La Parfumerie Moderne Annees Folles- Golden Fougere

There are always new brands which I am hopeful about which don’t connect with me upon their first releases. One of those is the French brand La Parfumerie Moderne. Owned and creatively directed by Philippe Neirinck it has a stated desire to reach back and revive the classic perfume aesthetics in a modern way. Certainly an effort I am appreciative of and want to support. M. Neirinck even chose a perfumer who I expected would take this concept and run with it in Marc-Antoine Corticchiato. I received my samples of the first three releases at Esxence in 2013. For all that I wanted to be drawn in by this effort I was left unimpressed. There was definite quality here but in a couple of cases these felt like evolutions of perfumes from M. Corticchiato’s own brand Parfum D’Empire. The one which held some promise for me was No Sport which had a classic fougere feel to it but still didn’t capture me fully. I was hopeful that they would try again. That fourth try is called Annees Folles.

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Marc-Antoine Corticchiato

Annees Folles is the French term for the Golden Twenties referring to the 1920’s. In the US it was called the Roaring Twenties. In both France and the US it was a time after World War I where the young adults of the day were attempting to rewrite the societal rules. The Great Depression would bring the long party to an end soon enough. This was also a golden time for perfume making as both women and men wore fragrance. If you just do a search for perfume released between 1920-1930 many of the classics are to be found there. The prevailing men’s fragrance type was the fougere. Messrs. Neirinck and Corticchiato had tried to make a Retro Nouveau fougere with No Sport. With Annees Folles they tried again and this time hit the mark.

When a Retro Nouveau perfume succeeds it uses some classic tropes but infuses them with modern flourishes. A brand called La Parfumerie Moderne almost has to do this just to live up to the name. I think that is the biggest difference between No Sport and Annees Folles in that the new release does that job much better.

Annees Folles opens with lavender as the focal point. M. Corticchiato adds in the herbal snap of thyme and the sweetness of nutmeg. The thyme keeps the lavender from being too floral. The nutmeg adds an orthogonal spicy sweet vector. With a bit of vetiver and geranium also along for the ride Anness Folles carries an almost classic barbershop vibe with a twist. I keep thinking of all these grooming lounges for gentlemen which have sprung up and think Annees Folles would be the perfect mix of past and present to represent them. Annees Folles eventually develops further with a nicely balanced trio of benzoin, amber, and patchouli as the final accord.

Annees Folles has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

One other aspect of Annees Folles which marks it as contemporary is its weight. In the 1920’s the fougeres were not subtle. In 2016 M. Corticchiato has made a transparent version of a fougere which still has a spine present. With Annees Folles La Parfumerie Moderne has finally lived up to its mission by creating a golden fougere.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Byredo Midnight Candy- Candied Violet Noir

Byredo has been one of those niche brands with a very consistent aesthetic. Creative Director Ben Gorham and perfumer Jerome Epinette have collaborated successfully in creating that distinct brand identity. For that reason, I was interested when in the Fall of 2015 Byredo announced a collection of three extrait de parfums called the Night Veils collection. The concept was to focus on three separate floral notes in an extrait formulation. This is noteworthy because the main Byredo collection has a very expansive opaque quality to it. Extraits are the opposite of that as they are much more closed up and wear very close to the skin.

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Ben Gorham (photo: Andreas Ohlund via Wall Street Journal.com)

The three perfumes released were Casablanca Lily which is a plum and lily focused perfume; Reine de Nuit explores the intersection of rose, saffron, and blackcurrant buds. Both were nice but neither really intrigued me enough to wear them for a couple of days. The third one, Midnight Candy had me from the beginning as it combines four of my favorite floral notes; orris, jasmine, violet, and osmanthus into a sultry seductive stunner of an extrait.

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Jerome Epinette

Midnight Candy felt unlike the other two Night Veils releases because M. Epinette worked each phase of development in well-chosen pairs of notes. I particularly like when M. Epinette does this because at its best it adds unique harmonies to notes. In Midnight Candy it is all made into a creature of the night.

The first pair to be noticed is a rooty duet of carrot and orris. This has been used before but in this case M. Epinette does accentuate the rooty quality of both ingredients. The vegetal sweetness of the carrot keeps the powdery nature of orris well in hand. In the heart violet come to the fore with jasmine hurrying to catch up. In all of the Night Veils extraits each phase builds and encapsulates the previous one. In Midnight Candy it means that the orris and carrot provides a candied aspect to the violet. This is them given depth with the late arriving jasmine. In truth I was already thrilled with Midnight Candy. M. Epinette added a figurative cherry on my fragrant sundae with osmanthus as the final floral. The leathery -apricot quality provides a faux animalic effect which is sweetened a bit with vanilla. Once this all assembles it feels like a candied violet rooted in the ground at midnight.

Midnight Candy has 12-14 hour longevity and low sillage.

Midnight Candy has provided a successful departure from the perfumes which have defined Byredo for the last nine years. I have enjoyed its dark take on violet immensely.

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

Mark Behnke

Olfactory Chemistry: beta-Santolol Derivatives- Figuring Out Sandalwood

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In my job as a medicinal chemist one of the ways I analyze data is through a process called Structure-Activity Relationship (SAR). What that means is I make a change to a molecule and see whether that gives me better binding (activity) or less. Through putting that data set together I come to understand the biological interaction I am working on. The same holds true for the chemists working on aromachemicals. They call their version Structure-Odor Replationship (SOR).

The gathering of SOR data is two-fold. The primary reason is to create a new raw material to be used as a fragrance. The secondary reason is to continue to add to the data set of molecules and how we perceive them. The hypothesis is the broader the amount of data points the more insight we will gain into the biological process which governs our sense of smell. A recent 2014 publication (Delasalle et. al.; Chemistry & Biodiversity, vol. 11, pg. 1843-1860, 2014) from the chemistry department at the University of Nice. In this study they were focused on the molecule which makes up most of sandalwood essential oil, beta-santolol.

The reason for looking for alternatives to sandalwood essential oil is the overharvesting which nearly drove the Mysore version to extinction. Now that particular version is tightly controlled by the Indian government. There have been more sustainable version cultivated in New Caledonia and Australia which have taken their place in newer perfume constructions. If an easily synthesizable beta-santolol could be discovered or alternatively a deeper understanding on how beta-santolol binds to allow for a more intelligent design then this would be another step to easing the stress on the natural sources.

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The research team  took beta-santolol and did a number of chemical transformations on the long sidechain indicated above. Also the OH group was hypothesized to be an important part of the molecule in creating the sandalwood odor profile. The results showed if that OH group was oxidized to an aldehyde in that specific configuration seen above it resulted in a much fainter sandalwood odor. If you changed the geography around the double bond at the end of the side chain it retained the same odor profile as beta-santolol. All of the remaining changes to the side chain or the OH group resulted in molecules describes as “sweaty” or odorless.

They would go on to analyze a set of 21 variations. This provided a further confirmation of the necessity of the OH group in that particular position for the molecule to have a strong sandalwood scent profile similar to beta-santalol.

This research team would purchase a number of other beta-santolol variations focused on the ring instead of the side-chain also looking for further insight into the SOR.

This research has added a new data set which allows for a further refinement on the biological reaction behind our sense of smell of sandalwood.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Armani Prive Vert Malachite- Verdant White Floral

As designers have all added an exclusive luxury fragrance line to their perfume business it has become problematic for some. The best ones have quality across the line with only a few clunkers within. The other ones have less success. One of the latter has been the Armani exclusive line called Armani Prive.

Armani Prive started in 2004 with four releases. Even then it was two for four with Bois D’Encens and Ambre Soie standing apart. Over the next twelve years that has been about the way this line has gone. For each good one there is a not so good one. I will say the uneven quality always makes me interested to try the new releases because when they are good they can be very good. I received the samples of the two new releases Rouge Malachite and Vert Malachite curious to see how they would be. The Rouge Malachite was an unimpressive pretty tuberose overdosed with an amber synthetic called AmberXtreme. It was at turns pretty followed by aggressive. When I turned to the Vert Malachite I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found was a white flower perfume streaked with green in all the right places. Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin really does a nice job in combining the two.

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Fabrice Pellegrin

M. Pellegrin begins with a typical citrus opening of bitter orange and petitgrain smoothed over with baie rose. This has become such a generic opening it should be trademarked. Thankfully change was coming as M. Pellegrin uses a green leafy accord to provide the place for jasmine and ylang-ylang to combine with. This might have become banal too but for the skillful interjection of lily. This is a very green tinted lily which cuts through the more boisterous florals. Over time the lily becomes the focal point. It is a slow burn while that happens and at first the lily seems like it is in competition with the jasmine and ylang ylang only to eventually come out on top. Once that happens while still very white flower-ish there is also a lot of green present which adds some needed texture. The base is a mix of woods, benzoin, and vanilla for a sweetly woody foundation.

Vert Malachite has 18-20 hour longevity and average sillage.

It should have been no surprise for a perfume line batting .500 that one would be better than the other. Vert Malachite is a nicely composed floral perfume tailor-made for the upcoming spring.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Olfactive Studio Still Life in Rio- Past, Present, and Future

Olfactive Studio had one of the best creative years in its short existence in 2015. Creative Director and owner Celine Verleure took chances which worked with Panorama and Selfie. I wondered what 2016 would bring. The first part of that answer comes in the new release Still Life in Rio.

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Celine Verleure

Still Life in Rio is sort of a sequel/flanker to one of the original three Olfactive Studio releases, Still Life. The same perfumer Dora Baghriche is back to compose this ninth release for the brand. Bu using Mme Baghriche again Mme Verleure allows for a sense of evolution to be displayed as you move from Still Life to Still Life in Rio.

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Photo by Flavio Veloso

Another hall mark of the brand is the use of a photograph as the brief for the perfume. For Still Life in Rio she uses the photo above by Brazilian photographer Flavio Veloso. The picture is taken from one of the viewing platforms around the large statue of Christ atop Corcovado looking towards the other symbolic mountain of Rio, Sugarloaf. Sr. Veloso captures a moment in time where the golden sunlight is captured in the remaining fog of the night. That burnished radiance in the photo is evident throughout the development of Still Life in Rio.

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Dora Baghriche

Still Life in Rio begins with a nod back to the original. Mme Bachriche again uses yuzu mixed with black pepper and pink pepper. The final ingredient is a hot pepper. In Still Life it was Szechuan Pepper. Still Life in Rio uses Jamaican Hot Pepper. There is a difference where the Szechuan pepper simmers with heat; the Jamaican version adds an acidic contrast to the citric nature of the yuzu. I like the new version of the opening it is much more lively with the addition of the Jamaican pepper. Ginger emphasizes the new pizazz. The movement into the heart is rum and coconut water. If you have ever visited Rio there are whole coconuts which are opened and poured over ice beachside. In Still Life in Rio Mme Baghriche uses it as a way to lighten up the rum while softening it a bit. Copaiba matched with a soft white leather accord impart more of that misty golden quality seen in the photographic inspiration. The copaiba balsam along with the leather accord is such a deeply satisfying conclusion I always let out a sigh when the last of it faded away.

Still Life in Rio has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I liked the nods back to Mme Baghriche’s Still Life throughout Still Life in Rio. It reminds me how assured Mme Verleure has come to know her audience and its willingness to follow in new directions. Still Life in Rio is a golden riff on the past while promising more of the same for the future.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle provided by Olfactive Studio.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Pimm’s Cup Cocktail

As I think is obvious I am looking forward to the arrival of spring. My desk is flooded with spring perfume releases which is somewhat responsible for my getting ahead of Mother Nature. I am also looking to the time I can head out to the local farms to pick strawberries. My favorite way of employing strawberries is as part of a classic cocktail called a Pimm’s Cup.

The very name of the cocktail causes confusion because the liquor used to make it is called Pimm’s No. 1 Cup. Although a Pimm’s Cup has a few other ingredients which I’ll get to. The liquor itself has an interesting history.

Pimm’s No. 1 Cup was introduced in 1851. It was a gin-based liquor infused with a secret mixture of herbs. In the early days it was meant as a digestif served in a small “No. 1 cup” thus the origin of the name. There would eventually be Pimm’s No. 2-6 Cups each with a different liquor base. All of them have disappeared except for a version of Pimm’s No. 3 Cup which was brandy based. It shows up on shelves under the name Pimm’s Winter Cup during the Holidays.

I discovered Pimm’s a few years ago when on a visit to the liquor store I was given a glass of Pimm’s No.1 with fresh strawberries muddled with it. It immediately caught my attention and I purchased a bottle to experiment with in my neophyte cocktail laboratory. Early on I found the classic cocktail recipe called a Pimm’s Cup.

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The Pimm’s Cup is very English cocktail. It can be purchased when attending such very British events like the Chelsea Flower Show or Wimbledon. The Pimm’s Cup’s basics are simply Pimm’s No’ 1 Cup plus lemonade. The variation is you can almost add anything which is growing to the mix to turn it into a current harvest libation. The combination with lemonade is so refreshing that even just that is often enough but it gets much better if you experiment by adding some different ingredients.

My favorite addition is basil and fresh strawberry. I am not sure if it is because my first taste of Pimm’s No. 1 Cup was with strawberry but in conjunction with the tart of the lemonade it is my favorite cocktail of the spring. I have seen the Pimm’s Cup described as the “gardener’s cocktail” and it seems appropriate as I’ve added cucumber, blackberries, peach, orange, apples, parsley, chive, dill, lemongrass, and lavender. Whatever is growing can go into the glass.

While I have found many variations on the additions to the lemonade and liquor; Pimm’s No. 1 Cup has not proven to be as versatile as an ingredient in other cocktails. It really seems made for one best purpose and that is in a Pimm’s Cup.

Here is my spring recipe for a Pimm’s Cup

In a tall glass take a fresh strawberry and mash it up with a shredded basil leaf.

Add one full shot of Pimm’s No. 1 Cup.

Add ice followed by lemonade and stir with a long spoon.

Once the first fruit and herbs of the season start appearing in your area give the Pimm’s Cup a try.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Neroli Portofino Acqua & Neroli Portofino Forte- Fino Flankers

On the surface if you tell me that there are flankers within the Tom Ford Private Blend collection I would be against it. In an already voluminous line of perfumes taking up space with flankers seems wasteful. Except when it comes to Neroli Portofino; creative directors Karyn Khoury and Tom Ford have found a way to do it thoughtfully. That starts with using perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux who composed the original to also be the nose behind the flankers. The first flanker was last year’s Fleur de Portofino which was much more floral than its parent. Now that is followed up by two more flankers Neroli Portofino Acqua and Neroli Portofino Forte.

When it comes to the names of these it is exactly what it promises on the label. Neroli Portofino Acqua is a very light eau de cologne version. Neroli Portofino Forte is a fortified version a little heavier than the original. What it seems like to me is they have now created a Neroli Portofino for all seasons.

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Neroli Portofino Acqua is constructed with the same framework of orange and orange blossom on top combined with a warm amber base. It is the middle accord that imparts the sense of airiness which gives Neroli Portofino Acqua its style. The opening is the same citrus mélange of orange, lemon and orange blossom. It is in these opening moments where Neroli Portofino Acqua is the most similar to Neroli Portofino. Then, where the original gets more floral, Acqua rises on a fresh breeze from the sea. It picks up the citrus accord and carries it to the amber base. This again is much lighter in feel than it was in the original. If there was anything you disliked about the original Neroli Portofino because of concentration I think Neroli Portofino might be the right concentration for you. Neroli Portofino Acqua has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

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Sr. Flores-Roux makes many more changes to Neroli Portofino Forte. The similarity to Neroli Portofino is definitely there but is feels much more like Fleur de Portofino did in its ability to stand apart. The first change is to switch the orange out for blood orange. This adds a contrasting tartness which is then shaded green with an herbal chord of basil, rosemary, and tarragon. Forte stays much more herbal and green as the orange blossom shows up as a much less influential note than in any of the other three flankers. Sr. Flores-Roux then adds in a smooth refined leather accord along with sandalwood. This is where the warm amber accord of Neroli Portofino again arises but as with the orange blossom it is other notes which are in the foreground. Some muscone in the final phase of development turns the last moments more animalic. Neroli Portofino Forte is a version to be worn in those chilly shoulder seasons around summer. I have been wearing it during these days of chilly mornings and temperate days and it is perfect. Neroli Portofino Forte has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

When a set of flankers is reimagined with the flair that Sr. Flores-Roux brings to this collection it is hard not to be impressed. I know Neroli Portofino Forte has definitely replaced the original as my favorite of the four. If you’ve ever wanted a blue bottle Tom Ford Private Blend on your dresser one of these four should definitely do the trick.

Disclosure: This review was based on press samples provided by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke

Header photo from groomingguru.co.uk

New Perfume Review Amouage Opus X- Rose Vibrato

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Spring is the time of year for roses. Happy blooming red flowers to signal winter is gone. Perfume follows this same trend. The parade of rose fragrances increases in the first part of the year. They also exhibit a sense of light-heartedness. There comes a point where one more pleasantly composed rose brings out my inner curmudgeon. I want to yell at my desk full of samples for these kids to get out of my sight. I was feeling extra salty about all of this when I received my sample of the new Amouage Opus X. I looked at the set of notes and saw rose. I sprayed some on a strip and the antidote to all my irritation was washed away in a deeply moving dark rose perfume.

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Christopher Chong

Christopher Chong the creative director at Amouage took the 1998 movie “The Red Violin” as his inspiration. The movie is the story of a red violin which is created in 1681 by a master violin maker. The red color comes from him mixing the blood of his wife, who dies in childbirth along with his child, in with the varnish. The movie then focuses on the violin as it shows up in 1793 Vienna, 1898 Oxford, 1968 Shanghai, and eventually present day Montreal. At each stop the violin plays a pivotal part as foretold by a tarot card reading at its creation. The Red Violin is a sweeping ambitious piece of storytelling and so is Opus X.

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Pierre Negrin

For Opus X Mr. Chong collaborated with perfumers Pierre Negrin and Annick Menardo. Their concept was to create an olfactory red violin. There would be four distinct strings of rose and rose accords. A “red varnish” accord followed by the wood which makes up the body. The creative team really worked out how to create the different rose accords. As I wore it I was reminded of the fingering technique used when playing a violin called vibrato. A musician by using their fingertip to rapidly lengthen and release the string provides a vibrating effect which allows a single note to resonate as if it was two different notes milliseconds apart. In the best violin players’ hands it is used to stunning effect. In the hands of this creative team for Opus X there is a real sense of vibrato among the different rose “strings”.

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Annick Menardo

Opus X opens with those rose strings right away. Rose de Mai represents one of the strings. This classic rose of Provence provides the beauty. The rosebud accord imparts a delicacy. The “bloody rose accord” is the deeply rooted rose. Rose oxide provides a metallic rose which also represents the blood in the varnish. In the early moments it is just a straight bow across all of these notes as the rose ebbs and flows as the perfumers add vibrato and they begin to meld together. The next phase is going to be the challenging part for some to get through as the varnish accord is leavened a bit by geranium. This is a very heady varnish accord and it takes its place underneath the continued vibrating strings of roses. I was completely taken in by the imagery and the early notes that the varnish just kept the story evolving for me. If it becomes too prominent on some I can see it jarring you out of the mood. For me I found it fascinatingly different. The wood of the violin is made up of Laotian oud and the warm ambergris quality of the synthetic aromachemical Ambrarome. It adds in an exotic otherworldly aspect to the base accord which feels like the right place to end Opus X.

Opus X has 14-16 hour longevity and way above average sillage. This is one where you want to apply very conservatively.

I needed a rose fragrance which wasn’t willing to pander to the season. Opus X’s arrival gave me one. This is nothing like any of the other roses in the Amouage collection. It is as good as anything Amouage has produced.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Phoenix Botanicals Peach Tree Garden- The Life of Peaches

One of my favorite independent perfumers is Irina Adam of Phoenix Botanicals. When I have the opportunity to meet her in person there is a studious quiet intensity to her when she speaks about her perfumes. Like most indie perfumers their personality also makes the trip to the fragrances they make. What Ms. Adam has done so adeptly in her career, so far, is to create olfactory visions which draw the rest of us into them along with her. Her latest release is Peach Tree Garden where she puts us in the middle of a peach orchard in the height of summer.

When we moved from Massachusetts to Maryland we moved into an area of the state called the Agricultural Preserve. In this area it is zoned to encourage local farming. One of the farms is a peach orchard. It seems Ms. Adam and I share the same enjoyment of the orchard when it is at the height of maturity. The summer sun high in the sky. Trees with blossoms among ripening fruit. The rotting fruit on the ground. In real life this is a heady smell of beauty and decay with more of the former on display. Ms. Adam designs Peach Tree Garden with the same idea of capturing that peach orchard. The really intelligent part is she grafts that on to a chypre base. It is that which really elevates Peach Tree Garden into something memorable.

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Irina Adam

Ms. Adam opens with a fascinating duet of yuzu and saffron. This combines into that sunny accord deepened with a hint of the spicy flesh of the fruit. The heart is that mixture of blossom and fruit I mentioned above. Ms. Adam uses osmanthus as the stand-in for the blossoms as the peach arises with intensity. The osmanthus’ apricot like quality is a perfect simulacrum for the peach blossom. The accord of decaying fruit is composed of oud, labdanum, and ambrette. It is that slightly decadent smell of the sweet turned rotten. It never rises to the level of taking things over, it is a gentle reminder that all beauty decays. The final phase is that chypre accord of oakmoss and vetiver. It adds a contrasting gentle bite to all that has come before.

Peach Tree Garden has 6-8 hour longevity and below average sillage. Both typical for 100% natural perfumes.

As I’ve worn Peach Tree Garden in these waning days of winter I have enjoyed its ability to allow me to dream of summer days in the peach orchard. Ms. Adam has added another impressive perfume to her collection.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I was given as a gift.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Chantecaille Kalimantan- Desiccated Patchouli

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Great perfumes can be found in some surprising places. If there is one thing I want from this series is to help point out where some of these hidden beauties are to be found. This month’s entry is found at the luxury cosmetics counter of Chantecaille and is called Kalimantan.

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Chantecaille was founded by Sylvie Chantecaille in 1997 after she left Estee Lauder where she was responsible for the Prescriptives line of cosmetics there. As part of creating a complete beauty brand fragrance was included right from the start. Frangipane, Tiare, and Wisteria comprised the original collection. Over these early years the cosmetics caught on much more easily than the fragrances did. Mme Chantacaille was not ready to give up and in 1999 Darby Rose was released followed by 2004’s Le Jasmin. I only recently tried a sample of Le Jasmin, which is discontinued. Perfumer Frank Voelkl made an incredibly deep jasmine perfume which is beautiful for the materials he used in designing it. As you can tell Mme Chantecaille was not ready to give up on the perfume side of her brand. In 2010 she collaborated with perfumer Pierre Negrin on three more perfumes; Petales, Vetyver, and Kalimantan. All three are quite good but Kalimantan stands out among the three.

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Sylvie Chantecaille

Kalimantan is the Indonesian word for Borneo. It seems like any perfume which refers to Borneo must be a patchouli centered creation. Kalimantan lives up to this. M. Negrin designs a dry patchouli infused with incense and oud. It is powerful perfumery.

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Pierre Negrin

M. Negrin opens Kalimantan up with an herbal pair of rosemary and thyme. This very quickly picks up the central note of Indonesian patchouli. With the herbal notes in play that nature of the patchouli is what first comes up. Then as incense and labdanum provide resinous complement the patchouli morphs into something much more austere. It desiccates it. Only to have the oud splinter it into skanky fragments. This is one of the better uses of full throttle oud in a fragrance. It acts as a bit of a battering ram, in a good way; as it unsettles things. A woody foundation of cedar and sandalwood bring it all back together for the final stages.

Kalimantan has 20-24 hour longevity and way above average sillage.

Kalimantan is nothing like any of the other seven perfumes which carried the Chantecaille name. It is why it is so unheralded. If you have a Chantecaille cosmetics counter in a department store near you go and ask for this hidden gem.

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

Mark Behnke