Perfume Reviews – Tom Ford Private Blends Black Violet & Jasmin Rouge

The famous French author, Stendhal, once said “Beauty is nothing other than the promise of happiness.” I think that quote applies to perfume, too. Stendhal’s quote and his brilliant classic, Le Rouge et Le Noir (“The Red and The Black”) came to mind when I decided to review Tom Ford‘s Red and Black perfumes in his Private Blend collection: Jasmin Rouge & Black Violet. Good perfume can lead to happiness but, alas, only one of Tom Ford’s fragrances holds that promise.


TF Black VioletPrivate Blend Black Violet was released in 2007, the creation of perfumer, Clement Gavarry, and is classified on Fragrantica as Chypre Floral. Personally, I would call it more an Aromatic Woody scent, for reasons that will soon become apparent. Tom Ford’s press release for the perfume, as quoted in part by Nordstrom, describes Black Violet and its notes as follows:

Crisp citrus surrounds a modern pulpy fruit accord fused with black violets. Woody accents fold into oak moss, adding the universally comforting sensation of warmth.

Notes: lemon, lime, mandarin, orchid, violet, cedarwood, torchwood, vetiver, oakmoss.

Black Violet‘s opening phase is going to be a shock to anyone who expects the name to actually live up to its promise, because there is nary a violet in sight. Not one. Even more surprising, Black Violet starts as the most classic of men’s colognes. There is tart lemon juice, lime, and bergamot that is exactly like a man’s cologne or aftershave in its thinness and lightness.



Lurking below is vetiver and, even further below, is the faintest touch of some woody note. At first, it’s not spicy, peppered, or smoky, but just something vague. Ten minutes later, however, it starts to take on form and some weight, becoming a quiet dryness. If you’re wondering what the hell this has to do with violets, you’re not alone. There’s certainly none at the start. Same story with the mandarin notes which may have provided some beneficial juiciness or sweetness. There is also no oakmoss (the foundational element for a true “chypre”) that I can smell. While that is not surprising in this day and age of IFRA/EU restrictions on perfume ingredients (especially oakmoss), I don’t smell even a synthetic version in any concrete, substantial, distinctive form. If it’s there, it’s not detectable to my nose.

Vetiver roots, the primary source of the essential oil. Photo:

Vetiver roots, the primary source of the essential oil. Photo:

Thirty minutes into its development, Black Violet slowly becomes a dry citrus scent with vetiver and flickers of a lightly smoked wood accord. The lime, lemon and bergamot no longer feel individually distinct or separate; they’ve just morphed into an overall “citrus” note. The entire perfume feels incredibly thin in weight and low in sillage. I have the hardest time accepting that this is an “eau de parfum” — the second strongest concentration of fragrance after pure parfum — instead of eau de cologne, the very lightest concentration. In fact, I’ve smelled a number of men’s eau colognes that are significantly more potent than Black Violet. 



Then, exactly at the one hour mark, Black Violet suddenly changes completely. The citrus men’s cologne aspect retreats and, in its place, is a dewy, earthy floral in the most muted, generalized, amorphous of ways. The floral tone is delicate, damp and green, never feeling quite like violets, but more like some random, delicate, purple flower mixed with what feels like a dash of lilac or hyacinth. It’s a ghostly note that pops up, only to dart away, before eventually returning to start the whole tease all over again. The lingering traces of citrus are similarly subtle, hiding in the background, too. More easily apparent is a cool, earthy note that is just like the dark, damp garden soil first thing in the morning. It’s not rooty, dirty, or dank, but lightly floral.

For the span of the second hour, Black Violet remains as a translucent mix of earthiness, dewy florals, and microscopic flickers of citrus — all muted, indistinct, and so close to the skin that it’s extremely hard to detect. It becomes softer and softer with every moment, turning floral muskiness atop some creamy, woody element tinged with a tiny drop of amber, before finally ending as nothing more than musky woodiness. All in all, Black Violet lasted 3 hours and 10 minutes on my skin with at least 90 minutes of that time being essentially so translucent that I thought it had vanished completely. When I say this perfume is thin in weight, hazy in feel, and close to the skin, I’m really not kidding.

It’s not just me and my perfume-consuming skin, either. The Non-Blonde had an extremely similar experience to mine, from the men’s cologne aspect right down to saying “I can barely smell it after three hours.” She’s much kinder and more generous to the perfume than I am — calling it an “abstract ‘smells good’ veil” at the end — but then, I think she’s probably a nicer, more diplomatic person as a whole. My problem with the scent is this: 1) that it is so vague in form and definition that it’s practically nebulous after the men’s cologne opening; 2) I was disappointed by the generic woodiness which followed; 3) the damp, abstract floral stage was pretty, but too translucent and brief to justify the price of the perfume; and 4) given all these issues, along with the microscopic sillage and terrible longevity, it feels completely outrageous to ask $205 for the smallest bottle of this supposed “eau de parfum.” (Yes, I tend to get peevish about perfume prices when the fragrance is so generically vague, fleeting, and sheer.) Even if you purchased Black Violet off eBay for a lower price than retail, I simply don’t think it’s all that special.


Tom Ford Jasmine RougeA significantly better perfume, in my opinion, is Tom Ford‘s Jasmin Rouge which was released in 2011 as part of his Private Blend collection. (As a side note, Fragrantica lists it as being part of Tom Ford’s lower-level, cheaper Signature Collection, but that is not how Tom Ford categorizes it on his website.) Jasmin Rouge was created by Rodrigo Flores-Roux, and was the winner of the 2012 Fragrance Foundation FiFi Award for “Best New Fragrance for Women” in the “Speciality Luxe” category. It’s a sophisticated, refined scent that is beautiful in its opening, smells very expensive, and is definitely worth a sniff, even if its full development isn’t perfect enough to perhaps warrant a full bottle. 

Tom Ford describes Jasmin Rouge as follows:

Voluptuous.  Sensuous. Audacious. Tom Ford Jasmin Rouge is a voluptuous, saturated, spiced floral. An unexpected blend of precious sambac jasmine sepals absolute, an ingredient never used before in perfumery with dusky clary sage and rich spices, it unveils a new facet of jasmine’s erotic decadence. Jasmin Rouge is as audacious as lacquered red lips. Its deep red bottle evokes lush and hedonistic glamour.

It’s a bit of hyperbole but, as one who love jasmine fragrances, I think it’s generally quite accurate, at least for Jasmin Rouge’s opening stage. There is definitely a voluptuous sensuality to the perfume; and its concentrated, saturated nature takes jasmine to both hedonist levels and very glamourous ones. 

According to Fragrantica, the notes in Jasmin Rouge include:

Top notes: bergamot, mandarin, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, black and white pepper.

Heart: Sambac jasmine, broom, neroli, ylang-ylang, clary sage.

Base: Mexican vanilla, labdanum, leather, wood and amber notes.



Despite this plethora of notes, Jasmin Rouge is a soliflore: a fragrance centered around one main note. Yes, there are varying nuances from start to finish, but it’s primarily a super-concentrated jasmine perfume in nature, so those who can’t stand the note or find that jasmine turns plastic-y on their skin should probably stop reading here.

Jasmine peacock created from jasmine flowers. Source:

Jasmine peacock created from jasmine flowers. Source:

Jasmin Rouge opens on my skin with seemingly every possible variation of the flower: green and fresh; spicy; indolic, lush and heady; fruity; and lightly musky. The very first minutes are filled with a surprising purple note that is exactly like very dark, Concord grapes. The note soon disappears, replaced by flickers of citrus and mandarin dancing about in the background. The heady, rich, velvety jasmine is the one, true star, however, evoking a summer’s evening when the night-blooming jasmine cast out their fragrant tendrils across the sky like sirens calling to Odysseus. It’s sweet but also airy, potently strongly, and spectacularly stunning.

Jasmin Rouge calls to mind what would be my favorite jasmine soliflore, if it actually lasted on my skin: Serge LutensÀ La Nuit. It is a perfume that many consider to be the gold standard for jasmine soliflores, and it’s truly an exquisite fragrance. Unfortunately, it has the lifespan of a squashed gnat on my skin. (Seriously. 30 minutes tops!) Like the Lutens, Jasmin Rouge is a super-charged, rich, heady jasmine fragrance. Unlike the Lutens, the opening of the Tom Ford perfume has beautiful touches of orange blossom, mandarin and slightly bitter, dry neroli underlying its star. I also detect something that feels like ylang-ylang, though it’s not listed in the notes. And, unlike the Lutens, Jasmin Rouge actually lasts on the skin.



In that lovely opening stage, the fruity-floral bouquet sits upon a base that is, at first, creamily sweet and daintily touched by a milky, light vanilla. Slowly, slowly, the base starts to turn drier, woodier, and spicier; it minimizes the fruited elements and helps prevent any excessive sweetness. So, too, does the slightly green feel of the perfume. It’s almost as if leaves have been brought in to keep the jasmine from turning ripe, over-blown, cloying, or with that feeling of decayed excess that truly indolic flowers (like jasmine, tuberose or gardenia) can sometimes project. Don’t get me wrong, Jasmin Rouge is indolic and heavy — almost boozy in its initial extremeness — but it’s also simultaneously green, fresh and light. It’s a marvelous tight-rope act, and I could not stop sniffing my arm.

Diane Millsap painting, "White Floral I" via (Link to retail page embedded within.)

Diane Millsap painting, “White Floral I” via (Link to retail page embedded within.)

Two hours into the perfume’s development, Jasmin Rouge starts to lose some of its flair. It’s now woodier, drier, lighter, and sits much closer to the skin. There is still a spicy green nuance to the flower, but much of the perfume’s depth (and most of its powerful projection) has dropped out. The citrus, mandarin, orange blossom, and neroli touches seem more nebulous; the perfume’s body seems less lushly opulent and juicy; and there is a slight (just slight) tinge of smokiness at the very edges. I’m not quite as obsessed with the scent now, though I suspect those who want a dry, less purely floral element to their fragrance may be happier.

Catherine Jeltes Painting, "Modern Brown Abstract Painting WinterScape." Etsy Store, GalleryZooArt, linked within. (Click on photo.)

Catherine Jeltes Painting, “Modern Brown Abstract Painting WinterScape.” Etsy Store, GalleryZooArt, linked within. (Click on photo.)

Jasmin Rouge’s drydown begins midway around the fifth hour, when the perfume quietly emits woody notes with touches of smoke, pepper and musk. The jasmine is no longer the dominant note; it feels just as green and spicy as before, but it’s sheer and muted. Jasmin Rouge is now more of a bland, abstract woody fragrance where the light, beige notes just happen to be infused with jasmine, rather than the other way around. In its dying moments, just over 8.25 hours in, Jasmin Rouge is simply an amorphous, vaguely ambered, woody scent. All in all, it has good longevity, especially for a soliflore. It has extremely intense sillage at first, but the projection starts to drop after the first hour and the perfume becomes a skin scent by the start of the third hour.

I liked Jasmin Noir a lot more than most of the critics and bloggers out there. Their main issue is with the bland final stage, and I agree with them to an extent. However, I don’t dismiss the perfume as readily as they do. Bois de Jasmin‘s summation pretty much encapsulates the overall perspective of the blogosphere: “Jasmin Rouge is simply an up-market version of a familiar crisp fruity floral. Though it is lovely, it does not offer any revelations.” I think the perfume is better than that. It smells rich, doesn’t smell cheap or synthetic, screams luxury, is both green and lush, and oozes sex appeal and sensuality. I haven’t found a ton of jasmine soliflores to do that — with the exception of the stunning À La Nuit (with its zero longevity on my skin). And I can’t get over how beautiful the green spiciness is! I do wish Jasmin Rouge had retained more of its juicy, opulent, heady beginning for longer (since I prefer my pure florals to remain as such), and I would have also preferred less woods, but all that is a matter of personal taste.

The real question is whether Jasmin Rouge is special enough for the cost. I can only say that I think it’s worth the cost more than most of the other pure florals I’ve tried from Tom Ford. (For example, I thought the Jardin Noir Collection was terribly over-priced for the scents in question. I couldn’t stand Ombre de Hyacinth, and I thought Café Rose was both cloying and exhausting.) In short, it’s all relative. I would absolutely wear Jasmin Rouge if a bottle fell into my lap, but would I actually buy it? I don’t know, especially as I have issues with Tom Ford’s retail prices. If it means anything, I definitely plan on looking on eBay, since Private Blend fragrances can be found there for much more reasonable rates.

The bottom line for Jasmin Rouge is that you have to really love jasmine to wear it. Those who don’t may find the perfume to be the equivalent of death by white flowers, especially if their skin chemistry tends to turn jasmine plastic-y or sour. Those who love the note will undoubtedly adore Jasmin Rouge’s opening, and the unusual spicy greenness underlying such a lush, concentrated, heady bouquet. I’m less certain as to how they’d feel about the drydown, however, or the perfume’s linearity — it all depends on one’s taste. But Jasmin Rouge is absolutely worth a test sniff, so skip the Black and go for the Red. If perfume is nothing other than the promise of happiness (to paraphrase Stendhal), then Jasmin Rouge’s opulently heady, spicy florals and very feminine, sensual, sophisticated, refined manner might possibly be your ticket there.

BLACK VIOLET – Cost & Availability: Private Blend Black Violet is an eau de parfum and retails for: $205 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, $280 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle or $495 for a 200 ml/8.45 oz bottle. It is listed on the Tom Ford website. (However, it doesn’t seem clear how you can purchase it from there as I don’t see a shopping cart capability for the perfume.) In the U.S.: You can also find Black Violet at fine department stores such as Nordstrom, BloomingdalesNeiman MarcusSaks Fifth Avenue, and Bergdorf Goodman. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, I believe Tom Ford is carried at Holt Renfrew, but I don’t see Black Violet listed as one of their 2 Tom Ford fragrances on the online website. In the UK, you can find it at Harrods or House of Fraser. Both stores sell the small 1.7 oz/50 ml size for £135.00, or £300.00 for the super-large 250 ml bottle. The Selfridges website is currently out of stock of the perfume, but you may want to check later. For the rest of Europe, Premiere Avenue is one of the few online retailers that I’ve seen carry Tom Ford fragrances, and it sells Black Violet for €180, €260 or €420, depending on the size.  It is a French site that ships worldwide. I know that Tom Ford Beauty is carried in-store at a number of other retailers throughout Europe, from Denmark and Belgium to the Russian Federation. You can use the store locator linked below on the website to find a retailer near you. In Australia, I saw Black Violet listed on a number of retail sites via the GetPrice website, with prices starting at AUD$220. It is also listed on the Feeling Sexy Australia website for AUD$249.95, but I have no clue if that’s a reputable site or not. The Tom Ford line is supposedly carried at David Jones stores, but Black Violet is not one of the handful of Tom Ford fragrances carried on the its website. Elsewhere, Tom Ford fragrances are carried in numerous different countries; hopefully, you can find one near you using the store locator on the Tom Ford website. Samples: You can probably get free samples of Black Violet from any of the department stores listed above, in-store, but you can also order a sample from Surrender to Chance, starting at $3 for a 1/2 ml vial.
JASMIN ROUGE – Cost & Availability: Private Blend Jasmin Rouge is an eau de parfum and retails for: $205, £135.00 or €180 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle; $280, €260, £300.00 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle; or $495 for a 200 ml/8.45 oz bottle. It is listed on the Tom Ford website, but it doesn’t look as though you can buy it directly off of there. In the U.S.: Jasmin Rouge is carried at department stores such as NordstromBloomingdalesNeiman MarcusSaks Fifth Avenue, and Bergdorf GoodmanOutside the U.S.: In the UK, you can find Jasmin Rouge at Selfridges or Harrods, both of which sell all three sizes of the bottles: the small 1.7 oz/50 ml size for £135.00, the 100 ml bottle for £195, or £300.00 for the super-large 250 ml bottle. For the rest of Europe, Premiere Avenue is the first online website that I’ve found to carry the full Tom Ford line, including all three sizes of Jasmin Rouge. Here is the link for the smallest cheapest size, the 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle which retails for €180. The company ships worldwide, I believe, but you need to email them to ask for the full details. (I did find an Italian vendor, Vittoria Profumi, but it’s selling the same bottle for way over retail at €265.) In the UAE and Dubai, I found Jasmin Rouge at Australian vendors of Jasmin Rouge proved to be hard to track down, especially as Fresh was out of stock of the perfume (which it sells for AUD$259), but I’m sure there are others out there. For all other countries, you can use the Tom Ford’s Store Locator guide linked up above in the Black Violet section. Samples: You can probably get free samples of Jasmin Rouge from any of the department stores listed above, in-store, but you can also order a sample from Surrender to Chance, starting at $3 for a 1/2 ml vial.

Perfume Review – Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine: Liquid Orange

Liquid sunshine. Summer citrus in a bottle. A holographic, 3D jewel of orange. A kaleidoscopic burst of every glorious citrus fruit you can imagine, taken from its stem to its green leaves to the very tree itself, bottled in its purest essence. That’s Orange Sanguine, a concentrated eau de cologne from Atelier Cologne and a glorious, affordable scent that will give you whiplash from disbelief at its utterly spectacular opening.



Atelier Cologne is an interesting perfume house. Started in 2010 by founders and romantic partners, Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel, Atelier is the first fragrance house entirely dedicated to fragrances in the classic cologne formulation. As many perfumistas know, eau de cologne is typically the mildest, weakest form of fragrance, so the creators decided to take it one step beyond. They created a whole new formulation of perfumery called the Cologne Absolue. As the Atelier website explains:

[c]ombining innovative constructions and extremely high concentrations, Cologne Absolue is a cologne of character exalting the magical freshness of cologne coupled with the lasting power of eau de parfum.

In an interesting (and rather sweet) Vanity Fair article on the couple, how they fell in love, and their unique perfume creation, Ms. Ganter explains:

the “cologne absolute” … marries the richness of an eau de parfum with the airy freshness of a citrus cologne.

The secret, Ganter will tell you, is about using a precise concentration of essential oils—each cologne absolute contains a range from 12 to 20 percent—and extracting the best ingredients from around the globe to preserve their intensity and beauty. “We blend familiar notes of vanilla, amber, rose … [but] with fresh citruses, to give them a new and unexpected personality,” Ganter says of her growing scent portfolio, which includes such hits as the bestselling Bois Blonds, a warm blend of Tunisian neroli, Haitian vetiver, and woods; and Orange Sanguine, a sparkling whiff of blood orange, jasmine, and tonka beans, which won a FiFi award (the Oscars of fragrance) last year. [Font emphasis added to the names.]

In 2012, the French FiFi awards gave Orange Sanguine their Experts Award for a fragrance sold in less than 100 stores. It’s quite an achievement for a house that had opened just two years before.

Orange Sanguine Atelier CologneOrange Sanguine was created by perfumer, Ralf Schweiger, who is perhaps best known for his Lipstick Rose for Frederic Malle. (It is an atrocious scent, in my opinion. One of the very few perfumes I had to actually scrub off — and I can put up with a lot!) But Orange Sanguine is a very different matter, indeed. In an interview with CaFleureBon, Mr. Schweiger talked about his inspiration and goal behind the fragrance which is centered more on blood oranges than on the regular variety:

What was your inspiration for Orange Sanguine?

RS: Blood oranges are my favorite citrus fruit! LOVE them! They have this tart green spiciness and their gorgeous bloody color is amazing, not a uniform red when you cut them but this red marble effect… I prefer their taste to regular oranges, especially squeezed for juice.

What does Orange Sanguine conjure up for you?

RS: It is quite literal, my idea of what a blood orange scent should smell like: slightly tart but a little sweet as well, green and a little scratchy… as I described earlier, I have in mind a cut orange with this gorgeous color and pattern to it…

Can you describe the key ingredients of Orange Sanguine and their properties/specificities?

RS: Orange Sanguine is more of a concept and not so ingredient driven. I prefer a combination of bitter orange peel oil amongst others and a choice of specific ingredients to present the sensation of full-bodied tartness. The ingredients used to give the heart and base notes were chosen to help prolongate the freshness over time.

What sets Orange Sanguine apart?

RS: It is an accord made only of orange-type citrus oils without bergamot with its distinct floral character; it is not a classic cologne structure but uses modern style perfumery notes.

Orange Sanguine as an eau de cologne absolue contains 15% concentrated perfume oils (which puts it at the level of some eau de parfums) and contains the following notes:

Top notes : blood orange from Italy, bitter orange from Spain, red mandarin from Italy

Heart notes : jasmine from Egypt, geranium from South Africa, black pepper from Madagascar

Base notes : tonka bean from Brazil, sandalwood from Indonesia, cedarwood from Texas

Blood Orange via Fragrantica

The very first time I tried Orange Sanguine, I was so stunned that I actually said “Oh My God” out loud. I wrote it in my notes, alongside “WOW! Liquid gold! Sunshine in a bottle!” Orange Sanguine opens with a positive canon-ball explosion of orange that is so zesty, fresh, tart, sour, sweet, zingy, and multi-faceted that you can get whiplash from sniffing your arm. Instead of being unctuously thick, gooey or syrupy, the scent is so fresh and aromatic that it’s almost more like concentrated citruses. But it’s never anything as completely banal as orange pulp. You truly smell the bitter, almost spicy blood orange at its core, along with tart notes that feel like tangerines, the bitterness of the twigs and stem, the greenness that feels like the leaves from the tree, and the pulpy meat of the fruit inside. There is a sharply pungent smell of concentrated citrus oil that feels as if you just took a knife and sliced through the rind of the fruit, squirting its oils in the air.



If you took 15 oranges, rendered them into pulpy juice and tossed in a cup of the grated rinds, you still wouldn’t have this smell. You really wouldn’t. Perhaps if you took a 100 citruses — of every possible variety — condensed into the purest concentrated nectar, then you might have the base. But, again, that alone still would not be enough to encapsulate Orange Sanguine. The slightly bitter woodiness of the twigs and stems, the aromatic fragrances of fresh, waxy green leaves, and the perfect balance between sweet and sour, tart and tangy would also have follow. Orange Sanguine manages all that, and more. As the moments pass, even further layers seem to be added. I could detect notes that smelled much like sour, tart white grapefruit and — in a throwback to my old home in Montecito which had tons of the trees — even the fragrant, tangy kumquats that I used to eat by the bucketful. Then, 15 minutes in, the geranium appears, adding even further to the visual of green leaves nestling a glowing, ruby and orange gold compilation of fruit. The geranium adds a light piquancy and spicy bitterness that feels much more like the fuzzy green of the leaves than just the aroma of the flower.



The whole thing is so photo-realistic, it feels like a hologram. A dazzling display of citruses that are so fresh, it simultaneously feels as though they’re hanging straight off the tree and warmed by the sun but, also, as if they’ve been chilled in the fridge, dappled with condensation. Cool and crisp, Orange Sanguine never feels leaden, thick, syrupy or heavy. It’s almost bewildering how Ralf Schweiger made something that feels so concentrated be so incredibly airy and almost aquatic in nature. Honestly, I can’t say it enough: Orange Sanguine’s opening is truly a masterpiece, an olfactory achievement of breathtaking magnitude in those early moments.

Source: Royalty Free stock photos

Source: Royalty Free stock photos

I tried Orange Sanguine three times and, on one of those occasions, the glorious opening shifted into something a little rockier. On my second test, in order to assess longevity issues, I put on a larger dose — the dabbed equivalent of two medium-to-large sprays. And, less than 20 minutes in Orange Sanguine’s development, I got a blast of soap that was so extreme, I felt as if I’d been doused in suds. I’m not a fan of soapiness, and this was a huge amount! Perhaps even worse was a similar large blast of something so synthetic that it burned my nose. I was not happy in the slightest, especially as the synthetic note lasted for over an hour, and the soapiness even longer still. In fact, the perfume turned into something very much like geranium soap over an amorphous, slightly synthetic, generalized “woody” base. It wasn’t sandalwood in any distinct form; instead, it was just some sort of vague creamy, beige base.

However, on my first and third test, I used much less of the fragrance and had a slightly different outcome. There was no synthetic burst or burning of the nose. Soapiness was still an issue, however, on each occasion starting between the 20 to 30 minute marks. It wasn’t as hugely overwhelming as that one time and, though I absolutely despise “soapy, clean” fragrances, it was significantly more manageable. Still, there is no doubt that Orange Sanguine’s glorious opening does eventually turn in every instance into something very reminiscent of the most expensive, luxury French soaps. It’s geranium-citrus soap to my nose with, sadly, much of that photo-realistic, concentrated citrus nectar fading from its spectacular, dizzying heights and turning into something much more amorphous, vague and generalized. There is also a creamy base to the notes that starts to become more apparent with time. It’s never anything distinct like jasmine, vanilla or sandalwood, but, rather, something just can only be (poorly) described as “creamy.” The edges of the perfume have become softer, the scent feels richer and fuller, though it’s still an airy fragrance in terms of weight.

Pink geranium and its leaf. Source:

Pink geranium and its leaf. Source:

Orange Sanguine continues as geranium-citrus soap for several hours. The base feels like some sort of vague impression of gauzy beigeness. Eventually, during its final stage, the perfume turns into some abstract notion of orange muskiness, and that’s about it. There really isn’t a whole lot to the perfume.

Some people have talked about how Orange Sanguine is an orange fragrance mired in a wonderful, creamy sandalwood base. Others think that the base is ambered. I don’t think so — for either note. I truly don’t. At best, perhaps you can say that Orange Sanguine has “sandalwood” in its most synthetic, abstract, amorphous, artificial form. But, honestly, to my nose, there is no sandalwood, even in a synthetic form. And the same goes for the amber or any vanilla note. Whatever the synthetic base, the impression to me is just of vague, indefinite, indistinct, creamy, beige… something. In its very final moments, Orange Sanguine is simply some abstract orange muskiness. In fairness, it’s not supposed to be much more than an orange fragrance from start to finish — the interview with the perfumer, Ralf Schweiger, underscores that point. Nonetheless, Orange Sanguine isn’t a complicated, morphing, heavily nuanced scent beyond the citruses (geranium and soap).

There is massive, gushing, overwhelming love for Orange Sanguine — by men and women alike — but there are some minor dissenters, too. In a nutshell, the few complaints on sites like Fragrantica, MakeupAlley, or Luckyscent can be summed up as follows: 1) it’s an orange bomb; 2) it’s overly sweet (with one person finding it too bitter); and 3) it’s synthetic (someone on Luckyscent wrote: “smells more like my orange-glo spray cleaners after 20-mins. Too synthetic.”). On Fragrantica, those people who noted the soapy aspect or the synthetic element in the first hour didn’t seem particularly bothered by it. On Luckyscent, the issue of sweetness seemed to be a far greater problem, while on MakeupAlley, there were some minor comments about both soapiness and longevity.

Source: Twitter.

Source: Twitter.

Honestly, I think all of those points are valid and worth consideration. Orange Sanguine is not a fragrance for those who prefer their orange notes mixed with a variety of different elements; it is an orange bomb and it is largely linear. It also has soapiness — a great deal of it, in fact, if you spray on a large quantity — and that will be a deal-breaker for some, while others may adore the “clean” aspect that the soap imparts. Orange Sanguine may also be far too sweet for some, while too bitter for those who don’t like blood oranges (this was actually raised as an issue by one or two people who seem to hate that variety of orange). And, it does have a synthetic aspect that becomes more noticeable if you spray on a lot of it.

It’s also a fragrance that may have problematic longevity for a number of people. I’ve read a number of comments about how Orange Sanguine only lasts a short time (between 3-5 hours). On me, with my voracious, perfume-consuming skin, I was actually surprised to get between 6 and 7.5 hours, consistently, depending on quantity and amount. I know one blogger who initially thought Orange Sanguine’s longevity to be its only defect but who subsequently noted that the perfume did, in fact, stay on for a surprising length of time.

Yet, despite all those issues, I found myself fascinated by Orange Sanguine and it is a fragrance that I would wholeheartedly recommend for a test sniff at the very least. For one thing, that opening is truly stunning. If ever you’ve struggled to get out of bed on a Monday morning, I think Orange Sanguine would be the answer. For another thing, my God, is it affordable for niche perfumery! The perfume comes in three sizes: from the very practical 1 oz/30 ml, to a large 3.3 oz/100 ml, to a super-sized, monstrously huge 6.7 oz/200 ml bottle. The prices are, respectively: $60, $95 or $155; €39 for the 30 ml small; or €90 or £75.00 for the large 100 ml. (Orange Sanguine is also widely available and is even sold at Sephora!) If you have longevity issues, you can buy the gigantic 200 ml bottle for $155 or £95.00 which comes to very little per ounce and can therefore splash away with reckless abandon. (In U.S. currency, the 6.7 oz bottle breaks down to approximately $23 an ounce, while the 3.3 oz bottle ends up being $47 an ounce — both are better deals, per ounce, than the $60 bottle which is 1 oz/30 ml.) Plus, if you order the large 6.7 oz bottle from the Atelier website, they will throw in the 1 oz/30 ml “travel” bottle for free, along with a leather pouch engraved with your initials. Granted, I know few people could possibly go through a 6.7 oz bottle of any perfume, but Orange Sanguine does engender incredible passion in some. In fact, one of my best friends in Denmark has worn Orange Sanguine obsessively every day for months and can’t stop raving about it. He had contemplated buying Frederic Malle‘s Bigarade Concentrée, but opted instead for Orange Sanguine. It has now become his signature scent, and I have no doubt that he could easily finish one of the mammoth bottles in a year or two.

All of that brings me to a few other points. Yesterday, I reviewed another well-known orange-citrus fragrance: Malle’s Bigarade Concentrée. It was a scent which engendered incredible apathy; I didn’t even find it interesting enough to hate it — despite reeking of cumin-inspired stale sweat and armpits on me, and despite having utterly atrocious sillage (with barely better longevity). But I want to explicitly state that the two perfumes have nothing in common beyond the use of an orange note. They are fundamentally different, with the Malle being a drier, orange-woody-cumin fragrance and Orange Sanguine being a photo-realistic citrus with geranium and soap. Also, whatever my problems with Orange Sanguine’s synthetic element and soapiness, I still would take it over the Malle — any day, hands down. In fact, it is a testament to Orange Sanguine that I actually pondered the extent to which I hate soapy scents, if I could get over it, and if the low cost would make it worth considering a bottle. The opening is really that fantastic!

Lastly, Orange Sanguine is an incredibly easy, uncomplicated, versatile fragrance that both men and women could wear. It’s also one of those things that would work well for the office as well, as its sillage is far from monstrous. In fact, I found the fragrance to drop in projection after the first hour and it stayed just an inch or two above the skin. It certainly won’t be something that perfume-phobes should object to; as one person on Fragrantica wrote, “[i]t’s the sort of thing that causes people who profess to dislike perfume to perk up and say, ‘Something smells good!'”

In short, if you like citrus scents or are looking for something fresh, zingy and zesty for summer, then you should give Orange Sanguine a sniff. Perhaps it will be too much for you, due to some of the problems I’ve noted, but it is a perfume that is truly worth exploring. And, if you fall in love with it, I have no doubt Orange Sanguine will become a summer mainstay. What an opening. What a truly spectacular opening!

Orange Sanguine full lineCost & Availability: Orange Sanguine is a concentrated cologne that comes in 3 sizes: 1 oz/30 ml, 3.3 oz/100 ml; and a giant 6.7 oz/200 ml. You can find it sold at a number of places, starting with the Atelier Cologne website where the prices are, respectively, $60, $95 and $155 depending on bottle size. In terms of freebies, if you buy the massive 6.7 oz bottle, the company says it will give you: “a travel spray refilled with the Cologne Absolue of your choice in its leather pouch engraved with your name or initials.” The travel spray is, in fact, the 30 ml/1 oz bottle! The company also sells various Gift and Travel Sets that you may want to check out, such as a refillable 1 oz/30 ml travel size in a box with soap, postcards, leather pouch, etc. starting at $80, or a travel box of 7 travel minis that are each 7.5 ml for prices starting at $95. The company sells samples (in a set of all their 11 perfumes in small vials for $15), candles and more. I can’t find shipping information or costs. As a side note, Atelier has a few shops: at least one in Paris, and also one in New York. Other Vendors: You can also find Orange Sanguine at SephoraLuckyscentNeiman MarcusBeautyBarBirchbox, and Bergdorf Goodman (which also carries soap and candle forms). Outside the U.S.: In Canada, you can find it on Sephora.Canada at prices starting at CAD$70 for the small 1 oz bottle, CAD$100 for the large 3.3 oz bottle, and CAD$165 for the massive 6.7 oz bottle. In France, you can find Orange Sanguine at Sephora.Fr for €39 for the small 1 oz/30 ml bottle and €90 for the 3.3 oz/100 ml bottle. Other Sephoras may also carry it, though I didn’t see it on some like Sephora Mexico or Singapore. You can use the International Sephora site to look up the branch near you, from Greece to Spain. In the UK, you can find Atelier perfumes at Selfridges or Les Senteurs where prices start at £75.00 for the 100 ml/3.3 oz size bottle. Both carry the soaps and candles, but Les Senteurs also sells samples. In addition, I’ve read that Atelier is carried at Liberty London and Fortnum & Mason, but I don’t see Atelier Colognes listed on either of their websites. For all other countries, you can use the Store Vendor locator on the Atelier company website to find retailers near you. Atelier Colognes is sold by vendors from Etiket in Canada and Skin Cosmetics in the Netherlands, to Italy, Russia and Romania. However, I couldn’t find any vendors in Australia or the Middle East listed via the company website. For samples: you can turn to a number of the vendors listed above, or you can order from Surrender to Chance which is where I obtained my vial at prices starting at $3 for 1 ml.

Perfume Review: Frederic Malle Bigarade Concentrée

The heat is on, summer has arrived in most parts of the world, and the search for something cool, refreshing and bright has begun. In the perfume world, one fragrance that may come to mind is the orange-based Bigarade Concentrée from Frederic Malle. Another option might be Orange Sanguine from Atelier Cologne.Though I’d initially planned to review both fragrances together, the length was becoming a bit ludicrous and a split review seemed best. So, first up, is Bigarade Concentrée, and then, tomorrow, Atelier’s Orange Sanguine.

Frederic Malle. Source:

Frederic Malle. Source:

The luxury fragrance house Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle is one of the most respected niche perfume lines in the world. It was founded in 2000 by Frederic Malle, a man who has luxury perfume in his blood. His grandfather founded Christian Dior Perfumes, and his mother later worked as an Art Director for the same perfume house. In 2002, Malle teamed up with famed perfumer, Jean-Claude Ellena, to create Bigarade Concentrée. “Bigarade” refers to the bitter orange tree and its fruit, like the kind from Seville that is used in marmalade, though the term is also sometimes used as shorthand for neroli, the blossom from the tree. Malle’s fragrance is a citrus aromatic eau de parfum which the company’s website describes as follows:

Based on a new bitter orange essence developed especially for Jean-Claude Ellena and obtained by molecular distillation, Bigarade Concentrée imparts a bitter freshness. Its overdose of hesperidic notes combined with a touch of rose expresses a unique natural transparency. A woody base of hay and cedar adds lusty warmth. Bigarade Concentrée: A lasting natural freshness.

Bigarade Concentree - small bottleFragrantica lists its notes as follows:

Top note is bitter orange; middle note is rose; base notes are cedar, grass and hay.

Bigarade Concentrée opened on my skin with crisp citruses. At first, it was actually a lemon-scented aroma, followed moments later with orange. The fruit feels like fresh, sweet, concentrated orange pulp but, also, like something a little more bitter.



Then, the confusion set in. I smelled cumin. Without a doubt, it was the sweaty, slightly skanky, stale scent of body aroma triggered by cumin. I was so bewildered, I re-checked the Malle website description and then Fragrantica. Not a mention of cumin anywhere. I examined my vial more closely to see if there was a mistake on the name, but no. So, then, I applied the perfume to a different part of my arm and… cumin again. One rather frantic Google search later, it appears that almost everyone smells cumin in Bigarade Concentrée. Basenotes‘s thread for the fragrance is filled with comments about the note which led one poster to write about “overpowering body odor,” while another compared the scent to “a cab driver eats an orange.” A few adore it, with comments about how it is “ripe and sexy” in a “sweaty man” sort of way. Obviously, it’s a very subjective, personal matter. I, personally, am not a fan of spending a lot of money to smell like stale, unwashed sweat.



In fairness, there is much more to Bigarade Concentrée than citrus and body odor. Soon after that opening blast, notes of fresh, green grass set in, accompanied by dry hay and a light touch of abstract woods. Like most of Jean-Claude Ellena’s creations for Hermès, Bigarade Concentrée bears his signature minimalism: the whole thing is incredibly sheer, lightweight, low projecting, and fleeting in feel. It becomes a skin scent on me in as little as 3 minutes. It’s also extremely linear and never changes substantially, especially once the top notes burn off. At the 20 minute mark, the perfume feels a lot like tangerines over hay and grass with that constant touch of sweaty cumin and a touch of hay hovering in the background. I never smell the rose accord but, instead, there is something that feels like a geranium leaf, right down to its fuzzy, slightly pungent, green leaf. It’s a subtle note, and it’s probably the result of the bitter orange bigarade combining with the grass and hay.

Around the 40 minute mark, Bigarade Concentrée turns into stale cumin and hay with bursts of juicy orange lurking at the edges. It sits so close to the skin, you have to bring your nose right to your arm to detect it.  By the end of the second hour, I thought the perfume had gone completely but, no, it is still, in fact, lingering as a very abstract, creamy, soft, beige woods fragrance with orange notes. It is lightly infused with a dry spice that is not quite as prominently cumin-based but, like the rest of the drydown accords, it’s very generalized, vague and amorphous. And, that’s about it. Woods and oranges.

All in all, Bigarade Concentrée lasted about 4.5 hours on my skin — and I’m luckier than most. On Fragrantica, the perfume receives low marks for longevity and sillage, with one poster saying it vanished within 30 minutes from his skin. Another wrote, with undoubted hyperbole, that it lasted all of 30 seconds. I suspect that the perfume’s extremely low sillage and that trademark Jean-Claude Ellena minimalism creates the impression that Bigarade Concentrée has gone before it actually has. At various times — the 40 minute mark, the 90 minute one, and 2 hours in — I felt sure it was completely finished; the fragrance was so thin as to feel almost nonexistent. But, no, for some reason, the underlying base notes lingered on in the most ephemeral form for a few more hours.

There is a definite need in every perfume wardrobe for a light, sunny, citrus scent for summer and, if you like the twist of dry woods with animalic, sweaty cumin, then you should consider giving Bigarade Concentrée a sniff. It’s quite a popular fragrance in some quarters with many appreciating the non-sweetened orange note and that “austere” woody drydown. In others, however, it is greeted with disdain as much ado about nothing, especially given the high Frederic Malle price.

How you feel about Bigarade Concentrée may ultimately depend on how much you’re a fan of Jean-Claude Ellena and his minimalism. One Fragrantica reviewer considers him to be “kind of lazy perfumer that has learned to translate his laziness into a style which able to please and attract fans” — and, obviously, he wasn’t impressed with Bigarade Concentrée. And, as a whole, Fragrantica’s commentators seem underwhelmed to negative. (On Basenotes, however, reviews are much more enthusiastic, though many have significant problems with longevity and/or sillage.)

As a side note, I should mention that Jean-Claude Ellena’s creation for CartierDéclaration — seems to be extremely close to Bigarade Concentrée. I haven’t tried it, but the two perfumes are often compared to each other. From the comments and notes, Déclaration seems to be much spicier and woodier, but there are enough similarities to warrant a number of people bringing it up as a reference point, passing on Bigarade Concentrée, and/or feeling that Ellena is a lazy perfumer.

Interestingly, a number of bloggers and perfume critics seem to wholeheartedly gush over the fragrance. I’ll ignore the blogs and go straight to Chandler Burr, the former New York Times perfume critic, who gave it Four Stars in his 2006 review entitled “Dark Victory“:

Ellena’s Bigarade Concentrée … plays brilliantly with darkness. Bigarade smells like a person trapped in a complex weather system, the wonderful scent of a guy’s armpit and a woman’s humid skin washed in fresh rainwater and ozone (Malle doesn’t waste time gendering his scents, and Bigarade is for both women and men). It is a masterful juxtaposition, and smelling Bigarade is like looking down into a well of cool, black water. Your retinas expand from the strange pleasure of this scent.

“Cool, black water”? Ozone? I’m lost. The only part of his assessment that I agree with is the comparison to armpits. And I’m not a fan.

The famed perfume critic, Luca Turin, doesn’t mention armpits, but he too liked Bigarade Concentrée, though he doesn’t seem hugely overwhelmed. In his Three Star review for Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, he wrote:

[bigarade oil] has an interesting mixture of citrus friendliness and resinous austerity. Ellena’s composition emphasizes both aspects, at the expensive of what to my nose is a slightly rubbery top note. Very pleasant, deliberately simple, but somewhat lacking in mystery.

I think that may be too kind, but at least he isn’t gushing unfathomably about ozonic elements and dark pools of water. Personally, I’ll eschew the experts’ opinion and stick to the laymen’s general lack of enthusiasm for Bigarade Concentrée. In my opinion, it’s an okay scent that is hyped only because it comes from Jean-Claude Ellena and Frederic Malle. I certainly don’t think it warrants the Malle price tags, especially given its problematic longevity and nonexistent sillage. You can do better, starting with Orange Sanguine whose review will be up tomorrow.

Cost & Availability: You can purchase Bigarade Concentrée in a variety of different forms and ways. On his website, Malle offers: a small 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle for $170; a large 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle for $250; or 3 travel-sized sprays in a 10 ml size for $115. There is also a shower gel of the fragrance. You can also find the perfume at Barneys , though it only carries the large $250 bottle and the 3 travel minis. According to the Malle website, it is also carried at Saks Fifth Avenue, though it is not listed on the Saks website. There are other U.S. retailers, too, which you can look up on the Malle website from Aedes to small boutiques across the country. Outside of the U.S., you can find Bigarade Concentrée at a variety of different places and department stores from London’s Liberty, the Malle boutiques in Paris, Skins in the Netherlands, Australia’s Mecca Cosmetica and Myers, Saudi Arabia’s DNA, Singapore’s Malmaison by the Hour Glass, to many others. You can use the Store Locator to find a location nearest you. If you want to try a sample, Surrender to Chance carries Bigarade Concentrée starting at $5.99 for a 1 ml vial.