Review: Álvarez Gómez Agua de Colonia Concentrada — 4.0 points

The weather here has been unkind as of late, with frequent rains and chilly draughts, but I am determined to douse myself in my favourite eaux de cologne. After all, it is still summer, and the cheerful tone of citrus never fails to brighten the greyest of days. This time I pick a Spanish wardrobe staple, so to speak.

Agua de Colonia Concentrada, literally ‘concentrated eau de cologne’, was first produced by Álvarez Gómez in 1912, and it has since been a household name in Spain. It comes in a vintage-looking flacon with an easily recognisable yellow plastic cap and label. This iconic canary is perhaps a clue to the exuberance of the juice.

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And rightly so. Its debut is a huge burst of lemon, and this is exactly the sunny disposition I look for. Still, it can also be a little sharp, and if you have used lemon-scented household products, you might not appreciate that. As the effervescence of lemon subsides, agrestic herbs continue to underpin its bright character. There is a camphoraceous side that recalls lavander and rosemary as well as an anisic accent throughout that reminds me of basil. The impression is simply zesty and aromatic. Agua de Colonia Concentrada is all about scintillating lemons and bright herbs.

Of course, there are many more elaborate or novel eaux de cologne, from the baroque Eau de Cologne Impériale (Guerlain, 1853) to the modern bitterness of Eau de Gentiane Blanche (Hermès, 2009), but I sometimes crave for something as simple as vats of lemons and herbs. The lack of sweet florals and opaque musks in Agua de Colonia Concentrada also means that it is never cloying. The brew is one of bright rustic charm, and such simplicity is its winning quality.

And, the carrot of such an affordably priced concoction — at 9.00€ for 80 ml – will surely give you the perfect juice with which to douse yourself. It lasts reasonably well enough as an eau de cologne intended to refresh. Simply put, it is one of those old-school classics. It suits just about any occasion, season, and time of day. Just spritz away!

source: parcoparfumerias.com

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.

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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: 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 Jicky — 4.5 points

Legend has it that Jicky (Guerlain, 1889) was named either for the English lass, of whom perfumer Aimé Guerlain was enamoured, or for the nickname of his dear nephew, Jacques Guerlain. But, for certain, Jicky claims the title of ‘the oldest perfume in continuous production’.

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What makes it special is the creativity of Aimé Guerlain. He made use of what he knew and had at the time. He exploited the popularity of the fougère accord, which had been successfully pioneered by Fougère Royale (Houbigant, 1882), and experimented with the increasingly affordable synthetic compounds. The result was that Jicky was not only an imminently attractive fougère, but also one with a memorable signature that began to take shape and would later set the framework for later oriental icons of Guerlain like Shalimar (1925) and Habit Rouge (1965).

Jicky, as a classical fougère, features lavender, a material that possesses herbal, floral, and warm gourmand facet. Aimé Guerlain dressed it up with a lot of sparkling citrus, a sprinkle of herbs, and a warm vanillic base.

The aromatic freshness of lavender is expanded by citrus and herbs in the top. Bergamot and lemon lend their hesperidic sparkles. The original formula of Jicky likely contains as much as 32% bergamot oil and 2% lemon oil, with a boost from linalool obtained from distilled rosewood. Rosemary and thyme add an agrestic accent, giving it a rustic Provençal charm.

In contrast, the warm base that emerges later accentuates the sweet gourmand aspect of lavender. It is a powdery mélange of iris, vanilla, tonka bean, and sandalwood – a rudimentary Guerlinade, if you will. The use of aroma chemicals such as coumarin and vanillin gives Jicky a special sweet vanilla character. The animalic overtone of civet is also there, like a creamy ganache. Jicky settles into this warm animalic powder with an aromatic backdrop of lavender and herbs for most of its duration.

Jicky might have a familiar ring to its predecessor Fougère Royale because of its fougère structure, but its juxtaposition between raw citrus and vanillic base lends a different character. This memorable contrast would not be possible without the use of aroma materials that give a strong signature to Jicky. For such a creative twist on a familiar accord and a memorable character, Jicky is very special.

A note on the concentrations: I find the extrait de parfum indubitably richer than the eau de toilette. Already in the beginning, the bergamot is plump with tart-sweet and floral nuances, not so much as diffusive as that of the eau de toilette. Lemon oil is more pronounced as well. The lavender is rich with floral and herbal facets, and it lasts longer. Of note is the civet that feels like a ganache smoothing over the bucolic herbs. Its oriental vanilla and tonka bean accord is present in full glory. The emphasis of the extrait de parfum is on the aromatic and warm oriental character.

The eau de toilette of Jicky, however, starts on a more diffusive note of linalool-laden bergamot. Its lavender is more herbal. Civet puffs seem to come and go. The familiar oriental accord requires a nose pressed hard to the skin to detect. Overall, the eau de toilette feels like a hesperidic eau de cologne with herbal and oriental accents. Its lasting power is mediocre.

I have not tried the eau de parfum, so I cannot comment on that. But between the extrait de parfum and the eau de toilette, the former is classically rich and infused with a Guerlain DNA, but the latter is like a creative twist of a classic eau de cologne. Though not a die-hard Guerlain fan, I am partial to Guerlinade and would pick the extrait de parfum. Perhaps, spraying the eau de toilette on top to add the hesperidic brightness would be perfect — alas, the price may not permit such a double purchase.

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

  1. Esposito, Lawrence J.; K. Formanek; G. Kientz; F. Mauger; V. Maureaux; G. Robert; F. Truchet (1997). “Vanillin”. Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, 4th edition 24. New York: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 812–825
  2. Reimer, Karl Ludwig (1876). “Über eine neue Bildungsweise aromatischer Aldehyde”. Berichte der deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft 9 (1): 423–424

Review: Carthusia Mediterraneo — 3.5 points

A summer in Campania is, by and large, what many would consider a paradise. The heat, however, can present quite a challenge to that notion even on the most beautiful escape such as Capri, an island off the Gulf of Naples. The scorching sun not only made the journey up to the town with other tourists via the funicolare steamy and funky, but it also started to present some serious threats of sunburns. So, I decided to take refuge in the many shops along the dainty Via Camerelle alley.

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The little shops of Via Camerelle in Capri

Impressed by the Mediterranean idylls, I was looking also for a token to remind me of that beautiful summer, a piece of Capri. There were so many affordable touristy products: I LOVE CAPRI T-shirts, cups, bags, refrigerator magnets et cetera, but they would remind me more of cheap cookie-cutter productions than the bucolic Mediterranean island. I finally stumbled upon Mediterraneo (Carthusia, 2003), a perfume from the local niche house.

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Mediterraneo by perfumer Laura Tonatto gives the impression of a very good iced lemon tea, especially generous with the lemons. It opens with a firework of citrus: zesty lemon, bergamot, and sweet mandarin accented by aromatic herbs. Once the effervescence calms, there is a jasminic overtone to the composition.

As the rustic herbs gain their grounds, the sum is now a balance of tangy lemon, jasminic sweetness, and soothing iced tea. This continues for a decent three to four hours on skin and fabric, which is more than many other citrus-based eaux de toilette. And, while it lasts, it stays close, like a personal glass of cool refreshment.

Mediterraneo does not set out to be a grand parfum, but is meant as a refreshing touch. It is imbued with the exuberance of Sorrento lemons and agrestic herbs that hark back to that summer in Campania. It may not merit the exemplary status amongst its counterparts, but Mediterraneo has its own charm. To me, it brings back the rough charms of Naples, the picturesque ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and the sun-drenched villas of Capri.

Source: dasparfumklima.de

Review: Guerlain Habit Rouge — 5.0 points

In 1965, fragrances for men were still largely conservative with few styles dominating the market. There were the citrusy chypre of Pour Monsieur (Chanel, 1955), the green woods of Vétiver from Carven (1957) and Guerlain (1959), the fresh herbal fougères of Brut (Fabergé, 1964), and the leather chypre of Aramis (1965), to name a few.

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Then came Habit Rouge (Guerlain, 1965), suffused with Guerlain’s oriental legacy à la Shalimar (Guerlain, 1925). It was very different. Perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain created a composition of strong contrast between cool citrus and warm amber, infused with orange blossom and a leathery note inspired by dressage.

Its scintillating top note is citrus galore: fulsome 32% bergamot oil, 2% petitgrain oil, 2% lemon oil, and 0.5% neroli oil. The brightness of bergamot is a classic introduction of an oriental, joined by the suggestion of a classical eau de cologne from lemon, petitgrain, and neroli.

Then, Habit Rouge mellows with the sensuality of orange blossom. Its green, floral note lends a suave character to the oriental composition. At this point, it appears rather dandy. I imagine a gentleman doused with a hesperidic eau de cologne and fashionably sporting a white floral boutonnière on the lapel.

The sweet amber base is enriched by a Guerlinade accord of sweet vanilla, tonka bean, and powdery orris. There is also a balsamic touch of 0.5% myrrh resin. But key to the personality of Habit Rouge is a leathery iris accord provided by a Firmenich base that gives the feel of soft saddles, burnished boots, and supple reins, the elements of show jumping from the very own experience of Jean-Paul Guerlain. Habit Rouge finishes with a hint of equestrian leather on the amber powder of Guerlinade.

Evidently, Habit Rouge is an offspring of Shalimar that has been given some good tweaking. The citrus is boosted and amber mellowed, and a leathery reference of dressage gives the final touch. Its striking counterpoint of hesperidic notes and sweet amber is effectual in creating the mood of a classical Guerlain: beautiful, rich, and opulent in the panache of its forefathers.

Sources: ozmoz.com, horsecollaborative.com, tvinsider.com, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors.

Review: Frédéric Malle Dries van Noten — 4.5 points

Dries van Noten par Frédéric Malle (2013) was created by perfumer Bruno Jovanovic as Frédéric Malle collaborated with the namesake Flemish designer. The perfume has the atmosphere of a Belgian patisserie as it explores the delectable warmth of his Flemish roots.

Dries van Noten starts off bright with bergamot and lemon. I also notice the spicy accents of clove and nutmeg. The fresh spicy opening lends a nice contrast to the heavy oriental-gourmand theme of, perhaps, waffles, spéculoos biscuits, and sugar tarts. Through this transparent top note, the delicious direction of the composition is also evident.

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The central character is of baked butter pastries. It is built around the salted butter accent of saffron, the milky sweetness of Mysore sandalwood, and the musky softness of Cashmeran. Additional creamy richness comes from the warm milk note of Sulfurol (Sacrasol) and a touch of jasmine absolute. Then, ionones and caramel-like ethyl maltol sweeten the composition to provide an addictive suggestion of Flemish confectionery. And, with such luscious notes, Dries van Noten could easily be altogether opaque if it were not for the essence of patchouli to counteract with a woody touch. Yet, to make it truly edible, the creamy sweet and salted butter character is extended by vanilla, coumarin, and musk.

Dries van Noten is my choice of gourmand fragrance. It has a presence and lingers on even after the wearer has left. It oozes a mouth-watering suggestion of creamy desserts and salted butter, but it is never outright gourmand. This is what makes it tempting and wearable. If you are averse to sugary notes but also crave for something sensual and sweet, its teasing baked aroma will satisfy you. Every time I wear it, I imagine myself walking into my favourite bakery on Sunday and savours its irresistibly creamy air.

Source: maisondexception.com, tfsltd.com.au, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors.