Discount Diamonds: Calvin Klein Eternity- Bridal Lilies

When I make my monthly run through the local discount store fragrance bins I have mixed feelings when I see what I consider to be a great perfume in there. On one hand, it gives that fragrance the chance to be re-discovered by a consumer for whom $20-25 is what they can spend to add a new bottle to their dresser. The flip side is the look how far this once lauded perfume has fallen. From the bright lights of the department store beauty counter to a giant “Bin O’ Perfume”. I must admit that I was surprised to see Calvin Klein Eternity there in the last couple of months.

Calvin Klein Eternity was released in 1988 as the follow-up to their extremely successful launch of Obsession three years earlier. At this time in the 1980’s Calvin Klein was a brand which had attained the highest levels of exposure a designer brand could aspire to. Much of that had come on being provocative in a sexual way, Calvin Klein was the latest examples of the old adage “sex sells”. Which was why when the press release for Eternity came out it used as its inspiration Mr. Klein’s 1986 marriage to Kelly Rector. This was a pivot to the purity of love which by itself was interesting. Ann Gottlieb was responsible for the creative direction and she chose perfumer Sophia Grojsman to work with on Eternity.   

Sophia Grojsman

Mme Grojsman was in the middle of a twelve-year run at the beginning of her career from 1978’s White Linen through to her masterpiece Lancome Tresor in 1990. Eternity falls in the middle of that run temporally as well as aesthetically. There is a cleanliness reminiscent of White Linen and the fully rounded rose of Tresor was just beginning to take shape as she worked the same with muguet for Eternity.

Ann Gottlieb

Eternity opens with a fresh top accord of mandarin and freesia. This is some of the fresher aspects that was so prevalent during this time in fragrance. The lily of the valley comes forth and it rumbles forward with power. This kind of floral intensity will become a hallmark of many of Mme Grojsman’s constructs; Eternity is one of the earliest examples. How she builds the intensity is by also adding in smart supporting ingredients. In this case marigold to amplify the green parts with narcissus doing the same for the white flower aspect of the lily of the valley. It is supported by a sturdy sandalwood foundation as the final piece of Eternity.

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

One of the reasons Eternity has probably fallen into the discount bins is that intensity it exudes. At the moment, it doesn’t seem to be congruent with current fragrance trends. In its heyday, Eternity was inspired by marriage which made it a popular wedding day perfume for many brides in the 1980’s and 1990’s. It is a great perfume from a great creative team and for the price it is hard to beat that marriage.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Carner Barcelona Black Calamus- Rodrigo Makes His Point

Fair, or not, I have perfumers categorized in certain categories in my head. I use these imperfect classifications as foundations from which to observe their latest work. When it comes to Rodrigo Flores-Roux I think of him as one of the greatest floral perfumers working today. I can’t remember the review but it was a fragrance which was primarily incense. I made the comment within that piece that Sr. Flores-Roux rarely worked with the resinous end of the palette. He, rightfully, reminded me that there were plenty of examples from his portfolio. Even then the stubborn persistence of Sr. Flores-Roux as a floral specialist remained in my faulty reasoning. With Carner Barcelona Black Calamus Sr. Flores-Roux makes his most compelling argument to date on how poor that line of thinking is.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Black Calamusis part of the three fragrances within the Black Collection, all composed by Sr. Flores-Roux. Creative director Sara Carner wanted the perfume to represent, “The bright sweetness of calamus…..sumptuously blending with exotic resins and balsams.” Using the cinnamon-like core of calamus as a platform for spice and resins seems like a natural fit. Sr. Flores-Roux proves that assumption to be correct.

Sara Carner

Black Calamus opens with the title note present. Calamus has spiciness most often compared to cinnamon. I also see a bit of ginger lurking underneath. Coriander and pepper seem to elicit a little more of that ginger character. It provides a lively opening before the woods and resins come to the foreground. There is a fleeting floral intermezzo of osmanthus and rose before labdanum leads the resinous charge. A silvery high-grade frankincense joins in. Then Sr. Flores-Roux constructs an oud accord. Most of the time these accords are there to add in a tamer version of oud. Sr. Flores-Roux goes the other way by using cade oil to add some of those rough edges back to the oud accord. Some vanilla smooths out the latter stages but for the most part Black Calamus is frankincense and oud for many hours.

Black Calamus has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am happy to be proven mistaken in my presumptions. With Black Calamus Sr. Flores-Roux makes his point to me that he is not just a specialist in florals; he is just a special perfumer who can do it all.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bruno Fazzolari Feu Secret- Orris Crucible

When I was in college I had to broaden my knowledge of chemistry to obtain my degree. In the analytical chemistry lab course I came across a piece of equipment called a crucible. It was a porcelain container in which I could place a material followed by heating it up to extreme temperatures safely. Within that container, the contents would be transformed by the heat without losing their inherent nature. What resulted wasn’t scorched ashes but altered perspective. Independent perfumer Bruno Fazzolari has achieved an olfactory version of this with his latest, Feu Secret.

Bruno Fazzolari

Iris is one of the cornerstones of perfumery. It has been there from the beginning. It is also indelibly ingrained in the everyday because of its use in lipstick and face powder. To those of a specific age iris means Coty lipstick. If you were to ask people to use an adjective to describe iris I would venture “powdery” would be the winner. Because of that nature iris is sometimes seen as less varied. I would have been one of those who shared that opinion prior to discovering niche perfume. Over my time down the perfume rabbit hole I have learned just what a multivariant ingredient iris can be to a perfume. One reason this isn’t more widely known is the richest most faceted from of iris is also one of the most expensive ingredients to obtain and use.

Orris Butter from Mr. Fazzolari's blog

That ingredient is orris butter or orris concrete. It is obtained by harvesting the root of the iris, not the bloom. Drying it for three to five years then extracting and distilling that material. I was given a small grape sized globe of orris butter a few years ago. It is a more fascinating ingredient than ambergris to spend time with. It seems Mr. Fazzolari also shares this fascination. In a blog post on his website he dives even deeper into orris butter than I just did.

As I wore Feu Secret, which translates to Secret Fire, I was struck about how Mr. Fazzolari was firing metaphorical jets of warmth at the orris butter at the heart of Feu Secret making me think of it as a crucible to allow all that is there to be exposed.

Orris butter has a bit of an ice princess at its frontiers. Early in Feu Secret Mr. Fazzolari chooses to show that off a bit with eucalyptus using its mentholated quality to lift that up into the embrace of green hemlock. The chill is thrown off by the warmth of pink pepper and turmeric. It is the turmeric that is the guide to a rooty sweaty quality I don’t think I’ve ever noticed to this degree when wearing other orris-centric perfumes. It isn’t body odor sweat but that clean honest sweat of digging in a flower bed. A bit musky in many ways. The final amount of heat comes as the orris butter is subsumed in birch tar and cedar. This is where the orris butter is truly transformed into something special. The cedar sets up the framework for the birch tar to connect to the orris upon. There is not a hint of powder to be found here. This is where the earthiness of orris butter is brought to the foreground. It carries a bit of yeastiness which pushes back against the pungency of the birch tar. The muskiness also rises to greater prominence before, after all of the heat recedes, leaving the beautiful main ingredient as the last thing to depart.

Feu Secret has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

This is by far my favorite of Mr. Fazzolari’s work so far. I have enjoyed everything he has made so far but there hasn’t been one which grabbed me as potently as has Feu Secret. It is my favorite new perfume of 2017 at this point.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Acqua di Parma Colonia Mirra- Where’s The Colonia?

I have a fond spot for Acqua di Parma Colonia. It was one of my earliest niche purchases and I wore the heck out of a bottle over one spring and summer. It I was forced to consider owning one fragrance the original would be on the list of finalists. Acqua di Parma has been releasing variations on the original Colonia formula starting in 2003 with the equally memorable Colonia Assoluta.

In recent years, the brand has started a sub-collection of Colonia flankers where a specific named ingredient is grafted on to the Colonia architecture. It worked quite well with last year’s Colonia Quercia where the “quercia” (oakmoss) provided a bite to the base of Colonia. When it misses; the Colonia components overwhelm the added ingredient.

Myrrh on a Plate

I received the two flankers for 2017; Colonia Ebona and Colonia Mirra. Colonia Ebona is a case where the dark ebony wood is lost within the best parts of Colonia. I had high hopes for Colonia Mirra because myrrh seemed like a note which would be an excellent complement to that which I love about Colonia. Imagine my surprise to find no Colonia in Colonia Mirra. There is lots and lots of myrrh but if you’re looking for anything to do with Colonia you’ll need to look elsewhere.

It is an interesting tack to take as Colonia Mirra is nothing much more than a myrrh soliflore. I like myrrh because of the sweet underpinning to it. In Colonia Mirra it is displayed as any keynote in a soliflore is. The myrrh here is good enough to be the centerpiece. There are some supporting notes; mainly nutmeg as a spicy signpost to the sweeter aspects. Patchouli is used in a similar role to focus the resinous core of the myrrh.

Colonia Mirra has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Just to make sure there was no hint of Colonia hiding under the myrrh I actually tested them side by side hoping the original would facilitate my nose to discover it underneath it all. It didn’t. When I say, there is no Colonia here I mean it. If you’re inclined to purchase this because of a myrrh-infused Colonia; think again. If on the other hand, you are one who enjoys the warm sweet resinous beauty of myrrh Colonia Mirra is a good version of that.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Acqua di Parma.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Alber Elbaz par Frederic Malle Superstitious- Dreamy Remembrance

In 2013 Frederic Malle announced he was going to create a sub-collection within the Editions de Parfums. M. Malle was going to work with other creatives with whom he shared inspiration with. The first release Dries van Noten Par Frederic Malle is the last great release from the brand. It absolutely captured the overlap of creative influences of the two minds on the label along with perfumer Bruno Jovanovic. Perhaps naively I was hoping for one every couple of years. Four years on the second has arrived; Alber Elbaz par Frederic Malle Superstitious.

Frederic Malle (l.) and Alber Elbaz

M. Malle returns to the world of fashion to collaborate with Alber Elbaz. M. Elbaz was the head designer at Lanvin from 2001-2015. His collections for Lanvin were influenced by the silhouettes from the 1920’s. As he began to work on the fragrance he was introduced to perfumer Dominique Ropion. M. Ropion and M. Malle have worked together from the beginning of Editions de Parfums. They always have something on the drawing board. One which had been tricky for them was an aldehydic floral which had never quite coalesced into the fragrance they wanted. When M. Elbaz smelled the work in progress he asked if that could be their starting point.

Dominique Ropion

It was an interesting place to start especially since 1927’s Lanvin Arpege is one of the greatest aldehydic florals in all of perfumery. Could M. Elbaz do with perfume what he had done with fashion; modernize the Lanvin of the 1920’s into a child of the 2010’s?

It is difficult to know what was there before M. Elbaz entered the process. What is in the bottle is a clever softening of the aldehydic part by using the apricot and peach versions. They fizz but they don’t overwhelm. There is a softening of the intensity that existed in the past. This carries throughout the development. Turkish rose is there but jasmine is its partner keeping it from turning powdery like the classics generally did. The base is also a deft inversion where M. Ropion lets vetiver take the lead over the patchouli, sandalwood, and labdanum. This adds a blurriness which is appealing. Very late on there is a surprising amount of animalic musk which is the final nod to the classics.

Superstitious has 10-12 hours longevity and average sillage.

Superstitious is like the recollection of something from the distant past. It carries a dreamy hazy kind of memory. Superstitious is that kind of remembrance of a classic aldehydic floral. I think it will appeal to the current consumer of perfume while also pleasing those who love the vintage inspirations behind it. Not an easy balance to strike but Messrs. Malle, Elbaz, et Ropion do it with style.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aether Arts Perfume Touchstone- Shields Up!

I have used public transportation on my commute to work for twenty-five years. From the beginning to avoid contact with those I was traveling with I threw up my metaphorical shields. In the early days that consisted of a book to hold in front of my face and headphones attached to my Walkman. I can’t see you or hear you; I am traveling through space alone. If the train was sufficiently crowded that only part of my protection could be put in place I felt exposed. It still exists in its current evolution as headphones to music on my cellphone and book or game on my iPad. In truth, this is a modern talisman meant to ward off the perceived unwanted influences outside my control. I wouldn’t have thought about that except perfumer Amber Jobin has turned it into perfume; Aether Arts Perfume Touchstone.

Amber Jobin

Ms. Jobin is one of the perfumer participating in the CaFleureBon Project Talisman. (For more on that follow this link). All the other perfumers participating looked to the past for the known items meant to ward off bad spirits. Ms. Jobin looked right in front of her and realized our cellphones are the same thing. In her words, “The cellphone has become the talisman of our age. A kind of metaphorical worry stone or touchstone if you will, we can’t keep our hands off of it.” It is this kind of thinking which makes these projects as enjoyable as they are for me. Michelyn Camen, the Editor-in-Chief at CaFleureBon, asked for “eau de protection” Ms. Jobin translates that into “cellphone perfume”.

Michelyn Camen EIC of CaFleureBon and I at the 2017 Perfumed Plume Awards

Where Ms. Jobin turned for inspiration were the materials, glass and metal; followed by the signal itself sent out over the air. This results in a perfume of dualities as the ethereal and the corporeal form the two sides of Touchstone.

Ms. Jobin employs a set of aldehydes to provide both qualities in the early moments. Aldehydes can have a metallic glint married to an ozonic quality. The use of them in the early moments sets up the signals emanating from the metallic cellphone case. Then a mineralic accord around a geosmin-like note provides a clean stony façade. Each bottle of Touchstone has a small quartz crystal which is mean to be the vibrating heart of our technology. The mineralic aspect of the accord supplies that for this perfume. It would be easy to say this grounds the fragrance but in reality it releases it. It opens up the aldehydes’ expansiveness and provides solidity to the metallic aspects.

Touchstone has 8-10 hour longevity and wears very close to the skin as it is at extrait strength.

While I was wearing Touchstone on my way to work I felt like I had an extra set of shields in place. It really was an “eau de protection”. Touchstone is exactly what something like Project Talisman is meant to do; allow fragrance to open our eyes.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfume.

To read Robert Herrmann’s review of Touchstone on CaFleureBon follow this link.

To read my review of En Voyage Perfumes Figa the first Project Talisman I reviewed follow this link.

Mark Behnke  

The Sunday Magazine: Don Rickles

If there is a subject I have written about most in this column it is my love of late-night television. When I was growing up trying to stay awake until 1AM to see the entire The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was one of those “adult” thing. Only “kids” fell asleep before the end. One of the best guests on the show was Don Rickles.

Mr. Rickles passed away this past week at the age of 90 and there will be who eulogize him for what he meant to stand-up comedy. How his style of insult comedy would spawn hundreds throughout the years. I want to talk about how he nearly single-handedly created the guest-host symbiosis that every late-night show needs to thrive. For it to work there must be two key ingredients respect and friendship. Mr. Carson and Mr. Rickles were the right counterbalance. For Mr. Carson, any appearance of Mr. Rickles allowed his more acerbic wit to surface. It was allowed because his guest was already firing with both barrels. If most of Mr. Carson’s time talking to guests was the equivalent of fast food; any appearance of Mr. Rickles allowed him to up his game.

That give-and-take was the staple of the late-night talk show in the 1960’s and 70’s. What was not at the time was the twist on a remote piece. One of the funniest things I saw when I was 10-years old was Mr. Carson being shown the art of massage as a young woman was walking on his back. He was cracking jokes when suddenly Don Rickles walks in and takes over. Before long Mr. Carson has pushed Mr. Rickles into a tub and they are flinging water at each other. The spontaneity of the comedy and playfulness stood out.

On another occasion, Mr. Rickles had been on with one of the guest hosts while Mr. Carson was away. There was a wooden box that Mr. Carson kept his cigarettes in. On the previous night, Mr. Rickles broke it. When Mr. Carson returned to the studio the next day and noticed the broken box and who had done it he decided it had to be resolved immediately. In 1976 when this happened the portable news cameras were just becoming adopted. Mr. Carson gets one and walks next door to the studio where Mr. Rickles was filming his sitcom CPO Sharkey. Walks on to the set and asks what the hell did you do to my cigarette box. Again, spontaneity and playfulness was on display.

The current evolution of this is the Jimmy Kimmel and Matt Damon feud on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. A throwaway joke about having to apologize to Matt Damon because they ran out of time at the end of one show has become the best running gag on late-night. Of all the current hosts Mr. Kimmel has the spontaneity and playfulness that you saw with Mr. Carson and Mr. Rickles.

If there is an afterlife I know two old friends have been catching up and probably leaving a mess for others to clean up.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Byredo Pulp- The Un-Byredo

Once a perfume brand has matured, defined their aesthetic, it is interesting to look back to the beginning to see if the initial releases predicted how the brand would eventually grow. Byredo was founded in 2007 by Ben Gorham. Over the last ten years, working exclusively with perfumer Jerome Epinette, they have created a distinctive Byredo style. But when those first four bottles bearing the name were released there was one which was the figurative red-headed stepchild, Byredo Pulp.

Last fall it looked like I would be writing about Pulp as part of the Dead Letter Office series. It was rumored that it was going to be dropped from the brand. When I heard that news I wasn’t surprised because Pulp had its own twisted little following perhaps driven because it felt unlike every other one in the line. It seems the news of discontinuation was more rumor than fact. Which then shifted it to this column because it is so different I think those who might dismiss the Byredo collection as not being their kind of fragrance might join the group of us who enjoy the Un-Byredo-ness of Pulp.

What sets Pulp apart is it is a fragrance of fruit overload. I know the concept of overload for a Byredo is already outside normal service. In this case M. Epinette was going for the literal pulp of multiple fruits. What has always made this perfume stand out is there is so much here somewhere in all the overlap a rotten fruit accord develops. Some of life’s potentially disgusting smells have some underlying facets which are oddly pleasant smelling. What M. Epinette gets in Pulp whether by design or fortune is that right on the edge of sickly sweetness that rotting fruit emanates. It is what will make you pull Pulp close or push it away.

The fruit basket comes from grapefruit, fig, red apple, blackcurrant buds, and peach blossom. All of this roars out of the gate. It is seemingly chaotic but rather quickly all the fruit pieces settle into their lanes. In the early going it has a crisper quality than you might expect. As some greener notes begin to arrive in cardamom and cedar the beginning of the decay sets in. Eventually the sweetness is heightened following a collapse in to a praline accord in the base.

Pulp has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I am happy that the rumors of Pulp’s demise were overstated. I think every brand needs something to show how far they’ve come. Pulp is that signpost as The Un-Byredo.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review By Kilian Black Phantom- Coffee With Your Rum?

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Another point of interest for me is how brands evolve to attempt to appeal to the new younger fragrance enthusiast. If there is a concern, the brands which have previously thrived with stronger structures might find difficulty trying to lighten up. One brand which seems to have a good understanding on how to navigate this is By Kilian. Creative director and owner Kilian Hennessy seemingly got ahead of the trend of lighter gourmands; whether through prescience or serendipity he has staked out some space around his brand. It started with the 2014 Addictive State of Mind collection as Intoxicated created a memorable coffee entry in the collection. There have also been a number of liquor themed releases as city exclusives; again all kept to the lighter side than the earlier L’Oeuvre Noire releases which introduced By Kilian to the world. The most recent release is called Black Phantom and it takes all of these previous influences and splices them in to something different, but similar.

Kilian Hennessy

Mr. Hennessy has always seemed a bit like the Jack Sparrow of perfumery. The picture above does little to dispel that comparison. I have admired the confidence he has displayed over the nearly ten years since he first introduced his fragrant perspective. It is that confidence which makes me think he can have the necessary flexibility to find his way. Part of the reason for the success is he has mostly worked with two perfumers. One of them Sidonie Lancesseur, is who composed Black Phantom.

Sidonie Lancesseur

Mme Lancesseur began her By Kilian career with a rum-soaked Straight to Heaven. For Black Phantom she returns to rum as a focal point. In Straight to Heaven it is a deep dive into rum. Black Phantom provides a less immersive experience mostly by adding in a “caramel mocha” accord that would do any barista proud. It makes Black Phantom more compelling than I expected.

Mme Lancesseur opens on the rum. It is a richer rum than she used in Straight to Heaven. This rum is aged in charred wood barrels which provide a halo of smoky woodiness around the boozy nature. Like stories where you think you know where it is going Black Phantom takes me someplace unexpected; to the coffee bar. The combination of coffee, steamed milk, chocolate, and caramel has a distinctive odor. Mme Lancesseur balances her “caramel mocha” accord brilliantly. This could be heavy but instead this is as vivid as the moment the actual coffee drink is handed to you in the morning. Sandalwood provides the right amount of sweetly tinted woodiness for this all to rest upon.

Black Phantom has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

If we are entering a phase of perfumery where these kind of opaque gourmands are going to be ascendant; Black Phantom shows they can soar as easily as any other genre. I think Black Phantom is that first one which gets it completely right.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Etat Libre D’Orange You or Someone Like You- Chandler Takes the Reins

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When you write extensively about any subject it is inevitable that you are asked if you want to be more than an observer. Perhaps the most ubiquitous question I get is some variation of “Do you ever want to make a perfume?” I can honestly say, as of today, my answer is absolutely positively, “No!” I suspect anyone who writes about fragrance is asked this question. In the case of Chandler Burr I know it took many years for that “no” to turn to a “yes”. Over the last year, Mr. Burr did take the position of creative director for the new Etat Libre D’Orange You or Someone Like You.

Chandler Burr

The fragrance is based on Mr. Burr’s 2009 novel of the same name. Working with perfumer Caroline Sabas, they wanted to focus on one of the protagonists. An Englishwoman named Anne who observes her Los Angeles milieu from her aerie in the Hollywood hills. When I interviewed Mr. Burr about the new creation he mentioned he wanted to create “a specific scent, the scent someone like Anne would wear, an Angelino Englishwoman high in the hills in the blue air.” He is also a proponent of describing perfume as belonging to specific descriptive genres. For You or Someone Like You he wanted it to be a combination of “Luminism, Minimalism, and contemporary Romanticism” He is also an ardent believer that in talking about the art of perfume it shouldn’t be reduced to the ingredients and the focus should stay on the overall effect. I am going to honor that by spending the next paragraph describing You or Someone Like You in that spirit. Then I will dishonor that by spending the next paragraph, after that, doing my usual reductionist analysis.

Caroline Sabas

I grew up in South Florida, and while it is not LA, You or Someone Like You captures what I consider the artificial light which infuses both places. Namely most spend too much time in their car moving from one sterile air conditioned space to another. The Luminism in You or Someone Like You is the ever-present sun reflecting off windshields and glass. It is sharp and artificial further separating one from the natural. To hammer this home there are some aspects of that world trying to pierce the glass but the AC keeps it at bay with glossy chilly laminar flows.

To create the sterility of processed cool air Mme Sabas uses mint as a keynote around which is folded some of the fresher green grassy notes as in, perhaps, the hexenal family. It forms that feel of being inside a car stuck in traffic as the smells of someone mowing their lawn come with the filtered air. More of that kind of green vegetal quality comes through but in quieter ways. Even lighter florals are present but these are synthetic expansive versions of the natural essential oils which further enhances this artificiality at the core of You or Someone Like You.

You or Someone Like You has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I think Mr. Burr completely succeeded in making a perfume within the Luminism and Minimalism schools; I found little Romanticism present. Which is probably for the best because I was much more connected to the chill and glass; finding something more expressive would have been less appealing.

Once Mr. Burr got around to saying “yes” he has, with Mme Sabas, created a fragrance true to what he believes perfume can aspire to.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle received from Europerfume.

Mark Behnke