Press releases are cursed things; at least for me. When I read them, it causes me to anticipate what I will eventually experience. They can be particularly troublesome when it comes to fragrance. I can imagine what a list of ingredients might smell like given the inspiration. Which is why Tauer Les Annees 25 threw me with what was in the bottle.
Independent perfumer Andy Tauer wrote that Les Annees 25 was inspired by the “Golden Age of Humanity” represented by the 1920’s. That decade was also a time where the real foundations of modern perfumery were beginning to aspire to artistry. When I read that I thought to myself, “Oh goody! A Retro Nouveau perfume from Andy Tauer.” Then I found out it was a limited edition which means Hr. Tauer tends to employ higher quality and harder to source versions of the ingredients. I was expecting something amazing capturing the past and the present. Most of that sentence came true but for one part. This supposed Retro Nouveau perfume was all Nouveau.
I should’ve focused on the things which Hr. Tauer had separated from that era which inspired him; “the fundamental change towards liberalism” and the “optimism of an era”. Which means Les Annees 25 is one of our best independent perfumers creating his own path full of optimism.
The contemporary aspects appear right away with a combination of petitgrain, orange oil, and ginger. The citrus components are focused into a narrow beam of sunlight. The ginger provides energy. Ginger is spoken of as this kind of kinetic ingredient within perfumery. It most often is not. Not here. The ginger provides a near manic level of energy to the brilliant citrus. A swift floral intermezzo of rose and iris softly powders the overall effect. This leads to a mixture of benzoin and sandalwood. The benzoin pulls out the sweet facets of a modern sandalwood source. Oakmoss and ambergris provide contrast at the high and the low. It all ends on a comfort accord of vanilla, tonka, and patchouli.
Les Annees 25 has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I may have thought I wanted a Tauer Retro Nouveau creation except I came to realize the Nouveau was all I needed in Les Annees 25.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
There are quite a few songs which have over 1,000 plays on my ITunes list. There are fewer that are above 2,500 plays. I have noticed many of those song are ones I enjoy singing along to and playing accompanying air instruments. I am particularly partial to the imaginary drums, as my car steering wheel will attest to. Which means I have pounded out the drum fill from verse to chorus in the 1982 song “Africa” by Toto a lot because it is one of those 2,500+ songs. The song has had a rebirth for a new generation just in time for the summer of 2018 by the band Weezer. The origins of the song and the reason it has been reborn are both interesting.
I remember seeing one of the members of the band on MTV mention that the song is from the perspective of watching documentaries about Africa. The band members David Paich and Jeff Porcaro wrote a song full of the kind of inaccuracies which exist from that. None better exemplifies that as the line, “as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti”. Both are in Tanzania but are separated by enough distance the lyric makes no sense. It does make sense if the songwriter is looking at a World Atlas and thinks it might be true. I don’t enjoy the song for the accuracy of its lyrics it is the rhythm and the synthesizer produced kalimba along with it. It would hit #1 on the charts in 1983.
For some unexplained reason thirty-five years later a young fan of the band Weezer began a campaign to have the band cover “Africa”. Using all of the tools of social media she began her campaign in December 2017. By May 2018 it looked like she was going to receive a kind of half response as a cover of another Toto hit “Rosanna” appeared. I thought that was it. Then two weeks ago I noticed that “Africa” by Weezer was trending. When I hit the link, there it was, Weezer playing a mostly faithful cover of “Africa”. I found myself enjoying this version as much as the original. The members of Toto have tweeted their appreciation of the new version. New fans are learning about African geographical improbabilities. Even more are probably adding a new song to their air percussion playlist.
I know the new version and the original version will be played a lot throughout the summer. As I search for Kilimanjaro from my driver’s seat.
Sometimes it is hard to tell what the reason is for a flanker’s existence. The two choices in this month’s Round-Up do not suffer from that.
Mr. Burberry Indigo
I think the marketers have decided that the word “sport” added to a fragrance name is no longer a sales aid. What they have seemingly settled upon in its place are colors. The sport style of fragrance definitely has a place and within the Mr. Burberry line of perfume Indigo is code for “sport”.
Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian freshens up the Mr. Burberry style with a traditional cologne duet of rosemary and lemon. It diverges with a heart of mint and violet leaves. It comes off as a cool heart accord. Just the thing after a workout. What makes me like this the best of the Mr. Burberry releases is the use of oakmoss in the base which provides a more aggressive green to offset the heart accord. Some amber and musk combine with the oakmoss to finish this off. This is the kind of versatile perfume which is a good choice if you’re looking for a “sport” perfume.
Mr. Burberry Indigo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Azzaro Wanted by Night
When I reviewed Azzaro Wanted last year I remarked that it was an outlier in the idea that consumers wanted something lighter. It was closer in style to the original hairy-chested Azzaro pour Homme. If you had asked me to guess which direction a flanker of that would take I would have said lighter. Well Azzaro Wanted by Night goes way in the other direction in what almost seems like a throwback to the masculine powerhouses of the 1970’s.
Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin completely reworks the pyramid in Wanted by Night. This is less a flanker than a different perfume which shares a name. Cinnamon provides a simmering heat right from the start. A nice parade of ingredients follow that up, as cedar and tobacco take the lead. The cinnamon doesn’t get lost as cumin gives it a boost to match the other two. I have to mention this is a huge powerhouse of a men’s perfume. It seems out of place in today’s market. There’s a lot of press nonsense which came with my sample claiming this to be a “seduction perfume”. Not sure about that unless you catch a DeLorean ride back to the 70’s.
Azzaro Wanted by Night has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by the manufacturer’s.
When I really started expanding my perfume horizons one of the brands which thrilled me was Gucci. This was during the time Tom Ford was in charge of Gucci as creative director for everything. Mr. Ford showed the power of cohesive creative control. When he left Gucci to form his own eponymous brand those principles have created one of the great success stories in fashion retail. What he left behind at Gucci descended into soulless corporate fragrance with few exceptions. There is a new creative director for all things Gucci again, Alessandro Michele, and he actually cares about the fragrances which carry the Gucci imprint. The proof of that has been the releases over the last eighteen months. The latest addition to the new era at the brand is Gucci Guilty Oud.
Sig. Michele has again turned the brand into a forward-thinking fragrance one. An aspect of the early phase is he has chosen to work almost exclusively with perfumer Alberto Morillas. As I remark upon frequently this kind of creative director-perfumer partnership has a positive effect; especially when trying to design a brand aesthetic. Just a few perfumes into this collaboration there are the outlines of what that might be for Gucci 2018 and beyond.
One thing I have been enjoying is Sig. Michele is not signing on to the “lighter and transparent is better” bandwagon. He is defining something which has much more presence than the other masstige brands he is competing with. It is too early to see if consumers share his vision. I am hoping that there is room for something beyond lighter and transparent in the current landscape. Guilty Oud will be one which helps let us know if there is.
Guilty Oud is really a flanker of Gucci Guilty Absolute pour Homme. I was not a fan of that perfume. Guilty Oud is almost take two on that perfume. It uses some of what I really liked about the earlier release this year of Guilty Absolute pour Femme; the blackberry. That perfume was an effusive fruity floral. Guilty Oud is not that but the blackberry along with some other similar ingredients improves greatly on Guilty Absolute pour Homme.
It is that blackberry which opens Guilty Oud. In this perfume it is a quick fleeting bit of fruit. I like it for that kind of effect; here then gone. It moves into a patchouli and rose heart which has been the Guilty DNA. Here it is made to stand out without too much support. The oud comes from using a small amount of natural oud within a larger oud accord. One thing which I found to be a nice touch was using a cypress extract called Goldenwood to provide a blonde wood counterweight to the oud accord. It smooths out the entire fragrance providing an overall sophistication.
Guilty Oud has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
These are exciting times at Gucci perfume. Guilty Oud gives me more reason to believe we are at the beginning of something great again.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Gucci.
I have been laudatory of the recent releases from Jo Malone. The creative director Celine Roux has found the ability to re-energize the brand in new ways. Because of the recent success when I receive a new release lately I am excited to give it a try. Except when I saw the name on the bottle my expectations dropped. The name was Jo Malone Rose & White Musk Absolu; I probably stifled a yawn looking at it.
One of the things I have been pleased with over the last three years is Mme Roux has pushed the envelope at the brand more than retreating to safer constructs. Which was what I thought looking at the name; safe. It turned out once I actually tried the perfume it falls somewhere in-between. The ingredients are crowd pleasing but the perfumer, Anne Flipo, was given some leeway to move it towards something less generic. I found there were a couple thorns among the roses which is why I liked it. Mme Flipo says in the press materials this is meant to be a single linear accord. She is correct for the most part although I did find the places where a sharpness hid among the petals. Which was where Rose & White Musk Absolu was at its best.
Mme Flipo has combined some different rose sources for the core rose effect. There is something which makes it feel a bit like a debutante rose being escorted by her femme fatale sister. That sexier sister is a Turkish rose which is given a dewy shine by the lighter rose ingredients. In the early going this is a deeply sharp rose. Mme Flipo hones that with the white musk and oud accord. These are my thorns. The white musk pierces the floral character like a knitting needle. The oud accord does the same from the other side of the scent spectrum. The rose rises above it all before Mme Flipo adds in more white musks, softening that effect and providing a slow diffusion over the hours the perfume remained on my skin.
Rose & White Musk Absolu has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
This is something much more typical of a Jo Malone perfume than almost anything released so far this year. What surprised me is even when trying to be safer the brand is still interested in finding a way of adding in some thorns which makes it better.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Jo Malone London.
The fragrance part of designer Ermenegildo Zegna has not been a story of consistency. That might be changing. Over the course of the last year I have seen an uptick in the brand’s aesthetic. I would credit that to long-time creative director Trudi Loren. Ms. Loren took charge of the Zegna fragrance portfolio after Estee Lauder acquired the brand. In those first few years she upped the quality of the ingredients in the perfumes. They may not have been imaginative, but they were well-made. Last year there were two collections released; Essenze and Elements of Man. Now there was something in addition to quality ingredients; a contemporary interpretation of masculine tropes. In Zegna Acqua di Neroli Ms. Loren subverts the classic cologne architecture showing something more than just quality.
In the previous Acqua release, Acqua di Bergamotto, that was just a reiteration of the classic cologne recipe. This is an example of what I was describing above. Acqua di Neroli has the same cologne spine with perfumer Pierre Negrin filling it out with other ingredients to provide a new take on the venerable form.
Acqua di Neroli opens on a citrus sunbeam focused through a magnifying glass. Using lemon and bergamot for the citrus, petitgrain provides the focusing effect. Just as it becomes a bit too intense a damp green accord douses it. This has a transforming effect to the citrus as it goes from brilliant point of light to something more diffuse. The green accord sets up rosemary as the predecessor to the neroli. The neroli carries both green and citrus facets with the floral aspects. It then takes an interesting turn as M. Negrin uses a light application of watermelon to form a fleeting fruity floral phase. Lavender drags it back to more typical cologne territory. It completely leaves cologne-land in the base as a cypriol and sandalwood accord combines with another green moss-like accord along with some mid-weight musks. This provides some heft to the typical lightness of a cologne.
Acqua di Neroli has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
We are living in a time of some excellent re-interpretations of cologne into a Cologne Nouveau style for the 21st century. I wouldn’t have expected Zegna to be a brand to enter into that. Zegna Acqua di Neroli indicates I am mistaken as this belongs next to the others in this New Cologne Revolution.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Ermenegildo Zegna.
The path to having a Louis Vuitton branded perfume was a long and winding road. In 2016 it finally came to fruition with the release of seven perfumes. As a collection I had a difficult time embracing them. They all seemed to tilt towards the prevalent trend of simplicity paired with transparency. Perfumer Jacques Cavallier had created a collection which was missing what makes Louis Vuitton famous, the leather. When I heard of the collection I was hoping for something which captured all of the faces of leather in perfume. M. Cavallier has produced brilliant leather accords in the past surely there would be one in a Louis Vuitton collection. Except there wasn’t. As close as it came was Dans La Peau which captured the smell of the store as the collection of leather goods scent the air. Except that was not what I wanted. I wanted a Louis Vuitton that was L-E-A-T-H-E-R damnit! When I heard there were five new perfumes being released in 2018 I was hoping it might be there. I am delighted to say that Nouveau Monde is what I wanted.
The other four releases; L’Immensite, Au Hasard, Le Jour se Leve, and Orage are similar to the original seven. They share the same light and opaque quality with a slightly more masculine vibe. When I visited the Louis Vuitton store the day after release I tried all five. Going in I was most excited to try Nouveau Monde because based on the ingredient list it had potential. As soon as the sales associate sprayed it on a card I had already received a hint this was what I was looking for. I became a pest after the visit to receive a sample which I did. After wearing it for two days now I have what I wanted.
Nouveau Monde is at heart a linear leather accord. It is not blessed with lots of development. It is blessed with the presence of L-E-A-T-H-E-R damnit! M. Cavallier uses only a few ingredients to form his accord and it snaps together within the first moments.
Those three ingredients are saffron, oud, and cocoa. It is simple but at the heart there is a mixture of real oud and an oud accord along with the saffron and cocoa. That oud accord allows for M. Cavallier to dial in a specific effect which would not be possible by just relying on only a natural version. The presence of the natural oud is what gives this accord its animalic depth. It also provides the flip side to Dans La Peau’s civility as the leather in Nouveau Monde is way less polite. The accord is gorgeous in its depth. Over the time I’ve been wearing Nouveau Monde there is a lot of nuance provided by the cocoa. It provides that unique sweetness underneath every motorcycle jacket. The saffron provides a hint of the human being inside of that garment. After many hours Nouveau Monde dries down to a synthetic incense and woods duo which makes me miss what came before.
Nouveau Monde has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Nouveau Monde was exactly what I wanted from a Louis Vuitton perfume. Forget the simple transparent constructs I want L-E-A-T-H-E-R damnit! Nouveau Monde gives me just what I wanted.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Louis Vuitton.
I grew up in South Florida where people would drive two blocks instead of walking to the store. I have never lived in Southern California but I’ve been told it is the same. It is a silly thing, of course, to live somewhere for the weather only to avoid it by finding ways to stay out of it. On a visit to Scent Bar, in Los Angeles, independent perfumer Sarah McCartney seemed to also pick up on this. Which then turned into a perfume, 4160 Tuesdays Freeway.
Throughout 2018 in celebration of their 15th anniversary Scent Bar/Luckyscent has been commissioning a number of perfume brands to create something new. Ms. McCartney on her visit was interested in trying to capture the intersection of orange blossom and hot asphalt for Freeway. Which is a good description for the first two-thirds of Freeway. The final third turns out to be the ice cream shop nearby.
Freeway opens with a mandarin petitgrain out front. This is not the typical lemon-tinted petitgrain which most are familiar with. Manadarin petitgrain has a completely different scent profile it comes off as a focused style of fruitiness with a bit of turpentine in the background. As Ms. McCartney allows the orange blossom to blend with the mandarin petitgrain she creates a kind of LA orange blossom accord of brilliant sunlight, orange blossom and the smell of car exhaust. The heart is composed of a sun-warmed leather car interior. Ms. McCartney uses a nice refined leather accord which she scorches with some cigarette smoke. As the top and heart accord combine the exhaust and cigarette smoke provide the hot asphalt accord. There is a pungency over the middle part of the development that is going to be off-putting to some. I am a sucker for these kinds of urban accords when done well, which it is here. What really captured my attention on the days I wore Freeway is the final accord as we have driven to an ice cream shop which only exists in LA where they make boozy fruit sorbets. Ms. McCartney adds in vanilla, rum, and more orange blossom to form a crazy so-good I hope it exists rum orange sorbet accord. This goes from urban sprawl to hipster foodie in an LA minute.
Freeway has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
A word of caution especially if the top and base accords are whetting your appetite for Freeway. The middle accord is a classic indie perfume unique accord. It was mentioned by two different people on the days I wore Freeway that I smelled like a used ashtray during the time the heart accord is on display. When it was mentioned, I sort of get that but it still felt like hot pavement to me. This is one to definitely test to see what you experience. For me it was a perfect pivot from intensely floral top to the decadent sorbet base just a couple blocks away.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I had a lot of other things I wanted to write about today but after the announcement of Anthony Bourdain’s death by suicide on Friday I couldn’t. It was also because three days earlier another artist I admired also took her life, Kate Spade. Both were originals in their respective fields. I don’t want to get too caught up in their similarities instead I want to take a moment to remember why I care that they are no longer here.
I was fortunate enough to have a window into the backstage world of the fashion industry in New York. As an outsider I could often stand back unnoticed watching the shows come together. One of the things which made me smile is if I looked over at the spot where the handbags were stored there was a similarity to many of them; a tag on the outside which said Kate Spade. Ms. Spade predicted the need for an accessory brand which catered to those who wanted to be wealthy. Using simple design techniques, she dominated this market. I knew if she ever branched out into men’s accessories I’d be adding something. My first iPad case was a Kate Spade. The current power pack on my cell phone is a Kate Spade. Her simple no-bullshit aesthetic was what appealed to me. I was so interested to see what her new brand, Frances Valentine, had to show me. I felt like she had already identified another niche to dominate.
Anthony Bourdain was the cultural successor to gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. I know he would probably hate to be described that way, but his words carried the same visceral authenticity as Mr. Thompson. I remember reading his first book “Kitchen Confidential” and I leant it out with this recommendation, “it could be called Fear and Loathing in the Kitchen”. In a world where there are so many who assiduously polish an image Mr. Bourdain sought to take us along with him. We shared the same travel desire to stay away from the places where tourists gathered and find the places where the real food of an area was made. Because of him some of my favorite travel memories are in a neighborhood restaurant where the locals delighted in watching the silly American read from his phrasebook. All the while feeding me unforgettable food. Mr. Bourdain challenged me to look underneath the surface,
Which is one of the reasons their deaths sadden me. Because there was clearly something underneath the surface they had become skilled at masking. I miss both of their perspectives.
Before I finish this, I want to once again mention Project Semicolon. Founded on April 16, 2013 every year on that date you will see some of your friends or acquaintances wear a drawn semicolon on their wrist. It symbolizes this: “a semicolon represents a sentence the author could’ve ended but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.” Making the choice to use a semicolon over a period is not simple but Project Semicolon provides a visible way for those deciding on their own punctuation choice. A way of not feeling alone. In that can be found the first moments of deciding to use a semicolon. I made a donation this week in the names of Ms. Spade and Mr. Bourdain because I hope the awareness of their plight can also help others who need to see a different choice.
I’ve written many words on this blog about the effect Davidoff Cool Water had on fragrance designed for men. I’ve received a few e-mails from women readers asking if there was a similar women’s fragrance which exemplified the fresh style for that gender. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it to finally arrive at a conclusion. It wasn’t the first; but it was, and continues to be, the best-selling of this style released in the mid 90’s. It is also the answer I most receive from men in their 40’s when I ask what the women in their life wear. The perfume is Clinique Happy.
In women’s fragrances throughout the 1970’s and 80’s the trend was deep chypres and boisterous florals. It was the gender equivalent to the men’s powerhouse leathers and uber-fougeres. As the 90’s dawned the time for a course correction was due. The generation which came after the Baby Boomers, Gen X, wanted a style to call their own. Those who loved perfume also wanted to find new styles to explore. By the latter half of the decade two new styles would provide the change; fresh was one of them.
Evelyn Lauder (l.) and Raymond Matts
For men fresh was synonymous with aquatic. For women it wasn’t as simple. There was a large selection of fresh linen style perfumes centered around the laundry and linen musks. The style Happy fits into is the other major one, the fresh floral. It is also the first credited perfume to Rodrigo Flores-Roux who collaborated with Jean-Claude Delville. The creative team, Evelyn Lauder and Raymond Matts, was also early on in their influential term. Clinique was created by Ms. Lauder; by 1997 she became more dedicated to the fragrance part of the brand. She would work with some of the best perfumers early in their careers spotting talent before others. Mr. Matts would also become one of the most influential creative directors but at the time of Happy he was also just starting down that path. With Happy they designed a perfume which exemplifies fresh and floral.
Jean-Claude Delville (l.) and Rodrigo Flores-Roux
Happy opens on a, I have to say it, happy mixture of citrus. It is difficult to not smile in the early going because this is a sun-kissed grapefruit top accord. It leads to fresh jasmine scrubbed clean of indoles. This is a slightly dewy version of jasmine. It is expansive and transparent. Magnolia will eventually take the lead while retaining the same opacity. A similarly transparent synthetic wood is the final ingredient.
Happy has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Happy is successful because it does everything perfume is supposed to do. The citrus is uplifting. The florals are lilting. The woods are simple and light. It is why Happy is successful because it is so easy to be the perfume for a woman who only wants a couple bottles on her vanity. It continues to be a best-seller because even after twenty years few do it better.
Happy is another of the cases where its longevity is why it is a Discount Diamonds choice. It can be purchased from 10mL rollerball up to 100mL for anywhere from $4.99- $34.99 respectively. Heading into the summer if you want something fresh to add to your holiday overnight bag Happy is as good as it gets within the style it helped start.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.