New Perfume Reviews Guerlain French Kiss & Santal Royal- Ending 2014 with a Whimper

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Last week in one of the perfume groups I participate in one of the members listed the twenty releases from Guerlain in 2014. When I looked at it as a group it was startling to see the message those twenty releases sent. It showed that, at least for 2014, Guerlain and perfumer Thierry Wasser seemed to be interested in trying to cater to a much younger clientele. There were La Petite Robe Noire flankers. A Shalimar stripped of most of its challenging facets. L’Homme Ideal failed on almost every level. Teracotta Le Parfum was the lone bright point and a fantastic new addition. As the year wound down there were two last releases I had hope for. The latest addition to the Elixir Charnel series called French Kiss and Santal Royal. Both of these were examples of that which surrounded them this year and hewed to this less challenging aesthetic Guerlain seems to be courting.

French Kiss has been summed up in a simple surface one-liner as a niche version of La Petite Robe Noire. If it was, in fact, this I would have welcomed that. La Petite Robe Noire is a beautifully done mass-market perfume which Guerlain does well. I’m not sure it is deserving of the number of flankers it has been saddled with since its release five years ago. Then again neither does Shalimar. French Kiss is a little more daring than La Petite Robe Noire as I think M. Wasser understood he could add a little more. As a result the cherry becomes raspberry and it is paired with a super sweet lychee. This makes the opening moments very sweet. It will probably be a bit too much for some. The heart is a wonderful pairing of rose and violet which seem to imperiously sweep away that saccharine beginning. Iris broadens the floral heart and this is where French Kiss is at its most appealing. The finish is trademark Guerlinade. If French Kiss came from a different perfume company I would cut it a lot more slack but as a it comes from Guerlain it is disappointing for not pushing the envelope a little more. French Kiss has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

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Thierry Wasser

Santal Royal is just something that misses the mark by a mile. The press release says Santal Royal will be a deep dark oriental of sandalwood and oud. It is supposed to be “shrouded in mystery”. Instead it is all too obvious in construction and pedestrian. It opens on a whisper of jasmine and neroli which strengthens into a solid note of rose paired with cinnamon. It leads to a very common leather accord which is matched up with the sandalwood and the oud. This felt so much like “perfume by numbers” as there is absolutely nothing here which is special. It is not terrible but it is just so lacking in any imagination that it is surprising. The other thing about this is it lasts much less that I expected on my skin only getting about 8 hours out of my morning application with modest sillage.

I don’t think we will be looking back at 2014 as a watershed year for Guerlain as the last two releases were as uninspiring as the previous seventeen except for Terracotta Le Parfum.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle The Night- Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself…

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Ever since oud was introduced to the west a little over fifteen years ago it has become one of the most used ingredients in perfumery over that time. Especially over the last five years there has been a virtual wave of oud perfumes. The funny thing is most people who have worn those perfumes have never smelled the real thing. Most often it is either one of the synthetic ouds or cypriol/nagarmotha as a substitute in those perfumes. The real oud is so expensive to source, and create, the real stuff is difficult to find. I have spent a lot of time over the past few years buying direct from Asian sources to acquire a little of the real thing. Real oud is one of the most fascinating substances a perfumer can use. What region it comes from, how old the tree being harvested is, how long the oil has aged, all have an effect on its profile. For those of you who want to try real oud the opportunity has arrived with the release of the new Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle The Night by perfumer Dominique Ropion.

The Night is purported to contain an “unprecedented” amount of oud from India. M. Ropion only adds in two other notes, Turkish rose and amber. From the moment I opened my sample there was no doubt in my mind this was indeed real oud. When I, and others, write about oud we remark on it with unflattering adjectives like medicinal, band-aid-y, cheesy, dirty gym socks. Those don’t inspire one to want to put something like that on their body. The funny thing it is the combination of all of those derogatory aspects which make real oud so much fun to wear. I would also be the first to admit that it is an acquired taste. If you let the more confrontational character of oud push you away you will miss something sublime. In The Night M. Ropion clearly understands this and so keeps the perfume simple.

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Dominique Ropion

When I put The Night on for at least two hours it is nothing but the Indian oud. It smells like any of the oud oils I own. Indian oud tends to tilt towards the dirty bandage side of the oud spectrum. There is also a bit of cheese here too but it predominantly is the medicinal oud on display. These first two hours you might feel like this perfume is wearing you instead of the other way around. Because I knew what was coming I had a chance to mentally brace myself for the onslaught. There was still a bit of struggle but this Indian oud is an excellent choice to use because it really does display the quirky nature of pure oud. When the Turkish rose does finally make an appearance hours after first application it probably takes another couple of hours for it to even begin to make an impression with the oud. Once it does happen you can really appreciate why rose has been the historical yin to oud’s yang. The Turkish rose used here has an enhanced spicy core and it is that which allows it to gain some traction. The rose feels like it is the chaperone in bringing real oud to a western audience. Amber is used as an opaque shimmer of finishing but The Night is all about the oud and then the rose and the oud.

The Night has ridiculous longevity of over 24 hours. It also has significant sillage. This is a perfume to wear and appreciate around others who enjoy fragrance.

The Night is going to cause a lot of commotion once it makes its way to the usual Editions de Parfums stockists next year. There are many who are going to learn what they always thought was oud was something else. I kept hearing Mick Jagger singing the opening line of “Sympathy for the Devil” imagining these reactions. The ones who persevere will be rewarded with an experience of oud unlike anything they have tried before.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Richard Luscher Britos Terroir Perfumes (Part 2) 44oN03oE, 14oS48oE & 46oN08oE- The Magic of Pine

As I mentioned in Part 1 of my reviews of the Richard Luscher Britos Terroir Perfumes Collection two of the fragrances were really a family affair. The creative team of Malvin Richard, Lukas Luscher and Serena Britos wanted to let some other perfumers in on the idea of designing perfume with all-natural ingredients from a specific place. For 44oN03oE, 14oS48oE & 46oN08oE the creative team asked Andy Tauer, Vero Kern, and Jean-Claude Gigodot to interpret their version of perfume terroir.

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Andy Tauer

Andy Tauer takes us to the south of France in the Midi-Pyrenees to St. Rome de Cernon with 44oN03oE. This area of France is known for its wild mountain lavender. Hr. Tauer takes this mountain lavender and forms a singular lavender essential oil which carries with it all of the beautiful floralcy of lavender. There is also a bit of a citrus aspect and of course the herbal nature all of the best lavender essential oils have. This one has that herbaceous quality in abundance. Also growing around the lavender fields are majestic black pines and juniper. Hr. Tauer takes a fantastic pine resin and uses the very astringent juniper berry to create a craggy mountainside accord. The lavender has not fallen by the wayside as it still is present in and among the pines and juniper. This is one of the best lavender accords I have smelled in a very long time. There are times when I often think I am “over” a note. Thankfully talented perfumers like Hr. Tauer are there to show me new things. 44oN03oE finishes with smooth nutty sweetness courtesy of chestnut and vanilla. 44oN03oE is one of Hr. Tauer’s best compositions of the last few years and he has had a very good last few years so that is saying something. 44oN03oE lives up to exactly what the idea of Terroir Perfume should do by sweeping you to a mountainside in France via perfume.

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Vero Kern

Vero Kern whisks us away to the ylang-ylang plantations of Ambunja, Madagascar in 14oS48oE. Fr. Kern’s plantation is right on the edge of the tropical rainforest ringed by evergreens. By using those evergreens to blunt the usually extroverted ylang-ylang. It sets up a delightful tension between the woods and the flowers. As we move deeper in the forest pink peppercorn and mimosa add to the evergreen and ylang-ylang. As with the other perfumes in this collection there is a real moment in the heart of each which is breathtaking. The one which Fr. Kern has constructed for 14oS48oE is the most mesmerizing of all of them. Every time I’ve worn this about an hour and a half in it nearly stops me in my tracks with its beauty. The base evokes the harvest and distillation of vanilla and vetiver as they provide the foundation for this perfume. The press release mentions a roasted corn note but I have not found it to be present on my skin. The base is green acerbic vetiver leavened by rich vanilla. It is so rare to find a perfect accord which demands your attention but Fr. Kern has accomplished that and more with 14oS48oE.

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Jean-Claude Gigodot

Jean-Claude Gigodot takes us to 46oN08oE which is in the Parco Naturale dell’Alta Valle Antrona on the Italian-Swiss border just east of Zermatt. We find ourselves among the windswept pines on the Val d’Anniviers at 2000m of altitude. M. Gigodot has also found and sourced a fantastic pine essential oil to open 46oN08oE. All three of these perfumes I am reviewing today have significant coniferous contributions but the one M. Gigadot uses has the most depth and nuance to it. Because of that he lets it have the opening moments all to itself. Also because of the quality of this pine oil he wisely adds in only a few complementary notes. A bit of oakmoss to capture the lichems growing on these woody sentinels. A dollop of woodsmoke like a fireplace in the distance is hanging among the pines. M. Gigadot keeps this simple because all of his natural ingredients are so good they bring their own inherent complexity without needing extraneous notes to draw you to them. 46oN08oE is the most linear of the five Terroir Perfumes but it is also probably the single best ingredient of all five, too.

44oN03oE, 14oS48oE & 46oN08oE have 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

The three perfumes today show how the creative team at Richard Luscher Britos is ready to invite other perfumers into their family adventures. Like the best of guests on an adventure they only add to the story in extraordinary ways; Hr. Tauer, Fr. Kern, and M. Gigadot have advanced the concept of Terroir Perfume brilliantly.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Richard Luscher Britos Terroir Perfumes (Part 1) 04oN74oW & 38oN16oE- Family is its Own Terroir

I first became aware of the term terroir in regards to wine making. The great wine estates in Bordeaux believed that each vineyard produced their specific version of wine because of the unique combination of geography, geology, and climate. Many saw this as a marketing ploy when it was first used. Over time there have been more scientific studies which seem to back up the idea that where something grows is as important as what is being grown. From wine this concept has spread to other comestibles like coffee, chocolate, tea and cheese. As one who has been skeptical of the concept it was with great interest when I heard of perfume collection which was being designed based on the concept of terroir.

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Malvin Richard, Serena Britos, Lukas Luscher (l. to r.)

Richard Luscher Britos Terroir Perfumes is the creative effort of Malvin Richard, Lukas Luscher and Serena Britos. These three childhood friends developed their idea of perfume terroir when they would join Malvin’s father, perfumer Jean-Claude Richard, as he would search for new raw materials to use. Through these trips the three friends came to believe there were “fragrance terroirs”. Their perfume collection was going to illustrate this by using only natural components. The first five perfumes created under this method have been released. As unconvinced as I am about the existence of terroir this debut collection is an exciting natural perfume collection from four different perfumers. I am going to spend the next two days reviewing all five because they are all worth writing about. I am going to start with the two perfumes composed by Jean-Claude Richard as it seems only fitting to not break up the family affair right away.

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Jean-Claude Richard

04oN74oW puts us directly in the middle of the Parque Nacional Natural Sumapaz in Colombia. M. Richard has brought together a riot of tropical blooms. It starts with a glacially restrained gardenia. In the press notes it calls this the gardenia which is found at the transition point on the hills of Fusagasuga where the cool winds sweep down from the Andes to clash with the humidity rising from the rain forest. The gardenia which evokes this is caught in a moment where its natural exuberance is tempered by a bit of chill. It makes it very focused as a perfume note without being as expansive as most gardenia notes are. You don’t have to wait long for a floral breakout because we descend into the rain forest and are surrounded by tropical flowers led by vanilla orchids, lilies, wild rose, and hyacinths. When you walk in a tropical flower garden there is a natural harmonic floral accord which nature provides. M. Richard manages the same kind of balance with his natural ingredients. This all ends with perhaps the crop Colombia is most known for, and which also claims its own terroir, coffee. Coffee when coming from a natural source has a thinner greener character than you might expect. In this composition that nature meshes perfectly with the florals in the heart. It feels like I am drinking some coffee from a Thermos while surrounded by the flowers of the jungle.

38oN16oE directs us to the Parco Nazionale dell’Aspromonte just east of Calabria, Italy. Calabria is known for growing the best bergamot in the entire world. That is what M. Richard wants to bring to the foreground with this perfume. Bergamot is so often an afterthought as it is present in the top notes of so very many perfumes. M. Richard allows bergamot to have the fragrant stage all to itself. The early moments of 38oN16oE are that bergamot providing a pervasive bright citrus shine. There is so much to enjoy here when not expecting to move along to the rest of the perfume. Here the bergamot develops slowly and in the heart the delicate bergamot blossom provides a very delicate floralcy underpinning the citric nature of the bergamot itself. This delicate interplay dominates the first couple of hours I was wearing 38oN16oE. Calabria has become a melting pot of cultures and the base notes of sandalwood and incense reflect that. M. Richard uses a precise hand so these do not overwhelm the bergamot but complement it as equals.

04oN74oW and 38oN16oE have outstanding longevity of 8-10 hours for a natural perfume. The sillage is modest.

These perfumes show that family is its own terroir where love, friendship, and adventure provides its own unique climate for creativity.

Tomorrow in Part 2 I’ll review the perfumes created by Andy Tauer, Vero Kern, and Jean-Claude Gigodot.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Hiram Green Shangri-La- HG and The Temple of Chypre

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As much as I try in a year there always seems to be one or two which get by me until later. In 2013 one of those was Hiram Green Moon Bloom. I never really got a chance to try it until this past summer, over a year after it was released. I was very impressed with what Hiram Green did with his inaugural effort. Mr. Green after working in London perfumery, Scent Stystems, decided he wanted to make perfumes. He further decided that he wanted to eschew the synthetics he found in everything he was selling and wanted to try natural perfumery. Moon Bloom was a tuberose and it was an above average version of that floral. Mr. Green’s dedication to natural perfumery did not mean he had to compromise his artistic vision. As much as I liked his first effort his second release, Shangri-La, is much better.

Mr. Green’s inspiration was to give his interpretation of a classic chypre. The name of the perfume comes from the mythical city in the Kunlun Mountains described in James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon. Shangri-La is described as a utopia where the denizens age so slowly as to be essentially immortal. It is also a place of quiet study and reflection. Shangri-La as a perfume is something less mannered and it feels more Indiana Jones to me than Hugh Conway. Mr. Green has constructed something more rambunctious. Shangri-La is more suited to an adventurer with a fedora and a bullwhip than a studious man.

Mr. Green wanted Shangri-La to be more similar to the alpha chypre, 1912’s Chypre de Coty by Francoise Coty. Shangri-La follows that architecture but Mr. Green makes a couple of inspired substitutions which allow Shangri-La to be its own chypre.

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Hiram Green

Shangri-La opens with a citrus sunburst. It is an attention getter. In M. Coty’s original formula a crisp pear accompanies the herbal notes. In Shangri-La Mr. Green uses peach and he uses a very deep peach which carries a fruity funkiness. There are times during the early moments when it feels like there is some musk present but once I really focus on it; the peach with perhaps a bit of patchouli is what I am sensing. When I am just letting the peach be itself it adds a slightly leathery animalic quality which is very nice. The heart of jasmine, iris, and rose is the same classic triptych that M. Coty used. Mr. Green pushes the jasmine more forward and he swathes it in spice. That makes the floral heart swagger a bit, as all the best adventurers do. Mr. Green’s take on the classic patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver chypre base is very well composed. In most modern chypres those three notes are mashed together in a green hash which has almost zero character. Mr. Green has studied M. Coty’s original and realized each of those notes needs to be distinct on its own to truly bring a great chypre home properly. The patchouli is used in a very minimal way and it provides connectivity between the oakmoss and vetiver. Mr. Green lets those latter two notes rise up like twin lions and tussle to see who is greenest of them all. Over the last hours of Shangri-La on my skin the victor seems to change every so often.

Shangri-La has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage. This is remarkable for a natural perfume to have quite the level of both of these.

Shangri-La is a much more assured composition than Moon Bloom. Mr. Green shows a keen intelligence in the way he de-constructed M. Coty’s original and then re-constructed it as Shangri-La. There is not a clumsy step anywhere in this perfume; even while running across a plank bridge over a river gorge. If you’re up for a perfumed adventure follow HG into The Temple of Chypre, Shangri-La awaits.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Simone Cosac Bianca, Ose, Peccato, & Sublime- Villa Visions

When I was in Florence I had the opportunity to spend time at the Villa La Tana which is the home of Simone Cosac Naify the owner and creative director of Simone Cosac Profumi. The Villa La Tana and its previous occupant Bianaca Cappello the consort to Frederic I de Medici. Ms. Cosac has much to be inspired by. For the perfume side of the business she has worked exclusively with perfumer Sonia Constant. Mme Constant has spent time at the Villa la Tana soaking in the atmosphere and together she and Ms. Cosac have begun to create a specific aesthetic which captures the beautiful Villa and its history. 2014 has seen the release of four new fragrances, Bianca, Ose, Peccato, and Sublime; each display this burgeoning creative nous.

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Simone Cosac Naify

Bianca is inspired by Sig.ra Cappello and the gardens she tended while Frederic was off scheming. It is the perfume which most closely captures the beauty of the outdoor gardens at the Villa La Tana. It opens with tart mandarin made sticky green by blackcurrant buds. A floral heart of iris, gardenia, and violet is well-balanced and not nearly as overpowering as you might think. This is the smell of the garden at noon with more transparent hues of the florals on top. It ends with a woody base of cedar and sandalwood. The floral heart is the star of Bianca mostly because of its opacity.

If Bianca is a subtle peek at the gardens of Villa La Tana, Ose is the moment when everything is in its fullest of glory and redolence. Ose is much more extroverted and that power is led by a few notes which are very expansive. It opens on a juicy orange which is contrasted with the woody nuttiness of almond. The early moments are mostly citrus but the almond adds texture in a minimalist fashion. Lilac is the core of the heart and around it Mme Constant adds acacia, muguet, and heliotrope. These are fresher florals and the volume is turned way up on them. The lilac at this level is a tricky thing to use because it can be confused with deodorizing products. Mme Constant’s use of the greener fresher florals keeps that from happening. Here the lilac carries the day with force and beauty. A musky patchouli is the finishing touch for Ose.

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Sonia Constant

Peccato is my favorite of the new releases as it sets up a bit of dynamic tension between top notes of cardamom and neroli in conjunction with the heart of violet and orris. Those are four of my favorite notes and Mme Constant has employed the Givaudan Orpur version of cardamom which adds so much to the early moments. The cardamom has the green citrus spice quality but it also carries some stronger aspects as this cardamom doesn’t whisper it speaks in audible tones. Those tones begin a conversation with orris and violet that was captivating for me. After a few hours I was almost sorry to see the patchouli and vanilla base begin to take over.

Sublime is meant to be a meditative perfume, perfect for strolls along the garden paths at Villa La Tana. Mme Constant creates a jasmine perfume out of Sublime. Before we get to that jasmine, mandarin and crisp pear provide the top notes. The jasmine then arrives and it is a proper jasmine with much of the indoles scrubbed away. Violet leaves and gardenia help fil in the spaces where the indoles usually reside. Cedar and patchouli are the base notes. Sublime is the most familiar smelling of these new releases.

All four perfumes had 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Ms. Cosac and Mme Constnat have done a nice job at expanding the Simone Cosac line without becoming repetitive. At the same time there is a kind of Italian Classicism which runs through all of the perfumes in the collection. It isn’t as specific as a consistent grouping of notes. It is more like a similarity in architecture and design. The four new release only add to this.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Simone Cosac.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Surrender to Chance Surrender & Cold Water Canyon- Jumpin’ Jasmine

I am often asked if I would like to create a perfume and I always answer with an emphatic shake of my head, “No.” One of the trends of 2014 has been the number of people who love perfume who have a different answer. A couple weeks ago I was contacted by Lisa Lawler and Patty White of the perfume sample site Surrender to Chance. They informed me that they has been working with one of my favorite natural perfumers Dominique Dubrana aka AbdesSalaam Attar on the first two fragrances to be created exclusively for Surrender to Chance. For their first two fragrances, Surrender and Cold Water Canyon, they decided to explore two very different versions of jasmine. One of them is meant to be a politely skanky sensual jasmine and the other a greener more herbal jasmine. Both succeed at showing the versatility of jasmine.

For Surrender, Ms. Lawler and Ms. White asked M. Dubrana to create a jasmine focused wedding scent. M. Dubrana responded with a blend of multiple jasmine absolutes. He also always manages to use an array of complementary notes which bring out some of the more subtle qualities in the central note. In Surrender it is carrot and hyraceum which provide the illumination.

Many may know Ms. White from her origins as one of the founders of the perfume blog Perfume Posse. It is the first blog I can remember having a dedicated discussion on skank in perfume. When you are using a lot of jasmine absolute the indoles are going to impart a bit of skank. Being an aficionado of skank Ms. White clearly understands if you’re designing a wedding scent a little skank goes a long way. This must have been communicated to M. Dubrana and so he uses licorice and carrot to attenuate the skank and accentuate the sweet floral quality of the jasmine absolutes. The carrot really adds a different foundation to a very familiar floral note. It takes a bit of vegetal sweetness as a polychromatic chord to the floral octave of jasmine. All together it takes what could have been a beastly jasmine and converts it into a domesticated kitten. The soft jasmine is turned softly animalic for the final part of the development by myrrh and hyraceum. The hyraceum adds in the animalic and the myrrh adds subdued sweetness. This accord is the return of the skank but as earlier kept on a very tight leash.  

Surrender has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

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Dominique Dubrana aka AbdesSalaam Attar

According to the press release Cold Water Canyon was inspired by a friend’s request for the scent of a summer canyon. Ms. Lawler and Ms. White asked M. Dubrana to create a green foundation for a more delicate jasmine to float upon. M. Dubrana uses a set of notes indigenous to canyons you might find in the American Southwest.

M. Dubrana opens on a dusty desiccated sage as the wind blows down the canyon. The pine trees upon the sides release their scent as the breeze inverts and blows through them. As you pass through the foliage in the base of the canyon a green leafy accord mixes with all of this. The early moments of Cold Water Canyon are very green with the sage, pine, and leafy notes all mixing together in a verdant chorus. After a few minutes as the sun sets and the stars come out so does the delicate smell of the night-blooming jasmine. Unlike in Surrender this jasmine carries a much more transparent feel to it. There is almost nothing indolic and it is nearly entirely the narcotic sweetness of jasmine. It is exactly the right contrast to the green accord on top. As you drift to sleep looking at the Milky Way above you in the canyon, Cold Water Canyon stays precisely poised between both aspects of the floral and green.

Cold Water Canyon has 4-6 hour longevity and average sillage.

Both of these perfumes show a real collaborative effort between Ms. Lawler, Ms. White, and M. Dubrana. They succeed because I imagine each of them was able to impose a bit of their own aesthetic upon both perfumes. While I am still firmly in the camp of not ever wanting to make my own fragrance it is a real pleasure to see when others take that step and succeed as well as this creative team has.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Surrender to Chance.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Vanilla Bourbon Intense (Holiday No. 14)- Holiday Party

The Holiday season is one of those times of the year where it seems like the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is a never-ending whirl of social events. As hectic as it is the festive season is as much about sharing and enjoying our friends and family as it is about gifts. Another part of the season are yearly traditions. Many of them are personal but there is at least one fragrant one which is shared amongst perfume lovers. Perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz releases a Holiday perfume every year under her DSH Perfumes label, and this year is the fourteenth of these releases called Vanilla Bourbon Intense.

If there is a common scent to the holidays it would probably be a toss-up between pine and vanilla. Vanilla is the underpinning to so many of the Holiday sweets that it always seems to be in the air. I have a number of vanilla perfumes I wear during this time of year because I love the smell so much. Ms. Hurwitz has done more than just give us a vanilla forward perfume in Vanilla Bourbon Intense; she has given us the smell of a Holiday house party. When I first sniffed Vanilla Bourbon Intense it evoked that moment I take my winter coat off and the mixture of smells of a good party come towards me. Baked goods, wine, whiskey, candles burning, a fine cigar wafting in from outside. All of this is made even a little stuffy and claustrophobic as the notes tend to pile on top of each other as they socialize with each other during the development.

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Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

As I remove my coat the first smell to hit me is that vanilla. Ms. Hurwitz used a “double dose” and it shows. This is rich chewy decadent vanilla. Vanilla can be such a common note but when it is from a good source and used in overdose it achieves a depth that makes it hard to ignore. That is how the early vanilla in Vanilla Bourbon Intense sets up. I walk towards the bar to get a drink and along with the vanilla I get the smell of whiskey and wine. The two forms of alcohol mix very well and the vanilla intersperses itself at the bar quite nicely. The finishing touch comes with a touch of blond tobacco and a bit of smoky amber. This kind of resinous narcotic accord is a fitting foundation for all the previous notes to rest upon.

Vanilla Bourbon Intense has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Ms. Hurwitz’s Holiday releases always have the effect of adding to my happy seasonal mood. This year she has delivered an entire celebration in a bottle.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Phoenix Botanicals Tempest Blossom & Bed of Roses- Natural Intimacy

I say it almost every time I review a talented independent perfumer’s wok but it bears repeating. Those who stand out from the crowd are those who spend real time with their raw materials. The best form a personal bond with these extracts and through their exploration when they are ready to compose a perfume using them they also know exactly how to make it shine. Natural Perfumer Irina Adam of Phoenix Botanicals is one of these intimate imagineers of natural perfume and her latest releases Tempest Blossom & Bed of Roses are another illustration of this.

I met Ms. Adam in 2012, she is a very soft spoken individual and after speaking with her she pressed some samples into my hand. It would be days later when I would come across those samples and I was very impressed. She has made a number of natural perfumes where the natural ingredients were displayed with a clarity and depth that is unusual. One of the things about Ms. Adam is she goes out and gathers her ingredients and compounds them herself. She recently spent some time in Hawaii and that trip and the materials she gathered have inspired a new spate of perfumes. At the recent Sniffapalooza Fall Ball I had the pleasure of introducing her and she presented her new perfumes.

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Irina Adam

Tempest Blossom is one of the most unique combinations Ms. Adam has created so far. She was inspired by walking through Hawaii after a wind driven rainstorm had passed. The scent of foliage uprooted and flowers bruised and releasing their fragrance from their crushed petals. Over all of this she wanted to capture the power of standing outside and watching the storm approach as the air gets heavier and nature rises up. What is so interesting is the two notes she chooses to capture this are tuberose and oud.

Tuberose and Oud? I can imagine you thinking this could be a roaring beast of two of perfumery’s most extroverted notes. This is where Ms. Adam’s dedication to making her own raw materials comes into play. Tuberose and Oud are definitely here but since she is responsible for making the raw material she has already shaped it, some, to be powerful but it is much quieter than other tuberose and oud you have run into. It opens with the wind picking up, wafting some smells from the citrus grove in the distance. Hints of some of the other flowers are also flowing on the freshening wind. As the storm crackles and passes overhead you walk out to find crushed tuberose everywhere releasing their perfume. The oud represents the moist earth and there is a bit of vetiver to help enhance this illusion. Tempest Blossom is like seeing what the storm has revealed after it has passed.

bed of roses1

It is a funny thing that Tempest Blossom enchanted me because of its unique duet. Bed of Roses I expected to be just another rose perfume. There are so many rose perfumes out there now it is hard to find something new to say. The name comes from a real life bed which had wild rose petals sprinkled on it and where Ms. Adam would lay her head after a day of harvesting. Bed of Roses has a beautiful rose core but Ms. Adam adds in the bed underneath as there is a hint of linen and wooden bedframe underneath this rose.

Bed of Roses opens with a blend of five roses and it must have been the smell that first hit her when she laid down as the rose petals gave up their fragrance. Underneath is the freshly laundered sheets carrying a slightly soapy accord consisting of violet, carnation, and neroli. The wood of the four posters is represented by vetiver and oakmoss. As with Tempest Blossom there is powerful delicacy on display in Bed of Roses.

Tempest Blossom and Bed of Roses have 6-8 hour longevity and almost zero sillage.

Ms. Adam has quickly risen to one of the natural perfumers from whom I eagerly await what comes next. It all starts with her very personal way of gathering her ingredients and ends in delightfully singular natural perfumes like Tempest Blossom and Bed of Roses.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Phoenix botanicals at sniffapalooza Fall Ball.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review: M Micallef Mon Parfum Gold- Different Elegance

I have to admit that it can be hard to work up any excitement over a new flanker. Which is why they often keep moving down my list of things to wear pushed out by something newer and shinier. This was the plight of the new M. Micallef Mon Parfum Gold. I have had a sample since Pitti Fragranze in September but there was always something more enticing. The one good thing about this time of year is there is some time to eventually get around to trying the things which kept getting displaced.

Martine Micallef and her husband Geoffrey Nejman have been the owners and creative force behind M. Micallef Perfumes since 2002. They have worked exclusively with perfumer Jean-Claude Astier to create a very distinctive, very French, brand. 2009’s Mon Parfum was, perhaps, the culmination of everything M. Micallef stands for as it remains the flagship perfume for the brand. Last year the first flanker, Mon Parfum Cristal, was released and while it was good it somehow lost some of that elegance that the original Mon Parfum had to burn. I tried Mon Parfum Gold at Pitti and it didn’t really perform well on the strip. It seemed a little unfocused. Once it finally returned to my attention I found it was much better on my skin and over the last couple of weeks it has really been a great autumn perfume.

martine-micallef-and-geoffrey-nejman

Martine Micallef and Geoffrey Nejman

Team Micallef wanted to make Mon Parfum Gold a real Oriental while retaining the soft floral nature of the original. M. Astier cleverly uses a trio of more boisterous florals in his heart but there is much greater depth throughout the development and it makes Mon Parfum Gold an interesting extrovert.

Mon Parfum Gold opens on a fruity accord centered upon plum and mandarin. This is where there is an identifiable aesthetic that is M. Micallef. There are a lot of plum and mandarin openings out there. Here M. Astier lets the mandarin stand out front and then adds in the plum to add a fruity lower octave. There is a beautiful harmony that seems different from others which use the same notes. This all leads into a heart of mostly tuberose supported by jasmine and orange blossom. This is a complete tuberose from slightly green mentholated facets straight through to its indolic floral beauty. The jasmine is used to as modifier and I really only caught it as a singular note at odd times throughout the days I wore this. It finally ends on a base of vanilla and musk. There also seems to be a bit of really fine frankincense swirling through the final stages.

Mon Parfum Gold has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Mon Parfum has always been my idea of a perfume for a woman planning to engage her lover. Mon Parfum Gold is the perfume for that same woman who is at a party and every eye in the room tracks her movement because she has such an understated elegance.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by M. Micallef at Pitti Fragranze.

Mark Behnke