New Perfume Review Penhaligon’s Tralala- Bertrand’s Retro Nouveau Perfume

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If there is anything one can say about perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour it is he is prolific. Sometimes that profligacy has the unfortunate effect of feeling a like a “new” release is made up of parts of older releases. As a result when trying a new perfume by M. Duchaufour the mental rolodex of his past fragrances is spinning madly while I try it. While there are moments of familiarity in the new Penhaligon’s Tralala this is the first time that I feel M. Duchaufour has aggressively gone for a vintage feeling modern perfume. It is his first attempt at a Retro Nouveau fragrance.

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Three looks from the Meadham Kirchoff Fall 2014 Fashion Show

That Tralala goes for that vibe is probably due to the creative direction from fashion design duo, Meadham Kirchoff. Their Fall 2014 collection was a modern riff on pre-war fashion and while this kind of reaching to the past to form a foundation for the contemporary has become common in the fashion world, it hasn’t in perfumery. Penhaligon’s has used one of their existing perfumes to accompany previous Meadhgam Kirchoff shows and for the Fall 2014 runway show they wanted a new fragrance to match the designs. M. Duchaufour took this challenge and has created something wholly original within his portfolio.  

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Bertrand Duchaufour

Tralala opens on a very vintage aldehydic moment carrying aspects of old hairspray along with the sparkly metallic sheen of other aldehydes. This is beautifully amplified with violet leaves and galbanum to turn this edgily green and the violet leaves pick up the metallic highlights of the aldehydes. To add some depth M. Duchaufour trots out his well refined boozy accord and lilting through all of this is a bit of eastern exoticism as saffron is also part of the early going. This opening reminds me of a 1950’s woman spraying her hair with Aqua Net whilst still in her slip, a highball glass on her dresser. It sets a very precise vibe. The vibe is carried further with powdery orris reminiscent of vintage cosmetics. Then M. Duchaufour uses two more of his perfected accords as leather and incense begin to add a darker deeper texture to Tralala. These are details which make for interesting juxtaposition. The base of Tralala is very dense as sweet myrrh is enclosed in an envelope of vetiver and patchouli at first. Then a sweetness manages to come to the fore very late as opoponax and vanilla join the myrrh to carry Tralala to a sweet ending.

Tralala has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Despite the PR hiccup over the name the fragrance itself is very good. I really like that M. Duchaufour was pointed in a particular direction and he ran with the creative direction given him. I think many of his best fragrances have come when he has been under active creative direction. In the end Tralala is M. Duchaufour at the top of his game and that is a very good game indeed.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample of Tralala provided by Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: HGTV Love It or List It

Many evenings in the Colognoissuer household are spent with me in my chair reading, testing perfume, or surfing the internet. While I do that my wife will often have the television on the cable network HGTV. Most of the time it is easy for me to tune it out and I’m only required to look up when Mrs. Colognoisseur asks me, “Do you like that?” Sadly for her the answer is often no. Over the past few months though there is one of these HGTV shows which has managed to penetrate my studied air of indifference, Love It or List It.

Love It or List It is a show where a current set of homeowners are given the opportunity to renovate their home, Love It, or find a newer improved home, List It. Most of the homeowners have begun to outgrow the home they bought years ago but have emotional reasons for not moving, or at least one of them does. Interior Designer Hilary Farr comes up with a plan to renovate the house using the budget the homeowners give her so they will want to stay. Working at odds with Hilary is realtor David Visentin who looks for a new home which has all of the things the homeowners want and might not be able to get. By the end of the hour with the renovations done and usually a perfect house found the homeowners have to make the decision to stay or go. I can’t explain it but I have so much fun trying to guess which way they will go.

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The show is formulaic as it can get but the personalities of Hilary and David as they interact with the homeowners makes it seem fresher than it should. The first part of every episode is the introduction to the couple who own the home and one of them who really wants to stay and one who really wants to move. Hilary and David do a home inspection with David snarking about the home and Hilary promising she can make magic happen. They sit down with the homeowners and get their respective budgets and “must haves” to stay or go. In the next two segments renovation gets underway and almost every episode a hidden issue is uncovered which eats up a chunk of the renovation budget forcing a choice on something to give up. Oh no Hilary is in trouble! Interspersed between that David takes the couple to two houses which also contain significant flaws and it seems as if he will need to find the impossible to satisfy these homeowners. Oh no David is in trouble! This leads to the final segment where Hilary pulls it all together despite the challenges and David finds the perfect home. Yay our heroes rally! After the new renovation is revealed the decision to Love It or List It is revealed. So far, through 118 episodes Love It leads List It 69 to 49.

Of course this is reality television and this is HGTV which has admitted other of their shows are less “real” than they might seem. I am sure Love It or List It is no different and much of the “conflict” is manufactured and the decision is pre-ordained from the moment filming begins. I don’t care as I am not expecting a documentary and it really is the way Hilary and David carry the show that makes it enjoyable for me. The real fun is the smile I get from Mrs. C when I put down the laptop, close the book, or lay down the perfume vials to pay attention because I have decided to Love, Love It or List It.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Shiseido Inoui

When it comes to discussions of the greatest perfumes ever Shiseido Nombre Noir has been claimed to be one of the top five fragrances of all-time. It is a funny thing though just like it is with Citizen Kane as it relates to being the best movie of all-time neither of these would be in my top ten all-time. I’m not even sure they make my top 25 all-time. In both cases I admire the budding auteurs Serge Lutens and Orson Welles and their precocious creations but neither resonates with me. I prefer Mr Welles’ second film The Magnificent Ambersons. When it comes to Shiseido I think 1976’s Inoui is a better perfume than Nombre Noir.

The mid 1970’s was a watershed moment for perfume and the way it was sold. Michael Edwards traces the tipping point to 1973’s Revlon Charlie as the moment perfume was marketed to this new demographic of the working woman. It also changed the perfume buying experience as these trailblazing women didn’t want to wait for a man to gift them with a perfume they wanted to go out and find one themselves. As the sales for Charlie took off many of the other perfume lines wanted to join in. In 1976 Shiseido released Inoui with the advertising line, “It’s not her that’s beautiful; it’s how she lives her life that’s beautiful”. Even on the Shiseido website they admit it was designed to “target the contemporary career woman”. What did Shiseido think this thoroughly modern woman wanted? A green balsamic chypre.

inoui advertisement

I have never been able to determine who the perfumer is behind Inoui. Serge Lutens had not arrived by 1976. It was supposedly created by a joint effort between the American, Italian and Japanese staffs of Shiseido. If this was a team effort I really would have liked to overhear the conversations as each mod was passed around to finally arrive at Inoui.

Inoui is a fantastic green fragrance and its beauty is in the uncompromising way it develops from a galbanum heavy opening into a pine heart to finish on an oakmoss and civet base. It is a near perfect green perfume.

Inoui starts with the galbanum, juniper, and a bit of cypress. There is a green accord that adds texture to the galbanum and just when all of this green might be a little much an imaginative use of peach turns it into a softer sweeter beginning. The pine grows right down the middle of Inoui oozing sap and throwing off green facets as it strengthens. A bit of green cardamom and thyme add spice to the pine. Then just like the peach in the top notes jasmine adds softness and sweetness before we hit the big chypre finish. Myrrh adds its opulent resinous quality and then oakmoss and civet bring Inoui to a close on a feral green accord.

Inoui in the eau de parfum version has 10-12 hour longevity and very close sillage as would befit that career woman it was marketed to.

Inoui was a failure as it was pulled off shelves in less than ten years. It was never able to find traction with those early career women as they clearly wanted the florals of Charlie over the anti-floral green of Inoui. Was it ahead of its time? I don’t think so I actually think it is quite a good example of the kind of perfume making going on in the late 1970’s. I think it was a case of not finding the right target demographic to market it to.

Inoui can be found on eBay but people are catching on and its price has been rising steadily over the last few years.

Finally I want to end on a personal note. My discovery of Inoui was through one of those people that make our perfume community so wonderful. Linda Beth Ross and I would spend random hours on Facebook chatting about old vintage perfumes and after a discussion of how much I like green perfumes she sent me a sample of Inoui. Earlier this year she passed away after a long battle with cancer and every time I wear, or think, about Inoui I also remember my friend in fragrance.

Disclosure; this review is based on a bottle of Eau de Parfum I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews MiN New York Scent Stories Vol 1 (Part 4) Barrel and Old School Bench- The Stories of Wood

I conclude my reviews of the new MiN New York Scent Stories Vol.1 with the two fragrances based on constructs of wood, Barrel and Old School Bench. As before they inspire my amateur storyteller.

oak tree

Growing up on the cruel prairie we had a gigantic oak right in the middle of the field where the cattle grazed. I would spend my days underneath its shade plotting my escape from the farm to the big city. I would spend time in the highest branches looking to the horizon seeing as far as I could see but it all looked the same.

The storm swept in like all storms do in the flatlands with mighty gusts heralding the malicious lightning contained in the dark maelstrom. I watched from the hayloft as forked bolts made their way closer. The hair stood up on my arms and incredible light was followed by a percussive boom I felt right down to my toes. When I could see again the majestic oak had lost to the lightning it was annihilated.

After the storm I went to look and the tree had been riven in two and running right down the center was a jagged brown vein that looked just like the lightning had left its imprint on the tree. When the lumber company came to take the wood I heard them saying we need to preserve that streak I’ve never seen the like of it before.

I did leave the farm and I found a career and a family in the city and just as that old oak tree was fading from memory it showed up again, twice, in the least likely of places.

whiskeybarrels

The city gave me a lot of new experiences and one of them was a love of good bourbon. On a family trip we went to a famous distillery down south and as we toured the aging room where barrel after barrel was stacked up we were shown to the 30-year old barrels. Honestly I was most interested in what was inside and as I waited as they extracted a bit for us to taste I focused on the barrel itself. There it was the brown lightning tattooed into the wood. As I looked around all of the 30-year barrels had the mark. That old oak had traveled with me off the farm.

Barrel is one of my favorites from this inaugural collection as the perfumer captures the smell of dry oak quite realistically. The opening is an interesting choice of tuberose which definitely threw me for a loop as the first note I picked up from a fragrance called Barrel was a white flower. It is an ingenious choice because the indolic core is the perfect entry to the booze soaked wood that takes up the rest of the development. Rum is the accord used here and it is surrounded with coriander and pink pepper to make it a spiced rum. The oak staves come next and they are accentuated with oakmoss and vetiver adding depth and desiccation. The base is leather and patchouli leavened with a bit of vanilla. It makes for a smooth accord to finish the experience. The middle phase of Barrel where the oak is front and center is absolutely my favorite part of any of the Scent Stories Vol. 1.

school bench

It was the first day of school for my daughter Anastasia and like all children the idea of being on her own simultaneously thrilled and frightened. As we approached the doors of the old grammar school she hesitated pulling back on my hand. There was a bench nearby and we sat down on it. This was a bench which had had many people sit on it as the wax coating was buffed by the rumps of those reclining on it through the years. Anastasia looked up for me to supply comforting words and as I was looking down between us on the bench there it was the lightning vein within the wood on each slat of the bench. My old friend had given me the perfect story to tell my little girl about looking to the horizon for new things to learn.

Old School Bench also opens with a bit of a curveball as the perfumer chooses to use chocolate early on. It provides an outre gourmand aspect which finds itself subsumed under a coating of geranium scented furniture wax. Cedar, vetiver, and angelica root provide a woody accord which seems to perfectly match a well preserved piece of wood lovingly taken care of. Patchouli rounds out the last fragrant slat of this Old School Bench.

school desk

When I returned to pick up Anastasia at the end of the day she had a huge smile on her face as she beckoned me towards the door and then ran down the hall. I caught up to her as she introduced me to her teacher. She grabbed my finger and pulled me towards a desk with a folded piece of construction paper that had her name on it. She sat in the seat and opened the lid and pointed. When I looked to see what she was pointing at, I also grinned happily. There it was the lightning bolt vein of my old oak tree watching out for my daughter as she took her first steps into the world alone.

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Chad Murawczyk and Mindy Yang

I am also grinning quite happily at the overall success of this collection that Mindy Yang and Chad Murawczyk guided through its development. By choosing one perfumer it adds a cohesion as certain accords and notes act as connective threads throughout the olfactory narrative. Also by sticking to telling stories of places and things instead of trying to make it a collection where every genre and style is represented is also to be commended. By my score there are five I think are really quite amazing scents; Dune Road, Moon Dust, Onsen, Barrel, and Old School Bench. There are four others that are better than average; Long Board, Magic Circus, Shaman, and Momento. Only two didn’t impress; Dahab and The Botanist. These are well worth the effort to get to know the stories as I believe at least one will provide a thrill for any perfume lover.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by MiN New York.

-Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews MiN New York Scent Stories Vol. 1 (Part 3) The Botanist, Momento, & Onsen- The Solitary Stories

The three fragrant tales in this part of my review of the new MiN New York Scent Stories Vol. 1 are of the solitary. These three fragrances evoke working in the greenhouse, sorting through old memories, and meditating in a therapeutic hot spring. These are the stories from inside one’s head courtesy of The Botanist, Momento, and Onsen.

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The Botanist wants to be a meditation on working with growing things in the dirt in a greenhouse. The perfumer clearly has the ability to create a pretty nice dirt accord as I experienced in Moon Dust. Based on the title I was looking forward to this story but like many things in an anthology the title can lead you astray. Instead of dirt and toil The Botanist is really a still life of things that grow, almost as if they were presented in a laboratory setting.

A fruity opening of citrus and apples start The Botanist and this is a very typical opening to a fruity floral. The floral comes in the heart with a well-defined bouquet centered on peony. All of this is very safe and I was hoping for a return to the earth in the base but the perfumer had different ideas and instead combines light woods and vetiver with white musks. If you are a fan of the fruity floral genre The Botanist might be your favorite story in Vol. 1. I found it a bit too formulaic to truly hold my attention at any point in its development.

cigarbox

I think all of us have a box within which lies touchstones to our past. When you open that box there is a mingling of disparate vestigial scents which combine into one which means memory to each of us. Momento brings to life one of those boxes. This box contains a sprig of dried lavender from a special summer. The bohemian evenings spent drinking absinthe. The dried rose of a corsage on top of a scarf still smelling of hairspray. Together there is an underlying sweetness of a past viewed positively. Momento is a sort of fractured fragrant fairy tale of the past which rebounds from one moment to the next kinetically.

Aldehydes, the kind you find in hairspray, coat an herbal lavender which is made more herbal than floral by the addition of tarragon. Alcoholic absinthe adds a boozy anise quality next and it rapidly transitions into a desiccated rose which along with verbena and jasmine form the floral heart of Momento. The base is gaiac wood, oppoponax, and patchouli made light as if it is the last remains of the scent of personal history. Momento is a fragrance containing a lot of ideas and for some, because they don’t all lead to conclusions, it is going to feel like it is wearing you instead of the other way around. The second day I wore it I was more willing to try and push back and found Momento much more interesting. Of everything in the collection I think Momento will have people who deeply connect with it to the confusion of those who don’t.

onsen japanese

Onsen is the Japanese word for hot springs and the fragrance which shares the name wants to make the wearer feel as if they have entered a hot spring at the edge of a forest. As the aromatic steam curls around you the smell of the nearby trees, earth, and rocks mixes with it. This time I wanted minerals and earth and this time I got it.

Onsen opens as you stand next to the spring looking out on the nearby forest. As you take a cleansing breath pine, hinoki, and cypress form a woody trio centering your spirit. As you sink into the warm steamy water the mineral accord the perfumer used in Moon Dust makes another appearance. The perfumer also makes an interesting choice to use an absinthe accord to represent the warm water. By adding oak moss and a pinch of sulfur it forms a truly original mineral spring accord. It is one of my favorite phases in all of the Scent Stories. Vetiver and ambrox provide the base as they provide green woodiness as I towel off in the changing room. Onsen carries a palpable sense of place and I had a strong scent memory of a visit to a mineral spring outside of Bozeman, Montana in the winter. It is a fascinating place to visit.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by MiN New York.

-Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews MiN New York Scent Stories Vol. 1 (Part 2)- Magic Circus, Shaman, & Moon Dust- Magical Mystery Tour

For the second part of my reviews of the new MiN New York Scent Stories Vol. 1 I am going to let the three fragrances; Magic Circus, Shaman, and Moon Dust, tell a story as I review them.

magic circus

I had driven up into the wooded hills outside of town. As I arrived at the coordinates I had entered into my GPS I looked again at the ornate card by the light of the full moon. There was a set of simple instructions, “Follow your nose”. Just as I wondered what that could mean the most out of place smell rose up from the woods in front of me, cotton candy. I walked into the woods under the moonlight looking for the source of the smell. Not too far in I came to a clearing with a group of brightly colored tents. I inhaled even more deeply of the surrounding sentinel pines, the carnival smells of caramel and sugar focused my attention. A hint of patchouli led me inside the central tent.

Magic Circus is a sugary sweet confection one would find at a carnival midway. It opens with a muted bergamot as an almost diffuse moonlight effect. Labdanum and geranium capture a green forest feel with a bit of woods underneath. The woods pick up in intensity as maltol and caramel provide the confectionary character to this circus on the edge of town.

shaman

As I entered the tent the world seemed to go silent. Through a hole cut in the top of the tent a single ray of light illuminated the ringmaster of this eerie milieu. A magician, a fortune teller, a witch doctor all combined to form a Shaman. As I approached, the man turned towards me as the smell of the candied violets he was chewing wafted off his breath. There was incense burning somewhere and his hair smelled of patchouli. Another smile, more violets; he offered me my own saccharine bloom. As I chewed it he looked at me and said, “Now we begin.”

Shaman is probably the most simple of the fragrances within this first volume of Scent Stories but it is a well rendered three note sonata starting with a sweet violet on top. This is then buoyed by a cloud of smoky incense all over a base of patchouli. I felt like Shaman was the one Scent Story which said the most with the fewest words.

moon dust

With those words he produced a vial with which he sprinkled crushed rocks into my hair. He threw tobacco into the nearby fire. A handful of dirt followed the mineral dust. The incense became sweeter there seemed to be an animal crouching in the shadows. The shaman leaned in close and whispered, “You are sanctified in the dust of distant worlds” Things began to spin as I fell to my knees. From far away I heard the old man say, “Enjoy the trip!”

Moon Dust is the Scent Story with the most going on. The perfumer creates a fantastic crushed concrete accord wreathed in ozonic notes. It has the effect of standing on a concrete sidewalk just before a lightning storm as the ozone of each strike mixes with the stony ground. Tobacco sweetens things up and a dirt accord turns the hard concrete into something earthier. The perfumer adds a bit of black musk to add a lurking animalic underpinning. All together Moon Dust feels completely contemporary. If you like your perfume syntax a little fractured Moon Dust is going to be your story.

two-moons

When I regained my equilibrium I looked up into the sky and the stars I was so familiar with were gone. The woods I had grown up with my entire life were different. I took a deep breath in and the air filled my lungs with a new vitality. It was right then I noticed the moonlight was coming from two different directions, from two moons in the sky. Before I could take that in a voice which sounded as if it was composed of shimmering chimes said, “Welcome home.” The amazing thing was it did feel like I was home again after a long tour.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by MiN New York.

-Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews MiN New York Scent Stories Vol. 1 (Part 1) Dune Road, Long Board, and Dahab- The Ocean Stories

The entire MiN New York Scent Stories Vol.1 definitely feel like an anthology series by a single author. Working under the creative direction of Mindy Yang and Chad Murawczyk, the perfumer tells eleven different stories. Like any anthology certain stories will resonate more strongly with you than others. Also it is often easy to find some common themes. In Part 1 I am going to write about the ones inspired by the ocean, walking on the dunes next to it, surfing on top of it, and diving underneath it.

dune road

Dune Road is named after the road which runs “between the bridges” in the Hamptons at the end of Long Island. Besides some of the most magnificent summer houses there are long stretches of pristine dune land. One of the things unique about the dunes is that grass grows readily on them and the smell of walking the dunes is the mix of grass, sand, and salt. Dune Road captures that quite beautifully. It reminds me very much of my pre-dawn walks among these dunes back when I summered in this area. It is the sky just before sunrise as the night gives way to the light.

Dune Road opens with an ozonic breeze off the ocean carrying a collection of herbal and green notes to form the grassy accord. The early going of Dune Road is very green and a bit of vetiver in the heart picks that up. You start to leave the top of the dune behind and as you walk closer to the water’s edge there is a wetter green seaweed accord paired with a very light wood and musk. The sun has risen the wood is starting to be bleached under the glare and the smell of warm skin all next to the ocean as the new day begins.

Waxing the Board

Photo by Chris Martin

Long Board takes us to the California coast line where surfers also greet the dawn but they do it atop their surfboards. The walk to the best surf spots require a trek down through cliff trails to a rocky beach. Once there you wax your board to your preference and when you are ready you head out on the ocean to start the day riding Mother Nature’s rollercoaster.

When you make these walks down to the surf spots you walk by all kind of flowers. The perfumer chose orange blossom to represent them as it is that which opens Long Board. The orange blossom carries its indolic core a little more freely and that allows it to feel a little earthier. It segues nicely into a coconut and beeswax accord akin to many surfwaxes I’ve smelled over the years. Along with the waxiness the surf is crashing with a very prominent marine accord matched with vetiver. It all mellows down into a vanilla base as sweet as riding that wave all the way back to the beach.

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Dahab is a renowned diving site in Egypt on the Sinai Peninsula. It is particularly known for the Blue Hole which is a natural reef formation where at a depth of about 100 feet there is a natural Arch you can traverse through. It is a dive for only the most skilled and because of the depth and lack of light many divers have found themselves in trouble. As a diver one of the side effects of spending time under water, especially a deep dive, is when I return to the land for the next few hours all smells seem amplified. Dahab is the result of returning to the town and taking a walk through the spice market in this heightened state.

As I walk the market the remains of the ocean drying on my skin present a salty, musky, ozonic opening. This quickly gets wrapped up in the spices of the market as saffron, nutmeg, cumin, and pepper come forward. The perfumer has chosen to let these very strong spicy notes have their way with the middle part of the development. It teeters on the edge of being unbalanced and depending on your tolerance for the stronger spices present this will definitely be an acquired taste for some. I think the perfumer did a nice job balancing the spices. After the intensity of the heart the perfumer dials it way down with just a gauzy incense combined with a very light application of oud as exhaustion takes over and your senses start to return to normal.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by MiN New York

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Releases MiN New York Scent Stories Vol. 1- Introduction & Interview with Mindy Yang of MiN New York

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In anything you do there are others who also start around the same time as you. Back in 2010 when I started this perfume blogging endeavor as Managing Editor at CaFleureBon I met a pair of energetic new perfume store owners, Mindy Yang and Chad Murawczyk. It was at Sniffapalooza Spring Fling of that year that I would make my first visit to their new store MiN New York. I was impressed with their passion and as the years have gone by I have admired their ability to continue to grow their business and concurrently create a perfume community in interesting fashions The latest example of this was previewed to me last May at the most recent Sniffapalooza Spring Fling. From the beginning MiN New York has always had interesting details to the store. There is a giant birdcage dominating one wall I always imagine full of nightingales singing for the patrons. When I got there this year I noticed this fabulous door that looked like it was part Game of Thrones part Prohibition Speakeasy. After a bit of chitchat I asked about it and they exchanged looks and nodded to each other and they took me through that door.

Door  to MiN

What lies on the other side of that door is the home of MiN New York Scent Stories Vol. 1 a members-only fragrance experience. Eleven small-batch fragrances designed by one perfumer based on briefs from Ms. Yang and Mr. Murawczyk are available for sampling and purchase exclusively within the vault. That day I had the chance to sniff all of them on a strip but it was at the end of a long weekend of sniffing other things. In the two months since I have had the opportunity to wear all of them and I am going to spend the rest of the week reviewing all eleven. I thought before I got down to that I would ask Ms. Yang a few questions about the collection:  

behind the door MiN

Mark Behnke: Scent Stories is a fascinating new initiative with small batch perfumes being offered exclusively to members. Could you explain the way this is going to work? Will the perfumes ever be offered outside of MiN New York?

Mindy Yang: MiN New York Members (press, connoisseur, & friends & family) get first access to, Scent Stories, Volume 1. The collection will go on tour this Fall (Paris, Rome, Middle East, etc.) and it will become available to the general public as well.

chad and mindy

Chad Murawczyk and Mindy Yang

MB: Both of you have evolved MiN New York into a destination fragrance boutique in what I call The Fragrance District of New York City. Talk a little bit about the decision to become creative directors for your own line of perfume and your experience while doing it.

MY: Chad founded MiN New York on professional hair care and skin care. We’ve been designing and working with fragrances professionally for over 2 decades. While we have not promoted it, olfactory design is a service that we offer to top brands and creatives at our Atelier on Bond Street. Scent Stories is a passion project for us to showcase our unique point of view.


MB:  I know you chose to go with a single perfumer was there ever any consideration to having multiple perfumers?

MY: Absolutely. With this particular collection, we were grateful to work with a talented virtuoso whom also loved the moments in our briefs. All of us were in love with actualizing this concept of wearable olfactory art and our collective passion speaks volumes. Our perfumes are potions that transcend moments.

Min NY DahabMB:  Three of the eleven Scent Stories are centered around the ocean; Dune Board, Long Board, and Dahab. Which one of you is the beach bum and why are the ocean stories so prominent in the collection?

MY: It’s been said, "The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” There’s alchemy in perfumery and we love salty scents. Chad and I are total beach bums. All our happiest moments were spent by the sea.


MB:  I am also surprised that the Scent Stories collection doesn't feel like a box checking exercise. There isn't an oud fragrance, as an example, within the collection. With something this large one might expect you to try and have something for everyone but it seems you feel differently. Could you elaborate on that?

MY: Actually, we have incorporated oud into one of our fragrances. Can you guess which? Each of these perfumes are mean to be personal, emotional, complex, ever-changing journeys. There are hundreds of notes in each aroma as we spared no cost on the raw materials. Scent Stories was created to be unisex, esoteric, yet universal.  Since the collection is very limited in quantity (tiny batches of the best raw materials), we would prefer that collectors develop his/her own connections to each chapter and simply collect the favorites.

old school bench


MB:  I know the whole Scent Stories collection are your figurative children and I'm not going to ask you for a favorite. Instead which one came closest to the smell you imagined when writing out the brief?

MY: This question is just as difficult to answer! Dune Road, Magic Circus, Barrel, Old School Bench, Moon Dust… Well, I’m naming most of them suddenly. Only a couple from the collection were evolutions of what we had originally orchestrated. They exceeded our expectations. We are thrilled with the entire volume. No different than painting a picture or composing a song. At one point, the artist must stop him/herself, step back and say, “this is it.” The eleven were ready and we hope others will enjoy our work.

My thanks to Ms. Yang for answering my questions.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Irving Penn

When the discussion about whether perfume can be considered an art form comes up I am often reminded that photography wasn’t really considered an art form until the 1970’s. The mythical gatekeepers that consider “What is art?” finally gave way under the volume of work that could not be ignored. One of the modern photographers who I most admire, Irving Penn had one of my favorite quotes about the power of his works. He said, “A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart, and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it; it is in one word, effective.” I read this on a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago just before I entered the gallery containing some of his photographs. Mr. Penn is much more than just effective his portraits and still lifes do what any art form does as it communicates the mundane on a subliminal level of beauty.

elsa schiaparelli irving penn 1948

Mr. Penn’s rise began as he started working at Vogue Magazine in 1947. Throughout 1948 he would take a series of pictures of some of the famous people who came through the Vogue offices. He posed them in a narrow “V” of plywood which was made apparent by the larger framing to allow you to see the room around the artificial confinement. The picture of Elsa Schiaparelli above is one of my favorites because it shows the fashion designer could not be contained by any artifice at all. Each subject used the narrow space differently.

jacques fath irving penn

Jacques Fath had a pair of shears with which he was trying to cut his way out.

georgia o'keeffe irving penn

Georgia O’Keeffe squeezed herself as far back as she could and Mr. Penn pulled the camera back further on that shot than any other in the series.

spencer tracy irving penn

Spencer Tracy looked at ease. This was Mr. Penn’s gift to use something as simple as a restricted space to display differences in personality.

harlequin dress irving penn

He would meet his wife while at Vogue, model Lisa Fonssagrives. She would become the subject of many of his fashion shots the most striking of which is the Harlequin Dress seen above.

3 Chanel Products Irving Penn

The other large part of his artistic collection was still lifes of objects placed exactly so. The picture of the 3 Chanel Products is a perfect example of this style.

leggy nude new york irving penn

By the 1990’s he shot some spectacular nudes of which my favorite, “Leggy Nude, New York” is seen above.

Mr. Penn always shot what he loved and what moved him and that emotion is apparent in every one of the photographs. In the end I believe art is all about connecting to our emotional core and if something can reliably do that there should be no question about whether it is art. I believe perfume has its Penns and Adamses who will also eventually create a volume of work that will be undeniably art, it just takes time. Thankfully Mr. Penn’s time arrived before his death in 2009 so he could see his creations lauded for their artistic value.

All images by Irving Penn found on the Art Institute of Chicago website.

Mark Behnke

Perfumer Rewind: Olivia Giacobetti’s 1996- L’Artisan Parfumeure Drole de Rose & The Pour un Ete + Diptyque Philosykos

Olivia Giacobetti is one of my very favorite perfumers because of that transparent style she imparts to things that shouldn’t have that lightness of being. Many of the most striking fragrances I own, for that sheer fragility, are signed by Mme Giacobetti. Her style has now been refined that it almost deserves its own adjective, Giacobettiesque. There have been other perfumers who are able to make perfume that is Giacobettiesque but it is her creations which stand the test of time.

Olivia-Giacobetti

 

Olivia Giacobetti

When I looked back for the year where this style began to coalesce I found 1996 to be a good year to observe this. In that year Mme Giacobetti would release two fragrances for L’Artisan Parfumeur, Drole de Rose & The Pour un Ete. Both of those were perfumes where the style was still a work in progress. The third release in 1996 is one of Mme Giacobetti’s enduring masterpieces Diptyque Philosykos as all the elements that make her a great perfumer come together for the first time.

drole de rose

The two fragrances for L’Artisan were her third and fourth for the line. Drole de Rose is a much lighter rose but here Mme Giacobetti lays down a layer of powdery notes as the heart note of orris turns this closer in style to iris-scented lipstick. The skeletal concepts of Mme Giacobetti’s style come with the honeyed leather in the base. It is the base which I think is the best part of Drole de Rose as once the powder is figuratively blown away what is left is this opaque sweet leather. Mme Giacobetti would find a rose scent which did fit her style with the discontinued Opone for Diptyque in 2001.

SA3A3794

The Pour un Ete was meant to be a jasmine green tea fragrance as if it was being served in a chilled glass dripping with condensation on a summer day. The Pour un Ete is perhaps too simple for its own good. It starts with a sprig of mint and lemon floating on top of the jasmine tea accord all of it resting on a cedar and sandalwood coaster. The Pour un Ete feels like the axis of a great fragrance was here but by not adding in contrapuntal notes it just sits there like that proverbial glass of tea watching the beads of water slide down the glass monotonously. Tea would become the focus of another of Mme Giacobetti’s best compositions L’Artisan Tea for Two, which is one of my all-time favorite tea perfumes.

philosykos

As I mentioned above it seems at this point in her career it took two tries for Mme Giacobetti to really find her voice on a particular note. In 1994 she had done Premier Figuier for L’Artisan and it was a fig fragrance centered on the creamy ripe qualities as she used almond and coconut milk to enhance that aspect. It is beautiful but it wears sort of heavily. By the time she took a second stab at fig in Philosykos she wanted to go greener as this time not only the fruit but also the leaves and the tree itself were meant to be represented. She tilts the fig greener with galbanum early on. Then the leaves pick up the green and this time she uses only coconut milk as a complementary source of the ripening pulpy inside of the fig. She finishes off Philosykos with a breeze of benzoin and cedar.

Mme Giacobetti is now one of the most reliable perfumers functioning and both for her Paris exclusive line IUNX and the rare commissions she takes her style is unmistakable, Back in 1996 it was just coming together,

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

Mark Behnke