New Perfume Review Banana Republic 17 Oud Mosaic-Fragrance Safari

When I got my first professional job in 1984 a large amount of my wardrobe came from the store Banana Republic. The whole adventure safari vibe of the store appealed to me. By 1995 when the brand branched out in to fragrance I had moved on. It wouldn’t be until 2006 when I seriously checked out a Banana Republic fragrance called Black Walnut. Perfumer Harry Fremont made a well-balanced tobacco and cedar fragrance that was good for the price. It was time for me to check back in another ten years on as they release a new five fragrance collection in celebration of their upcoming 40th anniversary of their founding in 1978.

The collection is dubbed the Banana Republic Icon Collection. It is made up of five different fragrances each representing one of the five decades of the brand’s existence. Each fragrance leads with the last two numbers of the year and decade they represent. Some, like 90 Pure White, is so emblematic of the rage for clean white musks in the 1990’s it seems historical. Most of them are straightforward but there was one which stood out 17 Oud Mosaic.

Claude Dir

17 Oud Mosaic is meant to represent 2017 and was composed by perfumer Claude Dir. Now don’t get fooled by the name there isn’t even a tiny bit of oud here; there isn’t even an oud accord. What “oud” must be shorthand for is Oriental. If it was re-named 17 Oriental Mosaic that would be more accurate. M. Dir combines some interesting choices to form a contemporary Oriental.

Those interesting choices come right from the top as M. Dir chooses white pepper and plum to open 17 Oud Mosaic. The spicy fruitiness leads to a heart of Turkish rose along with cardamom and saffron adding to the spiciness. It is this spicy fruity floral accord which captured my attention. There are hints of leatheriness from the saffron, the cardamom provides a freshness, the rose radiates in waves throughout. It ends on a generic musky amber base accord.

17 Oud Mosaic has 4-6 hour longevity and average sillage. The longevity is pretty low but for $25 you can freely reapply.

If you’re kicking around the mall I would suggest giving the Icon Collection a try. 17 Oud Mosaic is the least derivative but the others also have appeal, too. Well worth taking a fragrance safari on a shopping trip.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Banana Republic.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Blossom Love- Come On In!

Amouage is one of my favorite perfume brands. Creative director Christopher Chong has made it the epitome of what artistic perfumery should aspire to. His visionary art direction has consistently taken risks. He has made Amouage stand for a particular exploratory place in the fragrance world. All that makes it a difficult brand to recommend because the collection is so unusual. Last year it seems like Mr. Chong also realized having a more welcoming entry point to the Amouage aesthetic would be helpful. The result was Lilac Love the first scent in the Secret Garden Collection. I thought Lilac Love succeeded in being a gentler version of the Amouage aesthetic more easily accessible. This has been borne out through the last year as I successfully recommended it many times with very positive feedback for doing so. Amouage has now expanded the Secret Garden Collection with Blossom Love.

Christopher Chong (photo: Ben Rayner)

As much as I complain about too many rose fragrance releases in the spring; in 2017 I received a few excellent cherry blossom focused new perfumes of which Blossom Love is one. Lilac Love was a floral gourmand composed of lilac accord, orris, and chocolate. The same perfumers, Elise Benat and Nathalie Lorson, repeat the floral gourmand style for Blossom Love. This time the trio of notes are a cherry blossom accord, amaretto accord, and vanilla.

Elise Benat

Most cherry blossom fragrances start gently but the perfumers open Blossom Love with a bit more volume. Their cherry blossom has depth provided by a syrupy rose which elegantly supports the gentle blossoms. It gives the early moments the presence familiar to Amouage fans without also adding in the also typical complexity. This is why I see Blossom Love as something more easily accessible as any perfume lover can just sink in to the cherry blossom without complexity getting in the way. Next the amaretto accord appears and it is more almond and less boozy than I expected. There is a subtle hint of alcohol but it is the sweet almond which arises to meet the cherry blossom. It is a soothing duet of ingredients kept at a moderate level; anymore and it would become cloying but the perfumers have pitched it correctly. Comforting vanilla bolstered by toasty tonka are the final part of Blossom Love. In the last hours, it has firmly become a cherry almond vanilla dessert fragrance.

Nathalie Lorson

Blossom Love has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I was already excited at the prospects of being able to use Lilac Love to introduce Amouage to perfume lovers. Blossom Love will be just as affable an introductory experience. Step into the entryway to one of the best perfume brands out there.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Penhaligon’s Paithani- Graduation Day

In the US, it is graduation season as every weekend sees a new group of young people in caps and gowns trailing proud family members behind them. Graduation signifies a change in circumstance as high school, or college, ends and the next part of each graduate’s life begins. For a perfumer at one of the established oil houses as they work their way up they eventually “graduate” to their first brief for a perfume. When I was working at CaFleureBon, Editor-in-Chief Michelyn Camen; introduced me, in 2010, to one of these young perfumers at the beginning of his career; Alexander Lee. Ms. Camen’s interview shows what the early days of an aspiring perfumer are like. Three years later Mr. Lee entered the contest to have his fragrance chosen as the 5th Anniversary perfume of Esxence; the Milan-based perfume exposition. That perfume was called Etoilegance. In it Mr. Lee took advantage of a new raw material called Bushman’s Candle. I reviewed it for CaFleureBon and I closed the review with this quote, “this feels like the work of a perfume star in the making.” His career as a perfumer has now reached the stage where he is releasing perfumes to the public he has composed. His first three were European releases for Ungaro. I was hoping something I could get in the US would be forthcoming and now it is.

Alexander Lee

Penhaligon’s has a collection called Trade Routes where they capture one of the original ports of call on the sailing ship trading journeys. For the latest two releases; Paithani and Agarbathi, India is the destination. This was the concept given to Mr. Lee to turn into perfume. Agarbathi is a trip to a Hindu temple where the smell of incense intertwines with jasmine and sandalwood. It is nicely done but it was Paithani which grabbed me. Paithani was inspired by masala chai the spicy tea and milk drink. Mr. Lee does create a chai fragrance but what impressed me was his ability to capture the accord so well before heading into a leather base accord.

Mr. Lee starts with a blend of three spices; cardamom, nutmeg, and black pepper. The latter is one of Mane’s Jungle Essence extracts which are exquisite materials to work with. What that brings to the top accord is a pure spiciness which frames the cardamom and nutmeg in a feistier setting. It is that nose-tickling smell of entering a spice market and taking your first breath. For the chai tea accord in the base Mr. Lee fashions a creamy milk accord and instead of using black tea, as in real chai, he chooses to use the green tea mate. Mate can be problematic as a raw material as it sometimes carries an unfortunate bite. In Paithani Mr. Lee balances it with the milk accord so those obstreperous aspects are removed. Every perfumer creates their own leather accords; for the base Mr. Lee’s is that of a piece of well-worn leather luggage. It has a subdued influence which allows amber and cedar to complete the base accord.

Paithani has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I wore Paithani I imagined Mr. Lee wearing a cap and gown as I could experience his style of perfume composition for the first time on a commercial release. Throughout the days I wore it I also felt like my assessment of him as a perfumer to keep an eye on was also confirmed. Mr. Lee joins my coterie of Young Guns in whom I believe comprise the next generation of perfumery. Go try Paithani, and Agarbathi, and introduce yourself to his fragrances. I think you’ll join me in looking to see what comes next after Graduation Day.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Penhaligon’s.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: American Gods

One of the great things about all the choice we now have for our video entertainment is it has ushered in an age of television and movies that can find the right way to adapt a literary source. When I was a teenager and we would have these discussions about what actor would play what beloved literary character; in my head was “never gonna happen”. Now, even the most fractious literature can be turned into vision. When I read American Gods by Neil Gaiman back in 2001 I thought “never gonna happen” because a complex pastiche of vignettes and stories seemingly would never translate to a smooth visual narrative. Turns out it has happened as the first season of American Gods is wrapping up on Starz.

The central premise of Mr. Gaiman’s story is because America was founded by immigrants each brought the gods of their home with them to this new country. It allowed each of the Old Gods to find a foothold to provide enough worship and sacrifice to keep them going. As we enter the present day there are New Gods; Technical Boy, Media, and Mr. World. The story is America has arrived at a tipping point where the New Gods can potentially remove the Old Gods from the country, probably dooming them.

The protagonists in the story are Shadow Moon who is released from prison after serving his sentence only to find out his wife Laura dies in a car accident. On his way home, he meets Mr. Wednesday who hires him as his bodyguard/assistant. Shadow becomes the reader’s, and viewers’, window into the machinations of the world of American Gods.

Neil Gaiman (l.) and Bryan Fuller

This is difficult story material to tell visually except the person they hired to do it is one of my favorite television creative minds; Bryan Fuller. Mr. Fuller has a way of telling fractured fairy tales as exemplified by his series Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, and Pushing Daisies. It turns out many of the themes of American Gods are ones already explored in those previous series.

Throughout the first season Mr. Fuller has overseen an adaptation which I am much fonder of than the book it is based upon. I liked Mr. Gaiman’s book fine but I have never adored it as much as most who are fans. Mr. Fuller’s adaptation I am brought in to in a way the book didn’t. The reason is Mr. Fuller has made a change to the book and it turns out to be for the better.

Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) and Laura Moon (Emily Browning) on the road

As I mentioned Laura Moon dies in a car accident. She is brought back to life after which she meets a leprechaun who stands six feet tall. For his own reasons, Mad Sweeney wants to help Laura fully resurrect from her walking dead woman status. Throughout the first season their relationship is like an odd couple road comedy. It is funny and the actors are fantastic in the roles, Pablo Schreiber plays Mad Sweeney and Emily Browning plays Laura Moon.

In the book, they play supporting roles to Shadow and Mr. Wednesday. In the television series, they are almost the main reason to watch. It culminated in the penultimate episode titled “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney”. The episode used one of the more interesting plot devices in both novel and series. Sprinkled throughout are vignettes titled “Somewhere in America” followed by a date. Each mini story tells of a God and how it deals with its worshippers in America. The tales are narrated by Mr. Ibis who works at a funeral parlor with Mr. Jacquel. Mr. Ibis is compelled to write these stories down as they come to him. “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney” is an entire episode in which Mr. Ibis relates the story of Essie MacGowan. How she ends up in American and brings Mad Sweeney with her. Ms. Browning also plays Essie. The episode displays the parallels between Essie and Laura. Where we see how it all turns out for Essie we are left wondering if that is also in store for Laura. Mr. Schreiber is having a gigantic amount of fun playing Mad Sweeney. In this episode, he gets to show off what he can do. If you have any desire to see if the series is to your liking this is the episode to try. Here is the funny thing almost everything in this episode is not in the book.

Mr. Ibis as played by Demore Barnes

I’m not sure if that is going to be a problem in the long run because what has made me enjoy American Gods the series more than the book has been Laura and Mad Sweeney. I know where the book heads from the ending of this season and there are still are still big moments for both but not a lot. Even though I am worried; this is what makes Mr. Fuller such an engaging storyteller. He has a way of creating characters with whom I want to spend hours watching.

The first season has just come to an end so you can binge watch all eight episodes if you want. Also, the book is a great beach read. Both have their pleasures and there are seemingly enough differences that experiencing both, enhances both.

Mr. Gaiman’s universe of Gods, Old and New, fighting for the attention of Americans has found the right time along with the right visionary in Mr. Fuller to turn “never gonna happen” to something patently untrue.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Marc Jacobs Bang- Would You Like Some Pepper?

It is a funny thing that I enjoy not being part of the crowd. Yet I want the general public to admire what I admire. It makes no sense but I know it is how I feel. When it comes to fragrance I feel it most often when a mass-market perfume tries to bring a niche sensibility to a perfume being sold at the mall. The Dead Letter Office is full of these attempts because consumers usually don’t know what to make of these very different perfumes next to the safe fragrances they know right next to them in the department store. One great example of this is 2010's Marc Jacobs Bang.

Marc Jacobs advertising Bang

In 2010 consumers were given two very different choices when they showed up at the Men’s Fragrance counter. In the summer of that year Bang and Bleu de Chanel were released within weeks of each other. For the second half of 2010 there was a referendum on what comprised success in the masculine mainstream fragrance world. If you were going to play it safe Bleu de Chanel was a “greatest hits” collection of every popular masculine accord of the previous twenty years. Bang was going to see if you were willing to leave the well-trod road for something more adventurous.

Ann Gottlieb

Marc Jacobs had been producing perfume since 2001. As a brand it had been primarily focused on perfumes marketed to women. Only 2002’s Marc Jacobs Men was aimed at men. By 2010 Marc Jacobs has produced two huge mainstream women’s successes in Daisy and Lola. As Mr. Jacobs and co-creative director Ann Gottlieb considered a new masculine perfume they decided to go with one of the perfumers who worked on Lola, Yann Vasnier.

Yann Vasnier

M. Vasnier has been one of those perfumers who, when given the opportunity, will happily add in niche aesthetics to the mainstream. As we headed past Y2K in the niche world black pepper was having a moment. Black pepper had been used as a supporting ingredient especially with the spicy varieties of rose. Italian perfumer Lorenzo Villoresi released Piper Nigrum which was a shot of pure black pepper. Just as the internet perfume forums were forming Piper Nigrum was one of the most talked about fragrances in those early days. Black pepper would start regularly appearing as a focal point in fragrances like L’Artisan Parfumeur Poivre Piquant, Penhaligon’s Opus 1870, or Viktor & Rolf Antidote. For Bang M. Vasnier was going to see if a more general consumer was ready for some black pepper.

The opening of Bang is not simply black pepper as M. Vasnier uses pink peppercorns and white pepper as leavening notes to keep the black pepper from hitting like a sledgehammer. Even so that top accord carried a great deal of presence pretty much making a consumer confront their feelings on wearing black pepper from the first moment. Even the woods in the heart were led by the rougher edged birch which enhanced the piquancy of the pepper instead of toning it down. Only in the base was the transparently resinous accord where any measure of safety could be found.

Bang has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I have loved Bang from the first moment I tried it. Which is why that might be why it is in the Dead Letter Office. Bang was not a tiny step toward niche sensibilities it was more like being shoved through a door and having it locked behind you. Whenever I was out shopping during the 2010 Holiday season I recommended Bang time after time only to have those shopping with me pick up the Bleu de Chanel gift set.

Bleu de Marc Jacobs?

Bang was gone from the department stores by 2015 while Bleu de Chanel has become one of the best-selling men’s fragrances in the world. Marc Jacobs would even ask M. Vasnier to make another perfume a year later called Bang Bang, which was more Bleu de Chanel like. Even down to the color of the bottle. That had no more success than Bang. In 2010 when given a choice the public went with safe while Bang, and Bang Bang, was on its way to the Dead Letter Office.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Eric Buterbaugh Florals Nick’s Sunflower- Milliner’s Abstract

Those of you who know me have rarely seen me not wearing a hat. I have worn and loved hats most of my life. Which means when others aspire to other expensive purchases, like shoes, I want a hat. Whenever I am in Barney’s there are a brand of fedoras I just want. They are made by Venice Beach, California fashion designer Nick Fouquet. They are gorgeous amazingly made hats which have one consistent detail, a matchstick somewhere on the brim. It acts as Mr. Fouquet’s logo. There have been several milliners who have successfully collaborated on a fragrance. Mr. Fouquet decided to team up with Eric Buterbaugh to creatively direct Eric Buterbaugh Florals Nick’s Sunflower.

Nick Fouquet (l.) and Eric Buterbaugh (Photo: Eric Minh Swenson)

Mr. Buterbaugh really enjoys the creative process which he starts by going through proposals with different perfumers. Last year’s Kingston Osmanthus grew out of a discussion with perfumer Alberto Morillas when he spoke of his affection for osmanthus. This year Mr. Buterbaugh and Mr. Fouquet got more abstract as they began to imagine what a flower without a scent should smell like if it had one; sunflower. They asked the perfumers Mr. Buterbaugh has worked with in the past to give their impressions of what a sunflower should smell like. Perfumer Ilias Erminidis would be the one who convinced Mr. Fouquet and Mr. Buterbaugh he had the right vision for Nick’s Sunflower.

Nick Fouquet Sunflower Top Hat (Photo: Eric Minh Swenson)

We grow lots of sunflowers and have for years. I can attest to the lack of scent from the flower. The stalk has a strong green vegetal scent. Which I expected to be a part of Nick’s Sunflower. Except Mr. Erminidis wasn’t trying for realism he was more interested in interpreting the way the flower looks as fragrance. Which means Nick’s Sunflower is a perfume of sunlight on the corona surrounding a darker center without ever being too dark.

Ilias Erminidis

It is with the brilliant yellow petals where we start. Mr. Erminidis uses lime blossom, quince, lychee, and nectarine to create a sweet solar flare. Then to remind us this is a flower a delicate application of narcissus leads us into the next circle of muted yellow made up of disc florets. Mr. Erinidis interprets this as a diffuse floral of tiare and jasmine. The tiare is an excellent choice because it adds a summery freshness over the remains of the narcissus along with the jasmine. As we move into the cluster of seeds at the center osmanthus, muscenone, and ambrox form that accord. Ambrox provides the hint of the coating of the seeds while osmanthus adds its leather face; maybe the figurative matchstick? Muscenone is one of my favorite musks because it carries a suppleness to it which Mr. Erminidis uses here to soften the final phase.

Nick’s Sunflower has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Nick’s Sunflower is an ideal summertime floral perfume. It was at its best on an over 90-degree day I wore it on. It is definitely going to be something I wear throughout the upcoming summer. Mr. Fouquet and Mr. Buterbaugh collaborated successfully in bringing their vision of a sunflower to a perfume. My only question is where is the matchstick on the bottle?

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Eric Buterbaugh Florals.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fath’s Essentials L’Oree Du Bois- Ode to Gold

We are told in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”, “All that glitters is not gold”. When it comes to golden notes in perfume they tend not to glitter they more often glow. In Fath’s Essentials L’Oree Du Bois a study in glowing gold fragrance is proof of this.

Rita Haywoth cutting the cake at her wedding to Aly Khan (r.) in 1949

For 2017 the creative director for Fath’s Esentials, Rania Naim, collaborated with perfumer Luca Maffei on four new releases. The collection is defined overall by capturing the “la Joie de Vivre” that was designer Jacques Fath’s guiding light. L’Oree du Bois is the name of the wedding dress and trousseau M. Fath designed for actress Rita Heyworth on her 1949 marriage to Aly Khan. When you look at the wedding dress in the picture above you see a minimal aesthetic applied to a formal garment. It carries understated streamlined sophistication. All four of the new Fath’s Essentials designed by Sig. Maffei share that design aesthetic. For L’Oree Du Bois he finds a way of combining golden notes which glow but also finds room for some spiciness and bitterness to provide some bite.

Luca Maffei (l.) and Rania Naim

The focal point of the top accord is yellow mandarin and mimosa. The source of the mimosa is golden mimosa which is a version of the floral species which blooms in the winter. When these blooms capture sunlight, they illuminate in to tiny glowing orbs. In the fragrance, the mandarin plays the part of the sunlight transforming the mimosa into pulsing life. There is some neroli, ylang-ylang, and broom here but the main supporting note in the top accord is saffron. It disperses itself through the mandarin and mimosa like copper strands. A lively spicy intermezzo of cumin and cinnamon sets up the use of a honey raw material which has been isolated to give it a corona of bitter sweetness around the more usual viscous goldenness. The base is mainly a creamy sandalwood which supports all the glowy goodness that preceded it.

L’Oree Du Bois has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

One thing about Sig. Maffei is his desire to find a way to add new raw materials into his fragrances. The honey in the heart is that innovation. Sig. Maffei uses it as part of an ode to gold that is L’Oree Du Bois.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Fath’s Essentials.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Demeter Pistachio Ice Cream- Ice Cream Parlor

We have been having our first heat wave in Poodlesvile. Which means I have made my first visit to the local ice cream shop. There is a scent to the mixture of chilly air and vats of frozen treats. There have been few perfumes which have tried to capture this particular scent. If you were going to guess a brand which might try it would probably not take too many attempts to end up saying Demeter. The 2014 release Pistachio Ice Cream is an ice cream parlor in a bottle.

For the purposes of this column I could spend a year discussing the perfume brand run by Mark Crames. For over twenty years their brand identity has been in creating fragrances for less than $20 which are essentially single accord perfumes. Except these are not the single accords you might expect. Two of my favorite entries are one of the earliest releases Dirt and Funeral Home. Both of these capture exactly what is advertised on the label. The latter is particularly apt to compare to Pistachio Ice Cream because Funeral Home evokes subdued floral notes in a very chilly room. Pistachio Ice Cream embeds some gourmand facets inside a similar refrigerated accord.

Mark Crames

Pistachio Ice Cream uses a nutty note along with a light green note to form the pistachio. If you’ve ever smelled actual pistachio ice cream you will recognize this. It isn’t the nut it is the processed version crushed into a vanilla cream. The cream accord is vanilla and something which makes it creamier. Then the chill air accord settles over it all. I have not figured out exactly what produces it but the Demeter team does it as good as anyone. It pulls together the ingredients into two scoops of fragrant fun.

Pistachio Ice Cream has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you’ve ever had an interest in what single accords in perfumery smell like Demeter is like a reference library. The entire collection is an educational experience in that regard. Most of us just want to smell good and the Demeter perfumes also achieve that. In the best cases, of which Pistachio Ice Cream is, it can be educational and fun at the same time. Take a step into Mr. Crames’ fragrant ice cream parlor and chill out for a while.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parle Moi de Parfum Milky Musk- Milk Moustache

Back at the beginning of the year I had a friend who was visiting Paris over the Holidays and I gave her a shopping list. One of her stops was the new line by perfumer Michel Almairac called Parle Moi de Parfum. These kinds of blind buys are difficult for me because I really only have two pieces of information; the name and the note list. I tend to defer to lists that have things I like, which was what I did here. Of those first three, Gimauve de Noel, Woody Perfecto and Tomboy Neroli; I could glean a little bit about the aesthetic M. Almairac was designing for his own line. Minimalist compositions with three or four distinct ingredients chosen for their ability to mesh together in accords of their own, Tomboy Neroli was the one I liked best of those first three which mixed a neroli isolate, orange blossom, and amber into a real tomboy of a perfume. I closed that first review wanting to try the other five in the debut collection. It has recently become available in the US and I ordered samples of the other five.

Michel Almairac

Once the samples arrived I learned why I am not smart enough to translate a name and a note list. When I was looking at my choices one of the first I crossed off the list was one called Milky Musk with a note list of, “milk notes”, sandalwood, and musk; I was not excited. I was expecting creamy woodiness with darker synthetic musk. Which shows I was wrong because it is entirely different than that. The milk notes turn out to be a synthetic fig aromachemical. The sandalwood is a version which does have enhanced sweetness and creamy qualities. The musk is a layering of different white musks to form a pillow soft accord which arises when you combine a number of them.

That opening surprised me as I suspect it is stemone mixed with one or two of the creamier lactones. Yes, it is milky but this is like cream skimmed off the top not a hint of sourness anywhere; which was what put me off based on the note list. The sandalwood is another aromachemical with the creaminess amped up. This blends with that fig accord like a long-lost family member. Then this almost olfactory illusion of combining a set of white musks into a soft foundation.

Milky Musk has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

As much as I enjoyed Tomboy Neroli, Milky Musk has become my favorite of the debut collection especially as the weather warms up.

Disclosure: This review based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret- The Shoulder Season

I’ve mentioned in the past we had family friends who had a proper expansive garden. Almost all my scent memories of flowers and gardens come from playing in that garden as a child. One of my favorite times in that garden was the shoulder season when spring has not quite given way to the relentless heat of summer. As my friend Buddy and I would run towards the garden the scent of the flowers at full bloom would reach our noses a split second before the green leaves and grass joined in. It was the moment when nature herself was a powerhouse floral fragrance.

Elisabetta Perris

One of the earliest floral powerhouse perfumes was 1912’s Houbigant Quelques Fleurs. It is not as celebrated as many of the other contemporary perfumes of the time but perfumer Robert Bienaime was trendsetting even though others would have more success with what was initiated in Quelques Fleurs. First is the use of aldehydes. Quelques Fleurs was one of the earliest to use them. Second was to trend away from single flower focal points. Most perfumes chose one floral ingredient followed by many supporting notes. M. Bienaime assembled an all-star floral chorus of lily, jasmine, rose, and carnation. Quelques Fleurs is an unsung innovator of the early days of modern perfumery.

In 2009 The Perris family acquired Houbigant and under the aegis of Elisabetta Perris a consistent effort has been made to honor the past while also making Houbigant relevant to the present day. Ms. Perris has done an excellent job by not hurrying the process. It has been a steady release of perfumes which have the style of the original Houbigant perfumes. As for the innovation Ms. Perris has chosen to work with perfumers who like to try new things. In 2015, she collaborated with perfumer Luca Maffei on Cologne Intense. Now she returns to Sig. Maffei to ask for Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret.

Luca Maffei

I imagine that a perfumer might take a deep breath before agreeing to do a new version of one of the classics. Except in my interactions with Sig. Maffei I have seen his affection for the historical. I have also seen his affection for wanting to write some of his own. Which means he tends to leave his fingerprints on anything he works on. The same is true for Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret.

Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret starts with a fabulous top accord of bergamot, mandarin, and neroli. The original opened similarly except the neroli plays a much more prominent role in the early going. This is a green indolic neroli which sets the stage for Sig. Maffei’s version of an all-star floral chorus as he uses magnolia, rose, and narcissus. This is an expertly blended accord of all three with the neroli providing background along with ylang-ylang and jasmine. Then a modern version of the vintage ambery musk base is composed of sandalwood, amber, and synthetic musks.

Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I have been spending some time with the original Quelques Fleurs in preparation to write this review. I found its power to be overwhelming at times. Which makes sense as the idea of how much is too much was just beginning to be explored in the early days of modern perfumery. Over a hundred years later perfumers have a much better idea of what is the correct balance. Which is why I prefer Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret to the original. It is just better balanced with all the same presence. As I enter the shoulder season this year Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret is going to carry me back to my childhood in the garden.

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

Mark Behnke