The Sunday Magazine: The Killers’ Christmas Songs

The Holiday season is full of uniquely personal traditions big and small. One of the small traditions I use as the kickoff for the musical portion of the festivities is the release of The Killers new Christmas song to benefit Project (RED).

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The Killers are a rock band which got their start in Las Vegas. Since 2001 they have put out four albums. The band has never been one to crank out new music every year. They work at their own pace and I believe they are one of the best bands in this time span. I look forward to every release.

Project (RED) was formed in 2006 to raise money to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. Over the past few years there have been many (RED) branded products which donate their proceeds to the initiative.

A-Great-Big-Sled

The Killers agreed to be part of the inaugural year of events and released a Christmas song called “A Great Big Sled” to benefit Project (RED). From a band who has made music that really connects with me this song has become my sing-along anthem to the holidays. Most sing Frosty or Rudolph you’ll catch me in my car singing lyrics like, “but little boys have action toys for brains, I’m living proof it can last a long time”.

Happy_Birthday_The_Killers

Since that first song The Killers release a new Christmas song during the first week of December to coincide with World AIDS Day on December 1. I consider the collection of eight songs over the last few years to be the band’s “fifth” album. Over the eight songs 2009’s “Happy Birthday Guadalupe” is about the hope for simple love on Christmas Day. Last year’s “Christmas in LA” is all about spending the holiday away from family because you chose to follow your dreams. 2008 saw Elton John and Neil Tennant join in for “Joseph, Better You than Me” which explores the faith inherent in the man who would be baby Jesus’ earthly parent. This song resonates more with me than traditional hymns as the song asks, “Will my faith stand still or run away”. The band indulges in a silly little ditty for 2011’s “The Cowboy Christmas Ball”.

What sets these songs apart from other artists who release Holiday songs is these feel more like songs really considered over the year between releases. As a result the songs stand on their own more surely and don’t lend themselves to becoming a musical time capsule more emblematic of the time period it was released.

Sometime this week I will get my annual e-mail that the new The Killers Christmas song has been released and I will be downloading as fast as the internet will allow me to. Then I’ll begin humming my way through December into the New Year.

Mark Behnke

How-to Give Perfume as a Gift

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There is a common question I get throughout the year but I get it more frequently during the Holiday shopping season, “Can you recommend a perfume to give to my significant other or family member or BFF?” Early on when I got this question my stock answer was exceedingly simple, “I don’t think you should give perfume as a present. It is a very personal thing to give and you are likely to spend a lot of money on something the recipient won’t like.”

What bothered me about this answer was it seemed like there must be a way to do it well. When people asked me for wine recommendations I would give them suggestions on different varietals they might like. Then I would suggest they go to their local wine store for a tasting and see what they liked best. Then I realized maybe you could put together a bit of a perfume “tasting” to help find a perfume for the person.

perfume-as-xmas-gift

A few years ago when I was asked the question I gave a different answer for the first time. It has worked so well that I want to share it. If you really want to give a fragrant gift this Holiday season here is a way you can do it in a special way.

  1. Go to where they sell perfume near you or use one of the online sellers like Twisted Lily or Luckyscent
  2. Choose four or five perfumes you think the intended recipient might like.
  3. Request samples of each of them. From the online merchants this is easy. At the department store they sometimes might not have a sample of everything you are interested in. At Sephora, or smaller niche stores, they will accommodatingly make samples of anything you ask them to.
  4. Note the price of the perfumes you’ve picked out and purchase a gift card that covers the cost of a bottle of the most expensive of the samples.
  5. Wrap up the samples and the gift card with a little note that has a variation on this, “Happy Holiday, I chose these perfumes because I thought they fit your personality. I hope we can both see how they all smell when you put them on. Once you’ve picked your favorite you can use the gift card to buy the one you like best.”
  6. Share the experience of letting the recipient choose which one they like best.

I have given this advice numerous times and so far all of the feedback has been positive. What I like best about doing this is two of my friends call the perfume they chose this way as “their” perfume. I think it allows you to take the joy of gift giving a little bit further in the collaboration on picking which one is best.

The holiday shopping season is in full swing and I hope you find this useful if you are thinking of giving perfume as a gift.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews A Lab on Fire Paris*LA & Made in Heaven- Have a Coke and a Smile

There are fragrances created where there is no middle ground. The accords or notes used are so divisive as to one’s own personal idea of where beauty resides that one either loves it or hates it; not a lot of “meh” heard here. The Brooklyn-based perfume house overseen by Carlos Kusubayashi, A Lab on Fire, seems to really enjoy making perfumes that generate these kind of polar opposite responses. The latest two releases, Paris*LA and Made in Heaven, are the brand’s take on gourmands of a different stripe.

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Laurent Le Guernec

Paris*LA is meant to be what Los Angeles looks like to a Parisienne and perfumer Laurent Le Guernec has decided that Coca-Cola and macarons capture this dichotomy. Right there I can already hear people thinking, “Eww! Coke and a macaron.” To be candid I have to admit that was my reaction when reading the notes. M. Le Guernec does a fine job of capturing the brilliance of LA and a Parisienne looking for something to remind her of home.

The opening note of Paris*LA is a bright blast of key lime. It is like stepping off the plane and the sun hits you square between the eyes. The key lime is an olfactory attention getter and it burns off pretty rapidly. The coca-cola accord comes next and it is a combination of fizzy aldehydes, ginger, and caramel. The fizz of the aldehydes are fine tuned to not trip over into their more provocative nature and here provide more effervescent background than anything. Next comes the macaron accord vanilla and almond out front. Then because all the best macarons are flavored M. Le Guernec adds in subtle hints of neroli, coriander, and thyme. They take the dessert-y accord and add some texture to it. The coca-cola accord has persisted and by the final hours this is a mix of sweet and sweeter as the cola and macaron accord combine to form a fragrant sugar rush. You can put me firmly in the love it category as both the cola and macaron accords work really well on my skin. I think for those who are not fond of sweet gourmands this will raise different emotions.

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Pascal Gaurin

One of my favorite things to observe is when Mr. Kusubayashi hires a perfumer who has done the great majority of their work in the non-niche side of the business and allows them the freedom to create. Made in Heaven by perfumer Pascal Gaurin is what happens. M. Gaurin works for IFF and within the company there is a branch called Laboratoire Monique Remy (LMR) which is the group who produces unique natural absolutes using the latest scientific techniques. By their very nature these are expensive raw materials and most mainstream releases would use a tiny bit of one to stay within budget. M. Gaurin freed of the economic constraints uses five of these exquisite floral absolutes in Made in Heaven. One of the other remaining notes must have been an accord M. Gaurin has had on the shelf and been wanting to use because underneath the diaphanous flowers is a foundation of cereal.

Made in Heaven starts with magnolia absolute and this has lilting woody floral air to which M. Gaurin hangs mandarin and saffron upon it. The saffron provides an exotic effect while the mandarin adds citrus-y energy. While the magnolia is tender and fragile the heart notes stride into view with a brassy white flower confidence. Absolutes of jasmine, tuberose, and orange flower take over the heart of Made in Heaven. All three of these absolutes show off the flower in a pristine jewel-like spotlight. If you concentrate on it you can pick out each note individually. Together it is divine. The base is made up of the cereal accord and to my nose it smells the way a box of Cap’n Crunch smells when you first open the bag. Sugary vanilla sweetness rises through the flowers and mixes with them surprisingly well. The jasmine in particular seems to really take to the cereal. Much later on orris absolute starts to fill in as the orange flower fades. It adds a slightly powdery finish to it all. I really enjoy when perfumers are allowed to use the “good stuff”. The LMR absolutes are the “good stuff” and M. Gaurin has displayed them in a way to show why they are so special.

Paris*LA has 8-10 hour longevity and, except for the key lime blast on top, below average sillage. Made in Heaven has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Both Paris*LA and Made in Heaven continue to show why A Lab on Fire is one of the most exciting niche houses on the scene. Mr. Kusubayashi allowing the perfumers to have as much latitude to create as possible leads to perfumes you may love or hate but you will never be bored by them.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples I purchased from Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke  

New Perfume Review Gardenia de Robert Piguet- Partnership’s End

Robert Piguet is one of the grandest, and probably least recognizable, perfume brands. Any brand which boasts Fracas as part of its history will always be looked upon favorably. Since 2006 when, after returning Fracas to the jewel it has always been, Creative Director Joe Garces and perfumer Aurelien Guichard formed a partnership which has defined this latest phase of Robert Piguet. Early on the challenge was to reformulate the original perfumes in the line. Then in 2011 a change took place as the first new perfume carrying the Robert Piguet name, Douglas Hannant de Robert Piguet, was released. That success has led to thirteen more new perfumes from Mr. Garces and M. Guichard. If there has been a common theme to the contemporary compositions it has been for them to carry modern aspects along with a very elegant style that feels like it came from decades earlier. The last of these collaborations between Mr. Garces and M. Guichard has been released, Gardenia de Robert Piguet.   

Aurelien and Joe Piguet

Aurelien Guichard (l.) and Joe Garces

Gardenia as a focal point has many of the same qualities that tuberose does. It would have been very easy to take gardenia and surround it with a lot of complementary notes a la Fracas. M. Guichard goes for a more restrained approach as he uses only five other notes to accompany the gardenia. This runs a risk if your central raw material is not up to carrying the entire perfume it can lead to a flat spot in the development. There is one of those in the evolution of Gardenia de Robert Piguet and I think it is a stylistic choice which for some it will work but for me it created a noticeable flaw every time I wore it.

M. Guichard gives the gardenia two very high quality floral running mates, lily and ylang-ylang, for the first half of the development. This is my favorite part of this perfume. All of my favorite gardenia perfumes have captured the subtle green quality that a real gardenia has. M. Guichard uses the lily to coax that green out of its corner and brings it more centrally into the composition. Ylang-ylang is present to modulate the exuberant sweetness of the gardenia and in so doing it allows the greener highlights the space to expand into. Now here is where Gardenia de Robert Piguet goes flat for me. The next thing is a leather accord. I really would have preferred a rich supple leather like what M. Guichard used in Knightsbridge. Instead M. Guichard chose to go with a dark leather accord which has some harsher animalic features. This phase always felt like it was two separate ingredients in search of some common ground. This is where I think this just might be a simple difference in styles; I wanted elegance and I think M. Guichard wanted something more brutal. The rest of the base is predominantly cashmeran made a bit sweeter with a touch of vanilla.

Gardenia de Robert Piguet has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Gardenia de Robert Piguet is not my favorite of the newer Robert Piguet releases. I think if you are a fan of rawer leather perfumes and wanted that in a blowsy white flower Gardenia de Robert Piguet might just be perfect. I think I wanted a modern bookend to Fracas to put an exclamation point to the teamwork of Mr. Garces and M. Guichard. In the end it is another good addition to the modern line of Robert Piguet perfumes.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received at Sniffapalooza Fall Ball 2014.

Mark Behnke

That Unattainable Object of Desire Shiseido Nombre Noir- Exquisite Construction

Every ten years the British film magazine Sight & Sound asks a panel of critics to vote on the best movie ever made. For many years the film anointed as best of them all has been Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane”. Although in the most recent 2012 poll Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” nudged it down to number two on the list. The thing about lists like this is it reflects an extra level of scrutiny over whether the movie is interesting to watch. For my taste Vertigo is a much better film because I enjoy watching it more. Citizen Kane never emotionally engaged me. I admired all of the film techniques and the look of the film Mr. Welles pulled off. It was noteworthy because many of the camera techniques and framing were being done for the first time. In the end I have probably watched Citizen Kane four or five times. I’ve watched Vertigo dozens of times. When it comes to perfume I believe our equivalent to Citizen Kane is Shiseido Nombre Noir.

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Shiseido Nombre Noir was released in 1982 composed by Shiseido in-house perfumer Jean-Yves Leroy under the nascent creative direction of Serge Lutens. Messrs. Leroy and Lutens decided to go very big with their composition and at the core was a precious osmanthus and an overdose of damascones. Damascones are one of the key components of rose oil. In rose oil they are the molecules which impart that jammy aspect of the best rose oils. On their own as a raw material they explode with kinetic vibrancy and it took an equally unique osmanthus to hold this together. It causes the early part of Nombre Noir to smell like the most expensive lipstick accord ever as another equally inspired choice of orris sets up this rich floral opening. It eventually softens into a really silky honey-based accord by the end.

Nombre Noir was discontinued supposedly due to the cost of producing the bottle which was a strikingly different design for the time period. The truth was more likely the choice of using the damascones in overdose. These molecules are very light sensitive and decompose rapidly upon exposure to light. In reality, the true smell of Nombre Noir is probably only experienced from a sealed bottle for the first few times you wear it. That amount of fragility of the damascones truly make Nombre Noir an unattainable object because even if you find a bottle it is almost surely decomposed. Luca Turin declared Nombre Noir one of the five greatest perfumes ever in his book “The Secret of Scent”. Mr. Turin is the perfume equivalent of the Sight & Sound poll. Bottles turned up carrying hefty price tags and I cringed at what these buyers were getting.

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Nombre Noir is just like Citizen Kane for me as it never engages me emotionally. I am not sure something as full of stark planes of accords all intersecting in an abstract kind of snowflake is meant to be emotional. The engineering of balancing the notes and finding the right balance is admirable. There is beauty here but it is unapproachable for me. Ten years later M. Lutens would oversee a masterpiece for Shiseido which is both technically flawless and emotionally engaging in Feminite du Bois.

Disclosure: This review was based on multiple sample of Nombre Noir I purchased or had gifted to me.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Dasein Winter- Christmas Tree Hugger

When it comes to American Independent Perfumery I think I am on the wrong coast. Over the past few years all of the most exciting new independent perfumers call the western half of the country home. As a result, especially with indie brands, a buzz starts to build and it takes a while for these perfumes to make it to the East Coast. Late last year I began to hear about a perfumer by the name of Sam Rader who was working on a quartet of perfumes around the holidays. Then early this year I heard that four proposed perfumes had become one. I also heard that this perfume was one of the best pine tree perfumes my source had ever smelled. Now my patience has paid off as Ms. Rader has finally found a place for her perfume Dasein Winter, on the East Coast.

Ms. Rader is an interesting pastiche of influences. The name of her brand Dasein (pronounced DAH-zyne) comes from her study of existential philosophy and defines a “human being as the marriage between self-awareness and sensual experience.” At least according to her website. I read this that she wants Dasein perfumes to awaken the inner self completely. With Winter Ms. Rader has chosen an iconic smell of the winter months to build a perfume around, that of fir trees. Also according to the website she sourced a specific forest pine essential oil from the Austrian Alps. What has always been a recurring theme when writing about my favorite indie perfumers are these small batches of exquisite ingredients they can use to build a perfume around. This pine tree essential oil is every bit of the tree; needles, bark, sap- everything. It rings with authenticity synthetics just can’t replicate.

Sam Rader

Sam Rader

Dasein Winter opens with that pine essential oil out in front. If you’ve ever gone to a Christmas tree lot to buy a tree you know what this smells like. The richness of the needles, the slightly camphoraceous smell of the trunk, and the woody quality of the branches.. I think I would be thrilled with the essential oil all by itself. Ms. Rader recognizes she has a jewel of a raw material here and so she is very careful to swaddle it in a few well-thought out notes. Early on a bit of spruce keeps your attention on the tree itself. Later on a beautiful whisper of black cardamom wreathes the pine with garlands of warmth. Lavender absolute is the final piece of Winter and it provides a soft sweet place for this mighty conifer to rest.

Dasein Winter has 12-14 hour longevity and modest sillage. For as powerful as this is up close it projects surprisingly little.

With this first effort Ms. Rader has shown a precocious talent that leaves me anticipating her next release which I hear is Spring and will be out early in 2015. Until them I will happily become a pine tree hugger as I anoint myself with Winter throughout the end of this year.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased from Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews ZarkoPerfume Molecule 234.38, Pink Molecule 090.09, e’L, Inception, and Oud’ish- Have a Danish

When I am at a perfume fair like Pitti Fragranze I never know when I am going to be surprised by a new brand. I try to prepare myself by reading through the program before meeting with the perfume brand representatives. Early on the second day of this past September’s Pitti I had an appointment with Zarko Ahlmann Pavlov the owner and self-taught perfumer behind ZarkoPerfume. The goal of ZarkoPerfume was to make fragrance for the Nordic audience and especially his current home country Denmark. I have heard this story before from perfume lines from this part of the world before and there has only been one which I thought lived up to the inspiration. All of this was not raising my expectations but that is why you make the visit. Once I sat down with Mr. Pavlov and in the months since my return had the opportunity to wear all five, Molecule 234.38, Pink Molecule 090.09, e’L, Inception, and Oud’ish I am more than a little surprised at how much I like almost all of them.

Of course any perfume with molecule in its name is likely to tickle me. Molecule 234.38 is supposed to be a single synthetic raw ingredient of molecular weight 234.38. When I first walked around for a day with a bit of it sprayed upon my skin, in Florence, I did think this was a single synthetic musk molecule. Once I had it home and wore it for a few days there are a couple more things at work here. At the core is a single large molecule and there is never a moment when that isn’t apparent. But there is also a tiny bit of a floral synthetic early on and sandalwood much later on. While I have enjoyed the previous fragrances which feature a single molecule I am happy that Mr. Pavlov chose to add a very simple bit of framing to his central synthetic. I would also point out that there is at least one or two more synthetic musks around as well. If you are not fond of synthetics stay away. If you are interested in seeing how a typical cocktail of synthetic white musks can develop over many many hours this is a fascinating perfume.

Pink Molecule 090.09 is a schizophrenic perfume that Mr. Pavlov wants to evoke “pink champagne” and “the dark trees of Denmark.” What he has realized is more of a mixture of St. Germain elderflower liqueur and a polished wood cabinet. The slightly bitter elderflower dominates the opening with a bit of apricot adding some tart sweetness to leaven the bitterness. The promised pink molecules arrive swathing the elderflower in a synthetic aquatic feel. The base notes are the dark woods of mahogany, synthetic sandalwood, and another woody synthetic. This was unexpectedly fun when I wore it. The elderflower aspect was really pleasant on the slightly cooler days I ended up wearing it.  

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Zarko Ahmann Pavlov

e’L is the only one of these first five releases which never fully came together for me. Meant to be a Danish version of the modern “on the go” woman’s perfume it tries to do too much. It careens from pomegranate and floral to ozonic notes over green tea in the heart. This whole transition clunks with a grinding of olfactory gears. It settles down into a woody musk base but everything up to that didn’t work for me.

Inception has a lofty goal of re-creating the dream levels from director Christopher Nolan’s movie of the same name. During the movie the heroes invade people’s dreams and in each successive layer as they go deeper time moves at a much slower pace. Inception the perfume does the same thing with three differing distinct layers as you go deeper The top notes are a fast moving mix of tart citrus, a bit of cardamom, and a translucent green accord. Almost as fast as you notice all of it, it goes down a level where the same ozonic accord which didn’t work for me in e’L works perfectly here. This time it captures a deep breath on a cold day; crisp almost mentholated. Matched with it is a floral accord of fresh character. It is a level deeper than what was on top. The final level is a descent into woods as sandalwood, balsam, and oak combine for a final phase deep in the forest. It is up to you to decide if the top is still spinning.

Oud’ish is the best of these first five releases. Even if I didn’t love the name, and I do, this is the most complete fragrance composition by Mr. Pavlov. Each part of it feeds into the next harmoniously. Oud’ish also works because it is kept very simple. It opens on a transparent green tea accord. It lilts and floats throughout the early moments. An ambergris accord comprises the heart and it is also kept on the sheer side. The base is primarily a cocktail of white musks and to all of this is added the tiniest amount of oud. It is mainly present to add a bit of exotic texture to the musks. Mr. Pavlov keeps the entire perfume light and I thoroughly enjoyed wearing it on the days I had it on.

Because of the high amount of synthetics all of the ZarkoPerfumes have ridiculous longevity 14-16 hours at the least and in the case of Molecule 234.38 over 24 hours. The silage is also quite modest for all five. Someone will have to get quite close to know you are wearing these.

Mr. Pavlov has started well with his inaugural releases and if I only had to own two it would be Molecule 234.38 and Oud’ish. For very different reasons. I look forward to more from ZarkoPerfume I believe there is much more Mr. Pavlov has to communicate via perfume about Denmark.

Disclosure; this review was based on samples I received at Pitti Fragranze.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Cocktails with Amaro

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With the return of cocktail culture over the last few years, thank you “Mad Men”, there has been an influx of ingredients found on the liquor store shelf which rarely showed up previously. One whole category of liqueurs that has really found a foothold are those called Amaro.

Amaro liqueurs are a class of herbal, bittersweet liqueur. For those who live in Europe, Amaro liqueurs have been drunk neat as a digestif for years. As bartenders in the US wanted to add new spins on their own contemporary cocktails they turned to importing some of the more interesting versions. While Amaro describes the group the variations are very broad.

fernet-branca

Fernet-Branca is an amaro which has a strong herbal licorice character; more Ricola than Twizzlers. It also has an almost perfume like combination of other ingredients including saffron, cardamom, rhubarb, and myrrh. Yes myrrh. The smell of Fernet-Branca is a wonderfully bitter design. My favorite Fernet-Branca cocktail is to add it to a traditional martini. That cocktail is called a Hanky Panky.

Hanky Panky

1 part gin

1 part sweet vermouth

Two healthy dashes of Fernet-Branca

Stir all of the ingredients in a glass filled with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with an orange peel. Like a martini feel free to reduce the vermouth and up the Fernet-Branca to taste.

st germain

The forerunner of the amaros finding their way to the US was the introduction in 2007 of St. Germain liqueur. St. Germain is an elderflower liqueur which was a trendy drink prior to cocktail culture taking off. Once it did St. Germain was a natural to become used as any other amaro is used. It is part of one of my favorite champagne cocktail recipes that gets a lot of use during the Holidays called the Bois de Rose.

Bois de Rose

1 part gin

¾ part St. Germian Liqueur

¼ part Aperol Liqueur

¼ part lemon juice

Brut Rose Sparkling wine

Take everything but the champagne and add to a shaker containing ice. Strain into a champagne flute filling it halfway and then fill the rest of the way with the sparkling wine. Garnish with a lemon twist.

cynar

My favorite amaro is called Cynar. Cynar is a mix of multiple herbal ingredients but is it what is pictured on the label which makes it distinctive, an artichoke. I first came across Cynar in a drink called The Norma Jean where it is combined with gin, lemon juice, mint, and simple syrup. It is one of my favorite summer drinks. My favorite use of Cynar is my alternative to egg nog called The Warm Fuzzies.

The Warm Fuzzies

1 part rum

1 part cognac

2/3 part Cynar

1 ¼ part simple syrup

2/3 part lemon juice

1 egg

Put all of the ingredients in a shaker with no ice. Shake for about 30 seconds. Then add ice and shake for another 30 seconds. Strain into a glass and sprinkle some nutmeg on top.    

As we enter the Holiday season give an amaro a try in your favorite drinks. It adds a unique kick to everything.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Immortelle

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One of my favorite off-beat notes in perfume is immortelle. It also goes by the name everlasting flower or helichrysum. When asked to describe the smell of immortelle most will tell you it smells like maple syrup. Even though the harvest of maple syrup takes place in the early spring as the sap rises back into the defrosting maple trees I have always associated it with autumn. Immortelle is not one of the most common of notes found in perfumes. When I looked it up in Michael Edwards’ Fragrances of the World I found that there have been 101 perfumes made which contain immortelle. Most of those fragrances use it as a bit of added texture; but for the perfumers who embrace it here are five which give you the most immortelle you can get.

Annick Goutal Sables by Isabelle Doyen– Prior to its release in 1985 I can only find two perfumes which contain immortelle. Mme Doyen takes immortelle and she not only embraces it she adds it in overdose. This much immortelle could have been as treacly as to be unpleasant. Mme Doyen recognizes this and adds a healthy dose of pepper as foil to the sweet and balances it perfectly. Creamy sandalwood, amber, and vanilla finish it off. Sables has become an autumnal rite of passage as I never really feel it is fall until I’ve worn it.

Guerlain Cuir Beluga by Olivier Polge– In 2005 Guerlain invited M. Polge to be one of three perfumers to compose the initial L’Art et La Matiere collection. It was interesting having perfumers whose last name was not shared with the brand, design for Guerlain. M. Polge turned in one of the most un-Guerlain Guerlains with Cuir Beluga. An opening of mandarin and aldehydes full of sparkle and light shifts dramatically to an immortelle and patchouli heart full of depth. The patchouli is really a supporting mote to the immortelle. The sweetness gives way to a supple leather accord in the base. Cuir Beluga does contain the Guerlinade in the base but in many ways that is the only trace of the brand to be found in this perfume.

tilda swinton etat libre dorange perfume ad like this

Etat Libre D’Orange Like This by Mathilde Bijaoui– This is perhaps the very pinnacle of celebrity inspired perfume as actress Tilda Swinton was the creative director for Like This. It is Thanksgiving dinner in a bottle minus the turkey. From ginger on top through to a pumpkin pie accord matched with the immortelle. The latter reminds me of those sweet potato casseroles with mini marshmallows melted on top. It all finishes with vetiver and musk.

Nez a Nez Immortelle Marilyn by Karine Chevallier– Marilyn Monroe has been a favorite muse for many perfumers. Mme Chevallier under the creative direction of Stephane Humbert Lucas makes one of the most intricate immortelle perfumes I have smelled. They take the traditional beauty of orris and leather and wrap it in immortelle. First in all of its gourmandy maple syrup quality matched with hazelnut and pinch of raspberry on top. Then later the immortelle returns and now it has a slightly salty dried flower quality as the syrupy character is dialed way down. A judicious use of ambroxan helps enhance the late arriving immortelle.

Arquiste Infanta en Flor by Yann Vasnier– Arquiste Creative Director Carlos Huber sets a time and place for each of his perfumes. Infanta en Flor is set in 1660 as the infant Maria Teresa of Spain is offered to French King Louis XIV as a peace offering. This perfume captures the innocence of the infant as it opens with a halo of orange blossom. It leads to a leather heart where the immortelle more than holds its own as a complement for the animalic leather. The base is a mix of musks, benzoin, and tonka. The leather and immortelle heart of this is something I would like to see more perfumers try as the foundation for a perfume.

If you have never tried any of these perfumes give yourself over to the potential pleasure you will get at discovering a new note. If you have already come to enjoy immortelle as much as I do hopefully there is a new one on the list for you to try.

Disclosure: I purchased bottles of all the perfume reviewed.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Juliette Has a Gun Moon Dance- Terminally Pretty

The first four releases from Juliette Has a Gun; Lady Vengeance, Miss Charming, Citizen Queen and Midnight Oud were some of my favorite releases of 2006-2009. They shared a common strength which made them stand out. All brands develop and Creative Director Romano Ricci moved away from that style over the next four releases. I thought they were all nice compositions but I wanted a return to the style of the first four. I heard that last year there was a very limited edition called Oil Fiction which did this. It was such a limited edition I never had the opportunity to try it. Then I received a press release announcing the new Luxury Collection which would be represented by Oil Fiction and a new entry, Moon Dance.

With it more available I was able to try Oil Fiction finally. As much as I wanted it to be like the first four it felt more like the more recent compositions which weren’t as compelling to me. Because of my dashed expectations I wasn’t expecting Moon Dance to be any more engaging. That turned out be an erroneous supposition. Moon Dance does for violet what the early four did for rose making it feel completely contemporary. Violet can have a natural vintage feel because of its use in so many of the older classic perfumes. It is one reason I think the more modern perfumers shy away from using it. Why have to deal with pre-conceived notions when you can go pick a different floral without the baggage. What I have found is in the rare cases where a perfumer will take on the challenge, if successful, the violet can be twisted to have something new to say. Moon Dance is a violet perfume with something new to say.

Romano Ricci

Romano Ricci

Moon Dance opens on a mix of sparkly bergamot over a full spectrum violet. To distinguish from old-fashioned violets this violet embraces all of the prickly metallic character of violet adding in the violet leaf to add sharp green facets. An inspired choice of another old-fashioned note, tuberose, forms the heart note which tries to tame the fractious violet. It doesn’t quite succeed but it does set up a delightful paso doble between the two as each stalks the other across the olfactory dance floor. There was never a moment during the first half of the development dominated by the violet and tuberose where this didn’t feel different and new. If Moon Dance ended here I would have been very happy. Instead my enjoyment is greatly increased by the decision to finish Moon Dance on an equally full-spectrum animalic musk. This makes the passion of the dance the violet and tuberose lead to something so primal it almost emits an audible growl. A tiny amount of oud and patchouli round off some of the more feral tendencies but Moon Dance ends with a snarl of desire.

Moon Dance has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Moon Dance is the best Juliette Has a Gun release since the original four. It carries much of the same brand DNA which existed back then. I am hopeful that this new Luxury Collection will be a place where M. Ricci will return to some of those themes he so excitingly explored in the early days. Moon Dance reminds me of a line from the Eagles’ song “Life in the Fast Lane” to describe Moon Dance, it is brutally handsome and terminally pretty.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Moon Dance I purchased from Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke