New Perfume Review Clean Air & Coconut Water- Right Time, Right Season

There are times that new perfume samples have the unfortunate timing of arriving at the wrong time for me to appreciate them. This was what happened when I received the Clean Eau Fraiche collection at the beginning of March. They were meant to be easy-to-wear fragrances meant for warmer weather. Except when they got to me it was thirty degrees out. The other thing was five of the six were overused tropes; just the names give you that idea: Rain & Pear, Skin & Vanilla along with an entire linen cabinet of Fresh Laundry & Lavender, Warm Cotton & Mandarin, and Cool Cotton & Grapefruit. These were all comprised of the usual suspects of the laundry musks matched with fruit. There was one which stood out for being different than these. I told myself I would give it a try once the weather got warmer. This time events allowed for me to be reminded of it while the mercury soared above ninety degrees. Wearing Air & Coconut Water in the past couple of weeks turned out to be just what I needed to enjoy it.

Claude Dir

What I found interesting about this fragrance composed by perfumer Claude Dir was the press release mentioned they wanted the air to be “mountain air” while the coconut water is evocative of the beach. What M. Dir manages to do is to marry a top accord of sparkly citrus to a beachy floral heart before heading up into the mountains for a deep breath of fresh air. It all surprisingly comes together nicely.

Air & Coconut Water opens on a sunbeam of bergamot and lemon it is typically bright and lively. There is a thready green pulse courtesy of blackcurrant buds but it is flooded by the citrus. The coconut water appears and it is that very beachy note of coconut made more transparent while retaining some weight due to a humidity that comes along with it. A light freesia freshens up the coconut water. Then we head up into the mountains for a deep breath of fresh musks. These are not the laundry musks as M. Dir combines a few of the different synthetic musks into a very fresh accord. What is very nice is tonka bean is also present to add in the hay-like effect of the dried grass. Instead of just being air instead it is a breath of the grass as well.

Air & Coconut Water has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

They say timing is everything. For Air & Coconut Water returning to it at the end of June turned out to be the right time and the right season to appreciate it.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Calvin Klein Obsessed for Men- A New Obsession?

2

When I’m asked about where my interest in writing about perfume began one of the perfumes which launched my curiosity is Calvin Klein Obsession for Men. It was what I considered to be my first “grown-up” perfume. It was also the first step to discovering these other perfumes from Europe which also smelled like this. In the thirty years since I bought my first bottle I am now on my third bottle as I still find it deeply satisfying. I’ve always felt it was a generational fragrance for the men of a specific time. It was why I was very interested in the new releases from Calvin Klein; Obsessed for Women and Obsessed for Men. I was wondering if these might become the same kind of defining fragrance for this generation.

Raf Simons

One thing I learned from my press package is Calvin Klein very much wanted to make sure the connections were obvious. There are so many callbacks to the original pair of Obsessions I cynically wondered why not call it Obsession 2 and be done with it. This even includes the advertising campaign where they are recycling photos shot for a 1993 advertising effort for Obsession.

Obsession for Men Ad from 1993 featuring Kate Moss as photogrpahed by Mario Sorrenti

That campaign was to send model Kate Moss and her then boyfriend Mario Sorrenti alone to a secluded house in the Virgin Islands where just the two of them spent 10 days together while Mr. Sorrenti photographed Ms. Moss. It led to a set of provocative pictures of Ms. Moss which probably sent sales soaring.

Obsessed for Men Ad from 2017 featuring Mario Sorrenti as photographed by Kate Moss

Raf Simons who creatively oversaw the new perfumes went back through the photo files from that effort. What he saw was an opportunity to connect Obsession to Obsessed visually while also indicating something new. For Obsessed for Men Mr. Simons uses pictures of Mr. Sorrenti as shot by Ms. Moss in the inevitable turnabout which would have to happen over 10 days together.

Ilias Erminidis

Mr. Simons also wanted what he described as a role reversal in the two Obsessed fragrances. So, for Obsessed for Men he asked perfumers Christophe Raynaud and Ilias Erminidis. In Mr. Simons estimation, he sees vanilla as an ingredient which exhibits a “feminine melodiousness” which makes it the heart of Obsessed for Men.

Christophe Raynaud

The perfumers take that vanilla and put it in a wooden box made up of cedar and ambox. Those intensely woody notes have the effect of ameliorating much of the warm sweetness. The vanilla has much less presence than it normally does and Obsessed for Men really is much more an ambrox fragrance with some cedar and vanilla along for the ride.

Obsessed for Men has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am not the generation who will gravitate to Obsessed for Men. I have plenty of other ambrox heavy fragrances this doesn’t stand out sufficiently from those. I am more interested to see if there are twentysomething men who will be shopping and, like I did in 1986, stop in their tracks because Obsessed for Men is the scent of how they want to smell. Women’s Wear Daily is estimating upwards of $50 million in retail sales this year, for the pair. If that is prescient then Obsessed for Men will be a new Obsession for a new generation.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Calvin Klein.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Nobile 1942 1001- Luca’s Arabian Night

When it comes to inspiration for perfumes Scheherazade and the Arabian Nights has probably inspired as many perfumes as there were tales told in the story. If fragrances are tales told by the creative team then especially in the Oriental genre every perfumer should have the opportunity to enthrall a wearer for one night. Perfumer Luca Maffei takes his turn with Nobile 1942 1001.

One of the things I have admired about the Nobile 1942 creative team of Massimo Nobile and Stefania Giannino is since 2014 they have taken the brand in a new direction. It mainly consists of taking the well-known fragrance forms and giving them a contemporary shine. It has been an up and down effort but when there have been ups they have been very good. Working with Sig. Maffei they decided on a soft Oriental theme for 1001.

Luca Maffei

One of their inspirations was the written word. Sig. Maffei includes a papyrus focal point upon which he writes in notes of spices, flowers, and woods. The modern part of this is many Orientals take as part of their being to carry an intensity. 1001 is constructed to be a compelling soft-spoken voice of a storyteller inviting you near enough to hear.

A soft whisper of spices from a piquant susurrus. Ginger, cardamom, pink pepper, and saffron are like offerings given on an altar as each finds a place in the top accord. The watery green woodiness of papyrus arrives next. Sig. Maffei then uses the slightly spicy woody quality of turmeric along with rose to form the place from which the tale is being told along with the page it is written on. It is an abstraction of a scroll. The more traditional components of Orientals are in the base. Sandalwood, amber, vanilla, and musk end 1001 in a familiar place; which is where all well-told tales should conclude.

1001 has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I think the softness of 1001 turns it into a rare office friendly Oriental. By choosing to go very soft it doesn’t skimp on the most important characteristics of the genre. Instead it allows Sig. Maffei to tell his tale of an Arabian Night with a beautiful whisper.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Elie Saab Essence No 10 Amande Tonka- Understudies Step Forward

One of the emerging trends of the last 12-18 months has been that of lighter gourmand fragrances. I have hypothesized that market research has provided some insight that this is the kind of perfume the younger fragrance consumer will be drawn to. I have been generally happy with this because lightweight gourmand perfumes are not an overplayed sector. Which makes it a bit of an undiscovered country for some of our best perfumers as they begin to work on briefs in this genre. Francis Kurkdjian has provided his entry with Elie Saab Essence No. 10 Amande Tonka.

M. Kurkdjian has been the perfumer behind all the Elie Saab fragrances since they began in 2011. If there is a thread running throughout the overall collection it is an expansive luminosity. In the exclusive Essence Collection it is even more pronounced as each of these releases have focused on single-notes. Now that it has entered double digits maybe they are going to become duets. For Amande Tonka it is a true meeting of equals.

Francis Kurkdjian

Tonka is one of the most versatile ingredients in modern perfumery. Having a high concentration of coumarin a perfumer can choose which version they want to have in their perfume. Almond, like tonka, is most often a supporting note to provide a bitter nuttiness. It makes Amande Tonka an opportunity for the understudies to step forward.

The amande is what you first encounter as for a few, too-short, minutes you get a concise nutty quality with a slightly bitter edge. The tonka arrives on a cloud of whipped cream. This is the toastier version of tonka allowing the vanilla to take up the slack on the sweetness. Once the title notes are together it forms a warm almond cream accord that is as light as a meringue. An equally transparent sandalwood with just a hint of vetiver provides the foundation to keep the titular notes from floating away.

Amande Tonka has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

M. Kurkdjian continues to provide these open style fragrances in his work for Elie Saab. Amande Tonka is all the better for him taking on a genre known for its intensity and finding a way to have it lighten up. All he had to do was bring a couple understudies out of the wings and give them a chance.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Elie Saab.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Imaginary Authors Saint Julep- Modern Southern Gothic

If I say, “mint julep” most Americans will reply “Kentucky Derby”. The cocktail has become synonymous with the first jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown. In May of 1982 I was in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday in May to watch Gato del Sol finish first. I also experienced a mint julep for the first time; it was the worst thing about the day. I couldn’t finish the overly sweet mint and bourbon cocktail. There were many at Churchill Downs who also had a few too many making for another unfortunate association with the mint julep. Pair this with my antipathy for mint in perfume and you might perceive that I wasn’t jumping for joy when I received Imaginary Authors Saint Julep.

Josh Meyer

One thing which tempered my dread was the e-mail I received from Josh Meyer the perfumer behind Imaginary Authors. I don’t care for mint in fragrance because it evokes mouthwash, toothpaste, or dental floss. Mr. Meyer communicated to me that he also is not fond of that style of mint either. He wrote that, “I wanted it to smell like mint leaves”. My favorite mint perfumes are those which remember it is an herb before it becomes something on the end of a toothbrush. Even so the mint julep cocktail is a syrupy intense experience. So, mentioning all the ingredients of the cocktail were present in Saint Julep brought back some of the worry. What got me over all of this is Mr. Meyer’s ability to surprise which is what Saint Julep did.

Saint Julep is less about the cocktail and more about the American South and its ability to draw on its Gothic past to create a modern Southern Neo-Gothic. That focal point is the bourbon accord at the center of Saint Julep. The description from Mr. Meyer’s fictitious storyteller, Milton Nevers, goes like this, “On the outskirts of Clarksdale, Mississippi, at the end of a secluded dirt road sat a small ramshackle church. It was not a place of worship but rather where many went to seek refuge during impoverished times. Legend has it the structure was transported to the wild mint field by hand, hoisted on the shoulders of two dozen men. The outside remained simple and nondescript but the interior was aglow with pilfered neon signs, Christmas lights, and a jukebox donated by the sheriff’s son. It was a distinctly secular place where locals who knew where to find it could share moonshine, socialize, and dance their troubles away. They called their ramshackle juke joint Saint Julep and the oral histories compiled within paint a picture of that magical place where “the smiles was always free and salvation had the distinct smell of sweet mint.”

As promised, the mint arrives with its leafy, herbal nature moved forward. Instead of getting syrupy sweet Mr. Meyer instead dusts his mint leaves with crystalline sugar. It is not treacly sweet it is much more muted than that. What mutes it is the use of tangerine. Then magnolia provides a floral bridge to the bourbon accord. The bourbon adds an alcoholic bite along with its own version of sweet which dovetails with the sugared mint leaves. What is so surprising is this part of Saint Julep is light and refreshing; the polar opposite of a mint julep’s density. The base is an ingredient called grisalva which is an ambergris replacement aromachemical which also carries some leather aspects. It is a fine way to finish Saint Julep.

Saint Julep has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Saint Julep is going to be an excellent summer scent. Mr. Meyer has overcome every reservation I had going in. He has delivered a contemporary Southern classic.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Imaginary Authors.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Mad et Len Vetyver Bucolique- Midsummer Milieu

The warmer the weather gets the more vetiver I want to wear. From the earliest days of my fragrance obsession vetiver-centric perfumes have been a staple of the days of summer. I have a disproportionate amount of choice when it comes to this section of my collection. There has been every variation under the sun produced and yet I still find admiration for a new version. This is why I have been enjoying Mad et Len Vetyver Bucolique on these first days of the summer.

Vetiver

Mad et Len is a niche brand which obfuscates the creative team behind the fragrances with a bunch of PR mumbo jumbo. Secret workshop in the mountains of France overlooking Grasse where the air clears one’s mind to allow creativity to flow. That previous sentence is not actually part of the Mad et Len press copy but it easily could be. The press release tango also gets in the way of a collection which tends to keep it simple; for the better. So while I don’t know who the cabal of creatives behind Vetyver Bucolique are the perfume itself is a vetiver and hay construct.

Hay

Vetiver and hay as a combination is not new. The hay is mostly due to the use of coumarin. The perfumer will dial it up or down to achieve a desired effect. In Vetyver Bucolique the coumarin level is dialed way up. That has the tendency to make it more tobacco-like early on before softening into sweet hay. It is this transformation of the coumarin which has added Vetyver Bucolique to my summer rotation.

The vetiver being used here is the greener version where the woodiness is second to the grassier nature. There is also a subtle spiciness to the vetiver which is what I smell in the first few minutes. Then the coumarin arrives in a walloping amount. At first it is the golden, slightly honeyed, version of dried tobacco leaf. It lacks some of the depth a true tobacco accord usually presents. For the next hour or so it is vetiver and tobacco. After that time, the honey facets move forward and the green of the vetiver also becomes more prominent. Once this finishes evolving, the coumarin and the vetiver have found that midsummer balance of green hay.

Vetyver Bucolique has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

What separates Vetyver Bucolique is the metamorphosis of the coumarin overdose on a backdrop of green vetiver. It captures the smells of midsummer in a refreshing way.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Mad et Len.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jean-Michel Duriez Parfums Bleu Framboise- Raspberry Beret

If there is a perfumer I have been aware of for a long time who I wish to make a splash it is Jean-Michel Duriez. M. Duriez was the perfumer behind one of my favorite perfumes of all time Yohji Yamamoto Yohji Homme. That came out in 1999. Two years later he was hired by Proctor & Gamble to be the in-house perfumer for the revival of the Jean Patou brand they had just bought. To say I was happy was an understatement as one of the perfumers I admired was going to revive my favorite heritage fragrance brand…..then nothing. The support never came they added him as perfumer at Rochas in 2008 where he released a few things. Because I was curious if all this inactivity had affected his creativity I acquired his last fragrance for Rochas a Dubai exclusive called Secret de Rochas Oud Mystere. A mango, osmanthus, patchouli and oud accord reminded me why it was worth the effort.

Jean-Michel Duriez (photo: Gerard Uferas)

In February, I learned he had finally ditched the corporate overseers and had established his own brand which could be purchased in France. Seven perfumes each representing M. Duriez’s impressions of Paris and the Seine River. Once again, I had to rev up my network to obtain them for me. I have recently received a Discovery Set of all seven. I am still working my way through them all but the one which felt just right for the beginning of summer was Bleu Framboise.

Photo by Gerard Uferas

Part of each of the perfumes is M. Duriez uses a photograph by photographer Gerard Uferas as the companion piece/brief. For Bleu Framboise it is the colors of that sky, seen above, that M. Duriez wants to evoke. The deep blue is represented by chamomile and chypre while the magenta is raspberry and rose.

What drew me in to Bleu Framboise was the grapefruit and rhubarb opening. This is becoming one of my favorite citrus openings because of the sulfurous aspects of both the grapefruit and the rhubarb providing an unusual contrast to the typical sunny citrus accord. In this case it provides some shading to that brightness. The bleu part comes next as chamomile shows up first. Quickly followed by the raspberry and the rose. The rose used is a Turkish rose and it adds a jammy quality to the raspberry. This leads to a base of patchouli and an oakmoss accord to form a modern chypre foundation.

Bleu Framboise has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am so very pleased that M. Duriez is back in the world of perfume in a more direct way. I think he is one of the best perfumers working now others will get a chance to experience his perfume, too. These new perfumes under his brand show much of why I believe in his creativity. I’ll be following up with a couple more reviews of others in the line before too long. For now Bleu Framboise is going to be like to paraphrase Prince’s Raspberry Beret , “If it’s warm I wouldn’t wear much more”

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample set I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review L’Artisan Parfumeur Histoire D’Orangers- Souss Valley Sunset

Why are sunsets, and sunrises, so compelling? Over my lifetime, if I am able, I pause to watch the sunset. This is especially true when I am on vacation. When I am in a new place I want to end my day of sightseeing by watching the sunset; usually from a vantage point with height. I know I’m not alone in this because I have never been alone while watching the sun disappear below the horizon.

As my interest in fragrance has deepened over the years there has always been a scent to each sunset. Particularly the summer versions as it is generally the warmest part of the day. The sun on its path across the sky has warmed and released the natural scent of the world. There are many fragrances which are wonderful scent memories of my travels. It would seem perfumer Marie Salamagne also enjoys sunsets in foreign climes. Unlike me she can bottle her memory. She has composed L’Artisan Parfumeur Histoire D’Orangers to capture a specific sunset in Morocco.

Marie Salamagne (Photo:Jerome Bonnet)

On Mme Salamagne’s visit to Morocco she headed to the city of Taroudant. If you travel, from there, through the Souss Valley you end up in the surfer’s town of Taghazout. Sunset happened at some point along her journey and she paused to take it in. The light infused the valley with a warm glow while the smell of orange tree flower water was around her. For Histoires D’Orangers she wanted to snare that moment in a perfume. To do that she uses a few very expansive materials to capture that wide-open spaces feel along with the orange flower memory.

It opens with a particularly green neroli. To add that glow underneath, white tea adds lift. Orange blossom comes along to overwhelm the green and intensify the orange flower accord the two notes form. Helevetolide is one of those very expansive synthetic musks it is like the warm air of the valley floor rising with the orange flower riding on top. It forms a transparent version of the early moments. To bring us back down she uses an overdose of Ambrox leavened with tonka bean.

Histoire D’Orangers has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Histoire D’Orangers is a fantastic warm weather fragrance. Mme Salamagne has translated her memory of Morocco into a modern take on the classic orange flower water. Her memory of the Souss Valley is worth sharing.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by L’Artisan Parfumeur.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Masque Milano Times Square- One Dollah, One Dollah, One Dollah

The evolution of big cities is a fascinating thing to observe. There is no more compelling history than the transformation of Times Square from one of the worst neighborhoods in New York City to the place where the most selfies on the planet are taken. I started visiting New York City regularly in the late 1980’s. Thankfully I am a big guy and so I was able to walk fearlessly through the porn theatres, drug dealers, and peep shows with their barkers calling out, “girls, girls, girls, one dollah, one dollah, one dollah”. No bigger lie was being told than that one. By the time I started working in the NYC Metro Area in 1994 the current Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, in association with Disney began an aggressive campaign to evict all the gritty qualities to provide a family-friendly heart of Manhattan. Over twenty years later you have to know where to look to see the few holdovers from the dangerous times.

Riccardo Tedeschi (l.) and Alessandro Brun

The creative directors for Masque Milano, Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi, have decided to revive that last gasp of “Times Scare” circa 1993 in their newest release Times Square. They chose perfumer Bruno Jovanovic to collaborate with on this project. Each perfume in the Masque Milano line is part of their fragrant drama and carry an act and scene number. Times Square is the fourth and final scene of Act 1. This is a bold dynamic fragrance where the team captures the garishness of Times Square just before the scrub brushes arrive.

Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini

When I walked into Times Square for the first time the neon was what dazzled me. It was a bit like visual overload. It carried my eyes to the bright colors and motion. The opening moment of Times Square is much like that. It is so strong I suspect that, like many tourists who made the trip to the edge of the area, a lot will run away. If you have the desire to step into the intensity you will find cheap lipstick, blowsy florals, steam, leather, and rubber all coming together to form a decadent beauty.

Bruno Jovanovic

Times Square opens with a resounding pop of violet, iris, and hazelnut. M. Jovanovic captures the gritty nature with intensity. I loved it because it captures that “girls, girls girls” quality. That really comes out as the iris sorts itself into a lipstick accord to go with tuberose providing the over-perfumed aura of the hip-cocked streetwalker sizing you up. Osmanthus and styrax provide the leather and latex of the BDSM shop as you pick up your pace before you instead follow a desire to step inside. As you cross the street steam billows up from the manhole covers as the barkers call from behind you, “one dollah, one dollah, one dollah”. You reach the safety of your hotel room as the sandalwood provides a soothing island for your jangled psyche.

Times Square has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I have congratulated Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi, in the past, for their ability to follow their vision while finding perfumers to realize it. Times Square might be the best example of this. It is the most artistic perfume in the Masque Milano collection. It sets out to capture the grainy 9mm film world of Times Square in 1993 and succeeds. It is an unsettling fragrance as that place and time were if you traveled through it. Wearing it for a whole day I spent more time with the fragrance than I ever did in the actual location. With the fragrance, I discovered that given time garish neon, over-perfumed hookers, and leather and latex carry an odd kind of beauty. This is a perfume one should try; some will run away but others will find the same things I did. So “girls, girls, girls, one dollah, one dollah, one dollah, Masque Milano Times Square ovah heah!”

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Banana Republic 17 Oud Mosaic-Fragrance Safari

When I got my first professional job in 1984 a large amount of my wardrobe came from the store Banana Republic. The whole adventure safari vibe of the store appealed to me. By 1995 when the brand branched out in to fragrance I had moved on. It wouldn’t be until 2006 when I seriously checked out a Banana Republic fragrance called Black Walnut. Perfumer Harry Fremont made a well-balanced tobacco and cedar fragrance that was good for the price. It was time for me to check back in another ten years on as they release a new five fragrance collection in celebration of their upcoming 40th anniversary of their founding in 1978.

The collection is dubbed the Banana Republic Icon Collection. It is made up of five different fragrances each representing one of the five decades of the brand’s existence. Each fragrance leads with the last two numbers of the year and decade they represent. Some, like 90 Pure White, is so emblematic of the rage for clean white musks in the 1990’s it seems historical. Most of them are straightforward but there was one which stood out 17 Oud Mosaic.

Claude Dir

17 Oud Mosaic is meant to represent 2017 and was composed by perfumer Claude Dir. Now don’t get fooled by the name there isn’t even a tiny bit of oud here; there isn’t even an oud accord. What “oud” must be shorthand for is Oriental. If it was re-named 17 Oriental Mosaic that would be more accurate. M. Dir combines some interesting choices to form a contemporary Oriental.

Those interesting choices come right from the top as M. Dir chooses white pepper and plum to open 17 Oud Mosaic. The spicy fruitiness leads to a heart of Turkish rose along with cardamom and saffron adding to the spiciness. It is this spicy fruity floral accord which captured my attention. There are hints of leatheriness from the saffron, the cardamom provides a freshness, the rose radiates in waves throughout. It ends on a generic musky amber base accord.

17 Oud Mosaic has 4-6 hour longevity and average sillage. The longevity is pretty low but for $25 you can freely reapply.

If you’re kicking around the mall I would suggest giving the Icon Collection a try. 17 Oud Mosaic is the least derivative but the others also have appeal, too. Well worth taking a fragrance safari on a shopping trip.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Banana Republic.

Mark Behnke