New Perfume Review Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 Oumma-Obsidian Oud

I think every young boy goes through a phase where they are fascinated by rocks and minerals. The texture of different types, the density, or unusual lightness, of something which looks so hard. I remember going to the store which sold pieces to trade in a gift certificate. From the moment I received the gift I knew with a certainty what I wanted; a piece of obsidian. I was enraptured by the different textures on display in the hunk I purchased. On one side it was smooth as glass and black as night, it felt like it was drawing me in to an alternate dimension. On the other side it was rough with whorls and sharp edges. Like a cloud I could stare at it for hours seeing shapes forming in the complexity of the lines and topography. Of the few things I still have from my childhood that piece of obsidian is one and it sits near my desk. When I received my bottle of Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 Oumma I realized almost immediately that it was my obsidian in olfactory form.

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Stephane Humbert Lucas

Stephane Humbert Lucas’ eponymous 777 line is one of the best new entries into the ultra-luxe perfume market. M. Lucas uses large quantities of high quality raw materials and this collection is heavily tilted towards Middle Eastern influences with many of them containing oud. Oumma has probably the highest concentration of oud in the entire 777 collection. It seems like almost every ingredient in Oumma is present in near overdose quantities. M. Lucas shows a precise hand in taking the disparate loud voices and finding a harmony that allows them all to sing in unison albeit at high volume. Prima facie Oumma is a typical woody rose oud combo and it is certainly that. It is also so intense it draws you in like that smooth surface of the obsidian into a dimension defined by the familiar but made unconventional by its energy. Once inside, the development abounds with remarkable textures which allow imagination free rein.

Obsidian

There is no easing into a fragrance like Oumma, M. Lucas tosses you into the deep end of the pool and you are floating in a bath of jasmine and rose. It inhabits every receptor in your nose and then as you break the surface you take a deep breath of oud. It is so prominent in all of its schizophrenic glory. The woodiness, the odd medicinal quality, the subtle floral aspect, the smoke; it forms its own fragrant whorls and ridges to let one decide where they want to place their attention. The source of the oud is a Burmese oud which also carries a significant peppery character and M. Lucas takes that and ups the ante by adding in cade. It makes everything that can be fractious about oud even more cantankerous in quality. This ridge is so sharp it could cut if you’re not careful. The base is a cocktail of tolu and Peruvian balsams which are also very strong but they are the easiest thing to cling to throughout the entire torrid development.

Oumma has 24 hour longevity, and then some. It also has prodigious sillage a little goes a very long way.

There are many oud fragrances on the market and there are even many woody rose oud fragrances on the market. None of them approach the mesmerizing intensity of Oumma. It feels as ageless as my piece of obsidian swallowing all of the surrounding light in its inky beauty. If you like oud dive in to the Stygian depths and breathe deeply there are rewards in excess.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle of Oumma I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfumerie Generale 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense- Wearing Lemon-colored Shades

Pierre Guillaume is always worth paying attention to because he is always exploring the limits of his perfume composing abilities. When a perfumer does this it grabs my attention because in this “play it safe” world of fragrance M. Guillaume takes risks. As a result I find everything he does captures some part of my imagination. For 2014 M. Guillaume has begun the Signature Collection wherein he returns to some of the original fragrances from his Parfumerie Generale line and give a new spin to them. Earlier this year Coze, Cuir Veneum, and L’Eau Rare Matale were the first three to get this treatment. I enjoyed them but there wasn’t one I preferred over the original and it wasn’t close. At least in those cases M. Guillaume was picking a part of the fragrance to alter which I preferred he left alone. Even now I had to go back and look at my notes to remind myself about them. The newest Signature Collection, Parfumerie Generale 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense, will share neither of those issues as I definitely think it is better than the original and I won’t be needing a mental nudge to remember this one.

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Pierre Guillaume

I have held a fond space for 07 Cologne Grand Siecle which was released in 2005 because M. Guillaume made one of the most realistic lemon accords I’ve ever smelled. He also did this using almost exclusively all-natural ingredients. All together the juice in the bottle represents the fleshy pulp, the slightly green rind, and the tart juiciness of a lemon fresh off the tree. I would stack the first 15-30 minutes of Cologne Grand Siecle up against anything I own and it would be a competition. Even just revisiting it for this review I am once again in love with this olfactory lemon. But there is a problem for all that the lemon is as good as it gets it is also pretty much all that is there. I said I’d stack up the first 30 minutes against anything else because after that it is pretty much gone. That’s on me whose skin actually holds even the most transient of fragrances for hours. Cologne Grand Siecle is almost undetectable after an hour. I have always been left wanting M. Guillaume to go back and add a heart and base to that lemon note worthy of it. In 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense he turns the intensity of the original lemon into a more diffuse brilliance while losing none of the captivating subtleties. He then adds in depth with a real warm heart and a fabulous green base.

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The combination of bergamot, bigarade and lemon leaves create the lemon accord of the original but this time it has a gauzy quality to it. By which I mean instead of blinding you with its light it is like experiencing it behind sunglasses. Because it is more easily experienced it allows for a slightly closer examination and that is worth doing. The lemon leaves add a bitter green character that truly stitches together the bigarade and bergamot into the key accord. A really well-chosen minty flare of green draws your attention to the earthier smells of hay and tobacco. The base continues with the green as vetiver and oakmoss dominate the final phase. This time the lemon is present throughout the entire development over many hours.

Parfumerie Generale 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense has 6-8 hour longevity and modest sillage. It is an Eau de Parfum concentration and that also contributes to its longevity and sillage.

7.1 Grand Siecle intense has taken the original and made it a complete composition. In computer lingo when you name something X.1 it generally represents a slight upgrade. 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense feels like a whole new olfactory operating system and should be called 8.0 except Intrigant Patchouli already has that number. Know this, 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense is no mere iteration it is the realization of the brilliant single phase of the original into a beautifully complete perfume.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample purchased from Luckyscent.

Mark Behnke

Taking Notes

One of the many barriers to having fragrance breakthrough as an accepted art form is the need for a consistent vocabulary to evolve from the discussion of perfume. The perfume community doesn’t even have consensus on how to describe a specific fragrance. Consumers rely on the list of notes to help them decide whether they want to give a perfume a try. If they don’t like jasmine they are unlikely to try something as soon as they see jasmine in the list of ingredients. But should they? There are perfumes where the jasmine is used as a note of contrast and foundation never rising to noticeable levels. By just reading a note list a consumer might miss out on something they would really like because they see the note they don’t like in the list. The companies have become skilled in the art of describing accords in ever more flowery terms. There is one perfume I got the press materials for which called it “The Elixir of Love” accord. I have no idea what that means and depending on my interpretation it could go in so many different directions. In the end these descriptions are no more illuminating than a list of ingredients.

This has come to mind again as Chandler Burr has re-started his Untitled Series on Luckyscent. Mr. Burr is one of the most active proponents of making olfactory art something substantial. Towards that end he has used the language of other arts to describe those perfumes he considers worthy of being called olfactory art. Mr. Burr described specific “schools” of perfume and showed examples of each during his exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC. Mr. Burr is also very steadfast in his insistence that fragrances should not be broken down into a list of its components when describing it. He likens it to looking at a painting and describing it only as the colors displayed on the canvas without describing the overall artistic display.

When taken to the extreme I agree with him; a simple listing of the notes does not convey anything special about the overall composition. Where I disagree is that notes have no place in the description of a fragrance I think is olfactory art. I would never write about Thierry Mugler Angel and not mention the use of ethyl maltol Olivier Cresp used to create the cotton candy smell within this game-changing perfume. You can’t talk about Chanel No. 5 without talking about the aldehydes or Lancome Tresor without considering Sophia Grojsman’s use of an overdose of galaxolide. The very use of these materials in unique ways, I believe, requires us as writers to point them out. It is the ingenuity of the perfumer and their intuitive way of taking a raw material into a heretofore unimagined direction which often sets apart a fragrance as something worthy of the label olfactory art.

Here is where it gets a little tricky though. There are some fragrances which are so intricately composed to create a desired effect that trying to pick it apart into its component notes is completely irrelevant. Calice Becker’s By Kilian Back to Black, Bertrand Duchaufour’s Sienne L’Hiver, and Marc-Antoine Corticchiato’s Parfum D’Empire Musc Tonkin are such amazing still lifes that I always just experience them on that level without overanalyzing the notes which bring these exquisite perfumes to life. This is where I and Mr. Burr are in complete agreement but this can’t apply to every fragrance.

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Where Next? by Edward Frederick Brewtnall (1846-1902)

Every writer has to make the decision on how best to communicate their experience with a perfume. I decided early on to plant my flag firmly in the middle. I always try to communicate the way a perfume makes me feel without relying overmuch on the individual notes. Then I usually spend the next paragraph exercising my analytical skills tearing it apart into the notes. This captures my two-sided love of olfactory art. I want to be transported by a great fragrance as any art lover does and hope to communicate that. The scientist wants to know how that was achieved and so that part of my psyche delves deep looking to figure out the inner workings of that which I admire.

Which is correct? I don’t think anyone can answer that for sure at the moment. What I can say unequivocally that the more conversation we have about the perfumes we think rise to the level of olfactory art the closer we will become to creating a uniform language of perfume. So to all who write about perfume whether on Facebook, a blog, or a forum pick the way you want to describe your favorite fragrances and add to the conversation; together we will create a language of perfume.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Vetiver

For those of us with more than one bottle of perfumer the change of the seasons signals a change in the perfumes we look forward to wearing. With Memorial Day in the rearview mirror for 2014 the summer days have begun and for the next three months my perfume tastes tilt towards the citrus, the colognes, and the vetivers. I wear vetiver fragrances all year round because it is one of the more versatile notes in perfumery but there is something about a hot day which elevates my favorite vetivers to something even more enjoyable. I thought I’d share my five favorite vetivers as I dust them off and move them to the front of the shelf for the summer.

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The Different Company Sel de Vetiver might just be the perfect summer fragrance as perfumer Celine Ellena created a near perfect mix of vetiver and sea. Mme Ellena wanted to create an accord of “salt drying on skin after swimming in the ocean” and she does. Before getting to that a very grassy vetiver along with grapefruit and cardamom lead into that accord. Ever since trying this in 2006 it has been one of my summer staples.

For nearly as long another summer staple was Guerlain Vetiver but in 2012 Roja Parfums Vetiver Extrait supplanted it. Roja Dove takes the same spine found in that fragrance and turns it into something as brilliant as the noontime summer sun. The bergamot is bolstered by lemon. Jasmine and rose provide an amuse bouche for the vetiver main course. Vetiver is swirled in a sirocco of spices and woods. Nutmeg, pepper, and caraway match up with gaiac, cedar, and amyris. This carries a luminous inner glow all day and into the night.

Like I said I also use my colognes a lot during the summer and Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal checks both cologne and vetiver boxes. Perfumer Jerome Epinette uses a higher distilling fraction of vetiver which produces a much greener, less heavy, woody vetiver source. M. Epinette weaves it into a traditional cologne structure of citrus, orange blossom, and cedar. The unique raw material turns this Vetiver into an opaque vetiver breeze and because it is a cologne absolue this breeze blows all day long.

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If Sel de Vetiver has been my summer days Lalique Encre Noire, also released in 2006, has scented the nights. Perfumer Nathalie Lorson uses a simple structure of woods to coax out the woodier character of vetiver and turn it into a sultry night. Mme Lorson sandwiches her Haitan and Bourbon Vetiver with cypress and cashmere woods over a musky base. This is the scent of potential as you head out into the evening.

My all-time favorite vetiver fragrance is Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire. The entire Frederic Malle collection was a sensation when it was released in 2002 and I remember trying it for the first time and it was Dominique Ropion’s smoky vetiver which exerted the strongest pull upon me. It was also the first bottle I purchased from the line. M. Ropion has made the perfect vetiver fragrance when I am wearing my linen ensemble at a summer outdoor event. It has a perfect casual sophistication for the season. What sets this apart is the “floral ozone accord” which energizes the vetiver in the heart. The vetiver here feels more virtually alive than in any other vetiver I own. All of this lands on a base of smoky resinous wood as myrrh, oakmoss, sandalwood, and musk complete this. I have always envisaged Tom Wolfe wearing this.

Enjoy the summer and get your vetivers out!

Disclosure: I purchased bottles of all of the fragrances mentioned above.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Roja Parfums Lily Extrait- From Funereal to Fun

They don’t make them like they used to is a familiar refrain. It usually is shorthand that quality has taken a backseat to function. It is why when there are those who are uncompromising in the quality of their work it can often be described as old-fashioned or retro. Roja Dove is devoted to making the perfumes which bear his name on the label the epitome of quality. That quality does have a collateral effect of feeling like something from a bygone era. The excellent thing is that era is when men dressed for dinner and women wore gloves and pearls. We may live in a world where casual prevails but I know I want to occasionally wear something that makes me feel like Cary Grant rather than Brad Pitt. Mr. Dove does just this with his perfumes. A particular part of his collection which is truly magnificent are his extraits. Each of the previous five extraits; Bergamot, Gardenia, Lilac, Neroli, and Vetiver take the idea of soliflores to an entirely new level.

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Roja Dove speaking at Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2014

When I met Mr. Dove at the recent Sniffapalooza Spring Fling he told me his goal is to make his extraits, especially his florals, so real you can’t tell the difference from the real thing. He achieved this with Gardenia Extrait when he offered a blindfolded subject a real bloom and a strip of the extrait and the person said they couldn’t tell the difference. I personally believe the Extraits are really the soul of the Roja Parfums line. They are beyond photorealistic as they also ask the wearer to explore all the nuances of the featured note. All of this is why I was so excited to receive to receive a sample of the new Lily Extrait. Lily is a bloom with unfortunate funereal references but I have always loved the heady narcotic beauty and the spicy heart of the real thing. Other fragrances work very hard to scrub out that spicy core and leave a clean floralcy which frankly does seem lifeless to me, perfect for last rites. With Lily Extrait Mr. Dove creates a lily soliflore that is as vivacious as Mr. Dove himself.

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The opening of Lily Extrait is a pinprick of sunlight from bergamot and lemon to awaken the flower. The lily heart uses muguet as the nucleus to then add in precise amounts of rose, ylang ylang, jasmine, carnation, and tiare. Each of those floral notes form a supporting cast for the muguet which uses the carnation to support the green facets and the jasmine and ylang ylang to complement the sweetness. Rose adds the hint of the spicy heart of the real thing. Clove picks that up and carries it deeper and this is where if blindfolded I think I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the real thing and the perfume. Like a coloratura soprano hitting her high notes Lily Extrait holds this singular beauty for hours. Over time a bit of vanilla, wood, and musk provide some contrast as the lily eventually fades.

Lily Extrait has overnight longevity and modest sillage.

Most modern lily perfumes try to hew to the current clean aesthetic to, in my opinion, their detriment. Real lily is meant to exude the same bit of spice in the core as great rose perfumes do. Lily Extrait stands out because it produces a fully alive lily and in that ineffable effervescence turns it from funeral to fun. In an incredible collection of exquisite perfumes Lily Extrait is the best of them all.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Osswald Parfumerie NYC.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review En Voyage Perfumes Café Noir, Captured in Amber, & Indigo Vanilla- Chocolate & Ambergris

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There is a moment with every independent perfumer where they hit an inflection point. From then onward they enter a better more complete phase of perfume-making. Often you see the threads of things in their early fragrances strengthened and a real development of a personal aesthetic. It is a joy when I get a sample from the indie perfumers I think are on the verge of this kind of success to see if that will be the inflection point. In 2013 over the course of her two releases, Zelda and A Study in Water, perfumer Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes hit that place where her fragrances truly came of age. In both of those perfumes Ms. Waddington reached back for classic inspiration as starting points to go off in two delightfully distinct directions. Of course for these to truly signal the sea change I expected it would depend on what Ms. Wadidngton followed them up with. For 2014 she has created three fragrances within what she has called the Souvenir de Chocolate collection. As promised in Café Cacao, Captured in Amber, and Indigo Vanilla there is chocolate; but it is what else is included that truly delivers on Ms. Waddington’s talent.

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Shelley Waddington

In Café Cacao Ms. Waddington was going for a scented version of “Parisienne café mocha” crossed with Marie Antoinette, who added ambergris to her hot cocoa; and Empress Josephine who impregnated the walls of the palace with musk. In the early going it is all steaming hot café mocha. In Paris they must sprinkle some cardamom on their mochas because it provides spicy contrast to the sweetness of the cream and vanilla present around the chocolate. From here the French historical divas have their way as Marie adds some real ambergris, beachcombed from New Zealand, and Josephine embeds the musk. Together they provide a combination of animalic, briny, sweet coffee. That might sound like something you wouldn’t want to experience but Ms. Waddington has worked with her raw materials and positioned them just so to result in something very unique.

Amber is a resin which can preserve things trapped within in a timeless matrix. Captured in Amber is Ms. Waddington’s nod to “the opiated Oriental fantasies that gripped turn-of-the-century Paris and London.” The key here is through the arts was how most of Europe was becoming acquainted with the Orient and so it led to emphasis on the more attention getting aspects of behavior encountered by those translating it into art. Captured in Amber also captures that larger-than-life quality as Ms. Waddington goes for opulent to the nth degree. It starts with a swish of bitter orange before her amber accord takes over. Ms. Waddington tames a whole cornucopia of resins to create this sumptuous amber accord. You can pick the strands apart, but why bother, because the whole is so much greater than the parts. For all the complexity in creating her amber accord the rest of Captured in Amber is simplicity as first a very dark chocolate and more of the real ambergris combine to provide the foundation of Captured in Amber.

I’m not sure where Ms. Waddington hangs out when in New Orleans but I need to find out because in Indigo Violet her inspiration is “New Orleans hot chocolate” which seems to have violet sugar added to the traditional ingredients.  For this last fragrance in the Souvenir de Chocolate collection she starts with a sugared violet. This is crystalline violet sparkling with sweetness. It slowly sinks into a creamy luxuriant accord equal parts chocolate and cream. I think many perfumers would have continued the gourmand theme and finished with more foodie notes. Instead Ms. Waddington resurrects the French royalty from Café Cacao and ambergris and musk again provide the finish. This time they seem much more sensual and intimate than they do in Café Cacao, which again shows Ms. Waddington’s ability to tune similar notes to disparate effect.

All three fragrances in the Souvenir de Chocolate collection have 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

The virtue of being an indie perfumer allows Ms. Waddington the freedom to use exquisite ingredients, like the New Zealand ambergris, in her small batches. That it shows up in all three of these fragrances means she could easily have called it Souvenir de Ambergris. Really though it is the different forms of chocolate and the skill Ms. Waddington brings to bear which are the true stars of this fragrant show. Take a bow Madame your star continues to ascend.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by En Voyage Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette

I think those who know me know if I could my life would be violet tinted and scented. Purple is my favorite color and I have written extensively on my love of all fragrant products violet. There are days from my shower through to the clothes I am wearing where violet is the word for the day. There is one violet product I knew about but which had been extremely difficult to find until the last few years. It isn’t a fragrance or a piece of clothing it is a unique liqueur called Crème de Violette.

The resurgence of Prohibition Craft Cocktails has also resurrected some of the ingredients that went into those classic cocktails. Crème de Violette was a key ingredient to many of those libations. The source of Crème de Violette back then, as now, was the Austrian firm of Rothman & Winter. The care that goes into making it starts with harvesting two types of violets Queen Charlotte and March Violets and macerating them in a grape brandy called “Weinbrand” and then adding cane sugar to sweeten it. This produces deeply purple liqueur that adds a unique color to any drink it is added to. It also adds a wonderful scent of violet to whatever it is added to. Crème de Violette is not limited to using in cocktails if you want to add a hint of violet to cupcakes or macarons adding a few tablespoons will add an exotic twist to the most vanilla of recipes. I know of one baker who uses it in her violet macarons and garnishes it with candied violets.

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The Aviation cocktail

For me I use it in the things I drink and here are a few suggestions if you want to add a bit of violet to your drinks. One of my favorite uses is to take one tablespoon of Crème de Violette and swirl it into a glass of lemonade and then take a teaspoon and carefully float it on top for Violet Lemonade, this is the perfect drink for me when I am wearing Tom Ford Violet Blonde. For those of you who like Kir Royales or Champagne Cocktails replace the Chambord/Kir or Brandy, respectively, with the Crème de Violette. You will get a vibrantly colored version as the sparkling wine seems to make it feel like liquid neon. The same goes for a classic martini if you, again, take a teaspoon and float it on top you have a Violet Aromatini. My companion scent for these is Atelier Cologne Sous le Toit de Paris. My favorite use of Crème de Violette is in the classic cocktail The Aviation, whose recipe is below:

1 ½ oz. Dry Gin

½ oz Crème de Violette

½ oz. Maraschino liqueur

½ oz. fresh lemon juice

Take all the ingredients and mix them over ice. Shake, strain and serve in a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or a maraschino cherry.

You should end up with a lavender tinted concoction which looks, and smells, as good as it tastes. This particular cocktail has turned many people who told me they don’t like gin into gin drinkers. Depending on your taste there are two variations on The Aviation. In The Blue Moon the Maraschino liqueur is removed to make a tarter version. In The Moonlight Cointreau replaces the Maraschino liqueuer and lime juice replaces lemon juice. All of them are delicious. What do I wear when serving these drinks? Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones, of course.

If you also like your world violet tinted go pick up a bottle of Rothamn & Winter Crème de Violette and see how you can add a little more violet to your life.

Disclosure: This is based on a bottle of Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Issey Miyake Le Feu D’Issey

There are a number of fragrances which have been released and had a very short shelf life, for a variety of reasons. In the Dead Letter Office I want to take a look at these perfumes which are alternatively called “ahead of their time” or “colossal failure”. The reality is often found somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. What I can confidently say is that the perfumes I will profile in this series did not play it safe. In their daring they sometimes paved the way for better executed fragrances years later. Sometimes it was just proof there are some ideas which never should’ve been unleashed on the public. 1998’s Le Feu D’Issey is a fragrance which has been described as both ahead of its time and a colossal failure.

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Jacques Cavallier

In 1998 perfumer Jacques Cavallier was riding a wave of spectacular success especially with the two fragrances which defined Issey Miyake as a fragrance house; L’Eau D’Issey and L’Eau D’Issey pour Homme. Those two fragrances are still big sellers to the present day. He would design the third fragrance, Le Feu D’Issey, to be completely different to the aquatic pair he previously created. In that desire to be different M. Cavallier probably went a little too far especially as the pendulum was starting its swing firmly towards the “fresh and clean” era of fragrance. M. Cavallier had made a safe Woody Oriental in 1995 with YSL Opium pour Homme. As he sat down to compose Le Feu D’Issey he clearly wanted to make a new version within this style.

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Le Feu D’Issey challenges right from the first moment as M. Cavallier creates a raw coconut milk accord. If you’ve ever been offered a coconut fresh off the tree, opened so you can drink the coconut water within, that is what the early phase of Le Feu D’Issey smells like. It carries a pungency which some have described as “rancid”. I don’t agree with that; it has a watery quality which also carries some of the husk of the coconut as well as the white meat. This right here is where Le Feu D’Issey probably went wrong as a commercial enterprise. I can imagine them handing out strips of this to passers-by and having them grimace and move on. That’s where they make a mistake because in the heart the next risk M. Cavallier takes actually works amazingly as he takes a milk accord and pairs it with jasmine. If the coconut water accord was off-putting the jasmine milk accord draws me in and fascinates me. This is the richness of whole milk which allows all the sweetness of jasmine to float on top like a floral crème. The base is pretty normal as a woody mix of sandalwood, cedar, and gaiac grounds this in safe territory at the end.

Le Feu D’Issey has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

When I wear Le Feu D’Issey I always find it to be a significantly different experience each time. I’m not talking about slight differences but phases which seem to come off very different and often not for the better. Especially the opening. There are times it is right on the verge of unwearable but once that heart accord comes together it is all of a sudden something special. As to how to classify it? I would call it a noble experiment. In the last few years we have seen the milk accord used to great effect in Jean-Claude Ellena’s Hermessence Santal Massoia and by Christine Nagel in Jo Malone Sweet Milk. So far the coconut water accord has not yet found the right fragrance for it to be featured in again. Le Feu D’Issey has found itself consigned to the Dead Letter Office for being too different at the wrong time.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle of Le Feu D’Issey I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tauer Perfumes Cologne du Maghreb- Indie Cologne, Naturally

One of the things that sets indie perfumers apart is their willingness to interact with their customers and admirers through the use of the internet. The first to do this was Swiss perfumer Andy Tauer who started his blog Perfumery on July 12, 2005. For nearly nine years Hr. Tauer has given those who are interested a window into his world as one of the most prominent independent perfumers. One special part of Hr. Tauer’s blog is during the Holiday season he has a virtual Advent calendar where he often gives out a special one-of-a-kind fragrance.

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Andy Tauer

In 2010 the fragrance he was giving away was his attempt at an all-natural, all botanical eau de cologne. He called it Cologne du Maghreb. It was a big success and he followed it up by releasing a “test batch” to see if it would sell. Now in 2014 Hr. Tauer has decided it is time to release Cologne du Maghreb to all of the normal points of sale you find his other fragrances. I never had the pleasure of trying either of the other iterations and so my sample is like a new perfume for me.

In truth the middle of winter was not the ideal time to release a cologne-inspired fragrance. Now, as the summer is upon us, seems to be the right time and place for Cologne du Maghreb to shine. The other thing that feels right is Cologne du Maghreb is not meant to truly adapt the cologne architecture to an all-natural, all botanical palette. Instead Cologne du Maghreb feels more like an evolutionary jump from traditional cologne to something that feels wholly an Andy Tauer fragrance with cologne aspects, if that makes sense.

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Cologne du Maghreb opens with Hr. Tauer’s creation of a “citrus chord”. The notes which make this up are lemon essential oil, bergamot, and neroli essential oil. These blaze to life with the lemon as brilliant as the sun and the bergamot and the neroli adding a corona nearly as brilliant. This then leads to an herbal intermezzo of rosemary and clary sage. Lavender pulls in rose and orange blossom to form the heart. The base is cedar and vetiver.

Cologne du Maghreb has 4-6 hour longevity and average sillage.

Due to the use of the natural ingredients cologne du Maghreb behaves like a very traditional eau de cologne which requires frequent re-application to make it through the day. I know on the days I wore it I re-applied twice during the day and each time was a like a little pick-me-up as the citrus made everything seem sunnier all of a sudden. Cologne du Maghreb is a smashing success at what Hr. Tauer wanted to do. This is where imagination meets inspiration at the intersection of a Tauer cologne. Cologne du Maghreb is the product found at those crossroads.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Nomad Two Worlds Raw Spirit Citadelle, Bijou Vert, Wild Fire, Desert Blush- Good Intentions Gone Excellent

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One of my favorite quotes by Chandler Burr is, “Every bottle of perfume contains a world.” This refers to the far flung places in the world many of the raw materials are harvested in to make the ingredients within our favorite fragrances. One of the things I have been most pleased to see is the continuing recognition by the people who make perfume that they are reliant on the communities within the developing world which collaborate with them. One of those companies is a brand called Nomad Two Worlds. Russell James, the founder and world-renowned photographer, had a vision of a company that could work together with indigenous and marginalized communities throughout the world.

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Russell James

The first Raw Spirit fragrance, Fire Tree, introduced the oil produced by the indigenous tree of the Australian Outback. I was a big fan and it felt like good intentions done right. This past October Mr. James announced a collaboration between the Clinton Global Initiative, and Firmenich. They have agreed to create ten new “Raw Spirit” perfumes following the ideals Mr. James has outlined. Besides support Firmenich has also supplied one of their most accomplished perfumers, Harry Fremont, to compose these new perfumes.

Harry Fremont

Harry Fremont

The first four of the ten have been released and two feature notes from Mr. James’ Australia and the other two are differing takes on Haitian Vetiver. What strikes me, again, about this project is everyone participating is doing this for all of the right reasons and then on top of that they are producing very good fragrances.

The two different versions based on the Haitian Vetiver are Citadelle and Bijou Vert. One is a sort of traditional vetiver construct and the other is something quite beautifully different.

Citadelle is the different one as M. Fremont takes the strength of the Haitian Vetiver and adds in some wonderfully contrasting notes. It starts with a crisp pear whose sweetness stands in opposition to the green facets of the vetiver. Lemon adds some tartness and marigold adds a bit of green floral quality to now amplify the green. It all settles down to a cedar and musk base which picks up the woody underpinning of the vetiver.

citadelle

Bijou Vert is a more straightforward vetiver fragrance. M. Fremont takes grapefruit and mandarin to give a traditional citrus opening. As the vetiver becomes more focused he brackets it with black pepper and geranium along with lotus flower. The lotus adds a bit of watery subtlety to the heart of Bijou Vert. The base is benzoin, patchouli, and cedar once again giving the woodiness of this Haitian Vetiver a place to shine in the final moments.

For the remaining two fragrances Wild Fire and Desert Blush we return to Australia and M. Fremont is asked to use wild harvested Australian sandalwood for Wild Fire and the indigenous flower Boronia is the star of Desert Blush. Although I could say both of these are explorations of Australian sandalwood as it plays a prominent part in Desert Blush.

As Mysore sandalwood became proscribed the world turned to the Australian version. Wild Fire is a “soliflore” of this source of the very familiar note. M. Fremont sets the desiccated quality of the sandalwood as the hub of Wild Fire. He then adds in spokes of ylang ylang, jasmine, amber, cedar, and musk. Each of these come together to produce a spinning wheel of a fragrance. It carries warmth like a day in the Outback and it is equally as fascinating.

desert blush

I had the opportunity to smell Desert Blush early on in its development and even in that raw version I knew I was going to adore this perfume. Boronia has been used sparingly in perfumery although one of its first uses in Edmond Roudnitska’s Diorissimo, as part of the central muguet accord, showed its versatility. In Desert Blush the boronia gets the chance to be a star and it makes sure to make its turn in the spotlight memorable. Boronia has what I would call a strong herbal tea character infused with floralcy and honey. It is that which I first encounter when wearing Desert Blush. As it warms on my skin there is a spicy component of the boronia which becomes more prevalent and this is where the Australian sandalwood comes in as it picks this up and creates an energetic synergy of these two Down Under ingredients. Osmanthus and ylang ylang support the floral character of the boronia and cedar and musk support the sandalwood.

All of the Raw Spirit fragrances are perfume oils and as such have 8-10 hour longevity but almost no sillage.

All four of these fragrances are very good and Desert Blush is my favorite for the singularity of the boronia but I have been happily wearing all of them. Good intentions are always to be applauded but when they produce excellent fragrances like these four Raw Spirit perfumes it deserves a standing ovation.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Nomad Two Worlds.

Mark Behnke