My Favorite Things: Nutmeg

Nutmeg is one of the smells of the Holidays for me but I also realize it is one of my favorite perfume notes for the rest of the year as well. If I really wanted to stretch this point to its breaking point I could say without nutmeg my perfume journey might never have begun. If you want to spritz a little nutmeg on here are five of my favorites.

It was the nutmeg that lured me over to the woman spraying strips with Calvin Klein Obsession for Men. The 1986 perfume composed by Bob Slattery uses nutmeg as the leader of the spices in the heart. I knew when I smelled it wafting to my nose it smelled different than other masculine designed spice perfumes. Mr. Slattery adds in clove, coriander, and sage along with lavender and myrrh. It ends on a traditional woody base of sandalwood and vetiver. It is that spicy heart which still appeals to me almost thirty years later.

The most famous nutmeg perfume is likely Jo Malone Nutmeg & Ginger. At first created as a little present for Ms. Malone’s clients it would be the perfume which launched one of the earliest successful niche brands. Like all Jo Malone fragrances, you get a lot of what it says on the bottle as ginger rides in on the shoulders of neroli and lemon to meet nutmeg embracing cinnamon and clary sage before ending on a sandalwood base note. Everything that is admirable and what made Jo Malone something of a trendsetter is on display right from the start.

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Sometimes I want my nutmeg as a side to some white flowers. My favorite white flower nutmeg combo plate is 1996’s Givenchy Organza created by a committee of Sophia Grojsman, Nathalie Lorson, and Sophie Labbe. Organza takes a green sappy accord and dives right into a heart of luscious gardenia and jasmine. The nutmeg forms a spicy sweet woody base with vanilla and cedar. You might think white flowers can’t be tamed with nutmeg, Organza proves that hypothesis incorrect.

A fellow forum poster on Basenotes gifted me a sample of Frapin Caravelle Epicee. If Obsession for Men started the journey Caravelle Epicee was when I completely fell down the rabbit hole. I frequently describe this 2007 creation by perfumer Jean-Marie Faugier as the hold of a Dutch East India company boat just after it is unloaded. Nutmeg and coriander are the first of many spices which form the olfactory spics ship. Thyme, allspice, pepper, and tobacco form the manifest. The smell of the wood of the ship is infused with patchouli. This is as close as I have to a single favorite perfume.

Carner Barcelona Rima XI composed by perfumer Sonia Constant is one of the softest spicy perfumes I own. It is a soft place to lay one’s head and allow nutmeg, cardamom, saffron, pepper, cinnamon, coriander, and mint to surround you in a spicy haze. You almost don’t notice the equally quiet jasmine and sandalwood but they make Rima XI the complete perfume that it is.

This was bit of a journey down my perfume lover’s memory lane with the scent of nutmeg accompanying me.

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

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Pine

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While many spend the time after Thanksgiving in the US shopping I spend it a different way. The Friday after Thanksgiving is the beginning of Christmas for me. What that means is I leave the shopping mall behind and head to the Christmas tree lot to buy a tree and pine roping to drape around the house. There are many scents I associate with the holiday season but the clean green coniferous smell of pine is with me every day of the last month of the year. In honor of the beginning of the Holidays I am going to name my five favorite pine perfumes.

When I first moved to Boston I was told of this fantastic little perfume shop in Harvard Square called Colonial Drug. It was the definition of a perfume lover’s paradise as Cathy, the owner, had a huge selection of European perfumes you couldn’t find anywhere else. The first time I went in she was busy extolling the virtues of Pino Silvestre to the male customer. Over many years I would see the green pine cone shaped bottle leave the store in a bag because perfumer Lino Vidal made a pine fragrance which did not smell like an air freshener. Sharp sunny citrus dives deep into a pine note surrounded by clove, sage, and rosemary. It all ends up on a cedar and sandalwood foundation. There is a reason this sits on a lot of men’s dressers in the Boston area.

Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles is one of the few pine perfumes you will encounter where the lighter nature of pine needles are as evident. Christopher Sheldrake composing under Serge Lutens creative direction uses those pine needles in the top to create an airy coniferous experience. Soon enough a host of resinous notes allow the sap to rise. The final camphor note is like breathing in cold air in the middle of the Christmas tree lot.

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Christian Dior La Collection Privee Granville was a perfume which had to win me over. When I first tried Francois Demachy’s pine perfume it was not what I expected as strong citrus, herbs, and a particularly strong gorse note all seemed to be competing with each other. Over time Granville’s eclectic kinetic quality has won me over and it is one of my favorites of Dior’s exclusive collection. Tart lemon and herbal thyme open things up. Black pepper and rosemary join the pine in the heart. The gorse blows in soon after before sandalwood finishes things up. Over time I realized Granville is a more modern take on the same themes used in Pino Silvestre. My appreciation and affection for Granville probably was an evolution of my perfume tastes without my being conscious of it.

My final two choices exemplify the reason independent perfume can be so exhilarating when the perfumer finds a unique small batch ingredient. Samantha Rader the perfumer behind Dasein Winter sourced a pine essential oil from the Austrian Alps to use as the centerpiece of her first release. By understanding her raw material was something special she wisely did not complicate the experience and only used cardamom and lavender to complement. The lavender really evokes the Alpine milieu in particular. This is the smell of carrying that Christmas tree home in my arms, face pressed into the branches.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz found a local wildcrafter Eric Bresselsmith of House of Aromatics to source a pinon essential oil infused with fifty-year old pine resin crystals for her DSH Perfumes Seve de Pin. Ms. Hurwitz also keeps it simple but she chooses some notes to be more interactive with the pinon oil instead of framing it. Early on it is a group of green notes to evoke the rest of the forest besides the pine. Once the pine comes out rose and amyris use their floral character to smooth out the rough edges and provide depth. The base is a deeper dive into the resinous as olibanum and labdanum come forward. Seve de Pin is the most photorealistic pine perfume I own. Whenever I want to be in the Holiday mood I just need a drop or two to get me there, even in July.

If you need a little perfume to carry around the pine scentd of the Holidays these five are worth giving a try.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Iris

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One of my favorite fall floral notes is iris. There is something about the dual faces it presents sometimes powdery, sometimes rooty and earthy; with all of the variations in between. I’ve written in The Gold Standard that Stephane Humbert-Lucas 777 Khol de Bahrein is my very favorite iris perfume. As we head in to the heart of autumn here are five more iris perfumes I’ll be wearing.

Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist was my gold standard for iris until Khol de Bahrein arrived. Released in 1994 and composed by Christopher Sheldrake and Maurice Roucel this was the Serge Lutens I sent someone to Paris to bring back for me. This is an iris like no other as the perfumers provide a metallic edge which eventually becomes the foundation for another metallic note incense. This is why I fell in love with Serge Lutens.

When perfumer Yann Vasnier works with creative director DelRae Roth they produce some very fine perfumes. DelRae Mythique is what happens when they take on iris. What they released was a non-powdery iris wrapped in suede. The suede accord M. Vasnier created for Mythique is one of my favorites in all of perfumery. The choice to stay more to the earthy rooty side pays off handsomely.

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When I do want the powdery iris I almost invariably reach for Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Iris Poudre. When skiers talk about ideal conditions they talk about deep powder. Perfumer Pierre Bourdon makes Iris Poudre deep powder of the perfumed variety. It is a remembrance of the day when all cosmetics carried a bit of iris as fragrance. The evocation of the cosmetics counter eventually gives way to a woody softness.

The best iris soliflore I own is Chanel 28 La Pausa. This is iris done in an elegant spare style. Perfumers Francois Demachy and Jacques Polge combined to create this beauty. At its core is a Florentine iris. The perfumers wisely add in only two other ingredients; baie rose and vetiver. The baie rose helps to keep the powderiness a little more controlled. The vetiver brings the earthy character a little more to the foreground. This is meant to be admired like a fine jewel from all angles.

Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir took a while to really make an impression on me. When it finally did after many months I wondered to myself why I ever resisted. Creative Director Linda Pilkington working with perfumer Geza Schoen have the iris play the heart while darkness swirls around it. The iris shows off all of its character with powdery aspects pushing back against coriander and davana on top. By the time incense, myrrh, and patchouli show up in the base the earthiness is what you notice. This is one of the few perfumes with “noir” in the name which earns the name.

With autumn in full swing if you need a floral to add to your perfume wardrobe give these five iris perfumes a shot.

Disclosure: This review based on bottles of each perfume I purchased.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Oud

The seasonal rotation has begun as the vetivers, aquatics, and citrus perfumes move towards the back of the shelves and the cold-weather favorites come forward. A nice aspect of this change in perfumes is I welcome back these perfumes like long lost friends. It is particularly helpful in a sector of fragrance as crowded as oud perfumes. There are so many oud releases it is easy to become jaded. It is hard to believe it has only been thirteen years since Yves Saint Laurent M7 introduced oud to the western perfume conversation. Ever since it has been a mad rush to embrace this precious and fractious note. When I was thinking about my favorite oud perfumes I realized it is the ones where the perfumer doesn’t just allow the exoticism to lay there and act weird. These five perfumes are examples of perfumers working to bend oud to their will which is why I think they have all stood the test of time with me.

Very top of my list is the Mona di Orio Oudh Osmanthus. It was the last perfume released prior to Mme di Orio’s untimely passing. It is the best perfume of her career and I thought it was the best new perfume of 2011. She tamed the oud with a multi-layered effect surrounding osmanthus. By early on embracing the faux-oud of cypriol before heading to a mix of genuine Laotian white oud and oud in the base. This is how you make oud something like you’ve never smelled before. It is what I consider to be one of the five best perfumes of the past five years.

It would only be a few months before I found another oud to swoon over. Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud is also another testament to a master perfumer’s ability to wring new facets out of something as overplayed as oud. M. Kurkdjian’s choices are to first frame it in the clean woodiness of cedar before planting it in the earthiness of patchouli and finally upping the exoticism quotient with saffron.

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Liz Zorn is one of those independent perfumers who definitely illuminate the mundane into the extraordinary. The best example of her ability to do that is Soivohle Oudh Lacquer. The core of this perfume is a sinkwood tincture which takes Ms. Zorn a year to make. As the source of the oudh it adds a complexity you will not find in other oud perfumes.The lacquer is a dense chocolate. I couldn’t have told you before trying Oudh Lacquer how much I would like chocolate and oud. Not only do I love it but nobody who has tried to do this since has even come close to the richness of Oudh Lacquer.

Memo Shams Oud required a personal shopper to bring it back to me from Paris early in 2012. Clara Molloy creatively directing perfumer Alienor Massenet make an oud which rides on a sunbeam. An explosive spicy opening of ginger, pepper, and saffron turns greenish with vetiver and papyrus. The oud arises on a platform of birch and balsam. It is the reason I fell in love with this brand at first sniff.

By Kilian Rose Oud is the most traditional of my favorite ouds as rose and oud are the classic Middle Eastern pairing. Perfumer Calice Becker fuses a very European rose with an oud accord to create what I consider to be the best of these rose and oud combinations by a Western perfume brand.

As I was writing this I came to the realization that each one of these perfumes made my top 25 of the year they were released. I think it goes to show that a talented creative mind can make something transcendent even from the most pedestrian of notes.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased of each perfume.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things- Honey

When it comes to the culinary arts honey is one of my favorite ingredients to use. It has so much versatility in the kitchen. When it comes to my sense of smell it can be an entirely different experience. Honey when used as the focal point of a fragrance has a tipping point for me. After a certain concentration it changes from being a bit of viscous sweet sunshine to the smell of a urinal cake. I am not unique in this as the perfume forums are full of the same kind of impressions. That doesn’t mean there aren’t perfumes which are on the good side of the line. Here are five honey perfumes I think stay away from the less desirable aspects of honey in perfume.

The first honey perfume I fell in love with was 2004’s Christian Dior La Collection Privee Bois D’Argent by Annick Menardo. An opaque opening of incense and iris evolves into a heart of honey and myrrh. Mme Menardo creates a gauzy drizzle of resins and honey which eventually finds purchase on a base of suede leather. One of Mme Menardo’s best creations ever.

The small perfume brand which has come out of the Bordeaux vineyard Maison Ginestet has made one of the best honey perfumes. Ginestet Botrytis is composed by perfumer Gilles Toledano. M. Toledano wanted to create a perfume reminiscent of the botrytis fungus which helps concentrate the sugar content of grapes. The perfume named after that is a rich mix of honey and quince most recognizably but there are a host of other candied fruits underneath. It all rests on a white flower infused spice bread accord. The wine snob and the perfume snob both approve of M. Toledano’s interpretation of both.

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Tokyo Milk Honey and the Moon No. 10 by Margot Elena is one of those amazing bang for the buck fragrances. I tried it for the first time in a promotional rollerball while waiting in line in Sephora. I was back a day later to buy a full bottle. It is a simple construction of sugary sweet on top. Candied violet and honey in the heart leading to sandalwood. It is simply constructed and one of my favorite very sweet perfumes.

The cumin, caraway, and honey opening of Maison Francis Kurkdjian Absolue pour Le Soir by Francis Kurkdjian is just the beginning of what I think is one of the best perfumes of the last five years. Whenever I need to remind myself of the artistry of perfume Absolue pour Le Soir is where I turn. The remainder of this perfume moves through an incense soaked rose down into an intensely woody base of sandalwood and cedar. This is not perfume for the faint of heart. It is perfume for those who love perfume.

I am not sure I have any more words left to praise Vero Profumo Rozy Voile D’Extrait by perfumer Vero Kern. My perfume of the year for 2014 by my perfumer of the year for 2014. I have said it before and I say it again this is the best post-modern rose ever. The reason is the honey which forms the viscous core around which rose, spice, and labdanum are suspended. It is an incredible feat of perfumery.

As I finished this list it occurred to me that for all that I am wary of honey in fragrance I consider four of these perfumes among the best ever made. It is probably the strongest collection of My Favorite Things to date. If you do like honey these are five perfumes which should be on your list to try.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things- Violet

Because many of my favorite wetshaving products are violet scented I think I am predisposed to liking any perfume which does violet well. I also find my favorite violet perfumes do especially well in the heat of summer. As the mercury has climbed I’ve found myself wanting to take a violet break. If you want to join me here are five of my favorite violet perfumes.

Comme des Garcons X Stephen Jones signed by Antoine Maisondieu. This is also probably my all-time favorite violet fragrance. What makes that statement a little funny is this is the least violet-like fragrance on this list. M. Maisondieu creates an iris which has been crushed by a meteorite. Hot mineralic facets and the smell of over-heated electronics wrap up the violet and violet leaves in a futuristic take on violet that is among the most worn perfumes I own.

Mona di Orio Violette Fumee signed by Mona di Orio. Violet Fumee was the first perfume released after Mme di Orio’s death. It was a fragrance she composed for her longtime partner Jeroen Oude Sogtoen. She combined many of his favorite smells but primarily this is a violet and tobacco perfume. A beautifully resinous finish of myrrh and casmeran provides some of Mme di Orio’s trademark shadowplay. Like the Stephen Jones above combining the violet with something which smokes provides an interesting platform for the violet to play off of.

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Tom Ford Violet Blonde signed by Antoine Lie. This perfume is often jokingly called Violent Blonde because this is by far the most powerful violet I wear. M. Lie throws subtlety out the window as he layers on orris, leather, vetiver, and baie rose. These are all amplifying notes for the violet which lands with the force of a sledgehammer. I often think how much I like the transparent types of fragrances. Violet Blonde reminds how much I like something a lot less filmy from time to time.

Ulrich Lang Lightscape is one of those transparent kind of violets. Lightscape combines violet and iris in a purple flower fantasia. What always surprises me when I wear Lightscape is it manages to remove the two most problematic aspects of violet and iris, the metallic and powdery qualities, respectively. I have made many samples for people who just can’t believe how good these two notes combine here.

Atelier Cologne Sous Le Toit de Paris signed by Ralf Schwieger. This is the perfume I layer on top of my shaving routine when it has been an all-violet morning. If you want an incredibly authentic violet this is your perfume. Hr. Schwieger allows the violet to form the core on top of which he adds the traditional cologne ingredients of neroli and bergamot and leads to a non-traditional cologne base of leather. This has become one of my summer staples because there is simply no better way to start my day.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Rum

Ahoy Mateys, Captain Colognoisseur is here to invite you for a bit of perfumed grog. I am a big fan of boozy notes in my perfume and one of my favorites is when rum is the source of that effect. There aren’t a whole lot of rum perfumes out there as I realized once I started putting this list together. Even so these five perfumes are some of my favorites to wear when I want to go all piratical.

If there was ever a perfume that sold me on how good rum could be in a perfume it was 2005’s Idole de Lubin by Olivia Giacobetti. This modern version was a re-interpretation of the original from 1962. Idole de Lubin has Mme Giacobetti’s transparent aesthetic on display. That aesthetic is often compared to a silk scarf. This time the scarf has been doused with rum. What is underneath is saffron, ginger, sugar, leather and sandalwood.

By Kilian Straight to Heaven by Sidonie Lancesseur is a Spice Islands tableau of rum, nutmeg, jasmine, patchouli, and vanilla. Mme Lancesseur combines everything into this darkly decadent perfume. This is the complete antithesis to Idole de Lubin in strength as Straight to Heaven is like taking a swig straight from the bottle.

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Amouage Opus V by Jacques Cavallier shows a more delicate side of rum. M. Cavallier combines his rum with rich orris butter. The richness of the orris unexpectedly highlights some of the deeper sweeter facets of the rum. The orris and rum opening of Opus V gives way to a jasmine and oud finish but it is that opening which is hard to forget.

Frapin Speakeasy by Marc-Antoine Corticchiato is M. Corticchiato capturing the speakeasies of Prohibition-era America. This is the smell of smuggled liquor and cigars. The party goers and the polished wood of the bar. It is one of my favorites in the Frapin line for once again capturing a moment in time through a spritz from an atomizer.

I am an unabashed fan of almost all of the Olfactive Studio line of perfumes. I realized when putting this list together that I just don’t give enough love to Still Life. It is probably because it was one of the original releases and it just got lost in the shuffle, but it shouldn’t. Perfumer Dora Arnaud interpreted Frederic Lebain’s picture as a modern cocktail. It consists of a twist of lemon, a dash of pepper, a splash of anisette and a full shot of rum. Mme Arnaud uses a fully heated up Szechuan pepper and it sets the boozy ingredients aflame. Maybe it takes a fire to get my attention.

If you’re busy mixing mojitos or daiquiris on the back deck or poolside and you want to complement the cocktails with a bit of perfume here are five that will go well.

Disclosure: I have purchased bottles of all five of these perfumes.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things- Orange

The smell of oranges is the smell of lazy summer days spent in the branches of orange trees near my home in South Florida as a boy. When done well there is almost no other smell which triggers as strong a scent memory as an orange focused fragrance. One of my five favorites is Diptyque L’Eau de Tarocco but I just included that in the recent Diptyque 101. I’ll give you five more of my favorite orange perfumes.

Probably the very first orange fragrance which triggered this atavistic memory was Hermes Eau D’Orange Verte. It wasn’t the perfume but the bath product which I was using at a luxury resort in the 1980’s. It had no label and I had to find out from the front desk the name. I bought a bottle upon my return home and it is still compelling nearly thirty years later. Perfumer Francoise Caron combines the full spectrum of orange notes on top of green muguet. It all produces an evocation of sitting among the leaves of the orange tree while peeling one open.

It would be twenty years until another orange fragrance would make a dent in my monogamous relationship with Eau D’Orange Vert. Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Bigarade Concentree is arguably the simplest perfume in that collection. It succeeds in the same way an artist’s still life succeeds. Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena paints in olfactory watercolors a still life of orange. It is given nuance by aldehydes, cardamom, and hay. It is the smell of a fresh ripe orange picked off the tree before cutting into it.

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Roger & Gallet Bois D’Orange is one of my favorite bang for the buck orange fragrances as you can find 100mL bottles for less than $40. Perfumer Dominique Ropion was inspired by the gardens of Alhambra in Spain. M. Ropion takes that inspiration and provides an intense citrus accord led by the orange which is matched by an equally deep floral accord lead by jasmine and rose. There is also a prominent green underpinning to tie all of it together.

Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine was the first one I tried when Creative Director Sylvie Ganter introduced the line to me a little over five years ago. It is a brilliant orange cologne that has the bonus of lasting a long time on my skin because of the Cologne Absolue concentration. Perfumer Ralf Schwieger evokes that moment when I would bite into an orange and the juice would flow from my mouth over my chin. Using the green floralcy of geranium on top of a sandalwood base it is near perfect. Except the new Atelier Cologne Mandarine Glaciale is now vying for my attention within the brand. The next time I do this list there might be a change here.

Thirdman Eau Nomade finishes my list and this one does not remind me of my youth. Perfumer Bruno Jovanovic uses a fabulous green cardamom in conjunction with blood orange as the nucleus of a cologne which is meant to remind one of a spice market. This is the one I keep in the refrigerator to wear on the most sweltering dog days of summer. It has become the olfactory equivalent of a cold glass of lemonade.

None of these suggestions will provide you with any vitamin C but they will all add some needed energy this summer. Give them a try if you haven’t already.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Jasmine

As spring begins to take hold I find I am already looking forward to the summer nights when the jasmine scents the air. Jasmine is one of those ingredients which has multiple faces in perfumery. The reason is there are very few perfumes with a high quantity of jasmine essential oil. It is there in small quantities to flesh out a synthetic source like Hedione. That hasn’t kept it from still being one of the most popular florals in fragrance. I already mentioned that Serge Lutens Sarrasins is my Gold Standard but that is a beast. Here are five more which are a little lest feral.

Jean Patou Joy, I think, was my first introduction to jasmine when one of my parent’s friends wore it to a party and I was fascinated with how she smelled. It would be years later that I found out Henri Almeras took the very best florals of Grasse in rose and jasmine and combined them over a musky base. Joy is a masterpiece because of that attention to quality.

For those of you who think Sarrasins is too much Serge Lutens A La Nuit is a much more genial alternative. Christopher Sheldrake mixes two sources of jasmine and layers it over spices, honey and musk. While it sounds similar to Joy it is entirely something else and it is entirely pretty.

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Calice Becker might have created the most stunning jasmine soliflore in By Kilian Love and Tears. In this perfume the jasmine pretty much stands alone. For most that kind of scrutiny would cause it to wither and die. Mme Becker creates a multi-faceted jasmine from a whole group of different florals and multiple jasmine sources. It smells like no single jasmine; it smells like all of them. It is utterly fascinating to try and dissect. It is much better to just let it whisk you away.

Krigler Juicy Jasmine 30 is a different take on the soliflore. It is a light fun perfume where the jasmine is lifted up by orange blossom, muguet, and hyacinth. Juicy Jasmine 30 always feels like it is taking me to a fabulous garden party.

Le Labo Jasmin 17 by perfumer Maurice Roucel is what happens when you take a bouquet of white flowers lead by jasmine and capture them in sweet sticky amber. This is the richest jasmine I own and the one I most often wear during the winter. It is comforting and warm underneath the jasmine.

If you like jasmine these five should be on your sampling list. If you want someplace to start these are great starting points.

Dsiclosure: I have purchased bottles of all fragrances mentioned.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Aquatics

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As it becomes more believable that the snow is in my rear-view mirror I have been looking at my perfume vault. I’ve been considering which warm weather perfumes should begin their seasonal migration and I noticed a change in my attitude. For many years the aquatic perfumes in my collection stayed at the back of the cabinet. Two years ago with the release of two very different takes on this overdone style of perfume I suddenly craved some of the older ones. In the list below you’ll find those two and three others which might make you move aquatics back to the front of the shelf.

The entire class was created with 1988’s Davidoff Cool Water by perfumer Pierre Bourdon. This would launch, literally, thousands of imitators in the years since. None of them have the soul of the original. M. Bourdon created what was meant to be a fougere but instead lived up to its name as a splash of cool water. Still to this day I always get an unsolicited compliment when I wear it.

There were so many bad aquatics that came after Cool Water that I was really taken by surprise by Truefitt & Hill 1805. Created in 1998 by perfumer Mark Zini I didn’t discover it until I started wetshaving in 2003. Truefitt & Hill is one of the venerable houses of wetshaving and when I was getting a professional straight razor shave the barber finished me off with this. After ignoring aquatics for so long 1805 woke me up with a veritable bit of spicy driftwood in the presence of cardamom, nutmeg, and vetiver floating on the water. I’ve always seen this as one of the most sophisticated straight aquatics available.

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Heeley Sel Marin by James Heeley in 2008 would go for something entirely different. Most aquatics go for the actual water. Sel Marin evokes the sea spray and there is nothing like this. Every time I wear this I am sitting in the bow of a speedboat cleaving the waves as the spray comes up over the bow. Mr. Heeley conveys speed and salt spray together. When I want to take an imaginary boat ride Sel Marin is what I wear.

These three were my staples and I wore them but rarely and then like a one-two punch in 2013 the next two perfumes gave me very different visions of this class of perfume.

The first was Maria Candida Gentile Finisterre by Maria Candida Gentile. This is the smell of huge waves crashing against a cliff in a battle the rock is destined to lose. Sig.ra Gentile combines an aquatic accord complete with algae with a rocky flinty accord to represent the cliff. The mix of earth and water makes me love Finisterre more each time I wear it.

Barely a month later Hermes Hermessence Epice Marine by Jean-Claude Ellena would present me a gourmand aquatic. I didn’t know I wanted one of these but working with Chef Olivier Roellinger; known for his spice blends, M. Ellena created a tidal pool with spices floating gently on the surface. Cardamom, cinnamon, and cumin are the mix developed by M. Roellinger and that is what M. Ellena placed into the aquatic matrix. It makes for something I have worn regularly when the heat is on.

If you have tired of the same old aquatics I really encourage you to try the last two on my list. If you haven’t discovered the class this list might save you from wading through the ocean of aquatics for sale. In any case dive right in the water’s more interesting than you think.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of the perfumes I purchased.

Mark Behnke