New Perfume Reviews Arquiste L’Etrog Acqua & The Architects Club- Italian Orchards & Art Deco Club Kids

One of my very favorite recent new perfume lines is Arquiste. In 2011 there were six debut releases and one year later a seventh was added. What I like so much about Arquiste is it is a tight knit team behind all of the fragrances. It starts with owner and Creative Director Carlos Huber who has taken his training as an architectural historian and restorer and applied that to the world of fragrance. So far for all of the Arquiste line he has exclusively used two perfumers, Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier, separately or in tandem. Arquiste is an example of passionate creativity and friendship leading to a collection which is excellent from top to bottom. Because of this admiration I was really looking forward to seeing Sr. Huber at Esxence because I was hoping for something new after over a year. I wasn’t disappointed as he presented two new fragrances, L’Etrog Acqua and The Architects Club.

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L’Etrog Acqua is a continuation of the story begun by one of the original six, L’Etrog and how it came to be is a funny story. Sr. Huber was visiting with Sr. Flores-Roux and as he got near he realized he sort of smelled L’Etrog but it was different. When he asked about it, Sr. Flores-Roux said he wanted a more “summer” version and so he ditched most of the notes in the heart and base and what was left was a very Mediterranean cologne. Sr. Huber agreed and now we can all enjoy the summer version of L’Etrog.

L’Etrog Acqua has exactly the same opening notes as in L’Etrog but they are more pronounced without as much underneath to start pushing them to the side. For almost the entire time I wore L’Etrog Acqua these were the notes which were on display; cedrat, lemon, mandarin, petitgrain, and myrtle. With the original those would give way to an intense dried fruit accord down to the vetiver, orris and patchouli base. All of that is gone and all that remains in L’Etrog Acqua is cedar, vetiver, and labdanum. Without the darker contrasts the top notes get to frolic more freely and the base notes really just sort of join in. For a straightforward citrus fragrance L’Etrog Acqua kept going strong for over 8 hours. Sr. Flores-Roux does capture the flip side to L'Etrog, a summer morning in an Italian citrus orchard. I know this will be worn a lot this summer by me.

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The Architects Club is a more typical Arquiste fragrance complete with appropriate scene setting by Sr. Huber. All of the fragrances have a time and place assigned to them as a brief. For The Architects Club it is Dusk, March, 1930, Mayfair, London inside an Art Deco smoking room. A group of architects settle into the warm interior of dark woods, leather, and velvet. A group of London’s bright young things burst in to the room frosted martinis in hand, surrounded by a cloud of laughter, white smoke, and fine vanilla.

I love the whole Lost Generation era and I was excited to see what M. Vasnier came up with as a perfume to match the described tableau. What he did was make a group of architects’ notes; woods, vetiver, amber, and spices. A group of notes representing the flappers; citrus, gin, and vanilla. Let them crash together and watch the interaction. This turns out to have all of the attributes of an impromptu party in fragrant form.

The Architects Club starts with the spice and woods of the boys out in front and then very quickly the gin and citrus energy of the girls destroy the serenity. M. Vasnier has produced as quickly a developing first few moments of perfume that I have encountered in recent memory. When Sr. Huber gave me the strip after hearing the brief I immediately got the men’s club vibe and just as I was about to say, “nice”, the ladies had started a party on my mouillette. Wearing this for a couple of days this animated opening is even more appealing on my skin. Once everyone is in the midst of having a good time the gin accord and the spices really dominate the early going and they are also having a good time getting to know each other. As this party rages on the vetiver and vanilla make sure the shank of the evening still holds some interest. I can’t remember when an opening of a fragrance has made me say “wow” as much as The Architects Club did. The rest of the fragrance is also very good but there is a wonderful rush I get from the first few moments of this one each time I’ve worn it and it is intoxicating. The Architects Club has all-day longevity and modest sillage as it is at 25% perfume extract concentration. There may be a party going on but only those you let close will know about it.

I’ll be wearing both of these for the next few months but once fall comes The Architects Club party will continue to play on because, as you know, nothing stops a great show.

L'Etrog Acqua will be available in June and The Architects Club will be released in the fall wherever you find Arquiste for sale.

Disclosure: This review was based on press samples provided by Arquiste at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

 

That Unattainable Object of Desire: L’Air de Panache by Mark Buxton

After writing about the Wes Anderson movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in this week’s The Sunday Magazine I got a lot of questions about the fragrance inspired by the movie. To answer those questions not only have I smelled it but perfumer Mark Buxton gave me enough of a sample of it to wear. After wearing L’Air de Panache and seeing the movie I have to say that Mr. Buxton given the freedom of composing what amounts to a bespoke perfume delivered a true fragrance experience every bit as indie as the movie it is based upon.

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Gustave H''s Wardrobe

L’Air de Panache is the signature scent of the protagonist of the movie Gustave H., the concierge at The Grand Budapest Hotel. As played by Ralph Fiennes, Gustave H. is a consummate concierge and the master of his universe. L’Air de Panache is how people know Gustave H. and it consistently keeps appearing throughout the film.

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Mark Buxton (l.) and Nicolas Cloutier (Photo: makemylemonade.com)

When they were filming they, of course, used water. For the World Premiere Mr. Anderson wanted to turn L’Air de Panache into a reality to be given as a present to the cast and crew. For this very special project he would turn to the Paris fragrance boutique Nose to bring the fictional fragrance to life, in six weeks! Nicolas Cloutier would act as creative director to perfumer Mark Buxton as they sought to make a perfume which would live up to what we saw in the movie. Because this was a very small batch release, not intended for sale, it freed Mr. Buxton to use any ingredient on his perfumer’s palette. I would also comment that the short time frame forced Messrs. Cloutier and Buxton to trust their instincts and I think the end result is all the better for that. L’Air de Panache is a definite throwback cologne but, cleverly, throughout its development there are nods to the events of the film.

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Boy with Apple

Gustave H. is known for his excellent personal service to the aging, blonde they must be blonde, women who come to the hotel. The beginning of L’Air de Panache pays homage to them with a fleeting aldehyde opening which is the hairspray version of those ingredients. They dissipate as quickly as a cloud of Aqua Net to reveal underneath a rich citrus opening made modern by the addition of basil, instead of the more traditional rosemary. The other note is green apple and that nods to the McGuffin which propels the caper part of the film, a painting simply named “Boy with Apple”.  A stunningly complex jasmine sambac holds the heart of L’Air de Panache it is as elegant as Gustave H. as he strides the halls. This all gives way to a well-mannered jungle cat of a base as Mr. Buxton lets L’Air de Panache off the leash to growl with musk, castoreum, amber, oakmoss, and patchouli. This is Gustave H. behind a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the room of one of his paramours.

L’Air de Panache has 4-6 hour longevity and prodigious sillage. Which is why Gustave H. is always topping it up and everyone knows where he’s been.

For this series the fragrance I am writing about will truly be nearly impossible to find. In the case of L’Air de Panache I am hopeful this might not always be the case. To be clear right this moment there are only a few bottles of it in existence and they are all in the hands of the people who made the movie. Except if you find yourself in Paris and visit Nose they have a bottle for you to experience this quite amazing fragrance. Because of the top shelf ingredients used I suspect a bottle would carry a fairly hefty price tag but if it does come to pass that it is for sale one day I’ll be first in line to buy it. For now I have enough left to allow myself to feel like the master of my own universe for one day of my choosing; it is enough.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided to me by Mark Buxton.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Memo Paris Kedu-Sesame for Buddha

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For the great majority of the time being in the US gives me the opportunity to try things first. In the perfumed world though that isn’t always the case and often there are releases that take over a year to find their way to America. Usually patience wins the day except in the case of the few lines I like very much which haven’t found their way across the pond, yet. Very top of that list is Memo Paris. For a few years I used a Paris shopping service to get my bottles back to me then I found that Colette, the French Department Store, had worldwide shipping. Over time I have struck up a relationship with John Molloy who is the husband of Creative Director, and co-owner, Clara Molloy. When I was in Milan for the most recent Esxence I had the opportunity to meet with Mme Molloy about their newest release Kedu which is part of the new Graines Vagabondes series, inspired by seeds.

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John and Clara Molloy

When we began to talk about Kedu, Mme Molloy handed me a coffee table book with the Middle-Earth-like name of Borobudur on it. It didn’t turn out to be the long lost home of the dwarves but instead one of the great Buddhist temples located in Central Java, Indonesia. It is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and a pilgrimage site for Buddhists on the holiday of Waisak, more prosaically known as Buddha’s Birthday. As an act of purification you burn one sesame seed for every passion, I would hold up the line if I did this. What is unique is on Waisak the smell of burning sesame arises all around the area. This is what Mme Molloy wanted to capture with Kedu and she asked her longtime collaborator, perfumer Alienor Massenet, to compose the fragrance around a central note of sesame.

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Borobudur in the Mist

One of the special joys of my meeting with Mme Molloy was she offered me the opportunity to smell the three linchpin notes for the top, heart, and base of Kedu. On top was a grapefruit oil which was as bright a grapefruit as I have ever smelled without a hint of the sour or sulfurous facets sometimes present. The base note was a white musk which was silky smooth without the screechy irritating quality some white musks have for me. Those I had smelled versions of before. The sesame absolute was something new for me and it was absolutely glorious. This was a flame kissed seed with all the rich viscosity of a sesame oil. I spent most of the evening returning to the strip to experience it over and over. At this point I couldn’t wait to see how Mme Massenet put this all together.

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Alienor Massenet

If I hadn’t smelled the building blocks before trying Kedu I would have said it was a typical grapefruit opening complete with the sour and sulfurous facets, but I knew that wasn’t true. Mme Massenet lets the sesame absolute substitute for those facets. Once I tuned into that I realized this was a very different grapefruit accord as instead of sulfurous it was really sort of toasted  and instead of sour it was slightly piquant; both of those courtesy of the sesame. A slight floral interlude courtesy of rose and peony set the transition to the heart of where the sesame truly takes center stage. On a strip it was great, on my skin it was better. It lingers at this stage long enough for my own personal passions to take their time burning away. When the sesame does dissipate what is left is the very smooth white musk with a bit of moss thrown in for texture.

Kedu has 6-8 hour longevity and modest sillage.

The sesame absolute has also shown up in two other of my recent favorite fragrances, Arquiste Anima Dulcis and Etat Libre D’Orange La Fin du Monde, but it is not as prominent as it is in Kedu. Kedu allows me to revel in the swirling smoke of the immolating sesame seeds and it is an exciting beginning to the Graines Vagabondes series. I am really hoping that caraway is one of the seeds on the drawing board because I would really like to see what the Memo team would do with that. I do know that if I find myself at Borobodur during Waisak there will be one seed named Memo Paris that I feed to the fire. Kedu is another passionate entry in the Memo Paris catalogue.

Disclosure: this review was based on a press sample provided by Memo Paris and Campomarzio 70.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Vero Profumo Rozy Eau de Parfum & Voile D’Extrait- The Two Faces of Anna

I have mentioned previously that discovering Andy Tauer’s blog back in 2006 was one of those informational turning points for me. I absorbed everything he had to say and one of the perfumers he spoke of was a Swiss perfumer by the name of Vero Kern. It took me a little while but I eventually acquired her first three perfumes Vero Profumo Kiki, Onda, and Rubj. At this point I was considering relocating to Switzerland because it must be a hotbed of independent perfumery. Those first three fragrances are, to this day, very near the pinnacle of what it means to create an independent perfume. I finally had the opportunity to meet her in 2011 when I attended Esxence for the first time. I think I might have been a little overenthusiastic in my enjoyment at the encounter. I had the chance to renew the acquaintance this year and I also had the opportunity to ask her about her new fragrance Rozy.

Rozy was inspired by Italian actress Anna Magnani who is best known as the winner of the Oscar for Best Actress for the 1955 movie “The Rose Tattoo”. Sig.ra Maganai was known for her intensity onscreen as one of the leading artists in the Italian Neorealism movement. She was also one of those handful of foreign actresses that didn’t rely on her looks to make an impact, she was known for her performances on screen and not elsewhere. Ms. Kern is also an intense perfumer who works in an unhurried exacting manner until she is ready to release something new. It is why there is so much anticipation among those who know her work as Rozy is only the second new fragrance since the original three following up 2012’s Mito.

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Vero Kern (r.) and I trying Rozy

While Ms. Kern hasn’t produced new fragrances on a regular basis she has explored the differences concentration makes in her basic architecture and that is why all of her perfumes are available in three versions. The extrait is sort of the baseline version, the Eau de Parfum is a different take altogether usually with a slight tweak to the notes. Just last year she introduced a third version called Voile D’Extraits. I was captivated by the versions of the previous four and when we spoke in Milan she explained she wanted a way to make her perfumes more expansive. They fall in between the EDP and extrait in terms of concentration but they feel like something more original in concept than a simple concentration change could account for. For Rozy I was given a sample each of the EDP and Voile D’Extrait.

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Anna Magnani (Photo: Bob Collins)

Rozy Eau de Parfum is the intensity of Sig.ra Magnani’s stare, full of intelligence and potential. Rozy is Ms. Kern’s take on a rose-centric fragrance but this is not your mother’s, or your grandmother’s, rose perfume. She told me that she didn’t want this to be a “typical” rose. One sniff of the EDP and I knew what she was going for. The rose is there right at the heart but Ms. Kern brackets it with peach, honey, and passion fruit. The passion fruit is becoming Ms. Kern’s signature note. When you try all of her fragrances she has an ability to modulate it to seemingly do anything she wants it to. In Rozy EDP she uses it as a way of adding in a bit of foundation to the peach to keep it from tilting too primly sweet and keeping it a little earthier in nature. The honey is here to add a bit of complementary sweetness and textural viscosity. Rozy EDP ends up mostly a genteel honey covered rose very late in its drydown.

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Anna Magnani

Rozy Voile D’Extrait is just simply a genius piece of perfume making. The Voile D’Extrait is a full throated laugh from Sig.ra Magnani full of the enjoyment of life. For the Volie D’Extrait Ms. Kern adds cassis and tuberose to the early going and then she drenches it in honey, dusts it with spice, and adds the final bit of inspiration, labdanum, to turn this more jagged in nature but the honey holds it all together in a sticky matrix where it all unifies. When Ms. Kern said she didn’t want a “typical” rose Rozy Voile D’Extrait is the one that delivers that promise best.

Rozy EDP has overnight longevity and average sillage. Rozy Voile D’Extrait has similar longevity and below average sillage.

There have been many perfumers who have presented their version of a post-modern rose fragrance. With Rozy EDP, and Voile D’Extrait, Ms. Kern has set my personal standard for that category for the foreseeable future. Rozy Voile D’Extrait is the best perfume Ms. Kern has ever made. It is the best new perfume I have tried so far this year.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Campomarzio 70.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Grand Budapest Hotel

When I was a child going to the movies was an event. You had to buy tickets in advance, you had assigned seating and there were intermissions. These were for the special movies shot in CinemaScope or Cinerama and projected on massive curved screens. It was the great-grandfather of IMAX. During those days the movies had multiple stars in them and the movie posters would have pictures of all of their faces. Movies like ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World’ or ‘Grand Prix’ are examples of this kind of event movie full of popular stars. As I walked by the poster for the new movie by director Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel, I was reminded of those days.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel tells the story of Monsieur Gustave H. during the year 1932 in the titular edifice located in the fictional country of Zubrowka. Ralph Fiennes plays Gustave as a man completely in control of everybody and everything in the hotel. Young Zero asks to become The Lobby Boy and it is through his narration, as an older man, the events of the movie unfold through a number of chapters. One of the best things about Gustave is he has a signature fragrance he wears called L’Air de Panache. It crops up throughout the movie as people use it to know that Gustave has recently walked by and in my favorite scene the only thing he really gets upset about not having at hand after an incarceration.

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The movie shows Gustave as a companion to elderly women who also must be blonde. The movie revolves around one of these; Madame D, played by Tilda Swinton almost unrecognizable under the makeup used to age her. After her latest visit she passes away after she returns home. Gustave finds out at the reading of the will she has bequeathed him a valuable painting ‘Boy with Apple’. Fearing the family will not let him have this he takes the painting and leaves. This starts the caper aspects of the bulk of the film as the consequences of taking the painting play themselves out. Throughout the movie there is a very breezy frenetic feel which does seem a lot like those old wide-screen comedies of my youth as another current actor makes a cameo and leaves. What sets it apart is the framing sequence where an author hears the story from the older Zero in which we see The Grand Budapest Hotel itself, in 1968, as an aging blonde dowager. No matter how successful Zero’s life has been he cannot let go of this original love of his no matter whether she is showing her age.

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Wes Anderson

I found The Grand Budapest Hotel to be a return to those old caper comedies. But through the lens of a very talented filmmaker in Mr. Anderson who allows a bit of pathos in the end to draw a tear, while wearing a smile, it has a very modern indie feel to it. To use a perfume analogy it is like the Nouveau Retro creations we are getting of defunct perfume houses. Completely feeling like a throwback but with modern flourishes.

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As for the perfume spoken about within the movie it didn’t really exist until a few months ago for the premiere. Perfumer Mark Buxton created L’Air de Panache and it was given to the cast and those at the World Premiere of the movie. When I sniffed it at Esxence it also felt like something one of the better dressed gentlemen at those event movies of my youth might have worn.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Juicy Couture Dirty English-Claude Dir Brings Niche to Mainstream

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There are times I need a lot of encouragement to overcome an erroneous snap judgment I have made. One of those instances was back in 2008. On Basenotes there was a lively discussion about this new mainstream fragrance from Juicy Couture called Dirty English. Now this, at the time, nearly 50-year old man was not going to wear any perfume from Juicy Couture. I remember being quite vocal about it on the forum, too. All of this was without ever having tried it. Then I was in my local department store and a sales associate approaches me with a bunch of strips in her hand and hands one to me. As I sniff the strip picking out caraway, cardamom, leather, sandalwood, and oud. I was running through which niche house this could have come from. Then the rep told me what it was. Yes you guessed it this was Juicy Couture Dirty English and my jaw had disengaged itself from my face and was dusting the floor.

There have been a few valiant attempts to bring a niche aesthetic to the department store counter, Dirty English was the attempt for 2008. So far there has not really been a breakout success for any of these and this is why Dirty English is easy to find at the discount fragrance purchase points. I have regularly found it for less than $30 for a 3.4 oz. bottle.

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Claude Dir

Claude Dir was the perfumer behind Dirty English and this was in keeping with his very mainstream career to this point in 2008. He had made one of my favorite mainstream fragrances, Zaharoff pour Homme a few years earlier. Later on in 2008 he would start working on the niche side of the street when he composed Bond No. 9 Andy Warhol Lexington Avenue (now just called Lexington Avenue). With hindsight one can look back at Dirty English as the real start of M. Dir’s niche values.

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Dirty English mixes pepper, cardamom, and caraway. The caraway adds an exotic tenderness to the spices and again I wonder out loud why this isn’t used as a substitute for bergamot more as a top note. All of the spice dusts the light woodiness of cypress. M. Dir then uses a leather accord called Santal Fatal which uses sandalwood, vetiver, and cedar to form the leather accord. M. Dir makes a fascinating choice of using marjoram as an herbal contrast to the Santal Fatal. He then uses the combination of nagarmotha and patchouli to make an oud accord and right here with the combination of all of these components you would be hard pressed not to feel this was a top of the line niche fragrance. In the end a very close-wearing musk finishes this one off.

Dirty English has about 4-6 hour longevity and above average sillage. This makes it an ideal evening out scent.

I was, and continue to be, impressed with the choices M. Dir made for Dirty English. If he was less disciplined with the choices he made this could have easily turned into a mess. Instead he turned out a fragrance I still look to wear for an evening out. I still can’t believe there is a Juicy Couture anything I like as much as this.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle of Juicy Couture Dirty English I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Naomi Goodsir Parfums Or du Serail- Texture Above All

One of the most anticipated stops I made at this year’s Esxence was my very first one. Last year at Esxence I had the pleasure of meeting Naomi Goodsir and Renaud Coutaudier the Creative Directors behind Naomi Goodsir Parfums. I was drawn in with their passion for creating fragrance which has a texture to it. Ms. Goodsir is a milliner and she creates some of the most amazing hats and accessories and all of them contain fabulous textural details. She would explain to me that she has the same desire to do that with perfume. As I walked toward Ms. Goodsir I saw a third bottle on the counter and was excited to try the new release, Or du Serail.

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Naomi Goodsir

Ms. Goodsir and M. Coutaudier chose perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour to collaborate with them on Or du Serail. The plan was to take a golden tobacco heart and attach various detailed notes to it thereby creating unusual tangents to follow down with your senses before returning to the core tobacco. There were many iterations as everyone involved searched for the right combination to achieve something much easier to say than to actually produce. At the end they have created a multi-layered fragrance full of fascinating olfactory nooks and crannies which reward the wearer who explores every facet offered.

Right from the start a complete golden tobacco accord is in place. This is the smell of the dried leaf hanging in the curing barn. It is so rich it exerts a hypnotic pull into its depths. M. Duchaufour has used this accord before but this time it seems to carry more substance than it has in the past. Once the tobacco has you under its spell M. Duchaufour starts adding to it with each new note adding a new texture. It starts with a bit of sage and the dried quality of herbal leaf and tobacco leaf form a desiccated texture. Next is a dried fruit accord and it adds a veneer of concentrated sweetness carrying you into a sticky phase. Mate returns you full circle to another dried leaf as the strong tea character overlays the tobacco with a bit of an edge. That edge is honed by amber to turn this shiny and modern at the end.

Or du Serail has overnight longevity and average sillage.

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The Triple A by Naomi Goodsir

As I mentioned this was my first stop on my first day at Esxence. The success at achieving the textural concept behind Or du Serail was borne out as over the next twelve hours I would keep returning to the strip to find it recognizably different every time. Once I wore this over two days what I experienced on the strip was amplified. I was constantly entertained by this kaleidoscopic construct. For anyone looking for a different fragrance experience I recommend Or du Serail as something to savor for the achievement of realizing a concept so brilliantly.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Naomi Goodsir Parfums at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jul et Mad Acqua Sextius- Love Story Part IV

There are so many inspirations which turn into perfume but the story behind Jul et Mad is, I think, unique. Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard are the owners and Creative Directors of Jul et Mad which comes from the abbreviation of their first names. The first three fragrances followed the pair from Lexington Avenue in NYC to a café in Paris and left us with them on a palazzo in Venice. For the fourth fragrance in the Histoire D’Amour series, Acqua Sextius, our lovers travel to Aix-en-Provence where they will wed.

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The Real Jul et Mad

For Acqua Sextius perfumer Cecile Zarokian was asked to be the interpreter of chapter four.  The name comes from the original name given Aix-en-Provence by Roman consul Gaius Sextius in 123 BC. The Acqua is particularly appropriate as Aix-en-Provence is now known for its over 100 fountains and its famous thermal springs. Mme Zarokian captures the green vitality of a summer day in the South of France at the same time there is a very clever watery theme running throughout. This turns Acqua Sextius into a sort of green aquatic although it often times feels in a class of its own.

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Cecile Zarokian

Mme Zarokian wakes us up with a sparkle of sunlight streaming into our bedroom; she combines a citrus trio of lemon, orange, and grapefruit with a translucent veil of green notes as if one was looking at the sun through gauzy green curtains. This is a wonderfully executed opening which brims with the potential of the day ahead. In a nod to the thermal baths a bit of eucalyptus and mint deepen the green and an application of ozonic notes give the impression of a spa bath. A bouquet of floral notes centered on mimosa make up the heart of Acqua Sextius. Mme Zarokian keeps them light and playful and as we head outside a fig tree adds in its luscious creamy greenness. Mme Zarokian uses labdanum to deepen the green theme as we are now walking in green fields. Ambergris carries the smell of the nearby Etang de Berre. For most of the time Acqua Sextius is on my skin this is where things stay; as a pleasant mix of aquatic, floral, and green. Many hours after applying it everything turns lightly woody with cedar and gaiac mixing with a light sheer musk which is the perfect easy way to end our day in Provence.

Acqua Sextius is an Extrait de Parfum and despite its ineffable lightness it lasts overnight on my skin. The sillage is also more than one might expect from an Extrait de Parfum but you won’t be leaving a vapor trail in your wake.

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Fontaine de la Rotonde on the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence

One of things I am coming to admire about the way Mme Zarokian composes her fragrances is deftness of precision which places each note in its proper place. I also admire that even though she works for many different brands her style does not impose its will upon each brand's characteristics. Acqua Sextius is clearly a Cecile Zarokian fragrance but it is even more importantly a Jul et Mad fragrance and I am sure that is due to a very close working relationship throughout the process of finishing Acqua Sextius. For me the fragrant wedding of one of my favorite perfumers and favorite creative directors is a complete success. I will be wearing Acqua Sextius throughout the upcoming summer pretending my backyard is a field in Provence.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Acqua Sextius provided by Jul et Mad at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ann Gerard Parfum Rose Cut-Brilliance & Depth

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Often when I am at an exposition like Esxence with so much to experience there is a real concern I might miss something worthwhile. For the first two days I was at the most recent version of Esxence I kept walking by Ann Gerard making a mental note to stop and try her newest release, Rose Cut, but every time I was near I was heading to an appointment. On Saturday morning I received an e-mail from Lila Das Gupta of Basenotes as she was waiting to catch a flight home. She told me she was wearing Rose Cut and she loved it. That was enough for me to make my next appointment with Mme Gerard and I duly walked over to introduce myself and have her present Rose Cut. To cut to the chase Lila was right but I’ll give you a little more detail.

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Ann Gerard

Rose Cut follows up the first three perfumes released in 2012, Ciel d’Opale, Cuir de Nacre, and Perle de Mousse. Mme Gerard worked with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour on those and she rekindled the relationship for Rose Cut. The relationship between Mme Gerard and M. Duchaufour is a bit of a mutual admiration society as M. Duchaufour was a customer of Mme Gerard’s bespoke jewelry creations before he became her perfumer. As a result there is a more dynamic relationship between creative director and perfumer as Mme Gerard speaks in abstract ideas and M. Duchaufour translates them into perfume. There is a real affection between the two of them and the perfume they produce shows that connection.

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Rose Cut Diamond Ring

The name Rose Cut refers to a particular way to cut a diamond to allow the facets to reflect in such a way that it looks like a rose. As I learned more about the rose cut I found out it is a shallow cut so that it allows a maximum amount of light to refract off the symmetrical surfaces cut in to the stone. As I was wearing Rose Cut and reading about rose cut diamonds I could see M. Duchaufour composing a fragrance which captures the essential sparkle and concurrent depth a rose cut diamond displays. I also thought you could also interpret Rose Cut as the act of removing a rose from the bush at the peak of its blooming. Rose Cut the perfume encompasses both of these descriptions as M. Duchaufour has brilliance to spare throughout and depth of design all coalesced around a lush rose focal point.

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Bertrand Duchaufour

M. Duchaufour uses a magazine of aldehydes to create that opening brilliance along with a little bit of pink pepper. Then he brings in the rum accord he has perfected in the last few years and instead of turning this boozy it adds a louche depth against which the aldehydes shimmer upon. Out of this comes a classic rose and patchouli combination which forms the heart of Rose Cut. The rum gives an interesting bit of contrast and some peony keeps the rose on the fresh side of things. The base is assembled from comfort notes of vanilla, oak, and benzoin to finish Rose Cut with a slightly sweet coda.

Rose Cut has all-day longevity and way above average sillage.

I hope I would have eventually made my way over to Mme Gerard without Lila’s prompting but I am happy for the prodding because Rose Cut was one of the star fragrances of the entire show for me. As much as I liked the original three releases Rose Cut is a cut above them and really does the best job yet at capturing the sparkle of a diamond as a perfume. It is a sophisticated lively rose perfume that is as good as it gets.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Ann Gerard Parfum at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

All Photos by Sabine Hartl & Olaf-Daniel Meyer except for the diamond ring photograph.

New Perfume Review Olfactive Studio Ombre Indigo-Shadowy Perspectives

When I am out walking my two standard poodles on the night of a full moon; the yard is filled with shadows as the dogs and I cast shadows either from the moonlight or the electric floodlights. The size and intensity of those shadows varies depending on our respective positions in the yard. It is an interesting study of perspective. Perfumes also like to capture shadows and through them also add unique perspectives to what those shadows are representing. Creative Director Celine Verleure of Olfactive Studio was also thinking about shadows for her latest release Ombre Indigo.

ombre indigo

Photo by Gustavo Pellizzon

Every Olfactive Studio fragrance begins with a brief based on a photograph. For Ombre Indigo Mme Verleure chose the picture above by Brazilian photographer Gustavo Pellizzon. This picture was part of Sr. Pellizzon’s 2012 photgraphic series “Encante” inspired by Brazilian myths and legends. If you click on the link you will see the rest of the series, with the exception of one, are all bright. The inspiration piece for Ombre Indigo is unique within the collection. When I look at the picture I am struck by two things; the indeterminate nature of the person at the center. Is it male of female? Young or Old? Sr. Pellizzon has seemingly photographed a shadow made solid. The second thing is the saffron colored clothing. It is a contrasting splash of color which only deepens the reflection of the indigo water except for one echo of the saffron in the upper left corner. Mme Verleure had posted this picture on her Facebook page and it had captured my attention from the moment I saw it. I had a week to think what a fragrance from this picture would smell like until I met Mme Verleure at Esxence in Milan.

mylene alran

Mylene Alran

I had also seen a picture of the bottle and knew the juice was colored blue but it is as blue as the water in the photograph and the depth of the color creates another visual shadow to complete the eye candy prior to smelling the perfume. Mme Verleure tapped Robertet perfume Mylene Alran to produce the perfume. Mme Alran chose tuberose and vetiver as the central themes but she carefully turns them from the powerhouse notes that often overwhelm fragrances into dancing shadows. By using notes like bigarade, leather, or incense to provide the more intense floodlight variety of shadow. Or saffron, plum, and papyrus to shine a little diffuse moonlight on the central notes; Ombre Indigo leaves me delightedly pursuing these shadows while I wear it.

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Celine Verleure

Ombre Indigo opens with a fully realized bigarade oozing its slightly sulfurous nature and then the tuberose comes next but accompanied by saffron and plum. If you’re used to tuberose knocking you off your feet Mme Alran gives you a tuberose that is a shadow of that incarnation. This is delightfully precise perfumery of the highest order to keep the tuberose in check. The vetiver then arrives and together the tuberose and vetiver form the central accord for the remainder of Ombre Indigo’s development. Papyrus slides a veil of green over the vetiver and tuberose drawing one’s attention to that facet lurking in the background of both core notes. A very animalic leather accord comes next and that enhances the indolic nature of the tuberose and turns the vetiver more deeply woody. The final stages are a sturdy amber and musk drydown to allow the tuberose and vetiver a final point of reflection.

Ombre Indigo lasts all-day on me and has above average sillage.

Ombre Indigo is the most complete package of visual and olfactory treat that Olfactive Studio has produced, so far. There is nothing out of place as every piece of the puzzle fits together to form a fascinating experience. With each new release Mme Verleure’s consistent vision continues to produce perfume of the highest quality which deserves to be displayed in the brightest light. This has become my favorite Olfactive Studio fragrance to date for the completeness of vision produced by Mme Verleure, Sr. Pellizzon, and Mme Alran. I think the only shadows one will find Ombre Indigo in are those of its own making.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Ombre Indigo provided by Olfactive Studio at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke