New Perfume Review Fragrance Republ!c 01/05, 01/06, 01/07, & 01/08- The Second Quartet

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It has been almost a year since I joined the Fragrance Republ!c. For those unfamiliar with the concept behind Fragrance Republ!c it is an effort to allow some of the biggest perfumers working the opportunity to work on special small batch perfumes. This time the perfumers are allowed to create their own brief and encouraged to go where their creativity takes them. The perfumes are then shared with the membership of Fragrance Republ!c and I receive a new 15mL bottle as each creation is released. I look forward to my new box every time it arrives as a perfumer who I admire gets to try out an idea they have wanted to try. Fragrance Republ!c is the subscription service for the perfume lover who already has a lot of perfume and wants to try something which goes in a different direction form the purely commercial. This review will cover the latest four released over the first part of 2014: 01/05 by Antoine Lie, 01/06 by Karine Chevallier, 01/07 by Jean Claude Delville, and 01/08 by Jean-Christophe Herault.

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Antoine Lie

01/05 was given the name “Eau Verte” by M. Lie and what he wanted to accomplish was to create perfume made up of overdoses of notes used to make up the fresh fragrances so ubiquitous on the market. Now if he had just overloaded the perfume with a bunch of explosive green notes it just would’ve been a loud boisterous mess. Instead he chose to use the wormwood used in absinthe as his nucleus and then puts into orbit around it electrons of mint, star anise, oak moss, galbanum, and vetiver. These are in overdose so there is no missing these notes and they each find a place to complement the wormwood at the heart of the perfume. I found 01/05 to have an off-kilter kind of freshness and the more I wore it the more I found it to be just the right perfume for the summer.

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Karine Chevallier

Mme Chevallier was enchanted by a Persian lime raw material she encountered while attending the World Perfume Congress. It was this she used to make the centerpiece of 01/06. What caught her attention about this particular lime was besides the typical citric zest it also has floral facets of rose and lavender, creamy coconut, and woodiness. From when she smelled it she knew she wanted to pair it with vetiver to tease out that woody quality. She also wanted to use fig to get the creamy coconut quality. All of this rests on a base of sandalwood. This comes off very simple on a strip but it absolutely soared when I wore it. The full impact of this very special lime at the heart of 01/06 completely comes alive and each of the notes Mme Chevallier chose to go with it work seamlessly.

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Jean Claude Delville

The inspiration for 01/07 was the “grace of a woman”. In M. Delville’s olfactory world this woman is wearing a sheer cotton dress edged with black, the antithesis of the little black dress. 01/07 opens on a fresh cotton accord that has been washed with mandarin blossom fabric softener. It has a softness that the best cotton gets from being used. This opening is everything I want from a Fragrance Republ!c experience. M. Delville is able to go to an extreme in creating this textured fabric based accord. Since this is a woman we are talking about orchid and freesia make up a sweetly floral heart before a soft mix of cashmere woods and white musks add that bit of sensuality. The outline of black on the figurative white dress I spoke of at the beginning of the paragraph.

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Jean-Christophe Herault

Osmanthus was the ingredient M. Herault wanted to explore in 01/08. I have always loved the fantastic nature of osmanthus to be floral but also to carry distinct aspects of apricot, leather, and tea along with it. When in the hands of a skilled perfumer they can take that chameleon-like nature and play to it. M. Herault does exactly that as he first allows you to appreciate the osmanthus in its pristine glory before letting other notes start to attract your focus elsewhere. Bergamot and apricot bring you to the fruity character. Violet leaf brings forward the tea. Jasmine and orange blossom get their white flower bluster out to turn fully floral in the heart. Finally, the leathery quality forms a faux chypre with a deep patchouli. Of the eight fragrances which have been released 01/08 is my favorite so far.

If what I’ve written has made you curious a sample program is now available on the Fragrance Republ!c website where you can try any three of the releases from 01/01 through 01/07 for the cost of shipping. I would recommend checking out the three you think sound best to you. This is really one of the great new initiatives for perfume lovers.

Disclosure: This review was based on the bottles I’ve received from being a member of Fragrance Republ!c.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ormonde Jayne Black Gold- Collaborative Virtuosity

I am not sure what it is about Harrod’s but when a perfume line designs an exclusive for the Knightsbridge luxury department store they seems to go all out. I could name five perfume lines where the best perfume in their collection is their Harrod’s exclusive. I can add a sixth name to the list as the new Ormonde Jayne Black Gold is the best fragrance from Ormonde Jayne in many years.

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Linda Pilkington

Ormonde Jayne owner Linda Pilkington has been working with perfumer Geza Schoen from the very beginning of the brand back in 2002. From the very early days of their artistic partnership they have had a more intimate relationship than the traditional Creative Director-Perfumer hierarchy. Ms. Pilkington has used her love of travel to also allow for her to discover and access some of the more unique raw materials, from all over the world, being used in niche perfumery. As she finds her ingredients she has Hr. Schoen assist her in striking the right balance and by adding in a supporting cast so the special ingredients are displayed prominently. Black Gold is a prime example of this style of collaboration and composition.

In the press notes for Black Gold Ms. Pilkington describes the five keynote raw materials for this perfume. Two of the ingredients are fractionations of the absolute where a second distillation is performed and the oil is collected within a very specific, and narrow, temperature range. The concept is you can fine-tune an absolute down to a very specific scent profile. In Black Gold it is sandalwood and ambrette which are afforded this treatment. The other three are carnation absolute, labdanum resinoid, and an Andean version of pink peppercorn called Schinus Mole. All five of these are some of the most precious raw materials you could choose to work with and Ms. Pilkington literally took years to find and source all five. She brought these ingredients back to her home base in London and together with Hr. Schoen they created Black Gold.

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Geza Schoen

Black Gold opens with top notes that are all Hr. Schoen as his adeptness with citrus and herbs is right out front. Bergamot, mandarin, and lemon provide the tart and juicy citrus spine for clary sage and juniper berry to interact with. The result is a lively fresh olfactory appetizer. But now it is time to tuck into the main course as the first two of the focal points come forward. The carnation is one of the finest versions of carnation I have encountered and is combined with this Peruvian pink peppercorn which picks up the clove-like aspect of the carnation. I would say that I think this species of pink peppercorn is a bit less rough adding in a sophistication I usually don’t get from pink pepper. Jasmine, rose, and waterlily provide a floral foundation so that the carnation does not get lost in the spice cabinet. The base starts with the two fractions of sandalwood and ambrette. The sandalwood fraction is all about the arid quality the finest sandalwood has. The ambrette fraction swaddles that very dry woodiness with a powdery aspect along with the botanical musk that ambrette provides. The final piece to the Black Gold construction is the labdanum which provides a green glowing heartbeat to the final phases of this perfume. A very intricate underpinning of patchouli, vetiver, moss, and vanilla provide all the grace notes these three jewels need to shine to their fullest.

Black Gold has 24 hour longevity and very little sillage as it is extrait strength.

Black Gold is a beguiling fragrance that enchants with a whisper and fascinates with a unique set of ingredients. It is my favorite Ormonde Jayne fragrance since 2006’s Orris Noir. Ms. Pilkington and Hr. Schoen have created a spectacular sensuous perfume.

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

Mark Behnke

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

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

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Thierry Boutemy

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

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Barnabé Fillion at Unfold November 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Behnke

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

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

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

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

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Gauri Garodia

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Behnke

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

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

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Three looks from the Meadham Kirchoff Fall 2014 Fashion Show

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

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Bertrand Duchaufour

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

Tralala has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

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

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bogue Profumo Maai- Engagement Distance

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

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The old essences Sig. Gardoni used for Cologne Relaoded

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

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

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Antonio Gardoni

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Behnke

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

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

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Sebastian Fischenich and Tobias Müksch

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

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

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

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Les Christophes

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Behnke

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

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

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Bertrand Duchaufour

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Behnke

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

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

francois-demachy

Francois Demachy

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

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

Dior-MINI-CANNAGE-black-patent-leather-chain-dinner-bag-2012_1

Dior Mini Cannage Dinner Bag (2012)

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

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

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

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

Mark Behnke

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

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

Jacques-Huclier

Jacques Huclier

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

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

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

sara carner

Sara Carner

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

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

Mark Behnke