Summer Fragrances Reviews: Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Eau Intense, CK All, Mugler Alien Eau Sublime, Salvatore Ferragamo Uomo Casual Life

Summer Fragrances - Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Eau Intense Pour Homme

Things are getting hot here in Johannesburg, with the mercury starting to push the upper 20s and early 30s. Hot and bothered, I will add. I remain a goth at heart, so I can do without the relentless heat. On the plus side, the heat is the perfect excuse to indulge in a selection of new summer fragrances.

Summer Fragrances - Mugler Alien Eau Sublime

I am very flexi in my approach to the fragrances I use during different seasons. But I do enjoy the cologne/aquatic/citrus/fruity/floral spectrums more in summer. They go well with Johannesburg’s summer heat. The best summer fragrances are often an olfactory ticket to somewhere exotic/ glamorous/ unconnected. This is vital when I am spending way too much time banging away at the keyboard.

CITRUS CHOICE: L’Artisan Parfumeur Au Bord de L’Eau is an ideal summer scent.

So how do some of the newer summer fragrances feature on the Fragroom-o-meter?

ELIE SAAB RESORT COLLECTION LIMITED EDITION EDT

The smell of an exclusive villa vacation. Notes of red mandarin, frangipani, pomegranate nectar, jasmine sambac, orange blossom and patchouli waft through the air. Well done, Francis Kurkdjian! Elie Saab Resort Collection Limited Edition EDT, R1 110 for 50ml and R1 535 for 90ml.

Summer Fragrances - Elie Saab Resort Collection Limited Edition

CK ALL EDT

What a happy fragrance! Created by master perfumers Alberto Morillas and Harry Fremont, it features citrus, jasmine, freesia, lily, musk and amber notes. This EDT speaks to me: “Spray often, you grumpy bastard!” cK All EDT, R605 for 50ml, R875 for 100ml and R1 230 for 200ml.

Summer Fragrances - CK All

SALVATORE FERRAGAMO UOMO CASUAL LIFE EDT

A cool cucumber opening (the listed notes say otherwise). Then there’s coffee, ambroxan and musk notes on the menu. Not as special as the tiramisu treat Salvatore Ferragamo Uomo, but still a reasonable casuale option. Salvatore Ferragamo Casual Life EDT, R1 000 for 50ml and R1 380 for 100ml.

Summer Fragrances - Salvatore Ferragamo Casual Life

MUGLER ALIEN EAU SUBLIME EDT

Mugler’s original creator, Dominique Ropion, brings a new sunnier dimension to this flanker. Jasmine, tiare flower, lemon, orange blossom and cashmeran take prominence. Typically Mugler, it’s bold and unapologetically maximalist. Mugler Alien Eau Sublime EDT, R855 for 100ml.

Summer Fragrances - Mugler Alien Eau Sublime

ISSEY MIYAKE L’EAU MAJEURE D’ISSEY EDT

Imagine a wind-swept walk on a deserted beach littered with driftwood. That’s the feeling I get from this one. Must be the aquatic, sea salt, grapefruit, bergamot, woody and cashmeran notes. A sombre scent. In a good way. Issey Miyake L’Eau Majeure d’Issey EDT, R965 for 50ml and R1 175 for 100ml.

Summer Fragrances - Issey Miyake L’Eau Majeure d’Issey

COACH FOR MEN EDT

The first time I have tried a Coach fragrance. Featuring nashi pear, bergamot, cardamom, vetiver, suede, geranium and coriander notes, this versatile, easy-going fragrance is what I could call “nice”. Nothing wrong with that. Coach For Men EDT, R695 for 60ml and R995 for 100ml.

Summer Fragrances - Coach For Men

DOLCE & GABBANA LIGHT BLUE EAU INTENSE POUR HOMME

I didn’t detect much at first, but like waves on a Capri beach, the compliments came rolling in (stay with me). The more I wear it, the more I love Alberto Morillas’ cocktail of sea water, mandarin, frozen grapefruit, juniper, amberwood and musk notes. Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Eau Intense Pour Homme, R 655 for 50ml, R1 330 for 100ml and R1 925 for 200ml.

Summer Fragrances - Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Eau Intense Pour Homme

LACOSTE L’HOMME EDT

A stand-out rhubarb opening to this woody spicy spent that also features ginger, black pepper, dry amber and musk notes. It brings much-needed elegance to my typically interchangeable PJs/tracksuit gym ensemble. Lacoste L’Homme EDT, R950 for 50ml, R1260.00 for 100ml and R1 320 for 150ml.

Alberto Morillas: A Lifetime Of Creativity

Fragroom Interview - Alberto Morillas

I usually go easy on the hyperbole. But I reckon it’s safe to say that Alberto Morillas is one of the hardest-working and most revered noses in the perfume biz. In his 45 years as a nose, the Spaniard has created many of the most successful fragrances of the last few decades.

Fragroom Interview - Alberto Morillas

LIVING LEGEND: There’s a good chance you’ve owned at least one Alberto Morillas fragrance. Pic courtesy of Firmenich.

How’s this for a roll call of achievement…. Panthere de Cartier (1986). Estee Lauder Pleasures (1995). Tommy Hilfiger Tommy (1995). Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio (1996). Lanvin L’Homme (1997). Kenzo Flower (2000). Mugler Cologne (2001). YSL M7 (2002). Marc Jacobs Daisy (2007). Versace Pour Homme (2008). Bulgari Man (2010). No wonder, Alberto Morillas was recognised by the Fragrance Foundation with the Perfumer of the Year Lifetime Achievement award in 2013.

Alberto Morillas Fragrances - CH 212 Men Aqua Limited Edition

PROLIFIC CREATOR: CH 212 Men Aqua Limited Edition, one of Alberto Morillas’ 2017 fragrances.

My first Alberto Morillas creation was the vanilla-laden Givenchy Pi (1998). To this day, it’s one of my favourite fragrances. Driven by his love for his work, Alberto Morillas continues to be a prolific creator. This year alone I have come across several of his creations. These include cK All, CH 212 Men Aqua, Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night, Gucci Bloom and D&G Light Blue Eau Intense Pour Homme, among others.

Alberto Morillas Fragrances - Gucci Guilty Absolute

LEATHER REPORT: Alberto Morillas created the superb Gucci Guilty Absolute.

The master perfumer has not lost his touch. His unusual treatment of leather for Gucci Guilty Absolute proves that he has also not the ability to surprise and confound.

Alberto Morillas is the nose behind Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Summer 2017 and Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme Summer 2017. When they were recently launched in South Africa, I thought I would try again to get an interview with Alberto Morillas. I was thrilled when the South African distributor got the go-ahead to send him some questions by email. I asked him about his fragrances for Issey Miyake, his creative process and what excites him most about modern perfumery. This is what he had to say….

It’s not the first time you have created an Issey Miyake fragrance. What attracted you most to this particular project?

In 2007 Issey Miyake first invited me to bring my own vision to the iconic signature I admired from my dear friend Jacques Cavallier [who created the original L’Eau d’Issey and L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme]. This was for the limited edition Une Goutte sur un Petal. At that time I could impart a fresh new vegetal touch as delicate as a dewy drop on a fresh petal.

Each time I work on a new L’Eau d’Issey fragrance I pay homage to the Japanese designer and his amazing work. More specifically on this project, I translated his unique vision into a pure, modern freshness for the summer editions.

Alberto Morillas and Issey Miyake Fragrances

PAYING HOMAGE: Visionary designer Issey Miyake.

How do you bring something new to L’Eau d’Issey while staying true to such a modern classic?

Both the masculine and the feminine Eau d’Issey personalities remain so distinctive I can play with new modern freshness by inviting novel ingredients into the composition, while staying true to their unique signatures. Pineapple and kiwi bring the new exotic twist to the masculine scent. Summer is also played by exotic fruits for the feminine version. I introduced a new invigorating brightness throughout the colourful cocktail of dragon fruit, mango and guava.

Alberto Morillas Fragrances - Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey Summer 2017 Pour Homme

NOVEL NOTE: The pineapple note in Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Summer 2017 Pour Homme adds an exotic new twist.

Were there any challenges when creating these new Issey Miyake fragrances?

Since 1997 Issey Miyake first innovated on the market by offering summer fragrances as new fresh interpretations of the Eaux d’Issey Miyake. Always providing an abundance of joy, the seasonal creations have been regularly renewed and are supported by different original graphics and concepts. As a Mediterranean man I like to explore new sophisticated fresh universes inspired by my vivid summer memories. I am very attached, for example, to the citruses, sea notes and sunny flowers I married in these two opuses with joyful exotic fruits.

“As a Mediterranean man I like to explore new sophisticated fresh universes inspired by my vivid summer memories.”

Alberto Morillas Fragrances - Issey Miyake L'Eau D'Issey Summer 2017

What’s always the most important element in your creative process?

Looking for inspiration and new ideas when I work on a new perfume project is the most exciting part of my job. Behind every fragrance is a unique story emerging from a lot of sources, but above all from a direct dialogue with the people. As a perfumer, my inspiration comes from meeting with the brand. Their words are very important. Proximity makes all the difference when creating a perfume.

I confess I can hardly stop working and almost all my formulas are written by hand. My handwriting is my emotion. When I write the formula, I can smell the perfume. Like a craftsman, I have an indestructible passion for creation. All my fragrances come from this devotion to creation and have consumed all my days and nights for the past 45 years. I can easily imagine the fragrance without smelling it. For me, perfumery is an emotion. The technique is intellectual, but every perfume has to have a soul, a story and be an emotion.

Fragroom Interview - Alberto Morillas

WINNING FORMULA: Alberto Morillas says almost all his fragrance formulas are written by hand.

How long on average does it take you to create a fragrance?

It really depends on projects. Some only last a few months and others may continue for a few years.

“Creation is all about intuitive inspirations. Fragrances call for our deepest instincts and emotions.”

How important is intuition when creating a fragrance?

Creation is all about intuitive inspirations. Perfumers create abstract pieces from moments, emotions, sensations, people, places. Fragrances call for our deepest instincts and emotions.

With over four decades in the fragrance business, what advice would you give to aspiring perfumers?

If you want to become a perfumer, it is very important to be passionate, sensitive, enthusiastic, determined and extremely conscientious. You need an inquiring mind and a creative streak. You should be able to marvel at things as you did as a child. And of course, you should love the job of creating perfumes.

Alberto Morillas Fragrances - Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey Pour Homme Summer 2017

What trend in modern perfumery excites you the most?

Fragrance is the mirror of society; it has evolved a lot throughout the years. Today we have entered a time of high perfumery. Traditional perfumery codes are more and more revisited with a modern twist. But there’s also a strong focus on high-quality, statutory ingredients, texture and sophistication.

Alberto Morillas Fragrances - Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey Summer 2017

Do you do anything to protect your gift of smell?

I don’t even think about it.

Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Summer 2017 EDT, R995 for 100ml.  Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme Summer 2017, R965 for 125ml.

 

Seduction Scents: Gentleman Givenchy, Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night, CH 212 VIP Black, Boss The Scent Intense For Her Reviews

Seduction Scents - Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night EDP

If I am to believe all the b-r-e-a-t-h-y advertising, there’s a whole lot of seduction going on down at fragrance counters. Keeping up with this steady procession of new seduction scents is a job in itself. Here’s my round-up of the new arrivals that range from the come-closer-compelling to the oh-dear-trying-too-hard!

Gentleman Givenchy EDTSeduction Scents - Gentleman Givenchy EDT

The complex and highly regarded Givenchy Gentleman (from the 1970s) is reworked for a modern market. Sweet and floral-y, Gentleman Givenchy features a wilted take on iris (an increasingly popular note in men’s fragrances).

I really wanted to like this new EDT, but some classics are best left well alone.

Gentleman Givenchy EDT, R1 010 for 50ml and R1 400 for 100ml.

Yves Saint Laurent La Nuit de L’Homme Eau Electrique EDT

The latest addition to the L’Homme range is not the best in the line, but still has enough sensual oomph to warrant a spray or three. Make sure, though, to sniff out the classic seduction scents: Yves Saint Laurent L’Homme and Yves Saint Laurent La Nuit de L’Homme.

YSL La Nuit de L’Homme Eau Electrique EDT, R1 177 for 100ml.

Seduction Scents - Yves Saint Laurent La Nuit de L’Homme Eau Electrique EDT
Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night EDP

Alberto Morillas delivers a well-executed dose of glamour and mystery with Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night. Featuring notes of black mulberry, black peony, night-blooming jasmine, tuberose, black musk, patchouli and vetiver, it’s one of the year’s better seduction scents.

Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night EDP, R925 for 30ml, R1 380 for 50ml and R1 655 for 75ml. 

Seduction Scents - Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night EDP

Carolina Herrera 212 VIP Black EDP

The shot of top notes (absinthe, anise, fennel) is intriguing (a vital element of seduction). But then makes way all too quickly for notes of lavender, musk and black vanilla husk. Not bad (another round of absinthe please!) and the solid glass bottle is pure eye-candy.

Carolina Herrera 212 VIP Men Black EDP, R955 for 50ml and R1 200 for 100ml.

Seduction Scents - Carolina Herrera 212 VIP Black EDP

Jacques Bogart Club 75 EDT

Sure, this cocktail of fruits, lavender and woods is not the most original of seduction scents. But Jacques Bogart Club 75 more than compensates with a potency and quality that puts many big-name designer fragrances to shame. And the value for money can’t be beat!

Jacques Bogart Club 75 EDT, R695 for 100ml.

Montblanc Emblem Absolu EDT

Are men’s designer fragrances getting sweeter? Montblanc Emblem Absolu, a fruity woody oriental, is another sweetie. Not particularly distinctive on my skin, but I did hear two women at a fragrance counter proclaim they would give their husbands “a second child if he wore this”. Va-va-voom!

Montblanc Emblem Absolu EDT, R1 295 for 100ml.

Seduction Scents - Montblanc Emblem Absolu EDT

Boss The Scent Intense For Her EDP

Boss The Scent For Her gets the intense treatment, with peach, honey, osmanthus, cacao and vanilla notes in the mix. The initial peach opening is quite overpowering. So best give it time to settle before deciding if this is going to be added to your repertoire of seduction scents.

Boss The Scent Intense For Her EDP, R1 010 for 30ml and R1 360 for 50ml.

Seduction Scents - Boss The Scent Intense For Her EDP

Finding Your Niche Fragrances

Niche Fragrances - Penhaligon's Much Ado About The Duke

The fragrance market ain’t what it used to be and niche fragrances are on the rise. The steady decline of the celebrity fragrance category is gathering pace. Designer fragrances that used to fly off the shelves are increasingly being discounted.

The numbers below speak for themselves. These figures are for the world’s largest fragrance market, the USA. But these are international trends, according to industry analysts NPD Group, The Business of Fashion and Perfumer & Flavorist. Amid all the number-crunching, there’s a discernible shift to niche fragrances. They have added almost $250 million to the fragrance market since 2014.

66%  the decline of the celebrity fragrance market in department stores from 2011-2014

6% – the drop in overall fragrance sales from 2015 to 2016

 1%  – the sales growth of prestige fragrances

The rise of niche fragrances - Boss Bottled Tonic

RETAIL BLUES: Designer fragrances aren’t the guaranteed hits they used to be.

Even South Africa, a land of mass market and designer fragrances, is not immune to these changes. Hence the recent arrival of Skins Cosmetics, the renowned Dutch niche beauty and fragrances retailer, in Johannesburg (www.skins.co.za). Skins Cosmetics strikes a good balance between big-name niche fragrances and more experimental niche fragrances. You’ll find everything from Aqua di Parma, Creed, Diptyque, Floris, L’Artisan Parfumeur and Penhaligon’s to Aether, Escentric Molecules and Le Labo at this upmarket store.

While it’s pointless to get bogged down in definitions, it’s always good to know what we mean when we use a buzz-phrase like “niche fragrances”. And why exactly are niche fragrances showing such growth. I asked two of my favourite bloggers for their thoughts on the above and this is what they had to say.

DEFINING THE VALUE OF NICHE FRAGRANCES

“If I were being really ‘black and white’ about this, the only honest, accurate answer is ‘nothing’. ‘Niche’, as a descriptor, does not signify any particular style or aesthetic. If the term has any value, it is only as a method of describing limited and/or independent production/ distribution. I would concede that the best so-called niche perfumes possess a clear reflection of the visions of their creators.” – Dariush Alavi of Persolaise (http://persolaise.blogspot.co.za)

Niche Fragrances - L'Artisan Parfumeur Au Bord de L'Eau

THE ARTISTRY OF NICHE FRAGRANCES: L’Artisan Parfumeur Au Bord de L’Eau, inspired by Claude Monet.

“Niche perfumery is a very creative arm of the industry. Most of the trends that have become prolific in commercial perfumery started in niche. It’s an important place for generating and testing new ideas. Niche is a good incubator for creativity. Its audiences are genuinely interested in unusual or forward-thinking fragrances. They don’t want to smell like every second person on the street.” – Clayton Ilolahia of What Men Should Smell Like (http://whatmenshouldsmelllike.com)

BEWARE! THE SNOBBERY OF NICHE FRAGRANCES

These insights from Clayton and Dariush pretty much sum up the role and nuances of niche fragrances. I would also like to add that we need to beware the snobbery of niche fragrances. Just because it’s a designer/mainstream/commercial fragrance doesn’t mean it’s inherently crap. I have come across a fair amount of that snootiness online. Equally, just because it’s a niche fragrance doesn’t mean it’s better quality or more deserving of the cash you’re about to splash.

Niche Fragrances - David Liss Fabulous Men

DAVID WHO?: The joy of new fragrance discoveries.

For me, perfumery should always be about the joy of discovery. The joy of discovering the classics of perfumery. The joy of discovering new variations on seemingly exhausted themes. And also the joy of discovering cheap and cheerful bargains. Ultimately, niche fragrances should increase our options, expand our knowledge and pleasure. So yes, be a discerning and savvy consumer, but snobbery is so self-limiting.

“Perfumery should always be about the joy of discovery. So yes, be a discerning and savvy consumer, but snobbery is so self-limiting.”

Niche Fragrances - Budget Buys Have Their Place Too

BARGAIN SHELF: Budget buys have their place too.

Clayton offers very useful advice to those who are just starting their discovery of niche fragrances: “Buy from a retailer who specialises in niche fragrances and let them help guide you in the beginning. With experience, most people will see common threads, maybe an ingredient or note they like, or a perfumer whose work they like, which begins to influence their buying.”

Niche Fragrances - Nasomatto fragrances at Skins Cosmetics

GOING DUTCH: Let Skins Cosmetics introduce you to Nasomatto fragrances.

Fragrance is such a personal and mood-influenced choice, so I hope niche fragrances bring you much joy. These are are some of my favourite niche fragrances:

Penhaligon’s Much Ado About The Duke EDP (2016)

British heritage brand Penhaligon’s has been in the fragrance biz since the 1870s and is one of the most celebrated companies in niche fragrances. From its recent Portraits collection, Much Ado About The Duke is an unapologetically sparkling rose, with notes of pepper, leather, wood, gin and tonic adding to its irreverent appeal. It was created by Daphne Bugey, the nose behind Jean Paul Gaultier Scandal, Le Labo Bergamote 22, Mugler Aura and Valentino Valentina Pink.

Niche Fragrances - Penhaligon's Much Ado About The Duke

Etat Libre d’Orange Like This EDP (2010)

While the company founded by South Africa-born Etienne de Swardt is sometimes better known for its shock-and-awe tactics, it also produces top-notch niche fragrances. You can read my interview with Etienne de Swardt here (http://fragroom.com/2017/04/20/etat-libre-doranges-etienne-de-swardt/). This collaboration with Tilda Swinton captures the English actress’s idea of home, with cosy and comforting notes of ginger, immortelle, pumpkin, tangerine, vetiver and heliotrope. Created by Mathilde Bijaoui, it won the Fragrance Foundation France Award for Best Niche Fragrance in 2011.

Niche Fragrances - Etat Libre d'Orange Like this

L’Artisan Parfumeur Tea For Two EDT (2000)

One of the best tea fragrances around. It conjures up spicy-aromatic intimacy with notes of tea, tobacco, cinnamon, honey, ginger, star anise, gingerbread and vanilla. This treat from L’Artisan Parfumeur, one of the pioneers of niche fragrances since the 1970s, was created by Olivia Giacobetti. This nose also created Diptyque Philosykos, Frédéric Malle en Passant, Hermès Hiris and several other L’Artisan Parfumeur beauties. This is a vintage bottle below. So if you’re looking for Tea For Tea, it’s to be found in the company’s newish grey bottles.

Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal (2012)

Founded in 2009, this Paris-based company has made its mark in the niche fragrances industry with its cologne absolues. These cologne absolues combine the traditional citrus character of eau de colognes with longer-lasting natural materials. I am a big fan of vetiver fragrances and Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal is a gentler interpretation of the usually earthy theme. It features notes of Calabrian bergamot, Sicilian lemon, Tunisian orange blossom absolue, fig, Grasse violet leaves and Texan cedarwood. A super-fresh summer in a bottle!

Niche Fragrances - Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal

 

Private Fragrance Collections: Worth Every Scent

Private Fragrance Collections

Designer brands have dominated the fragrance market for the last few decades with a succession of blockbusters. But the problem with massive commercial success is that it often creates a relentless cycle of crowd-pleasing smell-a-likes. And the art of perfumery, a luxury in itself, is compromised by a focus on rapid merchandise-shifting.

Private Fragrance Collections

This is not to say that designer fragrances are on their way out. Far from it. But that the big-name fashion brands have realised that while their best-sellers have made the idea of luxury seemingly accessible to the masses, they may have compromised on quality and their heritage in the process. Of course, they would not put it so bluntly.

Private Fragrance Collections

THE PRICE OF SUCCESS: Has your favourite designer fragrance become a victim of its own success?

With the shift to niche fragrances, designer-brand private fragrance collections offer increasingly savvy and discerning consumers the experience of exclusivity, quality and service – at a price.

This is reflected in:

  • The packaging – solid glass bottles and ornate boxes speak the language of style, substance and brand story.
  • The quality and concentration of the juice – only the best ingredients and EDPs please.
  • The below-the-radar marketing – after all, not everyone should know about these fragrances.
Private Fragrance Collections

TOP(S) OF THE RANGE: Dolce & Gabbana, Bulgari and Yves Saint Laurent.

La Collection Privée Christian Dior, Les Exclusifs de Chanel, Herrera Confidential, Ermenegildo Zegna Essenze and Mugler Les Exceptions are just some of the private fragrance collections you’ll now find in select upmarket retailers. And, of course, then there’s Mr Tom Ford, whose Private Blends have become a perfume phenomenon.

The big question: Do these private fragrance collections offer value for money? That’s a purchasing decision you will have to make, depending on how you cost your perfume pleasure. For myself, I have sometimes found better value further down the chain when comparing some of the private fragrance collections with their more widely available scent siblings. But then there are the truly exceptional stand-outs in private fragrance collections that are worth every cent.

“The big question: Do these private fragrance collections offer value for money?”

ARMANI PRIVE

Launched in 2004, Armani Prive was one of the first private fragrance collections. Originally created for his own personal pleasure and those of his closest friends, it set the standard for others to follow. Armani Prive Vetiver Babylone and Armani Prive Ambre Soie are highly rated classics of the genre. The Italian maestro also spotted the lucrative Middle Eastern market before it became de rigueur. With its emphasis on exotic and heavier ingredients, the Armani Prive La Collection Des Mille Et Une Nuits was launched in 2010.

Private Fragrance Collections: Armani Prive Cuir Amethyste

Fragroom’s Choice: I have not been able to keep up with all the launches, but Armani Prive Cuir Amethyste is a superb interpretation of leather. Its notes of bergamot, rose, violet, birch, patchouli, benzoin, vanilla and bourbon create the best kind of luxurious indulgence.

Armani Prive EDPs, from R2 550 to R3 520 for 100ml, Giorgio Armani Sandton City and V&A Waterfront, Luminance. 

Private Fragrance Collections: Armani Prive Cuir Amethyste

DOLCE & GABBANA VELVET COLLECTION

I will leave it to Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana to sum up their contribution to private fragrance collections. “We have put our memories and our roots into the Velvet Fragrance Collection, which have the same vibrant, hedonistic heart as Sicily and Italy. With each one, we invite you into our world,” they say. Originally launched in 2011, the sensual range now features 17 fragrances. These include Velvet Vetiver, Velvet Tender Oud and Velvet Exotic Leather.

Private Fragrance Collections: Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Cypress

Fragroom’s Choice: One of this year’s launches, Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Cypress, hits the woody-aromatic spot. It’s fresh and crisp, with notes of cypress, bergamot, lemon, galbanum and clary sage absolute. A surprisingly reserved D&G fragrance.

Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Collection EDPs, R3 505 for 50ml and R5 050 for 150ml, Edgars Sandton City, V&A Waterfront, Gateway, Clearwater and Rosebank.

Private Fragrance Collections: Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Cypress

BOSS THE COLLECTION

Thanks to the juggernaut of its more commercial fragrances, there are certain perceptions of Boss fragrances. That changed when I was first introduced to Boss The Collection about two years ago. It includes six EDPs: Wool Musk, Cotton Verbena, Cashmere Patchouli, Velvet Amber, Damask Oud and Silk Jasmine. Inspired by the key materials used in Boss’s sharp suits, the fragrances in the collection have very simple note structures. Although primarily aimed at men, women will also love the fragrances in this complete collection. Launched in 2011, it’s one of the best and most surprising private fragrance collections I have come across.

Private Fragrance Collections: Boss The Collection Velvet Amber

Fragroom’s Choice: Boss The Collection Velvet Amber, with notes of amber, vanilla and resin. The result is an eminently wearable composition that feels warm, cosy and tailor-made.

Boss The Collection EDPs, R3 050 for 50ml, Edgars Sandton City, V&A Waterfront, Gateway, Clearwater and Rosebank.

Private Fragrance Collections: Boss The Collection Velvet Amber

YVES SAINT LAURENT LE VESTIAIRE DES PARFUMS

The grand name says it all. Inspired by the classics from YSL’s venerable fashion history, Le Vestiaire (le French for “wardrobe”) is a luxury perfume wardrobe. Launched in 2015, the collection includes Caban, Caftan, Tuxedo, Saharienne and Trench. It was recently expanded with the Oriental and De Nuit collections.

Private Fragrance Collections: Yves Saint Laurent Le Vestiaire Trench

Fragroom’s Choice: All of the fragrances in the launch collection are très chic. But the woody-citrus Yves Saint Laurent Le Vestiaire Trench, created by Amandine Clerc-Marie, is the one to sniff out. Tangerine, bergamot, neroli and cedar feature in the notes structure, but it’s the iris that takes prominence in this beauty.

Yves Saint Laurent Le Vestiaire des Parfums, R3 500 for 125ml, YSL Boutique Sandton City.

Private Fragrance Collections: Yves Saint Laurent Le Vestiaire Trench

BULGARI LE GEMME

Tapping into its luxe jewellery heritage, the Le Gemme collection takes inspiration from precious gems. Bulgari Le Gemme launched in 2014 with six fragrances for women. All with suitably exotic names and, some might say, over-the-top packaging. Amarena, Ashlemah, Calaluna, Lilaia, Maravilla and Noorah were created by Daniela Roche Andrier. Men were given the luxury treatment with the launch of their own Bulgari Le Gemme collection in 2016. Master perfumer Jacques Cavallier created all of these men’s fragrances. So you know Bulgari is taking private fragrance collections very seriously.

Private Fragrance Collections: Bulgari Le Gemme Amarena

Fragroom’s Choice: I have not been able to sample all of the above fragrances. But Bulgari Le Gemme Amarena is a gorgeous hit of cherry, rose, tuberose, pomegranate and powdery notes.

Bulgari Le Gemme, R2 245 for 30ml and R4 485 for 100ml, Edgars Sandton City and Edgars Mall of Africa.

Private Fragrance Collections: Bulgari Le Gemme Amarena

Beauty In The Strangest Of Places

Beauty - Jasmine.

Firstly, credit where it’s due, plus an apology if I am bastardising its original meaning. The title of this blog post is a paraphrasing of a quote about beauty from designer Alexander McQueen.

“Beauty can come from the strangest of places, even the most disgusting of places. It’s the ugly things I notice more, because other people tend to ignore the ugly things.”

It comes from the book Savage Beauty by Andrew Bolton (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). I did not get to see the retrospective show of McQueen’s creations. However, I do get intense, visceral pleasure paging through this book, which highlights the Scottish designer’s maverick approach.

Beauty - Savage Beauty.

SHOW AND TELL: An image from the book Savage Beauty.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I have not had a proper holiday for years (workaholic, moi?) and I am yearning for some travel / escape / change of scenery / passport-stamping.

The good news is that I have a family road-trip coming up in mid-August. In the meantime, I explore the idea of beauty as a tonic. These are just some of the things in my immediate vicinity that do the trick.

LIME LIGHT

Can a leaf lift your spirits? Oh yes, if it’s a lime leaf. I get a kick from rubbing lime leaves between my fingers. This releases a fresh, crisp, citrus scent that never fails to captivate me. And the lime itself calls for a mojito.

Beauty - Lime Leaves.

VITAMIN SEA

While the Amalfi vacation will have to wait, Tom Ford Sole di Positano will do for now. There’s a veritable citrus and floral cocktail in this EDP, including notes of Calabrian bergamot, bitter orange, lemon, shiso leaf, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, jasmine, lily of the valley and neroli. Alas, on my skin, it dissipates very quickly. A case of fleeting beauty…

Beauty - Tom Ford Sole di Positano.

INDIAN SUMMER

We are having a very warm winter here in Johannesburg, with day-time temperatures averaging above 20ºC. As a result, the jasmine is out even earlier than usual. I am not complaining. Its rich scent is my imaginary olfactory ticket to an Indian summer.

Beauty - Jasmine.

VINTAGE VIEW

There’s something very re-assuring about a vintage treasure. I adore this kit, a gift from my sister. The leather case contains two functional glass bottles and glass containers. There’s no company or brand name on it, so I can’t trace its origins. And, you know what, it doesn’t matter.

Beauty - Vintage.

Stranger Things: Weird & Wonderful Beauty Ingredients

Unusual Ingredients: Creed Millesime Imperial

From civet musk (extracted from the animal’s anal glands) to caviar extract, the beauty industry has often used some pretty bizarre ingredients. All in the quest to create the ultimate perfume or skincare product.  With their exotic and out-of-the-world ingredients, the following three products rank high on the weird-o-meter.

The Ambergris Effect

Ambergris is one of the most sought-after ingredients in perfumery, fetching anything from $100 000 upwards for 1,5kg of the precious stuff. Contrary to popular belief, ambergris is not sperm whale vomit. It’s a by-product of the sperm whale’s digestive system and is excreted by these creatures. This may float in the ocean for decades before being washed up on the shore in solid form. It then becomes highly prized by perfumers for its musky (some would say fishy) quality.

Unusual Ingredients: Bulgari Aqua Pour Homme Atlantique

As it is very expensive and rare, ambergris is not used in perfumes such as Chanel No5 anymore.  Ambrox or ambroxan is now widely used in many best-selling fragrances. Christian Dior Sauvage, Versace Dylan Blue, Giorgio Armani Si and Bulgari Aqua Pour Homme Atlantique all owe their character to this synthetic compound.

However, for customers willing to splash their cash, ambergris can still be found in premium perfumes. These include many of the highly rated Creed fragrances such as Aventus.

Unusual Ingredients: Creed Millesime Imperial

Ambergris is very distinctive in Creed Millésime Imperial. This EDP was launched in 1995 to mark the Paris-based perfume house’s 150th anniversary as the fragrance of choice by European royalty.  It’s somewhat of an acquired smell

Creed Millésime Imperial EDP, R4 850 for 120ml.

The Snail’s Pace

If I told you that I have used a snail-gel skincare product would you think less of me? Journalistic curiosity got the better of me when I heard that Celltone products contain this ingredient. Apparently snail gel is packed with glycolic acid, allantoin, protein and vitamin E. These are all very useful in the fight against ageing. One might even say they are highly effective in slowing the pace of ageing. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Now, for the big question? Are any snails harmed in the making of this product? Yes. I used it for two weeks and then felt very guilty about it, even though I had started noticing a tightening of my skin.

Celltone Snail Extract Gel, R399.90 for 50ml, www.celltone.co.za

Unusual Ingredients: Celltone Snail Extract Gel

Meteoritic Impact

Lab Series is one of my favourite male skincare brands. So I was very excited to read about its new high-tech range, Maxellence, which contains meteorite extract. Unfortunately, I was brought down to earth when I found out that this range is not available in South Africa.

Then a friend told me that Anesi Man Secret Serum had just landed in the country. This anti-ageing skincare product from the renowned Spanish spa professional range also utilises meteoritic extract. Talk about sci-fa (science fact).

Unusual Ingredients: Anesi Man Secret Serum

So why is meteorite extract such a big deal? It’s rich in minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium. This makes it a potent anti-ageing weapon, with deep-penetrating, firming and plumping properties.

I used Anesi Man Secret Serum for a month and enjoyed its light, non-greasy texture.  I noticed a definite improvement in the condition of my skin. Was this due to meteorite extract? Or any of this product’s other exotic ingredients (including mineral extracts from precious mineral stones)? While I read up more on that, I must explore Anesi some more.

Anesi Man Secret Serum, R750 for 50ml, www.exclusivebeauty.co.za

Fragrance Reviews: Gucci Guilty Absolute, Prada Luna Rossa Carbon, Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint EDT

Gucci Guilty Absolute, Prada Luna Rossa Carbon, Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint

So what’s on the Fragroom sniff-list this week? Well, we have three BIG designer fragrances. Gucci Guilty Absolute EDP, Prada Luna Rossa Carbon EDT, Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint EDT. I am deliberately reviewing these three fragrances together, as they represent the best of what designer fragrances have to offer.

Gucci Guilty Absolute EDP 

The Gucci Guilty line has been on the market since 2010. While I have not tried all the flankers and limited editions, to me the super-fresh Gucci Guilty Eau EDT was the best of the range. But just when I thought Gucci Guilty was becoming a bit predictable, Gucci Guilty Absolute arrived.

Gucci Guilty Absolute EDP

This close collaboration between master perfumer Alberto Morillas and Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele is a very brave release for Gucci.

Its listed notes include a custom-made leather accord (Woodleather), a natural extract of the nootka cypress (Goldenwood), three types of patchouli and vetiver. All of this adds up to create a rich, woody-leathery EDP that’s most intriguing.

To my nose Gucci Guilty Absolute is almost medicinal in character. And I mean that in a very good way. With its deep leather vibe, it pays respectful homage to Gucci’s luxury leather goods heritage. (PS: Did you know Gucci will be celebrating its 100th birthday in 2021?) Gucci Guilty Absolute is not a get-as-many-as-you-can crowd-pleaser, so not everyone will “get” it. Either way, it’s good to see Gucci taking some risks with this new fragrance.

Gucci Guilty Absolute EDP, R1 210 for 50ml, R1 605 for 90ml and R1 895 for 150ml.

Prada Luna Rossa Carbon EDT

I am always very excited about a new Prada fragrance, as the Italian luxury brand doesn’t just churn ’em out. Of course, it’s in the money-making business, but there’s always a conceptual intelligence to the Prada aesthetic. And so it is with the latest addition to the Prada Luna Rossa range, originally launched in 2012.

Prada Luna Rossa Carbon EDT

A fougère with a modern twist, Prada Luna Rossa Carbon has been crafted as a fusion of botanicals and synthetics, the natural and industrial. It features top notes of Italian bergamot and pepper; middle notes of lavender, soil tincture, water, metal and coal; and base notes of patchouli and ambroxan.

Perfumer Daniela Andrier has created all the Prada Luna Rossa fragrances. And her latest creation reflects the above-mentioned contrasts with aplomb. As with many Prada fragrances, there’s something quite austere about Prada Luna Rossa Carbon. Yet it’s sophisticated stuff at the same time, because there are no silly gimmicks to grab the attention.

In my opinion, Carbon is the best in the Prada Luna Rossa range. It’s well worth sniffing out if you’re partial to lavender. While you’re at it, please also check out the award-winning, iris-infused L’Homme Prada EDT.

Prada Luna Rossa EDT, R990 for 50ml and R1 355 for 100ml.

Prada Luna Rossa Carbon EDT

Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint EDT

A new Thierry Mugler A*Men fragrance is always cause for celebration. Originally launched in 1996, there are now 17 fragrances in the A*Men line, including the latest incarnation. You would think that with the umpteenth flanker, A*Men would have run its course. Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint proves otherwise, with a new variation on the love-it-or-hate-it gourmand formula.

Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint EDT

So what does Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint smell like? There’s a lot going on here, with notes that include peppermint, patchouli, tonka bean, geranium, vanilla and coffee. If that sounds totally scrumptious, that’s because it is.

Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint is the olfactory equivalent of over-indulging in after-dinner mints. Remember, this is Thierry Mugler we are talking about, so reserve and restraint are not on the menu.

Sure, Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint is not the very best in the range (my favourites are still the original and the honey- and tobacco-laden A*Men Pure Havane). But kudos to nose Jacques Huclier, who has created all the A*Men fragrances, for playing with our noses again.

Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint EDT, R1 195 for 100ml.

Fragrance Reviews: Carolina Herrera 212 Men Aqua, Jimmy Choo Man Ice, Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Bleu Astral, Scuderia Ferrari Forte

Carolina Herrera 212 Men Aqua Limited Edition

It’s been almost a month since my last fragrance review. And I have a backlog of fragrances to report back on here at Fragroom HQ. So this week and the next I will be reviewing seven newbies on my sniff list. This week we have Carolina Herrera 212 Men Aqua, Jimmy Choo Man Ice, Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Bleu Astral and Scuderia Ferrari Forte.

Issey Miyake Nuit d'Issey Bleu Astral

FEELING BLUE: Is Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Bleu Astral a hit or a miss?

Scuderia Ferrari Forte EDP

If, like me, you have never really explored Ferrari fragrances (surely too much testosterone), give this one a go. It’s not nearly as macho as it sounds. Scuderia Ferrarai Forte EDP is created by the esteemed Maurice Roucel (the nose behind Amouage Reflection Woman, Bond No 9 New Haarlem, Estée Lauder Pleasures Intense For Men, Gucci Envy For Women, Lancôme Hypnôse Homme, Rochas Man). The listed notes of this oriental fragrance include apple, lemon, plum, cinnamon, vanilla and patchouli notes. I mostly get a sweet and spicy pineapple vibe from this EDP. While not in the haloed company of the previously mentioned fragrances, it’s a good excuse to check out the world of Ferrari fragrances. Scuderia Ferrari Forte EDP, R895 for 125ml.

Scuderia Ferrari Forte EDP

Jimmy Choo Man Ice EDT

Jimmy Phew! That’s Really Sweet. That was my initial reaction to the third addition to the Jimmy Choo Man fragrance franchise, which features mandarin, bergamot, cedrat essence, vetiver, patchouli essence, cedarwood, apple, musk, moss and ambroxan notes. I have revisited this fragrance several times since then to give it a fair chance, because sometimes an initial reaction can be influenced by factors such as mood. However, I still get major sweetness, rather than icy freshness, from Jimmy Choo Man Ice EDT. Perhaps I am being too literal? So while this one ain’t for me, I see it working very well for trendy, active 20-something gents. Jimmy Choo Man Ice EDT, R695 for 30ml, R895 for 50ml and R1095 for 100ml.

Jimmy Choo Man Ice EDT

Carolina Herrera 212 Men Aqua Limited Edition EDT

Hard to believe that CH 212 has been on the market for almost 20 years. You know you are getting older when you can measure your life in fragrance launch cycles. Anyway, enough about me. The latest CH 212 Men incarnation, created by master perfumer Alberto Morillas (who-co-created the original), features notes of grapefruit, bergamot, marine, cardamom, gardenia, ambrox, cypriola, vetiver, sandalwood, patchouli, rose and musk. CH 212 Men Aqua Limited Edition is not going to score points for originality, but it’s super-fresh, high-performance stuff. CH 212 Men Aqua Limited Edition EDT, R1 200 for 100ml.

Carolina Herrera 212 Men Aqua Limited Edition

Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Bleu Astral EDT

I really like Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Parfum, with its grapefruit, leather and tonka bean characteristics. For their latest creation in the series, Dominique Ropion and Loc Dong up the contrasts ante. So Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Bleu Astral opens with a fresh burst of lime and Russian coriander. Then there’s a sensuous aspect with leather, ambery woods and vetiver notes. It’s very minimalist in a Japanese way and very effective. A case of less is more, and I want a lot more of it. Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Bleu Astral EDT, R965 for 75ml and R1 175 for 125ml.

Issey Miyake Nuit d'Issey Bleu Astral EDT

House of Gozdawa: The Art of Nature

House of Gozdawa

It’s not often that you will see “Made in South Africa” on the bottle of a luxury fragrance. But then Cape Town-based Agata Karolina can lay claim to being one of South Africa’s few perfumers. Her niche fragrance company, House of Gozdawa, produces very limited quantities of extraits de parfums. All of these are made with high-quality natural ingredients.

For Agata, working with the cycles of nature is of utmost importance. This philosophy is carried through from the selection of her ingredients to the distillation process.

Agata Karolina of House of Gozdawa

WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY: Agata Karolina of House of Gozdawa.

Although I have not met Agata (yet), her deep and highly personal connection to her art of perfume is unmistakable. When she sent me samples of House of Gozdawa’s Confessions Collection, these came with a hand-written letter. “As with all things in nature, these scents take their time to reveal their full story. I hope you enjoy experiencing that which they have to tell,” she wrote to me.

Delivery from House of Gozdawa.

MR DELIVERY: House of Gozdawa personal touch.

There are six fragrances in the House of Gozdawa Confessions Collection: Marta, Andrea, Albert, Simo, Hel and Aga. What I like most about these scents is their unpretentious character. To my mind and nose, these fragrances could only come from Africa.

TRUE CONFESSIONS WITH AGATA KAROLINA OF HOUSE OF GOZDAWA

I asked Karolina Agata about her preference for natural materials, her artisanal approach and her Confessions Collection. 

House of Gozdawa

IT’S PERSONAL: Agata Karolina’s hand-written letter.

How did you get into perfumery?

Perfumery found me far in advance of me finding it. As a child I was always hypersensitive to spaces, smells and sounds and how they worked together. I enjoyed it as a personal pleasure. But for a very long time never considered it as a career. I was brought into the world of distilling, tinctures and natural oils through my mother and grandmother. These two women taught me everything I know and inspired a life deeply connected to nature.

“As a child I was always hypersensitive to spaces, smells and sounds and how they worked together.”

After working as a curator and project initiator in Europe, Asia and Africa, I finally decided to return to South Africa and pursue my passion for scent. I launched House of Gozdawa in 2015.

Samples from the House of Gozdawa Confessions Collection.

BOXES, LITTLE BOXES: Samples from the House of Gozdawa Confessions Collection.

Are all your perfumes 100% natural? Why are natural perfumes so appealing to you?

All House of Gozdawa scents use only 100% natural ingredients. No matter how many synthetics I have smelt, they have never been able to present me the depth a natural material carries. Essentially these ingredients are alive. They age and shift as they would in nature, continuously morphing into another phase of their existence. In connection with the skin these materials take on an even deeper depth.

House of Gozdawa Hel

HOUSE OF GOZDAWA HEL: With notes of grapefruit, tuberose and cajeput.

How do you ensure that your perfume-making process is also eco responsible?

The farms and suppliers I work with in Southern Africa and across the African continent all follow eco responsible and sustainable practices. All materials are ordered directly and for the batches we create, I personally blend and bottle all of them to ensure no wastage occurs. Respect for your materials is as essential to creating a globally responsible product as much as any certification.

House of Gozdawa Marta

HOUSE OF GOZDAWA MARTA: With notes of geranium, lemon, black pepper, carnation and wood.

As a South Africa-based perfumer, where do you source most of your materials from?

Most of my materials are sourced from the African continent. I do work with many materials from abroad, mostly those that are not yet available locally, or simply do not grow in our environments. Many of the ingredients we use are from wild harvest, which I do myself. These will be even more present in our new collections after the full extraction and ageing process is complete. One has to have a lot of patience when waiting a year or two for one ingredient to be ready.

House of Gozdawa Simo

HOUSE OF GOZDAWA SIMO TRAVEL VIAL: With notes of crushed lemon rind, orange blossom, cedar wood, atlas and vetiver.

For those who are more used to the conventions of mass market fragrances and who at first might not “get” your fragrances, what would you say to them?

I often compare niche or luxury scents to taste kitchens pushing the boundaries of taste or of highest quality wine-makers perfecting the art of flavour from a single grape varietal. If you are an individual of passion in these areas, then why not afford yourself the quality of such an experience in the olfactive?

“These ingredients are alive. They age and shift as they would in nature, continuously morphing into another phase of their existence.”

Agata Karolina of House of Gozdawa transforms raw materials into intimate experiences.

ARTISANAL APPROACH: Agata Karolina transforms raw materials into intimate experiences.

Chefs, winemakers and perfumers are some of our last genuine artisans. We take raw materials and manipulate them into deep and unexpected orchestrations for people to experience intimately.

If this is not conviction enough, I encourage anyone to do a little experiment for themselves. Take a fresh juicy lemon and sprig of lavender. Scratch the surface of the lemon’s skin until the oil starts running out and spread it across the back of your hand. Crush the lavender between your fingers until the sticky oil finds its way onto your skin. Breathe these scents in deeply, smelling the oil on the surface of the lemon’s skin and then on your hand, paying attention to how the heat of your skin makes the scent react. Now take a deep smell of any conventional hand cream, bathroom spray or dish-washing liquid with the same ingredients. Which has more depth and quality?

Are you a natural or synthetic kind of person?

LAVENDER CRUSH: Are you a natural or synthetic kind of person?

My favourite from your Confessions Collection is Aga. Tell us more about that extrait de parfum.

I wanted to create a collection which I felt expressed something real and honest, rather than creating stories that had no context to the wearer. I decided to tell my own confession as the perfumer behind the brand. I chose six people in my life that over the years had influenced the person I had become, together creating the whole.

House of Gozdawa Aga

HOUSE OF GOZDAWA AGA: With notes of jasmine, rosemary, fynbos and dark fruits.

Aga, The Romantic, is the persona of the collection that was created to reference a part of myself at the time. Aga is my nickname. I often exist in the arena of the heart and at the time I was questioning a lot about what I valued, wanted in my life and my connections with others. This scent reflects my choice and definition of that part of myself. It was an unnerving process to open myself so deeply and honestly to strangers. But the reward, as you have experienced yourself, was worth letting go of the fear to be fully open.

“It was an unnerving process to open myself so deeply and honestly to strangers.”

The scent reflects spaces and moments which have moved this part of me the most in life. The ingredients – fynbos, jasmine, passionfruit, ravintsara – all capture the aspects and characteristics which I felt closest to. The fynbos is wild harvested and the tinctures are developed and distilled in house.

For more information and to order any House of Gozdawa fragrances, https://houseofgozdawa.com.