets hotter and I want a perfume which provides relief it is citrus fragrances I turn to. I have realized through the obviousness of which bottles are at lower levels I seem to prefer one over all the others. Those which feature lemon are the ones I go for when faced with a morning of high humidity and temperature. I think the reason is lemon is the most exuberant of the citrus choices. There is a sunniness which is at its height. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if that sun went supernova Nicolai Eau de Yuzu is here.
Patricia de Nicolai
It has been twelve years since Patricia de Nicolai has made a citrus fragrance, Cedrat Intense. That one was a lemon focused scent simmering with the energy of the fruit. This might be the lemon prior to the fireworks which appear in Eau de Yuzu. She doesn’t use regular lemon. She chooses the Japanese variety known as yuzu. It falls somewhere between lemon and grapefruit carrying some of the greener aspects of the latter. Mme de Nicolai brings it to life in a way I haven’t experienced before.
Eau de Yuzu opens on a set of grassy oximes. As if I am walking barefoot on a great greensward. As I glance up the sun seems to be pulsing. The yuzu shines in a compact ball to start. A bit of grapefruit keeps it more compact. The energy is hard to contain as the sizzle of black pepper and the acerbic scent of juniper berry warns something might be up. The classic petitgrain lights the fuse that a set of white musks use to explode the citrus into a giant yellow firework. I just close my eyes and let the intensity settle upon me. As my senses begin to recover, I feel the dirt my toes are digging in and the tree I’m holding onto as gaiac wood and patchouli ground things.
Eau de Yuzu has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
All apologies to the band Oasis but the days I wore this I kept singing to myself, “someday you will find me/caught beneath the landslide/ in a yuzu supernova/ a yuzu supernova in the sky”. This is the kind of joyous perfume that makes you want to sing while you wear it. Nothing better on a hot summer day.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Mrs. C and I tend to find middle ground on most things. One place we diverge significantly is in the ripeness of a pear. I prefer a crisp version, one which has a snap when I bite into it. She likes it when the fruit gets soft and very juicy. As we come into pear season in our farm community, we each have our own bowl for our way of enjoying pears. This preference carries over into perfume. When pear is used as a fragrance ingredient, I want it to be the same way I eat it. In Providence Perfume Co. Basil & Bartlett I get what I want.
Perfumer Charna Ethier has been releasing a summer cologne for the last few years. One of the things she has held to is keeping fidelity with the origins of the form. The original cologne was fruit-herbal-floral-wood. It is simple in concept. When a talented artist like Ms. Ethier takes it on it finds new dimensions.
In the traditional recipe the fruit is citrus. Here as the name portends it is Bartlett pear. The herb is usually rosemary or sage. Again as advertised it is basil for this one. The remainder of the formula is equally inventively tweaked to form a cologne all its own.
Right from the start B&B surge to the front. The herbal aromaticity of the basil finds a contrast in the focused fruit of the Bartlett. In the note list the fruit is listed as “pear accord”. I think Ms. Ethier has modified a traditional pear with some ingredients to form a more compact version. There is a concentrated effect I haven’t experienced when pear is usually present. That specificity of effect really finds its place with the basil. Ms. Ethier goes for a heavier floral effect than most colognes have as she pairs two from the cooler at the flower shop, lily and chrysanthemum. There is a slightly cool green to their presence. They fit in well with the herb and fruit from on top. At this point there is a richness to this cologne you normally don’t find. It moves to a gorgeous sandalwood base kept on the lighter side so it doesn’t shove its way into things. It slides in quietly until the sweet dry woodiness seems to appear from out of the blue.
Basil & Bartlett has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is a true cologne in that it developed on my skin rapidly over a short period. The upside of that is another spray in the afternoon can let me enjoy the ride for a second time in a day. I think I’ll be wearing this when I head to my local orchard to pick up my order of pears.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Providence Perfume Co.
I finish my examination of Scent Trunk with two inspired by wine and terroir.
January 2020 by Miss Layla
When it comes to wine, I have enjoyed the expansion of it from the traditional centers of France, Italy, and the US. The same is true of perfume. As more independent perfumers bring their own parts of the world to life. One of the new centers of wine is New Zealand. They have undergone a steep learning curve producing some spectacular wines. Miss Layla a foodie turned perfumer has thought about the reason for that. She concludes it is the region itself, known as terroir. She further mentions it is because compared to other vinicultural areas its relative youth means it is still evolving. In January 2020 she wanted to make a perfume which captures a terroir in flux.
The keynote for January 2020 is truffle. It is a natural for someone who came from the culinary world to gravitate towards this. As she points out in the press notes it is not an easy ingredient to work with. There is a narrow band where it can be used. She finds the sweet spot enough to realize her vision.
The earthy slightly acrid truffle appears at the start. Blackcurrant bud is paired with it. This is a meeting of two querulous ingredients as the truffle and blackcurrant bud have a lively give and take. Moss provides a velvet carpet for them to circle each other upon. A hint of alcoholic wine comes through cognac and black olive. As a few herbs appear this is reminiscent of the nose of a New Zealand Pinot Noir. It goes very woody over the latter stages with oak given some support with leather and ambergris. January 2020 has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
February 2020 by Spyros Drosopoulos
Dr. Drosopoulos takes his wine inspiration from perhaps the most famous of all, Champagne. There is a sense of opulence that goes with the wine used to celebrate special occasions. Dr. Drosopoulos decides to explore the Chateau where it is made.
His keynote is black currant. It is immediately consumed in a bubbly champagne accord. There is a nose-tickling quality to the best versions of this wine. Dr. Drosopoulos creates an accord which fizzes over a deeper fruitiness from the black currant. I have often had raspberries added to a flute of champagne and this early part reminded me of that. The perfume takes a turn to the introspective as he evokes the paper incense of Papier Ambre along with a wisp of smoke which curls off the smoldering parchment. It ends on a note of perfume opulence as orris, patchouli, and pine form the scent of a cozy study with a flute of champagne on one corner of the desk and a censer of Papier Ambre on the other. February 2020 has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Closing Thoughts on Scent Trunk
I thoroughly enjoyed all six samples I was sent. It reinforces my belief that independent perfumers are the best choice for a monthly service. When given a truly blank canvas to create upon these perfumers all stepped up to their own vision. It is why this does seem like a perfumer’s paradise where creativity is ascendant.
Disclosure: This review is based upon samples sent to me by Scent Trunk.
As I continue my exploration of the new iteration of Scent Trunk I look at their first two monthly offerings.
November 2019 by Tyler Monk
One of the themes I will touch on consistently through these reviews is the choice of keynote. Mr. Monk launched his own independent brand called Luvandus five years ago. I have not tried any of them. I don’t know whether November 2019 is an outlier or more of the same. What I do know is it is a perfume which reminds me of my morning gardening duties.
During the midsummer days, all my gardening takes place soon after sunrise. There is a pleasure to digging in the dirt to begin the day. November 2019 captures that with pennyroyal as the keynote. Readers will know of my aversion to mint in perfume. Pennyroyal is a relative of spearmint. Except it is not. It is the dirty punk cousin of spearmint who maybe hasn’t had a shower. There is the herbal aspect of mint but there are way rougher scented edges that I am not thinking of dental products when I smell it. Mr. Monk centers his perfume around that.
That punk spearmint shows up at the start. Mr. Monk begins to develop what will become a gradual increase in the earthiness overall with the addition of carrot seed. It acts as a social worker to the pennyroyal trying to clean up its act a bit using some orange soap. Anise provides its herbal licorice which finds a lovely harmony with the pennyroyal. This is where November 2019 hits its high point. That earthiness I spoke of becomes more pronounced through the base accord of tobacco, chestnut, and oud. This is that moist dirt I dig through in the morning. As the pennyroyal, anise, and tobacco find their stride November 2019 soars. November 2019 has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
December 2019 by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
If I were going to guess a perfumer who would be part of this it would be Ms. Hurwitz. She has always been excited to stretch her boundaries under different circumstances than her own DSH Perfumes brand. She has always been one of my favorites because I have seen the experimentation lead to something amazing. I suspect a part of December 2019 will be seen again in a future composition.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
The keynote she builds this perfume upon is coriander. Coriander is one of those bifocal spices, piquant and woody. Ms. Hurwitz expands upon both. Early on using hemlock, sage, and cardamom the spiciness is on top. It forms an accord of dense green foliage. Once you push through you find a heart of rose and orris adding a soft floral effect. The base coalesces around labdanum as leather, tobacco, and musk provide a partner to the woody part of coriander. December 2019 has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I’ll conclude my look at Scent Trunk with the other two samples sent to me and some closing thoughts tomorrow.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Scent Trunk.
At this point in time there have been many perfume subscription services. They’ve taken an equally varied path to what they seek to provide. The only one which have held any interest have been the ones which feature new original releases. The last one I was intrigued by was featuring professional perfumers from the large oil houses. It worked for me because the perfumers were given latitude to formulate a small-batch for a presumably discerning audience. I thought many of them achieved the goal. I also mused about whether this was a better idea for the small independent perfumer community. They’re used to taking chances. A few months ago independent perfumer Yosh Han brought Scent Trunk to my attention.
Scent Trunk has partnered with a constellation of independent perfumers to bring their unique perspective to a monthly fragrance subscription. Thanks to Ms. Han I received an assortment of six of the past monthly releases. I am going to review all of them over the next three days to give readers a good understanding of how different these perfumes are. I am going to start with two perfumes who came from people I knew of from other artistic pursuits prior to trying their perfume.
May 2020 by Catherine Haley Epstein
I knew of Ms. Epstein through a fantastic panel she participated in during Esxence 2019. She was one of the people I walked away wanting to hear more from. I didn’t expect it to be a perfume.
Catherine Haley Epstein
Each Scent Trunk perfume works with a keynote. Ms. Epstein chose Ylang-Ylang from Nosey Be Madagascar. The full version of that ingredient is a gorgeously full fleshy floral. It is what I enjoy about ylang-ylang. I think Ms. Epstein shares that with me based on May 2020.
The keynote is right there to start. Ms. Epstein chooses a flare of grapefruit to bounce off of it like a sunbeam. It provides a brightness which Ms. Epstein works to maintain. Violet provides a complementary floral which pulls the ylang-ylang away from the sweeter part of its profile towards a more musky part. It stays here for a short time before cedar acts as a woody counterpart to the grapefruit in the beginning. The clean woodiness adds brightness. Vetiver provides the anchor as the grassiness keeps that going while the woody piece of it provides a grounding effect. May 2020 has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
March 2020 by Heather D’Angelo
This is that story of I never imagined I’d meet you here. Ms. D’Angelo came to my attention through her music. Those who read my Sunday column know I was a huge fan of Twin Peaks: The Return. I also was exposed to new music during it. One of those was a band called Au Revoir Simone. They did a song called “Lark” during Episode 4. I was downloading their music the next morning as the song lodged itself in my head. I didn’t expect to meet Ms. D’Angelo through a perfume but here we are.
The supporting material says neroli is the keynote. It is prominent but it is a different ingredient which is the star, hemlock with an assist from cucumber. It creates a fantastically odd green accord simultaneously intensely green and transparently watery. This type of combination comes from a place of experimentation. It is something I found through all the Scent Trunk releases I tried. Ms. D’Angelo uses the neroli as a shimmering floral in contrast to that hemlock and cucumber accord. It ends on an oud base which picks up the hemlock giving it a darker tint over the later stages. March 2020 has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
As we go through the next two days I think you’ll see the type of fragrance experience Scent Trunk is attempting to provide.
Disclosure: Review based on samples provided by Scent Trunk.
There is a technique in film called “soft-focus”. The concept is to intentionally blur the image. When you see it in movies it can be used to indicate a flashback for a character. There is no equivalent in perfumery. Although there are perfumes which are easily described as soft. It doesn’t seem to be as desirable an attribute as others. When a perfume can produce this effect through the entire composition, I find it particularly attractive. Which is what I found in Parfums MDCI L’Aimee.
This is another release in “The Paintings” collection. The inspiration piece comes from painter Jacques-Louis David’s painting of his sister-in-law, Madam Serizat. While the painting is not in a soft-focus technique. The subject matter as translated to perfume is decidedly so. Creative director Claude Marchal teamed with perfumer Nathalie Fesithauer to create a perfume which amplifies the moments of softness within the painting.
This is on the surface a classic floral Oriental with a vintage vibe. Here is where the idea of soft-focus comes in. If Mme Fesithauer had used her keynotes more traditionally this would have felt like an anachronism in 2020. What she does is take a traditional expansive floral recipe and provides a soft-focus to tone it down. It also provides the kind of aching tenderness you see as Madam Serizat holds her child’s hand.
The softening technique appears right away. Mandarin provides a typically fruity start as Mme Feisthauer softens the edges through a precise use of blackcurrant bud. It causes a green tinted haziness to the typical sunniness of the citrus. This really comes alive in the heart which is predominantly orange blossom, rose, and orris. This could be a powerhouse but again she uses precise amounts of other florals to tamp it down. The ingredient list for this perfume is long. My assumption is these other ingredients are how Mme Feisthauer causes her blurring effect. It creates something softly compelling as if leaning into a caress from a loved one. As the base accord shapes up it forms around sandalwood, tonka, and amyris. This is that coumarin tinted woody base common in modern perfumery. Then it gets blurred through another set of ingredients which take this well-known accord someplace different. At this point it is like a flashback to a vintage perfume that never was. The final piece is the long drydown as this becomes drier. It is like watching a memory book version of a flower as it dries in time-lapse. By the end it whispers of what came before.
L’Aimee has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
L’Aimee is a tremendous technically proficient perfume. I think I could spend months trying to figure out all there is to learn from it. That’s the perfume geek in me. The Colognoisseur admires the ability to create a perfume which successfully softens the focus so beautifully.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
One of the great unicorns in perfume is 1998’s Le Feu D’Issey. A perfume which was too far ahead of its time it was a huge commercial failure. It was also seen as an artistic success. A fragrance which seemingly wanted to push at multiple boundaries simultaneously. If there is one piece of that experience which has been most divisive it is the raw coconut milk accord. Even I have days when I’m not in the mood for it. It is part of the dichotomy of Le Feu D’Issey is it can be polarizing and transcendent. Imagine my surprise when I see the brand try again with that coconut water ingredient in Fusion d’Issey.
Modern perfumery ingredients have come a long way in twenty years. There have been many successful coconut milk accords because of new ingredient options for perfumers to use. I was curious to see what perfumer Nathalie Lorson might try for here. It is a mixed bag of some imaginative choices early on before coalescing around a bland finish.
Mme Lorson opens with a modern version of that coconut milk accord. It is a much more accessible version that the one presented twenty years ago. This carries a suntan lotion vibe. To keep it from going too far in that direction lemon provides a citrusy contrast. A bit of fig leaf makes the coconut trend towards its creamier side. A fantastic heart accord of cardamom, geranium, nutmeg, and eucalyptus give a spicy energy around the floral core. It picks up on that same energy from the lemon in the top accord. At this point Fusion d’Issey is a well-done different summer refresher of a scent. Then the synthetic woods arrive. The press release has a lot of talk about mineralic effects. In this instance they come through that hard-packed dusty earth the synthetic woods bring. Ambrox is the named ingredient but I think there are at least a couple more to refine that mineral quality. The problem is it throws the balance off as these powerful ingredients overwhelm everything else.
Fusion d’Issey has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
I know they wanted the mineral effect based on the brief, but it is all you smell after a few short hours. I wish there were a way the nicely done earlier accords could have found some space to linger. If you also look at an Issey Miyake perfume with coconut milk in it and think to yourself, “Le Feu?” it isn’t that. It is a Fusion all its own.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Issey Miyake.
I have a dear friend who has a unique way of eating cupcakes. He drags his finger through the frosting licking it off his finger. Once all the frosting is gone, he throws the remaining cake away. I’ve jokingly asked him why he doesn’t eat birthday cake the same way. His reply, “that would be weird.” While I enjoy the full cupcake experience I kind of get his enjoyment. Sometimes it is what’s on top is the best. In perfumery you don’t really get the same effect because there does have to be something after the top accord. Although Heeley Zeste de Gingembre seems to be trying.
Independent perfumer James Heeley has constructed one of the great collections of fragrance over the last sixteen years. His Heeley brand has been endlessly inventive. It is one of those which I own almost all of them. When I received the press release for Zeste de Gingembre based on the name I was hoping for his take on one of my favorite scents, gingerbread. Instead it is a more literal interpretation of “ginger zest”. He composes almost entirely of ingredients you typically find in the top accord of many perfumes. It is a fascinating experiment which I enjoyed a lot.
It begins with the citrus of lime given a greener tint though the use of the rind of lemon and orange. It is the kind of tart you get when you bite into a wedge of lime and you smell the rind underneath your nose. Mr. Heeley makes it as breezy as that sounds. The ginger comes next. This is the smell of the root as you grate it for cooking. There is a bit of liquidity as the energy of the ginger is released. Many times when ginger appears in a perfume it adds a near-manic kinetic component. To temper that Mr. Heeley uses a dose of black pepper. That could make things too heavy, so he counterbalances it with baie rose and cardamom. As those come together with the previous ingredients you get a fragrance of exquisite balance and energy. There is one, or more, of the synthetic musky woods to add some longevity and lift but most of the perfume is what I just described.
Zeste de Gingembre has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is a perfume where you revel in the interplay between the ingredients Mr. Heeley brings together. It is all frosting, so good you don’t mind there isn’t any cake beneath.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Heeley.
Every independent perfume brand creates its own identity. In their own way. The ones which try and shroud it in the most mystery also make me cautious. I am sure there is a business reason, I just want to understand the how and why of the perfume. Those missions can be at odds. It doesn’t keep me from really enjoying things from those brands as I have with Mad et Len Papelato.
Sandra Fuzier (l.) and Alexandre Piffaut
Mad et Len is the brand founded in 2007 by Sandra Fuzier and Alexandre Piffaut. They started with candles and solid potpourri before branching out into perfume. Based on their scant interviews they seem to portray themselves as the perfumers behind it all. Over the years I’ve tried their perfumes there are times it seems like there is an untrained hand at work. Almost equally as often there are some compellingly simple compositions that hit the mark. Papelato is one of those.
Because the brand prefers to be obscure on their creative process I don’t know if the name has meaning. An internet search just returned the perfume as a result. What I found was a scent of sentinel pines complete with sap oozing from the trunks. It provides an orthogonal type of freshness which also makes it stand apart.
Papelato opens with the smell of pine. If that was all there was it might smell like air freshener. To keep that association away an austere slightly metallic incense removes it. If there is an ingredient the brand has used most effectively it is incense. They find just the right pitch in many of their perfumes. It does the same thing here. A bit of juicy mandarin uses citrus to keep this on that fresh trajectory. Then the sap shows up. Pine sap has a strong turpentine-like scent. The ingredient is described as “sugared sap” in Papelato. It makes me think pine sap and beeswax have been combined into this accord. There is a honeyed quality to the sap along with hum of animalic underneath. That can come from beeswax. There are some synthetic musks that trend to the animalic side over the ending stages and it might just be those. I do want to mention the sap accord is cleverly realized however it is achieved.
Papelato has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I wore Papelato on some warm days which is what reinforced my impression of it as an unusual kind of fresh. It made me feel as if I was hiding among the pines, maybe eating an orange.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Mad et Len.
I have always been fascinated by the ancient indigenous cultures of North America. I have spent a lot of travel visiting the ancient sites. This includes the numerous Mayan locales in the Yucatan peninsula. When I was in the country traveling around during the 1986 World Cup, I ended up visiting a cenote with some of the other soccer fans I had met. A cenote is a pool of water surrounded by limestone. They often have a deep coloration to them. Most often blue but the one we were visiting was emerald green. We had gone late on a summer day. While I was waiting for the others who had driven us out, twilight was falling. The jasmine was beginning to perfume the air. It was one of those perfect memories of leaning against a post breathing in the heady flowers and the watery pool just beneath them. D.S. & Durga Jazmin Yucatan took me back there.
David Seth (l.) and Kavi Ahuja Moltz
Kavi Ahuja and David Seth Moltz have also seemingly traveled to something similar. In the press release they mentioned this fragrance was inspired by their travels through Mexico. It came about as fashion brand Opening Ceremony asked them to produce a perfume to celebrate the brand’s “Year of Mexico”. To anyone who has spent some time walking through the jungles of Mexico I think Jazmin Yucatan will strum some chords of scent memory.
It opens with that sense of humidity that exists in the tropics. The air is saturated with water which finds a full-spectrum jasmine. This is an indole-laden jasmine. It is what you smell when you find the real thing. Mr. Moltz then adds two modulating ingredients which work well. First a layer of passionflower takes the floral component of jasmine and gives it some more oomph. Clove finds a spicy harmony with the indoles. What this captures is that slightly piquant scent of the earthy jungle floor. The humidity also turns waterier as the surface of the cenote becomes more present. The base accord captures the ever-present vegetation through vetiver and some other green notes. The final piece is copal resin as if a hint of an ancient Mayan ritual at the edge of the pool is breaking through.
Jazmin Yucatan has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is a beautifully realized perfume of a jasmine in the tropical jungle. It is also different enough from most other jasmine perfumes that if you are a fan it is worth checking out. I adore it because it captures a cherished memory of twilight at the cenote.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by DS & Durga.