I’ve been observing and writing about perfume long enough I can recognize a change in aesthetic at a brand. Most of the time this change is due to consumer preferences. That is usually predictably boring. The one which interests me is when a new creative director comes in to oversee things. The result can be a brand which bears watching. Chopard Black Incense Malaki seems to be asking me to pay attention again.
Chopard is a Swiss-based luxury jewelry and watches manufacturer. They got into the fragrance business in 1985 and have intermittently been very active followed by a few gap years. Starting last year I noticed a change with the release of the Chopard Collection. There was a clear change to richer more powerful fragrances. That continued into this spring’s release of Love Chopard which was a very classic rose with gourmand highlights. I wondered about the change and was told Artistic Director Caroline Scheufele was now overseeing the fragrance side as well as the rest of the brand. Based on the recent releases she is not following the current trends. She is working on perfumes which have presence. All the most recent releases have been composed by perfumer Alberto Morillas. Black Incense Malaki is their boldest statement yet. To be clear there is incense here but it is in service of a raw dark leather accord which is the heart of this perfume.
When it comes to leather accords most perfumes go for a refined softer version. Those of you who own a black leather biker jacket will be familiar with the real smell of a new one. A slightly pungent gasoline scent overlays the processed cowhide. This is the accord M. Morillas brings to life in Black Incense Malaki.
In the earliest moments, an herbal lavender is surrounded by a swoosh of cardamom. If you’re drawn to incense, for a fleeting moment it is detectable before the rest of the leather accord assembles around it. Cumin and clary sage provide the herbal component. The ingredients of a medicinal oud accord created from nagarmotha, patchouli, and labdanum form the spine of the leather accord. Amber fleshes it out. when it all comes together this is a leather accord which is what niche perfumery is about. It has a high-octane scent with a bit of burnt rubber. As if my biker jacket is on an actual motorcycle peeling out of the gas station. A bit of cedar provides some woody relief in the end.
Black Incense Malaki has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
This is a powerfully projecting fragrance with an unusual accord. It feels like it belongs from a few decades ago. But that is a bit unfair of me because this is just the kind of envelope pushing fragrance I plead for. If you like unusual leather accords this should be given a try. What I take from this is it is time for me to pay attention to Chopard again. Especially if the mistress’ hand stays on the creative wheel.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Chopard.
There is a trend in niche perfumery I find very irritating; the city exclusive. It is even more troublesome when I see a note list from a brand I like in a city I have no way of getting access to. Which was how I learned of By Kilian Lemon in Zest.
In 2014 creative director owner Kilian Hennessy began to open stand alone boutiques all over the world. For each opening there was a corresponding city exclusive to be sold only at that store. All of them were based on alcoholic beverages indigenous to the city the store was in. New York. Moscow, Paris, Doha, and London I had ways of getting a sample of those. As I managed to try all of them Lemon in Zest remained the stubborn outlier I couldn’t source. It was at the boutique in Lugano, Switzerland. Lugano is on the Swiss-Italian border and is not a large metropolis. I just couldn’t manage to pull the strings I needed to get a sample. Now it seems as if all the city exclusives have become available more widely. I got my sample of Lemon in Zest a little over a month ago.
What had me interested from afar was that it was based on the Italian liqueur limoncello. It also had perfumer Alberto Morillas as the perfumer. I had liked the previous city exclusives for their booziness. I was thinking that M. Morillas could make a limoncello perfume with the bite it would need. I wasn’t wrong.
Limoncello is made from the rind of the lemon and not the pulpy fruit itself. Those rinds are marinated in alcohol for days before being combined with simple syrup. It is served ice cold from the freezer carrying the bite of cold matched to the alcohol and the tart lemon. Limoncello is best drunk as the sun sets on a summer day. M. Morillas makes his own limoncello.
It begins with that tartness of the rind of lemon. Besides the lemon there is a subtle green underneath which is very appealing. These early stages are photorealistic lemon perfume at its best. Then he takes it and adds it to the sweet alcohol. The note list calls it “orange liqueur”. There is a hint of orange, but it is there as a surrogate for the simple syrup adding in some sweet. The alcohol here has that kind of bite I was hoping for. This isn’t a warm comfy cognac or whisky accord. This is a bracing shock to the system full of lemon energy. The same experience a shot of cold limoncello makes in my mouth. It ends as it does for me in real life as I look out over my back yard in summer twilight. Vetiver gives an earthy feel through a judicious use of patchouli. It is an ideal base accord for this.
Lemon in Zest has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I admit that once I got my sample, I was motivated to make some limoncello. I also put my sample in the refrigerator. About a week ago I took both out to enjoy the fireflies and the comet visible overhead from my deck. It felt like I was living my best limoncello life inside and out.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
If there is anywhere where the resurrection of the Gucci fragrance fortunes can be found it is in Gucci Bloom and its flankers. Ever since overall creative director at Gucci, Alessandro Michele, has taken a hand in the fragrance side things have noticeably improved. Gucci Bloom in 2017 was the first marker that things were going to be different under Sig. Michele. The fifth flanker Gucci Bloom Profumo di Fiori continues the ascending trajectory.
Since Sig. Michele has taken over perfumer Alberto Morillas has become his exclusive creative partner. There is a wonderful new Gucci aesthetic which is coming from this. One thing about it which sets it apart is it isn’t going along with the transparent trend so many other brands are following. When Bloom debuted it decided to go with a substantial floral core of tuberose and jasmine. That has been the starting point for every successive version as M. Morillas finds a new partner for his keynote florals. For Bloom Profumo di Fiori it is ylang ylang.
I adore the version of that floral M. Morillas uses here. There is a fresher ylang ylang fraction which gets used a lot by those fragrances seeking opacity. The one here is that fleshy sensual version which finds a couple of willing partners in tuberose and jasmine.
The jasmine and tuberose come to life immediately along with the green vegetal Rangoon creeper adding a bit of contrast. This is the essential DNA of Bloom from past to present. One of the things I admire about this line is they don’t scrub the indoles away. They are kept to a more modest effect, but they add a lot of character to these perfumes. This is where the full spectrum ylang ylang finds harmony as the carnal floral dances a pas de deux with the indolic parts of tuberose and jasmine. If you like sexy florals this is your accord. M. Morillas adds a bit of rooty orris to connect to a sandalwood, benzoin, and musk base.
Bloom Profumo di Fiori has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Even though this review is coming out in midsummer Bloom Profumo di Fiori is a post-Labor Day fall floral. It is one of the best new releases for the upcoming season. Once again Sig. Michele and M. Morillas have added to their winning record. It all comes down to adding a fleshy floral to everything.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Gucci.
There is no other mass-market perfume brand which interests me more than Gucci. The reason is back in 2002 when Tom Ford was the creative director for all things Gucci he took charge of fragrance, too. The perfumes that were generated at that time were brilliant envelope pushing fragrance for any market sector. At the mall they were top of the class. The perfume which made me take notice was 2003’s Gucci Pour Homme. Mr. Ford and Michel Almairac pushed back against the prevailing fresh and clean trends of that day. It is one of my favorites still.
Those were the greatest times of Gucci’s fragrance history. I would suggest it was because the brand creative director was also interested in perfume. It took almost fifteen years until another Gucci creative director wanted to take charge of the fragrance piece. Alessandro Michele has reinvigorated Gucci fragrance from stagnant drift to something to be paid attention to again. Sig. Michele has worked almost exclusively with perfumer Alberto Morillas since he took an interest in 2017. It hasn’t been a flawless rebirth. There have been some stumbles here and there. Gucci Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum is not one of them.
Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum follows last year’s Guilty Pour Homme Cologne. That was one of those stumbles I mentioned. The Cologne version was lacking anything different. The Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum returns to what I like so much about the partnership between Sig. Michele and M. Morillas.
What has been so refreshing about Sig. Michele’s vision for fragrance is he isn’t looking to follow trends but set them. That has meant the recent Gucci releases aren’t part of the transparent wave of fragrance. The other thing is M. Morillas is encouraged to use ingredients outside of the typical mass-market palette. When it succeeds it is one of the reasons I am excited about perfume with Gucci on the bottle again. For Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum the different ingredient choice is chili pepper.
It is right out front paired with a full-spectrum rose. The heat of the pepper ignites the spicier facets of rose. Bringing them to the foreground. This is a kind of rose I can get behind. It heads towards more typical fougere country with a heart of lavender and neroli. They turn the overall profile towards that, but the rose continues to burn freely above it all. Patchouli and cedar comprise the base accord which just provide a solid foundation for the fiery rose fougere.
Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I like the way Sig. Michele is providing consumers a vivid counterpoint to most of the current releases. It will become another perfume collection where the Gucci name means something again. Guilty Pour Homme Eau de Parfum sets a rose on fire to get your attention.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Gucci.
There are perfumes I don’t care for where I walk away wondering how it would have been if one ingredient was added or removed. I’ve learned over the years that a perfume I am not crazy about is only one change away from being one I do like. There are rare occasions when it happens on the perfume shelf but By Kilian Good Girl Gone Bad Eau Fraiche shows it off.
The original Good Girl Gone Bad was released in 2012 as a collaboration between creative director Kilian Hennessy and perfumer Alberto Morillas. The idea was to create a sultry white floral with the added opulence of osmanthus. Regular readers know that should have been right in my wheelhouse. It was but the more I wore it the more crowded all the “bad girl” florals seemed. There were too many of them. I found myself craving a lighter version with the same aesthetic using less. Mssrs. Hennessy and Morillas provide me what I wanted with Good Girl Gone Bad Eau Fraiche. The biggest alteration is the removal of osmanthus and narcissus. What is left behind, orange blossom, jasmine, tuberose, and rose still manage to be “bad” while also being good.
For the Eau Fraiche version orange blossom has a more pronounced presence. It is the lightest of the white florals, but it still has enough indoles to remind you it belongs. M. Morillas adds Rose de Mai, another lighter version of a flower which retains the sultry core. This is that “bad girl” on holiday walking in a sundress with a pop in her step. Jasmine and tuberose call back to the original without being quite as loud. It seems as if they are on holiday too. As the florals come together this is a summery white floral which exudes energy. It all glides along on a base of white musks providing a warm breeze to ruffle our “bad girls’” hair.
Good Girl Gone Bad Eau Fraiche has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you were not a fan of the original because you share my feel of it being overcrowded this version should be better. I know there are some who told me the original smelled like pickle juice on their skin. I think that was probably from the osmanthus. This version should also be more enjoyable if the other florals are to your taste. I like it very much especially on the spring days I tested it. It seems like the creative team found the good place for the “bad girls” to be Eau Fraiche.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
I sometimes get an e-mail from a reader asking me, “What’s the point of flankers?” Trust me when I receive them in the mail that is something I ask myself. The cynical answer is the large companies are trying to part consumers from their money who feel brand loyalty. It is probably closer to the truth. Yet I have observed there might be a more positive perspective to have on flankers.
When I give someone a perfume to try on a strip and they tell me they don’t like it; I ask why. The most frequent answer is there is one thing which doesn’t make them happy. Too floral. Not floral enough. Too sweet. Too strong. A flanker can address this by making the one small change which might bring in someone who was put off by something in the original. This was my frame of mind when I received the two latest flankers from Giorgio Armani.
Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio Profondo
To their credit Giorgio Armani has not overexposed Acqua di Gio by releasing a ton of flankers of the 1995 original. It is also commendable that they have been clearly different from each other. The original was one of the early uses of Calone as the source of the sea spray beachy quality. The big difference in Acqua di Gio Profondo is the use of an analog called Cascalone. This is a deeper version of the sea with a more concentrated effect. It is what perfumer Alberto Morillas uses in the opening moments. Lavender replaces jasmine from the original. The lavender goes well with the Cascalone in creating a slightly darker shade of fragrance. It ends with a mineralic accord in the base,
If you were someone who found the original Acqua di Gio too fresh and clean; Profondo is just a shade less of both.
Acqua di Gio Profondo has 8-10 hour.
Giorgio Armani Armani Code Absolu Gold
With Armani Code the brand doesn’t seem as protective; releasing nearly a flanker a year since its initial release. That kind of process leads to a cynical view. All the Armani Code flankers have been offshoots of the original’s woody Oriental construction. I had easily ignored them until last year’s Armani Code Absolu which did change things. I wasn’t fond of an odd boozy accord in the middle but I appreciated the effort to try something new. This year’s version Armani Code Absolu Gold makes a change which made me like it much more.
Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu was behind both of the Absolu versions. In Armani Code Absolu Gold the booze is replaced by a fantastic iris and saffron heart. This flows much more naturally from the crisp fruits of apple and tangerine on top into benzoin and tonka bean in the base. It is difficult to get the floral balance right in a perfume marketed to men. I think if you are looking for a subdued floral for a change of pace and you like the Armani Code DNA this is a good alternative.
Armani Code Absolu Gold has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Giorgio Armani.
Calvin Klein is one of the most successful mass-market fragrance lines by giving their fans what they want. Ever since 1994 with the release of cK One that has been fresh and clean perfumes. Mostly as flankers of cK One or Eternity, especially recently. When there have been new attempts at new perfumes like Obsessed, they all hearken back to cK One. I recently received a sample of Calvin Klein cK Everyone and thought it was time to check back in with the brand.
The house style of Calvin Klein is ideal for the current trend in perfume for the millennial generation. The perfumes have always been on the transparent side. For cK Everyone Alberto Morillas is the perfumer behind it. He understands this aesthetic since it was he and Harry Fremont who created it in cK One. One of the things which causes this to stand apart a tiny bit is there is a pinch more energy in it. When I tried it on a strip when the sample arrived it wasn’t as similar as the flankers usually are. I’m not trying to say this is a large departure but there are some nice flourishes on the typical Calvin Klein foundation.
It begins with the classic fresh citrus opening, in this case orange. What gives it that different energy is a booster of ginger. It is just the right amount. What comes next is the slight change I liked best. It is listed as a heart accord of blue tea. This has the feeling of a lighter tincture of black tea. Is that why it is blue? It is a transparent tea laid over typical aquatic ingredients. I enjoyed it more than I would have thought. The Calvin Klein cleanliness returns with a lot of clean woody cedar.
cK Everyone has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
There is always talk of brands learning to stay in their lane. Which means understanding what your consumer wants and providing it to them. For the past twenty-five years you could say Calvin Klein has excelled at this. The latest evidence is cK Everyone.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Calvin Klein.
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.