New Perfume Reviews Ex Nihilo Rose Hubris and Musc Infini- Haughty or Powdery Rose

As I mentioned in yesterday’s review Ex Nihilo has opened an in-store boutique at Bergdorf-Goodman in New York City. One of the interesting concepts behind Ex Nihilo is the ability to personalize any of the nine perfumes by adding one of six raw materials via the Osmologue. The six materials are iris, orange blossom, sandalwood, vanilla, Rose de Mai, and jasmine. I was skeptical about this process but on my recent visit some of those concerns were allayed a bit. My favorite of the first five Ex Nihilo fragrances I tried was Vetiver Moloko and I’ve worn it enough to know it well. In the boutique we added three of the six ingredients for me to try; orange blossom, sandalwood, and vanilla. Each ingredient was approved of by the perfumer as being able to blend well with the perfume in its unadorned state. What I found was the orange blossom brightened up what is a shadowy fragrance in Vetiver Moloko. The vanilla turned it into a delicious creamy gourmand reminiscent of the A Clockwork Orange moloko. The sandalwood made the vetiver pop as it brought it to an even greater level. I still think I prefer my Vetiver Moloko as the perfumer created it but the idea works.

I am going to finish up my reviews of the Ex Nihilo debut fragrances with two rose fragrances, Rose Hubris and Musc Infini.

olivier pescheux

Olivier Pescheux

Rose Hubris was composed by perfumer Olivier Pescheux. In my review of Oud Vendome I liked the way he pushed the envelope making the most structurally interesting of the Ex Nihilo perfumes. Rose Hubris is a little less adventurous but the opening moments do provide something different in a rose perfume.

Those early moments are where M. Pescheux trots out fenugreek and lychee as his top accord. Fenugreek is one of those perfume ingredients I would like to see used more often. It has an odd dichotomy of earthiness and syrupy sweetness. I think of it as kindred to immortelle in that department. In Rose Hubris being paired with the lychee it thrusts the sweeter character to the foreground but that earthy quality adds a really unique underpinning. A fabulously beautiful Rose de Mai is the rose in the heart. It really does carry a haughty air as it powers through the fenugreek and lychee to take over. It is a more giving partner to the base notes of patchouli and oakmoss where it settles down into more typical rose fragrance patterns.

I adore the opening phases of Rose Hubris and that makes me more forgiving of it becoming a little more traditional in the back half of the development.

Rose Hubris has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Louise Turner

Louise Turner (Photo: Rui Camilo Photography)

Musc Infini was composed by Louise Turner. Ms. Turner is one of those perfumers who does not make an impression on many perfume lover’s list of favorite perfumers. She should as she has made some of the best mass-market perfumes to be found. For Ex Nihilo she is afforded the opportunity to have some more latitude in constructing Musc Infini. What she does is to take a very powdery rose and sandwich it between a couple of synthetic musks to form an uber powdery floral perfume.

Musc Infini opens with the botanical musk provided by ambrette seeds leavened with a pinch of citrus. This quickly transitions into a soft powdery rose. This rose is turned even softer as two synthetic musks embrace it and form this incredibly silky smooth puff cloud of powder. Very late on a bit of vanilla cuts the powder but not for a long while.

Musc Infini is for those who love their florals powdery. This is the one perfume of the collection where I would like to see what the addition of iris would do to it. Would it add another layer of powder or shift it into something else? I know on my next visit that is the experiment I want to try.

Musc Infini has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am impressed with this initial collection of Ex Nihilo it shows a breadth of styles along with a new way to personalize the perfume to what you like. Definitely worth a visit next time you are in NYC.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Ex Nihilo Bois D’Hiver and Oud Vendome- Two Faces of Wood

Back in March I wrote about the new perfume brand Ex Nihilo created by partners Benoit Verdier, Sylvie Loday, and Olivier Royere exclusively in their Paris boutique. At that time, I had five of the nine releases and was hoping for another helpful friend to get me the remaining four. Instead those remaining four came to me as Ex Nihilo has opened an in-store boutique at Bergdorf-Goodman in New York. Ona recent trip to New York City I stopped in to get samples of the remaining four and take in the Ex Nihilo experience. I will talk more about that in tomorrow’s review for today I will give quick reviews on two of the woodier offerings in the original collection.

michel girard

Michel Girard

Boid D’Hiver (winter woods) is composed by perfumer Michel Girard. M. Girard has spent most of his career composing mass-market designer fragrances. I am always interested to see what a perfumer who has been so successful in the mass consumer market does when given the opportunity to go with a niche sensibility. In Bois D’Hiver it is clear that M. Girard relishes having the opportunity to add a few more precious raw materials while staying true to his populist aesthetic. It makes Bois D’Hiver the more easily experienced fragrance but no less interesting for that affability.

M. Girard uses a very focused burst of cardamom and pink pepper to lead you into those winter woods. The first of which is cedar wrapped in a floral cloak of cyclamen and heliotrope. The intense florals do an excellent job of making the cedar more interesting and less of a framing device as it so often can be. The real woods come in the base as an oud accord and sandalwood form the real woody heart of Bois D’hHver. A little patchouli and a little musk are here also but it is the sandalwood and cypriol-based oud accord which stand out.

Bois D’Hiver is a smoothly unspooling piece of perfumery. I admired the way M. Girard agilely carried me from one phase of development to the next. Bois D’Hiver is so easy breezy to wear I suspect this is going to be one of the brand’s best sellers.

Bois D’Hiver has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.  

olivier-pescheux

Olivier Pescheux

Oud Vendome by perfumer Olivier Pescheux is the opposite of Bois D’Hiver as I think it is one of the more adventurous entries in this inaugural collection. M. Pescheux combines many of niche perfumery’s most challenging notes into a perfume which is fascinating for how they all manage to combine into a perfume more enjoyable despite the envelope pushing going on.

M. Pescheux opens with a very focused ginger swathed in saffron. The ginger here is really tightly controlled making it a concentrated focal point. By making it that tight the saffron has more space to expand into. I think there are going to be people who will be surprised at this opening as it was nothing like I imagined it would be when I saw the note list. The heart is a raw cedar wood made even more vestigial with galbanum making it seem like a freshly shattered branch. Then we get down to a base of real oud matched with incense. The oud is allowed to be oud and some of its more challenging facets are here to be seen. The incense helps keep them from being as strident as it could be.

Oud Vendome is going to be the one Ex Nihilo for those who really want to smell different. I think when it finds its audience it will have a fan forever.

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

I appreciate the creative team at Ex Nihilo choosing to have two such very different interpretations of a woody perfume. It is a real testament to the variety overall of these first nine releases.

Tomorrow I will review Rose Hubris and Musc Infini as well as give you my impression of how the Osmologue personalized my favorite in the line, Vetiver Moloko.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Ex Nihilo.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Star Wars The Force Awakens

This past Thursday December 16 was like Christmas came a week early for me. That night I sat down in a theatre to see the first showing of the new movie, Star Wars The Force Awakens. Ever since the day I saw the original Star Wars in 1977 it has been something I have cared passionately about. I am not alone in this feeling as on Thursday night the theatre I was at was showing it simultaneously on ten screens. Contrast that to the opening number of theatres on Wednesday May 25, 1977 for the original, 32. What made me so very happy with The Force Awakens was for the first time this felt like Star Wars again. The kind of Star Wars which fired my imagination back in 1977.

There are many that do not like the prequels that George Lucas produced from 1999-2005. Those movies suffered from a narrative problem that we knew where we were going to end with the creation of Darth Vader. That was the biggest problem with those movies for me. I knew there was no way to save Anakin Skywalker. He was going to become Darth Vader no matter what. The movies explained how but it was the earlier movies which provided the eventual redemption. I think that is what stunted my sense of wonder it was like watching a three movie version of a slow motion inevitable train wreck.

star-wars-force-awakens-official-poster

The Force Awakens does not suffer from that as now that the story is moving forward again it can engage the imagination with both the old and the new. I’ll start with the old as our original heroes Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo return. The Force Awakens lets us know where they are thirty years after we left them in Return of the Jedi. The writers have put all three of them in interesting places full of possibilities, not all of which immediately pay off in The Force Awakens. As much as I enjoyed their return it is the new trio of heroes which really took me back to the wonder of 1977.

Daisy Ridley plays Rey and she is the definitive breakout star of The Force Awakens. She is the analog to Luke Skywalker in the original movies. Eking out an existence on a desert world before being thrust into the middle of galactic events. She is one of the few movie heroines who is completely independent. I wonder at the impact she will have on young girls going to see The Force Awakens. Will they see themselves as the Rey of their own lives. I hope so.

John Boyega plays Finn. His is the story of the reluctant hero as he tries to keep removing himself from the fray only to be drawn back. Mr. Boyega displays the heroism of the heart as he just wants to protect himself and his friends. He is the right mix of humor and emotion.

The final new addition is Oscar Isaac as hotshot Resistance pilot Poe Dameron. He is the alpha warrior of our new trio of heroes and when he is flying is when he is at his best. He is the least developed of the new characters but I know his time will come in the future.

The final actor to mention is Adam Driver as the new villain Kylo Ren. He is a different kind of scary from Darth Vader. The Force Awakens displays his journey to the Dark Side is fueled by his emotional reaction to his life. There is one thing I want to mention there are two pivotal scenes in the movie which there is no dialogue but for the emotion you see on Mr. Driver’s face. It makes all the difference to have an actor in this role that can accomplish that.

Finally I have to thank director and co-writer JJ Abrams. In 2009 he saved my beloved Star Trek and now he has done it again with my equally beloved Star Wars. He truly has become the Geek Savior by saving both of these properties in a way that future geeks can discover them.

The final litmus test for me was when I walked out of the theatre on Thursday night I wanted to go right back in. I hadn’t felt that way since “The Empire Strikes Back”. The very final shot of The Force Awakens holds out the promise that “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” still has some amazing stories to tell.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Zirh Corduroy- Stocking Stuffer

At this time of year I get a lot of questions about what perfume I would suggest to give someone as a gift. First I frown on fragrance as a gift and my method for giving it as a gift can be found at this link. Even when I say that people still want an answer and not wanting to be a snobby Grinch I have a couple of suggestions in my back pocket. One of my favorites is Zirh Corduroy.

Zirh is a maker primarily of men’s skin and hair products. They have a small selection of four branded fragrances. In 2001 they released Zirh by perfumer Delphine Terry which was a safe traditional lavender focused fougere. Corduroy was the second release in 2005 by perfumers Jacques Huclier and Rodrigo Flores-Roux. Corduroy was meant to be the yin to Zirh’s yang as it was designed to be a darker oriental. I’m not sure of this but I am thinking Corduroy was meant to be the cold weather complement to Zirh. I know I tend to wear it in the colder months.

zirh corduroy

Corduroy opens with a surprisingly sophisticated citrus top accord. Mandarin is the nucleus for the perfumers to build upon with grapefruit, cardamom, and lavender. There is another listed ingredient called aquacoral but I have never been able to consciously detect it. It sounds like it should add some kind of aquatic character but that is not what I experience in the opening of Corduroy. What I get is citrus combined with an herbal lavender and cardamom. The spice cohort changes fairly rapidly as cinnamon eventually rises up. The presence of nutmeg is what eventually becomes the more extroverted note and it lies over a very delicate application of a suede accord. Corduroy eventually heads to a woody base of sandalwood, cedar, gaiac; sweetened with a bit of vanilla.

Corduroy has 14-16 hour longevity but very low sillage for a commercial release. It is that restraint which is part of the reason I recommend it as a gift.

Corduroy really is one of the best bang for your buck perfumes out there you can regularly get 100 or 125 mL size for under $15. I bought my 125 mL for $9.99 at a local discounter. If you need a stocking stuffer or you just want a little something extra for the perfume cabinet Corduroy is an excellent choice.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Diptyque Benjoin Boheme- Benzoin in Repose

I’m not sure what it is about the cooler months but there are times I crave simplicity as comfort. As I’ve written over and over again those comfort scents are almost always high in resinous character. Sometimes I crave the less complex I wonder if I shouldn’t just dab some essential oil on and be done. Then a fragrance comes along which reminds me that there is a difference between essential oil and perfume. The latest lesson in this came courtesy of Diptyque Benjoin Boheme.

Benjoin, or benzoin as it is also called, is one of the most versatile notes on the resinous end of the perfumer’s palette. It is so versatile it can be used in almost any style of perfume you can name. It is because it is so prized as a support note that it rarely becomes the focal point of a fragrance. Even if it is the focal point it is usually surrounded by equivalent amounts of other notes. In Benjoin Boheme perfumer Olivier Pescheux trusted in the source of his benzoin that it could be all that was needed to take the lead in this perfume.

olivier pescheux

Olivier Pescheux

M. Pescheux opens with the botanical musk of angelica seeds. The seeds also provide a peppery aspect which is exactly what is needed to announce the arrival of the star. The best benzoin comes from the mountains of Laos and this is what M. Pescheux uses here. What is highlighted first is the cinnamon character of the Laotian benzoin. As the peppery character of the angelica seeds blends seamlessly. As the benzoin warms up, the balsamic vanillaness inherent rises slowly but surely. Benjoin Boheme holds this note for a good long while before sandalwood complements the sweetness. Styrax turns it more familiarly resinous as some patchouli grounds the entire composition.

Benjoin Boheme has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Benjoin Boheme shows why a perfume is not just one note or accord. By using a cleverly assembled ensemble of complimentary notes M. Pescheux shows off everything that is interesting about the best Laotian benzoin. If you love ambery resinous perfumes this should be high up on your wish list.

Disclosure: this review was based on s ample provided by Diptyque.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Orris & Sandalwood- Just the Basics

There is perhaps no perfume brand which has thrived by keeping it simple more than Jo Malone. The names themselves tend to advertise the ingredients front and center. The Cologne Intense Collection within the brand has taken that concept a step further. The Cologne Intense releases tend to be comprised of more precious raw materials. The newest Cologne Intense, Orris & Sandalwood, is perhaps the best example of what this line within the line can achieve.

The Cologne Intense Collection has asked the perfumer chosen to take those notes on the label and present them in a pure almost unaltered way. This collection has been so successful because even though the perfumers adhere to that the choice of the minimal complementary notes can change the perception you might have based on the names. For Orris & Sandalwood perfumer Pierre Negrin made a couple of interesting choices when it came to orris and sandalwood. Orris is most known for being powdery but I like it best when the rootiness of the rhizome is allowed to be more prominent. With sandalwood there has always been this mania for having a Mysore-like sandalwood. I’ve actually come to enjoy the sustainably farmed versions which have become more common over the past few years. The source of the sandalwood used here isn’t named but I am guessing it is one of these newer versions because it has the austere slightly sweet woodiness I associate with those sources. By making the right choice of notes to partner the orris and sandalwood M. Negrin achieves something different from what you might be expecting.

PierreNegrin

Pierre Negrin

When I read orris on the label I expect that to be the first thing I smell. M. Negrin thinks differently and violet is what first appears in Orris & Sandalwood. I think that choice is made so the violet can get ahead of the orris making sure it attenuates the powdery qualities. It is definitely the right choice because the orris when it does arrive is rich, opulent and definitely not powdery. The sandalwood if left alone could have provided a woody framing of the rooty orris. M. Negrin didn’t just want the sandalwood to be the delineating ingredient he wanted to warm things up. To achieve that effect a healthy dose of amber transforms the sandalwood into something much suppler. It is a really neat trick which comes together with the orris and violet to provide a fantastic synergy of iris roots drying in the sunshine.

Orris & Sandalwood has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Orris & Sandalwood is so rich that while wearing it I had to keep reminding myself this was a Jo Malone release. It carries the simplicity of the brand aesthetic with the luxury of the ingredients being allowed to shine in unique ways. If you are a fan of orris and/or sandalwood Orris & Sandalwood is a simple tale told well.

Dsiclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

Caron 101- Five to Get You Started

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When it comes to the great maisons de parfum if there is one overlooked member of this category it would be Caron. I am not sure why this is the case. They have a history around one of the greatest perfumers of the early days of modern perfumery Ernest Daltroff. The body of work is as impressive as the other great perfumers which shared the timeframe. Maybe it is the urns from which these perfumes are dispensed. When you choose one of the perfumes which make up the collection it is dispensed from a Baccarat crystal urn into the bottle you have chosen. It is one of the best ways to sell perfume in my mind because you can take as little or as much as you want. For those of you who have never considered Caron here are the five I would suggest you start with.

If there is a flagship perfume in the collection it would have to be 1919’s Tabac Blond. Tabac Blond is simply one of the greatest Oriental leather perfumes ever. M. Daltroff working in post-World War I time was looking for something to appeal to the French women who were just taking up smoking. His concept was a sophisticated leather accord matched with orris and ylang-ylang in the heart landing on a classic vanilla tinged Oriental base. The tobacco is an accord of the leather along with vetiver, and linden. I almost always just notice the leather and the tobacco occasionally surprises me. Tabac Blond is one of the most sophisticated leather perfumes you can experience.

Nuit de Noel was released in 1922 for the Holidays. It isn’t particularly evocative of the scents associated with the Holidays. Instead it is a simple construct of jasmine, sandalwood, amber and the base Mousse de Saxe. It is the Mousse de Saxe which makes Nuit de Noel unforgettable. In a time where the bases perfumers devised would make or break a construct Mousse de Saxe was one of the most versatile; somewhere between chypre and leather but not quite either. It has a shimmering quality in M. Daltroff’s hands. The jasmine adds a floral oomph and the sandalwood and amber provide warmth and creamy woodiness. Nuit de Noel is a great perfume no matter whether it is the Holidays or not.

caron pour un homme

One of my favorite recommendations for a man just starting out in expanding his fragrance wardrobe is Caron Pour Un Homme. Again M. Daltroff keeps it simple using lavender as the focal point and sweetening it slightly with vanilla before amber and musk make sure to give it a manly heft. If you love lavender, no matter what gender you are, Caron Pour Un Homme is one of the best.

When Caron was resuscitated by the Ales Group it commissioned a new masculine take on lavender from perfumer Akiko Kamei. The idea was to make a contemporary lavender as an alternative to Caron Pour Un Homme. Mme Kamei offers a spicy and floral enhanced fougere in Le Troisieme Homme. The lavender is paired with geranium and then coated in clove, tarragon, and coriander. These enhance the herbal nature of the lavender while the greranium adds its green tinted floralcy. Vetiver and oakmoss form the base accord. There was a long time where I thought if I only had to own two fragrances it would have been this and Caron Pour Un Homme.

Parfum Sacre is another of the modern Caron releases. Composed by perfumer Jean-Pierre Bethouart in 1991. It is one of the more comforting floral perfumes I own. It has the ability to be a fragrant version of a Snuggie in front of a roaring fire. M. Bethouart takes a trio of spices in coriander, cinnamon, and black pepper. He then used an expansive rose for them to push against. The base notes are sweet myrrh, vanilla, and ambrette. This is where you take the spicy rose and cuddle in tight while the fire burns.

As I mentioned above Caron is a forgotten brand and it shouldn’t be. If you haven’t considered them these five will show you why you they should be on your list to try.

Disclosure: this review is based on bottles of the perfumes I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews DSH Perfumes Reveries de Paris and Fou D’Opium- Retro Nouveau Pair

The final two of the six new releases from independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz display her love of the history of perfume. I know from many personal conversations how much she admires all of the great perfumes of the past. I know there are few I have spoken with who exhibit the dedication to study the great masterpieces and be unafraid to compose something like them. DSH Perfumes Reveries de Paris and Fou D’Opium are a pair of Retro Nouveau perfumes which take their cues from that knowledge.

dsh_goldroom

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

There is a wonderful collaborative spirit within Ms. Hurwitz. When she and Michelyn Camen Editor-in-Chief at CaFleureBon began talking about working together on Reveries de Paris they wanted to use some classic fragrances as their starting point. The full story in Ms. Hurwitz’s words is on CaFleureBon. When I asked her about the collaboration and the influences she replied, “Specifically, Femme de Rochas, as that is what MC wore during her time in Paris.  I would also say that in the back of my mind Jolie Madame, although the scent is nothing like it, was there – mostly in the leather nuances at the dry down of Reveries, and in some ways Cabochard, even though that scent is also nothing like Reveries.  And now that I think of it, Caleche is another classic perfume that in my subconscious has an influence; that might be more influencing the "fresh flowers" heart accord that I made, but very indirectly.  The plum note in the top is purely inspired by Femme, though.”

If you need a connection to Rochas Femme, Reveries de Paris provides it in the first few seconds as that plum connects the present to the past. It is matched up with green and spicy facets to give that vintage-like feel. The heart is all about turning things more contemporary. Rose de Mai is the focal point but it is made something less innocent by a healthy dose of Boronia. It reminds me of the decaying nature of reveries that are sweet but fleeting. We get back to creating a chypre accord for the base by using castoreum and hyraceum to do the heavy lifting. Ms. Hurwitz adds in some vanilla and ambergris to give this chypre accord some interesting tweaks. Reveries de Paris is a fantastically realized Retro Nouveau construct. Reveries de Paris has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

dsh_smelling

When Ms. Hurwitz composed Euphorisme D’Opium as part of her collection to accompany the Yves St. Laurent exhibit at the Denver Art Museum she focused on a particular part of the classic Opium. Three years later she has composed Fou D’Opium and I was curious to hear the differences between the two. She replied to that question, “When I created the Euphorisme, I was thinking more about the overt spiciness of the Eau de Toilette formulation which is a bit more piquant than the perfume formulation.  I also wanted to expand the euphoric aspects so I pushed the Ylang Ylang and Jasmine in Euphorisme.  I also added pink pepper to the top note which wasn't in the original formulation at all, as far as I was able to discover.  So the Euphorisme was meant to evoke the original formula but also be a departure.  With Fou, I was working with deciphering the Parfum formulation and wanted to just go deep, deeper, no even deeper(!) into the heart of the concept and formulation to make something as magnetic and sensuous as the original.  I focused on the more resinous richness, and the base note more in Fou. The Tolu balsam, ambers, and the animalics are way up in Fou as well as fruitier nuances with the aldehydes in the top.  This formula is for the die-hard (original) Opium fans and lovers of a strong oriental / spicy/ resinous scent.  It's seriously got EVERYTHING in it; it might be the longest, most complex formulation I've ever created and the balance had to be just right.”

I feel that Fou D’Opium is like part two of her examination of Opium. This time it is a fairly rapid development down to that study of the Orietnal base. A sprinkle of aldehydes, and we get to the floral heart of the matter. There you find Bulgarian rose, jasmine, neroli, muguet, and orris. It is nicely balanced but it might be a touch too frenetic as I had trouble with it settling down on my skin. Instead of gently coalescing around the spices the florals seemed to be much more kinetic. It does finally settle down as the balsamic suite of notes gain some traction. The combination of sandalwood and vetiver really provide the missing balance in the early going of the heart. Fou D’Opium is not as interesting to me as Euphorisme D’Opium was. Even so it is like delving into what it means to be an Oriental perfume in the 1970’s. If you love Opium it is an interesting exercise to participate in. Fou D’Opium has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Taken as a whole these six recent perfumes show that Ms. Hurwitz can successfully find her muse no matter where she looks for it.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews DSH Perfumes Albino and Zeitgeist 55- Abstract History

I think one of the things I find so appealing about independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is the breadth of her designs. She has spent so much time recently making collections inspired by the Denver Art Museum or being inspired by previous vintage perfumes it can become easy to overlook that when she composes based on her own imagination the results are equally fascinating. Two of her most recent releases Albino and Zeitgeist 55 show off her ability to work in abstracts or to give us a tour through her history as a perfumer with a specific accord.

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Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Albino has the subtitle “A Study in White”. There are many synesthetes who see fragrance concurrently with specific colors. I am not blessed with that ability. Even so Ms. Hurwitz was able to take me along with her vision as I found Albino to be an olfactory white out. what surprised me most was that two very traditionally green notes in rhubarb and basil actually were the ingredients which drained the color leaving something quite mesmerizing as my senses tried to find a foothold somewhere. In an e-mail I asked Ms. Hurwitz about the rhubarb and basil providing that effect and she replied, “The rhubarb is essential to giving the 'pithy' feel to the grapefruit pith accord and the basil along with an anisic nuance for me feel very white or clear or something like that…without color.  Albino is going into abstraction territory where, for me, I just start evaluating the smells based on the synesthetic experience of 'color- or no color' and texture.  The basil gave an effect that felt as 'no color' in the contact of the other ingredients and helped the tradition from the pithy top to the creamy texture in the dry down.  I also noticed that with the albino raspberry accord, the basil kept the sweetness in check while allowing some of the strange tangy-ness to stay.”

Albino opens with that albino raspberry accord which provides a berry-like tartness. This rapidly gets matched with the grapefruit pith accord which is not rind with a hint of acrid quality or full on pulp with the juiciness. It is an austere grapefruit accord. This is why the basil cuts the sweetness of the albino raspberry and the rhubarb picks up the subtle sulphurous facets of the grapefruit pith. It drags both of them back to more neutral ground. The final amount of white comes in the presence of white oak and white cognac in the base. This gives a volatile alcoholic quality matched with a sturdy desiccated woodiness. I found Albino to perfectly evoke the featureless depth a pure white field portends; even for this color blind perfume lover. Albino has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

motorcycle jacket

One of the interesting facts about Ms. Hurwitz is her beginnings took place in a DIY perfume shop she co-owned with Sarah Horowitz-Thran. There is a fanciful part of my imagination that sees that little shop on Newbury St. as one of the birthplaces of independent American perfumery. For the new release Zeitgeist 55 Ms. Hurwitz reaches all the way back to those early days as she combines three distinct leather accords together. I wanted her to comment on all three accords and she replied, “I used an early 'black leather' accord that was a best seller for me back in my Boston days and on my site in the late '90's.  It's a pure motorcycle leather accord that I made even deeper with the addition of aged oak moss.  I also created a suede note using suederal tempered with costus and woods; the costus also gives that great sebum effect, so you get something smooth and elegant with some human kinds of sweat / bedhead / salty skin.  For the more traditional leather nuances I made another accord from birch tar, castoreum, and musks (animalics in particular) to include that 'tanned hides' take on leather.  Overall, I was really trying to find the places where all of these nuanced leather smells came together and could 'segue' in to one another; the motorcycle leather, the tanned hide / horse riding leather/ the dry but supple feel of suede mixed with human smells…in the most elegant way, of course. 🙂  I wanted to make a definite statement on leather — and give a nod to the feeling of the 1950's and touch upon that undercurrent of sexuality, youth culture, and a new 'freedom' that icons like Marlon Brando and James Dean signify.”

Zeitgeist 55 starts with that smell of the black leather jacket, lovingly taken care of and fully broken in. It has a badass devil-may-care effect. It decides to go for a walk (swagger?) into the tack room where the smell of saddles takes over with the birch tar and animalic leather accord. This is the tanned leather accord. As you pick the saddle off the wall you pull out a pair of suede leather riding gloves. These are the gloves you’ve worn so many times your personal smell infuses the supple refined smell of the hide. I have to comment as Ms. Hurwitz related above the use of costus adds that smell of humanity underneath it all. It ties all three leather accord together delightfully. Zeitgeist 55 has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’ll conclude my reviews tomorrow with the two inspired by two of the greatest perfumes ever made.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by DSH Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Same Old Lang Syne by Dan Fogelberg

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There was a time in music where the singer-storyteller was popular. These musicians would fashion the equivalent of a short story in song accompanied by acoustic guitar or piano. I remember these songs were sung about subjects which would draw me in waiting for the resolution. I always felt like the first listening lasted ten minutes only to find it was closer to half that. It is no surprise that one of the best of these musicians wrote a Holiday story song which has become one of the classics.

fogelberg same old lang syne

Dan Fogelberg was one of the most popular musicians during the 1970’s and 1980’s. In 1980 he would release the album “The Innocent Age”. It would contain some of his biggest hits. It would also contain a track called “Same Old Lang Syne”. The song tells the story of man making a run to the convenience store on Christmas Eve where he runs into his old flame. After recognizing each other they buy a six-pack and catch up in the narrator’s car. When she drives off he feels “that old familiar pain” as “the snow turns into rain”. The song finishes with a one-minute rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” be the great saxophonist Michael Brecker. That version of the New Year’s Eve standard has a deeply melancholic feel matching the story which has just been told.

The song has been one of the modern Holiday standards since its release in 1980. Then there was a post script which only added to its poignancy. Mr. Fogelberg would pass away from prostate cancer on December 16, 2007. About a week later a column would appear in Mr. Fogelberg’s hometown newspaper, The Peoria Star Journal, by columnist Ron Luciano. Mr. Fogelberg had always admitted many of his stories he told in music had aspects which were autobiographical. It turns out “Same Old Lang Syne” was entirely true. In that column the old flame Mr. Fogelberg met on that snowy Christmas Eve, Jill Gruelich, told her part of the story.

The column tells of their on-again off-again relationship throughout high school. Then the very familiar story as they both went to different colleges and eventually drifted apart. By 1975 she had married and Mr. Fogelberg was enjoying his early success as a musician. Both were back in Peoria to be with family for the Holidays. Ms. Gruelich was sent out to find some egg nog and Mr. Fogelberg headed out to buy some whipping cream. From there the story, as told in the song, is pretty accurate. The color of her eyes is changed and her husband was not an architect. By the time the “snow turned to rain” it had been two hours and both families wondered what had happened to their errand runners.

fogelberg parkway

When Ms. Gruelich heard the song on the radio in 1980 she realized their conversation had just been turned into a song. She waited until after his death to step forward because, “It wasn’t about me. It was about Dan. It was Dan’s song.” It is also Peoria’s song as in honor of Mr. Fogelberg the street which connects Woodruff High School where they first met to the convenience store “Same Old Lang Syne” takes place in is called Fogelberg Parkway.

The Holidays and the year-end often bring out a desire to look back and wonder “What If?” “Same Old Lang Syne” tells that story in a way which has become part of my Holidays playlist. One which touches me even more for the truth behind it.

Mark Behnke