New Perfume Review Naomi Goodsir Nuit de Bakelite- Artistry Rewarded

There are moments when I just feel that a creative project is going to be magnificent. I’ve recently received the proof that one of those has come to fruition. When I first met the creative team behind the Naomi Goodsir fragrance brand, Naomi Goodsir and Renaud Coutaudier, I felt like they were artists who had a real vision. Not only the vision but the determination with which to keep working at something until that vision was achieved. The other thing happened at that first meeting was they were telling me what they were working on. From the moment, I heard the name and the perfumer I knew this was something I could not wait for, but I would wait for over three years. The name was Nuit de Bakelite and the perfumer was Isabelle Doyen.

Just the name was going to draw me in because we had a whole stack of old Bakelite cooking dishes. The smell of those dishes all stacked up was fascinating to me in the way other industrial smells were. Bakelite was also used as costume jewelry from the Art Deco period until the mid 1970’s. It was in those later years that a group of free spirited women I was spending time with wore each wore a set of matching Bakelite bracelets which I associated with a certain type of experimental thinking. The sound of the bracelets coming together fell in between plastic and metallic. It was another unusual sound in which I found beauty.

Isabelle Doyen

Mme Doyen has been a pillar of the artistic niche perfumery sector since its beginning. She has been known mostly for her work with one brand, Annick Goutal. It is a body of work which shows what niche perfume can be. What has always set Mme Doyen apart for me is the more artistic experimental work she has done. Nowhere was that more evident in the three vetiver variations she produced for The Turtle Project. Those three perfumes are some of my favorite for the complete creative freedom they showed.

I also must mention Ms. Goodsir and M. Coutaudier. There are only a few creative teams in the niche perfume world who do not bow to the pressure of making perfume on a timetable. In many discussions with them they stress to me that they won’t release a perfume until they feel it is what they both want it to be. As a result, the entire Naomi Goodsir collection stands out for this dedication. Heaven knows I bugged them enough times about when Nuit de Bakelite was going to be released.

When I finally received my sample in the mail I was a bit afraid to tear in to the package and try it. There was so much that could be wrong. It sat on my desk for a full day before I finally did. What greeted me was a green tuberose. Once I sprayed it on I understood what Mme Doyen when she said, “Nuit de Bakélite evokes to me, a tuberose sap, peeled tuberose, tuberose in a cage made of green and leather, a focus on the small peduncle that connects the flower to the stem, the sound of plastic when several stalks of tuberose tangle, the wild majesty of the Persian tuberose.” I have always found there to be a strong plastic undercurrent beneath tuberose. That is captured here, it is the Bakelite part of Nuit de Bakelite. The tuberose here is not the flower, per se, it is the stem and sap primarily. You can’t really keep a note like tuberose down but you can find a way to display it differently which is what the creative team has done here.

Nuit de Bakelite opens with a strong green pairing of angelica and galbanum. It leads to an accord which evokes the green camphoraceous nature of tuberose along with the Bakelite plastic note. Bakelite is made from a reaction including aldehydes. There is an almost faux-aldehydic lift happening in this transition from the sharp green of the top to the more floral heart. Here Mme Doyen chooses a source of tuberose essentially scrubbed clean of the indoles. That has the effect of enhancing the buttery aspects of tuberose a skillful use of orris provides depth in place of the indoles. Over time a base of leather and tobacco provide the final brushstrokes. Most often these can be afterthoughts, not here. The tobacco softens the floral accord while doubling down on the natural narcotic quality of tuberose. The leather is a playful reminder of the vintage tuberoses which finished with a swaggering version. This is a hipster version hanging on the sidelines only interacting intermittently; when it seems right.

Nuit de Tuberose has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Although I’ve just spent a lot of words writing about Nuit de Bakelite I could go on and on. This is a concept which has been brilliantly realized using a focal point in a modern retelling of a vintage era. There are a few brands I point to when I want to exemplify all that artistic perfume can be; Naomi Goodsir continues to hold that place as Nuit de Bakelite is artistry rewarded.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Lavender or Basil Lemonade

Here in Poodlesville we just went through our hottest days of 2017, so far. As much as I love my summer cocktails when the heat rises over triple digits I crave refreshment over anything else. For that my summer go-tos are iced tea and lemonade. By themselves they are near-perfect thirst quenchers. Even combining them half-and-half makes for a great drink. I was having this discussion with some other members of our community and was asked, “you must make lavender lemonade being a perfume guy, right?” Errr….umm…no I guess I don’t know about that.

That turned my annual trip to the local lavender farm into a mission to go get some to give this a try. While I was at the farm, speaking with one of the owners, she said, “of course if you’re going to do lavender lemonade you must have tried basil lemonade, right?” Errr…..um….no I never heard of that. I was beginning to feel positively uninformed. Thankfully enlightenment was but a pitcher away.

The addition of both lavender and basil to a basic lemonade recipe transforms them into something completely different. When I tried both for the first time I was strongly reminded of how in fragrance lavender or basil interact with lemon citrus notes. Except this time, it was on my tongue instead of my nose. Describing them is going to sound a lot like I am doing a perfume review.

Lavender lemonade is prepared by adding lavender to a boiling solution of sugar and water. Allowing it to steep for a couple of hours while cooling. I then strain the mixture into a pitcher add fresh squeezed lemon juice and water. Stir, followed by adding a lot of ice. It generates a light lilac colored drink giving it a festive air.

When I write about lavender in perfumes I mention how much I like those that capture the herbal character of it. When you extract it into hot sugar water it is that herbal quality which is transferred into the liquid. Combined with the tartness of lemons it makes for the same refreshing give-and-take which makes so many colognes with these ingredients so enjoyable.

Basil lemonade is made more like a mojito is; than the recipe for lavender lemonade. I take some basil leaves and some sugar in a pitcher. I use my cocktail muddler, but a big wooden spoon would work as well, and I crush the basil leaves and sugar together until I get a kind of green flecked paste consistency. I add lemon juice and water stirring until everything but the basil leaves dissolve. I strain it into a pitcher filled with ice. This adds a green hue to the lemonade which is also festive.

Basil lemonade is a bit more serious than the lavender version. By crushing the leaves instead of steeping them the basil provides a sharper taste contrast to the lemon. They go incredibly well together even with that being said.

I just visited our local lavender farm for the recent harvest when I saw the owner again I told her how much I enjoyed these lemonade variations in the year since I saw her. She smiled and then asked me, “did you try rhubarb lemonade?” Errr…um…no; to the rhubarb patch I go.

Mark Behnke

The Emotion of Perfume Buying

I am always happy to see data support a widely-held belief. The scientist is always skeptical of the anecdotal over the analytical. Which Is why I am always interested in the reports the consumer research company The NPD Group release on fragrance buying habits. The one from June 2017 was titled “Women are More Emotionally Connected to Fragrance than Men”.  The article takes data from their recent “Scentiments” program where they did a deep-dive on fragrance buying habits.

What they found was, “one-third of women see fragrance as a personal treat, or a pick-me-up to enhance their mood. They tend to choose a new scent based on how well it fits with their personality.” This translates to new purchases on the average of once a month from women. When it comes to men they buy, “typically for the purpose of replenishment” and 1-2 times a year.

These findings lead to some recommendations on how to sell fragrance to the genders. It posits women are more willing to try new things and grouping perfumes in categories based on their style offers opportunity for discovery of other brands. On the men’s counter the uber-focused replenishers just want to be able to find their brand therefore keep them grouped together in that way. A couple of other insights were smaller sizes and/or rollerballs have seen an upsurge in sales. Also, women are more likely to gravitate towards fragrance sellers who give out samples.

I have no doubt this applies to the general public. It reflects much of what I see when I take my weekend field trips to the local malls to make my own observation on buying habits. When it comes to the group of people who have become perfume lovers I think all the gender divisions are removed. We are better grouped by our passion for fragrance than our sex. Within this subset we are more like the women described in The NPD Group article.

How many of us, “see fragrance as a personal treat, or a pick-me-up to enhance their mood. They tend to choose a new scent based on how well it fits with their personality.” I would make a wager it is much higher than one-third. I know that sentence has described my personal experience.

Even now when I am buried under hundreds of new perfumes a year; when one connects it is my emotions which are engaged. I almost involuntarily smile. When it’s really good I make noise and roll my eyes upward. Love of perfume is entwined with emotion and I think that is genderless.

Shelves at Scent Bar/Luckyscent in Los Angeles

I also want to mention the suggestion about selling fragrance by grouping them in similar styles as opposed to collecting them into brands. There are two stores I know of which do this and I think it is a more useful way of guiding any consumer to find something new. It gives them the opportunity to find that emotional connection in a style which has had a similar effect previously.

There is probably a more general maxim that all buying is emotional but I believe fragrance is something which has a more primal connection to those who add it to their day. When it is great it makes your mood brighter which is why we keep going back.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Anya’s Garden Strange Magic- Tincture Thaumaturgy

Natural perfumer Anya McCoy and I share a bond of geography and perfume. Ms. McCoy lives in South Florida where I grew up. The fragrance connection is obvious. Ms. McCoy is one of the people who tirelessly support the art of natural perfumery. She has been the long-time head of the Natural Perfumer’s Guild which I previously thought kept her from being as prolific as I might wish. When I received her latest creation Anya’s Garden Strange Magic I was perhaps given an alternative reason for so much time between perfumes; she doesn’t do it the easy way.

Anya McCoy

A consistent theme I take up when writing about the smaller independent perfumers is they can source and use materials a larger brand could never imagine using. Ms. McCoy has regularly sourced many of her focal points in her fragrances from a material of her own making using the traditional extraction methods like enfleurage or tinctures. That is one or two ingredients, out of many, but just that provides nuance because of the non-destructive extraction method. For Strange Magic, she decided to really go all in as 95% of the materials used are from tinctures she made herself.

I am going to give a quick primer on tincturing; if you want more I have included the link to Ms. McCoy’s story on how she tinctures here. What it is in the simplest of terms is placing a botanical material in cold alcohol and allowing it to sit at room temperature. After a few days, you remove the extracted material and recharge with new material. You keep repeating until the desired strength is achieved which can also be altered by allowing some evaporation, too. In any case this is not a process you do over a weekend, or a week, or even a month; it takes months to do correctly. Ms. McCoy explains on her website that she sees using tinctures as a more sustainable way of using natural ingredients. In theory, you can have tinctures going of everything you grow in your garden; recharging when the next set of flowers bloom.

White Champaca Tincture

Another oddity of tincturing is the color of the tincture doesn’t always match the color of the flower. On her website, she mentions the inspiration for Strange Magic began with her tincturing of white champaca flowers. As they were placed in the alcohol it didn’t stay colorless it instead turned a light shade of pink growing deeper in shade with each recharge. The picture above is from Ms. McCoy’s website. From there she decided to concoct a floral fantasia of tinctures.

What this results in is a symphony of floral notes carrying a different presence than you might normally encounter when they are used as essential oils. The first thing I noticed was how soft the entire perfume was. It is like the tincturing process removes any sharp edges. It is not that there aren’t moments of green or indoles shot throughout; it is just that they don’t blare and bully. Instead they hum at a moderate volume with a sustained presence. The other thing I noticed is Strange Magic doesn’t really have a top, heart and base pyramid; it is all there at the beginning and the end. The real magic is in seeing these very hard-won ingredients interact with each other to create a memorable floral natural perfume.

Strange Magic has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Strange Magic is a perfume only an independent perfumer could make which makes it stand out more. Ms. McCoy has become the patron saint of tincture thaumaturgy in the 21st century. I am happy to wait to see what’s next while Strange Magic tides me over.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Anya’s Garden.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Tsukiyo-en- Magic by Moonlight

Especially with independent perfumers I feel there is sometimes a more personal connection which adds to the pleasure when things click. For as long as I’ve been writing about perfume independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and I have clicked. Her aesthetic along with the meticulous style of composition has always brought a lot of joy to me. Even within the collection of someone like Ms. Hurwitz there are still things which really resonate. It was only recently that I realized my very favorites are ones in which she is inspired by Japan. Bancha has always been the one which would be my “desert island” DSH Perfumes choice. Earlier this year she released the first in her Haiku series Gekkou Hanami which captures cherry blossoms in the moonlight. This has also become a favorite in a short time. In my most recent package of samples there was no doubt I was going to go straight for the latest Haiku called Tsukiyo-en.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

For this second Haiku the theme of nature under moonlight is still present. This time we are in a Japanese garden lined with bamboo as we sip tea while the moon above provides light and shadow. In Gekkou Hanami Ms. Hurwitz captures spring. Tsukiyo-en evokes the middle of summer with everything in full bloom. Walking through a garden at night is a different experience as the humidity of the day dissipates, a little bit. The scent of some of the flowers remains as memory of the daytime while the night-blooming varieties begin their ascendance. On the cusp between waxing and waning floral motifs is where Tsukiyo-en balances itself.

Our walk opens with a Japanese variant of mandarin orange called mikan. It has a bit less of the sugared effect while still being recognizably citrus. The watery green woodiness of a bamboo accord comes next. It captures the cooling of the day with a hint of dampness. The light green wood which is the focus of the accord acts as a frame for the nighttime scents to be contained within. The moonlight effect comes as certain notes seem to be caught in a moonbeam only to retreat into shadow. There is a specific herbal mint note that acts as a will o’the wisp throughout the middle phase of Tsukiyo-en. The floral notes of the garden all lilt softly and transparently. I found jasmine, champaca, violet, and rose most prominently but there were others acting similarly to the way the mint did. A delicate white tea accord provides a centering place among the flowers. It is joined by an earthy patchouli to represent the soil.

Tsukiyo-en has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Tsukiyo-en has been a perfect choice for the summer. I have spent a few nights on the deck at Chateau Colognoisseur lost in meditation; gathering in the magic by moonlight. I am hoping fall and winter have some moonlight haiku to come.

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

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Cerruti 1881- Take It from the Top

Every year as I start looking at my summer stalwarts I realize so many of them have been part of this time of year for many, many, years now. In my early days of discovering fragrance when summer came I wanted a cologne which had some presence for the cooler hours of the morning but would fade away by the heat of the afternoon; only to be reapplied for the evening. There is an argument to be made that these kinds of constructions are flawed because of that. I don’t necessarily go that far because I am happy to reapply especially if the fragrance in question is a Discount Diamond. One cologne for which this applies is Cerruti 1881.

Nino Cerruti was a fashion designer who evolved his family’s textile business into haute couture. Both Giorgio Armani and Narciso Rodriguez would have tenures as part of the history of the fashion side. Fragrance was also an early part of the auxiliary business starting in 1979 with Nino Cerruti pour Homme. Sadly, the incredibly deep green perfume has been discontinued for a few years now. Cerruti 1881 was the fourth fragrance under the brand and the earliest still to be sold.

Martin Gras

Cerruti 1881 was composed by the same perfumer, Martin Gras, as Nino Cerruti pour Homme. Some of the herbal and green threads remain but there is a much crisper feel of the early moments as this tilts towards something much more refreshing; never diving too deep. In other words, a perfect cologne for the heat.

Cerruti 1881 opens with a snappy top accord of lavender, basil, juniper berry, and cypress. It is like a catch-all for masculine cologne tropes shoved into the first few moments. It works because each of those ingredients gets some room to occupy without stepping on the other. The green is slightly intensified with fir balsam and blackcurrant buds. It adds a sharp green along with a sticky green; all as foundation to the other top notes. Right here Cerruti 1881 is at its best. Everything is harmonizing beautifully for a few hours. Then it dissipates to a pretty standard sandalwood and patchouli base which is unobtrusive and generic.

Cerruti 1881 has 8-10 hour longevity; the top accord and heart last for about 4-5 hours. There is also average sillage.

If Cerruti 1881 wasn’t available for $20/100mL it would be hard for me to recommend. At that price, it is easy for me to tell you to go get some and just reapply once you need to top it up again during the day. To allow you to take it from the top another time.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Olibere Savannah’s Heart- Blixen’s Heart

The idea of visiting Africa is one of those bucket list items I have yet to cross off. Ever since seeing Born Free in 1966 the idea of the wide-open spaces of Africa have held my fascination. Alas it seems my experience will remain through documentaries and writings. Like many one of the most vivid descriptions comes from Karen Blixen’s book “Out of Africa” which should not be confused with the movie of the same name. The movie focused on Ms. Blixen’s romantic entanglements against an African backdrop. The book tells of the day-to-day lessons she learned while operating a coffee plantation in Kenya. The stories related there have an authenticity of someone who lived there while trying to understand that which was surrounding her. The new perfume Olibere Savannah’s Heart reminded me of the book.

Marjorie Olibere

Marjorie Olibere began her fragrance brand in spring 2015 with five releases. I’ve only recently spent some time with those early releases. My favorite of those was perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour’s Balinesque. A mixture of spice, bamboo, ocean, flowers, and woods. It is a fast-moving aquatic Oriental. Mme Olibere showed within the debut collection her desire to give her creative team a lot of freedom. When it works there is much to admire and when it doesn’t quite come together it is a noble attempt to not be like everything else.

Luca Maffei

For Savannah’s Heart Mme Olibere collaborates with perfumer Luca Maffei. Sig. Maffei forms a fragrance which captures the way my imagination thinks the coffee plantation from “Out of Africa” smells like.

Savannah’s Heart opens on a strong combination of labdanum through which rhubarb provides an equally strong contrast. The rhubarb comes off as slightly sour and less earthy than in other applications. That acerbic nature sets the stage for the focal note of Savannah’s Heart, Arabica coffee Jungle Essence. I have spoken in the past about the supercritical fluid extraction technique used by Mane for their Jungle Essence raw materials. In this case it is like a laser cut version of coffee. Strong, slightly oily, a bit sour, and very rich. To add an even sharper perspective Sig. Maffei surrounds it with Norlimabnol. The dry woody aromachemical lifts up the coffee while making it more diffuse. It rests on a sandalwood and vanilla foundation. Both provide some alternative to the sour facets which had preceded them.

Savannah’s Heart has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I applaud Mme Olibere and Sig. Maffei for finding a unique take on the African experience that it could have easily been called Blixen’s Heart too.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Vilhelm Basilico & Fellini- Summertime Fun with Fellini

There are many perfume brands which use artists’ histories as a jumping off point to create perfume. There are more than a few who do it in a way where the connection to the past is more PR than perfume. One brand which has done an excellent job of turning these stories into fragrance is Vilhelm Parfumerie. Owner-creative director Jan Ahlgren seems to have a passion about classic film and the people who made those movies. For the latest release, Basilico & Fellini, he looks to a tidbit about the legendary director Federico Fellini.

Federico Fellini cooking pasta

The maybe true factoid cited by Mr. Ahlgren is that Sig. Fellini “requested extra basil with his meals for its aphrodisiac effect.” Some of what makes it more rumor than fact is a story written by Germaine Greer for The Guardian in 2010. In her writing about her visiting the set and spending time with Sig. Fellini during his filming of “Casanova” she speaks of the first night he visited her. She relates, “I would have made supper, but Federico was even more fussy and valetudinarian than your average Italian man, and insisted on making himself risotto bianco with only a single leaf of basil to flavour it.” That does not sound like a man who was had a strong belief in basil as an aphrodisiac.

Jerome Epinette (l.) and Jan Ahlgren

Working again with perfumer Jerome Epinette, Mr. Ahlgren wanted to create a green perfume of seduction. In some ways that sounds like a contradiction in terms considering that many green notes carry more than a little bite to them. With Basilico & Fellini three separate duets throughout the development result in a sensual green fragrance.

Basil as a focal point had me thinking of earthy herbal types of accords. What has made many of the Vilhelm releases so enjoyable is Mr. Ahlgren and M. Epinette like to color outside the lines of those expectations. There is basil right from the moment you spray it on. What is surprising is the way it stays at a kind of lush state. The ingredient M. Epinette uses for this effect is dragon fruit. Dragon fruit when you eat it is sort of bland along the lines of a kiwi. As an essential oil it also provides little strong presence. Instead it modulates the basil from getting so in control you would smell nothing else. It also provides a nuanced sweetness, too. As much as I like the opening the heart pairing of green fig and violet is what really pulled me in. The creamy green fig supported by violet is fantastic, it arises from trailing a tiny amount of the basil along with it before becoming violet and fig alone. The base is vetiver and what is described as “green hay”. Which might be as simple as vetiver lending some of its grassiness to coumarin but it seems like there is also something else besides those familiar notes. Because the hay does seem less dried out than it normally appears.

Basilico & Fellini has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I tested Basilico & Fellini on some very warm days and it was delightful under those conditions. This is another excellent addition to the Vilhelm Parfumerie collection. One which promises some hot fun in the summertime.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Wonder Woman

I have taken some time to comment on the new movie “Wonder Woman” here because I was waiting for a couple of things to happen before I wrote about it. Now that they have occurred it will allow me to make a more accurate assessment of why this movie stands out within the superhero genre of movie.

The movies of DC characters are often horrible creative failures because the people handling the heroes don’t understand what makes them popular within pop culture. Christopher Nolan understood Batman in his trio of movies. That’s where the list of DC successes ends. Since those Batman movies Zach Snyder has been put in charge of creating a DC Cinematic Universe as rich as the Marvel version. In the first few movies under his supervision he has decided on making dark gritty versions of the iconic heroes. It is a failure because he is giving way to what a comic fanboy wants but not the general public. The opposite of what Marvel does which is to always make sure their heroes embrace a neophyte. My first view of Wonder Woman, as played by actress Gal Gadot, was in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. She was one of two things I walked out of that movie wanting to see more of. Except there was a voice in the back of my head saying, “Snyder is going to turn her into a nihilistic ninja”. Even in her scant screen time in her debut her sense of justice shone through so there was some hope. It turns out director Patty Jenkins not only understands her heroine she also understands what a woman deals with in a world of men which makes “Wonder Woman” stand apart.

Patty Jenkins

Ms. Jenkins uses Wonder Woman’s immortality as a way of setting her story in World War I-era Europe. The first part of the movie shows Diana from child to warrior. Eventually the war pierces the shield around the amazon island Themyscira. American spy Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, informs them of what is happening in the world. Diana realizes this is the mission she was born for and leaves with Steve to join the world and the battle. The next part of the movie is how Diana inserts herself into a world where women are not seen as equal. Through her actions and her presence, she never is allowed to dumb herself down. Ms. Jenkins keeps it all flowing by making the men seem a little smaller than Diana throughout. Through the entire movie Diana is what a heroine is defined by, caring for the less able, using your power for good, and trying to make right what is wrong. Ms. Jenkins and Ms. Gadot have provided a heroine without any of the grittiness so prevalent in the other DC movies.

Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot)

Which is why I think it has been the most successful DC film in this era of the Extended Universe in the US. Ms. Gadot feels like she can be the linchpin which holds the DC Universe together in the same way Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Iron Man has done for the Marvel movies. I think Ms. Jenkins should be given a seat at the table as Wonder Woman is used in things like the upcoming Justice League movie so she is not tarnished with a coating of grit. It would be a huge mistake for another reason.

By the third weekend of Wonder Woman’s release there were as many women going to see it as men. Gender parity for superhero movies never happens. Even the latest Star Wars with another great heroine was unable to manage gender parity in the theatre. You have a whole new audience who has been invited into the DC Universe by Ms. Jenkins and Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman is not like the other movies so far. If they take her darker for Justice League they will burn much of the good will they just earned. It seems like they are going to make her the equal of Ben Affleck’s Batman in Justice League and that would be a very wise move; if she stays the positive heroine we just learned to love.

Mr. Snyder and DC have shown an unerring attempt to fumble the ball which is why I am hoping he might hand some of the load to Ms. Jenkins because I think she understands what moviegoers want. The box office and the audience supports that conclusion.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Divine L’Homme Sage- The Wise Man of Perfume

1

I don’t remember which store it was in New York I tried Divine L’Homme Sage for the first time. I feel like it was either Henri Bendel or Takashimaya but I don’t know with any certainty. What I do remember was I mentioned I liked spices and immortelle. The sales associate handed me a bottle from a brand I had never heard of prior to that day. Once I had some L’Homme Sage on a wrist; by the time I went to sleep I knew I would be buying a bottle. That would begin my discovery of this independent perfume brand from France.

Yvon Mouchel

Divine was begun in 1986 by owner-creative director Yvon Mouchel. Based in the town of Dinard in Brittany M. Mouchel would enlist a fellow artist from the same region; perfumer Yann Vasnier. M. Mouchel would give M. Vasnier his first brief for the debut of the brand with the self-named Divine. For seventeen years that was it. M. Mouchel believes “A great perfume is a work of art” and so it seemed he had accomplished his goal. Somewhere during those years, he decided there was more he had to say. Starting in 2003 he reunited with M. Vasnier and would produce nine new Divine releases until 2014.  

It was that day in New York which brought me to the Divine story somewhat in the middle. L’Homme Sage was the overall fifth release; coming out in 2005. Because of that I had no sense of a brand aesthetic I just knew this particular one appealed to me. As I would come to experience the rest of the collection I would come to realize this was as much a part of M. Mouchel’s vision as the other ones were.

Yann Vasnier

If you read the name L’Homme Sage and are expecting clary sage to be found in the perfume you will be disappointed. L’Homme Sage refers to the “wise man” with sage being the wise part of the name. The perfume is a classy spicy Oriental with the formation of three distinct accords.

L’Homme Sage opens with mandarin coated in syrup. The syrup is provided by lychee. It diffuses the citrus allowing for cardamom and saffron the opportunity to find some space to form a spicy sweet citrus top accord. A transitional use of immortelle bridges the top accord to the heart of patchouli, balsam, and incense. This forms a resinous heart accord which provides warmth. The base is cedar and guaiac combined with cistus and styrax which continues the warmth. The final ingredient it the subtle bite of oakmoss.

L’Homme Sage has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

The point of this column is to shine the light on some great brands which are still out there but do not keep up a consistent release rate. M. Mouchel very much lives the credo that his perfumes should be a “work of art”. That means they do not arrive on a timetable but on a creative schedule. That is the brand aesthetic which can be discovered if you try any of the Divine perfumes.

L’Homme Sage has always been a part of my perfume rotation because it is exactly what I look for.

Disclosure: this review was based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke