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.
As the Holidays approach every year it seems a perfume brand wants to release a collection of soliflores meant to be combined. Most of the time I find these collections lacking. They are generally a single accord without really being a perfume that develops over time. Occasionally it seems like the quality control is lacking enough that something with some complexity slips through. Chloe Herba Mimosa seems to be the one for the new Chloe collection.
Herba Mimosa is part of the L’Atelier des Fleurs collection. Nine fragrances designed to be a single accord which you can mix and match. The other ones are exactly what they say on the label; Cedrus, Lavanda, Neroli, Verbena, Rose Damascena, Jasminum Sambac, Magnolia Alba, and Hibiscus Abelmoschus. All eight of those are straight forward representations of what is on the bottle. I was hoping the Hibiscus Abelmoschus might stand out. Instead it was the one which had two ingredients, herbs and mimosa, in the name that stood apart.
Marie Salamagne (photo-Jerome Bonnet)
Herba Mimosa was designed by perfumer Marie Salamagne. What she did was to add a significant green thread to the powdery expansiveness of mimosa. It is more grassy than herbal. It comes closest to a field of mimosa on a grassy slope.
Herba Mimosa opens with that grassiness matched to the powdery puffy mimosa. It is a golden ball of fuzzy green. Mme Salamagne then also amplifies the powdery nature almost as if inflating the mimosa. It grows into a gigantic puffball which is tethered to a woody base. This is a delightful take on mimosa because it shifts and moves instead of being a linear accord.
Herba Mimosa has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am definitely not the target audience for these collections of accords. I find them a bit cynical in the way they ask the consumer to finish the job by buying two or three bottles to make their own concoction. Which is why the only one I enjoyed is the one which didn’t need another one to be interesting. If you’re looking for one from this collection Herba Mimosa is probably it.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Nordstrom.
One of the poodles at the Colognoisseur home office can usually be found every afternoon asleep in the sunbeam which comes through our glass door. Once we hit that part of the day I almost always know where he is. I envy him that opportunity to curl up in a bar of sunlight drifting on pleasant thoughts. Jo Malone Frangipani Flower gave me the opportunity to do that with a perfume.
I know this is becoming redundant, but I must call out creative director Celine Roux for everything she is doing at Jo Malone. She is starting to settle into a bit of a rhythm with the way releases have been coming. Her direction is also shaping things Jo Malone was known for with her own flair. Last year Tropical Cherimoya created a soliflore made up of layers of other florals. It was a fascinating recreation of a flower as perfume. A year later with Frangipani Flower the same thing is being done with a more known floral. To achieve the same effect Mme Roux asked for a headspace analysis of frangipani. Working with perfumer Marie Salamagne they took what was found to create another layered soliflore.
Marie Salamagne (Photo: Jerome Bonnet)
Frangipani Flower opens on a sunburst of lemon and jasmine. This is given a lighter feel as the lemon adds sparkle to an already expansive jasmine. Jasmine and frangipani are related so that the shift to a different kind of floral sweetness is done in tiny steps until you realize something is different. This is pushed to a more opaque feeling by using a set of ozonic and aquatic notes. There is an airiness throughout the first two-thirds of the development. It only becomes a tiny bit more grounded as sandalwood provides a woody tether in the base.
Frangipani Flower has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Frangipani Flower is equally as clever as Tropical Cherimoya in the way differing layers of accords form a soliflore. On the days I wore it I joined my poodle luxuriating in the sunbeam I had found.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.
I am one of those early adopter types. I owned one of the first iPods converting my music collection into digital. When I got the first iPad I embraced reading my books on the tablet. It changed things dramatically in my relationship to books. It removed the scent and the audible crack of the glue in the spine when opening it for the first time. I can honestly say I don’t miss it. Maison Margiela Replica: Whispers in the Library tries to convince me otherwise.
Whispers in the Library is the second release in 2019. Perfumer Marie Salamagne is asked to create a perfume which captures a library at Oxford in 1997. While I don’t miss the smell of the individual book. The collective smell of old pages on waxed wooden shelves in a contained space is a pleasant scent to contemplate. Mme Salamagne captures the dichotomy of the subtle spiciness along with the sweetness of old vellum and waxed shelves quite deftly.
Marie Salamagne (photo: Jerome Bonnet)
Mme Salamagne forms a paper accord which is the heart of Whispers in the Library. This has a sweet pulpiness which verges on gourmand-like. A swirl of black pepper cuts back that tendency. A very condensed cedar comes next which represents a bookshelf ably. Vanilla does sweeten things at the end to bring out that paper accord, so it doesn’t get lost in the wood.
Whispers in the Library has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Whispers in the Library could as easily be named Whispers in the Bakery. There is a gourmand streak which runs throughout it. Because the name told me to think library, I was pre-conditioned to go that way. What would surprise me is how much it came off like a sweet pastry when I let it surprise me. This is a good choice for those who are looking for a transparent gourmand. It is another in the Replica collection which does what it sets out to do.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
When a mass-market perfume hits the market it is generally following a current trend or two. As in any creative effort; following the trend has some difficulties. It leaves you open to second guessing about whether you made the correct choice. Sometimes it seems like a brand tries again. This seems like what I experienced when I tried Salvatore Ferragamo Amo Ferragamo Flowerful.
From 2002-2008 Salvatore Ferragamo fragrances weren’t going along with the latest trends they were helping set and refine what commercial perfume could be. I’m not sure what changed but over the past ten years they have become a perfume brand which found more success in going with the flow instead of surfing on top of it. Because of that earlier time period I always give the new releases a try. Last year they released Amo Ferragamo. That was more of the same as a gourmand-like floral was right on trend. It wasn’t anything I wanted to try anymore than on a strip and file it away.
As I received my sample of Amo Ferragamo Flowerful when I sprayed it on a strip, I was quite surprised. Unlike most flankers, especially first ones, this did not smell anything like the original. Perfumer Marie Salamagne, who did the original, completely changed the style; to fruity floral. Fruity floral is not a terribly original kind of fragrance. Mme Salamagne adds in a few interesting quirks which I liked.
The first change was to the Japanese citrus of yuzu, instead of bitter orange, along with blackcurrant buds. What caught my attention right away was Mme Salamagne’s use of an Amaro accord. Amaro is an herbal aperitif. Mme Salamagne uses the boozy herbalness as a unique contrast to the yuzu. This is what sold me on this perfume. This top accord is great. As it moves to a plum and jasmine heart accord the Amaro accord persists for a short time to provide a garden milieu undertone. The base is mixture of light synthetic woods, white musk, and vanilla for a transparently sweet woody foundation.
Amo Ferragamo Flowerful has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I was wearing Amo Ferragamo Flowerful I kept reflecting on the original. I am sure that it is not correct, but this new perfume felt like it was the other mod in final consideration to become the first Amo Ferragamo. Now a year later it gets a second chance. I applaud the brand for going in a different direction instead of just enhancing a facet of the original. Amo Ferragamo is a nice new spring fruity floral.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Salvatore Feragamo.
It is easy to commend the perfume brands which develop their aesthetic and stick to it. Those are the minority. The majority are made up of brands which never find their identity. This means a perfume with that name on the bottle comes to stand for nothing. Then there comes a moment when it seems like things start to coalesce from the chaos. It’s still a little early to be sure but Ermengilido Zegna Essenze Madras Cardamom might be a further signal this brand is finding its character.
Ermengilido Zegna got into the fragrance game in 2003. They were a trend follower in those early days looking for their own version of the popular styles of the time. After a few years of doing this Estee Lauder assigned one of their best creative directors Trudi Loren to revitalize the brand. It was better but still frustratingly unfocused. There were individual releases which were good without creating a Zegna style of fragrance. There was one collection which showed something approaching a unified perspective; the Essenze Collection.
Marie Salamagne (photo: Jerome Bonnet)
Launched in 2012 there were sporadic releases which all showed a similar style in highlighting a keynote without becoming soliflore-like. I’m not sure what the reasoning is but Ermengilido Zegna has decided to bring back five of the original Essenze releases along with one new one. That is Madras Cardamom.
Perfumer Marie Salamagne creates a sweet Oriental featuring cardamom which is where the perfume starts. The cardamom is a strong presence. So strong it took me some time to notice the other ingredient in the top accord. That ingredient was a cleverly placed coffee note. Don’t come to Madras Cardamom looking for a rich coffee presence. What Mme Salamagne does with it is to use it as a focusing element of the citrus parts of cardamom. Like pulling a thread I was enjoying the cardamom and started focusing on the citrus character only to find a roasted nuttiness at the end of that thread. It is very subtle which continues into the heart as cedar takes the lead with vetiver playing the same behind the scenes role. This is a green cedar which matches the cardamom. It is very clean. Mme Salamagne uses vanilla to sweeten the final stages.
Madras Cardamom has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
The work by Ms. Loren, over the last two years especially, maybe portends Ermengilido Zegna has finally found its way out of the woods. If that’s so Madras Cardamom might be remembered for being the fragrance which signaled that.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Ermengilido Zegna.
Celine Roux has done the best job of any creative director in perfumery of redefining the brand she oversees. When Mme Roux took over she did the intelligent thing of working inside out within the releases. She has made perfumes which have the same feel as the perfumes which began the brand over twenty-five years ago. That’s the inside. The outside is when she pushes at the limits of what a Jo Malone fragrance can be. One of the best examples of an inside perfume is 2015’s Mimosa & Cardamom. It was a return to the delicacy of the early releases within the brand. If you want an example of the outside; Jo Malone Bronze Wood & Leather will do.
Mme Roux has been working with perfumers over a few consecutive releases lately. For Bronze Wood & Leather she brings back the perfumer behind Mimosa & Cardamom; Marie Salamagne. Bronze Wood & Leather is a burly style of perfume the exact opposite of that earlier perfume. That they both feel like part of the same brand is down to the intelligent creative oversight of Mme Roux.
Marie Salamagne (Photo: Jerome Bonnet)
Mme Salamagne opens with a fresh accord of grapefruit and juniper berry. I’m sure I’ve smelled this combination before but Mme Slamagne has made this one so lively it isn’t like any other. I particularly like the way the juniper blunts the sulfurous undertones in the grapefruit. I’ll admit I’d probably buy a perfume called Grapefruit & Juniper Berry if they wanted to sell me one. This begins to remind me there is meant to be wood here with a tendril of woodsmoke. It starts off at a distance as it inserts itself in the top accord. I was again surprised that the subtle smoke was very pleasant in those early moments. The smoke intensifies as the black leather accord appears. This is that leather biker jacket accord which goes very well with the smoke. Cashmeran provides the desired “bronze wood” with its soft woodiness. a little vetiver provides the final bit of polish.
Bronze Wood & Leather has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
There were so many times while wearing Bronze Wood & Leather I felt like I was surrounded by a contemporary interpretation of mid 1970-80’s masculine perfume. If that doesn’t sound like Jo Malone to you, you’re right. If it sounds good to you should step up to the plate for a fantastic curveball on the outside corner.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Nordstrom.
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.