Every trend has a beginning. Prior to 1991 the idea of putting a celebrity’s name on a perfume was unheard of. After the success of Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds the brands couldn’t find someone to partner with fast enough. Even this was a slow burn. White Shoulders was the third fragrance released with Ms. Taylor’s name. Two gendered versions of Passion preceded it. At this point in time Ms. Taylor was an all-caps large font “star”. The public fascination with her was voracious in a time where that played out in supermarket tabloids instead of Gawker. She had her own nick name La Liz. Because of the less relentless pressure she was able to ride that wave of notoriety without wiping out.
Her foray into fragrance wasn’t a failure through the two versions of Passion. It was just that nobody saw the popularity of White Shoulders ahead of its release. Perfumers Carlos Benaim and Olivier Gillotin were seemingly tasked to create an “elegant” white floral. This is all happening right on the cusp of fragrance trends taking a hard left towards fresh and clean. To their credit they designed White Diamonds as if that was never going to happen.
White Diamonds felt like a throwback even in 1991. The perfumers throw a cloud of aldehydes over a fresh lily. In hindsight I can say here is where a little fresh resides. It disappears when a floral ingredient as exuberant as La Liz appears in tuberose. This is a full volume version. The indoles add a skank to it which jasmine and narcissus call out to. It heads towards a patchouli and sandalwood base given some warmth via amber.
White Diamonds has 6-8 hour longevity and above average sillage in its current formulation.
The bottle I own is from around 2000. I also picked up a mini of the current version. The biggest difference when comparing is there is more jasmine in the heart now. It still doesn’t hesitate in showing off the indoles. The base is also less complex, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. It isn’t as intense as it was in the original. Something is missing. I don’t think it dramatically changes things because it is the aldehydic top accord and the tuberose heart which makes this.
White Diamonds was a gigantic best-seller for well over a decade. Even after the trends went far away people kept buying it. Re-visiting it I forgot the freshness of that top accord and what a contrast the dirty indoles make with it. It still seems like an artifact of an earlier fragrance era. The influence was really felt in the hundreds of celebrities who would rush to put their name on a perfume.
Disclosure: this review is based on bottles I purchased.
Lavender is one of the most common ingredients in all of perfumery. It is one of a set of florals which seems to not ascribe itself to one gender or the other. It has been the focal point of some of the great perfumes ever. It was always going to be a part of the Tom Ford Private Blend collection. The first attempt was the completely modern take called Lavender Palm which was an exclusive to the Beverly Hills boutique. Even though it has been discontinued it remains one of my favorites of the entire Tom Ford Private Blend collection for how audaciously contemporary they went. Earlier this year the decision was made to go in the other direction with Belle de Jour. This was an elegantly made crowd pleaser. Now with the release of Tom Ford Private Blend Lavender Extreme, and for once, that last word should be taken literally.
When it comes to the ubiquitous perfumery ingredients, I have some affection for lavender. It is because there is a big difference between the most common source lavandin and the harder to extract Provence version. The Provence version is harvested after being left to dry in the fields for days before extraction and distillation. It has the herbal quality of lavender more prominent because of the drying process prior to extraction. In this year’s Beau de Jour it was a nearly equivalent amount of lavandin and Provence lavender used in a softly satisfying way. For Lavender Extreme perfumer Olivier Gillotin working with creative director Karyn Khoury the Provence lavender is given a much more prominent role.
The only time I really notice the lavandin is in the very early moments of Lavender Extreme. M. Gillotin combines it with eucalyptus to form an abstract accord of the real Provence lavender to come. That lavender comes in with a rush. You notice it immediately as the herbal nature of it washes across that earlier lavender accord with gusto. I enjoyed the way the lavender seemed to grow more extreme throughout the middle part of the development. It then begins to be modified in some clever ways. M. Gillotin uses a bit of carrot seed to provide a sweet rooty contrast. Tolu balsam complements the herbal-ness. Tonka bean comes with its roasted sweetness to keep the lavender from getting too strident. Benzoin provides a sweet resinous polish to the final stages.
Lavender Extreme has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have often complained that perfumes with “extreme” on the bottle are not truth-in-advertising. Not so with Lavender Extreme. This is a soaring spire of lavender spelled with a capital L.
Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
Back in the summer Tom Ford Private Blend released two different fougeres. I reviewed Fougere D’Argent first because I felt it had a more contemporary feel. I also promised in that review to get to the other, Fougere Platine, in a couple weeks. Its been two months and I think I put it off for so long because it is a classic fougere done well with good quality ingredients. There should be some attention paid to perfume which achieves just that. So, better late than never here we go.
As always creative director Karyn Khoury is overseeing any new release from this brand. This time she works with a team of perfumers, Olivier Gillotin and Linda Song. Ms. Song has been doing most of her early work on the mainstream side of fragrance. I was interested to see how she would do with a niche budget. The answer is in the first paragraph; the perfumers create a fougere which is more fleshed out throughout its development.
All fougeres begin with lavender and this is one which displays equal parts the floral and herbal faces of it. Which it needs because clary sage and basil amplify that quality. It is a greener style of lavender top accord, but it is still recognizably lavender. If you are a fan of M. Gillotin’s work on the Private Blend Vert series this has a bit of that feel early on. The heart is a mixture of labdanum, olibanum, and honey. This was where the perfume crossed the line into luxuriousness for me. It is my favorite part of Fougere Platine as the lavender sinks into the sticky resinous heart accord. The honey provides a sweetness vector for the resins to cling to. The honey slowly transforms into dried tobacco leaf made green by atlas cedar. The original fougeres had oakmoss and coumarin in the base. The perfumers’ approximation here is to use the narcotic quality of tobacco and the clean woodiness of cedar as their base accord, which worked for me.
Fougere Platine has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
If there was a silver lining to waiting for two months; wearing it in the cooler fall weather made it cozier. Fougere Platine is a well-executed version of a straightforward fougere. If you’re a fan of the style and want a black-tie version this might be a good formal fougere.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
It is common for fashion designers to branch out into perfume. It happens so frequently it seems lacking if a big fashion house doesn’t have a perfume or two with their name on it. Jewelry designers are less likely to add fragrance to their portfolio. Yet many of the lines which have jewelers as their creative director also have an innate understanding of providing settings for all their ingredients to sparkle within.
When I was contacted by Natalia Outeda the founder and creative director of Frassai I was happy to hear she was a jewelry designer as well as a perfume designer. Based in Buenos Aires and New York Sra. Outeda she also had a background in fine fragrance which made this a real fusion of her experience. She chose three of the best perfumers in the business; Olivier Gilltoin, Yann Vasnier, and Rodrigo Flores-Roux to compose her debut collection of three perfumes Tian Di, Blondine, and Verano Porteno. I liked all three enough to want to write about them over the next two days. I’ll start with Tian Di and finish tomorrow with the other two.
Tian Di was a collaboration between Sra Outeda and M, Gillotin meant to evoke a contemporary Oriental. To stretch the jewelry analogy, it was like re-setting a vintage piece in a modern way. M. Gillotin would produce an Oriental with less heaviness and more kinetic energy than the form usually provides.
That starts with a fascinating accord around ginger and peach. Both are so frequently used it is difficult to find life in the pairing, yet M. Gillotin does. It happens because the ginger can act as a wave upon which the peach floats on top of. When it crashes what arises from the spray is a compelling heart accord of orris and incense. Here M. Gillotin uses both ingredients as the central gemstones of different “colors”. The orris has a deep amethyst hue while the incense is onyx. It shades things dark but more dusky than full night. Sandalwood provides the platinum setting for these jewels to nestle in. When all put together it is recognizably Oriental but given a fresh new setting.
Tian Di has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
It might just be confirmation bias, but Tian Di does feel like the jeweler’s eye of Sra. Outeda was asking for M. Gillotin to place each ingredient just so. In Tian Di it results in a jewel of a perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Frassai
Tom Ford Private Blend new release names are starting to feel like challenges. The last one, Fucking Fabulous, led me to ask; “is it?” Now there are two more additions to the Tom Ford Private Blend collection what are going to beg the same question; Oud Wood Intense and Tobacco Oud Intense.
Intense is another of those names which often seems to mean more concentrated. When that is what it translates to in the bottle it isn’t that interesting. I was particularly concerned about a perfume called Oud Wood Intense. If there is a masterpiece in the Private Blend collection Oud Wood is in the running for that accolade. To go back and alter that was worrisome. Tobacco Oud Intense was less of a concern because I could see less destructive ways to make that intense. It helps that the original perfumers were involved in both. Richard Herpin returns for Oud Wood Intense while Olivier Gillotin gets an assist from Yann Vasnier on Tobacco Oud Intense. What both have produced are perfumes which are more like second cousins of each other there are some common blood lines but both are distinct from the other perfume they share a name with.
It doesn’t take any time at all to see the difference in Oud Wood Intense as the entire top accord is re-orchestrated. M. Herpin combines ginger, nutmeg and angelica root on top of the blond wood of cypress. There are faint echoes of the Szechuan pepper and cardamom opening of the original but this group of ingredients does create a top accord with more presence. M Herpin brings the oud to the forefront out of that top accord. He captures the rougher edges of oud by using sage, juniper berry, vetiver, and oakmoss. This is meant to make an oud accord which shows off some of the more difficult parts of oud. The base doesn’t let up as a huge slug of castoreum really doubles down on that. This creates an accord full of animalic depth which is probably not going to be to everyone’s taste. A clean woody base of sandalwood and patchouli finish this. Oud Wood Intense is that country cousin to the refined city cousin of Oud Wood. M. Herpin decided to let the deeper tones of oud free to make Oud Wood Intense.
Oud Wood Intense has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Olivier Gillotin (l.) and Yann Vasnier
Tobacco Oud Intense becomes the city cousin in this pair to the country cousin of Tobacco Oud. For Tobacco Oud Intense the perfumers work together to turn down the smoke while adding in gourmand aspects. The first of those is the near-signature Tom Ford addition of raspberry as the companion for coriander instead of the herbs of the original. Some Givaudan Orpur Olibanum sets the stage for the title notes. The purity of this Orpur version adds a level of refinement to the setting for the tobacco and oud to rise. As they do, this time they don’t smolder instead they become entwined with toasty tonka giving an entirely different style of heart accord from the original. Labdanum and patchouli provide the finishing touch for Tobacco Oud Intense.
Tobacco Oud Intense has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am gratified to find both perfumes to not be more of the same but kissing cousins instead.
Disclosure: This review is based on press samples provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
They say everything old is new again. In other words, live long enough and everything you own is eventually on trend. One of the trends that has begun taking hold in fragrance is that of the simple combination of three or four ingredients. I think that this style of perfume while simple is not facile. The perfumer must be very precise to get the correct balance. When there are so few notes each one carries more weight. Because of this I started thinking back on which perfumes from the past might have become new again. As soon as I began this process one jumped right to the front of my thoughts, 10 Corso Como.
When 10 Corso Como came out in 1999 it became a cult fragrance. Initially only available in Europe it began to be as desired as Coors beer used to be East of the Mississippi. I can’t remember when I finally tried it but I certainly saw it spoken of in the early perfume forums. I do remember being fascinated at how this simple perfume was so compelling. It was one of those early perfumes which seemingly affixed my wrist to my nose.
10 Corso Como is named after the fashion line overseen by Carla Sozzani. Sig.ra Sozzani wanted to add a fragrance to her fashion boutique in Milan. She turned to perfumer Olivier Gillotin to produce that. What they came up with was a triad of sandalwood, incense, and rose.
10 Corso Como opens with sandalwood paired with an incense accord made up of vetiver and oud. It is a fascinating choice by M. Gillotin. Straight frankincense would have been too austere against the sandalwood. Instead the vetiver-oud accord forms a softer version of incense which settles on top of the sandalwood. This combination is what made 10 Corso Como stand out early on. It provided an alternative to the church incense style which was becoming popular. The rose takes some time to insert itself into things. Again M. Gillotin adds some geranium to add a bit of green to it all which then accentuates the green within the vetiver. At this point as the vetiver decouples from the oud that note starts to provide a slightly medicinal contrast to the sandalwood. A few musks are sprinkled in at the end.
10 Corso Como has 4-6 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I have enjoyed 10 Corso Como for years because of its simplicity. If you are enjoying the current trend take a look back in time and under the radar for 10 Corso Como.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
2017 sees the tenth anniversary of the Tom Ford Private Blend collection. It has been one of the most important perfume collections of recent times. In May of 2007 I remember seeing this group of brown square bottles in my local Neiman-Marcus. It was an audacious attempt to capture this new thing known as a “niche perfume” market. Ten years on it is easy to say under the creative direction of Tom Ford and Karyn Khoury they hit every target, and then some, they probably aspired to. They’ve been so successful it has become an arguable point that Tom Ford Private Blend is no longer even “niche”.
One of the best-selling entries in that first group was Neroli Portofino. Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux presented a luxurious version of the lowly drugstore cologne. It made Neroli Portofino a standard bearer for the vibe the Private Blend collection was aspiring to. Neroli Portofino was so successful Mr. Ford and Ms. Khoury decided to create a sub-collection named after it, in 2014. They also changed the bottle color from brown to blue so to make it visually evident when there are new entries. Since 2014 there have been five more releases each continuing the examination of the Mediterranean Hesperidic style of perfume. The latest release is called Sole di Positano.
Ms. Khoury invited perfumers Aurelien Guichard and Olivier Gillotin to compose this latest entry. It is based on a quote from John Steinbeck Mr. Ford admires, “Positano is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone”. The challenge is to create a very light version of the Neroli Portofino aesthetic.
Sole di Positano opens on the twinkling of sunlight off the Mediterranean represented by lemon and petitgrain. To keep it from being too tart the perfumers use mandarin to smooth out that character. The green of the petitgrain is then connected with shiso to add a couple shades of verdancy to the citrus. Jasmine and ylang-ylang provide the floral heart. These are cleaner lighter versions of both of those notes. No indoles in the jasmine along with no oiliness in the ylang-ylang. The green returns with moss, along with sandalwood, in the base.
Sole di Positano has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
In the past year, there has been a lightening up of the Private Blend releases. I wonder if it is a calculation for the collection to transition to appealing to a younger consumer. Sole di Positano is the most floral of the Neroli Portofino collection since Fleur de Portofino. If you like your Mediterranean perfumes on the lighter side Sole di Positano is going to please you.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
Most of the time flankers have a clear relation to the other perfumes within a brand for which it shares its name. It is a pleasant surprise when I receive a new flanker which has almost nothing to do with the previous releases. This was the case when I tried the new Ralph Lauren Polo Red Extreme.
One of the reasons I probably looked sideways at my sample of Polo Red Extreme was because I am not a fan of the original Polo Red, released in 2013. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin did a by-the-numbers lemon, lavender, and cedar perfume. When the first flanker, Polo Red Intense was released two years later, it was a bit unfocused as M. Gillotin shoehorned some extra notes like cranberry, saffron, and leather into the basic Red architecture. It was not an improvement on the original.
When I sprayed my sample of Polo Red Extreme I was so surprised at how much M. Gillotin had changed the pyramid I had to go find the other two just to make sure my memory was accurate. Polo Red Extreme goes for a much deeper style of fragrance which is more a gourmand than the woody versions the first two were.
The citrus changes for Polo Red Extreme to blood orange and if it was just that it would be similar enough to what has come previously. Instead he goes a bit more tropical with ginger and pineapple providing contrast. It still is mostly the citrus but the other two notes provide a very different fruity opening moment. The one note which is the connecting tissue between all three Red fragrances is clary sage in the heart. It is a supporting note in all three cases. What it does in Polo Red Extreme is to provide that 3AM in the diner roughness to the coffee at the heart of this new release. There is a kind of coffee found only in the wee hours of the morning which is just the right side of burnt and that is the accord M. Gillotin constructs here. It goes from straight black coffee to a mocha as cocoa flavors it in the base along with amber, and ebony wood. This isn’t an intense gourmand but it is a pleasantly different take for a mainstream perfume.
Polo Red Extreme has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
It is a low bar, for me, but Polo Red Extreme is my favorite of the Polo Red collection. It can be different within the department store offerings around it even though it is so unlike its siblings it should have been called The Anti-Red.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Ralph Lauren.
When I got my first sniff of the Raymond Matts Aura de Parfum collection at the end of November I immediately felt it was something noteworthy. I spent a good hour going from strip to strip as I began my process of understanding what Mr. Matts was after. In the never-ending debate about the concept of olfactory art there is a school of thought that goes something like this; the use of synthetics is what separates artistic endeavor from commercial enterprise. Or more prosaically unnatural versus natural. I think it is a false argument and something to consider more deeply at a different time. What the Raymond Matts Aura de Parfum collection has added to my personal consideration is that in the hands of focused creative direction a perfumer can turn out something completely unlike anything in nature but yet which calls out to the familiar. Of any perfume in the Aura de Parfum collection Kaiwe is the one which exemplifies this best.
When I was doing my initial assessment Kaiwe was the one I kept coming back to over and over. It was because of this unconventional look at the concept of fresh and green. Kaiwe is described, at its most basic, as a citrus ozonic Ambrox fragrance. It should smell like thousands of other similar fragrances which fit that description. In some ways it was exactly that which had me returning to it over and over. It smelled so like so many but not like anything else. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin puts together three distinct accords but while they seem to tread old ground they really are a step off of the well-traveled path.
M. Gillotin opens Kaiwe with a citrus accord made up of the soapy group of aldehydes which is what I detect first. This is the smell of a freshly washed body stepping out of the shower. Cocktails of green synthetics and citrus synthetics coalesce underneath the aldehydes deepening the fresh feeling. This is an example of what I’m talking about; the synthetics M. Gillotin uses provide no discernable handle to grab ahold of. It smells citrusy but not obviously one fruit or the other. The green accord is slightly aquatic and opaque. It undulates to my senses almost like a sheer green scarf rippling on a breeze. The shifting nature of the green notes creates subtle kineticism. The heart again is comprised of floral synthetics such that it is not any one floral but aspects of many florals. A hint of green lily, a bit of violet, a pinch of jasmine; but not really. To make sure you don’t spend too much time trying to dissect the bouquet M. Gillotin adds eucalyptus and juniper berry. The eucalyptus almost single-handedly forms the ozonic feel. The juniper adds an icy gin-like quality. It sets up perfectly as another note from the liquor cabinet, rum, joins in. Then in a very unique take warm milk also enters the picture. This forms a bizarre never made cocktail of gin, rum, and warm milk. It is odd but compelling. I sure don’t ever want to drink it but I really enjoyed breathing it in. Kaiwe ends on a swirl of Ambrox adding its unique character to all that has come before.
Kaiwe has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Kaiwe is one of those perfumes I just want to wear over and over because every time I wear it I find something new to admire. It is my favorite of what is an incredibly diverse collection Mr. Matts has put together. If you are someone who equates synthetic raw materials with “cheap” I think this collection might change that opinion. I know that I find what Mr. Matts is attempting here to be laudatory for boldly staking out this space as well as creating with great vision. If you give this line a chance it can change the way you think about what makes a great perfume.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Raymond Matts.
I am not sure when I met Raymond Matts for the first time. I am sure about the where, at a Sniffapalooza lunch during a Spring Fling or Fall Ball. He gave a talk which spoke to the room about the state of perfume at that moment in time. He boldly declared perfume blogging as irrelevant. I was just starting to write and I wondered if he was right. Here was a man with a wealth of experience from nearly thirty years in the fragrance business. I like people who take provocative stances and I listened to all he said and considered his hypothesis.
Mr. Matts has shown the same surety whenever our paths have crossed in the years since. Late in 2014 I found out he was going to have his own brand of perfume. Like so much about Mr. Matts these perfumes are declarative statements of intent. In my initial testing I have found all seven to have distinct pleasures. I want to really give all of them a little more time than I would normally and so my reviews of the entire line are going to happen in a series over the next few weeks. For this first installment I am going to focus on Tsiling and Tulile.
The names of all of the fragrances are made up words meant to convey something about them. In the press materials it is said they are meant to smell the way they sound. More than any other Tsiling lives up to this. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin was given a brief to capture a plastic flower which exudes a natural scent. This makes Tsiling a lively exercise with M. Gillotin having to strike just the right balance between the artificial and the natural. His choice is to start with the natural and allow for the artificial to provide the finish. The top notes are a mix of an aquatic accord, some green notes, and pear. The pear is most prominent and the other notes provide the more natural watery green of nature. As you move into the heart orris comes first and it is a rooty version. After M. Gillotin adds honeysuckle and what is named as rice notes the whole thing seems to plasticize in a time-lapse fashion. It just goes from natural to unnatural over the course of an hour or so. Then for the majority of the time I wore Tsiling it smells like a plastic flower scented with natural oils. Very late a bit of patchouli comes out but it is very minimal in nature. Tsiling has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Lots of perfumes marketed to men are said to be bracing. That usually means loud and overpowering most of the time. For Tulile Mr. Matts asked perfumer Christophe Laudamiel to create a masculine perfume which was embracing, instead. It starts off with a traditional zing of citrus over some aquatic notes. This is a common trope for men’s perfume. M. Laudamiel then starts to shift the paradigm as he uses lily of the valley as the floral heart of Tulile. This is a very floral muguet which combines very well with the watery citrus. It is because the citrus sticks around that Tulile doesn’t become overtly floral. For the base notes M. Laudamiel mixes two woody aromachemicals, Polywood and Ambrox. There is an interesting effect I have found with synthetics like both of these. By themselves they often irritate me. But if they are the right two synthetics they form an accord which is very pleasant. In the case of Tulile the Polywood and Ambrox form an opaque woody accord which is surprisingly soft for something composed of synthetic components. Tulile has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I’ll be back over the next few weeks with reviews of the other five perfumes in the line.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Raymond Matts.