Review: Liquides Imaginaires Succus — 4.0 points

Despite what its Latin name might imply, Succus (Liquides Imaginaires, 2015) by perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu does not readily recall any kind of sap. The eclectic layers of fruity, herbal, and woody notes are far removed from the bitter green note typical of tree saps. Rather, they lend themselves to an arboreal fantasy, and I find myself wishing if only such a tree existed…

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What first strikes me is its fruity grapefruit note. It does recall grapefruit, but is not so much as citrusy, and has the sweet accent of pineapple. Its fruity top has a distinctive tone that intrigues me and that continues towards the dry down. And even if you, like me, are not so enthusiastic about fruity notes, you should still give Succus a try simply to see its interesting direction.

But unlike other perfumes that resort to hard sell with their top-note whirlwinds and end up being anti-climactic, the excitement of Succus continues. The next layer is a blend of rustic herb notes: rosemary, juniper berry, cedar leaf, and bay leaf. These are also interspersed with incense. The bright, camphoraceous character recalls that of Saltus (Liquides Imaginaries, 2015), another in the Eaux Arborantes series, but is not nearly as glaring. This layer of herbs creates a curious twist to the fruity grapefruit, and the pairing between these notes gives Succus a unique and enjoyable character that I cannot quite find a comparison.

But as the bright note of herbs dims, the composition reveals a luminous base of dry woods and radiant musk. Its vetiver harmonises with the accent of grapefruit and the cedarwood lends its distinctive note of wood shavings. The musk note here is rich, but also remains in keeping with the pleasant dryness. This dry woody and musky layer persists well on skin.

The idea of Succus revolves around a pleasant duel between grapefruit and herbs, but the composition also seemingly peels away from fruity and aromatic to woody layers. It certainly gives an interesting arboreal portrait, but more importantly this peculiar character is what keeps me coming back to it. A perfume that keeps one pondering is, I feel, a perfume worthy of exploration. Succus is one such composition that arouses curiosity; it leaves me wondering what that mythical tree would be. We surely need more compositions like this.

Source: moodscentbar.com

Review: Chanel Boy — 4.5 points

Much like how Gabrielle Chanel had played with the code of women’s fashion, perfumer Olivier Polge experimented with the fougère accord in creating Boy (Chanel, 2016). This perfumery accord was born when perfumer Paul Parquet created the eponymous Fougère Royale (Houbigant, 1882). The accord classically revolves around lavender, oakmoss, and sweet coumarin, but also contains a citrus top, geranium and spicy herbs in the heart, and woody or animalic notes in the base. It is traditionally associated with masculine fragrances. But Polge was determined to flout that rule and toy with the accord. The result is nothing short of brilliant.

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Already, the fresh top of Boy is a tell-tale sign. It is Chanel; it is aldehydic with penetrating citrusy and rosy notes. These come hand in hand with grapefruit and fresh lemon. The effect feels like an effervescent champagne with a rosy tinge. Accompanying that is lavender aplenty with its aromatic, herbal, and floral charm easily felt. This sublime lavender of Boy runs the show for the rest of its top-note freshness.

The composition, then, segues classically into a rosy geranium heart, but it takes a surprisingly soft turn here. A touch of orange blossom and jasminic brightness wraps around the sharp geranium. A rich sandalwood accord evinces an intimate caress towards the dry down.

It becomes enveloping, but also with a dusky accent. At first, the tonka bean note of coumarin provides a warm sweetness, like a gentle fondle. This develops into a full embrace with the powdery sweet vanilla and heliotrope. There is also a hint of hidden desire in hot patchouli and civet that feels like a nod to the classic Jicky (Guerlain, 1889). But contrasted classically by the mossy note of Evernyl, this sensual sweetness has suddenly acquired a rough-hewn signature. Around this mossy sweet powder forming the dry down is a rich musk cocktail that keeps Boy soft and intimate for all of its day-long duration — those who are anosmic to certain musks may thus find this part of Boy to be a whisper.

The fougère accord is manipulated in Boy to reveal an interestingly tender side. Whilst the classical trinity of lavender, coumarin, and oakmoss as well as the animalic touch of civet are kept, the character of fougère is made softer, borrowing elements of feminine fragrances. The fresh introduction consists of aldehydic and rosy notes beside the traditionally hesperidic notes. The powdery sweet coumarin is enhanced with heliotrope, vanilla, and musks. In this way, the accord sways towards its rosy and enveloping side. With Boy, Polge has saliently demonstrated the flexibility of this perfumery accord.

I think the reinvention of the fougère has been in the making, and Boy is almost the tipping point. Looking back in 1921, there was Maja (Myrurgia, 1921) whose fougère elements of citrus, lavender, geranium, and woody vetiver are hidden beneath a dominant spicy oriental personality. Then, only a decade ago, perfumer Jacques Polge perhaps tested the water with the patchouli and amber of Coromandel (Chanel, 2007) that resembles the rose-patchouli fougère of Zino Davidoff (Davidoff, 1986), except for the fact that lavender — one of the defining elements of a fougère — is absent in Coromandel. And, though Brit Rhythm For Her (Burberry, 2014) marries lavender and rosy peony, it is still a fresh floral rather than a fougère. But with Boy, the classical fougère has entered a new ground. Boy re-orchestrates the classical fougère to interesting effects. It may well pave the way for a revolution, and the next descendant of Boy might surprise us.

But, for now, I am quite enamoured of its rosy freshness and mossy-yet-sweet powder with that restrained elegance of Chanel.

Source: chanel.fr

Review: Guerlain Pamplelune — 5.0 points

All this time I had viewed the slightly tinted juices of the Aqua Allegoria series packaged in simple bottles as variations on a theme of flowers and fruits. That they were no more than pleasant eaux de cologne had been my impression all along, and I had not been curious about them. But when I first tried Pamplelune (Guerlain, 1999) by perfumer Mathilde Laurent, such prejudice was quickly banished. Already, its perverse opening of sulphurous acridity and wonderfully tart bergamot makes a clear statement: Pamplelune is not your typical sweet and pleasant tutti-frutti.

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At its heart is one-of-a-kind grapefruit accord replete with furious pungency, citrusy tang, and bubbly delight. It is built around 20% lemon oil and 14% orange oil. Neroli and petitgrain lend their spicy and floral accent. But what I find most intriguing is the tart blackcurrant buds. Its green, fruity-leafy note and lasting power imbue Pamplelune with a unique character. The fresh tartness of its citrus never seems to fade.

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As the effervescence calms, Pamplelune turns woody and sensual with patchouli and vanilla. The camphoraceous woods and sweetness provide diffusion and a nice contrasting aspect. The lasting dry down of tart citrus versus earthy woods is an interesting change from the more typical musky finish. And, more importantly, there is no fruit syrup here.

I admire Pamplelune for its distinctive bites in the top and the powerful refreshing effect of blackcurrant buds. To top that off, its vats of citrus oils give Pamplelune a natural complexity. Its grapefruit is simply inimitable.

Sources: guerlain.fr, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors

Review: James Heeley Vetiver Véritas — 3.5 points

Vetiver Véritas (Heeley, 2014) may be spelling out ‘V-E-T-I-V-E-R’ true to its name, but it does not attempt anything beyond the boundaries of a nice vetiver. I like it, but I cannot find much to be excited in the composition, except for its very good vetiver material and a cool minty contrast.

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The minty opening gives a cool sensation that has an interesting promise. Then, Haitian vetiver comes forth with all of its beautiful and ugly hues. It showcases the raw facets of vetiver: woody, earthy, nutty roots with a sharp note reminiscent of the bitterness of grapefruit.

I find that its vetiver is certainly good, but in comparing Vetiver Véritas with other counterparts, it feels somewhat lacking. It lacks the depth of orchestration of Vétiver from Guerlain (1959). Neither does it possess the polish of the monolithic inky roots of Encre Noir (Lalique, 2006). And, even if its grapefruit facet in the dry down is somewhat reminiscent of Sel de Vétiver (The Different Company, 2006), Vetiver Véritas is never quite as daring because it does not aspire to more than a few embellishments.

I have lamented sometimes that it could have gone with more than a tweak in the minty top. I might just as well mix mint oil and vetiver oil. Nevertheless, I think this is quality material, and vetiver fiends will be pleased with both its cool sensation in the opening and the rich nuances of its vetiver.

Source: jamesheeley.com

Review: Hermès Eau de Pamplemousse Rose — 3.5 points

Grapefruit is a popular note in perfumes. It gives novelty to the freshness of top notes and eaux de cologne. However, few compositions interpret its odour profile well. My grapefruit gold standard is the fiercely brilliant burst of grapefruit on a hot trail of patchouli in Pamplelune (Guerlain, 1999). Other than that, I can hardly recall any other grapefruit-centric perfumes because they suddenly seem like fleeting head notes. It is a challenge to interpret this ever-popular theme without being all too mundane. But with Eau de Pamplemousse Rose (Hermès, 2009), perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena gives us a dynamic portrait of this citrus theme.

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The bitter and fizzy grapefruit accord feels like a sip of champagne, and when rounded with the sweetness of rose, it has a vibrant quality. Bitter and sweet, it is refreshing. This well-loved exuberance can also be found in Rose Ikebana (Hermès, 2004). But unusually, it does not turn all sweet and musky, as would most citrus colognes.

Instead, the juicy citrus finds harmony with sheer woods. These possess a mineral, flint-like quality similar to that in Terre d’Hermès (2006), and together with their green and piquant facets, fill the dry down with complexity. The result is a nice contrast of bitter-sweet citrus and light woods. It is simple and fresh, and it has a dimension.

The only complaint I have against Eau de Pamplemousse Rose is that it is short-lived. The end at three hours is a little too short even for a fleeting eau de cologne. But in terms of composition, it is a lively citrus cologne with an interesting edge. It is also easy to wear and will not offend. These should be enough a reason to like it.

Source: uk.hermes.com, firmenich.com