This is the time of year when I receive an overwhelming amount of rose perfumes. In the minds of the brands rose equals spring. It is seemingly such a lucrative market that if there isn’t something new to go that means finding a flanker to be ready. Most of what I receive are flankers. I could tell even if I didn’t know the original. When the name starts to get longer by a few words it almost inevitably is a flanker. For this month’s Round-Up these are the two rose flankers I liked the best out of this year’s crop.
Givenchy Live Irresistible Rosy Crush
Last year’s Givenchy Live Irresistible Blossom Crush was one of my top spring rose flankers. Perfumer Dominique Ropion follows a year later with Givenchy Live Irresistible Rosy Crush. This one is more in keeping with the other Live Irresistible releases as it goes back to being very sweet. M. Ropion hews more to the previous formula of opulent fruity floral. What set it apart was a very earthy base.
It opens with the classic fruity floral of berries and rose. It says it is goji berry in the ingredient list but that has always been tarter in other fragrances I’ve encountered it. This is a full-on sweet berry accord poised to accentuate the rose in the heart. This is that dewy spring rose with the berries teasing out a bit of the jamminess which is buried deep in these types of rose fragrances. The base is a rich earthy patchouli which feels like it wants to be a chypre but is just darkness to tint the bright berries and rose. Based on the last two years maybe Givenchy has this spring rose flanker thing figured out.
Issey Miyake L’Eau D’Issey Pure Petale de Nectar
I’ve lost count of how many flankers the classic 1992 perfume L’Eau D’Issey has launched. I couldn’t bring myself to count. What does happen is when you make so many a few manage to stand out. That’s the case for Issey Miyake L’Eau D’Issey Pure Petale de Nectar. The original defined the fresh aquatic floral. This current iteration honors that by finding a way of nodding back to the L’Eau D’Issey formula without being shackled to it.
Perfumer Dominique Ropion reprises the pear-honey-rose triad from last year’s L’Eau D’Issey Pure Nectar. This latest version has a much lighter overall effect which allows for synthetic woods and ambergris the opportunity to add in the “L’Eau” to the recipe. The use of the honey is what captured my attention as the way it is used as a thin film with the spring rose is really appealing on a spring day.
Disclosure: These reviews were based on samples provided by the manufacturers.
This month’s Flanker Round-Up sees an improvement on one of the most cynical mainstream perfume releases along with a great version of an underrated mass-market fragrance.
Yves St. Laurent Black Opium Intense
I think 2014’s Yves St. Laurent black Opium is one of the most cynically made perfumes of the last five years. A sterile construct of focus groups and marketing, it lacked soul. I’ve written the whole thing off. Then I received my box of samples from Sephora. There was a card with Black Opium Intense written on it. I sprayed it on a strip expecting to stifle a yawn. I didn’t exactly have my eyes popping out of my head, but this felt like an interesting take on a mainstream release.
The same team of four perfumers, Honorine Blanc, Olivier Cresp, Nathalie Lorson, and Marie Salamagne, worked on Black Opium Intense. What made me take notice was the adjective in the name felt relevant. That happens with a boozy licorice-laced absinthe and boysenberry top accord. The same jasmine and orange blossom as the original remain but this time the coffee is given more prominence. The bitterness is nice contrast to the floral. The base gets back to safer territory with an amber and sandalwood base. If they had released this first, I’d be feeling a whole lot better about a modern version of Opium.
Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb Night Vision
When I’m asked about the best mainstream men’s fragrances, one I always have on my list is Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb. I think it is one of the best spicy perfumes you can find at the mall. Spicebomb often feels like the hidden gem on the fragrance counter. The new flanker Spicebomb Night Vision stays true to its roots with a clever substitution of some different ingredients from the perfume spice cabinet.
Nathalie Lorson and Pierre Negrin step-in for the original perfumer team of Carlos Benaim and Olivier Polge. They create something different while still being Spicebomb. It starts with a nice citrus top accord of grapefruit and mandarin. The perfumers lace it with apple and cardamom providing a crisp framing effect. The spices come next; clove, sage, black pepper, and chili pepper. The last ingredient is the reminder of its more elevated position in the original. In Spicebomb Night Vision it plays a more supporting role to the other spices which all coat the green floral quality of geranium. The base has a toasty sweet quality with tonka bean and almonds over woods. I have admired every flanker to Spicebomb; Night Vision is another in that series.
Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by the manufactuers.
January is a time for me to clean up loose ends from my desk. This month’s Flanker Round-Up allows me to tie off a couple of those; Dolce & Gabbana The Only One and Prada L’Homme Absolu.
Dolce & Gabbana The Only One
I have been very critical about the number and quality of flankers of the original 2006 Dolce & Gabbana The One. Almost annually I received an example of why flankers are held in such low esteem. This year with The Only One I received something which broke that trend; mainly by following one of the prevailing fragrance trends.
Perfumer Violaine Collas was not working off the blueprint from Christine Nagel’s original. Mme Collas was designing a perfume for the current day. That meant she came up with a floral gourmand.
The Only One opens with a zippy citrus top accord. It gives way quickly to the heart accord where violet and coffee form the floral and the gourmand components. The violet is a slightly candied version which contrasts with a similarly shaded bitter coffee. It adds some vanilla cream to the mix before patchouli brings things to a close. If you are enjoying the floral gourmand style The Only One is a good addition to that genre.
Prada L’Homme Absolu
Perfumers sometimes fall in love with a set of notes or accords. You see it crop up again and again. For Prada in-house perfumer Daniela Andrier it is the triad of neroli, iris, and cedar. It has been hard to improve upon her original Infusion D’Iris. When L’Homme Prada came out in 2016 she returned to this and I wasn’t impressed. Prada L’Homme Absolu is also another interpretation but by enhancing the spices I liked it better.
The main alteration happens right at the start as cardamom and black pepper are given a more prominent place with the iris. I liked this change and it carries forward into the neroli and geranium joining in. The typical ambery cedar which is the traditional base accord is the end. I still haven’t found anything better than Infusion D’Iris but the added spiciness in Prada L’Homme Absolu will be appealing to someone looking for that.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.
This month’s round-up looks at two flankers of what I think are some of the best mainstream perfumes ever. Usually when you see “absolu” as the name on a flanker what I have come to expect is a warmer more intimate version of the original. What is interesting about both of this month’s choices is they went for the intimacy without going deeper.
Dior J’Adore Absolu
I know I’m going to sound like a broken record but her we go again with Dior and names. J’Adore was released in 1999 immediately becoming a best-seller within the fruity floral style of perfume. It is one of my all-time favorite mainstream perfumes. In the nearly twenty years since there have been multiple flankers most of them typical tweaks to the original formula. Including in 2007 J’Adore L’Absolu which was the typical absolu flanker described above. Now in 2018 they are releasing J’Adore Absolu which is one letter away from the other perfume which is still on the market. Dior seems to be a brand which excels at trying to confuse the consumer with its names. Despite this nonsense the new J’Adore Absolu is very different than any other J’Adore flanker.
In-house perfumer Francois Demachy says he wanted to create a “floral nectar” which I get. J’Adore Absolu is overall a floral dripping with honey. I found it the most sensual of any of the flankers released so far.
M. Demachy takes a set of floral absolutes as his keynotes. The J’Adore DNA is defined by jasmine, rose, and tuberose. All of those are here. The two additions are magnolia and orange blossom. Through the early moments the magnolia is out in front followed by the jasmine and rose. There is a pause while the tuberose sets up a bassline to the other florals. What makes this perfume take off is the use of orange blossom which provides a sparkle to things just before honey oozes over everything. This comes together as a bright set of sunny florals captured in viscous honey. It is intimate but not as warm as something with absolu in the title might indicate. Which makes it a uniquely good flanker.
Bottega Veneta L’Absolu
In 2011 leather goods designer Bottega Veneta entered the fragrance market with an eponymous mainstream perfume. Designed by creative director Tomas Maier and perfumer Michel Almairac it was a fragrance which captured the leather of the company fused with jasmine and patchouli. It was my favorite mainstream release of that year and remains a favorite now. Hr. Maier has gone on to oversee a coherently excellent mainstream collection of Bottega Veneta fragrances. There have been flankers but not a ton of them for each of the pillar lines for the brand. Bottega Veneta L’Absolu is just the second flanker of Bottega Veneta. These have all been correctly described as dry leather woody fragrances. I was expecting something similar but perhaps a bit less dry for a L’Absolu. M. Almairac had something else in mind creating the driest version yet for the L’Absolu.
The construction is much simpler for L’Absolu. It is stripped down to pink pepper, jasmine, leather and ambroxan. There is very little else in here. The pink pepper provides an herbal lift to the jasmine before the same delicate leather accord from the original arrives. Then using ambroxan the entire composition is dehydrated. Leaving a desiccated effect that is really compelling, only ameliorated by a pinch of vanilla and an equally small amount of patchouli. Those latter ingredients are critical to keeping L’Absolu from becoming too sharp. What is left is like looking at a leather memory book and finding a dried jasmine flower in its pages.
Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.
My primary issue with flankers is they are so often cynically safe. They tend to start with a safe mass-market alpha perfume dumbing it down by degrees. I don’t know this to be true but there are times I think they do a survey. Then for the flanker they take out whatever ingredients were problematic to the respondents. There is another way to go with a flanker. Take the same foundation and build something entirely different. This doesn’t keep the brand from playing it safe, but it does show a bit more effort than the phoning it in which seems to accompany the first way I described. For this month’s Round-Up I thought I’d provide an example of each.
Jennifer Aniston Chapter Two
Ever since the first Jennifer Aniston perfume in 2010 this has been a line firmly mired in safe boring perfumes. It had become easy to ignore the brand. Last year they released Chapter One. It was surprising to find a full-bodied white flower perfume supported by a bunch of musks. It certainly was derivative, but it was a new direction. When I saw my sample of Chapter Two I was wondering what was next.
It turns out the feedback they received must have been, “those flowers are too strong”. Because what Chapter Two does is make something so lightly floral it is almost the opposite of the previous release. Perfumer Caroline Sabas adds a watery accord on top followed by the less obstreperous florals of lavender, iris, and gardenia. It forms a less forward floral style. The musks also get reduced in effect greatly. The overall fragrance feels like something which has been overedited.
If you are a fan of the brand Chapter Two is more like what came before Chapter One. Depending on your feelings on that should guide you into whether you will like it.
Katy Perry’s Indi Visible
Singer Katy Perry also put her name on a fragrance starting in 2010. Hers has also been a line of perfume inspired by other trends. The difference is there have been well-done versions of those trends. 2013’s Killer Queen was an early take on the now popular floral gourmand. Last years Indi was another good lily and musk perfume. I had the same feeling when the new Indi Visible showed up; which way would they go?
In this case the perfumer, Caroline Sabas, retained the musky vanilla foundation. What they then built on top of that was something entirely different. A juicy plum lead to a sweet coconut in the heart which is amplified with some vanilla. It is then floated on a pool of musks with sandalwood retaining that sweet follow through.
Indi Visible is a mass-market alternative to anyone who has been interested in the suntan lotion style of perfume which ran through the niche market over the last year or so. This is in line with much of what the Katy Perry fragrance brand has done. Good versions of good trends. That’s as much as you can ask of flankers.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.
One of the more typical approaches to flankers it to lighten them up. The idea being that removing the stronger ingredients might allow for someone who is not appreciative of them to find a version to their liking. This month’s Round-Up looks at two of those.
Miu Miu Fleur D’Argent
2015’s Miu Miu is a good example of why I don’t give up on mainstream fragrances. There is still space for creativity and commerce to co-exist. Miu Miu introduced most of the world to the perfume ingredient Akigalawood; an enzymatic degradation of patchouli. Perfumer Daniela Andrier has been exploring the interactions of different floral ingredients with it through each new Miu Miu flanker. With Miu Miu Fleur D’Argent we have reached the white flowers.
Fleur D’Argent opens with a lilting orange blossom. It isn’t left alone for long as tuberose and jasmine join the white flower party. There is a restrained elegance to this bouquet which Mme Andrier keeps on a tight leash. Akigalawood has a distinct peppery facet. In Fleur D’Argent it is reduced in effect because of the presence of the white flowers. That peppery part has been a deal breaker for some I’ve introduced to the original. I’ll be curious to see if they like this one better.
Dolce & Gabbana The One for Men Grey
Among the mainstream releases which I think are very well done is 2008’s Dolce & Gabbana The One for Men. When I’ve recommended something available at the mall this is one which has been well-received. Perfumer Olivier Polge composed an elegant Oriental around a spine of basil, cardamom, and tobacco. It has been such a best seller the brand hasn’t really attempted to produce multiple flankers. The same is not true for Dolce & Gabbana The One. The new flanker Dolce & Gabbana The One for Men Grey goes for a different lighter effect mainly by removing the tobacco while finding a different style of herbal top accord.
Grey opens with the familiar swoosh of grapefruit and cardamom. As I lean in waiting for the basil I get a mixture of clary sage and lavandin. The entire top accord of the original is altered as the grapefruit takes more of a leading role lifting the herbs up to a higher plane. The base is also a fresher non-Oriental accord of vetiver and ambrox. Typical masculine woody accord. If the original was too heavy I think The for Men Grey is worth giving a try as it keeps much of what I liked from the original.
While I like the more full-bodied originals, in both cases. These are good versions of fresher constructs worth giving a try if you prefer that.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.
When it comes to flankers the name is supposed to respect the traditions which have come before. This month’s Flanker Round-Up discusses a couple which seem to have not received the memo.
Jimmy Choo Man Blue
Jimmy Choo as a brand has confounded me ever since its debut perfumes in 2011. There has been consistent creative direction paired with some of the best perfumers which has not produced a clear fragrance aesthetic. Over twenty-plus releases I can’t begin to tell you what a Jimmy Choo fragrance should smell like. Which was why when I received my sample of Jimmy Choo Man Blue I expected an aquatic. That’s what “blue” usually means in the name. Of course, it wasn’t an aquatic it was a bone-dry woody perfume. The other difference was I liked it.
When it comes to the Jimmy Choo Man collection if there is one consistent ingredient it is black pepper. Perfumer Nathalie Lorson uses that in the top as support for an herbal clary sage. It leads to a subtle leather accord which is used as underpinning for sandalwood and vetiver in the base. This is a very desiccated version of sandalwood at the end. Jimmy Choo Man Blue isn’t an aquatic but it might be a piece of dried up driftwood; if it was a piece of sandalwood.
Jimmy Choo Man has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Ralph Lauren Polo Red Rush
Ralph Lauren Polo Red debuted in 2013 and has had two previous flankers before the release of Polo Red Rush. All three of those preceding perfumes were variations on woody perfumes. I enjoyed last year’s Polo Red Extreme more than the initial two Polo Red releases. I liked it for taking a different tack. I was curious to see if that would continue in Polo Red Rush. Of course, it is an herbal citrus cologne. Despite that it hit the spot in the summer heat better than a woody version would have.
Polo Red Rush opens with a wave of citrus focused on red mandarin. This is a tarter version of orange which is sharpened by some lemon and apple in complementary roles. Mint comes along to provide a freshness. I have a hard time with mint and this one tiptoes right up to the edge of my distaste for that ingredient. It is a fresh minty citrus mélange that might remind you of utilitarian fragrance versus perfume. It does stay just on the right side of that line for me. The base is clean cedar which has a bit of lavender and musk to accompany it.
Ralph Lauren Polo Red Rush has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
This time I was happier not to find what I expected at the end of my lasso for this month’s Round-Up.
Disclosure: This review is based on sample provided by the manufacturers.
There are times that flankers reminding you of the original perfume they share a name with do them no favors. This month’s choices for the Flanker Round-Up are a couple of them.
Aramis Tobacco Reserve
One of the first men’s perfumes I can remember is Aramis. It was one of the fragrances my very successful uncle wore. It was the scent of success to me at that age. Fifty years after its release it is now a bit of a dated relic. I still wear it, but I am sure those who encounter me think it’s the smell of advanced age over success. Which is why Aramis would want to try and appeal to a younger demographic. Last year they tried a modern version of the original Aramis called Aramis Modern Leather. It was better than I expected it to be. They’re back a year later with a flanker Aramis Tobacco Reserve.
Tobacco Reserve falls into the gap of not really seeming to know what it wants to be; Throwback or Trendsetter. It falls in the middle but because it is a simple construct that might not hurt.
It opens with a nice blast of clary sage which felt like it was a nod to the original. From here it follows the by-the-numbers formation of a sweet tobacco accord. Nutmeg, tonka bean, and iris provide all the support to make sure the inherent sweetness of tobacco is amplified. It is a nice tobacco when all is said and done.
Aramis Tobacco Reserve has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Donna Karan Cashmere Mist Essence
Much like Aramis, Donna Karan Cashmere Mist was a trendsetter in its time in 1994. A beautifully sheer white flower bouquet over leather, sandalwood and what would become the ubiquitous “cashmere accord”. It was a luxurious unique mass-market perfume. The brand did all they could to kill the name with one ham-handed flanker after another from 2005-2013. These were the kind of perfumes which make flanker a four-letter word. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the new Cashmere Mist Essence. One caution was in the midst of the bad flankers there was one called Essence too. Thankfully the 2018 version is better than any previous flanker.
For Cashmere Mist Essence it comes close to be the original minus the leather. One big difference is a more elongated floral effect before getting to the base. That starts with ylang-ylang early on before the jasmine keynote takes over. There is a lighter floral presence than the original which was sheer for its time. The base is the “cashmere accord” and sandalwood again also at a lighter volume. It is like a watercolor of a pastel.
Donna Karan Cashmere Mist Essence has 6-8 hour longevity and average longevity.
Both of these flankers do what they are meant to do I just wish they didn’t remind me of their much better elders.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by the brands.
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.
As I finish clearing my desk of the spring releases of 2018 I wanted to mention a couple of the flankers which were better than most of the others released in these early days of 2018.
Marc Jacobs Daisy Love
If there has ever been a brand which has overplayed a flanker, it is Marc Jacobs and Daisy. The original released in 2007 is one of the top tier mainstream perfumes. The thirty-two flankers in the last eleven years are mostly forgettable. Some flankers even spawned their own flankers. It became easy to ignore the entire mess. I wanted to write about Daisy which made me pick up flanker thirty-two, Daisy Love. It turned out there was some connectivity back to the original which made it better than most of the other Daisy flankers.
First connection was perfumer Alberto Morillas returning to make a variation on the original he created. The original was a strawberry fruity floral; for Daisy Love M. Morillas fashions a less fulgent strawberry by using raspberry and cloudberry to result in a greener, almost unripe, strawberry. It is tart more than sweet. M. Morillas then actually uses the title floral to provide a lighter floral effect than in most of the collection. It all ends on generic synthetic woods and musks. I wouldn’t throw over the original for this but it does enough different, without throwing out the whole playbook, that it could be a nice companion for the summer.
Daisy Love has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
Thierry Mugler Alien Flora Futura
Thierry Mugler has only been a touch less aggressive in producing flankers to 2005’s classic Alien. Thierry Mugler has delighted in producing perfume which engenders “love it-hate it” responses. Alien is an excellent example. One could even say that the 21 flankers since its release are attempts to convert the “hate it” crowd. For Alien Flora Futura it lightens up some of the heavier aspects for the set of people who found it too heavy.
Perfumers Dominique Ropion and Jean-Christoophe Herault make this lighter by switching the ingredients while still retaining the Alien vibe. It starts very un-Alien-like using a bright sparkling citron. Citron has a fuller feel to me than lemon although they are similar. The real alteration comes in the heart as the perfumers substitute jasmine with cereus flower, also known as the queen of the night. Cereus has a similarity to jasmine but also a fresher quality. It works nicely with the citron. It eventually slides into the Alien amber focused base accord but in keeping with everything else a touch lighter. If you love Alien I imagine this will feel like Diet Lemon Alien to you. If you hated Alien because it was overwhelmingly aggressive Alien Flora Futura might turn you into a lover.
Alien Flora Futura has 14-16 hour longevity an average sillage.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by the manufacturers.