Paris Perfumers: Laurent Mazzone & LM Parfums

Fate, planning, and a little bit of serendipity gave me the chance to meet with three, very different, Paris perfumers during my trip. Actually, to be completely precise, one is primarily based in Grenoble, and one is an actual nose/creator, while the other two are more technically considered as perfume creators with their own houses. Semantics aside, I had a marvelous time with each one, and thought I’d share a little bit of the experience, each of which was very different but utterly memorable. Today, the focus will be Laurent Mazzone and some of the LM Parfums that I tried, including some gorgeous upcoming, new releases slated for November 2013 and early 2014.

LAURENT MAZZONE & LM PARFUMS:

Hotel Costes. Source: hotel-costes.semuz.com

Hotel Costes. Source: hotel-costes.semuz.com

The Hotel Costes on the Rue St. Honoré in Paris is perhaps the pinnacle of stylish, ne plus ultra, sophisticated cool. Velvet, opulence and excess are the bywords for the decor inside, but one of the main attractions is the indoor courtyard. And what a scene it is! Imagine a large, covered, indoor courtyard surrounded on high by Roman statues and greenery. At its pristine, white tables covered with crystal glasses, an array of pencil-thin, black-clad, social x-rays — draped in ennui as much as in Hermès — pose stylishly on thin, black chairs. Their fragile bones seem likely to be crushed by the great effort of lifting their cigarettes. And they’ve clearly followed the mantra and example of Anna Wintour, Vogue’s “Nuclear Winter” editor-in-chief, when it comes to haughtiness. Their male counterparts are all tanned, in dark suits with crisp white shirts that are opened a few buttons, and fixated on their cellphones as they sip a glass of chilled white wine with one well-shod limb elegantly crossed over the other. All around are a phalanx of haughty waiters, many of whom seem to be aspiring models, who look down their noses at your from their great height and seem almost offended that you’ve bothered them with a request. (Or perhaps they’ve simply got issues with people who ask for ice, or for directions to the loo? At the very least, they’ve got issues with a variety of things, and need a serious attitude adjustment.)

Hotel Costes courtyard. Source: lefigaro.fr. photo : DR.

Hotel Costes courtyard. Source: lefigaro.fr. photo : DR.

Outside the Hotel Costes. Photo: my own.

Outside the Hotel Costes. Photo: my own.

As I walked up to the hotel from the aristocratic, luxurious Place Vendome just around the corner, a large chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce was idling, and a bodyguard talking into his microphone. The chauffeur stood in the middle of the road with the famous Chopard jewellers behind him. Hovering like a gaggle of geese, outside and in, were extremely tall, elegantly clad women whose clothing, looks, and attitude marked them as somehow being involved in Paris Fashion Week which was ending the next day (October 2nd).

It was into this overly hip, excessively cool, “in” scene that I arrived — sleep-deprived, with my voice half-gone from the early part of my trip, and feeling rather bedraggled, if truth be told. I was scheduled to meet Laurent Mazzone and Fabienne, the international business agent for LM Parfums, whose incredibly warm, sweet, and friendly emails had resulted in this meeting. We had begun communicating just a few days before my departure and after my enthusiastic, extremely positive review for LM Parfums‘ gorgeous Sensual Orchid.

As luck would have it, Laurent Mazzone was going to be in Paris for the fashion shows. He had greatly enjoyed the thoroughness of my review (happily, my verboseness seems to a positive thing for some people!), and invited me for drinks. When I warned Fabienne that my French was rusty and that I hadn’t spoken it consistently in almost 20 years, she offered to come along as well. (It was just as well because, despite her opinion that I wasn’t at all rusty, I most definitely am! Plus, in the fog of my exhaustion, I often blanked out on words or phrases. Merci, Fabienne, for saving my linguistic hide.)

Laurent Mazzone and Fabienne during Moscow Fashion Week 2013. Source: annarusska.ru

Laurent Mazzone and Fabienne during Moscow Fashion Week 2013. Source: annarusska.ru

I found Laurent and Fabienne easily, sitting at a couple of tables in the corner along with Laurent’s partner, and was greeted with kisses and even a hug. Laurent Mazzone is a very dapper, youngish man in his early ’30s (I think), with a cherubic face, a naughty gleam in his mischievous, warm, brown eyes, and a big grin. He has an enormously exuberant personality, which I loved, and endless passion. Yet, he is also extremely serious when it comes to the subject of perfumery, and has a true commitment to the idea of making luxurious, sensuous perfumes in the grand tradition, but with a modern feel. There was enormous sensitivity in those brown eyes when listening to my comments about some of his line, sometimes followed by a huge, infectious smile from ear to ear when he saw that I understood and appreciated their nature.

Source: uae.souq.com

Patchouli Boheme. Source: uae.souq.com

He had brought a chic, black, and black-ribboned, LM Parfums bag of what I thought would be perfume samples. They turned out to be actual, full, 100 ml bottles of 3 of his fragrances: Ambre Muscadin, Patchouli Boheme, and the new, limited-edition, Chemise Blanche. Yet, despite my patchouli and amber obsession, I never tested any of those perfumes that day and, instead, ended up trying his forthcoming, new perfume, Hard Leather.

Hard Leather will be released in November, and I can’t wait because I absolutely loved it! In fact, I think I may have yelped or cried out rather loudly upon sniffing it because, suddenly, some tables of black-clad, haughty Parisians were turning around with raised eyebrows. I didn’t care, and I think I may have hugged Mr. Mazzone at one point over Hard Leather because it was (and is) absolutely fantastic. Mr. Mazzone describes it as an “animalic leather” that, to my opinion at least, isn’t particularly animalic or aggressive after the opening 10 minutes, but, instead, much more beautifully well-rounded and warm. It might be “animalic” by French standards, but I don’t think it is generally or as a whole, and especially not by Middle Eastern or Amouage standards.

Hard Leather has its musky side to be sure, but it’s primarily woody, sweet, rich, spicy, ambered, and incredibly sensual. From the first sniff, I could instantly tell that there was oud from Laos in it, with its own very unique, aged character, but what I liked about this version of it is that it didn’t smell fecal like so many fragrances that use that particular Laotian wood. Even better, there is none of that revolting Gorgonzola or cheese undertone that very aged Laotian oud can sometimes have. Soon after the agarwood announces itself, there is a burst of pungent civet which quickly calms down (in less than ten minutes), and melts into the rich, well-blended, richly burnished whole.

In essence, Hard Leather smells like your boyfriend’s leather jacket, lightly mixed with his musky scent, along with deep, almost honeyed, slightly smoky oud, and a vague tinge of floral sweetness, atop a base of ambered warmth. At times, it seemed to share some kinship with Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque, which is one of my absolute favorite Lutens fragrances, but there are clear differences in smell. Even apart from the oud, Hard Leather has a little more edge at first, and is significantly more woody. It also seems to have a different (and much smaller) floral vein running through it. I can’t remember the rest of the notes that Laurent later told me about, but, if memory serves me correctly, there is iris absolute in Hard Leather as well. [UPDATE 10/17/13 – I have the official press release for Hard Leather with its sleek graphics and the full list of notes in the perfume.]

I also can’t recall the name of the perfumer with whom Laurent worked, but I laughed at his description of the process whereby he kept telling the nose to put in “more. More, more, more!” Not only is such a comment completely in keeping with Mr. Mazzone’s character, intensity and passion, but the perfume really has deep richness. I was so crazy about Hard Leather that Mr. Mazzone sent his friend up to their rooms to get his own small decant to give me as a gift, which resulted in a further exuberant outburst that undoubtedly horrified the Hotel Costes’ snobs, but too bad. This is such a fantastic perfume! I will do a review closer to the perfume’s launch date, but I’m telling guys, in particular, and women who like masculine, woody or leather scents: you need to check this one out.

Source: Silkcosmetics.nl

Some, but not all, of the LM Parfums line. Source: Silkcosmetics.nl

What I love about LM Parfums is that they are luxurious, sensuous, full-bodied, and rich. Hard Leather, unlike most of the perfumes from the line, is an extrait de parfum (only three of the current LM Parfums have that concentration), and clocks in at 20% perfume oil. All the perfumes, however, have an opulence that really harkens back to the golden age of perfumery. They’re not fuddy-duddy, old or dated in smell, but Laurent is clearly driven by his love for the classic perfume greats. These fragrances all feel like actual, serious perfumes — they proclaim their richness and luxurious nature without hesitation, announce their presence, and feel no shame over the fact that they are both perfume and French in nature.

Yet, the thing I found with Sensual Orchid and Hard Leather is that their richness contrasts with a surprising airiness in feel. These are not opaque, thick perfumes by any means! Based on what I’ve tested thus far from the line, even the sillage drops after about 2-3 hours to hover somewhat discretely just an inch or so above the skin. The perfumes are potent when smelled up close and linger, but they aren’t battleships of heaviness with nuclear projection that trails you for hours. (In all honestly, I wish they were like that, but I realise that my personal tastes are not the modern style, and that ’80s-style powerhouses are rarely made today.) Still, LM Parfums are all very French in feel or spirit. Mr. Mazzone mentioned a number of the perfume legends, like Guerlain’s Mitsouko, for example, and how he wants his perfumes to reflect the same sort of sophisticated complexity with layers of nuance.

His philosophy certainly shows in Hard Leather, but also in another upcoming fragrance called Army of Lovers. It is a chypre and, honestly, this is a true chypre! None of that neo-chypre or wanna-be, pretend, quasi-chypre business. (Le Labo’s Ylang 49, I’m looking straight at you with your revolting purple patchouli!) No, this is an actual, genuine chypre with an amount of oakmoss absolute that you have to smell to believe. It’s beautiful, very elegant, and reeks of class. It was created by Mr. Mazzone with a Robertet nose (I think) whose name I have now forgotten, and the perfume name references a Swedish group that Mr. Mazzone loves. I have to wonder if there will be any trademark issues in using the same name, but the perfume won’t be released until 2014, so I’m sure he has time to work out any problems that may arise.

I wish I could recall the notes in Army of Lovers, but all I remember now is how impressed I was with its elegance. At one point, I had Hard Leather on one shoulder or bicep, and Army of Lovers on the other — and I may have uttered a rather strangled, guttural moan. I certainly did something very loudly that seemed to have (further) shocked the constipated denizens of the Hotel Costes, and I saw a very disapproving gleam in our server’s eyes when he stopped by next. At this point, I most definitely did not care. Laurent Mazzone was spraying me with glee, and then himself, and we were standing up to sniff each other publicly without the slightest bit of thought to those around. I might have entered a slight fugue state at one point as the potent chypre of Army of Lovers, and the spicy, oriental, animalic leather-oud warmth of Hard Leather billowed out around me. I may have this incorrectly, but if I recall, I think Laurent Mazzone stated that Ambre Muscadin and Patchouli Boheme are two of the main corner stones or representational fragrances from his line. I suspect that either Hard Leather, Army of Lovers, or both will be soon joining them.

In telling you all this, I’m being completely honest. Just as I am when I say that there were some things I smelled that day that were not my cup of tea at all. Very well-made, and beautifully blended, yes, but most definitely not my personal style. Mr. Mazzone sprayed me with something and — blame my usual bluntness or, perhaps, massive sleep-deprivation — I instinctively recoiled, my whole body jerked back, and I grimaced. It was some floral fragrance with purple, fruity patchouli and a synthetic element. So much purple, sweetness, and fruitiness! I had blocked out the name entirely due to my sheer horror, but, in looking over the list of names in the LM line now, I suspect it was O de Soupirs.** If I recall correctly, Mr. Mazzone described its feeling or inspiration as something a woman would wear before going to a rendezvous with her lover. Before I could stop myself, I blurted out something along the lines of “Absolutely not! This is for a 14-year old girl!” (Oh God, now that I’m remembering more of the day, I think I even tried to rub it off my arm with a napkin!)  ** [UPDATE: it turns out the fragrance I didn’t like was a new, upcoming, not-yet-released perfume called Lost Paradise. It will be launched in 2014. — Further Update 1/29/14: the name has been changed to Ultimate Seduction. ]

I usually try to be more tactful and polite, so I’m quite chagrined at my rudeness, but I really couldn’t help the outburst or my instinctive, gut-level reaction. There was a pause in the conversation, and Mr. Mazzone blinked, but he was extremely gracious about it, though there was a hurt look in his sensitive eyes. I tried to explain that I was always very honest in my opinions, and that my candour should let him know that I was quite sincere in my raves for the other two perfumes. He actually seemed to like that a lot, but he’s also incredibly polite, so perhaps I’m just hoping that he put it all into context.

Even before this incident, Mr. Mazzone had quickly caught onto my personal tastes, which strongly mirror his own, so it wasn’t a surprise when he immediately noted that I would very much dislike another perfume that he had included in the very generous “samples.” It was the new, recently released but limited-edition Chemise Blanche which — unlike its siblings — is not done in a black, velvet box imprinted with the LM Parfums logo. It’s also not in one of the black bottles that Mr. Mazzone has intentionally made almost just barely opaque, but not quite. He was concerned that perfume owners would not be able to see how much was left in their bottle if it was a solid black, so he specifically had the glass done in a way which would show how much liquid was left if the bottle was held up to the light. I loved the thoughtfulness and attention to detail involved in that, especially as the issue of remaining quantity is a problem that I always have with my old, jet-black bottle of Fracas.

Chemise BlancheInstead, Chemise Blanche is in a clear, glass bottle and in a white velvet box. The reason Mr. Mazzone was sure I would dislike it is because it is very much the opposite of my favorites from his line: it’s a perfume centered around aldehydes and citruses. To me, it very much evokes something crystalline in visuals, almost Alpine, if you will: white, pure, clear, airy, and very light in feel, despite being an extrait in concentration. According to Fragrantica, the notes include:

aldehydes, bergamot, mandarin, iris, lily of the valley, rose, benzoin, tonka, amber and musk.

To my surprise, given my loathing for aldehydes, the note was much tamer than I had expected but, alas, even Mr. Mazzone admitted that Chemise Blanche smelled of soap and dishwashing liquid on my skin. (By now, sniffing yet my another portion of my shoulder, we were really receiving some strange looks!) Chemise Blanche is not my style at all, and my skin is always a huge problem when it comes to aldehydes, but I freely admit that the perfume is very well-done. Actually, with a few wearings, I occasionally persuaded myself that Chemise Blanche might almost be something I would opt for if I were looking for a crisp, light, gauzy perfume with a citric edge. Almost. I’m wearing Hard Leather as I write this, and I doubt I would ever go for crystal white when I could have shades of richly burnished brown, red, black and amber instead!

Nonetheless, Chemise Blanche turned out to be quite a hit with my friend with whom I was staying and who has very difficult perfume tastes. It’s not only that she is someone whose tastes are the polar opposite of mine; it’s also that she finds almost everything to be “too sweet” or “too strong.” She recoils in horror at even the slightest bit of Orientalism or spice, isn’t a huge fan of most pure florals, and adores airy, light, clean and citrusy fragrances. Even in that last category, however, she thinks the vast majority are “too sweet.” (It was quite interesting going perfume-shopping with her one day! No matter what citrus fragrance I found for her, almost all were rejected and, in a few cases, deemed to be “too masculine” as well.) Chemise Blanche, however, smelled lovely on her skin, and she seemed almost convinced that it wasn’t the dreaded, verboten “sweet.” (It is not. Not even remotely!) So, I left her a large decant for her to test out while she decides if it is full-bottle worthy. 

Laurent Mazzone. Source: unique.ru.com

Laurent Mazzone. Source: unique.ru.com

All in all, I had an absolutely wonderful time meeting Laurent Mazzone, his partner, and Fabienne. They were incredibly warm, friendly, effusive, generous, and filled with life. It was truly fun, whether we were laughing over Mr. Mazzone’s astringent views on some of the Paris Fashion Week collections, sniffing each other publicly, or having passionately robust discussions about the state of perfumery in the past versus today.

You know, all perfumers talk or claim that they put a little bit of themselves or their personalities within each fragrance, but it’s not always true. Commercial perfumery certainly doesn’t have that, and neither do some purportedly “niche” lines. Yet, in sniffing the various LM Parfums, I can actually and genuinely see a little bit of Mr. Mazzone in most of them. There is a quietly refined, passionate lustiness or sensuality in the ones that I’ve tried — whether it’s the overtly sexy Sensual Orchid, the smooth, sweetened, goldenness of Ambre Muscadin, the hugely smoky Patchouli Boheme with its almost mesquite-like opening, or the more masculine Hard Leather — that really seems to epitomize different parts of the gregarious, outgoing, exuberantly passionate man I met. Chemise Blanche seems to be an anomaly, at least to me personally, in terms of that character assessment theory, but the line certainly carries something for everyone and its clean crispness should definitely appeal to some modern tastes.

I may end up doing a proper review for Chemise Blanche down the line, but I definitely plan to cover Patchouli Boheme and Ambre Muscadin. Hard Leather as well, when it is released next month. In the meantime, if you have the chance to try any LM Parfums, do give them a sniff. The line is now in the U.S., and is no longer exclusive to Europe. Plus, Osswald in New York has a very affordable deal on samples which should make testing quite easy. For readers in Europe, the line is not hard to find, and LM Parfums sells 5 ml decants at a very reasonable price (€14 or €19). As for me, I suddenly fell upon the genius idea of layering Sensual Orchid with Hard Leather on occasion, and now, I really have to get my hands on a proper decant of both. The people at the Hotel Costes are lucky they’re not around to witness my reaction….

[UPDATE: I have now reviewed Ambre Muscadin and Hard Leather, with shopping information and pricing information provided in the appropriate reviews.]

Disclosure: Some of the perfumes covered in this post were, as noted, provided by LM Parfums. There was no financial compensation for any of this. I don’t do paid reviews or posts, and my views are my own. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: LM Parfums always come in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. The European price is generally either €120 (€125 at some online vendors), or €195 (or £195). The American retail price is either $175 or $225. In the U.S.: Laurent Mazzone’s fragrances used to be European exclusives, but the range just came to America two months ago. It’s sold exclusively at OsswaldNYC. For some strange reason, the website seems to show only two fragrances now, and not all the ones it had earlier when I reviewed Sensual Orchid. In terms of samples, none of the U.S. perfume sample sites currently carry the LM Parfums line, but Osswald has a special deal for all its perfumes for U.S. customers who telephone the store: 10 samples for $10, with free shipping in the U.S., and it’s for any perfumes that they stock! That means the full, existing, current LM Parfums line (or whatever parts they may now carry of it), and some other goodies only found at OsswaldNY, for less than a $1 a vial! The deal is only available for telephone orders, however, so you have to call (212) 625-3111. Outside the U.S.: In Europe, you can buy the perfumes directly from LM Parfums for €125 or €195. (At this other LM Parfums site, some of the bottles are priced at €120.) Samples are also available for €14 or €19, depending on the perfume in question and its concentration, and they come in a good 5 ml size. In the UK, the LM Parfums line is carried exclusively at Harvey Nichols. In France, you can find the perfumes, and 5 ml samples of each (usually about €14) at Laurent Mazzone’s own Premiere Avenue. In Paris, LM Parfums are sold at Jovoy. Germany’s First in Fragrance carries the full line and sells samples as well. You can also find LM Parfums at Essenza Nobile, Italy’s Vittoria Profumi, or Alla Violetta. In the Netherlands, you can find LM Parfums at Silks Cosmetics or Parfumaria. In the Middle East, I found most of the LM Parfums line at the UAE’s Souq perfume retailer. For all other countries, you can find a vendor near you from Switzerland to Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Azerbaijan, and more, by using the LM Parfums Partner listing. Laurent Mazzone or LM Parfums fragrances are widely available throughout Europe, and many of those sites sell samples as well. 

LM Parfums Sensual Orchid: Dressed to Seduce

Gisele Bundchen for Vogue Turkey March 2011. Photo: the always incredible Mert & Marcus.

Gisele Bundchen for Vogue Turkey March 2011. Photo: the always incredible Mert & Marcus.

The urban jungle seemed very far away as she dressed in the bedroom of the villa at St. Barts. It hadn’t been a planned visit, but her seduction of him had been a long time in the making. He’d stolen her heart the minute he’d walked into the room, with his black, leather jacket, devil-may-care tousled blond hair, chiseled Nordic face, emerald eyes, and wide grin. He smiled at everything, and she hoped he would smile at the new lingerie she had bought. She felt nervous, but excited, as she awaited his arrival. She gave herself another big spray of perfume for good luck.

Source: wallpaperstop.biz

Source: wallpaperstop.biz

The swirl of orchids, velvety ylang-ylang, jasmine, vanilla and sweet musk curled in the air around her, mixed with the tropical hint of coconut that wafted in from the trees on the beach. She had loved him for so long, not daring to think he may feel the same way, and she almost couldn’t believe their time had finally come. She hurriedly poured herself a snifter of expensive, aged cognac to relax her nerves, and a few drops fell on her golden skin, mixing with the sweet flowers and tropical headiness. She smiled as the fragrance and boozy liqueur enveloped her in their narcotic touch. How could he resist their heady lure? She was wearing Sensual Orchid, she was ravishing, she was invincible, she would tempt him beyond all belief.

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

I generally try not to review fragrances that are exclusive to Europe, extremely hard to track down, or difficult to sample. I couldn’t help it this time, as I was quite surprised by a sexy, heady, gorgeous fragrance from LM Parfums called Sensual Orchid. LM Parfums is a French niche house founded by Laurent Mazzone, and its fragrances used to be exclusive to Europe until just recently. A short while ago, New York’s Osswald perfumery started carrying the line. Yet, I still hadn’t intended to officially review the fragrance that I obtained last year by complete happenstance from eBay.

Then, a few days ago, after having a bad day, I just decided to put a tiny, single, minuscule sprayed drop on my hand. For hours, that almost nonexistent smear emitted a smell whose delicate tendrils curled in the air around me. I couldn’t believe it, and every time I sniffed my hand, I couldn’t get enough. So, I said limited access be damned, I just had to had to tell you about this wonderful perfume and the house behind it.

Laurent Mazzone. Source: unique.ru.com

Laurent Mazzone. Source: unique.ru.com

LM Parfums is the brain child of a Frenchman with Italian origins, Laurent Mazzone, who was fascinated by fragrance from a young age. As Essenza Nobile explains, “[a]s a young child, he analyzed and mixed samples of perfumes to discover new scents…. a passion for scents was born.” In 1998, “drawn by fashion catwalks and workrooms,” Mr. Mazzone decided to dedicate his life to fashion, opening up a boutique called Premiere Avenue. (I believe it is the same Premiere Avenue site that I so often link to in the Details section as a perfume retailer.) When Mr. Mazzone decided to enter into the world of fragrance, he initially started with scented candles but, in 2010, he expanded into actual perfumes. He launched LM Parfums which now has eight fragrances to its tally. As that Essenza Nobile biography explains, his “desire is to convey his passion to fashion through a line of perfumes evoking luxury fabrics. […] He came across renowned noses that he had always admired by their creation fulfilling his emotion.”

Sensual OrchidOne of those noses is Jerome Epinette whom Mr. Mazzone hired to create the second Extrait pure parfum in his collection. In 2012, LM Parfums released Sensual Orchid, a floral oriental with 20% perfume concentration. Believe me, its opulent richness and luxuriousness shows! Sensual Orchid’s description, as quoted by OsswaldNYC, reads:

Like a feminine model on the catwalk, Sensual Orchid captivates your senses with its incredible aromas. The second essence of perfume will take you to the front of the stage. The carnal pleasures evoked by this sumptuous arrangement of natural sophisticated fragrances. A first subtle scent of citrus fruit and almond leads you into a refined heart of orchid, jasmine sambac, Lysilang, peony and heliotrope then leaves a voluptuous final touch made of vanilla, musk, blonde wood, white cedar wood, labdanum and benzoin.

Source: Topwalls.net

Source: Topwalls.net

The notes, as provided by OsswaldNYC, include:

Top notes: Mandarin, almond, neroli

Heart notes: Orchid, jasmine sambac, Lysilang [ylang-ylang], peony, heliotrope

Base notes: Vanilla, musk, blonde wood, white cedar wood, labdanum, benzoin

Fragrantica adds ylang-ylang to the list, but it seems to be a reference to Lysilang. According to the Academia del Profumo, Lysilang involves a special and different sort of ylang-ylang scent due to the “fractioning” method of perfume processing:

The technique of fractioning can be used to dismantle the odour into its various components or groups of components, before proceeding to select the fractions that are nobler or more interesting from an olfactory standpoint. The result is a cleaner, purer end product.

This technique is used with vetiver, for example, removing its earthier parts: the smell of the roots and its less attractive notes.

Lysilang (by Robertet), a very pure, natural and fresh odour, is obtained in this way from the essential oil of Ylang Ylang III from the Comoro Islands.

I think the description is important because ylang-ylang is a big part of Sensual Orchid, and its aroma feels unusually concentrated, rich, heady and creamy in the fragrance, while simultaneously being oddly clean in a way. It’s just one of a few unusual aspects of the fragrance.

Source: de.flash-screen.com

Source: de.flash-screen.com

The key to Sensual Orchid, however, is the eponymous flower in the title. It’s an odd flower because it doesn’t have any one, particular, easily identifiable aroma. Orchids are not like tuberose or roses, to give just one example, with a clear, set fragrance. Instead, it can be almost anything, depending on the species of flower and what pollinated it. Fragrantica has a very fascinating exploration of the subject, in which Dr. Ellen Covey of the Olympic Orchids (both an actual perfume house and an orchid nursery) talks about the flower’s various, different, possible aromas:

There are about 20,000-30,000 species of orchids belonging to about 900 different genera. Orchid scents are all over the place from the most beautiful floral scents to odors that we find unpleasant, such as feces or rotten meat. The scent depends on what insect pollinates the orchid. Bees and butterflies are attracted to floral scents, and flies are attracted to rotting animal matter. Each genus of orchids has a range of scents, but there is generally some predictability within a genus. Cattleya orchids all have floral-type scents that range from light and citrusy to heavy and indolic. Bulbophyllum orchids often have rotten meat odors, or other stinky smells.

I have orchids that smell exactly like coconut suntan lotion, butterscotch and cedar wood, cinnamon, sweet clover, roses, or baby powder. If there is a “typical” orchid flower scent, it would probably be a generic cattleya, but more often the “orchid” note in perfume is a fantasy note of some sort. Vanilla is extracted from the seedpods of an orchid, so maybe it could be thought of as the quintessential orchid scent.

Source: hd4desktop.com

Source: hd4desktop.com

I have no idea what species of orchid is in Laurent Mazzone’s Sensual Orchid, but I can tell you it smells wonderful! The fragrance opens on my skin with a burst of booziness. It’s pure cognac, as explicit, sharp, liqueured and slightly fruity as very aged, extremely expensive cognac can be. The note is then followed by: the richest ylang-ylang; custardy, rich vanilla; a hint of smoky woods; and bitter, green-white almonds.

On their heels is a delicate, pastel, floral note as crystal clear, clean, bright and sparkling as a bell rung at the top of the Swiss alps. It smells of lilies, peonies, hyacinth, rose, jasmine, vanilla — all wrapped into one in a cool, clean, crystal liquidity. It is all of those things, and, yet, none of those things. It’s a floral orchid in 3D. Mixed with the powerful ylang-ylang and the sweet vanilla, backed by that boozy cognac fruitedness, the final result is incredibly narcotic, dramatic, opulent, and heady.

Source: Foundwalls.com

Source: Foundwalls.com

Other notes are layered underneath. The orchid has a coconut characteristic that Dr. Covey talked about above, as well as some sort of subtle, intangible, sweet spiciness. There is also a whiff of juicy, sun-sweetened mandarin, lying heavy and ripe on the branch. The heliotrope’s almond note is interwoven throughout, and the whole thing sits atop a base of white woods with slightly smoky cedar.

Within minutes, the cognac’s sharpness softens, as the vanillic, creamy, floral facets of the orchid increase, along with a sensuous muskiness and the coconut. The latter feels both like chunks of the fresh fruit, and its rich cream. My feelings about coconut generally range from ambivalence to dislike, especially if there is a suntan oil feel or anything cloying. On my skin, Sensual Orchid manages the feat of having a rich coconut scent that is nothing like Hawaiian Tropics, and yet, conveys a wholly tropical feel in a very light way. I have no idea why I find it so intoxicating, but I think it’s the overall combination of notes that renders Sensual Orchid a very sensuous, compulsively sniffable experience.

Model Lara Stone, French Vogue.

Model Lara Stone, French Vogue.

There is a very classique richness to the scent, but it also has a very modern feel. Sensual Orchid is very airy in feel, though it is also extremely potent, heady, and strong in projection. Not Amouage or ’80s powerhouse levels of potency, but definitely enough to wrap you in a very shimmering haze. Despite the old-school richness, nothing about the fragrance feels dated or centered on traditional tropes. Sensual Orchid doesn’t call to mind the famous Dior models of old in their New Look dresses, or the grand dames of Chanel. It’s not a scent that I would associate with Guerlain’s divas, but with a very fashion-forward, confident, strong woman who is assured enough to flaunt her own sensuality. She is the sort who would wear Sensual Orchid with a skimpy dress to go out clubbing, then come home to toss the bottle in her carry-on bag and go on a quick, impromptu, romantic, weekend get-away to St. Barts. 

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

Thirty minutes in, Sensual Orchid shifts a little. The dry, slightly smoked cedar stirs more prominently in the base. Up on top, the jasmine now appears to dance a merry quartet with the ylang-ylang, the orchid’s coconut, and the vanilla. The peony, the almonds, and that lingering, crystal clear, liquid note that feels so much like lilies, all look on from the sidelines and clap. From afar, the fragrance smells like an extremely seamless, well-blended bouquet of boozy sweetness, indolic flowers, and creamy vanilla. Up close, it’s almost too powerful and rich, with an opulent depth that reminds me of Amouage‘s Ubar mixed with some of my beloved Alahine‘s boozy overlay. 

Sensual Orchid is a rather linear scent, and its core essence never changes. Over the next few hours, the differences are primarily ones of strength, deepness, and projection. At the end of the first hour, Sensual Orchid becomes smoother, richer, and deeper. The boozy cognac fades away, the mandarin orange retreats to the edges, and the fragrance feels mellower as a whole. By the 2.5 hour mark, the fragrance feels like a soft cloud. I wish the notes were better delineated with less overlap and haziness, but Sensual Orchid is nonetheless an intoxicating swirl of creamy, indolic, sweet florals, infused with vanilla, touches of coconut, and the vaguest whisper of dry cedar. The word “lush” keeps coming to mind, along with visuals of a billowing white and yellow cloud, and scantily clad women with golden skin. On occasion, the image is that of a naked woman on a beach because there is a clean, warmed muskiness to Sensual Orchid that feels like heated skin touched with a shimmering, floral, slightly tropical oil. It’s never animalic or sweaty, it’s not even a very prominent note, but it adds to the languid sensuality of the fragrance.

Model Isabeli Fonatana for Muse Magazine via trendhunter.com

Model Isabeli Fonatana for Muse Magazine via trendhunter.com

Near the end of the fourth hour, Sensual Orchid hovers as a potent veil just above the skin. It’s a blend of ripe, blooming white florals infused by a dry woodiness, and the subtlest hint of booziness. The jasmine, ylang-ylang and orchid are fused together as one. The vanilla has now turned almost dry, thanks to the impact of the cedar and its quietly smoked character. The coconut is almost silent, and the almond has vanished. The mandarin which was never an integral part of Sensual Orchid on my skin is now merely a vague suggestion that pops up occasionally, but you have to sniff damn hard to really notice it. Finally, there is a tinge of synthetics in the base, whether from the “white woods” or from something else, but it’s muted, minor, and soon fades away.

Sensual Orchid remains that way until the middle of the seventh hour when it finally turns wholly abstract. It’s a soft, nebulous, indolic, musky floral sweetness that covers the skin like the finest silk lingerie. In its final hours, Sensual Orchid is merely a trace of sweetness, muskiness and abstract white flowers. All in all, it lasted just over 14 hours with very strong projection for the first 2 hours, then good to moderate sillage for a number of hours, before ending as a soft, unobtrusive veil for about 6 hours. It only became a true skin scent around the middle of eighth hour. I used about 3 small sprays. While aerosolisation definitely increases both longevity and projection, Sensual Orchid is generally a strong fragrance with a very soft weight that I think is intended to go from hardcore diva glam, down to an increasingly intimate scent, before ending as a “my skin but better” musky sweetness in its final stage.

At no time is Sensual Orchid an edgy or revolutionary scent, but it’s a very luxurious, opulent, and sexy one. It feels like the sort of perfume that a woman would to seduce, and consistently calls to mind the image of a woman in lingerie, lying languidly on a bed as she awaits her lover. It’s a scent that seems intentionally meant to intoxicate and captivate a romantic partner with its narcotic sensuality and brazenly diva-ish, dramatic headiness. Part of it is the sheer indolic nature of those lush, ripe, blooming white florals, and part of it is the quiet, golden muskiness of the scent combined with the creaminess of both the ylang-ylang and the vanilla.

Photo: Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott for Roberto Cavalli feat. Elisabetta Canalis. Source: CityinAds.com

Photo: Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott for Roberto Cavalli feat. Elisabetta Canalis. Source: CityinAds.com

I couldn’t find a single blog review for Sensual Orchid, either in-depth or otherwise. However, the fragrance does come up in two Basenotes discussions. One is a thread in the Men’s Fragrance Discussion section called “SUPERNICHE- Best Frag No One Has Heard Of,” and asks for suggestions. Sensual Orchid is the very first name given by a male poster called “Hednic.” Later, down below, another commentator adds: “This whole LM line has some real crackers – Sensual Orchid but hey guys we got Black Oud by LM too which is really well done! We gonna hear a lot more about LM I assure you.” Sensual Orchid gets mentioned again in a very short thread from August 2013 in the Female Fragrance Discussion section about LM Parfums in general. The original poster purchased a bottle from Italy for supposedly $190 and thought Sensual Orchid was “soooo gorgeous!”

You may wonder why I’m bringing up the location of the Basenotes threads. It’s because I think Sensual Orchid can work on a guy’s skin, and there are clearly men on Basenotes who agree and have no hesitation saying so in a discussion of Men’s Fragrances. Yes, Sensual Orchid is a very lush, floral scent that skews feminine, but I happen to think that a confident, assured man could rock this type of fragrance just as much as an Amouage oudh or Creed’s Aventus. Perhaps not every guy would feel comfortable with orchid and vanilla, but dammit, they should be! Sensual Orchid would smell unbelievably hot on a guy’s skin, and I’m not budging from that belief, all my photos of scantily clad women notwithstanding.

Lastly, I have to talk about the price. Sensual Orchid costs $225 or €195. While that may seem a lot, it’s for 100 ml of extrait de parfum. When was the last time any of you saw that concentration being offered in a 100 ml size and for a price less than some smaller eau de parfums?! I never have. 15 ml for Rubj Parfum extrait is $325! 50 ml of Amouage’s Lyric Extrait costs $470, and it’s half the size of Sensual Orchid. Puredistance’s Opardu is also an extrait that comes in a 100 ml size, but it costs $590! My point is that Sensual Orchid is a gorgeous fragrance whose price may seem high, but it’s almost a steal for what it is, let alone as compared to the price of other niche extraits on the market.

Now, I realise it’s almost sadistic to bring up a fragrance that my American readers can’t sniff or test unless they live in New York. For that, I deeply apologise. As part of my penance, I’d like to offer one reader a small sample from my own decant. It won’t be much, just around 1 ml, but my own decant is very small and I’d like to have a bit of Sensual Orchid to wear when I go on holiday at the end of the month. So, in the comments below, leave a comment letting me know if you’re interested.

Given LM Parfums’ wide availability in Europe and New Yorkers’ access to it at Osswald, I’m afraid this mini-drawing will be limited to American readers who do not live in New York City’s Tri-State Area or have access to Osswald. You have until Friday, September 13th at 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST) in the U.S. to let me know if you’d like to be entered. I will select a name using Random.org at some point the next day, and will update the end of this review with the winner’s name. So, check back Saturday the 14th, and if you’re the winner, you have three days (until Tuesday, September 17th) to contact me at the blog email with your shipping address. (Failure to contact me in the appropriate time frame means I’ll give the sample to someone else.) If lush, floral Orientals are your cup of tea, and if you’re not bothered by sweetness or indolic headiness, then I think you may like Sensual Orchid.

[UPDATE: GIVEAWAY & General Samples: Random.org has chosen and the winner of a small sample is POODLE! Please contact me with your address, and I’ll send some Sensual Orchid off to you. 

For everyone else who wants to test the perfume, Osswald has a fantastic deal that I would strongly recommend in general: 10 samples for $10, with free shipping in the U.S., and it’s for any perfumes that they stock! That means Profumum, the full LM Parfums line, and some other goodies only found at OsswaldNY for less than a $1 a vial! The deal is only available for telephone orders, however, so you have to call (212) 625-3111. I hope you take advantage of it to try Sensual Orchid and some of the Profumum line that I love so much!]

[UPDATE – 10/17/2013 – If the OsswaldNYC link to Sensual Orchid doesn’t work, it’s because Osswald is currently sold out of the fragrance. Rather than update the page with a notice that they are awaiting more stock and are temporarily sold out, they take down the whole page. It’s stupid, but that’s what they do, according to a Twitter response that I got. Osswald informed me that they should get more LM Parfums in soon, but gave no precise date. In the meantime, you can directly order from LM Parfums or from their Premiere Avenue store (which is also owned by Laurent Mazzone). Both sites offer a good-sized decant of Sensual Orchid for a very reasonable €19.] 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Sensual Orchid is an extrait de parfum (or pure parfum) in concentration. It comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle that costs $225, €195 or £195. In the U.S.: Laurent Mazzone’s fragrances used to be European exclusives, but the range has just come to America. It’s sold exclusively at OsswaldNYC right now. Unfortunately, none of the U.S. perfume sample sites currently offer samples of this fragrance. I hope that will soon change, and I try to remember to update this post at that time. Outside the U.S.: In Europe, you can buy Sensual Orchid directly from LM Parfums for €195. Samples are also available for €19, and come in a good 5 ml size. In the UK, the LM Parfums line is carried exclusively at Harvey Nichols which sells Sensual Orchid for £195. In France, you can find Sensual Orchid and the 5 ml sample at Laurent Mazzone’s own Premiere Avenue. In Paris, it’s sold at Jovoy. Germany’s First in Fragrance carries the full line and sells Sensual Orchid for €196, in addition to samples. You can also find Sensual Orchid at Essenza Nobile, Italy’s Vittoria Profumi, or Alla Violetta. In the Netherlands, you can find Sensual Orchid at Parfumaria. There are many Russian vendors for LM Parfums, but one site carrying Sensual Orchid is SpellSmell. For all other countries, you can find a vendor near you from Switzerland to Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Azerbaijan, and more, by using the LM Parfums Partner listing. Laurent Mazzone or LM Parfums fragrances are widely available throughout Europe, and many of those sites sell samples as well.