New Perfume Review Maison Kitsune x Heeley Note de Yuzu- Perfumery Outside the Lines

No white after Labor Day. Red wine for meat and white wine for fish. Citrus perfume is for summer. These kinds of pseudo-rules are supposed to make our lives easier. They can also have the effect on never allowing us to color outside the lines. Which is silly on my part because it is out on the margins where things can be the most exhilarating. This is the second year in a row when a new citrus focused release has challenged my assertion that citrus is for the dog days.

Masaya Kuroki and Gildas Loaec

When it comes to coloring outside the lines Maison Kitsune has been doing that with their multi-platform stylings founded by Masaya Kuroki and Gildas Loaec. Beginning in 2002 the pair would use the DJ nightlife of Paris as a platform to show off their clothing designs. They opened their first New York Boutique last fall. When I heard they were collaborating with James Heeley and his Heeley brand for their first perfume I was interested enough to get a sample. The trio seemingly enjoyed meshing the Japanese, French, and British aesthetics into a fragrance. The result is Maison Kitsune x Heeley Note de Yuzu.

James Heeley

The basis for the framework are the yuzu baths popular in Japan during the autumn months. Soaking in a wooden tub filled with salt-laden water upon which float slices of yuzu is a fall ritual for many. I was excited because I think one of the very best salt water perfumes is Heeley Sel Marin. I was interested to see if Mr. Heeley and Messrs. Kuroki and Loaec could find some spaces on the margins to create a memorable fragrance.

The yuzu is present right away, but it is presented differently than usual citrus. There is a real sense of humidity around this version of lemon. Instead of crisp brightness there is a muted diffusive effect which is made more pronounced as the sea salt accord rises for the yuzu to float upon. To really give the saltiness some extra texture a bit of seaweed adds a vegetal iodine facet which threads its way through the hot lemon water. I was enthralled by this opening because of the way it renounces the airy sunshine of most sea spray and citrus perfumes. Instead this has a kind of comforting warmth as if I was in the bath. Vetiver provides the sense of the wooden bath tub while the green overwrites the seaweed with something more typical. The final hours of Note de Yuzu are a set of white musks providing a soft slightly powdery final phase.

Note de Yuzu has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I would have never believed Mr. Heeley could have improved on Sel Marin but Note de Yuzu is much better. I think it is because by collaborating with rulebreakers like Messrs. Kuroki and Loaec it brought out a freer style within. Note de Yuzu is what happens when perfumery is practiced outside the lines.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Maison Kitsune.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review April Aromatics Pink Wood- Perfume Genealogy

Looking back with science to find out about our ancestors has become all the rage. There is a desire to understand where you came from to inform where you are going. Unlike the fanciful stories in the commercials I found out my genealogy is exactly as I had been told my whole life. The only thing I discovered is my grandfather’s claim that there was some Cherokee blood was not borne out by science. I found that confirming my ancestry in this way was comforting. My place in the flow of history is anchored by the generations before. When you ask a perfumer to use “roots” as an inspiration you expect the literal application of ingredients which have roots to be used. Independent perfumer Tanja Bochnig took this a step further for April Aromatics Pink Wood.

The beginnings of Pink Wood came from Ms. Bochnig’s entry into the OSA! Competition at the Smell Festival in Bologna, Italy in May of this year. The theme all the perfumers were asked to interpret was “Roots”. I think these kinds of projects can have the effect of taking a perfumer in a different direction than when left on their own. In this case Ms. Bochnig sought to tie notes that are roots to the concept that “home is where the heart is”. This results in a perfume where a heart of layered rose is surrounded by the rooting effect of the earth grounding it all.

Tanja Bochnig

Pink Wood opens with a suite of dried fruits, they provide a concentrated effect without becoming too exuberant. The rose heart is a mixture of geranium and Turkish rose. The latter has a rich spicy core which is enhanced here. The remnants of the fruits provide sweet contrast while the geranium drapes it in a green tinted veil. This is a rose accord which evolves minute-by-minute and as the roots ensnare it that is when Pink Wood takes off. Oud, sandalwood, labdanum, oak wood, and aged patchouli are the roots below the rose. The oud swirls through the heart, like smoke from a brazier with oud chips burning within. Sandalwood provides a steady platform for the heart accord to rest upon. Oak accentuates some of the rougher aspects of the oud while labdanum coats it all in a resinous shell. The linchpin to the base accord is an aged patchouli from Indonesia. Used sparingly it unites the disparate genes in the base into a cohesive whole upon which the rose heart can rise above in glorious waves.

Pink Wood has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Pink Wood is among the best perfumes Ms. Bochnig has released. It has a dynamic profile not often found and my description above does not capture that quality adequately. There is the concept of life in motion grounded by the earth below. In the OSA! Competition Pink Wood finished third which makes me wonder how good the other two above it were. For 2017, Pink Wood is one of the best perfumes of the year.  

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Is It Suspense or Horror?

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Earlier this week in the hive mind that is Facebook a friend put out the following question, “Could you recommend a not bloody horror movie to watch with her teenager?” Always happy to participate in these kinds of things I immediately typed out “The Sixth Sense”. That was when it got interesting as one of the other worker bees responded, “that isn’t horror that is suspense.” As soon as I saw it I knew I agreed which got me thinking about the difference.

Alfred Hitchcock

I began my thought experiment with Alfred Hitchcock who was dubbed the “Master of Suspense”. His movies were all about slowly bringing a viewer along with a plot where the threads slowly braid together, then continue to tighten until the strands break. One of the best examples of this type of suspense is in the 1954 film “Rear Window”. The main protagonist is confined to a wheelchair and spies on the neighboring building. Early on he thinks he sees a murder. The rest of the movie is the question of whether he saw what he saw and if he did is he in danger?

Much of what we consider suspense these days are new artists riffing on the playbook Mr. Hitchcock created. Despite the sobriquet lauding his skill at suspense he also made two of the all-time horror movies; “Psycho” and “The Birds”. The difference in both is the monster is evident with our heroes trying to find a way to survive.

Which is what makes “The Sixth Sense” suspense. The movie spends its running time revealing a secret. The pinnacle of modern suspense is director David Fincher’s “Se7en”. The movie chronicles two detectives tracking down a serial killer inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins. As each murder scene is discovered it brings the policemen ever closer to the killer until the movie reaches a chilling climax. “The Silence of the Lambs” is another movie where the monstrous villain is but a piece of the ever-tightening tension within the overall movie. Because both are seen from the perspective of law enforcement instead of the killer we are drawn in as an audience to want resolution while it seemingly stays out of reach.

Horror displays its wares out in the open from early on. From the moment the young girl Regan is possessed by the demon in “The Exorcist” the question is not where is the monster but how can we stop this? It applies equally as well to the slasher automatons like Michael Myers of “Halloween”, Jason of “Friday the 13th” or Freddy Krueger of “Nightmare on Elm Street”. One of my favorite scenes in this movie is after Michael Myers has been stabbed in “Halloween” the young child says, “Don’t you know you can’t kill the boogeyman?” Just as he rises up in the background. The audience screams and the final act is underway.

There are elements of both horror and suspense in many of the films mentioned but in the end they tend to reside mostly on one side of the horror/suspense divide more completely. It is the time of year to for fear to be in the air whether it is through suspense or horror it is part of what makes movies magical.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Abercrombie & Fitch Ellwood- The New Scent of the Mall

Whenever I speak about perfume with people who are not into fragrance I try to gently point out they are surrounded by it. The easy ones are their soaps and shampoos, their fabric softener, and their spray room freshener. I point out that even the places they go have specific scents; the bakery, the coffee house, the movie theatre, or the pizza place. I almost always end up using the mall as one of those examples because for fifteen years there has been an actual perfume which is the smell of every mall which has an Abercrombie & Fitch store in it.

For those who are unfamiliar with the story Abercrombie & Fitch actually adds their cologne Fierce to their air system. Which not only permeates the store but generally the entire level of the mall the store is situated on. It can make for an interesting confluence when it is in the proximity of the food court or movie theatre. I have always thought Fierce is one of the best mass-market fragrances. It has been said it is the current generation’s version of Ralph Lauren Polo. Which is why it being this fragrance of the mall was fitting.

At the beginning of the summer as part of a number of changes Abercrombie & Fitch are going through they announced that Fierce was no longer going to be the scent of the store anymore. They were replacing it with one of their new unisex collection, Ellwood. Times change and brands which don’t keep up will find themselves left behind. I thought it was a good idea and sought out a sample set of the new perfumes. If Ellwood was going to be the new scent of the mall I wanted to give it a try.

All three of the perfumes are depressingly simple; Ryder is clean cedarwood with white musk, Hempstead is cypress and vetiver. Ellwood is white musk and bergamot. I am sure the store knows the consumer they want to attract with these but compared to Fierce these are so lacking inspiration it is perplexing to me.

Ellwood is subtitled White Bergamot which is probably because White Linen was already taken. Ellwood is a mixture of the laundry-inspired white musks cut with a bit of the bright citrus of bergamot. That’s it; that’s all there is. It smells like that from the first second to the twelfth hour.

Ellwood has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I think when I visit the mall over the Holidays I am going to be disappointed to walk by Abercrombie & Fitch and have the clean linen smell of Ellwood greet me instead of Fierce. Maybe I’ll head down to Cinnabon to get my scent of the mall from now on.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Abercrombie & Fitch.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Atelier Flou Hora Fugit- New England Autumn

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When I got my first real job in Connecticut the person who had grown up in South Florida was going to have to adjust to New England. It was a gradual effort, but I remember one of my earliest revelations of the joys I would find in my new home.

Candlewood Lake in Fall

I lived near Candlewood Lake and wanted to spend time sailing there as a replacement for my time spent on the ocean. It was a crisp October weekday when I headed down to rent a sailboat and explore the new expanse of water. As I raised the sail and angled it to catch the wind I finally looked up to see the narrow glacier carved lake with the colorful trees covering the ground sloping down to the shore. As the wind sung through the canvas of the sail and the schuss of the water off the bow created an aural component I felt an unusual relaxation I’ve only felt a few times in my life. Every care or worry seemed to dissipate. For the next few hours it was just me, the lake, and the trees. I’ve often wondered what a fragrance which captured that might smell like; Atelier Flou Hora Fugit comes very close.

Jean-Francois Cabos

Atelier Flou is the perfume brand founded in 2009 by Jean-Francois Cabos. Back then I remember trying Katana and liking it quite a bit. Since then the brand sort of fell off my radar. They added a couple more to the original set of eight in 2014. They got back on my radar when many of the attendees at Esxence 2017 spoke highly of Hora Fugit. Having recently received a sample I saw why from the moment I opened the vial. It is a comfort scent from first to last.

Jacques Chabert

M. Cabos has worked exclusively with perfumer Jacques Chabert on all eleven Atelier Flou releases. M. Chabert has been turning up in many interesting places of late. Most of the time he is harnessing new materials in unique ways. Hora Fugit is something different where some of the comfort comes with familiarity but much more of it comes from the seamless blending of the notes into a comfy perfume.

Lavandin is the focal point early on. It carries a slightly mentholated air which laurel and bergamot enhance. It is like a breath of cool, not cold, air. I found it gently refreshing. M. Chabert then constructs a hull of cedar and sandalwood. These are the clean lines of wood in fragrance writ large. Vetiver and patchouli help add some variety to the stolid woods. A soft transparent leather accord gently spiced with nutmeg and sweetened with benzoin finish the accoutrements on this fragrant vessel.

Hora Fugit has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Hora Fugit is an interesting perfume it is familiar tropes done in a way which makes it seem less familiar. The overall effect is enjoyable because of that. If you’re looking for a perfume of New England Autumn. Hora Fugit will suffice.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Nicolai Patchouli Sublime- From the Ridiculous

Thomas Paine in “The Age of Reason” opines that there is but one step between ridiculous and sublime. It is a defining juxtaposition that within the absurd there can be found something grand. When I received my sample of Nicolai Patchouli Sublime I realized, the name notwithstanding, here was a perfume analog of Mr. Paine’s wisdom.

Patricia de Nicolai has been creating perfumes in either Intense or Sublime versions for many years. Long enough that there are sometimes pairs, as is the case here. In 2009, Patchouli Intense was a dark earthy gourmand patchouli. For 2017 the follow-up Patchouli Sublime has arrived. For the Sublime version Mme de Nicolai wanted to fashion a version that was airier than the Intense. To achieve this an opening fougere-like accord gave me the ridiculous as I struggled mightily with it. Only to find about an hour later the sublime beauty of patchouli and geranium to combine into something grand.

Patricia de Nicolai

The reason I have for my laughter at the opening is it feels like mint, coriander and lavender come together in a mixture of mouthwash, gin, and room freshener. I understand the desire to create an airy style of top accord except for me it comes off laughably pedestrian. When I first tried my sample on a strip it was only the hints of what was underneath that made me give it a sniff an hour later only to find something entrancing. When I wore Patchouli Sublime the cheap opening took about forty-five minutes to dissipate before the patchouli and geranium thankfully take over. Mme de Nicolai is using a few sources of patchouli where the earthy qualities are tamped down and the greener herbal nature is enhanced. This makes its duet with the green rosiness of the geranium a lovely harmonic. This is a gorgeous heart accord which is given some rounding with tobacco, tonka, and musks. The first two provide a sweeter outline around the keynotes. The musks add their typical animalic sensuality.

Patchouli Sublime has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I admit I have problems with mint in perfume and the mint here is one which makes me think of dental products exclusively. The coriander and lavender also come off poorer because of that. If you are a fan of these notes the opening will probably be much better for you than me. What I can unequivocally say is after that top accord disappears the patchouli and geranium are beautifully realized together. Enough so that Mr. Paine would see his truth within Patchouli Sublime.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Juliette Has a Gun Sunny Side Up- Sandalwood Simulation

I have written in the past how much I enjoy when a perfumer stamps their virtual signature on a creation with an accord. Just the construction of it can be revelatory to the aesthetic of the perfumer. The more fragrance I encounter the more I am drawn to those effects which are created rather than sourced from nature. In Juliette Has a Gun Sunny Side Up perfumer Romano Ricci shows the flexibility working like this can give someone.

The art of modern perfumery is that of composing an accord to mimic something in nature. It provides an abstraction as a perfumer homes in on what they find interesting. It also allows for a more precise way of having a specific effect within an overall perfume by being able to tune it to the desired volume and presence. In Sunny Side Up there are two accords M. Ricci creates one of coconut and one of sandalwood which provide the core of the fragrance. Sunny Side Up is meant to be a beachy perfume and the coconut does give it a suntan lotion vibe, but it is the sandalwood which is the prime focal point which I guess I can stretch to being similar to driftwood.

Romano Ricci

Sunny Side Up opens with that coconut suntan lotion accord. M. Ricci uses the tropical oiliness of jasmine lactone along with actual jasmine sambac, salicylates, and vanilla. It comes together in an unctuous creamy accord that smells of coconut and fruit. It is a happy fun opening. Iris provides a powdery interlude before the sandalwood accord comes up. M. Ricci is using one of the sandalwood aromachemicals. To which he might be adding some other woody synthetics. The result is a desiccated sandalwood lacking some of the sweeter creamy aspects of the real essential oil. It also has cleaner edges more akin to cedar. To provide even more of this effect there is a lot of Iso E super in the base. The only thing modulating it is the use of the botanical musk of ambrette seeds.

Sunny Side Up has 18-20 hour longevity and average sillage.

Both the top accord and the base accord are made up of things which many perfume lovers have issues with; I am one of them. Which is why I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Sunny Side Up. It comes together with a restrained mirth that overcomes my reticence with good humor. Maybe I need more simulation in my life.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Juliette Has a Gun.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Annick Goutal Nuit et Confidences- Creating Space

I try not to use sport metaphors in perfume reviews but every once in a while, it fits what I am thinking. In the sport of basketball as you are on offense and looking for a path to the basket the player with the ball is expected to use their skills to “create space”. What that means is you use footspeed, ball handling skills, or some assistance from a teammate to get free and drive towards the basket for an open shot. When it comes to perfume I think when a brand enters a crowded genre they also must look to create space from their competitors. One of the most crowded spaces for new perfumes is the cozy vanilla. Annick Goutal Nuit et Confidences looks to see if it has the skills to create some space in that sector.

Camille Goutal

A year ago, with the release of Tenue de Soiree creative director Camille Goutal began the Oiseaux de Nuit collection. In my review of that first release I mentioned that this seemed like a pivot point for Annick Goutal to try to attract a younger consumer to the brand. Working with perfumer Mathieu Nardin they managed to keep the Annick Goutal aesthetic within a more transparent style of perfume. Seeing that M. Nardin was once again the perfumer for Nuit et Confidences I presumed this would be the blueprint to be followed again. It is, sort of, but there is a clever twist to add something just a tiny bit more which is where I think they were trying to create some differences.

Mathieu Nardin

The early going is likened to “champagne bubbles and sequin dresses” which I guess I can somewhat see. It is a lively mixture of bergamot, incense, black pepper, and florals. It doesn’t fizz and sparkle so much as smolder on my skin, but this may be semantics. This is a very transparent accord which sets the stage for the vanilla to arrive. The vanilla early on sets up shop in the middle of the spectrum between airy and heavy. Then M. Nardin uses a set of white musks to stealthily push it towards the airy end of the scale. It is a nice effect where it allows the vanilla to move from heavy to light rather than the opposite which is what is most often encountered. This is where Nuit et Confidences makes its move towards the basket.

Nuit et Confidences has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I am liking the direction Annick Goutal is moving in which preserves what made the brand one of the original niche brands while carving out a new space to remain relevant. Mme Goutal and M. Nardin seemingly share a vision of what this looks like as Nuit et Confidences shows that shared confidence.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Annick Goutal.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfumerie Generale Suede Osmanthe 5.1- Changing My Mind

Pierre Guillaume has been one of my favorite independent perfumers because his aesthetic has significant overlap with mine. It doesn’t mean I like everything but I do like, and own, most of what he has done. For the last few years M. Guillaume has been doing a collection called the Rework series where he takes one of his previous releases and re-conceptualizes it. Starting in 2012 he has been working through his Numeraire collection adding a new release with the X.1 designation depending on the original number. Up until now he has done this with perfumes of his I like including some of my favorites. I knew we would eventually get to one of the originals I didn’t care for. Would I find some joy in the Rework? The first data point has arrived in Parfumerie Generale Suede Osmanthe 5.1.

Suede Osmanthe is the Rework of L’Eau de Circe. What does not appeal to me in the original 5.0 is that it is aggressively fruity floral which buries me beneath all of it. Part of it is my reticence to embrace fruity florals. Part of it was the osmanthus was overthrown by the other florals. Just by the name I had a feeling Suede Osmanthe was going to rectify much of what I found lacking in L’Eau de Circe.

Pierre Guillaume

Those of you who have followed my reviews know that osmanthus is one of my favorite ingredients. It is the dual nature of this floral as it carries an apricot and leather character within it. Even the apricot appeals because it carries a darker shading due to the leathery nature of the flower. As the name portends M. Guillaume is looking to explore the deeper aspects of osmanthus.

As much as I was ready for dark osmanthus M. Guillaume wanted to give the apricot its due in a beautifully creative way by loading it on an aldehyde bottle rocket and lighting the fuse. When I sprayed my first spritz of Suede Osmanthe I was expecting the apricot to lead. M. Guillaume packs in a bunch of the fizziest aldehydes and uses them to explode the apricot. It is a literal olfactory explosion which as it dies down leaves an afterimage of the apricot to lead into the leather heart. The synthetic Suederal is there waiting to provide that soft suede effect. As the leathery face of osmanthus peeks out the Suederal embraces it. A black tea blends in to provide a gentle smokiness to this part before a set of the animalic musks bring it home.

Suede Osmanthe has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Suede Osmanthe is as good as it gets from M. Guillaume and especially this Rework collection. I have been very impressed with the last few releases but Suede Osmanthe is the first to turn around my initial opinion of 5.0 with a much better 5.1. The fruity aldehyde transition to the deep leather is excellent every time I wear it; this makes it my kind of fruity floral.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Spider-Man: Homecoming

I’m used to getting behind on my reviews especially as the days left in the year seem to be greater than the amount of perfume on my desk. In this column I usually enjoy writing about whatever is right in front of me. Which is why I don’t know why I failed to write about Spider-Man: Homecoming when it was in the theatres. I’m going to rectify that since it just got released on home video.

If there is something that irritates me when they reboot a superhero franchise it is that they feel like they must repeat the origin story as part of that first movie. I think audiences have long passed not-knowing why a hero has gained their powers especially the biggies like Spider-Man. The first thing Homecoming got right was they didn’t do that. We meet Peter Parker as he narrates his cameo, into his phone video recorder, in Captain America: Civil War. This introduced this version of Peter Parker and Spider-Man way better than another version of Uncle Ben dying would have. It also sets the stakes as less world threatening and more neighborhood threatening. Another thing about this version I admired was returning to the teenaged high school version of the character. It keeps everything on a smaller level as Peter’s relationships get put at risk because of Spider-Man.

Tom Holland as Peter Parker/ Spider-Man

The villains are equally smaller in scope. The Vulture, played by Michael Keaton, and his gang are a bunch of guys who have figured out how to profit off the stray pieces of alien technology strewn throughout New York City in previous Marvel movies. They just want to keep the job they made for themselves. This is a small-scale conflict which never felt small as a story. When it all comes together in the final act the world itself isn’t at stake but a teenager’s world is what’s on the line and it works.

When we first met Tom Holland, the actor portraying Spider-Man, in Captain America: Civil War he felt right in those few minutes he was around. After Homecoming he is my favorite of the three actors who have portrayed the web slinger on screen. I think the choice to focus on a kid with superpowers, and explore that, works because Mr. Holland conveys the thrill of that through his performance. There is a scene very late in the movie where he gets a very unique version of “the dad talk” from his date’s father. His reaction feels authentic throughout as it catalyzes the action in the final act of the movie.

The final choice in the movie is whether to stay in the neighborhood or save the world. The choice is never in doubt because of everything that has happened before. If you stayed away from movie versions of Spider-Man because they didn’t meet your expectations give Homecoming a viewing I think it can bring you back home to the movie franchise featuring your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

Mark Behnke