New Perfume Review Keiko Mecheri Bois Satin- Vanillic Vision

It is difficult for me to believe that it has been fifteen years since I first tried Keiko Mecheri Loukhoum, her first fragrance. There might be no more emblematic first fragrance of a line than Loukhoum has been for Keiko Mecheri. In the years since Ms. Mecheri has continually explored all of the potential paths away from that original first release. I always visualize the entire line as a sort of fragrant family tree with Loukhoum as the sturdy trunk from which the other fragrances branch off of. Ms. Mecheri has found fertile ground and has tilled it incessantly turning out fascinating perfumes. The latest release Bois Satin is a little closer to Loukhoum than some of the more recent releases and as such feels like a cyclical return to the beginning and a start of a new creative cycle.

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Keiko Mecheri

Many of the best perfume lines have a signature note or accord and what ties Ms. Mecheri’s together is the use of vanilla. Vanilla is probably the ultimate comfort scent but Ms. Mecheri has displayed its multiple personalities ably over the years. Bois Satin is a vanilla fragrance made exotic by adding in saffron. Citrus, floral, and an ambery finish combine with the vanilla backbone to create a comforting unconventional vanilla fragrance.

Bois Satin opens with a bright mandarin adding citrus sparkle over the vanilla and saffron. The vanilla-saffron axis that Bois Satin spins around smells gourmand-like at first but fairly quickly it becomes soft spicy warmth. It stays this way for the duration. Jasmine, with rose in a supporting role, provide a sweet floral accord in the heart. This is my favorite part of the development and it lingers here for a long time. The base is amber and patchouli and it is more amber than patchouli. Together with the vanilla this is an olfactory soft pillow to finish on.

Bois Satin has 8-10 hour longevity and modest sillage.

Ms. Mecheri may have been one of the original indie perfumers but Bois Satin shows the development of her aesthetic since Lokhoum. It shows a creative director still finding new paths to explore. Long may she add more branches on to this family tree.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Keiko Mecheri at Esxence and another sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Odin New York 11 Semma- Szechuan Cigar

I spent the weekend cleaning up the area around my desk and it is sort of like archaeological layers of perfume samples. On top is the most recent and on the bottom it turns out were samples I had received from last fall. If they make my desk it means I like them enough to want to write about them. Having the time to write about them, well there are sometimes where it seems perfume samples arrive in an avalanche and the fall is most definitely one of those times. Which means things get left behind; unless I notice them during infrequent clean-ups as I did with Odin 11 Semma.

odin semma

Odin 11 Semma is a classic case of an Under the Radar choice as it just got lost in the cascade of new releases at the end of 2013. Once I had the space to give it some more time to impress me I was amply rewarded. Odin New York is a men’s clothing store in NYC and brought out their first fragrance in 2009. Odin has had a pretty successful beginning to their perfume enterprise. 04 Petrana was widely praised as a masculine iris. 06 Amanu was formally praised as the first winner of The Fragrance Foundation Indie Perfume of the year in 2012. I like the overall line and always look forward to trying the new ones and so a little tardy here is my review of Odin 11 Semma.

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Corinne Cachen

Semma was composed by perfumer Corinne Cachen who had previously done 07 Tanoke for the brand. Semma was designed to be a warm spicy fragrance and Mme Cachen wraps her spices in a tobacco leaf impregnated with chili pepper. That chili pepper is what makes Semma interesting as it adds some restless energy to the smooth tobacco and spice.

Mme Cachen lays out her tobacco leaf and when I initially put this on it feels familiar until another familiar smell that of sliced Szechuan chili peppers arrives. The chili pepper can border on unpleasant but by cocooning it in the tobacco it surprisingly works. I think Mme Cachen probably spent a lot of time getting this balance right because a little too much pepper and this would be tough to wear. Now the more traditional spices of clove and cinnamon arrive and they also help in the continued taming of the chili pepper although both the clove and cinnamon add a fine-drawn kind of complementary heat themselves. The base notes are sweet myrrh, sandalwood, and tonka. Like a bit of sweet dessert at the end of a Szechuan meal these provide sweet solace at the end.

Semma has 8-10 hour longevity and moderat sillage.

I am sorry it took me so long to excavate Semma from the deepest layers on my desk, it deserved a better fate. The unfortunate thing is it is now back on the bottom layer. The silver lining is when I re-discover it again in a few months it will probably be perfect cool weather to wear it in again.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Odin New York. (I think)

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Diptyque Geranium Odorata & Eau de Lavande- The Return of Fabrice and Olivia

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I tend to remember the fragrance which makes me sit up and notice a perfumer for the first time. Diptyque is responsible for two of those moments. When I tried Philosykos in the late 1990’s I had never considered fig to be something I would want in a perfume, Phiolsykos changed that. It was one of my earliest impulse buys because I couldn’t walk away from it. It wasn’t until years later that I found out the perfumer was Olivia Giacobetti. A similar encounter happened in 2003 at the same Diptyque counter as I tried Tam Dao and found one of my favorite sandalwood fragrances of all-time. Perfumers Fabrice Pellegrin and Daniele Moliere were the co-creators but this was the start of M. Pellegrin’s amazing run at Diptyque. It is really the work of these two perfumers, Mme Giacobetti and M. Pellegrin, that I consider to represent the continued artistic excellence of the Diptyque brand. It is why I was delighted to see that both of them were back at work each doing one of the two new releases from Diptyque, Geranium Odorata and Eau de Lavande.

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Fabrice Pellegrin

In Geranium Odorata M. Pellegrin returns to green themes he explored previously at Diptyque in 2006’s Eau de Lierre. That fragrance was the smell of ivy growing on a brick wall. Geranium Odorata is the smell of a geranium stem snipped away from the bush. M. Pellegrin combines the “green rose” quality of geranum with very different green notes on top and bottom. It has the same realistic aspect as the ivy in Eau de Lierre but there is also more artistic flair in how that is achieved in Geranium Odorata.

Cardamom is one of my favorite notes in all of perfumery and by pairing it with bergamot M. Pellegrin highlights the lemony and minty aspects of that raw material. The geranium arrives at first smelling a lot like rose before its characteristic green aspects begin to take hold. It is this rougher, rawer kind of rose that makes me like geranium as a perfume ingredient and here M. Pellegrin displays it beautifully. There is a bit of pink pepper to allow the spicy facets to not get lost. The last bit of green comes from a powerful Haitian vetiver. This vetiver leaps into a clinch with the geranium and together they dance a green tinted quickstep through to the finish.

Geranium Odorata has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Olivia-Giacobetti

Olivia Giacobetti

Mme Giacobetti’s trademark is the creation of perfumes that seem almost inconsequentially lightweight but have surprising structure and power for that fragility. I’ve always likened them to a soap bubble floating on the breeze. You can see through it as if it is clear but if you look closer there are all of the colors of the rainbow swirling on the surface. This is Mme Giacobetti’s gift and it is on full display in Eau de Lavande. Lavender Water is one of the earliest fragrances known but Mme Giacobetti also wants to do something different and she does so by combining the two major sources of lavender oil and infusing them with spices.

There is the more precious and expensive Lavender oil from the L. angustofolia species. Lavandin is the more plentiful L. x intermedia species. Because of the lower cost this is the smell of lavender in most laundry products and soaps. Mme Giacobetti uses almost equal amounts of each as the spine of Eau de Lavande. Early on she uses coriander seed and basil to create a haze of green to surround the lavender. In the heart cedar is used to accentuate the more familiar lavandin. This will give you a soapy moment but it is quickly removed form that by cinnamon and nutmeg and together they banish any thought of the laundry room that was beginning to form. The base is a beautifully composed mix of the lightest sandalwood and incense. This is where Mme Giacobetti always impresses me as when I read those notes I’m expecting something strong and instead I get delicacy, she does it to me nearly every time.

Eau de Lavande has 4-6 hour longevity and deceptive sillage. I often thought it was gone only to catch a sniff again.

Both perfumers have very different styles but their success at Diptyque has helped define the way I think about the brand. Geranium Odorata and Eau de Lavande both contribute to that history quite ably.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The FIFA World Cup

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When it comes to sports there is nothing like competing for your country at an elite level. Every athlete in any sport you can name strives to wear a uniform with their country’s flag sewn on it. My favorite quadrennial national competition is about to start this week, the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. For the next month the greatest football (soccer) playing nations on earth will compete to be named the World Champion. This is a magical moment as whole countries come to a stop when their national team is playing. As someone who has had the pleasure of attending the World Cup in 1986 and 1994 I have seen the emotion played out live. I also have treasured memories of traveling in a country on the day they are competing and sharing the experience with those countrymen.

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Manno Sanon agains Italy in the 1974 World Cup

My first experience of this kind was being in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti in June of 1974 at a crowded dockside bar as Haiti took on the mighty Italian team. At the end of the first half the score stood at 0-0. Then right at the beginning of the second half Manno Sanon scored the first goal against the Italians in 19 World Cup games. The bar exploded, people danced on the dock, and boats blew their horns. Then the tension really set in as everyone hoped against hope that Haiti could hold on for a famous victory. Six minutes later the score was tied at one and the Italians would add two more before the end of the game. This was the moment I fell in love with the World Cup as a sporting event.

I’ve been in an Italian-American club when Paolo Rossi scored three goals to lead Italy to a 3-2 victory over Brazil while grown men wept with emotion. In every city I’ve lived in the Brazilian community would have an impromptu car honking parade on Main Street after each victory. The World Cup captivates the entire world and it was why I wanted to experience it firsthand.

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In 1986 I spent the month of June crisscrossing central Mexico going from site to site to see games. The US had not qualified and I was this oddity, an American who knew something about the game. As a result I was adopted by one group of fans or another. The Brazilians welcomed me on to their conga drum line against Spain. The Spaniards taught me the cheers of their team a week later when they played Northern Ireland. Spending thirty days immersed in the madness made me long for the opportunity to be able to root for the US team. Eight years later it would happen.

In 1994 the World Cup came to the US. At the time I lived in Connecticut and was positioned within easy drives of three venues in Boston, New York, and Washington. I bought two tickets to as many matches as I could and I took a friend with me to every game. This time I had company as we drank Guinness with the Irish fans in NYC. Helped Spanish fans carry a coffin with Italy written on it into the stadium for their quarterfinal. I was introduced to salt licorice in the parking lot prior to a Norway match. I really enjoyed watching my friends become exposed to the fervor of the World Cup firsthand.

This year I will once again be highly distracted by the events taking place in Brazil. The US team has been drawn in to a very difficult group but like every fan I live in hope that the American lads will pull off a surprise or two. If you need to find me for the next month I’ll be at the bar watching with my new friends sharing in a world-wide experience.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 Oumma-Obsidian Oud

I think every young boy goes through a phase where they are fascinated by rocks and minerals. The texture of different types, the density, or unusual lightness, of something which looks so hard. I remember going to the store which sold pieces to trade in a gift certificate. From the moment I received the gift I knew with a certainty what I wanted; a piece of obsidian. I was enraptured by the different textures on display in the hunk I purchased. On one side it was smooth as glass and black as night, it felt like it was drawing me in to an alternate dimension. On the other side it was rough with whorls and sharp edges. Like a cloud I could stare at it for hours seeing shapes forming in the complexity of the lines and topography. Of the few things I still have from my childhood that piece of obsidian is one and it sits near my desk. When I received my bottle of Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 Oumma I realized almost immediately that it was my obsidian in olfactory form.

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Stephane Humbert Lucas

Stephane Humbert Lucas’ eponymous 777 line is one of the best new entries into the ultra-luxe perfume market. M. Lucas uses large quantities of high quality raw materials and this collection is heavily tilted towards Middle Eastern influences with many of them containing oud. Oumma has probably the highest concentration of oud in the entire 777 collection. It seems like almost every ingredient in Oumma is present in near overdose quantities. M. Lucas shows a precise hand in taking the disparate loud voices and finding a harmony that allows them all to sing in unison albeit at high volume. Prima facie Oumma is a typical woody rose oud combo and it is certainly that. It is also so intense it draws you in like that smooth surface of the obsidian into a dimension defined by the familiar but made unconventional by its energy. Once inside, the development abounds with remarkable textures which allow imagination free rein.

Obsidian

There is no easing into a fragrance like Oumma, M. Lucas tosses you into the deep end of the pool and you are floating in a bath of jasmine and rose. It inhabits every receptor in your nose and then as you break the surface you take a deep breath of oud. It is so prominent in all of its schizophrenic glory. The woodiness, the odd medicinal quality, the subtle floral aspect, the smoke; it forms its own fragrant whorls and ridges to let one decide where they want to place their attention. The source of the oud is a Burmese oud which also carries a significant peppery character and M. Lucas takes that and ups the ante by adding in cade. It makes everything that can be fractious about oud even more cantankerous in quality. This ridge is so sharp it could cut if you’re not careful. The base is a cocktail of tolu and Peruvian balsams which are also very strong but they are the easiest thing to cling to throughout the entire torrid development.

Oumma has 24 hour longevity, and then some. It also has prodigious sillage a little goes a very long way.

There are many oud fragrances on the market and there are even many woody rose oud fragrances on the market. None of them approach the mesmerizing intensity of Oumma. It feels as ageless as my piece of obsidian swallowing all of the surrounding light in its inky beauty. If you like oud dive in to the Stygian depths and breathe deeply there are rewards in excess.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle of Oumma I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfumerie Generale 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense- Wearing Lemon-colored Shades

Pierre Guillaume is always worth paying attention to because he is always exploring the limits of his perfume composing abilities. When a perfumer does this it grabs my attention because in this “play it safe” world of fragrance M. Guillaume takes risks. As a result I find everything he does captures some part of my imagination. For 2014 M. Guillaume has begun the Signature Collection wherein he returns to some of the original fragrances from his Parfumerie Generale line and give a new spin to them. Earlier this year Coze, Cuir Veneum, and L’Eau Rare Matale were the first three to get this treatment. I enjoyed them but there wasn’t one I preferred over the original and it wasn’t close. At least in those cases M. Guillaume was picking a part of the fragrance to alter which I preferred he left alone. Even now I had to go back and look at my notes to remind myself about them. The newest Signature Collection, Parfumerie Generale 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense, will share neither of those issues as I definitely think it is better than the original and I won’t be needing a mental nudge to remember this one.

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Pierre Guillaume

I have held a fond space for 07 Cologne Grand Siecle which was released in 2005 because M. Guillaume made one of the most realistic lemon accords I’ve ever smelled. He also did this using almost exclusively all-natural ingredients. All together the juice in the bottle represents the fleshy pulp, the slightly green rind, and the tart juiciness of a lemon fresh off the tree. I would stack the first 15-30 minutes of Cologne Grand Siecle up against anything I own and it would be a competition. Even just revisiting it for this review I am once again in love with this olfactory lemon. But there is a problem for all that the lemon is as good as it gets it is also pretty much all that is there. I said I’d stack up the first 30 minutes against anything else because after that it is pretty much gone. That’s on me whose skin actually holds even the most transient of fragrances for hours. Cologne Grand Siecle is almost undetectable after an hour. I have always been left wanting M. Guillaume to go back and add a heart and base to that lemon note worthy of it. In 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense he turns the intensity of the original lemon into a more diffuse brilliance while losing none of the captivating subtleties. He then adds in depth with a real warm heart and a fabulous green base.

Meyer_Lemon

The combination of bergamot, bigarade and lemon leaves create the lemon accord of the original but this time it has a gauzy quality to it. By which I mean instead of blinding you with its light it is like experiencing it behind sunglasses. Because it is more easily experienced it allows for a slightly closer examination and that is worth doing. The lemon leaves add a bitter green character that truly stitches together the bigarade and bergamot into the key accord. A really well-chosen minty flare of green draws your attention to the earthier smells of hay and tobacco. The base continues with the green as vetiver and oakmoss dominate the final phase. This time the lemon is present throughout the entire development over many hours.

Parfumerie Generale 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense has 6-8 hour longevity and modest sillage. It is an Eau de Parfum concentration and that also contributes to its longevity and sillage.

7.1 Grand Siecle intense has taken the original and made it a complete composition. In computer lingo when you name something X.1 it generally represents a slight upgrade. 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense feels like a whole new olfactory operating system and should be called 8.0 except Intrigant Patchouli already has that number. Know this, 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense is no mere iteration it is the realization of the brilliant single phase of the original into a beautifully complete perfume.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample purchased from Luckyscent.

Mark Behnke

Taking Notes

One of the many barriers to having fragrance breakthrough as an accepted art form is the need for a consistent vocabulary to evolve from the discussion of perfume. The perfume community doesn’t even have consensus on how to describe a specific fragrance. Consumers rely on the list of notes to help them decide whether they want to give a perfume a try. If they don’t like jasmine they are unlikely to try something as soon as they see jasmine in the list of ingredients. But should they? There are perfumes where the jasmine is used as a note of contrast and foundation never rising to noticeable levels. By just reading a note list a consumer might miss out on something they would really like because they see the note they don’t like in the list. The companies have become skilled in the art of describing accords in ever more flowery terms. There is one perfume I got the press materials for which called it “The Elixir of Love” accord. I have no idea what that means and depending on my interpretation it could go in so many different directions. In the end these descriptions are no more illuminating than a list of ingredients.

This has come to mind again as Chandler Burr has re-started his Untitled Series on Luckyscent. Mr. Burr is one of the most active proponents of making olfactory art something substantial. Towards that end he has used the language of other arts to describe those perfumes he considers worthy of being called olfactory art. Mr. Burr described specific “schools” of perfume and showed examples of each during his exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC. Mr. Burr is also very steadfast in his insistence that fragrances should not be broken down into a list of its components when describing it. He likens it to looking at a painting and describing it only as the colors displayed on the canvas without describing the overall artistic display.

When taken to the extreme I agree with him; a simple listing of the notes does not convey anything special about the overall composition. Where I disagree is that notes have no place in the description of a fragrance I think is olfactory art. I would never write about Thierry Mugler Angel and not mention the use of ethyl maltol Olivier Cresp used to create the cotton candy smell within this game-changing perfume. You can’t talk about Chanel No. 5 without talking about the aldehydes or Lancome Tresor without considering Sophia Grojsman’s use of an overdose of galaxolide. The very use of these materials in unique ways, I believe, requires us as writers to point them out. It is the ingenuity of the perfumer and their intuitive way of taking a raw material into a heretofore unimagined direction which often sets apart a fragrance as something worthy of the label olfactory art.

Here is where it gets a little tricky though. There are some fragrances which are so intricately composed to create a desired effect that trying to pick it apart into its component notes is completely irrelevant. Calice Becker’s By Kilian Back to Black, Bertrand Duchaufour’s Sienne L’Hiver, and Marc-Antoine Corticchiato’s Parfum D’Empire Musc Tonkin are such amazing still lifes that I always just experience them on that level without overanalyzing the notes which bring these exquisite perfumes to life. This is where I and Mr. Burr are in complete agreement but this can’t apply to every fragrance.

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Where Next? by Edward Frederick Brewtnall (1846-1902)

Every writer has to make the decision on how best to communicate their experience with a perfume. I decided early on to plant my flag firmly in the middle. I always try to communicate the way a perfume makes me feel without relying overmuch on the individual notes. Then I usually spend the next paragraph exercising my analytical skills tearing it apart into the notes. This captures my two-sided love of olfactory art. I want to be transported by a great fragrance as any art lover does and hope to communicate that. The scientist wants to know how that was achieved and so that part of my psyche delves deep looking to figure out the inner workings of that which I admire.

Which is correct? I don’t think anyone can answer that for sure at the moment. What I can say unequivocally that the more conversation we have about the perfumes we think rise to the level of olfactory art the closer we will become to creating a uniform language of perfume. So to all who write about perfume whether on Facebook, a blog, or a forum pick the way you want to describe your favorite fragrances and add to the conversation; together we will create a language of perfume.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Vetiver

For those of us with more than one bottle of perfumer the change of the seasons signals a change in the perfumes we look forward to wearing. With Memorial Day in the rearview mirror for 2014 the summer days have begun and for the next three months my perfume tastes tilt towards the citrus, the colognes, and the vetivers. I wear vetiver fragrances all year round because it is one of the more versatile notes in perfumery but there is something about a hot day which elevates my favorite vetivers to something even more enjoyable. I thought I’d share my five favorite vetivers as I dust them off and move them to the front of the shelf for the summer.

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The Different Company Sel de Vetiver might just be the perfect summer fragrance as perfumer Celine Ellena created a near perfect mix of vetiver and sea. Mme Ellena wanted to create an accord of “salt drying on skin after swimming in the ocean” and she does. Before getting to that a very grassy vetiver along with grapefruit and cardamom lead into that accord. Ever since trying this in 2006 it has been one of my summer staples.

For nearly as long another summer staple was Guerlain Vetiver but in 2012 Roja Parfums Vetiver Extrait supplanted it. Roja Dove takes the same spine found in that fragrance and turns it into something as brilliant as the noontime summer sun. The bergamot is bolstered by lemon. Jasmine and rose provide an amuse bouche for the vetiver main course. Vetiver is swirled in a sirocco of spices and woods. Nutmeg, pepper, and caraway match up with gaiac, cedar, and amyris. This carries a luminous inner glow all day and into the night.

Like I said I also use my colognes a lot during the summer and Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal checks both cologne and vetiver boxes. Perfumer Jerome Epinette uses a higher distilling fraction of vetiver which produces a much greener, less heavy, woody vetiver source. M. Epinette weaves it into a traditional cologne structure of citrus, orange blossom, and cedar. The unique raw material turns this Vetiver into an opaque vetiver breeze and because it is a cologne absolue this breeze blows all day long.

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If Sel de Vetiver has been my summer days Lalique Encre Noire, also released in 2006, has scented the nights. Perfumer Nathalie Lorson uses a simple structure of woods to coax out the woodier character of vetiver and turn it into a sultry night. Mme Lorson sandwiches her Haitan and Bourbon Vetiver with cypress and cashmere woods over a musky base. This is the scent of potential as you head out into the evening.

My all-time favorite vetiver fragrance is Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire. The entire Frederic Malle collection was a sensation when it was released in 2002 and I remember trying it for the first time and it was Dominique Ropion’s smoky vetiver which exerted the strongest pull upon me. It was also the first bottle I purchased from the line. M. Ropion has made the perfect vetiver fragrance when I am wearing my linen ensemble at a summer outdoor event. It has a perfect casual sophistication for the season. What sets this apart is the “floral ozone accord” which energizes the vetiver in the heart. The vetiver here feels more virtually alive than in any other vetiver I own. All of this lands on a base of smoky resinous wood as myrrh, oakmoss, sandalwood, and musk complete this. I have always envisaged Tom Wolfe wearing this.

Enjoy the summer and get your vetivers out!

Disclosure: I purchased bottles of all of the fragrances mentioned above.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Roja Parfums Lily Extrait- From Funereal to Fun

They don’t make them like they used to is a familiar refrain. It usually is shorthand that quality has taken a backseat to function. It is why when there are those who are uncompromising in the quality of their work it can often be described as old-fashioned or retro. Roja Dove is devoted to making the perfumes which bear his name on the label the epitome of quality. That quality does have a collateral effect of feeling like something from a bygone era. The excellent thing is that era is when men dressed for dinner and women wore gloves and pearls. We may live in a world where casual prevails but I know I want to occasionally wear something that makes me feel like Cary Grant rather than Brad Pitt. Mr. Dove does just this with his perfumes. A particular part of his collection which is truly magnificent are his extraits. Each of the previous five extraits; Bergamot, Gardenia, Lilac, Neroli, and Vetiver take the idea of soliflores to an entirely new level.

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Roja Dove speaking at Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2014

When I met Mr. Dove at the recent Sniffapalooza Spring Fling he told me his goal is to make his extraits, especially his florals, so real you can’t tell the difference from the real thing. He achieved this with Gardenia Extrait when he offered a blindfolded subject a real bloom and a strip of the extrait and the person said they couldn’t tell the difference. I personally believe the Extraits are really the soul of the Roja Parfums line. They are beyond photorealistic as they also ask the wearer to explore all the nuances of the featured note. All of this is why I was so excited to receive to receive a sample of the new Lily Extrait. Lily is a bloom with unfortunate funereal references but I have always loved the heady narcotic beauty and the spicy heart of the real thing. Other fragrances work very hard to scrub out that spicy core and leave a clean floralcy which frankly does seem lifeless to me, perfect for last rites. With Lily Extrait Mr. Dove creates a lily soliflore that is as vivacious as Mr. Dove himself.

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The opening of Lily Extrait is a pinprick of sunlight from bergamot and lemon to awaken the flower. The lily heart uses muguet as the nucleus to then add in precise amounts of rose, ylang ylang, jasmine, carnation, and tiare. Each of those floral notes form a supporting cast for the muguet which uses the carnation to support the green facets and the jasmine and ylang ylang to complement the sweetness. Rose adds the hint of the spicy heart of the real thing. Clove picks that up and carries it deeper and this is where if blindfolded I think I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the real thing and the perfume. Like a coloratura soprano hitting her high notes Lily Extrait holds this singular beauty for hours. Over time a bit of vanilla, wood, and musk provide some contrast as the lily eventually fades.

Lily Extrait has overnight longevity and modest sillage.

Most modern lily perfumes try to hew to the current clean aesthetic to, in my opinion, their detriment. Real lily is meant to exude the same bit of spice in the core as great rose perfumes do. Lily Extrait stands out because it produces a fully alive lily and in that ineffable effervescence turns it from funeral to fun. In an incredible collection of exquisite perfumes Lily Extrait is the best of them all.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review En Voyage Perfumes Café Noir, Captured in Amber, & Indigo Vanilla- Chocolate & Ambergris

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There is a moment with every independent perfumer where they hit an inflection point. From then onward they enter a better more complete phase of perfume-making. Often you see the threads of things in their early fragrances strengthened and a real development of a personal aesthetic. It is a joy when I get a sample from the indie perfumers I think are on the verge of this kind of success to see if that will be the inflection point. In 2013 over the course of her two releases, Zelda and A Study in Water, perfumer Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes hit that place where her fragrances truly came of age. In both of those perfumes Ms. Waddington reached back for classic inspiration as starting points to go off in two delightfully distinct directions. Of course for these to truly signal the sea change I expected it would depend on what Ms. Wadidngton followed them up with. For 2014 she has created three fragrances within what she has called the Souvenir de Chocolate collection. As promised in Café Cacao, Captured in Amber, and Indigo Vanilla there is chocolate; but it is what else is included that truly delivers on Ms. Waddington’s talent.

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Shelley Waddington

In Café Cacao Ms. Waddington was going for a scented version of “Parisienne café mocha” crossed with Marie Antoinette, who added ambergris to her hot cocoa; and Empress Josephine who impregnated the walls of the palace with musk. In the early going it is all steaming hot café mocha. In Paris they must sprinkle some cardamom on their mochas because it provides spicy contrast to the sweetness of the cream and vanilla present around the chocolate. From here the French historical divas have their way as Marie adds some real ambergris, beachcombed from New Zealand, and Josephine embeds the musk. Together they provide a combination of animalic, briny, sweet coffee. That might sound like something you wouldn’t want to experience but Ms. Waddington has worked with her raw materials and positioned them just so to result in something very unique.

Amber is a resin which can preserve things trapped within in a timeless matrix. Captured in Amber is Ms. Waddington’s nod to “the opiated Oriental fantasies that gripped turn-of-the-century Paris and London.” The key here is through the arts was how most of Europe was becoming acquainted with the Orient and so it led to emphasis on the more attention getting aspects of behavior encountered by those translating it into art. Captured in Amber also captures that larger-than-life quality as Ms. Waddington goes for opulent to the nth degree. It starts with a swish of bitter orange before her amber accord takes over. Ms. Waddington tames a whole cornucopia of resins to create this sumptuous amber accord. You can pick the strands apart, but why bother, because the whole is so much greater than the parts. For all the complexity in creating her amber accord the rest of Captured in Amber is simplicity as first a very dark chocolate and more of the real ambergris combine to provide the foundation of Captured in Amber.

I’m not sure where Ms. Waddington hangs out when in New Orleans but I need to find out because in Indigo Violet her inspiration is “New Orleans hot chocolate” which seems to have violet sugar added to the traditional ingredients.  For this last fragrance in the Souvenir de Chocolate collection she starts with a sugared violet. This is crystalline violet sparkling with sweetness. It slowly sinks into a creamy luxuriant accord equal parts chocolate and cream. I think many perfumers would have continued the gourmand theme and finished with more foodie notes. Instead Ms. Waddington resurrects the French royalty from Café Cacao and ambergris and musk again provide the finish. This time they seem much more sensual and intimate than they do in Café Cacao, which again shows Ms. Waddington’s ability to tune similar notes to disparate effect.

All three fragrances in the Souvenir de Chocolate collection have 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

The virtue of being an indie perfumer allows Ms. Waddington the freedom to use exquisite ingredients, like the New Zealand ambergris, in her small batches. That it shows up in all three of these fragrances means she could easily have called it Souvenir de Ambergris. Really though it is the different forms of chocolate and the skill Ms. Waddington brings to bear which are the true stars of this fragrant show. Take a bow Madame your star continues to ascend.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by En Voyage Perfumes.

Mark Behnke