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February 01, 2011

New Perfume Launches and Fragrance Trends : January 2011

Lolita-Lempicka-Minuit-Noir-perfume Guerlain-jasminora Arabian nights

Oud, jasmine, oriental notes appearing even in the most unexpected places (like celebrity fragrances,), the revival of classical perfumery forms… While the fragrance market continues to confound and confuse with the flood of new launches, I find it interesting to observe trends forming and ideas trickling down from luxury perfumery into the mainstream. While it is difficult to predict the shape of the year based only on January, I have decided to include in my trend overview a few common themes I have noticed since the last quarter of 2010. I started jotting these notes down for myself about two years ago, and they help me to make sense of new launches as well as keep track of interesting developments. I generally try to include notes on fragrances already released, but whenever relevant, I also include mentions of new launches that fit the themes.

Crème Brûlée : Dark Side of Gourmand

There has been a general emphasis on the darker, oriental notes in the new launches over the past few months, and the edible accords have also received some scorching. The most provocative of the recent launches with a gourmand theme, Serge Lutens Jeux de Peau takes the idea of buttered toast and develops a herbal-woody composition around it.

It is memorable in so far as it pushes the gourmand concept into a savory direction with the use of nutty and milky (lactonic) notes. Less provocative, but interesting nevertheless, is Sensuous Noir, a flanker by perfumer Annie Buzantian to the original Sensuous. Despite my expectations of candy floss, Sensuous Noir has a strong dry amber and pepper accent, which offsets the richness of its warm woody gourmand composition. Buzantian’s Firmenich colleagues Alberto Morillas and Jacques Cavallier have together created Yves Rocher Secrets d’Essences Vanille Noire, a gourmand woody fragrance, where the crisp accord of mandarin and mimosa provides a counterpoint to the smoky vanilla notes. Likewise, Lolita Lempicka receives a darker guise with its flanker Minuit Noir. Created by Annick Ménardo, it has a stronger licorice and patchouli note, minus the original’s bright herbal accent. What makes some of the new darker and richer gourmands different from the fragrances in the past is the heavier emphasis on woods, toasty notes (pyrazines) as well as the spices.  In many cases, they serve as nice counterbalances to the gourmand sweetness.

Orient Express : Coming to the Mall Near You

While the Middle Eastern realities are far from pretty, the fragrance world continues to regale us with Arabian Tales in the form of incense, oud, sandalwood and dark, rich roses. Christian Dior Leather Oud, Armani Privé 1001 Nights, Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady, by Kilian Incense Oud, Bond no. 9 New York Oud, among others, explore rich woody notes set against warm oriental accords. There are also some notable explorations of the woody oriental genre in other areas of the market. Café Black Label Pour Homme explores oud paired with licorice and amber, but sets it against a fresh accord (notes: orange, cognac, apple, floral accord, cedarwood, oudwood, amber, licorice.) It was created by perfumers Michel Almairac and Sidonie Lancesseur. A Spanish brand J del Pozo has jumped onto the bandwagon by launching Arabian Nights, a mascluine woody oriental fragrance of rose, thyme, cedarwood, guaïac wood, patchouli, sandalwood, saffron, oud, amber, labdanum. While the Middle Eastern perfumery has a very rich tradition, the recent Orient Express fragrances have relied on the same themes to convey an idea of opulence and richness. At best, the results are an interesting synthesis of French and Eastern aesthetics; at worst, it is a genre heavily laden with stereotypes. However, if I am forced to choose between incense amber or yet another caramel fruity-floral, I will personally go for the former. I am still waiting for Bath & Body Works Warm Vanilla Oud and Avon Oud for Her and Oud for Him. 

Classical Flowers : Jasmine Harvest

There is a strong tendency towards classical forms in today’s fragrance market, and classical white flowers have been particularly predominant over the past year in all categories, with tuberose being the leading lady. However, there is now a new emphasis on a different white floral--jasmine. There have been a few animalic, indolic jasmine blends like Nasomatto Nuda, an Italian line created by Alessandro Gualtieri as well modern fresh, radiant jasmines like Christian Dior J’Adore L’Or. A rich jasmine sambac note set into an accord with violet and tuberose is explored by Christian Dior New Look 1947 (peony, ylang ylang, pink pepper, jasmine sambac, rose, tuberose, iris, benzoin and vanilla) an interesting orchestration, but one that begs for a high concentration. By Kilian : L'Oeuvre Noire Love and Tears by Calice Becker uses aromatic, herbal notes as a twist in its modern luminous jasmine accord. Likewise, many new spring launches feature prominent jasmine notes, such as Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Jasminora (jasmine, lily of the valley, green leafy notes.) Floris Amaryllis takes the classical white floral bouquet and makes it crisp and bright with marine notes (it also includes bergamot, clove, lily, tuberose, ylang ylang, myrrh, frankincense, patchouli, musk, heliotrope, tonka bean, vanilla, caramel.) Cartier’s first major feminine launch Cartier de Lune takes the white floral route with its aldehydic rose and jasmine composition. While it is a modern rendition, the classical elements are prominent.

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