One of the joys of visiting an art museum is to see the world as interpreted by creative minds. I don’t go to see a subject captured in a realistic way. Artists look at the world and see it through a different lens. It is what makes the greatest pieces of art memorable. They give the viewer a new perspective on something simple.
Perfumery in the hands of the most creative people can do the same thing. There are plenty of perfumes which attempt to photo realistically re-create something from nature. Depending on the subject it is great to have that when I want it. But I prefer when perfume interprets a subject in a way that gives you something to think about as Shalini Fleur Japonais does.
This is the seventh perfume from the team of creative director/fashion designer Shalini and perfumer Maurice Roucel. They have formed one of the best collections of perfume because they aren’t trying to make a simulation. They are trying to look for deeper beauty.
Fleur Japonais is inspired by the Japanese name for the cherry blossoms of every spring called “Sakura”. This year has seen a trend of cherry blossom centered perfumes. Almost all of them have tried to be transparent florals. That is not the kind of artistry I seek. What this creative team finds is the almost religious awe with which the Sakura are held in Japan. That doesn’t lend itself to opacity. It asks for something more profound. The solution is to place a weightier cherry blossom on a wooden altar surrounded by purifying incense.
The lighter cherry blossom is where this begins. M. Roucel weds it to a creamy magnolia. He isn’t content to have an ephemeral cherry blossom. This accord is like a hybrid cultivar of the two florals. It is mostly the sweetness of the Sakura, but it is given substance through the magnolia. It is not a breath of spring it is a reminder of Nature’s beauty.
The counterbalance is a fabulous silvery frankincense. This is an austere church-like version of the resin. It fits here because this is a fragrance which sees the Sakura as an object of worship. The frankincense takes you to that place as it surrounds the cherry blossom-magnolia duo. Together it forms a transcendental interpretation of cherry blossom. M. Roucel places it all in a shrine built of sandalwood.
Fleur Japonais has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage in its parfum concentration.
This is a fascinating perfume to wear as we transition from summer to fall. There are times it seems like a callback to the spring. Most of the time it feels like a sacred experience through an artist’s vision of cherry blossoms.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Shalini.
This is the time of year I miss where I grew up the most. The weather hasn’t really turned to spring. The dregs of winter overstay their welcome. Until I left S. Florida I never experienced this. It was always warm enough for everything to grow no matter what the calendar said. The scent of tropical flowers at twilight were a signal the day was ending and the night beginning. That smell as the odd shading of twilight creates a unique light to experience it in is captured in Shalini Vanille Reve.
Shalini has been producing perfume since 2004. She has been building an impressive collection under her name. Last year’s release Iris Lumiere was my favorite new perfume of 2020. It is emblematic of the care she has taken in overseeing a perfume line. One of the reasons it has been so memorable is she has worked exclusively with perfumer Maurice Roucel. Ha also had a great 2020 because I named him Perfumer of the Year. What has set this collection apart is a sense of shading and texture which reminds me of an haute couture fashion collection. Which is appropriate since Shalini is that type of fashion designer. Vanille Reve displays all these characteristics.
The inspiration for it comes from the island of Tahiti. I’ve never been but I suspect it is similar to my memories of S. Florida. The keynote which is used to summon the tropics is the tiare flower which is also called Tahitian gardenia. I have always enjoyed this variant of the better-known white flower. There is an inherent sparkle to it. By pairing it with vanilla they form a warm tropical embrace.
Before we get to that M. Roucel provides that shading and texture I was speaking of. He creates what I perceive as a twilight accord of anise and a pinch of cumin. The anise is full of that licorice-like quality. The cumin adds in the odd optics of the interface between day and night. It creates a beautiful accord to build from. The tiare comes next. It has less of the green of the traditional gardenia while being creamier in style. Some tuberose and jasmine are around to give depth to the tiare. This is that moment as you stand on the lanai smelling the night blooming flowers mix with the denizens of daylight. The anise adds dancing shadows among it all. As the sun sets the warmth of vanilla flows over it all, banishing the anise as it combines with the tiare. This becomes a creamy floral comfort scent over the final hours.
Vanille Reve has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Twilight is a part of the day where it feels like magic is possible. It seems as if Shalini and M. Roucel must be composing perfume at that time of day. Vanille Reve is another magical addition to the collection.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Shalini.
I have always enjoyed being outdoors late at night when the moon is effulgent. The silvery moonlight changes the way things look. It provides a new perspective over the light of day. Just walking around my yard seeing what is illuminated by the moon is fun. There are lots of perfumes which also want to capture this effect. Most of them miss something. Shalini Iris Lumiere gets it just right.
Shalini is an Indian-born fashion designer who entered the fragrance game back in 2004. Her first perfume, Shalini, remains one of the best tuberose interpretations I own. She worked with perfumer Maurice Roucel and has continued the partnership with Iris Lumiere representing their fifth fragrance together. Through all the pieces of this collection there has always been an haute couture sensibility with which Shalini has found a willing interpreter in M. Roucel. Iris Lumiere represents the pinnacle of their collaboration.
Iris Lumiere is a luxurious version of the named flower. So often a perfumer chooses the powdery part or the rooty part of this dual-faced ingredient. M. Roucel discovers a new face by interrogating his iris with two intensely green questioners. What they wring out of iris is unique.
Iris Lumiere opens with a large overdose of orris absolute. Before it can dissolve into powder or become earthy an equal amount of galbanum appears. The intense crystallinity of that encases the iris causing it to have to rise up to be noticed. In that early struggle there is that new face of iris. This seems to me like the smell of what a freshly harvested rhizome of iris would smell like. The green leaves are what you notice because the root needs months of drying to transform itself into the perfume ingredient. If the galbanum was allowed to stand alone this would have become strident. M. Roucel adds in a softening source of green in muguet. It smooths out the rough edges polishing the galbanum to a glittering shine. It also imparts a slight chill. This gets picked up as the moon rises and its representative frankincense covers it in silvery light. The resin adds waves of argent moonbeams. It is an ideal compliment as it adds a soft light to the iris encased in green crystal. It forms an amazing accord that lasts.
Iris Lumiere has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have enjoyed all the perfumes Shalini has produced. Iris Lumiere is on its own level. It is the best perfume of the brand and among the very best perfumes I’ve smelled this year. Of all the florals iris is one of my favorites. I don’t remember having smelled anything like this before. To create a new way of seeing this floral the creative team just had to present iris by moonlight.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Shalini.
I write about soliflores, where a single ingredient is highlighted, as being difficult to have that be compelling. It is much easier to find a pair of perfume ingredients which can provide all the complexity you desire. I say it is easy but, finding that balance to give both the space to shine individually and in harmony is also difficult. I was reminded of what it is like when done well with Shalini Paradis Provence.
Paradis Provence is the fourth fragrance overseen by fashion designer Shalini for her fragrance brand. As before, she collaborates with perfumer Maurice Roucel. It is meant to evoke the special scent of Provence in France. For Shalini she wanted to feature the “golden light of thyme”. I’m not sure who had the idea to marry lavender to it, but it is an inspired choice.
One of the things I enjoy about high-quality lavender is the tripartite scent profile it exudes. The obvious floral quality is matched by a green herbal-ness over a subtle woodiness. In the hands of M. Roucel the concept is to find other ingredients which can accentuate all three parts.
Right away the lavender appears with the floral and herbal qualities on display. The thyme rises by first teasing out the herbal quality seeking it as a complement. It gives the early moments a vegetal green field accord. The floral quality is matched with orange blossom containing its own green to match the lavender and the thyme. The thyme achieves that “golden light” as the orange blossom arises. It ends with olive wood and the woody part of the lavender comprising the base.
Paradis Provence has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I was so intrigued with the lavender-thyme combination I visited my local lavender farm to see what the real things smelled like together. Not as good as Paradis Provence. It was a reminder of what modern perfumery is meant to do; interpret nature through an artistic vision of scent. Paradis Provence lives up to that high minded ideal beautifully.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
When you look around the world to witness change over the last 20 years there is nothing to rival Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. In just two decades the skyline in the city has sprouted skyscrapers one after the other with the 2,722-foot-tall Burj Khalifa, the tallest man-made structure in the world, the biggest. These are the modern versions of the ancient pyramids to the northwest in Egypt. While bigger might be better I like a bit of a twist in my design which I find literally in the 90-degree twist of Cayan Tower. I also like a bit of twist in my perfume pyramids too.
Burj Khalifa (l.) and Cayan Tower at night
Indian-born fashion designer Shalini released her first perfume, Shalini, back in 2004. That perfume was a collaboration with perfumer Maurice Roucel. It was a magnificent study in how to take tuberose and create haute couture out of it. M. Roucel considers it one of his best which I have no argument with. When I heard there was a new perfume to come from the same team I was interested to see what the second act would smell like.
Shalini Jardin Nocturne is based on the nighttime air in Dubai. The idea is you’re driving through the city as night-blooming flowers and a scented haze of oud form the background to the lit-up skyline. One thing which has been interesting is Shalini has encouraged M. Roucel to use high concentrations of exquisite sources of the keynotes in these perfumes. For Jardin Nocturne this means an Indian Jasmine absolute in overdose along with a significant amount of real Assam oud. While both of those notes provide the height M. Roucel adds in a few complementary notes to add a twist to the overall architecture.
The ride begins awash in the smell of jasmine. This is a ton of jasmine which displays everything about jasmine at full volume, including the indoles. It is that skanky core of this white flower which makes people gravitate to the cleaner synthetic versions. In Jardin Nocturne the depth of a high-quality absolute puts the jasmine in sharp focus. Then M. Roucel adds the first twist as he uses saffron to warm up the jasmine smoothing out the rougher edges. As we move along the oud begins to permeate the indoles. It almost comes as a surprise because it seems to rise out of the indoles. One moment it is indolic the next moment it is the resinous oud ruling at the heart of the jasmine. This is what the central accord of Jardin Nocturne is; balanced and compelling in its strength. What is particularly enjoyable is the Assam oud M. Roucel uses has a floral aspect which becomes apparent over time. Which means as the accord evolves it becomes more floral and the more challenging parts of the oud and jasmine get pushed to the background. The final twist is to find a complement for the oud in its final stages; M. Roucel uses Mysore sandalwood to round out the edgy woodiness of the oud. To make sure it doesn’t get too safe some musks arrive to make sure there is still a hint of indolic depth to the very end.
Jardin Nocturne has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Shalini has said Jardin Nocturne is the middle piece of a planned perfume trilogy with M. Roucel. I am very interested to see where this all ends. Jardin Nocturne is the perfume equivalent to these modern pyramids comprising the skyline of Dubai. It is sleekly constructed glowing with illumination.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Shalini.