New Perfume Review Serge Lutens L’Orpheline- Lost in the Light

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When a perfume brand evolves sometimes it evolves with the perfumista who loves it and sometimes it grows away. Artists have to be encouraged to follow their muse and that doesn’t always mean that old fans will remain fans and new fans won’t try the new direction. I am one of those who is having a hard time sticking with the new direction Serge Lutens has taken over the last three years. Ever since the advent of the L’Eau series M. Lutens has decided he wants to walk in the light. My problem is I don’t want to walk in his version of the light. The latest release L’Orpheline finally made me see the light.

serge lutens

Serge Lutens

M. Lutens has said in a few published interviews that many of his fragrances are meant to pay tribute to his mother who abandoned him during World War II. Without going all Sigmund Freud a perfume which translates as The Orphan is probably dealing with some of these issues. An artist’s life experiences often make for compelling art but L’Orpheline is just painful to me. When I received my sample of the spring release Laine de Verre I couldn’t bring myself to wear it. It was full of jagged aldehydes, an overdose of cashmeran, all over synthetic musks. The worst Serge Lutens fragrance ever. In L’Orpheline, perfumer Christopher Sheldrake, recycles the aldehydes and cashmeran and this time adds in incense in place of the musk. Which is an improvement because I at least was able to wear L’Orpheline for a couple of days and I couldn’t wear Laine de Verre at all.

Christopher-Sheldrake

Christopher Sheldrake

Those aldehydes are the beginning of L’Orpheline and for me it is a collection of all of the most unpleasant aldehydes. It is overtly metallic, unnecessarily sharp, and irritating. It is an example of all of the worst qualities aldehydes bring to a fragrance. At least in L’Orpheline the cashmeran is kept a little more under control but just as in Laine de Verre I am not sure what M. Sheldrake is going for in this aldehyde-cashmeran accord but I just don’t like where it takes me. It lingers around for way too long like this before I get some relief from incense and patchouli in the base; which actually serve to remind me of other perfumes from the brand I like better.

L’Orpheline has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Over the last three years only La Fille de Berlin has been the kind of fragrance I want and love about Serge Lutens. Everything else has been an attempt to take things in a different direction. If you have enjoyed the L’Eaus then I think L’Orpheline will be another which you will enjoy as it is that audience for whom it is made for. Alas I am not that audience.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aedes de Venustas Oeillet Bengale- This Rose is on Fire

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Every perfumer has a particular style that, in essence, becomes their signature on a fragrance they have composed. That doesn’t mean they can’t make perfumes outside of that but there is a sweet spot or comfort zone where these perfumers can seemingly make a memorable fragrance at will. Rodrigo Flores-Roux has a portfolio of many varied and fantastic perfumes. When he chooses to work on a floral centered fragrance that is where I think he has done his best work. The recent release Aedes de Venustas Oeillet Bengale is as good as Sr. Flores-Roux gets.

rodrigo flores roux

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

One of the reasons I think he is so deft with florals is he spent a year in college before going to Versailles to begin his perfume training. That year at university in Mexico City he spent studying biology. In an alternative universe where he wasn’t accepted into ISIPCA to become a perfumer I imagine him becoming a botanist presiding over a magnificent greenhouse of the most unique, and fragrant, blooms. In the universe we live in Sr. Flores-Roux is a perfumer and he brings the observant eye of a scientist when he chooses to interpret a flower as a perfume. There is always an elegance of precision to Sr. Flores-Roux’s scents but when it comes to the florals it often seems like it is being dissected into its component notes to be put back together. Oeillet Bengale is a type of China rose and owner of the perfume boutique Aedes de Venustas, Karl Bradl, saw a still life of it and knew he wanted this to be the inspiration for their third fragrance. Without the assistance of the press materials I saw “oeillet” and expected carnation. What Sr. Flores-Roux has produced is a simulation of the China rose by using carnation as the foundation to create the accord. A number of spice notes have to be balanced exactly to bring to life the desired “fiery rose”. All of this is placed on a foundation of smoking incense.

Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner

Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner Owners and Creative Directors of Aedes de Venustas

The first few minutes of Oeillet Bengale show off Sr. Flores Roux’s highly evolved citrus accord. It is paired with herbs and a surprising bit of strawberry. Together it creates a snappy opening full of refreshing notes. The carnation comes up next and this is the current version of carnation stripped of its clove-like nature because that version is no longer IFRA-compliant. Sr. Flores-Roux puts back in what IFRA has removed by using his own mix of spicy notes; clove (of course), cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper return the spicy heart to the carnation and improves upon it. The heart of Oeillet Bengale really does feel as if it is a rose on fire as the florals and the spices feel right on the verge of spontaneous combustion. To add a calming effect Sr. Flores-Roux takes frankincense, labdanum, and tolu balsam to form a smoky resinous base to rest the smoldering bloom upon. For a long time on my skin this is where Oeillet Bengale lingers as the carnation and spices float on a resinous cloud of pungent vapor.

Oeillet Bengale has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Oeillet Bengale is one of the most compelling perfumes Sr. Flores-Roux has created and it takes its place among my favorites by him. This is my favorite of the three Aedes de Venustas fragrances released to date. I look forward to whatever Sr. Flores-Roux will release next but when he is in his floral sweet spot there is nobody better.

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

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Lime

The smell of lime seems synonymous with summer to me. From the slice in my gin and tonic. Squeezing it lavishly into my guacamole or over grilled shrimp. Key Lime Pie never tastes better than in August. I use so much lime this time of year my hands seem naturally perfumed from the most organic of sources. There are some great perfumes which allow me to smell of limes as much as I want. Here are five of my favorites.

jo malone lime basil and mandarin

Jo Malone Lime, Basil & Mandarin– Probably the fragrance which put Jo Malone on the map. Perfumer Lucien Piguet creates one of the greatest citrus top note accords ever. Lime and mandarin are the key notes but grapefruit also plays a significant role. The basil, along with thyme, provides a fascinating herbal contrast before finishing with a refreshing vetiver base. 2008’s discontinued Sweet Lime & Cedar replaced this in my affections until the bottle ran out.

Floris Limes– I doesn’t get simpler than this venerable English brand’s lime and musk perfume. Really many of the classic English brands like Geo F. Trumper and Truefitt and Hill also do single lime perfumes but Floris’ choice to go with a musky finish instead of woods makes it stand apart and above the others.

Frapin-LHumaniste

Frapin L’Humaniste– My favorite Gin and Tonic fragrance complete with a big wedge of lime included. You can almost feel the beads of condensation running down the side of the glass while wearing this. I think perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur must like the smell of G&T, too.

Creed Virgin Island Water– Whenever I wear this I sing Harry Nilsson’s most famous lyric, “She put de lime in de coconut”. Creed turns that song into a perfume where the lime is in the coconut along with jasmine and musk.

Charenton Macerations Christopher StreetDouglas Bender’s debut fragrance, with an assist from perfumer Ralf Schwieger, is much more than the lime top notes but they are fantastic and prominent. There are many who never get beyond the limes but the rest of Christopher Street is full of the joys of life lived well. The lime may pull you in but the rest of Christopher Street is just as exhilarating in a different way.

Grab a slice of Key Lime Pie make yourself a G&T and wait for the lime marinated shrimp to come off the grill all while wearing one of my favorite lime perfumes.

Disclosure: I purchased bottles of all the fragrances mentioned.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Soivohle Amun Re The Tears of Ra- Tracks of My Tears

Creative people are fascinating to watch especially those who have multiple outlets for that urge. Liz Zorn is one of those polycreative people. It is her perfumes that brought Ms. Zorn to my attention under her brand Soivohle. For the last few years her energies have been focused more on visual arts than olfactory ones. Thankfully she still returns to the perfume aspect of her artistry to occasionally produce a new perfume. Just recently she released Amun Re The Tears of Ra.

Ms. Zorn is one of my favorite independent perfumers because of the effort she puts into her raw materials. She often works with all natural materials and Amun Re is one of those instances. When Ms. Zorn chooses to work with an all-natural palette I am impressed with the textural effects she manages to weave into her fragrances. In Amun Re she was inspired by the story of The Tears of the Egyptian sun god Ra who was said to have cried tears of honey which as they fell turned to honeybees which upon landing on earth became the first men. Just thinking about the concept of tears of honey I envision viscous sweet droplets oozing down the side of a sweaty face picking up the tang of skin all along its track. The early moments of Amun Re are all about the viscosity and the gravity drawing it downward. The heart transforms to a flight of florals before ending with a botanical musk centered skin accord.

liz zorn

Liz Zorn

Amun Re opens with the welling up of that metaphorical tear of honey. The sweetness has a heft to it which Ms. Zorn cuts with a very light application of aldehydes. The spice of tears comes in a bit of cinnamon supported with citron as contrast. Together this makes for a beautifully complex opening as the honey is evolved into something almost tactile. The heart is focused on ylang-ylang in its more fleshy character. Opopanaz, hawthorn and linden assist in creating the floral heart of Amun Re. The final note in the heart is henna leaf and if you’ve ever smelled henna hair dye you know this smell. It is a fascinating choice and it really adds a great quality to the floral heart. The base goes sweeter as vanilla starts off followed by amber. Ms. Zorn’s botanical musk is the star of the base. Her version of an all-natural musk is really brilliant in its ability to feel completely animalic while not being of an animal. Ms. Zorn’s botanical musk is among the best I have found in the natural perfume community.

Amun Re The Tears of Ra has 6-8 hours of longevity and moderate sillage.

I have been enjoying seeing the paintings Ms. Zorn has been posting on her website but when I try something as good as Amun Re I can’t help but wish for more perfume. For now it is enough to let Amun Re cry my figurative tears for me. The real ones will only come if Ms. Zorn gives up perfume all together.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Amun Re I purchased from Soivohle.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Atelier Cologne Rendez-Vous- Softness of Purpose

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Atelier Cologne feels like such a mature perfume brand I have a hard time reminding myself that they are just under five years old. Creative Directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel were clear-eyed about what they wanted Atelier Cologne to be about. Over the last five years that clarity of vision has made one of the most consistently pleasing line of perfumes from any perfume producer going. They have taken a staid form of fragrance and re-invigorated it with their creativity. The latest release is called Rendez-Vous and as they have done so often they offer something new to the whole concept of cologne.

sylvie and christophe

Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel

Perfumer Jerome Epinette is back for his eleventh fragrance in the Atelier Cologne line. The keynote for Rendez-Vous is a Chinese osmanthus that carries a particular luminescence to it unusual in this floral note. The apricot and leather components of osmanthus are here but this has a sun burnished glow to it, as well. It makes it a different but wholly appropriate heart note to build a cologne around. M. Epinette takes traditional bracing elements on top and after the osmanthus appears he lets Rendez-Vous turn plush and soft as if you were sinking into a soft chair or a feather pillow. It is this overtly subdued finish which takes Rendez-Vous into unexplored territory within the cologne genre.

Jerome-Epinette

Jerome Epinette

M. Epinette begins in very familiar cologne territory with bergamot, lemon, and pink pepper as his opening stanza. This is classic cologne architecture. What comes next is not. The osmanthus comes to the foreground and as I mentioned above it is like it exists in its own private ray of sunshine. The remainders of the top notes almost act like dew being burned off by that sunbeam. The apricot quality comes out and it is rich and chewy. Orris combines with this to create a decadent duet, this is a fruity floral combination I can completely enjoy. As the osmanthus begins to shift towards the leathery qualities, violet leaves sharpen that transition with slightly metallic green borders. The base is an indulgent suede leather accord accompanied with a gentle white musk cocktail. All of this is as soft as a loved one’s caress. Rendez-Vous comes to an end in a most unexpected place, serenely.

Rendez-Vous has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Rendez-Vous is why I look forward to the latest release from Atelier Cologne. Every single release to date has been recognizably a cologne. Every single release to date has given me something new to consider on what that word, cologne, really means when I use it. Rendez-Vous fits right in with the family. I look forward to my next rendezvous with Atelier Cologne.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: Mme Ganter-Cervasel and M. Cervasel were married a few weeks ago and the picture above is from their wedding via their Facebook page.

The Sunday Magazine: Colognoisseur Awesome Mix Vol. 1

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I went to see the new movie from Marvel, “Guardians of the Galaxy”, which is a fantastic piece of filmmaking. The movie is not going to be the topic of today’s column. Instead the movie inspired me to write something different. One of the characters in the movie is a cassette tape given to our hero Peter Quill by his mother just before he is taken from Earth. The tape is labeled “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” and was his mother’s favorite songs from her youth in the 70’s. The music is used ingeniously throughout the movie and the tape shows up as much as many of the secondary characters. My suspicion is if the movie is as successful as I expect it to be all of these songs are about to have a renaissance of sorts for the next couple of months.

awesome-mix-tape-vol-1

As I thought about the movie I got to thinking what would I put on a tape I labeled “Awesome Mix Vol. 1”. What were the songs of the 70’s I loved? What would make a great mix together? The thought exercise was fun as I sort of let my mind wander to that time in my life most of which was my time in high school and college. What I found as I just sort of let myself free associate was a pretty interesting group of songs. So here are the ten songs I would make a mix tape of to give my non-existent child just before being abducted by interstellar outlaws.

Joy to the World by Three Dog Night– If you just say the opening lines “Jeremiah was a bullfrog” you will inevitably smile. This was the first mega-pop hit I can remember as it dominated the charts during its release in 1971. It is still one of the best-selling singles ever.

Play That Funky Music by Wild Cherry– At the height of disco in 1976 the members of Wild Cherry were at a gig when they received a request written on a napkin, “play some funky music, white boy”.  From that request this song which is one of the most popular examples of funk rock came to be. The bass line, horns, and guitar hook make you get up and boogie.

Evil Woman by ELO– Electric Light Orchestra were one of those hybrids of rock music accompanied by a string section that the 70’s seemed to spawn weekly. ELO lasted because the impresario behind it, Jeff Lynne, had a clear vision of what he wanted. Evil Woman was the first big hit for ELO in 1975. This was not your father’s string section as halfway into this there is a moment where the strings take over for the lead guitar and show they can rock just as hard.

Rocket Man by Elton John– Elton John is one of my favorite artists and it was Rocket Man which was the first song by him that I played over and over on my cassette tape. The song about an astronaut getting ready for liftoff was a product of the post-moon landing generation. The combination of piano and synthesizer make a perfectly otherworldly duet to lay down the vocals over.

The Boys are Back in Town by Thin Lizzy- One of those songs with an insanely catchy guitar hook which lodges itself within my consciousness and sets up shop for days. It is all shimmering guitars and it might have been the first song I actively broke out the air guitar to.

Why Can’t We Be Friends? By War– War was one of those bands which tried to use almost every musical influence available and stuff it into their songs. This was one of their earliest hits which was as pop as War would ever get. The lyrics are hysterical and slyly subversive.

I Wanna Be Sedated

I Wanna be Sedated by Ramones– I had discovered Ramones when I discovered punk music in the mid 70’s but it is this 1979 song which will always be my favorite song by them. It is everything punk rock evolved into by 1979. As a reaction to rock bands with string sections, choruses, synthesizers and orchestras Ramones stripped it down to the basics and ripped it out in two minutes or so. Gabba Gabba Hey!

Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie– This collaboration by pop icons Queen and David Bowie is in my estimation one of the greatest songs of all-time. Bowie arrived to sing backing vocals on a different song but over time he and Freddie Mercury came up with this rock opera in four minutes of a perfect rock song.

One Way or Another by Blondie– As punk music began to gain traction it was bands like Blondie that helped provide that. Lead singer Debbie Harry had a perfect mix of punk look with the bleached blond hairdo and dark makeup while wearing a little black dress. Safe enough for people to dip their toes in the punk rock pool. Everyone knows about the vocals but Chris Stein’s driving guitar was also integral to this band’s success and in One Way or Another it is all right there.

The Ballroom Blitz by The Sweet– This song was inspired by the time the band was driven off stage by the audience throwing bottles at them. The song itself has a kinetic kind of wind-up similar to the way one might convince themselves to release their frustration. Beware what the man in the back says.

That’s my list. If you want to listen to it and are on Spotify; friend me and you will find it labeled Colognoisseur Awesome Mix Vol. 1 in my account.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Tom Ford Private Blend London- Like A Pendulum Do

As a perfume collection matures over the years it tends to swing back and forth like a pendulum. The Tom Ford Private Blend Collection has been around since 2007, under the creative direction of Tom Ford and Karen Khoury. Most of the early fragrances had an intensity to them and that depth is what drew me to the line in the first place. Noir de Noir’s mix of chocolate, rose, oud, and patchouli is a good example. In 2010, things lightened up a bit and Jasmin Rouge is a good example of where the pendulum had swung to as the jasmine was kept cleaner and the notes surrounding it were kept in check. That kind of restraint added a sense of ephemeral beauty to those that I came to appreciate very much. But, but, but I wanted another Private Blend which swaggered with audacity. Little did I know it had been released last September.

Private-Blend-by-Tom-Ford-London

Tom Ford Private Blend London was an exclusive to the new Sloane Square Tom Ford boutique which opened in 2013 in London. There was little enthusiasm for it among the London contingent of perfumistas and as a result without an attendant buzz I had a very difficult time getting a sample. I did finally get one from online decanting site Surrender to Chance. What I was greeted with was a fragrance which seemed to encompass something more than trying to assay London as a fragrance. This was a fragrance of the East; exotic spices, opulent florals, and deep woods. This was the London of the Royal Geographic Society as their members brought back things seen for the first time from all over the globe. In a wood paneled drawing room, furnished in leather, one explorer shows off the cinnamon and cardamom he acquired. On another table a species of jasmine from the Himalayas scented the room. Raw vanilla pods from the West Indies mixed with these very intense smelling oud wood chips from Egypt smoking in a censer. This is the smell of Tom Ford Private Blend London.

yann vasnier

Yann Vasnier

Perfumer Yann Vasnier opens London up with a spicy mélange centered on cinnamon but heavily influenced with cardamom, ginger, and black pepper. This captured my attention immediately as M. Vasnier swirls all of this up into a spicy sirocco which blows with an airy potency. The jasmine in the heart is full on indolic jasmine and it has to be to make any headway against the spices. This skanky jasmine fits in perfectly with the spices and it is heady stuff. It gets even deeper as oud over leather makes up the key notes of the base. It is sweetened with a bit of vanilla and amber but this is drawing room leather and oud mostly.

London has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

My wish has been answered as London feels like it belongs to the original collection more than the more recent releases. It seems appropriate if London is the signal that the pendulum is swinging back because y’know; London swings like the pendulum do.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample purchased form Surrender to Chance

Mark Behnke

Editor’s note: I expect London will be available worldwide sooner than later as the previous exclusive fragrance to a boutique, Lavender Palm, became widely available about a year later. As of this writing it is still only available in London.

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Wonderoud- The New Oud

The history of perfume raw materials has been a trail of tears when a unique natural ingredient is identified. The story of overharvesting Mysore sandalwood so that it now lives in protective custody of the Indian government is a cautionary tale. With the advent of oud-based fragrances, particularly over the last ten years, the old trees throughout its indigenous areas were being harvested at an alarming rate. Because oud requires time for the biological rot which forms the aromatic heartwood it looked like we were well on our way to another bad situation. Then scientists learned how to artificially induce and speed up the process. This lead to the growing of oud plantations and just this year the first harvests of this sustainable oud has found its way into perfumes.

Christian-Astuguevieille 

Christian Astuguevieille

It should be no surprise that a leader in using this new oud is Comme des Garcons as it is the centerpiece of their latest release Wonderoud. Creative Director Christian Astuguevieille worked with perfumer Antoine Maisondieu on creating a perfume which would display the new oud with the typical Comme des Garcons style. You might remember 2010’s Wonderwood and the intent here is similar. Antoine Lie was the perfumer for Wonderwood and it was an exploration of sandalwood which was layered with other woods. Over time I have come to think Wonderwood is an underrated sandalwood perfume. M. Maisondieu wants to take a different tack as he explores this new oud and uses herbal and spicy notes to capture the unguent nature of real oud in the early going before letting the woods come out to play in the end.

Antoine-Maisondieu

Antoine Maisondieu

M. Maisondieu lays down a pepper and thyme runway to start the journey in Wonderoud. The thyme adds rough green facets and the pepper grabs ahold of the decaying heart of the oud and brings out the beauty within the rot. M. Maisondieu also makes a stylistic decision to keep Wonderoud very dry. To accentuate this point he uses a fraction of Cedarwood from the Givaudan exclusive Orpur raw material collection. This cedarwood is as good as it gets and by choosing a fraction which picks up the greener woody aspects of cedar he makes an inspired choice. In my very limited experience with this new oud it shows its youth by being a bit greener and almost seems like it has a cedar component. It doesn’t but by using the cedarwood fraction it is made very apparent how this oud is different than others. Vetiver is the other keynote in the heart and it also works on both the green and woody parts of the composition in a supporting role. Australian sandalwood and synthetic sandalwood molecule Pashminol provide the remaining wood. Patchouli recalls the herbal beginning as it shows up at the end.

Wonderoud has 8-10 hours longevity and above average sillage.

sustainable oud harvest

The Harvested Sustainable Oud

Wonderoud is everything that is great about Comme des Garcons as they take the most ubiquitous perfume raw material of the past few years and find a way to make it new. It has been twenty years since the original Comme des Garcons fragrance was released. What Wonderoud displays is that Comme des Garcons still has the ability to be cutting edge without sacrificing approachability. Wonderoud is simply wonderful.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Comme des Garcons.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Scent of Hope- Jacques Fath Iris Gris Reincarnated

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Some of my favorite interactions in my perfume career are with independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. We have spent most of our time together walking, sniffing, and talking about perfume. We have chattered about the reality of vintage perfumes and which fragrances we think are the best ever. One we both agree belongs in that category is Jacques Fath Iris Gris. I know for myself it is the benchmark an iris fragrance has to live up to for me to think it extraordinary. Finding a bottle these days is a very expensive proposition.

One of the things I admire so much about Ms. Hurwitz is she spent the early part of her independent career reconstructing the great fragrances of the past. She is a believer in the adage that says to study an art form you must also try and reproduce it. That stage of her development is long past and now she is on the top tier of independent perfumers in the world. Earlier this year one of her clients who was fighting cancer asked Ms. Hurwitz to make an exception and to recreate Iris Gris for her. Through a happy confluence of events Ms. Hurwitz agreed. This has been named Scent of Hope.

Iris Gris_JacquesFath

Ms. Hurwitz has always let us into her creative process and for the task of making a new Iris Gris it was no different. On her blog DSH Notebook there are three parts about the whole process behind Scent of Hope and if you’re interested in the process I highly encourage you to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. The two things I took from those posts was how Ms. Hurwitz didn’t just take some of her original Iris Gris and get it analyzed. Instead she looked to two invaluable resources in the fragrant blogosphere; Barbara Herman and Octavian Coifan. Ms. Herman has been writing about perfume for many years at her blog Yesterday’s Perfume and she recently published a book “Scent and Subversion”. M. Coifan was the iconoclastic voice behind the now-defunct blog 1000 Fragrances. M. Coifan had exquisitely used his own nose to dissect Iris Gris and this gave Ms. Hurwitz a framework to start from. Ms. Herman has a way of using words to make a fragrance seem to arise from the computer screen. When I eventually try something she has described I find her description to be spot on. The second thing is Ms. Hurwitz let her nose and her client’s nose as well as their skin be their guide on when Scent of Hope was done. The scent strips were dispensed with and they let their feelings guide them to a final product.

DSH

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

How did they do? I’ll cut to the chase; fantastically well. It is only the use of a couple of modern equivalents which give away Scent of Hope’s contemporary birth. The genius of Iris Gris is the use of a particular aromachemical called aldehyde c-14 which is not an aldehyde but a different chemical class called a lactone. This lactone imparts a gauzy peach veil over the entire composition of Iris Gris and Ms. Hurwitz had to work with it in Scent of Hope. The trick is not to let the iris blunt this shimmering layer but to somehow support it as if you are looking at an iris through a peach colored scarf. If the balance is off the whole thing falls apart. Ms. Hurwitz’s previous experience studying the great perfumes had to come into play here because she manages this with what seems preternatural ease. Based on her blog posts she reached the finished product in very few mods.

I compare my bottle of Iris Gris and Scent of Hope and these are very close. The aging process has made the orris suppler in Iris Gris. In Scent of Hope it still has a lot of its chill and steel on display. What is absolutely identical is the use of aldehyde c-14 to caress and float above the iris. That is recreated perfectly. Scent of Hope lacks a bit of the animalic bite of the original mainly because those raw materials are no longer available. Even so Ms. Hurwitz has chosen a good group of modern musks to come very close. It is right here where the biggest difference between original and modern versions are apparent.

Ms. Hurwitz is a unique combination of passion and precision; both of those qualities were necessary to produce Scent of Hope successfully. This is a great iris fragrance and if you love iris you want to own this.

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

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: 30% of the proceeds of Scent of Hope will go to a Denver-area support center for those battling breast cancer called, “Sense of Security”.

Boot or Reboot: Crabtree & Evelyn Sandalwood (2004) and Indian Sandalwood (2014)

I know my first exposure to Mysore sandalwood came courtesy of Crabtree & Evelyn in their original Extract of Mysore Sandalwood. This might have been one of my earliest exposures to the concept that raw materials make a difference. As is well documented the precious Mysore sandalwood was over harvested and the Indian government had to step in and protect the remaining trees before the predations of perfumistas eradicated it. For most of the years right after that the huge majority of sandalwood in perfume was synthetic. Recently there have been sustainable groves of sandalwood being grown in Australia from the same genus Santalum Album. The plantations are concentrated in Western Australia which is supposed to have a similar microclimate to India. These farms are now producing sandalwood oil for perfumery. Extract of Mysore Sandalwood was a big seller for Crabtree & Evelyn and so they bit the bullet and created Sandalwood in 2004 when they could no longer source the titular ingredient. Sandalwood was surprising in how good it was even though it was an all synthetic version of sandalwood. Now in 2014 Crabtree & Evelyn have released Indian Sandalwood which has listed as an ingredient Santalum Album. I loved the 2004 Sandalwood for the nifty sleight of hand it pulled in creating something worthy of its predecessor based on synthetics. Would the 2014 Indian Sandalwood be more like the original Extract or a “real” version of the Sandalwood?

c and e sandalwood

2004 Sandalwood was almost miraculous in the fact that it didn’t smell overtly synthetic. Sure if you truly focused intently on it the truth became apparent but if you just wore it the scent was really fantastic. The perfumer was able to recreate the slightly spicy quality of Mysore sandalwood by using lavender, violet, amyris wood, and vetiver. I really wish I could find out who the perfumer(s) were behind this. Even wearing it now I am surprised at how very good this is. Sandalwood remains a beautiful example of the perfumer’s art when working with a restricted set of ingredients.

c and e indian sandalwood

2014 Indian Sandalwood shows how well done the 2004 version is, as this new version which does contain real sandalwood smells very close to the older version. This time I do know the perfumer behind Indian Sandalwood, Ashley Wilberding. Ms. Wilberding isn’t hampered by having to form an illusion. Her task is different, to add complementary notes to allow this nouveau sandalwood to expand and feel as if it was much older and refined. She also chooses to use amyris, lavender, and vetiver. Cypress and cedar extract the woody quality of the sandalwood and a judicious use of cinnamon adds the characteristic spiciness of the best Indian sandalwood. Ms. Wilberding does a fantastic job at allowing her raw material to shine to its fullest.

This should be a slam dunk win for reboot, synthetic vs. real, c’mon. I do prefer the reboot because there is nothing that can take the place of real sandalwood in a perfume. This new version of Indian Sandalwood is excellent. For those who want to ask whether it is as good as the Extract of Mysore Sandalwood, it isn’t. But it isn’t like comparing Kobe beef to a Big Mac. It is more like comparing it to a dry-aged USDA Porterhouse. Truly all three of these perfumes are great examples of sandalwood fragrances even if they all come from different places.

One last thing to mention is the price of this new release $45 for 100mL. It is crazy good for that price; a real bargain.

Disclosure: this review is based on bottles of all three fragrances I purchased.

Mark Behnke