New Perfume Review Orlov Paris Star of the Season- Dominique’s Diamond

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When I got to Esxence this year there were a couple of new lines which were high on my list to try. I am usually drawn to these new brands because of the perfumer they are working with. In the case of the new Orlov Paris line that was the case. Dominique Ropion is one of my favorite perfumers especially when he is working for a niche brand. Orlov Paris was premiering five new perfumes by M. Ropion at Esxence. I think the collection as a whole is very strong but there is one which I just couldn’t wait to spend some more time with, Star of the Season.

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Star of the Season Diamond

Each of the perfumes in the Orlov Paris collection is based on a famous diamond which is also the name of each perfume. The diamond Star of the Season is a 100.10 carat diamond which was bought for a record price of $16,548,750 at auction in 1995. That is still the world-record for the highest amount paid for a single piece of jewelry at auction. When I think of diamonds I think of brilliance and sparkle. When I look at the picture of the Star of the Season above I see something which has mutable shades of blue much the way the ocean changes color in relation to the sky. I think M. Ropion looked at this diamond and also saw the deep violet color captured within and decided to make a crystalline iris perfume. I find Star of the Season to be sort of like gazing into a huge cut diamond and each day I wore it I was drawn by different facets and nuances as I allowed the olfactory brilliance to draw me in.

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Dominique Ropion

Star of the Season opens on a bold rose note as a sort of traditional harbinger of luxury. This is a dewy pure rose with the spicy core kept deep in the background. The orris comes next and it is a rich rooty iris. This also has its more common powdery elements dialed way back. It is earthier and M. Ropion adds patchouli to keep it tilted that way. Over time the earthy qualities fade and just the iris remains in all of its glory. It has a shine to it like it is those violet colors diffused through its namesake jewel. There is a quality of being captured in a crystal lattice which is what has made Star of the Season stand out for me. This all eventually settles onto a base of creamy sandalwood and warm vanilla.

Star of the Season has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

As he has done with all of the perfumes in the debut collection for Orlov Paris M. Ropion has discovered shades of brilliance to display. Star of the Season is the deepest of those shades and perhaps that is why it has captured so much of my initial enthusiasm. I can easily say that Star of the Season is the star of the inaugural Orlov Paris collection.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Orlov Paris at Esxence.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: Orlov Paris will be available starting in July 2015. For those attending the upcoming Sniffapalooza Spring Fling. Orlov Paris is going to exclusively debut the collection at a champagne, caviar, and perfume reception on the evening of Saturday May 16 at the end of day one of Spring Fling.

Dead Letter Office: Salvador Dali Le Roy Soleil- Two Great Minds, One Lost Perfume

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In previous entries of this series I’ve told the story of perfumes which have failed because they couldn’t find their audience. This time I’m going to tell you about a perfume which had two opportunities separated by 50 years to try and find its audience. That it was the product of two of our greatest creative minds, Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dali, makes it all the more noteworthy.

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Le Roy Soleil c.1947

The story of the perfume called Le Roy Soleil starts in 1947 as Mme Schiaparelli wanted to celebrate the end of World War II with a perfume which paid homage to Louis XIV. For the bottle she turned to her collaborator of over ten years, Salvador Dali. As you can see in the picture above the bottle was housed in a hinged seashell which contained a bottle topped with a sun containing a face etched onto it. This was released in a limited edition of 2000. The bottle was produced by Baccarat. It will surprise nobody that the bottle has become one of the most desired for perfume collectors. The disappointing part of all of this is the perfume inside the bottle is an afterthought. I can find no record of the perfumer who worked on it. It is described as “luxurious”, “regal”, and “devastating”. I did buy some of the juice in a 1946 bottle from the person who won an auction for it. It had clearly been exposed to the air and sunlight too long as all that remained was a muzzy vanilla and musk.

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Fifty years later, in 1997, the perfume line which carried M. Dali’s name announced the release of Le Roy Soleil. According to the press release it was based on the original as re-interpreted by perfumer Philippe Romano. This is the version I first experienced. Le Roy Soleil in 1997 was all about pineapple in the early going. M. Romano could have tried to show some restraint but instead he turned the top notes into a fruit fiesta as papaya, apricot, and lemon join the party. These top notes reflect the incredible brilliance of those fruits exploding to life. To turn down the sunshine cinnamon and clove grab ahold of it and shade it a tiny bit. Rose and jasmine add a bit of different shading. Pineapple is one of those odd perfume notes which is far too easy to make syrupy and overwhelming. M. Romano finds a way to avoid that making it light and bright. The base notes are a set of transparent musks over vanilla and sandalwood. This part shares some similarity to what I smelled in the 1947 spoiled sample.

Le Roy Soleil has 8-10 hour longevity and prodigious sillage.

Why did the 1997 version fail? I was unable to find a reason in my research. It definitely wasn’t because the packaging wasn’t spectacular as you can see the 1997 bottle was also quite beautiful. I am going to speculate it is the pineapple which typical consumers don’t appreciate as much as I do. If I ever tried to make a list of top 10 pineapple perfumes ever I think I’d struggle mightily to fill that list up. It isn’t even the aesthetic as Le Roi Soleil Homme released a year later is still in production. As hard as it may be to believe Mme Schiaparelli and M. Dali couldn’t quite shake up the perfume world in the same way they did the fashion world.

Disclosure: This review based on a bottle of 1997 Le Roi Soleil I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Providence Perfume Co. Provanilla- Castaway Vanilla

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There is a group of independent perfumers who I adore for their ability to poke and prod at the common perfume tropes. Natural perfumer Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Co. is one of those unafraid to take the banal and try to make it something less so. I have to admit I forgot this when I opened my package from her with her latest release in it. As I finally revealed my sample from within its bubble-wrapped cocoon the name, Provanilla, made me groan a little inside.

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Charna Ethier

Vanilla is low on my list of favorite featured notes because it is used so often in such an obvious way. It is either the sweet confectionary type. Or the evocation of the vanilla orchid carrying a more floral sweetness tinged with green. It has the ability to overwhelm anything around it and that’s what turns it boring. That was my frame of mind as I sprayed a bit of Provanilla onto a strip. That’s when I was reminded not of the hundreds of boring vanilla perfumes out there but Ms. Ethier’s skill at bringing me around to seeing something new.

Provanilla is a mix of five different sources of natural vanilla which provide the spine of Provanilla. What Ms. Ethier does is to tie up her five vanillas and throw then overboard to wash up on an isolated tropical island. The two components which create the Cast Away vibe are coconut pulp and a melon-based aquatic accord. Provanilla is a fantastic example of Ms. Ethier’s adventurous aesthetic.

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Provanilla opens with the rich mix of the five sources of vanilla. This is a unique blend of vanilla because Ms. Ethier uses her own vanilla tincture to bind the vanillas she is using together. It makes it different but it is still vanilla. It is the melon-based aquatic accord which completely transforms Provanilla. It adds an incredible watery quality to everything. The vanilla accord bobs along on top of the water and once it finds shore it lands on top of a lovely bunch of coconuts. More specifically the pulp of the coconut which provides both complement and contrast to the central vanilla. The watery aquatic accord is still here too. I loved this tropical watery vanilla and it wears so easily without being uninteresting. Only in the base do things return to a sense of normalcy as eventually myrrh and balsam provide the base notes.

Provanilla has 6-8 hour longevity and very slight sillage.

I don’t know how many times it will take for Ms. Ethier to show me something different from that which I think I know well. Provanilla has perhaps provided the strongest proof yet of Ms. Ethier’s ability to completely change my thinking about a note.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Providence Perfume Co.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Le Galion Vetyver- A Reflection of the Past

One of my favorite discoveries at Esxence in 2014 was the revival of the Le Galion line of perfumes. Owner Nicolas Chabot has done an amazing job of restoring these perfumes to life so a new generation of perfume lovers can discover them. The perfumer who was behind the original Le Galion was Paul Vacher. M. Vacher is one of those ghosts from the time when perfumers were not spoken of. Once he formed Le Galion he was no longer quite as hidden. Le Galion eventually went out of business. Until a couple of years ago when M. Chabot stepped in. Last year at Esxence he premiered nine perfumes, all re-interpretations of M. Vacher’s originals. They were one of the most buzzed about brands at Esxence in 2014. Which made me wonder what the follow-up would be.

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Nicolas Chabot (Photo: Sylvie Mafray)

The answer is six new releases, five of which are brand new creations. As it was a year ago I was very impressed with the continued evolution of the Le Galion brand. I will be reviewing all of the new perfumes over the next few weeks but before heading into the new there was one last nod to the past, 1968’s Vetyver.

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Thomas Fontaine

M. Chabot’s partner for much of this olfactory architectural restoration has been perfumer Thomas Fontaine. M. Fontaine is becoming the best modern perfumer at finding a way to use contemporary materials to retain the feel of the past which is what he does very well with his re-work of Vetyver.

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Vetyver was definitely a product of its time. When I entered the booth at Esxence this year the poster above greeted me on one wall. The very 60’s woman holding a pistol and a bottle of Vetyver are like a visual time capsule. Vetyver thankfully is not as mired in the past. It does have a bit of that Austin Powers-like Shagadelic vibe very early on. As it develops the 60’s get left behind especially when Vetyver moves into the middle and end phases of development.  

The early moments of Vetyver are like an homage to the classic men’s powerhouse fragrances of the 60’s and 70’s as bergamot and mandarin are blended with nutmeg and coriander. The opening moments of Vetyver will remind you a lot of those perfumes. It has such a strong evocation of the time that I was worried the rest would feel as dated. Instead it uses the same ingredients which might have made up the next phase of those dated fragrances and instead re-balances them for a much different effect. Petitgrain, verbena, and lavender were also normal running partners to spicy citrus openings. M. Fonatine takes those ingredients and instead of ramping up the intensity into a knockout punch he turns it into a caress. The lavender forms the first light touch with tarragon and clary sage used to accentuate the herbal nature. Verbena is also kept feather light and is bolstered slightly by a precise amount of petitgrain to accentuate the lemon nature. This all leads to one of the more interesting appearances of vetiver I’ve tried recently. M. Fontaine brings the vetiver forward and allows it to have the next part of the development to itself. With a grouping of notes only slightly more intense than the ones used in the heart he shades Vetyver darker but more twilight than midnight. Sandalwood and tonka bean provide some depth and sweetness. Musks go for that slightly earthy effect that goes so well with vetiver as a note.

Vetyver has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Vetyver is a good example of the care M. Chabot and M. Fontaine have taken in updating M. Vacher’s perfumes into the 21st century. As I wore Vetyver over these first few warm days I noticed how different it was than many of my other vetiver fragrances. This speaks volumes about how to effectively bring the past into the present. Le Galion has done that extremely well.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Le Galion at Esxence 2015.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Once Upon a Time in America

Back in 1984 I had started my first job and like many I was very excited to buy this new technological advance the VCR. For me it opened up an opportunity to see some movies I had not seen. What was also cool about that time was the stores that rented videos were often run by people who were also passionate about movies. I had one of those kind of stores I used in those early days of home video. When I would walk in after work the owner, Stephane, would happily show me what he thought was worth checking out from the new releases. This day he held up a title I recognized, “Once Upon a Time in America” by director Sergio Leone. I started waving my hand saying I had seen it in the theatre and it sucked. He smiled and said you haven’t seen this version. As I focused on the box I saw the words “extended cut”. Stephane told me that this was the real version of the movie and it was amazing. I trusted him so I took it home expecting to be ejecting it in a few minutes. Instead I was introduced to one of my all-time favorite movies and one I would place on a personal top 10 of best movies ever. How did it go from “sucked” to Top 10? That’s a story of moviemaking back in the 1980’s.

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Sergio Leone is best known as the director of the so-called “Spaghetti Westerns” shot in Italy using the Mediterranean countryside as a stand-in for the American West. The movies starred Clint Eastwood and together form a version of the Western where our hero was as far removed from the upright honor of any Western character played by John Wayne as could be. What these movies did portray was a sort of rogue’s honor. These deeply flawed heroes had their own, verging on nihilistic, code that they adhered to. After his last release in 1971 he seemingly had stopped making movies. Then I had read he was doing a movie about Prohibition-era gangsters starring Robert De Niro and James Woods. I was there opening weekend. I walked out of the theatre wondering if Mr. Leone was losing his mind as the movie made no sense. Characters showed up out of nowhere. Others did things without seeming motivation. I just knew what I had hoped would be awesome, sucked.

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Robert De Niro

Once Upon a Time in America premiered at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival. Once the lights came up it received an enthusiastic standing ovation from the festival goers. That version was 229 minutes long. The American distributor The Ladd Company was concerned that the length of the movie would limit its box office potential. Because they had the right to edit the film for American release they removed 90 minutes reducing the running length down to 139 minutes. Imagine any movie you like having a third of it removed by, in essence, accountants. Of course that version sucked.

By the time I was putting in the first of two cassettes in my VCR at home I had the 229-minute version. I had a cinematic marvel which drew me in and has never let go. The longer version takes you through the childhood of petty criminals Max (James Woods) and Noodles (Robert De Niro). The entire first act is played by child actors and shows how this rogue’s honor is formed. As Prohibition arrives these now young men, and played by Mr. Woods and Mr. De Niro, build an empire based on their speakeasy. They gain more and more influence and power but can never really attain the things they want most. When Prohibition ends, their empire starts to crumble and this time they are not quick enough to adapt. A tragedy happens causing Noodles to flee the country. He returns as an old man in 1968 because he received a letter which seemed to know more about him than anyone should. He returns to his old neighborhood to figure out what happened.

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James Woods

This is a movie dense with visual motifs foreshadowing much of the movie’s plot. Many of the scenes which have the most impact are when these amoral men try to become what they perceive as civilized only to revert to their amorality. Mr. Leone was unflinching in the way he portrayed some of these scenes they are difficult to watch and brutal. Because the characters are portrayed so vividly you feel the attempt to reach out for something more only to fail. In the final act Noodles explains to the man who brought him back the code he lived his life by and why he wouldn’t do what was being asked of him. Even at the end the rogue’s honor code was the only way he could live his life.

I’ve been purposefully vague about the plot because there are a lot of wonderfully crafted plot turns which should be experienced upon viewing.

I would say the performances by Mr. Woods and Mr. De Niro rank among the very best of their career. In the longer version there is nothing out of place. Last year for the 30th Anniversary of the release of the film an additional 22-minutes were added and this was supposedly the version Mr. Leone had wanted to release. If you like great moviemaking “Once Upon a Time in America” should be in your video queue.

Mark Behnke

Perfume Mythbusters: Hypo-Allergenicity of Natural Oils

As a scientist one of the more pervasive myths in perfumery is the one which says natural essential oils are hypo-allergenic. The myth goes that if it comes from nature instead of a chemistry lab it must be benign. It stems from this phobia many have about the word chemical. When I first moved to Boston I worked at a food co-op once a week. When I arrived for my shift one week there was a big display holding bags of decaffeinated coffee. On the sign above it was this, “We don’t use any chemicals to decaffeinate our coffee, only water.” I stood there laughing as I realized that right there in that simple statement was all that needs to be said about chemical versus natural. Water is a chemical made up of two atoms of hydrogen attached to one atom of oxygen. It is easy to understand that people associate the word chemical with dangerous and the word natural with safe. After all nature is safe, right? Just don’t attempt to clear out a bunch of poison ivy from your yard without the proper protection. Natural is not so nice if you get any of that on you. In fact if you do get some on you it is likely you will slather on a chemical mixture of zinc oxide and ferric oxide more commonly called Calamine Lotion.

The natural is good and the synthetic is bad paradigm exists in perfumery. There is the idea that a synthetic ingredient in a perfume has a greater ability to cause a skin reaction or a headache. The natural product is thought to be more pure with less chance to cause a physical effect. Just as with poison ivy and calamine the opposite is true. I am going to use Geranium Essential Oil versus the synthetic molecule Geraniol as my examples. The first thing you have to realize is Geranium Essential Oil is not just one single molecule it is literally dozens of molecules. In the graph below you see what is called a gas chromatograph trace of geranium essential oil. Each peak you see in the figure represents a molecule contained in Geranium Essential Oil. The bigger the peak the more there is of it. You see at the top of the figure that most of the major peaks have been identified as specific chemicals well-known in perfumery.

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Graph from Sigma-Aldrich

As you can see below here is the gas chromatograph of synthetic Geraniol. One single pure peak and nothing else. In the previous graph is it is peak number 14.

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Graph from Herbalanalysis.co.uk

Here is the fallacy in the natural is good synthetic is bad myth. If you find Geraniol is an ingredient which bothers you then that single ingredient is easy to avoid just by looking at the label. But if Geraniol bothers you and you take out an all-natural perfume of geranium containing Geranium Essential Oil you should have the same reaction. Now if you’re fine with Geraniol but not Linalool (peak 8 on the trace above) you can see the natural essential oil might present a problem for you. Especially if you are someone who prefers unscented bathing products as Linalool is one of the more common fragrance synthetics used in that sector. This is why an all-natural ingredient has way more things contained in it which might cause a bad reaction.

Before I finish this installment I also want to use these two gas chromatography traces to make another very important point. When the government agencies concerned with protecting the consumer from being exposed to potential allergens they cite single molecules as the cause. When they ban or restrict the use of a single molecule you think okay they’ll use an alternative. You’re right the perfumer who uses synthetics has much more latitude to find similar properties in another synthetic. What if let’s say Geraniol was to be banned. Would that mean that Geranium Essential Oil is also banned? It should be it has a high concentration of Geraniol. That is the possible very serious consequence to the use of natural oils if this governmental interference continues.

Finally I am thankfully free of any reaction to any perfume ingredient I have encountered. I can just judge a perfume on whether it does its job. Essential oils because of the wonderful complexity of their composition provide a richer experience than the simple single molecule ever could. If you want to know why natural perfumery continues to fascinate me so much it is because the talented perfumers working with an all-natural palette are using one-of-a-kind materials in fascinating perfumes. As for being hypo-allergenic that’s a myth.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review By Kilian Single Malt- Scotch by the Numbers

It brings a smile to my face that the scion of one of the greatest names in cognac is making perfumes around different liquors. What doesn’t bring a smile to my face is these perfumes are city exclusives. Owner and creative director of By Kilian, Kilian Hennessy, released Apple Brandy for the opening of his New York boutique. This was followed by Vodka on the Rocks for the Moscow store. I liked both of them and they are good takes on the liquor named on the label but I only try to write about city exclusives when I think they are truly exceptional because of their limited availability. The reason you’re reading this is the latest release for Harrod’s in London, Single Malt, is one of the best in the By Kilian line in years.

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Kilian Hennessy

For much of the last four years M. Hennessy has been broadening his brand by adding in very specific styles of perfumes. At this point in time it is probably safe to say there is a By Kilian perfume that should appeal to anyone. That is good business. What I have been missing over the recent releases has been the deeper slightly dangerous vibe of the original releases. The most recent Addictive State of Mind collection sort of returned to that but Single Malt really feels like the one that hearkens back to the origins of the brand.

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Sidonie Lancesseur

For most of the perfumes in the line M. Hennessy has worked with two perfumers. For the olfactory liquor cabinet he turns to one of them Sidonie Lancesseur. Mme Lancesseur has a great understanding of what M. Hennessy wants. It has led to her making some of my favorites in the line. For Single Malt she is constructing a whisky accord from a disparate group of notes. This is another characteristic of some of the best By Kilian scents. I like being able to pick out the individual raw materials and then all of a sudden, like magic, they all snap together to form something that is recognizable.

Single Malt starts off like a typical fruity floral as plum is the first thing I notice. It is a restrained plum not juicy but maybe a day or two from being fully ripe. It is restrained but it is a sweet fruity beginning. What comes next is a rich wheat absolute. This is the core upon which Mme Lancesseur will build her whisky accord. Right away the plum seems to be wrapped up in the wheat and altered. The clean woodiness of cedar and the resinous quality of tolu begin to refine the accord. Then the last piece, vanilla, comes and just like the way a drop of water releases the best single malt the vanilla zips all of this together into the promised whisky accord.

Single Malt has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Single Malt is reminiscent of what I think is the best fragrance in the line Back to Black. Where that perfume was all about tobacco this one is all about whisky. Both of them are fascinating studies in the art of capturing an effect. Hopefully this one will eventually be released more widely than just in London. I think it is worth the effort to try and acquire now especially if you are a fan of the early By Kilian releases. I am going to sit back with a glass of Balvenie 12 yr Doublewood and breathe deeply, surrounded by some of my favorite odors in the world.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Christian Dior La Collection Privee Feve Delicieuse- Tonka Harmonies

If you’re looking for the creativity in perfume you have to look no further than the very excellent Christian Dior La Collection Privee composed by Francois Demachy. Starting in 2009 with Ambre Nuit M. Demachy has curated and composed a collection which represents everything Christian Dior stands for. There is no shortage of imaginative perfume making going on throughout the fragrances in this collection. It is also seems to be relatively unknown. I know at every Sniffapalooza when I introduce some one to the line in its in-store boutique at Bergdorf Goodman they also walk away impressed and usually with a bottle in their bag.

The latest release Feve Delicieuse is the first real gourmand in La Collection Privee. Even as I type that I hesitate to call it a gourmand because while it is a vanilla fragrance it is mostly a tonka bean perfume. M. Demachy keeps it very simple but he also uses some really beautiful raw materials. This means that Feve Delicieuse relies upon the ability of those materials to all take their place in the proper order without taking over. M. Demachy ends up turning Feve Delicieuse into a vanilla that is not cloying or syrupy. It has an unusual delineation and a snap to it instead of the more typical treacly kind of vanilla more common within the gourmand family.

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Francois Demachy

Feve Delicieuse starts off with a patina of Calabrian bergamot. Bergamot is such a ubiquitous ingredient in the opening of perfumes it is easy to overlook it. M. Demachy found a bergamot which makes sure you pay attention. It has that lively bright citric tartness but this also has a subtle undertone of crisp apple. I’m not sure if there is another ingredient which helps focus that grace note into something crisp and green. It is almost a palate cleanser as the main course of tonka bean from Venezuela is next. Tonka is one of those versatile notes in perfumery because it has a transparent vanillic character paired with a coumarin-laden nutty hay-like quality. Usually a perfumer picks one side or the other to accentuate. Because the tonka is the star M. Demachy does both. In the early moments of the tonka appearing, there are richer sweet gourmand notes of caramel and chocolate. The nutty part of tonka sinks in to the sticky matrix and forms an abstract hazelnut accord. If that was all there was to Feve Delicieuse I would have been happy. M. Demachy had some more to show me. The vanilla side of tonka starts to become more pronounced because M. Demachy adds in Madagascar vanilla. This is where Feve Delicieuse becomes something more than gourmand. As the tonka and the vanilla combine instead of heading for full-on gourmand territory it finds a lightness of being which then turns almost golden like diffuse sunlight. It is an immensely satisfying place to spend the final hours with Feve Delicieuse.

Feve Delicieuse has 10-12 hour longevity and modest sillage.

M. Demachy on the Christian Dior website talks about how he wanted Feve Delicieuse to portray the “love of harmony” that is the Dior aesthetic. In the case of Feve Delicieuse I have to agree that the harmonies are all spot on as they sing an intricately layered song.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Cartier XI L’Heure Perdue- Embracing the Synthetic

There may be no designer collection which holds more interest for me than the Cartier Les Heures de Parfum. Starting in 2009 Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent kicked off Cartier’s exclusive perfumes with five entries on her thirteen-hour clock face. Ten of the thirteen hours have been released but there hasn’t been a new one since 2012. Mme Laurent works at her own pace and so after a nearly three year wait the latest entry has arrived, XI L’Heure Perdue.

L’Heure Perdue translates to “lost time” and this time it seems like a bit of non-sequitur for a name. Mme Laurent was very conscious of creating a specific effect with L’Heure Perdue. In an interview with Thomas Dunckley on his The Candy Perfume Boy blog Mme Laurent was quoted on the creation of L’Heure Perdue, “I wanted to create a perfume that did not rely on natural ingredients. It’s totally molecular or ‘synthetic’.” The more I talk to perfumers the more I am hearing this slight irritation with the perception that natural is better by default. For these artists natural or synthetic they are all components for them to comprise a specific effect. The effect Mme Laurent is going for here is sci-fi milk.

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Mathilde Laurent

Mme Laurent, also in The Candy Perfume Boy interview, mentions that she uses vanillin as the keynote for L’Heure Perdue precisely because it has been the source of the smell of vanilla for 100 years and it is completely synthetic. By using vanillin and its familiar vanilla as her foundation she forms a kinetic kaleidoscope of other aldehydes. It makes L’Heure Perdue one of the boldest explorations of aldehydes in recent memory as Mme Laurent goes to her organ and sweeps it clear except for the shelf holding these ingredients.

The first aldehyde which comes out is heliotropin. Heliotropin besides smelling like heliotrope also carries with it a slightly sweet almond-like nuttiness and a vanillic undertone. This is where I would tell anyone who tries L’Heure Perdue to stop and really experience the first moments. It is almost a heliotropin solo act. If you stop and smell the heliotropin I think you will see there is incredible depth and nuance in this synthetic component. It doesn’t take long for a sirocco of many aldehydes to sweep in and lift the heliotropin up on their shoulders and carry it toward the vanillin in the base. This middle phase has all of the kineticism I associate with aldehydes as they fizz and pop around the heliotropin. Eventually they arrive where the vanillin is waiting. Once L’Heure Perdue comes together it is like a digital version of milk. It definitely has the smooth creaminess of milk but the other aldehydes twist it into something a 3-D printer would produce. I have spent days trying to find a way to describe this and still words fail me.

L’Heure Perdue has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

L’Heure Perdue’s embrace of the synthetic over the natural feels a bit like a statement from one of our best perfumers that you ignore the synthetics at the peril of your own creativity. What L’Heure Perdue displays is if you embrace the right synthetics you will produce something as breathtaking as anything nature can produce.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Juliette Has a Gun Gentlewoman- The Neo-Dandy’s Fragrance

It can be difficult to have a recognizable surname and yet forge your own path, especially when you choose to work in the same field. It is why since 2006 when Romano Ricci started his own fragrance line called Juliette Has a Gun it took some time for him to create his own brand DNA. By 2015 that aesthetic has been refined and perfected. I think it is an important component of success to create a recognizable brand identity in the ever more crowded niche perfume sector.

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M. Ricci has always presented his fragrances as chapters in a story following his contemporary version of Shakespeare’s Juliette. In this fragrant story Juliette has never been demure about inserting herself into the action and shunting Romeo, or anyone else for that matter, to the stage apron. Assertiveness in a heroine is often confused with masculinity. For this thirteenth chapter of Juliette’s story, Gentlewoman, she has embraced the characterization and re-cast herself as the “neo-dandy”. What would a neo dandy wear? Why a neo-cologne of course.

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Gentlewoman is M. Ricci’s exploration of that most classical of perfume architectures, eau de cologne. Like his Juliette it is also a modern re-telling of something deemed classical. It also takes eau de cologne and makes it softer around its more traditional spine. There has always been a visual component to M. Ricci’s releases. For Gentlewoman he chose photographer Sonia Sieff to lend some pictures of this thirteenth version of Juliette. The three I’ve chosen to illustrate this show her as she slowly transforms from tuxedoed neo-dandy into seductress. Gentlewoman also does the same kind of deconstruction from classically appointed to musky enticement.

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Gentlewoman opens on the typical eau de cologne ingredients of bergamot, petitgrain and neroli. There are many colognes which start this way but in the case of Gentlewoman I think the neroli is a little more opaque which forms a less percussive cologne opening than is expected. The person in the tuxedo looks like a woman, is she? The heart of this is where the lavender which often makes up the heart of a cologne is now surrounded by different choices. For Gentlewoman it is the twin choices of coumarin and almond which turn this cologne onto a different path. The almond provides a slightly sweet nutty quality. The coumarin adds a slightly sweet hay-like quality. Together the subtle sweetness over the more substantial nutty and hay qualities is really enticing. Again as in the top notes orange blossom is added to soften the potential rough edges. This is when the bow tie is loosed. The jacket thrown over the top of a chair. Juliette looks appraisingly at you, are you game? The base notes answer that question with a mix of three synthetic musks: ambroxan, muscenone, and ambretolide. Together these form that very sexy skin accord with a bead of sweat rolling tantalizingly down it. Juliette has made her choice clear and you will be forever lost to her charms.

Gentlewoman has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage. This might be a modern eau de cologne but it definitely is at a much higher oil concentration than the typical eau de cologne and as a result lasts much longer.

M. Ricci has continued to evolve his brand while staying true to his titular heroine. Gentlewoman takes her into a new place; one which any lover of cologne should enter.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by the US distributor Europerfumes.

Mark Behnke

All photographs, except package shot, are copyright Sonia Sieff for Juliette Has a Gun.