New Perfume Review Beaufort London Lignum Vitae- Rowing Ashore


When I tried the first three releases from Beaufort London I admired creative director Leo Crabtree’s adherence to his brand’s story. As part of the “Come Hell or High Water” collection he used his three initial releases to explore the naval life when wind powered the ships and exploration was part of the mission of a British naval ship. Since I reviewed East India earlier in the year it has been re-named Vi et Armis. 1805 has also been re-named to Tonnerre. These were very specific milieus of the ship going experience without compromise. There are few creative directors who would steer so faithful a course. The first three dealt with the cargoes, the ink, and the warfare found onboard these ships. The fourth release Lignum Vitae touches on the exploration these ships did while out on the ocean.


Leo Crabtree

We’ve seen the scene captured on video many times of a great sailing ship anchored in a cove as a landing party rows towards shore. As a watcher we wonder what they will find knowing something will be there to provide conflict. In reality these landing parties more often found a new source of hardwoods or spices without something emerging from the jungle to surprise them. One of the things found during one of these trips was the wood lignum vitae (wood of life). It is the densest hardwood known to be traded. The other naval connection is clockmaker John Harrison was able to replace the metal gears of his clocks with lignum vitae versions which allowed the first marine chronometers to be brought aboard ship without the salt spray corroding the metal. The fragrance represents that first landing party on the beach looking at this new hardwood.

Mr. Crabtree has been working with the same team of perfumers for all four releases to date; Julie Dunkley and Julie Marlow. Together they definitely seem to have an underlying understanding of what they are trying to create with each of these perfumes. They made some really interesting choices to capture that unknown land vibe they seemingly wanted to achieve.

Lignum Vitae opens with the smell of that sea spray as you are rowing to shore. A citrus mélange provides a facsimile of the sun overhead. Once you reach the shore you look into the jungle and you are greeted with this overripe sweet fecund vegetation accord. The perfumers used an ingenious set of notes to convey this; black pepper, ginger, baie rose, and juniper berry are part of it. The next two notes surprisingly are what stitch it all together; caramel and madeleine cake accord. The sweetness of the caramel is kept as a support but the cake accord adds that yeasty bread-y nature of wild foliage. This is an excellently balanced opening stanza. The heart gets a little more literal with a mixture of oud, vetiver and guaiac providing the lignum vitae tree itself. Lignum vitae is a member of the guaiacum species so using that note is appropriate. After the work team has felled the tree the final phase of development is the transport back to the beach. For this the perfumers use moss to represent the crushing of the jungle as the trunk is dragged through it. There is a lot of animalic musks to create the sweaty exertion. Finally, there is a mineralic sand accord as the sailors collapse on the beach with their efforts.

Lignum Vitae has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

When it comes to this brand I find it is the times when it is focused on the exploration and commerce it is most appealing to me. Lignum Vitae is right next to Vi et Armis as my favorite.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Azzaro Wanted- My Aim is True?

When I was just beginning my life as an adult one of the fragrances on my dresser was Azzaro pour Homme. It was a creature of its time; a powerhouse fougere. Even when I smell it today I want to unconsciously unbutton my shirt a few extra buttons and go looking for my gold chains. Even though it is out of style it is one of the great fougeres ever. I was talking with one of the reps from Clarins and they sent me bottles of the four new men’s releases for 2016. One was a reworking of Azzaro pour Homme by perfumers Olivier Pescheux and Quentin Bisch. They went too far in stripping down the original to appeal to modern tastes really leaving only grapefruit, lavender, and cedar behind. Solarissimo Levanzo was a slightly more complex fougere with a bit more fruit and basil present. Chrome Summer 2016 is a summer flanker of the original Chrome which does exactly what it needs to do. What left me unsatisfied with those three was the need to use very few notes keeping everything light and clean. When I picked up the last one, Wanted, It turns out perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin also felt like today’s fragrance consumer could take a little more oomph in their perfume.

Wanted has the typical press jibber jabber using words like “hedonist”, “rebellious”, “charismatic”; “desired by women, envied by men”. It is all packaged in a truly tragic bottle which evokes the spinning bullet chamber of a revolver. Despite all of this I found Wanted to be a pretty solid mass-market fragrance with some atypical choices than its compatriots on the department store counter.


Fabrice Pellegrin

There must have been a special on citrus raw materials because all four of the Azzaro perfumes opened with that. Wanted employs a solar lemon full of energy to start things off. One of my favorite parts of Azzaro pour Homme is the basil, cardamom, and fennel combination which elaborates on the lavender in that fragrance. In Wanted M. Pellegrin uses an equally interesting trio of cardamom, ginger, and cade. The cardamom is the most prominent note. The ginger provides that sort of zestiness it seems to be prized for. The really interesting choice here is the cade which provides a curl of smoke interspersed with the cool spices. When I wore Wanted just as the cardamom and ginger were about to lose my attention the cade appeared and brought it right back. The base is a very typical vetiver sweetened with a modicum of tonka.

Wanted has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Of the four new Azzaro releases I tried, Wanted is the direction I would like to see the brand trend more towards. The use of an interesting raw material for a mass-market release can be challenging if consumers find it too odd. If there was a theme among the four new Azzaros it was that they are seemingly trying to evolve from their powerhouse beginnings. Wanted succeeded for me because it nodded a bit more obviously to that past.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle provided by Clarins.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Eris Parfums Ma Bete and Belle de Jour- Something Old, Something New

Making the transition from perfume enthusiast to brand owner and creative director is much easier to write than it is to achieve in reality. In my review of Eris Parfums Night Flower I previously recounted the story of how Barbara Herman has done this. Working with perfumer Antoine Lie she produced three debut releases. Today I am going to review the remaining two; Ma Bete and Belle de Jour.


Barbara Herman

Ms. Herman’s passion for vintage perfume would be what eventually drive her to trying to make them like they used to. Ma Bete is the one of these first releases which wholeheartedly embraces a vintage aesthetic. If there is anything most modern perfumes shy away from it is the animalic. For a perfume which translates to “My Beast” this is not going to hold back in any way.

For a fragrance which wants to be “perfumed fur” M. Lie makes a smart choice to lead with a healthy dose of neroli lifted on the classic mix of aldehydes with a pinch of nutmeg. Neroli has become so safe in recent years. M. Lie reminds us that it has a feral nature all its own with its indigenous indoles. The neroli is here in such a concentration that the indoles provide the low growl, warning of the animal in the shadows. In the heart that stylish brute presents itself in a cloud of M. Lie’s “animal cocktail’. Pinned to its lapel is an iris which floats over the animalic nature. Patchouli and cedar provide the base accord with the patchouli in the ascendance. Ma Bete is a reminder that modern brands can still make them like they used to if they have the courage to do so. Ma Bete has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

antoine lie

Antoine Lie

If Ms. Herman and M. Lie had just decided to do two more vintage smelling perfumes to finish this first collection it would have been redundant. Night Flower was an exercise in taking the long-lost ingredients of the past and finding a contemporary way to display them. Belle de Jour displays that there is a way to create a contemporary perfume using modern ingredients which can still carry the presence of vintage perfume.

Belle de Jour begins with a lovely juxtaposition of coriander and orange blossom. Baie rose complements the pungent coriander. The unusual pairings continue in to the heart as Egyptian jasmine is matched with pimento. This is not a vintage accord but it has a faux-antique feel to it. I’m not sure if I would have necessarily gone there if I wasn’t sort of trending towards it but when I was wearing Belle de Jour it was how it felt to me. The base accord is where the present day really arrives as M. Lie uses seaweed absolute as his keynote with musk and cedar. This is a domesticated kitten compared to Ma Bete. The animalic is present but it is also given a fresh twist with the seaweed absolute. I really enjoyed the final hours of Belle de Jour as I wore it. Belle de Jour has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

These three debut scents as a collection are a laudable effort from Ms. Herman and M. Lie. It seems like the enthusiast has completed the transformation from enthusiast to creative director,

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Eris Parfums.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chanel No. 5 L’Eau- Refreshing a Classic

Once I received the press release back in May; my most anticipated release of this year was going to be Chanel No. 5 L’Eau. This is a perfume which came with so much anticipation for me. Chanel stated this was going to be their attempt to update their classic No, 5 for a new generation. For in-house perfumer Olivier Polge this was really going to be the first mass-market release under his tenure. M. Polge did release Chance Eau Vive last year but that was really just a riff on the grapefruit, jasmine, musk axis of the original Chance by his father. No. 5 L’Eau was going to represent his first opportunity to stamp his influence on this venerable brand. With my curiosity dialed up to maximum when I had the opportunity to purchase a preview bottle last week I hopped right on it. I have spent most of the last four days intensely examining No. 5 L’Eau. Much to my surprise it is a perfume worthy of the scrutiny.

When I received my bottle, despite being assured in the press release it wasn’t, I expected a watered-down limpid imitation of No. 5. Reading through that press release it felt like Chanel was all on board with the trend of making things ultra-transparent for the Millennials. As I read M. Polge’s words talking about replacing metallic aldehydes, removing the powder, lightening up the jasmine, and decreasing the vanilla I expected the worst. Instead M. Polge has made astute decisions throughout the construction of No. 5 L’Eau. What he seems to be saying to Millennials is if you’re interested in No.5 I’m willing to meet you…half-way.

olivier polge

Olivier Polge

Throughout No. 5 L’Eau M. Polge has cleverly found substitutes for the heavier aspects of No. 5 in an attempt to modernize. It starts right from the beginning as the famous aldehydes of the original are replaced by a different set of aldehydes in No. 5 L’Eau. The main aldehyde in No.5 was a 13-carbon aldehyde, 2-methylundecanal. It has a characteristic metallic scent profile. The beauty of aldehydes is there are a whole palette for the modern perfumer to use. For No. 5 L’Eau M. Polge chose the ones which have a citrus-like scent profile; the 8-carbon and 10-carbon ones seem like the culprits here. These are matched to the actual citrus notes of mandarin, lemon, and orange. Together this comes off as a vibrant blast of pure sunshine. These aldehydes provide lift to the citrus notes as if they were champagne bubbles bearing them upward. I love this opening for honoring the past while updating everything.

Rose, jasmine, and ylang-ylang are the floral DNA of No. 5; providing its heart. For No. 5 L’Eau M. Polge does lighten things up but not so much to turn this trio of notes insipid. It starts with retaining the iconic Rose de Mai. The change comes with using one of the synthetic jasmine notes which provide that same expansiveness that the citric aldehydes did for the top accord. It also elides the indoles out of the equation allowing the depth of the Rose de Mai to do most of the floral heavy lifting. Next M. Polge chooses a fractionated part of ylang-ylang which removes the fleshiness and promotes the greener nature. It is almost lily-like but it has that ylang-ylang floralcy without the stridency lily would have brought to this. Again M. Polge has worked with the historical and turned it as expansive as it could be.

The original No. 5 ends with a beautiful woody duet of vetiver and sandalwood. Only here does M. Polge go for the obvious although it is in keeping with the expansiveness of the earlier development. Cedar replaces the sandalwood and it is joined by a suite of white linen musks. Vetiver is used more as a supporting player to those than a true equal. By going with the laundry clean musks they provide the final bit of lift which has been building from the beginning.

No. 5 L’Eau has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I don’t think I have ever been as impressed with M. Polge as I am after experiencing No. 5 L’Eau. He laid himself out there on a project where derisive laughter was the more likely outcome. Instead he took that famous society lady of No. 5 armed her granddaughter with an iPhone, a Chanel purse and sent her out into the world. I don’t know if Millennials are going to flock to this. I hope that they do. Of everything I have tried this year which has been aimed at them this is the first one which has challenged them to consider what it is that defines their personal style. My fingers are crossed that when the Holiday scoreboard is revealed at the end of the year No. 5 L’Eau is on top.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Nicolai Oud Sublime- Oud as Tiramisu

There was a time ten or so years ago when Mrs. C and I became interested in the Italian dessert called tiramisu. We would discover that the origin of the dessert was in dispute with its first appearance being anywhere from the 17th century up to the 1960’s. There are even disagreements on how to make it. We experimented with making it in different ways as well. They all tasted great and there was truly no specific one that was head and shoulders above the rest. The only common agreement across any of this was the ingredients; coffee-soaked ladyfingers, eggs, sugar, mascarpone cheese, and cocoa. Every variation I have tried is still recognizably these ingredients yet also carrying subtle differences.

In perfumery there may also be an analog to this tiramisu recipe; the rose and oud combination. For the last fifteen years oud centered fragrances have exploded. Hundreds of perfumes have been released featuring this note in that time. A significant percentage of them have rose as a prominent note. Like those tiramisu recipes I was so enthralled with even a perfume with prescribed ingredients can still be influenced by a creative perfumer. This was what I was thinking when I tried Nicolai Oud Sublime at Esxence 2016.


Patricia de Nicolai

Patricia de Nicolai has been also exploring oud and this is her third oud perfume following up on Rose Oud and Amber Oud. Oud Sublime is a rose and oud perfume except Mme de Nicolai seemed to really consider the supporting players to bring out the beauty inherent in that rose and oud combination. The oud she uses is a Cambodian oud. The Cambodian version is the least confrontational source of oud. It carries a sweeter slightly dried fruit profile versus the more medicinal edgier profiles of oud from other countries. By making this choice it allowed Mme de Nicolai the opportunity to find complements to bring out all of the nuances of this exquisite raw material.

From the first moments of Oud Sublime that Cambodian oud is present. The first two ingredients Mme de Nicolai uses with it are davana and ambrette seeds. The sweet herbaceous nature of the davana is an inspired choice as it feels like it is interspersing itself within the oud. The botanical musk of ambrette adds back in some of the animalic quality some other ouds have. This is much subtler being able to be precisely titrated in by Mme de Nicolai. The rose comes forward at this point. It is a spicier rose which again provides a bit of what the Cambodian oud doesn’t display as much of. Coriander and cumin up the spice quotient. Both of these are tremendous within the construct of Oud Sublime. They add their distinctive presence as modulators for the rose-oud combination. This all settles in to a catoreum base swirled with incense and styrax.

Oud Sublime has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage as it is in extrait concentration.

Oud Sublime is another version of oud and rose. It is also a version which carries a seemingly more intellectual consideration on how to display that combination to its best effect. Mme de Nicolai has delivered a recipe which stands out from all the others.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Nicolai at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Pokemon GO

Summer is a time for crazy things to do. Two years ago many of us were dumping buckets of ice over our heads for ALS. This summer it will be less altruistic but still sort of silly. Ten days ago the mobile phone game Pokemon GO was released in the US. Since then it has become a phenomenon with more daily users than Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. It already has more players than Candy Crush Saga. This has become an interesting story of new technology sparking good exercise habits and socialization with new people.

The basics of the game is one you download onto your smartphone. When you open the app the phone’s GPS places you on a map of wherever you are. All of the streets you are familiar with are there. What are also there hidden all over are “pocket monsters” or pokemon for short. Your job as a trainer is to “catch ‘em all”. You have an index which keeps track of which ones you have seen. As you walk around you find blue cubes floating that as you come near to them become pokestops. These are stations where you receive the in-game resources you need to catch pokemon. Once you have some pokemon to train you can go to other sites called gyms and battle with other players. Those are the basics here is what is different.

pokemon go logo

Pokemon GO is what is called an augmented reality game. That means the game itself is overlaid on top of your real life. To play it you have to go outside and walk around. Unlike most games which encourage you to sit in one place this one sends you out into the world. I downloaded is a week ago and on the first day I found out little rural town was rife with all of the things needed to play the game.

I went out for a walk on a beautiful summer Sunday and as I traveled from pokestop to pokestop I found others doing the same. A family of four where the women were taking on the men in who could catch the most pokemon. All of this while probably walking a mile or two. Exercise, family bonding, and fun. A group of teen agers sitting on picnic tables near our town hall battling to control the gym there. Laughing as each team took up their own picnic table. One guy I met later in the week talked about how a night out at a local entertainment complex which was supposed to start in the bar. Instead ended there after they had scoured the lake at the center for pokemon and met some women doing that same thing. They worked together to hunt down a rare one and then they enjoyed the rest of the evening together.

I have enjoyed all of my random interactions as I’ve walked around trying to add to my Pokedex. It is a new world of gaming out there and I like it a lot.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tommy Hilfiger The Girl- Finding the Edge

Twenty years ago a perfumer displayed her early talent with the release of Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl. The perfumer was Calice Becker. I’ve always considered Tommy Girl to be one of the new classics of perfume. When I received my press sample and press release for the new Tommy Hilfiger The Girl I had a concern that we were seeing more reformulation trying to capture the Millennials. It didn’t take long for me to see that wasn’t the case. I am pretty sure Tommy Hilfiger The Girl is trying to entice the Millennials to give it a try but not by making some lighter version of Tommy Girl. This is different than that.

calice becker

Calice Becker

One difference is Mme Becker is not working alone as she is joined by her Givaudan colleague Rodrigo Flores-Roux for Tommy Hilfiger The Girl. I have never found it easy to determine which perfumer is responsible for what part of the construction. If I am guessing here the floral heart seems very Sr. Flores-Roux’s style. The sharp green top accord seems Mme Becker-like. This is just me trying to perhaps figure out something which is not even a thing. There is a sharpness to Tommy Hilfiger The Girl which has been different than the approach taken by other brands in trying to capture the younger generation.


Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Tommy Hilfiger The Girl opens with a triad of sharp green leafy notes; violet leaves, fig leaves, and shiso leaves. In between all of the leafiness is a crisp green pear note. Despite the presence of the pear to try and help dull the cutting edge of both the violet and shiso leaves it never really succeeds. The shiso in particular seems to want to assert itself. This feels like a very niche aesthetic early on because of the aggressiveness of the green. The floral accord in the heart picks up the green and these notes do find a way to soften the edge. Jasmine is the keynote but it is surrounded by a couple of green hued ingredients in muguet and a synthetic from Givaudan called Karmaflor. These provide the green transition and the jasmine does the rest. It settles on to a pretty standard cedar and amber base accord.

Tommy Hilfiger The Girl has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Tommy Hilfiger The Girl is the first of the Millennial trending releases which hasn’t been afraid to show some edge. All of the earlier attempts by other brands seem to want to be crowd pleasers first and foremost. The creative team behind Tommy Hilfiger The Girl are placing their bets on something different. I like Tommy Hilfiger The Girl so it is a bet I can easily get behind and hope they are correct.

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample from Tommy Hilfiger.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger Poudre de Liberte- Corinthian Leather Candy Bowl

When I am at a large perfume exposition like Esxence 2016 there comes a point where I am running out of time and I start just grabbing samples for me to try out later. As I pack to return I make up a box of all of these. This year upon my return the box went missing and I only found it a few weeks ago. In every year past I have found something in the box which makes me wonder why I didn’t take the time to learn more about it at the show. This year’s after the show winner is Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger Poudre de Liberte.

Virginie Roux

Virginie Roux

Co-owner and creative director Virginie Roux found me on that last day. She stopped me and gave me samples of her entire line. I had tried them in the past and found them to be well-done but none had connected. When I was sorting my samples as I was packing I looked at the name and locked in on one word “poudre”. Esxence had displayed some spectacular non-powdery iris perfumes. Looking at the name I expected a riff on powdery iris, maybe rose, so it was put in the box. When I found the box there was something giving off a spicy candied fruit vibe I was liking. I started working through the perfumes I thought it had to be; my eye lighting on Poudre de Liberte and then deciding it had to be something else. Eventually it was nearly the last sample left in the box. Of course it was what was causing the smell I was enjoying.

bildschirmfoto 2013-09-08 um 125655

Jean-Claude Gigodot

Not sure what the powder is supposed to be in Poudre de Liberte because Mme Roux and longtime collaborator perfumer Jean-Claude Gigodot have created an Oriental gourmand with only a so fleeting you have to be looking for it rose providing any tenuous connection to powder.

Poudre de Liberte opens on a collection of rich spicy notes with cinnamon leading the way. This is the candied red hots version of cinnamon with as much sweet as heat. Candied fruits with apple the most recognizable match up with the sweet. Then M. Gigodot creates a leather candy bowl to hold all of them in. The refined leather accord is surprisingly complementary here with these sugary sweet notes. If you want some powder, there is a tiny bit of rose but it is never really powdery to my nose. This all ends on a woody foundation of cedar and sandalwood on top of some white musk.

Poudre de Liberte jas 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Poudre de Liberte is a fun perfume. The idea of a Corinthian leather candy bowl full of red hots and hard candies brought a smile on the days I wore it. It is one which will bring a smile to anyone who loves sugary candy perfumes. If you are looking for powder you’ll need to go somewhere else.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger at Esxence 2016.

-Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Hiram Green Dilettante- Studious Orange

I sat down with Hiram Green fifteen months ago when he was visiting New York City. After we had spent an hour talking about his style of perfume making I walked away very impressed. Mr. Green is one of those quiet thinkers with Marianas Trench-like depths under that stillness. If there is any commonality to the best independent perfumers it a desire to use their ingredients to the fullest. What this means for Mr. Green is he uses a very minimal number of raw materials. By working with all-natural ingredients it allows for those to bring the nuance to the primary scent effect. In his latest release Dilettante he has reached a pinnacle of this style of perfumery.

I wish I understood the name because a perfume as assured as this carries a name I consider an insult. Dilettantes are those who flock to the latest cultural event in a big city learning just enough to have a shallow conversation. Moving on to the next shiny object while likely forgetting everything they just acquired. I will leave it to Mr. Green to explain his thoughts behind it at some point. There is nothing in Dilettante which exhibits callow obsequiousness. Quite the opposite Dilettante displays a knowledge of natural oils and how they can interact which is anything but simplistic.

Hiram Green (4)

Hiram Green

Dilettante has three key ingredients orange blossom, neroli and petitgrain. Mr. Green has assembled them in a way which shuffles them around a bit from where I expected to find them. It is the orange blossom which makes a first impression. What it reminds me of straightaway is that it is an indolic white flower just as much as gardenia or tuberose. Dilettante purrs with those indoles in the early moments. The neroli is also used in such a way that it also reminds me that it can be an intensely green ingredient. In Dilettante that green is amplified such that it cradles the orange blossom within. This is all figuratively topped off with petitgrain adding in its characteristic bite. Once this all comes together it lingers for hours and hours with presence. Only very late on as these essential oils are drying down to their longest lasting components do I get a slightly patchouli-like effect. It is not listed as an ingredient so I am guessing it comes from an accord of some of the minor molecules within the oils used.

Dilettante has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage. These levels are extraordinary for an all-natural perfume. Mr. Green has done this time and again with all of his releases so it is no outlier.

I have had Dilettante for a few weeks and it is one of those perfumes which is mesmerizing from beginning to end. It is among the best perfumes of this year. Despite his name of this beautiful perfume Mr. Green is no dilettante just a quiet studious artist of scent. Dilettante is a masterclass in his expertise.

Disclosure; this review was based on a sample provided by Hiram Green.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Stella McCartney Pop- Light ‘Em Up, Up, Up

I took my quarterly filed trip to the huge mall nearby to do some observation. For the second time this year I was keenly aware of the perfumes which are being marketed to Millennials and I was curious to see if any of them were hitting the mark. Back in March it wasn’t obvious if they were or not. On this latest trip while standing in line getting my coffee there was a group of women in my target demographic talking in front of me. Most surprising they were actually talking about perfume. Part of the reason was the large Sephora in this mall is right next to the coffee place. The gist of the conversation was one of the women had found, “the perfect office perfume, it’s like I’m the only one who can smell it.” This is one of the current beliefs that the big perfume brands have when catering to this generation; they want it light. Naturally I followed them into the store to see what the identity of this perfume was. This time I kept my distance so I couldn’t hear the conversation but I definitely could see which bottle was being sampled. Turns out it was one of the same perfumes I particularly wanted to try as well, Stella McCartney Pop.

stella mccartney

Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney has created a thriving fashion and fragrance empire since she started her eponymous brand in 2001. Since 2003 she has released fragrances and Pop is the 21st release from the brand. As mass-market consumer brands go I would place her in the upper percentile of that sector. She certainly kept to a particular formula of sensual florals with presence. The one time she strayed from this formula was 2012’s L.I.L.Y. where she went for a modern chypre. It never caught on and was pretty quickly discontinued. Since then she has stayed true to her early aesthetic.


The Pop Crew (l. to r.) Lola Leon, Grimes, Amandla Sternberg, and Kenya Kinski-Jones

When I was reading about Pop the short description from the brand reads, “Pop is a spirit. It’s about celebrating that exciting time when you are coming into your own. It’s about freedom, and starting your life away from judgments or labels.” To go with this Ms. McCartney gathered four young creative Millennials to be the faces of the advertising campaign: Grimes, Lola Leon, Amandla Sternberg, and Kenya Kinski-Jones. All of this seemed to be exactly the kind of buzzwords and campaign designed to entice the target audience. It surely had worked with my test group from the coffee bar.

Louise Turner

Louise Turner

It was when I saw what the key notes were that my interest was piqued. Pop was described as a tuberose and sandalwood perfume composed by perfumer Louise Turner. Ms. Turner is one of the best perfumers in the mass-market category as she knows how to get the most out of her budget. But tuberose and sandalwood? Really? Tuberose is one of those derided “old lady” notes and sandalwood trends more masculine. Neither of these seemed like something that would appeal. Except for my little focus group. As they walked towards the cash register with two of them buying the rollerball version I approached the shelf with the tester.

When I sprayed it on a strip I got exactly what was promised, tuberose and sandalwood. Except these are not full-blooded essential oil versions, these are the cleaned-up synthetic versions. Ms. Turner has cleverly found a tuberose which has all of the “old lady” scrubbed out of it. Indoles, and intense floralcy are replaced by a well-mannered floral. The sandalwood synthetic is one that is so cleaned up it might as well be cedar. A few clean linen white musks and you have Pop.

Pop has 8-10 hour longevity and low sillage.

Pop shares a similarity to pop music as it doesn’t really want to challenge anything. It wants to be a pleasant fragrant companion which never offends. Depending on how you feel about those goals will likely color your feelings about Pop. The other thing that is most obvious about Pop is it is pitched so light that it is perfume nobody else but the wearer can smell. Which going back to my pop music analogy might be exactly what the Millennials want. Nobody knows just yet but maybe Fall Out boy has it right and when it comes to fragrance this generation wants to “Light ‘em, up, up, up” until you barely know they are there. At least with four young women Pop is a rousing success on all fronts.

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

Mark Behnke