Review: Etat Libre d’Orange Delicious Closet Queen – 3.0 points

First of all, do not dismiss a fragrance because of its name! With Delicious Closet Queen (Etat Libre d’Orange, 2007), there is nothing cheap about it—well, other than the name. In fact, the fragrance is a skilfully balanced accord of leather with rugged and soft elements. It is an interesting twist to the theme, even if I find the overall composition still a little too tame.

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Created by perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer, the main impression is leather. However, when brightened with citrusy aldehydic notes in the top and modified with a measure of violet, a dash of rose, and raspberry, it acquires a sweet, plush character. But depending on your personal association, the sweetness can be an interesting accent or a turn-off; admittedly, there are times when I find it rather pungent.

But luckily, as it develops, the composition turns warmer and acquires a rough-hewn, dusky character. The fruity sweetness belies a dense amber marked by a spicy balsamic note, perhaps of opoponax. The roughness is softened by sandalwood and cedarwood, a combination of powdery, soft woody note that courses through the composition until the dry down.

I wish that, with a name like Delicious Closet Queen, it would pack more punches. The overall impression is still a soft suede. The dry down bears resemblance of Eau de Cèdre (Armani, 2015). It is tame enough to be spritzed daily for an office and has good lasting power.

Sources: fragrantica.com

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Review: Jour d’Hermès — 2.5 points

I like the dawn Jean-Claude Ellena has painted in Jour d’Hermès (2013). I admire his ability to create magical, shape-shifting illusions, and he does right by that promise in Jour d’Hermès.  It is lovely—in the first try in any case. The more I wear it, however, the more I find it increasingly difficult to enjoy.

On the face of it, the promise of dawn in Jour d’Hermès is delightful. It comes as an abstract sunny bouquet, coloured by the various shades of blooms. The green crunch of hyacinth paves the way for solar ylang ylang and lemony rose. As it develops, the floral mélange turns more indolic white-floral in character, most recognisable as sweet orange blossoms. I feel as though I were looking at these flowers through a kaleidoscope, as one blossom morphs into another.

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I can almost begin to paint a sunny morning, with opening flower buds and green leaves, if not for the penetrating floral note that detracts me from that fantasy. I begin to notice this aspect some ten minutes into the development, and it becomes more recognisable during each subsequent wear. This particular quality is redolent of La Roche-Posay Anthelios sunscreen. My fantasy of dawn suddenly turns into a stifling hot afternoon at a crowded beach with hundreds of sun bathers and the scents of sunscreen permeating the air, bombarding my nostrils.

Then, there is also the dense musky dry down that clings to skin. This is a departure from the transparency that marks many of his creations and I relish. Even if it confers good lasting power, I find it opaque and humdrum.

It would be lovely and enjoyable for me, if not for the impression of a sticky sunscreen and the monotonous dry down that does little to steer me away from that notion. But then again, this is personal. Perhaps, I may be at fault for having been using the sunscreen too much in the summer that the association is difficult to shake.

Source: fragrantica.com

Review: Memo Italian Leather — 4.5 points

I once lavished praise on Chanel N°19 (1970) and argued for why it deserves a place on the pedestal of classics. Perfumer Henri Robert employed aroma ingredients and sumptuous natural materials—galbanum, iris, May rose and jasmine, and vetiver—to explore and extrapolate the ideas of superb contemporaries, such as Cabochard (Grès, 1959) and Aramis (1965). He wove together an idiosyncratic accord of green galbanum, buttery orris, and mossy woods, and gave an inspiring successor to the old-school chypre perfumes. In a similar vein, perfumer Aliénor Massenet draws on this backbone and carves out a niche for Italian Leather (Memo, 2013) 

Despite the name, it is not so much an interpretation of leather from Italy as a road trip in Italy, which is the vision of Clara Molloy, the founder of Memo. The very first note that strikes is the piercing green of galbanum, but it is quickly softened by aromatic clary sage so that the impression the green accord gives is of sticky tomato sprigs. How fitting. After all, a road trip in Italy must surely involve tomatoes? 

The green lingers, gradually tempered by the buttery iris that emerges. There it is, the marvel of Chanel N°19 revisited. Whereas the galbanum-orris accord in Chanel N°19 is joined by dark woods, the green tomato leaf and soft orris in Italian Leather transition slowly into a complex oriental accord. If this were an Italian road trip, it would be in Tuscany, where the gentle zephyr carrying the scent of the evergreen cypresses tempers a warm summer afternoon

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After that oriental languor comes the sweet vanillin, the long-awaited climax of the act. But if it were just that, Italian Leather would not be nearly as compelling as it is. Joined by benzoin and warm labdanum, darkened by myrrh and balsams, and rounded by musks, the accord is faceted and rich, with a hint of molasses. I particularly cherish the part one hour into the development, in which opoponax lends much of the powdery, velvety comfort. And, all this while, the green sap of tomato sprig sticks, keeping the heft of the oriental accord grounded.  

It bears a relationship to Chanel N°19 and a more recent release, Vert d’Encens (Tom Ford, 2016). It borrows the galbanum-iris interplay from the former, whilst in the latter, the bitterness of galbanum is tamed with citrus and herbs and a peppery frankincense is thrown into the oriental accord. If you relish these and their original, multi-faceted accords with challenging green notes, you may well revel in sniffing Italian Leather. And, like these two other fragrances, it possesses great lasting power.  

I am drawn to it not only because of the strength of its character but also the depth of its accords. Massenet did not simply take the backbone of Chanel N°19 and tweak it to give us a pastiche. On the contrary, attention has been paid closely to the notes that make up and balance the accords.  The harsh character of green galbanum is softened by clary sage. The oriental accord is a complex plot of multiple shades and textures, from luminous to dusky balsams. Ingeniously, the duality of orris—its chilly crunch and buttery facet—is used to bridge the transition. In Italian Leather, Massenet achieves an equipoise of green and oriental notes rich in nuances.  

sources: fragrantica

Review: by Kilian Musk Oud — 3.5 points

One of the reasons why oud is such a popular accord with which to pair lies in its character. It possesses multiple facets: leathery animalic notes of civet, castoreum, and musk; smouldering hints of vetiver; solemn frankincense; fruity raspberry sweetness; and warmth of vanillic amber. The material offers plenty of overlapping notes, which naturally harmonises and achieves synergy with other accords. And, the oud collection, I find, is an excellent study that applies a magnifying glass on the different vantage points of this complex material.

Each examines and accents the hallmarks of oud. Pure oud (by Kilian, 2009), the simplest amongst these, strikes the balance between dark woods and leathery animalic notes of civet, castoreum, and musk. Incense oud (by Kilian, 2011), of course, plays up the sober note of frankincense. Then, Rose Oud (by Kilian, 2010) accentuates the raspberry jam facet with a dollop of sumptuous rose set in the oriental style. And unexpectedly, Amber Oud (by Kilian, 2011) highlights the warm vanillic character with a weightless twist. Hence, when it comes to Musk Oud (by Kilian, 2013), one can expect a musky oud, right?

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Not quite, I reckon. Indeed, the animalic and whisky-like onset may provide a brooding tone, but this is soon supplanted by a bright outlook. Cardamom accent hints at a lemony rose that soon blossoms amidst the rough-hewn dark woods and incense. Musk Oud is not so much about musk; the more it develops, the more its rose blossoms.

As the rose fades into a silhouette, however, the musks play an important role in blurring the lines between the notes, smoothing the transition. The warmth of balsams and incense soften the dusky woods. And that is as musky as it gets.

Smelling Musk Oud, I am also reminded of Rose Oud. There is a strong resemblance, but the difference lies in the rose. In Rose Oud the opulent rose takes centre stage in contrast to the tenebrous backdrop of oud accord, whereas in Musk Oud the rose is a translucent shimmer behind an opaque folding screen. The effect is thus more of a suggestion, an invitation to peer closer amidst the dusky notes, and that is just as tempting.

Given the first-rate raw materials and execution and the fact that I relish in it, I am tempted to give it four points, but the fact that Musk Oud feels like another well-executed version of the popular rose-oud combination prevents me from doing so. Considering what its creator perfumer Alberto Morillas did with a musk accord that would, with the help of perfumer Annie Buzantian, become the trend-setting metallic freshness in White Pour Elle (Emporio Armani, 2001), I had hoped for something more exciting for the musks, and not just a beautiful variation on a theme. It is nonetheless satisfying and has excellent lasting power. So, if you are looking for a well-crafted composition of this style and are comfortable with by Kilian’s price tag, you will not be disappointed. But as a study of oud, Musk Oud falls slightly short of my expectation.

 

Review: by Kilian Amber Oud — 4.5 points

Previously, I confessed to my aversion to oud. But ever since Pure Oud (by Kilian, 2009), I have consistently been wearing the oud collection from by Kilian. I reckon I am beginning to warm up to this multi-faceted note, especially when it is as excellently crafted as the ones from by Kilian. And, Amber Oud (2011) is yet another sublime creation around this note that I heartily recommend.

In spite of the rather banal name, Amber Oud offers an interesting vantage point from which to appreciate the rich oriental notes. It opens right away with a stirring whiff of incense and labdanum, and without any attempt at a prelude, segues into warm amber. A vanilla so resplendent sets the stage, with the complexity of the cured beans one often finds in a gourmet section. Benzoin provides the dry, lingering sweetness that harks to the fantasy of honeyed almonds. All the rich, hefty notes that make my mouth water constitute the bulk of Amber Oud, but the composition is far from being cloying. Instead, it remains lucent.

The description alone is a testament to the quality of its amber, but what is it that distinguishes it from being a mere ‘nice amber’? The answer to that can remain elusive for the first few tries, as, I find, is often the case with the deceptively simple quality that marks many of perfumer Calice Becker’s creations. However, as I pondered the question, I found myself reminiscing more and more about the time when my mother made traditional desserts.

One of the last steps is to perfume them, and this is almost always a rite to Thai desserts. She would put flowers such as sambac jasmine, rose, and ylang ylang in a small cup and place it in a lidded ceramic pot containing the dessert, thereby imbuing the treats with the fragrance overnight. On the next day, a fragrant candle called ‘tian op’ was instrumental in imparting its unmistakable lingering scent to the treats. The candle has a wick that can be lit on both ends and its wax comprises a mixture of frankincense, benzoin, dried kaffir peel, brown sugar, camphor, nutmeg, sandalwood, and bee wax. After having set tian op in a holder in the ceramic pot and lit it, she would extinguish it by covering the pot with a lid, allowing the dessert to soak up the aroma for ten to fifteen minutes. Even after this step, a potent mixture of frankincense, benzoin, kaffir peel, brown sugar, nutmeg, and camphor that had been seared in a pre-heated terra cotta cup would be similarly used to suffuse the dessert with its opulent fumes. How fondly I recall that caramelised, incense-y, floral accent that staved off some of the rich sweetness of the dessert. The flavour was a combination of melancholic incense and decadent sweet amber, which is essentially what Amber Oud mirrors.

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Tian Op: a scented candle used to perfume food and clothing. Its melancholic fragrance balances out the sweetness.

Now, the answer to what sets Amber Oud apart is clear: it is the floral and incense inflection of its amber accord. Just like how the rich dessert was lifted with floral hints and dry incense, the same effect is employed in Amber Oud in taming the hefty notes. This also explains why the drydown of Amber Oud possesses an uncanny resemblance to Bois d’Arménie (Guerlain, 2006), another favourite composition of mine that revolves around benzoin, incense, and balsams with a sprinkle of rose petals. The result is an unexpected delight in an ostensibly straightforward composition, a hallmark of Becker who has a knack for subtly weaving together multiple layers and facets.

All in all, the played-up aspect of sweet amber together with the unique accent that carries well to the next day makes Amber Oud my perennial favourite. It is an intriguing oud aspect that is both cosy and refined—a quality which I rarely see in an oud composition. A spritz suffices to catapult me to those scrumptious recollection of floral and incense-y fantasy.

Review: by Kilian Rose Oud — 4.0 points

At first sniff, Rose Oud (by Kilian, 2010) was evident in its treatment of rose in the oriental style, and I was ready to label it as ‘a plump rose wrapped decently in balsamic notes’. This is because a fragrance of this style, which is a Western imagination of Middle Eastern perfumery, is a dime a dozen. Off the top of my head I can recall Portrait of A Lady (Frédéric Malle, 2009) and Sa Majesté la Rose (Serge Lutens, 2000), two excellent compositions that set the bar for this genre. Yet, I felt compelled to revisit Rose Oud time and again.

Initially, it was not obvious to me why I kept coming back to this simple rose-oud pairing, but as I continued to wear it, the nuances and facets that lend Rose Oud its distinction became more discernible. I realised then that I regularly returned to it because, like any interesting compositions, it creates a personal fantasy. And funnily enough, Rose Oud conjures for me the delectable Viennese confection, Sachertorte, which is a chocolate cake soaked in tart apricot jam and glazed with a dark couverture. I particularly revel in the opulent contrast between a sumptuous rose and a plush oud accord, as it has the allure of bright jam juxtaposed with dusky chocolate.

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Just as the bright notes of apricot lift up the hefty Viennese chocolate confection, the subtle embellishments add dimensions and depths to the rose accord. A hint of cardamom and cinnamon imparts a bright champagne-like effervescence. The overtone of ripe raspberry and musky violet confers jammy sweetness. An encounter with its scintillating rose feels like the very first bite into a moist piece of Sachertorte in which the glowing apricot note primes the palate for the ambrosial chocolate to come.

The underpinning oud accord is just as faceted as the complex notes of grand cru cocoa. From the suede note of saffron set against smoky woods to the animalic and vanillic accent peeking through, the accord possesses the same alluring inky edge of biter chocolate.

Perfumer Calice Becker, who crafted Rose Oud, is a mistress of disguise. The ostensibly simple composition belies its sublime layers. The dialogue between rose and oud remains focused throughout, with its shades and strata effectively lending polish. And whereas most oriental roses tend to have enough strength and diffusive power to perfume a dessert, this one explores the nuanced intimacy of rose and dark woods.

With its rich hues and accents secreted behind an unadorned pairing, Rose Oud possesses a certain je ne sais quoi that makes it seductive. This is all the more so with its impressive tenacity. Fans of this style will cherish the sterling essences and olfactory subtleties. Even if you find this style to be ubiquitous, at least give it a try and see whether it ignites a personal fantasy, like it does for me. Now, where is that recipe of Sachertorte?

Source: K.u.K. Hofzuckerbäcker Demel

Review: by Kilian Pure Oud — 4.0 points

Admittedly, I am hesitant to try any oud perfumes. This is because the choices can be overwhelming, and when bombarded with a myriad of oud variations, it is difficult to pick one. I also find that in most perfumes the note has a particularly irksome quality reminiscent of a medicinal plaster. Even the only one that I consider deserving a try and find it pleasant enough, that is 1001 Ouds (Annick Goutal, 2015), that quality persists, almost as an inherent, ineliminable character of oud. So, I have grown weary of oud almost to the point of aversion.

But that might just change with Pure Oud (by Kilian, 2009).

The name itself does little to offer any promises, but give it time and let it unfold on your skin, and you will be rewarded with probably the best oud interpretation out there. Unlike most other ouds I have tried, Pure Oud, despite featuring such a rich, dense material, is unfathomably radiant. This familiar surprise, if you will pardon the oxymoron, is invariably unique to the style of perfumer Calice Becker who crafted it. She is adept at rendering shimmering compositions, and Pure Oud is one such fine specimen.

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Whilst it initially seems monolithic, the composition comes to life as the facets readily reveal themselves. Wet civet and dry tobacco are the first juxtaposition. Then, it becomes drier and smoky with guaiac wood. Saffron and musky violet suggest the nuance of leather. Far from being a dull woody accord, which is what I find in most oud perfumes, the interplay of facets is what makes Pure Oud dynamic and interesting.

Although employing shades and accents to polish the accord might seem like an obvious trick, the balance with which they are executed is no mean feat. Here, the sum clearly is round and mellow, and more importantly, the discordant note of medicinal plaster found in most ouds is absent.

A harmonious dark wood blend that continues to mesmerise with its lambency, Pure Oud more than deserves to be tested on skin. And in so doing, the richness of animalic woods will continue to hypnotise all day long.

Source: bykiliran.fr