New Perfume Reviews Arquiste El and Ella- Mirror Ball Fragrances

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Perfume has a habit of triggering memories of places, to be sure. Sometimes it can even pull you back to a specific time, too. Carlos Huber the owner and creative director of Arquiste is one who regularly does both. His career in architectural restoration has combined with his passion for fragrance to make sure the brief for his perfumes come from a specific time and place. Up until now those times and places have not been during my lifetime. The newest pair El and Ella become the first.

Sr. Huber grew up on the stories his parents told him of the Acapulco disco Armando’s Le Club. In the early 1970’s Acapulco was the hip destination in Mexico and where the jet set could be found was dancing the night away at Armando’s Le Club. It was a resort version of Studio 54. The only difference here is the party moved from the pool in the daytime on to the dance floor at night. Disco and Acapulco were meant to be together and Armando’s Le Club was its intersection.

Sr. Huber wanted to capture a feminine and a masculine take on this particular setting. He enlisted regular collaborator Rodrigo Flores-Roux to complete this vision. They decided to name these creations El and Ella (he and she in Spanish). They are each meant to pick up on a part of the experience in 1972 at Armando’s Le Club. Sr. Flores-Roux creates two distinctly gendered personalities in each of these perfumes.

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Ella is the scent of the woman who has finished her sunbathing for the day and has nipped up to her room to slide into a Halston sheath. The neckline plunges as the sheen of perspiration forms droplets which disappear further down. Ella is this woman who stalks the pool deck imperiously only to prowl the dancefloor looking for her equal.

Ella opens with that scent of clean sweat beaded skin. Sr. Flores-Roux uses angelica root and carrot seed to form this accord. We then follow one of those beads of sweat as it coalesces at the waist. Rose coated with cardamom and honey. This is the scent of seduction as Ella puts out her lure. It all heads into a magnificent animalic chypre base composed of patchouli, vetiver, and civet. The last little bit of dazzle is a cigarette smoke accord which swirls very lightly throughout the base. This is so perfectly balanced to not disrupt the overall mood but to capture a time when smoking was what was hip.

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El is the scent of that man who also enters Armando’s Le Club. He is dressed for the evening wearing a Nik-Nik shirt unbuttoned down to his navel. There is gold around his neck, more than one, but not too many. There is also a sheen of perspiration underneath his chest hair. He is an El looking for his Ella and across the dance floor that might be her standing there.

El opens with a 1970’s power herbal chord of laurel, clary sage, and rosemary. This is so typical of powerhouse men’s fragrances of the time it is almost the equivalent of “I am Man hear me roar”. It would have been so easy to let that beast out. Instead Sr. Flores-Roux works at making this a man of intellect as he uses cinnamon leaves to twist that herbal opening into something fantastically satisfying. Cinnamon leaf is an ingredient almost used as an afterthought. Not here. Sr. Flores-Roux uses it as a harness to keep the rampaging herbs from being too strident. It has to be done because the same cardamom and honey that we met in Ella are also here. This is the heart beating underneath the hirsute chest and gold chains. For El, Sr. Flores-Roux fashions an animalic fougere base. Vetiver and patchouli are transformed with a double dose of animalic as castoreum and civet provide the fur. Oakmoss provides the toothy smile. It is that moment when El sees Ella and passion takes over the night as the music and lights swirl around them.

Both Ella and El have 12-14 hour longevity. El has a little more sillage than Ella but neither is something I would consider quiet.

In every disco of the 1970’s a mirror ball held central position over the dance floor. The ability to reflect the light in many directions feels very similar to what El and Ella achieve. Through their collaborative efforts Sr. Huber and Sr. Flores-Roux have made two fragrances which contain a mirror ball of cardamom, honey, and civet within. The reflection of the other notes in both El and Ella are what makes them distinctive. El and Ella have reached a new pinnacle for Arquiste. These are both amongst the best this brand has to offer.

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

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Neroli

As we head to the final weekend of summer I always find that I turn to neroli to help me keep the lessening of the sunlight at bay. Neroli the blossom that eventually will turn into bergamot is more thought of as a spring fragrance ingredient. Of course I wear it as the warmth is on its way out. I like neroli perfumes at this time of the year because they have a vitality to them I need with that eventual turn of the season just around the corner. Here are five of my favorites.

The new version of Jacques Fath Green Water has been a constant companion since trying it at Esxence in March of this year. Perfumer Cecile Zarokian held her ground on the high concentration of neroli oil in this reformulation. It is why it is not an embarrassment to compare it to the Green Water of the past. As the spices and oakmoss make their presence known it is the neroli which never gives up the spotlight.

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Vero Profumo Rubj reminds me that neroli is a white flower too. Independent perfumer Vero Kern makes this crystal clear by matching it with the queen of white flowers tuberose. This is a throwback floral full of snarling indoles and feral musks. In other words, a lovely untamed beast; give yourself over to it.

My favorite neroli straight no chaser version is Annick Goutal Neroli. As part of the Les Colognes collection perfumer Isabelle Doyen takes her neroli and supports it with pettigrain, heliotrope, and white musks. It is simple and compelling in that simplicity.

One of the more unique uses of neroli I have is Le Labo Neroli 26. Perfumer Daphne Bugey gives you a tidal basin with neroli blossoms floating on top of the water. Mme Bugey uses an over-the-top aquatic accord of calone and salt which accentuates the melon-y parts of calone which the neroli plays off of nicely. As the neroli gains more of a foothold a swirl of white musks and driftwood capture the floral again. I love this for the mixture of sea and floral.

When Atelier Cologne was introducing the world to their concept of Cologne Absolue in 2010 the poster child might have been Grand Neroli. Most neroli perfumes have short lifetimes on the skin. Grand Neroli not only had longevity it also took the neroli into deeper places. Perfumer Cecile Krakower turns her neroli richer by surrounding it with galbanum, vanilla, and musks. This taking of traditional lighter cologne ingredients deep into the shadows has become a bit of the brand DNA of Atelier Cologne this was the alpha to that.

If you’re looking for a way to push back the encroaching night these five neroli perfumes might allow for you to keep the light close a little bit longer.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Galop D’Hermes- Perfumer Up!

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There has been no small amount of anticipation in the release of Christine Nagel’s first mainstream release for Hermes. Ever since she was tapped as the replacement for current in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena I have been wondering what Mme Nagel’s Hermes would look like. The first step of that era has arrived with the release of Galop D’Hermes.

Mme Nagel has always been one of those perfumers who has shown a consistent skill at making perfumes which are transparent but have a structure like Kevlar. This combination of strength and opacity was going to be a fitting extension of the aesthetic M. Ellena has created at Hermes during his tenure there. Galop D’Hermes is a confirmation of all of that.

Galop D’Hermes is inspired by the equestrian leather goods Hermes is known for. The bottle is in the shape of a stirrup as if it was part of one of the more decadent sets of saddlery you might imagine. Mme Nagel takes the idea of that saddle leather as the foundation of Galop D’Hermes. She really uses only two other notes in significant quantity; saffron and rose. They combine not necessarily to create a saddle accord. Instead this is a perfume of splicing together the aesthetic of Mme Nagel with Hermes. It points to greater days ahead.

Christine Nagel 1

Christine Nagel

Galop D’Hermes opens with that transparent rose. There is a feel almost as if it is a crystalline version coated in rose oil. There are sparkling facets to it especially in the first few moments. Those are removed by Mme Nagel’s use of saffron. The saffron comes on very strong. Saffron in this concentration has a kind of leathery quality making it an effective bit of connection to the leather to come. That leather is soft sueded leather. This is no saddle; it is the leather of a Birkin bag. The refinement allows it to softly caress the rose and carry it from that sparkly beginning in to the shadows the leather casts. Galop D’Hermes then beautifully exists in this state with a rose darkened by leather and tinted golden by saffron for hours.

Galop D’Hermes has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage as it is in extrait concentration.

The whole horse focused style at Hermes got me thinking about The Pony Express. The Pony Express was the mail delivery service between Missouri and California in the early days of the gold rush. Until the telegraph and then the railroad connected California to the rest of the country this was how mail was delivered. A rider would leave Missouri and, at a gallop, ride about ten miles to the next station where he would change horses and keep going. Once the rider became as tired as his steed the stationmaster would let out a call, “Rider up!” to signal one of the resting riders it was their turn to keep the mail moving. Galop D’Hermes feels like the metaphorical change of riders at Hermes. The same aesthetic is going to be elaborated upon in Mme Nagel’s way for the next few years. Galop D’Hermes is as if the call “Perfumer up!” has been answered with another brilliant rider of the olfactory trail.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review House of Matriarch Kazimi- In The Heart

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One of the thrills of Cosmoprof North America was to actually meet in person independent perfumer Christi Meshell. I have been impressed with the arc of her career since I became aware of her in 2010. Over six short years she has evolved her small indie perfume brand, House of Matriarch, in to a true brand which is now being sold at Nordstrom department stores across the US. This broadening of her audience as well as her brand is a welcome thing. Ms. Meshell has always had a consistent aesthetic which she has developed assiduously. Particularly the last three years have seen that inflection point I write about so often with self-taught perfumers. There is that moment when the raw talent becomes more refined while truly realizing a particular vision. That happened in 2012 with the release of Black No. 6 (known as Blackbird back then) and Coco Blanc. These were fragrances with definitive intent behind them which Ms. Meshell realized. They changed the way I looked at her as a perfumer and held her later releases to a higher standard; one which she has had no problem keeping up with. She was ready to take the bold step of branching out.

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Christi Meshell

While we were talking at Cosmoprof I was talking about her inflection point moment. She thought maybe her next release was going to be another of those. She pulled out a small tester of this new perfume Kazimi. She told me she has been working on it for three years which definitely showed in what was coming to my nose off of the strip. I was looking forward to being home where I could test it all on its own.

Kazimi is an alternative spelling of the astrological tern “cazimi” which means “in the heart”. Ms. Meshell has also given it the subtitle of “Blue Rose”. Kazimi is a perfume which comes alive in the heart of an exotic rose never grown in any garden. Kazimi is a blend of multiple rose sources into a supernatural olfactory fantasy of a rose.

blue rose

Ms. Meshell uses as her opening rose an attar-like rose oil called “ruh gulab”. It is composed primarily of rose damascene grown in the Indian Himalayas. Ms. Meshell adds a freshening effect by using white ginger to fizz across the face of the intense rose. Ms. Meshell adds in a tincture of rose damascena which provides a different face of the same rose in the top; less deep and more of the petals. That effect is substantiated with the use of a rose oil only from the petals. This is like a rose completely balled up with hundreds of petals ready to burst. Which it does into a woody base of wild crafted cedar, oakmoss, and green heart wood. This provides a similar effect that sandalwood does in traditional attars. The woody notes pull the rose away from the core of it all and more towards the simple pleasures of the petals. This is where Kazimi stays for hours on my skin. Ambergris and Africa stone show up later on but they add just a hint of muskiness.

Kazimi has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I have worn Kazimi a few times since my return from Cosomoprof . each time I wear it I am more impressed with it as a complete construction. It continues to display the ever expanding abilities of Ms. Meshell as a perfumer and an artist. It also has connected the best on an emotional level with me as this kind of rose is what I prefer to wear. Kazimi has found itself in the heart of this perfume lover.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by House of Matriarch.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Dream On by Aerosmith

I remember when I was a teenager, in the early 1970’s, listening to rock music at too loud a volume inevitably an adult would come and tell me to turn it down. If the adult was feeling particularly feisty on the day they might follow the request with this old chestnut, “you know this music won’t be around in 40 years.” It was a frustrating argument because rock had only been around 10-15 years at that point. How could you rebut that? It was also enough to plant the seed of doubt to whether I would still be listening to it in 40 years.

My iTunes library is a living document of my favorite music of that time which I still listen to. The answer is now yes this music is still around 40 years later. It has even matured to the point that there are the classic standards which make up those earliest days. I was reminded of how the best of those early songs have the same timelessness about them as any musical form when watching the ending of the Olympics which led into a preview of The Voice. At the end of that preview the current panel of judges; Adam Levine, Alicia Keys, Blake Shelton, and Miley Cyrus did a version of the song Dream On by Aerosmith (link here). It is certainly an appropriate song to be sung at the beginning of a singing competition. They did an incredible job. It reminded me of the legacy of rock music and how far it has come.

AerosmithAlternative

Aerosmith released Dream On in 1973 on their self-named debut album. It would be the band’s first major hit. That the band still exists 40 years later also shows the longevity of rock music. Aerosmith is particularly known for the lead singer Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry. Dream On shows off both of them at their best. There are few lyrics in Dream On and most of the song is taken up by Mr. Perry’s guitar playing. Lots of rock bands had songs which started off with picked out quiet sections of plucking which would eventually progress to full-on shredding of the guitar. Dream On does this and I remember listening to this the first time and thinking how good the guitar player was. I also was taken in by the range of Mr. Tyler’s vocals. Dream On starts off maybe a beat or two faster than spoken word. Just as Mr. Perry does with the guitar Mr. Tyler slowly amps up the vocals until the song crescendos with multiple implorations to “dream on” sung in falsetto. It all ends on a very of the day giant gong being struck.

Dream On like all classic music has timeless lyrics which apply no matter when they are sung. I know it is impossible but this week I kept wishing I could inhabit my 13-year old self listening to Dream On and when that adult made their prediction of its impermanence that I could just smile knowingly. And turn it up while singing along with Mr. Tyler in my less accomplished falsetto to “dream on”.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Kenneth Cole Black Bold, Bulgari Rose Goldea, Anna Sui Romantica Exotica, & Giorgio Armani Si Le Parfum

I am sitting here with a desk overflowing with samples. As I was attempting to organize them I was pooling all of the flankers in one stack. As I was doing this I noticed there were four new versions of perfumes of which I liked their original iteration. I have infrequently done a round-up of flankers when I think there is something worth mentioning. I did not give these perfumes which I will write about below my typical two days of wearing. These all got the same day and about the same amount of territory on my two forearms. They were not enough alike that it did set up a bit of olfactory cacophony but I do think I learned enough to make some broad assessments.

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Kenneth Cole Black Bold- The original Kenneth Cole Black is one of those great workhorse masculine fougeres which is probably underrated. Perfumer Harry Fremont did Black and he has returned to do Black Bold. As almost all flankers do they keep the basic structure of the original in place and either pump up one of the supporting notes or add an extra one in. Here M. Fremont enhances the mint in the top accord so it is more prominent. It adds a cooling effect to the ginger and basil with which it is matched. The bold is a big slug of oak in the leather focused base. The oak roughs up the smooth leather and for someone wanting a bolder version of Black I think Black Bold does that.

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Bulgari Rose Goldea– I really liked last year’s Goldea for the way perfumer Alberto Morillas used his supernatural skill with musks to create a unique mainstream release. Rose Goldea feels like what happens when you release something different; the brand asks for something more conventional. M. Morillas provides a very classic rose focused fragrance bracketed with sandalwood and incense. He couldn’t keep the musks entirely out and they appear in the base providing the similar golden glow they do in the original. I preferred the strong musk thread which ran through the original. If you wanted a lot less musks and more floral, Rose Goldea might do.

anna sui romantica exotica

Anna Sui Romantica Exotica– I was not a fan of last year’s Romantica it was an overheated fruity floral that I could barely stand on a strip. A change of perfumer also gave a change in style as Jerome Epinette likes to work in more focused accords with clear connections. Romantica Exotica moves from a crisp blood orange and lemon top to an orange blossom and gardenia heart. Cottonwood and sandalwood provide the base accord. Of the four things I had on this was the one that almost got another day of wear out of me.

armani si le parfum

Giorgio Armani Si Le Parfum– The latest Giorgio Armani release to turn into a sea of flankers is 2013’s Si Eau de Parfum. It has been a pretty bleak grouping as the main thing which was altered was the concentration of the rose de mai focal point. I never understand who these kind of flankers are meant to entice. With the new Si Le Parfum perfumer Julie Masse, who worked on the original with Christine Nagel, makes a massive change from rose de mai to osmanthus in the heart. Almost everything else is the same cassis and vanilla top; amber and labdanum base. The heart is transformed as osmanthus steps up with its leathery apricot quality and wraps the patchouli, benzoin, and jasmine into something that does resemble the desired modern chypre accord. This is the most different of the four from the original because Mme Masse massively reworks the heart accord; for the better.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by the perfume brands.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Maison Francis Kurkdjian Petit Matin and Grand Soir- Dawn to Dusk

The transitions between light and dark that happens twice every day carry a special magic to them. Folklore would suggest that magic is literal in those moments. Perfumer Francis Kukdjian was looking for perfumed inspiration from those same times. He has released two new fragrances from his Maison Francis Kurkdjian brand Petit Matin and Grand Soir.

Petit Matin (Little Morning) is inspired by that moment when the sun has cleared the horizon and its light fills the world with brilliant points of light as it reflects off windows, water and buildings. There is that moment in every early morning where it is pure light. That is the effect M. Kurkdjian goes for with Petit Matin.

Petit Matin opens with two sources of lemon. One is a typical lemon essential oil. The other is an evergreen shrub called litsea cubeba. Litsea cubeba is made up mostly of the lemon scented molecule citral. That gives the essential oil a really different scent profile of bright lemon along with an undertone of green shrubbery. Together they provide that mixture of doubled up lemon brightness with the green providing the smell of dew-coated leaves. The heart is when the flowers of the day wake up as M. Kurkdjian combines orange blossom hawthorn, and lavandin. The lemon remains as the flowers peek out. It comes together in a sun-drenched floral accord which is where this morning stays for hours. It eventually moves along to a starched white linen mix of musks with ambrox.

Petit Matin has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

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Francis Kurkdjian

Grand Soir (Big Evening) is that moment just after the sun has set and the dark takes hold. There is that anticipation of what the night can bring. This is the moment when the moon provides the shadows and light works hard to find purchase.

Grand Soir is a tightly composed mix of just four notes: benzoin, labdanum, tonka bean, and vanilla. In the early moments it is the benzoin which predominates. This is a high quality benzoin which displays its vanilla character. Which allows the actual vanilla and tonka something with which to form a particular vanillic chord. The labdanum picks up on the resinous aspect of benzoin forming an incense-like vibration. Together they form the anticipation of an evening swathed in vanilla and incense.

Grand Soir has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I give a hat tip to M. Kurkdjian for accurately capturing these magical times of the day in both Petit Matin and Grand Soir. Petit Matin is my favorite by just a bit because when it all comes together with the citrus and the floral notes it is expansively beautiful and luminous. Grand Soir is going to be a great fall choice as the air chills and the nights get longer. In any case you can wear this pair from dawn to dusk.

Disclosure: This review was based on press samples provided by Maison Francis Kurkdjian.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ralph Lauren Collection Lime- Lime Freeze

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It should come as no surprise that the Ralph Lauren fragrance business has decided to follow a number of their contemporaries into the luxury niche collection sector. Their initial foray consists of ten releases comprising simple soliflore constructions. Each perfume is named after the focal point of each three note perfume. Three perfumers were used; Carlos Benaim, Harry Fremont, and Calice Becker.

The Ralph Lauren Collection was the third large soliflore collection I have received in recent months. I’m not sure the source of the embrace of this particular style but there are going to be a lot of choices out there for the consumer. Like all large collections there are highs and lows. The highs of The Ralph Lauren Collection are Oud by M. Benaim which goes all in with the oud by bracketing it with smoky incense and the clean woodiness of guaiac. I also really enjoyed Sage by M. Fremont which is a modern fougere using a green fig and balsam to round out the herbal sage. The one which was hands down my favorite is Lime by Mme Becker.

Casino in Monaco. Night landscape. Monte Carlo.

Calice Becker

If there is one hallmark of Mme Becker’s career it is using lots of notes in the majority of her perfume she composes. Those notes are used as shading and texture around specific keynotes. They are what make me look forward to trying her new releases. With Lime this might have the shortest note list of her portfolio: lime, bergamot, and lavandin. These three notes are brilliantly chosen but this perfume succeeds because Mme Becker is able to use the proprietary Givaudan technology called Freeze Frame.

Freeze Frame is where a fruit is frozen in liquid nitrogen and then as it thaws a headspace isolation is done. Givaudan has done this with fruits along with roots like ginger. The lime here is from a Freeze Frame extraction. What it seems to do is to provide a source of lime that has much more of its tart bite intact. It also has more of the pithy quality of the rind present as well. I wouldn’t describe it as photorealistic but a more “whole fruit” experience containing more prominent parts of the entirety.

Lime has a simple evolution. The Freeze Frame lime appears right away. The bergamot provides a bit of a sunny twinkle while simultaneously shading the tartness of the lime. The lavandin is that species of lavender which carries a bit of camphor with it. In the case of Lime it almost gives the impression of the curls of frost off the surface of the frozen lime. Less prosaically the hint of camphor lifts the brighter citrus facets of the lime.

Lime has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

As a soliflore collection goes The Ralph Lauren Collection is overall very well done. It is definitely worth the time to track it down and try them all. The simple aesthetic which runs throughout all ten fragrances can be as appealing as the name on the label is to each person who tries them. Lime is the one I picked because Mme Becker showed me an icy globe of citrus perfection.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Ralph Lauren.

Mark Behnke

Memo Paris 101- Five To Get You Started

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As I survey my desk filled with samples it is amusing to remember a time when that was not the case. As recently as four years ago I was using every connection I had to source a full set of samples from Memo Paris. Back then it was not a sure thing to get European-only releases. Over those four years Memo Paris has become available everywhere. I have also met the husband and wife team behind the brand. John Molloy takes care of the business side of things and Clara Molloy takes care of being the creative director for the brand. Mme Molloy has worked exclusively with one perfumer throughout the entire Memo Paris collection, Alienor Massenet. Over their collaboration they have designed a brand aesthetic while branching out into three collections within the brand. Memo Paris is one of my favorite brands there aren’t any which I have not enjoyed. If you have seen the display of the collection and wanted to know where to start here are my five suggestions.

john and clara molloy

John and Clara Molloy

The very first Memo Paris fragrance I tried was Inle. When I first reviewed Inle I described it as a tea dyed osmanthus. The creative team uses a focused tea accord, right down to a sprig of mint, to float osmanthus upon. It is framed out in clean lines of cedar and white musk. So often a perfume works to enhance the apricot leather duality of osmanthus. Inle decides to just let it be.

The perfume which made me mad for desire to acquire all of them was Shams Oud. The opening is a spicy glow of the sun setting on the desert. Ginger, saffron, and pepper form that dry desert breeze. As the oud becomes more apparent the three spices find their spot and form a fabulous oud chord. Later on it transitions through a green phase of papyrus and vetiver before letting birch and balsam provide the final notes. Shams Oud is still one of my very favorite oud perfumes.

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Alienor Massenet

Manoa is the iris fragrance for the brand. Starting with ginger and citrus a powdery iris sets itself upon a foundation of opoponax, vanilla, and labdanum. Probably the most simply constructed perfume in the entire collection it still carries that Memo Paris vibe.

Quartier Latin also trends a bit simpler in architecture too. It reminds me of walking outside of a nightclub passing through a group smoking Kretek clove cigarettes straight into a wood-paneled room. Mme Massenet chooses clove leaves instead of just clove to add a bit of green which threads itself through the very dry woods of cedar and sandalwood. The desiccated quality is relieved a bit with tonka and amber. The balance in Quartier Latin shows off what a fine technician Mme Massenet is.

There have been four leather perfumes within the Cuirs Nomades collection. The one which you should try first is African Leather. This opens with a slightly different African breeze than Shams Oud. Using cardamom and cumin to go with the saffron this time it has a more primal energy to it. The leather accord in the heart feels as if it is alive and stalking you. Vetiver and patchouli provide a sunbaked earth accord for the base. This entire Cuirs Nomades have been good but African Leather is the current crown jewel.

This is a niche line which carries my highest recommendation. I think most perfume lovers will find one or more which speak to them. Try these five as a start.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Berdoues Vanira Moorea- South Pacific Vanilla

One of the opportunities provided by perfume expos is the chance to reacquaint myself with an older line striking out in a new direction. This was the case at Cosmoprof Las Vegas when Jose Penalba and Lariane Dietrichs took me through the recent Berdoues Collection Grand Cru. The concept is to use a few keynotes to provide a fragrance of a specific geographic location. As I went through the entire collection there were a few which stood out to me one of those was the most recent release Vanira Moorea.

The place this is meant to evoke is the French Polynesian island of Moorea. It is a well-known scuba diver’s location because of the coral reef which surrounds it but it generally lives in the shadow of the bigger more famous Tahiti to its east. Like many of the islands in French Polynesia Moorea has spectacular beaches. The concept behind Vanira Moorea was a beachy vanilla. Creative director Sophie Berdoues worked with perfumer Alexandra Monet on Vanira Moorea.

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Alexandra Monet

The overall concept behind the Collection Grand Cru is to choose an indigenous material from the locale being used and add only two other notes. This is not soliflore territory the other notes play much more than just a support role in almost all of the perfumes in the collection. In fact, with Vanira Moorea it seems like Mme Monet might have been inspired by the film version of the Oscar & Hammerstein musical South Pacific.

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An example of the blue filter used in the movie South Pacific

When South Pacific was adapted from Broadway to Hollywood director John Logan wanted to use visual cues for the musical numbers. To that end he employed colored filters on his lenses to saturate these scenes with primary color. Mr. Logan was going for “subtle changes” what he got was something far from subtle. Because the release was on a schedule there was no time to pull it back and so it went out with the over the top version. Critics were not fond of the choice but audiences seemed less fazed as it was the top box office movie for 1958. When I saw it twenty years later I thought the saturation of colors brought other parts of the frame into focus. I had this same experience while wearing Vanira Moorea.

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Sophie Berdoues

It is probably a misnomer to use the word overdose in a three note composition. Therefore, I will use my colored filter analogy from above. Mme Monet pulls out three very intense primary notes of orange, petitgrain, and vanilla all used in extremis. Just like the colored lenses in South Pacific they are illuminating in their saturation levels.

Mme Monet ushers her players on stage in rapid succession. The sweet sunniness of orange. The bitter bite of petitgrain. The sweetness of vanilla. The one of those three that really exerts its influence is the petitgrain. The lemon is a connection to the orange as citrus in contrast. The greenish lemon zest quality is an effective thread of green running down through the vanilla to provide a nod to the orchid which it comes from. Together all three provide a beachy accord without any of the normal beachy perfume ingredients being necessary. It is a really nice feat of perfumery with only three notes.

Vanira Moorea has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate Sillage.

Despite my talk of saturation and intensity I wore Vanira Moorea during a heat wave and it never became cloying or irritating in the heat. It stood up well to its tropical origins. If you are looking for a summer weight vanilla and citrus perfume Vanira Moorea should satisfy.

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

Mark Behnke