I’m going to end this where I began it with a scent of my childhood. In the South Florida neighborhood I grew up in we had a small citrus orchard nearby. It was run by Mr. Meeks who would hire us as his pickers when the fruit was ready to be harvested. It was the first money I would earn for myself. After a day of work I got a crisp dollar bill for my effort. When we took a break for lunch, we would sit in one of the trees and pick an orange for dessert.
The scent of those days was beautiful. The sun slanted down through the green leaves as we picked the fruit and placed it in a crate. Mr. Meeks would come by and pick it up. The green woodiness of the trees and the leaves combined with the citrus for a scent which can take me back to those days over fifty years later.
Citrus within modern perfumery has become synonymous with warm weather. I have a natural attraction to the best of them especially when they connect with my memory.
When it comes to orange there is no perfume which has ever found that place for me better than Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine. This was the star of creative director Sylvie Ganter’s debut cologne absolue collection. Ten years on it is probably the flagship of this very successful line.
For lemon it also is from Mme Ganter’s brand with Atelier Cologne Citron d’Erable. This is the definition of a cooler weather citrus perfume. Adding maple syrup as the sweet counterweight to the lemon is a brilliant choice. This is the chill of sunset sitting at the top of the lemon tree watching for the flash of green.
Chantecaille Vetyver has my favorite grapefruit paired with the other warm weather perfume ingredient, vetiver. In this case the sulfurous nature of the rind is allowed to find harmony with the sharp green facet of vetiver. In between is the tart pulp of the fruit. There was a study that wearing grapefruit makes people seeing you as younger than you are. I wonder if they see my inner ten-year-old when I wear this?
I’ll have some closing thoughts about the whole challenge tomorrow to bring this to a close.
Every spring I get overwhelmed by the number of new rose releases for spring which pile up on my desk. I have become openly grumpy about this and hope every year for something different to show up as the weather begins to warm up. Last year I realized I was wearing several specific perfumes as a palate cleanser versus those rose fragrances; lemon focused perfumes. I made sure to remember when this time came around this year to share my favorites. Here are five which I love.
One of my favorite summer treats is to take a cold lemon and cut it into wedges and coat it in sugar. Then I bite into the wedge for a cold sweet and sour treat. When I want the same effect, I turn to Fresh Sugar Lemon. Perfumer Cecile Krakower mixes two sources of lemon and adds it into a heart of orange blossom, lychee flower and ginger. Those three ingredients provide the sugar part of the equation. It is one of the interesting aspects of perfumery that I can tease apart the strands but it is when I stop doing that the sugary effect is balanced contrast to the lemon. The base is found in caramel tinged sandalwood. Sugar Lemon is an example of how simple can be very good.
Diptyque Oyedo is a true melange of all citrus; especially in the very early going. The lemon rises out of the crowd as the herbal green of thyme along with apricot lift it up above the other citrus ingredients. As it was with Sugar Lemon the base is a mix of wood and gourmand as cedar and a praline accord take on that role. Of all of the perfumes on this list this is the most dynamic.
It is a very rare thing where I think the flanker is way better than the original; Chanel Allure Homme Edition Blanche is one of those. The original Allure Homme was composed by Jacques Polge and Francois Demachy in 1998. Ten years later the same team of perfumers reworked the original formula by replacing the original softer citrus opening around mandarin with one centered on a burst of lemon. The heart is a sandalwood and tonka down to a very different base of vetiver, cedar, amber, and vanilla from the original as the latter two notes take over from the first two.
One of the best recent variations on lemon has been Atelier Cologne Citron D’Erable. Perfumer Jerome Epinette splice lemon onto a fabulously rich maple syrup accord. By trapping the exuberant citrus in the sticky syrup, he creates a true shoulder season citrus which is at its best on cold mornings followed by warm afternoons.
I finish with what I consider to be one of the greatest rich citrus perfumes ever and it is all about lemon; Balmain Monsieur Balmain. Originally composed by Germaine Cellier and brilliantly re-worked by Calice Becker in 1990 this is what I think a spring fragrance should be. Three styles of lemon are combined in the top with lemon, petitgrain, and verbena. They are given lift by a brilliantly restrained use of mint. Then herbal thyme, rosemary, and sage along with ginger and nutmeg swaddle a spicy rose which provides deeper harmonies for the bright top accord. It all ends on fabulously constructed light chypre accord.
If you want something to freshen up your days as things begin to thaw try these five lemon perfumes to provide some light.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottle I purchased.
This year I tried 680 new perfumes which wasn’t even half of all the new perfume that was released. The Top 25 below represent the top 3.7% of all that I tried.
Alessandro Brun, Me, and Riccardo Tedeschi (l. to r.) of Masque Milano
The Top 5 (Perfume of the Year Candidates)
5. Thierry Mugler Angel Muse– Two of the most iconic landmark fragrances ever took it upon themselves to re-invent themselves for a new generation. Perfumer Quentin Bisch didn’t just change the gourmand template begun with 1992’s Angel he sent it off in an entirely new direction with Angel Muse. It is easy to see Angel Muse as a softer unplugged version of Angel with its vetiver and hazelnut cream core. If you look at it that way you miss the complete transformation of the pyramid without ever being anything less than a relative of the original.
4. Faths Essentials Green Water– I love the original Jacques Fath Green Water it is one of my favorite perfumes no matter what year. I worked hard to find as pristine a vintage bottle as I could. Which was why when I sat down to try the Cecile Zarokian supervised re-formulation I expected a watered-down shadow. Instead I found probably the best re-formulation of a classic vintage perfume I can recall. It started with the simplest of choices not skimping on the concentration of neroli oil; matching the percentage in the original. This was not economical but Mme Zarokian convinced creative director Raina Naim it was necessary. In many ways, the fresh snappy quality of the 2016 version is more appealing than the well-aged and macerated vintage versions. There is a time and place for both but there is no embarrassment having them side-by-side on my shelf.
3. The Different Company Adjatay– Simple was the by-word with the 2016 release from The Different Company. Creative Director Luc Gabriel had gone on a trip and left some actual tuberose in his well-worn leather traveling case. When he took it out again he realized that smell he encountered needed to become a perfume. He asked Alexandra Monet to find the balance between tuberose and leather he had experienced. It is an ever-evolving battle through the early going with tuberose on top at first before the leather gains the upper hand finally achieving a balance between the two. If it wasn’t for Adjatay my luggage would all have tuberose inside.
2. Zoologist Perfumes Bat– Almost literally the first new perfume I tried in 2016. From that point every one of the successive perfumes I tried had a very difficult bar to hurdle. Owner/creative director Victor Wong continuing his efforts of working with the best artisanal perfumers collaborated with Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids. Dr. Covey had done some field studies of bats in the wild and had a good idea what should be in Bat. Mr. Wong creditably allowed Bat to evolve into a perfume which was true to both of their visions. I have had the most fun handing Bat to people throughout the year. Most gravitate to it immediately; but it is the ones who at first are unsure and over time keep returning to the strip before finally picking up the sample and spraying it on that make me smile widest. Bat is everything Independent Niche Perfumery should be about.
Here are the rest of the Top 25 in Alphabetical Order
Aeon 001– Another early year release all about a unique take on smoky vetiver. The name of the perfumer was held back until it sold out. When it turned out to be Bogue Profumo’s Antonio Gardoni it wasn’t a giant surprise.
Amouage Lilac Love– I have lauded creative director Christopher Chong for defining the boundaries of perfumery. Working with perfumers Nathalie Lorson and Elise Benat he turned Lilac Love into a gentle lilac tinted nudge towards the greater Amouage collection while maintaining that DNA.
Arquiste El & Ella– My only cheat this year but I couldn’t separate the two new releases from Arquiste. Creative director Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux take us back to 1970’s Jet Set Acapulco for a hot night contrasting chypre, Ella, and fougere El, all reflected through a mirror ball of cardamom and honey.
Atelier Cologne Citron D’Erable– Jerome Epinette’s twenty-third perfume for Atelier Cologne finds creative directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel saluting Canada with a mixture of maple syrup and citrus. It makes Citron D’Erable a citrus cologne for cold weather.
Atelier des Ors Iris Fauve– This probably should have been number 5A on this list; that’s how close it was to being in the Top 5. Creative director Jean-Philippe Clermont continues his collaboration with perfumer Marie Salamagne to create the best of this very good brand, to date, with this musky iris that warms the soul.
Byredo La Botte– The Night Veils Collection within Byredo was begun late in 2015. This year the three releases explored the different versions of leather. Creative director Ben Gorham and perfumer Jerome Epinette turned the one celebrating the leather boot into a real kick.
Cadavre Exquis– There were many interesting collaborations in the indie artisanal world this year. Antonio Gardoni and Bruno Fazzolari did a trans-Atlantic examination of the gourmand. It provocatively reminds you that camphor is a gourmand note. Everything I love about the artisanal mindset is on display here.
Chanel No. 5 L’Eau– Scariest press release line of the year “Chanel No. 5 re-interpreted for a younger generation”. Olivier Polge showed me my fear was misplaced with a fresh take on the grand parfum that lost nothing and maybe gained a generation of new admirers of the brand.
Dasein Winter Nights– Another artisanal collaboration between Josh Meyer of Imaginary Authors and Sam Rader of Dasein. Making an evolution of Ms. Rader’s first release Winter in to a Holiday bonfire at Big Sur was a triumph.
Diptyque Kimonanthe– 2016 was deep in great osmanthus perfumes. Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin took an opulent osmanthus and dusted it with the Japanese powdered incense, zukoh. Kimonanthe was the best osmanthus perfume of 2016.
DS & Durga Radio Bombay– Perfumer David Seth Moltz deconstructs sandalwood in a compelling way. As the entropy takes place on my skin I kept trying to tune the signal back in which is why this was one of my favorites.
DSH Perfumes La Belle Saison– Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s work with the Denver Art Museum on their Monet installation last year led to this. La Belle Saison is Ms. Hurwitz’s version of an impressionistic lilac perfume.
Eris Parfums Night Flower– Barbara Herman is another who has successfully made the leap from enthusiast to creative director. All three of her debut Eris Parfums with perfumer Antoine Lie were excellent but it was Night Flower which really reminded me of how they used to make ‘em.
Galop D’Hermes– Even though it was the second perfume Christine Nagel released in her new post as in-house perfumer at Hermes Galop D’Hermes was where she planted her flag in the ground. By retaining the lighter tone the brand has been known for while changing it to her style made Galop the place where generations changed at Hermes.
Hiram Green Arbole Arbole– One of the best all-natural perfumes I’ve encountered in a long time by one of the most talented young independent perfumers, Hiram Green. The smell of being high in an olive tree next to a fresh-faced girl wearing powder. I have spent hours enjoying the places in between in this perfume.
House of Matriarch Kazimi– Christi Meshell has made the courageous move with her independent brand House of Matriarch bringing it to Nordstrom’s all over the US. With Kazimi she is leading with some of her best work ever. Fingers crossed some of the mall shoppers agree with me.
Jul et Mad Secrets du Paradis Rouge– The continuing story of Jul et Mad co-founders Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard continues into their honeymoon with this perfume of travel and love composed by Luca Maffei.
Laboratorio Olfattivo MyLO– Creative director Roberto Drago working with perfumer Luca Maffei creates a carnal lily more in keeping with O’Keeffe than the funeral home.
Olfactive Studio Close-Up– I have long worn this brand’s Lumiere Blanche as my favorite. Close-Up has replaced it as creative director Celine Verleure and perfumer Annick Menardo combine cherry, tobacco, coffee, and patchouli into something I want to keep close-up all the time.
Puredistance Sheiduna– I appreciate brands which are willing to change a well-known architecture. Creative director Jan Ewoud Vos and perfumer Cecile Zarokian take the traditional Oriental and dry it out with abandon. Never has the Orient seemed so modern.
The Final Cuts (The 20 perfumes which just missed the Top 25)
There are certain rules which are universally accepted. No wearing white after Labor Day. Red wine with meat; white wine with fish. Citrus perfumes are for warm weather. When you look at that list you realize that they are generally true but it is in the exceptions that you find creative thinking. Some of my favorite citrus fragrances come from Atelier Cologne but even those are usually worn when the temperature rises. Slowly but surely brands have been providing citrus perfumes which can break this adage. Atelier Cologne has turned this trick with the release of Citron D’Erable.
Citron D’Erable is part of the Collection Azur but it is currently only available in Canadian Sephora and at Atelier Cologne boutiques. One of the things I liked about the first four releases within Collection Azur was they felt like an evolution of the brand’s cologne absolue aesthetic. Citron D’Erable is very much part of that ongoing refinement. Citron D’Erable translates to “Maple Citrus”. As an homage to Canada that is an appropriate mixture of the trademark citrus of Atelier Cologne with one of the symbols of the country. Perfumer Jerome Epinette is back for his twenty-third composition for the brand.
Citron D'Erable postcard from Atelier Cologne
Maple Syrup is harvested in the spring as the temperature begins to fluctuate between below freezing nights and sunny warm days. The back and forth causes the sap to flow and be collected via a tap placed into the tree itself. M. Epinette combines that early spring sunshine, the wood of the maple tree, and the syrup flowing from the tap.
M. Epinette uses lemon to represent the lower hanging sun of the spring. He modulates it with Szechuan pepper. This has been an ingredient I have seen used a lot over the last year to modify some of the more incandescent notes. M. Epinette uses it in exactly this way here. Then we get to the tree itself where we see the cut in the wood with the maple syrup flowing in a steady stream. The syrup accord is given lift by a very intelligently chosen eucalyptus. If you’ve ever smelled fresh cut wood it has a mentholated undertone. The eucalyptus represents that as well as the chilly air you are breathing in. It is here as a grace note which feels perfect. To represent the tree M. Epinette takes maple wood oil and, as with the lemon on top, transforms it with cedar, sandalwood, and sequoia wood. This is done to make a more impressionistic maple tree accord instead of working towards something photorealistic.
Citron D’Erable has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Citron D’Erable is my favorite of the Atelier Cologne releases in 2016. It is going to get a lot of wear throughout the harvest season because it will shine there as much as when the spring thaw is happening. For at least the next few weeks I am going to be breaking my citrus perfume in warm weather rule with a snappy maple syrup salute to our neighbors to the north courtesy of Citron D’Erable.
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample supplied by Atelier Cologne.