New Perfume Review Coolife Le Quatrieme Parfum- Getting to the Root of Things

There are times when I receive the press materials accompanying new samples and it is hard for me not to laugh. The more magical the claims around a perfume in the text; I have usually found a lack of inspiration in the perfume itself. One brand which has particularly made me giggle has been the ongoing collection of perfumes from the brand Coolife inspired by the chakras called The Seven. The creative directors and founders Carole Beaupre and Pauline Rochas are immersed in the idea of perfume as pixie dust. I have been openly skeptical of these perfumes to perform to that level. The first three releases were perfectly decent perfumes composed by perfumer Patricia Choux. The only emotion it aroused for me was indifference. I received the fourth release, Le Quatrieme Parfum, and guess what? This time I did go along with the mysticism attached.

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Carole Beaupre (l.) and Pauline Rochas

Le Quatrieme Parfum is meant to represent the root chakra, our foundation and of feeling grounded. Perfumer Yann Vasnier was tasked with making the perfume which would form this sense of being. I found Le Quatrieme Parfum to be a tremendously relaxing perfume to wear. It reminded me of putting on a well-worn denim jacket; broken in just right. It felt like something easy which also imparted depth along with familiarity. M. Vasnier has assembled a coterie of warm, golden, glowing notes to achieve this.

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Yann Vasnier

When it comes to being grounded a shot of rum is probably not high up on the list of things to try. For the perfume which seeks to ground oneself it turns out a shot of rum works quite nicely. Especially when M. Vasnier traps it within a matrix of golden viscous honey. The honey never threatens to tilt over to its less desirable scent profile. In conjunction with the rum it stays sweetly boozy before moving into the heart. Waiting there is a rich narcotic dried tobacco leaf for it to rest upon. The inherent sweetness of the tobacco intertwines with the honey and leaves the rum behind. It elicits a sweeter shade of tobacco. Then comes the part where my fanciful imagination takes over, and probably my upbringing in Little Havana in S. Florida. I imagine this fragrant tobacco leaf being loaded with myrrh soaked patchouli and being rolled into a perfumed cigar. As all of those notes are in play in the next phase of the development. This is where Le Quatrieme Parfum lingers for hours on my skin. It languorously allows a beautiful balsamic note to eventually arise which almost acts as a figurative cigar box for my imaginary stogie.

Le Quatrieme Parfum has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Like the other Coolife perfumes there is nothing terribly original about the ideas M. Vasnier has used. Unlike the other Coolife perfumes this time Le Quatrieme Parfum did ground me, allowing me to find an inner harmony. I wore it on a very hectic day and every time I caught a puff of my imaginary cigar it did have a centering effect. I found Le Quatrieme Parfum allowed me to get to the root of things.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Diptyque Eau des Sens- Aloft in an Orange Tree

I am always impressed with the continued excellence shown by Diptyque. They have stayed true to their brand, and what it represents, for forty years. Over the last few years it has been given over to the hands of mainly two perfumers, Fabrice Pellegrin and Olivier Pescheux. That has resulted in one of the stronger runs of releases for Diptyque in their long history. As each new release arrives I look for signs of a downturn. The latest Eau des Sens continues the trend of quality.

One of the earliest perfumes by Diptyque, Philosykos, is a study of the fig tree in its entirety. One of the best orange fragrances I own is L’Eau de Tarocco which was composed by M. Prescheux. Eau des Sens is a study of the orange tree in the same vein as Philosykos with the same perfumer as L’Eau de Tarocco. It makes Eau des Sens a hybrid of two of the best fragrances within the line. It actually lives up to this pedigree.

olivier pescheux

Olivier Pescheux

As a boy who spent way too much time sitting in the branches of an orange tree while growing up in S. Florida that smell is imprinted in my memory. One of my favorite remembered smells of that time is when the tree would be covered with orange blossoms. As the wind would blow through; the softest floral smell on top of the wood of the tree came to my child’s nose. When those blossoms became fruit the smell of the tree would change. M. Pescheux captures both of those transitions within the development of Eau des Sens.

Eau des Sens opens with the fruit, as a bitter orange comes up first. M. Pescheux chooses juniper berry to enhance the bitter quality just a bit. For those who are fans of L’Eau de Tarocco this is that orange made less effusive and a bit more conservative. It sets the stage for the orange blossom to arrive on its own breeze of angelica which plays the part of the tree. After climbing an orange tree I would have the smell of the wood on my hands; which always had a bit of a spicy smell to it along with the smell of my sweaty skin. This is what the angelica imparts to Eau des Sens. The orange blossom is tuned to just the right intensity. Not too transparent and not too concentrated. M. Pescheux balances the orange blossom and angelica just right. A great earthy patchouli provides the soil the tree is rooted upon as the base note.

Eau des Sens has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

M. Pescheux has successfully called back to two of the standouts within the Diptyque brand while making something different enough from both of them to stand on its own. It is a complete experience of being aloft within the branches of an orange tree without a care in the world.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Domaine Ouled Thaleb

I do enjoy finding new wine regions to explore. Over the last four months my newest discovery has been the wines of Morocco. What? Morocco? For those who only know of the country as the setting for the 1942 movie Casablanca there is an effort to give us some different connotations. The winery Domaine Ouled Thaleb is supplying one of those.

Morocco has a rich wine heritage from the days when they were a French colony. During that time the different varietals from France were grown in the mountainous region of Morocco called Zenata. Domaine Ouled Thaleb is situated on the Ben Slimane plateau of the Atlas Mountains. Just as in the best wine growing regions it is close enough to get coastal breezes from the Atlantic Ocean to help provide the ideal microclimate. This also seems to be another of those wine growing regions where the altitude also plays a part in the quality of the wines.

Domaine Ouled Thaleb was opened in 1923 and after Morocco gained its independence was able to weather the hard times of being an alcohol producer in an Islamic country. During the 1990’s King Hassan II wanted to improve the Moroccan economy by focusing on agriculture and tourism. The agriculture part helped Domaine Ouled Thaleb begin to emerge from the shadows. His successor, and current ruler, Mohammad VI has further relaxed the rules turning Morocco into one of the more progressive Islamic countries. Even with all of that; drinking of wine is still going to carry a religious stigma. Which has had the follow-on effect on the wine producers to see if there were markets elsewhere.

In 2013 Domaine Ouled Thaleb began to export to the US. Never thinking of Morocco as a wine region I never gave it a second thought until this past November at a wine store tasting where a table held five of the wines from Domaine Ouled Thaleb. I since went out and found the sixth varietal that wasn’t on display that day. Here are my quick takes. They are all 2013 except for the Syrah which is 2011.

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Un-Oaked Chardonnay– This is an example of a Chardonnay which allows the grape to do all the work. It is fermented in concrete tanks eliminating the over-oaking many chardonnays use. They also wisely stay away from making it too buttery. What is here is a wine of crisp refreshing fruit.

Moroccan White Blend– There is one grape varietal native to morocco called Faranah. It is blended with another little used grape Clariette Blanche. This is a completely unique wine to this region. I’m not sure where it comes from but there is a distinct mint in the nose and on the palate. It turns it into an ideal companion to most Middle-Eastern foods. I can’t wait for summer to pair this with couscous salads.

Moroccan Rose– This is probably the only one I won’t buy more of. It is a nicely constructed rose but it is too dry for my taste. If you like your roses drier then it is worth giving a try to.

Syrah– This is a partnership with another Moroccan vineyard owned by Rhone winemaker Alain Grillot. This collaboration makes the Syrah feel like a twist on a classic Cotes du Rhone. It has a spicy core to it on top of deep black cherry flavors. I have been drinking this with our winter stews and it has been fabulous.

Moroccan Red Blend– A Cabernet-Grenache blend (70-30 in the 2013 vintage) it has a beautifully classic French construction. It is full of rich plummy depth along with sweet vanilla and piquant pepper. One I have paired with Barbecued meats with great success.

Medallion Red– This is a spectacular bottle of wine for under $20. When I was tasting, this was where I ended and it blew me away with the complex display of flavors. It is a movable feast as a nose of chocolate, coffee, and black cherry leads to a taste of the black cherry dusted with subtle spiciness contrasted with a lovely lilting vanilla from the new oak it has been aged in. This has a fair amount of tannins in it despite the 60% Cabernet Sauvignon-30% Merlot-10% Syrah blend. I suspect when I open a bottle in a year it will be even better.

Outside of the Medallion Red I bought all of the other wines for $13. These are great bargains.

Like Rick and Louis at the end of Casablanca I think Domaine Ouled Thaleb and I are at the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Annick Goutal Rose Pompon- Rosy Parisiennes

If robins are the harbinger of spring in the natural world; the release of a lot of new rose centered perfumes is the same in the perfume world. Every year as we move into February my mailbox fills up with versions of new rose perfumes. There are countless rose perfumes out there and it is difficult for a new release to carve out something different. As a result, they generally look to make a variation on a popular trend. Spring rose perfumes fall into two categories; the garden rose or the debutante rose. The latest release from Annick Goutal called Rose Pompon is one of the latter.

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Camille Goutal

Rose Pompon is notable for another reason. For the first time since 1989 perfumer Isabelle Doyen is not involved. Annicjk Goutal’s daughter Camille Goutal has been co-perfumer with Mme Doyen for almost all of the releases since 2001. For Rose Pompon she has found a new partner in perfume, Philippine Courtiere.

Mme Goutal wanted Rose Pompon to be a perfume for twentysomething Parisiennes. What seems to be popular among that subset is fruity florals. Rose Pompon is just that but made to be sort of irreverent as if a perfumed pompon stitched on a hat.

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Philippine Courtiere

The perfume Mme Goutal and Mme Courtiere made does open with a very recognizable fruity accord. Grapefruit, blackcurrant buds, and raspberry. Baie rose adds some texture. This is a very berry opening with the grapefruit along for the ride. A very dewy light rose is the heart of Rose Pompon. The perfumers add peony for depth without adding intensity. I like that it stays on the light side through this part of the development. A bit of patchouli and cedar provide the beginnings of the base accord. Then a zippy cocktail of white musks provide an energetic finishing flourish.

Rose Pompon has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

This is by far the most lighthearted Annick Goutal perfume ever. I kept thinking it had to come from a different brand. I think Mme Courtiere provided a different point of view for Mme Goutal to work with. Is Rose Pompon something different? Not within the panoply of rose perfumes. Within Annick Goutal? Most definitely. As an inaugural collaboration I like the beginnings of what I see from Mme Goutal and Mme Courtiere. It will be intriguing to see what they do next.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Annick Goutal.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Monsieur- Patchy Patchouli

Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle can be attributed to bringing the perfumers out from behind the curtain. Not only did it expose them to the light of day it shone a spotlight on all of the ones who have their name listed on a bottle. It is an exclusive club for which the perfumers are given a lot of latitude in designing their creations. That latitude can result in perfumes which can be very polarizing. There have been a few of the more recent releases which have not grabbed me right away. Over time I return to them and, usually with someone who really likes them, get a second chance to find something I had previously missed. I’ve had my sample of the most recent release, Monsieur, for a few weeks. It is another one which is not drawing me in, yet I believe there might be more here than I might be giving it credit for.

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Bruno Jovanovic

Monsieur is the twenty-fourth release from the brand and it is the second composed by perfumer Bruno Jovanovic. Monsieur is meant to be a companion to 2010’s Portrait of a Lady, composed by Dominique Roipion. Portrait of a Lady is one of those previous releases I was speaking about as I’ve spent the last five years running hot and cold in my emotions about it. Portrait of a Lady is a bone dry version of rose and patchouli. It is that very aridness which makes it difficult for me to wholeheartedly love it. I admire the construction but it seems standoffish. Monsieur goes the other way with an overdose of a molecular distillation of patchouli. By going almost to the other extreme I am having the same difficulty in embracing it although Monsieur is more like someone who is standing too close while my back is against a wall.

Monsieur opens with the juicy citrus of tangerine lightly combined with rum. The rum is not truly boozy as it is contrast for the citrus. Then the patchouli lands with a huge presence. According to the press materials the patchouli is over 50 % of the oil. If this was straight patchouli this would have been that dirty hippie smell so commonly associated with patchouli. The fraction M. Jovanovic chose is that child of the 60’s given some refinement. This fraction has a much reduced earthy quality while I found the herbal and spicy facets to be more pronounced. The fraction also sometimes has a bit of a leathery quality which I kept noticing from time to time. It never persists and it might just be my imagination but every time I started wearing and sniffing Monsieur I would have a moment where I encountered a very transparent leather. M. Jovanovic takes the patchouli fraction and frames it with a very clean cedar. After a long time, amber and vanilla provide a cozy sweet warmth.

Monsieur has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

If Portrait of a Lady is so mannered that it leaves me wanting more; Monsieur gives me too much making me want to push it away. The overdose of the patchouli fraction does this no favors. I wonder if instead of overdose; a balance was sought if I would have liked Monsieur better. What is here is going to appeal to those who wanted something different than Portrait of a Lady. It is also going to appeal to those who really love patchouli. I am not either of those people.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Thierry Mugler A*Men Pure Tonka- Roast Your Beans

I think my distaste for flankers has been apparent from the first moment I started writing about perfume. The great majority of the time they are lazy, cynical fragrances with barely there differences. The reason for their existence is sales, as by putting another note or two into the composition its new enough to make someone buy a bottle all over again. Of course there has to be an exception to every rule. The exception to “all flankers are bad” is the variations Thierry Mugler has produced on the classic A*Men. There have been fourteen flankers to A*Men starting with 2006’s A*Men Summer Flash. Two years later the Pure Series would begin with A*Men Pure Coffee. The latest flanker is a continuation of that called A*Men Pure Tonka.

A*Men Pure Tonka is the eighth release in the Pure Series. One thing which has made this set of flankers rise above is that the original perfumer behind A*Men, Jacques Huclier, has been the man behind all of the flankers. What that has helped with is M. Huclier knows the nuances of his A*Men foundation. Instead of shoehorning a note or two in the Pure Series he has done on overall fantastic job of adding in a few new materials. This allows you to re-examine the A*Men you generally know so well. A*Men Pure Tonka is focused a bit on the coffee from the original. It also adds another bean in the tonka. There is a roasted quality to both beans which help give a new perspective on the A*Men foundation.

Jacques-Huclier

Jacques Huclier

Pure Tonka starts with a naked lavender. In the original A*Men lavender is but a component of the top accord. In Pure Tonka it is out there all by itself. I am a big fan of lavender so I didn’t miss the aldehydes and mint that are present in the original. The lavender is pitched at a moderate level which allows the herbal quality to slightly take the lead. Roasted coffee has always been part of the A*Men formula. In Pure Tonka it is much more pronounced. Patchouli is paired with it in the heart which allows for it to feel like its parent without being entirely derivative. Then the tonka arrives. When tonka is around in quantity there is a combination of toasted nuttiness as well as a subtle hay-like quality. Both of those are on display in Pure Tonka. Together with the coffee the middle part of the development, where the two beans are out in front, is very good. I was worried that the chocolate and caramel of A*Men were going to come along and crash the party. Instead M. Huclier just adds a bit of vanilla to up the sweetness quotient without turning it completely deeply gourmand.

A*Men Pure Tonka has 16-18 hour longevity and way above average sillage. Very easy to spray too much.

M. Huclier has once again deconstructed his creation and found new places to elucidate by allowing some of the parts of the A*Men ensemble the chance to solo a bit. The lavender, coffee, and tonka take advantage of the spotlight. This is another winner in the Pure Series while being different enough to justify owning it.

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

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Absinthe

I detest the end of February. Almost done with winter surrounded by gray skies, dead tees, and brown grass; it’s enough to drive a man to drink. One of my favorite drinks at this time of year is absinthe. I do the whole ceremony with the spoon and the sugar cube. Absinthe fits my melancholic mood. Absinthe in perfume contains some of my favorite perfumes in my collection. There are many which are discontinued but here are five with which you can encounter the Green Fairy sans hangover.

My friend and colleague Ida Meister introduced me to the independent perfumer Serena Ava Franco. Ms. Franco’s brand is called Ava Luxe and has one of the more distinct aesthetics in all of indie perfumery. Her Absinthe is a perfect example as she uses wormwood essence as her nucleus around which is wrapped lemon, angelica, star anise, and hyssop incense. It is that last ingredient which elevates Absinthe. The herbal incense is pitched perfectly with the wormwood to form a mystical perfume worthy of the name Absinthe.

Absolument Absinthe has the best pedigree of all as it is owned by a company which makes the liquor. Perfumer Pascal Rolland creates a symphony of illicit mood enhancers. He opens with a bit of cannabis before adding some absinthe among a floral heart. It ends on a very sensual mix of musks. It is a wild night in a bottle.

by kilian a taste of heaven

By Kilian A Taste of Heaven: Absinthe Verte is a completely decadent fragrance composed by Calice Becker. The absinthe ignites the rest of the development as it moves into a fabulous lavender and rose heart. The base made of costus, patchouli, and oakmoss carries a different kind of green bite before softening with some ambered vanilla. This is the absinthe for the refined tastes.

All of the perfumes Alessandro Gualtieri created for his Nasomatto brand had challenging aspects. Absinth didn’t thrill me at first because Sig. Gualtieri was interested in exploring the woody part of the wormwood. To do that he added in artemesia, pine, licorice, and a lot of white musk. This does bring the woodiness out but it also creates a camphor-like accord which feels as if your sinuses are being cleared. This Absinth takes you into the dark woods.

Cartier III L’Heure Verteuse is the one where absinthe is used to artistic effect. Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent is not going for mystery or mysticism. She just wants to create a memorable lavender perfume. The absinthe is used in the top accord and it is matched with verbena. Mme Laurent fashions a green floral accord where the absinthe again tilts towards the woody. Rosemary and thyme bring it back to the herbal side of things just in time for the lavender to insert itself. Some mastic resin finishes it off.

I’m going to go prepare a drink and maybe give myself a spritz of one of these as I close my eyes and dream of spring.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Herb Garden Lavender & Coriander- Herbal Fougere

Every spring Jo Malone releases a limited edition collection. For 2016 the collection is called Herb Garden and it has five perfumes composed by Anne Flipo. As a collection this holds together in a very clear coherent thread of herbal notes threaded throughout each perfume. For purposes of a review I had to pick one to wear for a couple of days and that was Lavender & Coriander. I’m going to give some capsule impressions, from testing on a strip and a patch of skin, of the other four before diving into the full review.

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Anne Flipo

Carrot Blossom & Fennel has a fantastic fennel note on top that I wish stuck around until the carrot comes to the forefront within the heart. Instead a fruity floral heart of iris and apple dominate. The carrot is here. I would’ve like it to have more of a presence throughout.

Nasturtium & Clover is a weird mixture I’m not sure of. The top accord is composed of the slightly peppery green of arugula paired with lemon and the softness of clover. Nasturtium turns towards a greenish floral before vetiver completes the green effect.

Sorrel & Lemon Thyme is the most straightforward of the collection. Lemon and petitgrain on top combine with thyme in the heart to finish on geranium in the base.

Wild Strawberry & Parsley was the one I almost chose to review over Lavender & Coriander. The top accord of tomato leaf, blackcurrant bud, and parsley is snappy and soft at the same time. I was worried the strawberry would verge on too sweet but it never does. Mme Flipo pairs it with basil and violet leaves and the heart reminded me of a spring dessert. This rides on a lot of white musks in the base.

My affection for lavender has been evident throughout the ten years I’ve written about perfume. I was probably pre-disposed to liking Lavender & Coriander best. Mme Flipo uses the coriander combined with juniper berry to give the outline of a gin accord. There was a part of me that was expecting lime next to finish off the gin and tonic early vibe. Instead lavender takes over forming an exotic floral martini. The coriander and juniper bring out the herbal nature of the lavender. Sage shows up later on to really enhance that effect. The quality of the lavender used here is marvelous, coming from England and France. All together it makes Lavender & Coriander feel like an herbal riff on fougere.

Lavender & Coriander has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I really like the overall Herb Garden Collection. I think I will be re-visiting them, especially as spring shows up. If you like herbal notes in perfume this is a collection one should check out. If you’re a lavender lover Lavender & Coriander is a must try.

Disclosure: This review was based on press samples from Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Hermes Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate and Eau de Neroli Dore- Compare and Contrast

One of the more interesting perfume stories is the ongoing changing of the guard in the fragrance business at Hermes. Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena has been the in-house perfumer for over 10 years. Last year Christine Nagel was hired to eventually take over the reins when M. Ellena chooses to retire. I have been very interested to see Mme Nagel’s first perfume for Hermes and I’ve been kept waiting for over a year. Finally, at the end of January it was announced that there would be two new releases in the Les Colognes series. What was exciting was each perfumer would be responsible for one. As prime a compare and contrast moment as one could ask for.

This series is among the simplest fragrances from a perfume brand which has made minimalistic perfumes part of their aesthetic. Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate by Mme Nagel and Eau de Neroli Dore by M. Ellena don’t fully answer the question of how different Mme Nagel’s Hermes fragrances will be from M. Ellena’s. Yet I think there are some interesting observations to be found even within something as simple as these two perfumes are.

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Christine Nagel

Mme Nagel composes Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate with two listed notes, rhubarb and white musks. Notice the “s” on that last ingredient. It gives some insight into how this perfume has much more than that note list might portend.

The rhubarb comes out from the very first second mixing that vegetal quality with a citrus-like quality. This is a very tricky note when hung out to be all on its own and it is for about 30-45 minutes. Either you will like it and be drawn in or it will annoy you enough you won’t notice what happens next. Like tendrils of fog Mme Nagel uses a selection of white musks to entwine themselves around the rhubarb. It was M. Ellena in Jour D’Hermes, who showed me how the right mix of multiple white musks could have a softening effect. Mme Nagel also knows this. The result is as the white musks increase in presence the rhubarb’s intensity is softened while being made much more transparent. So much so that when I thought this had worn off one of my co-workers commented on it. It is a perfume which shows the power of white musks to transform even the most obstreperous note. Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

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Jean-Claude Ellena

M. Ellena’s entry Eau de Neroli Dore is equally short in notes; neroli and saffron. According to an article on Wallpaper M. Ellena’s affection for Neroli comes from his early days, “When I started out as a perfumer I learned to distill raw materials, including orange blossom. When you enter the world of stills, you are also immersed in a scent, impregnated with it, you become it. To reproduce this sensation, where normally one uses very little neroli in fragrances, I used it abundantly.” He further claims in the article that Hermes had to buy up half of the annual neroli crop from Morocco and Tunisia. Hyperbole or not this is a very concentrated neroli.

Eau de Neroli Dore opens with that neroli attempting to immerse you within it. Neroli is the only listed ingredient and it is so immersive that I feel like there might be some orange behind it all but I wonder if that is a trick of the concentration. Another aspect of having it in such high concentration is subtle green facets are apparent with nothing else to override them. The modulator for M. Ellena is to use saffron to take this neroli and evolve it. The saffron carries a dusty floralcy as well as a warm spicy glow. It adds a beating heart underneath the neroli. This never reaches the intensity of rhubarb in the Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate. Throughout it is a soft floral pitched at a volume just above a whisper. Eau de Neroli Dore has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Of course, I am going to look for signs of what is to come from these two perfumes. I think Mme Nagel shows that she has grasped the aesthetic M. Ellena has put into place while also showing she has some new ideas to explore. M. Ellena returned to an experience of his beginnings as a perfumer to create one of his final releases. Both perfumes are well worth seeking out and will be very good once summer arrives. I am excited to see what’s next from both of these talented perfumers.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Hermes.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Marc Jacobs Fall Winter 2015-16

When it comes to perfume I laud those who take risks. The same applies to fashion. Except I usually have to look to the runway shows in Milan or Paris for the truly avant-garde. New York is where business is on top which means those shows rarely move too far afield. It has defined an era of American couture which is about strong silhouettes, color, and impeccable tailoring. Which makes attending any edition of New York Fashion Week an exercise in wondering which designers will rack up the most sales. An example of the last thirty years of this kind of thinking was on display in the collection of jewel toned sportswear Ralph Lauren displayed early on the final day of New York Fashion Week. As the final show of the Fall 2016 collections was ready to start I expected more of the same. Marc Jacobs sent something out which was one of the most avant-garde collections I’ve seen in New York of my recent memory.2013 best of pics94

It is a funny thing about Mr. Jacobs on the fragrance side of things where safety and flankers rule the day. Over the last part of 2015 I noticed a subtle shift in the perfume to something less safe willing to take some chances. The couture in the Fall Winter 2015-2016 collection took that all the way. In pre-show interviews Mr. Jacobs said the starting point for this collection was the character Lydia from Beetlejuice, played by Wynona Ryder. It seemed like the entire collection was meant to be Lydia’s wardrobe for the foreseeable future as it was emo goth chick through and through. With only a few exceptions the dominant palette was black, grey, and mauve. A fashionable goth’s dream. It was the antidote to every show which preceded it.

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My favorite looks were what Lydia would wear when she pledged Delta Delta Delta in her college years. A mauve affair with the letters right out front. On her first day of work she would wear the polka dot pantsuit with trailing ribbons of fabric. To ward off the chill she would wear the sequined cape full of strong detail. Finally, for a night out she would become the elegant goth in the purple striped gown.

The entire collection has things worth looking at and the video of the entire runway show is above. I wanted to stand up and cheer at what I had just seen. Mr. Jacobs might have just changed the way American couture will be seen.

Mark Behnke