4 stars: 426 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.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Couleur Vanille : Perfume Review

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The combination of salt and vanilla is not common in perfumery, despite the ubiquity of these ingredients in modern patisserie. For one thing, salt is a fantasy impression created by certain marine and dry woody notes in fragrances, and its effect is cancelled out by the sweetness of vanilla. Also, when a perfume promises vanilla, we expect warm, creamy and cuddly–a bowl of custard, if you will. L’Artisan Parfumeur Couleur Vanille, however, dares to be different.

While retaining the creaminess and dark sweetness of vanilla, perfumer Aliénor Massenet, who worked with L’Artisan Parfumeur on this launch, blended fresh floral and salty notes to balance out the richness. The sweet and salt facets give Couleur Vanille its personality, right from the top notes.

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Carine Roitfeld Parfums George : Perfume Review

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In a memorable scene in Joris-Karl Huysman’s novel Against Nature, his character Des Esseintes is so inspired by reading Dickens that he decides to visit London. Yet, having traveled only as far as grey and rainy Paris, he feels that he has experienced London’s atmosphere enough in his imagination and abandons the whole idea. No doubt, Des Esseintes would have been sympathetic to the efforts of perfumers who attempt to satisfy the wanderlust of armchair travelers. One such venture is Carine Roitfeld Parfums, created by the former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris. The line includes seven unisex fragrances, Aurélien, George, Kar-Wai, Lawrence, Orson, Sebastian and Vladimir, inspired by travel and by fictional lovers.

My ideal lover is George. He is elegant, suave, and soft-spoken, yet whatever he says keeps my interest piqued. (He has certainly read Huysmans, although decadence is not his favorite art current; he is more into realism.) I travel to Tokyo with George, where we stroll through autumnal temple gardens, take baths with iris petals and visit painting exhibits in those typically Japanese galleries filled with silence, soft light and a whiff of wood polish. With George on my arm, everything smells of violet leaves, moss and crushed green leaves. He doesn’t smoke, but the leather jacket that he wears so well is redolent of ashes and fine tobacco.

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Guerlain Herba Fresca : Perfume Review

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Mint plays a curious trick on our senses.  Menthol, the main component of mint essence, triggers the cold-sensitive TRPM8 receptors found in the skin – a phenomenon that is responsible for the icy burst one experiences when eating mint candy or drinking a mint julep. Even a sip of hot Moroccan mint tea on a balmy day will produce the same cooling effect. In the realm of perfumes, you can try Guerlain Herba Fresca.

Herba Fresca has been around for a while, and I don’t even remember the first time I tried it. I only recall enjoying its uplifting freshness and green notes. It’s not a complicated perfume and it holds few secrets. From the burst of verdancy and citrus to the soft musky chords in the drydown, it’s a straightforward blend. But what it lacks in complexity, it makes up for in its vibrant character. It’s refreshing in the summer and rejuvenating in the winter.

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Guerlain Eau de Fleurs de Cedrat : Perfume Review

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It’s easy to get overtaken by the flood of newness and to forget about the trusted old favorites. The other day I found a neglected bottle of Eau de Fleurs de Cédrat in one of my fragrance drawers and put it on more as a reflex than because of any desire to wear it. It had been a while since I had tried it, but smelling its zesty lemon top notes reminded me what a gem it is and how refreshing it feels on a hot day.

If Eau de Fleurs de Cédrat were a color, it would be pop-art yellow. The initial impression is of grated lemon zest and lots of it. The bitterness of bergamot and lime add an additional twist, but it doesn’t happen until a few minutes into the development. Also, despite the “citron flowers” promised by the name, the composition is not particularly floral. It’s as classical of a cologne as you can find.

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Hermès un Jardin sur la Lagune : Perfume Review

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How could something smell salty? It’s true that salt has its own rather mild scent, and depending on its processing and provenance, it ranges from bitter and iodine to flinty and flowery. However, perfumery is about creating an illusion, and many perfumers are masters at making us think that we smell salt. My teacher Sophia Grojsman used to play tricks on me by giving me accords to smell and then laugh seeing me lick my lips. Some of her combinations were so salty that I could almost taste the salt crystals. More typically, however, perfumers approach salty accords by relying on marine effects, as does perfumer Christine Nagel in Hermès Un Jardin sur la Lagune.

Of course, should one search for salt in perfume, one can do no better than to explore the whole Hermès collection. Eau des Merveilles is one of the best salted ambers. Un Jardin sur le Nil salts green mangoes. Voyage d’Hermès starts pickling bergamot and leaves a salt trail well into its drydown. Hermès Un Jardin sur la Lagune is very much in the same tradition. It’s a cologne based on citrusy flowers and finished with a briny accord. The place is Venice, the flowers are magnolia and Madonna lilies, the effect is salt and sunlight.

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