Now that the calendar tells me we have moved into autumn I look forward to that last gasp of warmth we call Indian Summer. Usually in the first few days of October after we have had some cold days and nights the weather provides a streak of a few days in a row where the temperature rises back up to near summertime levels. It is always an interesting confluence as the sun strikes down through the leaves changing color on the trees. Instead of running on the beach in shorts I shuffle through fallen leaves. It isn’t really summer and it surely is fall but they co-exist for a few days. Perfume tends to get shuffled into categories based on what I would wear based on the temperature outside. When I received the new Laboratorio Olfattivo Nun I found it to be a perfume which also wanted to live in those in-between times, too.
Owner/ Creative Director Roberto Drago works again with perfumer Luca Maffei on Nun. Their inspiration is not Catholic sisters. Instead it is the Egyptian word which refers to primordial water. The mythology says this water gave birth to the lotus. Sigs. Drago and Maffei wanted to make a perfume which celebrated the lotus and its cycle of sleeping at night only to open at the touch of the sun in the morning. Nun does capture the lotus but it is the inclusion of fantastically rich pear which makes Nun something different.
Luca Maffei (l.) and Roberto Drago
Nun opens with a flash of citrus from both lemon and bergamot. Next comes the pear. This is not that crisp pear that so often shows up in many fragrances. Sig. Maffei has fashioned a pear which is almost overripe. It carries a lactonic undertone making the fruit softer, lusher. Then floating on top is the white lotus which seems to enter on tip-toe. It becomes more defined by jasmine and ylang-ylang. What I like is that instead of being this meditative single bloom floating on a pool of still water. This heart accord is more akin to the lotus bursting open right as the rays of the sun touch it releasing all of the pent up scent in a kinetic burst. At the end there is a bit of an inspirational air as a grouping of lighter synthetic woods and white musks form the basenotes.
Nun has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
For all that this should be a watery summer perfume it really captures my ideal of Indian Summer. The bright notes within Nun are also matched by deeper richer counterparts. Taken together it creates a hybrid which I might think of as Egyptian Summer.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Laboratorio Olfattivo.
Lily focused perfumes have always been a problem for me. If you smell a living lily it is a wonderfully complex smell coming from the bloom. Too many perfumes go for a stripped down version which becomes a washed out version of the real thing more appropriate for the funeral home. This has become so common my eye probably begins to twitch when I start reading a description of a new lily perfume. So it was when I received the press release in advance of the new Laboratorio Olfattivo MyLO.
As I waited for the perfume to catch up to the e-mailed press release I thought that Laboratorio Olfattivo creative director Roberto Drago is not one to follow the crowd. If there is a trademark to Laboratorio Olfattivo it is that Sig. Drago asks some of the best young perfumers to work with him. This more often than not provides a fragrance that takes risks. One thing that had me excited to try MyLo was the perfumer Sig. Drago asked to compose it, Luca Maffei. Sig. Maffei has had an incredibly creative 18 months impressing me at nearly every turn. I should have been aloft with anticipation instead my eye was twitching.
The press release told me that the name came from Sig. Drago calling the fragrance My Laboratorio Olfattivo which was shortened to MyLO. I have had the opportunity to meet Sig. Maffei quite a bit over the last year. One quality that I like is he becomes quite passionate about the perfumes he makes. Every creative director who works with him comments on his drive to produce something special. Sig. Maffei leaps fearlessly into his designs.
Two Calla Lily on Pink (1928) by Georgia O'Keeffe
When I finally smelled MyLO I was more than pleased, I was amazed. When it comes to lilies my frame of reference isn’t the chill of the funeral parlor. It is the deep colors and lines of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings of calla lilies. When I would stand in front of these in a museum I didn’t smell the wan polite lily. I would smell a lily holding the natural spice of the pollen on its pistil thrusting out from the middle of the petals. The creamy lines of those petals on the canvas don’t smell polite they promise carnality. Sig. Maffei does this with MyLO.
The early going of MyLO is pretty standard citrus and baie rose. This has become the opening to so many perfumes lately the first moments were not promising. The floral heart warms things up. The lily is there fairly quickly rising from out of the citrus. It is beautifully demure until Sig. Maffei uses three other floral notes to create something much more realistic. An indolic jasmine adds a bit of an animalic growl to things. A spicy rose provides the natural spice that the pollen of the real thing provides. Finally, a fully powdery orris acts as if that pollen has transformed to a sweet cloud. This floral accord is so accomplished and balanced. On the days I wore MyLO it was so good I stopped often throughout the day to enjoy it. In the base Sig. Maffei uses benzoin and vanilla to give a sweetly resinous foundation.
MyLO has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
MyLO is immediately one of my favorite lily perfumes. There are so few perfumes which embrace the spicy sexy quality of lily that MyLO stands out for that reason. This goes with Daimiris and Kashnoir as the best this very good brand has produced. If you are tired of cleaned up near-sterile lilies MyLO will offer a different perspective.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Laboratorio Olfattivo.
One of the most exciting trends at Esxence 2016 was the work from the younger generation of perfumers. For any art form to remain vital there needs to be a steady flow of new visions from younger frames of reference. This has led to each of these perfumers finding their own stylistic method. With perfumer Luca Maffei I am beginning to believe he has a desire to source new raw materials and use them. He is like a painter given a new color to work with as he realizes where it might fit. In his first perfume for Masque Milano called L’Attesa this shows.
For this latest act of the ongoing perfumed opera creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi take us to Act III Scene I. L’Attesa is the beginning of the grand romance which will evolve into Act III Scene IV otherwise known as the previous release Tango. Tango is that moment when the passion spills over. L’Attesa is the time where that passion is born in the intense wash of first love. The concept was to make an iris perfume where the axis of iris would remain throughout the entire development. This is not an easy effect to achieve. It is costly as it takes a lot of expensive iris raw materials. Too much of any one ingredient has the possibility of overwhelming anything else. The solution they hit upon was to use three different sources of iris and to stack them upon each other. This allowed for an evolving iris effect throughout the time I wore L’Attesa emphasizing different parts of iris as a raw material. That is the clever technical effect. Sig. Maffei’s new toy is a CO2 extract of beer. He uses it as the linchpin of a fermenting champagne accord that is an ideal match for the iris in the early stages.
Riccardo Tedeschi, Luca Maffei, Alessandro Brun (l. to r.)
L’Attesa opens with the very familiar powdery iris effect bolstered with some neroli. The champagne accord follows right away. When I say champagne accord you’re probably thinking fizzy aldehydes, a bit of alcoholic bite, maybe a little tonka. The finished product. Sig. Maffei instead wanted to capture the champagne at an earlier stage; when it was fermenting. While it was flat, a little sour, and yeasty. If you think that sounds unpleasant you won’t once you try L’Attesa. The beer extract provides the sourness of hops and the bread-like yeastiness. The rest of it is coming up with a flat white grape effect. The fermenting champagne accord turns out to be a compelling partner for the powdery orris. Pulling it in a less pretty direction; no less interesting for that. It then sets up the use of the more precious solid iris extracts in the heart and base. Once you move to something like orris butter the powdery is dialed way down in favor of the root and rhizome orris is actually compounded from. As L’Attesa moves into the heart this earthier iris sets up shop alongside tuberose and ylang ylang. It provides a traditional floral heart, extremely decadent, as these three blustery florals achieve a balance. The base continues the deepening of the earthiness vibe of the iris to which a refined leather accord is added. This is the beginning of the tango as the iris and leather begin to approach each other knowing they are in the early stages of love.
L'Attesa has 12-14 hour longevity with moderate sillage.
I have spent a couple of days just luxuriating in the long-tail iris that is L’Attesa. It is a perfume tailor made for those days when you want to loll around the house. Sig. Brun and Sig. Tedechi are trusting their brand to many of the best young perfumers working. L’Attesa shows that faith has been rewarded again. Sig. Maffei has created a signature perfume which exemplifies all of his best qualities as a perfumer.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Masque Milano at Esxence 2016.
One of the most pleasant things about writing about perfume is watching young perfumers grow. Right now in the independent niche sector there is a group of these artists I think of as Young Guns. At this stage of their career they are working with young brands which allow them to think a bit out of the box. Sometimes that thinking can lead to something unfocused. The perfumers I put in this category have all learned from those lesser efforts. Thankfully it doesn’t make them retreat into their shell thinking of playing it safe. What has most often happened is they come back ready to strike out in a new direction.
Another component of this is these young brands having a continuing relationship with a perfumer or couple of perfumers. When it comes together both the creative direction and the nose begin to form a working relationship which hopefully leads to something great. At Esxence 2016 one of those moments came to fruition with the release of Gabriella Chieffo Maisia.
Gabriella Chieffo started her eponymous brand in 2014 with four releases. She would follow that up with two more the following year. Maisia is the first release for 2016. Through all seven fragrances she has been collaborating with perfumer Luca Maffei. Sig.ra Chieffo has a very distinctive vision which she entrusts Sig. Maffei to realize. Maisia is the first of a new series where Sig.ra Chieffo wants to create perfumes of shadow and light. That is an easy concept to articulate. Difficult to achieve. For Maisia, Sig.ra Chieffo envisioned a young woman accused of being a witch being burned at the stake. The inspiration photograph above is another interesting bit of information for Sig. Maffei to use as he went about composing Maisia.
Maisia is simply a fig fragrance with that fruit representing our unjustly accused sorceress. She is singed by the fire of spices. Then in the base she is redeemed as her beauty arises from the ashes as a shadow.
Maisia opens on bright lemon matched with green fig leaves. The fig leaves carry mostly green qualities but underneath it all is a bit of the creaminess of the wood of the tree itself. The lemon provides the last of the light before shadows rise. For the rest of the development the keynote is a slightly overripe fig. Early on it picks up some of the fig leaves. Then a heated spicy accord envelops the fig. It figuratively burns it as the they overwhelm the fig for a bit of time. As the spices recede the fig is left behind, a ghost of itself. Then come the moment where Maisia becomes shadowy. Sig. Maffei uses broom and narcissus to bring back to life the incinerated beauty. The difference is the broom provides a dried out dead grass quality. The narcissus provides a transitional beauty note to go along with what remains of the fig.
Maisia has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you are a fan of fig perfumes Maisia should be on your list to try. The base accord is something unique worth seeing if you like it as much as I do. If you are a fan of precocious young talent and brands Maisia needs to be embraced so more of this kind of perfumery is encouraged. Sig. Maffei has transformed the beauty of fig into ashy shadows. It is a gorgeous trip.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Gabriella Chieffo at Esxence 2016.
I think there is no greater pleasure for me than meeting a young perfumer who is just starting to take off. I have written a lot about what I call inflection points in a perfumer’s development. It always seems that there comes a specific year when the journeyman attains a new level of sophistication. When I was at Esxence 2015 I had the opportunity to be with a perfumer who is right at that inflection point and we will look back at 2015 as the year Luca Maffei’s star rose.
While at Esxence I had Sig. Maffei next to me as he presented the two perfumes he had composed for Jul et Mad. In my review of Nin-Shar I wrote of the inspiration of creative directors Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard to evoke specific ancient civilizations in their new Les White collection. They assigned Sig. Maffei two of the three to realize; Nea and Garuda.
Nea was inspired by the Holy Church Nea Ekklesia built during the height of the Byzantine Empire. The word Byzantine when used as an adjective means excessively complicated. In the brief Sig. Maffei received he was asked to create a gourmand oriental. That description almost seems Byzantine in nature. Sig. Maffei avoided those pitfalls by making Nea the antithesis of Byzantine and instead kept it very simple with a straightforward progression that works incredibly well.
The opening part of Nea is deep fruit as Sig. Maffei combines dates, plum, and pomegranate into a kind of subtle opulent fruit accord. The plum is the core of the early going and it form a luscious nucleus for the other two fruit notes to orbit around. The heart is jasmine and rose imposed on top of the fruit. Sig. Maffei manages to tune this at just the right pitch as it never gets too floral or too fruity. Nea heads towards the gourmand in the base notes with a woody intermezzo of patchouli and cashmeran. They have the effect of moving the fruity floral character to the background. This sets up the gourmand finish as Sig. Maffei takes tonka bean, vanilla, and caramel to fashion an edible finish to Nea. Nea has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Luca Maffei accepting 2015 Art & Olfaction Award
There are times that the imagery provided for a perfume doesn’t resonate for me. As Sig. Maffei spoke to me of the inspiration for Garuda I could instantly feel it in the perfume underneath my nose. Garuda was inspired by Angkor Wat. When Jul et Mad traveled to the ancient site and were in the gallery dedicated to Garuda; the sun was setting and all of the bas-relief pulsed with a golden glow. It is that they wanted Sif. Maffei to re-create. I was told he was so successful at realizing this vision that he got it right in his first mod and it is that formulation which made it in to the bottle.
Sig. Maffei used Cambodian Oud as the heart note upon which he would build this golden glow. The rest of the construction of Garuda is finding a way to encase that oud in a golden glow. The three most prominent notes used to achieve that are saffron, rum, and cashmeran. Those three notes soften the oud and also allow it to warmly radiate with a pleasant thrum over quite a few hours on my skin. It eventually gives way to a very woody base of cedar, vetiver, and the IFF aromachemical Timbersilk. The latter is a tenacious woody synthetic and it lasts for an extremely long time at the end of Garuda. Garuda has overnight longevity although the last few hours is mainly the Timbersilk and it has above average sillage.
Sig. Maffei has crafted two very excellent perfumes which manage to live up to their press release. If I needed any further evidence Sig. Maffei’s star was ascendant he would win an Art & Olfaction Award a few weeks after Esxence for his work with Acca Kappa. I have a feeling one of these new perfumes for Jul et Mad might possibly make him a two-time winner next year.
Disclosure: this review was based on a press sample provided by Jul et Mad during Esxence 2015.
This was a very different Esxence for me than any previous one that I attended. One reason for that was I spent a large portion of my time in The Mall in Milano with a microphone in my hand and in front of a camera. It is a different perspective to be sure and I want to thank every one of my interview subjects for making it so easy for me. I hope those watching at home on the web viewer could feel my excitement.
One oddity of every Esxence is I have to travel across an entire ocean to meet someone who lives in the US. This year that dubious honor goes to Saskia Wilson-Brown of The Institute for Art & Olfaction (IAO). On the first day of the show she revealed the five finalists in each category for the 2015 Art & Olfaction Awards. The simple creation of the IAO and the awards which carry their name already let me know what a great person she was. The opportunity we had to chat over all three days confirmed that. After spending this time with her I am more sure than ever that the Art & Olfaction Awards are going to be one of the premiere awards in all of perfumery sooner than later.
If there was one person I met who radiated the passion of doing something you love it was Andrea Rubini. I started Day 3 standing in front of his stand and told him to tell me about his perfume. Instead of business plans or sales strategies he started with a smile and the phrase, “I was born into a family of perfumers….” From there he proudly displayed the perfume which carries his name and he was equally as excited when describing the other members of the team behind Rubini Fundamental. In a show of 150 different brands it might have been the tiniest which had the largest emotion.
Another feature of every Esxence for me is I spend time with perfumers with whom I have not had an opportunity to meet previously.
Luca Maffei of Atelier Fragranze Milano was tapped by brand Jul et Mad to do two of their new “Les White” collection. Sig. Maffei was so joyously animated when speaking with me about the creative process behind Nea and Garuda it was infectious. He has a joie de vivre which translates to his perfumes.
The other perfumer I spent some time with was Stephane Humbert Lucas. I have been a big supporter of his work in the past but we had never had the opportunity to really talk about perfume for any length of time before. As he showed me his new Mortal Skin and Harrod’s Limited Edition there was a noticeable smile on his face as he watched my reactions. I think perfumers know when they have made something special and he seemed happy as he watched me connect with his new creations.
Believe it or not I had never met Bertrand Duchaufour prior to Esxence. He showed me his new I miss Violet for The Different Company. That a perfumer as prolific as M. Duchaufour also still displays the delight of creation is testament to his longevity.
If there was a rock star of this year’s Esxence it had to be Michael Edwards of the Fragrances of the World reference book. He was seemingly everywhere on the floor as I worked my way around. His SRO talk on how oud came to be part of western perfumery was one of the highlights of that part of the Esxence program.
Oh yes there were perfumes to be sampled and tomorrow in Part 2 I’ll call out the top 10 from Esxence 2015.