Over my time of writing about perfume I have been given various samples of specific ingredients. To the point now I have a nice reference set of most of the major ingredients. There are only a few of them that have such dynamic scent profiles they are fascinating all on their own. One of those is ylang-ylang. Because of a visit to one of the major oil houses I not only have the essential oil but the different fractions of that oil. It has always struck me that when you take a complex ingredient like ylang-ylang and break it into fractions and each of those are different it speaks to the specialness of ylang-ylang as an ingredient. It is so versatile it is a supporting ingredient most of the time. There are some instances where it can star and here are five of my favorites.
M. Micallef Ylang in Gold is one of the best straight ylang perfumes you will find. Martine Micallef working with perfumer Jean-Claude Astier take the kaleidoscopic floral and gild it with sandalwood, vanilla, bitter orange. Throughout everything which makes ylang-ylang unique is displayed. My all-time favorite ylang-ylang perfume.
One of the odder facets of ylang-ylang is a ripe banana character which can be seen sometimes. In Hermes Hermessence Vanille Galante perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena relies on it to add a fruity tint to the lily and vanilla keynotes. It is one of the more divisive uses of ylang because of the ripe banana. It is one of my favorite tropical vibe perfumes.
Ylang-ylang was one of the great ingredients during the beginning of modern perfumery. As we have seen the rise of heritage brands; one of those Grossmith Hasu-No-Hana gives you a feel of what that was like. The modern team of Amanda and Simon Brooke oversaw a reconstruction where the ylang soars, paired with iris, as the floral heart headed to a chypre base. This is how they used to do it.
Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian would dabble with the animalic side of ylang with MDCI Enlevement au Serail. When he started his own brand, he would turn it into the fulcrum for the most sensually dynamic perfume of the 21st century Maison Francis Kurkdjian Absolue Pour le Soir. This is a celebration of all that is deep and dark in perfume with ylang right in the center.
Perfumer Frank Voelkl would also find the voluptuous side of ylang in Le Labo Ylang 49. While lighter than my previous choice it is still a femme fatale just dressed up in brighter shades of citrus and gardenia. A daytime version of sensuality.
If you’ve never explored ylang-ylang on its own these five will give you and idea of its special nature.
Disclosure: this review is based on bottles of which I have purchased.
When it comes to the culinary arts honey is one of my favorite ingredients to use. It has so much versatility in the kitchen. When it comes to my sense of smell it can be an entirely different experience. Honey when used as the focal point of a fragrance has a tipping point for me. After a certain concentration it changes from being a bit of viscous sweet sunshine to the smell of a urinal cake. I am not unique in this as the perfume forums are full of the same kind of impressions. That doesn’t mean there aren’t perfumes which are on the good side of the line. Here are five honey perfumes I think stay away from the less desirable aspects of honey in perfume.
The first honey perfume I fell in love with was 2004’s Christian Dior La Collection Privee Bois D’Argent by Annick Menardo. An opaque opening of incense and iris evolves into a heart of honey and myrrh. Mme Menardo creates a gauzy drizzle of resins and honey which eventually finds purchase on a base of suede leather. One of Mme Menardo’s best creations ever.
The small perfume brand which has come out of the Bordeaux vineyard Maison Ginestet has made one of the best honey perfumes. Ginestet Botrytis is composed by perfumer Gilles Toledano. M. Toledano wanted to create a perfume reminiscent of the botrytis fungus which helps concentrate the sugar content of grapes. The perfume named after that is a rich mix of honey and quince most recognizably but there are a host of other candied fruits underneath. It all rests on a white flower infused spice bread accord. The wine snob and the perfume snob both approve of M. Toledano’s interpretation of both.
Tokyo Milk Honey and the Moon No. 10 by Margot Elena is one of those amazing bang for the buck fragrances. I tried it for the first time in a promotional rollerball while waiting in line in Sephora. I was back a day later to buy a full bottle. It is a simple construction of sugary sweet on top. Candied violet and honey in the heart leading to sandalwood. It is simply constructed and one of my favorite very sweet perfumes.
The cumin, caraway, and honey opening of Maison Francis Kurkdjian Absolue pour Le Soir by Francis Kurkdjian is just the beginning of what I think is one of the best perfumes of the last five years. Whenever I need to remind myself of the artistry of perfume Absolue pour Le Soir is where I turn. The remainder of this perfume moves through an incense soaked rose down into an intensely woody base of sandalwood and cedar. This is not perfume for the faint of heart. It is perfume for those who love perfume.
I am not sure I have any more words left to praise Vero Profumo Rozy Voile D’Extrait by perfumer Vero Kern. My perfume of the year for 2014 by my perfumer of the year for 2014. I have said it before and I say it again this is the best post-modern rose ever. The reason is the honey which forms the viscous core around which rose, spice, and labdanum are suspended. It is an incredible feat of perfumery.
As I finished this list it occurred to me that for all that I am wary of honey in fragrance I consider four of these perfumes among the best ever made. It is probably the strongest collection of My Favorite Things to date. If you do like honey these are five perfumes which should be on your list to try.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.