New Perfume Review Bogue Profumo Maai- Engagement Distance

I have often heard Michael Edwards offer the advice to new perfumers, especially indie ones, that they should take the time to study the great perfumes and perfumers of the past. What if you had the good fortune to instead come into the possession of forty bottles of essences and bases from a perfumer’s laboratory circa sometime in the 1940’s? If you were an aspiring perfumer and could study those materials what insights and influences would that bring to your own perfumery? Those previous questions are what perfumer Antonio Gardoni has used to found his Italian indie perfume line, Bogue Profumo.

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The old essences Sig. Gardoni used for Cologne Relaoded

Sig. Gardoni did indeed come into a treasure trove of incredibly well-preserved bottles of an unnamed perfumer’s ingredients. After living with them he chose to reproduce one of the recipes on the bottle and released it as Cologne Reloaded. What Sig. Gardoni recreated was a cologne with an intensely animalic base of castoreum. This truly smelled of the classic barbershop cologne right down to the leather strop for sharpening the straight razor. Eau d’E would be the second release and this was a more modern take on the same cologne idea. Sig. Gardoni takes a very intense lavender and pairs it with the classic herbal citrus cologne accord. If Cologne Reloaded felt like an artifact Eau d’E felt like a modern extrapolation of that. The thing that I liked best was Sig. Gardoni’s choice to explore the unusual aspects of lavender looking to accentuate the less floral aspects. Both of these were preparation for Sig. Gardoni’s new release, Maai, wherein he combines many of the lessons learned and creates one of the finest Retro Nouveau fragrances I have ever smelled.

Retro Nouveau constructions almost by definition have to be accomplished by independent perfumers. These need to be small batch production runs. They need to be unafraid to push certain aspects right to the edge of being unpleasant. Finally, they need to fuse the present with the past without letting either dominate. When I asked Sig. Gardoni the origin of the name Maai he told me, “it is a Japanese word used in the martial art of Kendo that I practice from many years. The meaning is actually quite difficult to render but more or less it means "interval/space in between" and it's the relationship between space and time between two opponents a sort of "engagement distance" it defines the exact position/time from which one opponent can strike the other”. Maai the perfume is that interval between the Retro and the Nouveau and the “engagement distance” is precisely balanced to produce a singular perfume effect.

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Antonio Gardoni

Maai takes the animalic themes Sig. Gardoni explored in Cologne Reloaded and creates a fascinating musky base upon which to build the rest of his new fragrance. This is what I was speaking of in the previous paragraph; there isn’t just castoreum in this base he adds in civet and hyraceum along with a bunch of other musks. All together this has an incredible depth and texture it feels as if Maai has a pounding heartbeat. It also isn’t for the faint of heart. One other aspect I really enjoy with this is when these animalic notes reach this level of concentration they also carry a honey-like sweetness which rides along on the crest like a surfer riding a monster wave.

The modern aspect Sig. Gardoni applies to Maai is by using the same technique he used in Eau d’E and taking a well-known floral and finding a more contemporary read on that note. For Maai the note is tuberose and the choice Sig. Gardoni takes is to use a deeply green tuberose as the co-focal point. What this does is provide an indolic foil to the animalic base while also producing a nascent white flower character. The tuberose never explodes into its show stopping floralcy. Sig. Gardoni captures the tuberose just shy of it bursting to life and it is a mannered tuberose but there is a suppressed energy lurking behind. This is the buzz of potential reined in as the tuberose stays poised on a precipice without falling into empty space.

There are a slug of soapy aldehydes in the top notes before the tuberose begins to impose its presence. Labdanum contains the tuberose by amplifying the green early on. A bit of rose and jasmine help to remind you there is a flower here in the heart. The indoles, from the tuberose, are the perfect bridge to the beginning of the animalic base. Sig. Gardoni swirls in a few different resins which add details like olfactory grace notes. Then the full potential of the animalic accord settles into place and cradles the tuberose within its embrace. The “engagement distance” is now down to zero, right where it should be.

Maai has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Maai is the perfect Retro Nouveau fragrance in my opinion; Sig. Gardoni has pulled off a clever bit of perfumery that is much more accomplished than it should be. It feels like it could have come from a long-lost bottle found deep in a cabinet and it feels like it could be found on a small boutique counter next to present day brands. Maai is as good as modern independent perfumery gets.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Bogue Profumo.

Mark Behnke

In Praise of the Doyenne of the Perfume Counter

I realize that I am becoming the prototypical old man when I see things changing and wish for them to stay the same. I have been exchanging e-mail with one of my earliest perfume acquaintances who has recently retired. Back in the late 1980’s I was really just starting to broaden my fragrance horizons. In those days of yore there was no such thing as smartphones and the internet to look things up at the speed of your data connection. What passed for that resource was the Senior Sales Associate at your favorite department store. Carolyn was that Doyenne of the Perfume Counter for me.

Carolyn presided over her fragrant space with grace and patience. She would explain and then give me strips to illustrate the difference between chypre and fougere. As we carried on an almost thirty year affair she knew what I liked and what I probably wouldn’t. I would often go in on a weekday just to have a little more time to chat. We started out as eager student/teacher and finished as peers. Nothing made me happier than to receive an e-mail from her on one of my latest reviews. I valued her opinion and was thrilled that she came to value mine. She was the one who taught me that even if the bottle has bows and flowers on it if I liked it I should wear it.

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(Illustration: Zohar Lazar via GQ)

Upon her retirement I inquired if she had trained a replacement and her answer was, “No.” Her department store was going to use an assortment of line representatives instead of having a permanent position in charge of fine fragrance sales. This seems to be the way things are evolving. Since I moved to the Washington DC area I haven’t found the counterpart to Carolyn here. I certainly did in Boston but I suspect once those Doyennes retire those positions will, as well.

Like landlines and compact discs the day of a single person curating a department store’s fragrance department is a quaint old-fashioned notion. The necessity in our immediate information gratification society is certainly reduced if it is just the facts you are after. What I think this generation of perfume lovers will miss is the opportunity to create a relationship around a common love for perfume. Now, to find the same interpersonal service, it requires you to have a small fragrance boutique in your city. The owners of those businesses are more interested in creating a long-time customer over a one-time sale.

With Carolyn’s retirement I realize it will be far too soon that I will have little reason to visit the department store fine fragrance department. All things change but it is human nature to wish that some of them might be immune to evolutions of style. I wish Carolyn the best of her retirement and her extra time with her grandchildren. Her child of the perfume counter will miss visiting with her.

Mark Behnke

Montale 101- Five To Get You Started

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If there was a perfume line I was thinking really needed a Perfume 101 Montale Paris would be top of the list. Since 2003 eponymous perfumer Pierre Montale has been producing a prodigious amount of fragrances. His line was one of the first to really explore oud in all of its myriad configurations. M. Montale’s fascination with that note continues to the present day. Oud is so connected to the perception of the line that many are unaware there are some pretty amazing fragrances within the collection that do not have a drop of oud. One warning about this line, it is not for those who like their fragrances light or subtle; M. Montale creates extroverted powerhouses. It is that pedal to the metal attitude which makes Montale Paris one of my favorite lines. Here are the five I would start with if you are new to the line.

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Pierre Montale

Black Aoud was my introduction to the classic oud and rose combination. This is so classic that to get Forest Gump on you it goes together like peas and carrots. All of the rough edges of oud are consumed in an inferno of intense rose. There is some patchouli and musk here but the sheer power of the rose and oud overwhelm everything. This was also my introduction to Laotian oud and the hint of floralcy within that particular version makes Black Aoud the perfect duet.

When asked to name my favorite amber Blue Amber is the one I name. Unlike Black Aoud where M. Montale just let the magic happen between the core notes. In Blue Amber he spends time surrounding the core with notes that complement and contrast. Geranium supports the spicy core, coriander contrasts it with green edges. Vanilla sweetens the amber only for patchouli to take it darker. If you love amber and have never tried this one add it to your list.

red vetyver

Red Vetyver has been described as Terre D’Hermes on steroids and while I understand that as a surface description I would say there is more going on here than a more intense imitation. A very pungent grapefruit is on top and this is the full grapefruit with the slightly sulfurous aspects on display. M. Montale then adds elemi to allow its lemony cool to soothe and a slug of black pepper to provoke. This is the place where Red Vetyver becomes its own perfume and the cedar and vetiver finishes it on a clean and green accord. This is one of the few citrus based fragrances I wear in the winter because it has a heft unusual within the genre.

Sweet Oriental Dream is M. Montale’s take on a gourmand. He makes the choice to recreate a vanilla rosewater confection adding in honey and almond for good measure. Of all of the gourmands I own this one is the one which makes me hungry.

As I said M. Montale is renowned for his capacity to use oud in so many ways. I would also venture he is even more proficient with vanilla as that note shows up throughout the collection and he knows how to tune it for the effect he is looking for. Vanille Absolu is what he thinks a vanilla soliflore should smell like. He takes a rich vanilla heart and swirls cinnamon, clove, and sandalwood around it. This is what I want vanilla to smell like rich and spicy.

Montale Paris is a line which can intimidate just by the sheer number of fragrances in the collection. You shouldn’t let that stop you from discovering one of the perfume lines which truly reflects one perfumer’s aesthetic. It really is a journey worth taking and any of the five suggested are good places to take your first steps.

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

Mark Behnke

Under The Radar: The Different Company South Bay- Citrus Wow

One of the purposes of Under the Radar is to give me a chance to extol the virtues of a fragrance which might have fallen through the cracks. I’m also using it to make sure the fragrances that got bumped and moved off the review schedule get a second chance to be discovered. I really enjoy the opportunity I have to try new perfumes but sometimes their getting into my hands can be a story in and of itself. The three The Different Company L’Esprit Colognes, South Bay, Kashan Rose, and White Zagora seemed like they were never meant to be in my hands. The initial samples were lost in transit then I couldn’t seem to get a sample from the stores carrying them. It wasn’t until meeting creative director Luc Gabriel at Esxence that I finally had the set to try. It turns out that was the first fortuitous event in this complicated tale.

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Emilie Bevierre-Coppermann

The L’Esprit Cologne collection are all signed by perfumer Emilie Bevierre-Coppermann and it is one of the best nouveau cologne collections of the last couple of years. Of the new ones Mme Bevierre-Coppermann has added to the original three and helped define the evolving new aesthetic for the lowly cologne. The one which does this the best is South Bay.

In South Bay Mme Bevierre-Coppermann chooses to turn in a very citrus focused fragrance over an intense bed of woodiness. There is a floral transition within the heart where South Bay transforms from fresh citrus into clean woods. Throughout the development South Bay is energetic and sunny.

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South Bay uses grapefruit as the main citrus note and Mme Bevierre-Coppermann takes mandarin leaves to add leafy green and to accentuate the sulfurous aspects of the grapefruit. Tamarine base provides the juicy sweetness of tangerine and clementine. This a gorgeous citrus fantasy and I enjoy this opening so much it almost beckons me to re-apply often, which I do. Grapefruit wood begins the transition to the base and it is joined with freesia and a very mannered application of Eglantine Rose. That very sweet rose contrasts the grapefruit and complements the Tamarine with the grapefruit wood completing the transition. The base of South Bay is simply sandalwood and vetiver. The sandalwood is dry and creamy and the vetiver is woody with a green tint. There is nothing terribly groundbreaking here. Sometimes a perfumer needs to know when to keep it simple and Mme Bevierre-Coppermann has made the correct choice here.

South Bay has 6-8 hour longevity on me and average sillage.

I just returned from my summer beach vacation and South Bay was frequently my scent of the morning, afternoon, and evening. As I mentioned above, the opening is enchanting and topping it up multiple times a day allows me to keep enjoying it. The rest of the development is no slouch, as well. The opening is just magical for me. If you’re looking for a new summer fragrance don’t overlook South Bay even though it has been around for a year.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by The Different Company at Esxence.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Humiecki & Graef Abîme and Nouveau-né- High Aspirations

There are perfume lines which aim for mass-market success. There are perfume lines which look for success within a narrowly defined swath of customers. There are perfume lines which create to please themselves and hope there is an audience for that. Humiecki & Graef falls into none of those categories. Creative Directors Sebastian Fischenich and Tobias Müksch in collaboration with perfumers Les Christophes (Christophe Laudamiel and Christoph Hornetz) have, since 2008, produced one of the most exceptional collections of fragrances which define the borders of olfactory art. There is no perfume line which I spend more time with really understanding the construction and delving into the emotional component which is stimulated by these fragrances. 2012’s Candour was the last new release. For 2014 we are getting a pair of new releases, Abîme and Nouveau-né, this fall. Hr. Fischenich was kind enough to give me samples at Esxence in March and over the last three months I have been wearing and examining these new fragrances and they are examples of the very best Humiecki & Graef have to offer.

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Sebastian Fischenich and Tobias Müksch

Abîme and Nouveau-né are the tenth and eleventh releases and they are being released as a duo because they represent polar opposites of la condition humaine, pain and hope. Les Christophes have made it a hallmark of their work for Humiecki & Graef to elicit an emotional response from these perfumes. For me they have succeeded every time. They never shy away from what would be considered unpleasant inspirations and instead embrace the perceived negativity and find art within.

Abîme translates to the abyss and it is meant to portray an agonizing state. This is not the state of debilitating pain, this is the emotional pain of living life fully. It is a fragrance where every pleasant facet finds a discordant counterpart. Les Christophes use a whopping overdose of narcissus absolute as the focal point of Abîme. In this concentration it provides both pleasure and a cloying unpleasant affect. Narcissus is one of my very favorite notes in perfumery and Les Christophes have challenged me to ask myself just how much I like it. Is there too much of a favorite note? The answer is it depends. There were days when I was a glutton for the narcissus and I couldn’t get enough. There were days when it felt like a friend I had outgrown and just wanted it to quit bothering me. I realized the perception had as much to do with my emotional mood. Matched with a concentration of narcissus that didn’t allow me to disengage it became an olfactory Rorschach test where the overdose of narcissus took the place of the inkblots.

The first thing that hits me when I wear Abîme is a moment of juicy blackberry which is squashed, Gallagher-like, with a sledgehammer of narcissus. It is almost as if Les Christophes are poking a little fun at fruity floral construction. This nuclear core of narcissus is then bombarded with multiple notes as juniper tries to take the place of the blackberry to get swatted aside. Some balsamic notes try to get a foothold and slide away exhausted. Labdanum actually does find some traction and it morphs the narcissus into something less floral and more intensely vegetal. Right here was my tipping point on whether it was a good day or a bad day to be wearing Abîme. If it was the former the mix of oakmoss and patchouli in the base added some needed contrast. If it was the latter they just made the whole thing irritatingly unpleasant.

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Les Christophes

Nouveau-né follows the same architectural path by using an ocean of honey as the central note. The honey is expertly tempered throughout as Nouveau-né is all of the good stuff in life, magnified. Despite the intensity of Nouveau-né I came to realize the balance of the ingredients was a very tenuous composition which seemed appropriate to evoke the fragile, yet powerful, emotion of hope.

Nouveau-né begins with the brightness of bergamot paired with basil and ginger to add some zip to the opening. Then like a golden viscous flood the honey rushes in and coats everything with a sticky matrix from which the basil and ginger still pulse. Hay Absolute helps temper the sweetness of the honey and Liatrix adds the natural coumarin it provides to also modulate the treacle. Les Christophes strike the perfect balance as Nouveau-né is the perfume equivalent of holding a jar of honey up to the sun and seeing the ball of light made opaque and diffuse.

Abîme and Nouveau-né have 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Everything that I admire about Humiecki & Graef is on display in both of these new releases. Michael Edwards has always quoted the great perfumer Guy Robert’s advice to perfumers, “A perfume must above all smell good.” While I agree with that sentiment in the main I am overjoyed that Humiecki & Graef exists to make sure that thinking is challenged. Abîme and Nouveau-né are everything I want from a perfume which makes me a willing participant in the ongoing debate of whether to “smell good” is enough.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Humiecki & Graef at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Gin

It seems like everywhere you turn there are artisanal small batch versions to be found. When it comes to fragrance it is my pleasure to support the independent perfumers who work to their own rhythm. I am also finding the same is true when it comes to the potent potables I drink. One of the best examples of this is the story behind Vermont’s Caledonia Spirits and their Barr Hill Gin.

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Todd Hardie

Todd Hardie has been fascinated with bees since he was 12-years old. This has led to a life of beekeeping and farming in the far northern Vermont region hard against the Quebec, Canada border. This is a land of dairy farms and one of my favorite quotes on the website is Mr. Hardie mentions that his bees require no documentation to cross the border and pollinate. As a working honey farmer he also grew grains and on Barr Hill there was wild juniper growing. One night as he was wondering how to maximize the use of all of his land the idea of distilling the grain for alcohol, using that to extract the juniper to make gin and then finish that gin by adding raw honey came to be. Over about 24 months a still was built, from recycled parts which produced the ethanol and allowed for vapor extraction of the juniper berries. The bees added their special ingredient and Barr Hill Gin was created. At first Mr. Hardie sold it in Vermont and one store in NYC. Since then Barr Hill Gin has become a true word-of-mouth success.

Gin is my favorite liquor. I used to distill my own when I was in graduate school and got to be competent at it. Once I had a job I was content to let the more experienced make my gin for me. I’ve probably been through all of the gin crazes from Tanqueray to Bombay Sapphire, to Hendrick’s and I like all of them. The addition of honey to Barr Hill Gin sets it apart. It makes it a gin for many people who aren’t fond of gin.

While sipping Barr Hill by itself, as an extremely dry martini, is a pleasure and the honey takes the coriander “edge” off that many people don’t like. It really comes to life in the right cocktails. As a class Barr Hill would be considered an Old Tom Gin as opposed to a London Dry Gin like Tanqueray or Bombay. The difference is an Old Tom Gin is a sweeter gin and the craft cocktail movement has made this style more sought after as more and more bartenders want to use it in their new cocktails.

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There is no gin-based cocktail I haven’t found to be improved by the addition of this gin but there is one which far and away almost seems it was particularly made for.  Back in the 1920’s the phrase used to describe something as cool was the “bee’s knees”. It is no surprise that a bartender created a cocktail by that name. Unfortunately because this bartender created the Bee’s Knees during Prohibition nobody knows who to appropriately attribute it to. Considering the gin used in speakeasies during that period was probably more like my amateur efforts in grad school bartenders were really looking for a way to take the “edge” off. The Bee’s Knees does it quite simply with honey and lemon juice.

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Bee’s Knees Cocktail

2oz. Barr Hill gin

¾ oz. lemon juice

¾ oz. honey simple syrup (dissolve 1oz of honey into 1oz of water)

Pour all of the ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a highball glass with a couple of cubes of ice.

As a Colognoisseur variant to add some fragrant aspects to it I take a teaspoon of Crème de Violette and float it on top and add a sprig of rosemary. This combination always reminds me of two of my favorite fragrances both of which contain a honey and violet accord; Ulrich Lang Anvers and Serge Lutens Bois de Violette.

I do have to say the use of Barr Hill Gin has made gin lovers out of many of my friends who thought they didn’t like gin. You might even say they think it is the bee’s knees of gins.

Mark Behnke

Collection Fatigue

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There are many things about the current state of artistic perfumery that irritate me but there is one thing that is top of my list. I genuinely look forward to seeing what has come in the mail every day. I live for the potential of trying that next new great fragrance. There is a dark side to that and it happens when I open the envelope and see it half-filled with multiple vials. I emit a sigh because another “collection” has found its way to me.

My biggest objection to the term, and the practice. is I think it is 99% marketing and 1% inspiration. The majority of these collections have only one thing connecting them, the name on the bottle. What is even more frustrating is it is apparent there was zero effort in trying to have a coherent aesthetic or theme. Heck I would even accept if it was made up of connected pairs. Instead it feels like a box checking exercise where the perfume line covers all of the expected bases. This would be great if the creative direction was focused enough to provide an interesting viewpoint. The other collateral damage to this collection obsession is it feels like the line can’t be bothered to make up their mind what is polished and ready to be released. Which is why within a collection there are many entries where my reaction is, “Why didn’t you take the time to get some feedback and really add a final edit?” Many of these feel like the perfume equivalent of reading the first draft of a novel before an editor gets a hold of it to tighten it up.

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This leads to the second issue they are asking the consumers, us, to be their evaluators for them; at full price. Over the last three years as this ploy of releasing multiple perfumes in a collection has become more prevalent I’ve noticed a couple years on there are only a couple of them still on the shelf. I believe those are the ones which sold well and the majority were discontinued because they didn’t sell. This means they make us pay for the right to beta test their perfume and that should be their job not ours.

From a store perspective this also puts them under tremendous pressure to decide whether they have enough shelf space for a dozen new perfumes. The lifeblood of the indie and artistic perfume community are the small stores which cultivate customers who return to find out what the store owner has identified as worth trying. These new lines approach the stores and ask them to carry all of them or none of them. There is a bit of fallacious thinking that these lines are just on the cusp of being added to Bergdorfs, Neiman’s, or Saks by the line owners. They fail to see that success in those venues has almost invariably happened from a more conservative approach where you build the line over a number of years. These small stores which the purveyors of these collections hold hostage are the very people who will create the repeat customer and buzz for the brand that will open those magic retail doors they dream of.

I am sure there is a collection heading my way which I will be thrilled to explore fully but I expect to be sighing a lot more before that happens.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review L’Artisan Parfumeur Onde Sensuelle- Icy Hot

When you are prolific a perfumer as Bertrand Duchaufour it is hard to keep turning out great fragrances. The double edged sword of that profligacy is that some clunkers will get released but also some that are truly fabulous will also see the light of day. While sometimes it seems like M. Duchaufour needs an evaluator who can give him appropriate feedback. There are times when left to follow his own muse, without filter, something really special arises. This is perfectly illustrated by the three fragrances recently released by M. Duchaufour for the L’Artisan Parfumeur Explosions D’Emotions collection. Haute Voltige feels like a by the numbers fruity floral as the core duet of peony and pomegranate never catch fire. It commits the cardinal perfume sin of being boring. Rappelle-Toi is an interesting experiment of taking gardenia and crossing it with Szechuan pepper. I expected this to work better than it did. Instead of using the contrast to illuminate they collide against each other with neither note the better for the contact. It made it an annoying experience. I appreciate the creativity on display and I know from past experience that this theme will return another day in more memorable form. The third fragrance, Onde Sensuelle, is why M. Duchaufour is such a great perfumer.

Bertrand Duchaufour

Bertrand Duchaufour

Onde Sensuelle translates to “sensual wave” and it captures the heat of passion combined with the delicious chilly thrill of release. Throughout the development of Onde Sensuelle there are moments where I felt my breath should steam and others where a bead of sweat should be wiped away. This is not a trivial effect to accomplish and it is executed with delicate precision here.

The chill predominates in the early going as grapefruit, juniper, and cardamom provide the frost. The balance here is perfect a little too much of any of these three notes would tilt this in a far different direction. What is here is like an icy rim. The heart provides the heat through a trio of spices; ginger, cumin, and saffron. As with the top notes the balance achieved here is critical. If M. Duchaufour had missed on the grapefruit and the cumin, as an example, this would have been a sulfurous sweaty mess. What is here is a gentle back and forth between the ice and heat. The dynamic tension as they sway back and forth culminate in a base of oud, a macrocyclic musk cocktail, and castoreum. This is the smell of passionate bodies entwined and it is exactly where Onde Sensuelle should come to a close.

Onde Sensuelle has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

For the three new Explosions D’Emotions M. Duchaufour bats one for three. Onde Sensuelle, though, is a massive home run. This is why he is such a fascinating perfumer to follow because I know when he puts it all together there is magic to be found.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples purchased from Surrender to Chance.

Mark Behnke

The Gold Standard: Sport Fragrances- Guerlain Habit Rouge Sport

The advent of Sport Fragrances began in 1972 with Estee Lauder Aliage Sport Fragrance and based on today’s market you might be surprised to know it was made for “active women”. It wasn’t until 1987 with the release of Boss Sport that the Sport Fragrance business started to shift to the guys. The fragrance which would start the men’s sports fragrance snowball rolling was 1993’s Polo Sport. Perfumer Harry Fremont really ran with the idea of a fragrance for an active man as he set the formula for many masculine sport fragrances to follow. Citrus on top followed by light florals made more manly with spices; finishing with woods and musk. The use of Sport in the name was supposed to make it easier for a man to want to buy fragrance, and it worked. Polo Sport immediately became a best-seller and is still one to the present day.

habit rouge sport

Over the last twenty years there have been many, many sport fragrances released and most of them are flankers of flagship fragrances for the particular brand. The unfortunate part of this is most perfume producers took the wrong lesson from the success of Polo Blue. They decided that Sport meant light almost to the point of insipidness. Most Sport fragrances are an embarrassment to the other name on the label as everything that makes something like Encre Noire great is gutted in Encre Noire Sport. With all of this you might think this is an odd subject for The Gold Standard but there is one which shows it can be done right while hewing to the template set down, Guerlain Habit Rouge Sport.  

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Jean-Paul Guerlain

If there is any fragrance I would’ve thought would never be amenable to sportification it would be Jean-Paul Guerlain’s 1965 men’s fragrance Guerlain Habit Rouge. Habit Rouge is a citrus/spicy/leather with the signature Guerlinade. Habit Rouge would be in my conversation of greatest men’s fragrances of all-time. When I visited the Guerlain Boutique at The Breakers in Palm Beach in the summer of 2009 I probably recoiled when I was proffered the bottle of Habit Rouge Sport. What I should’ve done was realize M. Guerlain would not stoop to make a pale simulation of his classic. Instead he uses three key additions and an overall lightening of the core to create the best sport fragrance ever.

The same bigarade focused top notes are present but they are made brighter and the first key addition, bamboo, adds a fresh light woody note which transforms this into something recognizably Habit Rouge but also something new. The heart of neroli, patchouli, and cedar is the same. Then by dialing back the mélange of spices in the original to just one, pink pepper; and adding jasmine the heart is as easy to wear as that white t-shirt. The base is identical with leather over the amber and vanilla Guerlinade but as everything else in Habit Rouge Sport it is made less intense.

Habit Rouge Sport has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I wear Habit Rouge often but never in the warm weather; Habit Rouge Sport is what I wear these summer days. It may be faint praise to call this the best sports fragrance ever. Let me add to it Habit Rouge Sport is as good as the fragrance with which it shares its name.

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

Mark Behnke

Perfume Mythbusters: Vintage Perfume

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I’m not sure if there are distinct stages of being a perfume lover but there are many common experiences we all share. One of those is trying a “vintage” perfume. What I mean by that is an original bottle of a classic perfume that is over 10 years old and often is as old as 50-60 years. The moment of trying your first vintage perfume is usually followed with a statement along the lines of, “they just don’t make perfume like that anymore”. When it comes to certain ingredients that is definitely true especially now scarce to find authentic ambergris or real musk from the musk deer. There is also another part of the equation too as many who love vintage fragrances love the depth and subtle power inherent in these older bottles. There is then a belief that what they are smelling is somehow truer than a modern version, that is the myth I am here to bust this month.

Coffee-flower-in-jojoba-maceration

Coffee Flower Macerating in Jojoba Oil

When you are smelling an older bottle of perfume you have to take into account what has been going on over the years in that bottle. One thing that has been going on is continued maceration. When making a perfume which is high in natural ingredients there is a phase of the process called maceration. What this means is once the perfume concentrate is diluted in the desired solvent, usually alcohol, it is left to sit for a number of weeks at reduced temperature and away from light. What this allows for is these natural materials to reach a steady state where the perfume reaches consistency of odor profile. As I’ve mentioned in the past natural raw materials are not one molecule they are actually mixtures of often hundreds of different molecules. When these are combined with other natural raw materials and diluted there needs to be a settling out period. This is most often done on as large a scale as possible. The perfumer will check over time until the blend reaches a congruency from three or four different samples over different days. At this point it is transferred to a bottle. Now if the perfume is all synthetic this process is totally unnecessary as those are single molecules and need no settling out. While the early maceration is done on a large scale it does not stop once it is in the bottle. Especially when we are talking time frames of tens of years. Maceration is now a much more gradual process but when measured over many years it is still going on. This is what most often produces the softness many remark upon when trying a vintage perfume. Just like a fine Bordeaux wine a 1961 vintage is much smoother than a 2011 vintage. Time does smooth out all things. The continued maceration also accounts for the blurred less definitive transitions also found in vintage perfumes.

1950's shalimar

This sealed bottle from the 1950's was filled right to the neck when new, notice the gap now because of evaporation

Second is good old evaporation of the top notes. Top notes by their very nature are meant to be volatile and the idea that any of these still remain in a perfume that is ten years old stretches the concept of simple physics. Even if the bottle is sealed once the top notes begin to evaporate they are now in vapor form and if there is even the slightest gap out they will go. To my knowledge there is no vintage perfume which has been so meticulously sealed as to prevent this most basic of processes from happening. The effect this has when smelling a vintage perfume is you get right down to business and go straight for the heart and base notes. This is probably what gives the impression that vintage has more depth because you aren’t distracted for a second by any top notes because they are no longer there.

baccarat shalimar bottle

Vintage Baccarat Shalimar Bottle half-filled with air and clear to let light through

Third is if the bottle has been opened at all or exposed to sunlight for any period of time. Oxygen and sunlight are the natural predators of many perfume molecules converting them into all manner of things. Some of which still smell good and some which definitely don’t. It is either, or both, of these twin plagues which make a perfume go “off”. In the best case it can still leave something behind which smells good but anything like what it smelled like when it was put in the bottle, not likely.

nicolai

Patricia de Nicolai

For me one of the most eye-opening experiences to this phenomenon was when Patricia de Nicolai of the Osmotheque exposed me to the versions of some of my favorite older perfumes from the Osmotheque. Through the help of the perfume companies the Osmotheque has original formulae for many of the classic perfumes and makes fresh new batches of them for their library. As I experienced these fragrances in their complete glory with top notes intact and lively paired with the heart and base notes in the vitality of their youth I realized these were the real vintage perfumes. We had a group experience of this at Esxence as we had an Osmotheque version of Edmond Roudnitska’s classic Rochas Femme. Everyone was surprised at how different it was to any version they had tried previously. If you love vintage perfume you must go to the Osmotheque and really smell the vintage perfumes you love it will give you a whole new appreciation for them.

I am not saying vintage perfumes are not lovely in their own right.  They are also not really anything like the original fragrance put in the bottle you own either. That is the myth of vintage perfume.

Mark Behnke