New Perfume Review L’Artisan Parfumeur 2 Violaceum & 18 Glacialis Terra- The Spirit of Jean Laporte

When it comes to the creation of the niche sector of perfume there are no greater innovators than Jean Laporte. In 1976 he created L’Artisan Parfumeur and beginning with the debut releases M. Laporte would be one of the catalysts that has led to the current state of the sector. If there has been one thing which has worried me was I felt the brand was losing that sense of innovation M. Laporte brought to the enterprise. It had been since 2013’s Caligna where I really felt like there was some of that old magic in a L’Artisan bottle. When I received the press release for the new sub-collection Natura Fabularis there was some of the same sentiment I expressed as the brand also wanted to capture the sense of exploration so integral to L’Artisan.

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Jean Laporte

To do this they asked perfumer Daphne Bugey to come up with “whimsical” fantasies. To also free Mme Bugey even further there was no creative director overseeing the process. She was free to follow her muse. What this has resulted in is a collection of six perfumes which for the most part takes unusual paths with traditional ingredients. Each perfume has a number associated with the name which I am told is the number of mods Mme Bugey made before settling on the final formula. I can understand why 60 Mirabilis was the most labor intensive as Mme Bugey matches an austere incense with two powerhouse synthetics, Ambrox and Vulcanolide. I had a hard time with it because the Ambtox has such an overbearing presence. I think if you like ambrox this might be something you will fall for. 9 Arcana Rosa is the safest of these six; spicy rose cocooned with oud and cade to make it all smoky. 32 Venenum is a faithfully realized take on chai tea, bread, and sandalwood to form an Indian milieu I enjoyed. 26 Tenebrae mixes a pine sap accord with incense as the two resins intertwine with each other to form a greater whole. One for resin lovers to be sure. The two I am going to cover were the two which felt the most like they could have come from M. Laporte; as if Mme Bugey was channeling him while composing them.

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Daphne Bugey

2 Violaceum is hard to believe it only took two tries to get this balance so right. Mme Bugey uses an earthy violet which I believe uses a bit of orris to enhance the rooty quality while also powdering it slightly. To that violet accord Mme Bugey uses the sweet warmth of carrot and the exoticness of saffron to transform the violet into something a little more vital. To finish the effect a leather accord wraps all of this up together. I am always going to like a violet and leather perfume but it is those additions of carrot and saffron which are the truly inspired choices to elevate this to new heights.

18 Glacialis Terra is I believe going to be the most polarizing fragrance in this collection as Mme Bugey makes a perfume so chilly it will give your nose frostbite. There is that moment where you breathe in on a snowy subzero day. Your lungs fill with a tingling breath of air which causes some pins and needles in your lungs. The first few minutes of Glacialis Terra is like this. Mme Bugey uses what she calls an “iced accord”. What I detect are some of the high octave aldehydes matched with a suite of ozonic notes finished off with a pinch of eucalyptus. It took my breath away when I tested it on a strip and it was even more distinct on the days I wore it. From here Mme Bugey could have just looked to warm things up but instead she wanted to keep this on the sharper side embracing the cold. Towards that she uses absinthe and vetiver to provide that continued frosty nature throughout the development of Glacialis Terra.

All the six perfumes in the Natura Fabularis collection have 10 hours-plus longevity and moderate sillage.

I must applaud whoever gave Mme Bugey the greenlight to indulge her creativity. As a collection this is better than most all of the ones I tried this year. In the case of 2 Violaceum and 18 Glacialis Terra they show the spirit of M. Laporte is still alive and well at L’Artisan.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples I received from L’Artisan.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Holiday Spices

I’ve been spending the past few days assembling my Holiday staples. Find the Santa hat, check. Assemble the Holiday earrings, check. Locate the blinking Christmas tree hat, check. Get the family gingerbread recipe out, check. Pull my favorite perfumes I like to wear this time of the year to the front of the shelf, check. I knew I wanted to do this column on a note which held them all together. As I looked at the bottles I am looking forward to pairing with my Ho Ho Ho! I realized there was not one consistent theme other than they were all spice focused compositions. Which then got me thinking that was my theme Holiday Spices; cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, anise, and clove. Here are five of my favorite perfumes I’ll be wearing through the New Year.

Aroma M Geisha Amber Rouge despite the name is one of the fragrances I own which just feels perfect for the Season. This was the first perfume I tried of perfumer Maria McElroy’s line of fragrance. Geisha Amber Rouge is a flanker of the earlier Geisha Rouge except it is the better of the two, a rare feat. A simmering mixture of clove, cinnamon, and anise is dusted by a fabulous Moroccan amber while being rounded out with incense.

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Diptyque L’Eau is my choice as the smell of Christmas. One of the first perfumes for the brand in 1968. Composed by Desmond Knox-Leet back then and recently re-formulated by Norbert Bijaoui. Mr. Knox-Leet wanted to create a perfume version of potpourri. Instead it is a wassail bowl of spices and fruit infusing the air. A gigantic spicy opening of all the Holiday spice shelf with lemon and orange floating on top of it all. Rose and sandalwood fill out the punch bowl.

Slumberhouse Jeke in its extrait formulation is at first a giant smoke bomb. Once the exhaust fans have kicked in what is reveled behind the smoke is patchouli, dark tea, and clove. Perfumer Josh Lobb completes Jeke with a duet of vanilla and benzoin.

Suleko Baba Yaga ends up in a cloud of smoke but before we get there the holiday spices are in charge. Perfumer Cecile Zarokian combines nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove with rich orris. This is my seasonal iris choice because it is so precisely balanced. Cade, leather, and musks tilt this towards a smoky animalic finish.

I spend a lot of the holiday season with a hot chocolate containing a cinnamon stick. The perfume which comes closest to this is Arquiste Anima Dulcis. Creative director Carlos Huber guided perfumers Yann Vasnier and Rodrigo Flores-Roux into smoking hot spicy hot chocolate perfume. Cinnamon is made savory with sesame and oregano. Clove, cumin, and chili pepper spice up a dark rich cocoa. Above all of this is a cloud of jasmine. It ends with a rich vanilla providing some heft to the spicy chocolate.

If you’re looking for some Holiday olfactory cheer these five might do the trick.

Disclosure: this review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Atelier des Ors Iris Fauve- Requited Anticipation

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Over the years I’ve been writing about perfume there have been many things which have evolved. In the early days I loved getting special little peeks into upcoming projects. I thought it was one of the perks of the job. Until it went sideways on me a couple of times. Someone would show me a version of an upcoming release which I thought was perfect. I was already thinking about how I would be framing the imminent glowing review. Then I would receive the final version and it was not the same as the one I was infatuated with. There were often very good reasons behind the change but I knew there was a version I liked better. That made me stop allowing perfume brands to show me things early because I always wondered if I had experienced the fragrance for the first time after release whether my reaction would be different. I know it confused some who saw the glee on my face before turn into this line in the sand. I have done pretty good since I made the decision except at Esxence this past March.

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Jean-Philippe Clermont

When I was there I stopped by the Atelier des Ors stand to chat with owner and creative director Jean-Philippe Clermont. Atelier des Ors was one of my favorite brand debuts of 2015 so it was natural to drop by and say hello. When I arrived M. Clermont was showing the line to a pair of retailers from Australia and New Zealand and he invited me to sit in. Before I settled down he sprayed something on my wrist. Drawing it to my nose I expected to be greeted with something familiar. Instead I was surprised by a warm musky iris I fell instantly for. After talking with M. Clermont he told me that was one of two possible version of a new iris focused release coming at the end of the year. I smelled my wrist for the rest of that day surrounded by many excellent new perfumes but none were better to my nose. I knew the wait was going to be interminable to see if the version I liked so much would be the one which made it in to the bottle. I received my answer a couple weeks ago, with the arrival of my sample of Iris Fauve.

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Marie Salamagne

One of the things I approve highly of is the idea of a new brand working exclusively with a perfumer, or two. I believe it helps hone a brand’s identity while also allowing the creativity to build upon the foundation of the earlier work. So far M. Clermont has worked only with perfumer Marie Salamagne. The foundational scent from the initial five releases for Iris Fauve was Aube Rubis. In that fragrance Mme Salamagne explored the iris, patchouli, and vetiver triptych found so often in other constructs. It was a warm iris but there were slashes of fruit and sweet on the periphery. Iris Fauve is a complete evolution of Aube Rubis while still retaining the warmth of the iris; Mme Salamagne found some very new ways to illuminate the same trio.

The orris arrives right away and the heat also comes with it in the form of cinnamon. The spice is a true supporting note as it helps tamp down the powdery facets allowing the earthy rootiness of the rhizome to rise. The patchouli and vetiver return but this time Mme Salamagne adds in cypriol which forms a lilting kind of faux-oud accord which the iris inserts itself in to. This all becomes quite transparent as Mme Salamagne really brings the warmth in the base. The key note is an ingredient called Carolina Vanilla. More commonly known as deertongue, Carolina Vanilla was used as an additive to tobacco because it has a sweetly vanillic nature as the name portends. What it also has is that dried toasty nature you find in tonka bean. This provides a sweet underpinning to the animalic musks and myrrh Mme Salamagne uses in her base accord. As the iris and the oud accord settle into the warm embrace of the base notes it as good as perfume gets for me.

Iris Fauve has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Even though it wasn’t officially released at the time Iris Fauve was the perfume I carried the strongest memory of home from Esxence. Now that the same perfume has shown up in the bottle on the shelf I can confirm Iris Fauve is one of my very favorite perfumes of 2016.

Disclosure; This review was based on a sample provided by Atelier des Ors.

Mark Behnke

Hiram Green Arbole Arbole- Seco y Verde

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This time of year always brings surprises. One of the best surprises is when a perfumer is so excited about something new they get it out before the end of the year. Such was the case when independent perfumer Hiram Green told me he was releasing a new perfume. It was surprising because Mr. Green usually spaces his perfumes out by more than a year but in the last twelve months we have seen three new ones; Voyage, Dilettante, and now Arbole Arbole. What is impressive is he seems to have found a creative sweet spot form where everything is coming together near perfectly. Arbole Arbole exemplifies this.

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Frederico Garcia Lorca

The name of the perfume comes from a poem by Spanish poet Frederico Garcia Lorca. In the poem, it tells of a young girl picking olives high in a tree. While perched there, she is tempted by three different men to come join her in their city. Four riders from Anadalusia ask her to Cordoba; three bullfighters extend an invitation to Sevilla; finally a young man bedecked in rose and myrtle wants her to accompany him to Granada. She defers going with any of them choosing, instead, to continue to enjoy the day in her tree. When I wear Arbole Arbole I get an amazing smell of ripe olives, the wood of the tree, and the powder the pretty young girl is wearing. It is a fabulous interpretation of Garcia Lorca’s words.

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Hiram Green

Mr. Green uses patchouli as the basis for the smell of olives. There is something else here, along the lines of ylang-ylang, which provides a complementary oiliness to complete the olive accord. This is what I get for the first few minutes. I have only smelled a couple of other olive accords previously and those were accomplished with specific synthetic materials. Mr. Green creates his with only natural materials which makes it feel more vibrant. It takes great skill to achieve this without making it off putting. Like the young girl in the poem it invites you to climb the tree with her. Cedar and sandalwood but mostly the former provides that green woodiness of the tree. The cedar imparts that clean woody nature that is only made slightly less strident by the sandalwood. As we reach where the young girl is perched the sweet smell of her powder comes to us. Mr. Green uses a unique combination of tonka bean and vanilla. Again, I think there is a hint of rose helping to tilt the sweeter notes towards the powdery. There is a perfumer’s technique where adding a figurative drop of something will open up particular facets of the primary notes. It is my suspicion that is what Mr. Green has done in the top accord and the base.

Arbole Arbole has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Garcia Lorca’s poem begins and ends with the same couplet, “Arbole, Arbole, seco y verde.” Which translates to “Tree, Tree, dry and green”. It describes the suitor who has won the girl’s heart by being itself. Mr. Green has won my heart with Arbole Arbole because it is also seco y verde. This is one of the best new perfumes of 2016 because Mr. Green composes with a full heart coupled with an imaginative mind. He also seems to understand that the siren call to distant cities doesn’t matter when all you need is right in front of you.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Family Man

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I am a creature of Holiday traditions. Those of you who have been following along with me over the years have seen me write about many of them in this column. Now that we have truly begun the Holidays one of the first things I will do in the next day or two is to watch the movie “The Family Man”. To me it is a movie which unabashedly celebrates the hope the season brings.

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The Family Man is not one of those universally loved Christmas movies. You won’t find it on many lists. It wasn’t well received when it was released in 2000. When I read back over those reviews I am always surprised to find that one of the more consistent flaws found in it was the happy, hopeful, ending. This is what I watch movies at this time of the year for. I think much of the reason for the tepid reception has to do with the director Brett Ratner and the star Nicolas Cage.

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Brett Ratner

Mr. Ratner had been one of those who had made the leap from music video direction to feature film direction. One of his first videos was for Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” in 1988. By the time, he had finished The Family Man he had a monster hit behind him with the movie “Rush Hour”.

Mr. Cage had been doing movies for nearly twenty years by the time he took on the starring role. By that point you were either a fan of Mr. Cage’s acting style or you were not. I thought casting Mr. Cage in the title role of The Family Man was a great choice because his method is to react broadly to situations which is an asset to a movie like this.

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Nicolas Cage as Jack and Don Cheadle as Cash (r.) in The Family Man

The Family Man tells the story of Wall Street mogul Jack Campbell who, when the movie opens, is in the middle of closing a big deal which will require his staff to work through Christmas. Fairly rapidly the movie sets up Jack as the man who has taken the path to business success at the expense of family. As Jack stops at a convenience store he runs into Cash, played by Don Cheadle. Cash is trying to cash a winning lottery ticket for $238. The clerk is suspicious of the ticket causing Cash to pull a gun. Jack using his negotiating skills offers to buy the ticket off of Cash. After the confrontation, Jack offers Cash his help. Cash smiles at him and tells him he doesn’t need his help but Jack is about to be taken on a journey into the path not taken. The next morning Jack wakes up in a house in New Jersey next to the woman he left behind when he went to London to start his career. He has two kids and works at the family tire store. From here the movie is the typical redemption story as Jack gets a glimpse into a man who chose family over professional success. By the end the natural order is restored but Jack is changed.

The Family Man is a beautiful parable on the value of family and friends played against the background of the Holidays. It never fails to scrub away the last vestiges of my crusty edges leaving me smiling broadly at the possibilities of the next few weeks. If you would like to find a new movie to add to your seasonal rotation I think The Family Man is a worthy addition to this time of the year.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Elie Saab Cuir Patchouli- Russian Leatherpalooza

The earliest leather accord was the classic “Cuir de Russie” or Russian Leather accord. It is the origin of all leather perfumes which have followed for over a hundred years now. It is so much a foundational piece of perfumery it seems like there comes a time for a perfumer to attempt their version. Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian takes his turn with the Elie Saab Le Collection de Cuirs.

M. Kurkdjian wanted to really explore all the ways this rich Russian Leather could be presented. In a quite unique twist it starts with Cuir Absolu which is just the Russian Leather accord by itself. What is in Cuir Absolu will provide the focal point for the other three perfumes in the collection; Cuir Ylang, Cuir Bourbon, and Cuir Patchouli. Cuir Ylang was my least favorite because for some reason M. Kurkdjian chose to not let the ylang be an equal partner. Instead he made incense and birch the more prominent partners yielding a refined grainy leather accord. Cuir Bourbon was much better as the Bourbon Vanilla teases that inherent sweetness out of the leather accord as a bit of saffron and musk add contrast and detail. Cuir Patchouli was the one I decided to spend some time with mostly because it reminded me of my black leather jacket from my punk rock days.

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Francis Kurkdjian

I think everyone who owns a leather zipper jacket they wear all the time knows that smell of the jacket material mixed with the sweat of your body permeating the lining. That is what M. Kurkdjian gets out of this version of his Russian Leather accord in Cuir Patchouli.

Cuir Patchouli is a rapidly evolving fragrance. While I am going to call out distinctive parts of the evolution; when I put it on my skin it ended up as a perfectly formed accord within fifteen minutes or so. Right as I spray it on cumin and cinnamon leaves evoke that smell of last night’s sweat as I pick the jacket up off the chair it has been hanging on overnight. A fantastically chosen patchouli which I think is a fraction accentuating the earthier nature blends with the stale sweat accord freshening it up a bit. Then the Russian Leather accord comes into play. I think there is a bit of labdanum here which also pushes the complete fragrance more towards that broken-in leather feeling.

Cuir Patchouli has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you are one who enjoys leather in your perfume you should give all four of the Elie Saab Le Collection de Cuirs a try. If nothing else trying Cuir Absolu gives you the opportunity to smell M. Kurkdjian’s interpretation of the classic accord. I think all three of the perfumes he built upon that foundation are well done but it is that old punk rock jacket I want to wear most often in Cuir Patchouli that will be the one I return to

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Loewe 001 Woman- Searching for the Future

The difficulty of making perfume is not necessarily obvious. Every perfume brand and perfumer has ups and downs. Occasionally, though I receive a pair of new releases done under the same creative aegis but one is good and the other is not. As I compare back and forth I wonder why one is balanced while the other careens out of control. The latest set of perfumes to have me asking this question are Loewe 001 Woman and Loewe 001 Man.

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Emilio Valeros

Loewe is a luxury brand out of Madrid. It started in leather goods and branched out into fragrance in 1971 with L de Loewe. Over the ensuing forty years Loewe has had a fluctuating commitment to their perfume offerings. As we entered the new century things solidified in that regard as in-house perfumer Emilio Valeros was behind all the new releases. Sr. Valeros is still the perfumer but in 2013 the creative direction at Loewe changed as Jonathan Anderson took over. Mr. Anderson has taken an active stewardship of the brand. This would include the fragrance area. For Loewe 001 Woman and Loewe 001 Man he creatively directed Sr. Valeros’ efforts.

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Jonathan Anderson

The press materials say both 001 versions are meant to evoke “The Morning After”. The press copy wants me to believe it is the dawning after passion. The perfumes say otherwise, both are such buttoned-down affairs it is difficult to see how they evoke any of the desired “spontaneity”. As perfumes they feel very engineered which works really well for 001 Woman and less so for 001 Man. 001 Man lurches from citrus to bland wood to clean musk. Sr. Valeros places each piece meticulously and it goes nowhere. The same meticulousness is also apparent in 001 Woman but in this case the pieces form something which has a sense of progression.

It starts with the same bergamot that 001 Man uses; but for 001 Woman baie rose is used to give it more character. This is then placed on an expansive jasmine bubble. The jasmine that Sr. Valeros uses has that cleaned-up quality with the indoles tamped down. Which if you’re truly going for a “morning after” vibe need to be turned up. What is here is an airy jasmine. It then evolves into a sweetly complex mix of sandalwood, vanilla, and amber.

Loewe 001 Woman has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Both 001 fragrances are a departure from the previous forty years of Loewe fragrances as those were much stronger in character. If there is an apparent fingerprint of Mr. Anderson it is that significant lightening up. In the case of 001 Man it doesn’t help. For 001 Woman it does set out a new direction for the brand which I would be excited to see built upon.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Loewe.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Byredo La Botte- Lipstick & Leather

I have written a lot about my affection for the different leather accords and fragrances. As I move further in to my second decade of writing about perfume the whole concept of leather in perfumes has yet to become uninteresting to me. One reason is there are so many versions of leather in the world to use as inspiration.

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Ben Gorham

Ben Gorham the owner-creative director behind Byredo also is inspired by leather in the latest releases for the Night Veils collection. In the first trio released last year it was night-blooming flowers which were the raison d’etre. This trio is all about the difference in leather from the glove, Le Gant, to the saddle, La Selle, and the boot, La Botte. All were composed by perfumer Jerome Epinette. La Selle does a fantastic job of capturing the tack room bracketing the leather accord with black tea and birch. The one which captured my attention was La Botte.

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Dita von Teese (Not Mistress Stephanie)

When I was a young man I was doing what callow young men did; I let it be known I was exploring my sexuality. I wanted to try everything on the spectrum. In hindsight, I know that the whole attitude was pose more than real introspection. In that arrogantly stupid frame of mind I cajoled an invitation to an underground S&M club. On the night I attended I received an education from one Mistress Stephanie who did not use anything to lash me but her tongue. She derisively called me a tourist more repressed than someone afraid to come through the door. She continued to take out my hypocrisy and examine it until I understood it. What does this have to do with perfume? Well Mistress Stephanie was powdered and wore a many layered coating of vermillion lipstick. As she spoke to me the scents of the powder and lipstick mingled with the leather of her knee-high brilliantly polished boots. As with so many times in my life that co-mingling of smells is attached to that moment of education. La Botte is that perfume.

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Jerome Epinette

M. Epinette uses a mixture of jasmine and violet to form that powdery cosmetic accord. Then M. Epinette uses Civettone to make the bridge to the leather accord. Civettone is the chemical in the highest concentration in natural civet. When isolated it imparts a cleaner animalic character. M. Epinette takes advantage of that to lead down to his highly polished leather accord. This is high gloss leather and it is made to sparkle with the addition of mahogany wood. It forms a fascinating animalic effect that I could not get enough of.

La Botte has 12-14 hour longevity and below average sillage because of its extrait strength.

Even though I fell for La Botte I think highly of the other two in this trio of Night Veils. As a collection, they allow for M. Epinette to offer you three different perspectives on leather. I just preferred the one which took me back to a teachable moment in time.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Byredo.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Vera Wang for Men- Discount Bin Archaeology

I still go scavenging at the local discounters still hoping to find something unexpected. Most of the time I just replenish some of my favorite Discount Diamonds. At the end of the summer I saw something different down at the bottom of the giant Bin O’Fragrance. I patiently dug down to see what it was. I saw a plain white box and was hoping it was a tester which got mixed in. Many of my best scores have been the odd tester which gets caught up with the lots. Which explains my motivation to dig down. When I got to the bottom I saw it was not a tester the plain box had a professional logo which read “Vera Wang for Men”.

I remembered Vera Wang for Men as being the topic of discussion on the perfume forums back in 2004 when it was released. I went back and looked and the consensus was that it was derivative being easily compared to other fragrances which were judged as better. That kind of opinion probably kept me from trying it when I was at the department store, at that time. Now, usually when I am reviewing something I don’t have any idea about the overall opinion towards it. But as I was in line with the bottle I was reading the old reviews on my phone. Once again I almost let it stop me but for $9.99 I was curious to see whether I agreed. It took me some time to finally get around to opening the cellophane and checking it out. What I found was an office-ready amiable leather and sandalwood fragrance.

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Vera Wang for Men was composed by a team of perfumers; Jean-Marc Chaillan, Olivier Polge, and Pascal Gaurin. It is difficult to find what brief they were given. All the ad copy was about being the “irresistible fragrance that becomes the signature of the man who wears it”. That could not be the instruction the perfumers were given. Whatever they were told they did put together a pretty traditional fragrance of masculine themes of citrus, leather and wood. As I spent some time with it I found this to be a good version of those themes.

One of the nice things was using a tarter version of citrus by going for yuzu which has a distinct thread of green. Mandarin leaves were used to make sure that thread was noticeable. The leather accord is straight forward but with nutmeg used to tease out the sweeter parts of it. The base is sandalwood, tobacco, and vanilla. These are all there but this is where a little more volume might have made this even better.

Vera Wang for Men has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

For all the notes which could have produced a boisterous vapor trail leaving perfume Vera Wang for Men is much more mannered than that. It is that which I think has allowed me to enjoy it more than those who previously encountered this when it was released. I did some checking online and you don’t have to perform discount bin archaeology; Vera Wang for Men is readily available at many stores for a discount price.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Rag & Bone Oddity- This One Above the Others

It is something to watch as a clothing designer makes the, seemingly, inevitable entry into fragrance. There are now many variations which have seen success or failure. At this point the trajectory a brand takes as they explore a new sector tells you as much about their brand as to how serious they are about fragrance. The fashion brand Rag & Bone took the collection route as they released eight new perfumes.

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Marcus Wainwright

Per co-founder and creative director Marcus Wainwright they wanted to start each perfume with a focal point note and then essentially accessorize them in a Rag & Bone style. What that means in terms of the perfumes is that seven of the eight have an ingredient on the bottle and it is paired with something else. Like all collections it is hit or miss. Perfumer Daphne Bugey does a nice turn on musk and bergamot in Bergamot.  Perfumer Ilias Ermenidis does a quirky boozy gourmand oriental with rum, plum, tobacco and amber in Amber. Of course, contrarian that I am the one which I really fell for is the one with a name which doesn’t have a raw material in it; Oddity.

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Look from Rag & Bone Spring/Summer 2017

Oddity is one of two done for this collection by perfumer Frank Voelkl; Rose is the other. I am speculating here but where the other seven fragrances do seem like variations on a theme much as the jeans which Rag & Bone are famous for; Oddity represents their runway shows. When Rag & Bone does their runway collection at Fashion Week Mr. Wainwright likes to do contemporary takes on classic British schoolboy uniforms. While there is an underlying coherence there is always a sense of asymmetry in the designs which gives them that outsider appeal. That same design aesthetic is apparent in the way Oddity develops under M. Voelkl’s hands. Each phase has something traditional made asymmetric by an orthogonal note.

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Frank Voelkl

M. Voelkl opens on a gentle breeze of cardamom which he intersects with Szechuan pepper. To make sure the spice has a bit of the upper hand here he also adds in angelica root. Which performs a neat juxtaposition as the cardamom starts on top only to be rapidly toppled by the pungency of the pepper. The spiciness continues as incense and leather arrive in the heart. This is a rougher leather and the incense complements it nicely. The orthogonal choice here is to use licorice underneath. This is the herbal throat lozenge version not the ones you eat at the movies. That herbal nature helps continue the connection that the pepper provided in the top. This all lands on a base of rich vetiver made even more so by amber. The amber also captures the spicy herbal nature of what has come prior. The final bit of contrast comes via the sweetness of vanilla.

Oddity has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I will say that the Rag & Bone collection, overall, is mostly well done and even the ones I wasn’t enchanted by are well executed. They are worth seeking out and trying. Oddity does prove one of my issues with receiving a big collection when there is one which I think is just on a different level it can leave the others feeling pale in comparison. That’s how much I liked Oddity.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Rag & Bone.

Mark Behnke