New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Tuscan Leather Intense- Let The Right One In

In a line of perfume as extensive as Tom Ford Private Blend is, it is easy to say there is something for everybody within. Ever since its 2007 debut it has offered perfume lovers an almost unparalleled opportunity to find “their’ perfume. I am no different. I have favorites within the genres which span the collection. More than any other fragrance brand there is probably a “Goldilocks” version of what ever kind of perfume makes you smile.

That has certainly been true of the leather focused offerings. One of the original set of Private Blends was Tuscan Leather. Tuscan Leather was a surprising combination of raspberry over suede leather. It was not my favorite of that first collection. Over the years there have been other leather perfumes. Three years ago I found my “just right” one; Ombre Leather 16. No raspberry and a leather with suppleness and bite. From this perspective I was quite interested to see where Tuscan Leather Intense would fall.

Karyn Khoury

On the days I wore Tuscan Leather Intense it was hard not to think in the early moments that it was a discarded mod of the original. Creative Director Karyn Khoury probably did not do that because while the opening feels like a shuffled version of the original the latter half is all its own thing.

It opens on the same trio as the original; saffron, raspberry, and thyme. The difference here is the raspberry is pushed to the back over the thyme and saffron. The leather early on is also a bit unrefined with rougher edges. The thyme sets the pace for what is a much greener opening. That effect is deepened as davana comes into focus. It creates a woody green softening of the leather into a sueded version. A lot more olibanum coats it with smoke. The biggest change comes as a strong set of animalic musks turn this leather into something a bit untamed. Some amber provides a touch of warmth in the final stages.

Tuscan Leather Intense has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Tuscan Leather Intense captures many of the qualities which have made Tom Ford Private Blend leather perfumes stand out in the past. It is interesting enough to me that when I reach for Ombre Leather 16 I am going to give Tuscan Leather Intense a glance. As a perfume consumer if you’re looking for a Tom Ford Private Blend leather to call your own you just have to let the right one in; Tuscan Leather Intense is going to be that one for many.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Please Change Your Hurricane Coverage

I was watching the news on Friday night. The lead story was on Hurricane Barry bearing down on Louisiana. Part of the package is a story which always irritates me. When they interview someone who chooses to ignore an evacuation order.

I grew up in South Florida and weathered two hurricanes as a child. Our closest family friends had a house right on the water. I always knew the storm had arrived when their son, and my best friend, Buddy and their dog Rex crashed my bedroom. Our friends knew what was important and acted to get it out of the way of the storm. Everything else was stuff. There was always a stark reminder of what would have happened if they remained. On a post inside the house there was a line for every hurricane which had hit marking the level of the water that made it inside the house. Both hurricanes we lived through the water level was above the adults’ heads. I always respected their choices even though there were tough times recovering after each storm.

It is one of the reasons the stories which come every hurricane about the idiot who won’t evacuate bother me. These people are not folk heroes they are fools caring more about their stuff. Why every news organization feels the need to cover them without pointing that out is my problem. On Friday night there was a woman standing in a foot or so of water already. 24 hours before the storm hits. What illumination of the coming disaster does this provide?

The other part of this is I have first responders in my close circle. I know that if the idiot calls that they are in danger they will respond. Putting their lives in danger because of someone so stupid they can’t walk away. It infuriates me. During one of the hurricanes last year this exact story was covered.

This plea to stop covering idiocy also applies to post-storm coverage. Don’t go cover the moron who managed to make it through. It just gives bad ideas to others in the future.

Hurricanes are dangerous and important enough that the coverage of simpletons who literally want to spit into the wind do not need to be part of it.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Rag & Bone Monoi and Genmaicha- Seeing the Vision

When I receive a large debut collections from a designer, I find it difficult to give a good assessment. This was the case three years ago when I received the first set of fragrance from Rag & Bone. I thought they were well done but one, Oddity, stood out far above the others. Which leads me to unfairly think of the others as lesser. It is nice to get a second chance as Rag & Bone release two new fragrances Monoi and Genmaicha.

Marcus Wainwright

Creative director Marcus Wainwright wants the Rag & Bone perfumes to mirror the fashion side of the business. In his vision it means putting a focal point ingredient on the bottle and “accessorizing” it. In the first collection that generally meant one prominent note and another slightly less prominent note. At the time I thought it was a good concept. Now with Monoi and Genmaicha it proves to be durably so.

Monoi is a lightweight white flower style of fragrance. It takes a tiare accord of frangipani and gardenia to represent the creaminess of the white flowers. A green banana leaf, crisp pear, and sandalwood are the main accessories. It is finishes with a set of white musks to build in the expansiveness over the long run.

Genmaicha is a citrus blended green tea type of fragrance. A tart yuzu sets up the sharp green tea note in the heart. Nutmeg is used to tease out a toasty nuttiness underneath. It blunts a lot of the roughness of the green tea if left on its own. It all ends on a clean cedarwood platform.

Monoi and Genmaicha both have 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

With only two to assess this time around I see what Mr. Wainwright wants his fragrance collection to represent. Both Monoi and Genmaicha rise to his vision.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Rag & Bone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review L’Artisan Parfumeur Le Chant de Camargue- Strength of Fragility

If there is an off shoot of the trend towards transparency that I will welcome it is the chance for the more fragile ingredients to shine. The majority of the time I have satisfied my desire for that quality by finding it in the independent perfume community. With L’Artisan Le Chant de Camargue it might be finding its way to a broader audience.

Le Chant de Camargue is the fifth release in the “Les Paysages” collection. This group of perfumes is meant to highlight a different region of France. Since its inception in 2017 I have found it to be one of the best group of perfumes from L’Artisan in years. Le Chant de Camargue does not break that streak.

Alberto Morillas

For this homage to the Camargue region perfumer Alberto Morillas chose to create a fragrance around the “white gold” of the area; rice. Rice is one of those accords that is difficult to construct. When done well it is magical. M. Morillas spent months building his accord. The construction of the perfume is kept simple to protect the fragility of that rice accord. What is also remarkable about this perfume is the precise use of three of the most common synthetic ingredients to provide a stronger backbone to the overall fragrance.

Bergamot leads to the rice accord as this opens. The rice accord has a beautiful watery green effect before going milky through a powdery phase. What M. Morillas does is to titrate in exact amounts of hedione and Paradisone. These are usually powerful jasmine alternatives. Here they are used with a restrained hand providing a floral veil. The milky rice accord finds a complement in an equally creamy sandalwood. Just the right amount of ambrox supports the final accord without overwhelming it.

Le Chant de Camargue has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I think this will become my favorite of the Les Paysages collection. I find M. Morillas’ ability to provide strength to fragility as compelling as it can be.

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

Mark Behnke

Hans Hendley for American Perfumer Bloodline- American Vitality

2

I have a friend who has a woodworking hobby. He enjoys working with woods most people have never heard of. I know when I visit, I get an education on a wood new to me. The scent of that workshop is magical. My friend works on small wooden creations using rare materials. All of that came to mind when I tried Hans Hendley for American Perfumer Bloodline.

American Perfumer Shop

Bloodline is the third special edition from Dave Kern’s shop American Perfumer. Mr. Kern is asking different American perfumers to create one-of-a-kind fragrances. Bloodline comes from Brooklyn-based Hans Hendley. Mr. Hendley has been selling perfume since 2014. His is a line I do not have extensive experience with. There was a set of four releases in 2015 which I had samples of but never reviewed. My favorite of those was Bourbon. Just from that one example there are some definite connections to Bloodline.

Hans Hendley

Mr. Hendley does what always thrills me from the independent perfume community; he works with small batches of exquisite ingredients for Bloodline. The pulsing heart of Bloodline is a red cedar oil his father distilled from their home in Texas. That might not thrill you, cedar is a common perfume ingredient. This is not that. This oil comes from the Eastern Red Cedar which is closely related to the juniper tree this gives it an unusual scent profile. What Mr. Hendley does is to take his family derived gem of an oil and surround it with his own tinctures and unique distillates. It turns Bloodline into a testament to American vitality in perfume.

Right from the beginning the red cedar holds prominence. It acts as a sentinel standing tall at the central axis of Bloodline. To enhance those juniper characteristics Mr. Hendley uses a tincture of white pine fatwood along with an artisanal distillation of pinyon pine needles. This creates a densely faceted woody accord. To tease out the inherent sweetness of the wood Mr. Hendley turns to another tincture of his own of vanilla bean combined with tobacco. This provides a deeply narcotic foundation to everything. It delves deep in the earth as patchouli and oakmoss provide the final touch.

Bloodline has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Bloodline is one of the best perfumes of the year. It seems to be a clear labor of passion for Mr. Hendley in paying homage to where he came from. To take a piece of his Texas home into his Brooklyn atelier to produce Bloodline; is there anything more American Perfumer than that?

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by American Perfumer.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Monsillage Eau Fraiche- Summer Splash

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The amount of perfume in the Colognoisseur Home Office is ridiculous; I admit it. Yet like Gollum I look at all of it and think “my precious”. One cool thing about it all is discovering something in the back of the closet and reacquainting myself with it all over again. It is part of the reason for this column. The last ten years, especially, has seen so much good perfume it shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle. This year literally against the wall of the perfume vault I found a bottle of Monsillage Eau Fraiche. It has been a joy catching up with it this summer.

For those who are unfamiliar with Monsillage and the independent perfumer Isabelle Michaud behind it, a little recap. Mme Michaud released her first perfumes in 2010. She sold them exclusively in Canada, at first. By 2011 when I discovered them, I was impressed with all of them and eventually purchased all three.

Isabelle Michaud

One of the reasons Eau Fraiche returned from the back of the shelf is it uses a lot of verbena. When it comes to citrus perfumes verbena provides a lemon-green combination I find refreshing. Mme Michaud uses it in a classic Eau Fraiche

Eau Fraiche opens with that zing of verbena. Mme Michaud supports it with an herbal coterie of rosemary, thyme, and lavender. All of those provide more traction to the green quality of the verbena. Mandarin is present to make sure the lemony quality does not get lost. A dewy lilac transitions to a deep vetiver in the base. This is that summer vetiver which has made it such a popular perfume ingredient. A little white musk and cedar rounds it out.

Eau Fraiche has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

We have been in a heat wave for much of the last few weeks. Eau Fraiche has been my antidote to that. It is just the right perfume for this season. As I was learning to enjoy it all over again, I was thinking I could have called this column “Back of the Closet” but it is called “Under the Radar”. Monsillage and Eau Fraiche should be on your radar screens.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Perris Monte Carlo Mandarino di Sicilia- Still Life with Luca

I believe over time perfumers develop a style. That is not a provocative statement. What it means for me as a reviewer is when I receive a new perfume, from a known perfumer, I have an idea of what is to come. There are a group of perfumers I consider incredible technicians. Particularly skilled at finding ways to construct perfume with remarkable balance. Part of that is taking a keynote and finding ways to accentuate and shade the natural characteristic of that ingredient. One of those perfumers is Luca Maffei and Perris Monte Carlo Mandarino di Sicilia is a showcase of his skill.

Luca Maffei

Mandarino di Sicilia is part of the “Italian Citrus Collection” from creative director Gian-Luca Perris. This is a collection which really shows off Sig. Maffei’s talent especially within the citrus style of fragrance. For Mandarino di Sicilia Sig. Maffei works with four different citrus components; green manadarin, bitter orange, and Sicilian mandarin along with petitgrain. How he blends them is what makes this so good.

Gian-Luca Perris

The green mandarin takes its place early on. It seems to represent the rind of the fruit. The pulp is fashioned from the combination of Sicilain mandarin and bitter orange. The latter ingredient has an elongating effect upon the green mandarin. Petitgrain puts it all in a band of sunlight. Then with the subtlest of touches it all becomes expanded as a floral wreath of geranium, orange blossom, and jasmine surround the citrus accord. It is gently supported by a cedar foundation.

Mandarino di Sicilia has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I wore Manadrino di Sicilia this reminded me of a still life painted in perfumed brushstrokes. The shading of everything as this develops is fun to experience especially in the summer. I look forward to more from Sig. Maffei.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfums de Marly Sedley- Longevity Uber Alles

There is a feeling among a large segment of perfume buyers that longevity is equivalent with quality. I have never shared that perspective. I’ve come to think less of that the more that I learn. Nevertheless it persists within the buying public. Over the past few years a class of synthetic woody ingredients have come into use; all with ridiculous longevity. They stay on the skin long after everything else has disappeared. At this point any perfume which uses them is indistinguishable from any other. What is left is the same ingredient. Yet brands feel constrained into this box of having to create a long-lasting perfume to please their customers. Parfums de Marly Sedley is an extreme example of this concept.

Julien Sprecher

I have lauded creative director Julien Sprecher for creating a brand aesthetic which has created niche alternatives to what can be found on mainstream counters. It is a brand which I confidently point people towards who are looking for something a step up from their typical mass-market perfume. Sedley is their version of a fresh perfume; at least at the beginning. By the end it has given over to the desire for longevity.

Olivier Cresp

Perfumer Olivier Cresp is behind Sedley. It really is an experience in two distinct parts. The outstanding fresh opening and the overwhelming synthetic woody base. It is a difficult task for me because that opening is fantastic. It is everything I want from a fresh perfume. The problem is it gets drowned in the woody base.

Sedley opens with a citrus mix of grapefruit, lemon, and bergamot. M. Cresp uses an ideal amount of spearmint to buoy that citrus blend. It has a gorgeous expansiveness to it that drew me in. What I found there was rosemary tinting the mint-citrus accord. Lavender and geranium provided a subtle floral contrast. Right here this is the kind of perfume I enjoy wearing on a warm day. Then the synthetic woods crash the party. According to the ingredient list it is Ambrox but it also seems like there are others. The problem is it obliterates all the wonderful work done prior. Sedley becomes more and more intensely woody over the great majority of its time on my skin.

Sedley has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I said at the outset this is a difficult perfume to assess. The opening is outstanding. The problem is you can’t get it back by adding another spray once the woods take over. I’m smelling a fresh sprayed strip as I write this enjoying the heck out of the opening. The tough part is those long-lasting woods just take over and don’t let go. They get the job done but they are a monolithic effect. If you are someone for whom longevity is an important part of making a decision on what perfume to buy, Sedley is a great choice. If you are not a pert of the “longevity uber alles”  consumer Sedley might sacrifice quality for longevity.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Walking Dead #193

I’ve spent a lot of time in this column talking about the ending of pop culture things. How does a creative person finish without sputtering out? This week saw an amazing example of how to finish on a high note with integrity as author Robert Kirkman brought to an end his comic series “The Walking Dead” with issue #193.

The ending was a surprise to everyone. Mr. Kirkman and his longtime artist collaborator Charlie Adlard even submitted covers for issues past 193. Like everything in The Walking Dead universe when it ended it came with a shocking finality. I’m not going to go into the plot because as fascinating as the story was the column Mr. Kirkman wrote explaining his decision to end here was just as interesting.

In that column he felt like ending the story like this was an authentic piece of the zombie apocalypse universe he had created. As readers we knew something big was going to happen because in the previous issue there was a major plot twist. This was the kind of thing Mr. Kirkman had used as the springboard to a different story place in the past. Except this time he decided that plot twist was the last one. The reason he gave in the column is he really had no place to go. He admitted he had ideas, but they all felt like filler. Another reason to go on selling comic books. A lesser person would have done that. Mr. Kirkman didn’t choose that path.

My next favorite part of this column was how he related he had been in a similar place a few years ago. A natural stopping place. He even described what was going to be the end of the series if it had ended there. It was bleak. I wouldn’t have been happy with it. The difference is he got there and realized he had story ideas that weren’t just filler. The issues between then and now vindicate that decision. Some of my favorite parts of the saga came after that earlier point. When Mr. Kirkman says he was done I believe him.

You could read the reluctance to do this between the lines. To his credit he knew it was the right decision and carried it out. I don’t know many with the integrity to do that. If you’ve never read a single issue of the comic I urge you to read this final column (link here). It is how every creative person should treat their audience and their series.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Nishane Ani- Rekindling the Glory

There are brands which confound me. They can play it safe so much of the time and then truly amaze me when I am not expecting it. I ask myself why they can’t work this way all the time. One brand which continues to do this to me is Istanbul-based Nishane. When they find a unique perspective, they have a way of turning it into magic. It happened again with Nishane Ani.

Mert Guzel (l.) and Murat Katran

Nishane is the brand co-founded and creatively directed by Mert Guzel and Murat Katran. They have been around since 2015 and have made some of my favorite perfumes in Afrika Olifant and Pachuli Kozha. For the last few years I have been disappointed in what seemed to be the choice to take a safer route. Every brand must make the business decisions which are correct for them to survive. I was disappointed because I know there was the ability for more. Ani is what I mean when I say that.

Cecile Zarokian

The name comes from a medieval city currently in Turkey. In its time it was a place known as the “City of 1001 Churches” as well as sitting at the crossroads of many trade routes. It was a multi-cultural metropolis. It holds a pride of place for Armenian and Turkish people. This is of interest because Messrs. Guzel and Katran asked perfumer Cecile Zarokian, who has Armenian heritage, to create a perfume version.

This is the first perfume Mme Zarokian has composed for Nishane. It is focused around vanilla. It is also another of Mme Zarokian’s recent perfumes which continues to explore the boundaries of the gourmand genre. She is putting together a group of releases which show how much room there is to expand within this style of fragrance.

Ani opens with that vanilla out front. What takes place in the early going is a reminder that vanilla comes from an orchid. The top accord is like finding that flower in the jungle as she fashions a humid green accord. She uses a set of green notes to create a green strand within the vanilla. Baie rose is used to give it an herbal infusion. The keynote to this accord is a fabulous ginger which creates a kinetic vibrant version of vanilla. The ginger persists into the heart as the vanilla rises in intensity. Mme Zarokian uses a green cardamom to re-establish the green. Damascene rose and blackcurrant add a floral fruity frisson underneath it all. As the vanilla comes to its full intensity it finds an equally intense sandalwood waiting in the base. They swirl together in a sweet duet which is warmed by benzoin and patchouli.

Ani has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

A warning I am writing about Ani in the summertime. This is not a warm weather fragrance. It is a powerhouse which is going to be awesome when the weather cools off.

Ani is the best perfume Nishane has ever produced. It is also one of my favorite new perfumes of this year. It is a triumph on every level. You can feel that the creative team wanted to find something as regal as Ani, the city, was in its day. Ani, the perfume, rekindles that glory.

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

Mark Behnke