The Sunday Magazine: Arsenal Football Club

This morning I will be sitting down in front of the television set to watch the final match of the 2013-14 season of Arsenal Football Club. I realized this will be the 20th season I have been following the club. I started following Arsenal back in 1994 after the World Cup had come to the United States that summer. Living on the East Coast of the US I was traveling from Washington DC to Boston, Massachusetts to see as many games as I could. Besides rooting for the home team US I was relishing the opportunity to see football played at the highest level. When I attended the match of Netherlands v. Saudi Arabia I watched one of the great national teams of that time. My favorite player on the Netherlands after viewing the team was their striker Dennis Bergkamp. After the World Cup was over I wanted to pick a favorite team to start to support and when I found out Mr. Bergkamp was the striker for Arsenal, a team was found.

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Arsenal’s nickname is The Gunners and those of us who support the team are referred to as Gooners. Over the twenty years I’ve walked around with a jersey on or my scarf in the winter I am frequently greeted with a hearty “Oi Gooner!” accompanied by a wink or a smile. It happens no matter where in the world I have been and it always makes me feel part of a vast worldwide family. I think that is part of the enduring appeal for me being part of this tribe of Gooners who all spend August through May of every year aspiring for our lads to carry the day.

From 1997 through 2005 Arsenal won the Premiership title three times and the FA Cup five times. The last title in 2003-04 was memorable as the team went through an entire 38 match season without losing which gave that team the nickname of “The Invincibles”. Since the last FA Cup victory in 2005 Arsenal has not lifted another trophy. The current season held out the possibility of glory as Arsenal was in first place for more time than any other team but as the season drew to a close injuries had caught up to them and they faded from the top of the table. As consolation for that disappointment they will be playing next weekend in the final of the FA Cup against Hull City and the opportunity for that trophy is exciting to break the drought for silverware.

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Me in my Arsenal jersey with Dawn Spencer Hurwitz on my shoulders

I visited London in December of 2005 during the last season at the stadium in Highbury and attended three games. All three games were memorable for me. In the first game against Birmingham I took my sports hating wife and shockingly she fell in love with the game and the atmosphere. She will be sitting next to me this morning when we watch our team together. Waiting for a colleague who worked in London to meet me for the second game a camera crew asked to interview me and I think they expected to capture the “golly gee whiz isn’t this soccer stuff neat”. What they got was a complete explanation of the defensive back four and the concern that there were too many injuries. I knew I had made an impression when the reporter re-filmed his intro. After the third game I ended up laughing with the fans in the Clock End and one of them said “I never expected to hear intelligent football talk with an American accent” which made me beam from ear to ear. Even though I wasn’t born to it my fellow Gooners had given me the seal of approval.

I will be rooting for all my lads in the upcoming World Cup and hope they all are big stars for their national teams; but already I am hopeful for next August and the new season when once again with high hopes I will join Gooners all over the world in cheering on the side.

Mark Behnke

When It All Goes Pear Shaped- The Case of Penhaligon’s Tralala

One of my favorite British terms is describing a situation as having gone “pear shaped” which means it has gone terribly wrong, usually from good intentions. This phrase is particularly apropos when it comes to the latest release from Penhaligon’s called Tralala.

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Penhaligon’s is a venerable old school English perfume line and in the last five years or so has really reclaimed a vital spot in the niche world. Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour has been creating new perfumes and reformulating some of the historical ones. It is in my estimation a great success story but the latest release is a good example of when a brand forgets what makes it special and attempts to reach out for a different audience.

For Tralala Penhaligon’s wanted to up their hipster credibility and the first step to doing that was asking fashion designers Meadham Kirchoff to act as creative directors. Penhaligon’s has scented their runway shows at London Fashion Week and so they had some familiarity with the line. The latest collection for Fall 2014 recalled prewar Parisian fashion. M. Duchaufour has a way with Retro Nouveau fragrances. Seems like a team made for success, except for the name. The name is where it all begins to go south.

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Jennifer Jason Leigh as Tralala in Last Exit to Brooklyn

In an article in Cosmopolitan announcing the fragrance Meadham Kirchoff alluded to the name being taken from the character in the movie “Last Exit to Brooklyn”. For those unfamiliar with that movie or the character Tralala, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, ends up in a horrific plight and it is something nobody would want to associate with perfume. If you need to know more check out the Wikipedia entry for the novel and under synopsis read the description for Tralala. This is where the attempt to reach for that desired hipster credibility fell apart around them. I am pretty sure they just saw a picture of Tralala like the one above and thought “Yeah there’s our poster girl.” Until people started mentioning this after the Cosmopolitan article came out. On both Now Smell This and Basenotes, Matthew Huband of Penhaligon’s PR department went into spin mode and released this statement; "Hello all, I’m the head of marketing at Penhaligon’s, We’d just like to clarify that the name Tralala is simply an innocent and musical expression which reflects the fragrance. The perfume is rich, whimsical and nostalgic in Penhaligon’s best tradition, as you’d expect.”

Except I’ve smelled the fragrance and “rich, whimsical, and nostalgic” doesn’t accurately describe it. The adjectives I would use are “dangerous, edgy, and retro”. Which is where the disconnect happens; this fragrance clearly is going for this danger as whisky, leather, and patchouli are not the ingredients of nostalgic whimsy. They are exactly as was stated the milieu of Tralala, the fictional character.

This is what happens when a brand forgets about its brand identity and heads off into uncharted territory. All too often a trap door is lurking and everyone involved falls through looking foolish. The most successful perfume brands know that too many missteps like this turn their customers off and I’m pretty sure Tralala will disappear with as little notice as can be managed. I hope that the next time someone at Penhaligon’s wants to go for hipster cred they just remember that isn’t where their success lies.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Cartier La Panthere- Stalking A Chypre

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When it comes to the luxury designer perfume houses the public is well acquainted with Jacques Polge and his fragrances for Chanel or Jean-Claude Ellena and his for Hermes. In my opinion there is another, less well-known, perfumer for a luxury brand who has posted a stronger resume of perfume over the last three years and that is Mathilde Laurent for Cartier. My infatuation for their exclusive Les Heures de Cartier collection is well documented and if that was all she was doing that would be fine. But at the same time she has also been making the mainstream releases with the same panache I find with the Les Heures. The latest mainstream release is called La Panthere.

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Jeanne Toussaint

La Panthere refers to the nickname given Cartier jeweler Jeanne Toussaint who created sparkly objets d’art all which contained a slinky panther within the design. Some were very obvious and others were more abstract. Because of the prominence of the panther, in 1987, perfumer Alberto Morillas created Panthere de Cartier. That fragrance was almost too mannered to capture the fierce intelligence which created these jewelry designs. It has taken nearly thirty years for a similarly fierce intellect in Mme Laurent to assay the idea of La Panthere in fragrant form again.

La Panthere is described as a “feral floral” by Cartier and that promises a bit more animalic character than is on display. If pressed to keep to a feline theme I would describe it as a “stealthy chypre”. La Panthere transforms from fruity floral to chypre over the course of a few hours and that trip is akin to a panther slinking its way from tree to tree stalking its prey.

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Cartier Panthere Ring

The early moments of La Panthere fall firmly into fruity floral territory with the fruit most prominent a sort of dried fruit accord paired with peach and some tart components. While this is well trodden ground Mme Laurent infuses this with the sparkle of a gemstone under a light. There is a palpable glow to the early moments of La Panthere. Gardenia is the keynote in the heart but this is not the overt narcotic gardenia often encountered. Mme Laurent seems to be capturing the final throes of the gardenia as its petals start to turn brown. It has the effect of making this seem very contemporary as the gardenia almost seems like an abstraction of itself. From this arises the most traditional chypre ingredients of moss, patchouli, leather, and musk. Mme Laurent turns this into a downy soft version of a chypre. As I mentioned above it seems to all of a sudden just pounce from out of the fruits and florals and stand there in all of its muted intensity.

La Panthere has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

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Mathilde Laurent

La Panthere is a gentle primer for those who would like to experience a chypre for the first time. It will bring you to it by first sharing the fruity floral you are most likely familiar with before giving you a new experience. I worry that those who are big aficionados of either fruity florals or chypres might find La Panthere trying to have its cake and eat it too with both of those camps. I found the construction of La Panthere and its distinct unfurling of two different styles to show the ingenuity of Mme Laurent. La Panthere stalks the wearer from fruity floral to chypre with the intensity of a big cat on the prowl.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of La Panthere I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Andrea Maack Coven- Playing in the Dirt

When we are children we generally love to dig in the earth. A good day of play was accompanied by muddy appendages. When I also search back through my olfactory scrapbook it is that smell of dirt which has to be pretty close to my first scent memory. As we grow up getting down in the dirt is accompanied by gardening tools but the same primal smell remains. I am surprised that more perfumers don’t make the effort to capture this in a fragrance. The recent release from Andrea Maack, Coven is all centered on rooting around in the ground to see what can be found.  

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Andrea Maack

Andrea Maack is a graphic artist from Reykjavik, Iceland and Coven is her seventh release. There has been a steady progression from her first three releases and with 2012’s Coal this line really began to establish its own identity. The creative direction is a co-production between Ms. Maack and Renaud Coutaudier. I was unable to find out the perfumer responsible for Coven but the direction given by Ms. Maack and M. Coutaudier must have been very specific because what has made it into the bottle is the smell of soil.

Coven digs deep right from the start as the smell of freshly turned earth comes out right away. This is accomplished with an assortment of green notes, galbanum most prominent amongst them. A slight swirl of spices adds in the authenticity of what it smells like to have your shovel bite into the ground and turn it over. They are precisely balanced and they keep themselves in the background behind the greens. Tolu balm adds a balsamic foundation to the green and this is what really seals in the earthy quality Coven is attempting. Once this happens Coven lingers like playtime in a hole dug especially for that purpose. Despite Coven having this potentially heavy quality there is a lightheartedness that overtook me every time I wore it. It could be just my fond memories but I also think the perfume manages to keep from being ponderous and that is to its credit. Once we clean the dirt off we are left with patchouli and woods which carry enough of the remains of the day to remind you of where you’ve been.

Coven has 8-10 hour longevity and modest sillage.

You might not be enthused at the idea of smelling like dirt but Coven makes you not care. For those of you who love incense fragrances I think you might find Coven resonates in some of the same places as one of those perfumes. For those looking for a fragrance experience rarely seen Coven delivers very highly on the uniqueness scale. I found it captured my inner child in a muddy embrace that I never wanted to end.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Coven provided by Andrea Maack.

Mark Behnke

Snifapalooza Spring Fling 2014 Wrap-Up- Re-starting My Engine

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It is usually right about this time of year the first four months of new fragrances have left me losing my mojo. Thankfully it is also this time of year that the psychic jumper cables known as Sniffapalooza Spring Fling happens. After spending a weekend with my fellow fragrance fanatics I return tired, but refueled, to cover everything new I saw while in New York City for the weekend.

What has become a bit of a tradition for me is I arrive the afternoon before Sniffapalooza starts and visit my friends at Atelier Cologne. I was going to get the premiere of Blanche Immortelle the next morning but I also got the chance to sample the other new release Santal Carmin. The final part of our biannual ritual is for me to get a sneak peek at the next release. All I can say is it is one of my favorite notes in perfumery done Atelier Cologne style.

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Roja Dove

Saturday morning saw us all gather at Bergdorf Goodman for breakfast and the presentation of new releases. The highlights were a new Bottega Veneta Essence Aromatique meant to be a cooling splash for the summer. Two new Tom Ford Private Blends which will be released early in June as part of a collection extrapolating off the vibe of Neroli Portofino. I got a preview of both and one of them is going right to the top of my summer wearing list. As mentioned above Atelier Cologne premiered Blanche Immortelle and for those who find immortelle a bit tough to approach Atelier Cologne has once again transformed the way you look at a difficult note by making it a part of a cologne architecture. The breakfast finale was the irrepressible Roja Dove who spoke about many within his Roja Parfums line but the newest release is Lily Extrait. As with all of the soliflores in Mr. Dove’s collection it continually makes you ask “Is it real or is it Roja?”

From Bergdorf Goodman we headed to lunch at Brasserie 8 ½ and while we rested and recharged we were treated to the fragrances that were created by a chef and an interior designer. The chef is Roble Ali and his fragrance is called Clique by Roble and Chef Ali wanted to present a three course meal of the olfactory.  It is a finely tuned gourmand that does indeed feed the senses. The interior designer is Tobi Tobin and she presented the four fragrances which accompanied the debut fragrance Crow. Ms. Tobin translates her chic style of interior design deftly into a collection of fragrances which exemplify her aesthetic.

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Henri Bendel Fragrance Mezzanine

The next stop was a little sad as we bid a Sniffapalooza adieu to the fragrance collection at Henri Bendel. By the time Fall Ball arrives in October Henri Bendel will only be carrying their own private label fragrance. It was a little melancholy standing shoulder to shoulder on the mezzanine where I’ve discovered so many new things and realized that this was very likely my last visit to it. From there it was back to my hotel to rest up for Sunday.

We gave Soho a Sniffapalooza wake-up call as we convened bright and early on Sunday at Osswald. Awaiting us was the entire Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 line in its US debut. I had a lot of fun introducing people to the line especially the fabulous Kohl de Bahrain. The fragrant caravan then traveled to the Fragrance Republ!c to be introduced the latest release 01/07. This was followed by a visit to the Scentsorium which is Sue Philips’ home to her very successful custom perfume business which previously was a traveling show. With the Scentsorium her unique custom perfume experience is open for business in a space which surrounds one with creativity.

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Introducing Michael Edwards (r.)

We all needed a break and lunch had arrived in the nick of time. It was my turn to entertain the group as I emceed the Eau de Sniffapalooza lunch where I had the great pleasure to introduce the perfumers behind the brands Code Deco, Jazmin Serai, Suleko, Phoenecia Perfumes, Nomad Two Worlds, Arts & Scents, and Neelu Kumar. It was also my great pleasure to introduce Michael Edwards as special surprise guest to wrap everything up as he spoke about the excitement and passion the independent perfume movement brings to the world of fragrance.

My final stop was at MiN New York where I got acquainted with the new Perris Monte Carlo line; but the most interesting thing was a door. I asked about this fabulous looking door that looks like it leads into a wizard’s keep or medieval castle. The cryptic smile and the “we will be letting everyone know what is behind the door in a couple of weeks” has me as curious as the proverbial feline.

It was time to get in my last hugs and head for my train back home. Once again the event was a smashing success due to the hard work of Team Karen and everyone who joined in this celebration of all things fragrant. I am now back to 100% charged until I get my next boost at Fall Ball in October.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Sonoma Scent Studio Yin & Ylang- Harmony of Collaboration

One of the reasons independent perfumers are often independent perfumers is they want to do everything from concept to cologne. It is always interesting when these very singular people collaborate with anyone on a new fragrance. Sometimes it allows everyone involved to gain new insights into the creative process. For the latest release from Sonoma Scent Studio, Yin & Ylang, two of my favorite people in perfumery combined to create something true to both of their aesthetics but the combination is something multiplicative rather than additive.

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Michelyn Camen

Michelyn Camen, my editor-in-chief when I worked at CaFleureBon, approached Laurie Erickson the woman behind Sonoma Scent Studio with a concept and a name to go with it. Ms. Camen wanted to see ylang-ylang have a starring role in a fragrance and she wanted to call it Yin & Ylang. The yin she wanted to mirror “soft skin comfort” and the yang to carry “bold sensuality”. Ms. Erickson would take this brief and accept the challenge of working with an ylang-ylang keynote and also capturing the ancient meanings of yin and yang. The result is something I hope both women are very proud of as it really exemplifies the strengths both of them can bring to the creative process. (For more about that creative process here is the link to the article on CaFleureBon where they describe the back and forth which eventually produced the fragrance)

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Laurie Erickson (Photo: Avis Mandel)

Yin & Ylang opens with a bit of misdirection as Ms. Erickson combines blood orange and aldehydes which give a bit of off-kilter luminosity but it feel neither yin nor yang nor ylang. Patience is rewarded as they move into the ylang-ylang heart. An organic ylang-ylang complete oil is the ylang source. By using this as the ylang note Ms. Erickson both added some difficulty but also gave herself more inherent texture to hang other notes off of to create a desired effect. Since this was supposed to reflect yin, and soft, the ylang is swathed in jasmine and tuberose. These notes add support while simultaneously softening some of the earthier aspects. She adds a bit of lactone and beeswax to add another layer of pliancy to the yin. The ylang is also still around to form the yang part of things as we move into the base where we find sandalwood, oakmoss, patchouli, and leather. Those earthy aspects that were subdued in the heart arise in the base to create the bold sensuality asked for in the brief.

Yin & Ylang has 6-8 hours of longevity and modest sillage.

After working with Ms. Camen for five years to say she is always creating new concepts is underselling her ability to cut to the truth of what she wants. I’ve known Ms. Erickson for almost as long and her brand DNA is strong in almost everything she creates. Yin & Ylang is an accurate reflection of both women’s collective inventiveness. I can only hope that they continue to work together from time to time as this certainly seems like the beginning of a beautiful working relationship.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Sonoma Scent Studio.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Serpentine by Comme des Garcons

The newest fragrance from Comme des Garcons is another artistic collaboration following directly after Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones Wisteria Hysteria. This one is in conjunction with the Serpentine Galleries which are located in the Royal Park of Kensington Gardens in central London. British artist Tracey Emin was commissioned to design the bottle for, Serpentine by Comme des Garcons, and the graphics on the box. Creative director Christian Astuguevieille tapped perfumer Emilie Coppermann in her first fragrance for Comme des Garcons.

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Tracey Emin

Ms. Emin has on the side of the bottle the phrase “The Grass. The Trees. The Lake. And You.” The first two parts of that phrase describe Serpentine pretty succinctly as there is a pronounced greenness to it before the trees turn things woody. M. Astuguevieille wanted Serpentine to capture “Nature in a City”. The smell of green and growing things surrounded by the smell of the asphalt of the roads encircling the park. Mme Coppermann does a tremendous job of getting this brief and executing it admirably.

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Emilie Coppermann

Mme Coppermann takes some green notes and adds a pollen accord consisting of galbanum and iris leaf to make the open park feel come alive. This is the nature part of “Nature in a City”. For the city part an asphalt accord of black musk and nutmeg is amped up with an ozonic group of notes which add that slightly frenetic city vibe to the natural green of the opening notes. The final dollop of city comes from a pollution accord of benzoin, juniper wood, and gaiac wood. Some labdanum and smoky cedar add a bit more context to the city smells.

Serpentine has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Serpentine is going to be a divisive bit of perfumery I think with as many detractors as supporters. You can count me in the supporter’s camp as I appreciate the skill of Mme Coppermann in adding a lot of notes meant to disrupt one’s enjoyment of the beautiful sward of the city park. The belch of a taxi, the heat of the motorway, the slightly dirty smell of the air itself. What is so very well accomplished is the ability to call up all of the smells of the city without ever overwhelming the smell of the park. All the way through Serpentine the green opening is there and the city odors layer themselves on top but they never end up victorious as nature manages to keep the city at bay. As a first effort for Comme des Garcons Mme Coppermann shows she definitely understands the brand aesthetic and continues the current winning streak, for me, of excellent releases from Comme des Garcons.

Disclosure: This review based on a sample provided by Dover Street Market New York.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Apple iPhone 5s TV Commercial “Powerful”

In the day of the DVR we rarely have to watch a commercial, unless we want to. It takes a special bit of magic to get me to pay attention to that which I have become so accustomed to tuning out or fast forwarding through. Every now and then there is an advertisement which makes me look up, pay attention, and keep my finger off the double arrow to the right key on the remote. That it comes from Apple should be no surprise.

Apple has been making little attention getters for 30 years ever since the Ridley Scott directed commercial named “1984” debuted during the Super Bowl in January of 1984. As the iPod rose to prominence the songs chosen to go along with the day-glo silhouette graphics became instant hit makers for artists like Jet, The Fratellis, and Feist to name a few. Once you were in one of those commercials your rise on the charts was nearly assured. As iPad has become more prevalent there have been little tone poems of all the things you can do with it and the apps that run on it. For the most recent iPhone 5s commercial all of these are combined into one very memorable commercial which is named “Powerful”

The commercial begins with a few different musicians tuning up and getting ready to play all with an iPhone running an app in frame. After skipping around the bass player begins a familiar bass line and the rest of the musicians we see combine to start playing a version of The Pixies 1988 single “Gigantic” off the album Surfer Rosa. From there we see video gamers playing on their phone but projected gigantically. A father filming his son acting like Godzilla to his city of building blocks. A girl launching a fleet of model rockets and we end with a teacher showing a star map to her students and finishing with a graphic that says, “You’re more powerful than you think.”

This commercial succeeds for me on multiple levels. First it depicts the versatility of the iPhone as these devices we carry around in our pockets are able to do powerful things. The music chosen is familiar but not too familiar. Gigantic was never a chart hit failing to crack the top 40 at any time during its release. This is another thing that is interesting about this song choice. When I was listening to music at that time if The Pixies came on I was probably asked to change the channel away from that “noise”. Now in nostalgic hindsight The Pixies join The Ramones and Iggy Pop as musical acts that all of a sudden have the power to sell things thirty, or forty, years after they were making music. I know most of my contemporaries didn’t listen to any of these acts all of which were on many of my mix tapes so why this nostalgia sells things is fascinating to me. Finally as with the original “1984” ad “Powerful” has a great visual sense to itself from the musicians at the beginning to the people doing “big, big” things in the second half it forms an endearing whole. Really TV commercials just don’t get much better than this.

Mark Behnke

Bottles That Fascinate: Vintage Gucci perfume flask

I am not a bottle guy and many of you who know me know that if it smells good it could come in a Mason jar. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a pretty flacon. My friend, and fellow blogger, Vivian Kelly of The Fashion Examiner is much more interested in the bottle that holds the juice and from time to time she is going to talk about particular bottles and their significance. The series starts with a find at an antiques store. -MB

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The moment I spotted the vintage buff colored box at McGeorgie’s Antiques, I was hooked. I didn’t care what was actually INSIDE, I had to own that box. Similar to people who buy mass fragrance at counter, it was the packaging that pulled me in. It was mine, for a mere $25.

Fortunately, this Gucci box had something equally worthy inside – a 1980s oval GG flask on a chain that instantly reminded me of the vials Studio 54 partygoers wore in the E! Channel documentaries I never tire of watching.

I took the mini flask to the experts at Circa Jewels to verify its provenance. Buyer, Thuyvi Tran, confirmed that the item was an authentic Gucci piece, and determined that the item was very likely manufactured in the 1980s. 

We brainstormed about where we had seen an item like this before until we hit on it. “Kathryn Merteuil”, Sarah Michelle Gellar, wore a flask from which she sniffed cocaine to help her keep her frozen smile in place in “Cruel Intentions” [1999], a clever remake of “Dangerous Liaisons” [1988] that was set in the present day Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Thuyvi recommended I have the piece dipped in 18 karat gold to restore it back to its original glory; the process would run between $50 – 80.

Once that is done, I’ll have Jimmy at Golden Paradise [589 Eighth Avenue, NYC] remove the keychain links. The last step would be to string it on a 1950s plated gold chain purchased at Audrey Road, from owner Danielle Virrilli’s excellent vintage collection.

Once the piece is ready, my next challenge will be to find a fragrance I love enough to carry on me day and night. Suggestions are welcome!

Vivian Kelly, Editor-in-Chief of The Fashion Examiner

New Perfume Reviews Parfums M. Micalef Art Collection Puzzle No. 1 & Puzzle No. 2

Back when I was a child and distractions came in less technological forms there was always a jigsaw puzzle on a card table in the house. Everyone in the family would spend time adding pieces until we were finished. I was always intrigued by the shapes of the pieces I had my own terminology for them. There was always a full sense of completion when we all finished a puzzle and sat there looking at the completed puzzle as all of the many fragments came together to make something pleasant to look at.

Martine Micallef also has her own perspective on jigsaw puzzles, “A jigsaw puzzle is a game of patience and enigma like the love between two beings building their life together.” The two latest releases from Parfums M. Micallef are part of the Art Collection and are called Puzzle No.1 and Puzzle No. 2. Geoffrey Nejman and Jean-Claude Astier worked together on both fragrances. As I wore both of these they reminded me of the names I used to give my jigsaw puzzle pieces and each one came to represent a specific piece in my mind.

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The piece you see above I used to call “two-head” I always saw it as two heads and the shoulders that support them connected in the middle. Puzzle No. 1 reminds me of this as it has a heart consisting of two “heads” in osmanthus and jasmine. The top notes are the shoulders which support the osmanthus enhancing the apricot character of it. The base notes make sure the jasmine is sweeter and more demure keeping the indoles in check. Together there is a definite division of two distinct phases.

Puzzle No. 1 opens with a fuzzy peach and berry fruitiness; lemon and orange add a bit of citrus foundation but the early moments are peach and berry. I notice the apricot character of osmanthus first as it fits in with all of the fruit on display once the rest of the osmanthus joins in the soft leather quality continues the plush beginning. Then the jasmine arises and at first I notice the indolic core but it is rapidly overtaken by vanilla which keeps it sweet and floral. Tonka, and bezoin add some texture to that sweetness in the final phase of development.

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The piece above I called “spade square” because I thought the corners looked like spade symbols on playing cards. Puzzle No. 2 feels like it is made up of those two spades vectoring in different directions. The first vector is blackcurrant, citrus, and geranium. It is bright with a sense of green sticky earthiness and for well over an hour it stays that way. Then jasmine, patchouli, vetiver, and musk build up a much darker accord very different from the opening.

Grapefruit sparkles and blackcurrant leaf is present to tease out some of the sulfurous facets of grapefruit. Not too much and it always stays light. The blackcurrant itself follows the leaves and geranium comes along to keep the green nature of the leaves front and center. Puzzle No. 1 seems to linger here for a very long time it is easily an hour or two before the jasmine starts to signal some progression and it is a slow bit of development until the jasmine is ascendant. Once it is patchouli comes along and the herbal facets accentuate the indolic jasmine. Musk doubles down on the sensual nature. Vetiver finishes it off with the same tinge of green the geranium provided earlier.

Puzzle No. 1 and Puzzle No.2 have 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Putting together a fragrance must be a little like putting together a jigsaw puzzle as you keep putting pieces together until they start to fit. Once you have them all together and they have formed a whole fragrance there should be immense satisfaction. Especially when a perfumer can look down upon such a pretty picture as Puzzle No. 1 and Puzzle No. 2, there should be smiles all around.

Disclosure: This review was based on press samples provided by Parfums M. Micallef.

Mark Behnke