“Lapis Lazuli” by Olivier Durbano – the scent of ultramarine

This is the twelfth stone in a fragrant interpretation of Olivier Durbano, to the enjoyment of the fans of this extraordinary artist’s talent, including me personally. Many times I have already highlighted the uniqueness of the Parfums de Pierres Poemes collection. Every perfume lover who enjoys original and sublime beauty of perfume should know it. Period.

olivier-durbano

This time the inspiration was Lapis Lazuli – a stone with a beautiful blue color. The word “blue” not entirely reflects the unusual color of the stone, which was widely used in the Renaissance to obtain extremely valuable pigment – natural ultramarine. This inspiration, of course, is reflected in the beautiful color of the perfume.

Connoisseurs of precious stones assign to Lapis Lazuli mental properties as: supporting in the fight against melancholy, positive impact on the serenity, harmony in dealing with other people, a sense of security. Lapis Lazuli is to strengthen willpower, concentration, intuition, self-confidence, creativity, courage and leadership.

lazuryt

Lapis Lazuli is Durbano I like the most. Cool, mineral, mystical and absolutely different from everything.

The initial smell is a combination of dry woody wormwood (well known to us in a very expressive and raw edition in French Lover by Frederic Malle), with coniferous cypress, tea tree oil and a hint of green herbal thyme spiced up by clove. Rose oxide gives these components a not exaggerated, but clearly perceptible rosy-metallic glow (a stronger and more rose centered one can be found in the phenomenal Opus X Amouage.) So the oxide imprints its mark, but not in an extent to deal here with the aroma of rose, but only with its metallic green memory. The base has woody character and it follows the heart in a very natural way, while still maintaining the main theme of the scent. This is important, because according to me Lapis Lazuli smells at the end almost the same as in the beginning, and the occurring changes – although present – are minimal.

The perfume projects very nicely, without exaggeration but in a noticeable way, sticking on the skin for over eight hours, which completes my high rating. According to me, this is one of the most interesting and one of the best fragrances in Olivier Durbano’s collection. The longer I test it, the more it delights me… Bravo Olivier!

durbano-lapis-lazuli

top notes: wormwood, cypress, rose oxide, cloves

heart notes: thyme, wheat, iris

base notes: vetiver, cedar, amber, elemi, tolu balsam, musk.

launched in: 2016

perfumer: Olivier Durbano

 

 

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Puredistance SHEIDUNA – a marriage of oriental sensuality and Parisian elegance

Is perfume luxury a term that still means anything nowadays?

At a time when brands considered to be a luxury are releasing sometimes several fragrances a year, often confirming the age-old rule that more does not mean any better (and actually it is usually an opposite), the creator of the Puredistance brand Jan Ewoud Vos since its inception cares about it to be seen as a synonym for true luxury. It is not only about the juice itself, which is in that case always of the highest quality, but also about everything that comes with it – from an unusual bottle, through luxury accessories, limited distribution, respectively high price to the frequency with which the brand launches a new fragrance. Puredistance launches it once a year or less and only because of that fact the brand is one of the few exceptions. Recall: in 2007 there was the first perfume Puredistance I. In 2010, the brand presented two scents: female Antonia and male Puredistance M. In 2012 appeared Opardu, in 2013 Black and in 2015 – White. For 2016 an unique launch was announced …

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Admittedly, the launch of the new fragrance was this time extremely carefully prepared and carried out. The advertising campaign served in the electronic media long before the premiere resembled campaign of a new film by a famous director. At the beginning, it was only known that Puredistance had been preparing a new fragrance. With time, the company revealed its name giving its letters gradually one by one. Once we had learned that its name was SHEIDUNA, representatives of the brand became literally silent.

Company was dosing the tension to such an extent that even during this year’s Esxence trade fair in Milan its representatives refused to disclose any details about the announced autumn release. Even the fact to whom this time Jan Ewoud Vos entrusted to compose the perfume remained a mistery…

puredistance-jan-ewoud-vos-cecile-zarokiansmall

Jan Ewoud Vos came up with the name of the perfume combining words SHE (She) and Dune (Dune). It reflects the nature of the scent, which is a combination of Parisian elegance and oriental sensuality.

After some time the name of the perfumer (Cecile Zarokian) was revealed, then SHEIDUNA  was presented in New York before the official launch, where it provoked positive reactions. Zarokian herself participated in the presentation. The fact that it was she who translated  Jan Ewoud Vos’ vision into a mixture of fragrant molecules thrilled perfume industry and critics. Cecile has been very creative in recent years and with SHEIDUNA she once again proved that he has a lot to say in perfumery and that despite of a relatively short career, she have already worked out here own style. Her fragrances are often works of perfume art (Epic Woman Amouage, Mon Nom Est Rouge Majda Bekkali, Tango Masque Milano, Aqua Sextius Jul et Mad, Patchouliful Laboratorio Olfattivo, to mention just the best).

Work on SHEIDUNA lasted about a year, and the world premiere took place in September 2016 during the Pitti Fragranze event in Florence. According to representatives of the brand the aroma created there a real sensation. Reactions of the audience had been captured on numerous pictures:

sheiduna-emotion-collage_small

SHEIDUNA smells very natural from the first to the very last second. The top chord appears as an aromatic blend of citruses (mostly lemon and tangerine) reinforced with aldehydes and juicy green black currant. Under that fresh aroma gradually emerges the heart of the fragrance, built with a key essence – that of Bulgarian rose. It has been traditionally combined here geranium and patchouli and subtly spiced up with cloves. The heart is at first rosy-spicy, but with the passage of time it turns into a very sensual and very complex aroma, where rose is still present, but it changes its surroundings. The smell is getting warmer and the nostrils begin to smell a scent which is a kind of Cecile Zarokian’s signature when it comes to floral-oriental aesthetics – a blend of amber, resins, vanilla absolute, Tonka and musk with a floral dominant (here it is obviously rose). The effect is similar to what we smell in Mon Nom Est Rouge for Majda Bekkali and – to some extent – also Tango Masque Milano. SHEIDUNA, however, is in its nature more balanced, harmonious and subtle. Less experimental and more classic. Goes off the skin very slowly, being a long-lasting skin scent where traces of rose are attached to the skin with a solid dose of musk. Durability is here also a result of a very high concentration: with 27% SHEIDUNA is basically an extract de parfum.

sheiduna-02

SHEIDUNA projects noticeably, but subtly, which also makes it different from the previously mentioned fragrances composed by Cecile which power is not always acceptable for everyone. Honestly though, I expected SHEIDUNA to smell somewhat more robust and intense. On the other hand, if I remember other Puredistance fragrances correctly, none of them belong to the titans of power, and the brand apparently prefers scents that are not olfactory bombs, which of course does not diminish their value at all.

In my opinion SHEIDUNA is – in spite of a female targeting – a unisex scent with just slightly female inclination. Devotees of oriental scents of both sexes can fall in love with it. As an oriental fragrance with a rose dominant SHEIDUNA is a very well done addition to the Puredistance’s scented offer.

Will SHEIDUNA meet the expectations of perfume connoisseurs, as was the case in New York and Florence? We will probably find out soon. The fragrance is now hitting the shelves of the stores cooperating with Puredistance.

P.S. My wife is getting a lot of complements while wearing it which doesn’t surprise me at all as it smells really magnificent on her. 

sheiduna-01

main ingredients: lemon, tangerine, blackcurrant, aldehydes, Bulgarian rose essence, geranium, clove, vetiver, patchouli, amber woody, incense, benzoin, myrrh, tonka bean, vanilla pods and musk

launched in: 2016

perfumer: Cecile Zarokian

 

 

Chanel Les Exclusifs „Coromandel”

Coromandel refers to Chinese lacquered decorative folding screens of which mademoiselle Coco Chanel was a big enthusiast and collector (and which came to Europe from China in XVII century through ports located on Indian Coromandel cost). Jacques Polge and Christopher Sheldrake created this remarkable scent in 2007 and added it to the boutique and exclusive Les Exclusifs collection. Of course, the inspiration lies here only in the name as the scent does not consist of any wooden, paint or varnish notes, which I myself consider as an advantage.

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I remember my first reaction to this smell – I was entranced. I saw a movie about Coco Chanel the next day featuring lovely Audrey Tautou and at the same time I tested the scent on my skin. The experience was exceptional. Synaesthesia worked perfectly. Till this day I am spellbound to it as Coromandel is really a special perfume and despite my proficiency it is really hard to describe it accurately enough. I will try my best nonetheless – still, this is what this blog is actually about.

audrey-tautou

Coromandel belongs to a woody-balsamic family of scents in which the main role plays patchouli together with resin (benzoin) and incense (olibanum) notes, accompanied by a subtle note of white chocolate. The effect of this composition – made with true perfumery mastery – is utterly resplendent. Patchouli is very charming in itself and can do perfumery wonders if used with moderation and intent. It likes to dominate the whole composition but it also has one magical property: despite its characteristic, bit mouldy, camphor, sour-earthy notes, it perfectly pairs, as it might sometimes seem, with uncommon partners (such as for example caramel ethyl maltol – thanks to which – in simple words – chocolate was achieved in famous Angel by T. Mugler). Polge and Sheldrake took this bit more culinary course but they achieved the balance, they soothed the patchouli oil sharp character with excellent quality resins and balms and – as I think – vanilla. The accord of white chocolate will cause palpitations to every perfumery aesthete and stands as a great counterpoint for patchouli. Luckily Coromandel does not boil over with sweetness. The authors did not overdo with anything apart from exaggerated beauty – this I cannot deny.

 

 

Coromandel has this “something” in it. Truly not many perfumes cause this kind of reaction in me. Maybe it simply reminds me of something that I really like or maybe it is just that perfect. The scent evolves slowly, over time the dominant patchouli note retreats, making space for amber note (but what kind of a note!). The patchouli note can still be smelled somewhere in the background though. Not much is happening here but that is good as what we have is absolutely sensational. Without any doubts this is the most beautiful scent with dominant patchouli I know and at the same time I have ever had a chance to wear and test. Absolutely top-end product.

In the Internet Coromandel is compared to Borneo 1834 by Serge Lutens, the difference between those two is that in the first one we find white chocolate note and in the other one dark chocolate note. I cannot say much about this as I cannot remember Serge’s composition that well (I tested its micro-sample long long time ago). Still, taking into consideration fact that Christopher Sheladrake took part in the creation of Coromandel, those two scents might indeed be quite similar. I will check that soon enough.
When it comes to quality and usage properties, Coromandel proves perfect here as well. The strength, projection, sillage and finally the lasting-power. Same as it was with Sycomore, we deal with a unisex type of a perfume. Personally I think they are even more for men than for women.

I waited with this review for a long time, being abashed with Coromandel’s beauty. This scent is perfect in every way. It smells luxury – that is for sure, at the same time it stands as an example of quality and moderation. For me everything is ideal here. People more familiar with Channel’s exclusive series name Coromandel as the best one from the whole series. I myself can only compare it to Sycomore and can say that if Polge/ Sheldrake had used in the same brilliant way vetiver as they did with patchouli in Coromandel, surely I would be down on my knees and stay like that from the delight. I must admit that this is what I actually expected as I put my hands on Coromandel first. On the other hand I would not like to diminish Sycomore as it is a great perfume as well.

Wearing Coromandel is an authentic pleasure. Pity that the availability of this scent is so limited, even though that we live in the era of Internet shopping and absolutely no boundaries whatsoever. Well almost…

coromandel-bottle

 

main notes: patchouli, white chocolate, benzoin, vanilla

launched in: 2007

perfumers: Jacques Polge and Christopher Sheldrake

Aedes de Venustas „Grenadille d’Afrique” – the smell of ebony

Grenadille d’Afrique means as much as “black wood” in Latin. Dalbergia melanoxylon. The tree from which the wood is obtained known as ebony. This ebony and the natural environment in which there were the inspiration for the creation of New York’s latest fragrance by Aedes de Venustas, which had its premiere at this year’s Pitti Fragranze in Florence and soon to appear in selected perfumeries worldwide. Grenadille d’Afrique was created by Alberto Morillas (as Palissandre D’Or from 2015). So it is the second perfume which the Master has created for gentlemen Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner. Interestingly, both smells really woody and has wood in the name.

aedes-grenadille

The woodiness of  Grenadille d’Afrique comes down to his vetiver dominant. Vetiver is present from the beginning, although at first for a short period “refreshed” with the bergamot and eventually supported by juniper, violet and lavender. At the base you can still smell mostly Haitian vetiver, set on a dark, almost charcoal in its character chord composed of vanilla and labdanum. Besides its evident woodiness the fragrance has also a distinctive mineral aura. The just mentioned ingredients accompanying to vetiver work here on the final result, without “taking control” individually. They have been subordinated to the vision of the creators, which in one sentence characterizes Alberto Morillas:

Fossilized wood rubbed in a vanilla accord

alberto_morillas
Alberto Morillas

When testing a perfume, I am always looking for comparisons with other fragrances to let the readers not knowing the scent imagine its nature. With Grenadille d’Afrique there is a lot of such to compare. But the most adequate seems to be Encre Noire by Lalique (eau de toilette). Alberto Morillas work reminds me precisely of the cult perfume composed by Nathalie Lorson in 2006. But of course there are differences. In Grenadille d’Afrique we will not find – to my delight – sour notes of Encre Noire and that big dose of cashmeran. The juniper took here over the role of the cypress. Morillas work smells fresher, it s more stylish and seems to be more pleasant and easier to wear, at least for me. It projects politely and lasts on the skin over 8 hours. As a whole, Grenadille d’Afrique convinces me even though it is not so original as Palissandre d’Or and not so mesmerizingly beautiful as Iris Nazarena. Nevertheless, it is a very solid position not only in the portfolio of Aedes de Venustas but also in the family of vetiver centered fragrances.

aedes-grenadille-bottle

main notes: bergamot, lavender, juniper, vetiver from Haiti, cistus (labdanum), vanilla, musk

launched in: 2016

perfumer: Alberto Morillas

 

Amouage “Journey Man”

“At first smell” Journey Man seems like a typical Amouage scent – having this woody-spicy and incense character. It is not the first time when the brand uses pepper, incense, musk, ambergris and lots more of other used in this recipe ingredients. It has to be admitted though that the Sichuan pepper essence smells stunningly beautiful, aromatic and vibrating here. Still the start-off would not be like it actually is if it was not for a quite big dose of cardamom, which in this amount appears for the second time in the Omani perfumes (previously, fans of this intense fragrance could be satisfied like that in 2010 when Opus IV was launched). This quite intense and ruthless pepper-cardamom start-off has been coated with a mix of bergamon and neroli. The heart incorporates vibrating molecules of juniper berries, which link the spicy pepper with dry-woody cypriol, smoky incense and strongly present note of tobacco. According to the list of notes we can find also here pure geraniol, subtle rose-smelling molecule that in nature appears, among others, in ripe tobacco (worth noting, cigarette manufactures use geraniol to scent their products). It is clear then that perfumers decided to strengthen and in a way to ripe the tobacco note by adding geraniol. These procedures that consist of mixing the natural aromatic essence with one or more aromatic molecules, which in fact are present in nature but in limited amounts, to strengthen chosen aspects of natural fragrance are quite common in modern perfumery. For the surprisingly strong note of tobacco we have to wait though. In my case it appeared after 3-4h after settling and when there is no more pepper and cardamom going on in the air and the smell itself starts to get more dry, rough and woody-incense. At this stage cypriol can be vividly smelled. This, as it turned out, became my favourite aromatic molecule responsible for this dry, powdery woody tones present in such smells like Opus VI by Pierre Negrin and Dora Arnaud and also Opus VII by Negrin and Alberto Morillas (the same duet that introduced Journey Man), Timbuktu by L’Artisan or deeply regretted Gucci Pour Homme. Nonetheless, Journey Man is partly penetrating similar olfactory regions as Michael Almairac’s perfume so I recommend this scent to all those keen on Gucci.

christopherchong
Christopher Chong

The base is quite characteristic, mixing sweet and bitter note of strengthen with geraniol tobacco with a characteristic dry and woody note of cypriol. Everything intensified by tonka, musk and ambrox. During the last stage Journey Man resembles some other perfume which I reviewed earlier but unfortunately I cannot recall the name now. Anyway, the smell gets masculine, elegant and intriguing. It is really good. With every next try I come to a conclusion that the tobacco note is the dark horse of the whole composition. The note has been put into the whole smell perfectly, so when it comes to the fore, it smells incredibly – realistically but not in the negative way of course, at the same time it is intriguing and sensual. Above all it is purely masculine.

The so called working parameters of the scent can be classified as very good. Sillage is very good. The smell as a whole is strong and vivid and during the first few hours projects around the bearer within a couple of meters and can be easily noticeable by interested environment. It has been 7 hours after I sprayed it onto me and I can still smell it quite vividly; the smell itself can last more than 12 hours.

I have no doubt that Journey Man is yet another great fragrance introduced by Amouage that is slowly becoming one of my favourites of this brand, right next to Opus VII and Interlude Man. Having it on me is a pure pleasure. It makes me feel really special. In fact that is the quintessence of this hobby…

amouage-journey-man

main notes: Sichuan pepper, cardamon, bergamot, neroli, juniper berries, incense, geraniol, tobacco leaf, tonka, cypriol, leather, musc, ambrox

launched in: 2014

perfumer: Alberto Morillas/ Pierre Negrin

Etat Libre d’Orange “La Fin du Monde”

How will the end of the World smell like? Each of us has their own different idea (I am guessing that many of those ideas would be influenced by Hollywood productions). Quentin Bisch had had a very untypical imagination of the smell, which had been then transformed into perfumes, which in 2013 Etat Libre d’Orange – a niche perfumery brand added to their portfolio. Bisch is a young and promising perfumer, known to those who have seen Perfume series at BBC. In the show Bisch, as a young Givaudan perfumery school adept, with tears in his eyes tells us how his dreams are coming true to become a true perfumer. This touching the heartstrings scene shows us how sensitive and full of limitless passion are perfume creators and how important these traits are in this remarkable profession. The founder of Etat Libre d’Orange – Etienne de Swardt – had known Bisch even before he joined Givaudan. Bisch had been regularly visiting flag perfumery shop EldO in Paris and introduced himself as a big fan of the brand and de Swardt’s perfumery conception. So when Etienne decided to create a scent inspired by book ”The End of the World Filmed by the Angel of Notre-Dame” Bisch was the first one that came to his mind. La Fin du Monde was the first solo and fully commercial composition made by Quentin. With this smell he proved his undeniable talent. I will say more – he got off to a very good start – as it was a very strong debut!

quentin-bisch
Quentin Bisch

The start-off stuns with exquisite and at the same time very present-day version of iris (which resembles the one used in Dior Homme), which was skilfully enhanced by carrot seeds that harmonize with the iris perfectly – this was already proved by Rosine Courage in Nirmal for Laboratorio Olfattivo and Bertrand Duchaufour in Bois d’Ombrie for Eau D’Italie. Cumin and sesame brilliantly fulfill the innovative and very eloquent popcorn cord that lends a kind of surprising and intriguing aura(we can also smell the characteristic popcorn butter theme there as well). Popcorn was Bisch’s first idea for the smell. During one of his talks with de Swardt, Bisch tried to convince him that every idea for the end of the World comes from different movies, American movies mostly. Popcorn was an ideal ingredient for this how perverse conception… Ingenious, is it not? I myself like and admire such ideas very much.

popcorn
With time this very intense at the beginning scent looses its power but is well present within the next couple of hours. It gains warm sensuality due to sandalwood and ambrette, which together enrich the sensual and physical base of the smell(the essence from ambrette seeds was used earlier by James Heeley in cool as Autumn rain Iris de Nuit). The base of the smell is very characteristic and it engrosses as well as stages of the smell. As we can see here La Fin du Monde as a whole smells surprisingly pleasant and at the same time very intriguing as it is very familiar and alien at the same time.

irys

La Fin du Monde wins me over to itself from the very first second till the very last one (the distance is quite far by the way). It is a fantastic fragrance that presents pure perfumery ingenuity. I have not had a chance to wear this kind of scent – created with great passion, inventiveness and fresh look for a long time. Bisch skilfully made a use of well-trodden paths and at the same time found new ones. With great courage he connected uncommon notes in one absolutely convincing whole, that makes fully operational – and what is even more important – wearable perfume, which is far from those niche ”freaks” but perfectly matches the style of Etat Libre d’Orange which is known for its original ideas and brave pushing of boundaries of what is known as perfumes. Quentin Bisch has created fully original, modern and with avantgarde taste fragrance, that is worn with pure pleasure and satisfaction, the one that you have when you wear special perfume.

I do not think La Fin du Monde is either female or male. I would rather say it is bit more masculine only because it lacks archetype female notes, and present iris is totally served as unisex. I would say that more female is Dior Homme, especially when we talk about Intense version of the smell rather than La Fin du Monde, which I think of as an important flask to test not only by those who admire Dior Homme.

lafindumonde

main notes: popcorn, carrot seed, cumin, sesame, black pepper, freesia, vetiver, sandalwood, ambrette, iris, styrax, gunpowder

launched in: 2013

perfumer: Quentin Bisch

 

 

Frederic Malle “Portrait of a Lady”

Perfumer Dominique Ropion, and Frederic Malle get on with each other quite well, which can be proved by 5 scents from the serie Editions De Parfums: Carnal Flower, Geranium Pour Monsieur, Une Fleur de Cassie, Vetiver Extraordinaire and the most popular one among the true connoisseurs of perfumes Portrait of a Lady. Those who are more familiar with Frederic Malle’s offer know that most of Ropion’s scents are usually those graded the highest and the most marketable ones from all the others launched by this exceptional and exclusive brand.

Frederic Malle
Frederic Malle

Both gentlemen admitted that balancing Portrait of a Lady needed a lot of time and hundreds of trials. Their actions though, of which the starting point was Geranium Pour Monsieur, brought up a rose-cantered smell, which for me is undoubtedly the best I have ever tried out. Ropion combined in this smell rose essence with patchouli note, which is not that revealing after all but highly efficient and effective – as both those components get on together as any other components in perfumery. The characteristic smell of patchouli has been cleverly modified by cinnamon and frankincense in a way that it does not dominate that clearly – the lack of dominance also concerns other used here components, apart from the previously-mentioned rose. The components create a coherent oriental theme that entwines the rose essence. The base of the scent is strongly musky with some sandal wood and benzoin. The top accord, to be clear, consists of black currant and raspberry. Still, the beautiful warm and balanced rose dominates here most of the time.

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Despite the name which might indicate feminine nature of the smell, the scent proves very well on man’s skin which I tested many many times. With its oriental rose nature the smell does not differ much from Cartier’s Declaration d’Un Soir , even though it is much heavier, saturated and thick in comparison to very successful scents by Mathilde Laurent. Other similar scents based on a modern connection of rose and patchouli are earlier reviewed Hippie Rose by James Heeley and Lumiere Noire Pour Homme by Francis Kurkdjian.
Portrait of a Lady is very clear, strong and lasts over 12h. The smell is perfectly constructed in its every aspect. It presents a modern way of a rose that is not that overwhelming, perfectly balanced and beautiful. It is a great smell, that gives a lot of satisfaction. I highly recommended it.

portrait-of-a-lady-100ml

top notes: black currant, raspberry

middle notes: turkish rose, cinammon, clove, patchouli

base notes: sandalwood, ambroxan, white musk, benzoin, incense

launched in: 2010

perfumer: Dominique Ropion

 

 

Costume National Homme – a modern classic

An Italian clothing brand, under the leadership of Ennio Capasa successfully entered perfumery market by introducing five very well-done scents for women. The perfumer behind them, Laurent Bruyere, tragically died in 2008 (he was 43), was self-taught and fascinated with legendary scents from the past (he even had a tattoo saying “Guerlain Mitsouko”!).

ennio-capasa_-official-portrait
Ennio Capasa

 

Laurent-Bruyere 3
Laurent Bruyere

Bruyere worked in IFF together with his mentor – Dominique Ropion, a perfumer well-known for the fragrances made for Frederic Malle. After death of the young artist all the following Costume National fragrances were made by Ropion alone. It was also he that composed the first Costume National Homme for men.

Homme is a warm spicy scent based on dominant notes of cinnamon, clove and sandalwood.

The scent as a whole is – without any doubts – perfectly composed, perfectly balanced, very elegant and at the same time bit audacious. The fragrance opens with a cardamom lifted by citruses.  The smell is culinary-like at this stage and somehow milky. There are people who smells fennel note at this stage, although I am not among them. The heart is spicy with clove and cinnamon duet in the foreground. The base is quite warm due to the dominant note of labdanum, sandalwood and patchouli. Spices can be smelled till the very end. Distant end, as it is worth mentioning that Homme lasts more than 8 hours and has a solid manly projection. Homme is considered, by experts in the field, as similar to other two Ropion’s creations made for Kenzo: Jungle L’Elephant and Le Tigre. I myself dare to put it between first Comme des Garcons eau de parfum (when it comes to the head and heart) and Jubilation XXV Men by Amouage (the base).

dominique-ropion
Dominique Ropion

The bottle of Homme is ideal. Its shape is economical and quite original. We can find on it a minimalistic and tasteful sign, and a cap which makes the impression as if it was not there. Also the atomiser’s tube is so transparent that it is barely visible inside the essence (actually it IS invisible as long as it is submerged in the liquid). The bottle is just like the smell itself – elegant, chic and classy and will also stand as a nice decoration on man’s bathroom shelf.

Costume National Homme is just perfect. Harmony, grace, charm, chic and a bit of a mystery. Elegance without pomp. First class. It is a scent that perfectly underlines a style of an elegant man from sunny Italy. Ropion’s masterpiece became an absolute bestseller in Italy and was (or maybe still is) one of the best selling perfumes for men – which should not be a surprise actually taken into consideration that Italian males have quite a sophisticated taste.

At the end I have to mention something about this truly very small fly in this ointment. While being really charming and of really high quality it is also very correct and safe. There is no craziness in it whatsoever. Still, this might be good, but also bad at the same time. It all depends on our tastes and expectations. There are many occasions where we need such a safe smell. A smell that will not mislead all around us. A smell that will let us stay in the crowd and also make us feel special at the same time. That is exactly what Homme is like. I myself wear it with genuine pleasure.

cost-homme-1

top notes: grapefruit, bergamot, cardamon,

middle notes: cinnamon, thyme, clove

base notes: patchouli, sandalwood, labdanum

launched in: 2009

perfumer: Dominique Ropion

Comme des Garcons „Black”

Perfumers need guidance. They need someone who would objectively verify their work, verify their following tries and who would get them on the right track by doing so. These are the so-called creators, who are wrongly mistaken by the media for perfumers (a perfect example is Ann Gottlieb who is said to be the author of dozens of mainstream scents where in fact she did not touch a single pipette, flask or laboratory scales). These people usually work as creative directors and have huge impact not only on the smell itself but also on the shape and colour of the flask and its packaging. Practically on everything connected with the product. Ok now! It is the right time to introduce Christian Astuguevieille – one of the most mysterious and forgotten people of this aromatic trade – Creative Director of Comme des Garcons Perfumes and a very experienced man who influenced greatly modern perfumery.

Flavigny and Astuguevieille
Guillaume Flavigny & Christian Astuguevielle

It is he, and not Rei Kawakubo – also mentioned by me, who should get all the gratitude for this very rich offer of how unique, very often pioneering, avant-garde and cult Comme des Garcons scents. It is he who is behind the first and how distinctive Comme des Garcons EDP, and also the incredible CdG 2 EDP, or CdG 2 Man (all created by Mark Buxton). It was he who came up with the idea of introducing CdG theme series: 1. Leaves, 2 Red, 3 Incense, 4 Cologne, 5 Sherbet, 6 Synthetic, 7 Sweet, 8 Guerilla. His visionary attitude brought into force such experimental scents as Odeur 51 and Odeur 73 – Astugueville asked the perfumer to capture the smell of warmed-up xerox, light bulb and many other warmed-up every-day-use office articles. It is he who stands behind the newest scent CdG Black – which was said to be brand’s great come-back to the roots, after – to be honest – a poorer period in which such scents as Wonderwood, Amazingreen or the colourful Play series (although it was Play Black that smells very similar to this-year’s CdG Black) were launched.

Now, when I am fully accustomed with Guillaume Flavigny’s composition I can officially agree with all the announcements.

Black is a great smell, and it is a CdG in 100%. And although it is a wooden smell – a characteristic theme used by the brand – or wooden-incense to be more precise, it is absolutely amazing.

I am truly charmed with this smell and very glad that CdG has introduced such a scent, especially that, according to me, it is strongly directed towards men. Why do I like Black so much? Because it joins three smells that appeal to me: Carbone de Balmain, Black Tourmaline by Durbano and exuberant Pour Homme by Gucci.

Most beautiful start off with a dominant note of black pepper which makes the impression of juiciness and delicate greenery. Quite intense and very essential pepper particles tingling the nose. This short introduction I myself call “Carbonare on steroids”. In the heart we get pitchy note of birch balanced with sweet essence from liquorice root. It is bit smoky but thanks to olibanum and liquorice it is not that sour or bitter. I call this phase “black tourmaline”, although it is more friendly than dark and naturalistic work of Oliver Durbano. Finally – after 2h from skin application, we can smell the base, which lasts the longest – at least few more hours. This phase reminds me of earlier mentioned Pour Homme by Gucci. To avoid any misunderstandings – I do not think that Black smells identically as Gucci but it is surely quite similar – especially after 2-3h from application (I think the similarity here is much bigger than when it comes to CdG 2Man). What is more – when I compared those two smells last time I voted for Black…

cdg black notes 1

Black has an ideal projection and perfect, over 10h lasting power. During this time it can be vividly smelled, and also it amazes us with beautiful transitions between different phases. It is perfectly balanced, and regular from the beginning till the end. I cannot think of any weak points here. Each phase of it is wonderful and unforgettable. For me this smell deserves an A. Great, sensational example of modern perfumery masterpiece.
I know that a lot of men are looking in vain for a worthy successor of Pour Homme. Gentelmen – believe me – here it is: Comme des Garcons Black in all its majesty! Is this not the best recommendation? I myself am very much into acquiring a bottle of it for my own.

top notes: black pepper, olibanum

middle notes: leather, licorice, birch

base notes: vetiver, cedar

launched in: 2008

perfumer: Guillaume Flavigny with Christian Astuguevieille

 

Chanel Les Exclusifs: Sycomore

A passion for perfumes works as a self-driven mechanism. As one of the enthusiasts I have a dynamically changing list of perfumes which I want to try and a list of perfumes which I desire – perfumes which I got to know and which I liked so much I’m willing to buy a whole bottle now. Some sort of greediness in learning new perfumes stands as a part of this passion I think. And all this because I believe that someday I will find the one and only perfume that will turn my olfactory world upside down making it as it was never before. My perfumery Holy Grail. Of course this is deluding as such smell does not exist in reality. But it exists in dreams and those dreams make this whole mechanism running. It is important however to chase the bunny and not to catch it, right?

sheldrake_ polge

I’m writing about this on the occasion of reviewing a fragrance that I wanted to test as anyone else and that was supposed to become the one and only for me – Chanel Sycomore from the boutique series Les Exclusifs. Perfumers’ curse which are internet reviews warmed the atmosphere up by stating that this smell was dominated by vetiver. And that worked as a magnet for me. The only thing that kept me worry was the comparison to Encre Noire by Lalique, about which – with all due respect – I still have mixed feelings. But I know from experience that one should make their mind basing on their own experiences and treat opinions made by others only as subjective statements.

Finally, after a really long time of looking for this extremely hard to buy in Poland, as well as abroad, perfume I did manage to get it. Finally Sycomore reached my desk – I thought: “Ok, what now?”.

There will be no delights about it, just a factual review. It is not that I did not like Sycomore, no. It is a great fragrance. But I was not filled with wonder about it either. Why? – I will explain that bit later.

Les Exclusifs series was founded in 2007 when Chanel enriched its offer with perfumes inspired by the life of Coco Chanel and places which were very special for her. Some part of this series are new versions of past perfumes which have been forgotten (e.g. Sycomore), other are completely new. It is said that in 1930 Mademoiselle dreamt of wood-based perfumes which would be different from others. In effect dry, distinguished and intense Sycomore was created. Jacques Polge has remade this scent to the present version. Sycomore stands as a reflection of Coco Chanel’s own desires which were about creating perfumes from best ingredients and at the same time minimizing smells’ packaging form. And indeed, Sycomore delights with the quality of its ingredients and very practical composition but also with very elegant and restrained  smell as well as its packaging. The flask is a classic Chanel-looking one, simple if not to say austere and too extremely elegant.  The label is the peak of minimalism. On the other hand the magnet cork is quite massive and made of really good quality plastic. Still, it is all about what is inside and not what is around it. Perfectly looking liquid of straw colour in a bottle from transparent glass is truly a tasteful fest for one’s senses.

First things first, Sycomore is truly a vetiver. This smooth and soft note is present from the very beginning till the very end. I think it is a huge advantage as this is what I actually expected. On my vetiver map I would indeed place Sycomore right next to Encre Noire or even closer to Vetiver Extraordinaire by Federic Malle. Bit further but still very close we can find unappreciated but very good Vettiveru by Comme des Garcons (although this is more “brighter” and more citrus-sweet). As we can see Sycomore places among vetivers which are rather simple and direct than those complex and indirect. While getting back to the comparison to Encre Noire – luckily for me – Sycomore does not have this irritating sour-mold note. Tests have also shown how shallow (still interesting) can Encre Noire be after just few hours after skin application. Sycomore is definitely longer-lasting and though it does not evolve (it is a classic single-note smell), it can be smelled when there is no sign of Encre Noire anymore. Cashmere wood in Encre Noire and delicate creamy and velvet sandalwood in Sycomore differentiate the most those two smells from each other, apart from bit different characters of vetiver of course. In Sycomore can be found ingredients of high quality and composition made with a careful hand. I can rather smell masterly minimalism worthy J.C. Ellen rather than maximalist virtuosity show. Everything here, as said, is based on this divine vetiver which at the beginning is carried by pink pepper. Later juniper berries add to it this green depth till it is strengthen by sandalwood and cypress base. Vetiver is present all this time, which I myself find really pleasing. Test conducted on a piece of fabric have shown big content of ISO-E-SUPER which becomes present at the end and which is not that clear when the smell is sprayed on skin.

vetiver

The only thing I have to complain about is the average strength of the smell. Sycomore, as every flask from Les Exclusifs series, is addressed to both men and women. Among internet perfumers cycles an opinion that this smell is even more for women than for men. I can agree with that, but only when it comes to smells’ short lasting-power, which is more women-like (particularly that the note of vetiver, very velvet-like, is not perceived as strictly feminine). Sycomore as a smell for men has not got the character and enough strength. If this smell was 50% stronger, with only slightly projection, it would become vetiver-based-smell no. 1 for me, no doubts. Having all this in mind I think that Sycomore fits much more in warm and hot days, when high temperature forces noble molecules to more energetic dance. That is why I leave Sycomore for Spring and Summer and choose Le Vetiver by Lubin for Autumn and Winter.

As far Sycomore deserves for a high note this scent has not enraptured me. It is a very good smell – in its own kind. But my expectations were bit different. I expected something more complex, striking and with a better sillage. Instead of that I got a subtle restrained and elegant vetiver. That is quite a lot nonetheless but still not enough to call it the best vetiver.

sycomore-1

top notes: vetiver, red pepper

middle notes: vetiver, juniper

base notes: vetiver, cypress, sandalwood

launched in: 2008

perfumer: Jacques Polge/ Christopher Sheldrake