Perfume Reviews

Reviews by jtd

Advertisement
Total Reviews: 487

Fahrenheit by Christian Dior

Fahrenheit hit in 1988 and was an instantaneous commercial success. It was a bold scent, innovative in concept and execution and was immediately recognizable as something new. It might have been developed using the framework of the fougère, but unlike the other massive launch of the year, Cool Water, it bore little resemblance to the genre. Fahrenheit’s infamous gasoline note gave it an edginess that separated it from other masculine fragrances. 1988 was effectively pre-niche and unorthodox perfumes were rare. Dior bet that there was an unmet demand for a fragrance that didn’t play by the ‘normal’ rules of scent. The combination of gasoline and dehydrated sweetness gave Fahrenheit a deliberately synthetic appearance and distanced it from the fougères and woody chypres that were still the norm for masculine fragrances. The olfactory image of gasoline is convincing. The dryness of woods and the coolness of the violet leaf suggest volatility, like drops of gasoline evaporating from your skin.

To Dior’s credit, they didn’t simply take a traditional perfume and dress it out with ‘avant-garde’ images and a trendy ad campaign. They created a straight-up oddball that didn’t fit easily into existing categories. What’s interesting, though, is that while Fahrenheit was groundbreaking, it wasn’t without precedent. Dior seem to have learned from a few great masculine fragrances of the prior dozen years. The pressurized hiss of violet leaf is a nod to Grey Flannel and the aggressively dry woods are reminiscent of Antaeus. The last piece in the puzzle comes from perfumer Jean-louis Sieuzac himself. Two years before he co-authored Fahrenheit for Dior, Sieuzac composed Hermès Bel Ami, a sumptuous leather chypre with a noticeable whiff of gasoline. He isolated the gasoline note and amplified it to form the basis of Fahrenheit.

Fahrenheit juggled offbeat style and mainstream PR and production streams with remarkable success. Take a look at a network sit-com or an action movie from 1988. Or a fashion magazine. Listen to some 1988 pop music. Most of it doesn’t hold up very well. (see above.) Fahrenheit on the other hand might come off as era-specific, but not dated. It has survived reformulation, the vagaries of trend and an increasingly competitive market yet remains distinctive.
06th August, 2017

Felanilla 21 by Parfumerie Generale

Felanilla is an iris-heavy oriental perfume from 2008. It came on the heels of two other irises in the Parfumerie Generale Line: Iris Oriental (née Iris Taizo) in 2006 and Cuir d’Iris in 2007. The three were part of the ‘new iris’ trend of the mid-’00s that blurred the line between mainstream and niche. The Parfumerie Generale perfumes and other independent perfumes like Frederic Malle Iris Poudre, Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile and Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir were matched head-to-head by Dior Homme, Prada Infusion d’Iris and Gianfranco Ferre Ferre EDP.

Felanilla hit the scene at a very particular moment for iris. Niche perfumery was exploding and designer brands were keen to steal niche’s fire (and revenue). Guerlain, Cartier, Hermès, Dior, Chanel and the like were investing heavily in new ‘exclusive’ luxury sub-lines to lure niche customers out of LuckyScent, Osswald and Les Senteurs and into their own boutiques. Niche brands had always viewed themselves outside the mainstream. They were better than ‘ordinary’ perfumes because more inventive and more daring. The new high-end designer lines reversed the logic of the indies focusing on exclusivity rather than inventiveness. These new premier lines didn’t phrase themselves as outrageous or even as much different than their department store counterparts. They were simply more select and therefore more desirable. They were just better.

Iris was the perfect note to bridge the divide. (This was a heartbeat before oud.) Historically, orris denoted luxury and prestige. On a practical level, iris had an affinity with berry and chocolate notes on one side, sheer woody notes on another and powdery floral notes on still another. The versatility of the note created an effortless range from the sweet tooth of Guerlain Iris Ganache to the restraint of Chanel 28 La Pausa. The flexibility allowed for new sophisticated styles of gourmand perfumes at a time when a large cohort of young women were outgrowing the syrupy fruity-florals and cupcake gourmands they had worn for the past 5-10 years.

Felanilla veered away from the sweet end of the spectrum, but with a focus on vanilla it did comment on gourmandism, if obliquely. From a certain angle it smells like a dessert recipe that forgot the sugar. Like cough-syrup flavored buttercream icing. But the lack of sweetness had a point. It seems to say, ‘if you’re looking for sexy, the curves are in the vanilla, not in the sugar.’ From start to finish vanilla sits unadorned at the center of the perfume. It is fairly austere at the outset but gradually loosens its posture and settles into a more relaxed stance. A potent saffron note marks Felanilla as ‘of its era’ as much as the iris does, but the slight metallic touch it creates suits the overall firmness of the composition.

The iris and vanilla pairing might be a nod to Shalimar, but Felanilla skips the citrus lead-in and the sweet, smoky, powdery circus of the Guerlain classic. It freeze-dries the bulky classic oriental structure and shakes off the ornamentation, pairing down to essentials without a hint of nostalgia. Seen as an oriental, Felanilla doesn’t seem to fit any particular trends of the time. It does, though, compare interestingly to the ‘new irises’ that independent perfumers were devising at the time: Histoires de Parfums 1889, Serge Lutens Bas de Soie, le Labo Iris 39, l’Artisan Parfumeur Dzongkha, Parfum d’Empire Equistris. Guillaume had previously placed iris in a woody, savory-gourmand setting in Iris Oriental and against a sweet-leather backdrop in Cuir d’Iris. Felanilla continued the investigation of iris, focusing on the woody-balsamic range that Guillaume and the Parfumerie Generale line would become well-known for.

The state of the perfume market in the mid-late ’00s left me on the fence. I disliked the cynical trend of price-jacking that the exclusive lines fostered, but I loved the innovation that lead to exciting new approaches and styles. The trend of ‘new-irises’ might have been co-opted by the luxury houses, but it also gave us a broad range of imaginative and gorgeous perfumes. Guillaume’s irises capture the up-side of the time and have survived the test of time extremely well. 10 years later they compare favorably to any iris perfumes that have come along since.
22nd July, 2017

Private Collection - Un Crime Exotique by Parfumerie Generale

The spice cabinet has been neglected in perfumery. I imagine this has to do with perfume producers not wanting to be pinned down by the literal, the prosaic, the kitchen. From the consumer perspective, I don’t know if there is much of a market for culinary spice perfumery, but the need is probably met by aromatherapeutic products. I know that there are others spicy/bakery/culinary perfumes: Tauer’s Eau d’Epices, Lutens Five O’Clock au Gingembre, l’Artisan’s Tea for Two, but I’ve never tried them.

I do see a train of thought that goes from Estée Lauder Cinnabar/Dior Opium to Serge Lutens Arabie to Un Crime Exotique, though. For each of these, the spice is in the syrup. A syrupy quality in perfume usually implies an overt sweetness. Generally, in terms of nose feel, syrup = sweetness + viscosity + flavor. The flavor might be vanilla, maple, cinnamon, cardammom. The ‘flavor’ is the spice. Crime Exotique skips the implied syrup (Cinnabar) and the overt syrup (Arabie) and takes the spice in a different direction. The touch of syrup that Crime Exotique gives you is firmly grounded in clove, one of the few cold spices. The chilly blast of clove in the topnotes of the perfume surround you at first but subside by about 80% fairly quickly. The syrup goes the way of the clove hurricane, and Crime is soon revealed as a woody perfume. When not drowned in sweetness, spices like clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, even ginger are shown to be characteristically woody in scent.

Un Crime Exotique takes the wood and runs with it. What appeared to be syrup is actually more of a resinous quality that the perfume builds on to make a rich woody floral. The perfume settles into a cool vanillic range that maintains the drying, antiseptic character of the clove, but links it to a floral quality. Parfumerie Generale list osmanthus among the notes.

Un Crime Exotique flirts with the gift-shop candle vibe, but is just nuanced enough to escape. The opening notes of the perfume are a refrigerated blast where clove overpowers virtually all the other notes. The heart is evenly balanced, and the spicy, woody and floral notes move around one another respectfully. The drydown gets a bit grey, non-descript. It smells like a muffled version of Lutens Un Bois Vanille’s cool, woody vanilla. A little blurred, but not bad at all.

from scenthurdle.com
21st July, 2017
Advertisement — Reviews continue below

MEM by Bogue Profumo

MEM covers a lot of ground and it covers it quickly. When first sprayed it moves too fast for precise description and feels more like slam poetry than anything olfactory. It’s a 'Tomato-Jasmine Waxed-Sultry-Jam Malted Milk-Tuned Rubber Gasoline-Flame, Drop-The-Mic-And-Howl' sort of perfume. It’s a rush.

MEM is Antonio Gardoni’s discourse on lavender and it is packed with lavender. Lavender is never hidden, but you might give a double-take on recognizing it. MEM combines identifiable clues and completely new shapes and never settles for one definition of lavender. It knocks lavender from its comfortable perch in the pantheon of perfume materials and makes it sing for its supper. Working with a material like lavender has two specific risks. The first is that it is one of the most well-known material in fragrance and is consequently predictable. Trying to make it say anything new is difficult. The second is that changing the rules will always threaten a percentage of people. Dismantling an olfactory ‘baseline’ is like pulling out the rug. MEM might very well find a good portion of its audience in a state of distress or disorientation.

MEM is also something new for Gardoni. His previous perfumes for Bogue were an out-and-out interrogation of 20th century perfumery. (*) MEM doesn’t look to the past as these other perfumes did. It does however share their sense of provocation. These perfumes were conceptual and they were daring. Their success was made more meaningful in large part because they risked failure so unwaveringly. MEM’s risk of failure is just as great. The challenge is not just how to make a novel lavender perfume, it’s how to win people over to ‘The New Lavender.’ Anyone remember New Coke?

As an olfactory object, lavender is weighted down by associations. It’s floral, herbal, medicinal, antiseptic. It’s grand-dad’s aftershave, it’s the grocery store wipes, it’s the pastry from the bakery. It’s everywhere. Gardoni confronts lavender’s dual tragic flaw: familiarity and predictability. Rather than try to ‘reinvent’ lavender per se, Gardoni’s trick is to make it unexpected.

A set of almost tropical floral tones steers clear of typical depictions and frees lavender from associations with aromatherapy, cleaning products and the barbershop. The perfume sidesteps the top-heart-base pyramid without settling for a linear model and the progression of the perfume has a deceptively wandering feel. An expressive collection of woods braces the perfume and a pack of animalic notes come and go as if prowling through the perfume. MEM meticulously avoids lavender’s clichés and none of the old chestnuts (leafy greens, sudsy soap, chilly mothballs, shaving cream) find their way into the mix. By peeling away lavender’s expected characteristics and altering its momentum, Gardoni renders it abstract and bends it to his purposes.

At times the perfume seems to create a broad olfactory milieu and has a striding, environmental scale. But even when it’s impressionistic (sap, soil, metal and sunlight—-oh, an afternoon working in a garden) it’s remarkably specific. The accords pass by steadily, giving the feeling of being taken on a guided tour of the objects in an imagined olfactory Cornell Box. A waxed grapefruit. Carmelized tomatoes. Flowers, champagne, cats and brackish water. A bizarre collection of images? Sure, but also elegant and logical. 

The success of the perfume hangs on building new chains of association—-constructing a new lavender. I don’t get the impression that Gardoni is making an emotional appeal or trying to woo you. Rather, what he gives the audience is a richness, and more important, a clarity of ideas to play with as they care to. Whether or not the odd olfactory images—- coconut woods, grape-soda white flowers, doggedness, clay-rich soil, rubber citrus bark, dappled markings, orange jam, flat beer, leather-soled shoes—-speak to you or not, they have a precision that lets you string together the pieces to suit your own inclinations. I feel like I’ve been handed an extraordinary coloring-book and some crayons in gorgeous hues that I’ve never seen before. There’s no need to worry too much about creating an image—-the lines are drawn. I’m just having a blast discovering these new colors.

The coloring-book analogy might sound ridiculous, but I’ve found a playful mindset is an effective line of approach to MEM. For all the specificity of the perfume, I’m reminded how scrupulously Gardoni avoided getting caught in a single definition of lavender. Lavender enters this discussion as possibly the most overdetermined note in perfumery and Gardoni’s role was to free it. There is an appealing modesty to the way Gardoni helps you find your own lavender rather than convince you of his.

from scenthurdle.com
20th July, 2017

Feu Secret by Bruno Fazzolari

Feu Secret is an exploration of orris, a tricky material to describe in notes. Combined with other components in a composition it has an olfactory range of that lands it squarely in the woody-floral category. Of course orris butter can also make a perfume powdery, metallic, papery, chocolatey or yeasty depending on the angle of approach so to speak. It fixes fragrant materials so that even highly volatile topnotes coast a little bit further into the heart of a perfume.

The woody floral genre has a long history of dowdiness. To most people it is the brown tweed suit of fragrance. Practical, sturdy, steady. Pedigreed but dull. Fazzolari updates the genre and reinvigorates it. He modulates a central iris/violet accord with an astringent cedarwood and an unexpected mix of herbs and aromatics. I struggle to identify the specific aromatic materials, but I recognize their properties. Warm, chilly, piquant, bitter. The hot and cold aromatics temper the orris. They divert the iris note from its anticipated trajectory and allow Feu Secret to break from the tradition of staid woody florals.

The topnotes lead with a papery, chilled iris. This cool characterization of iris is recognizable, but Feu Secret doesn't follow a predictable course. Chanel 19’s acetone, Iris Silver Mist’s frozen carrot and Masque Milano l’Attesa’s cardboard all lean in this direction. Fazzolari’s twist is to play up the common ground of iris and violet notes, painting a spectrum from platinum violet leaf through cyanotic grey iris root to a pale mauve violet flower. In the heartnotes the frost thaws and releases a sweaty note reminiscent of both skin and dough. It’s a transitional olfactory image, but one that gives Feu Secret an intimate feel. By drydown the pairing of orris and cedar create a warm unctuousness similar to creamy sandalwood.

Secret Fire is a term borrowed from alchemy, an ancient practice that summons images of wizards feverishly trying to turn base materials into gold. But alchemy was in fact an organized system that attempted to reconcile the physical world and the unseen forces that acted on it. Think of it as chemistry with a dash of physics and a huge helping of magical thinking. Secret Fire was the much coveted ability of alchemists to harness a material's hidden animating properties and transform it to their will. Alchemists famously chased a ‘universal solvent’ called Azoth that divided materials into their fundamental elements and allowed them to be manipulated by alchemists who possessed the Secret Fire.

Fazzolari’s universal solvent is orris butter. He uses it to reveal fundamental properties and break down the other materials into the classical elements of alchemy. Turmeric ignites and becomes fire. Eucalyptus is a cool plunge into water. Pink Pepper takes flight and dissolves into air while cedar’s roots clutch the soil and become earth. Fazzolari tames the elements and creates a perfume of measured contrasts. His perfumes have a thoughtful, deliberate quality, but Feu Secret gives a glimpse further. In the 21st century artists are the closest thing we have to alchemists and their secret fire is their ability to transform us with their work.

from scenthurdle.com
20th July, 2017

Mon Guerlain by Guerlain

So, what is the recipe for a big-budget, got-to-be-successful, no-room-for-error, if-you-build-it-they-will-come perfume? To judge by Guerlain’s approach: Mix equal parts imitation, predictability and risk aversion in a large bowl. Bake in a lukewarm focus-group until stale. Sprinkle with olfactory least common denominators. Serve in a bottle replete with historical Awethenticity™. Buon appetito.

Am I cynical? Clearly, but I can’t hold a candle to Guerlain.

With Mon Guerlain Thierry Wasser proves he isn’t so much the successor to Jean-Paul Guerlain as he is the heir to Jacques Guerlain. Jacques was known for nicking someone else’s ideas (namely, François Coty’s) and making them better. Wasser attempts a Jacques Guerlain with two perfumes: Lancome’s end-of -the-world-as-we-know-it lollipop, La Vie Est Belle, and Mugler’s iconic poison-apple, Angel. The drag is that Mon Guerlain drowns in the syrup of the former but forgets the atonal war-cry of the latter. Angling between these two perfumes Guerlain casts its net as wide as possible, hoping for a hit that would break all box-office records.

The complication is that Guerlain looks to two perfumes that, though they both got a whole lotta ethylmaltol going on, are diametrically opposed. Angel might have launched two decades of straight-faced gourmand perfumes but it did so inadvertently. It was anything but straight. Angel’s cotton-candy is counterbalanced by an enormous inedible chemo-floral note and an earthy patchouli. It smells sweet, but it’s pure venom. La Vie Est Belle has no nuance, no subtext. It’s pure candy. Wasser’s Mon Guerlain looks for an easy reconciliation of the two perfumes because they are both overdosed with ethylmaltol. He misses the point that Angel, twenty five years later, is still a motherfucking monster. La Vie Est Belle on the other hand is the most vanillla of Disney fairy princesses.

Wasser uses lavender to twist Mon Guerlain into a taffy fougère. Pouring it into a version of the brand’s historical quadrilobe bottle is an attempt to draw a connection to Guerlain’s classic, sweet fougère Jicky, but don’t believe the hype. Despite the deception a list of notes provides, Mon Guerlain has no relationship to Jicky.

from scenthurdle.com
20th July, 2017

Cinnabar by Estée Lauder

Spicy, resinous amber perfumes are a feel-good genre in perfumery. The individual components (vanilla, benzoin, labdanum…) are like prefab bases and can single-handedly provide the blueprint for an Oriental perfume. The risk is the kitchen-sink syndrome.

Cinnabar's topnotes juxtapose a bright, aldehyde/bergamot accord against a boozy amber mix, a trick learned from Youth Dew. The segue from citrus to sweet brings out the matte, rubbery side of amber, but it doesn't jibe well with the vanillic undercurrent and the custard doesn't quite settle. Despite aldehydic jazz hands the topnotes don't have nearly enough torque to dig the spices out of the trenches. Little light escapes the cinnamon/clove event horizon and wearing Cinnabar gives me olfactory claustrophobia. It's a quick journey from the topnotes to the perfume’s next and only other phase, drydown, which lasts from the 30 minute mark until about 24 hours later. Cinnabar does grow less dense as the half-lives pass but it never becomes any less opaque.

Cinnabar might have cribbed some tricks from Auntie Youth Dew, but it should have studied history more closely. The pairing of citrus/aromatics and balsams was the compositional coup of the 1920s. Shalimar and Habanita steered the pairing toward leather and Nuit de Noel and Bois des Isles went the cozy fur-coat route but they all share a similar design concept.

The perfumes of the 1970s and the 1920s had a lot in common. Aldeyhydic florals were chic as hell and bitter chypres were all the rage, but the voluptuous orientals were the shit. Cinnabar and its exact contemporaries Yves Saint Laurent Opium and Lancome Magie Noire reinvented animalsim via spice and opened the door to a new style of oriental perfume that Chanel put on the map with Coco, Bois Noir and Egoiste.

The identity of the perfumer of Cinnabar is not 100% certain, but rumor has it that it was Bernard Chant. For the life of me I can't imagine that the perfumer of Cabochard and Aromatics Elixir didn't know how to square the bergamot/amber circle. If he is in fact Cinnabar's author, I have to imagine that the fault lies in reformulation. Chant was just too good to be credited with the murky version of the perfume available today.

The proof will be in the pudding. I've just found an unopened bottle of the original Cinnabar ("Soft Youth Dew") on ebay and it's en route. It'll go head-to-head with a pristine bottle of YSL Opium that I recently found. More to follow.

from scenthurdle.com
20th July, 2017

cK one by Calvin Klein

A friend brought up CK One yesterday in a discussion. The Calvin Klein names sound the same to me and it only clicked which CK perfume this was when I remembered the advertising campaign. The teenage faux-grunge advertising. Oy.

I’ll tell you how it is that I’ve never smelled CK One before: target marketing works. In 1994 and I was 30, or twice the age of the target audience. I lived in New York and CK One advertising was public. In 1994, before social media, targeting simply wasn’t very precise. Rather than aiming, Calvin Klein flooded. Billboards, television, magazines and newspapers, subway posters. I had to swerve to avoid it. If CK One launched today I’d simply never see it. It just wouldn’t show up in any of my feeds.

CK One was intended for a young audience, but the images were in everyone’s face, so a sort of self-recusal took place on-by-one. The perfume appealed to you or not, depending largely on whether the story being created included you. Imagery that read as cool/aspirational to the 21 year old who found the ads exciting didn’t appeal to me. Thin, world-weary teens playing Peter Pan meets Lord of the Flies? It screamed significance in fashion patois, but the post-grunge styling was years late and a shoddy attempt to cop a style from a subculture. The CK One campaign started a few months after Kurt Cobain killed himself. The notion of Calvin Klein trying to catch some momentum from grunge at this particular time was repugnant.

So I opted out. I was obliged to continue to see the images—I mean, I rode the subways—but that was the end of my participation. The contempt wore off after about a week. Then I just navigated the images until the next thing came along and replaced them—a classic New York experience of my time.

I remember a couple of details about the perfume. It was ‘unisex.’ I was surprised that they made a big deal of it—was unisex that novel an idea? Also, the fragrance was supposed to be contemporary and clean. SO contemporary and SO clean that it was somehow beyond scent.

So I tried CK One ‘cold’ yesterday for the first time. I’ve never read about the perfume itself. I have a bottle of CK One and some 25 year old recollections of the launch.

CK One smells like it was intended to convey hygiene yet go unnoticed. It’s there, but it claims not to intrude into your consciousness. There’s been years of discussion about the contradiction and denial involved in fragrances trying to smell like nothing, so I’m sure applying the notion to CK One is nothing new. But CK One smells like a very specific nothing. It’s conceptual: a ‘clean’ fragrance + a masking fragrance = an impulse of purity. It allows you to feel invigorated without the invasiveness and effort of having to exhibit a clean scent. From the angle of 2017, hygienic fragrances seem very ’90s-specific, but for all I know, CK One invented the approach.

Of course the premise that two opposing olfactory forces will nullify each other doesn’t actually work on a practical level. Instead, you’re left with the remnants of a scent, like dry-cleaning chemicals that cling to your clothing. The perfume ends up locked in a cycle of constantly trying to invalidate itself. It might have been intended to be uncomplicated and undemanding, but it’s no surprise that it smells like effort and tension. (Cute bottle, though.)

It also smells like diet soda and Febreze, which wouldn’t exist for another another 4 years. I give CK One enormous credit for its methodically synthetic tone. It comes across as calculated and legible. I had never smelled it before yesterday, and yet it instantly smelled like an era. If CK One’s goal was to create a new style of fragrance, my experience points out how successful it was.

from scenthurdle.com
20th July, 2017

En Passant by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

En Passant is a consummate spring scent. It balances a cool, aquatic heart with soil-like accents to recreate the tension at the center of lilac—the crispness that doesn’t quite disguise an oily nature. I’ve seen En Passant described as muted and pastel, euphemisms for vague, washed-out fragrances, but there’s too much shadow and undertow in En Passant for it to be considered bloodless. Giacobetti might play with simplicity but she doesn’t settle for it and she doesn’t spare the cream in the recipe. The perfume is padded precisely where it needs to be. En Passant’s semblance of simplicity is a red herring, though. It might come off as spare but it conceals a sophisticated approach and becomes more detailed the closer you look.

A lot has been made of the perfume’s cucumber and wheat notes, how they modulate the central floral accord and keep it from becoming too sweet, too simple. It’s true that the accord is unexpected. And it’s remarkably effective in creating the detail that lets the perfume simultaneously portray a single flower and an entire season. But embedded in the accord like drop of ink in paper is a waxy/nutty, almost tactile facet. It widens the central floral sketch and gives the perfume’s trail weight and momentum.

Depending on whom you talk with En Passant is either an essay on rain, a sort of modern descendant of Après l’Ondée, or a lilac soliflor. Impressionism or representation. Visual art terms only have ballpark accuracy when applied to perfume.

Representation is tricky and the assumption that recreating ‘nature’ is perfume’s highest modality is still widespread. Giacobetti, like Roudnitska before her, challenged the premise. His answer to the question of how perfume relates to nature was to compose a detailed muguet soliflor still life. From her fig perfumes for Diptyque and l’Artisan Parfumeur to her carrots, irises and roses Giacobetti offers a succession of solutions to Roudnitska’s question, as if to imply that there are at least as many explanations as there are subjects. With En Passant, she creates a faithful lilac soliflor at the same time that she offers a more upbeat vision of a rainy day than Jacques Guerlain’s. It’s a fantastic accomplishment for a seemingly simple lilac soliflor.

from scenthurdle.com
20th July, 2017

Dior Dior by Christian Dior

The ’70s was the decade of the sequel and the greatest hits album. It’s as if the late ’60s had used up the cultural capacity for new ideas and reiteration was the new innovation. As the name implies, Dior Dior favored repetition over novelty.

All members of Edmond Roudnitska’s citrus chypre family trace their roots to the voluptuous stone fruit chypres Femme and Diorama, but Dior Dior is better viewed against the other citrus chypres: Moustache, Eau Fraîche, Eau d’Hermès, le Parfum de Thérèse. Roudnitska investigated the fruity chypre, pulling a hint of decay from the common ground of overripe fruit and mature flowers.

Dior Dior owes much to the two perfumes that directly preceded it. You can smell whole pieces of Eau Sauvage and Diorella while wearing Dior Dior. The fruit is fresher than Diorella’s half-decayed melon and despite a hefty dose of moss, Dior Dior is more straight-laced than Eau Sauvage. The lemon/aldehyde pairing recreates Eau Sauvage’s mouth-watering lemon-drop but overall Dior Dior resembles Diorella. It shares Diorella’s general shape, but squeezes it into a girdle to suppress any errant curves.

With a brighter fruit note and cleaner florals Dior Dior comes off as more prim than its siblings. Compared to Diorella’s sultriness and easy virtue, and Eau Sauvage’s cruisy Playboy After Dark vibe, Dior Dior is a prig. The hint of skank tempers Dior Dior’s coloratura topnotes, but only *just*. If Diorella reflected a chic, offbeat style, Dior Dior suited a debutante. First impressions matter. The lemony shine and choir of aldehydes create a peppy, Anita Bryant/Up-With-People cheerfulness that seems at odds with the turned-fruit styles of chypre that Roudnitska developed over the years.

‘Cultural’ tone aside, Dior Dior is an excellent example of Roudnitska’s pursuit of simplicity. In his discussion of the art of perfumery he espoused the belief that richness doesn’t require complexity. His sumptuous perfumes were apparently the result of succinct formulae. Generating plush perfumes from concise composition might appear counterintuitive, but Roudnitska proved his point. His perfumes couldn’t rightly be called minimalist but they all have a feeling of perfect balance. Elements that don’t contribute to a perfume’s central goal have been edited out and the central olfactory ideas are diamond-like. In this respect, Dior Dior is classic Roudnitska.

from scenthurdle.com
25th March, 2017

Macaque by Zoologist Perfumes

Victor Wong has used a model of art direction to build the Zoologist Perfumes line. As the brand’s owner and artistic director Wong commissions work from independent perfumers and collaborates with them to shape the perfumes. I’m interested in commissioned work because it allows an artist to step outside of herself to try on a new persona/style. The work can shift expectations and find a new audience.

Wong has used this approach to create a consistent but broad aesthetic for his brand. The line has expanded to include a number of genres, but the potent eau de parfum concentration of the perfumes, excellent presentation and cheeky anthropomorphic animal themes give the line coherence. Sarah McCartney is the author of the 4160 Tuesdays line of perfumes. She approached approached Wong, upending the pattern of the director pursuing nose, and then set herself a particular challenge by choosing a green perfume as her topic. Macaque is the second green woody perfume in the line after Paul Kiler’s Panda. Third if you count Chris Bartlett’s Beaver, which is a musky green floral. (Fourth if you count the reformulated Beaver.)

Cedar and frankincense reinforce galbanum’s balsamic olfactory profile and give Macaque backbone. The core of the perfume holds a coherent shape from start to finish, giving the more volatile aromas a chance to run their course at their own pace. McCartney makes the connection between wood and fruit via sap. Unripe fruit tends to be chalky and starchy, qualities often used to describe galbanum. At the cusp of ripeness, fruit is effectively resinous. McCartney takes advantage of this particular aspect of fruit to generate woody fruit notes. Her approach short-circuits the expected associations of green perfumes with springtime breezes, chirping birds and butterflies.

Macaque is painted in broad strokes and generates deliberate juxtapositions. The ‘sap accord’ defines the perfume and gives it a bittersweet balance. McCartney does some of sleight of hand in the drydown, recreating the balance with a different accord. For most of the perfume it is the mash-up of fruit and galbanum that produces bitterseetness but in the basenotes, fruit is replaced by a sweet muskiness. The slight dissonance of sweetness and bitter inkiness extends through the life of the perfume. It’s a clever use of a soft musk, avoiding the bland ‘soft landing’ white musks give to many contemporary perfumes.

Galbanum is such a particular and forceful scent that many perfumes that use it become penned in by it. It defined the vivid green perfumes of the 1960s-’70s and has unfortunately acquired a retro vibe. McCartney dives headlong into the material and implicitly begs comparison to some heavy hitters of the past, like Chamade, Chanel 19, Aliage and Safari. It’s a gutsy move and one that pays off by focussing our attention away from the bright floral stylings of these older perfumes and toward a more dusky, vegetal interpretation. McCartney succeeds in shaking off associations with the past and places Macaque solidly in the present.

from scenthurdle.com
01st March, 2017

Terre d'Hermès Parfum by Hermès

I first tried Terre d’Hermès in the eau de toilette concentration. It is radiant in the contemporary manner, not forceful, but persistent. The eau de toilette’s slightly sour edge gives the impression of two voices singing together, one sharp and one flat. The notes don’t balance each other and they don’t cancel each other out. They sit uneasily next to each other.

Terre d’Hermès is linear, but has a single, wide accord that seems to surround you. It is radiant like many other contemporary linear masculines (a famously heavy percentage of Iso-E Super), but it seems to encompass you rather than emanate from you. The parfum is smoother and differently calibrated than the edt. It cushions the tartness of the edt, making it less curdled than tart. There is nothing superfluous, yet there’s no feeling of starkness.

The artistry, consideration and likely enormous amount of editing that went into the making of Terre d’Hermès are evident. Apply any binary set of descriptors to Terre d’Hermès and you’ll find it sits dead center, equidistant from the poles. I imagine an inordinate amount of effort went into placing Terre d’Hermès smack in the middle of the road. It suggests nothing. It refers to nothing. It asks nothing. It is devoid of character.

Forget Prada. The Devil wears Hermès.
07th February, 2017

Canoé by Dana

The fougère has been a yardstick of masculine perfumery since Houbigant released Fougère Royale in 1882. It is a slow moving genre that has sauntered from decade to decade with periodic touchups. The principle accord of lavender and coumarin can support a wide range of alterations. With a few compositional tweeks fougères have ranged from mossy or aromatic to oriental and aquatic hybrids.

The genre was created by the French, idolized by the British and democratized by Americans. Though Canoe was composed in the 1930s (actual release dates vary) in France, it came to epitomize a populist American style of a fragrance. Until the mossy fougères of the 1960s and aromatic fougères of the 1970s, oily-powdery musky lavenders were the masculine paradigm. The accord was ubiquitous, scenting a range of men's grooming products, becoming the scent of the masculine 'safe zone': the barbershop. (Paradoxically, a heliotrope-inflected version of this accord scented the baby powder of the era as well. Was the American man infantilized or were babies inculcated into the culture of masculinity?) Canoe's vanillic musk bears only a passing resemblance to the fougères of the present. On the other hand, it has much in common with sweet, powdery musks like Helmut Lang edp/edc, le Labo Labdanum 18, Kiehls Musk no 1 and even S-Perfumes S-ex.

Compared to previous fougères Canoe dialed down aromatics and woods and emphasized musky vanillic tones, making it as much an oriental as a fougère. A tart geranium accent steers the perfume away from custard, just as Jicky's dusting of culinary herbs does. Canoe ventures so far from 'pastry' vanilla that it lands in the infamous 'plastic doll head' territory. To the modern nose, geranium gives Canoe a dated feel, but it also cuts the softness and prevents a marshmallow effect. By drydown geranium loses its sticky, green sharpness. What remains is a lingering tartness and a slight rosy hue.

Jean Carles composed Canoe as well as its 1955 sibling Dana Ambush, a fougère marketed to women. The two were the sold as masculine and feminine bookends, though they are enough alike that the gender assignments seem arbitrary. Perhaps Carles took inspiration from Guerlain Jicky, which was launched as a masculine fragrance but became unisex by popular acclamation.

Since Paul Parquet's Houbigant Fougère Royale, each generation has had a version of the genre. There is an unbroken line off fougères nearly 150 long and no other perfume style has the old boy's historical momentum. Penhaligon's and Yardley preceded Canoe, which paved the way for Brut, British Sterling and Grey Flannel. Canoe is still produced, but lacks the roundness of earlier formulations. Fortunately, Canoe has been in production for so many years that large quantities are available on the cheap at ebay. The durable vintage musks and high alcohol content (eau de cologne concentration) preserve older bottles very well.

(from scenthurdle.com)
24th January, 2017
Advertisement — Reviews continue below

Arabian Horse 3.1 by Parfumerie Generale

The name fits. From the very opening Arabian Horse creates a setting that evokes equestrian affairs. It smells like farms, barns and steeplechases. The topnotes are strong and urgent, but the stables-and-tack mis-en-scène is just exposition and dramatic build-up. The heartnotes are the reveal. The pacing of the perfume reminds me of the actual experience of approaching a horse. At a distance I think what sublime animals horses are. Then, each time, as I get close I'm taken aback. Fuck, they're huge. Same with Arabian Horse. As the perfume sweeps into the heart, there you are with the horse and, fuck, it's huge.

The waxy animalic sweetness is offset by a bitter green-tinged floral that gives a raunchy touch. Narcissus flowers are earthy and have a hay-like aroma. Narcissus absolute (I smelled it just once) is even more fecund than the flower. It smells of hay, yes, but it also smells of horseshit, not a bad scent by any means. Think of horseshit as filtered hay. Narcissus is one of those perfectly balanced, good-with-the-bad materials. It also has one of the most animalic facets you'll find in a botanical, which lends a credulity to the perfume's image. Still, it's only one part of the picture. The thickly layered musks have a trippy, arpeggiated circus-calliope feel. Together with the narcissus they creates an aggresive tone, balanced but mobile. More suspended or poised than settled.

The horse angle is brilliant. The scents of leather and wood play with an equestrian-lifestyle fantasy. Polished saddles and stirrups, form fitted johdpurs that sound a crisp crack when struck by a crop. It's the subdued kink that I imagine Guerlain want you to long for every time you see an Habit Rouge ad. If you're into an equestrian fantasy scene, this is the scentscape of your kink. Down on all fours with bridle and bit, mucking out the stables. Catherine the Great would have dug this stuff. But the perfume can be taken in another way. For those of us too effete to have such vivid drama, Arabian Horse is also a well-layered woody-floral chypre with a solid dose of leather. It even has a background whiff of the flotsam found at the bottom of a purse. Arabian Horse hits the same spot for me as Jean Kerleo's brilliant 1000 for Jean Patou--tightly composed yet animalic.

I didn't follow the release of Guillaume's remixed perfumes * and when I first smelled Arabian Horse (3.1) I didn't know it was a reworking of Cuir Venenum, one of my favorite perfumes by Guillaume. Both perfumes create atypical leather notes and use them to build imagistic, suggestive perfumes. They don't so much smell alike as pursue their compositional goals similarly.

* Cozé Verde 2.1
Le Musc et La Peau 4.1
Vetiver Matale 6.1
Grand Siècle Intense 7.1
Bouquet Massai 10.1
Indian Wood 11.1

(from scenthurdle.com)
24th January, 2017

Cologne à la Russe by Institut Tres Bien

Institut Très Bien is dedicated to the Eau de Cologne. In 2005 the brand launched three fragrances by perfumer Pierre Bourdon, each a spin classic cologne: Cologne à la Française, Cologne à l'Italienne, Cologe à la Russe. They were not revolutionary and they weren't intended to be. They were, however, excellent. Multiple releases often have one solid perfume and an abundance of wishful thinking. Institut Très Bien bucked the trend and released three outstanding colognes.

They are all balanced hesperidic-floral Eaux de Cologne and differ in small but significant ways. l'Italienne highlighted the leafy, woody character of cologne and was more bracing and dry than the other two. La Française was a pitch-perfect, mouthwateringly good cologne. It was an impressive move to make the simplest of the three simply impeccable. La Russe was the cleverest of the bunch. It used a sweet and resinous base to give the cologne both a more stable shape and longer lasting basenotes. Over the years perfumers have worked every angle of the Eau de Cologne formula to make it last longer than the Warholian 15 minutes. La Russe grafts a musky, vanillic accord to the cologne structure. The tradeoff is that Russian is less effervescent than the other fragrances, though still citric. The payoff is a more resolute structure and a greater endurance than either La Française or l'Italienne. The base's hint of powdered leather makes it seem like a less animalic descendant of Eau d'Hermes.

A decade later in 2015, Institut Très Bien added a second trio to their line: Les Colognes Fines (as opposed to simply "Les Colognes"). Where each of the Colognes emphasized one particular aspect of the classic Eau de Cologne, the Colognes Fines, as their specific names reveal, supplemented cologne with an additional note. Each fragrance has a direct predecessor in the 2005 Colognes. They don't smell alike per se but they are similar in concept. To the brand's credit, they don't seem to have employed the flanker strategy of taking a stock base and simply added different 'flavors' to it. Instead, each cologne is reshaped in light of its new note. The notes themselves (rose, violet leaf, tuberose) are quite apparent, particularly in the top notes, and deserve to be spotlighted in the perfumes' names.

Rose de Mai is the simplest and most fetching of the lot. It lines up with La Française's direct approach, eschewing novelty for quality. The rose is musky and a touch sweet, giving the cologne a soft pink/purple glow. Citric top notes pick up rose's lemony grace notes, but fortunately aren't overly zesty. Rose folds into the rest the composition with a subtle spiced-floral inflection. If ITB had continued with the international theme of the 2005 Colognes, Rose de Mai's vaseline-lens garden rose would win this fragrance the title of Cologne à l'Anglaise. It is the least challenging in the trio, but when I first tried the three together with a friend who has a very discerning nose, he named it the winner of the bunch both for its prettiness and its balance. Each of the Colognes Fines are given nicknames at the ITB site and Rose de Mai's is fitting: La Delicate (delicate)

Violette de Parme (L'Inattendue-unexpected) is the most contradictory of the three. It's not that the accords don't work, but it varies the most between the strip and skin. On paper, it is clearly defined at all times and is the sharpest of the three. The top note is a deliciously old-fashioned candied violet. Cut from the 19th century to the 1970s: the metallic-green heart is reminiscent of the hissy 'functional' violet leaf of Grey Flannel. The transition is unexpected but logical. The pastille topnote and the urinal puck heartnote are both functions of violet leaf aromachemicals. Of the three, Violette de Parme best transposes the bracing, invigorating nature of classic Eau de Cologne to a new structure. The chilled soapy basenote is a nimble end to the interesting journey, a bit like sticking the landing after a pyrotechnic vault in gymnastics. Oddly, for the cologne with the clearest play on paper, on skin the dynamics don't come through nearly as strongly. Same shape, blurrier focus.

In Rose de Mai and Violette de Parme, the added notes energize the cologne structure and lights it up. Tuberose Absolue swallows the Eau de Cologne whole. Its label is "La Flamboyante." (Do I need to translate?) Imagine a contest between classic Eau de Cologne and Amarige. Who do you think wins? Imbalance is tuberose's not-so-secret weapon and the perfume gets high marks for taking a risk and succeeding. The cologne framework does soften the impact and highlights the soft rubbery side of the flower. It buoys the tuberose giving a hazy chiffon blur similarly to the way the lemony topnotes of magnolia aerate flower. In a contest of endurance, tuberose beats any other note in the Cologne. The basenote is 90% tuberose, but having been filtered through cycle of the Cologne it is less strident than the beautifully jarring topnote.

Adding individual key notes to an underlying Eau de Cologne structure goes back to the violet, heliotrope and lilac Eaux of the late 19th century. More recently, Atelier Cologne built a brand on a version of the tactic. But a better comparison for the ITB Colognes Fines are the Hermès colognes such as Gentiane Blanche, Mandarine Ambrée and Rhubarbe Ecarlate. Like those from Hermès, the ITB colognes lean more toward refinement than simplicity. All six fragrances in the line are presented in eau de parfum concentration. (At the launch of Rose/Violette/Tuberose, the original trio received free upgrades from edc to edp.) Don't let the concentration fool you---all three are colognes at heart and give a concise, brief showing on the skin. I wrote my characterizations of each of the Colognes Fines before I saw the nicknames at the ITB site. My observations lined up with the brand's descriptions, not indicating any particular observational skill on my part. Rather, it points to the clarity of the design and how well the fragrances translate their intent to scent.

Apparently in 2009 Institut Très Bien closed, though not permanently. At some point, the brand was revived and 2016 marks an expansion. The increasing frenzy of perfume releases makes me wary and I'll admit to an inward wince when I saw that Institut Très Bien were to double the number of products in their line in one shot. But then again, maintaining a line of three product during the most cynical years of perfume ambition and expansion is laudable. The brand clearly stand behind their product and The Colognes Fines do nothing to diminish the brand's integrity.

(from scenthurdle.com)
24th January, 2017

Cologne à l'Italienne by Institut Tres Bien

Institut Très Bien is dedicated to the Eau de Cologne. In 2005 the brand launched three fragrances by perfumer Pierre Bourdon, each a spin classic cologne: Cologne à la Française, Cologne à l'Italienne, Cologe à la Russe. They were not revolutionary and they weren't intended to be. They were, however, excellent. Multiple releases often have one solid perfume and an abundance of wishful thinking. Institut Très Bien bucked the trend and released three outstanding colognes.

They are all balanced hesperidic-floral Eaux de Cologne and differ in small but significant ways. l'Italienne highlighted the leafy, woody character of cologne and was more bracing and dry than the other two. La Française was a pitch-perfect, mouthwateringly good cologne. It was an impressive move to make the simplest of the three simply impeccable. La Russe was the cleverest of the bunch. It used a sweet and resinous base to give the cologne both a more stable shape and longer lasting basenotes. Over the years perfumers have worked every angle of the Eau de Cologne formula to make it last longer than the Warholian 15 minutes. La Russe grafts a musky, vanillic accord to the cologne structure. The tradeoff is that Russian is less effervescent than the other fragrances, though still citric. The payoff is a more resolute structure and a greater endurance than either La Française or l'Italienne. The base's hint of powdered leather makes it seem like a less animalic descendant of Eau d'Hermes.

A decade later in 2015, Institut Très Bien added a second trio to their line: Les Colognes Fines (as opposed to simply "Les Colognes"). Where each of the Colognes emphasized one particular aspect of the classic Eau de Cologne, the Colognes Fines, as their specific names reveal, supplemented cologne with an additional note. Each fragrance has a direct predecessor in the 2005 Colognes. They don't smell alike per se but they are similar in concept. To the brand's credit, they don't seem to have employed the flanker strategy of taking a stock base and simply added different 'flavors' to it. Instead, each cologne is reshaped in light of its new note. The notes themselves (rose, violet leaf, tuberose) are quite apparent, particularly in the top notes, and deserve to be spotlighted in the perfumes' names.

Rose de Mai is the simplest and most fetching of the lot. It lines up with La Française's direct approach, eschewing novelty for quality. The rose is musky and a touch sweet, giving the cologne a soft pink/purple glow. Citric top notes pick up rose's lemony grace notes, but fortunately aren't overly zesty. Rose folds into the rest the composition with a subtle spiced-floral inflection. If ITB had continued with the international theme of the 2005 Colognes, Rose de Mai's vaseline-lens garden rose would win this fragrance the title of Cologne à l'Anglaise. It is the least challenging in the trio, but when I first tried the three together with a friend who has a very discerning nose, he named it the winner of the bunch both for its prettiness and its balance. Each of the Colognes Fines are given nicknames at the ITB site and Rose de Mai's is fitting: La Delicate (delicate)

Violette de Parme (L'Inattendue-unexpected) is the most contradictory of the three. It's not that the accords don't work, but it varies the most between the strip and skin. On paper, it is clearly defined at all times and is the sharpest of the three. The top note is a deliciously old-fashioned candied violet. Cut from the 19th century to the 1970s: the metallic-green heart is reminiscent of the hissy 'functional' violet leaf of Grey Flannel. The transition is unexpected but logical. The pastille topnote and the urinal puck heartnote are both functions of violet leaf aromachemicals. Of the three, Violette de Parme best transposes the bracing, invigorating nature of classic Eau de Cologne to a new structure. The chilled soapy basenote is a nimble end to the interesting journey, a bit like sticking the landing after a pyrotechnic vault in gymnastics. Oddly, for the cologne with the clearest play on paper, on skin the dynamics don't come through nearly as strongly. Same shape, blurrier focus.

In Rose de Mai and Violette de Parme, the added notes energize the cologne structure and lights it up. Tuberose Absolue swallows the Eau de Cologne whole. Its label is "La Flamboyante." (Do I need to translate?) Imagine a contest between classic Eau de Cologne and Amarige. Who do you think wins? Imbalance is tuberose's not-so-secret weapon and the perfume gets high marks for taking a risk and succeeding. The cologne framework does soften the impact and highlights the soft rubbery side of the flower. It buoys the tuberose giving a hazy chiffon blur similarly to the way the lemony topnotes of magnolia aerate flower. In a contest of endurance, tuberose beats any other note in the Cologne. The basenote is 90% tuberose, but having been filtered through cycle of the Cologne it is less strident than the beautifully jarring topnote.

Adding individual key notes to an underlying Eau de Cologne structure goes back to the violet, heliotrope and lilac Eaux of the late 19th century. More recently, Atelier Cologne built a brand on a version of the tactic. But a better comparison for the ITB Colognes Fines are the Hermès colognes such as Gentiane Blanche, Mandarine Ambrée and Rhubarbe Ecarlate. Like those from Hermès, the ITB colognes lean more toward refinement than simplicity. All six fragrances in the line are presented in eau de parfum concentration. (At the launch of Rose/Violette/Tuberose, the original trio received free upgrades from edc to edp.) Don't let the concentration fool you---all three are colognes at heart and give a concise, brief showing on the skin. I wrote my characterizations of each of the Colognes Fines before I saw the nicknames at the ITB site. My observations lined up with the brand's descriptions, not indicating any particular observational skill on my part. Rather, it points to the clarity of the design and how well the fragrances translate their intent to scent.

Apparently in 2009 Institut Très Bien closed, though not permanently. At some point, the brand was revived and 2016 marks an expansion. The increasing frenzy of perfume releases makes me wary and I'll admit to an inward wince when I saw that Institut Très Bien were to double the number of products in their line in one shot. But then again, maintaining a line of three product during the most cynical years of perfume ambition and expansion is laudable. The brand clearly stand behind their product and The Colognes Fines do nothing to diminish the brand's integrity.

(from scenthurdle.com)
24th January, 2017

Cologne à la Française by Institut Tres Bien

Institut Très Bien is dedicated to the Eau de Cologne. In 2005 the brand launched three fragrances by perfumer Pierre Bourdon, each a spin classic cologne: Cologne à la Française, Cologne à l'Italienne, Cologe à la Russe. They were not revolutionary and they weren't intended to be. They were, however, excellent. Multiple releases often have one solid perfume and an abundance of wishful thinking. Institut Très Bien bucked the trend and released three outstanding colognes.

They are all balanced hesperidic-floral Eaux de Cologne and differ in small but significant ways. l'Italienne highlighted the leafy, woody character of cologne and was more bracing and dry than the other two. La Française was a pitch-perfect, mouthwateringly good cologne. It was an impressive move to make the simplest of the three simply impeccable. La Russe was the cleverest of the bunch. It used a sweet and resinous base to give the cologne both a more stable shape and longer lasting basenotes. Over the years perfumers have worked every angle of the Eau de Cologne formula to make it last longer than the Warholian 15 minutes. La Russe grafts a musky, vanillic accord to the cologne structure. The tradeoff is that Russian is less effervescent than the other fragrances, though still citric. The payoff is a more resolute structure and a greater endurance than either La Française or l'Italienne. The base's hint of powdered leather makes it seem like a less animalic descendant of Eau d'Hermes.

A decade later in 2015, Institut Très Bien added a second trio to their line: Les Colognes Fines (as opposed to simply "Les Colognes"). Where each of the Colognes emphasized one particular aspect of the classic Eau de Cologne, the Colognes Fines, as their specific names reveal, supplemented cologne with an additional note. Each fragrance has a direct predecessor in the 2005 Colognes. They don't smell alike per se but they are similar in concept. To the brand's credit, they don't seem to have employed the flanker strategy of taking a stock base and simply added different 'flavors' to it. Instead, each cologne is reshaped in light of its new note. The notes themselves (rose, violet leaf, tuberose) are quite apparent, particularly in the top notes, and deserve to be spotlighted in the perfumes' names.

Rose de Mai is the simplest and most fetching of the lot. It lines up with La Française's direct approach, eschewing novelty for quality. The rose is musky and a touch sweet, giving the cologne a soft pink/purple glow. Citric top notes pick up rose's lemony grace notes, but fortunately aren't overly zesty. Rose folds into the rest the composition with a subtle spiced-floral inflection. If ITB had continued with the international theme of the 2005 Colognes, Rose de Mai's vaseline-lens garden rose would win this fragrance the title of Cologne à l'Anglaise. It is the least challenging in the trio, but when I first tried the three together with a friend who has a very discerning nose, he named it the winner of the bunch both for its prettiness and its balance. Each of the Colognes Fines are given nicknames at the ITB site and Rose de Mai's is fitting: La Delicate (delicate)

Violette de Parme (L'Inattendue-unexpected) is the most contradictory of the three. It's not that the accords don't work, but it varies the most between the strip and skin. On paper, it is clearly defined at all times and is the sharpest of the three. The top note is a deliciously old-fashioned candied violet. Cut from the 19th century to the 1970s: the metallic-green heart is reminiscent of the hissy 'functional' violet leaf of Grey Flannel. The transition is unexpected but logical. The pastille topnote and the urinal puck heartnote are both functions of violet leaf aromachemicals. Of the three, Violette de Parme best transposes the bracing, invigorating nature of classic Eau de Cologne to a new structure. The chilled soapy basenote is a nimble end to the interesting journey, a bit like sticking the landing after a pyrotechnic vault in gymnastics. Oddly, for the cologne with the clearest play on paper, on skin the dynamics don't come through nearly as strongly. Same shape, blurrier focus.

In Rose de Mai and Violette de Parme, the added notes energize the cologne structure and lights it up. Tuberose Absolue swallows the Eau de Cologne whole. Its label is "La Flamboyante." (Do I need to translate?) Imagine a contest between classic Eau de Cologne and Amarige. Who do you think wins? Imbalance is tuberose's not-so-secret weapon and the perfume gets high marks for taking a risk and succeeding. The cologne framework does soften the impact and highlights the soft rubbery side of the flower. It buoys the tuberose giving a hazy chiffon blur similarly to the way the lemony topnotes of magnolia aerate flower. In a contest of endurance, tuberose beats any other note in the Cologne. The basenote is 90% tuberose, but having been filtered through cycle of the Cologne it is less strident than the beautifully jarring topnote.

Adding individual key notes to an underlying Eau de Cologne structure goes back to the violet, heliotrope and lilac Eaux of the late 19th century. More recently, Atelier Cologne built a brand on a version of the tactic. But a better comparison for the ITB Colognes Fines are the Hermès colognes such as Gentiane Blanche, Mandarine Ambrée and Rhubarbe Ecarlate. Like those from Hermès, the ITB colognes lean more toward refinement than simplicity. All six fragrances in the line are presented in eau de parfum concentration. (At the launch of Rose/Violette/Tuberose, the original trio received free upgrades from edc to edp.) Don't let the concentration fool you---all three are colognes at heart and give a concise, brief showing on the skin. I wrote my characterizations of each of the Colognes Fines before I saw the nicknames at the ITB site. My observations lined up with the brand's descriptions, not indicating any particular observational skill on my part. Rather, it points to the clarity of the design and how well the fragrances translate their intent to scent.

Apparently in 2009 Institut Très Bien closed, though not permanently. At some point, the brand was revived and 2016 marks an expansion. The increasing frenzy of perfume releases makes me wary and I'll admit to an inward wince when I saw that Institut Très Bien were to double the number of products in their line in one shot. But then again, maintaining a line of three product during the most cynical years of perfume ambition and expansion is laudable. The brand clearly stand behind their product and The Colognes Fines do nothing to diminish the brand's integrity.

(from scenthurdle.com)
24th January, 2017

Arbolé Arbolé by Hiram Green

A justifiable complaint against much of natural perfumery is that the compositions can be muddied and vague. Blending botanicals, even when using isolates, can be tricky. Compositions with a limited number of components keep the materials' personalities front and and center but don't compel them reveal anything new. When too many materials are used the composition loses precision and an important range of dynamics. Some botanical pairings have an inherent synergy and create appealing accords, most of which have been well explored in aromatherapy. They rise to a certain level of prettiness but don't often have the dynamic olfactory range or abstraction of perfumery.

In the hands of most perfumers botanical work is the folk music of perfumery. It's better with fewer performers. No how many additional acoustic guitars and voices (or essential oils) you add to the chorus, the ideal tops out at a small number and actually loses something when more is added. Mandy Aftel, whose perfumes are my source material for learning about natural perfumery (hell, why not start at the top?) is the exception that proves the rule. Her perfumes manage to juggle focus and complexity smartly.

Another exception is Hiram Green. If botanical perfumery is folk music, Green is Dylan-gone-electric. There is none of the indeterminacy of so much botanical work. Blend is not blur and Arbolé Arbolé shows the value of using multiple materials from the same category---IF you can keep them from crossing paths.

I tend not to go very far into a discussion of notes and materials, but it's appropriate in this case for two reasons: 1) Though I assume isolates, fractions and other botanically derived substances are used, when Green mentions patchouli, sandalwood and cedar at his site, I believe he means the actual botanicals. 2) The materials are identifiable to the nose but work together to make novel olfactory shapes.

Green allows his materials to overlap, but not to run onto each other. Though all are considered woody materials patchouli, cedar and sandalwood have very different profiles. In Arbolé Arbolé the woods are mediated by vanillic tones, from the heliotrope/puttied-almond range to the sweet-hay scent of coumarin. Patchouli, technically a grass, has cool, earthy qualities and lends Arbolé Arbolé a definitive green hue. Likewise, sandalwood covers a lot of ground. Its resinous dusty qualities become a matte powder when joined with the almondy vanilla. Cedar has a harder silhouette than patchouli and sandalwood. It gives the perfume backbone and stability. The astringency of cedar latches onto the yogurty facet of sandalwood and gives the perfume a firm tartness, as if it has a twist of some imaginary citrus fruit. Together, the woods form apparently simple shapes that belie complex olfactory patterns. Medicinal. Waxy. Powdered. Acidic. Honeyed. Rubbery. Lipsticky. It has a similarly cozy, dissonant effect as Molinard Habanita, with scents-textures a fraction of an inch from contradicting each other. The woods form a braid, making a pattern together, but keeping separate tracks from start to finish.

Green borrows the title of Spanish poet/playright Federico García Lorca's poem Arbolé Arbolé and the comparison is fitting. Lorca's surrealism was grounded in the symbolic nature of his vocabulary. He gave great significance to simple acts and objects. Green's use of materials carries a weighted feel, as if they too are somehow loaded. I mentioned the complaint against botanical perfumery that it can produce hazy perfumes that lack a center. I should balance that with another legitimate complaint, this time against synthetic perfumery. Over-reliance on aromachemicals initially used as adjuncts to woody materials has lead to the opposite problem. Cheap, easily accessible foghorns like Norlimbanol, Kephalis, Cedramber and Ambroxan have made woody perfumes synonymous with headaches and hangovers. To find a definitively woody perfume without these unsettling characteristics is a pleasure.

A test of natural perfumes is to evaluate them without the word "natural." Taken as a perfume of any kind, Arbolé Arbolé is inventive and extremely engaging. Here Green does to woods what he did with flowers in the first perfume in his line, Moon Bloom. He takes the definitive members of an olfactory genres, in Moon Bloom's case white florals, and coaxes a varied chorus out if them. Moon Bloom focussed more on harmony and smoothness. Arbolé Arbolé leans into contrasts with purpose and seems more assured. Just three to four years after the launch of the line, Arbolé Arbolé is the work of a more mature artist. The way Green manages differences in his chosen materials and doesn't smooth over interesting olfactory collisions tells me that he's deliberately challenging himself. And succeeding.

(from scenthurdle.com)
24th January, 2017

Memento Mori by Aftelier

Mandy Aftel produced two new perfumes in 2016. Memento Mori, as the name implies, is a contemplation of mortality and consequence. Amber Tapestry is the salve for a wounded spirit. Given the conflict and vitriolic tenor of American politics in 2016, the two perfumes are poignant bookends to the year.

Did Aftel create Memento Mori and Amber Tapestry as commentary on the state of political strife? Doubtful. But do they suit the times? Do they offer an opportunity to make sense of them? For me they do.

Memento mori are images of death. As reminders of impermanence and mortality they are reassuring to some, terrifying to others. Perfumery is a durational art form and transience is inherent. What better form for a memento mori than a perfume?

Aftel creates a memento mori very different from the either the classical skull symbolism of portraiture/still life or the bizarre staged Victorian postmortem photographs. The former is cliché and the latter is gruesome to the modern eye, but both ask the viewer to consider mortality by looking at death. Aftel's perfume focuses on the nature of relationships and the brevity of life by making us think about skin, the shell that contains us, the handle that we use to hold onto each other. Skin is durable and fragile, beautiful yet commonplace. It is an outward sign to others (and to ourselves in the mirror) of the passage of time, aging and death.

Aftel presents skin in its entirety. Memento Mori ranges from the musky sweetness of a baby's softness to the seductive floral quality of mature, knowing flesh. It has acrid flashes---the skin of effort and struggle---but is grounded in the buttery intimacy of commingled bodies. The sense of skin pervades every bit of Memento Mori but it is still a perfume. It has all the attributes and aesthetics of perfumery and doesn't try to create a false authenticity by overemphasizing realism. I struggle for the right word to capture Memento Mori's representation to skin. Depiction? Portrayal? Tribute? I'll stick with adjectives. It is loving and honest.

Fragrance's language is elusive. It has to do with tone, not facts. Even if you can't put words to the qualities you find in a perfume, you can hear what it has to say. Creating a memento mori through fragrance is an ideal use of the olfactory medium and makes such sense that I catch myself nodding yes as I bring my nose to my wrist. Memento Mori has the distillation that I attribute to an artist's thorough understanding of her process.

The last part of daily yoga practice is an extended savasana, or corpse pose. It's an opportunity to think about your eventual death as you compose yourself and conclude your practice. I had a yoga teacher who used to say without a trace of irony, "OK. Now lie down and die." This is how I experience Aftel's perfume. The concept of the perfume is deep, but the experience is accessible. It's a balance that suits the subject perfectly.

*

Amber Tapestry is a big, cruisy floriental that fits late 2016 to a T. It satisfies my need for beauty as a rational response to the emotional and cognitive dissonance of the American election year. Tapestry is an apt metaphor for the perfume. A jasmine/resin accord is the weft that holds all the other notes woven through it. The putty-like density of heliotropin matches the hum of cinnamon to create a matte finish that allows the gasoline edges of the jasmine to ignite.

A choreographer I used to work with had a wonderful, looping bit of material that we used to dance because it felt so good. It was juicy and lush, with suspension and release that you could manipulate with all sorts of satisfying dynamics. It was called The Feel-Good Phrase. Amber Tapestry has the same sensibility. Engagement, pleasure and satisfaction. No small things these days.

(from scenthurdle.com)
24th January, 2017

Amber Tapestry by Aftelier

Mandy Aftel produced two new perfumes in 2016. Memento Mori, as the name implies, is a contemplation of mortality and consequence. Amber Tapestry is the salve for a wounded spirit. Given the conflict and vitriolic tenor of American politics in 2016, the two perfumes are poignant bookends to the year.

Did Aftel create Memento Mori and Amber Tapestry as commentary on the state of political strife? Doubtful. But do they suit the times? Do they offer an opportunity to make sense of them? For me they do.

Memento mori are images of death. As reminders of impermanence and mortality they are reassuring to some, terrifying to others. Perfumery is a durational art form and transience is inherent. What better form for a memento mori than a perfume?

Aftel creates a memento mori very different from the either the classical skull symbolism of portraiture/still life or the bizarre staged Victorian postmortem photographs. The former is cliché and the latter is gruesome to the modern eye, but both ask the viewer to consider mortality by looking at death. Aftel's perfume focuses on the nature of relationships and the brevity of life by making us think about skin, the shell that contains us, the handle that we use to hold onto each other. Skin is durable and fragile, beautiful yet commonplace. It is an outward sign to others (and to ourselves in the mirror) of the passage of time, aging and death.

Aftel presents skin in its entirety. Memento Mori ranges from the musky sweetness of a baby's softness to the seductive floral quality of mature, knowing flesh. It has acrid flashes---the skin of effort and struggle---but is grounded in the buttery intimacy of commingled bodies. The sense of skin pervades every bit of Memento Mori but it is still a perfume. It has all the attributes and aesthetics of perfumery and doesn't try to create a false authenticity by overemphasizing realism. I struggle for the right word to capture Memento Mori's representation to skin. Depiction? Portrayal? Tribute? I'll stick with adjectives. It is loving and honest.

Fragrance's language is elusive. It has to do with tone, not facts. Even if you can't put words to the qualities you find in a perfume, you can hear what it has to say. Creating a memento mori through fragrance is an ideal use of the olfactory medium and makes such sense that I catch myself nodding yes as I bring my nose to my wrist. Memento Mori has the distillation that I attribute to an artist's thorough understanding of her process.

The last part of daily yoga practice is an extended savasana, or corpse pose. It's an opportunity to think about your eventual death as you compose yourself and conclude your practice. I had a yoga teacher who used to say without a trace of irony, "OK. Now lie down and die." This is how I experience Aftel's perfume. The concept of the perfume is deep, but the experience is accessible. It's a balance that suits the subject perfectly.

*

Amber Tapestry is a big, cruisy floriental that fits late 2016 to a T. It satisfies my need for beauty as a rational response to the emotional and cognitive dissonance of the American election year. Tapestry is an apt metaphor for the perfume. A jasmine/resin accord is the weft that holds all the other notes woven through it. The putty-like density of heliotropin matches the hum of cinnamon to create a matte finish that allows the gasoline edges of the jasmine to ignite.

A choreographer I used to work with had a wonderful, looping bit of material that we used to dance because it felt so good. It was juicy and lush, with suspension and release that you could manipulate with all sorts of satisfying dynamics. It was called The Feel-Good Phrase. Amber Tapestry has the same sensibility. Engagement, pleasure and satisfaction. No small things these days.

(from scenthurdle.com)
24th January, 2017

Gia by Hendley Perfumes

The roaring 1920s and the disco 1970s were both known for hedonism. Fashion and style were considered reflections of character and self-expression kicked caution to the curb. Whether in speakeasies or Studio 54, theatricality and acting out were considered paramount to self-realization. Bathtub gin or blow. Flappers or disco queens. If it feels good, do it. Economic crashes and their return to grim social repentance might have been in the wind, but in the meanwhile, more, more, more. Let it all hang out.

The perfumes of the '20s were a varied lot, but a common thread was an exuberance that spoke to pleasing oneself and fuck all. Perfumes were lurid and animalic---inescapable to intimates and passers-by alike. The same spirit held for the perfumes of the '70s but animalic materials were coming under fire and replacements were needed to maintain the grandiosity of the style. Spicy, balsamic materials became the vogue. They were a practical replacement for animal-sourced materials and were as inescapable as their predecessors, if not more. You found them loud and intrusive? Too bad. Self-expression was a threat to The Man and shaking up the stiffs was de riguer in a decade that bridged hippies to punks. Like the '20s it was play-acting, just with different costume, hair and makeup.

Gia's lineage can be traced equally to the animalic Weil Zibeline and Lanvin My Sin of the '20s and the spicy Opium and Cinnabar from the late '70s. It holds both styles in the same hand, leaving the other hand free to grab hold of the present. Gia appears to move back in time when you apply it, starting with a nod to the spiced '70s orientals. The dense ginger/clove/vanilla topnote blankets you but manages to steer clear of the spice-cupboard 'eggnog' effect that afflicted some perfumes of the time. '70s reference aside, a potent metallic musky vibration marks Gia as contemporary. It is the sort of deliberately synthetic musky tone that might hint at animalism, but only obliquely. It cautions you that despite deliberate allusions to the past, retro role-playing isn't in the cards.

The drydown is an amalgam of everything that preceded it. Remnants of the spiced topnotes shade the perfume with tawny hues and the musky metallic tone simmers down from the buzz of sucking on an alkaline battery to a tangy aftertaste. Gia's long arc and snug drydown bring it in line with the old-school castoreum/deer musk/civet-laced perfumes whose ferocious openings reclined into seductive basenotes. In the basenotes, Gia dims the lights and turns up the music to create an after-hours vibe. Hendley seems to have deliberately avoided the bell-ringing effect common to spiced balsamic perfumes, where they start and end with the same rich note, simply growing quieter over time. The challenge of reinventing the mechanics of full-fleshed, long-arc, top-to-base progressions has been taken up successfully by a number of artisan perfumers. (Eg. Antonio Gardoni's Maai and Gardelia, Liz Moores's Salome, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz's Chinchilla and Hiram Green's Arbolé Arbolé.) In Gia's case, the evolution is detailed and beautifully worked out to unfold over the course of 12-24 hours.

Gia has a delicious sweet/spiced skin tone that puts gourmand perfumes to shame and makes the trend of lily-white musk drydowns seem laughably unsophisticated. You know those vaguely lascivious expressions like, 'I could just eat you with a spoon'? Expect to hear them when you wear this perfume. The long drydown gives you more than enough time to become hypnotized by your own scent. Gia mimics the enviable qualities of perfumes made with actual animalic materials---it both becomes a part of your skin, and resides just above it, giving a butter-and-honey glow to your personal space.

I wonder how Hendley's work in photography influences his ability to manipulate olfactory images. The references to perfumes of the '20s and '70s function like an overlay of images, commenting on previous decades without reenacting them. This passionate but unsentimental glance at the past gives Gia a sophisticated backstory but a modern appearance.

(from scenthurdle.com)
24th January, 2017

Bourbon by Hendley Perfumes

We're approaching a bubble. Or we're already in one---bubbles are notoriously identified after the fact. The Perfume Bubble has all the features of previous speculative bubbles, from the Dutch Tulip Crisis in the 17th century to the Housing Market Crash of 2008. It even follows the five stages:

1) Displacement, or New Paradigm. (Independent Perfumery)
2) Boom. (Groovy Early Niche and the Celebrity Perfumer)
3) Euphoria. (The Rise of Luxury Perfumery)
4) Profit taking. (The Whores are at the Gate)
5) Panic. (You Can Smell the Fear)

Look around you. Grossly inflated prices, escalating new releases, more new luxo-lines than you can shake a stick at. When the bubble bursts who among us will be saved? Economically, the most adaptable survive, and while large companies might have deeper pockets, my money is on the small indies surviving. Scalability is key to living past a bubble and artisanal perfumers, whose scale is the single perfumer, might stand a better chance than others.

So how did we reach stage 4.5 so fast? The seeds were planted early in independent perfumery, where new perfume brands responded to the perceived poor condition of the state of the perfume market. They focussed on quality, favoring novelty over reiterating traditional forms. It makes sense that the perfumes that drove creativity at this time were the oddballs, the beautiful freaks. Professionally-trained perfumers who chafed at the limits of their days jobs were free to test new ideas in the new niche houses. Fairly quickly the old guard learned the lessons from the indies and threw a lot of money at new, pricier alt-niche lines, often hiring the same perfumers. Ellena reinvented Hermès. Roger invented Roja. Chanel created les Exclusifs. Guerlain, launched the new blah-blah line. Dior, likewise. Tom Ford, ditto. Less experimentation, more lavish olfactory symbolism.

Artisanal perfumery signals a return to fundamentals, though I don't mean to imply that it is either reactionary or prosaic. No single impulse drives independent perfumery. Small-scale work is an alternative to the noisy world of commercial perfumery, not protest against it. As for why artisanal work takes the shape it does, after early-niche experimentation played the 'unconventional' card, outrageousness started to seem easy. The high-end commercial lines went the other direction, filling surprisingly uninventive compositions with oud, molecular derivations of rare botanicals, and horseshit. If there is a goldilocks center to be found, artisanal perfumery might point the way.

Hendley is trained in photography. One risk of crossover work is that technical training in one form won't translate to another. Despite a strong conceptual framework, will the artist's 'new' form have an amateur appearance on a technical level compared to the form that he was trained in? Compared to the professionally trained perfumer?

In Hendley's case, creativity translates, though not literally. I'm new to the line, having tried only four of the perfumes recently: Rosenthal, Amora, Jade and Bourbon. I don't know Hendley's photography, but his perfumes are clearly not simply an extension of visual work---they don't translate photography to scent. They do offer a coherent approach and well-finished, well-edited perfumes. Of the four, three explore a resinous range of tones without too much overlap. Amora is fruity-resinous, Rosenthal is a balsamic rose and Bourbon explores vanilla. The fourth, Jade, offers a new angle on the maligned "fresh" category. It has a buoyant, aromatic quality without leaning on citrus and herbs or the dreaded ozonic and aquatic notes.

Why turn to the artisanal artist for a new take on a known idea? The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. I'm not usually drawn to vanilla-centric perfumes. Vanilla brings out my conservative tendencies, I suppose, and Jicky and Shalimar cover my vanilla needs. But Bourbon is the vanilla I never knew I needed. It's is more than just a simple vanilla perfume and the furthest thing from the ditzy stereotype of the nom-nom vanilla. It avoids the traps of gourmanderie and humdrum orientals, and, like Hendley's Rosenthal, finds plenty of new twists in a well-worn trope.

The single word bourbon tells you about the two sides of the perfume. Vanilla from Réunion (formerly Isle de Bourbon) and Bourbon whiskey find common cause in wood. Unsweetened vanilla has smoky and woody facets and whisky is a reflection of the charred cask in which it ages. Bourbon (the perfume) smells like a sip of whiskey or brandy feels--potent and invigorating. Smooth and rough at the same time.

The perfume makes great use of its extrait concentration. It strides out of the bottle and covers a lot of ground very quickly. It has moderate throw, but if you're within range, it is deadly handsome. The opening is djinn-in-the-bottle alluring and the tweedy drydown still manages to growl 12 hours down the road. It doesn't coast into coziness as vanilla perfumes can. The liquor gives it a speakeasy quality and the drydown speaks in shady Lauren Bacall tones.

The early indies responded to a market of dull, unsatisfying perfumes by taking unconventional approaches. The current luxe market again offers uninteresting perfumes, now at stratospheric prices. Crossover perfumers still can and do question convention (Cognoscenti Warm Carrot, Cadavre Exquis) but Hendley's Bourbon doesn't shock. Its inventiveness is in the half turns and subtle juxtapositions that undercut expectation of a well known note/material.

(from scenthurdle.com)
24th January, 2017

Rosenthal by Hendley Perfumes

Rosenthal is an interesting challenge. It's a new perfumer's entry into a well-travelled genre. It's a big, boozy rose, in the same broad woody rose category as the rose chypres, florientals and woody florals. Artisanal perfumery brings a new perspective to the table. Small-batch extractions of materials, inventive methods and 'outside the box' approaches ignore the boundaries of mainstream technique and can lead to novel perfumes.

One of the drawbacks, though, is the reinvention of the wheel. Self-taught perfumers run the risk of stumbling across compositional frameworks, that, while new to them, have been explored in detail by professionally trained perfumers. The risk becomes even greater with a genre that includes icons like like Amouge Lyric Woman, Portrait of a Lady, Aromatics Elixir and Nahéma. 'By comparison we suffer' and all.

Fortunately, Rosenthal avoids the pitfalls and Hendley threads the needle nimbly. The patch/rose accord is a touchstone in perfumery. Hendley plays with it smartly and doesn't try to bend it into something unrecognizable. Instead, he touches it up with cool, woody/herbal details and extracts a broad range of shades from the accord, from dark berries to flinty metallic flashes. A bready note (iris?) matches the doughy quality of the sandalwood drydown and provides a long arc from topnotes to the milky sweet drydown.

Finding inventive angles on a well-studied accord might be expected from a seasoned perfumer, but it's particularly encouraging from a new perfumer. Perhaps artistic cross-training has something to do with it. I've read that Hendley is a photographer by education and practice. He joins a growing set of artisanal perfumers who've taken their practice in other art-forms and applied it to perfumery. This hybrid-artist trend in independent perfumery is one of the most exciting developments in the field and Hendley joins Antonio Gardoni, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Bruno Fazzolari, Dannielle Sergent in bringing new ideas to perfumery through the side-door.

(from scenthurdle.com)

24th January, 2017

Parfum Privé by Aftelier

The vocabulary of luxury emphasizes its value as an indicator over its significance as an experience. Handbags, wristwatches, cars and the like. Lavishness as social weaponry. This dogmatic perspective on luxury is nothing new. In fact, I only bring it up because Aftel's ambergris-based Parfum Privé brings the focus of luxury back to experience, to pleasure.

Underlining the most extravagant floral essences, indolic orange blossom and the delicate peach-tea of osmanthus, ambergris gives the perfume a sumptuousness, an easy opulence. Ambergris is the Beluga caviar of perfume. Exotic, lush, rare, legendary. Like Beluga, ambergris's scarcity makes it costly. Both are symbols of affluence, but unlike Beluga, Ambergris isn't an acquired taste. At least not in Mandy Aftel's hands.

I understand the subjectivity of beauty but Parfum Privé feels universally sultry and lush. I cannot imagine someone finding it anything but appealing. Ambergris and Aftel are a perfect match. She presents perfume as modern alchemy and ambergris is one of the mystical fragrant materials. It famously stops the clock on more volatile materials. Aftel uses it to extends the life of the florals and give the perfume a lankiness, a drawl that seems to slow time. The perfume is hypersaturated, the theoretical 110%.

Today is the first day of Daylight Saving Time, a trick of the clock that grants a 25th hour to this special day. I have time and I'm in no rush. Parfum Privé is a perfect fit to the day.

(from scenthurdle.com)
24th January, 2017

New Sibet by Slumberhouse

Like other Slumberhouse perfumes, New Sibet feels deliberate. As if the perfume I'm smelling is the thousandth mod. The one that got the dynamics, tones and balances just the way the perfumer intended. The attention to detail is apparent, but most Slumberhouse perfumes favor ecstatic imbalance over caution. New Sibet is focussed and edited differently, though, and it's quite a change from the recent sweet, syrupy directness of Kiste and Sadanne.

Still, it's not a return to the good-old/bad-old viscous Slumber-style that many have been publicly hankering for. Better yet, it's something new. New Sibet is an unexpected iris. It balances the notoriously finicky note and succeeds in creating a distinctive, durable iris root. It turns iris root's signature powder to dust and ash, keeping the focus on a grey horizon. Iris's leathery/paper side gives the perfume a stiff, upright posture.

Independent and artisanal perfumers have been re-examining traditional forms. Chypres, animalics, fougères. If Lobb has been deciphering vintage genres, his approach is the furthest thing from recreating an old-school sensibility. New Sibet doesn't reach for a vintage, nostalgic vibe but it does have the tailored rigidity of the classic floral/animalic chypres and the snubbed-cigarette severity of the old leather chypres. The olfactory qualities are there, but the haughtiness, the 'grand-dame' character of those retired chypres don't apply.

Lobb famously doesn't work with topnotes, but with New Sibet he plays with the evolution of the perfume and materials in a new way. The opening set of notes reduces over the course of an hour or so--like a striptease--revealing the core of the perfume. The notes then continue to rotate through different configurations through the drydown. Different facets appear and recede, emphasizing different angles of the central woody floral. Spice, resin, animalic tones, sweetness. This changing geometry of notes is a style Lobb has explored over the course of his career but in New Sibet he polishes the technique even further.

(from scenthurdle.com)
24th January, 2017

Vanilla Smoke by Aftelier

'Vanilla' is a crossover note found in both natural and mainstream perfumery. But notes aren't necessarily materials. 'Vanilla' notes in contemporary dessert-style gourmands and orientals likely have as much actual vanilla in them as the 'vanilla snow' flavor at my local frozen yogurt joint does.

Synthetic vanilla materials have been around since the days of early modern perfumery when aromachemicals were created to replace natural materials. Chemistry was king and the scientists of the time sought to create cheaper, easily produced versions of rare and costly botanical and animalic materials. They focused on a few particular characteristics of natural materials, slimming down rich and nuanced materials to a few easily recognized traits. Then they turned up the volume.

Coumarin, heliotropin, nitro musks and ionones did the same for tonka, mimosa, deer musk grains and violet. The goal was mimicry, but the tactic was bait-and-switch or 'tromp la nez'. The nose becomes trained by what it is exposed to and vanillin, not vanilla, became the olfactory baseline. The unfortunate side-effect is that actual vanilla, viewed through this lens, becomes unrecognizable. Rather than seeming rich and nuanced it comes off as imprecise or murky because it isn't the comfort-food we expected it to be.

Most gourmand perfumes offers the same self-negating experience as elevator music: easy recognition followed by reflexively tuning them out. The volume of the perfumes might be hard to ignore, but their monotony makes them easy to screen out.

Vanilla Smoke is harder to ignore and much more interesting to consider closely. It is the antithesis of the contemporary gourmand. Rather than bake the cakes and puddings we're accustomed to, perfumer Mandy Aftel gives us a complex, sinister vanilla. A layer of smoky tea picks up on vanilla's leathery facets and steers vanilla away from either the musky plush of the oriental (Shalimar, Youth Dew, Musc Ravageur) or the slush of the gourmand.

From the first sniff, it's apparent that Vanilla Smoke will avoid any custard clichés. The bright topnote that highlights the leathery dryness comes from citrus, an ostensibly 'foody' material. Aftel's site lists yellow mandarin and I assume the note and the material are synonymous. Guerlain Shalimar, the classic vanilla oriental, places a bright bergamot note on vanilla, but uses it to enhance the culinary appeal. Aftel's use of culinary materials to create non-gourmand aroma profiles is a clever turn and gives Vanilla Smoke a Cheshire Cat smile.

After the shimmer of the topnotes, Vanilla Smoke hovers at skin level, the ideal altitude for its tarry leather to play out. If it were more expansive, or had a longer trail the balance might be lost. The basenote nature of vanilla gives Vanilla Smoke better endurance than might be expected in an all-natural perfume. The spiced resinousness and subtle sweetness of vanilla play out in an evolving shape over the course of the day.

A natural vanilla perfume that smells like rubber, smoke and darkness throws into question the simplistic, sweet desserts we've been fed. Aftel doesn't simply reframe vanilla or dress it out differently. She creates the opportunity for the wearer to rediscover vanilla.

(from scenthurdle.com)
24th January, 2017

Néroli Outrenoir by Guerlain

Hermès and Guerlain have both introduced new neroli perfumes into their line-ups this year. Hermès's golden neroli Cologne (Eau de Néroli Doré) suited a summer launch and brought to mind sun, tanned skin and escapism. Guerlain skipped the gold and went for the black.

"Outrenoir" (translated as ultra-black or beyond black) is a painting method practiced by Pierre Soulages. Textured, dense black paint absorbs and refracts the light that strikes it. Black is the mirror that reveals color, even if it doesn't directly reflect it. Name aside, there's not a hint of darkness to Néroli Outrenoir. The top has a sweet, resinous touch that's a hair's breadth away from gourmand. Sweet but not saccharine. A lightly vanilla-smoked tea note matches the neroli and makes a neo-Earl Grey tea accord that is more floral and higher pitched than the traditional bergamot-tea pairing.

The vanillic-smoke gives the tea presence, but it runs quiet for a foreground note. It gives the fragrance an aromatic lift and bridges the orange flower to the woodiness of petitgrain. It's a prominent component of the perfume's central accord, but noir it ain't. Apparently beyond black lies pastel.

Neroli Outrenoir creates a luminous if soft-focus hesperidic image. Neroli, bergamot and petitgrain are the flower, fruit and leaves that create the portrait of citrus tree. It's not a particularly new trick. This citric mix combined with the soft musk is not far from the recipe for Eau de Cologne, and Guerlain's own Eau Impériale has a prominent neroli note. It's not a Cologne per se, but if I were told that Neroli Outrenoir was an Aqua Allegoria, I wouldn't hesitate to believe it. It's a version of the two-note accord that the Aqua Allegorias have mastered. Simple, pretty and non-threatening in equal measure.

The resinous touch at the beginning of Wasser's Néroli Outrenoir could have been used to create a bit of shadow. Instead it segues seamlessly into the recognizable framework of a white musk base (Guerlain list ambrette seed.) The gentle haze does suit the perfume's soft touch, but it reads like a slo-mo landing on soft pillows. It reassures you that any challenge or threat (or exuberance or inspiration) that might have been found in the topnotes has been redacted and you can rest your head easy. It reads as a concession.

This dénouement-style of drydown has become Guerlain's feminine marker. Witness the line of perfumes from l'Instant and Idylle through the Shalimar Parfums Initiales and the Robes Noires. It is the feminine counterpart to the masculine 'boisée sec' style found in the Guerlain Hommes and Idéals. Guerlain's uniform, conservative rectangular bottle for the boys and dated, fussy bee bottles for the girls are a regrettable acquiescence to a reactionary, proscriptive understanding of gender. But they are at least a candid outward indication of what's been going in inside the bottles for a while.

(from scenthurdle.com)
24th January, 2017

Dilettante by Hiram Green

The assumption behind many indie brands is that a well turned-out line should have a broad range of styles. This generally leads to slot-filling, an unfortunate and unsuccessful tactic. Green takes a different tack. His four perfumes might look similar on paper---resinous florals of one type or another---but they vary considerably. Moon Bloom is a narcotic floral portrait, Shangri-La is dark fruity-floral chypre, Voyage is a resinous vanillic-floral. Green uses floral notes to investigate traditional genres that are ‘natural’ at their core, such as the chypre (bergamot, labdanum, moss) and the amber/oriental (resin, spice, flower). The perfumes are coherent as a collection, but their differences are quite noticeable, especially when the perfumes are compared side-to-side. The four perfumes have a similar aesthetic, but not a shared set of notes, or a house accord. For a set of four floral perfumes, there is surprisingly little overlap among them and I can easily imagine the brand’s customer buying more than one perfume.

Dilettante struck me instantly as a shrewd feel-good perfume. The joy and pleasure are direct and instantaneous, but the heart and basenotes follow with meticulous attention to dynamics and have some unexpected changes. The combination of spontaneity and precision hints at a methodical but inspired approach to composition. Dilettante ostensibly creates an idealized orange tree: flower, fruit, leaves, twigs and all. If it were just a pretty, plein-air exercise, it might reinforce the ‘perfume-lite’ bias against natural perfumery. Fortunately, there’s more to it. The fruity, green and floral notes fly at you and the perfume is unabashedly lovely, but it rotates through a range of other tones. Honeyed, woody, smokey, astringent facets undergird the heartnotes. The sweaty orange blossom salts the honey and adds a measured gourmand touch that lasts through the drydown.

Dilettante creates a very particular olfactory image (hallucination?) each time I wear it. It has the earthy/floral aroma of masa, the alkalized corn used to make sopes and tortillas. Fresh masa smells surprisingly floral, sweaty and honeyed in the same way that Dilettante does. This vegetal-floral tone enhances the animalism of the resinous base. Less animal ass than sweaty human neck. The far drydown of Dilettante is notable for two things. The first, that it exists at all. Few natural perfumes have the endurance to survive 12+ hours. The second is complexity. Dilettante’s honeyed drydown is as intricate as its singing topnotes but is richer and deeper.

I’d recommend the Hiram Green line for anyone interested in natural perfumes. More to the point, I’d recommend it to anyone simply looking for first-rate perfumery.

(from scenthurdle.com)
24th January, 2017

Tobacco Rose by Papillon Artisan Perfumes

Rose's complex olfactory make-up gives it flexibility but expectation can get in the way of an easy range of motion. The person looking for a sunshiny soliflor won't necessarily dig an earthy rose/patchouli or a mossy rose chypre. And there are assumptions to navigate. Dewy roses imply innocence and boozy roses seduce. A garden rose is Elizabeth Bennet but a candied rose is Lolita. A misjudged tone creates the wrong impression and drama ensues. The stakes are high with a symbolically loaded flower.

So what sort of rose should we expect from a fetching English perfumer nestled in the countryside? A blushing rose? A sundress and parasol number? Remember before you answer: this is the perfumer who would a year later give us Salome, the fire-breathing jasmine.

Bucking any expectation of gentility, Tobacco Rose lives large. The top notes come bounding out of the bottle and create an exaggerated flower. It is oversized but proportionate enough to avoid caricature. Tobacco Rose is a dypso amber-rose with a green streak though the center to keep it steady. The splash of acidity brings out the jammy balsamic heart and introduces the bit of tension that keeps the honeyed ambery base in line. Creating a floral perfume is a particular type of fiction and Tobacco Rose tells a great story.

The aromas of rose and fresh tobacco go hand in hand. The lemony aspects of rose match the sappy bitterness of tobacco and create a lush woody floral accord, as in Sophia Grojsman's Beautiful for Estée Lauder. * Liz Moores says she looked closely at various tobacco absolutes but opted to build her own accord. She uses hay, rose geranium and a touch of galbanum to recreates the live, sultry scent of fresh tobacco leaves. Tobacco matches the bright, leafy rose of the topnotes and folds smoothly into the waxy balsamic base.

Tobacco Rose isn't retro in the least, but neither is it 'modern' in the sleek, streamlined sense of the word. It is the successor to the big rose chypres of the 1980s, all of which have had their wingspans clipped and their confidence shaken by the IFRA. When I wear Tobacco Rose, I feel like I'm letting out a breath I've been holding since the the '80s rose chypres began their long goodbye. Moores seems too well-versed in perfume history not to have at least considered Tobacco Rose's relationship to these bad-assed chypres.

Moores hit the ground running in 2014 with a bold perspective on classical perfumery's Big Three Flowers. Anubis's gasoline-jasmine was ferocious and Angélique's melancholic iris was introspective. Tobacco Rose strikes a different tone--as bombastic as Anubis, but less threatening. It shares Angélique's lushness but forgoes the moodiness. It's the most approachable fragrance of the trio but doesn't settle for less. It aims for pleasure and hits its target dead-on.


* I'm from a small part of Connecticut called the Tobacco Valley. The summer air near the fields was filled the scent of tobacco growing under shade-cloth in the fields and curing in the barn. It was green and sappy but also woody and floral. It's a pervasive sweet scent with only a passing resemblance to dried smoking tobacco.

from scenthurdle.com)
24th January, 2017

Monserrat by Bruno Fazzolari

Monserrat is an easy wear, but not an easy read. It is unashamedly a fruity-floral, particularly in the topnotes, which have a sunshiny, Doris Day vibe. Of course this is where a chill strikes me. Doris Days always scared the shit out of me. That blond, chirpy, starched-crinoline celluloid image was unnervingly untroubled. It's as if she cast no shadow.

Fazzolari makes a great case for the fruity-floral. It's not an intrinsically faulty genre, just one that's been saddled with the low aspirations of the perfume industry. An obvious approach to tempering the genre would be to make a slightly less sweet version, but Monserrat, for all its vivacity and buoyancy, is hardly obvious. A juicy, sweet/tart grapefruit lights up the composition and gives the touch of acidity that cuts any risk of syrup, but Monserrat is flagrantly sweet. The fruity topnotes end in a sugar-sweet violet tea.

Fazzolari lists osmanthus as a note, and the aromatic profile is there, but Monserrat seems to model osmanthus's form more than its scent per se. Osmanthus is its own fruity-floral perfume. The flowers have a recognizably peachy sweetness underlined by a woody tea note that aerates the scent and keeps it from cloying. Monserrat has a similar inclination, but the fruit and flowers are modulated by the scent of carrot seed, a very particular note that is woody, dusty, putty-like and matte. Carrot seed reins in the luster of the fruit and the flowers and creates a finely grained olfactory texture. This texture matches the 'fantasy note' of setting plaster that Fazzolari cites. Carrot seed neutralizes the reach of the flowers and create a push-pull balance in Monserrat. The balance is not the stationary point between two objects, but the active grapple between opposing forces.

Monserrat's breezy demeanor only partially disguises a shady undercurrent. Up top, Monserrrat is a day at the beach, but below is the undertow. This touch of menace puts Monserrat in line with two other Fazzolari perfumes, Lamblack and Room 237. All three hide something vaguely unsettling behind a facade of normalcy. Call it what you like--subtext, camouflage, lure--but each one carries a hint of danger. Monserrat is beautiful. Gorgeous, really. But it is also chilling, haunting. Lamblack is the dark and Room 237 is the fear of the dark. Monserrat is the fear in a handful of dust.

(from scenthurdle.com)
24th January, 2017