Under the Radar: Carthusia Uomo- Mediterranean Rosewood

The first stage of my perfume journey took place in the 1980’s and 1990’s and it was pretty much a solitary affair. When the Internet happened I would dive into the online community for a communal experience. One of the problems was information overload. Reading posts from people describing fragrances which I had to try caused me to really become acquisitive. I am sure if I had tracked my purchases the early 2000’s would have been when I bought the most. Which would coincide with finding the vast online community of other perfume lovers. Over time I would discover those who posted who shared my taste. As funny as it sounds in those days the thought of sharing my thoughts on perfume was frightening to me. I was a few years away from thinking I had anything to add to the conversation. So my benefactors had no clue they were enabling me. I was also early in my days of trying to understand the raw materials that went into perfume.

One morning I opened up one of the perfume forums and there was one of my scent twins talking about this perfume with a kelp note and a new wood I had never heard of, rosewood. The perfume was called Carthusia Uomo and I was off to find a bottle.

carthusia-uomo

Carthusia is a heritage Italian brand. It was revived in 2000 with a mix of legacy and new compositions. It was 2004 until Carthusia Uomo would make its appearance. Uomo was one of the original Carthusia releases back in 1948. The four legacy releases carry a classic aesthetic to them. Uomo is the one which has some semblance of a contemporary air to it because of a couple of unique raw materials used in it. The perfumer who worked on these early releases has been lost to time. Laura Tonatto oversaw the early new releases and I suspect she also did the same for the legacy re-issues. I have never been able to source any of the vintage Uomo so I also have no idea how close or not this is to the original. What is here is one of my favorite warm weather perfumes.

Uomo opens with a very familiar Mediterranean accord of green tinged citrus. That all changes rather rapidly as the heart accord consists of notes like raspberry, patchouli, jasmine, and kelp. Here is what makes Uomo stand out for me. Those four notes could be combined to form something very heavy. In Uomo the opposite happens as it is kept very breezy and light. The raspberry is not the cloying ingredient from too many to count fruity florals. The jasmine is ethereal. The patchouli is the magic carpet for all of this to ride upon. Then there is the kelp which imparts a briny green aspect. It is like a stiff breeze off an ocean with the kelp floating on top. The same light hand extends in to the base accord as a trio of woods; cedar, sandalwood, and rosewood combine. The cedar provides a clean frame; the sandalwood the platform, for the slightly sweet rosewood to steal the show. It arises seamlessly from the opaque raspberry to form a fabulously sweet woody finish.

Carthusia Uomo has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Uomo has become more widely available than it was when I first heard about it. I can recommend giving the Carthusia brand a try if you do go in search of Uomo as the whole brand is under the radar. But the brightest light in that collection is Uomo.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review: Bruno Fazzolari & Antonio Gardoni Cadavre Exquis- Franken-gourmand

Over the past two years or so there have been a number of collaborations within the independent perfume community. I have likened it to when two musicians meet at a festival and start jamming together backstage to find there is some artistic commonality to work from. Perfume is not quite as easy as that but when a couple of perfumers get together and start discussing collaboration it is always exciting to see it actually happen. Such is the case with perfumer Bruno Fazzolari and Antonio Gardoni of Bogue Profumo.

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Bruno Fazzolari

Mr. Fazzolari has been one of the most interesting independent perfume stories. I only really had the pleasure of trying his entire collection in the last year. He has that outsider mindset which most often goes wrong. For him it allows for a way of thinking about perfume by melding it with his color sense as a painter that has resulted in one of the great indie collections.

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Antonio Gardoni

Sig. Gardoni came at his independent perfume career from a different place; a more classical one. He acquired a perfumer’s laboratory from the 1940’s. After spending time with each of the materials he had, he began to compose starting with a recipe that came with the bottles. His brand has evolved since then and he has made some of the best retro nouveau perfumes of the last two years.

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"Cadavre Exquis" (1927) by Man Ray, Joan Miro, Yves Tanguy, and Max Morise

When the two met they decided on a very unique version of a perfume collaboration. They wanted to do a fragrant version of the 1920’s artists parlor game cadavre exquis. The way that game went was a group of artists, four usually, would collaborate by each drawing on a page and after finishing cover up their contribution. The next artist would then add to the drawing and cover up their contribution and so on until all four had gone. There are examples of the work in museums all over the world. The example above hangs in MoMA in NYC and was done in 1927 by artists Man Ray, Yves Tanguy, Joan Miro, and Max Morise. It is sort of an artistic Frankenstein which manages to lurch into life. Mr. Fazzolari and Sig. Gardoni wanted to do the same and they gave their perfume the same name, Cadavre Exquis.

They further decided that the genre they wanted to work in was the gourmand. The way they played the game was starting with Sig. Gardoni they sent vials back and forth as each added something to it. Not quite as blind as the artist’s game but still each new addition was going to inspire the next. The resulting perfume is as completely original as you might expect.

Right from the beginning of Cadavre Exquis you can see the idea of experimentation. In the booklet which comes with the perfume one of the perfumers mentions his take on how he sees this gourmand. “Think about a potion from 100 years ago….sold by a magician, a “doctor”….a power-food, a love elixir with an almost disturbing smell….think…CAMPHOR!” It is this which greets you upon spraying on Cadavre Exquis it is contrasted with the more usual citrus notes of bergamot and blood orange. I love this opening the camphor immediately lets you know this is an experiment. The heart is dominated by a rich cacao absolute which wraps up the camphor in an embrace and doesn’t let go. This camphoraceous chocolate accord is the beating heart of Cadavre Exquis. Over the next few hours the sense of cadavre exquis the game is most apparent as different floral and herbal notes are used to change this outré gourmand accord. The unctuous nature of ylang ylang oozes across it. The acerbic nature of tagetes pierces it. Star anise amplifies it. Finally, stewed fruit adds an alternative sweetness; a kind of decaying almost rotted version. That degree of decay is what leads in to the base accord centered around the animalic ingredients of civet and castoreum. They add the entropy to the cleaner sweet woodiness of cypress, benzoin, and vanilla.

Cadavre Exquis has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Cadavre Exquis the perfume is a much more complete artistic vision than the visual pieces from the 1920’s. That is not surprising because the perfumers didn’t work as completely uninformed.  Even so the melding of the classic and the synesthetic works in a much more satisfying way that I could have imagined. Cadavre Exquis is a Franken-gourmand which is delightfully alive.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Mona di Orio Bohea Boheme- Monaesque Act II

As I am no doubt sure most who have read my perfume writing over the years know; when I find a perfumer who connects with me I’m a bit possessive. My love of perfume comes from its ability to connect with me on multiple levels not just that it smells good. So when a perfumer manages to consistently deliver perfumes which take me to this multi-layered state of engagement I consider them mine. Which means their perfumes are always going to be sought out by me. One of those perfumers was Mona di Orio. Mme di Orio was a perfumer who took me places few other perfumers did when I wore her creations. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2011. Since that time her partner Jeroen Oude Sogtoen has worked very hard to keep her vision and aesthetic alive. Over the last two years he has had to do the very difficult task of be the creative director and to find perfumers who could live up to having their creation in a bottle which had Mona di Orio on it.

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Jeroen Oude Sogtoen

While the loss of Mme di Orio was enormous it has allowed M. Sogtoen to take some time to understand what it was about her creations that made them distinctive. Which in turn has allowed him to take some time in choosing the perfumers to take on the task. The first new fragrance was released fifteen months ago. Myrrh Casati was the opening statement in defining what makes a perfume “Monaesque”. Now the second release Bohea Boheme seeks to define that phrase even further.

M. Sogtoen chose perfumer Fredrik Dalman to work with this time. By choosing younger perfumers without a huge portfolio to their name it probably makes it easier for M. Sogtoen not to have to push against an already developed style. Especially if you are asking them to design in a style of another perfumer. Bohea Boheme goes a long way towards refining the concept of “Monaesque”.

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Fredrik Dalman

If Bohea Boheme was just a play of lighter notes off of darker notes it would have some of the shadow/light duality Mme di Orio was known for. I also think it would come off like a band at the local bar doing cover versions of popular radio songs. It is recognizable but somehow not as good. M. Sogtoen has eschewed that approach with both of these recent releases. With Bohea Boheme I would say this is the most shadowy of any Mona di Orio brand perfume. The light here is only in specific points and it does little to banish the darkness.

Bohea Boheme is inspired by a tea from the Wuyi Mountains in China. Bohea Tea is a variety of the well-known oolong but permeated with the smoke of pine. It was this variety of tea which was tossed overboard during the Boston Tea Party. The reason for smoking the tea with pine was to dry out the leaves so they wouldn’t get moldy on the long sea voyage from China to Europe or further. What was a necessity in the 18th century has become a desired characteristic today. At my local tea shop I smelled some newly arrived Bohea Tea and the pine is noticeable but it is far from omnipresent. Bohea Boheme is much more interested in bringing that pine forward to really interact with the tea.

Bohea Boheme opens on an accord that most will recognize instantly as bergamot and oolong forma a faux- Earl Grey tea accord. M. Dalman puckishly adds some juniper berry to intimate the gin which might also be present nearby. If there is a single raw material I think Mme di Orio used with the utmost skill I would say it was osmanthus. M. Dalman takes osmanthus as the nucleus of the heart accord. He quite cleverly uses chamomile, a familiar tea scent on its own, to continue the tea theme. The osmanthus arises on the vapors of the tea bringing with it cardamom and iris. These notes damp down the apricot quality of osmanthus in favor of its botanical leather character. Throughout the days I wore this I found this accord very reminiscent of the smell of a freshly brewing pot of tea on a leather covered desk. In the base a very extroverted pine comes out and instead of gently perfuming the tea it moves it off to the side. M. Dalman uses not just the typical balsamic notes but adds in boxwood and sandalwood to further achieve his desired effect of smoky pine. Very late on vanilla helps soften the smoke with a tempering sweetness.

Bohea Boheme has 16-18 hour longevity but almost zero sillage; it is very much a skin scent.

It seems with each new release M. Sogtoen is going to attempt to define a style of perfume creation which can be connected to Mme di Orio. Bohea Boheme is Monaesque Act 2.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Mona di Orio.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Justin Timberlake

There is something within the entertainment industry that I have always had a sort of morbid fascination with. It is watching child stars try and make the transition into long-term mainstream success. This is a process with many more who fail than who succeed. One of the successes is Justin Timberlake.

I was reminded of how he has successfully transitioned as I was listening to his new single “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” The song has become an immediate earworm for me and I suspect it is going to be in the running for the Song of Summer 2016. As I’ve listened it occurred to me that Mr. Timberlake has come full circle. The new song could easily have been sung in five-part harmony when he was part of the boy band NSYNC.

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Justin Timberlake in his NSYNC Days

It was in that group, which debuted in 1995, where most of us heard him for the first time. The mid-1990’s was an era of boy bands all competing for that same pre-teen teenage girl market. It is a lucrative market as has been proven time and again. The drawback is it has a built in shelf life; the age span of their fans who can state their age with the suffix -teen as part of it. Once the fans lose that they also tend to drop what they begin to see as something which was part of their childhood; meant to be grown out of. Every one of these bands has gone through it and none of them has survived the growing up of their fans. Which then usually leaves the members looking around.

NSYNC chose to take a hiatus in 2002 and Mr. Timberlake would release his own solo album “Justified”. It showed someone who maybe had something more going on. It was his take on classic R&B. Where I ignored NSYNC “Justified” made its way on to my iPod. The album was a big success. Mr. Timberlake seemed poised to continue his musical career on his own. Except he made a different choice.

Justin Timberlake 2016

Justin Timberlake 2016

That choice was to take on an acting career; which he was unexpectedly good at. It peaked for me with his portrayal of Sean Parker in 2010’s “The Social Network”. He also showed off he was equally adept at comedy. The apex of that might have been the short he did with SNL Andy Samberg and the rest of the Lonely Island called “Dick in a Box”. From there he would make multiple appearances with some of the best sketch comedians. One thing this conveyed to me was his ability to be at ease with himself enough to be able to laugh about it.

He didn’t give up music for good and he collaborated with many of the biggest stars. His two-part album “The 20/20 Experience” showed a mature adult artist. Produced with Timbaland there was no point where I was reminded of his NSYNC days. Which leads us to this latest single.

I believe Mr. Timberlake is perfectly happy to go back to his pop music roots because he has proven himself over and over to be so much more. Which is good because “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” is definitely on my summer 2016 playlist.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Cedar

Where I live we have received the first signs of the upcoming heated days of summer. When it comes to perfume wearing you have to choose wisely. This is the season when the cleaner less complicated fragrances are the ones I choose. For this time of year when I want something woody I begin to look in the area of my perfume collection which holds the cedar-based fragrances. Cedar is often described as smelling like “pencil shavings” or a “hamster cage”. While these are accurate they turn a woody note which provides structure to so many perfumes into something unappealing. Cedar is what I think of as the unobtrusive frame around the more flamboyant perfume raw materials. When it comes to summer though I mostly want my cedar unadulterated. For that here are five I turn to.

Serge Lutens (Shiseido) Feminite du Bois was the perfume which not only put Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake on the map it would also set the stage for many “Bois” perfumes to come from M. Lutens. Collaborating with perfumer Pierre Bourdon the bois here is cedar throughout. What Messrs. Sheldrake and Bourdon do is to dress it up with rose, honey, and spices. This is one of the great masterpieces of perfumery and it all starts with the very plebian cedar.

armani prive bois dencens

Armani Prive Bois D’Encens is one of the only incense perfumes I can wear in the heat of summer. That is because perfumer Michel Almairic keeps the incense very transparent. When it does become recognizable it is that cool slightly metallic church incense. M. Alamiric chooses cedar as the wood because it can also be pitched at the same level. What remains is a sotto voce duet of cedar and incense that never overstays its welcome, especially in the heat.

IUNX L’Eau Sento is Olivia Giacobetti’s perfume of a steamy sauna with its cedar lined walls. There is a palpable humidity as water droplets form on the planks. The same effect occurs with L’Eau Sento as Mme Giacobetti is able to add a watery sheen to the clean woodiness of the cedar. This is one of the perfumes I keep in the refrigerator during the summer. Not for any preservation effect but because spraying this on chilled is one of my favorite ways to beat the heat.

Les Nez Let Me Play the Lion is the flip side to L’Eau Sento. Perfumer Isabelle Doyen has created a dry sauna with a brazier of lava rocks releasing their heat into the surrounding wood. The effect is meant to make you feel like a lion prowling the savannah. Every time I wear it I am meditating in a small overheated cedar room.

Byredo Super Cedar has rapidly risen to inclusion on this list. Perfumer Jerome Epinette layers so many different sources of cedar it forms a woody palimpsest. This has been the cedar perfume I’ve sought out for these first few scorching days. My recent review of it can be found here.

If you’re looking for clean uncomplicated woody fragrances for the summer these are five of My Favorite Things.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased except for Byredo Super Cedar which is a press sample supplied by Byredo.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Golden Needle Tea- Tea Abstraction

I am lucky to have a fantastic tea store near where I live. When I walk in I am reminded of my childhood trips with my father to the tobacconist. I frequently have the thought how these two products of dried leaves can produce such a sublime olfactory experience. Tobacco has inspired many perfume brands. Tea has not had as many perfumes made featuring it as a focal point. Jo Malone London is trying to fix that with the Jo Malone Rare Teas Collection.

The Rare Teas Collection was a project which took the Jo Malone creative team, lead by Celine Roux, to all parts of the world looking for the rarest teas to base the perfumes upon. Once they had decided on six teas to feature it was up to perfumer Serge Majoullier to bring them to like.

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Serge Majoullier

This probably seems like a simple concept but as with many things; simple concept does not necessarily translate into something easy. According to the press materials it took four years to complete all six. Overall my impression of the collection is favorable especially if you are a fan of tea or tea-based fragrances. When trying them after I received the sample set there was one which stood out, Golden Needle Tea.

Golden Needle Tea is a specially harvested version from the Yunnan province in China. What sets it apart is the tea leaves are picked early in the spring so that the buds more than the leaves are what is harvested. I had never heard of it before the Jo Malone fragrances but my local tea shop had some for me to try. The tea leaves have a lot of darker facets to them. I can smell dried fruit, smoke, nuts, and honey after it is steeped. M. Majoullier would look to some of the deeper notes to create a perfume with the same name.

Golden Needle Tea the perfume is a fragrance in two acts. The first accord is a smoky leather one. It is smokier than the tea itself but it needs to be because sandalwood and benzoin are its running partners. Once they all come together it does resemble the tea leaves themselves but in a slightly abstract way; which is as it should be I think.

Golden Needle Tea has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

The other Rare Tea entries which garnered some interest from me were Silver Needle Tea and Oolong Tea. I would point out that M. Majoullier wasn’t trying for photorealism these are all artistic interpretations. One other caveat is these are not part of the usual Jo Malone collection this is considered a luxury collection with a corresponding price tag. Purely on an aesthetic level Golden Needle Tea does the best in realizing the vision of this collection.

Disclosure; This review was based on samples provided by Jo Malone London.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Heretic Parfums Poltergeist- Ghost of a Blind Pig

As much as I enjoy writing about the perfumes that manage to connect with me there is a downside. That is when yet another too large collection by a self-taught perfumer arrives. It is frustrating because the naivete of the untrained artist has the spectre of some good ideas but they are so often sketches; not fully formed concepts. I want to tell them before they’ve gone to all the expense of formulating and bottling this vestigial collection to stop and concentrate on the strongest entries. Dazzle the masses with quality instead of quantity. When I received my envelope of samples of Heretic Parfums it was another example of this kind of callow creativity. Except one of the eight did manage to haunt me; it is appropriately named Poltergeist.

The man behind Heretic Parfums is Douglas Little. Mr. Little has had a long career, via his website, as “a master of visual communication and storytelling”. This is most often conveyed as department store window displays and branded installations. According to the Heretic Parfums website Mr. Little has been “obsessed with fragrance for as long as I can remember.” Like so many before and probably after this is where he believes he has something new to show to the fragrance world. In the case of Heretic Parfums it is natural fragrance which, again on the website, he states “is a unique and unexplored niche within the fragrance world”. It is this kind of ill-informed nonsense which puts my teeth on edge. I want to send him the website of The Natural Perfumers Guild so he can meet some of the other people who have been working in this “unexplored niche” for years.

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Douglas Little

When I tried the eight perfumes in this debut collection seven of the eight were exactly what I expected. Mostly capable half-baked ideas. The materials Mr. Little is employing are of good to high quality. Just as I was about to file the whole collection away as forgettable the last sample I tried, Poltergeist, turned out to be the one which actually showed there might be some promise in Mr. Little.

Poltergeist is a surprisingly fascinating study of deep powerful notes with florals flitting throughout like optical illusions. Poltergeist opens with a strong blast of pine and wormwood. The pine is bold and the wormwood even bolder. Wormwood is the material behind absinthe. In Poltergeist the anisic qualities provide a nice companion to the camphoraceous pine. This is where geranium and neroli glide within and without. It was a pleasure while wearing Poltergeist to notice them for a moment only for them to disappear for a few moments. This all heads towards the only real base accord in the entire Heretic Parfums collection as the apparition grows fangs made of birch tar, oakmoss, and myrrh. It is this which haunted me enough to give Poltergeist a wear or two.

Poltergeist has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

There is an old Southern saying, “Even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while.” It will take some time to see if Poltergeist is the ghost of a blind pig or indicator that Mr. Little does have something to say with fragrance. Time will tell.

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

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Aquolina Pink Sugar- Carnival of Sweet

As I’ve been reviewing the new sweet gourmands targeting the millennials, supposedly. I have been reflecting back to the earliest successes in this genre. By 2003 the gourmand wave was well underway with many of them working on variations of Thierry Mugler Angel. There was room for originality but too many decided a big dose of the cotton candy-like ethyl maltol plus a few other things was enough. It wasn’t.They mostly came off as a cloying mess which is the hazard when trying to work this style of fragrance. Finding the line between sugary fun and overbearing treacle is not easy and there is a graveyard of attempts. Then Aquolina Pink Sugar arrived and showed how to do it.

aquolina pink sugar

Pink Sugar was as calculated a perfume as there ever was. Perfumer Pierre Nuyens was asked to provide the same cotton candy and caramel core of Angel with berries added in. Now that might sound terrible and on paper I might agree. M. Nuyens delivered on this brief. What is funny to me when I wear Pink Sugar it reminds me of a summer night at the local fairground. As you stroll the midway smelling all the different confections; candy apples, cotton candy, caramel apples, and orange soda. This is what Pink Sugar takes me back to.

M. Nuyens opens with a juicy orange soda accord as if I’ve just picked up a Fanta. In the heart comes that cotton candy and the berries. The note list lists them as strawberry and raspberry. I encounter them as the sweet sugary coating of a candy apple. I can recognize both of them when focused on picking the threads of ingredients apart. When I am just enjoying wearing Pink Sugar I think candy apple every time. Caramel comes next and it is made sweeter with vanilla added. This is a gooey chewy accord which always makes me wonder if my skin is sticky where I sprayed it. The final notes are sandalwood and musks. The sandalwood has an effect of making some of the sweet notes seem a bit overdone, almost burnt. I think of standing outside the fairground as the lights are being shut off and the last bit of the scents of carnival are caught by the breeze.

Pink Sugar has 14-16 hour longevity and prodigious sillage.

Pink Sugar has been a bestseller since its release. In my mind it stands next to Angel as one of the innovators within the gourmand sector. It can be found for less than $20 almost everywhere.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Pinrose Gilded Fox- Two-Fisted Fireplace Drinker

Two years ago I received a package for the new brand Pinrose. Founders and Creative Directors Christine Luby and Erika Shumate wanted to create a “shop at home” experience. They debuted with ten fragrances all priced modestly. The marketing idea was a consumer would read the website and request the ones they thought sounded best to them. They would get those samples as Pinrose Petals, one-time sachets with which you could decide if you wanted a bottle. It is an interesting way to interact with the consumer. I had sort of forgot about the brand until I received my latest package from Sephora which contained two new Pinrose releases. One, Wild Child, was a fairly straightforward floral similar to my memory of the original releases. The other one, Gilded Fox, was something different; a fun loving gourmand.

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Erika Shumate and Christine Luby

In the first set of releases Ms. Luby and Ms. Shumate definitely made sure they checked all of the different styles of perfume boxes. There were two chocolate focused gourmands, Sugar Bandit and Secret Genius. I would again use the phrase straight forward to describe them. This is not criticism per se. There definitely needs to be a brand which provides straight forward modestly priced perfume. Pinrose has definitely lived up to that.

For Gilded Fox Ms. Luby and Ms. Shumate worked with perfumer David Apel. I am not sure what the brief was for this. On the website is mentions sexy come-hither looks. My experience was this smelled like sitting by the fireplace with a hot chocolate in one hand and a hot buttered rum in the other. I had fun with it throughout the days I wore it.

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David Apel

Gilded Fox opens with chocolate but Mr. Apel adds in cardamom. It makes the chocolate more exotic. It reminded me of cardamom laced coffee except this was hot chocolate. The cardamom and chocolate swirl together in a way that kept my attention without tripping over into too sweet. Then the hot buttered rum accord comes next. This is one of my favorite fireplace drinks and I spend as much time sniffing it as drinking it. Mr. Apel captures that humid sweet boozy smell melded with the richness of the butter. The cardamom and chocolate are still here and it makes for a very fun combination. This could have spiraled out of control at a moment’s notice but Mr. Apel keeps it all together. He finishes Gilded Fox on a cedar and vetiver base accord.

Gilded Fox has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am very pleased to see that Pinrose is expanding into Sephora. I think this is a solid line of perfume which will appeal to that consumer. I worry a little bit about Gilded Fox because it seems a little more adventurous than the rest of the line. If you’re up for a fun gourmand give Gilded Fox and the rest of the Pinrose line a try next time you’re at the mall.

Disclsoure: This review was based on a sample provided by Sephora.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Nishane Istanbul Fan your Flames- Night of the Hookah

I have never been a smoker although I love the smell of tobacco. I think pipe tobacco in all of its various scented forms is one of the simple pleasures. My father smoked a pipe and I would tag along when he would go shopping for tobacco. It was one of the first places in my young life I attached with a specific smell. I think this is a common experience explaining why tobacco perfumes are as popular as they are. I am always interested in a new tobacco fragrance. When I visited the Nishane Istanbul stand at Esxcence 2016 their latest release Fan your Flames is a new take on tobacco.

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Mert Guzel and Murat Katran

The name comes from a saying by Rumi the thirteenth century Persian poet. The saying reads, “Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.” It is a statement particularly apt when applied to founders and creative directors Mert Guzel and Murat Katran. For all of their perfumes they have chosen perfumer Jorge Lee to fan the flames of their vision and bring it to life. This vision was of a Turkish hookah café. It is a simply constructed fragrance that lets the tobacco do the heavy lifting throughout.

Jorge Lee

Jorge Lee

M. Lee opens this visit with an almost outlandish mix of coconut and rum. Every time I wear Fan your Flames my very first impression is pina colada. Which is sort of appropriate because to cater to the young clientele the tobacco has become more flavored in recent times. I’m not sure if there is a pina colada flavored tobacco but I wouldn’t be shocked to discover there is. That is what Fan your Flames becomes as that tropical boozy accord matches up with tobacco within minutes. It does have that fun quality for about an hour until the tobacco becomes more prominent and the fanciful flavor dissipates. It is almost as if the kids have left and the older men who don’t need anything added to their tobacco have arrived. To really confirm the turn M. Lee uses oakmoss and cedarwood to form a bitingly woody accord in the base. Almost as if the discussion has turned into a debate.

Fan your Flames has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

From the moment I smelled this on a strip I knew this was my kind of tobacco fragrance. The early frivolity replaced by the earnest nearly tobacco soliflore in the end was very appealing to me. It really is an entire evening sitting in Istanbul breathing deep as the night moves through its paces.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Nishane Istanbul at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke