New Perfume Review Zegna Acqua di Neroli- Unexpected Cologne Nouveau

The fragrance part of designer Ermenegildo Zegna has not been a story of consistency. That might be changing. Over the course of the last year I have seen an uptick in the brand’s aesthetic. I would credit that to long-time creative director Trudi Loren. Ms. Loren took charge of the Zegna fragrance portfolio after Estee Lauder acquired the brand. In those first few years she upped the quality of the ingredients in the perfumes. They may not have been imaginative, but they were well-made. Last year there were two collections released; Essenze and Elements of Man. Now there was something in addition to quality ingredients; a contemporary interpretation of masculine tropes. In Zegna Acqua di Neroli Ms. Loren subverts the classic cologne architecture showing something more than just quality.

Trudi Loren

In the previous Acqua release, Acqua di Bergamotto, that was just a reiteration of the classic cologne recipe. This is an example of what I was describing above. Acqua di Neroli has the same cologne spine with perfumer Pierre Negrin filling it out with other ingredients to provide a new take on the venerable form.

Pierre Negrin

Acqua di Neroli opens on a citrus sunbeam focused through a magnifying glass. Using lemon and bergamot for the citrus, petitgrain provides the focusing effect. Just as it becomes a bit too intense a damp green accord douses it. This has a transforming effect to the citrus as it goes from brilliant point of light to something more diffuse. The green accord sets up rosemary as the predecessor to the neroli. The neroli carries both green and citrus facets with the floral aspects. It then takes an interesting turn as M. Negrin uses a light application of watermelon to form a fleeting fruity floral phase. Lavender drags it back to more typical cologne territory. It completely leaves cologne-land in the base as a cypriol and sandalwood accord combines with another green moss-like accord along with some mid-weight musks. This provides some heft to the typical lightness of a cologne.

Acqua di Neroli has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

We are living in a time of some excellent re-interpretations of cologne into a Cologne Nouveau style for the 21st century. I wouldn’t have expected Zegna to be a brand to enter into that. Zegna Acqua di Neroli indicates I am mistaken as this belongs next to the others in this New Cologne Revolution.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Ermenegildo Zegna.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Louis Vuitton Nouveau Monde- What I Wanted

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The path to having a Louis Vuitton branded perfume was a long and winding road. In 2016 it finally came to fruition with the release of seven perfumes. As a collection I had a difficult time embracing them. They all seemed to tilt towards the prevalent trend of simplicity paired with transparency. Perfumer Jacques Cavallier had created a collection which was missing what makes Louis Vuitton famous, the leather. When I heard of the collection I was hoping for something which captured all of the faces of leather in perfume. M. Cavallier has produced brilliant leather accords in the past surely there would be one in a Louis Vuitton collection. Except there wasn’t. As close as it came was Dans La Peau which captured the smell of the store as the collection of leather goods scent the air. Except that was not what I wanted. I wanted a Louis Vuitton that was L-E-A-T-H-E-R damnit! When I heard there were five new perfumes being released in 2018 I was hoping it might be there. I am delighted to say that Nouveau Monde is what I wanted.

The other four releases; L’Immensite, Au Hasard, Le Jour se Leve, and Orage are similar to the original seven. They share the same light and opaque quality with a slightly more masculine vibe. When I visited the Louis Vuitton store the day after release I tried all five. Going in I was most excited to try Nouveau Monde because based on the ingredient list it had potential. As soon as the sales associate sprayed it on a card I had already received a hint this was what I was looking for. I became a pest after the visit to receive a sample which I did. After wearing it for two days now I have what I wanted.

Jacques Cavallier

Nouveau Monde is at heart a linear leather accord. It is not blessed with lots of development. It is blessed with the presence of L-E-A-T-H-E-R damnit! M. Cavallier uses only a few ingredients to form his accord and it snaps together within the first moments.

Those three ingredients are saffron, oud, and cocoa. It is simple but at the heart there is a mixture of real oud and an oud accord along with the saffron and cocoa. That oud accord allows for M. Cavallier to dial in a specific effect which would not be possible by just relying on only a natural version. The presence of the natural oud is what gives this accord its animalic depth. It also provides the flip side to Dans La Peau’s civility as the leather in Nouveau Monde is way less polite. The accord is gorgeous in its depth. Over the time I’ve been wearing Nouveau Monde there is a lot of nuance provided by the cocoa. It provides that unique sweetness underneath every motorcycle jacket. The saffron provides a hint of the human being inside of that garment. After many hours Nouveau Monde dries down to a synthetic incense and woods duo which makes me miss what came before.

Nouveau Monde has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Nouveau Monde was exactly what I wanted from a Louis Vuitton perfume. Forget the simple transparent constructs I want L-E-A-T-H-E-R damnit! Nouveau Monde gives me just what I wanted.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review 4160 Tuesdays Freeway- Driving a Block for Sorbet

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I grew up in South Florida where people would drive two blocks instead of walking to the store. I have never lived in Southern California but I’ve been told it is the same. It is a silly thing, of course, to live somewhere for the weather only to avoid it by finding ways to stay out of it. On a visit to Scent Bar, in Los Angeles, independent perfumer Sarah McCartney seemed to also pick up on this. Which then turned into a perfume, 4160 Tuesdays Freeway.

Throughout 2018 in celebration of their 15th anniversary Scent Bar/Luckyscent has been commissioning a number of perfume brands to create something new. Ms. McCartney on her visit was interested in trying to capture the intersection of orange blossom and hot asphalt for Freeway. Which is a good description for the first two-thirds of Freeway. The final third turns out to be the ice cream shop nearby.

Sarah McCartney

Freeway opens with a mandarin petitgrain out front. This is not the typical lemon-tinted petitgrain which most are familiar with. Manadarin petitgrain has a completely different scent profile it comes off as a focused style of fruitiness with a bit of turpentine in the background. As Ms. McCartney allows the orange blossom to blend with the mandarin petitgrain she creates a kind of LA orange blossom accord of brilliant sunlight, orange blossom and the smell of car exhaust. The heart is composed of a sun-warmed leather car interior. Ms. McCartney uses a nice refined leather accord which she scorches with some cigarette smoke. As the top and heart accord combine the exhaust and cigarette smoke provide the hot asphalt accord. There is a pungency over the middle part of the development that is going to be off-putting to some. I am a sucker for these kinds of urban accords when done well, which it is here. What really captured my attention on the days I wore Freeway is the final accord as we have driven to an ice cream shop which only exists in LA where they make boozy fruit sorbets. Ms. McCartney adds in vanilla, rum, and more orange blossom to form a crazy so-good I hope it exists rum orange sorbet accord. This goes from urban sprawl to hipster foodie in an LA minute.

Freeway has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

A word of caution especially if the top and base accords are whetting your appetite for Freeway. The middle accord is a classic indie perfume unique accord. It was mentioned by two different people on the days I wore Freeway that I smelled like a used ashtray during the time the heart accord is on display. When it was mentioned, I sort of get that but it still felt like hot pavement to me. This is one to definitely test to see what you experience. For me it was a perfect pivot from intensely floral top to the decadent sorbet base just a couple blocks away.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain

I had a lot of other things I wanted to write about today but after the announcement of Anthony Bourdain’s death by suicide on Friday I couldn’t. It was also because three days earlier another artist I admired also took her life, Kate Spade. Both were originals in their respective fields. I don’t want to get too caught up in their similarities instead I want to take a moment to remember why I care that they are no longer here.

I was fortunate enough to have a window into the backstage world of the fashion industry in New York. As an outsider I could often stand back unnoticed watching the shows come together. One of the things which made me smile is if I looked over at the spot where the handbags were stored there was a similarity to many of them; a tag on the outside which said Kate Spade. Ms. Spade predicted the need for an accessory brand which catered to those who wanted to be wealthy. Using simple design techniques, she dominated this market. I knew if she ever branched out into men’s accessories I’d be adding something. My first iPad case was a Kate Spade. The current power pack on my cell phone is a Kate Spade. Her simple no-bullshit aesthetic was what appealed to me. I was so interested to see what her new brand, Frances Valentine, had to show me. I felt like she had already identified another niche to dominate.

Anthony Bourdain was the cultural successor to gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. I know he would probably hate to be described that way, but his words carried the same visceral authenticity as Mr. Thompson. I remember reading his first book “Kitchen Confidential” and I leant it out with this recommendation, “it could be called Fear and Loathing in the Kitchen”. In a world where there are so many who assiduously polish an image Mr. Bourdain sought to take us along with him. We shared the same travel desire to stay away from the places where tourists gathered and find the places where the real food of an area was made. Because of him some of my favorite travel memories are in a neighborhood restaurant where the locals delighted in watching the silly American read from his phrasebook. All the while feeding me unforgettable food. Mr. Bourdain challenged me to look underneath the surface,

Which is one of the reasons their deaths sadden me. Because there was clearly something underneath the surface they had become skilled at masking. I miss both of their perspectives.

Before I finish this, I want to once again mention Project Semicolon. Founded on April 16, 2013 every year on that date you will see some of your friends or acquaintances wear a drawn semicolon on their wrist. It symbolizes this: “a semicolon represents a sentence the author could’ve ended but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.” Making the choice to use a semicolon over a period is not simple but Project Semicolon provides a visible way for those deciding on their own punctuation choice. A way of not feeling alone. In that can be found the first moments of deciding to use a semicolon. I made a donation this week in the names of Ms. Spade and Mr. Bourdain because I hope the awareness of their plight can also help others who need to see a different choice.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Clinique Happy- How Women in the 90’s did Fresh

I’ve written many words on this blog about the effect Davidoff Cool Water had on fragrance designed for men. I’ve received a few e-mails from women readers asking if there was a similar women’s fragrance which exemplified the fresh style for that gender. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it to finally arrive at a conclusion. It wasn’t the first; but it was, and continues to be, the best-selling of this style released in the mid 90’s. It is also the answer I most receive from men in their 40’s when I ask what the women in their life wear. The perfume is Clinique Happy.

In women’s fragrances throughout the 1970’s and 80’s the trend was deep chypres and boisterous florals. It was the gender equivalent to the men’s powerhouse leathers and uber-fougeres. As the 90’s dawned the time for a course correction was due. The generation which came after the Baby Boomers, Gen X, wanted a style to call their own. Those who loved perfume also wanted to find new styles to explore. By the latter half of the decade two new styles would provide the change; fresh was one of them.

Evelyn Lauder (l.) and Raymond Matts

For men fresh was synonymous with aquatic. For women it wasn’t as simple. There was a large selection of fresh linen style perfumes centered around the laundry and linen musks. The style Happy fits into is the other major one, the fresh floral. It is also the first credited perfume to Rodrigo Flores-Roux who collaborated with Jean-Claude Delville. The creative team, Evelyn Lauder and Raymond Matts, was also early on in their influential term. Clinique was created by Ms. Lauder; by 1997 she became more dedicated to the fragrance part of the brand. She would work with some of the best perfumers early in their careers spotting talent before others. Mr. Matts would also become one of the most influential creative directors but at the time of Happy he was also just starting down that path. With Happy they designed a perfume which exemplifies fresh and floral.

Jean-Claude Delville (l.) and Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Happy opens on a, I have to say it, happy mixture of citrus. It is difficult to not smile in the early going because this is a sun-kissed grapefruit top accord. It leads to fresh jasmine scrubbed clean of indoles. This is a slightly dewy version of jasmine. It is expansive and transparent. Magnolia will eventually take the lead while retaining the same opacity. A similarly transparent synthetic wood is the final ingredient.

Happy has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Happy is successful because it does everything perfume is supposed to do. The citrus is uplifting. The florals are lilting. The woods are simple and light. It is why Happy is successful because it is so easy to be the perfume for a woman who only wants a couple bottles on her vanity. It continues to be a best-seller because even after twenty years few do it better.

Happy is another of the cases where its longevity is why it is a Discount Diamonds choice. It can be purchased from 10mL rollerball up to 100mL for anywhere from $4.99- $34.99 respectively. Heading into the summer if you want something fresh to add to your holiday overnight bag Happy is as good as it gets within the style it helped start.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Van Cleef & Arpels Neroli Amara- Princess Neroli

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As the weather gets warmer there also comes with it a desire for simplicity. It is the time of year my linear style of perfumes receives the most use. It is generally because once it gets hot the simple beauty of a great ingredient done well is just the right choice. Van Cleef & Arpels Neroli Amara uses neroli in just this way.

This kind of style of perfume has become a staple of the Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extaordinaire. When it gets it correct these become perfume still lifes featuring a single ingredient. For Neroli Amara perfumer Quentin Bisch was asked to do this with neroli.

Quentin Bisch

The name of the perfume and the brief is inspired by the real-life Princess of Nerola. In 1675 when she married to the Prince of Nerola she found the province north of Rome covered with Amara Orange trees. The story goes that the Princess scented her clothes with orange blossom, adding them to her gloves. The scent would become so entwined with her it would become the etymology of the perfume ingredient neroli. M. Bisch captures a regal version of neroli in Neroli Amara.

Neroli Amara opens on a top accord of citrus. It is as if M. Bisch wanted to have every citrus note pay court to the princess to come. Then like an announcement trumpet a bit of baie rose commands the citrus to calm down. Over the next few minutes the neroli rises in presence. The princess has arrived. M. Bisch has black pepper and petitgrain escort her to the throne. The neroli chosen is all of what I enjoy in the ingredient; a soft citrus-like floral atop an astringent green underpinning. The use of the petitgrain, in particular, focuses the neroli more towards the floral but the green is also a presence. Much later on there is a bit of light woody cypress but by then the princess has retired to the palace.

Neroli Amara has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is one of the least complex perfumes I have encountered by M. Bisch. That’s not a bad thing it just means if you have come to expect something innovative from him Neroli Amara isn’t that. It is a perfumer showing off his still life of Princess Neroli; in this case that is more than enough.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Van Cleef & Arpels.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Anatole Lebreton Cornaline- Sins of the Flesh

It was last year during Esxence 2017 that independent perfumer Anatole Lebreton landed on my radar. I was getting reports that the debut at that exposition, Grimoire, was among my correspondent’s favorites. It would take a few months for me to try that one to confirm that M. Lebreton was making interesting perfume.

The same thing happened a couple months ago during the 2018 version of Esxence. This time M. Lebreton debuted Cornaline. When I asked them to compare it to Grimoire I got a near-unanimous response of “very different”. I was excited to see for myself. I received my sample a few weeks ago and “very different” was an excellent description although imprecise. Let me see if I can add to that.  

Anatole Lebreton

In the description on the website M. Lebreton describes “a barefoot Empress in an exotic garden caressing the blooming ylang-ylang”. Cornaline is a floral perfume centered around the fleshy carnality of ylang-ylang. Many perfumers labor to keep that thick quality tamped down. M. Lebreton allows it to have some room to caress the rest of the construction. It forms a hedonistic style of perfume that I enjoyed.

Before we get to the ylang-ylang M. Lebreton forms a delightful top accord around carrot. By itself carrot can sometimes smell like plastic. To keep that from happening a hint of berries and bergamot provide guardrails for the carrot to remain sweeter than it would by itself. The ylang-ylang begins to ooze into the top accord. When ylang-ylang has this unctuous quality, I like it, but it can be a bit much for some. Which is why in the early moments a bit of spicy geranium and hyacinth pump the brakes a bit. Not for long though because M. Lebreton ignites the ylang-ylang with peach. It explodes with intensity. It is a clever bit of olfactory pyrotechnics. After it calms down some orris provides a calming effect before benzoin takes over. The benzoin is the comforting note you need after the heart. Some vanilla sweetens it but it is mostly a warm comforting finish.

Cornaline has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Cornaline is very different than Grimoire mostly in its extroverted style. It also really embraces its keynote finding ways to go beyond mere amplification to shouting from rooftops. Which means if you are not a fan of ylang-ylang and peach Cornaline will unlikely appeal to you. For someone who wants to throw myself into the sins of the flesh ylang-ylang brings to perfume; Cornaline is just what I desire.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Huitieme Art Manguier Metisse- Ripe Mango

I have received a couple of new perfumes featuring a ripe mango ingredient. I have enjoyed this when it is used because that is how I remember the mangos I picked off the tree in our yard as a child. I’m not sure it is the beginning of a trend, but it reminded me of the first time I encountered it in a perfume; Huitieme Art Manguier Metisse.

In 2010 independent perfumer Pierre Guillaume had become fascinated with all of the new isolation techniques which were opening up new design possibilities. To fully explore them he created a new brand, Huitieme Art, which would feature one of these as the keynote in a minimalist form. These weren’t necessarily soliflore-like because M. Guillaume found notes which more often formed an accord with the featured ingredient. Manguier Metisse created a mango tree with ripe fruit hanging from the branches.

Pierre Guillaume

Prior to Manguier Metisse when mango was listed it was a greener tarter version. What was shown in Manguier Metisse for the first time was a ripe juicy mango. M. Guillaume uses the new mango extract as the nucleus around which a few well-chosen notes literally flesh it out into a pulpy lush accord.

The mango is there from the first second to the last one, hours later. Frangipani provides tropicality by adding an exotic vibe. M. Guillaume uses black tea, rose, and patchouli in small judicious amounts. Each of these provide depth and texture. Within minutes I am surrounded by the smell of ripe fruit bursting with juice.

Manguier Metisse has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Manguier Metisse has remained one of my favorite perfumes by M. Guillaume because he so successfully re-created the smell of many summer afternoons tearing into a ripe mango. If the Huitieme Art collection has fallen under your radar I highly recommending obtaining a sample set. I especially think the original eight releases show M. Guillaume’s prescience at which new isolates would find new creative uses. If you need to try one before diving in start with Manguier Metisse.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ellis Brooklyn Fawn- Summer Sun Dress

During the summer there are few things more attractive that a tan young woman in a sun dress. The simplicity of the sun dress. The expanse of bronze skin. Sun bleached hair. The smile made carefree by being free of responsibility. When I was a young man many summer evenings were spent in the company of women like this. It was what being young was all about. Even thinking about from forty years later I can see some of them in my mind’s eye. As often happens it is a perfume which triggered the reminiscence. This time it came from Ellis Brooklyn Fawn.

Bee Shapiro

Ellis Brooklyn is the brand founded by Bee Shapiro in 2016. Over the course of 2017 through the releases of Rives and Sci-Fi Ms. Shapiro refined the brand aesthetic. Ellis Brooklyn has become one of the new brands I want to keep an eye on because I believe in the potential I see.

Pascal Gaurin

For Fawn Ms. Shapiro collaborates with perfumer Pascal Gaurin. They wanted to create a summer perfume focused on summertime fun. They produce something which is all of that.

Fawn opens with a sturdy neroli at the center of the top accord. Bergamot teases out the citrus quality through the early going. It gets more floral as lily of the valley picks up on both the green and floral characteristics. M. Gaurin then adds in the suntan lotion staple of coconut. It comes in as the remains of the day’s application; transparent and light. The neroli is on top. Vanilla significantly sweetens the coconut along with a musk accord of warm skin. I enjoy immensely when this kind of skin musk appears in a perfume like Fawn. M. Gaurin has designed one which also carries a hint of soap to it. It all comes together in a beautiful overall accord.

Fawn has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I have received a number of summer perfumes this year which are meant for that time after the sun goes down. Ellis Brooklyn Fawn is among the best of them.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Sephora.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur vs. The Bachelorette’s Colognoisseur

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Now that I’ve been writing at Colognoisseur for over four years my readership has settled at a number I am happy to have. Which means starting two weeks ago I woke up to an alert on Tuesday morning telling me that daily traffic had spiked. Usually I know when something I’ve written might provoke interest but there wasn’t anything I thought could’ve done that. I stayed mystified for a week and then it happened again on Tuesday morning. This time my readers clued me in to what was going on.

I got a couple dozen e-mails asking if I had seen the contestant on ABC’s The Bachelorette who was identified as a Colognoisseur. I hadn’t but you bet I called it up on my cable box and watched. What I found was Jean-Blanc, 31, Colognoisseur displayed under a stylish young guy. To say I was curious is an understatement. Who is this other Colognoisseur? And does he deserve the title. In the run-up to last week’s first episode Glamour magazine posted a video asking questions of what a few of the men were taking with them. True to being a Colognoisseur Jean-Blanc showed off the four perfumes he was taking with him. He has some cologne cred but his choices were so typical of what guys his age wear I have to wonder in his over 250+ bottle collection if he couldn’t have made some different choices. For fun I’m going to take on the now more famous Colognoisseur in an analysis and my opinion on other choices he might have made based on things I suspect are in his collection.

As Michael Buffer would say “Let’s Get Ready to Ruuuuumble!”

Tale of the Tape

Age: Jean-Blanc 31- Mark 58 (Hipster Charm vs. Experience)

Weight: Jean-Blanc, slim athletic build- Mark: Old and fat (You aren’t seeing me on TV)

Size of collection: Jean-Blanc 250+- Mark 1000+ (Mine’s bigger)

The first fragrance Jean-Blanc chose for his time on The Bachelorette is Creed Aventus. Ever since its release it has become akin to the mythical love potion no. 9 among those who use fragrance as part of their wardrobe. I love Aventus, too. While I believe The Bachelorette probably has not encountered many guys wearing Aventus there are some alternatives this Colognoisseur thinks might have been better choices. I have to believe Jean-Blanc has some Tom Ford Private Blends and as you’ll see in the other three choices all of them tilt towards the fresh. I think something like Tobacco Vanille or Tuscan Leather would have added both variety without reducing the seduction value.

Fragrance number two is Bleu de Chanel. This is a really solid choice because it is so versatile. It can be used in all situations which Jean-Blanc is likely to find himself in on his time in the show. The only drawback is this is something I am betting The Bachelorette has smelled on a few guys. Bleu de Chanel is the best-selling men’s perfume in the US since its release. It’s like saying you love music and then put on Taylor Swift. C’mon a Colognoisseur should be able to do better. This is where the Creed should have shown up in Green Irish Tweed. Every bit as versatile and less common.

Fragrance number three Dior Homme. My favorite of his four choices going with one of the best mainstream floral masculine perfumes available. This is the one I think has the best chance to make an impression of Jean-Blanc as someone who has something more to him. Even so I still have an alternative Caron pour Un Homme. This is also another masculine floral classic trading lavender for the iris of Dior Homme.

Fragrance number four was where I felt like Jean-Blanc let me down with L’Homme de Yves Saint Laurent. It is so generic. I know any Colognoisseur like Jean-Blanc has to have some of the Thierry Mugler A-Men flankers in his wardrobe. I would think the recent A-Men Pure Tonka could have had The Bachelorette asking, “something smells good!” and Jean-Blanc smiling in response.

I am rooting for my fellow Colognoisseur to go far and win the heart and nose of The Bachelorette. If he doesn’t I at least have to thank him for sending new readers my way.

Mark Behnke