New Perfume Review Beauty Pie Brazilian Lime, Fig Leaves, & Tea- Leaves of Desire

I get a lot of e-mail informing me of the latest new trend in selling beauty products online. I get enough that I can’t imagine what a real make-up blogger receives. Most of them are easily ignored by me because perfume is not part of the offerings. One I received at the end of the year caught my attention because they did offer perfume. Even then I still would have passed until they mentioned the name of the perfumer they were using. That got me interested enough to obtain a sample set of the first three perfumes. One of those three stood out for its quality; Beauty Pie Brazilian Lime, Fig Leaves, & Tea.

Beauty Pie is a new way to sell beauty products by asking people to pay a monthly membership which gets them deep discounts on the products they buy. As an example, on the perfume side you can buy any of the Beauty Pie perfumes without a membership for $125. If you join with a three-month minimum, at various levels, you can buy one of the bottles of perfume for about $21. I don’t have a great handle on the economics of it all and I may have oversimplified it.

Frank Voelkl

What caught my attention on the perfume side is they asked perfumer Frank Voelkl to produce the three perfumes. They allowed him to go in whatever direction he wanted to. What has resulted is three perfumes which all felt like a step up from typical department store fragrance. Red Apple, White Peony & Cashmere Wood is an expansive fresh fruity floral. Petals, Heliotrope, & Ambrette is a fun musky white flower style of fragrance. The third is Brazilian Lime, Fig Leaves, & Tea.

What helps set this apart is Mr. Voelkl uses a Brazilian orange to form the sweeter Brazilian lime accord. If you’ve ever had an authentic caiparinha cocktail you know what a Brazilian lime smells like as the lime gets crushed in the making of the drink. The first moments of this reminded me of sitting by the beach in Bahia with a caipirinha in my hand. Mr. Voelkl then allows a tendril of green ivy to wind around the citrus. It connects to the creamy feel of the fig leaves waiting in the heart. Mr. Voelkl throws leaves of black tea into the mix. It adds depth while still maintaining the leafiness of the ivy and the fig. within all this there are threads of violet to be found. This is the part which connected with me. This is a fantastically realized accord. It ends on a soft woody base of cashmere woods.

Brazilian Lime, Fig Leaves, & Tea has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’m not the desired customer for Beauty Pie to be sure. If they are going to give other perfumers the leeway they afforded Mr. Voelkl, or just ask him for more, I might join just for the perfume. Brazilian Lime, Fig Leaves & Tea has me figuring out if its worth it to join for one perfume.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Rubini Tambour Sacre- Africa Via Italian Creativity

When my mailbox begins to fill up with commercial fragrance all vying for a similar demographic it is easy for me to worry about the state of perfume. There are pockets of artists who are working to make things which come from an inner vision instead of a focus group. One of the most vital group of creatives come from Italy now. There is a willingness by the Italian brands and creative teams to make perfume the consumer has not encountered before. It is not perfume for the lowest common denominator it is perfume for the connoisseur. One who sees the art in something most see as functional. As a self-titled colognoisseur it is those perfumes which make writing about fragrance so gratifying. Rubini Tambour Sacre is another triumphant release from an Italian team of passionate artists.

Andrea Rubini

I met Andrea Bissoli Rubini almost four years ago at Esxence in Milan. He was introducing his first fragrance. The first words he said to me were, “I was born into a family of perfumers.” As I tried that first release, Fundamental, the proof was in the bottle. Sig. Rubini believed in the power of perfume to be more than pretty. He assembled a team of fellow Italians to achieve his vision; perfumer Cristiano Canali, writer and perfume historian Ermano Picco, and artist Francesca Gotti to create a memorable package. It is a team of like-minded people who all added their piece to the creation of Fundamental.

Ermano Picco

When I was told by Sig. Rubini a new fragrance was coming my first question was if the same creative team was working with him. As soon as he said “yes” my expectations grew. I waited somewhat patiently for my sample of Tambour Sacre to arrive.

Cristiano Canali

Sig. Rubini wanted to translate the rhythm of the African drums he heard on his trip to Somalia into a fragrance. Africa has been a fertile inspiration for perfumers which allowed Sig. Picco the opportunity to provide insight into the paths less taken by others. Sig. Canali is another of the young star perfumers of his generation. His desire to find contemporary applications of the original building blocks of modern perfumery creates a bridge between the past and the present. Sig. ra Gotti’s contemporary sandwich of materials encasing the bottle provides the visual piece as she uses the native iroko wood used to make the African drums which inspired the perfume. Full circle.

Francesca Gotti

Tambour Sacre opens with a spear of spiced sunlight as orange and cardamom come together. The drum beats begin in the distance as white pepper thrums with a sharp piquant slap. The heart is a fabulous alternating rhythm of coffee, tuberose, and cinnamon. The coffee is that fresh-roasted scent of beans which exude a hint of bitterness underneath. The tuberose is the greener version which has become a staple in recent years. This is where Sig. Canali calls back to the past with a modern ingredient. The roasted coffee and the green tuberose form a sinuous cadence around which the cinnamon wraps itself. The heat of the spice creates an expansiveness within the tuberose and coffee which builds to a crescendo. The base uses the resinous mixture of benzoin and myrrh on top of a tonka bean-sweetened sandalwood. This is what remains after the drummers have finished; a sweetly sacred woodiness.

Tambour Sacre has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Fundamental was such a singularly beautiful piece of artistic perfume it wasn’t obvious it could be replicated. Tambour Sacre proves that the right team with the requisite care can find that kind of success again. The Rubini team of Sigs. Rubini, Canali, and Picco with Sig. ra Gotti took me to a drum circle in the Horn of Somalia via Italian creativity. It is what Sig. Rubini was born to do.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Other Wild Poodle, Henry

Never let it be said I don’t respond to my readers. I received a half-dozen e-mails asking about the other poodle inhabiting Poodlesville; Henry. They wanted to know his story. This week I will give Henry some equal time.

We adopted Henry in 2013. We have been a two-poodle house for a long time. After our oldest dog had passed away Mrs. C began to reach out to rescue organizations for a new poodle. Relatively quickly she was offered Henry. She took our other poodle up to see if they would be a fit. They walked towards each other on a leash. Shared poodle business cards by sniffing each other. When they both got into the universal crouch of “let’s play!” Mrs. C knew we had a match.

Almost all rescue poodles have some kind of adversity. It requires patience to overcome this. Henry surprisingly carried none of this. Despite having overcome two different tragic situations. The first was his initial owner, when he was a puppy, smacked him so hard on the right side of his head it caused his right eyeball to come apart inside; blinding him on that side. Thankfully the rescue organization stepped in and removed Henry from this abuse. His second owner was a young woman who loved him. Unfortunately, she had an eating disorder leading to a fatal stroke. When she was found, days after dying, Henry was curled up next to her body. He was extremely dehydrated which has caused some kidney issues we keep a close watch on.

Henry is the most loving rescue poodle we have adopted. The poodle who stayed next to his owner after death is a snuggle bug. He likes curling up next to Mrs. C, me, or Jackson. It’s almost unnatural for me to be sitting on the sofa without the weight of his curled-up body next to my leg. A lot of evenings it is Henry on one side and Jackson on the other. Mrs. C calls it the “man couch” when this happens.

The other position Henry holds in our house is the Minister of Toys. We have toys all over the house. Jackson will pick up a toy and race around with it. Once Jackson has tired of whichever toy he has been playing with, Henry will amble over pick it up and move it to whatever he considers to be the correct place.

In the past our older poodles have jealously guarded their places. Often barking at the younger ones to let them know this is my spot. Henry has never been that way. When he first joined the household, he slowly won over the older poodle Rocco. After only a few months they would sleep next to each other with nary a growl. Once Henry became the older poodle the chain was broken. He loves sleeping with Jackson. They can be found with one of them resting their head upon the other most nights.

Every time I look at Henry, with his ruptured eye looking back, I marvel at the ability he has to forget the abuse of the past. He just wants to be loved. It may have taken three tries, but he has found a place where he gets as much as he wants.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Badgley Mischka Eau de Parfum- The Millennial Cut

As perfume companies begin to serve a generational shift there are things which are going to return. I think I can safely say in the broadest of terms there is a difference in the taste of the two largest generations of Millennials and Baby Boomers. Boomers rode in with the first wave of niche and independent perfumes; asking for something different. Millennials want something different than that, lighter in style. Never short on wanting to give their consumers what they want the large perfume companies have been producing fragrance in a lighter style. Where it is becoming problematic is they are using the same name as a previously discontinued perfume. It works because the younger generation doesn’t know there was a perfume with the same name ten years ago. To them seeing a new perfume from a designer label they respect is just that a new perfume. To the Boomers who remember that older release it seems like an evisceration. What it has meant for me is I also have to judge the new perfume on its own merits without comparing it.  That becomes harder when the original version is one I really liked. This was my dilemma when receiving my sample of Badgley Mischka Eau de Parfum.

Richard Herpin

The original Badgley Mischka release in 2006 was an exuberant mash-up of the then prevalent perfume trends. It worked way better than it should have. It wasn’t perfume for everyone, but it had its fans. Those people should not come near this new version. This is your granddaughter’s perfume not yours. What perfumer Richard Herpin, who was also the perfumer on the original, converts the new perfume to is a transparent fruity floral.

It opens with a crisp pear as the fruity part of the formula. The floral part is a grouping of the expansive florals of jasmine, neroli, magnolia, and peony. This forms a fresh floral pear accord which is where Badgley Mischka Eau de Parfum spends most of its time. It settles into a warm accord of amber, sandalwood, and musk for the final stages.

Badgley Mischka Eau de Parfum has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I often watch versions of my favorite movies which have a label of “director’s cut”. It generally means it is a longer version with the last edits before release returned. While I was wearing Badgley Mischka Eau de Parfum it occurred to me that these versions of perfumes with older names is the opposite of that. These are perfumes designed for a specific generation of consumer; The Millennial Cut. Badgley Mischka Eau de Parfum is exactly that.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Goldfield & Banks Southern Bloom- Australian Flower Song

Of the many new things that have happened in the 21st century for modern perfumery one of the most important is it has spread worldwide. Perfumers no longer must be from the historical centers of perfume. As independent perfumery has risen in prominence great perfume has come from seemingly all four corners of the globe. One of the beneficiaries of this has been the accessibility of Australian perfume brands. One reason is there is different botany to be harvested which eventually finds its way into perfume. It provides for some unique creativity of which Goldfield & Banks Southern Bloom exemplifies.

Dimitri Weber

Goldfield & Banks became widely available about a year ago as the first five releases arrived here in the US. Four of the five were focused on woody constructs while the other was an alternative aquatic which stood out among those first five. Owner-creative director Dimitri Weber wanted Goldfield & Banks to represent the special ingredients of Australia. In Southern Bloom he uses one of the ingredients which has been lightly used; boronia.

Francois Merle-Baudoin

Mr. Weber continues to collaborate with perfumer Francois Merle-Baudoin. For Southern Bloom they sourced a multi-faceted boronia absolute from the fields of Bruny Island. Every time I’ve encountered boronia in a perfume I’ve enjoyed the prismatic floral quality it imparts to fragrance. I imagine for a perfumer it is by turns fun and challenging to find the right balance of other ingredients to balance it out. Southern Bloom uses boronia to provide the heart of the most floral construct from Goldfield & Banks, yet.

The boronia is placed at the top with a green blackcurrant bud as its opening partner. This gives a vegetal green undertone to the boronia. That begins to be swept away as jasmine, iris, and ylang-ylang gather the boronia up in a floral embrace. Throughout the heart it shifts tones as the jasmine makes it more white flower-like, then the iris gives a powdery effect, before ylang-ylang adds in a sensuality. M. Merle-Baudoin finds that elusive balance in an effusive floral heart accord. A tropical touch of coconut sets the stage for a base accord of vetiver and sandalwood.

Southern Bloom has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Southern Bloom stands apart from the rest of the line because of its floral nature. It stands in solidarity with the others in the desire to show off the Australian ingredients beautifully.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Houbigant Bois Mystique- Modern Materials, Classic Effect

Heritage perfume brands are an odd breed. It takes a well-thought out plan to revive it without trivializing it. There are not a lot of successful case studies. One which has succeeded is the revival of one of the first perfume brands; Houbigant. Ever since the Perris Group acquired the brand, they have treated it with respect. Elisabetta Perris has been the primary creative force for the Houbigant releases since 2010. In 2015, she began working with perfumer Luca Maffei. Together they have found the right balance of traditional and contemporary in the perfumes they have produced. The latest example is Houbigant Bois Mystique.

Elisabetta Perris

One of the ways to generate that balance is to have some throwback accord using contemporary materials. The range of the modern perfumer’s palette allows for combinations those at the beginning of modern perfumery could only dream of. What this means is there is a vintage sensibility fleshed out with the perfume version of CGI. Throughout the time I wore Bois Mystique I enjoyed Sig. Maffei’s twist on classic accords.

Luca Maffei

That starts right at the top with a modern extract of ginger surrounded by a classic set of spice notes in cinnamon, cardamom, and black pepper. Piercing the simmering heat is a shimmering incense. It provides a chilly foil to the heat of the spices. It also blazes a path for the subtle florals of iris and neroli. The florals flit around the open spaces left to them. This all heads to a completely comforting base accord. Soft woods of guaiac, cypress and cashmeran are suffused with the warmth of amber and myrrh. The final stages are a softening of the early heat but it appears like a natural decay from the spices to the wooded base.

Bois Mystique has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Bois Mystique has been the scent of my favorite scarf over the last week. It shines in the bitterly cold weather. Bois Mystique is a Retro Nouveau perfume which is modern in materials but classic in effect.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I received from Neiman-Marcus.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Dolce & Gabbana The Only One and Prada L’Homme Absolu

January is a time for me to clean up loose ends from my desk. This month’s Flanker Round-Up allows me to tie off a couple of those; Dolce & Gabbana The Only One and Prada L’Homme Absolu.

Dolce & Gabbana The Only One

I have been very critical about the number and quality of flankers of the original 2006 Dolce & Gabbana The One. Almost annually I received an example of why flankers are held in such low esteem. This year with The Only One I received something which broke that trend; mainly by following one of the prevailing fragrance trends.

Perfumer Violaine Collas was not working off the blueprint from Christine Nagel’s original. Mme Collas was designing a perfume for the current day. That meant she came up with a floral gourmand.

The Only One opens with a zippy citrus top accord. It gives way quickly to the heart accord where violet and coffee form the floral and the gourmand components. The violet is a slightly candied version which contrasts with a similarly shaded bitter coffee. It adds some vanilla cream to the mix before patchouli brings things to a close. If you are enjoying the floral gourmand style The Only One is a good addition to that genre.

Prada L’Homme Absolu

Perfumers sometimes fall in love with a set of notes or accords. You see it crop up again and again. For Prada in-house perfumer Daniela Andrier it is the triad of neroli, iris, and cedar. It has been hard to improve upon her original Infusion D’Iris. When L’Homme Prada came out in 2016 she returned to this and I wasn’t impressed. Prada L’Homme Absolu is also another interpretation but by enhancing the spices I liked it better.

The main alteration happens right at the start as cardamom and black pepper are given a more prominent place with the iris. I liked this change and it carries forward into the neroli and geranium joining in. The typical ambery cedar which is the traditional base accord is the end. I still haven’t found anything better than Infusion D’Iris but the added spiciness in Prada L’Homme Absolu will be appealing to someone looking for that.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Abel Green Cedar- A Fairytale Ending

Over the past few years I have been fortunate to spend a lot of time with Michael Edwards the man who created the perfume database Fragrances of the World. Whenever we are together, I joke it is like talking to a walking history of modern perfumery. He has provided so many insights for me to explore.

Frances Shoemack

Mr. Edwards lives in Australia, but he was visiting a New Zealand department store when he began speaking with the sales associate. When the young man realized the opportunity to gather information, he took advantage of the serendipitous encounter. The sales associate aspired to be a perfumer. He asked, “What was the best way?” Mr. Edwards told him there was an annual conference in Grasse where he could present himself to industry insiders. Flash forward to a few months later at that conference where the sales associate has used his savings to make the trip from New Zealand to France. Mr. Edwards sees this as a sign of his determination. He would meet the head of Symrise who was similarly impressed. He sponsored the young man’s training in Milan which then lead to a series of positions within Symrise. The final piece of training comes as Maurice Roucel’s assistant for four years. At that point he is offered a position as junior perfumer in Brazil. Ever since I heard this story, I have wanted to try one of Isaac Sinclair’s perfume. I wanted to smell the end of the story.

Isaac Sinclair

I finally had the chance with the introduction of the Abel line of perfumes from the Netherlands to the US. The brand was begun in 2016 when owner Frances Shoemack chose Mr. Sinclair as her creative partner for her new perfume brand. When they became available in the US, I quickly acquired a sample set. What I found within the collection were very focused perfumes designed around sets of three keynotes. What I didn’t realize early on was these are 100% Natural perfumes. Mr. Sinclair elicits the most from this palette finding a quiet power within. The one which captured my attention the most was Green Cedar.

If there is a perfume which advertises itself as green cedar I am always interested. There is a freshness to raw wood. In the case of cedar, it keeps it from becoming pencil shavings; elevating it to something less utilitarian. Mr. Sinclair captures all of this.

It opens with a gentle breath of cardamom and magnolia. Then the woods show up. Mr. Sinclair uses two sources of cedar, Moroccan and Texan. He cleaves it with the use of cypriol. This is the main ingredient of faux-oud accords. Mr. Sinclair uses it here as the rawness of green wood with an ideally modulated amount cutting through the cedar.

Green Cedar has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I tried the whole sample set of Abel perfumes, I smiled a lot. The perfumes are all good. They provide the finish to the story begun one night in Mr. Edwards’ voice. Green Cedar is part of the fairytale ending from sales associate to perfumer halfway around the world.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample set I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Neandertal Light and Dark- Missing Middle

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about seeing perfumery being seen as an artform is artists from other forms want to create using scent, too. It is an uneven prospect because those artists don’t feel bound by the conventional aspects of modern perfumery. It can lead to inspired fragrance construction. It can lead to cacophonous disasters as the desire to be different crashes up against lack of skill. Those are the extremes. The two perfumes from Neandertal called Light and Dark fall somewhere in the middle.

Kentaro Yamada (via Persefume.com)

Neandertal was conceived by London-based Japanese sculptor Kentaro Yamada. The concept was if Neanderthal Man has survived to the current time; what would a perfume designed for that smell like? Mr. Yamada collaborated with perfumer Euan McCall to form two perfumed answers called Light and Dark. This was released as a very limited edition in 2015 and has now been released late last year for wider distribution. When I received my samples I wasn’t sure what I’d find inside. It wasn’t as unique as I was hoping while both suffer from a shifting of effects that is achieved with caveman-like precision.

Euan McCall (via Persefume.com)

Neandertal Light wants to be the lighter of the two and in the early and later moments it succeeds. It grinds gears in the middle going for that avant-garde touch. It opens on a nice duet of hinoki and galbanum. The Japanese cypress always has a hint of green raw wood within and the galbanum intensifies that. Then the creative team wants a “metallic accord”. What they get is a heavily synthetic accord which thuds on top of a powdery iris. Once it moves past this the base accord returns to a theme as a mineralic accord using synthetic ambergris and patchouli. This is the soul of the primitive underneath the less feral exterior.

Neandertal Dark goes the other direction as it starts with an evocation of a cave dwelling before furnishing it in other fragrant notes. Baie rose forms the core of the top accord as ginger, pine, and leafy green notes form an impression of a cave mouth overgrown with vegetation. The effect is nicely enhanced with caraway and incense. Then we grind gears again as an iodine-like seaweed accord crashes across the top accord like a club. This needed to be used much more delicately instead of as a distracting counterweight. Things get back on track in the base with sandalwood the core which has oud, tobacco, and patchouli forming a nice black leather jacket accord. Which I can see a 2018 Neanderthal wearing.

Neandertal Light and Dark both have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I ended up wearing both of these weeks apart for the purpose of the review. The second time around in both cases was better. Maybe because I was expecting the tonal shifts I didn’t care for they didn’t feel as jarring. I’m not sure I want another perfume from the Yamada-McCall team but Neandertal Light and Dark were good enough even if they missed in the middle.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Jackson Year 2

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As someone who writes a blog and puts their words out there you have a question which is hard to answer. Is anyone reading? I have all manner of metric measuring tools which give me the answer in graphs and percentages. I’ve realized over this past year that fundamental question carries a deeper corollary. Does anybody care? The best analytic site can’t give me any insight into that. My best way of measuring that is a single sentence added to the end of a lot of the e-mail I’ve received this year. It goes like this, “Give Jackson a scratch for me?” Or “How’s Jackson?”

I introduced our black standard poodle, Jackson, here in this column a year ago. We adopted Jackson on January 2, 2017, what is called “Gotcha Day”, from a rescue dog organization. As I recounted in last year’s column much of the first year was convincing Jackson I wasn’t the scariest thing in the world. By the end of his first year that was mostly accomplished. It taught me patience and love can cure a lot of ills.

Henry (l.) and Jackson

The first year was giving Jackson the socialization he was denied for his first year of life before we adopted him. He came to trust his new pack members; me, Mrs. C, and our other older rescue poodle Henry. By the end of that year within the confines of Poodlesville he was a happy confident young canine.

One of the things that was left to do was take him out into the rest of the world outside of home. I knew he was going to go back to being scared. I just thought it was important to start giving him the chance to learn there weren’t dragons on the other side of the fence.

What this has meant is four or five days a week I put Jackson on a leash and take him on a walk. We are lucky to have many options within a short drive of home to walk him. To start I just took him to the wide common park in the center of town for a few laps around it.

Our first excursion was one of half curiosity half fright. Every noise and other person we walked past glued him to my thigh; making sure I was between him and the perceived threat. The tail was tucked the entire time we took that first walk. The worst moment came when we walked by the flagpoles and the wind made them clank against the lanyards. I thought Jackson was going to jump in my arms.

Jackson taking a nap on his favorite pillow…..me

Ove a few weeks things got better. The tail began to move upward. The sniffing began. He jumped up excitedly when I picked up the leash. He even cried at me one day when I drove by the park to use the bank drive-thru. He got very used to the commons. Except for Halloween. Our town has a scarecrow contest where various organizations put up scarecrows. As they went up Jackson noted them but seemed to ignore them. Until the one which was made from a posable skeleton reaching out towards the path was installed. Every time we got to that corner of the common Jackson would drop his tail and keep an eye on it until we passed. At which point the tail began to wag again.

Because of the scarecrows it seemed time to expand our horizons. I began taking him to a park which had a wooded trail. The trail remains a sensorial overload for him which vacillates between momentary fright and poodle inquisitiveness. He still isn’t fond of the way a dog in one of the houses barks at him.

One day we got to the park and the trail was closed while they did some repair work on it. There was still a large soccer field to walk around and I thought we could do that. What made this interesting was there was a team practicing on the field which was taking a break. I came upon one of the young men playing as we turned a corner. Jackson hugged in close to me. The boy asked if he could pet him. I told him to be cautious and bend down to Jackson’s level. He did everything correct in approaching an unfamiliar dog. Jackson was soon getting his ears scratched by a stranger. Unbeknownst to him was a few teammates had come looking for their missing man. As they approached, they began to scratch Jackson all over his back. Jackson’s eyes opened as soon as he felt the first unfamiliar hand. Then as soon as he was receiving an all over scratch his eyes closed in pleasure and the tail wagged.

Like my readers when we walk past the boys practicing they ask, “How’s Jackson?” My answer is to all who ask, “He’s doing great!”

Mark Behnke