There are perfume brands which sometimes just miss their window. As independent perfumery rapidly expanded in the 2000’s there was a corresponding vitality of ideas. With the internet connecting the world a smaller outfit could design to a specific sensibility. This was really the definition of niche in those early days of it.
Those of us who lived around NYC had a special place to find fragrance. The Japanese department store Takashimaya was one of the best perfume destinations in all of Manhattan. Their selection was like no other featuring Japanese-based labels throughout the store. One of those in the perfume department was Masaki Matsushima. These were some of the earliest examples I encountered of transparent minimalist styles. There were some which still remain the best examples I own. After Takashimaya closed, I lost touch with the brand until last year. A new era was beginning as perfumer Jerome di Marino took over from Jean Jacques who had composed the previous 40. That first release under the new creative team was a transparent concrete garden. It felt like this was the time and place for the Masaki Matsushima aesthetic to flourish. Masaki Matsushima Matsu Sunshine is an example of the good and not so good in current perfumery.
Jerome di Marino
The good is the fruity floral two-thirds which opens things. Mr. di Marino creates a summer reverie that is ideal. He begins with the fruit pairing of lemon and fig. I found this to be a fascinating give and take of the tartness of the citrus and the creamy fleshiness of the fig. It kind of reminded me of summer pudding made of the two fruits. Jasmine and frangipani add some lift to an already opaque fruitiness. This felt like a daydream during this part.
The not so good is the base accord is dominated by ambroxan. It acts like a summer thunderstorm of synthetic woodiness driving all the good that came before under cover. This is a place where using ambroxan just destroys what is so promising. I know it is there to provide longevity but that is a problem because under other circumstances I could re-apply. Not here, the ambroxan just lasts and lasts without letting anything else have space.
Matsu Sunshine has 10-12 hour longevity most of which is the ambroxan and average sillage.
I keep finding really compelling perfumes which are as good as it gets only to have them steamrolled by ambroxan. Matsu Sunshine is one of them.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Masaki Matsushima.
The Oriental style of fragrance is one of my favorites. It captures my attention because it takes me to a place I’ve never visited. I am like the Europeans in the 18th and 19th century that relied on the painters of the day to depict it. In the 21st century it is perfume which opens my mind to the East. I wonder how skewed an impression I will have when I eventually visit. I hope it smells as amazing as Une Nuit Nomade Ambre Khandjar.
Alexandra Cubizolles (top) and Philippe Solas
Une Nuit Nomade is the travel-inspired line of perfume overseen by Alexandra Cubizolles and Philippe Solas. For Ambre Khandjar they collaborate with perfumer Jerome di Marino. This is a full-throated Oriental meant to evoke the souk of the capital of Oman, Muscat. Within is the khandjar the curved dagger which is a family heirloom. They are talismans against evil with symbols carved in the silver blade for that purpose. Mr. di Marino finds that metal in the heart of the dark market.
Jerome di Marino
It opens with a fabulously rich plum given a bit of lift through citrus. This is walking through the shadows of the market. Vanilla deepens the sweetness of the plum as we move further inside. It comes to a floral heart of orris and ylang-ylang. This is a shaded fleshy floral duo. I enjoy when ylang-ylang is given more space to have its carnal nature peek out. The iris is colored by that as it comes off more rooty than powdery. We have come to the stall where the khandjar is. Mr di Marino uses labdanum and benzoin to form a shimmering accord like the shadows off a silver blade. The resins have a metallic undercurrent which fits the brief. Sandalwood and patchouli complete the effect with a woody earthy base accord.
Ambre Khandjar has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Ambre Khandjar is one of my favorite new Orientals I’ve tried. The creative team really found the soul of this style of fragrance.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
For those of you who have never participated on the perfume forums there is one thing you miss out on. There is an international sense of community paired with the desire to want to share. When you start talking about something you like in a perfume, others will chime in with ones you should try. Often that was followed by an envelope containing a sample arriving a few days later. Even better would be the chance to buy or swap a bottle for the perfume in question. One day on Basenotes I was chatting about the idea of a Japanese aesthetic saying I wanted a perfume which smelled like a Japanese garden. A few days later a sample of Masaki Matsushima mat; male showed up. It was just what I was looking for. I would swap for that bottle a year or so later. I would find others from the brand at the long-gone NYC department store Takashimaya. Ever since it closed, I haven’t tried a new release from the brand. Which was why I was very happy to receive an e-mail telling me about their latest release Masaki Matsushima mat; homme. A few days later a sample arrived.
Jerome di Marino
It seems like the brand is attempting to branch out again. That can be a terrible thing if they are using the fondness for the name to package forgettable perfumes. In this case the converse is true. Masaki Matsushima is following the same minimalist artistic aesthetic they always have. The biggest change is in the perfumer. In every prior release it was composed by Jean Jacques. For mat; homme Jerome di Marino takes the wheel.
If mat; male was what I wanted a Japanese garden fragrance to smell like, full of natural scents. mat; homme is a perfume of the concrete towers of the urban landscape. Delineated woods form the frame, except for a nod to nature, as even in a concrete canyon a tiny garden can find purchase.
Mr. di Marino uses the versatility of Szechuan pepper to create an accord of sunlight off the glass windows of the concrete towers. Lemon and elemi provide a bright citrus reflection off the Szechuan pepper. It has a nose squinching quality akin to squinting your eyes against the real thing. Lavender is the flower growing between the buildings. Mr. di Marino wreathes it in a halo of saffron as the reflected light reaches the only sign of life. It all comes together in clean woody lines given texture via labdanum and cinnamon.
mat; homme has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As it has been with the previous Masaki Matsushima releases mat; homme is transparent in an Eastern aesthetic way. I wonder if the new direction is a nod to the current trends in perfumery matching that. Even if that is so mat; homme is a beautifully realized fragrance of the concrete garden within every big city.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Masaki Matsushima.
I’ve reached my saturation point with the new spring floral releases. Every year my mailbox overflows with spring fresh perfumes mostly around rose. They are so similar I must be very diligent when I am labeling my strips. I’ve sometimes been unable to discern any difference between the rose I dabbed on my wrist and the one nearer my elbow. Things are better, starting last year there were many more looking for other spring flowers to focus their new perfumes on. Where I’ve generally found the alternatives to rose, rose, and more rose is in the smaller brands. One for this year is Molton Brown Suede Orris.
I say this every time I write about a new Molton Brown release, but they are like a hidden secret among the bath gel and lotions. Over the past few years there is a quite good collection of fragrance on the shelves of your local Molton Brown; Suede Orris is another of those.
Jerome di Marino
When I look out at my flower garden in April I don’t just see roses. I see a lot of purple flowers. It is a purple flower which perfumer Jerome di Marino chooses. He was inspired by the tradition of orris scented leather gloves. This is an old-fashioned ideal going all the way back to the times of Lords and Ladies. It has seen a small renaissance as some contemporary women have enjoyed wearing a pair of scented leather gloves in the shoulder season between winter and spring. M. di Marino takes that older inspiration to a contemporary place.
Before the orris or leather appears a citrus flash of mandarin provides a sparkling effect. Then in twin tracks the orris comes forth with a supple suede leather accord. The orris is tilted more toward the powdery side with only hints of the rooty side of the ingredient. The leather accord is made of olibanum, labdanum, and patchouli. It comes together to provide an elegant contrast to the powdery orris. It all ends with clean lines of cedar in the base.
Suede Orris has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Suede Orris didn’t remind me so much of royal courts, but a pair of iris scented driving gloves on the steering wheel of a sports car. If you’re looking for something different in a spring floral this year you might want to head down to Molton Brown and try on Suede Orris.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Molton Brown.