New Perfume Launches: 130 posts

Reviews of new fragrance launches

Hermes Muguet Porcelaine : Perfume Review

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Last week I talked about perfumery as “the art of fortunate proportions,” and one of the best examples for this idea is the newest fragrance from Hermès, Muguet Porcelaine. Created by Jean-Claude Ellena just as he prepared to give over the reins of the house to Christine Nagel, it feels like a recap of his work over the past few decades. Ellena is not leaving Hermès, and he will be delighting his fans with other perfumes, and yet, there is something nostalgic in Muguet Porcelaine, a tender lily of the valley.

muguet-porcelaine

Muguet Porcelaine is also a tribute to a legendary perfumer who influenced Ellena, Edmond Roudnitska. Ellena, however, denies it, commenting that it was time to create lily of the valley for Hermès’s portfolio, but it’s hard not to spot the parallels between the two. In my review for the Financial Times’s HTSI column, I follow the clues. Muguet Porcelaine is delicate without being precious and ethereal without being evanescent. It lingers for several hours and creates an illusion of a springtime breeze.

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Hermes Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate : Perfume Review

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As in fashion, fragrance outfits that engage in-house perfumers find themselves in a bind. On the one hand, one expects new designers to exercise their vision, but on the other, the fragrance industry is far more conservative than couture and they have to maintain the house’s creed. Christine Nagel’s first fragrance for Hermès, Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate, is a promising sign of things to come, because not only does she retain the radiance lit by Jean-Claude Ellena, she adds curves and sultry touches of her own, even in a fairly straightforward cologne.

rhubarb

Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate is my rhubarb-rose sherbet in perfume form, albeit with a moderate dose of sugar. Since the French word écarlate, comes from the Persian word saqerlat–do you hear the echoes of “scarlet”, vivid red?–this association is fitting. Nagel softens the green, acidic edge of rhubarb with berries, but she retains enough of its savory, green nuances to make sophisticated perfume and not confiture.

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Penhaligon’s Ostara : Fragrance Review

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My tastes for white florals are indiscriminate, encompassing everything from vulgar things like Guerlain Mayotte to prim school governess types like Jessica McClintock. But even I can get tired of the genre and retreat to other pastures for a change–dry woods and damp mosses, perhaps. This is what happened for most of last year, when I was so satiated with white florals that I declared a moratorium on new acquisitions. But it’s a testament to Pehnaligon’s Ostara’s loveliness that despite my best intentions, I ended up breaking my resolve.

ostara

Ostara shines brightly to me for its surprising combination of the lush, decadent heft that makes lovers of white florals swoon and the exhilarating springtime freshness. Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour built the composition around the theme of narcissus, a flower that on a stem smells honeyed and indolic, but when turned into essence becomes leathery, musky and somber. Ostara melds both facets, but it stays on the sunny side.

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Yves Saint Laurent Oriental Collection Majestic Rose : Perfume Review

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It’s easy to dismiss the Oriental Collection from Yves Saint Laurent as yet another banal attempt to capture the attention of the Gulf markets. Hence, we have the luxury packaging, high prices and a trite press release. Noble Leather, Majestic Rose, Supreme Bouquet and Splendid Wood are said to be inspired by “the splendor of the East.” But overload of orientalism aside, the collection judged only on its olfactory merits is very good. The ideas are clever, interesting and well-executed. And, as I discovered when traveling in Oman, traditional Gulf perfumery is spectacular enough to emulate.

rose-india

In traditional Middle Eastern and Persian Gulf perfumery, rose and oud are important players. With the discovery of oud by European and American perfumes, dark roses have become common enough, and every line worth its prestige brand name has attempted them with varying levels of success. Blend rose with enough dark woods, and even a novice can approximate something vaguely “eastern”, but what makes traditional perfumery and fragrances like Majestic Rose interesting is their use of bright accents. Harmony, especially if we’re talking about dark, rich notes, is hard to achieve.

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Christian Dior Sauvage : Perfume Review

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Replace Alain Delon with Johnny Depp, add a generous dose of Bleu de Chanel in the mix, shorten the name–and voilà, a new bestseller in the making. Although this kind of launch often strikes me as lazy, its make a lot of marketing sense. Sauvage banks on the impressive heritage accrued by its predecessor Eau Sauvage, and what it lacks in originality it makes up with presence. If you complain that perfumes don’t last on you, then look no further. Sauvage will not leave you alone.

dior sauvage

On the other hand, those who would like complexity and interesting stories should take to other pastures. Sauvage offers neither. It’s fresh, bright and radiant, with a pearly toothed Colgate commercial in a perfume bottle. I predict that we will smell many similar fresh-enough-to-disinfect accords in other fragrances in the coming months.

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