jtdjtd's Perfume Reviews

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06/28/2018
5 Awards
When Amazone launched in 1974 the woody floral was a sensible and well-populated genre. Ranging from heavily aldehydic numbers like l’Air du Temps and Fleurs de Rocailles to glowing classics like le Dix and le De, woody florals had always been above reproach. But the times they were a-changin’ and the perfumes that weren’t keeping pace were starting to seem perfunctory and stale. Floral aldehydes had been dominant for so long that they had developed coded meanings to those in the know. Chanel 5 was sophisticated, l’Air de Temps was naive, Estée was tight-assed. But to the great majority of people who smelled them they were just soapy and antiquated. Woody florals struggled to strike the attitude that would appeal to the young woman of the 1970s. New green perfumes like Chanel 19 and Diorella spoke to a more provocative femininity and found an eager audience. Amazone seems designed to find a middle ground between old and new styles. Whether it was successful is difficult to answer.

Amazone would likely have seemed too blatantly fruity to the woman who wore Calèche, Guy Robert’s aldehydic woody floral that was the only other female fragrance Hermès offered in 1974. Traditional woody florals carried the citrus topnotes needed to create a pyramid but Amazone put fruit front and center. It was a starchy green floral built from taut spring flowers and apparently a whopping dose of blackcurrant. It was crisp rather than lush and while it was a new style for Hermès, it had the conservative sensibility of the house.

To the modern nose shaped by florals like Escada Chiffon Sorbet and Alain Delon Samourai Pinkberry (an actual perfume, apparently) Amazone comes off like most other woody florals from previous generations. Pick your favorite word of disdain–they’ve all been used. Mumsy, frumpish, dowdy, démodé. Amazone was Hermès’s first attempt to find a young female market and the brand wasn’t known for nurturing a socially progressive buyer. Amazone didn’t try—or didn’t try hard enough—to target the boho bougie style that Dior and Chanel nailed with Diorella and Cristalle. The perfume’s warrior name implied an audacious femininity that the perfume didn’t deliver. Hermès seem to have gotten a foot in the door to the rising feminism of the decade but never quite opened it and marched through. The image of femininity it conjured was conflicted and contradictory, a bit like another oddity of the era, the folk-singing nun.

With Amazone, Hermès mediated the youth movement of the era by effectively ignoring it, a pattern the marque would repeat when it launched the jaunty Eau de Cologne Hermès/Eau d’Orange Vert into the heart of the punk era in 1979. Denial or cultural tone-deafness. Pick your choice.

But time heals all blah, blah and vintage Amazone is an excellent wear today for anyone who chooses to reclaim it. (There are plenty of vintage bottles still available.) The florals are dynamic and the woods are rich but understated. The perfume has an acidulated snap that flouts today’s ongoing trend for sweetened fruits and florals. It’s a wonderful bit of irony that defying trend–which made Amazone seem out of place in 1974–makes it seem novel today.

Maybe it’s a result of my Catholic schooling by nuns. Maybe it’s my contemplation of the the self-restraint involved in wearing a full religious habit. Either way, the singing nun routine strikes me as just the right kind of kink and I happily wear Amazone while the refrain of “Dominique” echoes through my head.

from scenthurdle.com


06/28/2018
5 Awards
In their roles as artistic director and perfumer, Lutens and Sheldrake have explored their central woody accord many times, taking it in a syrupy-spiced direction with Arabie, Miel de Bois and Daim Blond and in a more overtly gourmand direction with Un Bois Vanille and Five O’Clock au Gingembre. Overall, there’s been a tendency to hold close their to their signature wood/fruit compositional style but with their soli-floral perfumes Sheldrake and Lutens range much further afield. The perfumes run from pretty and tame (Sa Majesté la Rose & Un Lys) to ferocious (Tubereuse Criminelle & Iris Silver Mist*). La Vierge de Fer falls in line with two other perfumes the brand, A La Nuit (2000) and Datura Noir (2001). Let’s call them the Crass Florals.

All three of the Crass Florals share an over-the-topness that defuses any solemnity the Lutens line might have accrued over the years. Lutens himself has seen enough fashion over the years that he seems to know to pepper ‘serious’ design with camp. La Vierge de Fer’s depiction of lily is less olfacto-realistic than A La Nuit’s jasmine but only slightly so. The unexpected lily-pear pairing takes a moment to come into focus clearly but once it does, it makes perfect sense. The two aromas, the flower and the fruit, share a musky connection that might not be obvious but is smartly manipulated by Sheldrake, who makes the unexpected pairing fit together perfectly. The prickly mouth feel of a bite of pear is recreated with a shellac-like musky tone that cuts sweetness and allows flavor to shine through just as it does in a pear on the cusp of ripeness. La Vierge de Fer’s lily is green and expansive, quite different than the wafting vanillic lily Sheldrake composed for Lutens Un Lys. The pairing of flower and fruit is angular but not jarring and has less sting than the lost pear–florals Jean-Michel Duriez created for Jean Patou.

La Vierge de Fer lacks Datura Noir syrup but shares the luminosity and billowing projection suggestive of tropical climes. Also like Datura Noir, La Vierge maintains super-sized proportions into the hearnotes but finds a more tenable scale by dry-down. The lily remains coherent throughout and the perfume neither loses its shape nor collapses into a ‘skin scent’ and demonstrates Sheldrake’s particular talent for coherent, satisfying drydowns.

La Vierge de Fer provided a welcome break in the grey drift of Lutens’s recent Oedipal florals. 2013’s La Vierge de Fer was preceded by the receding-carnation of 2011’s Vitriol d’Oeillet and followed by the bleak white-out of 2014’s l’Orpheline and grey skies of 2015’s La Religieuse. The muffled, blanketing tones of these woody florals seem at odds with the specificity of many of the line’s earlier florals. They were framed by cryptic allusions by Lutens to revisited childhood memories and distant female authority figures. I believe they were intended to convey a sort of meditative sense of distance and isolation but as a collection they don’t build on each other to express anything but an uncomfortable listlessness.

Vierge de Fer started in the Palais Royal Exclusive line (the bell jars) and eventually found its way to the export line (the rectangular spray bottles.) I came to The Iron Maiden out of sequence, well after The Caustic Carnation, The Orphan and The Nun. The name and the general trend in the Lutens line led me to expect a dirge of a perfume but La Vierge de Fer is neither torturous, as the name implies, nor grim like the other latter-day Lutens florals.

* Yeah, iris is a root but is described qualitatively as a floral scent.

from scenthurdle.com


06/28/2018
3 Awards
Clair de Musc’s musk accord isn’t as much like Muscs Koublai Khan’s as Fleur de Citronnier’s is. It’s ‘cleaner’ and higher pitched and has the hallmarks of the ‘white’ musks: soap, sweetness and soft-cuddliness. But here’s also where you’ll find Clair de Musc’s resemblance to Muscs Koublai Khan. Muscs Koublai Khan has just enough cleanliness to it to make you realize how dirty it is. The honeyed rose creates a feeling of purity that gets completely run over by the bawdiness of the the musk. If there is a narrative of innocence lost embedded in the perfume, the story is told in about as long as it takes to say, “Wow. Innocence lost.”

Clair de Musc tips the balance way in the other direction. The clean musk accord aims to cover any errant animalism but every now and again something unclean pops through. The scent of scalp, a whiff of armpit. It makes you realize this perfume isn’t about cleanliness. It’s about hygiene not quite holding its own against the scent of the human body. Remember the story of the first use of historical eaux like Eau de Cologne and Florida Water? They were for covering up the funk of unwashed bodies. Clair de Musc gives you that experience without you ever having to have a funky body yourself.

Some of the best musk perfumes are a variation on the idea, though perfumes like Kiehl’s Musk No 1, Amouage Gold Man and Les Nereides Fleur Poudrée de Musc all land much further in the funk than Clair de Musc. The perpetual resurfacing of bodily scents emphasizes the degree of restraint needed to keep from falling into the indulgence of the flesh. There’s a sexiness to the perfume that’s easy to miss if it’s not your bag.

From the angle of 2018 Clair de Musc is an interesting alternative to the trend in women’s perfumery toward dull white musky drydowns. The perfume’s musk notes are more detailed than the default pillowy basenotes built into so many mainstream florals.

from scenthurdle.com


06/28/2018
3 Awards
Fleur de Citronnier is transparent. Not radiant or sheer but straightforward. The arc of the perfume is an easy but entertaining wear. There are no curveballs—spend one minute in this perfume and you pretty much know where your day is headed. Boozy citrus and a raspy, juicy floral accord take you into the heart of the perfume. A honeyed waxy foundation outlasts all the other notes. It’s the framework of the entire perfume, lasting through the lightly animalic floral drydown. Fleur de Citronnier isn’t the most complex wear, but the ride is so smooth and the moments are so lush that I find myself reaching for the bottle the minute I lay eyes on it. Waxy lipstick and a mouthwatering floral-citrus note combine to make Fleur de Citronnier a big tongue-kiss of a perfume.

Fleur de Citronnier has a musk accord that’s shaped a bit like the one in Muscs Koublai Khan. The two have a waxy sweetness that runs on the boozy side and a big, sculptural floral accord. Muscs Koublai Khan’s sweaty rose makes it a more down-and-dirty wear than FdC’s upstanding petitgrain-inflected citrus flower but not by a lot. They’re both seductive–they just move differently. Muscs Koublai Khan is an irresistible force, albeit a slow one. Fight it and it will likely take you down. But give in? There’s some serious pleasure there. Fleur de Citronnier has a much more buoyant quality than Muscs Koublai Khan. It’s built for gentleman-drag, the Vienna Waltz and garden parties.

from scenthurdle.com


06/28/2018
5 Awards
Back in the day, counter-culturalism had style. The movement’s cri de coeur that the personal was political gave fashion new political significance. Style became a function of free speech and Hippies and Yippies groomed and dressed both to identify themselves to fellow travelers and to scare the stiffs. But costume wasn’t the only prop. The culture war of the ’60s and ’70s took place on an olfactory level.

As much as hair and costume, scent drew the line between us and them. To the straights, head shop scents like musk, patchouli and amber oils meant poor hygiene and the imagined miasma of a Haight Ashbury commune. To counter-culturalists traditional perfumes and colognes would have been the stink of The Man. A problem with this sort of transactional style is that it’s easy to co-opt symbols and drain them of their meaning and intent. In 1967, bellbottoms and peasant blouses were far out. By 1972 the patterns for them could probably be found in the back of issues of Family Circle Magazine. In the early ’70s amber was the scent of rebellion. By 1978, the hippie-amber gave way to fancy French perfume. If niche was an alternative to the mainstream perfume, the scents embraced within the counter-culture were a logical place for the early indies to plant their flag and l’Artisan Parfumeur had already made its reputation on amber. The brand’s famous amber balls were its first product when the line launched in 1976. Perfumes didn’t enter the line-up until 1978 when l’Eau d’Ambre launched the perfume line, along with Mure et Musc, Santal, Vanilia, Tuberose.

The perfume is simple in that it derives from its principal materials–at no moment during its evolution would you ever imagine that you’re not smelling a potent amber-patch accord. Yet even as early as 1978, Jean-Claude Ellena’s ability to make resins sheer was apparent. A mercifully unsweetened dose of vanilla keeps the perfume from ever falling into goopy head shop syrup. The perfume has been attributed to both Ellena and Jean-François Laporte. Perhaps Ellena was perfumer and Laporte was artistic director, as was the case with some of the other l’Artisan perfumes. The two might have looked to the head shop for inspiration, but l’Eau d’Ambre was no sloppy copy. As an artist trained in compositional rigor and the dynamics of his materials Ellena managed to create something that, as hippies would appreciate, smells really fucking good, but stands up to the interrogation of olfactory art.

Ellena navigated the risks of his chosen materials smartly, avoiding both the lotus-eating laziness of head shop oils and the orientalist theatricality of the Shalimar set. He focussed on labdanum’s mineralic side, giving the perfume a whiff of paint or putty that reminds me of the scent of an artist’s studio. The top and heartnotes are boosted by geranium. In the setting of an overtly resinous accord geranium acts like a breeze that blows out the cobwebs that can gather around patchouli and labdanum. It counteracts the density of the central amber accord, a trick performed by bergamot in oriental perfumes from Emeraude to Youth Dew to Opium. l’Eau d’Ambre’s aromatic geranium creates a tension that distinguishes the perfume from its head-bobbing hippie predecessors. Rather than complicate the composition, geranium streamlines it, reminding the nose that despite the perfume’s simplicity it has deliberate point of view.

L’Eau d’Ambre’s success lies in its simplicity, perhaps one reason that it has weathered materials restrictions and any possible reformulation so gracefully. The materials are allowed to state their own case without adornment or needless complexity. L’Eau d’Ambre wasn’t the first indie perfume but it was a frontrunner and demonstrated how well the niche movement bridged the desire for new, clear, materials-based fragrances and the long history of oriental perfumes.

from scenthurdle.com


06/28/2018
4 Awards
Dyptique’s Fleur de Pear was released about a year after Le Cri de la Lumière and is also based on an ambrette accord. If I had to characterize the difference between the two, Le Cri stems from the overlapping of its notes and accords and Fleur de Pear is build from a sequence of consecutive musk accords that appear one after the other. Convergence. Divergence. Two different approaches to ostensibly similar accords.

Fleur de Peau moves very differently than Le Cri. Wearing it is like strolling from room to room in a large house. Each musk is joined to the next in a chain. The top note is a papery iris. Then a starchy musk à la Mugler Cologne. Then a grainy pear, then shoe polish, then waxy skin. No accord goes away entirely, but they don’t merge. They just reappear periodically. This olfactory junket is captivating in that it’s so meticulous and methodical. It’s not just the aromas that oscillate, it’s the tones. The iris is cry and crinkly, the rose is sheer, the pear is grainy, the skin note is fatty and waxy. The accords maintain their edges and don’t bleed into each other. They simply rotate.

Diptyque’s ambrette is more animalic than Perfume d’Empire’s and it’s very human. The Diptyque ventures much further into the sweaty-skin facet of ambrette, which can make the perfume seem a bit odd as it moves from sweat to laundry soap to floral bouquet. If you tune in closely to the perfumes fluctuations, though, it’s compelling.

The specificity of the composition creates an interesting opportunity for perfume critics. The fluctuation of the perfume, its progression through distinct olfactory territories creates the opportunity to consider composition without referring to formula per se. It can be described in terms of its qualities and can be analyzed based on its dynamics. Any perfume can be viewed this way, but Fleur de Peau lends itself particularly well to this approach.

from scenthurdle.com


06/28/2018
6 Awards
From the first sniff of Cri, you’re drawn directly to the center of the perfume. Perfumer Marc-Antoine Corticchiato even factors in the volitility of the alcohol burning off and uses it to segue into a lustrous accord with the olfactory dynamic of an eau de vie. The topnote is like the scent of Poire Williams brandy or Slivovitz, where the fruit is pressed so far into the alcohol that it is reduced to essentials. It’s neither juicy nor sweet and has an incisive slant. My note from first sampling Cri de la Limière reads, “Super fruity but dry as fuck.” Not the loftiest of insights, but apt. The Poire Williams note is the perfect backdrop for a sleek iris note. Woody, rooty, cool to the touch. Matching iris to the desiccated fruit brings out the vegetal nature of ambrette.

Cri de la Lumière is a closely tailored perfume that holds to a tight dynamic range. Rather than broaden the composition the musk accord focuses it, though the perfume sidesteps the strictness that a minimalist approach can impart. The rosy, fruity facets of ambrette are balanced by a plastic quality that gives a deliberate synthiness to the perfume. The fruit appears embedded in clear lucite and the slightly peony-like berry/rose gives a transparent pink sheen to the perfume. The effect is perfectly calibrated and though subtle, is durable. The fruit gives Cri de la Lumière a stained-glass effect and despite the specificity of the fruit notes, the perfume reads as fairly abstract.

The perfume’s woodier side reveals itself periodically like a bit of slip showing. Once I spotted it, I couldn’t stop looking for it to reappear. This sort of diversion is a good example of how Corticchiato’s perfumes engage the wearer. Whether in a forceful perfume like Tabac Tabou or a more watercolor one like Osmanthus Interdite his perfumes reward your attention with engaging olfactory shapes and transitions. The perfume plays subtly with the animalism found in musk ambrette. (Musk ambrette smells like a sweaty, imaginary fruit.) Of the various dimensions of the material, the animalic feature is among the most durable. Corticchiato doesn’t hide the material’s ‘skin’ side but he does nest it fairly deep into the perfume, where is is a quiet foil to the plastic, acrylic details.

from scenthurdle.com


06/28/2018
4 Awards
Fazzolari calls his new perfume, “a celebration of the ancient and the contemporary” and names it Fontevraud, after a serially repurposed abbey in France. It is produced in a very limited run (50 bottles) in celebration of Los Angeles’s famed perfume retailer LuckyScent/ScentBar’s 15th anniversay. Combining a chypre with a fruity floral is a logical old/new combination, but as with Fontevraud Abbey’s cortège from monestery to prison to UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fazzolari’s Fontevraud is neither expected nor obvious. I’ll admit I had reservations when I saw the list of notes, which includes guava, rose and pear. Visions of Sophia Grosjman’s Calyx for Prescriptives came to mind. A gorgeous perfume, but perhaps the most hyperbolic fruity chypre ever made.

A chypre is not a new undertaking for Fazzolari, who previously nailed the genre with the voluptous Au Delà/Narcisse and the gleaming Seyrig, but true to his claim Fazzolari devises something new. Most attempts to resuscitate the genre try to fill in the hole left after oakmoss and all the other noxious materials were dug out. They shovel in patchouli, laundry musks and PR bullshit about how authentic the perfume is. But they’re counterfeit and they smell forged. The effort of wearing them without feeling like a fraud is too much for me.

Fazzolari punks us all by creating one of the mossiest perfume in recent history that doesn’t actually smell like a traditional chypre. Fontevraud uses the chypre’s compositional configuration as a starting place to build a perfume with a texture different than either the time-honored or spurious versions. It focuses on the material’s resinous facets more than its inky and smokey qualities and lends itself to darker hues like dry fruit and spicy balsams.

Rose chypres were known for their brassiness. The outspokenness of the flower often gave the perfumes hulking presences. Rose is seeded throughout Fontevraud, from top to base and from resinousness to fruitiness, but I feel as if I see it through a mirror. Visible, apparent but just out of reach no matter how close. Rose lines the whole perfume and carries a big stick but doesn’t push its way to the front. It’s a great way to tame a big note without actually declawing it.

Fruit is another common chypre component but guava and pear are unorthodox picks. Fazzolari plays both fruits against type. He avoids the predictable tropical clichés of guava by giving it a dark edge. It’s as if he compresses the fruit’s distinctive redolence into a compact shape and, while it smells like guava, it smells dark, almost bitter. On the tree or in the kitchen pear’s distinctive sweet scent really only comes forward when the fruit is ripe. Before that it smells more woody than fruity. Fontevraud plays on the woody facet of pear by emphasizing the sharp, almost vinegary taste of the skin of the fruit. Fontevraud’s pear appears within the first minute that the perfume is applied but the reveal is somewhat startling. A mineralic opening segues into a mushroom note (Fazzolari says it’s a function of opoponax) which in turn becomes a grainy pear note. It’s a surprising transition that took me a few wearings to wrap my head around but now I give myself a minute or so after applying Fontevraud just to get taken for the ride. It’s a blast.

The fruit tones that Fazzolari comes up with are unexpected but appealing and he has played fruit against type before. Monserrat uses a peach/grapefruit/osmanthus accord to create one of the more sophisticated fruity-florals you’ll find. Unsettled‘s smoky, buttery pineapple manages to be sultry without relying on the simple olfactory language of pineapple=tropical=exotic. Fazzolari calls Fontevraud bright but I disagree. By turning such uninhibited fruits into introverts and creating a reticent rose he designs a stylishly dark perfume that works for the same reason a little black dress or a tuxedo works. It’s impeccable and has a sexy silhouette.

from scenthurdle.com


03/02/2018
6 Awards
Chanel says Gabrielle is composed around four classic white flowers: tuberose, orange blossom, ylang ylang and jasmine. They call it, "the perfect white flower." Olivier Polge has called Gabrielle "abstract", an apparent allusion to Chanel's monumental abstract floral, no 5. Abstraction implies veering away from duplicating a given scent and instead reimagining it. Gabrielle is abstract in that it doesn't smell like any of these four flowers per se. In fact it doesn't smell appreciably botanical. Despite the press release talking points describing the perfume's flower as "imaginary" and "perfect", Gabrielle is less an ideal flower than the mean average of a set of 'floral' notes.

Gabrielle is linear for the most part but it has an identifiable drydown. The perfume grows less specific as time passes, though not inadvertently. The drydown seems intentionally indistinct, recreating the risk-averse, bleary musky/woody finish found in many mainstream perfumes geared toward the young female perfume buyer. To its credit, though Gabrielle is a fruity floral it's neither gourmand nor particularly sweet. A mildly acerbic twist runs through the perfume's duration, cropping any nascent sweetness.

Gabrielle hits its marks and doesn't flub its lines but it doesn't inspire. A noncommittal floral mix leading to a fairly anonymous drydown gives Gabrielle a shapelessness that undercuts Polge's efforts to create an ideal white flower. The composition seems specifically calibrated to create soft-focus haze and a dull shine. It's a ho-hum vision of femininity from the house that produced challenging and powerful feminine perfumes like 19, Cristalle and Coco. I don't doubt the expertise and technical proficiency involved in creating a perfume like Gabrielle. It performs precisely as intended and accomplishes its design goals but it reads as a collection of non-negatives. It's attractive in that it's not ugly. It's appealing in that it's not offensive. Again, this strategy seems deliberate. The most flankable perfumes tend to be those that don't commit too strongly to any olfactory characteristics and I imagine it won't be too long until Gabrielle Eau Fraiche, Gabrielle Eau Tendre and Gabrielle Edition Blanche hit the shelves.

(from scenthurdle.com)


03/02/2018
9 Awards
I had an ah-ha moment when I tried vintage Tabu for the first time. Suddenly Youth Dew, Opium and Coco made perfect sense---they were descendants of Tabu. Perfumer Jean Carles approach seems based on the premise that if the oriental genre is built from forceful materials and ferocious tones, why disguise it with tassels and trim? Why try to tame it?

Tabu backs up its vaguely threatening name with a strapping, seductive fragrance. It's an intimidating perfumes. The combination of aggressive, spiced florals and powdered leather is just one example of the hard/soft conflict seeded throughout Tabu. (Spoiler alert: the hard edge always wins.) Tabu investigates olfactory extremes without dicking around with the comfortable center. Vanillic amber oriental perfumes often dive straight for the soft middle ground and wind up a bit eye-glazey. The trap for the perfumer is emphasizing coziness at the expense of spine and coming up with olfactory comfort food.

Tabu’s dense powdery opening is in fact sweet but it’s a red herring. As the sweetness of the topnote settles, the acerbic edge of the spiced resin accord comes forward to create a fascinating counterbalance. The powder lasts well into the long-arc heartnotes and the way that it’s cantilevered off the bitter base of resins focusses attention more on texture than aroma. The cinnamon-clove spices have a similarly tricky balancing act. They alternate between hot and cold without ever dwindling to lukewarm. Carles seems willing to concede the aesthetic middle ground, finding more value at the ends of the spectrum. Tabu is technically an oriental but had as much in common with the big tobacco and leather perfumes of the 20s and 30s as it did with the recumbent Shalimar. No fear of lack of spine here.

Jacques Guerlain’s Shalimar is considered the superlative oriental perfume, and for valid reasons. It has superior form and elaborate, sophisticated style. It also has a larger-than-life Auntie Mame quality. Next to Shalimar's layered, accessorized style, Tabu cames off as starched and corseted. Carles’ style was less opulent than Guerlain’s but not a bit less complex. Carles differed from Guerlain in that he found that the richness of the oriental was not in the drape but in the tailoring.

(from scenthurdle.com)


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