Thursday, March 12, 2020

Tom Ford Velvet Orchid: fragrance review

Tom Ford is eagerly awaited by fashionistas during New York Fashion Week due to his excellent finger on the pulse, in both sartorial as well as beauty endeavors, coaxing women (and men) out of their comfort zone and augmenting everything to a great big ooomph that's sure to get noticed. Velvet Orchid, a floral-oriental fragrance in a ribbed retro bottle in purple, is one such perfume.


Tom Ford Velvet Orchid opens itself with bergamot, mandarin, Succan absolute (I knew you'd ask, it's purified rum extract), and honey. At the core of this creation (made of "corporeal floral notes") is Tom Ford's distinctive, “timeless” signature that we have experienced in the original Black Orchid (fragrance review linked), from when first it exploded on counters like Alexis Carrington-Colby did when a minion or two were deemed unsatisfactory: an imaginary accord of black orchid blended with notes of velvet orchid, which gives the perfume its name, with intense Turkish rose oil (discernible as such) and jasmine and a new accord of purple orchid. The latter is a fantasy note that is comprised of aromachemicals that take over the scene and diffuse slowly and lengthily. Long story short, the bittersweet myrrh resin embraces all those sophisticated floral notes and makes them one hell of a floral oriental fragrance!

Like most tom Ford fragrances, Velvet Orchid is not the coy type at all, she wears her knickers on her head and is fine, thank you very much.

There are additional floral notes in Velvet Orchid, if you can believe it, of orange blossom, rose absolute, narcissus, hyacinth and heliotrope. The base is warm due to the rich flavors of Peru balsam, myrrh, labdanum, sandalwood, suede and vanilla.

photo by Matthew Roharik, borrowed via for educational purposes

The luxurious perfume is available in dim purple bottles of classic Tom Ford design in 50 and 100 ml Eau de Parfum concentration. Velvet Orchid was created by Yann Vasnier, Calice Becker, Shyamala Maisondieu and Antoine Maisondieu. Usually that many perfumers in one fragrance composition means the headquarters didn't really know what they were aiming at, but unusually Tom Ford does keep a tight involvement in his namesake brand, despite the ownership by the Lauder Group, so it's not a mess as one might expect; on the contrary, it's rather good and worth sampling for sure. And thankfully not part of the rather more expensive or elusive Tom Ford Private Blend.
Do take note that there is also a variant, called Tom Ford Velvet Orchid Lumière, in a slightly lighter purple bottle, launched in November 2016, as a new edition of the glamorous fragrance Velvet Orchid from 2014 from the collection ruled by the vamp perfume Black Orchid from 2006.

Whereas Velvet Orchid is a floriental with a warm woody base, Velvet Orchid Lumière is a floral - oriental composition with gourmand accents instead.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Parfums de Rosine Ballerina No.5: fragrance review

The newest fragrance to take the Les Parfums de Rosine brand by storm is Ballerina No 5, which is as gorgeous a specimen in the rich tapestry of rose varietals Les Parfums de Rosine issued as some of their best. (Parfums de Rosine Majalis is another one I can't shake my love for, no matter what, and I have to have that one eventually!)

 La Bayadere, Petipa choreography, via

"Ballerina is this lovely rose bush in Marie-Hélène Rogeon’s garden which gave its name to a perfume collection asserting at Les Parfums de Rosine house the idea of a perfume very à la française: very feminine, delicious, and affordable. The first in the saga, Ballerina No 1, a tender and innocent fragrance, is illustrating “le petit rat d’opera.” Then Ballerina No 2 is magnifying the prima donna in her art, with a wide and assertive perfume. Then two creations inspired by the famous ballet Swan Lake completed the collection: Ballerina No 3 for the black swan, mysterious with its double facets of rose and oud; and Ballerina No 4 for the white swan, a luminous, deep and pure perfume of white flowers. Today the ballet The Bayadere is giving the tuning of Ballerina No 5."

It is therefore a shimmering and rich fragrance, like gold, and vibrant with a thousand colors of an India-set ballet that perfumer Delphine Lebeau, led by the president of the company, Marie-Hélène Rogeon, composed. For Ballerina No 5, the rose is treated with “infinitely gourmand” accords: We are dreaming of candied roses, rose petal jellies, and crystallized flowers...

The scent of rose is obscured for a moment in this fantasy of candied and powdery notes which coerce themselves into a synchronized dance of great finesse. The lychee tonalities bring forth a freshness and succulence unforetold for a fresh rose scent in Ballerina No.5; usually fresh roses in western perfumery tend to project in a green direction of more seaside nymph or drowning Ophelia than Hindu dancers in the presence of gold dedications, or else they swath themselves in endless patchouli, rendering them somewhere between 1980s chypre territory or Arabian inspired imaginings. But not for Rosine! Here the best parts of Turkish delight meet powdery oriental chords, with sweet woody notes and a distinct almond paste curving it into something very femme, very pretty. I can see it becoming very popular very fast, as it's got the things that women go crazy about: the succulence, the textured powdery touch, the clean, yet somewhat edible quality about it...

Related reading on PerfumeShrine: 
Les Parfums de Rosine, the history of the original brand
Les Parfums de Rosine: Majalis, fragrance review
A Dozen Roses; Best Rose Fragrances

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Kenzo World Power: fragrance review

Maybe the most unexpected in the line Power by Kenzo is Kenzo World Power, a woody aromatic fragrance for women launched in 2019. Although the fragrance purports to be a relaxing essence, it possesses an even weirder combination than Kenzo Power Intense, in that it's both sugary and salty, retaining snippets of Reveal (Calvin Klein) and Olympea (Paco Rabanne) in equal measure and resulting in something new.

pic via nocibe

The overall impression in Kenzo World Power is quite unisex in that the cypress and salty notes recall something made for men in the woody or aquatic range of fragrances, yet the sweet almondy base notes with the backing up of strong aroma synthetics and woody essences speak of something aimed at both (all?) sexes.

The woody backdrop is reinforced with cooler weather and I think that cool weather brings out its better qualities, contrary to Reveal which is nicer in the heat. It's interesting that we come at the end with a scent that without deviating too much from the clean and abstract original, manages to smell odd and salty-sweet without claiming neither office, nor gym proclivities. It's quite a big presence in terms of sillage and lasting, well, power. I would very much doubt Kenzo World Power's potential as a date fragrance either, as it's not inoffensive, nor is it markedly within a certain frame of genre that would denote a specific "image" of one's self the way we tend to pick fragrances for romantic dates. It's definitely not meant for job interviews either. Maybe an introspective walk in the park or stay at home fragrance, then. Something that one enjoys alone. But one has to consequently wonder: will it sell enough not to be discontinued right away? It's a question to think about for sure.

The series of Kenzo World and its flanker fragrances has managed to bypass that by offering a very distinct visual presentation, literally "seeing you" in the sense of Lacan's "the mirror" concept. It's an interesting concept for all perfumes, because what is an artificial smell but an effort to transport images and feelings that we, as bipods, transpose to vision rather than more primal senses? Most fragrances heavily rely on visionary cues, from the perfume bottle design to the colour schemes chosen, right down to the advertising images that accompany their launch.

Overall, the presentation and visual emphasis for the Power series by Kenzo is more interesting than the fragrances themselves, still they merit sampling thanks to that rare correspondence of what we expect and what we get in the end. A mirror image of things rather than their true essence.

The perfumer behind this fragrance is Jerome Di Marino, contrary to the previous fragrances made by Francis Kurkjan. Top note is cypress; middle note is sea salt; base note is tonka bean. The fragrance circulates at an eau de parfum concentration.

Monday, February 3, 2020

The Unisex Beauty of Guerlain's Jicky (Photo Collection, Short Review & Perfume Musings)

Jicky by Guerlain is a gender bender perfume to end all gender benders; changing sex and direction mid-stream in its illustrious career like an adolescent fulfilling a transgender urge.
The issue of what differentiates female from male idiosyncrasies in general is complicated enough, so it's only natural that one of the most popular questions in perfume for and general discussion is how the opposite sex perceives and decodes the fragrances meant for the other sex.
In perfume terms the composition of different formulas for the two sexes, roughly floral and oriental for the ladies, with a sprinkling of chypre and fruity, reserving woody and citrus for the gentlemen, is a relatively recent phenomenon, dating from the dawn of modern perfumery in the end of the 19th century. Up till then, there was pretty much lots of leeway for men to delve in floral waters of the Victorian era or even the rich civet and musk laden compositions of 18th century decadence.

photo by Elena Vosnaki

Why the name Jicky? "From his student days, perfumer Aimé Guerlain kept the enamoured memory of a young woman named Jicky to whom he paid a beautiful homage with one of his most wonderful olfactory creations. By pure coincidence, the diminutive of his nephew Jacques was also Jicky. Jicky initiated the creation of "abstract perfumery" as opposed to "figurative perfumery". With its interplay of unique facets, it was the first in the perfume world to have such a trail and tenacity. This forerunner of new modern olfactory creations is the founding father of the legendary Shalimar."

Or so the story goes...because it is but a story, a fabricated myth that shows how fragrance tales were used to be told in the olden days...

photo by Elena Vosnaki

Nowadays, lavender , as in a classic like Jicky, is almost code-name for men's cologne, the backbone of a typical fougère fragrance for men, especially since archetypes such as this originally-aimed-at-women-then-usurped-by-men of good taste cemented this notion. The tension of the citrus top note with the animal character of the base is what makes the "jam"; lots of musk and lots of civet too in the older formula, evident in extrait de perfume formula and the not so distant kinship of Mouchoir de Monsieur fragrance, also by Guerlain.

Evaluating a masculine or unisex fragrance is always harder for me than evaluating a fragrance that is divested of its loaded semiotics of gender, or which appeals to my own femininity heads on. At least I can asses femininity first hand and dismiss the hyperbolic claims of modern advertising with a wave of a well-manicured hand. 

In perfume terms the composition of different formulas for the two sexes, roughly floral and oriental for the ladies, with a sprinkling of chypre and fruity, reserving woody and citrus for the gentlemen, is a relatively recent phenomenon, dating from the dawn of modern perfumery in the end of the 19th century. Up till then, there was pretty much lots of leeway for men to delve in floral waters of the Victorian era or even the rich civet and musk laden compositions of 18th century decadence.

It's therefore somewhat fitting the zeitgeist, with the discussion about gendered IDs flaming up again, that Guerlain revisited their roots tentatively when launching Mon Guerlain in 2017 with their merging of lavender (more prominently than in the Yves Saint Laurent fragrance Libre) with their trademark orientalized vanilla. From it, a spawn of feminine fragrances with lavender came forth like mushrooms after the rain.

photo by Elena Vosnaki

Jicky by Guerlain remains a monument, a beacon of taste in a tasteless world. 

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