As we move into March you begin to feel like winter is on the run and just up ahead is spring. Along with spring comes the new floral perfume releases. For a spring floral to resonate with me it has to have a great amount of sheer floral quality. I want a lot of flowers but I don’t want to be consumed by them. Insert “Little Shop of Horrors” joke here. I want my spring florals to mimic that moment when I step out and it feels like everything is blooming. Last March perfumer Jerome Epinette provided that for me with his lily of the valley creation for Byredo called Inflorescence. Now one year later he is following that up with another amazing spring floral for Byredo called Flowerhead and this time the central note is jasmine sambac.
Ben Gorham is the owner and Creative Director at Byredo and he wanted Flowerhead to speak to his mother’s, and his, Indian heritage. According to an interview in Cosmetics Business he related the story of giving his cousin away at a traditional Indian wedding. This is what he said he wanted Flowerhead to represent, “This fragrance was about capturing that idea of an Indian bride, rather than just the wedding and I called it Flowerhead, because it was really the fictional memory that I can imagine from my own Indian wedding. The idea of marrying someone you don't know was very interesting. There's anxiety and excitement. And I described this person as a 'flowerhead', because the bride is completely covered in floral hair arrangements.” Flowerhead captures that sense of heady anticipation as you cover yourself in floral garlands of jasmine, rose, and tuberose.
M. Epinette starts Flowerhead off with a tart combination of lemon, cranberry, and ligonberry. Citrus and berries is not unusual fruity floral territory; these three notes together are. They provide a lip puckering pop to the initial moments that I wish would last a little longer, but we have a wedding to get to. Now M. Epinette starts adding the floral lei to Flowerhead. The jasmine sambac is the star of the perfume and it is a complete jasmine fully displaying its indolic nature. With all of that the skank is more hinted at than allowed to become too pronounced. Part of the reason is the other two lei of rose and, in particular, tuberose amplify the sweeter floral nature. The indoles add depth and hint at the bride underneath all of the flowers. The base of Flowerhead sneaks up on you with a soft suede leather and an even softer and warmer amber. Together they add a refined filigree to the base notes to go with all of the fruity floral pyrotechnics previously.
Flowerhead has all-day longevity and above average sillage.
Like most I look to the return of the robins and the appearance of green buds on the trees to let me know spring is here. Now, for the second year in a row M. Epinette has provided another signal for me to look for as Flowerhead is a perfect perfume for new beginnings.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from Barney’s New York.
The first thing I think I really strived to learn about experientially was wine. When I was in college there was an upscale mall near campus that had a by the glass wine bar in it. It also had Paul who would become my guide to the wide world of wine as I sat at the bar. Every other week my friends and I would let Paul pour us a few glasses of wine and tell us where they came from. Those were the first steps on my way to becoming what my friends call a wine snob. I love being called a wine snob because I take it to mean this, I won’t drink bad wine. I would also happily embrace the phrase perfume snob, for the same reason.
One of my rules of being a wine snob is it has nothing to do with price it has everything to do with quality. That was something Paul taught me over and over again. One of my favorite wines he served us was one of the least expensive. It was this full-bodied red wine as powerful as the California Cabernets or French Reds but it came from Spain. The wine was called Monastrell and it was from a region in Spain called Jumilla. I loved these wines and the added bit of interest was that they had a flaw that I actually liked. The grape used in the Monastrells is called Mouvedre and it is more widely known as the grape used in jug and box wines. When grown under the particular climate in Jumilla these bland grapes take on an unexpected power. Another reason they aren’t used more widely is they have that flaw I mentioned called reduction which gives it a gamey quality. In perfume terms it is like the L’Artisan Parfumeur Dzing! of the wine world.
Phylloxera infesting a vine
The reason you haven’t heard much about these wines is because in 1989 the entire region was struck by an infestation of an insect parasite called phylloxera which destroys the vines. As a result all of the vines in the region had to be destroyed as a firebreak to keep it from spreading to the rest of the wine regions in Spain. While this was a disaster it had a silver lining which would take twenty years to become apparent. As the vineyards replanted they used the newer hybrid versions of the vines. This would make the vines a little more pest resistant and even though the vines were new, the soil and the climate remained the same.
When I went to my wine store in 2012 and saw this old familiar silver label in the Spanish section I was very excited. The Monastrell Paul served me back in 1979 was from Juan Gil and there it was again. When I took the bottle home I was so pleased to see that nothing had really changed. Better vines and better winemaking methods have made for a better wine but the same characteristics remained.
Jumilla Monastrells are available for less than $15 and they are one of the best bargains in the wine section if you want a big red wine. It is a perfect companion for barbecued ribs, and more obviously gamier meats like lamb, rabbit, and pork. I like grilling steak with some olive oil and sprinkled with rosemary and opening a Monastrell to go with it.
Here are some labels to look for at your local store:
Bodegas Juan Gil
Bodegas Olivaros Altos de la Hoya
These wines benefit from being opened and allowed to breathe. Which means not just opening the bottle it means pouring it into another container. I use an old-fashioned milk bottle as my everyday carafe.
If you’re looking for the next great red wine bargain in your wine store head over to the Spanish section and give the Jumilla Monastrells a sip.
I am often asked why I include a sentence about longevity in all my reviews. One of the reasons is I think there are many who equate the length of time a perfume hangs around as a signal of quality. I don’t particularly subscribe to that sort of thinking but I understand where it comes from. Longevity is more closely related to perfume oil concentration as, probably, the biggest single reason a perfume lasts for many hours. When it comes to what’s in the bottle there is very little any of us can do about that. What we can do, is make our skin the best canvas it can be for our scent of the day.
When a painter gets a raw canvas the first thing they do is coat it with a substance called gesso. It is meant to make the canvas more absorbent to the paint to be applied. It also has a secondary effect of adding a bit of texture for the oil or acrylic paint to “bite” on to the surface. This provides a uniform surface which allows for the best display of the artist’s materials.
When it comes to applying fragrance there are two things you can do which similarly make your skin uniform to allow for the best chance at longevity. The first is to exfoliate the skin you apply your perfume to. I’m not suggesting you go out and buy some expensive beauty product. I am suggesting you use a loofah or a rough washcloth whenever you shower or bathe. That will remove the top layer of dead skin cells and allow for a clean uniform skin surface. Now you need to help the perfume “bite” on to your skin and for that you need to moisturize prior to applying perfume. The idea is that by adding a layer of unscented moisturizer your skin is busy absorbing that, instead of the perfume you will be applying after that. If you just remember to exfoliate and moisturize you should see a marked improvement in the time your perfume hangs around.
If you want to take it one step further I’m going to share one of my secrets to perfume application which again is based on a painting technique. After a painter has gessoed their canvas they will often add a monochromatic covering called a colored or toned ground. The idea is this basic light color can be used to add subtle shading in the spaces underneath the primary application of the paints.
I’ve come up with my own method for creating a toned ground for my skin. When I get ready to moisturize after my shower I take a small paper cup and add a palm sized amount of my unscented moisturizer. Then I take my perfume for the day and give it two good sprays. I then take a finger and swirl it around mixing in the perfume with the moisturizer. Then I apply it to my arms, neck, and chest which is where I apply my perfume every day.
I don’t have any large pool of data to rely upon to say whether this works for everyone. What I can say is that everyone I have told to do this, when asked about perfume longevity, has reported back to me that it helped.
One final note is there are now a few commercial skin primers saying that they extend the longevity of a perfume. On the surface the claim is true they do work in making a perfume last longer on anyone’s skin. The price you pay is it alters the development of the perfume distorting the normal progression of the pyramid. It causes some notes to stay longer than the perfumer intended and it causes some of the heavier base notes from appearing until much later than the perfumer intended. Bottom line on these primers is if you just want the smell to last longer they will do the trick but it will be like looking at the fragrance in a fun house mirror; recognizably similar but fatter in some places and thinner in others. It is up to you if added longevity is worth the different profile.
Like everyone who loves perfume we all want it to stay around as long as possible. I think if you use the simple suggestions above you’ll find you get a little more time to spend with your favorite fragrances.