A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a virtual masterclass with Frederic Malle and perfumer Anne Flipo all about the brand’s latest launch Synthetic Jungle. I was intrigued by the fragrance, of course (we will get on to that soon – patience please) but I was also curious about the name. Given all of the scaremongering around materials in perfumery – you know what I mean, the false narratives around chemicals being bad (literally everything is a chemical, oy), that natural is better (simply not true) and that clean beauty is a thing (I don’t even know where to start with this one) it seems somewhat brave to release a fragrance with “synthetic” in the name. I asked M. Malle whether the name was a statement and he, without hesitation said yes, it is.
In response, he told me that there is a misconception that synthetic materials are bad and naturals are good, adding that people don’t understand that interesting perfume started because of synthetics (it’s true, we wouldn’t have modern perfumery as it is today without aroma chemicals). As he explains, Synthetic Jungle’s name seeks to remind people that perfume is a paradox, and that synthetic materials are required to recreate the smells of nature. This is exactly what Synthetic Jungle achieves – a beautifully natural smelling perfume, evocative of a lush jungle, and made with a mixture of both natural and synthetic materials.
Now, moving past the name, what about Synthetic Jungle the perfume? This is the result of a long creative flirtation between Frederic Malle and Anne Flipo, where the former spent quite some in the corridors of IFF convincing the latter to work with him. The starting point for their fragrant collaboration was the green fragrances of the 1970s, specifically Estée Lauder’s Private Collection, which served as inspiration. Synthetic Jungle is Frederic Malle and Anne Flipo’s rendition of the green chypre accord – a simplified, modernised version that isolates the green accord and amplifies it with intense floralcy. The result? An accessible take on green that feels operatic in its execution.
I’ve been waiting for a fragrance from French brand BDK Parfums to click with me for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, everything they do is very well crafted and pleasant, and the packaging is exquisitely luxurious and well considered. It’s just that nothing has moved me yet. Perfume is so personal, right? So, sometimes a brand just doesn’t gel with your tastes or style, no matter how good they are, and that’s how I feel about BDK, well, I should say “that’s how I’ve felt”, because since their latest launch ‘Velvet Tonka‘ came along, everything has changed.
Velvet Tonka is described as being a tribute to the Morrocan origins of BDK founder, David Benedek, capturing the flavours and landscapes of the country “like a sweet, indulgent breeze coming straight from the Atlas Mountains”. As part of BDK’s Collection Matières the fragrance focuses on the rich and complex note of tonka bean with its supple facets of coumarin, marzipan and vanilla, blending it with key materials of orange blossom and almond. The result? A decadent gourmand that surprises with its lightness of touch.
I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, Parfums de Marly blend a heritage, renaissance aesthetic with a modern olfactory output really rather well. Their best seller, the milky, sugar-crystal-covered rose Delina is a genuinely innovative and unique composition (by the masterful Quentin Bisch, no less) that certainly deserves its cult status. That said, it’s a big collection and not everything resonates with me (I tend to lean towards the feminines than the masculines) but I’m always curious to see what the brand is up to.
Well, what they’re up to is Oriana – their latest launch. Presented in beautiful Candy Perfume Pink (I should patent that…), Oriana feels very much like an extension of Delina’s baby pink rose. This time though, things have got a whole lot gourmand, with key notes of marshmallow, orange blossom and Chantilly cream folded into something brighter, bolder and more delicious. Parfums de Marly describe Oriana as a “mille-feuille of flaky sweetness, softness, and sensuality” and if that’s not enough to make you hungry to try it, then I don’t know what is! Let’s sniff!
I’ll be honest, it’s been quite some time since a Serge Lutens fragrance has struck a chord with me. Also, whilst we’re on the subject of honesty, I’ve only ever been a casual lover of the brand (revoke my fragrance nerd card, go on, I deserve it) always enjoying the baroque, brooding florals (Tubereuse Criminelle, Sarassins, Iris Silver Mist, Fleurs d’Oranger etc.) over the richly stewed ambers, spices and sweets. So whilst I appreciate Serge Lutens fragrances, they’ve never really been “me” except for the odd exception and it’s a long while since one stopped me in my tracks and had me cooing with lust. You can probably tell where this is going…..
Enter La Dompteuse Encagée, the brand’s latest perfume. It’s a curious beast launched in signature Lutens style, with ad copy that reads more like a riddle than anything remotely useful in terms of discerning what it actually smells like (something about a lion tamer and vague references to cancel culture – “society on the lookout for the slightest misstep”). That aside, what Lutens presents us with is an enigmatic, icy floral that warms with time – and that, my friends, is something I am fully on board with.
Out of the many things perfumer Christine Nagel has created for Hermés since joining the brand as in-house Perfumer, I think the Twilly franchise is my favourite. Created as an accessible entry point for younger consumers and inspired by the Hermès scarves of the same name, Twilly is a subversive tuberose zhuzzed up by a zing of ginger. Twilly has obviously been a popular addition for Hermès, because it was quickly followed by the sequel Twilly Eau Poivrée, a red rose electrified by the most photorealistic pink pepper accord known to man, which brought a sense of vibrancy and energy to the franchise. And now we have the third Twilly – Twilly d’Hermès Eau Ginger, which plays on the unusual ginger note of the original and is described by Hermès as “joyful, bright and sparkling”. Are you ready for Twilly 3: The Gingering? OK, fine, that was a bad pun. Moving on…
Maison Crivelli is fast becoming one of the most intriguing niche perfume houses out there. I’ve said before in reviews that they seem to have the visual aesthetic down, with a simple, luxuriously-executed presentation that is rich in texture and elegant design, but most importantly, they also have novel, high-quality perfumes to match. So I guess I don’t need to say that again but I’ve already typed the words out so….. Anyway, in summary, Maison Crivelli make beautiful smelling things that look equally as gorgeous, and I am always curious to see what they are up to. So yes, big fan.
Lys Solaberg is Maison Crivelli’s tenth addition to their (rapidly expanding) collection. As with all of their perfumes, its inspired by an encounter with materials, specifically a hidden field of lilies during a night hike through a Norwegian fjord. Maison Crivelli collaborated with independent perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer (who also created Absinthe Boreale for the brand) to create Lys Solaberg, and the result is an intriguing, yet understated fragrance that brings an unexpected, woody touch (and dare I say a little bit of gourmand) to a fjord of fresh, blooming lilies.
There are some brands that have a cohesive olfactory aesthetic – we call this a “house style”. Prada has it, with its sparkling, fizzy iris theme at the core of most of what it does. Hermès used to have it when Jean-Claude Ellena was at the helm, when everything he created felt like a mineral watercolour, painted with delicate strokes (Nagel’s style feels more diverse). Heck, CHANEL has it too, with their flowers, aldehydes and clarity of execution. Narciso Rodriguez is another however, their house style is somewhat more subtle and is reliant on one key theme, which finds itself blurred into the genres of chypre, woody, floral and more: the theme of musks.
We’ve seen many musk-powered fragrances from Narciso, each utilising the materials to create a distinct sense of colour – usually a block, neutral colour. Their latest, Musc Noir, is no exception. It’s technically a flanker to their flagship fragrance For Her (a musky, rosy chypre) however, it feels several flankers removed from the original at this point. Musc Noir was created by Givaudan perfumer Sonia Constant and is seen as a more sensual essay on the darker side of For Her’s musks, whereas Pure Musc, which launched in 2019 (I never got around to reviewing it, but I enjoyed it) celebrates the lighter side. Comparing the two, they really are light and dark, and Musc Noir stands out as a unique entry into the Narciso Rodriguez collection. Let’s sniff!
Let’s talk LES EAUX DE CHANEL. As far as capsule collections go, it is easily one of the most cohesive, elegant and on-brand lines to exist. Inspired by travel and the routes out of Paris Coco Chanel took to places of significance in her life, LES EAUX tell rich olfactory stories in that effortless CHANEL style. There is Deauville, the resort town where Chanel opened her first boutique, translated into a sparkling citrus-chypre with green notes. Then Biarritz, another resort and another boutique, represented in scent form by a refreshing, oceanic muguet. One cannot forget Venise, a city Chanel loved and visited following the death of her lover, Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel – a city imagined in vanilla and silk. Then finally, Riviera, inspired by Chanel’s villa on the Côte d’Azur – society’s hotspot captured in a powdery, solar orange blossom. It’s a great collection and now there’s one more addition…
And that edition is Paris-Édimbourg. Transporting us straight to the Scottish Highlands (via Paris, of course), Paris-Édimbourg tells the story of the refuge and sanctuary Chanel sought in this wild and rugged landscape with the Duke of Westminster, her lover in the early 1900s. The scent itself stands out as a subversive summer scent that relies on aromatic and resinous notes to create an unusual sense of freshness, with a rugged, masculine quality that slots in nicely along the freshness, silkiness, aquaticness (not a word), and powderiness (also not a word) of the current line up. It completes the range quite nicely, if you ask me, which I’m assuming you did, because you’re here reading this review…. Anyway, let’s sniff!
I do love a surprise, especially a fragrant one, and when that fragrant surprise is from one of my favourite (and most-worn perfume houses) well then, I’m a happy boy. So imagine my surprise (I promise that’s the last time I say ‘surprise’ in this review, maybe..) when the first launch from Miller Harris in 18 months landed on my doorstep. Being real with you, MH had been launching A LOT of things before their brief pause and some of those launches (Blousy, Brighton Rock, I’m looking, nay, I’m glaring at you) felt a bit rushed and unfinished, and didn’t set my heart on fire. So it was with great intrigue that I approached their new launch ‘Rêverie de Bergamote’ and (massive spoiler alert!) it did not disappoint.
Rêverie de Bergamote is described by Miller Harris as an “aromatic citrus” fragrance. They say it’s a “bright, soulful scent for a slow Sunday morning” and I feel they’re going for something that sets a mood or a vibe, and that vibe is bergamot-scented relaxation (something we could all do with, let’s face it). Emilie Bouge (Robertet) created the perfume and took inspiration from relaxing mornings listening to music. And whilst the theme is very ‘Bergamot and Chill’, I would say that Rêverie de Bergamote is not to be underestimated – it has a few tricks and unexpected twists up its sleeves to raise the excitement levels. Let’s sniff!
What do Acqua di Parma’s new fragrance Bergamotto di Calabria La Spugnatura and beloved cartoon icon Spongebob Squarepants have in common? OK, I admit that this is probably not the question you expected to be asked in this review, but bear with me, it’ll make sense, maybe. The answer is simple: they’re both made from sea sponges. What do you mean that doesn’t make sense? Surely it’s obvious? Surely?!
OK, I’ll clear things up for you. La Spugnatura is actually a limited edition version of Acqua di Parma’s popular Bergamotto di Calabria fragrance, which sits within their Blu Mediterraneo collection. What makes this edition different is ‘La Spugnatura’, a traditional and labour-intensive method of extraction which involves, you guessed it, our good friend Spongebob. OK, not Spongebob, but actual sponges. In this process, bergamot fruits are cut and separated from their peel, the peels are then pressed (very carefully) onto sea sponges, which absorb the fruit’s essence. These sponges are then squeezed into terracotta jars. The result is beautiful, brilliant bergamot.
Bergamotto di Calabria La Spugnatura is a limited edition fragrance that features this special bergamot material and because it’s so exceptional, it’s also housed in a gorgeous vessel. For this edition, Acqua di Parma has created a handmade porcelain bottle, adorned with a white and gold bergamot pattern. It’s absolutely beautiful and it really does add to the special feel of this unique, limited edition. But does it smell extraordinary too? Let’s sniff!