“Something that feels familiar yet also unexpected…” — so reads one part of Roja Dove’s official description for Britannia, and it is a somewhat accurate description. This is a fragrance which does indeed smell very familiar, thanks to the way it echoes, at different points in time, everything from vintage L’Origan and vintage L’Heure Bleue to modern gourmand floral orientals and modern spicy-woody oriental ambers, including several from Roja Parfums. For me, the “unexpected” part of the equation arises from the degree to which Britannia’s first stage harkens back to the opulent vintage aesthetic which had originally made Roja Dove so incredibly popular, rather than the mainstream designer or Middle Eastern bouquets which have characterized so many of his recent releases over the last two and a half years.
With Lilac Love, Amouage heads fully into European territory, abandoning the Arab aesthetic and the silver Omani frankincense that were once its signature in favour of an easy, approachable, gourmand floral whose classical composition is fully in Roja Dove and Guerlain‘s wheelhouse. Lilac Love is not a bad fragrance; I find it more luxurious in quality than some of the recent releases with their noticeable arid synthetics; the very Shalimaresque classical themes of the drydown were actually lovely; and I think it would be a best-selling fragrance with women if the price were not so high.
However, I also think parts of Lilac Love feel incongruous in the first stage and, more importantly, that hardcore lilac fans won’t be satisfied. My advice for them is to put aside all thoughts of a true lilac scent. If they have no expectations, then they might perhaps be pleasantly surprised by any temporary, abstract, and wholly impressionistic whiffs that may pass by the European, floral oriental gourmand bouquet.
The past and present both run through Ariel, a very feminine floral fragrance from Sammarco that consistently evoked thoughts of the two great bastions of classical perfumery, Guerlain and Chanel. Ariel’s structural core echoes legends from the past, like Chanel’s clean green florals or Shalimar, but it’s fleshed out by equally strong echoes of the present, whether it’s fragrances like Angelique Noire or Misia, or modern elements like herbal sweetness. The result is a fragrance that exudes modern chic and a cool polished elegance before taking on elements of a soft, fluid, purely floral femininity that called to mind Pre-Raphaelite romanticism then ending in a grand finish of golden lushness. Luca Turin recently described Ariel in his admiring review as “neoclassical perfumery, played out on original instruments,” and I agree.
But it’s also not quite as simple as that. Ariel is a complicated fragrance, in my opinion, and one that is not easy to characterize. For one thing, it doesn’t fall into any one single genre but covers a range of different fragrance families. For another, I was startled to see that not one single account of Ariel was the same. Not one. Five different reviews give five different descriptions of the scent, and they have little in common beyond the most simplistic summation of “citrusy, spiced floral.” My review basically amounts to a sixth version, which should tell you just how difficult it is to confine Ariel to a single box and why you should try it for yourself if any of the descriptions intrigue you.
A swirling vortex of gold and red lies at the heart of Ciel de Gum, an eau de parfum created by Francis Kurkdjian in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of Moscow’s famed G.U.M. department store. The fragrance was released in 2013, originally as a GUM exclusive but later available at other Russian retailers.
I try to avoid reviewing fragrances with extremely limited availability, but several bottles of Ciel de Gum found their way to American shores last month. The New York niche boutique, OsswaldNYC, obtained quite a few and the American decanting site, Surrender to Chance, began offering samples soon after. That’s still not the widest availability possible, particularly as OsswaldNYC only has 2 bottles left at this time, but I decided to review the fragrance after a friend told me that Ciel de Gum was available on the Maison Francis Kurkdjian website for €195 and could be shipped worldwide.