Etat Libre d’Orange 101- Five to Get You Started

One of the perfume lines which lives up to the ideals behind niche perfumery is Etat Libre d’Orange. There is almost no other niche brand which so fearlessly pushes the boundaries. Owner and creative director Etienne de Swardt is audacious in the perfumes he oversees for his label. Right from the first eleven fragrances released in the fall of 2006 he laid down a marker that Etat Libre d’Orange was going to be very different. In those first releases is the perfume widely regarded as the worst smelling perfume ever, Secretions Magnifiques. Just do a search and you will see videos of people pulling horrified faces and blog or forum posts plumbing new depths of verbiage trying to describe the experience. I, personally, think it is a masterpiece of perfumery but it is really only for those ready to approach it on its own terms instead of as a rite of passage.

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Etienne de Swardt

Because of Secretions Magnifiques there are many who are wary of exploring the other fragrances in the line and that is a shame because I believe Etat Libre d’Orange is one of the best niche lines on the market. There is not a boring fragrance in the collection and many of them are exciting for the singularity of their existence. If you’ve been wanting to give Etat Libre d’Orange a try and want to sort of slowly expose yourself to the aesthetic and attitude of the line I have five suggestions which might make things a little easier.

Fat Electrician was released in 2009 and was composed by perfumer Antoine Maisondieu. M. Maisondieu created a fantastically nutty vetiver by combining chestnut cream with the vetiver. It is bracketed by fulsome olive leaves on top and sweetly resinous myrrh and opoponax in the base. This is vetiver given a new twist.

Fils de Dieu was released in 2012 by perfume Ralf Schwieger. Hr. Schwieger created a Technicolor fragrance which pays homage to all things Southeast Asian. It percolates early with a palpable humidity which contains lime, ginger, shiso, cardamom, coconut and rice. By the end it turns into a sensual accord of leather, vetiver, and castoreum. One of my top 5 new fragrances in 2012.

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Like This was released in 2010 by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui. Like This was Tilda Swinton’s celebuscent and she chose to collaborate with Etat Libre d’Orange. If every celebrity labeled fragrance was as good as Like This that segment of the market would be less looked down upon. Mme Bijaoui uses immortelle as the core of Like This and then proceeds to swaddle it in layers of ginger, tangerine, neroli, pumpkin, vetiver, and musk. This all comes together gloriously and Like This has been my Thanksgiving fragrance for the last three years.

Noel au Balcon was released in 2007 also by Antoine Maisondieu. Based on the name this is supposed to be for the Holiday Season but I wear it year-round because it is an easy to wear honey focused fragrance. M. Maisondieu uses the honey as a matrix to trap apricot and tangerine along with labdanum and cinnamon. It all eventually releases to vanilla, vetiver, and musk base.

Rien was released in 2006 by perfumer Antoine Lie. Of all of the very challenging Etat Libre d’Orange fragrances I think Rien is the most approachable. M. Lie created a dynamic intense fragrance which starts with the fizz of aldehydes which reveal a cumin and pepper-laced rose before ending on a leather and frankincense base. It is sharp and piquant and resinous and animalic and completely gorgeous. Of all of the first releases it was Rien which really sealed my enjoyment of the line.

M. de Swardt has a very arch sense of humor which plays itself out over the labels and names of the fragrances but if you can put aside your wariness because of Secretions Magnifiques and your raised eyebrows at the names and imagery an exploration of Etat Libre d’Orange is as good as it gets in niche perfume.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of these perfumes that I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review The Different Company Nuit Magnetique- Christine Nagel’s Magnetic Theory

I thought when I was reviewing the three new Jo Malone London Rain fragrances by perfumer Christine Nagel those were going to be the last new releases before she took up her new position at Hermes. It turns out that my assumption was in error. When I met Luc Gabriel owner and creative director at The Different Company I learned that Mme Nagel had one last fragrance to do before she started with Hermes. According to M. Gabriel the final version of her new fragrance for The Different Company, Nuit Magnetique was delivered on March 4th and she started her collaboration with Jean-Claude Ellena as co-in-house perfumers at Hermes two days later.

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Christine Nagel (Photo: Matthieu Dortomb)

For her first fragrance for The Different Company she wanted to create both magnetic attraction and repulsion throughout all of the phases of Nuit Magnetique. Mme Nagel explains it in the press release as, “I created this perfume thinking about the physical principle of the magnet. The raw materials that I chose get married by affinity and get repelled by contrast inside a magnetic field whose olfactory nucleus is an amber-woody accord.” It sounds a lot like typical PR copy but Mme Nagel actually pulls this off as the top and heart exemplify this dual magnetic push and pull before getting pretty normal with the promised amber-woody base.

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The attraction pair in the top notes is ginger and bergamot. Together there is a great vivacious quality which gets separated by a blueberry note that feels like it cleaves them apart. The blueberry has a slightly astringent nature to it which helps it split the happy couple up. The heart is a group of heavy hitter florals, jasmine, rose, and tuberose which Mme Nagel tames in her trademark way of not letting the more boisterous ingredients get out of balance. The orthogonal note here is prune in all of its concentrated dried plum glory. The use of dried fruit in fragrances has become more prevalent but in the use of prune as contrast to the florals it gives an atypical energy to it. Instead of weighing things down it adds a luscious underpinning which allow the florals something to push off of. The base is, as promised, a combination of amber, benzoin, and woods. It is so normal it almost doesn’t feel like it fits but that perhaps is the final bit of magnetic repulsion on display.

Nuit Magnetique has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

I didn’t get around to trying Nuit Magnetique until my last day at Esxence. I was so entranced with the ginger and blueberry along with the florals and prune I spritzed a little on my wrist for the plane flight home. It turned out to be a more delightful companion than my seatmate. I, like many others, are looking forward to what Mme Nagel will bring to Hermes. My expectation is she will be a smashing success because all of the broad creativity necessary to succeed in that position have been on display for many years now. With Nuit Magnetique she left us one final reminder of just how innovative she can be.

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by The Different Company at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones Wisteria Hysteria- Fascinating Fascinator

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2013 was a comeback year for Comme des Garcons in my opinion. For what was seeming far too long they had not been the cutting edge fragrance house they had originally been. What I was most interested in was to see if they would continue the return. The first data point for 2014 was going to be a very challenging one. 2008’s Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones, by perfumer Antoine Maisondieu, vies for the title of best Comme des Garcons fragrance ever, with Comme des Garcons 2. The new Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones Wisteria Hysteria was going to have a mighty big atomizer to live up to.

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Stephen Jones

Stephen Jones is a world-renowned milliner, or hat maker, who is known for his unique aesthetic and the technical expertise necessary to accomplish his vision. Mr. Jones even has a quote about the relationship between perfume and hat making, “Millinery, I think, is closer to fragrance than fashion. A hat, like a perfume, is an evocation of something nebulous, ephemeral, and other-worldly.”

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Nathalie Feisthauer

How there came to be a Stephen Jones + Comme des Garcons has sort of become a tale of chance meeting leading to collaboration. The story goes Mr. Jones ran into Comme des Garcons designer Rei Kawakubo in the Anchorage, Alaska airport and struck up a friendship which turned into an alliance. Somewhere along the line Mr. Jones was introduced to Christian Astuguevieille, the fragrance creative director for Comme des Garcons and the first Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones fragrance was born. For the sequel the same creative team wanted to have something a little more multimedia. For the perfumer they chose Nathalie Fesithauer. To create a visual to go along with the fragrance they asked Henry Pincus to film a short clip. All of this was debuted at London’s SHOWstudio in March 2014.

The fashion film “depicts a woman discovering a new side of herself all while clad in L’Wren Scott and Stephen Jones.” The film depicts a classic set of contradiction as both the dark and light sides merge together by the end. For the fragrance Mme Feisthauer was also going for a struggle between light and dark but in the case of the fragrance the darker notes serve to define the lighter notes and while they never pull entirely free of the heaviness there is an off-kilter lightness of being that makes Wisteria Hysteria a fascinating perfume to wear.

The top notes of Wisteria Hysteria are a mélange of stimulating choices. Pepper, clove, and mate leaf form the opening accord and the mate is the keynote of the early going. The pepper and clove serve as framing notes to allow for the mate to display its fresh grass kind of character but the clove and pepper will make their presence known underneath the pastoral tableau. The heart is the promised wisteria but not anywhere near what I would call hysterical levels. Instead the wisteria is balanced with rose to create a spring fresh floral accord. To that Mme Fesithauer adds a silvery frankincense which adds a metallic edge to the florals. The base is a mix of white musks as sheer as the fascinator worn by the protagonist in the film. To ground them Mme Fesisthauer uses benzoin and amber.

Wisteria Hysteria has all-day longevity and average sillage.

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The Author avec Fascinator

I’ve had about a month to spend wearing Wisteria Hysteria and each successive wearing has allowed for me to appreciate the subtleties throughout its design. This is not a fragrance that will immediately display its charms to you. Like a hat I had to wear it a bit and break it in but once it found that sweet spot it is a perfume which rewards those with the patience to let it find the right balance between light and dark. Based on Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones Wisteria Hysteria I think Comme des Garcons’ 2014 on the fragrance side is off to a fantastic beginning.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Wisteria Hysteria from SHOWstudio.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files

Besides being a Colognoisseur I am also a full-fledged geek. Which means when I am not thinking about the world of medicinal chemistry or perfume you can be sure my mind is on a planet in another galaxy or fighting the supernatural on this planet. For the last twenty years it really has been a world where being geeky is more of a badge of honor than something to be hidden away. The fact that I love perfume as much as I do is probably thought to be stranger than my reading a comic book. As an avid reader of serial fiction within the mystery/thriller, epic fantasy, and urban fantasy genres I always take advantage of the summer months to pick up a new series of novels to binge read while spending time at the beach. I still haven’t made up my mind for this summer as it will either be Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series or Stacia Kane’s The Downside Ghosts series. If you’re looking for a series to binge read I have one to suggest you load onto your e-reader or pick up at the bookstore.

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If you’re not familiar with urban fantasy as a genre it is usually set in the modern world where supernatural creatures and magic exist. The original series in this genre is Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter followed soon after by Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. The third leg of the foundation of urban fantasy is the series I want to recommend, Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files.

The series is set in Chicago and Harry Dresden is a “Wizard for Hire”. At the beginning of the first book in the series, Storm Front, Harry is under investigation by the agency overseeing the responsible use of magic The White Council. He gets hired to find a woman’s missing husband who she thought was an amateur magician but now believes he might have been more and so a wizard is needed to track him down. Storm Front does what any good first book in a series should do. It introduces you to the rules of this particular fictional world’s magic. It creates a continuing cast of characters around the central protagonist. Finally, it sets up an overarching mythology meant to stretch over multiple books. Besides all of that The Dresden Files books do the best job of fusing hardboiled detective narration with a supernatural milieu. Mr. Butcher’s prose wouldn’t feel so strange if it was coming out of Philip Marlowe’s mouth all while keeping Harry Dresden a true original. You can read the first chapter of Storm Front at this link for a sample of the style.

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Jim Butcher

The Dresden Files has now reached fifteen books with the upcoming publication of Skin Game. One of the things I applaud Mr. Butcher for doing is once he lays down something in one book that is meant to be resolved in a future book the reader is not left waiting for three or four books before returning to that loose thread. I think it is that attention to driving the overall story onward that makes The Dresden Files such an entertaining read as each entry pushes the story forward significantly and that is not always the case in serial fiction of any genre.

As you’re starting to get your beach chair and sunglasses out of their winter hibernation don’t forget to add a few books to your beach bag. If you add The Dresden Files to your summer reading list I think you’ll have a great time standing by Harry Dresden as he shouts, “Forzare!”

Mark Behnke

How Do We Honor Our Own?

Just as there is awards season for the performing arts we are smack dab in the middle of awards season for the olfactory arts. On Thursday night the French Fragrance Foundation awards were handed out and the following day in New York City The Fragrance Foundation announced their finalists and the winner of the Indie Perfume of the Year. There is an organization of French bloggers who give out the Olfactorama Awards. The new kid on the red carpet is the Los Angeles-based The Institute for Art and Olfaction Awards.

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Each of these awards have their own personality and the winners can be schizophrenic and you wonder how, in the case of the French Fragrance Foundation, Jour D’Hermes (Best Feminine Fragrance in Selective Distribution) shared a podium with Invictus by Paco Rabanne (Best Masculine Fragrance in Selective Distribution). The Expert’s Award choices, from a committee of people from throughout the industry, honored Comme des Garcons Black and Tom Ford Private Blend Tobacco Oud. This kind of dichotomy gave rise to the Olfactorama Awards as a group of French bloggers thought they could do better and here is the list of perfumes they honored: Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin, Hermes L’Eau de Narcisse Bleu, Vero Profumo Mito Voile D’Extrait, and Le Labo Ylang 49.

I look at those winners and can say that each list of winners represents its organization’s view point and as it is with the performing arts I am happy there are writer’s awards as there are industry-based awards. In my opinion the French Fragrance Foundation Expert’s Award is the one I respect the most because they really go the extra kilometer to gather a representative panel who all work very hard to come to consensus. The last two years has seen them honor fragrances I think would not have received any accolades at all.

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Which comes to the independent perfume movement particularly in the US. Ever since I have published a yearly Top 25 new perfumes list there have never been less than five indie perfumers represented on that list. The Fragrance Foundation made an attempt to recognize that community but through three iterations of that award it has gone, respectively, to Odin 06 Amanu, By Kilian Amber Oud, and this year to By Kilian Playing with the Devil. I like all of these perfumes but The Fragrance Foundation and I have very different ideas about what an indie perfume is. Which is why I am excited about the new The Institute for Art and Olfaction Awards which will name their winners on April 25, 2014. They have two categories with ten finalists in each. The Independent Category which honors privately-owned brands operated with the owner’s direct oversight and often employing professional perfumers.  Included in this year’s nominees are brands: Neela Vermeire Creations, Charenton Macerations, Friedemodin, and Yosh. The Artisan Category honors a perfumer-led business where the perfumer does everything from A-to-Z. The nominees are again another fine list which include Olympic Orchids, April Aromatics, Aether Arts, Imaginary Authors, and Mikmoi. All of the nominees are finally going to receive some attention that has been a long time in coming. The entire list of nominees can be found here.

If I was comparing these awards to those given out for motion pictures I would do it this way. The US Fragrance Foundation Awards are the Oscars. The French Fragrance Foundation Awards are the BAFTA’s. The Olfactorama Awards are The Golden Globes. The Institute of Art and Olfaction Awards are the Spirit Awards. What I believe is this kind of breadth of attention paid to the best of olfactory art Is a good thing and every perfume on any of the nomination lists as well as the winners should bask in the glow of the recognition of a jury of aficionados finding their perfume to be among the best of 2013. Just as it is with the movie awards I have my favorites I am rooting for but 2014 is the first year where every perfume I think was award worthy had a place where that could actually come true. That makes the entire perfume community winners.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Velvet Orchid- The TF All-Stars Make a Fragrance

I’ve always wondered how a perfume with multiple perfumers attached to it actually comes to be. I’m not talking about a collaboration of two that I think I understand. There are a number of fragrances which seemingly take a village to create. The latest fragrance to have me considering this is the new addition to the Tom Ford Signature Collection, Velvet Orchid.

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The TF All-Stars (Clockwise from upper left: M. Vasnier, Mme Becker, Mme Maisondieu, M. Maisondieu)

Karyn Khoury is in her accustomed position as creative director and she decided to convene a supergroup of perfumers to compose this flanker to the original Tom Ford Signature Fragrance, Black Orchid. My weird imagination even sees them on a stage, as The TF All-Stars, introducing themselves. On top notes we have Calice Becker, holding down the heart notes it’s Yann Vasnier and covering the base notes we have The Maisondieus, Shyamala and Antoine. I am pretty sure this kind of perfume by committee is not accomplished by doling out phases but I do wonder how all of these very competent perfumers managed to come together and make pretty darn good perfume worthy of being added to the Tom Ford Signature Collection.

The original Black Orchid is one of those fragrances that, when it was released in 2006, was a true gender bender as there were many men who wore it even though it was primarily marketed to women. I am one of those men as the central orchid accord in Black Orchid is surrounded by a very restrained floral followed by patchouli and sandalwood in the base. For Velvet Orchid The TF All-Stars were asked to create a “corporeal flower accord” to complement the original orchid accord. This group doesn’t just stop there as on top a fantastic rum and in the base vanilla take on prominent roles with the familiar notes from Black Orchid. It makes Velvet Orchid a traditionally pretty floral fragrance which is very good.

The same mandarin that was present in the original is on top in Velvet Orchid but now it is drizzled with honey and doused with a rum note called succan absolute. This makes for a sweetly boozy opening and one I really enjoyed. It leads to the same orchid accord that made up the heart of Black Orchid. Here is where The TF All-Stars decided to really turn this Velvet Orchid into a power ballad of florals as on top of the orchid comes a series of floral duets starting with Moroccan and Turkish rose, hyacinth and heliotrope, jasmine and jonquil. Throughout the heart of Velvet Orchid it is like trying to follow three simultaneous guitar solos which are miraculously also harmonizing. For much of Velvet Orchid it remains in this powerful floral refrain. Over a few hours a very subtle sweetness begins to swirl into the melody. First myrrh and sandalwood start off; a very refined suede and peru balsam rough it up a little but it sets the stage for a perfect vanilla note to provide the finish. It adds up to a decadent sweetness to leave one wanting more.

Velvet Orchid has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

I have always admired the Tom Ford Signature Collection for pushing the envelope in the mainstream fragrance space. It is why Velvet Orchid is a bit surprising in how it displays itself as very traditionally floriental. It isn’t groundbreaking or unusual but in its nod to the traditional The TF All-Stars manage to find a way to leave their very talented impressions in all the small moments throughout. Even though you might have heard this tune before this supergroup of perfumers have found a way to make it feel new again.  

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Arquiste L’Etrog Acqua & The Architects Club- Italian Orchards & Art Deco Club Kids

One of my very favorite recent new perfume lines is Arquiste. In 2011 there were six debut releases and one year later a seventh was added. What I like so much about Arquiste is it is a tight knit team behind all of the fragrances. It starts with owner and Creative Director Carlos Huber who has taken his training as an architectural historian and restorer and applied that to the world of fragrance. So far for all of the Arquiste line he has exclusively used two perfumers, Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier, separately or in tandem. Arquiste is an example of passionate creativity and friendship leading to a collection which is excellent from top to bottom. Because of this admiration I was really looking forward to seeing Sr. Huber at Esxence because I was hoping for something new after over a year. I wasn’t disappointed as he presented two new fragrances, L’Etrog Acqua and The Architects Club.

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L’Etrog Acqua is a continuation of the story begun by one of the original six, L’Etrog and how it came to be is a funny story. Sr. Huber was visiting with Sr. Flores-Roux and as he got near he realized he sort of smelled L’Etrog but it was different. When he asked about it, Sr. Flores-Roux said he wanted a more “summer” version and so he ditched most of the notes in the heart and base and what was left was a very Mediterranean cologne. Sr. Huber agreed and now we can all enjoy the summer version of L’Etrog.

L’Etrog Acqua has exactly the same opening notes as in L’Etrog but they are more pronounced without as much underneath to start pushing them to the side. For almost the entire time I wore L’Etrog Acqua these were the notes which were on display; cedrat, lemon, mandarin, petitgrain, and myrtle. With the original those would give way to an intense dried fruit accord down to the vetiver, orris and patchouli base. All of that is gone and all that remains in L’Etrog Acqua is cedar, vetiver, and labdanum. Without the darker contrasts the top notes get to frolic more freely and the base notes really just sort of join in. For a straightforward citrus fragrance L’Etrog Acqua kept going strong for over 8 hours. Sr. Flores-Roux does capture the flip side to L'Etrog, a summer morning in an Italian citrus orchard. I know this will be worn a lot this summer by me.

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The Architects Club is a more typical Arquiste fragrance complete with appropriate scene setting by Sr. Huber. All of the fragrances have a time and place assigned to them as a brief. For The Architects Club it is Dusk, March, 1930, Mayfair, London inside an Art Deco smoking room. A group of architects settle into the warm interior of dark woods, leather, and velvet. A group of London’s bright young things burst in to the room frosted martinis in hand, surrounded by a cloud of laughter, white smoke, and fine vanilla.

I love the whole Lost Generation era and I was excited to see what M. Vasnier came up with as a perfume to match the described tableau. What he did was make a group of architects’ notes; woods, vetiver, amber, and spices. A group of notes representing the flappers; citrus, gin, and vanilla. Let them crash together and watch the interaction. This turns out to have all of the attributes of an impromptu party in fragrant form.

The Architects Club starts with the spice and woods of the boys out in front and then very quickly the gin and citrus energy of the girls destroy the serenity. M. Vasnier has produced as quickly a developing first few moments of perfume that I have encountered in recent memory. When Sr. Huber gave me the strip after hearing the brief I immediately got the men’s club vibe and just as I was about to say, “nice”, the ladies had started a party on my mouillette. Wearing this for a couple of days this animated opening is even more appealing on my skin. Once everyone is in the midst of having a good time the gin accord and the spices really dominate the early going and they are also having a good time getting to know each other. As this party rages on the vetiver and vanilla make sure the shank of the evening still holds some interest. I can’t remember when an opening of a fragrance has made me say “wow” as much as The Architects Club did. The rest of the fragrance is also very good but there is a wonderful rush I get from the first few moments of this one each time I’ve worn it and it is intoxicating. The Architects Club has all-day longevity and modest sillage as it is at 25% perfume extract concentration. There may be a party going on but only those you let close will know about it.

I’ll be wearing both of these for the next few months but once fall comes The Architects Club party will continue to play on because, as you know, nothing stops a great show.

L'Etrog Acqua will be available in June and The Architects Club will be released in the fall wherever you find Arquiste for sale.

Disclosure: This review was based on press samples provided by Arquiste at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

 

That Unattainable Object of Desire: L’Air de Panache by Mark Buxton

After writing about the Wes Anderson movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in this week’s The Sunday Magazine I got a lot of questions about the fragrance inspired by the movie. To answer those questions not only have I smelled it but perfumer Mark Buxton gave me enough of a sample of it to wear. After wearing L’Air de Panache and seeing the movie I have to say that Mr. Buxton given the freedom of composing what amounts to a bespoke perfume delivered a true fragrance experience every bit as indie as the movie it is based upon.

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Gustave H''s Wardrobe

L’Air de Panache is the signature scent of the protagonist of the movie Gustave H., the concierge at The Grand Budapest Hotel. As played by Ralph Fiennes, Gustave H. is a consummate concierge and the master of his universe. L’Air de Panache is how people know Gustave H. and it consistently keeps appearing throughout the film.

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Mark Buxton (l.) and Nicolas Cloutier (Photo: makemylemonade.com)

When they were filming they, of course, used water. For the World Premiere Mr. Anderson wanted to turn L’Air de Panache into a reality to be given as a present to the cast and crew. For this very special project he would turn to the Paris fragrance boutique Nose to bring the fictional fragrance to life, in six weeks! Nicolas Cloutier would act as creative director to perfumer Mark Buxton as they sought to make a perfume which would live up to what we saw in the movie. Because this was a very small batch release, not intended for sale, it freed Mr. Buxton to use any ingredient on his perfumer’s palette. I would also comment that the short time frame forced Messrs. Cloutier and Buxton to trust their instincts and I think the end result is all the better for that. L’Air de Panache is a definite throwback cologne but, cleverly, throughout its development there are nods to the events of the film.

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Boy with Apple

Gustave H. is known for his excellent personal service to the aging, blonde they must be blonde, women who come to the hotel. The beginning of L’Air de Panache pays homage to them with a fleeting aldehyde opening which is the hairspray version of those ingredients. They dissipate as quickly as a cloud of Aqua Net to reveal underneath a rich citrus opening made modern by the addition of basil, instead of the more traditional rosemary. The other note is green apple and that nods to the McGuffin which propels the caper part of the film, a painting simply named “Boy with Apple”.  A stunningly complex jasmine sambac holds the heart of L’Air de Panache it is as elegant as Gustave H. as he strides the halls. This all gives way to a well-mannered jungle cat of a base as Mr. Buxton lets L’Air de Panache off the leash to growl with musk, castoreum, amber, oakmoss, and patchouli. This is Gustave H. behind a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the room of one of his paramours.

L’Air de Panache has 4-6 hour longevity and prodigious sillage. Which is why Gustave H. is always topping it up and everyone knows where he’s been.

For this series the fragrance I am writing about will truly be nearly impossible to find. In the case of L’Air de Panache I am hopeful this might not always be the case. To be clear right this moment there are only a few bottles of it in existence and they are all in the hands of the people who made the movie. Except if you find yourself in Paris and visit Nose they have a bottle for you to experience this quite amazing fragrance. Because of the top shelf ingredients used I suspect a bottle would carry a fairly hefty price tag but if it does come to pass that it is for sale one day I’ll be first in line to buy it. For now I have enough left to allow myself to feel like the master of my own universe for one day of my choosing; it is enough.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided to me by Mark Buxton.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Memo Paris Kedu-Sesame for Buddha

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For the great majority of the time being in the US gives me the opportunity to try things first. In the perfumed world though that isn’t always the case and often there are releases that take over a year to find their way to America. Usually patience wins the day except in the case of the few lines I like very much which haven’t found their way across the pond, yet. Very top of that list is Memo Paris. For a few years I used a Paris shopping service to get my bottles back to me then I found that Colette, the French Department Store, had worldwide shipping. Over time I have struck up a relationship with John Molloy who is the husband of Creative Director, and co-owner, Clara Molloy. When I was in Milan for the most recent Esxence I had the opportunity to meet with Mme Molloy about their newest release Kedu which is part of the new Graines Vagabondes series, inspired by seeds.

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John and Clara Molloy

When we began to talk about Kedu, Mme Molloy handed me a coffee table book with the Middle-Earth-like name of Borobudur on it. It didn’t turn out to be the long lost home of the dwarves but instead one of the great Buddhist temples located in Central Java, Indonesia. It is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and a pilgrimage site for Buddhists on the holiday of Waisak, more prosaically known as Buddha’s Birthday. As an act of purification you burn one sesame seed for every passion, I would hold up the line if I did this. What is unique is on Waisak the smell of burning sesame arises all around the area. This is what Mme Molloy wanted to capture with Kedu and she asked her longtime collaborator, perfumer Alienor Massenet, to compose the fragrance around a central note of sesame.

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Borobudur in the Mist

One of the special joys of my meeting with Mme Molloy was she offered me the opportunity to smell the three linchpin notes for the top, heart, and base of Kedu. On top was a grapefruit oil which was as bright a grapefruit as I have ever smelled without a hint of the sour or sulfurous facets sometimes present. The base note was a white musk which was silky smooth without the screechy irritating quality some white musks have for me. Those I had smelled versions of before. The sesame absolute was something new for me and it was absolutely glorious. This was a flame kissed seed with all the rich viscosity of a sesame oil. I spent most of the evening returning to the strip to experience it over and over. At this point I couldn’t wait to see how Mme Massenet put this all together.

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Alienor Massenet

If I hadn’t smelled the building blocks before trying Kedu I would have said it was a typical grapefruit opening complete with the sour and sulfurous facets, but I knew that wasn’t true. Mme Massenet lets the sesame absolute substitute for those facets. Once I tuned into that I realized this was a very different grapefruit accord as instead of sulfurous it was really sort of toasted  and instead of sour it was slightly piquant; both of those courtesy of the sesame. A slight floral interlude courtesy of rose and peony set the transition to the heart of where the sesame truly takes center stage. On a strip it was great, on my skin it was better. It lingers at this stage long enough for my own personal passions to take their time burning away. When the sesame does dissipate what is left is the very smooth white musk with a bit of moss thrown in for texture.

Kedu has 6-8 hour longevity and modest sillage.

The sesame absolute has also shown up in two other of my recent favorite fragrances, Arquiste Anima Dulcis and Etat Libre D’Orange La Fin du Monde, but it is not as prominent as it is in Kedu. Kedu allows me to revel in the swirling smoke of the immolating sesame seeds and it is an exciting beginning to the Graines Vagabondes series. I am really hoping that caraway is one of the seeds on the drawing board because I would really like to see what the Memo team would do with that. I do know that if I find myself at Borobodur during Waisak there will be one seed named Memo Paris that I feed to the fire. Kedu is another passionate entry in the Memo Paris catalogue.

Disclosure: this review was based on a press sample provided by Memo Paris and Campomarzio 70.

Mark Behnke

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

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

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

Mark and vero

Vero Kern (r.) and I trying Rozy

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

NPG x136344; Anna Magnani by Bob Collins

Anna Magnani (Photo: Bob Collins)

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

anna magnani laughing

Anna Magnani

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

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

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

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

Mark Behnke