Dead Letter Office: Penhaligon’s Elixir- Casualty of the Reset Button

The longer a brand is around the usual trajectory is a solidifying of a brand aesthetic. If there are some swings, they usually come early in their existence. In the case of perfume brand Penhaligon’s I could make the case they have never been able to figure out what they’re all about. For a brand over a hundred years old you might think they’ve figured it out. You would be wrong. Penhaligon’s has gone through so many distinctly different eras and styles it is hard to keep track. One benefit of all that uncertainty is there was bound to be a time of creative apotheosis. That happened in the years between 2006-2013. Perfumers like Mathilde Bijaoui, Bertrand Duchaufour, Olivier Cresp and Alberto Morillas had a freer hand under creative director Nathalie Vinciguerra. Too many of these have found their way to the Dead Letter Office including the one I think is the best of them all; Penhaligon’s Elixir.

Nathalie Vinciguerra

Mme Vinciguerra kept up her trend of working with the best perfumers as she asked Olivia Giacobetti to compose Elixir. She would come forward with one of her trademark transparent structures which has become one of my Holiday Season staples.

Olivia Giacobetti

By 2008 when Elixir was released the trend towards more transparent constructs was only being practiced by a few perfumers. Mme Giacobetti was one of the earliest and most creative working on these kinds of fragrances. She is one of the reasons I have some issues with many of the modern transparent creations now that the pendulum has swung so firmly in this direction. She showed me that transparency can have tremendous beauty in fragility. Elixir is a good example of how spices, florals, and woods can form an opaque Oriental.

Elixir opens with an accord of three spices; cinnamon, cardamom, and clove. I jokingly think of them as the “3C’s”. Mme Gicaobetti finds an ideal balance of all three so that they form this shimmering spicy accord. In an ingenious flourish she takes eucalyptus to provide mentholated lift to those spices. This is one of my favorite top accords by Mme Gicaobetti, ever. When I wear Elixir, I sometimes refresh it a few hours after the first sprays because I like it so much. What comes after is also quite good, but the beginning is brilliant. It moves through a floral phase led by a lightly indolic orange blossom paired with a subtle incense. This is another diaphanous accord which doesn’t sacrifice the soul of its ingredients. It finishes on a fabulous guaiac wood and sandalwood clean woody foundation.

Elixir has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Elixir has made it to the Dead Letter Office because of the schizophrenic nature of the Penhaligon’s brand. They hit the reset button early and often sending too many good perfumes off to oblivion. The nice thing is bottles of Elixir can still be found reasonably at many of the fragrance resellers.

Elixir has been one of my favorite perfumes by Mme Giacobetti I marvel at how well it stands up to cold weather as I wear it during the Holidays. It shows a sturdiness belied by its presence. The only thing which it couldn’t survive was the reset button.

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

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Fan di Fendi pour Homme- Picking the Hits

1

There are designer labels that just can’t seem to find their way in the fragrance world. One of those would be Fendi. As a brand they had two distinct eras of trying to become a successful perfume provider. The first era ended in 2004. That was despite producing one of the best perfumes of the last 25 years in Fendi Theorema. That it was a previous entry in this column shows the struggle Fendi had. After 2004 they pulled back and rethought their approach.

Francois Demachy

If the originality of something like Theorema was not going to draw consumers maybe there was a different tack. When the brand returned to making perfume in 2010, they put Francois Demachy in the position of fragrance creative director. Then they seemingly decided that originality was not going to be a priority. Instead they became a fragrance version of a greatest hits record. All the perfumes with Fendi on the label from 2010-2015 were made up of successful accords and tropes from other best-selling perfumes. The idea seemed to be if we can just take a little bit from the other perfumes on the perfume counter, we will find an audience. That I put a date up there to the end of this era is a giveaway to how successful it was.

Benoist Lapouza

Fendi is far from the only brand happy to mash-up the kind of accords which consumers desire. It is a too common way to produce perfume. The thing is if they pick the hits you like the most you will probably enjoy the tune even if it reminds you of other things. For me the right set of tunes showed up in Fan di Fendi pour Homme.

Delphine Lebeau-Krowiak

M. Demachy chose to work with a team of perfumers for all the Fendi releases in this second era; Benoist Lapouza and Delphine Lebeau-Krowiak. Usually this is my recipe for success with a consistent creative team. The strength here was they were all on the same page just figuring out how to balance the styles they were combining into something nice. For Fan di Fendi pour Homme they hit the right accords.

It opens on a mixture of herb and spice with basil and cardamom mixed with citrus. It is a sturdy opening; one which will remind you of many other perfumes. It switches to the men’s style of florals as geranium provides the heart. It picks up the green parts of the herb and the spice. It ends with a leather accord made deeper with patchouli before cedarwood provides the woodiness necessary in a “pour homme” perfume.

Fan di Fendi pour Homme has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I like Fan di Fendi because it fills in on a day when I don’t want to wear one of the many perfumes, of which I smell pieces of, within it. It has become a reliable weekend fall choice. It has just been recently discontinued so this, and any of the second era Fendi perfumes, are still out there to be found.

Fendi has now failed in two different approaches to fragrance. Will there be a third? Is there a path between originality and greatest hits? It will be interesting to see the answer if there is a return in a few years. The Dead Letter Office has two relics of the first two eras whether they are the final representatives of the Fendi fragrance output will only be seen with time.

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

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office Macassar by Rochas- The Twilight of the Powerhouse

I’ve written about a lot of perfumes in this column which were discontinued because of bad timing. I’ve never looked back, but I suspect that is close to the most common reason for a perfume to be put in the Dead Letter Office. There are a few which lived a healthy life cycle emblematic of the trends of their time followed by being discontinued when things changed. A good example of that is Macassar by Rochas.

Nicolas Mamounas

Macassar came out in 1980 as the second fragrance of four composed by Rochas in-house perfumer Nicolas Mamounas. Rochas was refreshing their perfumes from the classics released previously. They weren’t trying to re-invent the wheel. They looked around at the popular fragrances and tried to make their own version. In the masculine fragrance sector this was the time of the powerhouse colognes. These were the style of fragrance that gave fragrance a bad name. The caricature of the man with his hairy chest bared, draped in gold chains that was who Macassar was made for. I wasn’t exactly that guy, but I really enjoyed wearing the powerhouse masculines of the 70’s and 80’s. Macassar is one of my favorites from that time.

Macassar opens with a cocktail of green liquor and green woods as absinthe and pine form the top accord. The licorice-like quality of absinthe is a fantastic contrast to the camphor-like quality of pine. It is also softer than it might sound. The power begins to wind up as we move to the heart; geranium and carnation pick up on the herbal and the green from the top by amplifying those effects. Patchouli elevates all of it as the volume gets turned up. The base is where Macassar unbuttons its shirt right down to the navel as vetiver, oakmoss, and musk form the foundation for a powerful leather accord. This base accord is where things linger for hours, almost days.

Macassar has 24-hour plus longevity and way above average sillage.

Macassar had a good long shelf life as it would be another fifteen years until the demise of the powerhouse perfume in favor of clean and fresh. Macassar might have come around during the twilight of the powerhouse perfume but it was also one of its best.

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

-Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Suzanne Thierry Ondine- Niche Before Niche Existed

Niche perfumery became a thing right around 2000. There were some brands which were offering alternative styles of perfume that were recognizably niche in the 1990’s. Acceleration of the prominence of independent brands doing things differently happened in the new century. Anything has its beginnings even further back. Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s there were brands which created a single perfume as an alternative to what was the current trend. There was no name for them but in hindsight these were the earliest stirrings of what would become niche. One of the examples of this is Suzanne Thierry Ondine.

Not only is it a proto-niche perfume it is also a celebrity-inspired scent, as well. In 1954, actress Audrey Hepburn pulled off a rare double. She won a Tony for her Broadway performance in “Ondine”; co-starring with her future husband, Mel Ferrer. She would also win a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her star turn in the classic “Roman Holiday”.  Suzanne Thierry was inspired to create a perfume to capture Ms. Hepburn.

Suzanne Thierry

Mme Thierry was certainly the creative director for Ondine. My only question is was she also the perfumer? It seems unlikely. Which means she worked with someone to produce Ondine. I am interested to discover who this was because Ondine is a response to the big aldehydic florals of the day. Don’t get me wrong it isn’t something I would describe as transparent. It is a fresher composition then something like Madame Rochas which was released around the same time.

Suzanne Thierry selling Ondine

This freshening appears from the first moments as the aldehydes are kept on a firm leash. I have a feeling the choice of which aldehydes to use was something that took time. It is supported by a set of spices; cardamom, clove, and coriander are what I smell. The florals at the heart are the typical rose, jasmine, and ylang-ylang. If you pick up any of Ondine’s contemporaries you will smell an overpowering mixture of these obstreperous floral ingredients. It is a necessity to break through the clouds of aldehydes of those fragrances. In Ondine this is a style of floral accord that will become very popular in 35-40 years. Each floral ingredient is given room to expand into space without crowding the others. Even in a sample over 60-years old there is a still a reminder of what this must have smelled like fresh from the bottle. The chypre-ish base is patchouli and oakmoss. This is where Ondine does emulate its contemporaries as there is a heavier tone in the final stages.

Ondine has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Ondine was an example of making perfume which was an alternative to the other perfumes available at the time. It was relatively popular as Mme Thierry made publicity tours in the US into the late 1960’s. She would sit behind a table showing off her perfume. Sound familiar?

Ondine was discontinued sometime in the late 1970’s. It is still available here and there at the online resellers. It was interesting to see the concept of niche in one of its earliest incarnations even if it ended up in the Dead Letter Office.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample supplied by a generous reader.  

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Judith Muller Bat-Sheba- Dead Sea Scrolls

One of the things that so thrilled me when I received my box of perfume rarities from my anonymous benefactor was the opportunity to try things I have only read about. As I was categorizing the samples I found one I had heard of called Bat-Sheba. I was surprised to find the next vial labeled Bat-Sheba, too. At first, I thought my donor had double-packed but then I saw two letters after Bat-Sheba one had “WM” and the other has “EO”. I tried to figure it out on my own, “extrait original?” “woody masculine?” I got one of the words correct, but I had to get some clarification. Turns out the letters stood for “Woody Modern” and “Exotic Oriental”. This would begin a kind of perfume informational archaeology to try and learn all I could about Judith Muller Bat-Sheba.

Judith Muller in Paris

Judith Muller was born in Hungary in 1935. After surviving World War 2, her family settled in Israel. She would find herself in Paris learning about perfume in 1962. It brought her into the orbit of perfumer Ernest Shiftan and his young protegee Sophia Grojsman. Ms. Muller wondered if a perfume could be made from Biblical ingredients. They would put their heads together and come up with a prototype perfume called Bat-Sheba. This was seemingly produced in a very small batch and I can’t figure out if it was ever sold anywhere.

Sophia Grojsman

Ms. Muller would return to Israel, in 1965, with designs on being an Israeli luxury brand. A pillar of that desire was going to be Bat-Sheba perfume. In 1968 there would be two releases; Bat-Sheba Woody Modern and Bat-Sheba Exotic Oriental. As far as I can tell Woody Modern is close in formula to the original Bat-Sheba formulation. Exotic Oriental seems likely to have been a different mod on the way to the original. One reason I believe that is both perfumes converge on the same base accord. The trip there is quite different.

Judith Muller

Woody Modern opens incredibly green with galbanum and cardamom. The cardamom is used to take some of the edge off the galbanum. The heart is a gorgeous honeyed rose accord. It is kept on the soft side but there are some green facets also added to continue the top accord. The base is all chypre as sandalwood, vetiver, musk, oakmoss, and patchouli form a classic form of that accord. What is interesting about the way it wears on my skin it is like the vestiges of an ancient version of chypre with a kind of mineralic aspect I can’t identify. This felt like the perfume of the seductress this is named after.

Exotic Oriental goes in a spicy direction in the top accord. Cardamom, cinnamon, clove are all things I detect. Lavender is added to provide a fougere-like feel to the opening. Rose is still the keynote in the heart but this time the spices replace the honey. It accentuates the spicy core of the rose. This results in a less lush heart accord than in Woody Modern. The spices lead seamlessly into the exact same base accord as described for Woody Modern. In the case of Exotic Oriental because of the spices this felt more like a perfume of Biblical ingredients.

Ms. Muller would sell her perfumes from her Haifa, Israel store. Most others discovered it when it was presented as part of the duty-free offerings on El Al flights to and from Tel Aviv. Housed in pretty little ancient amphora-like bottles they became luxurious souvenirs of an Israeli trip in the 1960’s. Those bottles have made them highly sought after by those who collect perfume bottles. It is one reason there is not more of them in perfume lovers’ collections.

Ms. Muller would continue to produce perfume releases until her last collaboration with perfumer Pierre Bourdon. They created Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5 in 2005; meant to be a national fragrance of Hungary. She would pass away in 2012.

The reason Bat-Sheba Woody Modern and Exotic Oriental are in the Dead Letter Office is because they are victim of limited distribution. They were ideal perfumes of their time and even experiencing them now I especially think the green honeyed rose of Woody Modern would live up to the second word in its name.

I really enjoyed digging through the scraps of information that existed. I must credit the Cleopatra’s Boudoir blog with having the most extensive information on Ms. Muller and Bat-Sheba, if you’re interested to know more click on the link. At the end I felt like the story of Judith Muller Bat-Sheba was my own version of interpreting perfumed Dead Sea Scrolls.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by a generous reader.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Coty L’Aimant- The Fourth Coty

As I mentioned back in the fall a very generous reader sent me a box of discontinued samples because they enjoy this particular column. It has allowed me to try some older perfumes I never had the chance to previously. One was what I call “The Fourth Coty”; L’Aimant.

The history of Francois Coty as one of the original artists of modern perfumery is well-known. Once I began to want to understand the history of this art form I was going to track down the original trio of perfumes by M. Coty; L’Origan, Chypre de Coty, and Emeraude. I thought I had covered the early history of Coty as a brand. Then I was told there was a fourth early Coty release called L’Aimant. Because of my reader’s generosity I have completed my education.

One of the reasons I was so interested is this was a collaboration between M. Coty and perfumer Vincent Roubert. M. Roubert is responsible for two of my very favorite perfumes; Jacques Fath Iris Gris and Knize Ten.

As always when approaching a vintage perfume, I know that any citrus notes will be long gone. They are listed in the top notes but when I tried this sample I got the other ingredient exclusively. That other ingredient is a full-throated roar of aldehydes. In 1927 aldehydic top notes were all the rage and in L’Aimant Messrs. Coty and Roubert seemingly used all of them. I had heard L’Aimant was a soft floral the first few minutes were hard aldehydes. I wonder if the citrus notes were present if they wouldn’t have softened the edges; probably. The soft floral was on its way as rose pierces the cloud of aldehydes. Along with the rose, jasmine brings along some indoles to match up with the spicy rose core. Ylang-ylang provides an oleaginous floral fruity effect. Together this produces the lush soft floral I had been told about. It begins to turn quite powdery as the rose gains ascendancy. It finishes on vetiver and vanilla with some civet.

L’Aimant has 24-hour longevity and above average sillage.

L’Aimant lasted well into the 1960’s before fading away as far as I can tell. It was resurrected in 1995 for a short time. That one I understand falling; right in the middle of the desire for fresh and clean perfume L’Aimant is not that.

I am happy to have closed the loop on my experience with early Coty releases there is a reason L’Aimant is not as highly spoken of as the other three. It has a kind of brassy take no prisoners style which sometimes turns into the perfume wearing me than vice versa. I at least feel like I can close the book on this part of perfume history.

Disclosure: This review based on a sample provided by a generous reader.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Giorgio Armani Sensi- Can We do Niche?

I have no idea if this first paragraph carries a grain of truth but in hindsight I think it might. As fragrance crossed into the 21st century the uprising of interesting perfumes willingly marching out-of-step with the mainstream were creating a movement. The large corporations behind the mainstream had to be looking at this wondering how they could turn this to their ends. I don’t think they were any more successful at identifying and defining niche than I can twenty some years on. It still makes me think that at some boardrooms there was a conversation which began with the question “Can we do niche, too?” I think this led to a lot of poorly thought out perfume, but here and there that concept found its place. That mainstream audiences weren’t ready for that is why Giorgio Armani Sensi is this month’s Dead Letter Office subject.

Harry Fremont

Giorgio Armani began their fragrance line in 1982. It would become incredibly successful with the back-to-back releases of Acqua di Gio and Acqua di Gio pour Homme in 1995 and 96 respectively. They became exemplars of the prevailing trends on the men’s and women’s fragrance counters of the day. To this day they remain big sellers. By 2002 Armani wanted to release another pair of perfumes. The men’s one was Armani Mania pour Homme which was a typical masculine woody. Sensi would be released six months later and it was not typical.

Alberto Morillas

Perfumers Harry Fremont and Alberto Morillas collaborated on Sensi. What they produced is a fragrance of nuance which charms because of its complexity. They used some interesting ingredients which give textural effects not usually found at the mall. Which might be why its no longer for sale.

Sensi opens with a laser beam of lime. It is focused, delineated, and clean. It is an attention getter before the florals arrive. The floral accord is primarily jasmine and mimosa. It is a gorgeous accord with some of the indoles present instead of being scrubbed away. Then the first bit of texture arrives with barley providing a “grain” to the florals. It comes off as a slightly toasted almond effect which meshes with the florals in a fascinating way. Throughout this phase it is like there is a kinetic accord subtly shifting moment by moment. This moves to a kind of gourmand-like vanilla and benzoin accord. I say gourmand because the barley also interacts with these to form something which feels gourmand. Except as it also interacts with the florals it provides a warming depth. As it moves into this phase I am again met with a perfume which continually shifts. Some palisander wood provides a woody base for this to end upon.

Sensi has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Even now there are almost no perfumes in the department store which display the subtle charms of Sensi. It never caught on with consumers. Although those who did find it have become fanatic about it. It is one reason you see the bottles go for high prices on the auction sites.

So if there is any accuracy to my first paragraph the answer to the question “can we do niche?” was answered with an enthusiastic “Yes!” by Sensi. That it was received somewhat less enthusiastically by the buying public is why it is in the Dead Letter Office.

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

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Nina Ricci Signoricci 2- Twin Sons of Different Mothers

One of the easier to explain reasons for a perfume ending up in the Dead Letter Office is a brand which fools with the names of their perfumes. There are many enduring lessons where the moral of the story is not to confuse the consumer. This month’s entry Nina Ricci Signoricci 2 is one of those tales.

If I was asked to make the case for a post-War perfume brand which has been lost in the shuffle of the Grand Maisons I could make a compelling case for Nina Ricci. L’Air du Temps is one of the great early perfumes to arise after World War 2 ended. If you judge this on the modern formulation I hope you have an opportunity to try an earlier version where the floral heart is among one of the most beautiful in all of perfume. The fragrance side of the brand was overseen by Robert Ricci for forty years which saw a signature style of sophisticated fragrances released. Many are also in the Dead Letter Office and the survivors have been reformulated into ghosts of themselves.

Robert and Nina Ricci

Most of the fragrances from this period were marketed to women. It wouldn’t be until 1966 that they entered the masculine market with Signoricci. It was primarily a citrus with a bitter green core which even for someone who enjoys green found it distracting in its intensity. Ten years later the sequel would arrive, Signoricci 2.

Signoricci 2 was composed by perfumer Raymond Chaillan. The first thing he seemingly chose to do was to retain the citrus style but to excise the overt green. M. Chaillan’s vision was to produce a sophisticated citrus with a much more understated green component.

Raymond Chaillan

The opening is a sharper version of lemon with petitgrain providing a more focused effect. The floral heart of carnation and jasmine is lifted by a set of expansive aldehydes. This creates space for a thinner green thread to snake through the perfume. Basil, vetiver, and moss take care of this. It becomes very warm as amber, patchouli, and tonka form a comfy base accord.

Signoricci 2 has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Signoricci 2 fell square into the mid 1970’s powerhouse men’s perfume style. I have treasured my bottle because I think it is one of the best “formal” citrus perfumes I own. It always seemed to me that Signoricci 2 should have had the opportunity to be reformulated to death as the rest of the brand had been.

Except they decided to choose to confuse their consumer. Soon after Signoricci 2 was released they decided to discontinue Signoricci. At the same time, they then decided to drop the “2” from Signoricci 2. Imagine how this worked over the next few years. Someone who finished a bottle of Signoricci who loved the intense green nature goes to the mall and sprays “Signoricci” on a strip sees the green is gone and walks away. The person who bought Signoricci 2 and enjoyed it, as I did, finishes their bottle. Goes to the mall to replace it only to find “Signoricci” minus the “2”. Walking away they wonder what happened to their sophisticated citrus. I have never understood these kinds of decisions because it leads right to the Dead Letter Office.

There is a part of me that would like to see the two descendents of both of the creatives; grandson Romano Ricci and son Jean-Marc Chaillan collaborate on Signoricci 3. Until then Signoricci 2 will do.

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

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Geoffrey Beene Bowling Green- The Overlooked Sibling

One common theme in the Dead Letter Office is that when a designer creates a classic the poor fragrances that follow have a hard time breaking through. Like the younger sibling to the brilliant older one. You might be every bit as good, perhaps better for some, but you will never get noticed. That is the story of Geoffrey Beene Bowling Green.

The brilliant older brother is 1975’s Grey Flannel. That was the first perfume from the brand and it has become a classic. One I admire and recommend to those looking for something different from fresh for an economical price. Bowling Green was the follow-up released almost twelve years later. Like all neglected younger siblings much of the creative information has been lost. All I could find was something within the press release which mentioned it as being “developed personally by Mr. Beene”. Sounds like pr more than actuality especially since there is also no perfumer accredited. It is too bad because Bowling Green is a style of perfume which would be relevant in today’s fragrance world. It has many of the green trends along with being more transparent than most of the other 80’s masculines.

Geoffrey Beene

What strikes you right out of the bottle is a focused burst of verbena. The lemony quality combined with the green is kept tightly constrained. To that lavender and a bit of mint add some detail. The lemon becomes more present as some petitgrain teases it away from the verbena. The mint slides away in the face of more savory herbs like sage, basil, and rosemary. Over all of this crests a wave of cardamom recapitulating the lemon thread from the top. There is some pine to play around with a terpenic green contrast, but the middle part of Bowling Green is cardamom. As it recedes what remains is a mixture of synthetic woods representing sandalwood, fir, and cedar; most predominantly that last note. The cedar provides a clean woody foundation to close things out.

Bowling Green has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Bowling Green never came close to being the sales equal of Grey Flannel. To their credit the brand did not pull the plug quickly as it lasted well into the 2000’s before finally giving up. I think they just tired of promoting a perfume which was never going to catch on. I think Bowling Green is as good as Grey Flannel, but that opinion never found wide agreement which is how it ended up in the Dead Letter Office as the overlooked sibling.

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

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Jean Patou Ma Liberte- The Kerleo Years

Those who have followed me over the years know there is a special section in the Dead Letter Office for the perfumes of Jean Patou. Much of their reputation rests on the creations of perfumer Henri Almeras from 1925-1946. The only remaining evidence of the glorious history of the brand is the evergreen best-seller Joy. This is not to say there haven’t been numerous attempts to bring the brand back to life. Perfumer Jean-Michel Duriez oversaw one of the more confusing transitions through the turn of the century. Most recently perfumer Thomas Fontaine has been re-formulating the original collection the best that he can with modern substitutions. In between there was another short creative spurt overseen by perfumer Jean Kerleo from 1972-1995.

M. Kerleo’s tenure has provided one of those rarest of unicorn fragrances, Patou pour Homme, in 1980. It lives up to every bit of the hype. Lost within this group of Patou perfumes done by M. Kerleo is one I admire just as much; Ma Liberte.

Jean Kerleo

Throughout this time M. Kerleo seemed to enjoy using lavender as a keynote. It would show up in both Patou pour Homme and Patou pour Homme Prive as well as Voyageur. Ma Liberte was another example of the flexibility of lavender in the hands of an artist.

In the beginning of Ma Liberte M. Kerleo chooses to contrast the lavender with tart citrus which is ameliorated with the lighter nature of heliotrope. Jasmine will become the note in the heart which picks up the lavender and allows it to flower more fully. Then the other hall mark of M. Kerleo’s time at Patou is his use of spices. He swirls in cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove to create this swirling warm shimmer covering the florals. It leads to a rich cedar and sandalwood base.

Ma Liberte has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

If there is a question which has perplexed me; it is how the Jean Patou collection never caught on beyond Joy. I’ve never seen a reliable explanation on why they never were commercially successful but that is the reason they populate my favorite corner of the Dead Letter Office.

For those of you who look at the prices for Patou pour Homme and Patou pour Homme Prive on the auction sites and just groan at the prices you are who this version of this column is for. Ma Liberte is as good as either of those and it can be found on the same auction sites for much, much, less. If you have given up on obtaining the Patou pour Hommes give Ma Liberte a try.

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

Mark Behnke