Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Jean Paul Gaultier Divine: fragrance review

Back in August 2023, Jean Paul Gaultier launched Gaultier Divine, the brand's new feminine fragrance, classified as a gourmand marine floral. American actress Yara Shahidi has been selected to represent the new fragrance, imagined as a celebration of femininity. It is signed by perfumer Quentin Bisch and is made of floral, gourmand, and marine notes. For Gaultier Divine the bet was on creating something that young women would want for themselves and everyone would like having them approach them. 

Gaultier Divine capitalizes on the marine semiotics which the Gaultier team has used ever since the cool matelot-clad sailor for Le Male. The marine theme is very tongue-in-cheek. On the one hand the homoerotic nuances of sailors, on the other the salty touch of the new fragrance aimed at women. The fragrance is depicted on women gazing at men at sea. But it's all a tempest in a bottle! The allusion to a scent that would create a similar tempest on those smelling it is not lost upon us. The women playfully cajole and seduce the sailor trapped inside this bottle. It's cleverer than a simple seduction trick in advertising and subtle enough that it does not scream sexist or cliché.


Solar fragrances are probably the genre into which I would classify this creation. The term solar fragrance notes (on which I have written extensively) expresses the essence of sunshine and the appeal of endless sugar-spun sands, or the embrace of tanned, warm skin. A perfumer uses helional and mainly salicylates to render this effect, sometimes heliotrope synthetics, too. Flower accents of tiare, frangipani, and ylang-ylang, contribute to this exotic field, alongside mimosa, coconut, vanilla, and salty or marine notes. But not all are used in Gaultier Divine which is as airy as a meringue.

pic borrowed from confessions of baking queen

Calypsone stands here for the iodic facets of oakmoss, as well as watery facets in the floral bouquet of Gaultier Divine, as the interplay between watery and yet non-sweet is beautifully rendered amidst the heart notes. My initial personal impression upon spraying is that someone crossed the bridge between the intensely solar-salicylate chord of Lys Soleia (Guerlain Aqua Allegoria), which was a bit too summery, and the much more delicate treatment of lily-salicylate in Vanille Galante (Hermessences). The latter, although baptized vanilla, is really a lily, the kind with white waxy petals and red stamens, spicy and sweet, yet alluring and mesmerizing. Benzyl salicylate has been the mainstay of this sort of genre, with benzyl amyl and cis 3 hexenyl, the mothership of solar fragrances. I am hypothesizing that Bisch is working his magic in Gaultier Divine with the salicylate molecule Karmaflor he has access to, if only to bypass the rationing of salicylates due to IFRA restrictions, but also to tie it to Mahonial (a lily synthetic) and Nympheal (a watery molecule that has flowery, lotus and lily facets). Lilies do have a salty nuance themselves, as deliciously explored in the once poetic Lys Mediterranee (it has now been tampered with somewhat).

The base is crafted through the synergy of mainly vanilla and benzoin, with subtly caramelic facets and a clean musk, but always balanced by the salty-lily drenched in the sea breeze chord — never too sweet like many other gourmands. It's the balancing act of a skilled equilibrist.


The effect of Gaultier Divine is therefore beautifully crunchy. A little bit salty, it resembles munching on savory toffee with fleur de sel snippets scattered in it, resisting to the tooth, like...exactly, an airy meringue. A success!

 Available as eau de parfum.


Thursday, July 6, 2023

Hermes Un Jardin sur le Nil: fragrance review

 My friend Chandler Burr unfolded the story of how the charming and cerebral Jean Claude Ellena was inspired for this fragrance in a New Yorker piece which catapulted a series of events for both him and perfumery reportage. Looking for the starting point of inspiration in Aswan, traveling the Nile, aquatic plants gave way to unripe mangoes as the team of Hermès travelled up to the roots of the great river. An aura of coolness enveloped the French perfumer: he now had the idea!


 Un Jardin sur le Nil was the second of the Hermès Garden series, following the bitter green smelling one, Un Jardin en Mediterranee inspired by a plate of figs offered in a Moroccan garden.

  This unisex Hermès fragrance, Un Jardin sur le Nil (a garden on the Nile) smells more like claw-wound grapefruit than the green mango inspiration behind it. This idea of grapefruit has been on the mind of Jean Claude Ellena ever since In Love Again for Yves Saint Laurent. He has been toying and toiling with it in Rose Ikebana, for the Hermessences boutique exclusives and in Cologne Eau de Pamplemousse Rose. The idea of a lasting, fresh, juicy grapefruit which retains the tartness and subtle bitterness underneath the citrusy quality is a holy grail for him. Here it is triumphant and energizing, effervescent almost, a bullwhip for the flesh. 


But Un Jardin sur le Nil soon settles into a woody and starchy serenity that lends some welcome peace of mind (and courage) to a very hot day. Its incense aura lasts...and lasts...and long as the journey to the sources of the Nile itself.

Beautiful in any season and very welcome in a hot spell. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Dior Homme: thoughts & fragrance review on a milestone

 It doesn't matter that Dior Homme is everywhere, either in one of its -many- versions, or in some copy of it from another brand. It remains one of the most interesting men's releases of the last twenty years, because the formula brings a more unusual note of iris root, halfway between dry retro face powder or old lipstick along with dusty dried flowers, to an otherwise standard formula for a mainstream men's fragrance, making it revolutionary. It doesn't surprise me that many women love it and love wearing it themselves. It is the most affordable of the lot of Dior men's fragrances. 


 Attention: the original, "authentic" Dior Homme is the one from 2005, by Olivier Polge, which was removed only to be removed by Demachy later in the completely unrecognizable 2020 version of the same name, when the Polge son was now permanent at Chanel . Yes, yes, I know, typing Dior Homme gives you 883045 versions on Google, how the hell do you know which is which, you go to the first one in the drop down menu. Well, let's pay attention to it a little since you are involved in the aficion.



The 2011 version is still very good, despite the credit to Demachy, as it does not alter Polge's original recipe and retains its special characteristics. The iris in Dior Homme alternately takes aspects of soft aftershave powder like that used in trendy hipster haircuts, cocoa powder and amber starch. It's a smooth, glossy, no edge scent, feminine, but retains a hint of freshness, which I find a very alluring and essential ingredient in fragrance in general. You don't want to be completely smothered in a cotton cocoon after all, when you're on a social or romantic date, you want to be able to breathe and appreciate the (hopefully beautiful) view. :)


NB. The 2020 version is a completely different fragrance making for a LOT of confusion since it bears the same name, Dior Homme.  The prior to 2020 editions from a few years ago bear the bee emblem, the older formulations have no bee but the box has minor differences and the original 2005 formula has a silver tube sprayer in the jus instead of black, as after the Demachy transition.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

How the Perfume Market Game is Changing

 The drift into the corporate mainstream by some of the older niche brands always creates the risk of a possible (or rather probable?) diminishing of innovation and creativity as a result: Tom Ford, L'Artisan Parfumeur, Penhaligon's, Le Labo, Diptyque, you name it... We're therefore experiencing niche 2.0 with newer artisan and indie brands. Creed is the latest brand to be sold to a large luxury group, to Kering to be specific. 

Creed was a family business with a disputed past into fragrance making (the history of the Creed fragrance brand as examined for inconsistencies is laid bare in this piece I wrote). In short, Creed is a Paris-based perfume house renowned for its self-styled history and the unquenchable thirst for name-dropping. It has been possible to find and acquire in garage sales and collectors' catalogues perfumes created by Guerlain, Chanel, Caron, etc. worldwide. Yet it proved virtually impossible to find specimens of a Creed fragrance prior to the '70s.  



In 2020 after decades of tight family management, the perfume house of Creed was sold to BlackRock Long Term Private Capital and Javier Ferrán, the Spanish businessman and chairman of Diageo. At the time, Olivier Creed said that Ferrán and BlackRock LTPC were “ideal partners for Creed, given their collaborative approach to working with their companies and their long-term orientation. I also look forward to continuing to work with all our staff, suppliers and distributors, and I know that they will continue to share in our success.” BlackRock is incidentally one of the biggest property management firms on the planet. It was around that time that Aventus for Men had become their ultimate best-seller, the best-seller to end all best-sellers, a Jean-Christian Herault composition with prominent fresh pineapple over notes of green apple, patchouli, birch and ambergris.  

 Creed has now been bought up by a large luxury group that controls famous houses. Kering is a French multinational company specializing in luxury goods. It owns the brands Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Alexander McQueen, and Yves Saint Laurent. It remains to be seen what will happen to Creed and to Aventus in particular, which latter subject has been under scrutiny for watering down by its many fans for a couple of years now... 
I guess we will see about that. The point is the perfume market game is changing and we'll see more developments soon. 

Friday, June 2, 2023

Thierry Mugler Angel Muse Eau de Toilette: fragrance review

In 2016, the house of Thierry Mugler opened a new chapter in the story of the famous gourmand galaxy of Angel fragrances - the "futuristic-gourmand" Angel Muse. The Muse Eau de Toilette version of this scent came out at the end of 2017. 


The sweetness of hazelnut cream at its heart, a repeat from the original Eau de Parfum version, is not overly foody, and it keeps the dignity that a sophisticated gourmand like the original Angel brings along (or I should say, used to bring along, before all the reformulations), with the Akigalawood™ base (a clear patchouli note) made dirtier with vetiver "borrowed from masculine perfumery." It is signed by perfumer Quentin Bisch of Givaudan.

 The great thing with Angel Muse Eau de Toilette is that it seems to have brought back that inexplicable playfulness that the original Angel version from the 1990s possessed and seemed to have lost during a sequence of reformulations in the intervening years. Becoming ever hollower, like cheekbones sucked in too hard and a fake pout posing for an Instagram selfie, the iconoclastic bestseller has slowly become a ghost of itself. An entire generation will never know what we have been talking about regarding its artistic value.

I remember the original formula quite well because what attracts me now in Angel Muse Eau de Toilette is what appalled me when I first smelled the original Angel in the 1990s (and I have written about my mysterious and troubled relationship with Angel before): the blackcurrant juiciness, which was so intense, so sour -and sweet too-  atop the maltol. To be honest, it instantly reminded me of The Body Shop Dewberry. Is this even possible? I wondered at the time, perplexed by the incongruity of a French designer borrowing this rather "cheap" effect for an innovative fragrance that would be his first on the market. I don't wonder anymore; I take things at face value.

In the words of Mugler officials, "Angel Eau de Parfum is the star, while Angel MUSE orbits around the star." (Christophe de Lataillade, Creative Director for MUGLER fragrances).

 The base of patchouli and vetiver, although advertised to sound masculine, as polar opposites to the femininity of the sweet heart notes, is not entirely rugged. It brings a counterpoint, like in a fugue, a motif that returns to underscore and chase the sweet gourmand and the sour-sweet top notes of citruses, and therefore renders it a love/hate for modern audiences who missed the great clashing compositions of the golden age of perfumery. Back then, vetiver violently clashed with vanilla in Habanita, or waxy-citrusy aldehydes were smeared with civet (but not quite!) in Chanel No.5 Eau de Cologne. Ah, what do we know, these scents have been lost on the younger generation. But there's still hope as long as small gems of unexpected pairings such as Angel Muse continue to get launched. If only they weren't chopped off the block so soon...


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