New Perfume Review Alexander McQueen Sacred Osmanthus- The Two Faces of Osmanthus

Once the big perfume producers get ahold of a brand they usually find a way to ruin it for me. The first step is to take something kind of exclusive and release a bunch of by-the-numbers releases. The fragrances which have Alexander McQueen on the bottle were in that exclusive category of reflecting the influential designer’s aesthetic via scent. Even 2016’s McQueen Parfum managed to feel like it belonged with the earlier releases of Kingdom and My Queen from a decade earlier. One reason that McQueen Perfume worked was that Sarah Burton, the creative director of Alexander McQueen, took an active hand in developing it. She worked with Pierre Aulas as a consultant. When I received the press release announcing eight new releases called the McQueen Collection I worried that the moneychangers had overrun the temple again. The McQueen Collection is eight mostly soliflore style fragrances from eight different perfumers. Overseen by Ms. Burton and M. Aulas I hoped for the best.

Sarah Burton

This is one of the rare collections where there are far more hits than misses. I will be reviewing many of these over the next few weeks. It should not be surprising to regular readers that the one I was most interested in was Sacred Osmanthus.

Domitille Bertier

The perfumer behind this is Domitille Bertier. The entire McQueen Collection works as a set of simple constructs. Mme Bertier surrounds osmanthus with a gorgeous set of supporting notes. She uses ingredients to accentuate the two faces of osmanthus; apricot and leather.

The perfume opens with the apricot character pushed forward. Mme Bertier cleverly uses petitgrain as a figurative magnifying glass upon the apricot quality. In the first few moments I wondered if there was some apricot itself in the formula. The next two ingredients transform the apricot over to the leather face. First smoky Lapsang Souchong black tea steams up through the apricot. There is a moment it feels like an apricot jam pot is next to a cup of fresh brewed tea. The note which really captures the leather facet is the use of the botanical musk of ambrette seed. Ambrette seed has this vegetal animalic nature which is an ideal complement to the botanical leather of osmanthus. This is where Sacred Osmanthus captured me completely. Cashmeran finishes this off with a lightly woody effect.

Sacred Osmanthus has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Sacred Osmanthus is not as bold a fragrance as the original Alexander McQueen perfumes. If you’re looking for that kind of aggressive aesthetic it won’t be found in any of these new perfumes. Sacred Osmanthus is a more delicate style of perfume. Which is as it should be in soliflore perfumes. Sacred Osmanthus is a study of the two faces of osmanthus which is more than enough.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Alexander McQueen.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review McQueen Parfum- Night Blooming Pleasures

One of my most anticipated new launches of 2016 is McQueen Parfum. This is the third perfume under the Alexander McQueen brand following up on the discontinued Kingdom and My Queen from 2003 and 2005 respectively. It is those two fragrances which had my interest level as high as it was. There are only a few designer fragrance brands which reflect their designer’s style adequately. The Alexander McQueen fragrances are among the best at doing that.  McQueen Parfum had some big shoes to fill.

This follow-up was taking place after the death of Mr. McQueen in 2010 and without his collaborator in the perfume creative designer Chantal Roos. Sarah Burton who took over the brand is responsible for the creative direction on McQueen Parfum. Over the last six years Ms. Burton has done an amazing job keeping the fashion side of the business moving forward. McQueen Parfum will begin to answer whether she can do the same with the fragrance side of the business.

As much as I tried to find out the answer there is no information on the perfumer Ms. Burton worked with on McQueen Parfum. All of the online information comes from her. Ms. Burton’s vision was to form the perfume around a core of three night-blooming flowers; jasmine, tuberose, and ylang ylang. The ad campaign featuring model Maartje Verhoef wearing a dress from the Fall 2016 collection is a great visual to go along with this concept.

mcqueen parfum ad

Model Maartje Verhoef

McQueen Parfum opens with a piquant combination of clove and black pepper. This hearkens back to the strong spicy core of Kingdom except it is moved up to the beginning. I felt these early moments were a way of saying this new fragrance was not going to shy away from being aggressive. I like this opening a lot but I really fell for the florals in the heart. The perfumer behind this did a fantastic job of balancing these three very extroverted florals into one noir-ish accord. The jasmine adds its animalic floral, the tuberose its slightly mentholated version, and the ylang ylang its viscous oiliness. These are used in decent concentration which makes the balancing act a little more impressive. It ends with an earthy patchouli, vetiver, and benzoin base accord. This is not as unique as the previous phases but maybe having it be a little quieter at the end is by design.

McQueen Parfum has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I tip my hat to Ms. Burton for continuing to keep the Alexander McQueen brand and aesthetic relevant. This first fragrance under her guidance is a great return for the brand.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke