4 stars: 392 posts

4 stars means “very good,” a fragrance with enough character to be memorable, and enough tenacity and diffusion to be noticed. It may either lack that ineffable “spark” that makes a perfume truly outstanding for me or else it may simply need more time on the market to determine its staying power.

Terry de Gunzburg Rose Infernale : Perfume Review

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Terry de Gunzburg is the kind of person I admire. She quit a career in medicine to train as a makeup artist, and thanks to her vision and dedication to quality, she has become so successful that she’s regularly called the Steve Jobs of makeup. Sounds odd, except that many of the cosmetics she launched have remained best sellers for decades, such as the famous Touche Éclat, a highlighter-concealer pen she created for Yves Saint Laurent. When she announced a perfume line two years ago, I prepared for fireworks.

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But the first launch was disappointing, proving that a lot of money doesn’t instantly translate into great perfume. The names of the fragrances, Rêve Opulent, Parti Pris, Lumière d’Epices, Ombre Mercure and Flagrant Délice, were more memorable than the scents themselves. (After I wrote this article, I realized that de Gunzburg now has 12 perfumes in its collection, including the ubiquitous Oud.) The problem is typical of niche brands—the lack of editing.

Two subsequent launches, Rose Infernale and Rouge Nocturne, also lack editing—why have two similar oriental roses?—but here, the rose lover in me tells the pedant to be quiet and just enjoy the ride. And I do. Rose Infernale, in particular, is a striking fragrance, and I’m addicted to its dark roses smoked over incense and sandalwood.

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Aedes de Venustas Palissandre d’Or : Perfume Review

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Aedes de Venustas is a niche’s niche. A brand developed by Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner, the owners of the eponymous New York artisanal perfume boutique. In collaboration with several renowned perfumers, they’ve released Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum, Copal Azur, Iris Nazarena, and Oeillet Bengale, all four standing out in the crowded niche field. The fifth launch, Palissandre d’Or, likewise has much to recommend itself.

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The concept is a new take on woods. Palisander, rosewood, is a precious variety, with a bright, crisp aroma that doesn’t resemble a wood as much as a flower. At the same time, it has sharpness and vigor, ideal qualities to weave into woody and oriental perfumes. Rosewood, on its own, is not a common theme, however, so Aedes’s decision to let it strike out solo is brave. Even more so is the request to perfumer Alberto Morillas to make it new and modern.

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Ralph Lauren Safari : Fragrance Review

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Elisa on Safari, a ’90s classic with an ’80s spirit.

The ‘80s were a time that fetishized “adventure” – I grew up watching movies that took a page from Heart of Darkness, portraying Americans or Brits confronting the terrifying Other-ness of primitive African, Asian, and aboriginal cultures. Today’s audiences would find most of these films (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Crocodile Dundee, etc.) unwatchably offensive, and rightly so; their cultural moment has passed.

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Ralph Lauren Safari, composed by Dominique Ropion, was released in 1990, but feels to me like an ‘80s scent (cusp years cling more tightly to the previous decade than the following, I’ve found). As a concept perfume, it perfectly fits the adventurist trend, and I associate those striking Bridget Hall ads that I saw in every magazine as a kid with the old Banana Republic stores. (If you’re younger than me, you might not remember that their stock in trade at the time was khaki shorts and branded t-shirts, not pinstriped office-wear.)

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Martin Margiela Replica Lazy Sunday Morning

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Some fragrances have great top notes, others tempt with you a gorgeous drydown, but without a beautiful sillage, the pleasure of wearing them is nil. The French word sillage refers to the perfume trail you leave behind, a spell cast on others as well as you. Martin Margiela’s Lazy Sunday Morning is nice enough on paper, but to fully experience the sheer chypre, you need to try it on skin. If you’re lucky to have a friend who wears it, you can experience how well Lazy Sunday Morning diffuses and the soft, gauzy wake it leaves behind them.

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Of course, this is true for many perfumes, which are composed of volatile essences, with unique rates of evaporation. This unromantically sounding idea, of molecules floating off your skin at different speeds, is what creates each scent’s aura, its melody and form. The intriguing aspect of Lazy Sunday Morning is that it’s part fresh cologne and part rosy chypre, oscillating between vivid aldehydes and dark moss, velvety rose and bitter patchouli. This interplay, well-modulated by musks, orange blossom, and green notes, is what gives this perfume its layered effect.

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Divine Spirituelle : Perfume Review

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Divine is a perfume brand from the region of Dinard in the north of France. It’s niche in terms of distribution, which is pretty much only the Dinard shop in Brittany and a couple of online retailers, but if your definition of niche is avant-garde and quirky, then Divine doesn’t fit. The collection is classically themed and understated. What makes Divine such an appealing brand is quality and polish. Nowhere is it more obvious than in its latest release, Spirituelle.

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Created in collaboration between Divine’s founder Yvon Mouchel and perfumer Richard Ibañez, Spirituelle is a rose. If you use perfumery jargon, an oriental rose, which merely means a rose laced with spices and incense. Since rose has a perfect affinity with dark, rich notes, there is nothing particularly unusual about Spirituelle’s theme. It hints at its sultry personality, but it’s still understated and soft. The allure of Spirituelle unfolds when lulled by its mild charms, you wear it to the office and suddenly, in the middle of another long, stressful day, find yourself wrapped in layers of petals and amber. It lingers for many hours on skin, changing ever so slightly, but every facet, every layer of it is delightful.

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