One of the things which makes perfume composition difficult is you can have too much of a good thing. It is easy to think a floral fragrance should have many of those included. The real effort is to choose the right two or three; striking a balance. A precise balance. It was what made Gucci Bloom stand out three years ago. A near-perfect recipe of four florals which stands for what seems to be the reinvigoration of the fragrance side of Gucci.
Creative director Alessandro Michele and perfumer Alberto Morillas managed to follow that up with two excellent flankers; Bloom Acqua di Fiori and Bloom Nettare di Fiori. They did this by adding in something which created new compelling fragrances. A year ago they released Bloom Gocce di Fiore where they changed the concentrations of the original ingredients. It was terrible except as an example that they made the right decision in the choices made in the original. For the end of 2019 the most recent flanker, Gucci Bloom Ambrosia di Fiori, split the difference.
M. Morillas is again behind the wheel as the original four florals; Rangoon creeper, jasmine, tuberose, and orris take their places. For this version the tuberose concentration is increased a lot. The extra flower added is Damask rose. There are lots of floral perfumes which feature Damask rose and tuberose. They are a classic floral pairing. They are also two of the strongest ingredients in perfumery. In the case of Bloom Ambrosia di Fiori they nearly overwhelm everything else. The only one of the other florals which gets a tiny foothold is jasmine. This is all there is on my skin, rose and tuberose.
Bloom Ambrosia di Fiori has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
This is not the train wreck last year’s Bloom Gocce di Fiore was. Instead it is an example of what happens when you add one flower too many to something that is great on its own.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Gucci.
There is a box on my desk which contains samples of perfumes I like and will review if I get the chance. January is usually that time. This is the month when there is the least amount of new releases to write about. Which means I rummage around in the “like” box looking for something. Ever since the summer there has been one sample which has been beckoning me because of a faulty sample sprayer. Because it leaks when turned on its side the “like” box has slowly but surely begun to smell like it. Which means it has also become the background scent at my desk. I think its time to get Bvlgari Man Wood Neroli onto the page.
Something that most of the samples in the “like” box share is they are good versions of common perfume types. There should be some attention paid to a perfume which is just well done without breaking any kind of new ground. Man Wood Neroli falls into this category.
The entire Bvlgari Man collection since its debut in 2010 has been composed by perfumer Alberto Morillas. It is kind of an entire “like” box of fragrance. M. Morillas has previously plumbed the variations of woody oriental in the preceding eight releases. What makes Man Wood Neroli stand apart is it is a solid citrus woody instead of an oriental.
Man Wood Neroli opens with a great amount of neroli. It is a refreshing bitter green citrus top note. M. Morillas brings along the promised wood in the presence of cedar. The cedar used here is closer to raw green wood than the typical pencil shavings variety. It harmonizes well with the neroli through the shared green chord in both. It all ends on a swoosh of clean white musks.
Man Wood Neroli has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Man Wood Neroli stands out also for its projection. There were times I was reminded of classic citrus woody perfumes of the 1980’s because of the way this came off my skin. This is a nice change for the Bvlgari Man group of perfumes I’d like to see more of in the future. For now I was quite happy to get it out of the “like” box.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bvlagri.
There are perfumers I associate with specific types of ingredients. It is because I think they have a deeper understanding of how to get the most out of them. When I think Alberto Morillas, musk jumps into my mind right afterward. M. Morillas is much more than a one-trick pony yet he has opened my eyes to the potential of the synthetic musk alternatives more than any other perfumer. His latest lesson comes via Mizensir for Your Love.
Mizensir is M. Morillas’ own brand. I have hypothesized in previous review it is a place where he can truly explore the boundaries of the synthetic palette without a client getting in the way. Each release seems to highlight a couple of the well-known synthetics. In For Your Love it is the synthetic musk Exaltone and the synthetic ambergris Cachalox.
The brief M. Morillas gave himself was the “scent of a kiss”. I had to laugh when I smelled For Your Love because of what I think is meant to stand for the lipstick; raspberry. It might make you think of a pre-teen peck but once the musk and ambergris surrogates get going it isn’t chaste anymore.
The raspberry is the first thing I notice before the animalic muskiness of the Exaltone rises. An advantage of a synthetic like Exaltone is it exudes more warmth. It is more like warm skin. There is a sensual quality to it as used here. That gets enhanced as the Cachalox chimes in with a warm ambery effect. Together they create a pulse racing accord of anticipation as two pairs of lips reach towards each other. The warmth is echoed with a fractionated heart of patchouli and benzoin in the base. This is the denouement of that kiss carrying a small smile from each person.
For Your Love has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
There is a subset of perfume fans who decry the use of synthetics. M. Morillas is amassing a potent counter argument to that with each successive Mizensir release. For Your Love is the one where a potent ambery musk steps forward.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Mizensir.
When it comes to summer flankers it usually means adding something tropical to the DNA of the brand. The majority of the time it feels awkwardly placed as well as being redundant or inconsequential. Of the flankers for summer 2019 I found two which did a nice job of adding a tropical attitude to their respective lines.
Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Le Beau
Jean Paul Gaultier adds a summer flanker to their Le Male line every year. As a whole this is one of the better summer flanker collections with many more successes than misses. For 2019 they created Le Male Le Beau by crossing the fresh aesthetic of the original through a fantastic coconut at the heart of it.
Perfumers Quentin Bisch and Sonia Constant collaborated on Le Male Le Beau. What they’ve produced is a perfume version of a summer book as a perfume. The freshness is provided by bergamot and they then use what the notes call coconut wood. It seems more like a mixture of coconut and wood. Tonka bean is also present to make that coconut sweeter and fleshier. So many coconut fragrances goo too far to the sweet. By using the wood to keep things drier the coconut has a better effect.
One caveat the name I gave you is what I was supplied by the brand. There are also other flankers which are Le Beau or Le Male. If this perfume interests you look for the exact bottle in the picture above.
Bulgari Rose Goldea Blossom Delight
The original Bulgari Goldea is one of the best commercial releases nobody talks about. The unfortunate upshot of that is Bulgari has become a flanker machine over the last decade. Their success rate is surprisingly low for all the effort they put into it. When they released Rose Goldea three years ago I thought it was a nice summery companion to Goldea which had some personality. For Rose Goldea Blossom Delight I can say the same thing.
Perfumer Alberto Morillas has been responsible for all the Goldea releases. Rose Goldea Blossom Delight is distinctly different from either of its predecessors. M. Morillas sets that difference right from the start with a green top accord made up of papaya and violet leaves. Papaya is a naturally musky fruit and M. Morillas uses that faux-muskiness to create a lightly fruity musky opening. It dovetails nicely into the rose in the heart and the amber in the base. This is a delightful end of summer choice that will also do well as the weather cools post-Labor Day.
Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.
Ever since creative director at Gucci, Alessandro Michele, has taken a hand in the fragrance side of the brand it has been, mostly, a good thing. Outside of a couple of missteps I have believed Gucci perfumes have been on an upward trajectory because of Sig. Michele’s involvement. For the most part that success has come through giving typical fragrance styles clever twists through ingredient choice. What I have been hoping for is for Sig. Michele to make a fragrance which is different than those typical mass-market styles. It was what set Gucci apart when Tom Ford was the last overall creative director to get involved with the perfume side. It seems like Gucci Memoire d’une Odeur is an attempt to do that.
Sig. Michele has been working almost exclusively with perfumer Alberto Morillas since he got to Gucci. That partnership remains for Memoire d’une Odeur. I have to comment that the press release is a touch irritating because it claims that this is the first perfume to feature chamomile as a keynote. Any quick search of any perfume database will show that is a bit of exaggeration. They are making a point, though. Chamomile has a different scent profile than most things featured in mass-market perfumes. It carries a strong green herbal-like foundation which also carries a fruity component. For Memoire d’une Odeur they are using Roman chamomile which has a granny smith apple to match with the green herbal-ness. This is a challenging ingredient to put on top of a new commercial release.
Yet when you spray on Memoire d’une Odeur that is what you first notice. M. Morillas adds a bit of soft lift with a white musk, or two, but it doesn’t blunt the sharper edges of the chamomile. This is a vegetal green given some texture though the apple quality within. This is the kind of opening which is often seen in a niche perfume. not so often at the mall. With all of that in play for the top accord the remainder of the development spools out in a more recognizable fashion. Jasmine holds the heart with a more traditional floral scent. The base is even more recognizable as a series of white musks wrap around a clean cedar.
Memoire d’une Odeur has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am really looking to my next field trip to the local mall to observe how consumers are reacting to Memoire d’une Odeur. I think it is going to be a tiny step too far as the top accord provides a prickly character that will be difficult to embrace. Although if you are a more experienced perfume fan that prickliness is what might get you to take a second sniff. I am happy that Sig. Michele is willing to take some commercial risks as he continues to breathe life back into Gucci perfumes.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Gucci.
If there is an off shoot of the trend towards transparency that I will welcome it is the chance for the more fragile ingredients to shine. The majority of the time I have satisfied my desire for that quality by finding it in the independent perfume community. With L’Artisan Le Chant de Camargue it might be finding its way to a broader audience.
Le Chant de Camargue is the fifth release in the “Les Paysages” collection. This group of perfumes is meant to highlight a different region of France. Since its inception in 2017 I have found it to be one of the best group of perfumes from L’Artisan in years. Le Chant de Camargue does not break that streak.
For this homage to the Camargue region perfumer Alberto Morillas chose to create a fragrance around the “white gold” of the area; rice. Rice is one of those accords that is difficult to construct. When done well it is magical. M. Morillas spent months building his accord. The construction of the perfume is kept simple to protect the fragility of that rice accord. What is also remarkable about this perfume is the precise use of three of the most common synthetic ingredients to provide a stronger backbone to the overall fragrance.
Bergamot leads to the rice accord as this opens. The rice accord has a beautiful watery green effect before going milky through a powdery phase. What M. Morillas does is to titrate in exact amounts of hedione and Paradisone. These are usually powerful jasmine alternatives. Here they are used with a restrained hand providing a floral veil. The milky rice accord finds a complement in an equally creamy sandalwood. Just the right amount of ambrox supports the final accord without overwhelming it.
Le Chant de Camargue has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I think this will become my favorite of the Les Paysages collection. I find M. Morillas’ ability to provide strength to fragility as compelling as it can be.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by L’Artisan Parfumeur.
When I feel like a brand has taken a wrong turn, I find it difficult to give them the benefit of the doubt. After being so impressed with the fragrance side of Gucci since creative director Alessandro Michele had played a hand; the last six months gave the opposite reaction. Gucci went from a brand of new vision to a brand of cynical marketing with the 13-release The Alchemist’s Garden which I think was meant to draw you in with a pretty bottle so you’d forget the banal juice inside. Then this spring’s release of Gucci Bloom Gocce di Fiore which still ranks as one of the worst perfumes of 2019 for me. It felt like Gucci had not only made a wrong turn but driven off a cliff. You can bet there wasn’t a lot of anticipation when I received my sample of Gucci Flora Emerald Gardenia. I had every reason to expect little.
The Gucci Flora line is the latest to have Sig. Michele re-examine it. The Gucci Flora line has been around since 2009 when the brand released a yearly version most of the time. This was emblematic of the drift at Gucci prior to Sig. Michele becoming involved. All the Gucci Flora releases were nice and safe seemingly meant to put seasonal product on the shelf. What had me excited about the tenure of Sig. Michele is he has been giving each of the older collections new life. If it hadn’t been for the last six months, I would have been very excited. Instead I worried the days of playing it nice and safe had returned.
For Emerald Gardenia Sig. Michele continues to work exclusively with perfumer Alberto Morillas. It seems like there is good understanding between the two at what they want to achieve. The most recent Gucci Flora annual releases had been versions of Gorgeous Gardenia in 2017 and 2018. Done by the previous creative team they were not stand-outs in any way. Thankfully Emerald Gardnia does seem to signify a change for the better.
My first memory of gardenia is at my grandmother’s home in South Florida. The house was filled with bowls of water with a gardenia floating on top. Those were the Glade Plug-Ins of the day. What Emerald Gardenia does is to bring back that scent of gardenia on water.
Emerald Gardenia opens with a beautiful lemon bracketed by two other fruits; watermelon and pear. The watermelon sets up this watery undercurrent that will carry into the heart while the pear finds a crispness which explodes the lemon into a sparkling firework. This leads to the heart where gardenia is balanced with lotus and frangipani. The lotus again provides a unique wateriness while the frangipani adds fullness to the gardenia. It finishes on a woody accord of sandalwood and cedar.
Emerald Gardenia has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Emerald Gardenia is what was happening at Gucci prior to the previous six months. Smart mainstream perfume making with clever twists. I can only hope that the rest of 2019, and beyond, has more like Emerald Gardenia on the way.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Gucci.
If you catch me with a frozen treat on a stick in the summertime it will almost definitely be an orange creamsicle. Orange and vanilla are one of my very favorite taste combinations. I have a homemade breakfast beverage which is also focused on those two ingredients. When it comes to perfume it has also been a popular combination. When I received the press release for Mizensir Solar Blossom I expected another one; I should’ve paid attention to one other ingredient.
Mizensir is the brand owned by perfumer Alberto Morillas. I always mention that this appears to be the place where he can expand his familiarity with ingredients in new directions. Over the last four years he has produced an excellent collection because of this. Solar Blossom fits right in.
One of M. Morillas’ most well-known attributes are his ability to use the newest ingredients to their best effect. One of those is the jasmine synthetic Paradisone. Paradisone is the most dramatic version of jasmine in a perfumer’s palette. A little goes a long way. It also can make an impact if you just use a little. This is what M. Morillas does in Solar Blossom.
Solar Blossom opens on a fabulous duet of neroli absolute and Paradisone. M. Morillas threads the powerful jasmine in tendrils through the heady neroli forming a floral layer between the green and the orange inherent in neroli. Paradisone has an ability to add expansiveness when it is used. There is some of that here, but it mostly just finds some space to call its own. The heart matches both ingredients with floral counterparts. Jasmine itself for the Paradisone and orange blossom for the neroli. Both florals have a tiny hint of indoles within which add some texture. This is a fantastic fresh citrus and floral accord. Then for a final twist M. Morillas goes gourmand. He uses an ingredient listed as “vanilla hyper absolute”. Looking at that name you think overwhelming blast of vanilla on its way. Except what appears is a way more restrained sweet than that name would imply. It inserts itself indelibly finding the orange parts of what Is there and forming a creamsicle accord. What is most surprising is I never realized some jasmine with that creamsicle would be so delightful.
Solar Blossom has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
All throughout Solar Blossom I kept expecting to get hit with ingredients known for their intensity. M. Morillas showed me that those ingredients can be balanced into a memorable floral gourmand that smells like a jasmine creamsicle.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample from Mizensir.
I remark often on how the gourmand style of perfume is one of the most exciting to me. One reason is it isn’t even thirty years old. It means unlike every other perfume genre it carries around much less history. I have found recent versions of gourmands very interesting because they are not following an existing set of rules. As it is in the third decade of the style the same was true of the very earliest entries, they were defining the boundaries. This month’s Discount Diamonds choice, Givenchy Pi, was one of those.
In 1998 the early gourmands had all gone with deep dense aesthetics. As Givenchy thought to enter the fray Creative Director Francoise Donche decided a different tack would be taken. Their gourmand would focus on one sweet note with less of a heavy presence. Perfumer Alberto Morillas would be given the job of creating Pi.
The idea was to make a gourmand focused on vanilla. The easy way would have been to use the synthetic source of vanilla, vanillin. One of the reasons to decide against it is vanillin is one of the most common ingredients in all of perfumery. It also can become overwhelming as the concentration gets to higher levels. M. Morillas made an intelligent choice to go with a vanilla accord made up primarily of tonka bean and benzoin. It turned out to be brilliant.
Pi opens with a green prologue of rosemary, pine, and mandarin. It carries a freshness which will eventually be overwhelmed by the vanilla. That vanilla shows up subtly at first as tonka bean is the keynote in the heart. Tonka is a natural source of coumarin which has a kind of vanillic scent profile along with a sweeter hay-like component. By itself it would never become vanilla. M. Morillas uses benzoin to combine with the coumarin to form the sweet vanilla accord. What makes this so different from just using straight vanillin is it is a crisper form of vanilla. Most often vanillin diffuses until it becomes powdery. By using tonka bean and bezoin this doesn’t happen. Which means the vanilla lasts and lasts. The light woodiness of guaiac is the final piece of Pi.
Pi has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
If I were to ever write a column on the perfumes I wear which never fail to generate a compliment Pi would be one of the two no-brainers on that list. It is one of those perfumes which breaks through because of the way it is constructed. The advantage of being over twenty years old is it is easy to find bottles for less than $30. Because the ingredient list is so small it has easily weathered any reformulations. Gourmands might be all the rage currently, but Givenchy Pi was one of the first to try something new in the genre.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I own.
If you live anyplace which gets significant snow, then you are familiar with pothole season. This happens as winter wanes and spring is coming in. The alternating freezing and thawing open up cracks in the pavement which become bigger and bigger potholes. They can crop up incredibly quickly. One day a smooth ride, the next giant axle-breaking craters you can’t avoid. I’ve never thought about a perfume brand having pothole season but the last six months from Gucci finishing with the recent release Gucci Bloom Gocce di Fiore sure feels like the axles have taken a beating.
Ever since the creative director at Gucci, Alessandro Michele, took a hand in the fragrance side of the brand it felt like Gucci was getting its groove back. Gucci Bloom in the spring of 2017 laid down the first marker that Gucci was serious about perfume again. For the next year that impression was reinforced as a new aesthetic was seemingly being forged. Sig. Michele was working exclusively with perfumer Alberto Morillas; this seemed like a dream team in the making. The road ahead was smooth. Then the cracks began showing up.
It started when I received a package heading into the Holidays containing the thirteen (!) perfumes in the Gucci: The Alchemist’s Garden. The press material mentioned this was meant to be a collection of accords which you could layer to grow your own garden. This is as much of a cynical kind of release as I can imagine. When I received a follow-up package with the fourteenth addition. I just looked at the entire mess as a speed bump. A giant fourteen bottle speed bump. Instead it was a warning shot because the pothole was coming.
I thought if there was anything which was going to get Gucci back on track it was a return to the Gucci Bloom Collection. The previous two flankers were part of what I saw as this creative resurgence. When I sprayed Gocce di Fiore I knew the pothole had opened wide beneath me.
The two previous flankers had taken the core ingredients of Bloom; honeysuckle, tuberose, jasmine, and iris and enhanced them with new ingredients added in. Gocce di Fiore doesn’t do that it instead tries to recalibrate the concentrations of the core four ingredients. What ends up in the bottle seems like a discarded version on the way to the original. It is a screeching white floral which overwhelms anything approaching subtlety. It made me want to go get the iris Alchemist’s Garden sample and see if I could make it better. When I thought things couldn’t have reached a lower level than The Alchemist’s Garden, Gocce di Fiore turns the cracks into a pothole.
Bloom Gocce di Fiore has at least two hours longevity. I don’t know how much more because I scrubbed it off. Sillage seemed average.
Pothole season eventually gives way to paving season when the potholes are filled in and smoothed over as if they were never there. I hope Sig. Michele and M. Morillas do some roadwork and put Gucci back on the path it was on before the last six months because that was seeming like something worth looking forward to.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Gucci.