New Perfume Review Ralph Lauren Collection Saffron- Soft Soliflore

Ever since the success of the early designer luxury brands it was only a matter of time until they all ended up producing a collection. What was surprising was how long it took one of the most successful mainstream designer collections to catch up to its peers. In 2016 the Ralph Lauren Collection was released with ten perfumes. The decision was to create soliflore style perfumes based on a focal point, named on the label, supported by two other notes. Like any debut collection of that many entries it was uneven but when it worked the potential was there.

One from those initial ten which worked was Oud by perfumer Carlos Benaim. By going with the smoky quality of the title note it stood out for having a rougher style than the others. It turned out that the concept was a bit flawed when observed over ten perfumes. To their credit unlike some other of their contemporaries they didn’t follow up with multiple releases every couple of months. They waited two years before adding the eleventh entry; Ralph Lauren Collection Saffron.

Carlos Benaim

M. Benaim was asked to be the perfumer behind Saffron. If what I liked about Oud was the rougher edges; in Saffron he impresses me with the opposite. He creates a plush transparent Oriental style of fragrance. One of the other big differences was there are more than three ingredients. It carries a large effect producing a more pleasing experience.

I knew I was going to experience something different when I smelled the top accord; it had three notes all on its own. The citrus of grapefruit, the spiciness of cardamom and the piquancy of black pepper. This was a delightful combination of three of my favorite top notes. M. Benaim allows the cardamom the place of prominence, but the grapefruit captures the citrus-y character of cardamom while the black pepper provides texture. Saffron has a warm sweet botanical leathery effect when used at a higher concentration as it is here. M. Benaim provides an herbal contrast in davana, adding a bit of bite. It continues a languorous development into a full-fledged suede accord in the base. It ends on a synthetic woody base which keeps things on the light side over the final hours.

Saffron has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Saffron is by far the best in the Ralph Lauren Collection. One reason might be there was a two-year gap between ten releases and one. The other one might be to relent on the concept of three ingredient perfumes. Whatever the reason, the original ten were easy to dismiss. You might even be walking by them in your local store thinking you know what’s there. Next time see if there is an eleventh bottle and give Saffron a try. You might join me in looking forward to what comes next.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bergdorf-Goodman.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maria McElroy for American Perfumer Desert Flower- The Soul of Memory

In a shop in Louisville, Kentucky is the first store dedicated to the art and creativity of the American independent perfumer. It is called, appropriately, American Perfumer. Owner Dave Kern has curated a collection of the best this sector has to offer. He believes, as I do, that a consumer who is exposed to what is offered will see the difference.

American Perfumer in Louisville, Kentucky

One of those differences is these perfumers create from a sincere place within. This is not focus group driven fragrance. This is emotionally creative artistic perfume. It means each perfumer brings something unique to their brand. One of the ways Mr. Kern wanted to stand out was to offer exclusive limited editions by the perfumers of the brands which were on his shelves. The first one was reviewed yesterday, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz for American Perfumer Colorado. For the second limited edition Mr. Kern asked Maria McElroy, the perfumer behind aroma M and House of Cherry Bomb. Mr. Kern chose these two perfumers because, “I knew they’d make beautiful, interesting work and get it done on time. That said, in every way, they exceeded my expectations.”

Mr. Kern kickstarted the creative process by asking Ms. McElroy “if she had any scent-memories from growing up in Utah”. A simple brief which doesn’t match the complex perfume which has sprung from it. In the notes which Ms. McElroy included with my sample she remembered car trips across the Mojave Desert while she was “reciting Jack Kerouac lines”. This would be crossed with a more recent trip to Marrakech where the Brooklynite Ms. McElroy is now reconnected with the child in the backseat as she gazed out upon the Sahara Desert nearly half a world away. That is the inspiration for Maria McElroy for American Perfumer Desert Flower.

Maria McElroy

While in Marrakech she would source small amounts of different oils which is what she uses in Desert Flower. This creates an incredibly unique fragrance. It is part of what American independent perfumery stands for. Artists who will create something exquisite in a small batch which might never be replicated.

For those who have read my reviews of Ms. McElroy’s aroma M perfumes she has a way of connecting with my storytelling urge to create a fiction around her perfumes. Something like Desert Flower was always going to cause that urge to come to the foreground again. In this case I imagine a hiker reaching Monument Valley after having crossed Utah from Colorado.

The hiker was thinking of the Navajo guide who showed him to the campsite for the night. As he explained the ground rules for camping, he made sure he had my attention when he said, “This is the place where Yikaisdaha (The Milky Way) aligns with the Earth. It is where the Heavens and Earth meet.” The hiker had just finished stowing his cooking materials after dinner. He gazed out across the desert floor towards the rock formations known as The Mittens. The sun crossed the floor lighting up the red rocks with the final rays of the day. The hiker noticed there were some desert flowers blooming in the twilight their scent released as the sun disappeared. It always impressed the hiker how much the few flowers which thrived in the desert could fill the air with their perfume. The strong woods of the desert provided a sonorous bass line. As the evening progressed and the hiker watched the span of Yikaisdaha slowly lower itself towards the floor of the desert a deep inky black scent overtook the night. That was the last thought of the hiker until the sun woke him the next morning. The only surety he had it was real was the lone desert flower greeting the day. He wondered what Arizona would smell like.

Ms. McElroy creates a perfume which captures the moment when night first falls in the desert and cereus flowers, among many others, turn the world into a floral wonderland. The use of authentic Arabian oils adds unbelievable nuance throughout.

Desert Flower opens with a dense mixture of floral ingredients. This is a gigantic floral accord which could have gotten out of control. Ms. McElroy keeps that from happening by using honey to form a soft sticky embrace of the florals. This by itself would be amazing but there is one last accord to be added; an oud-tinted chypre. Ms. McElroy excels at using precious materials. This chypre accord wherein she inserts genuine oud oil is remarkable. It adds an exotic twist to an already excellent chypre accord. The best chypres feel like they are inky scents; the inclusion of the oud alters it in a way I wanted more of.

Desert Flower has 12-14 hour longevity and it is a pure parfum concentration which means minimal sillage.

If you are a lover of full-bodied floral perfumes Desert Flower is a rare jewel made up of rare ingredients. It is something which you will regret missing if this sounds like your kind of perfume. It is my kind of perfume where Ms. McElroy takes the soul of memory transforming it into perfumed art.

I’ll finish with a quote from “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac, “As we crossed the Colorado-Utah border I saw God in the sky in the form of huge gold sunburning clouds above the desert that seemed to point at me and say, “Pass here you’re on the road to heaven.”

Mr. Kern, in overseeing his first two limited editions for American Perfumer, has taken us from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s Colorado to Maria McElroy’s Utah-inspired Desert Flower. Thus laying down the first two miles on “the road to heaven” with the heart and soul of American perfumery.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Maria McElroy.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Dawn Spencer Hurwitz for American Perfumer Colorado- High-Altitude Heart

One of many things I learned while I was managing editor at CaFleureBon was the breadth of creativity in American Perfumery. Editor-in-Chief Michelyn Camen has been the most tireless supporter of these national treasures through her series on CaFleureBon called Profiles in American Perfumery. Over 130 posts where the perfumer speaks in their own words. I had always wondered if there was enough for someone to open a store dedicated to American independent perfume.

Inside American Perfume in Louisville, Kentucky

The answer came this past September with the opening of American Perfumer in Louisville, Kentucky. Owner Dave Kern opened a shop dedicated to showcasing the best of American independent perfume. When I looked over what he chose to fill his shelves it was obvious he had gathered brands from every part of the country. What I was hoping for, was over time Mr. Kern would collaborate with some of these artists for limited editions exclusive to the store. It turns out Mr. Kern was way ahead of me. He was going to do this right away.

When I asked him about how he chose who to ask to do the first two he answered, “When I started to reach out to American perfumers about the AMERICAN PERFUMER concept two years ago, Dawn and Maria both quickly emerged as friends, advisors and confidants. As two people that I had tremendous respect for, their immediate encouragement, and enthusiasm for what I was proposing, gave me great confidence that I was onto something.” The Dawn is Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes and the Maria is Maria McElroy of aroma M and House of Cherry Bomb. Mr. Kern continued, “Launching the Limited Editions with them was always the plan. Practically speaking, Dawn and Maria are quality assurance. I knew they’d make beautiful, interesting work and get it done on time. That said, in every way, they exceeded my expectations.”

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Over the next two days I am going to review both gorgeous limited editions which show off the heart and soul of American Perfumery. I start today with Dawn Spencer Hurwitz for American Perfumer Colorado and will follow tomorrow with Maria McElroy for American Perfumer Desert Flower.

Like many of the best perfumes they start with a simple query. This one began with Mr. Kern asking Ms. Hurwitz “what Colorado smelled like.” Ms. Hurwitz is based in Boulder, Colorado which makes it easy for her to answer that question. For those who are fans of Ms. Hurwitz’s perfume she has been showing us what Colorado smells like in perfumes like The Voices of Trees, Mountain Sage, or Rocky Mountain High. Colorado fits in that continuum as you breathe in the high-altitude milieu on the slopes of the Rockies.

Ms. Hurwitz opens Colorado on a top accord primarily of spruce. To keep that from becoming too generic in its piney-ness Ms. Hurwitz cleverly supports it with a sunbeam of neroli and a softening of the terpenic sharpness with softer leafy ingredients. This blunts the pine needles from getting too sharp right off the bat. As we gain altitude we pass through a stand of clean woods of cedar and sandalwood. Ms. Hurwitz winds strands of jasmine and immortelle through the woods to capture the wildflowers in bloom. The immortelle adds a richness to these otherwise straightforward woody ingredients. Once you reach the highest altitude all you have left are the sentinel pine trees overseeing the valley. The base accord is a superbly realized mixture of three sources of pine combined with balsam. This is that breath of chilled air carrying the scent of the trees along with it. A subtle filament of cade swirls though as if woodsmoke from a cabin far below has risen to the peak.

Colorado has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you are a fan of any of Ms. Hurwitz’s perfumes which feature pine, Colorado is an essential piece of that series. They are among my very favorite styles that Ms. Hurwitz produces. I have always found the perfumes from Ms. Hurwitz to display the heart of an artist at work. In Colorado she shares the love of the place she lives with a perfume that soars over her personal American landscape.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Blackbird Anemone- The Night Plum Before Christmas

Regular readers of my The Sunday Magazine column know I enjoy a skewed kind of Holiday fare at the Home Office in Poodlesville. If there is a movie which captures my Christmas perspective, it is 1993’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” by director Tim Burton. The short synopsis is the denizens of Halloweentown take over in Christmastown. What should become obvious is they put their own spin on traditional Christmas tropes. It is that part of the movie which delights me on each viewing. There is a place for the straightforward traditional activities in any holiday, but I am always drawn to the odd spin imparted to those pleasures. Blackbird Anemone is an incredibly odd delight for those who enjoy their perfumes a bit askew.

Nicole Miller

The entire Blackbird collection from Nicole Miller has always marched to its own contrapuntal beat. If there was ever a perfumer I would compare to the visual perspective of Tim Burton it would be Ms. Miller. This has always produced perfumes from a unique perspective which exist to push at the edges of what smelling good means.

Anemone takes one of the traditional ingredients of the Holidays, plum, and gives it a non-holiday treatment which I can’t get enough of. Ms. Miller takes the well-known fragrance ingredient and skewers it with spikes of contrasting effects over a flat champagne accord providing its own kind of unusual Holiday vibe.

Anemone starts with that plum bobbing on the surface of a watery lotus. It is like looking at a lily pond and finding a plum underneath the green. Then this is where the whole thing turns into an odd Holiday party as the watery effect is replaced by a flat champagne accord. There is a stray teeny bit of effervescence underneath a stale wine which is where the plum happily floats. The champagne accord has sour and sweet pieces. Ms. Miller teases out both sides with honey and tobacco picking up the sweet while amber and styrax grab the sour by the hand. Everywhere I smell there is something which feels part of the Season but twisted around. The whole effect is of a Christmas party as only the creatures of Halloweentown could put on.

Anemone has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

There is no current brand taking as many successful risks as Blackbird. It is a refreshing way to bring a little Halloweentown to the staid village of Perfumetown. Anemone is at its best in the Holiday weather. I wore it to our local tree lighting ceremony last week. As we sang along with the carolers, Anemone smelled like The Night Plum Before Christmas.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review April Aromatics Irisistible- Rainbow Bridge

One of the fun things about writing on perfume is watching the growth of an independent perfumer. There is the introductory phase where I realize there is something there to watch. The second phase is the inflection point. That is the moment when an artist finds their aesthetic and the days of slow growth will be followed by the third phase; ascension. The great majority of the independent perfumers never find that second phase. They create nice smelling things, but they lack something. Something they never get past. It is why when I sense the inflection point has been hit, I expect something special to follow.

For independent perfumer Tanja Bochnig that inflection point was 2015’s Erdenstern. It was the most complete perfume she had made. Over the next three releases each would become better and better. The rising slope of creativity was evident. With her latest release, April Aromatics Irisistible, Fr. Bochnig has outdone herself.

Tanja Bochnig

Fr. Bochnig wanted to make an iris-centric fragrance. She was inspired by the mythological Goddess Iris. Iris was the messenger to the Gods and used the rainbow to travel between mortals and immortals. It is that rainbow bridge which Fr. Bochnig re-creates in brilliant bands of flowers instead of colors.

One thing I am always asked about iris perfumes I write about, “Is it powdery?”. Irisistible opens on the antithesis of that query. The iris in Irisistible is the earthy slightly doughy root from which iris is extracted from. It erupts to life after a brief fanfare of announcement by a bright flare of lemon. This is the style of iris I prefer. It is rarely as vibrant as it is in Irisistible. Fr. Bochnig then adds in floral bands to the iris to form a floral rainbow. Jasmine, rose, tuberose, and cassia flower. Each of these add in a different shade of floral to an overall accord with iris in front. A lot of times, in other perfumes, florals tend to flow into each other. Fr. Bochnig keeps each on its own separate band where it is easy to pick each one out. That is like just focusing on one color in a rainbow you miss the beauty of the whole. The same is true here. This comes to an end with a slightly musky sandalwood as a foundation. As if it is the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.

Irisistible has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

On the days I wore Irisistible I had to suppress a constant smile. One was for the iris rainbow bridge which was swirling around me. The other reason was the realization of what a complete perfumer Fr. Bochnig has become. She has never made anything better than Irisistible.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review 4160 Tuesdays Over the Chocolate Shop- Wonka-licious

One of my favorite movies is “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” I like both versions near equally. Both have visuals of the interior of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory that fire the imagination of where candy comes from. Not dreary machines and conveyor belts. No! In the Wonka world there are things like chocolate rivers where the candy bars come from. There is a fallacy that the smell of chocolate is overwhelmingly sweet. Whenever I see that river in the movie the nose in my mind’s eye doesn’t smell milk chocolate. It is rich Dutch process cocoa powder which is on my mental Scratch N’ Sniff card. That overwhelming sweetness is where way too many perfumes inspired by chocolate fall apart. The nose isn’t as gluttonous as Augustus Gloop shoveling chocolate into his mouth. Independent perfumer Sarah McCartney gets this because 4160 Tuesdays Over the Chocolate Shop is one of the best chocolate perfumes I’ve ever tried.

Sarah McCartney

Ms. McCartney was inspired by the smell of her friend’s apartment who, wait for it, lived over a chocolate shop. Early in her career at 4160 Tuesdays she made a very limited edition of Over the Chocolate Shop. It had gained a near-legendary status on the gourmand discussions within the Internet. I had chalked it up to one of those small-run productions that I was destined not to encounter.

At the end of the summer Ms. McCartney announced Over the Chocolate Shop was returning in a non-limited edition. Looked like I was going to get a chance to try it after all. What had always piqued my interest is those who had tried it, from the original release, mentioned how it was rich without being too sweet. It also displays much of what sets Ms. McCartney out among her independent perfumer peers.

If you’ve ever smelled cocoa powder it has a desiccated richness which I have not seen replicated in a perfume until the early moments of Over the Chocolate Shop. Ms. McCartney starts with that. It becomes more liquid as the mixer starts to transform the powder to thick liquid. This is a subtle inflection from powder to liquid which is enticing on my skin. At this point things could have started off down a sweet onrush to the end. Ms. McCartney blunts that momentum with the use of two nutty ingredients of praline and hazelnut. It slows the development down as both ingredients provide a toasted nuance to the chocolate which still predominates. This is where I admire Ms. McCartney’s restraint; this would have been easy to be just another too-sweet chocolate perfume. She finds a way to stand apart. In the later going the bitterness of black coffee provides another bit of nuanced contrast.

Over the Chocolate Shop has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

The gourmand sector of perfumery has still not been populated with a lot of stand-out perfumes. It is an emerging area for which I expect more to come especially over the next couple of years. Those future perfumes will have a high standard to live up to if they want to use chocolate as their keynote. Over the Chocolate has no equals in its Wonka-licious chocolatey goodness.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Merry X-Men Holiday Special

This has been a solid week of opening my imaginary Marvel Advent calendar. Tuesday was the latest trailer for March’s “Captain Marvel” movie. Seeing her in all her badass mohawk goddess glory was awesome. Friday saw the release of the trailer for “Avengers: Endgame”. As Cap shed a tear for the loss of his friends I was shattered. The other thing I received this week was one of this year’s two Holiday comic books from Marvel, “The Merry X-Men Holiday Special”.

Every year the two big comic book companies DC and Marvel release Holiday special issues. Most of the time they are single one-shots with a silly shoe-horned intersection of holidays and Heroes (or Villains). Even so they can be memorable enough to rise above it all. One from DC was in the 1994 Batman Adventures Holiday Special #1. The story “The Harley and The Ivy” is about Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy drugging Bruce Wayne with poisoned lipstick which allowed them to force him to take them on a shopping spree for gifts. The art, by Ronnie Del Carmen, would portend the jump to the animated series three years later virtually unchanged.

You’ve probably seen ads for the movie “Once Upon a Deadpool” where the PG-13 cut of “Deadpool 2” gets a new framing device around the Holidays. In the 2008 Marvel Holiday Special Deadpool took on Santa Claus to change his rich client’s name from the Naughty to the Nice list. Santa catches him at it and they fight it out with an interruption from the Abominable Snowman. Santa eventually pays Deadpool a price which cannot be matched to turn the tables on his client.

I think you can tell I usually enjoy these efforts. For this year’s “The Merry X-Men Holiday Special” I was interested for two reasons. One, was that it was laid out like an Advent calendar with each day represented by a one-page story written and drawn by different teams. The second reason was the return of the man who made the X-Men great, writer Chris Claremont. There were also some pages by celebrities which showed that they shouldn’t quit their day jobs. The exception to that was hip-hop artist Jean Grae who wrote a funny Jean Grey and Deadpool which I would be happy to see expanded in next year’s Holiday special.

The best work was done by the regular writers of the X-Men books. As a pet owner watching the happy couple of Rogue and Gambit trying to give medicine to their cat was great. The return of Wolverine from the dead with “#hotclaws” gets a smirky send-up.

We get to Mr. Claremont’s entry which is an inner dialogue of Kate Pryde as she lights a menorah in the remains of the mutant land of Genosha. She decides that the way to make a change for mutantkind is to become President. It is a fascinating thought from one of the originators of the X-Men.

This is a fun issue of X-Men for any comic book fan you have on your holiday shopping list even if they haven’t been reading the regular books.

Disclosure: I purchased my issue of all comics described within.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Memo Moroccan Leather- Leather in the Background

I write often about coherence of a collection. It is easy to call something a collection. It seems more difficult to find a creative through line upon which to build that group of fragrance. For a brand like Memo one thing which helps form that is a long-time partnership between creative director Clara Molloy and perfumer Alienor Massenet. They have collaborated on almost thirty perfumes over the last eleven years. I have always believed that creates the coherence I seek from a collection of perfume. Memo is a great example of that.

Something which has kept the creative partnership fresh has been the creation of sub-collections. One which contains some of my favorite perfumes from the brand overall is, Cuir Nomades. The baseline brief for the fragrances has been to pair leather with a geographical location. It has shown off Mme Massenet’s skill at using leather accords to different effect. For the most recent release, Moroccan Leather, the choice is to put the leather in the background in favor of iris and green notes.

Alienor Massenet

Moroccan Leather opens with a big slug of verdant galbanum. Mme Massenet uses the woody green of cypress to enhance that. Mandarin and ginger provide contrast. They push back with presence until a rich orris butter takes charge. This is the ice princess version of iris rising out of the galbanum and ushered into the heart by ylang-ylang and orange blossom. The powdery part is almost non-existent. The leather comes in but not as a keynote. It provides a refined support like iris-scented calfskin driving gloves. The green is recapitulated by a vetiver fraction which is magnified in the greener style of that ingredient. This is where Moroccan Leather lingers for a few hours before a typical synthetic woody base accord finishes things.

Moroccan Leather has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I enjoyed the choice to de-emphasize the leather in a perfume with that in the name. Once I realized that, the fragrance sorted itself out into a study of powerful green notes versus an earthy orris butter. That was something I enjoyed even if the leather was mostly missing. Because of that it is an odd entry in the Cuir Nomades collection as it felt apart from the others. If you’re looking for the kind of leather in the previous entries this will not be as satisfying. If you’re a fan of green notes and orris that will find its admirers here.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Neiman-Marcus.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfumerie Generale 23.1 Jasmagonda- Jasmine Butterfly

One of the more interesting sub-collections from any brand has been the “reworks” of the original Parfumerie Generale fragrances by independent perfumer Pierre Guillaume. M. Guillaume started this in 2012 where he took one of the numbered entries in the Parfumerie Generale line and re-interpreted it; releasing it with a point 1 after the original number to indicate the new fragrance.

Parfumerie Generale has been one of my favorite independent perfume brands. Most of the time the idea of a perfumer going back to reconsider his previous work would have me shaking my head. M. Guillaume has shown ingenuity in his second take on his original concepts. All the early reworks were of some of my favorites within the line causing me to get caught up in comparisons. It was only with the release of 9.1 Komorebi that he reworked one I didn’t care for. Which made it easy for me to prefer the new version. With 23.1 Jasmagonda he has taken one of my least favorites 23 Drama Nuui and transformed it into something which soars.

Pierre Guillaume

23 Drama Nuui was meant to showcase jasmine. The reason I didn’t care for it was that it was a flat uninspiring jasmine sprinkled with some spices and musk. This is among the most boring perfumes from a perfumer for whom I rarely use that adjective. Even the other perfumes which have not connected have been interesting. 23 Drama Nuui is one of the very few in this line which felt stunted. With a second chance, in 23.1 Jasmagonda, he uses jasmine as the keynote but this time he sends it aloft in a clean expansive perfume.

It begins with a crisp fruity snap of apple, grapefruit, and bergamot. This is the kind of fruity top accord I appreciate because it doesn’t dissolve into a sweet fruit salad, instead retaining a more focused quality. Relying on the tarter scents of the components they push back against a rich jasmine. Over all of this is a misty watery effect. Kind of like dew on the petals. Magnolia adds in a woody floral-ness which allow for cedar to provide an expansiveness to the overall perfume. This is when it takes flight. There is slight tuning over the final stages as tonka accentuates the floral over the wood.

23.1 Jasmagonda has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’m not sure if it is because a rework of a Parfumerie Generale I didn’t care for but 23.1 Jasmagonda is my favorite of the reworks. They have all felt like new perfumes but 23.1 Jasmagonda feels like a metamorphosis from drab caterpillar to vibrant butterfly as we go from 23 to 23.1.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Parfumerie Generale.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Imaginary Authors Whispered Myths- New Identities

Ever since oud became a thing in perfume there has been a myth about many perfumes having the actual material in the formula. The great majority of oud in perfume is an oud accord built around cypriol. It has its place because a perfumer wanting a lesser oud effect can tune that accord to provide a precise amount. When a perfumer makes the effort to use real oud in their perfume it becomes a bit like riding a tiger. Every source of oud has its own powerful scent profile. Subtle oud is entirely a myth. If you’re going to work with the genuine stuff, you’re going to have to work with what the oud gives you. Independent perfumer Josh Meyer has produced an excellent example of how to do this with Imaginary Authors Whispered Myths.

Josh Meyer

Before I get into the review Imaginary Authors always begins with a fun snippet of prose from a non-existent writer. I found the one used with Whispered Myths to be one of the more illuminating entries, “When the long hours Azzam Issa pulls at his family’s bakery begin to interfere with his day-job as a security guard at The Louvre things turn bizarre. Angelic creatures move from one painting to the next and statues speak to him in cryptic whispers. The delusions are a nuisance and the few hours of sleep he is afforded between jobs are no better; dominated by visits from ancient mariners and supernatural figures from worlds past. It isn’t until he begins to listen to these apparitions that he becomes truly unhinged. In the frantic search for the true identities of these lost souls, Azzam discovers something far more remarkable, his own.”

It didn’t strike me at first but as I experienced Whispered Myths this is also a journey from the mythology of oud in perfume through to a discovery of its real identity.

The oud Mr. Meyer chose as his keynote is a Cambodian oud. The sample I have of this kind of oud is one I would describe as medicinal, fruity, and woody. I am guessing the oud sourced by Mr. Meyer also has a similar scent profile because he makes some intelligent choices on how to interact with those aspects of the oud.

Whispered Myths starts with a nose-tingling dose of oud-y reality. Mr. Meyer lets the Cambodian oud out to roar with its medicinal quality right away. This is no myth it is a slap of reality. The opening moments are going to be difficult for those who don’t appreciate this part of the oud experience. If you can get through these opening minutes what comes next is remarkable. First up is a melon note. Mr. Meyer uses this to bring forward that concentrated dried fruitiness of the oud. Melon is a trite overused ingredient. Mr. Meyer makes it relevant in his usage of it here. Then a sweet honey accord provides viscous contrast to the oud. This is my favorite part of the development as the honey finds the medicinal core of the oud and tames it. The base accord opens with ambrette providing a transparent botanical musk to underline the animalic part of the oud. The remainder is a reminder that oud is agarwood as what Mr. Meyer calls “salvaged shipwreck” is a combination of the dry synthetic woods. They provide an ascetic counterweight to the woodiness of the oud.

Whispered Myths has 12-14 hour longevity and for 90% of the time average sillage except for those opening moments then it is above average sillage.

Since the beginning of Imaginary Authors Mr. Meyer has had a distinct house aesthetic. Whispered Myths is the first to break most completely from that. That might be jarring for some. I found it showed the maturity of Mr. Meyer as a perfumer. I’ve thought very highly of the last few perfumes, but it seems like Mr. Meyer was looking for a new identity. With Whispered Myths, along with his fictional museum guard, he has seemingly found one.

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

Mark Behnke