Anyone who has read my perfume writing over the years knows how much I despise huge debut collections of fragrance. It is because nobody has enough ideas to produce 8, or 10, or 12, or more perfumes all at once. Somewhere in all of that there are two or three completely realized ideas; the rest are mostly forgettable filler. It has been said these kind of mass releases are just a different kind of market research by allowing the consumer to drive the future of the brand. I don’t go along with that because there are times when it takes diligence to find what’s good in a sea of mediocrity. Few out in the real world are going to try them all. My compulsion to smell everything that makes it to my doorstep is even tested by these. If there was ever a time where my resolve was going to crack it was the 25 new releases from Swedish brand H&M.
Let me say I didn’t realize I was going to get an envelope filled with 25 different perfumes. I had seen a press release on a new collection of ten called “The Singles”. When my contact asked me if I wanted all the new releases I said yes thinking this was all of them. Au contraire, mon frere. There was another entire collection called “The Reveries”; ten in total. Then five more which comprise “The Essences”.
All the perfumes were composed by either Nisrine Grille, Olivier Pescheux, or both together. Twenty-five new releases irritate me so I’m going to help those of you who are faced with this ridiculously large amount of new perfume. Everything in “The Singles” is exactly what that intimates single note or accord perfumes. What is so blasted annoying about all ten is there is nothing extra to showcase the keynote. They’re all just flaccid single ingredient formulas a step up from anything at the health food store; maybe. “The Reveries” are equally boring because they are just a box-checking exercise to have poorly done examples of every style of popular perfume. Derivative in the extreme they are like drugstore versions of better perfumes. If you’re thinking about skipping the entire H&M fragrance section, and I wouldn’t blame you, there are five worth trying.
The remaining five releases make up a collection called “The Essences”. All five were done by M. Pescheux alone. These are all better versions of the boring ones done in “The Reveries”. There are glimmers of real interesting fragrance within these five. I thought I’d give each a couple of lines.
Comoro Ylang– I really like a full spectrum ylang which is what M. Pescheux uses as his nucleus. Wrapped in ginger and a set of linen musks before some benzoin warms things up at the end. This will be a nice fall floral.
Les Cayes Vetyver– M. Pescheux uses grapefruit and vetiver which is a typical pairing. The addition of the sweet earthiness of carrot seed was surprising. Finding the gaps between the tart green woodiness of the other two.
Makassar Patchouli– M. Pescheux takes the earthy herbal-ness of patchouli and contrasts it with the purple flower duo of violet and lavender. Warmed in the base with amber. This will be the sample I’ll probably use up.
Rose Absolute– A spicy rose architecture with cinnamon and cedar on both sides of a Turkish rose.
Santalum– M. Pescheux seemingly couldn’t just settle on one woody ingredient. Cypress, pine, cedar, and sandalwood form a fresh woods laden accord. Some jasmine in a small quantity is all that provides contrast. More interesting than it sounds as the woods developed dynamically on my skin until the sandalwood was the lone survivor.
All five of The Essence Collection has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’ve made my case about the crass cynicism behind dumping 25 new perfumes at once on the market. What I can say is there are five out of that mess worth trying. I can only hope they are the ones which have the best sales, so H&M is encouraged to do more in that direction. I have a feeling that’s not going to be the result.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by H&M.