New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Fougere D’Argent- Fougere Evolution

It is agreed that modern perfumery began in 1882 with Houbigant Fougere Royale. Paul Parquet’s use of coumarin transformed the concept of fragrance as utility into something more aspirational. Over the nearly 150 years since, we have seen those aspirations realized. It is something I am always thinking of when there is a new material being used by perfumers. Is this something that will allow for a perfumer and creative director to reach for something they were unable to before. One of the places you often see this is by returning to that original fougere construction you can display a new ingredient within all of the fougeres that came before it. I was strongly reminded of this with Tom Ford Private Blend Fougere D’Argent.

Karyn Khoury

Fougere D’Argent is one of two new fougeres in the Tom Ford Private Blend Collection. I’ll be reviewing the other, Fougere Platine in a couple of weeks. I was more intrigued by the construction of Fougere D’Argent that I spent time with that first.

Louise Turner

Fougere D’Argent was composed by perfumer Louise Turner under the eye of long-time creative director Karyn Khoury. That alpha fougere was an axis of lavender, coumarin, and oakmoss. Ms. Turner takes Fougere D’Argent to a different place as her spine is ginger, lavandin, and akigalawood. The latter as a substitute for the oakmoss in the original is what really caught my attention.

Fougere D’Argent opens with the more expansive CO2 extraction of ginger. It picks up the bergamot and mandarin for a zesty citrus opening. Baie rose leads into the heart where lavandin is waiting to become the traditional heart. Lavandin is less herbal than other varieties of lavender. The baie rose adds back that herbal quality as an ingredient which allows Ms. Turner to tune to what ends up smelling like a hybrid of the two main lavender sources. Labdanum takes us into the base. What is there is the newer ingredient akigalawood. I’ve spoke of it in the past but due to being the product of an enzymatic degradation of patchouli it leaves behind a patchouli variant which is spicy and woody while leaving out the earthier facets. On its own it wouldn’t have been an ideal replacement for the oakmoss. By adding coumarin, in a nod to the original fougere, it becomes much closer to the oakmoss base from the beginning.

Fougere D’Argent has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I enjoyed Fougere D’Argent as much as I did because it felt like another signpost on the continuum of perfumery. Ms. Turner reminded me that out on the edges fragrance can still keep deciding what modern is.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Ant-Man and The Wasp

If there is one reason for Marvel’s success on film it is because they vary the tone of their films so successfully. They also mange to deploy this variety in a strategic way. For the first film after Avengers: Infinity War the choice of going with a movie that was essentially a comedy in Ant-Man and The Wasp shows this.

The first Ant-Man movie carried with it a comic heist mentality. This formula is repeated in Ant-Man and The Wasp. The biggest difference is the presence of Hope Van Dyne as The Wasp. As portrayed by Evangeleine Lilly she is the kick-ass straight woman. Which is fine because Paul Rudd as Scott Lang has plenty of goofy charm for her to push back against.

The movie picks up after Captain America: Civil War where Scott has been put under house arrest after his actions in that movie. He is almost to the end of his two-year sentence when of course something arises to make him have to choose to leave the house. That something is a message from Janet Van Dyne who has been lost in the Quantum Realm for over thirty years. It brings everyone together along with a new villain, Ghost, who also has ties to the Quantum Realm. One of the refreshing things about the movie is the self-awareness of how often they keep using the same technobabble phrase. That’s part of what sets this movie apart. It is as close as Marvel is going to get to having a character break the fourth wall and wink at the audience.

The stakes in the movie are appropriately small as our heroes are trying to rescue Janet from the Quantum Realm while people who want that technology for other purposes interfere. For all that they are not galaxy spanning problems I was as invested in their success as any other Marvel movie. This is down to director Peyton Reed who knows how to get the most out of this material.

It all leads to a happy ending which is quite a nice change. If you need a tonic for the Avengers: Infinity War carnage Ant-Man and The Wasp is the ideal prescription.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Judith Muller Bat-Sheba- Dead Sea Scrolls

One of the things that so thrilled me when I received my box of perfume rarities from my anonymous benefactor was the opportunity to try things I have only read about. As I was categorizing the samples I found one I had heard of called Bat-Sheba. I was surprised to find the next vial labeled Bat-Sheba, too. At first, I thought my donor had double-packed but then I saw two letters after Bat-Sheba one had “WM” and the other has “EO”. I tried to figure it out on my own, “extrait original?” “woody masculine?” I got one of the words correct, but I had to get some clarification. Turns out the letters stood for “Woody Modern” and “Exotic Oriental”. This would begin a kind of perfume informational archaeology to try and learn all I could about Judith Muller Bat-Sheba.

Judith Muller in Paris

Judith Muller was born in Hungary in 1935. After surviving World War 2, her family settled in Israel. She would find herself in Paris learning about perfume in 1962. It brought her into the orbit of perfumer Ernest Shiftan and his young protegee Sophia Grojsman. Ms. Muller wondered if a perfume could be made from Biblical ingredients. They would put their heads together and come up with a prototype perfume called Bat-Sheba. This was seemingly produced in a very small batch and I can’t figure out if it was ever sold anywhere.

Sophia Grojsman

Ms. Muller would return to Israel, in 1965, with designs on being an Israeli luxury brand. A pillar of that desire was going to be Bat-Sheba perfume. In 1968 there would be two releases; Bat-Sheba Woody Modern and Bat-Sheba Exotic Oriental. As far as I can tell Woody Modern is close in formula to the original Bat-Sheba formulation. Exotic Oriental seems likely to have been a different mod on the way to the original. One reason I believe that is both perfumes converge on the same base accord. The trip there is quite different.

Judith Muller

Woody Modern opens incredibly green with galbanum and cardamom. The cardamom is used to take some of the edge off the galbanum. The heart is a gorgeous honeyed rose accord. It is kept on the soft side but there are some green facets also added to continue the top accord. The base is all chypre as sandalwood, vetiver, musk, oakmoss, and patchouli form a classic form of that accord. What is interesting about the way it wears on my skin it is like the vestiges of an ancient version of chypre with a kind of mineralic aspect I can’t identify. This felt like the perfume of the seductress this is named after.

Exotic Oriental goes in a spicy direction in the top accord. Cardamom, cinnamon, clove are all things I detect. Lavender is added to provide a fougere-like feel to the opening. Rose is still the keynote in the heart but this time the spices replace the honey. It accentuates the spicy core of the rose. This results in a less lush heart accord than in Woody Modern. The spices lead seamlessly into the exact same base accord as described for Woody Modern. In the case of Exotic Oriental because of the spices this felt more like a perfume of Biblical ingredients.

Ms. Muller would sell her perfumes from her Haifa, Israel store. Most others discovered it when it was presented as part of the duty-free offerings on El Al flights to and from Tel Aviv. Housed in pretty little ancient amphora-like bottles they became luxurious souvenirs of an Israeli trip in the 1960’s. Those bottles have made them highly sought after by those who collect perfume bottles. It is one reason there is not more of them in perfume lovers’ collections.

Ms. Muller would continue to produce perfume releases until her last collaboration with perfumer Pierre Bourdon. They created Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5 in 2005; meant to be a national fragrance of Hungary. She would pass away in 2012.

The reason Bat-Sheba Woody Modern and Exotic Oriental are in the Dead Letter Office is because they are victim of limited distribution. They were ideal perfumes of their time and even experiencing them now I especially think the green honeyed rose of Woody Modern would live up to the second word in its name.

I really enjoyed digging through the scraps of information that existed. I must credit the Cleopatra’s Boudoir blog with having the most extensive information on Ms. Muller and Bat-Sheba, if you’re interested to know more click on the link. At the end I felt like the story of Judith Muller Bat-Sheba was my own version of interpreting perfumed Dead Sea Scrolls.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Vilhelm Mango Skin- What Tropical Should Be?

If I describe a perfume with the adjective “tropical” I would bet manty of you are thinking of something dense with sweet flowers and fruits. It has always been a funny thing for me because having grown up in South Florida and traveling throughout the tropics that is not the scent of the actual region. It is the scent of cocktails served at tourist areas. My idea of the tropics is the scent of the fruit ripening on the trees. A lighter scent of florals reaching me as if on a breeze. Turns out that a perfume called Vilhelm Mango Skin agrees with me.

I’m sure you’re all tired of reading this but Jan Ahlgren the owner-creative director of Vilhelm is one of the great success stories of the last three years. Mr. Ahlgren has defined a brand aesthetic which allows him to find new ways to position the new releases. He has so far exclusively worked with perfumer Jerome Epinette. Another reason for the coherence of the collection overall. Earlier this year Poets of Berlin was the first perfume from the brand I would have called “sweet”. Mango Skin continues the sweet trend at Vilhelm but it is less sweet than that previous release.

Jerome Epinette (l.) and Jan Ahlgren

M. Epinette has always found surprising new ways to use different ingredients. The note list of Mango Skin is a roster of typical tropical components. M. Epinette uses violet as the linchpin to what is a fantastic perfume of the tropics.

From the first moments the mango is here. In the very early going this is the smell of a ripe mango on the tree. There is some green from the skin. M. Epinette adds orange to flesh out the mango. Then the violet adds a candied floral bridge to frangipani and ylang-ylang. Those florals are pitched at a transparent level which allows for the violet to act as connective tissue between the fruit on top and the florals in the heart. The last part of the construction is an effervescent blackcurrant accord bubbling up through the other notes.

Mango Skin has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mango Skin is that combination of fruit and floral without being a typical fruity floral. The entire composition feels like a carefree day in the sun. If tropical could be like this all the time I’d be quite happy.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Maison Lancome Iris Dragees, Oranges Bigarades, and Santal Kardamon- Straightforwardly Good

One thing I try to do is not get enchanted with the new shiny object in my writing about perfume. I try to remind myself that even when I try a new release and it is a simple soliflore or duo there can still be something which is worthy of comment. This is basic perfumery which is no less enjoyable for being simple and straightforward. Back at the end of winter I received a sample set of these kinds of perfumes from Lancome. I put them aside because all three seemed like they would be better in warmer weather. That has turned out to be the case for the three new releases for the Maison Lancome Collection; Iris Dragees, Oranges Bigarades, and Santal Kardamon.

Nathalie Lorson

The Maison Lancome Collection has been in existence since 2016. It has landed on an aesthetic of two keynotes with a few modulators for each release. There is not a poor perfume in the entire bunch. They’re just straightforward what you see is what you get fragrances. The three I’ll do short takes on are not really different than the previous eight. They all are worth seeking out if you particularly enjoy the two listed keynotes on the bottle. It is certainly the case that one of the new releases fits that bill for me which led me to write about them.

Iris Dragees is composed by perfumer Nathalie Lorson. This is a combination of iris and sugared almond. One of the things that sets this collection apart is the perfumers tend to use multiple sources of the listed keynotes. In this Mme Lorson gilds orris with a more traditional iris source. As it is combined with the sweet almond it forms an odd powdery iris macaron accord. This really bloomed in the warmer weather.

Christophe Raynaud

Oranges Bigarades is composed by Christophe Raynaud. This is a combination of orange and black tea. Here M. Raynaud combines the bitterness of bigarade with a juicier sweeter orange. By adding in the black tea it provides a kind of luxurious contrast to the citrus by inserting itself betwixt the two orange sources.

Amandine Clerc-Marie

Santal Kardamon is composed by perfumer Amandine Clerc-Marie. This is the perfume which caused me to write about Maison Lancome. Sandalwood and cardamom are two of my favorite perfume ingredients. Mme Clerc-Marie uses two different sandalwood extracts which she chooses to combine with the stickier green cardamom. Together it forms my kind of simple perfume with two ingredients I can’t have enough of. It has been fantastic as a summertime perfume.

All three perfumes have 8-10 hour longevity and average silage.

If you are looking for a nicely executed perfume around two of your favorite perfume ingredients and you see them listed on a Maison Lancome bottle; give it a try. Santal Kardamon does the trick for me.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Lancome.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Penhaligon’s Elisabethan Rose- Let Them Sniff Roses!

Someday, somewhere, a perfume PR person is going to explain the reasoning behind putting the same name as a classic within the brand on a new perfume which smells nothing like it. I’ve never figured it out because those who loved the original version feel “cheated” when faced with the new version. It must be especially jarring when the new version very pointedly goes for a contemporary vibe. This is the case for Penhaligon’s Elisabethan Rose.

Back in 1984 the original Elisabethan Rose, composed by perfumer Michael Pickthall, was released. It was a big powerful aldehydic rose sandalwood affair. When smelling it for the first time in the early 2000’s I felt this was Exhibit A of what people meant as “old lady perfume”. It felt like it should have a warning sticker of “only for those with grandchildren”. I received a press release announcing that Penhaligon’s was bringing back Elisabethan Rose. My first snarky thought was there must be a new generation of grandmothers by now. As I read further into the press release I saw that perfumer Alienor Massenet has been asked to produce the new version. Once I saw the note list I became much more interested in trying it. Mme Massenet has a very lean style which was just what a new Elisabethan Rose needed.

Alienor Massenet

If the original Elisabethan Rose was the perfume of a Dowager Queen the new one is for the Princess first in line to the throne. Rose has always been one of the most regal perfume ingredients which something with the name Elisabethan Rose should reflect. With all of the aldehydes in the original you felt the crown was perched on a heavily hairsprayed coif. Mme Massenet creates a rose with vitality and verve for the lively Princess.

Mme Massenet substitutes a green opening for the aldehydes of the original. This comes via hazelnut leaves. This is a foliage type of accord. Almond is used in a judicious way to provide a kind of nutty woodiness. What comes next is what really drew me in as Mme Massenet uses cinnamon to add some shimmering heat to the top notes. Out of this a classic rose begins to increase in presence. It becomes very forthright; reaching a kind of sticky, near cloying, level. Mme Massenet has a firm grip on the reins which keeps it from tipping over into an unpleasant level. This is the regal spine of both versions. The cinnamon amplifies the spicy core of the rose making it a spicy jammy rose. The sandalwood is back from the original as the rose wanes. It is accompanied by a splash of vetiver, bringing back the green, and a bit of musk.

Elisabethan Rose has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I like this new version quite a bit more than the original. It feels like a rose for 2018 represented by a vivacious Queen-in-waiting telling her admirers to “Sniff the Roses!”.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Elie Saab Girl of Now Shine- Floral Gourmand Balance

Floral gourmands are one of the styles brands have decided will be popular with a younger perfume consumer. Particularly over the last two years there have been an increase in these kinds of fragrances. For the most part they have been on the lighter, more transparent side of the spectrum. One of the outliers was last year’s Elie Saab Girl of Now. That chose to leave the transparency behind, going for a fuller gourmand accord. In that case I felt like a groom whom the bride had smushed a particularly fine pistachio vanilla cake up his nose. It was a case I wondered if it would benefit from some of that opacity so many others were using. I guess the same idea occurred to the people at the brand because we now have Elie Saab Girl of Now Shine.

Sophie Labbe

Most of the time I am going to complain when a flanker rehashes an original with a couple of changes. This is one of those infrequent cases where that all worked to the better along with a lighter tone overall. Perfumers Sophie Labbe and Dominique Ropion re-team, after composing the original, for Girl of Now Shine.

Dominique Ropion

What I didn’t care for in the original was it was so aggressively cake-like. It was cloying in every bad definition of that word. Girl of Now Shine captures the earlier iteration of that cake as it is being baked. It is much airier, and that expansiveness allows more room for the florals to find some balance; all for the better.

The note added to Girl of Now Shine is pineapple. Despite my antipathy to the note in general the perfumers use it as an alternative sweetener. Like using fruit juice in an actual cake recipe. It underpins a crisp pear. If there was one thing I really liked about the original it was the use of pistachio. It adds an unusual roasted nutty quality. It is again given a prominent place in Girl of Now Shine. As it begins to combine with the fruit the florals in the presence of jasmine and orange blossom provide a lilting white flower duet. Vanilla provides the finishing amount of traditional gourmand sweet. It is used in a much lower amount than in the original. It closes out a perfume which is much the better for the restraint.

Girl of Now Shine has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is the aesthetic I prefer when it comes to floral gourmands. It allows for the florals to shine alongside the gourmand aspects. Finding the right balance means this is a better perfume than the original.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Goutal Chat Perche- Child’s Play

I grew up in the flattest of flatlands in South Florida. Which meant any elevation was treated as something of wonder as a child. Even better it was something to play upon. Near my house they had built up an artificial elevation for a new highway. By the time I was out of school for the summer the new grass on this mound had fully grown in. Someone in the neighborhood had received a large appliance delivery and the giant box it came in was on the street for disposal. I imagined a different use.

Camille Goutal

Slicing down each corner seam with a steak knife I had four long panels of carboard. I took them over to the new hill and walked to the top. I sat on the cardboard on one end pulled the other end up in a curved cover to my feet and nudged myself over the edge. I hurtled down the grassy slope on my cardboard-a-boggan. It was not long before my friends showed up on their bicycles and the other three panels of cardboard were also flying down the hill. If I was asked for a perfume which captures the scent of that day it would be a combination of crushed vegetation, sun-warmed cardboard, and freshly washed clothes. Not something I expected to find its way into a bottle until I received my sample of Goutal Chat Perche.

Isabelle Doyen

Creative director and owner of Goutal, Camille Goutal, has been overseeing a shift in the brand aesthetic over the last couple of years. It is not an easy thing to accomplish but I have been impressed with the latest releases for this long-time niche perfume brand. Ever since the 2016 release of Tenue de Soiree it has felt like there is new vitality at Goutal. One thing which has remained a constant is Isabelle Doyen who has been there for most of the last thirty years. She is the perfumer behind Chat Perche.

The name of the perfume comes form a child’s game which is a variant of “Tag”. In this game the Chat (cat) stalks Perche (perched) mice who are not allowed to have their feet on the ground. Once the cat touches a perched mouse they yell out “Chat!” and the mouse has now become the Chat; then the game continues. The perfume is meant to represent that spirit of outdoors play as a child. Mme Doyen has created a fantastic fragrance of green growing things and the scents produced when running through them.

Chat Perche begins with a fabulous accord of green grass. I am reasonably sure this is a mixture of oximes to provide the scent of a field of grass. To this there is a lovely piece of nuance as a peppery green floral accord identified as nasturtium in the note list. Nasturtium essential oil is quite pungent and I guess it could be a new isolate I am unaware of but I think Mme Doyen has fashioned a fascinating variant of the grass accord. Together there is this natural effect that might be the product of a perfumer who knows how to get the most out of her synthetic palette. There is a diffuse citrus accord from lemon blossom which captures the hazy sunlight of a summer’s day. It finishes with a set of clean laundry musks which feels like just right as grass stained clothing would be the order of the day.

Chat Perche has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Goutal suggest this is an all-ages perfume starting from age three. I am not sure if I subscribe to that as I have had many e-mail conversations with readers about the right time for them to share their perfume with children. Age three has never been one of my recommendations. For the older perfume lovers Chat Perche captures the joy of child’s play in the summer. Even at 58 it has me eyeing the large cardboard box out for recycling across the street.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Dear George

1

There is a hazard to knowing too much about the process of writing that goes into releasing a popular book. The rapid, and insatiable, information flow doesn’t allow an author to hide away and finish their book. The more popular the author the worse this is. It is something which is never mentioned enough when discussing J.K. Rowling. Writing the most popular book series in the entire world she managed to finish all seven books in ten years. Especially after the third one was released, for the last four books, through the incessant nattering and theorizing Ms. Rowling found the ability to stay on schedule providing readers with a complete story.

George R.R. Martin

The more typical timeline is what we see with author George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series which is the inspiration for HBO’s “Game of Thrones”. He released the first book of a planned seven in 1996 and we’re still waiting for book six 22 years later. This is also an atypical situation because his story has gotten beyond the books in the television series. Which means the visual version is going to tell us how it all ends before Mr. Martin has the opportunity to do so.

Because of the popularity of these books he also is facing the issue of people who will not allow him to live his life on his own terms. Whenever he posts on his official blog there are always a few responses along the line of; “would you get back to work on the book”. I was going to add the word “please” but these requests are rarely that polite.

There is an even more worrisome level of commentary on the speed of Mr. Martin’s writing that includes the concept that he won’t live long enough to finish as he will turn 70 this September. There is some precedence for this worry because author Robert Jordan did not live long enough to finish his “Wheel of Time” series. I didn’t care because he told a young author, Brandon Sanderson, everything that was going to happen, bringing the series to a satisfying conclusion.

I don’t worry about Mr. Martin’s health. But I think some of getting the ending right might be part of his delay in writing. About a year from now the final season of “Game of Thrones” will have aired. At that point we will know who wins, and loses, the Game of Thrones. It will be the same ending as in the books because Mr. Martin shared it with the producers. I think that has to be monumentally difficult for Mr. Martin. Some of the biggest twists in the story have been shown visually before hitting the printed page. I imagine how much different it is to write out a delightful twist knowing you are the only one who knows it and can’t wait to see how the readers will enjoy it. In the current book he is writing we’ve probably already seen every major twist on the TV screen. He has become a kind of appendix to his own series as the book fills in background and provides texture, but the plot has passed it by. Doesn’t mean I won’t devour it when it comes out, but I will know what’s going to happen; at least the big things.

Which leads me to a short open letter to the author.

Dear George,

Put down the book and leave it alone. Come back to it later; or never. Your story is going to be finished on the screen. Thrill me with something new. Something which excites you to write. Not something which I believe has become an onerous chore. You have one of the most amazing imaginations in fantasy literature. Having it chained to filling in backstory for the next few years is a waste.

I will get your ending on the screen in a year. Make me a new beginning. Just don’t sell the film option until you are done.

Your reader,

Mark

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme- Aquatic Trendsetter

I have mentioned this before, but I sometimes look at the fragrance bargain bin at my local discount store mournfully. This happens not because of the selection but that there are some of the original trendsetters of perfumery in there. I get over it because it means those are accessible to many more people because of the modest price. Which is also the point of this column. This past month the summer allotment of the fresh aquatics must have arrived because the bin was covered in a layer of bottles of L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme.

Chantal Roos

In 1992 as Issey Miyake began their fragrance brand, creative director Chantal Roos and perfumer Jacques Cavallier would define the brand. In these early days Mme Roos decided the new aquatic style was what would set Issey Miyake, as a brand, apart. It was a shrewd play and when 1992’s L’Eau D’Issey was released it made a splash, literally. Two years later the same creative team released the masculine counterpart L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme.

Jacques Cavallier

When I try a perfume like L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme I always place it in context of where it began. If I received a new release aquatic which smelled like this I would dismiss it. Yet back in 1994 the aquatic fragrance for men was just getting started and L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme is one of those that cemented the popularity of the style. It is also a great perfume to wear in the summer.

L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme opens on a Calone-centered top accord matched with yuzu. Back then Calone was something new. This is the typical aquatic top accord we now know very well. From here M. Cavallier makes some clever choices starting with geranium and cinnamon in the heart. The slightly spicy contrast to the fresh seaside accord works really well before heading to a sandalwood and vetiver base.

L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

There might be a hundred clones at the mall right now but if you go to the local discount bin you can find one of the originals for a fraction of the cost. That is what Discount Diamonds are all about.

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

Mark Behnke