New Perfume Review Roja Parfums Lily Extrait- From Funereal to Fun

They don’t make them like they used to is a familiar refrain. It usually is shorthand that quality has taken a backseat to function. It is why when there are those who are uncompromising in the quality of their work it can often be described as old-fashioned or retro. Roja Dove is devoted to making the perfumes which bear his name on the label the epitome of quality. That quality does have a collateral effect of feeling like something from a bygone era. The excellent thing is that era is when men dressed for dinner and women wore gloves and pearls. We may live in a world where casual prevails but I know I want to occasionally wear something that makes me feel like Cary Grant rather than Brad Pitt. Mr. Dove does just this with his perfumes. A particular part of his collection which is truly magnificent are his extraits. Each of the previous five extraits; Bergamot, Gardenia, Lilac, Neroli, and Vetiver take the idea of soliflores to an entirely new level.

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Roja Dove speaking at Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2014

When I met Mr. Dove at the recent Sniffapalooza Spring Fling he told me his goal is to make his extraits, especially his florals, so real you can’t tell the difference from the real thing. He achieved this with Gardenia Extrait when he offered a blindfolded subject a real bloom and a strip of the extrait and the person said they couldn’t tell the difference. I personally believe the Extraits are really the soul of the Roja Parfums line. They are beyond photorealistic as they also ask the wearer to explore all the nuances of the featured note. All of this is why I was so excited to receive to receive a sample of the new Lily Extrait. Lily is a bloom with unfortunate funereal references but I have always loved the heady narcotic beauty and the spicy heart of the real thing. Other fragrances work very hard to scrub out that spicy core and leave a clean floralcy which frankly does seem lifeless to me, perfect for last rites. With Lily Extrait Mr. Dove creates a lily soliflore that is as vivacious as Mr. Dove himself.

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The opening of Lily Extrait is a pinprick of sunlight from bergamot and lemon to awaken the flower. The lily heart uses muguet as the nucleus to then add in precise amounts of rose, ylang ylang, jasmine, carnation, and tiare. Each of those floral notes form a supporting cast for the muguet which uses the carnation to support the green facets and the jasmine and ylang ylang to complement the sweetness. Rose adds the hint of the spicy heart of the real thing. Clove picks that up and carries it deeper and this is where if blindfolded I think I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the real thing and the perfume. Like a coloratura soprano hitting her high notes Lily Extrait holds this singular beauty for hours. Over time a bit of vanilla, wood, and musk provide some contrast as the lily eventually fades.

Lily Extrait has overnight longevity and modest sillage.

Most modern lily perfumes try to hew to the current clean aesthetic to, in my opinion, their detriment. Real lily is meant to exude the same bit of spice in the core as great rose perfumes do. Lily Extrait stands out because it produces a fully alive lily and in that ineffable effervescence turns it from funeral to fun. In an incredible collection of exquisite perfumes Lily Extrait is the best of them all.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Osswald Parfumerie NYC.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review En Voyage Perfumes Café Noir, Captured in Amber, & Indigo Vanilla- Chocolate & Ambergris

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There is a moment with every independent perfumer where they hit an inflection point. From then onward they enter a better more complete phase of perfume-making. Often you see the threads of things in their early fragrances strengthened and a real development of a personal aesthetic. It is a joy when I get a sample from the indie perfumers I think are on the verge of this kind of success to see if that will be the inflection point. In 2013 over the course of her two releases, Zelda and A Study in Water, perfumer Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes hit that place where her fragrances truly came of age. In both of those perfumes Ms. Waddington reached back for classic inspiration as starting points to go off in two delightfully distinct directions. Of course for these to truly signal the sea change I expected it would depend on what Ms. Wadidngton followed them up with. For 2014 she has created three fragrances within what she has called the Souvenir de Chocolate collection. As promised in Café Cacao, Captured in Amber, and Indigo Vanilla there is chocolate; but it is what else is included that truly delivers on Ms. Waddington’s talent.

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Shelley Waddington

In Café Cacao Ms. Waddington was going for a scented version of “Parisienne café mocha” crossed with Marie Antoinette, who added ambergris to her hot cocoa; and Empress Josephine who impregnated the walls of the palace with musk. In the early going it is all steaming hot café mocha. In Paris they must sprinkle some cardamom on their mochas because it provides spicy contrast to the sweetness of the cream and vanilla present around the chocolate. From here the French historical divas have their way as Marie adds some real ambergris, beachcombed from New Zealand, and Josephine embeds the musk. Together they provide a combination of animalic, briny, sweet coffee. That might sound like something you wouldn’t want to experience but Ms. Waddington has worked with her raw materials and positioned them just so to result in something very unique.

Amber is a resin which can preserve things trapped within in a timeless matrix. Captured in Amber is Ms. Waddington’s nod to “the opiated Oriental fantasies that gripped turn-of-the-century Paris and London.” The key here is through the arts was how most of Europe was becoming acquainted with the Orient and so it led to emphasis on the more attention getting aspects of behavior encountered by those translating it into art. Captured in Amber also captures that larger-than-life quality as Ms. Waddington goes for opulent to the nth degree. It starts with a swish of bitter orange before her amber accord takes over. Ms. Waddington tames a whole cornucopia of resins to create this sumptuous amber accord. You can pick the strands apart, but why bother, because the whole is so much greater than the parts. For all the complexity in creating her amber accord the rest of Captured in Amber is simplicity as first a very dark chocolate and more of the real ambergris combine to provide the foundation of Captured in Amber.

I’m not sure where Ms. Waddington hangs out when in New Orleans but I need to find out because in Indigo Violet her inspiration is “New Orleans hot chocolate” which seems to have violet sugar added to the traditional ingredients.  For this last fragrance in the Souvenir de Chocolate collection she starts with a sugared violet. This is crystalline violet sparkling with sweetness. It slowly sinks into a creamy luxuriant accord equal parts chocolate and cream. I think many perfumers would have continued the gourmand theme and finished with more foodie notes. Instead Ms. Waddington resurrects the French royalty from Café Cacao and ambergris and musk again provide the finish. This time they seem much more sensual and intimate than they do in Café Cacao, which again shows Ms. Waddington’s ability to tune similar notes to disparate effect.

All three fragrances in the Souvenir de Chocolate collection have 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

The virtue of being an indie perfumer allows Ms. Waddington the freedom to use exquisite ingredients, like the New Zealand ambergris, in her small batches. That it shows up in all three of these fragrances means she could easily have called it Souvenir de Ambergris. Really though it is the different forms of chocolate and the skill Ms. Waddington brings to bear which are the true stars of this fragrant show. Take a bow Madame your star continues to ascend.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by En Voyage Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette

I think those who know me know if I could my life would be violet tinted and scented. Purple is my favorite color and I have written extensively on my love of all fragrant products violet. There are days from my shower through to the clothes I am wearing where violet is the word for the day. There is one violet product I knew about but which had been extremely difficult to find until the last few years. It isn’t a fragrance or a piece of clothing it is a unique liqueur called Crème de Violette.

The resurgence of Prohibition Craft Cocktails has also resurrected some of the ingredients that went into those classic cocktails. Crème de Violette was a key ingredient to many of those libations. The source of Crème de Violette back then, as now, was the Austrian firm of Rothman & Winter. The care that goes into making it starts with harvesting two types of violets Queen Charlotte and March Violets and macerating them in a grape brandy called “Weinbrand” and then adding cane sugar to sweeten it. This produces deeply purple liqueur that adds a unique color to any drink it is added to. It also adds a wonderful scent of violet to whatever it is added to. Crème de Violette is not limited to using in cocktails if you want to add a hint of violet to cupcakes or macarons adding a few tablespoons will add an exotic twist to the most vanilla of recipes. I know of one baker who uses it in her violet macarons and garnishes it with candied violets.

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The Aviation cocktail

For me I use it in the things I drink and here are a few suggestions if you want to add a bit of violet to your drinks. One of my favorite uses is to take one tablespoon of Crème de Violette and swirl it into a glass of lemonade and then take a teaspoon and carefully float it on top for Violet Lemonade, this is the perfect drink for me when I am wearing Tom Ford Violet Blonde. For those of you who like Kir Royales or Champagne Cocktails replace the Chambord/Kir or Brandy, respectively, with the Crème de Violette. You will get a vibrantly colored version as the sparkling wine seems to make it feel like liquid neon. The same goes for a classic martini if you, again, take a teaspoon and float it on top you have a Violet Aromatini. My companion scent for these is Atelier Cologne Sous le Toit de Paris. My favorite use of Crème de Violette is in the classic cocktail The Aviation, whose recipe is below:

1 ½ oz. Dry Gin

½ oz Crème de Violette

½ oz. Maraschino liqueur

½ oz. fresh lemon juice

Take all the ingredients and mix them over ice. Shake, strain and serve in a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or a maraschino cherry.

You should end up with a lavender tinted concoction which looks, and smells, as good as it tastes. This particular cocktail has turned many people who told me they don’t like gin into gin drinkers. Depending on your taste there are two variations on The Aviation. In The Blue Moon the Maraschino liqueur is removed to make a tarter version. In The Moonlight Cointreau replaces the Maraschino liqueuer and lime juice replaces lemon juice. All of them are delicious. What do I wear when serving these drinks? Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones, of course.

If you also like your world violet tinted go pick up a bottle of Rothamn & Winter Crème de Violette and see how you can add a little more violet to your life.

Disclosure: This is based on a bottle of Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Issey Miyake Le Feu D’Issey

There are a number of fragrances which have been released and had a very short shelf life, for a variety of reasons. In the Dead Letter Office I want to take a look at these perfumes which are alternatively called “ahead of their time” or “colossal failure”. The reality is often found somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. What I can confidently say is that the perfumes I will profile in this series did not play it safe. In their daring they sometimes paved the way for better executed fragrances years later. Sometimes it was just proof there are some ideas which never should’ve been unleashed on the public. 1998’s Le Feu D’Issey is a fragrance which has been described as both ahead of its time and a colossal failure.

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Jacques Cavallier

In 1998 perfumer Jacques Cavallier was riding a wave of spectacular success especially with the two fragrances which defined Issey Miyake as a fragrance house; L’Eau D’Issey and L’Eau D’Issey pour Homme. Those two fragrances are still big sellers to the present day. He would design the third fragrance, Le Feu D’Issey, to be completely different to the aquatic pair he previously created. In that desire to be different M. Cavallier probably went a little too far especially as the pendulum was starting its swing firmly towards the “fresh and clean” era of fragrance. M. Cavallier had made a safe Woody Oriental in 1995 with YSL Opium pour Homme. As he sat down to compose Le Feu D’Issey he clearly wanted to make a new version within this style.

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Le Feu D’Issey challenges right from the first moment as M. Cavallier creates a raw coconut milk accord. If you’ve ever been offered a coconut fresh off the tree, opened so you can drink the coconut water within, that is what the early phase of Le Feu D’Issey smells like. It carries a pungency which some have described as “rancid”. I don’t agree with that; it has a watery quality which also carries some of the husk of the coconut as well as the white meat. This right here is where Le Feu D’Issey probably went wrong as a commercial enterprise. I can imagine them handing out strips of this to passers-by and having them grimace and move on. That’s where they make a mistake because in the heart the next risk M. Cavallier takes actually works amazingly as he takes a milk accord and pairs it with jasmine. If the coconut water accord was off-putting the jasmine milk accord draws me in and fascinates me. This is the richness of whole milk which allows all the sweetness of jasmine to float on top like a floral crème. The base is pretty normal as a woody mix of sandalwood, cedar, and gaiac grounds this in safe territory at the end.

Le Feu D’Issey has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

When I wear Le Feu D’Issey I always find it to be a significantly different experience each time. I’m not talking about slight differences but phases which seem to come off very different and often not for the better. Especially the opening. There are times it is right on the verge of unwearable but once that heart accord comes together it is all of a sudden something special. As to how to classify it? I would call it a noble experiment. In the last few years we have seen the milk accord used to great effect in Jean-Claude Ellena’s Hermessence Santal Massoia and by Christine Nagel in Jo Malone Sweet Milk. So far the coconut water accord has not yet found the right fragrance for it to be featured in again. Le Feu D’Issey has found itself consigned to the Dead Letter Office for being too different at the wrong time.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle of Le Feu D’Issey I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tauer Perfumes Cologne du Maghreb- Indie Cologne, Naturally

One of the things that sets indie perfumers apart is their willingness to interact with their customers and admirers through the use of the internet. The first to do this was Swiss perfumer Andy Tauer who started his blog Perfumery on July 12, 2005. For nearly nine years Hr. Tauer has given those who are interested a window into his world as one of the most prominent independent perfumers. One special part of Hr. Tauer’s blog is during the Holiday season he has a virtual Advent calendar where he often gives out a special one-of-a-kind fragrance.

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Andy Tauer

In 2010 the fragrance he was giving away was his attempt at an all-natural, all botanical eau de cologne. He called it Cologne du Maghreb. It was a big success and he followed it up by releasing a “test batch” to see if it would sell. Now in 2014 Hr. Tauer has decided it is time to release Cologne du Maghreb to all of the normal points of sale you find his other fragrances. I never had the pleasure of trying either of the other iterations and so my sample is like a new perfume for me.

In truth the middle of winter was not the ideal time to release a cologne-inspired fragrance. Now, as the summer is upon us, seems to be the right time and place for Cologne du Maghreb to shine. The other thing that feels right is Cologne du Maghreb is not meant to truly adapt the cologne architecture to an all-natural, all botanical palette. Instead Cologne du Maghreb feels more like an evolutionary jump from traditional cologne to something that feels wholly an Andy Tauer fragrance with cologne aspects, if that makes sense.

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Cologne du Maghreb opens with Hr. Tauer’s creation of a “citrus chord”. The notes which make this up are lemon essential oil, bergamot, and neroli essential oil. These blaze to life with the lemon as brilliant as the sun and the bergamot and the neroli adding a corona nearly as brilliant. This then leads to an herbal intermezzo of rosemary and clary sage. Lavender pulls in rose and orange blossom to form the heart. The base is cedar and vetiver.

Cologne du Maghreb has 4-6 hour longevity and average sillage.

Due to the use of the natural ingredients cologne du Maghreb behaves like a very traditional eau de cologne which requires frequent re-application to make it through the day. I know on the days I wore it I re-applied twice during the day and each time was a like a little pick-me-up as the citrus made everything seem sunnier all of a sudden. Cologne du Maghreb is a smashing success at what Hr. Tauer wanted to do. This is where imagination meets inspiration at the intersection of a Tauer cologne. Cologne du Maghreb is the product found at those crossroads.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Nomad Two Worlds Raw Spirit Citadelle, Bijou Vert, Wild Fire, Desert Blush- Good Intentions Gone Excellent

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One of my favorite quotes by Chandler Burr is, “Every bottle of perfume contains a world.” This refers to the far flung places in the world many of the raw materials are harvested in to make the ingredients within our favorite fragrances. One of the things I have been most pleased to see is the continuing recognition by the people who make perfume that they are reliant on the communities within the developing world which collaborate with them. One of those companies is a brand called Nomad Two Worlds. Russell James, the founder and world-renowned photographer, had a vision of a company that could work together with indigenous and marginalized communities throughout the world.

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Russell James

The first Raw Spirit fragrance, Fire Tree, introduced the oil produced by the indigenous tree of the Australian Outback. I was a big fan and it felt like good intentions done right. This past October Mr. James announced a collaboration between the Clinton Global Initiative, and Firmenich. They have agreed to create ten new “Raw Spirit” perfumes following the ideals Mr. James has outlined. Besides support Firmenich has also supplied one of their most accomplished perfumers, Harry Fremont, to compose these new perfumes.

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Harry Fremont

The first four of the ten have been released and two feature notes from Mr. James’ Australia and the other two are differing takes on Haitian Vetiver. What strikes me, again, about this project is everyone participating is doing this for all of the right reasons and then on top of that they are producing very good fragrances.

The two different versions based on the Haitian Vetiver are Citadelle and Bijou Vert. One is a sort of traditional vetiver construct and the other is something quite beautifully different.

Citadelle is the different one as M. Fremont takes the strength of the Haitian Vetiver and adds in some wonderfully contrasting notes. It starts with a crisp pear whose sweetness stands in opposition to the green facets of the vetiver. Lemon adds some tartness and marigold adds a bit of green floral quality to now amplify the green. It all settles down to a cedar and musk base which picks up the woody underpinning of the vetiver.

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Bijou Vert is a more straightforward vetiver fragrance. M. Fremont takes grapefruit and mandarin to give a traditional citrus opening. As the vetiver becomes more focused he brackets it with black pepper and geranium along with lotus flower. The lotus adds a bit of watery subtlety to the heart of Bijou Vert. The base is benzoin, patchouli, and cedar once again giving the woodiness of this Haitian Vetiver a place to shine in the final moments.

For the remaining two fragrances Wild Fire and Desert Blush we return to Australia and M. Fremont is asked to use wild harvested Australian sandalwood for Wild Fire and the indigenous flower Boronia is the star of Desert Blush. Although I could say both of these are explorations of Australian sandalwood as it plays a prominent part in Desert Blush.

As Mysore sandalwood became proscribed the world turned to the Australian version. Wild Fire is a “soliflore” of this source of the very familiar note. M. Fremont sets the desiccated quality of the sandalwood as the hub of Wild Fire. He then adds in spokes of ylang ylang, jasmine, amber, cedar, and musk. Each of these come together to produce a spinning wheel of a fragrance. It carries warmth like a day in the Outback and it is equally as fascinating.

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I had the opportunity to smell Desert Blush early on in its development and even in that raw version I knew I was going to adore this perfume. Boronia has been used sparingly in perfumery although one of its first uses in Edmond Roudnitska’s Diorissimo, as part of the central muguet accord, showed its versatility. In Desert Blush the boronia gets the chance to be a star and it makes sure to make its turn in the spotlight memorable. Boronia has what I would call a strong herbal tea character infused with floralcy and honey. It is that which I first encounter when wearing Desert Blush. As it warms on my skin there is a spicy component of the boronia which becomes more prevalent and this is where the Australian sandalwood comes in as it picks this up and creates an energetic synergy of these two Down Under ingredients. Osmanthus and ylang ylang support the floral character of the boronia and cedar and musk support the sandalwood.

All of the Raw Spirit fragrances are perfume oils and as such have 8-10 hour longevity but almost no sillage.

All four of these fragrances are very good and Desert Blush is my favorite for the singularity of the boronia but I have been happily wearing all of them. Good intentions are always to be applauded but when they produce excellent fragrances like these four Raw Spirit perfumes it deserves a standing ovation.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Nomad Two Worlds.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Maria Candida Gentile Finisterre- An Aquatic of a Different Stripe

There are times when a new release comes out and it is just the wrong time of year to be fully appreciated. In October of 2013 one of these instances occurred when I tried the new fragrance Maria Candida Gentile Finisterre. I met Sig.ra Gentile at Twisted Lily as she debuted Finisterre. She shared with me some of the raw materials and accords she used. Every so often I have the opportunity to smell one of these accords which just illustrate what skill a master perfumer brings to their art. As Sig.ra Gentile passed me the marine accord she used in Finisterre I was struck by how photorealistic it was. Finesterre refers to Cape Finisterre a rocky peninsula in the Galicia region of Spain. Finisterre is a way station for pilgrims on the Way of St. James. They traverse the path along the water with the waves crashing against the cliffs. The marine accord Sig.ra Gentile is the smell of brine and wet rock as the ocean water sluices out of the honeycomb of rocks in between waves striking the cliff face. This single accord is turbulent and earthy. Even now over six months after encountering it I pull my little envelope of the strip with it on it to regularly re-experience it.

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Cape Finisterre

Sig.ra Gentile wanted Finisterre to represent the worshiper’s journey along the coastline. To the marine accord she adds immortelle and pine to evoke the trees and brush growing on the path. All together this is an Atlantic seaside olfactory pastiche, it could be a still life in smell of this milieu. There is a spirituality and humanity I rarely find in a fragrance.

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Maria Candida Gentile

Finisterre opens up with those waves crashing against the cliff face. There is a mix of ozonic notes, a hint of the seaweed left hanging on the wall, the fizz of the foam, and finally the mineral feel of the rock. This is unquestionably an aquatic accord but it is like no aquatic accord I have tried previously. Instead of sea breeze this is the power of waves and stone in constant opposition. From here the immortelle adds its unique character to the construction. If it wasn’t listed I would probably have thought this note was genet but once clued in the characteristics of immortelle are there to be experienced. Then the pine trees on the landward side of the path make their presence known as the sea breeze soughs through the branches. It is gently green adding a tinge of pine instead of a more focused version. The base is a mix of ambergris and sandalwood as we return to the ocean for the final moments.

Finisterre has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

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There has been no fragrance I have been looking more forward to wearing once the weather got hot than Finisterre. Over this past weekend I finally had the chance to do just that. As I suspected on a hot day Finisterre explodes to life, it was good in the winter but in the summer it is glorious. If you tried Finisterre back when it came out last fall make it a point to give it another try now in the season it was really made to be worn in. You will find what I think is the best aquatic fragrance released in the last five years.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle of Finesterre I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Etat Libre D’Orange Rien Intense Incense- More is Better

From the moment of their inaugural releases in 2006 Etat Libre D’Orange promised to be a prominent player on the niche scene. Nothing that has happened in the nearly eight years since those first releases has changed. Etat Libre D’Orange continues to expand their boundaries. For 2014 they are throwing us a curveball; first with the completely “nice” Cologne. The next release for the fall is also something different as it is the first flanker in Etat Libre D’Orange’s history. The fragrance that Creative Director Etienne de Swardt chose to re-visit; Rien.

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Antoine Lie

Rien was one of the original set of eleven fragrances released at the end of 2006. Perfumer Antoine Lie created a leather fragrance that had at its heart leather with the glare of chrome wrapped in a Stygian depth. It was one of my favorites of the original collection and to this day is one of my five favorite fragrances in the line. As I wrote in my Etat Libre D’Orange 101 it is the most approachable challenging fragrance I know. M. Lie provides just enough comfort for Rien to allow the wearer to explore their personal limits of what smells good.

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Etienne de Swardt

For 2014 M. de Swardt has asked M. Lie to re-invent Rien as Rien Intense Incense. If there was one consistent comment from many who tried Rien was that the incense note was more of a suggestion than a prominent participant. For Rien Intense Incense there is no chance you can miss it as the incense is intense, as advertised. M. Lie manages to do this without throwing the whole composition out of balance. If you loved Rien, Rien Intense Incense is proof to the adage that “more is better”.

Rien Intense Incense opens with the same metallic kinetic aldehydes paired with cumin and black pepper on top of the leather accord. The pepper and the cumin are upped in concentration and it makes the chrome more brilliant and the Stygian aspect even deeper. The rose, orris, and patchouli add the same amount of herbal floralcy as was found in the original. There is no hint of a powdery quality even with the increased concentration.  Finally the frankincense bolstered by higher amounts of labdanum, and styrax impose their will. If incense was understated in Rien, not here. This has that metallic quality of the best frankincense and it recapitulates the same character from the aldehydes in the top notes. As Rien Intense Incense heads into its final stage it is bitter leather over a smoking censer.

Rien Intense Incense has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

So often when a fragrance comes out in “intense” form it is just a case of amplifying the notes and a bit of re-balancing. What M. Lie has done with Rien Intense Incense is to take one of the less prominent notes from the original and by moving it to the foreground has re-imagined his original composition beautifully. I will always love Rien for its imagination at the time of its release but Rien Intense Incense is a better fragrance from top to bottom. Yes indeed, more is much, much better.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Etat Libre D’Orange at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Phoenecia Perfumes Oud Taiga- It’s the Real Thing

There are so many fragrances these days with musk and/or oud listed in their notes. The truth is, as with ambergris before it, the presence of these notes are actually other materials substituting for them. Musk has a host of botanical and synthetic stand-ins and nagarmotha does double duty as oud in some fragrances looking for the effect without adding to the cost. As part of a mixture of other notes these approximate the effect of the real thing well enough. In truth of fact most perfume lovers have never really had the opportunity to smell either real oud oil or actual musk harvested from the musk deer. For those who have always wanted to know what they smell like there is a very special opportunity for you to be able to do just that.

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David Falsberg

David Falsberg the iconoclastic perfumer behind Phoenecia Perfumes has become the man to turn to when it comes to finding an authentic oud experience. Through Phoenecia Perfumes he releases Realoud in batches identified by the month of release because he only sources his oud from reliable sources in small batches. He then takes what he acquires and blends a new version of Realoud. The current one labeled 04/14 might be my favorite to date because to his Hindi oud he adds my favorite Laotian variety to create a real “mukhallat”.

One of the best things about Mr. Falberg is he is a consistent correspondent on his creative process. It is often like watching The Wizard of Oz pulling levers, causing steam to billow and flames to jet skyward. For all of the intense passion on display the fragrances often display real inspiration. One which had my attention since he announced he was working on it at the beginning of the year was Oud Taiga.

Oud Taiga is at its heart a combination of the high-grade Hindi oud with a 50-year old vintage authentic deer musk. Mr. Falsberg could have just let the incredible authenticity carry the day but he wanted to re-create a true piece of perfume the way they used to do it. Oud Taiga is everything it was promised to be.

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The actual musk base of Oud Taiga (Source: Phoenecia Perfumes Facebook page)

It is hard not to be drawn to the musk and the oud from the first moments you put some Oud Taiga on. Because of the genuine nature of the two central ingredients they pull you like high powered magnetic fields towards them. Don’t get so focused on the trees that you miss the delicate forest Mr. Falsberg has constructed to surround these massive sentinels at the heart of Oud Taiga. Cardamom, lavender, sandalwood, davana, and cedar add nuanced texture and complexity to two notes that are perfume dimensions all to themselves. He has chosen very wisely to use them to again create a “mukhallat” style perfume. That means everything is there right from the start and it tends to fluctuate over time with certain of the supporting notes temporarily ascendant only to let something else take over later on.

Oud Taiga has 8-10 hour longevity and very low sillage.

Mr. Falberg’s insistence on putting the real ingredients in his perfumes makes every oud he makes something to be cherished, and I do. Oud Taiga is a cut above that as the reality of having real oud and real musk in a composition makes it extremely special. Mr. Falsberg has created a fragrance that hearkens to the past but hews to the indie perfume aesthetic that Mr. Falberg has become one of the leaders of; it truly is “The Real Thing”.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: X-Men: Days of Future Past

There is probably nothing more disappointing than to see something you are emotionally attached to on the printed page get poorly translated to a visual medium. As a long time comic book reader and lover I would always enter the theatre hoping for the best but often left wanting more as the final credits rolled. It wasn’t until July of 2000 that I finally got an adaptation of a beloved comic book that left me grinning with pleasure at the end.

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X-Men, as a comic series was the #1 selling comic book in the world at the time of release in 2000. Expectations couldn’t have been higher. One of the reasons for those heightened expectations was the director, Bryan Singer, was a fellow geek. He could cite splash page and panel with the most die-hard of fans. The casting looked good and so as the lights went down I took a deep breath of anticipation.104 minutes later I finally believed that my comics could turn into movies. Not only did this show the potential but X-Men would launch the success of what would become Marvel Studios and over the ensuing fourteen years it has followed the very successful formula of finding directors who love and revere the comic books they are making the movies of. In the last eight weeks of 2014 we have seen three of the children of that first X-Men movie be released as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and in what seems a neat bit of symmetry X-Men: Days of Future Past.

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Despite the success of all that has come before the comic story, of the same name, on which Days of Future Past is based upon is one of my very favorite stories from the X-Men. Over the two issues, The Uncanny X-Men #141-142, it spread out over I remember the four week wait for the conclusion to seem like it took forever. I was once again filled with apprehension at whether they could tell this particular story on screen. Bryan Singer was back in the director’s chair and not only did they have the cast from the original X-Men film they had a wonderful cast of younger versions who were created by director Matthew Vaughn in 2011’s X-Men: First Class. There was talent everywhere and so once again I sat in the theatre hoping for the best.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is about the X-Men in 2023 living in a world where mutants are rounded up into concentration camps and not only mutants anyone who has the genetic potential to give birth to a mutant. The remaining X-Men have been on the run but they know this can’t keep up indefinitely and so they are able to send the consciousness of one of their members back to 1973 to try and change the key event which led to this dystopian future. As the X-Men in 2023 protect the time traveler in a last stand, the character who has traveled back to 1973 has to convince those he interacts with to help him change the future and avoid the creation of the mutant hunting robots known as Sentinels.

One of the hallmarks of the X-Men in both comic and cinematic form is you can substitute mutant for any segment of people deemed as outcasts or less worthy. It has allowed the storytellers to wrap social commentary within a superhero uniform and make broad points about racism and homophobia. All of this while making a fine bit of summer action entertainment.

When the lights came up, as I had done fourteen years earlier, I was filled with happiness at the movie adaptation of a comic I was so fond of. Mr. Singer had, again, pulled off the difficult feat of not only meeting but exceeding my expectations. As I reflected on how it was the original X-Men movie which started this Golden Age of Marvel superhero movies it seemed fitting that Mr. Singer would be the one to keep the flame burning bright for, hopefully, another fourteen years.

Mark Behnke