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

Ilm

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

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Review: Tom Ford Vert des Bois — 4.0 points

The name Vert des Bois (Tom Ford, 2016) implies that this perfume is about green and woody notes. And it is: when I smell Vert des Bois, I think of green chypres from the 1970s. Those raunchy green-woody compositions such as Aliage (Estée Lauder, 1972), Private Collection (Estée Lauder, 1973), and Jean-Louis Scherrer (1979) come to mind.  As often is the case for Tom Ford fragrances, they are inspired by perfumery’s classics. But Vert des Bois is far removed from just another all-too-familiar knock-off.

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Instead a whiff of Vert des Bois reminds me of the summer trip from Madrid to Seville by train. I smell green olive, sweet thyme, and a sharp resinous fir from the outset. Its aromatic green accord, rounded by a plummy note, conjures the pastoral landscape. A peppery accent brings in the attribute of the mid-day heat in an Iberian summer. And even before the fragrance reveals its woody counterpoint, I can vividly recall the scorched land along route, dotted with venerable olive trees.

And when the dramatic woods do unfurl, they reveal themselves nineteen to the dozen. Leather. Oakmoss. Balsams. All at once. These are inextricably intertwined with a patchouli trail. The dry down some hours into wearing Vert des Bois retains this gripping character, but has become slightly warmer, as sweet tonka bean and musk mellow the rough-hewn woods. The result is nothing short of excitement, from top to bottom.

Whilst it does recall the heavy-hitter chypres from the seventies, Vert des Bois does not feel at all like a mere knock-off of the classics. What sets it apart is the accents. Plum, pepper, thyme, and pine needles make for a twist in the green accord, and when paired with a strong woody accord, one gets an interesting vantage point of a classical green chypre. Having said that, those who enjoy the stark contrast and drama of this genre will relish Vert des Bois and its olive groves and sun-scorched earth.

Source: GetYourGuide.co.uk

Review: Gucci Bloom — 4.0 points

White florals seem to be back in vogue these days. Recent major launches that come immediately to my mind such as Twilly d’Hermès (2017) and Gabrielle (Chanel, 2017) were infused with such notes. With such popularity, it is easy to feel jaded of white florals. But, Bloom (Gucci, 2017), the latest launch by Gucci, makes for an exception; its vibrant interpretation breathes life into the white floral accord and makes it memorable.

Gucci Bloom

Alessandro Michele, creative director of Gucci, wanted a rich white floral fragrance that transports one to a thriving garden, and Bloom superbly captures that spirit. At first, it offers the promised offering of a creamy white floral set in a lush green garden. The initial green stem suggestion is followed by sweet creamy notes of tuberose and jasmine, with a hint of bright lily of the valley. However, this seemingly simple pairing of green garden and white floral belies the creative streak of perfumer Alberto Morillas, who crafted Bloom. Look underneath and one finds a rose juxtaposed to the rich white floral, lending a bright effect to lighten the creamy heft. Perhaps this effect is what the marketing at Gucci refers to Rangoon Creeper whose flowers turn from white to red as they open. And as Bloom develops, the white floral accord is also accompanied by the green contrast, which morphs from stem to fruity, musky pear. In the dry down, its creamy floral segues into powdery vanilla and musk.

Bloom offers a white floral garden with a vibrant surprise. Its floral is sensual yet possesses a radiant effect, and that makes for a highlight. While those of us lusting after a take-no-prisoner white floral will have to look elsewhere, the restrained character of Bloom makes it versatile and will suit just about any occasion and time. If you want to enjoy a daydream about a fantasy garden, a spritz of Bloom will suffice.

Source: gucci.com

Review: Thierry Mugler Aura — 3.0 points

Love it or hate it, one can never remain indifferent to Angel (Thierry Mugler, 1992). Its unprecedented accord of patchouli versus crème caramel coupled with a monstrous sillage and tenacity makes it impossible to forget. This ground-breaking spirit was henceforth associated with the house of Thierry Mugler. To achieve the status of a commercial blockbuster whilst remaining edgy is exceedingly difficult a feat, but they did it with Angel. Even their later releases such as Alien (2005) and Womanity (2010) are just as interesting. So, when the newest launch Aura (2017), signed by Daphné Bugey, Marie Salamagne, Amandine Clerc-Marie, and Christophe Raynaud, hit the shelf, I jumped at the chance to try it, only to be somewhat underwhelmed by its mishmash of green and musky vanilla.

Thierry Mugler Aura

To be fair, its idea of faceted green and musk, which represents the exotic forest and ‘feline sensuality’, is promising. Both the green and the musk accord are complex. Plenty of violet leaf is embellished by some sweet minty and herbal accents; the impression they give is just as eccentric as the emerald green bottle. These are equally matched by an enveloping musky accord. It has the dense powdery character of cedarwood punctuated by sharp woody hints and tempered by sweet vanilla. I liked the idea of its green-musky interplay at first because of the mélange of off-beat accents that make it fun. It has the right performance, too, in terms of presence and tenacity.

Nevertheless, after only a few months, I quite forgot what Aura is about. It feels nice, but it never quite captures and holds my attention. On the face of it, the peculiar contrast and technicolour accents should render it memorable, but Aura ultimately boils down to a safe sweet musky vanilla. It is a well-crafted perfume with an eclectic green and musky character that lasts like an armour, but ultimately where is the drama? The more I try Aura, the more I find myself wishing for more excitement and punches.

If you are indeed looking for a combination of green, musk, and wood, there are plenty of other exciting offers in the market. For a verdant yet silky take, the galbanum-musk-wood interplay of Untitled (Maison Martin Margiela, 2010) is just as well-executed, but perhaps far more enthralling with its counterpoint and harmony at once. If you want a dramatic and an almost chypre take, the green olive, leathery woods, and musky balsams of Vert de Bois (Tom Ford, 2016) make for a worthy tribute to its classical predecessors. Or, better yet, look no further than the old-school green chypres: Chanel N°19 (1970), Aramis (1965), and Cabochard (Grès, 1959) offer their opulent sets and dramas full on.

Source: Clarins Press Release.

Review: Tom Ford Vert d’Encens — 5.0 points

I admit that I am rather jaded of exclusive lines. Nowadays, every brand seems to have this so-called ‘special offerings’. They come in similarly packaged flacons and tend to arrive in sets of a few fragrances, much like variations on a theme. There are simply too many of them to catch up, and too often, they are outrageously priced. A prime example would be the Private Blend of Tom Ford, whose entire range I tend to simply skip  altogether.

But with Vert d’Encens (Tom Ford, 2016), it was such a momentous discovery. Truth be told, I had imagined it to be yet another banal interpretation of the Corsican coast, as the accompanying description would have me believe. Little did I know when picking up Vert d’Encens for a quick sniff that I would end up discovering a hidden gem in the sea of launches.

tom ford

What makes Vert d’Encens memorable is its fierce duel of green and incense. However, to describe it as such would be simplistic. The notes that revolve around this juxtaposition of cool green and warm incense are orchestrated in layers, creating a complex and almost baroque sensation. Take a look at the first stage: it is never plain green, but it morphs instead from bright chartreuse to deep green at heart. Citrusy shades of lemon and bergamot segue into cool Provençal herbs of lavender and sage before arriving at the intense bitterness of galbanum. And, only then does the glorious battle commence.

Swirls of resinous incense begin to exude and pulsate throughout the development. So, the next stage, as you might have guessed, is a warm oriental bed of sweet vanilla, benzoin, and heliotrope. It is a familiar chord, but when accented with cardamom and pine needles that echo the green stage, the result is surprisingly original. The dry down is also smouldering, with sober incense slicing through cosy vanilla and heliotrope. In the end, the oriental sweetness is offset nicely by the dry woody notes of vetiver.

The idea of green versus oriental in Vert d’Encens alone is sufficient to grab attention, but it is in the elaborate arrangement of its components that it truly spurs my passion. It makes me want to discover the filigree and ornate columns of its green and incense cores. That being said, it will appeal to those who like strong contrasts and ornate arrangements. If you, for instance, like the galbanum and animalic-leathery oriental of Must de Cartier (1981), chances are you might adore Vert d’Encens. It defers to some of the by-gone notes of perfumery — the galbanum, the dark oriental — and does so without being contrived. You can enjoy the fiercely green galbanum and sober incense easily for a whole day and without having to smother passers-by. You can appreciate the dramatic interplay and discover also how beautifully the battle unfolds.

Source: tomford.com

Review: Hermès Muguet Porcelaine — 5.0 points

Lily of the valley or muguet is a classic example of flowers that refuse to yield a feasible quality or quantity of essence. Perfumers make it their eternal quest to capture its delicate scent. They initially constructed muguet based on combinations of essential oils, but later painted their ideas of the flower with the help of new aroma chemicals such as hydroxycitronellal, Lyral, and Lilial. But these were later found to be able to induce allergic reactions and are therefore restricted or even banned. Given such limitations, it is a creative challenge for perfumers to compose and interpret the scent of these white bells.

muguet ukhermes

Enter Muguet Porcelaine (Hermès, 2016), a testament to the mastery of perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena. The lily of the valley is vividly captured here with notes of fresh rose, spicy clove, jasmine, and green sap. A surprising melon accent makes the accord full-bodied with its fruity voluptuous touch. Its vivid beginning is as bright as the start of a fine spring day.

But as the clove-like freshness of its floral evaporates, the dewy greenery becomes more apparent. The interplay between peppery floral and watery green note keeps the muguet accord fresh. The sum is spot-lit, radiant lilies of the valley amidst their lush foliage. It also leaves a crisp green dry down that lingers for as long as six hours on me, and it has a green trail.

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I adore it with just as much enthusiasm as I do Diorissimo (Dior, 1956). Whereas the latter is an impressionistic take that paints a mélange of muguets and damp woodlands, Muguet Porcelaine is a close study of muguet. Here, the white porcelain bells are clearly delineated with floral, spicy, and green nuances, and then nestled amidst their dewy leafy stalks. Perfumer Edmond Roudnitska gave a fantasy of vernal woodlands for Diorissimo, but Jean-Claude Ellena draws our attention also to its evergreen foliage — it provides just as beautiful a lush ground cover in summer and through to autumn. With Muguet Porcelaine, he met the creative challenge successfully and in his own way.

Source: uk.hermes.com

Review: Hermès Hiris — 4.5 points

Pablo Picasso was adept at using either melancholic blue hues or warm shades of red, orange, and earth to create masterpieces characteristic of his Blue and Rose Periods. Similarly, fragrances in styles that are as distinctly opposite as dark woods and pastel florals number amongst the œuvre of perfumer Olivia Giacobetti. Her virtuosity can be seen in both the spiced sandalwood of Idole (Lubin, 2005) or the sublime soliflore of Hiris (Hermès, 1999). And if I had to pick a spring time favourite, it would be this water-colour iris par excellence.

usa hermes

Despite its delicate character, Hiris is not simplistic. In fact, the composition is polished. It possesses the various facets that afford iris its inimitable complexity. Green and waxy notes in the beginning provide the vegetal impression of orris, which is reminiscent of raw carrots. This is contrasted by a spicy touch of coriander seeds. Then, a hint of orange blossom imparts the subtle floral nuance. These subtleties give Hiris its sophisticated bearing.

At the heart of it is an interplay between powdery and woody notes of iris. Violet overtones emphasise the powdery aspect, whilst cedarwood lends its subtle woody, powdery character. Such curious duality is what makes this raw material beautiful, and it is employed here as the centrepiece of the composition. Then, rounded by musky notes, the combination of powder and woods also acquires a soft, hazy signature.

The sum is a composition that offers a vibrant contrast even with its soothing pastel shade. Her unique treatment of iris is the reason why I find the composition intriguing. And though its diaphanous character may be intended for the wearer’s admiration, it is surprisingly persistent. Having said that, if you have an appreciation for such a style, you will find her other water-colour works just as beautiful an offering. And in the case of Hiris, it is a great example of how a light composition can have yet a strong character.

Sources: usa.hermes.com