Discount Diamonds: Hanae Mori HM- One Perfume to Rule Them All

I think everyone who becomes a fragrance lover has that phase where they become highly acquisitive. It seems that there is not enough perfume available to satisfy the desire for more. There is probably something a little obsessive about this but most of us come out the other side smarter about fragrance. One of the lessons I learned while searching through the discount bins was I never knew when I was going to find something which connected with me. Some of my still favorite perfumes came from this kind of olfactory diamond mining. Another thing I would come to appreciate was that there were perfumes meant for people who only have one bottle of perfume at a time. As the man who lost count long ago this idea of one bottle at a time sounds like eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day. I have realized that I am the outlier and most people who buy perfume do it one fragrance at a time. At least according to marketers this is especially true of men. This means masculine marketed fragrances more often attempt to be that Swiss Army Knife kind of fragrance. If the fragrance can be worn to work and the gym and the club that will be a success. I also think a perfume which manages to check all of those boxes successfully is a success and also rarely done well. One of those is Hanae Mori HM.


Hanae Mori is a Japanese-born fashion designer. She was one of the very first Asian designers to show in New York in 1965. What is very interesting is it wasn’t until Mme Mori retired from the catwalk scene that she began to put her name on a brand of fragrance. Usually that kind of product grows out of the fashion line instead of being the next iteration. Mme Mori has done things differently. After releasing the first fragrance, Butterfly, and a flanker, Butterfly Eau Fraiche; she would turn to a men’s fragrance. It would have been so easy for her to latch on to the fresh and clean aquatic trend. Instead her vision was to be an early adopter of the gourmand trend started by Thierry Mugler A*Men. In 1997 with perfumers Jacques Lions and Karoline Vieth-Buxton she would oversee a perfume, Hanae Mori HM, which seems to veer all over the place without ever leaving the road. It careens from style to style but somehow it all holds together.

The opening of HM is a classic masculine trope of lemon and lavender. The perfumers use blackcurrant buds to add a sticky green quality which moves into a slightly powdery floral heart of iris, jasmine, and muguet. The perfumers combine these florals with the lavender from the top notes to create a definitive floral but not one which tilts so far as to make a man think about it too much. The final transition is a dusty chocolate accord matched with sandalwood. This is the smell of fine cocoa powder liberally coating the wood. Sweetness abounds. Only a tiny bit of amber tries to counteract this and it provides warmth more than contrast.

HM has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

HM does feel like three distinct perfumes in one and I imagine its appeal as one fragrance to rule them all stems from that versatility. As a fragrance it is a really nice jack of all trades. You can find bottles of this online or in discount bins for around $20-25.

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

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: Do not confuse HM with the later release HiM. That later fragrance is an example of when this kind of perfume composition goes all wrong.

New Perfume Review 4160 Tuesdays Pillow Talk- Intimate Whispers of Expectations

There is a subset of independent perfumers who work very strongly towards a stated brief. As a rule when these free thinkers of fragrance connect perfume to imagination they become some of my favorite perfumes. One of those independent perfumers who has achieved this repeatedly for me is Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays. I reviewed three of her beach-themed perfumes a little over a year ago. I found her ability to modulate a similar theme to be one of her strongest attributes as an independent perfumer. Recently she has added two new perfumes to her The Sexiest Scent on the Planet (IMHO) to form a relationship trio. If The Sexiest Scent etc. was for the all-important third date. The two latest releases Pillow Talk and Sleep Knot are about the next phases of the relationship.

Sleep Knot is for that part of the relationship when the two of you fall into a tangle of limbs while sleeping deeply. It is a jasmine and ylang-ylang floral heart over a sweet woody base of sandalwood and cedar. It is a nicely done perfume but it felt a little too safe to me. As if the relationship could be very set in its ways. On the other hand Pillow Talk is meant to capture that exciting moment when a couple is in bed facing each other talking about their hopes and dreams. Those conversations are intimate and spoken sotto voce. The perfume Ms. McCartney has designed around that theme whispers of hopes and dreams for a future beyond the pillow.

sarah mccartneySarah McCartney

Pillow Talk has a beautifully presented energy in the top notes as yuzu and bergamot provide that moment as lovers lock eyes with excitement. They can’t wait to share their emotions and it all comes out in a rush. The yuzu has that feeling as the tart citrus energy represents that. The heart is a conversation of florals whispering different visions. The sweet motion of orange blossom. The outsized dreams of ylang-ylang. The carnality of jasmine. Ms. Mc Cartney uses natural sources for all of these florals which adds a lot of nuance. I imagined it as the body language beneath the words. The foundation of this relationship is built on a sturdy sandalwood and cedar with vanilla and black peeper added in. This base is shared across all three of the relationship fragrances. If you’re not fond of sweet synthetic woods this is what persists the longest while wearing any of these.

Pillow Talk has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Ms. Mc Cartney’s perfume names have a natural ability to already steer my mind and emotions towards an expectation before I even get a chance to sniff the fragrance. In the case of Pillow Talk I felt like we had a conversation meant for two even though we are separated by the Atlantic Ocean. Pillow Talk is definitely one of my favorites of the entire 4160 Tuesdays line.

Disclosure; this review was based on a sample provided by 4160 Tuesdays.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Narciso Eau de Toilette- Civilizing the Musk


I thought 2014 was a fantastic year for designer perfumes. Part of that wellspring of mainstream fragrances was Narciso. Perfumer Aurelien Guichard used a creamy accord of big florals over what has become the signature note for the Narciso Rodriguez brand, musk. I really liked the way the musk sort of sprung out like something dangerous from among the gardenia and rose. When I received my press sample of the new Narciso Eau de Toilette I was wondering if making a lighter version of Narciso was going to be interesting.

M. Guichard was again asked to be the perfumer for Narciso Eau de Toilette. One of the things about the two fragrances is they share a description of the top, heart, and base notes. The description is “Tender Floral Accord”, “Sensual Musk Accord”, and “Assertive Woody Accord”. For Narciso I would have switched the adjectives in the top and the base. The florals in that fragrance were very assertive and the woods had a tender simplicity. For the Narciso Eau de Toilette M. Guichard does live up to the titles of the phases much more literally.

Givaudan-Aurelien-GuichardAurelien Guichard

For Narciso Eau de Toilette the gardenia has been replaced with peony. In the original the gardenia carried an intense green tinted floralcy. The peony is one of those fresh florals and the green is nowhere to be found. Rose again provides some foundation but it is secondary to the peony. The musk in the heart has been changed for Narciso Eau de Toilette. This time M. Guichard has added some of the higher register white musks to the deeper more animalic musks. This still retains the sensuality of the animalic but with the addition of the cleaner musks it seems tamer. The base notes return to cedarwood and vetiver but for Narciso Eau de Toilette it is a much more transparent accord. The vetiver in particular has less presence than in the original but it provides a more diffusive green veil to the clean lines of the cedar in keeping with the lighter tone throughout.

Narciso Eau de Toilette has 6-8 hours longevity and average sillage.

If I was forced to choose only one I would opt for the original Narciso because I like my musk a little more feral. Narciso Eau de Toilette civilizes it a bit too much for my taste. Even so if you found the original a bit too much to bear the Narciso Eau de Toilette quite possibly is pitched at the right volume for you. It is a worthy follow-up to the original as M. Guichard made some significant changes to the eau de parfum formulation of a year ago without losing the plot.

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

Mark Behnke

The Different Company 101- Five To Get You Started

The primary goal of this series is to allow someone new to the fragrance world a starting place with many of the extensive lines out there. A secondary goal is to give some attention to great fragrance collections which might not be as well known, but should be. This month I am going to introduce some of you to The Different Company.

The Different Company was founded in 2000 by Thierry de Baschmakoff and Jean-Claude Ellena. In 2003 M. de Baschmakoff would work with perfumer Celine Ellena for the next year before giving way to current creative director and CEO of the brand, Luc Gabriel in 2004. Mme Ellena would continue the collaboration until 2010.  Since 2011, M. Gabriel has brought in Emilie Coppermann for the cologne collection and Bertrand Duchaufour has contributed to the Collection Excessive. These consistent partnerships between creative director and perfumer has led to a house style which has been in place from the very first perfume released. Here are the five I would suggest to get you started.

Bois D’Iris composed by Jean-Claude Ellena was one of the first releases of The Different Company. The name promises Iris Woods and that is exactly what M. Ellena delivers as orris is surrounded by cedar. With M. Ellena it is always the grace notes which make his perfumes memorable and for Bois D’Iris it is the narcissus, vetiver, and musk which make this one of the best florals ever made by M. Ellena.

TDC_90ml_Sel de Vétiver

Sel de Vetiver composed by Celine Ellena is one of my favorite vetiver perfumes. It might be the perfume I have written the most about over the ten years I’ve been writing about fragrance. The reason for that is Mme Ellena creates an accord of drying salt water on sun-warmed skin which is combined with three different vetiver sources. I have used this perfume as the introduction to vetiver for so many.Those who like it, like me, will never be without it.

De Bachmakov composed by Celine Ellena is a transparent fragrance of winter vistas. It was inspired by the tundra of M. de Baschmakoff’s Russian heritage. Mme Ellena captures the bite of winter air by using the sharply green shiso. Coriander, nutmeg, and cedar come together to form a frozen earth accord. This is one of the best examples of minimalist perfume composition that I own.

Aurore Nomade composed by Bertrand Duchaufour marked a different aesthetic at play. M. Duchaufour in contrast to Mme Ellena is not a minimalist. It could be said he is a maximalist very often as his perfumes can seem overstuffed. Aurore Nomade is one of those perfumes overflowing with ideas. To M. Duchaufour’s credit it holds together to form an accurate evocation of the Spice Islands. With spices like cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg along with a bit of tropical fruit cocktail all with a shot of rum swirling around; M. Duchaufour uses every bit of the potential of ylang-ylang as the central note in Aurore Nomade. It is over the top in a very good way.

Une Nuit Magnetique composed by Christine Nagel is a perfume of magnetic attraction and repulsion. Mme Nagel creates a fragrance which comes together only to be forced apart. In the top ginger and bergamot have their harmony disrupted by blueberry.  In the heart she uses prune to break up a collection of floral extroverts. The way that Une Nuit Magnetique is in constant flux on my skin has always magnetically drawn me in.

If you’re new to the brand these five will give you a good introduction to The Different Company.

Disclosure: this review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Mizensir Eau de Gingembre- Warm-Weather Gingerbread

One of my favorite perfume notes is that of gingerbread. There aren’t a whole heck of a lot of gingerbread perfumes out there. When I see one with it in the name it always captures my attention. As I was browsing the latest arrivals at the French department store Colette in preparation for some purchases I saw the French word for it “gingembre” in an unexpected place.

If we are going to have a discussion about the greatest living perfumer it will never take place without Alberto Morillas being part of it. In 1999 M. Morillas founded the company Mizensir to produce home fragrance in the form of candles at first and later expanding to room sprays. Earlier this year it was announced that Mizensir would begin to produce perfumes. The initial collection is comprised of nine new perfumes. I am interested in trying all of them but the one which caused me to use my credit card and buy it blind was Eau de Gingembre.


Alberto Morillas

Gingerbread is almost always a fall through spring fragrance choice for me. In the heat of the summer it is just too sweet. What intrigued me about the note list for Eau de Gingembre was this looked like it might be a gingerbread for the warm-weather months. As I waited patiently for it to find its way to my mailbox I was completely delighted to find out that this was a gingerbread-based perfume which I could wear on a hot day. This is very much a gingerbread eau de cologne even though it says eau de parfum on the box. The architecture of cologne is present while the strength of eau de parfum adds longevity.

M. Morillas opens Eau de Gingembre with a citrus flare of bergamot and petit grain combined with neroli. This is a classic cologne-style opening and M. Morillas allows it to provide that sunny energy these notes generally provide. The heart is where M. Morillas’ brilliance comes into play. His source of ginger is the supercritical fluid extracted version of ginger. This has the effect of having a much more multi-faceted scent profile. There is definitely more of the rooty character and there is also a subtle woody quality. It takes the normal synthetic versions of ginger and makes them seem flat and one dimensional. But ginger is not gingerbread something has to provide a creamy base. M. Morillas makes a fantastic choice in using fig leaves. The fig leaves provide that creamy quality converting the ginger into something richer and more gourmand. The other inspired part of this choice is it creates a very transparent version of gingerbread with this accord and not something too heavy. It all ends with the clean lines of cypress forming the woody base.

Eau de Gingembre has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Based on Eau de Gingembre I am very much looking forward to trying the other eight perfumes in the collection. There are definitely a couple, Mythique Vetyver and Musc Eternal, which almost ended up in my shopping cart too. I expect M. Morillas to have some more surprises for me when I finally try those and the others. For now the ability to cover myself in Eau de Gingembre while the summer continues on is enough for me.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Giverny in Bloom Collection- Walking with Monet

The creative collaboration between boulder, Colorado perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and the Denver Art Museum (DAM) has been a very successful one. Ms. Hurwitz is one of those perfumers who when inspired can compose amazing fragrances. The museum has provided her with the spark to fire up that imagination. She has just released her eighth collection in conjunction with the exhibit “In Bloom: Painting Flowers in the Age of Impressionism” which runs through October 11, 2015. For the exhibit she has created a scent experience called “The Impressionist Garden”.

dam in bloom

When you walk through “The Impressionist Garden” it is meant to transport you to painter Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny, France. For the exhibit Ms. Hurwitz created three scents which would be wafted in the air mimicking a walk in a real garden with its pockets of different florals. Those three scents are Le Jardin Vert (The Green Garden), La Danse des Bleus et des Violettes (The Dance of Blues and Violets), and L’Opera des Rouges et des Roses (The Opera of Reds and Pinks).

the impressionist garden

The walk begins with Le Jardin Vert and it is that smell of green and growing things in the earth. This provides the foundation for the two very floral accords to come to take “root” in.  It is unapologetically green with a sharp edge to it. This comes from combining galbanum and pine needle absolute. The next stop is La Danse des Bleus et des Violettes. I love the richness of violet in a perfume but Ms. Hurwitz was designing a scent to evoke a plot of violets in Monet’s garden. That requires a more subtle bouquet. Therefore Ms. Hurwitz works with a quartet of appropriately hued florals as heliotrope, lilac, and iris join the violets in this azure waltz. The third section of this olfactory garden tour is L’Opera des Rouges et des Roses. Here are the coloratura sopranos of the garden and Ms. Hurwitz allows them to sing with gusto. Rose, peony, carnation, and jasmine are the four distinctive floral voices. This is that moment when you walk into a garden when everything is in full bloom and breathing in the air is a three-dimensional moment in itself.


Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

All three of these can be worn on the skin or used as room sprays. Because of the necessity of these to be constantly cycled in the air there is a straight linearity to them which makes them simpler than a typical perfume. They are quite beautiful in that they achieve Ms. Hurwitz’s desire to evoke the garden experience within the gallery in the museum.

Ms. Hurwitz did not leave us without a real perfume. Giverny in Bloom combines aspects of the three fragrances in the exhibit. It recreates the walk through the gallery with a green set of top notes, a blue set of heart notes, and a rose colored base. Giverny in Bloom opens with the same sharp green accord of galbanum and pine needle absolute.  I admired this by itself in Le Jardin Vert but as part of Giveny in Bloom it carries downward into the heart and combines with the same set of blue florals. The green and the blue form a striking garden accord throughout much of the early development. In the end the bombastic quartet of rose, peony, carnation and jasmine run roughshod over the green and the blue. It turns Giverny in Bloom into a proper Retro Nouveau fragrance as it feels like an older classic floral perfume.

Giverny in Bloom has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Once again Ms. Hurwitz has produced a fabulous collection of fragrance. The three scents of the exhibit combine to form an excellent Retro Nouveau floral perfume in Giverny in Bloom. They made me feel as if I was walking with Monet as he surveyed his garden in search of subjects for his next painting.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Florence + The Machine

About once a year I like to take a look at my most listened to list on iTunes. I’ve always found it to be an interesting snapshot of my last year. Just by looking at the songs and musicians I have listened to repeatedly I gain some insight into my emotion over the course of the year. The other thing I tend to discover is there is one artist who I am generally unaware that I have been listening to as much as I have. That tends to tell me if I’m not using it for auditory emotional support then it must be an artist I admire. When looking at my past year of iTunes the band which fell into this latter category is Florence + The Machine.

florence and isabella

Florence Welch (l.) and Isabella Summers

Florence + The Machine released their first album in 2009, Lungs. The first song which introduced me to the band was “Kiss With a Fist”. This also introduced me to the voice of the lead singer in the bad Florence Welch. Rock music has always been blessed with women vocalists with signature sounds. Ms. Welch belongs to the school where her emotion infuses every note she sings. She is the next iteration of a line which started with Janis Joplin. Every generation needs this voice and Ms. Welch is it for this one.

Ms. Welch gets much of the attention but the band would not be as good without The Machine. You might think “The Machine” refers to the entire band but it doesn’t. It refers to the keyboard player Isabella Summers. She was known as Isa Machine for her early musical career. She and Ms. Welch met in London when they were children. Time would bring their paths back together in a music studio. Ms. Summers was having a successful career doing hip hop and remixes. When she and Ms. Welch met again in 2006 they immediately struck up a creative friendship with Ms. Summers providing the electronic music foundation for Ms. Welch’s lyrics and voice to shine upon. Their early performances were under the stage name Florence Robot/Isa Machine. When they went to record Lungs they changed it to Florence + The Machine.

The second single “Dog Days Are Over” is the song which showcases the influences both bring to the table. The first part of the song is percussion via handclap while Ms. Welch sings over harp and guitar. In the middle the hand claps are gone and the same percussive rhythm is pounded out on a drum kit. Slowly and surely building to a joyful crescendo. This is the single song which has been in the top 5 on my iTunes list for the past year.

The other track in my personal top 10 was the first single of the second album, Ceremonials. “Shake it Out” is the opposite of “Dog Days Are Over”. That song was stripped down for half of it. “Shake It Out” is a soaring organ drenched hymn of defiance to the weight of life.

The third album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful was released earlier this year. The album as a whole has built on the first two and has the feel of a band really hitting its stride. If I had to guess which song will make next year’s list I suspect it will be “Ship to Wreck”. A song of how we can find ways to wreck that which we enjoy building.

I just hope Florence and Isabella have no desire to tear down this musical partnership they have created and nurtured so beautifully. I want to keep finding Florence + The Machine tracks in my iTunes top 10 for years to come.

Mark Behnke

Olfactory Chemistry: Calone- The Smell of the Sea (and Watermelon)


When you look back over the history of perfume making there are only a few ingredients which can be said to be that which launched an entire genre. When it comes to the aquatic class of fragrance there is one chemical which is responsible for this, Calone.


Calone has the trivial name of Watermelon Ketone and for once the name is actually chemically correct as Calone (see above) is a cyclic ketone. It was discovered in 1951 by chemists working at Pfizer. It was being designed as a food flavoring agent to “give a watermelon taste and odor to foods.” according to the 1970 US Patent.

Calone by itself does not have any of the pleasant smell you associate with it in fragrance. At full concentration, in its white crystalline form, it has a nose–searing acrid smell. It takes significant dilution before the more palatable aspects become apparent. Because of the kind of molecule Calone is it also has a ferocious tenacity to it. Another reason there was so much interest in using it; especially for the crowd which equates longevity with quality. Mix Calone and one of the synthetic musks and you have a perfume which will literally last for days.

NewWest by Aramis

It would make its perfume debut in 1988 when perfumer Yves Tanguy would use it in Aramis New West. In that perfume you got the hint of what it would become known for as it provided this fresh sea-breeze quality. It also adds in the watermelon part too. For all that the Pfizer chemists wanted to use it as a flavor and the trivial name makes it seem like this should be a fruity note; it really isn’t. The watermelon part is not the rich pulp of the fruit but more the watery rind with subtle fruity facets. In New West that watery fruity quality is very much on display especially in the heart when the marine breeze has died down a bit.

It would take two more years before it was the centerpiece of the aquatic perfume which launched a genre, Davidoff Cool Water. Perfumer Pierre Bourdon would take Calone out and let it become the crashing surf as wave after wave of aquatic sea breeze washes over you. In Cool Water the melon quality is really overwhelmed by the marine character.

Calone has become one of the most common ingredients in fragrance. If it says “sea breeze” on it; it is very likely there is Calone in it. That kind of ubiquitous presence has taken Calone from groundbreaking to cliché over the last twenty-five years. The overwhelming tidal wave of aquatics featuring it continues to this day. It has become almost a note which perfumers shy away from because it has become so overused.

Chemists at Firmenich have been working on making a better version of Calone and just at the beginning of this year published a paper on that work. Next month’s Olfactory Chemistry will take you into how changing the structure of Calone leads to some interesting new smells.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Atelier des Ors Lune Feline- Goldilocks Vanilla

There are a few notes in fragrance which are kind of Goldilocks notes. These are notes which really test the patience of a perfumer to get it “just right”. One of the more crowd-pleasing notes is also one of the more difficult notes to find the sweet spot with. That note is vanilla. Too much and it is oppressive and cloying. Too little and it becomes an afterthought. Even with that warning a perfumer who wants to work towards the edge of the too much barrier really has to be sure to pull back just enough. Perfumer Marie Salamagne has displayed that kind of precision in the new perfume Atelier des Ors Lune Feline.

Atelier des Ors is a new brand founded and creatively directed by Jean-Philippe Clermont. The brand has released five fragrances this year all composed by Mme Salamagne. The ethos of the line is to reinvigorate the French style of perfume making. There is also a kind of throwback elegance as each bottle contains flakes of gold inside which turn the bottles into decadent snow globes with golden highlights.

marie salamagne by jerome bonnet

Marie Salamagne

Lune Feline is the gourmand representative of the debut releases. Mme Salamagne chose to go for a spicy green shade of vanilla. She also decided to let the vanilla carry some more presence than might have been wise. The end result is an encompassing vanilla but not an overwhelming one.

The opening of Lune Feline is the sizzle of spices as cardamom, baie rose, and cinnamon heat up the early going. The cinnamon is the focal point with cardamom and pink pepper providing a bit of cool on one side and bit of snap on the other. The heart gets green and woody as cedar frames a set of verdant notes. A touch of ambergris adds an interesting grace note to the straight-forward cedar accord. The vanilla begins to rise. At first it has some delicacy but it doesn’t take long for it to become more insistent. A bit of Peru balsam and some musks try and restrain the vanilla from getting out of control. It is a battle which they will fight all the way to the end as the vanilla stays intense but not overly so.

Lune Feline has crazy longevity I detected it 36 hours after application. The sillage is moderate.

Mme Salamagne managed to make a vanilla perfume that was more than “just right”. She made a vanilla perfume with real strength but without being irritatingly sweet. If you are a vanilla fan this should be on your sample list.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received at Esxence 2015.

Mark Behnke

Header Photo via

New Perfume Review Vilhelm Parfumerie Black Citrus- Impeccable Black


When I am asked, “How can you smell so many new fragrances and stay optimistic about the art form?” My response goes like this, “Because in every new perfume there is the opportunity to be reminded of why I love perfume.” My most recent love affair came from an unlikely place. I have been a curmudgeon over these new brands which land with too many entries. When I received my envelope of samples from new brand Vilhelm Parfumerie. I am sure there was a frown on my face as I looked at the eight samples in front of me. When faced with this issue I just start at the top of the alphabet and work my way down. In the case of Vilhelm Parfumerie that first perfume in line was called Black Citrus. It also was that perfume which reminds me of why I love perfume.

jan ahlgren

Jan Ahlgren

Vilhelm Parfumerie is the new brand headed by ex-runway model Jan Ahlgren. As he was transitioning from the catwalk he started designing leather goods. He also wanted to find a way to scent those leather goods. That brought him into contact with perfumer Jerome Epinette. They connected and decided they would like to work on a line of perfumes. M. Ahlgren created very specific vignettes for M. Epinette to work on as briefs. Here is the one for Black Citrus, “Serious freshness without frivolity. The fragrance is inspired by the clean breath of the city after the showers pass. Gentlemen step out from under protective storefront canopies, their impeccable British style uncompromised.”


Jerome Epinette

Despite the name this is a fragrance about black and the citrus is around for a very short time. M. Epinette is one of those perfumers who is high up on my list of favorite perfumers because he finds something different in the well-known. In Black Citrus it is the cardamom on top and the particularly Stygian birch and patchouli in the base.

If you’re looking for the citrus in Black Citrus it comes and goes in the very early going with a rich bergamot. What blows it away is a zephyr of cardamom. M. Epinette allows the bergamot to draw my attention to the lightly lemon facets of cardamom in the first moments. Over time it turns greener. That slow shading sets it up perfectly to combine with the mate leaves in the heart. There is a wonderful sharp green chord that forms. To that violet tempers the keen edge, softening it with its floralcy. Then we move to the base which is birch and a deep earthy Indonesian patchouli. This is where I fell head over heels for this perfume. The birch provides a pungent raw woodiness and the patchouli doubles down with deep earthiness combined with multi-faceted herbal quality. These two ingredients are in constant kinetic motion around each other. There are times it smells of birch tar, there are other times it smells of black soil. Sometimes it is just woody and sometimes it is just herbal. It is constantly fascinating to me.

Black Citrus has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am very impressed with the great majority of these first eight releases from Vilhelm Parfumerie. I expect there will be more reviews coming as I become more acquainted with the line. Black Citrus inspired me from the first moment I smelled it on a strip and has only become more memorable with each successive time I have worn it. I just had to write about it to get it out of my system. Messrs. Ahlgren and Epinette thank you for reminding me of why I do this.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke