New Perfume Review Jo Malone Myrrh & Tonka- Opaque Oriental

Light is one of the words frequently used to describe the perfumes of Jo Malone. There is an easy-going nature about almost every release from the brand. It is their definitive brand aesthetic as well as a reason for their success. I know it is a place I take many who are wanting to take a step away from the mass-market fragrance offering. One of the reasons is the fragrances are simpler constructs using ingredients less seen in the best sellers. After twenty years of releasing these kind of perfumes, in 2010, a new sub-collection was created; Cologne Intense. This was a group of Jo Malone fragrances which would explore the idea of taking even the deepest notes and making them lighter while not necessary making the journey all the way to light. The releases in this collection are among some of my favorite from the entire brand because sheerer versions of classic perfume combinations are appealing when I want my lighter fragrances to still have some spine. The latest member of this collection, Myrrh & Tonka is the best example of this kind of perfume design.

 

Mathilde Bijaoui

The perfumers who have worked on the Cologne Intense has been impressive. The perfumer behind Myrrh & Tonka is Mathilde Bijaoui who is composing her first Jo Malone perfume. Celine Roux the Fragrance Director for Jo Malone gave her this brief; “Namibia, with its sand dunes and warm desert colors”. Mme Roux also believed that the collection was missing an Oriental and she felt Myrrh & Tonka could be that Oriental. Those might have been conflicting missions for some but Mme Bijaoui manages to capture both by turning Myrrh & Tonka into an opaque Oriental.

Celine Roux

Lavender is the keynote whose name is not on the label and where Myrrh & Tonka begins. This is a lavender which has more of its herbal nature on display. Mme Bijaoui keeps it that way with a judicious use of cinnamon which has an effect of drying out the lavender and constricting its natural expansiveness. The same technique will be used with the myrrh in the heart. Usually myrrh is an exuberant sweet resinous ingredient. Mme Bijaoui uses some cypriol to make it less sweet. The cypriol also sets the stage for the tonka. This is that toasted version of tonka where the hay-like coumarin has a little more of the scent profile. A tiny bit of vanilla brings it back some of the sweetness while guaiac wood provides the woody frame for all of it.

Myrrh & Tonka has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

On the days, I was wearing Myrrh & Tonka it was a like an old friend relating a quick story of travel to the East. There was only time for the highlights but together it makes for one amazing trip.

Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Carner Barcelona Black Collection Sandor 70’s- Barcelona Meets Mexico City

There are some perfume brands which take pride in the city where the creative director comes from. There are some perfumers who are almost inextricably bound to their heritage when composing perfume. The creative director at Carner Barcelona, Sara Carner, has taken perfume lovers on a tour of Barcelona over seven fragrances since 2010. Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux is a proud Mexican from whom Mexico City makes it into many of his perfumes. Sra. Carner and Sr. Flores-Roux have teamed up for a three-fragrance collection called the Black Collection in which the melding of both creative inspirations takes place.

Sara Carner

I will eventually review all three of these fragrances because they all are worth my spending the time with. When I first tried them, there was one which immediately grabbed me; Sandor 70’s. The name comes from a legendary bar in Barcelona which was the pace to be seen in the 1970’s. It was a place where patrons puffed cigars while sitting in leather chairs. What Sra. Carner and Sr. Flores-Roux designed was a modern chypre with a heart of tobacco and leather with one specific keynote from Mexico which knits them together.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

There is one thing I admire with Sr. Flores-Roux and it is his way of sometimes inverting the pyramid. With Sandor 70’s before getting to the club he provides a mesmerizing floral accord consisting of an aged jasmine absolute, osmanthus absolute, and Bulgarian rose. The osmanthus holds the center as it has the leathery quality which will provide the transition to the heart. It is that vintage jasmine which has a soft fierceness to it which harmonizes with the spicy rose. This ability of Sr. Flores-Roux to find the intersections of different notes, especially florals, is one of the things which sets him apart. The heart is that leather chair with a Cohiba in hand. The leather accord is a refined animalic leather. The tobacco accord is more sweet than narcotic. The connective note that is used is Mexican vanilla which, as in the top accord, elevates all of this when it is together. The vanilla picks up the inherent sweetness of both leather and tobacco making it glow like the ember on the end of the cigar. The base is a modern chypre accord of patchouli, vetiver, oakmoss, and frankincense.

Sandor 70’s has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Sandor 70’s is one of the best perfumes within the entire Carner Barcelona collection and my favorite of the three Black Collection releases. The reason is it is the one where Barcelona meets Mexico City inside a club in 1970’s Barcelona.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Sauf Contre Bombarde 32 “Organ”-ic Incense

I love incense fragrances from the very first moment I found my first one. It is by far the largest category within my collection. One of my favorite recent additions was Unum Lavs. The creative director behind that brand, Filippo Sorcinelli, started a new brand late last year called Sauf. The bottles are shaped like organ stops from the Grand Organ found in the Cathedral at Notre Dame. Each of the first three releases for the brand, Plein-Jeu III-IV, Voix Humaine 8, and Contre Bombarde 32. What is unique about organ stops is they are there to produce specific harmonics representing strings, reeds, flutes, or principals. While I was trying these perfumes out it struck me that this is not unlike the creation of perfume accords. As a set of ingredients are used to emulate something else.

If there has been a consistent theme to Sig. Sorcinelli’s fragrances to date is that simpler is better. For two of the three they end up striking a sour note of discord because they are too overstuffed. Plein Jeu III-IV would have been better served if everything but the mimosa, jasmine, incense, balsamic notes had been left. In its current form, there are other notes which distract from the core notes. Voix Humaine 8 was going for a more fragile interpretation but it fell apart when a few too many heavy notes disrupt the delicacy. Contre Bombarde 32 is the only one to get the evocation of the organ stop and the evolution of incense fragrances right.

Filippo Sorcinelli

The Contre Bombarde stop on an organ produces a sound of deep reeds combined with a high brassy sound. Contre Bombarde, the perfume, gets that dichotomy correct by sticking to only a few key materials.

The high brassiness comes from elemi resin which is helped along by bitter orange to accentuate the slight lemony aspect and juniper berry’s astringency to begin the lower resinous chord. That depth is pierced by a fanfare of a very sharp cedar. I like the use of it here because it becomes a kind of separator as Contre Bombarde 32 heads into a well-done caramel gourmand accord. There is some vanilla for the sweet with amber to provide that sense of aged wood. There was a moment on the days I wore this that I envisioned a sticky soft caramel squished onto a polished church pew.

Contre Bombarde 32 has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I really like the concept behind Sauf and look forward to seeing what further fragrances the grand old instrument from Notre Dame will inspire. Contre Bombarde 32 shows that there is beautiful perfumed music to be found there.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ralph Lauren Polo Red Extreme- The Anti-Red

Most of the time flankers have a clear relation to the other perfumes within a brand for which it shares its name. It is a pleasant surprise when I receive a new flanker which has almost nothing to do with the previous releases. This was the case when I tried the new Ralph Lauren Polo Red Extreme.

One of the reasons I probably looked sideways at my sample of Polo Red Extreme was because I am not a fan of the original Polo Red, released in 2013. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin did a by-the-numbers lemon, lavender, and cedar perfume. When the first flanker, Polo Red Intense was released two years later, it was a bit unfocused as M. Gillotin shoehorned some extra notes like cranberry, saffron, and leather into the basic Red architecture. It was not an improvement on the original.

When I sprayed my sample of Polo Red Extreme I was so surprised at how much M. Gillotin had changed the pyramid I had to go find the other two just to make sure my memory was accurate. Polo Red Extreme goes for a much deeper style of fragrance which is more a gourmand than the woody versions the first two were.

Olivier Gillotin

The citrus changes for Polo Red Extreme to blood orange and if it was just that it would be similar enough to what has come previously. Instead he goes a bit more tropical with ginger and pineapple providing contrast. It still is mostly the citrus but the other two notes provide a very different fruity opening moment. The one note which is the connecting tissue between all three Red fragrances is clary sage in the heart. It is a supporting note in all three cases. What it does in Polo Red Extreme is to provide that 3AM in the diner roughness to the coffee at the heart of this new release. There is a kind of coffee found only in the wee hours of the morning which is just the right side of burnt and that is the accord M. Gillotin constructs here. It goes from straight black coffee to a mocha as cocoa flavors it in the base along with amber, and ebony wood. This isn’t an intense gourmand but it is a pleasantly different take for a mainstream perfume.

Polo Red Extreme has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

It is a low bar, for me, but Polo Red Extreme is my favorite of the Polo Red collection. It can be different within the department store offerings around it even though it is so unlike its siblings it should have been called The Anti-Red.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Ralph Lauren.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review: Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Celestia- Mimosa Cirrus

Before coming in to write this review I was looking at the high wisps of cirrus clouds in an otherwise cloudless sky. They are so high and thin it is easy to see them as inconsequential to the more substantial cumulus clouds. Today I was struck by the beauty of the white brushstrokes upon the blue sky. I then realized what I was wearing was like those cirrus clouds as a perfumer has performed delicate wispy brushstrokes of fragrance on a persistent background. That perfume is Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Celestia.

The brand was also thinking along the same lines as their press release describes Aqua Celestia as forming, “a seamless bond between the blue of the sky and the blue of the sea.” Aqua Celestia is the third in the Aqua series for Maison Francis Kurkdjian. Aqua Universalis was part of the debut collection in 2009 and Aqua Vitae followed in 2013. Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian designed this series to be very expansive and light. It is no surprise to me that Aqua Universalis is one of the best sellers within the brand. It is exactly what M. Kurkdjian does quite well. By anchoring Aqua Universalis in a familiar version of synthetic musk like those used in laundry detergent it allows for someone to latch on to the familiar while giving them something different with a very green muguet to go with it. It is simple but brilliant in tone. Aqua Celestia shares all of that.

Francis Kurkdjian

For Aqua Celestia M. Kurkdjian chose a different kind of white musk as his source of the sky. It is still a fresh musk like what you experience with a freshly laundered piece of clothing. There is a reason these kinds of musks are so ubiquitous because of their tenacious pleasant quality. What M. Kurkdjian does is to elevate them above the mundane which is what happens in Aqua Celestia.

Aqua Celestia opens on a bracing combination of lime, cassis, and mint. You might think that smells like a cheap version of a mojito but instead this carries a much more ethereal quality. The notes have a presence but they also seem less sharp than they could be. The real star of Aqua Celestia comes next as mimosa becomes the keynote with which the musk will pair. This is an expansive mimosa which sits upon the overarching presence of the musk like those cirrus clouds. The musk is what you experience but these wisps of mimosa peek through delicately. It is like pulling a clean shirt out of the dryer and holding it to your nose.

Aqua Celestia has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I expect that eight years after the release of Aqua Universalis M. Kurkdjian has created the next iteration in Aqua Celestia. I also suspect it will become one of the best sellers for the brand because of it. There are times fragrance can be cirrus clouds and Aqua Celestia is one of them.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Hamilton Russell Winery

I really enjoy finding new wine regions to dive into. Last summer I discovered the South African Walker Bay region. At that time, it was through their chardonnays. As I’ve mentioned in the past I have issues with the way many American chardonnays go about tweaking their wines to accentuate the woodiness or the buttery and in the worst cases both. It is something which has become worse over the years. Which means I must look elsewhere to find balanced chardonnays in which the winemaker has the trust in the grape to let it be the balanced wine it can be. I complain about this so much that my local wine store invited me to a tasting of the new chardonnay releases from Walker Bay. I was bowled over as these hewed closer to French white burgundies than the American version. The Hamilton Russell Winery was the chardonnay I liked best. As I spoke to the store owner he mentioned that the pinot noir from Hamilton Russell was even better.

Anthony Hamilton Russell and Hannes Storm

Walker Bay is located on the south coast of South Africa. It is known primarily as one of the premiere whale watching sites in the world as Southern Right Whales gather there in the winter and spring. What it also does is provide a moderating warm sea breeze to the cooler air temperatures in the wine growing valley of Hemel-en-Aarde which is where Harrison Russell is located. The oversight of the vineyard has been kept in the family since its founding in 1979. Currently Anthony Hamilton Russell is the current owner-operator. He has been working exclusively with winemaker Hannes Storm since 2000. It is this partnership which has turned these wines into what they are.

The chardonnays carry a supernatural clarity and I recently found out the reason why. The oldest vines produce grapes which are most prone to picking up the woody aspects of being aged in barrels. Mr. Storm came up with a brilliant idea of aging those old vine grapes in clay amphorae made from the clay on the estate. It took some trial and error but the most recent three vintages have about 3% of the grapes used from these amphorae. It is this choice which adds the fresh quality to the chardonnays. It tones down the woody nature while they purposefully keep the malolactic fermentation down as well. It results in a chardonnay with crisp fruity openings. They all have this lovely apple and peach early phase before heading to a subtly creamy finish. The 2013, 2014, and 2015 vintages are all examples of this style of chardonnay.

When I was told the pinot noirs were better, based on the evidence on the recently released 2015, I have to agree. Just like the chardonnays the pinot noir is very like French Burgundy red wine. Mr. Storm chooses to rack the wine once which is the process of moving it using gravity from one barrel to the other. This technique is meant to open up a wine which the winemaker considers closed off from its aromatic potential. I can’t speak to what it was like prior to adding racking to the process because it began back in the 2010 vintage. What I can assess is the 2015 has reached the peak of its aromatic potential. What I also think it does is makes this wine very soft on the palate as the plummy red tea early taste deepens into a spicy toasted wood finale. This 2015 vintage is spectacular in its evolving complexity.

The Hamilton Russell wines are not best buys as they are generally available for about $30 for the chardonnay and $40 for the pino noir although I think they are great value for their price considering the cost of their Burgundian counterparts. If you’re looking for a nice bottle of wine for a special meal either of these are great choices.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Ineke Field Notes from Paris- A Warm Tobacco Sweater

It is a given I have too much perfume. There are some silver linings to it as I spend time moving seasonal appropriate things forward I sometimes bump into something which has fallen off my radar. Back in the fall when I was doing this I reacquainted myself with Ineke Field Notes from Paris.

San Francicsco-based Ineke Ruhland began her eponymous brand back in 2006 with four releases. Her concept was she was going to use the alphabet as the source of her names thus her first four releases were After my Own Heart, Balmy Days & Sundays, Chemical bonding and Derring-Do. That took care of A-D. From there the next four came out over the next few years with Hothouse Flower being the last in 2012. I know I & J are near completion and release but so far there has been nothing officially announced. Which means the brand has probably fallen off many perfume lovers’ radar. I think Ms. Ruhland has produced one of the best independent perfume collections and when the new releases are out I suspect these older releases will also be discovered all over again. If you’re in the mood to get ahead of the curve the 2009 release Field Notes from Paris is a good example of everything Ms. Ruhland does well.

Ineke Ruhland

The brief for Field Notes from Paris was, “sweet-scented Paris afternoons, life measured out in coffee spoons.” That phrase might lead you to believe this is a café au lait kind of perfume but that is not the case. This perfume is that cold afternoon where you put your sock-covered feet under a warm blanket on a leather sofa while wearing your favorite cashmere sweater with a humidor of tobacco nearby. I know that last part seems incongruous but this is how Ms. Ruhland works she takes something which should be a square peg in a round hole and finds a way to turn it into something which does fit.

Field Notes from Paris is constructed on an axis of orange blossom and tobacco. In the very early stages it is just the orange blossom paired with a very green coriander. The tobacco comes up right away and it is the coriander which performs the introductions. Ms. Ruhland has a skill at finding these kinds of notes which help two disparate ones find common ground. This all floats over a fantastic leather accord. It reminds me of the smell of a new leather sofa. There is a freshness to the leather prior to being broken in and that is the leather accord at the heart of Filed Notes from Paris. The base becomes all sweet vanilla comfort with tonka and vanilla in a beeswax matrix finishes this off.

Filed Notes from Paris has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Ever since finding Field Notes from Paris back in the fall this has functioned like my favorite perfume sweater throughout the colder months of this year. There are many joys to be found within the entire Ineke collection you just have to put it on your radar.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review D.S. & Durga Durga- The Tuberose Tiger

Tuberose is a wild beast of a fragrance ingredient. It can be so untamed with its overwhelming nature that many perfumers must go to great lengths to rein it in so it can be used without becoming too much. There is another technique in direct opposition to trying to tame it; jump on its back and try to ride it. That is what the new D.S. & Durga Durga does.

You might think the perfume is named after the nickname perfumer David Seth Moltz has given to his wife Kavi Moltz and which makes up the brand name with his first two initials. It turns out that this is instead more literal as they design a fragrance inspired by the Hindu Goddess Durga. She is a multi-limbed warrior goddess depicted riding on the back of a tiger brandishing a weapon form each of her multiple hands. Her keynote victory is over the Buffalo Demon. How this translates to the perfume bearing her name is that Mr. Moltz uses two fabulous sources of tuberose to which he piles on with most of the opulent floral materials in perfumery.

David Seth Moltz and Kavi Moltz

Mr. Moltz uses green tuberose as his opening note. Over the last couple of years, I have enjoyed seeing what different perfumers do with this version of tuberose where there is a more prominent green quality as well as making the camphoraceous heart of tuberose also stand out. The choice he makes to modulate this is a melon note in all its intense fruitiness. It is not an intuitive choice but it is one which I really took to and this is from someone who can find melon irritating. From here Mr. Moltz starts adding one floral note after the other. It starts with chrysanthemum freshening things up. Orange blossom takes the freshness and brings it back to white flower territory. A high percentage irone orris butter runs the danger of perhaps gilding the tuberose but it doesn’t. Ylang-ylang turns this creamy and lush. Then when most perfumers would try and cage the tiger Mr. Moltz drenches the base in tuberose absolute paired with jasmine sambac. This is a basso profundo finish as these two huge white flowers strut their indolic nature. Mr. Moltz accentuates the skanky quality with musk added in for that purpose.

Durga has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Outside of the melon, which works here, this is a collection of most of my favorite floral motes. Mr. Moltz does an impressive job at keeping all of this roaring at full speed but never flying off a cliff.  If you are a fan of the white flower powerhouse perfumes Durga is a contemporary interpretation which succeeds by being unafraid to allow the tiger that is tuberose the opportunity to range freely.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Art de Parfum Signature Wild- Well Begun

There are times when I receive a new perfume brand with multiple releases and it just takes me a long time to finally get around to writing about them. When I attended Tranoi back in September of 2016 I met the founder of Art de Parfum, Ruta Degutyte. I was in my typical drive-by mode and Ms. Degutyte gave me samples of her five debut releases. Very slowly over the past few months I have spent time with all of these perfumes.

One of the things I think Ms. Degutyte got right was to create a small group of perfumes as her introduction to the market. Working with perfumer Sofia Koronaiou they developed a broad collection of different styles. In Sea Foam they composed a stylish aquatic with typical fresh salt air and the grass on the dunes. Gin & Tonic provides what the name promises as there is astringent juniper, citrus, green cucumber and a nicely realized tonic accord. Excentrique Moi brings back the citrus only to send it deep through an unusual hibiscus and black tea heart accord before grounding itself in patchouli. Sensual Oud is one of those straight forward rose-oud combinations with saffron added it is a nice version of a classic fragrance style. The fifth one Signature Wild was the one which connected with me.

Ruta Degutyte

Signature Wild feels a bit like the culmination of much of what I experienced in the other four Art de Parfum releases. What made it stand out for me was there was more of a developmental trajectory as Mme Koronaiou moves it from boozy spice through floral to leather.

Signature Wild opens with a big slug of cinnamon. I enjoy an overdose of cinnamon especially when it stays more on the dusty spicy side versus reminding me of red hots candy. The cinnamon is matched with cardamom to bring some contrast. Davana provides a boozy undertone to all of it. A smooth transition from the top accord to the orange blossom heart is performed by a group of dried fruit transforming the spice into a delicate orange blossom. Signature Wild doesn’t linger there for too long because there is a sturdy leather accord which wants its presence felt. This is a leather handbag accord polished and rich. Vetiver, balsam, and labdanum modulate the leather throughout the later stages.

Signature Wild has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Ms. Degutyte has done an excellent job overseeing the premiere of her brand. There is a feel of coherence even though these five fragrances contain some diversity. There are connective aspects between two or three throughout them. Signature Wild was my favorite but all five are worth seeking out because it is a good example of a new brand which has gotten off to a great start.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Art de Parfum.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Lemon

Every spring I get overwhelmed by the number of new rose releases for spring which pile up on my desk. I have become openly grumpy about this and hope every year for something different to show up as the weather begins to warm up. Last year I realized I was wearing several specific perfumes as a palate cleanser versus those rose fragrances; lemon focused perfumes. I made sure to remember when this time came around this year to share my favorites. Here are five which I love.

One of my favorite summer treats is to take a cold lemon and cut it into wedges and coat it in sugar. Then I bite into the wedge for a cold sweet and sour treat. When I want the same effect, I turn to Fresh Sugar Lemon. Perfumer Cecile Krakower mixes two sources of lemon and adds it into a heart of orange blossom, lychee flower and ginger. Those three ingredients provide the sugar part of the equation. It is one of the interesting aspects of perfumery that I can tease apart the strands but it is when I stop doing that the sugary effect is balanced contrast to the lemon. The base is found in caramel tinged sandalwood. Sugar Lemon is an example of how simple can be very good.

Diptyque Oyedo is a true melange of all citrus; especially in the very early going. The lemon rises out of the crowd as the herbal green of thyme along with apricot lift it up above the other citrus ingredients. As it was with Sugar Lemon the base is a mix of wood and gourmand as cedar and a praline accord take on that role. Of all of the perfumes on this list this is the most dynamic.

It is a very rare thing where I think the flanker is way better than the original; Chanel Allure Homme Edition Blanche is one of those. The original Allure Homme was composed by Jacques Polge and Francois Demachy in 1998. Ten years later the same team of perfumers reworked the original formula by replacing the original softer citrus opening around mandarin with one centered on a burst of lemon. The heart is a sandalwood and tonka down to a very different base of vetiver, cedar, amber, and vanilla from the original as the latter two notes take over from the first two.

One of the best recent variations on lemon has been Atelier Cologne Citron D’Erable. Perfumer Jerome Epinette splice lemon onto a fabulously rich maple syrup accord. By trapping the exuberant citrus in the sticky syrup, he creates a true shoulder season citrus which is at its best on cold mornings followed by warm afternoons.

I finish with what I consider to be one of the greatest rich citrus perfumes ever and it is all about lemon; Balmain Monsieur Balmain. Originally composed by Germaine Cellier and brilliantly re-worked by Calice Becker in 1990 this is what I think a spring fragrance should be. Three styles of lemon are combined in the top with lemon, petitgrain, and verbena. They are given lift by a brilliantly restrained use of mint. Then herbal thyme, rosemary, and sage along with ginger and nutmeg swaddle a spicy rose which provides deeper harmonies for the bright top accord. It all ends on fabulously constructed light chypre accord.

If you want something to freshen up your days as things begin to thaw try these five lemon perfumes to provide some light.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke