One of my favorite winter soups is a potato and nori combination soaked in garlic and ginger. During preparation when I open the package of nori, I bring it to my nose to sniff. The vegetal musky briny odor which comes from the bag is satisfying. I’ve never thought to experience it in a perfume until I received my sample of Abel Cyan Nori.
Abel is one of the best new perfume lines to spring up in the last few years. Founder and creative director Frances Shoemack have worked exclusively with perfumer Isaac Sinclair since 2016. Their ethos is to work only with natural ingredients. From the beginning they have created a brand aesthetic which has shown off the best of what all-natural perfumery can be. Mr. Sinclair is another of the rare creatives who can extract the hidden power of the ingredients he chooses. What makes them more laudable is they are thoroughly modern in aesthetic. Cyan Nori might be the pinnacle of both.
In the press release they talk a lot about using a plant derived musk. Longtime readers and perfume lovers know about ambrette seed because it is an amazing source of musk. Ms. Shoemack and Mr. Sinclair don’t skimp on its use in Cyan Nori. It is the linchpin to something special.
It begins with a fruity duet of tangerine and peach. This bursts off my skin with a fresh energy. With most fruity top accords they weight too heavily for my taste. This one is at just the right level. Now is when the ambrette comes in. This source of musk has just a hint of the hibiscus flower it is harvested from when used at this concentration. It adds a subtle floral to the fruits until the muskiness takes over. This is not that furry growling animalic musk. This is a sleeker version with vegetal facets. Which sets up nicely for the seaweed in the base. The ambrette seems tailor-made to go with it. There is a briny part to go along with the glistening green. This is all kept at a pleasant level throughout as the nori wraps the ambrette in a perfumed sushi roll.
Cyan Nori has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
The precision of ingredients used by Mr. Sinclair is remarkable. There is an excellent balance achieved the entire way. I also keep returning to just how pleasant it is to wear this. It might be because it reminds me of one of my favorite recipes. It is more likely because it is refreshingly unique.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
When I started writing about perfume, over ten years ago, there was a perception of all-natural perfume as somehow lacking. It was frustrating to me because that wasn’t my experience. I found those artists who chose to work in this style to be every bit as inventive as those who didn’t. Despite that misperception one of the things which has happened over the last three years is an expansion of this sector with better and better perfumes. One of the brands which has been part of this is Abel. Founded three years ago by Frances Shoemack and perfumer Isaac Sinclair they have released a collection of seven beautifully composed all-natural fragrances. The eighth is now here, Abel Pink Iris.
As the name would portend iris is the focal point of this perfume. Iris tends to have two prominent facets. The more familiar one is the powdery one. The less common one is the silvery rooty one. It is that one Ms. Shoemack and Mr. Sinclair choose to highlight in Pink Iris. As they have with most of the Abel perfumes, to date, they use three keynotes and that continues here.
The keynote in the top accord is Szechuan pepper. I know I’ve gone on a lot about how versatile this relatively new ingredient is, but Mr. Sinclair finds a new way of using it. He employs raspberry leaves to add a green-tinted fruitiness while basil adds an herbal undercurrent. This turns the Szechuan pepper towards a simmering fruity herbal accord. This finds a high quality orris butter waiting in the heart. The top accord softens the iris accessing that rootiness I find so appealing. Then like fireflies rising out of the summer grass the sparkle within the iris arises. This is a subtly compelling version of iris that is quite enchanting. A suite of linen musks wrap this in a clean cotton embrace.
Pink Iris has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you are one who still thinks all-natural perfumes cannot be that good Abel Pink Iris would be a good choice to allow you to reconsider that. If the sparkle of iris doesn’t change your mind, I’ll be surprised.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
Over the past few years I have been fortunate to spend a lot of time with Michael Edwards the man who created the perfume database Fragrances of the World. Whenever we are together, I joke it is like talking to a walking history of modern perfumery. He has provided so many insights for me to explore.
Mr. Edwards lives in Australia, but he was visiting a New Zealand department store when he began speaking with the sales associate. When the young man realized the opportunity to gather information, he took advantage of the serendipitous encounter. The sales associate aspired to be a perfumer. He asked, “What was the best way?” Mr. Edwards told him there was an annual conference in Grasse where he could present himself to industry insiders. Flash forward to a few months later at that conference where the sales associate has used his savings to make the trip from New Zealand to France. Mr. Edwards sees this as a sign of his determination. He would meet the head of Symrise who was similarly impressed. He sponsored the young man’s training in Milan which then lead to a series of positions within Symrise. The final piece of training comes as Maurice Roucel’s assistant for four years. At that point he is offered a position as junior perfumer in Brazil. Ever since I heard this story, I have wanted to try one of Isaac Sinclair’s perfume. I wanted to smell the end of the story.
I finally had the chance with the introduction of the Abel line of perfumes from the Netherlands to the US. The brand was begun in 2016 when owner Frances Shoemack chose Mr. Sinclair as her creative partner for her new perfume brand. When they became available in the US, I quickly acquired a sample set. What I found within the collection were very focused perfumes designed around sets of three keynotes. What I didn’t realize early on was these are 100% Natural perfumes. Mr. Sinclair elicits the most from this palette finding a quiet power within. The one which captured my attention the most was Green Cedar.
If there is a perfume which advertises itself as green cedar I am always interested. There is a freshness to raw wood. In the case of cedar, it keeps it from becoming pencil shavings; elevating it to something less utilitarian. Mr. Sinclair captures all of this.
It opens with a gentle breath of cardamom and magnolia. Then the woods show up. Mr. Sinclair uses two sources of cedar, Moroccan and Texan. He cleaves it with the use of cypriol. This is the main ingredient of faux-oud accords. Mr. Sinclair uses it here as the rawness of green wood with an ideally modulated amount cutting through the cedar.
Green Cedar has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I tried the whole sample set of Abel perfumes, I smiled a lot. The perfumes are all good. They provide the finish to the story begun one night in Mr. Edwards’ voice. Green Cedar is part of the fairytale ending from sales associate to perfumer halfway around the world.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample set I purchased.