New Perfume Review Boucheron Neroli D’Ispahan- Soliflore Arms Race

In the last eighteen months, I have received eight different collections from well-known brands focused on soliflores. I am not sure what set off this latest competition among brands but it has become a persistent force in fragrance. I can believe that it is thought among these brands that simple perfumes focused on high-quality single materials will have appeal to those wanting their perfume easy. For the most part this has been the case. There hasn’t been skimping on the focal point notes but no-frills perfumery can lack for the presence of those details. The latest version of this is the six-member collection called Boucheron La Collection.

The analogy I use when approaching these kind of fragrances is of a single note which acts as a diamond in the middle of a setting where a few tiny gems enhance the overall effect. Boucheron La Collection has done a good job of using ingredients which qualify as olfactory diamonds. The five perfumers who worked on the six perfumes have also crafted fine settings for these raw materials to shine within. Except the problem is the subtle grace notes don’t really change the equation that whatever is on the bottle is essentially what you will be smelling for the length of time these last on your skin. The orris in Iris de Syracuse is lovely. The oud in Oud de Carthage is darkly compelling. Amber D’Alexandrie is a golden amber. Vanille de Zanzibar captures the depth of vanilla. Tubereuse de Madras is a creamy version of that white flower. These are straightforward, nice, and no different from one or more from the previous seven collections.  There was one which I enjoyed the most; Neroli D’Ispahan.

Fabrice Pellegrin

I have recently become much more interested in neroli focused perfumes. One reason is excellent neroli has a green counterbalance to the floral nature. For Neroli D’Ispahan perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin sourced a neroli which displays that. A dual-natured note like neroli is a good place to begin with a soliflore because one ingredient acts like two. This is what happens here. M. Pellegrin sets up the neroli front and center. To that a pinch of green cardamom, elemi, and ginger buck up the green. Baie rose, labdanum, and patchouli do the same to the floral side. None of the notes listed in the last two sentences persist for any appreciable time. They are there to add the sparkle to the gem that is the neroli in the heart, which they do.

Neroli D’Ispahan has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I have a hard time believing the marketplace can bear the amount of luxury soliflores that are now out there. Especially since they are sort of indistinguishable from each other. There is no brand identity at play in something as facile as a soliflore. Which makes for a problem when brands want to claim the space as the most luxurious soliflore. The consumer will show whether there is an appetite to keep this soliflore arms race on its current trajectory. Boucheron La Collection, especially Neroli D’Ispahan, is the latest launch; I sort of hope détente is not far off.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Boucheron.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Sole di Positano- Mediterranean Light

2017 sees the tenth anniversary of the Tom Ford Private Blend collection. It has been one of the most important perfume collections of recent times. In May of 2007 I remember seeing this group of brown square bottles in my local Neiman-Marcus. It was an audacious attempt to capture this new thing known as a “niche perfume” market. Ten years on it is easy to say under the creative direction of Tom Ford and Karyn Khoury they hit every target, and then some, they probably aspired to. They’ve been so successful it has become an arguable point that Tom Ford Private Blend is no longer even “niche”.

Karyn Khoury

One of the best-selling entries in that first group was Neroli Portofino. Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux presented a luxurious version of the lowly drugstore cologne. It made Neroli Portofino a standard bearer for the vibe the Private Blend collection was aspiring to. Neroli Portofino was so successful Mr. Ford and Ms. Khoury decided to create a sub-collection named after it, in 2014. They also changed the bottle color from brown to blue so to make it visually evident when there are new entries. Since 2014 there have been five more releases each continuing the examination of the Mediterranean Hesperidic style of perfume. The latest release is called Sole di Positano.

Aurelien Guichard

Ms. Khoury invited perfumers Aurelien Guichard and Olivier Gillotin to compose this latest entry. It is based on a quote from John Steinbeck Mr. Ford admires, “Positano is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone”. The challenge is to create a very light version of the Neroli Portofino aesthetic.

Olivier Gillotin

Sole di Positano opens on the twinkling of sunlight off the Mediterranean represented by lemon and petitgrain. To keep it from being too tart the perfumers use mandarin to smooth out that character. The green of the petitgrain is then connected with shiso to add a couple shades of verdancy to the citrus. Jasmine and ylang-ylang provide the floral heart. These are cleaner lighter versions of both of those notes. No indoles in the jasmine along with no oiliness in the ylang-ylang. The green returns with moss, along with sandalwood, in the base.

Sole di Positano has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

In the past year, there has been a lightening up of the Private Blend releases. I wonder if it is a calculation for the collection to transition to appealing to a younger consumer. Sole di Positano is the most floral of the Neroli Portofino collection since Fleur de Portofino.  If you like your Mediterranean perfumes on the lighter side Sole di Positano is going to please you.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review En Voyage Perfumes Figa- Superstitious Strength

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It was a little over seven years ago, that I was asked to join this new perfume blog called CaFleureBon. Conceived and overseen by Michelyn Camen it began the process of my becoming a better writer and observer on fragrance. In those early days, there were several large projects within the independent perfume community. Where a specific subject or inspiration was given to a set of perfumers and a chosen group of blogs would write about those fragrances. They were some of my favorite pieces to write. The perfumers would all interpret the project in very different ways often leading to very personal expressions of scent. Recently these projects have seemed to fade away until Ms. Camen decided to give it a try again in honor of the seventh anniversary of CaFleureBon.

The name is Project Talisman and the link to the overall project can be found here over at CaFleureBon. Boiled down it is the idea of different “eau de protection” representing items used to keep the bad spirits at bay. As always Ms. Camen has assembled a group of some of the brightest lights in the independent perfume community. While we were having our not regular enough phone call and she was telling me about this she offered me the opportunity to have some of them sent to me. I eagerly said yes and over the next few weeks I will be reviewing one of them every week. First up is En Voyage Perfumes Figa by perfumer Shelley Waddington.

I first encountered the small fist shaped charm with the thumb inserted between the index and middle fingers on a necklace worn by the most exotic woman I knew; when I was seven. Senhora Azevedo had come to Miami from Sao Paolo, Brazil. There was a rumor among the older kids that she was a witch. As she would sit in her front yard puffing on a cigarillo I didn’t think that was true. One day the chain on my bicycle came off the ring right in front of her. As I flipped my bike over to restore the chain to the gears she walked towards me. I had two instincts warring within me. One was to get the chain back on the ring as quick as I could and ride like the wind. The other equally strong desire was to face up to the cigarillo puffing apparition moving towards me. The second choice was what won out. From that day forward I would stop on my bike and have a few words with Senhora Azevedo on my daily tours of the neighborhood. Even on that first day I noticed the hardwood charm in the shape of a fist hanging from her neck on a strip of leather. Eventually I asked what it was. She would tell me it was a Figa. The way she pronounced it sounded more like Feek-ah. She told me it was there to protect her from the evil in the world.

Shelley Waddington

Ms. Waddington who has been on a creative roll recently decided to take on the Figa as her part of the Project Talisman effort. In her text accompanying the sample she says, “I chose this talisman because it conveys attitude. I strongly believe in peace through strength.” How this translates to perfume is as a clenched fist of beautifully poised floral notes with a resinous thumb thrust through the fingers.

Using geranium as the palm of her fist she slowly folds down fingers of bergamot, rose, jasmine, and violet. The early going is the clenched strength of these notes as they coalesce into a powerful floral accord. The geranium gives a green underpinning which also represents the space where the thumb composed of patchouli, labdanum and amyris thrusts itself through the fingers. This mostly resinous accord uses that subtle green as the launching pad to cleave the florals. Once the olfactory charm is complete a bit of vanilla and sandalwood ameliorate the force a tiny bit.

Figa has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Figa was the first of the Project Talisman perfumes to arrive in my mailbox. It was a perfect way to ease in to the project. It also encapsulates what I enjoy about these perfumes which come from these efforts. Figa is a continuation of the excellent work Ms. Waddington has been doing yet it feels more personal. I can almost imagine Senhora Azevedo’s spirit nodding in approval.

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

To read the review of Figa done over on CaFleureBon by The Nosey Artist follow this link.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Prisoner by Ryan Adams

There are musicians who find their inspiration in the low moments of life. Singer-songwriter Ryan Adams is one of those. His first solo album in 2000 called Heartbreaker clued us in to a man who would let his emotions guide his music. He has been one of my favorite musicians since then because of that genuine emotion within his songs.

It seemed like Mr. Adams had found some long-term happiness in his life when he married actress Mandy Moore in 2009. When it was announced in 2015 they were separating I must admit a selfish part of me thought there might be some good music from the experience to come. Which was why when the first release post-divorce was a complete re-interpretation of Taylor Swift’s “1989” it threw me. I thought it was his way of looking back from his 40’s as Ms. Swift looked forward from her 20’s. Maybe there was a message there. Which I thought meant there wasn’t going to be that assemblage of new music based on his divorce.

Then I found out he was releasing a new album in early 2017 called “Prisoner” which was going to be about his divorce. It came out in mid-February and is everything that I like about Mr. Adams’ music. I think it is a follow-up to that version of 1989 he released where the wistfulness of his version now transforms itself into honesty.

It starts with the first track, “Do You Still Love Me?” The loaded question any relationship that is beginning to fray doesn’t want answered. The bridge summarizes it all, “I didn’t want it to change/Is my heart blind and our love so strange?” The second track “Prisoner” more fully answers the question, “I know our love is wrong/ I am a criminal”. The difficulty in living in the house you shared when your partner is gone is explored in “Haunted House”. Every song on “Prisoner” examines a relationship which is disintegrating while you watch helplessly.

While the lyrics are much of the appeal of Mr. Adams there is also his throwback guitar licks which are also appealing. His style is a bit alt-country hearkening back to his early days in the band Whiskeytown prior to going solo. It also is a lot of that fuzzy crunchy guitar reminiscent of a lot of alt-rock bands in the 1990’s. Mr. Adams confidently splices those influences together into his own sound which fits his material as eloquently as his lyrics.

There is a part of me that feels churlish for liking this album as much as I do. It feels like I am asking the universe to not allow Mr. Adams to be happy in a relationship. I would like to think I am not putting that request out there; but maybe I am. If you are looking for music which unflinchingly looks at the emotional fallout of a divorce “Prisoner” is one you should give a listen to.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Cardamom

Spring is here right on schedule. Also, right on schedule is the beginning of my rotation of spring favorites to the front of the perfume wardrobe. Most opt for florals and aquatics. I prefer spice perfumes for the cool nights and warm days. One of my favorite shoulder season spices is cardamom. Here are five of my favorite fragrances featuring cardamom.

I can’t be 100% sure but I think the perfume which made me a cardamom fan was 1996’s Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant. Composed by perfumers Dominique Ropion and Jean-Louis Sieuzac under the creative direction of Celine Verleure; Jungle L’Elephant features a rich creamy cardamom among the panoply of spice as clove, cumin, licorice mix with mango, vanilla and amber. Jungle L’Elephant has always been that perfect shoulder season perfume. The equivalent of a lightweight cashmere sweater. It is among my very favorite perfumes, period.

Perhaps one of the oddest cardamom perfumes I own is Heeley Esprit du Tigre. Perfumer James Heeley wanted a fragrance which evoked the classic liniment Tiger Balm. Not your typical inspiration leading to an atypical perfume. A strong camphor and mint opening leads into a strong cardamom, black pepper, and clove heart which recreates the herbal scent of Tiger Balm. Vetiver finishes it with a green flourish. I wear this on the spring mornings which are a little cooler and the days don’t get that warm.

With the new renaissance of colognes cardamom has become one of the more popular ingredients in this trend.

In 2012 there was an entire collection of cologne nouveau from The Different Company all created by Emilie Coppermann with the creative direction of Luc Gabriel. I liked all of them but the one I wear the most is Sienne D’Orange. Mme Copperman uses a greener version of cardamom to go with orange in the top accord. She brilliantly uses carrot as the bridge to orris before finishing with a suede leather accord. This is exactly what imagination can provide to staid archetypes.

The same can be said for Thirdman Eau Contraire which was called Eau Nomade when I purchased it in 2013. Owner-Creative Director Jean-Christophe le Greves wanted a collection which pushed the envelope on cologne architecture. Working with perfumer Bruno Jovanovic this was an impressively realized collection of which Eau Contraire was my favorite. In this case M. Jovanovic used a hefty amount of cardamom to provide contrast to lemon and orange. A very technically adept mixture of various musks provide the development around this trio. This has been one of those perfumes which makes me smile broadly when I wear it.

As mentioned above a greener version of cardamom was beginning to be used by perfumers and I was wanting someone to really go all in with that ingredient. My wish was granted in 2014’s By Kilian Intoxicated as Calice Becker working with creative director Kilian Hennessy made a cup of strong spice infused Turkish coffee. Mme Becker formed a nucleus of strong rich coffee to which she added the green cardamom in a significant quantity so it could stand up to the coffee. It almost has a sappy stickiness in this concentration. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and caramel finish this off. Intoxicated is one of my favorite coffee fragrances but it is the green cardamom which makes that true.

If you’re looking for something to add to your spring fragrance rotation give these cardamom perfumes a try.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Joop! Wow!- Searching for Mr. Goodscent

Every generation has their scent for the nighttime. This is the subtle olfactory undercurrent on the dance floor when most of the people are predominantly wearing a couple of perfumes. I’m convinced that if you blindfolded me and placed me next to the action in a nightclub I could tell you what decade we were in just by breathing in. With the rise of a new generation of fragrance consumers there should concurrently arise this time period’s fragrances. Of course, the perfume brands are hoping they will be the one to breakthrough. As I sit here firmly in my armchair observing what those brands are putting forward there are times when it is obvious which ones hope to be that perfume. The latest contender for masculine perfume for Millennials is Joop! Wow!

One thing that was noticeable to me when I received my package containing Wow is Joop seems to be trying to reinvent itself as a luxury brand. I can’t say for sure what the general impression of the brand is but if you asked me for a list of luxury brands Joop would not make my list. I wonder if as they reach out to a new generation they are also looking to up their profile.

Christophe Raynaud

The fragrance, composed by perfumer Christophe Raynaud, feels like a modern reinvention of the 1980’s wood and spice bombs. Except with two of the qualities the current generation seemingly wants; transparency along with a bit of gourmand sweetness. Wow delivers all of this.

Wow opens with a fresh breeze of cardamom and bergamot. Violet leaves provide a soft green undercurrent which carries to the keynote geranium in the heart. That green current is continued with vetiver and fir balsam. All of this is reminiscent of those 1980’s men’s scents. The base then takes a turn for the sweet with vanilla and tonka creating that typical comfort accord.

Wow has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Wow is one of those fragrances which seems like it might be a big hit among its target audience. It feels blatantly designed to appeal to them. Only time will tell if this is what Mr. Goodscent will be wearing.

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by Joop.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Whisky & Cedarwood- The Devil’s Cut

There are times brands can still throw a curveball at me. When I received the announcement of the Jo Malone Bloomsbury Collection I was expecting something completely in keeping with the brand aesthetic developed over twenty years. The creative team at Jo Malone asked perfumer Yann Vasnier to make a set of five perfumes to represent the early Twentieth Century collection of intellectuals known as the Bloomsbury Group. Based in the London section bearing the same name it has taken on mythological import in the hundred years since its founding. I can’t say the five fragrances do much to remind me of a Lost Generation salon. What they do display is M. Vasnier’s versatility on his first work for the brand.

One thing M. Vasnier manages to do throughout all five perfumes is to take a titular note that you expect to have some depth instead are presented in an opaquer form. Which for people who shy away from the hi-test version might find these to be at a different intensity allowing you to relax in to it. Blue Hyacinth is a dewy spring version of hyacinth planted in moist earth. Garden Lilies goes for a waterier effect as the lilies in the name are waterlilies instead of the ones found in floral arrangements. Leather & Artemesia matches a suede leather accord with a light licorice-like note. Tobacco & Mandarin also lives up to its name with little else around and made transparent. All the above is typical Jo Malone kind of perfumes. The one which stood out for me and feels like little else in the entire Jo Malone collection is Whisky & Cedarwood.

Yann Vasnier

If you’ve ever visited a whisky distillery they will tell you during the aging in barrels there are two parts of what happens during that process. The amount of whisky that evaporates is called the Angel’s Share. The whisky that soaks in to the wood of the barrel is called The Devil’s Cut. Whisky & Cedarwood is a perfume of The Devil’s Cut.

M. Vasnier opens with allspice as the contrast for the whisky accord. I must complement M. Vasnier on employing a whisky accord which is not overwhelming in its booziness. Instead this is whisky almost as smelled from the person next to you at the bar. The cedar comes next completing the whisky soaked wood milieu. This is where the Devil gets his due. It is also where Whisky & Cedarwood lingers for quite a while until late in the development. That is where a truly odd high gloss waxed wood accord transforms the wood from barrel to bookcase. It works well but it feels so edgy for a line which does not usually willingly come close to that.

Whisky & Cedarwood has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

 If you are a Jo Malone fan I think the Bloomsbury Collection is worth seeking out to see if there is one which grabs you. Overall, I liked all five but Whisky & Cedarwood is the one I wanted to belly up to the bar with and share a drink with the Devil.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Agonist White Lies- Normal is Overrated

Sometimes, a brand which has been about being totally different must feel like throwing in the towel. These brands probably tire of writers, like me, saying I admire the perfume but I wouldn’t wear it. The Swedish perfume brand Agonist has a lot of these kind of perfumes. Despite my wariness to spend more time with them I have admiration for their ability to make fragrance on their own terms. When I write that I want something different it should be right on the bleeding edge of being wearable. Which made the latest release White Lies perplexing because this is a fairly straightforward niche spring floral.

The Agonist creative team of husband and wife Niclas  and Christine Lydeen  continuing to work with perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin decide to create a snappy white flower dominated fragrance. There is nothing here which is dramatically different from many other spring florals. Which makes it stand out among the Agonist collection while not necessarily among the overall niche fragrance sector. All of that might lead you to think I didn’t care for it but I did for a couple of reasons. The use of boisterous white flowers as the centerpiece of a spring floral is different from the plethora of roses. The other reason is there is a quite zippy fruity top accord that I enjoyed much more than I usually do.

Christine and Niclas Lydeen

White Lies opens with a tart sparkly lemon, a juicy raspberry, and sweet lychee. This forms a fruity accord of contrasts that was like a gourmet Sweet Tart. Then the white flowers arrive with jasmine and tuberose taking the lead. They are well-balanced within White Lies. The nice choice is to add heliotrope to provide a powdery softening of the two co-stars. The base is a standard patchouli, ambrox, and vanilla ending. Woody with a touch of sweet.

White Lies has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

If Agonist was planning on White Lies being their “normal” fragrance within the collection; they succeeded. The only thing that is bad about it is despite enjoying it I’m just as unlikely to wear it as some of the more avant-garde offerings. Not because it isn’t good but because it isn’t different enough. I understand the desire to just give the consumer what they want. Hopefully the next Agonist release will go back to giving the customer something to think about.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfums de Marly Delina- Floriental Gourmand

Parfums de Marly is not a brand which usually heads down the garden path with floral fragrances. They tend to work on the straight-up Oriental side of the street most often. Even the florals they have done have been Florientals. Up to this point it hasn’t been a strong suit because in some ways it didn’t feel like they had their heart in it. Which made it interesting that they decided to release their version of a spring rose. Just on past performance I would have had lowered expectations; Parfums de Marly Delina exceeded those expectations.

What also added to my interest was perfumer Quentin Bisch was composing his second perfume for the brand following on from 2015’s Carlisle. So far in M. Bisch’s short career he also hadn’t done one of these spring rose fragrances either. Which meant Delina might represent a benchmark for both brand and perfumer.

In M. Bisch’s perfumes to date if there is something which is becoming a hallmark it is adding an odd gourmand vibe. Delina gets this early on which helps freshen up what is a very common floral mixture in the heart.

Quentin Bisch

Delina opens with this offbeat gourmand note as M. Bisch employs lychee and its slightly musty sweetness. Bergamot is present to provide some structure. The real star in the early going is the rhubarb which adds a citrusy vegetal contrast to the lychee. Finally, to finish off the top accord some nutmeg breezes through it all. The florals appear; as muguet, rose, and peony provide that spring rose accord. M. Bisch uses a Turkish rose so there is a bit more depth but it is still a genteel rose. The Oriental base is made up of a few musks, cashmeran, and frankincense.

Delina has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is the first fully successful floral from Parfums de Marly. Delina is different because of that lychee focused top accord which provides a different perspective on the typical garden rose fragrance. It seems these sweet floral gourmands are an ongoing trend. Delina is a great version within that genre.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Parfums de Marly.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tadashi Shoji Eau de Rose- Establishing Flow

The last time I attended the entire New York Fashion Week there was a designer who left an impression, Tadashi Shoji. What had so impressed me was he had lived up to the concept so many fashion designers aspire to. When you hear anyone in fashion talk they will enthuse about the “flow” within their collection. What made me laugh at that is so few of them achieve that. It is so infrequent, that it captures my full attention when it happens. When I was sitting in the audience for the Tadashi Shoji Fall 2012 show I saw “flow”. The designs formed a coherent whole while building upon each design that came before. Fabric and detail moved sinuously around the models. Ever since Mr. Shoji has been all about this ability to create that effect year after year. When I was contacted by the team behind the new Tadashi Shoji Eau de Rose I wondered if “flow” could be translated to fragrance.

Tadashi Shoji Fall 2017

Mr. Shoji assembled an experienced team for his first fragrance. Help with creative direction came from Ruth Sutcliffe and John Bonifacio who worked with two perfumers; Jacques Chabert and Nathalie Koobus.

Tadashi Shoji

I must say I was a bit underwhelmed while waiting for my sample to arrive because here was another rose perfume headed my way. What made me enjoy Eau de Rose was that this creative team somehow lost the memo that spring rose perfumes must be dewy debutante-like rose. Eau de Rose is a different take finding that debutante grown up with some more experience. Another thing about the mediocre spring rose fragrances is they leave out all the other scents of spring. Eau de Rose begins with rhubarb one of the earliest harvests in a spring garden before opening with that debutante rose but maturing it with rose absolute to create something different than the other spring roses.

Ruth Sutcliffe

Eau de Rose is all about the rhubarb in the early moments. The perfumers make a choice to accentuate the raw earthy quality of the rhubarb by allowing the sulphurous nature of grapefruit and blackcurrant bud to provide the turned earth component. This is the early harvest of the raised bed garden next to the rose bush. The heart is that innocent debutante rose playing with her usual sisters of jasmine and muguet. If it had stayed like this I would have yawned but this is where the flow comes in. The perfumers use osmanthus to begin the transition from fresh dewy rose into a mature experienced version. The rose absolute used in the base accord is rich with a spicy heart to it. This allows for swirls of incense along with earthy patchouli to bring Eau de Rose full circle back to the early moments.

Eau de Rose has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Eau de Rose succeeds where so many others fall apart because the creative team could establish the same kind of flow in the perfume that is evident in Mr. Shoji’s fashion designs.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Tadashi Shoji.

Mark Behnke