Maison Francis Kurkdjian 101- Five to Get You Started

Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian is one of the elite perfumers working currently. He burst upon the perfume scene in 1995 as one of the perfumers behind Jean-Paul Gaultier Le Male. His career would only trend upwards from there. M. Kurkdjian has made a large number of perfumes I think rank among the very best. In 2009 he started his own line, Maison Francis Kurkdjian. From the initial seven releases to a collection which now numbers twenty-seven fragrances it is one which has always had my attention. I have realized over the last couple of years that it is with this brand where I will start somebody off who is dipping their toe into the niche perfume sector. The perfumes which make up the collection carry a baseline classicism which I think is why they are such appropriate entry level choices into niche. These are the five perfumes I usually take someone through when introducing them to this brand.

One of the first seven releases Aqua Universalis lives up to its tag line of a “A scent for all things”. This is the best clean musk perfume I own. M. Kurkdjian uses a selection of citrus matched to lily of the valley as his come-on. The base has a few sheer woods along with a blend of white musks that M. Kurkdjian has become known for. In Aqua Universalis it all comes together. When I am showing this brand to someone new to niche this is the bottle that most often is purchased.

The masterpiece within the Maison Francis Kurkdjian collection is Absolue pour Le Soir. That is not where someone new to the brand should start. Instead the precursor release Cologne pour Le Soir is a great introduction to themes which will be intensified in the later release. Absolue pour Le Soir is an animalic feral beast with honey. Cologne pour Le Soir is a domesticated feline with honey. From a spicy opening into a lilting incense heart down to cedar sweetened with vanilla. In the original seven this was the one which captured my attention the most.

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Francis Kurkdjian

In 2012 the oud craze had reached its heights. Every time I saw oud in a new release I inwardly said, “Please no more”. The problem was the early oud fragrances were using oud as something to represent exoticism. 2012 would see the end of that as some of the best perfumers began to use oud in constructs which showed its versatility. The simply named Oud was one of those. M. Kurkdjian has a way of tweaking something classic and making it seem contemporary. With Oud he was able to take a note which had usually been used as a wrecking ball, transforming it in to something less pulverizing. By using saffron, cedar, and patchouli along with a Laotian oud which imparts a more delicate profile; containing interesting grace notes which M. Kurkdjian teases out. Oud will make you believe the wrecking ball has become a brilliant fragile crystal ball.

Masculin Pluriel is the best example of M. Kurkdjian’s way of re-interpreting classical styles. Here he takes the fougere and makes it his own. It starts with a single source of lavender that is herbal and green as well as floral. It is so good M. Kurkdjian keeps the rest of the development simple. Cedar, patchouli, and vetiver are the usual fougere components. The fabulous leather accord also present is not. It is that which contemporizes Masculin Pluriel.

When I tried the original 2013 release Aqua Vitae I wanted it to have more heft. Two years later M. Kurkdjian granted that desire with Aqua Vitae Forte. A fabulous mixture of spices, citrus, orange blossom, sandalwood, and vetiver. It is as easy to wear as an old pair of jeans. As I have only had a year to introduce this to people when I take them through Maison Francis Kurkdjian it seems like Aqua Vitae Forte is finding as many admirers from the novice niche users as Aqua Universalis.

These five are where I think you should start but this brand has many more advanced delights once you delve deeper. It is one of the stronger collections currently on the market.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Mendittorosa Nettuno- Fun House Mirrors

Mirrors are reflections of reality. Spend too much time lost in them and you will become a narcissist. Then there are those mirrors found in the fun house at the carnival. These surfaces distort reality. The distortion allows for new perspectives on that which you have seen in a normal way. I am more likely to have to be dragged out of the fun house than I am from the dresser. I like distorted reality. I like the way it causes me to think about non-reality. In perfumery it can be dangerous to create fragrances which distort reality too severely. It is a task for only the clearest eyed of creative directors. One of those is Stefania Squeglia of Mendittorosa.

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Stefania Squeglia

Sig.ra Squeglia has shown her adventurous nature throughout the collection but it is in the three perfumes which make up the Talismans series where it reaches its apotheosis. On the website it describes the fragrances which make up Talismans as, “a concept of scents with strong message and vision”. Sig.ra Squeglia has done that. The most recent addition to the Talismans, Nettuno, is another example.

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Amelie Bourgeois

Sig.ra Squeglia continues working with perfumer Amelie Bourgeois with whom she has collaborated on all of the Mendittorosa fragrances to date. I imagine for Mme Bourgeois this partnership is freeing in its own way allowing her to push her own boundaries.

Nettuno is inspired by Marco Pesatori’s poem Il Volo di Nettuno (Neptune’s Flight). There is a part of the larger poem that I think captures the stylism behind Mendittorosa as a brand:

Through age-old planets

And stars

I fly

With an idea

That has no more ideas

It is that which Nettuno captures the sense of vast interplanetary distances filled with the chill of deep space.

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Model Tresor Prijs

Nettuno opens with a cold water accord of cyclamen providing the aqueous underpinning for pink pepper and blue ginger. Blue ginger has a very pronounced pine needle scent profile. The pink pepper brings out the subtler peppery facets within this ingredient. Mme Bourgeois then creates what she calls a “complex rose accord”. I would call it a very metallic rose. I have always liked this kind of distorted reflection of rose as it feels trapped within a mirror. A very soft powdery iris provides the figurative tail of a comet as we zoom through it to find a leather accord on the other side. In Sogno Reale Mme Bourgeois’ leather accord was made more primitive. In Nettuno it is made more transparent. It feels like it is an illusion of outer space. Finally, Mme Bourgeois tunes an array of white musks into a version of icy Neptune as we have arrived in orbit; the chill settling in.

Nettuno has 16-18 hour longevity and average suillage.

I am, so far, a fan of the kind of perfume Sig.ra Squeglia is producing. These are made for the adventurous perfume lover. One who, like me, revels in seeing the world slightly distorted like a fun house mirror. Mendittorosa is slowly and surely filling up a perfumed fun house full of delightfully quirky visions. Nettuno is the latest installation.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Nettuno from Mendittorosa at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Memo Marfa- Desert Hearts

I am drawn to perfume because there are so many times and places in my life where the smell of a place is as much a part of the experience as anything else. One of the places where I have very distinctive memories of a smell is camping while the desert is in bloom. This usually takes place around this time of the year often reaching its peak right now. It is such a contrast to the red rocks and sand to see color where it usually isn’t. As far as I know none of these flowers have been used as is in a perfume. They certainly transform the smell of the desert from its spicy mineralic baseline into something more genteel. Harsh turns to colorful fantasia. Rocky turns to floral. There are a number of perfumes which have attempted to capture this accord. The new Memo Marfa comes as close to getting it right as I have tried.

desert in bloom

Marfa is the first in a new collection within the brand called Art Land. The name comes from the town in West Texas of the same name. It is a city of approximately 2,000 of which a disproportionate amount are artists. It sits on the edge of the desert at the crossroads of US 90 and US 67 north of Big Bend National Park. If you are a movie fan it was used as a location for the movies, Giant, Fandango, There Will Be Blood, and No Country for Old Men. I have never been to the city, except through these films, but it is part of the same high desert of the American Southwest I am familiar with. Creative director Clara Molloy along with her longtime collaborator perfumer Alienor Massenet set out to capture the city. For me they captured the desert surrounding it while in bloom.

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Clara Molloy

The floral mix Mme Massenet settles upon is one of tuberose absolute and orange blossom absolute. Marfa is primarily a tuberose perfume. Except there are bits of the desert underneath which remind you of what will remain when the flowers are gone.

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Alienor Massenet

Marfa opens on orange blossom which is quickly joined by tuberose. The orange blossom attenuates the tuberose. It also reminds you that it is the subtler of the white flowers. The balance Mme Massenet strikes is very nice. With the florals the first reminder we are in the desert comes with a sharp green “agave accord” it has a sort of spikiness to it which makes it an interesting contrast to all that is going on with the florals. It has the added effect of opening up the camphoraceous nature of the tuberose more fully. If you’ve ever taken a deep breath of arid desert air it feels a lot like that sinus clearing breath. The final part of the development of Marfa is the dried out wood left behind later in the summer. Cedar, sandalwood, and a few white musks form that accord as the desert reclaims its ground although the tuberose stays around even when the woods take over.

Marfa has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I will not be actually spending this spring anywhere near the desert. Thankfully Marfa is going to take me there when I want to imagine I am there.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: From Worst to First

What has always made me a sports fan is the unscripted drama inherent in the best moments. When the USA hockey team upset the USSR at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics it was one of the greatest underdog stories. A bunch of unsung pluggers from the US beat the hockey behemoth that was the USSR. When these kind of Cinderella stories are written they are almost always during short championship tournaments. Over the course of a limited period of time the biggest favorite can be cut down. It is what makes a believer of every fan at the beginning of the season. While it hasn’t come to an end one of the most remarkable underdog stories in all of sports is taking place in the English Premier League.

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With five matches to go the Leicester City Foxes are leading the table. What it remarkable about this is one year ago they were at the opposite end of the table fighting for their lives. In European soccer if you finish in the bottom three you are relegated to the league below. It is a loss in every way of prestige and money. Teams are desperate to stay up. One year ago Leicester City was winning seven of their last nine matches to just stay in the league. Today they are three wins away from winning the league. This is a monumental Cinderella story the likes of which has never been seen in any sport.

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Claudio Ranieri

After escaping relegation, the team dismissed their current coach hiring Claudio Ranieri about a month prior to season’s start. That handicapped him in strengthening the squad as he had only six weeks to bring in any new players. Instead he kept faith with what was there. When the season kicked off in August Leicester City were 5000-1 odds to win the title. The league season is 38 matches long from mid-August through mid-May. It is a nine-month war of attrition as injuries and bad luck will take their toll over that time. Except in the case of Leicester City it hasn’t. Through 33 matches they have only lost 3 times; winning 21 and drawing 9. This is in a league which has five of the biggest soccer clubs in the world with huge cash reserves and depth in players to allow them to weather the injuries and bad luck. Teams like Leicester City are not supposed to be here, not with five matches to go.

Yet here they are. This is the greatest sporting Cinderella story ever because it has gone on for nearly nine months. This is not a team playing over their head for a few weeks this is a team outperforming expectations over months. It is a glorious sporting story which is putting to the sword how much money matters. It is a story of a team which plays for each other never showing any jitters because they know they earned this.

If you love sports, you need to tune into the final act of this over the next month. The success of Leicester City will make you believe that it is because anything is possible is one of the reasons why you love watching.

-Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Badgley Mischka- Deep Cuts

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Where does imitation begin and inspiration end? Of the many perfumes to end up in the Dead Letter Office the ones that try to mimic a popular style deservedly find their spot here. Even to this there are exceptions. Although the perfume which I think is the anomaly has also found its way into the Dead Letter Office; for maybe the same reason.

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Mark Badgley and James Mischka

In 2006 fashion designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka were riding high. They were one of the go-to designers, under their Badgley Mischka label, for the red carpet crowd. Their sleek silhouettes were made for the Hollywood elite to be seen in. Like so many other designers before them their expansion into fragrance was a fait accompli.

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Richard Herpin

They would partner with perfumer Richard Herpin on their first release, Badgley Mischka. The stated desire was to make a perfume which was glamorous and refined. Lots of perfumes want to achieve this. I was expecting the designers of clothing who seemingly effortlessly captured this aesthetic could find the same in a fragrance.

Bagley Mischka is labeled as a floral chypre in its own classification. Which is one part of the reason I think it failed. If you spray a strip of Badgley Mischka for anyone and ask them to describe it the first word out of their mouth will be “fruity”, this isn’t just fruity it is massively so. It is so strongly fruity that you have to go on a search party in the fruit bowl to find the florals. They are there and they are critical to the overall effect but they are not as prominent as floral chypre would lead you to believe.

The other reason I think Badgley Mischka faded was it was a greatest hits collection of other perfumes on the same counter. It contains a strong gourmand facet. It is a fruity floral. It is a modern chypre. The problem comes when the scions of those styles are sitting right next to the bottle on the same sales counter. Why not take the original over the mash-up?

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To extend my music analogy further, while M. Herpin was making a pastiche of popular styles what he used in Badgley Mischka were the album tracks that were not hits, the deep cuts. The fruitiness is so unrestrained it is a syrupy expansive version of that. The gourmand is that caramel confectionary accord also matched with a lactonic milkiness which reminded me of those caramels with a cream core. The chypre exists without the bite of the oakmoss but the patchouli makes up for it.

Badgley Mischka opens up on that fruity accord I have mentioned. Berries in abundance explode around me. I feel like someone who has gorged myself at a raspberry pie eating contest with the evidence all over my face. The caramel accord comes next with peach lactone providing the creaminess. This is the opposite of the other gourmands of the time, quieter; kept in check by the berries. The floral accord of jasmine, osmanthus, and peony provide an important pivot point. Each of the florals provide something different than usual. Overwhelmed by the fruit and caramel the jasmine seems more indolic, the osmanthus leatherier, and the peony more astringent. It is what is needed to transition to the chypre accord. That accord is primarily patchouli and sandalwood. Some white musks are there to provide the rest of the chypre effect.

Badgley Mischka has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I am usually dismissive of these kind of greatest hits perfumes. Except Badgley Mischka connects with me because while it is following the leader it is marching to its own beat. Clearly the perfume buying public did not share my sentiment. Badgley Mischka was sent to the Dead Letter Office a few years ago. It is not one of those highly sought after discontinued fragrances. You can find it for a modest price at the discounters and online auction sites. That is if you’re looking for a fruity gourmand chypre that reminds you of something else you own.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Gabriella Chiefffo Maisia- Ashy Shadows

One of the most pleasant things about writing about perfume is watching young perfumers grow. Right now in the independent niche sector there is a group of these artists I think of as Young Guns. At this stage of their career they are working with young brands which allow them to think a bit out of the box. Sometimes that thinking can lead to something unfocused. The perfumers I put in this category have all learned from those lesser efforts. Thankfully it doesn’t make them retreat into their shell thinking of playing it safe. What has most often happened is they come back ready to strike out in a new direction.

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Gabriella Chieffo

Another component of this is these young brands having a continuing relationship with a perfumer or couple of perfumers. When it comes together both the creative direction and the nose begin to form a working relationship which hopefully leads to something great. At Esxence 2016 one of those moments came to fruition with the release of Gabriella Chieffo Maisia.

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Gabriella Chieffo started her eponymous brand in 2014 with four releases. She would follow that up with two more the following year. Maisia is the first release for 2016. Through all seven fragrances she has been collaborating with perfumer Luca Maffei. Sig.ra Chieffo has a very distinctive vision which she entrusts Sig. Maffei to realize. Maisia is the first of a new series where Sig.ra Chieffo wants to create perfumes of shadow and light. That is an easy concept to articulate. Difficult to achieve. For Maisia, Sig.ra Chieffo envisioned a young woman accused of being a witch being burned at the stake. The inspiration photograph above is another interesting bit of information for Sig. Maffei to use as he went about composing Maisia.

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Luca Maffei

Maisia is simply a fig fragrance with that fruit representing our unjustly accused sorceress. She is singed by the fire of spices. Then in the base she is redeemed as her beauty arises from the ashes as a shadow.

Maisia opens on bright lemon matched with green fig leaves. The fig leaves carry mostly green qualities but underneath it all is a bit of the creaminess of the wood of the tree itself. The lemon provides the last of the light before shadows rise. For the rest of the development the keynote is a slightly overripe fig. Early on it picks up some of the fig leaves. Then a heated spicy accord envelops the fig. It figuratively burns it as the they overwhelm the fig for a bit of time. As the spices recede the fig is left behind, a ghost of itself. Then come the moment where Maisia becomes shadowy. Sig. Maffei uses broom and narcissus to bring back to life the incinerated beauty. The difference is the broom provides a dried out dead grass quality. The narcissus provides a transitional beauty note to go along with what remains of the fig.

Maisia has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you are a fan of fig perfumes Maisia should be on your list to try. The base accord is something unique worth seeing if you like it as much as I do. If you are a fan of precocious young talent and brands Maisia needs to be embraced so more of this kind of perfumery is encouraged. Sig. Maffei has transformed the beauty of fig into ashy shadows. It is a gorgeous trip.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Gabriella Chieffo at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Inspiritu Fortitudo- Summer Meadow Meditations

The path to releasing your own perfume brand is a long one, if you’re going to do it correctly. When I attended Pitti Fragranze in September of 2014 I met Luca Calvani and Olivia Mariotti. They were at a stand with their fledgling brand Inspiritu which at that time was a collection of candles. They were developing a line of perfumes to go along with the candles but they weren’t ready to release them, yet. A year later when I go to Pitti they were ready for prime time with a collection of five fragrances.

The inspiration behind the entire brand, both candles and fragrance, is to take one inside themselves into a meditative place. They believe the fragrances will allow a person to find their inner creativity. When you spend time with Sig.ra Mariotti and Sig. Calvani you realize they are passionate about their perfumes being able to do this. That personal connection made me more receptive to their perspective than if I had received the same words on a press release.

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Olivia Mariotti and Luca Calvani

The five releases are made up of the four cardinal virtues, Temperantia, Iustitia, Prudentia, and Temperantia. They are joined by Lux the light which binds them all. Temperantia is a fairly typical white flower Floriental. Iustitia is a more interesting take on an Oriental with the herbal orange top accord being the best part of its development. Prudentia is a bitingly green floral with a galbanum and moss base accord adding the snap. Lux definitely carries the meditative feel the brand is trying for with a clean cedar and sandalwood focal point. Fortitudo is the one I liked best because it was the most kinetic of the collection. I felt like it took me to wide open spaces in the countryside.

Fortitudo opens on a duet of acacia and violet. The soft floralcy of the acacia contrasts the stronger presence of the violet. This reminded me of hillsides covered in purple flowers at the height of summer. I felt like I was in a meadow. That feeling is only intensified with a strong presence of hay. Hay this strong might conjure up the barnyard to some. For me it carried me to the smell of the dried brown grass of late summer. It forms a foundation for the acacia and violet to rest upon. The base is the creamy woods of sandalwood and cedar.

Fortitudo has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I found it interesting that a perfume brand built on inner meditation instead took me outside for my favorite. Then I realized a meadow covered in flowers in midsummer is a great place to be transported to as a meditative locus.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Inspiritu.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Michael Kors Michael for Men- Swimming Against the Tide

My other series on Colognoisseur called Dead Letter Office is all about fragrances which attempted to be different at the wrong time leading to their discontinuation. This month’s Under the Radar is about a perfume which flew in the face of its contemporaries yet found enough of an audience to continue to today; Michael Kors Michael for Men.

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As Michael Kors was consolidating his fashion empire in the late 1990’s he would follow in the footsteps of many before him by expanding into fragrance. In 2000 he released Michael Kors a sort of blowsy tuberose nicely executed but not particularly memorable. One year later Michael for Men would be released. In 2001 the department store counters were awash in aquatics. Fresh and clean were what men were buying and they had many choices within that genre. If you wanted something different you weren’t often finding it. If I was expecting different Michael Kors wasn’t necessarily where I would be looking.

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Harry Fremont

Mr. Kors has become one of the faces of American sportswear. His clothing designs are known for their clean lines and precise tailoring. Which might lead one to think a perfume for men would also seek to have clean lines. Mr. Kors had different ideas and in numerous interviews around the launch of Michael for Men he reiterated his desire to make a “statement” perfume which flew in the face of the prevailing trends in men’s perfumes. Working with perfumer Harry Fremont and co-creative director with Camille McDonald they came up with a modern powerhouse centered on a rich tobacco accord.

Michael for Men opens with a rich spicy mélange of cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, anise, tarragon, and thyme. There is some bergamot but it is the spices which lay down a marker that those looking for clean should go elsewhere. This leads to the heart where M. Fremont’s tobacco accord comes to life. This is a narcotic blend of the dried leaf complete with a tinge of nicotine bite. A little incense swirls through the opulence but this is really a heady tobacco. The base is a very herbal patchouli softened with sandalwood.

Michael for Men has 16-18 hour longevity and way above average sillage. Spray too much and you’ll clear a room.

In a sea of aquatic fresh perfumes Michael for Men should have sunk beneath the waves like so many others who also tried the same approach. What I think allowed Michael for Men to succeed was there was no attempt to soften the concept of a modern powerhouse. No opportunity to pull the punch. The creative team doubled down on their belief that this style could succeed. Fifteen years since release it seems as if their instinct has proven correct. It also seems like men’s fragrances have also caught up as this kind of style has plenty of company at the fragrance counter today. It all goes to prove that swimming against the tide isn’t advisable but in some rare cases you can reach the shore safely.  

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jacques Fath Faths Essentials Green Water- Meeting an Old Friend

There is probably no more difficult task for a perfumer to try and come up with a modern version of one of the early 20th century classic perfumes. The best of those fragrances have achieved near mythical status as perfume lovers attempt to find vintage bottles. This desire has led to companies wanting to release new versions to take advantage of this. The biggest problem facing the current perfumer is trying to make a perfume where many of the ingredients are no longer allowed to be used or have risen in price so dramatically that synthetic equivalents need to be employed. This usually has the effect of the newer version having the feel of a lithograph; lacking the vibrancy of the original. It can be particularly frustrating when I know how much lesser the new version is. I am still hopeful especially when the perfumer behind the new version is one I admire. The new Jacques Fath Faths Essential Green Water was one I was hopeful for.

The original Jacques Fath Green Water, from 1946, is one of the few perfumes which manages to use mint without reminding me of dental care products. Original perfumer Vincent Roubert uses it as part of a citrus and neroli accord before really getting green in the foundation with vetiver and oakmoss. The amount of neroli being used here is massive. The use of the mint and the cost of getting the orange blossom concentration correct were but two of the challenges facing perfumer Cecile Zarokian as she took on the challenge of making a 2016 version of Green Water.

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Cecile Zarokian

Mme Zarokian dealt with the easiest of the problems by convincing the powers at Jacques Fath there was no substitute for lowering the neroli concentration. In that case she was able to hold the line and the neroli in this new version is as densely potent as it was in the original. The mint was going to be another thing. Mme Zarokian decided to take the mint and make it the leader of a selection of herbal notes. It helps control the mint and remind one that it is also an herb. It keeps it from being the presence that it is in the original but in this case it seemed less important to me. Keeping the neroli at the previous level was the more important battle to win.

The new version of Green Water opens with that mixture of citrus as lemon and orange add a snappy beginning. Then the lush neroli rises up on all sides. It is beautifully encompassing. The mint arrives with caraway, tarragon, and basil in attendance. The basil in particular really attenuates the mint. I like this change as it is more herbal than in the original. It is what really separates it from that. The base is vetiver and the low atranol version of oakmoss. Mme Zarokian adds in a bit of ambergris to add interesting depth to the variant on the original base accord.

Green Water has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mme Zarokian has successfully taken on the challenge of reinterpreting a classic. Her diligence at getting something close to the original without feeling like something lesser is laudable. I am looking forward to wearing this new version of Green Water during this upcoming spring and summer. It feels like seeing an old friend after many years with changes for the better.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from Jacques Fath at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Le Galion Cologne and Cologne Nocturne- Classic v. Contemporary

I have long had a fascination with the contemporary evolution of the cologne. The whole Nouveau Cologne movement over the past five years has shown how much creativity can be applied to one of the most basic of fragrance architectures.

Another recent development that I have also enjoyed has been the re-emergence of Le Galion as a vital brand. Owner and Creative Director Nicolas Chabot first reminded us of these lost perfumes by the great perfumer Paul Vacher two years ago. Over the last year M. Chabot has been working with some of the best perfumers out there in realizing new perfumes in the style of M. Vacher. Now the latest step forward comes as M. Chabot collaborates with perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux on two very different colognes called Cologne and Cologne Nocturne.

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Nicolas Chabot (Photo: Sylvie Mafray)

Cologne is an imaginary meeting between M. Vacher and Sr. Flores-Roux in the gardens attached to the Le Galion mansion. Sr. Flores-Roux is a perfumer with whom I have had many discussions about how the heritage of the past can be reflected today. Thinking about these two perfumers having this conversation I would imagine it to be one on the classic form of cologne. Cologne provides that kind of experience.

Cologne opens on a fully realized orange blossom dominant accord underpinned with citrus. Sr. Flores-Roux has always had a deft touch with floral accords. This one is so basic yet somehow there is unexpected depth to the early moments of Cologne. It is softened in the heart with a bit of angelica root before heading to a green base of galbanum and clary sage. This is classical cologne distilled through that perspective using modern materials to add complexity. Cologne has 8-10 hours of longevity and average sillage.

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Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Cologne Nocturne is everything I enjoy about Nouveau Cologne. Sr. Flores-Roux creates what he calls an “amber water”. This is not the usual construction for cologne as the base is usually not the star. In Cologne Nocturne Sr. Flores-Roux has opened it up with traditional cologne components before turning it on its head in the base to realize his vision.

Cologne Nocturne starts with lemon and bergamot. It is a typical breezy cologne opening. The heart early on also stays firmly in the traditional as lavender is matched with herbal notes of rosemary, sage, and thyme. Then the modern aspects begin to arrive as a spice laden accord sweeps the herbs away to combine with the lavender. I don’t know if it is just the newness of it all but I prefer when the spices are ascendant with the lavender. These spices live on as a parade of woody notes begin to form the amber water accord. Sr. Flores-Roux takes what could become a very heavy finish and manages to keep it lighter. This is how he gets to his vision of “amber water”. Cologne Nocturne was one of my most anticipated things to try at Esxence 2016 and it did not let me down. It is a brilliant Nouveau Cologne. Cologne Nocturne has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I have to reiterate my admiration for the way M. Chabot is working so hard to keep it from being a relic and making sure it stays relevant. It is a difficult balancing act between the classic and the contemporary. Le Galion with Cologne and Cologne Nocturne continue to navigate these tricky waters creditably.

Disclosure: This review was based on sample provided at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke