New Perfume Review Fath’s Essentials L’Oree Du Bois- Ode to Gold

We are told in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”, “All that glitters is not gold”. When it comes to golden notes in perfume they tend not to glitter they more often glow. In Fath’s Essentials L’Oree Du Bois a study in glowing gold fragrance is proof of this.

Rita Haywoth cutting the cake at her wedding to Aly Khan (r.) in 1949

For 2017 the creative director for Fath’s Esentials, Rania Naim, collaborated with perfumer Luca Maffei on four new releases. The collection is defined overall by capturing the “la Joie de Vivre” that was designer Jacques Fath’s guiding light. L’Oree du Bois is the name of the wedding dress and trousseau M. Fath designed for actress Rita Heyworth on her 1949 marriage to Aly Khan. When you look at the wedding dress in the picture above you see a minimal aesthetic applied to a formal garment. It carries understated streamlined sophistication. All four of the new Fath’s Essentials designed by Sig. Maffei share that design aesthetic. For L’Oree Du Bois he finds a way of combining golden notes which glow but also finds room for some spiciness and bitterness to provide some bite.

Luca Maffei (l.) and Rania Naim

The focal point of the top accord is yellow mandarin and mimosa. The source of the mimosa is golden mimosa which is a version of the floral species which blooms in the winter. When these blooms capture sunlight, they illuminate in to tiny glowing orbs. In the fragrance, the mandarin plays the part of the sunlight transforming the mimosa into pulsing life. There is some neroli, ylang-ylang, and broom here but the main supporting note in the top accord is saffron. It disperses itself through the mandarin and mimosa like copper strands. A lively spicy intermezzo of cumin and cinnamon sets up the use of a honey raw material which has been isolated to give it a corona of bitter sweetness around the more usual viscous goldenness. The base is mainly a creamy sandalwood which supports all the glowy goodness that preceded it.

L’Oree Du Bois has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

One thing about Sig. Maffei is his desire to find a way to add new raw materials into his fragrances. The honey in the heart is that innovation. Sig. Maffei uses it as part of an ode to gold that is L’Oree Du Bois.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Fath’s Essentials.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Demeter Pistachio Ice Cream- Ice Cream Parlor

We have been having our first heat wave in Poodlesvile. Which means I have made my first visit to the local ice cream shop. There is a scent to the mixture of chilly air and vats of frozen treats. There have been few perfumes which have tried to capture this particular scent. If you were going to guess a brand which might try it would probably not take too many attempts to end up saying Demeter. The 2014 release Pistachio Ice Cream is an ice cream parlor in a bottle.

For the purposes of this column I could spend a year discussing the perfume brand run by Mark Crames. For over twenty years their brand identity has been in creating fragrances for less than $20 which are essentially single accord perfumes. Except these are not the single accords you might expect. Two of my favorite entries are one of the earliest releases Dirt and Funeral Home. Both of these capture exactly what is advertised on the label. The latter is particularly apt to compare to Pistachio Ice Cream because Funeral Home evokes subdued floral notes in a very chilly room. Pistachio Ice Cream embeds some gourmand facets inside a similar refrigerated accord.

Mark Crames

Pistachio Ice Cream uses a nutty note along with a light green note to form the pistachio. If you’ve ever smelled actual pistachio ice cream you will recognize this. It isn’t the nut it is the processed version crushed into a vanilla cream. The cream accord is vanilla and something which makes it creamier. Then the chill air accord settles over it all. I have not figured out exactly what produces it but the Demeter team does it as good as anyone. It pulls together the ingredients into two scoops of fragrant fun.

Pistachio Ice Cream has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you’ve ever had an interest in what single accords in perfumery smell like Demeter is like a reference library. The entire collection is an educational experience in that regard. Most of us just want to smell good and the Demeter perfumes also achieve that. In the best cases, of which Pistachio Ice Cream is, it can be educational and fun at the same time. Take a step into Mr. Crames’ fragrant ice cream parlor and chill out for a while.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parle Moi de Parfum Milky Musk- Milk Moustache

Back at the beginning of the year I had a friend who was visiting Paris over the Holidays and I gave her a shopping list. One of her stops was the new line by perfumer Michel Almairac called Parle Moi de Parfum. These kinds of blind buys are difficult for me because I really only have two pieces of information; the name and the note list. I tend to defer to lists that have things I like, which was what I did here. Of those first three, Gimauve de Noel, Woody Perfecto and Tomboy Neroli; I could glean a little bit about the aesthetic M. Almairac was designing for his own line. Minimalist compositions with three or four distinct ingredients chosen for their ability to mesh together in accords of their own, Tomboy Neroli was the one I liked best of those first three which mixed a neroli isolate, orange blossom, and amber into a real tomboy of a perfume. I closed that first review wanting to try the other five in the debut collection. It has recently become available in the US and I ordered samples of the other five.

Michel Almairac

Once the samples arrived I learned why I am not smart enough to translate a name and a note list. When I was looking at my choices one of the first I crossed off the list was one called Milky Musk with a note list of, “milk notes”, sandalwood, and musk; I was not excited. I was expecting creamy woodiness with darker synthetic musk. Which shows I was wrong because it is entirely different than that. The milk notes turn out to be a synthetic fig aromachemical. The sandalwood is a version which does have enhanced sweetness and creamy qualities. The musk is a layering of different white musks to form a pillow soft accord which arises when you combine a number of them.

That opening surprised me as I suspect it is stemone mixed with one or two of the creamier lactones. Yes, it is milky but this is like cream skimmed off the top not a hint of sourness anywhere; which was what put me off based on the note list. The sandalwood is another aromachemical with the creaminess amped up. This blends with that fig accord like a long-lost family member. Then this almost olfactory illusion of combining a set of white musks into a soft foundation.

Milky Musk has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

As much as I enjoyed Tomboy Neroli, Milky Musk has become my favorite of the debut collection especially as the weather warms up.

Disclosure: This review based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret- The Shoulder Season

I’ve mentioned in the past we had family friends who had a proper expansive garden. Almost all my scent memories of flowers and gardens come from playing in that garden as a child. One of my favorite times in that garden was the shoulder season when spring has not quite given way to the relentless heat of summer. As my friend Buddy and I would run towards the garden the scent of the flowers at full bloom would reach our noses a split second before the green leaves and grass joined in. It was the moment when nature herself was a powerhouse floral fragrance.

Elisabetta Perris

One of the earliest floral powerhouse perfumes was 1912’s Houbigant Quelques Fleurs. It is not as celebrated as many of the other contemporary perfumes of the time but perfumer Robert Bienaime was trendsetting even though others would have more success with what was initiated in Quelques Fleurs. First is the use of aldehydes. Quelques Fleurs was one of the earliest to use them. Second was to trend away from single flower focal points. Most perfumes chose one floral ingredient followed by many supporting notes. M. Bienaime assembled an all-star floral chorus of lily, jasmine, rose, and carnation. Quelques Fleurs is an unsung innovator of the early days of modern perfumery.

In 2009 The Perris family acquired Houbigant and under the aegis of Elisabetta Perris a consistent effort has been made to honor the past while also making Houbigant relevant to the present day. Ms. Perris has done an excellent job by not hurrying the process. It has been a steady release of perfumes which have the style of the original Houbigant perfumes. As for the innovation Ms. Perris has chosen to work with perfumers who like to try new things. In 2015, she collaborated with perfumer Luca Maffei on Cologne Intense. Now she returns to Sig. Maffei to ask for Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret.

Luca Maffei

I imagine that a perfumer might take a deep breath before agreeing to do a new version of one of the classics. Except in my interactions with Sig. Maffei I have seen his affection for the historical. I have also seen his affection for wanting to write some of his own. Which means he tends to leave his fingerprints on anything he works on. The same is true for Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret.

Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret starts with a fabulous top accord of bergamot, mandarin, and neroli. The original opened similarly except the neroli plays a much more prominent role in the early going. This is a green indolic neroli which sets the stage for Sig. Maffei’s version of an all-star floral chorus as he uses magnolia, rose, and narcissus. This is an expertly blended accord of all three with the neroli providing background along with ylang-ylang and jasmine. Then a modern version of the vintage ambery musk base is composed of sandalwood, amber, and synthetic musks.

Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I have been spending some time with the original Quelques Fleurs in preparation to write this review. I found its power to be overwhelming at times. Which makes sense as the idea of how much is too much was just beginning to be explored in the early days of modern perfumery. Over a hundred years later perfumers have a much better idea of what is the correct balance. Which is why I prefer Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret to the original. It is just better balanced with all the same presence. As I enter the shoulder season this year Quelques Fleurs Jardin Secret is going to carry me back to my childhood in the garden.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Houbigant.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Strong Women in Pop Culture

In 2006 writer-director Joss Whedon received an award from Equality Now. His acceptance speech is one of the funnier things I’ve read. In it he talks about going on press junkets and being asked the same question over and over, “Why do you write these strong women characters?” Over the course of answering the question multiple times in the speech it is his final answer that was most telling of the way things were in 2006, “Because you’re still asking me that question.”

In 2006 characters like Mr. Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the women on his show Firefly were anomalies. Now in 2017 we are a week removed from a movie which featured the original pop culture strong woman, Wonder Woman. Which was directed by a female director, Patty Jenkins; becoming the biggest box office opening for a female directed movie.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

In the eleven years since 2006 there has been a steady increase in women taking on starring roles in some of our biggest pop culture mediums. Besides Wonder Woman the character Rey in the new Star Wars movies is as big as any hero in any movie coming out in 2017. The heroine of the storybook television show Once Upon a Time is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. Supergirl has her own show. In comics, a woman wields Mjolnir as Thor. The most interesting thing is I could keep going on and on with examples. In 2006, I would have had trouble writing a paragraph as long.

Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars

What changed? I don’t think anything changed. What I think happened is a generation of creative minds were influenced by the opportunity to work in the unexplored territory of writing for strong women. If you’re going to tell the tale of the Hero’s Journey why not make it the Heroine’s Journey and claim it for your own? Which is why we have this growing sector of strong women in pop culture. It is also why this will be an enduring change because it has emerged in a natural way driven by the writers, directors, and artists looking for their story to tell.

In 2006, I think we were just beginning to take the first steps to rounding the corner. In 2017, I think we are almost at the point that the change is complete. Which means the question of “Why do you write these strong women characters?” will disappear sooner rather than later.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tauer L’Eau- Swiss Veranda

When you do anything, there are foundational elements which are necessary to build upon. When it comes to perfume, cologne would be one of those cornerstones. It is why almost every perfumer eventually releases their version. Independent perfumer Andy Tauer had released an all-natural version three years ago called Cologne du Maghreb. That was a very traditional architecture what stood out was doing it with an all-natural set of ingredients. Hr. Tauer has decided to take a second look at cologne with the latest release Tauer L’Eau.

The original cologne by Jean Marie Farina was the product of a walk in the mountains capturing the smells he encountered. For L’Eau Hr. Tauer didn’t go for a walk instead he sat on his Zurich veranda and breathed deep of the lemon tree in bloom. Just like M. Farina did in the beginning Hr. Tauer wanted L’Eau to be reflective of the moment in the morning where you step outside and inhale.

Andy Tauer

Unlike Cologne du Maghreb Hr. Tauer had his full arsenal of perfume ingredients to use for L’Eau. That allowed for him to make a Tauer-style cologne. What that becomes is the traditional citrus opening transitions through a richer floral into a unique, for cologne, ambergris-focused base accord.

L’Eau starts with a mixture of lemon, bergamot, and orange. It is a display of all the facets of citrus as all three ingredients harmonize in a reliable way. Then Hr. Tauer puts his imprint on the venerable form. It starts in the heart with lemon blossom bringing his tree next to the veranda to life. Then in a bit of inspiration he uses a powdery iris to go with that. The contrast of soft powder with transparent floral is compelling. The base accord is even more fascinating as ambergris is the core which Hr. Tauer surrounds with several white musks. This is another great choice as this forms an expansive version of ambergris which allows the lemon blossom and iris floral accord to float on the cloud it provides. Then very late on Hr. Tauer’s trademark Tauerade peeks out almost impishly.

L'Eau has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I really enjoyed Hr. Tauer’s Cologne du Maghreb but after wearing L’Eau it almost feels like that earlier fragrance was a primer on cologne composition. If that was the case Hr. Tauer came away with an inspiration to make a Tauer cologne which is as imaginative as it is invigorating. Much like a spring morning on a Swiss veranda.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Pretty Woman by Barbara Orbison- A.k.a Handsome Man

I was at Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2010 and it was very late on day one. I really had sort of had enough until a stylish woman approached me and wanted to give me a sample of her perfume. I was happy to take the sample but upon looking at the name I didn’t have high hopes. On the card was printed Pretty Woman by Barbara Orbison. I was thinking this was going to be one of those perfumes I would sniff and forget. Since I am writing about it seven years later that was obviously not the case.

What happened was I sprayed some on a strip later back in my hotel room. I thought, “not bad”. Then I put it on my wrist followed by a different thought, “wow”. I can’t remember for sure but I think I was expecting a perfume inspired by the movie and song of the same name to be a fruity floral. What I encountered was a spicy floral resinous perfume which I have become very fond of.

Barbara Orbison

Barbara Orbison headed to California when she was designing her perfume. She worked closely with the independent perfume community. I have seen Mandy Aftel and Sarah Horowitz connected to the birth of Pretty Woman but I have no explicit confirmation that they did anything more than consult. I would say no matter who Ms. Orbison took advice from the reason Pretty Woman did not turn out to be a fruity floral is because she let the independent spirit guide her.

Pretty Woman opens on a Turkish rose, stargazer lily, and carnation all of which are floral notes with spicy components. The perfume brings those to the foreground. This all comes in the wake of one of the more distinct bergamot openings I have. Patchouli and amber provide warmth followed by incense and vanilla to complete the base accord.

Pretty Woman has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Pretty Woman has one problem in my estimation; the name. This is so much a unisex fragrance that the name can be a problem for a man when asked why he smells so good. Which is why when I am asked that question I say I am wearing “Handsome Man”.

When I say Pretty Woman is Under the Radar I mean it. You can only purchase it from the website. I am not sure how consistent the sales are but it has always been available there. I know I’ve turned many on to the fragrance and have sent many Pretty Women, and Handsome Men, there to add it to their collection.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Arielle Shoshana- The High Dive of Passion Fruit

People like to talk about what they want to do. Far fewer actually do what they want to do. Over the past year I have had the opportunity to watch a colleague in writing move toward what she wanted to do.

Arielle Weinberg

I first met Arielle Weinberg in New York at a Sniffapalooza. It was great to put the real person behind the writer of the blog Scents of Self. Ms. Weinberg provided a different perspective on fragrance. Her blog was started while she was a student in college. Her enthusiasm for fragrance was evident in her words but even more so in person. She had one of those personalities which drew people into a conversation. After she graduated she decided to create a career in the business. To that end she spent some time in New York working in a few places learning the customer service side of the business.

Having grown up in the Washington D.C.-area she knew there was no dedicated niche fragrance store in the metro area. As she gained experience in New York her eye was on returning home and founding a store. Which she did in the Fall of 2015; Arielle Shoshana opened in the Mosaic District of Fairfax, VA. I had the opportunity on a few occasions to be in the store on a regular day and observed Ms. Weinberg use all of what she learned to carry a new consumer through the niche perfume world. A year and a half later the store has created a presence for niche perfume in the D.C. area.

Cecile Hua-Krakower

You might think all of that would be enough but Ms. Weinberg also had a creative impulse which needed to find an outlet. Shortly after the one-year anniversary Ms. Weinberg began to work with perfumer Cecile Hua-Krakower on a fragrance for the store which has now come to pass as Arielle Shoshana can now be found on the shelf in the store of the same name.

The core of Arielle Shoshana is passion fruit. In the press release Ms. Weinberg says, “The first time I saw a passion fruit opened, I screamed. It’s such a bizarre-looking fruit……I wanted the fragrance to capture the experience of that first passion fruit: the shock of the unexpected, closely followed by delight.” Mme Hua-Krakower turned out to be as fascinated as Ms. Weinberg. Together they would fashion the central passion fruit accord around which Arielle Shoshana is built.

Passion fruit has significant tartness along with a deep tropical fruitiness. Capturing that balance is where Arielle Shoshana starts. The tart is ascendant early before the sweet tropical character slowly nudges it aside. Helping in that is the imaginative use of saffron. Saffron usually has a dry spicy floral quality when on its own. In combination with the passion fruit it trends more to its floral side allowing the spice aspect to act as a grace note providing textural detail. The saffron and passion fruit is where Arielle Shoshanan lingers for hours only much later does sandalwood provide the base.

Arielle Shoshana has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage. I have likened taking a step into something you want to do like diving off of a high dive. What Ms. Weinberg has done is more akin to the cliff divers of Acapulco. Most admirably after successfully leaping off the cliff once in opening her store she has scaled the heights and done it again with Arielle Shoshana the fragrance. It is how passion, and passion fruit, can take you to the top.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Arielle Shoshana.

Mark Behnke

Editor's Note: This Saturday June 10, 2017  from 7-9 PM at Arielle Shoshana ( 2920 District Ave #145, Fairfax, VA 22031) there will be a debut party for the new perfume. If you live in the Washington D.C.-area come join the celebration.

New Perfume Review Xinu Monstera- Rodrigo y Veronica’s Laboratorio (Part 3)

In Part 1 of these series of reviews on the Mexico City-based perfume brand Xinu I posited that the perfumes might have represented what it might have looked like if perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux began his career as an independent perfumer in Mexico. There are moments within the other three I’ve written about but it is the brand-new release Monstera which really put this idea in my head.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

The biggest divergence between independent perfumery and niche perfumery is in the former there is a much more personal vision on display. In niche perfume, there is a more business-like approach to what is released. Which is what can give independent perfumes their vividness. There are more than a few occasions where niche and independent priorities can mesh. Monstera is one of those times.

Monstera deliciosa

Monstera refers to the giant leafy fruit-bearing plant of Central America. Its botanical name is “monstera deliciosa” The giant leaves are the “monstera” part. The “deliciosa” part is the ripe fruit which is a variation of pineapple when ripe; a little tarter but as sweet. I ate a lot of them during my time and they are deliciosa. What this means for the fragrance named Monstera is Sr. Flores-Roux has created a magnificent perfume of tropical greenery and fruit which almost magically transforms into leather by the end.

If you have spent time in the tropics there is a smell to the dense green leafy things in the high humidity. It has a weighty vegetal quality. Sr. Flores-Roux captures that in the early moments of Monstera. The vegetation is dense and moist the fruit is tropical and slightly tart. This is the monster plant accord beautifully realized. Then over the course of an hour or so that vegetation slowly turns leathery. I had never considered how close densely vegetal is to raw unrefined leather. As Monstera makes that transformation it is something that becomes as plain as the nose on my face. This slightly verdant leathery accord is where Monstera stays for hours.

Monstera has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

After trying these initial four releases from Xinu I must commend Veronica Alejandra Pena in realizing her vision of capturing the botanical bounty of the Americas. By allowing Sr. Flores-Roux to be her partner it has also seemingly allowed him more latitude to compose in some different ways. Monstera is certainly one of the best perfumes Sr. Flores-Roux has made. I am hoping that Rodrigo y Veronica will spend many more years in their Mexico City Laboratorio.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Xinu.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Xinu Copala and OroNardo- Rodrigo y Veronica’s Laboratorio (Part 2)

Soon after I discovered the existence of Mexico City-based perfume brand Xinu I was busy exploring their website. One of the things which interested me was the layout of the boutique. Dominated by a long central table filled with sculptural interpretations of fragrance and botany. As you can see below it looks like a steampunk botanist’s laboratory. As I tried the fragrances this image was floating in my head as I imagined owner Veronica Alejandra Pena and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux discovering new ways to extract and combine those oils into unique perfumes. As I continue reviewing the first releases from Xinu I take on Copala and OroNardo.

One of my first experiences with fragrance came during one of my summers sailing through the Caribbean. I don’t remember where but I found an oblong piece of sticky amber colored glassy material. I loved the texture of it and it became my worry stone in my pocket. I would notice my fingers always had a pleasant smell on them after rubbing the material. I would learn many years later it was most likely copal resin. It was used as incense is used for sacred ceremonies among the Mayan peoples. Sr. Flores-Roux uses copal as the focal point of Copala. One of the things about copal is like the natural material it has an amber glow to it as opposed to the silvery metallic sheen of good frankincense. Sr. Flores-Roux uses that pliability to make Copala a soft resinous perfume.

Copal Resin

In the opening, he uses baie rose to go with the copal resin. For Copala Sr. Flores-Roux enhances the herbal quality of baie rose to match the resinous heart of the copal. Mesquite wood provides an acerbic bite in contrast to the mellow opening. It returns to the mellow as fine Mexican vanilla forms a sweetly resinous final accord.

Copala has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Tuberose

I always think of Sr. Flores-Roux as a master of the floral perfume. His schooling in botany and growing up in Mexico has always made me feel it is in his blood. What is surprising is the flower most known in perfumery which comes from Mexico has not been interpreted many times by Sr. Flores-Roux. With OroNardo his mastery of the floral fragrance is front and center.

Tuberose is indigenous to Mexico and if you’ve ever spent a night in Mexico it is what you smell on the nighttime breezes. In Mexico, the flower is called nardo and thus OroNardo is gold tuberose. Sr. Flores-Roux combines five floral ingredients as he gilds the tuberose in gloriously decadent floralcy. OroNardo is the smell of the night-blooming flowers.

A deep full-spectrum tuberose in the nucleus of OroNardo. In includes the indoles, slight camphor-like green, along with the sweet floral nature. Mock orange is used as the first added floral. The pineapple tinted orange blossom makes this the right kind of opening. “Queen of the night” brings its jasmine-like nature to bear as it forms a sweet floral duet taking on the high notes. Marigold finds the green mentholated vein and exposes it. Oleander provides a gently powdery finish.

OroNardo has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I thought this was where I was going to end but I was also sent a sneak preview of the newest Xinu release Monstera. So I am going to do Part 3 tomorrow reviewing that along with some closing thoughts on Xinu.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Xinu.

Mark Behnke