New Perfume Review Moresque Aristoqrati- The Not Usual Suspects


There are so many perfume brands claiming to combine Middle Eastern perfumery with Western perfumery that it has become trite when another claims to be doing it. It is with a great deal of skepticism I approach these claims as most often it is tilted mostly to one side of the equation. The other half gets what amounts to a matador’s swoosh of a red cape of the other influence. Every once in a while there is a brand which actually does try to live up to that. I was sent a sample set of the new brand Moresque which is just beginning to be sold outside of a handful of Middle Eastern outlets. There are seven perfumes within the inaugural line. The one which impressed me most was Aristoqrati.

Moresque was started five years ago when CEO Cindy Guillemant met perfumer Andrea Thero Casotti. Together they wanted to produce a line which espoused equal parts Middle Eastern exoticism and Italian style. It is much easier to type out than to achieve. For their efforts they have produced three perfumes in the White Collection and three perfumes in the Black Collection. Aristoqrati makes up the sole member to date of the Art Collection.


Cindy Guillemant (third from l.) and Andrea Thero Casotti (second from r.)

For Aristoqrati Ms. Guillemant and Sig. Casotti wanted to marry the idea of Middle Eastern aristocracy with Italian flair. Most often that first bit of inspiration means oud. Thankfully this creative team has a different sense of history as instead of oud; nutmeg is the link between the Middle East and Italy. During the Dark Ages the Arabs traded nutmeg to Europe through Venice. It was prized as a potential cure for the Black Plague; it wasn't. It became more known as an exotic cooking ingredient worth its weight in gold. It would find its way to Tuscany many years later and be a part of that style of cuisine. The nutmeg in Aristoqrati pulls together an otherwise simple marriage of a few notes into something which actually does pay respect to both sides of its desired heritage.

Sig. Casotti opens Aristoqrati up with the nutmeg and early on it is matched with the green-tinted floralcy of geranium. There is a nuttiness to nutmeg which the greenish quality of the geranium enhances. The sweeter character survives into the heart. There it is met with vetiver and peony. This mix of these three notes is where Aristoqrati really thrived on my skin. Peony has that spring-fresh feeling to it. Vetiver is more grassy than woody. As mentioned above the nutmeg turns sweeter by this point. Sig. Casotti hits the balance just right. Eventually all of this drifts away to a fairly pedestrian amber and patchouli base.

Aristoqrati has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage. All of the Moresque fragrances are called Esprit de Parfum. Putting the concentration somewhere between extrait and eau de parfum. I found they all wore on my skin closer to something at extrait strength which means close to the skin.

I have great respect for the decision not to trot out the usual suspects when trying to make an East meets West perfume. Aristoqrati shows there is plenty of spice in that combination if you just use your imagination.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Blackbird Zola Jesus Taiga- Snowy Forest

There haven’t been a lot of Rock & Roll fragrances that have actually really captured the sense of the music within the perfume. When I received my latest set of samples from Seattle-based Blackbird there was one of these collaborations in the package. Perfumer Aaron Way collaborated closely with indie rock singer Zola Jesus to develop a new fragrance to coincide with the release of her fourth album “Taiga”. The new Zola Jesus Taiga perfume is the result.

Zola Jesus is an American indie music artist who composes moody songs which make full use of her unique vocals. The video above for “Dangerous Days” off of “Taiga” is a good example of the kind of influences found throughout her work. This is of course the problem when I am familiar with the artist because I carry some preconceptions of what I think a perfume based on Zola Jesus should smell like. Zola Jesus is quoted in an interview on Nylon that Zola Jesus Taiga smells, “primal, environmental, ancestral, of earth.” I think Mr. Way approached this from the literal meaning of the word taiga as the extreme northern pine forests mainly found in Canada and Russia. Running throughout the fragrance is a swirl of consistent smoke similar to the way woodsmoke hangs in the trees on a cold winter day.

Aaron Way

Aaron Way

Zola Jesus Taiga opens with the smoke of both wood and incense providing a set of complementary smokiness. Frankincense is used in a very pure form and as such it carries that liturgical kind of ritual smoke with it. Mr. Way fashions a woodsmoke accord from Choya Loban and cade. This vies with two sources of frankincense from India and Oman. The latter is a particularly smoky version of frankincense. The frozen forest is represented by a panoply of wood notes as copaiba balsam, cedar, gaiac, oak, and sandalwood provide the arboreal accord in the heart. The base is an oud accord made of nagarmotha which is a much more restrained oud-like presence. It provides its own kind of exotic smoke.

Zola Jesus Taiga has 14-16 hour longevity. It also has very prodigious sillage for 4-6 hours before mellowing out to something more average over the remaining time on my skin.

I am not sure Zola Jesus Taiga captures the Zola Jesus part of the equation as well as it does the taiga part. If you’re looking for an indie rock perfume this still doesn’t fit the bill on that score. If you want a woody smoky perfume that captures a high winter day Zola Jesus Taiga gets that correct.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Arquiste Nanban- The East Comes West

One of the more interesting periods in history was when western sailing ships discovered Japan. The very insular society was shaken to its core as evidence of other civilizations were uncovered. The resulting culture clash as Western attitudes and Eastern honor clashed is the subject of much popular culture in books and film. Even though it wasn’t as well-known there was the reverse as Japanese sailing ships made their way west. The first diplomatic mission from Japan to Europe via Mexico took place from 1611-1618. Carlos Huber the creative director behind Arquiste uses this historical trip as the inspiration for the new Arquiste Nanban.

Carlos Huber1

Carlos Huber

Nanban in its first usage in 16th century Japan referred to the visitors from Portugal and Spain. It has evolved over time to come to mean Japanese art of that time period which has obvious Western influences. This is fertile ground for Sr. Huber to mine as he has done with historical touchstones for the previous nine releases in the line. He has employed his team of perfumers in Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier to collaborate together for the third time. This is another example where the teamwork between this team leads to extraordinary results. There is a clear bond between all of them whenever I have met them. I think that shows in the perfume they produce. While all three worked on the preliminary concept it would be Sr. Huber and Sr. Flores-Roux who would carry it to the finish. The idea was to have Nanban be the view of the West this Eastern diplomatic mission would bring back home.

rodrigo flores roux

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

The story Nanban tells is of a Japanese delegation who has been away from home for too long. When they arrived in Mexico I can imagine they must have been very happy to see the familiar osmanthus flowers greeting them after the long ocean crossing. This is where Nanban starts. The perfumers then dust it with black pepper, infuse it with black tea, and cloak it in saffron. All of the Western influences are imposed on the Eastern floral. The feel of culture clash is vividly on display. In the heart sandalwood and myrrh provide a meditative core of resinous woods. That calm is shattered with the new Western influences of coffee and tanned leather. The tug of war begins in earnest as the coffee and leather are in direct opposition to the sandalwood and myrrh. This is a civilized struggle as on my skin it was a vigorous negotiation as to which would eventually have the upper hand. Over time the coffee and leather win out. By the time we get to the heart the members of the mission breathe deeply of the forest adjacent to the harbor. The woods of home embrace them upon their return. Cade wood, copahu balm, and frankincense provide the structure of the homecoming.

yann vasnier

Yann Vasnier

Nanban has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

The best Arquiste fragrances are descriptions of the everlasting change history provides. Nanban is one of the liveliest discussions to take place so far. On the days I wore Nanban I found myself engrossed in the voyage it took me on. It also made me consider what it must have been like for the crew of the Japanese ship alone in the West trying to build a bridge. I can’t ask more from a perfume than to engage my intellect as well as my emotions, The Arquiste team has once again put time in a bottle, making it beautiful.

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

Mark Behnke

Header photo by Hisao Oka and Edwin Pabon

New Perfume Review Dior Sauvage- Rocky Horror Perfume Show

There is nothing which exemplifies the principle of “it is so bad it is good” than the 1970’s cult movie “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. It was one of the earliest examples of a bad movie kept alive because some people found something lovable about a film containing time-traveling transvestites from the planet Transylvania. One of the things which makes it endearing is the filmmakers just couldn’t stop themselves adding in one more thing to the mix. It means that somewhere within the running time of the movie there is at least one thing which will make you smile. That is the hallmark of most of the movies which fit the “so bad it is good” category; lots of recognizable bits and pieces jammed together.


Francois Demachy

I was thinking a lot about the “so bad it is good” concept while trying the new mass-market release Dior Sauvage. Francois Demachy who has been in charge of all things fragrant at Dior has made the Dior version of the perfume for a man who only has one bottle of perfume on his dresser. As with many other brands it requires M. Demachy to mash together a number of popular masculine perfume tropes into his own version of a “greatest hits” perfume. That there is a market for this kind of perfume I have no doubt. Other brands have proven there is. When I received my sample and tried it the first time. I immediately dismissed it as boring and derivative. Then I went about my evening cooking and doing blog things. Lo and behold I kept pulling the patch of skin with Sauvage on it back to my nose fairly frequently. If it was so boring and derivative why couldn’t I completely ignore it? I felt I needed to try wearing it at least one day, which turned into two days. Yes I’ve smelled all of this before. Yes it is as unoriginal as it sounds. But I couldn’t stop myself from enjoying it.


"The Time Warp" from Rocky Horror Picture Show

If there is going to be one thing which keeps people at arm’s length it will be that Sauvage wears its synthetic heart on its sleeve. Without doing a thorough analysis I am pretty sure there is only one naturally sourced ingredient in the formula. That ingredient is Szechuan pepper and it is one of four notes which provide a chaotic start to Sauvage. M. Demachy takes geranium, the aforementioned pepper, bergamot, and elemi and smooshes them together. With this he begins to check off boxes; citrus (It’s just a jump to the left), spice (and then a step to the right), masculine floral (with your hands on your hips), and light woody resin (you bring your knees in tight). He adds in synthetic ambroxan (but it’s the pelvic thrust), safe base notes of patchouli (that really drives you insane) and vetiver (let’s do the Time Warp again).

Sauvage has 18 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Sauvage is as fun as doing the Time Warp at a showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Just like that kind of thing you might feel a little guilty for enjoying it so much. Better yet just embrace Sauvage and take a jump to the left.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Roja Parfums Sweetie Aoud- AbFab Oud

There are times I find it hard not to giggle when I hear the names of upcoming perfumes. I had a large case of the giggles when I heard the  names of the three perfumes which made up the Roja Parfums Tutti Frutti collection; Candy Aoud, Fruity Aoud, and Sweetie Aoud. Based on those names I was expecting a mixture of extreme sweetness matched with the pungency of fine oud. Roja Dove the creative mind behind these perfumes had something else in mind.

None of the three entries in this collection adhere to what my pedestrian mind was thinking. None of these would I describe as sweet. Also none of these has an incredibly prominent oud note in it. The sweetest is Candy Aoud which is surprisingly where you find the fruit. The oudiest, and it isn’t that oudy, is Fruity Aoud. Which leaves the one I am reviewing today which is Sweetie Aoud.

roja dove 1

Roja Dove

When I heard the name my mind kept rolling back to the BBC comedy series Absolutely Fabulous. In that series the lead characters greeted each other with the phrase, “Sweetie Darling!” That series was about a pair of women who worked in the London fashion industry. It would be safe to say the lead characters’ better days were behind them although they were oblivious to that fact. While I was wearing Sweetie Aoud I realized it was also a bit of an illusion as well. It starts with the oud because I am pretty sure it is an oud accord and if there is any real oud in the formula it is very buried. I suspect the use of the accord over the real thing is intentional because of the three perfumes in this collection Sweetie Aoud has a more delicate framework that real oud most likely would have impacted negatively. What is here is a slightly gourmand-like fragrance much more transparent than most of the other entries from Mr. Dove.

The early development of Sweetie Aoud is a fast moving affair as it transitions rapidly into its central accord. A whiff of artemesia, a drive-by rose and we arrive at the business end of Sweetie Aoud. This fragrance settles into a very interesting spice cake accord for a large part of its development on my skin. Cardamom is the flavor of this cake as it sets itself upon a yeasty foundation. It is then placed within a wooden cabinet lined with gaiac, cedar, and juniper. These add a crisp clean framing device to the gourmand accord within. At this point is when the oud accord begins to very lightly make itself known. It adds a bit of contrast without becoming too strident. This is where Sweetie Aoud remains on my skin for hours. Very late on patchouli becomes more noticeable but it is this spice cake, framed by wood, hazed by an oud accord which is what Sweetie Aoud is all about.

Sweetie Aoud has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Sweetie Aoud is one of the lightest fragrances in the entire Roja Parfums line. This is more a description which holds within the brand. Comparing Sweetie Aoud to other brands known for their transparency and it is much more substantial than those. I just want those who love the more powerhouse Roja Parfums to be aware Sweetie Aoud is not like that. I found the switch to be very enjoyable and especially easy to wear in these last days of summer. I think it is going to be a great choice for the fall, too. So Roja Sweetie Darling I loved this new Sweetie Aoud thing. I could do with a few more in this style.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Memo Paris African Leather- Savannah Smiles


One of the things I truly appreciate is when there is a long-term marriage of creative director and perfumer. It is not the usual state of affairs for a fragrance brand as the majority of them have a number of different perfumers they work with. What I like about the more monogamous fragrant relationship is there is a real sense of evolution as you move along with the brand. I was thinking about that as I tried the new Memo Paris African Leather.

Memo Paris started as a brand in 2007 with four releases. Co-owner Clara Molloy provided the creative direction and her partner in perfume for the last eight years has been perfumer Alienor Massenet. I wouldn’t discover the line until a few years later. One of the first Memo perfumes I owned was Moon Dance a perfume described as “an imaginary safari on the moon”. In that first collection from 2007 there was a perfume called Lalibela which was inspired by the Ethiopian city of the same name. In both of these cases these were the early versions of leather and Africa from the line. As Mme Molloy and Mme Massenet returned to these grander inspirations for African Leather there is very clear evidence of how much they have grown together as a creative team as African Leather is perhaps the best perfume in the entire Memo Paris line.


Clara Molloy

This time the safari is more literal as African Leather is reminiscent of the smell of wide open savannahs stretching to the horizon. Lalibela used incense and tobacco to create the exotic; African Leather uses a fantastic trio of spice notes to convey the same impression. Put together it just feels like the culmination of a fruitful creative partnership resulting in a fantastic fragrance.

One of the things which really allows African Leather to stand out is that Mme Massenet employs molecular distillations of the natural materials. These versions allow for a specific fraction of the entire essential oil to be isolated resulting in a different scent profile. This effect is used nicely by Mme Massenet as she employs each ingredient for the desired effect.

Aliénor Massenet 2

Alienor Massenet

African Leather opens with a trio of spices; cardamom, saffron, and cumin. They provide a warm breeze as if the mid-day wind is sweeping the smell of the open plains to your nose. I wasn’t able to find out the source of the saffron Mme Massenet used here but it has one of the more pronounced combinations of warmth and shimmer I think I have noticed in saffron in a perfume. It floats above the entire perfume for almost all of its development giving this interesting textural quality. The heart is the molecular distillation of geranium where the greener facets have been stripped away by the process leaving the floral aspects. I have often called geranium a “green rose”. This fraction puts the lie to that description as once the green is removed, via a physical process, the floral is much more expansive. It needs to be because the leather accord is what makes up the other half of the heart. This is that animalic smell that feels alive. Like just over that hill there is a herd of wildebeest that your nose picks up before your eyes do. The base is another example of molecular distillation as patchouli with its earthy qualities enhanced is mixed with vetiver with its greener grassier qualities upgraded. This is the smell of grass and sun-baked earth. It is the savannah come to life. Mme Massenet finishes it with a mixture of white musks which manage to uplift the saffron back into my conscience again.

African Leather has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

African Leather is easily one of my favorite new perfumes of 2015. If it isn’t my favorite Memo fragrance it is pretty close. A little more time and perspective is required for that I suspect. Every time I wore this I can feel the evolution of the collaborative effort between these two extraordinary artists. African Leather is an example of how familiarity breeds excellence.

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample from Memo.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Vitae Forte- Francis Fortissimo

There are perfumers who I enjoy them most when they compose in transparencies and whispers. There are others where the converse is true. It usually takes a particular perfume to reach out and hit me between the eyes for me to realize it. For Francis Kurkdjian that realization came when my favorite perfume of his initial Maison Francis Kurkdjian releases in 2009 was Cologne pour Le Soir. A year later he would release Absolue pour Le Soir the more feral cousin to the original. When M. Kurkdjian decides to add more to a previous construction there is no mistaking the power behind it. The newest release Aqua Vitae Forte is another example of this.

Aqua Vitae was released in 2013 as a pleasant Hedione-focused fragrance with citrus on top and the very light woodiness of Gaiac on the bottom. It was a perfume for the hot days of summer with the Hedione giving off shimmers like a heat mirage at the center. For this new version M. Kurkdjian has again put on his loud speaking voice as a composer of Aqua Vitae Forte. The follow-ups he has done within Maison Francis Kurkdjian should not be thought of as flankers because the notes he uses transforms them completely. I can detect a few bits and pieces of Aqua Vitae but Aqua Vitae Forte really stands on its own despite the similarity in name.

francis kurkdjian 2

Francis Kurkdjian (Photo via

The place where the two perfumes come closest to being similar is in the very early moments as both open on a tart mix of lemon and mandarin. In the original the Hedione takes over from there. In Aqua Vitae Forte M. Kurkdjian throws three spice notes into the mix. Cinnamon, Szechuan pepper, and cardamom intersperse themselves within the bright citrus shading the sunniness and providing contrast. A lot of times the spices overwhelm the citrus but here they stand their ground and it really makes the opening purr with energy. The Hedione remains in the heart but for Aqua Vitae Forte M. Kurkdjian uses orange blossom and ylang ylang as running mates. The florals provide the same effect as the spices did in the top notes by curtailing the expansiveness of the Hedione and keeping it more compact in its effect. This time the Hedione simmers instead of shimmers. All pretense at mimicking the original is tossed aside in the base as a rich sandalwood and a sturdy vetiver form the foundation. There is no lightness of being anymore just a two-footed stance of assuredness.

Aqua Vitae Forte has 10-12 hours longevity and above average sillage.

If Aqua Vitae was perfect for the heat of summer; Aqua Vitae Forte is going to be perfect for the upcoming chilly days of fall. This is a perfume which will go extremely well with sweaters and scarves on a crisp autumnal sojourn. When M. Kurkdjian raises his tone it usually leaves me saying Bravo Francis!

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample from Maison Francis Kurkdjian,

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Blackbird Broken Glass- The Beauty of Broken Things

We picked up a ding on our automobile windshield a few weeks ago. At first it was a focused circular bloom of tiny cracks. Over time two of those cracks broke free and began to elongate over the expanse of the entire windshield. I have been morbidly fascinated with this slow process of entropy. I have been so fascinated that Mrs. C had to very sternly remind me to schedule the repair. Looking at the world through a fracture allows me to see things as slightly disjointed. It means things I view through the cracks of the windshield are made into something flawed. Observing the shattered aspects perversely allows me to find an ephemeral beauty in the subject I am observing. For the past month I have been wearing a perfume which provides the same olfactory perspective of cracks within something previously unified. The perfume is Blackbird Broken Glass.

A year ago the Seattle, WA brand Blackbird made a significant shift in the way they make their perfumes. The in-house perfumer Aaron Way went from composing simple linear fragrances to making one of my favorite avant-garde perfumes of 2014 called Triton. I was hoping that Triton was not going to be a singularity. The two new fragrances I received a month ago, of which Broken Glass is one, indicate that this is going to be the Blackbird aesthetic going forward.

Aaron Way

Aaron Way

Very often when I wear a perfume for the first time it tends to be easily categorized in my mental catalog. What I enjoyed so much about Triton last year and now Broken Glass is Mr. Way is working on keeping the wearer off-balance. Just as I think I know where the perfume is going the development heads off in a different direction. Just like those ever elongating cracks on my windshield.

Mr. Way opens Broken Glass with the silvery shine of violet leaves matched with the green rose quality of geranium. At this point I was expecting a path forward into deeper green notes. Instead Mr. Way sends a crack infused with caraway and opoponax as instead of green we get black. Then it takes a ninety degree turn as a fulsome jasmine veritably explodes from within the gathering of the darker notes. The jasmine feels perfectly placed and at the same time out of place. It is the starburst crack at the heart of Broken Glass. Amyris and davana set up a slightly woody accord in the base where Mr. Way layers in cardamom and baie rose. This provides some warmth in contrast to the cooler darker notes in the top as Broken Glass forms its final fractal.

Broken Glass has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

When I call Broken Glass avant-garde this should indicate that this is a perfume that desires the attention of the wearer. Mr. Way has composed a perfume which is always changing as the wearer’s perspective changes. He has made a perfumed version of a world viewed askew. If looking at the world through a cracked lens sounds appealing you should pick this perfume up. Even though my windshield will be repaired in the next couple of days Broken Glass will allow me to continue to find beauty in broken things.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Carner Barcelona Palo Santo- Into the Woods

There are brands which execute so well on their stated aims I get worried when they take their first steps away from that. The truth is for a brand to have longevity you can’t reliably keep mining the same inspiration. At some point the creative team has to take something of a chance in moving to a different vein of inspiration. My first indication that a change is coming is the press release. When I received the press release for the new Carner Barcelona Palo Santo there was not a mention of Barcelona. The previous five releases have captured the artistry and vibe of the city on its label I sort of wanted them to keep showing me more. Instead creative director Sara Carner has gone into the woods searching for a perfume which represents the mystical.

sara carner

Sara Carner

Palo Santo is the name of a wood indigenous to South America. It is burned as incense. Used medicinally as a tea. It is also part of mystical cleansing rituals. Palo Santo translates to holy wood because it has been used throughout the centuries in the sacred rites of the area. Sra. Carner asked perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu to help her find a way to interpret this wood as fragrance.


Shyamala Maisondieu

In the previous five perfumes in the Carner Barcelona collection there was a real sense of vibrancy which matched Sra. Carner’s love of Barcelona. Palo Santo is the opposite of that as it almost asks the wearer to speak in solemn whispers while meditating. Mme Maisondieu works throughout the composition of Palo Santo to build a pyre of sacred smoke rising through a hole in an imaginary roof.

Mme Maisondieu chooses an interesting opening pair of the slightly fruit quality of davana floating on rum. The boozy opening could be mistaken for a party night on La Rambla. It doesn’t linger long before Mme Maisondieu deepens things while making Palo Santo a little less party and a lot more church. In the heart she takes guaiac wood and tonka to create a sweetly woody accord which she then pours warm milk over. This makes the heart contemplatively incense-like with a softness different than the top notes. That quality continues into the heart as two additional lighter woods add themselves into the mix as amyris and cedar join in. They fit seamlessly and make for a woody quartet of tenors. Vetiver provides the final bit of green woody aspect.

Palo Santo has 10-12 hour longevity and below average sillage.

While Sra. Carner has taken a trip away from Barcelona, Palo santo does fit in with the rest of the Carner Barcelona collection. In particular it feels like a natural progression from Rima XI. After enjoying Palo Santo I am ready to follow where Sra. Carner is ready to lead me. Even if it is deep into the woods.

Disclosure; this review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Atelier Cologne Musc Imperial- Majestic Days and Nights

I definitely have my checklist of the great cities of the world I have not been to. Very near the top of my list at the moment is Barcelona. When it comes to travel I have a version of window shopping where I lay out all of the sights I want to see, the restaurants I want to visit and the hotel I want to stay at. No matter how much the first two categories have changed when my imagination goes wandering the hotel I want to stay in has never changed.


The Hotel Majestic was the first luxury hotel in Barcelona opening in 1918. The same family, Soldevila-Casals, has overseen the hotel for nearly one hundred years. It is situated in the Paseo de Gracia near to the Gaudi installations, La Rambla, and the best shopping. When my mind travels where my body hasn’t I try and visualize everything. Of course I imagine what they will smell like too. Starting in the spring of 2015 the Hotel Majestic started wafting a signature scent throughout the premises. It comes from one of my very favorite perfume brands Atelier Cologne and is called Musc Imperial.

musc imperial tableau

The creative team behind Atelier Cologne Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel have actually spent nights in the suites of the Hotel Majestic. When they were commissioned to create a fragrance to capture the spirit of the hotel they had personal experience to draw from. They asked perfumer Jerome Epinette to join them as they built a 5-star hotel out of a cologne absolue architecture.

What M. Epinette produced was the exhilaration of a day on tour in Barcelona. The energy of the morning. The afternoon in the gardens. The evening close together under the stars.

The day opens with a sunbeam of bergamot which is made Spanish by the presence of clary sage providing an herbal green tint. Blackcurrant provides a bit of berry lushness underneath the leaner notes of the bergamot and sage. The heart of Musc Imperial is a marvel of Nouveau Cologne. M Epinette takes a rich refined leather accord. I think of my Hermes messenger bag whenever I get to this part of Musc Imperial. M. Epinette infuses this refined accord with fig and lavender. Lavender is one of the traditional building blocks of cologne. In Musc Imperial M. Epinette allows that to ground the heart in cologne territory but the fig and leather make it richer, more opulent. It becomes a 5-star lavender. The musk shows up in the base as M. Epinette uses the more animalic synthetics. He then uses the botanical musk source of ambrette to round out the synthetics giving them more nuance. A little bit of cedar provides the final bit of foundation in the base.

Musc Imperial has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Atelier Cologne is a brand from which I like many but there are a few which have attained their own exalted tier amongst the collection. Musc Imperial was one of those which grabbed me from the moment I smelled it on a strip. It is one of the very best offerings Atelier Cologne has. As of September 2015 the exclusivity of Musc Imperial will be expanded to a wider audience as it becomes available at stockists outside of the Hotel Majestic and Atelier Cologne boutiques. For me as I imagine my eventual trip to Barcelona I now have the ability to have the reality of what I will smell when I enter the Hotel Majestic for real.

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample from Atelier Cologne.

Mark Behnke