Since 2016 I have been watching the popular perfume brands come to grips with the current trend for lighter more transparent fragrances. Each of them has chosen their own path with varying degrees of success. At this point their choices have become evident. Thierry Mugler has made one of the more interesting choices. If you want to lighten up your perfumes you should also do it with a palpable smile. Thierry Mugler Angel Nova continues to achieve that.
The original Angel is nobody’s idea of a light perfume although the spirit behind it was fun. In 2016 perfumer Quentin Bisch laid down the marker on the new Angel with Angel Muse. It has continued through two iterations of Angel Eau Croisiere and Eau Croisiere II. Those perfumes are made for nights on holiday. They are also intelligently designed perfumes. Angel Nova picks up on all of this with a team of M. Bisch, Louise Turner, and Sonia Constant collaborating.
One of the hallmarks of this current generation of Angel flankers is they have been simple constructs. Angel Nova is three keynotes of raspberry, rose, and akigalawood. There are a couple of supporting ingredients which add to the complete piece, but it is predominantly those three.
It opens with a juicy raspberry given a syrupy finish through lychee. It made me think of opening a can of lychee and finding raspberries covered in the syrup. This is the kind of value added of a clever supporting note. It leads into a rich rose living up to its jammy adjective. I know you read this and think light, how could this be light. It is a remarkably transparent effect. It is capped with the spicy patchouli analog of akaigalawood adding an echo back to the original with its own patchouli inspired base. Some benzoin completes that base accord.
Angel Nova has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is another perfume full of joy. I keep looking forward to these Angel flankers because they all manage to find a way to have fun without becoming inane. Perhaps because they know the secret on how to lighten up their perfumes.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Thierry Mugler.
One of the reasons I enjoy spring as much as I do is it the one time of the year where the green scents of nature have precedence. Before the flowers bloom and the fruits and vegetables ripen; the world smells green. The perfume ingredient which captures that best for me is clary sage. The sharp slightly spicy herbal note is what my morning walks with the dogs smell like. When a new perfume shows up featuring it, I am interested. As I was with Yves Rocher Bois de Sauge.
I expected this version to be more sage-centric because it comes from Yves Rocher which tends to produce simple constructs. I’ve rarely been disappointed in the ones which feature my favorite ingredients. For Bois de Sauge perfumer Sonia Constant is able to make my morning walk come alive in three well-chosen ingredients.
The first ingredient is the clary sage. Mme Constant uses it to full effect at high concentration. There is the sharp green herbalness. There is a hint of floral and earth too. If you are out walking in these early days of spring this is what I smell most mornings right when I start out. My walk leads me into a stand of trees which is what comes next in Bois de Sauge. The clean woodiness of guaiac wood picks up on the sage adding the woods to the mix. The final ingredient is patchouli which amplifies that earthy undercurrent in the sage. At this point I am completely at peace on my morning walk as well as Bois de Sauge.
Bois de Sauge has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you want a spring perfume which captures the moment of rebirth Bois de Sauge shows that sage springs eternal.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Yves Rocher.
There were a few years where I spent a lot of time hiking in the desert southwest of the US. Those days and nights in the supposed barren wasteland of the sand taught me that beauty truly was in the eye of the beholder. One of the best things about that time were the moments of contrast when there were little outposts of greenery amidst the sand. I remember the scent of vegetation laid over the dusty mineral sand as the buried feel of the underground water feeding it all burbled below. It is a fascinating thing to see life where none should be able to survive. It seems like other deserts in the world have this same natural contrast based on Ella K Cri du Kalahari.
Ella K is the brand founded by perfumer Sonia Constant two years ago. Ella K is a fictional heroine based on the real-life women travelers of the past like Karen Blixen or Ella Maillart. The perfumes are meant to capture the fictional Ella K’s travels. At the end of 2019 her wanderings have brought her to Africa.
Baobab tree in the Kalahari
Cri du Kalahari is named after the large desert which covers most of Botswana. What sets this desert apart is the presence of massive baobab trees. That these trees can grow so large in the middle of a large desert is impressive. Mme Constant wanted to capture the dichotomy of the trees versus the sand of the desert. I imagine Ella K leaning against the trunk of one of the baobabs while sketching one nearby. Cri du Kalahari is what she might be smelling in the air.
It opens with top accord of green pepper and cedar. The pepper provides that vegetal piece of the green growing by the tree. Cedar is its typical clean woody self. In a perfume meant to capture the arid desert climate it seems ideal. A silvery frankincense adds texture to this. The frankincense is similarly austere as the cedar is. It descends to a base of sandalwood and patchouli. The sandalwood provides some release to the austerity that came first. It softens the woodiness. The patchouli adds some earthiness to it all in more subtle way that it usually appears. The patchouli acts like the subterranean sources of water covered up but detectable.
Cri du Kalahari has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mme Constant captures the contrast of life in difficult environments. In Cri du Kalahari a tree grows in the desert.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
When it comes to summer flankers it usually means adding something tropical to the DNA of the brand. The majority of the time it feels awkwardly placed as well as being redundant or inconsequential. Of the flankers for summer 2019 I found two which did a nice job of adding a tropical attitude to their respective lines.
Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Le Beau
Jean Paul Gaultier adds a summer flanker to their Le Male line every year. As a whole this is one of the better summer flanker collections with many more successes than misses. For 2019 they created Le Male Le Beau by crossing the fresh aesthetic of the original through a fantastic coconut at the heart of it.
Perfumers Quentin Bisch and Sonia Constant collaborated on Le Male Le Beau. What they’ve produced is a perfume version of a summer book as a perfume. The freshness is provided by bergamot and they then use what the notes call coconut wood. It seems more like a mixture of coconut and wood. Tonka bean is also present to make that coconut sweeter and fleshier. So many coconut fragrances goo too far to the sweet. By using the wood to keep things drier the coconut has a better effect.
One caveat the name I gave you is what I was supplied by the brand. There are also other flankers which are Le Beau or Le Male. If this perfume interests you look for the exact bottle in the picture above.
Bulgari Rose Goldea Blossom Delight
The original Bulgari Goldea is one of the best commercial releases nobody talks about. The unfortunate upshot of that is Bulgari has become a flanker machine over the last decade. Their success rate is surprisingly low for all the effort they put into it. When they released Rose Goldea three years ago I thought it was a nice summery companion to Goldea which had some personality. For Rose Goldea Blossom Delight I can say the same thing.
Perfumer Alberto Morillas has been responsible for all the Goldea releases. Rose Goldea Blossom Delight is distinctly different from either of its predecessors. M. Morillas sets that difference right from the start with a green top accord made up of papaya and violet leaves. Papaya is a naturally musky fruit and M. Morillas uses that faux-muskiness to create a lightly fruity musky opening. It dovetails nicely into the rose in the heart and the amber in the base. This is a delightful end of summer choice that will also do well as the weather cools post-Labor Day.
Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.
First world perfume writer problems. About a year ago I heard of a new brand from one of my favorite perfumers had debuted. This shows the value of writing things down; because I didn’t. I read eagerly that perfumer Sonia Constant had branched out into her own brand, Ella K. I told myself I needed to contact them for some samples. The date on this review is evidence it slipped my mind. It wasn’t until the Holidays that one of my European connections asked me if I wanted a sample set of Ella K. After a face palm I typed back to send them to me.
Mme Constant along with her partner Olivier Gagliardi founded Ella K Parfums at the end of 2017 opening a boutique in Paris. Mme Constant was inspired by the women travelers of the early part of the 20th century. She cites Karen Blixen, Ella Maillart, and Alexandra David-Neel on the website as some of the people she used to create her fictional heroine, Ella K. The perfumes will chronicle her travels.
The seven perfumes I have send Ella across Asia and Africa except for one in which she pauses in Florence, Italy for a romantic adventure. That’s the one which caught my attention. It is called Baiser de Florence.
The backstory describes Ella and a paramour enjoying the wonders of Florence. After visiting the Uffizi Gallery they push their way into one of the churches. A stolen kiss within the cathedral is the moment captured in Baiser de Florence.
Mme Constant captures that moment of standing in an old church after coming from outside. The smells are the incense and the polished wood over the cold stone. That is where Baiser de Florence opens. Silvery incense and polished cedar are first. The incense has that preferred metallic edge I enjoy. The cedar is dulled as if it has been waxed over and over. It is a more diffuse effect for what usually comes off as a clean woodiness. There is a chill to their combined scents which is the stone surrounding you. Mme Constant slowly adds myrrh to the incense making things warmer. The scent of the iris cosmetics reminds you that Ella is standing next to you. This is a shimmering iris powder effect which finds an ideal set of partners in the resins of incense and myrrh. As you lean in for a kiss the scent of musky skin adds an underpinning to a kiss so sweet a figurative drop of vanilla represents it in the perfume.
Baiser de Florence has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am late to discovering this new endeavor of Mme Constant, yet I always am happy to discover new perfume. My impression of Ella K, as a whole, is Mme Constant is enjoying the travels of her heroine. For me to follow on her journeys it begins with a kiss in Florence courtesy of Baiser de Florence.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples I purchased.
There are brands which have picked a perfume lane to travel in. Those brands will mine every shade and nuance of the style they have chosen. This is certainly true of Narciso Rodriguez who have been doing this with musk-centric perfumes for fifteen years. Over thirty-plus releases they have kind of exhausted the variations. Now maybe it is time to try to improve on the more well-known. Narciso Rouge feels like that kind of perfume to me.
A team of perfumers, Sonia Constant and Nadege le Garlantezec, are responsible for designing Rouge. They go back and design around tropes familiar to those who love musk perfumes. Rose and iris as the floral, check. Cedar and vetiver as the base, check. Here is the difference, while the ingredients are nothing new there is an overt sultriness to Rouge that the perfumers manage to evoke I found engaging.
Nadege le Garlantezec
The opening is a lipstick rose accord of iris and rose. when this accord is done right it gives off a sense of sophistication and seduction. The perfumers do a great version here. It reminds me of lips perfectly lacquered in crimson lipstick; almost velvety in nature. The musks are titrated in over an hour or so. As the time goes on there is a classically sensual style of musk against the rose accord. It is sort of like a rough kiss on the perfect lips mussing up the perfection. The cedar comes in to try and clean things up with a greenish woody base. Vetiver accentuates the green quality of the wood finishing things off in a reliable manner.
Rouge has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I think it can be easy to dismiss new Narciso Rodriguez releases because there has been so many released. There is a bit of a sense of repetition beginning to set in. Rouge caused me to consider whether composing in a more typical style of musk isn’t still worth the effort.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Narciso Rodriguez.
One of my favorite perfume brands has been the Narciso Rodriguez line. One reason I enjoy them is right from the start, in 2003, the decision that this was going to be a collection which would be focused on musk. Throughout the years some of the perfumers best known for using musk in creative ways laid the foundation for Narciso Rodriguez to become synonymous with the ingredient. Late last year the most recent installment in this collection was released Narciso Rodriguez Santal Musc.
Santal Musc is the latest entry in the Oriental Musc Collection after Amber Musc from 2013 and Rose Musc in 2016. For This latest perfumers Caroline Sabas and Sonia Constant team up. What they have produced is classic spicy Oriental base accord featuring the two notes on the bottle.
The spice comes from cardamom in the beginning. Early on it seems like it is the lemon tinted refined cardamom. Over time it seems like some of the rawer green cardamom also arrives. At the same time ylang-ylang also comes up. For a moment the stickier cardamom inserts itself into the slightly oily ylang-ylang. It is an interesting combination. Which is when the musk comes to the fore. I like the way the slightly animalic nature harmonizes with the fatty floral. Now this might sound heavy but the perfumers mange to create something lighter in tone by using some of the expansive musks to add lift. Then an equally opaque sandalwood completes the Oriental effect. This all comes together rapidly which maybe makes the overall effect seem linear. I found it enjoyable while I was wearing it with out becoming inured to it.
Santal Musc has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
This is a lovely take on a musky Oriental. I’m not sure it creates new ground within the genre. Saying that it does create new space for the Narciso Rodriguez brand as it is the most Oriental of the three Oriental Musc Collection. What I admire is even on the thirtieth version of a musk perfume Narciso Rodriguez Santal Musc is staying the course started fifteen years ago beautifully.
Disclosure: This review is based on a smaple provided by Narciso Rodriguez.
There are times I get almost wholly inappropriate associations when I am trying a perfume. I don’t know if it is because New York Comic-Con is approaching but when I finally got around to trying the new Van Cleef & Arpels Moonlight Patchouli I had one. What kept springing into my mind was the question the comic book villain The Joker asks just before he guns down Bruce Wayne’s parents, “Did you ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” It has nothing to do with the perfume which is quietly beautiful; as far from being a super villain as it can get.
What got me thinking about The Joker is the difficulty many perfumers have with patchouli as a keynote. There are so many ways it can unbalance an architecture. Especially when it is used in high concentrations. One technique which is used less frequently is to dial it back making it less obstreperous. In Moonlight Patchouli perfumer Sonia Constant chooses to take this path. The patchouli here is made opaque then combined with some familiar partners which are also treated with similar opacity. It truly felt like Mme Constant took her patchouli out for a spin in the rose garden underneath the full moon.
Moonlight Patchouli presents its transparent version of the titular note with a flourish of bergamot. As the patchouli rises it begins to circle in a holding pattern before some of the more challenging facets become apparent. Instead there are hints but mostly it is an herbal quality which suffuses Moonlight Patchouli. Mme Constant brings in powdery orris and spicy Bulgarian rose. As she did with the patchouli Mme Constant treats these as veils instead of scarves. What this does is form an atypical iris rose patchouli accord notable for its softness. The final flare is an equally soft leather which wraps all of this up in a gentle embrace.
Moonlight Patchouli has 12-14 hour longevity but below average sillage.
There are many within my perfume circle who do not like patchouli for all of its characteristic earthiness. I am going to be interested to see how they react to Moonlight Patchouli. I believe like it is something which might attract them because it isn’t so aggressive. I appreciate it because of the feather-light touch Mme Constant applied throughout the construction. With a deft hand she was able to take patchouli out for a dance in the pale moonlight.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Van Cleef & Arpels.
Of the mainstream designer fragrance collections; Tom Ford has consistently been one of the best. Since the release in 2006 of Black Orchid I could make the case that the 16 releases in the Signature collection are overall more cohesive and better than the pricier Tom Ford Private Blends. The newest release Orchid Soleil actually seems to improve upon one of the most recently released Private Blends.
Orchid Soleil was composed by perfumer Sonia Constant. The press release says this is meant to be a “summer” version of Black Orchid. It is definitely a summer style perfume but its relationship to Black Orchid is tenuous at best, bar sharing half of the name on the bottle. Orchid Soleil has a much closer relationship to another Tom Ford fragrance with which it shares half of its name as well; the Private Blend Soleil Blanc released a few months ago. That perfume was a tuberose exploration of the suntan lotion style of fragrance. Orchid Soleil also contains tuberose but in a more prominent way. It also provides that viscosity endemic to suntan lotion by using a sweet whipped cream accord, making this feel like an edible version.
Mme Constant opens with a sun flare of bitter orange and pink pepper. She also employs the top-note musk of Sylkolide to provide that hint of tanned skin. The tuberose comes next and it is as if a floral scented suntan lotion has been applied with enough SPF to block out the citrus. There is a bit of greenish lily to modulate the tuberose a bit. Then Mme Constant literally whips up a creamy accord of patchouli, vetiver, vanilla, chestnut cream, cypress, and cashmeran. Taken together this is an unctuous creamy accord that the vanilla and chestnut make into a subversive gourmand.
Orchid Soleil has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I likened Soleil Blanc, in my review, to the soft lingering smell of suntan lotion on a beach wrap the next day. Orchid Soleil is probably the smell of that very suntan lotion right after you apply it. I have been wearing this in the heat of the early summer and this might be the most purely fun Tom Ford perfume ever. It is summery. It is gourmand-y. It seems to be winking at me with a sly smile. I am happy to wink back and luxuriate in this all summer long.
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
One of the most reasonably priced fragrance lines is Yves Rocher. Sold only through their website it is often a bit of a gamble to try one of the fragrances blind. If you buy anything they are very generous with their samples which can help make a choice a little less sightless. Like many of the modestly priced brands it takes a bit of trial and error to find the ones which stand out. The first Yves Rocher release of 2016, Cuir Vetiver, is one which stands out.
One thing which made me interested in Cuir Vetiver was the shape of the bottle. One of the very best releases by Yver Rocher was 2013’s Ambre Noir. Cuir Vetiver comes in a similar looking container with the same font. Sonia Constant is the perfumer behind it all. On the website Mme Constant states, “I imagined a leather fragrance with bright facets…” What I like about that statement is a perfume named Cuir Vetiver you might imagine being very heavy. Mme Constant does brighten it up quite a bit while still having enough cuir and vetiver to make the name still have meaning.
The brightness comes right away with a lively bergamot. As a partner Mme Constant adds a bit of lavender. The lavender is the more floral form of the ingredient. It provides a contrast to the heart notes of cedar and vetiver. The very strong lines of both notes provide the framework for the leather accord to appear. This leather accord is composed of amyris, patchouli, and tonka. It’s not quite refined enough to remind me of suede nor is it animalic enough to be a rawer version of leather. It seems to sit closer to the suede side of the spectrum. It definitely has the brightness and lift Mme Constant described. The base is amber and vanilla; a sweet warm comfort.
Cuir Vetiver has 4-6 hour longevity and below average sillage.
For those who consider longevity something important in the fragrances you buy Cuir Vetiver like most of the Yves Rocher releases has some of the lowest amount of longevity. On the other hand, they are so modestly priced that I have never had a problem reapplying in the middle of the day.
Cuir Vetiver is another really good perfume in the Yver Rocher collection. Mme Constant pulls off an interesting take on leather and vetiver while keeping the cost down. Cuir Vetiver feels like a triumph of brains over budget.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from Yves Rocher with purchase.