New Perfume Review Tauer Perfumes Cologne du Maghreb- Indie Cologne, Naturally

One of the things that sets indie perfumers apart is their willingness to interact with their customers and admirers through the use of the internet. The first to do this was Swiss perfumer Andy Tauer who started his blog Perfumery on July 12, 2005. For nearly nine years Hr. Tauer has given those who are interested a window into his world as one of the most prominent independent perfumers. One special part of Hr. Tauer’s blog is during the Holiday season he has a virtual Advent calendar where he often gives out a special one-of-a-kind fragrance.

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Andy Tauer

In 2010 the fragrance he was giving away was his attempt at an all-natural, all botanical eau de cologne. He called it Cologne du Maghreb. It was a big success and he followed it up by releasing a “test batch” to see if it would sell. Now in 2014 Hr. Tauer has decided it is time to release Cologne du Maghreb to all of the normal points of sale you find his other fragrances. I never had the pleasure of trying either of the other iterations and so my sample is like a new perfume for me.

In truth the middle of winter was not the ideal time to release a cologne-inspired fragrance. Now, as the summer is upon us, seems to be the right time and place for Cologne du Maghreb to shine. The other thing that feels right is Cologne du Maghreb is not meant to truly adapt the cologne architecture to an all-natural, all botanical palette. Instead Cologne du Maghreb feels more like an evolutionary jump from traditional cologne to something that feels wholly an Andy Tauer fragrance with cologne aspects, if that makes sense.

SUNSET

Cologne du Maghreb opens with Hr. Tauer’s creation of a “citrus chord”. The notes which make this up are lemon essential oil, bergamot, and neroli essential oil. These blaze to life with the lemon as brilliant as the sun and the bergamot and the neroli adding a corona nearly as brilliant. This then leads to an herbal intermezzo of rosemary and clary sage. Lavender pulls in rose and orange blossom to form the heart. The base is cedar and vetiver.

Cologne du Maghreb has 4-6 hour longevity and average sillage.

Due to the use of the natural ingredients cologne du Maghreb behaves like a very traditional eau de cologne which requires frequent re-application to make it through the day. I know on the days I wore it I re-applied twice during the day and each time was a like a little pick-me-up as the citrus made everything seem sunnier all of a sudden. Cologne du Maghreb is a smashing success at what Hr. Tauer wanted to do. This is where imagination meets inspiration at the intersection of a Tauer cologne. Cologne du Maghreb is the product found at those crossroads.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Tauer Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Nomad Two Worlds Raw Spirit Citadelle, Bijou Vert, Wild Fire, Desert Blush- Good Intentions Gone Excellent

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One of my favorite quotes by Chandler Burr is, “Every bottle of perfume contains a world.” This refers to the far flung places in the world many of the raw materials are harvested in to make the ingredients within our favorite fragrances. One of the things I have been most pleased to see is the continuing recognition by the people who make perfume that they are reliant on the communities within the developing world which collaborate with them. One of those companies is a brand called Nomad Two Worlds. Russell James, the founder and world-renowned photographer, had a vision of a company that could work together with indigenous and marginalized communities throughout the world.

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Russell James

The first Raw Spirit fragrance, Fire Tree, introduced the oil produced by the indigenous tree of the Australian Outback. I was a big fan and it felt like good intentions done right. This past October Mr. James announced a collaboration between the Clinton Global Initiative, and Firmenich. They have agreed to create ten new “Raw Spirit” perfumes following the ideals Mr. James has outlined. Besides support Firmenich has also supplied one of their most accomplished perfumers, Harry Fremont, to compose these new perfumes.

Harry Fremont

Harry Fremont

The first four of the ten have been released and two feature notes from Mr. James’ Australia and the other two are differing takes on Haitian Vetiver. What strikes me, again, about this project is everyone participating is doing this for all of the right reasons and then on top of that they are producing very good fragrances.

The two different versions based on the Haitian Vetiver are Citadelle and Bijou Vert. One is a sort of traditional vetiver construct and the other is something quite beautifully different.

Citadelle is the different one as M. Fremont takes the strength of the Haitian Vetiver and adds in some wonderfully contrasting notes. It starts with a crisp pear whose sweetness stands in opposition to the green facets of the vetiver. Lemon adds some tartness and marigold adds a bit of green floral quality to now amplify the green. It all settles down to a cedar and musk base which picks up the woody underpinning of the vetiver.

citadelle

Bijou Vert is a more straightforward vetiver fragrance. M. Fremont takes grapefruit and mandarin to give a traditional citrus opening. As the vetiver becomes more focused he brackets it with black pepper and geranium along with lotus flower. The lotus adds a bit of watery subtlety to the heart of Bijou Vert. The base is benzoin, patchouli, and cedar once again giving the woodiness of this Haitian Vetiver a place to shine in the final moments.

For the remaining two fragrances Wild Fire and Desert Blush we return to Australia and M. Fremont is asked to use wild harvested Australian sandalwood for Wild Fire and the indigenous flower Boronia is the star of Desert Blush. Although I could say both of these are explorations of Australian sandalwood as it plays a prominent part in Desert Blush.

As Mysore sandalwood became proscribed the world turned to the Australian version. Wild Fire is a “soliflore” of this source of the very familiar note. M. Fremont sets the desiccated quality of the sandalwood as the hub of Wild Fire. He then adds in spokes of ylang ylang, jasmine, amber, cedar, and musk. Each of these come together to produce a spinning wheel of a fragrance. It carries warmth like a day in the Outback and it is equally as fascinating.

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I had the opportunity to smell Desert Blush early on in its development and even in that raw version I knew I was going to adore this perfume. Boronia has been used sparingly in perfumery although one of its first uses in Edmond Roudnitska’s Diorissimo, as part of the central muguet accord, showed its versatility. In Desert Blush the boronia gets the chance to be a star and it makes sure to make its turn in the spotlight memorable. Boronia has what I would call a strong herbal tea character infused with floralcy and honey. It is that which I first encounter when wearing Desert Blush. As it warms on my skin there is a spicy component of the boronia which becomes more prevalent and this is where the Australian sandalwood comes in as it picks this up and creates an energetic synergy of these two Down Under ingredients. Osmanthus and ylang ylang support the floral character of the boronia and cedar and musk support the sandalwood.

All of the Raw Spirit fragrances are perfume oils and as such have 8-10 hour longevity but almost no sillage.

All four of these fragrances are very good and Desert Blush is my favorite for the singularity of the boronia but I have been happily wearing all of them. Good intentions are always to be applauded but when they produce excellent fragrances like these four Raw Spirit perfumes it deserves a standing ovation.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Nomad Two Worlds.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Etat Libre D’Orange Rien Intense Incense- More is Better

From the moment of their inaugural releases in 2006 Etat Libre D’Orange promised to be a prominent player on the niche scene. Nothing that has happened in the nearly eight years since those first releases has changed. Etat Libre D’Orange continues to expand their boundaries. For 2014 they are throwing us a curveball; first with the completely “nice” Cologne. The next release for the fall is also something different as it is the first flanker in Etat Libre D’Orange’s history. The fragrance that Creative Director Etienne de Swardt chose to re-visit; Rien.

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Antoine Lie

Rien was one of the original set of eleven fragrances released at the end of 2006. Perfumer Antoine Lie created a leather fragrance that had at its heart leather with the glare of chrome wrapped in a Stygian depth. It was one of my favorites of the original collection and to this day is one of my five favorite fragrances in the line. As I wrote in my Etat Libre D’Orange 101 it is the most approachable challenging fragrance I know. M. Lie provides just enough comfort for Rien to allow the wearer to explore their personal limits of what smells good.

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Etienne de Swardt

For 2014 M. de Swardt has asked M. Lie to re-invent Rien as Rien Intense Incense. If there was one consistent comment from many who tried Rien was that the incense note was more of a suggestion than a prominent participant. For Rien Intense Incense there is no chance you can miss it as the incense is intense, as advertised. M. Lie manages to do this without throwing the whole composition out of balance. If you loved Rien, Rien Intense Incense is proof to the adage that “more is better”.

Rien Intense Incense opens with the same metallic kinetic aldehydes paired with cumin and black pepper on top of the leather accord. The pepper and the cumin are upped in concentration and it makes the chrome more brilliant and the Stygian aspect even deeper. The rose, orris, and patchouli add the same amount of herbal floralcy as was found in the original. There is no hint of a powdery quality even with the increased concentration.  Finally the frankincense bolstered by higher amounts of labdanum, and styrax impose their will. If incense was understated in Rien, not here. This has that metallic quality of the best frankincense and it recapitulates the same character from the aldehydes in the top notes. As Rien Intense Incense heads into its final stage it is bitter leather over a smoking censer.

Rien Intense Incense has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

So often when a fragrance comes out in “intense” form it is just a case of amplifying the notes and a bit of re-balancing. What M. Lie has done with Rien Intense Incense is to take one of the less prominent notes from the original and by moving it to the foreground has re-imagined his original composition beautifully. I will always love Rien for its imagination at the time of its release but Rien Intense Incense is a better fragrance from top to bottom. Yes indeed, more is much, much better.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Etat Libre D’Orange at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Phoenecia Perfumes Oud Taiga- It’s the Real Thing

There are so many fragrances these days with musk and/or oud listed in their notes. The truth is, as with ambergris before it, the presence of these notes are actually other materials substituting for them. Musk has a host of botanical and synthetic stand-ins and nagarmotha does double duty as oud in some fragrances looking for the effect without adding to the cost. As part of a mixture of other notes these approximate the effect of the real thing well enough. In truth of fact most perfume lovers have never really had the opportunity to smell either real oud oil or actual musk harvested from the musk deer. For those who have always wanted to know what they smell like there is a very special opportunity for you to be able to do just that.

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David Falsberg

David Falsberg the iconoclastic perfumer behind Phoenecia Perfumes has become the man to turn to when it comes to finding an authentic oud experience. Through Phoenecia Perfumes he releases Realoud in batches identified by the month of release because he only sources his oud from reliable sources in small batches. He then takes what he acquires and blends a new version of Realoud. The current one labeled 04/14 might be my favorite to date because to his Hindi oud he adds my favorite Laotian variety to create a real “mukhallat”.

One of the best things about Mr. Falberg is he is a consistent correspondent on his creative process. It is often like watching The Wizard of Oz pulling levers, causing steam to billow and flames to jet skyward. For all of the intense passion on display the fragrances often display real inspiration. One which had my attention since he announced he was working on it at the beginning of the year was Oud Taiga.

Oud Taiga is at its heart a combination of the high-grade Hindi oud with a 50-year old vintage authentic deer musk. Mr. Falsberg could have just let the incredible authenticity carry the day but he wanted to re-create a true piece of perfume the way they used to do it. Oud Taiga is everything it was promised to be.

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The actual musk base of Oud Taiga (Source: Phoenecia Perfumes Facebook page)

It is hard not to be drawn to the musk and the oud from the first moments you put some Oud Taiga on. Because of the genuine nature of the two central ingredients they pull you like high powered magnetic fields towards them. Don’t get so focused on the trees that you miss the delicate forest Mr. Falsberg has constructed to surround these massive sentinels at the heart of Oud Taiga. Cardamom, lavender, sandalwood, davana, and cedar add nuanced texture and complexity to two notes that are perfume dimensions all to themselves. He has chosen very wisely to use them to again create a “mukhallat” style perfume. That means everything is there right from the start and it tends to fluctuate over time with certain of the supporting notes temporarily ascendant only to let something else take over later on.

Oud Taiga has 8-10 hour longevity and very low sillage.

Mr. Falberg’s insistence on putting the real ingredients in his perfumes makes every oud he makes something to be cherished, and I do. Oud Taiga is a cut above that as the reality of having real oud and real musk in a composition makes it extremely special. Mr. Falsberg has created a fragrance that hearkens to the past but hews to the indie perfume aesthetic that Mr. Falberg has become one of the leaders of; it truly is “The Real Thing”.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Phoenecia Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews 4160Tuesdays Sunshine and Pancakes, What I Did on My Holidays, The Dark Heart of Havana- Tuesdays at the Beach

I met Sarah McCartney at Esxence this past March. I was introduced to her by Grant Osborne and Lila Das Gupta of Basenotes. I didn’t immediately make the connection until she asked me if I would like to try some of her perfume line, 4160Tuesdays. Then it all clicked over in my head as I had been reading about her creations online but she was strictly a UK phenomenon. I was given ten of her fragrances to try and it has taken me most of the time since I met her to give all of them a try. Ms. McCartney joins a burgeoning indie perfumer movement picking up steam in Europe. I can say that the ten I spent time with are all worth trying and there are five more I haven’t yet had the opportunity to sample.

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Sarah McCartney

Out of these ten there were three that shared a common thread of being near the beach and as I thought about it each captured the beach and a particular time of day, as well. The name 4160Tuesdays comes from “if we live until we’re 80, we have 4160 Tuesdays.” Sunshine and Pancakes, What I Did on My Holidays, and The Dark Heart of Havana capture three different Tuesdays or one really long Tuesday full of fun.

Sunshine and Pancakes captures the potential of sunny summer days. It is that midsummer moment when you wake up to a warm breeze and you can see a brilliant blue sky beyond the billowing curtains. Don’t let the name fool you this perfume is chock full of sunshine and try as I might the pancakes eluded me. (UPDATE: Ms. McCartney informed me that they use lemon juice and sugar on their pancakes in the UK and that is the reference in the name; not the actual pancake) Ms. McCartney chooses to open this with a lens flare of lemon. It is so bright I need to reach for my metaphorical sunglasses. It is brilliant, in both meanings of the word, as it sparkles with energy. It makes you want to get out of bed to see what the day will bring. What this Tuesday brings next is jasmine. On the website description Ms. McCartney mentions that this has “masses of natural jasmine” and it shows. Not only the floral quality but in overdose there is a subtle green character that become more prominent. The lemon lingers and intertwines with the jasmine beautifully. The transition to the base is again sun-burnished as honey is paired with vanilla. It is the honey which is ascendant and the vanilla provides an enhancement to the sweetness. If I was stretching I could say this is where the pancakes are but really it is the soft glow of the sun as it heads towards noontime.

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Rehoboth Beach, DE Boardwalk

What I Did on My Holidays is the scent memory of a family holiday to Scotland. I’ve never been to the seaside in Scotland but I have been to numerous boardwalks on the East Coast of the US and this captures the smell of that milieu quite perfectly. The mix of people walking up and down covered in suntan lotion carrying an ice cream cone the smell of cotton candy wafting from one of the food stands. It is simple in structure a suntan lotion accord, vanilla, and calone. That captures the smells of an afternoon on the beach carrying your ice cream cone while the sea breeze blows the ocean smells to you. Right away the suntan lotion accord is present. Ms. McCartney used melon, coconut, and cucumber to create it. The coconut adds the right amount of slippery oiliness, the melon the sweet, and the cucumber the cool vegetal nature. Together they do combine to create exactly what Ms. McCartney was going for. Pretty soon the double scoop vanilla ice cream cone is in front of you and it carries a cool sweetness without becoming cloying. Finally the calone is used in a small amount but still enough to remind you that the ocean is right over there across the sand.

Once you reach a certain age the summer nights are as enjoyable as the days. The Dark Heart of Havana captures the sultry summer night at a bar by the beach. What stands out in that context is the heat of the day is slipping away and the night blooming flowers are scenting the breeze. An alcoholic libation, the smell of tobacco, and the smell of the sugar cane; this is Cuba and the Caribbean Islands. A trio of fruits open this up as orange and grapefruit get smoothed out a bit by peach. The promised dark heart is tobacco, jasmine, toffee, and tonka. This isn’t so dark as to be threatening instead it is the pulse of the latin beat as you start to tap your foot to the rhythm and it slowly begins to move you towards the dance floor. Once you are there the smell of the sugar cane sweet and green is married with a synthetic skin musk. With only a few minutes until midnight this Tuesday is winding down but you also have 4160 Wednesdays to make memories in too.

Ms. McCartney has been making these fragrances for almost two years now and it might be a little bit of a misnomer to call these “new perfumes” but they have just become available in the US at Luckyscent and so they are new to this market. If you are looking for an indie perfume brand where the intellect of the perfumer is on full display turn over a few of your 4160 Tuesday to Ms. McCartney’s creations there will be one or more that will create a new pleasant memory.

Diaclosure: This review was based on samples provided by 4160Tuesdays.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Clique by Roble-Cooking up a Fragrance

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Haute Perfume and Haute Cuisine are natural partners as great food is often accompanied by great smells. It is the scent of a dish that heightens our anticipation for what we will be tasting. Ever since the advent of gourmand fragrances in 1992 with the introduction of Thierry Mugler Angel this genre of perfume has been evolving. Which makes it a natural for a chef to be a creative director for a gourmand fragrance. One of the newest of these collaborations comes courtesy of Chef Roble Ali and is called Clique by Roble.

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Chef Roble Ali

Chef Roble Ali is the owner of the catering company Roble & Co. in New York City. His business was the subject of a reality show called “Chef Roble & Co.” on the cable network Bravo. He had been dubbed the “hip-hop chef” a label he has resisted but with initiatives like the “Food Tang Clan” which made Rap parodies like “Grubbin’ Problems” he probably protesteth a bit too much. What is exciting about Chef Roble is that he is an energetic personality looking for different ways to combine his love of the culinary arts with other art forms. With Clique by Roble he teamed with an unnamed perfumer, although we are told it is a “world-renowned perfumer”. (UPDATE: The perfumer has been revealed to be Frank Voelkl) What they created was a gourmand fragrance which opens with cocktail hour moves to an entrée of rich floral notes and finishes with a decadent dessert accord.

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The cocktail they are trying to create in the top notes is a blood orange margarita and while that is the inspiration that never really comes together on my skin. What does come together is much less ambitious and much more pleasant. The blood orange is very prominent and the tartness of that citrus is enhanced with a wedge of lime and a sprinkle of smoky chipotle pepper. Those three notes work wonderfully together and I really enjoy the choice to go for spicy and tart with a bit of smoke. The note list promises tequila and triple sec but on the days I wore this I never found those notes. The heart is made up of iris, jasmine, violet, and tuberose. This is a recipe for heady floralcy and it arises out of the top notes with a restrained intensity at first and then blossoms to life as the tuberose and the iris take the lead. After that dessert needs to be even more luscious and honey and chocolate provide that opulent aspect as they are bracketed by a doughy accord which is called “Challah bread” in the note list and piquant cinnamon which recalls the chipotle pepper in the top notes. The final moments of Clique by Roble are true blue gourmand and it manages to keep its sweetness under control and it never became too much on the days I wore it.

Clique by Roble had 6-8 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I have my favorite gourmands in my collection and usually I find the more recent releases to be working the same territory over and over. Clique by Roble has some of that familiarity in the use of the chocolate and honey in particular but the choice of things like chipotle pepper and blood orange shows a little more imagination than usual. It is that which makes Clique by Roble a gourmand worth seeking out if you are a fan of this style.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided to attendees at Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2014.

Mark Behnke    

New Perfume Reviews Jazmin Sarai Otis & Me, How You Love, Neon Graffiti, and Led IV- Songs in the Key of Scent

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One of my favorite things which happens in the background of my writing about perfume is one of the great reasons why I do it. I am often approached to try a young independent perfumer’s creations and to give my opinion. I am thrilled to offer any assistance I can especially to those who choose to try this on their own. This is how Dana El Masri and I have struck up an ongoing conversation on the perfumes she was working on. Her idea was to take a musical inspiration and turn it into a perfume. After her training at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery she knew the work necessary to see her ideas through to a finished product and it is very pleasing to see her dreams become reality. Her line is called Jazmin Sarai and she has assembled a very strong debut playlist.

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Dana El Masri

Otis & Me is inspired by Otis Redding’s “Cigarettes and Coffee” from 1966. Ms. El Masri wanted to capture an imaginary conversation between the wearer and Otis in a diner in the wee hours of the morning in a time when smoking was still permitted. What she has done quite brilliantly is to make a fragrance which rasps, like Mr. Redding’s voice, with a world-weary omniscience. It is surrounded with the richness of coffee and the haze of smoke. She blends black pepper, cardamom, and bergamot into a spicy grittiness which opens into a Turkish rose coated with incense over a rich coffee base. All of this is perhaps a bit too grand for a diner but one can’t be faulted for imagination, can they?

How You Love is inspired by Sade’s “It’s Only Love That Gets You Through” from 2000. This is the yin to Otis & Me’s raspy yang as How You Love is the smooth soulful voice that plumbs unexpected depths that Sade provides to her singing. Ms. El Masri uses cardamom again but this time a greener version of it and pairs it with grapefruit as we start on the high end of the olfactory scale. The heart notes drop an octave as Moroccan rose and Indian jasmine swirl together with a soulful harmony. The base notes drop into those low notes that become a trademark of Sade as How You Love uses sandalwood and musks but the really excellent choice is to capture it in a substrate of beeswax still redolent of the honey that recently surrounded it. This is the vocal range of Sade from high to delightful low.

Neon Graffiti is inspired by M.I.A.’s “Sunflowers” from 2004. When she first gave me this to try in an early version she told me to think of neon on wet cement. In that early mod there wasn’t enough crackle of electricity and the cement felt a bit lifeless. What has emerged as the finished product has none of those issues as there is a palpable sizzle of humming neon over damp cement. Ms. El Masri accomplishes this by using cardamom and grapefruit again but chilling them out with mint and ivy. Jasmine, mimosa, and sunflowers form a burst of rainbow florals and they are made neon bright by adding in juicy mango. The cement accord is ambrox, cedar, and incense and it is very well executed. Neon Graffiti feels like the fusion of disparate energies the best hip-hop provides.

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Led Zeppelin

Led IV is inspired by Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California” from 1971. Led IV is my favorite of this set of four fragrances and it because Ms. El Masri has perhaps made the first perfume which really captures the heart of rock and roll. One of the reasons this works so well is Ms. El Masri keeps it simple and lets each note contribute to the olfactory band. Grapefruit and bergamot are Robert Plant’s vocals brilliant and high. Davana provides the boozy guitar of Jimmy Page. John Paul Jones plucks the mandolin as patchouli wafts from the crowd and underneath John Bonham keeps the beat with guaiacwood and musks. Together this creates a perfect moody rock vibe that is unforgettable.

All four Jazmin Sarai perfumes have 6-8 hour longevity and modest sillage.

I’ve sort of known about the talent Ms. El Masri has had and have been keeping it to myself. With the release of these four fragrances she is ripe for discovery by everyone who loves perfume and music. She truly gets it. Now when are you going to finish that Hendrix one?

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Jazmin Sarai.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Journey Woman and Journey Man- The First Steps of the Second Cycle

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My admiration for Christopher Chong has been writ large across numerous reviews of the Amouage fragrances he is the Creative Director for. His vision has made Amouage into one of the great perfume houses of this century. I believe this collection he is responsible for creating has only peers, and damn few of them. Throughout my time corresponding with Mr. Chong and the influences which motivate him I have come to “know” him, though we have never actually met. With last year’s release of Fate Woman and Fate Man “the first cycle of the Amouage narrative” came to an end. Now with the release of Journey Woman and Journey Man we begin the second cycle which will delve into Mr. Chong’s life and is subtitled ‘Portraits of a Life’.

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Christopher Chong

Mr. Chong was inspired by Shanghai Deco and Chinese film noir. The common thread to both of these is a weaving of distinctly western elements into an eastern undertaking. During the 1920’s and 30’s there were many striking examples of art deco buildings erected in Shanghai. When I look at this purely western form of architecture it is striking to me how well it meshes with its eastern surroundings. There seems to be no disconnection. The same can be said of Chinese cinema over the last 100 years as it has evolved by adding its own flair to traditional movie tropes and then, interestingly to me, these new interpretations find their way back into Hollywood releases. This is the theme of Journey Woman and Man the meshing of distinct western influences like noir and deco with a Chinese aesthetic to create something wholly unique. The perfumers Mr. Chong chose to help him bring this to life are Alberto Morillas and Pierre Negrin.

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Shanghai Park Hotel

Journey Woman feels very Deco inspired to me as it has jasmine tea, saffron, cypriol, and osmanthus provide the eastern details on the solidity of the western foundation of honey, cedar, and tobacco. When I asked Mr. Chong what it was about Deco that drew him to it he responded, “my reason for loving it is quite simple. I love the form, shape, and the period.” As a result Journey Woman is a fragrance which carries an unusual simplicity for Amouage but the “form” and the “shape” of this perfume is fascinating for those clean architectural lines.

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The Paramount in Shanghai

Journey Woman might have the softest opening of any Amouage fragrance to date, based on the opening moments I would bet many would not suspect it was an Amouage fragrance. The top notes of jasmine tea, nutmeg, apricot, and osmanthus provide luxuriance without heft. It lilts and draws you in with the intersection of so many beautiful notes precisely positioned. Honey and jasmine provides a bit more volume as Journey Woman begins to arise from the early delicacy and now begins to take more shape. The honey in particular provides a matrix for the osmanthus to blossom upon and the jasmine tea transforms into jasmine sambac in all of its full indolic glory. Cedar is used to start refining the emerging shape into eventual form. The base notes achieve the melding of west and east as tobacco, saffron, vanilla, and cypriol all flow together into a smooth montage of both sets of influences.

I suspect many are going to be surprised at this light Amouage perfume. I would encourage you to not try Journey Woman with prior expectations weighing you down. Embrace this new beginning of the second cycle and you will be heartily rewarded.

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Maggie Cheung as actress Ruan Lingyiu in "Centre Stage"

If you need something a little more “Amouage” to help you start the second cycle Journey Man will provide that transition. Journey Man feels very cinematic to me it could even have a logo “composed in Technicolor”. Mr. Chong has been a fan of Chinese movies for his entire life and he wrote to me, “I was brought up with all kinds of Chinese Cinema…for me it means entertainment and family time.” It is an almost universal thing to sit in a movie theatre watching larger than life images and losing yourself in the story unspooling from the projector behind you. Journey Man unspools in larger than life accords of Sichuan pepper, neroli bigarade, juniper berries, along with the tobacco and cypriol we saw in Journey Woman.

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Bruce Lee

The use of the Sichuan pepper in the top notes of Journey Man may feel like it is in living color but it is also very Chinese. It is also the smell of home cooking to Mr. Chong I suspect which makes it appropriate to be the opening note. It is stirred in with a very green cardamom and an incredible neroli bigarade. This creates an interplay of shadow and light flickering to life. Shadow wins for a while as juniper berries and incense take over. Geraniol and rose push back against the twilight while a haze of tobacco hovers above it all. Journey Man tells most of its story right here and it is where it lingers on my skin for many hours as the olfactory chiaroscuro continues to evolve throughout the day. The base notes are a fit denouement as tonka, cyrpriol, and ambrox finish things off.

Journey Man is much more typical of what many have come to think of as an Amouage fragrance. I found it very comforting despite the characteristic intensity. I definitely felt this biopic of Mr. Chong’s life come to reality on the olfactory silver screen.

Journey Woman had 12-14 hour longevity and Journey Man 10-12 hour longevity on me. The sillage for both was average.

I am so looking forward to the remainder of the fragrances in this second cycle. As Lao Tzu says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Journey Woman and Journey Man have taken two confident steps into this new journey of Mr Chong’s and Amouage.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles of Journey Woman and Journey Man provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jardins D’Ecrivains Junky- Tripping on a Scent

In the 1950’s America was coming to grips with its status in a post-war world and most were buying into the American Dream. The goal of this was to get a 9-to-5 job, a house in the new housing developments growing around the major cities, and to start a family. This drive to have all of these things has persisted to this day even though it is more difficult to achieve presently. Right from the beginning there was a group of artists who rebelled at this nascent straitjacket of conformity. One of the earliest groups of non-conformists was called The Beat Generation and one of its prominent members was author William S. Burroughs. His 1959 novel “The Naked Lunch” along with Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” and Alan Ginsberg’s “Howl” are the exemplars most cited as the works which capture this desire to break free of the confines of The American Dream. Perfumer Anais Biguine of Jardins D’Ecrivains has been releasing perfumes based on literary inspirations and she chose Mr. Burroughs’ earlier work Junky as the name of her newest release.

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William S. Burroughs (Photo: Evening Standard/Getty Images)

As a piece of literature Junky was an unflinching view of the life of an addict who in the most powerful passage in the book compares heroin addiction to “an inoculation of death”. This was a vivid contrast to the early hysteria over drug use typified by movies like “Reefer Madness”. Junky was succinct prose describing something unknowable to a non-addict. Mme Biguine when composing the fragrance named after this source material also chose to go for a spare construction with a burst of floral pleasure around slightly edgy and narcotic top and base notes.

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Anais Biguine

Junky opens on a fantastic combination of galbanum and hemp. The hemp gives the intense green quality of galbanum a viscous coating and creates an edgy nervous feeling to the early moments of Junky. The heart is the moment of euphoria as iris, violet, and gardenia form a heady triptych that shed the nervy opening for a moment of floral pleasure. I am partial to all three of these notes and Mme Biguine weaves them into a purely pleasurable moment of joy. That joy decays into a base of darker notes as vetiver, frankincense, myrrh, and cade bring you back to reality. I especially like the use of the cade here for recapitulating the green edginess of the top notes in an alternative way.

Junky has 8-10 hour longevity on my skin with modest sillage.

junky cover

Mme Biguine has not shied away from interpreting some of literature’s renegades in fragrant form. I have been impressed with all the fragrances she has produced to date but Junky has done the best at capturing the source material. Using a beloved and cherished source material like Junky sets it up to be disappointing to some if it fails to capture what each person believes is important about that work. I admit of all the things Mme Biguine has translated to fragrance this was the one I had the most personal feeling about. At least for me she nailed the feel of the book with a laconically slightly dangerous fragrance. Junky is everything I could’ve asked for in a fragrance with this name on the bottle.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bottega Veneta Essence Aromatique-

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One thing I am certain of in the vast wasteland of designer fragrances if there is not a Creative Director who understands the “je ne sais quois” of the brand it is the first step to a poor perfume representing that name. One of the good examples of what to do right comes courtesy of Bottega Veneta and the Creative Director Tomas Maier. Hr. Maier has presided over the resurgence of this luxury brand after Tom Ford appointed him to this post in 2001 after Gucci bought it. His vision has consisted of four guiding principles of high-quality materials, timeless design, modern functionality, and extraordinary craftsmanship. Bottega Veneta does not use a logo but instead relies on a distinctive woven pattern which finds its way onto everything they produce. When it comes to the fragrance all of the four principles are on display and since 2011 with the release of Bottega Veneta this has been one of the more recent successes within the designer fragrance space. As his craftsman Hr. Maier has chosen perfumer Michel Almairac who has composed four of the five releases. The most recent release Essence Aromatique holds up the other three principles as they use the timeless design of a cologne, add in high-quality essential oils, and make this feel completely contemporary.

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Tomas Maier (Photo: Matteo Volta)

In the press material Hr. Maier explained that he wanted Essence Aromatique be “an unexpected crisp cologne that lingers like the essence of understated confidence” of whomever is wearing it. To create this cologne M. Almairac went for a traditional opening, a floral heart, and ends with a very modern “amber” to create what they call an “ambery cologne”. I have been pleasantly surprised at how well this works as I have enjoyed wearing this very much.

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Michel Almairac

The traditional opening is citrus matched with herbal and M. Almairac chooses bergamot and coriander as his pairing. I really like the choice of coriander as it adds a bit of bite to the bergamot and makes the opening bracing, as a good cologne should be. The heart is a well-chosen Turkish rose whose spicy undertones complement the coriander perfectly. Patchouli picks up where the coriander leaves off and it all leaves a very sophisticated rose accord in place. Sandalwood anchors the base and vanilla tilts it to the sweeter side. This is where Essence Aromatique gets modern as this is not a traditional cologne finish it has a little more depth and persistence than the traditional cologne base notes.

Essence Aromatique has 8-10 hour longevity but half of that is really the sandalwood vanilla base and how much you like that will inform your enjoyment of this cologne. I liked it quite a bit and so it worked well for me. The sillage is average.

As I’ve mentioned before we are in a Colognaissance and Essence Aromatique is another example of talented creative people taking a venerable form and finding a way to simultaneously honor it and, yet, adapt it for the present day. Essence Aromatique accomplishes this as well as holding up the cornerstone principles of the brand. This is why the Bottega Veneta fragrance line is a cut above their competitors on the department store shelf.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample of Essence Aromatique provided by Bottega Veneta.

Mark Behnke