New Perfume Review Etat Libre D’Orange Rien Intense Incense- More is Better

From the moment of their inaugural releases in 2006 Etat Libre D’Orange promised to be a prominent player on the niche scene. Nothing that has happened in the nearly eight years since those first releases has changed. Etat Libre D’Orange continues to expand their boundaries. For 2014 they are throwing us a curveball; first with the completely “nice” Cologne. The next release for the fall is also something different as it is the first flanker in Etat Libre D’Orange’s history. The fragrance that Creative Director Etienne de Swardt chose to re-visit; Rien.

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Antoine Lie

Rien was one of the original set of eleven fragrances released at the end of 2006. Perfumer Antoine Lie created a leather fragrance that had at its heart leather with the glare of chrome wrapped in a Stygian depth. It was one of my favorites of the original collection and to this day is one of my five favorite fragrances in the line. As I wrote in my Etat Libre D’Orange 101 it is the most approachable challenging fragrance I know. M. Lie provides just enough comfort for Rien to allow the wearer to explore their personal limits of what smells good.

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Etienne de Swardt

For 2014 M. de Swardt has asked M. Lie to re-invent Rien as Rien Intense Incense. If there was one consistent comment from many who tried Rien was that the incense note was more of a suggestion than a prominent participant. For Rien Intense Incense there is no chance you can miss it as the incense is intense, as advertised. M. Lie manages to do this without throwing the whole composition out of balance. If you loved Rien, Rien Intense Incense is proof to the adage that “more is better”.

Rien Intense Incense opens with the same metallic kinetic aldehydes paired with cumin and black pepper on top of the leather accord. The pepper and the cumin are upped in concentration and it makes the chrome more brilliant and the Stygian aspect even deeper. The rose, orris, and patchouli add the same amount of herbal floralcy as was found in the original. There is no hint of a powdery quality even with the increased concentration.  Finally the frankincense bolstered by higher amounts of labdanum, and styrax impose their will. If incense was understated in Rien, not here. This has that metallic quality of the best frankincense and it recapitulates the same character from the aldehydes in the top notes. As Rien Intense Incense heads into its final stage it is bitter leather over a smoking censer.

Rien Intense Incense has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

So often when a fragrance comes out in “intense” form it is just a case of amplifying the notes and a bit of re-balancing. What M. Lie has done with Rien Intense Incense is to take one of the less prominent notes from the original and by moving it to the foreground has re-imagined his original composition beautifully. I will always love Rien for its imagination at the time of its release but Rien Intense Incense is a better fragrance from top to bottom. Yes indeed, more is much, much better.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Etat Libre D’Orange at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Phoenecia Perfumes Oud Taiga- It’s the Real Thing

There are so many fragrances these days with musk and/or oud listed in their notes. The truth is, as with ambergris before it, the presence of these notes are actually other materials substituting for them. Musk has a host of botanical and synthetic stand-ins and nagarmotha does double duty as oud in some fragrances looking for the effect without adding to the cost. As part of a mixture of other notes these approximate the effect of the real thing well enough. In truth of fact most perfume lovers have never really had the opportunity to smell either real oud oil or actual musk harvested from the musk deer. For those who have always wanted to know what they smell like there is a very special opportunity for you to be able to do just that.

David Falsberg

David Falsberg

David Falsberg the iconoclastic perfumer behind Phoenecia Perfumes has become the man to turn to when it comes to finding an authentic oud experience. Through Phoenecia Perfumes he releases Realoud in batches identified by the month of release because he only sources his oud from reliable sources in small batches. He then takes what he acquires and blends a new version of Realoud. The current one labeled 04/14 might be my favorite to date because to his Hindi oud he adds my favorite Laotian variety to create a real “mukhallat”.

One of the best things about Mr. Falberg is he is a consistent correspondent on his creative process. It is often like watching The Wizard of Oz pulling levers, causing steam to billow and flames to jet skyward. For all of the intense passion on display the fragrances often display real inspiration. One which had my attention since he announced he was working on it at the beginning of the year was Oud Taiga.

Oud Taiga is at its heart a combination of the high-grade Hindi oud with a 50-year old vintage authentic deer musk. Mr. Falsberg could have just let the incredible authenticity carry the day but he wanted to re-create a true piece of perfume the way they used to do it. Oud Taiga is everything it was promised to be.

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The actual musk base of Oud Taiga (Source: Phoenecia Perfumes Facebook page)

It is hard not to be drawn to the musk and the oud from the first moments you put some Oud Taiga on. Because of the genuine nature of the two central ingredients they pull you like high powered magnetic fields towards them. Don’t get so focused on the trees that you miss the delicate forest Mr. Falsberg has constructed to surround these massive sentinels at the heart of Oud Taiga. Cardamom, lavender, sandalwood, davana, and cedar add nuanced texture and complexity to two notes that are perfume dimensions all to themselves. He has chosen very wisely to use them to again create a “mukhallat” style perfume. That means everything is there right from the start and it tends to fluctuate over time with certain of the supporting notes temporarily ascendant only to let something else take over later on.

Oud Taiga has 8-10 hour longevity and very low sillage.

Mr. Falberg’s insistence on putting the real ingredients in his perfumes makes every oud he makes something to be cherished, and I do. Oud Taiga is a cut above that as the reality of having real oud and real musk in a composition makes it extremely special. Mr. Falsberg has created a fragrance that hearkens to the past but hews to the indie perfume aesthetic that Mr. Falberg has become one of the leaders of; it truly is “The Real Thing”.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Phoenecia Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: X-Men: Days of Future Past

There is probably nothing more disappointing than to see something you are emotionally attached to on the printed page get poorly translated to a visual medium. As a long time comic book reader and lover I would always enter the theatre hoping for the best but often left wanting more as the final credits rolled. It wasn’t until July of 2000 that I finally got an adaptation of a beloved comic book that left me grinning with pleasure at the end.

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X-Men, as a comic series was the #1 selling comic book in the world at the time of release in 2000. Expectations couldn’t have been higher. One of the reasons for those heightened expectations was the director, Bryan Singer, was a fellow geek. He could cite splash page and panel with the most die-hard of fans. The casting looked good and so as the lights went down I took a deep breath of anticipation.104 minutes later I finally believed that my comics could turn into movies. Not only did this show the potential but X-Men would launch the success of what would become Marvel Studios and over the ensuing fourteen years it has followed the very successful formula of finding directors who love and revere the comic books they are making the movies of. In the last eight weeks of 2014 we have seen three of the children of that first X-Men movie be released as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and in what seems a neat bit of symmetry X-Men: Days of Future Past.

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Despite the success of all that has come before the comic story, of the same name, on which Days of Future Past is based upon is one of my very favorite stories from the X-Men. Over the two issues, The Uncanny X-Men #141-142, it spread out over I remember the four week wait for the conclusion to seem like it took forever. I was once again filled with apprehension at whether they could tell this particular story on screen. Bryan Singer was back in the director’s chair and not only did they have the cast from the original X-Men film they had a wonderful cast of younger versions who were created by director Matthew Vaughn in 2011’s X-Men: First Class. There was talent everywhere and so once again I sat in the theatre hoping for the best.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is about the X-Men in 2023 living in a world where mutants are rounded up into concentration camps and not only mutants anyone who has the genetic potential to give birth to a mutant. The remaining X-Men have been on the run but they know this can’t keep up indefinitely and so they are able to send the consciousness of one of their members back to 1973 to try and change the key event which led to this dystopian future. As the X-Men in 2023 protect the time traveler in a last stand, the character who has traveled back to 1973 has to convince those he interacts with to help him change the future and avoid the creation of the mutant hunting robots known as Sentinels.

One of the hallmarks of the X-Men in both comic and cinematic form is you can substitute mutant for any segment of people deemed as outcasts or less worthy. It has allowed the storytellers to wrap social commentary within a superhero uniform and make broad points about racism and homophobia. All of this while making a fine bit of summer action entertainment.

When the lights came up, as I had done fourteen years earlier, I was filled with happiness at the movie adaptation of a comic I was so fond of. Mr. Singer had, again, pulled off the difficult feat of not only meeting but exceeding my expectations. As I reflected on how it was the original X-Men movie which started this Golden Age of Marvel superhero movies it seemed fitting that Mr. Singer would be the one to keep the flame burning bright for, hopefully, another fourteen years.

Mark Behnke

Perfume Mythbusters: Olfactory Fatigue and Coffee Beans

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You see them on every perfume sales point counter, a small glass container full of coffee beans. Why are they there? Ostensibly they are supposed to provide an olfactory palate cleanser and help stave off olfactory fatigue. Except all of that is Perfume Myth of the highest degree as the nature of olfactory fatigue and whether coffee beans have any effect on the supposed saturation of your smell receptors is just nonsense.

Sniffathon

Let’s deal with Olfactory Fatigue first. Olfactory Fatigue actually has a high falutin’ name, Olfactory Habituation. Olfactory Habituation is the ability of your olfactory system to take any initially strong, and here is the important part consistent, smell and deal with it by taking it in as part of your normal background. It is why when you wear your scent of the day once it has settled down to the long-lasting consistent basenotes it has now started to attain that level that it gets pushed to the background. The larger molecular weight molecules especially seem prone to this and this is also why someone might say you smell nice at a point in the day you think your fragrance is gone. This has components of psychology as well as biology attached to it as well. Therefore Olfactory Fatigue probably does happen during the course of a day wearing one particular fragrance.

But when you are out sniffing new perfumes or on a sniffathon with friends you are producing stimuli left and right but they are different stimuli. Your nose has the ability to perceive infinitely and when you are sniffing things there is no limit to what you can sniff from a biological standpoint. From a psychological standpoint it is more akin to the kid in the candy store syndrome as you have a bounty of options and you just don’t feel like smelling one more strip. You can be psychologically fatigued but your nose is ready to go if you want to try one more fragrance.

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Dr. Alexis Grosofsky (Beloit College)

This is where the coffee beans supposedly come in. The sales person will hand them to you and tell you they will prepare you to enjoy the next fragrance after “resetting” your nose. Without any science to back it up does that even make any sense? A whiff of strong coffee beans “resets” your nose. What if I just smelled Thierry Mugler A*Men Pure Coffee wouldn’t having snorted some coffee beans distort that scent? Thankfully Dr. Alexis Grosofsky of Beloit College’s Department of Psychology has provided some science to prove that coffee beans have no effect on cleansing your olfactory palate. (The abstract of her research can be found here) She exposed subjects to three different drugstore fragrances. Then they either smelled fresh air, coffee beans or lemon slices. Then they were given the same three scents plus one new one and their task was to identify the new one. The result was the group of subjects that smelled fresh air or lemon slices had a near identical success rate of those who smelled coffee beans. Proof that coffee beans are a prop which carry no value whatsoever.

So what should one do when out sniffing and one wants to “reset” their nose? The answer is right in front of you and in the second paragraph. You are always performing Olfactory Habituation to your own natural smell. That ability to push your natural smell to the background sets the baseline against what any other olfactory stimuli has to compete against. If you want to reset your nose take a deep breath of a patch of, unperfumed, skin. This is the technique I use and if you’ve ever been with me I have an almost OCD ritual of sniff the strip, stick my nose in the crook of my elbow, and sniff the strip over again; repeat as desired. I have done this at some of the biggest perfume events and have sniffed as many as 50 scents in a day and the only thing I weary of is smelling bad perfume.

Next time you are out and about remember coffee is for drinking not for perfume plate cleansing.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews 4160Tuesdays Sunshine and Pancakes, What I Did on My Holidays, The Dark Heart of Havana- Tuesdays at the Beach

I met Sarah McCartney at Esxence this past March. I was introduced to her by Grant Osborne and Lila Das Gupta of Basenotes. I didn’t immediately make the connection until she asked me if I would like to try some of her perfume line, 4160Tuesdays. Then it all clicked over in my head as I had been reading about her creations online but she was strictly a UK phenomenon. I was given ten of her fragrances to try and it has taken me most of the time since I met her to give all of them a try. Ms. McCartney joins a burgeoning indie perfumer movement picking up steam in Europe. I can say that the ten I spent time with are all worth trying and there are five more I haven’t yet had the opportunity to sample.

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Sarah McCartney

Out of these ten there were three that shared a common thread of being near the beach and as I thought about it each captured the beach and a particular time of day, as well. The name 4160Tuesdays comes from “if we live until we’re 80, we have 4160 Tuesdays.” Sunshine and Pancakes, What I Did on My Holidays, and The Dark Heart of Havana capture three different Tuesdays or one really long Tuesday full of fun.

Sunshine and Pancakes captures the potential of sunny summer days. It is that midsummer moment when you wake up to a warm breeze and you can see a brilliant blue sky beyond the billowing curtains. Don’t let the name fool you this perfume is chock full of sunshine and try as I might the pancakes eluded me. (UPDATE: Ms. McCartney informed me that they use lemon juice and sugar on their pancakes in the UK and that is the reference in the name; not the actual pancake) Ms. McCartney chooses to open this with a lens flare of lemon. It is so bright I need to reach for my metaphorical sunglasses. It is brilliant, in both meanings of the word, as it sparkles with energy. It makes you want to get out of bed to see what the day will bring. What this Tuesday brings next is jasmine. On the website description Ms. McCartney mentions that this has “masses of natural jasmine” and it shows. Not only the floral quality but in overdose there is a subtle green character that become more prominent. The lemon lingers and intertwines with the jasmine beautifully. The transition to the base is again sun-burnished as honey is paired with vanilla. It is the honey which is ascendant and the vanilla provides an enhancement to the sweetness. If I was stretching I could say this is where the pancakes are but really it is the soft glow of the sun as it heads towards noontime.

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Rehoboth Beach, DE Boardwalk

What I Did on My Holidays is the scent memory of a family holiday to Scotland. I’ve never been to the seaside in Scotland but I have been to numerous boardwalks on the East Coast of the US and this captures the smell of that milieu quite perfectly. The mix of people walking up and down covered in suntan lotion carrying an ice cream cone the smell of cotton candy wafting from one of the food stands. It is simple in structure a suntan lotion accord, vanilla, and calone. That captures the smells of an afternoon on the beach carrying your ice cream cone while the sea breeze blows the ocean smells to you. Right away the suntan lotion accord is present. Ms. McCartney used melon, coconut, and cucumber to create it. The coconut adds the right amount of slippery oiliness, the melon the sweet, and the cucumber the cool vegetal nature. Together they do combine to create exactly what Ms. McCartney was going for. Pretty soon the double scoop vanilla ice cream cone is in front of you and it carries a cool sweetness without becoming cloying. Finally the calone is used in a small amount but still enough to remind you that the ocean is right over there across the sand.

Once you reach a certain age the summer nights are as enjoyable as the days. The Dark Heart of Havana captures the sultry summer night at a bar by the beach. What stands out in that context is the heat of the day is slipping away and the night blooming flowers are scenting the breeze. An alcoholic libation, the smell of tobacco, and the smell of the sugar cane; this is Cuba and the Caribbean Islands. A trio of fruits open this up as orange and grapefruit get smoothed out a bit by peach. The promised dark heart is tobacco, jasmine, toffee, and tonka. This isn’t so dark as to be threatening instead it is the pulse of the latin beat as you start to tap your foot to the rhythm and it slowly begins to move you towards the dance floor. Once you are there the smell of the sugar cane sweet and green is married with a synthetic skin musk. With only a few minutes until midnight this Tuesday is winding down but you also have 4160 Wednesdays to make memories in too.

Ms. McCartney has been making these fragrances for almost two years now and it might be a little bit of a misnomer to call these “new perfumes” but they have just become available in the US at Luckyscent and so they are new to this market. If you are looking for an indie perfume brand where the intellect of the perfumer is on full display turn over a few of your 4160 Tuesday to Ms. McCartney’s creations there will be one or more that will create a new pleasant memory.

Diaclosure: This review was based on samples provided by 4160Tuesdays.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Clique by Roble-Cooking up a Fragrance

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Haute Perfume and Haute Cuisine are natural partners as great food is often accompanied by great smells. It is the scent of a dish that heightens our anticipation for what we will be tasting. Ever since the advent of gourmand fragrances in 1992 with the introduction of Thierry Mugler Angel this genre of perfume has been evolving. Which makes it a natural for a chef to be a creative director for a gourmand fragrance. One of the newest of these collaborations comes courtesy of Chef Roble Ali and is called Clique by Roble.

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Chef Roble Ali

Chef Roble Ali is the owner of the catering company Roble & Co. in New York City. His business was the subject of a reality show called “Chef Roble & Co.” on the cable network Bravo. He had been dubbed the “hip-hop chef” a label he has resisted but with initiatives like the “Food Tang Clan” which made Rap parodies like “Grubbin’ Problems” he probably protesteth a bit too much. What is exciting about Chef Roble is that he is an energetic personality looking for different ways to combine his love of the culinary arts with other art forms. With Clique by Roble he teamed with an unnamed perfumer, although we are told it is a “world-renowned perfumer”. (UPDATE: The perfumer has been revealed to be Frank Voelkl) What they created was a gourmand fragrance which opens with cocktail hour moves to an entrée of rich floral notes and finishes with a decadent dessert accord.

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The cocktail they are trying to create in the top notes is a blood orange margarita and while that is the inspiration that never really comes together on my skin. What does come together is much less ambitious and much more pleasant. The blood orange is very prominent and the tartness of that citrus is enhanced with a wedge of lime and a sprinkle of smoky chipotle pepper. Those three notes work wonderfully together and I really enjoy the choice to go for spicy and tart with a bit of smoke. The note list promises tequila and triple sec but on the days I wore this I never found those notes. The heart is made up of iris, jasmine, violet, and tuberose. This is a recipe for heady floralcy and it arises out of the top notes with a restrained intensity at first and then blossoms to life as the tuberose and the iris take the lead. After that dessert needs to be even more luscious and honey and chocolate provide that opulent aspect as they are bracketed by a doughy accord which is called “Challah bread” in the note list and piquant cinnamon which recalls the chipotle pepper in the top notes. The final moments of Clique by Roble are true blue gourmand and it manages to keep its sweetness under control and it never became too much on the days I wore it.

Clique by Roble had 6-8 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I have my favorite gourmands in my collection and usually I find the more recent releases to be working the same territory over and over. Clique by Roble has some of that familiarity in the use of the chocolate and honey in particular but the choice of things like chipotle pepper and blood orange shows a little more imagination than usual. It is that which makes Clique by Roble a gourmand worth seeking out if you are a fan of this style.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided to attendees at Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2014.

Mark Behnke    

Olfactory Chemistry: Polycyclic Musks-What Clean Smells Like

One of the best things about science is it is always evolving and chemistry is no different. As a synthetic chemist I am always looking for the next new reaction that will allow me to easily make the next new molecules I am interested in. What is true for me as a medicinal chemist was also true for the chemists who worked in the fragrance industry. In the post-World War 2 economy there were a lot of chemical by-products being formed and clever chemists were using them to develop new plastics and pharmaceuticals and, yes, aromachemicals. Along with new chemical techniques allowing a chemist to make another ring of atoms fused to the same ring used in the nitro musks the polycyclic musks were born.

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In 1951, the first polycyclic musk was synthesized by Kurt Fuchs and it was called Phantolide. It didn’t have a very strong odor but it had incredible stability and ability to stay concentrated even in water it became a natural to be added to detergents as this would stick to the clothes after washing. This was the main use of polycyclic musks for many years until 1965 and the synthesis of Galaxolide by M.G.J. Beets at International Flavors and Fragrances. As you can see above Dr. Beets used the new synthetic methods to take the two groups on the right and cyclize them. His hypothesis was if he kept the oxygen in a similar spacing as it was in in Phantolide he might make an improvement, and he did. Galaxolide retained the stability and properties that made it a good detergent additive but it now also had a more concentrated odor profile and could also be used in perfumery. Perfumer Sophia Grojsman would end up using it in a 21% concentration in her masterpiece Lancome Tresor in 1990.

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This would open the door for other chemists to find other polycyclic musks and when you make the simple change of making the five-membered ring on the left of Phantolide a six-membered ring you get Fixolide. When you completely change the ring on the right-hand side of Phantolide you get Cashmeran. If you want to smell what these three molecules smell like together The Body Shop’s White Musk contains all of these. If you do that you will understand why these are referred to as the “clean” musks as they evolved from their beginnings as laundry detergent odorants to key components of the “clean and fresh” movement in perfume.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Jazmin Sarai Otis & Me, How You Love, Neon Graffiti, and Led IV- Songs in the Key of Scent

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One of my favorite things which happens in the background of my writing about perfume is one of the great reasons why I do it. I am often approached to try a young independent perfumer’s creations and to give my opinion. I am thrilled to offer any assistance I can especially to those who choose to try this on their own. This is how Dana El Masri and I have struck up an ongoing conversation on the perfumes she was working on. Her idea was to take a musical inspiration and turn it into a perfume. After her training at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery she knew the work necessary to see her ideas through to a finished product and it is very pleasing to see her dreams become reality. Her line is called Jazmin Sarai and she has assembled a very strong debut playlist.

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Dana El Masri

Otis & Me is inspired by Otis Redding’s “Cigarettes and Coffee” from 1966. Ms. El Masri wanted to capture an imaginary conversation between the wearer and Otis in a diner in the wee hours of the morning in a time when smoking was still permitted. What she has done quite brilliantly is to make a fragrance which rasps, like Mr. Redding’s voice, with a world-weary omniscience. It is surrounded with the richness of coffee and the haze of smoke. She blends black pepper, cardamom, and bergamot into a spicy grittiness which opens into a Turkish rose coated with incense over a rich coffee base. All of this is perhaps a bit too grand for a diner but one can’t be faulted for imagination, can they?

How You Love is inspired by Sade’s “It’s Only Love That Gets You Through” from 2000. This is the yin to Otis & Me’s raspy yang as How You Love is the smooth soulful voice that plumbs unexpected depths that Sade provides to her singing. Ms. El Masri uses cardamom again but this time a greener version of it and pairs it with grapefruit as we start on the high end of the olfactory scale. The heart notes drop an octave as Moroccan rose and Indian jasmine swirl together with a soulful harmony. The base notes drop into those low notes that become a trademark of Sade as How You Love uses sandalwood and musks but the really excellent choice is to capture it in a substrate of beeswax still redolent of the honey that recently surrounded it. This is the vocal range of Sade from high to delightful low.

Neon Graffiti is inspired by M.I.A.’s “Sunflowers” from 2004. When she first gave me this to try in an early version she told me to think of neon on wet cement. In that early mod there wasn’t enough crackle of electricity and the cement felt a bit lifeless. What has emerged as the finished product has none of those issues as there is a palpable sizzle of humming neon over damp cement. Ms. El Masri accomplishes this by using cardamom and grapefruit again but chilling them out with mint and ivy. Jasmine, mimosa, and sunflowers form a burst of rainbow florals and they are made neon bright by adding in juicy mango. The cement accord is ambrox, cedar, and incense and it is very well executed. Neon Graffiti feels like the fusion of disparate energies the best hip-hop provides.

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Led Zeppelin

Led IV is inspired by Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California” from 1971. Led IV is my favorite of this set of four fragrances and it because Ms. El Masri has perhaps made the first perfume which really captures the heart of rock and roll. One of the reasons this works so well is Ms. El Masri keeps it simple and lets each note contribute to the olfactory band. Grapefruit and bergamot are Robert Plant’s vocals brilliant and high. Davana provides the boozy guitar of Jimmy Page. John Paul Jones plucks the mandolin as patchouli wafts from the crowd and underneath John Bonham keeps the beat with guaiacwood and musks. Together this creates a perfect moody rock vibe that is unforgettable.

All four Jazmin Sarai perfumes have 6-8 hour longevity and modest sillage.

I’ve sort of known about the talent Ms. El Masri has had and have been keeping it to myself. With the release of these four fragrances she is ripe for discovery by everyone who loves perfume and music. She truly gets it. Now when are you going to finish that Hendrix one?

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Jazmin Sarai.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Journey Woman and Journey Man- The First Steps of the Second Cycle

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My admiration for Christopher Chong has been writ large across numerous reviews of the Amouage fragrances he is the Creative Director for. His vision has made Amouage into one of the great perfume houses of this century. I believe this collection he is responsible for creating has only peers, and damn few of them. Throughout my time corresponding with Mr. Chong and the influences which motivate him I have come to “know” him, though we have never actually met. With last year’s release of Fate Woman and Fate Man “the first cycle of the Amouage narrative” came to an end. Now with the release of Journey Woman and Journey Man we begin the second cycle which will delve into Mr. Chong’s life and is subtitled ‘Portraits of a Life’.

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Christopher Chong

Mr. Chong was inspired by Shanghai Deco and Chinese film noir. The common thread to both of these is a weaving of distinctly western elements into an eastern undertaking. During the 1920’s and 30’s there were many striking examples of art deco buildings erected in Shanghai. When I look at this purely western form of architecture it is striking to me how well it meshes with its eastern surroundings. There seems to be no disconnection. The same can be said of Chinese cinema over the last 100 years as it has evolved by adding its own flair to traditional movie tropes and then, interestingly to me, these new interpretations find their way back into Hollywood releases. This is the theme of Journey Woman and Man the meshing of distinct western influences like noir and deco with a Chinese aesthetic to create something wholly unique. The perfumers Mr. Chong chose to help him bring this to life are Alberto Morillas and Pierre Negrin.

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Shanghai Park Hotel

Journey Woman feels very Deco inspired to me as it has jasmine tea, saffron, cypriol, and osmanthus provide the eastern details on the solidity of the western foundation of honey, cedar, and tobacco. When I asked Mr. Chong what it was about Deco that drew him to it he responded, “my reason for loving it is quite simple. I love the form, shape, and the period.” As a result Journey Woman is a fragrance which carries an unusual simplicity for Amouage but the “form” and the “shape” of this perfume is fascinating for those clean architectural lines.

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The Paramount in Shanghai

Journey Woman might have the softest opening of any Amouage fragrance to date, based on the opening moments I would bet many would not suspect it was an Amouage fragrance. The top notes of jasmine tea, nutmeg, apricot, and osmanthus provide luxuriance without heft. It lilts and draws you in with the intersection of so many beautiful notes precisely positioned. Honey and jasmine provides a bit more volume as Journey Woman begins to arise from the early delicacy and now begins to take more shape. The honey in particular provides a matrix for the osmanthus to blossom upon and the jasmine tea transforms into jasmine sambac in all of its full indolic glory. Cedar is used to start refining the emerging shape into eventual form. The base notes achieve the melding of west and east as tobacco, saffron, vanilla, and cypriol all flow together into a smooth montage of both sets of influences.

I suspect many are going to be surprised at this light Amouage perfume. I would encourage you to not try Journey Woman with prior expectations weighing you down. Embrace this new beginning of the second cycle and you will be heartily rewarded.

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Maggie Cheung as actress Ruan Lingyiu in "Centre Stage"

If you need something a little more “Amouage” to help you start the second cycle Journey Man will provide that transition. Journey Man feels very cinematic to me it could even have a logo “composed in Technicolor”. Mr. Chong has been a fan of Chinese movies for his entire life and he wrote to me, “I was brought up with all kinds of Chinese Cinema…for me it means entertainment and family time.” It is an almost universal thing to sit in a movie theatre watching larger than life images and losing yourself in the story unspooling from the projector behind you. Journey Man unspools in larger than life accords of Sichuan pepper, neroli bigarade, juniper berries, along with the tobacco and cypriol we saw in Journey Woman.

bruce lee

Bruce Lee

The use of the Sichuan pepper in the top notes of Journey Man may feel like it is in living color but it is also very Chinese. It is also the smell of home cooking to Mr. Chong I suspect which makes it appropriate to be the opening note. It is stirred in with a very green cardamom and an incredible neroli bigarade. This creates an interplay of shadow and light flickering to life. Shadow wins for a while as juniper berries and incense take over. Geraniol and rose push back against the twilight while a haze of tobacco hovers above it all. Journey Man tells most of its story right here and it is where it lingers on my skin for many hours as the olfactory chiaroscuro continues to evolve throughout the day. The base notes are a fit denouement as tonka, cyrpriol, and ambrox finish things off.

Journey Man is much more typical of what many have come to think of as an Amouage fragrance. I found it very comforting despite the characteristic intensity. I definitely felt this biopic of Mr. Chong’s life come to reality on the olfactory silver screen.

Journey Woman had 12-14 hour longevity and Journey Man 10-12 hour longevity on me. The sillage for both was average.

I am so looking forward to the remainder of the fragrances in this second cycle. As Lao Tzu says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Journey Woman and Journey Man have taken two confident steps into this new journey of Mr Chong’s and Amouage.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles of Journey Woman and Journey Man provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: BBQ

All great food has an olfactory element to it, to be sure. For me the type of food which carries the greatest fragrant punch is BBQ. When you think about it using a dry rub and smoking the meat is akin to perfuming it and just as there are different styles of perfume there are different styles of BBQ.

shortys_facade

Shorty's Bar-B-Q in S. Miami, FL

I started my life in, and have recently returned to, the southeast part of the US and the BBQ I grew up on is most often referred to as “Carolina BBQ”. One of my favorite restaurants as a child was Shorty’s where I would valiantly try and put away a basket of ribs slathered in the characteristic vinegar-based tangy bbq sauce. I always remember breathing in deeply when the ribs were delivered to the table to smell the smoke and the spices cooked into the meat. Carolina BBQ is almost always pork based and besides the ribs, pulled pork is the other specialty of the region.

mesquite charcoal

Mesquite Charcoal

Texas BBQ is beef based and it is the brisket which is the cut of choice. There are beef ribs but it is the meatier brisket which makes Texas BBQ special. I always think of Texas BBQ as sauce and smoke, but it’s mostly the smoke. They pioneered the use of mesquite wood chips as part of the smoking process to add an extra layer of flavor. This has expanded to all kind of exotic hardwoods all adding a unique flavor to the meat. The 2014 World Championship Barbecue Cooking Championship is happening this weekend in Memphis, TN and I always look to see what woods the winners are using. Besides the stand-bys of hickory, oak, and mesquite; I’ve seen applewood, maple, mulberry, and my favorite, whiskey barrel. I am waiting for someone to take a shot with oud some year.

kansas-city-barbecue-sauce

Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce

Texas BBQ is sauce and smoke, Kansas City BBQ is all about the sauce. The base of it is ketchup and molasses but after that the variations are endless. This is the sauce the majority of people identify as BBQ sauce and what you find on your supermarket shelf. I like to add chipotle and a secret ingredient a friend told me about, tamarind paste. This gives my BBQ sauce a bit of citrusy top note over the sweet and spicy.

memphis_rub

Racks of Ribs with Dry Rub on them

I may have grown up on Carolina BBQ but my favorite version is Memphis BBQ. That is mainly because through my love of perfume I have come to love spices, too. We are fortunate to have an outpost of Penzey’s Spices near where we live. Every visit there is as enjoyable as a visit to a perfume counter, for me. I spend time going through the ingredients looking for new things to cook with. By using a dry rub for Memphis BBQ you trim the fat off your rack of ribs and then rub in your spice mixture. The composition of the best dry rubs are as closely guarded as the formula of Coca-Cola. The final step after the meat has aged a few hours with the dry rub is to cook it in a smoker and then serve it off the grill right away.

I thought I would share my recipe for my dry rub with y’all if you are feeling adventurous:

Colognoisseur Coca-Cola Coffee Dry Rub

1 tablespoon ground coffee

1 tablespoon coca-cola

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika

2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl it will have a slightly sticky quality due to the coca-cola and brown sugar. To a trimmed full rack of ribs rub it all over and coat both sides of the rack. Once you are done wrap it in plastic wrap and let it sit for four hours at room temperature. Then take them out and either grill them or bake them in the oven.

It shouldn’t surprise you that after I finish BBQ’ing I often look longingly at the spicy section of the perfume vault. Where I can add my own fragrant “sauce” to myself.

Mark Behnke