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.

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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.

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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

New Perfume Review Narciso- Hidden Dangers

As the year comes to an end I start organizing my desk looking to make sure I’ve reviewed all of the perfumes that have come out this year before the calendar turns over. Without fail I find at least one or two which kept getting pushed down the pecking order because of timeliness or some other seemingly more important reason. The one I found a few days ago and reacquainted myself with was Narciso.

I have a very fond spot for Narciso Rodriguez the fashion designer. I remember sitting gobsmacked at one of his earliest shows at New York Fashion Week. It was no surprise to me that his star would rise hot and fast so that barely five years later he would be named the Best Designer for 2004 & 2005 by the CFDA. Contemporaneously with being at the pinnacle of the fashion world he also would produce a pair of perfumes, Narciso Rodriguez for Her and Narciso Rodriguez for Him. Both of these sit in my mythical Designer Perfume Hall of Fame. They showed that mainstream wasn’t synonymous with mediocre. Both of them were centered on a sensuous musk which does not pander to the lowest common denominator. In the years since the perfume line of Narciso Rodriguez has not been as successful as the fashion line. Flankers that were uninspiring and yearly limited editions that were indistinguishable. I received a press release over the summer and it mentioned that Mr. Rodriguez was going to take a more active creative direction in the next release. I thought that was a good thing and once I had a sample that was confirmed.

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Narciso was signed by Aurelien Guichard and visually it is striking as the juice has a milky cast to it. Even before spraying it you expect a creamy center. M. Guichard starts with florals floating on the surface of a milk bath in a cedar wood paneled spa room. It is simple but underneath it all is a very untamed musk, hidden, waiting to pounce.

Narciso opens with a florid gardenia note. Very expansive and also very green. A bit of rose is used to temper the green but it doesn’t really do as good a job as it might, for which I am thankful. That green gardenia is perfect prelude to the creamy ambery heart. The creaminess comes from a cocktail of white musks that M. Guichard layers one upon the other to create a plush sensuality. What becomes striking is partway through the musk accord begins to become a bit more animalic as it transforms from safe to sort of dangerous. There is a point, about two-thirds of the way through the development, on my skin that this less well-behaved musk hearkens back to the earlier perfumes. The base provides an austere framing of cedar which provides stalwart woody simplicity in contrast to the luminous muskiness.

Narciso has 8-10 hour longevity on my skin. It starts off with above average sillage but once the florals have disappeared the musky woody finish has very minimal sillage.

As I am starting to look back over the year I am surprised at the number of mainstream designer perfumes I have liked this year. Narciso is another one to add to that list.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Narciso Rodriguez.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Xerjoff Blue Hope & Red Hoba- Be Careful What You Wish For

There are so many times when a perfume brand plays it safe and we ask for something different. What happens when a brand listens to that desire and produces a perfume which is an example of not playing it safe but in going for that it doesn’t necessarily come together completely. The two latest releases from Xerjoff, Blue Hope & Red Hoba have me pondering this.

Xerjoff, as a brand, has been primarily about luxury and precious materials over making artistic statements. Many of my favorite perfumes from the line like Iriss or Richwood are exceedingly simple perfumes centered on iris and sandalwood respectively. There were some more adventurous exploits within last year’s Join The Club collection but those didn’t stray far from the Xerjoff brand DNA, really. It seems like creative director Sergio Momo gave a little more freedom to the perfumers to maybe redefine that brand characteristic and try and change the overall perception of Xerjoff. Both of these new perfumes tried to do this with different amounts of success.

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Carlo Ribero

The perfumer behind Blue Hope is Carlo Ribero who is signing his fourth perfume for the label. Blue Hope is a weirdly compelling combination of jasmine, saffron, and cedar. These are not notes which find harmony they mostly convey dissonance and they seem to circle each other like three gunfighters in a Mexican standoff. After a simple bergamot and mandarin opening the three protagonists take their equally placed spaces. The cedar the good guy full of clean lines. The saffron the local exotic guide knowledgeable about the indigenous ways. The jasmine the bad guy who exudes a dirty core of indolic malice. Throughout the long middle period of development it is like these three notes sit on my skin waiting for the other two to blink to take over. Instead they stay perched in equilibrium. Here is the funny thing I like this tension in small doses. For the first hour or so it was interesting but as it wore on for a few more hours it became a bit tedious. I welcomed the castoreum and vanilla base notes just to break up the tension.

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Cecile Zarokian

Cecile Zarokian was the perfumer who composed Red Hoba. This seems to Mme Zarolkian’s take on a contemporary Oriental. When she gets this modernizing of a familiar architecture right it can be joyous. In Red Hoba it is undeniably Mme Zarokian adding different beats to the traditional Oriental melody but they cause it to lurch a bit in a noticeable way. The early moments of Red Hoba are right up my alley as cardamom and cinnamon rise off my skin in a spicy sussurus, whispering of things to come. The heart opens with orris, patchouli, and jasmine fulfilling that promise. Then Mme Zarokian adds smoke, a lot of smoke, probably too much smoke as it overwhelms the evolving accord of the other three heart notes. For a significant time the smoke buries everything and is the only thing I smell. By the time it recedes it leaves behind a wonderfully animalic base of castoreum framed with cashmeran. Red Hoba is so close to being something very good before it all goes up in smoke.

Blue Hope has 10-12 hour longevity and average silage. Red Hoba has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I am one of those who ask creative directors to take a risk and now Sig. Momo has done just that. I admire that Sig. Ribero and Mme Zarokian were given a little more latitude to color outside of the lines and they did just that. I think there will be a few who absolutely love these perfumes for their differences from the norm. I should have been one of them. In the end I am reminded of the old proverb, “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.”

Disclosure: This review was based on samples purchased from Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews A Lab on Fire Paris*LA & Made in Heaven- Have a Coke and a Smile

There are fragrances created where there is no middle ground. The accords or notes used are so divisive as to one’s own personal idea of where beauty resides that one either loves it or hates it; not a lot of “meh” heard here. The Brooklyn-based perfume house overseen by Carlos Kusubayashi, A Lab on Fire, seems to really enjoy making perfumes that generate these kind of polar opposite responses. The latest two releases, Paris*LA and Made in Heaven, are the brand’s take on gourmands of a different stripe.

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Laurent Le Guernec

Paris*LA is meant to be what Los Angeles looks like to a Parisienne and perfumer Laurent Le Guernec has decided that Coca-Cola and macarons capture this dichotomy. Right there I can already hear people thinking, “Eww! Coke and a macaron.” To be candid I have to admit that was my reaction when reading the notes. M. Le Guernec does a fine job of capturing the brilliance of LA and a Parisienne looking for something to remind her of home.

The opening note of Paris*LA is a bright blast of key lime. It is like stepping off the plane and the sun hits you square between the eyes. The key lime is an olfactory attention getter and it burns off pretty rapidly. The coca-cola accord comes next and it is a combination of fizzy aldehydes, ginger, and caramel. The fizz of the aldehydes are fine tuned to not trip over into their more provocative nature and here provide more effervescent background than anything. Next comes the macaron accord vanilla and almond out front. Then because all the best macarons are flavored M. Le Guernec adds in subtle hints of neroli, coriander, and thyme. They take the dessert-y accord and add some texture to it. The coca-cola accord has persisted and by the final hours this is a mix of sweet and sweeter as the cola and macaron accord combine to form a fragrant sugar rush. You can put me firmly in the love it category as both the cola and macaron accords work really well on my skin. I think for those who are not fond of sweet gourmands this will raise different emotions.

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Pascal Gaurin

One of my favorite things to observe is when Mr. Kusubayashi hires a perfumer who has done the great majority of their work in the non-niche side of the business and allows them the freedom to create. Made in Heaven by perfumer Pascal Gaurin is what happens. M. Gaurin works for IFF and within the company there is a branch called Laboratoire Monique Remy (LMR) which is the group who produces unique natural absolutes using the latest scientific techniques. By their very nature these are expensive raw materials and most mainstream releases would use a tiny bit of one to stay within budget. M. Gaurin freed of the economic constraints uses five of these exquisite floral absolutes in Made in Heaven. One of the other remaining notes must have been an accord M. Gaurin has had on the shelf and been wanting to use because underneath the diaphanous flowers is a foundation of cereal.

Made in Heaven starts with magnolia absolute and this has lilting woody floral air to which M. Gaurin hangs mandarin and saffron upon it. The saffron provides an exotic effect while the mandarin adds citrus-y energy. While the magnolia is tender and fragile the heart notes stride into view with a brassy white flower confidence. Absolutes of jasmine, tuberose, and orange flower take over the heart of Made in Heaven. All three of these absolutes show off the flower in a pristine jewel-like spotlight. If you concentrate on it you can pick out each note individually. Together it is divine. The base is made up of the cereal accord and to my nose it smells the way a box of Cap’n Crunch smells when you first open the bag. Sugary vanilla sweetness rises through the flowers and mixes with them surprisingly well. The jasmine in particular seems to really take to the cereal. Much later on orris absolute starts to fill in as the orange flower fades. It adds a slightly powdery finish to it all. I really enjoy when perfumers are allowed to use the “good stuff”. The LMR absolutes are the “good stuff” and M. Gaurin has displayed them in a way to show why they are so special.

Paris*LA has 8-10 hour longevity and, except for the key lime blast on top, below average sillage. Made in Heaven has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Both Paris*LA and Made in Heaven continue to show why A Lab on Fire is one of the most exciting niche houses on the scene. Mr. Kusubayashi allowing the perfumers to have as much latitude to create as possible leads to perfumes you may love or hate but you will never be bored by them.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples I purchased from Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke  

New Perfume Review Gardenia de Robert Piguet- Partnership’s End

Robert Piguet is one of the grandest, and probably least recognizable, perfume brands. Any brand which boasts Fracas as part of its history will always be looked upon favorably. Since 2006 when, after returning Fracas to the jewel it has always been, Creative Director Joe Garces and perfumer Aurelien Guichard formed a partnership which has defined this latest phase of Robert Piguet. Early on the challenge was to reformulate the original perfumes in the line. Then in 2011 a change took place as the first new perfume carrying the Robert Piguet name, Douglas Hannant de Robert Piguet, was released. That success has led to thirteen more new perfumes from Mr. Garces and M. Guichard. If there has been a common theme to the contemporary compositions it has been for them to carry modern aspects along with a very elegant style that feels like it came from decades earlier. The last of these collaborations between Mr. Garces and M. Guichard has been released, Gardenia de Robert Piguet.   

Aurelien and Joe Piguet

Aurelien Guichard (l.) and Joe Garces

Gardenia as a focal point has many of the same qualities that tuberose does. It would have been very easy to take gardenia and surround it with a lot of complementary notes a la Fracas. M. Guichard goes for a more restrained approach as he uses only five other notes to accompany the gardenia. This runs a risk if your central raw material is not up to carrying the entire perfume it can lead to a flat spot in the development. There is one of those in the evolution of Gardenia de Robert Piguet and I think it is a stylistic choice which for some it will work but for me it created a noticeable flaw every time I wore it.

M. Guichard gives the gardenia two very high quality floral running mates, lily and ylang-ylang, for the first half of the development. This is my favorite part of this perfume. All of my favorite gardenia perfumes have captured the subtle green quality that a real gardenia has. M. Guichard uses the lily to coax that green out of its corner and brings it more centrally into the composition. Ylang-ylang is present to modulate the exuberant sweetness of the gardenia and in so doing it allows the greener highlights the space to expand into. Now here is where Gardenia de Robert Piguet goes flat for me. The next thing is a leather accord. I really would have preferred a rich supple leather like what M. Guichard used in Knightsbridge. Instead M. Guichard chose to go with a dark leather accord which has some harsher animalic features. This phase always felt like it was two separate ingredients in search of some common ground. This is where I think this just might be a simple difference in styles; I wanted elegance and I think M. Guichard wanted something more brutal. The rest of the base is predominantly cashmeran made a bit sweeter with a touch of vanilla.

Gardenia de Robert Piguet has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Gardenia de Robert Piguet is not my favorite of the newer Robert Piguet releases. I think if you are a fan of rawer leather perfumes and wanted that in a blowsy white flower Gardenia de Robert Piguet might just be perfect. I think I wanted a modern bookend to Fracas to put an exclamation point to the teamwork of Mr. Garces and M. Guichard. In the end it is another good addition to the modern line of Robert Piguet perfumes.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received at Sniffapalooza Fall Ball 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Dasein Winter- Christmas Tree Hugger

When it comes to American Independent Perfumery I think I am on the wrong coast. Over the past few years all of the most exciting new independent perfumers call the western half of the country home. As a result, especially with indie brands, a buzz starts to build and it takes a while for these perfumes to make it to the East Coast. Late last year I began to hear about a perfumer by the name of Sam Rader who was working on a quartet of perfumes around the holidays. Then early this year I heard that four proposed perfumes had become one. I also heard that this perfume was one of the best pine tree perfumes my source had ever smelled. Now my patience has paid off as Ms. Rader has finally found a place for her perfume Dasein Winter, on the East Coast.

Ms. Rader is an interesting pastiche of influences. The name of her brand Dasein (pronounced DAH-zyne) comes from her study of existential philosophy and defines a “human being as the marriage between self-awareness and sensual experience.” At least according to her website. I read this that she wants Dasein perfumes to awaken the inner self completely. With Winter Ms. Rader has chosen an iconic smell of the winter months to build a perfume around, that of fir trees. Also according to the website she sourced a specific forest pine essential oil from the Austrian Alps. What has always been a recurring theme when writing about my favorite indie perfumers are these small batches of exquisite ingredients they can use to build a perfume around. This pine tree essential oil is every bit of the tree; needles, bark, sap- everything. It rings with authenticity synthetics just can’t replicate.

Sam Rader

Sam Rader

Dasein Winter opens with that pine essential oil out in front. If you’ve ever gone to a Christmas tree lot to buy a tree you know what this smells like. The richness of the needles, the slightly camphoraceous smell of the trunk, and the woody quality of the branches.. I think I would be thrilled with the essential oil all by itself. Ms. Rader recognizes she has a jewel of a raw material here and so she is very careful to swaddle it in a few well-thought out notes. Early on a bit of spruce keeps your attention on the tree itself. Later on a beautiful whisper of black cardamom wreathes the pine with garlands of warmth. Lavender absolute is the final piece of Winter and it provides a soft sweet place for this mighty conifer to rest.

Dasein Winter has 12-14 hour longevity and modest sillage. For as powerful as this is up close it projects surprisingly little.

With this first effort Ms. Rader has shown a precocious talent that leaves me anticipating her next release which I hear is Spring and will be out early in 2015. Until them I will happily become a pine tree hugger as I anoint myself with Winter throughout the end of this year.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews ZarkoPerfume Molecule 234.38, Pink Molecule 090.09, e’L, Inception, and Oud’ish- Have a Danish

When I am at a perfume fair like Pitti Fragranze I never know when I am going to be surprised by a new brand. I try to prepare myself by reading through the program before meeting with the perfume brand representatives. Early on the second day of this past September’s Pitti I had an appointment with Zarko Ahlmann Pavlov the owner and self-taught perfumer behind ZarkoPerfume. The goal of ZarkoPerfume was to make fragrance for the Nordic audience and especially his current home country Denmark. I have heard this story before from perfume lines from this part of the world before and there has only been one which I thought lived up to the inspiration. All of this was not raising my expectations but that is why you make the visit. Once I sat down with Mr. Pavlov and in the months since my return had the opportunity to wear all five, Molecule 234.38, Pink Molecule 090.09, e’L, Inception, and Oud’ish I am more than a little surprised at how much I like almost all of them.

Of course any perfume with molecule in its name is likely to tickle me. Molecule 234.38 is supposed to be a single synthetic raw ingredient of molecular weight 234.38. When I first walked around for a day with a bit of it sprayed upon my skin, in Florence, I did think this was a single synthetic musk molecule. Once I had it home and wore it for a few days there are a couple more things at work here. At the core is a single large molecule and there is never a moment when that isn’t apparent. But there is also a tiny bit of a floral synthetic early on and sandalwood much later on. While I have enjoyed the previous fragrances which feature a single molecule I am happy that Mr. Pavlov chose to add a very simple bit of framing to his central synthetic. I would also point out that there is at least one or two more synthetic musks around as well. If you are not fond of synthetics stay away. If you are interested in seeing how a typical cocktail of synthetic white musks can develop over many many hours this is a fascinating perfume.

Pink Molecule 090.09 is a schizophrenic perfume that Mr. Pavlov wants to evoke “pink champagne” and “the dark trees of Denmark.” What he has realized is more of a mixture of St. Germain elderflower liqueur and a polished wood cabinet. The slightly bitter elderflower dominates the opening with a bit of apricot adding some tart sweetness to leaven the bitterness. The promised pink molecules arrive swathing the elderflower in a synthetic aquatic feel. The base notes are the dark woods of mahogany, synthetic sandalwood, and another woody synthetic. This was unexpectedly fun when I wore it. The elderflower aspect was really pleasant on the slightly cooler days I ended up wearing it.  

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Zarko Ahmann Pavlov

e’L is the only one of these first five releases which never fully came together for me. Meant to be a Danish version of the modern “on the go” woman’s perfume it tries to do too much. It careens from pomegranate and floral to ozonic notes over green tea in the heart. This whole transition clunks with a grinding of olfactory gears. It settles down into a woody musk base but everything up to that didn’t work for me.

Inception has a lofty goal of re-creating the dream levels from director Christopher Nolan’s movie of the same name. During the movie the heroes invade people’s dreams and in each successive layer as they go deeper time moves at a much slower pace. Inception the perfume does the same thing with three differing distinct layers as you go deeper The top notes are a fast moving mix of tart citrus, a bit of cardamom, and a translucent green accord. Almost as fast as you notice all of it, it goes down a level where the same ozonic accord which didn’t work for me in e’L works perfectly here. This time it captures a deep breath on a cold day; crisp almost mentholated. Matched with it is a floral accord of fresh character. It is a level deeper than what was on top. The final level is a descent into woods as sandalwood, balsam, and oak combine for a final phase deep in the forest. It is up to you to decide if the top is still spinning.

Oud’ish is the best of these first five releases. Even if I didn’t love the name, and I do, this is the most complete fragrance composition by Mr. Pavlov. Each part of it feeds into the next harmoniously. Oud’ish also works because it is kept very simple. It opens on a transparent green tea accord. It lilts and floats throughout the early moments. An ambergris accord comprises the heart and it is also kept on the sheer side. The base is primarily a cocktail of white musks and to all of this is added the tiniest amount of oud. It is mainly present to add a bit of exotic texture to the musks. Mr. Pavlov keeps the entire perfume light and I thoroughly enjoyed wearing it on the days I had it on.

Because of the high amount of synthetics all of the ZarkoPerfumes have ridiculous longevity 14-16 hours at the least and in the case of Molecule 234.38 over 24 hours. The silage is also quite modest for all five. Someone will have to get quite close to know you are wearing these.

Mr. Pavlov has started well with his inaugural releases and if I only had to own two it would be Molecule 234.38 and Oud’ish. For very different reasons. I look forward to more from ZarkoPerfume I believe there is much more Mr. Pavlov has to communicate via perfume about Denmark.

Disclosure; this review was based on samples I received at Pitti Fragranze.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Juliette Has a Gun Moon Dance- Terminally Pretty

The first four releases from Juliette Has a Gun; Lady Vengeance, Miss Charming, Citizen Queen and Midnight Oud were some of my favorite releases of 2006-2009. They shared a common strength which made them stand out. All brands develop and Creative Director Romano Ricci moved away from that style over the next four releases. I thought they were all nice compositions but I wanted a return to the style of the first four. I heard that last year there was a very limited edition called Oil Fiction which did this. It was such a limited edition I never had the opportunity to try it. Then I received a press release announcing the new Luxury Collection which would be represented by Oil Fiction and a new entry, Moon Dance.

With it more available I was able to try Oil Fiction finally. As much as I wanted it to be like the first four it felt more like the more recent compositions which weren’t as compelling to me. Because of my dashed expectations I wasn’t expecting Moon Dance to be any more engaging. That turned out be an erroneous supposition. Moon Dance does for violet what the early four did for rose making it feel completely contemporary. Violet can have a natural vintage feel because of its use in so many of the older classic perfumes. It is one reason I think the more modern perfumers shy away from using it. Why have to deal with pre-conceived notions when you can go pick a different floral without the baggage. What I have found is in the rare cases where a perfumer will take on the challenge, if successful, the violet can be twisted to have something new to say. Moon Dance is a violet perfume with something new to say.

Romano Ricci

Romano Ricci

Moon Dance opens on a mix of sparkly bergamot over a full spectrum violet. To distinguish from old-fashioned violets this violet embraces all of the prickly metallic character of violet adding in the violet leaf to add sharp green facets. An inspired choice of another old-fashioned note, tuberose, forms the heart note which tries to tame the fractious violet. It doesn’t quite succeed but it does set up a delightful paso doble between the two as each stalks the other across the olfactory dance floor. There was never a moment during the first half of the development dominated by the violet and tuberose where this didn’t feel different and new. If Moon Dance ended here I would have been very happy. Instead my enjoyment is greatly increased by the decision to finish Moon Dance on an equally full-spectrum animalic musk. This makes the passion of the dance the violet and tuberose lead to something so primal it almost emits an audible growl. A tiny amount of oud and patchouli round off some of the more feral tendencies but Moon Dance ends with a snarl of desire.

Moon Dance has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Moon Dance is the best Juliette Has a Gun release since the original four. It carries much of the same brand DNA which existed back then. I am hopeful that this new Luxury Collection will be a place where M. Ricci will return to some of those themes he so excitingly explored in the early days. Moon Dance reminds me of a line from the Eagles’ song “Life in the Fast Lane” to describe Moon Dance, it is brutally handsome and terminally pretty.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Moon Dance I purchased from Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review aroma M Camellia- Geisha at Rest

There are so many perfumers who work so very hard to form a brand identity. Then there are others where it feels like an organic extension of who they are. Maria McElroy created her aroma M perfume line in 1995 as an extension of her affection for Japanese art and incense. Over almost twenty years Ms. McElroy has made eight perfume oils and four eau de parfums all meant to portray a different geisha. Each perfume like the variation in kimono or makeup had a distinct personality. I admired Ms. McElroy’s dedication to letting her muse take her where it will. Geisha O-cha was a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Geisha Marron was the French courtesan who formed a mismatch of her Occidental features while wearing a kimono. I only discovered the line in 2011 and it has become one that I keep an eye on because of Ms. McElroy’s singular style. Her latest release Camellia is another entry in her impressive collection.

Ms. McElroy had initially developed Camellia as a line of beauty products; hair oil, face oil, and bath oil. It is said that geisha use camellia oil to remove their make-up and Ms. McElroy was inspired to make her own formula of that product. The funny thing is for a line known for its perfumes there wasn’t an accompanying Camellia perfume oil. After multiple requests Ms. McElroy capitulated and designed two concentrations; perfume oil and eau de parfum. As has been the case with the previous EdP concentrations I find I prefer the oil based formulations better. There is a deeper interaction with the perfume oils and the EdP’s seem to become so expansive that they lose some texture along the way. It is purely a matter of preference as both concentrations are wonderful. I am going to focus on the perfume oil for the rest of this review.

maria mcelroy

Maria McElroy

My imagination takes me to the table where a geisha sits at the end of the evening. She looks in the mirror and uses her camellia oil make-up remover to uncover the person beneath the façade. As the woman underneath the geisha reveals herself she unpins the gardenia from her hair and removes her kimono still holding the scent of the frankincense burning in the main areas of the house. The rose and jasmine also from her hair lies next to the gardenia. As she lies down to sleep the remnants of the camellia oil reminds her who she is before closing her eyes.

Ms. McElroy has made a fantastic deep floral fragrance with Camellia. She opens it with the camellia essential oil on display from the first moments. In those early moments geranium and neroli provide harmony.  The geranium adds a green transparency, the neroli adds a hint of indoles. The heart is a narcotic mix of gardenia and camellia. This is as potent as an opium pipe as it fills every bit of my senses. Ms. McElroy manages to make something encompassing without being overwhelming. Camellia ends on an austere slightly metallic frankincense. The incense really has to push hard to be noticed and it takes hours before it really gains some traction on my skin. Once it does the gardenia camellia and frankincense usher Camellia through its final paces.

Camellia perfume oil has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage. The EdP has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Camellia is a perfumed homage to a geisha at rest. It feels like the most personal perfume Ms. McElroy has composed to date.  It is the truth behind the illusion. I always prefer the truth.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by aroma M.

Mark Behnke