New Perfume Review Vero Profumo Rozy Eau de Parfum & Voile D’Extrait- The Two Faces of Anna

I have mentioned previously that discovering Andy Tauer’s blog back in 2006 was one of those informational turning points for me. I absorbed everything he had to say and one of the perfumers he spoke of was a Swiss perfumer by the name of Vero Kern. It took me a little while but I eventually acquired her first three perfumes Vero Profumo Kiki, Onda, and Rubj. At this point I was considering relocating to Switzerland because it must be a hotbed of independent perfumery. Those first three fragrances are, to this day, very near the pinnacle of what it means to create an independent perfume. I finally had the opportunity to meet her in 2011 when I attended Esxence for the first time. I think I might have been a little overenthusiastic in my enjoyment at the encounter. I had the chance to renew the acquaintance this year and I also had the opportunity to ask her about her new fragrance Rozy.

Rozy was inspired by Italian actress Anna Magnani who is best known as the winner of the Oscar for Best Actress for the 1955 movie “The Rose Tattoo”. Sig.ra Maganai was known for her intensity onscreen as one of the leading artists in the Italian Neorealism movement. She was also one of those handful of foreign actresses that didn’t rely on her looks to make an impact, she was known for her performances on screen and not elsewhere. Ms. Kern is also an intense perfumer who works in an unhurried exacting manner until she is ready to release something new. It is why there is so much anticipation among those who know her work as Rozy is only the second new fragrance since the original three following up 2012’s Mito.

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Vero Kern (r.) and I trying Rozy

While Ms. Kern hasn’t produced new fragrances on a regular basis she has explored the differences concentration makes in her basic architecture and that is why all of her perfumes are available in three versions. The extrait is sort of the baseline version, the Eau de Parfum is a different take altogether usually with a slight tweak to the notes. Just last year she introduced a third version called Voile D’Extraits. I was captivated by the versions of the previous four and when we spoke in Milan she explained she wanted a way to make her perfumes more expansive. They fall in between the EDP and extrait in terms of concentration but they feel like something more original in concept than a simple concentration change could account for. For Rozy I was given a sample each of the EDP and Voile D’Extrait.

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Anna Magnani (Photo: Bob Collins)

Rozy Eau de Parfum is the intensity of Sig.ra Magnani’s stare, full of intelligence and potential. Rozy is Ms. Kern’s take on a rose-centric fragrance but this is not your mother’s, or your grandmother’s, rose perfume. She told me that she didn’t want this to be a “typical” rose. One sniff of the EDP and I knew what she was going for. The rose is there right at the heart but Ms. Kern brackets it with peach, honey, and passion fruit. The passion fruit is becoming Ms. Kern’s signature note. When you try all of her fragrances she has an ability to modulate it to seemingly do anything she wants it to. In Rozy EDP she uses it as a way of adding in a bit of foundation to the peach to keep it from tilting too primly sweet and keeping it a little earthier in nature. The honey is here to add a bit of complementary sweetness and textural viscosity. Rozy EDP ends up mostly a genteel honey covered rose very late in its drydown.

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Anna Magnani

Rozy Voile D’Extrait is just simply a genius piece of perfume making. The Voile D’Extrait is a full throated laugh from Sig.ra Magnani full of the enjoyment of life. For the Volie D’Extrait Ms. Kern adds cassis and tuberose to the early going and then she drenches it in honey, dusts it with spice, and adds the final bit of inspiration, labdanum, to turn this more jagged in nature but the honey holds it all together in a sticky matrix where it all unifies. When Ms. Kern said she didn’t want a “typical” rose Rozy Voile D’Extrait is the one that delivers that promise best.

Rozy EDP has overnight longevity and average sillage. Rozy Voile D’Extrait has similar longevity and below average sillage.

There have been many perfumers who have presented their version of a post-modern rose fragrance. With Rozy EDP, and Voile D’Extrait, Ms. Kern has set my personal standard for that category for the foreseeable future. Rozy Voile D’Extrait is the best perfume Ms. Kern has ever made. It is the best new perfume I have tried so far this year.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Campomarzio 70.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Grand Budapest Hotel

When I was a child going to the movies was an event. You had to buy tickets in advance, you had assigned seating and there were intermissions. These were for the special movies shot in CinemaScope or Cinerama and projected on massive curved screens. It was the great-grandfather of IMAX. During those days the movies had multiple stars in them and the movie posters would have pictures of all of their faces. Movies like ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World’ or ‘Grand Prix’ are examples of this kind of event movie full of popular stars. As I walked by the poster for the new movie by director Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel, I was reminded of those days.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel tells the story of Monsieur Gustave H. during the year 1932 in the titular edifice located in the fictional country of Zubrowka. Ralph Fiennes plays Gustave as a man completely in control of everybody and everything in the hotel. Young Zero asks to become The Lobby Boy and it is through his narration, as an older man, the events of the movie unfold through a number of chapters. One of the best things about Gustave is he has a signature fragrance he wears called L’Air de Panache. It crops up throughout the movie as people use it to know that Gustave has recently walked by and in my favorite scene the only thing he really gets upset about not having at hand after an incarceration.

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The movie shows Gustave as a companion to elderly women who also must be blonde. The movie revolves around one of these; Madame D, played by Tilda Swinton almost unrecognizable under the makeup used to age her. After her latest visit she passes away after she returns home. Gustave finds out at the reading of the will she has bequeathed him a valuable painting ‘Boy with Apple’. Fearing the family will not let him have this he takes the painting and leaves. This starts the caper aspects of the bulk of the film as the consequences of taking the painting play themselves out. Throughout the movie there is a very breezy frenetic feel which does seem a lot like those old wide-screen comedies of my youth as another current actor makes a cameo and leaves. What sets it apart is the framing sequence where an author hears the story from the older Zero in which we see The Grand Budapest Hotel itself, in 1968, as an aging blonde dowager. No matter how successful Zero’s life has been he cannot let go of this original love of his no matter whether she is showing her age.

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Wes Anderson

I found The Grand Budapest Hotel to be a return to those old caper comedies. But through the lens of a very talented filmmaker in Mr. Anderson who allows a bit of pathos in the end to draw a tear, while wearing a smile, it has a very modern indie feel to it. To use a perfume analogy it is like the Nouveau Retro creations we are getting of defunct perfume houses. Completely feeling like a throwback but with modern flourishes.

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As for the perfume spoken about within the movie it didn’t really exist until a few months ago for the premiere. Perfumer Mark Buxton created L’Air de Panache and it was given to the cast and those at the World Premiere of the movie. When I sniffed it at Esxence it also felt like something one of the better dressed gentlemen at those event movies of my youth might have worn.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Juicy Couture Dirty English-Claude Dir Brings Niche to Mainstream

There are times I need a lot of encouragement to overcome an erroneous snap judgment I have made. One of those instances was back in 2008. On Basenotes there was a lively discussion about this new mainstream fragrance from Juicy Couture called Dirty English. Now this, at the time, nearly 50-year old man was not going to wear any perfume from Juicy Couture. I remember being quite vocal about it on the forum, too. All of this was without ever having tried it. Then I was in my local department store and a sales associate approaches me with a bunch of strips in her hand and hands one to me. As I sniff the strip picking out caraway, cardamom, leather, sandalwood, and oud. I was running through which niche house this could have come from. Then the rep told me what it was. Yes you guessed it this was Juicy Couture Dirty English and my jaw had disengaged itself from my face and was dusting the floor.

There have been a few valiant attempts to bring a niche aesthetic to the department store counter, Dirty English was the attempt for 2008. So far there has not really been a breakout success for any of these and this is why Dirty English is easy to find at the discount fragrance purchase points. I have regularly found it for less than $30 for a 3.4 oz. bottle.

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Claude Dir

Claude Dir was the perfumer behind Dirty English and this was in keeping with his very mainstream career to this point in 2008. He had made one of my favorite mainstream fragrances, Zaharoff pour Homme a few years earlier. Later on in 2008 he would start working on the niche side of the street when he composed Bond No. 9 Andy Warhol Lexington Avenue (now just called Lexington Avenue). With hindsight one can look back at Dirty English as the real start of M. Dir’s niche values.

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Dirty English mixes pepper, cardamom, and caraway. The caraway adds an exotic tenderness to the spices and again I wonder out loud why this isn’t used as a substitute for bergamot more as a top note. All of the spice dusts the light woodiness of cypress. M. Dir then uses a leather accord called Santal Fatal which uses sandalwood, vetiver, and cedar to form the leather accord. M. Dir makes a fascinating choice of using marjoram as an herbal contrast to the Santal Fatal. He then uses the combination of nagarmotha and patchouli to make an oud accord and right here with the combination of all of these components you would be hard pressed not to feel this was a top of the line niche fragrance. In the end a very close-wearing musk finishes this one off.

Dirty English has about 4-6 hour longevity and above average sillage. This makes it an ideal evening out scent.

I was, and continue to be, impressed with the choices M. Dir made for Dirty English. If he was less disciplined with the choices he made this could have easily turned into a mess. Instead he turned out a fragrance I still look to wear for an evening out. I still can’t believe there is a Juicy Couture anything I like as much as this.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle of Juicy Couture Dirty English I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Naomi Goodsir Parfums Or du Serail- Texture Above All

One of the most anticipated stops I made at this year’s Esxence was my very first one. Last year at Esxence I had the pleasure of meeting Naomi Goodsir and Renaud Coutaudier the Creative Directors behind Naomi Goodsir Parfums. I was drawn in with their passion for creating fragrance which has a texture to it. Ms. Goodsir is a milliner and she creates some of the most amazing hats and accessories and all of them contain fabulous textural details. She would explain to me that she has the same desire to do that with perfume. As I walked toward Ms. Goodsir I saw a third bottle on the counter and was excited to try the new release, Or du Serail.

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Naomi Goodsir

Ms. Goodsir and M. Coutaudier chose perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour to collaborate with them on Or du Serail. The plan was to take a golden tobacco heart and attach various detailed notes to it thereby creating unusual tangents to follow down with your senses before returning to the core tobacco. There were many iterations as everyone involved searched for the right combination to achieve something much easier to say than to actually produce. At the end they have created a multi-layered fragrance full of fascinating olfactory nooks and crannies which reward the wearer who explores every facet offered.

Right from the start a complete golden tobacco accord is in place. This is the smell of the dried leaf hanging in the curing barn. It is so rich it exerts a hypnotic pull into its depths. M. Duchaufour has used this accord before but this time it seems to carry more substance than it has in the past. Once the tobacco has you under its spell M. Duchaufour starts adding to it with each new note adding a new texture. It starts with a bit of sage and the dried quality of herbal leaf and tobacco leaf form a desiccated texture. Next is a dried fruit accord and it adds a veneer of concentrated sweetness carrying you into a sticky phase. Mate returns you full circle to another dried leaf as the strong tea character overlays the tobacco with a bit of an edge. That edge is honed by amber to turn this shiny and modern at the end.

Or du Serail has overnight longevity and average sillage.

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The Triple A by Naomi Goodsir

As I mentioned this was my first stop on my first day at Esxence. The success at achieving the textural concept behind Or du Serail was borne out as over the next twelve hours I would keep returning to the strip to find it recognizably different every time. Once I wore this over two days what I experienced on the strip was amplified. I was constantly entertained by this kaleidoscopic construct. For anyone looking for a different fragrance experience I recommend Or du Serail as something to savor for the achievement of realizing a concept so brilliantly.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Naomi Goodsir Parfums at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jul et Mad Acqua Sextius- Love Story Part IV

There are so many inspirations which turn into perfume but the story behind Jul et Mad is, I think, unique. Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard are the owners and Creative Directors of Jul et Mad which comes from the abbreviation of their first names. The first three fragrances followed the pair from Lexington Avenue in NYC to a café in Paris and left us with them on a palazzo in Venice. For the fourth fragrance in the Histoire D’Amour series, Acqua Sextius, our lovers travel to Aix-en-Provence where they will wed.

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The Real Jul et Mad

For Acqua Sextius perfumer Cecile Zarokian was asked to be the interpreter of chapter four.  The name comes from the original name given Aix-en-Provence by Roman consul Gaius Sextius in 123 BC. The Acqua is particularly appropriate as Aix-en-Provence is now known for its over 100 fountains and its famous thermal springs. Mme Zarokian captures the green vitality of a summer day in the South of France at the same time there is a very clever watery theme running throughout. This turns Acqua Sextius into a sort of green aquatic although it often times feels in a class of its own.

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Cecile Zarokian

Mme Zarokian wakes us up with a sparkle of sunlight streaming into our bedroom; she combines a citrus trio of lemon, orange, and grapefruit with a translucent veil of green notes as if one was looking at the sun through gauzy green curtains. This is a wonderfully executed opening which brims with the potential of the day ahead. In a nod to the thermal baths a bit of eucalyptus and mint deepen the green and an application of ozonic notes give the impression of a spa bath. A bouquet of floral notes centered on mimosa make up the heart of Acqua Sextius. Mme Zarokian keeps them light and playful and as we head outside a fig tree adds in its luscious creamy greenness. Mme Zarokian uses labdanum to deepen the green theme as we are now walking in green fields. Ambergris carries the smell of the nearby Etang de Berre. For most of the time Acqua Sextius is on my skin this is where things stay; as a pleasant mix of aquatic, floral, and green. Many hours after applying it everything turns lightly woody with cedar and gaiac mixing with a light sheer musk which is the perfect easy way to end our day in Provence.

Acqua Sextius is an Extrait de Parfum and despite its ineffable lightness it lasts overnight on my skin. The sillage is also more than one might expect from an Extrait de Parfum but you won’t be leaving a vapor trail in your wake.

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Fontaine de la Rotonde on the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence

One of things I am coming to admire about the way Mme Zarokian composes her fragrances is deftness of precision which places each note in its proper place. I also admire that even though she works for many different brands her style does not impose its will upon each brand's characteristics. Acqua Sextius is clearly a Cecile Zarokian fragrance but it is even more importantly a Jul et Mad fragrance and I am sure that is due to a very close working relationship throughout the process of finishing Acqua Sextius. For me the fragrant wedding of one of my favorite perfumers and favorite creative directors is a complete success. I will be wearing Acqua Sextius throughout the upcoming summer pretending my backyard is a field in Provence.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Acqua Sextius provided by Jul et Mad at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ann Gerard Parfum Rose Cut-Brilliance & Depth

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Often when I am at an exposition like Esxence with so much to experience there is a real concern I might miss something worthwhile. For the first two days I was at the most recent version of Esxence I kept walking by Ann Gerard making a mental note to stop and try her newest release, Rose Cut, but every time I was near I was heading to an appointment. On Saturday morning I received an e-mail from Lila Das Gupta of Basenotes as she was waiting to catch a flight home. She told me she was wearing Rose Cut and she loved it. That was enough for me to make my next appointment with Mme Gerard and I duly walked over to introduce myself and have her present Rose Cut. To cut to the chase Lila was right but I’ll give you a little more detail.

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Ann Gerard

Rose Cut follows up the first three perfumes released in 2012, Ciel d’Opale, Cuir de Nacre, and Perle de Mousse. Mme Gerard worked with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour on those and she rekindled the relationship for Rose Cut. The relationship between Mme Gerard and M. Duchaufour is a bit of a mutual admiration society as M. Duchaufour was a customer of Mme Gerard’s bespoke jewelry creations before he became her perfumer. As a result there is a more dynamic relationship between creative director and perfumer as Mme Gerard speaks in abstract ideas and M. Duchaufour translates them into perfume. There is a real affection between the two of them and the perfume they produce shows that connection.

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Rose Cut Diamond Ring

The name Rose Cut refers to a particular way to cut a diamond to allow the facets to reflect in such a way that it looks like a rose. As I learned more about the rose cut I found out it is a shallow cut so that it allows a maximum amount of light to refract off the symmetrical surfaces cut in to the stone. As I was wearing Rose Cut and reading about rose cut diamonds I could see M. Duchaufour composing a fragrance which captures the essential sparkle and concurrent depth a rose cut diamond displays. I also thought you could also interpret Rose Cut as the act of removing a rose from the bush at the peak of its blooming. Rose Cut the perfume encompasses both of these descriptions as M. Duchaufour has brilliance to spare throughout and depth of design all coalesced around a lush rose focal point.

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Bertrand Duchaufour

M. Duchaufour uses a magazine of aldehydes to create that opening brilliance along with a little bit of pink pepper. Then he brings in the rum accord he has perfected in the last few years and instead of turning this boozy it adds a louche depth against which the aldehydes shimmer upon. Out of this comes a classic rose and patchouli combination which forms the heart of Rose Cut. The rum gives an interesting bit of contrast and some peony keeps the rose on the fresh side of things. The base is assembled from comfort notes of vanilla, oak, and benzoin to finish Rose Cut with a slightly sweet coda.

Rose Cut has all-day longevity and way above average sillage.

I hope I would have eventually made my way over to Mme Gerard without Lila’s prompting but I am happy for the prodding because Rose Cut was one of the star fragrances of the entire show for me. As much as I liked the original three releases Rose Cut is a cut above them and really does the best job yet at capturing the sparkle of a diamond as a perfume. It is a sophisticated lively rose perfume that is as good as it gets.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Ann Gerard Parfum at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

All Photos by Sabine Hartl & Olaf-Daniel Meyer except for the diamond ring photograph.

New Perfume Review Olfactive Studio Ombre Indigo-Shadowy Perspectives

When I am out walking my two standard poodles on the night of a full moon; the yard is filled with shadows as the dogs and I cast shadows either from the moonlight or the electric floodlights. The size and intensity of those shadows varies depending on our respective positions in the yard. It is an interesting study of perspective. Perfumes also like to capture shadows and through them also add unique perspectives to what those shadows are representing. Creative Director Celine Verleure of Olfactive Studio was also thinking about shadows for her latest release Ombre Indigo.

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Photo by Gustavo Pellizzon

Every Olfactive Studio fragrance begins with a brief based on a photograph. For Ombre Indigo Mme Verleure chose the picture above by Brazilian photographer Gustavo Pellizzon. This picture was part of Sr. Pellizzon’s 2012 photgraphic series “Encante” inspired by Brazilian myths and legends. If you click on the link you will see the rest of the series, with the exception of one, are all bright. The inspiration piece for Ombre Indigo is unique within the collection. When I look at the picture I am struck by two things; the indeterminate nature of the person at the center. Is it male of female? Young or Old? Sr. Pellizzon has seemingly photographed a shadow made solid. The second thing is the saffron colored clothing. It is a contrasting splash of color which only deepens the reflection of the indigo water except for one echo of the saffron in the upper left corner. Mme Verleure had posted this picture on her Facebook page and it had captured my attention from the moment I saw it. I had a week to think what a fragrance from this picture would smell like until I met Mme Verleure at Esxence in Milan.

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Mylene Alran

I had also seen a picture of the bottle and knew the juice was colored blue but it is as blue as the water in the photograph and the depth of the color creates another visual shadow to complete the eye candy prior to smelling the perfume. Mme Verleure tapped Robertet perfume Mylene Alran to produce the perfume. Mme Alran chose tuberose and vetiver as the central themes but she carefully turns them from the powerhouse notes that often overwhelm fragrances into dancing shadows. By using notes like bigarade, leather, or incense to provide the more intense floodlight variety of shadow. Or saffron, plum, and papyrus to shine a little diffuse moonlight on the central notes; Ombre Indigo leaves me delightedly pursuing these shadows while I wear it.

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Celine Verleure

Ombre Indigo opens with a fully realized bigarade oozing its slightly sulfurous nature and then the tuberose comes next but accompanied by saffron and plum. If you’re used to tuberose knocking you off your feet Mme Alran gives you a tuberose that is a shadow of that incarnation. This is delightfully precise perfumery of the highest order to keep the tuberose in check. The vetiver then arrives and together the tuberose and vetiver form the central accord for the remainder of Ombre Indigo’s development. Papyrus slides a veil of green over the vetiver and tuberose drawing one’s attention to that facet lurking in the background of both core notes. A very animalic leather accord comes next and that enhances the indolic nature of the tuberose and turns the vetiver more deeply woody. The final stages are a sturdy amber and musk drydown to allow the tuberose and vetiver a final point of reflection.

Ombre Indigo lasts all-day on me and has above average sillage.

Ombre Indigo is the most complete package of visual and olfactory treat that Olfactive Studio has produced, so far. There is nothing out of place as every piece of the puzzle fits together to form a fascinating experience. With each new release Mme Verleure’s consistent vision continues to produce perfume of the highest quality which deserves to be displayed in the brightest light. This has become my favorite Olfactive Studio fragrance to date for the completeness of vision produced by Mme Verleure, Sr. Pellizzon, and Mme Alran. I think the only shadows one will find Ombre Indigo in are those of its own making.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Ombre Indigo provided by Olfactive Studio at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfum D’Empire Corsica Furiosa- A Flash of Green

Growing up in South Florida I spent many sunsets on a boat in the water. Watching those sunsets I saw a distinct phenomenon called a “green flash”. As the last sliver of sun starts to drop below the horizon you can see a green halo form right at the top of the curve which grows in intensity as the sun drops and just as the sun disappears the sky will light up with a flash of green. I used to love watching this from the bow of my boat as it felt like the sun was building up a verdant charge before letting it flare across the sky. It wasn’t something I would expect a fragrance to remind me of but ever since I sniffed the new Parfum D’Empire Corsica Furiosa it is the image which keeps coming to my mind.

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Marc-Antoine Corticchiato hasn’t had a new release for Parfum D’Empire since 2012’s Musc Tonkin. For me that was going to be hard act to follow as I named Musc Tonkin my best new fragrance of 2012. Oftentimes when following up something as good as that perfumers can fall into a number of traps. For his follow-up to Musc Tonkin M. Corticchiato chooses to go away from the deeply animalic and instead explore the nature of green in perfume. Corsica Furiosa is built around a spine of lentiscus, otherwise known as mastic resin, which gives a lemon tinged viscous green nucleus to start from. M. Corticchiato then swirls in all kind of shades of green to interact with the resin and just as it builds in intensity it releases in an olfactory flash of green that fills the senses before finally settling into a leather base to relax.

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Marc-Antoine Corticchiato

There is a lime component in the top notes which is perfect to pick up on the lemon tinge of the lentiscus. It makes the early going tarter and I see tart as green so this is where the first layer of green appears. A bit of balsam adds a woody facet of green and turns this more forest glade before another turn and a cut-grass accord turns it into open field. Then here is where a particularly beautiful transition takes place as the green grass dries out into a sweet hay accord where some honey is used to amplify the sweet dried grass aspect of the hay. This is where Corsica Furiosa all of a sudden releases a ball of energy as moss and labdanum seem to cause this perfume to go from tightly focused intensity to diffuse sheerness. It is an arresting transition on my skin and in my mind’s eye the olfactory sky has just gone entirely green. A leather accord forms the base notes and the lentiscus is still very present but now it seems as if it has spent all of its energy and needs to sit down in a leather armchair for a rest.

Corsica Furiosa has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

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Corsica Fruriosa is a more than worthy sequel to Musc Tonkin it captivates me in an entirely different way. Corsica Furiosa leaves me on the bow of my boat waiting for the moment of breathtaking beauty to come and knowing it will be there every time.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Parfum D’Empire at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Nose- Searching for Blamage

The very last event I attended at Esxence 2014 was a screening of the documentary “The Nose-Searching for Blamage”. Director Paul Rigter followed perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri of Nasomatto around as he designed his tenth, and final, Nasomatto fragrance. Sig. Gualtieri wanted to call this last fragrance Blamage which is loosely translated as mistake. The opening of the movie shows Sig. Gualtieri talking about how some of the more famous perfumes in history were improved by adding too much or too little of an ingredient. For this last fragrance in the Nasomatto line he wanted to leave it all up to chance what he would use to create Blamage. He had his assistant blindfold him with a plaster blindfold and then walk him over to his wall of raw materials where six random ingredients were selected. These would form the core of Blamage.

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After the blindfold was removed and Sig. Gualtieri saw what he had chosen he exclaims, not for the last time, “Cazzo!” The subtitle translates it as “shit” and for the rest of the film when the word is used it goes unsubtitled. What is great about the way Sig. Gualtieri uses the word is its meaning is all dependent on the tone of his voice. When he is looking at sandalwood in Delhi, India it is said with weary disgust at the cheap materials. When he is smelling one of the mods of Blamage it is said with a smile and suppressed laugh as his task at meshing these six disparate notes is proving difficult but also fun.

Throughout the almost one-hour running time we watch Sig. Gualtieri as he visits Milan for Esxence in 2012 and goes throughout the city leaving little altars of scent, as seen in the clip above. His visit to Delhi, India on a search for raw ingredients has a funny turn as he walks by a store with a knockoff of his Black Afgano. His reaction is priceless as the artist assesses the knockoff.

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By the end of the year Mr. Rigter had to stop filming before the final version of Blamage was finished. At Esxence 2014 the bottle was on display and at the movie showing a bottle was given away to a lucky attendee who was surrounded by many to get a chance to smell the result of this intentional mistake. Mr. Rigter has captured much of what is special about Sig. Gualtieri in the world of perfumery. His irreverence coupled with his serious love of making unusual fragrances comes through via Mr. Rigter’s lens.

For anyone who loves Nasomatto I think The Nose-Searching for Blamage will make you appreciate the perfumer behind your favorite perfume. If you’ve never tried a Nasomatto fragrance I’d be surprised if you aren’t a little interested in trying one after spending an hour with Sig. Gualtieri on film. The Nose- Searching for Blamage is a wonderful insight into one of our most iconoclastic perfumers.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: The Nose- Searching for Blamage will be shown at the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto, Canada on Apr 26, 27, and May 3, 2014. For more info click on this link.

Welcome to the Colognaissance!

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One of my favorite pop culture terms is the one used to refer to actor Matthew McConaughey’s reinvention of his acting career which lead to him winning the Best Actor Oscar, for Dallas Buyer’s Club, a month ago. The term for the winning streak he has been on is “McConaissance”. I like it because it succinctly describes how this lightly regarded romantic comedy actor more known for being People’s Sexiest Man alive in 2005 has become this respected dramatic actor without really changing much of anything but the acting roles he has chosen.

As I was walking around Esxence 2014 I began to realize there is a sort of a fragrance equivalent going on. It started to hit me after spending time with Luc Gabriel of The Different Company talking about the seven fragrances which make up the L’Esprit Cologne Series. It became a little more solid while chatting with Jean-Christophe Le Greves of Thirdman. It finally became a fully formed idea when Etienne de Swardt of Etat Libre D’Orange showed me his new release titled simply Cologne. Yes I’m going there; we are in the midst of a Colognaissance.

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For far too many years cologne was seen as the perfume equivalent of wine in a box. No discerning lover of fragrance would be caught wearing a cologne. Those were the out-dated smells of our fathers who likely wore too much of something like Faberge Brut or Dana English Leather. The cologne was turned into a trifle and a punchline and it pretty much stayed that way for forty years in the US. Even Mr. McConaughey was enlisted as the celebrity face behind Stetson Cologne. This devaluing of cologne never seemed to take place anywhere else in the world. Things got so bad that cologne became synonymous with cheap fragrance. What was needed was a group of creative minds to turn this around.

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Christophe Cervasel and Sylvie Ganter

Just as Mr. McConaughey found a way to be cast in roles with more heft Creative Directors and owners of Atelier Cologne, Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel, created a “new” version called cologne absolue. The cologne absolue was a higher concentration version, pushing 20% perfume oil. What this addressed was one of the perceived issues around colognes, their lack of longevity on the wearer’s skin. By upping the oil percentage and finding a way to retain the cologne architecture and balance Atelier Cologne rapidly began to pick up converts. Atelier Cologne has continued to push the envelope on what a cologne can be, even choosing heavier keynotes like leather or amber and still managing to make a fragrance identifiably a cologne.

eau-by-thirdman

Thirdman Cologne

Perfumer Emilie Coppermann working under Luc Gabriel’s creative direction took some of the finest ingredients never found in colognes previously and throughout the seven L’Esprit Cologne Series showed they could be turned into luxurious luminous compositions. Jean-Claude Ellena at Hermes has added four new Eau de Colognes to the original Eau de Orange Verte. Each of these explore a specific duality of two notes and are among some of the best work M. Ellena has done while at Hermes. One of the most recent lines to join the Colognaissance has been Thirdman, under the creative direction M. Le Greves, which has made completely modern colognes meant to be splashed on liberally and often. I kept my bottle of Eau Monumentale in the refrigerator so I could catch a cool splash in the summer.

All of these lines are worth exploring if you have not tried them up until now. I have all of them on permanent rotation once the mercury soars as they all refresh the spirit as a good cologne should do. What is nice is that along with the refreshment there is also a wonderful spread of styles and aesthetics to choose from. As we finally leave winter behind start thinking about joining the Colognaissance the choices have never been better.

Mark Behnke