That Unattainable Object of Desire: Hermes Doblis- Guy Robert’s Silk & Leather

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When I hear people say things like they don’t make perfumes like they used to I usually respond quite vociferously that we live in a golden age of perfumery right now. I do believe that there are a very few perfumes which have never had a modern equivalent that stands up to the comparison. One of those is the first fragrance to carry the Hermes name on the flacon.

hermes doblis

About thirty years prior to the Hermes fragrance collection we are familiar with coming into being there was one lone perfume. In 1955 Hermes commissioned perfumer Guy Robert to create a perfume for the brand. That perfume was called Doblis. Then, as now, Hermes was known for its leather goods and silk scarves. M. Robert wanted to capture both of those influences. The early going has a cool green shiny silk sheen before transitioning through a floral heart into one of the most transparent leather accords I have ever experienced.

guy robert

Guy Robert

Doblis opens with a trio of coriander, thyme, and chamomile. There are also a halo of aldehydes fizzing above all of this. The herbal notes provide a warming influence for the chamomile. The top accord is really a chamomile construct made modern by the addition of the aldehydes and herbs. The chamomile joins with jasmine and rose in the heart. This is where Doblis feels like a silk scarf with a floral print. The herbal notes provide a sort of green shine over the florals. It often feels like an olfactory illusion when I wear it. If I concentrate on it the notes become apparent and the mirage dissipates only to arise again once I just let it work its magic. I wish I could tell you what M. Robert used to form his leather accord. The best way I can describe it is as the finest pair of Hermes riding gloves after being worn in a walk through a stand of oak trees. The base of Doblis is a singular leather accord matched with oakmoss and musk. It is this moment where I wonder to myself if they can make perfumes like they used to.

Doblis has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Doblis was supplanted by Caleche in 1961 as the standard bearer of fragrance for Hermes. It briefly made a re-appearance in 2005 as Guy Robert’s son Francois oversaw the re-formulation. I can say that version is every bit as good as the original. This is another of those perfumes which commands extremely high prices when it appears on the auction circuit. If you don’t have oodles of money the sample site Surrender to Chance has some samples for sale, although these are still pricey as well. Doblis is an example of perfumery that hasn’t been seen in many years.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of 2005 Doblis and a decant of 1955 Doblis I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bvlgari Eau Parfumee au The Bleu- More Purple than Blue

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There is probably no better example of the principle of diminishing returns than that of flankers. The great majority of the time it can be a frustrating exercise to see a “new” flanker which is nothing more than shoving new notes on top of a true original. If there in anything multiple mediocre flankers has taught me is that getting the magic balance right is truly something special. At their worst flankers become like a movie title with a number after it. By the time it hits five or six you wonder why you liked the original. Bvlgari has definitely worn my patience to a nub with the flankers to their very first perfume 1993’s Eau Parfumee au The Vert. That perfume broke new ground and created a style of perfumery imitated to this day. Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena would begin to refine a style of composition that would become synonymous with his name.

It would take Bvlgari ten years to finally put out flankers this time it was Eau Parfumee au The Blanc followed by Eau Parfumee au The Rouge. Both of these lacked any character and felt like cynically composed perfumes not worthy of sharing most of a name with Eau Parfumee au The Vert. Because I so disliked those two perfumes when I received my sample of the new Eau Parfumee au The Bleu I kept it at arm’s length. I was worried it would plumb new depths of despair. Instead Eau Parfumee au The Bleu reminded me of everything I loved about the original with a fresh new take by perfumer Daniela Andrier.

Daniela Andrier

Daniela Andrier

What made Eau Parfumee au The Vert stand out was the use of cardamom, jasmine, and green tea to create a cologne-like fragrance. Eau Parfumee au The Bleu returns to that style as Mme Andrier uses a core of lavender and violet to form something of similar structure but with a little more presence.

Mme Andrier opens with the blue tea promised which is oolong. There are supposedly versions of oolong with bluish leaves. The smell of oolong should be familiar to most tea drinkers and Mme Andrier has pitched this at a level equivalent to breathing in over a steeping pot of oolong. To set this tea note off she also employs grapefruit and shiso. These provide some classic citrus and green character both tinged with a bit of bitterness. This all leads to a heart of lavender and violet. I’m not sure about the color of oolong tea leaves but the florals turn this perfume decidedly purple. Sometimes a perfumer just has to know how to balance a couple of well-known notes and let them be. That’s what Mme Andrier does here. She intensifies the purple as powdery iris adds to the party. It all ends with a musk cocktail in the base.

Eau Parfumee au The Bleu has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

It has taken over twenty years for there to be a true successor to Eau Parfumee au The Vert. Mme Andrier has made a perfume which can stand up to the comparison in Eau Parfumee au The Bleu.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Bvlgari.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Elie Saab La Collection des Essences No. 7 Neroli- Air of Lebanon

I wish I understood why designers have to have collections which are overly difficult to obtain. I can add another one to the list with the Elie Saab La Collection des Essences. It took a completely chance encounter followed by a set of samples to be sent to me for me to become clued in. In 2014 fashion designer Elie Saab working with the perfumer Francis Kurkdjian began a new numbered series of perfumes. The first set of releases numbered one through four were rose, gardenia, amber, and oud. All of these were really good. I especially enjoyed the No. 4 Oud. It was a simple construction of pepper, benzoin, and oud but it carried itself with a real presence for that simplicity. The two new releases for 2015 are No. 6 Vetiver and No. 7 Neroli. I was drawn to the more simply constructed No. 7 Neroli as I was to No. 4 Oud.

The press release mentions that neroli is the scent of Mr. Saab’s native Lebanon. It evidently took M. Kurkdjian some time to find a Lebanese source of neroli with which he could attempt to evoke the air which Mr. Saab breathes while designing in his workshop.

francis kurkdjian

Francis Kurkdjian

M. Kurkdjian keeps the composition very streamlined with only four notes. One thing that struck me with these simpler entries within the La Collection des Essences is how M. Kurkdjian looks for a subtle lynchpin note to hold everything together. In No. 7 Neroli that note is clove.

It should be no surprise that the opening moments is the neroli M. Kurkdjian sourced. One of the things which is apparent when the neroli is on its own in the early going is that this is a white flower. We tend to think of the more boisterous members of the family which have a real presence. Neroli is a white flower, indolic and sweet, but less assuming. In No. 7 Neroli M. Kurkdjian allows neroli to strut her stuff a bit. As a result it carries a bit more swagger. The clove slowly reveals itself around the edges of the indoles. It surprises but provides a differing contrast to the sweeter character than the natural indolic contrast. The clove then ties together the basenotes of cedar and musk. This is that clean white musky woody finish which often seems common. In this simple composition it seems the appropriate way to end.

No. 7 Neroli has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

As of right now these only seem to be available at select Elie Saab boutiques in Europe, Hong Kong, and the Middle East. The limited availability I think is keeping some of M. Kurkdjian’s most precise work out of the hands of many who would appreciate it. I know I have spent the last couple months thoroughly enjoying all six of the Elie Saab Le Collection des Essences. No. 7 Neroli is the best of the six and deserves a wider audience.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Elie Saab.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

With Jon Stewart leaving The Daily Show and The Colbert Report gone it would seem that the shows I found most funny about the news have left me hanging. Except for the last year there has been another show which has become my favorite look at current events with a twisted sense of humor; HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

last-week-tonight

John Oliver was a long-time member of the troupe on The Daily Show. When it was announced he was going to have his own weekly recap of the news on HBO I wasn’t sure if it was going to be that good. Turns out I was very wrong about that. The show is structured with an opening where Mr. Oliver covers a number of current events with his sardonic perspective. What I have come to look forward to every week is his closing segment where he takes on a subject over 10-15 minutes. That it is funny most weeks is a given. What has really made me appreciate him is his ability to provide a visualization where he really brings home the point he is trying to make.

One of my favorite versions of this was one of the earliest as he took on climate change. He had a “statistically relevant “debate. Which meant on the side of the debate which denies climate change there were three. On the side that believes in climate change there were 97 led by Bill Nye the Science Guy. It showed clearly where the weight of scientific evidence on the topic leans.

When he was speaking on income inequality he used a lottery ball metaphor at the end of the piece which again has an impact when you see it.

This uncommon way with visualization turns complex topics into easier to understand topics. All of this is done with Mr. Oliver’s biting wit. His outrage simmers just underneath the humor on the surface. I really enjoy everything about the show.

If you’re feeling the departures of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert from the humorous take on the news give John Oliver a try. I think you will find it unusually well-presented fun.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Crabtree & Evelyn Black Absinthe- Bring the Licorice

I don’t stop in to my local Crabtree & Evelyn to check out their new perfume offerings as much as I should. They have always managed to produce capable fragrances with the occasional standout all for very reasonable prices. About a month ago I found myself standing in the store in my nearby mall. As I was going through about a year’s worth of new releases one definitely stood out, Crabtree & Evelyn Black Absinthe.

Black Absinthe is part of what Crabtree & Evelyn call their Heritage Collection. The Heritage Collection is meant to “capture the aromas of the Mediterranean coastline and ancient European cities.” The collection has released nine fragrances since 2013; four described as flower water and five eau de colognes. The Eau de Colognes have been the better grouping. Prior to trying Black Absinthe there was a modern retelling of Eau de Hongrie called Hungary Water. With Black Absinthe perfumer Cyrill Rolland makes a more risky kind of cologne than the previous releases within the Heritage Collection. The mixture of absinthe and licorice makes for a very black cologne.

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Cyrill Rolland

M. Rolland, I think, decided to take down all of the licorice tinged ingredients from his perfumer’s organ and combine them. There is a great bit of revelation in doing that as the very herbal nature of licorice is what M. Rolland explores by combining all of these notes. Despite something as intense as licorice being the focal point M. Rolland also keeps this very nicely balanced at Eau de Cologne weight making this feel like a throwback to the original eau de colognes and their very herbal nature.

Like I mentioned the licorice starts and just keeps on coming. That means we start with fennel and star anise. The bite of boozy wormwood comes next. It definitely has the feeling of a weird absinthe cocktail with a bit of star anise floating on top and fennel as a swizzle stick. The fennel adds an earthy herbal quality. Lavender comes next in the heart and surrounded by the top notes it tilts towards its more acerbic herbal nature. Which works fine because artemesia and licorice want to join lavender on that side of the spectrum. This should be heavy and M. Rolland manages to keep it refreshing and light. Throughout most of the development of Black Absinthe it is this mix of the very herbal licorice tinged with alcoholic decadence which predominates. The base notes are sandalwood and vetiver befitting the eau de cologne theme.

Black Absinthe has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Black Absinthe has been out since the beginning of 2015 and Crabtree & Evelyn aggressively rotate their fragrance stock. Therefore I imagine not only is this Under the Radar but there is probably only a limited time left for it to be available in the store and on the website. If you want something which has a little bit of a bite for the remaining weeks of the summer Black Absinthe should fill the bill.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Sunshine Man- Sparkling Corona

One of my favorite new perfume releases of 2014 was Amouage Sunshine Woman. I admired it so much because it was sunshine as only Amouage and Creative Director Christopher Chong could imagine it. Mr. Chong has made it one of the hallmarks of his tenure to have his perfumers find ways of expressing ideas in fascinating ways. I recently received my sample of the masculine counterpart to Sunshine Woman called Sunshine Man.

Christopher-Chong-Amouage-Creative-Director

Christopher Chong

For Sunshine Man Mr. Chong chose to work with perfumers Fabrice Pellegrin and Pierre Negrin. M. Negrin is becoming a consistent participant as he has participated in the composition of every Amouage perfume since 2013 except Sunshine Woman. As with those previous works he is part of a team to realize Mr. Chong’s vision.

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Fabrice Pellegrin

That vision for Sunshine Man was to try and evoke an eclipse as darkness and brightness come together. That is a familiar trope for perfume composition. I was not surprised to see Mr. Chong push for the same kind of surprising brightness out of notes you don’t normally think of as bright. This was the same process used to create Sunshine Woman. The biggest difference is each phase of development does have a point of light to be eclipsed by a couple of other traditionally darker notes. It makes for an experience where the light and the dark are constantly exchanging places on my skin.

PierreNegrin

Pierre Negrin

The perfumers use lavender as the point of light in the opening of Sunshine Man. What comes next is citrus but in an unusual way as an orange brandy accord provides the first part of the shadow. This is a rich boozy citrus accord and it sort of invites the lavender in for a drink, too. The real eclipse of the top notes happens as immortelle slides across the face of the other two notes. I love immortelle for its rich maple syrup-like quality. The perfumers here also remind me that it is a bright yellow floral and beyond the sweeter depth there is a bit of sunny floralcy. By having gone from light to dark the immortelle unexpectedly provides the beginning of the light again. In the heart bergamot provides the sunlight. It actually breaks through the top notes like a sunbeam. Then almost as rapidly clary sage and juniper berry cloak it in a green herbal and astringent fruit shade. The movement of bergamot into the heart from its more traditional place right on top makes for a feeling of an introverted pyramid. I think the perfumers were working for that sunbeam effect and the bergamot provided it. In the base the clean lines of cedar are where the light is found. Vanilla and tonka provide the sweet darkness.

Sunshine Man has 18-24 hour longevity and above average sillage.

If you’ve ever witnessed a real solar eclipse, or seen a picture, there is that moment when the moon completely covers the sun itself but surrounding the moon is a brilliant ring of light called a corona. As I wore Sunshine Man there were many times I felt that it was the perfumed equivalent of that darkness surrounded by brilliance. Sunshine Man is a worthy partner to last year’s release it shines just as brightly but differently.

Disclosure: this review was based on a press sample provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Fleur de Portofino- Summer Garland

I am always pleasantly surprised when I get a new release from a brand I think I know well to find that there is something different. The most recent release in the Tom Ford Private Blend collection did that. Fleur de Portofino is part of the Neroli Portofino sub-collection signified by the blue glass bottles. When you look at them you are almost drawn to expect something aquatic or cologne-like. Through the first three releases that has definitely been the case. Fleur de Portofino is something entirely different a summer-weight floral.

The longtime creative team of Karen Khoury and Tom Ford collaborated with perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux for this perfume. What I like very much about this is when we think of Mediterranean inspired perfumes we usually expect herbal facets, a bit of citrus, and some florals; usually in the back seat. Sr. Flores-Roux puts the floral notes firmly in the driving seat for Fleur de Portofino.

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Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Fleur de Portofino does start off with the expected citrus mélange of tangerine and bitter orange. Right away Sr. Flores-Roux is working the flowers in as a bit of lilac and violet leaves begin the transition. The lilac lilts very transparently as the violet leaves provide a bit of green earthy contrast. Then the florals start coming with a flourish. Acacia, jasmine, magnolia, orange blossom, rose; it is like having a fabulous florist’s arrangement for my nose. Sr. Flores-Roux balances this so amazingly well it stays at a moderate volume throughout even though there is so much to experience. It heads into a light honey and woody base. The honey adds a golden patina over the florals capturing them in a slightly sticky matrix. Tolu balsam provides the woody aspects. Very late on there is a touch of animalic musk as the final notes.

Fleur de Portofino has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am very pleased that the decision was made to go for something less aquatic and cologne-like with this latest release. It makes me look forward to the next blue bottle to be released. Until that time I will content myself by wearing Sr. Flores Roux’s olfactory summer garland while the sun is shining.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke

Boot or Reboot: Jean Patou Vacances (1984) & Heritage Collection Vacances (2015)

One of my very favorite collections in all of perfumery are the Jean Patou Ma Collection perfumes which were re-released in 1984. These were the original formulations from Jean Patou’s master perfumer Henri Almeras. Within this collection is the perfume I consider to be the best green perfume ever, Vacances. All of the perfumes which make up Ma Collection are among my most-worn perfumes. I have waited for many years for someone to come along and bring these perfumes back for a new generation to discover. Starting in 2013 perfumer Thomas Fontaine has undertaken this challenge. It is a nearly insurmountable challenge as with the restrictions on materials he is able to use, which M. Almeras never had to consider, M. Fontaine is pushed into many difficult decisions.

It probably isn’t fair to even do this comparison because M. Fontaine is composing with one hand tied behind his back. On the other hand I do want to provide a comparison for others who love the originals and want to know if there is a reason to try the new ones.   

Patou vacances

The original Vacances was created in 1938 and was to celebrate the advent of mandatory time off. As a result M. Almeras was looking to make what he thought was a summer fragrance. I have always found Vacances to be that quintessential early spring fragrance. Vacances is early on a translucent purple flower fragrances as hyacinth and lilac provide the shading. Hawthorn adds a slightly woody quality before galbanum tints the whole composition deep green. The florals are still readily apparent but now everything is green. The base is the musk accord reminiscent of skin M. Almeras would use often throughout his tenure at Patou. This is as close to perfection in a perfume as I can ask for.

patou heritage vacances

The Heritage Collection version of Vacances makes some interesting alterations. M. Fontaine rearranges the sequence of the notes development. He also speeds it up so even though things seem to show up in different places they arrive at the same ending place when everything is taken together. For this new version M. Fontaine opens with the galbanum supported by mimosa. The mimosa provides bright points of light through the dense verdancy of the galbanum. Lilac inhabits the heart but also jasmine and rose add their presence. This is meant to intensify the lilac to similar levels found in the original. Overall it does have that effect but I kept getting distracted if I focused too intently by the jasmine and rose. The hyacinth has moved from the top to the base and it is far less potent. M. Fontaine also did his best at using the modern musk aromachemicals to recreate M. Almeras’ musk accord. It is good but if you’ve smelled the original it feels like a copy.

Both versions of Vacances have 10-12 hour longevitry and above average sillage.

I think I would have eaten one of those boots in the header picture if M. Fontaine could have truly re-created Vacances. Of course he couldn’t. As I’ve said previously with the work M. Fontaine is doing here if you have never smelled the original these are very good perfumes. They only suffer when compared to the original masterpieces by M. Almeras.  But the Vacances he has created is worthy of carrying the name. It has its own presence matched with a subtle power M. Fontaine emulated from the original by skillfully shuffling the notes around.

Disclosure: The 1938 and 1984 versions are from bottles I purchased. The 2014 version is from a sample from Aus Liebe zum Duft.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Fleuriste- Chilled Carnation

Perfumers are inspired by almost everything. One of the things which always puts a smile on my face is when a perfumer and I share a fondness for an everyday smell. When a perfumer chooses to re-create that it can seem as if it is too common. I find these to be the opposite because if the perfume takes me to that place I believe it has done its job. The latest fragrance to achieve that for me is DSH Perfumes Fleuriste.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and I share a love of carnations. Her Oeillets Rouges is one of the best carnation perfumes which evokes the spicy clove-like quality of the flower. For Fleuriste Ms. Hurwitz wanted something more modern. So she decided to head to the florists fridge. That smell when you walk into a florist’s refrigerator and you breathe in the chilled air infused with the smell of the flowers and a hint of the green leaves sitting in their water filled buckets. I would say it is one of the more recognizable smells of everyday life out there. Fleuriste begins at the florist’s but ends at home where the carnations you purchased are now free to expansively perfume the room they are placed in.

DSH

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

When I walk into the florist’s refrigerated room the first smell which hits me is the green of the leaves and the cold water. The floral smells are well muted by the chill in the air. Ms. Hurwitz opens Fleuriste with that mix of green leaves, water and chill. The opening half-hour or so is the time spent choosing your bouquet. As you walk home with your wrapped carnations you start to feel them opening up. In the early moments the carnation is barely there by the time it gets up to speed in the heart it begins to slowly burst to life. Ms. Hurwitz adds in grace notes of neroli and jasmine to provide a more rounded floral experience. The spicy quality of the carnation is much attenuated throughout the heart. Once the carnation is allowed to truly flower Ms. Hurwitz provides a foundation of ambergris to evoke the water in the vase. It provides a different type of wateriness to what came previously in the top notes. By the end the carnation has grown in presence; no longer chilled and shy but provocatively powerful.

Fleuriste has 10-12 hour longevity in the Eau de Parfum concentration and above average sillage.

One thing I need to mention is by the final stages of Fleuriste the modern vibe of the early going in the refrigerated room has given way to a vintage style floral. The tonal shift from top to base is one of the aspects which makes Fleuriste a standout. Ms. Hurwitz has combined her love of vintage fragrances with the smells of the everyday to make a perfume which is uncommonly good.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Marc Jacobs Mod Noir- Neither Mod or Noir but Good

I have an innate reticence to trying anything which chooses to bombard me with ads. This attitude had cropped up on a couple of recent trips to Sephora when I was surrounded by all kind of various come-ons for the new Marc Jacobs Mod Noir. It was a Sephora exclusive for the first couple months of its release. Which explains the ubiquitous advertisements in-store. I had made an agreement with myself to stay away from the black striped bottle indefinitely. Which has been easy because over the past few years the brand has seemingly become a flanker factory for the last two great perfumes they released, Daisy in 2007 and Lola in 2009. They have released 20(!) different flankers of one or the other in the last eight years.

Of course it was going to take a blind moment to get me to acknowledge that from underneath the deluge of flankers something good might be present. On my last trip to Sephora I was talking to the sales associate I always talk to and this really bright gardenia scent wafted under my nose. I asked my contact what it was, and knowing my antipathy to the line, he smiled and said, “The new Marc Jacobs Mod Noir.” With having been blindsided I asked for a sample to give it a try. It is not as original as Lola or Daisy but it is easily the best new perfume Marc Jacobs has released since Lola.

JeanClaudeDelville

Jean-Claude Delville

Mod Noir was composed by perfumer Jean-Claude Delville. I don’t know who names these things but let me get this out of the way right at the top. This is not Mod in any way you wish to interpret that word. It is most definitely not Noir in any way you wish to interpret that word. Mod Noir is a warm-weather brightly constructed citrus gardenia perfume. M. Delville clearly was not inspired by the name when he designed this.

Mod Noir opens with a very fruity opening using yuzu, clementine, and nectarine. M. Delivile coaxes out all of the juicy qualities of these fruits and then lays a patina of green over then with one of the watery green synthetics. It is that veil of green which actually appealed to me first when I got my first unguarded sniff of Mod Noir. The heart is very prominently gardenia but modulated such that it is not overpowering or cloying. Not an easy feat when working with any of the potent white flowers. M. Delville rounds out his gardenia with just a pinch of magnolia and tuberose. The base is that warmer creamy musk cocktail which has been cropping up a lot in the mass-market perfumes over the last year. In the case of Mod Noir it actually provides just the right finish because M. Delville again keeps the potential for this to overpower well controlled.

Mod Noir has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you are like me and have been avoiding Marc Jacobs for a while Mod Noir might be worth giving a chance to remind you there is still some life left in the brand. As long as your expectations aren’t for something mod or noir. If you want a nicely executed summer weight fruity floral I think Mod Noir is a really good version of that.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from Sephora.

Mark Behnke