New Perfume Review Parfumerie Generale PG 26 Isparta- Portrait of Pierre?

It has been almost two years since Pierre Guillaume has released anything new for his Parfumerie Generale line. The early part of 2014 has seen four new releases. The three new reimaginings of his early fragrances PG 02 Coze, PG 03 Cuir Venenum, and PG 06 L’Eau Rare Matale which have turned into PG 2.1 Coze Verde, PG 3.1 Arabian Horse, and PG 6.1 Vetiver Matale. These three fragrances are interesting exercises in variation but I found I preferred the original over the newer versions. They have enough of the structure of the earlier with minor variations that expose interesting aspects of the perfumes but nothing truly exciting sprung out and so I was left hoping for something more stirring from his new release PG 26 Isparta.

Rose Pickers, Isparta, Turkey

Rose Harvesting in Isparta

Isparta is the name of the province in Turkey where the rose oil from “Isparta Summer Roses” is produced. The rose oil produced is said to be “intense, rich, slightly spicy” due to harvesting in the morning before they have reached full bloom. Personally I prefer the Turkish or Moroccan rose because of that slightly spicy quality it brings to a fragrance along with the more familiar rose floralcy. M. Guillaume also likes contrasting what has come previously within the Parfumerie Generale collection. The other previous rose-centric fragrance PG 13 Brulure de Rose was the more refined rose one finds more prominently in perfumery. Brulure de Rose was a sunnier rose allowed to blossom in the midday sun accompanied by raspberry and M. Guillaume’s signature gourmand notes of cocoa and vanilla. Isparta is the rose cut off in its prime with its potential needing a bit of energy to release it. In Isparta that energy comes, again, from raspberry. It seems a number of perfumers have discovered this combination of raspberry and Turkish rose, Frederic Malle’s Portrait of a Lady by Dominique Ropion being the best example. Isparta shares some of the same early beats of that as the rose and berry combination is ascendant but Isparta goes for a more sheer effect over the rest of its development as the resinous suite of notes paired with oud and patchouli are precisely applied to keep Isparta sotto voce all the way.

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Pierre Guillaume

Isparta opens with that raspberry and rose duet; the juiciness of the berries along with the spicier quality of the rose seem like perfect complements. The piquancy is blunted by the sweet and the sweet is reined in by the spiciness allowing for the floral component to have a little more prominence. A bit of calamus adds a tiny bit of green to the early moments but it is more of a grace note than a note. The heart is a resinous coffee klatch of peru balsam, benzoin, and incense. They serve to add a dryness to the opening accord and they also seem to serve as restraint from keeping that roseberry accord from becoming too overwhelming. The resins hold their own until the base notes of oud and patchouli take their place and usher the rose into its final phase. As I keep saying it feels like this should be overwhelming and intense with these kind of raw materials but M. Guillaume has found a way to keep it much much sprightlier than this note list should have produced.

Isparta has all-day longevity and average sillage.

Some are going to call Isparta “Portrait of a Lady 0.1” and that would be the easy interpretation especially based on the top notes. It is the rest of the journey in Isparta which truly shows how different it is. This also feels like a natural aesthetic progression for M. Guillaume which I think began with PG 24 Papyrus de Ciane and has continued in PG 25 Indochine and PG 22 Djhenne. That perhaps makes PG 26 Isparta the complete portrait of Pierre Guillaume.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bellegance Midnight Promise- Sniffapalooza Crowdsourciing

One of the best things about the biannual event put on by Karen Dubin and Karen Adams (aka The Karens) called Sniffapalooza is the bringing together of fragrance fans from all over the world. Through the course of the weekend event there are three meals where you share a table with, usually, somebody you haven’t met before. I have had the pleasure of having the beginnings of many of my favorite, and long lasting, fragrant relationships begin at Sniffapalooza. It seems like almost everything has sprung up from these gatherings except fragrance. That has all changed with the release of Bellegance Midnight Promise.

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Carmen Schaye(l.) & Karen Dubin at Sniffapalooza Fall Ball 2013

At Sniffapalooza husband and wife Gordon & Carmen Schaye began talking with Ms. Dubin and from those discussions they decided they wanted to make a fragrance. Ms. Schaye wanted to create a team of talented women to make a fragrance to celebrate women. Ms. Dubin asked perfumer Sarah Horowitz-Thran to join and to complete the Fantastic Four of Bellegance, Ping Li would design the flacon. During the process of designing Midnight Promise they would return to Sniffapalooza and ask the group to pick their favorite from a number of preliminary mods. In October of 2013 the process was finished and Bellegance Midnight Promise was premiered at Sniffapalooza to bring things full circle. While this isn’t exactly an example of crowdsourcing Midnight Promise feels like it has had a lot of midwives on its way to the perfume counter.

sarah horowitz and karen dubin

Sarah Horowitz-Thran (l.) & Karen Dubin at Sniffapalooza Fall Ball 2013

Ms. Horowitz-Thran starts Midnight Promise with a wonderfully chosen duo of mandarin coated in cinnamon. Cinnamon has a sweet spiciness which is complemented by the sweeter citrus of the mandarin. Ms. Horowitz finds a nice balance and, as top notes go, Midnight Promise holds that chord a little longer than most fragrances. A rose damascene holds the heart and it picks up the cinnamon as a running mate as the mandarin fades. Moroccan rose often has a slightly enhanced spicy character and the cinnamon enhances it. The base is a panoply of warm comforting notes as incense, sandalwood, vanilla, patchouli, and amber weave a figurative woolen scarf to pull tight around you for soft warmth.

Midnight Promise has six-eight hour longevity and above average sillage.

For those who have followed Ms. Horowitz-Thran’s previous fragrances Midnight Promise feels like a more luxurious and intimate version of her Love Comes from Within. There are significant differences but the spice/rose/warm progression is the same. If you’ve never tried Ms. Horowitz-Thran’s fragrances this is a great place to start as she has become one of the more reliable American independent perfumers.

Every Sniffapalooza holds promise in the form of finding a new fragrance or a new friend or coming up with a great idea. Bellegance Midnight Promise is the culmination of all that potential into a great new perfume.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Roja Parfums Nuwa- Chypre Redux

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Roja Dove is a tireless ambassador for all things fragrance. For over thirty years he has promoted the beauty of fragrance. He often tells the story of his mother kissing him goodnight, prior to going out for the evening, dressed in her cocktail dress and the sillage of her fragrance remaining in his room long after she left, comforting him. Over the last few years as he has produced his own line I always get the feeling he is attempting to make fragrance which will leave a lasting impression, too. The newest Roja Parfums Nuwa is Mr. Dove’s aesthetic writ large with supreme confidence.

Roja-Dove

Roja Dove at Osswald Zurich

Mr. Dove’s beginnings were from 1981-2001 as Global Ambassador for Guerlain. He was immersed in what it meant to be Guerlain even without the surname. As I have experienced his own line, Roja Parfums, there are times you feel that it is Mr. Dove who is the standard bearer for interpreting and modernizing the classic perfume styles, arguably, Guerlain created and refined. Never has that felt as apparent to me as it does with Nuwa. Nuwa is a chypre, all in caps followed by multiple exclamation points. It is perfumery not often seen these days, unafraid to push limits and to pay homage to the past while challenging the wearer to embrace change.

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Nuwa Creating Man

The name, Nuwa, comes from multiple ancient Chinese texts where she is alternatively creator, mother, or goddess. In the press booklet Mr. Dove chooses the creator version where she is responsible for creating woman and man along with imbuing them with creativity and wisdom as well as introducing them to the arts. For the fragrance I interpret the name to mean a rebirth of the chypre using the experience and creativity of his lifetime to form a new chypre that feels old and new at the same time.

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Nude Couple by Lucien Clergue (1989)

Nuwa opens on a bergamot and lemon point of light. Enjoy it for the few moments it is there because the light is subsumed by deep notes and accords as Nuwa takes you into a fabulous darkness not for the timid. Rose holds the middle, in the heart, but the pungent blackcurrant bud and the maple syrup-like immortelle pierce the rose like twin blades. The blackcurrant bud takes the spicy facets and turns them a shade of deepest sticky green. The immortelle takes the sweetest floralcy and gives it a tactile depth not usually felt from rose. The heart oozes sensuality and it sets you up for the base which realizes it in carnality. Vetiver and oakmoss setup the classic chypre foundation over which Nuwa lays a lusty leather accord and full doses of cumin, black pepper, and clove. Together they combine to feel like the olfactory version of human consummation. This is what sexy means in a fragrance to me.

Nuwa has overnight longevity and above average sillage.

I think it will be easy to try Nuwa and think it smells like other classic chypres because it does hearken back to the traditional forms that is an all too easy surface impression. If you have the opportunity to spend a few days with it I think you will find the genius on display is not in the broad strokes but in the shading in between. Nuwa is so powerful it is easy to miss these subtleties. Like the goddess it is named after it is what comes after the creation that makes life worth living. Nuwa is everything that makes me love fragrance all over again.   

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Osswald NYC.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ulrich Lang New York Aperture- Picture Perfect

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There have been a number of multi-disciplinary collaborations between fragrance and another art form. You can name excellent examples for almost any intersection of perfume and visual one can imagine. The most prevalent collaboration is that of photography and perfume. One of the earliest to take advantage of this was Ulrich Lang with his 2003 release Anvers. On the side of the box there was a cropped close-up of a man’s face in black and white. The accompanying fragrance was a thoroughly modern fougere with magnified aspects of that style of fragrance. Over the next three releases the picture on the side of the box would always prepare me, in a visual way, for what was inside.

Olivia Bee Quiet

"Quiet" by Olivia Bee

When I saw the picture, above, by Olivia Bee, as I walked up to the Ulrich Lang New York booth at the February 2014 Elements Showcase I knew the fragrance that could match this photograph would be something interesting. When I got my first sniff of Aperture and looked again at the photo I realized the strip I was smelling was represented by the three distinct color bands in the photograph, The light purple top band is a spicy aldehydic top, the deep orange is represented by the glow of tobacco and the midnight blue is the depth of vetiver. The picture is an overture to the fragrance it accompanies.

The opening fizz of aldehydes is matched with a Technicolor pepper blend of pink pepper, white pepper, and black pepper. Even though three sources of pepper might sound overwhelming it is really a pinch of each to add some further energy to the aldehydes and to attenuate the hairspray character they sometimes have. Tobacco flares to life on a cedar foundation which smolders like a glowing ember in the heart. The base notes collaborate with the tobacco and cedar as vetiver adds its woodiness and for a good while Aperture persists as a smoky vetiver accord. The final touch is to add musk, civet, and ambergris to add further depth to the smoke and wood.

Aperture has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

 Ulrich-Lang

Ulrich Lang (Photo: Eric Swain)

Mr. Lang has become more widely known, perhaps, for his founding and expansion of the Elements Showcase. Which sometimes makes it easy to overlook his talent when it comes to his line of perfume. Aperture is the fifth Ulrich Lang New York fragrance and it is the best fragrance from this line to date. That is truly the test, if a perfume house manages to continually rise to new heights with each new release. In the case of Aperture the sky seems to be the limit for Mr. Lang.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from Ulrich Lang New York at the Elements Showcase in February 2014.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: A portion of the proceeds of Aperture will go to the Aperture Foundation to support their educational programs.

New Perfume Review Maison Francis Kurkdjian Ciel de Gum- From Russia With Love

With the Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia seemingly on every channel I feel immersed in Russia and all things Russian. One thing very Russian is the GUM department store which celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2013. For the occasion perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, under his Maison Francis Kurkdjian line, designed a GUM exclusive fragrance in honor of that milestone, Ciel de Gum.

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GUM Building in 1893

Ciel de Gum is another perfumer’s take on what a store’s characteristics are turned into fragrant form. The press materials that go along with this say it is meant to be “a creation worked like haute couture”. I actually thought of it in a different light going back to the beginning of GUM. GUM wasn’t a department store at its beginnings, in 1893, but was instead the GUM building which housed numerous independent stores selling everything a Nineteenth Century fin de siècle shopper could want. GUM at this point was more like a modern shopping mall on three levels than a department store. Ciel de Gum captures a number of the different smells I imagine might have drifted from the different sellers. A bit of spice, some fresh roses or a jasmine scented eau de parfum, some leather goods, a sweet vanilla from a bakery.

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Francis Kurkdjian

M. Kurkdjian opens Ciel de Gum with cinnamon and pink pepper which instead of working together to amplify the piquant nature of both instead seems to have the opposite effect. Both the cinnamon and pink pepper seem like they are shadows of their normal self found in many other fragrances. It adds a delicacy to both notes that isn’t normally found. I found it had the effect of drawing me inward until I found something with some more heft to it. In Ciel de Gum that brings you to a duet of jasmine and rose in the heart. The rose is the anchor for the jasmine which is what eventually predominates although early on they are more equal in impact. A leather accord arrives after the florals and eventually it settles down to a beautiful amber warmed vanilla.

Ciel de Gum has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

When it comes to these, in essence city exclusives, I really don’t want to start a desire for most who can’t get access to them. The unfortunate truth is Ciel de Gum is the best Maison Francis Kurkdjian release since 2012’s Oud. It shows all of the best qualities of M. Kurkdjian’s skills as a perfumer. This is so good I waited to write about it until it became available through some of the reputable decant websites. I have been wearing Ciel de Gum on and off for the last six weeks and it is one of those fragrances I think is worth the effort to try especially if you are a fan of M. Kurkdjian’s style of perfumery.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample sent to me from Russia. I have recently bought a decant from Surrender to Chance.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Profvmvm Sorriso- Brevity of Expression

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Economy of expression can be a difficult trick for most anyone. When it comes to perfumery the Durante family knows how to consistently make fragrances which sing with three to four notes. Their line of perfume is called Profvmvm and it has produced thirty of these minimal note/maximum enjoyment perfume since their first releases in 1996. The thirty-first release is called Sorriso and continues this style of perfume making.

Sorriso means smile in Italian and it made me smile as one who loves chocolate and orange together. Orange and dark chocolate are my favorite combination as the sweet of the orange contrasts with the bite of the higher concentration cacao chocolate to make for a savory combination. The note list for Sorriso is brief as always; bitter orange, bitter chocolate, exotic woods. When I read that I expected my candy bar to materialize from the atomizer. That isn’t what happened and it made me give up my mental image and really pay attention to what was there.

sorriso bottle

Despite the listing of bitter chocolate it really seems like it is more cocoa powder on display in Sorriso. It is cocoa powder lavishly spread over a tray of orange wedges. Despite the note listing describing both the chocolate and orange as “bitter” I found them to be on their best behavior, more optimistic than jaded. The orange was juicy with a pronounced sweet over the tart. The cocoa powder adds a desiccated quality with a smooth chocolate sweetness with only the slightest hint of an edge. Chocolate in perfume can sometimes be a bit overwhelming and the choice to stay more towards the cocoa powder kind of chocolate makes Sorriso a little more approachable, I think. The woods come into play very late and they sort of sneak up on the orange and chocolate. Both times I wore Sorriso it felt like they just sort of arrived out of nowhere but they keep things soft and tilted towards the sweeter, creamier side of woods.

Sorriso has all-day longevity and moderate sillage.

In a world where communicating in 140 characters is lauded so should Profvmvm and the Durantes be praised for also making a complete olfactory statement in three to four notes. Sometimes that is all you need to make someone smile with delight. Sorriso does just that especially for those who like a little orange with their chocolate.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Laboratorio Olfattivo Kashnoir- Orange Blossom Takes a Trip

I think that every perfumer I have met has made something that I truly adore. There are a select few of them though that just seem to create perfume that never fails to make me smile. One of the perfumers in that category is Cecile Zarokian. She is early in her commercial career but she is slowly but surely building an impressive portfolio. The latest entry is also the latest fragrance from Laboratorio Olfattivo called Kashnoir.

Laboratorio Olfattivo is an Italian brand which is dedicated to artistic perfumery. They give the perfumers who work for them a lot of leeway when they are creating a fragrance for them. It has really brought out the best in many of the perfumers who have created fragrances for them. Mme Zaokian is just the most recent to join those who have enjoyed the freedom to create without a marketing group overseeing everything.

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Cecile Zarokian

According to the press kit Kashnoir is inspired by “narcotic flowers, psychotropic herbs, and haunted spices”. There is also a lot of description of it being similar to a search in the East for a mysterious and lethal drug. This is what is wrong with reading the words first as I was expecting something like opium den chic. Mme Zarokian had something much different in mind. She takes an ingénue of a floral note in orange blossom and sends her on a psychedelic trip.

Kashnoir starts off very innocent and bright with a halo of lemon and lavender over the genteel orange blossom. This is something we’ve experienced many times before. Coriander signals the change to something a little more “noir”. This is also a greener coriander than I’m used to in a fragrance. It gives it even more of a roughhewn quality than it usually adds to a fragrance. A ridiculous amount of patchouli and benzoin take the orange blossom even deeper into unusual territory. This combination of deeply resinous notes almost seems to bring out the indolic qualities of the orange blossom to a more pronounced level. It is more likely that it is the only thing left to stand up to this set of powerful notes. I often remind people that orange blossom is a white flower and does contain an indolic core. With Kashnoir I think I can actually have a fragrance to show the truth of that. Heliotrope and vanilla combine to give a soothing almond milk like finish to this trip.

Laboratorio Olfattivo Kashnoir has overnight longevity and above average sillage.

Cecile Zarokian has done a masterful job of taking orange blossom and finding a way for me to view it in an entirely different way. It is a trip well worth taking.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Aus Liebe zum Duft.

Mark Behnke