New Perfume Review B. Balenciaga- Alexander Wang Takes the Wheel

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One of the things that can be tough to watch is when a perfume brand loses its way. This more frequently happens within the designer mainstream sector. As creative direction at the fashion house changes direction it will eventually trickle down to the ancillary products like fragrance. Balenciaga has recently undergone one of these changes. In 2012 Alexander Wang took over from Nicolas Ghesquiere at Balenciaga. For my tastes the perfumes that were released under M. Ghesquiere’s tenure like Florabotanica and Balenciaga Paris did not live up to the heritage of a brand which produced Le Dix back in the 1950’s. I was interested to see in what direction M. Wang would choose to take the perfume side of Balenciaga. The first data point has arrived with the release of B. Balenciaga.

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One of the things I like about M. Wang is he very much wants to integrate the perfumes which carry the Balenciaga name with the couture that name represents. He used B. Balenciaga to scent the Spring 2015 runway show in Paris. The B. Balenciaga bottle is meant to remind you of the marble floor in the Balenciaga flagship store in Paris. The runway carried the same pattern. Beyond aesthetics the photo of Gisele Bundchen by photographer Steven Klein is a visual example of M. Wang’s desire to break Balenciaga free of the past. On the perfume side M. Wang partnered with perfumer Domitille Bertier to create B. Balenciaga.

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Domitille Bertier

From the first moment I sniffed B. Balenciaga I was drawn in by a steamy vegetal accord. When I saw the list of notes there it was right on the page, edamame accord. Mme Bertier has constructed a very green accord which is suffused with steam and humidity. She tempers some of the ability to feel like you are being made to figuratively eat your olfactory vegetables by using violet leaf and muguet to give a floral place to orient oneself. I found all of this quite fascinating and it lasts for a couple of hours this way on my skin. After that it proceeds pretty normally through a finish of cedar and cashmeran.

B. Balenciaga has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

After his predecessor’s habit of playing it safe with a collection of bland florals I am pleased to see M. Wang seems to be trying something different. B. Balenciaga is a floral but that edamame accord makes it anything but bland. I am looking forward to what comes next at Balenciaga.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample of B. Balenciaga I received at Sniffapalooza Fall Ball.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review S-Perfume Musk-S- Sacre Nobi’s Second Fragrance Period Begins

One of my favorite early niche perfume lines was one called S-Perfume which came straight out of the DUMBO art collective in Brooklyn. The creative director behind the brand was Nobi Shioya who is also known as sculptor Sacre Nobi. In 2000 he became fascinated with fragrance and worked with perfumers Alberto Morillas and Thierry Wasser to add scent to his sculpture. This would lead to a one-off project where he assigned one of the Seven Deadly Sins to a perfumer. Back in 2002 this was the roster he attracted, besides Messrs. Morillas and Wasser, Annie Buzantian, Jacques Cavallier, Ilia Ermenidis, Annick Menardo, and Harry Fremont. I would say that my little sample set of these Seven Deadly Sin perfumes was one of the earliest moments where I seriously began to consider the idea of olfactory art. Each perfume was challenging and the perfumers were encouraged to push the boundaries of perfume making. I can’t say any of them are anything I crave to wear but I do pull them out from time-to-time to appreciate them as artistic statements. Sacre Nobi would go on to produce two perfumes which would be sold in stores 100% Love by Sophia Grojsman and S-ex by Christophe Laudamiel released in 2007 and 2006 respectively. These were and are amazing fragrances I do wear and they are among the very best of both perfumer’s collection.

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Nobi Shioya aka Sacre Nobi

Sacre Nobi would say in 2008 that he was phasing out of his “fragrance period” and for a while that seemed to be the case. 100% Love and S-ex continued to be produced intermittently and the brand was never completely gone. In 2011 I heard Sacre Nobi was back and working on a new fragrance line A Lab on Fire. A Lab on Fire held all of the same principles that S-Perfume had giving perfumers wide latitude to create without commercial pressure. It has been one of my favorite new niche perfume houses of the last few years. Then a few months ago I received a press release announcing the return of S-Perfume with new bottles and four new perfumes added to the original two. Of the four new perfumes there was one I was zeroed in on right from the start Musk-S.

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Carlos Beniam

One of the very first S-Perfume compositions was an attempt to create the perfect sheer skin musk. Alberto Morillas created S-Perfume to be that back in 2000. Ever since Sacre Nobi has encouraged the perfumers to tweak that original formula trying to perfect it. Perfumer Carlos Benaim is the latest hand to evolve the original formulation and the result is Musk-S. I am not sure if perfection has been reached but it is getting much closer.

 M. Benaim uses chestnut flower as the top note. In the original formulation this was around in much greater quantity as a method of discomfiture for the wearer. For those unfamiliar with the raw ingredient chestnut flower smells like semen. The higher the concentration the easier it is to make the connection. For Musk-S M. Benaim uses it in a much modulated form more as a nod to the original than anything else. A continued light mix of vanilla and bourbon add a bit of sweet booziness of the barroom. Once these preliminaries are out of the way we get down to the base note collection of synthetic musks. The original S-Perfume came off smelling more like a money shot from a pornographic movie. It was interesting but it felt miles away from where Sacre Nobi wanted it to be. This was also because M. Morillas had a lot of synthetic musks to use but not nearly the arsenal M. Benaim would have 14 years later. That is the key difference as M. Benaim has taken many of the more modern synthetic musks and layered them in to one of the most compelling synthetic musk skin accords I have smelled. There are still a few rough edges here and there which disrupt the illusion but they are slight and require attention to notice them. If I let my analytical mind take a nap they are really unnoticeable.

Musk-S has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I am thrilled that Sacre Nobi has decided to start a second “fragrance period” the freedom he grants the perfumers he works with is unrivaled in the niche perfume business. Musk-S serves as a perfect first fragrance to kick off this new era as it borrows from the past to create a current spectacular synthetic musk perfume.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Intertrade Europe at Pitti Fragranze.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Gobin Daude Sous Le Buis- One Shining Green Moment

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Of every brand that I will profile in this series the Gobin Daude line is the most confounding one I will cover. In the fall of 2002 when I visited the Takashimaya department store the sales associate walked me over to a new brand the store had just stocked, Gobin Daude. There were five perfumes in the brand: Jardins Ottomans, Biche Dans L’Absinthe, Nuit Au Desert, Seve Exquise, and Sous Le Buis. Each of these fragrances were tiny glittering personal statements by the perfumer Victoire Gobin Daude. Mme Gobin Daude wanted to make perfume that was not represented by the mainstream or even the niche lines which were in their infancy at this point. She also wanted perfume to arouse passion to make the wearer feel pleasure in the experience. My favorite of the line is Sous Le Buis.

By now if you read me regularly I think you know of my fondness for green fragrances. Let me say this very simply I have no green fragrance like Sous Le Buis nothing comes close. Mme Gobin Daude takes the name, which translates to Under the Boxwood, and instead makes a perfume which should be more correctly named Inside the Boxwood. If you imagine yourself surrounded by green growth along with the leaves and woodiness, thick but also airy then you know what Sous Le Buis is like.

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Victoire Gobin Daude

Mme Gobin Daude uses extremely simple constructions to elicit extraordinary complexity. Her style is as unique as her perfumes. Sous Le Buis opens on lavender and orange blossom turned crisp and green with clary sage. This is the expansiveness of leaves on a tree. Galbanum intensifies the green and it is all finished with oakmoss. What these five ingredients combine to form is that sense of being outdoors amidst the shrubbery. It never gets heavy but it has heft. It is light as a feather but is not inconsequential. It is a master class in perfume composition.

Sous Le Buis has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

The entire line are some of my most cherished perfumed possessions because inexplicably in 2003 the line was discontinued and the remaining stock sold. I thought it just might have been too different and didn’t sell. The people at Takashimaya told me it was one of their best-selling brands. People were as enraptured as I was. Poor sales waere not the reason. When I ask people about this who might know I am told financing might have fallen through. I have heard Mme Gobin Daude just didn’t want to do this anymore. I am not sure I will ever know the story. At the time I expected to hear from Mme Gobin Daude again but like her perfumes she has also disappeared. If I was given one wish in all of perfumery it would be for Mme Gobin Daude to return to making perfume. Hers is a completely singular olfactory voice. I hope one day I will be surprised to find a press release announcing her return.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews DSH Perfumes The Cannabis Culture Collection- It’s 4:20

The word collection when it comes to fragrance has been so overused that it has become meaningless. Except for the few perfume brands which actually understand the concept that a collection of perfumes should have some common theme or ingredient running through the different entries. One perfumer who continues to produce collections which are everything I could want from something called that, is Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. Her latest collection The Cannabis Culture Collection examines marijuana from four very different perspectives.

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Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

As marijuana begins the long journey towards becoming legal in the United States there are two states which have voted to get ahead of the rest of the country, Washington and Colorado. Ms. Hurwitz lives in Boulder, Colorado and wanted to make a collection capturing all there is to smell about the cannabis culture which is slowly emerging into the light. The four fragrances capture different parts of the culture. The growing of it in controlled conditions in The Green House. Finding it in the wild among other growing things in Agreistic. Harvesting the buds sticky and redolent in I Love You Mary Jane. Finally smoking it up on a walk through the Colorado pine forest in Rocky Mountain High.

If you are in your mid-50’s to 60’s you came of age in an era when there were many amateur underground cannabis growers. Most of these were a rack of a few plants growing under an electronic grow-light in a small windowless room usually in a basement. Whenever I would walk into one of these I would be struck by an intensely sharp green smell paired with damp potting soil. The Green House is Ms. Hurwitz’s evocation of that accord. She uses a softly green accord to capture the sharp green quality while also evoking the humidity of the artificial growing environment. The soil accord is paired with a bit of patchouli to give it some texture. This is cannabis as it is seen by the one who grows it in secret.

I’ve also done my fair share of hiking and it was always a funny moment when I would stop for lunch among a field of wildflowers and see the distinctive seven lobed leaf waving among the color. For Agreistic Ms. Hurwitz imagines a field of lavender studded with cannabis here and there. Ms. Hurwitz chooses to use a fougere architecture for Agreistic but it has some very interesting twists. A mix of acerbic tomato leaf with juicy plum opens into a fougere heart of lavender, hay, and oakmoss. Just as you might be leaning back into the olfactory field of purple floral stalks you pillow your head on a stand of cannabis. This is a much more expansive accord than in The Green House as in Agreistic it feels like part of a natural mise en scene. This is cannabis out of the basement and in the open sunshine.

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I Love You Mary Jane is the experience of picking through tight sticky buds of cannabis. If you’ve ever done that then you know the smell your fingers have after handling the buds? That is exactly what I Love You Mary Jane smells like. Ms. Hurwitz uses a fabulous assemblage of notes to form this accord most of them fruit. Grapefruit, blackberry, mango, apricot, are matched with rhubarb and blackcurrant bud. The grapefruit, blackcurrant bud, and rhubarb comprise a narcotic sourness over the lusher fruits. A bit of floralcy comes through with osmanthus and lily before patchouli brings this home. This is cannabis as it is being prepared to be smoked.

The first three fragrances deal with the smell of the growing cannabis plant. The final entry, Rocky Mountain High, is the pungent smell of it being smoked amid the high-altitude pines of the Rockies. Ms. Hurwitz has worked with some local distillers and one of those Eric Bresselsmith supplied her with a juniper oil. This is paired with chrysanthemum and together they wrap a hemp nucleus. To get the sort of stinky smell of the smoke Ms. Hurwitz adds a bit of natural skunk to add that level of reality to it all. Around all of this is a full suite of coniferous notes. This is cannabis being enjoyed in one of Mother Nature’s most spectacular vistas.

All of The Cannabis Culture Collection have 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Once again Ms. Hurwitz has produced an intriguing collection which allows a perfume lover to explore cannabis from multiple points of view. I think many will find one of them to be their favorite. I have to say that I really like all of them but if pressed I Love You Mary Jane is my favorite. Just remember it is 4:20 somewhere.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Grossmith Sylvan Song- Fortnum & Mason Go Retro Nouveau

I am loath to recommend new perfumes which are exclusive to single points of sale. Then again when they are excellent perfumes I also feel it is my job to bring them to people’s attention. I have also found the ones which I am more pleased to write about are perfumes which actually have something of the exclusive store’s character within the construction. When I was at Pitti Fragranze I had the opportunity to try the new Grossmith Sylvan Song exclusive to London department store Fortnum & Mason.

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Amanda and Simon Brooke

Ever since Simon and Amanda Brooke revived the venerable British perfume house of Grossmith in 2005 they have been revisiting a tradition almost two hundred years old. In 1980 it disappeared only to have the Brookes bring it back to life 25 years later. The early releases have been reformulations of the early perfumes Mr. Brooke found and wanted to expose to a new audience. The Grossmith style has a big boisterous presence. If you like your perfumes quiet Grossmith isn’t for you. If you like your perfumes full of extroverted brilliant layers Grossmith is for you. Sylvan Song is a new composition by perfumer Celine Guivarc’h it feels like she is working off of an old recipe but it is an entirely Retro Nouveau.

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Celine Guivarc'h

Mme Guivarc’h makes an exceedingly floral heart which gives way to a smoke laden Oriental base and this is expertly balanced. One of the harder things to do when making a Retro Nouveau fragrance is not to get too caught up in the Retro so it feels “old” and not to get too modern that it loses any sense of having a vintage charm. Mme Guivarc’h lets the florals hearken back to yesteryear while letting the base and the smokiness bring a more contemporary flair to the end.

Sylvan Song opens with a brilliant point of light courtesy of bergamot. It is like a sunbeam across my senses as if to grab my attention. Once it has my focus, rose, ylang, and jasmine form a floral trio singing at the top of their olfactory lungs. This is floral power and each one of the flowers pick a part of the harmony to make beautiful music with. I love the way all of the Grossmith florals have a British stiff upper lip to them as they hold their ground almost defiantly asking the wearer to take them on their own merits. The beauty is found in its unrestrained floralcy. The base is set upon a foundation of incense smoldering and swirling smoke throughout the rest of the notes of vetiver, patchouli, benzoin, and musk. This base is the kind of smoky resinous base which has become popular over the last twenty years. Here it provides the Nouveau to the Retro of the flowers.

Sylvan Song has 12-14 hours longevity and above average sillage.

Sylvan Song is an excellent example of how a brand evolves without losing its heritage. Under the care of the Brookes Grossmith will thrive for many years to come. Sylvan Song proves that the old ways can be turned into new ways without abandoning the past.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Grossmith at Pitti Fragranze.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Blacklist

Every new television season I manage to pick up one or two new series which eventually get a season pass on my DVR. The sad thing is when it comes to the next new television season I find it is those that I watched the year before which I delete from my DVR to make room for the new potentials. In almost every artistic endeavor you can name, sustaining creativity and building upon it is extremely difficult. I imagine for a new television series it is even more daunting. When you film your original order of thirteen episodes you likely put all of your good ideas on the line. Then if you’re successful you’re asked for nine more episodes to complete the first season. Now what? The truly creative manage to get over this; others have problems and it is why you often see those final nine episodes of a freshman television series become so maddeningly inconsistent. Of the new shows I began watching last year one of them has not only come back stronger than when it began but it feels like it is peaking at the moment. That show is NBC’s The Blacklist.

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The premise of The Blacklist is that a one-time agent who had turned to a life of crime by becoming the man who brokers deals between international criminals turns himself in. The character’s name is Raymond “Red” Reddington and he is played by James Spader in one of the best performances on television. It is his performance which makes the show watchable even when the plotting gets a little too byzantine. The structure of the show is Red only works with one profiler in the FBI, Lizzie Keen played by Megan Boone. The mythology weaving its way through the show is about Red’s and Lizzie’s relationship. There is some connection and the show feeds the audience bits and pieces about it around the case of the week. Those cases are people who are on The Blacklist, criminals so careful the police agencies don’t even know about them. Every episode starts with a name. Sometimes they have supervillain like names The Kingmaker or The Alchemist; sometimes it is just the name of a person or group. By the end of the hour the titular villain is thwarted.

The cases are pretty standard television fare. The performance of Mr. Spader is not. He excels at playing these morally ambiguous characters. He really became one of my favorite actors when he played the role of lawyer Alan Shore on the last season of the show The Practice before being spun-off into his own show Boston Legal. There is common ground between Red and Alan, besides the actor who brings them to life, both happily almost gleefully use unethical means to ensure positive outcomes. It is this ability to portray a character who contains a strong adherence to a personal ethos which makes Mr. Spader so much fun to watch. In The Blacklist he has never been better.

If you are looking for something to catch up on and binge watch as the weather turns colder I can highly recommend doing so with Season 1 of The Blacklist. Then catch up to the current season because it is only getting better.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Chocolate

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With Halloween just a week away my mind turns to candy and confections. Specifically my mind turns to chocolate; big piles of chocolate. Hershey’s, Kit Kat, Twix, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers; you get the idea. My dentist probably wishes I didn’t get the idea. For the next week there will be plenty of chocolate to eat. What if you’d rather wear some chocolate? There are some really amazing chocolate perfumes out there and these five are among my favorite perfumes with a prominent chocolate note. This kind of chocolate my dentist approves of.

When you speak of chocolate in perfumery you have to start with Thierry Mugler Angel created in 1992 by perfumer Olivier Cresp. It is the perfume which single-handedly created the gourmand category. It is a great perfume but when I want the Thierry Mugler version of chocolate I reach for perfumer Jacques Huclier’s A*Men from 1996. M. Huclier took the patchouli, caramel, vanilla, and chocolate base of Angel and stripped away all of the fruit and replaced it with strong black coffee and lavender. When I get the urge for chocolate my eyes always alight on my bottle of A*Men.

My favorite kind of chocolate is a dark chocolate and orange bar. Montale Chocolate Greedy by perfumer Pierre Montale in 2007 is just that. Chocolate Greedy has a bit of the bite of high percentage cacao dark chocolate with bitter orange. This is as simple a perfume as it gets but in that Montale over the top way it seems like much more.

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Serge Lutens Borneo 1834 by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake is a luscious mix of chocolate and patchouli. M. Sheldrake turns this as dark as it can get even adding in a few licorice whips to tint it even darker. One of my favorite of the entire Serge Lutens line it completely re-invents the chocolate and patchouli beat from A*Men into something much deeper.

I think it was 2009 when I discovered perfume Charna Ethier’s Providence Perfume Co. I am sure it was Cocoa Tuberose which was the first perfume I tried from the very talented Ms. Ethier. This all-natural perfume delivers exactly what it promises although if there was truth in labeling the cocoa would be in all caps while the tuberose would be in lower case. Ms. Ethier’s cocoa is rich and nearly overwhelming so it takes an extroverted white flower like tuberose to make any headway at all. It’s an uphill battle all the way for the white flower but once she gains a foothold the tuberose really proves to be an excellent companion to the chocolate. Ms. Ethier has delivered on the promise I felt when trying Cocoa Tuberose as she is now among the best independent perfumers working.

One of my favorite cold weather drinks is Mexican Hot Chocolate where high quality cocoa is dissolved in milk and adorned with cinnamon and chile powder. Perfumers Yann Vasnier and Rodrigo Flores-Roux capture the rich spicy drink as a fragrance in Arquiste Anima Dulcis. From the sprinkling of cinnamon in the opening into a piquant heart of not only chile pepper and cocoa but also clove and cumin with a hint of jasmine blowing in through the window. The heart of Anima Dulcis is one of the most unique gourmand hearts in the genre. It finishes with cedar and vanilla to soothe the palate.

If I come Trick or Treating to your doorstep give me candy but I’ll be wearing one of these favorite chocolate perfumes as I walk my neighborhood. Happy Halloween to all the readers of Colognoisseur.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Byredo Mojave Ghost-Desert Sunrise

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When I was hiking in the Desert Southwest of the US my favorite time of the day was just before the sun would come up. With false dawn providing a bit of diffuse light the desert never smelled so alive. This probably has something to do with it being the coolest part of the day. Before the sun and the harsh conditions bake everything to a crisp; in the hour just before sunrise the scent on the air reminds you that there is lots of life in the seeming lifelessness. Creative Director of Byredo Ben Gorham asked perfumer Jerome Epinette to make a perfume based on one of those flowers which survive in the desert, the Ghost Flower (Mohavea Confertiflora). The perfume is fittingly called Mojave Ghost.

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Sapodilla

When I received my press materials for this perfume that I expected to be about the desert there was listed an ingredient from the tropics which really upped my anticipation. This ingredient was Jamaican Naseberry or as it is called elsewhere, Sapodilla. I loved eating Sapodilla as a kid as it had the taste of brown sugar and cinnamon on a flesh which was apple-like. I always thought it was like getting cooked cinnamon apples off of a tree. When I would split the flesh of a sapodilla that mix of spicy sweet would meet my nose as I took my first bite. M. Epinette really enjoys using the entire arsenal of natural raw materials he has access to from Robertet and in Mojave Ghost he makes this tropical ingredient fit his desert milieu.

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Jerome Epinette

If you have spent any time at all in the desert there is an indigenous slightly spicy smell to it. The closest I can compare it to is cinnamon but so ethereal as to be a ghost of it. This is where the sapodilla plays its part as the brown sugar and cinnamon quality are right on top and M. Epinette adds in ambrette seeds to give a natural muskiness underneath the spiciness. This is very close to that smell I get from the desert. The heart moves into a bit of astringent floralcy with magnolia and violet over sandalwood. M. Epinette keeps this very sheer keeping it wraith-like in nature as it almost feels insubstantial only to coalesce again and gather some more presence. The base is cedarwood, amber, and clean white musk. All of the base notes are also kept on the ethereal side as well.

Mojave Ghost has 8-10 hour longevity but it is so sheer you might think it has worn off when it hasn’t. Sillage is moderate as you might expect.

Mojave Ghost is such a transparent perfume that I think for those who aren’t fans of this kind of opaque construction it might be frustrating. I am a big fan of a perfume which acts as a ghost flitting in and out of my consciousness ever floating on the periphery. Mojave Ghost is that beautiful moment just before the sun explodes over the horizon in an orange fireball in the high desert except the perfume lasts well into the light of day.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Annick Goutal Vent de Folie- Searching For A Pulse

There seems to be a pattern that all perfume lines which have been around for years go through. At first they are new and exciting. Then they enter middle age and very often they go through a mid-life crisis of sorts looking back to former triumphs via flankers and reformulations. Then there are two tracks which follow from here; either the line fades to irrelevance or it gets a creative rejuvenation. Annick Goutal is at this cross roads right now. The last good perfume release from them was Ninfeo Mio at the beginning of 2010. In the over four years since, the nine releases have been surprisingly poor. What is more surprising is the creative team of Creative Director Camille Goutal and perfumer Isabelle Doyen have remained intact. As a result the sample of the latest release Vent de Folie was not high up on my list to test. That changed when I was at Sniffapalooza Fall Ball and sniffed it there. Maybe just maybe the grande dame still had something to show after all.

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Isabelle Doyen (l.) and Camille Goutal

I am glad I returned to the press materials after having sniffed because there is a definite attempt to appeal to a younger perfume wearer. Vent de Folie doesn’t try to break out of the sheer fruity floral mode seemingly prized among that set. If there is a bit of a quibble with Vent de Folie is it is seemingly so safely constructed. A fruity top, a floral heart, and a woody musk base. This is the recipe of hundreds of perfumes all vying for that elusive young demographic. Despite that Mme Doyen manages to make this an interesting version of well-trodden territory.

I think what grabbed me was the opening fruity fusillade. It isn’t subtle. In truth I wouldn’t disagree heartily with someone who found it to be over the top. I think it is exactly that excessive layering of the fruity notes which made me give this a second chance because when Mme Doyen works in overdose she often provides interesting insights. For the top notes of Vent de Folie that is what happens for me. She combines blood orange, blackcurrant buds, and raspberry. Each one of these is present in high concentration. The blood orange at that level shows off more of its tartness. The blackcurrant buds show off the sticky green, almost urinous, quality. The raspberry provides a saccharine foundation. All together they sing in three-part harmony which I found lovely to listen to. Unfortunately the rest of the development is very straight forward as rose and geranium provide the floral foil to the fruit and cedar and white musks provide a clean finish.

Vent de Folie has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

For at least the first hour of Vent de Folie there was a vital pulse again in Annick Goutal. I was reminded when the line used to take risks. The remainder of the time I wore Vent de Folie the patient lapsed back into the creative coma it has been mired in. When you are hoping for a recovery though you will latch on to any small sign. Which is what I’m hoping for as perhaps Vent de Folie is a sign of better days and better perfumes to come.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Vent de Folie provided by Annick Goutal.

Mark Behnke

Book Review: Fragrant- The Secret Life of Scent by Mandy Aftel- Essential Oil Reading

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When I reviewed Mandy Aftel’s recent release Palimpsest she mentioned it was inspired by the research she did for her new book, “Fragrant- The Secret Life of Scent”. I received my review copy a little over a week ago and spent this past weekend completely enthralled by Ms. Aftel’s new book. This is Ms. Aftel’s fourth book on scent and it is by far her most accessible.

Ms. Aftel starts off with an introduction on how she fell in love with making natural perfume after a number of previous careers. She realized that scent was important to her and that she wanted to learn how to create perfume. She immersed herself in the history of perfumery and after her years as a perfumer she has come up with a simple truism, “Scent is a portal to these basic human appetites- for the far-off, the familiar, the transcendent, the strange, and the beautiful-that have motivated us since the origins of our species.” That sentence encapsulates what great perfume does for me and what it aspires to.

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Mandy Aftel (Photo: Foster Curry)

For this book Ms. Aftel decided to focus on five raw ingredients: cinnamon, mint, frankincense, ambergris, and jasmine. Each ingredient gets its own chapter. It starts with a history of the ingredient but there are delightful tangents as well. One of my favorites comes from the Cinnamon chapter where she found a set of five rules for perfumers in ancient Constantinople. It directs where the perfumers can ply their trade so the pleasant smells will drift up into the Royal Palace nearby. They are also directed that, “They are not to stock poor quality goods in their shops: a sweet smell and a bad smell do not go together.” I think there are some modern perfumeries which could be reminded of these old rules.

The last section of each chapter is dedicated to experiencing the ingredient as a raw material and it includes recipes for different fragrances and ways to use it in cooking. For an even richer experience for these last sections; on the Aftelier website there is a Companion Kit which has all five of the ingredients to allow you to actually play along as you read. I received one of the Companion Kits and it greatly enhanced my experience. Plus there is enough to allow the reader to choose to use some in whatever way seems apt.

Ms. Aftel’s previous career as a writer along with her experience as a natural perfumer allows for a perfect synergy as the author is also the expert. It is an important distinction when it comes to describing a sensory experience in words. I believe it is Ms. Aftel’s intimate relationship with these materials which allow for her to communicate about them so effectively and beautifully.

There are very few books which can reach outside the small circle of those of us who are obsessed with perfume. I believe Fragrant is going to be a book which does have a much wider reach because it is as easy to read as a true-life adventure. For those of us who love perfume and the raw ingredients within them Fragrant is going to give you new perspective on these ingredients. I learned so much I didn’t know about ingredients I thought I knew a lot about.

The section of my bookshelf which houses the books on scent and perfume that I think are essential is pretty small. With the publication of Fragrant it just got one volume bigger.

Disclosure: This review was based on a copy of Fragrant provided by Riverhead Books.

Mark Behnke