New Perfume Review Jo Malone Frangipani Flower- Finding A Sunbeam

One of the poodles at the Colognoisseur home office can usually be found every afternoon asleep in the sunbeam which comes through our glass door. Once we hit that part of the day I almost always know where he is. I envy him that opportunity to curl up in a bar of sunlight drifting on pleasant thoughts. Jo Malone Frangipani Flower gave me the opportunity to do that with a perfume.

Celine Roux

I know this is becoming redundant, but I must call out creative director Celine Roux for everything she is doing at Jo Malone. She is starting to settle into a bit of a rhythm with the way releases have been coming. Her direction is also shaping things Jo Malone was known for with her own flair. Last year Tropical Cherimoya created a soliflore made up of layers of other florals. It was a fascinating recreation of a flower as perfume. A year later with Frangipani Flower the same thing is being done with a more known floral. To achieve the same effect Mme Roux asked for a headspace analysis of frangipani. Working with perfumer Marie Salamagne they took what was found to create another layered soliflore.  

Marie Salamagne (Photo: Jerome Bonnet)

Frangipani Flower opens on a sunburst of lemon and jasmine. This is given a lighter feel as the lemon adds sparkle to an already expansive jasmine. Jasmine and frangipani are related so that the shift to a different kind of floral sweetness is done in tiny steps until you realize something is different. This is pushed to a more opaque feeling by using a set of ozonic and aquatic notes. There is an airiness throughout the first two-thirds of the development. It only becomes a tiny bit more grounded as sandalwood provides a woody tether in the base.

Frangipani Flower has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Frangipani Flower is equally as clever as Tropical Cherimoya in the way differing layers of accords form a soliflore. On the days I wore it I joined my poodle luxuriating in the sunbeam I had found.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Avengers: Endgame

Endings are tough. They are doubly problematic when you are trying to do justice to a nearly eleven-year storyline. Avengers: Endgame manages to do a great job at fashioning an ending to volume 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Two weeks after the movie has been released, I’m not going to reveal any of the major plot points but there are some things I want to discuss which require a little more revelation. Which means if you haven’t seen the movie stop reading now.

The first quarter of the movie is what the world looks like after Thanos snapped his fingers killing half of all life at the end of Infinity War. Our heroes are scarred by the loss. If we needed a reminder the first scene is Hawkeye losing his entire family. Captain Marvel arrives from the summons of Nick Fury at the end of Infinity War. Angry and sad they know where Thanos is and go after him. With two hours of movie left you can figure out they don’t succeed.

Then the movie leaps ahead five years. Things have dramatically changed. The remining heroes are all dealing with loss in their own ways. One goes to group therapy. One takes charge of coordinating the response to threats on Earth and the galaxy. One becomes a vigilante. One drowns himself in video games and beer. One finds a way to reconcile his inner and outer demons into a new whole. This is a short passage within the overall film, but it is one of my favorites. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo want to take a moment to show the cost of losing to heroes who have always saved the day. Five years later they each are still coming to terms with it.

Then a path to redemption appears. It requires the team to come together to try a long shot to fix things. They split up into teams each sent on a specific mission. As it was in Infinity War my favorite was the combination of Rocket Raccoon and Thor. I have enjoyed these two together so much over the last two movies I dearly want them to have a movie-length adventure all their own. Each mission finds an emotional resonance with the characters involved. This is where much of the groundwork laid over previous films is paid off. When characters run into other characters from their own movies it reinforces the interconnectedness of everything.

The missions succeed but the final battle remains. This is probably my least favorite part of it all. In trying to have everyone on the field for the final throwdown it got overly chaotic. There are some nice moments like when the female Avengers stand together in one passage. That our heroes win is a given.

What was nice was the epilogue where everyone takes stock of the price paid to win. There are deaths and poignant endings for many of our beloved heroes. As volume 1 comes to a close I like where this leaves the MCU as volume 2 begins.

I am ready to let Wakanda, and Black Panther, become the new center of things. Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange, and Ant-Man look like the cornerstones of this next iteration. Volume 2 starts with a wide-open universe to explore. I can’t wait.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Maison Martin Margiela Untitled- Layers of Green

I have always been interested when a fashion designer I admire ventures into fragrance. It can be difficult to translate an aesthetic from the runway into a perfume. Some brands eschew it altogether defining a fragrance aesthetic apart from the fashion one. The ones I like best are the ones who take this problem on. This month’s Under the Radar choice did just that; Maison Martin Margiela Untitled.

Nowadays Maison Margiela, the Martin has been dropped, is known for the very good, and popular, Replica collection. This is where they divorced themselves from trying to mimic the fashion. In 2010 when they were entering the perfume sector Untitled was trying to capture the asymmetric layering of M. Margiela in a fragrance. The perfumer they chose was Daniela Andrier.

Daniela Andrier

Somewhere along the line the vision of Untitled became layers of green; focused, diffuse, and subtle. The creative team added in fascinating grace notes to each of these layers as if they were detailing a fashion design. It has always been one of my favorite spring perfumes to wear because it captures green as a concept so well.

The first layer of green is a crystalline galbanum glittering with verdant intensity. This is a powerhouse of an opening and if you are not fond of galbanum you will be put off immediately. I adore this kind of concentrated effect especially with what Mme Andrier does with it. She takes a harmonic of bitter orange to come alongside the galbanum. It focuses the green effect while softening it slightly with the citrus beneath. The second layer comes as the galbanum becomes more diffuse. The crystal matrix implodes as it is speared by an indolic jasmine. The indoles keep this from becoming a comfort scent. It retains some of the green edginess of the top accord. This then ends on a green cedar focused base accord. Mme Andrier uses the inherent greenness of cedar while swirling it among incense and white musks. It ameliorates all the early green into something subtle by the end.

Untitled has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

As mentioned above the opening moments are challenging for those who are not fond of galbanum. I can’t even advise you to wait it out because while it gets less intensely green it is still intense hours in. Untitled is a perfume for those who enjoy an unapologetic galbanum. As spring gives way to the heat of summer this is one of my favorites because the layers of green are so good. Next time you’re checking out the new Maison Margiela Replica releases at the mall give the first perfume from the brand a try.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Goutal Etoile d’Une Nuit- Lipstick Lite

2

One of the classic perfume styles is the “lipstick rose”. In the earliest incarnations it was meant to capture the smell of a lady’s cosmetic bag. During that time period it was Coty red lipstick which was the most popular. It was known for adding some iris to it to give it a distinctive smell. Anyone who grew up in the latter half of the 20th century has a female relative who owned a cosmetic bag which smelled of iris, rose, and leather. It fell out of favor as we crossed into the new century. Mainly because that accord had the pejorative “old lady perfume” attached to it. It didn’t entirely disappear, but it diminished in presence. The pairing is so good I was wondering how long the style would have to live in perfume purgatory before making a return. Over the past year there have been a few which have made the effort. Perhaps the best is Goutal Etoile d’Une Nuit.

Camille Goutal

Ever since 2016 Camille Goutal has made the business decision to make new perfumes in the transparent style seemingly desired by the younger generation. It has created some new collections within the Goutal brand. Oiseaux de Nuit has been one of the earliest. This was a collection on which Mme Goutal has exclusively collaborated with perfumer Mathieu Nardin. The concept is to appeal to twentysomething Parisiennes. The two previous releases, Tenue de Soiree and Nuit de Confidences, have chosen crowd-pleasing themes with clever twists over an opaque scent. While lipstick rose was crowd-pleasing a couple decades ago would Etoile d’Une Nuit find its way to a new generation?

Mathieu Nardin

Mme Goutal and M. Nardin have now formed a good working relationship where they understand the kind of fragrance they want to create. Etoile d’Une Nuit shows their improvement over time. Even with a construct as simple as this one is.

The difference to the old style of lipstick rose is evident from the first moments. The iris here is a shimmering powder instead of a concentrated lacquer. It adds a veil for the equally transparent rose to add another layer underneath. This is beautifully realized as it stays lilting and not heavy. Then the base of a leather accord infused with raspberry provides the finish. Neither of those notes add to the heaviness they jut arise and mesh with the rose and iris. I found the raspberry had an interesting grounding effect on the iris and rose. It keeps them tethered to the ground so that they don’t just dissipate away.

Etoile d’Une Nuit has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am interested to see how Etoile d’Une Nuit will be received. I believe Mme Goutal and M. Nardin did a great job of updating the venerable lipstick rose by making it lipstick lite.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Neiman-Marcus.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aftelier Perfumes Embers & Musk- Nights Among the Pines

My love of camping came from being a Boy Scout. The camping trips we took throughout Florida every summer were transformative. I learned to love the geography and wildlife of my home through spending time in it. If there is something which reminds me of those days, it is the smell of the Florida pine. We would hike all day through forests of them and camp at night underneath them; sentinels from the darkness outside our campfire. It is one of the beautiful things about perfume when I smell something for the first time, and it connects to a memory. When I received my sample of Aftelier Perfumes Embers & Musk I was back in the woods of Florida surrounded by pine trees.

Mandy Aftel

Mandy Aftel is one of our greatest independent perfumers working with an all-natural palette. She has been one of the most important members of the American indie perfumery community. Every new perfume from her is a new opportunity to learn what the possibilities are for natural perfumery. In Embers & Musk she chose pine tar to represent the embers and ambrettolide as the botanical source of musk. I am a fan of the pungency of pine tar in perfume. I was worried that the delicate ambrettolide would get stuck in the stickiness of the tar. What happens is why I write about perfume and Ms. Aftel makes perfume she knew exactly how to give both room to shine.

When I climbed my share of Florida pine trees as a boy, I always came away with some of the resin on my hands and legs. If I got enough on me, I could roll it up into a pea-shaped ball which I would roll around in my fingers. That fresh scent comes forth in the earliest moments of Embers & Musk. Yuzu and apple add a crisp framework for the pine. This is the fresh smell of the pines at sunset. Baie rose comes along to begin to modify the piney keynote nudging it in an herbal direction. This sets the stage for the smoke to arise. So many perfumers go right for the cade oil and often unbalance their perfume. Ms. Aftel has alternatives to that. Here she uses guaiacol as the source of her smoke. Guaiacol is a component of whisky and if you really focus on it you will get that. Ms. Aftel is not after a boozy effect she wants that smell of campfire clinging to clothing. The guaiacol is threaded through the pine tar with a precision to achieve just that. This is where the ambrettolide comes in. It adds a clean sweaty skin scent underneath the smoke. It would remind me of sitting in my tent before going to sleep. The remnants of the smoke from the campfire over the smell of my skin.

Embers & Musk has 10-12 hours of longevity and average sillage.

Ms. Aftel has created a perfume with a large presence while adding in the subtlety you might not think possible in a perfume where pine tar is the keynote. It is why she remains one of my favorite perfumers. Embers & Musk took me back to those summer nights hiking into the pine woods of Florida.

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

Mark Behnke

Calice Becker 201

They say the test of time is one of the measures of great creativity. They also say that vision is instinctual. The memorable artists have it from the moment they take their first steps in their chosen form. Perfumery has more than a few for whom these statements are true for. One of them is Calice Becker.

Ever since perfumers have become more known Mme Becker has been the quiet rockstar perfumer. She continues to advocate for the future since she was named the head of the Givaudan Perfumery School in 2017. Her twenty-plus years as a perfume has seen her create pillar perfumes for some of the largest mainstream brands while finding a willing partner in creative director Kilian Hennessy to allow her to explore the niche perfume side of things. That partnership has produced some of the greatest niche perfumes, ever, since they started working together in 2007. She is a consummate professional who has produced some of the best that perfume has to offer. For this month’s Perfumer 201 I’m going to focus on the pillars of her career, as I see them.

The first commercial brief for Mme Becker was Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl. Tommy Hilfiger wanted a perfume to capture his All-American fashion aesthetic. It always makes me smile that he turned to a perfumer of French and Russian heritage. The perfume shows what will become one of Mme Becker’s signatures; exquisitely balanced accords. The top accord here is of a vast green lawn of freshly cut grass. Spearmint is used to provide an expansive quality to the heart of the grassy accord. A fresh floral accord of honeysuckle gives way to a clean cedar and sandalwood foundation. When you smell this today it needs to be said this was one of the first perfumes of its kind when released in 1996. By a perfumer who was unafraid to follow her instincts to produce something different for the brief she was given.

If anyone was inclined to think that was a fluke, she would follow up three short years later with another blockbuster of a fragrance; Dior J’Adore. This time the green in the top is a sinuous ivy. It leads into a brilliant floral accord in the heart of champaca, jasmine, and rose. To this she adds an “orchid accord”. So often in one of Mme Becker’s compositions there is a linchpin which snaps things together. In J’Adore the orchid is that. It provides the stitching together of the floral leads while also providing subtle dewiness which makes it memorable. She then grounds it with a set of fruits, Damson plum to add a juicy tartness with an accord of blackberry and an animalic musk. This is what every fruity floral since J’Adore has failed to achieve.

Mme Becker would burnish her reputation for trendsetting mainstream perfume with 2003’s Estee Lauder Beyond Paradise and 2009’s Marc Jacobs Lola on which she worked with Yann Vasnier. Like many of the mainstream perfumers of the time as we crossed into the 2000’s they wanted to jump aboard the niche perfumery trend. Mme Becker found the right place for her to make that leap.

By Kilian Back to Black would be the sixth perfume Mme Becker would make for creative director Kilian Hennessy’s luxury niche brand. To this point M. Hennessy had only worked with two perfumers for his brand. Mme Becker has mentioned in multiple interviews how difficult it is to get a realistic version of a natural effect using just the essential oil. The building of accords is what can provide the nuance which captures what is missing. Nowhere is this more evident than in the tobacco accord she assembles in Back to Black; without a drop of tobacco essential oil. It is one of my favorite party tricks to spray some Back to Black on a strip and ask people to smell it hours later. It is only then that the components have begun to unravel enough to understand that the lush slightly mentholated tobacco you smelled earlier was an olfactory illusion. I have always considered this to be the best perfume in the entire By Kilian line.

Mme Becker’s work for By Kilian has shown her creativity is boundless. In 2014’s By Kilian Intoxicated she produced a coffee gourmand that was compelling. Her inspiration was spice laced Turkish coffee. To her rich coffee accord which captures the oily bitterness along with the roasted nature of coffee she mixes in a sticky green cardamom. Nutmeg and cinnamon arrive soon after but Intoxicated is the dark coffee accord and green cardamom. You won’t find it at your local coffee shop, but it is one of my favorite coffee perfumes.  

Technology moves forward and Mme Becker moves with it. Givaudan came up with a new technology called Freeze Frame. This is where they take a source, like lime, freeze it in liquid nitrogen, then as it thaws do a headspace isolation. What this produce is an HD version of lime to place at the center of Ralph Lauren Collection Lime. Because the new technology has supplied her with what she usually created through accords she only uses two additional ingredients; bergamot and lavandin with the Freeze Frame lime. It is a simply marvelous near-photorealistic lime as perfume.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of all the fragrances mentioned I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Lavender Extreme- Lavender with a Capital L

Lavender is one of the most common ingredients in all of perfumery. It is one of a set of florals which seems to not ascribe itself to one gender or the other. It has been the focal point of some of the great perfumes ever. It was always going to be a part of the Tom Ford Private Blend collection. The first attempt was the completely modern take called Lavender Palm which was an exclusive to the Beverly Hills boutique. Even though it has been discontinued it remains one of my favorites of the entire Tom Ford Private Blend collection for how audaciously contemporary they went. Earlier this year the decision was made to go in the other direction with Belle de Jour. This was an elegantly made crowd pleaser. Now with the release of Tom Ford Private Blend Lavender Extreme, and for once, that last word should be taken literally.

Karyn Khoury

When it comes to the ubiquitous perfumery ingredients, I have some affection for lavender. It is because there is a big difference between the most common source lavandin and the harder to extract Provence version. The Provence version is harvested after being left to dry in the fields for days before extraction and distillation. It has the herbal quality of lavender more prominent because of the drying process prior to extraction. In this year’s Beau de Jour it was a nearly equivalent amount of lavandin and Provence lavender used in a softly satisfying way. For Lavender Extreme perfumer Olivier Gillotin working with creative director Karyn Khoury the Provence lavender is given a much more prominent role.

Olivier Gillotin

The only time I really notice the lavandin is in the very early moments of Lavender Extreme. M. Gillotin combines it with eucalyptus to form an abstract accord of the real Provence lavender to come. That lavender comes in with a rush. You notice it immediately as the herbal nature of it washes across that earlier lavender accord with gusto. I enjoyed the way the lavender seemed to grow more extreme throughout the middle part of the development. It then begins to be modified in some clever ways. M. Gillotin uses a bit of carrot seed to provide a sweet rooty contrast. Tolu balsam complements the herbal-ness. Tonka bean comes with its roasted sweetness to keep the lavender from getting too strident. Benzoin provides a sweet resinous polish to the final stages.

Lavender Extreme has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.

I have often complained that perfumes with “extreme” on the bottle are not truth-in-advertising. Not so with Lavender Extreme. This is a soaring spire of lavender spelled with a capital L.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Yves Saint Laurent Grain de Poudre- Wooly Bully

If there is a disappointment, I have in most of the designer perfumes it is that they don’t connect as strongly to the clothing side as I would wish. There are so many innovations the great couture designers have made with the use of fabric I want some perfumes to mimic that. This is not a never seen kind of thing it is mostly a rarely seen event. Yves Saint Laurent Grain de Poudre tries to be one.

Grain de Poudre is part of the Le Vestiaire de Parfums collection launched in 2015. Each perfume is inspired by some aspect of Yves Saint Laurent’s fashion life from design to studio. It has produced seventeen previous perfumes to Grain de Poudre. My overwhelming reaction has been safe perfume extoling a visionary designer. These do not do justice to the aspects of M. Saint Laurent’s life they are inspired by. They have mostly been about producing a varied collection of common styles of perfume. Grain de Poudre doesn’t stray too far outside those lines.

Quentin Bisch

Grain de Poudre is named after the wool and mohair blend used by M. Saint Laurent in his blazers. The classic Le Smoking tuxedo jacket with which M. Saint Laurent revolutionized the concept of women wearing a tuxedo was made of grain de poudre fabric. It is a sleek kind of wool with a tactile density attached to it. Perfumer Quentin Bisch was asked to make a perfume based on it in Grain de Poudre.

Good woolen fabrics have the same kind of animalic scent as leather does. It is different, a little more funky than the more acceptable cowhide scent. M. Bisch chooses to use a leather accord in the base of Grain de Poudre to stand in for that quality. What comes before adds a texture to it all.

Grain de Poudre opens on a combination of violet leaves and black pepper. This is a top accord M. Bisch has used previously in Ex Nihilo Cuir Celeste. There he kept it light. In Grain de Poudre it is rougher. The black pepper rasps across the silvery violet leaves. It turns a sticky shade of green as coriander and sage add even more texture to this opening. Some animalic musks precede the suede leather accord in the base. This is the sleek feel of grain de poudre fabric made funkier by the other ingredients.

Grain de Poudre has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Grain de Poudre is still like most of the other La Vestiaire de Parfums entries in that it never veers outside of safe boundaries. It is better than most everything else in the collection because M. Bisch does try to get a little wooly bully without knocking things over.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Guild Codex: Spellbound Series by Annette Marie

As we are now a few weeks away from Memorial Day and the beginning of the summer I am starting to cast around for new series to read. One reason I like them when they are new is the author has generally submitted three or four manuscripts before the first one is published. It means the books come quickly. So even though it has only been a year I can find two or three entries to take up my lazy summer days. If I hadn’t made the mistake of trying to read just a little of the first book in Annette Marie’s new series “The Guild Codex: Spellbound” I would have these in my queue. Instead I was hooked and blitzed my way through the three books that have been published over the last year or so.

Ms. Marie has been an author of Young Adult urban fantasy. With “The Guild Codex” she is turning to a more grown-up version within the genre. Each book has a title with a noun and a cocktail. Book one is called “Three Mages and a Margarita”. In that book we meet Tori a down-on-her luck human looking for a job. She goes to a bar to apply for a bartending job. Instead of an interview she is asked to work a shift. As she steps behind the rail, she realizes this is no regular bar. It is populated by supernatural beings. No place left to turn she treats them as she would anyone else; with a sharp-tongued disdain. By the time she has ended her shift she has shown she can survive as the bartender at The Guild Codex. Tori is the stand-in for the reader as she needs what is happening explained to her. This is a common urban fantasy trope. It works here because Tori also reacts appropriately to what she describes. I like the casual way she uses profanity. It reminds me of the television character Veronica Mars. Another reason this series drew me in.

Annette Marie

Ms. Marie keeps the books moving at a fast pace. She has a well-conceived magic system. Tori has a single romantic interest among her new-found companions; and she thinks her way out of the situations she is placed in. Even though there is some romance these books are more like action movies. Think “Fast and Furious” level with about the same amount of romance. If you read a lot of urban fantasy many of the plot points will be familiar. Enough so that things that might be plot twists for first-time readers will not be for one who enjoys the genre. What makes me want to return for succeeding books is the characters and the words they are given to speak. The Guild Codex: Spellbound succeeds on all those levels.

All those qualities also make it perfect vacation reading. The fourth book will be out any day now. Which means if you need something to take with you over Memorial Day weekend these should fit the bill.

Mark Behnke

Am I An Influencer?

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For all that I miss not attending Esxence this year for once I was okay with it. Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones took priority over perfume in the Colognoisseur home office. That didn’t mean I wasn’t aware of what was happening in Milan. When I am not able to be there, I have a lively conversation over the internet with those who are. The previous times this has happened the back and forth has been entirely about perfume. This year it changed. Based on some of the other reports and videos coming out a week later this was something which seemed to show up largely, for the first time, this year; “the influencer”.

For those unfamiliar with the term an influencer is a person who does videos and/or writes on a subject in such a way that their audience is energized to seek out the product being featured. In the larger worlds of fashion, video games, cooking, and motherhood there are acknowledged people who have an effect on their audiences. Which of course means brands seek these people out because they have proven themselves. It is where the term was coined as brands called them influencers. What has happened more recently is anyone who posts a video or writes a blog post calls themselves an “influencer”. They are probably not. This year at Esxence the behavior of some of the self-named “influencers” was horrendous bordering on unethical.

Because I Say So!

I heard of many of them only agreeing to meet with brands if they would give them a full bottle. This was the least of it. One brand had a price list shoved in their face over what they would get for what they were charged. As I was reading texts the whole exercise seemed like a giant scavenger hunt to see who could score the most free stuff. That impression has only been reinforced by early videos highlighting just how much perfume they came home with. I will note that in a couple of the videos there isn’t even a mention about the perfume just the glee at having scored a full bottle.

When the brands asked me what to do, I told them to make them prove their audience listened to them. Tell any of them as a start to ask their audience to e-mail the brand and they would receive a sample. If that showed the brand there was a level of support, they could discuss where to move from there. When the price list “influencer” was given this as a proposal they walked away. That is the crux of the problem very few of the self-named influencers know if they have any impact at all. They assume it but they have never measured it.

I have never measured any supposed influence I have because I don’t care. I write about perfume because it is fun. I have an audience of readers who share that with me. I have never asked a brand for a full bottle of anything. I only request samples because that is enough for my needs. I have received bottles because there are brands who are that generous. As a reader you know when that happens because everything I have ever written has a Disclosure line above my signature at the end where I mention the size and source of the perfume I am writing about.

This does not mean that there are not people in the perfume world who I don’t think are influencers. In general those aren’t the people who have to tell you they are. Those are the people who have proven over time through their actions that they are. The fragosphere is better for their participation. If you have to tell someone you’re an influencer you’re probably not.

I am on the flip side of that I am not an influencer and happy to be just a writer about perfume.

Mark Behnke