Best New Releases of 2014

Source: 1ms.net

Source: 1ms.net

This has been a good year for perfume releases. For all that I sometimes grumble about the generic nature of fragrances put out these days, 2014 actually had a number of scents that really impressed me. Last year, I could not find a full 10 new releases for my list, and refused to simply include things for the sake of round numbers. This year, I have 15 scents that I actually think are good representations of their genre and were done very well, along with a few Honourable Mentions.

Violettes du Czar. Photo: Roberto Greco for Oriza L. Legrand.

Violettes du Czar. Photo: Roberto Greco for Oriza L. Legrand.

As I always emphasize, perfume reviewing is subjective and personal by its very nature, so winnowing fragrances down to some favorites is even more so. My criteria for selection varied. A number of the fragrances were not really for me, personally, for various reasons (a particular note or genre that I struggle with, discreet sillage, or something else), but were chosen nevertheless because something about the particular scent was either interesting, luxurious, evocative, complex and/or, as noted above, an extremely good example of its genre that also happened to be done in a very elegant manner. A handful of perfumes are on the list for the most subjective reason of all: I either bought full bottles for myself, plan to get them, or would love to do so if their price were not a consideration.

Ranking things is an utter nightmare, but the Top Five are firmly placed in accordance with my feelings. The remainder of the scents are ranked within one to three slots, plus or minus, of where they are in my estimation at the present time, though keep in mind that perfumistas are a fickle bunch who can change their mind from one month to the next, and I’m no exception. All of these fragrances were released in 2014. The problem is that some of the names that I would love to have on this list (like SHL 777‘s O Hira and Black Gemstone) technically debuted in very limited fashion in 2013, before being released globally this year. As a result, what I’ve decided to do is to write a separate list of my 30 personal favorites of 2014, things that I’ve covered this year but without regard to their official launch date. I’ll update this post with a link when I do. There is some overlap between the two lists, but not a lot.

Continue reading

Oriza L. Legrand Marrions-Nous (Let’s Get Married)

Gloria Swanson, photo by Edward Steichen, 1924. Source: galleryhip.com

Gloria Swanson, photo by Edward Steichen, 1924. Source: galleryhip.com

Love and marriage, virginal propriety and lusty naughtiness. Marrions-Nous runs the olfactory gamut from the virginal, cool aloofness of an aristocratic aldehydic floral, through the consummation of lust with darkly skanky notes, before ending with a sigh as creamy smoothness. The fragrance was released by Oriza L. Legrand (hereinafter just “Oriza“) in 1928 and feels very much a product of its time, a decade when the cool hauteur of Chanel No. 5 had become a runaway hit that revolutionized perfumery, but one in which Josephine Baker also ruled the stage and naughty, animalic seduction was in the air. I find Marrion-Nous to have been influenced by both competing trends, resulting in an elegant fragrance that is one-part aristo in white, one-part Mae West and a Folies Bergère showgirl doing the can-can in black.

Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Technically, however, Marrions-Nous was inspired by “Gai! Marions-Nous” [“Great! Let’s Get Married”], a successful 1927 novel by Germaine Acrement that later became a famous play. As Oriza explains on its website, the perfume house was moved by the play to make an eau de parfum that was meant to be “an expression of sensory playfulness.” The various notes were intended to be symbolic parallels to the various stages of the romantic process:

Inspired by love and marriage, which are not always related to each other, “Marions-nous” offers the virginal touches of orange blossom, rose, jasmine, and hyacinth.

Charlotte Babcock Brown, gown by Jeanne Lanvin, photo by Edward Steichen 1928. Source: onewed.com

Charlotte Babcock Brown, gown by Jeanne Lanvin, photo by Edward Steichen 1928. Source: onewed.com

In an interplay of propriety and informal understandings, the marriage reaches its peak as the heart succumbs to the essences of carnation and iris and the comforting accents of aldehydes and Ylang Ylang.

On the chessboard of Love, mutual consent seals the arrangement… and we slip into the gentle clutches of sweet emotion.

Tonka Beans, Musk Tonkinese accord, Civet, and Sandalwood add their fragrances to the happy ceremony… “Gai! Marions-nous!”

Marrions-Nous bottle and box via Oriza L. Legrand.

Marrions-Nous bottle and box via Oriza L. Legrand.

Continue reading

Oriza L. Legrand Heliotrope Blanc: Sweet Innocence

Norman Rockwell, "Mother Tucking Children Into Bed," 1921. Source: pinterest.

Norman Rockwell, “Mother Tucking Children Into Bed,” 1921. Source: pinterest.

Childhood pleasures and sweet innocence, captured in a bottle. Heliotrope Blanc surprised me, beguiled me, and charmed me against all odds. So many of its elements are things that I normally struggle with in perfumery, quite deeply at times, but there is something about this fragrance that is incredibly soothing and comforting for me.

It’s a cozy snuggle scent that made me think of Mary Poppins, almond milk and marshmallow cream, babies in soft blankets, a mother’s loving embrace as she puts her child to sleep, and childhood treats. Heliotrope Blanc’s sweet innocence completely blew away my longstanding issues with iris and powdery scents, leaving me coming back again and again for another sniff. In the end, I simply sprayed some on my sheets and pillows, and snuggled into them with a happy sigh. Apparently, one should never underestimate the impact of childhood comforts.

Source: mesenvies.fr

Source: mesenvies.fr

Continue reading

Oriza L. Legrand Violettes du Czar: An Imperial Favorite

Russian Imperial Coat of Arms. Source: Wikipedia.

Russian Imperial Coat of Arms. Source: Wikipedia.

The Tsar’s violets — the signature scent of not one but two Imperial Romanov rulers. How many fragrances can make that claim? Oriza L. Legrand‘s Violettes du Czar can — and now the imperial favorite has been brought back to life after more than 150 years to be made available to the modern man.

It’s the coolest thing imaginable for someone like me who loves history even more than perfume, but almost everything about Oriza L. Legrand (hereinafter just “Oriza“) is historically fascinating to me. For one thing, out of all the European perfume houses who created scents for royal or imperial courts (there is a difference), only Oriza was chosen as “Purveyor to the Russian Court.” Oriza made a number of fragrances for the imperial court, but their Violettes du Czar was the signature scent of two of the more significant Romanov rulers.

Chromolithography of Alexander II, coronation. Source: WikiCommons, commons.wikimedia.org

Chromolithography of Alexander II at his coronation. Source: WikiCommons, commons.wikimedia.org

In fact, it was made specifically for Alexander II or “Alexander the Liberator” who emancipated the serfs. Later, it was worn by his grandson, Nicholas II, whose actions were one of the causes that helped bring about the end of the Russian Empire and who was murdered in 1918 by the Bolsheviks. Of course, Oriza also made fragrances for other imperial courts as well, including another violet one for Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, but it is the Romanov violet that is the subject of today’s tale. It is a scent with several kinds of violet in it, from a particular variety from Nice (France), to the crunchy green of its leaves. In the ultimate symbolic parallel, the coup de gras comes in the form of Russian leather and golden amber. The end result is a scent that not only takes me back in time but, in all honesty, feels like something which a man like Alexander II would wear.

Source: Angelfire.com

Source: Angelfire.com

Continue reading