My Favorite Things: Cardamom

Spring is here right on schedule. Also, right on schedule is the beginning of my rotation of spring favorites to the front of the perfume wardrobe. Most opt for florals and aquatics. I prefer spice perfumes for the cool nights and warm days. One of my favorite shoulder season spices is cardamom. Here are five of my favorite fragrances featuring cardamom.

I can’t be 100% sure but I think the perfume which made me a cardamom fan was 1996’s Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant. Composed by perfumers Dominique Ropion and Jean-Louis Sieuzac under the creative direction of Celine Verleure; Jungle L’Elephant features a rich creamy cardamom among the panoply of spice as clove, cumin, licorice mix with mango, vanilla and amber. Jungle L’Elephant has always been that perfect shoulder season perfume. The equivalent of a lightweight cashmere sweater. It is among my very favorite perfumes, period.

Perhaps one of the oddest cardamom perfumes I own is Heeley Esprit du Tigre. Perfumer James Heeley wanted a fragrance which evoked the classic liniment Tiger Balm. Not your typical inspiration leading to an atypical perfume. A strong camphor and mint opening leads into a strong cardamom, black pepper, and clove heart which recreates the herbal scent of Tiger Balm. Vetiver finishes it with a green flourish. I wear this on the spring mornings which are a little cooler and the days don’t get that warm.

With the new renaissance of colognes cardamom has become one of the more popular ingredients in this trend.

In 2012 there was an entire collection of cologne nouveau from The Different Company all created by Emilie Coppermann with the creative direction of Luc Gabriel. I liked all of them but the one I wear the most is Sienne D’Orange. Mme Copperman uses a greener version of cardamom to go with orange in the top accord. She brilliantly uses carrot as the bridge to orris before finishing with a suede leather accord. This is exactly what imagination can provide to staid archetypes.

The same can be said for Thirdman Eau Contraire which was called Eau Nomade when I purchased it in 2013. Owner-Creative Director Jean-Christophe le Greves wanted a collection which pushed the envelope on cologne architecture. Working with perfumer Bruno Jovanovic this was an impressively realized collection of which Eau Contraire was my favorite. In this case M. Jovanovic used a hefty amount of cardamom to provide contrast to lemon and orange. A very technically adept mixture of various musks provide the development around this trio. This has been one of those perfumes which makes me smile broadly when I wear it.

As mentioned above a greener version of cardamom was beginning to be used by perfumers and I was wanting someone to really go all in with that ingredient. My wish was granted in 2014’s By Kilian Intoxicated as Calice Becker working with creative director Kilian Hennessy made a cup of strong spice infused Turkish coffee. Mme Becker formed a nucleus of strong rich coffee to which she added the green cardamom in a significant quantity so it could stand up to the coffee. It almost has a sappy stickiness in this concentration. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and caramel finish this off. Intoxicated is one of my favorite coffee fragrances but it is the green cardamom which makes that true.

If you’re looking for something to add to your spring fragrance rotation give these cardamom perfumes a try.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Joop! Wow!- Searching for Mr. Goodscent

Every generation has their scent for the nighttime. This is the subtle olfactory undercurrent on the dance floor when most of the people are predominantly wearing a couple of perfumes. I’m convinced that if you blindfolded me and placed me next to the action in a nightclub I could tell you what decade we were in just by breathing in. With the rise of a new generation of fragrance consumers there should concurrently arise this time period’s fragrances. Of course, the perfume brands are hoping they will be the one to breakthrough. As I sit here firmly in my armchair observing what those brands are putting forward there are times when it is obvious which ones hope to be that perfume. The latest contender for masculine perfume for Millennials is Joop! Wow!

One thing that was noticeable to me when I received my package containing Wow is Joop seems to be trying to reinvent itself as a luxury brand. I can’t say for sure what the general impression of the brand is but if you asked me for a list of luxury brands Joop would not make my list. I wonder if as they reach out to a new generation they are also looking to up their profile.

Christophe Raynaud

The fragrance, composed by perfumer Christophe Raynaud, feels like a modern reinvention of the 1980’s wood and spice bombs. Except with two of the qualities the current generation seemingly wants; transparency along with a bit of gourmand sweetness. Wow delivers all of this.

Wow opens with a fresh breeze of cardamom and bergamot. Violet leaves provide a soft green undercurrent which carries to the keynote geranium in the heart. That green current is continued with vetiver and fir balsam. All of this is reminiscent of those 1980’s men’s scents. The base then takes a turn for the sweet with vanilla and tonka creating that typical comfort accord.

Wow has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Wow is one of those fragrances which seems like it might be a big hit among its target audience. It feels blatantly designed to appeal to them. Only time will tell if this is what Mr. Goodscent will be wearing.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Whisky & Cedarwood- The Devil’s Cut

There are times brands can still throw a curveball at me. When I received the announcement of the Jo Malone Bloomsbury Collection I was expecting something completely in keeping with the brand aesthetic developed over twenty years. The creative team at Jo Malone asked perfumer Yann Vasnier to make a set of five perfumes to represent the early Twentieth Century collection of intellectuals known as the Bloomsbury Group. Based in the London section bearing the same name it has taken on mythological import in the hundred years since its founding. I can’t say the five fragrances do much to remind me of a Lost Generation salon. What they do display is M. Vasnier’s versatility on his first work for the brand.

One thing M. Vasnier manages to do throughout all five perfumes is to take a titular note that you expect to have some depth instead are presented in an opaquer form. Which for people who shy away from the hi-test version might find these to be at a different intensity allowing you to relax in to it. Blue Hyacinth is a dewy spring version of hyacinth planted in moist earth. Garden Lilies goes for a waterier effect as the lilies in the name are waterlilies instead of the ones found in floral arrangements. Leather & Artemesia matches a suede leather accord with a light licorice-like note. Tobacco & Mandarin also lives up to its name with little else around and made transparent. All the above is typical Jo Malone kind of perfumes. The one which stood out for me and feels like little else in the entire Jo Malone collection is Whisky & Cedarwood.

Yann Vasnier

If you’ve ever visited a whisky distillery they will tell you during the aging in barrels there are two parts of what happens during that process. The amount of whisky that evaporates is called the Angel’s Share. The whisky that soaks in to the wood of the barrel is called The Devil’s Cut. Whisky & Cedarwood is a perfume of The Devil’s Cut.

M. Vasnier opens with allspice as the contrast for the whisky accord. I must complement M. Vasnier on employing a whisky accord which is not overwhelming in its booziness. Instead this is whisky almost as smelled from the person next to you at the bar. The cedar comes next completing the whisky soaked wood milieu. This is where the Devil gets his due. It is also where Whisky & Cedarwood lingers for quite a while until late in the development. That is where a truly odd high gloss waxed wood accord transforms the wood from barrel to bookcase. It works well but it feels so edgy for a line which does not usually willingly come close to that.

Whisky & Cedarwood has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

 If you are a Jo Malone fan I think the Bloomsbury Collection is worth seeking out to see if there is one which grabs you. Overall, I liked all five but Whisky & Cedarwood is the one I wanted to belly up to the bar with and share a drink with the Devil.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Agonist White Lies- Normal is Overrated

Sometimes, a brand which has been about being totally different must feel like throwing in the towel. These brands probably tire of writers, like me, saying I admire the perfume but I wouldn’t wear it. The Swedish perfume brand Agonist has a lot of these kind of perfumes. Despite my wariness to spend more time with them I have admiration for their ability to make fragrance on their own terms. When I write that I want something different it should be right on the bleeding edge of being wearable. Which made the latest release White Lies perplexing because this is a fairly straightforward niche spring floral.

The Agonist creative team of husband and wife Niclas  and Christine Lydeen  continuing to work with perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin decide to create a snappy white flower dominated fragrance. There is nothing here which is dramatically different from many other spring florals. Which makes it stand out among the Agonist collection while not necessarily among the overall niche fragrance sector. All of that might lead you to think I didn’t care for it but I did for a couple of reasons. The use of boisterous white flowers as the centerpiece of a spring floral is different from the plethora of roses. The other reason is there is a quite zippy fruity top accord that I enjoyed much more than I usually do.

Christine and Niclas Lydeen

White Lies opens with a tart sparkly lemon, a juicy raspberry, and sweet lychee. This forms a fruity accord of contrasts that was like a gourmet Sweet Tart. Then the white flowers arrive with jasmine and tuberose taking the lead. They are well-balanced within White Lies. The nice choice is to add heliotrope to provide a powdery softening of the two co-stars. The base is a standard patchouli, ambrox, and vanilla ending. Woody with a touch of sweet.

White Lies has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

If Agonist was planning on White Lies being their “normal” fragrance within the collection; they succeeded. The only thing that is bad about it is despite enjoying it I’m just as unlikely to wear it as some of the more avant-garde offerings. Not because it isn’t good but because it isn’t different enough. I understand the desire to just give the consumer what they want. Hopefully the next Agonist release will go back to giving the customer something to think about.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfums de Marly Delina- Floriental Gourmand

Parfums de Marly is not a brand which usually heads down the garden path with floral fragrances. They tend to work on the straight-up Oriental side of the street most often. Even the florals they have done have been Florientals. Up to this point it hasn’t been a strong suit because in some ways it didn’t feel like they had their heart in it. Which made it interesting that they decided to release their version of a spring rose. Just on past performance I would have had lowered expectations; Parfums de Marly Delina exceeded those expectations.

What also added to my interest was perfumer Quentin Bisch was composing his second perfume for the brand following on from 2015’s Carlisle. So far in M. Bisch’s short career he also hadn’t done one of these spring rose fragrances either. Which meant Delina might represent a benchmark for both brand and perfumer.

In M. Bisch’s perfumes to date if there is something which is becoming a hallmark it is adding an odd gourmand vibe. Delina gets this early on which helps freshen up what is a very common floral mixture in the heart.

Quentin Bisch

Delina opens with this offbeat gourmand note as M. Bisch employs lychee and its slightly musty sweetness. Bergamot is present to provide some structure. The real star in the early going is the rhubarb which adds a citrusy vegetal contrast to the lychee. Finally, to finish off the top accord some nutmeg breezes through it all. The florals appear; as muguet, rose, and peony provide that spring rose accord. M. Bisch uses a Turkish rose so there is a bit more depth but it is still a genteel rose. The Oriental base is made up of a few musks, cashmeran, and frankincense.

Delina has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is the first fully successful floral from Parfums de Marly. Delina is different because of that lychee focused top accord which provides a different perspective on the typical garden rose fragrance. It seems these sweet floral gourmands are an ongoing trend. Delina is a great version within that genre.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Parfums de Marly.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tadashi Shoji Eau de Rose- Establishing Flow

The last time I attended the entire New York Fashion Week there was a designer who left an impression, Tadashi Shoji. What had so impressed me was he had lived up to the concept so many fashion designers aspire to. When you hear anyone in fashion talk they will enthuse about the “flow” within their collection. What made me laugh at that is so few of them achieve that. It is so infrequent, that it captures my full attention when it happens. When I was sitting in the audience for the Tadashi Shoji Fall 2012 show I saw “flow”. The designs formed a coherent whole while building upon each design that came before. Fabric and detail moved sinuously around the models. Ever since Mr. Shoji has been all about this ability to create that effect year after year. When I was contacted by the team behind the new Tadashi Shoji Eau de Rose I wondered if “flow” could be translated to fragrance.

Tadashi Shoji Fall 2017

Mr. Shoji assembled an experienced team for his first fragrance. Help with creative direction came from Ruth Sutcliffe and John Bonifacio who worked with two perfumers; Jacques Chabert and Nathalie Koobus.

Tadashi Shoji

I must say I was a bit underwhelmed while waiting for my sample to arrive because here was another rose perfume headed my way. What made me enjoy Eau de Rose was that this creative team somehow lost the memo that spring rose perfumes must be dewy debutante-like rose. Eau de Rose is a different take finding that debutante grown up with some more experience. Another thing about the mediocre spring rose fragrances is they leave out all the other scents of spring. Eau de Rose begins with rhubarb one of the earliest harvests in a spring garden before opening with that debutante rose but maturing it with rose absolute to create something different than the other spring roses.

Ruth Sutcliffe

Eau de Rose is all about the rhubarb in the early moments. The perfumers make a choice to accentuate the raw earthy quality of the rhubarb by allowing the sulphurous nature of grapefruit and blackcurrant bud to provide the turned earth component. This is the early harvest of the raised bed garden next to the rose bush. The heart is that innocent debutante rose playing with her usual sisters of jasmine and muguet. If it had stayed like this I would have yawned but this is where the flow comes in. The perfumers use osmanthus to begin the transition from fresh dewy rose into a mature experienced version. The rose absolute used in the base accord is rich with a spicy heart to it. This allows for swirls of incense along with earthy patchouli to bring Eau de Rose full circle back to the early moments.

Eau de Rose has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Eau de Rose succeeds where so many others fall apart because the creative team could establish the same kind of flow in the perfume that is evident in Mr. Shoji’s fashion designs.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Wild Poodles of Poodlesville

I never had a dog when I was a kid. I can’t say I thought it was something I missed. Then Mrs. C and I adopted a brown standard poodle named Jojo. We got Jojo from Poodle Recue of New England. As it is with most all rescue dogs they have not had an ideal life. Jojo’s story was he was part of a puppy mill and when not being asked to mate he was kept outside in a cage. He was rescued when he was nine. He was a mess and the rescue organization cleaned him up. Jojo was a gentleman with an emphasis on the gentle. His previous existence had made him very reserved but occasionally I could get him to play with me. One morning he decided he had had enough of me and stood up and barked in my face. Then heartbreakingly he pulled his snout away to the side anticipating a smack. With tears in my eyes I hugged him and said “good boy”. Over time he learned that barking was okay. He would need it.

Georgie in the yard in Poodlesville

Two years after we got Jojo we realized we wanted to get him some younger company so we contacted Poodle Rescue. They had rescued a litter of four poodle puppies from a would-be breeder who was going to abandon them. Jojo was a favorite within the rescue group and they wanted his life to be easy so they asked us if we would take in one of the puppies who looked to have hip problems. We had no problem with that. Watching young Georgie not be able to go up the stairs in our house was awful. We were ready to figure out how to make it easier for him when a funny thing happened. Regular feeding of good food and the hip problems went away revealing a frolicking puppy underneath. One for whom Jojo would need his newly-found bark. Almost every night Georgie would wait until Jojo curled up on his bed and closed his eyes. At that moment, he would cross the room and pounce on him. Jojo would get up and let him know he was not amused. When I would come home from work I would always say I was greeted with the 21-bark salute.

Rocco

When Jojo passed away we realized we needed a new companion for Georgie who was acting sad at being an only poodle. After a short adoption of Gunner who had a genetic disease we eventually received Rocco from the rescue organization. From the moment, we got him Rocco had already learned that charm got you attention. Whenever anyone came near he would sit and lift a paw. The list of admirers was legion. The many treats he received numerous. I called Rocco a Moochasaurus because almost nobody could resist giving him a treat. Rocco and Georgie were best friends who when we moved to Maryland and the size of the yard increased immensely were as happy as could be. The town we moved to is called Poolesville but we have renamed our part of it Poodlesville.

Henry (l.) and Jackson

When Georgie passed on Henry arrived. Henry had been struck so hard by his first owner that his right eye was ruptured and he lost vision in it. The next owner passed away from a stroke and they found Henry curled up next to her when they discovered her. Henry is the sweetest tempered poodle we have had, unless you’re a squirrel. When Rocco passed, we waited a year before adding our latest rescue, Jackson. Jackson came courtesy of negligent breeders again. He was not allowed to socialize with other dogs or people which made him very skittish. Over the three months we have had him in Poodlesville it has been interesting watching him realize Henry, Mrs. C and I are his pack. Every day the fear and nervousness get a little less.

Next to asking Mrs. C in to my life the Wild Poodles of Poodlesville have given me the most pleasure.

Mark Behnke

Xerjoff 101- Five to Get You Started

The ultra-luxe sector of perfume really came into being in the early years of the 2000’s. Brands with high price tags were usually comprised of artistic bottles and high-quality raw materials. When I was first considering whether consumers would see perfume as being this kind of commodity I concurrently wondered which of these brands would last for ten years. The answer is that there are consumers who gravitate to this kind of ultimate fragrant luxury. There are also some which have lasted for over ten years. One of them is Xerjoff.

Sergio Momo

It was early in my blogging efforts that I was sent a sample set. I thought the early fragrances were elegant simplicity. Owner and creative director Sergio Momo had his best success in the early collection with simple floral-focused constructs. Working with perfumer Jacques Flori for much of the collection it is only in recent years that the brand has begun using other perfumers. Throughout Sig. Momo has had a clear vision for his brand and it has not wavered for more than ten years, now. If you are looking for some suggestions about where to start here are five good entry points to Xerjoff.

When the first three fragrances were released there was Elle, Homme, and the shared XXY. The first two were a little too overstuffed and the best parts of each of Elle and Homme could get lost in the traffic.

XXY was different and for the most part provided the template for which Sig. Momo would use to build his brand going forward. XXY was at the time what I felt was a gold-plated fruity floral. M. Flori used grapefruit and peach as the fruit to contrast with powdery iris, unctuous ylang-ylang, and indolic jasmine. A lush sandalwood, patchouli, and vetiver base complete the perfume.

When the follow-up perfumes showed up a couple years later Irisss was the standout. As you can impute from the name it is an iris soliflore. Except it is a crazy good iris at the heart as M. Flori uses iris butter. This source really keeps the powder at bay while bringing forth the earthiness of the root that iris, as a raw ingredient, is isolated from. Starting with the off-kilter sweetness of carrot seed the iris comes to the foreground. This iris butter glitters like a fine jewel set off with some grace notes of violet and jasmine. This is all framed by a cedar and vetiver combination.

If there is a single ingredient many would associate with Xerjoff it is oud. There are a lot of different flavors of oud in the collection but Kobe was one of the earliest. Here M. Flori goes with the classic floral contrast to the rough-edged oud. Except instead of using the traditional rose he uses a fantastic neroli. The green facet present in high-quality neroli is a better complement to oud than the more typical rose. That is mainly what Kobe provides with some styrax and tonka to sweeten up the oud in the final stages.

I have written before how much I like Richwood. I think it is the best of the entire Xerjoff line. M. Flori takes a limited quantity of Mysore sandalwood and then uses different notes like blackcurrant buds, rose, and patchouli to illuminate and explore every facet of this precious perfume ingredient.

Oud Luban can cheekily be described as Kobe 2.0 because the same neroli and oud is at the heart. Except it is made rougher through black pepper in the top. More resinous with silvery frankincense in the base and cleaner with cedar and vetiver in the base. Perfumer Christopher Maurice has produced my favorite of the recent releases.

If you’re wondering where you should start with a luxurious brand like Xerjoff the five above provide a good idea about what Sig. Momo’s vision is all about.

Disclosure: This review is based on decants I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Nina Ricci L’Extase Rose Absolue- Three is a Magic Number

Schoolhouse Rock and De La Soul tell me three is a magic number. In perfumery that sometimes proves to be the case. Nina Ricci L’Extase Rose Absolue is another data point to prove this.

Nina Ricci has been producing perfume since 1948 starting with the classic L’Air du Temps. Over the decades since, the brand has had broad ups and downs. In recent times, it has become a steady European masstige brand. Because of my affection for the brand I always track down samples of the latest releases. Like all mass-market fragrances, Nina Ricci has started releasing a yearly spring rose fragrance. It started with 2015’s L’Extase which was just another forgettable rose even though it had rose damascene at its heart instead of the typical debutante rose. Last year it was L’Extase Caresse de Roses. This was no debutante rose either but it was also disappointingly linear as it was just rose and a whole lot of laundry musk. The perfumer for these L’Extase fragrances is Francis Kurkdjian who has become expert on how to create a tentpole collection within a brand but the first two L’Extase were missing something.

Francis Kurkdjian

When I received my sample of this year’s version, L’Extase Rose Absolue, I wasn’t excited. Then I looked up the description online and found out M. Kurkdjian meant for this to be the rose for evening wear. That made me go dig the sample out and give it a try. It turns out this is a more formal rose with more depth than either of the two other members of the collection.

Rose can be a bombastic note but early on M. Kurkdjian decides to allow it to simmer a bit. It is still out front but in the early going black pepper and raspberry provide an interesting spicy fruity floral top accord. As it simmers there it eventually concentrates down to a more focused rose which is paired with orange blossom. Unlike the top accord the orange blossom is there for nuance; not really meant to be an equal partner. The base is formed of a woody duet of cedar and sandalwood. To this some vanilla, to add some light sweetness, along with some musk to provide some sensuality.

L’Extase Rose Absolue has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

This time three is a magic number as L’Extase Rose Absolue is much better than the other two L’Extase fragrances. It is much more than a spring rose as this would be great any time of the year. If you’re looking for a good evening rose three will be a magic number for you, too.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews source adage NYC aka’ula and c’I’aan- Hawaiian Fire & Alaskan Ice

When it comes to independent American perfumery it seems like most of it has been happening on the West Coast. Except in the last couple of years the East Coast has been building a node of olfactory creativity centered around Brooklyn. As with anything like this there are more misses than hits. What is more telling, is to see which of the new brands have the potential to develop beyond their initial efforts. One of these new brands which has caught my attention is source adage NYC which released its two debut perfumes at the end of 2016, aka’ula and c’I’aan.

Robert Dobay and Christopher Draghi

source adage NYC was launched in September 2015 by married couple Christopher Draghi and Robert Dobay. In the early days, they focused on home fragrance and candles. Working with an unnamed Brooklyn perfumer they released their debut collection of perfumes a year later.

The source adage NYC concept is to focus on place and create fragrances evoked by those locales. For their first foray into perfume they chose two US states very different in nature, Hawaii and Alaska using words indigenous to each as the names on the bottles.

The Hawaiian inspired one is called aka’ula which translates to “red sunset”. The brief was for aka’ula to capture the “volcanic smoke” juxtaposed with “island spice accords”. This is a fragrance which mostly succeeds until the smoke overrides everything. The early moments take ginger, pineapple leaves and vetiver to create the spice island milieu. I just wished it lasted a little longer before the volcano erupts in a geyser of cade and oud. It is a common issue when using notes like cade and oud that they have all the subtlety of a Kilauea lava flow. If you enjoy the smoke this is a good version of it. If you are not a fan of smoke I suspect aka’ula will not be to your liking.

The Alaskan inspired one was much more to my taste. Called c’I’aan which translates to “new moon” in a Southern Alaska native language. In this case, they go for a mixture of balsamic woods and icy notes. What made me enjoy c’I’aan more was the choice of the notes which made the icy component. Using juniper, spearmint, and most interestingly apple. The juniper and spearmint mix to give that lung searing deep breath of cold air. The apple works within that accord to provide the nip of cold at the tip of your nose. I can pull this apart but when wearing it but if I relax and just let it be it is a chilly blast. The woods are fir made cleaner with cedar and warmer with amber. This seems like a much more assured composition. I liked it from beginning to end especially as the cold breeze whistled through the woods.

Both aki’ula and c’I’aan have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I mentioned at the beginning these first two releases are not perfect but the potential they show for source adage NYC go beyond Hawaiian Fire and Alaskan Ice.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke