Summer is the season of temporary obsessions. Things which seem perfect in the heat of July lose their impact after Labor Day. It spreads through every artistic endeavor. If it has summer before it that means fun comes before substance. Perfume doesn’t do enough of this. There should be more fragrances which reach for the fun factor. Goldfield & Banks Bohemian Lime is one which does this.
Owner and creative director Dimitri Weber have been staking out the fresh genre for the majority of Goldfield & Banks releases. The other imperative is to feature ingredients from his native Australia. Overall the collection has successfully lived up to those. Bohemian Line hews to both. Mr. Weber has been working with an interesting roster of perfumers. That also continues as perfumer Amelie Jacquin makes her first for the brand.
The indigenous ingredient is finger lime. According to the press materials it grows on the beaches of Byron Bay; the easternmost area of Australia. Growing up in S. Florida we also had out own variant of lime called the key lime. While it was lime it also had a distinctively different taste profile. I suspect the finger lime is the Down Under version of that. That lime forms the center of Bohemian Lime.
Lime is what you notice right away. I am not sure how to describe the difference. As a guess I would say it has a tarter scent than regular lime. That might be true. Or it might be the way the coriander which pairs with it modulates it. The coriander also has a woody part of its scent which sets up the back half of woods. Cedar, vetiver, and sandalwood form the base. The sandalwood is also from Australia. It is the dry version I associate with the source. The vetiver is the bridging ingredient capturing the green of the finger lime and the woodiness of the cedar and sandalwood.
Bohemian Lime has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is another fresh fragrance from the brand. There is nothing wrong with finding a lane and sticking with it. Bohemian Lime is the kind of perfume I will enjoy the heck out of this coming summer. I might not remember it after Labor Day, but it is going to make the season more fun.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Ever since I picked up a copy of JRR Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” the fascination with epic fantasy was begun. That book introduced me to many of the non-human creatures which inhabit the genre. One of the most memorable from The Hobbit is the villain of the book; the giant dragon Smaug. An ancient creature who has spent so much time lounging on his pile of treasure it has clung to his scales forming a glittering armor over his belly. Smaug was one of the first creatures whose scent I imagined. The idea of smoke curling from his nostrils as the fire laid in wait to be called. When I received my sample of Carner Barcelona Drakon I was back in that cave.
Drakon is part of a three-perfume subset called the Bestial Collection. Creative director Sara Carner wanted to create her own version of an epic fantasy through scent. For Drakon she worked with perfumer Jordi Fernandez.
This is a perfume of three accords which capture their subject matter as Sr. Fernandez finds the dragon at rest. Only to be roused before too long. Some quite clever choices make this entire trip a lot of fun.
Those choices come right at the top as black pepper is given a keener edge through cypress and palm. Pepper evokes heat through its piquancy. Already provided the imagery through the name this felt like the curls of steam from the dragon’s nostrils. As the beast yawns I can see the glow of banked flame further down its throat. The scent of that comes from an oud accord of akigalawood and nagarmotha. This is a rough oud accord. Sr. Fernandez adds in a playful counterbalance with a healthy dose of orange blossom. I smiled as I imagined my dragon picking up a perfume bottle and eating it. The dragon having tired of my company now calls up his flame. As I run down the cave, I am pursued by an animalic leather accord surrounded by fir and sandalwood.
Drakon has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This was a perfume I was happy to get caught up in the flames of. I admire the effort not to go for the traditional smoky elements of perfumery. By choosing something more imaginative Drakon leaves a stronger impression. If you want to do battle with your own mythical beast Drakon will give you the opportunity.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Carner Barcelona.
I am slowly coming around to the idea that perfumes which bear the name of Louis Vuitton do not have to be leather related. A year ago the first release of the LA collection, Cactus Garden, helped get me to that mindset. The latest addition Louis Vuitton California Dream continues my evolution.
“Sky Backdrop” by Alex Israel
California Dream is the fourth of the set of perfumes inspired by Los Angeles. Along with perfumer Jacques Cavallier, artist Alex Israel has been providing visuals to go with it. Mr. Israel’s vision has been inspired by California. The inspiration piece (shown above) is called “Sky Backdrop”. It is part of a series where he interprets a Cali sunset. M. Cavallier took the colors of this rendition and turned it into California Dream.
M. Cavallier looks for the same hazy layering of colorful effects. There is a simple progression which finds the soft interfaces between them as the colors do in the inspiration painting.
It opens with a blast of mandarin which I think represents that clear blue in the upper right of the painting. This is that sunny citrus effect so commonly found in this style of perfume. M. Cavallier uses a bit of pear to provide a softening effect. This is where that flows into the lighter shades of pink through the middle of the piece. Here the botanical musk of ambrette seed imparts the softer muskiness that this source provides. It ghosts through the mandarin. This moves towards the brighter pink in the bottom third of the painting. When I looked at it, I was thinking it looks like it is lit below by twilight neon. Which made me imagine this sunset was taking place over Sunset Boulevard. The base accord of vanilla infused benzoin has a bright sweetness of resin and confection. There are moments I felt like it might be pink neon.
California Dream has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am a bit sorry to see the end of the LA phase of LV perfumes. I’ve enjoyed all of them. Maybe I’m finally just looking forward to the next perfume from Louis Vuitton as I enjoy this olfactory sunset.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Louis Vuitton.
There have been a few successful perfumes creatively directed by those who started writing or making videos on perfume. The ones I have not been impressed with have tended to seem like the cynical self-promotion I see from the worst of the mainstream. The ones I have enjoyed are something entirely different. Those come from people who take their love for perfume into the place where they consult with a perfumer to bring them to life. I have a new entry to that category Naughton & Wilson Gravitas pour Homme.
Dan Naughton has been a long-time video reviewer under the name of MrSmelly1977. If you look at his content it becomes evident, he is a fan of classic colognes and fougeres. This is where he would start when he decided to make his own perfume. He created a Kickstarter campaign to fund the enterprise. Perfumer John Stephen would become his collaborator. The finished perfume was released at the beginning of the year to the original group of funders. It has now been more widely released. I was unaware of any of this until a reader asked me if I wanted to try a sample. I found this to be a fragrance true to Mr. Naughton’s admiration of the styles he favors.
Gravitas pour Homme is a classic fougere created at extrait strength. This is kind of a fougere version of cologne absolue. Also by making it at a higher concentration it adds a softer filter to it. A hazy memory of fougeres past. All together it is an impressive interpretation of fougere.
It begins with a rich lavender. I suspect it is a mixture of lavender sources because it has more depth than just the typical synthetic sources. It has the floral quality along with the greener herbal facets in equal measure. Mr. Stephen then adds in a healthy amount of pepper to keep it to the herbal side of the equation. Cardamom and coriander support the pepper. The base is patchouli and oakmoss to give a fantastic bit of bite to the final stages. Vanilla helps to keep that playful.
Gravitas pour Homme has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I suspect Gravitas pour Homme lived up to the kind of perfume Mr. Naughton’s fans expected. I am pleased to see a traditionally constructed fougere find a new audience. Mr. Naughton has succeeded by being true to himself.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by a reader.
As much as I ask for independent perfumers to take risks. I also will damn them with the faint praise of them being “hit or miss”. If you’re truly going to take risks, you must be willing to miss so that you eventually hit. Perfumer Rasei Fort is one of those artists whom I have said this about in the past. A year ago he had his biggest artistic hit with a perfume called Kolonya. An intricately complex re-imagining of the classic fragrance genre. It was one of the best perfumes of last year. He is back with Rasei Fort Cielito Lindo to take another swing.
If Kolonya took on the oldest fragrance genre, Cielito Lindo works in the newest genre, gourmand. Mr. Fort wanted to make a perfume which would evoke Mexico. He used a story of tragic lovers Maria Gonzalez and Juan Hernandez. Juan was from the wrong side of town, but he would sing to Maria when she was at church praying. She could hear Juan crooning “Cielito Lindo”. When she was forced into an arranged marriage Juan tried to convince her to run away with him. Only to find she had killed herself before he could get to her. He sings “Cielito Lindo” one last time.
From that Mr. Fort uses the classic Mexican dessert, dulce de leche, as the heart of his gourmand. This is a confection found throughout Latin America. Every country has its variation. In Mexico it comes with a bit of cinnamon on top. Along with the dessert he adds in some tequila. Perhaps as the figurative way Juan tries to forget his love.
It opens with that caramel dusted with cinnamon. This is rich caramel but as a custard-like version not the treacly ooze it often is in perfume. This is achieved by a precise amount of tonka bean to thin it out. It still has power except the cinnamon adds the sizzle of spice across it. It takes a while for the other ingredients to pierce this. Each new addition adds to the pleasure. The tequila accompanied by vetiver and labdanum arrive as the heart accord. Tequila has that bitter alcoholic sweetness the vetiver acts as the olfactory lime to go with the shot. The green of it reminds me that it comes from agave. Throughout this time a swirl of spices continues to increase in intensity. A bit of Szechuan pepper adds the fire of the Mexican cuisine. The base is a lover’s requiem of rose and ambergris. The salt of tears on a spicy rose.
Cielito Lindo has 18-24 hour longevity and average sillage.
I adored Cielito Lindo from the first time I smelled it. This is the potential of what gourmand fragrances can be. They don’t have to weighed down in sugary waves. They can soar to unforeseen heights if only a perfumer is willing to risk a miss. Mr. Fort hits a gourmand home run with Cielito Lindo.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
When I was reading Perfume Legends II by Michael Edwards last fall it occurred to me that perfume was the less expensive luxury purchase. Throughout the history of modern perfumery fragrance has been in that place. Things have been changing especially over the last few years. There are lots of budget-friendly options to add perfume into your life. I do my best to cover those as well as the luxury lines. Thanks to one of my readers I was pointed to a line I didn’t know existed. That was how I discovered Good Chemistry Queen Bee.
The Good Chemistry line was created exclusively for US department store Target. It debuted at the beginning of 2018 with 16 releases. They were partitioned into different four fragrance collections. They were called Confident & Charming, Cool & Collected, Good & Grounded, and Vibrant & Playful. It is in that last quartet where the concept of Good Chemistry comes to life.
I can’t find anything on who the creative directors or the perfumers are. They have done an amazing job at making modestly priced perfume which smells great. In doing my research it seems like the most popular of the original releases is Queen Bee. One reason is it has more of a development to it than some of the others. Many of the Good Chemistry perfumes are well-blended accords which are linear in their development. The ones in the Vibrant & Playful collection all seem to have tried at something more.
Brainiac is a peppery citrus sweetened with a hint of vanilla. Daydreamer takes the popular pineapple ingredient and pairs it with ozonic and blond woods for a nice fresh scent. Wild Child is a woody coconut beach perfume. All of these are ideal to pack in a beach bag for when the sun goes down. Queen Bee is the last of the collection.
If I have a consistent issue with fruity florals it is, they can be too cloying. Queen Bee is the kind of fruity floral I enjoy because it finds itself in the other direction. It isn’t exactly the transparent style so popular now. It has more presence than that, but it is lighter in tone. It begins with citrus and black currant as the fruity piece. The citrus attenuates the berry just enough. The floral is the fresh scent of peony. This finds that lighter berry and together they radiate a sunniness. It ends as that sunniness drops below the horizon with some warm amber. I suspect that last ingredient is supposed to evoke honey. It arrives more as a comfort note.
Queen Bee has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
If there has been a democratization of perfume because of its wider availability, then Good Chemistry is one of great results of that. I can see that a Target shopper might find their way to a new appreciation of perfume through it. Queen Bee might be that first step for many.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
All my favorite independent perfumers have wonderful stories which found them expressing themselves through scent. Amber Jobin’s is one of my favorites. Her Aether Arts Perfume brand began out on the playa of Burning Man over a decade ago. Ms. Jobin has always made perfumery her contribution to the artistic gestalt of the annual festival. She started designing a specific perfume to complement each edition’s theme called Burner Perfumes. Her star took off when Burner Perfume No. 4 John Frum would win an Art & Olfaction Award. That one was her inflection point where the artist confidently came into view.
Amber Jobin at Burning Man
Every year since discovering Ms. Jobin the arrival of a new Burner Perfume is one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I usually get my sample a few weeks post-Burning Man. 2020 is different of course. The pandemic has canceled the event for this year. It doesn’t mean we aren’t getting a Burner Perfume it is just coming a little sooner. Aether Arts Burner Perfume No. 11 The Space Between keeps the creativity going.
More Amber Jobin from Burning Man
The theme for this year’s canceled version was “The Multiverse”. As she considered this concept that each person is their own universe with each of us making up the multiverse. How to design a scent which allows us to bridge those spaces with a scent that is The Space Between.
Ms. Jobin designed it in three different accords. The first one called “The Place of Potential” is a fleeting citrus and spice affair. This is the rind of citrus over the pulp while cardamom provides a spice complement. Potential is a fragile thing requiring grounding which is what Ms. Jobin provides in the middle accord called, “Everything is Possible”. This is a gorgeous fruity floral accord given a vegetal veil through tomato leaf. It is those glimmers from the top accord given more foundation. Ms. Jobin forms a contemporary version of the classic form. This leads to the final accord, “The Void” this is the attempt to make that connection of one piece of the multiverse to the other. This accord has grown out of her previous Exobotany and AI series. She has become adept at finding a way to capture the empty spaces, which occurs here. Using a series of unusual notes like katrafay, mushroom, and nagarmotha the base accord has a unique harmonic. As if it is coming from its own universe to find me.
The Space Between has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
There won’t be anyone on the playa this year. Ms. Jobin has made sure it survives by creating a virtual playa out of The Space Between.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfume.
The Oriental style of fragrance is one of my favorites. It captures my attention because it takes me to a place I’ve never visited. I am like the Europeans in the 18th and 19th century that relied on the painters of the day to depict it. In the 21st century it is perfume which opens my mind to the East. I wonder how skewed an impression I will have when I eventually visit. I hope it smells as amazing as Une Nuit Nomade Ambre Khandjar.
Alexandra Cubizolles (top) and Philippe Solas
Une Nuit Nomade is the travel-inspired line of perfume overseen by Alexandra Cubizolles and Philippe Solas. For Ambre Khandjar they collaborate with perfumer Jerome di Marino. This is a full-throated Oriental meant to evoke the souk of the capital of Oman, Muscat. Within is the khandjar the curved dagger which is a family heirloom. They are talismans against evil with symbols carved in the silver blade for that purpose. Mr. di Marino finds that metal in the heart of the dark market.
Jerome di Marino
It opens with a fabulously rich plum given a bit of lift through citrus. This is walking through the shadows of the market. Vanilla deepens the sweetness of the plum as we move further inside. It comes to a floral heart of orris and ylang-ylang. This is a shaded fleshy floral duo. I enjoy when ylang-ylang is given more space to have its carnal nature peek out. The iris is colored by that as it comes off more rooty than powdery. We have come to the stall where the khandjar is. Mr di Marino uses labdanum and benzoin to form a shimmering accord like the shadows off a silver blade. The resins have a metallic undercurrent which fits the brief. Sandalwood and patchouli complete the effect with a woody earthy base accord.
Ambre Khandjar has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Ambre Khandjar is one of my favorite new Orientals I’ve tried. The creative team really found the soul of this style of fragrance.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
Change is inevitable. When it happens to the great perfume brands it doesn’t mean the end of things it has often created an entirely new creative phase. When it is one of the seminal niche perfume brands where this is taking place the first new release attracts a lot of scrutiny. We are looking for hints of the future. This is where Amouage Interlude Man Black Iris falls.
Amouage became one of the premier artistic perfume brands under the creative direction of Christopher Chong. He left a little over a year ago. His replacement is Renaud Salmon. I will say when I was introduced to him via press release as the “Chief Experience Officer” I smirked at the concept. Really what the heck is that? Are you trying to avoid being compared to the past? Might as well call yourself Creative Director because you can call yourself Minister of Scent and you’re still gong to be compared. It might be unfair, but you are stepping into big shoes. My suggestion is for you to own it. Create your version of Amouage for better or worse. Stop hiding behind a silly fabricated sobriquet.
If I read M. Salmon’s words in that press release correctly, he is still learning the brand. He is looking for the space where his creative imprint can be seen. For his first release he decided to create a flanker of 2012’s Interlude Man. It is an interesting choice to take one of the more popular releases and make it over as your introduction. The original perfumer of Interlude Man, Pierre Negrin, was asked to work on Interlude Man Black Iris.
The name of the perfume pretty much says it all this is Interlude Man with iris added. It reminds me of the old 1960’s commercials when they would say “Same Great Taste! Now! With Mint Added!” This is the same thing as applied to Interlude Man.
Interlude Man Black Iris opens with the same herbal green top accord as rosemary replaces oregano and pimento. It moves into the classic incense and amber heart which is where the iris appears. It is a nice addition to this resinous heart. It is the promised “black iris” so many perfumes promise but fail to deliver. It ends in the same oud and sandalwood base as before with just a bit of vanilla amplifying the sweetness in sandalwood.
Interlude Man Black Iris has 18-24 hour longevity and average sillage.
To use a music metaphor Interlude Man Black Iris is a Renaud Salmon remix of a Christopher Chong chart-topper. What does this say about the future? Hard to say. If M. Salmon is going to spend his time doing remixes of the past, ie. flankers, at least they are high quality versions. If that is the next phase at Amouage then maybe Chief Experience Officer will be apt. There will be no real creativity as he will choose to live off the past. I am more hopeful that M. Salmon will grow into a creative director with his own distinct aesthetic. For now while Interlude Man Black Iris is a nice flanker it is just a luxurious flanker with nothing new to say.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Amouage.
One of the most influential perfume brands in all artistic perfumery has been Amouage. Throughout the two decades of this century the Oman-based house has introduced the perfume buying public to a vision of fragrance as a true luxury, with a price to match. They single-handedly showed there was a market for these kind of products before most others. The best part of that is I rarely heard from those who experienced Amouage that it “wasn’t worth it”. It has lived up to a high standard with aplomb.
Amouage is going through a transition. The creative director Christopher Chong who creatively directed the brand from 2007-2019 has given way to a new team. In a bit of fortuitous timing I received my sample of the last perfume Mr. Chong oversaw within days of the new perfume from the current creative team. It gives me a nice perspective on the brand as it moves forward. I’ll review the new release tomorrow. Today I am going to focus on the last of Mr. Chong’s era, Amouage Overture Man.
Overture Man was released last year as an exclusive to Harrod’s and is currently being released to the rest of the world. It is a curious thing to do because it inevitably invites comparisons. Overture Man is a brilliant example of all that Mr. Chong brought to Amouage over his tenure. Much of that came through his love of music, opera specifically. An overture at an opera is the musical piece played at the beginning by the orchestra. It gives you hints of themes you will hear in the performance to come. Overture Man acts as the opposite as it is a perfume which captures the themes Mr. Chong developed over the years.
Working with perfumer Karine Vinchon-Spehner for the eighth time Overture Man shows a creative team which has a built-in rapport. Mme Vinchon-Spehner knows how to reach the high notes Mr. Chong is seeking.
Overture Man hangs upon a spine of cognac, myrrh, and sandalwood. It evokes the milieu of an elegant gentleman’s private club. This is that opulence for which Amouage has become known for. The cognac comes first. It is a strident booziness which is tempered by a smart bit of perfumery. Mme Vinchon-Spehner uses saffron to round out the edges providing a cask-aged glow to it. A festival of resins comes next with myrrh leading the chorus. Labdanum, frankincense, and lentisk add backing vocals. This is the soul of Amouage the use of resins with meaning. The entire portfolio of perfumes by Mr. Chong is replete with this theme. It is rarely done better than it is in Overture Man. It picks up the cognac and finds a way to create a memorable duet. A hint of leather and smoke introduce the final piece of our trio. Sandalwood comes through the smoke with a patina of benzoin. This immediately finds harmony with the myrrh and cognac. It all settles in for the long run as a comforting delightful companion.
Overture Man has 18-24 hour longevity and average sillage.
A coda is the concluding piece of music at the symphony. For the twelve years Mr. Chong was at the conductor’s podium at Amouage he created a memorable piece of perfumed music. Overture Man is the perfect coda for his time there.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Amouage.