Review: Jacques Fath Curaçao Bay — 2.5 points

The idea of sun-warmed frangipanis and beaches is a summer dream, and Curaçao Bay (Jacques Fath, 2015), created by perfumer Cécile Zarokian, is intended to evoke that experience. The eclectic idea of marine notes and white flowers is promising, and I am game for such a twist. The result seems like a novelty at first, but ultimately is unconvincing.

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To be fair, one is offered the tropical flower and the sea tang as promised. It opens with bright citrusy notes and green blackcurrant buds that restrain the growing richness of frangipani. Creamy coconut and narcotic ylang ylang dominate the floral accord. Its white floral sweetness is contrasted with an ambery, marine note. Indeed, I can relate to a scene of frangipani trees lining a beach. And, as it develops, it turns muskier and the marine note becomes more pronounced.  A touch of bitter almond and tonka bean lends extra warmth to the frangipani. I could simply like its quirky character, a twist of frangipani.

But it goes awry after an hour. The marine tang can be somewhat penetrative, and rather than a bay in the tropics, I start to imagine being stuck in a lift with the intense marine note left behind by someone who has oversprayed himself with Invictus (Paco Rabanne, 2013). Not quite like the advertised sun-warmed beaches. However interesting the idea to convey might be, you are out of luck if the fragrance annoys.

I bore with it till the dry down of vetiver and salty woods a few times, as I really wanted to make sure I can overcome the harsh marine tang and partake in the promised fantasy. Still, I remain unmoved. The opaque musk note in tandem with a persistent ambery note eventually make for a nuisance. The frangipani possesses some nuances, but there are plenty of more complex and luxurious frangipani accords out there that do a better job of evoking a summer paradise. Curious though its sketch may be, the resultant juice is literal, plain, and unmemorable.

Source: Jacques Fath Parfums

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Review: by Kilian Musk Oud — 3.5 points

One of the reasons why oud is such a popular accord with which to pair lies in its character. It possesses multiple facets: leathery animalic notes of civet, castoreum, and musk; smouldering hints of vetiver; solemn frankincense; fruity raspberry sweetness; and warmth of vanillic amber. The material offers plenty of overlapping notes, which naturally harmonises and achieves synergy with other accords. And, the oud collection, I find, is an excellent study that applies a magnifying glass on the different vantage points of this complex material.

Each examines and accents the hallmarks of oud. Pure oud (by Kilian, 2009), the simplest amongst these, strikes the balance between dark woods and leathery animalic notes of civet, castoreum, and musk. Incense oud (by Kilian, 2011), of course, plays up the sober note of frankincense. Then, Rose Oud (by Kilian, 2010) accentuates the raspberry jam facet with a dollop of sumptuous rose set in the oriental style. And unexpectedly, Amber Oud (by Kilian, 2011) highlights the warm vanillic character with a weightless twist. Hence, when it comes to Musk Oud (by Kilian, 2013), one can expect a musky oud, right?

by kilian musk oud

Not quite, I reckon. Indeed, the animalic and whisky-like onset may provide a brooding tone, but this is soon supplanted by a bright outlook. Cardamom accent hints at a lemony rose that soon blossoms amidst the rough-hewn dark woods and incense. Musk Oud is not so much about musk; the more it develops, the more its rose blossoms.

As the rose fades into a silhouette, however, the musks play an important role in blurring the lines between the notes, smoothing the transition. The warmth of balsams and incense soften the dusky woods. And that is as musky as it gets.

Smelling Musk Oud, I am also reminded of Rose Oud. There is a strong resemblance, but the difference lies in the rose. In Rose Oud the opulent rose takes centre stage in contrast to the tenebrous backdrop of oud accord, whereas in Musk Oud the rose is a translucent shimmer behind an opaque folding screen. The effect is thus more of a suggestion, an invitation to peer closer amidst the dusky notes, and that is just as tempting.

Given the first-rate raw materials and execution and the fact that I relish in it, I am tempted to give it four points, but the fact that Musk Oud feels like another well-executed version of the popular rose-oud combination prevents me from doing so. Considering what its creator perfumer Alberto Morillas did with a musk accord that would, with the help of perfumer Annie Buzantian, become the trend-setting metallic freshness in White Pour Elle (Emporio Armani, 2001), I had hoped for something more exciting for the musks, and not just a beautiful variation on a theme. It is nonetheless satisfying and has excellent lasting power. So, if you are looking for a well-crafted composition of this style and are comfortable with by Kilian’s price tag, you will not be disappointed. But as a study of oud, Musk Oud falls slightly short of my expectation.

 

Review: Hermès Twilly — 4.5 points

When I first read the tagline ‘the scent of the Hermès girls’, I did not have much hope for Twilly (Hermès, 2017), the latest creation by in-house perfumer Christine Nagel. Clearly, it is targeted at young women in their twenties and we all know too well what sort of composition major fragrance houses tend to have in mind for this demographic. My thoughts wandered off to the theme of La vie est belle (Lancôme, 2012), sugar confection that often ends up in very cloying vanilla and musk.

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But the very first sniff simply debunked all that stereotype. In fact, at the outset, Twilly is sparkling with fresh petitgrain and this is soon joined by a beguiling white floral note at heart. It is something between orange blossom and soft tuberose; and to those who are averse to white florals, fear not: the sweetness of its white florals is foiled by a gingery accent. Even in the dry down, which also lasts well from morning into evening, its musky amber is peppered with herbal accents and sweetened only by powdery heliotrope and bitter-sweet coumarin. Nothing about Twilly betrays a hint of sugary confections.

In fact, Twilly might just be the proof that young women in their twenties do not need saccharine musks to smell good. If they want something coquettish, addictive, and quirky, this is it. Its white floral is sensual enough without being carnal. Its sweetness is just tantalising without being treacly. And, the gingery and herbal accent lends a distinctive note to the mix. It feels like a quirky, seductive eau de cologne that blends citrus, herbal florals, and musky amber. And, it remains wearable. For this reason, Twilly, much like a short, memorable melody, is easily my favourite.

Source: hermes.fr

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: Chanel Gabrielle — 3.5 points

I find it difficult to write about Gabrielle (2017), the latest major launch in fifteen years by Chanel Creative Team and perfumer Olivier Polge. This is because it does not evoke anything beyond the propriety of a nice, likeable launch. I have but few adjectives and words with which to work.

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Perhaps, I should start by describing all the notes of Gabrielle with the few vocabularies that come to mind: lovely and bright. The vivacious debut of grapefruit and mandarin segues into a bright white floral heart. Although Chanel purports that this is a quartet of orange blossom, ylang ylang, jasmine, and tuberose from Grasse, what I smell is mostly a fresh lemony jasmine with a creamy accent, which is cushioned in the dry down by soft sandalwood and musk. Whilst a fresh white floral such as this is a dime a dozen, there is an accent reminiscent of dried fruits and prunes to it that lends Gabrielle its lasting luminosity — that is probably just about the only aspect that I find interesting. Other than that, Gabrielle seems to have borrowed its bright white floral from Jour d’Hermès (2013) and diluted the fruit syrup of Coco Mademoiselle (2001), arguably its more daring chypre-esque sister.

Still, I am quite willing to forgive Gabrielle. Its well-mannered white floral intended to appeal to the market at large is hardly distinctive, but at the same time it is not entirely without ploy. It also smells of quality, from the zest of its citrus to the creamy accent of white florals and the soft musk. This is rare by today’s standard. Hence, for its purpose and intent, Gabrielle makes the cut for a decent launch. Everything about Gabrielle is intended to hook, and it did me, but it does not arouse any feeling beyond mere satisfaction and fleeting delight.

Source: chanel.fr

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: 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