That Unattainable Object of Desire F. Millot Crepe de Chine- Jean Desprez’s “Other” Perfume

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Whenever I have the opportunity to try something from the Osmotheque I am petrified there will be something I love that I can’t find. My very first experience with this came when I attended Esxence in 2011. There Patricia de Nicolai of the Osmotheque had brought a traveling case of many of the faithful reconstructions from Versailles to Milan. Over the course of the four days of the fair I kept going back and asking to try something else. Everything I had tried had been good but I didn’t have to have one. Then Mme de Nicolai handed me a strip of F. Millot Crepe de Chine and I was lost.

crepe de chine

Crepe de Chine made its debut at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels in 1925. This was the coming out for Art Deco as a movement across multiple artistic endeavors. Fragrance was well represented by Jean Patou who had some of the most beautiful Art Deco bottles of the time. Guerlain Shalimar also appeared. F. Millot wanted to join the party and also came up with an Art Deco inspired flacon. The perfume to go in it was Crepe de Chine composed by Jean Desprez. Thirty-seven years prior to the perfume M. Desprez is most known for Bal a Verailles. Most people aren’t even aware he did another fragrance. It is always my pleasure to introduce fans of Bal a Versailles to M. Desprez’s “other” fragrance.

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Jean Desprez

What makes Crepe de Chine so memorable for me is the jasmine at its heart. I love my jasmine as funky as it can get. I want the indoles to be front and center. It is why that kind of jasmine is so perfect as part of a chypre. Which is what Crepe de Chine is. The source of the jasmine has been reputed to be the famous Jasmine de Grasse but I can only find anecdotal confirmation of that. The jasmine used is high quality; that I only need my nose for.

Crepe de Chine opens on a fizz of aldehydes carrying one of the sharper bergamots I have found. It is like popping a champagne cork and the liquid comes flowing out in a gush. That’s the opening moments. Then the jasmine arrives. Oh my does it arrive. It comes in and takes over the joint. This is that woman who is also an unattainable object of desire. It is gorgeous, experienced, and intelligent. Her friends ylang-ylang and lilac only deepen that impression. Then we get the chypre base of vetiver, oakmoss, patchouli, and musk. This is a chypre accord with all of the bite you could ask for. Matched with the jasmine it is exquisite.

Crepe de Chine has 6-8 hour longevity and prodigious sillage.

millot crepe de chine perfume ad

Obviously Crepe de Chine was meant to be a women’s perfume. The ad above captures that even in 1963 it was for a very certain kind of woman. On the days I wear this though I get the same response from the women who smell it on me. I think if I was ever to be out looking for a good time again Crepe de Chine might very well be my choice for a night on the town.

The review above comes from the Osmotheque version. I have since acquired two very well-preserved bottles and they lack some of the brightness but surprisingly more than a little of the aldehydes have persevered. The jasmine has aged like a femme fatale in her middle years; still dangerous and much more experienced. One accord I have found time and again in the vintage bottles I own which stands the ravages of time is the chypre accord and it is true in Crepe de Chine.

If you’re looking to acquire a bottle the best is to get one which is still sealed and the juice has a greenish tint to it. If the juice is very dark stay away it has been exposed to way too much light and oxygen. These bottles show up on the online auction sites often but Crepe de Chine is one of the perfumes which does not handle poor storage well. Be very careful if you decide to chase one down.

If this review has piqued your interest to try Crepe de Chine I am sorry I have done to you what Mme de Nicolai did in 2011 to me.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I have purchased.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2016 Hopes and Wishes

As we reach the last day of 2015 it is time to look forward to 2016. Here are some things I am anticipating and/or hoping for.

christine nagel

Christine Nagel

The first fragrance from Christine Nagel for Hermes. This is a holdover from last year. I expected this to happen in 2015 but I will be very surprised if I am typing this for the third time at the end of next year. I firmly believe she is the right successor to Jean-Claude Ellena. I just want to see what she does first.

I want another great Guerlain. Over the last two years Guerlain has fallen into that pitfall of complacency. They have made solid perfume which has been so safe. It has been three years since the release of Rose Nacree du Desert, which was the last one to slay me. Surely when you are releasing over a dozen new releases per year there is a spot for something less safe and more different.

I still want that big crossover success for an independent perfumer. This has been a hope for as long as I’ve been blogging. It hasn’t quite come true yet. Although the move of Christi Meshell of House of Matriarch and Raymond Matts taking their perfumes into Nordstrom is one element that will be needed to make this come true.

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I want the inaugural edition of The Perfumed Plume to be a big success. For too long as a US writer I’ve been envious of my European colleagues who have yearly awards for their writing. Lyn Leigh and Mary Ellen Lapsansky have established The Perfumed Plume to be the American version. I think there is a lot of great writing happening in the fragrant blogosphere and I want to see it recognized appropriately.

I wish for new brands to start with no more than three to five debut releases. 2015 saw more new brands coming to the market with ten or more entries. This kind of business plan is unsustainable because the little boutiques which are the life blood for a new niche brand can’t just give over shelf space for ten new perfumes with no audience. If you have ten great ideas please pick your three best and build an audience; for the other seven.

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Vero Kern

I am hoping for a new Vero Kern release. After taking 2015 off I suspect that 2016 will bring us the follow-up to Rozy. Please don’t make me wait too long Vero.

I hope for the continued success of initiatives like Tauerville. Andy Tauer’s Tauerville line is a great introduction to independent perfumery at an attractive price point paired with perfumes which display that indie ethos. I would like to see some others make an effort to try something similar.

I ended last year’s column with this:

One non-perfume hope is for the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens to be the Star Wars movie I’ve been waiting thirty years for. I think JJ Abrams is the man who can actually pull that off.

Sometimes wishes do come true.

On this New Year’s Eve I convey to all the readers of Colognoisseur the Happiest of New Year’s wishes. May all of them come true in 2016.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Year-End Review Part 3- The Top 25 New Perfumes of the Year

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Every year I make up this list I surprise myself at how much I have tried over the year and how little it represents of the total new perfumes released. This year I sniffed 686 new releases out of 1676 total. I think I am in a great position to try as much as I do and I still missed trying over half of 2015’s new fragrances. It is always a difficult job to winnow my favorites down to a top 25 because there are usually more than that which I will personally own. Here are the bottles which will eventually be gracing my perfume cabinet.

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Naomi Goodsir

Top 5 (Perfume of the Year Candidates)

5. Alaia Paris Almost everything I try comes with a pre-conceived notion of what I think it will smell like. When it came to Alaia I had been told it was supposed to smell like “the smell of hot water falling on cold chalk”. While I still don’t get the chalk the hot and cold contrast is readily apparent to me. Perfumer Marie Salamagne created an olfactory silhouette of steamy ozonic accords which eventually end up on a mixture of precisely balanced white musks to offer the cold as well as the feral. Best designer fragrance of 2015.

4. Memo African Leather– Memo has been one of my favorite brands of the last few years. African Leather is the best of what is becoming a very strong overall collection within Memo, Cuirs Nomades. African Leather is the smell of the savannah, animalic and alive. It is also the culmination of the long partnership between creative director Clara Molloy and perfumer Alienor Massenet. They have evolved into a formidable fragrance team who I only suspect have even better days ahead.

3. Aftelier BergamossMandy Aftel had a stellar year with two outstanding releases. Vanilla Smoke could easily have slid into this spot except that Bergamoss got here first and it has been an object of fragrant fascination for me over the last half of the year. A solid perfume, Bergamoss carries with it a unique intimacy as applying it in such a tactile way draws you in. What you encounter is as good a modern chypre as I have smelled. The use of flouve absolute provides an ever-shifting frame of reference between the bergamot and the moss. An Eau de Parfum version was released at the end of the year as a limited edition and it is also extremely good but it is the solid version which is the one I adore.

2. Aedes de Venustas Palissandre D’Or– The creative team of Karl Bradl, Robert Gerstner, and Francois Duquesne collaborated with perfumer Alberto Morillas to create a perfume of colored bands. Spices paint a burnt siena, cinnamon and sandalwood provide a lacquered red leading to a base of molten gold as three different cedars come together. It seems obvious that M. Morillas is delighted to be able to use these ingredients when working on a niche release. Palissandre D’Or is a joyous collaboration of passion.

1. Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendre For more detail read Part 2. For this piece the most unique iris fragrance in four years.

Here are the rest of the Top 25 in Alphabetical Order

Atelier Cologne Figuier Ardente– Atelier Cologne had a fantastic year with Oud Saphir, Jasmine Angelique, and Musc Imperial all among the best of the line. It was Figuier Ardente which has become my favorite of one of my favorite lines. Creative director Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel works with longtime partner in Cologne Absolue, Ralf Schwieger. What they have done is a time-lapse ripening of a fig from green to luscious decadence. Best fig perfume of the last five years.

Bruno Fazzolari SeyrigBruno Fazzolari was another perfumer with two outstanding releases. Room 237 is the Blair Witch Project in a bottle. Seyrig was an homage to the days of big aldehydes with lilac added in. Fabulous Retro Nouveau release.

DSH Perfumes The Voices of TreesDawn Spencer Hurwitz released an impressive breadth of releases from the abstract to the Retro Nouveau, all of them are noteworthy. The Voices of Trees is the best of them. Following up on last year’s Seve de Pin; The Voices of Trees adds in maple and sycamore to the pinon resin infused pine oil which made Seve de Pin so memorable. The Voices of Trees is better in every way. After much thought I think this is the best perfume Ms. Hurwitz has ever made. It is flawless.

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En Voyage Perfumes Frida– Perfumer Shelley Waddington released a strong slate in 2015, too. Frida is my favorite because within the tuberose there is a fierce heartbeat of passion. Ms. Waddington gets this completely right.

Grandiflora Madigascan Jasmine– Perfumer Michel Roudnitska working with creative director Saskia Havekes has created one of the most interesting jasmine soliflores I own. By using specific notes to explore every facet of a beautifully chosen Madigascan Jasmine I come away with a greater love for this floral than ever before.

Equipage_Geranium

Hermes Equipage Geranium– This third re-examination of a legacy Hermes perfume by Jean-Claude Ellena is the best. Evolving the tack room of Equipage into the leather chair in the library with Equipage Geranium. He has created a relevant version for the current day.

Hiram Green Voyage– Indie perfumer Hiram Green has made the best perfume of his career. Voyage is an exotic spicy leather which morphs into a vanilla gourmand. One of the most intricately constructed perfumes on this list.

John Varvatos Dark Rebel– The John Varvatos line might be the best mass-market men’s fragrance line out there. One reason for that is perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux who has overseen all of them. Dark Rebel’s boozy black leather jacket is the best of them all.

Le Labo The Noir 29– Worried that Estee Lauder was going to screw up Fabrice Penot and Eddie Roschi’s baby? The Noir 29 by perfumer Frank Voelkl feels like the spiritual evolution of 2011’s Santal 33. Except I like it even more.

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M. Micallef AkowaGeoffrey Nejman and Jean-Claude Astier create a perfume which is so overstuffed with ideas it is hard to figure out where to focus first. The most kaleidoscopic perfume of 2015 for its ever shifting nature.

Masque Milano Romanza– Creative Directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi put their faith in young gun Cristiano Canali. What they received was a lush passionate narcissus perfume which touches my soul every time I wear it.

Miu Miu– Miu Miu led the charge of the mainstream perfumes over the last quarter of 2015. Prior to that it was looking bleak. Perfumer Daniela Andrier made a perfume which seemed classic and contemporary at the same time.

Neela Vermeire Creations PicholaNeela Vermeire working with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour has made one of the most breathtakingly beautiful tuberose perfumes I own. Mainly because it is a tightly green tuberose which explodes into full flower with a bang. I described it like a Bollywood dance number breaking out in a garden. I don’t have a better way to explain it now.

Nishane Istanbul Afrika Olifant– Creative directors Mert Guzel and Murat Katran debuted their Nishane Istanbul line this year. Afrika Oliphant is the best of the brand as it combines real animalic raw materials with the synthetic musks meant to replace that material. Perfumer Jorge Lee makes something which feels like a cyborg version of the feral.

olfactive panorama

Olfactive Studio PanoramaCeline Verleure working with perfumer Clement Gavarry would make a perfume of fierce verdancy. With nothing more eye-catching than the wasabi accord which greets you upon spritzing this on. The most singular artistic statement Olfactive Studio has ever made.

Raymond Matts PashayRaymond Matts’ Aura de Parfum was a collection I greatly admired. I was first attracted to Kaiwe but over the year Pashay has become my favorite. Perfumer Christophe Laudamiel creates a magnetic salty skin accord using Kalamata olive as the linchpin. Pashay is a triumph of composition.

Rubini Fundamental– Fundamental was a true team effort of Andrea Rubini, perfumer Cristiano Canali, historian Ermano Picco, and packaging sorceress Francesca Gotti. They have made one of the strongest debut fragrances of the last few years. This is why I love perfume.

Slumberhouse KisteJosh Lobb’s most approachable creation. A lazy Savannah summer evening with a pitcher of sweet tea sweating on the table. He captured the decaying fecundity of the thickly growing plants along with a bespoke tobacco accord. I get lost within its lunatic embrace every time.

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Stephane Humbert Lucas Mortal Skin– Decay is a theme in this magnificent perfume by Stephane Humbert Lucas. From its inky incense opening to a battle of entropy in the base between an accord of ambergris and labdanum versus civet and musk. It is a battle where the winner changes in a kinetic way over hours. This snake has me in its coils.

Strangelove NYC meltmyheart– The second release from Strangelove NYC. Creative director Helena Christensen worked with perfumer Christophe Laudamiel to make a chocolate, oud and orris perfume with an unusual fragility for something made up of those notes. This has been one of my most worn perfumes of the last few months.

The Final Cuts: The 18 Which Just Missed the Top 25: Amouage Opus IX, Arquiste Nanban, Atelier des Ors Lune Feline, Bvlgari Eau Parfumee au The Bleu, Byredo Rose of No Man’s Land, Cartier Oud Radieux, Chanel Misia, Charenton Macerations Asphalt Rainbow, Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom, Jul et Mad Nea, Jul et Mad Garuda, Maria Candida Gentile Elephant and Roses, Olivier Durbano Chrysolithe, Orlov Star of the Season, Pierre Guillaume Mojito Chypre, Roja Parfums A Goodnight Kiss, Unum LAVS, and Vilhelm Black Citrus.

That is it for 2015. I will rest up for a couple days and begin 2016 hoping it is as good as 2015 was.

Part 1 was my general overview of 2015.

Part 2 was my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2015 Year-End Review Part 2- Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, & Brand of the Year

In a year when I smelled almost 700 new perfumes it is easy to focus on some of the problems which affect the perfume industry. What is nice about this time of year is it allows me to focus on what is outstanding within perfumery. These next four winners are what keep me coming back for more.

Iris Cendre bottle

Perfume of the Year: Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendre– There is one thing about finding a great perfume for the first time at one of the big expos; it stands out head and shoulders above all that surround it. When I arrived at this fall’s Pitti Fragranze in Florence my very first stop was to see Australian born milliner Naomi Goodsir and her partner in perfume Renaud Coutaudier. I look forward to connecting with this brand because these two have an uncompromising attention to detail in each of their releases. In three years they have only released four perfumes. Every single one of them is among the best for their particular year. I knew there was going to be a transcendent entry sooner than later. On that September day in Florence Iris Cendre turned out to be that fragrance.

For Iris Cendre Mme Goodsir and M. Coutaudier returned to the perfumer they worked with on their first two releases, Julien Rasquinet. Together they created a shimmering green iris which had a sly callback to their earlier collaboration Bois D’Ascese in the base. Iris Cendre is a success on every level I can name. Choosing a Perfume of the Year has never been easier.

christophe laudamiel

Perfumer of the Year: Christophe Laudamiel– This category was the toughest it has ever been for me. There was so much laudable work by many perfumers this year I ended up looking for intangibles to elevate my eventual choice, Christophe Laudamiel. The perfume reasons were the three 2015 releases he composed; Raymond Matts Pashay, Raymond Matts Tulile, and Strangelove NYC meltmyheart. I mentioned in my overview yesterday that there were more unabashedly synthetic perfumes released this year. In the past I have used M. Laudamiel’s work for brands like Humiecki & Graef or Nest as what can be accomplished with a primarily synthetic palette. The three perfumes he worked on for 2015 are even better examples especially the Raymond Matts Pashay. Strangelove NYC meltmyheart shows how he can take a perfectly executed central accord of chocolate, oud, and orris accompanied by a set of synthetics which impart a transparency to create something supernatural.

The intangible that lifted him over the others listed below is his tireless work for The Academy of Perfumery & Aromatics. In that capacity he developed a fantastic children’s introductory set to fragrance. By using different ingredients and tying them to their geographic location and their smells it is an ingenious way of introducing the concept of scent, in an educational way, to the next generation.

A great year of perfume combined with an important ambassadorial role makes Christophe Laudamiel my Perfumer of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Mandy Aftel, Cristiano Canali, Jean-Claude Ellena, Bruno Fazzolari, Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Pierre Negrin, and Geza Schoen.

CELINE_VERLEURE 

Creative Director of the Year: Celine Verleure of Olfactive Studio– Of the many things I say over and over it is how disappointed I am when a brand plays it safe. While I press for a brand to take risks their bottom line is at stake to please my desire. Any Creative Director who takes too many risks will probably not succeed. My choice for Creative Director of the Year is Celine Verleure of Olfactive Studio who fearlessly released two very different perfumes in 2015, Panorama and Selfie.

Mme Verleure has always been interested in pushing the envelope as a Creative Director and that started with her work on the Kenzo Jungle collection from 1996-1998 which were not hewing to current trends at that time. When she started Olfactive Studio in 2011 she still made memorable riffs on recognizable templates but the early releases were about building an audience. In 2015 she challenged that audience with the fierce greenness of Panorama including a wasabi accord. Followed up by Selfie which took a fractured top accord of contrasting notes and coalesced it around a maple syrup heart. It is a fascinating bit of olfactory architecture I enjoy every time I wear it. These are perfumes which invite scrutiny and that is something I can only say about the very best releases in a year.

For her sense of adventure, I name Celine Verleure my Creative Director of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Karl Bradl (Aedes de Venustas and Nomenclature), Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel (Atelier Cologne), Madalina Stoica-Blanchard and Julien Blanchard (Jul et Mad), Christopher Chong (Amouage), and Marina Sersale and Sebastian Alvarez Murena (Eau D’Italie, ALTAIA).

sylvie christophe

Brand of the Year: Atelier Cologne– Atelier Cologne has been on an ever expanding trajectory since their founding in 2010. This year represented their most ambitious to date as they released eight new fragrances and an extrait version of one of the bestsellers. Owners and Creative Directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel have always impressed me with their clear vision for their brand. By releasing a four fragrance Collection Azur at the beginning of the year meant to be an introduction to the world of Cologne Absolue which was released to various Sephora for that reason. It was followed by four releases spread out through the year that continued the evolution of this style of perfume. Saphir Oud, Pomelo Paradis, Jasmine Angelique, and Musc Imperial displayed the versatility that can be elicited from this concept.

Atelier Cologne is also the genial ambassador to niche for many who don’t live in large cities. I have lost count how many times I have told those who live in these areas to go to their local Sephora and try the Atelier Cologne that are there. I almost invariably get a return e-mail relating to me how they bought one after smelling the difference. I always talk about wanting niche brands to reach out to consumers beyond the big cities. Atelier Cologne has done this with great success.

For those reasons Atelier Cologne is my Brand of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Aftelier Perfumes, DSH Perfumes, Hermes, Jo Malone, and Olfactive Studio.

Part 1 was my broad overview of the year.

Part 3 tomorrow I will reveal my top 25 new perfumes of 2015.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2015 Year-End Review Part 1- Overview

I start this as I do every year; 2015 was a great year for perfume. It is easy to get cynical with the mountain of perfume that is out there; 99% of it forgettable and derivative. What I live for is the other 1% for within that tiny slice of releases is what makes me so interested in fragrance. I set a new personal yearly record in sniffing just under 700 new fragrances in 2015. That leaves me missing out on over 900 new releases as there were 1676 new releases in 2015. Let me see if I can share with you some of my optimism about the perfume industry.

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Julien Rasquinet

As some of our greatest perfumers like Jean-Claude Ellena and Jacques Polge prepare to retire you want to see the next generation of perfumers. 2015 displayed a number of strong releases from a quartet of young perfumers Cristiano Canali composed Rubini Fundamental and Masque Milano Romanza. Luca Maffei did two of the Jul et Mad Les Whites; Nea and Garuda. Cecile Zarokian did two for Parfums MDCI Cio Cio San and Les Indes Galantes. Julien Rasquinet did Histoires de Parfums Fidelis and Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendre.

frida

In the American independent perfume community there was also continued great work from the likes of Josh Lobb at slumberhouse with Kiste. Shelley Waddington had her own En Voyage Frida and Zoologist Hummingbird. Bruno Fazzolari’s homage to The Shining, Room 237, was fantastic.

There was also a coterie of brand new perfume brands which were memorable for me this year. Holladay Saltz’s Apoteker Tepe, Atelier des Ors, Orlov Paris, Vilhelm, Unum, and Dasein. None of them made me smile more that Stephen Dirkes’ Penny Dreadful as perfume multi-media releases for Euphorium Brooklyn. This is fragrance as fun and I was happy to go along for the ride.

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I noticed there was a greater embrace of the synthetic in perfume. Starting with Raymond Matts Aura de Parfum collection all the way through to the four inaugural releases for Nomenclature. These brands were unafraid to show the versatility a synthetic can display.

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The mainstream offerings at the mall also had a strong year and in a year where Miu Miu, Alaia, and Marc Jacobs Decadence all stood out for offering something different in the mall that is a good trend.. It also saw a strong year for a niche brand that now has a strong department store presence, Jo Malone; Mimosa & Cardamom and Orris & Sandalwood are among the best in that very extensive line.

For every brand on the upswing there were a few who had less memorable years. 2015 was entirely forgettable for Comme des Garcons, Serge Lutens and Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. The latter will particularly set off alarms because it was just a year ago that Estee Lauder bought Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle and Le Labo. It is highly unlikely anyone at Estee Lauder had anything to do with Cologne Indelible. Conversely they can’t take credit for one of my favorites this year Le Labo The Noir 29. For me it will be what we see in 2016 that will give a true indication on how these brands will change.

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I end on a personal note. A year ago I mentioned my enthusiasm for The Art & Olfaction Awards overseen by Saskia Wilson-Brown of The Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles. This year I have gone from cheering on the sidelines to being one of the Finalist Judges. Of everything that has happened in 2015 this is my favorite development. 2015 will not truly end until I choose from a set of unlabeled vials to pick the best of 2015.

Tomorrow I will name my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year.

The next day will be my Top 25 New Perfumes of 2015.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: My Favorite Non-Perfume Things of 2015

I’ll be spending the next three days talking about all the things I thought were the Best of 2015 in perfume. I’m going to use this last The Sunday Magazine of 2015 to talk about some of the other non-perfume things which made my Best of 2015 list.

Favorite Movie: Star Wars The Force Awakens– If it was just about the movie it would still be my favorite of 2015. Star Wars The Force Awakens is much more. It has resurrected the experience of going to the movie theatre again. This was not going to be as much fun on your home flat screen television. Plus, director JJ Abrams did such a fantastic job of not giving away the entire plot that we all sat in the theatre in conjugal ignorance of what was going to happen next. Finally, the creation of the character of Rey a heroine from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away who feels just right for the Milky Way circa 2015.

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Favorite Album: 25 by Adele– There was a time no too long ago when Adele underwent throat surgery and I wondered if nature would have silenced one of the great singers too early. Her voice came back with no detectable loss in timbre or projection. 25 is her third album and this showcases a person who is learning about motherhood while still missing some of the unfettered past. “When We Were Young” is the most emblematic of that emotion. It is also my favorite song on 25.

Favorite Single: Flesh Without Blood by Grimes– I love unique vocals and singer Claire Boucher has that and then some. The whole album “Art Angels” is full of twisted pop anthems but none of them grabbed me as much as Flesh Without Blood.

Favorite Television Show: Game of Thrones– For a show known for its incredible scope as the producers adapt one of the best written epic fantasy series to the visual it is hard to not want to give them a standing ovation for the last three episodes of Season 5. Each Episode contained a mind boggling singular piece of visual story telling. As Jon Snow learned the depth of the threat from North of the Wall in Hardhome. Daenerys dealt with an uprising in Mereeen in The Mother of Dragons. Ending with Cersei’s Walk of Shame in Mother’s Mercy. The best part of Season 6 is nobody knows what is coming next because the show has caught up to the books. What I do know is this team has my full belief it will be amazing.

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Favorite Book: X by Sue Grafton– I what I think will go down as one of the greatest American mystery series ever written X shows all of the reasons why I think that. As readers we have followed detective Kinsey Millhone through twenty-four adventures. X upped the ante in such a way that I was wondering if Ms. Grafton was going to pull a surprise and stop before she gets to Z. A brilliant piece of engaging detective fiction.

Favorite New Spirit: Willett Distillery Pot Still Reserve Bourbon– This small Kentucky-based distillery has been putting out some of the very best small batch whiskey and bourbon. The Pot Still Reserve is one of the most unique bourbons I have encountered. It is fine straight but if you add just a drop of water the transformation is amazing. As the very noticeable odor of ripe bananas rises from my glass. This is also a very honeyed and sweet version of bourbon that might appeal to those who are not fans of bourbon.

Favorite Wines: Rieslings– I have been on a bit of a sweet wine trend over the last part of the year. This has led to me rediscovering some of the great Rieslings being made from the home of the varietal in Germany to the American outposts of the Pacific Northwest and the Finger Lakes of NY. I have enjoyed how each different country which produces a Riesling adds its own distinctive twist.

These are the things which made my 2015 brighter outside of fragrance.

Mark Behnke

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (To Sell Perfume)

One of the standard Holiday songs is “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” most often sung by Andy Williams. The lyrics talk about the time around the holidays being the “hap-happiest season of all”. Nowhere will you find mention of shopping. For most retailers this time of the year represents the biggest sales of the year across almost any sector you can name Perfume is no different. I have seen various numbers representing the sales anywhere from 20-30% of the entire year’s fragrance sales from Black Friday to the New Year.

One of the ways I am always reminded of how much fragrance is sold in December is I see television commercials. Over the recent past some of the biggest stars show up in them. This year Johnny Depp for Dior Sauvage was the most prevalent new face. I saw him digging in the desert way too many times. The ad by Giselle Bundchen for Chanel No. 5; Charlize Theron for Dior J’Adore, Julia Roberts for Lancome La Vie est Belle, and Natalie Portman for Miss Dior were the holdovers. Selling a perfume via a visual is always an odd choice for me. Having a strip in a magazine makes much more sense but they must work.

Dior-Sauvage

Evidence of this was a recent Women’s Wear Daily article in which Muriel Gonzalez the executive vice president of cosmetics, fragrance, and shoes for Macy’s cited the best sellers of the season heading in to the last week of 2015 sales as Dior Sauvage, Ralph Lauren Polo Red Intense, and Armani Acqua di Gio Profumo for men. The women’s perfumes which have been selling are Gucci Bamboo, Chloe Love Story, YSL Black Opium, and Versace Eros pour Femme. I have seen many ads for five of those seven since Thanksgiving. Polo Red Intense and Chloe Love Story must have some excellent sales teams and attractive looking gift sets.

Those gift sets are another reason I think perfume sales are so brisk. They seem like a great deal as you get some additional scented product to go along with the perfume, usually for a very slight price increase over just the bottle of fragrance by itself. When I am observing the sales at the local mall I definitely see consumers opting for the gift set more often than the bottle when they are choosing to buy.

As I’ve written in the past I am always cautious about buying perfume for someone else because it is such a personal choice for most who wear it. That reticence does not expand to the general population as the sales prove that. I do wonder how many of these bottles purchased as a gift end up gathering dust because the recipient doesn’t feel it is right for them. Probably right next to the sweaters in the wrong color at the back of the closet.

What I do take as a huge positive with the emphasis on how much fragrance is sold at this time of year is it is one of the times of the year when perfume is seen as something desirable; and giftable. There are a lot of external factors adding pressure to the fragrance business. Thankfully the year ends on an up note as those who sell fragrance can be heard humming the Andy Williams tune as they enter the New Year.

Mark Behnke

My Christmas SOTD Etat Libre D’Orange Noel au Balcon

Perfume wearing is not usually something meant to happen on a specific day. It is meant to be worn on many different days with the only sort of restriction based on the temperature outside. Then there are the exceptions. One of only two perfumes I know of with the French word for Noel in the name Etat Libre D’Orange Noel au Balcon is a beautiful Holiday perfume.

My getting my hands on Noel au Balcon was one of my first forays into having someone bring me back a perfume while visiting Paris. Noel au Balcon was released in 2007 exclusively to French Sephora. I would find out about it on the fragrance discussion boards at Basenotes soon after. After some piteous cajoling I was sent a sample by a kind soul. Which was the worst thing because it was what I was hoping it would be. I would spend the next year figuring out how to score a bottle which I did in the early fall of 2008. After the 2008 Holiday season it was discontinued. Until it returned in 2010 as part of the permanent Etat Libre D’Orange collection. This has become my Christmas scent of the day (SOTD) on either December 24th or 25th. This year it will be my Christmas morning scent.

Antoine-Maisondieu

Antoine Maisondieu

Noel au Balcon comes from the beginning of a French proverb, "Noël au balcon, Pâques aux tisons." This translates to "If the weather is mild at Christmas it will be cold at Easter". In Poodlesville it is unseasonably mild so maybe a cold Easter is on its way. Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu has created one of the most interesting gourmands I own redolent of the sweet treats, spices, and alcohol of the Season.

Noel au Balcon opens on a honey drenched fruit accord of orange and apricot. Whenever I spray this on I see a slice of candied apricot or orange covered in viscous honey. The more I have seen honey-based fragrances go off the rails I have come to appreciate the restraint M. Maisondieu uses. This restraint is further displayed in the heart as cinnamon provides spicy contrast with clove and cumin as its running mates. When you look at those three notes the heart of Noel au Balcon could be a strident muddle. M. Maisondieu uses the clove and cumin to keep the cinnamon from becoming too much like Red Hots candy while retaining the fiery nature. It is a one-of-a-kind cinnamon accord. The base returns to a little soothing sweetness with vanilla and musk which overlay a dark earthy patchouli. Once this all comes together I always feel like this evokes one of those sterling silver punch bowls filled with mulled wine complete with orange slices floating on top.

Noel au Balcon has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

As much as I enjoy Noel au Balcon on Christmas it is a year-round choice for me and you can even catch me in a Christmas mood wearing it out for the evening in July. Merry Christmas to all the readers of Colognoisseur and I hope you are wearing a perfume which will make the Holiday memorable for you.

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

Mark Behnke

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas The Scent Awakens

My tradition on Christmas Eve for the last five years as a blogger has been to give Clement Clarke Moore’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas a fragrant spin. This year I have been inspired to do something slightly different. You will recognize the plot below as somewhat similar to Mr. Moore’s Holiday classic except this time there have been some other influences mashed up with it.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Episode VI

The Scent Awakens

It is Christmas Eve in Poodlesville. Colognoisseur has finished trying to find the mythical perfume Eau de Chandelier for another year. The magical extrait said to be a collaboration between, Beaux, Almeras, Guerlain, and Coty has not been seen for over one hundred years. Colognoisseur is headed to bed……

With a sigh I got up from the desk. As I walked through the house all I noticed was the silence. I looked at the stockings on the chimney, hung so neatly, as I turned off the lights on the Christmas tree. The poodle was curled up tight, breathing easily, completely asleep.  I was smiling at Mrs. C as she settled her kerchief. I had just doffed my fedora still thinking about Eau de Chandelier when an incredible racket was heard outside.

I ran to the picture window and looked outside on the moonlit night to see something amazing. A sleigh being pulled by eight flying reindeer. Could it be? Was this really Scent Nick? Just as the thought formed he began to call to his coursers, “Now Mitsouko! Now, Joy! Now No. 5 and Polo! On Kouros! On Fracas! On Diorissimo and Femme! Head for the roof!”

As I heard the hooves on the roof I looked towards the fireplace. With a cedary whoosh Scent Nick was standing in front of me. He was dressed in a red coat and pants with a white fur collar and trim. I could hear the tinkle of delicate bottles in the bundle on his back. His eyes sparkled like the finest bergamot. His dimples were as merry as a luscious vanilla base note. His cheeks resembled Rose de Mai. His nose was as red as a raspberry. There was a sly smile surrounded by a snow white beard.  

He pulled the pipe from his mouth and let out the most infectious belly laugh. It sounded almost like he was saying “eau, eau, eau.” I had to join in. As his eyes met mine I could feel the magic in the air coalescing. Without speaking a word, he reached into his pack and held out a bottle half full of an amber elixir topped with an ornate brass stopper.

eau de chandelier

Eau de Chandelier?

I was gobsamcked. There it was! Eau de Chandelier! He carefully transferred a few drops into a vial. I could swear there were sparkles surrounding the liquid as it was added drop by drop. Scent Nick dropped the vial in the stocking which read “Colognoisseur”.

I realized we hadn’t said a word and before I could ruin it he laid his finger aside of his nose and he was gone. I heard him whistle and the reindeer sprang off the roof. I ran out into the night to watch them fly away. It was then that he spoke his only words to me, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

As I come near to finishing my second year of Colognoisseur I want to wish all of my readers the most magical of Holiday seasons. If you find yourself needing a little scented magic keep an ear peeled as you are falling asleep this Christmas Eve. It is in those moments where Scent Nick and Eau de Chandelier exists.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Nutmeg

Nutmeg is one of the smells of the Holidays for me but I also realize it is one of my favorite perfume notes for the rest of the year as well. If I really wanted to stretch this point to its breaking point I could say without nutmeg my perfume journey might never have begun. If you want to spritz a little nutmeg on here are five of my favorites.

It was the nutmeg that lured me over to the woman spraying strips with Calvin Klein Obsession for Men. The 1986 perfume composed by Bob Slattery uses nutmeg as the leader of the spices in the heart. I knew when I smelled it wafting to my nose it smelled different than other masculine designed spice perfumes. Mr. Slattery adds in clove, coriander, and sage along with lavender and myrrh. It ends on a traditional woody base of sandalwood and vetiver. It is that spicy heart which still appeals to me almost thirty years later.

The most famous nutmeg perfume is likely Jo Malone Nutmeg & Ginger. At first created as a little present for Ms. Malone’s clients it would be the perfume which launched one of the earliest successful niche brands. Like all Jo Malone fragrances, you get a lot of what it says on the bottle as ginger rides in on the shoulders of neroli and lemon to meet nutmeg embracing cinnamon and clary sage before ending on a sandalwood base note. Everything that is admirable and what made Jo Malone something of a trendsetter is on display right from the start.

Givenchy_Organza

Sometimes I want my nutmeg as a side to some white flowers. My favorite white flower nutmeg combo plate is 1996’s Givenchy Organza created by a committee of Sophia Grojsman, Nathalie Lorson, and Sophie Labbe. Organza takes a green sappy accord and dives right into a heart of luscious gardenia and jasmine. The nutmeg forms a spicy sweet woody base with vanilla and cedar. You might think white flowers can’t be tamed with nutmeg, Organza proves that hypothesis incorrect.

A fellow forum poster on Basenotes gifted me a sample of Frapin Caravelle Epicee. If Obsession for Men started the journey Caravelle Epicee was when I completely fell down the rabbit hole. I frequently describe this 2007 creation by perfumer Jean-Marie Faugier as the hold of a Dutch East India company boat just after it is unloaded. Nutmeg and coriander are the first of many spices which form the olfactory spics ship. Thyme, allspice, pepper, and tobacco form the manifest. The smell of the wood of the ship is infused with patchouli. This is as close as I have to a single favorite perfume.

Carner Barcelona Rima XI composed by perfumer Sonia Constant is one of the softest spicy perfumes I own. It is a soft place to lay one’s head and allow nutmeg, cardamom, saffron, pepper, cinnamon, coriander, and mint to surround you in a spicy haze. You almost don’t notice the equally quiet jasmine and sandalwood but they make Rima XI the complete perfume that it is.

This was bit of a journey down my perfume lover’s memory lane with the scent of nutmeg accompanying me.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles that I purchased of all the fragrances mentioned.

Mark Behnke