When my seasonal rose grouchiness appears this time of year it is because the new rose perfumes all sing from the same hymnal. Dewy debutante rose constructs meant to be fresh and spring-like. Insert grumpy harrumphing from the author here. I can count on being bored every spring. I can also count on some brands deciding to go their own way with rose which is what I found in Rosine Ballerina No. 5.
Rosine has been making perfume under the creative direction of Marie-Helene Rogeon for nearly thirty years. Her signature has been variation on rose fragrances. This is not a rose line of perfumes which summons my inner curmudgeon because Mme Rogeon has rarely designed rose perfumes to anyone else’s playbook but her own. The Ballerina Series is a good example of that. Most of them are distinctive interpretations of fruity floral including Ballerina No. 5. The exception is Ballerina No. 3 which befitting its Black Swan-like bottle is a dark woody perfume. Perfumer Delphine Lebeau-Krowiak has produced all the Ballerina Series fragrances except No. 2. The twist this time is to make the rose as if it was coated in crystalline sugar providing a gourmand patina to the fruity floral.
Ballerina No. 5 opens with juicy tangerine along with a rich rose petal accord. This is no blushing debutante rose from the beginning. A fuller rose essential oil deepens the rosiness. Violet helps enhance the candied effect of chunky sugar crystals covering the velvety spicy rose. This is a compelling rose accord which is where Ballerina No. 5 chooses to pirouette for a quite a while. Slowly benzoin and patchouli add in a faux-chocolate undertone to the candied rose. The clean woods of cedar and guaiac frame it all in the end.
Ballerina No. 5 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
There is another way to create a spring rose and Ballerina No. 5 is it. The gourmand aspects are not so heavy this would be too much for a May garden party. You would likely turn heads because you chose not to smell like every other fresh rose perfume in the room. The candied rose of Ballerina No. 5 can dance circles around those.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Rosine.
Vanilla is one of the most overused perfume ingredients there are. It has become that way because it is an easy fragrance ingredient to use. You can warm it up and create a comfort style. You can go gourmand with it and make a sweet confectionary. There are excellent perfumes in both of those descriptions, but they leave out so much of what is possible with vanilla as an ingredient. It doesn’t have to be easy-going it can be the center of something different. That is what Rosine Vanille Paradoxe brings to the table.
Vanille Paradoxe is part of a four-perfume collection called Les Extravagants for the brand. Rosine made their mark on me with their release of Rose de Homme in 2005. One of my favorite rose perfumes I own. Rosine has been a perfume brand focused on rose in all its perfume forms. It has an effect of sometimes feeling like variations on a theme. Everything which bears the Rosine name is an above average to excellent rose. They are so competently done that the differences are in the nuances and those can sometimes be slight. After being warned, in the press release, that Les Extravagants was going to be an extreme version of rose I expected more of the subtlety which has become the brand’s stock in trade. What I found was a collection which uses the subtlety of rose to modify constructs which focus on other ingredients.
The focal point ingredient of Vanille Paradoxe is obvious. Perfumer Delphine Lebeau-Krowiak who has been the artist behind many of the Rosine releases since 2014 has a firm grasp of the aesthetics. It is one of the reasons she can make a perfume like Vanille Paradoxe which doesn’t use the rose as a keynote feel like it is still a Rosine perfume. The way she does that is to use vanilla as if she was using rose in its place. She wraps it in green herbs, woods, and spices. This creates a vibrant vanilla reminding you its source is an orchid.
Vanilla is there right away. The first contrast comes in the gin-like scent of juniper berry. Mme Lebeau-Krowiak sandwiches them between tart grapefruit and greenly herbal rosemary. Cardamom and cedar provide green of a transparent and woody nature, respectively. The cardamom as it first appears adds to the top accord with an opaque citrus-y style. The cedar comes off as raw and woody with a significant green component. It starts to seem like it is going to form an unpleasant edge. This is when a judiciously measured amount of rose is titrated into the mix. It never takes the lead, but it has a rounding effect on everything. Right here is where Vanille Paradoxe is at its most enchanting. Ambroxan takes the cedar in a drier direction while musks slightly tint the vanilla sweeter. Not a lot just a noticeable amount.
Vanille Paradoxe has 14-16 hour longevity.
Mme Lebeau-Krowiak has made a gorgeous version of vanilla so fresh it will be perfect for the early days of spring when there is still some frost around.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Rosine.
I’ve mentioned a few times that I am having some trouble fully embracing the transparency that seems to be the new trend in perfume. One of the things which keeps me hopeful is there have been some which have used the effect as something which to build upon. One of those brands is Starck Paris.
Designer Philippe Starck released three perfume in 2016, Peau d’Ailleurs, Peau de Pierre, and Peau de Soie. All three shared a quality of feeling like a translucent bubble of scent. Which felt appropriate for the brand of someone who grew up in his mother’s perfume shop. The aesthetic of those first three perfumes was to create these kinds of lighter constructs out of well-known material. I enjoyed the inherent fragility of all three.
Delphine Lebeau-Krowiak and Philippe Starck
Two years later M. Starck is back with two new perfumes, Peau de Nuit Infinie and Peau de Lumiere Magique. If there was something I was not crazy about in the first collection was how hard the press copy tried to convince me these were something groundbreaking. That continues with the new releases. I’m going to cut to the chase as the perfumes represent night and day which is a better description than in the press release. I would further refine that that each perfume is meant to capture twilight and dawn. They both capture a moment when the dark or the light still has a little bit of the other present for just a moment.
Peau de Nuit Infinie is composed by Delphine Lebeau-Krowiak. The perfume opens with that dimming of the light as lemon and bergamot provide a citrus effect over a geosmin-like mineral accord. My favorite of the original three was Peau de Pierre which contained a wet river stone accord. Mme Lebeau-Krowiak goes for a drier mineral effect. The similarity comes in that it also shares the same opacity as in the previous perfume. It is wonderful to experience something as grounded as stone in an expansive bubble. The faint light of the citrus is extinguished by pepper and ginger. It leads to a leather accord which feels insubstantial until I realize it is still going strong hours later. There is some patchouli and vetiver to fully complete the transition into night.
Philippe Starck and Daphne Bugey
Peau de Lumiere Magique is composed by Daphne Bugey. In this case pepper represents the last tendrils of the night holding on as the citrus accord ascends. What it flows into is the promise of a floral morning as light airy versions of ginger flower and jasmine capture the coming day. The base is patchouli but a less earthy version which leads me to think a fractionation is being used. This is the spicy breeze of sunrise blowing across everything.
Peau de Nuit Infinie and Peau de Lumiere Magique have 10-12 hour longevity and little sillage. The entire Starck Paris collection seems to live up to the “peau” in their name as they are essentially skin scents.
I enjoy these perfumes as much as I liked the original three. I might be learning to embrace this diaphanous style of perfume if they are constructed as solidly as this collection has been.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Neiman-Marcus.
There are designer labels that just can’t seem to find their way in the fragrance world. One of those would be Fendi. As a brand they had two distinct eras of trying to become a successful perfume provider. The first era ended in 2004. That was despite producing one of the best perfumes of the last 25 years in Fendi Theorema. That it was a previous entry in this column shows the struggle Fendi had. After 2004 they pulled back and rethought their approach.
If the originality of something like Theorema was not going to draw consumers maybe there was a different tack. When the brand returned to making perfume in 2010, they put Francois Demachy in the position of fragrance creative director. Then they seemingly decided that originality was not going to be a priority. Instead they became a fragrance version of a greatest hits record. All the perfumes with Fendi on the label from 2010-2015 were made up of successful accords and tropes from other best-selling perfumes. The idea seemed to be if we can just take a little bit from the other perfumes on the perfume counter, we will find an audience. That I put a date up there to the end of this era is a giveaway to how successful it was.
Fendi is far from the only brand happy to mash-up the kind of accords which consumers desire. It is a too common way to produce perfume. The thing is if they pick the hits you like the most you will probably enjoy the tune even if it reminds you of other things. For me the right set of tunes showed up in Fan di Fendi pour Homme.
M. Demachy chose to work with a team of perfumers for all the Fendi releases in this second era; Benoist Lapouza and Delphine Lebeau-Krowiak. Usually this is my recipe for success with a consistent creative team. The strength here was they were all on the same page just figuring out how to balance the styles they were combining into something nice. For Fan di Fendi pour Homme they hit the right accords.
It opens on a mixture of herb and spice with basil and cardamom mixed with citrus. It is a sturdy opening; one which will remind you of many other perfumes. It switches to the men’s style of florals as geranium provides the heart. It picks up the green parts of the herb and the spice. It ends with a leather accord made deeper with patchouli before cedarwood provides the woodiness necessary in a “pour homme” perfume.
Fan di Fendi pour Homme has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I like Fan di Fendi because it fills in on a day when I don’t want to wear one of the many perfumes, of which I smell pieces of, within it. It has become a reliable weekend fall choice. It has just been recently discontinued so this, and any of the second era Fendi perfumes, are still out there to be found.
Fendi has now failed in two different approaches to fragrance. Will there be a third? Is there a path between originality and greatest hits? It will be interesting to see the answer if there is a return in a few years. The Dead Letter Office has two relics of the first two eras whether they are the final representatives of the Fendi fragrance output will only be seen with time.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.