New Perfume Reviews Le Galion (Part 2) Sortilege and Iris

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If you remember anything about Le Galion you probably remember Sortilege. Sortilege was the first perfume Paul Vacher created for his brand new Le Galion line in 1936. By this time the use of aldehydes had become de rigeur in perfumery and M. Vacher wanted to create his version of a floral aldehyde as his first fragrance. M. Vacher created three distinct floral layers before his base notes set things into a deep musky foundation. Thomas Fontaine’s challenge in re-formulating was to get that layered effect and to keep the depth in the base while using modern ingredients that could replace the restricted earlier ingredients.

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When it comes to the perfumes of this era there is almost a “No.5” like intensity to any aldehydic perfume and the early moments of Sortilege are no different. The aldehydes carry energy and power with which to elevate the floral layers to come. The first layer is muguet, lilac and ylang ylang. Muguet provides a bit of green, lilac a bit of light floral and ylang ylang sweetness. The second layer is provided by jasmine, narcissus and a tiny bit of mimosa. This is indolic white flower territory and it is pure and extensive reaching for the bass notes of the florals. The remaining aldehydes add a bit of St. Elmo’s Fire crackling around the perimeter. The last floral layer is rose and iris and the transition from indolic to pure beautiful rose underpinned by the powdery aspects of the iris is striking and it occurs languidly as the rose seductively pushes its way forward and eventually the trailing iris catches up and adds to the effect. The base leaves all of this floral stuff behind as sandalwood, musk, vetiver, and amber combine into a musky woody finish. M. Fontaine pulls off the musk here especially well as it has the power of the old nitro musks M. Vacher undoubtedly used in 1936 but M. Fontaine cannot use in 2014.

Sortilege has 10-12 hour longevity and prodigious sillage.

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M. Vacher followed up Sortilege a year later with his first soliflore Iris. Iris is a deceptively simple construction with much of the pleasure coming from the places where the simplicity of the phases overlap. Iris reminds me of something much more modern and it is hard for me to accept that this was made 77 years ago. If I sniffed this blind I would spend a lot of time naming current perfumers for whom Iris feels like their style. This is also one of the many reasons I like the whole Le Galion line so very much. While these are vintage fragrances made fresh through M. Fontaine’s efforts they feel much more contemporary to me. Iris perhaps is the one which carries this characteristic the most of any of the Le Galion fragrances.

Iris opens up with the iris and it is matched with green mimosa and ambrette seed. The iris used here is very powdery and these notes accentuate that quality. Galbanum adds a green intermezzo before lily and rose return the powdery feel. The base notes are cedar and amber which provide a delineated framework for the iris to take root upon.

Iris has 8-10 hour longevity and modest sillage.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Le Galion.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: Sortilege has never been out of print in the US because Irma Shorell of Long Lost Perfume has provided her re-formulation of Sortilege for many years and she holds a US Patent for the rights to Sortilege in the US. As such that might mean the Le Galion Sortilege reviewed above may only be available in markets outside the US.

New Perfume Reviews Le Galion (Part1) Introduction

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It is exciting to be in a place where you can feel an organic groundswell of approval begin to form. When I attended Esxence in March of 2014 I watched this happen. Esxence is one of the largest perfume expositions in the world and their well curated exhibitors show off the best of niche perfumery. As such it attracts a pretty knowledgeable crowd and as you meet people the most common question you ask is, “Smelled anything good?” Everyone usually has a different answer but when you start hearing the same answer from a number of people you might want to make sure to check it out. This year the answer to that question was almost overwhelmingly, “Have you tried Le Galion yet?” I met Roja Dove in the lobby of our hotel on the morning of day two and this was the exchange we had. I had already heard enough the previous day and so set out to visit the booth.

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Paul Vacher

When I arrived Nicolas Chabot greeted me and told me the story of the line. In 1936 perfumer Paul Vacher purchased Le Galion so he could produce his own fragrances. M. Vacher was most known for his Lanvin fragrances that he co-created with Andre Fraysse; Scandal and Arpege. He would work for other houses as he continued to expand Le Galion, most notably working with Jean Carles to create Miss Dior in 1947. M. Vacher would guide Le Galion through the post-war world and continue to make perfume for Le Galion until his death in 1975. The brand was sold in 1980 and was mismanaged into oblivion; another classic line of perfume lost, or so it seemed.

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Thomas Fontaine

M. Chabot acquired the brand and began the work of resurrecting it. One bit of good fortune was unearthing M. Vacher’s original notebooks containing the recipes for all of the perfumes he created for Le Galion. Obviously one of the challenges for bringing back to life perfume that was created originally in the early 20th century is the sourcing of some of the raw materials and the restrictions don’t allow for the ability to just use the same ingredients. M. Chabot had to turn to a current perfumer to help with those and he chose Thomas Fontaine. M. Fomtaine is currently taking on the monumental task of re-formulating the classic Jean Patou collection and his early efforts there have made me hopeful. After experiencing the six fragrances he worked on for Le Galion I am now more than hopeful as M. Fontaine has done a fantastic job for Le Galion. There are three of the new Le Galion that didn’t need any re-working as their raw materials were still able to be used. The real proof of how well M. Fontaine did is I wasn’t able to pick out the three “untouched” ones as being different from the rest of the collection.

As I wrote in my wrap-up of Esxence when I named my top 10 fragrances from the whole exhibition I could have just listed these nine and added one more and been done. The Le Galion collection might be the best Nouveau Retro collection to be released so far. I have spent the last two months getting to know these fragrances and want to share that. So for the next week I am going to give extensive reviews on all nine perfumes in the “new” Le Galion line.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Newport Mansions

We currently live in a world where the power brokers like putting their names on things, often as big as they can get it. The size of the sign somehow has something to do with the size of the influence, I guess. Not that competition among the wealthy is anything new it has been going on for centuries. Each trying to have the biggest and/or grandest whatever is important in that era. I am reminded of that every year when I attend a scientific conference in Newport, RI.

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Chateau sur Mer

For the burgeoning American industrialists of the late 19th century the competition was for the biggest house with the most exotic building materials designed by the premiere architects of the day. For the architects these had to be half dream project-half nightmare. The dream part was having a client who could acquire any material you wanted to be incorporated into the design and you would be encouraged to push the envelope on that design to be wholly original. The nightmare part must have been the pressure of not delivering to the most powerful families in America, if they weren’t satisfied you were probably done as an architect. I’m sure the same thing is true for bespoke perfumes as the perfumer has some freedom to create singularly but if it misses what the client is hoping for then the perfumer will be seen as untalented for not being able to deliver.

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Beechwood

One heavy concentration of these mansions is located in Newport. The influential families of the day had decided that Newport was where they wanted to spend their summers and they had to have homes which confirmed their status. The acknowledged first mansion was called Chateau sur Mer which was built by the Wetmore family who had made their fortune in the shipping business. Chateau sur Mer was built in 1852 but it was barely twenty years later when they asked architect Richard Morris Hunt to redesign it in what was called the “Second Empire” style. The Wetmores had started the race.

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Marble House

Once it had been started the two most prominent families of the day, the Astors and the Vanderbilts, had to enter. What is funny is the same architect, Mr. Hunt, was used almost in succession as the Astors employed him to renovate Beechwood. William Vanderbilt would hire him to build Marble House only to have his older brother Cornelius outdo those all by having Mr. Hunt design The Breakers.

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The Breakers

My conference is at Salve Regina University and it sits next door to The Breakers while the once Carriage House and stables of Chateau sur Mer now make up Wetmore Hall. Making an interesting bit of historical bookends to my daily walk back and forth across campus.

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Richard Morris Hunt

One final thought about all of this was none of these were the main residence for any of these families they were referred to as “cottages”. They spent 8-10 weeks a year here. The influence of this summer society is still apparent today as their preferred method of play was sailing and tennis. Even there the competitive nature would rear its head and the early beginnings of the America’s Cup and tennis’ US Open were borne out of this endless trying to be on top.

The names may have changed and the area of competition may have evolved but the game remains the same.

Mark Behnke

My Father’s Lesson on What a Man Smells Like

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I often find that disparate influences converge to put me in a place where I stop and look back. My personality is to mostly look towards the horizon to find out what is around the next bend in the path. I believe it is that drive which makes me a good scientist. I definitely believe it is that desire to find something new that fuels my fascination with all things fragrant. Tomorrow is Father’s Day in the US and I have also been wearing DSH Perfumes Metropolis a lot in preparation to write my recent review. The confluence of the two events allowed me to consider the length of my perfumed path and where it all started.

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When it came to my father when I was a young boy he carried a few unmistakable aromas around with him depending on what day and what time you met him. He worked at The Miami Herald as a typesetter setting the plates which would be used to print the pages of each day’s edition of the newspaper. When he came home after work he smelled of ink and paper. It was mostly an unpleasant smell but I associated it with a job done well. A man smells of his own satisfaction with his life.

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Once my dad arrived home he would sit down in his recliner and pack a pipe full of different fragrant pipe tobaccos. As he lit up and smoked the living room would fill up with this pleasant smoke. A man smells of his favorite things.

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On Friday night my father would escort my mother out to do something. I would often “help” him as he shaved and got ready. He would spray some Noxema on my face and I would use my finger as a straight blade to scrape it off and flick it into the sink. At the end he would pick up this heavy square bottle with a huge chunky wooden top, Dana English Leather, and rub some into his hands and slap either side of his face, followed by mine. I liked the smell but at this age I didn’t understand the purpose of it. I got the tolerant smile that fathers know it will be all too soon that the boyish innocent that asked that question would disappear. What he told me was, “your mother likes the way I smell when I wear it and I like the way your mother smiles when I wear it.” A man chooses to smell good because the people he loves like him to smell good.

My father passed away in the summer of 1983 and at the viewing I made sure to have all of the things he taught me on hand. One of his co-workers gave me a fresh printed page with his obituary which smelled of fresh ink and paper. I had his pipe in my pocket which smelled of the cherry tobacco he had been smoking most recently. When I finished shaving you know I put on English Leather. Three very important life lessons were wrapped up in those scents and to this day those lessons have stuck even though I’m more likely to wear Metropolis than English Leather.

To all the fathers, and the sons and daughters, out there; Happy Father’s Day.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Metropolis- The Refined Animal

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When it comes to the perfumes I find that are supposedly targeted to me as a man I am very disappointed. With Father’s Day coming my trips to the mall have been especially dispiriting as the reps are spraying these aggressively overloaded woody fantasias or citrus cocktails more suited to the bar than my skin. I know woody or citrus is what I as a man should desire but it isn’t what defines me as a man. What I want is a fragrance that exemplifies my modern exterior but never forgets underneath there is an uncultured beast who wants to be let out from time to time. Those fragrances are few and far between and no mass-market perfume brand is going to be interested in selling something like that these days. Which is why I am always thankful for the community of independent perfumers as they don’t have to hew to the popular and can let their imagination and creativity hold sway. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is one of my very favorite indie perfumers and her latest creation, under her DSH Perfumes label, for men called Metropolis is a spectacular example of what I want in a men’s fragrance.

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Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

On her website Ms. Hurwitz sets out what she wants Metropolis to be, “Modernism. Minimalism. An abstract masculine design with notes of brushed steel, glass, and motor oil.” She achieves all of that as Metropolis has a very modern glossy feel to it at first but later on there is a steady beat of a strong human heart beneath all of the contemporary trappings.

The brushed steel is represented by a combination of bergamot and aldehydes; a bunch of aldehydes. Very often in this kind of concentration they give off a hairspray aspect but Ms. Hurwitz chose her grouping well and it is the metallic aldehydes which are dominant. The bergamot is like the afternoon sun glinting off the surface with a single point of brightness diffused across the metallic surface. Geranium and oakmoss adds a greenish tint to it all like you’re looking at it through sunglasses. Then the glossiness gives way to something more primal as castoreum, patchouli, leather, and musk take Metropolis into something human. Ms. Hurwitz wanted this to be a motor oil accord and there are times I get a hint of that but I am more enchanted by the animalic ingredients separately and so the petroleum products never coalesce for me and I prefer it this way.

Metropolis has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I would pay a lot of money to arm a faux sales rep to stand next to the real ones in my local department store and spritz them with Metropolis. I think they wouldn’t get a lot of takers but for those few who did stop they would be entering a brave new world of perfume appreciation. I entered Ms. Hurwitz’s world many years ago and it is still one of my favorite places to visit. Metropolis, and Ms. Hurwitz, make my kind of men’s fragrance.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample of Metropolis provided by DSH Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle 101- Five To Get You Started

When I speak with Michael Edwards on the beginning of niche perfumery he can accurately names L’Artisan Parfumeur in 1978 and Annick Goutal in 1980 as the first niche lines. When I think of when niche perfumery really managed to breakthrough I go back to 2000 when Frederic Malle released the first nine perfumes in his Editions de Parfums brand. These were the first perfumes to feature the name of the perfumer on the bottle. It really was the beginning of my starting to take a stronger interest in the people behind the perfume. Over the last fourteen years and 21 total releases I can say that this is one of the strongest collections of fragrances on the market. There is not a mediocre one in the whole group. A particular style might not be to your taste but the quality and creativity is always prominently displayed. This is one of the best places for anyone interested in niche perfume to start and here are the five I would suggest you begin with.

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Frederic Malle

There are a plethora of citrus colognes but Jean-Claude Ellena’s Bigarade Concentree is one that stands way above the fray. There is fantastic bitter orange (bigarade) surrounded by the most gentle aldehydes. The heart is rose, cardamom, and a bit of textural pepper to coax the spiciness from the rose. It finishes with a golden hay note over cedar. This fragrance re-invigorated my interest in citrus fragrances all by itself.

Lys Mediterranee by Edouard Flechier is one of the most luminous perfumes I own. M. Flechier weaves three sources of lily raw materials to render a larger-than-life composite as the core of this fragrance. He adds orange blossom, angelica, and musk as the perfect complements to the uber-lily. If you want lily in your fragrance here is one of the best.

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Maurice Roucel

Musc Ravageur by Maurice Roucel has a bit of a rakish reputation as a lady-killer if you believe the stories told on the perfume forums. That has died down over time and now what remains is a fantastic ambery musk by one of the great perfumers working. Starting with a flare of tangerine and lavender which are spiced up wiith clove and cinnamon we reach the base notes which form the ambery musky accord. I was well married by the time I found this but it is one of the few fragrances I wear which generates unsolicited compliments, so maybe its reputation is deserved.

For so many years the baseline tuberose perfume was Robert Piguet’s Fracas and nothing came close until Dominique Ropion’s Carnal Flower. M. Ropion chooses an eclectic company of complementary and contrasting notes for the tuberose. He uses eucalyptus to accentuate the mentholated quality a the heart of the flower. He adds coconut to provide an oily sweet contrast. A few other white flowers join in to create the other great tuberose fragrance.

Pierre Bourdon showed that he was more than the perfumer who created Cool Water when he made French Lover (aka Bois D’Orage). When I smelled this when it was released in 2007 it felt like a more sophisticated version of my old staple Calvin Klein Obsession for Men. It doesn’t smell anything like it but it was the one fragrance I continually chose over it once it was in my perfume cabinet. M. Bourdon uses the rich spiciness of pimento to lead into a finely balanced heart of iris and galbanum. It is a greener floral because of the presence of the galbanum and it keeps the iris from getting powdery. A musk and vetiver base finish this off. If I was still prowling the night looking for a connection French Lover would be one of my choices.

As I mentioned above the entire Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle line is consistently excellent. So start here but do yourself a favor and keep on going through the whole line it is a magical ride.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke  

New Perfume Review Keiko Mecheri Bois Satin- Vanillic Vision

It is difficult for me to believe that it has been fifteen years since I first tried Keiko Mecheri Loukhoum, her first fragrance. There might be no more emblematic first fragrance of a line than Loukhoum has been for Keiko Mecheri. In the years since Ms. Mecheri has continually explored all of the potential paths away from that original first release. I always visualize the entire line as a sort of fragrant family tree with Loukhoum as the sturdy trunk from which the other fragrances branch off of. Ms. Mecheri has found fertile ground and has tilled it incessantly turning out fascinating perfumes. The latest release Bois Satin is a little closer to Loukhoum than some of the more recent releases and as such feels like a cyclical return to the beginning and a start of a new creative cycle.

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Keiko Mecheri

Many of the best perfume lines have a signature note or accord and what ties Ms. Mecheri’s together is the use of vanilla. Vanilla is probably the ultimate comfort scent but Ms. Mecheri has displayed its multiple personalities ably over the years. Bois Satin is a vanilla fragrance made exotic by adding in saffron. Citrus, floral, and an ambery finish combine with the vanilla backbone to create a comforting unconventional vanilla fragrance.

Bois Satin opens with a bright mandarin adding citrus sparkle over the vanilla and saffron. The vanilla-saffron axis that Bois Satin spins around smells gourmand-like at first but fairly quickly it becomes soft spicy warmth. It stays this way for the duration. Jasmine, with rose in a supporting role, provide a sweet floral accord in the heart. This is my favorite part of the development and it lingers here for a long time. The base is amber and patchouli and it is more amber than patchouli. Together with the vanilla this is an olfactory soft pillow to finish on.

Bois Satin has 8-10 hour longevity and modest sillage.

Ms. Mecheri may have been one of the original indie perfumers but Bois Satin shows the development of her aesthetic since Lokhoum. It shows a creative director still finding new paths to explore. Long may she add more branches on to this family tree.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Keiko Mecheri at Esxence and another sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Odin New York 11 Semma- Szechuan Cigar

I spent the weekend cleaning up the area around my desk and it is sort of like archaeological layers of perfume samples. On top is the most recent and on the bottom it turns out were samples I had received from last fall. If they make my desk it means I like them enough to want to write about them. Having the time to write about them, well there are sometimes where it seems perfume samples arrive in an avalanche and the fall is most definitely one of those times. Which means things get left behind; unless I notice them during infrequent clean-ups as I did with Odin 11 Semma.

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Odin 11 Semma is a classic case of an Under the Radar choice as it just got lost in the cascade of new releases at the end of 2013. Once I had the space to give it some more time to impress me I was amply rewarded. Odin New York is a men’s clothing store in NYC and brought out their first fragrance in 2009. Odin has had a pretty successful beginning to their perfume enterprise. 04 Petrana was widely praised as a masculine iris. 06 Amanu was formally praised as the first winner of The Fragrance Foundation Indie Perfume of the year in 2012. I like the overall line and always look forward to trying the new ones and so a little tardy here is my review of Odin 11 Semma.

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Corinne Cachen

Semma was composed by perfumer Corinne Cachen who had previously done 07 Tanoke for the brand. Semma was designed to be a warm spicy fragrance and Mme Cachen wraps her spices in a tobacco leaf impregnated with chili pepper. That chili pepper is what makes Semma interesting as it adds some restless energy to the smooth tobacco and spice.

Mme Cachen lays out her tobacco leaf and when I initially put this on it feels familiar until another familiar smell that of sliced Szechuan chili peppers arrives. The chili pepper can border on unpleasant but by cocooning it in the tobacco it surprisingly works. I think Mme Cachen probably spent a lot of time getting this balance right because a little too much pepper and this would be tough to wear. Now the more traditional spices of clove and cinnamon arrive and they also help in the continued taming of the chili pepper although both the clove and cinnamon add a fine-drawn kind of complementary heat themselves. The base notes are sweet myrrh, sandalwood, and tonka. Like a bit of sweet dessert at the end of a Szechuan meal these provide sweet solace at the end.

Semma has 8-10 hour longevity and moderat sillage.

I am sorry it took me so long to excavate Semma from the deepest layers on my desk, it deserved a better fate. The unfortunate thing is it is now back on the bottom layer. The silver lining is when I re-discover it again in a few months it will probably be perfect cool weather to wear it in again.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Odin New York. (I think)

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Diptyque Geranium Odorata & Eau de Lavande- The Return of Fabrice and Olivia

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I tend to remember the fragrance which makes me sit up and notice a perfumer for the first time. Diptyque is responsible for two of those moments. When I tried Philosykos in the late 1990’s I had never considered fig to be something I would want in a perfume, Phiolsykos changed that. It was one of my earliest impulse buys because I couldn’t walk away from it. It wasn’t until years later that I found out the perfumer was Olivia Giacobetti. A similar encounter happened in 2003 at the same Diptyque counter as I tried Tam Dao and found one of my favorite sandalwood fragrances of all-time. Perfumers Fabrice Pellegrin and Daniele Moliere were the co-creators but this was the start of M. Pellegrin’s amazing run at Diptyque. It is really the work of these two perfumers, Mme Giacobetti and M. Pellegrin, that I consider to represent the continued artistic excellence of the Diptyque brand. It is why I was delighted to see that both of them were back at work each doing one of the two new releases from Diptyque, Geranium Odorata and Eau de Lavande.

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Fabrice Pellegrin

In Geranium Odorata M. Pellegrin returns to green themes he explored previously at Diptyque in 2006’s Eau de Lierre. That fragrance was the smell of ivy growing on a brick wall. Geranium Odorata is the smell of a geranium stem snipped away from the bush. M. Pellegrin combines the “green rose” quality of geranum with very different green notes on top and bottom. It has the same realistic aspect as the ivy in Eau de Lierre but there is also more artistic flair in how that is achieved in Geranium Odorata.

Cardamom is one of my favorite notes in all of perfumery and by pairing it with bergamot M. Pellegrin highlights the lemony and minty aspects of that raw material. The geranium arrives at first smelling a lot like rose before its characteristic green aspects begin to take hold. It is this rougher, rawer kind of rose that makes me like geranium as a perfume ingredient and here M. Pellegrin displays it beautifully. There is a bit of pink pepper to allow the spicy facets to not get lost. The last bit of green comes from a powerful Haitian vetiver. This vetiver leaps into a clinch with the geranium and together they dance a green tinted quickstep through to the finish.

Geranium Odorata has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

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Olivia Giacobetti

Mme Giacobetti’s trademark is the creation of perfumes that seem almost inconsequentially lightweight but have surprising structure and power for that fragility. I’ve always likened them to a soap bubble floating on the breeze. You can see through it as if it is clear but if you look closer there are all of the colors of the rainbow swirling on the surface. This is Mme Giacobetti’s gift and it is on full display in Eau de Lavande. Lavender Water is one of the earliest fragrances known but Mme Giacobetti also wants to do something different and she does so by combining the two major sources of lavender oil and infusing them with spices.

There is the more precious and expensive Lavender oil from the L. angustofolia species. Lavandin is the more plentiful L. x intermedia species. Because of the lower cost this is the smell of lavender in most laundry products and soaps. Mme Giacobetti uses almost equal amounts of each as the spine of Eau de Lavande. Early on she uses coriander seed and basil to create a haze of green to surround the lavender. In the heart cedar is used to accentuate the more familiar lavandin. This will give you a soapy moment but it is quickly removed form that by cinnamon and nutmeg and together they banish any thought of the laundry room that was beginning to form. The base is a beautifully composed mix of the lightest sandalwood and incense. This is where Mme Giacobetti always impresses me as when I read those notes I’m expecting something strong and instead I get delicacy, she does it to me nearly every time.

Eau de Lavande has 4-6 hour longevity and deceptive sillage. I often thought it was gone only to catch a sniff again.

Both perfumers have very different styles but their success at Diptyque has helped define the way I think about the brand. Geranium Odorata and Eau de Lavande both contribute to that history quite ably.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The FIFA World Cup

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When it comes to sports there is nothing like competing for your country at an elite level. Every athlete in any sport you can name strives to wear a uniform with their country’s flag sewn on it. My favorite quadrennial national competition is about to start this week, the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. For the next month the greatest football (soccer) playing nations on earth will compete to be named the World Champion. This is a magical moment as whole countries come to a stop when their national team is playing. As someone who has had the pleasure of attending the World Cup in 1986 and 1994 I have seen the emotion played out live. I also have treasured memories of traveling in a country on the day they are competing and sharing the experience with those countrymen.

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Manno Sanon agains Italy in the 1974 World Cup

My first experience of this kind was being in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti in June of 1974 at a crowded dockside bar as Haiti took on the mighty Italian team. At the end of the first half the score stood at 0-0. Then right at the beginning of the second half Manno Sanon scored the first goal against the Italians in 19 World Cup games. The bar exploded, people danced on the dock, and boats blew their horns. Then the tension really set in as everyone hoped against hope that Haiti could hold on for a famous victory. Six minutes later the score was tied at one and the Italians would add two more before the end of the game. This was the moment I fell in love with the World Cup as a sporting event.

I’ve been in an Italian-American club when Paolo Rossi scored three goals to lead Italy to a 3-2 victory over Brazil while grown men wept with emotion. In every city I’ve lived in the Brazilian community would have an impromptu car honking parade on Main Street after each victory. The World Cup captivates the entire world and it was why I wanted to experience it firsthand.

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In 1986 I spent the month of June crisscrossing central Mexico going from site to site to see games. The US had not qualified and I was this oddity, an American who knew something about the game. As a result I was adopted by one group of fans or another. The Brazilians welcomed me on to their conga drum line against Spain. The Spaniards taught me the cheers of their team a week later when they played Northern Ireland. Spending thirty days immersed in the madness made me long for the opportunity to be able to root for the US team. Eight years later it would happen.

In 1994 the World Cup came to the US. At the time I lived in Connecticut and was positioned within easy drives of three venues in Boston, New York, and Washington. I bought two tickets to as many matches as I could and I took a friend with me to every game. This time I had company as we drank Guinness with the Irish fans in NYC. Helped Spanish fans carry a coffin with Italy written on it into the stadium for their quarterfinal. I was introduced to salt licorice in the parking lot prior to a Norway match. I really enjoyed watching my friends become exposed to the fervor of the World Cup firsthand.

This year I will once again be highly distracted by the events taking place in Brazil. The US team has been drawn in to a very difficult group but like every fan I live in hope that the American lads will pull off a surprise or two. If you need to find me for the next month I’ll be at the bar watching with my new friends sharing in a world-wide experience.

Mark Behnke