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: Liquides Imaginaires Saltus — 3.5 points

Saltus (Liquides Imaginaires, 2015) has the character of fragrant resins derived from evergreen trees. Created by perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu, it captures a rich exudate, from the turpentine sharpness of an oozing sap to the musky treacle of a dried resin. Smelling it, I tend to think of Saltus as a close examination of nature.

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The emerging sap has short-lived green accents of cedar and eucalyptus leaves, and most of it is embodied by camphor. It has such an unprecedented brightness, to which I am unaccustomed in a perfume. I immediately think of Vicks VapoRub and find this comforting in a quirky way.

As the sap dries up, the camphor lessens. Now, one begins to glimpse its resinous depth. Styrax imbues the composition with smoky, spicy, and balsamic notes. Patchouli and incense enhance the character of resinous woods. Yet, the thick resins are surprisingly contrasted by the milky note of ethyl laitone. Musk and castoreum give their sweet animalic touch that also softens the sharp resins. The result is both resinous and rubbery. It is not loud, but it lasts well. For that, it takes some adjustment on my part to appreciate the strange duality.

Saltus offers an interesting portrait of an exudate that balances the two sides. On the one hand, it is bright and sharp; on the other, it is dusky and sensual. This I appreciate, but wearing it is another story. The sharp camphor-resin versus the soft animalic rubber may be the dynamic pairing of nature, but it is not easy. The old caveat applies: try it on first.

Source: liquidesimaginaires.com

Review: Guerlain Bois d’Arménie — 4.5 points

Papier d’arménie is a curious object. The so-called ‘Armenian paper’ is neither a paper for all its purpose and intent, nor is it originated from Armenia. In fact, it was a French innovation. Auguste Ponsot had observed during his travels in the Ottoman Empire that the inhabitants often burnt incense to perfume their homes. Upon his return, he worked with pharmacist Henri Rivier to develop a method that facilitated the process. The result was papier d’arménie. They are paper strips that have been soaked in tinctures of benzoin, styrax, frankincense, and other sweet balsams before they are dried, and they emanate sweet incense upon combustion.

Perfumer Annick Ménardo took to these fragrant, combustible strips of paper and created Bois d’Arménie (Guerlain, 2006). It is a composition of glowing, sweet incense that reminisces the paper strips, but with a polished style.

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It opens with a brief pink pepper that marries well with its oriental theme. The rest is a bulk of balsamic incense. That sounds like a hefty theme indeed, but in the adept hands of perfumer Annick Ménardo, it is rendered luminous. She has a knack for interpreting heavy accords in a radiant manner, and one only needs to smell Bois d’Argent (Dior, 2004) to see how she lifts a rich iris-musk accord with plenty of frankincense oil and Ambrox to create the impression of warm, crisp driftwoods.

Likewise, the treacly sweetness of balsams and benzoin in Bois d’Arménie are offset by frankincense. Iris, meanwhile, lends its powdery touch to mellow the sharp resinous note of frankincense. And, patchouli rounds the accord with woody richness. Then, throw in guaiac wood, and the overall effect is a soft, glowing balsam with accents of smoky woods and rose petals.

It finishes on a musky, balsamic incense note. I especially like how its incense crackles, sending out its rich noble notes over a balmy and dulcet base. In a way, it is like the extinguished Armenian papers oozing its fragrant incense smoke. The difference is that the polished glow of Bois d’Arménie never fades. It lasts well, and throughout the day, I feel as though I were wrapped in a warm cocoon. Its soft glowing presence begs one to lean in and inquire as to the nature of this addictive, cosy scent.

Source: guerlain.fr

Review: Etat Libre d’Orange The Afternoon of A Faun — 4.5 points

The Afternoon of A Faun (Etat Libre d’Orange, 2012) was born of a serendipitous encounter. Etienne de Swardt, founder of Etat Libre d’Orange, was approached by a cantankerous patron who criticised the marketing gimmicks of the brand’s perfumes. In an attempt to rid himself of the annoyance, he gave away a perfume, only to have the patron returned two days later. It turned out that the patron was the late Jacques Damase, the influential publisher-cum-editor of several twentieth-century artists including Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Jean Cocteau, and Le Corbusier amongst others.

A fortuitous partnership was formed. Damase would eventually inspire de Swardt to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Ballets Russes with a perfume that honours its founder Sergei Diaghilev and one of the principal choreographers Vaslav Nijinsky. The resultant composition by perfumer Ralf Schwieger was named after the ballet choreographed and performed by Nijinsky and the Ballets Russes: L’Aprés-midi d’un faune.

The-Afternoon-of-a-Faun-570x708.jpgThe composition might have been christened with Nijinsky and the Ballets Russes in mind, but I tend to think of it in operatic terms. This is because of the glowing immortelle that cuts through the heft of myrrh. Immortelle is rich and dark, yet easily soars above the rest. It is a fittingly powerful companion to myrrh, whose strong notes of sweet balsam, amber, and smoky licorice also perfectly convey the notion of ancient rites. Paired together, the result smells as though an assoluta voice were slicing through the chorus.

As myrrh forms the bulk of the composition, the style is very much contemporary. But, the skilful use of accents gives it a vintage feel of the early twentieth century. These range from the bright spicy cinnamon and tart bergamot, the honeyed rose that mellows the sharp resinous note and lends an opulent curve, to the notes of incense, leather, and oakmoss that give a dramatic touch in the later stages. Such accents give a sense of grandeur and set tone of the composition. And, what better way to pay homage to Nijinsky and the Ballets Russes than setting a chypre tone to the perfume?

What I really like about The Afternoon of A Faun is the way its heavy notes linger there, but upon the slightest movement, its warmth rises to greet. This effect is noticeable in the dry down when the balsamic myrrh becomes dominant and is punctuated with incense, leather, and oakmoss. This and its beautiful sillage of resinous woods and warm immortelle will make it stand out in the crowd. But it is certainly elegant and never begs for attention. And, a few dabs suffice to perfume me throughout the day.

Source: etatlibredorange.com, interview with Etienne de Swardt on basenote.net

Review: Chanel N°22 — 5.0 points

Between 1919 and 1921, perfumer Ernest Beaux created a series of compositions. They were likely modifications of his successful Rallet N°1 (1914), also known as Le Bouquet de Catherine (Rallet, 1913) before the name change. They were presented to the mademoiselle. One was selected in 1921 and became Chanel N°5, and another was released a year later as Chanel N°22. This derivation from Rallet N°1 might explain resemblance between both as fragrances of aldehydic floral family, which combines aldehydic notes, flowers, and woods. But whereas the accent of Chanel N°5 falls on its opulent florals, Chanel N°22 plays up its dry woody notes.

chanel 22It is certainly a kinsman of Chanel N°5. It is aldehydic. Its metallic, citrusy, waxy notes are bright and scintillating – a counterbalance for the heft of white flowers. But there is also the warmth of sweet ylang ylang in the opening. Its solar and floral note does an excellent job at tempering the metallic chills of the aldehydic top.

The floral depth of ylang ylang that opens Chanel N°22 also bridges well to the heady white flowers. Orange blossom and jasmine absolute at 0.2% lend their peculiar narcotic accent to the composition. Th sensual florals remind me of a classic white strand of pearls that would lend an elegant touch.

Their decadent florals are matched by the dry woods, vetiver, and frankincense. The combined effect is that of incensed woods interspersed with white petals. Its woody note is rounded by a powdery sweet vanillic note. Towards the dry down, it is powdery, and incensed woods and musk form the main impression.

Chanel N°5 may be the classic floral aldehydic perfume, but Chanel N°22 is just as interesting a composition. Aside from the classical shimmering effect the aldehydic top has on its languorous white florals, the woody notes and incense provide a sober contrast. The indulgent florals are kept in check as the dry woods dominate, and this tension gives Chanel N°22 its character. It is a sublime woody variation of the original floral aldehydic composition.

A note on the concentrations: The extrait de parfum is no doubt rich with fatty absolutes from heady jasmine and carnal orange blossoms. But what startles me most in the extrait de parfum are the noble and rich woods of incense that fume out of skin on top of narcotic floral absolutes. It is basically the same as the eau de toilette, but its richness and the way its incense note emerges will make you swoon.

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

Review: Arquiste Anima Dulcis — 4.5 points

Take a look at the esoteric prose of Serge Lutens and Freudian reference on Un Bois Vanille (Serge Lutens, 2003), for example, and one sees why I am happy with the accompanying information of Arquiste. It talks about the creativity of the nuns of the Royal Convent of Jesus Maria in Mexico that has inspired brand owner Carlos Huber. They exploited local ingredients such as chilies, cinnamon, and vanilla to spice up their cocoa infusion, and Anima Dulcis (Arquiste, 2012) by perfumers Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier explores this beverage recipe along with its circumstances. The concept is direct and simple.

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Likewise, the original fragrance communicates clearly and with a beautiful surprise. At heart is a warm dark chocolate theme: imagine dusky bitter cocoa and hot chili infusion. Its gourmand accent is shaped by vanilla, cinnamon, and a bit of glazed orange peel on top. It would be the kind of hot beverage I would love to have on a chilly grey day.

But if you are worried that this might be cloying, fret not because it is surprisingly sombre. The rich balsamic, animalic tone of its amber is a dark revelation for such a gourmand direction of its theme. So is the whiff of incense that weaves in a liturgical air. The sum is dark and sensual, and this is a seriously creative beverage. Anima Dulcis seems to oscillate between dark chocolate confection and animalic amber that envelopes me for most of its six hours.

Although the theme of chocolate is not new, Anima Dulcis is such a surprise because it explores the other interesting side of chocolate: the animalic amber. But it is also perfectly paired with the intense heat of chili. This is the kind of gourmand composition with an edge. The swirling dark gourmand composition is certainly redolent of originality.

Source: arquiste.com

Review: Dior Homme — 5.0 points

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I say Dior Homme (2005) deserves its place on a pedestal of classics. Rarely do mainstream launches proceed without deliberation on market tests, but Dior Homme did. And its composition does not conform either: at the centre of it is iris, a material that does not have a firm ground on the masculine territory like, say, lavender or geranium. Yet perfumer Olivier Polge did an astounding job, thereby firmly establishing its place amongst masculine fragrances.

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Iris, which has the connotation of powder puff and lipstick, is not exactly a fresh note. However, in Dior Homme, its carrot facet is cleverly extrapolated with green herbs to give a fresh top note. A combination of bergamot, lavandin, geranium, and carrot seed renders the impression of aromatic green herbs. Cardamom and coriander provide a spicy contrast. Such cool herbs introduce freshness to the dense note.

The lively iris theme at heart revolves around 0.25% of orris absolute with its rich powder, carrot-like green, and chills. A peachy glow, the fruity touch of δ-damascone at 0.11%, and violet-like ionones warm and sweeten the composition. A radiant floral touch keeps the heart limpid. The glow and shimmer impart such clarity and polish, rendering an otherwise austere and sometimes dull note of iris vibrant.

Towards the base, the composition is warm and inviting. Here, vetiver is sweetened by vanilla, coumarin, and musk with a crisp ambery note of Ambrox. The resultant gourmand sweetness is brilliantly offset by the combination of myrrh and frankincense oil each at 0.5%. Patchouli conjures a surprising touch of bitter cocoa when paired with powdery iris. The character of vanillic woods strongly contrasts with that of iris, and pairing them together creates a gripping tension between warm and cool notes. It is riveting.

Offering iris as a masculine fragrance untested is a bold and risky move, but in doing so Dior and Polge have created a milestone with a memorable character and a lasting influence. The iris is rendered surprisingly fresh and spicy, and its rooty chills polished by radiant florals and glow of fruits. Then, pitted against vanillic woods and incense, it makes Dior Homme unforgettable. It is tenacious and its suave sillage of grand cru cocoa and supple leather will impress. Its boldness has certainly left a mark in perfumery.

A note on the concentrations: Since its launch, Dior Homme has been a success, spawning various incarnations. The versions which are clearly related to the original character are Dior Homme Intense (2011), which is an eau de parfum, and Dior Homme Parfum (2014) by perfumer François Demachy. The eau de parfum is like a creamy, sweet leather-cocoa as the levels of vanillin and coumarin are increased. For the parfum, its richness is overall increased, creating a dark supple leather; and the emphasis shifts to the fond with fumes of frankincense and myrrh — the blotter has been oozing these dark swirls even after three weeks from the first spray. The longevity of both is, likewise, sterling. Their presence also lingers long after one has disappeared.

Sources: fragrantica.com, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors