New Perfume Review Heeley Chypre 21- Last Stand for Oakmoss?

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If there is any genre which gets perfume lovers wringing their hands with concern over the IFRA/EU restrictions on perfume raw materials it is the chypre. The form was created by Francois Coty in 1917 with oakmoss prominent within its formula. Oakmoss is one of the ingredients which has been significantly restricted in its use. This hurdle has only inspired some of the best perfumers out there to see if in this new age where all of M. Coty’s ingredients can’t be used if an alternative can be found. Perfumer James Heeley is the most recent to take a crack at this with Heeley Chypre 21.

The original chypres were big blustery perfumes which were full of powerful notes like patchouli, civet, musks, and vetiver. Subtle it was not. When a modern perfumer reinterprets this they naturally look to “lighten” things up. Mr. Heeley does this while still using a bit of oakmoss to provide the bite of chypre but this is more a nip on the ankles than a full-fledged chomp.

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James Heeley

Chypre 21 opens with the classic citrus provided by petit grain and bergamot. What I really liked was the inclusion of rosemary with the citrus. This was almost a nod to the Jean Marie Farina cologne opening. Every time I wore it I liked the cologne-like freshness these notes imparted to the early going. Rose is one of the more traditional floral notes chosen to accompany the chypre accord because it stands up to it. Rose is the heart of Chypre 21. Mr Heeley’s twist is to dust it with saffron adding in a beautifully exotic complement. The cologne intimations are fully banished and I am anticipating the chypre base to arrive any minute. When it does the oakmoss rides in on a flying carpet composed of some of the synthetic musks. If this was fifty years ago there would be a lot more oakmoss and the musk would be real. By having to use a lesser concentration and the synthetic musk equivalents Mr. Heeley makes a chypre which hums with precision but less powerfully. Patchouli deepens the chypre accord and sandalwood provides a dry woody foundation for it to rest upon.

Chypre 21 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mr. Heeley stated in the press release his aim was to create a fragrance “with a certain air of Parisian chic”. I think he has achieved this with Chypre 21. It feels like a chypre throughout with some interesting modern choices to give a more contemporary spin to it. By keeping it lighter I think Chypre 21 is more approachable by many for whom a real full-throated chypre would keep at arm’s length. Chypre 21 is enough of a chypre that I think it will still appeal to fans of those predecessors. I think what is best about Chypre 21 is it will also succeed at creating some new aficionados of chypre.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample supplied by Heeley.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Cartier Les Heures de Parfum Oud Radieux- Westernizing Oud

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One of the best collections of exclusive perfumes is Cartier Les Heures de Parfum. In-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent has been filling in her thirteen-hour clock since 2009 and it contains some of the best perfumes of Mme Laurent’s career. We are only lacking V & IX to complete the series. Last year we got an indication that the spirit of a very luxurious artisitic collection would continue when the numbers were done. Those three releases were called Les Heures Voayageuses and were oud-focused as you can tell by their names: Oud & Rose, Oud & Musc, and Oud & Oud. These were well-made versions of these classic oud pairings but they all felt like they were Mme Laurent working on the classics before putting her own spin on it. (There is a great little interview by Mme Laurent on Persolaise where she mentions working on these first three) I was more interested in what newer companions Mme Laurent might think would be good with oud. The new release Oud Radieux answers that question.

In the interview linked above Mme Laurent is quoted as saying, “I find that going to Arabian countries with our perfumery is like selling French Coca-Cola in New York. But at the end, as I really love oud, I decided I wanted to work on it.” I understand her point but my favorite oud perfumes have come from Western perfumers who have decided to make an oud perfume which is meant to be French Coca-Cola instead of something sold in the Middle East. The first three did not reach that level for me. Oud Radieux does.

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Mathilde Laurent

When I read that quote I am much more interested in Mme Laurent truly embracing an oud that would be something different. I think Oud Radieux shows right from the start her desire to elucidate the nature of real oud with the same minimalist structure as in the first three. Here she creates something modern.

I tend to inwardly groan when I read press copy which mentions using energizing ginger as a top note. There are very few times I find it energizing. Mostly because it is way too often muddled up with other citrus or spice notes. In Oud Radieux Mme Laurent provides as distinct a ginger note as I’ve encountered. It has a sharply spicy rootiness which smells like the way I taste the pickled ginger which accompanies my sashimi. Paired with this is Szechuan pepper. Ever since smelling this at Pitti Fragranze in 2014 it has shown up in some of the most interesting places in the new perfumes of 2015. It is an excellent choice to go with ginger as it adds a shimmering spicy heat to contrast the more savory spiciness of the ginger. The other facet is this sort of musty quality it has underneath. Mme Laurent uses that as the connection to the oud. When you encounter real oud it also has a similar mustiness to it which is much more pronounced. This pulls the ginger along with it and the moment when they mix with the oud is fascinating. Real oud also carries what some describe as a medicinal or Band-Aid smell. The ginger and Szechuan pepper turn that into an accord which takes those less desirable elements and finds a place of zesty beauty within it. From here the oud really takes over. I am not sure if it is the oud Mme Laurent is using or if she accentuates it with some other animalic notes but it really gets a little more animalic than I usually encounter with real oud. It is definitely the most animalic of these four perfumes even more so than Oud & Oud. It feels like a natural progression down to something which carries a bit of ferocity in the end.

Oud Radieux has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

There has not been any of the numbered entries of the Les Heures de Parfum which have used oud. If there was going to be one Oud Radieux would be among the best within that collection. I have really enjoyed Mme Laurent’s version of French Coca-Cola and hope if there are more to come they are in the style of Oud Radieux. Maybe a macaron next time?

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Saks Fifth Avenue.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: 2000 Miles by The Pretenders

Thanksgiving is over and I am now deep into my holiday playlist as this time of the year has a strong association with the music I listen to during it. I’m a fan of all the ones which put a smile on my jolly old elf face. Yet there is definitely a place for the more poignant less obviously happy songs which touch me deeply. As I wrote about last year Fairytale of New York by The Pogues & Kristy MacColl and Christmas in L.A. by The Killers & Dawes are good examples. Another song which fits right in with those is 2000 Miles by The Pretenders.

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The Pretenders were one of the early punk bands to have some chart success. In 1979 the song “Brass in Pocket” introduced us to the band fronted by Chrissie Hynde. Ms. Hynde had an instantly recognizable vocal sound. Along with Debby Harry of Blondie they were the female faces of late 1970’s punk rock. From 1979 until 1982 The Pretenders were soaring. Then it all came crashing down due to the death of two band members due to drugs. Two days after throwing bassist Pete Farndon out of the band for his out of control drug use lead guitarist James Honeyman-Scott would die because of cocaine induced heart failure. Mr. Farndon would die of an overdose ten months after that. From the heights to the crushing lows that quickly.

Ms. Hynde would work out the losses through music. The immediate musical reaction was the song “Back on the Chain Gang”. That was farewell rolled up in a bit of a defiant promise to continue on. Eighteen months after Mr. Honeyman-Scott’s death 2000 Miles would be released. This is the eulogy as Ms. Hynde sings about her missing friend being so very far away. It has become a Christmas song because there is a repeated line which develops throughout the song which ends with “it must be Christmas time”.

There are two versions on my playlist. The first is the 1983 original and it really is a duet of Ms. Hynde’s lead vocal and a fantastic circular guitar line played by Robbie McIntosh. As always it is Ms. Hynde’s vocals which convey the emotion. It is most apparent to me on the subtle change in the way she sings the last line of the song, “I hear people singing, it must be Christmas time”. The first time through it is said with a real bittersweet longing for her lost friend. The second time through it sounds more hopeful as she is moving on with one more look back. It is those two lines which always grab me emotionally. I often get a strange look as I wipe away a tear if I’m on the bus with the headphones in.

In 2014 Ms. Hynde revisited the song and while I don’t know this to be true it seems in this version she has embraced it as a true Holiday song. The differences in this version are the guitar has been replaced by a piano. The changee in instrumentation makes this less about the loss of a friend and more about Ms. Hynde’s vocals and the lyrics. The video above is just the lyrics being scrawled over a series of snowy vistas. The vocals soar a bit more and there is much less of the pain evident. When we get to the same final two lines they are as heartfelt as they were in 1983 but there is a lot more joy in their rendition.

A song born of tragedy has come full circle to be a song of the Season. Both versions speak to what I want in my Holiday soundtrack.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Pine

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While many spend the time after Thanksgiving in the US shopping I spend it a different way. The Friday after Thanksgiving is the beginning of Christmas for me. What that means is I leave the shopping mall behind and head to the Christmas tree lot to buy a tree and pine roping to drape around the house. There are many scents I associate with the holiday season but the clean green coniferous smell of pine is with me every day of the last month of the year. In honor of the beginning of the Holidays I am going to name my five favorite pine perfumes.

When I first moved to Boston I was told of this fantastic little perfume shop in Harvard Square called Colonial Drug. It was the definition of a perfume lover’s paradise as Cathy, the owner, had a huge selection of European perfumes you couldn’t find anywhere else. The first time I went in she was busy extolling the virtues of Pino Silvestre to the male customer. Over many years I would see the green pine cone shaped bottle leave the store in a bag because perfumer Lino Vidal made a pine fragrance which did not smell like an air freshener. Sharp sunny citrus dives deep into a pine note surrounded by clove, sage, and rosemary. It all ends up on a cedar and sandalwood foundation. There is a reason this sits on a lot of men’s dressers in the Boston area.

Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles is one of the few pine perfumes you will encounter where the lighter nature of pine needles are as evident. Christopher Sheldrake composing under Serge Lutens creative direction uses those pine needles in the top to create an airy coniferous experience. Soon enough a host of resinous notes allow the sap to rise. The final camphor note is like breathing in cold air in the middle of the Christmas tree lot.

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Christian Dior La Collection Privee Granville was a perfume which had to win me over. When I first tried Francois Demachy’s pine perfume it was not what I expected as strong citrus, herbs, and a particularly strong gorse note all seemed to be competing with each other. Over time Granville’s eclectic kinetic quality has won me over and it is one of my favorites of Dior’s exclusive collection. Tart lemon and herbal thyme open things up. Black pepper and rosemary join the pine in the heart. The gorse blows in soon after before sandalwood finishes things up. Over time I realized Granville is a more modern take on the same themes used in Pino Silvestre. My appreciation and affection for Granville probably was an evolution of my perfume tastes without my being conscious of it.

My final two choices exemplify the reason independent perfume can be so exhilarating when the perfumer finds a unique small batch ingredient. Samantha Rader the perfumer behind Dasein Winter sourced a pine essential oil from the Austrian Alps to use as the centerpiece of her first release. By understanding her raw material was something special she wisely did not complicate the experience and only used cardamom and lavender to complement. The lavender really evokes the Alpine milieu in particular. This is the smell of carrying that Christmas tree home in my arms, face pressed into the branches.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz found a local wildcrafter Eric Bresselsmith of House of Aromatics to source a pinon essential oil infused with fifty-year old pine resin crystals for her DSH Perfumes Seve de Pin. Ms. Hurwitz also keeps it simple but she chooses some notes to be more interactive with the pinon oil instead of framing it. Early on it is a group of green notes to evoke the rest of the forest besides the pine. Once the pine comes out rose and amyris use their floral character to smooth out the rough edges and provide depth. The base is a deeper dive into the resinous as olibanum and labdanum come forward. Seve de Pin is the most photorealistic pine perfume I own. Whenever I want to be in the Holiday mood I just need a drop or two to get me there, even in July.

If you need a little perfume to carry around the pine scentd of the Holidays these five are worth giving a try.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Nomenclature orb_ital- A Tale of Two Woody Aromachemicals

Perfume is a timeline of unique materials being used. Many of the trends within perfumery start with the introduction of a new tool for the perfumer to use. Easily one of the most influential of these since 2000 is Iso E Super. Iso E Super is actually a mixture of three closely related molecules called isomers. Depending on the concentration of the isomers the overall scent profile can be tweaked. As a result each aromachemical producer has their own version. For Takasago theirs is called Orbitone and it was the starting point for one of the inaugural new releases for the brand Nomenclature called orb_ital.

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Patricia Choux

Orbitone provides a slightly more floral aspect along with the transparent dry woodiness. Perfumer Patricia Choux, working with creative directors Karl Bradl and Carlos Quintero, would take that nature and pair it with another Takasago ingredient Hindinol. Hindinol provides a sandalwood with the creamier attributes enhanced. Mme Choux makes a few smart choices on what to use which complements, and contrasts, each of the synthetics on display.

For the Orbitone Mme Choux brings out black pepper and it shows that at least in Orbitone the more mineralic aspect of this aromachemical family has been tamped down a bit. By using pepper to bring it back to life it sets the stage for violet and rhubarb to provide an appropriate vegetal floral contrast. The sharp green of the rhubarb and the silvery floralcy of violet almost set the Orbitone apart as something not natural. The Hindinol comes in about this point and it is like a fractionation of sandalwood as it carries most of the creamy rich qualities of sandalwood. The pepper now acts as the contrast with its nose-tickling nature. The complement is a cool resinous olibanum providing a very nice partner for the Hindinol.

Orb_ital has >24 hour longevity as the Orbitone and Hindinol will still be present after a long night’s sleep. The sillage is deceptive as these large molecules sometime seem to be close to the skin on the wearer but are more projecting than you think.

Orb_ital is a really beautifully interpretation of a pair of modern synthetic woody notes. Mme Choux has combined them in such a way that it is easy to understand their popularity. If you have love Iso E Super fragrances orb_ital provides a nice new alternative. If you are anosmic to Iso E Super or are one of those who find it unpleasant then this is a perfume to avoid. I like orb_ital quite a bit because I feel Mme Choux has given a well-known molecule a makeover for the better.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfum D’Empire Tabac Tabou- The Price of Expectations

If there is anything which can make something good seem bad it is expectations. I can tell you my expectations for Star Wars The Force Awakens have me looking forward to it with off the charts exuberance. Every so often there is that voice which asks me, “What if it is just good?” My response should be good Star Wars is still good. Unfortunately because of my expectations good will be bad. I just had a similar experience with the new Parfum D’Empire Tabac Tabou.

These perfumed expectations come about when perfumer Marc-Antoine Corticchiato releases his new Parfum D’Empire for the year, usually in the fall. I receive the press release prior to the perfume and this year for Tabac Tabou was no different. Within that text I was told to expect tobacco, hay, “a green, fresh narcissus”, immortelle, “rough-hewn leather”, and “fur-like animalic notes”. This is like my perfumed version of the return of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Chewbacca. From a brand and perfumer who has used some of these notes in brilliant ways previously the expectation meter was pegged. Then I received the sample and it wasn’t enough of these things. My wife watched the confused frown on my face and asked me what was wrong. That was the question there wasn’t anything wrong it just wasn’t what I expected. This was well-constructed and contained some really nice versions of the raw materials used. What was wrong with me? This was where some time helped as I stepped away. When I wore it for the first time it was an impulse as I changed my mind on what to wear on the day which I think was a good thing. What happened during that first day I finally started paying attention to what was there instead of what I hoped would be there.  What is there is something not quite as feral as I wanted. Tabac Tabou is more interested in the potential for untamed feelings than actually provoking them.

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Marc-Antoine Corticchiato

M. Corticchiato opens with hay. I should write that hay in bold text because this is one of the biggest hay notes I’ve smelled in a long time. The tobacco joins it straight away and instead of the heady narcotic quality of the tobacco taking charge it is the dried grassy sweetness of the hay which is what I primarily encounter. There is a bit of some fruit underneath to accentuate the sweeter facets of both of the top notes. The green acerbic nature of narcissus arises out of the warmth of the hay and tobacco. M. Corticchiato uses a grassy herbal accord, horsetail maybe, to sharpen the green lines. The final bit of the heart is a mélange of the white flowers. This is the part which I think initially threw me. It is also the part I have come to appreciate. The deep floralcy that the white flowers add full of indolic charm take the lead and then immortelle provides a different aspect of sweetness. The base is the promised rough-hewn leather with an accord high in birch tar providing the leathery nature. Muskiness is present in support and never rises to the level of the previous release Musc Tonkin.

Tabac Tabou has 10-12 hour longevity and initially very above average sillage for the first five hours before becoming a skin scent for the last half of the days I wore it.

My expectations definitely tempered my enthusiasm for Tabac Tabou. I think it is very good and if you like hay this is absolutely a must try. I have a feeling that in a year or two Tabac Tabou is going to become one of my favorites but for right now my expectations are getting in the way of that.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Parfum D’Empire.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Armand Basi Homme- The Softer Side of Oriental

When I was early on in my perfume wearing life Calvin Klein Obsession for Men was one of my stalwarts. YSL Opium pour Homme would also become one of my go-to Orientals. My only issue with wearing these was I was very conscious of putting too much on. These were powerful perfumes and I didn’t want to be that guy who had the reputation for wearing too much “cologne”. My solution was to add a couple spritzes to my moisturizer which helped keep the vapor trial to a minimum. I was having this discussion with a perfume friend and she asked me if I had tried Armand Basi Homme. In her opinion it was a softer Oriental with all of the things which make an Oriental appealing. She would later gift me a bottle. She was also correct. Armand Basi Homme is one of the most well-mannered Orientals I own. Which makes it one of my favorite perfumes to wear when I am heading out to Holiday parties as I can still smell good without dominating the room.

Armand-Basi-Homme

Armand Basi is a European designer brand which arose out of his work with Lacoste. In 1987 he spun off his own company producing menswear and womenswear. Like all successful brands the expansion into accessories and fragrance would come in 2000. In that year they released two very confusingly named fragrances Armand Basi Homme and Basi Homme. The former comes in a rectangular black and white bottle. The other one comes in a solid black bottle in the shape of a cube. Throughout the years when I talk about these there is always this critical moment when I try to ascertain which fragrance is being referred to.

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Jean-Pierre Bethouart

Armand Basi Homme was composed by Jean-Pierre Bethouart. M. Bethouart opens Armand Basi Homme on a cool breeze of cardamom and cinnamon through a lavender field. The cinnamon plays a supporting role to the cardamom. The lavender source is lavandin which makes it a cleaner version without many of the greener herbal facets to make it heavier. M. Bethouart keeps it light and airy. The heart is another mixture of primarily one floral, muguet, and two spices, nutmeg and tonka. This is a display of contrasts as the green floralcy of muguet is sweetened with the nutmeg and tonka. Again this could have been more boisterous but it is instead a whispering version of the push and pull between the floral and the spices. The base is a combination of three woods: cedar, sandalwood, and gaiac. It is a delightfully transparent version of these woods and it fits in with the overall tone of the fragrance as it comes to rest here.

Armand Basi Homme has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

This is a perfect choice when you want to wear something which is interesting for you but not necessarily projecting outward. It is one of my favorite unobtrusive perfumes I own. You can find a 100mL bottle on most of the discount sites for under $30 US. If you want to find the softer side of Oriental Armand Basi Homme is where to start.

Disclosure: This bottle was received as a personal gift.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review John Varvatos Dark Rebel- With a Rebel Yell

When I am asked to name a mainstream perfume brand I admire one of my answers for the last couple of years has been John Varvatos. There are a couple of very good reasons for this. One of these is consistency. Since the very first release of John Varvatos in 2004 every perfume has been composed by the same perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux. That kind of long-term relationship is common in the niche sector but far less likely to happen in the mainstream perfume market. It is why flankers are usually so bland compared to their original. From the first John Varvatos straight through to the newest, and twelfth, release Dark Rebel this has been a brand which has thrived on being an outlier in the department store.

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John Varvatos (Photo: Richard Phibbs)

In reading eleven years of press notes, as I receive each release, it is evident that Mr. Varvatos is not an absentee creative director. As a result I think it allows for Sr. Flores-Roux to develop a deeper understanding of what a John Varvatos fragrance should smell like. Many of these press releases of the past have mentioned rock and roll; Dark Rebel is no different. What is different is this one is the closest to capturing that experience of wearing my leather jacket to hear a band at my favorite club. Sr. Flores-Roux captures the bar, the leather jacket, and the cigarettes as I wait for the music to begin.

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Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Sr. Flores-Roux opens with a very boozy rum sweetened with sugarcane. It has a bit of a kinship to a daiquiri. The spices which come next keep it from being overly sweet. Cardamom and clary sage, especially the latter, add a real edge to this rum cocktail. More spices continue this direction as black pepper and a beautiful nutmeg provide the transition to the leather accord at the heart. Every black leather jacket I have owned has had the same smell; animalic with a bit of oiliness. Sr. Flores-Roux captures this perfectly with fir and styrax providing the enhancement to the excellent leather accord. The base opens on a lovely golden tobacco which is roughened up with cade wood. The foundation is the new Akigalawood which is the biologically obtained fraction of patchouli which has stripped away the earthiness leaving the herbal and spicy facets. In Dark Rebel it closes the loop from the spices earlier to the leather in the heart. I think we are going to see a lot of Akigalawood especially in men’s designer releases over the next year.

Dark Rebel has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

From a line I have liked a lot over the past ten years Dark Rebel is easily my favorite as it finally gets the rock and roll vibe right. Both days I wore this I was channeling my inner Billy Idol curling my lip and singing “With a Rebel Yell more, more, more”. Please Mr. Varvatos and Sr. Flores-Roux; more, more more.

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by John Varvatos.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review: Zoologist Hummingbird- Buzzing Nectar

The more time I spend out in farm country the more I find unexpected things which please me. One of those that snuck up on me is the little group of three hummingbirds which have also called our house their house during the spring and summer months. We have three feeders spaced throughout the outside of the house where we can observe them. It also seems like they like to observe us as I have caught them many times in a hover looking in. It has been about a month since they headed south to wherever they spend their winter months. Since I was missing them it was nice of Victor Wong of Zoologist to provide a fragrant replacement with his fourth release Hummingbird.

Victor Wong

Victor Wong

At the end of 2014 Mr. Wong founded Zoologist with a set of three releases. Mr. Wong was an avid participant in all of the online fragrance talk. When he started his own line he decided to work with some of the brightest lights in the independent perfume community. It is an interesting process to observe as an independent perfumer who, by the very nature of the name, enjoys being creative director as well as perfumer entering into a collaboration. The success of the first three Zoologist releases I think is testament to Mr. Wong’s ability to find the right balance. For Hummingbird he has asked Shelley Waddington to be his partner in perfume.

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Shelley Waddington

I have come to really enjoy Ms. Waddington’s way with floral notes. Hummingbird shows off that ability throughout most of the development of the perfume. The hummingbirds which buzz around our house are constantly in search of nectar. Ms. Waddington has collected a mélange of fruit and floral nectars into an ambrosial concoction that glistens with sweet droplets.

Hummingbird opens with fruit in front. Ms. Waddington uses pear, apple, cherry, and plum as her starters. These are not dried fruits with rich tones. These are juicy fully ripened fruity notes. They are not restrained it is a celebration of fruity notes. Ms. Waddington then matches that exuberance with a floral bouquet equally as strong. The components of that are muguet, lilac, mimosa, peony, and ylang-ylang. The three which take the lead are the lilac, peony and ylang-ylang. Lilac on its own takes a firm hand to keep it from smelling like air fresheners. Ms. Waddington deftly avoids this by using the peony and ylang-ylang to add real depth to the lilac. After having gorged on the nectar these hummingbirds retreat to the surrounding trees to take a momentary rest. While it turns woody it doesn’t dial down the richness quotient. Sandalwood, moss, amber, and coumarin form a lovely soft woody resting place for Hummingbird to roost upon.

Hummingbird has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.

It will be a few months until the real things start flitting about. Until then Hummingbird will make me not miss them quite as much.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau

Everything has its Opening Day. Baseball’s is in April followed by football in September, hockey and basketball in October. September is the start of the Fine Arts calendar for many. It defines a new year differently than the calendar. Wine less obviously has an Opening Day but I consider the third Thursday in November Opening Day for each vintage of wine. That’s when the new vintage, by French law, of Beaujolais Nouveau is released.

Beaujolais Nouveau is a wine meant to be drunk immediately and that is unlike most wines which will get better with some age. The traditional Beaujolais gets better with a year or two of age in the bottle. Not so for Beaujolais Nouveau. The same Gamay grapes are used but they go from harvest to bottle in a matter of weeks. What this does is create a short fermentation making Nouveau one of the least alcoholic wines you can buy. It also keeps the grapes from having as much contact with the skins keeping the tannins down and forming a softer wine.

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Beaujolais Nouveau has been looked at as a predictor of that particular vintage year’s prospects. While that stretches its value a bit since Beaujolais sits far to the east of Bordeaux. It does fit in between Burgundy and the Rhone Valley where it might have a little more relevance. The only real solid correlation is to that year’s vintage in Beaujolais.

When I started spending regular time in New York I remember them flying in the bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau on the Concorde from Paris. There would be big tasting parties. The practice of obtaining the bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau by plane became so popular that the French allowed the wine to be shipped early outside of the country it just couldn’t be sold until after 12:01AM local time on the third Thursday of the month. Which is why no matter where you live you can lift a glass on the day of release now; no supersonic transports necessary.

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Georges Duboeuf

The producer responsible for this bit of hoopla is Georges Debouef who is one of the largest providers of Beaujolais wine. He started driving the bottles north to Paris on the opening day which would eventually spread to the rest of the world. What shouldn’t get lost under the showmanship is these are some of the best wines of the region. Every year a new label is produced to commemorate a new beginning. The wine inside is also pretty good. It is also a really great value as it can be found for less than $10 a bottle at most every wine store in the US.

The 2015 vintage has been touted as being one of the best in a while in Beaujolais and the 2015 version bears this out. As mentioned above these wines are always light in nature but the 2015 carries a bit more of everything characteristic about Beaujolais Nouveau. The grapes were riper and carrying more sugar so there is more alcohol content making it seem a little weightier. That added amount of sugar also enhances the fruity qualities so the cherry and raspberry facets are more pronounced than in recent years.

Beaujolais Nouveau due to its timing has been matched with the American holiday of Thanksgiving which happens on the fourth Thursday of November every year. While timing has something to do with it Beaujolais Nouveau is probably one of the most perfect wines to go with the traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, cranberry, and stuffing. Any wine carrying a more distinct body would overwhelm the blander flavors. Beaujolais Nouveau fits right in. It is an excellent companion to any poultry or light seafood preparation. Really anything where the food flavors are delicate and the wine needs to be as well.

I am writing this a week after the terrorist shootings in Paris of November 2015. It occurs to me that there is little more life affirming, in response to that tragedy, than lifting a glass of 2015 Beaujolais Nouveau. Continuing to live a life filled with wine, friends, and family is what it is all about.

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

Mark Behnke