Of all the classic styles of perfume it is the fougere which seems to best reflect the times it is made in. It was there at the beginning of modern perfumery and has represented itself ever since. The original fougeres were slightly sweet lightly green perfumes. They have developed along with the new ingredients perfumers have added to their organs. It makes for an interesting timeline of perfumery if you examine fougere through the decades. As we move into 2020 Floris Vert Fougere provides the latest data point.
Floris creative director Edward Bodenham has enlisted a new in-house perfumer, Nicola Pozzani, to update this venerable English brand. It seems like with Vert Fougere they are showing the ability to honor the history of perfumery while adding modernity into it. In this case it is done with a blast of green and a swirl of smoke.
That blast of green is the fanfare of galbanum that leads the way in Vert Fougere. Galbanum in this quantity has a spiky edginess to it. M. Pozzani wisely blunts it with grapefruit. The citrus adds a tart shade of green while also eliding the sharper facets of the galbanum. It results in an intensely fresh green top accord. The classic lavender and neroli floral pair of many fougeres flow around the sparkly green accord. M. Pozzani adds some sizzle to all of this with a swoosh of ginger. The final piece of newness cones as smoke skirls through the florals and over the crystalline galbanum. It ends on a warm ambery woody base accord.
Vert Fougere has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Floris is one of those brands which could use an update. Based on Vert Fougere it sems like Messrs. Bodenham and Pozzani are ready to take Floris into the modern age.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Floris.
The Aramni Prive collection is so interestingly inconsistent I always look forward to trying what is new. It is because at its best it produces some of my favorite perfumes. Last summer was one of those high points with the release of Orangerie Venise. Perfumer Dominique Ropion provided a fascinating riff on a neroli soliflore. To begin 2020 M. Ropion returns to do the same with Armani Prive Jasmin Kusamono.
Jasmin Kusamono is one of four new additions to the “Les Eaux” collection. Gardenia Antigua, Rose Milano, and The Yulong, are the others. This has been a series of perfumes highlighting a single ingredient with unique contrasting counterweights. The other part of the name, kusamono, gives an idea of what M. Ropion is attempting. Kusamono is a Japanese compound word of “grass” and “thing”. It is an artistic floral arrangement meant to capture a specific season. It tries to also evoke a specific kind of natural milieu. M. Ropion seems to be looking toward spring on the ocean.
One of the trends of 2019 I liked a lot was this idea of deep-water aquatics. None of the sea spray freshness but a deeper briny quality. It is that unique contrast to the jasmine that M. Ropion weaves into his composition.
The perfume starts with a mix of pear and pink pepper. This is a nice way to add some texture to a juicy pear. The saltiness of the ocean begins to leak into the scent as the jasmine seems to float upon it. This is fresh but not “fresh!”. What I mean is there is a cleanliness to the fruity floral atop the deep-sea swells without going into generic fresh territory. This is also a very light perfume. It has a feeling of delicacy to it in these early moments. As it evolves there is a stronger saltiness which begins to crystallize on the floral. It finds it’s footing on a base of cedar and sandalwood. Again, not in a heavy way.
Jasmin Kusamono has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have been looking for perfumes which are part of the popular transparency trend that I can embrace. Jasmin Kusamono is one which I can happily hug to me. M. Ropion has practiced his own form of kusamono via perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Giorgio Armani.
I am a big fan of the biannual perfume magazine NEZ. Run by Jeanne Dore and Dominque Brunel it has formed one of the best contemporary references for perfume lovers. I look forward to each new issue. When I ordered the latest issue, No. 8, I was given an option to have a perfume included. I clicked on that choice and received a 15mL bottle of perfume that is the beginning of a yearly perfume project for NEZ.
They are calling it 1+1 imagining one creative from outside the perfume world and a perfumer coming together for a limited edition. For this first release they chose Hong Kong designer Alan Chan and perfumer Maurice Roucel. Mr. Chan is known for his riffs on tea house designs. After talking with M. Roucel they decided on a perfume based on tea called NEZ Hong Kong Oolong.
Alan Chan (l.) and Maurice Roucel
Within the accompanying magazine there is a lengthy article on the entire design process. What caught my attention was the desire of both men to capture the history of China as it is faced with evolving in the 21st century. By choosing oolong tea they capture the contrasts apparent in balancing the past and the present.
The perfume opens with the oolong in place. Oolong is the compromise tea for those who don’t want bitter matcha or intensely smoky lapsang souchong. Oolong is the middle ground with a hint of the bite and smoke. M. Roucel constructs an oolong accord that captures that. In the early moments it is a strongly spiced version of oolong as cinnamon, clove, and cardamom combine with the tea. These can coax out the greener face of the oolong accord. As we transition to the heart a lilting veil of jasmine also finds the greener nature of the accord. The smoke gets its chance as leather and incense find those aspects while giving them life. It finds a sweet creamy contrast in the base with sandalwood and tonka adding a bit of warm woody sweetness to the final composition.
Hong Kong Oolong has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
One of the things I admired most was that the perfume found its own compromise between the transparent trend and full-bodied styles. Like the tea it emulates Hong Kong Oolong thrives in the middle ground.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
Christopher Marlowe would opine of Helen of Troy, “Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?” In 1882 the synthesis of a single molecule was the scent which launched modern perfumery. The molecule was coumarin which had been identified as the primary molecule in the isolation of tonka bean. Because of the synthetic source, it freed perfumer Paul Parquet to use as much as he wanted for a specific effect. It created the abstraction of nature that was the first of its kind, Fougere Royale. Ever since the art of perfume has been closely intertwined with the chemistry behind the ingredients. The perfume brand Nomenclature has featured those molecules ever since its inception. Now it is time to focus on that alpha-molecule in Nomenclature Psy_Cou.
Carlos Quintero (l.) and Karl Bradl
The most common synthetics are usually prized for their consistency of profile. Coumarin has a sweet hay-like scent. A perfumer can choose to surround it with a choir of ingredients which can go towards the sweet or the hay-like. Under the creative direction of Karl Bradl and Carlos Quintero perfumer Frank Voelkl chooses the latter for this version of coumarin perfume.
If you’ve ever smelled hay just as it is being baled the early moments of Psy_Cou will remind you of that. Mr. Voelkl uses cardamom to capture the slight green of fresh harvested hay which has a little of that quality before completely drying out. Psy_Cou moves into modern perfumery abstraction with the introduction of a high-low combo of juniper berry and palo santo wood. The acerbic bite of juniper berry finds the soothing tones of palo santo in contrast as the coumarin acts as a fulcrum in between. It is a contemporary riff on coumarin. As the palo santo tilts the see-saw to its side, saffron adds a golden glow. A bit of oud adds a last bit of modern to Psy_Cou.
Psy_Cou has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Coumarin is the “Helen of Perfume” molecule, having launched thousands of perfumes. Psy_Cou shows that 138-years later it still retains its ability to define the current state of modern perfumery.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Nomenclature.
One of the things which makes perfume composition difficult is you can have too much of a good thing. It is easy to think a floral fragrance should have many of those included. The real effort is to choose the right two or three; striking a balance. A precise balance. It was what made Gucci Bloom stand out three years ago. A near-perfect recipe of four florals which stands for what seems to be the reinvigoration of the fragrance side of Gucci.
Creative director Alessandro Michele and perfumer Alberto Morillas managed to follow that up with two excellent flankers; Bloom Acqua di Fiori and Bloom Nettare di Fiori. They did this by adding in something which created new compelling fragrances. A year ago they released Bloom Gocce di Fiore where they changed the concentrations of the original ingredients. It was terrible except as an example that they made the right decision in the choices made in the original. For the end of 2019 the most recent flanker, Gucci Bloom Ambrosia di Fiori, split the difference.
M. Morillas is again behind the wheel as the original four florals; Rangoon creeper, jasmine, tuberose, and orris take their places. For this version the tuberose concentration is increased a lot. The extra flower added is Damask rose. There are lots of floral perfumes which feature Damask rose and tuberose. They are a classic floral pairing. They are also two of the strongest ingredients in perfumery. In the case of Bloom Ambrosia di Fiori they nearly overwhelm everything else. The only one of the other florals which gets a tiny foothold is jasmine. This is all there is on my skin, rose and tuberose.
Bloom Ambrosia di Fiori has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
This is not the train wreck last year’s Bloom Gocce di Fiore was. Instead it is an example of what happens when you add one flower too many to something that is great on its own.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Gucci.
There is a box on my desk which contains samples of perfumes I like and will review if I get the chance. January is usually that time. This is the month when there is the least amount of new releases to write about. Which means I rummage around in the “like” box looking for something. Ever since the summer there has been one sample which has been beckoning me because of a faulty sample sprayer. Because it leaks when turned on its side the “like” box has slowly but surely begun to smell like it. Which means it has also become the background scent at my desk. I think its time to get Bvlgari Man Wood Neroli onto the page.
Something that most of the samples in the “like” box share is they are good versions of common perfume types. There should be some attention paid to a perfume which is just well done without breaking any kind of new ground. Man Wood Neroli falls into this category.
The entire Bvlgari Man collection since its debut in 2010 has been composed by perfumer Alberto Morillas. It is kind of an entire “like” box of fragrance. M. Morillas has previously plumbed the variations of woody oriental in the preceding eight releases. What makes Man Wood Neroli stand apart is it is a solid citrus woody instead of an oriental.
Man Wood Neroli opens with a great amount of neroli. It is a refreshing bitter green citrus top note. M. Morillas brings along the promised wood in the presence of cedar. The cedar used here is closer to raw green wood than the typical pencil shavings variety. It harmonizes well with the neroli through the shared green chord in both. It all ends on a swoosh of clean white musks.
Man Wood Neroli has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Man Wood Neroli stands out also for its projection. There were times I was reminded of classic citrus woody perfumes of the 1980’s because of the way this came off my skin. This is a nice change for the Bvlgari Man group of perfumes I’d like to see more of in the future. For now I was quite happy to get it out of the “like” box.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bvlagri.
One of the worst things about mainstream perfumery is the use of focus groups. I think they produce the lowest common denominator fragrance. Often so bland it is difficult for me to think of them as perfume. I have wondered what a motivated, educated, perfume-loving focus group could produce.
Independent perfume Anatole Lebreton seems to have answered that with Anatole Lebreton Perfumista.
In the middle of last year he asked a group of perfume fans to buy into The Perfumista Project. For the price of the eventual final product they would be brought along on a two-month journey to create a new perfume. By the fall Perfumista was the result of this process. I was not a participant but according to the website M. Lebreton introduced the members to the raw materials and the gradual development of the final perfume. The result is the same genre as many a larger focus group spits out; a fruity floral. The difference here is this kind of fruity floral is not the typical miasmic mediocrity found at the mall. This is the kind of fragrance which could give the class a good name. It shows what intelligent feedback can produce.
That shows in the fruity top accord. Raspberry is the keynote, but it is a juicy pear along with a plush plum that make this less irrelevant than the typical berry top accord. The shading the plum gives to the pear and raspberry is particularly appealing. The floral part is a magnificent nod to vintage perfume florals. An indolic jasmine meets a spicy Bulgarian rose. Whenever I encounter this it always seems like the two bad girl florals out for a good time. As the plum shadowed fruit inserts itself into the festivities this is where Perfumista shows off the potential of a fruity floral with intent. Fruity florals are my least favorite perfume genre. I could luxuriate in this fruity floral for days. The base accord provides a woody foundation for the fruity floral to rest upon. It is the least interesting part of Perfumista while still being quite good. Patchouli gives a dark earthiness for cedar and peru balsam to finish the construction.
Perfumista has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Perfumista is a fragrance developed by people passionate about perfume. The simple act of participation exemplifies that. The perfume that came out of this focus group is the way it should always happen.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
Three and a half years ago two of my favorite independent perfumers, Bruno Fazzolari and Antonio Gardoni, collaborated on a wild gourmand perfume called Cadavre Exquis. Through a fascinating creative process these two made a unique take on a gourmand perfume. When I reviewed it back then there was a sense that it was a monster of that style. I dubbed it Franken-gourmand. Mr. Fazzolari has decided to return to that earlier work while providing a new update to it on his own. We now have Bride of Franken-gourmand or as it should be called Bruno Fazzolari Corpse Reviver.
Mr. Fazzolari has some new ideas to go with the previous ones. The one I am happy he retained is the use of camphor as a keynote. It was the brilliant heart of the previous perfume. In Corpse Reviver Mr. Fazzolari keeps the best of what came before while adding one excellent new ingredient; a whisky accord. If you look up the name on the interwebs you will be pointed to a “hair of the dog” hangover cocktail. It was such an anecdotal “cure” that there are multiple variations. To my surprise I could not find a whisky-based one. Which means the perfume becomes the first one of those. By adding in the boozy accord it changes everything while also reminding you of what came before.
Elsa Lanchester as The Bride of Frankenstein
The camphor is present right away, again. It is such an interesting way to start a perfume. It is contrasted with a similar array of citrus, herbs, and tagetes. At this point it made me feel we were back in the same gourmand laboratory as before. It all changes in the heart. The camphor is not as strong this time around which means the chocolate overwrites it a little more as it oozes into sight. What revives it is that whisky accord. Mr. Fazzolari constructs it from an oakwood absolute. This takes the chocolate in a woody direction. As the two ingredients mingle a slightly burnt caramel emerges where they overlap. As that happens the camphor returns as part of this sticky matrix. This is a dynamic powerful uber-accord. There was a set of dried fruits and civet which gave the sense of decay. That accord has been much more refined here. It is only fitting that you must get closer to The Bride before the sense of rot is noticeable.
Corpse Reviver has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I’ve tried both perfumes side-by-side and I prefer Corpse Reviver. There was a fantastic collaborative verve to the previous Franken-gourmand. With a little more experience Doctor Fazzolari has brought a more complete perfume to life.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bruno Fazzolari.
Heading into 2020 it seems like vetiver is having a moment; again. It waxes and wanes in popularity due to how ubiquitous it becomes. I’ve never tired of good vetiver fragrances because a good perfumer has many tools to make it feel different. Mark Buxton is a good perfumer which means Linari Drago Nero should be a good vetiver perfume.
Linari is one of those underappreciated perfume brands. Creative director Rainer Diersche releases on an infrequent schedule which might be a reason it isn’t mentioned more. I have usually found the time between new fragrances has proven to lead to better results. For Drago Nero he again collaborates with Mr. Buxton. They have been working together on the last four Linari releases since 2012.
For this black dragon they chose to use two sources of vetiver. A cleaner grassier Haitian version and a smoky one from Java. They tend to provide the foundation between the early moments of Drago Nero and the latter stages.
When I saw the ingredient list, I saw pineapple listed which made me groan a little bit. Mr. Buxton instead uses a tart green apple to provide a crisp green fruit to complement the similarly clean green of the Haitian vetiver. There is also a citrus-like undercurrent in this vetiver. With mandarin that quality is given a bit more prominence especially in the earliest moments. A rich orange blossom provides the bridge between the two vetivers. The floral sweetness captures that citrus thread in the Haitian vetiver. The slight indolic core of the orange blossom grabs those tendrils of smoke rising from the Java vetiver. As Drago Nero resets itself a strong amber and woody mix shows the eventual destination. Sandalwood and Guaiac wood provide the woody part. Ambrarome gives a drier amber effect over the final phase.
Drago Nero has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Drago Nero is a different vetiver perfume for the shift which happens around the orange blossom. I liked the tonal change as it made me feel like I was wearing a different perfume than what I had put on in the morning. That made it more a shape-shifting vetiver chameleon than a roaring black dragon. If you are looking for a new vetiver for the spring Drago Nero is a good choice.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Linari.
As I start another review of a new Jo Malone fragrance, I am again going to laud Creative Director Celine Roux. With a brand as long-lived as this one there is a point where it can go in one of two directions. The more typical choice is to coast on a wave of self-referential mediocrity. Taking advantage of the initial goodwill built up. I’ve finally learned to just close the book on those brands. The way Jo Malone chose was to give Mme Roux a mission of reinvigorating the brand. She has done such a good job I look forward to every new release. Jo Malone Vetiver & Golden Vanilla is another extension of her tenure.
The change had begun prior to Mme Roux’s arrival when Christine Nagel created the “Cologne Intense” sub-collection. These were richer deeper styles than previously found in a Jo Malone bottle. Since taking charge Mme Roux has put her own imprint on these more recent releases within this collection. Vetiver & Golden Vanilla is one of these.
Mme Roux has also seemingly been working with a small roster of perfumers she keeps returning to. For this one she collaborates with Mathilde Bijaoui. One of the advantages of building a working relationship with a perfumer is there is more congruity on what the perfume should smell like. That seems to be the case with these two. The concept behind this is to showcase two of the most famous ingredients from the island of Madagascar; the Bourbon varieties of vetiver and vanilla.
Before either of them show-up a fabulous top accord of cardamom, tea and grapefruit lead things off. The cardamom is the greener version, the tea is also green both combine to coax the green quality of grapefruit rind to join them. This is a smart way of tinting things a lighter shade of green before it gets down to business. That happens when the vetiver adds its grass-like green to it. Clary sage shades it deeper yet. Before this becomes too strident the vanilla appears. This is the vanilla orchid version giving a strong reminder that it is first a plant before a flavoring. It softens any of the slight edginess the vetiver supplies. The final effect is a plush comfort scent.
Vetiver & Golden Vanilla has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is another excellent perfume under Mme Roux’s oversight. If you’re looking for a little New Year’s treat snuggle underneath this cozy green blanket.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Jo Malone.