What makes a fine suit? Is it the pop in color, the trendiness of the cut, the Avant Garde materials? If you ask the people from Ermengildo Zegna, one of the stalwarts of Made-to-Measure suits in Italy and across the globe, they’ll say it’s the confluence of tradition, fine craftsmanship and superb quality materials. It’s the exact measurement, the precise cut and the choice combinations of fabric that brings the suit together. Perhaps it’s this obsession with perfection that charged them when they launched their Essenze fragrance line.
In 2012, Zegna launched five high-end private-labeled fragrances under the Essenze line. The perfume celebrates the exquisite ingredients more than, maybe, the actual blend of the finished product. The underlying hero note across all the variants would be the one of the most used oils in fragrance making, the Calabria Bergamot.
The blend of the fragrance uses a higher quality (if not the highest quality) of the bitter citrus oil. To maintain this, Zegna decided to create, maintain and cultivate their own Bergamot farm. This makes a whole lot of sense, given where the brand started. In 1910, Ermenegildo Zegna was more known for its supplies of extremely high quality fabric for suit-making. In fact, the brand is one of the most biggest global producers of fine fabrics with renowned fashion brands acting as their main patrons (likes of Gucci, Yves Saint Lauren, Dunhill and Tom Ford).
By being the owner of the main ingredient in your collection, you can be assured that they will be using the finest Italian Bergamot available. That being said, Zegna’s Essenze is an exercise in appreciating luxury.
You see, Essenze, despite its price, is void from the usual pomp and grandeur that the usual fragrances this price range offers. In its stead, the Essenze line offers you the most exquisite versions of tradition and craftsmanship. It’s like tasting the best slice of Tuna Sashimi or enjoying a sip from an 18-year old Macallan. The note composition isn’t exactly innovative, but the sublime quality used to create the perfume is just perfect that it’s hard to find fault with the line. Even with average juice performance, the crisp, well-balanced fragrances makes up for any perceived flaws. Bottling is exceptional as well, with the juice luxuriously encapsulated within the squared bottles with magnetic caps.
They’ve expanded the variants ever since 2012 and have even offered friendlier flankers like the Acqua Di Bergamotto – that is almost identical to their signature scent Italian Bergamot except with a more pronounced aqua accord (and half the price).
Still, despite all this, Ermenegildo Zegna’s Essenze remains to be one of the most underrated fragrance line in the fragrance community. There’s hardly any hype or discussion among the various fragrance community.
Personally, I highly recommend this for serious perfume collectors. If you want a feel of the classic, it’s best to start with Italian Bergamot – the scent that truly launched the line (and highlights the hero note of the collection).
If you still want a citrusy-scent that packs a punch, go with Mediterranean Neroli, a 2016 release. This, my friends, is one of the best neroli-centric scents ever. Perfectly balanced, has good longevity and projection.
Florentine Iris is pure class. The story goes that it took them 6 years to plant, cultivate, harvest, dry aged and produce the Iris oil used in this fragrance. A scent that’s more suited for very expensive dinners, Florentine Iris is sublime in its beauty. Metallic-floral majestically mixes with soft musk to produce one of the best Iris scents I have ever had the pleasure of smelling.
Javanese Patchouli is an aromatic modern take on the classic herb. It’s astringent, clean but transforms into this creamy earthy tone because of the Tonka. I am pretty much addicted to this!
And speaking of earthy, let’s not discount the king of barbershop scents, Haitian Vetiver. This rooty, earthy yet clean Vetiver is one of the few that propelled my fragrance addiction as well.
Indonesian Oud is an interesting take on the classic oud (agarwood) – rose combo. While majority of the oud-rose fragrances convey a thick, warm scent, Zegna managed to translate the complex and heavy oils to the line’s DNA of sublime luxury. Indonesian Oud doesn’t scream its presence but stays reserve and looming, waiting for you to be captured in its majestic spell. This is one of the brightest and easiest ouds I have ever sampled. It’s a testament to how well-balanced the blend is that even if you’re averse to strong scents, Indonesian Oud by Zegna is something that’s easy to acclimate towards to.
And to round things off, there’s Peruvian Ambrette, a fragrance that utilizes natural plant-based musk, Orris seeds and soft leather to produce probably the most complex of the fragrance mixes of the line. It starts off medicinal but the dry down is sublime and brimming with luxury!
Essenze in essence, has little to do with opulence but has everything to do with squeezing the best out of the most basic of substances. It’s the perfect balance, the right cut, the finest fabrics, the Italian Suit that’s made just for you –it’s subjecting one’s craft to the highest possible standard allowing you to expose its, well, essence.
If you pass by Rustan’s Shagrila Plaza or Glorietta, and you want to go beyond the usual designer and/or overly overpriced “niche” fragrances, check this line out. Some of the scents make me want to play Kate Hudson’s Cinema Italiano in 2009’s film adaptation of the 1982 Tony Awards Winner, Nine. “Style is the new content…they wanna ride on a Vespa down the Via Veneto. They wanna live in an Italian movie.”
Ermenegildo Zegna Essenze retails for Php 11,500 for 125ml bottle. There are times when Rustan’s will go on a buy 1 take 1 deal. It’s rare but it happens.
While filming an episode of Helpless Gamer for our other geeky blog site, Ungeek.ph, I chanced upon this quirky contraption at Spectre Manila –a gentleman’s one-stop-shop lifestyle store of sort.
Cut, Shave, Suits, Bag, Shoes and Solid Perfumes at Spectre Manila
Tucked away in the quiet streets of Luna Mencias Street at Addition Hills (just right beside Shaw Blvd), Spectre is the place for you to go to if you a quick haircut and shave or be measured by distinguished tailors to have your exquisite suit custom-made for you. This is also where I first heard and learned about Fulton & Roark and the wonders of Solid Perfumery.
The simple utilitarian truth about perfume is that it’s hard to bring it with you always if you want to refresh your scent. You can keep them in your bag handy or transfer them to smaller decant and travel spritzers like Travalo but it’s not as comfortably handy and as elegant as you’d want it to be. For one, it’s weird to re-apply right smack at the middle of a night out. For more discreet application, solid perfume would be your best alternative.
Fulton & Roark understood this behavior and decided to create a solution that looks and feels, well, quite manly.
The Solid Cologne line from Fulton & Roark combines sleek utilitarian function with stylish application. There are two case variants from Fulton & Roark. The regular one comes in a brushed silver metal ware while the limited edition comes in glossy gunmetal. These solid containers are built to last—shatterproof and can be carried anywhere and anytime (gym bag, pocket, carry-on luggage, etc.).
While Spectre carries various scent variants, you only really need one container as the scents can be interchanged via refill cartridges that snap directly on the case via magnets.
To use, you simply just slide the lid open, like a switchblade, take a few swipes on the aromatic wax and dab it lightly on your pulse points. Repeat as often as you like. 😉
The collection also comes in various scent profiles ranging from green, aquatic, fresh to woody.
TYBEE and LTD. RESERVED NO. 03 is probably the most mass appealing from the group. That’s not saying they’re too generic to warrant interest, they’re not. TYBEE is a gorgeous aromatic with nuances of rosewood, cedar and white musk grounding the scent together while Ltd. Reserved No. 03 smells like expensive soap from some 5-star hotel resort somewhere halfway across the world. Green Citrus with slight touches of balmy labdanum and slightly smoky/ slightly green vetiver makes LTD. RESERVED NO. 3 a wonderful modern gentleman day scent.
HATTERAS and SHACKLEFORD are personal favorites. I’m on Fougère high ever since I got my hands on Amouage’s Bracken Man and HATTERAS is Fulton & Roark’s homage to the classic green scent. Astringent lavender, green oakmoss and earthy vetiver builds the foundation of Hatteras while silver frankincense gives it a smoky/ spicy kick.
SHACKLEFORD on the other hand is best for night time affairs. Deep, dark, amber, woody, SHACKLEFORD mixes exotic sandalwood, balmy amber, rich leather with nuanced sweetness coming from various dried fruits. It’s surprisingly complex!
While I won’t ditch my mainstay fragrances, it’s handy to keep these solid perfumes in your grooming arsenal. And while they may not be projection monsters, or have insane longevity, the beauty of solid fragrances, particularly Fulton & Roark’s is that you can apply them anytime, anywhere and look amazing doing so!
Fulton & Roark’s Solid Cologne are available at Spectre Manila for Php 2000-2600 with refills of only Php 350 pesos each. That’s not a bad investment there! Check out Spectre Manila for more info or drop by and check their wares (and get your hair done as well).
In 1882, Houbigant changed the face of men’s perfume forever with the introduction of a new fragrance category: Fougère (read: Fooj-air). The uniquely green composition harnesses notes of lavender, oakmoss and coumarin – a unique derivative at the time from the creamy tonka bean. It’s the coumarin that lends the grassy, almost new-mowed lawn scent that contributes to the Fougère’s freshness.
Fougère also literally means fern.
Over the years many other labels started crafting their own versions with more notes added, subtracted or substituted, but almost always all retain the essence of Houbigant’s fougère originale, Fougère Royale – green, woodsy, ‘soapy’ and luxurious. (Examples of modern-day Fougeres are Drakkar Noir by Guy Laroche, Eternity for Men by Calvin Klein, Polo by Ralph Lauren, Brut by Fabergé)
The scent that changed the face of mens perfumery forever.
Fast-forward 134 years later and Oman-based luxury fragrance-maker Amouage releases their direct homage to the classic fougère fragrance. The homage is so direct they named the fragrance Bracken – the quintessential genus of fern.
This isn’t the first time that Amouage outs a fougère (Ciel Man, Reflection Man and, to some extent, Memoir Man are considered as fougère) but this is the first time that the whole fragrance encapsulates fougère in its basic and rawest essence.
A burst of green, earthy goodness, Amouage Bracken Man is ridiculously good! A far departure from the house’s usual incense and oud-heavy creations, Bracken embraces the raw intensity of nature, conjuring imagery of a crackling dry leaves amidst the cold morning dew in a secluded enchanted forest.
Green, dry, yet oddly damp. Bracken Man brings to mind these lush imagery for you to enjoy.
Upon initial spray, Bracken announces itself with an intense presence as the dry, astringent mix of lavender (lavandin here) and patchouli create this light floral, dry, green accord. The cypress would later join the fray, adding a layer of dry wood and keeping the scent structured as the almost nose-searing initial impression dials down.
The inclusion of clove and geranium lends to its spicy nuance while cedar and sandalwood touches up on the slight woody (or in this case, woodsy) character.
Cinnamon, nutmeg and the citruses that roll with Bracken rounds everything off in creamy, warm delight and keeps the scent from becoming truly soapy – a sharp contrast to another Amouage fougère, Ciel Man.
Bracken Man, majestically displayed at the Art of Scent Resorts World Manila
Overall, Bracken Man is one of the oddly fresh fragrances that would come out of the brazenly incense-heavy house of Amouage. The fragrance is particularly amazing for Philippine weather as a bit of sun and heat helps improve the already amazing projection one can get from Bracken Man.
On skin, Bracken Man sticks to you for a good 7-8 hours with a strong scent cloud lasting 2-3 hours on initial application. And while Bracken Man is best suited really for day wear, it can easily transition to a casual evening fragrance.
As always, Amouage’s packaging is impeccable! As part of the Midnight Flower collection, Bracken Man follows the boxing and bottling convention of its more summery saccharide perky brother, Sunshine Man. Instead of a swimming pool-like box motif, Bracken celebrates the famed fern by wrapping the wooden box in quirky Paisley patterns.
(L) Bracken Man, (R) Sunshine Man
As always, the bottle cap is adorned with 22-k gold markings and affixed with a single verdant Swarovski Crystal. The sprayer is coated in gold and wears a magnetic stopper with the word Bracken engraved on it.
As a whole, Bracken Man gives the classic fougère the royal treatment it deserves. It’s a very well put-together fragrance with the simplicity of a traditional fougère mixed with a complexity that only Amouage can bring. In an age where everything that’s old is new again, Amouage stepped up to the plate and delivered a godsend.
A new standard of fougère is among us; its name is Bracken Man.
Amouage Bracken Man is available in Art of Scent (Shangri-La Plaza, Resorts World Manila, City of Dreams) for Php 13,500.00 or roughly $270USD, a good $120USD less from its official retail price on the Amouage website.
Ahh…February, ze love month! Month of hearts and flowers and everything that’s dainty and quaint. This is also the month where Amouage, the prolific global perfume house based in Oman, decided to launch their latest floral scent in the Philippines: the lovely Lilac Love.
If you’re new to the house and you want to get to know a little bit more about them, you can check my review of Amouage’s Interlude and Journey Man here.
Last Friday, Feb 3, I was privilege to be invited to the VIP selling at the Art of Scent Resorts World Manila where the multi-brand store was transformed to Amouage’s own floral garden of sorts where Lilac Love sits center-stage.
The light purple offering from Amouage is the first from its Secret Garden collection. Sweet, slightly sensual and super comforting, Lilac Love is pure bliss to the olfactory senses. But before we go into that, the packaging of Lilac Love is something to take note of as well!
As always, the presentation of Amouage is exceptional! A bit of a departure from the older releases where the wooden box is lifted from the top, Lilac Love follows the same box-type from Sunshine Collection. The bottle rests on a soft foam-like crevice for added structure and bottle safety.
The cap still resembles the Grand Mosque and at the tip of this white gold-plated magnetic little dome sits an amethyst-colored Swarovski crystal. Simple. Elegant. Magnificent.
For the scent itself, Lilac Love breaks from Amouage’s usual offering – perfumes steeped in exotic oriental nuances with the enigmatic oud, smoky incense and luscious-balsamic myrrh. Lilac Love is light yet deliciously creamy!
Top notes harnesses intense floral accord with Lilac Accord, Heliotrope, Gardenia and Peony before it drops to its creamy gourmand heart. It’s interesting to note that because it is impossible to extract the scent of Lilac, Amouage had to recreate the scent artificially by masterfully combining various proprietary notes to form that nice violet flower.
Heart note is where things get preeetty interesting. The gourmand is played out with Tonka and Cacao mostly while the Orris (from the root of the Iris Plant) helps keep the two in check. The heart note leads beautifully to a nice powdery-sweet finish with Sandalwood, Vanilla and Patchouli (to add just a tiny bit of earthiness to the whole concoction).
The imagery for Lilac Love feels like you’re having a dainty morning snack with sweet cakes and pastries amidst a beautiful spring floral garden. The floral and gourmand mix also makes this scent very relaxing. If you want to go the super gourmand route, the scent (especially towards the dry down) makes you feel, as silly as it sounds, like you’re sinking in a giant marshmallow bed.
Amouage is known to create powerful and complex scents and Lilac Love is no exception. Even without thick notes of incense, oud, amber, opoponax, and musk, Lilac Love performs pretty beast-like at least for the first couple of hours. Longevity-wise I easily get more than 7 hours on this. On paper, the scent lingers for about a week before it starts to dissipate. Yes folks, 1 week.
Overall Lilac Love is a dream. While marketed towards women, guys shouldn’t be put off to try this baby out. It’s complex enough to “be” an Amouage but light enough to be inviting. I think it’s a great introductory bottle joining the ranks of Reflection, Sunshine, Dia Man and Jubilation XXV as great fragrances to get your nose started on a perfume house you can definitely fall in love with!
Lilac Love is available in all Art of Scent boutiques and costs Php 16,640 for a 100ml EDP bottle (Lilac Love retails for $440 or roughly Php 22,000 on their official website).
For some people, perfume (or the act of putting on perfume) is all about smelling good and attracting the desired partner (ala Axe effect), or maybe they appreciate the subtle luxury that a bottle of Eau de Toilette can hold, but for Hershee Izell, fellow fraghead and fragrance enthusiasts, perfumes are a way of holding on to lasting memories. In a way, this is why she went through the laborious task of creating an original line, aptly named Cherish.
We caught up with Ms. Izell and asked her a few questions:
UNPACKED (UN): First of all congratulations on this endeavor. Was it nerve-racking?
HERSHEE IZELL (HI): Thanks! Yes, it was!!!
UN: What inspired you to create Cherish? Why perfume?
HI: First of all, I created Cherish for my mom because I miss her since she is away from us and I wanted to associate a sentiment that would remind me of her whenever I use it. Perfume, I believe, is the best medium to do that since perfumes triggers long-term memories.
I also like the sophistication of perfumes. I create other items that are geared towards ladies like gift cards and soaps but perfume, for me, is just luxuriously gorgeous and it can help express my personality better.
UN: Have you always had an affinity towards perfume and scents? Tell us your favorite perfume (besides Cherish, of course). Do you have a particularly favorite note?
HI: When I was a kid, I like putting cologne and scented powder, –Angel’s Breath, to be particular. I also love the small scented gel-thingie called ‘kisses’ and keep them in my pencil case until I was in highschool. I was using Johnson’s Powder Fresh and Angel’s Breath cologne up until high school. I like smelling fresh and clean!
When college hit, for some reason, I literally cannot stand fragrances all of a sudden. At that time, fragrance would just trigger my migraine. So I was scentless (and tried to be) for quite some time during those days. Maybe it was fatigue since I wasn’t as learned as I am now but it was only until my friend pulled me to different stores and outlets that my love for perfume resurfaced as I discovered there are so many beautiful perfumes!
One of my all-time favorite is Paris Hilton’s Heiress! This is an instant head-turner for guys. (To me at least) Heiress is alluring and sexy — something new that I discovered scents could do. So that pulled me deeper into exploring other fragrances.
My favorite notes would be Patchouli and Vanilla — both work amazingly well together–and some florals like Rose and Ylang Ylang. They are so relaxing and (sometimes) can give a romantic vibe.
UN: When creating a perfume, especially for a wider audience, are there any special considerations you took into account? Did you have to temper what you originally wanted so that a wider audience could appreciate the final product?
HI: Oh, definitely! Aside from my personal preference with the notes, I would ask close friends and colleagues their take and which among the sample scents are appealing and most interesting to them. The ones that have the highest vote would be taken into consideration before talking to the manufacturer and producing them in their actual sizes. Bottling and packaging is the same way.
For the overall composition, I first think about the character of the user and what may work with them…for Cherish I envisioned a very dainty feminine character. There’s boldness but there’s also innocence. Cherish is a fruity-woody scent with notes of tangerine and mango and vanilla in the opening. So there’s sweetness there before it settles on the boldness of ambergris and the subtle woody characteristics of cashmere wood. To add a unique feminine quality to the scent I had Iris added in as a “mystery” or special note.
UN: Most people feel that local perfumes would use cheaper perfume oils and ingredients. What’s your take on this and where did you source your ingredients?
HI: It doesn’t really matter whether a perfume is local or foreign. Quality is quality and that’s something that I discovered while going through this journey. I believe there are many sources of good oils here in the Philippines, I know that we’re one of the world’s source for elemi, but considering cost and sophistication in technology, I decided to source my ingredients in Europe: Germany to be specific. So, unlike other local boutique fragrances, Cherish is specially crafted, mixed and bottled in Germany. It’s a bit more challenging (due to higher custom fees and constant international communication) but the quality that you get is unparalleled!
UN: Will we see more creations from you in the future? A men’s line, perhaps?
HI: Yes, surely… I am looking forward in creating a perfume line for men. Maybe it would contain patchouli, one of my favorite notes, who knows? I’d love to work on a unisex scent, too, just to broaden people’s perspective of perfume. Something that’s a bit stronger for the usual woman market but a comes off a bit lighter for men’s. That would interesting, no?
We got our hands on a full bottle and will be sharing with you our thoughts and impressions soon. Cherish will be available starting tomorrow (September 10, 2016) at www.ladiesthingsbyhersheeizell.com for Php 3195. According to Hershee, she’s still working on collaborating with other retail shops and distribution networks here in the Philippines and hopefully (if the perfume becomes a success) could open it up to world-wide audience.
In the past couple of years, I have been obsessed with collecting various perfumes and fragrances. Back then I only had my staple Davidoff Cool Water in my collection and it wasn’t until fragrance super addict and managing partner of Ungeek, Colin Chan, opened my eyes to the wondrous world of perfume that I added perfume collecting to my list of hobbies. Hehe.
Current collection and growing! Yikes! Hehe.
This obsession lead me to explore Home Fragrances (cause it’s quite expensive to keep on spraying designer and niche perfumes all over your household). And while we found a couple of home fragrances that we liked, it’s still burning a significant amount on our monthly household budget.
This Nest Home Diffuser from Art of Scent Shangri-La costs around 2,000 up.
Thankfully, we were introduced to Mia Maison, a locally owned and grown Home Fragrance store that, apparently, has been in existence for 10 years now. It surprised us to learn as well that Colin is the presiding Creative Consultant for the group and he invited us to attend Mia Maison’s grand launch at the Manila Peninsula last Tuesday, June 21, 2017.
Salon De Ning was packed that afternoon
We learned that, through Mia’s ten-year journey, this is the first time that they are pouring their resources into Marketing and PR. It’s amazing that the brand decided to establish itself first, gathering loyal patrons and expanding steadily (they now have more than 60 stores nationwide – and franchising options), before they decided to put ads and create a launch event.
CEO and President of Mia Maison, Ms. Shirley Reyes and Host Ms. Issa Litton thank guests and open activity floor.
Celebrities and socialites attended the event (we felt really out of place!) but everyone was warm to everybody and we learned that a lot of them already knew of Mia Maison and jumped on the chance to take part in celebrating their 10th year in the business. My Home Magazine helped in organizing the amazing event and even had cool and quirky activities lined up for us.
The Creative Invite
Mia Maison’s campaign hinges on the concept of scent and how it triggers memory and imagination. Since perfume triggers our innate sense of memory and imagination, the personification of an “olfactory journey” led them to create the Home Fragrance company’s creative campaign handle: Home Destination.
The idea is to transform homes into destination places where one can experience a sense of travel through scents. To press the point further, they transformed four small rooms at the Salon De Ning into various travel destinations: Shanghai, Kyoto, Maldives, and Santorini.
Post cards link a particular scent to a place.
Each of these rooms are paired with a Mia Maison highlighted scent; Green Tea scent for Shanghai, Fresh Bamboo for Kyoto, Ocean Breeze for Maldives and Warm Cotton for Santorini. The scents, coupled with the ambiance and the unique activities per room created a rich experience that set us in the mood for travel!
This is the room in Salon de Ning with the big King Kong. He’s nowhere to be seen. Hehe.
This is where guests can get pampered with a back and foot massage while relaxing to Mia Maison’s Warm Cotton scent.
Paper Cranes and Ikebana Arrangements at the Shoe Room (Kyoto for the day).
Guests get to learn and create their own Japanese Flower arrangements underneath Mia’s Fresh Bamboo scent.
Shanghai Room is filled with 4 exotic green tea variants from TWG! Have the TWG tea masters pour you a cup or two!
The boxing room is transformed into an island paradise where one can enjoy these specially crafted tropical cocktails!
Celebrities and Personalities hangout here to just chill out with a cocktail or two at hand and Ocean Breeze scent all around.
Out of all the rooms, it was Maldives and Shanghai that really drew us in. The Shanghai room provided a TWG mini masterclass in Green Tea history with us sampling different green teas of varying flavors and intensity while Maldives gave us a chill moment to just sit back and sip on some delicious cocktails created just for that occasion called the Mia Maison (a unique tropical cocktail blend of Malibu Rum, Lychee, Guava juice and a touch of mint).
Toasting with the Mia Maison Cocktail–which Salon De Ning included in their regular drink menu! Cool!
Scent-wise, Green Tea is our current favorite followed by the mellowing comfort of Warm Cotton. We asked Colin what his favorite is and he sent us this photo.
I guess it reminded him too much of his super used Shanghai Tang Jade Dragon that he got himself one as well. :p
Ocean Breeze scent at the Maldives Room
All in all, the grand launch was an amazing welcome to our hectic work week and the Mia Maison Home Fragrance solutions is a welcome product in our homes and offices. Heck, for just under Php 680.00 for the 120ml Glass Diffuser (compared to 2000+ for imported brands), we can stock up and put one in every nook and cranny that we can find! We’ll definitely explore more from their selection (they have 13 scents currently).
For more info on Mia Maison, you can check them out at their Facebook Page and Instagram Account. They have the full list of stores as well so if you happen to pass by a stall, do check them out. You may find that perfect home destination (or two) as well. Congrats again on the launch, Mia, here’s to 10 more wonderfully smelling good years!