New Perfume Review Aedes de Venustas Cierge de Lune- Queen of the Desert Night

Besides the crush of rose-based fragrances over the first half of 2016 there have also been a number of above average gourmands. I think I have more patience with the gourmands because the genre doesn’t seem as played out. That being said if there is a style of gourmands which has been prevalent it would be the vanilla-based ones. There is still plenty of flexibility for something different than what has come before to stand out. That is what the new Aedes de Venustas Cierge de Lune has done.

Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner

Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner

In just four years creative directors Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner have established a strong brand identity over just a few releases. Cierge de Lune is just the sixth addition to the brand. What has been interesting is they are able to communicate this brand identity even though they have worked with five different perfumers. For Cierge de Lune the perfumer they chose was Fabrice Pellegrin.

fabrice-pellegrin-firmenich

Fabrice Pellegrin

M. Pellegrin is one of the more prolific perfumers working currently; designing fragrances up and down every economic sector. I think when a perfumer like M. Pellegrin has the opportunity to work with a bit more of a budget he takes that flexibility and runs with it.

selenicereus grandiflorus

Selinicereus Grandiflorus

Cierge de Lune is inspired by the night-blooming cactus flower Selenicereus Grandiflorus. It is the found at the top of the vanilla cactus so named because of the scent. It is often called the “queen of the night”. Cierge de Lune is the French name for it which translates to “moon altar candle”. The task set forth for M. Pellegrin was to capture the fragility of the flower which only lasts for the night; wilting in the first rays of the sun.

I have mentioned in other fragrances inspired by the desert there is an inherent spiciness to the smell of the desert over the mineral smell of the sand. M. Pellegrin opens Cierge de Lune with his version of that; comprised of pink pepper and black pepper. The black pepper stands in quite nicely for the sandy landscape. The pink pepper adds in the transparent piquancy along with some sense of the plant life, as well. The plant life dominates in the heart as ylang ylang adds its fleshy floralcy for the cactus flower accord to unfurl upon. In the early stages that means the vanilla is paired with some incense. This is also kept on the light side. Cierge de Lune picks up some heft as it transitions into the base where the vanilla has a much firmer foothold over a base accord of ambrox and chocolate. When I say this has some more presence it is still on the light side when compared to most vanilla chocolate gourmand base accords.

Cierge de Lune has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

When I tried Cierge de Lune at Esxence I was initially underwhelmed. Like the delicate flower it is based upon I needed some time to get to know Cierge de Lune by itself. In that time, I have come to appreciate what M. Pellegrin has assembled a delicate vanilla floral which seems ephemeral. That fragility is what appeals to me so much. It reminds me that even something which only lasts for a short time can be as inspiring as something built to last. Cierge de Lune is an homage to that fleeting beauty.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Aedes de Venustas at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke

The Importance of Transparency

Transparency can be a desirable characteristic for some perfumes. When it comes to awards on perfume and perfume writing; transparency is necessary. As one who has watched the perfume awards season every year there is always one question I have. Who is doing the judging? How were the nominees determined? The answer most of the time is “I don’t know” to both questions. It is why over the last month there has been two fledgling competitions who have decided to take a different path to honoring excellence.

perfumed-plume

The Perfumed Plume Awards were handed out on April and I was honored to win the award for “Scent Stories in Mainstream Media, Digital”. As someone who won I felt like this was an award I earned because founders Lyn Leigh and Mary Ellen Lapsansky had made it clear how the awards were being judged. There are other perfume writing competitions but they lack this openness. It makes the process frustrating to be a part of. The Perfumed Plume has shown itself to not be afraid of the light; understanding the winners enjoy being in it.

art and olfaction awards logo

This past Saturday evening the third Art and Olfaction Awards were handed out in Los Angeles. I was honored to be part of this process as one of the judges who assessed the finalists in the Artisan and Independent categories. I hope my efforts helped the winners feel the same sense of pride on winning as I did when I won a month prior. Founder Saskia Wilson-Brown is dedicated to making this award the most transparent award in the industry while simultaneously honoring the art of perfumery as practiced by the less commercial focused perfume brands. The ceremony named Zoologist Bat and Jul et Mad Nea as the Independent winners along with Auphorie Miyako and La Curie Incendo in the Artisan category. Century’s Breath by Cat Jones won for best Experimental Use of Scent. Because of Ms. Wilson-Brown this past weekend not only was about the awards but the AIX Scent Fair also took place where forty curated artisan and independent perfumers displayed their latest creations. This was the proper combination of lauding the work of last year while displaying next year’s potential nominees.

Both competitions are taking baby steps to ensure their long term success. At the recent Sniffapalooza Spring Fling Ms. Leigh laid out a challenge to those of us in the room. I want to pass it on to my readers because I think it is important. What she asked was if you live someplace besides New York City and you see an article on perfume in your local newspaper or magazine please let the author know of The Perfumed Plume at their website. The competition wants to cover all writing by American fragrance authors and right now they need the help of readers to point good writers in the direction of The Perfumed Plume.

Mark Perfumed Plume 2016

I want more people to have the chance to smile like this

The Art and Olfaction Awards also needs more entries. There is a lot of great work out there that I know did not get submitted. For this award to carry the highest profile it needs the fullest participation of the independent and artisan perfume communities combined. When the announcement goes out at the end of the year submit something, the best part of that is you will see your submission move through the process with no barriers.

That’s the kind of transparency to stand behind.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review La Curie Incendo- Black Lodge Extrait

One of my favorite television shows was Twin Peaks. Over two seasons in 1990 and 1991 director David Lynch introduced us to the community of Twin Peaks, Washington through the eyes of FBI agent Dale Cooper. On the surface it was a show about solving the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer. Underneath it was a show about the soft spots in reality. Beware what can make its way into our world. Agent Cooper as he uncovers the secrets of Laura Palmer and Twin Peaks learns about the Black Lodge; one of those interdimensional soft spots. A recent perfume release got me thinking about all of this; La Curie Incendo.

lesli wood peterson photo rachel miller

Lesli Wood Peterson (photo: Rachel Miller)

La Curie is the independent brand from Lesli Wood Peterson based in Arizona. She has been working on her line of fragrances since 2013. Incendo is her fourth release. I think Ms. Peterson also shares an affection for Twin Peaks because in the card which accompanies Incendo the first line is “fire walk with me”. Early on in Twin Peaks we hear that phrase from the one-armed man. It would come up again and again. Looking at Ms. Peterson’s website there is no mention of the television show but I couldn’t shake it from my imagination.

On the website Incendo is described as “an escape from our modern world into a residual memory of our primordial souls and archaic trappings.” Except I didn’t get archaic and primordial. Ms. Peterson had me thinking closer to mystical rituals. There are all the components of ritualistic smoke based acts infused with outré elements combining for a weirdly textured fragrance from top to base.

Incendo opens on the smell of the forest of the Pacific Northwest; pine needles and cedar. From here smoke rises up as she seemingly employs most of the smoky raw materials available to a perfumer. This is a tricky balance as there are many, many perfumes where the smoke overwhelms. A testament to Ms. Peterson’s patience in striking the right formula is the smoke swirls throughout the development of Incendo but at no time does it take over. As incense, sage, cypriol, and vetiver provide the olfactory haze there is something else playing in the back ground. Ms. Peterson describes it as “dark skies” in her note list. It has that simmering ozonic potential on the leading edge of a storm front. The crackle of the lightning and the rumble of the thunder are present. This provides an off-kilter kind of contrast to the smoke as it almost seems like we are smelling things in reverse. Which is how the man in the Black Lodge speaks; backwards.

Incendo has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Twin Peaks is returning to the airwaves in 2017. I am very excited for that to happen. In 1990 I probably didn’t think about associating perfume with my watching. Next year when the music comes up I am sure I will be wearing Incendo to carry me to the Black Lodge to see the next chapter.

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

Mark Behnke

Editor's note: Incendo won the 2016 Art and Olfaction Award in the Artisan category.

New Perfume Review Bruno Acampora Azzurro di Capri- Mediterranean to the Max

When I attend Esxence I am usually focused on new brands and the new releases of brands I have liked in the past. This can be a hindrance because if I have made a judgement in the past a brand doesn’t often get a chance to make a new impression. At this year’s Esxence a brand did have that chance because it was right next door to some long-time friends. While I was talking to them I kept smelling this really fascinating aquatic coming from the stand next to theirs. My friend remarked to me how much he liked it and got me a strip to smell. At that moment I found I needed to give Bruno Acampora Azzurro di Capri a try.

Bruno Acampora started a presence in the niche perfume world when they started releasing alcohol based perfumes starting in 2012. Previously the constructs had all been oils from 1974-1980. Because of that history the more recent releases have carried an intensity to them which I didn’t care for. As a result, they never got the opportunity to really grab my attention. With Azzurro di Capri they took an aquatic and applied that kind of focused construction. In this case by driving up the concentration and releasing it as an extrait it turns out that it was exactly this intensity I was missing from this class all along.

bruno acampora logo

Like many Italian aquatics Azzurro di Capri is a classic Mediterranean variation on the theme. That means lots of citrus, some orange blossom, and some clean wood. That is the framework of most scents claiming this part of the world as inspiration. Azzurro di Capri has all of the necessary ingredients. It is what they add in besides the required curriculum which really makes it stand out.

The citrus opening of Azzurro di Capri comes courtesy of a juicy orange. The citrus is matched with jasmine. Right from the top the amplification of certain notes let me know this was going to be a bit different. The jasmine actually takes the lead and the orange tucks in underneath. This sets up the arrival of orange blossom to form a white flower duet in which they let muguet sing some harmonies. This willingness to give over to the white florals and let them drive the middle part of the development was unexpected and delightful. Things take a turn for the darker as a rich patchouli begins the transition to the base. Cedar provides the requisite woodiness. Amber and musk form the base accord. Usually in these kind of perfumes the musk is kept to a whisper. Not here. The musk is sultry picking up on the patchouli while allowing the amber the opportunity to provide warmth. More than anything it is this drydown which has made me enjoy Azzurro di Capri so much.

Azzurro di Capri has 12-14 hour longevity and has above average sillage.

In the past I have found the power of Bruno Acampora to be a detriment to my sampling the line. With Azzurro di Capri it is almost the entire reason why I am impressed. It turns out I wanted my Mediterranean maxed out. Azzurro di Capri delivers.

-Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Bruno Acampora at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Comic-Book Movies: Civil War Marvel v. DC

I have been reading comic books for fifty years. I have made them part of my regular reading since I discovered my father’s collection of Batman comics. When I went to my local drugstore besides the DC Comics which featured Batman and Superman there was this other publisher. Marvel Comics had a family turned in to superheroes called the Fantastic Four. There was a high school kid who could do whatever a spider can. Batman and Superman always felt like beings who stood apart. The Marvel heroes always felt like one of us if we somehow acquired enhanced abilities. It was what made me a reader of those comics for nearly my entire life.

It is why what Marvel has done with their movies called the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has been so thrilling. They have taken that experience of reading the latest issue by myself in the drugstore and translated it to a communal experience in the dark. Since the release of Iron Man in 2008 they have built movie by movie a visual experience similar to the printed page. It has been a masterful exercise in getting more than the comic book lovers in to the theatre. By any metric you name Marvel movies are huge.

DC has been less proficient at doing this. The 1970’s version of Superman played by Christopher Reeve and the early 21st century version of Batman directed by Christopher Nolan were successes but they stood as islands. DC was unable to build the connective tissue necessary to connect their properties into a cinematic universe; more like an archipelago. After watching their friendly rivals rise up, the powers that be at DC have decided to try and follow the blueprint laid out by Marvel.

captain-america-civil-war-poster

Which has led to this summer’s two movies which essentially explore the same theme. When superheroes save the day from huge galactic threats what about the damage to the poor humans on the periphery of the battle. Both Batman v. Superman and Captain America: Civil War used the events of previous movies as the launching point for this discussion. In Man of Steel Superman destroyed Metropolis in his battle at the end of the movie more decidedly than any villain. In Avengers: Age of Ultron in saving the country of Sokovia there was a lot of destruction leading to “saving” the world. One movie thoughtfully posed the question and let all of their characters choose to speak for themselves. One movie forgot entirely about the question halfway through in lieu of another big fight scene.

Batman v. Superman was so interested in setting up their future movies the interesting moral point got lost in the ham-handed effort to draw you into those films. Captain America: Civil War never lets the morality get lost. The very core of these characters we have watched develop on screen for eight years was played out in ways which felt earned. Each character’s choice is understandable. Plus, the filmmakers have to be applauded for not tying it all up with a pretty red ribbon. At the end of Captain America: Civil War these choices had consequences; which we will see play out over the next few movies.

It is that right there which makes Marvel movies the success they are. This story has been being told for eight years by actors, writers, and directors who love these properties. Everything that happens in Captain America: Civil War connects back to when we saw Tony Stark become Iron Man in 2008. What happens with DC is the people they choose to oversee their properties can’t resist tinkering with their basic natures. The evolution of Superman into a character who doesn’t care that the destruction of his fight is dropping debris on his city is just wrong. It may be gritty but it isn’t Superman.

In the end the characters I read for the last fifty years from Marvel have all leapt to the silver screen in a form I recognize and love no tinkering necessary. DC has managed to take the same beloved characters and make them cynical shills for future poorly plotted movies. In this Civil War there is only one winner; Marvel.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: The People of the Labyrinths Luctor et Emergo- Cherry Play-Doh

One of the interesting side effects of being a finalist judge for this year’s Art & Olfaction Awards was I was reminded of other unique perfumes of the past. It lead to me reacquainting myself with a couple of them. The first one which I had to seek out was 1997’s The People of the Labyrinths Luctor et Emergo.

My discovery of this perfume was completely due to the internet forum Basenotes. When I started lurking, too timid to want to place a word in the public record there was a spirited conversation about Luctor et Emergo going on. It revolved around how it smelled synthetic. So artificial it reminded many of those posting of the children’s clay Play-Doh. Someone posted a picture of the bottle which looked like an Erlenmeyer Flask. The chemist was reeled in. I think I swapped for a bottle from someone who found it too different for their taste. When the bottle arrived I wasn’t sure what I was going to get. But in my early days of niche discovery this was the fun about it all. That moment of seeing if something you have read about lives up, or down, to expectations.

potl luctor et emergo

On that day I didn’t know much about the perfumer behind Luctor et Emergo. It would be years later I learned it was Alessandro Gualtieri who is better known for his Nasomatto line. In hindsight it makes sense because Sig. Gualtieri is an aficionado of the unusual in fragrance. Even back in 1997 he was looking to expand the boundaries of what it was that could be considered a perfume.

alessandro gualtieri

Alessandro Gualtieri

Luctor et Emergo opens with what I have described as a cherries and almond wrapped in cellophane accord. The cherry seems like artificial flavoring. The almond is marzipan-like. Underneath it all is that smell of clean cellophane which also sometimes reminds me of artificial turf. The heart is a mixture of rarely used synthetics, at the time, to create this Play-Doh accord. It picks up on the subtle plasticky vibe from the top and doubles down on it. The cherry embeds itself in the clay. This is where Luctor et Emergo stays on my skin for hours; as if a cherry Life-Saver candy was wrapped in Play-Doh. Later on the most normal part of the fragrance comes out as a bit of incense and woods are the final phase.

Luctor et Emergo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’m not sure I can confidently say that Luctor et Emergo was where I started to find an appreciation for the odd in fragrance. I definitely know it was one step along the path of the evolution of my own personal understanding of what defines perfume. If you’re looking for something to broaden your fragrance horizons check out The People of the Labyrinths Luctor et Emergo.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Atelier Cologne Bergamote Soleil- The Understudy Steps Forward

If you are attending a Broadway play and there is an announcement just before curtain rises that the star is being replaced by the understudy there is probably a little disappointment. Except just like in 42nd Street that understudy might be something special just getting a first opportunity to move from the chorus line to center stage. When it comes to the chorus line of perfumery there might not be any better team player than bergamot. Bergamot is used in the top accord of so many perfumes it would be difficult to imagine modern fragrance without it. The funny thing is it has become so much of a supporting player that it rarely gets the chance to make its own star turn. Unsurprisingly Atelier Cologne is rectifying this with the release of Bergamote Soleil.

Bergamore Soleil is an addition to the Collection Originale which has become the citrus standard bearers for Atelier Cologne’s cologne absolue formulations. One thing about this collection is almost every one of the Collection Originale is a citrus that lasts much longer than you might expect because of the concentration. 

ralf schwieger

Ralf Schwieger

Collection Originale is where one of the two perfumers, Ralf Schwieger, who collaborate with Sylvie Cervasel has done most of his work for the brand. Last year’s Pomelo Paradis was my spring and early summer choice for lazy weekend mornings. Hr. Schwieger has an affinity for this style of fragrance. With Bergamote Soleil he has delivered the brightest Atelier Cologne of them all. It is a high noon kind of experience with bergamot the shimmering heart.

Hr. Schwieger uses Calabrian bergamot as his source. He also uses a lot of it. Having the bergamot so amplified allows it to have an unusually outsized effect. Like that understudy who has found they like the front of the stage expanding their performance to new places. The bergamot is familiar but it also carries much more of the bitter rind and pulp. It makes it more nuanced. It also makes it more refreshing. The bergamot likes the attention so much it doesn’t fade to the back ground as Hr. Schwieger first adds a bit of ambrette and cardamom. Both add warmth, especially the ambreete. A floral heart of jasmine and lavender comes next. It forms a tableau of the sunny bergamot shining on the flowers. In the base oakmoss, vetiver, and white amber combine for this perfect foundation with some bite. It bookends the bitterness from early on with a nip of oakmoss and vetiver.

Bergamote Soleil has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Bergamote Soleil is an understudy turned scene stealer. It is a standout among one of the stronger overall collections within Atelier Cologne. I know this is going to be my weekend perfume for the next few months.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Xyrena Dark Ride- Is There Art in Repulsion?

As part of my duties as Finalist Judge for the 2016 Art & Olfaction Awards I came across one of the most interesting perfumes I have tried for many years. Since judging it I have spent many hours trying to come to terms with my feelings about it. At its most pure level I think it is an exceptional piece of perfume construction. At a personal “does it smell good?” level I am less enthused. I think I have finally arrived at some sort of coherent opinion on this perfume called Xyrena Dark Ride.

The brand Xyrena was founded by Killian Wells in 2014. Mr. Wells is the perfumer behind all of the releases to date. The first release was for one of the contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race called Flazeda by Pearl. Mr. Wells would also champion LGBT issues with a subsequent release Formula 3 by Dalton Maldonado. Mr. Maldonado was an openly gay athlete. In December of 2015 the Virtual Reality series of three fragrances was released. These were meant to be photorealistic recreations of specific real life smells. 66 was the new car smell crossed with the oil and gasoline used in the engine. Factory Fresh was the smell of new shoes as you open the box. Both of these are sort of pleasant smells. Mr. Wells has a talent for putting that real life into the bottle. Which brings us to Dark Ride.

Killian-Wells

Killian Wells

Dark Ride is meant to be the smell of a water park. As he did in 66 and Factory Fresh he completely nailed the smell of a water park. The heavily chlorinated water, the smell of the people who are using the park including a bit of urine smell, and the sun beating down on it all vaporizing these odors. This was not pleasant, in any way. I was repulsed by the strong nature of what Mr. Wells had done with Dark Ride. I have sniffed a box of new shoes. The smell of a leather car interior tinged with petroleum products also has its pleasures. Acrid chlorine, urine, and ozone; not so much. Except I kept thinking it was incredibly brilliantly real. I kept picking at this olfactory scab unable to turn away because it hurt so good when I abraded my sense of smell with it. All of these Virtual Reality releases are linear with the specific accord in place from moment one until it disappears. Mr. Wells wanted the wearer to live with these for the entire time you have it on your skin.

It took me a couple of well-spaced out weekend days to get my customary two days of wearing a reviewed fragrance in. It was a bit of an endurance test. It was also illuminating as I was dealing with the concept of whether pleasant was a critical component of artistic perfume. In the end I realized that the trope of having to smell good to be a perfume is just that. An axiom that is rarely tested. Mr. Wells wanted to see if others would see what he saw.

I believe Dark Ride is an intelligently rendered fragrance which does exactly what Mr. Wells desired to do. He has provided a perfume which carries with it an aura of repulsion. He has also made an artistic statement that beauty is truly in the nose of the beholder. This particular nose has decided Dark Ride is as good as it gets.

I would encourage any perfume lover interested in understanding the limitations of what you find beautiful and artistic to get samples of all three of these Virtual Reality fragrances from Xyrena. I promise you it won’t be a typical day of sniffing.

Disclosure: This review based on a sample I received while judging for the 2016 Art & Olfaction Awards.

Mark Behnke

Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2016 Wrap-Up- Profumo Comes to the Perfumed Apple

I attended my first Sniffapalooza in October of 2010. For this edition Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2016, my twelfth, it was the most unique of them all. The reason was in addition to the usual strong lineup of American perfume brands; Europe sent some of their best too. It made the entire weekend feel like it was a summit of perfumery.

spring fling 2016 mark eric stamatis

Mark and Team Twisted Lily (Photo: Brooklyn Fragrance Lover)

In what is starting to become a tradition Twisted Lily owners Stamatis Birsimijoglou and Eric Weiser invited the early arrivers to a party on Friday night. Inside the best smelling storefront in Brooklyn we mingled and enjoyed wine and camaraderie. Amongst hugs there was sniffing as attendees discovered the latest additions since last fall. We all headed home prepared for the next two days.

Saturday morning began on the Beauty Floor at Bergdorf-Goodman. The hot new addition to the store was The Fragrance Kitchen. Just the week before there was an SRO party to celebrate its arrival. It is an extensive line but it seems like Bergdorf’s managed to convince them to provide one of the best exclusively to them called A Rose With a View. It is a very NYC modern rose. The brand has been around since 2012 but sold exclusively in Kuwait. Now Sheikh Majed El-Sabah is looking to expand to the US and Europe.

I also got the chance to try the new Ex Nihilo Sweet Morphine and Christian Dior La Colle Noire. I liked both quite a bit. Next it was off to lunch at Brasserie 8 ½.

Stefania Squeglia sniffa

Stefania Squeglia presenting a Spring Fling 2016

The presentations began with the owners of Masque Milano Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi representing Associazione Caterina. That group is about the heritage and future of Italian perfumery. Over the next hour they took us on a journey from the Roman origins of perfume to the present day. Which turned out to be a perfect segue as Stefania Squeglia of Mendittorosa was one of the later presenters and she represents the current exciting state of Italian perfumery quite well.

Holding up the American end of things Barbara Herman introduced her new perfume brand Eris. Ms. Herman has moved from writing about perfume in her blog Yesterday’s Perfume and her book Scent and Subversion to collaborating with perfumer Antoine Lie. My first impression was they managed to find that tricky balance of vintage aesthetic with a contemporary feel.

A drizzly Sunday morning found us in the Annick Goutal store downtown. Annick Goutal is one of those early pioneer brands in the niche space and it is nice to see it continuing to thrive as the market has diversified around it. It was nice to be reminded of that.

Mary and Cecile of Puredistance

Mary Gooding (l.) and perfumer Cecile Zarokian presenting Puredistance Sheiduna

After some more wandering around downtown we arrived at lunch where I was the MC. I thought this year’s group was the strongest of all the years I have been doing this part of the weekend. It started with Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi finally representing their own brand Masque Milano. Both of the newest releases Romanza and L’Attesa were revealed. Mary Orlin of Wine Fashionista gave a fabulous presentation tying together the aromas of the wine we were drinking to perfume. A real treat was the European brand Puredistance was presented by Mary Gooding accompanied by perfumer Cecile Zarokian where they told us all about this fall’s new release Sheiduna. The first Oriental for the brand. I had it on my forearm for the ride home and kept returning to it for the rest of the day. Irina Adam presented her Art & Olfaction Finalist Phoenix Botanicals Peach Tree Garden. Paula Pulvino is translating the perfume recipes of her Italian grandmother into her new brand Villa of the Mysteries. The final presenter was mad impresario Stephen Dirkes of Euphorium Brooklyn who took us inside his creative process for Cilice.

It seemed appropriate to finish with a Brooklyn-based brand so we sort of ended where we started.

As always it was another fun, and exhausting weekend, in NYC. Thanks to Karen Adams and Karen Dubin for putting it all together.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Thierry Mugler Angel Muse- Gourmand 2.0

In 1992 Thierry Mugler Angel invented the gourmand fragrance category. Composed by young perfumer Olivier Cresp it was almost a creation that could only come from a precocious talent still discovering his own boundaries. Since the massive success of Angel the gourmand sector has grown every year. If there is a quarrel I have with it, and it is a small one, there is a tendency for new releases to tilt towards bombastic sweetness. That is probably as much a nod to the concept that they are trying to woo Angel lovers to something similarly as intense as anything else. Now in 2016 we see the original innovator return to the gourmand scene with an equally precocious talent with Thierry Mugler Angel Muse.

That talent is Quentin Bisch who, like M. Cresp was in 1992 at Quest, is in the early days of his career with Givaudan. He is one of that coterie of creatives I think of as Young Guns. Incredibly talented, honing his talents by working in all sectors from bargain to high-end niche. M. Bisch has already created a portfolio of memorable perfumes. With Angel Muse he has perhaps provided a path to a modern gourmand aka gourmand 2.0.

quentinbiscgh

Quentin Bisch

Angel is a powerhouse. Most of the flankers of Angel have worked less to attenuate the presence; instead looking to explore facets hidden deep beneath all of the chocolate and patchouli. Angel Muse is something much less powerful. It definitely has presence. It also has a comfortable geniality to it that I would never describe Angel as having. Angel asks you to take it or leave it on its own terms. Angel Muse sidles up next to you asking you, politely, to pull it closer. M. Bisch completely transforms the pyramid of Angel while still reminding me that this is a blood relative.

Angel Muse starts with a sly wink to the original as a flare of ethyl maltol imparts the cotton candy smell it is known for. It goes away as M. Bisch begins a savorier exploration of sweet. The first two notes are called “raspberry jam” and “strawberry jam”. What this means is M. Bisch takes raspberry ketone and the strawberry aromachemical aldehyde c14 and ensnares them in a matrix which contains their natural exuberance. These notes fill up rooms when used in high concentration. I am guessing in Angel Muse M. Bisch is using a smaller percentage, just enough to know they are there but not so much to be cantankerous. This is what makes them jammy instead of just raspberry and strawberry. It is also the initial indication Angel Muse is all about affability instead of confrontation. Then Angel Muse makes its biggest change as M. Bisch jettisons the chocolate and patchouli for creamy hazelnut and vetiver. In many of the niche gourmand perfumes that have followed Angel, vetiver has been found to be a good partner to sweeter accords. M. Bisch has used that information to create the new gourmand power duo. The hazelnut is softer. The nutty quality is just right embedded in a creamy cocktail of lactones. Vetiver provides the green woody contrast which makes the cream and the nuttiness stand out. Later the hazelnut transforms to something similar to a praline as the nutty and the woody predominate over the final hours.

Angel Muse has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage but not the nuclear sillage of Angel.

There seems to be a thought out there that millennials are looking for a gourmand fragrance to call their own. Much like Angel did in the 1990’s Angel Muse could become the perfume for this new generation of perfume lovers. If that is the case, you can count me as one for whom that would make happy. Gourmand is a perfume style which seems ripe for innovation. I can hope the other Young Guns might also take a shot at the same style. I know that M. Bisch has defined gourmand 2.0 in Angel Muse. It is hopefully the beginning of a new era for gourmands.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Macy’s.

Mark Behnke