I have been fortunate to spend my share of summer days at the beach towns of Cape Cod or the far end of Long Island. One of my favorite parts of the day was sunrise. I would walk out during false dawn with a cup of coffee and sit on the dunes to watch the sun appear. This was also the time when a freshening breeze from off the water would meet me in the dune grass. There was a sweet smell to the beginning of a new day. I was reminded of these mornings with Juliette Has a Gun Vanilla Vibes.
Romano Ricci is another of the early niche perfume success stories. Since 2006 he has produced an eclectic collection which contains some of my favorites of the last few years. Vanilla Vibes is his first attempt to make a gourmand style perfume. That he also chose to give it an aquatic twist is typical of the kind of aesthetic which has defined his brand over the years.
Vanilla Vibes opens with that salty breeze from an ingredient he calls “fleur de sel”. Fleur de sel is the salt which is harvested from evaporating seawater. As a perfume ingredient it seems like a delicate accord of ozonic and sea spray ingredients. This is kept very transparent. The vanilla comes forward which the salt accord swirls around softening the sweetness quotient. M. Ricci also provides a hint of tropical breezes with orchid acting as a supporting note. That airiness is enhanced with a suite of musks while tonka bean further keeps the vanilla from becoming overwhelming. Sandalwood provides the woody base for it all to rest upon.
Vanilla Vibes has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As a vanilla fragrance this could have become a sticky out of control mess. To M. Ricci’s credit he keeps the entire composition at a comfortable opacity. Spraying on Vanilla Vibes is another way to start my day with a smile dreaming of vanilla on the dunes.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
Usually the press release accompanying a new perfume is just something to be ignored. The exception is when it contorts itself into a pretzel trying to make itself too cool. This usually happens when the brand wants to reach out to younger consumers hoping they will find their product an indispensable piece of their lifestyle. When it comes to perfume it happened with the press release for Juliette Has a Gun Liquid Illusion.
The press release goes out of its way to mention that the ingredient heliotropin is present in ecstasy. Then it goes on to mention that Liquid Illusion is meant to put you in a trance. Okay this is what I read, and laughed at, wondering what would be in the sample I received. When it arrived, and I put some on a strip my laughter turned into outright guffaws. I don’t know where it is that creative director perfumer Romano Ricci hangs out where he has encountered ecstasy but based on Liquid Illusion it might be at the bottom of his grandmother’s cosmetics case. Liquid Illusion is a gourmand tinted Coty lipstick accord fragrance. Its not what I’ve experienced the very few times I’ve been around a rave. Perhaps in Europe its different. Here is the thing, once I put aside all the nonsensical verbal frippery the perfume is good.
The use of heliotropin in perfumery is interesting because it is one of those ingredients which provides a variable effect depending on concentration and what surrounds it. Used with intent it can have a dramatic effect. M. Ricci has intent, even if it is misguided, as he sets the concentration of heliotropin such that its almond nature prevails over the cherry part. In the early moments’ hints of the cherry work nicely with the main modulator of violet. The almond comes off delicately powdery. That powder sifts itself onto a rich orris and tuberose. This is that Coty lipstick accord given a nutty veil. Benzoin and tonka comes forth to switch the gourmand aspect from almond to vanilla. It provides a warming effect for a large amount of ambrox in the base.
Liquid Illusion has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you take Liquid Illusion for what it is, you will find an unusual take on a lipstick accord. If you’re looking for a perfume which puts you in a haze of ecstasy, EDM, and swirling lights; this is not the rave you’re looking for.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
As I write this I’m getting ready for company here in Poodlesville for the traditional kickoff to summer, Memorial Day. One part of this is bringing out all my cocktail paraphernalia. The martini and margarita glasses are front and center. Tall julep glasses and absinthe goblets join them. Then there is my set of four copper mugs which find a place, too. I acquired those three summers ago when I discovered the cocktail known as a Moscow Mule. A mixture of lime juice, vodka and ginger beer served very cold. The copper mugs are reputed to keep it colder longer. Because of the heat capacity properties of copper. Not sure about that but I admit drinking them on the deck at Poodlesville as the sun shines down is an ideal summer cocktail. A new perfume is inspired by this refreshing cocktail Juliette has a Gun Moscow Mule.
Juliette has a Gun was founded in 2006 by Romano Ricci he began by being a hands-on creative director working with the perfumers. This was, in essence, his graduate school of perfumery as he supplemented what he had learned previously. M. Ricci has a proud name to live with as a double-edged sword as the great grandson of Nina Ricci. Like her he has forged a consistent identity for his brand. Over the past few years M. Ricci has begun to take the wheel as the perfumer for Juliette has a Gun. One set of ingredients he has a fondness for are the synthetic woody ingredients. Moscow Mule might be the most exuberant example of this aesthetic; half of the ingredients come from this class. In the case of Moscow Mule, they act as the figurative “copper cup” although it is woody instead of metallic. Inside is the cocktail.
M. Ricci squeezes a lime out at the top of Moscow Mule followed by a strong ginger. This smells very much like the cocktails I make. I smiled every time, from the memory, for the first few minutes. There is an alcoholic accord which represents the vodka which comes next. It carries a sharp focused accelerator to the ginger and lime. Then the woods begin their rise as they form the container. M. Ricci has become one of the masters at using these powerful ingredients. It reminds me a bit of being a wild animal trainer trying to get each one to behave without mauling the overall construct. For Moscow Mule it is a veritable honor roll of these ingredients; Amber Xtreme, Norlimbanol, Ambroxan, and Iso E Super. Those have been the backbone of hundreds of woody perfumes but because of their intensity they are rarely combined. M. Ricci gets them to not only behave but to form a fascinating solid woody accord I found I enjoyed. Some ambrettolide provides a bit of musk to the later stages but it is the woods which predominate.
Moscow Mule has near 24-hour longevity and average sillage.
If you are someone who is not fond of the synthetic woods in perfume stay far away from this; it is definitely not going to be a refreshing cocktail for you. If you are a fan M. Ricci has coaxed some interesting intersections within the overdose. I liked it because it reminded me of the smell of the deck I do most of my cocktail drinking on as the summer sun heats it up there is always a scent of heated wood around me. If this sounds good come join me on the deck for cocktails this summer.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle supplied by Europerfumes.
While I realize it is probably economically untenable I have an irrational desire for perfume brands to have a place to take chances. I want a brand to have a subset where they attempt to push the limits of their core aesthetic. One of the few brands which seems to be doing this is Juliette Has a Gun. Owner-perfumer Romano Ricci debuted the Luxury Collection in 2013 following with a new release every year since.
I admire M. Ricci for doing this because each of these perfumes have made the effort to go beyond what you find in the main collection. They have also elicited very different reactions from me. The first release, Oil Fiction, was an admirable miss. Moon Dance was among the best things ever to come from the brand with a thoroughly modern violet composition. White Spirit, sadly, did not do the same for white flowers. Last year’s Into the Void felt like it wanted to explore the vacuum of space but with an overload of ambrox and norlimbanol it more explored my tolerance of those ingredients. This is what experimentation should be; a low success rate but the opportunity for the brand to breathe. I think those previous misses lead to Metal Chypre being another winner for me.
M. Ricci has an almost fetishistic desire to include ambrox in most of his fragrances. It means he has probably spent a lot of time learning the limits of its versatility. In Metal Chypre that experience turns into him using the ambrox in an austere effect which he uses to hyper focus the rest of the ingredients in Metal Chypre into something much more representative of the chill of space than Into the Void.
Ambrox provides that austerity right from the start. There is a sharpness to ambrox that puts it on my love it-hate it list. In Metal Chypre the needle-sharp spiky nature works because early on baie rose provides a sharp herbal contrast. Twin paths of rooty iris and leather come next. Each provides the setting for base notes of patchouli and tonka. These all are subservient to the ambrox which predominates.
Metal Chypre has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is among my favorite uses of ambrox as a keynote I’ve tried. It comes from M. Ricci’s deep knowledge of the ingredient through his near-constant use of it. I could waggishly call him the Master of Ambrox. It is exactly what I like to see from a brand willing to try something different. Metal Chypre succeeds on that level.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Juliette Has a Gun.
I have written in the past how much I enjoy when a perfumer stamps their virtual signature on a creation with an accord. Just the construction of it can be revelatory to the aesthetic of the perfumer. The more fragrance I encounter the more I am drawn to those effects which are created rather than sourced from nature. In Juliette Has a Gun Sunny Side Up perfumer Romano Ricci shows the flexibility working like this can give someone.
The art of modern perfumery is that of composing an accord to mimic something in nature. It provides an abstraction as a perfumer homes in on what they find interesting. It also allows for a more precise way of having a specific effect within an overall perfume by being able to tune it to the desired volume and presence. In Sunny Side Up there are two accords M. Ricci creates one of coconut and one of sandalwood which provide the core of the fragrance. Sunny Side Up is meant to be a beachy perfume and the coconut does give it a suntan lotion vibe, but it is the sandalwood which is the prime focal point which I guess I can stretch to being similar to driftwood.
Sunny Side Up opens with that coconut suntan lotion accord. M. Ricci uses the tropical oiliness of jasmine lactone along with actual jasmine sambac, salicylates, and vanilla. It comes together in an unctuous creamy accord that smells of coconut and fruit. It is a happy fun opening. Iris provides a powdery interlude before the sandalwood accord comes up. M. Ricci is using one of the sandalwood aromachemicals. To which he might be adding some other woody synthetics. The result is a desiccated sandalwood lacking some of the sweeter creamy aspects of the real essential oil. It also has cleaner edges more akin to cedar. To provide even more of this effect there is a lot of Iso E super in the base. The only thing modulating it is the use of the botanical musk of ambrette seeds.
Sunny Side Up has 18-20 hour longevity and average sillage.
Both the top accord and the base accord are made up of things which many perfume lovers have issues with; I am one of them. Which is why I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Sunny Side Up. It comes together with a restrained mirth that overcomes my reticence with good humor. Maybe I need more simulation in my life.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Juliette Has a Gun.
It can be difficult to have a recognizable surname and yet forge your own path, especially when you choose to work in the same field. It is why since 2006 when Romano Ricci started his own fragrance line called Juliette Has a Gun it took some time for him to create his own brand DNA. By 2015 that aesthetic has been refined and perfected. I think it is an important component of success to create a recognizable brand identity in the ever more crowded niche perfume sector.
M. Ricci has always presented his fragrances as chapters in a story following his contemporary version of Shakespeare’s Juliette. In this fragrant story Juliette has never been demure about inserting herself into the action and shunting Romeo, or anyone else for that matter, to the stage apron. Assertiveness in a heroine is often confused with masculinity. For this thirteenth chapter of Juliette’s story, Gentlewoman, she has embraced the characterization and re-cast herself as the “neo-dandy”. What would a neo dandy wear? Why a neo-cologne of course.
Gentlewoman is M. Ricci’s exploration of that most classical of perfume architectures, eau de cologne. Like his Juliette it is also a modern re-telling of something deemed classical. It also takes eau de cologne and makes it softer around its more traditional spine. There has always been a visual component to M. Ricci’s releases. For Gentlewoman he chose photographer Sonia Sieff to lend some pictures of this thirteenth version of Juliette. The three I’ve chosen to illustrate this show her as she slowly transforms from tuxedoed neo-dandy into seductress. Gentlewoman also does the same kind of deconstruction from classically appointed to musky enticement.
Gentlewoman opens on the typical eau de cologne ingredients of bergamot, petitgrain and neroli. There are many colognes which start this way but in the case of Gentlewoman I think the neroli is a little more opaque which forms a less percussive cologne opening than is expected. The person in the tuxedo looks like a woman, is she? The heart of this is where the lavender which often makes up the heart of a cologne is now surrounded by different choices. For Gentlewoman it is the twin choices of coumarin and almond which turn this cologne onto a different path. The almond provides a slightly sweet nutty quality. The coumarin adds a slightly sweet hay-like quality. Together the subtle sweetness over the more substantial nutty and hay qualities is really enticing. Again as in the top notes orange blossom is added to soften the potential rough edges. This is when the bow tie is loosed. The jacket thrown over the top of a chair. Juliette looks appraisingly at you, are you game? The base notes answer that question with a mix of three synthetic musks: ambroxan, muscenone, and ambretolide. Together these form that very sexy skin accord with a bead of sweat rolling tantalizingly down it. Juliette has made her choice clear and you will be forever lost to her charms.
Gentlewoman has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage. This might be a modern eau de cologne but it definitely is at a much higher oil concentration than the typical eau de cologne and as a result lasts much longer.
M. Ricci has continued to evolve his brand while staying true to his titular heroine. Gentlewoman takes her into a new place; one which any lover of cologne should enter.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by the US distributor Europerfumes.
All photographs, except package shot, are copyright Sonia Sieff for Juliette Has a Gun.
The first four releases from Juliette Has a Gun; Lady Vengeance, Miss Charming, Citizen Queen and Midnight Oud were some of my favorite releases of 2006-2009. They shared a common strength which made them stand out. All brands develop and Creative Director Romano Ricci moved away from that style over the next four releases. I thought they were all nice compositions but I wanted a return to the style of the first four. I heard that last year there was a very limited edition called Oil Fiction which did this. It was such a limited edition I never had the opportunity to try it. Then I received a press release announcing the new Luxury Collection which would be represented by Oil Fiction and a new entry, Moon Dance.
With it more available I was able to try Oil Fiction finally. As much as I wanted it to be like the first four it felt more like the more recent compositions which weren’t as compelling to me. Because of my dashed expectations I wasn’t expecting Moon Dance to be any more engaging. That turned out be an erroneous supposition. Moon Dance does for violet what the early four did for rose making it feel completely contemporary. Violet can have a natural vintage feel because of its use in so many of the older classic perfumes. It is one reason I think the more modern perfumers shy away from using it. Why have to deal with pre-conceived notions when you can go pick a different floral without the baggage. What I have found is in the rare cases where a perfumer will take on the challenge, if successful, the violet can be twisted to have something new to say. Moon Dance is a violet perfume with something new to say.
Moon Dance opens on a mix of sparkly bergamot over a full spectrum violet. To distinguish from old-fashioned violets this violet embraces all of the prickly metallic character of violet adding in the violet leaf to add sharp green facets. An inspired choice of another old-fashioned note, tuberose, forms the heart note which tries to tame the fractious violet. It doesn’t quite succeed but it does set up a delightful paso doble between the two as each stalks the other across the olfactory dance floor. There was never a moment during the first half of the development dominated by the violet and tuberose where this didn’t feel different and new. If Moon Dance ended here I would have been very happy. Instead my enjoyment is greatly increased by the decision to finish Moon Dance on an equally full-spectrum animalic musk. This makes the passion of the dance the violet and tuberose lead to something so primal it almost emits an audible growl. A tiny amount of oud and patchouli round off some of the more feral tendencies but Moon Dance ends with a snarl of desire.
Moon Dance has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Moon Dance is the best Juliette Has a Gun release since the original four. It carries much of the same brand DNA which existed back then. I am hopeful that this new Luxury Collection will be a place where M. Ricci will return to some of those themes he so excitingly explored in the early days. Moon Dance reminds me of a line from the Eagles’ song “Life in the Fast Lane” to describe Moon Dance, it is brutally handsome and terminally pretty.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Moon Dance I purchased from Twisted Lily.