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: 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: Chanel Jersey — 2.5 points

Chanel is one of the few fragrance houses whose quality and consistency I admire. From the aldehydic and floral cascade of Chanel N°5 (1921), the citrus chypre of Pour Monsieur (Chanel, 1955), to the verdancy and chilly iris amidst the chypre of Chanel N°19 (1970), and even the generic and not-so-original Bleu de Chanel (2010) and Chance (Chanel, 2003), one can smell quality in the juice. In fact, sniff Sauvage (Dior, 2015) and Bleu de Chanel side by side, and one easily sees the difference already in the opening. From such experience, it follows naturally that Jersey, both the eau de toilette (Chanel, 2011) and the extrait de parfum (Chanel, 2014), by perfumer Jacques Polge from the Les Exclusifs line does ‘smell of money’.

An exquisite lavender is at the centre of the composition. It takes the spotlight here, with compliments from a little rosemary in the top. Replete with aromatic facets and floral sweetness, the lavender in Jersey is a Provençal dream. This is especially so in the rich extrait de parfum.

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Its lavender is also shaped by vanilla and a nuance of caramel, showing yet another sign of promise. One often thinks of lavender as perfumes marketed to men or as a perennial favourite note of grandmothers, but Jersey revamps its lavender with sensuality and an almost edible quality. It is somewhat reminiscent of the lavender gourmand direction of Brin de Réglisse (Hermès, 2004).

It is all well and promising for good fifteen minutes when the lavender recedes and the first hints of musks appear, especially in the eau de toilette. They seem to play a role in softening the agrestic herb, which is fine. But the trouble is that I am reminded of toiletries and fabric softeners. The combination of lavender and soapy musk is quite the slippery slope. Such a pairing is popularly employed by consumer goods so much so that most of us have come to subconsciously associate lavender and musk with functional products. And, this is where Jersey falls short.

To be fair, it does employ quality materials and touches upon an interesting facet of lavender. The vanillic gourmand and cosy side of such a rustic material is a nice surprise. Moreover, Jersey also has the longevity of easily six hours on skin. I do like it for this, and smelling it from my clothes, it brings a sense of clean comfort.

Nevertheless, the olfactory implication of such a lavender-musk pair remains: it recalls fabric softeners. Jersey might offer a glimpse into a new side of lavender, but that is not enough to dispel the overwhelming association with functional products, especially when the lavender is paired with strong soapy musks. Without leaving the tried-and-tested accord, the fine material alone will not suffice to produce originality. There is a need for audacity and experimentation to ever challenge the way lavender is orchestrated.

In sum, Jersey is a first-rate lavender whose orchestration, sadly, does not quite flatter it.

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: Caron Pour Un Homme — 5.0 points

In fine fragrance, lavender had often been associated with lavender water or the tried-and-tested fougère accord. It features a complex interplay of citrus, geranium, lavender, oakmoss, coumarin, and musk. So, the lavender forms part of the abstract complexity. It dresses up lavender in an elaborate and dramatic fashion, with fresh cool notes on top and warm dusky notes deep down to contend.

But perfumer Ernest Daltroff begged to differ and conceived a visionary plan for it in 1934. The result was Pour Un Homme (Caron, 1934). It brings out a striking character of lavender in a clear-cut manner, not unlike the minimalism inherent in many modern-day creations.

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A quick sniff will tell you that this is lavender galore. Pour Un Homme contains as much as 41% lavandin oil and 31% lavender oil — they amount to 72% of the note. Like lavender, lavandin is also aromatic with sweet floral notes, but is relatively more herbal and camphoraceous; it adds brightness and projection. Compounded with accents of rosemary and clary sage, the rustic freshness is over the top and radiant, much like a bright day in picturesque Provence.

Most of the lavender is allowed to shine in Pour Un Homme, and I sometimes forget that this seemingly minimalistic composition is from 1934. But towards the dry down, vanilla emerges and one begins to see why it is the perfect pairing: cool herbs versus warm vanilla create a dramatic contrast. Rounded off by a slightly powdery musk, it feels polished.

Lavender had been used unadorned or in elaborate fougère compositions, but then there was Pour Un Homme that puts the spotlight on lavender. Perfumer Ernest Daltroff brought out a strong character in lavender through a strong contrast. Its pairing of aromatic herbs and sweet vanilla is simple, yet stunning. And, the inherent minimalism makes it feel as though Pour Un Homme were conceived today. But above all, Pour Un Homme is atemporal.

Pour Un Homme de Caron, les plus belles lavandes’ — the most beautiful lavender, literally.

A note on the concentrations: Pour Un Homme Millésime (Caron, 2014) is basically the eau de parfum created by perfumer Richard Fraysse. It feels more transparent compared to Pour Un Homme. But, that does not mean any less intensity or volume. On the contrary, the lavender note is sweeter, more long-lasting, and more camphoraceous. The ambery warmth of clary sage is amplified to match. The vanillic powder and musks have been toned down. Overall, it is more diffusive, and the transparency therein keeps Pour Un Homme Millésime decidedly modern. One might find this updated version to be more to contemporary taste.

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

Review: James Heeley Chypre 21 — 3.5 points

Often, I have had to brace myself when smelling a perfume with the description of ‘chypre’ attached to it. The very idea of this fragrance family dates back to Roman times, but the characteristics of ‘chypre’ or ‘Cyprus’ only took shape due to the famed perfumery materials of the nineteenth-century Cyprus. A chypre comes with the key notes of bergamot, oakmoss, and labdanum, but is often combined with notes of rose, jasmine, patchouli, amber, and/or musks. It can be seen as a grand and dramatic perfume. It has been almost a century since this structurally defined chypre was popularised by the success of Chypre de Coty (Coty, 1917). I should think it safe, therefore, to say that chypre is not the kind of olfactory conception millennials like me are familiar and can readily appreciate.

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As I have learned to understand the complex aesthetics of a chypre perfume, I am of the opinion that such a complex fragrance is not a grab-and-go perfume for every day. The rich complexity and, often, intensity of a chypre can be glorious, but the very same combination can also be brutal. With Mitsouko (Guerlain, 1919) in the eau de toilette and eau de parfum, for example, I teeter between aversion and admiration whenever someone douses himself or herself liberally at the Guerlain counter. Only the peachy warmth and sensual Guerlinade in the extrait de parfum firmly establish it in my realm of admiration.

But thanks to the clever updates and spin-offs, there have been a fair share of chypres that I can access, like, or love. For instance, in Pour Monsieur (Chanel, 1955), the zesty lemon and agrestic herbs keep the composition bright amidst the dark mood of oakmoss. In Chanel N°19 (1970), the galbanum and iris give it the idiosyncratic green and buttery softness to the otherwise rough-hewn structure. In 31 Rue Cambon (Chanel, 2007) and Cuir de Russie (Chanel, 1924), the addition of plush iris significantly softens the harshness. Similarly, Chypre 21 (Heeley, 2015) by James Heeley takes advantage of the rich, honeyed rose to not only give opulence to the composition, but also render a headstrong chypre more obliging.

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A very fine bergamot introduces the bright top. The citrus is brief and would escape if one does not sniff within a few seconds of spraying. It is bright and refreshing, and the floral nuance brings us seamlessly to the heart.

It is a rose in its prime — rich, floral, and honeyed. A Provençal accent of rosemary provides a minty touch. Now its peachy glow and richness remind me of a sip of whisky that warms the body. As time passes, patchouli dominates with a warm tone setting stage for the emerging woody warmth.

Velvety sandalwood and musks lend much softness to the woods. And its oakmoss note is subdued, but persists there with a brooding accent to reassure you of its signature chypre. The final stage radiates the warmth of musky oakmoss. The overall result is understated and balanced. It has a nostalgic ring of the classical chypre, and it smells like money. It is certainly polished.

If you ever decide to make a foray into the chypre terrain, Chypre 21 would be akin to a modern gateway to get an idea of the chypre structure like Ma Griffe (Carven, 1946) or Miss Dior Originale (1947).

source: jamesheeley.com, fragrantica.com