New Perfume Review Aramis Modern Leather- What Powerhouse Means Today

When I was growing up in the 1960’s many of the men around me wore perfume which had a central leather component. If I had so desired I could have easily concluded that leather is what a man smells like. I can joke about it but there is a bit of truth underneath the humor. The mid 1960’s well into the 1970’s was the age of the powerhouse cologne marketed primarily to men. Because men were the target audience perfumers would have to sneak some notes, like flowers, considered feminine underneath the more stalwart suspects. One of the exemplars of this style of perfumery was 1965’s Aramis composed by perfumer Bernard Chant.

Aramis was a powerhouse leather mostly supported by herbs and spices led by thyme and clove. My very stylish uncle was an Aramis man. As I would begin to expand my fragrance horizons I would discover there was an entire collection under the Aramis name. As the niche explosion arrived the brand has been having some difficulty staying relevant. It was why when I received the press materials around the new release Aramis Modern Leather I was more interested than normal.

Celine Barel

According to the press materials Aramis Modern Leather was meant to be a modern re-telling of the original Aramis. I was wondering what the team at Aramis thought a twenty-first century powerhouse smelled like. The name clued me in that it was leather. What else did perfumer Celine Barel think makes a modern powerhouse? She returns to the herbal notes of the original but she also believes men are more comfortable with a floral heart fifty years later.

Mme Barel opens with thyme as the original started with. The main difference is basil overtakes it rapidly as if making the case for being the modern man’s herb of choice. Where the original dove deep into spices Modern Leather constructs a proper floral heart accord around geranium and orange blossom. Mme Barel uses some violet leaves to constrain the florals from becoming too expansive. The base contains the leather. Mme Barel’s leather accord is refined leather; very modern compared to the leather accord in Aramis. This one in Modern Leather is supple luxuriousness. The only attempt to put a tiny amount of edge into it comes from some vetiver and labdanum but they never really lay a hand on it.

Modern Leather has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Modern Leather posits the hypothesis that a modern powerhouse smells like this. It is a good version to see if there is a market for a fragrance like this. I can find a spot for it right next to its original stable mate.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Aramis.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Acqua di Parma Colonia Pura- This Old Colonia

There comes a moment for perfume brands to examine when it feels right to design to a younger generation of perfume lovers. The last two years have seen many of the original niche houses making different choices about when to make their play for the new demographic. For Acqua di Parma they have decided to go back to the beginning to try and capture the future with Colonia Pura.

Acqua di Parma has become a successful niche brand by using the seed of the original Colonia created almost a one hundred years ago. As the brand became a player in the 21st century they gave that Colonia architecture to some of the greatest perfumers working to develop their versions. It has been a mostly successful collection overall. Starting in 2014 perfumer Francois Demachy became the creative force behind the new versions of Colonia. During this time, he has been focused mainly on adding in a particular note or accord and adapting the existing formula so it fits. With Colonia Pura M. Demachy is re-imagining Colonia for today.

Francois Demachy

Colonia Pura opens on the classic citrus except orange and petitgrain are given a lighter feeling. This allows a sea breeze accord to lift them up in an expansive way. M. Demachy is seemingly trying for a transparent version of Colonia; the early moments are the bellwether for this. The floral heart is completely different. Remarkably M. Demachy can take the usually very deep power of narcissus absolute and turn it into something less substantial. The technique used is to have jasmine provide an underpinning which like the ozonic notes in the top provide a similar expansiveness. As patchouli and cedar begin to form the base accord I expect this to get a little more grounded but M. Demachy unleashes a suite of white musks to again lift and expand over the final hours.

Colonia Pura has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

There is a television show called “This Old House” where a team of workers completely re-do an old classic home of around a hundred years old. As I wore Colonia Pura this felt like M. Demachy was making a perfume version, “This Old Colonia”. Where he takes the venerable old mansion that is Colonia and spruces it up so a new fragrance fan can be lured to Colonia Pura.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Acqua di Parma.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Diptyque Vetyverio Eau de Parfum- Back to Earth

Vetiver is one of the more common perfume ingredients. It is hard to find new perspectives when designing a vetiver-centric fragrance. It is one of my favorite ingredients because it displays a wide versatility; which should be obvious if it is used so often. One of the more interesting studies of vetiver was in 2010’s Diptyque Vetyverio.

Perfumer Olivier Pescheux took a solid axis of vetiver and on three different levels spun three sets of notes to shape the vetiver as it developed on the skin. At the time I first wrote about this I mentioned this was a lighter version than most vetivers where the higher harmonics were emphasized over the deeper ones. Vetyverio is one of those that is made for the warmest of days when fragrance verges on becoming an irritant no matter what. It has never made my personal top list because I have come to prefer my vetiver with some more pop to it. Apparently, I am not alone as there is a more concentrated version just released Vetyverio Eau de Parfum.

Olivier Pescheux

Befitting the overall style, the original was released in eau de toilette concentration. M. Pescheux returned to oversee the increase in concentration. As I say every time I review a different concentration it just can’t have the original ingredients modified to fit the new concentration. To be faithful to the original the perfumer must make some important decisions. In this case M. Pescheux has decided to strip the formula down to its essence. The original had twelve listed notes; the Eau de Parfum just four. If pushed to describe the original in a few words I would have said citrus-rose-grass. This time M. Pescheux changes the third part to earth as patchouli is used to take the same Haitian vetiver used before and ground it.

Vetyverio Eau de Parfum uses grapefruit as the citrus on top. The citrus was bright in the original. Here the grapefruit can display some of its sulfurous quality before the same rose as in the previous formulation picks it up. In a lighter formulation, you take rose and lift it up with pother florals. In this formula, you let the rose alone allowing it to radiate in all its Damascene glory. The vetiver concentration being upped means the woodier quality of the Haitian vetiver has more presence. Adding in patchouli drags it away from the fresher greener grassier elements and down towards the ground. This duet changes the comparison between what came before and now.

Vetyverio Eau de Parfum has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

The original formula was never going to really resonate with me because of the lightness of it all. Vetyverio Eau de Parfum does connect because it takes the vetiver and brings it back to earth.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Diptyque.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Mizensir Elixir de Musc- The Musks of Summer

When a perfumer begins their own line you get to see some of the personality unaltered by creative directors or PR campaigns. When designing for themselves they can be indulgent. The brands which succeed understand the difference between that and self-indulgent. It is what makes the Mizensir fragrance collection by Alberto Morillas such an interesting experience.

I consider Sr. Morillas the best perfumer in the mainstream sector of perfume. When he began Mizensir in 2015 I was interested to see what the direction of the brand would be. With these latest three releases, bringing the number up to 19, the data set is large enough to see patterns. One of the more obvious ones is Sr. Morillas could take some of his favorite notes and accords and push them a little further than the typical mainstream release is likely to tolerate. It is making the Mizensir collection a stepping stone to the niche perfume side of the fragrance aisle.

Alberto Morillas

Sr. Morillas is known for many things but if there is one note which lingers in my consciousness it is musk. He championed the use of white musks. He has been instrumental in delineating the uses of many of the popular synthetic versions. It was why when I got the press materials with my samples the one I was most interested to spend time with was Elixir de Musc.

Sr. Morillas wanted Elixir de Musc to represent sun-warmed skin, an accord he has done many times. The difference is he also wanted this to be more concentrated befitting the name, a true elixir of musks. As such there is no real pyramid here. Instead Sr. Morillas presents a brew of three of Firmenich’s finest synthetics: Cetalox, Limbanol, and Iris Concrete. Cetalox is a lighter version of the more well-known Ambox. Limbanol is the same kind of lighter version of the more ubiquitous Norlimbanol. Iris Concrete is a synthetic recreation of the precious natural ingredient orris concrete. Into this mixture Muscenone and Habanolide provide the musk component.

Form the first moment I sprayed this on it strongly reminded me of warm skin. It is the smell of a day at the beach as the breeze carries the smell of your skin to your nose. It is clean but the musk keeps it from being insipid. It is a gorgeously realized accord.

Elixir de Musc has 24-hour longevity and average sillage.

There is another thing Sr. Morillas is doing within the Mizensir line; he is showing the versatility of the synthetic ingredients available in 2017. Throughout the collection there are numerous examples of it but Elixir de Musc stands apart as the pinnacle of this kind of construction. In this case he has created a perfume of the musks of summer.

Disclosure: This review based on a sample from Mizensir.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Fucking Fabulous- Is It?

A year ago, designer Tom Ford began pairing a perfume with his debut of the spring/summer fashion collection. Last year’s Ombre Leather 16 was a standout within the Private Blend collection. I wore it quite a bit during the fall and winter last year. I was excited to hear the same thing was happening this year with a new Private Blend tied to last week’s debut of the spring/summer 2018 collection called Fucking Fabulous. With a name like that the first question becomes, “is it?”

Tom Ford Spring/Summer 2018

The name itself has generated the typical buzz Mr. Ford revels in as he forced every beauty publication and reporter into figuring out how they were going to mention it. I have always had mixed feelings on Mr. Ford’s marketing style. It seems to work for him and just as with other aspects of other brands I’d rather focus on the perfume.

Tom Ford Spring/Summer 2018

For Fucking Fabulous if you look at the fashion collection which accompanied it you see Mr. Ford reaching back to the 1990’s for inspiration. There were padded shoulders, the return of a maillot paired with leather cargo pants, and millennial pink just so you know he knows what year it is. That shows through with Fucking Fabulous it is a luxury version of a department store powerhouse of the 90’s. The main difference is instead of relying on the synthetic version of the ubiquitous notes of the 90’s the perfumer, Shyamala Maisondieu, chose the more expensive options. For the most part, it works.

Tom Ford Spring/Summer 2018

It opens on a bitter almond oil. This carries a bit of a sting to it which is smoothed away by using tonka resinoid. In this version, the tonka pushes its warmer toastier aspects forward. These take that sharp nutty first few minutes and cover them in a jacket with big shoulders. The leather cargo pants show up carrying some clary sage in their pockets. The sage roughs the leather accord up a bit. This is also a lighter leather than in most Private Blends. A powdery orris adds that millennial pink shading. Cashmeran is that sleek woody maillot tying it all together.

Fucking Fabulous has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Is It? Not really. Within the Private Blend collection it isn’t close to being the most fucking fabulous of the line. What it is, is another clever comingling of Mr. Ford’s fashion and fragrance aesthetic along with his provocative PR. I like the luxury take on the powerhouse perfumes of the past but it’s not what it says it is.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle supplied by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Twin Peaks: The Return

Sixteen weeks ago on the eve of the premiere of Twin Peaks: The Return in this column I said “it’s been twenty-five years; tell me a story”. Well after the 18-hours of this I have been told a story that has been more than I could’ve expected. I have been given so much story, along with spectacular visuals, I suspect it will take another twenty-five years for me to digest it all.

Back in 1990 when Twin Peaks premiered on ABC it was so unexpected for a broadcast network to show something like that. In 2017, with the niche television landscape Showtime could commit to 18-hours. This allowed creators David Lynch and Mark Frost to fully realize their visions. Mr. Lynch would direct every episode. It resulted in one of the greatest collection of a particular visualist’s aesthetic since Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “Berlin Alexanderplatz”. For a director to be given the opportunity to make an extended version of a movie over a number of segments must be a gift. Mr. Lynch took this largesse and displayed everything I admire about him. If you’ve been a long-time viewer of Mr. Lynch’s style every bit of it was here to one degree or another.

Michael Cera as Wally Brando

There were long pauses between dialogue verging on and passing uncomfortable. Commentary on how we are so used to word salad when it comes in haute cuisine we’re not sure what to do with it. There were moments of sweaty palmed tension released in a horrific climax. To the point that other moments ratcheted up tension that didn’t get released. The sound editing also done by Mr. Lynch carried by crackling electricity throughout was all about the energy running through the story. There were moments of wry commentary on our current way of life epitomized by Michael Cera who plays the son of Deputy Andy and Receptionist Lucy; Wally Brando. Mr. Cera gives a comedic performance where he channels the cadence of Marlon Brando as he comes to pay respect to his godfather, the local sheriff, in the dialogue of Luca Brazzi. It is four minutes of writing and performance gold.

The Three Faces of Kyle MacLachlan in Twin Peaks: The Return

Another component of all of this is the David Lynch Repertory Company was represented throughout. Many of the actors he has worked with in his movies joined original cast members. There are so many good acting performances I am only going to focus on one; that of Kyle MacLachlan. Mr. MacLachlan had to be the glue that held all of this together as he played three versions of characters who looked like him. He gave each of them distinct personality so just the way he delivered the line you could tell which character it was. Through his performance Mr. MacLachlan portrayed almost every imaginable human emotion through the entire series. I know Twin Peaks: The Return is going to be odd but if Mr. MacLachlan is not in the Best Actor Emmy race for a Limited Series then the Academy is full of idiots.

Edward Louis Severson III a.k.a. Eddie Vedder at The Roadhouse

The final part of what made Twin Peaks: The Return a joy for me was almost every episode ended with a musical performance in The Roadhouse. Some of my favorites like Chromatics, “the” Nine Inch Nails, The Cactus Blossoms and Lissie were already on my playlist. I added new bands Au Revoir Simone, Sharon van Etten, and The Veils. Just from a musical perspective it was a feast. The one single performance which made the top of my list over the entire series was Edward Louis Severson III’s “Out of Sand”. You might know the singer better by his stage name Eddie Vedder and this song was a perfect capstone to one of the pivotal episodes. Giving these musicians the opportunity to enter the Twin Peaks playground was another brilliant decision.

Take a Bow Mr. Lynch

I know I have a lot of readers who were frustrated by everything; I got a lot of e-mail about it. I know Episode 8 was the break point for many. That episode was done in the most surreal way where I think Mr. Lynch was equating the A-bomb was responsible for the release of evil in to the world. I’ve watched the episode six times now and It is jam packed with so many visual beats I am still seeing new things. I think everyone who returned for episode 9 was like me completely captured. There was almost the idea of Mr. Lynch laying down this barrier of if you can’t deal with this I still have ten more hours for you.

My opinion is Twin Peaks: The Return has incredibly duplicated what Twin Peaks did. It re-invented what you can aspire to on television. If it spawns half of what the original did it will be fabulous.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Vicky Tiel Ulysse- Found Treasure

My relationship with the perfume industry has evolved over the years. My desire to learn more has widened at the same pace my reach has. I don’t really look back to the early days of my perfume self-education wishing for a return engagement; except for one tiny part.

Those of you who live in the US know these perfume stores. They have kitschy punny names in a small storefront or kiosk. The boxes of perfume are stacked upon each other making you look behind each one hoping to find something worth digging out of the clutter. I always joked it was my version of walking the beach with a metal detector hoping to find gold. The successful perfume salvage missions are the ones I remember. There were more examples of finding something which turned out to be a bottle cap. This month’s Under the Radar choice, Vicky Tiel Ulysse, is one of those exhumed treasures which still shines today.

I was in a store in South Florida digging through the boxes hoping to find something. The owner was hovering nearby and he smelled good. It probably took an hour before I asked him what he was wearing. He pointed at a box which said Vicky Tiel Ulysse on it. When he told me how cheap it was ($15/100mL ~15 yrs ago) that sounded like a decent blind buy. Ulysse has turned out to be one of my evergreen bottles which I have replaced twice. It is a fresh style Oriental full of weird nuances and ingredients. Every time I wear it I am reminded how good it is. It is one of my fall stalwarts which means it is a good time to bring this on to peoples’ radar screens.

Vicky Tiel

Vicky Tiel was a cult fashion designer before that was really a thing. She would be the costume designer on Woody Allen’s “What’s New Pussycat?” in 1965. From there she would become part of the jet set hobnobbing with Liz and Dick, dancing at Maxim’s and making the scene what it was. Over time she would eventually start her own fashion line. Ms. Tiel is probably a designer whose name you are reading for the first time but if you’ve seen the movie “Pretty woman” the dress Julia Roberts’ character wears to the opera is a Vicky Tiel. Ms. Tiel’s memoir “It’s All About the Dress” covers a life painted in the splashiest of colors. This verve carries through to Ulysse.

Hugh Spencer

The perfumer she chose to work with on her early perfumes was also a free-spirit within the perfume world; Hugh Spencer. I would have enjoyed sitting in the room as Ulysse came to be. I have to think the phrase “It has to be bigger” was said a few times. I also think the phrase “make it fresh” was also tossed around. Together they did achieve the desired fresh Oriental.

Ulysse opens with the fresh part firmly in citrus territory as yuzu is the tart core. It is cleverly supported with linden and neroli adding in their floral nuanced lime and orange. It is fresh in a way I wish more perfumes would attempt. The floral quality becomes more pronounced with lavender becoming the dominant note. It is joined by cardamom and nutmeg keeping the herbal nature of lavender in the foreground. The Oriental base is formed from the classic components of patchouli, benzoin, vanilla, and musk. It is a sturdy version of this classic base which paired with the fresh and floral phases leading to it make the whole very good.

Ulysse has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This has been one of my personal favorites from day one that I have owned it. It deserves to be on the radar screen.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jason Wu- How Sheer Can You Go?

When fashion designers I admire make the move to fragrance it is interesting to see how much of the runway aesthetic makes it to the perfume. Designer Jason Wu is the latest to make this leap. Mr. Wu has been a fashion wunderkind showing his first collection at New York Fashion Week in 2007 a year out of school. Two years later he would dress the new First Lady Michelle Obama and his career skyrocketed. If there is a phrase to describe Mr. Wu’s aesthetic it is understated sophistication. Except in nearly every collection there is a vibrant floral print among the other more solid colored offerings.

Jason Wu

For the perfume Mr. Wu collaborated with perfumer Frank Voelkl. To start Mr. Voelkl exposed Mr. Wu to the building blocks of scent. According to the press materials they went through 100’s of materials before Mr. Wu settled on the key note. Befitting the fashion style, he chose jasmine sambac to be the floral print part of the perfume. He also spoke of it because it reminded him of his youth where a neighbor’s wall was covered in jasmine. The final part of the Wu style was to keep the whole fragrance light. It is light. It is so light that it might be too sheer but in that transparency, there is a gauzy beauty I found enjoyable.

Frank Voelkl

Mr. Voelkl opens with a veil of baie rose and fig. These are especially good versions of these ingredients which are used in the lightest way possible. There can be a tendency to expect the phases of Jason Wu to pick up some volume but it stays very sheer. Which sometimes left me mentally chasing after this opening because I thought it was so nice. I cheated a bit and literally soaked a tissue with sprays so I could get more traction in understanding what is here. It was a fruitful exercise because once I noted everything in overdose it was much easier for me to track down the veils with a more modest application. The jasmine sambac then comes out and it has a bit more weight but it never rises to anything too heavy. It lilts and flows through the rest of the development. Towards the end a set of sheer woods and white musk provide the final veil.

Jason Wu has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

The entire time I was wearing Jason Wu I kept thinking, “I like this but it is so light.” While thinking about how to review it; that can’t be dismissed. It pushes the envelope about how sheer is too sheer. What is fascinating is the perfume here is transparently compelling. I am so interested to see how this does in the market. Tastes are in the midst of change and Jason Wu could be right there for it.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Jason Wu.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone English Oak & Hazelnut- Cerulean Oak

One of the things I get a kick out of is when a perfumer comes up with a new accord or the company they work for presents a new isolation of a well-known note. I always imagine it is like the charge painters received when the pigment Cerulean Blue allowed them to add blue to their palettes. Just like those painters who had ideas but were unable to express them because the material wasn’t there; when it does arrive, the imagination is unleashed.

Perfumer Yann Vasnier is one of those for whom there must be a myriad of these kind of “what if?” ideas. When Givaudan showed him Roasted Oak Absolute he saw it as an alternative to the ubiquitous cedar or sandalwood. Now where to use it? Jo Malone creative director Celine Roux upon smelling it wanted it because she had been wanting to have a “fall forest in England” style of fragrance in the collection. Once new ingredient, perfumer, and creative director intersected what came out of it is English Oak & Hazelnut.

Celine Roux

The Roasted Oak Absolute carries an interesting scent profile. There is a sharp woodiness inherent to oak. The roasted part is as if you took some cords of oak and put them in a drying shed. They would pick up some of the smoke of the low fire providing the heat. It would bring out a bit of inherent woody sweetness. This is what I encounter when wearing English Oak & Hazelnut.

Yann Vasnier

The fragrance starts with the hazelnut. If you’re looking for a similar roasted effect this is not that. M. Vasnier uses a green hazelnut. This is very reminiscent of walking through the forest and crunching raw nuts on the ground with your boots. It is a raw nutty quality along with a slightly sharp green component. It is paired with the citrus-tinted wood of elemi as contrast. Vetiver comes along to focus the greener facets and cedar begins the transition from raw nutty on top to the roasted oak in the base. The vetiver remains as the roasted oak gains presence. It is an interesting overall feeling as the vetiver sometimes shifts the oak more to the greener woodiness typical of simple oak absolute. Then the roasted oak pushes back and it gets warmer. This metronomic back-and-forth is where English Oak & Hazelnut comes to its end.

English Oak & Hazelnut has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

M. Vasnier and Mme Roux were so excited about the Roasted Oak they decided there needed to be another fragrance featuring it and English Oak & Redcurrant is the other half of the English Oak collection. I preferred English Oak & Hazelnut because it displayed the new material more prominently. In English Oak & Redcurrant it is overridden by the rose in the heart more than it is here. If you really want to experience the Cerulean Oak of the Roasted Oak I recommend English Oak & Hazelnut to get the full experience.

Disclosure: This review was based on sample provided by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Carven Paris Bangalore- Tale of Two Cities

Perfume has been used as a bit of an olfactory magic carpet meant to transport you to far-off lands. That is why there are a significant number of travel inspired fragrances. They can be excellent guides to an exotic locale. They can also be a bit lazy as a perfume brand rounds up the usual suspects for each place. The latest brand to become world travelers is Carven.

Carven resurrected itself as a fragrance brand in 2013 with the release of Carven Le Parfum. Through the first six releases there was a clear desire for clean, crisp structures. When I think of the best travel scents there is a less clean and fresh nature to them as they capture some of the stronger smells of the place. The seven perfumes which make up the Carven La Collection are all given the name of Paris and a connected locale. The overall concept is to combine the Parisian perfume style with the other locale on the bottle.

I found it to be a frustrating group to test. It is wildly uneven with some having inexplicable connections. Does magnolia make you think of Florence, Italy? Vanilla the Middle East? Paris Seville is a serviceable neroli fragrance. Paris Sao Paolo also leans on orange blossom to connect with Brazil. Even when you go with the obvious there can still be something pleasant to be found as is the case with Paris Bangalore.

Alienor Massenet

When you think of India the most famous perfume ingredient from the sub-continent is sandalwood. It is no surprise that perfumer Alienor Massenet uses that as the keynote. What makes Paris Bangalore work better than any other in Carven La Collection is the dichotomy of Paris and Bangalore show up more distinctly than in any of the others.

That dichotomy shows right from the start as pungent clove recalls Kreteks perfuming the air with their smoke on a nighttime walk on the Seine. This is matched with saffron providing a toasty golden contrast. This opening is what the entire collection should have been like. It drew me in to a heart of balsam sweetened with vanilla. It comes off as soothing arising from the clove and saffron. The vanilla significantly sweetens the balsam setting the stage for a sweet creamy sandalwood in the base. Tonka provides a warmer version of the vanilla while amber provides a spicy partner for the final moments.

Paris Bangalore has 8-10 hours longevity and moderate sillage.

I was disappointed in the Carven La Collection but Paris Bangalore showed the concept does have potential as long as they remember these perfumes are meant to be a tale of two cities.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by Carven.

Mark Behnke