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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
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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
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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

Équipage by Hermès

Stardate 20170124:

I have tried vintage and as recent as 2014 version. I like them all and find them fairly similar.
I find it similar to aromatic fougeres though a lot more delicate. The anisic note,spices and soapiness reminds me of Azzaro PH.
I would buy it but not for premium vintage demands



24th January, 2017

APOM pour Homme by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

Stardate 20170124:

Neroli topnotes have to be done really well for me to like. This one is done OK.
The development is nice and unexpected with the top notes it starts with. But feels lacking in quality. Notes are generic and nothing strikes out.
OK but for the price I expect better
24th January, 2017

1725 Casanova by Histoires de Parfums

Nice sweet fragrance with a light citrus start blends well into the dry down of sweet vanilla, cedar and amber to my nose. This is more along the lines of a Winter, Spring and Fall juice. Not sure how it would perform in the really hot months of the Summer. I like it but find it similar to Opium Pour Homme EDT in some respects and to Armand Basi In Blue. Also, this does have the "perfumy" essence that I do not like. For the price I would sample before you buy (like myself). Enjoy!
24th January, 2017

1740 Marquis de Sade by Histoires de Parfums

Well this is very disappointing... smells mature, slightly sweet and to my nose dare I say synthetic... I get a lot of sandalwood with hints of tobacco and leather. The sandalwood is to my nose over the top. Kills the scent for me. I can see why people, who are fans of sandalwood, would like this. It just isn't for me.
24th January, 2017
rbaker Show all reviews
United Kingdom

Parfum d'Hermès by Hermès

Review of the vintage formulation:
The opening is quite unique, with the floral dyad of rose and hyacinth is given a darker and deeper character by a generous lashing with galbanum; concurrently it is given a fresher and gently sparkling undertone courtesy of aldehydes. The rose provides a scaffolding for the other notes; it is pleasant and not too deep, whilst the hyacinth really gives this opening a beautiful floral twist and is executed truly masterfully. Very delightful and profound.

Towards to end of the top notes, a jasmine note creeps in, and then a herbal and woodsy light incense develops, which morphs into a myrrh impression that never dominates the whole mix; this myrrh underlines the mix of the other components, providing added depth and richness. It becomes gradually sweeter, initially courtsy of a juicy ylang-ylang, and later due to a tonka undertone; this sweetness is beautifully balanced and never cloying or intrusive.

The base has list the aldehydes and feshness, and the floral side gives way to a more mossy, woodsy and ambery impression.

I get moderate sillage, excellent projection and a truly splendid fifteen hours of longevity on my skin.

This creation, great for cooler spring or autumn days, combines some creativity, high-quality ingredients and superb blending with a performance that truly deserves the 'perfum' epithet. A soft but rich chypre exuding elegance and substance. 4/5.

24th January, 2017

Whatever It Takes Daniel Craig by Whatever it Takes

This is an extremely "clean smelling scent" which is not surprising considering the top notes of Cardamon, Grapefruit, Pink Pepper and Tarragon. The middle notes are Frankincense, Orange Blossom, Nutmeg and Geranium. The base is Moss, Vetiver, Patchouli and Sandalwood. This doesn't seem to be the tarragon of say a liquorish hint but more of a traditional tarragon. I don't get much grapefruit and no pink pepper that I can detect. In addition to the clean smell I get a TON of incense with a little geranium. The dry down is mostly sandalwood and the frankincense mingling. Overall this is not as good as the George Clooney scent but for a SUPER CLEAN strong scent this is nice. For 20 dollars US I would say it is a bargain.
23rd January, 2017

Replica By the Fireplace by Martin Margiela

Sweet and smokey... so far so good... then well its sweet (vanilla sweet) and smokey. Not sure if it's "fireplace" smokey but it is smokey. It does smell nice but it's been done before and is very linear. A neutral but the rating could be adjusted after a few more wearings.
23rd January, 2017

Bogart by Jacques Bogart

Stardate 20170123:

Current Formulation:

I always considered Aramis to be the torch bearer of good quality affordable fragrances that are reformulated well.
I think Bogart is right there with Aramis with even better affordability.

This one starts like Gray Flannel. That is its only fault. Then after a minute it starts developing and keeps getting better. The spices come in and then the leather.

I would love to try the vintage version of it.

Again at less than $20/90ml, it should be a fragrance crime to not buy.


23rd January, 2017

Bogart pour Homme by Jacques Bogart

Stardate 20170123:

Current Formulation:

I always considered Aramis to be the torch bearer of good quality affordable fragrances that are reformulated well.
I think Bogart is right there with Aramis with even better affordability.

Pour Homme is a unique fragrance. The floral notes are reminiscent of Xeryus Rouge and Insense but done better here which is saying something about the composition. But then we should not be surprised as the nose is Maurice of Tocade.
The drydown is simply divine and one can see the resemblance to Tocade/Riverside in it.
The floral note and tonka gives it that cherry tobacco smell that has perplexed some of us as it is not in the pyramid.
Contrary to what has been said about it, I think it is a safe fragrance for every occasion (office too). Maybe the reformed version is toned down.
For the price (less than $20/100ml) it is just stupidity to not own one.
23rd January, 2017
rbaker Show all reviews
United Kingdom

Alliage by Estée Lauder

Opening with a dark green woodsy note, a touch boozy and lashed heavily with galbanum and brightened up a touch by a mandarin/lemony citrus note. Later on a slightly resinous myrrh impression is added. Very pleasant.

In the heart notes a nice, green jasmine note develops, which, at times, has a herbal undertone. The base adds a mossy note, and the myrrh undertone is still present thoughout this stage; this myrrh, however, never really claims a central rôle in this composition as it does, for instance, in Myrrhe Ardente.

I get moderate sillage, good projection, and seven hours if longevity on my skin.

An agreeable green-citrus-woodsy autumn chypre nlended well whist maintaing good structure. The quality of the ingredients is very respectable. 3.25/5.
23rd January, 2017

Legacy by Cristiano Ronaldo

A fancy/glamour night-out fragrance conceptually (and in part aromatically) a la One Million Prive' or Boss Bottled Night. A scent in the same league as several mainstream scents as Boss Bottled Night (and several Carolina Herrera or Armani as Armani Code Profumo as well) by combining woody-salty notes (like vetiver and cedarwood) with aromatics and cinnamonic/musky (more than vaguely sugary) amber. Cristiano Ronaldo Legacy is substantially an usual association of fresh aromatics (rooty, leafy and herbal) and warmer (piquant/dusty/cinnamonic) ambery-musky notes for a quite casual and fashionable night out in inamidate dark suit. I detect cardamom as well (combined with cinnamon and dusty tonkinina ambroxan). The base is a "traditional" woody-dusty (cinnamonic) amber with hints of tonka and musks. Deliberately synthetic and woody-cedary (in tone with the current "scream"). Not a bad creation di per se but surely not a creation in tune with the "immensity" of the absolute number one football player in the world.
23rd January, 2017

Polo Double Black by Ralph Lauren

I love Polo Double Black. Would describe it as a modern masculine fragrance. Reminds me of the strong cologne fragrance in the men's department at Bergners department store. Probably a date night cologne.
22nd January, 2017

Rumeur (original) by Lanvin

Boozy, rich, deep, dark, spicy and attractive as hell, the vintage Rumeur is a masterpiece - I am experiencing a small decant of the parfum.

The clove and carnation come to the fore immediately, rounded in civet and a dark vanilla that borders on the bitter. As it develops the floral fruity heart glides in - ylang, rose, jasmine - enveloped in cardamom. It finally settles into a fruity chypre base of peach, plum, oak moss, tobacco and leather.

Barbara Herman finds it "haunting, disturbing and dark." I find it to be amazingly rich and spicy, so thick to the nose that it resembles dark maple syrup, not in its notes, but in its consistency.

I may have to mortgage the house to find a bottle of vintage perfume online. Avoid the nasty 2006 version like the plague.
22nd January, 2017
rbaker Show all reviews
United Kingdom

Bois d'Argent by Christian Dior

Iris with a honeyed woodsy undertone - that is what the top notes convey to me. The iris is light, less intense that in Dior Homme, and more delicate.

In the drydown a gentle and soft patchouli is developing in the background. The wood note morphs into a thin veil of a tenuous myrrh impression that is thinly cast over the whole set. This myrrhe is much more restrained than in Myrrhe Ardente. It fades away very slowly until the end.

I get soft sillage, adequate projection and eight hours of longevity on my skin.

This is a spring scent that is quite soft and thin. It is a delicate, nigh fragile at times, and hence the sweetness is never intrusive. More impressionist olfactory pointillism than stong expressionistic brush strokes. That the original was called Cologne points towards the lack of strength.

Overall a weak fragrance but well crafted, it just score a thumbs-up, barely. 3/5.
22nd January, 2017
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