One of my earliest scent memories is of attending Midnight Mass at Christmas as a very young boy. It was my first time to be awake that late. My jaw was hanging open from all the sensory stimuli. My mother wearing her customary Mitsouko was behind me as I peered down the center aisle. The attendants preceded the priest each swinging some silver sphere with smoke coming out. This was transfixing to me. I followed each swing of the censer until they came even, and I smelled the smoke of the incense inside. I almost leaned out to get another sniff of that wonderful smell. Incense is one of my favorite perfume styles and I have always believed it imprinted on my mind that Christmas night past. It is why I enjoy finding new incense focused perfumes like Pierre Guillaume PG 28 Peau D’Ambre.
Peau D’Ambre is the first new PG releases without a decimal attached to the number in three years. Independent perfumer Pierre Guillaume has been more interested in re-interpreting his earlier perfumes. Peau D’Ambre is inspired by the early perfumers of Corinth in the 6th century BC. M. Guillaume imagines what a boat of Corinthians headed out to deliver their goods might smell like.
It starts with a gorgeously full fir balsam overlaid upon a still water accord. As if the boat is docked waiting to be offloaded. As they hand up the leather gourds of precious materials they mix with the scent of the conifers. A worn leather accord contains frankincense. This is that silvery redolent frankincense I remember from that Midnight Mass. Two more containers of resins join in as opoponax and benzoin complete the delivery. On my skin it forms a resin super accord which seems appropriate for the Holidays as fir and incense meld into one another.
Peau D’Ambre has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
M. Guillaume constructs a compelling resin accord with his four materials. It is just like that first Midnight Mass all I want to do is lean forward to stay within its scent. Now with Peau D’Ambre I can.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
One of the things I enjoy about perfume is the duality of certain accords. One which probably smells different to every nose which experiences it is a leather accord. Some of that is because perfumers must create their own leather accord; there is no bottle labeled “leather” on their ingredient shelf. It is one of the places where a perfumer shows off their own style. When it comes to leather accords, I am a devotee of the early Cuir de Russie versions. Imitating the raw leather on a team of horses. There is a comforting pungency to these accords. It is such a classic that many contemporary perfumers want to make their own version. When they do, I have a simple test; does it smell like a garage? The best of these leather accords can also be seen as the smell of grease and motor oil. In some cases it is what makes the perfume compelling. Independent perfumer Pierre Guillaume embraces this with Pierre Guillaume Mecanique du Desir.
On the website M. Guillaume mentions that the smell of engine grease carries an “attraction-repulsion” for him. This was borne from winter days working in the garage with his father who was restoring luxury cars. I fall more on the attraction side of that pairing but I don’t want a perfume that makes me smell like a grease monkey. What M. Guillaume achieves with Mecanique du Desir is to find the blue collar beauty in just the right amount of engine grease.
Before we get to work in this garage, we first must admire the cars themselves. The opening of Mecanique du Desir uses the inherent metallic quality of aldehydes given shiny glints of chrome with mandarin. The real star of the early going is blackcurrant bud. M. Guillaume finds the right amount of sticky green to complement the aldehydes making sure I think of aluminum and not hair spray. Now its time to get into the grease. The accord comes from a set of animalic musks combined with amber, guaiac wood, and violet leaf. Just as the top accord made me think of polished cars. This makes me think of the black fluid which allows them to move. M. Guillaume balances this so that it never becomes heavy. Instead it sits just the right side of interesting. Grease is one of those odd natural scents which can be improved by a perfume abstracting the parts which attract versus repulse. M. Guillaume successfully navigates this.
Mecanique du Desir has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage
For someone who is conflicted about the actual smell of engine grease M. Guillaume was able to extract a compellingly unique perfume out of it. It is a perfumed ode to a garage.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
One of the more interesting sub-collections from any brand has been the “reworks” of the original Parfumerie Generale fragrances by independent perfumer Pierre Guillaume. M. Guillaume started this in 2012 where he took one of the numbered entries in the Parfumerie Generale line and re-interpreted it; releasing it with a point 1 after the original number to indicate the new fragrance.
Parfumerie Generale has been one of my favorite independent perfume brands. Most of the time the idea of a perfumer going back to reconsider his previous work would have me shaking my head. M. Guillaume has shown ingenuity in his second take on his original concepts. All the early reworks were of some of my favorites within the line causing me to get caught up in comparisons. It was only with the release of 9.1 Komorebi that he reworked one I didn’t care for. Which made it easy for me to prefer the new version. With 23.1 Jasmagonda he has taken one of my least favorites 23 Drama Nuui and transformed it into something which soars.
23 Drama Nuui was meant to showcase jasmine. The reason I didn’t care for it was that it was a flat uninspiring jasmine sprinkled with some spices and musk. This is among the most boring perfumes from a perfumer for whom I rarely use that adjective. Even the other perfumes which have not connected have been interesting. 23 Drama Nuui is one of the very few in this line which felt stunted. With a second chance, in 23.1 Jasmagonda, he uses jasmine as the keynote but this time he sends it aloft in a clean expansive perfume.
It begins with a crisp fruity snap of apple, grapefruit, and bergamot. This is the kind of fruity top accord I appreciate because it doesn’t dissolve into a sweet fruit salad, instead retaining a more focused quality. Relying on the tarter scents of the components they push back against a rich jasmine. Over all of this is a misty watery effect. Kind of like dew on the petals. Magnolia adds in a woody floral-ness which allow for cedar to provide an expansiveness to the overall perfume. This is when it takes flight. There is slight tuning over the final stages as tonka accentuates the floral over the wood.
23.1 Jasmagonda has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’m not sure if it is because a rework of a Parfumerie Generale I didn’t care for but 23.1 Jasmagonda is my favorite of the reworks. They have all felt like new perfumes but 23.1 Jasmagonda feels like a metamorphosis from drab caterpillar to vibrant butterfly as we go from 23 to 23.1.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Parfumerie Generale.
Independent perfumer Pierre Guillaume has continued with his re-examination of his original releases. After which he releases a new perfume with the X.1 attached to the number. It has been interesting to observe M. Guillaume as he takes his early inspiration and reconsiders it years later. It look forward to see what M. Guillaume chooses to do with each new concept built upon the old. The latest release is Parfumerie Generale 9.1 Komorebi.
The perfume getting an update is 2006’s Parfumerie General 09 Yuzu Ab Irato. M. Guillaume was attempting to cross a Japanese and Mediterranean aesthetic. This was one of the early misses for me. The mint smelled like mouthwash and it didn’t help the perfume shared the color of the same product. This was one of the few times I felt like M. Guillaume was trying to force a concept into the bottle instead of allowing it to come together from a less manufactured place.
For the first time the update was not going to be taking on one of the perfumes I liked. This was going to be a case where M. Guillaume would have my full attention without my comparing back to something I really liked. The name was already a good sign. Komorebi is a Japanese word which describes sunlight filtered through the leaves of the trees. Gone are the attempts at grafting a Mediterranean style onto something Asian. It also lives up to the name because this is an unrelenting perfume of crushed greenery. I happen to enjoy that smell which is why I enjoyed Komorebi.
It opens with an ozonic accord to capture the sunlight. The mint makes a return but thankfully only for a moment adding a chill to the fresh air. M. Guillaume uses two sources of green; blackcurrant bud and reseda. The latter is an unfamiliar ingredient to most, but it carries a violet aura in herbal packaging. It is a good match with the black currant bud which carries a fruity aura within sappy green packaging. Combined there is an accord as if you took handful of green leaves and crushed them in your hand. Sniffing the sticky places where the sap clings to your fingers. It is the heart of Komorebi and I have enjoyed it in these final days of summer. The base accord comes through with the trees, as a sturdy oak holds the center slightly ameliorated with some tonka.
Komorebi has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Komorebi is not only an update it is also an upgrade over the original. This shows when M. Guillaume allows an idea to arise like the sap in trees he can create something memorable.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I have received a couple of new perfumes featuring a ripe mango ingredient. I have enjoyed this when it is used because that is how I remember the mangos I picked off the tree in our yard as a child. I’m not sure it is the beginning of a trend, but it reminded me of the first time I encountered it in a perfume; Huitieme Art Manguier Metisse.
In 2010 independent perfumer Pierre Guillaume had become fascinated with all of the new isolation techniques which were opening up new design possibilities. To fully explore them he created a new brand, Huitieme Art, which would feature one of these as the keynote in a minimalist form. These weren’t necessarily soliflore-like because M. Guillaume found notes which more often formed an accord with the featured ingredient. Manguier Metisse created a mango tree with ripe fruit hanging from the branches.
Prior to Manguier Metisse when mango was listed it was a greener tarter version. What was shown in Manguier Metisse for the first time was a ripe juicy mango. M. Guillaume uses the new mango extract as the nucleus around which a few well-chosen notes literally flesh it out into a pulpy lush accord.
The mango is there from the first second to the last one, hours later. Frangipani provides tropicality by adding an exotic vibe. M. Guillaume uses black tea, rose, and patchouli in small judicious amounts. Each of these provide depth and texture. Within minutes I am surrounded by the smell of ripe fruit bursting with juice.
Manguier Metisse has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Manguier Metisse has remained one of my favorite perfumes by M. Guillaume because he so successfully re-created the smell of many summer afternoons tearing into a ripe mango. If the Huitieme Art collection has fallen under your radar I highly recommending obtaining a sample set. I especially think the original eight releases show M. Guillaume’s prescience at which new isolates would find new creative uses. If you need to try one before diving in start with Manguier Metisse.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
Pierre Guillaume has been one of my favorite independent perfumers because his aesthetic has significant overlap with mine. It doesn’t mean I like everything but I do like, and own, most of what he has done. For the last few years M. Guillaume has been doing a collection called the Rework series where he takes one of his previous releases and re-conceptualizes it. Starting in 2012 he has been working through his Numeraire collection adding a new release with the X.1 designation depending on the original number. Up until now he has done this with perfumes of his I like including some of my favorites. I knew we would eventually get to one of the originals I didn’t care for. Would I find some joy in the Rework? The first data point has arrived in Parfumerie Generale Suede Osmanthe 5.1.
Suede Osmanthe is the Rework of L’Eau de Circe. What does not appeal to me in the original 5.0 is that it is aggressively fruity floral which buries me beneath all of it. Part of it is my reticence to embrace fruity florals. Part of it was the osmanthus was overthrown by the other florals. Just by the name I had a feeling Suede Osmanthe was going to rectify much of what I found lacking in L’Eau de Circe.
Those of you who have followed my reviews know that osmanthus is one of my favorite ingredients. It is the dual nature of this floral as it carries an apricot and leather character within it. Even the apricot appeals because it carries a darker shading due to the leathery nature of the flower. As the name portends M. Guillaume is looking to explore the deeper aspects of osmanthus.
As much as I was ready for dark osmanthus M. Guillaume wanted to give the apricot its due in a beautifully creative way by loading it on an aldehyde bottle rocket and lighting the fuse. When I sprayed my first spritz of Suede Osmanthe I was expecting the apricot to lead. M. Guillaume packs in a bunch of the fizziest aldehydes and uses them to explode the apricot. It is a literal olfactory explosion which as it dies down leaves an afterimage of the apricot to lead into the leather heart. The synthetic Suederal is there waiting to provide that soft suede effect. As the leathery face of osmanthus peeks out the Suederal embraces it. A black tea blends in to provide a gentle smokiness to this part before a set of the animalic musks bring it home.
Suede Osmanthe has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Suede Osmanthe is as good as it gets from M. Guillaume and especially this Rework collection. I have been very impressed with the last few releases but Suede Osmanthe is the first to turn around my initial opinion of 5.0 with a much better 5.1. The fruity aldehyde transition to the deep leather is excellent every time I wear it; this makes it my kind of fruity floral.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Independent perfumer Pierre Guillaume has been doing an interesting thing within his collection; he has been going back and re-doing his older Parfumerie Generale perfumes. This is not re-formulation this is looking at them again and using them as inspiration for new fragrances. It unfortunately sets up an unintentional competition in my mind. I have owned the original version of everything M. Guillaume has redone. After I’m done I end up debating on whether it is better or worse than the original. The tenth release under this Parfumerie Generale Rework collection, 19.1 Neroli ad Astra, has shown there is a different way for me to experience the two different versions.
The original 19 Louanges Profanes was released in 2008. In it M. Guillaume layered a fabulously rich neroli over incense and benzoin. It is one of my favorite shoulder season florals, ideal for cool mornings and warm afternoons. The neroli was from Tunisia and carries a spicy facet that complemented the resins it will float upon. One of the best features of the Rework collection is it gives M. Guillaume the opportunity to re-imagine a perfume using a different source of the keynote. For 19.1 Neroli ad Astra he changes to the Moroccan neroli.
The neroli from Morocco is more luminous it carries a delicacy to it which the Tunisian version does not. Something else the Moroccan version lacks is a significant green thread which runs through my favorite neroli sources. The version in 19.1 Neroli ad Astra is all flower no stem. It seems M. Guillaume realized that as well and so uses a couple of other ingredients to provide some of the missing verdancy.
Before we get to the neroli in 19.1 Neroli ad Astra we transition through a fruity top accord cut with baie rose. Pear and mandarin provide a juicy effect tamped down by the herbal nature of baie rose. Then like a sunrise the neroli arrives as it spreads across the fruity opening and whisks it away as if it was tendrils of fog. The neroli exalts in its lightness until blue agave and geranium come around to add back that green grounding quality. The blue agave provides an unusual green which makes the neroli effect kind of abstract while also feeling natural at others. Jasmine is used as a floral foundation while providing some expansiveness to the overall neroli accord. A mixture of vetiver and white musks provide even more volume as the base accord.
19.1 Neroli ad Astra has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
In the past with the Rework versions I end up choosing “this or that” as one of them becomes my favorite almost to the exclusion of the other. For the first time 19.1 Neroli ad Astra has me thinking “this and that”. It is because 19.1 Neroli ad Astra has been so good in the summer heat. It is opaque without being a trifle but it isn’t going to be something I’d wear in the upcoming fall. Then I am going to reach for my old favorite 19 Louanges Profanes. Which makes this the first Rework where each version has a time and place for it.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
One of the fun things about attending Pitti Fragranze is seeing what independent perfumer Pierre Guillaume has made just for the fair as a one-off. When I attended in 2014 he showed me this fabulously watery cologne of cucumber. In many ways it was like the amuse bouche served by a chef before the meal. A simple statement of aesthetic in a trifle. The funny thing was that silly trifle got stuck in my head. So much so that when I saw him the next year I asked about it. He then told me that he was definitely going to release a version of it. He just wasn’t sure when. The answer is he has released it a couple months ago; Phaedon Concombre.
We always talk about wanting a perfume that can be worn on the hottest of days which will not turn cloying in the heat. Concombre is that design wish come true. One of my favorite summer meals when it is just too hot to turn the oven on is to thinly slice cucumber and place it in ice water. After the slices are cooled I drain them and sprinkle balsamic vinegar over it. For dessert a similarly ice-cold watermelon rounds out the meal. We’ve never discussed it but M. Guillaume must also have the same summer routine of some kind because Concombre has cucumber and watermelon as its nucleus.
Concombre starts with that fresh chilly watery cucumber note. M. Guillaume livens it up just a little with a sprig of mint. It is almost as if it came over on the breeze from the mint on top of my iced tea. He freely uses freesia to provide that watery quality. It also provides a chill which is not something I usually ascribe to freesia but in Concombre it definitely does cool things down. Then as the watermelon accord arises you get this lightly vegetal with the sweet melon floating on top of cool water. It is delightfully refreshing. It is all framed in clean lines of cedar.
Concombre has 6-8 hours of longevity and moderate sillage.
There is no practical reason to keep perfume in a refrigerator. I do it with some of my favorite colognes because they go on more refreshing when they are chilled. Concombre is another which also benefits from being in a refrigerator. It enhances all of the chill elements throughout Concombre. The days I wore it I refreshed it twice and each time it elevated my spirits. Concombre is a summer special.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Phaedon.
When it comes to movies I am not a big fan of the remake. The concept of when they take an older movie and take a modern look at it. Sometimes they will flip the genders of the central roles. Sometimes they will slavishly copy the original word for word. Which often displays how important an acting ensemble can be. Very rarely the remake can become more of a rework as the creative team decides to use the outlines but shade them differently. 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers turned a classic B-movie into a taut thriller which also contained a pointed commentary on the 1970’s yuppies.
In perfumery remakes are most often represented by flankers as the same basic story is told over and over again. Then there is independent perfumer Pierre Guillaume who has been releasing a set of perfumes called the Rework Collection within his larger Parfumerie Generale line. The perfumes in the collection each carry a number which is currently up to number 26. For the Rework Collection M. Guillaume has decided to return to earlier releases and rework them numbering them as X.1. What has been nice about the first four releases were they did not feel like flankers. They felt like M. Guillaume returning to the drawing board with a sketch already in place but this time it would result in a different end product.
When I spoke with M. Guillaume in Florence at Pitti Fragranze last September I asked him what was next and he told me the rework of Aomassai 10. I have to say while I smiled outwardly; inside I shriveled up a little. I think Aomassai is one of the best perfumes ever made in the independent space. M. Guillaume took a unique perspective on the gourmand fragrance genre. This was like hearing someone was re-making the movie Casablanca in my mind. I was worried where this would go. In January I received the press release for Bouquet Massai 10.1. Now it was reality.
One of the things M. Guillaume has been exploring in these reworks is the concept that if you take the core accord and surround it with different things can you make something as compelling. For Bouquet Massai the central accord of coffee and Cashmeran from Aomassai is brought over; then immersed in floral notes of peony, magnolia, and karo karounde. What results is a much more defined version of that central accord in which the bitter qualities are enhanced and the roasted nature attenuated.
Bouquet Massai opens with the coffee and Cashmeran nucleus in place. It is rapidly hung with lei of the three main florals. I noticed peony first. The heady jasmine-like nature of karo karounde next. Finally, the magnolia. Each new floral serves to sharpen the bitter nature of the coffee. They gave it more bite. Where Aomassai was a smoother softer gourmand; Bouquet Massai has taken the softness away leaving a different feeling. Bouquet Massai comes together with a snap. Within that crispness I realized how versatile the coffee-Cashmeran accord is to anchor two disparate versions. Bouquet Massai finishes with some soothing sandalwood to take some of the sting out of things.
Bouquet Massai has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As was done with Invasion of the Body Snatchers M. Guillaume has presented a rework which allowed me to see Bouquet Massai as a creation all its own.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Parfumerie Generale.
Even the scions of independent perfumery must bow a little bit to creating with an eye towards sales. The advantage is an independent perfumer has a much smaller bottom line than a conglomerate. Even so by the very nature of being outside of mainstream business forces you still have to keep the ship afloat. Two of the most successful independent perfumers are Pierre Guillaume and Andy Tauer they have made Parfumerie Generale and Tauer Perfumes the examples for those who have followed. Their success is because they provide a different fragrant experience to perfume lovers. But even they want to break free every once in a while and give in to a creative urge they feel might not be worth including in their brand offerings. M. Guillaume and Hr. Tauer have each made a recent one-off experimental fragrance. Both have in common a challenging nature asking the wearer to embrace the near un-embraceable.
Hyraceum (Photo via africanaromatics.com)
M. Guillaume’s inspiration for Lumiere Fauve which he made in a small batch to giveaway at Pitti Fragranze 2015 was an online criticism. It was a short pointed comment saying, “Your perfume is shit.” This inspired M. Guillaume to actually make a shit perfume. More precisely a perfume based on hyraceum. Hyraceum is the solidified extract of urine and feces of a small South African mammal called the Hyrax. I can’t even begin to imagine who first thought this would be a good perfume ingredient. M. Guillaume allowed me to smell the unadulterated raw material and it smelled like what it looked like. I nearly gagged because I took in too deep a breath. Like other ingredients like indoles which at 100% also induces revulsion once it is reduced it becomes more palatable. M. Guillaume didn’t want to reduce the hyraceum to too low a level. He wanted a shit perfume wrapped up in beauty. In this case a floral bouquet wraps itself around the hyraceum making it more approachable. I love perfumes like this but even wearing this for a whole day was a bit of an experience. It reminded me of The Elephant Man as there is a fierce intelligence under a disfiguring surface.
Painting by Andy Tauer to accompany Dark Mysterious Woods
Hr. Tauer I think wanted to live down his “nicest guy in perfumery” label with Dark Mysterious Woods. I think he left out an adjective, dangerous. When wearing Dark Mysterious Woods it made me edgy as if there was something out there in the moonlight. Hr. Tauer’s choice for these woods are none of the usual soothing choices like cedar or sandalwood. Nope this is all the villains of the woody end of the perfumer’s palette. Because there was no place for me to find a place of comfort I let the mystery sweep me away. It means Dark Mysterious Woods evokes emotions I probably don’t want provoked on a regular basis. The day I wore it I thought of the movie The Blair Witch Project as it felt like there were things out there in the dark. The more I tried to find them the more lost in the forest I became. Dark Mysterious Woods was unsettling in the most pleasant of ways like an olfactive haunted house.
I suspect we will never see either of these for sale as they are meant more as single experiences. I do think we will see some of the themes that each of these perfumes contains to be worked into a future release. I won’t be surprised if M. Guillaume takes his hyraceum and spins it into gold. Hr. Tauer might take the rougher dangerous woods and use them as contrasting foundation for a more traditional beautiful opening reminding us there is danger underneath the fairest of them all. I thoroughly enjoyed being taken on two such excellent adventures by Pierre and Andy.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Pierre Guillaume and Andy Tauer.