Review: Jacques Fath Bel Ambre — 4.0 points

Bel Ambre (Jacques Fath, 2015) is literally ‘beautiful amber’. As the name might already suggest, the bulk of the composition rests on a classical blend of vanilla and labdanum, which is called ‘amber’ for its rich, golden brown hue resembling the precious tree resin. One could be forgiven, therefore, for thinking that the name betrays yet another classical sweet amber perfume, but this is not case. This is because Bel Ambre certainly has a few beautiful surprises up its sleeves.

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Of course, the main impression is traditional. The beloved warmth of this perfumery accord indeed already makes itself evident in the top notes. Juniper berry, which is often used to flavour liquor, imparts a boozy note to the bright citrus and savoury herbs. Cumin lends its complementary spicy note. The sum is like the warmth of a strong liquor coursing through your veins.

But the surprise that soon sets in comes as a chill. Buttery iris note creates an interesting cool contrast to the warm amber composition, and along with an animalic overtone of castoreum and smoky leather, they meld into a soft leathery note. It develops in the dry, smoky side, which will suit those who prefer their amber a little less opulent.

The pleasing amber accord reveals itself fully towards the dry down. The powdery sweetness of vanilla, tonka bean, and musk creates a cosy, ever-so comforting cushion. The balsamic note of labdanum imbues the composition with much warmth here. And in the background, a vetiver note offsets the sweetness nicely with a bit of a woody touch.

Bel Ambre is a gentle take on classical amber with a twist. For me, the overall warmth recalls that of Ambre Sultan (Serge Lutens, 2000), but it is quieter in terms of volume and slightly sweeter. Of course, there is also the soft leathery and animalic tinge. Its lasting power is great enough to be enjoyed throughout the day. If you are looking for a taste of classical amber but with a chic twist, this is it. And, I am sure that fans of classical amber will hardly find fault with such a beautiful amber, and that applies to me as well. Even when I constantly look for novelty in compositions, a familiar accord that is well-executed such as this one has already won half of the battle for my affection.

Source: spirale-rp.fr

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Review: Bvlgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Bleu — 4.5 points

Who would have thought that a rejected proposal would turn out to be a successful milestone in perfumery? The idea of green tea and citrus had been declined by many brands until Bvlgari decided to pick it up and launched it as Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert (1992). It would become the trendsetter for tea accords that we know in perfumes like CK One (Calvin Klein, 1994), Thé pour Un Eté (L’Artisan Parfumeur, 1995), or Green Tea (Elizabeth Arden, 1999). That Bvlgari would continue with a portfolio of tea accords makes therefore perfect sense, and Eau Parfumée au Thé Bleu (2015) clearly follows in the footsteps of its great predecessor.

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In the same vein as Thé Vert, Thé Bleu renders an excellent illusion of tea in a citrus eau de cologne. This time, however, the tea is Oolong, which possesses a heady floral nuance and a hint of roasted aroma. In keeping with this tea character, citrusy notes and lavender provide a fresh, aromatic introduction with a floral overtone. There is also plenty of bright cardamom to last through to the dry down, imparting its green and roasted accent.

The rich floral connotation of the tea, then, unfolds seamlessly. It begins with mimosa. Its green facet is a logical transition from cardamom, whilst its floral and honey aspects are reciprocated by powdery violet and iris. In contrast, a tart cassis and a green, almost minty note hum along in the background.

If these floral notes of Thé Bleu give the impression of a heavy and opulent composition, I assure you that it is not. Its creator perfumer Daniela Andrier is renowned for her distinctive powdery floral accords, such as those found in Infusion d’Iris (Prada, 2007) and Infusion de Mimosa (2016), because they are firm yet delicate at the same time. Likewise, the same soft-hued, wispy tone applies to the dense violet and iris. Even in the dry down, its soft musk and a hint of tonka bean that wrap the florals will not distract from the pastel tone, and Thé Bleu remains just as ethereal as the swirling steam of a brewing cup.

It offers a twist in its tea accord, but also nicely preserves the beloved hallmark of its forebear. The surprise for me is the floral overtone from lavender, violet, and iris; it is interesting to find lavender in a soft and floral context in contrast to the fresh fougère. I also take to the familiar combination of its citrus, woody cardamom, and musk. Much like Thé Vert, the original citrus-tea fragrance, the unique take on a tea accord and transparency of an eau de cologne are what I love about Thé Bleu.

Source: bulgari.com

Review: Chanel 1932 — 3.5 points

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In 1932, Gabrielle Chanel debuted her fine jewellery with Bijoux de Diamants collection. The pieces contained motifs of her inspiration — constellations, comets, and her star sign, Leo — and were designed such that they seemingly embodied the sense of liberty inherent in her couture. They were free of clasps and fastenings, and could be worn in different styles, for example, like a necklace or a fringe tiara. In exhibiting the collection, moreover, she opted for life-like wax mannequins with ravishing eyes and real hair instead of the traditional trays. And, all this happened at a time when the economy was still recovering from the Great Depression. How could she be so audacious and tread so lightly with such hefty carats?

Eighty years later, 1932 was created by perfumer Jacques Polge and is intended to capture the sparkles of diamond constellations that made history for Chanel. It is a great concept, and indeed the aldehydic shimmer of 1932 (Chanel, 2012) is nothing if not sparkling. It is starchy, and has the metallic tang of a grapefruit rind. The opening of Chanel N°5 Eau Première (2008) comes to mind. Some ten minutes into development, the chills of iris emerge and soon dominate.

The aldehydic notes and iris together may conjure the sharp brilliance of cut gemstones, but beneath that austere chills is a transparent white floral-jasmine layer that softens it. Over time, the aloof character of 1932 warms up to a creamy, inviting musky note in the dry down. The sweetness of its floral is also nicely offset by a subtle vetiver note.

The magic of the Bijoux de Diamants collection is that it remains timeless. I doubt that I can say the same of 1932. Its combination of aldehydic, floral, and woody notes is a familiar tune, and one could find far more striking orchestrations of iris, such as those of verdant Chanel N°19 (1970) or chypre-esque 31 Rue Cambon (Chanel, 2007).

Nevertheless, the elegance and quality of 1932 can hardly be considered disappointing. I revel in its refinement, from the rich aldehydic iris wrapped in diaphanous layers of jasmine to the plush creamy dry down. In terms of character and performance, it may pale in comparison to its more distinctive brethren, but the quality of its materials is beyond reproach. In fact, its demure nature may yet delight those who like their perfumes soft-spoken. So, never mind the history, a perfume must above all smell good, and 1932 does exactly just that for me.

Source: chanel.fr

Review: Chanel N°5 Eau Première – 4.0

Few brands do justice to the re-working of their classic creations as does Chanel. This is why I enjoy re-tracing the incarnations of Chanel N°5 (1921) to see what each interpretation has to offer. Previously, I examined the verves and radiance of a young mademoiselle in Chanel N°5 L’Eau (2016). This time, I say we look back at the modern legacy of the grand dame in Chanel N°5 Eau Première (2007).

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Its cascade of notes makes for a luscious sensation, whilst its clarity lends itself to ease of wearing. One is first greeted with heady and sunny ylang ylang, and there is a dalliance with the aldehydic note, both of which are customary to Chanel N°5. This leads over to the iconic bouquet of rose and jasmine blended into a floral mélange, but with each note still lending their nuances to the mix.

As Eau Première develops, I notice the progression from a bright, crystalline layer to a warm, round and sensual one. Its powdery iris note, in particular, gives the luminous sheen and softness of silk. And in the dry down, the warmth of its vanillic, musky base is still accompanied by a lingering hint of floral bouquet. Eau Première lasts easily a whole day and continues to persist on fabric. Its radiant, indistinctly floral sillage is also recognisable.

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From top to base, the framework of Chanel N°5 is preserved: only the emphasis has been shifted. By trimming the top and base, the composition acquires greater clarity and the focus now falls to the beloved bouquet of Chanel N°5. Here, perfumer Jacques Polge seems to have struck the perfect middle ground between classical pomp and modern clarity. In other words, Eau Première is an excellent update to the original.

Sources: chanel.com

Review: Arquiste Aleksandr — 4.0 points

Inspired by the fatal duel of the poet Alexander Pushkin, the namesake Aleksandr (Arquiste, 2012) isll a story of Pushkin riding into the fir forest on the fateful day, wearing leather boots and a copious splash of an eau de cologne.

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But without reading the accompanying story, I tend to think of Aleksandr by perfumer Yann Vasnier as a leathery iris with a splash of eau de cologne-type freshness. This idea of iris for men is not entirely new, considering that it has already begun with the advent of Dior Homme (2005) that sets its iris in a cocoa and somewhat leathery theme. Nevertheless, there is always room for a good tweak.

The beginning of Aleksandr is a cool sparkle of neroli and citrus, and there is a lot of it because it veils the bulk of Aleksandr so well that I never would imagine that there is a dense theme at heart. Its bright freshness is a beautiful contrast to the dusky iris.

In a moment, the iris heart reveals itself. I first notice its green carrot vibes, followed by the sweetness of violets. Then, a leathery musky accent gives the impression of a soft suede – not exactly what Pushkin would have worn, but it has the modern appeal of soft leather that I like. The iris theme is also kept dusky by oakmoss and fir balsam, noticeably prominent in the dry down. It is gentle and understated, but it has a good lasting power.

An iris for men has a familiar ring of Dior Homme, but it is the accents that give Aleksandr a different character of its own. Its violet and suede impart a charming note. Its mossy and balsamic note has a rough-hewn appeal. And, the copious neroli makes Pushkin radiant, I imagine. Aleksandr is surely an interesting update to the masculine iris.

Source: arquiste.com

Review: Guerlain Vol de Nuit — 5.0 points

During the golden age of aviation, the general sentiment was one of exploration, adventure, and fascination with the unexplored. This is because these could be made possible by the advent of aviation. Such sentiments pervaded the air of the time, and therefore, when Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote the novel Vol de Nuit or ‘Night Flight’ in 1931 based on his experience as an aviator, it became an international best-seller. Its tale of a courageous pilot braving the night storm and plunging himself into an unknown fate whilst his dear wife awaited the grave news moved many.

As perfumery caught on this l’air du temp, perfumer Jacques Guerlain — himself a friend of Saint-Exupéry — composed Vol de Nuit (Guerlain, 1933) in honour of the pioneering aviator. The resplendent composition of green, floral, woody, and animalic elements was most avant-garde, and did not lend itself to any immediately recognisable category.

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The extrait de parfum that I acquired in 2015 opens with a snap of bitter-green galbanum and wonderfully tart bergamot. The latter recalls the fine tartness of Jicky (Guerlain, 1889) in the top.  More importantly, I like the way the galbanum is intertwined with bergamot, creating a temperamental green character that is, at once, fierce and gentle. From then on, Vol de Nuit begins its descent into the bottomless pit.

The dark green ripples of jonquille absolute bridge the green top with their deep mellow touch. Then, I smell what is effectively a Guerlinade accord. It is a soft oriental powder revolving around jasmine, orange blossom, orris, vanilla, and tonka bean. Throughout, the powerful leathery and animalic note of castoreum is present and becomes more evident as the composition develops. Its animalic allure maintain the gravity of the composition. The dry down is a combination of resins, amber, and a light touch of oakmoss. Much later, it smells of resinous woods.

My impression of Vol de Nuit in the extrait de parfum is that it is a dense and most beautiful atramentum. I must admit, though, that I had a hard time at first because of the castoreum funk and the fierce and dark green notes of galbanum and jonquille. But a few times of wearing it changed my mind. This is because a composition like Vol de Nuit demands patience. It takes time to play out the sublime depth of the notes.

Vol de Nuit is all about the depth of night, but neither is the familiar contrast of cool and warm notes missing. There is plenty in the fresh green top versus the animalic warm base. Jacques Guerlain brought disparate elements together, despite their strong and seemingly irreconcilable differences. There are the greens of galbanum and jonquille, the floral-oriental and the feral impertience of castoreum and resinous notes. The heterogeneity of Vol de Nuit is what gives the anticipation and the excitement of charting an unknown territory. That is why I admire and covet Vol de Nuit. It feels like raw instinct as one plunges into the abyss.

More than eight decades later and stripped of some of its animalic tinctures and oakmoss, it is still daring, bold, and certainly one of a kind.

Source: guerlain.fr

Review: Chanel 31 Rue Cambon — 5.0 points

There have been great chypre perfumes such as Pour Monsieur (Chanel, 1955), Chanel N°19 (1970), and Cristalle (Chanel, 1974) amongst the arsenal of perfumes Chanel can boast. Pour Monsieur contrasts hesperidic citrus with mossy woods, giving an otherwise austere eau de cologne a dramatic twist. Similarly, Cristalle drapes a bright green floral veil on top of a mossy, musky base. More opulent, however, is Chanel N°19, which showcases the interplay between green galbanum and rooty orris on a grand chypre stage, redolent of floral elements, leather, oakmoss, and woods. And, the latest addition to the chypres of Chanel, 31 Rue Cambon (Chanel, 2007) by perfumer Jacques Polge, is just as great.

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The photograph above captures its mood well: 31 Rue Cambon is like a figure of cool elegance amidst the baroque warmth of the interior. The green carrot and steely chills of iris are set against a warm backdrop of patchouli, labdanum, and musks. The juxtaposition between cool iris and a warm chypre accord creates a dramatic tension that gives 31 Rue Cambon its character. But, despite the drama, it never loses the polished elegance. Floral shimmers sweeten and soften the chypre accord and a peppery bergamot provides a charming introduction.

Towards the dry down, the combination of iris, warm balsamic note, and creamy musk is truly elegant and sensual. Thanks to the creative strategy of Polge, the sublime chills of iris are not lost in the dramatic interplay. He simplifies instead of overdosing to achieve emphasis, and the chypre accord sans oakmoss thus allows iris to shine along with glow of its chypre warmth.

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As a chilly iris set in a warm chypre style, 31 Rue Cambon is a stunning update to the portfolio of great chypres. Its lasting glow will also keep you warm and mesmerising throughout the day.

Sources: chanel.com; elle.gr