New Perfume Reviews Jo Malone London Rain Collection

I was of mixed emotions when the news was released about perfumer Christine Nagel heading to Hermes, to join Jean-Claude Ellena. I have been very impressed with her tenure as de facto in-house perfumer at Jo Malone since she began producing fragrances there in 2010. It is these releases that convince me that Mme Nagel will be an easy successor to whatever legacy M. Ellena leaves when he retires. Before Mme Nagel headed over to Hermes she released three new fragrances for Jo Malone called the London Rain Collection; Rain & Angelica, Wisteria & Violet, and Black Cedarwood & Juniper. They are all excellent examples of what Mme Nagel has brought to Jo Malone for the past four years and what she will bring to her future.

christine nagel

Christine Nagel

Rain & Angelica is the one which most evokes the idea of a springtime rain. It has that clean freshness that an April shower brings to the world. Mme Nagel opens it with an ozonic rain accord matched with a cocktail of aldehydes. A bit of lime and pink pepper add some of that earthy spiciness that also seems to accompany the smell of a spring thunderstorm. The florals in the heart are the angelica but there is also a dewy rose and a pretty straightforward iris. All of this ends on a wet greenery accord courtesy of vetiver and amber, but mostly vetiver.

Wisteria & Violet is the garden after the rain and as the sun has returned to warm the day back up. The beginning is a watery accord of lemon, melon, and waterlily. Thankfully the waterlily is the more prominent note over the melon. The waterlily adds a watery green floralcy that is intensified with the addition of wisteria and violet. The titular notes really take over at this point and for a good while this fragrance is wisteria and violet by themselves. Over time the patchouli does come to the foreground but it is a greener more herbal patchouli. A bit of white musk adds a final sheer layer to the end of this.

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Black Cedarwood & Juniper is the one that totally surprised me. If I handed this to you in an unmarked vial and asked you to name what perfume house it came from I think you would be guessing a long while until you said Jo Malone. Black Cedarwood & Juniper is very modern in its construction as Mme Nagel goes for a feel of the midnight streets of London after you’ve been out to the clubs or a late dinner. It opens with a fascinating combination of cumin and chili leaves. I am pretty sure this is the first time cumin has found its way into a Jo Malone fragrance and I don’t think I’ve ever smelled chili leaves before. What this does is take the very sweaty nature of cumin and cover it over with a green heat from the chili leaves. The result is a, very Jo Malone, non-confrontational cumin. It is greener and the cumin’s more rambunctious edges are blunted by the slight chili pepper spiciness of the chili leaves. These top notes remain as the cedarwood and juniper arrive. I would say it is the cumin and chili leaves which turn the cedarwood dark. There is a hint of nutmeg along with the juniper berry. It makes this feel like a very dry exotic martini for a while. The base notes add in some leather and moss to finish off this very unique, for Jo Malone, fragrance.

All three London Rain fragrances have 8-10 hour longevity on me and average sillage.

There is a fourth London Rain fragrance but it is a re-labelled version of 2007’s White Jasmine & Mint which was composed by David Apel and Pierre Negrin. The three new ones by Mme Nagel are all very good but it is Black Cedarwood & Juniper which is clearly my favorite. I have worn out my sample and will be buying a bottle very soon. I’m not sure if these are the last compositions we will see from Mme Nagel for Jo Malone but if they are she is leaving on a high note and displaying the potential for her future.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples of the Jo Malone London Rain Collection I purchased from Surrender to Chance and I received from the Jo Malone Counter at Nordstroms.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Yosh Konig- King Me!

Yosh Han is one of those people in perfumery who seems to be in constant motion. Whenever I see a post from her on Facebook I play a mental game of “Where in the World is Yosh Han?” All of this travel is as a consistent proselytizer for independent perfume. Ms. Han believes in the indie perfume community and always is available to promote it. She is so good in this role I sometimes forget she is a damn good perfumer, as well. Then I received a sample of her latest release Konig and I am immediately reminded that Ms. Han has got skills.

Konig is the German word for king and Ms. Han wanted to create a fragrance fit for a medieval king of the Schwarzwald. Certainly the woods and the smoke of the fireplace are on display but the inclusion of an excitingly unusual red apple note really allows Konig to feel less medieval and more modern.

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Yosh Han

Konig opens with those apples as the crown on this king. Because of the apples I kept thinking about princesses and poison apples but Ms. Han has some more masculine ideas as vetiver shows up to joust with those apples. The greener facets of vetiver are supported by papyrus and sage early on and they add tartness to the apple. The woodier aspects of vetiver come forward and so too do the smokier accords accompanied by leather and amber. At this point ‘dem apples have been jettisoned and the ending stage is a smoky leathery vetiver, the epitome of the swaggering medieval king at play, or war.

Konig lasts all-day on me and has above average sillage.

Konig is the second in the “M” Series by Ms. Han which are meant to explore our “deepest nature”. Sombra Negra was the first and in tandem both of these are distinct departures from the earlier collection Ms. Han produced. What they also show is that Ms. Han knows how to span an aesthetic spectrum when making her perfumes. Konig shows this excursion into the “M” series will be every bit as fascinating as her previous fragrances.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Konig provided by Yosh Han.

Mark Behnke

Editor's Note: Yosh Konig has been named a finalist for the 1st "The Art and Olfaction Awards" in the Independent Category.

New Perfume Review Neela Vermeire Creations Mohur Extrait- Love the One You’re With

One of the things that can be very difficult for a writer on perfume is when you get a sample and you are told to wait until it is released before writing about it. Last March, at Esxence in Milan, Neela Vermeire of Neela Vermeire Creations, spritzed a little of her more concentrated version of Mohur, simply called Mohur Extrait on the back of my hand. I was a big fan of the “rose in a fisted glove” intensity of the original Mohur Eau de Parfum where perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour took us through a spicy opening before rose and leather combined for that incongruous connection. As it goes with the best of extrait level versions M. Duchaufour doesn’t just up the volume with higher concentration he also varies the tune so Mohur Extrait is a much more intimate experience.

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Neela Vermeire

In the original EDP formulation the numerous ingredients all seemed very distinct and played their role to create a fantastic whole. In Mohur Extrait that is not the case. Now the carrot note is more prominent but as a modifier for the three rose sources used. In the EDP the spices breeze across the top leading to the rose. In the Extrait the rose is out in front with the carrot and it is very steadily changing on the periphery. The violet and the orris eventually take over turning things slightly powdery.

One of my favorite parts of the EDP was this almond milk accord M. Duchaufour uses which is sort of creamy and nutty at once. As in the EDP it is the bellwether to the arrival of the leather accord. One of the things about M. Duchaufour that has been fantastic to watch over the years has been his evolution of an accord. This leather accord he has been using recently is one of those where he has achieved a near perfect balance by itself and now depending on what it is paired with it feels like something new. If any single accord can be said to be a Bertrand Duchaufour signature this leather accord would have to be in the discussion. For Mohur Extrait it is very prominent and together the “rose in a fisted glove” is more nuanced while having greater depth. This is what I want in an extrait version and Mohur Extrait gives me all I could ask for.

Bertrand Duchaufour

Bertrand Duchaufour

The final phase of Mohur Extrait is where you find some of the spices that were up front in the EDP paired with some amber and other resins along with a tiny pinch of oud. The backloading of the spices works very well in this extrait version because the Turkish rose used has a prominent spicy character which is more pronounced later in this extrait version. All together it adds an extraordinary amount of warmth to the final stages of Mohur Extrait.

Mohur Extrait has overnight longevity and very little sillage. It is very much a skin scent and only you and those you allow to get close are going to notice it.

Mohur Extrait is a limited edition of 450 bottles that are sadly only available to those in the EU. If you want a bottle you need to contact Neela Vermeire through her e-mail found at her website and request a bottle. The price is 340Euros for 50mL.

Mohur Extrait is another example of the pleasures a higher concentration can reveal about a fragrance you thought you knew well. I wore Mohur EDP a lot and while it is still a wonderful fragrance I am all about “loving the one you’re with” and when I want Mohur these days it is always the Mohur Extrait I reach for. It is a fantastic perfume and easily my favorite of all of the Neela Vermeire Creations to date.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample of Mohur Extrait provided by Neela Vermeire Creations.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: Neela Vermeire Creations Ashoka is a finalist in the 1st “The Art and Olfaction Awards” in the Independent Category.

New Perfume Review Aether Arts Perfume Nude Moderne, Ginger Rose, Electrum

In the middle of 2013 I received the first three perfumes from independent perfumer Amber Jobin; A Roll in the Grass, Aether Argent, and Inuus. These were surprisingly assured fragrances for a first-time perfumer. One of the reasons that they are as finished as they are is Ms. Jobin has worked for, and with, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz as she learned the techniques of making perfume. These fragrances stood out from the many indie perfumes I receive in a year in the way they seemed polished to me. A downfall of many indie perfumers is to think they are finished without trying to improve the transitions from top to base. All three of the initial fragrances showed a sense of completeness to them. Ms. Jobin would follow this up with one of my top 50 new fragrances for all of 2013, No. 4 John Frum. With that she took an unusual note, Kava Kava, and created a tropical jungle milieu that combined intense florals, juicy fruits and the woods and foliage all with a palpable humidity. I was eagerly waiting for more. About a month ago I received the three latest Aether Arts Perfumes, Nude Moderne, Ginger Rose, and Electrum. Three more examples of a new star in the world of indie perfumes.

Amber Jobin

Amber Jobin

Nude Moderne is Ms. Jobin’s take on a skin scent in both meanings of that word. Nude Moderne is meant to evoke warm skin and it is also meant to wear very close to the skin of the person wearing it. Ms. Jobin shows her skill in balancing a number of synthetic musks to realize her warm skin effect. What she also does is to quite presciently add a bit of labdanum to ground this effect. Without that inclusion Nude Moderne would come off like a one-trick pony. With its inclusion it gives a bit of a spine for the musks to adhere to and to endure for a long time. While Nude Moderne may have very little sillage it persisted on my skin for well over 24 hours and through a shower. Because of the nature of the synthetic musks Ms. Jobin used there is an almost glacial kind of evolution to Nude Moderne allowing it to become sweeter as it lingers on. All of this is not an easy feat to realize and I am quite impressed at the surety with which Ms. Jobin produced it.

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Geraldine Doyle (The model for Rosie the Riveter)

Ginger Rose is meant to be a Nouveau Retro take on aldehydic florientals from the 1940’s-1950’s and Ms. Jobin shows the research she put into designing her modern version of a vintage perfume. She said she made up a personality, Miss Ginger Rose, as she composed this fragrance. In her mind’s eye Miss Ginger Rose was an up-and-coming starlet or a debutante. When I was letting my imagination run away with the same idea I saw Miss Ginger Rose as a woman who had taken over many of the traditional male roles during World War II and as the boys have returned home a bit of her favorite perfume reminded her of being a woman again but one who discovered a little power underneath the surface femininity. Ginger Rose the fragrance is like that as it starts off with a fusillade of aldehydes fizzing off the skin along with the energy of ginger. Often ginger adds the effervescence to a fragrance but here with the aldehydes adding the carbonation the ginger is a little more refined. This all leads to a fabulously dense floral heart of rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, and heliotrope. It is pretty and multi-faceted throughout. The base is where a bit of the steel of Miss Ginger Rose arrives as Ms. Jobin adds indoles and beeswax to bring out the animalic heart of jasmine and add a bit of growl to the florals. The growl becomes a knowing resinous smile as frankincense, myrrh, and sandalwood provide a sensual end to Miss Ginger Rose’s olfactory journey.

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Ancient Greek Electrum Coins

Electrum is the classical name for amber which according to myth came into being when Phaeton’s, son of Helios, sisters turned into poplar trees and cried tears of amber. Electrum is also a naturally occurring alloy of silver and gold used in ancient coins. Ms. Jobin wanted to capture both meanings as she fuses the silvery scent of pine needles with the golden glow of amber. Those silvery pine needles are right there at the top but they are joined with an inspired choice of rosewood. The rosewood adds a subtle bit of odd woodiness underneath the sharper facets of the pine needles. As the amber begins to intensify the needles still retain their edge and that edge keeps the amber from being too warm to start. Once the tobacco arises the more traditional warmth of amber also comes to the foreground. The mix of tobacco and amber along with some vanilla turns this sweet until a bit of Africa Stone turns the amber towards the animalic.

All three of these have incredible longevity and moderate sillage except for Nude Moderne which as mentioned above almost has none.

Ms. Jobin has been deliberately putting together a very worthy collection of perfume which I am finding belie her relative newness to perfumery. These first seven fragrances and especially these last three show a combination of technical skill and aesthetic vision that is all too rare in the indie community. I can’t wait to see what is next.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Aether Arts Perfume.

Mark Behnke

Editor's Note: Aether Arts Perfume No. 4 John Frum has been named a finalist in the 1st "The Art and Olfaction Awards" in the Artisan Category.

New Perfume Review Amouage Opus VIII- The Light’s Winning

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The Library Collection from Amouage started in 2010 with the release of Opus I-IV and has released a new volume every year since. 2013’s Opus VII was an excursion into darkness which asked a wearer to gaze into the equivalent of an olfactory abyss. It was one of the more fascinating releases of last year because of the introspective nature of going for that level of depth. One of the hallmarks of the Library Collection is that it is a more experimental creative process than the paired “Man & Woman” annual releases of the main Amouage line. Creative Director Christopher Chong has urged the perfumers he has hired to realize his visions to push the limits in their designs. I imagine working for Mr. Chong has to be a fantastic experience as I’m sure there are few creative directors who believe enough in their customers that they will follow anywhere they are taken. Opus VII challenged that with its downward spiral of the heaviest notes in perfumery. For 2014, Opus VIII is the opposite as it glows with a gauzy sunlight although that gauziness is the remnants of some of those dark notes from Opus VII.

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Christopher Chong

The perfumers for Opus VIII are Pierre Negrin who participated with Alberto Morillas on Opus VII and Richard Herpin who is composing his first fragrance for Amouage. M. Negrin also did the exquisitely constructed Interlude Man in 2012. M.Herpin, like M. Morillas, has spent much of his time working on the more commercial side of the business. This sets up an interesting dynamic as these two come together to realize the brief that Mr. Chong asked of them, “an evocative exploration of the subconscious dialogue between illusion and reality.” What this translates to is an incandescent opening of jasmine followed by a transition of light and dark in the heart before the darker notes bring down fragrant twilight.

The opening of Opus VIII is jasmine sambac, ylang ylang, and orange flower. The early going is all about the jasmine, it floats off my skin like a heat mirage. The ylang ylang and orange flower shimmer as energetically but from a more distant perspective. Each is used to enhance a different part of the jasmine, the ylang pulls the sweetness to the foreground while the orange flower adds a slight bump to the indolic heart. Messrs. Negrin and Herpin make this glow like a golden halo. The florals are then subsumed by a wave of saffron, ginger, and incense. The lighter notes of ginger and saffron have a more prominent part of the heart but the incense slowly increases in character until the base notes start to arrive. Bay, benzoin, and balsam signal the lessening of the light. As I said earlier this is a gauzy kind of darkness as it sort of lays a film of these notes over the jasmine, which is still going strong, and its light can’t be put out by these intruders. A solid application of vetiver turns the later phases of Opus VIII distinctly woody but the jasmine still refuses to give way as its glow remains even as darkness threatens to descend.

Opus VIII has overnight, and then some, longevity and above average sillage.

cohle light winning

As I wore Opus VIII over the last week I was reminded of the final line from the recently completed HBO series “True Detective”. After one of the main characters has survived his encounters he talks about the night sky and how there is an awful lot of dark between the light. The other detective replies that everything used to be all black and the existence of the stars show that the light is winning. This is what I thought of as I wore Opus VIII the light at the heart of this fragrance continues to shine even though the black attempts to overwhelm it. Opus VIII is another bright star for both Amouage and The Library Collection.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Opus VIII provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Suleko Albho, Vy Roza, Djelem, and Baba Yaga-Tales of the Russian Woods

When there is a close relation between creative director and perfumer, working in tandem, is often when magic happens. At the recent Elements Showcase I found another example of this thesis to be true. I am a big fan of perfumer Cecile Zarokian and believe 2014 is poised to be a breakout year for her. When I met her at Elements she introduced me to Anastasia Sokolow the owner and creative director of Suleko. Together they told me the story of creating four fragrances to reflect Mme Sokolow’s Russian heritage and one for each season. When I was talking with both of these talented women and hearing their description of each fragrance it struck me how this was a true match of equals. Each brought their passions to bear and together have created a beautiful collection of four special fragrances.

anastasia sokolow

Anastasia Sokolow

Albho represents winter and the name comes from the Indo-European root for the Russian word for swan, Lebed. The concept for Mme Zarokian was to evoke “strength and power, but at the same time calm and gentleness”. When I tried Albho on a strip at Elements it didn’t show off all of those charms but I had a feeling once I wore it there was a chance I would feel differently. Albho captures the feel of that icy inhalation on a winter’s morning, if it is adjacent to a stand of sentinel pine trees. Mme Zarokian begins with that frigid pairing of mint and eucalyptus. It is vaporous and frosty as the eucalyptus in particular sets the winter milieu. Then a frigid pine note arrives. By framing this pine note in cedar Mme Zarokian makes it feel separate, much as smells in the cold feel detached. The eucalyptus and pine form a winter’s breath accord that lingers for a good while. Eventually one has to warm up and the base notes of benzoin, labdanum, and tolu balm provide the olfactory heat.

Vy Roza comes from Pushkin’s novel, Eugene Onegin where the heroine Tatiana is referred to as “Vy Roza belle Tatiana” (You are a rose, beautiful Tatiana). Vy Roza is meant to evoke spring and it does so be being a “beautiful rose”. Mme Zarokian surrounds the central rose with some other spring-like floral compatriots and finishes back in the woods. The opening of Vy Roza takes lilac and muguet which form a slightly green very fresh floral duet. The rose combusts to life like a phoenix rising as it takes over and dominates. Vy Roza ends with a series of woody notes but it takes hours before you notice anything but the rose.

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Cecile Zarokian

Djelem refers to the name of the song which became the anthem of the Gypsies in 1971. Mme Sokolow wanted the fragrance to capture all of the freedom loving proud impulsive pride of the gypsy spirit. To do this Mme Zarokian created a fragrance which captures a summer night around a gypsy fire. As you sit down you smell the hay field around you freshly threshed. Then the music of spicy carnation is deepened even further with cloves and made slightly sweet with a bit of immortelle as it begins to swirl around. The base is the ambery warmth of the fire as only glowing embers are left. Djelem seems as persistently variable as a gypsy song, at turns joyous and solemn. It felt like it was in constant motion during both days I wore it.

Baba Yaga is the Russian child’s boogeywoman. She is the witch of the forest, all that makes up the darkness. When I think of storybook witches I think of a swirl of cape with a lot of flying about accompanied with magical gestures. The witches of our dark tales always seem to have a physical power equal to their magical ones. Mme Zarokian captures that feel of power waiting to be unleashed with a gesture and a cackle of glee in Baba Yaga. When I tried this at Elements the kinetic nature of the notes swept me away. Baba Yaga opens with a furious rush of red berries, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper. All of these notes seem to orbit and fly past each other as you sense the berries, then the pepper, then the cinnamon, then the nutmeg. Like gathering the strands of a spell that just won’t come together. In the heart a core of darkness arises with a deep patchouli trying to form a focal point as you sense the earth in the dark forest. Finally the base notes of leather, cade, and moss combine to form a powerful completion to this olfactory witches’ brew.

All four Suleko fragrances had above average longevity and above average sillage.

The ceramic sculptures which hold the atomizers for each of these fragrances were designed by sculptors Joelle Fevre and Alain Fichot. They add a very unusual visual element to each of these fragrances.

This collection truly does carry through the thread of Mme Sokolow’s Russian heritage with a seasonal aspect. Mme Zarokian listened carefully and skillfully translated the words into perfume. Baba Yaga is my favorite for all of its kineticism but Albho really runs a close second for all of its chilly charms. Taken together this is another example of creative director and perfumer working together on the same wavelength to produce beautiful olfactory music.

Disclosure: this review was based on sample provided by Suleko at the Elements Showcase.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Providence Perfume Co. Samarinda- On Nose Across Borneo

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One of my favorite books is Eric Hansen’s “Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo”. In the book Mr. Hansen describes his eight months of crossing the large Island of Borneo back and forth. Throughout the book his experiences with the indigenous Penan people who were his companions on his trek through the dense rainforest added a wonderfully distinct contrast to the modern civilized way of life. After reading the book I worried that the pace of modern expansion would destroy the more primitive civilization that was happily flourishing without the rest of the world interfering. Mr. Hansen painted a vivid portrait of his surroundings and often I felt I could feel the humidity and smell the jungle, which of course I couldn’t.

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Charna Ethier

Perfumer Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Co. has also been inspired by Borneo for her latest release Samarinda. Samarinda is the capital city of the Indonesian province of East Kalimantan. Borneo also contains two Malaysian states, Sabah and Sarawak along with the tiny sovereign state of Brunei. The slow creep of deforestation described in 1988 by Mr. Hansen has continued apace and Ms. Ethier is donating 5% of all proceeds to the World Wildlife Fund for the protection of the indigenous and endangered species in Borneo.

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Choya Distillation Vessels

Samarinda continues a trend in Ms. Ethier’s perfumery begun with 2012’s Moss Gown and continued with last year’s Branch & Vine. She has dramatically expanded her palette of notes to work with and during that expansion she is taking thoughtful time with each of these unusual notes to bring out the best in them. For Samarinda the unusual note is Choya Nakh which is the smell of roasted seashells. If you’ve ever walked a beach which has a lot of shells drying in the heat of the day you know what this smells like. It can be overwhelming and in less assured hands it would have thrown everything out of balance. Ms. Ethier knows what effect she wants and spent a year on Samarinda perfecting it.

Samarinda opens right away with a lush intensity as a full juicy orange, sheer piquant pink peppercorn, and a cardamom made rawer by the pink peppercorn so it is less smooth and more unrefined. This is how we enter Ms. Ethier’s trek into Borneo. A combination of heliotrope, carnation, and orange blossom advance the tropical vibe but there was a hint of sun scorched earth underneath and that must be from the coffee note listed. I can’t distinctly pick it out but it is the only thing that could be responsible for it. This is the smell of tropical flower garden but it also carried a bit of humid weight as well. It is high noon in the rainforest heady and beautiful. The base is where the Choya Nakh comes in as we leave the jungle behind and walk towards the ocean. The floral part of the jungle is over our shoulder, not gone just diminished. Now a scotch leather layover and rum ether add a bit of boozy diffusion while vanilla and a tincture of jasmine rice add a soupcon of ethnic food to everything. Underneath all of this is the Choya Nakh as an exotic underpinning precisely balanced with everything else. It is the signature note to tie this entire olfactory journey together.

Samarinda has all-day longevity and average sillage.

Ms. Ethier is becoming one of those perfumers for whom I can’t wait to see what is next. There is a dedication on her part to composing with the outliers in the pantheon of notes. Like playing with the less used colors in a big box of Crayola crayons. What she is slowly gathering is a signature style combining exploration and artistry into completely unique fragrances. Samarinda is as good, and maybe better, than Moss Gown; time will tell. What I do know is I will go anywhere with my nose that Ms. Ethier wants to lead me.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Providence Perfume Co.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Byredo Flowerhead- A Fruity Floral Indian Wedding

As we move into March you begin to feel like winter is on the run and just up ahead is spring. Along with spring comes the new floral perfume releases. For a spring floral to resonate with me it has to have a great amount of sheer floral quality. I want a lot of flowers but I don’t want to be consumed by them. Insert “Little Shop of Horrors” joke here. I want my spring florals to mimic that moment when I step out and it feels like everything is blooming. Last March perfumer Jerome Epinette provided that for me with his lily of the valley creation for Byredo called Inflorescence. Now one year later he is following that up with another amazing spring floral for Byredo called Flowerhead and this time the central note is jasmine sambac.

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Ben Gorham

Ben Gorham is the owner and Creative Director at Byredo and he wanted Flowerhead to speak to his mother’s, and his, Indian heritage. According to an interview in Cosmetics Business he related the story of giving his cousin away at a traditional Indian wedding. This is what he said he wanted Flowerhead to represent, “This fragrance was about capturing that idea of an Indian bride, rather than just the wedding and I called it Flowerhead, because it was really the fictional memory that I can imagine from my own Indian wedding. The idea of marrying someone you don't know was very interesting. There's anxiety and excitement. And I described this person as a 'flowerhead', because the bride is completely covered in floral hair arrangements.” Flowerhead captures that sense of heady anticipation as you cover yourself in floral garlands of jasmine, rose, and tuberose.

Jerome-Epinette

Jerome Epinette

M. Epinette starts Flowerhead off with a tart combination of lemon, cranberry, and ligonberry. Citrus and berries is not unusual fruity floral territory; these three notes together are. They provide a lip puckering pop to the initial moments that I wish would last a little longer, but we have a wedding to get to. Now M. Epinette starts adding the floral lei to Flowerhead. The jasmine sambac is the star of the perfume and it is a complete jasmine fully displaying its indolic nature. With all of that the skank is more hinted at than allowed to become too pronounced. Part of the reason is the other two lei of rose and, in particular, tuberose amplify the sweeter floral nature. The indoles add depth and hint at the bride underneath all of the flowers. The base of Flowerhead sneaks up on you with a soft suede leather and an even softer and warmer amber. Together they add a refined filigree to the base notes to go with all of the fruity floral pyrotechnics previously.

Flowerhead has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

Like most I look to the return of the robins and the appearance of green buds on the trees to let me know spring is here. Now, for the second year in a row M. Epinette has provided another signal for me to look for as Flowerhead is a perfect perfume for new beginnings.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from Barney’s New York.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Martin Margiela Replica Jazz Club

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Maison Martin Margiela was late to the designer perfume game but under the Creative Direction of Karine Lebret and Pauline Zanoni they have built steadily upon the foundation provided by perfumer Daniela Andrier’s brilliant Untitled in 2010. In the summer of 2012 they began the Replica series where the idea is to capture a specific place and time. Each label carries the information that the perfumer is trying to capture. The first three, Beach Walk, Flower Market, and Funfair Evening; were the work of Jacques Cavallier and Marie Salamagne. My favorite of that first collection was Funfair Evening which was meant to capture a Santa Monica, California evening at a summer fair in 1994. It did a really nice job at capturing the smells of the carnival; candy apples along with sweet and sultry accords capture the humidity of the evening. I really liked the attempt to try and stay true to the source material.

I just received my samples of the newest set of three Replicas, Lazy Sunday Mornings, Promenade in the Gardens and Jazz Club. Much like the first three all of them are pretty good but one really stands out for me and that one is Jazz Club.

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Alienor Massenet

Replica Jazz Club is signed by Alienor Massenet who is familiar to many as the de facto in-house nose for Memo Paris. For Jazz Club the place and time on the box is Brooklyn 2013. The label also describes the fragrance as a combination of “Heady cocktails and cigars”. Despite the non-smoking rules which persist across the US the idea of the smoky jazz club remains and while I think a Brooklyn club in 2013 would be smoke free with nary a cigar in sight; Mme Massenet’s choice to base Jazz Club on the twin pillars of booze and tobacco works very well.

smokey-jazz

Jazz Club opens on a strong brilliant riff of pink peppercorns with lemon and neroli. The citrus is like the glint off the bell of a trumpet under the spotlight and the peppercorns are the blare of that opening trumpet’s first sounds. It captures your attention and it carries you to the bar for Mme Massenet’s olfactory craft cocktail wherein she adds clary sage to a rich dark rum accord and garnishes it with green vetiver. There is an almost mentholated quality which overlays the depth of the rum accord and it is another piece of brightness continued from the top notes. Finally we take up a cigar and roll it between our fingers and run it under our nose. The narcotic richness of tobacco leaves is front and center. Styrax and vanilla accentuate the sweeter qualities of that tobacco leaf. The final phases of Jazz club is the promised combination of cocktails and cigars without any of the deleterious health effects.

Replica Jazz Club has overnight longevity and above average sillage.

Replica Jazz Club is one of the best new designer offerings of the last few years. Mme Massenet paints a perfect picture of a night in a jazz joint enjoying the fine music, alcohol, and cigars. It accentuates the fun of that kind of evening perfectly.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample purchased from The Perfumed Court.

Mark Behnke

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.

pierre_guillaume

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