2015 launches: 16 posts

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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Tom Ford Noir Extreme : Fragrance Review

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Elisa on Tom Ford Noir Extreme and olfactory desserts for men (and not only).

First there was Thierry Mugler Angel, widely credited with creating both the gourmand and “fruitchouli” categories; perfumer Olivier Cresp poured ethylmaltol – the smell of burnt sugar – into a patchouli-heavy oriental base, starting a craze for caramel in perfume that hasn’t much slowed in 20 years. Then came Angel’s counterpart A*Men, also released in 1996, making the world safe for gourmands for men. A*Men smelled shockingly like mint chocolate chip ice cream, but retained its masculinity thanks to lavender and plenty of that same earthy, mothball-like patchouli seen in Angel.

tom ford noir extreme

Since its release, it has spawned plenty of variations. In addition to all the A*Men flankers (including my favorite, A*Men Pure Malt), other gourmand-friendly lines like Hanae Mori and Viktor & Rolf have offered up sweet scents for men. Take HM (1997), a crazy but appealing mix of candy notes, lavender and lemon. Later, in 2000, came Lolita Lempicka au Masculin, a delicious licorice fougère. And the release of Spicebomb in 2012, with all its smoky, leathery tobacco goodness, felt like a masculine gourmand revival.

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Alaia Paris by Azzedine Alaia : Perfume Review

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Taking Alaïa note by note is complicated, but since Azzedine Alaïa became famous for his unusually structured knitted dresses, perhaps, this is only to be expected. While most fashion designers don’t convey much of their aesthetic in fragrance lines they launch (see Miu Miu), Alaïa is an exception. Fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa wanted to incorporate recollections from his Tunisian childhood but avoid any trite “oriental” references; the idea instead is to convey couture with a personal touch. For me it works.

alaia

Alaïa is a transparent modern floral, with a velvety woody-musky drydown. Alaïa doesn’t shock, but it is different from the legions of fruity bonanzas and cotton candy laced new releases: its combination of abstract flowers and mineral, wet chalk nuances is surprising; its manner of rendering animalic notes is novel, and its gauzy but enveloping sillage is alluring. It’s a promising debut.

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L’Artisan Parfumeur Noir Exquis : Perfume Review

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I love a good gourmand. Weaving notes of vanilla, caramel, and other delicious things, fragrances in this genre are my ultimate comfort blankets. The moment that days get shorter and mornings cold, the tray above my perfume drawer starts to fill up with my favorite gourmands–Pink Sugar, Lolita Lempicka, Kenzo L’Éléphant, Parfums de Nicolaï Vanille Tonka and L’Artisan Traversée du Bosphore.

The latter is interesting because the sweetness of Turkish delight and vanilla are balanced by a generous dose of crisp green notes and saffron. Created by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, Traversée du Bosphore is an example of contrasted gourmand I especially enjoy. Wearing it is exciting, because one moment you experience a fresh breeze and the next a voluptuous embrace. This also seemed to be the premise of Noir Exquis, a fragrance by Duchaufour that blends rich notes of candied chestnuts, coffee and tonka bean with orange blossom and citrus.

marzipan fruit

Since Noir Exquis is meant for both men and women, it doses sugar lightly and instead emphasizes the woody, balsamic layers. At first, it’s earthy and nutty, hinting at its patchouli and coffee soon to follow, but there are enough floral accents to brighten up the darkness. Based on the name, I expected something heavy and rich, but Noir Exquis is unexpectedly radiant.

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