Review: Chanel Coromandel — 5.0 points

Gabriel Chanel was an ardent collector of Coromandel folding screens. These decorative wood screens with elaborate inlays are so termed because they were shipped to Europe via the Coromandel coast of Southeast India. It was also here that dry patchouli leaves were often laid among clothing to repel moths. Hence, I find it apt that perfumer Jacques Polge and Christopher Sheldrake would decide to explore this multi-faceted material in Coromandel (Chanel, 2007), a perfume inspired by the mademoiselle’s passion for the folding screens.

coromandel

With just a resinous piney start, it quickly descends into a rich patchouli. The camphoraceous and earthy facets of this raw material are curtailed, whilst the woody balsamic aspect is pushed and extrapolated. Fruity jasmine adds to the voluptuousness. Benzoin and vanilla play up the balsamic sweetness of the woody facet. And, to offset the heft, resinous incense is the perfect foil. The result is a patchouli so opulent that it tantalises with the richness of chocolate.

The dry down is just as decadent and smouldering, with sweet benzoin and incense lingering well into the night. Its resplendent sillage beguiles with enchanting sweetness of woods and resins. Its restrained gourmand exploration is mesmerising. Coromandel is a revelation about this otherwise earthy, woody raw material. It invites me to imagine the couturier lounging in her chair, feeling cocooned by the woody warmth of the decorative screens whilst beholding the gilded and mother-of-pearl inlays.

Source: Boris Lipnitzki’s portrait of Gabrielle Chanel in 1937

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Review: Etat Libre d’Orange Les Fleurs du Déchet — 4.0 points

I am all for sustainability and recycling, but the perfume must perform, or else it defeats the purpose of having a perfume. This is why I was initially apprehensive about Les Fleurs du Déchet (Etat Libre d’Orange, 2018), a fragrance that is meant to be a case in point of how waste reduction and the fragrance industry can go hand in hand. It brings attention to the fragrance ingredients derived from upcycled extractions of materials that are otherwise considered ‘spent’. It turned out that my worries were unfounded, as the strawberry accord at heart is delightful and sophisticated.

wild strawberry

Les Fleurs du Déchet serves up an epicure’s dream. The attributes that make strawberry attractive are accentuated and balanced skilfully. Green tartness that opens the composition contrasts with luscious sweetness. I think of a bite into Thurgau strawberries, which have been left to ripen on their own under the sun. It is complex, with jammy sweetness of rose shining through. As it develops, soft woods, with creamy and powdery notes, wrap around the rosy strawberry. A transparent peppery facet subtly reins in the sweetness throughout.

I reckon perfumer Daniela Andrier, the author of Les Fleurs du Déchet, possesses a knack for rendering bright, airy accords. A prime example is Candy (Prada, 2011), whose hefty notes of benzoin, caramel, and musk feel surprisingly weightless. And, Les Fleurs du Déchet is no exception. It eschews the typical dry down laden with vanilla and musk, as is the case for many fruity perfumes. Once the bright strawberry sweetness has dimmed, what remains is a tempting, lingering suggestion along with ambery, soft woods. It is delicate. And the softness also means that it begs one to lean in and discover the richness of strawberry.

Review: Essential Parfums The Musc — 4.5 points

I disliked The Musc (Essential Parfums, 2018) at first, because the combination of lavender and musk tends to remind me of fabric softeners, toilet cleaners, and soaps. My personal association is firmly entrenched, and upon detecting the first hints of lavender in it, I put the bottle down just as soon as I had picked it up. But, as the saying goes, ‘never judge a book by its cover’, I did ask for a decant in order to live with its company for some time before passing judgement on the composition. Indeed, the more I wore it, the more I came to enjoy its luminosity and complexity.

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The main theme is musk, a note that tends to be opaque and dense by nature. But in the hands of perfumer Calice Becker who also created Noir Aphrodisiaque (2016), Pure Oud (2009), Rose Oud (2010), and Amber Oud (2011) from by Kilian—compositions featuring rich, hefty notes—the musk note is rendered airy and faceted. Its sensual sweetness is foiled by the herbal edge of lavender and the spicy ginger that open the composition. A rapturous mélange of accents, including rose, peony, fruity pear, and berry-like vibrancy confer it with the brilliance, fire, and scintillation of a skilfully cut diamond.

Another aspect that I find interesting about The Musc is its excellent execution of lavender note. Ubiquitous among masculine fragrances, fabric softeners, and soaps, the raw material has acquired a somewhat negative association; one easily thinks of grandmothers and their perfumed sachets. Here, the floral facet of this note is enhanced by beeswax and pairs perfectly with the sweetness of musk, and its camphoraceous aspect softened by creamy sandalwood. The floral, fluffy result is distinctive.

In the dry down, it is enveloping with the voluptuous notes of beeswax and sandalwood. I keep noticing the creamy soft woods and the mellow sensuality of musk accompany me from morning to night, and it feels like being wrapped in the silky comfort of a chiffon. It has a soft, airy feel, but also a clear presence and character. Its tenacity and presence also mean that a gingerly spritz suffices to create a radiant aura.

And, those who are wary of lavender and musk need not worry: The Musc possesses the complexity and vibrancy that steers it away from the potency and harshness of a fabric softener. Even the lavender note is stripped of its camphoraceous fangs and claws. The composition is about the constant presence of polish and comfort.

Source: Essential Parfums

Review: Jacques Fath Vers le Sud — 2.5 points

Lemon, lavender, fig leaf, and oakmoss are notes that create a beautiful rustic impression for me. When I encountered them in Vers le Sud (Jacques Fath, 2015), I was initially excited by the promise of a Mediterranean charm and quite prepared to forgive any unremarkable aspects—after all, what not to like about an eau de cologne with a twist? Even if it is not going to be novel, it must surely be likeable.

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As it turned out, however, I sit on the fence for this one. The beginning is bright, with lemons and herbal lavender. They are accompanied by fruity sweetness and aquatic freshness. Although it feels generic at this point, the fig leaf accord that soon enters lends a twist. Creamy, bitter green, and camphoraceous with hints of civet to soften the herbal edge, it offers a pleasant alternative to the traditional citrus blooms. In the dry down, the bitterness of woody oakmoss completes the rustic experience. But the composition is far from being able to transport me to the advertised Corsican wilderness and Tuscan hills.

I like the fig leaf accord at its core and the bitter woody note of oakmoss in the dry down, but I remain unimpressed. Vers le Sud does not really add anything beyond a twist to the classical eau de cologne. A variation on a theme could be interesting, but in the case of Vers le Sud, it feels rather average.

Source: Jacques  Fath Parfums

Review: Jacques Fath Curaçao Bay — 2.5 points

The idea of sun-warmed frangipanis and beaches is a summer dream, and Curaçao Bay (Jacques Fath, 2015), created by perfumer Cécile Zarokian, is intended to evoke that experience. The eclectic idea of marine notes and white flowers is promising, and I am game for such a twist. The result seems like a novelty at first, but ultimately is unconvincing.

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To be fair, one is offered the tropical flower and the sea tang as promised. It opens with bright citrusy notes and green blackcurrant buds that restrain the growing richness of frangipani. Creamy coconut and narcotic ylang ylang dominate the floral accord. Its white floral sweetness is contrasted with an ambery, marine note. Indeed, I can relate to a scene of frangipani trees lining a beach. And, as it develops, it turns muskier and the marine note becomes more pronounced.  A touch of bitter almond and tonka bean lends extra warmth to the frangipani. I could simply like its quirky character, a twist of frangipani.

But it goes awry after an hour. The marine tang can be somewhat penetrative, and rather than a bay in the tropics, I start to imagine being stuck in a lift with the intense marine note left behind by someone who has oversprayed himself with Invictus (Paco Rabanne, 2013). Not quite like the advertised sun-warmed beaches. However interesting the idea to convey might be, you are out of luck if the fragrance annoys.

I bore with it till the dry down of vetiver and salty woods a few times, as I really wanted to make sure I can overcome the harsh marine tang and partake in the promised fantasy. Still, I remain unmoved. The opaque musk note in tandem with a persistent ambery note eventually make for a nuisance. The frangipani possesses some nuances, but there are plenty of more complex and luxurious frangipani accords out there that do a better job of evoking a summer paradise. Curious though its sketch may be, the resultant juice is literal, plain, and unmemorable.

Source: Jacques Fath Parfums

Review: Etat Libre d’Orange Putain des Palaces — 4.0 points

I leave the English translation out of this one, as I am sure you are able to figure it out and connect the dots between the name and the perfume. I would rather stick to the more elegant sounding French name as the perfume evokes a fantasy of powder puffs, rouge, and a coquettish figure wearing them.

Putain des Palaces (Etat Libre d’Orange, 2007), at its core, is a classical cosmetic rose. It is dominated by the familiar notes of violet and rose. It starts out with the cold sugar crystals of violets and warms up to the honeyed sweetness of rose. The lambent rice powder provides the vanity table experience.

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But if it were just a well-executed cosmetic rose, Putain des Palaces would not be nearly as interesting—after all, cosmetic roses are a dime a dozen. Drôle de Rose (L’Artisan Parfumeur, 1996) and Lipstick Rose (Frédéric Malle, 2000), as examples, easily come to mind. Instead, its creator, perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer, opts for a twist that sets the story apart. The hint of soft leather is almost as if to suggest that this is the inside of a cosmetic bag, storing down powder puffs, lipsticks, and scented talcum. Then, cumin adds a subtly risqué element to it. The sweaty, animalic note of this spice is the perfect foil for the sweetness of the violet and the rose; it insinuates a delicate pleasure of the flesh.

The dry down of rosy powder puffs juxtaposed to an animalic spice is elegant yet sultry. Its powdery aspect is airy and dry, unlike many powdery accords that tend to be opaque with dense, musky finish. Putain des Palaces is classically feminine at first, but the dusky animalic vibe of cumin keeps the sweet flowers grounded enough to feel unisex, and I can imagine layering it with dark incense and woods, especially with its comparable tenacity.

Source: fineartamerica

Review: Guerlain Vétiver — 5.0 points

Vétiver (Guerlain) is a paradoxical tour de force. The astounding amount of vetiver oil is dressed up with ingredients that extend the natural facets so that the sum, despite ornamentation, still feels minimalistic. At the time of its creation in 1959 when complex, opulent perfumes were de rigueur, its pared down approach was far ahead of its time.

Jean-Paul Guerlain skilfully orchestrated the composition to highlight the juxtaposition of bright and dark aspects in vetiver. The lingering bitterness, a character shared also by grapefruit, dominates at the start and is cleverly pushed by citrus. The liquorice aspect is enhanced by spicy-sweet clove. The dark smoky woods complemented by mossy notes. It is essentially vetiver but with its contrasting facets amplified so that it feels almost baroque.

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Personally, I love its suave character. The pairing of the spicy-sweet, fruity note of cloves with a floral note creates the impression of a white carnation boutonière pinned to the left lapel of a suit. Likewise, the combination of sweet spices, smoky woods, and floral conjures up the multiple facets of tobacco. It is a vetiver with a panache and great tenacity.

Combining the rich aesthetics of a grand parfum and the uncluttered clarity of a modern composition, Vétiver feels timeless. And, I would reach for it whenever I want to feel the rich complexity of the woods effortlessly.

Source: Parfum de Pub