The worst part of any long road trip is listening to the GPS tell you that you are almost there. You’ve done all the driving and you are close to being where you want to be. Then you hear that neutral voice tell you 45 minutes until your destination. New perfume brands also must travel a similar path. As a reviewer I have a good feeling about the early work of some new brands. I like what they seem to stand for while feeling they aren’t quite there. The owners don’t hear my voice but I’m thinking you’re one perfume away. Chris Collins African Rooibos has reached its destination.
Chris Collins will be known to many of you as one of the models who became a face for Ralph Lauren fashion. Mr. Collins would pick up a knowledge of how to market luxury through his association. He also was interested in fragrance. One trip to Paris he decided to go visit Grasse and see what he could learn. The result of that was his first collection of three perfumes in 2018 dubbed the Harlem Renaissance Collection. All three were good. They also showed an aesthetic of opulent luxury. After trying that initial sample set, I thought this was a fragrance line to pay attention to. He would return a year later with a four-perfume collection called Dark Romance. These were all at extrait strength and that didn’t do them any favors. They didn’t shimmer on the skin they kind of diffused into a pleasant-smelling close wearing perfume. The dedication to high quality was still evident it just needed to be dialed back some. When I received my sample of African Rooibos, I knew form the first sniff this was the culmination of the last three years of learning.
Mr. Collins has worked with some of the best perfumers, for this he collaborates with Sidonie Lancesseur. Together they create a perfume which evokes the Fynbos region of South Africa where rooibos is grown for use in herbal teas. The name translates to “fine bush” and the plant from which the tea leaves are harvested is part of the broom family. What they create is a fragrance of the bush country of South Africa.
It begins with a cool citrusy breeze of cardamom winding its way through the landscape. It picks up the dry ground though the kick of black pepper. As the breeze curls around a rooibos bush it also finds some orris there. The rooibos has a slightly smoky toasty scent profile. The orris first adds a sprinkle of powder before the carrot-like quality finds a vegetal sweetness to the rooibos leaves. Immortelle comes next in all its rugged floral maple syrupy presence. It meshes with the heart accord beautifully creating something even more engaging. Tonka bean amplifies the smokiness in a gentle way through the coumarin inherent within. Clean slightly green cedar provides a frame for it all.
African Rooibos has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
This was the perfume I expected Mr. Collins was eventually going to make. It pulls together all that he wants his eponymous brand to stand for. African Rooibos has completed that trip.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Bergdorf Goodman.
I’ve mentioned in the past that I live near a lavender farm. For over a year I have been missing my ability to go walk through the fields of lavender. One of the things I have learned about lavender is it survives winter surprisingly well. As soon as spring hits the lavender is ready and waiting. When I’ve been out on the farm during the early days of spring was when I first really began to understand the herbal quality of lavender. It has made me more cognizant of it when I encounter it in a fragrance. If I were to describe the scents of one of these days, it reminds me of a hybrid of rosemary and sage with just a hint of the floral. When I received my sample of Marie Jeanne Tonka Lavande I was whisked back to these days on the farm.
Marie Jeanne is a new to me brand. Gerorges Maubert founded the brand in 2017. He is a fifth-generation descendant of the family that runs Robertet. The concept is to focus on the best materials which the collection, Matieres Premieres is named after. The name of each perfume indicates the ingredients to be featured. M. Maubert collaborates with perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur for Tonka Lavande.
This begins with a sturdy set of herbs in rosemary and sage. These are used to give a significant green shading to the lavender at the heart. They form that early spring scent of the lavender fields. A slightly green woody cedar completes the early accord. It has that slightly mentholated profile of cut raw wood. This is a much greener herbal lavender than I normally experience in perfume. The tonka arrives to add warmth through the coumarin inherent in it. I experience coumarin as hay-like which is how it blends in here. There is an appealing dried sweet grass underneath which only further reinforces my feeling of being at the farm.
Tonka Lavande has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Once the farm is open to visitors again, I know as soon as I am vaccinated it will be one of my first destinations. I don’t expect that to happen until the middle of summer. At least Tonka Lavande will allow me to imagine what spring would smell like back on the farm.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Marie Jeanne.
When I receive my samples and am prioritizing them, I’ll admit a favorite perfumer name will move it towards the front of the line. It isn’t foolproof. The marketers and focus groups can dumb down the best. Even against those powerful tides I have a trust in the perfumers I admire to push back a little bit. Which is what I experienced with Chloe Rose Tangerine.
Ever since 2018’s release of Chloe Nomade it seems like there is a new team overseeing the perfumes. They have stopped being minimal variations on rose. That history made me wonder if a perfume called Rose Tangerine was a return to that. The perfumers which had me hoping for more are Michel Almairac and Sidonie Lancesseur. What they produced was a variation on rose but something more substantial in keeping with the more recent releases.
This is a perfume where you definitely get what is advertised. The tangerine effect is that of the fruit itself. It is given lift through the precise use of blackcurrant bud. This is where the imprimatur of my perfumers I admire is probably being seen. By adding this in underneath a juicy citrus it adds a subtle fizz. Not aldehydic but kind of like a mimosa where the champagne has gone a bit flat. It provides just a bit of expansiveness to the tangerine. Which allows the very fresh rose to fill those spaces. It comes together in a lovely fruity floral accord. Some more synthetic musks and woods add more opacity over the final stages.
Rose Tangerine has 4-6 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
If you are someone who bases your fragrance buying on how long it lasts and how far it blasts, Rose Tangerine is low on both scales. This is one of the shortest lasting mainstream perfumes I’ve tried. I topped it off twice after initial application on the days I wore it. It makes it a short-term pleasure I was happy to repeat on those days.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Sephora.
As perfumery continues to define the boundaries of gourmand perfumes, I am finding the ones which center around nuts are becoming a favorite. It is probably because the perfume versions of nuts come with a woody background as part of the package. It allows for perfumers to blend them with actual versions to create new accords which have an edible streak. Van Cleef & Arpels Bois D’Amande states its purpose on the label.
Bois D’Amande is another addition to the Collection Extraordinaire. For the most part this has been a fragrance collection which hits the mark. When it works it is because it is kept simple. Usually by accentuating the ingredients in the name. In this case the bois is cedar to go with almond. Perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur uses the overlap between the two to ideal effect.
The first almond tree I ever saw was in the middle of a lemon grove. The opening moments of Bois D’Amande bring back that memory. Almond has slightly sweet nuttiness which contrasts the tart sunniness of the lemon. It keeps that aspect more forward until the cedar shows up. This cedar is the slightly green clean wood as if it were cut down a touch too soon. This is the version I enjoy most in warm weather. The woody facet of almond adds back a more mature woodiness while also retaining the sweeter nature. There were moments during this part that smelled like a sandalwood accord of these two ingredients. Vanilla comes along to add a creamy swirl while a suite of musks add some depth. It all flows together into a woody gourmand.
Bois D’Amande has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Almond is becoming one of those gourmand ingredients which will come to delineate a certain style. It has the versatility to interact with many other ingredients. Mme Lancesseur puts it through its paces in this perfume. By the end it shows just how interesting it can be.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Van Cleef & Arpels.
The idea of flankers is to give a consumer something very similar to the original perfume they bought. It is an exercise of laziness because most brands ask a perfumer to just add something different to the existing formula. At Thierry Mugler they have taken a different approach as they use their flankers as re-inventions of their pillar lines. The entire A*Men Pure series is probably the greatest set of flankers in all of perfumery. The brand has been doing the same with the iconic Angel over the past couple of years.
Angel was the alpha-gourmand perfume. It is a powerhouse which is not part of the current trend of lighter fragrances. The brand realized they would have to make a version of Angel which would appeal to those new perfume buyers. It started with Angel Muse, but it was last year’s Angel Eau Croisiere which took Angel in a fantastic new direction. The follow-up has arrived in Thierry Mugler Angel Eau Croisiere II.
What made Eau Croisiere so appealing was the palpable feel that it was meant to be a perfume of summer fun. I likened it to a tropical cocktail complete with an umbrella. Perfumer Sidonie Lencesseur infused it with the carefree attitude of warm days. Mme Lanceseur returns for Eau Croisiere II and this time she adds some coconut to the fun.
I received my note list before the perfume arrived. I saw fig, magnolia, patchouli, praline. What it turns out to be is coconut, patchouli, and praline as the first two ingredients form an abstract coconut accord that carries everything,
For the first few seconds the creamy woody magnolia is apparent, but the fig comes and the two become coconut. This is one of those things about perfume I enjoy tremendously. If I focus, I can tease apart the fig and the magnolia. When I am just letting myself enjoy it is all coconut. It is the way a great accord should work. Patchouli and praline are the callback to the original Angel. There those form a deeply dark foundation. In Eau Croisiere II it is a shadow of that depth. Here the patchouli and praline turn into a coconut candy as the patchouli provides a chocolate feel while the praline adds in the confectionary sweetness.
Angel Eau Croisiere II has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
It is early to make the comparison but after two versions of Eau Croisiere I am thinking Thierry Mugler is on to another great set of flankers. May this party keep going strong.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Thierry Mugler.
I would certainly plead guilty to the charge of taking perfume seriously. The defining question is whether I take it too seriously. I hope not, but a recent experience gave me pause. As readers know the whole transparency to the point that it seems like it doesn’t want to be perfume irritates me. When I received the three fragrances which make up the Azzaro Time to Shine collection I expected to feel the same. To the point that I sort of got them out of the way the night they arrived at Colognoisseur HQ. I was more interested in other things in the mail that day. As happens occasionally, one of those strips I want to ignore finds its way back to my nose. What really surprised me was it was these Azzaro ones. They are little more than single accords but every one of them caught my attention. The Time to Shine collection consists of Fun, Sea, and Shine. They are described as “feel-good” fragrances and I must admit that in the right circumstances they were.
Fun is composed by perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto. It is an off-kilter citrus accord where blood orange and rhubarb form a tart vegetal citric duet which has akigalawood providing a subtly spicy foundation.
Sea is composed by Michel Almairac. It is a clever transparent take on a classic aquatic accord. Orange infuses the set of marine/ozonic ingredients with the melon quality of Calone pushed forward to make it more fruity than citrus. Regular patchouli provides the foundation here.
Shine is composed by Sidonie Lancesseur. It represents the sand of the beach with a mineralic accord. It reminded me of the scent of the sand when the sun is at its zenith. Ambroxan, used judiciously, provides a heat mirage effect off of the sand accord.
All three have 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I was testing these while we had our first concerted heat wave and they were “feel-good” companions. They provided just the right amount of fragrance in the humidity that they were welcome. As I mentioned in the opening these are little more than single accords. Maybe there are circumstances when good perfumers can please me with just that. Making me look myself in the mirror and ask, “Why so serious?”
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Azzaro.
When I’m deciding what perfume to wear in the summer my eyes always pause on my collection of favorite vetivers. Warm weather and vetiver go together like peas and carrots. (Sorry Forrest Gump) Vetiver is also one of the most versatile ingredients in all of perfumery having a multi-faceted profile. Over recent years perfumers have been using various fractions of vetiver to enhance certain parts of that profile. They have been part of some excellent perfume. Except my summertime shelf of vetiver is only populated by those fragrances which want to give me a full-spectrum vetiver at their heart. I have recently found a new perfume which achieves this; Bentley Beyond Wild Vetiver.
The perfumes inspired by the iconic luxury car Bentley are one of those unsung collections which has produced above average fragrances. Many of the car brands which have perfume affiliated with them are through the bigger beauty corporations. For Bentley that means Lalique is responsible for the collection which began in 2012. I think the second fragrance released under the Bentley label; Bentley for Men Intense is one of the best designer fragrances of the last ten years. There has been a noticeable aesthetic which has formed over the last seven years which is probably due to Lalique creative director Marc Roesti. He has overseen perfumes which capture a sophistication befitting the brand.
Mr. Roesti’s latest addition is a series of three perfumes called the Bentley Beyond collection; Exotic Musk, Majestic Cashmere, and Wild Vetiver. This is a different direction than what has come before. The previous Bentley releases have been complex masculine-style perfume. The Beyond collection is still focused on a masculine aesthetic but with stripped down construction focused on the note listed in the name. I like all three, but Wild Vetiver is the one which connected with me. Mr. Roesti asked perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur to take vetiver and display all the kaleidoscopic hues of this versatile ingredient.
She uses an Indonesian version of vetiver as the core. In the early moments she uses pepper to tease out the grapefruit quality of vetiver. It adds a roughness which becomes a recurring theme throughout Wild Vetiver. Verbena comes next and the citrus-tinted green of that ingredient connects the grapefruit along with the sharp green aspects of the vetiver. This is a gorgeous refreshing vetiver at this point. What takes it up a level is when Mme Lancesseur takes the dry woodiness of amberwood and roughs it up with birch. It is where the wild in the name is found. The birch makes the amberwood less monolithic which then allows the woody earthiness of the vetiver a place to find purchase.
Wild Vetiver has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you like vetiver and are looking for something different Wild Vetiver is that kind of fragrance. It might take some doing to find where Bentley perfumes are carried. If you want a full-spectrum vetiver for summer Wild Vetiver will be worth the search.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bentley.
I’m not sure why it is the case but when I am on vacation at the beach, I drink cocktails which come with umbrellas in them. Fruity alchololic trifles meant to add to the fun of time away from home. This sense of fun is not found as often within fragrance as I would like. There isn’t a perfume bottle with an umbrella sticking out of it to let you know its time to kick back for fun. There might not be an umbrella sticking out of it but Thierry Mugler Angel Eau Croisiere is exactly what I’m talking about.
Three years ago Thierry Mugler began the evolution of Angel towards a new audience. The original Angel was a powerhouse. With Angel Muse there was a distinct effort to make the aesthetic less confrontational while retaining that special Angel magic. This was achieved by altering the gourmand heart of the original into something much lighter. I thought it was a brilliant re-invention of Angel. In the years since the subsequent releases haven’t captured that as well as I’d hoped; until Angel Eau Croisiere. Perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur does that by following a similar recipe infused with insouciance. It is fruits leading to a more transparent gourmand, but this carries a glint in its eye.
Angel Eau Croisiere opens with a trio of fruits which are both sweet and tart. Mme Lancesseur balances them right on that defining line. She also does something else quite clever. One of the fruits is listed as “blackcurrant sorbet”. This is conjecture but I think she uses a supercritical fluid extraction source of the blackcurrant. It gives the sense of the chill you see when you open up a quart of ice cream on a summer day and you see tendrils of frost rising from the surface. The blackcurrant has that chilly airy feeling. Grapefruit provides its typical citrusy sparkle. The star of the top accord is mango. This is the tart fleshy fruitiness kept to an opacity to not allow it to overwhelm the other two ingredients. This creates a joyful back and forth between fruits I don’t usually find. Then we head to the base where Mme Lancesseur chooses to follow the praline-focused base of Angel Muse instead of the chocolate-caramel version of the original. I extolled its use in Angel Muse. For Angel Eau Croisiere Mme Lancesseur employs it equally well. There is a nuttiness which goes nicely with the patchouli also present in the base. This is a gourmand with a light touch.
Angel Eau Croisiere has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
Angel Eau Croisiere extends the trend I was so happy with in Angel Muse. Mme Lancesseur does it with a grin and an umbrella.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Thierry Mugler.
I will start with another “I love my readers” interlude. In a comment on my Sidonie Lancesseur 201 column I was asked about my opinion of her perfumes for Gustave Eiffel perfumes. My answer was I don’t have one let me see if I can find samples. After putting some requests out I received a sample set and here we are.
Gustave Eiffel as a brand was established in 2016 which is when they released five perfumes. Four composed by Mme Lancesseur and the other by Dorothee Piot. I also received a sixth release from 2018 by perfumer Herve Bruno. You can tell by the name these are perfumes inspired by the French civil engineer known for his eponymous tower in Paris and the Statue of Liberty in New York. When you think back on that time period of building things the idea of this kind of big construction was the equivalent of trying to fly to the moon. These were grandiose imaginings of minds who couldn’t understand the concept of limits. Early perfumery was a lot like that too. The memorable perfumes all go for their own kind of big construction.
As I was going through my sample set it is that thought which shone through, these form a collection of large soaring fragrances. While there are Gustave Eiffel perfumes which celebrate his most famous engineering feats it was one which was his last which captured my attention the most; Bois de Panama.
At the end of the 19th century another of these grand projects was underway; The Panama Canal. After coming to the realization they weren’t going to be able to just dig a giant trench connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean they had to re-think things. Which is where Gustave Eiffel enters the picture. He would conceive of the giant locks which would become part of the eventual construction. This is what Mme Lancesseur captures in Bois de Panama.
Bois de Panama opens with a beautifully engineered top accord of violet, cardamom, and peach. You might look at that and think fruity floral but Mme Lancesseur has something else in mind. The violet is focused on its silvery sharp aspects while the cardamom is a green version with a sharp sticky character. The peach is there not to provide a fruity contrast but as a softener. To keep the sharper aspects from becoming rough edges. This is an accord that is more than the sum of its parts. Mme Lancesseur then increases the spiciness with nutmeg and cinnamon. It takes things in a more humid direction; fitting for perfume inspired by the tropics. The base comes together with sandalwood, amber, and some skin musks. This is where I catch a little bit of a clean sweat underneath it all. The labor of constructing big things. There is a tiny amount of vanilla to act as the peach did in the top accord to keep things in line.
Bois de Panama has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I mentioned above the intelligently engineered aspects of Bois de Panama are reflected throughout the Gustave Eiffel collection where big construction leads to impressive perfumes.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples supplied by Gustave Eiffel.
One of the aims of this series will be to allow me the opportunity to put the spotlight on perfumers I think are underrated. Sidonie Lancesseur has been releasing perfume since 2006. She is one of my favorite perfumers because she can create special effects within her perfumes. What I mean by that is she creates accords which do things any perfume lover is familiar with. What sets it apart is she does it while bending ingredients you don’t normally think of as having that characteristic. The brand which exposed her name to me, and most others, is By Kilian. She is another perfumer where I could use her work just for that brand to write this column. I limited myself to one because her work for other creative directors is also worth knowing about. Here are five perfumes which I think represent Sidonie Lancesseur.
By Kilian Cruel Intentions (2007)- I remember being in New York City trying the perfumes in the debut collection of Kilian Hennessy. M. Hennessy was debuting a collection of luxury niche perfume. I was enticed by all of them but there was one I kept going back to; Cruel Intentions. What struck me was Mme Lancesseur managed not to go overboard with the oud. At that point in time it seemed like perfumes were in a race to see who could have the oudist oud. Mme Lancesseur used it so the other ingredients could interact with that. What it means is violet, rose, sandalwood, vetiver, and castoreum can find space. Each tease out different pieces of the oud. Cruel Intentions was my favorite By Kilian on day one and remains so to this day.
Frapin L’Humaniste (2009)– This begins what I think of as the “sunlight trilogy” of Mme Lancesseur’s perfume portfolio. When you think of perfume ingredients which capture light it usually starts with citrus. In L’Humaniste she uses a palette of herbal notes wrapped around a gin and tonic core. This is a perfume that reminds me of sitting on the deck with a clear sweaty glass of gin and tonic as the sunlight reflects off the drops of condensation with the smell of freshly cut grass from the neighbor mowing their lawn. It is a staple summer perfume for me.
Olfactive Studio Lumiere Blanche (2012)- Creative director Celine Verleure would ask Mme Lancesseure to interpret a photograph by Massimo Vitali. The photo shows white sands reflecting off still water. Mme Lancesseur would translate the heat of the sun with a set of simmering spices. The whiteness of it all with a milky accord of iris and almond before warming it back up with sandalwood. All of this carries an intensity of summer sunlight via warm perfume notes. I return to this perfume often because of the sunny warmth it exudes.
Amouage Sunshine Woman (2014)– Under Christopher Chong’s creative direction Sunshine Woman is a perfume which lives up to its name. What is amazing is Mme Lancesseur does this with ingredients like almond, magnolia, patchouli, and cade. Cade is the ingredient most commonly used to add smoke; the furthest thing from sunlight. What she does here is she uses it as the far-off edge of a thunderstorm; the definition of the end of the sunlight. This is one of the most solidly constructed perfumes of her career.
Jul et Mad Nin-Shar (2015)– Creative Directors Madalina Stoica-Blanchard and Julien Blanchard wanted to take their brand in a darker direction. It is here where Mme Lancesseur shows she know the dark as well as the light. It opens with a fantastic accord she calls “rose liquor” that reflects a boozy powerful rose. She then throws in a very indolic jasmine into the mix to create even more depth. This might sound blaring and monotonic. It isn’t. there is so much to see here in the swirling darkness that this accord shifts like a wraith over the early hours. There are few perfumers who can make the dark kinetic in the way Mme Lancesseur does.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.