Perfume Reviews Bruno Fazzolari Monserrat and Lampblack- Ink on Plaster

Some of my favorite independent perfumers have come to it from a beginning in the visual arts, particularly painting. I have known about San Francisco-based artist Bruno Fazzolari for over a year but I only really had a chance to sniff the one of his early perfumes, Lampblack, which has garnered the most press. Mr. Fazzolari contacted me just after the beginning of the year and subsequently sent me four samples of his creations and I’ve now had a real opportunity to live with them. All four of them have a fantastic “visual” component to them as he creates perfumes which drew me into a world of color and texture. Over the next two days I’m going to review all four. Today I’ll start with Monserrat and Lampblack.

monserrat visual

All of Mr. Fazzolari’s perfumes match a painting with the fragrance. Monserrat came from a painting which was exhibited at the Jancar Jones Gallery in Los Angeles. Mr. Fazzolari was “thinking of worn and repainted urban walls and the matte surfaces of Italian fresco painting”. He was also inspired by the paint color Montserrat Orange which is an orange with a distinct pink quality to it. I consider it a skewed orange not pink nor orange but something in between. Mr. Fazzolari seems to be working towards that kind of marriage of influences looking for something like a fruity floral but not really what we think of as a fruity floral.

Monserrat opens with a burst of tart pink grapefruit sweetened with carrot seed. The carrot seed has a really pleasant balancing effect with the grapefruit. This moves into a jasmine and osmanthus floral heart. Here Mr. Fazzolari uses the osmanthus to make the jasmine less indolic and floral and something with more prominent fruity aspects. The apricot and leather quality of osmanthus is very evident. The base is the smell of plaster walls or wet dry wall, whether classic or modern this accord provides a distinctly grounding aspect as Mr. Fazzolari primarily uses a mixture of white musks to produce his accord for his fruity floral color to settle upon. Monserrat has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

lampblack visual

If Monserrat is an affable fruity floral, Lampblack is a deeply threatening meditation on inky darkness. Mr. Fazzolari describes his goal with Lampblack to “create a transparent, colorful darkness.” He succeeds at those diametrically opposed goals by using nagarmotha in one of the more unique applications of the note most usually called “oud” in other fragrances. Here he takes that faux-oud and gives it its own distinct identity.

Lampblack opens on a citrus and black pepper duet. The pepper is more forward as it should be the citrus adds interesting contrast. Mr. Fazzolari then begins to assemble his fast moving shadows as nagarmotha, benzoin, and vetiver ghost through my consciousness like wraiths in the night. There are times that it seems one surrounds me only for another to chase it off. The whole construction of Lampblack feels like an exercise in chasing shadows in a dark alley. There is a reason Lampblack is so acclaimed because it has a unique layering of textures not often found in perfumery. Lampblack has 8-10 hour sillage and moderate sillage.

Tomorrow I’ll review Au Dela and Room 237.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Bruno Fazzolari.

Mark Behnke

All paintings by Bruno Fazzolari.

New Perfume Review Penhaligon’s Ostara- Duchaufour’s Daffodil

One of the first signs of spring for those of us in the snowier climates is the sale of daffodils in our local markets. Often before the snow has melted and before the calendar tells us it is spring, vases full of yellow blooms let us know warmer days are coming. Of course daffodils are also narcissus and that note is one of my favorites in all of perfumery. For me the difficulty in getting a daffodil accord correct is in the real flower there is a green astringency that is usually not seen as an asset in a fragrance. In the new Penhaligon’s Ostara perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour makes what I consider a real daffodil perfume.

How M. Duchaufour goes about doing this is to use a cassette of notes made to create that astringent underpinning to the narcissus that makes me think daffodil. Early on he lets Ostara be expansive and sweet before tilting it into something that carries the scent of renewal. There is no perfumer for whom I enjoy analyzing what he has done to create an effect more than M. Duchaufour. Because of his output I have more opportunity with him than others to see multiple uses of the same note or accord. In Ostara he has once again found a new use for the blackcurrant bud which has found its way into so many of his recent creations.

Bertrand Duchaufour

Bertrand Duchaufour

The opening of Ostara is a flurry of aldehyde wrapped berries. It strongly reminds me of blackberry picking in the late part of spring plucking juicy berries from within the foliage. The use of the aldehydes give an almost “fresh air” feeling to the early moments. The beginning of the green foundation for the narcissus begins with violet leaves, spearmint, and blackcurrant buds. In the past he has used the last note in so many different ways that I thought I knew what to expect. In Ostara he is using a CO2 distillation and it has stripped away much of the denser qualities the essential oil provides. This allows for it to have a more luminous green quality than I have experienced previously. The heart is the narcissus but the green accord is an equal partner in this part of the development. Hyacinth adds a bit of a watery spring shower vibe and it really does make this like smelling daffodils growing in the earth after a spring rain. Right here is where Ostara achieves my idea of a spring daffodil accord. Ostara moves into the base with a smooth beeswax and benzoin partnership. Eventually a bit of musk and vanilla provide the finishing touches.

Ostara has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I really like Ostara for the very green qualities M. Duchaufour provided to go with the narcissus. There is that moment in the heart where this just makes me feel like everything has been reborn. It is as good as any narcissus perfumes I own and at least for me is the only true daffodil I own.

Disclosure: This review was based on press sample provided by Penhaigon’s.

Mark Behnke

Title Illustration by Melissa Bailey for Penhaligon’s.

New Perfume Review Strange Invisible Perfumes Scorpio- Alexandra Balahoutis’ Perfume Signs

If you came of age in the late 1970’s there was a book which was omnipresent among teenagers and young adults. Unlike today where it would be a series about vampires or dystopian futures; this book was a new iteration of astrology. The book was called Linda Goodman’s Love Signs and the red covered trade paperback was read by many. What set it apart was she broke each sign down into gender characteristics and even gave advice on which signs went together. I still blame her for being unable to convince one of the women I wanted to date for turning me down because I was a Scorpio. It couldn’t have been me, right? I have been reminded of this as Alexandra Balahoutis of Strange Invisible Perfumes has finally finished her perfumed take of all twelve signs of the zodiac. She left my sign, Scorpio, as one of the last five. I thought I’d have a little fun with this review comparing Ms. Goodman and Ms. Balahoutis’ impressions of my sign.

alexandrabalahoutis

Alexandra Balahoutis

Ms. Goodman says of the Scorpio man, “He's sizzling underneath his deceptively controlled manner.” Ms. Balahoutis seems to agree as she opens Scorpio with a sizzling flash of cinnamon. This is the cinnamon of candy red-hots. They look sweet until you put them in your mouth. Same for the cinnamon here it builds in presence until it smolders.

Ms. Goodman says, “Just behind his frosty reserve is a huge pot of boiling steam that bubbles and seethes continually.” Ms, Balahoutis uses a very cool frankincense to provide a cooling effect to the cinnamon. It takes a little bit of time but Scorpio eventually slams that frankincense “frosty reserve” over the bubbling cinnamon.

linda goodmans love signs

Ms. Goodman says, “The dark, magical and mysterious power of Pluto turns desire into reality with cool, careful, fixed intent.” Ms. Balahoutis uses vetiver as that green woody “reality” at the core of Scorpio.

Ms. Goodman says, “Normally, Scorpio will surround himself with luxury.” Ms. Balahoutis also brings a sense of luxury into the base with a mix of cognac and leather. This is definitely the luxury version of both of these accords. You can almost see the Scorpio man lounging holding a snifter on a leather couch inviting you in.

I am narcissist enough to say that my favorite of the Zodiac series is Scorpio but it is mainly because Ms. Balahoutis has used some of my favorite notes. Now I need to go see how my Virgo wife feels about it.

Diaclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Strange Invisible Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review L’Artisan Parfumeur Rose Privee- Contemporary Rose Chypre

As reliable as the first robin; when my mailbox starts to fill up with new rose perfumes it must be spring. Rose perfumes, when done well, carry a vivaciousness to them that matches the season of renewal. The other thing about rose perfumes is despite the hundreds of them out there a creative new life in a classic theme. The new L’Artisan Parfumeur Rose Privee is a lively new take on a rose fragrance.

bertrand duchaufour1

Bertrand Duchaufour

Rose Privee is co-signed by longtime in-house perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour along with his apprentice Stephanie Bakouche. M. Duchaufour has made rose perfumes previously but I believe this is his first for L’Artisan. Also in the past it seems like he has been more partial to the Turkish rose. For Rose Privee he chooses Rose de Mai as the source of the titular note. Rose de Mai has a gorgeous gentle quality to it. M. Duchaufour and Mme Bakouche make sure that everything that is great about Rose de Mai is displayed throughout the development.

stephanie bakouche

Stephanie Bakouche

The perfumers choose an engaging grouping of top notes. They lead with a bit of fruitiness with mandarin. It doesn’t last long as it is fairly rapidly wrapped up in leaves of basil and violet as well as pierced by blackcurrant buds. That latter note has been employed a lot recently by M. Duchaufour. As always I am captivated by how he takes a specific raw material and can alter it seemingly at will to provide a specific effect. In Rose Privee the blackcurrant bud provides a bit of tart fruitiness with much less of the sticky green it often brings. As a whole the top notes provide a fresh vibe for the Rose de Mai to bloom within. The heart is that special rose given a foundation of carnation and magnolia for depth. What I like about Rose de Mai is it feels introverted at first but once it is coaxed out by other notes it flowers into power. That power sets it up to be the equal to the oakmoss-free chypre base. M. Duchaufour has been at the forefront of creating a chypre accord that will pass regulatory standards. The accord in Rose Privee shows there is no need to worry about the future of chypres plus he is teaching the skill to another perfumer. There is a bit of musk used to replace some of what the oakmoss provides but it really is its own contemporary chypre. Together with the Rose de Mai the final stages of Rose Privee are lovely.

Rose Privee has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Rose Privee is a perfect spring perfume. It has heft without being overwhelming. Despite it translating to Private Rose I don’t think anyone who wears it will want to keep it a secret.

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by L’Artisan Parfumeur.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Euphorium Brooklyn Cilice & Wald- I’ve Got a Bridge to Sell You

There are times most recently when I am presented with a marketing campaign for a new perfume brand where I can tell more time was spent on the publicity than the perfume. It has gotten so bad that the more elaborate the presentation the more my expectations plummet. It was with skepticism turned to maximum that I started to read through the materials from new independent perfume brand Euphorium Brooklyn. The founder of the line, Stephen Dirkes, has created a mythology around his perfumes where it is difficult to determine what is true and what is fiction. What was true for me was I had fun reading through it but I expected the perfumes to be not nearly as compelling. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Cilice and Wald the first two releases.

Based on the amount of fact-checking I could do I can’t really confirm whether any of this is true and the press materials mention it is a combination of fiction and non-fiction. So what comes next is straight out of those press materials. The brand is based on the story of the Euphorium Bile Works which was founded in Brooklyn in 1860. There were three perfumers attached to the enterprise Etienne Chevreuil, Christian Rosenkreuz, and Rudolph Komodo. They are represented in the logo as the stag, bear, and dragon respectively. Each of the perfumers will have one of their perfumes reproduced for the brand. Cilice is by M. Chevreuil and Wald is by M. Rosenkreuz. The third fragrance will be called Usar by M. Komodo. One final bit from the background is M. Komodo invented a process by which the fragrances induce euphoria called, wait for it, The Komodo Process.

As I said it was all great fun to read through but I have to give the team behind Euphorium Brooklyn credit Cilice and Wald live up to this fanciful tale. They have a fascinating roughhewn unfinished quality. Usually I find it irritating but maybe this time they wore me down with a Komodo Mind Trick. Both Cilice and Wald are very simple but they are also fun.

CILICE_Bottle_Grouping

To give you an idea of the prose on the website here is the description of M. Chevreuil’s inspiration for Cilice, “Etienne sought to capture and convey the sensuality of the environment and intensity of emotion when a young nun is encountered in her cloistered cell. An intimate and ecstatic moment is observed as she becomes transcendent.” When you read that you might expect a cold stone cell infused with incense amid the leather bound books on the acolyte’s desk. That is exactly what Cilice delivers. There is no real development off of that mixture and that is what gives it a primal quality that I found particularly enjoyable. As for euphoria well this time The Komodo Process missed its target.

Wald-Bottles

I can’t even begin to reproduce the story of M. Rosenkreuz’s inspiration for Wald. It is so broadly melodramatic that I couldn’t stop laughing. Wald is another of these forest milieu fragrances that a number of independent perfume brands have undertaken recently. Wald is a simple scentscape of a forest containing cedar and pine with a bit of smoke from a fire hanging in the boughs while the scent of the decomposition rises up to meet it. This time The Komodo Process maybe had its way with me as Wald really hit a sweet spot for me and I really enjoyed the time I spent with it.

Cilice and Wald are perfume oils and as such they have 8-10 hour longevity but almost no sillage.

These perfumes are not anything terribly original or unique. They are well done and by making them oils they allow a wearer to have something quite bold on without projecting it around the room. I am looking forward to the last in the trilogy, Usar, because M. Komodo should have his process finely tuned in that one. In the meantime if you find me out wearing Wald or Cilice you might be able to convince me about a great deal on a bridge.

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

Mark Behnke

Editor's Note: If you want to check out the website here is the link. Be warned subtle it is not.

New Perfume Review Thierry Mugler A*Men Ultra Zest- Orange is the New Mugler

One of the more successful line of flankers has been those which have descended from the 1996 classic Thierry Mugler A*Men. The perfumer behind that creation, Jacques Huclier, has spent every year since 2008 designing a new version enhancing or adding to the classic formulation. A*Men has been a powerhouse perfume since its inception and most of the original members of the “Pure” collection have been heavy hitters as well. Last year’s A*Men Pure Wood showed a different aesthetic as it was surprisingly, and delightfully, softer than any of the previous A*Men flankers. I was wondering if that was going to be a singularity or the beginning of a trend. The latest, A*Men Ultra Zest, provides an answer.

Jacques-Huclier

Jacques Huclier

One of the reasons I think this set of flankers has been so successful is M. Huclier has been the perfumer behind all of them. His intimate knowledge of the construction of A*Men makes him the most qualified to alter it without harm. That has been accomplished quite efficiently with Pure Coffee and Pure Malt, my preferred versions of A*Men when I am in the mood. Even so they are powerful perfumes with equally powerful projection. They are not something I wear to work. Pure Wood was constructed such that not only have I wore it to work but it is almost an ideal work fragrance because the power is controlled as M. Huclier dials down the gourmand base. For Ultra Zest M. Huclier got some help from fellow Givaudan perfumer Quentin Bisch. Ultra Zest is in a bright orange bottle and that is the foreshadowing of the composition of the perfume inside. This could have been called Pure Orange and it wouldn’t be far off the mark.

Quentin Bisch

Quentin Bisch

The opening of Ultra Zest is all about the orange but not the typical juicy orange. The perfumers use blood orange to add a bit more tart added to tangerine to keep it sweet but not as sweet as a traditional orange. This is all placed on a rapidly moving flying carpet of ginger. This makes the opening moments go by almost too fast. The flying carpet lands at a coffee shop as the citrus is surrounded by rich coffee notes. There is cinnamon and spearmint listed on the note list but I never detected them. The heart felt like the coffee heart of most A*Men iterations. The base is very similar to Pure Wood as the perfumers again make a much softer chocolate accord consisting of patchouli and tonka bean. As I wore Ultra Zest I was always wondering if it was going to ramp up in power or settle into a comfortable hum. It was definitely the latter.

A*Men Ultra Zest has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I am not sure why Thierry Mugler has decided to rein in the powerful nature of A*Men but it makes Ultra Zest perhaps the most versatile in the line. It is light enough to be worn to the office. It has enough presence for a night out. It has enough bright citrus character to be worn in warm weather. There might be entries which do any one of those things better but none of them do all of them as well. A*Men Ultra Zest is one you should add to your A*Men collection if you’re a fan. It is also one to try if you maybe weren’t a fan of the original and the earlier flankers. It is my favorite of the flankers since 2012’s Pure Havane.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chanel Les Exclusifs Misia- The Son Also Rises

When there is a changing of the guard it also attracts a level of scrutiny depending on the success of who is leaving and who is arriving. On the perfume side of Chanel, 2015 will mark that change from Jacques Polge to his son Olivier Polge. Over the past few months since the change has been announced there has been a lot of talk of what might change and what might stay the same. The time for hypotheticals are over as Olivier Polge has released his first perfume as in-house nose at Chanel, Les Exclusifs Misia.

Olivier-Polge

Olivier Polge

In those discussions I was expounding the theory that Olivier Polge would be an upgrade from his father’s recent desire to play it safe. What I admire about Olivier Polge is his ability to make perfumes full of bold slashes of raw materials. If there is anything Chanel has been missing of late it is that desire to be bold. Misia would be a test of whether the son would be willing to step up and lead Chanel into the future.

misia-sert-renoir-1904

Misia Sert by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1904)

Misia is named after Coco Chanel confidante Misia Sert. Mme Sert added Coco to her artistic salon of writers, dancers, and artists in 1917. They would form a tight friendship which would last the rest of their lives. For the perfume named after Mme Sert Olivier Polge was not trying to capture the lady herself. He has said he was inspired by her patronage of the ballet and imagined Coco and Misia attending a performance of the Ballets Russes. He wanted to capture the smell of the lipstick and powder the ladies wore matched with the leather of the backstage milieu. In choosing to interpret a point in time rather than an entire life it allowed Olivier Polge the freedom to use those bold strokes I am so fond of.

One thing I like about Misia is there are really are only two phases to its development. Olivier Polge chooses to work on two separate accords. The earlier developing one is the lipstick and powder accord. For this Olivier Polge chooses Rose de Mai and Rose Otto combined. To the roses he infuses orris and violet. This all comes together with a metaphorical snap on my skin. I also see this as not crimson red lipstick but something in a more muted shade of red. It feels more sophisticated than provocative. There is also an unusual contemporary almost artificial vibe underneath all of this. It gave it an almost Madame Tussaud’s quality of plastic simulacrum. I really like the choice by Olivier Polge because if this was just another lipstick accord it wouldn’t have differentiated itself. This gives it an almost unstuck in time quality. Most of what is interesting in Misia is in this phase and I found plenty to keep me engaged while wearing it. The base is a traditional transparent leather accord made up primarily of benzoin and tonka bean.

Misia has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I am more excited about Misia than I have been about a Chanel fragrance in a long time. I think he is the infusion of new blood the brand needs to stay relevant. Based on his first effort Misia smells like she just might herald the beginning of a new creative era for the fragrances of Chanel.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ex Nihilo Vetiver Moloko- Viddy This!

When I received my first five samples from the new brand Ex Nihilo there was one which captured my attention straight away. It caught my attention simply by its name, Vetiver Moloko. I think Stanley Kubrick’s movie “A Clockwork Orange” based on Anthony Burgess’ novel is one of the great movies of the 1970’s. At the beginning of the film our protagonist Alex is sitting in the Korova Milkbar sipping a Moloko Vellocet, drug laced milk. The drink will lead the gang out to a night of “ultraviolence” and catalyze the rest of the movie. What was brilliant about that opening scene is visually it set the tone for everything in less than a minute. Seeing a fragrance called Vetiver Moloko made me wonder if the same could be done with a perfume.

Korova Milkbar

The Korova Milkbar as depicted in Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange"

The Ex Nihilo creative team of Olivier Royere, Sylvie Loday, and Benoit Verdier would ask perfumer Guillaume Flavigny to create something “unusual and addictive”. To not only take something as well-trodden as vetiver but to also give it a twist worthy of the name. M. Flavigny succeeds beyond my expectations. He keeps it simple but he creates milky addictive vetiver as requested.

guillaume flavigny

Guillaume Flavigny

M. Flavigny opens this with Bulgarian Rose. The slight citrus haze over a spicy core draws you in. Brilliant bergamot provides sparkle. M. Flavigny brings his milk accord forward to mix with the rose in equal parts. This is a fabulously entertaining part of the development. It is almost as if a rose has been pulled out of a glass of milk dripping white liquid off of the petals. I was sorry to see things move along but there are things left to do this night. Cypress and amyris form a woody bridge to the vetiver. M. Flavigny chooses an earthy vetiver as his source. It has the smell of the ground trod under my boots. The final nod to the Moloko is a shot of vanilla to keep it sweet and to connect back to the milk.

Vetiver Moloko has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Vetiver Moloko is easily my favorite of the first five Ex Nihilo perfumes I’ve tried. I still have four more to track down but I will be surprised if they are better. There is a real aesthetic at play in these Ex Nihilo perfumes which I really enjoy. There is a lot of interpretation of classic perfumery design and it shows this creative team carries a unified vision for the brand. My advice is to try them all but if you’re only going to try one Vetiver Moloko is the one you should get my droogies. Viddy that!

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Ex Nihilo Cologne 352 & Jasmin Fauve- Architecture & Design

If you go to the Ex Nihilo website and read the bios of the three founders; Olivier Royere, Sylvie Loday, and Benoit Verdier you might notice one commonality. They all share a desire to understand the underlying design of things. The very architecture of the world around them. In two of the perfumes for their brand Ex Nihilo you can see their love of the classical with Cologne 352 and Jasmin Fauve.

Jacques-Huclier

Jacques Huclier

Cologne 352 is named after the address of the flagship store on the Rue Saint-Honore in Paris. On the website it is said that Cologne 352 is “the olfactory signature” of that address. There is another description on the website more on point, “Parisian cologne”. Cologne 352 is the sophisticated take on one of the very first perfume architectures, eau de cologne. Perfumer Jacques Huclier has taken that classic form and given it a Parisian makeover.

Cologne 352 opens in the cologne style with a brilliant lemon and petitgrain blazing like a sunbeam. M. Huclier chooses a vegetal crushed leaves accord and juniper berry to put some sunglasses on the top notes. The crushed leaves accord substitutes for the more traditional herbal component. The heart takes orange blossom, a usual component of eau de cologne, and brackets it with rose and muguet. As with the top notes the addition of the rose and muguet take Cologne 352 into different territory. The heart is more floral than a cologne is usually but M. Huclier balances it expertly so that it never gets too expansive. It stays buttoned down and compact. This is what creates an aura of floral sophistication which really drew me in when I wore Cologne 352. Those florals persist into the base where a set of clean woods and cleaner musks provide the foundation. Cologne 352 is not an eau de cologne it is at eau de parfum strength and therefore lasts 10-12 hours with average sillage.

Givaudan-Aurelien-Guichard

Aurelien Guichard

Jasmin Fauve is described as a “poisonous leather flower” on the website. Perfumer Aurelien Guichard takes one of the most interpreted florals in jasmine and wraps it in a raw leather. The love of leather is not surprising because two of the three founders of Ex Nihilo mention shoes as a passion and it’s not the woman. M. Guichard creates a fantastic soliflore presented on a swatch of fresh leather.

Before we get to the jasmine M. Guichard pulls in muguet and lily. This doubles down on the green floral quality each of those notes possess. It is an appetizer for the main course of white flowers. Jasmine is in the name and jasmine is the leader of the pack in the heart. M. Guichard adds in orange blossom and tuberose as white flower wingmen. Jasmine is in front but the other two are also present. Finally a raw new piece of unrefined leather is rolled out for these white flowers to be portrayed upon. Ambox makes sure the leather never goes supple and refined and instead stays raw and primal. This mixture of powerhouse florals over leather is a lot of fun to wear. Jasmin Fauve has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I like where the creative team has taken these early efforts to keep them recognizable but also contemporary. Both of these perfumes exemplify classic architecture and embrace modern design.

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

Mark Behnke  

New Perfume Reviews Ex Nihilo Fleur Narcotique & Venenum Kiss- Searching for Quentin Bisch

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In everything that I am passionate about I am always looking for the next new talent. In perfumery one of those who has caught my eye, and many others, is Quentin Bisch. I think like most people I became aware of him through the three part BBC Perfume documentary. (If you want to see his introduction here is the link to the episode https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cz3_tY6Ld5I M. Bisch’s introduction happens at the 11:20 mark) What came through on the screen was this was a person who wore his passion for perfume openly. There was not a calculating bone in his body when it comes to perfume. Ever since that documentary I have waited for M. Bisch to start to produce his body of work. As a result I keep track of what he releases. Late last year I found out he had done a perfume for a new perfume brand in Paris, Ex Nihilo. At the time they did not have samples and I could only impatiently wait. Now the decant site Surrender to Chance offered five samples and two of them were the ones signed by M. Bisch, Fleur Narcotique and Venenum Kiss.

Ex-Nihilo-Team

Ex Nihilo Team (l. to r.) Olivier Royere, Sylvie Loday, Benoit Verdier

Ex Nihilo from the latin for “out of nothing” is owned and creatively directed by Olivier Royere, Sylvie Loday, and Benoit Verdier. Their backgrounds are not from classically trained beauty backgrounds. In a quote from their website they acknowledge this, “Our references come as much from perfumery as from design or architecture.” This belief allows them to take in a precocious young talent like M. Bisch and turn him loose. For his first two efforts for Ex Nihilo he has produced a fruity floral and a woody oriental.

Fleur Narcotique is described on the website as a “floral overdose” and while it is aggressively floral I am not sure if I ever felt close to an OD. I found it to be a study in subtlety as very often just when I thought I had a handle on things something new would change that opinion. Fleur Narcotique had an appealing olfactory restlessness which makes it fascinating to wear.

In the opening moments you are greeted with bergamot and peach; pretty standard fruity floral territory. Except for two things. First the fruit is not amped up to bludgeoning levels it is kept much more transparent than the typical fruity openings. The second is M. Bisch’s use of lychee to add an exotic twist to the mundane. Great lychee has a syrupy kind of musty quality. Paired with the peach, especially, it makes for an opening to a fruity floral which had me wanting to see what floral was coming. The answer was peony bolstered by orange blossom and jasmine. The fresh quality of the peony was an excellent foil to the peach and lychee. Most of the time while wearing a fruity floral I can pretty much ignore it after an hour or so because besides a few woods or musks that will be it. Fleur Narcotique has those woods and musks, along with some moss. M. Bisch brings them forward so they interact with the fruit and the florals instead of waiting for them to disappear before emerging. These base notes provide a languid transformation over the last few hours that I wore Fleur Narcotique. Fleur Narcotique has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Quentin Bisch

Quentin Bisch

Venenum Kiss is described as “opulent and poisonous” which I found appropriate. M. Bisch works the classic spicy sandalwood rose axis of Oriental perfumes and gives his own interpretation. If Fleur Narcotique was restless, Venenum Kiss is indolent. It carries a relaxed comfortable vibe which makes one just want to stay in and enjoy the smell.

M. Bisch chooses nutmeg and saffron as the spices. I like the way these two spices interact with each other as the familiarity of the nutmeg is crossed with the exoticness of saffron. The heart is rose which is partnered with neroli. The neroli is really the bridging note between the spices on top and the rose in the heart. Sandalwood comes to the fore and it is joined by davana which picks up the rose and carries it down into the base. A bit of styrax and vanilla add a bit of sweetness to the late stages. Venenum kiss has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

These two perfumes show two different sides of M. Bisch’s style and what I can see and smell makes me want more.

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

Mark Behnke