New Perfume Review Parfums MDCI Le Barbier de Tanger- First Principles of Fougeres

The fougere is one of the oldest genres of perfumery. It is accepted as being the place where modern perfumery began 134 years ago. Since then it has been one of the styles which has probably had the broadest impact from the drugstore to the niche boutique. Much like its cousin, cologne, it has been ripe for remodeling. The modern versions of these venerable forms allow for the use of new ingredients to reinvigorate the form. I support that kind of thinking but there are moments when I want to return to the beginning. I just want a traditional fougere done with exceptional materials; the new Parfums MDCI Le Barbier de Tanger is exactly that.

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Anne-Sophie Behagel

Fougeres are most often described as “barbershop” fragrances. It is generally true that the keynotes of citrus, lavender, and vetiver which form the spine of many fougeres are also the milieu of the barbershop. In fact, when I try and describe vetiver to non-perfume people I invoke the barbershop as a place where they might have encountered it. Fougeres have always called up the barbershop I went to as a child not only for the smells of the shop but the patrons were likely to be wearing the mass-market men’s fragrances of the day; in the 1960’s those were fougeres. Fougeres are also the culprit when a man wears too much perfume. Which is all part of the reasons why current perfumers have embraced making changes to step away from that. Le Barbier de Tanger embraces something different by hewing to the classic architecture.

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Claude Marchal

Claude Marchal the owner and creative director behind Parfums MDCI oversaw one of the best modern fougeres in one of the brand’s earliest releases, Invasion Barbare. Le Barbier de Tanger is an alternative as M. Marchal asks perfumer Anne-Sophie Behagel to go back and create a classic fougere with top-notch raw materials.

Le Barbier de Tanger uses a mixture of bergamot, lemon, and tangerine to provide the citrus top accord. To that Mme Behagel adds basil and cardamom as contrast and complement respectively. This is as good a citrus opening phase as I’ve tried this year. Mme Behagel places each piece so that they all shine brightly together. The heart brings in lavender which at first tilts more herbal because of the basil but then goes more sweetly floral because Mme Behagel adds pineapple to it. To keep this from getting too sweet she also employs petitgrain to tune this so it stays right in that sweet spot that doesn’t challenge those barbershop norms. A verdant vetiver provides the center for the base accord to form around. Patchouli and woods provide traditional support but Mme Behagel turns it just a bit leathery with some oakmoss to form the leather accord.

Le Barbier de Tanger has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage. Be careful this is like those fougeres of yesteryear they can fill up a room if you spray too much.

When I read M. Marchal’s description before trying Le Barbier de Tanger I hadn’t realized how much I missed a true old-fashioned fougere. Once I had the opportunity to experience it I felt like I was welcoming a childhood friend back into my life. Le Barbier de Tanger is so good because it follows all the first principles of fougeres.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

The genre of movies called prequels where the earlier history of a previous movie is shown have a checkered past. I could make the argument that the only truly successful prequel is one which also breaks the rule that sequels are also not as good; The Godfather Part II. That movie is simultaneously prequel and sequel which is why it not only works but it tells the entire story of which we saw the middle of in The Godfather. In the forty-plus years since most prequels suffer from the knowledge the audience has about where the story must go to mesh itself with what we previously experienced. That storytelling limitation has often been the reason why prequels fail. The element of surprise is mostly gone plus if there is a twist it can involve complicated logic sometimes making the originals less engaging. No better example exists than in the Star Wars prequels. In “The Phantom Menace” a decision was made to try and explain The Force biologically with something called “midichlorians”. In the theatre, the revelation was met with nervous giggling because it was so silly. Nearly every prequel suffers from this yet somehow I love these universes so much I want to believe I can re-enter them at an earlier point and still be entertained. This was where I was at going to see the Harry Potter prequel “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”.

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This re-introduction to the Wizarding World does a smart thing by moving it to New York, in 1926. It is written by the author of the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling, and directed by David Yates who was behind the camera for the last four of the eight previous movies. Another good choice is no character from the original movies shows up. Instead the story revolves around the arrival of magizoologist Newt Scamander to New York. Inside his magical case is a menagerie of magical creatures which you will be unsurprised to find a few escape from. As Mr. Scamander must locate his missing creatures he gathers up a group of two-legged associates. These will become the same as Harry, Ron, and Hermione were in the originals. The other three are a non-magical human, called no-maj, in America named Jacob along with two witchy sisters Tina and Queenie. Much as it was in Harry Potter there is much to root for here for all of them. The overall theme of this new set of movies is why should wizards hide instead of ruling the world. On the side of taking over is Dark Wizard Gellert Grindelwald who is mostly just a presence here as Voldemort was in the first movie for Harry Potter. Our group believes differently.

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(from l. to r.) Katherine Waterston, Eddie Redmayne, Alison Sudol, and Dan Fogler

I don’t know who does the casting for these movies but they are among the best. Eddie Redmayne plays Newt Scamander with a near-autistic level of introversion. He avoids eye contact while shying away from humans. Yet he will easily stand in front of a magical creature as big as a dinosaur with confidence. It is a wonderfully faceted performance. As is Katherine Waterston who plays Tina Goldstein a competent woman who was just busted from the Investigative branch. As so many women at that time she wants to prove herself. There is also a beguiling emotion underneath the tough exterior. One scene where she is facing her past while in danger of being killed is where she shines. Alison Sudol plays her sister Queenie and she can read minds. For something that could weigh you down Ms. Sudol plays Queenie as a ray of sunshine despite the worst things she knows of those around her. The last of our core quartet, Jacob, is played by Dan Fogler. As a poor non-magical human swept up in events he plays the role perfectly with incredulity and wonder at what he is seeing. Mr. Fogler easily makes it believable that Jacob is ready to let magic in to his life.

This is supposed to be the first of five movies. Based on some of what we hear in this movie and know from Harry Potter it seems likely we have an idea of where our heroes are eventually headed. What is nice is none of the things they are presumably headed towards have any ability to alter the way we see the Harry Potter part of things. Therefore, I am hoping the prequel curse might be broken by the magic of the Wizarding World of J.K. Rowling.

Mark Behnke

The Cost of Being a Colognoisseur

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When I started writing about perfume first at Fragrantica, then CaFleureBon, before starting Colognoisseur I was always focused on the perfume. The bottle can be a selling point but I very rarely comment upon it. Mainly because it has no impact on how I view the perfume. The other part of a perfume that I almost never comment upon is the price. I’ve received some e-mails and a couple of recent comments have mentioned the price of the perfume reviewed. I thought I might go through some of the reasons why I have chosen not to mention price as part of the writing I do on Colognoisseur.

Just as I mentioned above with bottles the price is irrelevant to me when it comes to what I think of a perfume. I think we are in a pretty diverse age with top-notch perfumes available at almost every price point. My focus has always been trying as many new perfumes in each year because that is what I enjoy writing about. If I like it enough to wear it for a couple days I am writing about it, I don’t care how much it costs.

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Yet as I’ve learned price is not irrelevant to some of you. I’ve received communication on both sides. The joy of finding a $10 perfume that you adore. The disappointment on looking up a perfume after reading a review to see a $500+ price tag. While I am understanding of the last scenario there is a semantic issue at play. When I get that e-mail somewhere in there is the phrase “it’s not worth it”. Which for the correspondent is entirely true. But that is a single data point relevant only for that person. In their mind, there is a line below which a perfume is “worth it” and above where it is not. That line is not universal. It is up to each person to decide where they draw it. I have thought if I started commenting on price and whether a perfume is “worth it” I am arbitrarily imposing my concept upon the readers.

This is not to say that I don’t share the concern that perfume brands are applying some aspirational pricing on to their fragrances. The perfume companies also should be wary of how they draw their pricing line. If too many of their consumers fall on the wrong side of the “worth it” line it is difficult to come back from that kind of error. I will admit it is perplexing to me to see the ultra-luxe pricing from a new brand fresh on the market. I presume the business people behind the brand have done their research but there are times when I hit the pricing part of a press release for a new brand and think, “Seriously?” There seems to be more of it over the last year than it appears the market can tolerate. My concern is that those who back new brands might not be so ready to back another if they have a high-priced flame out. The true success of niche brands has been the slow build from both a price and consumer standpoint. Like in most businesses slow and steady yields consistent results if not flashy ones.

Despite the understanding of what the cost of a perfume plays in how one views it for themselves I am still going to continue writing my reviews without mentioning it. Thankfully we live in an age where the answer to that question for whom it is important is a but a few seconds, and a search engine, away. For me the cost of being a Colognoisseur has nothing to do with the price tag.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Puredistance Sheiduna- Arid Oriental

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When it comes to Orientals one of the things I think gets missed from this Saharan milieu they evoke is the dryness of the source. If you spend any time in the desert you rapidly understand how dry it is. Every bit of moisture is removed from the air. Most Oriental perfumes will nod to this but will add in a figurative humidity along the way. Very few will stay desiccated throughout. The new Puredistance Sheiduna is one of those which does.

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Jan Ewoud Vos and Cecile Zarokian

Jan Ewoud Vos is the owner and creative director behind Puredistance. He is a creative director who extensively works with visuals and inspiration. For Sheiduna he chose to work with Cecile Zarokian for the first time. In a blog post on the Puredistance website about their working relationship he reveals that during Mme Zarokian’s effort Mr. Vos was sending a weekly postcard with a visual and text meant to help refine the process.

The initial brief Mr. Vos provided was the name Sheiduna which he saw as a mixture of Sheika and dune. He wanted a perfume which would be a “sensual Oriental”. Mme Zarokian provided a first formulation which was seen as “too heavy and too Oriental”. As she went back to the drawing board she would go in a drier direction one that brings to life the sunset in the desert as the heat of the day begins to lose its grip.

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Mme Zarokian uses a frame of Amber Xtreme to set the boundaries for which the rest of the fragrance will be encased in. Amber Xtreme is one of those woody synthetics that can dominate a perfume. In the case of Sheiduna it is the ingredient which imparts the dryness which sets the stage. It takes a particularly skilled perfumer to overcome the overwhelming nature it can have. Mme Zarokian is one of those who knows how to tune the effect to allow other notes to breathe within this very definitive boundary. In the early going she uses a set of aldehydes to mimic that hot desert breeze skirling sand off the top of the dunes. This leads to a heart of spicy Bulgarian rose made even more spicy by the addition of cumin and clove. The two spice notes keep the rose from becoming lush or dewy. They serve as a desiccating agent as if the rose was placed in a drying jar. The aridity persists into the base as vetiver sets itself in the middle of the frame. It then is joined by benzoin, labdanum, and frankincense. They provide that moment when the setting sun drops behind the dunes and the last rays of orange flash across the sandy horizon.

Sheiduna has 18-24 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I have been aware of Sheiduna throughout the year and had smelled it on a patch of skin a couple of times before receiving my sample. I liked it in those previews but it wasn’t until I wore it for the couple of days necessary for me to review it that it revealed itself to me. I must tip my hat to Mr. Vos and Mme Zarokian for taking this path for I found uncommon beauty within this arid Oriental.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Alford & Hoff No. 3- Do You Wanna Build a Perfume?

There are many ways to construct a perfume. A few complementary notes. A single soliflore. A set of complex accords. Then there is the fragrance version of a pizza with everything on it, including extra cheese. I can make the argument that getting something with many competing ingredients to sing in unison is as difficult as it gets. When a perfume has so much going on it also runs the risk of spiraling out of control with just one wobble of the madly spinning construct. There are a few perfumers who have mastered this style of perfume making; one of them is Rodrigo Flores-Roux. His latest release for Alford & Hoff the aptly named Alford & Hoff No. 3 is a fantastic example on how to do this.

Alford & Hoff is an All-American lifestyle brand founded by former athletes Barry Alford and Jefferson Hoffman. They branched out in to fragrance in 2009 with the original Alford & Hoff which was a nice osmanthus centered Oriental. In 2015 they followed up with Alford & Hoff No. 2 which I found much more interesting as a mélange of spices and herbs over woods in their take on a sport fragrance. Sr. Flores-Roux has been the perfumer for these previous releases as well as this latest.

Alford & Hoff No. 3 is described as an “ultra-contemporary aromatic scent” which is one of those infrequent occasions where I agree with this description. Sr. Flores-Roux designs a fragrance of three distinctive precisely constructed accords each with a pivoting keynote which provides this contemporary effect.

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Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Nowhere is this more evident than in the way Sr. Flores-Roux constructs his top accord. He starts with a familiar citrus effect in cedrat and matches it with cardamom. He provides a rich boozy contrast with absinthe amplified with angelica root and angelica seeds. This is all nice but it is the introduction of the set of hair spray aldehydes on a flying carpet of rhubarb which transforms this entire opening into something quite amazing. The aldehydes sharpen the citric while the rhubarb turns the absinthe more vegetal all while simultaneously creating an expansiveness. This is what Sr. Flores-Roux does so brilliantly when he works on this scale. He repeats the same with the heart accord. Clary sage and nutmeg work with a Kadota fig accord the transformative note here is a full on rooty iris. A little geranium also helps modulate the iris from getting powdery. The base accord is centered around a mixture of three isolates of vetiver. Cedar picks up the woody nature. The synthetic Belambre warms it with a hybrid ambery-woody effect. What pulls it all together is a motorcycle jacket leather accord which picks up on the other notes in the base as the iris and aldehydes did in the earlier phases.

Alford & Hoff No. 3 has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is one of those reviews which cannot do justice to all that is going on within the construction of this fragrance. This is just a fantastic technical example of how to build a complex perfume. This is on top of it being one of the better mainstream perfume releases this year. I am hoping Mr. Alford and Mr. Hoffman ask Sr. Flores-Roux if he wants to build a perfume over and over again if they give him this kind of latitude.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: The Party in Manhattan- Chypre Mash-Up

I’ve been having more real-time conversations about perfume lately over social media. Sometime last month I was part of one where we were talking about our favorite skanky perfumes. For those who don’t know the term it first cropped up on the Perfume Posse blog back in the beginning to describe a perfume full of animalic musks and indoles. In other words, all the filthy dirty ingredients of perfumery. When it comes to skank you either love it or hate it unless you’re unable to smell some of the musks then you might just be wondering what all the fuss is. I associate skankiness with a certain style of perfumery as it was practiced back in the early days in the 1920’s and 30’s. It is the perfume equivalent of a throwback jersey with a garish design in provocative colors. It is so ugly it is beautiful.

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As we get to these first sub-freezing mornings there is something which draws me to the red-light district of the perfume vault where all the bad girls congregate. When I was having the conversation online I mentioned The Party in Manhattan was one of my favorites. Which was met with a lot of questions; which then made me realize it needed to be an Under the Radar entry. It also has a great backstory to go with the fragrance.

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Paolo Borgomanero

When Acqua di Parma was sold to LVMH in 2007 one of the founders of that line was not ready to quit making perfume. Paolo Borgomanero moved on to found a new brand of which The Party in Manhattan was the first release. The stated purpose of the brand was “to appeal to the discerning customers who appreciate the luxury and charm of old times.” Sig. Borgomanero claims he was inspired by a specific perfume from the 1930’s. When you wear The Party in Manhattan you might wonder whether it was just one because if you love this style of perfume it is hard not to pick out aspects of many of the classics of the genre. It makes The Party in Manhattan just like a chypre party where everyone is invited.

The Party in Manhattan is like opening the double doors into a soiree where everything is already revved up to max. From the very first moments a spiced citrus courtesy of tangerine and sage lead the way into the party. Carnation provides the beginning of an ever-insifying garland of power hitting florals. Jasmine, rose de mai, ylang-ylang, and orris. In any other perfume one of these would be out front with the others in support. The jasmine is nominally the leader of this boisterous pack but the others are surely not wallflowers. Then the chypre accord comes together over a selection of filthy musks, vetiver, patchouli, and oakmoss. For all that the oakmoss should bite instead the musks take more of a leading role and the chypre accord curls its lip to show you its fangs without leaving marks.

The Party in Manhattan has 24-hour longevity and nuclear sillage. One spray is more than enough; seriously one spray.

As I mentioned above if you have a favorite chypre from the great houses of the early 20th century you will find something of them in The Party in Manhattan. Sig. Borgomanero wanted this to be the ultimate chypre conclave which is exactly what is delivered. If you are a skank, or chypre, lover The Party in Manhattan needs to be on your radar.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Vilhelm Parfumerie Dirty Velvet- Latin Quarter Vibrations

The last of the Vilhelm Parfumerie Fall 2016 collection has been released. I have admired all three of these perfumes as they show a brand expanding their offerings with intent. Creative director Jan Ahlgren and perfumer Jerome Epinette have collaborated well and this collection shows the working relationship is top notch. With the latest release Dirty Velvet they finish 2016 on a high note.

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Jan Ahlgren

M. Ahlgren has been treating us to olfactory interpretations of his favorite places in Paris. With Dirty Velvet he was inspired by his preferred hotel in the City of Light, Villa D’Estrees. The hotel itself sits on the edge of the Latin Quarter where the Sorbonne and many other universities within Paris are located. The conjunction of college life within one of the great cities of the world almost always produces a section of the city which is lively. Not sure why M. Ahlgren likes this part of Paris so much but Dirty Velvet captures the vibe of the Quartier Latin.

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Jerome Epinette

M. Epinette starts off with pomelo which provides a muted tartness that sharpens its focus over time. It leads into a rich tobacco leaf. This is the deeply narcotic with a hint of menthol kind of tobacco. M. Epinette then matches a fig accord which focuses mainly on the ripe fruit with sparkles of green. This is a rich opulent accord that becomes even better as sandalwood and vetiver come into play. The sandalwood provides a dry woody platform for the tobacco and fig to rest upon. The vetiver picks out the threads of green making them more prominent. The final piece of the puzzle is a salty skin accord. This is where it all stays together for hours.

Dirty Velvet has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I have tried four Vilhelm Parfumerie releases this year. I have enjoyed this minimalist architecture M. Ahlgren and M. Epinette have created. It allows for well-chosen raw materials to stand out. This is a technique M. Epinette has become very adept with. Dirty Velvet is my favorite of this year’s offerings because it goes deeper than any of the previous releases I’ve tried from Vilhelm Parfumerie. Once it comes together, about an hour in, the final mix is just a pleasure to be surrounded by.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Starck Paris Peau de Soie, Peau D’Ailleurs, & Peau de Pierre- Semi-Avant Garde

I must admit I am amused when I receive press packets full of fancy imagery and wordsmithing meant to convey something unique. In just ten years of writing about perfume I can honestly say I have not encountered a new perspective on fragrance within the press release. Sometimes the harder the brand works with all the campaign imagery it is often meant to cover-up something less than groundbreaking. Sometimes, thankfully, I get to try a perfume before getting all the overcooked puffery. This was a good thing for the new collection from designer Philippe Starck and his new brand Starck Paris.

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Philippe Starck

I tried the debut three perfumes when I attended Tranoi Parfums in NYC in September. I had read about them in a couple of trade publications and my interest was piqued by the perfumers M. Starck chose to work with; Dominique Ropion on Peau de Soie, Annick Menardo on Peau D’Ailleurs, and Daphne Bugey on Peau de Pierre. Trying them that day I was interested to wear them because they all had very interesting evolutions on the piece of skin I had them on. Sniffing those patches over the train ride home had me ready to wear them over the next few days. As I did I was fascinated on the delicacy of the work each of these perfumers produced under the creative direction of M. Starck.

M. Starck was inspired to create perfume because his mother owned a perfume shop and he spent many childhood hours there. It was where his appreciation for the impact scent could have blossomed; leading to this collection. That is a beautiful story and I wish the press stopped there because it is enough to explain why and how the collection is designed. Instead there is a tedious slog through pseudo-intellectualist claptrap. Lot of talk about being intellectual and anti-marketing. The new perfumes are not as out there as M. Starck presumes. Also, the idea of not releasing a note list is also not so revolutionary as he thinks. It made me think that these perfumes were different because of the fragile interplay but the components; those I’ve smelled before and in these combinations. Which maybe makes this all semi-avant garde.

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Dominique Ropion

Peau de Soie translates as “silk skin”. The brief M. Starck gave M. Ropion was to wrap a traditional masculine with a feminine covering. It is a fabulous combination of musk and wood to represent that male component which is where Peau de Soie opens. Then M. Ropion wraps it in a powdery iris while simultaneously piecing it with a greenish vector to allow the musk and wood the chance to peek out. As I mentioned above this all holds together like a house of cards that feels like a puff of wind will knock it down; except it is sturdier than that lasting for hours.

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Annick Menardo

Peau D’Ailleurs is harder to translate sort of “skin even more so”. Mme Menardo’s brief was to make this the most androgynous of the three. It isn’t clear to me how much the three perfumers collaborated but based on the structure of Peau D’Ailleurs I am going to assume that Mme Menardo knew some of what her compatriots were doing. That’s because there is a recapitulation of the woods from Peau de Soie and the mineral elements from Peau de Pierre. Mme Menardo spins them on an axis of amber and musk. This all comes together to form a kind of dirt accord but one done with so much finesse it is delightful.

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Daphne Bugey

Peau de Pierre which translates to “stone skin” is my favorite of the three. This is meant to be the flip side of Peau de Soie as the feminine evolves the masculine. Not sure I’m there with that because the entire perfume is stolidly in smoky woody territory. I am not sure what the feminine is supposed to be represented by as Peau de Pierre opens with a cleverly composed wet stone accord, definitely some geosmin here, but there is also something else keeping it more expansive. It is like a hologram of river stones. Mme Bugey then adds smoke and vetiver again in a very opaque way. What I enjoyed so much about Peau de Pierre is despite the name it is not as solid as a rock instead it is as ephemeral as a breeze.

All three Starck Paris perfumes have over 10 hour longevity and almost zero sillage; they are skin scents, as advertised.

If I discard all of M. Starck’s pretentiousness and return to him as a child sitting in his mother’s perfume shop I see the genesis of this collection. Imagining translucent spheres of scent traveling above his head intercalating themselves into his vision as they expanded and popped that would have prepared me for the gorgeous set of perfumes which make up this debut collection.

Disclosure; This review was based on samples provided by Starck Paris.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Arrival

Anyone who knows me understands I love my science-fiction full of epic space battles and starships. Those are sprawling entertainments which are satisfying for the running time of the movie. Then there are the few and far between science-fiction movies where nary a blaster is fired or alien attack fended off. These are the movies where the plot is like its own plasma rifle which embeds itself deep into your thought processes for days afterward. The new movie Arrival is one of those kinds of movies.

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Arrival is based on a short story by author Ted Chiang. Mr. Chiang is a science-fiction author who almost exclusively works in the compacter literary forms of short stories or novellas. His stories have always stimulated my thinking. The one on which Arrival is based upon “Story of Your Life” is one ripe for this kind of analysis. When reading Mr. Chiang’s stories I never imagined any of them would be made into a movie. It is not that they were particularly unadaptable but that these are stories of huge ideas and concepts. Not amenable to the typical movie audience. Recent years have shown there is a limited appetite for these kinds of movies but I imagine the studios take a cautious approach to green lighting them.

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Director Denis Villeneuve (r.) and Amy Adams on set in Arrival

It helped that director Denis Villeneuve is one of the rising directorial stars in Hollywood. He was casting about for a science-fiction property which also had a significant psychological component. When he saw Mr. Chiang’s short story he knew he had found his vehicle.

The story is told from the perspective of linguistics professor Louise Banks. Her life changes when twelve extraterrestrial monolithic ships set themselves up all over Earth. In the one in the US she is asked to lead up the communication effort with the inhabitants of the ships. Working closely with a theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly they begin the long process to being able to understand each other. The movie ramps up the tension as the countries first cooperate in sharing information then one-by-one begin dropping out of the cooperative. This sets up the equivalent of a long fuse as Louise and Ian feverishly try to confirm their understanding of the visitors’ intentions. The last act is where most of the thought-provoking material is revealed. By the time the final credits rolled it was achieved brilliantly. I have not stopped thinking about the ideas within Arrival in almost 48 hours since seeing it.

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Amy Adams as Louise Banks in Arrival

For a movie which is relying on ideas instead of effect it falls disproportionately on the shoulders of the actors to draw the audience in. In this case the performance of Amy Adams as Louise is as good as I’ve seen this entire year. Mr. Villeneuve made an interesting directorial choice to spend a lot of time with Ms. Adams’ face front and center in the frame. There is a saying that great actors can emote with their eyes. In Arrival, there are three key scenes in which the critical information is delivered solely by watching Ms. Adams’ eyes. As much as this is Ms. Adams’ movie Jeremy Renner’s portrayal of Ian provides the necessary grounding for Ms. Adams’ performance to have the right amount of resistance to deliver a great performance. When they hug at the end of the movie it is another moment which delivers an emotional wallop without a word being said.

One word of warning Arrival is a movie which requires a modicum of attention by the moviegoer. Mr. Villeneuve does not explain things twice and there is much here to understand. If you are looking for a thoughtful science-fiction film you cannot go wrong with Arrival. If you do see the movie and want some supplemental homework; in conjunction with the movie release there is a collection of Mr. Chiang’s short stories also out. It contains my favorite story by him “Division by Zero”.

Arrival is one of those two-for-one opportunities. It will introduce Mr.Chiang’s stories to a much broader audience which I hope will mean a few others will make it on screen. It also makes me look forward to Mr. Villeneuve’s next project even more eagerly. That next project is Blade Runner 2049 the sequel to one of the greatest science-fiction movies which also required your mind to be as engaged as your eyes. Everyone involved with Arrival is working near the top of their respective games.

Mark Behnke

The Story of Dasein Winter Nights- Sam Rader and Josh Meyer Light a Creative Bonfire

Being an independent perfumer is by design a solitary existence. Especially since each of the individuals behind your favorite brand must do it all. They are no less a perfume lover than any of us who spend time wearing their creations. There are some rare times when the community does find the time to get together. One date on the calendar since 2014 has been the annual The Art & Olfaction Awards. This past year for the third edition the founder of the awards, Saskia Wilson-Brown, also had a two-day curated event called the AIX Scent Fair at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Talking to those who were chosen to participate it was a fabulous opportunity to share their unique perspective on fragrance with a different audience. If it was just the camaraderie which was produced it would have been enough. Except I think it is improbable to believe a room full of creative minds wouldn’t find ways to collaborate. This is what happened when Sam Rader of Dasein and Josh Meyer of Imaginary Authors met there. Six months after the meeting the two of them have produced one of my favorite perfumes of the year Dasein Winter Nights. I was so interested in how their collaborative process led to Winter Nights that they graciously answered a bunch of questions I sent them via e-mail. It is a story of two imaginative fragrant minds working on a similar wavelength; amplifying each other’s strengths.

aix scent fair

AIX Scent Fair 2016

I started by asking if they had ever met prior to AIX, both had not. Which lead me into the follow-up about Ms. Wilson-Brown having AIX be this opportunity for collaboration. Ms. Rader exclaimed, “That is genius.  I never really thought about Saskia’s big picture plan…I always imagined it was a way to introduce independent perfumers to the public.  Saskia is a buddy of mine and of course that would be her agenda.  She is so good at witchy community building skills.” Mr. Meyer opined on the value of AIX to him as well, “You're very right, Saskia is able to curate a tone of creativity that's pretty unparalleled, and last year’s AIX fair was unlike anything I've ever been a part of, it was incredible how much fun and vibrancy there was with all the great lines and people involved.”

Sam+Rader+of+Dasein+Fragrance

Sam Rader

With that sense of community firmly in place Mr. Meyer was looking to meet others, “Mark, honestly, it may have been a Colognoisseur post or two that put me on to Sam's projects. We also share some outstanding stockists, Twisted Lily in Brooklyn, Beam & Anchor here in Portland, and a handful of others, I feel like it didn't take too long for me to start following along when Dasein started putting perfumes out there. I was super excited to meet Sam when I saw her setting up at AIX.” When Ms. Rader walked past Mr. Meyer she recounts him reaching out to her this way, “I had only heard of Imaginary Authors and had never smelled them until the AIX.  I was walking by Josh’s table and he called out to me—“Are you the chick from Dasein?  I love your stuff!  Let’s talk.”

Josh-Meyer

Josh Meyer

Talk they did as Ms. Rader describes the meeting, “We later made time to powwow and discovered we were both self-taught indie perfumers, both only interested in avant-garde unisex scents, also both serious foodies.  We rattled off our favorite LA and Portland restaurants (Jon & Vinny’s, Clyde Common) as I sniffed and fell in love with his line.  We vowed to stay in touch.” Mr Meyer also responded to the easy chemistry that was evolving, “We're both small business owners in a niche world that's pretty specific, so we had a lot in common immediately, we had a lot to chat about and simply just got along really well really quickly. I think the idea stemmed from my inserting that she should continue the Dasein line with new projects, and it wasn't long before a flood of  ideas were flowing between us just as an easy conversation.” 

That conversation would begin the process which would produce Winter Nights. It came together as they communicated after returning home. Ms. Rader talks about those early conversations, “Over several texts and phone calls Josh proposed the idea of a reimagining of each season so that I could expand my line while staying true to the initial concept.  He came up with the concept of WINTER NIGHTS, and we were both super jazzed.  As I went into the preparations for the new scent, Josh and I continued our virtual friendship and decided it would be really fun to create the scent as a collaboration.”

cali-winter-bonfire

Together they came up with the brief for Winter Nights. Mr. Meyer remembers the process this way, “I always felt like WINTER was the fragrance of a winter down in Southern California, I grew up down there in Hermosa beach as a little kid, and feel like the winter I experience up the coast, here where I’m at now, in Portland has a darker feel to it. So, as we chatted we came up with the idea of using a Northern California winter beach bonfire as the inspiration. Sort of a meeting spot between us… It was my idea to add a touch of smoke and resin to the project.”

As they moved into the actual composition part of the process they had to figure out a way to work while being separated geographically. Ms. Rader found their connection formed at AIX helped overcome any artificial barriers, “I have loved working with Josh because he has this infectious joie de vivre while also being totally strong and no nonsense.  There was a really great yin / yang balance of our energies in the process.  Mostly Josh came up with the ideas and did the initial sketches of things, and I would be receptive and fine tune the ratios to get the right cohesion.  We were like the band The Postal Service…we did all our blending via shipping each other formulas in the mail, and communicating via phone and email.  It was pretty easy to say yes to everything Josh sent me because he is a truly masterful nose.  We also seem to share an aesthetic vocabulary.  We always understood where the other was coming from, we agreed easily on where we wanted to get to, and had an almost effortless process of getting there.  I think this scent is by far the best of my collection, which I owe to Josh’s ingenuity and precision. I have never made a blend so fast and so painlessly.”

cadewood-essential-oil

I was curious if either of them thought there was a linchpin ingredient to Winter Nights. Mr. Meyer was more equivocal in his answer, “I wish I could say there was a single note or accord that makes it what it is, but I really feel it's different elements coming together to become more than the sum of the parts. The cade oil, the numerous pine elements, and resins… not to mention the underlying sweetness used in the first iteration that we used as a balancing point for the other notes really ties it together and makes it complete.” Ms. Rader was unequivocal in her answer, “Yes!  The cade oil.  Josh suggested it as the basis for our smoke accord.  It has a really beautiful authentic smell of woodsmoke.  So many other smoky oils and molecules have this sickening sweet hickory-ish smell that comes off like smoked meat.  Cade is a dark, rich, woody ashy fire smell.  And the best part is that cade oil is made from Juniper tree tar, and Juniper trees grow all along the coast of California.  So if we were making a bonfire in Big Sur there is a good chance we’d be using Juniper branches.  Pretty poetic, right?” I agree with Ms. Rader the cade oil feels like the keynote and even more so now that I know the story behind it.

After the success of Winter Nights I had to ask if there was a chance for more collaboration. Mr. Meyer replied, “I hope so! It is so much fun to work on fragrance creation, and working with others in a particularly solo creative environment is thrilling.” Ms. Rader is equally enthusiastic, “I would be delighted to work with Josh again.  I have no idea where the future of Dasein is headed, but I do have a feeling that Josh’s advice and input will have a great deal to do with the direction.  He’s become a fast friend and trusted advisor.  I am very lucky we met, thanks to Saskia and the AIX.” Based on what you both achieved with Winter Nights I would love to see more.

I want to thank both of these very busy people for taking the time to answer my questions so thoroughly. The behind-the-scenes story is as fascinating as the fragrance.

Mark Behnke

Editor's Note: Winter Nights is a limited edition of 400 bottles meant for the 2016 Holiday season.