Jo Malone London fragrances are offered as colognes and as such, boast a weightless, transparent signature. They are not rich, heavy and opulent scents with an endless reach – they are easy, breezy and transparent. But they are not without character – far from it, in fact, and many have become regular staples of mine (see Mimosa & Cardamom, Tuberose & Angelica, and Basil & Neroli) because they do have a distinct personality that I find really easy to wear and even easier to enjoy.
Because of their lightness and apparent simplicity, the Jo Malone London fragrances lend themselves well to layering (or ‘Fragrance Combining’ as the brand calls it) allowing one to mix and match their scent to create their own semi-bespoke signatures. With their Cologne Intense collection, Jo Malone London offers the same style of fragrance as their main range, but these fragrances have a bit more heft to them, allowing the band to explore the worlds of ouds, orientals, opulent roses, and heady florals, creating stark contrasts for their Fragrance Combining blends.
The latest fragrance to join the Cologne Intense collection is Bronze Wood & Leather. Daring to be a little bit sexier than other fragrances from Jo Malone London, Bronze Wood & Leather evokes wood warmed by the rays of the sun. It’s a smoky-delicious blend that has a darker, deeper and more daring edge. Remember what I was saying about Jo Malone London fragrances having character? Well this one is a perfect example and it shows how the brand offers lighter (the Cologne Intense fragrances are richer yes but they are hardly powerhouses) fragrances that don’t skimp on character.
Leather is just not my vibe. I can just about rock a leather jacket (I have a very casual John Varvatos one that I feel comfortable in) but anything else feels like a stretch outside of my personality. So you’ll never catch me at the Folsom Street Fair rocking a harness, as cool as that would be. My discomfort with leather also covers fragrances and I’m about as likely to wear Cuir de Russie as I am leather chaps – it’s just not gonna happen. For me, leather in fragrance is often too overwhelming – too dry, too meaty, too smoky. But every now and then I find a palatable leather that I can get on with – OMBRÉ LEATHER, the latest from TOM FORD, is one such fragrance.
Speed Sniffs is a way to bring you ‘to-the-point’ fragrance reviews that are quick and easy to digest. They are perfume reviews without the faff.
I am not a massive fan of amber fragrances. There’s something pleasing about the classic blend of benzoin, labdanum and vanilla, absolutely, but I often find that, because it’s such a distinct accord, amber fragrances seem to cover very similar ground. So you own one and there’s little need to own more – you just need to pick out the one for you. I’m also not too keen on leather either, because it tends to dominate a perfume. Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m telling you all of this so I shall enlighten you: today I am writing about a amber/leather fragrance that I really love.
Ruth Mastenbroek’s line of four fragrances is one the perfume industry’s hidden gems, but hopefully all of that is going to change and these fragrant jewels will be more widely known. Recently Ruth Mastenbroek rebranded, changing her bottles to feature a drop of perfume that depicts a scene specific to each fragrance (each one created through a detailed paper cutting technique). The idea is that every drop tells a story and no tale is exciting or as vivid as the one for Ruth’s brand new fragrance ‘Firedance‘.
Firedance is a fragrance of celebration – of big occasions and small moments. When I spoke to Ruth about her new fragrance she told me that her children had got married and she now has three grandchildren, which “feels like a wonder”.Firedance was born out of the contentment of these moments – it’s “the dance of one’s spirit – the energy of it”, which seems fitting as Ruth also told me that if she wasn’t a perfumer, she would be a dancer. Firedance is a vibrant and explosive take on rose with the smokiness of leather to evoke fire, and like the rest of Ruth’s collection, you need to sniff it.
John Varvatos has followed a singular approach to his perfume line. All of the fragrances are housed within a signature bottle, available in many shapes and colours, and with numerous embellishments, and every single one of his scents has been composed by perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux. This makes for a collection that feels coherent, despite visiting many olfactory styles along the way, and it proves that in perfumery, true partnership is the key to creating scented magic.
The latest launch in John Varvatos’ fragrance collection is Dark Rebel Rider, a flanker to last year’s Dark Rebel. The fragrance is billed as “provocative” and Flores-Roux even calls its Russian leather note as “ultra-sexy”, which isn’t far off in my book. Dark Rebel Rider feels like the quintessential John Varvatos fragrance because it has the attitude of a rock star, the attention to detail of a studded leather jacket and a level of cool that is as in-tune with the Varvatos fashion brand as is possible.
Atelier Cologne, the purveyors of the modern eau de cologne, have launched a brand new collection of five fragrances entitled ‘Collection Orient’. Oriental fragrances, and oriental collections for that matter, are a dime a dozen in the world of perfumery and so often they present nothing more than the same notes in the same dense manner and in the same black and white bottles, but not Atelier Cologne’s Collection Orient. No, this collection is something different altogether. For a start, the bottles are white, hinting at a look at the genre from an entirely new angle, whereas the scents themselves are entirely unexpected and refreshingly unique, subverting one’s ideas of oriental scents rather marvellously.
I haven’t sniffed the entire collection yet (we did give Tobbaco Nuit a good nose in episode one of Fume Chat), but the clear standout from the Collection Orient fragrances I have smelled is Mimosa Indigo. Now, I like me a mimosa, but good ones are hard to find, so it’s always reassuring when a respected brand such as Atelier Cologne gives the note a go. Mimosa Indigo is described as a “velvet and addictive” cologne, taking inspiration from the story of a three am trip home after an evening spent in a New York jazz club whilst wearing the most amazing purple dress, you know, as you do. This is Atelier Cologne shaking up the genre and doing it exceptionally well.
The brand new fragrance from Hermès, ‘Galop d’Hermès’, is an interesting one on a number of levels. Firstly, and most importantly, it is the first fragrance for the brand by Christine Nagel since she became in-house perfumer (she previously created their Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate whilst Jean-Claude Ellena was still the nose-in-residence), but it also shows the house of Hermès firmly looking back towards their equestrian roots. Galop d’Hermès is a fragrance that many will look at to ascertain whether this new collaboration with Nagel will see their distinct house style put to bed in favour of a new one, or whether it will be maintained as part of the Hermès heritage. Galop d’Hermès is the first indicator of what is to come in the future and therefore, a very important fragrance.
Galop d’Hermès is an essay in two ingredients: leather and rose. Housed within a stirrup-shaped bottle, which is adorned with a smart leather tie, in vivid Hermès orange no less, the fragrance, presents itself as a scent that captures the very essence of the house, right from the overarching concept to the individual notes of the perfume. Leather is an integral element within the Hermès DNA, finding its way into many of their luxurious accessories, whereas rose has been a key ingredient in many of the brand’s illustrious fragrances over the years. Together these two notes are presented in a pure parfum that is undeniably Hermès but also entirely exciting and new.
“At Hermès, I discovered all the femininity of leather. I composed Galop d’Hermès like a painting with two main colours…two raw materials that are emblematic to Hermès and to perfumery: leather and rose.”
I have a confession to make: I’ve always found leather perfumes difficult. They’re just so damn demanding most of the time and one has to commit to wearing them for the whole day, which can be a chore if they start to get annoying, which I find they often do. Don’t get me wrong, the smell of leather in fragrance is often beautiful, but with time it can become dry, harsh and tar-like, suffocating a guy and sending himm reaching for a mouthwatering cologne to quench the nose-thirst. So yes, I like leather, but it’s not often that I find myself loving a leather fragrance, and whilst there are exceptions (Tom Ford’s Tuscan Leatherbeing the most notable), leather just isn’t my thing as a rule.
With that in mind, I’m always very happy when a scent comes along to convince me that I do, in fact, like a style I’m slightly averse to. In terms of leather, that very scent is the new Étui Noir by Miller Harris. Described, rather fantastically, as being “like a well-worn leather jacket shared by lovers with comforting flashbacks of each other” and “as deep as the night”, Étui Noir is a leather with a difference. This is a leather fragrance crafted with an emotional point of view, speaking in nuanced and eclectic tones. It’s representative of the new style of Miller Harris, which is much more focused than it has been in recent years and to put it simply, Étui Noir just is an interesting fragrance to unravel.
It honestly does not take much convincing to get me on board with a fragrance called ‘The Orchid Man’. I am, after all, a well-documented lover of all things floral and I always feel encouraged by a modern launch that gears a floral towards men. As a man, or a boy (The Candy Perfume Man just sounds a bit creepy, doesn’t it?), whichever fits, I get tired of the industry’s attempts to encourage me to wear brutish things with burly ingredients, solid things like cedarwood, amber and oud. I like all of these things, but sometimes a guy wants to sissy things up with a great big whack of indolic jasmine, do you feel me? I am confident enough in my sexuality to not care about labels so a masculine floral, or a floral of any kind for that matter, is a no-brainer.
So yes, I was very intrigued when a bottle of Frapin’s latest fragrance, ‘The Orchid Man’, arrived on my doorstep, partly due to the fact that I’ve never really tried anything from the brand before. Without giving too much away, I must say that after spending some time with The Orchid Man, I certainly feel motivated to spend more the with the brand. Inspired by the life and fashions of French boxer, Georges Carpentier, The Orchid Man takes its name from his nickname, which is a reference to the orchid corsage he often wore with his suits. As a man of many talents, Carpentier was than just a boxer, he also was a star of stage and in film, a dabbler with the sport of Rugby and even the proprietor of the first cocktail bar in Paris. It’s no wonder then, that Frapin’s The Orchid Man is a complex and nuanced perfume.
Created by perfumer Jérôme Epinette (Byredo M/Mink & Atelier Cologne Rose Anonyme etc.), The Orchid Man strives to capture both the “elegance” and “violence” found within the spirit of such a contrasting man. Jérôme Epinette took inspiration from a boxing gym, centring the fragrance around “an animal leather accord that gives the scent its signature, power, elegance and the iconic aspects of boxing gloves” adding patchouli, which “brings the hot and humid tones that conjure up the atmosphere in a boxing gym”. The result is a kinetic spritz of energy full of juxtapositions that speaks of contact sport as much as it does gentlemanly elegance.
As I walked up the Crawford Street in Marylebone, London, towards the new Perfumer H store, I must admit that I had a fair few butterflies in my stomach. I’m a nervous person at the best of times, but I was especially so on this occasion because I was on my way to meet Lyn Harris, the nose that puts the ‘Perfumer’ and the ‘H’ into Perfumer H. Harris’ CV precedes her, having built the hugely successful fragrance house, Miller Harris, from scratch in her early twenties, to the global lifestyle brand that it is today, Harris has a knack for making unfussy perfumes with a spirit of clarity. This spirit is not lost in Perfumer H however, it is presented in an entirely different way.
Stepping across the threshold of Perfumer H, I needn’t have been worried or been nervous at all, as the whole experience was an entirely relaxed affair, from the setup of the shop to the rather insightful chat I had with Harris herself over a cup of hot bergamot tea. As I enter the store, I’m greeted by a dog snoozing calmly on the chair. His name is Pop and he’s a handsome border terrier who, quite rightly, appears rather at home amongst the inviting, yet surprisingly minimal decor of the store. The presence of Pop cements the fact that Perfumer H is not a brand in the typical sense, with a pre-defined personality or ethos. Instead, Perfumer H is an extension of Lyn Harris, and its personality is Lyn as she is today, and it says what she wants to say, all through the medium of olfaction.