New Perfume Reviews Raymond Matts Jarro & Sunah- The Aura of Persistence

The new Raymond Matts perfume line calls their fragrances “aura de parfum”. The phrase does a really good job of describing some of the entries in the collection. With Jarro and Sunah the name is not only a descriptor but the perfumes themselves formed a transparent aura around me as I wore them. In an e-mail exchange with Raymond Matts he described the way he works with his perfumers, “I never brief perfumers actually! When I start a fragrance I sit with and go over sensations, emotions, experiences, textures with colors I want the fragrance to be. We then will discuss notes and will create three different accords representing top, middle and back.” Then he told me they will go through 200-300 modifications searching for just the right balance to realize the shared vision. This shows the dedication of both creative director and perfumer as trying to find that perfect balance between the synthetics and natural ingredients can be difficult and I think many other brands would have given up earlier and accept a less-than-perfect formula. Both of these show the dedication to quality and collaboration.

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Christophe Laudamiel

Jarro is signed by Christophe Laudamiel. If I asked most to describe M. Laudamiel based on his perfumes in one word I am guessing I would get a lot of variations on edgy or dark. I knew he was the perfumer behind three of the seven entries in the collection. If I was asked to pick the three he worked on blindly Jarro would not have been one because it seems too light. Mr. Matts also addressed that in his e-mail and said, “Christophe and I have been working together for many years. He is dark and I'm not so this makes for interesting collaborations.” Jarro is a burst of optimism wrapped up in green brilliance. M. Laudamiel constructs complex accords and Jarro opens with two of those. The citrus one is that bit of sunshine in a jar as there is a complement of citrus facets all shining like sunbeams. Matched to this is a green aquatic accord composed of calone and labdanum among other ingredients. This is one of those classic perfume accords but M. Laudamiel puts his spin on it by keeping it on the light side. The green deepens with muguet as the focal point in the middle part of Jarro’s development. M. Laudamiel enhances the hidden spiciness of muguet by using it in significant quantities and complementing it with other spices so it can’t be overlooked. The base is Ambrox and woods; and in keeping with the whole tone of the construction it stays lighter. Jarro has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

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Jean-Claude Delville

As Mr. Matts mentioned he has worked with M. Laudamiel for many years. I think he has probably worked with perfumer Jean-Claude Delville for a shorter period of time. One of the pieces of information that tells me this might be the case is Mr. Matts shared the number of modifications that went into refining the concepts that would eventually become Sunah; over a thousand. If I admired the stick-to-it-iveness of 200 modifications more than a thousand had to be frustrating until the right one emerges out of the pile of flawed vials. What caused all of this olfactory angst was an attempt to make a saffron focused perfume which also was soft. M. Delville opens with a contrast of tart and crisp with citrus and apple. It is a high-pitched downbeat which then rises up the scale as mimosa forms an opaque fruity floral early phase. Sunah transforms as the saffron rises to prominence in the heart. M. Delville allows the saffron to eventually exude an exoticism at the middle. M. Delville then chooses a mix of woody synthetics which are layered precisely to effect a pillow soft base for this intense saffron to lay upon. It is this which must have have occupied Mr. Matts and M. Delville during many of those one thousand modifications. To get this just right. To keep the synthetics all purring together without one rising up to be disruptive all while the saffron still exudes its influence. This effort really shows as Sunah moves from the fruity floral into this exotic end phase and it is completely fascinating to wear. Sunah has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I really like both of these for the effort the perfumers put in with Mr. Matts. In both cases I think that effort shows in the finished product. Sunah especially for the effect of saffron on top of soft woods is brilliantly realized.

Discalosure: this review was based on samples provided by Raymond Matts.

Mark Behnke

Perfumer Rewind: Francois Demachy & Jacques Polge 1987-1990- Creating a Masculine Trinity

One of the benefits of being able to look back and find interesting moments in a perfumer’s history is I have the benefit of perfect vision when looking backwards. One of the moments I realized was a real watershed moment in masculine perfumes happened under the aegis of two of the best designer perfumers working. As I’ve covered previously in the late 1980’s men’s fragrance was beginning a shift towards the aquatic and the fresh. Two perfumers who had been working together for about five years were not going to let it go down without offering an alternative. The three men’s perfumes Francois Demachy and Jacques Polge had a hand in from 1987-1990 were Chanel pour Monsieur Concentree, Tiffany for Men, and Chanel Egoiste. Messrs. Demachy and Polge would offer a less burly fragrance that wasn’t quite as aquatic or clean, as the burgeoning trend towards that style was beginning to dominate the market.

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Francois Demachy

They combined on adapting the original Chanel pour Monsieur composed in 1955 by Henri Robert into the Concentree version in 1987. This was a follow-up to their only previous masculine release 1981’s Chanel Antaeus. Where Antaeus was the scent of a player circa 1980’s; with Pour Monsieur Concentree they were trying to define a certain more refined masculine style. If the aquatics were for casual perfume wearing. Pour Monsieur Concentree was for wearing once you came in from the sun. Messrs. Demachy and Polge took the original and intensified it. It was a divisive move as some think it throws the balance off and turns it cloying. I have the opposite opinion. They upped the central note of cardamom until it goes from just a hint of green into something that is no mere trifle at the heart of Pour Monsieur Concentree. This enhanced cardamom follows an energetic lemon opening. This opening would return in 1996’s Chanel Allure. The base was a classic chypre finish but again taken up a couple notches in intensity. I believe they took what was a traditional cologne and beefed it up into something which has much more presence.

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Jacques Polge

Two years later they would return to the themes of Pour Monsieur but while being asked to create a perfume for the jewelry brand Tiffany. 1989’s Tiffany for Men seems like what Messrs. Demachy and Polge wanted to do with Pour Monsieur Concentree but were handcuffed into reprising the original set of notes. Freed of those constraints they would create a uniquely masculine Oriental. They start with bergamot to provide the citrus but juniper berry and coriander provide a bit of a gin accord to go with it. This time instead of just taking cardamom and upping the concentration to create green they take geranium and galbanum to create a seriously green floral heart. The base notes of nutmeg and pepper over a very creamy sandalwood are a fabulous finish. This is one of my favorite men’s perfumes of all-time because it really does have it all. The fresh opening into an intense green down to a spicy woody finish. I knew I didn’t want to smell like the ocean I wanted to smell like Tiffany’s.

In 1990 they would bring all of this together to create the unforgettable Chanel Egoiste. Again they open with citrus but the choice this time is the sweeter tangerine paired with a pale rosewood. Those rose facets will lead into rose in the heart which is enhanced by the presence of coriander. The coriander defines the spiciness underlying a great rose. For the base notes sandalwood is here but they choose to go sweet with vanilla and they use the botanical musk of ambrette seeds to provide a much more delicate muskiness to the final moments. Egoiste is considered to be one of the great masculine masterpieces and continues to be held in high regard.

These three perfumes provided a counterpoint to the perfume trends which wer ein flux. That I can still look back and laud them shows that Messrs. Demachy and Polge succeeded in giving men of a certain aesthetic an alternative.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews DSH Perfumes The Brilliant Collection- A History of Scent and Sparkle

One of the best perfumed collaborations of the past few years has been the work perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has done in conjunction with various exhibits at the Denver Art Museum. For these shows she creates a collection of perfumes to go with what is being displayed. This time the exhibit which inspired the perfume is “Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century”. Perhaps more than any exhibit she has been asked to make accompanying scents for this one tickles two of Ms. Hurwitz’s creative zones. The idea of capturing jewels as fragrance is a long standing inspiration for perfumers. Ms. Hurwitz is also a jewelry designer herself. I know that the history of both of her creative outlets has always been a foundation for her to create contemporaneously. For The Brilliant Collection both sets of design skills as perfumer and jeweler come together. Three of the four perfumes are inspired by pieces and the women who wore them from the exhibit. The fourth is a bit of fantasy but still remains on theme.

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Deco Diamonds was inspired by the Flamingo Brooch seen above worn by Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor.  Ms. Hurwitz goes with the set of hairspray aldehydes cut with galbanum and peach. This all leads into a white flower fusillade of indoles with jasmine, gardenia, and tuberose providing deep floral flares. It all ends on a chypre base of oakmoss, vetiver, civet, and ambergris. All together Deco Diamonds delivers on having a real Art Deco feel. Ms. Hurwitz knows how to channel the great perfumes of the 1920’s as she creates new perfumes nearly 100 years later.

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Rubis Rose was inspired by the necklace above given to Elizabeth Taylor by Mike Todd. When he gave it to La Liz she had no mirror so she leaned over the pool to see the reflection. The perfume is more of a study of just the rubies as Ms. Hurwitz equates rose with the red gemstone. She pairs her rose with a deep raspberry note sticking with the red theme. It is those two notes which predominate throughout most of Rubis Rose’s development. There is a bit of pink pepper on top and there is a bit more incense and gaiac in the base. This is more evocative of the lavender-eyed beauty than any of the perfumes which bear her name.

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Jacinthe de Sapphir was inspired by a flawless blue sapphire worn by Queen Marie of Romania in 1922. As with Rubis Rose Ms. Hurwitz is working on a perfume equivalent of matching colors. This time she is using hyacinth as the central note. The opening is the smell of fresh earth just after the winter thaw as spring finally takes hold. Then like a time-lapse film she zooms us forward a few weeks to the hyacinth in full bloom accompanied by rose de mai, tuberose, and narcissus. This is a deeply mesmerizing floral that feels like you are falling in to that sapphire pictured above. A balsamic finish with some civet added rounds it off perfectly.

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Gold Smoke by etafaz

Fumee D’Or is what Ms. Hurwitz imagines a Paris goldsmith’s workshop should smell like. This is my favorite of the four because Ms. Hurwitz pulls together a disparate number of some of my favorite materials. On top a leather accord is combined with the more metallic aldehydes. The early going has an almost dangerous sensuality to it making me think this goldsmith has an interesting private life. The core of the leather accord is a huge amount of birch tar. This is a throwback to the great leather perfumes of the past. She them picks a skanky jasmine to pick up the lascivious leather from the top notes. She finally brings it home with civet in the base. There is never a moment during this where it doesn’t feel like Fumee D’Or is not oozing a kind of unctuous carnality. This is the least evocative of jewelry but I think that was what Ms. Hurwitz was going for.

All four of The Brilliant Collection perfumes have 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

As she has done in the past Ms. Hurwitz has provided a fantastic scented tour through an exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. The Brilliant Collection lives up to its name on every level.  

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

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Roger & Gallet Jean Marie Farina Extra Vieille- Time in a Bottle

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When it comes to trying the original perfumes that formed the beginning of modern perfumery that usually means a trip to the Osmotheque in Versailles. Or a friend with a very deep collection of vintage perfumes. There is one of these olfactory historical touchstones that you can still buy and try for, usually, around $25. It is the original Eau de Cologne created by Jean Marie Farina. Roger & Gallet has produced this original formula under the name Jean Marie Farina Extra Vieille for years and years. It is supposedly the same formula M. Farina created over two hundred years ago.

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There is a lot of reason to be skeptical of that claim but this cologne is simplicity itself. In a vacuum you might pass it by without a second thought. That is why it is not a real stretch to believe that what is in the bottle in 2015 is pretty close to what was in the bottle in 1806. That previous sentence probably seemed sort of underwhelming as an endorsement but of any of the classic colognes this one is by far my favorite. There is nothing that compares to it on a hot summer day. The crisp herbal and citrus pick-me-up is like drinking a glass of ice-cold lemonade.

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The Original Eau de Cologne Recipe

M. Farina wrote to his brother after he had created this first Eau de Cologne, “I have discovered a scent that reminds me of a spring morning in Italy, of mountain narcissus, orange blossom just after the rain. It gives me great refreshment, strengthens my senses and imagination.” He could never realize that the last part of that statement would become true for generations of perfumers to follow. From those words I realize he wanted his Eau de Cologne to be bracing and strengthening. The best Eau de Colognes have always done this for me. What is nice is the very first one still does this for me.

As I said this is as simple as it gets in construction. It opens on a focused snap of lemon with bergamot. Petitgrain adds even more tart citrus to the beginning. Rosemary adds an herbal greenness which puts metaphorical sunglasses on all of the sunny citrus. It ends on a very lightly floral bouquet of orange blossom. Each of these notes runs one into the other in a fast moving kind of development that is done from beginning to end in a couple of hours. It is that fleeting longevity which is emblematic of many of the classic colognes.

Jean Marie Farina Extra Vieille has 2-3 hour longevity and above average sillage. This is a fragrance you apply liberally and keep doing it throughout a day.

I’ve said often we are in a new golden age of cologne as current perfumers have been taking this venerable architecture and turning out amazing new constructions. It is worth going back to see where it all began and when you can do it for such a low price there is almost no reason for a perfume lover not to own a bottle of this.

Disclosure: this review was based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: What Comes After?

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I have been having a hard time focusing on writing for the last 24 hours. When I got home from work on Friday night I checked into my Facebook news feed to find that my colleague in perfume writing Tama Blough had passed away earlier in the day. For those unaware Tama had been diagnosed a few months ago with a terminal case of cancer. Her friends who spanned a number of different communities, including perfume, all donated to a fund so she could live her last months on her own terms. That effort was successful as Tama passed away in her apartment surrounded by the things in her life that gave her joy. Most of us will never have the chance to make sure our final moments are as well lived as Tama’s were. I know this makes all who helped this come about feel better about her passing. But yet I am still sad and I know I shouldn’t be.

I only met Tama in person one time and it happened a little less than a year ago at Esxence in Milan. We had worked together as editors for the perfume blog CaFleureBon for a little over three years. She was a constant joy to work with as she always treated the work we did together on the blog as something worth doing. We connected over our mutual passion not only for perfume but our desire to talk about it and communicate about it. We both enjoyed giving early reviews to debut perfume lines we thought were good. She would happily relate when she would receive an e-mail from an independent perfumer thanking her for the piece she wrote. It was the kind of feedback a lot of writers don’t receive, they are more used to the less desirable kind. Tama never received any of the less desirable feedback because she was a genuine person. That is an extremely rare quality. Tama didn’t have ulterior motives or hidden agendas she lived her life pursuing her passions with a refreshing honesty and they were part of her. Think of how many people exist in your life for whom that description applies. I would suspect most can count that on one hand.

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Tama (l.) and Yosh Han

This is why I think Tama’s passing is bothering me because there is one less genuine person I know. Another person more well-known than Tama passed away due to cancer this week; ESPN SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott. Much like Tama he was able to co-ordinate his final days so he continued to work right up until the very end. Earlier in the year he gave a speech when he received an award in courage. His words apply to any who have lost people to cancer and there are three thoughts he observed that I am going to finish with.

“Our life’s journey is really about the people that touch us.” I don’t think Tama wasn’t aware of how much she was adored in her various communities. The outpouring of love from all corners of her life allowed her the opportunity to see that as she finished her life’s journey.

“Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, then lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you” Those who came forward when Tama needed to lay down were instrumental in allowing her final days to be the best they could be. I want to thank the team behind the Give Forward effort: Nina Zolotow, Heidi Schroeder, Ruth Kaminski, Brooke Baird, and Elizabeth Dietrich; plus others who are not listed who stood up as Tama had to lay down. All of you should be proud of your efforts on her behalf.

“When you die it does not mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live…..Have a great rest of your life.” This is something I have always believed. Tama leaves behind a life lived well so she could indulge her passions and gather anyone she could into a fragrant hug. If she could have I am sure she would have wished all of us who have known her to have a great rest of your life. That s is how I will move beyond my morose feelings of the last day or so. I will strive to have a great rest of my life and the next time I smell an amazing tuberose perfume I will think to myself, “Tama would’ve loved this one.”

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Prada Rossetto No. 14- Out of Sight But Not Out of Mind

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Sometimes the way a brand treats its perfumes completely baffles me. None is more perplexing to me than the way Prada treats its line of exclusives. Every other designer line you can name displays their exclusive line in ways which are as elaborate as the perfumes themselves. Not Prada, you have to know these exist to even have a hope of finding them. In the Prada flagship store in New York I go through this same ritual every time I want to find one. I walk into the store and tell them I’m interested in perfume. They direct me to the counter which is full of the mainstream bottles. I ask them for one of the exclusives and they very politely tell me they don’t have it. I equally politely ask them to look it up on their computer. They are surprised to find out they have this and it is in stock; in the back room. They go retrieve my bottle usually mentioning they didn’t know about these. I walk away shaking my head.

Prada Rossetto

Since 2003 Miuccia Prada and perfumer Daniela Andrier have made one of the great experimental lines of perfume. The forerunner of Infusion D’Iris was the very first of these called simply Iris No. 1. Mme Andrier is one of our greatest perfumers because of her versatility and in this collection it is vividly on display. Last summer I repeated the ritual for the latest release Rossetto No. 14.

The concept of this line of exclusives is not necessarily to break new ground but to re-interpret existing fragrant forms. Rossetto No. 14’s task is that of the iris-scented lipstick. This is a study which has been done previously in perfume. It is a natural because for many, including me, the first smell of iris they ever encountered was the smell of their mother’s Coty lipstick. What Rossetto No. 14 does is to take that smell and update it to the super luxurious lipsticks being sold by the top luxury brands today. Even as a man I can see the depth to the newest lipsticks which look like the most upscale Chap-Stiks ever. Mme Andrier winks to that in the opening moments of Rossetto No. 14 but then she goes for the iris lipstick accord and it is beautiful.

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Daniela Andrier

The opening of Rossetto No. 14 is a breath of aldehydes of the hair spray variety reminding one you are at the vanity table surrounded by the appropriate accoutrements. The wink to more pedestrian lip balms comes with a flash of cherry followed by astringent violet leaves and baie rose. This is a fleeting phase as Rossetto No. 14 transitions rapidly right into the lipstick accord. Mme Andrier takes orris, rose, violet, and heliotrope to form the basis but it needs a catalyst. That ingredient which sparks the lipstick accord to life is raspberry. It is the moment of sheer genius within this perfume. As I detected the florals I was a bit disappointed but then the raspberry converts all of it into a lush lipstick accord. Mme Andrier places all of it on a vanilla and benzoin foundation which adds contrasting resinous sweetness to the lipstick. The final moments are a cocktail of musks as the lipstick has finally worn off.

Rossetto No. 14 has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Rossetto No. 14 is, as I mentioned, not a breakthrough lipstick evoking fragrance. It is a new interpretation of it. I find when I’m in the mood for it that Rossetto No. 14 scratches my itch without causing Oedipal issues. That is because Mme Andrier  has tweaked it just enough to make it her own and to allow me to make my own memories with it.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Ephemera by Unsound Bass and Drone- Does it Feel Good?

I started my reviews of the new Ephemera by Unsound line with Noise because it is going to be the easiest of the three to approach. That doesn’t mean the remaining two, Bass and Drone, aren’t as good because they are. Perfumer Geza Schoen continued to use music as his brief for the perfumes and MFO provided video interpretations. In the continuation of the conversation I began in the Noise review Bass and Drone live right on the edge of what is commonly considered pleasant smells. This is why these might be less easy to initially embrace. I think these are perfumes worth the effort because once they invade your consciousness they are darn hard to shake.

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Geza Schoen

Bass was founded on a piece of music from Kode9 aka Steve Goodman. He titled the music “Vacuum Burn”. It is his earliest olfactory memory of a vacuum cleaner which emitted a burning smell. Hr. Schoen goes for that odor of burning electronics, dust, and hair. That smell is going to be seen as flat-out unpleasant by many. I once responded to a forum thread on weird smells you like with hot electronics and the smell of hair burning. For me this means Bass accesses that affection for odd smells. Hr. Schoen does a fantastic job at bringing this to life. How he achieves this effect is to take woodsmoke and combine it with rum. The rum stands out very early on but eventually the smoke shrouds it and this forms the burning hair accord. The heated electronic accord consists of a combination in the heart of leather and black tea, on a platform of mastic. Hr. Schoen takes the mastic and uses it as a foundation to build this accord. The base notes are a rich animalic castoreum matched with oakmoss and a couple other musks. It forms a very human final accord as it reminds you there is a young child accessing a unique smell for the first time. Bass has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

The video of Bass, above, captures the sense of heat and burning but the music especially does an amazing job of this. There is a sound of crackling burning punctuated with an irregular mouse click. When I wore Bass and listened to the track I saw the image of the vacuum on overload. I spent my whole hour commute one day listening to Vacuum Burn on repeat with my eyes closed breathing deeply the evolution of Bass. The time flew by.

The piece of music Tim Hecker supplied Hr. Schoen is the antithesis of the name, Drone. It is a languidly swelling soundscape. Early on I lean in to hear the opening notes; by the end it has me sitting back in my chair. Mr. Hecker wanted “a speculative Day-Glo incense from rituals where long-form sound induces levitation.” Hr. Schoen starts with us up in the air as he uses a different set of aldehydes and ozonic notes than he used in Noise. In Noise these ingredients radiated cold. In Drone they do almost the opposite as they convey an expansive openness. This is a fabulous example of what a very talented perfumer can do with primarily the same sets of raw materials. By balancing and combining in just the right way Hr. Schoen produces two very different effects. These early moments of Drone make me feel like I am gliding a few hundred feet above the ground. The heart notes bring me in for a landing in the middle of a stand of pine trees. Fir and juniper are the heart notes but this is mostly fir with the juniper adding in depth. As I continue to take in the airy opening accord over the fir Hr. Schoen pulls out a wonderfully weird synthetic vetiver which begins to insert itself in between the other notes oozing into the spaces and creating a new fragrant accord. The base notes are patchouli and ambergris and they form perhaps the most traditional accord of any of the three fragrances in the collection. Drone has a lot of unusual angles and shifts to it to the point that on first sniff I wasn’t excited. I wore it a lot and the combination of sound and visual really drew me in. Drone has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Drone was the complete package for me. The music by itself was the one I liked the best and the one which has made it onto a playlist with other non-perfume music. This time the video captures the smell and the sound perfectly. There is a moment in the video at the 1:14 point which visualizes the way I smell the vetiver combining in the scent as the music hits the crescendo it has been building towards. This is the perfect combination of sight, sound, and smell. Because of all of this Drone has become my favorite.

Now let me return to the thesis I brought up in the review of Noise, does a perfume have to smell good? I can see showing someone these three perfumes and they can’t find anything within them that smells good. That is judging them solely on a superficial level. What I think all three of the perfumes in this collection exemplify is if you have the vision to go more than skin deep and attempt to connect with more than just the sense of smell there is something beyond the purview of simple questions like “does it smell good?”. Instead the question becomes, “Does it make me feel good?” Where the answer to the first question might be variable; if you allow these perfumes and the music and the visuals the opportunity I think the answer to the second question is something much more affirmative. If you have any interest in the potential of what perfume can do this is a collection you need to try.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ephemera by Unsound Noise- Does It Smell and Sound and Look Good?

Whenever I try a perfume which is attempting to be avant-garde I always think of the words of the late perfumer Guy Robert. He said famously, “A perfume above all must smell good.” I think many of us who love fragrance would take this as a truism. I also think if we want to believe that there is such a thing as olfactory art then there has to be room for a perfume which can audaciously explore the line of what smells good. The last part of 2014 and the first part of 2015 has been an opportunity for me to explore this concept in a brilliant new collection, Ephemera by Unsound, from perfumer Geza Schoen as part of the Unsound Project.

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Geza Schoen

The Unsound Project debuted a collaboration between Hr. Schoen and three electronic music artists Ben Frost, Tim Hecker and Kode 9. This was all further accompanied by three videos by MFO. Each was inspired by the other. Hr. Schoen took his brief from the music especially composed for each fragrance. MFO created visuals which capture the music and the perfume. I have heartily dug into this experience as I have spent time just listening to the accompanying track on my headphones on the days I’ve worn each. I’ve sat in a darkened office with the visuals playing and the music at high volume coming from the speakers. This is as complete a multimedia experience as I can remember experiencing with perfume at the center of it all. It is this satiation of so many of my senses at the same time which makes this as memorable as it is for me.

We return to the central thesis though, “Does it smell good?” I am going to share my opinion on that over the next couple of days as I review each of the three perfumes Noise, Bass, and Drone on all of the levels that I experienced them on.

Noise as a perfume is a fragrance about chilly components. Hr. Schoen wanted to capture some touchstones from Mr. Frost’s olfactory memory. Mr. Frost asked for Australian brushfire, the showering sparks of an arc welder, church on Sunday- cold stone and frankincense, the bed of a pickup truck with the remnants of the tools of the hunting party. These are the kinds of things Hr. Schoen has captured in liquid form in the past. For Noise he boldly displays them as a fragrance equivalent of an Ice Princess. The beauty draws you in but if you stay too long the frostbite will devour you. He opens this perfume with a cocktail of aldehydes and ozonic notes. You’ve smelled all of these individually in hundreds of perfumes over the last few years. Like a music producer laying down tracks Hr. Schoen drops one aldehyde and another, then an ozonic note, then another aldehyde and so on until a bright olfactory harmonic is achieved. A slug of black pepper adds orthogonal spice. This moves into a heart of woody tinged florals. The note list says it is magnolia and orchid. I smell a bit of linden also and, as in the top, saffron is used as contrast. By using the woodier floral notes it keeps Noise aloof never allowing a full defrost to occur. The base returns to the metallic themes of the top notes but this time there is the hint of smoke in the distance and the smell of grinding gears. Hr. Schoen uses frankincense, amber, labdanum, cedar, and leather together to form this base accord. Noise assessed solely as a perfume is everything I can ask for of a fragrance willing to push my limits of what smells good.

When I just listened to Noise by Ben Frost while wearing the perfume I can’t say I found as much of the influences cited in just the auditory portion of this installation. What did pull it all together is the video above. The visuals capture my experience of the perfume as if they were pulled from my head by MFO. As I sat in my office surrounded by the music at high volume, pulsating, and the video occupying my entire visual field; right there this project came to life in a way I’ve rarely experienced with the multimedia explorations including perfume.

Noise has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I will come back to answer the question of whether it smells good after I have reviewed Bass & Drone. On a more reductive scale Noise is one of Hr. Schoen’s most complete compositions ever. From a perfumer who excels in exploring the borders of perfumery Noise is perhaps the best example of avant-garde in his repertoire.

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

Mark Behnke

Reviews of Bass and Drone can be found here.

Dead Letter Office: Rochas Globe- The Best of Both Worlds

When it comes to many of the perfumes which find their way to the Dead Letter Office trying to create a demographic for a fragrance is one of the surest paths to discontinuation. When you look back over the history of perfume when there have been these perfumes which have served as pivot points for the industry; the years after that moment is a study in trying to catch up. In 1990, especially in the masculine category, Davidoff Cool Water had completely changed the game. Before Cool Water men’s perfumes were hairy chested powerhouses like Aramis for Men. By the 1990’s the men’s market supposedly wanted aquatics and fresh fragrances. Over at Rochas they had the thought to try and find a middle ground between the old and the new. That perfume would become Rochas Globe.

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Rochas Globe had a big problem, who was it being made for? If the younger fragrance wearer was gravitating towards fresh aquatics while the older demographic wanted their powerhouses where did Globe fit? The answer was it didn’t. This would lead to its eventual market death within three years. The tragedy is Globe succeeded brilliantly at creating this kind of olfactory genetic splicing. The mad scientist behind this will surprise many of you, Jean-Claude Ellena. One of the most interesting periods of M. Ellena’s illustrious career was the period from 1988-1990. The five perfumes he signed during this time are some of the most unique in in his fragrant repertory. Globe fits right in.

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A Younger Jean-Claude Ellena

Globe opens with a juicy mandarin paired with a very sharp green leafy note. It was a few years until I was able to identify it as Boldo leaves. Boldo is a leaf used to make tea in some South American countries. It is most often used in a combination with yerba mate. I think M. Ellena knows this because that pungent leafiness runs right into a heart of geranium, rhubarb, basil, and mate. M. Ellena defines his version of fresh and allows the heart notes to become that. The base is very traditional vetiver and amber returning Globe to familiar masculine territory.

Globe has 10-12 hour longevity and prodigious sillage. This is one to definitely be cautious about spraying too much.

Looking back through the lens of twenty-five years it is easy to see Globe just had no audience in 1990. I would love to see this re-released now because it is such a fascinating combination of styles from a perfumer, in M. Ellena, who was at his most experimental. I have said Globe had trouble finding an audience but I am definitely someone for whom Globe was made for. It is too bad there weren’t more of us.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Raymond Matts Tsiling and Tulile- Declaration of Intent

I am not sure when I met Raymond Matts for the first time. I am sure about the where, at a Sniffapalooza lunch during a Spring Fling or Fall Ball. He gave a talk which spoke to the room about the state of perfume at that moment in time. He boldly declared perfume blogging as irrelevant. I was just starting to write and I wondered if he was right. Here was a man with a wealth of experience from nearly thirty years in the fragrance business. I like people who take provocative stances and I listened to all he said and considered his hypothesis.

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Raymond Matts

Mr. Matts has shown the same surety whenever our paths have crossed in the years since. Late in 2014 I found out he was going to have his own brand of perfume. Like so much about Mr. Matts these perfumes are declarative statements of intent. In my initial testing I have found all seven to have distinct pleasures. I want to really give all of them a little more time than I would normally and so my reviews of the entire line are going to happen in a series over the next few weeks. For this first installment I am going to focus on Tsiling and Tulile.

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Olivier Gillotin

The names of all of the fragrances are made up words meant to convey something about them. In the press materials it is said they are meant to smell the way they sound. More than any other Tsiling lives up to this. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin was given a brief to capture a plastic flower which exudes a natural scent. This makes Tsiling a lively exercise with M. Gillotin having to strike just the right balance between the artificial and the natural. His choice is to start with the natural and allow for the artificial to provide the finish. The top notes are a mix of an aquatic accord, some green notes, and pear. The pear is most prominent and the other notes provide the more natural watery green of nature. As you move into the heart orris comes first and it is a rooty version. After M. Gillotin adds honeysuckle and what is named as rice notes the whole thing seems to plasticize in a time-lapse fashion. It just goes from natural to unnatural over the course of an hour or so. Then for the majority of the time I wore Tsiling it smells like a plastic flower scented with natural oils. Very late a bit of patchouli comes out but it is very minimal in nature. Tsiling has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

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Christophe Laudamiel

Lots of perfumes marketed to men are said to be bracing. That usually means loud and overpowering most of the time. For Tulile Mr. Matts asked perfumer Christophe Laudamiel to create a masculine perfume which was embracing, instead. It starts off with a traditional zing of citrus over some aquatic notes. This is a common trope for men’s perfume. M. Laudamiel then starts to shift the paradigm as he uses lily of the valley as the floral heart of Tulile. This is a very floral muguet which combines very well with the watery citrus. It is because the citrus sticks around that Tulile doesn’t become overtly floral. For the base notes M. Laudamiel mixes two woody aromachemicals, Polywood and Ambrox. There is an interesting effect I have found with synthetics like both of these. By themselves they often irritate me. But if they are the right two synthetics they form an accord which is very pleasant. In the case of Tulile the Polywood and Ambrox form an opaque woody accord which is surprisingly soft for something composed of synthetic components. Tulile has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I’ll be back over the next few weeks with reviews of the other five perfumes in the line.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Raymond Matts.

Mark Behnke