New Perfume Review Bruno Fazzolari Fontevraud- Deconstructing Chypre

Although I haven’t seen as much of it in 2018 the concept of “deconstructed” perfumes were bandied about a lot last year. What that usually translated to in terms of a perfume was something lighter and all too often banal. There is an ideal within my imagination that if a perfumer is trying to deconstruct something it should be apparent without being told. Which is how I felt while wearing Bruno Fazzolari Fontevraud.

The chypre style of perfume is one of the oldest styles. It has also been one of the most affected by material restrictions, especially on the oakmoss which makes up one of the essential ingredients. It has made it fertile ground for current perfumers to find a way to re-create the accord without the proscribed ingredients. If you can’t use the traditional recipe then this should be something to which deconstruction is an obvious choice. It is what I smelled in Mr. Fazzolari’s creation.

Bruno Fazzolari

The name comes from The Royal Abbey of Fontevraud. It began its days, 900 years ago, as a monastery in France. It would transition to a prison which author Jean Genet refers to in his autobiographical novel “The Miracle of the Rose”. Fontevraud feels to me like a fragrance trying to stage a jailbreak from the norms of chypre construction. The fruity floral chypre is taken for a makeover by Mr. Fazzolari.

That renovation begins with the choice of the fruits; guava and pear. When I saw these on the note list I expected something lush and tropical. Mr. Fazzolari instead pulls off a neat trick by using opoponax along with the fruit. It forms a power-packed opening where the guava and pear eschew lush for ebullient. There is the joy of riding an amusement park ride as you reach the top of the arc to whoosh back to earth with speed. In the case of Fontevraud the top accord zooms towards a spicy rose. Picking it up and accelerating towards the top of the next curve. As it all heads towards the chypre base accord it arrives to find it inverted. Typical chypre accords play off the depth and bite of oakmoss. Mr. Fazzolari pushes the other two ingredients to a more forward position leaving the oakmoss in the background as a supporting player.

Fontevraud has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

The first hour or so of wearing Fontevraud is a powerhouse. If he had used traditional berries as his fruit I am not sure I could’ve taken it. It is to Mr. Fazzolari’s credit that at the high volume, by using different fruit choices, I was kept engaged. Mr. Fazzolari successfully deconstructed chypre without saying a word.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Once Upon A Time

One of my favorite cartoons when I was a child was a segment on the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show called “Fractured Fairy Tales”. In these vignettes the well-known fairy tales were twisted to tell a different story. All of them narrated by Edward Everett Horton it was like having an out-of-town uncle tell you the story you thought you knew in a different way. The current version of “Fractured Fairy Tales” has been unspooling for the last seven years under the name of “Once Upon A Time” on ABC.

The show was created by two of the writers from the show “Lost”; Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. Their idea of the show antedated their time on “Lost” but they found no one was interested in a show about twisted fairy tales. Once “Lost” ended they pitched it to ABC again and this time their concept was picked up.

The story in the beginning was about a small town in Maine called Storybrooke where The Evil Queen had ripped all the classic fairy tale characters to the very not enchanted present day America. Only three characters were aware that they were under a curse; The Evil Queen, Rumpelstiltskin, and the Evil Queen’s son Henry. Henry comes to realize he is the son of a woman named Emma Swan who he needs to make believe that there is such a thing as magic. Henry tricks Emma to come to Storybrooke so she can live up to her role as The Savior.

For six seasons we watched as an extended cast of fairy tale characters would deal with present day dilemmas paralleled with flashbacks to their time in the Enchanted Forest. As it was with “Lost” those flashbacks provided the audience understanding into the basic nature of a character even when they didn’t remember who they were. Prince Charming and Snow White always tried to be the positive solution even when they thought they were David and Mary Margaret. At the end of last season many of our character arcs found their “happily ever after”. This final season has been very interesting as the original villains; The Evil Queen and Rumpelstiltskin are trying to find theirs. It is a testament to Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Kitsis that I am very much hoping for that result to two characters I loved to hate in the early years of the series.  

On May 18 the last page of “Once Upon A Time” will be turned. I am hoping it will be a grand send-off where even the darkest villains can change to find their happiness.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Nina Ricci Signoricci 2- Twin Sons of Different Mothers

One of the easier to explain reasons for a perfume ending up in the Dead Letter Office is a brand which fools with the names of their perfumes. There are many enduring lessons where the moral of the story is not to confuse the consumer. This month’s entry Nina Ricci Signoricci 2 is one of those tales.

If I was asked to make the case for a post-War perfume brand which has been lost in the shuffle of the Grand Maisons I could make a compelling case for Nina Ricci. L’Air du Temps is one of the great early perfumes to arise after World War 2 ended. If you judge this on the modern formulation I hope you have an opportunity to try an earlier version where the floral heart is among one of the most beautiful in all of perfume. The fragrance side of the brand was overseen by Robert Ricci for forty years which saw a signature style of sophisticated fragrances released. Many are also in the Dead Letter Office and the survivors have been reformulated into ghosts of themselves.

Robert and Nina Ricci

Most of the fragrances from this period were marketed to women. It wouldn’t be until 1966 that they entered the masculine market with Signoricci. It was primarily a citrus with a bitter green core which even for someone who enjoys green found it distracting in its intensity. Ten years later the sequel would arrive, Signoricci 2.

Signoricci 2 was composed by perfumer Raymond Chaillan. The first thing he seemingly chose to do was to retain the citrus style but to excise the overt green. M. Chaillan’s vision was to produce a sophisticated citrus with a much more understated green component.

Raymond Chaillan

The opening is a sharper version of lemon with petitgrain providing a more focused effect. The floral heart of carnation and jasmine is lifted by a set of expansive aldehydes. This creates space for a thinner green thread to snake through the perfume. Basil, vetiver, and moss take care of this. It becomes very warm as amber, patchouli, and tonka form a comfy base accord.

Signoricci 2 has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Signoricci 2 fell square into the mid 1970’s powerhouse men’s perfume style. I have treasured my bottle because I think it is one of the best “formal” citrus perfumes I own. It always seemed to me that Signoricci 2 should have had the opportunity to be reformulated to death as the rest of the brand had been.

Except they decided to choose to confuse their consumer. Soon after Signoricci 2 was released they decided to discontinue Signoricci. At the same time, they then decided to drop the “2” from Signoricci 2. Imagine how this worked over the next few years. Someone who finished a bottle of Signoricci who loved the intense green nature goes to the mall and sprays “Signoricci” on a strip sees the green is gone and walks away. The person who bought Signoricci 2 and enjoyed it, as I did, finishes their bottle. Goes to the mall to replace it only to find “Signoricci” minus the “2”. Walking away they wonder what happened to their sophisticated citrus. I have never understood these kinds of decisions because it leads right to the Dead Letter Office.

There is a part of me that would like to see the two descendents of both of the creatives; grandson Romano Ricci and son Jean-Marc Chaillan collaborate on Signoricci 3. Until then Signoricci 2 will do.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Areej Le Dore Russian Musk- You Clean Up Well!

There has always been a sort of backhanded compliment encased in this phrase, “you clean up well.” It generally refers to someone who wears a very casual wardrobe on the day they wear something more formal. It tends to be double-edged in praise because it kind of infers that on a typical day you are sloppy. Seen in a more positive light it can be interpreted to say there is something elegant underneath the casual veneer. When I received the new Areej Le Dore Russian Musk I was reminded of this phrase.

Perfumer Russian Adam has released three sets of perfumes over a little more than a year. Of his inaugural three perfumes the one which generated the most conversation was Siberian Musk. Russian Adam has access to a small quantity of genuine musk from the musk deer. Siberian Musk was probably the first experience with actual deer musk for many who tried it. Because of that Russian Adam set that ingredient out in front and it was the focal point. It sold out quickly causing many to ask when there would be more. The answer; which will probably be true of everything Russian Adam does, is never. That is due to the exquisite small batches produced form equally small-batch ingredients. So, when this latest set of perfumes were released there was a sense that Russian Musk was going to be Siberian Musk Intense. If that is what someone approaches Russian Musk with they will be disappointed, especially if they equate “intense” with stronger. I am not in that group I wanted that deer musk incorporated into something more elegant. Which is what I got from Russian Musk.

Musk Deer Pod

I, again, am working off the information on Russian Musk as supplied via Kafkaesque. I also want to mention that this review refers to what was released in February 2018.

The change is apparent right from the top as lemon is the citrus used as the partner to the pine. In more pedestrian uses it can come off smelling like household cleaning products. In Russian Musk the deer musk provides a soft animalic contrast. One of the days I wore this I was thinking in my head it was like “soft Corinthian musk” as the Spanish leather used to be referred to. This musk has a softness to it which is not encountered in Siberian Musk. It is this softness which will disappoint those looking for Siberian Musk Intense. Then Russian Adam uses a gorgeous orange blossom to provide the main partner for the musk. One of things I like is he uses enough of it to bring the indoles present into the mix. A set of spices in clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon warm the overall effect. The base is a personal co-distillation of Russian Adam’s consisting of four sources of oud wood combined with oakmoss. These special distillations are what sets these perfumes apart. This one here is as amazing as the real deer musk. As it forms the underpinning to the orange blossom and musk it becomes transcendent.

Russian Musk has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I have enjoyed Russian Musk more than any of the Areej Le Dore releases so far. It is probably because it feels like a more refined version of Siberian Musk which appeals more to me. If you are looking for the second coming of Siberian Musk this is not it. If you are looking for an elegant perfume featuring some of the most unique ingredients to be used, then Russian Musk sure cleans up well.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review A Lab on Fire Hallucinogenic Pearl- Bringing Back De Laire Bases

One of the more exciting things to a perfume nerd like me has been the final acquisition of the De Laire perfume bases by Symrise. Unless you read a lot of history that sentence probably underwhelms you. Let me see if I can get you interested. De Laire was a producer of perfume bases in the first half of the 20th Century. The concept was to take the new synthetic fragrance molecules and make them into pleasant accords meant to provide the foundation for a perfume to be built upon. Edmond Roudnitska began his career at De Laire making bases. One of the most famous De Laire bases, Prunol, is married to his use of it. Others you might have heard of are Mousse de Saxe, Amber 83, or Coroliane. These are the foundations of many of the most famous vintage perfumes. Now that Symrise has cleared all the legal hurdles to put these bases back into their perfumers’ rotation I was waiting for someone to use it in a modern perfume. A Lab on Fire Hallucinogenic Pearl is the first I am aware of to do this.

One of the great things about A Lab on Fire is the creative freedom granted their perfumers. Creative Director Carlos Kusubayashi has elicited some of the most innovative work from some of our best-known perfumers. Hallucinogenic Pearl freed Symrise Master Perfumer Emilie Coppermann to look for one of the classic De Laire bases to incorporate. She decided to use Iriseine.

Emilie Coppermann

Mme Coppermann opens with the botanical musk of ambrette paired with baie rose. The gentle herbal nature of the baie rose provides just the right amount of texture to the light musk. One of the things about ambrette is it can be so light as to be too fleeting. By adding in the baie rose it adds more presence. Then the heart begins with a fabulous violet which is everything I enjoy about this in a fragrance. This is where Iriseine comes forward providing iris as the leading edge of the base. What is also here is gorgeous depth courtesy of using a base instead of the iris by itself. For those familiar with the vintage perfumes like L’Heure Bleue which feature the same duo of violet and Iriseine this is many levels softer. It is what I mean when I say I want to see what a modern perfumer can do with a classic base like Iriseine. It is a modern evolution of what a De Laire base can achieve. It finishes with light woods and some synthetic musks recapitulating the ambrette from on top.

Hallucinogenic Pearl has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

The use of this historical base in a modern composition delighted me on every level. Just the shading of the Iriseine and violet would have made the perfume nerd happy. What really made me happy was in the hands of our most talented perfumers it seems like the De Laire bases are back to be used.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by A Lab on Fire.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Philosophy Amazing Grace- Muguet For All

As we approach May Day and the traditional sprig of lily-of-the-valley (muguet) worn in celebration of spring becomes a natural theme for many perfumes. Most are limited editions, and most are kind of pricey. Like anything there are exceptions. One of the most economical perfumes which features muguet is Philosophy Amazing Grace which means it is an appropriate choice for this month’s Discount Diamonds.

Philosophy was founded in 1996, as a beauty brand, by Cristina Carlino. As the brand gained a foothold she decided fragrance should become part of it in 2004. That led to two debut releases Amazing Grace and Pure Grace. Amazing Grace was the one which featured muguet.

Cecile Hua-Krakower

Ms. Carlino founded Philosophy with a concept focused on skin care. By the time she turned to perfume she wanted her fragrances to be uplifting in style accompanied by its own credo on each bottle. For Amazing Grace it says, “in the end it all comes down to one word, grace” right on the bottle. For Amazing Grace, Cecile Hua-Krakower was the perfumer asked to create something which lived up to that. The result is a soft floral as the muguet is nestled within a bed of white musks.

What you first notice though is sparkling grapefruit for the first few minutes. This is a sunny citrus which sets up the appearance of the muguet. Muguet can be very green; Mme Hua-Krakower uses a set of other floral notes to dampen the green while amplifying the floral. Which means before the greener facets can be found jasmine, freesia, and orange blossom run interference. It makes the muguet slightly powdery. Mme Hua-Krakower then layers a number of white musks to form a downy foundation. I have always enjoyed this effect of these style of musks as they become softer than I would have anticipated. By the later stages it is this musk accord which is what remains.

Amazing Grace has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Amazing Grace is one of those kinds of easy-to-wear perfumes I could describe as akin to your favorite t-shirt. Amazing Grace can be found in small bottles for around $20. If you want to wear some lily-of-the valley on your skin instead of pinned to your hair Amazing Grace is a muguet for all.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Berdoues Peng Lai- Osmanthus in a Shade of Gourmand

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There are few florals I enjoy more than osmanthus. Most of the time perfumers take advantage of its dual nature as an ideal transitional floral ingredient. Having dried apricot and leathery qualities are why it works so well in that way. Osmanthus gets used as a keynote much less of the time. To produce a soliflore of osmanthus you just need to let it shine with a few supporting ingredients and get out of the way. Berdoues Peng Lai does just that.

Peng Lai is part of the Grands Crus collection for the brand. These are meant to be location inspired perfumes. Peng Lai is based on the island of flowers overseen by the goddess of flowers, He Xiangu. Osmanthus is lifted out of all the possibilities on the island to star in the perfume. Perfumer Sebastien Martin chooses to provide a satisfying gourmand setting for the osmanthus to radiate above.

Sebastien Martin

Peng Lai is only three ingredients. The first is the osmanthus which is in place right from the start. The dried apricot and the subtle leatheriness are as fascinating as ever to me. This is a nice version of the note which shows off both sides of its inherent nature. M. Martin then makes a couple of nice choices to provide some support. The first is benzoin for warmth. There is a satisfying sweetness to this ingredient and here it gathers up the apricot in its embrace. For the leathery side, tonka also provides a toasted faintly nut-like complement. Once it is all together it comes of as a faintly gourmand-y osmanthus.

Peng Lai has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I really enjoyed wearing Peng Lai. The benzoin and tonka in conjunction with the osmanthus made it an unusual style of comfort scent I wouldn’t have said I was craving. Maybe I need to hope for more gourmand shades to be applied to osmanthus in the future.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Euphorium Brooklyn Ume- Plum Dragon

I have been an admirer of the entire multimedia effort Stephen Dirkes has constructed for his Euphorium Brooklyn brand. I have found his style of perfume to have its own distinctive personality which seems to be closely attuned to mine. Which was one reason why upon receiving the new Spring release, Ume, I knew this would be no pale floral.

Steven Dirkes (Photo by Tal Shpantzer via talfoto.com)

One part of the multimedia I adore is the ongoing tale each new release tells us about the three men from the Euphorium Bile Works in Brooklyn circa 1860. They are Christian Rosenkreuz, Etienne Chevreuil and Rudolph Komodo. Over the first few releases we were introduced to each member of who I refer to as the Bile Works Boys. Now that we have moved past that it has become about their encounters outside of the factory. For Ume the factual event of the arrival of the first Japanese Embassy in 1860 is woven into an accompanying tale. The poet Walt Whitman wrote this as part of a fuller work he composed for this visit; “The box-lid is but perceptibly open’d-nevertheless the Perfume pours copiously out of the whole box.” Mr. Komodo a.k.a The Dragon takes his current female companion Sra. Bustello to meet the envoy and the poet. They end up receiving both at the Bile Works a few evening later. After a typical night of sensorial exploration, the envoy brings the evening to a close as he recites the story of “The Plum Blossom and The Butterfly”. A reminder that words are every bit as hedonistic as the more obvious ways. Mr. Dirkes translates that into a deeply sensual perfume centered around plum. As Ume tells its own tale of the plum blossom early in the spring.

Rudolph Komodo

Sra. Bustello and the Japanese Envoy connect over honey covered plums. Mr. Dirkes also provides sweetness enhanced plums in the opening of Ume. His choice is to use a lot of apricot. I think this is a great choice a high concentration of honey runs the risk of becoming unpleasant. Apricot does not, as it provides a capable honey substitute to saturate the plum in sweetness. That is all I perceive in the first few minutes before the apricot-plum begins to make room for some other things in the room. Which is mainly a lilting green tea and a tart spike of yuzu. This becomes entwined with spirals of incense snaking throughout. Simultaneously the clean woody lines of Hinoki provide a temple-like feel. Moss brings us back to the chilled earth still not quite thawed. Icy accords tussle with the soil.

Ume has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Ume is the kind of spring floral I need after months of trying the lighter ones. For me spring is the sensual practice of feeling the grass in my barefeet. Inhaling the growth just beginning. Ume may be the story of the Dragon and the Plum. It is also a poem to the sensual pleasures of midnight in the early spring.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Return of “Roseanne”

I remember when “All in the Family” premiered on television it was so different. That it premiered later in the evening on the same night, Tuesday January 12, 1971; it had been preceded by “Green Acres” and “The Lucy Show” it really stood out. At a time when the Vietnam War was dividing the country along generational lines here was a comedy which laid out all the emotion with laugh out loud one-liners. What I remember most about “All in the Family” was it began discussions around the dinner table the next night. It was a valuable catalyst through which understanding might take place. The recent reboot of “Roseanne” has me thinking it might be the return of a sitcom which can also create a chance for understanding.

Roseanne cast in 1988

Roseanne Barr brought the original “Roseanne” to television in 1988. It portrayed a poor working-class family, the Conners, in Lanford. Illinois. It was an off-shoot of Ms. Barr’s stand-up comedy routine about her life as a “domestic goddess”. Just like “All in the Family” before it “Roseanne” portrayed the blue-collar life in America. There were not often easy answers yet always a sense of humor was found. For eight seasons this formula worked. Then in Season 9 they decided to have Roseanne win a lottery and all of a sudden the easy answers did show up. In a twist at the end, the show tried to make it the way Roseanne coped with her life by imagining an alternate reality. The show lost viewers and it was ended.

Roseanne cast in 2018

There has been a lot of nostalgia posing as creativity in television comedy as some of the most successful shows of the past are being reincarnated. The thing is none of those have interested me as it was rare that I wondered what happened to the characters on a sitcom after it ended. When I heard “Roseanne” was returning with the original cast I wasn’t sure if I would watch. I did sit down when it premiered and was instantly reminded of “All in the Family” as this felt like another show for a time when America has divided itself along fault lines.

The original kids have grown up and some of them have kids. Nobody has moved away from their blue-collar upbringing. The show opens with an open discussion of the Red-Blue political divide as Roseanne has not talked to her sister Jackie since the 2016 presidential election. Each voted differently and couldn’t let it go. Through the first thirty-minute episode they finally found an opportunity to talk without either giving up their beliefs while making me laugh. This is what most strongly reminds me of “All in the Family” as people who love each other can disagree while still loving each other. It also is a show which can allow for discussion to grow out of it, too.

Halfway through the first season back “Roseanne” has been full of laughs, a couple of tears, and the fostering of acceptance. If you haven’t caught on I highly recommend it.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio Absolu and Ralph Lauren Polo Ultra Blue

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As I did in last month’s installment I am looking at two flankers of mainstream success stories. It is also another example of taking the original and going lighter or heavier as a flanker.

Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio Absolu

There is no doubt that the original Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio pour Homme is one of the great mainstream success stories. Perfumer Alberto Morillas created one of the landmark aquatic perfumes in 1996. Unlike many brands Giorgio Armani has been protective of overexposing the brand; Acqua di Gio Absolu is only the third flanker released. Another good thing about these flankers is they are distinctly different perfumes which capture pieces of the original formula without just replicating it with a new ingredient or two.

Sr. Morillas is again at the helm and he starts with the “acqua”, as a marine accord of sea and sand opens things up. It is then deepened with not the typical citrus notes but something sweeter. It then takes a very woody turn over the latter stages to become a mainly woody aquatic. For anyone who wanted a woodier version of Acqua di Gio, without the jasmine, Absolu will be your thing. If you want to grow your Acqua di Gio collection it is sufficiently different from the original, Acqua di Gio Essenza and Acqua di Gio Profumo to be worth a try.

Acqua di Gio Absolu has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Ralph Lauren Polo Ultra Blue

Ralph Lauren Polo is one of the alpha masculine mainstream perfumes since its release in 1978. Ralph Lauren has aggressively expanded the collection for a Polo Man as it has expanded into different colors, Black, Red, and Blue. The latter was its entry into the aquatic genre in 2002. It was a nicely done perfume but not one of my favorites in the Polo collection although it does have its fans. I will be interested to see what they think of Polo Ultra Blue because it is extremely light. It fits in with the current trends in mainstream fragrance but it might be so light it has become like ultraviolet light; hard to sense.

Original perfumer of Polo, Carlos Benaim, opens with a chilled lemon top accord. It is right here I wanted more. This is a veil which provides a momentary outbreak of goosebumps. It gets overtaken by sage with a bit of verbena picking up the lemon opening. The base has a stony ingredient providing a craggy coastline for Ultra Blue to crash upon. There was part of me thinking this would have been more appropriately named Polo Blue Sport but there already is one. I can see this being the ideal post-workout spritz because it is undeniably refreshing. I do have to warn those who value longevity and projection Polo Ultra Blue lacks in both categories.

Polo Ultra Blue has 4-6 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke