Review: Chanel Coromandel — 5.0 points

Gabriel Chanel was an ardent collector of Coromandel folding screens. These decorative wood screens with elaborate inlays are so termed because they were shipped to Europe via the Coromandel coast of Southeast India. It was also here that dry patchouli leaves were often laid among clothing to repel moths. Hence, I find it apt that perfumer Jacques Polge and Christopher Sheldrake would decide to explore this multi-faceted material in Coromandel (Chanel, 2007), a perfume inspired by the mademoiselle’s passion for the folding screens.

coromandel

With just a resinous piney start, it quickly descends into a rich patchouli. The camphoraceous and earthy facets of this raw material are curtailed, whilst the woody balsamic aspect is pushed and extrapolated. Fruity jasmine adds to the voluptuousness. Benzoin and vanilla play up the balsamic sweetness of the woody facet. And, to offset the heft, resinous incense is the perfect foil. The result is a patchouli so opulent that it tantalises with the richness of chocolate.

The dry down is just as decadent and smouldering, with sweet benzoin and incense lingering well into the night. Its resplendent sillage beguiles with enchanting sweetness of woods and resins. Its restrained gourmand exploration is mesmerising. Coromandel is a revelation about this otherwise earthy, woody raw material. It invites me to imagine the couturier lounging in her chair, feeling cocooned by the woody warmth of the decorative screens whilst beholding the gilded and mother-of-pearl inlays.

Source: Boris Lipnitzki’s portrait of Gabrielle Chanel in 1937

Review: by Kilian Noir Aphrodisiaque — 4.5 points

Chocolate is a challenging note. The sweet chocolate with which we are familiar is created with the help of vanillin, a principle odorant of vanilla that is used to flavour chocolate, but tuning that up alone would make for an intensely sweet milky bar. The rich overtones of fruits, flowers, spices, and woods are needed to bring out a grand cru chocolate, but the dense note of cocoa can also mask these, leaving the composition flat. For this reason, I am amazed by the sumptuous chocolate accord in Noir Aphrodisiaque (by Kilian, 2016) replete with complexity and glow.

noiraphrodisiaque.jpg

The subtle layers of notes add to the nuances of dark chocolate, making it rich and decadent. Bergamot, juicy lemon, and citron provide a bright prelude that quickly makes way for the confection. Chilly iris lends its cool, dusty texture of chocolate, whilst fruity jasmine bestows its voluptuous, narcotic scent.  A dusting of cinnamon serves as a spicy contrast that balances the languorous richness. It feels as though I had just had a bite into Choc-Abricot of Sprüngli: the dried apricots reveal their intense fruity and floral notes wrapped in bitter-sweet chocolate from Santo Domingo cacao.

These largely confer refinements to the chocolate, but the secret to a bitter chocolate impression lies in patchouli. Its warm, woody, balsamic facet is the perfect foil for the chilly, dusty iris, and its diffusiveness helps lift the composition. The effect is similarly observed in Dior Homme (2005), Coromandel (Chanel, 2007), and Borneo 1834 (Serge Lutens, 2005).

As it develops, it furthers explores the nuances and becomes most addictive. The bitter chocolate impression led by patchouli is softened by creamy and tantalising smoky notes. Here, sandalwood provides the milky chocolat chaud fantasy and tonka bean lends the sweetness and warmth of toasted almonds. The dark woody tang contrasted by a mellow baked good suggestion keeps the dry down engaging and airy.

Perfumer Calice Becker authored Noir Aphrodisiaque, and her signature luminosity and layered complexity are telltale.  It is chocolate from beginning to end, but it does not feel dense and flat. Instead, it peels away in layers to reveal nuances of citrus, floralcy, spice, wood, and vanillic sweetness. It is polished and each transition seamless. I can imagine wearing it at just about any occasion; it is just as alluring and elegant.

Sources: fragrantica.com

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.

olive

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: Liquides Imaginaires Peau de Bête — 4.0 points

I love horse riding. I love the thrill of galloping and the cool breeze that buffets my face, bringing the scent of grass, stables, and animalic sweetness of the beautiful beast. I have recently been reminded of that whirlwind of an experience as I tried Peau de Bête (Liquides Imaginaires, 2016). Its French name literally translates to ‘skin of the beast’, and I find that to be rather apt because of its rich animalic nature as the name would suggest. But it is in the accord with powdery woody sweetness that Peau de Bête has the element of surprise, turning what would otherwise be merely a blend of animalic tinctures into a memorable experience for me.

peaudebête

Perfumer Carine Boin brilliantly orchestrates Peau de Bête around a theme that contrasts animalic sensuality and dry woods. In the opening, herbaceous chamomile, cumin, and leathery saffron conspire to suggest something racy. Soon, creamy animalic notes dominate, with civet and castoreum so rounded and smooth it seems as though they were a dark chocolate ganache. The puffs of civet, in particular, seems to pulsate throughout the development, and this reminds me of the civet in Jicky (Guerlain, 1889) but in a more soft-spoken manner.

The animalic richness soon finds its balance in the dryness of woods. Atlas and Texan cedarwood lend the characteristic powdery, sweet wood shavings, and it is accented by a smoky, woody touch of guaiac wood, patchouli, cypriol, and amyris. As the composition develops, its dry character becomes prominent. The animalic direction embraces musk and the crispness of ambergris, whilst the woods acquire the dry sweetness of vernal grass and styrax. Towards the end, Peau de Bête still maintains its juxtaposition of animalic and woody notes but with the accent falling on dryness.

The pairing of creamy animalic notes and dry woods creates an enjoyable sensation: at times rich and heavy, at others dry and aloft. It is the scent of animals, woods, and hay. Peau de Bête has the right balance that triggers a cherished memory for me. Though it sits quietly, it has an unapologetically animalic side that I would recommend trying it first if you have not had experience with animalic perfumes. Else, one could also layer it with florals to give a distinctive animalic richness, and I can vouch for its wonder with the bright geraniums of Égoïste (Chanel, 1990) or Géranium Pour Monsieur (Frédéric Malle, 2009). Nonetheless, Peau de Bête is just as sublime an equestrian portrait on its own.

Source: fragrantica.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.

saltus

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: 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.

chanel-fr

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 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.

bois guerlain.jpg

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