I have received my share of questions about what, or whether, to wear in the summer. More than any other time of year a poor choice can turn fragrance from a welcome companion into a frenemy. My best answer is to point to a style of fragrance known as Mediterranean. It is designed to mimic a summer day in a coastal town somewhere on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. They are among my favorite warm weather perfumes because they remind me of holidays at the beach even when that is far away. Because it is seen as a slighter type of fragrance it is not often the place where the luxury brands are interested in being. Atelier des Ors Blanc Polychrome makes a case for why that should be different.
Marie Salamagne (l.) and Jean-Philippe Clermont
Over the past 18 months it seems like creative director Jean-Philippe Clermont has been interested in upping the level of some of the most popular fragrance styles. Last year’s Riviera Collection did this for aquatics. Working again with perfumer Marie Salamagne they don’t necessarily re-interpret what a Mediterranean perfume is. It is like getting a burger made with Kobe beef and Wyke cheddar. The basic cheeseburger is good this is luxurious. Blanc Polychrome is that type of Mediterranean.
It opens with a gorgeously photorealistic lemon. It is joined straightaway by the grapefruit tinted green of rhubarb. For a few sparse moments, this opening is nose puckering tart. Then an ingredient typical to the style, fig leaves, adds a diffusing effect through the creamy green scent of it. This is what I am trying to describe as being luxurious. The lemon feels very real, but the rhubarb and fig leaves give it a sophisticated veneer. Jasmine and lavender come next in a bit more quantity than you might usually encounter while also keeping it light. There is a purr of indoles with the jasmine while the lavender adds a powdery shine to its floral partner. The next piece is a velvety moss which is an ideal way of imagining lounging underneath a lemon tree on a vast greensward. The base is Ambroxan and white musks. It could have ruined the entire perfume by becoming its typical strident screechy selves. Mme Salamagne uses a judicious amount such that it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of what she has built.
Blanc Polychrome has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I liked the idea of luxing up a Mediterranean. Turns out I enjoyed it even more in execution. If you want a luxurious Mediterranean, Blanc Polychrome is your perfume.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
One reason I am drawn to the Oriental style of perfumes is because the region fascinated me as a child. When I would see depictions of the nomads leading their goods-laden camels across the Sahara it felt romantic. The reality was probably much different. Brutally hot days moving recalcitrant animals across an unforgiving landscape. While acknowledging the probable reality I retain my fanciful thoughts of my youth. One part of my early learning was of the caravanserai. These were the waystations that a caravan would spend the night at. My imagination saw it as a crossroads of rogues complete with scimitars through sashes. A sandy version of pirates. I was reminded of this childish fantasy when I tried Atelier des Ors Rouge Saray.
Over the last five years creative director Jean-Philippe Clermont has assembled an impressive collection. He has worked exclusively with perfumer Marie Salamagne since beginning. It is another of those creative director-perfumer pairings which finds a harmony within the artistic vision of both people. It has been at its best within the lush parameters of the Oriental style of perfume. Rouge Saray adds to that.
M. Clermont wants this perfume to capture an imaginary night in a caravanserai. Imagining the different goods scent the air in equal amounts as the flowers in the trellises lining the central courtyard. It is a moment of stolen rest in between strenuous days.
This evening begins with those night-blooming flowers, jasmine. Mme Salamagne freshens them up a touch with heliotrope. Although that latter floral seems to be added for just the hint of almond it carries. It sets up a gourmand heart as an indigenous dessert is passed around. It is centered around the dried fruit quality of dates. It is spiced with cinnamon and sweetened with vanilla. My imagination sees a date infused custard with cinnamon dusted over the top. As you lean back to enjoy dessert the scent of the woods of the structure surround you as sandalwood and balsam provide a pillowing effect to rest until morning.
Rouge Saray has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I don’t know if the days of the caravanserai have become an anachronism. I do know the nights can be found in a bottle of Rouge Saray.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
One of the signs of aging is a longing for things of the past. Perfume is a good antidote for that. New perfumes can use the past as beginning for something different. When my fragrance buying began to expand in the 1970’s it was mostly through the fougeres on offer at the men’s fragrance counters at the mall. I still wear many of those because they appeal to me. Within the past year there seems to be a tiny rippling trend of modernizing fougere. Atelier des Ors Crepuscule des Ames does this by becoming a bit more of a throwback fougere.
"The Hostile Forces" from the Betthoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt
Crepuscule des Ames is one-third of the White Collection. Based on the concept of finding happiness as visualized in the Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt. The three perfumes were each meant to represent one panel of the triptych. Crepuscule Des Ames is inspired by the middle panel titled “The Hostile Forces”. There is a wonderfully artistic description of the panel where the monster in the middle is surrounded by the sins we encounter in life. While wearing Crepuscule des Ames I see the hairy beast in the middle as the classic powerhouse fougeres of decades ago. While the women surrounding attempt to soften that effect.
Marie Salamagne (l.) and Jean-Philippe Clermont
Creative director Jean-Phillipe Clermont continues the collaboration with perfumer Marie Salamagne which has been the case for every Atelier des Ors. Together they use a very traditional herbal citrus opening. The updating occurs throughout the middle part of the development as some different choices are used before returning to a traditional finish.
Crepuscule des Ames opens with mandarin, cardamom, and sage. This was emblematic of many masculine fougeres in the 1970’s and 80’s. It is done in that style with powerful presence from the first moments. It begins to be softened by using hyssop, pimento, and incense. The incense rises to a key note while being shepherded by the herbal-ness of the hyssop and the odd sweetness of the pimento. This part feels very 2018. The base is patchouli paired with hyraceum to provide a more animalic edge to the base accord in place of the more typical leather accord.
Crepuscule des Ames has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I quite enjoyed this homage to the old style masculine fougeres. Mme Salamagne has formed a more luxurious version with some modern twists here and there. It all adds up to a compelling throwback fougere.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Atelier des Ors.
When I was Boy Scout I was told of the value of natural wildfires. Caused, hopefully, by lightning strikes instead of careless humans. A natural fire clears away the old and ushers in the new. One of the most dramatic examples I would ever encounter was hiking through a part of Yellowstone National Park which had succumbed to a very large wildfire the year before I was there. After having walked through the more typical rolling green it was striking to come to an area where everything had been scorched back to nothing. The skeletal charred wood still gave off a smoky scent on the misty day I walked among them. As I looked around I saw the beginnings of new shoots pushing up from the ashy ground. I realized it would be wonderful to return in a few years to see what came of this.
Smoke in perfume is problematic for me because it can too easily become overwhelming. That subtler yet softer smoky haze I encountered that day in Yellowstone is not often found in a perfume. When I received my sample of Atelier des Ors Bois Sikar I was strongly reminded of that.
Marie Salamagne (Photo: Jerome Bonnet)
Atelier des Ors is another of the more recent brands which has drawn my attention because of the quality of their collection. Owner and creative director Jean-Philippe Clermont has chosen to work with a single perfumer, Marie Salamagne, over the first eleven releases. Bois Sikar is the latest addition to the main collection.
According to the press release Bois Sikar was inspired by the smell of cigars in a cedar box along with a glass of fine peaty whiskey. If I was attuned to it in a different way I probably could have seen all of that. Instead Mme Salamagne made a perfume that, for me, lived up to its translation “smoking wood”.
Mme Salamagne opens with her charred wood accord. It stays present throughout the entire development. First a sweetness due to nutmeg comes through the smoke. This reminded me of the sweetgrass which was growing among the blackened timbers. The whisky accord comes next and it is, as promised, very peaty. Which reminded me of deep rich earth instead of booze. Clean shoots of cedar and vetiver carry more of the new growth vibe. Tobacco only shows up in the final stages and it is a nice bit of typical smokiness at the end.
Bois Sikar has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I mentioned this is meant to be a cigars and booze style of perfume; which it probably will be for most. In my case it was the natural scent of a year after a wildfire as life returns to the ashes.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Atelier des Ors.
While there are many independent perfume brand success stories who use many different perfumers; I am a big fan of the monogamous approach. When a creative director and a perfumer work together over the life of a brand I believe it helps create a definitive aesthetic. It also allows for explorations of different keynotes from altered perspectives. That in turn leads to some special subsets within a brand. This has been happening at Atelier des Ors as the latest release Musc Immortel provides a third look at iris.
Jean-Philippe Clermont has chosen to work exclusively with perfumer Marie Salamagne since the founding of Atelier des Ors in 2015. In the original collection Aube Rubis was a fabulous warm iris which was supported by vetiver and patchouli. In 2016 they would continue using the same trio with Iris Fauve. Musc Immortel takes it in a new direction. This time the patchouli becomes the primary counterweight to the iris through the heart before sinking into the titular notes.
Marie Salamagne (Photo: Jerome Bonnet)
The citrus and herbal duet of grapefruit and clary sage announce the arrival of the iris. As it was in the previous two releases this is the rhizomal version of iris; earthy instead of powdery. It is my preferred version of iris in perfume. The same heart accord as existed in Iris Fauve makes a return in Musc Immortel but the concentrations have changed. In Iris Fauve the vetiver has the upper hand with the faux-oud of cypriol. In Musc Immortel those two notes appear first but the patchouli builds into a wave which eventually rises over the iris near exclusively. This is where the base accord becomes critical. Left with iris awash on a sea of patchouli this becomes less interesting. Mme Salamagne uses immortelle to capture the iris in a lifesaving embrace as the earthiness has the maple syrup quality of immortelle to stick to. It holds fast forming a deeply pleasing accord. A mixture of botanical and synthetic musks carry this to softly a animalic finish.
Musc Immortel has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Musc Immortel has been around as an exclusive at Harrod’s since early 2017; it is now ready to expand to where Atelier des Ors is sold. I think it is great that this is getting a wider distribution because it fits so well within the Atelier des Ors Collection. If you’ve been a fan of Aube Rubis or Iris Fauve I suspect you will enjoy Musc Immortel. I look forward to the fourth movement of the iris-vetiver-patchouli symphony because the third movement was so inspiring.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Atelier des Ors.
Over the years I’ve been writing about perfume there have been many things which have evolved. In the early days I loved getting special little peeks into upcoming projects. I thought it was one of the perks of the job. Until it went sideways on me a couple of times. Someone would show me a version of an upcoming release which I thought was perfect. I was already thinking about how I would be framing the imminent glowing review. Then I would receive the final version and it was not the same as the one I was infatuated with. There were often very good reasons behind the change but I knew there was a version I liked better. That made me stop allowing perfume brands to show me things early because I always wondered if I had experienced the fragrance for the first time after release whether my reaction would be different. I know it confused some who saw the glee on my face before turn into this line in the sand. I have done pretty good since I made the decision except at Esxence this past March.
When I was there I stopped by the Atelier des Ors stand to chat with owner and creative director Jean-Philippe Clermont. Atelier des Ors was one of my favorite brand debuts of 2015 so it was natural to drop by and say hello. When I arrived M. Clermont was showing the line to a pair of retailers from Australia and New Zealand and he invited me to sit in. Before I settled down he sprayed something on my wrist. Drawing it to my nose I expected to be greeted with something familiar. Instead I was surprised by a warm musky iris I fell instantly for. After talking with M. Clermont he told me that was one of two possible version of a new iris focused release coming at the end of the year. I smelled my wrist for the rest of that day surrounded by many excellent new perfumes but none were better to my nose. I knew the wait was going to be interminable to see if the version I liked so much would be the one which made it in to the bottle. I received my answer a couple weeks ago, with the arrival of my sample of Iris Fauve.
One of the things I approve highly of is the idea of a new brand working exclusively with a perfumer, or two. I believe it helps hone a brand’s identity while also allowing the creativity to build upon the foundation of the earlier work. So far M. Clermont has worked only with perfumer Marie Salamagne. The foundational scent from the initial five releases for Iris Fauve was Aube Rubis. In that fragrance Mme Salamagne explored the iris, patchouli, and vetiver triptych found so often in other constructs. It was a warm iris but there were slashes of fruit and sweet on the periphery. Iris Fauve is a complete evolution of Aube Rubis while still retaining the warmth of the iris; Mme Salamagne found some very new ways to illuminate the same trio.
The orris arrives right away and the heat also comes with it in the form of cinnamon. The spice is a true supporting note as it helps tamp down the powdery facets allowing the earthy rootiness of the rhizome to rise. The patchouli and vetiver return but this time Mme Salamagne adds in cypriol which forms a lilting kind of faux-oud accord which the iris inserts itself in to. This all becomes quite transparent as Mme Salamagne really brings the warmth in the base. The key note is an ingredient called Carolina Vanilla. More commonly known as deertongue, Carolina Vanilla was used as an additive to tobacco because it has a sweetly vanillic nature as the name portends. What it also has is that dried toasty nature you find in tonka bean. This provides a sweet underpinning to the animalic musks and myrrh Mme Salamagne uses in her base accord. As the iris and the oud accord settle into the warm embrace of the base notes it as good as perfume gets for me.
Iris Fauve has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Even though it wasn’t officially released at the time Iris Fauve was the perfume I carried the strongest memory of home from Esxence. Now that the same perfume has shown up in the bottle on the shelf I can confirm Iris Fauve is one of my very favorite perfumes of 2016.
Disclosure; This review was based on a sample provided by Atelier des Ors.
There are a few notes in fragrance which are kind of Goldilocks notes. These are notes which really test the patience of a perfumer to get it “just right”. One of the more crowd-pleasing notes is also one of the more difficult notes to find the sweet spot with. That note is vanilla. Too much and it is oppressive and cloying. Too little and it becomes an afterthought. Even with that warning a perfumer who wants to work towards the edge of the too much barrier really has to be sure to pull back just enough. Perfumer Marie Salamagne has displayed that kind of precision in the new perfume Atelier des Ors Lune Feline.
Atelier des Ors is a new brand founded and creatively directed by Jean-Philippe Clermont. The brand has released five fragrances this year all composed by Mme Salamagne. The ethos of the line is to reinvigorate the French style of perfume making. There is also a kind of throwback elegance as each bottle contains flakes of gold inside which turn the bottles into decadent snow globes with golden highlights.
Lune Feline is the gourmand representative of the debut releases. Mme Salamagne chose to go for a spicy green shade of vanilla. She also decided to let the vanilla carry some more presence than might have been wise. The end result is an encompassing vanilla but not an overwhelming one.
The opening of Lune Feline is the sizzle of spices as cardamom, baie rose, and cinnamon heat up the early going. The cinnamon is the focal point with cardamom and pink pepper providing a bit of cool on one side and bit of snap on the other. The heart gets green and woody as cedar frames a set of verdant notes. A touch of ambergris adds an interesting grace note to the straight-forward cedar accord. The vanilla begins to rise. At first it has some delicacy but it doesn’t take long for it to become more insistent. A bit of Peru balsam and some musks try and restrain the vanilla from getting out of control. It is a battle which they will fight all the way to the end as the vanilla stays intense but not overly so.
Lune Feline has crazy longevity I detected it 36 hours after application. The sillage is moderate.
Mme Salamagne managed to make a vanilla perfume that was more than “just right”. She made a vanilla perfume with real strength but without being irritatingly sweet. If you are a vanilla fan this should be on your sample list.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received at Esxence 2015.
Header Photo via Fragrantica.com