New Perfume Review Dunhill Century- Buried by the Flood

There is too much perfume being produced. There is no sector of perfumery that is not flooded with releases. One question I have always had is whether there is enough shelf space for it all. If there isn’t it is only logical to expect some good perfumes will get crowded out. If you need a recent exhibit, I give you Dunhill Century.

Dunhill has been a real under the radar brand. They haven’t had a consistent presence while not releasing a lot of new perfume. For those who read about perfume, earlier releases; Dunhill Signature and Dunhill Icon, have found their fans. I own both and find them to be excellent examples of mainstream perfume.

Carlos Benaim

Dunhill is a British brand and has been released there first with it usually making its way to the US in 4-6 months. At the end of the summer of 2018 I saw that Century had been released. The British bloggers/vloggers covered it. It made me want to find a sample. When my European buyer was putting together my autumn list, I asked her to see if she could find me a sample. A few weeks later there were two samples in with my order. I’ve been sitting on them since then because Century is a warmer weather style. I thought I’d review it when it released in the US. Imagine my surprise when it never made it to the mall it went directly to the online discounters.

I had been asking since the first of the year about it to my contacts at all the department stores. No knowledge of it. When I was doing some research on prices for a Discount Diamonds column I go to the new arrivals and see Century. I was floored it didn’t even get a season in the mall. It isn’t a rare event, unfortunately, but it is sad to see something of the quality of Century never get the chance to find its audience.

The perfumer behind Icon, Carlos Benaim, returned to compose Century. It is a simple spicy neroli over musky woods. It is another above average mainstream perfume.

Century opens on a typical citrus accord which falls away quickly. What comes next is neroli and cardamom. M. Benaim finds a beautiful balance between the floral and the spice. Then to transition to the base incense adds in a resinous connector. Sandalwood and cypriol form a fresh woody base.

Century has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

The market forces have consigned a good perfume to the discount websites. That might be a win. I worry that this is just another exhibit that even quality can get buried under the tsunami of new releases. If you’re looking for a great spicy woody neroli for the warmer weather do a search for Dunhill Century.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review L’Occitane Herbae- Blackberry Picking

The Colognoisseur Home Office is in a large agricultural area zoned to encourage farms. Ever since we moved here, I have tried to take as much advantage of the local farms as I can. One part of that which I enjoy quite a bit is berry picking season. It starts at the end of May with strawberries and ends when the raspberries appear at the end of the summer. Each time I go I enjoy the natural scent of the task. The green of the leaves. The smell of the berries on my fingers. The honest sweat of exertion. As I drive home that is the scent profile of my car. L’Occitane Herbae is reminiscent of the days I go picking blackberries.

Nadege Le Garlantezec

First let me get the misnomer on the label out of the way. When I received my sample I was looking forward to a celebration of green growing things. If you also look at that name and think that; you will be disappointed. This is a wild fruity floral that has zero to do with herbs of any kind. If that sounds good even with the silly choice of name keep reading.

Shyamala Maisondieu

Perfumers Nadege Le Garlantezec and Shyamala Maisondieu teamed up to create Herbae. I must believe they weren’t given a brief with the name attached to it. On the other hand if they were told the name they happily ignored it. Herbae is a fragrance of mid-summer in the blackberry field.

The only slight bit of herbal character comes from the early use of baie rose matched with the botanical musk of ambrette. It is an accord of a hot summer day. As I walk into the fields the blackberries ripening in the sun reach my nose. In Herbae the perfumers also bring the blackberry forward. It is given some contrast using rose and sage. When I focus, I find the rose, but the overall effect is vegetal green as a grace note to the blackberry. As I get up from having filled my containers, I have the smell of a clean sweat coming through my t-shirt. A combination of linen musks, honey, and coumarin form a nice sweaty cotton accord as the base of Herbae.

Herbae has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

While I would still like a L’Occitane fragrance which was all about herbs, Herbae was still a pleasure to wear. It makes me look at the calendar waiting to go pick some blackberries.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by L’Occitane.

Mark Behnke

Experience not Expertise

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I’m not sure what has changed recently but since the first of the year I have been getting sent proposals to take on perfume jobs I don't feel qualified to do. The first line always has some variation in which they call me an “expert”. When it comes to that word there is only one area in which I consider myself an expert; the organic chemistry of drug discovery. I was trained to do it. I’ve spent my life doing it. I’ve been pretty good at it. Someone calls me an expert at that I thank them for the compliment. When I’m called that in relation to perfume, I try and correct the terminology. I have always considered myself an experienced enthusiast.

To my mind it means I have had no formal training. It means anything I think I know about perfume has come from personal experience. It means I am only as insightful as the extent of that.

I started writing about perfume as a member of the forums at Basenotes. Somewhere along the line I started writing a paragraph or two on my impressions on the Scent of the Day I was wearing. That started right around ten years ago give or take a few months. I enjoyed giving my opinion and expected I would stay there for years. Then as I became a writer for Fragrantica, followed by the managing editor at CaFleureBon, and then starting Colognoisseur; things changed slightly. The feeling of being an ambassador for the things I think are wonderful about fragrance is what makes me sit down and write every day.

You’ll notice nowhere in that timeline is I went to a perfume school. Nowhere in there is I attended a perfume class. I have received none of the training I believe to be an important part of being an expert.

What I have replaced it with is the amazing opportunities I have had to meet the people who make perfume. I have been given so many chances to ask questions. The answers lead me to new questions and different thoughts about perfume.

When people find out I write about perfume they can’t imagine there is enough to write about. I always think there are too many things I want to write about. The whole reason I started adding a couple paragraphs to my Scent of the Day is I wanted to share my enthusiasm for the perfume I was wearing. That has evolved into what I try to do at Colognoisseur every day. Share with my readers the things I think are cool about cologne. Just don’t call me an expert.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review L’Artisan Parfumeur Bana Banana- Hail Esters!

When I began working in a chemistry lab, I tired of people walking in and saying, “It stinks in here!” It took me a few years to come up with my standard response, “I’m sorry. You needed to take a left if you were looking for the bakery.” Even so one of the foundational reasons I love perfume is my time in the lab working with the organic chemicals which do not stink. I was always fascinated with how one additional atom could change the smell of something completely. If there was a time when things came closest to smelling like a bakery it would be if my starting materials were esters. Esters are one of the largest chemical classes used in perfumery. Many of the fruity notes are esters.

Jean Laporte

I once had a project which required a large amount of the ester molecule, amyl acetate. Amyl acetate smells just like a banana. Even more it smells like an overripe banana. As I learned more about the ingredients that go into perfume, I learned about isoamyl acetate. This is the predominant compound isolated from bananas. When I had the opportunity to experience the two side-by-side the isoamyl acetate was much subtler than amyl acetate. Less overripe. It was years later when I was speaking with a chemist at IFF when this subject came up. He told me that the major fruity scent from jasmine is due to isoamyl acetate. I retreated to my home-grown lab set and did the comparison. When placed next to each other it is easy to detect. I always thought a perfume which took advantage of this overlap could be interesting. I no longer must hypothesize about this as L’Artisan Parfumeur Bana Banana is here.

Celine Ellena

Jean Laporte arrived at the same hypothesis from an entirely different starting point. As he was founding L’Artisan Parfumeur, which was one of the first brands of niche perfume, he got a request. A friend wanted a banana perfume to round out his Folies Bergere banana costume. M. Laporte thought to macerate banana and jasmine together and “Et voila!” Except it wasn’t. This became a story shared among perfumers. Through telling it to Jean-Claude Ellena it would find its way to his daughter Celine Ellena. It stuck in her mind and she wanted to make a real effort to make perfume taking advantage of the overlap between banana and jasmine in perfumery. That is what Bana Banana is.

I don’t know which of the banana-like esters Mme Ellena chose. I suspect there are at least three to four here. She puts them together into a curvy banana accord. Then because this is meant to be more than a single note perfume, she spices it with a lot of nutmeg and a pinch of pepper. The nutmeg imparts a creaminess to the fruit. It is just the right complement to add. The pinch of pepper sets up the arrival of violet leaves to provide the subtle greenery of the wide banana leaves. Then the jasmine comes in as if flowers bloomed from the banana splitting the peel as they unfurl. That these two ingredients were meant to be together chemically, and aesthetically, comes to life. Tonka bean, amber, and musk provide a comforting base accord to end this.

Bana Banana has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I admit I adore this perfume because it confirmed my thought of how good banana and jasmine would be together. I think this is a perfume which is a cut above the typical fruity floral fare even with my predilection to liking it. I have also enjoyed wearing it in the early spring because it is so exuberant. Mrs. C laughed at me on the mornings I applied this because I breathed deep and said out loud “Hail esters!”. Give Bana Banana a try and you might join me.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by L’Artisan Parfumeur.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfums MDCI Bleu Satin- Watermelon Addition

When it comes to the tropes of gender in perfume there is a question I am asked frequently. Is it too floral for a guy? This is hardly a new question it has been around for as long as I have worn fragrance. Even I was a bit susceptible to it when I made the decision to wear a “feminine” floral perfume out into the world many years ago. I survived. Now I wear what smells good to me. Even though the occasional co-worker will ask me if what I’m wearing on the day isn’t too floral for me. Over the years florals have been a hard sell on the masculine side of perfume. What has also interested me is the floral partner in many perfumes marketed to women is fruit. For some reason a fruit forward style of fragrance isn’t seen as only for women. I’m happy that this is true because there have been many excellent masculine fruity perfumes to which I can add Parfums MDCI Bleu Satin.

Claude Marchal

Owner-Creative Director of Parfums MDCI, Claude Marchal, has released a new three perfume set called “The Paintings Collection”. Each of the three fragrances has a famous painting reproduced on the label of the bottle. They are all varying interpretations of leather colognes. I’m reviewing Bleu Satin first because it is much more fruit than leather.

Cecile Zarokian

M. Marchal collaborates again with perfumer Cecile Zarokian. The clever decision made by the creative team is to infuse a kind of classic drugstore leather perfume of the 1970’s with a contemporary fruity counterpoint. To up the degree of difficulty they chose watermelon as the fruit.

I don’t know whether watermelon as a perfume ingredient is difficult to work with. I do know for my sensibilities it is hard to find the balance between fresh sweetness and kid’s sugar candy. Mme Zarokian finds the sweet spot as she surrounds it with a throwback leather perfume my father would have owned.

Bleu Satin opens with a green tinted citrus accord. Mme Zarokian keeps it fresh. Then the fruit comes as the watermelon supported by blackcurrant forms a lusher fruitiness. This is a lively opening set of ingredients. An indole-free jasmine expands the fruity accord into something opaquer. Then the classic cologne leather accord appears. To give it some more polish Mme Zarokian infuses it with saffron. This ups the sophistication level from the drugstore to the atelier. It ends with a mix of woods which also hearkens back to the classic leather colognes of yesteryear.

Bleu Satin has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Even though Bleu Satin has some of that powerhouse leather cologne heritage in it Mme Zarokian keeps the volume turned down. You won’t be leaving 100-yard sillage behind you. Bleu Satin is more personal than that. I enjoyed Bleu Satin on the two spring days I wore it because it wasn’t so “loud”. Bleu Satin is another fruit forward perfume I think a lot of men are going to enjoy.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Beginning of The End

When I saw the trailer for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker something hit me. 2019 will be the final year in whatever this geek pop culture renaissance comes to be called. Starting tonight with the premiere of the final season of “Game of Thrones” through to Avengers: Endgame in two weeks until The Rise of Skywalker at Christmas. Three huge properties will finish the ambitious stories they took on.

The progenitor of all of this was Star Wars in 1977; what would come to be Episode IV A New Hope. The phenomenon which would spring out of its success is the spark which lit the geek pop culture renaissance on fire. What I would also say is things didn’t really kick into high gear until we made the turn towards the new century. Studios had no idea how to transform the subject matter at the comic book shop or the sci-fi/fantasy book store. It produced mostly okay to bad attempts with the best being things which weren’t adaptations. No fans to disappoint. No material to stay faithful to. Star Wars returned in 1999 with Episode I: The Phantom Menace. George Lucas was given the complete creative control he wanted. I like Episodes I-III more than most because it always felt like Star Wars. This would become the blueprint for what came next.

If there was a consistent issue with all the adaptations prior to 2000 it was the studios didn’t trust a creative team which loved the material as much as the audience. When Peter Jackson was allowed to film the three movies adapting JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” all at once; it was a huge risk for the studio. The success of those movies showed first priority, to adapting things, is to get someone who is also into it.

In 2008 a producer named Kevin Feige and director Jon Favreau took one of the biggest home run swings ever when they combined to film Iron Man. If there was something I wanted to see it was a great superhero movie. I thought Robert Downey Jr. was the right choice to play Tony Stark. I wondered whether anyone knew who Iron Man was. Shouldn’t they have gone with a more recognizable hero? The answer turned out to be no. What became even better was this added scene at the end of the credits when Nick Fury revealed the Avengers Initiative to Tony Stark. I was ecstatic that Mr. Feige was going to try and re-create the interconnectedness of the Marvel comic book universe in movies. That this first 22-chapter story will come to an end with Avengers: Endgame is all due to Mr. Feige. He has hired the right directors and writers who have hired the right actors to turn the comic book panels into movie frames. Every one of these directors respected the properties they were filming. They made it their own.

The other big change has been the rise of the premium cable channel and streaming services. Even with “The Lord of the Rings” nine hours wasn’t enough. HBO agreed. They saw the popularity of a new fantasy series by author George RR Martin. Two young producers who loved the books; see a trend, approached HBO to create a multi-season adaptation of the series. This was despite the fact the final books hadn’t been written. David Benioff and DB Weiss were given the green light. “Game of Thrones” had great source material given the time to breathe this sprawling story filled the small screen. It probably didn’t hurt that televisions were getting bigger and bigger. By the time dragons were burning things up I could watch it on my 60-inch television. The final six episodes begin tonight.

Which brings me back to Star Wars and the man who brought it back to life; JJ Abrams. It is still too far off to know more than a two-minute trailer for The Rise of Skywalker can tell me. Other than the way Mr. Abrams began his creative process on this final trilogy by asking the question “What happened to Luke Skywalker?” That’s a fan question by someone who had the chance to answer it with a movie. When I settle into my seat for The Rise of Skywalker that will be the beginning of the end.

What comes next is where you go when The Rise of Skywalker really signals the end of the beginning.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Givenchy Pi- A Different Tack

I remark often on how the gourmand style of perfume is one of the most exciting to me. One reason is it isn’t even thirty years old. It means unlike every other perfume genre it carries around much less history. I have found recent versions of gourmands very interesting because they are not following an existing set of rules. As it is in the third decade of the style the same was true of the very earliest entries, they were defining the boundaries. This month’s Discount Diamonds choice, Givenchy Pi, was one of those.

In 1998 the early gourmands had all gone with deep dense aesthetics. As Givenchy thought to enter the fray Creative Director Francoise Donche decided a different tack would be taken. Their gourmand would focus on one sweet note with less of a heavy presence. Perfumer Alberto Morillas would be given the job of creating Pi.

Francoise Donche

The idea was to make a gourmand focused on vanilla. The easy way would have been to use the synthetic source of vanilla, vanillin. One of the reasons to decide against it is vanillin is one of the most common ingredients in all of perfumery. It also can become overwhelming as the concentration gets to higher levels. M. Morillas made an intelligent choice to go with a vanilla accord made up primarily of tonka bean and benzoin. It turned out to be brilliant.

Alberto Morillas

Pi opens with a green prologue of rosemary, pine, and mandarin. It carries a freshness which will eventually be overwhelmed by the vanilla. That vanilla shows up subtly at first as tonka bean is the keynote in the heart. Tonka is a natural source of coumarin which has a kind of vanillic scent profile along with a sweeter hay-like component. By itself it would never become vanilla. M. Morillas uses benzoin to combine with the coumarin to form the sweet vanilla accord. What makes this so different from just using straight vanillin is it is a crisper form of vanilla. Most often vanillin diffuses until it becomes powdery. By using tonka bean and bezoin this doesn’t happen. Which means the vanilla lasts and lasts. The light woodiness of guaiac is the final piece of Pi.

Pi has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

If I were to ever write a column on the perfumes I wear which never fail to generate a compliment Pi would be one of the two no-brainers on that list. It is one of those perfumes which breaks through because of the way it is constructed. The advantage of being over twenty years old is it is easy to find bottles for less than $30. Because the ingredient list is so small it has easily weathered any reformulations. Gourmands might be all the rage currently, but Givenchy Pi was one of the first to try something new in the genre.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Olfactive Studio Leather Shot- Spicy Iris Leather

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I am a long-time admirer of Celine Verleure. Her days as Creative Director at Kenzo perfumes produced fragrances that were trendsetters. Ever since she started her own brand, Olfactive Studio, in 2011 she has reaffirmed my belief that she is one of the elite Creative Directors in all of perfumery. She has practiced a particularly interesting form of artistic direction with Olfactive Studio. Instead of a brief for the perfumer consisting of words; she has chosen a photograph. It has resulted in one of the top niche perfume collections.

Celine Verleure

At the end of last year she tried something a little bit different in overseeing the three perfume Sepia Collection. She worked with the same photographer and the same perfumer. It has been one of the things which has made the brand so vibrant that it has been a different photographer and mostly a different perfumer. For the Sepia Collection she chose the photos of Martin Hill who along with his wife, Philippa Jones, create natural temporary sculptures out of the geography and what is available nearby. His photographs are all that preserves the work.

Bertrand Duchaufour

Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour is one of the most prolific independent perfumers we have. That amount of output naturally has its ups and downs. If there has been any pattern to his better perfumes, I would posit that a strong artistic vision from the brand which doesn’t compromise is the best barometer for success. In 2017’s Woody Mood Mme Verleure showed she could bring out the best in M. Duchaufour.

Photo by Martin Hill

I will eventually review all three Sepia Collection perfumes but as usual there was one which needed to be worn first, Leather Shot. If you look at Mr. Hill’s picture, above, used as the brief you will be surprised at what you find in the bottle. Leather Shot is a spicy iris leather construct.

It is the spice and iris where Leather Shot opens. This is the high quality rooty iris with its carrot-like earthiness ascendant. M. Duchaufour uses a high-low combination of spices as cardamom cools things down while cumin heats things up. This is a compelling opening which swirls with complexity. It requires an equally intricate leather accord to stand up to it. One of the things I have lauded M. Duchaufour for is the flexibility of his building block accords. His leather accord might be his most adaptive. In Leather Shot he lets the animalic roughness come from the cumin. The actual leather accord has a supple refinement while the cumin provides the bite. It settles down into a desiccated woody accord.

Leather Shot has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

All the Sepia Collection releases are extrait strength. In the case of Leather Shot the more constricted expansiveness is a plus. This is better for it being so concentrated. This arrived just at the right time as winter turned to spring. The cool mornings felt just right for Leather Shot.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fort & Manle Forty Thieves- Alternative Oriental

There are certain motifs which crop up in perfumery over and over. The inspiration of the desert. The story of “One Thousand and One Nights” is a particularly fertile vein of inspiration. I’ll admit when I see something attached to either, or both, I know an Oriental perfume is in the bottle. As a classic fragrance form plowing the same row so many have traveled before asks the new perfumer for something outside of what has come before. In Fort & Manle Forty Thieves I found that.

Rasei Fort

Fort & Manle is the line of perfumes from independent perfumer Rasei Fort. He released his first perfumes in 2016 but I only had the opportunity to try them a little over a year ago. Mr. Fort has impressed me with each successive release. One thing I mentioned in the previous reviews is since he is self-taught, he isn’t as beholden to the “rules”. Over the last three releases he is turning that into a feature of his fragrances. For Forty Thieves he moved away from the soft spices to be replaced with a sharp herbal accord. It is a great alternative.

That top accord starts with a healthy dose of baie rose. Many perfumers don’t up the concentration of this ingredient because after a certain point it adds sharp herbal-ness to the scent profile. Mr. Fort pushes it right to the place where it might be unpleasant for some. I have come to enjoy the unique way baie rose acts, especially as a top note. Here it captures the aridity of the desert. Mr. Fort then pierces it with the bitterness of petitgrain and bergamot. Labdanum transitions the top accord into a honeyed floral heart of orange blossom and rose. This is more traditional Oriental territory. It ends on the classic Oriental base of sweet ambered woods.

Forty Thieves has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Particularly over the two previous releases and Forty Thieves Mr. Fort is beginning to solidify an ability to find new ways to see classic styles. In this case it was by plowing outside the well-worn furrow. In Forty Thieves he steals away the traditional Oriental architecture for something more modern.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Gendarme- California Cologne

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One of two styles of perfume I have always found uninspiring is the “fresh and clean” style which dominated perfume for twenty-five years. I could argue niche perfume was a reaction to the prominence of this style in the department stores. Even though I am mostly dismissive there are some which have found a place on my shelf. Gendarme is one of those.

I discovered Gendarme in my early days on the internet. It was thrown in as a sample on a swap I was making for a perfume I wanted. I don’t remember that perfume, but Gendarme grew from a sample to a bottle. When I bought the bottle, I was surprised to see it wasn’t French it came from California. Through the mind of a raconteur named Topper Schroeder.

Mr. Schroeder wanted to wear cologne which didn’t irritate his skin. He couldn’t find one at the department store. His search was begun because previously he had used a test-market version of an early hypoallergenic cologne. When he ran out, he discovered it never made it to the shelf. Frustrated by not being able to find an alternative he decided to make his own. In 1983 Gendarme was born.

Topper Schroeder

I’ve had trouble narrowing down who were the perfumer(s) who worked on Gendarme. Mr. Schroeder claims he went back to the original perfumer who had worked on the test-market cologne, Tom Slatery. The Fragrances of the World database list co perfumers, John Doyle and Nigel Priest. I don’t know what to make of that, but Gendarme isn’t a technological marvel it is a supremely functional fragrance.

Gendarme was designed to be a classic cologne. The perfumer(s) gathered the usual cologne ingredient list accentuating one specific part of the recipe; the herbs. Even now thirty-five years later there aren’t a lot of colognes which go in this direction. Which is one of the reasons it has been a favorite.

Verbena is used as the linchpin in the top. It sets up the green style right from the start. Some actual citrus along with ginger, basil, and thyme push the green. The safe masculine floral, lavender, comes next.  Lavender has an herbal character which is made apparent by the herbs from the top accord. A slight sweetness of vanilla finishes things off. If you ever see an ingredient list, it will list leather. If it is in here, I’ve never noticed it.

Gendarme has 4-6 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

There have been others prior to this who have mentioned that Gendarme has a soapy quality. It reminds me of the original Clairol Herbal Essence shampoo. It is a reminder not an imitation. The longevity is also typical for a cologne. If you’re going to wear this for a day bring some along to top things off after a few hours. This is one of the colognes I put a small atomizer of in the refrigerator during the summer. Spraying the cold mist is much more rejuvenating than water. The name may be French, but Gendarme is pure California Cologne.

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

Mark Behnke