Bond No. 9 101-Five To Get You Started

There are few perfume houses as prolific as Laurice Rahme’s Bond No. 9. Since she founded it with sixteen fragrances based on New York City neighborhoods in 2003 there are currently over 70 Bond No. 9 fragrances to choose from. I am going to suggest five of those to start your exploration of this uniquely New York perfume house. Bond No. 9 has some exclusives for Saks Fifth Avenue and Harrod’s and I’m not including any from those collections because of their exclusivity. The main collection Bond No. 9 fragrances are some of the most accessible niche perfumes to be found and they should be easier to find than many other niche brands.

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Laurice Rahme

Chinatown is arguably the best perfume in the entire line. Perfumer Aurelien Guichard was a rising star in 2005 and his modern chypre underneath a soft fruity floral opening is incredible. If I was making a list of the best perfumes released post-2000 Chinatown would be near the top.

New Haarlem was one of two perfumes by perfumer Maurice Roucel for Bond No. 9, the other is Riverside Drive. M. Roucel creates an abstract version of a coffee gourmand fragrance. There is definitely coffee at the core but he adds in things no barista would think of like lavender and patchouli. The latter is really what turns New Haarlem into one of the better gourmand fragrances on the market.

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2010’s High Line by perfumer Laurent LeGuernec is inspired by the recaptured railroad line turned into urban green space in downtown New York. M. LeGuernec composed a fragrant sonnet to springtime and growing things. The opening freshly cut grass accord is joined by a fresh bouquet of spring flowers most notably tulips. This is all laid over a base accord of sun warmed concrete after a spring shower. The smell of nature in a big city setting makes High Line one of my favorite spring fragrances.

In 2007, Aurelien Guichard created Silver Bond (aka Andy Warhol Silver Factory) it is a sheer incense fragrance with a metallic twinge throughout. It opens with a very sheer citrus, lavender, and incense opening. A combination of violet and iris are used to enhance their sharper more metallic facets which adds the sort of weirdly artistic flourish to what could be a straightforward incense fragrance without it. The base notes go towards a much deeper incense vibe.

Success is the Essence of New York (aka Andy Warhol Success is a Job in New York) is a grown-up version of Calvin Klein Obsession for Men. Perfumer Claude Dir takes a softly spicy opening centered on cardamom into a floral accord of tuberose, rose, jasmine, and orris to fashion a depth form those notes without becoming cloying. The warm base of amber, vanilla, and patchouli serves to round this out.

If you’ve been itching to take a perfumed tour of New York courtesy of Bond No. 9; grab the olfactory subway and make your first stops on the five suggestions above.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of these fragrances I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Roja Parfums Nuwa- Chypre Redux

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Roja Dove is a tireless ambassador for all things fragrance. For over thirty years he has promoted the beauty of fragrance. He often tells the story of his mother kissing him goodnight, prior to going out for the evening, dressed in her cocktail dress and the sillage of her fragrance remaining in his room long after she left, comforting him. Over the last few years as he has produced his own line I always get the feeling he is attempting to make fragrance which will leave a lasting impression, too. The newest Roja Parfums Nuwa is Mr. Dove’s aesthetic writ large with supreme confidence.

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Roja Dove at Osswald Zurich

Mr. Dove’s beginnings were from 1981-2001 as Global Ambassador for Guerlain. He was immersed in what it meant to be Guerlain even without the surname. As I have experienced his own line, Roja Parfums, there are times you feel that it is Mr. Dove who is the standard bearer for interpreting and modernizing the classic perfume styles, arguably, Guerlain created and refined. Never has that felt as apparent to me as it does with Nuwa. Nuwa is a chypre, all in caps followed by multiple exclamation points. It is perfumery not often seen these days, unafraid to push limits and to pay homage to the past while challenging the wearer to embrace change.

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Nuwa Creating Man

The name, Nuwa, comes from multiple ancient Chinese texts where she is alternatively creator, mother, or goddess. In the press booklet Mr. Dove chooses the creator version where she is responsible for creating woman and man along with imbuing them with creativity and wisdom as well as introducing them to the arts. For the fragrance I interpret the name to mean a rebirth of the chypre using the experience and creativity of his lifetime to form a new chypre that feels old and new at the same time.

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Nude Couple by Lucien Clergue (1989)

Nuwa opens on a bergamot and lemon point of light. Enjoy it for the few moments it is there because the light is subsumed by deep notes and accords as Nuwa takes you into a fabulous darkness not for the timid. Rose holds the middle, in the heart, but the pungent blackcurrant bud and the maple syrup-like immortelle pierce the rose like twin blades. The blackcurrant bud takes the spicy facets and turns them a shade of deepest sticky green. The immortelle takes the sweetest floralcy and gives it a tactile depth not usually felt from rose. The heart oozes sensuality and it sets you up for the base which realizes it in carnality. Vetiver and oakmoss setup the classic chypre foundation over which Nuwa lays a lusty leather accord and full doses of cumin, black pepper, and clove. Together they combine to feel like the olfactory version of human consummation. This is what sexy means in a fragrance to me.

Nuwa has overnight longevity and above average sillage.

I think it will be easy to try Nuwa and think it smells like other classic chypres because it does hearken back to the traditional forms that is an all too easy surface impression. If you have the opportunity to spend a few days with it I think you will find the genius on display is not in the broad strokes but in the shading in between. Nuwa is so powerful it is easy to miss these subtleties. Like the goddess it is named after it is what comes after the creation that makes life worth living. Nuwa is everything that makes me love fragrance all over again.   

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Osswald NYC.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: HBO’s True Detective

I have often said we are living in a Golden Age of Perfumery because of the sheer breadth of artists working on making fragrance. When there are over 1300 new releases a year the chance for true artistry to exist within that large number is high. I also think we are living in a Golden Age of Television Drama for many of the same reasons. With 500 channels, and counting, to fill up with content; not including the streaming services like Netflix the chance for true artistry and vision to exist is high. Just before sitting down to write this I looked at my DVR to see the list of shows I record currently: The Walking Dead, The Good Wife, Masters of Sex, Homeland, Mad Men, Sherlock, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, The Americans, not to mention the recently completed Breaking Bad. Even with all of that I haven’t caught up to others which have been highly praised like Orange is the New Black and Boardwalk Empire. It feels just like the effort I have to make to keep up with new perfume releases, there just isn’t enough time to catch it all. If you are a fan of the great television currently going on I want to alert you to a fantastic new series on HBO called True Detective, it is among the best acting, writing, and directing on television I have ever seen.

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Woddy Harrelson as Marty Hart (l.) and Matthew Mcconaughey as Rust Cohle in 1995

True Detective is meant to be a seasonal anthology series like American Horror Story with each season containing one complete story. For this first season writer and creator Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Joji Fukunaga have created a story of two very different men and how the ritual murder of a woman affects them individually and as a team. The two actors at the heart of True Detective are giving stellar performances. Woody Harrelson as family man Marty Hart is about as far from his dim but lovable bartender on “Cheers” as can be. Matthew McConaughey is man with a past Rust Cohle newly assigned as Hart’s partner which is about as far from his happy stoner in “Dazed and Confused” as can be. Both actors have turned in memorable dramatic performances in the past but together in True Detective they are truly stepping it up to new heights.

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Nic Pizzolatto (Photo: Luis Sinco)

The story goes back and forth from Louisiana in 1995 as Hart and Cohle investigate the ritual murder of a young woman and 2012 where two new detectives interview them separately about the case. In 1995 both men are trying to find that common ground necessary to work together and having difficulty doing that. Hart is almost the clichéd family man detective having an affair but Mr. Pizzolatto has more to say about that as we see more of the underlying needs that make Hart tick. The reason that we see that is because Cohle unsettles him on multiple levels. He is smarter, is a better detective, and the only thing Hart has that Cohle doesn’t is a family.

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Mr. McConaughey as Cohle in 2012

The physical differences in Cohle as a younger man and older man are striking. As the 1995 Cohle Mr. McConaughey is gaunt and unrecognizable as the 2005 People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive. The 2012 version is a bit of Dazed and Confused Danny Wooderson, if viewed through a dark prism. The physical changes signal something different in the two time periods for Cohle. Woody Harrelson is physically unchanged but psychologically as different as Cohle looks physically. Mr. Harrelson lets that show in a wonderfully nuanced performance especially in the 2012 interview scenes.

Director Cary Fukunaga arrives at "Celebrate Sundance Institute" the Sundance Institute's inaugural benefit in Beverly Hills, California

Cary Joji Fukunaga (Photo: Reuters/ Gus Ruelas)

Halfway through the eight episodes True Detective has the atmosphere of the movie “Se7en” if it was seen as a Southern Gothic thriller. Mr. Fukunaga has used his framing to make some things uncomfortably close and other times the atmospherics seem as much a character as the protagonists. At the end of the fourth episode there is a six minute single take shot, called a tracking shot, of Cohle escaping a shootout that is as technically difficult to achieve as it sounds. One mistake and you have to go right back to the beginning; only the most skilled and confident attempt such a thing.

This group of four amazing artists are creating something memorable in this halcyon era of fantastic television. If you love great acting, writing, and directing add True Detective to your DVR or Netflix queue this is as good as it gets.

Mark Behnke

Providence Perfume Moss Gown Ad

Editor’s Note: I have been wearing a dab of Charna Ethier’s Providence Perfume Company Moss Gown to give me a bit of an olfactory soundtrack to go with the visual.

Discount Diamonds: Burberry London for Men- Drydown to Die For

The more invested one becomes in perfume the more one probably tends to be on the lookout for the next greatest thing. I am certainly guilty of that even though it is a large part of what makes me enjoy writing about fragrance. Now that I have my own blog I want to take some time to look back at some of my favorite fragrances from the past. In this series I am going to focus on those fragrances which are widely available for less than $50US. While you probably wouldn’t want a real diamond at discount prices these fragrances shine as brightly as others many times their price.

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Antoine Maisondieu

Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu is one of my favorite perfumers and his recent 2013 output for Comme des Garcons Blue Santal and Monocle Scent Three: Sugi, Bottega Veneta pour Homme, and Tom Ford Private Blend Shanghai Lily show the diversity of his aesthetic. My introduction to him as a perfumer came with my discovery of the first Etat Libre D’Orange releases back in 2006. M. Maisondieu, Antoine Lie, and Nathalie Feisthauer were the three perfumers behind the original eleven with M. Maisondieu composing five including Jasmin et Cigarette and Encens & Bubblegum. While those are amazing perfumes it is his other release in 2006 which is the Discount Diamond, Burberry London for Men.

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Burberry London for Men is one of my favorite cold weather fragrances it reminds me at the beginning of hot spiced mulled wine and while that is good by itself it is the drydown which makes this stand out for me. Whenever I answer an online poll about “your favorite drydown” Burberry London for Men is always one of my answers.

Burberry London for Men starts with a phase of lavender and bergamot which is quickly pushed aside by cinnamon, pepper, orange, and wine. I always see an imaginary warmed bowl of red wine with orange slices and cinnamon sticks floating on top when I wear this. A really nice leather accord signals the beginning of the transition to the basenotes. Tobacco, sweet and narcotic, is joined by guaiac wood, opoponax, and oakmoss. This combination just strums all of my pleasure centers and M. Maisondieu balances them precisely. It is in this last phase where Burberry London for Men lingers for the majority of the time I am wearing it.

Burberry London for Men has about 6-8 hours of longevity and below average sillage.

As I mentioned earlier this is one of my favorite sweater scents as it seems to really blossom underneath the wool covering as my body heat amplifies it. Burberry London for Men can be found for around $25US/ounce at a number of discounters.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle of Burberry London for Men I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ulrich Lang New York Aperture- Picture Perfect

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There have been a number of multi-disciplinary collaborations between fragrance and another art form. You can name excellent examples for almost any intersection of perfume and visual one can imagine. The most prevalent collaboration is that of photography and perfume. One of the earliest to take advantage of this was Ulrich Lang with his 2003 release Anvers. On the side of the box there was a cropped close-up of a man’s face in black and white. The accompanying fragrance was a thoroughly modern fougere with magnified aspects of that style of fragrance. Over the next three releases the picture on the side of the box would always prepare me, in a visual way, for what was inside.

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"Quiet" by Olivia Bee

When I saw the picture, above, by Olivia Bee, as I walked up to the Ulrich Lang New York booth at the February 2014 Elements Showcase I knew the fragrance that could match this photograph would be something interesting. When I got my first sniff of Aperture and looked again at the photo I realized the strip I was smelling was represented by the three distinct color bands in the photograph, The light purple top band is a spicy aldehydic top, the deep orange is represented by the glow of tobacco and the midnight blue is the depth of vetiver. The picture is an overture to the fragrance it accompanies.

The opening fizz of aldehydes is matched with a Technicolor pepper blend of pink pepper, white pepper, and black pepper. Even though three sources of pepper might sound overwhelming it is really a pinch of each to add some further energy to the aldehydes and to attenuate the hairspray character they sometimes have. Tobacco flares to life on a cedar foundation which smolders like a glowing ember in the heart. The base notes collaborate with the tobacco and cedar as vetiver adds its woodiness and for a good while Aperture persists as a smoky vetiver accord. The final touch is to add musk, civet, and ambergris to add further depth to the smoke and wood.

Aperture has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

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Ulrich Lang (Photo: Eric Swain)

Mr. Lang has become more widely known, perhaps, for his founding and expansion of the Elements Showcase. Which sometimes makes it easy to overlook his talent when it comes to his line of perfume. Aperture is the fifth Ulrich Lang New York fragrance and it is the best fragrance from this line to date. That is truly the test, if a perfume house manages to continually rise to new heights with each new release. In the case of Aperture the sky seems to be the limit for Mr. Lang.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from Ulrich Lang New York at the Elements Showcase in February 2014.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: A portion of the proceeds of Aperture will go to the Aperture Foundation to support their educational programs.

The Gold Standard: Rose- Guerlain Nahema

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One of the more frequent questions I get is, “What’s your favorite ______ fragrance?” In the beginning I used to give an answer like there are too many of those fragrances for me to have a favorite. Over the past couple of years I’ve realized that isn’t entirely true. I realize when I have a truly great fragrance in front of me I am consciously comparing it to another fragrance I think is the best of that note or class. With The Gold Standard I am going to answer the question on my favorite fragrance of a particular note or style. With Valentine’s Day coming up at the end of the week it seems like Rose is a good place to start.

nahema bottle

I think from the moment I smelled Guerlain Nahema, sometime in the 1980’s, it became my baseline rose fragrance. In those days I didn’t have the right description but the advance of technology has given me the exact descriptor for Nahema; High Definition Rose. I remember right after HD came out and I went out and got my first HD television and I watched the BBC series Planet Earth It all seemed so lifelike and there was depth in that clarity. That is exactly what Nahema feels like to me. It is HD in olfactory form.

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Nahema was released in 1979 and after a prodigious advertising campaign it never caught fire with the perfume buying public. There have been a number of post-mortems on that claiming Nahema to be “avant-garde”, “ahead of its time”, or just plain “too weird”. In that time and place all of those criticisms were probably valid. Most of the popular rose fragrances we laud have happened since 2000. In 1979 rose was considered to be an “older woman’s” choice. Jean-Paul Guerlain clearly was trying to bring rose back to the younger demographic but in 1979 they clearly weren’t interested.

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I remember smelling it in the Guerlain boutique at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida and being captivated by the complex rose I was encountering. It had the silky smooth core with the green of the stem and thorn lurking in the background. It was as close to a reconstruction of a single rose handed to us by M. Guerlain as could be. When I broke it down hyacinth added a dewy quality to the top notes before the rose comes to the forefront like a tight bud blooming right in front of me. A few balsamic notes, some tonka and a bit of vanilla soften the subtle green woody aspects which coincide with the rose. I had always assumed M. Guerlain used a high quality rose oil as his core, or did he?

In the book “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide” by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez; Mr. Turin makes the provocative claim, in his 5-star review of Nahema, that M. Guerlain used no rose at all in its composition. What!? After reading this I pulled out my bottle and sprayed it on trying to detect the threads of this rose accord. I was unable to find a thread to start pulling on which would make this accord unravel to my analytical probing. If M. Guerlain was able to pull off this best of all rose fragrances without using rose that would be incredible. I hope someday someone at Guerlain will let us know the truth of this story.

The current formulation of Nahema, as the Eau de Parfum, is essentially unchanged from when I first encountered it. The extrait version is spectacular and is also worth seeking out especially if you are a rose lover.

Guerlain Nahema is the Gold Standard when it comes to rose fragrances to which I compare everything else to.

Disclosure: this review was based on a bottle of Nahema EdP I purchased and a sample of the Nahema extrait supplied by the Guerlain boutique in Palm Beach, Florida.

Mark Behnke

Boot or Reboot: Jean Patou Chaldee 1927/1984 & 2013

For those who read last week’s Boot or Reboot on Patou pour Homme I can understand if you might be unsure about my confidence in perfumer Thomas Fontaine’s ability as the keeper of the Jean Patou flame in the 21st Century. Patou pour Homme was a good opening statement if not entirely successful in recreating the original. My confidence really comes from M. Fontaine’s work on the 2013 version of Chaldee.

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1930 Ad for Huile de Chaldee

In 1927, Chaldee was the fourth fragrance released by Jean Patou. It sprang up from another Jean Patou product Huile de Chaldee which was meant to be used a suntan oil, as “sun culture” was just coming into its own in the late 1920’s. Suntan oil in those early days was just castor oil and so Jean Patou asked their perfumer Henri Almeras to add something to the castor oil to make it smell nice. After its launch they found women wearing it even when they weren’t in the sun because they liked the smell and so M. Almeras designed the perfume version simply named Chaldee.

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1984 Ma Collection Jean Patou Chaldee

The original Chaldee was a mix of orange blossom, narcissus, and vanilla predominantly over a musky base meant to evoke sun warmed skin. When you sniff the 1927 or the re-released 1984 Ma Collection version it is mostly the deep musky aspects which predominate. My small sample of 1927, or so, Chaldee and my Ma Collection bottle both smell very similar so I am guessing that somewhere after around 20-30 years of aging the oils have hit their steady state. That is something that should always be taken into account when doing these comparisons. Any vintage fragrance has had tens of years to continue to evolve. In essence it has continued to macerate in the bottle which means it has changed somewhat. This was especially brought home to me when Patricia de Nicolai of the Osmotheque shared with me their freshly made versions of vintage perfumes. There is an essential brightness that is lost upon aging for an extended period of time, although an extra level of depth is probably commonly added. Which brings me to the new version of Chaldee.

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Jean Patou Chaldee 2013

For the 2013 version of Chaldee M. Fontaine retained the core trio from the original of orange blossom, narcissus, and vanilla. What is different is the narcissus has a much more pronounced presence. Narcissus is one of my favorite floral notes in all of perfumery and its enhanced prominence adds an intensity to the heart of the 2013 version which doesn’t exist in either of the vintage versions. M. Fontaine also adds a pinch of lilac which makes the new version feel fresher. The base is opopanax and vanilla as in the original but the musky aspect never hits the depths it does in the original. Here is where M. Fontaine makes a truly ingenious decision. Instead of trying to plumb the same depths that the original Chaldee did he lets the 2013 version add some musky aspects and then before going deeper he asks the 2013 version to hold that lesser intensity through to the end.

In this battle I am extremely surprised to be choosing the Reboot over the Boot. One reason is I think this new version is more truly close in style to its suntan oil beginnings. M. Fontaine shows an understanding of its history and the 2013 version smells like something I would smell on a beach or next to the pool. When I smell my vintage versions I’ve always giggled a bit at the thought of a beach full of women smelling like Chaldee on a summer’s day. The 2013 version feels like it easily could be seen like that. This singular achievement has me excited for M. Fontaine’s future efforts because I think he gets what it means to be a Jean Patou fragrance and with the restrictions placed on him by IFRA I think he is the best person to try and revive my beloved Jean Patou.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample of 1927 Chaldee, a bottle of 1984 Chaldee I purchased; and a sample of 2013 Chaldee from Aus Liebe zum Duft.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: There is also a 2013 version of 1976’s Eau de Patou and it is also very well done. If I was going to do a Boot or Reboot on that it would be another very close call for Boot but M. Fontaine keeps making me think about it.

Perfumer Rewind: Jean-Claude Ellena’s 1988- Maxim’s pour Homme & Balenciaga Rumba

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Some of our greatest niche perfumers have a fascinating history prior to the aesthetic we know them best for. In Perfumer Rewind I am going to look into some of my favorite current perfumer’s past creations and look for interesting moments of their development. The first perfumer to get this treatment is Jean-Claude Ellena and the year I am rewinding to is 1988 when he was responsible for two launches Maxim’s pour Homme and Balenciaga Rumba.

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Jean-Claude Ellena

Ask anyone today to describe a Jean-Claude Ellena fragrance and the words minimalist or luminous will likely be the two most common descriptors used. As the in-house nose at Hermes M. Ellena has perfected a style that speaks volumes with few notes. The “Un Jardin” series and the Hermessences are perfect examples of the style he has evolved into. The earliest complete signpost of that style was 1993’s Bvlgari Eau Parfumee au The Vert. What I find completely fascinating was in 1988, after a five year absence of releases, M. Ellena returns with two huge powerhouse fragrances that are as far from what anyone would describe as an Ellena style fragrance.

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Maxim’s pour Homme was done after Pierre Cardin had bought the rights to the French restaurant Maxim’s, in 1988, with the intention of turning it into a worldwide chain. What was even more interesting was the beginning of building this brand was going to be a men’s fragrance. Pierre Cardin contracted Givaudan to do the fragrance and they assigned M. Ellena. Maxim’s pour Homme begins with classic lavender and clary sage with some bergamot. The heart of Maxim’s pour Homme is where you get the hint of what will become a M. Ellena trademark as he combines geranium, muguet, and rose. Those three notes were often huge sledgehammers of scent in that era but in Maxim’s pour Homme they are so restrained they almost get lost between the top notes and the base notes. As a result the heart only lasts for a few minutes but it is like peering into a crystal ball of what will be as they are perfectly balanced to create an airy beautiful floral character. This character would get refined a lot over the years to become the core of many of M. Ellena’s creations almost twenty years later. The base is leathery musky chypre with patchouli, oakmoss, amber, musk, cedar, and vanilla. The base is classic 1980’s masculine perfume trope. M.Ellena probably didn’t want to rock the boat too much at this point in his career so he played it safe at the top and the base but if you pay attention to the heart you will see the indications of where his true aesthetic lies.

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Balenciaga Rumba was a co-creation of M. Ellena and Ron Winnegrad. Like Maxim’s pour Homme it is one particular phase that gives us the insight into M. Ellena’s evolving style. Rumba starts with a fusillade of fruit as peach, raspberry, and plum roar out of the atomizer. Fruity florals were just coming into style and so to go with all of that fruit a full set of florals including jasmine, magnolia, tagete, gardenia, and most prominently, tuberose. This opening is so heady and narcotic it is off-putting these days but in 1988 with Chrisitan Dior Poison the fragrance du jour it almost seems restrained. Then as if a light switch is thrown Rumba turns into this fantastic dry incense. Labdanum is the main resinous source with styrax playing a supporting role with its leathery quality. Amber and vanilla add a bit of warm sweetness to the arid resinous aspect. For those who love the Hermessence Ambre Narguile you will recognize the base of Rumba as the Neanderthal version of that fragrance. The drydowns of Rumba and Ambre Narguile are very similar with the tobacco of Ambre Narguile being the major difference as well as sixteen years added experience.

M. Ellena would continue with similar styles to Maxim’s pour Homme and Rumba with Hermes Amazone, Rochas Globe, and Jitrois Paris until that inflection point in 1993 with Bvlgari Eau Parfume au The Vert began the style we most commonly associate with M. Ellena.

Maxim’s pour Homme and Balenciaga Rumba are still available through a number of internet resellers and auction sites for pretty reasonable prices.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles of Maxim’s pour Homme and Balenciaga Rumba I purchased.  

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Francis Kurkdjian Ciel de Gum- From Russia With Love

With the Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia seemingly on every channel I feel immersed in Russia and all things Russian. One thing very Russian is the GUM department store which celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2013. For the occasion perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, under his Maison Francis Kurkdjian line, designed a GUM exclusive fragrance in honor of that milestone, Ciel de Gum.

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GUM Building in 1893

Ciel de Gum is another perfumer’s take on what a store’s characteristics are turned into fragrant form. The press materials that go along with this say it is meant to be “a creation worked like haute couture”. I actually thought of it in a different light going back to the beginning of GUM. GUM wasn’t a department store at its beginnings, in 1893, but was instead the GUM building which housed numerous independent stores selling everything a Nineteenth Century fin de siècle shopper could want. GUM at this point was more like a modern shopping mall on three levels than a department store. Ciel de Gum captures a number of the different smells I imagine might have drifted from the different sellers. A bit of spice, some fresh roses or a jasmine scented eau de parfum, some leather goods, a sweet vanilla from a bakery.

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Francis Kurkdjian

M. Kurkdjian opens Ciel de Gum with cinnamon and pink pepper which instead of working together to amplify the piquant nature of both instead seems to have the opposite effect. Both the cinnamon and pink pepper seem like they are shadows of their normal self found in many other fragrances. It adds a delicacy to both notes that isn’t normally found. I found it had the effect of drawing me inward until I found something with some more heft to it. In Ciel de Gum that brings you to a duet of jasmine and rose in the heart. The rose is the anchor for the jasmine which is what eventually predominates although early on they are more equal in impact. A leather accord arrives after the florals and eventually it settles down to a beautiful amber warmed vanilla.

Ciel de Gum has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

When it comes to these, in essence city exclusives, I really don’t want to start a desire for most who can’t get access to them. The unfortunate truth is Ciel de Gum is the best Maison Francis Kurkdjian release since 2012’s Oud. It shows all of the best qualities of M. Kurkdjian’s skills as a perfumer. This is so good I waited to write about it until it became available through some of the reputable decant websites. I have been wearing Ciel de Gum on and off for the last six weeks and it is one of those fragrances I think is worth the effort to try especially if you are a fan of M. Kurkdjian’s style of perfumery.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample sent to me from Russia. I have recently bought a decant from Surrender to Chance.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Salinger (The Documentary)

One of my favorite parts of the Sunday newspaper is the magazine section. I have been lucky to live in great newspaper towns where this Sunday section was a weekly omnibus covering the world. While I want Colognoisseur to be focused on the World of Fragrance Monday through Saturday, on Sunday I want to share with my readers some of the other things I am passionate about. What you will see through all of these is my fascination with the creative process. For this first Sunday I want to talk about the recent documentary on J.D. Salinger.

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Shane Salerno

At the end of January PBS’ American Masters aired their 200th episode, the documentary Salinger directed by Shane Salerno. Mr. Salerno is best known as a screenwriter for the movies “Armageddon” and “Savages”. His current gig is co-writing “Avatar 4” with James Cameron. Mr. Salerno’s fascination with author J.D. Salinger came about after he optioned the film rights to Paul Alexander’s “Salinger” biography back in 2000. He wanted to see if he could attract Daniel Day-Lewis into playing Salinger and had heard that Mr. Day-Lewis wanted to have as much research on the real life subjects he would play before considering a role. This was what started Mr. Salerno down the path of gathering information about the notoriously reclusive author.

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J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger is known to almost all who passed through American High Schools and Universities as the author of “Catcher in the Rye”. It is an evergreen classic and I mark it as one of the best written books I have ever read. “Catcher in the Rye” was published in 1951 and it made Salinger into a star of the literary world. He would release a couple of short story collections and with the publication of the novella “Hapworth 16, 1924” in The New Yorker he stopped publishing. In 1953 he bought a farmhouse in Cornish, New Hampshire and after that last story in 1965 that was where he lived out his life until his death in 2010.

J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger writing "Catcher in the Rye" Photo: The Story Factory/Paul Fitzgerald

Mr. Salerno’s documentary fills in many of the blank spaces in Mr. Salinger’s life. Starting with his experiences in World War II.  As part of a counter-intelligence division he landed on Normandy Beach on D-Day, was part of the notorious firefights at the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. In the documentary there is a description of him hugging a tree during the latter battle while explosions and bullets rained down around him. By the latter days of the war his division would liberate one of the Dachau sub-camps. During all of this he was writing “Catcher in the Rye” in the down times. The documentary shows the only known picture of him writing on a portable desk while in uniform. The documentary proposes that by the time Salinger returned to the US he was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in a time where that term hadn’t yet been coined. One of his comrades in arms was interviewed for the documentary and he said that there are still days for him where artillery goes off in his front yard or living room. Considering he shared Salinger’s experiences it is reasonable to expect Salinger was also traumatized.

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The way this played out in Salinger’s life was his unhealthy obsession with very young girls, teenagers. The documentary spends time with two of these girls; the more well-known Joyce Maynard who wrote a book about her time with Salinger and Jean Miller who he began a relationship with when she was 14 and he was 30. The common threads to both stories were chilling and I found myself seeing Salinger almost as predatory. Ms. Maynard described, as her time was waning, Salinger had started the same pattern with a young au pair which made her know the end was near. This reminded me of the description of Lyndon Baines Johnson by the biographer Robert Caro as having a tapestry in which the brightest threads were laid next to the darkest threads. Salinger was a brilliant writer with a darkness that played out in his obsession with teenage girls.

The other constant throughout the documentary was that Salinger was writing every day for all of these years. Some of the interviewed subjects saw finished manuscripts. At the end of the documentary it claims that starting in 2015 we will be getting five new works by Salinger. One of them will flesh out the Holden Caulfield family history and another the Glass family featured in “Franny & Zooey”. The one I am most interested in after seeing the documentary is a World War II based novel about a counter-intelligence agent’s war experiences. Salinger also was an adherent to Vedanta and one of the new novels is said to be a story-driven manual of Vedantic principles and finally a novella about Salinger’s war experiences. One of the people in the documentary says if these do get published they would go right to No. 1 on the best seller lists. As if to prove this point two days after this documentary aired on PBS “Catcher in the Rye” shot to No. 1 for the first time.

I admire Mr. Salerno’s persistence in tracking down many of the people who Salinger knew and to get them to speak on the record. His reward was a chance to actually see Salinger when he was told to be in Cornish at a specific place and time. The video they took was of a white-haired man smiling and laughing behind a car window. I hope Salinger had finally found some peace in the final days of his life. I know I am very much looking forward to these new works and will be one of those lining up to read them as soon as they are released.

Salinger is available through Netflix or check your local PBS Station Listings for a replay of American Masters.

Mark Behnke