My Favorite Things: Sandalwood

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For this installment of My Favorite Things I’m going to name my five favorite sandalwood perfumes. Sandalwood as a fragrance note is one of the more frequently used ingredients especially as a base note. Most of the sandalwood you encounter in these fragrances is synthetic. There original source of real sandalwood oil in the mid-20th century was from Mysore in India. It was sadly over harvested and is now protected. This caused perfumers to work with both synthetics and alternative sources of sandalwood from Australia and New Caledonia. Nothing has adequately replaced real Mysore sandalwood but the five fragrances below are special sandalwood perfumes on their own basis.

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Chanel Bois des Iles– When Ernest Beaux originally created Bois des Iles in 1926 I am reasonably certain it was full of Mysore sandalwood. When Jacques Polge brought it back for the Exclusif line it is said there isn’t a drop of sandalwood at all in the reformulation. I’ve smelled vintage and the Exclusif side by side and accounting for age M. Polge has pulled off one of the great olfactory illusions, ever.

Diptyque Tam Dao– Perfumers Daniele Moliere and Fabrice Pellegrin create a sandalwood fragrance in three acts. Act one is sandalwood and rosewood which is liltingly fragile. The second act adds clean cedar to make the sandalwood equally delineated. Act three takes ambergris as a foundation to accentuate the sweet qualities of sandalwood. For many people this is the gateway to loving sandalwood as a fragrance.

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Dries van Noten par Frederic Malle– Frederic Malle claimed in the press materials that this is the same species of sandalwood as Mysore but grown in a sustainable way. I have my doubts but perfumer Bruno Jovanovic keeps it simple using saffron, jasmine, and vanilla to frame the sandalwood gorgeously. Who cares where it came from?

Sonoma Scent Studio Cocoa Sandalwood– Perfumer Laurie Erickson wanted to make an all-natural perfume for her line and Cocoa Sandalwood was the first in this series. She takes New Caledonian Sandalwood and wraps it in spices and dusts it with arid cocoa powder. When people tell me natural perfume can’t have depth and richness I hand them my bottle of this to end that conversation.

Xerjoff Richwood– When I want my sandalwood straight with no chaser this is the one I reach for. Perfumer Jacques Flori uses real Mysore sandalwood at the heart and cassis, rose, and patchouli are present. Those three notes really just serve to draw out the complexity of the real thing. I think it is the single best sandalwood fragrance I own.

These are a few of my favorite sandalwoods but there are a couple I would have included if they weren’t discontinued; Crabtree & Evelyn Sandalwood and Amouage Sandal Attar. If you love sandalwood both of these are worth the effort of seeking them out through online sources.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Hayari Parfums Le Paradis de L’Homme & Only for Him- Couture for the Nose

Designer perfumes can be a tricky undertaking. By putting their name on a fragrance label the fashion designer is trusting the fragrance team to interpret the couture into the olfactory. It is by its nature a very hit or miss proposition. It gets even harder for me if I know the fashion designer and admire their clothing. Nabil Hayari is one of those designers who creates incredibly detailed pieces of fashion which are regularly seen on red carpets and on the bride at weddings. Along with the detail there is often cutouts and sheer panels to add a sensual nature to the fashion design. So when I see the name Hayari on a fragrance what I want is detail and texture mixed with sensuality. For the two newest releases from Hayari Parfums, Le Paradis de L’Homme and Only for Him, I got exactly that.

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Nabil Hayari (r.) and I at Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2013

Le Paradis de L’Homme was signed by Dorothee Piot who previously did Goldy for Her in the Hayari line. This is about as straightforward a perfume architecture as one can ask for it is woods and leather. What sets it apart is Mme Piot’s choices to add textural context to this simple design. First there are no real top notes meant to linger for a while and dissipate. Le Paradis de L’Homme starts with light woody notes of redwood and cedar. To add something to the stark woodiness Mme Piot uses the greener aspects of papyrus and vetiver to wrap them in a bit of gauzy green from the papyrus and a silky green from the vetiver. That both of these predominantly green notes also have a woody underpinning allows them to be woven seamlessly into the early woods. The leather accord comes next and it also melts right into the greenish woods and creates a really beautiful intersection as the leather enhances different details. Eventually sandalwood and musk add the sensual finish to Le Paradis de L’Homme.

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Cecile Zarokian wearing Hayari at Esxence 2014

Only for Him was composed by Cecile Zarokian and captures M. Hayari’s heritage as he was born in Algeria but works in Paris fashion. His designs may have a label which says “Made in France” but in small print it should also say “Inspired in Algeria”. Only for Him also unabashedly has one foot in France and the other in Algeria. Mme Zarokian takes a Mediterranean citrus mélange and spices it up with a pinch of black pepper. She also uses elemi to add a bit of citrus tinged resinous depth to the top notes. The heart is a very Parisian verdant floral boutonniere of jasmine and muguet also draped in green notes of papyrus and an herbal patchouli. This time they are there to butch the florals up a bit and make them less overtly floral. The base is all oriental as amber, benzoin and vetiver provide the foundation for guaiac and cedar all of this is set over a musk laden finish.

Le Paradis de L’Homme and Only for Him have 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Both of these perfumes capture the spirit of M. Hayari’s fashion. Both Mme Piot and Mme Zarokian each illuminate a different part of what makes that fashion unique. This time the perfume matches the couture beautifully.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Hayari Parfums.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Kenneth Cole Mankind- Department Store Differencemaker

About once a month I take a field trip to the local mall and stroll through the fragrance counters at the major department stores. It is a valuable experience for me to find out what is selling, to see the influence of trends, and to try whatever is new since my last visit. The department store fragrance counter has become a fairly monolithic collection of fruity florals and sport fragrances. The sales associates are pretty used to my blank stare as I am handed a strip and smell the tropes that are endemic to this segment of the market. It is because of this sameness to the fragrances being sold which makes something different stand out. So when I went on my field trip at the beginning of this month I was surprised to find the new Kenneth Cole Mankind is one of those which separates itself from the crowd.

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Claude Dir

Perfumer Claude Dir under the creative direction of Jennifer Mullarkey has somehow created a department store fragrance which trends towards being as quirky off-beat as any niche entry. If I handed you this note list: cardamom, pineapple, ginger, cinnamon, tarragon, sandalwood, vetiver, oakmoss, tonka bean, and musk; I would bet the department store isn’t where you would look first. Ms. Mullarkey is one of the more accomplished creative directors in the masstige area because she isn’t afraid to take risks in a risk averse situation. For Mankind she collaborated with M. Dir on a top notch fragrance that feels like an oddity with its weird green quality and spice.

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Jennifer Mullarkey

Mankind follows the blueprint of many commercial fragrances to grab you with the top notes. M.Dir using cardamom and ginger, while not common, has shown up here and there. The pineapple is what really makes the opening feel not quite as boring as most of its neighbors on the fragrance counter. The cardamom persists and the cinnamon intensifies the spiciness and then the tarragon completely transforms Mankind. It adds a really deep herbal green quality which along with the spices turns the middle development into a different shade of green than you normally find here. This stays on my skin like this for a long while and it seems to have a number of subtle qualities which are nudged along by vetiver and oakmoss for a while. It finally settles down into that typical combo of musks and woods typical in this sector.

Mankind has all day longevity but the interesting parts last for about 4-6 hours. The sillage is above average.

Mankind is a surprising department store fragrance and worth a try. It is definitely one of the best new things I’ve tried an all of my field trips for this year, so far. Next time you’re in your local mall give it a try I think you might be surprised at what you find.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Macy’s

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Candy Crush Saga

I have been a gamer all of my life. From playing Dungeons and Dragons for an entire weekend in the 70’s. Live Action Role Playing with boffer swords and my Wizard’s cloak in the 80’s. Magic:The Gathering throughout the 90’s. Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing games in the Naughts. It is funny how technology has transformed my gaming experience. These days most of my gaming is done on my smartphone. My current favorite, which I’ve been playing for 7 months, is the massive success in the gaming industry called Candy Crush Saga.

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Candy Crush Saga is what is called a “Match-3” puzzle game. When you match three, or more, pieces of the same shape or color they are removed from the board and others drop into place to replace the matched shapes. In Candy Crush you are matching candies. In the original versions of Match-3 games like Bejeweled it was an 8X8 grid which never changed. One of the ingenious wrinkles added in Candy Crush is the puzzle aspect and the different shaped grids. Each level has a specific goal for you to reach, score a certain amount of points in a time limit or alternatively within a certain amount of moves. The tasks get more challenging as you move higher in levels and the game offers you greater challenges by adding new impediments. It makes for a fun gaming experience that can be played while waiting in line at the grocery store or for longer sessions at your leisure.

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Level 285

Candy Crush Saga has been one of the biggest success in what is called mobile gaming. I know when I ride the bus to work I notice a lot of my fellow riders playing and based on the number of Facebook friends I have playing it has penetrated every age group I know. One of my favorite conversations at Esxence was a Candy Crush strategy session with a very famous perfumer who is also one of my Facebook friends. The game is casual but addicting. I am currently on level 547 out of 575 available.

I like it because of the portability of it. By having it on my smartphone whenever I feel like playing it is there for me. Each single game takes a minute or so and over the course of a day I can play a dozen games just in the time I am waiting for something. It has made plane flights and train rides go by in a flash. It is just the right amount of challenge without the time commitment other forms of gaming require.

It is still amazing to me that what used to take a whole weekend at a friend’s house 40 years ago, for a D&D module, has evolved to minute size bites of the same fun available in my pocket at a moment’s notice. There are many wonderful technological advancements much more important but for my personal joy none are much bigger.

Mark Behnke

Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2014 Preview

One of the things about writing about the world of fragrance is my calendar tends to have some important events that mark each season. None of these events is more enjoyable to me than the twice-yearly event known as Sniffapalooza. Sniffapalooaza was created, and continues to be run, by Karen Adams and Karen Dubin. They are affectionately referred to as The Karens within the industry and among perfume aficionados. The Karens began as one of the latter but over the years the impact of Sniffapalooza has made them part of the overall industry. That being said they have never lost the enthusiasm for perfume that led them to create this event, and it shows.

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Karen Adams (l.) and Karen Dubin

Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2014 will take place on Saturday and Sunday May 3 & 4, 2014 in New York City. It begins with breakfast at Bergdorf-Goodman where we are greeted every year by the fabulous Tom Crutchfield of Roja Perfumes who ushers us through the empty store down to the café. This is the beginning of the scenes which get repeated at every Sniffapalooza as perfumed friends re-connect and those who we might have only known through Facebook or a perfume forum is standing there in real life. The morning is jam-packed as every line in Bergdorf Goodman presents their latest and greatest. Once we are done we spend time on the beauty floor getting better acquainted with our favorites.

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Tom Crutchfiled at Fall Ball 2011

Lunch is an opportunity for presentations from a varied roster representing almost every corner of the fragrance world. I will have the great opportunity to introduce Colognoisseur to this audience. After lunch we visit Henri Bendel and Krigler Perfumery at The Plaza, and finish day one at Molton Brown.

After a night of sleep we gather for more sniffing downtown at Osswald. This is followed by visits to two new fragrance initiatives that are very exciting to me. The Fragrance Republ!c is a subscription service and community which produces a new perfume every month for their subscribers. The Scentsorium is the brick and mortar home to Sue Phillips who has spent years teaching classes to enthusiasts on how to make their own bespoke perfume. Now there is a place where this can happen any day. Then my favorite part of Sniffapalooza comes next the lunch called Emerging Artists Uncorked where new indie perfumers present their creations. I was so enthusiastic about this The Karens have allowed me to be the keynote speaker and MC of the lunch. I love the opportunity to share the best new indie fragrance with this group.

The final part is free form wandering in The Fragrance District downtown as we visit MiN New York, Diptyque, Le Labo, and Atelier Cologne. Over the rest of the afternoon we share our last moments together and the best smelling group of people board various modes of transportation back home. I will be covering everything from this year’s Spring Fling right here on Colognoisseur. Viva La Sniffa, Baby!

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews CB I Hate Perfume Rare Flowers Narcissus, Jasmine Sambac, and Tuberose- Soliflores Unplugged

2014 will be a year of change for perfumer Christopher Brosius and his CB I Hate Perfume brand. The biggest change is a change of location; still in Brooklyn and a little further east. Mr. Brosius has been busy getting everything back together in the new shop but not so busy that there isn’t something new to try.

The first releases of 2014 are a collection of six soliflores called Rare Flowers. Mr. Brosius says about the collection, on his website, “In all fairness, I cannot claim responsibility for these fragrances. Nature provided these gems. I merely polished and set them.” The concept is each one is a single floral absolute which has been isolated by enfleurage or solvent-extraction. Both of these processes are lengthy efforts requiring patience and skill to pull off. What has ended up in each bottle is a soliflore which allows the wearer rare insight into the floral notes they might think they know so well. For me the most illuminating experience came from three of them: Narcissus, Jasmine Sambac, and Tuberose. These are among my favorite floral notes and the opportunity to try them on their own opened my nose to nuances I hadn’t previously been aware of.

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Christopher Brosius

Narcissus is probably second only to violet as my personal favorite floral fragrance. Narcissus is the keynote of many of my very favorite perfumes and this was the Rare Flower I was most excited to try. What I smelled at first was damp earth. I almost thought someone had switched bottles with Mr. Brosius’ Dirt he did for Demeter. This was not what I expected. The soft green quality that seemed to come next was what I expected as it is that quality of narcissus I like so much when part of a perfume. By itself the green is more astringent but the softness is apparent the longer it stayed on my skin. It eventually matures into its full floralcy and that is the narcissus I am most familiar with.  

Jasmine Sambac is a very familiar, and ubiquitous note, in perfumery. I personally like it when it is at its most natural with the “dirty” smelling indoles allowed to contrast with the sweetness of the bloom. This Rare Flower is all that I just described as the skanky indoles swagger off my skin before the beautiful floral quality catches up. But instead of the freshness taking over a natural balance is struck and both co-exist in a twitchy harmony. Jasmine Sambac was the most like wearing a perfume as there was a real sense of development to this on the days I wore it. 

If when I say “Tuberose” your answer is “Eek!” it is not surprising because it is the keynote of some of the bawdiest white floral perfumes on the market. When I smelled the Rare Flower Tuberose I think I expected this olfactory explosion but I got exactly the opposite. Tuberose comes off so very restrained in this form. I have always thrilled to the mentholated quality tuberose has in those perfumes where it is featured and in this soliflore that quality is here but it carries a fragility to it that was wholly unexpected. The same goes for the rest of the experience as Tuberose as a Rare Flower is much more of a wallflower requiring you to come draw her out to discover her pleasures.

The experience of smelling the Rare Flowers collection reminded me of the old MTV show “Unplugged” where an artist would perform their songs acoustically stripping away all of the sound effects and leaving the listener to consider the real heartbeat of the music. In the case of Narcissus, Jasmine Sambac, and especially Tuberose I have listened to their heartbeat through an olfactory stethoscope. It will make me consider them differently the next time I encounter them in the body of a fragrance.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples from CB I Hate Perfume.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: for those in the New York City area the Grand Opening of the new CB I Hate Perfume Studio will take place Saturday April 26, 2014 from 2-6PM at 318 Maujer St, Brooklyn, NY. If you go to the new studio everything will be 10% off that day, only in store.

New Perfume Review Etat Libre d’Orange Cologne- The Nice Side of The Rogue

One of the great pleasures of the recent Esxence in Milan was my first opportunity to meet Etienne de Swardt, the owner and creative director of Etat Libre d’Orange. As he calls himself on the website “Troublemaker & Perfumer”. He is most definitely one of the Bad Boys of perfume and that is his charm. While speaking with him I felt there was always a barely suppressed laugh behind his smile. He is definitely in on the joke, he is actually the joker incarnate. As we sat down for him to show me the latest releases I was ready for the typically double entendre name followed, usually, by a perfume that is very good to spectacular. He slid across the table a brochure which had this on the front, “We’ve given you decadent, we’ve given you outrageous and now we give you nice.” This is the tag line for the new Cologne (A Nice Scent).

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Etienne de Swardt

M. de Swardt told me this was the fragrance he would like to use as the gateway fragrance to the rest of the collection. Because of the style of that collection this is not a trivial task. He asked perfumer Alexandra Kosinski to collaborate with him on Cologne. As I’ve written about previously we really are in the middle of a Colognaissance and Cologne fits right into this reinvention of the venerable form. Mme Kosinski goes with a spine of citrus/floral/animalic but it is done in a very Etat Libre d’Orange way. Yes Cologne is nice but way down underneath it all lurks the rogue who sticks his head up at the very end.

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Alexandra Kosinski

While cologne as a perfume architecture is pretty straightforward what separates the newer modern colognes is the choices made to fill out that architecture. For Cologne Mme Kosinski makes an inspired choice to start with blood orange supported by bergamot. Blood orange adds a tinge of bitter underneath the juicy sweet and it really is made to be a cologne ingredient. The heart is a floral transition of orange blossom and jasmine. Mme Kosinski keeps the florals on the light side but what I liked was she didn’t use versions of these notes that were bereft of their indoles. Beneath all that loveliness there is just a tiny hint of something less wholesome. This leads to a base which is definitely meant to let the more primal urges become more apparent as Mme Kosinski combines a leather accord and wraps it in musk. It is not a boisterous version of these notes but it picks up on the indoles and shows that even A Nice Scent can be a little dangerous.

Cologne has 4-6 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am looking forward to this summer to let many of these new colognes I’ve been reviewing the chance to come out and play in the heat. I’ve been sending some time arranging all of them on a shelf for the sunny days to come. When Cologne (A Nice Scent) becomes available in June this will go right to the front of that shelf. M. de Swardt and Mme Kosinski have succeeded admirably in adding to the burgeoning Colgnaissance and to creating the perfect introductory fragrance for Etat Libre d’Orange.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Etat Libre d’Orange at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s note: If Cologne (A Nice Scent) makes you want to explore the line more check out my Etat Libre d’Orange 101 article for five I think you should start with.

Olfactory Chemistry: Nitro Musks- From Boom to Musk

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There is no ingredient more ubiquitous, and important, in perfumery than musk. The uses of all of the chemical derivatives of musk have resulted in the expansion of the perfumer’s palette dramatically. From a chemist’s point of view the story of the evolution of the synthetic musks is a still developing chemical tale which has now spanned three centuries of chemistry and the inherent advances in new ways to put together molecules. It almost seems that with every new advance in chemistry it wasn’t too long before someone found a way to make a musk aromachemical with that new methodology.

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Musk Deer

The reason for needing synthetic musks is because the natural source is a living animal, the musk deer. For many years these animals would be hunted and the glands used to secrete the natural musk would be removed from the animal, killing it. The collected tissue would be dried, then opened to harvest round fatty nodules which would be tinctured. To get one kilogram of these nodules it could take as many as 50 musk deer to be killed. Musk grains were worth twice their weight in gold and because of this value the hunting of the musk deer drove them to the brink of extinction until they were placed on the international protected species list in 1979. There is still a legal quantity permitted to be harvested but it is of such a small amount that perfume use is not high on the list for it.

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Even though harvest of natural musk wasn’t outright banned until 1979 the cost of it would cause early aromachemical experimenters to look for more cost-effective replacements. In 1888 the first synthetic musk was discovered but Albert Bauer wasn’t looking to make an aromachemical he was looking to make an explosive. There is perhaps no single molecule which has led to more rapid advances in chemical synthesis than tri-nitro toluene or as it is more familiarly known, TNT. From the moment of its discovery in 1863 organic chemists were looking to make changes to make a better molecule to go boom. Hr. Bauer was no different and as you can see in the diagram above he made one change to TNT and found something that did not explode, except in your nose. I am always amused when I read the 19th century chemical literature because contained within the experimental descriptions is how a molecule smells, and often, how it tastes. There was no OSHA back in 1888 to protect Hr. Bauer from himself. Because Hr. Bauer followed his nose he realized he might have found a different lucrative market instead of ammunition. By improving the synthesis he could produce what would come to be called Musk Bauer for about $500 per kilogram.

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Hr. Bauer would spend the next ten years perfecting three other musks; musk xylene, musk ketone, and musk ambrette. This class of molecules would come to be known as nitro musks. Each of these had different scent profiles and would be used as the predominant source of musk in perfume for almost 100 years. In 1921, Ernest Beaux used a cocktail of nitro musks, but primarily musk ketone, in Chanel No. 5. Musk ambrette is the key note in Francis Fabron’s original formulation of Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps, in 1948. Throughout most of the 20th century the number of nitro musks proliferated and were used extensively in not only perfume but soaps, detergents, and air fresheners.

The time of the nitro musks would come to an end in 1981 because of suspected neurotoxicity. For perfume there was also another reason as these molecules were very sensitive to light and under prolonged exposure to sunlight the nitro musks would decompose. It was probably the decomposition of nitro musks that has led to the concept of perfume “going bad”. As a medicinal chemist when I first looked at these molecules I wasn’t surprised as, by 1981, it was well-known in the pharmaceutical community that these molecules produced significant side effects in clinical trials of molecules that contained them.

Obviously that isn’t the end of the story of musk, just the nitro musks, and in next month’s Olfactory Chemistry I’ll pick up the tale as chemistry reacted and came up with a new class of musk.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Eau D’Italie Graine de Joie- Vivacious Pomegranate

It seems like every trendy thing eventually finds its way into fragrance. For that reason it should be no surprise that pomegranate seems to be showing up in a few 2014 fragrances I’ve tried. There’s nothing wrong with that and it is interesting to see how different perfumers choose to use it. For the eleventh fragrance from Eau D’Italie, Graine de Joie, the creative directors Marina Sersale and Sebastian Alvarez Murena asked perfumer Daphne Bugey to create a fragrance to “conjure(s) up the irresistible light-headedness of when you fall in love.” Mme Bugey decided that pomegranate was the keynote to create this feeling.

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Sebastian Alvarez Murena and Marina Sersale

I always hesitate to describe a fragrance in terms of age but Graine de Joie seems like a bubbly ingénue laughing at the world and joyous at having found love. Mme Bugey assembles an array of fruits along with a critical linchpin of praline before ending on a soft sheer white musk. Graine de Joie is effervescent in its joie de vivre.

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Daphne Bugey

Mme Bugey trots the pomegranate out right away but in truth pomegranate does not have the heft to really carry off a fruity opening by itself. Therefore Mme Bugey adds apple as a framing note to help define the unusual fruitiness and to add foundation. As the fruitiness attenuates a breezy, slightly watery freesia arises to combine with the pomegranate. The combination is like a sunny smile and it here where Graine de Joie really comes together. The next transition is really the most interesting part of Graine de Joie. At first I think I’m detecting wood but then it turns into a nutty quality and then there is a dusting of cocoa. Finally it all coalesces into a praline accord as Graine de Joie takes on a very unusual gourmand aspect for just a short period of time. Eventually it ushers in cedar and a collection of white musks to impart a soft sheer musk accord to the final moments.

Graine de Joie has 6-8 hour longevity and below average sillage.

For most of the first fragrances of Eau D’Italie there was almost a seriousness that belied the passion behind the brand. Starting with 2012’s Un Bateau Pour Capri there has been a noticeable lightening in tone. Graine de Joie is the most ebullient example of this lighter tone and it is that which makes it so easy to wear. I think when one says a fragrance is easy to wear it also becomes easy to dismiss and in the case of Graine de Joie that would be an error. That praline transition in the heart definitely rises above a fragrance that just wants to smell good. Mme Bugey’s skill at adding that into a fruity floral construction without making it intrusive was more impressive each time I wore it. I know for me I experience something much larger than a grain of joy every time I wear Graine de Joie.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Eau D’Italie at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Masque Milano Tango- The Dance of Attraction

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One of the more well-received lines of 2013 was Masque Milano. The three releases generated a lot of buzz and Montecristo ended up on many year-end “Best of 2013” lists. I was not one of those who was similarly impressed. I liked what I smelled but I wasn’t moved to write about them. I was optimistic that Alessandro and Riccardo, the owners and creative directors behind the brand, would produce something I would really like. It only took them one more try to meet that expectation.

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Alessandro and Riccardo

Masque Milano presents their fragrances as Acts from an opera and for their fourth fragrance, Tango, we are at Act III Scene IV. In the story they describe a party where our male protagonist is enjoying the smell of the night blooming jasmine while drinking Ron y Miel honey rum from the Canary Islands. He meets the gaze of a woman, the music swells with a distinctive rhythm. The drink has loosened his inhibition, the music propels him through the wooden tables surrounding the dance floor. He holds his hand out and they connect. The dance of attraction begins, again.

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Cecile Zarokian

When I read this description I was very intrigued because I had a good friend, as a young man in South Florida, who was from Tenerife. He always scoffed at the rum from the Caribbean Islands as lacking in imagination. I didn’t understand what he meant until he came back from a trip home with a bottle of Ron y Miel. Aged rum is blended with indigenous honey to create a singular liquor. I had forgotten about it for many years until seeing the description for Tango. Perfumer Cecile Zarokian was asked to create a fragrance which captured “A mid-summer night. The bower in full bloom, large wooden tables, a liquor; and music.” Mme Zarokian captures all of that along with a smoldering depth that is entrancing.

Tango Argentino II Pedro Alvarez

Tango Argnetino II by Pedro Alvarez

Mme Zarokian chooses to start with the citrus-like breeziness of cardamom set off against black pepper and cumin. It is like a sea breeze on a summer’s evening over the sweat coming off those sitting outside. Cumin and pepper produce the sweaty accord. Jasmine sambac with all of its indolic character on display catches the flowers growing on the perimeter. Mme Zarokian adds a bit of Rose Damascene to keep the indoles from getting too rambunctious too quickly. Patchouli allows for the indoles to gain some traction as Tango begins the final bit of development. The Ron y Miel accord is created from vanilla, sweet clover, benzoin, and tonka. It is rich and compelling like the real thing. Finally we end up with leather, amber, and musk as the passionate dance commences.

Tango has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

Where Tango resonates for me is that this seems the most complete Masque Milano fragrance to date. Every phase of the story presented is represented throughout the development. The first time I sniffed it and wore a bit of it I didn’t have the story and was still impressed with the seamless development. Each note and accord builds upon the others and my dance of attraction with another perfume begins, again.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Masque Milano at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke