Yesterday I introduced you to independent perfumer Christele Jacquemin. She describes herself as “photographer-perfumer-traveler”. The other two debut releases from her eponymous line showcase all three of those.
Christele Jacquemin Underworld
Underworld was inspired by the perfumer’s travel between Barcelona and Paris while she was studying perfumery at the latter. The photographs the perfume is based upon are differing blocks of color in bands framed by darkness. This serves as a good description of this perfume.
The top band of darkness comes through a mix of cumin and black pepper. Mme Jacquemin finds a neat harmony between these two obstreperous ingredients. The light begins to come through with cardamom and carrot seed. There is a lot of the latter providing that unique sweetness as contrast to the top notes. The real spotlight comes when tuberose and mimosa come out. She takes these notes and allows them to have about as much presence as they could. The golden powdery mimosa coats the creamy narcotic tuberose. The lower band of darkness comes through a smoky frankincense and vetiver. Swirls of these ingredients rise through the florals creating a memorable shadow effect.
Underworld has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Christele Jacquemin Meandering Soul
Meandering Soul came from Mme Jacquemin’s residency in Taipei. When you are in one of the great metropolises of the world if you want to find some peace you need to go out in the wee hours of the morning. I share this fascination with her. I greatly enjoy walking through the streets of the big cities I’ve lived in when it doesn’t exactly sleep but it breathes a little slower. Meandering Soul captures the sense of discovery these kinds of walks can offer.
It begins in an urban greenspace. In the light of day the scent of these parks is overwhelmed by the other scents of the city. At night they come out like a night-blooming flower. The top accord is fennel and hinoki. The vegetal licorice-like root with the refined version of cedar finds that moment. As you begin to walk you find a small flower box with narcissus and ylang-ylang growing. Through all these debut perfumes I have admired her ability to find interesting contrast in her floral choices. It is at its best here. The suppleness of the ylang-ylang meets the deep -rooted depths of narcissus. The last stretch of our stroll takes us past a bakery working on a caramel confection for the next day. A fantastic gourmand accord of caramel, cinnamon, and tobacco form an odd kind of sticky bun effect. It was so good I wanted to go find the real thing on the days I wore this.
Meanderng Soul has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mme Jacquemin has made an impressive start to her perfumer’s career with all three of these. She has a wonderful habit of finding equilibrium between what seem like unlikely partners. She finds the place of transition and pins it down.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Christele Jacquemin.
As you all know I enjoy finding new perfumers and brands. I have been recently blessed with an abundance of this. For the next week or so I am going to be introducing you to three new brands I have enjoyed for the first time over the last couple months. I begin with Christele Jacquemin Impermanence.
Christele Jacquemin describes herself on her website as “photographer-perfumer-traveler”. Her three debut releases showcase her fusion of all three. When an independent perfumer seeks to meld multiple influences it can be difficult to find the right balance. In Impermanence Mme Jacquemin finds it.
Impermanence was inspired by a month she spent at an artist’s residency in a suburb of Shanghai called Jin Ze. There she created a collection of seven photographs which make up the Impermanence visual collection. The connecting theme is a blue background of several shades. Mme Jacquemin creates a fragrance of different shades which my synesthesia-challenged senses experience as blue. It feels like her photos have found their way into a perfume bottle.
She opens this with an overdose of ginger. I like ginger at this volume there is a graininess to it which is appealing. The green of hinoki leaves and rosemary add a different shading to the ginger along with some unexpected depth. The heart transitions through an intermezzo of acerbic yerba mate. This fits into the other notes providing connection to a clever base accord. Mme Jacquemin uses the rose surrogate palmarosa and vetiver. Palmarosa is a very green rose analog which makes it an ideal partner to vetiver. This green harmony of floral and grassiness is awesome on a hot day. I wore this on a day we had heat advisories and this combination shimmered on my skin.
Impermanence has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mme Jacquemin does a fantastic job of turning the visual into perfume. By taking her shades of blue photographs she realizes a perfume with visions of blue.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Christele Jacquemin.
There are times when realization hits me like a facepalm right in the center of my forehead. It changes my perception of a brand along with my preferences. I have written many times about my lack of interest in perfumes which feature berries or non-citrus fruits. Most of the time it is because they appear at elevated amplitude which moves beyond my ability to enjoy them fully. When I received my sample of Shay & Blue Blackberry Woods I learned something about myself.
Dom de Vetta
Ever since Dom de Vetta founded Shay & Blue in 2012, he has created perfume with the same perfumer, Julie Masse. Blackberry Woods is their twenty-third fragrance together. I look forward to their new releases but until a few days ago I couldn’t tell you exactly why. Now I know. Blackberry Woods is another brilliant fruit-centered perfume from this brand. What is it that sets this apart from others? It is the balance they achieve. The fruit is not blaring it is part of a simple ensemble where Ms. Masse finds ways to make it shine.
The blackberries are what greeted me straight away. This is not that thick jellied version. It is more like freshly picked berries right off the vine. Dew glistening in the nooks and crannies. This type of fruit carries a natural musk which Ms. Masse teases out. Neroli comes next and it also carries its own sparkling personality into the duet with blackberry. There is an uplifting quality here I usually don’t encounter in the typical fruity floral. The final piece is cypress. This is a clean sophisticated woody foundation that allows the blackberry and neroli to shine on for hours.
Blackberry Woods has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I don’t know why it took Blackberry Woods to realize what it is I liked about Shay & Blue. The facepalm moment happened when I looked at the group of blue bottles on my shelf all having names with some fruit In their name. The ones which I wanted to own are all fruity. Blackberry Woods will soon be joining them.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
If there is a perfume category almost guaranteed to elicit a rude remark it is the Sport style. I’ve never understood the concept for a fragrance to wear while playing sports. It took off as a genre in the 1990’s. Almost all of them are insipid constructs. I am always open to someone to try something different to liven it up. Lacoste Match Point is the most recent to make a case.
Lacoste has been making perfume since 1984. While they don’t use the word Sport in the name of any of their releases it is an unsaid part of their aesthetic. Over the years they have comfortably filled this space. It is fitting for a fashion brand born on tennis courts to embrace it. When I received my sample of Match Point, I expected to find another example. This time the perfume was surprising in the choice of ingredients and style.
Perfumer Sophie Labbe takes Match Point to a different place for a Sport fragrance. Most of the genre is based on the long-time “fresh and clean” trend. It is awash in aquatics for the most part. Match Point goes for a different interpretation of that. Mme Labbe uses some very intensely green notes to provide a new perspective on fresh.
What caught my attention when I sprayed this for the first time is the use of gentian. This is an intensely bitter green ingredient which is oddly refreshing. Any perfume that starts with this is something to pay attention to. She pairs it with a tart grapefruit to soften the edges while also deepening the bitterness. Another oddly refreshing herbal ingredient comes next, basil. The pungency of this herb finds a fascinating harmony with the gentian. The final piece is vetiver which slides into this party like a champ. Cashmeran adds a crisp woody finish.
Match Point has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Match Point is such a different Sport perfume it makes me soften my criticism of the genre. It shows smart artists can take the most generic types and breathe new life into them. Mme Labbe makes Match Point the Green Sport.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Lacoste.
In these times where transparency is valued in perfume there is a basic question waiting to be asked. How far can you go in that direction before you stop being a perfume? If you think there isn’t a market for this I remember being in Sephora and hearing three women extol the virtues of a perfume because they could, “barely smell it”. So far, the big perfume brands have kept from looking for that line. Now Chanel Coco Mademoiselle L’Eau Privee seems to be asking.
I have been laudatory at the effort in-house perfumer Olivier Polge has made in adding in a lightness of being to his newer Chanel releases. I would say he has been one of the most successful at balancing trend and brand aesthetic. Where I am a bit conflicted with Coco Mademoiselle L’Eau Privee is it is a fragrance designed to be worn to sleep. Sheer should be a large part of its design. M. Polge delivers a perfume like a grand four-poster bed surrounded in diaphanous material.
If I were having a discussion of best designer perfumes of this century Coco Mademoiselle would be part of it. The beautiful sophistication of the orange-rose-patchouli felt completely Chanel while being accessible. A couple years ago M. Polge designed an Intense version where he latched on to the patchouli to achieve that effect. Coco Mademoiselle L’Eau Privee is the flip side of that. It is a delicate version of the original with one slight change in the middle.
L’Eau Privee comes together rapidly. The moment it hits your skin the orange and the floral and the patchouli all rise. Notice I didn’t say rose. That’s the change I mentioned. M. Polge gives jasmine the lead over rose. For a perfume meant to induce sweet dreams letting night-blooming jasmine have the floral part seems natural. This is then given even more space through some white musks taking the lightness out another level or two.
Coco Mademoiselle L’Eau Privee has 4-6 hour longevity and is primarily a skin scent.
For a perfume designed to be worn to sleep L’Eau Privee succeeds on all levels. It is the kind of calming fragrant embrace almost anyone would enjoy drifting into dreamland with. It also has the longevity of an average good night’s sleep. Something this sheer is not meant to last for hours. As I wore this I wondered if Chanel could create a market by designing a perfume for this specific use. Then I remembered those women at Sephora. There is a part of me that thinks for them Coco Mademoiselle L’Eau Privee would be the perfect office scent. As to the answer to my thesis Coco Mademoiselle L’Eau Privee is as sheer as I want to see things go. Any further and it will be as fleeting as a dream.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I was asked recently how I manage to keep trying rose perfumes when I complain about them so much. I admit that of any perfume ingredient rose is the one which most often provokes a yawn. Despite that the new ones keep coming. Byredo Lil Fleur is one which caught my attention because of the desired effect they were trying for.
Ben Gorham of Byredo is a creative director who has defined the brand aesthetic from day one. Along with perfumer Jerome Epinette I would describe it as sophisticated simplicity. Which was why the description of Lil Fleur seemed out of place. I am told this it is meant to be “a modern scent, that evokes all the ups and downs of teenage years”. I don’t have an easy description for that, but sophisticated simplicity is not one which comes to mind. They succeeded in making an anomaly for the brand, but it never feels young; it mostly just feels brash trending towards loud.
That undesired volume comes with the tangerine and cassis this opens with. The citrus and the green crunch against each other like the growing pains of an adolescent. They are both at higher concentrations, so it can’t be ignored. Rose comes out quickly but it doesn’t soothe things it makes it more dynamic. This early part feels like an olfactory temper tantrum. It isn’t until a subtle leather inserts itself that things take a turn for the better. The refined accord wraps all the discord in a soft embrace. It all smooths out and becomes more pleasant. The base also keeps things on the calm side with light woods and vanilla adding in the final pieces.
Lil Fleur has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Lil Fleur seemingly succeeds at its desired goal. It is a rollercoaster kind of perfume from highs to lows. I wonder how many perfume lovers want to go through a reminder of their growing pains because that is what Lil Fleur is.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Byredo.
One of the many things I enjoy about independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is this. Inspiration for the next perfume she designs comes from everywhere. Museum installations, designing jewelry, the Boulder Colorado community she lives in; if she encounters it a perfume may arise. It is why it seems pedestrian that one of her latest inspirations was a dream. It makes no difference because Ms. Hurwitz took that and created DSH Perfumes L’Or(ris).
L’Or(ris) is part two of her Iris Trilogy. Part one was Iris Tuxedo which matched plum with orris butter over an animalic musk. If there is a perfume ingredient Ms. Hurwitz and I have spent the most time talking about it is probably iris. One of the reasons is because it is so malleable without losing its presence. A perfumer can take what is there in the best iris sources and choose what they want to accentuate. What makes L’Or(ris) so good is both the powdery and the rooty strike an appealing balance.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
The way Ms. Hurwitz describes her dream is this, “A beautiful iris, like an apparition, appears… its velvet petals unfurl to reveal it’s gilded edges. The sparkling, golden iris floats, fluttering both silk and velvet, emitting its beautifully creamy, powdery, floral and yes, enigmatic, perfume.”
When orris is used it has always had a golden quality to my nose. What Ms. Hurwitz achieves is to solidify that association. It provides new perspective to the venerable ingredient.
She adds fizz to the early moments through aldehydes and a prosecco accord she has developed. This has the effect of high-quality champagne providing a golden pool of bubbles for the iris to float upon. The powdery face of iris comes first. It glides though the bubbles in a silky swoosh. Rose and jasmine come along to provide some floral support. They also serve as transitional notes as the doughy rooty part of iris is on its way. If the top accord was of golden champagne this is the gold of buttery fresh-baked bread. Using a set of woods the rhizomal nature of iris becomes the scent of rising dough under a sandalwood rolling pin. Each passage spreads out the orris into a more ethereal effect over time.
L’Or(ris) has 10-12 hour longevity in the Voile de Parfum concentration with moderate sillage.
This is the kind of iris perfume which seems natural to have come from the depths of peaceful slumber. A dreamy iris limned in bubbles of gold and flaky pastry.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.
I have always had a hard time sitting still. As a child it was the one thing which my teachers had a hard time dealing with. My mother tried many ways to help me find a way to be less fidgety. One of the more creative ways and one which has stuck with me happened when I was 11.
We drove to a beautiful Japanese garden in Miami. Sitting in an open wooden pavilion was a man I was introduced to as Mr. Shimada. My mother asked me to spend an hour with him and left. He walked back to a low table which had some paper on it and a steaming cast-iron teapot. He motioned me to sit opposite him. He offered me a cup of green tea while he prepared his own. His smelled like no tea I had ever encountered before. It was smoky and reminded me a little bit of BBQ. He handed me a sheet of paper. Then he offered me a charcoal stick as he took one himself. We then spent the next hour drawing lines with the charcoal on the paper. The rasp of the stick against the surface. Turning it for thickness of lines. I was lost in the simple activity. My mother appeared seemingly only a few minutes after she left but it had been over an hour. Mr. Shimada told me to think of my pencil at school as the charcoal and the notebook paper as the parchment. This has served me well for my entire life. When I get impatient, I start drawing lines. It allows me to stop and center.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
This memory returned to me when I tried the new DSH Perfumes Tea and Charcoal. Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is one of my favorites. I always look forward to receiving her packages in the mail. What happens about once a year is, she makes something much different than anything else she has. Tea and Charcoal is this year’s version of that. I laughed to myself when I saw that she called this an “isolation meditation experience”. Because when I put this on, I was back with Mr. Shimada.
One of the things I admire most about Ms. Hurwitz is her ability to create complex accords from a multitude of materials. The charcoal accord at the core of this is one of texture and depth that is remarkable. It is that feel of the weight of the stick in my hand and the rasp of it across the parchment leaving small pieces behind. I have been unsuccessful in trying to tease it apart, but I am even more fascinated because Tea and Charcoal is all-natural. That means she is forming this accord from those ingredients solely. The tea part is much easier to describe as there are primarily three; Green mate, Earl Grey, and Lapsang Souchong. That last one is what I believe Mr. Shimada was drinking the day we met.
Tea and Charcoal opens with the smoky nature of that on top. The charcoal accord appears soon after. For a while it is the smoke and the density of the carbon stick. It begins to diffuse into a thinner line on the page as the Earl Grey takes its place with its bergamot infused black tea presence. Now the stick is changed to produce a denser line as the mate tea adds a bite to the final phase. Ensuring the lesson has stuck.
Tea and Charcoal has 6-8 hour longevity in its Voile de Parfum concentration and is primarily a skin scent.
Most of my favorite perfumes from Ms. Hurwitz have had Japanese themes. Tea and Charcoal isn’t explicitly stated as being inspired by that part of the world. I probably think of it that way because I thought of my afternoon with Mr. Shimada as soon as I smelled it. Tea and Charcoal is one of the best perfumes Ms. Hurwitz has ever produced. It is a simple construct around an exquisitely complex charcoal accord. It asks you to stop and center upon its beauty.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.
Long time readers know I have a grilled cheese category of fragrance. What that means is it is as simple as that venerable sandwich but satisfying anyway. These aren’t perfumes which surprise in any way, but they are better than most of their peers on the department store shelves. The latest addition to this category is Giorgio Armani My Way.
Giorgio Armani mass market releases are as hit or miss as any other brands. What puts a perfume on my figurative plate is finding some energy in the routine. For My Way perfumers Carlos Benaim and Bruno Jovanovic collaborate for a simple white flower fragrance.
My Way is aimed right at the younger perfume demographic which means transparent. The perfumers make sure that the white flowers here, orange blossom and tuberose, never get too rambunctious. It also benefits from a classic high-low top and base accord around them.
What caught my attention when I tried this the first time was the bergamot. So often it is just an amuse bouche of an ingredient. Here it is given a lot more to do. It provides the typical sparkle that it is known for. The other part is it adds a citrus harmony to the orange blossom which I found nice. The tuberose when given this level of opacity can sometimes remind one of bubble gum. That bergamot also helps keep that from happening. Vanilla adds warmth in the base which helps give some expansion to the florals. Cedar is the final piece of My Way with a clean woody framing of it all.
My Way has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
You’ve smelled many perfumes similar to My Way. You might even own a couple. My Way is worth giving a look because it does those things you enjoyed before with just that little bit more which makes it slightly better.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Ulta.
Sometimes when I receive a new perfume it illuminates something about the current trends in perfumery. I have been noticing a simplification in form. This has become particularly noticeable with floral perfumes. Many of the new releases for the last year have had a primary floral focal point. It isn’t good or bad because there have been plenty of perfumes like that I have enjoyed. It takes something which goes a different way to remind me of an alternative. Houbigant La Belle Saison does that.
The big powerful florals of the first half of the 20th century wasn’t one flower they were lots of flowers. The original 1925 version of La Belle Saison was one of those. Under the creative direction of Gian-Luca Perris, Houbigant has been using its past as inspiration. He asked perfumer Celine Ellena to make a 21st century version of La Belle Saison.
The name translates to “summertime”. Most perfume wearers shy away from floral perfumes in the heat because they believe it will be too much. As mentioned in the press materials it is an odd way of thinking because it is during the height of summer that flower gardens are bursting with color and scent. It is one of the indelible smells of this time of year. Mme Ellena seemingly imagines this kind of milieu as she creates a bouquet of three complementary florals in her perfumed garden.
It opens with a softly diffuse apricot and baie rose. In the one family I knew which had an extensive flower garden there was a scent of the green foliage and dirt. This has a little bit of the same effect. It leads into this garden where muguet, mimosa, and orange blossom are in bloom. This is a smart choice of florals. The green veined chill of the muguet is warmed up by the powdery puffballs of mimosa all while given sparkle through orange blossom. They are precisely balanced with each having space to be noticed. This is a glorious realization of summer among the flowers. The base accord is sandalwood providing a sturdy foundation.
La Belle Saison has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’ve never smelled the 1925 version, but I suspect I would like the 2020 one better. The interaction of the flowers at the heart of this is compelling. It also wasn’t too heavy for me to wear it on two days with temps over 90 degrees. La Belle Saison took me back to a summertime garden.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.