If there is a set of ingredients which have defined modern perfumery in the first two decades of this century it is the synthetic woods. Ever since they became widely used in the early 2000’s they have become a staple ingredient. One reason is they add longevity which is prized by a segment of fragrance consumers. Because of that they are where far too many new releases end up; with a synthetic woody ingredient lasting over the final hours. Usually by itself. What has been lost from all of that is the incredibly unique scent profile they have. They have a desiccated quality like dried earth. In the early days that nature was used to make some great perfume. It has been awhile since I have encountered that use of these ingredients. Until Vilhelm Body Paint arrived on my desk.
One of the best new perfume brands of the last few years is Vilhelm. Overseen by creative director Jan Ahlgren he has curated an eclectic collection over the past five years. Through all of it he has worked with one perfumer, Jerome Epinette. Body Paint is the first by a different perfumer. Mr. Ahlgren asks Marc-Antoine Corticchiato to take over. Together they have managed to resurrect the rugged beauty of the synthetic woods.
They chose to use two of the most ubiquitous of the synthetic woods, Iso E Super and Ambroxan, together. It has been so long since these notes have been used as anything but a long-lasting woody fixative, I was skeptical. M. Corticchiato removed that by putting the super back in Iso E Super.
The Iso E Super is present from the first moments. It has that dried earthen quality I mentioned before. M. Corticchiato provides a fascinating fruity contrast of crisp pear spiced with chili pepper. Droplets of the spiced fruit fall upon the dusty earth giving off little puffs of fragrant dust. In that dried earth are the spices of nutmeg and clove which begin to become more apparent. The dry nature of the Iso E Super is an ideal platform for this kind of spicy fruit accord. This is so appealing. Ambroxan adds even more aridity to the woods. Just as it might edge over into something too sharp M. Corticchiato adds in a pinch of oakmoss to keep it on the right side of that.
Body Paint has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you think there is nothing new you could encounter from the synthetic woods in perfume; Body Paint proves that incorrect. What is also proves is if you use any ingredient to its best effect you can make something memorable. Body Paint reminded me why I loved the synthetic woods.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Vilhelm.
If you imagine the environment which might produce someone interested in scent Corsica would be one. The small island of France is known for its geography known as the Maquis. It is a mixture of scented herbs and flowers which give Corsica the sobriquet, “The Scented Isle”. One of the pioneers of modern perfumery, Francois Coty, was born there. One of the best current practitioners of modern perfumery, Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, is also from the island. He has released a few perfumes inspired by his home; Parfum D’Empire Immortelle Corse is the most recent.
M. Corticchiato picks out immortelle as the component of the maquis to feature here because that is what surrounds his place there. I adore immortelle on the rare occasions it is featured as a keynote. The reason it is rarely showcased, I presume, is it has a strong maple syrup-like quality which might not be pleasing to some. It is exactly that which draws me to it. As I’ve become more familiar with the ingredient, I’ve learned it is more than that syrupy scent. M. Corticchiato used it as a keynote in his take on an aquatic last year, Acqua di Scandola. It was one of the few times I found the immortelle distracting as it seemed forced to compete with a mineralic oceanic accord without finding any harmonic. In Immortelle Corse that is all dispensed with in a simple construct where the immortelle is featured in all its midsummer glory.
If its summer the sun is high in the sky. In a perfume of that time of year lemon evokes the sunshine which is where we start. A bracingly tart lemon is given a sweet patina. It reminds me of the sugar covered lemon wedges called lemon drops. The fruit changes to a more burnished gold as apricot takes over from the lemon. It is here where the immortelle makes its first appearance. The apricot embraces the syrupy nature. It makes the immortelle seem to be bursting at the seams. The thing that I’ve come to notice about immortelle is a hay-like quality underneath the sweetness. M. Corticchiato uses saffron to tease out that thread while amplifying it. It gives a wide-open space feel to Immortelle Corse. A final bit of velveteen moss adds a plush green base to finish this summer walk on the Maquis.
Immortelle Corse has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I’ve never been to Corsica but M. Corticchiato has been familiarizing me with the scent of place through his Corsica inspired perfumes. Of all the ones he has done it is wherever in the Maquis the immortelle blooms so fully to inspire Immortelle Corse I would want to visit first.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
In the latest edition of “Why I Love My Readers” after reviewing Gucci Memoire d’Une Odeur I received an e-mail with a provocative question. “If you think chamomile is a challenging perfume ingredient have you tried Roberto Greco Oeilleres?” I replied I hadn’t tried it and began the process of finding a sample. If the Gucci perfume was attempting to broaden the perfume palate of the masses, then Oeilleres is a perfume only for those who appreciate something different.
Self-Portrait by Photographer Roberto Greco
Roberto Greco is a French photographer who wanted a perfume to accompany his latest book of thirty-one photos of flowers. He turned to one of the most creative independent perfumers we have, Marc-Antoine Corticchiato. The desire was to create an “anti-flower” perfume to match the style of M. Greco’s photographs. It would take two years of work for the two creative minds to agree they had made something which lived up to that.
In further reading on the website they decided early on an “anti-flower” would also be animalic and vegetal. Instead of turning to traditional floral ingredients the two they chose are chamomile and broom. M. Corticchiato uses a clever set of green and sweaty skin accords to flesh out the final construct.
It opens with overdoses of chamomile and broom. In the case of Oeilleres M. Corticchiato wants to accentuate the deep green herbal-ness of chamomile. If it was left on its own it would become difficult to wear because at this concentration it also has some spikes among the green. It is why the broom is used to soften that. Broom has a sweetly honeyed aspect over its own green scent profile. It is the sweetness which tempers the chamomile while the green adds in a softer layer underneath. The other piece of the top accord is the icy chill of eucalyptus. It provides contrast and lift. Some lavender is also present to support the herbal effect. The animalic change comes with the use of cumin again in a dose which will challenge those who are cautious of its presence in a perfume. The cumin here brings that slightly dirty sweaty skin as if the chamomile and broom were covering the back of a perspiring worker in the fields harvesting them. That picture comes into further focus as a lot of coumarin provides the sweet hay scent among the sweaty herbs. It turns more deeply animalic as M. Corticchiato layers some of the animalic musks to create that.
Oeilleres has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Oeilleres is exactly the kind of perfume designed to accompany an artist’s visual works. It isn’t interested in finding the masses. It is focused on finding those who already enjoy the different in perfume and want more. Count me among that smaller group.
Disclosure: This review is based upon a sample I purchased.
Light is one of those words I use a lot to describe perfumes. Sometimes I mean the strength of the composition. There are certainly many new releases for whom this applies, especially recently. I use light to often describe those accords and fragrances which feel sunny; citrus, aquatics, or fougeres can all be full of light. Then you encounter a perfume which has as its stated goal to explore light in fragrance and in that experience, realize all those previous ideas of light didn’t tell the whole story; Parfum D’Empire Le Cri de la Lumiere is that one.
Parfum D’Empire is one of the most successful independent perfume brands because of the creative force behind it, Marc-Antoine Corticchiato. M. Corticchiato is not the most prolific perfumers but each of his releases are among the best of the year they are released. Le Cri de la Lumiere qualifies as that for 2017. The name translates roughly into “Cry of Light”. If you look at that you might think the perfume carrying that name would be a full-throated olfactory scream. M. Corticchiato instead works with a minimalist’s efficiency using only four ingredients to create this. It places a burden on those ingredients to not have any rough edges when coming together with the others. In this case, with this perfumer, that is hardly a problem. Each ingredient is chosen such that it provides its own part of the spectrum that become Le Cri de la Lumiere.
The opening moments are dominated by ambrette seeds. These are the most commonly used botanical musk. As a result, they are almost always blended with other notes which tend to cover up the nuances inherent in this ingredient. If you smell ambrette essential oil you will get a definitive vegetal and pear undercurrent. In Le Cri de la Lumiere M. Corticchiato gives the early going exclusively to the ambrette and both of those aspects rise to be noticed. In this form it can focus the musky parts into something less diffuse. In the press materials it is described as “crystalline” but I kept thinking “laser pointer”. There is also a subtle powdery quality which provides the transition to iris in the next phase. You might not think of iris as a “light” note but here it is the powderiness which expands into a bright globe of particles illuminated by the ambrette. Just as it seems this can’t get better Turkish rose appears in a transparent concentration as it colors the pink a deeper shade of red. Once this all comes together it is a lightness I’ve never experienced previously. There is a bit of woods, in the base, but it is this ambrette-iris-rose accord which is the story.
Le Cri de la Lumiere has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Le Cri de la Lumiere is another brilliant creation from M. Corticchiato which has given me new things to think about in my definition of light as it pertains to perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Parfum D’Empire.
There are always new brands which I am hopeful about which don’t connect with me upon their first releases. One of those is the French brand La Parfumerie Moderne. Owned and creatively directed by Philippe Neirinck it has a stated desire to reach back and revive the classic perfume aesthetics in a modern way. Certainly an effort I am appreciative of and want to support. M. Neirinck even chose a perfumer who I expected would take this concept and run with it in Marc-Antoine Corticchiato. I received my samples of the first three releases at Esxence in 2013. For all that I wanted to be drawn in by this effort I was left unimpressed. There was definite quality here but in a couple of cases these felt like evolutions of perfumes from M. Corticchiato’s own brand Parfum D’Empire. The one which held some promise for me was No Sport which had a classic fougere feel to it but still didn’t capture me fully. I was hopeful that they would try again. That fourth try is called Annees Folles.
Annees Folles is the French term for the Golden Twenties referring to the 1920’s. In the US it was called the Roaring Twenties. In both France and the US it was a time after World War I where the young adults of the day were attempting to rewrite the societal rules. The Great Depression would bring the long party to an end soon enough. This was also a golden time for perfume making as both women and men wore fragrance. If you just do a search for perfume released between 1920-1930 many of the classics are to be found there. The prevailing men’s fragrance type was the fougere. Messrs. Neirinck and Corticchiato had tried to make a Retro Nouveau fougere with No Sport. With Annees Folles they tried again and this time hit the mark.
When a Retro Nouveau perfume succeeds it uses some classic tropes but infuses them with modern flourishes. A brand called La Parfumerie Moderne almost has to do this just to live up to the name. I think that is the biggest difference between No Sport and Annees Folles in that the new release does that job much better.
Annees Folles opens with lavender as the focal point. M. Corticchiato adds in the herbal snap of thyme and the sweetness of nutmeg. The thyme keeps the lavender from being too floral. The nutmeg adds an orthogonal spicy sweet vector. With a bit of vetiver and geranium also along for the ride Anness Folles carries an almost classic barbershop vibe with a twist. I keep thinking of all these grooming lounges for gentlemen which have sprung up and think Annees Folles would be the perfect mix of past and present to represent them. Annees Folles eventually develops further with a nicely balanced trio of benzoin, amber, and patchouli as the final accord.
Annees Folles has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
One other aspect of Annees Folles which marks it as contemporary is its weight. In the 1920’s the fougeres were not subtle. In 2016 M. Corticchiato has made a transparent version of a fougere which still has a spine present. With Annees Folles La Parfumerie Moderne has finally lived up to its mission by creating a golden fougere.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.
If there is anything which can make something good seem bad it is expectations. I can tell you my expectations for Star Wars The Force Awakens have me looking forward to it with off the charts exuberance. Every so often there is that voice which asks me, “What if it is just good?” My response should be good Star Wars is still good. Unfortunately because of my expectations good will be bad. I just had a similar experience with the new Parfum D’Empire Tabac Tabou.
These perfumed expectations come about when perfumer Marc-Antoine Corticchiato releases his new Parfum D’Empire for the year, usually in the fall. I receive the press release prior to the perfume and this year for Tabac Tabou was no different. Within that text I was told to expect tobacco, hay, “a green, fresh narcissus”, immortelle, “rough-hewn leather”, and “fur-like animalic notes”. This is like my perfumed version of the return of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Chewbacca. From a brand and perfumer who has used some of these notes in brilliant ways previously the expectation meter was pegged. Then I received the sample and it wasn’t enough of these things. My wife watched the confused frown on my face and asked me what was wrong. That was the question there wasn’t anything wrong it just wasn’t what I expected. This was well-constructed and contained some really nice versions of the raw materials used. What was wrong with me? This was where some time helped as I stepped away. When I wore it for the first time it was an impulse as I changed my mind on what to wear on the day which I think was a good thing. What happened during that first day I finally started paying attention to what was there instead of what I hoped would be there. What is there is something not quite as feral as I wanted. Tabac Tabou is more interested in the potential for untamed feelings than actually provoking them.
M. Corticchiato opens with hay. I should write that hay in bold text because this is one of the biggest hay notes I’ve smelled in a long time. The tobacco joins it straight away and instead of the heady narcotic quality of the tobacco taking charge it is the dried grassy sweetness of the hay which is what I primarily encounter. There is a bit of some fruit underneath to accentuate the sweeter facets of both of the top notes. The green acerbic nature of narcissus arises out of the warmth of the hay and tobacco. M. Corticchiato uses a grassy herbal accord, horsetail maybe, to sharpen the green lines. The final bit of the heart is a mélange of the white flowers. This is the part which I think initially threw me. It is also the part I have come to appreciate. The deep floralcy that the white flowers add full of indolic charm take the lead and then immortelle provides a different aspect of sweetness. The base is the promised rough-hewn leather with an accord high in birch tar providing the leathery nature. Muskiness is present in support and never rises to the level of the previous release Musc Tonkin.
Tabac Tabou has 10-12 hour longevity and initially very above average sillage for the first five hours before becoming a skin scent for the last half of the days I wore it.
My expectations definitely tempered my enthusiasm for Tabac Tabou. I think it is very good and if you like hay this is absolutely a must try. I have a feeling that in a year or two Tabac Tabou is going to become one of my favorites but for right now my expectations are getting in the way of that.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Parfum D’Empire.
Growing up in South Florida I spent many sunsets on a boat in the water. Watching those sunsets I saw a distinct phenomenon called a “green flash”. As the last sliver of sun starts to drop below the horizon you can see a green halo form right at the top of the curve which grows in intensity as the sun drops and just as the sun disappears the sky will light up with a flash of green. I used to love watching this from the bow of my boat as it felt like the sun was building up a verdant charge before letting it flare across the sky. It wasn’t something I would expect a fragrance to remind me of but ever since I sniffed the new Parfum D’Empire Corsica Furiosa it is the image which keeps coming to my mind.
Marc-Antoine Corticchiato hasn’t had a new release for Parfum D’Empire since 2012’s Musc Tonkin. For me that was going to be hard act to follow as I named Musc Tonkin my best new fragrance of 2012. Oftentimes when following up something as good as that perfumers can fall into a number of traps. For his follow-up to Musc Tonkin M. Corticchiato chooses to go away from the deeply animalic and instead explore the nature of green in perfume. Corsica Furiosa is built around a spine of lentiscus, otherwise known as mastic resin, which gives a lemon tinged viscous green nucleus to start from. M. Corticchiato then swirls in all kind of shades of green to interact with the resin and just as it builds in intensity it releases in an olfactory flash of green that fills the senses before finally settling into a leather base to relax.
There is a lime component in the top notes which is perfect to pick up on the lemon tinge of the lentiscus. It makes the early going tarter and I see tart as green so this is where the first layer of green appears. A bit of balsam adds a woody facet of green and turns this more forest glade before another turn and a cut-grass accord turns it into open field. Then here is where a particularly beautiful transition takes place as the green grass dries out into a sweet hay accord where some honey is used to amplify the sweet dried grass aspect of the hay. This is where Corsica Furiosa all of a sudden releases a ball of energy as moss and labdanum seem to cause this perfume to go from tightly focused intensity to diffuse sheerness. It is an arresting transition on my skin and in my mind’s eye the olfactory sky has just gone entirely green. A leather accord forms the base notes and the lentiscus is still very present but now it seems as if it has spent all of its energy and needs to sit down in a leather armchair for a rest.
Corsica Furiosa has all-day longevity and above average sillage.
Corsica Fruriosa is a more than worthy sequel to Musc Tonkin it captivates me in an entirely different way. Corsica Furiosa leaves me on the bow of my boat waiting for the moment of breathtaking beauty to come and knowing it will be there every time.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Parfum D’Empire at Esxence 2014.