Under the Radar Thirdman Eau Contraire (Eau Nomade)- Midsummer Refresher

It should not come as a surprise that a blog named Colognoisseur has an affection for cologne. As I began writing about perfume there was a concurrent re-interpretation of the lowly cologne. Over the last ten years the style has been given new life by many brands and many talented creative teams. One of the earliest brands to re-imagine cologne was Thirdman.

When Thirdman came onto the scene in 2012 they wanted to create a sense of mystery to go along with their colognes. Creative director Jean-Christophe le Greves centers the campaign around the first three releases with the query; “Who is the Thirdman?” I along with many others lauded the first three releases and wondered who the perfumer was. Thankfully M. le Greves gave up that secret with the release of the fourth Thirdman perfume Eau Nomade. The perfumer behind it all was Bruno Jovanovic. Before we get too much further, I must clear up the confusion on the name. When it was released in 2013 it was called Eau Nomade. Some years later it was changed to Eau Contraire which is how you will find it available now. With either name on the bottle it is the same cologne inside.

Bruno Jovanovich

The Thirdman aesthetic was to stick to the classic citrus and spice cologne recipe but to use higher quality ingredients. For Eau Contraire the choice was blood orange and cardamom. There are a couple of other ingredients, but this is a cologne primarily about those two. It provides a cologne of the desert much as its original name portended.

It opens with lemon providing the sun high in the sky. This sets the stage for a high concentration of cardamom to take its place. There is a clever shift of actual citrus fruit to the lemon-tinged spice in the early moments. Blood orange comes next. In most fragrances the blood orange can get lost. When it is the featured player it gives it the opportunity to show off its richer facets. It creates a fantastic harmonic with the cardamom. In the base a set of white musks create a more expansive accord over the final development.

Eau Contraire has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Eau Contraire has become my midsummer Mad Dogs and Englishmen cologne. I keep a small decant in the refrigerator as a fragrant refresher. I’m not sure why M. le Greves hasn’t followed up with a new perfume in over four years. Because of that it is easy to understand why Thirdman Eau Contraire is Under the Radar.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parle Moi de Parfum Gardens of India 79- Not So Simple Balance

It wasn’t that long ago that a minimalist perfume was perceived as flawed. They were considered cheap. Over the last twenty years that changed mainly because of a group of perfumers who knew how to get the most out of a few ingredients. What they produced were perfumes which found hidden accords within the overlaps. They displayed a precision of balance to find just the right amount of each ingredient. I’ve remarked in the past that this might be the most difficult type of construction to pull off. One poorly chosen ingredient or too much of one at the expense of others and it all falls apart. When a perfumer who has shown the ability to achieve this not so simple balance time and again, I look forward to their latest release; as I did with Parle Moi de Parfum Gardens of India 79.

Michel Almairac

Parle Moi de Parfum is the brand begun by perfume Michel Almairac in 2016. The entire ethos of the collection is simple minimalism. I have enjoyed the entire line so far because M. Almairac has lived up to that standard beautifully. With Gardens of India 79 he has chosen to take the three perfume ingredients emblematic of that country; jasmine, tuberose, and sandalwood. He joins them in a joyous celebration of all three.

Jasmine comes first. M. Almairac chooses an absolute of jasmine buds which impart a more innocent scent that jasmine can carry. Tuberose arrives in all its indolic glory. This is the kind of balance I speak of that is difficult to attain. The jasmine could easily be overwhelmed by the tuberose. M. Almairac uses the freshness of this version of jasmine as foil to the blowsy aspects of tuberose. It makes the familiar something to admire again. If this was a true perfume of India the sandalwood used would be Mysore. M. Almairac, or anyone else, must use the sustainable varieties. In this case the New Caledonian version. This sandalwood provides a creamy sweet woodiness which meshes perfectly with the jasmine and tuberose.

Gardens of India 79 has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Gardens of India 79 is a masterclass in balance and minimalism. At every turn these three Indian ingredients delighted me with their not so simple balance.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Elie Tahari- Perfume Power Suit

When a fashion designer launches their first perfume I am always curious to see what direction they take. For Elie Tahari if it was going to be inspired by his designs there were two possibilities. It could be a throwback to the emergence of his line in the 1970’s when his dresses were seen on many disco dance floors. It could also be an homage to the women’s power suits he championed in the 1980’s where his fashion found its place along with the women who wore them in a business milieu. If I’m going to say what I think Elie Tahari, the perfume, hews closest to it is those power suits with a bit of Mr. Tahari’s travels thrown in for good measure.

Elie Tahari

He couldn’t have chosen a better team of perfumers in Nicole Mancini and Rodrigo Flores-Roux as his partners for his debut fragrance. Mr. Tahari wanted a fragrance which “reminds me of my summers past”. The perfumers translate that into a fruity floral design.

Nicole Mancini (l.) and Rodrigo Flores-Roux

The perfumers open with a fulsome pear kept in check by using the silvery green of violet leaves. This is a more refreshing accord than I usually experience with pear focused beginnings. The heart is where I was connected as the perfumers balance creamy magnolia, green figs, and tea blossoms. They find that creamy overlap between the magnolia and the figs which benefits from the tea blossom adding contrast as it intersperses itself between the two. It finishes with a mixture of woods, amber, and musks providing a warm base accord.

Elie Tahari has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Elie Tahari perfume is an above average fruity floral mainly because of the different choices in floral ingredeients in the heart. This should be an all-season kind of perfume; much like Mr. Tahari’s power suits.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Macy’s

Mark Behnke

Antoine Lie 201

There are only a few perfumers who ask those of us who wear perfume whether it must smell nice. As one who believes perfume is an art form my answer is obviously no. One perfumer who has asked that question more than most is Antoine Lie. From his first perfume for niche brand Etat Libre D’Orange he has made perfumes which color outside the lines.

When Etienne de Swadt was creating his niche line Etat Libre D’Orange, in 2006, he wanted the first perfume for the brand to be one only a few would like. He turned to M. Lie to create Secretions Magnifiques. The resulting perfume captures a panoply of human fluids none of which are pleasant smelling. What it does is also challenge the notion of perfumery. M. Lie makes a fragrance which has stood the test of time as one of the great masterpieces of perfume.

In 2010’s Comme des Garcons Wonderwood M. Lie, under Christian Astuguevieille’s creative direction, would ask the question, “can there be too much wood?”. M. Lie would describe Wonderwood as a mixture of five real woods, two woody notes, and three synthetic woods. This came out at the height of the popularity of the synthetic wood. M. Lie showed that even pushed to the extreme there was wonder to be found within that much wood.

Nu_Be (One of Those) Oxygen was part of the debut collection of this elemental line. M. Lie chose to interpret oxygen in its supercooled liquid form. For Oxygen he blended many of the ingredients within perfumery one would describe as “sharp” to create that chilliness. The mixture of aldehydes, vetiver, and white musks can be too cool for many. I find it one of M. Lie’s most compelling creations.

Jan Ewoud Vos wanted Puredistance Black to convey a mysterious effect. Asking M. Lie to create it turns out to be a brilliant choice. Black is a perfume of darkness with tendrils of fog swirling throughout. M. Lie combines accords to form that stygian depth. I get lost in its enveloping effects every time I wear it.

Barbara Herman went from blogger to creative director for Eris Parfums Night Flower. When Ms. Herman wanted to create a line of perfume which re-captured vintage ingredients in contemporary ways M. Lie was her choice as the perfumer she wanted to do that with. Night Flower is the most successful at doing that by taking three ingredients of classic perfumery; birch tar, leather, and tuberose. Together they make Night Flower one of the best Retro Nouveau perfumes to be made.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chanel Paris-Riviera- Mediterranean Chanel

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All perfumers who take their place as an in-house perfumer at a prestige brand they must think of two main things. First, don’t screw it up. Second, how do I make it my own. Over the three years since Olivier Polge took over as in-house perfumer at Chanel, he has certainly achieved the first. The second seems to still be a work in progress. There are some definite trendlines forming; Chanel Paris-Riviera affirms many of those.

Last summer Chanel launched the “Les Eaux de Chanel” collection. They are meant to represent the connection of Coco Chanel and the specific city in the name. The collection is also meant to be an off-shoot group within the Les Exclusifs available at the boutiques. The first three Les Eaux defined their own space within that Les Exclusif oeuvre. As M. Polge has been doing throughout his tenure he has been giving the fragrances he has produced a more pronounced lightness. This is pushed to its extreme with the Les Eaux. Not to an extreme within lighter fragrances just an extreme within Chanel as these are the lightest Chanel perfumes. Which captures the idea of Coco Chanel on vacation exuding an air of sophisticated insouciance. Paris-Riviera continues in that style.

Olivier Polge

The inspiration is Coco Chanel’s home “La Pausa” built on the Cote d’Azur in the 1920’s. this would be where she would entertain others vacationing on the French Riviera. When M. Polge looked at photographs of the time he noticed a lightheartedness to Coco when surrounded by friends. To capture that M. Polge creates a Mediterranean style perfume with Chanel bloodlines.

This begins with a focal point of sun kissed citrus as orange is given delineation by petitgrain. This is a sunny flare typical of summery fragrances. This continues into a heart of jasmine and neroli. I like this combination and M. Polge finds a nice lighthearted balance. The green tinted neroli finds a slightly indolic jasmine an ideal partner. The hint of indoles impart that sunny skin scent usually provided by musks. This ends on a lovely softly comforting benzoin and sandalwood base accord that is pure Chanel.

Paris-Riviera has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

M. Polge has been assiduously lightening the Chanel fragrance aesthetic. In the Les Eaux de Chanel collection I think he is refining that thinking with precision. Paris-Riviera is a laughter filled Mediterranean perfume which feels completely Chanel.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Carine Roitfeld George- Punk Chypre

There are a lot of creative people within the fashion industry I would like to see take the creative direction over a perfume line. Near the top of that list is the former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris, Carine Roitfeld. Her sense of artistic direction for the magazine was so clear during her time in the post from 2001-2011 it would be interesting to see what she would do in the world of fragrance. Having worked closely with both Karl Lagerfeld and Tom Ford she would have a good idea on what kind of perfume should have her name on it.

Carine Roitfeld

Mme Roitfeld has debuted a line of seven perfumes called the “7 Lovers” collection. Even though each perfume carries a man’s name they really are perfumes of place. For this collection the press materials say she has worked eight years on it. She certainly chose three talented perfumers to work with; Aurelien Guichard, Pascal Gaurin, and Yann Vasnier. I’ve had a sample set for a month, and I am happy to report that Mme Roitfeld did not disappoint I like all seven of her “lovers”. I will be giving full reviews to Aurelien, Kar-Wai, and Sebastian over the next few weeks. Of course there always must be one which rises above; which for me it was Carine Roitfeld George.

Yann Vasnier

George was composed by M. Vasnier meant to capture London and its punk rock aesthetic. The perfume is a floral heart sandwiched between two compellingly green accords one very contemporary and the other as classic as it gets in perfume.

The contemporary green accord is where George begins. M. Vasnier employing the Givaudan ScentTrek process to create a fabulously sticky green cannabis accord. This is that sappy green scent you smell from a container of high-quality marijuana buds. He tunes it with a couple of other green ingredients, galbanum and violet leaf. M. Vasnier finds just the right side of illicit over vegetal with this top accord. Jasmine provides a floral contrast as if someone found a few blooms among the buds. The indolic quality of the jasmine fits right in with the cannabis. Then we turn towards classic perfumery as M. Vasnier fashions a leathery chypre base. This is a modern chypre with animalic bite the perfect complement to the top accord.

George has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

So many perfumes have attempted to capture the punk vibe of London only to miss the mark. George finds it by using a perfumer’s punk mentality at re-inventing a chypre. In the doing they connect like few have before them.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample set supplied by Carine Roitfeld.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Beginning of Peak Television

It is easy to take for granted that the phrase, “there’s nothing to watch” no longer applies to television. We live in an era of what is called “peak television” where audacious original visions have platforms on which to display themselves. Exactly twenty years ago that was not the case. The premiere of “The Sopranos” in January of 1999 on HBO is when this new era of television began.

In 1999 HBO was the only cable network relying on original programming. The executives were willing to try things because as a subscription service they had more latitude. When they listened to the story creator-writer David Chase wanted to tell with “The Sopranos” they hardly knew what it would mean to the future of storytelling on television. They would turn upside down what people thought of when thinking about television drama.

I spent some time since the beginning of the year watching the first season again. I just finished a couple weeks ago. From a story perspective it was fun because I knew where they all ended up. There was a lot of foreshadowing in that first season. I’m not sure if Mr. Chase had that much faith or it was a giant wager to make sure HBO wanted more. There are a couple of things which really stood out to me which have become cornerstones of much of the current peak television.

The most obvious is that of the flawed hero, or anti-hero. Tony Soprano, as played by James Gandolfini, was a brutal mob boss with feet of clay. Tormented by panic attacks that would get him killed if his Mafia brethren found out about it. As an audience we are sympathetic to that plight. Mr. Chase draws us in to becoming complicit with Tony as he manages his crime family with that secret hanging over him. It is the artful ability to make an audience root for a monster. That all comes home in episode 5, “College”. Tony takes his daughter Meadow on a college visit to Maine. On the trip he discusses the family business with her in a way which feels like a father bonding with a child. When they get to the college, he drops Meadow off and returns to a gas station where they filled up. He recognized a snitch who was in witness protection at the station. He returns to kill him. As Tony strangles him the camera stay focused only on his emotionless dead-eyed face as you hear his victim choking off screen. It was a brilliant reminder halfway through the season that no matter what you like about Tony he is a heartless killer.

This kind of arc has been played many times over the past twenty years with perhaps the best being Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of Walter White on “Breaking Bad”. There is no way that series gets made without The Sopranos.

The second thing I noticed was the death of main characters contained within brilliant plot twists. The second half of the first season raised the stakes as characters you thought were main characters were killed. The scheming coming from multiple unexpected directions. When I watched the final episode of season 1, twenty years later, I was still drawn to the edge of my seat even though I knew how it turned out.

That is really the best thing about “The Sopranos” is twenty years later it holds up. It doesn’t feel dated. It just feels like the place where Peak Television began.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Mizensir Solar Blossom- Jasmine Creamsicle

If you catch me with a frozen treat on a stick in the summertime it will almost definitely be an orange creamsicle. Orange and vanilla are one of my very favorite taste combinations. I have a homemade breakfast beverage which is also focused on those two ingredients. When it comes to perfume it has also been a popular combination. When I received the press release for Mizensir Solar Blossom I expected another one; I should’ve paid attention to one other ingredient.

Mizensir is the brand owned by perfumer Alberto Morillas. I always mention that this appears to be the place where he can expand his familiarity with ingredients in new directions. Over the last four years he has produced an excellent collection because of this. Solar Blossom fits right in.

Alberto Morillas

One of M. Morillas’ most well-known attributes are his ability to use the newest ingredients to their best effect. One of those is the jasmine synthetic Paradisone. Paradisone is the most dramatic version of jasmine in a perfumer’s palette. A little goes a long way. It also can make an impact if you just use a little. This is what M. Morillas does in Solar Blossom.

Solar Blossom opens on a fabulous duet of neroli absolute and Paradisone. M. Morillas threads the powerful jasmine in tendrils through the heady neroli forming a floral layer between the green and the orange inherent in neroli. Paradisone has an ability to add expansiveness when it is used. There is some of that here, but it mostly just finds some space to call its own. The heart matches both ingredients with floral counterparts. Jasmine itself for the Paradisone and orange blossom for the neroli. Both florals have a tiny hint of indoles within which add some texture. This is a fantastic fresh citrus and floral accord. Then for a final twist M. Morillas goes gourmand. He uses an ingredient listed as “vanilla hyper absolute”. Looking at that name you think overwhelming blast of vanilla on its way. Except what appears is a way more restrained sweet than that name would imply. It inserts itself indelibly finding the orange parts of what Is there and forming a creamsicle accord. What is most surprising is I never realized some jasmine with that creamsicle would be so delightful.

Solar Blossom has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

All throughout Solar Blossom I kept expecting to get hit with ingredients known for their intensity. M.
Morillas showed me that those ingredients can be balanced into a memorable floral gourmand that smells like a jasmine creamsicle.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample from Mizensir.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Goldfield & Banks Velvet Splendour- A Ghost Peeks Out

When I first made perfume a part of my life it was all about the brand on the bottle. Until 2000 the perfumers who made my favorites were “ghosts”. After the growth of niche and some exposure by the early writers on perfume the “ghosts” became material. We who loved perfume knew who they were. In the words of my editor-in-chief, Michelyn Camen, at CaFleureBon they became “rockstars”. I began to follow my favorite perfumers the same way I followed my favorite brands. With all of that it didn’t mean the “ghosts” disappeared. There is a whole tier of perfumers who work relatively anonymously with little fanfare in fragrance across all sectors. In an October 2016 article in Perfumer & Flavorist author Pia Long wrote a profile of one of these, Wessel-Jan Kos. It remained in my memory for his enthusiasm for working in the fragrance industry even though only a few would ever know his name. Which is why I was pleased to find that Mr. Kos is the perfumer behind Goldfield & Banks Velvet Splendour.

Wessel-Jan Kos

This is the first perfume Goldfield & Banks owner-creative director Dimitri Weber has collaborated on with Mr. Kos. Velvet Splendour is meant to celebrate spring in Australia when the mimosa blooms. I know for many years mimosa was a spring kind of floral ingredient but there have been so many good recent releases it has crept into my summer rotation. Velvet Splendour is that kind of sunny summer floral.

Dimitri Weber

Mr. Kos opens with mimosa in the kind of concentration where you also find some of the grace notes in there. In this case it is a powderiness which lives up to the velvet in the name. Mr. Kos uses a bit of hedione to give it some expansiveness. He simultaneously grounds it with a mixture of orange blossom supported by jasmine. The tether is the tint of indoles within both floral ingreidents. The perfume returns to its Australian roots with a good amount of sandalwood from there. Mr. Kos has his most fun in this base accord as he sweetens the sandalwood with a bit of tonka bean, gives it a resinous shine with opoponax, and a bit of earthiness with patchouli and vetiver.

Velvet Splendour has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Velvet Splendour is a smile-inducing mimosa perfume ideal for the warm weather. While I am not sure Mr. Kos really wanted to be seen, content in his anonymity, I am glad the “ghost” managed to peek out.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s note: I’ve linked the Perfumer & Flavorist profile on Mr. Kos but it does require registration to read the full article.

New Perfume Review Boucheron Orange de Bahia- Brazil Dreamin’

Sometimes perfumes excite me just by their name. Such is the case with Boucheron Orange de Bahia. The reason is one of the best trips I ever took was an extended tour of Brazil in the 1980’s. One of the most memorable parts was the time I spent in Bahia. It was the closest place I have found to the casual way of life I adored in the Florida Keys. I always believed because I knew how to channel that Keys attitude that I fit in as a tourist. My days in Bahia were begun in the same way having breakfast with a street vendor; fresh squeezed orange juice and “americano sandwich” which felt like an Egg McMuffin given a Brazilian twist. I would sit in the plaza with the palm trees swaying above. Life has rarely been better. So when I see the name Orange de Bahia I am thinking, “Yes!” here is my scent memory. Then I read the press release to find out is was inspired by an orange gemstone from Africa, The Mandarin Garnet. Once I got to the description of the perfume, I realized my initial thoughts might not have been as far off as it seemed.

Michel Girard

Orange de Bahia is part of La Collection; Boucheron’s luxury line of soliflore-like perfumes. It has been a hit or miss series because sometimes there is nothing more than a high-quality version of the material named on the bottle. When it hits it is because the perfumer finds some complementary notes to display the keynote in a more interesting way. For Orange de Bahia perfumer Michel Girard accomplishes that.

Orange de Bahia opens with a slightly tart juicy orange. This was the smell of my street vendor squeezing my orange juice. There is a hint of green which floats above the juice and that is on display here. Where this perfume takes off is M. Girard uses the creamy green of fig leaves and amplifies the creaminess with a dollop of coconut milk. It is such a clever way to transform Mediterranean to Brazilian tropical. Rose threads its way through the creamy green and orange. A dry woody accord forms the base.

Orange de Bahia has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am sure some other perfume reviewer will find the gemstone inspiration here. I can’t keep from doing my version of Brazil Dreamin’ of lazy days in Bahia.

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

Mark Behnke