New Perfume Review Hiram Green Shangri-La- HG and The Temple of Chypre

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As much as I try in a year there always seems to be one or two which get by me until later. In 2013 one of those was Hiram Green Moon Bloom. I never really got a chance to try it until this past summer, over a year after it was released. I was very impressed with what Hiram Green did with his inaugural effort. Mr. Green after working in London perfumery, Scent Stystems, decided he wanted to make perfumes. He further decided that he wanted to eschew the synthetics he found in everything he was selling and wanted to try natural perfumery. Moon Bloom was a tuberose and it was an above average version of that floral. Mr. Green’s dedication to natural perfumery did not mean he had to compromise his artistic vision. As much as I liked his first effort his second release, Shangri-La, is much better.

Mr. Green’s inspiration was to give his interpretation of a classic chypre. The name of the perfume comes from the mythical city in the Kunlun Mountains described in James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon. Shangri-La is described as a utopia where the denizens age so slowly as to be essentially immortal. It is also a place of quiet study and reflection. Shangri-La as a perfume is something less mannered and it feels more Indiana Jones to me than Hugh Conway. Mr. Green has constructed something more rambunctious. Shangri-La is more suited to an adventurer with a fedora and a bullwhip than a studious man.

Mr. Green wanted Shangri-La to be more similar to the alpha chypre, 1912’s Chypre de Coty by Francoise Coty. Shangri-La follows that architecture but Mr. Green makes a couple of inspired substitutions which allow Shangri-La to be its own chypre.

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Hiram Green

Shangri-La opens with a citrus sunburst. It is an attention getter. In M. Coty’s original formula a crisp pear accompanies the herbal notes. In Shangri-La Mr. Green uses peach and he uses a very deep peach which carries a fruity funkiness. There are times during the early moments when it feels like there is some musk present but once I really focus on it; the peach with perhaps a bit of patchouli is what I am sensing. When I am just letting the peach be itself it adds a slightly leathery animalic quality which is very nice. The heart of jasmine, iris, and rose is the same classic triptych that M. Coty used. Mr. Green pushes the jasmine more forward and he swathes it in spice. That makes the floral heart swagger a bit, as all the best adventurers do. Mr. Green’s take on the classic patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver chypre base is very well composed. In most modern chypres those three notes are mashed together in a green hash which has almost zero character. Mr. Green has studied M. Coty’s original and realized each of those notes needs to be distinct on its own to truly bring a great chypre home properly. The patchouli is used in a very minimal way and it provides connectivity between the oakmoss and vetiver. Mr. Green lets those latter two notes rise up like twin lions and tussle to see who is greenest of them all. Over the last hours of Shangri-La on my skin the victor seems to change every so often.

Shangri-La has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage. This is remarkable for a natural perfume to have quite the level of both of these.

Shangri-La is a much more assured composition than Moon Bloom. Mr. Green shows a keen intelligence in the way he de-constructed M. Coty’s original and then re-constructed it as Shangri-La. There is not a clumsy step anywhere in this perfume; even while running across a plank bridge over a river gorge. If you’re up for a perfumed adventure follow HG into The Temple of Chypre, Shangri-La awaits.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Simone Cosac Bianca, Ose, Peccato, & Sublime- Villa Visions

When I was in Florence I had the opportunity to spend time at the Villa La Tana which is the home of Simone Cosac Naify the owner and creative director of Simone Cosac Profumi. The Villa La Tana and its previous occupant Bianaca Cappello the consort to Frederic I de Medici. Ms. Cosac has much to be inspired by. For the perfume side of the business she has worked exclusively with perfumer Sonia Constant. Mme Constant has spent time at the Villa la Tana soaking in the atmosphere and together she and Ms. Cosac have begun to create a specific aesthetic which captures the beautiful Villa and its history. 2014 has seen the release of four new fragrances, Bianca, Ose, Peccato, and Sublime; each display this burgeoning creative nous.

Simone-Cosac-Naify

Simone Cosac Naify

Bianca is inspired by Sig.ra Cappello and the gardens she tended while Frederic was off scheming. It is the perfume which most closely captures the beauty of the outdoor gardens at the Villa La Tana. It opens with tart mandarin made sticky green by blackcurrant buds. A floral heart of iris, gardenia, and violet is well-balanced and not nearly as overpowering as you might think. This is the smell of the garden at noon with more transparent hues of the florals on top. It ends with a woody base of cedar and sandalwood. The floral heart is the star of Bianca mostly because of its opacity.

If Bianca is a subtle peek at the gardens of Villa La Tana, Ose is the moment when everything is in its fullest of glory and redolence. Ose is much more extroverted and that power is led by a few notes which are very expansive. It opens on a juicy orange which is contrasted with the woody nuttiness of almond. The early moments are mostly citrus but the almond adds texture in a minimalist fashion. Lilac is the core of the heart and around it Mme Constant adds acacia, muguet, and heliotrope. These are fresher florals and the volume is turned way up on them. The lilac at this level is a tricky thing to use because it can be confused with deodorizing products. Mme Constant’s use of the greener fresher florals keeps that from happening. Here the lilac carries the day with force and beauty. A musky patchouli is the finishing touch for Ose.

Sonia-Constant

Sonia Constant

Peccato is my favorite of the new releases as it sets up a bit of dynamic tension between top notes of cardamom and neroli in conjunction with the heart of violet and orris. Those are four of my favorite notes and Mme Constant has employed the Givaudan Orpur version of cardamom which adds so much to the early moments. The cardamom has the green citrus spice quality but it also carries some stronger aspects as this cardamom doesn’t whisper it speaks in audible tones. Those tones begin a conversation with orris and violet that was captivating for me. After a few hours I was almost sorry to see the patchouli and vanilla base begin to take over.

Sublime is meant to be a meditative perfume, perfect for strolls along the garden paths at Villa La Tana. Mme Constant creates a jasmine perfume out of Sublime. Before we get to that jasmine, mandarin and crisp pear provide the top notes. The jasmine then arrives and it is a proper jasmine with much of the indoles scrubbed away. Violet leaves and gardenia help fil in the spaces where the indoles usually reside. Cedar and patchouli are the base notes. Sublime is the most familiar smelling of these new releases.

All four perfumes had 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Ms. Cosac and Mme Constnat have done a nice job at expanding the Simone Cosac line without becoming repetitive. At the same time there is a kind of Italian Classicism which runs through all of the perfumes in the collection. It isn’t as specific as a consistent grouping of notes. It is more like a similarity in architecture and design. The four new release only add to this.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Simone Cosac.

Mark Behnke

Boot or Reboot: Helmut Lang Cuiron 2002 & 2014

Back in August I consigned Helmut Lang Cuiron to the Dead Letter Office. In that article I expressed regret that it was a perfume which would have found the current time the right place for its minimalist post-modern leather to thrive. It would be barely two months later that I would receive a press release announcing the return of all three discontinued Helmut Lang perfumes. Besides Cuiron there was Helmut Lang Eau de Cologne and Eau de Parfum. I was dreading receiving my samples because I expected the probable reformulation to somehow have marred them. All three of these perfumes are among the best I have smelled. The Eau de Cologne and Eau de Parfum are both by perfumer Maurice Roucel and M. Roucel shows how very different the same notes can be made to smell. Both of those have survived completely intact from their 2000 formulation. Cuiron was going to be something different, perfumer Francoise Caron so artfully used a number of synthetics to create her three leather accords I was concerned it would not be the same; and it isn’t.

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Francoise Caron

Mme Caron created fluid leather, sensual leather, and noble leather accords to use as Cuiron developed from top to bottom. The thing was this never felt like real leather it felt like patent leather, synthetic and artificial. She used a brilliant set of notes to temper that reproduction leather and make it work. As I said in my Dead Letter Office article Cuiron is one of the greatest leather fragrances ever in its 2002 incarnation.

The 2014 incarnation is oh so close to being perfect except on top. One of the synthetic components of the “fluid leather” accord has been changed and it keeps it from being as supple as advertised. There is now a sharper synthetic substitute and it has the unfortunate side effect of drawing my attention to it every time I’ve worn it. It completely throws the opening moments off kilter for me. Once the top notes have been burned off the rest of the development is exactly as it is in my original bottle.

cuiron

Without confirmation I can’t be sure if it is just one change or more but the difference between the opening of the 2014 version and the 2002 version are very different. I’ve tried trying to assess the 2014 version as if it was something different but the heart and base are identical in both versions. It is hard to not think the new version is flawed. There is the crux of the matter this time. I think the new Cuiron might be good enough to make an impact now where it just fizzled out in 2002. If you had never smelled the original I think that those new to it will really be impressed and I urge leather lovers to try it. If you are a fan of the original and own a bottle this might be disappointing. You might also like the new alteration. Both versions are worth trying.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of 2002 Cuiron I own and a sample of 2014 Cuiron supplied by Helmut Lang.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Surrender to Chance Surrender & Cold Water Canyon- Jumpin’ Jasmine

I am often asked if I would like to create a perfume and I always answer with an emphatic shake of my head, “No.” One of the trends of 2014 has been the number of people who love perfume who have a different answer. A couple weeks ago I was contacted by Lisa Lawler and Patty White of the perfume sample site Surrender to Chance. They informed me that they has been working with one of my favorite natural perfumers Dominique Dubrana aka AbdesSalaam Attar on the first two fragrances to be created exclusively for Surrender to Chance. For their first two fragrances, Surrender and Cold Water Canyon, they decided to explore two very different versions of jasmine. One of them is meant to be a politely skanky sensual jasmine and the other a greener more herbal jasmine. Both succeed at showing the versatility of jasmine.

For Surrender, Ms. Lawler and Ms. White asked M. Dubrana to create a jasmine focused wedding scent. M. Dubrana responded with a blend of multiple jasmine absolutes. He also always manages to use an array of complementary notes which bring out some of the more subtle qualities in the central note. In Surrender it is carrot and hyraceum which provide the illumination.

Many may know Ms. White from her origins as one of the founders of the perfume blog Perfume Posse. It is the first blog I can remember having a dedicated discussion on skank in perfume. When you are using a lot of jasmine absolute the indoles are going to impart a bit of skank. Being an aficionado of skank Ms. White clearly understands if you’re designing a wedding scent a little skank goes a long way. This must have been communicated to M. Dubrana and so he uses licorice and carrot to attenuate the skank and accentuate the sweet floral quality of the jasmine absolutes. The carrot really adds a different foundation to a very familiar floral note. It takes a bit of vegetal sweetness as a polychromatic chord to the floral octave of jasmine. All together it takes what could have been a beastly jasmine and converts it into a domesticated kitten. The soft jasmine is turned softly animalic for the final part of the development by myrrh and hyraceum. The hyraceum adds in the animalic and the myrrh adds subdued sweetness. This accord is the return of the skank but as earlier kept on a very tight leash.  

Surrender has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

abdessalaam attar dominique dubrana

Dominique Dubrana aka AbdesSalaam Attar

According to the press release Cold Water Canyon was inspired by a friend’s request for the scent of a summer canyon. Ms. Lawler and Ms. White asked M. Dubrana to create a green foundation for a more delicate jasmine to float upon. M. Dubrana uses a set of notes indigenous to canyons you might find in the American Southwest.

M. Dubrana opens on a dusty desiccated sage as the wind blows down the canyon. The pine trees upon the sides release their scent as the breeze inverts and blows through them. As you pass through the foliage in the base of the canyon a green leafy accord mixes with all of this. The early moments of Cold Water Canyon are very green with the sage, pine, and leafy notes all mixing together in a verdant chorus. After a few minutes as the sun sets and the stars come out so does the delicate smell of the night-blooming jasmine. Unlike in Surrender this jasmine carries a much more transparent feel to it. There is almost nothing indolic and it is nearly entirely the narcotic sweetness of jasmine. It is exactly the right contrast to the green accord on top. As you drift to sleep looking at the Milky Way above you in the canyon, Cold Water Canyon stays precisely poised between both aspects of the floral and green.

Cold Water Canyon has 4-6 hour longevity and average sillage.

Both of these perfumes show a real collaborative effort between Ms. Lawler, Ms. White, and M. Dubrana. They succeed because I imagine each of them was able to impose a bit of their own aesthetic upon both perfumes. While I am still firmly in the camp of not ever wanting to make my own fragrance it is a real pleasure to see when others take that step and succeed as well as this creative team has.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Surrender to Chance.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Vanilla Bourbon Intense (Holiday No. 14)- Holiday Party

The Holiday season is one of those times of the year where it seems like the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is a never-ending whirl of social events. As hectic as it is the festive season is as much about sharing and enjoying our friends and family as it is about gifts. Another part of the season are yearly traditions. Many of them are personal but there is at least one fragrant one which is shared amongst perfume lovers. Perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz releases a Holiday perfume every year under her DSH Perfumes label, and this year is the fourteenth of these releases called Vanilla Bourbon Intense.

If there is a common scent to the holidays it would probably be a toss-up between pine and vanilla. Vanilla is the underpinning to so many of the Holiday sweets that it always seems to be in the air. I have a number of vanilla perfumes I wear during this time of year because I love the smell so much. Ms. Hurwitz has done more than just give us a vanilla forward perfume in Vanilla Bourbon Intense; she has given us the smell of a Holiday house party. When I first sniffed Vanilla Bourbon Intense it evoked that moment I take my winter coat off and the mixture of smells of a good party come towards me. Baked goods, wine, whiskey, candles burning, a fine cigar wafting in from outside. All of this is made even a little stuffy and claustrophobic as the notes tend to pile on top of each other as they socialize with each other during the development.

DSH

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

As I remove my coat the first smell to hit me is that vanilla. Ms. Hurwitz used a “double dose” and it shows. This is rich chewy decadent vanilla. Vanilla can be such a common note but when it is from a good source and used in overdose it achieves a depth that makes it hard to ignore. That is how the early vanilla in Vanilla Bourbon Intense sets up. I walk towards the bar to get a drink and along with the vanilla I get the smell of whiskey and wine. The two forms of alcohol mix very well and the vanilla intersperses itself at the bar quite nicely. The finishing touch comes with a touch of blond tobacco and a bit of smoky amber. This kind of resinous narcotic accord is a fitting foundation for all the previous notes to rest upon.

Vanilla Bourbon Intense has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Ms. Hurwitz’s Holiday releases always have the effect of adding to my happy seasonal mood. This year she has delivered an entire celebration in a bottle.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl

One of the more interesting features of iTunes is the counter of how many times you have listened to a song. The single song that I have listened to the most over the last 11+ years is also a seasonal classic. From the very first moment I heard it in 1987 it has been a staple of my Holiday playlist. I am far from alone in this affection it has been named the Number One Christmas song of all time in many polls; most recently in 2012 in a British ranking. The song is not a happy song. The song is not performed by the most famous of singers. The song took almost two years to go from conception to release. The song is Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.

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One of the early reasons for the song being written was an urban myth. The Pogues producer in 1985 was Elvis Costello and he supposedly bet the band they could not write a hit Christmas single. That has turned out to not be true and it came out of the more mundane reason of, “Hey why don’t we release a Christmas single.”  The lead singer of The Pogues is Shane MacGowan and soon after they wanted to do this he came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized. During his hospitalization he wrote most of the lyrics saying in an interview, “you get a lot of delirium and stuff, so I got quite a few good images out of that.”

The lyrics tell a tale of Irish immigrants reminiscing on their life in New York covering their hopeful early days through days of addiction and finally to resigned acceptance. It is a tragedy in three verses of call and response between the couple. While the band was working out the tune they needed to find a female lead singer to play the part. All of this ended up taking two years and by 1987 all of the elements were in place. The lyrics by Mr. MacGowan, the band had crafted a melody, and singer Kirsty MacColl would provide the female vocals.

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Kirsty MacColl and Shane MacGowan from the video of the song

Ms. MacColl was meant to be a placeholder as she was the wife of new producer Steve Lillywhite. She laid down a track of the female part for her husband to use while guiding the band through laying down the other tracks. Except it was perfect and the band got so used to her they couldn’t consider releasing the song without her contribution. It is interesting that she never did the song with the band at all. It almost makes the song seem like separate reveries to me whenever I hear it because of this. Ms. MacColl does a tremendous job of supplying the right emotion to each section. It is her voice which cues the listener to each phase. When she finishes her first verse with “You promised me Broadway was waiting for me” it is imbued with hope. By the second verse it ends with a bitterly delivered, “Happy Christmas your arse, I pray God it’s our last.” As it has all fallen apart. The final line delivered by Ms. MacColl she says, “You took my dreams from me when I first found you.” With Mr. MacGowan’s equally emotionally delivered lyrics it is a magical pairing, without ever meeting.

I like the optimistic happy Christmas songs which have happy endings but Fairytale of New York captures something else which also appeals during this season. The final verse shows me two survivors who are still standing and have found some place from which to look back with acceptance. It is probably that which makes the song so enduring for at year’s end it is natural to look back and when we are still standing it is something worth singing about.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Mona di Orio Lux & Nuit Noire- Shadow Play

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If an artist is staying true to their vision and not allowing outside factors in I believe that will lead to a creation that will be polarizing to those who experience it. It is why as success happens it is often too difficult for that artist to not hear the catcalls and sometimes try to alter their vision to appeal. Then there are the very rare examples of those who just don’t let the noise into their aesthetic. There are many in the perfume world who I think have not allowed the detractors to gain sway. One of them was perfumer Mona di Orio.

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Mona di Orio

Mme di Orio passed away in 2011 in what I consider to be the peak of her career. I first became aware of her back in 2007 upon the release of her fourth perfume Oiro. There would be three more perfumes in her initial collection. Every one of them did not attempt to be liked by everyone. Instead as a whole the initial collection was a grand statement on Mme di Orio’s desire to work in alternating phases of light and shadow. Using notes that explode in brilliance only to be subsumed by deep animalic shadow this was her signature style. Starting in 2010 she began her Le Nombres d’Or collection and it is here where her star really began to glow incandescently. An unfortunate side effect was the original collection was discontinued. Mme di Orio’s partner Jeroen Oude Sogtoen had always promised the perfume community, even before her death, they would return someday. That day has come and I wanted to make sure that those who might not be familiar with these perfumes don’t miss them. The return will be a slow affair and for 2014 Lux and Nuit Noire are the first to return.

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Lux means light in Latin and the top notes of Lux burn like a supernova of intense citrus. Mme di Orio uses lemon, petitgrain, and litsea cubeba. The last note may be unfamiliar to some but it comes from a shrub of the evergreen family and the fruit it produces delivers a textured lemon essential oil. Mme di Orio could have used somewhat less of this but this truly provides olfactory lux as all three notes combine. I always detect a bit of the evergreen floating around underneath and it just might be my imagination but if it is there it would be the litsea providing it. Now here is where these works are not for everyone Lux performs a dramatic pivot as even the brightest light doesn’t banish all shadows and a very animalic musk encased in labdanum, cedar, and sandalwood escape the luminescence. The entire tone changes and it will either enchant you or drive you crazy. I like the tonal shift and I particularly like the woody musky accord. After all of this turmoil Mme di Orio comforts with a soft ambery vanilla late in the development.

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Nuit Noire follows much of the same architecture but instead of extreme brilliance the light here is a floral bouquet of white flowers as tuberose and orange blossom form the floral nucleus. Early on it is a mélange of spice which provides the context. Very early it is a green cardamom and ginger. These particularly play off the slightly camphoraceous facets of tuberose. Clove and cinnamon provide some spiced heat. Then a truly filthy musk arrives and it is this which will make or break one’s enjoyment of Nuit Noire. This musk does not come in on cat’s feet it stomps in with combat boots. What is fascinating is the tuberose doesn’t back down and a fascinating tension between the narcotic white flower and the feral musk collide. This kind of dissonance is an acquired taste to be sure but if it is your taste it just doesn’t get better than this. Unlike Lux Mme di Orio doesn’t look for comfort as she doubles down on the animalic with a raw leather accord as, along with the musk, it kicks the tuberose to the curb.

Lux and Nuit Noire both have 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

If you are only familiar with Mme di Orio from the Le Nombres d’Or Collection, and like them, I urge you to sample these and all of the others as they are re-released. If you have never tried Mme di Orio’s perfumes before these are a great place to see if her vision matches yours.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of Lux and Nuit Noire I own and samples of the new 2014 re-releases I received at Pitti Fragranze. The perfumes are identical with no discernable difference.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Phoenix Botanicals Tempest Blossom & Bed of Roses- Natural Intimacy

I say it almost every time I review a talented independent perfumer’s wok but it bears repeating. Those who stand out from the crowd are those who spend real time with their raw materials. The best form a personal bond with these extracts and through their exploration when they are ready to compose a perfume using them they also know exactly how to make it shine. Natural Perfumer Irina Adam of Phoenix Botanicals is one of these intimate imagineers of natural perfume and her latest releases Tempest Blossom & Bed of Roses are another illustration of this.

I met Ms. Adam in 2012, she is a very soft spoken individual and after speaking with her she pressed some samples into my hand. It would be days later when I would come across those samples and I was very impressed. She has made a number of natural perfumes where the natural ingredients were displayed with a clarity and depth that is unusual. One of the things about Ms. Adam is she goes out and gathers her ingredients and compounds them herself. She recently spent some time in Hawaii and that trip and the materials she gathered have inspired a new spate of perfumes. At the recent Sniffapalooza Fall Ball I had the pleasure of introducing her and she presented her new perfumes.

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Irina Adam

Tempest Blossom is one of the most unique combinations Ms. Adam has created so far. She was inspired by walking through Hawaii after a wind driven rainstorm had passed. The scent of foliage uprooted and flowers bruised and releasing their fragrance from their crushed petals. Over all of this she wanted to capture the power of standing outside and watching the storm approach as the air gets heavier and nature rises up. What is so interesting is the two notes she chooses to capture this are tuberose and oud.

Tuberose and Oud? I can imagine you thinking this could be a roaring beast of two of perfumery’s most extroverted notes. This is where Ms. Adam’s dedication to making her own raw materials comes into play. Tuberose and Oud are definitely here but since she is responsible for making the raw material she has already shaped it, some, to be powerful but it is much quieter than other tuberose and oud you have run into. It opens with the wind picking up, wafting some smells from the citrus grove in the distance. Hints of some of the other flowers are also flowing on the freshening wind. As the storm crackles and passes overhead you walk out to find crushed tuberose everywhere releasing their perfume. The oud represents the moist earth and there is a bit of vetiver to help enhance this illusion. Tempest Blossom is like seeing what the storm has revealed after it has passed.

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It is a funny thing that Tempest Blossom enchanted me because of its unique duet. Bed of Roses I expected to be just another rose perfume. There are so many rose perfumes out there now it is hard to find something new to say. The name comes from a real life bed which had wild rose petals sprinkled on it and where Ms. Adam would lay her head after a day of harvesting. Bed of Roses has a beautiful rose core but Ms. Adam adds in the bed underneath as there is a hint of linen and wooden bedframe underneath this rose.

Bed of Roses opens with a blend of five roses and it must have been the smell that first hit her when she laid down as the rose petals gave up their fragrance. Underneath is the freshly laundered sheets carrying a slightly soapy accord consisting of violet, carnation, and neroli. The wood of the four posters is represented by vetiver and oakmoss. As with Tempest Blossom there is powerful delicacy on display in Bed of Roses.

Tempest Blossom and Bed of Roses have 6-8 hour longevity and almost zero sillage.

Ms. Adam has quickly risen to one of the natural perfumers from whom I eagerly await what comes next. It all starts with her very personal way of gathering her ingredients and ends in delightfully singular natural perfumes like Tempest Blossom and Bed of Roses.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Phoenix botanicals at sniffapalooza Fall Ball.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review: M Micallef Mon Parfum Gold- Different Elegance

I have to admit that it can be hard to work up any excitement over a new flanker. Which is why they often keep moving down my list of things to wear pushed out by something newer and shinier. This was the plight of the new M. Micallef Mon Parfum Gold. I have had a sample since Pitti Fragranze in September but there was always something more enticing. The one good thing about this time of year is there is some time to eventually get around to trying the things which kept getting displaced.

Martine Micallef and her husband Geoffrey Nejman have been the owners and creative force behind M. Micallef Perfumes since 2002. They have worked exclusively with perfumer Jean-Claude Astier to create a very distinctive, very French, brand. 2009’s Mon Parfum was, perhaps, the culmination of everything M. Micallef stands for as it remains the flagship perfume for the brand. Last year the first flanker, Mon Parfum Cristal, was released and while it was good it somehow lost some of that elegance that the original Mon Parfum had to burn. I tried Mon Parfum Gold at Pitti and it didn’t really perform well on the strip. It seemed a little unfocused. Once it finally returned to my attention I found it was much better on my skin and over the last couple of weeks it has really been a great autumn perfume.

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Martine Micallef and Geoffrey Nejman

Team Micallef wanted to make Mon Parfum Gold a real Oriental while retaining the soft floral nature of the original. M. Astier cleverly uses a trio of more boisterous florals in his heart but there is much greater depth throughout the development and it makes Mon Parfum Gold an interesting extrovert.

Mon Parfum Gold opens on a fruity accord centered upon plum and mandarin. This is where there is an identifiable aesthetic that is M. Micallef. There are a lot of plum and mandarin openings out there. Here M. Astier lets the mandarin stand out front and then adds in the plum to add a fruity lower octave. There is a beautiful harmony that seems different from others which use the same notes. This all leads into a heart of mostly tuberose supported by jasmine and orange blossom. This is a complete tuberose from slightly green mentholated facets straight through to its indolic floral beauty. The jasmine is used to as modifier and I really only caught it as a singular note at odd times throughout the days I wore this. It finally ends on a base of vanilla and musk. There also seems to be a bit of really fine frankincense swirling through the final stages.

Mon Parfum Gold has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Mon Parfum has always been my idea of a perfume for a woman planning to engage her lover. Mon Parfum Gold is the perfume for that same woman who is at a party and every eye in the room tracks her movement because she has such an understated elegance.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by M. Micallef at Pitti Fragranze.

Mark Behnke

Olfactory Chemistry-Damascones

Part of the purpose of this series is to illustrate how the most simple of changes can have dramatic effects on not only the odor profile but even the stability of the molecules themselves. The class of molecules known as Damascones portray both of these qualities.

ionone damascone

As you can see the Damascones are closely related with the only structural difference being the reversal in position of the C=O and double bond. As I wrote in the installment on Ionones those molecules all carry a variation on iris and woods. The Damascones are one of the key natural products which make up rose oil. The name itself comes from the Damask rose from which it was isolated and the structure determined. These molecules impart a dark rose or fruity quality when used.

beta ionone damascone

The other difference is the stability of the molecules. Ionones are a work horse molecule in perfumery and are used far and wide. The Damascones were used and, because of their nature, a little goes a long way but they are much more prone to degradation. In a paper presented at the 2000 meeting of The International Federation of Essential Oils and Aroma Trades (IFEAT) Dr. Robert Bedoukian showed this difference. Beta-ionone and beta-Demascone were left open to the air in a clear glass flask for 24 days taking samples at day 6, day 17, and day 24. Dr. Bedoukian was looking for a common oxidation product which forms called a peroxide and measured the levels of peroxide. Beta ionone showed values of 20, 60 and 85 mmol/I of peroxide on days 6,17, and 24. Beta-Damascone showed levels of 45, 130, and 150 mmol/l over the same time points. You can see that the rate of decomposition is more than twice as fast for the damascone than the ionone.

Even with all of that Damascones are the key ingredient in three of the most important fragrances ever made. One of its earliest uses was in Guerlain Nahema in 1979 it gave texture and depth to the central rose in Nahema that makes it to my mind the best rose perfume ever. Damascones also played a part in Christian Dior Poison in 1985 and in the perfume considered the “best ever”, 1981’s Shiseido Nombre Noir. None of these have survived reformulation unscathed as IFRA called out the Damascones as sensitizers and the possibility of being reactive. The levels of Damascone able to be used was reduced to less than 0.02%. Which especially for Poison and Nombre Noir, which used the damascones in overdose, forced a significant effort to reformulate in the case of Poison and Nombre Noir was simply discontinued.

Mark Behnke

Title Image: Shattered Rose by 8manderz8