New Perfume Review Le Labo + Opening Ceremony Geranium 30- The Spoils of Exclusivity

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In the war of attrition that is exclusivity I think Le Labo is winning. There are many perfume companies which play the exclusivity game. Boutique exclusives, special collaborations, city exclusives, genetic exclusives; okay the last one isn’t reality, yet. In any case the lines come up with ways to entice you to want to try these exclusives. The nice thing for me is that so often when I get a chance to sniff it I am usually not smitten enough to want it, except for Le Labo. Le Labo has been making city exclusives that are only sold at the Le Labo boutique within that city. I went through many gyrations to own four of those; Gaiac 10, Poivre 23, Vanille 44, and Aldehyde 44. Thankfully Le Labo allowed the rest of the world to get in on the fragrances and for one month every other fall the city exclusives are available everywhere Le Labo is sold. But now they have a new exclusive even more exclusive than the city exclusives.

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Thierry Boutemy

Le Labo partnered with lifestyle and clothing store Opening Ceremony to create a fragrance, Geranium 30. Geranium 30 would have floral designer Thierry Boutemy as creative director overseeing perfumer Barnabé Fillion. M. Boutemy is known for his fantastic floral designs most notably as part of the set design for director Sofia Coppola’s movie “Marie Antoinette”. M. Fillion is not a well-known name in perfumery circles but he has been exploring fragrance in most interesting ways. Last November he was part of a show in conjunction with Belgian design house Unfold where he added fragrance to different ceramic diffusers created via 3-D printing. This was a very exciting partnership and as I was reading the press release I got more excited until I reached the end and read this, “Limited Edition: 100 bottles”. Surely this must be a typo and they meant 1000 bottles. Nope 100 bottles was it. When I knew it was only going to be so few I fervently hoped this would be one of those rare Le Labo misfires. Nope this might be the best Le Labo floral since Rose 31; of course.

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Barnabé Fillion at Unfold November 2013

Geranium 30 is an example of what Le Labo does so well in allowing creatives to follow their instincts. In this case M. Boutemy had created a series of smashed and stomped upon flowers for the Opening Ceremony collection with his name on it. M. Fillion picks up on that and creates a floral that captures a physical grinding of flowers against the concrete. On the surface Geranium 30 is a spicy floral fragrance but taken together it is a collision of the garden against the sidewalk.

M. Fillion takes a brilliant grapefruit as the top note of Geranium 30 and uses that to segue into the geranium. Geranium is one of my favorite floral notes because it carries greener facets closer to the surface. M. Fillion ups that by adding just the right amount of galbanum to tint the green a few shades darker but not to overwhelm it. For that he uses black pepper and it is used as a flame to consume the floral heart of Geranium 30. Where cumin consumes the rose in Rose 31 the pepper does the same thing to the geranium here. As much as I love Rose 31 this might be a more balanced effect as some remnants of the geranium linger after the pepper flamethrower has died down. The base is a wet concrete accord and a cocktail of white musks.

Geranium 30 has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I have been very conflicted about writing this review because Geranium 30 is one of my favorite new fragrances of the year and as of this writing is sold out. Bottles are popping up on auction sites for crazy prices. I wanted to write this because I am going to hope that when the next sale of city exclusives comes around they will relent and add Geranium 30 in to the list of exclusives. It is a great fragrance which deserves a very wide audience especially for those who are appreciative of the line. The exclusivity game may be a war of attrition but, damn them, Le Labo plays it so well they will probably be the last perfume line left standing.

Disclosure: This review was based on a split of a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Code Deco A Minor & B Minor- Hot Jazz and Cool Nights

One of my favorite side effects of being a perfume blogger has been the opportunity to be the Master of Ceremonies at the Sunday lunch at Sniffapalooza for the past few years. Twice a year I get to introduce a group of independent perfumers to an appreciative audience. Most of the time I have already made the acquaintance and so I don’t often get the opportunity to share the experience of trying something for the first time. At last May’s Spring Fling I did get that opportunity as independent perfumer Gauri Garodia introduced her perfume line Code Deco.

Mme Garodia lives in Singapore and she has spent much of her career working for the Asian subsidiaries of some of the big perfume companies. This prepared her to create her own line in 2013. The name Code Deco was chosen because they are anagrams of each other and they also capture a couple of concepts near to Mme Garodia’s heart. She is an aficionado of the Art Deco time in history and she also believes there is a hidden code to fragrances which is deciphered by one’s preferences. There are currently thirteen fragrances in the line and the majority of them are jazz inspired. Mme Garodia told me when we met at Sniffapalooza music is a mandatory component of her creative process and there are pairs of her fragrances which feel like riffs on each other. One of those pairs are A Minor and B Minor.

For both fragrances there is a spicy clove heart which leads down to a leather and tobacco base. These provide the backbeat and bass line. The different riffs are in A Minor which starts with dark fruit as opposed to B Minor’s gin and grapefruit. The heart contains different spices and floral notes to go with the clove and the bases use different woods to mix in with the common components.

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Gauri Garodia

A Minor always catches me off guard as it opens with a brilliant bergamot but it is quickly eclipsed by dark plum. This is a crackling transition and it is a bit like a perfumed attention getter. The clove comes next and with it is the green rose quality of geranium, cinnamon, and bay leaf. This is a very green heart and it is very deep when it all comes together as both the clove and cinnamon add a simmering heat to it all. Mme Garodia definitely paid attention to creating excellent bases and the leather and tobacco base she uses for both of these is very well composed. For A Minor a bit of sandalwood adds creamy warm woody highlights.

B Minor is exactly the opposite as Mme Garodia goes for the cool and it begins with an icy gin accord paired not with lime but grapefruit. This is a fabulous choice as the grapefruit adds some depth without heft. The cool theme continues in the heart as a bouquet of white flowers are dusted with cardamom and the clove comes back to remind us of its kinship to A Minor. If A Minor was heat at this point B Minor has a frosty cool aspect to it. The gin and grapefruit ligers to combine with the clove, cardamom, and white flowers. This eventually heads down to the leather and tobacco base but this time, in keeping with the cool theme, cedar adds its definitive lines to the final measure of B Minor.

A Minor and B Minor have 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mme Garodia has coded both of these as masculines but I would say they are very much genderless. I have really come to enjoy B Minor a lot throughout this summer. A Minor has its pleasures as well but I suspect it will be worn a bit more in the cooler weather of the fall. All thirteen fragrances have made it to the US and are currently exclusive to MiN New York. In the end I think I’m just a jazz guy and Mme Garodia’s perfume jazz riffs make beautiful music on my skin.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Code Deco at Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Penhaligon’s Tralala- Bertrand’s Retro Nouveau Perfume

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If there is anything one can say about perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour it is he is prolific. Sometimes that profligacy has the unfortunate effect of feeling a like a “new” release is made up of parts of older releases. As a result when trying a new perfume by M. Duchaufour the mental rolodex of his past fragrances is spinning madly while I try it. While there are moments of familiarity in the new Penhaligon’s Tralala this is the first time that I feel M. Duchaufour has aggressively gone for a vintage feeling modern perfume. It is his first attempt at a Retro Nouveau fragrance.

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Three looks from the Meadham Kirchoff Fall 2014 Fashion Show

That Tralala goes for that vibe is probably due to the creative direction from fashion design duo, Meadham Kirchoff. Their Fall 2014 collection was a modern riff on pre-war fashion and while this kind of reaching to the past to form a foundation for the contemporary has become common in the fashion world, it hasn’t in perfumery. Penhaligon’s has used one of their existing perfumes to accompany previous Meadhgam Kirchoff shows and for the Fall 2014 runway show they wanted a new fragrance to match the designs. M. Duchaufour took this challenge and has created something wholly original within his portfolio.  

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Bertrand Duchaufour

Tralala opens on a very vintage aldehydic moment carrying aspects of old hairspray along with the sparkly metallic sheen of other aldehydes. This is beautifully amplified with violet leaves and galbanum to turn this edgily green and the violet leaves pick up the metallic highlights of the aldehydes. To add some depth M. Duchaufour trots out his well refined boozy accord and lilting through all of this is a bit of eastern exoticism as saffron is also part of the early going. This opening reminds me of a 1950’s woman spraying her hair with Aqua Net whilst still in her slip, a highball glass on her dresser. It sets a very precise vibe. The vibe is carried further with powdery orris reminiscent of vintage cosmetics. Then M. Duchaufour uses two more of his perfected accords as leather and incense begin to add a darker deeper texture to Tralala. These are details which make for interesting juxtaposition. The base of Tralala is very dense as sweet myrrh is enclosed in an envelope of vetiver and patchouli at first. Then a sweetness manages to come to the fore very late as opoponax and vanilla join the myrrh to carry Tralala to a sweet ending.

Tralala has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Despite the PR hiccup over the name the fragrance itself is very good. I really like that M. Duchaufour was pointed in a particular direction and he ran with the creative direction given him. I think many of his best fragrances have come when he has been under active creative direction. In the end Tralala is M. Duchaufour at the top of his game and that is a very good game indeed.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample of Tralala provided by Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bogue Profumo Maai- Engagement Distance

I have often heard Michael Edwards offer the advice to new perfumers, especially indie ones, that they should take the time to study the great perfumes and perfumers of the past. What if you had the good fortune to instead come into the possession of forty bottles of essences and bases from a perfumer’s laboratory circa sometime in the 1940’s? If you were an aspiring perfumer and could study those materials what insights and influences would that bring to your own perfumery? Those previous questions are what perfumer Antonio Gardoni has used to found his Italian indie perfume line, Bogue Profumo.

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The old essences Sig. Gardoni used for Cologne Relaoded

Sig. Gardoni did indeed come into a treasure trove of incredibly well-preserved bottles of an unnamed perfumer’s ingredients. After living with them he chose to reproduce one of the recipes on the bottle and released it as Cologne Reloaded. What Sig. Gardoni recreated was a cologne with an intensely animalic base of castoreum. This truly smelled of the classic barbershop cologne right down to the leather strop for sharpening the straight razor. Eau d’E would be the second release and this was a more modern take on the same cologne idea. Sig. Gardoni takes a very intense lavender and pairs it with the classic herbal citrus cologne accord. If Cologne Reloaded felt like an artifact Eau d’E felt like a modern extrapolation of that. The thing that I liked best was Sig. Gardoni’s choice to explore the unusual aspects of lavender looking to accentuate the less floral aspects. Both of these were preparation for Sig. Gardoni’s new release, Maai, wherein he combines many of the lessons learned and creates one of the finest Retro Nouveau fragrances I have ever smelled.

Retro Nouveau constructions almost by definition have to be accomplished by independent perfumers. These need to be small batch production runs. They need to be unafraid to push certain aspects right to the edge of being unpleasant. Finally, they need to fuse the present with the past without letting either dominate. When I asked Sig. Gardoni the origin of the name Maai he told me, “it is a Japanese word used in the martial art of Kendo that I practice from many years. The meaning is actually quite difficult to render but more or less it means "interval/space in between" and it's the relationship between space and time between two opponents a sort of "engagement distance" it defines the exact position/time from which one opponent can strike the other”. Maai the perfume is that interval between the Retro and the Nouveau and the “engagement distance” is precisely balanced to produce a singular perfume effect.

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Antonio Gardoni

Maai takes the animalic themes Sig. Gardoni explored in Cologne Reloaded and creates a fascinating musky base upon which to build the rest of his new fragrance. This is what I was speaking of in the previous paragraph; there isn’t just castoreum in this base he adds in civet and hyraceum along with a bunch of other musks. All together this has an incredible depth and texture it feels as if Maai has a pounding heartbeat. It also isn’t for the faint of heart. One other aspect I really enjoy with this is when these animalic notes reach this level of concentration they also carry a honey-like sweetness which rides along on the crest like a surfer riding a monster wave.

The modern aspect Sig. Gardoni applies to Maai is by using the same technique he used in Eau d’E and taking a well-known floral and finding a more contemporary read on that note. For Maai the note is tuberose and the choice Sig. Gardoni takes is to use a deeply green tuberose as the co-focal point. What this does is provide an indolic foil to the animalic base while also producing a nascent white flower character. The tuberose never explodes into its show stopping floralcy. Sig. Gardoni captures the tuberose just shy of it bursting to life and it is a mannered tuberose but there is a suppressed energy lurking behind. This is the buzz of potential reined in as the tuberose stays poised on a precipice without falling into empty space.

There are a slug of soapy aldehydes in the top notes before the tuberose begins to impose its presence. Labdanum contains the tuberose by amplifying the green early on. A bit of rose and jasmine help to remind you there is a flower here in the heart. The indoles, from the tuberose, are the perfect bridge to the beginning of the animalic base. Sig. Gardoni swirls in a few different resins which add details like olfactory grace notes. Then the full potential of the animalic accord settles into place and cradles the tuberose within its embrace. The “engagement distance” is now down to zero, right where it should be.

Maai has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Maai is the perfect Retro Nouveau fragrance in my opinion; Sig. Gardoni has pulled off a clever bit of perfumery that is much more accomplished than it should be. It feels like it could have come from a long-lost bottle found deep in a cabinet and it feels like it could be found on a small boutique counter next to present day brands. Maai is as good as modern independent perfumery gets.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Bogue Profumo.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Humiecki & Graef Abîme and Nouveau-né- High Aspirations

There are perfume lines which aim for mass-market success. There are perfume lines which look for success within a narrowly defined swath of customers. There are perfume lines which create to please themselves and hope there is an audience for that. Humiecki & Graef falls into none of those categories. Creative Directors Sebastian Fischenich and Tobias Müksch in collaboration with perfumers Les Christophes (Christophe Laudamiel and Christoph Hornetz) have, since 2008, produced one of the most exceptional collections of fragrances which define the borders of olfactory art. There is no perfume line which I spend more time with really understanding the construction and delving into the emotional component which is stimulated by these fragrances. 2012’s Candour was the last new release. For 2014 we are getting a pair of new releases, Abîme and Nouveau-né, this fall. Hr. Fischenich was kind enough to give me samples at Esxence in March and over the last three months I have been wearing and examining these new fragrances and they are examples of the very best Humiecki & Graef have to offer.

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Sebastian Fischenich and Tobias Müksch

Abîme and Nouveau-né are the tenth and eleventh releases and they are being released as a duo because they represent polar opposites of la condition humaine, pain and hope. Les Christophes have made it a hallmark of their work for Humiecki & Graef to elicit an emotional response from these perfumes. For me they have succeeded every time. They never shy away from what would be considered unpleasant inspirations and instead embrace the perceived negativity and find art within.

Abîme translates to the abyss and it is meant to portray an agonizing state. This is not the state of debilitating pain, this is the emotional pain of living life fully. It is a fragrance where every pleasant facet finds a discordant counterpart. Les Christophes use a whopping overdose of narcissus absolute as the focal point of Abîme. In this concentration it provides both pleasure and a cloying unpleasant affect. Narcissus is one of my very favorite notes in perfumery and Les Christophes have challenged me to ask myself just how much I like it. Is there too much of a favorite note? The answer is it depends. There were days when I was a glutton for the narcissus and I couldn’t get enough. There were days when it felt like a friend I had outgrown and just wanted it to quit bothering me. I realized the perception had as much to do with my emotional mood. Matched with a concentration of narcissus that didn’t allow me to disengage it became an olfactory Rorschach test where the overdose of narcissus took the place of the inkblots.

The first thing that hits me when I wear Abîme is a moment of juicy blackberry which is squashed, Gallagher-like, with a sledgehammer of narcissus. It is almost as if Les Christophes are poking a little fun at fruity floral construction. This nuclear core of narcissus is then bombarded with multiple notes as juniper tries to take the place of the blackberry to get swatted aside. Some balsamic notes try to get a foothold and slide away exhausted. Labdanum actually does find some traction and it morphs the narcissus into something less floral and more intensely vegetal. Right here was my tipping point on whether it was a good day or a bad day to be wearing Abîme. If it was the former the mix of oakmoss and patchouli in the base added some needed contrast. If it was the latter they just made the whole thing irritatingly unpleasant.

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Les Christophes

Nouveau-né follows the same architectural path by using an ocean of honey as the central note. The honey is expertly tempered throughout as Nouveau-né is all of the good stuff in life, magnified. Despite the intensity of Nouveau-né I came to realize the balance of the ingredients was a very tenuous composition which seemed appropriate to evoke the fragile, yet powerful, emotion of hope.

Nouveau-né begins with the brightness of bergamot paired with basil and ginger to add some zip to the opening. Then like a golden viscous flood the honey rushes in and coats everything with a sticky matrix from which the basil and ginger still pulse. Hay Absolute helps temper the sweetness of the honey and Liatrix adds the natural coumarin it provides to also modulate the treacle. Les Christophes strike the perfect balance as Nouveau-né is the perfume equivalent of holding a jar of honey up to the sun and seeing the ball of light made opaque and diffuse.

Abîme and Nouveau-né have 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Everything that I admire about Humiecki & Graef is on display in both of these new releases. Michael Edwards has always quoted the great perfumer Guy Robert’s advice to perfumers, “A perfume must above all smell good.” While I agree with that sentiment in the main I am overjoyed that Humiecki & Graef exists to make sure that thinking is challenged. Abîme and Nouveau-né are everything I want from a perfume which makes me a willing participant in the ongoing debate of whether to “smell good” is enough.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Humiecki & Graef at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review L’Artisan Parfumeur Onde Sensuelle- Icy Hot

When you are prolific a perfumer as Bertrand Duchaufour it is hard to keep turning out great fragrances. The double edged sword of that profligacy is that some clunkers will get released but also some that are truly fabulous will also see the light of day. While sometimes it seems like M. Duchaufour needs an evaluator who can give him appropriate feedback. There are times when left to follow his own muse, without filter, something really special arises. This is perfectly illustrated by the three fragrances recently released by M. Duchaufour for the L’Artisan Parfumeur Explosions D’Emotions collection. Haute Voltige feels like a by the numbers fruity floral as the core duet of peony and pomegranate never catch fire. It commits the cardinal perfume sin of being boring. Rappelle-Toi is an interesting experiment of taking gardenia and crossing it with Szechuan pepper. I expected this to work better than it did. Instead of using the contrast to illuminate they collide against each other with neither note the better for the contact. It made it an annoying experience. I appreciate the creativity on display and I know from past experience that this theme will return another day in more memorable form. The third fragrance, Onde Sensuelle, is why M. Duchaufour is such a great perfumer.

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Bertrand Duchaufour

Onde Sensuelle translates to “sensual wave” and it captures the heat of passion combined with the delicious chilly thrill of release. Throughout the development of Onde Sensuelle there are moments where I felt my breath should steam and others where a bead of sweat should be wiped away. This is not a trivial effect to accomplish and it is executed with delicate precision here.

The chill predominates in the early going as grapefruit, juniper, and cardamom provide the frost. The balance here is perfect a little too much of any of these three notes would tilt this in a far different direction. What is here is like an icy rim. The heart provides the heat through a trio of spices; ginger, cumin, and saffron. As with the top notes the balance achieved here is critical. If M. Duchaufour had missed on the grapefruit and the cumin, as an example, this would have been a sulfurous sweaty mess. What is here is a gentle back and forth between the ice and heat. The dynamic tension as they sway back and forth culminate in a base of oud, a macrocyclic musk cocktail, and castoreum. This is the smell of passionate bodies entwined and it is exactly where Onde Sensuelle should come to a close.

Onde Sensuelle has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

For the three new Explosions D’Emotions M. Duchaufour bats one for three. Onde Sensuelle, though, is a massive home run. This is why he is such a fascinating perfumer to follow because I know when he puts it all together there is magic to be found.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples purchased from Surrender to Chance.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Dior La Collction Privee Cuir Cannage- Throwback Leather

All of the great design houses have their exclusive luxury line of perfumes and certainly Cartier, Chanel, Hermes, and Tom Ford have represented the names on their bottles admirably. Consistent creative direction has ensured this success. For my money there is a designer line which has produced better fragrances over the past five years and it is tied directly to the moment the current creative director took charge. The line I am speaking of is Dior La Collection Privee and the creative director/perfumer is Francois Demachy. The latest release Cuir Cannage is a terrific example of the creativity and vision M. Demachy has brought to Dior fragrances.

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Francois Demachy

In 2009 when M. Demachy took the reins of the La Collection Privee at Dior he immediately produced an impact with Ambre Nuit. One year later he would add seven new La Collection Privee fragrances. All seven of these were excellent and three of them, New Look 1947, Mitzah, and Leather Oud were among the best perfumes of that year. M. Demachy has captured the brand genetics of Dior with this collection as they all carry a sophistication and willingness to challenge a perfume wearer without making it confrontational. This line is Dior’s best kept secret and every Sniffapalooza I take a few people over to experience the line for the first time and I always get the response, “I didn’t know about these.” Over the fifteen fragrances in the line there is something for every perfumista.

Cuir Cannage shows off everything great about the Dior La Collection Privee. M. Demachy wanted to make a modern floral leather fragrance which would evoke the scent of a Dior leather handbag and some of the things you might find in there, particularly the cosmetics. So you get a grouping of floral notes which harmonize delightfully before the leather of the handbag comes forward. M. Demachy wanted to go for a real old-fashioned leather accord and therefore uses healthy amounts of cade and birch tar to construct it. This is what I speak of when saying M. Demachy likes challenging a perfumista. The florals have structural beauty familiar and comforting which are juxtaposed with the leather full of powerful smells and managing to envelop the florals without extinguishing them. It leaves a lifeline for the wearer to grab ahold of and ride the leather rollercoaster in safety.

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Dior Mini Cannage Dinner Bag (2012)

M. Demachy opens with orange blossom in full measure. Orange blossom is the most delicate of the common perfume white flowers. When a perfumer allows it to act more like an indolic white flower and less like a pretty accessory is when I am happiest. M. Demachy allows the orange blossom to stand alone throughout the early moments. He then lets jasmine form an indole-heavy duet with the orange blossom. Rose and ylang-ylang form a complementary higher pitched floral pair. Together they create a full octave of floralcy. Then in thick viscous bubbles the birch tar picks up the indoles and the cade adds texture and intensity. In what seems like a moment it all forms a classic heavy leather accord as the desired new handbag springs to life. The floral notes are all still there but they are now enclosed in the metaphorical purse.

Cuir Cannage has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Cuir Cannage feels like a modern re-telling of the classic leather fragrances of the early 20th century. It is an unusual move because most modern leathers go for the lighter more refined accord. M. Demachy reaches back and creates an accord which reminds you this is the hide of a living thing no matter how refined. I am delighted that M. Demachy is making fragrances with an artistic viewpoint unmatched by few others at the big houses. Cuir Cannage is one of my very favorite new fragrances of this year.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Dior and a sample purchased from Surrender to Chance.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Carner Barcelona El Born- The Soul of the City

In every big city in the world when I visit I do like most tourists and go visit the things in the city that all visitors want to see. That approach reduces these cities to a large open-air museum. They give you a glimpse into the history of the city being visited and a superficial experience with the actual things which make those cities special. I always try and make a point of spending time in a real neighborhood for most of a day when traveling. It is these moments when I actually gain some insight into the soul of the city. Carner Barcelona has been taking perfume lovers on a fragrant stroll through the city of Barcelona and each of the four releases since 2010 have exposed another aspect of Creative Director Sara Carner’s home. The fifth fragrance continues this trend, El Born, which is named after the Barcelona neighborhood of the same name.

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Jacques Huclier

Based on the description in the press materials El Born is an old area of the city dating back to medieval times but now it has become a narrow warren of boutiques, restaurants, and wine bars at street level. Above on the open air balconies you see the citizens of El Born enjoying the day as they look out over the neighborhood. As part of the creative direction Sra. Carner took the perfumer, Jacques Huclier, down to El Born to take a sniffing tour as inspiration. In the end the brief for El Born influenced by the experiential walk would be to create a complex gourmand.

El Born uses lemon and bergamot to start and M. Huclier adds in angelica and honey and while I definitely can pick those notes apart together they form a really lovely licorice accord. When I smelled El Born for the first time at Esxence I fully expected to see licorice as a note. Instead the very herbal nature of angelica is wrapped in the honey and it creates a strand of herbal-tinged licorice. M Huclier then takes a fabulous ripe fig redolent of the soft pulp inside. Together with the licorice this is as good as it gets for a gourmand fragrance beginning. The heart offers a floral intermezzo of jasmine attenuated by heliotrope so it lilts instead of overpowers. The base notes are dessert as a chocolate accord of vanilla absolute, peru balsam and sandalwood provides a traditionally sweet final lagniappe finishing this walk through El Born.

El Born has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

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Sara Carner

Sra. Carner has shown an admirable attention to detail in this perfume brand which carries her name. This has led to a reliable quality for each new release and El Born lives up to its predecessors’ pedigree. I have never been to Barcelona but Sra. Carner will have sufficiently prepared my nose for the day I finally do visit. My first stop will be to spend a day in El Born; until that day this fantastic perfume will have to tide me over.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Carner Barcelona.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Hermes Bel Ami Vetiver- The DJ JCE Remix

One of the things I like about music is when a talented DJ takes a song and applies their style to it and often makes me see something different in the original song. These remixes when done right will be my preferred version over the original because the DJ will lay down extra rhythms or add in other samples. In the end it is the song I know and like but with added things which make it better. When I received my sample of Hermes Bel Ami Vetiver I had to say I was imagining Hermes in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena as the olfactory DJ taking the original 1986 Hermes Bel Ami by perfumer Jean-Louis Sieuzac and producing a hipper modern dance remix. Bel Ami Vetiver definitely has some added beats to it and it feels more like a fragrance I want to wear while doing something active.

The original Bel Ami ranks right up there with the best leather fragrances ever. M. Sieuzac captured a textural leather by using cardamom, orris, civet, and vanilla to create the figurative grain to his leather accord. When I received the press release announcing Bel Ami Vetiver I was extremely curious to see what M. Ellena would do besides add the promised vetiver.

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DJ JCE aka Jean-Claude Ellena

M. Ellena chooses to begin with a pinpoint of citric light as bigarade opens Bel Ami Vetiver. He has used bigarade in the past as the focal point but here it is more like a lens flare. It is noticeable within the frame but it doesn’t dominate. What does dominate is a panoply of spices; cinnamon, cumin, clove, ginger, and pimento. This is M. Ellena’s particular genius in producing a memorable accord by precisely balancing these ingredients. Together they form a decadent deeply spicy experience and you can pick apart the different voices but it is the harmony of the choir that is really the point. Now the vetiver appears as green support to the spices before the woodier aspects begin to take over. Then the leather accord comes next. I don’t know this to be true but the leather accords for Bel Ami and Bel Ami Vetiver are identical to my nose when wearing them side-by-side I wonder if M. Ellena used M. Sieuzac’s version of a leather accord. What is a very characteristic effect of M. Ellena’s is the mix of tonka and incense which also accompanies the leather.

Bel Ami Vetiver has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Bel Ami Vetiver is another winner for Hermes in their mainstream, ie. Non-Hermessence, line. Over the past year M. Ellena has created some of the best fragrances of his very successful career. Bel Ami Vetiver is among the best of the fragrances he has created for Hermes. Like my music I think DJ JCE has taken a favorite perfume and remixed it into something more modern which has more of a beat and I can dance to it.

Disclosure: This review based on a sample provided by the Hermes Boutique in Vienna, VA.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: Bel Ami Vetiver has been available in Europe since the beginning of the year but it is just ow available at Hermes boutiques and Saks Fifth Avenue in the US.

New Perfume Review Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Eau de Magnolia- What Am I Missing?

5

It happens to me a couple times a year there is a fragrance I have consigned to the “not going to review” pile because I am not fond of it. Then some of the perfumed voices I respect all start lauding it making me give it a second, or third, chance. The new Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Eau de Magnolia is one of these examples.

Eau de Magnolia from Frédéric Malle on Vimeo.

Based on the press release and the personnel I expected to be if not enchanted then at least interested in it. In the press release Creative Director Frederic Malle and perfumer Carlos Benaim talked about wanting to take the magnolia candle Jurassic Flower M. Benaim did for the line and turn it into a cologne/chypre hybrid. They literally talk about it in the video above. In the press materials there is also a section on how they used headspace technology to capture the magnolia raw material to be used in Eau de Magnolia. Headspace technology is, in a very simplified explanation, encasing the living bloom in an airtight container and while blowing an inert gas over the flower to release the aroma the container itself is cooled so that it will condense and be collected. It is a painstaking process which has produced some spectacular versions especially of floral raw materials. All of this was prelude to my receiving my sample a couple months ago, my expectations were high perhaps they were too high. Upon first sniff on a strip I got hit with a very spiky lemon containing none of the green and indolic nuances I associate with magnolia. I also got a way too green vetiver overwhelming any delicacy that was present. For the next few nights I kept spraying a strip and a bit of skin trying to find something I was missing. Finally I conceded this was the first Frederic Malle fragrance that just didn’t work for me.

Over the last few weeks I have been surprised to see how different my experience has been to other reviewers. Many of the most respected reviewers I know have raved over it and they certainly have given me more to think about. I read enough of this that I ordered another sample of Eau de Magnolia just on the possibility that my sample was off. I so wanted to like this that when I received the new sample I think I was almost chanting to myself as I pulled it out, “please be different”. Alas the juice that was in the purchased sample was identical to the review sample. I still had problems with it.

On my skin and to my nose the magnolia still seems sharp and it never seems to display the softer character that the more recent Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine captured so perfectly. Eau de Magnolia somehow takes the headspace magnolia and neuters it. Worse by using fractionated patchouli and vetiver coupled with cedar all of the raw materials seem like they are missing some of their vitality. Even the oak moss in the base meant to turn this chypre-like seems as if it has been wilted in the summer sun.

Eau de Magnolia has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

It wouldn’t be unheard of for me to eventually come around to appreciating Eau de Magnolia. It took me quite a few years to overcome the too-realistic Coty lipstick in a leather purse vibe of Lipstick Rose. For right now Eau de Magnolia feels like a perfume which has conformed instead of inspired.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle and one purchased from Surrender to Chance.

Mark Behnke