Review: by Kilian Rose Oud — 4.0 points

At first sniff, Rose Oud (by Kilian, 2010) was evident in its treatment of rose in the oriental style, and I was ready to label it as ‘a plump rose wrapped decently in balsamic notes’. This is because a fragrance of this style, which is a Western imagination of Middle Eastern perfumery, is a dime a dozen. Off the top of my head I can recall Portrait of A Lady (Frédéric Malle, 2009) and Sa Majesté la Rose (Serge Lutens, 2000), two excellent compositions that set the bar for this genre. Yet, I felt compelled to revisit Rose Oud time and again.

Initially, it was not obvious to me why I kept coming back to this simple rose-oud pairing, but as I continued to wear it, the nuances and facets that lend Rose Oud its distinction became more discernible. I realised then that I regularly returned to it because, like any interesting compositions, it creates a personal fantasy. And funnily enough, Rose Oud conjures for me the delectable Viennese confection, Sachertorte, which is a chocolate cake soaked in tart apricot jam and glazed with a dark couverture. I particularly revel in the opulent contrast between a sumptuous rose and a plush oud accord, as it has the allure of bright jam juxtaposed with dusky chocolate.

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Just as the bright notes of apricot lift up the hefty Viennese chocolate confection, the subtle embellishments add dimensions and depths to the rose accord. A hint of cardamom and cinnamon imparts a bright champagne-like effervescence. The overtone of ripe raspberry and musky violet confers jammy sweetness. An encounter with its scintillating rose feels like the very first bite into a moist piece of Sachertorte in which the glowing apricot note primes the palate for the ambrosial chocolate to come.

The underpinning oud accord is just as faceted as the complex notes of grand cru cocoa. From the suede note of saffron set against smoky woods to the animalic and vanillic accent peeking through, the accord possesses the same alluring inky edge of biter chocolate.

Perfumer Calice Becker, who crafted Rose Oud, is a mistress of disguise. The ostensibly simple composition belies its sublime layers. The dialogue between rose and oud remains focused throughout, with its shades and strata effectively lending polish. And whereas most oriental roses tend to have enough strength and diffusive power to perfume a dessert, this one explores the nuanced intimacy of rose and dark woods.

With its rich hues and accents secreted behind an unadorned pairing, Rose Oud possesses a certain je ne sais quoi that makes it seductive. This is all the more so with its impressive tenacity. Fans of this style will cherish the sterling essences and olfactory subtleties. Even if you find this style to be ubiquitous, at least give it a try and see whether it ignites a personal fantasy, like it does for me. Now, where is that recipe of Sachertorte?

Source: K.u.K. Hofzuckerbäcker Demel

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Review: by Kilian Pure Oud — 4.0 points

Admittedly, I am hesitant to try any oud perfumes. This is because the choices can be overwhelming, and when bombarded with a myriad of oud variations, it is difficult to pick one. I also find that in most perfumes the note has a particularly irksome quality reminiscent of a medicinal plaster. Even the only one that I consider deserving a try and find it pleasant enough, that is 1001 Ouds (Annick Goutal, 2015), that quality persists, almost as an inherent, ineliminable character of oud. So, I have grown weary of oud almost to the point of aversion.

But that might just change with Pure Oud (by Kilian, 2009).

The name itself does little to offer any promises, but give it time and let it unfold on your skin, and you will be rewarded with probably the best oud interpretation out there. Unlike most other ouds I have tried, Pure Oud, despite featuring such a rich, dense material, is unfathomably radiant. This familiar surprise, if you will pardon the oxymoron, is invariably unique to the style of perfumer Calice Becker who crafted it. She is adept at rendering shimmering compositions, and Pure Oud is one such fine specimen.

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Whilst it initially seems monolithic, the composition comes to life as the facets readily reveal themselves. Wet civet and dry tobacco are the first juxtaposition. Then, it becomes drier and smoky with guaiac wood. Saffron and musky violet suggest the nuance of leather. Far from being a dull woody accord, which is what I find in most oud perfumes, the interplay of facets is what makes Pure Oud dynamic and interesting.

Although employing shades and accents to polish the accord might seem like an obvious trick, the balance with which they are executed is no mean feat. Here, the sum clearly is round and mellow, and more importantly, the discordant note of medicinal plaster found in most ouds is absent.

A harmonious dark wood blend that continues to mesmerise with its lambency, Pure Oud more than deserves to be tested on skin. And in so doing, the richness of animalic woods will continue to hypnotise all day long.

Source: bykiliran.fr

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: 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: Annick Goutal La Violette — 4.0 points

Nothing spells quaint like a good old violet scent. It was a defining note of perfumery during the early twentieth century when most, if not all, down puffs, toiletries, and fragrances were perfumed with violet notes. Therefore, anything that boasts violets certainly has a vintage vibe.

But for La Violette (Annick Goutal, 2001), it is not just about reminiscing that vintage powder puffs, violet corsages, and candies of era past. There is also a natural quality and an interesting accent to it that make La Violette a special soliflore.

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Perfumer Isabelle Doyen must have revisited this seemingly old-fashioned and outworn note with such a focus. One is greeted with the veiled sweetness of rose and fruity raspberry. These come on strongly at first and settle into a palpable element throughout. Along with these is the characteristic powdery note of violets. Here, La Violette contains as much as 48% of isomethyl-α-ionone and 19% β-ionone, mirroring nature’s very own proportion of 35.7% α-ionone and 21.1% β-ionone. And, with a green violet leaf touch, the composition is convincingly photorealistic.

But these overdosed ionones are just part of the violet story, for there is a special peppery, woody touch to La Violette. It becomes more prominent as time passes and lasts until the musky dry down. I find that this adds an interesting dusky contrast to the sweetness of the ionones.

It is by no means a complex or ornate composition, but the simplicity is key. The nuances that make violets charming are captured here along with the subtle but assertive peppery, woody contrast. Simply put, La Violette keeps it short and sweet, which is why it is a memorable delight.

Sources: annickgoutal.com; M Cautschi, JA Bajgrowicz, P Kraft, Chimia 2001, 55, 379; Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors

Review: Hermès Cuir d’Ange — 4.0 points

Cuir d’Ange (Hermès, 2014) is named after the words in the novel Jean le Bleu. In the novel, author Jean Giono describes his shoemaker father working in his Provençal cobbler. Similarly, the composition is inspired by the leather of Hermès. According to perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena who explored the leather pieces kept in the firm’s vault, the magnificent skins, which are naturally tanned, ‘smell of flowers’. This interpretation indeed comes through in the composition. The delicate floral notes bring out an interesting facet as they morph seamlessly into the rich overtones of soft leather.

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Cuir d’Ange opens with a sharp snap of hawthorn. Its crispness is as fresh as the cool spring air. This crisp introduction soon glides over to a floral mélange: violet, heady narcissus, and a touch of almond-like heliotrope. Its violet overtone gives Cuir d’Ange the impression of sweet leather handbags that exude a floral note. Its delicate theme seems to oscillate between floral and leather notes.

Towards the dry down, the bitter tang of its dry leather is noticeable, but the floral and leather notes are still seamlessly conjoined by musk. It is an interesting synergy. Those familiar with Ellena’s ethereal and wispy accord will find much to delight in this interesting leather etude. It may seem soft and bland in comparison to the dramatic leather chypres of Bandit (Robert Piguet, 1944) or Cabochard (Grès, 1959), but its clarity of its uncluttered floral-leather accord is a charm to behold.

Source: flairflair.com

Review: Hermès Hiris — 4.5 points

Pablo Picasso was adept at using either melancholic blue hues or warm shades of red, orange, and earth to create masterpieces characteristic of his Blue and Rose Periods. Similarly, fragrances in styles that are as distinctly opposite as dark woods and pastel florals number amongst the œuvre of perfumer Olivia Giacobetti. Her virtuosity can be seen in both the spiced sandalwood of Idole (Lubin, 2005) or the sublime soliflore of Hiris (Hermès, 1999). And if I had to pick a spring time favourite, it would be this water-colour iris par excellence.

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Despite its delicate character, Hiris is not simplistic. In fact, the composition is polished. It possesses the various facets that afford iris its inimitable complexity. Green and waxy notes in the beginning provide the vegetal impression of orris, which is reminiscent of raw carrots. This is contrasted by a spicy touch of coriander seeds. Then, a hint of orange blossom imparts the subtle floral nuance. These subtleties give Hiris its sophisticated bearing.

At the heart of it is an interplay between powdery and woody notes of iris. Violet overtones emphasise the powdery aspect, whilst cedarwood lends its subtle woody, powdery character. Such curious duality is what makes this raw material beautiful, and it is employed here as the centrepiece of the composition. Then, rounded by musky notes, the combination of powder and woods also acquires a soft, hazy signature.

The sum is a composition that offers a vibrant contrast even with its soothing pastel shade. Her unique treatment of iris is the reason why I find the composition intriguing. And though its diaphanous character may be intended for the wearer’s admiration, it is surprisingly persistent. Having said that, if you have an appreciation for such a style, you will find her other water-colour works just as beautiful an offering. And in the case of Hiris, it is a great example of how a light composition can have yet a strong character.

Sources: usa.hermes.com