New Perfume Review Thierry Mugler A*Men Pure Wood- Soft Woods

The most successful line of flankers might be the Thierry Mugler A*Men series begun in 2008 with A*Men Pure Coffee. Over six successive releases spaced about a year apart perfumer Jacques Huclier has successfully added in the listed “Pure” ingredient all while staying true to his original A*Men from 1996. The variation in these perfumes comes in the opening two thirds of development. All of them end on the very familiar A*Men base of caramel, chocolate, and vanilla. That sort of composition can have a sameness to it over time. For the newest addition to the line, called A*Men Pure Wood, M. Huclier decides to make this the least unlike the original or any of the previous Pure releases.

Creative Director Pierre Aulas has overseen the entire line of flankers and he has done a tremendous job at guiding M. Huclier on how to add in a disparate ingredient into the existing A*Men framework. The only complete miss for me was 2011’s A*Men Taste of Fragrance which has waggishly been named Pure Chili because M. Huclier tried to add in spicy red pepper and it just didn’t feel like it belonged. When it works, with Pure Coffee or Pure Malt, the addition illuminates something different about A*Men. If there has been one consistent drawback for some it is the sheer power and projection of A*Men and its flankers. For those who have wished for an A*Men which is a little easier to wear and a little less prominent to those around you Pure Wood might fit the bill.

Jacques-Huclier

Jacques Huclier

M. Huclier keeps the composition of Pure Wood very simple and that works to its favor. The promised wood is an oak and cypress blend. I like the choice because the oak adds brawn while the cypress is a bit more blonde and fun. Early on coffee is the note which interacts with the woods. It is not as rich in character as you might expect. M. Huclier uses the oak as foundation and allows the cypress and coffee the space to become more expansive over the early going. Instead of going for the fully gourmand A*Men base M. Huclier dials it down a lot as he pairs vanilla with patchouli. For those who love that gourmand base the vanilla plus the patchouli form a sort of chocolate accord which makes it seem like a member of the A*Men family. I have to say while I was wearing it I kept sort of expecting the caramel and chocolate to come rushing in. The fact that M. Huclier left them out is what makes Pure Wood less extroverted than the rest of the line.

A*Men Pure Wood has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Pure Wood goes to the top of the A*Men list to stand next to Pure Coffee and Pure Malt. It is the most different structurally from any of the other flankers and it is that difference which makes it interesting to me. If you’ve always wanted a lighter version of A*Men I think Pure Wood might be that perfume.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Pure Wood I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aftelier Perfumes Palimpsest- Layers Upon Layers

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I love words. I love words which roll off my tongue carrying meaning. One of my favorite words is palimpsest. I was introduced to this word in the novel by astronomer Carl Sagan, “Contact”. In that novel an alien race sends a message to Earth on how to initiate first contact. The message is a palimpsest. A palimpsest is not a science fiction concept it was actually born of necessity during the beginning of the written word. Because paper was so precious when new parchment was needed often an old page with writing on it would be washed and the faded text written over. What would result is a piece of writing which would have hidden layers of older meaning underneath the surface. It also has an odd sort of intricate visual beauty to it. The page below is from The Archimedes Palimpsest on which a prayer text has been written over the words of ancient mathematician Archimedes. Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes must also like the word because her newest release is named Palimpsest and it also carries the same captivating power as The Archimedes Palimpsest.

archimedes-palimpsest

The Archimedes Palimpsest (Photo: Scientific American)

Ms. Aftel is one of the founders of independent perfumery and in particular independent natural perfumery. In science we refer to a family tree which springs from our graduate research advisors. When it comes to natural perfume Ms. Aftel’s family tree is a huge oak which spreads widely. I have always admired her passion at sharing her knowledge. Towards that end she has just finished a new book, “Fragrant, The Secret Life of Scent”. During her research she came across old texts which had palimpsest pages within. She “wanted to capture the richness that you feel when you experience the past as alive in the present, creating the gorgeous complexity of life.” Ms. Aftel has done an outstanding job at creating a perfumed page of differing layers which together create something as delightful as The Archimedes Palimpsest.

mandy aftel

Mandy Aftel (Photo: Handful of Salt)

The modern text on top of the fragrance is written in honey and citrus. Ms. Aftel uses yuzu and phenylacetic acid to combine the grapefruit-like quality of yuzu with the slightly honeyed character of phenylacetic acid. The honey effect is slight but it is persistent which will come into play later on. The heart is a floral scented love letter written in flowery notes of jasmine and ylang ylang made richer and creamier by the use of gamma- dodecalactone. The lactone is two carbons bigger than the well-known peach lactone and those two carbons impart an apricot and pear facet along with the peach, all suspended in a creamy matrix. This makes the heart of Palimpsest a luscious fruity floral. The base is an ancient text written in the aboriginal ingredient of firetree oil. Firetree oil is an indigenous ingredient used in the outback of Australia. The aboriginal people have used it for millennia medicinally and the flowers are edible. The oil is one of the more fascinating ingredients I have encountered in the last couple of years. It is almost a palimpsest all by itself as it moves from lightly floral, sugary sweet, a bit of leather and often it exudes a golden glow of honey. The latter allows the phenylacetic acid from the early development to come back into play closing the loop on the layers.

Palimpsest has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

There are few perfumers who could have set out to create an olfactory layer of styles and have them all mesh together so beautifully. Ms. Aftel has created an intricately crafted piece of perfumery that gives the wearer hours of layered development as it constantly evolves on the skin. Each layer reveals something in relation to the others making it a true palimpsest.

Dioisclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Aftelier Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Serge Lutens L’Incendiaire- Uncle Serge Does Oud

Is a movement over when the last stalwarts capitulate and join the bandwagon? I found myself asking this a lot as I wore the new release from Serge Lutens, L’Incendiaire. Uncle Serge has steadfastly avoided jumping on the oud craze that almost every other niche line has happily embraced. I was eagerly looking to Serge Lutens return to the darker style of fragrance which has seemingly been replaced with perfumes pitched to a different market, which does not include me. L'Incendiare was described by the press materials as containing, “rare resins, saps, ambers, and tarmac”. I was excited to try something composed by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake which captured that snippet.

I have written that I thought that many of the recent releases by Serge Lutens have felt like they have played it safe looking to appeal to one specific segment of the perfume wearing audience. Those have mostly been lighter bodied compositions and I have finally come to grips with the concept that I am not part of that audience. I am the audience that “rare resins, saps, ambers, and tarmac” sounds divine to. I had expectations of something a bit avant-garde from Messrs. Lutens and Sheldrake. I was surprised upon sniffing it and wearing it for a few days that L’Incendiaire is still playing it safe but at least this time I enjoyed the effort.

L’Incendiaire is a pretty simple perfume to describe in a few words; it is a smoky oud. Now it is a smoky oud as envisioned by M. Sheldrake which makes it good. It just feels like a throwback to some of the early oud perfumes from other luxury brands where the oud was there front and center and a few dancing partners were added. These perfumes were mostly ways of showing oud to a western audience. L’Incendiaire acts like it is introducing oud to an audience that is most likely overwhelmed by oud at this point.

Christopher-Sheldrake

Christopher Sheldrake

L’Incendiaire starts off with a mix of wood smoke along with a hint of sharp acridness. The opening seemed to promise what the snippet had implied. Before L’Incendiaire can get too far afield it is firmly pulled back to the middle of the road by the presence of the oud. Myrrh is present also in what has become one of oud’s favorite perfume partners. Here is where I would have hoped for something different to skew this fairly common combination. M. Sheldrake lets the myrrh and oud smolder for hours before fading away.

L’Incendiaire has 10-12 hour longevity and very modest sillage. It is a pure parfum strength which accounts for the longevity and the sillage.

Am I happy that I got a new darker Serge Lutens? Yes I am. Am I happy it is an oud fragrance? Yes I am. Do I wish for a little more risk taking? Yes I do.

The bottom line is L’Incendiaire is an oud perfume that fully lives up to the Serge Lutens aesthetic. It just seems that other perfume houses got to this one first and did it as well or better. I am happy to have a small decant of it but this is not one that will join the other bell jars in my collection. If you like smoky oud fragrances I think you will like L’Incendiaire.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Saturday Night Live

By the time this publishes tonight I will be sitting in front of my television set watching the opening show of the fortieth season of Saturday Night Live (SNL). I have been thinking that watching SNL has been a fixture in my life from my teen years right through to my AARP card carrying years. The cast members have seemed to evolve and change along with me. There is always some part of a given show which makes me laugh. That SNL is still standing is testament to one man Executive Producer Lorne Michaels.

SNL_Original_Cast

When I talk about the importance of clear creative direction in perfumery it is no different in the visual arts. If there is not a clear vision on top the effort is doomed to failure or ennui leading to boredom, and cancellation on television. Mr. Michaels has continued to refresh the cast over forty years adding in fresh faces and arguably being the biggest star making show of the past forty years. Just think about the movies you love and chances are an SNL alumni has something to do with many of them. That is also some of the joy of watching SNL as you see a comedic performer grow from unknown to superstar.

lorne-michaels

Lorne Michaels

The other thing I take great joy from watching is taking on the catchphrases into my own daily life. “Candygram!” when I’m trying to be deceptive. “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead” when talking about something obvious. Although when using it in a meeting of young scientists who were not born when SNL premiered I had to explain it and simultaneously feel my age. When we go shopping my wife rolls her eyes every time I pick up the package of meat substitute Seitan and channel the Church Lady. My all-time favorite line came from Billy Crystal’s impersonation of Fernando Lamas, “It is better to look good than to feel good” I was also a big fan of “You look mahvelous.” I could go on but you get the idea.

So as I get set to sit down and watch Chris Pratt host tonight’s episode I wonder who from this cast will be the next big star and what line will become the next part of my lexicon. I’ll know very soon.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt- A Farewell to Summer & Christine Nagel

When I lived in Boston my favorite time to visit Cape Cod was at the end of September or early October. As someone who had grown up on the beaches of South Florida where beach season never really ends it was different living in the Northeast. By this time of year the colors of fall are starting to sneak into the leaves and I always wanted to go spend one last weekend near the ocean, while I could. I always found it to be a sort of melancholy farewell to summer. I also noticed a shift in the smells of the surf and sand, too. It also carried a sense of endings coming. The latest release from Jo Malone, Wood Sage & Sea Salt captures all of this. It is also fitting as this perfume marks a farewell of sorts for perfumer Christine Nagel from being de-facto in-house nose for the brand as she leaves to take up a new position at Hermes.

christine nagel and celine roux

Christine Nagel (l.) and Celine Roux on the beach in Cornwall

In an interview with The Moodie Report I was interested to learn that Mme Nagel took a trip to Cornwall with Jo Malone Creative Director Celine Roux. Mme Roux said, “Traditionally, when you think of a beach, you think of sun, warmth, bikinis. It wasn’t like that (in Cornwall)! It was rainy and windy, with big waves and rugged cliffs – so refreshing and exhilarating. It felt like an escape from real life, but in a good way.” She wanted Mme Nagel to experience this, “Most of the world’s perfumers are French, and they are not familiar with the British beach. We went in March; it was super windy and we got salt in our hair. It was exactly what I wanted Christine to experience.” She also directed Mme Nagel, “I told her I wanted a fragrance that represented the English coast, but which wasn’t an aquatic, I wanted something mineral, and also something green.” It is exactly this kind of creative direction which can lead to something that rises above the crowd. Wood Sage & Sea Salt does just that.

Mme Nagel opens the perfume with a two pronged approach as she takes the sea salt accord and mineralic raw materials to give the earth and spray aspect. Concurrently she matches this with a unique pairing of ambrette seed and buchu leaves. The ambrette adds a freshness while buchu adds a slightly minty herbal aspect. A pinch of plum is used to smooth any roughness that might arise. Together they capture that milieu of green things growing in the dunes whipped by the wind and sea spray. Eventually you notice the drying driftwood in the presence of guaiac wood and the promised sage again adding Mme Roux’s desired green to go with the mineral.

Wood Sage & Sea Salt has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Over the past year I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of new takes on the aquatic genre of perfumery. I think it is due to creative direction from people like Mme Roux who are pushing for something different than the typical midsummer ozonic lightness and instead push for something with a little more weight. Wood Sage & Sea Salt serve as the perfect farewell to summer and Mme Nagel. The best part is both summer and Mme Nagel will return in time.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Maria Candida Gentile Kitrea, Synconium, & Leuco- Mind Your Beeswax

Over the last couple of years I have had the opportunity to sit down with perfumer Maria Candida Gentile as she takes me through the raw ingredients in her perfumes. Her method of seeking out unique materials and crafting a fragrance around them is the epitome of what independent perfumery is all about. At Pitti Fragranze I got another master class from the master perfumer on the terroir of a particular raw material. For her latest collection of three fragrances, Kitrea, Synconium, and Leuco she has grouped them as her “Flight of the Bumblebee” (Il Volo del Calabrone) collection. Which makes sense because the linchpin ingredient in all three is beeswax with the accompanying honey. Sig.ra Gentile chose a specific source from a different country for all three perfumes. What I find particularly interesting is the beeswax sources are not interchangeable and each of these fragrances were constructed from the foundation of the particular beeswax.

beeswax

Kitrea uses an Italian beeswax which Sig.ra Gentile found to have an aromatic balsamic character. From that she builds a structure of citrus and ocean. Kitrea opens with a brilliant flare of lemon and bergamot which softly settle down onto the foundation of honey and beeswax. The balsamic tinged quality forms a perfect pivot point for Sig.ra Gentile’s aquatic base. As it was with Finesterre her deftness with her marine accord gives Kitrea a wave tossed finish. Kitrea is a skillful mix of citrus and ocean all encased in a honeycomb.

Synconium uses a Spanish beeswax which carries a fabulously rich gourmand character of almond and vanilla. Sig.ra Gentile chooses to match a keynote of fig to go with this beeswax. This time the honey and beeswax are on top and they add a velvety smoothness. The gourmand qualities arise out of the treacle just in time for a very ripe fig accord to come forward. As the fig and the beeswax almost melt into one another it feels like Synconium is becoming a decadent fig tartine. Synconium stays right here for a very long time before allowing soft sandalwood to be the final addition. Synconium is a gourmand fig that is delicious and savory.

mcg in her studio

Maria Candida Gentile in her studio

Leuco uses French beeswax and this source imparts a powdery softness to the honey. This is a critical pairing because Leuco is a tuberose perfume. The French beeswax does a fantastic job of taming the tuberose; transforming it into a lush narcotic white flower which allows the wearer to come to it instead of the other way around. The honey and beeswax are on top again and the powdery aspect of the French beeswax also gives the honey a bit of unusual sweetness. The early going made me think of a pot of honey which was left next to a powder puff. The tuberose starts to meld with this and it does so brilliantly. Often when I start to smell tuberose I metaphorically plant my feet for the onslaught to come. I did the same the first time I smelled Leuco but the tuberose never became that all-encompassing floral note. Instead the French beeswax refines it and turns it into this shimmery white floral note. This has to be one of my favorite tuberose perfumes ever because of the unique way it is presented. Leuco is the best perfume Sig.ra Gentile has ever made; it is an example of a master perfumer, and an independent perfumer, working at the peak of her skill.

All three perfumes have 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Once again Sig.ra Gentile has opened my eyes to the potential of using just the right ingredient in the right place. All three perfumes are beautiful but Leuco is among the best new perfumes I’ve tried this year.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Maria Candida Gentile at Pitti Fragranze.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Masque Milano Russian Tea- St. Petersburg Tea

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One of the more interesting presentations at Pitti Fragranze was the one for the new release from Masque Milano. When I walked through one of the aisles I was met with a stand which had a Russian samovar as its centerpiece. When I focused a little more I saw Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi, the Crative Directors for the brand, standing behind it. I knew that the promised fifth fragrance from Masque Milano called Russian Tea was ready to be tried.

masque pitti fragranze

Masque Milano display at Pitti Fragranze 2014 (Photo: Fragrantica)

Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi had visited Russia and were treated to a Russian Tea Ritual while in a snowy Saint Petersburg. They wanted to capture in a perfume not only the tea ritual but also the journey of the tea leaves by train across Siberia to their eventual location. As they would tell me, before giving me some to try, Russian Tea when being transported by train is kept dry by wood burning fires underneath. This causes the tea leaves to take on a smoky character. Another component of the transportation is the use of mint to also modulate the smokiness of the fires and keep the tea fresh. Once the tea is presented as part of the ritual a teaspoon of raspberry preserve is added. To encompass the journey from tea leaves to samovar, perfumer Julien Rasquinet was asked to bring this to life. For M. Rasquinet this would be his last independent perfume before taking a job with IFF. He would deliver this perfume on December 31, 2013 and on January 1, 2014 he would destroy his lab to take on his new duties. As a final nod to his independent career M. Rasquinet goes out on a high note.

riccardo and alessandro

Riccardo Tedeschi (l.) and Alessandro Brun

The opening of Russian Tea is all of the things around the tea ritual. There is a hint of mint as the leaves are prepared. The raspberry preserves are placed in a pot on the table. The leaves give off a piquant aroma carried by a pinch of black pepper in the top notes. The tea then begins to brew, thick and savory, in the olfactory samovar. M. Rasquinet uses a very intense black tea accord and to keep it from being too dark he cleverly uses immortelle to temper the strength. It is really a quite brilliant choice as the maple syrup feel of immortelle adds just the right amount of contrasting sweetness to make the black tea comforting. As the cup is placed before you the steam arises carrying all the scents of the journey as birch and leather form a smoky duet. Incense wafts across the base notes as a wonderfully eccentric grace note.

Russian Tea has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

When I drink tea I enjoy it dark and smoky. Russian Tea serves me up a fragrance that is not only dark and smoky it is also full of all the splendor of the Russian Tea Ritual throughout. This is a perfume which is as comforting as a cup of strong dark tea on a winter’s day in St. Petersburg.   

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Masque Milano at Pitti Fragranze.

Mark Behnke

Olfactory Chemistry: Ambrox-Chemical Gold

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One of the biggest perfume synthetic raw materials is Ambrox. I mean big in both senses of the word. Ambrox is widely used as one of the most common basenotes. Ambrox is also a big molecule as you can see below. It is the size which allows it to linger on the skin for hours and hours. Like many of the synthetic molecules in this series Ambrox came about as a synthetic equivalent to an expensive natural ingredient.

ambrox

The natural ingredient I am talking about is ambergris. Ambergris has become so prized that it has been called “floating gold”. The price of ambergris has done nothing but go up so synthetic chemistry comes to the rescue again. Natural ambergris was analyzed and Ambrox was determined to be one of the major components. The synthesis was accomplished via a process called semi-synthesis. It is where you take an easily isolated natural product as an advanced starting material and then over a few steps you transform it into the desired product.

sclareol

For Ambrox the starting material is an isolate from clary sage called Sclareol. It takes six steps to convert Sclareol to Ambrox and it is still pretty labor intensive. As a result ambrox is not one of the cheaper synthetics you can employ, although it is significantly more economical than ambergris. There is a more efficient synthesis starting from a natural product isolated in labdanum but even though it is two steps shorter the chemical reagents necessary to carry out the transformation are more expensive and that makes the shorter more chemically efficient synthesis less economically efficient.

Ambrox made its first widespread impact as a component of the base of Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue. Ambrox would go onto star in Geza Schoen’s Escentric Molecule 02 just as a single dilution of pure Ambrox. If you try that perfume you will see that Ambrox carries some of the briny musky quality of ambergris but it also has significant characteristics of light woodiness. It is that latter quality that really has been used by perfumers to really bring Ambrox to the foreground. Two of my favorite uses come from two different Editions de Parfum Frederic Malle perfumes by perfumer Dominique Ropion; Geranium pour Monsieur and Portrait of a Lady. In Geranium pour Monsieur it provides the austere muskiness at the base. In Portrait of a Lady the woody aspect is more pronounced. Just those two perfumes by one master perfumer show how much versatility this aromachemical has. I also think there is a downside to Ambrox when it is used poorly it often has an overbearing unbalancing effect on a perfume. There have been perfumes I have liked until the Ambrox explodes upon the scene obliterating any nuance. It makes me wary when I see it on the ingredient list because if it is not used well it can single-handedly ruin a perfume for me.

The bottom line is Ambrox is here to stay and over time perfumers have learned how to use it in multiple creative ways. When it is used well it can be chemical gold in a perfume.

Mark Behnke   

New Perfume Review Mona di Orio Myrrh Casati- Defining Monaesque

How does one continue when tragedy strikes? How does one carry on in the name of a creative spirit lost to us? In December of 2011 perfumer Mona di Orio passed away suddenly. In the years since there have been new releases of perfumes she had finished before her passing. Mona di Orio the brand was now at a crossroads; become a legacy brand re-releasing the previous perfumes made by Mme di Orio or move forward with new perfumes that capture Mme di Orio’s signature aesthetic of light and shadow. Creative Director and partner of Mme di Orio, Jeroen Oude Sogtoen has decided to do both. Two of Mme di Orio’s early releases Lux and Nuit Noire are now being re-launched. Concurrently M. Sogtoen has decided to ask perfumer Melanie Leroux to take the brand forward and they have created the new release Myrrh Casati.

jeroen

Jeroen Oude Sogtoen

A key component to moving forward is to create perfumes in the style of Mme di Orio. They have chosen to coin a phrase to define this, Monaesque. The definition in the press release is, “It is the harmonious nature between light and dark notes, the olfactory chiaroscuro, which distinguishes each scent as Monaesque. The melody of the notes reveal an orchestrated arc of the claire obscure, unconventional, richly faceted, and completely original.” With M. Sogtoen to oversee the new perfumes to come and having worked so closely with Mme di Orio there could be no better person to make sure these principles are upheld.

Giovanni_Boldini_(1842-1931),_La_Marchesa_Luisa_Casati_(1881-1957)_con_un_levriero

La Marchesa Luisa Casati by Giovanni Boldini

Marchesa Luisa Casati is the inspiration for Myrrh Casati. Marchesa Casati was known for arriving at fetes with her leashed cheetahs or wearing live snakes as accessories. Her style would inspire fashion designers John Galliano and Alexander McQueen. Now it was time for her to inspire a fragrance. Perfumer Melanie Leroux would construct a fragrance around the sweet intensity of myrrh but she adds her version of olfactory cheetahs and snakes with licorice and saffron playing a prominent role.

Myrrh Casati opens on a duet of red berries and pink pepper. This sets a bit of the spicy shadow over the bright fruit to lead into the appearance of the myrrh. Myrrh is one of my favorite incense notes as it carries the darkness of frankincense but with an inherent sweetness which makes it more opulent. When used well it can form a kinetic core to a fragrance. Mme Leroux does a good job of allowing it to form a foundation early on. Then she swirls in three notes which make Myrrh Casati for me. First a bit of green cardamom adds contrast. Saffron adds that exotic spicy quality unique to it. Finally, licorice makes an appearance in rich herbal strands. This is the heart of Myrrjh Casati and all of this blends together fantastically. As we move towards the end Mme Leroux adds in some more incense and benzoin to bolster the myyrh so it can stand up to the patchouli, nagarmotha, and guaiac. These last three notes form a sort of faux oud accord. It is never as pushy as real oud would be it is a lighter hint of oud and it goes well at the end of Myrrh Casati.

Myrrh Casati has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

If you are going to carry on a tradition as rich as that Mme di Orio left behind then you need to make a strong statement. Myrrh Casati is that statement of intent to carry on the aesthetic Mme di Orio honed and refined over so many years. M. Sogtoen and Mme Leroux have provided with Myrrh Casati the definition of what it means to be Monaesque.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Mona di Orio at Pitti Fragranze.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Huitieme Art Parfums Liqueur Charnelle- Snifter Stylings

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Pierre Guillaume has successfully spread himself over three distinct lines each containing their own aesthetic. Huitieme Art Parfums has come to be the one in which M. Guillaume experiments. He has featured new raw materials or attempted to create specific accords new to his palette. For the latest release Liqueuer Charnelle it is a “cognac bouquet” he is working towards.

glass-of-cognac

Cognac is one of the more complex bouquets to try and capture because it is a complicated process which leads to the bottle. After taking grapes and allowing them to ferment it is distilled multiple times to concentrate and raise the alcohol level. This concentration has an effect of also making even the most subtle of aromas when it was more dilute now more prominent. After being aged in oak barrels it is blended to produce what goes in the bottle. When drinking a snifter of cognac I spend as much time inhaling the sweet slightly fruity fragrance as I do sniffing it. To re-create this is not so easy because the pleasures of a fine cognac is the fragility of the bouquet. To turn it into a perfume was going to take precision and patience.

Pierre-Guillaume_2Pierre Guillaume

M. Guillaume takes the approach of allowing a few of the components of the eventual accord to have a little time by themselves in the early moments. As a result the opening carries a mix of pink pepper and black pepper. Then the other pieces of what will eventually form the accord begin to assemble. A bit of violet and a pinch of astringent green. A touch of elemi along with a soupcon of raspberry. These allow for vanilla, oak, and tobacco to form the spine upon which these notes will flesh out the cognac accord. There is a moment about an hour in where Liqueur Charnelle rises like the finest cognac being swirled in a snifter. As Liqueur Charnelle proceeds to the end the cognac accord decays and what you are left with is sweet tobacco and wood.

Liqueur Charnell has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

There is a fantastic atmospheric feel to Liqueur Charnelle that made me feel as if I should be sitting in a private club while wearing it. That the cognac accord is so well realized is part of it but it is also the richness of the perfume itself. It feels elegant in a very louche way. I like the way it makes me feel refined while in my everyday clothes instead of a smoking jacket. If you like boozy fragrances Liqueur Charnelle is one of the best in this category.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Huitieme Art Parfums at Pitti Fragranze.

Mark Behnke