The Sunday Magazine: The Twelfth Doctor Who

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Television series re-invent themselves all of the time as cast members come and go. If the writing staff is clever and the casting is well done the best shows never miss a beat. As a plus it often allows for greater latitude in storytelling as the new character can often add a different viewpoint. Of course if the writers aren’t clever and the casting is lazy this can lead to the fairly rapid cancellation of a show. One show which actually thrives on the turnover of main characters is the sci-fi series Doctor Who.

Doctor Who has been around since 1963 and it follows the travels of the last Time Lord called The Doctor and a Companion who becomes the surrogate for the audience as this Earthling has to try and keep up with the Doctor. Doctor Who had a rebirth in 2005 as writer Russell T. Davies convinced the BBC it was time to give Doctor Who another chance to be discovered by a new generation. Which it has. His first Doctor was actor Christopher Eccleston. When the Doctor “dies” he regenerates with a new body and face but retains all of his memories. At the end of the first season Mr. Eccleston regenerated into The Doctor played by David Tennant and then five years on he would regenerate into actor Matt Smith who would play the role for three years. All three of these Doctors were young and of a like age to their Companions so there was a bit of romantic tension. The latest incarnation of the Doctor is a very interesting choice by the writers to go in a different direction.

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Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who

Actor Peter Capaldi is the twelfth Doctor Who and is a bit of a throwback to the earliest versions who were played by older men. This sets up a very different relationship with the current Companion, Clara. It is a bit of a reversal of roles as the young woman is helping the older visaged Doctor. One thing the writers seem to be exploring with this Doctor is the idea of whether what he does is considered “good”. The Doctor saves the universe and Earth many times but there is a cost to this, usually the masterminds behind it. This Doctor seems to be a little more concerned with what he does is “good”. Mr. Capaldi is giving this Doctor a world-weary character that is very different from what has come, especially with the recent three Doctors. Looking around on the forums it seems the initial reception is decidedly mixed. There are people, like me, who are digging the ambiguity. The detractors are missing the lively energy of the Doctor as portrayed by Mr. Tennant and Mr. Smith. These writers have been so successful that they definitely have the opportunity to develop an entirely different Doctor and I think the fans will allow for them to do that.

I am fascinated to see how this all turns out from a Doctor Who perspective and from whether a fan base will go for a Doctor very different from what has recently come. For now, I really look forward to the rest of this new season to see what the answers are.

Mark Behnke

The Gold Standard: Jasmine- Serge Lutens Sarrasins

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This is going to be a version of The Gold Standard where some are going to disagree vehemently. The reason for that is there really are two versions of jasmine in perfumery. Which one you like best is all about your tolerance for the more vivid notes of unadulterated jasmine. Jasmine when it is extracted also carries a significant amount of a chemical class called indoles. Indoles are a very pungent chemical and some people, like me, love them; others run away. This is why you see jasmine in both forms in perfumes. There is the straight indolic jasmine and there are the cleaned-up greatly reduced in indoles jasmine. One is a child of the night and the other is a freshly scrubbed ingénue. My choice for The Gold Standard in jasmine is a perfume which not only proudly displays the indoles at the core of jasmine but doubles down with even more skank in the base. That perfume is Serge Lutens Sarrasins.

Christopher-Sheldrake

Christopher Sheldrake

Sarrasins came out at the very end of 2007 and perfumer Christopher Sheldrake turns in one of his most simple compositions, ever, for Serge Lutens. There are five listed notes but each of them when used in their most natural form provide nuance to burn. It is instructional that if your raw materials are suitably complex you don’t need to gild the lily, or the jasmine, in this case.

Bergamot is listed as a note and it is sort of like a matador note as it is the only representative of the light in the entire development. As soon as you notice it is gone under one of the most indolic jasmines I’ve encountered in a perfume. It was exactly what I wanted as the sweet floral character is countered with a raw dirty accord. This jasmine has dirty smudges on her cheeks and her debutante days are well behind her and she is all the more interesting for it. Most perfumers would just let the indoles naturally carry the day but M. Sheldrake decides to add a slug of castoreum. It almost feels like the jasmine is growing fur as if it is a carnivorous flower in a Hogwarts greenhouse. A wonderfully redolent patchouli swaggers in and labdanum applies the last bit of intensity.

Sarrasins has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

serge sarrasins

It is almost ridiculous to say they don’t make them like they used to when I am referring to perfume made seven years ago. Sarrasins feels like a perfume which is out of step with current aesthetics and would’ve been at home on a counter containing the original Patou Joy and Chanel No. 5. For all of that it feels like a perfume unstuck from time, it also feels timeless in its uncompromising adherence to the style of Serge Lutens circa 2007. There is no other fragrance which exemplifies indolic jasmine better than Sarrasins.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Providence Perfume Co Bay Rum- A Pirate Looks at 50

As appealing as pretending to be a pirate was as a child, I have to admit the idea is even more appealing as a man in his 50’s. I am pretty sure I’m not alone in the idea of a life on the ocean living on the fringes of the law having appeal as we get older. When I was a kid with an eyepatch and a plastic sword I also nipped into my dad’s bathroom to get a bottle of rum, bay rum. My father had a humongous bottle of Pinaud’s Bay Rum. I used to sprinkle a little in my bandana to smell authentic. Bay Rum also played a large part in my haircuts as it was the spicy finish to a visit to the barber. I can honestly say I haven’t given Bay Rum a thought in twenty years, easy. Thanks to one of our most talented Natural Perfumers, Charna Ethier, who has released Bay Rum under her Providence Perfume Co. label, it has plundered my consciousness.

Ms. Ethier wanted Bay Rum to pay homage to Newport, RI which was at one time the rum capital of the world. Bay Rum is as simple a fragrance as it gets as sailors in the West Indies took bay leaf and let it soak in some rum. That has been the formula for hundreds of years. Ms. Ethier takes that most basic of formulas and adds a little bit more of the fragrant beats of a pirate’s existence. This turns her Bay Rum from something focused into a fragrance which has a much wider perspective.

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Charna Ethier

Ms. Ethier stayed true to her Rhode Island roots and contacted a local rum distiller to provide the rum. This provides a rich boozy foundation for everything else to be added to. Most importantly the other part of the name, a real West Indian bay leaf. On the top of this she adds a bit of tart lime to ward off scurvy. Her choice of allspice takes the bay leaf and transforms it into something less piquant and more elegant. I would venture she spent some time finding the right partner for the bay leaf and allspice is absolutely the right one. A pirate hides in a cove surrounded by flowers growing from the trees and in Bay Rum Ms. Ethier adds jasmine and ylang-ylang to remind you that you are in the tropics. The last addition is a wonderfully briny ozonic sea spray accord. When you are on a boat at speed and the spray is being flung up into the air as the bow cleaves through the wave, is what this accord smells like. It is what turns Bay Rum into a voyage on the high seas while wearing it.

Bay Rum has 10-12 hour longevity. Ms. Ethier has made a very long lasting version of something which is not known for its longevity in other forms. The sillage is average.

Ms. Ethier is really broadening her abilities as a perfumer as Bay Rum shows she can take something elementary and add to it without disrupting it. That is much easier than it sounds. Bay Rum is a success because every additional note she chose to add had its place within the existing structure. I am loving Bay Rum because Ms. Ethier has made a Bay Rum for this perfumista in his 50’s which allows me to let my inner child out to play; at the wheel of a ship flying the Jolly Roger. It is like finding a treasure, no ‘X’ necessary to mark the spot.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Providence Perfume Co.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review slumberhouse Sadanne- Candy Apple Red Decayed

When I was a kid one of my prized possessions was a candy apple red Hot Wheels miniature car. It had this mesmerizing sheen to it. I had the car before I ever encountered my first real candy apple. When I was holding the stick with this glossy orb on the end of it I was also entranced as I rotated it letting it catch the light. Eventually I brought it to my mouth and began to eat. Whenever I think of candy apple red I think of high gloss red paired with a sugary sweet fruity smell. I haven’t thought about the color or the confection for many years but for the last week it has been front and center in my conscience as I have been wearing the new slumberhouse Sadanne.

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Josh Lobb the creative force behind slumberhouse has been one of my favorite stories in perfumery over the last few years. He has allowed word-of-mouth to bring people to his perfumes. Mr. Lobb works with exquisite one of a kind materials and his fragrances are unique. I look forward to each new release. Sadanne is Mr. Lobb’s attempt to push himself to work with the floral notes he is not so fond of. Another thing I admire about Mr. Lobb is he experiments with ways to compose his fragrance. In an e-mail he told me he used sillage to help him decide from mod to mod what was required next. After he finished a mod he asked his friend to put some on and then to walk by while he listened to music over his headphones. It seems to me it would give a different perspective on how your modifications were working in a more expansive way. Sadanne is different from almost everything in the slumberhouse line as it has a diffusive quality to it that none of the previous perfumes have.

Usually Mr. Lobb provides a copious list of ingredients to marvel over but for Sadanne he has eschewed that. This time he is leaving it to the wearers to discover. I am going to do my best to honor that as I attempt to describe Sadanne without going into distinct notes. It is easy because there are really three distinct phases on my skin and while I can pick out some of the ingredients it really is the effect that is paramount in my enjoyment of Sadanne.

Candy-Apple-Red

The first phase smells like freshly made candy apples. There is a crisp fruity quality encased in a glistening sugary shell. It immediately returns me to the six year old clutching his tiny car in one hand with a sticky red apple in the other. Mr. Lobb has imparted olfactory lens flares throughout this opening phase as there are bright glints throughout.

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Jennifer Lawrence in "American Hustle"

The second phase is, maybe, Mr. Lobb’s commentary on florals as he takes some of the most recognizable floral notes and he makes them bitter. It reminds me of the line from the movie “American Hustle”, “It’s like that perfume that you love, that you can’t stop smelling even when there is something sour in it.” The floral accord in the middle of Sadanne has more than a few bitter things in it and just like the quote I keep returning to it even though I know it should put me off. This really is Mr. Lobb at his best as he uses the sour notes not to damage but to make the wearer recalibrate their thoughts about floral notes.

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Bootsy Collins

The third phase is a complete tonal shift into a fabulously dirty musky base. Every time I have worn Sadanne there is a moment where the bright candy apple and the florals just seem to fall apart and what you find was underneath is this funky filthy animalic beast. This is where Sadanne finishes and I love this part of the development. This is my kind of funk. It is like Bootsy Collins’ bass line on Parliament Funkadelic’s “Flashlight”. It reaches right down and grabs you in the low places.

Sadanne has overnight longevity but for those who know the brand it is the least long lived on my skin of the entire brand. The sillage is also greater than most of the other slumberhouse fragrances which makes sense considering how it was composed.

Sadanne is going to test the patience of those who think they know what slumberhouse smells like because Sadanne is like nothing else in the line. Sadanne is a perfume which requires an active wearer. I think by not releasing the note list he is forcing anyone wearing it to have to participate more fully in the experience. After four days of wearing it I have found it to be more engaging every time I wear it because I am participating more viscerally in the wearing. It is another winner from slumberhouse, for me.

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

Mark Behnke

Perfumer Rewind: Bertrand Duchaufour “The High Priest of Resins” 2002-2007

Throughout the early years of the 2000’s there was a perfumer who I dubbed The High Priest of Resins. Over five years and seven perfumes perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour would make seven perfumes with significant incense accords in them. By the time he hit the seventh, 2007’s Amouage Jubilation XXV, he would have perfected his touch with these ingredients to produce a perfume I consider a masterpiece. As I look back it was definitely a process which spread across work for three brands; Comme des Garcons, L’Artisan Parfumeur, and Eau d’Italie. Each of the perfumes created for those brands allowed him to test the limits of the resinous side of his palette.

It started in 2002 with the release of Comme des Garcons Series 3 Incense Avignon & Kyoto. For those fragrances M. Duchaufour constructed two disparate incense accords. For Avignon it was the stony chill of a cathedral made of ancient stone. It carries the weight of the centuries as you feel the slightly metallic tang of the incense over the aged wood of the pews. Kyoto, as its names portends, was a Japanese minimalist aesthetic. Clean woods matched with the sweeter resins make for a truly meditative harmonious, soothing incense accord. Both of these fragrances are still among my favorites but they really were the foundation of where M. Duchaufour would start to refine the accord.

In 2004 it was his work for the original Eau d’Italie fragrance which would show the light use of incense and L’Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu the deeper darker side. With Eau d’Italie M. Duchaufour puts in an ethereal gauzy incense veil over the opening moments of a perfume that will turn very green and floral. It was a bit of ingenious sleight of hand as just as you think you’re headed in one direction off you go in an entirely different one. He had found a way to take the lighter accord of Kyoto and now make it float like a feather. Avignon’s incense accord is so astringent it has sharp edges to it. With Timbuktu M. Duchaufour decided to add some attenuating resins in myrrh and benzoin to soften those edges without sacrificing the impact.

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Bertrand Duchaufour

By 2006 he was looking for ways to take incense and match them with florals. L’Artisan Parfumeur Dzongkha would have a heart of chai tea, incense, and orris. This incense is the exact middle ground between the previous lighter style and the weightier version. It has a presence without being overwhelming. In Dzongkha combined with a chai accord and orris it forms a heart of one of the most underrated perfumes in M. Duchaufour’s vast portfolio. Eau d’Italie Paestum Rose has always been considered to be one of his finest creations as he replaces the orris of Dzongkha with a redolent Turkish rose. He returns to the heavier incense accord but uses elemi, opopanax and benzoin to smooth the rough edges. It gives an uplifting foundation and at this point I thought this was the pinnacle of M. Duchaufour’s incense perfumes.

Late in 2007 Amouage Jubilation XXV would prove to me there was one perfume left to draw all of this together. Throughout Jubilation XXV the experience with these notes comes back to coalesce into something transcendent. It starts with that gauzy lilting incense on top before heading into a floral and incense heart. The heart of Jubilation of XXV is a model of precision as M. Duchaufour also dusts it all with spice. By the time the deeper incense accord is on display in the base M. Duchaufour has determined it is myrrh and opoponax which provide the perfect partners to his austere frankincense.

Every one of these perfumes I have mentioned is among my favorites but it is this sense of feeling, as a perfumista, that I am following the development of an artist as he learns to fine tune his use of materials which makes this so interesting. M. Duchaufour has done this over the years as he has perfected his leather accord and rum accord over the course of many releases all leading to one which brings all of it together. It is what makes him one of the most fascinating perfumers working today and forever, in my mind, The High Priest of Resins.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Artemisia Natural Perfume Ozymandias- Look and Rejoice

One thing I have definitely noticed over the past few years has been the coalescence of the natural perfume community. For the last few years there have been collaborative projects. Shows featuring the smaller indie and natural perfumers. Facebook groups for support when you need it. One of the reasons for the vitality of natural perfume is all of this. It was one of those collaborative projects, The Mystery of Musk, where I was introduced to the perfumes of Lisa Fong under her label Artemisia Natural Perfume. That project was all about natural perfumers creating a botanical musk fragrance. Her entry Drifting Sparks was one of the most subtle compositions within the entire project. It marked her as someone to watch. Over the past four years she has only become more assured as an artist. I was delighted to receive her first attempt to create something more masculine, Ozymandias.

Ozymandias is the name of a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelly. It speaks of a traveler who observes the ruins of the great statue of which all that remains standing are the two legs on a pedestal on which these words are etched, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair.” It is a poem to remind one that all things once mighty will fall to decay over time. It is an interesting inspiration to start from. Ms. Fong sees this as a journey from the brightness of an unquestioned reign which becomes sanctified with frankincense, in the heart, before crumbling to dust with a fantastic mitti attar in the base.

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Lisa Fong

Ozymandias opens with a beautiful full spectrum mandarin as both the fruit and wood add the brightness of the tree in sunshine, it is an uplifting opening. It becomes a bit sharper with Ms. Fong’s use of arnica absolute which adds green facets along with some softer hay-like qualities. Then she layers in multiple frankincense sources which build a resinous power in tiny increments. When natural perfumers get their mix right there is a crescendo which often occurs as these precious materials intermix on my skin. The frankincenses are the overture because the addition of tobacco and mitti attar cause Ozymandias to soar to the heavens. The mitti attar is sandalwood distilled from old-fashioned clay pots and it adds that earthy clayey foundation underneath the rich wood. It is the sense of the earth reaching up to reclaim even the mighty, but not quite yet.

Ozymandias has 6-8 hour longevity and modest sillage.

Every step Ms. Fong has been taking has been sure and is all about building a brand which has the ability to endure instead of ending up on a decayed pedestal of their own. Ozymandias confirms the promise I have seen building over the past four years. It is her best perfume to date and let me encourage you to look on her work and rejoice.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Artemisia Natural Perfume.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Nasomatto Blamage- Mistaken Identity

Expectations are often unmet. That doesn’t mean disappointing but when you’re expecting Thomas Pynchon and you get Stephen King you have to recalibrate your expectations. The last perfume from perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri for his Nasomatto label is called Blamage and it definitely confounded my expectations.

These expectations came from seeing the documentary on the making of Blamage at Esxence this year. The movie chronicles Sig. Gualtieri’s attempt to allow a mistake (blamage) to guide this last Nasomatto perfume. To that end he was blindfolded with a plaster cast and lead to his organ to choose four ingredients to base Blamage on. We never see clearly which four ingredients he chooses but Sig. Gualtieri seems delighted with the difficulty. The movie is accompanied with visuals of things burning and smoking which look pungent. I left the movie looking forward to something very avant-garde. A statement on randomness leading to creativity. When I finally received my sample of Blamage it turned out to be the least avant-garde of any perfume in the entire Nasomatto line.

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Alessandro Gualtieri

As I said I am not sure what the four keynotes Sig. Gualtieri took down off of his organ but if, as I was lead to believe, they were the kind of fractious notes difficult to blend with then Sig. Gualtieri chose to populate Blamage with every other note on the safer side. From a citrus and tuberose opening through a lily and magnolia heart down to a base which might have every synthetic wood ingredient known to perfume. It leads to a very easy to wear fragrance except for the overload of synthetics at the end which might not appeal to everyone.

Blamage has a bright bergamot to go with the grapefruit. The tuberose is the deeply piquant version of the bloom. The floral parade continues with gardenia, lily of the valley, and magnolia in the heart. The source of the magnolia also has a fairly prominent woody quality and it sets up the base. In the base is where Sig. Gualtieri maybe gets a little less safe as it seems like there is a cavalcade of ambrox-like molecules, synthetic sandalwoods, and iso E super. It is all present in high concentration. If you like these notes Blamage will be amazing for you as Sig. Gualtieri does a very good job of balancing them while simultaneously turning up the volume. I can pick out many of the components and that speaks to the precision used in assembling it.

Blamage has 24-36 hour longevity, those synthetic woods are some of the most tenacious materials in perfumery. It also has explosive sillage again due to the woody synthetics.

The woody synthetics in the base are some of my least favorite materials in all of perfumery and because of that the sway they hold over Blamage colors my personal view of it. I think if you like the woody synthetics, and I know there are many out there that do, Blamage is going to be a favorite. It is a niche version of an old-fashioned woody powerhouse perfume of the 1980’s. I think it is easily the most approachable of the entire Nasomatto line and it will be where I tell people to start when first exploring the line. Maybe that is the final word on making perfume via blamage it always ends up way safer than you expect.

Disclsoure: This review was based on a sample of Blamage provided by Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Fantasy Football

For the next ten days I will be consumed with football players and how many points they can score for me. No I haven’t won the lottery and purchased a National Football League team. I am just one of an estimated 40 million fans who play fantasy football.

Fantasy football is a game where you build a team of current players by drafting them from a pool of all players. Each owner in the fantasy league builds a team this way. Each week throughout the season you match your team of players against another owner’s team of players. All of the stats those players accumulate on that specific weekend count toward that week’s score. Whoever has the most points after the last game has been played has won the match. I have been doing this for fifteen years and it has dramatically changed the way I watch football on Sunday. It has also been embraced by the NFL as according to Forbes the fantasy football market provided $11 billion in revenue in 2012. That is more than the $10 billion made from traditional things like jersey sales and such. This disparity can only have gotten bigger.

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Jamaal Charles the consensus No. 1 pick

One of the reasons for the support from the NFL is it encourages fans to watch games not involving their home, or favorite, team. Most players I play with will have a couple players from their favorite team but you usually can’t, and don’t want to, fill your team up with players from one team. I know on Sunday I watch the Dolphins play but for the rest of the day I am paying attention to the games that not only have my players in them but also the games which have the players my opponent is using. Television ratings for the NFL have continued to rise every year and I believe fantasy football fuels some of this. I have purchased NFL Sunday Ticket just so I can watch any game I want to; i.e. the game with my players in it.

These next few days are arguably the most fun as I connect with the other owners in an online draft room and start picking players. I play in seven leagues all of which I have participated in from 3-15 years. I have had good years and won championships and bad years. 2013 was a bad year for me as I did uniformly bad across all of my leagues. My strategy has always been to target a few key players that I try to draft on most of my teams. Last year all of those players got injured or did not produce high enough point totals. Which means I will be drafting highly in most of my leagues allowing me to potentially turn things around.

Instead of assessing the latest from Guerlain, Comme des Garcons, and Chanel. I’ll be deciding between Charles, McCoy and Forte to spend my draft pick on. For the next ten days those are the most important names to me.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Avon Calling!

My first exposure to Avon was our local Avon Lady who visited our house regularly. There were commercials with the tag line “Avon Calling!” Many of those companies which sold door-to-door in the 1960’s and 1970’s were made obsolete by the internet. Avon has not only adapted they have thrived with $10 biliion in sales in 2013. They have managed to navigate the shifting fortunes and stake out a place for themselves. As I went through the box of fragrance supplied by my friend who is a current Avon Lady I was impressed with the consistency of the collection as a whole. Current Creative Director Isabel Lopes and her predecessors all understand how to make an appealing fragrance for their customers at a more than appealing price, around $20. The epitome of Discount Diamonds. Here are five more I think are worth giving a try.

Haiku Kyoto Flower by perfumer Pierre Negrin is the latest flanker to 2001’s Haiku, whose gauzy lilting green was also good. The newest member of the Haiku family is a little more outgoing. M. Negrin uses sharp violet made greener with blackcurrant. This is very much a recognizable opening from many niche perfumes but made more palatable by keeping it very light. The heart is peony and orange blossom, pretty and more pronounced then the top notes. It ends on sandalwood and a favorite in many of the feminine marketed Avon fragrances a cocktail of the cotton linen musks. This is very lovely green floral perfume.

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Avon Femme is by perfumer Harry Fremont. M. Fremont is one of the best mainstream perfumers working currently. He definitely knows how to interpret a brand’s character and capture it in a fragrance. Avon Femme is a crisp fruity musk perfume. It starts with the snappy pairing of grapefruit and pear matched with a bit of very clean jasmine. There will be no indoles here this is fresh and pretty. Magnolia is the floral keynote supported with a bit of peach. It ends with the sheer musk cocktail I mentioned above. For those who want a skank-free jasmine fruity floral Avon Femme is a good choice.

Avon does make fragrances for men and Avon Exploration by perfumer Laurent Le Guernec is a good example. As I mentioned yesterday the men’s fragrances hew to an aesthetic of bracing and woody, Avon Exploration does that. M. Le Guernec does choose to make Avon Exploration very bracing as he fashions an olfactory slap of cardamom, sage, and rosemary. This is a very concentrated opening and it is typical of the masculine Avon fragrances. It does settle down into a sandalwood, vetiver, and non-sheer musk which is less challenging. If you are a fan of powerhouse men’s fragrances Avon Exploration is a modern version.

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Far Away Gold by Calice Becker is a special warm floral. Mme Becker knows how to build a soft warm vanilla and sandalwood base even with the more cost-efficient materials and it is that where Far Away Gold ends. Prior to that osmanthus and peach lead to a jasmine and ylang-ylang heart. A wonderful comfort scent.

Avon does have their celebuscents and one of the more interesting collaborators is musician Bon Jovi. Part of the Bon Jovi collection is Unplugged for Her by perfumer Annie Buzantian. This was the most subtle fragrance of all of the ones I tried. It was very surprising since a rock star is associated with it, although it is unplugged. Mme Buzantian uses a very opaque application of ivy and plum to give a sheer green fruity opening. Rose carries the heart but this is a synthetic rose which carries the fresh floralcy and little of the spiciness or powdery facets. It keeps it on the light side for making that choice. A cocktail of soft woods and even softer white musks close this. Very easy to wear and a perfect office scent for those who work in close quarters and still want to wear perfume.

Now let me reiterate what I stated yesterday, perfume for $20 is not chock full of essential oils. There might be a pinch here and there but this is all synthetic versions of the notes I mentioned. As you can see there are very talented perfumers working for Avon and I think they do a tremendous job at making the most of a limited budget. Enough so that if you need an economical perfume fix contact your local Avon Lady…..Avon Calling!

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Avon.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Avon Flor Alegria- Pretty Simple

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I have an old high school friend who lives in Pennsylvania and she is an Avon salesperson. She asked me if I had an opinion on the recent Avon perfumes. I told her I hadn’t given them a thought in years. As we corresponded I realized how shortsighted that view was. Many of my favorite perfumers work on briefs for Avon. Just in 2014 here is the list of perfumers who have composed perfumes for Avon: Laurent Le Guernec, Harry Fremont, Frank Voelkl, Alberto Morillas, Calice Becker, Pierre Negrin, Nathalie Lorson, and Rodrigo Flores-Roux. Pretty impressive lineup for perfume which runs about $20-30 a bottle.

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Rodrigo Flores-Roux

For that price we are not talking about perfumes which are loaded with essential oils these talented perfumers are employing the cost-efficient synthetic ingredients on their perfumer’s organ. You could make the case that these are more difficult to compose with and tease nuance out of. In response to my lack of knowledge my friend sent me a huge box of many of the current Avon perfume offerings. After spending a few weeks with them I was very pleased to find there were more than a few which rose above the others. Tomorrow in Discount Diamonds I will give a bunch of short reviews of my favorites but for today’s column I want to focus on the one which was hands down my favorite in the box Flor Alegria.

Isabel Lopes

Isabel Lopes

Flor Alegria was composed by Rodrigo Flores-Roux under the Creative Direction of Isabel Lopes. Ms. Lopes recently took over the creative direction for the fragrance division and one thing I can state assuredly Ms. Lopes has a consistent aesthetic she is asking for from the perfumers she oversees. For the women’s perfumes pretty and light. For the men’s colognes bracing and woody. Nobody should expect anything different from a mass-market brand like Avon but just as with any niche brand which has an active creative director who keeps true to the brand, Avon is no different. Just a different audience and by this point in time they should have a good idea what sells to that audience. As I tried these perfumes what I kept coming away with was simple does not have to be uninspiring. Sr. Flores-Roux puts a strong exclamation point on that thought with Flor Alegria.

Flor Alegria inhabits one of the styles of perfume I always have difficulty with, fruity floral. What I liked about it was Sr. Flores-Roux was able to balance these synthetics, which can be harsh in excess, and in the case of Flor Alegria turn them into a perfume that was pillow soft.

The top notes are citrus and passionfruit. When it comes to citrus in a perfume Sr. Flores-Roux knows how to use it to precise effect. He wants the passionfruit to be the top but if it was left alone it probably would have become cloying and overwhelming. By using citrus to curtail some of that exuberance he strikes a perfect balance. The heart is rose in all of its powdery sweet floral glory. Here he has to be careful to not let the powder get out of control because his base of iris could’ve doubled down on the powderiness. Instead the iris provides a bit of powder but it is complementary to the rose. The overall effect is a downy fruity floral that was very pleasing to wear.

Flor Alegria has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

The whole Avon collection I tried was much better than one might expect for perfumes costing $20. On the other hand talent is talent and if Sr. Flores-Roux is making a fragrance he can probably make a good one from sealing wax and twine. Flor Alegria is an example of Sr. Flores-Roux working at the top of his game to make a pretty fruity floral and sometimes pretty is all you need.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Avon.

Mark Behnke