There are some fragrances which grab me just because of their name. Miller Harris Violet Ida is one of those. It was released in the spring in England and it took me a few months to get a sample sent to me. One of the reasons the name appealed to me was it was based on a character from a classic mystery, Graham Greene’s “Brighton Rock”. Ida Arnold is the ostensible detective who resolves the central plot in the book. She is the only “good” person in the novel. She also wears violets in her hair. When I heard this was the inspiration and based on the name, I wanted to try this badly because I was expecting a violet perfume. When I received my sample with the ingredient list that wasn’t what was in the bottle. It was so different that I put off really trying it. Then the “good” angel, or Ida, on my shoulder told me to give it another try minus the unrealistic expectations. This time I found a powdery iris fragrance that will be great as the weather gets cooler.
Velvet Ida is composed by perfumer Mathieu Nardin. This is a perfume which celebrates the powdery nature of orris. I mean really celebrates it. If you like powdery iris fragrances this is one for you. I prefer my iris rooty over powdery. What turned me around on Violet Ida is M. Nardin gave me just enough root before going all in on the powder.
That bit of rootiness comes with the presence of carrot seed in the top notes. It pulls out the rooty, slightly bread-like quality, of orris; for a short period of time. Like snowfall, grains of iris powder begin to fall almost immediately subsuming everything else. Eventually it is a giant powder drift of iris. It is warmed in the base with some amber and vanilla but only slightly. Once the powder takes hold it doesn’t let up.
Violet Ida has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you are excited about the potential of the name as a fragrance this is not the perfume you’re looking for. If you love powdery iris perfumes and can’t get enough this might be the perfume you’ve been waiting for.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Miller Harris.
When Chanel Gabrielle was released two years ago, I suspected this was a perfume meant to bring new consumers to the brand. Because it was a kind of introductory Chanel perfume it wasn’t well-liked by many of the long time Chanel aficionados. In conversations I had about it there were many who wanted Gabrielle to be just a little bit more of this or that. If that sounds like you Chanel Gabrielle Essence might be what you were looking for.
As one who looks for the deeper consumer message in releases from the great brands Gabrielle Essence strikes me as a response. One aimed right at those who dismissed the original as a trifle. One which seemingly wants the older perfume lover to be happy, too. I was one who admired the efforts of in-house perfumer Olivier Polge to position Chanel for a younger generation. With Gabriele Essence it seems like he wants to keep both the older and younger generations interested.
That Gabrielle carries a light transparency was ideal for a perfume capturing the woman who had yet to become Coco. Gabrielle Essence is that same woman with some more assurance. I’m not sure if it is supposed to evoke the moment Gabrielle became Coco but it comes close.
Throughout its development Gabrielle Essence is sweeter. That starts in the top as the citrus is amplified with a bunch of red berries. Right away I notice the increased level of ingredients. If Gabrielle is transparent Gabrielle Essence is much more substantial and it starts right from the top. It really shows in the heart as the same four flowers as in the original; tuberose, jasmine, orange blossom, and ylang-ylang are shuffled. In Gabrielle Essence the jasmine has a much more prominent placing. It is the equal of the tuberose. The orange blossom and ylang-ylang are along to add depth. It is here where I noticed the most difference between the two. Gabrielle Essence uses the florals in the heart in a sultrier way much as Gabrielle the person was probably coming to terms with the Coco which was on the verge of breaking out. The base is sandalwood again but given a much sweeter profile with a shot of vanilla added to things. It ends with a set of more palpable musks in the final moments.
Gabrielle Essence has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Gabrielle Essence seems like Chanel, and M. Polge, are trying to have their cake and eat it too. Nothing wrong with that if someone who is a fan of Chanel can find the right Gabrielle to suit themselves.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
When Twilly D’Hermes was introduced two years ago I think many missed its reason for existing. In the press release and subsequent interviews in-house perfumer Christine Nagel wanted this to be a perfume which would appeal to a young girl. Perhaps as a first perfume on her dresser. I tried to see it from that perspective and believed that Mme Nagel made smart choices in the tuberose, ginger, and sandalwood to appeal to that demographic. From my point of view I thought she succeeded. It wasn’t widely loved by the perfume community, but it wasn’t meant for them. I enjoyed the sense of fun which seemed to be interwoven throughout. Now Mme Nagel is here to take the child up a level with a slightly more mature composition called Twilly D’Hermes Eau Poivree.
Even though the name might lead you to believe this is a flanker; it is not. None of the keynotes from Twilly D’Hermes are present here. If there is any connection it is in the simplified three-ingredient aesthetic as that is repeated in Twilly D’Hermes Eau Poivree. This new fragrance is an entirely different style of perfume.
The press release tells me this new iteration is “the peppery spirit of the Hermes girls”. Based on the accompanying photos those “girls” look to be in their early 20’s. Mme Nagel hasn’t explicitly stated this is the demographic for Twilly D’Hermes Eau Poivree but I am thinking it is. Much of how I think of it comes from believing that.
This time the three keynotes are baie rose, rose, and patchouli. I spend a lot of time writing about how versatile an ingredient baie rose is. Mme Nagel spends most of this fragrance proving that. In the early going it is the fresh green herbal-ness which holds the attention. As a transparently powdery rose rises the slight fruitiness of baie rose transforms it into a subtle fruity floral through the middle stages. In the base the patchouli seems like it is a fractionated version with the herbal qualities of the ingredient enhanced. It allows for the baie rose to come full circle back to herbal in the end.
Twilly D’Hermes has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I believe Twilly D’Hermes Eau Poivree is going to have more fans outside the target demographic than the original did. I also think this is the kind of perfume which will be a best seller in that targeted generation of women. Twilly D’Hermes Eau Poivree is a level up for a woman who wants to leave children’s things behind.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Hermes.
When it comes to the overexposed styles of fragrance all I can ask for is just a tiny bit of imagination to be applied. You can still stick to the basic architecture by using some different materials. There is no more overexposed style than the aquatic. The desire for fresh and clean perfumes has created a monster where perfumes don’t want to stray too far from what works. Which is why I look to the independent perfume community to give me an aquatic which is different. One of the best, Isabelle Michaud, has given me one in Monsillage Route du Quai.
Mme Michaud has made several perfumes capturing a sense of place. For Route du Quai she wants to capture the town, Riviere-Ouelle, she spent summers in. Riviere-Ouelle is situated on the east bank of the St. Lawrence River in eastern Quebec. As a child of South Florida my summer beach does not smell like Mme Michaud’s. The only constant will be the water, although the temperature will be very different. That is what struck me as I wore Route du Quai this is an aquatic that captures summertime next to a cool running river.
Another big difference is where Rout du Quai begins. Mme Michaud captures the vegetation on the riverbank. Her opening is a trio of clary sage, juniper berry, and seagrass. It reminds me of the scent of the dune grass in New England except this accord is a shade, or two, deeper than that. Mme Michaud then creates an ozonic accord to represent the wind off the water. On this breeze rides a trio of three flowers; rose, lilac, and iris. These add a powdery veil to everything. The river accord is created around a desiccated driftwood, sweetgrass, benzoin, and myrrh. This is the scent of a wide moving body of water carrying chilly depths. It is as refreshing as those trite aquatic accords in lesser fragrances. A mixture of light musks finish Route du Quai.
Route du Quai has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Route du Quai finds its own space within the aquatic genre of fragrance by having a cool river run through it. It is another riff on an aquatic that only comes from a talented creative like Mme Michaud.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by Monsillage.
One of my favorite new independent brands and perfumers of this year is Shawn Maher’s line, Chatillon Lux. Lot of perfumers choose to evoke their surroundings. Few have done it as well as Mr. Maher has taken on his St. Louis home. It is difficult to know what direction his perfumes will take when reading the accompanying text. For his latest he wrote that it “an homage to a mid-century modern steamboat that was an icon of the Mississippi”. You might read that more carefully than I did but in my mind’s eye I saw one of those paddle wheelers where a poker game was taking place. Imagine my surprise when I saw the ship, he was designing a perfumer to, below. It sure as heck isn’t my grandfather’s steamboat. This looks like something out of a futuristic movie. A classic Art Deco design. A twist on what a riverboat suggests. Which also means Mr. Maher would make a perfume which reminds you of something classic but gives it a newer sleeker design. That is what you will find in Chatillon Lux Admiral.
In every review I’ve done I’ve pointed you to Mr. Maher’s “Scent Notes” column on his website. For those who have been following independent perfumery for a long time it reminds me of the early columns by Andy Tauer; providing similar insight into how Mr. Maher makes perfume. In the column about Admiral he speaks about how he is not a fan of aquatic perfumes. Yet he was going to make a perfume about a riverboat. Because of the milieu he wanted to evoke he was already ahead of the game. Almost every aquatic wants to capture the beach mise-en-scene. Mr. Maher wanted Admiral to be a Mississippi River aquatic. That means no salt air or sea spray. A river is in motion, but it doesn’t generally have waves crashing on the shore. Mr. Maher was going to have to concoct a watery accord which captured the difference. That he does it so well is what makes Admiral stand out.
If you’ve ever stood on a riverbank with a bamboo fishing rod in hand the top accord will take you back. Mr. Maher uses a diffuse set of citrusy ingredients without getting too focused. It is a hazy sunshine of a humid summer day. He constructs it around orange blossom and verbena primarily. Some blackcurrant bud and clary sage provide a sharper vegetal green to the overall accord. This floats like a raft on Mr. Maher’s perfumed river. The aquatic accord here is fantastically engineered to give that flowing river instead of crashing waves effect. That Mr. Maher uses some of the most common synthetics all precisely balanced to pull this off is noteworthy. His accord is made up of Calone, Ambroxan, Iso E Super, and Helional. He takes these in judicious amounts and stirs them together with seaweed absolute to provide a sense of the riverbank. It results in an aquatic accord I can almost guarantee you’ve never tried before. Finally he creates a soft smoke accord to represent the Admiral itself. So many independent perfumers go wrong when using cade oil. Mr. Maher has learned just a little, as part of a larger accord, has a much more dramatic effect than just smoking the place out. Here he counterbalances the cade with vanilla and tonka bean over a light leather. This is what a smoke accord should be.
Admiral has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mr. Maher said he wanted to make a different aquatic. All he had to do was go down to the river in his hometown and watch the Admiral to create a riverboat aquatic.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Chatillon Lux.
I’ve mentioned that Colognoisseur HQ is out in farm country. One of those farms grows lavender. You will be unsurprised to learn I have become great friends with the owners. I taught them my lavender lemonade recipe and one summer day all about the great lavender perfumes. If you’ve read my reviews of lavender-centric perfumes you will know I like the ones which feature the herbal quality as much as the floral. When I had a table full of different lavender perfumes among a group of people who grow it, I noticed an interesting trend when I asked them to pick their favorite. It split almost perfectly along gender lines with the women all choosing the powderier versions while the men went for the ones with the herbal quality. I remember thinking on the way home that a powdery mainstream lavender might be a big seller. Yves Saint Laurent Libre has arrived to test that hypothesis.
Usually when the press releases drifts into gender nonsense I tune it out. In this case when they were mentioning that the intent was to have Libre be a feminine fougere I had two reactions. One is I am surrounded by women who regularly wear fougeres in the spring and fall; that kind of assignation seems arbitrary. Then I thought back to my experience at the lavender farm and wondered if Libre was a fougere which would go powderier because it was meant to appeal to those who like that. Perfumers Anne Flipo and Carlos Benaim succeed at creating the latter.
Libre opens on a juicy citrus accord of mandarin given focus with petitgrain. The lavender here is supposedly a Yves Saint Laurent proprietary ingredient called “diva lavender”. Seems like a lot of hype over what seems like a fraction of lavender which has removed almost all the herbal character. The citrus provides an active light contrast at first. As that recedes orange blossom and blackcurrant bud provides an abstract green floral replacement for the missing herbal part. It makes this a lighter fresher lavender accord overall. It ends with a clean mixture of cedar and white musks.
Libre has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am heading over to the lavender farm in a couple weeks and I will have Libre with me to do my own market research. I predict it will be a hit at the farm and the mall.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
Usually the month of August is a sleepy time here in perfume land. I am receiving lots of fall releases that I can’t write about for a month or so. The summer releases have dwindled. It usually means it is a good time to catch up. Except this time I keep getting new interesting things I can write about. The latest discover came from my box of new releases from Sephora.
I had head about a British brand called Floral Street which debuted in 2017. It was interesting to me because perfumer Jerome Epinette was the nose behind the collection. I’ll also admit some of the names were enticing, too. I was already interested in something named Ylang Ylang Espresso, Iris Goddess, or Chypre Sublime. Although the name which most enticed me was this year’s release called Electric Rhubarb.
Electric Rhubarb was released this past May in conjunction with the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual Chelsea Flower Show. The brand was founded by Michelle Feeney who collaborated with M. Epinette through a series of moodboards for each fragrance. She wanted to have a light-hearted style of perfume. Based on my sampling of the nine perfumes, so far, she succeeded.
I would love to see what the moodboard was for Electric Rhubarb. Based on the press release I am guessing “bubbly, effervescent, and a little bit unexpected” might have covered it. M. Epinette interprets the “little bit unexpected” by using the rhubarb as a modulator of gardenia. Based on the name I was expecting a kinetic rhubarb. What is in the bottle is a gorgeous green velvet gardenia.
Most of the time when rhubarb is on top in a fragrance you get both the grapefruit-like quality and the green vegetal quality in equal measure. M. Epinette manages to tamp down the citrus aspect while allowing that greenness to find an ideal partner in gardenia. Gardenia in perfume also has a green vein within. It is often sharp in nature. Part of what makes a good gardenia to me. M. Epinette takes the vegetal green and uses it to soften that sharp green inherent in the gardenia. It produces this lushly textural gardenia. Not only is it plush it is also opaque. I wore this on blazing hot days, and it was never too much. The perfume lands on a base of Australian sandalwood in all its desiccated glory. It is the kind of unobtrusive platform for the soft gardenia to shine upon.
Electric Rhubarb has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This same kind of textural alteration of floral keynotes happens throughout the Floral Street collection. There are a trio of them I will wait for a little cooler weather to review because I think they are going to be awesome in cooler weather. If you’re a fan of floral perfumes Floral Street should be an avenue you want to take a walk on; start at Electric Rhubarb.
Disclosure: This revew is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
I’ll admit that there are samples which arrive here at Colognoisseur HQ I expect little of. These are brands which are content with their derivative aesthetic and their share of the market. I never expect anything more than a competently designed perfume I’ve smelled many times before. When one confounds those expectations, according to Mrs.C, I double check it by re-spraying on a new strip. I also pick up the press materials looking with more intent. What is almost always the result is I am experiencing a perfume which is much different from expectations; usually done by a perfumer allowed some latitude to have fun. All of that happened when I tried my sample of Juicy Couture Palm Trees Please.
The reason I continue to want to try each new release from Juicy Couture is because the third fragrance they released, Dirty English, is high on my list of best mainstream releases ever. It let me know that whenever they are in the mood to try something different it can result in something wonderful. Palm Trees Please is the fifth release in the “Rock the Rainbow” collection. The previous four are riffs on common fragrance tropes. It was what I expected from Palm Trees Please. What I found was this amazing chilly green floral which was ideal for the last days of summer.
As I mentioned one of the reasons for a deviation from the norm is sometimes down to the perfumer. In the case of Palm Trees Please it is two of the best, Alienor Massenet and Maurice Roucel, working together. From the moment I discovered the perfumers much of the creativity present became evident. That they were given the leeway to be this creative is more surprising.
Palm Trees Please opens on a fresh, cool, green accord. The perfumers use a juicy nectarine as the core of the top accord. They surround it with lemon blossom, matcha tea, blackcurrant buds, and ivy. Somewhere in the interaction of all that a compelling chill settles across the fruit as if the green ingredients place it in a deep freeze. I spend every summer going through one “fresh” accord after another only to discover something truly fresh in the most unexpected place. The remainder of the development evolves in a straightforward manner as jasmine emerges from the top accord to eventually settle on a lightly musky base with sandalwood.
Palm Trees Please has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you’re looking for something to give a new type of fresh to your final days of summer give Palm Trees Please a try.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I received from Juicy Couture.
In May of 1897 writer Mark Twain was in London he had a hospital stay which lead to reports that he died while there. When contacted by a reporter friend he was said to respond, “the rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.” I’ve been thinking about this in relation to perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena. It seems like the reports of him having retired after he left as in-house perfumer at Hermes have also been greatly exaggerated, too. M. Ellena certainly could’ve never made another perfume. Except I think creative director at Perris Monte Carlo, Gian-Luca Perris, offered him an opportunity to come full circle.
M. Ellena is one of those perfumers we know a lot about. One of the things we know is he was born in the town of Grasse. He spent his childhood surrounded by the flowers made famous from that town, rose and jasmine. He has remarked how he spent his youth harvesting the flowers. Sig. Perris wanted a collection celebrating the rose and jasmine of Grasse. He also wanted M. Ellena to be the perfumer. The perfumes they produced are Perris Monte Carlo Rose de Mai and Perris Monte Carlo Jasmin de Pays. Both are remarkable but as readers know if given a choice I’m going to chose the jasmine over rose, every time. Which is why Jasmin de Pays gets reviewed first.
As part of the press materials M. Ellena reminisced on his days harvesting the jasmine. He would remark how over the course of the day the scent of the petals would change. From a transparent green while on the vine to a more floral scent in the middle of the day to its animalic essence by nightfall. M. Ellena weaves those three phases though this jasmine soliflore.
M. Ellena uses jasmine absolute as the jewel at the center of Jasmin de Pays. He then uses three ingredients to tease out the inherent scent profile of his jasmine absolute. To get the transparent green he uses tagetes to find that green vein running through the jasmine and isolate it. To capture the more floral aspect he uses clove as a spicy contrast. It has the effect of dampening down the indoles, so the floral quality rises more strongly. As the clove gives way a set of gentle animalic musks find the indoles and invite them to provide the finish.
Jasmin de Pays has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Jasmin de Pays feels more emotional than other perfumes by M. Ellena. There is a feeling of looking back to his youth from his current age to find a scent memory. I’m not sure if he succeeded to his satisfaction but I can imagine the fields of jasmine in Grasse every time I wear it.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Perris Monte Carlo.
I am usually interested when a perfume chooses to push towards the extreme of something. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes it just illuminates why you don’t take things that far. For lovers of those ingredients it can be a nose saturating smorgasbord of pleasure. The brand founded by perfumer Andrea Casotti has been doing that recently. The latest is to see how fruity you can get in The House of Oud Keep Glazed.
For their latest fragrances Sig. Casotti has been looking for creative directors from other disciplines. For Keep Glazed he asked Vancouver-based cake boss Ksenia Penkina of Canadian Patisserie. If you look at the picture of Ms. Penkina’s cake, above, and compare it to the picture in the header it is not too difficult to see why Sig. Casotti felt he found a kindred spirit. They mentioned they wanted to create a gourmand style perfume which smelled like the patisserie. I don’t think it gets the entire milieu but it sure does find a case full of exotic fruit tarts to emulate.
Sig. Casotti co-creates Keep Glazed with perfumer Cristian Calabro. They make a smart choice to avoid all the typical berries finding a different assortment for Keep Glazed.
It opens with a bright lemon and mango painting. Mango has become one of my favorite perfume fruits. In this case the perfumers take the tropical juiciness of it and allow the lemon to provide a tart contrast. The only thing resembling a berry is their use of strawberry leaf in this top accord. It adds a green veneer to the fruits. Ginger arrives giving a boost to the lemon and mango without overwhelming them. If this is the fruit tart case I’m smelling; the filling underneath the lemon and mango is made of sweet coconut cream. A set of musks with a fruity scent profile add to the fruitiness while also beginning to ground the composition. Some wood finishes Keep Glazed off.
Keep Glazed has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
As much as the description above might make you think this is a sillage monster; it is not. It wears quite close. Mrs. C only noticed it on the days I tested it when I sat right next to her. It really is like leaning into the fruit tart case and breathing deep.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.