Discount Diamonds: Burberry London for Men- Drydown to Die For

The more invested one becomes in perfume the more one probably tends to be on the lookout for the next greatest thing. I am certainly guilty of that even though it is a large part of what makes me enjoy writing about fragrance. Now that I have my own blog I want to take some time to look back at some of my favorite fragrances from the past. In this series I am going to focus on those fragrances which are widely available for less than $50US. While you probably wouldn’t want a real diamond at discount prices these fragrances shine as brightly as others many times their price.

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Antoine Maisondieu

Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu is one of my favorite perfumers and his recent 2013 output for Comme des Garcons Blue Santal and Monocle Scent Three: Sugi, Bottega Veneta pour Homme, and Tom Ford Private Blend Shanghai Lily show the diversity of his aesthetic. My introduction to him as a perfumer came with my discovery of the first Etat Libre D’Orange releases back in 2006. M. Maisondieu, Antoine Lie, and Nathalie Feisthauer were the three perfumers behind the original eleven with M. Maisondieu composing five including Jasmin et Cigarette and Encens & Bubblegum. While those are amazing perfumes it is his other release in 2006 which is the Discount Diamond, Burberry London for Men.

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Burberry London for Men is one of my favorite cold weather fragrances it reminds me at the beginning of hot spiced mulled wine and while that is good by itself it is the drydown which makes this stand out for me. Whenever I answer an online poll about “your favorite drydown” Burberry London for Men is always one of my answers.

Burberry London for Men starts with a phase of lavender and bergamot which is quickly pushed aside by cinnamon, pepper, orange, and wine. I always see an imaginary warmed bowl of red wine with orange slices and cinnamon sticks floating on top when I wear this. A really nice leather accord signals the beginning of the transition to the basenotes. Tobacco, sweet and narcotic, is joined by guaiac wood, opoponax, and oakmoss. This combination just strums all of my pleasure centers and M. Maisondieu balances them precisely. It is in this last phase where Burberry London for Men lingers for the majority of the time I am wearing it.

Burberry London for Men has about 6-8 hours of longevity and below average sillage.

As I mentioned earlier this is one of my favorite sweater scents as it seems to really blossom underneath the wool covering as my body heat amplifies it. Burberry London for Men can be found for around $25US/ounce at a number of discounters.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle of Burberry London for Men I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ulrich Lang New York Aperture- Picture Perfect

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There have been a number of multi-disciplinary collaborations between fragrance and another art form. You can name excellent examples for almost any intersection of perfume and visual one can imagine. The most prevalent collaboration is that of photography and perfume. One of the earliest to take advantage of this was Ulrich Lang with his 2003 release Anvers. On the side of the box there was a cropped close-up of a man’s face in black and white. The accompanying fragrance was a thoroughly modern fougere with magnified aspects of that style of fragrance. Over the next three releases the picture on the side of the box would always prepare me, in a visual way, for what was inside.

Olivia Bee Quiet

"Quiet" by Olivia Bee

When I saw the picture, above, by Olivia Bee, as I walked up to the Ulrich Lang New York booth at the February 2014 Elements Showcase I knew the fragrance that could match this photograph would be something interesting. When I got my first sniff of Aperture and looked again at the photo I realized the strip I was smelling was represented by the three distinct color bands in the photograph, The light purple top band is a spicy aldehydic top, the deep orange is represented by the glow of tobacco and the midnight blue is the depth of vetiver. The picture is an overture to the fragrance it accompanies.

The opening fizz of aldehydes is matched with a Technicolor pepper blend of pink pepper, white pepper, and black pepper. Even though three sources of pepper might sound overwhelming it is really a pinch of each to add some further energy to the aldehydes and to attenuate the hairspray character they sometimes have. Tobacco flares to life on a cedar foundation which smolders like a glowing ember in the heart. The base notes collaborate with the tobacco and cedar as vetiver adds its woodiness and for a good while Aperture persists as a smoky vetiver accord. The final touch is to add musk, civet, and ambergris to add further depth to the smoke and wood.

Aperture has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

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Ulrich Lang (Photo: Eric Swain)

Mr. Lang has become more widely known, perhaps, for his founding and expansion of the Elements Showcase. Which sometimes makes it easy to overlook his talent when it comes to his line of perfume. Aperture is the fifth Ulrich Lang New York fragrance and it is the best fragrance from this line to date. That is truly the test, if a perfume house manages to continually rise to new heights with each new release. In the case of Aperture the sky seems to be the limit for Mr. Lang.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from Ulrich Lang New York at the Elements Showcase in February 2014.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: A portion of the proceeds of Aperture will go to the Aperture Foundation to support their educational programs.

The Gold Standard: Rose- Guerlain Nahema

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One of the more frequent questions I get is, “What’s your favorite ______ fragrance?” In the beginning I used to give an answer like there are too many of those fragrances for me to have a favorite. Over the past couple of years I’ve realized that isn’t entirely true. I realize when I have a truly great fragrance in front of me I am consciously comparing it to another fragrance I think is the best of that note or class. With The Gold Standard I am going to answer the question on my favorite fragrance of a particular note or style. With Valentine’s Day coming up at the end of the week it seems like Rose is a good place to start.

nahema bottle

I think from the moment I smelled Guerlain Nahema, sometime in the 1980’s, it became my baseline rose fragrance. In those days I didn’t have the right description but the advance of technology has given me the exact descriptor for Nahema; High Definition Rose. I remember right after HD came out and I went out and got my first HD television and I watched the BBC series Planet Earth It all seemed so lifelike and there was depth in that clarity. That is exactly what Nahema feels like to me. It is HD in olfactory form.

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Nahema was released in 1979 and after a prodigious advertising campaign it never caught fire with the perfume buying public. There have been a number of post-mortems on that claiming Nahema to be “avant-garde”, “ahead of its time”, or just plain “too weird”. In that time and place all of those criticisms were probably valid. Most of the popular rose fragrances we laud have happened since 2000. In 1979 rose was considered to be an “older woman’s” choice. Jean-Paul Guerlain clearly was trying to bring rose back to the younger demographic but in 1979 they clearly weren’t interested.

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I remember smelling it in the Guerlain boutique at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida and being captivated by the complex rose I was encountering. It had the silky smooth core with the green of the stem and thorn lurking in the background. It was as close to a reconstruction of a single rose handed to us by M. Guerlain as could be. When I broke it down hyacinth added a dewy quality to the top notes before the rose comes to the forefront like a tight bud blooming right in front of me. A few balsamic notes, some tonka and a bit of vanilla soften the subtle green woody aspects which coincide with the rose. I had always assumed M. Guerlain used a high quality rose oil as his core, or did he?

In the book “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide” by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez; Mr. Turin makes the provocative claim, in his 5-star review of Nahema, that M. Guerlain used no rose at all in its composition. What!? After reading this I pulled out my bottle and sprayed it on trying to detect the threads of this rose accord. I was unable to find a thread to start pulling on which would make this accord unravel to my analytical probing. If M. Guerlain was able to pull off this best of all rose fragrances without using rose that would be incredible. I hope someday someone at Guerlain will let us know the truth of this story.

The current formulation of Nahema, as the Eau de Parfum, is essentially unchanged from when I first encountered it. The extrait version is spectacular and is also worth seeking out especially if you are a rose lover.

Guerlain Nahema is the Gold Standard when it comes to rose fragrances to which I compare everything else to.

Disclosure: this review was based on a bottle of Nahema EdP I purchased and a sample of the Nahema extrait supplied by the Guerlain boutique in Palm Beach, Florida.

Mark Behnke

Boot or Reboot: Jean Patou Chaldee 1927/1984 & 2013

For those who read last week’s Boot or Reboot on Patou pour Homme I can understand if you might be unsure about my confidence in perfumer Thomas Fontaine’s ability as the keeper of the Jean Patou flame in the 21st Century. Patou pour Homme was a good opening statement if not entirely successful in recreating the original. My confidence really comes from M. Fontaine’s work on the 2013 version of Chaldee.

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1930 Ad for Huile de Chaldee

In 1927, Chaldee was the fourth fragrance released by Jean Patou. It sprang up from another Jean Patou product Huile de Chaldee which was meant to be used a suntan oil, as “sun culture” was just coming into its own in the late 1920’s. Suntan oil in those early days was just castor oil and so Jean Patou asked their perfumer Henri Almeras to add something to the castor oil to make it smell nice. After its launch they found women wearing it even when they weren’t in the sun because they liked the smell and so M. Almeras designed the perfume version simply named Chaldee.

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1984 Ma Collection Jean Patou Chaldee

The original Chaldee was a mix of orange blossom, narcissus, and vanilla predominantly over a musky base meant to evoke sun warmed skin. When you sniff the 1927 or the re-released 1984 Ma Collection version it is mostly the deep musky aspects which predominate. My small sample of 1927, or so, Chaldee and my Ma Collection bottle both smell very similar so I am guessing that somewhere after around 20-30 years of aging the oils have hit their steady state. That is something that should always be taken into account when doing these comparisons. Any vintage fragrance has had tens of years to continue to evolve. In essence it has continued to macerate in the bottle which means it has changed somewhat. This was especially brought home to me when Patricia de Nicolai of the Osmotheque shared with me their freshly made versions of vintage perfumes. There is an essential brightness that is lost upon aging for an extended period of time, although an extra level of depth is probably commonly added. Which brings me to the new version of Chaldee.

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Jean Patou Chaldee 2013

For the 2013 version of Chaldee M. Fontaine retained the core trio from the original of orange blossom, narcissus, and vanilla. What is different is the narcissus has a much more pronounced presence. Narcissus is one of my favorite floral notes in all of perfumery and its enhanced prominence adds an intensity to the heart of the 2013 version which doesn’t exist in either of the vintage versions. M. Fontaine also adds a pinch of lilac which makes the new version feel fresher. The base is opopanax and vanilla as in the original but the musky aspect never hits the depths it does in the original. Here is where M. Fontaine makes a truly ingenious decision. Instead of trying to plumb the same depths that the original Chaldee did he lets the 2013 version add some musky aspects and then before going deeper he asks the 2013 version to hold that lesser intensity through to the end.

In this battle I am extremely surprised to be choosing the Reboot over the Boot. One reason is I think this new version is more truly close in style to its suntan oil beginnings. M. Fontaine shows an understanding of its history and the 2013 version smells like something I would smell on a beach or next to the pool. When I smell my vintage versions I’ve always giggled a bit at the thought of a beach full of women smelling like Chaldee on a summer’s day. The 2013 version feels like it easily could be seen like that. This singular achievement has me excited for M. Fontaine’s future efforts because I think he gets what it means to be a Jean Patou fragrance and with the restrictions placed on him by IFRA I think he is the best person to try and revive my beloved Jean Patou.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample of 1927 Chaldee, a bottle of 1984 Chaldee I purchased; and a sample of 2013 Chaldee from Aus Liebe zum Duft.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: There is also a 2013 version of 1976’s Eau de Patou and it is also very well done. If I was going to do a Boot or Reboot on that it would be another very close call for Boot but M. Fontaine keeps making me think about it.

Perfumer Rewind: Jean-Claude Ellena’s 1988- Maxim’s pour Homme & Balenciaga Rumba

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Some of our greatest niche perfumers have a fascinating history prior to the aesthetic we know them best for. In Perfumer Rewind I am going to look into some of my favorite current perfumer’s past creations and look for interesting moments of their development. The first perfumer to get this treatment is Jean-Claude Ellena and the year I am rewinding to is 1988 when he was responsible for two launches Maxim’s pour Homme and Balenciaga Rumba.

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Jean-Claude Ellena

Ask anyone today to describe a Jean-Claude Ellena fragrance and the words minimalist or luminous will likely be the two most common descriptors used. As the in-house nose at Hermes M. Ellena has perfected a style that speaks volumes with few notes. The “Un Jardin” series and the Hermessences are perfect examples of the style he has evolved into. The earliest complete signpost of that style was 1993’s Bvlgari Eau Parfumee au The Vert. What I find completely fascinating was in 1988, after a five year absence of releases, M. Ellena returns with two huge powerhouse fragrances that are as far from what anyone would describe as an Ellena style fragrance.

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Maxim’s pour Homme was done after Pierre Cardin had bought the rights to the French restaurant Maxim’s, in 1988, with the intention of turning it into a worldwide chain. What was even more interesting was the beginning of building this brand was going to be a men’s fragrance. Pierre Cardin contracted Givaudan to do the fragrance and they assigned M. Ellena. Maxim’s pour Homme begins with classic lavender and clary sage with some bergamot. The heart of Maxim’s pour Homme is where you get the hint of what will become a M. Ellena trademark as he combines geranium, muguet, and rose. Those three notes were often huge sledgehammers of scent in that era but in Maxim’s pour Homme they are so restrained they almost get lost between the top notes and the base notes. As a result the heart only lasts for a few minutes but it is like peering into a crystal ball of what will be as they are perfectly balanced to create an airy beautiful floral character. This character would get refined a lot over the years to become the core of many of M. Ellena’s creations almost twenty years later. The base is leathery musky chypre with patchouli, oakmoss, amber, musk, cedar, and vanilla. The base is classic 1980’s masculine perfume trope. M.Ellena probably didn’t want to rock the boat too much at this point in his career so he played it safe at the top and the base but if you pay attention to the heart you will see the indications of where his true aesthetic lies.

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Balenciaga Rumba was a co-creation of M. Ellena and Ron Winnegrad. Like Maxim’s pour Homme it is one particular phase that gives us the insight into M. Ellena’s evolving style. Rumba starts with a fusillade of fruit as peach, raspberry, and plum roar out of the atomizer. Fruity florals were just coming into style and so to go with all of that fruit a full set of florals including jasmine, magnolia, tagete, gardenia, and most prominently, tuberose. This opening is so heady and narcotic it is off-putting these days but in 1988 with Chrisitan Dior Poison the fragrance du jour it almost seems restrained. Then as if a light switch is thrown Rumba turns into this fantastic dry incense. Labdanum is the main resinous source with styrax playing a supporting role with its leathery quality. Amber and vanilla add a bit of warm sweetness to the arid resinous aspect. For those who love the Hermessence Ambre Narguile you will recognize the base of Rumba as the Neanderthal version of that fragrance. The drydowns of Rumba and Ambre Narguile are very similar with the tobacco of Ambre Narguile being the major difference as well as sixteen years added experience.

M. Ellena would continue with similar styles to Maxim’s pour Homme and Rumba with Hermes Amazone, Rochas Globe, and Jitrois Paris until that inflection point in 1993 with Bvlgari Eau Parfume au The Vert began the style we most commonly associate with M. Ellena.

Maxim’s pour Homme and Balenciaga Rumba are still available through a number of internet resellers and auction sites for pretty reasonable prices.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles of Maxim’s pour Homme and Balenciaga Rumba I purchased.  

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Francis Kurkdjian Ciel de Gum- From Russia With Love

With the Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia seemingly on every channel I feel immersed in Russia and all things Russian. One thing very Russian is the GUM department store which celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2013. For the occasion perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, under his Maison Francis Kurkdjian line, designed a GUM exclusive fragrance in honor of that milestone, Ciel de Gum.

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GUM Building in 1893

Ciel de Gum is another perfumer’s take on what a store’s characteristics are turned into fragrant form. The press materials that go along with this say it is meant to be “a creation worked like haute couture”. I actually thought of it in a different light going back to the beginning of GUM. GUM wasn’t a department store at its beginnings, in 1893, but was instead the GUM building which housed numerous independent stores selling everything a Nineteenth Century fin de siècle shopper could want. GUM at this point was more like a modern shopping mall on three levels than a department store. Ciel de Gum captures a number of the different smells I imagine might have drifted from the different sellers. A bit of spice, some fresh roses or a jasmine scented eau de parfum, some leather goods, a sweet vanilla from a bakery.

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Francis Kurkdjian

M. Kurkdjian opens Ciel de Gum with cinnamon and pink pepper which instead of working together to amplify the piquant nature of both instead seems to have the opposite effect. Both the cinnamon and pink pepper seem like they are shadows of their normal self found in many other fragrances. It adds a delicacy to both notes that isn’t normally found. I found it had the effect of drawing me inward until I found something with some more heft to it. In Ciel de Gum that brings you to a duet of jasmine and rose in the heart. The rose is the anchor for the jasmine which is what eventually predominates although early on they are more equal in impact. A leather accord arrives after the florals and eventually it settles down to a beautiful amber warmed vanilla.

Ciel de Gum has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

When it comes to these, in essence city exclusives, I really don’t want to start a desire for most who can’t get access to them. The unfortunate truth is Ciel de Gum is the best Maison Francis Kurkdjian release since 2012’s Oud. It shows all of the best qualities of M. Kurkdjian’s skills as a perfumer. This is so good I waited to write about it until it became available through some of the reputable decant websites. I have been wearing Ciel de Gum on and off for the last six weeks and it is one of those fragrances I think is worth the effort to try especially if you are a fan of M. Kurkdjian’s style of perfumery.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample sent to me from Russia. I have recently bought a decant from Surrender to Chance.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Salinger (The Documentary)

One of my favorite parts of the Sunday newspaper is the magazine section. I have been lucky to live in great newspaper towns where this Sunday section was a weekly omnibus covering the world. While I want Colognoisseur to be focused on the World of Fragrance Monday through Saturday, on Sunday I want to share with my readers some of the other things I am passionate about. What you will see through all of these is my fascination with the creative process. For this first Sunday I want to talk about the recent documentary on J.D. Salinger.

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Shane Salerno

At the end of January PBS’ American Masters aired their 200th episode, the documentary Salinger directed by Shane Salerno. Mr. Salerno is best known as a screenwriter for the movies “Armageddon” and “Savages”. His current gig is co-writing “Avatar 4” with James Cameron. Mr. Salerno’s fascination with author J.D. Salinger came about after he optioned the film rights to Paul Alexander’s “Salinger” biography back in 2000. He wanted to see if he could attract Daniel Day-Lewis into playing Salinger and had heard that Mr. Day-Lewis wanted to have as much research on the real life subjects he would play before considering a role. This was what started Mr. Salerno down the path of gathering information about the notoriously reclusive author.

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J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger is known to almost all who passed through American High Schools and Universities as the author of “Catcher in the Rye”. It is an evergreen classic and I mark it as one of the best written books I have ever read. “Catcher in the Rye” was published in 1951 and it made Salinger into a star of the literary world. He would release a couple of short story collections and with the publication of the novella “Hapworth 16, 1924” in The New Yorker he stopped publishing. In 1953 he bought a farmhouse in Cornish, New Hampshire and after that last story in 1965 that was where he lived out his life until his death in 2010.

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J.D. Salinger writing "Catcher in the Rye" Photo: The Story Factory/Paul Fitzgerald

Mr. Salerno’s documentary fills in many of the blank spaces in Mr. Salinger’s life. Starting with his experiences in World War II.  As part of a counter-intelligence division he landed on Normandy Beach on D-Day, was part of the notorious firefights at the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. In the documentary there is a description of him hugging a tree during the latter battle while explosions and bullets rained down around him. By the latter days of the war his division would liberate one of the Dachau sub-camps. During all of this he was writing “Catcher in the Rye” in the down times. The documentary shows the only known picture of him writing on a portable desk while in uniform. The documentary proposes that by the time Salinger returned to the US he was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in a time where that term hadn’t yet been coined. One of his comrades in arms was interviewed for the documentary and he said that there are still days for him where artillery goes off in his front yard or living room. Considering he shared Salinger’s experiences it is reasonable to expect Salinger was also traumatized.

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The way this played out in Salinger’s life was his unhealthy obsession with very young girls, teenagers. The documentary spends time with two of these girls; the more well-known Joyce Maynard who wrote a book about her time with Salinger and Jean Miller who he began a relationship with when she was 14 and he was 30. The common threads to both stories were chilling and I found myself seeing Salinger almost as predatory. Ms. Maynard described, as her time was waning, Salinger had started the same pattern with a young au pair which made her know the end was near. This reminded me of the description of Lyndon Baines Johnson by the biographer Robert Caro as having a tapestry in which the brightest threads were laid next to the darkest threads. Salinger was a brilliant writer with a darkness that played out in his obsession with teenage girls.

The other constant throughout the documentary was that Salinger was writing every day for all of these years. Some of the interviewed subjects saw finished manuscripts. At the end of the documentary it claims that starting in 2015 we will be getting five new works by Salinger. One of them will flesh out the Holden Caulfield family history and another the Glass family featured in “Franny & Zooey”. The one I am most interested in after seeing the documentary is a World War II based novel about a counter-intelligence agent’s war experiences. Salinger also was an adherent to Vedanta and one of the new novels is said to be a story-driven manual of Vedantic principles and finally a novella about Salinger’s war experiences. One of the people in the documentary says if these do get published they would go right to No. 1 on the best seller lists. As if to prove this point two days after this documentary aired on PBS “Catcher in the Rye” shot to No. 1 for the first time.

I admire Mr. Salerno’s persistence in tracking down many of the people who Salinger knew and to get them to speak on the record. His reward was a chance to actually see Salinger when he was told to be in Cornish at a specific place and time. The video they took was of a white-haired man smiling and laughing behind a car window. I hope Salinger had finally found some peace in the final days of his life. I know I am very much looking forward to these new works and will be one of those lining up to read them as soon as they are released.

Salinger is available through Netflix or check your local PBS Station Listings for a replay of American Masters.

Mark Behnke

Elements Showcase February 2014 Wrap-Up- Finding the Right Teammates

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It seems like the perfume year really doesn’t get underway until the winter version of Elements has kicked us off. Coming the week after the Super Bowl had consumed New York City it was an interesting transition from football World Championship to, sort of, the opening of the 2014 perfume regular season. What really struck me was the efforts which really stood out were team-ups of olfactory art and another kind of art. So stretching the sports analogy until it breaks I’m going to let you know which rookies captured my attention in the early moments of 2014.

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The first thing that caught my eye were the striking bottles from Suleko. The atomizers sit inside individual sculptures three of which were designed by Joelle Fevre and the fourth one by Alain Fichot. Owner and Creative Director Anastasia Sokolow teamed up with the talented perfumer Cecile Zarokian to complete a Big Three team-up of sculptor, creative director and perfume which has resulted in a fantastic collaborative effort on all three fronts. The bottles were easily the most visually impressive thing on both floors of the Elements Showcase. The perfume inside, meant to evoke one of the seasons, equally impressive. From first impressions Baba Yaga’s spicy energy is more attention grabbing in the early going but I think Albho’s high altitude impression might win me over when I spend more time with them.

Olivia Bee Quiet

Quiet by Olivia Bee

Another collaborative effort came from Ulrich Lang as he debuted his fifth fragrance under his Ulrich Lang New York label called Aperture. There has always been a strong photographic inspiration to this line of fragrance, with Aperture the connection is made even stronger. Mr. Lang asked 19 year-old photographer Olivia Bee to come up with the photograph which accompanies the fragrance. The picture above came from Ms. Bee’s series “Quiet”. The silhouette against three strong bands of color almost mirror the pyramid of peppery aldehydes on top, a deep heart of tobacco, jasmine, and cedar, and an intensely blue base of vetiver, ambergris, and civet. All proceeds from Aperture will be used to support the Aperture Foundation.

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Chef Rene Berges (l.)

The novel “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” by Patrick Suskind has been the jumping off point for many fragrances. The latest, by Absolument Parfumeur, is Le Trezieme Note Femme and Le Trezieme Note Homme. The Thirteenth Note, in the novel, is that which turns perfume into legend according to Baldini, the perfumer who teaches the protagonist Grenouille. Founder and Creative Director Pascal Rolland teamed with Chef Rene Bruges to create a fusion of food and fragrance for the thirteenth note. The Femme version, inspired by a dessert, is a fruity floral on a honeyed ambery base. The Homme version, inspired by an entrée, is an herbal wonderland with a wormwood heart which nods to the first Absolument Parfumeur fragrance Absinthe. The Homme version was particularly enjoyable and only time will tell if either will become legendary.

Sydney Australia floral designer Saskia Havekes presented her first two fragrances inspired by magnolia. Using the same name as her floral design business Grandiflora she convinced two of the more itinerant perfumers on the planet to create two visions of magnolia. Michel Roudnitska and Sandrine Videault, in her last fragrance, created Magnoila Grandiflora Michel and Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine. These two perfumers have turned in singularly magnificent interpretations of magnolia under Ms. Havekes’ creative direction. She also told me the third Grandiflora fragrance will be based on Madagascan jasmine called Stephanotis Floribunda and will also be composed by M. Roudnitska. Based on these first two fragrances it is my most anticipated new fragrance coming out of Elements Showcase.

I also got some advance peeks into the future of some of our favorite brands. Union’s Anastasia Brozler will be taking us to the Garden of Eden, Union-style, with the release of their sixth fragrance later this year. Douglas Bender of Charenton Macerations is currently hard at work on two follow-ups to last year’s Christopher Street. Designer Christian Siriano will be releasing his first perfume, Silhouette, in the next few months and it mirrors his fashion designs full of volume and intensity. Rouge Bunny Rouge has two new releases Muse and Allegria coming out very soon. The new Parfums de Marly Darcey was very nice and it is just starting to be released. I also got a sneak peek at the new boronia fragrance from Nomad Two Worlds, Raw Spirit: Desert Blush. It is another very beautiful fragrance born of an indigenous ingredient to Australia.

Elements Showcase continues to evolve and under the steady hand of Frederick Bouchardy, Ulrich Lang, and Jeffrey Lawson it will continue to present the best of the newest fragrant offerings. I’ll be back in August to see what they have for the mid-season showcase.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Profvmvm Sorriso- Brevity of Expression

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Economy of expression can be a difficult trick for most anyone. When it comes to perfumery the Durante family knows how to consistently make fragrances which sing with three to four notes. Their line of perfume is called Profvmvm and it has produced thirty of these minimal note/maximum enjoyment perfume since their first releases in 1996. The thirty-first release is called Sorriso and continues this style of perfume making.

Sorriso means smile in Italian and it made me smile as one who loves chocolate and orange together. Orange and dark chocolate are my favorite combination as the sweet of the orange contrasts with the bite of the higher concentration cacao chocolate to make for a savory combination. The note list for Sorriso is brief as always; bitter orange, bitter chocolate, exotic woods. When I read that I expected my candy bar to materialize from the atomizer. That isn’t what happened and it made me give up my mental image and really pay attention to what was there.

sorriso bottle

Despite the listing of bitter chocolate it really seems like it is more cocoa powder on display in Sorriso. It is cocoa powder lavishly spread over a tray of orange wedges. Despite the note listing describing both the chocolate and orange as “bitter” I found them to be on their best behavior, more optimistic than jaded. The orange was juicy with a pronounced sweet over the tart. The cocoa powder adds a desiccated quality with a smooth chocolate sweetness with only the slightest hint of an edge. Chocolate in perfume can sometimes be a bit overwhelming and the choice to stay more towards the cocoa powder kind of chocolate makes Sorriso a little more approachable, I think. The woods come into play very late and they sort of sneak up on the orange and chocolate. Both times I wore Sorriso it felt like they just sort of arrived out of nowhere but they keep things soft and tilted towards the sweeter, creamier side of woods.

Sorriso has all-day longevity and moderate sillage.

In a world where communicating in 140 characters is lauded so should Profvmvm and the Durantes be praised for also making a complete olfactory statement in three to four notes. Sometimes that is all you need to make someone smile with delight. Sorriso does just that especially for those who like a little orange with their chocolate.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample purchased from Surrender to Chance.

Mark Behnke

Serge Lutens 101- Five To Get You Started

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I’ve been doing this a long time and as new brands come, and go, I tend to be there at the beginning which allows me to grow along with the perfume house. I often wonder how somebody new to the world of niche perfumery deals with some of the larger lines that they hear so much about. When you are faced with trying to figure out a place to start you generally have to rely on your best guess at what will work for you. With this series I am going to take some of the larger perfume houses and suggest five introductory fragrances as a place to start your journey. First to get this treatment is Serge Lutens.

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Serge Lutens (l.) and Christopher Sheldrake (r.)

Serge Lutens was established in 1992 and for over twenty years Creative Director Serge Lutens and perfumer Christopher Sheldrake have been creating some of the best perfumes in the niche perfume space. With over 40 perfumes released under the Serge Lutens label it is a formidable task to figure out where to start. With Serge Lutens the best place to start is truly at the beginning.

Feminite du Bois was originally created under the Shiseido label but now is under the Serge Lutens imprint. I remember smelling Feminite du Bois for the first time and being absolutely fascinated that a fragrance with Feminite in the name had such a pronounced cedar heart. The real genius here is the pairing of violet with that cedar note. The core accord is bracketed by orange and a trio of spicy notes to create a vibrancy one rarely finds and it is a hallmark of Serge Lutens fragrances that will appear time and again. Feminite du Bois underwent a re-formulation when Serge Lutens acquired it from Shiseido but this is one of those which manage to keep the spirit of the original alive.   

In 2000 with the release of Ambre Sultan this style would become more refined with another inspired pairing of herbal notes with a warm amber. Bay leaves, coriander, oregano, and angelica root provide a feisty contrast to the languorous warmth of amber made even warmer with the additional resins of benzoin, styrax and a full suite of balsamic notes. This is often the fragrance which turns many into amber fanatics.

sa majeste la rose bottle

Also in 2000 Sa Majeste La Rose shows M. Sheldrake’s adeptness with a simple rose soliflore. By using an opulent Moroccan Rose as his nucleus he then sends into orbit around it lychee, clove, and honey to impart a mobility to the rose which elevates it to something much more than just a soliflore. Sa Majeste La Rose is one of the most versatile entries in the entire Serge Lutens line perfect for a wide variety of uses.

One of the hallmarks of the Serge Lutens style is a “stewed fruit” accord which pops up frequently. In 2004’s Daim Blond it shows up swathed in cardamom, orris, and suede leather. You will swear there are dried apricots in the note list, they aren’t listed but they are there, and this is a good place to see if you like “stewed fruit” in your fragrance.

Five O’clock au Gingembre is my last choice as it shows the skill of M. Sheldrake with a gourmand in the Serge Lutens style. An exquisite tea accord leads to a mix of gingerbread, ginger, and cinnamon which have an unusual warmth that will make you think a tray of gingerbread cookies are cooling somewhere nearby. It slowly settles into a honeyed cacao and vanilla finish that manages to keep from turning into treacle and always stays terrific.

Serge Lutens is one of the perfume houses that really produces quality fragrances year in and year out and if you’ve been needing a place to dive in the five above make for a good place to introduce yourself to Uncle Serge.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of these fragrances which I purchased.

Mark Behnke