Dead Letter Office: Coty L’Aimant- The Fourth Coty

As I mentioned back in the fall a very generous reader sent me a box of discontinued samples because they enjoy this particular column. It has allowed me to try some older perfumes I never had the chance to previously. One was what I call “The Fourth Coty”; L’Aimant.

The history of Francois Coty as one of the original artists of modern perfumery is well-known. Once I began to want to understand the history of this art form I was going to track down the original trio of perfumes by M. Coty; L’Origan, Chypre de Coty, and Emeraude. I thought I had covered the early history of Coty as a brand. Then I was told there was a fourth early Coty release called L’Aimant. Because of my reader’s generosity I have completed my education.

One of the reasons I was so interested is this was a collaboration between M. Coty and perfumer Vincent Roubert. M. Roubert is responsible for two of my very favorite perfumes; Jacques Fath Iris Gris and Knize Ten.

As always when approaching a vintage perfume, I know that any citrus notes will be long gone. They are listed in the top notes but when I tried this sample I got the other ingredient exclusively. That other ingredient is a full-throated roar of aldehydes. In 1927 aldehydic top notes were all the rage and in L’Aimant Messrs. Coty and Roubert seemingly used all of them. I had heard L’Aimant was a soft floral the first few minutes were hard aldehydes. I wonder if the citrus notes were present if they wouldn’t have softened the edges; probably. The soft floral was on its way as rose pierces the cloud of aldehydes. Along with the rose, jasmine brings along some indoles to match up with the spicy rose core. Ylang-ylang provides an oleaginous floral fruity effect. Together this produces the lush soft floral I had been told about. It begins to turn quite powdery as the rose gains ascendancy. It finishes on vetiver and vanilla with some civet.

L’Aimant has 24-hour longevity and above average sillage.

L’Aimant lasted well into the 1960’s before fading away as far as I can tell. It was resurrected in 1995 for a short time. That one I understand falling; right in the middle of the desire for fresh and clean perfume L’Aimant is not that.

I am happy to have closed the loop on my experience with early Coty releases there is a reason L’Aimant is not as highly spoken of as the other three. It has a kind of brassy take no prisoners style which sometimes turns into the perfume wearing me than vice versa. I at least feel like I can close the book on this part of perfume history.

Disclosure: This review based on a sample provided by a generous reader.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Strangelove NYC silencethesea- Advanced Aquatic

From its inception in 1988 with Davidoff Cool Water and for twenty years after the aquatic style of perfume has become a cliché. It was caused by the desire for consumers for more of this fresh and clean style along with the desire of brands to give it to them. For a couple decades that was good enough. I was bored with the genre long before that with only a few continuing to be found in my consistent rotation.

Then as we crossed in to the 2010’s there seemed to be a re-thinking of the aquatic aesthetic. It wasn’t all beach milieu there were other kinds of scenes which could inspire a fragrance. In the last few years there has been a conscious transfer to more rocky coasts for the metaphorical waves to crash upon. These kinds of aquatics have reinvigorated my enjoyment of the style. When I received Strangelove NYC silencethesea I had another one to add.

Elizabeth Gaynes (l.) and Helena Christensen

In previous reviews of Strangelove NYC releases I have lauded the creative team and the vision behind it. Co-Creative Directors Elizabeth Gaynes and Helena Christensen have collaborated with perfumer Christophe Laudamiel. One of the things which allows the brand to stand out is they are only produced by using the best natural raw materials as their keynotes. Every release has one at its heart. For silencethesea that ingredient is ambergris.

Christophe Laudamiel

Any perfume lover is familiar with ambergris because it is part of the base accord of too many to count perfumes. Except as it is with oud, ambergris is often a clever manipulation of other ingredients to form a facsimile. When you smell real ambergris there are nuances which never appear in a constructed accord. It is a challenge because with an accord a perfumer can tune for a specific effect. When dealing with the actual version you have to find a way to allow the odd-smelling aspects to also have their part to play. M. Laudamiel does just this with the ambergris in silencethesea.

From the moment I sprayed silencethesea the ambergris was there. It is apparent throughout the time it exists on my skin. M. Laudamiel then spends the rest of the development adorning it with specific ingredients. First is angelica which as it interacts with the ambergris provides a flinty accord. The earthiness comes from a truffle accord. It reminds me of particularly rich loamy soil for a bit. Three florals, narcissus, jasmine, and tuberose provide deep indolic complement to the briny quality of ambergris. It works better than I thought it would on paper. The tuberose and its slightly mentholated green vein was the big surprise in how well it fit in. A rough leather accord of oud and frankincense is the last part of silencethesea.

Silencethesea has 12-14 hour longevity in the Eau de Parfum concentration and moderate sillage.

It is funny how the boy who grew up in South Florida has left that kind of beachy perfume behind in preference for a rocky strand where the waves crash instead. Silencethesea is that kind of advanced aquatic.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Strangelove NYC.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chanel Paris-Venise, Paris-Deauville & Paris-Biarritz- Traveling with Coco

Just as it has been over at Hermes watching the changeover from a long-time in-house perfumer to a new artist is fascinating. When Olivier Polge took over he has presided over a lightening up of Chanel. What he has excelled at has been achieving it without losing the Chanel fragrance aesthetic. One thing left to show is whether M. Polge would bring this to the Les Exclusif line. His first release was the Les Exclusif Boy. It heralded the lighter direction, but it has been the releases since which solidified that. With the announcement of the Les Eaux de Chanel collection of three perfumes we would get a better idea of where the exclusive fragrance line at Chanel was going.

Olivier Polge

There are three new perfumes within Les Eaux de Chanel; they are meant to represent the ties between Coco Chanel and three different cities. I am going to write about all three because I have found them to be a coherent collection which is Chanel but also M. Polge’s modern vision of what that means.

Paris-Venise is described as being inspired by traveling on the Orient Express from Paris to Venice. That description makes you think a full-on Oriental is on its way. Here is where M. Polge chooses to go towards something less obvious by using the more transparent aesthetic to his advantage.

It starts with playful citrus and neroli top accord. This is that laugh of starting off a trip. The floral heart of iris modulated by geranium is also kept opaque although a bit of powder sneaks in. The base is M. Polge’s version of an Oriental base done with insouciance. Using cedar, amber, and vanilla these are the components of Oriental of the past. In Paris-Venise they are pitched at whisper level as it hints at the end of the trip.

Paris-Venise has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Paris-Deauville is meant to be a trip to the country for the weekend. What that meant for M. Polge was to imagine a cologne style which captures that vibe.

To do that there is what becomes the theme for this collection a joyful citrus accord. Comprised of orange zest and petitgrain there is a green undercurrent which is picked out with basil. Using rose and jasmine it turns floral but a lighter version of that. A patchouli fraction which is stripped of much of the heavier qualities is the base note.

Paris-Deauville has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

The last one Paris-Biarritz captures Coco’s love of the beach. Which translates to M. Polge’s aquatic interpretation.

This opens with a classic sea salt accord matched with the citrus of grapefruit and mandarin. This is not particularly interesting to start. It becomes more so as muguet begins to transform the heart into a greener effect. Vetiver provides a grassy kind of effect which makes a “dunes accord”. A set of white musks recapitulate the airiness of the opening sea salt accord.

Paris-Biarritz has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

These are not going to be my favorite perfumes of M. Polge’s time at Chanel. For the first time he has gone a little too light for my taste. That being said there is a consistent thought which shows up in all three, of the joy of heading out of the city towards something else. I think that will mean if you really like one you’re going to also like the others. At least for me it felt like taking a Trip with Coco on the days I wore each of the Les Eaux.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Commodity Bois- Warm Weather Woods

I don’t know if others have the same kind of perfume preferences as I do during the summer months. I’m reasonably sure colognes and light florals are constants. One of the things I have found over time that I really enjoy when the heat is at its most oppressive is a simple clean light woody perfume. As summer 2018 arrives I think Commodity Bois is going to be this year’s addition to my rotation.

It is also another example of why Commodity has been consistently succeeding. It is a mainstream brand where the owners are allowing the perfumers a freer hand to design. Their only limitations are budget and aligning with the minimalist aesthetic the brand wants to be known for. What this produces are simple constructs where the perfumer’s choices can have a maximal impact on a minimalist aesthetic.

Frank Voelkl

For Bois the perfumer is Frank Voelkl. Since Bois translates to “wood” he started with a duo of cedar and sandalwood. The ingredient which helps turn that from generic to something more than that is baie rose.

Bois opens with that baie rose out front. Baie rose is a versatile top note because it has many facets for a perfumer to tease out. What M. Voelkl chooses to accentuate is the peppery nature of the ingredient which is also known as pink pepper. To do this angelica is used which also has a peppery character. Together they form a textural piquant accord. It acts as a kind of figurative perfumer’s sandpaper as it roughs up the cedar and sandalwood by adding a peppery overlay on the woods. The baie rose is what really sealed the deal on my enjoyment of Bois. Some vanilla comes in without becoming cloying as I wore Bois on days where it was in the high 90’s on the thermometer.

Bois has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I can’t know who shares my summer affection for woody perfume. If you do, Bois is one you should add to fill that space.  I think there are few better warm weather woods out there especially in mainstream.

Disclosure: This review is based ona sample provided by Commodity.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bvlgari Veridia- Sparkling Emerald

It happens that there are just some brands that never breakthrough to my wanting to wear them, so I can review them. I’ll receive a sample set. Think somewhat positively of them. Put the sample in the “maybe” box but over time it just gets passed over. That is the story of the exclusive collection from Bvlgari called La Gemme.

Alberto Morillas

La Gemme was started in 2014 as Bvlgari’s attempt to make an ultra-luxe collection. They had Daniela Andrier behind the first dozen releases until 2016. Jacques Cavallier would do the next five through the end of last year. The simple concept was to use gemstones as inspiration. The simple result was nice perfumes. If there was a consistent nit I had to pick it was these never glittered like a gemstone does under light. When I look at a beautifully cut gem it is like peering into a kaleidoscope without the tube. The interior refraction of light feels like it is drawing me inside. A perfume based on that inspiration I’ve always felt should do the same thing. Until the recent releases La Gemme had not done that for me.

I received the latest three releases noticing a new perfumer behind all of them; Alberto Morillas. These were meant to capture sapphire, ruby, and emerald. As I tried them Nylaia which is the sapphire one had a nice duet of iris and jasmine warmed by benzoin. Rubinia which is the ruby is an interesting interpretation using sandalwood as the keynote. As with all of the previous La Gemme releases I liked them and they were heading into the “maybe” box. Then I got to the one which was inspired by the emerald, Veridia, that was not going into the “maybe” box.

Mrs. C laughs at me when I get a sample of something I like. I end up sniffing a strip and whatever patch of skin it occupies over the later parts of the evening. Veridia was right in the center of my forearm and I had my nose there for as long as it lasted. What captured me is M. Morillas uses a high concentration of galbanum as green but finds a unique ingredient to add the sparkle within.

Veridia lives up to its colorful name as it opens with an uppercut of galbanum. M. Morillas adds a bit of angelica seeds to provide a bit of texture to the impenetrable green ingredient. Then like a faceted gemstone held up to light a metallic-tinted incense infuses the galbanum. The shiny resin draws me in as it interacts with the galbanum; each intersection a point of verdant sparkle. I know how much I enjoyed this opening accord because the base accord of vanilla and patchouli form a nicely comforting contrast but I wanted more of the galbanum and incense.

Veridia has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Veridia is unlike any of the previous La Gemme releases because M. Morillas didn’t just create a gemstone perfume he produced a sparkling emerald.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tauer Les Annees 25- Where Did the Retro Go?

Press releases are cursed things; at least for me. When I read them, it causes me to anticipate what I will eventually experience. They can be particularly troublesome when it comes to fragrance. I can imagine what a list of ingredients might smell like given the inspiration. Which is why Tauer Les Annees 25 threw me with what was in the bottle.

Independent perfumer Andy Tauer wrote that Les Annees 25 was inspired by the “Golden Age of Humanity” represented by the 1920’s. That decade was also a time where the real foundations of modern perfumery were beginning to aspire to artistry. When I read that I thought to myself, “Oh goody! A Retro Nouveau perfume from Andy Tauer.” Then I found out it was a limited edition which means Hr. Tauer tends to employ higher quality and harder to source versions of the ingredients. I was expecting something amazing capturing the past and the present. Most of that sentence came true but for one part. This supposed Retro Nouveau perfume was all Nouveau.

Andy Tauer

I should’ve focused on the things which Hr. Tauer had separated from that era which inspired him; “the fundamental change towards liberalism” and the “optimism of an era”. Which means Les Annees 25 is one of our best independent perfumers creating his own path full of optimism.

The contemporary aspects appear right away with a combination of petitgrain, orange oil, and ginger. The citrus components are focused into a narrow beam of sunlight. The ginger provides energy. Ginger is spoken of as this kind of kinetic ingredient within perfumery. It most often is not. Not here. The ginger provides a near manic level of energy to the brilliant citrus. A swift floral intermezzo of rose and iris softly powders the overall effect. This leads to a mixture of benzoin and sandalwood. The benzoin pulls out the sweet facets of a modern sandalwood source. Oakmoss and ambergris provide contrast at the high and the low. It all ends on a comfort accord of vanilla, tonka, and patchouli.

Les Annees 25 has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I may have thought I wanted a Tauer Retro Nouveau creation except I came to realize the Nouveau was all I needed in Les Annees 25.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Africa by Weezer…….and Toto

There are quite a few songs which have over 1,000 plays on my ITunes list. There are fewer that are above 2,500 plays. I have noticed many of those song are ones I enjoy singing along to and playing accompanying air instruments. I am particularly partial to the imaginary drums, as my car steering wheel will attest to. Which means I have pounded out the drum fill from verse to chorus in the 1982 song “Africa” by Toto a lot because it is one of those 2,500+ songs. The song has had a rebirth for a new generation just in time for the summer of 2018 by the band Weezer. The origins of the song and the reason it has been reborn are both interesting.

I remember seeing one of the members of the band on MTV mention that the song is from the perspective of watching documentaries about Africa. The band members David Paich and Jeff Porcaro wrote a song full of the kind of inaccuracies which exist from that. None better exemplifies that as the line, “as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti”. Both are in Tanzania but are separated by enough distance the lyric makes no sense. It does make sense if the songwriter is looking at a World Atlas and thinks it might be true. I don’t enjoy the song for the accuracy of its lyrics it is the rhythm and the synthesizer produced kalimba along with it. It would hit #1 on the charts in 1983.

For some unexplained reason thirty-five years later a young fan of the band Weezer began a campaign to have the band cover “Africa”. Using all of the tools of social media she began her campaign in December 2017. By May 2018 it looked like she was going to receive a kind of half response as a cover of another Toto hit “Rosanna” appeared. I thought that was it. Then two weeks ago I noticed that “Africa” by Weezer was trending. When I hit the link, there it was, Weezer playing a mostly faithful cover of “Africa”. I found myself enjoying this version as much as the original. The members of Toto have tweeted their appreciation of the new version. New fans are learning about African geographical improbabilities. Even more are probably adding a new song to their air percussion playlist.

I know the new version and the original version will be played a lot throughout the summer. As I search for Kilimanjaro from my driver’s seat.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Mr. Burberry Indigo and Azzaro Wanted by Night

Sometimes it is hard to tell what the reason is for a flanker’s existence. The two choices in this month’s Round-Up do not suffer from that.

Mr. Burberry Indigo

I think the marketers have decided that the word “sport” added to a fragrance name is no longer a sales aid. What they have seemingly settled upon in its place are colors. The sport style of fragrance definitely has a place and within the Mr. Burberry line of perfume Indigo is code for “sport”.

Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian freshens up the Mr. Burberry style with a traditional cologne duet of rosemary and lemon. It diverges with a heart of mint and violet leaves. It comes off as a cool heart accord. Just the thing after a workout. What makes me like this the best of the Mr. Burberry releases is the use of oakmoss in the base which provides a more aggressive green to offset the heart accord. Some amber and musk combine with the oakmoss to finish this off. This is the kind of versatile perfume which is a good choice if you’re looking for a “sport” perfume.

Mr. Burberry Indigo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Azzaro Wanted by Night

When I reviewed Azzaro Wanted last year I remarked that it was an outlier in the idea that consumers wanted something lighter. It was closer in style to the original hairy-chested Azzaro pour Homme. If you had asked me to guess which direction a flanker of that would take I would have said lighter. Well Azzaro Wanted by Night goes way in the other direction in what almost seems like a throwback to the masculine powerhouses of the 1970’s.

Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin completely reworks the pyramid in Wanted by Night. This is less a flanker than a different perfume which shares a name. Cinnamon provides a simmering heat right from the start. A nice parade of ingredients follow that up, as cedar and tobacco take the lead. The cinnamon doesn’t get lost as cumin gives it a boost to match the other two. I have to mention this is a huge powerhouse of a men’s perfume. It seems out of place in today’s market. There’s a lot of press nonsense which came with my sample claiming this to be a “seduction perfume”. Not sure about that unless you catch a DeLorean ride back to the 70’s.

Azzaro Wanted by Night has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by the manufacturer’s.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Gucci Guilty Oud- Absolute pour Homme Take Two

1

When I really started expanding my perfume horizons one of the brands which thrilled me was Gucci. This was during the time Tom Ford was in charge of Gucci as creative director for everything. Mr. Ford showed the power of cohesive creative control. When he left Gucci to form his own eponymous brand those principles have created one of the great success stories in fashion retail. What he left behind at Gucci descended into soulless corporate fragrance with few exceptions. There is a new creative director for all things Gucci again, Alessandro Michele, and he actually cares about the fragrances which carry the Gucci imprint. The proof of that has been the releases over the last eighteen months. The latest addition to the new era at the brand is Gucci Guilty Oud.

Alessandro Michele

Sig. Michele has again turned the brand into a forward-thinking fragrance one. An aspect of the early phase is he has chosen to work almost exclusively with perfumer Alberto Morillas. As I remark upon frequently this kind of creative director-perfumer partnership has a positive effect; especially when trying to design a brand aesthetic. Just a few perfumes into this collaboration there are the outlines of what that might be for Gucci 2018 and beyond.

Alberto Morillas

One thing I have been enjoying is Sig. Michele is not signing on to the “lighter and transparent is better” bandwagon. He is defining something which has much more presence than the other masstige brands he is competing with. It is too early to see if consumers share his vision. I am hoping that there is room for something beyond lighter and transparent in the current landscape. Guilty Oud will be one which helps let us know if there is.

Guilty Oud is really a flanker of Gucci Guilty Absolute pour Homme.  I was not a fan of that perfume. Guilty Oud is almost take two on that perfume. It uses some of what I really liked about the earlier release this year of Guilty Absolute pour Femme; the blackberry. That perfume was an effusive fruity floral. Guilty Oud is not that but the blackberry along with some other similar ingredients improves greatly on Guilty Absolute pour Homme.

It is that blackberry which opens Guilty Oud. In this perfume it is a quick fleeting bit of fruit. I like it for that kind of effect; here then gone. It moves into a patchouli and rose heart which has been the Guilty DNA. Here it is made to stand out without too much support. The oud comes from using a small amount of natural oud within a larger oud accord. One thing which I found to be a nice touch was using a cypress extract called Goldenwood to provide a blonde wood counterweight to the oud accord. It smooths out the entire fragrance providing an overall sophistication.

Guilty Oud has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

These are exciting times at Gucci perfume. Guilty Oud gives me more reason to believe we are at the beginning of something great again.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Rose & White Musk Absolu- The Thorns Make It Better

I have been laudatory of the recent releases from Jo Malone. The creative director Celine Roux has found the ability to re-energize the brand in new ways. Because of the recent success when I receive a new release lately I am excited to give it a try. Except when I saw the name on the bottle my expectations dropped. The name was Jo Malone Rose & White Musk Absolu; I probably stifled a yawn looking at it.

Celine Roux

One of the things I have been pleased with over the last three years is Mme Roux has pushed the envelope at the brand more than retreating to safer constructs. Which was what I thought looking at the name; safe. It turned out once I actually tried the perfume it falls somewhere in-between. The ingredients are crowd pleasing but the perfumer, Anne Flipo, was given some leeway to move it towards something less generic. I found there were a couple thorns among the roses which is why I liked it. Mme Flipo says in the press materials this is meant to be a single linear accord. She is correct for the most part although I did find the places where a sharpness hid among the petals. Which was where Rose & White Musk Absolu was at its best.

Anne Flipo

Mme Flipo has combined some different rose sources for the core rose effect. There is something which makes it feel a bit like a debutante rose being escorted by her femme fatale sister. That sexier sister is a Turkish rose which is given a dewy shine by the lighter rose ingredients. In the early going this is a deeply sharp rose. Mme Flipo hones that with the white musk and oud accord. These are my thorns. The white musk pierces the floral character like a knitting needle. The oud accord does the same from the other side of the scent spectrum. The rose rises above it all before Mme Flipo adds in more white musks, softening that effect and providing a slow diffusion over the hours the perfume remained on my skin.

Rose & White Musk Absolu has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.  

This is something much more typical of a Jo Malone perfume than almost anything released so far this year. What surprised me is even when trying to be safer the brand is still interested in finding a way of adding in some thorns which makes it better.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Jo Malone London.

Mark Behnke