New Perfume Review ERH1012 DeadofNight- Spectacular Sustainability

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I love being surprised and on the second day of Sniffapalooza Spring Fling I got a surprise when I stopped at MiN New York. Mindy Yang the co-owner of the apothecary asked me what I thought of the new DeadofNight. I admitted I didn’t know what that was and she handed me a roll-on to test it out with. I rolled it on my wrist and for the next twenty-four hours I rekindled my love of oud. I also spent that time learning about the entity behind DeadofNight, ERH1012.

Helena-Christensen

Helena Christensen

ERH1012 is a collaboration of Elizabeth Gaynes the founder of Gaia One. Gaia One is a company devoted to developing sustainable plantations to supply the flavors and fragrance industries. Borneo’s Balung River Plantation is the first of the Gaia One farms. From that farm the key ingredient of DeadofNight was harvested; a sustainable oud from planted agarwood trees. The harvesting of the oud will be like harvesting grapes at a vineyard as each year’s climatic conditions will lead to variations and will make for its use in each year’s small batch an evolving enterprise all around. The creative director for ERH1012 is supermodel Helena Christensen. Her friendship with Ms. Gaynes, her 20-year fashion career, and her work as photographer for Oxfam makes her ideal to guide the creation of DeadofNight. The perfumer she would be working with is Christophe Laudamiel. M. Laudamiel is one of the elite perfumers working today and can straddle the commercial and the artistic simultaneously. This is a team dedicated to making this inaugural fragrance something special and they do. (UPDATE: In an e-mail from Ms. Gaynes she let me know that perfumer Jacques Cavallier first worked with this oud oil and created the first mods for DeadofNight. M. Laudamiel used these as his starting point and attributes this as a co-creation of both perfumers.)

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Christophe Laudamiel

First choice was to make DeadofNight a perfume oil, very concentrated, and for this fragrance it is completely appropriate as a drop at a pulse point is all you want. DeadofNight is a personal olfactory journey and only those who are allowed close will share it with you. M. Laudamiel takes this new source of oud and combines the chill of violet leaf, a mere hint of floral notes and a woody musky amber at the base. Throughout the new oud preens like a precocious child.  

DeadofNight opens with the oud displaying its wares. As this is a new source of oud this has a less prickly quality as more aged versions of oud have. The oud oil used here was distilled multiple times to end up with a very concentrated fraction and that gives it power without the rough edges. M. Laudamiel uses the green character of violet leaf to pull at the rawer woody facets of oud. Early on in its development this has a plushness to it that I have rarely experienced in an oud-centric fragrance. As many of you know rose is oud’s natural partner and usually it is used as an equal in composition containing both of these. In DeadofNight M. Laudamiel hints at that as very modest applications of rose and jasmine whisper across the face of the oud. Some of my favorite oud oils have a latent floral character and this oud also has it and by using jasmine and rose as genteel complementary notes that floralcy is allowed to bloom. This phase of DeadofNight has an almost heartbreaking fragility that lasts for hours on my skin. It feels so tenuous that at any moment it will disappear but it lingers enticing me to pull my wrist to my nose again and again. Many hours after first applying DeadofNight the creamy woodiness of sandalwood signals a languid pace of development into the base as amber and white musk mix to form a sedately beautiful coda to a full day’s olfactory pleasure.

DeadofNight has 24-hour longevity and is a skin scent with no appreciable sillage.

The combination of new source of oud and master perfumer with Ms. Chrtistensen’s innate sense of style have all combined to create a singular beauty. DeadofNight exhibits beauty from head-to-toe much like Ms. Christensen continues to do. DeadofNight is oud as only M. Laudamiel can do it which means it is among the very best oud scents you can find anywhere.

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

DeadofNight can be purchased exclusively at MiN New York or via the ERH1012 website.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Atelier Cologne Blanche Immortelle & Santal Carmin

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There are few brands I admire more for understanding both their brand identity and their customer than Atelier Cologne. In just four years the Owners and Creative Directors, Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel, have shown an innate knowledge of how to stay true to a vision and allow an audience to come to meet that vision. For those who are unfamiliar with that vision in 2010 they created a perfume formulation that they dubbed “cologne absolue”. The concept was to take classic cologne architecture and to increase the perfume oil concentration for a longer lasting experience. By doing this they also turned the idea of cologne from something fleeting and ephemeral to something with foundation and depth. Throughout the thirteen releases they have explored all manner of keynotes and how to create a cologne of lightness or darkness. There is no perfume line which I look more forward to trying what is next than this one because of this dedication to their ideals.

Jerome-Epinette

Jerome Epinette

I just spent the last week wearing the two new releases from Atelier Cologne, Blanche Immortelle and Santal Carmin. Both of these display all of the strengths of a brand operating at the top of its game. I also like that one is a crowd pleaser and the other takes a note that is less loved but both succeed brilliantly. Perfumer Jerome Epinette contributes his ninth and tenth compositions for Atelier Cologne and I believe that is another strength as M. Epinette intrinsically gets the concept of cologne absolue and executes it flawlessly.  

Blanche Immortelle is as the name promises White Immortelle. M. Epinette creates a softly glowing immortelle fragrance. Immortelle is a divisive note among perfume lovers as its characteristic maple syrup-like quality can be treacly and cloying in overdose. I am one who likes his immortelle as intense as he can get it but I was looking forward to seeing what M. Epinette would do. Immortelle is one of those notes that is fractious to work with because it is so easy for it to get out of balance. M. Epinette places it as a central pivot between a sunny group of top notes and a rich woody grouping of base notes and keeps it positioned perfectly as to intensity.

Blanche Immortelle opens with a burst of summertime light as bergamot, mandarin, and mimosa flare to life. This is as traditional a cologne opening as you could ask for. The immortelle arises and shreds tradition. Immortelle by itself often is too thin a note and it needs support from other floral notes it is that support which often makes it too sweet for many. M. Epinette uses jasmine and Turkish rose to support the immortelle but yet not so much that it ever becomes heavy. The immortelle darts in and out amongst the bright top notes like a buzzing bee with a bit of the same energy as that metaphorical bee. Here is where Blanche Immortelle remains for many hours on my skin. Very slowly vetiver, patchouli, and sandalwood exert their influence and turn Blanche Immortelle from sunny day into cool twilight.

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Christophe Cervasel and Sylvie Ganter

Santal Carmin is a pure crowd pleaser of a fragrance as M. Epinette takes a heart of sandalwood and as he did with Blanche Immortelle open with bright top notes and closes with deeper base notes. The difference is sandalwood as a cologne ingredient is better known. That means M. Epinette needs to add a bit of a twist to the phases that surround that more familiar heart.

Bergamot and limette comprise the first notes of Santal Carmin and then M. Epinette adds saffron which entwines itself among the citrus and turns it into something wholly exotic. He also does this without sacrificing the traditional bracing opening of cologne it just feels like something rare and precious. The sandalwood used in Santal Carmin is the variety harvested in New Caledonia and I like it for its desiccated quality over some of the creamier aspects of other sources of sandalwood. M. Epinette adds a white musk to define the aridity of the wood at the heart of Santal Carmin. The sweeter facets require some coaxing out and the use of vanilla in the base does bring out the inherent sweetness of the sandalwood and papyrus adds a bit of green to go along with the sweet which helps attenuate the extreme dryness of the wood.

Blanche Immortelle and Santal Carmin have 12-14 hour longevity on me and average sillage.

I suspect that Santal Carmin will be the more popular of these two new Atelier Cologne releases and it is a great cologne as the summer approaches. For me I am really looking forward to wearing Blanche Immortelle as I won’t have to wait until fall to enjoy one of my favorite notes. In any case if you have been a fan of Atelier Cologne they continue producing high quality perfumes. If you want a place to start this pair is a good place to discover a brand that has never wavered from their quality and their ideal.

Disclsoure: This review was based on press samples provided by Atelier Cologne.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Arsenal Football Club

This morning I will be sitting down in front of the television set to watch the final match of the 2013-14 season of Arsenal Football Club. I realized this will be the 20th season I have been following the club. I started following Arsenal back in 1994 after the World Cup had come to the United States that summer. Living on the East Coast of the US I was traveling from Washington DC to Boston, Massachusetts to see as many games as I could. Besides rooting for the home team US I was relishing the opportunity to see football played at the highest level. When I attended the match of Netherlands v. Saudi Arabia I watched one of the great national teams of that time. My favorite player on the Netherlands after viewing the team was their striker Dennis Bergkamp. After the World Cup was over I wanted to pick a favorite team to start to support and when I found out Mr. Bergkamp was the striker for Arsenal, a team was found.

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Arsenal’s nickname is The Gunners and those of us who support the team are referred to as Gooners. Over the twenty years I’ve walked around with a jersey on or my scarf in the winter I am frequently greeted with a hearty “Oi Gooner!” accompanied by a wink or a smile. It happens no matter where in the world I have been and it always makes me feel part of a vast worldwide family. I think that is part of the enduring appeal for me being part of this tribe of Gooners who all spend August through May of every year aspiring for our lads to carry the day.

From 1997 through 2005 Arsenal won the Premiership title three times and the FA Cup five times. The last title in 2003-04 was memorable as the team went through an entire 38 match season without losing which gave that team the nickname of “The Invincibles”. Since the last FA Cup victory in 2005 Arsenal has not lifted another trophy. The current season held out the possibility of glory as Arsenal was in first place for more time than any other team but as the season drew to a close injuries had caught up to them and they faded from the top of the table. As consolation for that disappointment they will be playing next weekend in the final of the FA Cup against Hull City and the opportunity for that trophy is exciting to break the drought for silverware.

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Me in my Arsenal jersey with Dawn Spencer Hurwitz on my shoulders

I visited London in December of 2005 during the last season at the stadium in Highbury and attended three games. All three games were memorable for me. In the first game against Birmingham I took my sports hating wife and shockingly she fell in love with the game and the atmosphere. She will be sitting next to me this morning when we watch our team together. Waiting for a colleague who worked in London to meet me for the second game a camera crew asked to interview me and I think they expected to capture the “golly gee whiz isn’t this soccer stuff neat”. What they got was a complete explanation of the defensive back four and the concern that there were too many injuries. I knew I had made an impression when the reporter re-filmed his intro. After the third game I ended up laughing with the fans in the Clock End and one of them said “I never expected to hear intelligent football talk with an American accent” which made me beam from ear to ear. Even though I wasn’t born to it my fellow Gooners had given me the seal of approval.

I will be rooting for all my lads in the upcoming World Cup and hope they all are big stars for their national teams; but already I am hopeful for next August and the new season when once again with high hopes I will join Gooners all over the world in cheering on the side.

Mark Behnke

When It All Goes Pear Shaped- The Case of Penhaligon’s Tralala

One of my favorite British terms is describing a situation as having gone “pear shaped” which means it has gone terribly wrong, usually from good intentions. This phrase is particularly apropos when it comes to the latest release from Penhaligon’s called Tralala.

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Penhaligon’s is a venerable old school English perfume line and in the last five years or so has really reclaimed a vital spot in the niche world. Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour has been creating new perfumes and reformulating some of the historical ones. It is in my estimation a great success story but the latest release is a good example of when a brand forgets what makes it special and attempts to reach out for a different audience.

For Tralala Penhaligon’s wanted to up their hipster credibility and the first step to doing that was asking fashion designers Meadham Kirchoff to act as creative directors. Penhaligon’s has scented their runway shows at London Fashion Week and so they had some familiarity with the line. The latest collection for Fall 2014 recalled prewar Parisian fashion. M. Duchaufour has a way with Retro Nouveau fragrances. Seems like a team made for success, except for the name. The name is where it all begins to go south.

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Jennifer Jason Leigh as Tralala in Last Exit to Brooklyn

In an article in Cosmopolitan announcing the fragrance Meadham Kirchoff alluded to the name being taken from the character in the movie “Last Exit to Brooklyn”. For those unfamiliar with that movie or the character Tralala, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, ends up in a horrific plight and it is something nobody would want to associate with perfume. If you need to know more check out the Wikipedia entry for the novel and under synopsis read the description for Tralala. This is where the attempt to reach for that desired hipster credibility fell apart around them. I am pretty sure they just saw a picture of Tralala like the one above and thought “Yeah there’s our poster girl.” Until people started mentioning this after the Cosmopolitan article came out. On both Now Smell This and Basenotes, Matthew Huband of Penhaligon’s PR department went into spin mode and released this statement; "Hello all, I’m the head of marketing at Penhaligon’s, We’d just like to clarify that the name Tralala is simply an innocent and musical expression which reflects the fragrance. The perfume is rich, whimsical and nostalgic in Penhaligon’s best tradition, as you’d expect.”

Except I’ve smelled the fragrance and “rich, whimsical, and nostalgic” doesn’t accurately describe it. The adjectives I would use are “dangerous, edgy, and retro”. Which is where the disconnect happens; this fragrance clearly is going for this danger as whisky, leather, and patchouli are not the ingredients of nostalgic whimsy. They are exactly as was stated the milieu of Tralala, the fictional character.

This is what happens when a brand forgets about its brand identity and heads off into uncharted territory. All too often a trap door is lurking and everyone involved falls through looking foolish. The most successful perfume brands know that too many missteps like this turn their customers off and I’m pretty sure Tralala will disappear with as little notice as can be managed. I hope that the next time someone at Penhaligon’s wants to go for hipster cred they just remember that isn’t where their success lies.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Cartier La Panthere- Stalking A Chypre

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When it comes to the luxury designer perfume houses the public is well acquainted with Jacques Polge and his fragrances for Chanel or Jean-Claude Ellena and his for Hermes. In my opinion there is another, less well-known, perfumer for a luxury brand who has posted a stronger resume of perfume over the last three years and that is Mathilde Laurent for Cartier. My infatuation for their exclusive Les Heures de Cartier collection is well documented and if that was all she was doing that would be fine. But at the same time she has also been making the mainstream releases with the same panache I find with the Les Heures. The latest mainstream release is called La Panthere.

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Jeanne Toussaint

La Panthere refers to the nickname given Cartier jeweler Jeanne Toussaint who created sparkly objets d’art all which contained a slinky panther within the design. Some were very obvious and others were more abstract. Because of the prominence of the panther, in 1987, perfumer Alberto Morillas created Panthere de Cartier. That fragrance was almost too mannered to capture the fierce intelligence which created these jewelry designs. It has taken nearly thirty years for a similarly fierce intellect in Mme Laurent to assay the idea of La Panthere in fragrant form again.

La Panthere is described as a “feral floral” by Cartier and that promises a bit more animalic character than is on display. If pressed to keep to a feline theme I would describe it as a “stealthy chypre”. La Panthere transforms from fruity floral to chypre over the course of a few hours and that trip is akin to a panther slinking its way from tree to tree stalking its prey.

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Cartier Panthere Ring

The early moments of La Panthere fall firmly into fruity floral territory with the fruit most prominent a sort of dried fruit accord paired with peach and some tart components. While this is well trodden ground Mme Laurent infuses this with the sparkle of a gemstone under a light. There is a palpable glow to the early moments of La Panthere. Gardenia is the keynote in the heart but this is not the overt narcotic gardenia often encountered. Mme Laurent seems to be capturing the final throes of the gardenia as its petals start to turn brown. It has the effect of making this seem very contemporary as the gardenia almost seems like an abstraction of itself. From this arises the most traditional chypre ingredients of moss, patchouli, leather, and musk. Mme Laurent turns this into a downy soft version of a chypre. As I mentioned above it seems to all of a sudden just pounce from out of the fruits and florals and stand there in all of its muted intensity.

La Panthere has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

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Mathilde Laurent

La Panthere is a gentle primer for those who would like to experience a chypre for the first time. It will bring you to it by first sharing the fruity floral you are most likely familiar with before giving you a new experience. I worry that those who are big aficionados of either fruity florals or chypres might find La Panthere trying to have its cake and eat it too with both of those camps. I found the construction of La Panthere and its distinct unfurling of two different styles to show the ingenuity of Mme Laurent. La Panthere stalks the wearer from fruity floral to chypre with the intensity of a big cat on the prowl.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Andrea Maack Coven- Playing in the Dirt

When we are children we generally love to dig in the earth. A good day of play was accompanied by muddy appendages. When I also search back through my olfactory scrapbook it is that smell of dirt which has to be pretty close to my first scent memory. As we grow up getting down in the dirt is accompanied by gardening tools but the same primal smell remains. I am surprised that more perfumers don’t make the effort to capture this in a fragrance. The recent release from Andrea Maack, Coven is all centered on rooting around in the ground to see what can be found.  

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Andrea Maack

Andrea Maack is a graphic artist from Reykjavik, Iceland and Coven is her seventh release. There has been a steady progression from her first three releases and with 2012’s Coal this line really began to establish its own identity. The creative direction is a co-production between Ms. Maack and Renaud Coutaudier. I was unable to find out the perfumer responsible for Coven but the direction given by Ms. Maack and M. Coutaudier must have been very specific because what has made it into the bottle is the smell of soil.

Coven digs deep right from the start as the smell of freshly turned earth comes out right away. This is accomplished with an assortment of green notes, galbanum most prominent amongst them. A slight swirl of spices adds in the authenticity of what it smells like to have your shovel bite into the ground and turn it over. They are precisely balanced and they keep themselves in the background behind the greens. Tolu balm adds a balsamic foundation to the green and this is what really seals in the earthy quality Coven is attempting. Once this happens Coven lingers like playtime in a hole dug especially for that purpose. Despite Coven having this potentially heavy quality there is a lightheartedness that overtook me every time I wore it. It could be just my fond memories but I also think the perfume manages to keep from being ponderous and that is to its credit. Once we clean the dirt off we are left with patchouli and woods which carry enough of the remains of the day to remind you of where you’ve been.

Coven has 8-10 hour longevity and modest sillage.

You might not be enthused at the idea of smelling like dirt but Coven makes you not care. For those of you who love incense fragrances I think you might find Coven resonates in some of the same places as one of those perfumes. For those looking for a fragrance experience rarely seen Coven delivers very highly on the uniqueness scale. I found it captured my inner child in a muddy embrace that I never wanted to end.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Coven provided by Andrea Maack.

Mark Behnke

Snifapalooza Spring Fling 2014 Wrap-Up- Re-starting My Engine

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It is usually right about this time of year the first four months of new fragrances have left me losing my mojo. Thankfully it is also this time of year that the psychic jumper cables known as Sniffapalooza Spring Fling happens. After spending a weekend with my fellow fragrance fanatics I return tired, but refueled, to cover everything new I saw while in New York City for the weekend.

What has become a bit of a tradition for me is I arrive the afternoon before Sniffapalooza starts and visit my friends at Atelier Cologne. I was going to get the premiere of Blanche Immortelle the next morning but I also got the chance to sample the other new release Santal Carmin. The final part of our biannual ritual is for me to get a sneak peek at the next release. All I can say is it is one of my favorite notes in perfumery done Atelier Cologne style.

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Roja Dove

Saturday morning saw us all gather at Bergdorf Goodman for breakfast and the presentation of new releases. The highlights were a new Bottega Veneta Essence Aromatique meant to be a cooling splash for the summer. Two new Tom Ford Private Blends which will be released early in June as part of a collection extrapolating off the vibe of Neroli Portofino. I got a preview of both and one of them is going right to the top of my summer wearing list. As mentioned above Atelier Cologne premiered Blanche Immortelle and for those who find immortelle a bit tough to approach Atelier Cologne has once again transformed the way you look at a difficult note by making it a part of a cologne architecture. The breakfast finale was the irrepressible Roja Dove who spoke about many within his Roja Parfums line but the newest release is Lily Extrait. As with all of the soliflores in Mr. Dove’s collection it continually makes you ask “Is it real or is it Roja?”

From Bergdorf Goodman we headed to lunch at Brasserie 8 ½ and while we rested and recharged we were treated to the fragrances that were created by a chef and an interior designer. The chef is Roble Ali and his fragrance is called Clique by Roble and Chef Ali wanted to present a three course meal of the olfactory.  It is a finely tuned gourmand that does indeed feed the senses. The interior designer is Tobi Tobin and she presented the four fragrances which accompanied the debut fragrance Crow. Ms. Tobin translates her chic style of interior design deftly into a collection of fragrances which exemplify her aesthetic.

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Henri Bendel Fragrance Mezzanine

The next stop was a little sad as we bid a Sniffapalooza adieu to the fragrance collection at Henri Bendel. By the time Fall Ball arrives in October Henri Bendel will only be carrying their own private label fragrance. It was a little melancholy standing shoulder to shoulder on the mezzanine where I’ve discovered so many new things and realized that this was very likely my last visit to it. From there it was back to my hotel to rest up for Sunday.

We gave Soho a Sniffapalooza wake-up call as we convened bright and early on Sunday at Osswald. Awaiting us was the entire Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 line in its US debut. I had a lot of fun introducing people to the line especially the fabulous Kohl de Bahrain. The fragrant caravan then traveled to the Fragrance Republ!c to be introduced the latest release 01/07. This was followed by a visit to the Scentsorium which is Sue Philips’ home to her very successful custom perfume business which previously was a traveling show. With the Scentsorium her unique custom perfume experience is open for business in a space which surrounds one with creativity.

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Introducing Michael Edwards (r.)

We all needed a break and lunch had arrived in the nick of time. It was my turn to entertain the group as I emceed the Eau de Sniffapalooza lunch where I had the great pleasure to introduce the perfumers behind the brands Code Deco, Jazmin Serai, Suleko, Phoenecia Perfumes, Nomad Two Worlds, Arts & Scents, and Neelu Kumar. It was also my great pleasure to introduce Michael Edwards as special surprise guest to wrap everything up as he spoke about the excitement and passion the independent perfume movement brings to the world of fragrance.

My final stop was at MiN New York where I got acquainted with the new Perris Monte Carlo line; but the most interesting thing was a door. I asked about this fabulous looking door that looks like it leads into a wizard’s keep or medieval castle. The cryptic smile and the “we will be letting everyone know what is behind the door in a couple of weeks” has me as curious as the proverbial feline.

It was time to get in my last hugs and head for my train back home. Once again the event was a smashing success due to the hard work of Team Karen and everyone who joined in this celebration of all things fragrant. I am now back to 100% charged until I get my next boost at Fall Ball in October.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Sonoma Scent Studio Yin & Ylang- Harmony of Collaboration

One of the reasons independent perfumers are often independent perfumers is they want to do everything from concept to cologne. It is always interesting when these very singular people collaborate with anyone on a new fragrance. Sometimes it allows everyone involved to gain new insights into the creative process. For the latest release from Sonoma Scent Studio, Yin & Ylang, two of my favorite people in perfumery combined to create something true to both of their aesthetics but the combination is something multiplicative rather than additive.

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Michelyn Camen

Michelyn Camen, my editor-in-chief when I worked at CaFleureBon, approached Laurie Erickson the woman behind Sonoma Scent Studio with a concept and a name to go with it. Ms. Camen wanted to see ylang-ylang have a starring role in a fragrance and she wanted to call it Yin & Ylang. The yin she wanted to mirror “soft skin comfort” and the yang to carry “bold sensuality”. Ms. Erickson would take this brief and accept the challenge of working with an ylang-ylang keynote and also capturing the ancient meanings of yin and yang. The result is something I hope both women are very proud of as it really exemplifies the strengths both of them can bring to the creative process. (For more about that creative process here is the link to the article on CaFleureBon where they describe the back and forth which eventually produced the fragrance)

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Laurie Erickson (Photo: Avis Mandel)

Yin & Ylang opens with a bit of misdirection as Ms. Erickson combines blood orange and aldehydes which give a bit of off-kilter luminosity but it feel neither yin nor yang nor ylang. Patience is rewarded as they move into the ylang-ylang heart. An organic ylang-ylang complete oil is the ylang source. By using this as the ylang note Ms. Erickson both added some difficulty but also gave herself more inherent texture to hang other notes off of to create a desired effect. Since this was supposed to reflect yin, and soft, the ylang is swathed in jasmine and tuberose. These notes add support while simultaneously softening some of the earthier aspects. She adds a bit of lactone and beeswax to add another layer of pliancy to the yin. The ylang is also still around to form the yang part of things as we move into the base where we find sandalwood, oakmoss, patchouli, and leather. Those earthy aspects that were subdued in the heart arise in the base to create the bold sensuality asked for in the brief.

Yin & Ylang has 6-8 hours of longevity and modest sillage.

After working with Ms. Camen for five years to say she is always creating new concepts is underselling her ability to cut to the truth of what she wants. I’ve known Ms. Erickson for almost as long and her brand DNA is strong in almost everything she creates. Yin & Ylang is an accurate reflection of both women’s collective inventiveness. I can only hope that they continue to work together from time to time as this certainly seems like the beginning of a beautiful working relationship.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Sonoma Scent Studio.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Serpentine by Comme des Garcons

The newest fragrance from Comme des Garcons is another artistic collaboration following directly after Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones Wisteria Hysteria. This one is in conjunction with the Serpentine Galleries which are located in the Royal Park of Kensington Gardens in central London. British artist Tracey Emin was commissioned to design the bottle for, Serpentine by Comme des Garcons, and the graphics on the box. Creative director Christian Astuguevieille tapped perfumer Emilie Coppermann in her first fragrance for Comme des Garcons.

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Tracey Emin

Ms. Emin has on the side of the bottle the phrase “The Grass. The Trees. The Lake. And You.” The first two parts of that phrase describe Serpentine pretty succinctly as there is a pronounced greenness to it before the trees turn things woody. M. Astuguevieille wanted Serpentine to capture “Nature in a City”. The smell of green and growing things surrounded by the smell of the asphalt of the roads encircling the park. Mme Coppermann does a tremendous job of getting this brief and executing it admirably.

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Emilie Coppermann

Mme Coppermann takes some green notes and adds a pollen accord consisting of galbanum and iris leaf to make the open park feel come alive. This is the nature part of “Nature in a City”. For the city part an asphalt accord of black musk and nutmeg is amped up with an ozonic group of notes which add that slightly frenetic city vibe to the natural green of the opening notes. The final dollop of city comes from a pollution accord of benzoin, juniper wood, and gaiac wood. Some labdanum and smoky cedar add a bit more context to the city smells.

Serpentine has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Serpentine is going to be a divisive bit of perfumery I think with as many detractors as supporters. You can count me in the supporter’s camp as I appreciate the skill of Mme Coppermann in adding a lot of notes meant to disrupt one’s enjoyment of the beautiful sward of the city park. The belch of a taxi, the heat of the motorway, the slightly dirty smell of the air itself. What is so very well accomplished is the ability to call up all of the smells of the city without ever overwhelming the smell of the park. All the way through Serpentine the green opening is there and the city odors layer themselves on top but they never end up victorious as nature manages to keep the city at bay. As a first effort for Comme des Garcons Mme Coppermann shows she definitely understands the brand aesthetic and continues the current winning streak, for me, of excellent releases from Comme des Garcons.

Disclosure: This review based on a sample provided by Dover Street Market New York.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Apple iPhone 5s TV Commercial “Powerful”

In the day of the DVR we rarely have to watch a commercial, unless we want to. It takes a special bit of magic to get me to pay attention to that which I have become so accustomed to tuning out or fast forwarding through. Every now and then there is an advertisement which makes me look up, pay attention, and keep my finger off the double arrow to the right key on the remote. That it comes from Apple should be no surprise.

Apple has been making little attention getters for 30 years ever since the Ridley Scott directed commercial named “1984” debuted during the Super Bowl in January of 1984. As the iPod rose to prominence the songs chosen to go along with the day-glo silhouette graphics became instant hit makers for artists like Jet, The Fratellis, and Feist to name a few. Once you were in one of those commercials your rise on the charts was nearly assured. As iPad has become more prevalent there have been little tone poems of all the things you can do with it and the apps that run on it. For the most recent iPhone 5s commercial all of these are combined into one very memorable commercial which is named “Powerful”

The commercial begins with a few different musicians tuning up and getting ready to play all with an iPhone running an app in frame. After skipping around the bass player begins a familiar bass line and the rest of the musicians we see combine to start playing a version of The Pixies 1988 single “Gigantic” off the album Surfer Rosa. From there we see video gamers playing on their phone but projected gigantically. A father filming his son acting like Godzilla to his city of building blocks. A girl launching a fleet of model rockets and we end with a teacher showing a star map to her students and finishing with a graphic that says, “You’re more powerful than you think.”

This commercial succeeds for me on multiple levels. First it depicts the versatility of the iPhone as these devices we carry around in our pockets are able to do powerful things. The music chosen is familiar but not too familiar. Gigantic was never a chart hit failing to crack the top 40 at any time during its release. This is another thing that is interesting about this song choice. When I was listening to music at that time if The Pixies came on I was probably asked to change the channel away from that “noise”. Now in nostalgic hindsight The Pixies join The Ramones and Iggy Pop as musical acts that all of a sudden have the power to sell things thirty, or forty, years after they were making music. I know most of my contemporaries didn’t listen to any of these acts all of which were on many of my mix tapes so why this nostalgia sells things is fascinating to me. Finally as with the original “1984” ad “Powerful” has a great visual sense to itself from the musicians at the beginning to the people doing “big, big” things in the second half it forms an endearing whole. Really TV commercials just don’t get much better than this.

Mark Behnke