As much as I enjoy intricate perfumes full of nuance there are times when I just want it given to me straight; like a hard right-hand to the jaw. When I’m in this mood there is a line of small metal containers which contain this style of fragrance. All of them have the name Montale on them. Montale is one of the more prolific brands and many of their perfumes are variations on specific themes. It allows for someone who like the style to find one which is just right. Many of their perfumes are oud based. Despite the amount of perfumes that have been released I was always looking for a Montale leather full of attitude. The new Montale Arabians finally gave me my leather I was looking for.
Despite being a fragrance brand, which is very Middle Eastern in aesthetic, the Arabians in the name refers to Arabian Horses. The preferred steed of desert raiders, the breed has become one of the most versatile equine lines in the world. The perfume inspired by them is the leather of the saddle, the musk of the horse. And the smell of the floral garland of the Winner’s Circle.
The opening is an overdose of thyme and cardamom. So often both are used as supporting notes. For Arabians they come right to the front dragging a reluctant lavender with them. This is one of my favorite opening of any Montale I own; it is that sharp herbal green enhanced by the cardamom and supported by the lavender. Rose holds the heart for a little while before patchouli comes along to pump up the volume. The leather accord comes next and this is the classic saddle leather version. It is rich with a hint of saddle soap. A full serving of musk provides the scent of the horse before oud reminds you that this is an Arabian we’re talking about.
Arabians has 20-24-hour longevity and above average sillage.
Every time I wear a Montale I like I imagine there is a sign somewhere in the design studio, “Subtle is a 4-letter word”. Arabians like every Montale I own is not subtle. Yet this raw power carries an attraction because it doesn’t pull its punches. The caveat is you must like what is being produced. If you are looking for a powerful leather Arabians might just have you saying some positive 4-letter words.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I have written in the past about how much I admire writer Brian K. Vaughan and the stories he tells in comic books. One of my favorites was the series he created for Marvel Comics called Runaways. The premise is simply related; what if a group of teenagers discovered the yearly gathering of their parents was to gain power by sacrificing a human? It is one of the great aspects of Mr. Vaughan is how a simple premise has so much to discover. It is with trepidation when I hear something I admire as much as Runaways is being adapted for television. This leads to something I must start letting go of. In this new television universe being optioned to be made as a tv show does not mean it has to be bad. The transition of Runaways the comic to Marvel’s Runaways on Hulu is a success story.
It started at the top when Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage were brought in as showrunners. They have a knowledge on how to get authentic teenage voices on screen from their work on “Gossip Girl”. Mr. Schwartz created one of my favorite riffs on an action series in “Chuck” so I felt that would also be a great fit for Runaways. The thing which made me happiest was hearing Mr. Vaughan was along for the whole process adding his suggestions which the production team had sought out.
Runaways takes place in Los Angeles which is a fun place for a Marvel Universe series to happen in. There are few of the typical Marvel superheroes on the west coast let alone LA. It allows Runaways a chance to breathe without wondering about if, or when, a more recognizable Marvel hero will pop up. That allows the first ten episodes which just finished to focus on the core team and serve as their origin story.
This is an interesting choice to make as this is perhaps the most in-depth origin story ever done in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Through this we learn the stakes. Meet the bad guys/ parents. Each one of the Runaways gets to slowly discover who they are and what they bring to the team. The first two episodes are a great example of this pace. In the first episode our team of Runaways discover their parents dark secret and it is all from their point of view. Episode 2 is the same events from the parent’s perspective. It is 360-degree storytelling which allows for the audience to have an opportunity to connect with a sprawling cast quickly.
Mr. Schwartz and Ms. Savage have an eye for young actors and have assembled a cast of memorable ones for Runaways. They feel the paradox of having to save the world from your parents while also learning they have the abilities to actually do it.
Throughout the first ten-episode season the stakes get progressively higher until our team of teenagers become runaways in the final act of episode 10.
I thought this was a great way to finish the first season. Season 2 can be the showdown. By going slow I am now invested in these characters and am looking forward to their growth into the heroes they are destined to be.
As you all know I am getting buried under the new spring rose releases. There are some good ones in there, but most are just so generic. When things show up in the mailbox I tend to go with a brand which I think might have a different take on it all. When I received my box from Sephora there was one in there which I thought might be that rose fragrance; Miu Miu L’Eau Rosee. If you look at that name you expect a light rose perfume. I certainly did. When I sprayed it on and didn’t get even a hint of rose I thought I picked up the wrong sample. What was incorrect were my impressions based on a name.
L’Eau Rosee is the third Miu Miu perfume all of them composed by perfumer Daniela Andrier. The original was one of the best designer releases of 2015. It was mainly focused around keynotes of lily of the valley and a new ingredient akigalawood. The first follow-up came last spring and was called L’Eau Bleue. This was that rose alternative I was looking for as the lily of the valley was given the dewy treatment. L’Eau Rosee is the simplest of the three Miu Miu fragrances which means the lily of the valley and the akigalawood have more prominence. Mme Andrier allows them to have a fresh impact and she surrounds them with cassis and musks to create the freshest of the Miu Miu collection.
Cassis can be a tough ingredient to keep from tripping into harsh green territory. Mme Andrier uses a light hand in L’Eau Rosee. She wants there to be just enough green to lift the lily of the valley without getting sticky. That’s what happens. As the lily of the valley comes forward the cassis takes its place underneath enhancing the green freshness of the floral. Then akigalawood provides the same depth as it has in the previous two with its light spicy woodiness. The difference for L’Eau Rosee is the accord of laundry musks Mme. Andrier constructs as the base accord. I have found in the past that once you use enough of these types of synthetic musks you move past the scratchy fresh cotton to something resembling a high thread count Egyptian cotton linen. Mme Andrier takes one of those musky accords of soft sheets and envelops the entire thing in a final fresh embrace.
Miu Miu L’Eau Rosee has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
This is the kind of fresh spring fragrance I have wanted for years. Like many other perfumes released at this time of year it isn’t terribly original. What it does bring is a different look at the supposedly desired aesthetic by focusing on fresh lily instead of dewy rose. I’ll probably take L’Eau Rosee over anything which has rose in it this year.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
Back in the 1970’s Coca Cola came up with a slogan “Coke, it’s the real thing.” I think of it a lot in reference to perfumery. Especially with synthetic alternatives for raw materials like musk, oud, or ambergris. Perfumers can be magicians in forming an accord which performs the illusion of the real thing but once you experience it you always know where the gaps are. Because of that I obtained real samples of musk, oud, and ambergris. When it came to musk and ambergris I thought you have one kind you’ve got them all. At least in the case of ambergris I should have considered my oud experience. My little precious case of ouds covers different geographies and years of aging. My first clue my education in real ambergris was lacking came courtesy of Areej Le Dore Atlantic Ambergris.
White Ambergris via Pat Lillis of Celtic Ambergris
I have a tiny pea shaped amount of solid ambergris which sits in a sealed vial like a black stinky pearl. When I open it for a sniff it is briny with a pronounced funk to it. I also own an ambergris attar from Amouage and it is what I expect a tincture of that odiferous pearl to produce. I thought my knowledge base was complete. When I read the review of Atlantic Ambergris on Kafkaesque there was a primer on the spectrum of ambergris to introduce the review. Kafkaesque turned to Pat Lillis of Celtic Ambergris to provide the explanation for what causes the different scent profile for any chunk of ambergris. If you’re interested I urge you to go read it. The short form is the longer a chunk spends floating in the ocean the more bleached it gets providing a softer scent profile while the chunks that spend more time on shore in the sand get blacker, and funkier. Russian Adam obtained a quantity of white ambergris, from Mr. Lillis, as the keynote of Atlantic Ambergris.
Russian Adam describes the scent profile of the white ambergris in Atlantic Ambergris this way, “It’s aroma is pristine, fluffy, silky, slightly powdery, sweet and earthy, with a bottomless oceanic depth that is truly unique.” I agree with that statement entirely but what really struck me was the last part of it. Growing up in S, Florida there were days where I was out on the ocean water skiing or just leaning over the side of the boat as it headed home at speed. There was a smell of the ocean that went beyond sea spray to something with more weight to it along with a briny depth. As the white ambergris rises I was vividly reminded of this smell.
Atlantic Ambergris is a Russian Adam perfume which means it is full of other interesting notes besides the white ambergris. He chooses to take his unique keynote and float it upon a sea of spices; cardamom, clove, and nutmeg. This is a powerful wave of spices which are meant as contrast to the deep ocean quality of the ambergris. I am a fan of all three of these spices and I am given full servings of all of them. As the chunk of ambergris approaches the shoreline the wind brings the smell of the pines and the tropical flowers of jasmine and ylang ylang. This all transitions into a base accord which I think is funnily enough Russian Adam’s concept of an oud accord. From a perfumer who has consistently used exquisitely sourced ouds it seems like he didn’t want to step on the beauty of the ambergris. This gives an oud-like foundation which because it is an accord he can tune it to exactly the desired effect.
Atlantic Ambergris has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage. Also this is the version of Atlantic Ambergris released in October of 2017
If you’ve never smelled the real thing, when it comes to ambergris, Atlantic Ambergris provides an opportunity. I know that there is a wide world of ambergris to explore now but it will be hard to be better than Atlantic Ambergris.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
My days of chopping wood are long behind me but on the few occasions that I did take on that task there was a scent which I enjoyed. When you take pieces of wood which you will be drying out and quarter them with an axe there is a smell I would call “raw wood”. It still has some life to it which means there is some green quality. There is also a kind of mentholated grace note which also arises off the wood. It has a kind of energetic scent of wood. Weeks later when I would go get the dried-out pieces there was hardly anything of that left until it got tossed into the fireplace which released just the woods. The smell of a fireplace is why we still set a fire or two here in Poodlesville. There aren’t a lot of perfumes which remind me of both the raw wood and the fireplace, but Sarah Baker Perfumes Tartan manages to complete that.
Sarah Baker is a London-based artist who expanded to perfume releasing her first two in 2016 working with perfumer Ashley Eden Kessler. In 2017, she would team-up with Sarah McCartney to add two more to the line. The entire line shows a creative direction of immersion into specific themes. When I say immersion, I mean it. These are all big evocative fragrances which are geared to those who enjoy the keynotes. Tartan attracted me with its overdose of cedar. Ms. Baker and Ms. McCartney are looking for a Scottish Highlands feel but my overwhelming evocation was sitting in a leather chair next to a fieldstone fireplace.
It is cedar which opens Tartan as Virginian and Atlas cedarwoods are combined. In this kind of concentration, it passes through the more common comparisons of pencil shavings into something with more character. I like it when cedar is used in this way. To give that raw wood feel Ms. McCartney threads through some cedar moss. After the first blast of cedar that moss forms a green network within the cedar. Then as it dries out and the cedar begins to lose some of its fresh-cut quality, leather and tobacco provide some of the fireside milieu. The cedar logs burning return with a slug of timbersilk which causes the cedar to flare up yet again as the flames rise high. A bit of labdanum provides a hint of smoke.
Tartan has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Tartan is a perfume for those who love cedar. Ms. McCartney manages to explore all there is in cedar in Tartan which turns it into a true cedar experience.
Disclosure: This review was based on sample provided by Sarah Baker Perfumes.
January is a cruel month for me as my mailbox fills up with all the new spring releases; most of them rose focused. Longtime readers will be familiar with this perennial complaint from me. There are other flowers that could be used. To which I usually hear my internal voice say, “Oh yeah smarty what’s your alternative?” Truth be told I just want something different, but I am not sure what it is until I encounter it. When I received my sample of Bvlgari Magnolia Sensuel I realized this could be one.
Last spring Bvlgari premiered their Splendida Collection focused on floral compositions. Those first three releases focused on rose (Rose Rose), jasmine (Jasmin Noir), and iris (Iris D’Or). They were nice but those are probably three of the most ubiquitous flowers in perfumery. There are not a lot of different themes to be explored. Magnolia Sensuel uses a flower not so common.
Magnolia is mostly used as a supporting floral. It is because it has a dual floral and citrus scent. It makes it an ideal note to underpin either of those qualities. Perfumer Jacques Cavallier uses a Chinese version of magnolia which really displays both splendidly.
M. Cavallier brackets the magnolia with citrus and jasmine as supporting notes in a reverse of the usual relationship of these three notes. The magnolia bursts out of the first moments with a freshness from the inherent tartness and the floral nature has an outward expansiveness more typical of synthetic ingredients. The mandarin gives a sweet citric interstitial note while the jasmine provides more of a base than I think the magnolia would have had without it. This is a fresh spring scent as the magnolia feels sunny and floral simultaneously. The base accord is musk with a hint of vanilla and patchouli.
Magnollia Sensuel has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Wearing Magnolia Sensuel weeks away from actual spring arriving; it makes me believe it is closer than it is. I don’t know if it is prohibitive to use magnolia in this concentration regularly but the next time I’m having an argument with myself over a spring alternative; Magnolia Sensuel is going to be the answer.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Bvlgari.
This is something I shouldn’t admit but sometimes the name of a perfume is enough to give it some slack when I try it. I’ve mentioned in the past how much I like the way some words feel when I say them. When I received the seven samples of Australian perfume brand Fort & Manle there was always one, based on the name, which I was going to be drawn to; Bojnokopff.
Fort & Manle is the brand of self-taught perfumer Rasei Fort. The first six releases were debuted in 2016 with an additional release last year. The entire collection just became available in the US and I ordered a sample set. In trying all seven I see some of the issues that comes with being self-taught. There are ingredients with which Mr. Fort has more feel for than others. This is particularly evident in the more floral entries where all of those felt like there was a gap or an awkward transition as he is unable to strike a balance. The best ones are those which tilt more towards an Oriental style of which Bojnokopff is one.
Bojnokopff was one of the original six releases and it had a much longer name; Mr. Bojnokopff’s Purple Hat. The decision to shorten the name worked for me because I was enticed by Bojnokopff which the longer name might not have achieved. Mr. Bojnokopff was a nineteenth century fin de siècle illusionist in Saint Petersburg Russia who used his purple hat as part of his act. Mr. Fort imagines a hat where smoke billows out of it after placing some perfume ingredients within.
The first ingredient into Bojnokopff is lavender. As I first tried this I expected a descent towards typical fougere territory. With the style of a magician’s misdirection instead of pulling a fern from the hat a resinous oud appears. The fresh herbal nature of lavender on top of oud was a neat trick which made me smile. Next out of the hat comes chocolate. The chocolate is paired with enough vanilla to make this not a bitter dark chocolate but a rich milk chocolate. This is another good choice as the sweeter creamier version provides contrast to the lavender and oud. Cedar and vetiver are the base accord for the three keynotes to finish upon.
Bojnokopff has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Fort & Manle like many of the large collections from the self-taught has its ups and downs with the high points all on the darker side of the spectrum. Bojnokopff is a signal that it is going to be interesting to see what comes next.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples I purchased.
When I was a child one of the odder television commercials was for a brand of shampoo called Prell. They would show some pretty people lathering up with the product and at the end they would show the bottle of green shampoo and a hand would drop a pearl into it which would very slowly head towards the bottom as the commercial ended. I never understood what a pearl falling through shampoo had to do with anything. I admit it was a neat visual which has stuck with me probably fifty years after I first encountered it. What is interesting is a dense solid object with character slowly descending through a thick intensely colored liquid carried a contrast which was evident to my child’s eye. The new perfume from Hiram Green called Slowdive got me thinking about that.
First, let me get this out of the way; Slowdive does not smell of shampoo or pearls. I don’t suspect this is a theme Mr. Green is interested in exploring. It certainly isn’t anything I’m overtly interested in smelling either. What has me thinking of Prell shampoo is Mr. Green has taken a container of honey and dropped a figurative pearl of tobacco flower into that. Slowdive is the slow evolution as those two ingredients continually interact while Mr. Green surrounds it with a fascinating choice of supporting ingredients.
From the beginning the honey is there in a quite concentrated form. Mr. Green manages to make it thick without enhancing some of the less desirable character of honey as a perfume ingredient in high concentration. Then he takes his tobacco flower and drops it onto the surface. As it first appears it gains a bit of traction over the honey. Once it begins to sink a little beneath the surface a dried fruit accord cuts across the combination of narcotic sweetness; amplifying the latter nature. This might be a place where those who aren’t so fond of sweet in their fragrance might have some issues. The next phase, as the tobacco flower drifts lower in the honey, coalesces around orange blossom and tuberose. If you see that and think, “white flower explosion” it is much more restrained than that. The orange blossom is a typical kind of honey flavoring and it intersperses itself as grace note with that in mind. The tuberose takes the tobacco into a deeper place using its own narcotic quality to add to it. As the tobacco flower reaches the bottom a group of resinous notes await it as a resting place completing the slowdive.
Slowdive has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage. This is an easy perfume to overspray which can have an impact on how much you enjoy wearing it.
Slowdive is another fantastic perfume from Hiram Green. Working from an all-natural palette it consistently amazes me the power he extracts from these. It is becoming a signature of his, after four releases. This time Slowdive allows the wearer the opportunity to luxuriate in the glory of a tobacco shaped pearl slowly falling through honey. I don’t know if that represents quality anymore than the Prell commercial did but in this case, it should.
I’ve waited a month to write about Star Wars: The Last Jedi because I am going to talk more about the plot and giveaway some of the big twists in my discussion of it. If you haven’t seen the movie yet stop reading now before I ruin your chance to enjoy it without having things spoiled,
If there was one overriding emotion I had after The Force Awakens re-awakened Star Wars two years ago it was, “That was great, but I don’t just want bigger and bigger Death Stars I want something new.” J.J. Abrams who directed The Force Awakens provided jumper cables to a moribund franchise by relying on what made it special in the first place. Handing over the reins to writer-director Rian Johnson was giving him something much more difficult; evolve Star Wars. The difficulty of this has no better example than the prequel trilogy by George Lucas who created all of this. He dared to do something different. You may detest those movies, but Mr. Lucas did not give us the same story. As I’ve mentioned before his problem was as a storyteller we all knew what was on the last page of Episode 3; Annakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader. The new movies have an advantage because the audience does not know what is going to happen. Which is why Mr. Johnson has some more latitude when it comes to choosing different paths.
Through the first hour of The Last Jedi I was feeling uneasy as it seemed like it was a next generation “Empire Strikes Back”. Rebels under merciless attack; check. Young Force user being trained by Jedi Master; check. Young Force user coerced into entering the ship of the big bad guy; check. As Rey leaves Luke Skywalker behind to go to meet Supreme Leader Snoke I began to inwardly groan. There was no growth happening it was all just the same as before. Then in literally the stroke of a lightsaber that evolution began as all those familiar things got turned on their heads.
When the big Force showdown between Rey and Snoke ended up with him dead and Kylo Ren offering to rule the galaxy with her there was something exhilarating in what her answer would be. From there Mr. Johnson makes a movie of heroes and villains who aren’t destined to their roles because of their bloodlines but because they are heroic or villainous. When Finn who has spent two movies running away finally proudly declares he is “Rebel scum” his transformation is complete. The story on the screen has shown us his journey from frightened want-away to hero. Finn, like Rey, have no genetic disposition to heroism but the internal desire to be the ones to make things better.
The other choice Mr. Johnson made was with Luke Skywalker who ends up much different than when we last saw him. It is easy to see Leia and Han Solo as older versions of when we last saw them; they are the same people we left before. Luke is the one who has had his optimism shattered. His hope to build a new Jedi Order is destroyed from the inside by the Dark Side. It drives him to exile where he cuts himself off from The Force. When Rey finds him, and asks to be trained his instruction comes not from a place of optimism but from someone who has lost hope. Unlike the relationship between Yoda and Luke in Empire Strikes Back this new teacher isn’t sure it is a good idea for Jedi to exist. His reluctance to be a full-time teacher makes Rey into her own. She fearlessly explores the island of the first Jedi Temple and learns the lessons that exist just by exploring. Luke is less teacher and more guardrails meant to keep her on the path to the Light Side. It isn’t heroic but as we learn Luke’s story it is understandable.
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi
That loss of heroism has been a major point of contention among Star Wars fans since The Last Jedi opened. Luke is allowed his moment of unalloyed heroism at the end of the movie but everything prior to that is a dramatic change from the Luke who believed he could turn his father from Darth Vader back to Annakin Skywalker. The Luke in The Last Jedi has lost belief. As a proponent for change I liked this choice it asks real questions of what it means to be heroic. It asks whether it is cowardice to hide away with the power to make change while the galaxy burns. The story lays out the changes, but actor Mark Hamill makes me believe that Luke could end up in this place. Mr. Hamill’s performance is brilliant; the best he has turned in in a Star Wars movie. I liked the changes because Mr. Hamill sold me on them with his performance.
This all leads to a final scene which shows that The Force is not only running through those with Skywalker blood in their veins but also young stable hands who dream of Rebellion. If there was a stifling aspect to The Force was its affinity for only those darn Skywalkers. Mr. Johnson’s final nod that for The Light to meet The Dark it is made up of many points around the galaxy from the stables to the palaces. This is an exciting place for Star Wars to be at the end of Episode 8. It leaves the storytelling paths wide open with no previous blueprints to be followed. I am very happy that these choices were made it feels like Star Wars has never been fuller of potential.
By mid-January 2014 I was busy planning the first 90 days of Colognoisseur. I felt like I had to start with the first 90 articles lined up if I was going to get into a rhythm that would allow me to post a new article every day. As I put that schedule together I was excited to be able to write about all the things I ever wanted to write about. I ran across my 90-day plan just after the New Year. I was pleased to find that the original concept has largely survived through today.
I then began to think about whether I realistically thought I’d still be as excited as I neared the end of my fourth year of Colognoisseur. I had some reader number targets but those were all for the end of 2016. I thought thinking beyond that date was of the wishful variety. Yet, I find myself just as excited as I was four years ago.
I don’t plan things out for 90-days anymore, but I do keep a rolling 21-day schedule. That it is currently full of perfume I am happy to write about is also great. I think it is easy to become jaded about anything after doing it for over ten years. I started considering why I had escaped that pitfall.
The answer came via the mail both electronic and traditional. In my physical mailbox I received a package from a new independent perfumer. Inside was an amazing debut, something different to my nose. It is something only an instinctual artist could create. It is why every package like this is a new discovery.
In my e-mail box I got another testimonial on my “How to Buy Perfume as a Gift”. A man went to the mall and put together my little basket of samples along with a gift card. After giving it to his girlfriend they eventually settled on a perfume which at that time was their special perfume. They just got married on New Year’s Eve and the bride wore “their” perfume.
It is both the opportunity to give some exposure to the new perfumer while sharing a way to make perfume a part of someone’s life which are more than enough to keep my internal flame burning bright.