New Perfume Review Abel Green Cedar- A Fairytale Ending

Over the past few years I have been fortunate to spend a lot of time with Michael Edwards the man who created the perfume database Fragrances of the World. Whenever we are together, I joke it is like talking to a walking history of modern perfumery. He has provided so many insights for me to explore.

Frances Shoemack

Mr. Edwards lives in Australia, but he was visiting a New Zealand department store when he began speaking with the sales associate. When the young man realized the opportunity to gather information, he took advantage of the serendipitous encounter. The sales associate aspired to be a perfumer. He asked, “What was the best way?” Mr. Edwards told him there was an annual conference in Grasse where he could present himself to industry insiders. Flash forward to a few months later at that conference where the sales associate has used his savings to make the trip from New Zealand to France. Mr. Edwards sees this as a sign of his determination. He would meet the head of Symrise who was similarly impressed. He sponsored the young man’s training in Milan which then lead to a series of positions within Symrise. The final piece of training comes as Maurice Roucel’s assistant for four years. At that point he is offered a position as junior perfumer in Brazil. Ever since I heard this story, I have wanted to try one of Isaac Sinclair’s perfume. I wanted to smell the end of the story.

Isaac Sinclair

I finally had the chance with the introduction of the Abel line of perfumes from the Netherlands to the US. The brand was begun in 2016 when owner Frances Shoemack chose Mr. Sinclair as her creative partner for her new perfume brand. When they became available in the US, I quickly acquired a sample set. What I found within the collection were very focused perfumes designed around sets of three keynotes. What I didn’t realize early on was these are 100% Natural perfumes. Mr. Sinclair elicits the most from this palette finding a quiet power within. The one which captured my attention the most was Green Cedar.

If there is a perfume which advertises itself as green cedar I am always interested. There is a freshness to raw wood. In the case of cedar, it keeps it from becoming pencil shavings; elevating it to something less utilitarian. Mr. Sinclair captures all of this.

It opens with a gentle breath of cardamom and magnolia. Then the woods show up. Mr. Sinclair uses two sources of cedar, Moroccan and Texan. He cleaves it with the use of cypriol. This is the main ingredient of faux-oud accords. Mr. Sinclair uses it here as the rawness of green wood with an ideally modulated amount cutting through the cedar.

Green Cedar has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I tried the whole sample set of Abel perfumes, I smiled a lot. The perfumes are all good. They provide the finish to the story begun one night in Mr. Edwards’ voice. Green Cedar is part of the fairytale ending from sales associate to perfumer halfway around the world.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Neandertal Light and Dark- Missing Middle

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about seeing perfumery being seen as an artform is artists from other forms want to create using scent, too. It is an uneven prospect because those artists don’t feel bound by the conventional aspects of modern perfumery. It can lead to inspired fragrance construction. It can lead to cacophonous disasters as the desire to be different crashes up against lack of skill. Those are the extremes. The two perfumes from Neandertal called Light and Dark fall somewhere in the middle.

Kentaro Yamada (via Persefume.com)

Neandertal was conceived by London-based Japanese sculptor Kentaro Yamada. The concept was if Neanderthal Man has survived to the current time; what would a perfume designed for that smell like? Mr. Yamada collaborated with perfumer Euan McCall to form two perfumed answers called Light and Dark. This was released as a very limited edition in 2015 and has now been released late last year for wider distribution. When I received my samples I wasn’t sure what I’d find inside. It wasn’t as unique as I was hoping while both suffer from a shifting of effects that is achieved with caveman-like precision.

Euan McCall (via Persefume.com)

Neandertal Light wants to be the lighter of the two and in the early and later moments it succeeds. It grinds gears in the middle going for that avant-garde touch. It opens on a nice duet of hinoki and galbanum. The Japanese cypress always has a hint of green raw wood within and the galbanum intensifies that. Then the creative team wants a “metallic accord”. What they get is a heavily synthetic accord which thuds on top of a powdery iris. Once it moves past this the base accord returns to a theme as a mineralic accord using synthetic ambergris and patchouli. This is the soul of the primitive underneath the less feral exterior.

Neandertal Dark goes the other direction as it starts with an evocation of a cave dwelling before furnishing it in other fragrant notes. Baie rose forms the core of the top accord as ginger, pine, and leafy green notes form an impression of a cave mouth overgrown with vegetation. The effect is nicely enhanced with caraway and incense. Then we grind gears again as an iodine-like seaweed accord crashes across the top accord like a club. This needed to be used much more delicately instead of as a distracting counterweight. Things get back on track in the base with sandalwood the core which has oud, tobacco, and patchouli forming a nice black leather jacket accord. Which I can see a 2018 Neanderthal wearing.

Neandertal Light and Dark both have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I ended up wearing both of these weeks apart for the purpose of the review. The second time around in both cases was better. Maybe because I was expecting the tonal shifts I didn’t care for they didn’t feel as jarring. I’m not sure I want another perfume from the Yamada-McCall team but Neandertal Light and Dark were good enough even if they missed in the middle.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Jackson Year 2

As someone who writes a blog and puts their words out there you have a question which is hard to answer. Is anyone reading? I have all manner of metric measuring tools which give me the answer in graphs and percentages. I’ve realized over this past year that fundamental question carries a deeper corollary. Does anybody care? The best analytic site can’t give me any insight into that. My best way of measuring that is a single sentence added to the end of a lot of the e-mail I’ve received this year. It goes like this, “Give Jackson a scratch for me?” Or “How’s Jackson?”

I introduced our black standard poodle, Jackson, here in this column a year ago. We adopted Jackson on January 2, 2017, what is called “Gotcha Day”, from a rescue dog organization. As I recounted in last year’s column much of the first year was convincing Jackson I wasn’t the scariest thing in the world. By the end of his first year that was mostly accomplished. It taught me patience and love can cure a lot of ills.

Henry (l.) and Jackson

The first year was giving Jackson the socialization he was denied for his first year of life before we adopted him. He came to trust his new pack members; me, Mrs. C, and our other older rescue poodle Henry. By the end of that year within the confines of Poodlesville he was a happy confident young canine.

One of the things that was left to do was take him out into the rest of the world outside of home. I knew he was going to go back to being scared. I just thought it was important to start giving him the chance to learn there weren’t dragons on the other side of the fence.

What this has meant is four or five days a week I put Jackson on a leash and take him on a walk. We are lucky to have many options within a short drive of home to walk him. To start I just took him to the wide common park in the center of town for a few laps around it.

Our first excursion was one of half curiosity half fright. Every noise and other person we walked past glued him to my thigh; making sure I was between him and the perceived threat. The tail was tucked the entire time we took that first walk. The worst moment came when we walked by the flagpoles and the wind made them clank against the lanyards. I thought Jackson was going to jump in my arms.

Jackson taking a nap on his favorite pillow…..me

Ove a few weeks things got better. The tail began to move upward. The sniffing began. He jumped up excitedly when I picked up the leash. He even cried at me one day when I drove by the park to use the bank drive-thru. He got very used to the commons. Except for Halloween. Our town has a scarecrow contest where various organizations put up scarecrows. As they went up Jackson noted them but seemed to ignore them. Until the one which was made from a posable skeleton reaching out towards the path was installed. Every time we got to that corner of the common Jackson would drop his tail and keep an eye on it until we passed. At which point the tail began to wag again.

Because of the scarecrows it seemed time to expand our horizons. I began taking him to a park which had a wooded trail. The trail remains a sensorial overload for him which vacillates between momentary fright and poodle inquisitiveness. He still isn’t fond of the way a dog in one of the houses barks at him.

One day we got to the park and the trail was closed while they did some repair work on it. There was still a large soccer field to walk around and I thought we could do that. What made this interesting was there was a team practicing on the field which was taking a break. I came upon one of the young men playing as we turned a corner. Jackson hugged in close to me. The boy asked if he could pet him. I told him to be cautious and bend down to Jackson’s level. He did everything correct in approaching an unfamiliar dog. Jackson was soon getting his ears scratched by a stranger. Unbeknownst to him was a few teammates had come looking for their missing man. As they approached, they began to scratch Jackson all over his back. Jackson’s eyes opened as soon as he felt the first unfamiliar hand. Then as soon as he was receiving an all over scratch his eyes closed in pleasure and the tail wagged.

Like my readers when we walk past the boys practicing they ask, “How’s Jackson?” My answer is to all who ask, “He’s doing great!”

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jovoy Pavillon Rouge- Pirates of Old Hollywood

The life of a pirate has always been an object of fascination. For the current generation Captain Jack Sparrow has imprinted his swashbuckling charm onto the screen. While Johnny Depp has created a modern take on the genre it has also added some dirtiness to it. You might not want a perfume which picked up some of the scents of the things we see in the Pirates of the Caribbean. As one much older I was inspired to make a home-made eye patch along with a sword out of a broomstick by Errol Flynn. I watched the 1935 film “Captain Blood” whenever it came on our local UHF TV station. Mr. Flynn was a Pirate of Old Hollywood. Finely coiffed, a crease in his pantaloons, and shiny new blade. Even the shipboard scenes looked like drawing rooms on the waves. When I read the promotional materials for Jovoy Pavillon Rouge I realized this was an Errol Flynn style of fragrance; not a Johnny Depp one.

Marie Schnirer

Jovoy creative director Francois Henin chose perfumer Marie Schnirer to create this Old Hollywood Pirate perfume called Pavillon Rouge. This is a mannered construct of an unrealistic depiction of a pirate. Even so it has a cocky grin Errol Flynn would be proud of.

We find our well-coiffed buccaneer in the hold examining the sacks of spices he just took off the burning ship astern. He takes a swig of the fine whisky while the smell of the spices from the pillaged sacks rises underneath. He muses that the scent of booze and spices smell like victory. He accepts his leather jacket from the crew member who washed the blood off. It adds a nice contrast to the whisky and spice. He walks to the other side of the hold where the sacks containing black tea, dried leaves of tobacco, and coffee all swirl around the boozy leather clad pirate. He emerges from the hold to the cheers of the crew. As he relaxes in his polished wood captain’s quarters the remains of the scents of the hold remind him it was a good day for the Pavillon Rouge.

Pavillon Rouge has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Pavillon Rouge is a classic style of perfume capturing a classic style of pirate. I enjoyed unleashing my Pirate of Old Hollywood sans eye patch and broomstick.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Bronze Wood & Leather- Outside Pitch

Celine Roux has done the best job of any creative director in perfumery of redefining the brand she oversees. When Mme Roux took over she did the intelligent thing of working inside out within the releases. She has made perfumes which have the same feel as the perfumes which began the brand over twenty-five years ago. That’s the inside. The outside is when she pushes at the limits of what a Jo Malone fragrance can be. One of the best examples of an inside perfume is 2015’s Mimosa & Cardamom. It was a return to the delicacy of the early releases within the brand. If you want an example of the outside; Jo Malone Bronze Wood & Leather will do.

Celine Roux

Mme Roux has been working with perfumers over a few consecutive releases lately. For Bronze Wood & Leather she brings back the perfumer behind Mimosa & Cardamom; Marie Salamagne. Bronze Wood & Leather is a burly style of perfume the exact opposite of that earlier perfume. That they both feel like part of the same brand is down to the intelligent creative oversight of Mme Roux.

Marie Salamagne (Photo: Jerome Bonnet)

Mme Salamagne opens with a fresh accord of grapefruit and juniper berry. I’m sure I’ve smelled this combination before but Mme Slamagne has made this one so lively it isn’t like any other. I particularly like the way the juniper blunts the sulfurous undertones in the grapefruit. I’ll admit I’d probably buy a perfume called Grapefruit & Juniper Berry if they wanted to sell me one. This begins to remind me there is meant to be wood here with a tendril of woodsmoke. It starts off at a distance as it inserts itself in the top accord. I was again surprised that the subtle smoke was very pleasant in those early moments. The smoke intensifies as the black leather accord appears. This is that leather biker jacket accord which goes very well with the smoke. Cashmeran provides the desired “bronze wood” with its soft woodiness. a little vetiver provides the final bit of polish.

Bronze Wood & Leather has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

There were so many times while wearing Bronze Wood & Leather I felt like I was surrounded by a contemporary interpretation of mid 1970-80’s masculine perfume. If that doesn’t sound like Jo Malone to you, you’re right. If it sounds good to you should step up to the plate for a fantastic curveball on the outside corner.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Nordstrom.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Mancera Vanille Exclusive- Floral Gourmand Thunderhead

One of the new personal insights I’ve discovered this winter is gourmands are really good. I’ve liked the style for years. This year I have been receiving more new gourmand releases to try in the colder months. As I have been wearing them, I am finding them just as much a comfort scent as the warmer Orientals which are where I usually turn. The latest to leave an impression is Mancera Vanille Exclusive.

Mancera debuted the “Exclusive Collection” at the end of 2018 along with Vanille Exclusive there are Aoud Exclusif and Jasmine Exclusif. Why two get the French spelling and one gets the French-English hybrid I don’t know. The Aoud and Jasmine are the style of perfume Mancera has done well; big bold constructs. Vanille Exclusive is also that but the early going is a subtle wonderland of gourmand notes which is fantastic.

Vanilla Flowers in Whipped Cream

The decision is to use the floral gourmand trend as a launching point. Vanille Exclusive cleverly plays with both of those ingredients throughout the first part of the development before settling in to an Oriental base. The early choice of osmanthus as the floral foil to the foodie elements turns out to be inspired.

It is very typical fruity floral territory where Vanille Exclusive begins as osmanthus and peach are the first thing you notice. It doesn’t take long for this delightful whipped cream cloud to appear. This is the smell of sweetened cream turned into a transparent accord. It adds a lilting creaminess to the osmanthus and the peach. Brown sugar provides a caramel-like effect without tripping completely into that. It tethers the airy whipped cream to the florals. As things drift along a candied violet finds space on this gourmand accord. Vanilla deepens things just in time for the larger impact florals of tuberose and jasmine to join in.Tthis is the kind of floral gourmand accord I could drift in for days. This is as good a version as I have tried. It heads towards a soft Oriental base of amber, woods, and musk which is where things end.

Vanille Exclusive has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

I think it is because I’m used to more straightforwardly powerful perfumes from Mancera that the gentle charms of Vanille Exclusive caught me off guard. I was happy to float the day away on a gourmand thunderhead which took some time to find that power.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Mancera.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Paul Sebastian PS For Men- A Couple Guys From Jersey Make A Perfume

I’m used to people asking me what perfume I’m wearing. I very rarely ask the same question in return. While I was at a local Holiday party, I was making small talk with a new acquaintance. As he kept moving around, I was catching the scent of a really nice cologne. For a while I tried to see if I could place it as one of the current department store offerings. It had more of a throwback vibe to it for me to think it was that. It was made up of so many of the usual perfume suspects I was pretty sure it wasn’t a niche perfume. He didn’t seem like a guy who would be looking for indie fragrances. He definitely didn’t seem like a DIY fragrance person. I finally had to ask. He told me it was Paul Sebastian PS For Men.

Paul Sebastian is not an actual person. The brand name was created by using the middle names of two guys from New Jersey; Leonard Paul Cuozzo and Alan Sebastian Greco. Mr. Cuozzo lived near the plant of one of the major perfume oil producers. He would find the smaller perfume oil house of Fritzsche, Dodge, & Olcott in an adjacent Jersey town. Over a few years he worked with perfumers there to arrive at a formula which could be produced. This is where Mr. Greco enters the story. He was the business guy. A sales manager for a large national firm he had some ideas on a business plan. With a perfume formula, a business plan, and some seed money they produced their first bottles. Selling them at three local New Jersey men’s stores in 1979. Proximity to New York City must have had other men asking the same question I did. When they got the answer Messrs. Cuozzo and Greco began to expand their production and distribution. One of their early innovations was the “gift with purchase” first with teddy bears then small figurines. It all started with PS For Men.

It is easy to see that Mr. Cuozzo’s creative direction was to oversee a softer Oriental than the other masculine fragrance offerings in the mid-1970’s. As he worked through iterations with the perfumers at Fritzsche, Dodge, & Olcott I can imagine him asking for a lightening up of the style. It is what ends up in the bottle.

It opens with spice swathed lavender; nutmeg and clove predominantly. Those spices help keep the rose from getting too out of control. It is here where PS For Men finds its balancing point as spices and florals swirl around each other. A classic amber, patchouli, and musk base provides the finish.

PS For Men has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you’re looking for a lighter Oriental style perfume for the office PS For Men is a great choice. This is not a perfume where you will leave a vapor trail. As I’ve re-introduced myself to my well-hidden bottle, I am impressed at how timeless this feels. It doesn’t have a dated quality to it. This can be found for under $25 in multiple places. Not bad for a couple of guys from Jersey.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Van Cleef & Arpels Rose Rouge- The Rose High-Low

The trend towards transparent perfumes has been one I’ve not been completely onboard with. The other trend which has arisen over the past couple of years is something I am enjoying; floral gourmands. In some ways these kinds of fragrances are the natural evolution of the popular fruity floral perfumes. It isn’t a huge step to replace the fruit with foodie counterpoints. One of the early successes is the combination of rose and chocolate. Van Cleef & Arpels Rose Rouge is another addition to this kind of floral gourmand.

Rose Rouge is part of the ongoing Collection Extraordinaire. I have found this to be a reliably solid group of perfumes. The idea is generally to highlight an ingredient whose name is usually found on the bottle. Rose Rouge is no different. Although “red rose” seems uninspiring. What makes it more than its name is a nice high-low effect for the rose from perfumer Julien Rasquinet.

Julien Rasquinet

Rose Rouge opens on top notes of an herbal baie rose and the sticky green of blackcurrant buds. M. Rasquinet unfurls a rose essence as the first evocation of the title note. This is followed by the hints of the chocolate as a dry cocoa. Right here is where most modern floral gourmands would end. At this point this is a lighter rose and chocolate. It all changes as a more full-bodied Turkish rises along with patchouli and a deepening of the chocolate takes place. M. Rasquinet moves Rose Rouge from an ephemeral surface effect towards something with more substance. The Turkish rose carries a jam-like quality which the chocolate, carrying a bitter edge, meshes ideally with. The patchouli supplies an earthy depth. Vetiver comes along in the base to recapitulate the green top accord while a set of woods form the foundation.

Rose Rouge has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

The first hour of Rose Rouge is so reminiscent of the typical transparent floral gourmands currently on trend. Once rose Rouge moves from that high to the low of the fuller chocolate and rose it really improves. It is this dichotomy which I enjoyed the most on the days I wore Rose Rouge.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Van Cleef & Arpels.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Rasei Fort Kolonya- Stream of Consciousness

Cologne is the most venerable fragrance form there is. Ever since Jean Marie Farina translated his alpine walk into perfumed water, cologne has been a part of perfumery. As much for its history as the new ways modern perfumers choose to interpret it. It is one of my favorite genres. It means I am always interested to see how each new perfumer chooses to create their own cologne. Rasei Fort Kolonya is a fun example of an independent perfumer’s perspective on the form.

Rasei Fort is the perfumer behind the Fort & Manle. He is self-taught and sometimes that quality can be nakedly apparent. It also means that sometimes he can go where his vision takes him not knowing, or caring, if he is conforming to the norm. I’ve been impressed with his later releases as it shows the comfort he is finding with making perfume while still retaining that indie mindset.

Rasei Fort

For Kolonya Mr. Fort says on his Instagram account that it “is a retrospective work of my first olfactive experiences.” It is clear from that statement this is the chance to look back as a stream of consciousness style of fragrance capturing those moments of childhood.

It is only the very first moments when I am reminded of the classic cologne recipe. Mr. Fort uses the traditional citrus opening except it isn’t one kind of citrus it’s a whole basketful. If there’s a citrus note in perfume it is seemingly here. In what will become the trend for Kolonya Mr. Fort adroitly acts as traffic cop keeping everything in its lane. This continues as we move through each layer. The spices come next followed by florals, resins, and woods. It is a fascinating wave of layers which manage to keep from devolving into chaos. The progression from the spice layer of clove, nutmeg, and rosemary uses galbanum as a green escort to the floral layer connecting to geranium and lavender before the other florals take the baton. The fluidity of each exchange makes Kolonya an ever-changing fragrance on my skin.

Kolonya has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Kolonya has the effect of feeling like I’ve sat down with Mr. Fort over coffee and when I asked him about his childhood he didn’t speak. Instead he handed me a bottle and said the story is in there.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Star Trek Discovery

Sometimes you just have to give in and enjoy something for what it is. Somewhere while watching season 1 of Star Trek Discovery I quit questioning all the retroactive continuity that was making me annoyed. Once I did that, I realized this new series was like all of the Star Trek novels I read after the original series left the air in 1969; a way of keeping the spirit alive.

Star Trek Discovery takes place about ten years prior to the original 1966-1969 tv series. It dives right into the problem I have with prequels as it gleefully throws away any previous history in favor of a new version. Over the first few episodes I kept talking back to my television screen which went like this, “Oh c’mon! Somebody would have mentioned this before.” Somewhere in episode 6 or 7 where we were facing new versions of Spock’s father Sarek and original series villain Harry Mudd I stopped caring and just let it go. I put myself in the mindset that this isn’t part of the real Star Trek universe but some alternate version.

One of the reasons I was willing to do this was the crew of Discovery. I stayed with Star Trek Voyager long after the stories dropped in writing quality because of the crew. Discovery, I believe, will have the same effect. It has an advantage of having shorter seasons of 15 episodes. Also, the writing team has seemingly a big board of everything mentioned in the original series and pulls two or three things down and adds them to every episode.

They made a very odd choice to spend the first two episodes on another starship setting up the main character Michael Burnham played by Sonequa Martin-Green. She is a human who was raised by Spock’s parents. Don’t ask more than that because her existence makes no sense. Her actions in the first two episodes are even more illogical. They are meant to put her in a situation where she is looking for redemption when she is added to the crew of Discovery in episode 3. From there as the crew gets to know Burnham and we as an audience get to know the crew things improve.

Like all series these days there is an overarching conspiracy theory plotline. What makes this fun, instead of dreary, is the writers take it to one of the more fun places in Star Trek history setting many of the later season episodes there. Taken as a whole, episodes ten through thirteen are where Discovery takes off. Again as long as you don’t spend too much time thinking about what we know from previous iterations. I was looking forward to the next episode as each one ended.

The resolution of that plot brought season 1 to a two-episode finale that was enjoyable. It ended with a call back to the original series as the Enterprise was hovering in front of Discovery as the season ended. Which is an example of the not quite fan fiction quality of Discovery. There were times it felt like the writers had started with a premise found on a fan forum somewhere.

The second season of Discovery begins in a couple weeks. I’ll be watching. With my mindset perfectly adjusted to enjoy the silly ride.

Mark Behnke