New Perfume Reivew Molton Brown Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel- …& Cardamom & Jasmine

A few years ago, when attending a Sniffapalooza one of the stops was the Molton Brown store in Soho. I have been a longtime fan of the bath products but the fragrances had been underwhelming. On that day, they presented a collection based on different countries. I was surprised at how much I liked them despite being examples of most of the prevailing perfume trends. Since that day I have continued to carry that same thought as I have tried their new releases looking for one which would offer a something a little bit different. The latest release Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel doesn’t create a new direction in aquatic fragrances but it does have a couple nice wrinkles to it.

Over the past few years the Molton Brown fragrances have followed the lead of the bath products by naming themselves after the main ingredients. If you like the fragrance all the ancillary products are available and if the bath product appeals the converse is true. Perfumer Carla Chabert succeeds by tracking closely with the refreshing nature of the bath gel. She focused on a composing a perfume which was akin to a cool shower after a day at the shore. The wrinkle I wrote about is the use of cardamom and jasmine in significant quantities enough so that their names could have been added to the name, too.

Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel opens with a very typical marine accord. The first few moments almost have a by-the-book aquatic accord. Mme Chabert works to change the mundane with a healthy dose of cardamom. The cardamom has that lemon-tinged character that provides a bit of muted luminosity while also adding some weight grounding the more expansive aspects of the marine accord. Fig leaf and violet leaf provide the sea fennel effect as it comes off as a soft green. Mme Chjabert then uses one of the synthetic non-indolic jasmines to provide significant expansiveness before the cypress shows up. It is listed as “salted cypress” in the note list but I don’t get that as much as weathered cypress. This is like driftwood, sun bleached and transparent, which fits in with the jasmine. Later on, cedar and some laundry musks tie Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel off.

Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate silage.

There is a nice fragrance collection quietly growing at Molton Brown. Coastal Cypress & Sea Fennel even portends something greater for the future.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Molton Brown.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Tom Collins

1

It was a couple weeks after Labor Day 2016 and we were having our last backyard soiree. I had an array of new botanical gins I had just unearthed. I asked one of the later arrivals to please bring some tonic water. As sometimes happens tonic water turns to soda water in the process which happened this time. Faced with a dilemma I decided to try out my panel of gins on a different cocktail. What happened would remind me that the best answers are sometimes the standards as I re-discovered the cocktail known as the Tom Collins that day.

I have always loved the story of how this cocktail came to be. In 1874, there was a joke that the men who were out in bars played on each other. It went like this. As a friend would walk in to the bar you would begin to shake your head in dismay. As your friend arrived and asked what the look was for you would tell him this guy Tom Collins is telling people you have the ankles of a girl and your father was a blacksmith. In 1874 that would send our dishonored man off in search of Tom Collins who did not exist. Somewhere during the heyday of this prank an enterprising New York bartender decided to make a drink named after the man everyone was looking for.

What this bartender came up with is the best alternative to Gin & Tonic for a summer drink. It is simple as you add a shot of gin, an equal amount of lemon juice, and a half shot of simple syrup into a glass filled with ice. Stir. Then top off with soda water. What I discovered last year is with the advent of the small-batch botanical gins that are out there the Tom Collins is an excellent platform on which to display them. For alterations, you can substitute lime juice for the lemon juice. You can add in almost any herb growing in the garden. I’ve found a bit of crushed basil, thyme, and rosemary add a lot. This is especially true with the new gins. We also found a float of St. Germain elderflower liqueur or Crème de Violette also added something to the mix.

As I spend the first summer weekend looking out over the backyard as the poodles run, the ribs smoke, and the sun shines on Poodlesville I am purposefully buying soda water; for this is going to be a Tom Collins summer.

Mark Behnke

That Unattainable Object of Desire: Jean Patou Lasso- Lost in Translation

If you were on Facebook a month or so ago there was a game going on where you named ten musical acts you saw in concert with one being a lie. Your friends commented with which one they thought was the lie. I decided to do a perfume version where I listed ten long lost perfumes that were extremely difficult to get. My friends are pretty smart and many of them figured out the one which I did not own a bottle of was Jean Patou Lasso.

Lasso was the Jean Patou perfume which has fallen so far through the cracks that it is also very difficult for me to confirm any of the details. It isn’t even listed in the Fragrances of the World database it is so lost. Going by many places on the internet the year of release has been listed as 1936, 1956, and “sometime in the 1960’s”. The perfumer is also impossible to track down although if it was released in 1936 it seems likely it would be Henri Almeras. If it was 1956 Henri Giboulet is most likely as he did 1955’s Eau de Joy and 1964’s Caline. Then in a fantastic article on Fragrantica Sergey Borisov says it is Guy Robert. What’s correct? Nobody is left to unambiguously clear it up.

The only thing I know is Lasso exists. Thanks to some kind friends I have generous samples even though in my “gotta have them all” desire to have a bottle of every Jean Patou perfume my collection has a Lasso-sized hole in it. Lasso is not the greatest Jean Patou fragrance it is not even in the top 10 overall. The reason for that is it is the most derivative perfume within the entire collection. When I use a simple descriptive phrase for Lasso I call it a violet-hued butch version of Guerlain Mitsouko. I like it because the violet and leather improve the aldehydes and peach to something different but not so far that, in particular, the opening is very recognizable.

Lasso opens with the aldehydes and peach doing their fizzy fruity dance. The violet comes forth with the same presence as rose and jasmine. This is a classic power floral heart accord typical of any of the decades Lasso is presumed to come from. What becomes the biggest change is a beautifully soft leather accord which envelops the early accords in a sexy refined embrace. This leather imparts a more overt sexuality to Lasso than there is in Mitsouko. The base is a classic chypre again as was seen during the timeframe which Lasso existed in. Which means musky sandalwood, patchouli, oakmoss, and vetiver. Overall it leaves an effect of Lasso being a scent of seduction.

Lasso has 14-16 hour longevity and way above average sillage.

Within the Fragrantica article Mr. Borisov comprehensively covers the details that this was being marketed to women as a way of roping a man might explain why it is such a forgotten fragrance. It might also be the derivativeness. It just might be wrong time, wrong place. Like so much with Lasso it is all lost in translation.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by personal friends.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Superman- Up in the Sky!

Sometimes I get a second chance. Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male is one of those great perfumes of the 1990’s. It put Jean Paul Gaultier on the fragrance map. For twenty years, there has been a summer release and they have been near slavish retreads of Le Male. Which was why when I received last year’s version I put off giving it a try until months later as I was filling out my database. This was not an imitator of Le Male this was different. An Eau Fraiche with Popeye on the bottle. I was mentally kicking myself for not having written about it. It was a limited edition so I felt like I had missed my window of opportunity. Then my second chance came as the Eau Fraiche was re-released this year with Superman replacing Popeye on the bottle. This time I was not hesitating because Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Superman is a fantastic update which is going to be a great summer choice.

Perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto was asked to be the one to undertake this new interpretation. By choosing an Eau Fraiche Mme Gracia-Cetto had to use ingredients with impact. Subtlety is undetectable when the fragrance is at such low concentration. I don’t think subtle is an adjective that would be often used to describe Le Male. For Le Male Superman each ingredient is pieced together like a comic book gizmo which eventually saves the day. The only holdover notes from Le Male to Le Male Superman are mint and orange blossom in the early going. It eventually converges with a similar base accord but even that has recognizable differences.

Nathalie Gracia-Cetto

Mme Gracia-Cetto wraps that mint in a swirl of aldehydes and ozonic notes. It is an uplifting accord with the mint grounding the less earthbound notes around it. The orange blossom leads into a heart dominated by sage. This is a place where keeping it lighter makes the overall effect better. This is sage and orange blossom as brought to you on a warm breeze. Never more powerful than a locomotive more like a scooter. That is not a criticism as it works very well especially for a perfume designed to be worn in the summer. In the base the mixture of woods and vanilla are still here from the original. The biggest difference is Mme Gracia-Cetto relies on Ambrox as the predominant source of woodiness. The vanilla and tonka bean are still there to make it close enough to the sweet woody foundation that defines Le Male.

Le Male Superman has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Just so people are aware last years’ Le Male Popeye and this year’s Le Male Superman are identical. There is no need to buy one if you have the other. If, like me, you missed Popeye then faster than a speeding bullet you should give Le Male Superman a try.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jean Paul Gaultier.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Bracken Woman- Mud Season

We are in mud season here in Poodlesville. The rains are moving through on schedule the trees are nearly full of leaves while the dead wood is being broken up to be burned in the fire pit. There is a smell to this time of the year. Mud is sharper than moist soil. Conversely the green is softer. Breaking up damp wood releases this wet woodiness. It is an odd accord and it is one which you might not expect to make a fragrance around. Amouage Bracken Woman shows there is a perfume within.

Christopher Chong

One of the reasons I have consistently enjoyed Christopher Chong’s creative direction for Amouage is this ability to find beauty from things like mud season. Mr. Chong is one of the premiere perfume creative directors because he truly does think “out of the box” followed by working with perfumers who bring that vision to fruition. For Bracken Woman he works with two of his more recent collaborators as Dorothee Piot and Karine Vinchon-Spehner return as the perfumers.

Dorothee Piot

Bracken Man which came out previously was a Fougere, capitalization intentional. Bracken Woman pulls back on the intensity while still providing an alternative interpretation of green. From a very green opening Bracken Woman segues through leather which in conjunction with some florals form a wet mud accord to my nose. Before ending with my damp wood by the fire pit.

Karine Vinchon-Spehner

The perfumers open with a much softer green opening reminiscent of new leaves. Galbanum, violet leaves, and fern form the green which have a pinch of berries to remind one of the early fruit growing on runners underneath the green. Early in the transition to the heart a smoky slightly unrefined leather accord sets the stage for the mud. Narcissus provides an indolic modulation which begins the transition from animalic to sharp earthiness. Lily adds back the green while chamomile attenuates the overall effect. The base is my favorite part of Bracken Woman as the perfumers use birch, vetiver, and patchouli to form a damp wood accord. When I am breaking up the dead branches there is an expansive woodiness form the particles being captured in the air which is contrasted by the heavy dampness of the large pieces I’m stacking up. The perfumers capture this as the birch evokes the solid wood while the vetiver is the airier woods. Patchouli adds a lighter version of wet earth for this final phase of Bracken Woman.

Bracken Woman has 24 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’ve had my sample of Bracken Woman for a couple of months. I was so intrigued by this “mud season” perfume I wanted to compare it to the actual thing. I also always enjoy spending extra time with an Amouage release; Bracken Woman was one which paid back that time. As for how close it is to the smells of my backyard right now; I am thrilled to have mud season all year round.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

Histoires de Parfums 101- Five to Get You Started

If there is one person who has been one of the stalwarts of niche perfumery from the earliest days who doesn’t get enough credit it would be Gerald Ghislain. M. Ghislain created one of the first niche brands in 2000 called Histoires de Parfums. This has been one of the most successful brands over the long haul. It has also become impressive for the ability to change with the trends. Histoires de Parfums is one of those brands it is easy to overlook because you have always seen the bottles on your favorite website or in your favorite boutique. I am hoping I can get you to stop and try these five because Histoires de Parfums is worth it.

Gerald Ghislain

My first encounter was in a New York city store. When the sales associate told me that 1740: Marquis de Sade was a combination of immortelle and leather I was already sold. Up until recently the sole perfumer for Histoires de Parfums was Sylvie Jourdet. I am a big believer in how that continuity between creative director and single perfumer can be critical for creating a brand identification. M. Ghislain and Mme Jourdet laid down an early marker as to what that aesthetic would be. 1740 transitions quickly through an iris dominated beginning until Mme Jourdet brings together her leather accord with amber, at first, followed by immortelle. It is one of the great niche perfumes of this century.

Mme Jourdet used amber in its more traditional base component in 1740. For Ambre 114 she serves it up as the core of a luscious gourmand. Using nutmeg early on to set the gourmand style she moves through a floral intermezzo down to a mixture of sandalwood, amber, benzoin, tonka bean, and vanilla. Together it forms an abstract “warm cookies from the oven” accord. It takes amber from Oriental standard to yummy.

Sylvie Jourdet

1969: Parfum de Revolt was meant to evoke the Summer of Love in San Francisco. What I’ve always found here is another more modern take on the gourmand with cardamom and coffee forming that aspect. Before we get there Mme Jourdet opens with a rambunctious peach from which the coffee and green cardamom bubble up from. Patchouli and chocolate provide the finishing touches.

In 2011 M. Ghislain created the Editions Rare collection within the brand. The first three releases were amazing but I am recommending Rosam for the contemporary take Mme Jourdet gave to the staid rose and oud combination. Oud on its own provides an exotic vibe. Mme Jourdet adds to it by using saffron as companion to the rose. Incense completes Rosam with a resinous kick.

A year later another trio was added to Editions Rare of which Vici was the floral part of the triptych. Mme Jourdet used osmanthus and iris as her focal point. Surrounded on top with aldehydes, cardamom, and galbanum. In the base musk, cedar, and patchouli give the woody foundation to Vici.

M. Ghislain has continued to produce perfume and even though this list doesn’t have any of the most recent releases they are worth experiencing, too. These are just the five I think will entice you in to one of the pioneers of niche perfumery.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ex Nihilo Citizen X- Brand Expansion

Just over two years ago I became aware of the Paris perfume brand Ex Nihilo. It has become a brand for whom I look forward to their new releases because the creative direction of the three founders of the brand; Sylvie Loday, Olivier Royere, and Benoit Verdier. They began with a well-thought out brand vision and for the last two years have stuck to that. Starting this past April, they announced a new collection called Iconoclaste meant to celebrate the free thinkers among us. The first release is called Citizen X.

Ex Nihilo Creative Team

The group of perfumers the Ex Nihilo creative team has worked with so far have fit the brand concept. For the first Iconoclaste they chose one of the best perfumers working who has always impressed me with his ability to work creatively when given that freedom, Yann Vasnier. With Citizen X it seems like M. Vasnier has found a place to stretch his ingenuity. Citizen X is a resinous iris perfume. M. Vasnier uses a couple different resins to sandwich the heart of iris.

Yann Vasnier

The resin on top of Citizen X is mastic. Mastic is a lighter version of the green galbanum usually provides to perfumes. By using it for Citizen X M. Vasnier uses that brighter verdancy to good effect as he boosts it with white pepper. The pepper adds a clean piquancy to the lemony woody nature of the mastic. Next come the iris. This iris has some powdery parts but they are mostly background as the earthier character is enhanced by the mastic. The second half of the resins arrive with incense. This is typical incense and it provides both complement and contrast to the mastic. It also helps to keep the powder well in the background. This is where Citizen X spends most of its development. Over hours some musk provides the final roundness to Citizen X.

Citizen X has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Citizen X is a good start to the Iconoclaste collection. M. Vasnier’s use of resins and iris is creatively done while expanding the Ex Nihilo brand overall.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouroud Safran Rare- Going There

There are times when I just want a perfume I’m trying; to go there. What I mean by that is for it to stop attempting to be accommodating by being polite. Sometimes a perfume which is the equivalent of a loud talker has its pleasures. While it doesn’t happen often there are creative teams who do “go there”. One which does is the team behind Amouroud.

Gun (l,) and Donald Bauchner

Amouroud was released in 2016 as an auxiliary brand from The Perfumer’s Workshop. The Perfumer’s Workshop is known to many as the brand behind 1971’s Tea Rose. Tea Rose is one of the best examples of rose soliflore which remains relevant to today. The creative mind behind Perfumer’s Workshop and Amouroud is Gun Bauchner who with her husband Donald created the company. What I like about the idea of Amouroud as an extension of Ms. Bauchner’s previous work is she took on an overcrowded sector of niche perfume and stepped into it with her own vision. Within the name, you can tell that oud was going to be a focal point but it is more than that. It seems like Ms. Bauchner also wanted to take the fundamentals of Middle Eastern perfumery and blend them to her own personal Western aesthetic. Over the six perfumes of the original collection there was an admirable fearlessness to work towards that. To a degree, they all succeed but there was one which rose above the others, Safran Rare.

Claude Dir

For Safran Rare Ms. Bauchner collaborated with perfumer Claude Dir. It shows what Ms. Bauchner’s vision for the brand is. Too many people who made “oud” fragrances made it the centerpiece without really understanding the note, trusting on its uniqueness to carry the day. Ms. Bauchner doesn’t want to lose that quality but she does want to find something else within oud. In Safran Rare she uses the oud primarily as the linchpin of a leather accord suffused with saffron to provide a sweaty lived-in leather fragrance.

If the perfume is called Safran Rare M. Dir surmised you should linger on that ingredient in the early going. The bronze filigree of the spice is presented on a pillow of olibanum which anchors it. Saffron can be the most ephemeral of perfume ingredients, by encasing it in resin M. Dir allows it to persist as the leather accord arises. M. Dir uses oud as one of the pieces which brings sandalwood, benzoin, and vetiver together to form a rich leather accord. What is nice about this accord is it isn’t refined, it is the smell of your favorite leather jacket after you’ve been out dancing and it has the smell of your body in it. It isn’t musky or body odor but it is a dead ringer for the scent which escapes my sleeves when I remove my leather jacket after a night out. The trapped in resin saffron then spreads out over the leather accord into a lusty duet which lasts a long time.

Safran Rare has 10-12 hour longevity and average silage. When I say Amouroud goes there it is this leather accord I am talking about. Most of the time leather is refined or tipped firmly to the animalic. In Safran Rare Ms. Bauchner and M. Dir provide a leather that has lived.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Return of Twin Peaks

On April 8, 1990 I sat down in front of my television to watch the first episode of something claimed to be, “The Series That Will Change TV Forever”. With the discovery of the body of Laura Palmer that lofty goal would be lived up, and down, to over two years by Twin Peaks.

The question of “Who killed Laura Palmer?” would become a societal phenomenon while creators Mark Frost and David Lynch took us on a circuitous path to that answer. By the time, we got to the end of the first nine episodes we had become drawn into a new storytelling format for the small screen. It was unclear if Mr. Lynch’s cinematic style would work on something much smaller. Turns out the claustrophobia of the typical 19-inch television added to it. Working with Mr. Frost every step closer to answering the central question added more texture to the story. Every visual that could be tweaked for comedic or dramatic effect was. The music by Angelo Badalamente was its own character providing the ratcheting nature of tension within some of the key scenes. Those first nine episodes were something that was going to change TV except they forgot to tell us who the killer was leaving us hanging until many episodes into the second season to find out. The answer was worth the wait.

The problem was for this show was what was next? Over much of the rest of the second season Twin Peaks was weird and disturbing but without a central narrative it became more fractured in nature. It also suffered from Mr. Lynch not being as constant a presence. That lack would be confirmed as he came back for the final episodes. During the final episode, the spirit of Laura Palmer tells our hero “I’ll see you again in twenty-five years”. That was in June of 1991. In May of 2017 it turns out she will be off by a year as Twin Peaks makes its return on Showtime.

We were left on a pretty big cliffhanger which I suspect will be where this new run of episodes will begin. I sit here hours before finding out the answer but I think Mr. Lynch and Mr. Frost helped to create the television environment which will allow Twin Peaks to thrive in. The impact of the original two seasons showed those who approve new shows audiences would flock to, and stick with, something completely different. This allowed for the great run of television drama we are in right now. Almost to a man or woman the creative teams mention Twin Peaks as a source of inspiration.

The great thing for this new 18-episode season all of them were written by Mr. Lynch and Mr. Frost; with every episode directed by Mr. Lynch. Many of the original actors are returning to their roles while new characters are introduced. I’m not sure what to expect which is one of the reasons I can’t wait to find out. Okay Laura I’m here; it’s been twenty-five years, tell me a story.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Cool Water Wave and He Wood Cologne

As I work my way through giving a try to everything which makes its way to me there are times some of the flankers command a little more attention than usual. When I think they’re really good I’ll do my usual wearing of them for their own review. When I think they might be above average and worth my mentioning I do one of these Flanker Round-Ups. As I was testing the summer releases for 2017 I was intrigued that two of the original mass-market brands turned out something more than the run of the mill. A caveat to this I only wore each of these on one arm for a weekend morning making these less informed reviews than I normally write.

Cool Water Wave

I think Cool Water is one of the great perfumes ever made. When Pierre Bourdon essentially created the aquatic genre of perfume in 1988 it truly was an inflection point for the industry. Davidoff has ever since used that phenomenon to create yearly flankers of Cool Water. Most of the time they don’t present much of anything different this year’s version Cool Water Wave does.

I smelled Cool Water Wave before knowing who the perfume team was behind it. My first impression was a modern take on the classic fougere M. Bourdon originally created. When I learned the perfumers behind it were Antoine Lie, Francis Kurkdjian, and Jean Jacques it was easy to see where that modernity came from.

Cool Water Wave begins with grapefruit and Sichuan pepper. The choice to allow the spicy pepper to point towards the sulfurous undertone of grapefruit is what first caught my attention. This is followed up with the rough green of birch leaves over the chill of gin-like juniper berry. These early phases are what is worth giving Cool Water Wave a try. It ends on a generic sandalwood which does nothing but act as an ending place.

Cool Water Wave has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

He Wood Cologne

In 2007, He Wood was released and immediately became a big seller. My explanation for the popularity of this perfume is when someone wanted a woody perfume you can’t go wrong with one which has the word in the name. Perfumer Daphne Bugey combined fir, cedar, and vetiver into something for the man who wanted wood and nothing else. I was not that man. Whenever I have subsequently received other releases over the years it was almost always described on my spreadsheet as,” wood and lots of it”. Nothing wrong with a fragrance that lacks nuance; there is obviously a market for it. Which was why when I tried He Wood Cologne in celebration of the 10th anniversary I expected to do the same.

Except the strip I sprayed it on had more than wood and lots of it. There was a citrus cologne top and the violet heart has some room to make an impression. The same thing happened when it was on my skin. Mme Bugey got the opportunity to find more than woods in He Wood Cologne.

The biggest change is a snappy citrus accord of lemon, orange, and ginger which immediately provided a cologne-like feel. The fir that the original opened with is still here but the citrus is on an equal footing and both are kept at a way softer volume than the original. That is what I think allows the violet to breathe some life into this as it makes an impression before the cedar and vetiver remind you what this perfume is the cologne version of.

He Wood Cologne has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you’ve walked away when seeing a new Cool Water of He Wood on the department store counter stop and give these a try on a strip. You might be surprised, too. Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Davidoff and He Wood.

Mark Behnke