New Perfume Review Tom Ford Orchid Soleil- Gourmand Suntan Lotion

Of the mainstream designer fragrance collections; Tom Ford has consistently been one of the best. Since the release in 2006 of Black Orchid I could make the case that the 16 releases in the Signature collection are overall more cohesive and better than the pricier Tom Ford Private Blends. The newest release Orchid Soleil actually seems to improve upon one of the most recently released Private Blends.

Sonia-Constant

Sonia Constant

Orchid Soleil was composed by perfumer Sonia Constant. The press release says this is meant to be a “summer” version of Black Orchid. It is definitely a summer style perfume but its relationship to Black Orchid is tenuous at best, bar sharing half of the name on the bottle. Orchid Soleil has a much closer relationship to another Tom Ford fragrance with which it shares half of its name as well; the Private Blend Soleil Blanc released a few months ago. That perfume was a tuberose exploration of the suntan lotion style of fragrance. Orchid Soleil also contains tuberose but in a more prominent way. It also provides that viscosity endemic to suntan lotion by using a sweet whipped cream accord, making this feel like an edible version.

Mme Constant opens with a sun flare of bitter orange and pink pepper. She also employs the top-note musk of Sylkolide to provide that hint of tanned skin. The tuberose comes next and it is as if a floral scented suntan lotion has been applied with enough SPF to block out the citrus. There is a bit of greenish lily to modulate the tuberose a bit. Then Mme Constant literally whips up a creamy accord of patchouli, vetiver, vanilla, chestnut cream, cypress, and cashmeran. Taken together this is an unctuous creamy accord that the vanilla and chestnut make into a subversive gourmand.

Orchid Soleil has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I likened Soleil Blanc, in my review, to the soft lingering smell of suntan lotion on a beach wrap the next day. Orchid Soleil is probably the smell of that very suntan lotion right after you apply it. I have been wearing this in the heat of the early summer and this might be the most purely fun Tom Ford perfume ever. It is summery. It is gourmand-y. It seems to be winking at me with a sly smile. I am happy to wink back and luxuriate in this all summer long.

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

Mark Behnke

Olfactive Chemistry: Geosmin- After the Storm

As we come to the end of the first half of 2016 there has been an interesting trend from some of my favorite indie perfumers. There has been more usage of the aromachemical geosmin to different effect. Geosmin is one of the more interesting ingredients on the perfumer’s palette.

Everybody is familiar with the smell of geosmin in Nature. It is that smell in the air which hangs after a heavy rain. It comes about because there is a natural bacteria, Streptomyces, which leaves geosmin behind when it dies. The longer the dry spell the more the chemical is on the surfaces. If a thunderstorm comes along it releases the geosmin into the air. This is that smell also called petrichor. It is earthy and mineralic in turns. The actual chemical structure is below.

decalin geosmin

Geosmin is two six membered carbon rings fused together into a structure called a decalin. Then two methyl (CH3) groups and one alcohol (OH) are what it takes to transform the slightly mentholated odor of decalin into the after the rain smell of geosmin.

The isolation of geosmin is a fascinating study of the ancient and the modern. The ancient way comes from India. Dried out disks of earth which the monsoons have covered and now evaporated are produced. These disks are them placed in primitive distillation apparatus to form what is called mitti attar. This is the earliest isolation of geosmin. There is a great story in The Atlantic from April of 2015 which describes the entire process in detail.

The other way is by mimicking the natural bacteria to make it via biosynthesis. Professor David Cane and his group at Brown University discovered an enzyme from the natural bacteria Streptomyces coelicor. (Journal of the American Chemical Society, vol. 28, pg 8128-8129, 2006) This is the enzyme which transforms the non-cyclic farnesyl diphosphate into geosmin. The study of the transformation of farnesyl diphosphate into natural chemicals has led to the ability to imitate these processes to produce natural products for medicinal as well as olfactory purposes. In the scheme below you can see the process that the enzyme geosmin synthase uses to convert the acyclic to the cyclic. Now geosmin is readily available as a perfume ingredient.

farnesyl to geosmin

The odor profile of geosmin allows it to be used in marine styles of fragrance as perfumer Christi Meshell does in her House of Matriarch Albatross. In that perfume she uses it as the smell of the rocky coast of the Pacific Northwest. Shelley Waddington also is inspired by the same locale and her use of geosmin carries the damp forest milieu in En Voyage Rainmaker. Perhaps my favorite use so far this year comes from Zoologist Bat where perfumer Ellen Covey working under Victor Wong’s creative direction uses geosmin as a key component of the wet cave accord which grounds that fragrance.

If your fragrance carries the smell of after the storm geosmin is probably the reason.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Cartier Oud & Santal- ….and Plum Syrup

Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent is creating one of the best collections across the board of any designer house. I look forward to everything Cartier releases because of her. If there is any collection which has not lived up to my expectation it has been the Les Heures Voyageuses. Through a set of three releases in 2014 and one in 2015 Mme Laurent has used this collection to explore the many facets of oud. In the first three releases she did intense two note examinations matching up oud with rose, musc, and even more oud. I liked them but they seemed like Mme Laurent working within someone else’s confines. It wasn’t until last year’s Oud Radieux that I felt her hand on the wheel. There are two new additions to the collection this year. One is literally a mixture of three or four sources of oud into a fragrance named Oud Absolu. It is a good perfume for someone who has never smelled real oud. On the other hand, if you have it is diluted down to a presumed palatable level which keeps the oud from being as dynamic as it could be. Thankfully the other new release, Oud & Santal, doesn’t have that issue.

Oud & Santal had me a little bit worried because it is also a classic pairing with oud. If Mme Laurent was going back to what the first three offered it was going to be disappointing. What I admired about Oud Radieux was the way Mme Laurent pulled something outside of the oud to use as contrast. The same thing happens in Oud & Santal as she employs a rich plum note to provide an oddly satisfying syrupy quality.

mathilde laurent

Mathilde Laurent

Oud & Santal opens with that super sweet viscous plum. If you’re familiar with Japanese plum wine it is all of the sweet of that and none of the booziness. In short order the plum oozes all over the oud. The oud here is that smelly gym socks and bandages kind of oud. The plum tames it with the sweet fruitiness. As the sandalwood approaches from below it also tames it with the sweet creamy woodiness characteristic of that material. The sandalwood matched with the oud is a classic combination because each fills in the gaps of the other. Drenched in plum syrup it is like this was the missing third piece.

Oud & Santal has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

As she did with Oud Radieux Mme Laurent has taken an unusual note to graft onto a classic oud combination. It leads to something I am surprised to find as compelling as it is as this kind of fruitiness usually does not appeal to me. In the case of Oud & Santal it makes the plum desirable along with the expected woody duet.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Saks fifth Avenue.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Amouage Myths Man and Myths Woman- Real Surrealism

3

As Amouage moves further into its “second cycle” creative director Christopher Chong is deliberately evolving the aesthetic of the brand. I believe this firmly began to take place with the pair of Fate releases which marked the end of the “first cycle”. Those perfumes felt like a capping of the aesthetic that had been built over the first six years of Mr. Chong’s oversight. Amouage had begun to move from a purely Middle Eastern aesthetic to a melding of European panache becoming a characteristic. The two Fates showed a brand in balance between the two. In the “second cycle” it seems as if the European is gaining the upper hand over the Middle Eastern. The pair of Journey releases from last year began the definition of this new formula. Now with the release of Myths Man and Myths Woman the evolution continues.

Christopher-Chong-Amouage-Creative-Director

Christopher Chong

Myths Man was composed by perfumers Daniel Visentin, Dorothee Piot, and Karine Vinchon-Spehner. This is perhaps the most morose perfume ever released by Amouage. There is a bit of a wag within me that wants to call this Mr. Chong’s Elegy. In the press materials both Myths are inspired by surrealism. If I can unmoor my association of the fresh florals which open Myths Man from the funereal I find it easier to see the surrealism underneath. I just found it very difficult to do that because the floral accord is so realistic I can almost smell the air conditioned air of the funeral parlor. The rest of the development does move away from that but not for an hour or two.

The perfumers use chrysanthemum, orris, and rose as their floral opening. It is so real as if it was a bouquet containing all three notes which I can move my nose from bloom to bloom. The chrysanthemum is the most prominent and that is what sets off the sad association in my head. Having smelled way too many chrysanthemums in too many funeral homes. It is enhanced a little more with the addition of a leather accord. This again imparts weightiness. It isn’t until the rum, elemi, and vetiver decide to break out into an old-fashioned Irish wake that the mood lifts making the last few hours a party instead of a funeral.

Myths Man has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am not sure others will retain the sad aspects I associate with the early development. It will be easy for many to home in on a fresh floral top accord leading to leather and rum. I think those people are going to like Myths Man a lot. I like it a lot but it also has such an emotional impact on me I’m not sure I’m going to wear it often.

nathalie lorson

Nathalie Lorson

Myths Woman was composed by Nathalie Lorson. This is the promised surrealistic fragrance. It is a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces seemed forced together. Except the picture that is represented has an unexpected power for its discord. It has a kinetic resolution to it which can be wearying or exhilarating. I found it to be the kind of perfume thrill ride I want to take.

Mme Lorson begins with galbanum and violet leaf. This is a green scalpel honed sharp as it takes precise cuts throughout the early moments. It almost begs to be buried within an earthy matrix which Mme Lorson provides with a rich patchouli. Concurrent with that comes a leather accord. Here is one of those forced jigsaw pieces I am referring to. The leather and the green patchouli accord go together but there are places where they just don’t seem to mesh. This sets up that kaleidoscopic development which begins to try and resolve the differences without ever really achieving it. Carnation adds a fresh floral aspect to this perfume-in-motion making it even more unruly. Some order is retained as moss, ambergris, and musks present a more conventional finishing accord.

Myths Woman has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

This is the third perfume from Amouage which has contained this phase of moving parts that maybe grind their gears a bit. It is going to be too much for some and for others, like me, just right. Few brands would take this step. It speaks volumes that Mr. Chong does not step back from that challenge. Instead he leans in to it. Which is why Myths Man and Myths Woman provide real surrealism without compromise.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles of each perfume provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Green Hat and Monkey 47 Botanical Gins

1

We have now hit the part of the summer where the garden is near its peak. When a warm breeze blows across our plot of growing things the smell of botanicals is one of my favorite natural smells. That love of herbal extends to my taste in beverages. I regularly add lavender and basil to my lemonade. Gin is my alcohol of choice especially in the heat. I rotate through my favorite gin cocktails with abandon.

Just like the expansion of independent perfumery there is a similar movement happening with distilled spirits. There are now numerous small batch versions of just about any one you can name. Also similarly to the independent perfume movement these small distillers can use materials that large distillers can’t due to cost and sourcing. Which means they are niche liquors.

When it comes to gin the movement is to use more and more botanicals during distillation. This has the effect of adding a lot of complexity to the typical juniper berry coriander axis of most mainstream gins. I have two examples of this kind of gin to tell you about; Green Hat and Monkey 47.

green hat gin

When I moved to the Washington DC metro area I was introduced to Green Hat gin on one of my earliest visits to a craft cocktail bar. I had this amazing martini with this gin which oozed lush green vibes of the summer garden. I found out later Green Hat is from the New Columbia Distillers founded in 2011 right in DC itself. They currently have two seasonal bottlings to go with their regular version.

The name came from the story of George Casaday who was the supplier to Congress during Prohibition. He was known as “The Man in the Green Hat”. Throughout the dry years our lawmakers were able to partake of Mr. Casaday’s wares. Before the mid-term election in 1930 he would be the star source in a series of Washington Post articles exposing the hypocrisy of the Congressmen voting against repeal while drinking his gin.

My favorite cocktail with Green Hat is a Basil Gimlet:

Take five or six basil leaves and half a lime. cut into quarters. Crush them in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add a shot of Green Hat Gin with a fifth of a shot of simple syrup. Add ice and shake well. Strain into a martini glass. Spoon out some of the mashed up basil leaves and float them right in the center.

monkey-47-dry-gin

I didn’t think it was possible but I recently discovered an even more botanical gin which also has some perfumed parallels. This new gin is called Monkey 47. The 47 signifies the percentage of alcohol and the number of botanical ingredients added to the distillation. I have been thinking of it as the Le Labo of gin. The absolute fun of this gin is every time I sip some I can discover a new one of the 47. There are a few which stand out more than others and the most unique is the choice of cranberry. You smell it right when you open the bottle and it is a surprisingly charming companion to the more well-known juniper berry.

Monkey 47 also has a colorful origin story. Post World War 2 Royal Air Force Wing Commander Monty Collins was assigned to the Allied half of Berlin. This also contained the badly damaged Berlin Zoo which he made his pet project to restore. During that time, he would sponsor an egret monkey by the name of Max. After he retired from the RAF in 1951 he opened a guesthouse in the Black Forest region of Germany named “The Wild Monkey”. He wanted to serve gin at his establishment but the distillers in that part of Germany mostly made fruit liqueurs. He would ally with one of them to create the trademark gin of his hotel which he called Monkey 47.

Monkey 47 is the first gin I have ever come across I just want to sip slightly chilled with nothing else added. It really is like a perfume for the tongue as there is so much here to experience.

I am planning on using it in a variation on a contemporary gin cocktail called a Blue Bonnet.

Take 10 blueberries and ½ ounce of honey and mash them up in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add one shot of Monkey 47, ¾ ounce of Meyer lemon juice and shake over ice. Strain into a glass containing ice.

The variation is to remove tarragon which is in the original recipe. With the Monkey 47 tarragon probably doesn’t need to be #48.

If you’re looking for a summery twist to your gin recipes try adding either of these excellent botanical gins.

Disclosure: I purchased bottles of both of these gins.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Caraway

I have a secret crusade in perfumery. I want caraway to stage a coup d’etat on bergamot in the top notes of perfume. Caraway has the same bitter citrus feel as bergamot except this is more akin to bitter lemon. Because it is a spice there are also subtler aspects that go with the obvious bitter citrus. Caraway is one of the least used ingredients within perfumery. In Michael Edwards’ Fragrances of the World there are only 92 entries which contain caraway. I’ve asked and learned it is not too expensive, difficult to obtain, or fractious to work with. As part of my campaign I am going to give you my five favorite caraway containing fragrances.

Van Cleef & Arpels Tsar was the first place I ever smelled caraway but I was too unsophisticated to know what the different note was I was smelling. Released in 1989 by perfumer Philippe Bousseton it is a powerful fougere which uses bergamot with the traditional lavender and rosemary to start. The turning point comes in the heart as cinnamon and caraway brush aside the bergamot and rosemary to transform Tsar into something much more opulent before ending on a super sandalwood base. In this case the caraway shows all of the depth and subtlety it has available to it.

It was when I first tried Parfumerie General Querelle by Pierre Guillaume which has fueled my caraway enthusiasm. Querelle opens with one of the most beautiful openings of anything M. Guillaume has composed as he combines caraway with cinnamon and myrrh. The bitter lemon against the fire of the cinnamon juxtaposed on the sweet resinous quality of the myrrh is gorgeous. It sets up the vetiver, incense, and oakmoss finish perfectly. Caraway dominates the very early moments. It when I wear this that I most often ask why it isn’t used more.

Dirty-English-Juicy-Couture

Juicy Couture Dirty English is one of my favorite best buy perfumes. Perfumer Claude Dir created an overstuffed smorgasbord of masculine ingredients. Right at the top he sets up a title fight between bergamot and caraway which my guy wins by pairing best with the cypress and cardamom also present. Dirty English is fantastic for the price and it is caraway which starts it all off.

Byredo Baudelaire by perfumer Jerome Epinette is perhaps the most creative use of caraway. From a black pepper and juniper berry opening the caraway provides the citrus pivot to the gin-like character of the juniper berry. Like an exotic gin and tonic with caraway acting as the lime Baudelaire becomes this watery patchouli and incense fragrance. I can’t imagine bergamot being able to pull off the same effect.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Cologne pour le Soir shows caraway can stand up to even the heaviest spicy notes. Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian uses caraway as the foil to the cumin within the honeyed top accord. When I tried the first debut collection of this brand it was this single accord which made me swoon hardest. Even as it deepens with ylang-ylang, incense, and vanilla it is the opening which sticks with me longest.

If you need a crash course in caraway here are five which can provide you a full profile of the note I most want to see used more often.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Prada Olfactories Pink Flamingos- Tokyo Midnight Movie

If you came of age in the US in the 1970’s you probably went to a midnight movie or two. The one thing the offerings had in common is they were loud, garish, over the top examples of trash cinema; and we loved them. There is no better example of all of these qualities than the 1972 movie Pink Flamingos directed by John Waters. It was why we went to the movies in the middle of the night. Because of my affection for the movie I was a little leery of the new Prada Olfactories Pink Flamingos. Was perfumer Daniela Andrier going to go all trashy on me? Not quite.

The Olfactories collection has replaced the old Exclusives collection. The one thing that remains the same is the concept that they are the best kept secret at Prada. Since their initial launch they have again been relegated to the basement of the Prada flagship in NYC. Mme Andrier wanted this collection to be “potent concoctions of the unexpected”. The potency of these will be what makes wearers love some and not be so enthused by others. Pink Flamingos is one I think is a good example of one people will love or dislike. In the description on the website it says, “A cloud of pink bubbles floating through the heart of Tokyo. The joyful embrace of nature and the synthetic animates the familiar to produce a heightened form of beauty. Pink Flamingos is the scent of fluorescent pink blossoms, stylized and innocent.” That didn’t sound like my trashy movie I enjoy so much. Once I wore Pink Flamingos I realized I was incorrect because this perfume is loud to the point of near garishness making it over the top fun.

Daniela_Andrier1

Daniela Andrier

Pink Flamingos opens on a super sweet fizz of mandarin, neroli, and some aldehydes. This is not champagne it is orange soda bubbling out of the bottle. Where it spills all over the Ginza during the height of cherry blossom season. As the heart accord of rose, cherry, and iris provide a neon-lit version of the festival. The topper to this is the use of the fruity flavored white musk Serenolide which does nothing but add to the intensity of all of this.

Pink Flamingos has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

What I think is particularly appealing to me is Mme Andrier adds a midnight movie sheen to a Tokyo aesthetic written large. There is a concept that Asian tastes are minimal. I think any Japanese would see this as midnight in Ginza and enjoy it for that. I know I do.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Prada Infusion de Mimosa- Hit Among Misses

1

There is nothing so frustrating as inconsistency. When it comes to Prada the line which causes some of this is the Les Infusions. Launched in 2007 with Infusion D’Iris it was one of the best perfume releases of that year. Perfumer Daniela Andrier had seemingly translated one of the Prada Exclusives into something similar but different in its opacity. By making Infusion D’Iris lighter she was showing even the deeper perfumes have a lighter side. At the time it was expected that all of the Exclusives would get this treatment. Over the years that has been mostly correct. Ever since that initial release there has been a steady stream of product. Except some of them were just so ethereal they didn’t feel like they were even there. Others were good but not as good as Infusion D’Iris. A few others, Infusion de Vetiver, were as good. I look forward to most of what Mme Andrier does at Prada but Les Infusions had struck out for me. When I received my sample of the latest release Infusion de Mimosa I was surprised to find a strong entry in the collection.

Daniela Andrier

Daniela Andrier

One of the reasons for my dissatisfaction for some of the previous releases might have more to do with timing. This is a line which seems designed to be worn in the summer. A great many of the releases showed up when there was snow on my doorstep. Infusion de Mimosa appeared just as the temperature began to rise. Mimosa is a perfect summer companion in many perfumes I own. Infusion de Mimosa proves to be another.

Mme Andrier opens with the mimosa out in front. The press materials define it as “yellow velvet”. For once I agree with the PR. The mimosa has a soft plush feel. The promo picture in the header gets it just right as the mimosa glows with a warm fuzziness that is tremendously appealing. This is the part where things either get better or worse in many of the previous Les Infusions. This time Mme Andrier adds star anise. It adds a contrasting licorice-like effect to the sweet transparency of the mimosa. Soon after a lilting rose joins in. This is where Infusion de Mimosa lingers for many hours. There are an assembly of clean dry woody notes in the base but they take a long time to gain much traction.

Infusion de Mimosa has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Infusion de Mimosa is my favorite of the Les Infusions since the original Infusion D’Iris. It achieves much of the same effect as that debut release by creating a veil of the titular note. That veil is then shaded with a judicious use of well-chosen notes completing an affable companion for the midsummer day and night. I have to say it is nice to have another hit among the misses with Infusion de Mimosa.

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

Mark Behnke

Perfume Mythbusters: Skin Chemistry

2

If there is any phrase used in talking about fragrance that bothers me, it is “skin chemistry”. People will talk about how their skin chemistry makes a perfume smell different as if it is something quantifiable. As a scientist and a chemist calling it this is just a myth because there is no proof it exists and it darn tootin’ isn’t chemistry; more like physics.

Let’s deal with the obvious first. Does perfume smell different on different people? Yes, it does. The reason for that has nothing to do with some chemical reaction taking place on the skin. It has more to do with the lack of a balanced level of moisture on the skin.

Most of us do things which actively make our skin too dry by stripping the protective oils. In the winter indoor heating has no humidity. The biggest place it gets lost is in the shower. The shower is ground zero for your skin the hot water, the soap you use, and the kind of scrubbing implement can all conspire to deprive your skin of its beneficial oils. When do most of us apply perfume? Fairly soon after we shower. Before the skin has had a chance to replace what has swirled down the drain. The effect this has is the larger molecules used in a perfume are closer to the oils you just removed. What happens? Those oils go deep into thehair follicles where the sebaceous glands which produce body oils are located. This is what people who say their skin “eats” perfume are describing. These larger molecules seemingly disappear. They don’t really. They eventually rise back to the surface as the body replenishes the natural oils from below.

skin anatomy

There is a solution to this and that is using a good moisturizer right after you finish toweling off after a shower. You can replenish with something other than your perfume. If you moisturize the places you apply perfume soon after you come out of the shower, you will see a marked improvement in the way you wear your perfume. I’ll even share my tip for making moisturizing even more effective. I use an unscented moisturizer. After I put some in my hand I spray some of the perfume I plan on wearing into the moisturizer and then apply it to my skin. This not only replenishes what I lost in the shower it also acts sort of like a primer before the real application of perfume takes place.

Now let’s get to the chemistry part of this. There are two things we consume as humans which have been documented to produce a smell on our skin. One is sulfur containing foods, garlic being the most common. The other is alcohol as in alcoholic beverages. You can conceivably have some sulfur containing compounds on your skin if you just ate a whole roasted bulb of garlic. Then if you decide to add a perfume on top of that things are probably not going to go well. But that is not chemistry there is no reaction going on between the sulfur containing molecules and the fragrance molecules. Instead what you have done is a poor job of layering by adding your favorite perfume over your natural “Eau de Garlic”. You can do a better job of this by not eating that whole bulb of roasted garlic and just picking two of your favorite perfumes to layer. Alcohol secretes alcohol onto the skin and strong spices like cumin containing curries can also linger in natural body oils. Let me tell you as a chemist none of these actually react with any of the molecules in your perfume. There is zero chemistry happening.

The myth of skin chemistry is really a story of moisturization and diet. If you’re looking for a more correct phrase start calling it “skin physics”

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Cognoscenti No. 30 Hay Incense- Beauty Underneath It All

There are times I probably treat independent perfumers like Pokemon; gotta have ‘em all. The downside of that mentality is I too often forget about them after the initial acquisition. Back in 2012 I became aware of a young independent perfumer by the name of Dannielle Sergent and her brand Cognoscenti. She created five very beautiful initial releases. At the time when I was at CaFleureBon the other writers were as impressed as I was and they ended up writing about them. I would meet Ms. Sergent in New York City soon after this and we spoke about independent perfumery from both of our perspectives. I enjoyed our interaction but I never followed up once I started Colognoisseur even though I was seeing great things written about the line. Thankfully this particular Perfume Pokemon didn’t like being shuffled to the bottom of the deck and contacted me. Which then led to my receiving samples of the entire collection.

dannielle sergent

Dannielle Sergent

One thing that was beneficial in having that four-year interval was being reminded of how good the original five were. It also showed how much she had been growing as a perfumer. Ms. Sergent composes in a minimalist way. Her fragrances have a number followed by a simple two-word phrase indicating the keynotes most of the time. Even though the perfumes are simply defined they carry that portmanteau of simplexity I like to use when describing these kind of fragrances. Of all of the new releases I tried, the one which shows this best is No. 30 Hay Incense.

When I use the made-up word simplexity I mean to convey that something which seems straightforward has hidden depths. When I wear Hay Incense the hay and the incense are ever present. It is those notes which run underneath that surface which turns Hay Incense into something more than a simple two-note fragrance.

Hay Incense opens upon the titular notes right out there. For a few moments I am able to take in the sweet dried grass of the hay against the slightly metallic feel of a church incense. Then from below bubbles up birch leaf providing a pungency which enhances the hay. Immortelle which enhances the austerity of the incense. Throughout the next few hours another note arrives and adds depth. Benzoin followed by lavender, followed by leather then vetiver. None of this disturbs the hay and the incense always in ascendance.

Hay Incense has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

This style of perfumery is too easily dismissed as lesser because it is seemingly so simple. It requires a bit of attention by the wearer to truly get the most out of wearing Hay Incense. That extra awareness pays dividends because the real beauty is right there under the surface.

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

Mark Behnke

Header Photo: Annabelle Breakey Photography for Cognoscenti