New Perfume Review Pekji Odoon, Battaniye, and Zeybek- Woods, Wool, and Barns

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Continuing my reviews, begun yesterday, of the debut releases from Pekji by independent perfumer Omer Ipecki. Today are the remaining three; Odoon, Battaniye, and Zeybek.

Omer Ipecki

As I mentioned yesterday, I received some early efforts by Mr. Ipecki; Odoon was one of them. In its earlier form it was a monolith of wood. Like getting clubbed by a caveman. In the time since Mr. ipecki has taken that unapproachable piece of wood as if he was a sculptor. Discovering shades and texture while carving out a new perfume. In the current form of Odoon Mr. Ipecki has made a perfume of wood in which you can see the individual trees in the woods.

What Mr. Ipecki does is to build a pedestal for this wooden sculpture made of frankincense and fenugreek. The woods within that form are ash, cedar, sandalwood, oak, and pine. What is beautifully realized here is Mr. ipecki makes this as kaleidoscopic as multi-floral perfumes. As Odoon develops on my skin each of those woody ingredients peeks out. They rotate on that framework of maple-syrup tinted resin from the fenugreek and frankincense. This is a simply constructed perfume with a prismatic effect one you rarely encounter in a woody perfume.

Battaniye continues the theme of finding new perspectives for well-known fragrance types; in this case it is amber perfumes. This is an amber perfume, but it is also equal amounts of wet wool and earth. There is a part of Battaniye that reminds me strongly of the wool blanket my mother would wrap me up in when caught in a Florida thunderstorm. Wet wool has a subtle soapy scent from the lanolin which remains after the processing. Mr. Ipecki finds that subtlety with the use of floral ingredient Aurantiol.

Battaniye opens with the honeysuckle quality of Aurantiol infusing a wool accord. It produces a unique animalic effect. Just as I did as a child, I want to pull it closer. When I finally get my nose out of the wool accord what is waiting is dark earthy patchouli along with a simmering amber accord. Musk adds a tailing effect to the animalic aspect of the wool into the amber and patchouli. The base is a set of vetiver and labdanum. Battaniye is a perfume of coziness wrapped in a wool blanket.

These all leads to what I think is the best perfume in the collection; Zeybek. Everything else in the inaugural Pekji collection is Mr. Ipecki altering traditional perfume architectures. In Zeybek he builds a structure all his own; a horse barn. There have been barnyard-style fragrances before. None of the ones I’ve tried has successfully captured the entire milieu so successfully.

It opens with a bunch of sweet hay. Followed by lavender enough to remind one of a fougere. Before that thought can really take hold a mixture of floral and horse-like scents come forward. Mr. Ipecki told me that it is a mixture of cresols which are known for that hint of horsiness. Mr. Ipecki amplifies that while allowing the floral nature of the cresols he is using to provide the contrast. If I needed confirmation of how skilled Mr. Ipecki has become it is finding this balance. Cresols can get easily out of control. It takes a sure hand to make them behave. Mr. Ipecki shows that. The barnyard never overwhelms it finds just the right amount of dirt, hay and horse to become not only pleasant but compelling. There is a strong sea breeze running through this making me imagine this stable is on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean.

Odoon, Battaniye, and Zeybek all have 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mr. Ipecki is a new vital voice in independent perfume. He can reinvent the traditional or build something all his own. The success of his first five releases lays down a significant marker for the future.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples I received from Pekji.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Pekji Ruh and Eau Mer- New Rose Oriental and Aquatic

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I get a lot of early versions of perfumes by aspiring independent perfumers. I try to spend enough time with them to give relevant feedback. Most of the time when I am being asked, the perfumer has already committed to their concept. Infrequently I’ll receive perfumes where they really are early efforts. I enjoy these because I tend to have a good feel for whether the person behind the fragrance has something to say. Almost five years ago I received the early perfumes of Omer Ipecki. There was a real sense of talent not quite ready for prime time.

Mr. Ipecki continued to work on his perfumes. In 2015 there was a kind of beta test of the five perfumes which have become the debut collection released this year. When I tried those versions of the perfumes, they displayed the maturation of what I had experienced eighteen months prior. I found them almost there. There was some blurriness around the progression, but the concepts were solid. They were better than many other independent releases. The finished products released this year have produced something which stands out among the best perfumes of the year.

Omer Ipecki

I am going to review all five of the Pekji perfumes over the next two days. Today I start with the two which represent some of the most overused styles in all of perfumery. Mr. Ipecki injects new life into the rose perfume and the aquatic perfume in Ruh and Eaumer, respectively.

Ruh is a rose-focused Oriental. That is as trite a style of perfume as it comes. If there was something which stood out in Mr. Ipecki’s early efforts was his desire to rearrange the components of that which had become generic. In Ruh he adds a fresh perspective to give rise to something all his own.

Ruh opens on an afternoon break around coffee and cardamom-laced milk tea. The acidity of the coffee is closer to roasted oily beans then the brewed version. The milk tea is a gentle green tea loaded with green cardamom. That version of cardamom has stickiness to it especially in this concentration. The combination of bitter oiliness and steeped green vegetal stickiness is sublime. One thing I must warn people about is this top accord. If you try it on paper it never releases as fully as it does on skin. Ruh is at its best on skin. What you do smell first if you try it on a strip is the heart combination of saffron and rose. Just as with the cardamom Mr. Ipecki uses a high concentration of the saffron. That makes it more of an equal partner instead of a modifier as saffron usually interacts with rose in an Oriental construct. This carries an outsize effect over the top of an opulent Turkish rose. The saffron forcibly extracts the spicy core of the rose bringing it to the front of my senses. The cardamom and the coffee make a return to amplify the spiciness. This is where Mr. Ipecki has changed the Oriental by taking the traditional top notes of spices which become secondary to the rose; he uses those early spice notes to turn the heart of the rose inside out giving the spices primacy. The saffron remains the keynote as its leathery nature interacts with the traditional Oriental base accord to finish things.

The most complete perfume of the early versions Mr. Ipecki sent me was one he called Eaumer. He wanted to take the overexposed Calone infused fresh perfumes which exemplify the style to a more real place. If you’ve ever spent anytime around a marina getting ready to head out in a powerboat you will recognize Eaumer.

It is very easy to say “I want to make a Calone-free aquatic”. The worthy goal is harder to realize. To capture the smell of the water lapping up against the hull of the boat and the wood of the dock is not easy. It was why in that early version of Eaumer I was convinced Mr. Ipecki had talent. The aquatic accord of lime and herbs were there. I wanted a bit more green. Mr. ipecki provided it. There are herbs standing in for the algae clinging to the pilings on the dock as you get an intermittent whiff every time they are exposed to the air. The other new thing added in is the smell of gasoline on the water as the engine is refueled it leaves a prismatic slick on the water. You might be thinking algae and gasoline don’t sound pleasant. Mr. Ipecki uses them as atmosphere for where Eaumer is eventually heading; out on the open water. That is represented by a fantastically balanced accord of ambergris and Haitian vetiver. The brininess of the ambergris along with the freshness of the vetiver is the sense of sea spray breaking over the bow as you open the throttle up.

Ruh and Eaumer have 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Tomorrow I will finish the rest of the Pekji line with reviews of Odoon, Battaniye, and Zeybek.

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

Mark Behnke

A Tribute to Vero Kern 1940-2018

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When I tell people, I write about perfume the most frequent response I receive is, “Why?” My response usually takes a few seconds, maybe a minute, to say. I’ve realized there is a more succinct answer to the query, “Vero Kern”.

I would meet Vero for the first time through her perfume Rubj. Vero was at the forefront of independent perfumery. Those of you who have known Vero for longer will no doubt understand her wanting to be as independent about perfume as she was in the rest of her life. What it means when applied to fragrance making is an artist’s touch. The perfume you buy in the department store can be beautiful, but they are commerce. The kind of perfume Vero made was the expression of a creative mind who spoke in scented constructions. When I met Vero via Rubj Eau de Parfum I was greeted with the smell of passionfruit.

This is another aspect of Vero which I celebrate; the passion she gave to her work. In the form of the fruit but also in the meticulous way she designed her pieces. She didn’t release her first three perfumes until she had spent years achieving her vision. Those first three releases, Kiki. Onda, and Rubj were in the most concentrated form perfume takes, extrait. They were powerful statements of intent, of what perfume could aspire to. She dared you to see it differently.

Vero and Isi

The passionfruit arrived as she spent three years re-imagining her first three releases in a less concentrated form, eau de parfum. This is not just a process of dilution. It is a process of understanding what will happen upon making what was stronger more expansive. It opens spaces which need filling. Vero chose a little used perfume ingredient called passionfruit. The reason it was little used is it was an obstreperous material to use. No matter how much you tried to keep it down it would stubbornly get back up and persist. I think Vero might have recognized herself in that. How she would use that is she allowed the passionfruit to have those newly opened spaces in the lighter style of eau de parfum. She also made sure it wasn’t drowning out the inherent beauty.

In Rubj the passionfruit would find the outsized floral personalities of jasmine and orange blossom igniting a perfume which had all the sizzle of a huge firework exploding. This was the beauty one could only find from an independent artist like Vero.

I would come face-to-face with the outsized personality of Vero when I attended a large perfume expo in Milan. What came through in person was the mischievous glint in her eye. She had the artist’s disdain for the commercial style of perfume being displayed. I asked her what she thought. Of course, she answered that it was all dreadful. A few years later she had come to like me enough to use a more colorful term than dreadful.

Vero and I in Milan as she presented Rozy in 2014

My favorite memory of Vero happened at the same expo, three years later, in 2014. She was releasing her newest perfume Rozy. I had an appointment to meet her; allowing her to show me the new release. When I arrived, Vero was sitting in a chair sporting a black eye. My first thought was I bet the other person looks worse. When Vero told me, she had fallen I was somewhat relieved it was just an accident. There was a kind of rakish style to her one bruised eye behind her white-rimmed glasses. Despite all my concern about Vero when she handed me the strip of paper with the new perfume on it, magic happened. I was under the spell of what I consider to be the best post-modern rose perfume ever made. As I breathed in with eyes closed it was the same feeling I get when encountering artistic genius.

When I opened my eyes with a silly smile on my face the twinkle in her one bruised eye and one normal one showed she was pleased that she had one admirer of her work. Vero is the kind of artist who could only have thrived in the independent perfumery world. Her perfumes will continue to live and speak to her creativity. I have no doubt of that.

Vero’s perfumes will always carry the impact of her vision on the rest of my life. I will miss the joie de vivre of the person who enjoyed creating art via perfume.

Why do I write about perfume? Vero Kern.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Hiram Green Hyde- I Instead of Y

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Leather has become such a common luxury fabric I think most forget it is treated cowhide. Perfume has captured that process throughout its history. Leather accords have stood as identifiable signatures of certain perfumers. When I heard the new perfume from Hiram Green was going to be focused on leather, I wondered which direction he would take.

The new perfume is called Hyde. When I saw the name, I was first thinking of Mr. Hyde the alter ego of Dr. Jekyll. Once I received my sample it turns out it was more like a non-existent British spelling of the word “hide”. Mr. Green has made one of the deepest rawest leather accords I have ever experienced.

The magic ingredient here is birch tar. It was one of the key components of the classic “cuir de Russie” leather accord in the early days of modern perfumery. Birch tar as a component of a leather accord always has a hint of the smudge pot to me. Hyde is a celebration of birch tar which Mr. Green allows to take a place of prominence.

Hiram Green

Hyde begins with a blink and you miss it flare of citrus. If you’re of the name coming from Mr. Hyde those citrus notes are the last vestiges of Dr. Jekyll. The birch tar is there within seconds of application. It is there in such a concentration that it is like standing downwind of a road crew repaving the road. Pungent semi-medicinal waves of tar radiate off my skin. I don’t recall noticing the medicinal quality of birch tar in the past. In this kind of concentration, it shows new faces. In these moments it is tar and not leather. The transformation to leather happens with cassia flower. That ingredient begins to reach into the bubbling stew of birch tar and start pulling out pieces which refine the tar into leather. This is where Hyde turns the corner for me. The early going of birch tar soliflore pushed at the edge of my tolerance. Once this starts to become a leather accord through the cassia flower, at first, things become more mobile. Cassia provides a green effect as if it is botanically taming the birch tar. As it finally takes hold it becomes a raw untanned style of cowhide. This still retains the intensity. This takes a couple of hours. Over the next twenty-four hours that cowhide becomes more tanned. Oakmoss smooths out the green of the cassia blunting the woodsmoke scent from the birch tar. Labdanum takes it a step towards further refinement. The final ingredient is malted vanilla providing that inherent sweetness of tanned leather.

Hyde has 24-hour plus longevity and above average sillage.

Mr. Green has accomplished all this working with an all-natural palette. His entire collection is refutation of the canard that natural perfumes are weak and fleeting. There is nobody who will encounter Hyde and have either of those adjectives pop into their head. There is also a criticism of natural perfume at being kind of a blurry mush of ingredients. Hyde puts the lie to that, too. This slow-motion evolution of the leather accord is like watching a time-lapse of the processing of a cowhide. That’s what I walked away from after wearing Hyde. A remarkable experience in perfume composition which further confirms Mr. Green as one of the great talents of independent perfumery.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fath’s Essentials Tempete D’Automne and Red Shoes- Scent of a Muse

In yesterday’s review of Fath’s Essentials Le Loden and Velours Boise I mentioned this has been a heritage brand which has drawn from its history to make contemporary perfumes. In the perfumes composed by Luca Maffei he focused on the materials designer Jacques Fath would become known for. The other two of the new Fath’s Essentials releases, Tempete D’Automne and Red Shoes, focus on the muse of M. Fath.

Bettina in the 1950 September Issue of Vogue as photographed by Irving Penn

Today you aren’t an elite model until you are known by one name. That trend was begun in 1946 by M. Fath when he met Simone Micheline Bodin. He already had a model named Simone so he called her “Bettina”. She was his muse the apex of his designing career. The perfumes celebrating her are composed by Cecile Zarokian. Tempete D’Automne celebrates the short haircut inspired by M. Fath’s American trip where he was enamored of the crew cut look he saw. Red Shoes are from that iconic Irving Penn photo above from the 1950 September Issue of Vogue.

In Tempete D’Automne Mme Zarokian was looking to fuse the personality of Bettina with her androgynous look in the new haircut. It makes for fragrance of two phases. The first I think of as the bright laugh of someone who is enjoying herself. A giggle of citrus and baie rose turns into a full-throated laugh of cinnamon and coriander contrasted with lavender and ylang-ylang. The opening moments of Tempete D’Automne are kinetic. This is a joyful style. Mme Zarokian grounds it in a creamy sandalwood sweetened with tonka bean. This makes it an especially sweet version of this woody ingredient. A set of animalic musks with a leather accord rounds out everything.

Cecile Zarokian

It is exactly that picture above that Mme Zarokian used as her muse for designing Red Shoes. The top accord is meant to capture that blue stole. Mme Zarokian blends a mixture of aldehydes over grapefruit and berries. This is that sharp contrast of blue against red in the photo. The aldehydes act as if they are swirling around it all like the stole does. The dominant color of it all comes in a vibrant Rose Damascene absolute that explodes through the aldehydes as ginger and baie rose launch it upward. This is one of Mme Zarokian’s best rose accords. It is expansive along with a weight that doesn’t usually accompany that adjective. This is matched with a powerful patchouli which provides the grounding for that rose which preceded it. Once this all comes together it makes an impact; just as Bettina did.

Tempete D’Automne and Red Shoes have 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Red Shoes is among the best perfumes Mme Zarokian has made. What shouldn’t get lost is the more genteel charms of Tempete D’Automne which is a wonderful cozy sandalwood.

Creative director for Jacques Fath fragrances Rania Naim has allowed both of the perfumers to find what makes the brand unique and successfully translate it into perfume.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Jacques Fath.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fath’s Essentials Le Loden and Velours Boise- Wool & Velvet

There are several heritage perfume brands, now. This effort has seen a mixed record of success. Most of them either concentrate on modern re-formulations of the past or new perfumes inspired by the past. Very few try to do both, although I think it is essential to attempt it. A brand can’t live entirely in the past and a brand can’t choose not to evolve. It has been what has kept many of the heritage brands from flourishing. One which has become one of the leaders in how to do what I’ve described is Jacques Fath under Rania Naim.

Rania Naim

Mme Naim has looked back to the past beautifully recreating Green Water and Iris Gris; the great Jacques Fath perfumes of the past. The new versions have been overseen by someone who wants to get it as right as she can. Which I believe she has done. I cherish both new versions as I do the originals. She has also sought out young exciting perfumers on the new perfumes. For the Fath’s Essentials collection she has worked exclusively with Luca Maffei and Cecile Zarokian. They have delivered a series of fragrances which I have found true to the Jacques Fath heritage while also carrying the mark of Mme Naim and the perfumers. For the end of 2018 four new Fath’s Essentials have been released. Two by Sig. Maffei and two by Mme Zarokian. Today I am going to review the ones by Sig. Maffei followed by Mme Zarokian’s tomorrow.

Luca Maffei (l.) and Rania Naim

The two perfumes by Sig. Maffei were inspired by two fabrics used by Jacques Fath in his clothing designs. He takes that concept and creates two textural constructs.

In Le Loden he takes the heavy woolen fabric known for its use in coats and uses three sources of vetiver as his olfactory equivalents to the fabric.  He opens with Haitian vetiver in the background of a top accord focused on the energy ginger adds. This makes the Haitian vetiver a bit greener in effect which is kept that way by using baie rose’s herbal quality along with a green mandarin teasing out the citrus quality of this style of vetiver, too. In the heart the traditional Bourbon vetiver steps to the foreground. Some geranium picks out the floral quality. Juniper berry and raspberry leaves find the more obvious citric nature of this kind of vetiver. In the base the earthy Java vetiver uses patchouli to add to that quality while a bit of smoke seeps in around the margins. I found the intelligent use of the “heavy” vetiver ingredients similar to the way M. Fath took the heavy woolen Loden in creating something contemporary.

Luca Maffei

If there is a fabric M. Fath is known for it is velvet. Many of his iconic evening gowns were made of this material. I’ve always loved the tactile feel of the material it has always felt plush to me. Sig. Maffei, in Velours Boise, wants the same feeling for his “wooden velvet”. The wood he chooses to mimic velvet is one of the newer sustainable sandalwood extracts from New Caledonia. These have always struck me as softer than the original Mysore variety, but velvet-y is not how I would describe them. Sig. Maffei takes the sandalwood and finds a way to turn it into the fabric he’s trying to emulate.

It opens with the sandalwood in the central position. In the top accord Sig. Maffei chooses a couple of ingredients to sharpen the woodier nature with mate tea and davana. The softening process begins with a clever pairing of immortelle and carrot seed. These botanically sweeter ingredients flow across the creamy woody nature of the sandalwood. This is where the velvet effect comes to life. Over the base accord Sig. Maffei adds some whisky for a boozy contrast which retains the warmth. Some amber further deepens that. I have a scarf which I’ve turned into woody velvet by spraying it with a lot of Velours Boise.

Le Loden and Velours Boise have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’ll finish tomorrow with the two by Mme Zarokian.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Jacques Fath.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: German Christmas Cookies

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Like a lot of people, I’ve done that mail-in DNA test which tells you about your genetic heritage. Unlike the commercials which show you people finding out surprising things; I was not surprised. On my mother’s side of the family we have had a long-time genealogy which allowed me to go all the way back to a family of Pilgrims named the Lamplighters. The DNA test confirmed that to the tune of 63%.

Most of the rest of my heritage is Germanic. This time it wasn’t a meticulously researched family tree which made me know this. It was the baking my Grandmother did when she visited at the Holidays. I called my Grandmother; GaGa. It was confusing enough that when I first heard the phrase “going gaga” I thought that meant acting like an old person. She was the original Lady GaGa to me and I still giggle inwardly when I see the singer performing.

There is a grand tradition of spiced cookies and pastries attached to German Christmas traditions. GaGa would take over our kitchen and bake them all. While not precisely gingerbread I think my life-long love of gingerbread sprung from these Holiday treats.

Pfeffernusse

One of my favorites were the little powdered cookies called Pfeffernusse. GaGa gave me some of my only German heritage lessons by teaching me how to pronounce the treat. It isn’t “feffer-noose” it is “feffer-news-ah”. Those who want to skip the pronunciation thing altogether can just call then German Gingerbread or German Spice Cookies.

GaGa’s secret ingredient was a spice mixture she brought with her in a clear jar. It was her special mixture of cinnamon, clove, ginger and other things. It is that piece of the recipe I have never been able to replicate. When I make pfeffernusse they are fine but not great. GaGa’s pfeffernusse were great.

Zimsterne

At least pfeffernusse I can try and make. It was the other cookie which is my favorite called Zimtsterne.

What sets these apart is they are flour-less cookies. The replacement is ground almonds until it reaches the consistency of flour. This was one of my favorite parts of helping GaGa bake; pulverizing the almonds. She would put them in a clean towel and use a baking pin to bash them at first into little pieces. Then I could join in standing on a step-stool so I could roll the pin back and forth. GaGa would sift the mixture saving the bigger pieces. Then she would add her spice mixture. After she would make the dough and roll it out, I took the star-shaped cookie cutter and went to work. As I cut them GaGa glazed them. The cookies had to sit overnight before baking. The next morning, they would bake while we ate breakfast.

I can make Pfeffernusse but I’ve never really given Zimtsterne a try because of the almond part of it. I do search them out and there is a good German bakery where I always get some every Holiday season. It reminds me of GaGa and my German heritage.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ralph Lauren Collection Saffron- Soft Soliflore

Ever since the success of the early designer luxury brands it was only a matter of time until they all ended up producing a collection. What was surprising was how long it took one of the most successful mainstream designer collections to catch up to its peers. In 2016 the Ralph Lauren Collection was released with ten perfumes. The decision was to create soliflore style perfumes based on a focal point, named on the label, supported by two other notes. Like any debut collection of that many entries it was uneven but when it worked the potential was there.

One from those initial ten which worked was Oud by perfumer Carlos Benaim. By going with the smoky quality of the title note it stood out for having a rougher style than the others. It turned out that the concept was a bit flawed when observed over ten perfumes. To their credit unlike some other of their contemporaries they didn’t follow up with multiple releases every couple of months. They waited two years before adding the eleventh entry; Ralph Lauren Collection Saffron.

Carlos Benaim

M. Benaim was asked to be the perfumer behind Saffron. If what I liked about Oud was the rougher edges; in Saffron he impresses me with the opposite. He creates a plush transparent Oriental style of fragrance. One of the other big differences was there are more than three ingredients. It carries a large effect producing a more pleasing experience.

I knew I was going to experience something different when I smelled the top accord; it had three notes all on its own. The citrus of grapefruit, the spiciness of cardamom and the piquancy of black pepper. This was a delightful combination of three of my favorite top notes. M. Benaim allows the cardamom the place of prominence, but the grapefruit captures the citrus-y character of cardamom while the black pepper provides texture. Saffron has a warm sweet botanical leathery effect when used at a higher concentration as it is here. M. Benaim provides an herbal contrast in davana, adding a bit of bite. It continues a languorous development into a full-fledged suede accord in the base. It ends on a synthetic woody base which keeps things on the light side over the final hours.

Saffron has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Saffron is by far the best in the Ralph Lauren Collection. One reason might be there was a two-year gap between ten releases and one. The other one might be to relent on the concept of three ingredient perfumes. Whatever the reason, the original ten were easy to dismiss. You might even be walking by them in your local store thinking you know what’s there. Next time see if there is an eleventh bottle and give Saffron a try. You might join me in looking forward to what comes next.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bergdorf-Goodman.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maria McElroy for American Perfumer Desert Flower- The Soul of Memory

In a shop in Louisville, Kentucky is the first store dedicated to the art and creativity of the American independent perfumer. It is called, appropriately, American Perfumer. Owner Dave Kern has curated a collection of the best this sector has to offer. He believes, as I do, that a consumer who is exposed to what is offered will see the difference.

American Perfumer in Louisville, Kentucky

One of those differences is these perfumers create from a sincere place within. This is not focus group driven fragrance. This is emotionally creative artistic perfume. It means each perfumer brings something unique to their brand. One of the ways Mr. Kern wanted to stand out was to offer exclusive limited editions by the perfumers of the brands which were on his shelves. The first one was reviewed yesterday, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz for American Perfumer Colorado. For the second limited edition Mr. Kern asked Maria McElroy, the perfumer behind aroma M and House of Cherry Bomb. Mr. Kern chose these two perfumers because, “I knew they’d make beautiful, interesting work and get it done on time. That said, in every way, they exceeded my expectations.”

Mr. Kern kickstarted the creative process by asking Ms. McElroy “if she had any scent-memories from growing up in Utah”. A simple brief which doesn’t match the complex perfume which has sprung from it. In the notes which Ms. McElroy included with my sample she remembered car trips across the Mojave Desert while she was “reciting Jack Kerouac lines”. This would be crossed with a more recent trip to Marrakech where the Brooklynite Ms. McElroy is now reconnected with the child in the backseat as she gazed out upon the Sahara Desert nearly half a world away. That is the inspiration for Maria McElroy for American Perfumer Desert Flower.

Maria McElroy

While in Marrakech she would source small amounts of different oils which is what she uses in Desert Flower. This creates an incredibly unique fragrance. It is part of what American independent perfumery stands for. Artists who will create something exquisite in a small batch which might never be replicated.

For those who have read my reviews of Ms. McElroy’s aroma M perfumes she has a way of connecting with my storytelling urge to create a fiction around her perfumes. Something like Desert Flower was always going to cause that urge to come to the foreground again. In this case I imagine a hiker reaching Monument Valley after having crossed Utah from Colorado.

The hiker was thinking of the Navajo guide who showed him to the campsite for the night. As he explained the ground rules for camping, he made sure he had my attention when he said, “This is the place where Yikaisdaha (The Milky Way) aligns with the Earth. It is where the Heavens and Earth meet.” The hiker had just finished stowing his cooking materials after dinner. He gazed out across the desert floor towards the rock formations known as The Mittens. The sun crossed the floor lighting up the red rocks with the final rays of the day. The hiker noticed there were some desert flowers blooming in the twilight their scent released as the sun disappeared. It always impressed the hiker how much the few flowers which thrived in the desert could fill the air with their perfume. The strong woods of the desert provided a sonorous bass line. As the evening progressed and the hiker watched the span of Yikaisdaha slowly lower itself towards the floor of the desert a deep inky black scent overtook the night. That was the last thought of the hiker until the sun woke him the next morning. The only surety he had it was real was the lone desert flower greeting the day. He wondered what Arizona would smell like.

Ms. McElroy creates a perfume which captures the moment when night first falls in the desert and cereus flowers, among many others, turn the world into a floral wonderland. The use of authentic Arabian oils adds unbelievable nuance throughout.

Desert Flower opens with a dense mixture of floral ingredients. This is a gigantic floral accord which could have gotten out of control. Ms. McElroy keeps that from happening by using honey to form a soft sticky embrace of the florals. This by itself would be amazing but there is one last accord to be added; an oud-tinted chypre. Ms. McElroy excels at using precious materials. This chypre accord wherein she inserts genuine oud oil is remarkable. It adds an exotic twist to an already excellent chypre accord. The best chypres feel like they are inky scents; the inclusion of the oud alters it in a way I wanted more of.

Desert Flower has 12-14 hour longevity and it is a pure parfum concentration which means minimal sillage.

If you are a lover of full-bodied floral perfumes Desert Flower is a rare jewel made up of rare ingredients. It is something which you will regret missing if this sounds like your kind of perfume. It is my kind of perfume where Ms. McElroy takes the soul of memory transforming it into perfumed art.

I’ll finish with a quote from “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac, “As we crossed the Colorado-Utah border I saw God in the sky in the form of huge gold sunburning clouds above the desert that seemed to point at me and say, “Pass here you’re on the road to heaven.”

Mr. Kern, in overseeing his first two limited editions for American Perfumer, has taken us from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s Colorado to Maria McElroy’s Utah-inspired Desert Flower. Thus laying down the first two miles on “the road to heaven” with the heart and soul of American perfumery.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Maria McElroy.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Dawn Spencer Hurwitz for American Perfumer Colorado- High-Altitude Heart

One of many things I learned while I was managing editor at CaFleureBon was the breadth of creativity in American Perfumery. Editor-in-Chief Michelyn Camen has been the most tireless supporter of these national treasures through her series on CaFleureBon called Profiles in American Perfumery. Over 130 posts where the perfumer speaks in their own words. I had always wondered if there was enough for someone to open a store dedicated to American independent perfume.

Inside American Perfume in Louisville, Kentucky

The answer came this past September with the opening of American Perfumer in Louisville, Kentucky. Owner Dave Kern opened a shop dedicated to showcasing the best of American independent perfume. When I looked over what he chose to fill his shelves it was obvious he had gathered brands from every part of the country. What I was hoping for, was over time Mr. Kern would collaborate with some of these artists for limited editions exclusive to the store. It turns out Mr. Kern was way ahead of me. He was going to do this right away.

When I asked him about how he chose who to ask to do the first two he answered, “When I started to reach out to American perfumers about the AMERICAN PERFUMER concept two years ago, Dawn and Maria both quickly emerged as friends, advisors and confidants. As two people that I had tremendous respect for, their immediate encouragement, and enthusiasm for what I was proposing, gave me great confidence that I was onto something.” The Dawn is Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes and the Maria is Maria McElroy of aroma M and House of Cherry Bomb. Mr. Kern continued, “Launching the Limited Editions with them was always the plan. Practically speaking, Dawn and Maria are quality assurance. I knew they’d make beautiful, interesting work and get it done on time. That said, in every way, they exceeded my expectations.”

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Over the next two days I am going to review both gorgeous limited editions which show off the heart and soul of American Perfumery. I start today with Dawn Spencer Hurwitz for American Perfumer Colorado and will follow tomorrow with Maria McElroy for American Perfumer Desert Flower.

Like many of the best perfumes they start with a simple query. This one began with Mr. Kern asking Ms. Hurwitz “what Colorado smelled like.” Ms. Hurwitz is based in Boulder, Colorado which makes it easy for her to answer that question. For those who are fans of Ms. Hurwitz’s perfume she has been showing us what Colorado smells like in perfumes like The Voices of Trees, Mountain Sage, or Rocky Mountain High. Colorado fits in that continuum as you breathe in the high-altitude milieu on the slopes of the Rockies.

Ms. Hurwitz opens Colorado on a top accord primarily of spruce. To keep that from becoming too generic in its piney-ness Ms. Hurwitz cleverly supports it with a sunbeam of neroli and a softening of the terpenic sharpness with softer leafy ingredients. This blunts the pine needles from getting too sharp right off the bat. As we gain altitude we pass through a stand of clean woods of cedar and sandalwood. Ms. Hurwitz winds strands of jasmine and immortelle through the woods to capture the wildflowers in bloom. The immortelle adds a richness to these otherwise straightforward woody ingredients. Once you reach the highest altitude all you have left are the sentinel pine trees overseeing the valley. The base accord is a superbly realized mixture of three sources of pine combined with balsam. This is that breath of chilled air carrying the scent of the trees along with it. A subtle filament of cade swirls though as if woodsmoke from a cabin far below has risen to the peak.

Colorado has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you are a fan of any of Ms. Hurwitz’s perfumes which feature pine, Colorado is an essential piece of that series. They are among my very favorite styles that Ms. Hurwitz produces. I have always found the perfumes from Ms. Hurwitz to display the heart of an artist at work. In Colorado she shares the love of the place she lives with a perfume that soars over her personal American landscape.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz.

Mark Behnke