New Perfume Review Fath’s Essentials Bel Ambre- Summer Weight Amber

I am completely in the middle of my warm weather rotation. My favorite lightweight and middleweight perfumes are coming forward to get me through the hottest days of the year. This always sees me bidding a momentary farewell to the more conspicuous ingredients which make up the cold weather section of my collection. One of my favorite notes is amber. It is the foundation of so many of my favorite Orientals it is almost synonymous with the genre. I take it as a given that there are very few amber-based perfumes which I can tolerate on the hottest days. I have found a new perfume which is an amber for the summer, Fath’s Essentials Bel Ambre.

As I wrote about previously, Fath’s Essentials is the new brand which has revived the classic Green Water plus three other new releases. Perfumer Cecile Zarokian is responsible for the entire line. The other two are typical cologne-style constructs. Curacao Bay and Vers Le Sud are Mme Zarokian’s versions of aquatic perfumes just right for the summer. Aquatic facets along with more traditional cologne components comprise both of these. They are good but they weren’t particularly exciting for me. Bel Ambre was.

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Cecile Zarokian

When Mme Zarokian handed me the strip at Esxence 2016 I was immediately drawn in by this zephyr of amber which I expected to pick up in intensity like a snowball rolling downhill until it finally bulldozed everything. Except this amber is not an ever expanding snowball. Mme Zarokian holds it at a very satisfying moderate intensity. With that in place she surrounds it with some interesting choices.

Bel Ambre opens with that amber almost lilting in its effect. It stiffens up a bit with the introduction of black pepper, caraway, and juniper berry. I like this because it is a different kind of summery fresh with the citrus removed for gin and spice. It also reinforces my belief that caraway can replace bergamot for a similar uplift without being so ubiquitous. The heart is non-powdery iris matched with a white floral accord. Mme Zarokian uses these florals to act as a garland to the still present amber. These well-known florals never rise to become cloying they stay matched to the same volume as the amber. This all comes to an end with a fabulous opaque leather accord and vetiver. It is the right place to cap this off.

Bel Ambre has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am very fond of my summer weight wardrobe of crisp linen suits with matching loose woven shirts and pants. It is a way of feeling dressed but still free in the breeze. Bel Ambre carries the same effect. It has many of the things which make up my winter amber fragrances but in a breezy free way; it is a summer weight amber.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Faths Essentials at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Eris Parfums Night Flower- The Consequence of Vintage

For those of us who get serious about acquiring perfume there are many stages. One of the later stages is after you have devoured what is current someone presents you with a discontinued vintage fragrance. What tends to happen after that is there is a lot of conversation about how they don’t make perfume like that anymore. Eventually you start scouring online and actual auctions looking for these elusive treasures. Anyone who has many bottles in their collection inevitably has a few which are older than they are.

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Barbara Herman

Barbara Herman was one who went through this phase too. Except she harnessed the fervor and expressed it in some very different ways. One of those ways was the blog she founded in 2008 called Yesterday’s Perfume. Over the last eight years she has written about the classics of the past. She would then take that drive a step further and authored a book called “Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume” which she published in 2013. One significant thesis in both her blog and her book is Ms. Herman believes the mainstream perfume industry has abandoned the pursuit of both art and commerce in favor of solely the latter. So she took it one step further if the mainstream wasn’t going to do it; she was.

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Antoine Lie

In 2014 she got started with an Indiegogo campaign to design and produce a single scent with perfumer Antoine Lie. After making her goal she began the process of turning her design into a reality. A funny thing happened on that path the single release turned into three releases. Earlier this year she released three perfumes under her new brand Eris Parfums. I really like all of the three debut releases but the one which really dug itself deep was Night Flower.

One of the great tragedies of contemporary perfume is the cleaning up of the majority of it. The strong components that make vintage perfume so unique have been waylaid. It is a casualty of focus groups who associate those stronger notes and accords as being synonymous with their grandmother. It Is the one thing Ms. Herman and M. Lie got spot on as they dust off those powerful ingredients and bring them back into play. For Night Flower the three notes are birch tar, tuberose, and leather.

Where Night Flower captured me was from the top accord of bergamot, cardamom, and birch tar. Every time I wore Night Flower this early stage felt like the most exotic tar baby imaginable. The heart is a soft leather accord mixed with a very restrained tuberose. I wonder how many mods there were with different volumes of tuberose before deciding on a less exuberant effect. The reined in tuberose is the most contemporary part of Night Flower. An earthy effect is created in the base by patchouli, tonka, and musk.

Night Flower has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I want to comment a bit on the sillage. In most vintage perfumes they are very likely to leave a vapor trail. All of the Eris Parfums, but especially Night Flower, have a much quieter demeanor. They are not skin scents but you also won’t leave a reminder of where you’ve been walking behind you.

I have a great deal of admiration for what Ms. Herman has achieved here. Lots of people talk; few actually do. Ms. Herman has done what all of us who have fallen in love with vintage perfume say we want to do. She has made one like they used to in Night Flower.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: If you live in the Washington DC Metro Area Ms. Herman will be making a personal appearance at Arielle Shoshanna (2920 District Avenue Fairfax, VA 22031). She is having a trunk show displaying all three of the Eris Parfums line on Saturday June 11 from 1-5 Pm and Sunday June 12 from 12-4PM. It is a great opportunity to meet Ms. Herman in the intimate setting of Arielle Shoshanna.  

Colognoisseur is Going to Cosmoprof North America 2016

I am very excited to reveal that I have been invited to attend one of the largest Business-to-Business beauty conventions in the world, Cosmoprof North America 2016. Taking place from July 24-26, 2016 at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas; 30,000 members of the beauty industry will convene.

Cosmoprof covers every conceivable area of the beauty industry. Last year they started a specific section for perfume. Curated by Karen Dubin and Karen Adams of Sniffapalooza the Discover Scent section is an island of fragrance among everything else going on.

I am going to be covering the participants in the Discover Scent area over the three days of the show posting daily wrap-ups as I usually do when attending these kind of expositions.

Some of the brands I’ll be interacting with are:

Demeter Fragrance Library

Fath Essentials

Amerikas, Inc.

House of Matriarch

DefineMe

Scent Invent Technologies

Paglieri 1876

xSense

Besame Cosmetics

I FEEL GREAT

Life Therapy

I am looking forward to seeing what the new brands have to offer and to see what is new for the brands I know of.

Six weeks from now I’ll be channeling my inner Elvis, humming Viva Las Vegas, and bringing you the sights and sounds of Discover Scent at Cosmoprof North America 2016.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Carner Barcelona Costarela- Beach Carry-All

As summer sets in we all think of taking some vacation time. For many of us that choice is to head to our favorite, or nearest, beach. It is one of the reasons the whole aquatic genre of fragrance has been successful. It reminds us of being next to the ocean even when we are in our work-a-day world. Up until about a year and a half ago I was impatient with this style. It had grown insipid in its insistence on slavish imitation. Then something surprising happened as some of the independent perfume brands did a hostile takeover of the aquatic. They used the basic building blocks but began adding new ingredients. It was like they were looking for their own private beach to share with those in the know. As a result, I have a whole new grouping of aquatics to wear this upcoming summer. One of the latest additions is Carner Barcelona Costarela.

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Sara Carner

Costarela is the seventh release for Carner Barcelona. Owner and Creative Director Sara Carner took us on a trip of her hometown of Barcelona over the first five releases. Last year was the first release to travel somewhere else, Palo Santo, but it fit in with the overall brand aesthetic. Costarela is a marked departure from both place and style for the brand.

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Shyamala Maisondieu

Sra. Carner worked with perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu on Costarela. One of the things which fueled my disdain for the previous generation of aquatics was they got the marine vibe right but they missed out on the beach. Sort of like a forest themed perfume focusing on the trees but missing out on the earth they grow in. In Costarela Mme Maisondieu brings the surf and the sand together.

Cotarela opens with a delightfully odd pairing to open an aquatic. Bergamot for its sunny qualities is a staple of the form. Saffron is not. Mme Maisondieu adds the saffron and it almost seems like it acts as sun spots against the sparkly brightness of the bergamot. This phase has surprising staying power. I expected it to move along but it hangs in for over an hour on my skin. Eventually the crashing waves draw my attention away from the sun. Here Mme Maisondieu’s marine accord imparts the combination of water and salty sea spray. Then the mineralic sand accord buttresses that familiar sea spray accord with a granularity of stoniness that completes the total beach accord. Like the top notes Costarela lingers here for a quite a long time. When it eventually progresses into the base it is a very dry woody accord of cedar and ambroxan.

Costarela has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I think Sra. Carner needed a beach vacation she could carry around with her. By designing Costarela I now also have a beach carry-all whenever I need to get in that relaxed state of mind.  

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Carner Barcelona at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Apoteker Tepe Karasu- Summon Originality

As frustrated as I can get with many of the self-taught perfumers who send me their brands there are exceptions. What makes those stand out is because these artists who have essentially taught themselves how to construct perfume is they break the rules; because they weren’t told what they were. 98.5% of the rule breakers mostly serve to sharpen the reasoning for why these rules exist. The other 1.5% find new directions to explore. This group is the one which makes up our most talented independent perfumers.

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Holladay Saltz

One of these iconoclastic rule breakers is Holladay Saltz. She founded her brand Apoteker Tepe in 2015 with four very well thought out constructs. Ms. Saltz showed her resistance to being bound by convention throughout those releases. Now 2016 brings her first two follow-ups. Pale Fire is a good example. Ms. Saltz combines large amounts of labdanum and vanilla versus another accord of olibanum and oakmoss. The combination is volatile and wildly kinetic. That fervent energy kept me from wanting to wear it for a couple of days to review it. I have incessantly smelled the strip it is sprayed on but it is not something I wanted to wear. The other new release is called Karasu and that I did find the time to wear for a couple of days.

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Karasu-Tengu

Karasu refers to the Japanese demons of the forest called Karasu-Tengu. They are summoned by the foolish humans who want to bind them using an incense ceremony. This is what Ms. Saltz is trying to evoke in Karasu. To do this she corrupts the incense ceremony with decay and smoke forming a desperate ritual in the woods that is not going to go well for the summoner.

Karasu opens with a version of oud from Indonesia called Gaharu Buaya. It is sort of a regular grade version of oud to its high octane cousin the purer Gaharu. Ms. Saltz choosing this as the representation of her incense is inspired because it carries an almost entropic air of collapse around it. As if right from the start the incense the supplicant is using is foreshadowing what is to come. To further enhance the deterioration Ms. Saltz takes birch tar and costus to fully warp the good intentions. The birch tar she uses is kept at a precise pitch throughout. This is the smoke of the smudge pot not the viscous contents within. Costus and its ability to push forward rot works incredibly well here. When this all comes together it is incense as scorched by olfactory brimstone. There is no surprise that what has arrived is not sunshine and light. Much later on the woods of the site of the ceremony take over as hinoki and cedar clear away the unclean act.

Karasu has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

In both of the new Apoteker Tepe releases Ms. Saltz seems to be experimenting with stark contrasts of well understood raw materials. It really comes together in Karasu to form something I was completely fascinated by. I may never be desperate enough to try and summon a demon but I surely will be summoning Karasu when I am in the mood for something unique.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Muhammad Ali

There were two sports that I learned at my father’s side. One was horse racing. The other was boxing. He loved both sports and equally enjoyed having a son to pass his knowledge on to. I was never going to be a jockey. My short-lived boxing foray showed me I didn’t have any aptitude at that either. Like my father I was going to be an armchair aficionado. Because of his love for the sweet science we would go down to the 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach to watch the fighters train. On one of our earliest visits Muhammad Ali was training.

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Muhammad Ali at the 5th Street Gym September 27, 1965

I think it was 1965 and he was training for his rematch with Sonny Liston whom he had won the Heavyweight Title from two years previously. Every time we visited 5th Street I would marvel at the hand speed as I watched the boxers train. Even at six years old I could tell Ali was a different kind of fighter. He intently listened to his trainers but he also had this incredible spirit as he went about his training routine. Focused when he needed to be; smiling and talking when he wanted to. The athleticism was one thing but there was also something else a six-year-old was able to learn too.

At that age I spent as much time watching the adults around me as I did anything. I was looking for what the proper cues were. What was it I could act like to be considered a “big boy” which was the goal of any six-year-old boy. The people in the gym watching were probably three to one white to black. The black people clearly adored Ali. He stood for many things. After beating Liston in 1963 he would convert to Islam soon after changing his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. Many black men were adopting Islam and changing their names but Ali was one of the most prominent to do it. He stood as a representative to his beliefs.

There were also some of those black patrons at the gym that just liked seeing a man of their skin color being as admired as Ali was. He stood for a race without backing down. His fast talking rhyming style made him the street rapper of his day. His people loved that he was bringing that out of the shadows of the urbanized areas of the country.

What I found most interesting was the two reactions I noticed on the white men. On many there was an open disgust. I know if I could read their mind they were hoping Liston would knock him out and a colored man who knew his place would be on top again. That was most of them.

There was also a smaller group who realized we were in the middle of a generational change in America of which Ali was part of. On them I noticed that slight smile as they watched. These were the men who weren’t going to resist the changes coming they were going to figure out how to adapt to them. I am happy to say my father was one of this group.

From that point on I was a Muhammad Ali fan. When he declined to be drafted to fight in Vietnam I didn’t care. My father explained it to me as best that he could. I understood he was standing up for his beliefs and I think that was what my father wanted me to learn from what was happening.

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Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman 1974

As I got older Ali was an enduring star. Throughout the 1970’s as he had his most famous series of fights with Joe Frazier and George Foreman he would shine his brightest. Like too many boxers he went on too long and Father Time finally KO’d him when he retired for good in 1981.

The final phase of Ali’s life was that of ambassador and sportsman for boxing and Parkinson’s Disease which struck him beginning in 1984.He would light the Olympic flame in 1996 in Atlanta. Throughout the next twenty years he stayed as active as his condition allowed.

As I reflect on the man who passed away yesterday I kept thinking about that day in the 5th Street Gym when he taught me about boxing and human nature all by being himself.

Mark Behnke

We Are the New Old Ladies

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Change is a universal constant. Resisting that change is also human nature but as futile as trying to stop the Earth rotating. Over the past few months it has become clear to me that the Baby Boomers have finally gone bust. The generation born after World War 2 was the foundation for much of the societal and cultural change from the 1960’s onward. They were so big they ruled everything. Their buying power was greater than anyone. Television ratings were tailored to 18-34 to capture their viewing habits. When it came to fragrance they were also the perfume buying generation. They changed the notion of men buying perfume for a woman as a gift to the working woman buying it for herself. For fifty years the world was theirs; and now it is not.

Over the last nine months I have been bombarded with fragrance press releases all touting their ability to cater to Millennials. This is the generation which spans the early 1980’s through the early 2000’s. This is a generation just coming into the height of their buying power. This is also the generation which will set the table for the next couple of decades at least. In 2015 they outspent Baby Boomers in the prestige beauty market according to The NPD Group. Furthermore, their spending in this sector is mostly on fragrance where the aging Baby Boomers have spent more money on skin products and makeup. The times they are a-changing.

If the brands who have been observing this same data for a lot longer have made one decision about the fragrance preference of the Millennials. They want something light and transparent. Not necessarily fresh and clean. The preponderance of these early targeted perfumes has tilted more towards sweet gourmand constructs. Which if this is what Millennials crave I can get behind. At least it isn’t an overplayed genre.

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Graphic via barnraisersllc.com

The most interesting press release I have received about a perfume aimed at this younger generation came from Chanel a couple weeks ago. It touted the Fall launch of a new version of No. 5 composed by in-house perfumer Olivier Polge called No. 5 L’Eau. In the press release the first paragraph speaks on how No. 5 is an “olfactory heritage” passed from “generation to generation”.

By the end of the first section it then makes the case that a new No. 5 is needed for this generation. Then it dives into what M. Polge is going to do. Change the metallic aldehydes out for citric ones. “Remove the powder from the base”. “Making the jasmine light as air.” In the next section No. 5 L’Eau is described as lighthearted and transparent. It was right then that it hit me. This generation sees No. 5 as an “old lady” perfume.

One of the most withering criticisms leveled at any fragrance is that it smells like an “old lady”. Which means outdated. Maybe too strong. Maybe also stinky and dense with extroverted components. Any fragrance given this sobriquet by a consumer is not going to be found on that person’s dressing table. Reading between the lines of the Chanel No. 5 L’Eau press release and all of the recent press releases from the brands catering to the Millennials I realized the Baby Boomer generation have become the new old ladies to them. The things we like are seen as outdated and quaint but not to be assimilated. No way.

It is paving the way for a very interesting next few years in the fragrance industry as the Millennials communicate what it is they do want through their buying power. For those of us being left behind we are going to have to turn to our independent perfume community to make some new “old lady” perfumes because while I might be one of the new “old ladies” I still want to smell like a Boomer.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfums MDCI Fetes Persanes- Spicy Rose Fete

One of the strengths of Parfums MDCI has been owner Claude Marchal’s delight in doing things differently. It has produced an eclectic collection encompassing many of the best releases of a given year. Starting in 2013 M. Marchal began collaborating with perfumer Cecile Zarokian. Mme Zarokian is another artist who enjoys toying with the tried and true looking for a place to turn it from common to memorable. In particular, the last release for Parfums MDCI, Les Indes Galantes, was a fantastic updating of the gourmand style of perfume. For their latest release, Fetes Persanes, they are creating a baroque floral with some of those twists Mme Zarokian is becoming known for.

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Claude Marchal

The inspiration of for Fetes Persanes comes from a movement within Jean-Philippe Rameau’s musical work Les Indes Galantes. This is the part of the opera which describes a Persian Feast which coincidentally is a flower festival. Fetes Persanes is meant to capture that combination of the smells of the feast in conjunction with the flower power surrounding it. If it sounds like it is going to be a gigantic floral that is where M. Marchal and Mme Zarokian enjoy playing with our preconceived notions.

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Cecile Zarokian

The fragrant feast opens with black pepper out front. If I am looking for flowers and am greeted with the spicy black pepper I am alerted right away this is not going to be what I think. The spice theme continues as the smells of the spices used to prepare the food come in to focus. Mme Zarokian uses a blend of cardamom, cinnamon, and clove. She keeps these weighted in such a way so that they aren’t too heavy but I wouldn’t describe them as transparent. Then in what I think is a very intelligent choice there aren’t multiple floral notes there is just one, rose. Mme Zarokian has shown in the past she knows how to get the most out of rose. In Fetes Persanes she uses a bit of geranium to bring forward some of the greener facets. The spices settle among the petals matching the characteristic spicy core of a good rose. This is a very good rose accord made up of three or four sources. Patchouli provides a transition from the flower festival back to the food for dessert. Clean woods of gaiac and cedar frame a luscious vanilla. This plays off the softness of a white musk cocktail.

Fetes Persanes has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I really like that M. Marchal chose to make Fetes Persanes not a literal flower festival but a festival of rose swathed in spices. This is a party well worth spending some time at.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review aroma M Geisha Vanilla Hinoki- Geisha’s Day Off

There are a few perfumers who have successfully created a world for their perfumes to live within. Not only does the perfume smell great but it can tell a story as well. I look forward to the next releases from these perfumers as eagerly as I look forward to the next book from my favorite novelist. That is why I was very pleased to get the next installment from Maria McElroy who with her brand aroma M has been illuminating the life of a geisha. The latest release is Geisha Vanilla Hinoki.

Since 1995 through many releases the story being told has been of the occupation of geisha. It was only with 2014’s Camellia where we saw the geisha off-stage as I imagined her removing the makeup at the end of the evening. Geisha Vanilla Hinoki continues her off-duty story. Ms. McElroy described this as a trip for her geisha to a hot spring to soak in a hinoki wood tub. As a result, my imagination renders Geisha Vanilla Hinoki as the story of our perfumed geisha on her precious and rare day off.

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Maria McElroy

Geisha Vanilla Hinoki is primarily what the name implies. Ms. McElroy sourced a vanilla from Morocco which contains a smoky aspect. I can say that as it is used in Geisha Vanilla Hinoki it is an unusual vanilla which carries some of the bakery but also a different kind of depth to it giving it a little more gravitas than playful vanilla often has. The hinoki is one of my favorite variations of cypress. It also has more presence as well as more sharply defined lines. These are the heart of this perfume.

It would be a long trip to the hot spring but she had the cream pan her client brought for her last night. As she walked out in the sunshine the light sparkled in points of bergamot. She boarded the train into the mountains sitting next to a spice salesman with his bags of cardamom and nutmeg while he chewed on a piece of clove. After arriving at the hot spring she was shown to her tub which had a view of the mountainside and the world below. She added a few drops of lavender oil to provide contrast to the hinoki wood of the tub. As she eased into the steamy water the smell of the surrounding amyris and the damp earth reminded of her patchouli oil back on her vanity. She remembered her parcel of cream pan and drew them to her. The steam and the wood made them a little less confectionary giving a smoky tint to the sweetness. As she floated on the water her cares radiated away into the water and out with the steam. Today was a day for her to love herself; tomorrow it would be shared with her clients.

Geisha Vanilla Hinoki has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage as the eau de parfum. 14-16 hour longevity and minimal sillage as the perfume oil.

There are two versions of Geisha Vanilla Hinoki; perfume oil and eau de parfum. In the past I have always preferred the oil form. For the first time the expansiveness of the eau de parfum was much more evocative of the open air hot tub for me. It felt more like my imaginary geisha at play. The oil is much more personal it has a sultrier quality. I wholeheartedly recommend both forms I think it will come down to personal preference.

Geisha Vanilla Hinoki is the most exuberant of the aroma M Geisha collection. I can feel the relaxed smile of my figurative geisha and the perfume makes that infectious in its simple joy.

Disclosure: This review was based on a samples provided by aroma M.

Mark Behnke