4 stars: 403 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.

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.

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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.

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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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L’Occitane Arlesienne : Fragrance Review

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Elisa on the return of an old-school rose.

Ultra-feminine and quite literal roses were popular during my childhood, in the ‘80s. Think Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose, which is fresh, pink, and photorealistic, but – somewhat undermining the delicacy of its namesake – possessing mushroom-cloud sillage and nuclear tenacity. Or Her Majesty’s Rose, the rose soliflore available at Victoria’s Secret, back when its aesthetic was more lacy-nightgown-in-a-country-cottage and less sex-bomb-in-garters. I had a coffret of perfume minis from VS when I was about 12, and the rose one, while pretty, reminded me distinctly of potpourri in antique shops.

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I apparently wasn’t the only one to make that association. Moving into the ‘90s, roses that smelled like roses were about as uncool as you could get. In junior high, my mall-going friends and I ditched Her Majesty’s Rose and the other overt florals and embraced Tranquil Breezes, an intense and distinctive cucumber-melon scent. Around that time the perfume I most wanted to smell like was Calvin Klein Escape. Over the next few years I ended up with bottles of CK One, L’Eau d’Issey, and Polo Sport – aquatic, blue-smelling calone bombs to a one!

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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.

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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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Jo Loves Pomelo : Perfume Review

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Andy reviews Jo Loves Pomelo and also discusses why grapefruit paired with vetiver is such a successful combination (with plenty of other perfume examples).

Jo Loves is the perfume company that Jo Malone founded independently in 2011, five years after leaving the Jo Malone brand as creative director. Estée Lauder’s infamous acquisition of Jo Malone was very old news by the time I developed an interest in perfume. And yet even today, as I indulge in the original lineup’s signature creams and bath oils, I can’t help but be reminded of the difficult decisions Jo Malone must have faced, to trade authority over her brand and her name for a piece of the Lauder fortunes.

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Now, as I orient myself to the pefumes from Jo Loves, Jo Malone’s newest personal business venture, I feel as though I am getting an authentic look at Jo Malone’s own creativity, as this focused collection feels personal, even autobiographical. Pomelo, the first perfume launched by Jo Loves, pleases and excites me, and is a particularly striking example of its creator’s talent and originality.

Fitting to Jo Malone’s signature fragrance style of simplicity and freshness, Jo Loves Pomelo is one of the most delightful citrus fragrances I have smelled recently. Like any good cologne, Jo Loves Pomelo provides ample refreshment, but where it really exceeds is in its intertwining of the shining citrus with a foil of earthy vetiver.

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