New Perfume Review Phuong Dang Believing- One for Nine

Even when one of my favorite perfumers is involved it is still painful to receive a ten-fragrance new collection from a neophyte creative director. The new collection by Vietnamese ex-Creative Director at Elite Modeling Agency in London, Phuong Dang, has all the earmarks of the worst of these endeavors. She gave an interview to a website called “girlboss” in which she revels in her lack of knowledge of perfume. Within the interview, she says she blended oils to help her as a source of comfort. As she got her MFA degree she concluded she wanted to match her visual art with perfume. Over time she had learned enough to find the name of Bertrand Duchaufour. She wrote him a letter on a whim asking him to help her with her idea; surprisingly he agreed. A few months ago, the Phuong Dang Collection was released; all ten of them.

phuong_dang

Phuong Dang

M. Duchaufour was the perfumer behind nine of the ten; Marina Jung Allegret did the remaining one; Raw Secret. It is very difficult for me not to see this as the most cynical of perfumery. Liquid Red is the lipstick inspired entry. Leather Up wastes a perfumer who has made amazing leather perfumes on something where the leather is overwhelmed by almost everything else. There are two ouds, Obscure Oud and Untamed Oud, which present nothing new again from a perfumer who has produced oud perfumes much better than these. Chypre (Cryptic), Oriental (Craving), White Flowers (Raw Secret), Gourmand (The Calling), and Floriental (Vermillion Promise). Just check off the boxes as you go through the collection. It was all too easy to consign these to the forgettable file.

bertrand-duchaufour-2009

Bertrand Duchaufour

Except a talented perfumer like M. Duchaufour probably can’t help but produce one out of nine which rises above. Believing was the one which hit a single for me because it was one which tried for something slightly different. It still carries some of the flaws of the rest of the collection but I found more memorable moments than not while wearing it.

Believing is the citrus fresh floral check box and so it begins with fruit. Grapefruit, yuzu, and mandarin are all here to represent the spectrum of citrus. A mixture of red and green berries adds a bit of lushness to the citric overload. Hyacinth comes on the scene to lead you in to a floral fusillade in the heart of primarily rose but significant amounts of jasmine, champaca, and freesia also crowd in to the mixture. This is one of those flaws I am speaking of as nearly all the perfumes would have been better if at least one phase was slimmed down a bit to allow the entire composition to breathe a little bit. Instead Believing is as overstuffed as the others but in this case M. Duchaufour strikes a balance. It still has a lot of presence but I didn’t mind it as much. The base continues in the “more is better” vein with myrrh, patchouli, vetiver, musk, and sandalwood forming a gigantic foundational block which also managed to strike the right balance, surprisingly.

Believing has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Mme Dang in that girlboss interview states her personal credo is to “Push boundaries.” This first collection of perfume is no example of that kind of thinking. It is firmly inside the lines with nothing which even flirts with coloring outside of them. As I mentioned I think it is hard for a perfumer like M. Duchaufour to go zero for nine but at least for me he only went one for nine;with Believing being that one.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Barney’s.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Father Christmas by The Kinks

My Holiday playlist is a mix of traditional standards and songs which look at the Season with a different perspective. As much as I like a Christmas song which brings a tear to my eye; I am just as happy with one which brings a sneer to my lip. When it rotates around the song “Father Christmas” by The Kinks is one which does this for me.

The Kinks were one of the original British Invasion bands of the mid-1960’s. It is likely they would have risen to the heights of some of the other UK bands except they were so rowdy during their shows the American union which oversaw musicians hit them with a four-year touring ban. This effectively closed them off from one of the biggest markets from 1965-1969. It is one reason when many UK bands cited them as an influence many Americans were surprised. The Kinks evolved over the years but they always had a bit of the proto-Punk in their music. The Who and The Rolling Stones were the only other bands of the era to capture the sense of anarchy which would be tapped into in the second half of the 1970’s.

the-kinks-father-christmas-arista-2

It was during that time that the new bands kept covering The Kinks early songs which in turn drove interest in the band anew. This newfound popularity convinced the band they should release a Christmas tune. In true The Kinks fashion it was not sugar plum fairies and candy canes.

Father Christmas was written by band co-founder Ray Davies. It tells the story of a department store Santa who is surrounded by a group of street kids who want money instead of toys. In five lines the chorus captures the mood as this is what the kids sing to the Santa:

Father Christmas, give us some money
We got no time for your silly toys
We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over
We want your bread so don't make us annoyed
Give all the toys to the little rich boys

That’s the part I curl my lip on when I’m singing along.

The arrangement is also fitting as it starts off with jingly happy piano before the guitars crash into everything. That happy piano returns near the end as the chorus provides a contrasting lyric to go along with it.

The Punk Rock movement in the UK arose out of the economic issues surrounding the younger generation at the time. While The Kinks were riding a nice wave of success in 1977 Father Christmas felt like it was a song which could have come from the streets. In the video above, despite the poor quality you get an idea of The Kinks at their anti-Establishment best.

Father Christmas almost acts as a palate cleanser when it shuffles to the top as it often can be sandwiched between Dean Martin and Bing Crosby. Even during the Holidays I need a few minutes when my inner Punk Santa can be allowed to sneer at things until the next song.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Phlur Hepcat- Millennial Marketing 101

This year has seen all sorts of initiatives to try and attract Millennials to a fragrance brand; most have presumed if it is done right the audience will find them. The new brand Phlur has decided to go out and find them where they live; online. Erik Korman came up with a concept where the consumer visits the website clicks around a bit exploring what is written while also looking at specific visuals. The idea is the person will be intrigued enough to order two samples and try them at home; eventually making a sale of a full bottle. I must say it is an interesting concept but the grumpy Baby Boomer who writes this blog didn’t want to be treated like a neophyte. The PR people kept insisting I play along. I kept resisting. Finally, at Sniffapalooza Fall Ball I was able to put together a full set of samples to understand the fragrances behind Mr. Kormann’s concept.

eric-korman

Erik Korman

One thing I learned about the brand was Mr. Korman enlisted indie perfumer Anne Serrano-McClain while he was working with the perfumers at Symrise. All six fragrances are essentially a single perfume accord. Pared down to that it makes how one feels about them very clear-cut. Olmstead & Vaux was that very common citrus and ginger mixture. Hanami is a creamy sandalwood base accord. Greylocke is the smell of a pine tree sap and needles. Moab is spice and incense. Siano is one of two which actually had more than one distinctive phase as it segued from a floral opening into a boozy finish. The one I liked best was Hepcat because this was the only one which developed over a few hours and had three distinctive phases.

nathalie benareau

Nathalie Benareau

Nathalie Benareau was the perfumer behind Hepcat. Mme Benareau is still working on one level of the pyramid as she uses a lot of notes typically found in the base. What helps here is she is using ingredients which have mutable natures by themselves. When she mixes oud and vetiver as the core; saffron early on teases out exotic parts of those notes. They both shift completely when the leather accord arrives. Much later vanilla provides one more pivot to the central oud-vetiver pairing.

Hepcat has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am clearly not the target audience for Phlur. Throughout my experience with the brand I felt like the old man at the rave. I think this is an interesting way to market to millennials. It will be interesting to see if all the ancillary bells and whistles gets the young buyers to become fans. If it does this is probably the first installment of Millennial Marketing 101.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided at Sniffapalooza Fall Ball.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review House of Cherry Bomb Immortal Mine II- Same But Not The Same

Back in October 2011 fellow blogger, Lucy Raubertas, of Indieperfumes, put together a group project of writers and perfumers called the Clarimonde Project. It was an ambitious undertaking which produced excellent synergies as the artists all worked off the inspiration provided by the short story Clarimonde by Theophile Gautier. Over a month or so everyone involved provided inspired work. This was a group project which worked.

I had never heard of the story prior to the project but through it I would download it and read it. It is the tale of a young priest Romuald who is struck by a coupe de foudre on the day he is to be ordained. The woman responsible for it is Clarimonde. Hewing to his obligation to the church he gives up his chance at love. One night he is taken to a castle to give last rites to Clarimonde only to have her revive for a moment causing him to faint. Days later she appears to Romuald in his cell reawakened as a vampire. They run off to Venice together where she feeds on Romuald while sharing the pleasures of the flesh. One of the other priests eventually forces Romuald to watch as he pours holy water over Clarimonde in her mausoleum causing her to turn to dust. Romuald’s final words are to never lay eyes on a woman or this fate will be yours.

Maria Mcelroy Alexis Karl

Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl (r.)

As you can see it is a rich source material for a creative to work from. One of the perfumes which came from the original run was House of Cherry Bomb Immortal Mine.  Perfumers Alexis Karl and Maria McElroy wanted Immortal Mine to capture those Venetian nights as the physically sated Romuald would drift off to sleep while Clarimonde would feed on one drop of his blood. Immortal Mine was a rich amber and oud matched with sweet tobacco all stuck in a beeswax matrix. The amber and oud that were used were memorable enough that when I visited with Ms. Karl and Ms. McElroy, a year ago, we had a conversation about them.

Ms. Karl and Ms. McElroy return to Clarimonde’s world to capture the moment when she died her human death only to be reborn a vampire in Immortal Mine II. For this version, many of the same ingredients remain but they are sourced from different places to complete the transition from the Clarimonde that was to the Clarimonde that has risen.

clarimonde-rises

Immortal Mine II opens on tobacco flower a lot of it. This is the continuation of Immortal Mine which ended with tobacco. Immortal Mine opens with the tobacco flower which is the same but not the same just as Clarimonde in her new form is. Then we get two fantastic nods to the living dead as a desiccated henna and the funeral flower of choice lily add a sense of the cemetary. This is a fabulous piece of interpretation that I enjoyed very much. The base accord is like the tobacco flower as the recapitulation of the amber and oud ensnared in beeswax from Immortal Mine. Except in Immortal Mine II they are a mix of vintage ouds and fossilized ambers. I smelled a couple of these raw materials on that year ago visit; the fossilized amber is amazing by itself. Here the perfumers have allowed it to provide the power of the ages to Clarimonde.

Immortal Mine II in the Eau de Parfum concentration has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

There are two concentrations to Immortal Mine II Eau de Parfum and Oil. I chose the EDP to review because it was more expansive imparting more of a supernatural feel to it all. The oil wears much closer to the skin for a few hours longer.

I am not sure what Ms. Raubertas’ intentions are with the future of the Clarimonde Project but she should be very proud that it continues to inspire five years later. With Immortal Mine II Ms. Karl and Ms. McElroy finish their examination of Clarimonde with style. Maybe poor besotted Romuald needs to be next?

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by House of Cherry Bomb.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review ALTAIA Ombu- A Tree Grows in Rome

There are all kind of fabricated romance in perfume PR. It is nice when you meet the real thing and it leads to beautiful fragrance. Since 2004 Marina Sersale and Sebastian Alvarez Murena have been the creative directors behind the Eau D’Italie brand. That collection successfully goes for landscapes as perfume. A year ago, the two of them started a new line ALTAIA which stands for “A Long Time Ago In Argentina”. Doing a bit of genealogical digging Sig.ra Serale and Sig. Murena learned there were connections going back a few generations where their families connected in Argentina. The first three releases covered each of the great-grandfathers in Argentina and the early days of Sig.ra Sesale and Sig. Murena’s romance. The fourth release has just arrived, Ombu, and it is a love letter from Sig.ra Sersale to Sig. Murena.

Marina-Sersale-and-SebastianAlvarezMurena

Sebastian Alvarez Murena and Marina Sersale

When I met Sig.ra Sersale in Florence at Pitti 2015 as she was introducing ALTAIA I asked her how difficult it was working on such personal stories with a perfumer. Her response was that perfumer Daphne Bugey understood the emotion behind the briefs immediately. In the first three releases and now with Ombu, Mme Bugey is in full understanding of what is wanted in these fragrances.

DaphneBugey

Daphne Bugey

Ombu is the name of a giant spreading evergreen found on the Pampas of Argentina. It is underneath these shade trees where working Gauchos escape the sun. In another coincidence, there is a single Ombu growing in their hometown of Rome, Italy at the foot of Capitoline Hill. Ombu is a giant shade tree of a fragrance capturing the wide-open spaces of the Pampas, the spirit of the Guachos and a man who represents both to Sig.ra Sersale.

ombu-tree

Ombu Tree

Pink pepper has become one of those almost too ubiquitous notes over the last year or so. It also gets used unartfully, often in overdose. For the beginning of Ombu Mme Bugey uses pink pepper which she pairs with sage. This forms an open grasslands accord. The sage provides most of the structure but the right amount of pink pepper creates a more expansive green. A springy Virginia cedar is the trunk of the tree. The soft earth at the base of the tree is re-created with amber and benzoin. A place to take a soothing nap to escape the midday sun.

Ombu has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

ALTAIA is a departure from the Eau D’Italie line because it carries more authentic humanity than a lot of perfumes. Sig.ra Sersale and Mme Bugey have made a fitting representation of Sig. Murena. Now turnabout is only fair to expect so I hope Sig. Murena and Mme Bugey are capturing Sig.ra Sersale for the next release.

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

Mark Behnke

Le Labo 101- Five to Get You Started

Two years ago, Le Labo was acquired by Estee Lauder. The brand started in 2006 by Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi had grown into such a presence within the niche sector it wasn’t really a surprise. Le Labo made a mark in the burgeoning niche market by being unafraid to do something daring. The name of each perfume has a note and number. The digits represent the number of different ingredients. The note; well sometimes it is what you smell and other times it is just a supporting player. This is a brand which I have enjoyed from the moment I first tried them ten years ago, the distribution of Le Labo is beginning to expand a bit because of the new partnership with Lauder. Thus, I thought because they are going to become more readily available it was time to let you know which five should get you started.

Before I start the list I am not going to include the city exclusives. Le Labo has perfumes which they only sell in a particular city. The Tokyo release Gaiac 10 would have been a cinch to be on this list but because of the exclusivity I am not going to add it.

Ambrette 9 composed by perfumer Michel Almairic is sometimes called Baby Ambrette 9 because it is so pure and simple it could be used on a baby. This time the botanical musk of ambrette is front and center. It was my experience with this perfume which opened my eyes to the soft beauty of ambrette. M. Almairic uses pear and other synthetic white musks to get up to nine. When they call something baby soft this a fragrance which exemplifies it.

le-labo-iris-39

Iris 39 by perfumer Frank Voelkl is an example of where the other 38 notes create something quite different than a perfume named Iris 39 should smell like. M. Voelkl wanted to remove the powder and accentuate the rootiness. The main ingredient he uses for this is patchouli. The full-bodied patchouli provides the earth that the iris rhizome is buried in. A bit of lime brightens the early moments while a mix of civet and musk take Iris 39 deep into the topsoil. If powdery iris has always turned you off let Iris 39 provide a fresh perspective.

Santal 33 also by perfumer Frank Voelkl is one of the flagship perfumes of the brand. It was meant to evoke the rugged Marlboro Man of the cigarette ad campaign of the 1970’s. It is a primary mixture of leather and sandalwood. Ambrox and cedar pull the woody aspects. Iris, cardamom, and papyrus layer the leather. By the end, it is the Ambrox and sandalwood which remains. Santal 33 is a perfect example of what Le Labo Is all about.

Lys 41 also composed by M. Voelkl is not a lily fragrance it is a duet around jasmine and tuberose. Most of the lily character comes from the inclusion of Tiare which has the ability to twist the boisterous white flowers into a simulacrum of lily. The base accord is built around a very comforting vanilla surrounded by woods. There are other stronger florals within the line Lys 41 is the gateway to discovering them.

I finish with the other flagship scent of the brand Rose 31 by perfumer Daphne Bugey. I hesitated to include this because Rose 31 is a masterpiece of perfumery but it is not as welcoming as the other four on this list. I decided to include it because there is no Le Labo perfume which captures the brand aesthetic better. I like describing Rose 31 as an English Tea Rose who falls in with a group of bad influences which leave that rose taking a walk of shame the next morning. Mme Bugey opens with that dewy rose until cumin, oud, and vetiver invite her out for a spin. By the time she returns home she has transformed in to a Bulgarian rose trailing the spices of the night before as she stumbles in the door. Rose 31 is one of the great perfumes of this century which is why you should allow it to be one of the perfumes which opens the door to the brand.

Take these five out for a sniff when you see them on a shelf near you.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Nasomatto Baraonda- The Mad Hatter Returns

The last time I saw perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri was at Esxence 2014. He was walking around with a battered top hat. At that exposition, he released the final scent for his line Nasomatto called Blamage with an accompanying documentary which was screened there. He also debuted the line which was taking over called Orto Parisi. As the documentary readily shows Sig. Gualtieri is a bit of a perfumed Mad Hatter. It was those trips he took me on with every subsequent Nasomatto release. They weren’t all to my taste but they always held my interest. I was sad to see the Nasomatto story come to an end with Blamage. Turns out it wasn’t the end after all as a surprise new release Nasomatto Baraonda has arrived this fall.

alessandro-gualtieri-top-hat

Alessandro Gualtieri at Esxence 2014 via Basenotes.net

If there was anything which disappointed me about Blamage was it didn’t fully go for the randomness it was seeking. Sig. Gualtieri pulled the punch a bit. It became more understandable as the Orto Parisi releases came out as they also lacked a bit of the madcap energy of the best of the Nasomatto line. I wanted the Mad Hatter of Black Afgano. Baraonda feels like Sig. Gualtieri was looking at that top hat on the shelf in his Amsterdam studio; dusted it off, placed it on his head and started to compose. What comes out of all this is a whisky soaked scream of synthetic musks and woods through a completely unique dried berries middle.

whiskey-barrel

Baraonda starts with the smell of whisky most likely courtesy of whisky lactone (cis-3-Methyl-4-octanolide). To that Sig. Gualtieri adds either one of the higher octave musks or ambrette seed, the botanical version. Whichever it is it has an interesting effect of turning the whisky more scotch-like. Then the booze recedes and this dried berries accord comes to the forefront. It reminds me of the dried cranberries I make scones with. As a guess, I think this is another fruity lactone twisted with more synthetic musks. It is the most captivating part of the evolution of Baraonda for me because the berries are made so odd because of the effect Sig. Gualtieri has created. Then we get to the trademark of all Nasomatto fragrances a synthetic overload.  For Baraonda it is Ambrox and probably muscone or another synthetic animalic musk. Usually that combination does not work for me I find it screechy like olfactory nails across a chalkboard. In Baraonda it does work because the whisky and berries somehow blunt the sharp edges those two ingredients produce. Which means the woody musky base accord works unusually well.

Baraonda has ridiculous longevity of 24 hours-plus. The synthetics in the base will last through a shower. The sillage is moderate for all of that.

I am very pleased to have both Nasomatto, and The Mad Hatter behind it, back; even if only for this one release. Baraonda is one of my favorites of the line because it reminds me of the first Nasomatto I tried, Absinth, as Sig. Gualtieri says to hell with the tea let’s have a drink. That’s a party I want to be part of and with Baraonda; I am.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aftelier Perfumes Amber Tapestry- Threading It All Together

1

Mrs. C is a cross stitcher. As a result, I have spent a lot of time at exhibitions of different types of fabric art. One version I have come to have an appreciation for by attending these shows is that of tapestry. In a funny way, my affection for it comes from a line in a biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson by author Robert Caro. In the introduction to the third volume “Master of the Senate” Mr. Caro describes LBJ’s use of power like this; “Throughout Lyndon Johnson’s life, there had been hints of what he might do with great power, should he ever succeed in attaining it-bright threads gleaming in a dark tapestry: hints of compassion for the downtrodden, and of a passion to raise them up; hints that he might use power not only to manipulate others but to help others-to help moreover, those who most needed help.” That sentence caused me to look at tapestries more closely looking for the contrasting threads to the larger themes because it was there one could find illuminating surprises.

MandyAuthorPhoto

Mandy Aftel

There are few perfumers who I would expect can truly create a fragrant tapestry on purpose, although if asked Mandy Aftel would be one of the first names I would think of. One reason is that throughout her fragrance career she has thrived by creating extremely layered compositions. When Ms. Aftel sent me the press release for hew newest, Aftelier Perfumes Amber Tapestry, I expected something which would live up to its name.

maize-by-sheila-hicks

"Maize" by Sheila Hicks

Ms. Aftel used as an inspiration piece a tapestry by artist Sheila Hicks called “Maize”. The piece pictured above is one of her miniature works which she calls “minimes”. As you look at the piece and begin to let your nose imagine the way that could become a perfume you get a glimpse into what Ms. Aftel has achieved with Amber Tapestry. While you look at the larger blocks of color, just as with the quote above, I want to draw your attention to the thinner strands. Amber Tapestry has a prominent set of olfactory blocks, as well, to which Ms. Aftel adds some impressive thinner perfumed threads which bring it all together.

The first layer of this consists of the sweet vanilla cherry of heliotropin mixed with the brightness of yellow mandarin. Each manages to stay distinct from the other not forming a greater accord; much like the first two blocks of color in the inspiration piece. In the heart two sources of jasmine form the main color blocks. Jasmine sambac provides the transition from the mandarin to the floral as each carries significant aspects of the other. Once that movement is completed jasmine grandiflorum comes forward to add in the more traditional sweet and indolic contrast of jasmine. The thin threaded layers here are courtesy of pear to tease the fruitiness of the sambac out a bit more and cinnamon to keep the indoles just a tad more behaved. Now we come to the large yellow block of amber. Ms. Aftel builds it from labdanum and ambreine. This is really a recapitulation of the two jasmines because ambreine is a more refined version of labdanum which accentuates the sweeter aspects. It is one of the reasons labdanum is so versatile because it can be altered by the method of isolation used. In this case the two forms of labdanum mesh together to form a greater accord with the ambreine connecting to the sweet floralcy of jasmine while the labdanum itself provides the required depth and presence. Alongside the amber accord, Ms. Aftel matches maltol to amplify the sweet which transitions to coumarin to elevate the toasty warmth and finally benzoin to pick up the resinous nature of the labdanum.  The final layers of castoreum and ambergris add a whiff of the animalic for the final color block.

Amber Tapestry has 10-12 hour longevity and low sillage.

Ms. Aftel has created a fittingly complex perfume in Amber Tapestry which lives up to its name. Just as when I look at an actual tapestry it is those complementary filaments which thread it all together.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Holiday Lights

One of the great harbingers that the Holidays are upon us are the lights which go with them. Usually with the weekend after Thanksgiving in the US the first lights go up on homes and in cities. My fondness for Holiday lights came from a tradition as a kid growing up in the very warm South Florida. During the month of December, the large local bank had a tour of local homes with elaborate displays. In South Florida, these kinds of displays would tax the creativity of the homeowner. Depicting a wintry scene while the nighttime low was in the 70’s was not easy. One answer was to load up on the lights which was what many did. Those were always my favorites. Although the person who covered their lawn in cotton batting to simulate snow also has a soft spot in my heart.

nycsnowflakeon5th1984

Snowflake on 5th 1984

As my education and career drew me northward I would begin to experience Holiday lights in different ways. I remember my first NYC holiday season in 1984. There were two new holiday efforts that have endured to today but at the time had their share of detractors. One was the snowflake at 57th St and Fifth Avenue. It was designed by the man, Douglas Leigh, who did all the lighting schemes on the skyscrapers. Like those designs the controversy around the snowflake was from a distance as you walked towards it the illusion was gorgeous. Once you got underneath it all of the wires and lights seen up close lost the magic as if you were somehow seeing the trick. The other new feature in 1984 was putting floodlights on the façade of Rockefeller Center behind the Christmas tree. The complaint was it made 30 Rock look like The Rock as you expected a spotlight from a guard tower to wash over you. Both have evolved tremendously over the years. In 2002 the conceptual snowflake transformed into a giant crystalline snowflake and has become the centerpiece of the annual UNICEF Snowflake Ball. The stark flood lights at 30 Rock have become less so as they have been softened into an icy blue which complements the skating rink in front of it all.

harvard-square-galaxy

Harvard Square "Galaxy"

When I moved to Boston I also presided over the installation of a new set of Holiday lights in Harvard Square. The large set of lights look like a version of the Milky way galaxy to me. To others a swirl of windborne snow. To others it was a secularization of Christmas. Those who felt that way would be mollified the next year when a star joined the swirl a year later. I walked past this every Holiday season going to and fro from work. One early December blizzard it was the beacon in the night to draw me towards the path home.

poolesville-christmas-lights-2016

Poolesville, MD Lights in front of the Old Town Hall

When we moved to the Washington DC area we decided to live in a small town called Poolesville surrounded by farms. What is amusing to me is after loving these grand exhibitions of lights I have been around over the Holiday season; the ones here make me the happiest. In our sleepy little town with one main drag the Holiday lights crisscross above the road through much of the town. Each year they add a few more strings extending it further. Within a few years, they will cover the entire town. For now, what is here does the trick for me as the twinkle of many light bulbs has the ability to put me in the spirit of the Season.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Edward Bess La Femme Boheme- A Roll in the Hay

There is a conceit of movies and literature that when a pair of star-crossed lovers end up in a hay loft something sexual will happen. Not sure what it is about loose hay which gets the hormones flowing but the look of satisfaction paired with bits of dried grass stuck to their sweaty bodies and hair is a staple. There’s even the euphemism “a roll in the hay” to further the point. It is a funny thing that it took so long for a perfume to go for its own roll in the hay. With the release of Edward Bess La Femme Boheme we have one.

edward-bess-ruven-afanador

Edward Bess (Photo: Ruven Afanador)

Edward Bess is the precocious originator of his own eponymous makeup and hair line. He started when he was 20. This year he celebrated turning 30 and his tenth year in business by making the expansion in to fragrance. The perfumer he chose to work with for his foray into fragrance is perfumer Carlos Benaim. It could be argued that M. Beniam is the most successful mainstream perfumer ever. He rarely comes over to do a niche perfume. In those rare appearances, he has also taken the opportunity to use the extra budget to make similarly memorable niche fragrances with a populist’s aesthetic. The three perfumes he produced for Mr. Bess are stripped down crowd pleasers. Genre is a perfume where M. Benaim’s leather accord meshes with an austere frankincense on top of furry musks. Spanish Veil takes the toasted sweetness of tonka and amplifies it with the woody sweetness of sandalwood all framed by the cleanliness of guaiac wood. La Femme Boheme is also seemingly equally unembellished but as I wore it I found within the trio of primary notes M. Benaim also had some grace notes hiding underneath which only peeked out later.

carlos_benaim_1

Carlos Benaim

La Femme Boheme opens with the hay accord formed by combining amber and honey. The honey takes the hay up a few levels of sweet but the amber counterbalances the overall effect so it doesn’t just become honey. The honey also uses its sometimes less pleasant nature to help add the sense of sweaty bodies amidst the hay. The final piece of M. Benaim’s tryst in the hay loft is a rich indolic jasmine. M. Beniam turns it loose in all of its skanky glory to really represent the physical act itself. The notes aren’t listed but there are times I get a bit of tobacco along with a bit of stale alcohol. I noticed it both days I wore it so I am pretty sure they are really there but it could just be a trick of the indoles playing off of the amber or honey too.

La Femme Boheme has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

There are so many perfumers to whom Mr. Bess could have turned. I am very happy that Mr. Benaim was the one who brought Mr. Bess’ vision of perfume to life.

Disclosure; This review was based on samples provided by Edward Bess.

Mark Behnke