New Perfume Review Azzaro Chrome Aqua- Mad Dogs and Vetiver

There is always a heat wave, every summer. It is always a challenging time for me because I look at the perfume I want to wear to review and I know it will wilt in the heat. Another thing that happens every heat wave is I just go for the perfume which looks like it will be the most refreshing in the heat. This year that choice was Azzaro Chrome Aqua.

Azzaro has been putting out an annual summer version of Chrome under the name Chrome Summer. Those were also better than average flankers of the 1996 original. For 2019 it looks like Chrome Aqua is taking the place of Chrome Summer. Perfumer Jean-Christophe Herault composes a green tinted aquatic that was just right for midsummer.

Jean-Christophe Herault

One thing I have really appreciated about many of the modern aquatics is that they have stopped using Calone. There are many alternatives out there. In the case of Chrome Aqua M. Herault uses them.

Chrome Aqua opens with that suite of ozonic notes which form the typical sea breeze accord. It is matched with another accord to provide the surf. Things take an interesting turn from there. M. Herault pairs grapefruit with a crisp green apple. It turns the typical tart grapefruit into a fresher citrus accord. This all goes very well with the aquatic vibe of the opening moments. Chrome Aqua then uses basil supported with aniseed to give a uniquely herbal accord. There is something about basil that just feels great on a hot day. The use of the aniseed to give a licorice undercurrent is clever. It ends on that most classic of summer perfume ingredients with a green grassy vetiver.

Chrome Aqua has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Chome Aqua was just the kind of perfume I wanted to wear in the middle of a heat wave. There is not a moment while I had it on where it wasn’t a fitting companion in the heat. It made me think of amending the old saying to “only mad dogs and vetiver go out in the midday sun.”

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Azzaro.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Abel Pink Iris- The Sparkle of Iris

When I started writing about perfume, over ten years ago, there was a perception of all-natural perfume as somehow lacking. It was frustrating to me because that wasn’t my experience. I found those artists who chose to work in this style to be every bit as inventive as those who didn’t. Despite that misperception one of the things which has happened over the last three years is an expansion of this sector with better and better perfumes. One of the brands which has been part of this is Abel. Founded three years ago by Frances Shoemack and perfumer Isaac Sinclair they have released a collection of seven beautifully composed all-natural fragrances. The eighth is now here, Abel Pink Iris.

Frances Shoemack

As the name would portend iris is the focal point of this perfume. Iris tends to have two prominent facets. The more familiar one is the powdery one. The less common one is the silvery rooty one. It is that one Ms. Shoemack and Mr. Sinclair choose to highlight in Pink Iris. As they have with most of the Abel perfumes, to date, they use three keynotes and that continues here.

Isaac Sinclair

The keynote in the top accord is Szechuan pepper. I know I’ve gone on a lot about how versatile this relatively new ingredient is, but Mr. Sinclair finds a new way of using it. He employs raspberry leaves to add a green-tinted fruitiness while basil adds an herbal undercurrent. This turns the Szechuan pepper towards a simmering fruity herbal accord. This finds a high quality orris butter waiting in the heart. The top accord softens the iris accessing that rootiness I find so appealing. Then like fireflies rising out of the summer grass the sparkle within the iris arises. This is a subtly compelling version of iris that is quite enchanting. A suite of linen musks wrap this in a clean cotton embrace.

Pink Iris has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you are one who still thinks all-natural perfumes cannot be that good Abel Pink Iris would be a good choice to allow you to reconsider that. If the sparkle of iris doesn’t change your mind, I’ll be surprised.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Royal Grey Cologne- Sense of Familiarity

When I talk about writing on perfume with people who don’t wear fragrance, I point out they may not wear it but they are surrounded by it. You can’t walk into a coffee shop without being surrounded by the smell of brewing beans. A bakery smells of bread. The produce section in the grocery store is a wonderful mélange of fresh smells. Perhaps the most recognizable of these ambient scents is the smell of Earl Grey Tea. Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has made an all-natural Earl Grey inspired cologne called DSH Perfumes Royal Grey Cologne.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Ms. Hurwitz has been producing great colognes for a while. Last year’s Summer Cologne was one of my favorites of the year. You might think designing an Earl Grey cologne would be easy. Get some bergamot and combine it with any one of the black tea ingredients. I am not sure what exactly that would smell like, but I suspect it would be flat, missing an essential sparkle. Royal Grey Cologne does something different as Ms. Hurwitz uses a tea accord comprised of four different tea sources.

Royal Grey Cologne opens with that bergamot in high concentration. Underneath Ms. Hurwitz adds ambrette seed to add some lift to this very identifiable top note. The tea follows rather quickly. I’m expecting black tea and that is what I notice first. Then three green tea extracts provide a lively boost to the black tea. Yerba mate especially finds a place within this accord. Then a lovely rose finds itself floating on this cup of tea. The transition to the base takes an earthy turn as ruh khus, the green balsamic version of vetiver, connects to patchouli before resting on sandalwood sweetened with a pinch of vanilla.

Royal Grey Cologne has 6-8 hour longevity and low sillage.

Royal Grey Cologne is a skin scent as was last year’s Summer Cologne. I find that an advantage when wearing fragrance in hot temperatures. I enjoyed Royal Grey Cologne as much for its sense of familiarity as its underlying freshness. Just like a cup of the real thing.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Stranger Things 3

When Stranger Things premiered a few years ago I expected it to be a one off. When Stranger Things 2 premiered even though there was similarity of plot the characters really drew me in. For Stranger Things 3 it was the story of the wonder of the mall.

Stranger Things 3 moves from the Halloween adjacent time of the first two seasons to being set just before July 4, 1985. Everyone believes they have saved the world from the perils of the Upside Down. Except on the outskirts of town something is lurking. While underneath the town something else is going on. All plots lead to the new Starcourt Mall by the end.

One thing very different about this season is they split up our core group into four groups all learning something without knowing the others were finding out other connected pieces. The one thing it reminds you is in a world without cell phones nobody knows what the other is doing. It gave each episode by The Duffer Brothers the opportunity for these characters to really breathe as smaller groups.

Steve and Dustin pick up new friends Robin and Erica as they discover there is something covert going on at the mall. All while Steve and Robin are supposed to be working the ice cream shop “Scoops Ahoy”. The two unfamiliar names are the unquestioned scene stealers of this season. Maya Hawke makes Robin the perfect foil to Steve’s wanna-be lady killer. Erica, played by Priah Ferguson, is Lucas’ little sister who shows there might be another generation of young heroes in Hawkins. This group was funny while evading danger the whole time. I’d watch a spin-off of just these four.

This season deals with the difficulty of Hopper being a parent to a child with superpowers in Eleven. Eleven is learning how to be in a relationship by getting advice from Max. The girls leave Will and Lucas frantically trying to understand them.

Jonathan and Nancy spend the summer interning at the local newspaper. Nancy runs into the boy’s club of reporters who derisively call her “Nancy Drew”. Her desire to figure out what is going on comes from a place inside where she wants to show a woman can be a reporter.

The final ingredient is the Starcourt Mall itself. It has killed the Main St. small businesses leaving a ghost town behind. It is a clever thought to wonder if the Upside Down or Progress is more dangerous to Hawkins’ small-town lifestyle. There is a sequence when Eleven goes to the mall for the first time and the camera captures the sensory overloaded joy of it all. All of us who grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s know this feeling.

By the times things come to an end big changes are coming to the group of friends and the town. Stranger Things 4 seems certain to broaden its horizons. I’m okay with following this group anywhere,

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Cipresso di Toscana- Acquisition Phase

I think everyone who becomes a perfume lover goes through the same phases. The most fevered one is after you’ve discovered the internet resources. Once you realize there is more perfume than is what is available at the local mall you start figuring out how to try it. This is the time when many people go from a few bottles to filling a bookshelf with fragrance. When it happened to me, I called it “acquisition phase”. I would read abut a perfume somewhere on the internet and then figure out where I could buy it. This happened in the early 2000’s. Just like finding a favorite musician or artist I would then find a perfumer I liked and wanted to try anything by that perfumer I could get my hands on. The perfume which introduced me to Bertrand Duchaufour has just recently been re-issued; Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Cipresso di Toscana.

Bertrand Duchaufour

Cipresso di Toscana was the first release for the Blu Mediterraneo collection. I’ll admit the first day I noticed it was because of the blue bottle. Once I finally bought the bottle I was already hooked. It was one of those times where I kept smelling the patch of skin I sprayed the tester on. It has always been one of my favorites in this line and I was sorry to see it discontinued in 2012.It has just returned in time for summer of 2019. What attracted me then still appeals to me today Cipresso di Toscano is a fresh herbal pine fragrance. M. Duchaoufour weaves herbs through a woody matrix.

Cipresso di Toscano opens with a citrus flare of grapefruit and petitgrain. It is a classic citrus top accord. It gives way to a set of herbs as clary sage leads a parade of coriander, rosemary, and basil to surround a deeply resinous pine. This is an exhilarating pine which the herbs make sure to keep that way. The woodiness of the cypress grows through this accord providing a blond wood spine to let these ingredients hang out upon.

Cipresso di Toscana has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage in its current formulation.

There is only one tiny change I detected when comparing my old bottle with a new sample. There was a touch of oakmoss in the original which I don’t detect in the new version. It was a grace note then and I don’t think it makes the new version significantly different. Which is great because I suspect there are some new perfume neophytes who will be following in my footsteps.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle of the original I purchased and a sample of the new version from Sephora.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Pont des Arts A Chaque Instant- Chypre Bridge

As we enter the final weeks of summer this is my chance as a reviewer to start plucking samples out of the “maybe” box. These are the reviews which keep getting bumped because something newer arrives that captures my attention. One chance is for me to re-visit a new collection where I only reviewed a single release. Today I am returning to review Pont des Arts A Chaque Instant.

Geraldine and Bernard Siouffi

Geraldine and Bernard Siouffi founded Pont des Arts in 2018 with a debut collection of three perfumes. Named after the famous pedestrian bridge over the Seine, the Siouffis want these perfumes to be very French in style. They turned to perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour to realize that vision in A Chaque Instant.

Bertrand Duchaufour

A Chaque instant is meant to be a modern chypre. M. Duchaufour is one of the few current perfumers who has successfully created contemporary versions of this venerable fragrance style. The reason for that is his ability to find overlaps between ingredients which provide the depth and bite of the classic chypre. For A Chaque Instant those overlaps are found in spices, florals, and resins.

A Chaque Instant opens with an overdose of baie rose. In this concentration the green herbal quality is much amplified. Some galbanum hones that to a sharper edge. Angelica provides a more vegetal green to this super-green top accord. The heart accord is comprised mainly of jasmine and tuberose. They come together in white flower harmony that is enhanced by M. Duchaufour’s use of beeswax as the connecting note. It provides a matrix for the white flowers to push back against the green. What remains is the chypre accord. That comes from the low atranol version of oakmoss given a resinous polish via myrrh and benzoin. Vetiver provides the bite the loss of the atranol removes. Patchouli finishes this with an earthy grounding.

A Chaque Instant has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

You might not be feeling a green floral chypre with the midsummer sun beating down. Keep this one in mind once we move into the cooler months. It is going to be a great addition to any chypre lovers collection.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Moth and Rabbit Dolls- Plastic Fantastic

When I was a young child there was a doll that was sold which had a tiny reservoir on the back for a child to put a fruit fragrance in. It had the scent of plastic soaked in fruit. I hadn’t thought about it for fifty years, probably. When I opened my sample of Moth and Rabbit Dolls it came back to me.

Moth and Rabbit is the new name of the previous brand Folie a Plusieurs. It still retains the ideal of interpreting avant garde films as perfume. I have not tried all of them but the ones I have are all unapologetically different. Asking wearers to embrace the oddness. The ideal perfumer for this is Mark Buxton who has made all the Moth and Rabbit releases.

Mark Buxton

I think it helps to know the film being interpreted. I had never heard of the 2002 film by Japanese director Takeshi Kitano. It moves through the seasons which is what Mr. Buxton wants to do beginning in spring and ending in winter. I can’t say I got any of the seasonal shift. What I did get was a dose of plastic doll head and fruit. Which brought back my childhood memories. Mr. Buxton has always found ways to explore the fringes of the perfumer’s palette. In Dolls he finds the plastic.

The plastic doll head accord centers on an unctuous ylang-ylang. Most of the time when I smell this I think a perfumer missed the mark on the right amount. I don’t think that here. Instead Mr. Buxton wraps it in the subtle fruitiness of cherry blossom followed by apple blossom. This is that fruity doll head I remember. The final stages transition to woods with maple and cedar over a selection of white musks. The latter is probably meant to evoke the snow of winter, but I never felt that.

Dolls has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.  

I’m not sure how many will be running for fruit scented plastic doll head as something they want to wear as a perfume. I found it to be quite easy to wear even in the heat of summer. I’m sure I’m going to return to it in the cooler weather because I think this plastic is fantastic.

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

Mark Behnke

2019 First-Half Report

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I always like to look back at the first half of the perfume year every July. I enjoy trying to pick out the emerging trends and to give the best releases of the first half of the year some more love.

Christopher Chong

Before I get to that though the biggest news of the first six months of 2019 was the departure of Christopher Chong as Creative Director at Amouage. At this time it isn’t clear what that means for the brand or where Mr. Chong will eventually be making perfume again. If both resolve over the next six months those will probably be headlines for my end of year wrap-up.

I feel like I’ve found more new brands to be impressed with over these past six months. Maison Violet is a heritage brand doing it well. Chatillon Lux and the perfumer behind it, Shawn Maher, have an incredible collection already of which Lamplight Penance is one of the best of the year. Ryan Richmond Rich Mess was far from that description; it was a crazy thrill ride of a perfume.

A couple of brands followed up strong 2018’s with even better releases this year. Marc-Antoine Barrois Ganymede is a lightweight leather that I enjoy the more I wear it. Goldfield & Banks Velvet Splendour is a mimosa fragrance I have also spent a few summer days wearing.

There were two very limited editions, which sold out in hours, which are among the best of the year. Bogue 0,7738 is Antonio Gardoni at his best. Hans Hendley for American Perfumer Bloodline is an homage to the perfumer’s Texas heritage via a red cedar oil from his home.

Two brands which I haven’t heard from for awhile made impressive returns. Rubini Tambour Sacre re-assembled the creative team from the debut Fundamental. This time they found the sacred rhythm of excellent perfume. Dannielle Sergent took her Cognoscenti brand in a layered floral direction with Warrior Queen.

Finally there are three perfumes which are at the top of my list for the first half of 2019.

Hiram Green Lustre is a breathtaking rose soliflore on an all-natural palette.

Nishane Ani takes what you think you know about vanilla in perfume and evolves it.

Talc de IUNX is as good as it gets from Olivia Giacobetti. I’m always pleased to get something new from her this time I can’t forget about it.

The fall releases are starting to show up in my mailbox. Based on early returns I am expecting the last half to be as good or better than the first half of 2019.

As always thank you for reading.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Violet Tanagra- Personal Grace

When it comes to heritage brands if they are working for a retro nouveau style they sometimes lean too hard on the retro. To be relevant in today’s market I think a heritage brand has a challenge to keep the past as part of the future. Easier to write than achieve. One which has done it is Maison Violet. I was quite impressed with their first three releases for finding this sweet spot. It made me look all the more forward to trying their fourth release, Maison Violet Tanagra.

(l. to r.) Paul Richardot, Anthony Toulemonde, and Victorien Sirot

The same creative team has returned for Tanagra. The three Parisian perfume students who acquired the name, Paul Richardot, Victorien Sirot, and Anthony Toulemonde, collaborate with perfumer Nathalie Lorson. Because the creative team never found any of the Maison Violet perfumes to smell themselves, they combed the newspapers and magazines of the time to get an idea of what the original was like. For Tanagra what they found it was named after small statues of Ancient Greece which celebrated femininity. This provided a wide-open opportunity to compose something for Tanagra which captured that.

Nathalie Lorson

What I wasn’t prepared for was Tanagra is a skin scent. It is a risky play for consumers who desire projection. After wearing Tanagra I can’t imagine it any other way. Mme Lorson creates a beautifully subtle floral surrounded by fruit and wood also dialed way back.

It is those fruits which show up first. Mandarin and pear form a delightful juicy pair. Out of that a shimmering iris shaking powder off itself arises. That is supported by fresh floral notes of freesia and peony. Jasmine provides a little depth. It finishes on a clean foundation of cedar and vetiver.

Tanagra has 10-12 hour longevity and very little sillage. On the days I wore it Mrs. C thought I wasn’t wearing anything.

I know many are not fond of close wearing scents. Tanagra might change that notion for some. If it was more intense the gorgeous grace inherent would be lost, I think. As I walked around wearing it, I felt like I had my own bit of personal grace with me.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Tuscan Leather Intense- Let The Right One In

In a line of perfume as extensive as Tom Ford Private Blend is, it is easy to say there is something for everybody within. Ever since its 2007 debut it has offered perfume lovers an almost unparalleled opportunity to find “their’ perfume. I am no different. I have favorites within the genres which span the collection. More than any other fragrance brand there is probably a “Goldilocks” version of what ever kind of perfume makes you smile.

That has certainly been true of the leather focused offerings. One of the original set of Private Blends was Tuscan Leather. Tuscan Leather was a surprising combination of raspberry over suede leather. It was not my favorite of that first collection. Over the years there have been other leather perfumes. Three years ago I found my “just right” one; Ombre Leather 16. No raspberry and a leather with suppleness and bite. From this perspective I was quite interested to see where Tuscan Leather Intense would fall.

Karyn Khoury

On the days I wore Tuscan Leather Intense it was hard not to think in the early moments that it was a discarded mod of the original. Creative Director Karyn Khoury probably did not do that because while the opening feels like a shuffled version of the original the latter half is all its own thing.

It opens on the same trio as the original; saffron, raspberry, and thyme. The difference here is the raspberry is pushed to the back over the thyme and saffron. The leather early on is also a bit unrefined with rougher edges. The thyme sets the pace for what is a much greener opening. That effect is deepened as davana comes into focus. It creates a woody green softening of the leather into a sueded version. A lot more olibanum coats it with smoke. The biggest change comes as a strong set of animalic musks turn this leather into something a bit untamed. Some amber provides a touch of warmth in the final stages.

Tuscan Leather Intense has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Tuscan Leather Intense captures many of the qualities which have made Tom Ford Private Blend leather perfumes stand out in the past. It is interesting enough to me that when I reach for Ombre Leather 16 I am going to give Tuscan Leather Intense a glance. As a perfume consumer if you’re looking for a Tom Ford Private Blend leather to call your own you just have to let the right one in; Tuscan Leather Intense is going to be that one for many.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke