My Favorite Things: Iris

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One of my favorite fall floral notes is iris. There is something about the dual faces it presents sometimes powdery, sometimes rooty and earthy; with all of the variations in between. I’ve written in The Gold Standard that Stephane Humbert-Lucas 777 Khol de Bahrein is my very favorite iris perfume. As we head in to the heart of autumn here are five more iris perfumes I’ll be wearing.

Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist was my gold standard for iris until Khol de Bahrein arrived. Released in 1994 and composed by Christopher Sheldrake and Maurice Roucel this was the Serge Lutens I sent someone to Paris to bring back for me. This is an iris like no other as the perfumers provide a metallic edge which eventually becomes the foundation for another metallic note incense. This is why I fell in love with Serge Lutens.

When perfumer Yann Vasnier works with creative director DelRae Roth they produce some very fine perfumes. DelRae Mythique is what happens when they take on iris. What they released was a non-powdery iris wrapped in suede. The suede accord M. Vasnier created for Mythique is one of my favorites in all of perfumery. The choice to stay more to the earthy rooty side pays off handsomely.

malle-iris-poudre

When I do want the powdery iris I almost invariably reach for Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Iris Poudre. When skiers talk about ideal conditions they talk about deep powder. Perfumer Pierre Bourdon makes Iris Poudre deep powder of the perfumed variety. It is a remembrance of the day when all cosmetics carried a bit of iris as fragrance. The evocation of the cosmetics counter eventually gives way to a woody softness.

The best iris soliflore I own is Chanel 28 La Pausa. This is iris done in an elegant spare style. Perfumers Francois Demachy and Jacques Polge combined to create this beauty. At its core is a Florentine iris. The perfumers wisely add in only two other ingredients; baie rose and vetiver. The baie rose helps to keep the powderiness a little more controlled. The vetiver brings the earthy character a little more to the foreground. This is meant to be admired like a fine jewel from all angles.

Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir took a while to really make an impression on me. When it finally did after many months I wondered to myself why I ever resisted. Creative Director Linda Pilkington working with perfumer Geza Schoen have the iris play the heart while darkness swirls around it. The iris shows off all of its character with powdery aspects pushing back against coriander and davana on top. By the time incense, myrrh, and patchouli show up in the base the earthiness is what you notice. This is one of the few perfumes with “noir” in the name which earns the name.

With autumn in full swing if you need a floral to add to your perfume wardrobe give these five iris perfumes a shot.

Disclosure: This review based on bottles of each perfume I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Huitieme Art Shermine- Iris Hair Shirt

Pierre Guillaume is seemingly ever in motion as he moves from one collection to the next. One of my favorites is the one he started in 2010 called Huitieme Art. The concept is to showcase a new raw material or accord. It has been a consistently evolving enterprise over the last five years. The thirteenth release called Shermine is a great example of what I admire about this collection.

M. Guillaume’s brief for Shermine was “Fourrure D’Iris” which translates to “Iris like Fur”. Before I ever got a sniff that had me interested. Even the name reflects this as it is a portmanteau of the last letter of iris and ermine. He mentions in the press release that this is a “materials-driven” fragrance. Most of the time when you can see the architecture in such a severe way it leads to something a bit sterile. What keeps this from happening in Shermine is that the material, or more properly accord, which is doing the driving is anything but reserved.

Pierre-Guillaume_2

Pierre Guillaume

Shermine opens on an alternating piquant and bright top accord of lemon and pepper. The note wrinkling nature of the pepper prepares the stage for the “iris fur” accord. M. Guillaume has built this on a foundation of iris mixed with rosewood, cardamom, and lavender. This is a fabulous artifact of the perfumer’s skill. The iris is in a fur coat. That mix of wood, spice, and floral does not leap out and say “fur” to me but in Shermine it sure achieves the desired effect. To further define it M. Guillaume adds some of the animalic musks and a pinch of vanilla. This is an iris with a hairy-chest; thrusting it out for all to see. The base is meant to support but not supplant the heart. As such guaiac, vetiver, and patchouli provide a more restrained foundation than you might expect. From about thirty minutes in until the end this is all about this hirsute iris.

Shermine has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is exactly what makes the Huitieme Art releases so much fun. This is an iris with no hint of powder. The rootiness is much more in the foreground. Basedon a couple of side projects M. Guillaume showed me at Pitti Fragranze It feels like he is starting to re-examine the more animalic materials and accords in his palette. If Shermine is the first in a line of unique animalice I can’t wait for what is to come next.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Huitieme Art at Pitti Fragranze.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tauer Sotto La Luna Tuberose- How Green is My Tuberose?

Tuberose is one of those components of perfumery which carries a boisterous reputation. It is a love it/ hate it kind of ingredient. Most of the reason for the dichotomy of response is because it dominates almost any construct it is used in. You just can’t easily overlook it. It also mainly presents itself as this uber-floral and rarely in any other form. Then over the last year I began to notice a shift as many of the perfumes which had tuberose listed had found a greener slightly less extroverted alternative.

Independent perfumer Andy Tauer must have also been intrigued by this greener version of tuberose because it is the focal point of the new Tauer Sotto La Luna Tuberose. Sotto La Luna means “under the moon” and in the case of the tuberose for this new release it almost acts as a way of using moonlight to wash out some of the intensity of tuberose as if viewed in the moonlight. The other thing about Sotto La Luna Tuberose is Hr. Tauer really attempts to discern just how green you can make the tuberose. The answer turns out to be the greener the better.

andy tauer

Andy Tauer

Hr. Tauer starts Sotto La Luna Tuberose off with a mix of spice on top of a very green chord. The spices are cinnamon and mostly clove. The green comes from geranium and a very lively galbanum. The galbanum washes over the spices and the geranium in a swoosh of power. This sets the stage for the greener version of tuberose to arrive next. What I like so much about this greener version is the camphoraceous character inherent in tuberose is more easily discerned. The green facet in this version of tuberose is very similar to the green character you find in lily. The heart brings together the galbanum the green tuberose and a few other florals; ylang-ylang, jasmine and rose. The ylang-ylang provides an unctuous underpinning. Right here is that tuberose glittering in the moonlight. Because tuberose is a night blooming flower the base notes move towards the more familiar tuberose as if the moonlight has brought it to life. As the tuberose in the base takes hold the green fades to the background and an earthy patchouli along with ambergris ground the final phase in the moist earth.

Sotto La Luna Tuberose has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I don’t think Sotto La Luna Tuberose will be the perfume to entice those in the “hate it” camp to come around. Mainly because over the last quarter of the time I wore it the transition to the base becomes a more typical tuberose. The beginning of the perfume with the depth galbanum provides to the green tuberose is where there is something different to consider. That is where those in the “love it” category will find something new to enjoy in a tuberose.

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

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: For those in the New York City area Andy Tauer will be visiting Twisted Lily on Saturday November 7, 2015 from 1-4PM. Besides premiering Sotto La Luna Tuberose he will also be bringing along an experimental fragrance called “Dark Mysterious Woods”. If you live nearby please go say hello to one of the nicest guys in all of perfumery.

Sniffapalooza Fall Ball 2015 Wrap-Up- Its My Party and I’ll Sniff If I Want To

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This year Sniffapalooza Fall Ball coincided with my birthday weekend; which made the whole weekend one long celebration for me. Fall Ball 2015 began with a pre-event on Friday night at Brooklyn boutique Twisted Lily. 60 people made it out to enjoy the atmosphere and to get the party started early. I had written about the new Blocki perfumes just before the event and was interested to see the reaction of those in attendance. Everyone headed home so they could be up bright and early on Saturday morning.

Norell presentation

Norell New York Presentation at BG

Saturday morning was the official start at the café downstairs at Bergdorf-Goodman. We were treated to short presentations on over fifteen brands. One of the nice coincidences was the Tom Ford presentation announced the return of previously discontinued Amber Absolute back in the Private Blend collection. The fun was Christophe Laudamiel the perfumer behind Amber Absolute was also in the room. It was gratifying to see him smile when he got one of the strips being passed around. The standouts for me were the relaunch of Norell which was one of the original American designer perfumes. Called Norell New York it is a different fragrance but it retains much of what made the original a trendsetter. Another brand making a triumphant return is Shalini. This is one of perfumer Maurice Roucel’s best perfumes; I am happy to see it back in its gorgeous Lalique flacon emulating a butterfly wing. The final presentation is the one which excited me most. The new French brand Ex Nihilo has created a small shop in Bergdorf-Goodman where their eight perfumes can be purchased in the US for the first time. The unique aspect of the brand is in conjunction with the perfumer each perfume can have one of three additional notes added in the boutique to personalize every bottle. The shop was a week away from opening but it is going to be one of the newest stars in the Bergdorf-Goodman fragrance universe.

Christophe decanting Chypre de Coty

Christophe Laudamiel decanting from a 1921 bottle of Chypre de Coty

Lunch was full of camaraderie as everyone at each table compared purchases while waiting for the program to start. Paula and Teresa of Beautyhabit gave us a preview of the pop-up we would end the night at. Lyn Leigh and Mary Ellen Lapsansky told us about The Perfumed Plume awards for fragrance writing. Sarah Horowitz-Thran presented her Biography Scents of Self perfume set which she is selling on QVC. It is a complete set of four perfumes which can be worn individually or layered. The absolute highlight of Saturday was Christophe Laudamiel who first introduced us to the new educational kit on fragrance called “A Sense of Scents”. This is a fantastic innovation and I will have more on this in a full article. After that he said because it was my birthday he had a surprise. It was a 1921 bottle of Chypre de Coty as perfectly preserved as a bottle of that age could be. Generously coated mouillettes were handed out. You could hear the collected gasp of pleasure of everyone in the room when he announced what the bottle was. This is exactly what makes Sniffapalooza what it is as there are very few events where one can smell the original chypre perfume.

After a stop at the beautiful new Rockefeller Center Penhaligon’s boutique we all headed downtown to the Beautyhabit pop-up shop at Black Label Wine Merchants. Paula and Teresa curated a collection to thrill with new releases from Olfactive Studio, Raw Spirit, and Lubin on display. They are also the first seller of the new ALTAIA brand I am aware of. It was a delightful way to end Day 1.

Day 2 began at Birchbox with Karthik from Harvey Prince presenting the line. After that we were free to explore the downtown Fragrance District as we strolled between Atelier Cologne, Le Labo, Rituals, and Red Flower. Le Labo treated us to a sneak preview of their next new fragrance The Noir 29.

Beckie and Katy at lunch

Katy Knuth and Beckie Sheloskie present Rebel Intuitive

Lunch had presentations from Jennifer McKay Newton who introduced us to her Define Me Fragrance line. The team of Beckie Sheloskie and Katy Knuth told us all about their indie line Rebel Intuitive. Will Yin introduced us to Scent Trunk the monthly subscription service which introduces each member to three new fragrances a month based on their profile.

One more stop for this party and that was the newest addition to the Fragrance District the Byredo store. It is mostly displaying the leather goods from the brand. For this crowd we clustered around the two counters with the fragrance collection. We finished the day sipping champagne and sniffing Byredo perfumes.

As always my thanks to Karen Dubin and Karen Adams for their considerable effort in organizing this event. It was the perfect way to spend my birthday.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Dasein Autumn- Red Hots Aweigh

It usually takes somewhere between four and six releases for me to get a real handle on what an independent perfume brand is all about. By that time if there is an aesthetic forming it should have revealed itself. The perfumer begins to find their footing a little more firmly. It is like watching a maturation process of the artistic endeavor. The latest example of an indie perfumer who has grown her brand rapidly is Samantha Rader of Dasein.

Ms. Rader has been making fragrances based on the seasons starting with 2013’s Winter, followed by Spring a year later and Summer earlier in 2015. Which leaves the recent arrival of Autumn. Ms. Rader seems to enjoy designing perfumes which carry a provocative, perhaps challenging, nature front and center. Winter was formed around a specific pine oil she sourced. Spring was an exquisite turned earth accord. Summer was the most risk-taking as she featured cilantro. Autumn is a fiery cinnamon bark at the center of things.

Sam Rader

Samantha Rader

Cinnamon is one of those notes which when used in most perfumes is as part of a mélange of spices to add a bit of heat. More often, if it is featured, it is kept on a very short leash so as not to remind one of Red Hots candy. One thing I am pretty sure of now after four releases Ms. Rader does not own a leash of any kind when she has an ingredient she wants to feature. She takes cinnamon bark and embraces the confectionary character. Her challenge is to find other partners to make sure this doesn’t descend into sugary banality. It doesn’t.

Just like all the previous releases the focal point is in place from the first second to the final moments. In the case of Autumn it is cinnamon bark. It is also cinnamon bark in such a concentration as to feel completely like a box of Red Hots you just opened. The note list says there is coffee here but I never detect it not even for a fleeting moment. If it is here Ms. Rader must be using it to modulate the cinnamon but not as a specific note. After a decent amount of time she does reveal that incense and leather are what she wants to find an equilibrium with the cinnamon bark. There is a bit of a rough spot as these three very distinct notes struggle to find that balance. Once it happens it is a fabulous heart accord. The animalic of the leather and the resins of the incense are a foundation for the cinnamon bark to ride on top of. When they find their synchronicity it roars with power. Ms. Rader wants even a little more and so for the last two ingredients she adds a mixture of ambergris and oud. The oud attaches to the leather making it more primal in nature. The ambergris achieves a wonderfully briny transformation of the incense. As these two ingredients take hold the foundation of Autumn finds a whole new gear over the final stretch.

Autumn has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Autumn brings the first cycle of Ms. Rader’s independent perfume to a close. It shows a young perfumer who will embrace that which others shy away from. It makes me even more eager to see what her next set of inspirations will be. For the short term I am going to enjoy wearing something Red Hot when the weather turns cooler.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Hiram Green Voyage- Unnatural Natural

As a young boy most of my imaginary traveling around the world was done in the movie theatre accompanied by 007 James Bond. As I would watch him save the world from one exotic place to the other I would always imagine myself tuxedo clad traveling the planet. One of the more striking locales 007 visited came in the thirteenth movie in the series 1983’s Octopussy. He would track down the titular jewel smuggling ring leader in what is called The Floating Palace on Lake Pichola in Udaipur, India. It is one of those pieces of ancient architecture that looks impossible to exist. There sits this massive palace surrounded by water. It shouldn’t be possible but it is there. Natural perfumer Hiram Green is also inspired by that which seems impossible and the floating palace of Udaipur is his inspiration for his latest release Voyage.  

This is the third release from Mr. Green in just over two years. What is becoming one of his hallmarks is the ability to make an all-natural perfume which has a lasting powerhouse impact. If there is a pervasive criticism of all-natural perfumes it is they lack power and longevity. Mr. Green has shown the ability to make both of those moot points. There is a danger when you turn the volume up as high as Mr. Green does and that is if you are not careful it can be overwhelming for long stretches. Each successive release has gotten this particular equation correct with Voyage being the most balanced of his first three releases.

Hiram Green (4)

Hiram Green

Voyage opens with a classic spiced orange accord. The citrus comes via orange and the spices seem a mix of cardamom, caraway, and cumin perhaps. It is an exotic mélange which effectively sets the stage as India. After some time patchouli provides the transitory note to the suede accord at the heart of Voyage. This is a rich natural leather accord which provides a restrained animalic heart to Voyage. It is smooth where the spiced orange was a bit rough. Eventually it all floats on a lake of vanilla as the leather provides the palace structure.

Voyage has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Voyage is a set of fascinating transitions from the heat of the spices to the splendor of the suede down into the overall sweetness of the vanilla. The vanilla is very sweet on my skin and it does turn the last few hours of Voyage distinctly gourmand-like. It isn’t really confectionary sweet; more like the exotic spiced Asian deserts where the spiciness and the sweetness co-exist. Mr. Green is building an impressive resume of all-natural perfumes. Voyage is his best to date.

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

Mark Behnke

Editor’s note: Voyage is a limited edition to only 250 bottles. It will be available on November 2, 2015 on the Hiram Green website.

The Sunday Magazine: 1989 by Ryan Adams

One of my favorite things in music is when a true pop song is re-interpreted by a different artist. When it is done well it can open up an entirely new way of listening to the lyrics and melody. One of my favorite examples of this was when the indie band Aztec Camera did their version of Van Halen’s “Jump” off of their “1984” album of the same year. “Jump” was a massive hit and the first number one song for Van Halen. It was a raucous rock anthem. Aztec Camera took that song and slowed it down into something plaintive. When it hits the chorus and the couplet; “I ain’t the worst that you’ve seen/Ah, don’t you know what I mean?’ It goes straight from party song to cautionary tale. It is evidence that lyrics can be turned into something entirely different if orchestrated and sung in a polar opposite style of the original.

ryan adams 1989

These kind of songs are usually one-offs and b-sides. The Aztec Camera version of “Jump” was a b-side to the now long-forgotten single. One of the things on high rotation on my iTunes right now is an entire re-interpretation of the biggest pop album of 2015.

You can’t escape Taylor Swift and her current album “1989”. She has grabbed the pop music industry by the scruff of the neck and produced an album which will be one of those which define a year and perhaps a decade. It is music done by someone who has honed her songwriting skills expertly over the past few years. Then it is turned into the sound of a young twentysomething exuberantly singing about her life, good and bad. One of the things I don’t think Ms. Swift gets enough credit for is her songwriting skills. It is easy to brush it off as pop pablum buried under bombastic arrangements.

taylor swift 1989

Ryan Adams has been an independent singer songwriter for as many years as Ms. Swift has been alive. While he was on tour he was playing some of the songs from “1989” on his acoustic guitar while in between shows. That led him to a realization about how good lyrically they were. This would further lead him to covering the entire “1989” album and releasing it a month ago. Just like Aztec Camera before him Mr. Adams turns these lyrics into something entirely different. If Ms. Swift is looking upwards at life in her 20’s Mr. Adams is looking back on those days wistfully. His version of “1989” carries the melancholy of someone firmly in mid-life and revisiting that time in his life.

Nowhere is that more evident on Mr. Adams version of “Shake it Off”. Instead of Ms. Swift’s defiance to “shake, shake, shake it off”. Mr. Adams provides the counterpoint about how long are the “haters gonna hate” and maybe he’s exhausted at having to “shake it off”.  It is sung in a weary tone from someone who has tired of all of it.

“Wildest Dreams” is my favorite song on Mr. Adams version because it shares the same desire that Ms. Swift’s version does. Both the twentysomething and the fortysomething still want to find the passion that dreams are made of. Both versions are pretty much the same tempo but the difference in the vocals bring home where these two singers are at in their lives.

I think both versions of “1989” are great. My current playlist is alternating Ms. Swift’s version with Mr. Adams’ version. It has the power to remind me of the best of being in my 20’s and my 40’s.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Aether Arts Perfume Burner Perfume No. 1 Black Rock City & Burner Perfume No. 6 Reflection- Flammable Inspiration

There are literally thousands who attend the yearly Burning Man festival. A great many of those thousands come away inspired by the temporary community erected on the playa in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. To my knowledge out of that cauldron of creativity only one perfumer has used it as inspiration. That is one of the rising stars of independent perfumery Amber Jobin.

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Amber Jobin

Ms. Jobin established her Aether Arts Perfume in 2013 and in that debut set of releases was the perfume Burner Perfume No. 2 A Roll in the Grass. Every year Ms. Jobin attends Burning Man she composes a perfume to go with her. Ever the keen observer I was wondering what had happened to Burner Perfume No. 1. Ms. Jobin finally answered my question.

Amber Jobin Burning Man 2015

Amber Jobin at Burning Man 2015 in The Olfactorium composing custom perfumes

She had composed a Burner Perfume No. 1 Black Rock City in 2010 but it had only been shared at the festival. She is now bringing it back so that those of us who were not there can also share in it. At the same time Burner Perfume No. 6 Reflection is also being released which is from this year’s edition. The two are meant to be companions as Black Rock City captures the smell of the playa at rest while Reflection captures it after a thunderstorm has added pools of water to the desert milieu. I also found it interesting as a bit of a marker to how Ms. Jobin has grown as a perfumer over the past five years.

aether arts black rock city

Black Rock City is best described as a rugged perfume similar to the terrain it is evoking. The desert is an unforgiving place but the beauty inherent in that is wondrous. Ms. Jobin captures that roughhewn allure. Black Rock City is a very simple construction centered on the desert flora of sage and mesquite. She mixes the leaves and flowers of sage with the blossoms and bark of mesquite with a bit of cedar for structure thrown in. This is sage and smoky woodiness. It is a linear fragrance with no real development. It shows the beginnings of what Ms. Jobin will develop into.

Reflection is that potential made real. Reflection has a very kinetic development also starting with sage. This time the sage is borne on the wind in front of an oncoming thunderstorm. Ms. Jobin takes the sage and sets it on top of a stiff breeze of ozonic notes and aquatic accords. This is that precise moment before the sky breaks. The rest of Reflection is what is left behind as the storm has passed. The desert flowers open up drinking greedily. Ms. Jobin uses yucca, cactus flowers, and sage flowers to represent this over the still lingering aquatic accord. The florals float above the massive puddles on the desert floor. As the sun comes back to reclaim the moisture the original desert smells reclaim their place as mesquite and cedar signal a return to the baseline. Reflection is a fantastic piece of perfumery as it moves from restrained power into a fragile floral to rest upon that desert ruggedness. Ms. Jobin captures all of that.

Both Black Rock City and Reflection are perfume oils and as such wear very close to the skin with little appreciable sillage.

Ms. Jobin suggested wearing Reflection layered over Black Rock City. When I did that it further confirmed my impression that Black Rock City is more of a perfume base upon which to build a perfume. When layered it provides a real oomph to the final phase of Reflection as the desert returns with a flourish instead of the more gradual transition in Reflection by itself. Reflection is by far the better of the two perfumes. It is the result of five more years’ experience. It is also the result of a young perfumer coming into her own as if she herself is on fire.

Disclosure; this review was based on samples provided by Aether Arts Perfume.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Blocki For Walks- Modern Heritage

One of the trends of the last few years has been the revival of heritage perfume brands. There were a number of perfume brands which were thriving in the first half of the 20th century that would collapse in the second half. As these brands are re-discovered usually a distant relative decides to give it new life in the early days of the 21st century. Most often the trajectory goes like this; re-create a few of the original recipes followed by eventually striking out on your own with new constructs. This can be hit or miss depending on how dependent the originals were on currently proscribed materials. The reality of whether the brand has something to it comes when it starts trying to capture that heritage aesthetic in completely modern compositions. The newest heritage brand Blocki has decided to just forego the first step and go straight to the second.

Blocki was founded in 1865 by John Blocki. He would shepherd the brand until his death in 1934. At which time it soon faded away. Fast forward to 2000 and his great-great-grandson Tyler DeLaBar Kraemer, who had heard the family stories of the brand, began working with essential oils and flower waters blending them. During this period Mr. Kraemer, along with his wife Tammy Kraemer, realized they wanted to resurrect the family perfume business. To fully accomplish this they collaborated with perfumer Kevin Verspoor. Now 150 years after the first Blocki fragrance was released three new perfumes are here to reinvigorate the brand.

I think the choice of Mr. Verspoor was inspired for this project. I have corresponded with Mr. Verspoor sporadically over the last two years. One thing I know from that is he is passionately dedicated to using some of the less used materials on the perfumer’s palette. The three new Blocki perfumes reflect that. In Every Season is a massive floral that has the most retro feel of the three new releases. It mainly comes from the musky foundation which underpins the florals. Mr. Verspoor has deftly created a vintage musk accord. This Grand Affair is the most Retro Nouveau of the three as it fuses a tangy citrus opening with classic Oriental beats. Mr. Verspoor uses the unique herbal quality of davana oil as a twist on the zesty citrus before heading into a floriental finish. The third release, For Walks, was my favorite probably because it is the most contemporary overall.

Kevin-Verspoor

Kevin Verspoor

For Walks, as all the Blocki perfumes are, is inspired by a passage from Mr. Blocki’s wife Emma in her memoir of 1872. The passage for For Walks is:

“As soon as the snow was melted but the soil still frozen, we took a walk into the forest where we heard the first larks chirp; we did this always. With expectation we looked forward to father’s birthday on April 22. To prepare for this, far ahead of time, we gathered moss, ivy, forest violets, crowfoot and anemones; the day before we wreathed everything in the house. And so the beautiful spring began for all of us.”

While inspired by writing from 1872 it is a very current perfume architecture as Mr. Verspoor captures violet peeking out from the last crust of snow prior to spring.

Mr. Verspoor opens For Walks up with a very frozen accord of metallic violet leaf, pine needles, and mint. The mint is the key here as it needs to be there to give that clean smelling feeling of a chilly spring day without tripping over into something less prosaic. This is like a deep lungful of morning air with a bit of chill left. Out of this peeks the violet itself. This is also where Mr. Verspoor reaches for a material not often seen in perfumery, boronia. Boronia contains many of the same molecules, beta-ionones, which give violet its distinctive smell. Boronia takes those and adds in a peppery spicy character which is reminiscent of the humus of the forest floor. Together the boronia and violet in For Walks create that accord of flower breaking free of frozen earth. This is where my olfactory walk lingers for hours with the boronia and violet. When it does finally move on vetiver, cedar, and sandalwood provide spring green woody foundation.

For Walks has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

All three of the Blocki perfumes are worth seeking out. I think they show a real effort by the Kraemers and Mr. Verspoor to take the past into the present and create a new modern heritage for Blocki.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review A Lab on Fire Mon Musc A Moi- Taking Vanilla Back

There is nothing more liberating for an artist than to have the freedom to create where your inspiration takes you. Most perfumers must follow the whims of their clients; exerting influence here and there. A true license to create without bounds usually comes when they form their own brand with their name on it. There are a few brands which also provide the leeway for an artist to do as they will. One of the more successful examples of this is the brand A Lab on Fire.

Over 10 releases since 2012 creative director Carlos Kusubayashi has taken one of the most impressive rosters of perfumers out there and set them free. The collection is one of the most diverse for a niche brand because of this. I would imagine that the process is enjoyable enough that it is no surprise that perfumer Dominique Ropion returned to do his second, and the brand’s eleventh, with the new Mon Musc A Moi.

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Dominique Ropion (photo: Hajime Watanabe)

M. Ropion is on my highest tier of perfumers. My favorites by him have come from brands which trust him to carry much of the inspiration and creativity. For Mon Musc A Moi M. Ropion seems to be out to recapture vanilla from the gourmand sector of the olfactory spectrum. In recent years vanilla has become the sweet baker’s confectionary component which radiates sweetness; sometimes overly so. Which has led to many forgetting that vanilla was a vital component to many of the great perfumes from the first half of the 20th century. It was often paired with the deeper animalic musk to form a pulsing sultry base. M. Ropion wants Mon Musc A Moi to remind you that vanilla is not just for those with a sweet tooth it is also for those who want the passion of human connection.

The early moments of Mon Musc A Moi are all floral, M. Ropion floats out a mixture of peach blossom, heliotrope, and rose. This is exactly how a Retro Nouveau perfume should begin. The rose and heliotrope feel retro and the peach blossom feels more contemporary. M. Ropion lays it all out right from the first moments. Then in a very sly wink to the gourmand lovers he takes a little bit of toffee and produces a sweet intermezzo from which the vanilla appears. This is full on Nouveau. The Retro comes as the musks arise to swat away the toffee and to capture the vanilla in an amorous embrace.The vanilla musk accord is fine-tuned with a bit of tonka, amber and light woods. Those notes all serve to enhance and frame the beautiful base accord.

Mon Musc A Moi has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Mon Musc A Moi is a romantic fragrance and is maybe a perfume for romance. In this house it is rare anything I wear gets commented upon unless Mrs. C thinks it smells bad. There are a rare few things I wear which bring Mrs. C closer for a more lingering sniff. The second day I wore Mon Musc A Moi she spent much of the day snuggled close breathing it in with a contented smile. Purely as a Retro Nouveau construct it succeeds at every level. It was high time some of our best perfumers went out and took vanilla back from the perfumed bake shop and reunited it with its passionate partner, musk. M. Ropion has successfully achieved this reunion with style.

Dosclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Luckyscent.

Mark Behnke