Thursday, December 29, 2011

L'Artisan Parfumeur - Ecrin d’Eaux de Toilette - Les Masculins - Holiday 2011

AFRICA, ABSINTHE & A MISNAMED TEA-PARTY. In time for the holidays L' Artisan Parfumeur presented two beautifully composed gift sets of 3 x 15 ml of some of their finest fragrances. The feminine box contains Nuit de Tubéreuse, Mûre et Musc and La Chasse aux Papillons while the men's collection features Fou d’Absinthe, Coeur de Vétiver Sacré and Timbuktu.

The latter gift set conveniently found it´s way to my Christmas tree and I have been enjoying it immensely the last couple of days. The selection is perfectly put together balancing both dry woods, fougere soapiness and oriental smoothness. A little something for many different moods.

Timbuktu (2004): Perhaps perfumer Bertrand Douchafours' finest work. Timbuktu, inspired by ancient Mali perfume rituals, is a bone dry, woody blend with great depth and character. Spicy cardamom, austere papyrus and dense frankincense together make for a heady and natural accord. Ripe mango and fresh pink pepper beautifully balance the scorching impact of the arid spices.

There is a subtle presence of vetiver throughout the evolution of the fragrance, no doubt enhancing the slightly earthy, bitter and smoky impression. Myrrh, patchouli and benzoin eventually seal the deal with a smooth and lasting drydown.

Exotic, evocative and complex.

Fou d'Absinthe (2006): The incredibly talented Olivia Giacobbetis' contribution to the world of fougeres is actually somewhat of a contemporary bench mark of said genre. Fou d'Absinthe is not as much a tribute to the "green fairy" as it is a strongly coniferous pine fragrance. The opening is a sharp blast of astringent angelica - boozy and bold. Heart notes appear quickly though, developing the composition into more well behaved territory with creamy pepper, candied ginger and smooth patchouli.

Clove and cistus create a very strong barbershop-vibe, something further accentuated by the pine needles and fir balsam in the basenotes. The references to classic fougeres like Penhaligon´s English Fern, Dunhill Edition and Brut are evident, yet Fou d'Absinthe has a distinct contemporary personality of it´s own - learning from history without living in it. Eau de parfum strength that really does last the whole day, unfortunately a rare characteristic of this house.

Soapy, elegant and masculine.

Coeur de Vétiver Sacré (2010): Karine Vinchon-Spehners' terribly underrated Coeur de Vétiver Sacré is most of all a victim of unfortunate naming. The vetiver in here is after all kept at a minimum - something that has caused disappointment within the community of afficionados of this pungent root. Quite a vocal crowd in the world of perfume lovers...

Forget about the name though, this is a gem of a black tea fragrance with pleasant fruitiness and a gentle apricotish suede like character not unlike the one found in Serge Lutens fragrances like Daim Blond and Santal Blanc. Rose petals and fresh dates rest alongside this cup of steaming ginger infused bergamot and osmanthus tea.

Incense and birch tar add smokiness which makes the overall impression somewhat reminiscent of Knize´s rough Ten and Santa Maria Novella´s Nostalgia but with the leather and petrol accord way turned down. Pepper and coriander contribute some sting while subtle saffron, dry iris and clean musk anchor the fragrance smoothly.

A modern, delicate and cozy oriental.

Overall rating: 9/10 for the gift collection as a whole.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Speed Review: Penhaligon´s - Juniper Sling

Year of launch: 2011
Gender classification: Unisex (quite manly)
Perfumer: Olivier Cresp
Availability: In production
Dominant Notes: Cinnamon, Orange Brandy, Angelica, Juniper Berry, Cardamom, Black Pepper, Orris Wood and Vetiver
Reminiscent of: Guerlain Coriolan, Bombay Sapphire Infusion, Hugh Parsons Blue
Packaging & Design: Elegant Art-Deco patterned mint green box, silver bow-tied clear glass flacon, chrome mirror label
Longevity & Sillage: Miniscule sillage, far below average longevity
5 adjectives: Flat, dry, peppery, weak, clean

Overall Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Decades of Decadence part II: Annick Goutal Ambre Fétiche

In the four fragrances comprising the Les Orientalistes-series the House of Annick Goutal takes a welcome departure to the darker and more mysterious sides of perfumery.

I have a great deal of respect for the very natural, honest style of this house - with citrus benchmarks like Eau d´Hadrien, the coarse beauty of Sables and Duel and the true to life dewey freshness of Ninfeo Mio. Yet most of the Goutal back catalogue lacks a certain excitement - more competent, organic little poems than complex epic novels.

This started changing already with the excellent spicy Mandragore and the more intense version Mandragore Pourpre but is even more evident in Ambre Fétiche and the other three orientals Myrrhe Ardente, Encens Flamboyant and Musc Nomade. Especially Ambre Fétiche st
ands out as very "non-Goutalesque" with it´s smoldering spices, opulent richness and heavy duty sillage.

The initial blast is brutal - bitter, medicinal and almost overpowering. But this fierce top swiftly gives way to a creamy and dense amber with a strong and syrupy vanilla presence. Thus far many ambers are similar, especially L´Artisan Parfumeur´s Ambre Extréme comes to mind. But it is what follows that separates Ambre Fétiche from many of it´s niche counterparts.

A beautiful smoke and leather accord, probably achieved with labdanum and birch tar, lifts the whole composition to a whole new level successfully balancing out the intense sweetness. This smoke accord also has a salty steamlike quality much like the one found in Penhaligon´s Sartorial.

The overall impression is deep, dark, voluptous, bohemian and timeless. Both sillage and longevity are amazing. This stays on your skin forever.

Apart from being an excellent fragrance, Ambre Fétiche - as well as the others in Les Orientalistes - are a great work of artistic integrity and cohesion. In an age where fragrance brands compete fiercely with pretentious copy and increasingly ridiculous concepts - this line of fragrances does exactly what it´s supposed to - evoke visions of an ancient, lavish middle east with steamy hammams, luxurious spices and precious incense.

In Ambre Fétiche Isabelle Doyen and Camille Goutal have not only created one of the great modern ambers, they have also successfully widened the brilliance of this esteemed perfume house.

Overall Rating: 9/10

Thursday, December 1, 2011

L'Artisan Parfumeur - Batucada

BRAZILIAN (B)LOWOUT. L'Artisan Parfumeur´s recent movement towards more accessible mainstream compositions definitely continues with this new homage to Brazil and it´s vibrant culture.

Batucada, apparently inspired by a fast paced substyle of samba, is a simple but very enjoyable fizzy fresh blend. Notes of lemon and coconut together with a caipirinha accord constructed with mint, lime and syrupy sugar cane play the main roles together. Some pyramids also mention tiare, ylang ylang, amber, benzoin, sandalwood, vetiver and vanilla. But honestly the firstly mentioned notes along with a little too much calone and some light skin musk is what I mostly pick up.

No doubt a pleasant and cheerful choice for hot summer days, but ultimately I expect more from a house that has given us such classics as Dzing!, Timbuktu and Bois Farine. Fun but fleeting.

Year of Launch: 2011
Gender Classification: Unisex
Reminiscent of: Aramis Bermuda Tonic, Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Bahiana
Longevity & Sillage: Moderate projection, low staying power
Overall Rating: 6/1o