Chanel 101- Five to Get You Started

There is no single perfume which is ingrained in popular culture more than Chanel No. 5. It has come to represent luxury, style, aldehydes, heck even perfume itself. I’ve left giving Chanel the 101 treatment for so long because of that elephant in the perfumed parlor. The question I kept asking myself was would I introduce someone just beginning to explore perfume to Chanel No. 5 as the first Chanel to try. After almost two years of thinking about this I think the answer is Chanel No. 5 is best appreciated if you come to it after having tried many other perfumes. Below are the five Chanel fragrances I think are the best place to start learning about the perfumed side of Chanel.

ernest beaux

Ernest Beaux

Ernest Beaux was a genius and that is borne out because he followed up Chanel No. 5 with a string of successful fragrance one after the other. Bois des Iles was M. Beaux’s ode to sandalwood. Before you get to the sandalwood in the base you go through a phase of coriander and petitgrain followed by a floral mix of jasmine, rose, and ylang-ylang. When you get to the sandalwood it is strengthened with ambrette seed along with other musks. A judicious use of vanilla brings out the creaminess of sandalwood. If you own Bois des Iles you pretty much don’t need another sandalwood perfume in your collection.

Cuir de Russie was M. Beaux’s entry into the leather perfume category. He would create one of the most redolent leather accords using birch, styrax, and cade wood. If this was all there was to Cuir de Russie it would still be good. What makes it a classic is the opening of orange blossom which transforms into jasmine before the leather gallops through the garden. One of the earliest leather perfumes and to this day still one of the greatest.

jacques polge

Jacques Polge

In 1981 perfumer Jacques Polge would begin his time as in-house perfumer at Chanel. He would bring the perfumed side of Chanel back to life in a big way with Coco. M. Polge worked in a diametrically opposite way from M. Beaux. Coco is a perfume so filled with concepts and flourishes it is like trying to follow a Fourth of July fireworks show on your skin. M. Polge refines the concept of fruity floral by adding in peach to the lightly floral frangipani and mimosa. This top accord is what every fruity floral since has tried, and mostly failed, to achieve. M. Polge mixes clove with a beautiful Rose Otto with jasmine also present. It provides a sultry floral heart. The base is mainly patchouli but with a number of grace notes surrounding it with musk being the most prominent. Coco comes in both Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum. It is the Eau de Parfum you should seek out.

If I was going to pick one perfume to introduce someone to Chanel it would be Coco Mademoiselle. Seventeen years after the creation of Coco M. Polge collaborated with Francois Demachy with whom he co-authored many of the best Chanels during this time period. Coco Mademoiselle as the name portends is the younger fresher cousin to Coco. It is a marriage of orange followed by rose and jasmine before heading to a base which is a bit like a faux chypre. Patchouli and vetiver create a chypre-ish vibe as a cocktail of white musks keep it on the clean side. Coco Mademoiselle is the most accessible of the entire brand.

M. Polge would create a contemporary chypre with 31 Rue Cambon. When Chanel launched the Les Exclusifs M. Polge showed he could make a classical perfume with the best of them. 31 Rue Cambon is a chypre which seduces with softer lines than usual in this style of perfume. It still carries the strong green nucleus but M. Polge blurs the edgy qualities and turns it into something more meditative. It is M. Polge’s modern interpretation which makes it something amazing.

Chanel has become such an iconic perfume brand because it has never rested on its reputation generated by Chanel No. 5. For almost 100 years it has stood for some of the best perfume you can experience. The five above are good places to begin.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Nobile 1942 Malia- Season of the Witch

As a reader of urban fantasy the image of a witch as ugly crone has been replaced with numerous badass beauties. One of the things which always strikes me in these novels is that each supernatural faction almost always has a distinctive smell. When it comes to witches it tends to revolve around spices. As if the residue of whatever spell they have been cooking up clings to them via scent. The newest release from Nobile 1942 called Malia is inspired by this modern version of a witch.

Nobile 1942 was a brand I became aware of about four years ago. It landed in the US with a huge collection which made it a bit of a chore to sift through to find the ones which were standouts. Since then it has been a more manageable release schedule of a few new perfumes a year. The line took a different turn last year when, working with perfumer Antonio Alessandria, it released Rudis. This felt like a departure for the brand as it had a bit more of an edge to it. Rudis was a boozy leather which was fine but had a drawback of having very poor longevity which made it feel like it was less than it should have been. I know I wanted Sig. Alessandria to have a do-over and Malia provides that opportunity. In this case he captures a witch’s brew centered on osmanthus.

antonio alessandria

Antonio Alessandria

Malia opens with fruits swathed in the piquancy of baie rose and black pepper with the herbal quality of marjoram. This did feel a bit like a spice cabinet as the fruits have their sunniness attenuated by the other notes. Osmantus arises from out of this with the apricot nature of it matching with the fruits in the top notes. Rose bolsters the floral nature for a little while before tobacco flower starts to bring forward the transparent leathery aspect of osmanthus. This is where the osmanthus feels like the object of a spell as it transforms from fruit to floral to animalic as each supporting note pulls that out. Malia heads to a base of earthiness with patchouli, vetiver, and oakmoss feeling like we might be deep in the woods. A nice use of musk in the late stages reminds you this witch has been hard at work.

Malia has good longevity of 8-10 hours and moderate sillage.

Sig. Alessandria made the most of his second effort for Nobile 1942 as Malia again feels like it stands apart compared to the rest of the brand. This time the development is dynamic over a number of hours. Just like every spell maybe it took Sig. Alessandria a second opportunity to enchant. Malia definitely caught my attention.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Nobile 1942 at Pitti Fragranze.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Van Cleef & Arpels Ambre Imperial- Crème Brulee for the Soul

There is a popular series of books called “Chicken Soup for the Soul” where editors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen collect inspirational essays. The title is obvious as chicken soup is a well-known curative straight from a family recipe. In my family we had nobody who was adept at making chicken soup. What I had was dessert makers and when I needed something from the kitchen to pick me up it was a dessert. One of my favorites was, and is, crème brulee. It is still how I judge a great restaurant; if they can’t cap off my dinner with an exceptional version then it will always be lacking in my book. There are not a lot of perfume versions of the dessert but the new Van Cleef & Arpels Ambre Imperial might be the best.

Creme-Brulee

Ambre Imperial is part of the Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire and is the tenth release for this exclusive collection. If I have had an issue with this collection it is that it has played it a bit too safe. The quality of ingredients has been there but they are often put to very standard uses. Orchidee Vanille was my favorite because it was a perfect evocation of freshly made vanilla ice cream straight from the churn. The sheer beauty of the vanilla matched with the floralcy of the orchid it comes from is what I wanted from a collection labeled extraordinary. Amber Imperial asks perfumer Quentin Bisch to create a different type of vanilla, something classic. Ambre Imperial is that crème brulee with a solid shell of amber lying on top of it.

Quentin Bisch

Quentin Bisch

M. Bisch opens Ambre Imperial with a typical flourish of bergamot made piquant by the presence of baie rose. It is nothing more than a momentary fillip towards the real business of Ambre Imperial which comes with a warm deeply satisfying amber accord. M. Bisch then uses benzoin to turn it into that hard fluid shell which coats the top of any good version of crème brulee. The vanilla comes to the foreground and while the amber and benzoin still have the floor it creates a caramel accord which eventually transitions into a solid vanilla base. The vanilla is supported by the toasty quality of tonka bean. The tonka reminds me of the black flecks of real vanilla pods I see in the best things featuring vanilla. It adds a sense of depth with its presence.

Ambre Imperial has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Amber Imperial is probably the most straight forward composition of M. Bisch’s career so far. Which is a good thing because while I appreciate his sense of adventure there is a point at the end of the day that I want my favorite sense-based artists to soothe me with something simple but rich. With Ambre Imperial M. Bisch has crafted crème brulee for my soul.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Costes- Giacobetti’s Hotel

As I’ve mentioned in the past I have never been to Paris. In my imagination I have been to Paris many times. For the last ten years it is a perfume which has been the inspiration for where I would want to stay on my mind trips. The perfume is 2003’s Costes by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti.

costes perfume

After an incredible eight year span where Mme Giacobetti created some of the best perfumes of that time she had decided to strike out on her own. In 2003 there was news she was working on her own line of perfumes. By 2005 that would become reality as the IUNX boutique would open in Paris. During this time the owner of the Hotel Costes in Paris, Jean-Louis Costes, convinced Mme Giacobetti to make a perfume to be used as the trademark scent for the Hotel Costes. For many years the only place to buy it was at the Hotel Costes. It is only fairly recently that it has been sold elsewhere. Because of that unavailability I think this is one of Mme Giacobetti’s least known perfumes from a time when she was producing one memorable perfume after another.

Costes is Mme Giacobetti’s take on a classic wood-laden Oriental. It has an exotic feel as she weaves in spicy and floral facets early on before a mix of woods and incense finish it all. It is the scent which represents where I want to begin and end my days when I eventually do get to Paris.

olivia-giacobetti

Olivia Giacobetti

Mme Giacobetti takes lavender as her opening and then sheathes it with spices. Coriander, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, and pepper. The last two notes are the most prominent as the cinnamon is that of red hots candy and the pepper is a little more biting than in most other perfumes. It is a mixture of spicy heat around the cool lavender. Rose and laurel comprise the heart and they form the bridge to the woods and incense in the base. The swirling spiral of incense winding its way through the latter stages of Costes is almost a trademark of Mme Giacobetti’s use of this note during this time period. It always feel like a tight spiral of resinous smoke rising off the tip of a lit stick of incense. It isn’t transparent but neither is it as strong as it can be. Mme Giacobetti knows how to find just the right volume for her incense. The woods are made much more interesting because of this level of incense.

Costes has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I suspect many are familiar with the highlights of Mme Giacobetti’s career from 1983-2001. Costs belongs with that time and phase of her creativity. Costes is like a found manuscript by a favorite author which reminds you how much you like the artist all over again.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Serge Lutens Section D’Or- When the Music Stops

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As a music fan there is a moment when my favorite acts eventually stop being relevant. There is that moment when you listen to the new music and realize it is not as good as what came before. Eventually the musician realizes it and goes on tour playing the hits. At that point I usually content myself with the music which captivated me in the beginning. There hasn’t been a perfume equivalent until I received samples of the five new perfumes which make up the Serge Lutens Section D’Or.

Serge Lutens was the brand of niche perfumery which represented everything I loved about that phrase. The creative direction of M. Lutens. His partnership with perfumer Christopher Sheldrake is one of the greatest in the niche sector. There are so many amazing perfumes which have come from them it is all the more disappointing to see where the brand is now. I received samples of the five new Section D’Or fragrances; Cannibale, Cracheuse de Flammes, L’Haleine des Deux, Renard Constrictor, and Sidi Bel-Abbes. For the first time I just wasn’t moved to wear any of them. I kept hoping that over time I would decide one was worth spending a couple days with but after many weeks I think the answer is no. I usually review things after wearing them for two days so these impressions are not like my normal review. I have smelled them extensively on strips and they each have claimed a small part of my forearm for a few hours. Any of them might get better if I was to bite the bullet and wear one. The truth is there isn’t one of these I want to do that with.

Christopher-Sheldrake

Christopher Sheldrake

Cannibale is perhaps the one with the most promise as it has its moments. Most of those are around a heart of myrrh, cistus, and rose. This leads to a base of incense but also intrusive woodsmoke. There is a fleeting reminder of the trademark Lutens stewed fruit but even that can’t make this more interesting.

When I reviewed the first Section D’Or L’Incendiaire I said this was perfume where it had been done before and done better by another brand. Cracheuses de Flammes is an amber rose which has been done by many before and I would say most of them are better. This is simple Turkish rose and warm amber. There is nothing special about this perfume.

L’Haleine des Dieux was so unbearable I couldn’t even bear to revisit it on the strip and I used an alcohol wipe to remove it minutes after I put a bit on my skin. Pine sap and sage provide an unpleasantly acerbic opening which falls into an unbalanced jasmine and balsam heart. Too much styrax and vanilla makes this oh for three. If I was handed this blind there is no way I would have guessed this was a Serge Lutens scent.

Renard Constrictor was the only one I actually considered wearing. The pine and the styrax are back but this time surrounding a pretty gardenia on a bed of amber and musk. As with the other Section D’Or releases there is not one iota of a new idea here just something seen many times in other brands.

Sidi Bel-Abbes should have been the one which lifted my mood. With notes of cumin, tobacco, leather, honey as the focal points this should have soared. It never leaves the ground as the cumin acts like a battering ram bowling over everything in its way not allowing for even a moment of beauty. The name comes from a French Foreign Legion outpost. This made me feel like I was in battle with it all the time.

When I can’t even bring myself to do a proper review of five new Serge Lutens releases it is sad confirmation that the music has died in the Palais Royale.

I can’t remember if I cried/ when I read about Section D’Or/ Something touched me deep inside/ The day the perfume died/ So Bye Bye Mister Serge Lutens/ drove my Fiat to the Palais but the Palais was closed/ and Chris and Serge were drinking absinthe and rye/ singing this will be the day that I die.

Adieu! It was fun while it lasted.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Barney’s New York.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Prada Olfactories Double Dare- Hazy Spices & Refined Leather

My first stop in NYC when I was in for Sniffapalooza weekend was a trip to the Prada boutique on Broadway. Prada introduced a new 10-fragrance collection to replace the now discontinued Exclusive Collection. The new collection will have the same semi-secret distribution pattern as it will only be available in select Prada boutiques and only if you know to ask for it. When I arrived at the Prada boutique I was surprised to see displays for all 10 of the new Olfactories showing the silk bags they come in, the inspiration piece, and the bottles. I was told they would only be up for another few days and then they would be moved to the same out of the way downstairs counter where the Exclusive Collection resided previously. Meaning if you don’t know they exist good luck in stumbling across them.

Daniela Andrier

Daniela Andrier

I own all of the perfumes in the Exclusive Collection and they are some of my favorites by perfumer Daniela Andrier. Mme Andrier has defined a Prada style which she has further executed at all levels within the Prada fragrance section. For the Olfactories Mme Andrier wanted to create “potent concotions of the unexpected”. What I found in sniffing the entire collection on strips and putting a few on my skin was that description was not uniformly applied throughout the collection. There were four which stood out on this initial visit. Cargo de Nuit was a mix of aldehydes, cedar, and musks that gave off an interesting aquatic vibe. There was a little bit too much ambroxan for my taste to make me want to buy it, but it is “potent”. Pink Flamingos seems like a Japanese aesthetic as viewed by John Waters. Mme Andrier takes a heart of orris, cherry, and rose and makes it seem garish but not cheap. Nue au Soleil surprised me as Mme Andrier produces a simple construct of orange blossom, patchouli, and musk. Except this was the strip which changed the most over the twenty-four hours I kept trying it. This is a gilded orange blossom which feels decadent. Both Pink Flamingos and Nue au Soleil will definitely find their way into my grasp over time. The one which I bought on the day was Double Dare.

prada olfactories silk purses


The silk pouches for each of the Olfactories

In the store Double Dare was simply described as “leather and suede”. Which is true but where many of the Olfactories are exactly what the small phrase promises Double Dare had more to offer than just leather. It is the journey to that leather in the base which made it my favorite. If you go to the Prada Olfactories website for Double Dare you will find this description, “Creatures roam in a warm haze of spices and leather”. It is those spices along with a couple of other choices which made Double Dare my choice on the day.

Double Dare opens on the promised “spicy haze” made up of cardamom and saffron. These are two of my favorite spice notes in perfumery and Mme Andrier balances them perfectly as they do feel like a diaphanous spicy veil. A lovely transparent jasmine joins this after a few minutes. All of this is introduction for the suede accord to come. This is not hazy, diaphanous, or transparent. This is leather. This is the creature underneath the haze. It is very refined leather as it has all the rough edges removed but it carries power. Enough to impose itself over the spices and jasmine. Vetiver and patchouli provide some contrast to the refined nature of the suede accord. At the very end a warm amber and vanilla come out to bring back the refinement.

Double Dare has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

At least on first impression I do not think the overall Olfactories are as good as the Exclusives Collection was. There are some which I think are every bit as good. I bought Double Dare because I believe it forms a trilogy with No. 3 Cuir Ambre and No. 11 Cuir Styrax of Mme Andrier’s exploration of leather. Double Dare could easily have been named No. 15 Cuir Epices. If you find yourself near a Prada boutique it is worth the effort to try the collection. It may all eventually grow on me over time. In the meantime Double Dare will do a fine job representing the other nine for the time being.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Imagine by John Lennon

There are times when it seems like bad outweighs the good in the world. Every week has its share of both; the past week seems to have been shaded a little darker. Events which took place in Beirut on Thursday and Paris on Friday are those which somehow seem to attach to my psyche the most. When a terrorist act is committed in the name of a cause it causes me to wonder at the why of it all. My emotions are in a jumble for days afterward. They ping pong from despair to anger. Except today I was reminded how healing music can be.

While I was reading an update on the news there was a link to the impromptu performance above. An anonymous piano player wheeled his piano out in front of the music venue which was attacked in Paris, the Bataclan theatre, and played one single song. While I watched it a large amount of my malaise was lifted away. It wasn’t the quality of the performance that did that. It was the song being played which made me feel better. It also allowed me to consider what a powerful statement that song is on our world almost 44 years to the day after it was released. That song is Imagine by John Lennon.

Imagine was the first single off the second post- The Beatles album Mr. Lennon recorded.  It was released in October of 1971 and is the best-selling song of Mr. Lennon’s solo career. It is musically one of the more simple compositions you will hear in a popular song. Which allows a listener to focus on the lyrics.

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

It is a dream of course as there are no currently practical ways of making most of what is asked for here to become reality. What always touches me when I hear Imagine is that it is an aspiration for a world where the good far outweighs the bad. Today I needed a reminder that the good most often is in ascendance. Imagine was that reminder of that as played by a man on the street in Paris.

Mark Behnke

Boot or Reboot: Norell (1968) & Norell New York (2015)- Requiem for an Original

If I was to offer up a pop quiz and ask this question, “Name the first American designer fragrance?” I bet, notwithstanding looking at the title of this article, few would come up with the correct answer. Norell was the first American designer fragrance. Charles Revson of Revlon and perfumer Josephine Catapano were the creative team behind the perfume representing fashion designer Norman Norell. Norell became the first perfume to feature a huge amount of galbanum in the top notes. It was a trailblazer in many ways. In 1968 it was debuted in the luxury department store Bonwit Teller. It sold $1 Million dollars in its first year. Today heavily reformulated it can be found in any drugstore franchise fragrance cabinet.

In 2015 it was thought the Norell name needed to be recaptured in the fragrance sector. Perfumer Celine Barel was asked to create a new version called Norell New York. Ms. Barel has made a perfume which definitely has some of the same components but they have been altered in strength and prominence to create something similar but different.

norell 1968

Photo: www.vintageadbrowser.com

Norell (1968) opens with that blast of galbanum. Smelling it now that doesn’t seem to be different than many very green perfumes on the market. In 1968 this was a completely unique opening. The galbanum moves into a full floral heart of hyacinth, rose, and gardenia. Ms. Catapano adds the twist of using clove and cinnamon leaves to provide a long tail on the galbanum and a real accentuation of the spicy core of the rose. In many ways this is also the trendsetter for the spicy floral heart which will explode in the 1970’s. The base is another ahead of its time piece of work as it takes a large amount of oakmoss and softens it tremendously with sandalwood, vanilla and orris. It was a supple foundation which would also not become fashionable for another 10-15 years. If there is one word to describe Norell it is green.

norell new york 2015

That is not the word I would use to describe Norell New York (2015). This time I would say floral. Ms. Barel does hearken back to the original with a bit of galbanum in the top but it is matched with an equal amount of pear. The heart is floral dominated but instead of rose Ms. Barel uses jasmine as her focal point to which gardenia and peony provide the supporting roles. Here the green has been cut off at the pass and we are in more traditional fruity floral territory with the pear and florals interacting. The place where Norell New York most closely resembles the original is in the base as Ms. Barel uses sandalwood, vanilla, and orris. Her stand-in for the oakmoss is a particularly earthy patchouli. All together it is a really excellent re-creation of the original’s base.

One final experiment I performed with a strip of Norell and Norell New York was I gave it to a group of women who are similar in age to me in their late 40’s early 50’s; four out of the five preferred the older Norell using words like “classic”. I also tried the same exercise with five women in their late 20’s early 30’s and the result was the opposite; four out of five preferred the more recent version. Those women all had a strong reaction to the original calling it the dreaded “old lady” smell. I pointed out the base was similar in the new version but they all like the fruity floral opening so much that it seems that similarity didn’t matter.

If I was presented a bottle of the original Norell in a pristine well-preserved box I would obviously choose that. But the Norell which I find at my local CVS has been cheapened by reformulation so much that it has lost much of the original verve it had. Which is why I am pleased that Norell New York exists. By using a slightly different name and allowing a perfumer instead of an accountant to modernize the brand. The new release is a much more fitting representative of the first American designer perfume.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of the original Norell provided by an anonymous donor. The current Norell was purchased by me. Norell New York came from a sample provided by Bergdorf Goodman.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ralph Lauren Polo Supreme Leather- Hold the Woods, Add the Suede

The first step on my fragrant path was getting Jovan Musk for my thirteenth birthday. The second step was moving up to Ralph Lauren Polo when I was in college. While I really only look at my bottle of Jovan Musk these days there is always some time when I want to wear Polo. That affection has always made me interested when a new flanker of Polo is released. It has been an uneven experience over the years but there is a nice little collection of similarly shaped bottles on a shelf in my closet which indicates there have been some hits. What I have found when I look closer is that most of those were composed by Carlos Benaim who did the original Polo. Which now makes me look forward to any new Polo he produces.

2015 has seen the Polo flankers move into something called a “Supreme” series where they feature a specific note. The first release, in the beginning of the year, was Polo Supreme Oud. M. Benaim along with Clement Gavarry were responsible and they used the cypriol oud accord but nothing about that felt like Polo to me. It had the name but it didn’t have the essence. For the last part of the year the second release is Polo Supreme Leather. This one feels like it has both the name and the essence.

carlos_benaim_1

Carlos Benaim

Two of my favorite versions of Polo are Crest and Modern Reserve. One of the reasons I like them is M. Benaim tweaks the spices on top in both cases. Basil is in Polo, rosemary in Crest, and cardamom in Modern Reserve. The entry spice for Polo Supreme Leather is nutmeg and even though it is different it is somehow similar enough to make it feel like a Polo. The rest of the construction is also made up of very different notes from Polo. Because the leather is being featured M. Benaim can particularly get away with changing things up in the foundation.

Polo Supreme Leather opens with a soft breath of cardamom and bergamot before the nutmeg steals that breath away. Saffron and sage provide the next additions to the nutmeg. It provides a nicely constructed triangle as all three notes form a lively accord. Rose is the floral at the heart of Polo Supreme Leather and it fills up the space within that triangle beautifully. By having it framed in those spices it keeps it from becoming too rosy. It does a fine job of butching up the rose but it is the next note which really takes care of that. Suderal is a synthetic leather aromachemical which smells like the most expensive suede leather. The leather in the traditional Polo base is fused to woods. In Polo Supreme Leather there are no woods. It is just the supple sweet leathery smell of Suderal. M. Benaim uses Tonka and a honey accord to amp up the sweeter refined quality of the Suderal. This is where Polo Supreme Leather remains for hours and hours.

Polo Supreme Leather has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.

This was a much more successful attempt to feature an ingredient than the first Supreme. Polo Supreme Leather gets all of the things right that I want in a Polo flanker. A spicy opening, an herbal floral heart, and a leathery base. The suede is so interesting I never noticed that the woods weren’t there until the second time I wore it. I believe my Polo bottles will be getting a new addition very soon.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Bloomingdale’s.

 –Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Rebel Intuitive Grace at 67th- The Moments In-Between

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There are many fragrances inspired by rock and roll. Many of them try and capture the music or the artist. The new independent brand Rebel Intuitive took a different tack. Art director Katy Knuth and perfumer Beckie Sheloske were inspired by the story of model Anita Pallenberg and her time with the Rolling Stones. This would be the seed from which the perfume Grace at 67th would spring.

katy knuth becky sheloske

Katy Knuth (l.) and Becky Sheloske (Photo: Heather Gray)

Ms. Pallenberg was the companion for The Rolling Stones from 1967-1980. She started off as the girlfriend of Brian Jones before moving on to become the partner of Keith Richards. This is not the story of a groupie as Ms. Pallenberg was much more than that. She was the muse for the band as her opinion was valued and sought out. Grace at 67th is meant to capture the moments when the lights are off and inspiration comes from each other.

grace at 67th inspiration

Photographic Inspiration for Grace at 67th (Photo: Heather Gray; Models: Maggie Lenz-McQuilken and Ben Roy)

Ms. Knuth and Ms. Sheloske spoke at the recent Sniffapalooza Fall Ball and their creative process is quite interesting. The two of them have the typical give and take between a creative director and perfumer but then instead of evaluators they invite their friends to a session they call “Rebel Smells”. Here they give a perfume they are working on to friends and ask them to describe it in any way they would like. This gives the creatives the opportunity to see if they are achieving the desired effect. For Grace at 67th that effect seemed to be to capture the moment where inspiration and creativity result in something real.

To capture the moment of all-consuming effort Ms. Sheloske uses a couple of florals to capture the beauty and the razor’s edge of entropy occurring at once. Narcissus is that heady moment of success. Costus provides the decay of the genesis of an idea perhaps getting away from you. In the end Grace at 67th is the result of a concept made concrete matched with the satisfaction that goes with it.

As the session begins Ms. Sheloske opens with an herbal triad of basil, sage, and tarragon. These notes radiate a spiky kinetic vibe. That moment when you just have to get that concept out in the open. Neroli represents the muse in the room. The soft floral strolls through capturing the wearer’s attention. Violet leaf reminds you that the creative juices are flowing as it adds a sharper green counterpoint. It all coalesces into the eureka moment as narcotic narcissus rides over it all in a pleasant wave. The base is trying to pull it all together but the sweetly decaying floralcy of costus is a warning of the precarious nature of creation. Ms. Sheloske’s choice to use costus here is very interesting. It works as the slightly dirty nature inherent within provides the humanity underneath it all. It gets reinforced with the botanical musk of ambrette seed. Myrrh provides the satisfied hum of a successful collaboration.

Grace at 67th has 6-8 hour longevity and very little sillage.

I like the decisions made by Ms. Knuth and Ms. Sheloskie to look for the moments in-between for their rock and roll inspiration. Grace at 67th evokes the moments between the spotlights where the music really lives.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Rebel Intuitive at sniffapalooza Fall Ball 2015.

Mark Behnke