New Perfume Review Prada Infusion de Mandarine- Watercolor of an Orange

Forrest Gump tells us that ‘life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.” When it comes to my favorite perfumers that isn’t usually the case; I tend to know what I am going to get. There are a few collections which do create a Forrest Gump-ian sense of surprise. One is the Les Infusions de Prada. Some of this is due to the aesthetic in-house perfumer Daniela Andrier brings to this collection. They are meant to be gauzy opaque constructs focused on whatever the main ingredient listed on the bottle is. The line has missed for me when that transparency turns to near insubstantial-ness. I have found it frustrating chasing wisps of what I sprayed on just a few hours before looking for what I was enjoying. The ones which I own are the ones which have overcome this. I think I’m going to break that streak with the latest to be released, Infusion de Mandarine.

Daniela Andrier

Mme Andrier has spoken in the past of seeing Les Infusions as her version of perfume watercolors. Infusion de Manadarine might be her version of a still life of an orange. She has assembled all the pieces of an orange growing on a tree, translating them to a perfume.

To start she makes a top accord which accentuates the bitter nature of the rind. There is an acerbic orange nucleus around which green foliage is also present. We move inside as the juicy pulp appears through a clever neroli blended with carrot seed. This is an abstract version of the fruit itself gorgeously realized. Right next to this is the slightly indolic orange blossom reminding us of the nascent orange to come. This is the type of accord Mme Andrier excels at. She chooses the soft warmth of opoponax to provide the base note for this to rest upon.

Here is the drawback; Infusion de Mimosa has 5-6 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

As I mentioned this collection misses for me when it is so transparent it almost isn’t there. Infusion de Mandarine is one of those. If longevity is important to you then this is going to be a non-starter. For me it usually is, too. Except in this case the overall effect is so beautiful I am overlooking it. I am on the dregs of my press sample and will be going to the mall to pick up a bottle because I think when the thermometer reaches triple digits this summer Infusion de Mandarine is going to be the ideal cooler.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I received from Prada.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Late-Night Talk Shows circa 2018

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One of the things I was looking forward to writing about in this column, when I started Colognoisseur, was the late-night television shows on the major networks. As I’ve recounted in those previous columns these shows have provided me companionship while staying up way too late. They have been a part of my life for over forty years now.

When I was writing about them in the first two years we were entering what I expected to be the next great era of this genre. CBS had Stephen Colbert and James Corden, NBC had Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers, and ABC had Jimmy Kimmel. One of the reasons I watch is because in those five shows there was a dose of levity mined from a specific perspective which allowed me to turn the light off with a smile. There was a distinct variety to choose from.

For most of 2016 it was all that I desired as I could watch Mr. Kimmel for prankish humor along with the occasional Matt Damon skit. Mr. Fallon’s Box of Lies is still one of my favorite late-night bits. Mr. Colbert was showing his pop culture chops with brilliant cold opens with big stars. Mr. Meyers was the most topical as he gave his version of “Weekday Update”. Mr. Corden’s love of music lead to Carpool Karaoke and Crosswalk Musicals. Then in November 2016 something happened; the US had an election.

In the past the current President of the US was always a part of the nightly monologues but it was just that; a part. Over the past few months it has turned out that jokes about the President are not part of the monologue; it is the monologue. Instead of competing for original comedic material spanning many things I have been disappointed to find them spending too much time on one thing. They have thrown out variety for who can have the best President joke on the night.

I’m not saying that the President should be excepted from being the butt of jokes. That has been a part of late-night television for as long as I watched. Almost every night I know I’ve heard one joke at the expense of whoever was the current resident of the White House. It just feels unbalanced right now.

Over the past week I watched with this in mind. All five shows focused on the same Presidential events. All the shows spent up to half their monologue or pre-taped skits depended on them. Many of the jokes were variants of the others.

I understand the soul of a monologue should be current events but it doesn’t have to be all-politics and the President. I miss the days when they spent the same amount of time mining the latest silly YouTube viral video for laughs.

I have found myself turning off the television lately because my old friends have begun speaking in the same voice. What seemed like a Renaissance in late-night is starting to feel monotonous and mediocre. I am hoping that this will change because it worries me that what was fantastic is on the verge of being lost.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Strawberry

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As I mentioned a year ago, when the subject of this column was rhubarb perfumes, this time of year has a natural partner to rhubarb; strawberry. By the time I write this column a month from now it is likely a strawberry-rhubarb pie will be cooling on the counter. Strawberry in perfume has a quality that sometimes can come off as adolescent in nature. There are a few which manage to take that ingredient and make something more sophisticated here are five of those.

Back in 2006 when Romano Ricci debuted his new perfume brand Juliette Has A Gun one of the two releases, Miss Charming, featured strawberry. Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian called it “wild strawberry’ which meant a strong green component to the sweet berry. It rests on top of a velvet rose where an interesting use of lychee tones down the typical flamboyance of rose. A swirl of musks finishes this off with an expansive air. This was one of the first times I noticed strawberry in a positive way in a perfume.

Wild strawberry would return in Marc Jacobs Daisy in the fall of 2007. Perfumer Alberto Morillas uses it as part of a grapefruit-strawberry top accord. Violet leaves pick up the green more efficiently leading to a gardenia and jasmine heart while the violet flowers alongside them. A typical woody-vanilla base round it out. This has been one of the great mainstream successes of the last ten years and much of that is due to M. Morillas’ touch with the modern fruity floral.

My favorite straight out strawberry perfume is Montale Mukhallat. Done in the brand’s unabashedly bombastic style the strawberry is matched with almond, vanilla, and balsam. This is like a freight train with the strawberry in the cow catcher position. When I feel like catching a ride on the Strawberry Express this is what I reach for.

I adore the opening of slumberhouse Sadanne as it always smells of candy apples flavored with strawberry. This seems like perfumer Josh Lobb’s commentary on fruity floral fragrance. This becomes clearer in the heart as the florals are purposefully made somewhat sour so that they contrast with the sugary sweetness of the top accord. Then it heads to dirty musky territory which scares off all the fruit and flowers. One of my favorites from the brand.

Imaginary Authors Cape Heartache finds a unique partner for the strawberry, pine. Perfumer Josh Meyer shows that coniferous berries are the pairing I didn’t know I wanted. They each manage to attenuate the other leaving a middle harmonic which works. A bit of woodsmoke skirls through as if the smoke from a bonfire is caught in the boughs of the tree. It is a midnight in the forest scent with a bit of strawberry along for the ride.

Strawberry doesn’t always have to be childish these five show that to be true.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Givenchy Gentleman Eau de Parfum- A Remembrance of Masculine Elegance

Givenchy has been one of the most recognizable fashion brands in the world almost from their beginning in 1952. Much of that can be laid at the feet of the recently deceased Hubert de Givenchy who defined the sophisticated aesthetic that has lasted over sixty years. It was a frustration that it never fully translated over into the fragrance side of the brand. This is another case of masterpieces among mediocrity. It makes it difficult to generate brand loyalty.

Olivier Cresp

One of those I consider a masterpiece of the past was 1974’s Givenchy Gentleman. Composed by perfumer Paul Leger is one of the best examples of a masculine powerhouse of the 1970’s. I would have preferred the brand did not attempt to revisit it. They felt differently and last year released Givenchy Gentleman Eau de Toilette. I was not fond of it. It barely felt like it shared anything of the same brand genetics. When I received my sample of Givenchy Gentleman Eau de Parfum I was expecting to feel similarly. I ended up feeling like this was the way a modern version of Givenchy Gentleman should be.

Nathalie Lorson

When the original was released Hubert de Givenchy wanted a perfume to define “masculine elegance” to go with his new men’s ready-to-wear boutique. At that time that meant woody, vetiver, leather hairy-chested perfume. This was the style that gave “men’s cologne” a bad name when men wore too many sprays. If you move to the current day one of the styles of fragrance that has risen to the level of “masculine elegance” has been an iris focused perfume. That is what perfumers Olivier Cresp and Nathalie Lorson deliver.

Gentleman Eau de Parfum opens with a nose-tickling black pepper. Used like this it also carries a bit of a woody character along with the spiciness. Then the perfumers use a full-blown iris concrete which means the powdery aspect of iris is almost completely deleted. A bit of lavender makes sure it has no chance to catch any traction. A warm balsamic patchouli leads to a gorgeous rich vanilla base.

Givenchy Gentleman Eau de Parfum has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Givenchy Gentleman Eau de Parfum captures both the current trends of iris and vanilla at the men’s fragrance counter. The perfumers have done an excellent job at adding in the pepper and balsam to make them sufficiently different than their brethren on the department store counter. This feels like the closest rendition of “masculine elegance” from Givenchy in years. Hubert de Givenchy would have been proud.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I received from Bloomingdale’s.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Pont Des Arts A Ce Soir-Repurposing Bertrand

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Bertrand Duchaufour is one of the most prolific perfumers of the past ten years. That he is also among our best perfumes while being this productive is also something to admire. It is now getting to the point where it becomes difficult not to see pieces, or accords, of previous compositions within new ones. That could be seen as a flaw, but I don’t think it is as easy as picking one from Column A then B then C, et voila! I choose to see it more as a concept we use in drug discovery known as repurposing. When there is a new drug which works via a new biological mechanism there is an effort to see if there are older drugs which might combine with it to make it work better.  M. Duchaufour is responsible for two of the three debut fragrances for a new line called Pont Des Arts. I received a sample of A Ce Soir in a subscription box. As I tried it out it was hard not to think that M. Duchaufour was repurposing some of his best accords to create a new effect.

Geraldine and Bernard Siouffi (via Pont Des Arts Facebook page)

Based on the website husband and wife, Bernard and Geraldine Siouffi, are designing fragrances meant to be Parisian in style. Which is why the brand is named after the famous bridge which until recently was covered in locks which represented lovers’ commitment to each other. They also want perfume to be a bridge of the senses as the Pont des Arts is the only dedicated pedestrian bridge over the Seine. They only used French perfumers for their debut collection which made M. Duchaufour almost a shoo-in to be asked.

Bertrand Duchaufour

I found it interesting that in the accompanying brochure in the subscription box that the writer describing A Ce Soir also found echoes of previous releases by M. Duchaufour calling out L’Artisan Havana Vanille and Penhaligon’s Ostara. Which makes it interesting to bring back pieces of those now-discontinued perfumes. There are similarities, but I found a stronger through line as I wore it which knitted this together more seamlessly than a collection of pieces.

A Ce Soir opens with a lens flare of lemon and mandarin. Then a slowly intensifying thread of green begins with bamboo providing the first hues. One of the things M. Dcuhaufour has become very good at is a boozy top accord. Here the rum slowly decants itself over the citrus. Cinnamon provides warmth to the alcoholic nature. The green is notched up another level via blackcurrant bud. This leads to a fantastically narcotic floral heart accord centered on narcissus. Narcissus is made more sensual by swirling in ylang-ylang. M. Duchaufour has made these kinds of carnal floral accords in the past; this is another one. Then like sharing a dessert after the carnality the base accord is all comfort as rich vanilla is used surrounded by benzoin and amber. Vetiver completes the green thread as it anchors the entire effect.

A Ce Soir has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I think you can focus on what A Ce Soir reminds you of from M. Duchaufour’s past. I think that does this a great disservice as M. Duchaufour has blended his past into something entirely new, well worth enjoying on its own terms.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample received in a subscription box.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone English Fields Collection- Grainy Gourmands

When I received my sample set of the new Jo Malone English Fields Collection a couple months ago I was instantly enthralled by Oat & Cornflower. It is still my favorite of the five releases in the collection. I also think the other four are quite good and thought I’d do a quick take on each of them. Creative Director Celine Roux collaborated with perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui on the entire collection which lends to a cohesion throughout this exploration of a different kind of gourmand fragrance type.

Green Wheat & Meadowsweet is a nicely realized version of those moments in the spring as the green shoots of new growth appear. Mme Bijaoui uses one of the grassy aromachemicals along with a healthy dose of grapefruit. That concentration of that citrus allows for its slightly sulfurous facets to blend with the fresh grassy part to form an accord which captures that early spring moment of the return of the green. Over time this warms, as if the sun is rising, making it slightly sweeter sort of hay-like by the time it reaches the base accord. It is an alternative to all the florals as a perfume to celebrate spring.

Celine Roux

In Crocus & Honey it starts off with a hay-like quality as Mme Bijaoui uses broom flower and coumarin in the top accord. Lavender matched with sage provides an herbal floral heart which fits in with the top accord pleasantly. The honey is then drizzled in at the same time almond and vanilla are also used to form a kind of honey butter accord. It is this final accord which I found the best part of Honey & Crocus.

Poppy & Barley is my second favorite mainly because of the floral not listed, violet. Mme Bijaoui uses a blend of violet and fig in the early going. That is a combo which appeals to me quite a bit. Blackcurrant bud turns it greener before the floral interlude of poppy accord carries you through to what really stands out here. The base accord is a texturally grainy affair made up of bran and barley. It is like running your hands through a filed of grains and bringing them to your face. A set of white musks leave you under the clothesline with linens drying in the sun.

Mathilde Bijaoui

Primrose & Rye seems like it comes from an English Field on one of the Caribbean Islands. The reason it seems like it comes from that part of the world is the use of coconut in the top accord along with sweet corn. It is a unique combination closer to sunscreen than gourmand. As it gives way to the florals in the heart the primrose is equally matched by an effervescent mimosa. The grain comes forward as the rye is leavened with a bit of vanilla. It reminds me of the smell of freshly baking rye bread. There is a slight sweetness paired with the graininess.

I found all five of the English Fields perfumes to have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I think what Mme Roux has been bringing to Jo Malone has been a sense of adventurousness. She has overseen several perfumes for the brand over the last couple of years which really stand out. English Fields is part of that trend.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by Nordstrom.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parle Moi de Parfum Orris Tattoo- Min/Max Perfume

As a long-time gamer there is a concept in the roleplaying versions of gameplay called min/max. The idea is that when you design a character you put all your resources into enhancing a couple of specific traits; that’s the max. Which means many of the other traits are so low they become obvious weak spots; that’s the min. If you are part of a team that can cover for the min then your max can be extremely valuable allowing you to punch above your level. I was reminded of this gaming concept as it pertains to perfume with Parle Moi de Parfum Orris Tattoo.

Michel Almairac

Perfumer Michel Almairac founded his personal line in 2016 with a set of eight inaugural perfumes. The brand aesthetic is to keep to minimal ingredients while looking for maximum effect. Over the first eight this balance was achieved more often than it wasn’t. In Orris Tattoo it reaches an apotheosis.

If you are going to design perfume like this, you require a keynote which is multi-faceted. In the case of Orris Tattoo that is already baked into the name. Orris has so many facets it takes some skill to design, so the different facets have some time in the spotlight. M. Almairac finds ways to max out his orris butter.

Orris Tattoo first displays its carroty style. In some uses orris butter has an earthier nature. In this perfume it comes off with a sweeter tint. I suspect some carrot seed in a tiny amount was added to pick this thread out in the early moments. It then transforms into one of my favorite incarnations of orris as a yeasty scent of rising dough arrives. This is a lovely example of how orris shifts. Again, I’m not sure what is used as a supporting note to enhance this, but something is there. I was sort of expecting powder to be next but got thrown a curveball as it instead tilts towards an astringent floral quality. Much less flamboyant than I expected but it falls right in line with what came before. This heads towards a nutty final phase bolstered by a tiny amount of a synthetic woody ingredient.

Orris Tattoo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Orris Tatto is an excellent iris perfume. If you like the note this is one worth trying. If you are put off by powdery iris I would also think you might want to try this, too. By using several min ingredients M. Almairac produces a max orris.

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

Mark Behnke

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