New Perfume Review Blocki Saharet and Kosciuszko- Grow Your Own Heritage

It seems as if the Heritage perfume brands have slowed down recently. A couple of years ago I was seemingly receiving the announcement of one new one every couple of months. A few years on from that, now I can look back and remark on the ones which successfully found their place in the current market. One of those would be Blocki Perfumes. Overseen by Tyler Delabar and Tammy Kraemer they extrapolated the heritage of Mr. Delabar’s great grandfather John Blocki into contemporary fragrance making. That continues with Blocki Saharet and Blocki Kosciuszko.

The path they’ve chosen for Blocki is to use the names of the perfumes as launching points for new formulations. It makes for an interesting combination as the personalities of the early part of the last century are who seemed to motivate Mr. Blocki to make perfume. Both Saharet and Tadeusz Kosciuszko fit that.

Saharet is inspired by the fin de siècle dancer of the same name. She was a well-known vaudevillian of the time. She traveled the world using publicity stunts to introduce her to audiences when she arrived in a new city. Perfumer Lionel Nesbitt translates this into a perfume with a keynote of geranium covered in shades of green.

Geranium has been referred to as “green rose” Mr. Nesbitt does a fine job of living up to that. In the early going he uses baie rose and green cardamom to dust that green rose. Mandarin provides a sweet come-hither effect. The exploration of green continues as labdanum and vetiver turn it up a notch. The vetiver used here is the grassier kind providing a softer verdancy than the sharper labdanum. At the center of it all the geranium happily perches. This ends on a warm earthy base of patchouli, amber, and cashmere.

Kosciuszko is inspired by the Polish engineer who participated in revolutions the world over. He is most known in the US for joining in with the American Revolutionaries bringing knowledge of the best fortifications from which to fight behind. Perfumer Duff Scott engineers a perfume with hints of the battlefield and the calm between it all.

Mr. Scott chooses a piquant combination of bitter orange and black pepper to open things with. The pepper segues into that hint of gunpowder. Beneath that a potent accord of fir and tobacco forms the nucleus of Kosciuszko. The terpenes of the fir are sweetened by the honeyed depths of the tobacco. Mr. Scott finds a beautiful balance between the two. The base goes woodier as cedar and cypress provide that with a bit of musk thrown in.

Saharet and Kosciuszko have 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mr. Delabar and Ms. Kraemer continue to find the best path to success is to grow your own heritage. Saharet and Kosciuszko add to that legacy.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: FIFA Women’s World Cup

I’ve written in the past how much I enjoy the summer soccer tournaments. Of course the big one is the Men’s World Cup every four years. I am finding that I am really enjoying this year’s version of the Women’s World Cup as much as I did last year’s men’s version. There is probably one big reason for that the competition has become more competitive.

When the Women’s World Cup took place in the United States in 1999 & 2003, I attended many of the games which took place close to my home at the time. What stood out is with only 16 teams playing there was only four or five on the upper tier. Women’s sports were growing back then with participation more prized than competitiveness. As I’ve been watching this year that has turned around. The tournament has expanded to 24 teams for this edition. Once it was reduced to the top 16, for the knockout phase leading to the final, I was surprised at how competitive all of those matches were.

This time around there were major upsets as traditional power team China was beaten by Italy. According to the commentators this Italian team has ignited a following of the women’s game in the country for the first time. It was easy to see why. This was a classic gritty national team playing hard defense looking for a counter attacking opportunity. This tournament more than any other has the chance to transform opinion. When the Italians played in the quarterfinals it was reported that the interest was sky high. Now that interest can hopefully be translated into something more lasting.

In the twenty years since I saw my first Women’s World Cup game today that formula has been proven over and over; especially in Europe. This year three of the four semi-finalists are European teams with the Netherlands showing their defending European Championship means something. England has been on a steady path upward finding itself in the semifinals for the second tournament in a row.

As we approach the final week of the tournament It is hard not to be happy to see this amount of improvement in just 20 years.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Narciso Rodriguez Oud Musc- More of the Same

I give credit to perfume brands which find a style and stick with it. It means from a consumer perspective you know what you are getting when you pick up a bottle with a specific name on it. If the name on that bottle is Narciso Rodriguez, since 2003, you know you are getting a musk centric perfume. For a brand which has plowed the same creative field so often I am always surprised when a new release still finds just a bit of new territory to explore. This is what I found with Narciso Rodriguez Oud Musc.

Oud Musc is the fourth of the Oriental Musc Collection following Amber Musc, Rose Musc, and Santal Musc. As you can likely perceive from those names these perfumes are classic pairings of ingredients with musk. Oud Musc is no different.

Caroline Sabas

Perfumer Caroline Sabas takes those two titular ingredients and finds some new conspirators to give it some verve. The first of those ingredients is black pepper. Mme Sabas uses more than a pinch, it provides a strong contrast to the smoothness of the oud accord and musk. Because Mme Sabas is using an oud accord she is able to find a balance which is not rough between the oud and musk. That’s where the pepper comes in as it rasps across the duet at the heart of Oud Musc. It becomes further contrasted with the herbal quality of myrtle also providing that quality. When it does settle down to an accord of those four ingredients it comes together surprisingly well.

Oud Musc has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I found Oud Musc just enough different to enjoy. At this point in the Narciso Rodriguez collection it is enough to make me happy.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Diptyque Essences Insensees 2019- Tiare Tiara

Soliflores are at their best when the keynote is a special version. It is why it has mostly been the place where small independent perfumers shine as they can source small exquisite batches. To everything there must be an exception and Diptyque has once again proven they can also play this game with Diptyque Essences Insensees 2019.

The Essences Insensees collection was debuted in 2014 with the concept that they would release soliflore perfumes highlighting a particularly good harvest of a keynote. In 2014 it was mimosa, followed by jasmine in 2015 with the last one being in 2016 for Rose de Mai. This appeals to me as there must be years when a harvest of a specific flower must be better than other years. Which means the task of the perfumer is to find a way to display that keynote in all its glory. Diptyque has asked perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin to be the man behind that for this collection. In 2019 he is working with a harvest of tiare flower from Tahiti.

Fabrice Pellegrin

Tiare is an interesting floral to highlight. Called the “Tahitian gardenia” it sits firmly within the white flower family. I would put it in between the familiar gardenia and tuberose. If you’ve ever seen a movie with people wearing lei in Polynesia it is tiare which is the flower on them. For Essences Insensees 2019 M. Pellegrin highlights two of the characteristics of tiare which have always stood out to me, the sparkle and the creaminess.

Tiare has this ineffable sparkle which makes it different than other white flowers to me. M. Pellegrin uses a set of ozonic notes to highlight that. It is a fresh sea breeze that glides over it all. A touch of baie rose highlights the subtle green thread which runs through this tiare. As the tiare becomes more of the focal point M. Pellegrin turns it towards its more floral aspects with some frangipani. Then the creaminess is brought forward with vanilla forming an almost custard-like finish.

Essences Insensees 2019 has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you are a fan of white flower perfumes Essences Insensees 2019 is one you should try for its unique take on the genre. It is a tiara of tiare.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Kierin NYC Santal Sky and Sunday Brunch- Simply NYC

Over the last two years I have been impressed with the number of new brands who seem to have the motto “keep it simple, keep it good”. Current market trends seem to match this. The list of brands doing this has kept expanding because there is an audience. I can add one more to that list; Kierin NYC.

Mona Maine de Biran

Kierin NYC was founded last year by husband and wife Mona and Didier Maine de Biran. They wanted their brand to capture the vitality of living in New York City. They mention a fondness for the street art of the city but that doesn’t make it through to the perfume. The bottles on the other hand are decorated with that street art. What they do get from the perfume are solid simple constructs. They collaborate with perfumer Mathieu Nardin who has had a touch with this style of perfume making especially recently.

Mathieu Nardin

I like all four of the debut collection but as usual there were two which I liked most; Santal Sky and Sunday Brunch.

Santal Sky was inspired by an afternoon in Central Park as you walk through the incongruity of this greenspace in the middle of the metropolis.  M. Nardin interprets this with a keynote of sandalwood which he cleverly surrounds with three supporting notes to bring the most out of it. The first ingredient is saffron which provides a hazy glow to the sandalwood. Cardamom breezes across the combination like a wind from the trees. The final ingredient is a green vetiver tuned more to its grassier facets. If you enjoy sandalwood focused perfumes this is one you should try.

Sunday Brunch is the one of the debut collection which most closely reminded me of my days in NYC. I spent a lot of Sunday afternoons recovering from the night before at a table with mimosas and Earl Grey tea to help. M. Nardin finds that mixture of citrus and tea to still be the same. It opens with a sparkling citrus accord that mimics the effervescence of the champagne underneath. The Earl Grey tea accord matches ideally with that. Then a lovely lilting jasmine wends its way through the beverage collection tying it all together. Sunday Brunch is going to be a great summer perfume even if it isn’t Sunday.

Santal Sky and Sunday Brunch had 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

The Maine de Birans have done an excellent job at defining their brand with this debut collection. If you are also looking for simple and good Kierin NYC should be on your list of new perfume to try.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Kierin NYC.

Mark Behnke

What Comes Next at Amouage?

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For those of us who love perfume there was a significant bit of news earlier this month; Christopher Chong was leaving his post as Creative Director at Amouage. Over this past decade of top tier perfumery Amouage was right at the top of the list because of the artistic direction of Mr. Chong. His vision also helped to establish the ultra-luxe perfume sector. Amouage was worth the extra expense because there was extra effort going into making the perfumes. I’ve always thought Amouage was perfume made for those who really want to find artistry within smelling good. I will have more to say about Mr. Chong when I review his last (?) duo of perfumes for Amouage next week. What this column is about is what comes next at Amouage.

As of the end of June 2019 there has been no official announcement of a replacement for Mr. Chong at Amouage. We talk about the difficulty of replacing in-house perfumers but there are only a few brands where the vision was so strongly communicated from the creative director as at Amouage. Whomever would be asked to step into this post would find it very challenging to follow the decade of perfume Mr. Chong oversaw. Which means we might not see a replacement at all. Maybe Amouage stays with the collection they have and continue on. I think that would be fine.

My concern comes from another well-known ultra-luxe brand which went the cynical route; Clive Christian. For those who don’t know Clive Christian was purchased by EME Investments in 2016. They then proceeded to flood the market with new Clive Christian releases at the same price point. They dumped a torrent of mediocre to poor product with tenuous connections to the previous perfumes under the old regime. It killed everything Clive Christian represented as a brand. It would be a crime if the same thing happened to Amouage. If we had inflicted upon us Jubilation XXV Intense or Opus V Legere. It would do what happened to Clive Christian and destroy what Amouage stands for.

I have no special insight to know anything about the decisions made at Amouage. Which means everything above is pure speculation. What has me worried most is when a true artist leaves without any mention of what comes next. That’s where we are right now. Hopefully in the not too distant future we will hear what Amouage plans to do.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Gucci Flora Emerald Gardenia- Back on Track?

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When I feel like a brand has taken a wrong turn, I find it difficult to give them the benefit of the doubt. After being so impressed with the fragrance side of Gucci since creative director Alessandro Michele had played a hand; the last six months gave the opposite reaction. Gucci went from a brand of new vision to a brand of cynical marketing with the 13-release The Alchemist’s Garden which I think was meant to draw you in with a pretty bottle so you’d forget the banal juice inside. Then this spring’s release of Gucci Bloom Gocce di Fiore which still ranks as one of the worst perfumes of 2019 for me. It felt like Gucci had not only made a wrong turn but driven off a cliff. You can bet there wasn’t a lot of anticipation when I received my sample of Gucci Flora Emerald Gardenia. I had every reason to expect little.

Alessandro Michele

The Gucci Flora line is the latest to have Sig. Michele re-examine it. The Gucci Flora line has been around since 2009 when the brand released a yearly version most of the time. This was emblematic of the drift at Gucci prior to Sig. Michele becoming involved. All the Gucci Flora releases were nice and safe seemingly meant to put seasonal product on the shelf. What had me excited about the tenure of Sig. Michele is he has been giving each of the older collections new life. If it hadn’t been for the last six months, I would have been very excited. Instead I worried the days of playing it nice and safe had returned.

Alberto Morillas

For Emerald Gardenia Sig. Michele continues to work exclusively with perfumer Alberto Morillas. It seems like there is good understanding between the two at what they want to achieve. The most recent Gucci Flora annual releases had been versions of Gorgeous Gardenia in 2017 and 2018. Done by the previous creative team they were not stand-outs in any way. Thankfully Emerald Gardnia does seem to signify a change for the better.

My first memory of gardenia is at my grandmother’s home in South Florida. The house was filled with bowls of water with a gardenia floating on top. Those were the Glade Plug-Ins of the day. What Emerald Gardenia does is to bring back that scent of gardenia on water.

Emerald Gardenia opens with a beautiful lemon bracketed by two other fruits; watermelon and pear. The watermelon sets up this watery undercurrent that will carry into the heart while the pear finds a crispness which explodes the lemon into a sparkling firework. This leads to the heart where gardenia is balanced with lotus and frangipani. The lotus again provides a unique wateriness while the frangipani adds fullness to the gardenia. It finishes on a woody accord of sandalwood and cedar.

Emerald Gardenia has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Emerald Gardenia is what was happening at Gucci prior to the previous six months. Smart mainstream perfume making with clever twists. I can only hope that the rest of 2019, and beyond, has more like Emerald Gardenia on the way.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Shay & Blue White Peaches- Frozen Peaches

When we moved to Poodlesvile I had some favorite fruits and some that were low on the list. One that was low on the list was peach. One thing living in an area surrounded by farms has taught me is that there isn’t just one kind of peach and the variety makes the difference. We have a huge peach orchard near the Colognoisseur Home Office. On a summer day I go over and grab a basket of what ever is ready. There is a point in the summer where there is a variety which is the ideal crisp refreshing fruit you want to bite into. If peach was low on my list when we moved here it has changed. Peach is a familiar ingredient in perfumery. One could even say it is too familiar. Which is why Shay & Blue White Peaches is such a nice change of pace.

Dom de Vetta

Shay & Blue has been one of those underappreciated perfume success stories. Founded in 2012 by Dom de Vetta he has overseen the production of a line of 22 perfumes working exclusively with a single perfumer, Julie Masse. If there is a consistent theme to the ones I enjoy most, is the creative team presents something I think I know in a new framing. Which is exactly what occurs in White Peaches. Peach is used as part of the classic peach chypres as well as a semi-gourmand peaches and cream; most of the time. In this case Mme Masse finds a refreshing chilly heart to the peach.

Julie Masse

That difference appears right from the start as this peach has that crisp snap to it that is unusual. Mme Masse underpins it with the support of narcissus to further keep things focused. Then in the heart she takes the herbal quality of elderflower and subsumes it into what she calls a “granita” accord. There is a hint of grape floating here along with the elderflower. This comes together like a frozen drink featuring St. Germain liqueur. It finishes with a gorgeous sliver birch wood foundation.

White Peaches has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Outside of citrus I tend to avoid the heavier fruits in warm weather. White Peaches is the antithesis of that as I will be reaching for it on the warmest days this summer. Probably on a trip to the orchard to pick up some real thing.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: DC’s The Green Lantern

When it comes to superheroes in the comic books we are in an era where all their psychological underpinnings are put on display. That wasn’t the way it was when I started reading comics as a child in the 1960’s. The characters were stalwart do-gooders who were defined by that innate need to do the right thing. By the 1970’s the comic books began to “grow up” as the heroes faced more mature problems. This has continued to the present day.

When it came to the transition DC had the most trouble moving their characters. Think of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Only Bruce Wayne was a place where you could build some darker shades without seeming like you were breaking the character. DC found their way and over time have managed to create interesting emotional places for their stable of heroes. Which is why It is funny that I am reminded of those early days with the current run of The Green Lantern by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp.

The Green Lantern has always been a character with an interesting mythology. A member of an intergalactic police agency. Instead of Men in Black it was Men in Green. Hal Jordan is the only human member of the Green Lantern Corps. What Mr. Morrison has chosen to do with this series of stories is to focus on The Green Lantern as that cop who has a section of the galaxy to patrol.

As is so often the case with these limited issue runs the author creates a multi-issue arc. Mr. Morrison is throwing that out; creating an episodic series. Each issue covers a single story wrapped up by the final page. Hal Jordan even comes off a bit stiff like the classic beat cops. The fun of this series is how Mr. Morrison comes up with these crazy off the wall plots to put the taciturn Green Lantern in the middle of. If Green Lantern is by the book the book is warped as heck. There are so many crazy twists it could also have been subtitled “Law and Order: Intergalactic Unit”.

I’m not sure but it seems like Mr. Morrison is having a ton of fun being unconstrained by an overarching plot to just let fly with single issue mayhem. Beyond that Mr. Sharp’s visuals have a throwback quality too. They are reminiscent of the art seen in Heavy Metal or on a Frazetta poster. It is wonderful accompaniment to Mr. Morrison’s words.

If you are in the mood for some old-fashioned superheroics I highly recommend this newest iteration of The Green Lantern.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Tom Ford Private Blend Fleur de Portofino Acqua and Sole di Positano Acqua

There has been an interesting trend among the Tom Ford Private Blend collection; flankers.  In what has been one of the, arguably, most influential perfume collections the recent choice to release flankers stands out. In most of the cases it has been to make “intense” or “eau” forms indicating darker or lighter. The ones they’ve chosen to do that with allow for a choice between styles with similar construction at different volumes. The sub-collection which has seen the most flankers are the blue bottled Neroli Portofino collection. These flankers have had “acqua” appended to their name. While it might seem natural to think this means aquatic it generally doesn’t. It means a subtle shifting of ingredients. It makes it a true kind of flanker. This month’s Flanker Round-Up covers the two most recent additions to the neroli Portofino sub-collection.

Tom Ford Private Blend Fleur de Portofino Acqua

What I enjoyed about the original Fleur de Portofino was it was the most floral of the Neroli Portofino collection. It was an exuberant floral collage that remains a favorite. For Fleur de Portofino Acqua the exuberant florals remain but they are shifted in concentration to create a similar style as in the original.

The same summery citrus mélange is back in all its glorious tart juiciness. The difference is violet leaf is given more presence which teases out the green undercurrents inherent within the citrus accord. The key combination in the original was the honey nuance of acacia attached to honey in the base. For Fleur de Portofino Acqua, orange blossom joins with the acacia in equal presence. It provides a clearer connection to the citrus on top through to the honey in the base.

Fleur de Portofino Acqua remains a fantastic summer floral like the original.

Tom Ford Private Blend Sole di Positano Acqua

Sole di Positano is more emblematic of the overall Mediterranean aesthetic which runs through the Neroli Portofino collection. Especially with the classic citrus-floral-woody axis upon which many of this type of fragrance spins upon. Sole di Positano Acqua doesn’t disrupt this but it adds a little more to the bones of the original.

Sparkling lemon and bitter orange open the new version with an enhanced amount of shiso leaf. The sharp green quality of the shiso finds purchase among the brilliant tartness of the lemon. It accentuates the sunniness of the citrus. In the original I mentioned I liked the use of the lighter versions of jasmine and ylang-ylang. In the new one, versions of both florals which have a slight tint of the indoles inherent in both are used. It works because of the presence of the higher concentration of the shiso. It all coalesces into a sandalwood base with some moss growing on it.

Sole di Positano Acqua is an overall greener version than the original.

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

Mark Behnke