New Perfume Review Areej Le Dore Atlantic Ambergris- It’s The Real Thing

Back in the 1970’s Coca Cola came up with a slogan “Coke, it’s the real thing.” I think of it a lot in reference to perfumery. Especially with synthetic alternatives for raw materials like musk, oud, or ambergris. Perfumers can be magicians in forming an accord which performs the illusion of the real thing but once you experience it you always know where the gaps are. Because of that I obtained real samples of musk, oud, and ambergris. When it came to musk and ambergris I thought you have one kind you’ve got them all. At least in the case of ambergris I should have considered my oud experience. My little precious case of ouds covers different geographies and years of aging. My first clue my education in real ambergris was lacking came courtesy of Areej Le Dore Atlantic Ambergris.

White Ambergris via Pat Lillis of Celtic Ambergris

I have a tiny pea shaped amount of solid ambergris which sits in a sealed vial like a black stinky pearl. When I open it for a sniff it is briny with a pronounced funk to it. I also own an ambergris attar from Amouage and it is what I expect a tincture of that odiferous pearl to produce. I thought my knowledge base was complete. When I read the review of Atlantic Ambergris on Kafkaesque there was a primer on the spectrum of ambergris to introduce the review. Kafkaesque turned to Pat Lillis of Celtic Ambergris to provide the explanation for what causes the different scent profile for any chunk of ambergris. If you’re interested I urge you to go read it. The short form is the longer a chunk spends floating in the ocean the more bleached it gets providing a softer scent profile while the chunks that spend more time on shore in the sand get blacker, and funkier. Russian Adam obtained a quantity of white ambergris, from Mr. Lillis, as the keynote of Atlantic Ambergris.

Russian Adam describes the scent profile of the white ambergris in Atlantic Ambergris this way, “It’s aroma is pristine, fluffy, silky, slightly powdery, sweet and earthy, with a bottomless oceanic depth that is truly unique.” I agree with that statement entirely but what really struck me was the last part of it. Growing up in S, Florida there were days where I was out on the ocean water skiing or just leaning over the side of the boat as it headed home at speed. There was a smell of the ocean that went beyond sea spray to something with more weight to it along with a briny depth. As the white ambergris rises I was vividly reminded of this smell.

Atlantic Ambergris is a Russian Adam perfume which means it is full of other interesting notes besides the white ambergris. He chooses to take his unique keynote and float it upon a sea of spices; cardamom, clove, and nutmeg. This is a powerful wave of spices which are meant as contrast to the deep ocean quality of the ambergris. I am a fan of all three of these spices and I am given full servings of all of them. As the chunk of ambergris approaches the shoreline the wind brings the smell of the pines and the tropical flowers of jasmine and ylang ylang. This all transitions into a base accord which I think is funnily enough Russian Adam’s concept of an oud accord. From a perfumer who has consistently used exquisitely sourced ouds it seems like he didn’t want to step on the beauty of the ambergris. This gives an oud-like foundation which because it is an accord he can tune it to exactly the desired effect.

Atlantic Ambergris has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage. Also this is the version of Atlantic Ambergris released in October of 2017

If you’ve never smelled the real thing, when it comes to ambergris, Atlantic Ambergris provides an opportunity. I know that there is a wide world of ambergris to explore now but it will be hard to be better than Atlantic Ambergris.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Sarah Baker Perfumes Tartan- True Cedar

My days of chopping wood are long behind me but on the few occasions that I did take on that task there was a scent which I enjoyed. When you take pieces of wood which you will be drying out and quarter them with an axe there is a smell I would call “raw wood”. It still has some life to it which means there is some green quality. There is also a kind of mentholated grace note which also arises off the wood. It has a kind of energetic scent of wood. Weeks later when I would go get the dried-out pieces there was hardly anything of that left until it got tossed into the fireplace which released just the woods. The smell of a fireplace is why we still set a fire or two here in Poodlesville. There aren’t a lot of perfumes which remind me of both the raw wood and the fireplace, but Sarah Baker Perfumes Tartan manages to complete that.

Sarah Baker

Sarah Baker is a London-based artist who expanded to perfume releasing her first two in 2016 working with perfumer Ashley Eden Kessler. In 2017, she would team-up with Sarah McCartney to add two more to the line. The entire line shows a creative direction of immersion into specific themes. When I say immersion, I mean it. These are all big evocative fragrances which are geared to those who enjoy the keynotes. Tartan attracted me with its overdose of cedar. Ms. Baker and Ms. McCartney are looking for a Scottish Highlands feel but my overwhelming evocation was sitting in a leather chair next to a fieldstone fireplace.

Sarah McCartney

It is cedar which opens Tartan as Virginian and Atlas cedarwoods are combined. In this kind of concentration, it passes through the more common comparisons of pencil shavings into something with more character. I like it when cedar is used in this way. To give that raw wood feel Ms. McCartney threads through some cedar moss. After the first blast of cedar that moss forms a green network within the cedar. Then as it dries out and the cedar begins to lose some of its fresh-cut quality, leather and tobacco provide some of the fireside milieu. The cedar logs burning return with a slug of timbersilk which causes the cedar to flare up yet again as the flames rise high. A bit of labdanum provides a hint of smoke.

Tartan has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Tartan is a perfume for those who love cedar. Ms. McCartney manages to explore all there is in cedar in Tartan which turns it into a true cedar experience.

Disclosure: This review was based on sample provided by Sarah Baker Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bvlgari Magnolia Sensuel- A Spring Alternative

January is a cruel month for me as my mailbox fills up with all the new spring releases; most of them rose focused. Longtime readers will be familiar with this perennial complaint from me. There are other flowers that could be used. To which I usually hear my internal voice say, “Oh yeah smarty what’s your alternative?” Truth be told I just want something different, but I am not sure what it is until I encounter it. When I received my sample of Bvlgari Magnolia Sensuel I realized this could be one.

Last spring Bvlgari premiered their Splendida Collection focused on floral compositions. Those first three releases focused on rose (Rose Rose), jasmine (Jasmin Noir), and iris (Iris D’Or). They were nice but those are probably three of the most ubiquitous flowers in perfumery. There are not a lot of different themes to be explored. Magnolia Sensuel uses a flower not so common.

Jacques Cavallier

Magnolia is mostly used as a supporting floral. It is because it has a dual floral and citrus scent. It makes it an ideal note to underpin either of those qualities. Perfumer Jacques Cavallier uses a Chinese version of magnolia which really displays both splendidly.

M. Cavallier brackets the magnolia with citrus and jasmine as supporting notes in a reverse of the usual relationship of these three notes. The magnolia bursts out of the first moments with a freshness from the inherent tartness and the floral nature has an outward expansiveness more typical of synthetic ingredients. The mandarin gives a sweet citric interstitial note while the jasmine provides more of a base than I think the magnolia would have had without it. This is a fresh spring scent as the magnolia feels sunny and floral simultaneously. The base accord is musk with a hint of vanilla and patchouli.

Magnollia Sensuel has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Wearing Magnolia Sensuel weeks away from actual spring arriving; it makes me believe it is closer than it is. I don’t know if it is prohibitive to use magnolia in this concentration regularly but the next time I’m having an argument with myself over a spring alternative; Magnolia Sensuel is going to be the answer.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fort & Manle Bojnokopff- Abracadabra!

This is something I shouldn’t admit but sometimes the name of a perfume is enough to give it some slack when I try it. I’ve mentioned in the past how much I like the way some words feel when I say them. When I received the seven samples of Australian perfume brand Fort & Manle there was always one, based on the name, which I was going to be drawn to; Bojnokopff.

Fort & Manle is the brand of self-taught perfumer Rasei Fort. The first six releases were debuted in 2016 with an additional release last year. The entire collection just became available in the US and I ordered a sample set. In trying all seven I see some of the issues that comes with being self-taught. There are ingredients with which Mr. Fort has more feel for than others. This is particularly evident in the more floral entries where all of those felt like there was a gap or an awkward transition as he is unable to strike a balance. The best ones are those which tilt more towards an Oriental style of which Bojnokopff is one.

Rasei Fort

Bojnokopff was one of the original six releases and it had a much longer name; Mr. Bojnokopff’s Purple Hat. The decision to shorten the name worked for me because I was enticed by Bojnokopff which the longer name might not have achieved. Mr. Bojnokopff was a nineteenth century fin de siècle illusionist in Saint Petersburg Russia who used his purple hat as part of his act. Mr. Fort imagines a hat where smoke billows out of it after placing some perfume ingredients within.

The first ingredient into Bojnokopff is lavender. As I first tried this I expected a descent towards typical fougere territory. With the style of a magician’s misdirection instead of pulling a fern from the hat a resinous oud appears. The fresh herbal nature of lavender on top of oud was a neat trick which made me smile. Next out of the hat comes chocolate. The chocolate is paired with enough vanilla to make this not a bitter dark chocolate but a rich milk chocolate. This is another good choice as the sweeter creamier version provides contrast to the lavender and oud. Cedar and vetiver are the base accord for the three keynotes to finish upon.

Bojnokopff has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Fort & Manle like many of the large collections from the self-taught has its ups and downs with the high points all on the darker side of the spectrum. Bojnokopff is a signal that it is going to be interesting to see what comes next.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Hiram Green Slowdive- A Tobacco Pearl Through Honey

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When I was a child one of the odder television commercials was for a brand of shampoo called Prell. They would show some pretty people lathering up with the product and at the end they would show the bottle of green shampoo and a hand would drop a pearl into it which would very slowly head towards the bottom as the commercial ended. I never understood what a pearl falling through shampoo had to do with anything. I admit it was a neat visual which has stuck with me probably fifty years after I first encountered it. What is interesting is a dense solid object with character slowly descending through a thick intensely colored liquid carried a contrast which was evident to my child’s eye. The new perfume from Hiram Green called Slowdive got me thinking about that.

First, let me get this out of the way; Slowdive does not smell of shampoo or pearls. I don’t suspect this is a theme Mr. Green is interested in exploring. It certainly isn’t anything I’m overtly interested in smelling either. What has me thinking of Prell shampoo is Mr. Green has taken a container of honey and dropped a figurative pearl of tobacco flower into that. Slowdive is the slow evolution as those two ingredients continually interact while Mr. Green surrounds it with a fascinating choice of supporting ingredients.

Hiram Green

From the beginning the honey is there in a quite concentrated form. Mr. Green manages to make it thick without enhancing some of the less desirable character of honey as a perfume ingredient in high concentration. Then he takes his tobacco flower and drops it onto the surface. As it first appears it gains a bit of traction over the honey. Once it begins to sink a little beneath the surface a dried fruit accord cuts across the combination of narcotic sweetness; amplifying the latter nature. This might be a place where those who aren’t so fond of sweet in their fragrance might have some issues. The next phase, as the tobacco flower drifts lower in the honey, coalesces around orange blossom and tuberose. If you see that and think, “white flower explosion” it is much more restrained than that. The orange blossom is a typical kind of honey flavoring and it intersperses itself as grace note with that in mind. The tuberose takes the tobacco into a deeper place using its own narcotic quality to add to it. As the tobacco flower reaches the bottom a group of resinous notes await it as a resting place completing the slowdive.

Slowdive has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage. This is an easy perfume to overspray which can have an impact on how much you enjoy wearing it.

Slowdive is another fantastic perfume from Hiram Green. Working from an all-natural palette it consistently amazes me the power he extracts from these. It is becoming a signature of his, after four releases. This time Slowdive allows the wearer the opportunity to luxuriate in the glory of a tobacco shaped pearl slowly falling through honey. I don’t know if that represents quality anymore than the Prell commercial did but in this case, it should.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I’ve waited a month to write about Star Wars: The Last Jedi because I am going to talk more about the plot and giveaway some of the big twists in my discussion of it. If you haven’t seen the movie yet stop reading now before I ruin your chance to enjoy it without having things spoiled,

If there was one overriding emotion I had after The Force Awakens re-awakened Star Wars two years ago it was, “That was great, but I don’t just want bigger and bigger Death Stars I want something new.” J.J. Abrams who directed The Force Awakens provided jumper cables to a moribund franchise by relying on what made it special in the first place. Handing over the reins to writer-director Rian Johnson was giving him something much more difficult; evolve Star Wars. The difficulty of this has no better example than the prequel trilogy by George Lucas who created all of this. He dared to do something different. You may detest those movies, but Mr. Lucas did not give us the same story. As I’ve mentioned before his problem was as a storyteller we all knew what was on the last page of Episode 3; Annakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader. The new movies have an advantage because the audience does not know what is going to happen. Which is why Mr. Johnson has some more latitude when it comes to choosing different paths.

Through the first hour of The Last Jedi I was feeling uneasy as it seemed like it was a next generation “Empire Strikes Back”. Rebels under merciless attack; check. Young Force user being trained by Jedi Master; check. Young Force user coerced into entering the ship of the big bad guy; check. As Rey leaves Luke Skywalker behind to go to meet Supreme Leader Snoke I began to inwardly groan. There was no growth happening it was all just the same as before. Then in literally the stroke of a lightsaber that evolution began as all those familiar things got turned on their heads.

When the big Force showdown between Rey and Snoke ended up with him dead and Kylo Ren offering to rule the galaxy with her there was something exhilarating in what her answer would be. From there Mr. Johnson makes a movie of heroes and villains who aren’t destined to their roles because of their bloodlines but because they are heroic or villainous. When Finn who has spent two movies running away finally proudly declares he is “Rebel scum” his transformation is complete. The story on the screen has shown us his journey from frightened want-away to hero. Finn, like Rey, have no genetic disposition to heroism but the internal desire to be the ones to make things better.

The other choice Mr. Johnson made was with Luke Skywalker who ends up much different than when we last saw him. It is easy to see Leia and Han Solo as older versions of when we last saw them; they are the same people we left before. Luke is the one who has had his optimism shattered. His hope to build a new Jedi Order is destroyed from the inside by the Dark Side. It drives him to exile where he cuts himself off from The Force. When Rey finds him, and asks to be trained his instruction comes not from a place of optimism but from someone who has lost hope. Unlike the relationship between Yoda and Luke in Empire Strikes Back this new teacher isn’t sure it is a good idea for Jedi to exist. His reluctance to be a full-time teacher makes Rey into her own. She fearlessly explores the island of the first Jedi Temple and learns the lessons that exist just by exploring. Luke is less teacher and more guardrails meant to keep her on the path to the Light Side. It isn’t heroic but as we learn Luke’s story it is understandable.

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

That loss of heroism has been a major point of contention among Star Wars fans since The Last Jedi opened. Luke is allowed his moment of unalloyed heroism at the end of the movie but everything prior to that is a dramatic change from the Luke who believed he could turn his father from Darth Vader back to Annakin Skywalker. The Luke in The Last Jedi has lost belief. As a proponent for change I liked this choice it asks real questions of what it means to be heroic. It asks whether it is cowardice to hide away with the power to make change while the galaxy burns. The story lays out the changes, but actor Mark Hamill makes me believe that Luke could end up in this place. Mr. Hamill’s performance is brilliant; the best he has turned in in a Star Wars movie. I liked the changes because Mr. Hamill sold me on them with his performance.

This all leads to a final scene which shows that The Force is not only running through those with Skywalker blood in their veins but also young stable hands who dream of Rebellion. If there was a stifling aspect to The Force was its affinity for only those darn Skywalkers. Mr. Johnson’s final nod that for The Light to meet The Dark it is made up of many points around the galaxy from the stables to the palaces. This is an exciting place for Star Wars to be at the end of Episode 8. It leaves the storytelling paths wide open with no previous blueprints to be followed. I am very happy that these choices were made it feels like Star Wars has never been fuller of potential.

Mark Behnke

Keeping the Flame Burning

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By mid-January 2014 I was busy planning the first 90 days of Colognoisseur. I felt like I had to start with the first 90 articles lined up if I was going to get into a rhythm that would allow me to post a new article every day. As I put that schedule together I was excited to be able to write about all the things I ever wanted to write about. I ran across my 90-day plan just after the New Year. I was pleased to find that the original concept has largely survived through today.

I then began to think about whether I realistically thought I’d still be as excited as I neared the end of my fourth year of Colognoisseur. I had some reader number targets but those were all for the end of 2016. I thought thinking beyond that date was of the wishful variety. Yet, I find myself just as excited as I was four years ago.

I don’t plan things out for 90-days anymore, but I do keep a rolling 21-day schedule. That it is currently full of perfume I am happy to write about is also great. I think it is easy to become jaded about anything after doing it for over ten years. I started considering why I had escaped that pitfall.

The answer came via the mail both electronic and traditional. In my physical mailbox I received a package from a new independent perfumer. Inside was an amazing debut, something different to my nose. It is something only an instinctual artist could create. It is why every package like this is a new discovery.

In my e-mail box I got another testimonial on my “How to Buy Perfume as a Gift”. A man went to the mall and put together my little basket of samples along with a gift card. After giving it to his girlfriend they eventually settled on a perfume which at that time was their special perfume. They just got married on New Year’s Eve and the bride wore “their” perfume.

It is both the opportunity to give some exposure to the new perfumer while sharing a way to make perfume a part of someone’s life which are more than enough to keep my internal flame burning bright.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Couteau de Poche Fumabat- Modern Moss

One of the things which makes each new independent perfumer interesting is how they will approach a fragrance which will have their name on it. When it is a modern artist who is branching out I look to their art and see if it somehow appears in their perfume. Brooklyn artist Parid Cefa created Couteau de Poche Fumabat in a way that hews true to his contemporary aesthetic by using a vintage ingredient.

When I read about this perfume prior to ordering a sample the three notes listed in the top of green tea, mint, and galbanum almost made me not add it to my order. Mint is a tricky ingredient for trained perfumers to get right. I was skeptical a neophyte would use mint absolute appropriately. It turns out the entire note list was something which didn’t necessarily appear. Mr. Cefa turned Fumabat into a very green perfume with moss as its keynote.

One of the things which I like about moss when it is given a chance to be out front is it has a sharp quality. This is where Mr. Cefa begins as the moss interacts with galbanum. This forms an accord befitting a brand which translates to “pocket knife”. I detected no tea or mint just the galbanum and moss. Pine comes along to add a different shade of green before carnation adds a slightly powdery veneer. There is a point about an hour in where this smells like a luxurious moss-scented hand-milled soap. It eventually transitions into a base where vetiver provides a fuller green tinged with subtle smoky accents. Leather and patchouli provide the foundation from which all of this sits on top of.

Fumabat has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is a perfume for those who enjoy their scents green. It also carries a vintage style to it because of the amount of oak moss which is present. It was such an important ingredient of those bygone fragrances that experiencing it in this concentration can’t help but make it feel older. By using the moss as the axis of Fumabat Mr. Cefa does make something modern out of something old.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Vanille Fatale- Sans Tobacco

In 2007 when the first dozen Tom Ford Private blend perfumes arrived they were a sensation. Tom Ford working with Karyn Khoury would create something unique within the niche perfume sector. So many of those originals were such groundbreaking constructs it was maybe too much to expect the Private Blend collection to keep up that kind of creativity over the long run. As we begin 2018 and a second decade of Private Blends it is fair to say the collection has become an elder statesman of the luxury fragrance sector. You might notice I left off niche because as the brand has matured it has also become less adventurous. Particularly over the past year or so there has been an emphasis on using top notch ingredients within familiar constructs. The latest release, Vanille Fatale, is a good example.

As the collection becomes safer the PR copy becomes ever more impenetrable. Here is a bit from the press materials for Vanille Fatale:

“Vanille Fatale is a force of nature personified. A beguiling tempest that takes over like a rush of blood to the head. The impossible becomes real, too good to be true becomes true. Her – or his – unrelenting hold is fixed, refined yet raw, polished yet primal.”

All of that for a fragrance which is a nicely formed vanilla perfume using a great source of the titular note.

Yann Vasnier

Perfumer Yann Vasnier uses saffron as an exotic opener which might give you the idea something more unique is coming. It isn’t. What is coming is one of the Givaudan proprietary Orpur ingredients. The Orpur version of Madagascar vanilla is as good as raw materials get. It has power and nuance. The green nature of the orchid runs through the sweetness like stringy veins. M. Vasnier chooses olibanum and myrrh to provide resinous contrast and depth. It all rests on a soft suede accord in the base. There are some floral notes and coffee listed in the ingredient list but over a couple days of wearing this none of those came through. This is primarily saffron-vanilla-incense-leather.

Vanille Fatale has 16-18 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

It is hard to not try a new Tom Ford Private Blend containing vanilla and not be reminded of one of those early trendsetters in the debut collection; Tobacco Vanille. I’ve heard many tell me the tobacco is too much in that one. For those, Vanille Fatale is Tobacco Vanille avec tobacco. This is a very luxurious high-quality vanilla perfume for which I think vanilla lovers will die for because of the Orpur vanilla. I fall in between wanting there to be some of the adventurousness of the early Private Blends but accepting an elder statesman needs to show some decorum. Vanille Fatale is a decorous vanilla perfume.

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

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Christian Dior Dior-Dior- Roudnitska Overture

Whenever I go to see a musical on the stage one of my favorite moments is the overture. Just prior to the curtain rising on Act 1 Scene 1 the orchestra lays down a preview of the musical themes which will appear during the musical to come. I’ve always found it a fascinating kind of audio foreshadowing. After I’ve seen the production it can be a short reminder of the event.

I wouldn’t say it is common in perfume for something to be an overture. As I finally acquired enough of 1976’s Christian Dior Dior-Dior it was hard not to think of it as a retrospective overture of perfumer Edmond Roudnitska’s portfolio at Dior.

Edmond Roudnitska

By 1976, M. Roudnitska had created five previous Dior releases. The Dior style was defined in those singular perfumes many of them masterpieces of the perfumed art. By this point in his career he was fully embracing simple constructions. He was a precise artist using only the least amount of ingredients to achieve his desired effect. The apex of this style might have been the two releases which preceded Dior-Dior; Diorella and Eau Sauvage. It is their influence which is most noticeable in Dior-Dior.

The early part of the overture carries the lemon and hedione aspects of Eau Sauvage. They provide the same expansiveness so recognizable from that previous perfume. Then the strings provide the lilt of melon from Diorella. In Diorella the melon is on the verge of being overripe. In Dior-Dior it comes from the day before that, as it is lighter in degree. The lily of the valley from Diorissimo provides a strong green and floral aspect. This is all finished off with some oakmoss and woods to make it chypre-like.

Dior-Dior has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Something which carries many of the best parts of the Roudnitska Dior partnership should have been a big seller. It didn’t last long and was sent to the Dead Letter Office surprisingly quickly. Granted M. Roudnitska had been making Dior perfumes since 1948 and perhaps the time for his style has passed. That seems unlikely based on the continued popularity of those previous Dior perfumes. Which is where I return to my overture analogy. Dior-Dior is like an appetizer when you can have the entrée of Eau Sauvage, Diorella, or Diorissimo. I understand that after having the opportunity to experience this now. After wearing Dior-Dior I just wanted to hear the full versions because I know they are there. I wonder if Dior-Dior was an actual overture from which the three perfumes it reminds me of followed whether it would have had greater success. When the overture comes at the end of the musical I think it is easy to understand why it is in the Dead Letter Office.

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

Mark Behnke