Subscription Cancelled


To truly innovate you can’t be afraid of failure. One of the challenges for independent and niche perfumery is having people try your perfumes in places where there are no stores to carry them. One new idea was to create a perfume subscription service. Throughout 2013 I seemingly received an e-mail monthly describing a new one of these services. The bare essentials were similar in that you would buy a year’s subscription and monthly you would receive a box containing samples of carefully curated samples.

This sounds like a good idea but it seemed like there was going to be a crowded marketplace vying for what should be a pretty small base of potential subscribers. If there were five or six of these all competing for the same perfumes and the same customer this might fail because nobody could have enough market share to survive.

Another big problem was the curation of these boxes. If I am going to trust you to pick out a few perfumes for me to try every month then you should be someone I believe has the experience for that. Almost all of these efforts were business first; making sure there were perfumes in the box and not necessarily perfumes that had any common theme or note to allow for someone to expand their perfume knowledge experientially. Most of the time the boxes just seemed like self-promotion without any desire to communicate anything about the perfumes inside. That was an opportunity missed.

charlie brown looking in his mailbox

Charlie Brown from "Peanuts" by Charles M. Schulz

The other part of this was, who these subscription’s target audience were anyway. If they were exclusively new releases they could have gone for the hardcore perfumista always looking for the next new thing. If they were from a store promoting their inventory it seemed more like advertising not education. If it was about older releases then you needed a way to find new perfumistas starting their acquisition phase of perfume discovery. None of the boxes did any of this well and as a result the murky execution led to even murkier success.

One effort that was different was that of Fragrance Republ!c. They sent out an entirely new perfume done by a professional perfumer every month. This was the one I joined and for the most part I enjoyed it but I could tell it was in a slow death spiral. There were many attempts to get more subscribers and all of them fell flat. What triggered this editorial was the notice last week that Fragrance Republ!c was closing down.

That’s the story for most of the subscription services that touted themselves to me in 2013 almost all of them are finished. I’m not sure how the ones remaining are doing. At least they have the advantage of having the audience to themselves which should help one or two to survive a while longer.

Should this be viewed as a failure? I don’t think so. All experiments don’t work at first. I suspect a smart group will look at what went wrong and what went right and combine all of this into a business model which also represents the best fragrance can offer. Then I can look forward to a monthly perfume arrival with pleasure.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Esxence 2015 Final Wrap-Up Part 2- The Top 10 New Fragrances I Tried


This year’s Esxence was bigger than ever with 150 brands displaying their perfumes. That made it even more challenging to cover everything that was there. Honestly even with three days I am sure there is a new brand or new release I missed. I was able to try 76 new perfumes over my time in Milan. The following are the ten I am having the hardest time forgetting after returning home, in alphabetical order.

Aedes de Venustas Palissandre D’Or by Alberto Morillas- The Aedes de Venustas line of perfumes, creatively overseen by Robert Gerstner and Karl Bradl, has been on a winning streak since their debut three years ago. With this fifth entry M. Morillas turns in, perhaps, the most translucent of the collection. It is a fascinating study of woods that never get heavy. Once you get past the floral top it is a dance of three kinds of cedar and Sri Lankan sandalwood which lingers in my memory.

Jardins D’Ecrivains Marlowe by Anais Biguine– Mme Biguine has returned to the classics after last year’s modern Junky. Inspired by Shakespeare contemporary Christopher Marlowe, Mme Biguine turns in a floral soliloquy around tuberose and osmanthus.

Jul et Mad Garuda by Luca Maffei– Creative Directors Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica tapped Sig. Maffei to do two of the three new releases in the Les White collection, Nea is the other. Garuda was meant to exude the warmth of burnished gold in the sunlight. Cambodian oud along with saffron and rum provide the warm glow desired. I just closed my eyes and let it envelop me.

Le Galion Aesthete by Vanina MurracioleNicolas Chabot has finished re-inventing the past with Le Galion and now he sets sail for the future with new releases. One of those new releases by Mme Murraciole feels like it belongs to a previous era. Aesthete is the scent of animalic leather and oud combined. It imparts a give and take between these two powerful notes and this tug-of-war is what makes Aesthete so much fun to wear.

nvc esxence 2015 booth

Neela Vermeire Creations Pichola by Bertrand Duchaufour– This team of Neela Vermeire and M. Duchaufour have been exploring the deeper waters of perfumery. As one who loves the exuberance of Bombay Bling I was pleased to see that sense of playfulness return in Pichola. Don’t be fooled by the opening because two-fisted handfuls of flowers burst through the tight green start and break into a Bollywood dance number.

Olfactive Studio Panorama by Clement Gavarry– When creative director Celine Verleure told me a few months ago that Panorama featured a wasabi accord I can’t say I was overly excited. As I approached the stand to try it I was still a bit apprehensive. Once I smelled it all of that concern evaporated. M. Gavarry balances the unusual wasabi inside a veritable green brigade of fig leaf, violet leaf, and galbanum. It adds modernity and creates something beautifully unique.

Orlov Paris Star of the Season by Dominique Ropion– All five of the perfumes from this new line are based on famous diamonds. M. Ropion is really stretching across the entire line but in Star of the Season he takes the duet of rose and iris and places them on a vanilla tinted bed of sandalwood. This is perfumery as classic as the diamond it is named after.

rubini fundamental

Rubini Fundamental by Cristiano Canali– My favorite new discovery of the entire fair. Founder and creative director Andrea Rubini along with his team of Sig. Canali, Ermano Picco and Francesca Gotti delivered a real team effort. From the ultra-sleek look of the recycled Fiberglas packaging to the mix of new aromachemicals with classic ingredients this is the complete package.

Stephane Humbert Lucas Mortal Skin by Stephane Humbert Lucas– M. Lucas said Mortal Skin was meant to be a brightly colored snake with incandescent eyes drawing me in. Most often that kind of rhetoric falls flat. In Mortal Skin it rings true with beauty and decay featuring in equal measure. I think I will be spending a lot of time with this one trying to tease out its secrets.  

X-Ray Profumo Amnesia by Ralf Schwieger– As I was flying to Esxence I posted about my favorite new aquatics. Once I met creative director Ray Burns and he showed me Amnesia, named after an Ibiza nightclub, I now have another new aquatic to wear. Hr. Schwieger uses a seaweed and sea salt accord as the nucleus of a night of beachside abandon come to life. Around that very pungent accord floats waterlily, fruit, and cloves. The night is slowly giving way to the dawn but the party never ends.

That’s the end of my Esxence reports for 2015. My very grateful thanks to Silvio Levi and Caterina Gianoli for having me back. See you all next year.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Esxence 2015 Final Wrap-Up Part 1- The People I Met

This was a very different Esxence for me than any previous one that I attended. One reason for that was I spent a large portion of my time in The Mall in Milano with a microphone in my hand and in front of a camera. It is a different perspective to be sure and I want to thank every one of my interview subjects for making it so easy for me. I hope those watching at home on the web viewer could feel my excitement.

One oddity of every Esxence is I have to travel across an entire ocean to meet someone who lives in the US. This year that dubious honor goes to Saskia Wilson-Brown of The Institute for Art & Olfaction (IAO). On the first day of the show she revealed the five finalists in each category for the 2015 Art & Olfaction Awards. The simple creation of the IAO and the awards which carry their name already let me know what a great person she was. The opportunity we had to chat over all three days confirmed that. After spending this time with her I am more sure than ever that the Art & Olfaction Awards are going to be one of the premiere awards in all of perfumery sooner than later.

Andrea Rubini

Andrea Rubini

If there was one person I met who radiated the passion of doing something you love it was Andrea Rubini. I started Day 3 standing in front of his stand and told him to tell me about his perfume. Instead of business plans or sales strategies he started with a smile and the phrase, “I was born into a family of perfumers….” From there he proudly displayed the perfume which carries his name and he was equally as excited when describing the other members of the team behind Rubini Fundamental. In a show of 150 different brands it might have been the tiniest which had the largest emotion.

Another feature of every Esxence for me is I spend time with perfumers with whom I have not had an opportunity to meet previously.

Luca Maffei of Atelier Fragranze Milano was tapped by brand Jul et Mad to do two of their new “Les White” collection. Sig. Maffei was so joyously animated when speaking with me about the creative process behind Nea and Garuda it was infectious. He has a joie de vivre which translates to his perfumes.

The other perfumer I spent some time with was Stephane Humbert Lucas. I have been a big supporter of his work in the past but we had never had the opportunity to really talk about perfume for any length of time before. As he showed me his new Mortal Skin and Harrod’s Limited Edition there was a noticeable smile on his face as he watched my reactions. I think perfumers know when they have made something special and he seemed happy as he watched me connect with his new creations.

Believe it or not I had never met Bertrand Duchaufour prior to Esxence. He showed me his new I miss Violet for The Different Company. That a perfumer as prolific as M. Duchaufour also still displays the delight of creation is testament to his longevity.

If there was a rock star of this year’s Esxence it had to be Michael Edwards of the Fragrances of the World reference book. He was seemingly everywhere on the floor as I worked my way around. His SRO talk on how oud came to be part of western perfumery was one of the highlights of that part of the Esxence program.

Oh yes there were perfumes to be sampled and tomorrow in Part 2 I’ll call out the top 10 from Esxence 2015.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood- The Lion Sleeps Tonight

If there is one perfumer who I trust to give me something different when he chooses to work with oud it is Francis Kurkdjian. He is a perfumer who has put oud through its paces and realized specific visions not only for his own Maison Francis Kurkdjian line but for other lines as well. M. Kurkdjian reminds me a bit of a lion tamer at the circus surrounded by all of these snarling rambunctious oud notes. Like that lion tamer he summons one to the center of the ring and begins to form a perfume. In 2013 he took my favorite, Laotian Oud, and created three tactile versions of oud using it; Oud Cahmere Mood, Oud Silk Mood, and Oud Velvet Mood. Like my metaphorical animal wrangler M. Kurkdjian put that Laotian oud through its paces. The only thing that was missing was the warmth that accompanies that particular oud I wanted one which was also warm. The new Oud Satin Mood is what I was looking for.

What makes Oud Satin Mood so very different is most of the time perfumers allow oud to gallop headlong over the horizon trailing whatever can keep pace with it. In all of the Oud Mood collection M. Kurkdjian makes sure the exquisite Laotian oud does not get lost in the need for power. It takes a perfumer with an innate feel for his raw material and after four perfumes it seems pretty clear to me that when it comes to Laotian oud and M. Kurkdjian he has found his king of the perfumed jungle. Oud Satin Mood is when that royal presence wants to rest indolently in the sun as M. Kurkdjian wraps his oud up in a warm blanket of notes.

francis kurkdjian

Francis Kurkdjian

Oud Satin Mood opens with a less metallic violet accord as M. Kurkdjian puts forward the candied sweet aspects over the edgier facets. The oud begins to rise as the violet seems to sprinkle itself over it. As the oud become more prominent a rose mixture of Bulgarian and Turkish varieties also rise. Rose and oud are a classic pairing and if the rose continued to increase in intensity this might be one of those perfumes. M. Kurkdjian has a different destination in mind and for that the rose needs to lag behind the oud. The final phase of development is a cuddly warm mixture of the oud, benzoin, and vanilla. M. Kurkdjian pulls this all together into a plush slightly floral comfort perfume. That it has one of the strongest ouds out there and it can still be called comforting tells you what a good job he did in balancing this.

Oud Satin Mood has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’m not sure if M. Kurkdjian has more tricks to teach the Laotian member of his menagerie. I am hoping if there are more Oud Moods to come that he calls forth the Vietnamese version. The sweet and spicy nature would be very interesting to see what he would create. If you want to try one of the most comfortable oud perfumes on the market head to your local Maison Francis Kurkdjian stockist in May.

Disclsoure: This review was based on a sample provided by Maison Francis Kurkdjian.

Mark Behnke

Esxence 2015 Day 3 Wrap-Up: A Cruise on the Perfumed Ocean

Every Esxence there seems to be one brand which starts to gain a groundswell of buzz. This year’s winner of that honor is Rubini. Founder Andrea Rubini gathered a team of creatives to help him realize his vision. A perfumer who prefers to be unnamed, package designer Francesca Gotti, and Ermano Picco. All four of these helped create one of the singular buzzworthy brands of the show. The packaging of Sig.ra Gotti is from recycled fiberglass from old boats. Don’t ask me what a boat recycling bin looks like. It looks like stone but is light as a feather. It is an apt metaphor for the fragrance called Fundamental. The scent itself is also something which also conveys lightness with surprising weight. Rubini Fundamental was one of the most unique perfumes in the entire exhibition.

Next was time to meet Stephane Humbert Lucas for him to premiere his new release Mortal Skin for his Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 brand. Mortal Skin is a brilliant realization of M. Humbert Lucas’ vision of a snake swaying and hypnotizing the wearer into a trance. It drew me in and never wanted to let me go. Before I left M. Humbert Lucas also showed me the limited edition for Harrod’s he is doing. He jokingly names it Mike Tyson because it opens with a fierce uppercut of intense notes. If you survive the first punch what remains reveals a sublime beauty.


For the next hour I was treated to a tour of the ocean courtesy of Pierre Guillaume and his Collection Croisiere. The first four releases of an eventual eight were a tour de force in how to make interesting aquatics without resorting to Calone. Entre Ciel et Mer is like riding a surfboard under the curl as the spray covers your face before you emerge from the pipe. It is refreshingly icy for an aquatic. Paris Seychelles is for laying in the sun on the beach as you carry the warmth of the sun. The other side of the coin to Entre Ciel et Mer. If you’ve ever been in a tropical rainforest after a rainstorm has washed the air clean you will recognize the smell of Jangala. A really intelligent use of eucalyptus imparts a lung filling purity like when the world has been scrubbed clean. Finally if you’re on a cruise you need some suntan lotion and M. Guillaume’s Long Courrier suntan lotion accord is made of salty vanilla and sea spray.

After returning from my cruise I headed to Elizabethan England so perfumer Anais Biguine could introduce me to her new Jardins D’Ecrivains Marlowe. The follow-up to last year’s ultra-modern Junky, Marlowe strikes a more classical pose. It has a heady spirit exemplified by green tuberose. It exudes exuberance as well as grace. Mme Biguine has added another writer to her jardin.

This was my last day at Esxence 2015 as I will be on a plane as you read this. As always I want to thank the entire Esxence team for the invitation to attend and to be the face of this year’s Esxence TV. I am already looking forward to next year. Until then, Arrivaderci Perfumistas & Colognoisseurs.

Mark Behnke

Esxence 2015 Day 2 Wrap: Will the Real Oud Please Stand Up?

As everyone is aware the use of oud in perfumery has exploded. Day 2 of Esxence 2015 was bookended by experiencing a new fragrance using real oud and Michael Edwards speaking on the history of oud coming to Western perfumery. In between there was a lot more to see and experience.

I started my day out with Jul et Mad who were premiering the White collection consisting of Nea, Garuda, and Min-Shar. I was fortunate to have perfumer Luca Maffei on hand to guide me through the collection as he was responsible for Nea and Garuda. It was the latter which really caught my attention. Sig. Maffei spoke of his use of Cambodian oud in the heart of Garuda. What was very interesting was his use of rum to attenuate the strong medicinal qualities that particular oud has. The brief was to make Garuda glow like a room lined with gold in the sunlight. Sig. Maffei did that and then some.

The breakout brand of last year’s Esxence was Le Galion and the revival of perfumer Paul Vacher’s line. I was very interested to see where Le Galion would set sail for this year. Owner Nicolas Chabot presented six new perfumes to me. Of those six, three are brand new compositions. Perfumer Vanina Murraciole was responsible for the two new ones in the main collection, Cuir and Aesthete. Aesthete is the one that I like most. Both Cuir and Aesthete are leather fragrances but where Cuir feels like a throwback to the leather perfumes of the past, Aesthete feels contemporary. It is that modernity that draws me to it. Sig.ra Murraciole has made a pair of fabulous new addition that show Le Galion is well on their way to continuing M. Vacher’s legacy.


Photo by Miguel Sandinha

If there was one note I was both anticipating and dreading trying this year it was the wasabi note promised in the new Olfactive Studio Panorama. As always it is based on a photograph. This time it is of the Sheats Goldstein house in Los Angeles by photographer Miguel Sandinha. As you can see in the picture above there are two modern aspects the skyline of LA off in the distance and the glass corner of the house on the right side. What you should notice if you want to get a sense of Panorama is that well over half of the picture is green. Panorama is a fragrance of unusual green facets. Perfumer Clement Gavarry and Creative Director/Owner Celine Verleure combined to make something very green and very current. What about that wasabi note? It is amazingly good in this perfume.

My favorite new discovery of Day 2 was X-Ray Profumo Amnesia. Inspired by the nightclub in Ibiza and not the mental affliction. Perfumer Ralf Schwieger has made a vibrant perfume which captures the beat of an oceanside club pulsing into the dawn from the night before. As with the wasabi in Panorama the keynote in Amnesia is another strange choice which works. Hr. Schwieger has developed a seaweed and sea salt accord. By itself it would probably smell like low tide and unpleasant. Forming the nucleus of Amnesia it allows all the other surrounding fresh notes to dance the night away on the beach with abandon.

Final stop on Day 2 was Michaels Edwards’ talk on oud and how it came to the West. Raise your hand if you thought YSL M7 was the first Western oud fragrance. Mr. Edwards showed us it was Balenciaga pour Homme which pre-dated M7. In a talk where he showed us a bottle of real oud extract worth $50,000 to start; we were given strip after strip to see how oud has been developed by the very best perfumers we have over the last few years. If there was ever a need to be shown that oud remains relevant in Western perfumery Mr. Edwards provided it.

That’s the end of Day 2. My final day is straight ahead and I’ll be dashing through the show like a madman.

Mark Behnke

Esxence 2015 Day 1 Wrap-Up: Defending Heritage, Lauding the New

This year‘s version of Esxence started with a panel on the pressures independent artistic perfumery faces. At last year’s edition the spectre of IFRA and the EU handing down potentially destructive decisions was real. One year later the panel hosted by Esxence co-founder Silvio Levi shows the beginning of a coordinated response by the niche perfume community. At the forefront are two national committees made up of a broad cross section of all sectors of perfumery in those countries. In France it is called Comite Josephine and in Italy, Asscociazone Caterina. They are working to first create a groundswell within each country before eventually banding into their own force to be reckoned with. We had five members of these committees speak about the pressures niche perfumery is under. There are many large hurdles to overcome but this roundtable made me feel that the people on this panel are ready to face them.

The other big panel was first a discussion between Professor Claus Noppeney and the Institute of Art & Olfaction’s Saskia Wilson-Brown on the value of a truly transparent award for the niche community. Ms. Wilson-Brown outlined the process this year’s entries went through and then after discussion with Prof. Noppeney on the beneficial effects of these awards. Much of this reseach is being done for Scent Culture Institute. The finalists for this year were announced:

IAO finalis1_layout_2

Artisan Category

A City on Fire by Imaginary Authors Perfumer: Josh Meyer

Eau de Celeri by Monsillage Perfumer: Isabelle Michaud

Foxglove by D.S. & Durga Perfumer: David Seth Moltz & Kavi Moltz

Tobacco Cognac by House of Cherry Bomb Perfumer: Alexis Karl & Maria McElroy

Woodcut by Olympic Orchids Perfumer: Ellen Covey

Independent Category

Ombre Indigo by Olfactive Studio Perfumer: Mylene Alran

Boccanera by Orto Parisi Perfumer: Alessandro Gualtieri

Pashay by Raymond Matts Perfumer: Christophe Laudamiel

Black Pepper & Sandalwood by Acca Kappa Perfumer: Luca Maffei

Skive by Canoe Perfumer: Jessica Hannah


Catalin for The Contemporary in Austin, TX Creative team: Charles Long, Carrie Paterson, Karen Reitzel, Seth Hawkins, Emery Martin, Michael Mascha.

Chroma for Denver Art Museum Creative Team: Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Crime and Punishment for the Minnesota Fringe Festival Creative Team: Mike McGinley, Charles Mc Ginley, Noah Bremer, Ben Heywood.

Famous Deaths for the Museum of the Image (MOTI) in Holland Creative Team: Marcel van Brakel, Frederik Duernick, Wander Eikelboom, Caro Verbeek.

In Libro De Tenebris for the Maggs Gallery in England Creative Team: Paul Schultze

Once again, as it did in last year's inaugural edition, the extremely transparent and fair process has led to a stellar group of finalists. The winners will be announced on April 17, 2015.

Between my television duties and the panels I did get a chance to try some new perfumes.

My first stop of the day was with Francois Duquesne and he presented the new Aedes de Venustas Palissandre D'Or. Perfumer Alberto Morillas has composed a spicy woody fantasia

I was very excited to get a chance to smell the new Neela Vermeire Creations Pichola. My early impression is this has all of the exuberance of Bombay Bling but with white floral providing the fun.

The new The Different Company I miss Violet was composed by Bertrand Duchaufour and if you liked the green vegetal accord from Penhaligon's Ostara you will see a different application here as it is used to provide a foundation for violets to rest upon. A gorgeous new violet fragrance for me to enjoy.

At Etat Libre D’Orange I tried the new Remarkable People and it is a fizzy flute of champagne sprinkled in spices. Another delightful take on tried and true tropes with a flair from ELDO.

That’s just the beginning. I’ll be back tomorrow with all of the comings and goings from Day 2 as I dive headfirst into the Spotlight section featuring new brands.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Euphorium Brooklyn Usar- Komodo Mind Trick

As I mentioned in my review of the first two releases from Euphorium Brooklyn, Cilice and Wald, the backstory is as fun as the perfume. Owner and taleteller Stephen Dirkes is the mind behind all of this.

To recap, Euphorium Brooklyn is the recreation of three fragrances from the Euphorium Bile Works. Cilice and Wald were done by Etienne Chevreuill and Christian Rosenkreuz, respectively. The heart of all of these perfumes was something developed by the third perfumer Rudolph Komodo. Called, obviously, The Komodo Process it was meant to put the euphoria in Euphorium. M. Komodo was also known as the Dragon and is represented on the crest with the familiars, stag and bear, of the other two perfumers.  That is the overview but there is more when it comes to the fragrances.


Rudolph Komodo (via Euphorium Brooklyn website)

The third release is called Usar and it carries the least amount of story to its inspiration although what is there is still mighty amusing. M. Komodo must have decamped to the islands of the South Pacific to help devise The Komodo Process. For Usar he combines many of the notes found in that area of the world.

Usar is the most assured composition of the three releases but it is still exceedingly simple. Unlike Cilice and Wald there is more of a progression and a very rudimentary pyramid. On top of that pyramid is a tart lime matched with ginger. It is fairly classic opening stanza accomplished with workmanlike efficiency. The heart is centered on raw sugar cane. I have always loved this mix of watery sweetness mixed with the crushed green and woody nature of the outside of the cane. There is a healthy dose of this in the middle of Usar and this was the closest I came to having The Komodo Effect take me over. The base is also a very traditional earthy mix of vetiver and cypriol.

Usar is a perfume oil and has 10-12 hour longevity and minimal sillage.

As I mentioned in the first review these are competently done styles of perfumes with only Usar having something approaching a recognizable development. I found the whole thing enjoyable. This is what Mr. Dirkes is attempting here and the words plus the fragrances coupled with my imagination made me chuckle with pleasure. Maybe it is all a Komodo Mind Trick but I really don’t care because I had fun.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received with purchase.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Aquatics


As it becomes more believable that the snow is in my rear-view mirror I have been looking at my perfume vault. I’ve been considering which warm weather perfumes should begin their seasonal migration and I noticed a change in my attitude. For many years the aquatic perfumes in my collection stayed at the back of the cabinet. Two years ago with the release of two very different takes on this overdone style of perfume I suddenly craved some of the older ones. In the list below you’ll find those two and three others which might make you move aquatics back to the front of the shelf.

The entire class was created with 1988’s Davidoff Cool Water by perfumer Pierre Bourdon. This would launch, literally, thousands of imitators in the years since. None of them have the soul of the original. M. Bourdon created what was meant to be a fougere but instead lived up to its name as a splash of cool water. Still to this day I always get an unsolicited compliment when I wear it.

There were so many bad aquatics that came after Cool Water that I was really taken by surprise by Truefitt & Hill 1805. Created in 1998 by perfumer Mark Zini I didn’t discover it until I started wetshaving in 2003. Truefitt & Hill is one of the venerable houses of wetshaving and when I was getting a professional straight razor shave the barber finished me off with this. After ignoring aquatics for so long 1805 woke me up with a veritable bit of spicy driftwood in the presence of cardamom, nutmeg, and vetiver floating on the water. I’ve always seen this as one of the most sophisticated straight aquatics available.


Heeley Sel Marin by James Heeley in 2008 would go for something entirely different. Most aquatics go for the actual water. Sel Marin evokes the sea spray and there is nothing like this. Every time I wear this I am sitting in the bow of a speedboat cleaving the waves as the spray comes up over the bow. Mr. Heeley conveys speed and salt spray together. When I want to take an imaginary boat ride Sel Marin is what I wear.

These three were my staples and I wore them but rarely and then like a one-two punch in 2013 the next two perfumes gave me very different visions of this class of perfume.

The first was Maria Candida Gentile Finisterre by Maria Candida Gentile. This is the smell of huge waves crashing against a cliff in a battle the rock is destined to lose. Sig.ra Gentile combines an aquatic accord complete with algae with a rocky flinty accord to represent the cliff. The mix of earth and water makes me love Finisterre more each time I wear it.

Barely a month later Hermes Hermessence Epice Marine by Jean-Claude Ellena would present me a gourmand aquatic. I didn’t know I wanted one of these but working with Chef Olivier Roellinger; known for his spice blends, M. Ellena created a tidal pool with spices floating gently on the surface. Cardamom, cinnamon, and cumin are the mix developed by M. Roellinger and that is what M. Ellena placed into the aquatic matrix. It makes for something I have worn regularly when the heat is on.

If you have tired of the same old aquatics I really encourage you to try the last two on my list. If you haven’t discovered the class this list might save you from wading through the ocean of aquatics for sale. In any case dive right in the water’s more interesting than you think.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of the perfumes I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Charenton Macerations Asphalt Rainbow- Rose Molotov

It was soon after he released the first fragrance under his Charenton Macerations line, Christopher Street, that I met Owner and Creative Director Douglas Bender. Like a demented version of Oliver Twist I was already asking him what was next. Mr. Bender has no shortage of inspirations and on that day over a year ago he said quietly to me the next release would be based on “street art”. That was something I knew I would be very interested in and my wait is over as that perfume has just been released, Asphalt Rainbow.

banksy flower thrower

Flower Thrower by Banksy- On a wall in Jerusalem 2003

The evolution from graffiti to street art has been a gradual thing but there have been a few inflection points where it has been seen as creativity over vandalism. There are two artists, among many, who have helped the public also share that opinion; Shepard Fairey and Banksy. Mr. Fairey would go from creating a stencil of wrestler Andre the Giant with the words “Obey” underneath to designing Presidential Candidate Barack Obama’s campaign poster with the word “Hope”. Banksy is the name of a British artist who has never been seen. He has traveled all over the world placing his work on different walls. He spent October of 2013 in New York City putting up a piece a day. His entire career, and a commentary on street art itself, can be seen in the brilliant 2010 documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop”. To be successful the street artist has to work in the middle of the night without getting caught by the authorities. It leads to a furtiveness but it also can lead to something with incredible visceral impact. The piece above by Banksy called “Flower Thrower” was placed on a wall in Jerusalem as a commentary on the ongoing conflict there.

douglas bender

Douglas Bender

I don’t know if Mr. Bender is a fan of Banksy, or not, but after smelling Asphalt Rainbow I was very strongly reminded of that Banksy piece. (For the actuual street art inspiration here is Mr. Bender's blog post on it) Working with perfumer Cecile Hua, Mr. Bender has created a rose disguised as a spray paint can Molotov Cocktail. They fashion a rose perfume which explodes across a concrete face and instead of burning alcohol it is replaced with the smell of the urban landscape. It has the same primal impact as a provocative piece of street art as something as pretty as a rose can be laid over something distinctly artificial and create a different form of beauty.

cecile hua

Cecile Hua

Asphalt Rainbow opens with the rose right out front. The early moments are a pretty, soft rose but then Ms. Hua lights the fuse. Fairly quickly the rose begins to fray as galbanum and cistus pry apart the rose with slashes of green. An odd vibrant saffron provides a Day-Glo aspect as other florals, most prominently magnolia, try to put the rose back together. Then like a magic trick each day I wore this Mr. Bender and Ms. Hua found an accord which captures that slightly sweet smell of aerosol paint as it leaves the nozzle. This is the transformative moment in Asphalt Rainbow as it plows headlong into a concrete wall. Mr. Bender gave me a preview of this accord and as I told him at the time he showed it to me it smells like a vast field of concrete in the morning, just when you would discover a new piece on a local wall.  Patchouli and amber go extremely well with this, grounding Asphalt Rainbow in something a little more tractable for most wearers.

Asphalt Rainbow has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am very impressed with the effort Mr. Bender and Ms. Hua have put in getting just the right vibe for this. There were so many ways this could have gone poorly and they managed to avoid all of them. Asphalt Rainbow is a more experimental fragrance than Christopher Street was. As a result it is going to be too unusual for some. For those who want a very different take on rose as if it was a piece of street art, you should grab a piece of Asphalt Rainbow.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke