New Perfume Review Maison Martin Margiela Replica At the Barber’s- Shave and a Haircut

I’ve been using an old-fashioned double edge razor to shave for a little over ten years now. I finally kicked the habit of the multi-blade monstrosities and have never looked back. In truth my morning shave is where I get my first fragrance stimuli of the day. I don’t have as many shaving creams as I do perfume but there is a whole cabinet stacked high with little pots of different scented creams. I can say that before my shave I might be considering one perfume for the day and after my mood has entirely changed. The smell of shaving products and hair products remind me of my trips to the barber’s with my father to get a crew cut. I invoke the barber shop description when describing fougeres quite often. All of this had me very interested in the new Maison Martin Margiela Replica At the Barber’s.

Louise Turner

Louise Turner (Photo: Rui Camilo)

The Maison Martin Margiela Replica line is all about re-creating a specific place and time. This particular barber shop is in Madrid circa 1992. I’m not sure I get the Madrid part but the barber shop is completely realized by perfumer Louise Turner. The hot towels, the herbal shaving cream, the lavender water, and the sweet hair wax are all here. Ms. Turner captures each of the facets to create a virtual barbershop accord.

At the Barber’s assembles itself very rapidly and I would say it doesn’t really have a development so much as an assembling of the parts of the accord. Ms. Turner keeps it very simple and At the Barber’s is all the better for it. Basil and lavender are what I first notice and within minutes there is a hot cotton accord of white musks followed by the coumarin-laden sweetness of tonka bean. Each of these calls out to a specific part of the environment named but together they form a delightfully realistic accord.

At the Barber’s has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Of any of the Replica line, so far, At the Barber’s is the most straightforward replication of the name on the bottle. As I said I don’t get the Madrid and I’m not sure you couldn’t have chosen any year because this is just the smell of a classic barber shop no matter what the year. At the Barber’s is a true replica of my barber shop experience as a child and I’ll always insert Miami 1966 when I wear it. If you are a fan of old style fougeres it will cost you a bit more than two bits for this shave and a haircut but it is well worth it.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Barney’s.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Aether Arts Perfume Magic Mushroom and Love for 3 Oranges- Chocolate & Prokofiev

While the three new releases from Amber Jobin’s Aether Arts Perfume were my first new perfumes of 2015 I can’t say I didn’t know they were on their way. Ms. Jobin like so many of her compatriots in the independent perfume world shares her thoughts on how her new designs are coming along online. Ms. Jobin’s posts give us a peek into her creative process and I always like taking my first sniff knowing a bit about how the perfume came to be. The two I am reviewing here Magic Mushroom and Love for 3 Oranges were Ms. Jobin’s forays into gourmand and eau de cologne territory.  

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Magic Mushroom seems like it should be a natural companion to the other new 2015 perfume Holy Hemp! Instead Ms. Jobin was after another mood altering substance to build this mushroom, chocolate. She takes cocoa absolute which, instead of adding the slightly dusty quality of cocoa, it forms a more viscous base of melted chocolate. Floating on that metaphorical pool are freshly harvested mushrooms with the earth still clinging to them. On the days I wore this I kept imagining the weirdest chocolate fountain with mushrooms floating in the bowl at the bottom. Ms. Jobin describes Magic Mushroom as an earthy gourmand and, especially in the first part of the development, it is exactly what this perfume delivers. She leavens the rich opening with a bouquet of jasmine and orris. It adds a bit of high harmonics to a perfume which has been all bass to this point. Coffee and tobacco absolute return Magic Mushroom to the lower register and transform it into something trending more sweet as the chocolate has the upper hand over the final phase. Magic mushroom has 8-10 hour longevity and slight sillage due to being extrait strength.

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Love for 3 Oranges was inspired by Prokofiev’s opera of the same name. The opera was staged to be a cross between Commedia dell’arte and Surrealism. Needless to say it flew over most audiences' heads when first performed in the 1920’s. As Surrealism rose in prominence so too did the opera and it has become one of the staples of the opera company repertory. Ms. Jobin heard about the staging in 1988 which provided the audience with Scratch n’ Sniff cards to go along with the action on stage. One of those dots was the scent of oranges which was matched to fairy princesses emerging from giant oranges as if they were cocoons. Mixed into all of this were memories of Ms. Jobin’s memories of her grandmother’s orange trees at her home in Florida. You will be unsurprised to know the Florida boy in me was particularly interested in that.

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Amber Jobin accepting her 2014 Art & Olfaction Award

She has subtitled the fragrance “Flower, Fruit & Tree” to indicate she wanted to capture an orange tree where the orange blossoms and the fruit were all growing at the same time. By choosing to go with an eau de cologne architecture at extrait strength Ms. Jobin eschewed the surreal aspect and instead went for a “whole body” approach to capture that tree with all three phases in it which describe the three phases the perfume goes through on my skin. It opens with that lush juicy orange smell. The one I remember from my Florida childhood eating one while sitting on a limb in the tree. I also remember the smell of the tree when it was full of blossoms as that was the smell of Spring to me when living in a part of the world where it might always seem Spring. Ms. Jobin uses a high concentration of orange blossom and it really brings out the creamy quality of the raw material. Most often it is used as a light bit of floralcy. Ms. Jobin has to use a lot so it can co-exist with the orange from the top. Her success is that I would imagine myself in my tree at both times I described at the same time. Getting orange and orange blossom right is easy the smell of an orange tree is not so easy. It is woody but it also has a bit of an acrid edge to it and Ms. Jobin’s orange tree accord captures that. She blends some green notes with woody base notes. This would not have been a trivial task, I think. This is a simple perfume but it is not a simple to make perfume. Ms. Jobin shows her skill throughout in getting all of the players to create the effect she wanted. In the end for this Florida boy she has spectacularly captured any orange tree I have ever known. Love for 3 Oranges has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Ms. Jobin continues to shine brightly as one of the best new independent perfuers we have and all three of her new perfumes have begun my 2015 on a high note.

Mark Behnke

Editor's Note: My review of the other 2015 release Holy Hemp! can be found here.

New Perfume Review Aether Arts Perfume Holy Hemp!- The Making of a Perfumer

The winner of first new perfumes received in 2015 were the three new perfumes by Amber Jobin for her Aether Arts Perfume label. It has been a winning year for Ms. Jobin as last year she won one of the inaugural Art & Olfaction Awards in the Artisan Category. There has been no perfumer who has started with quite this much momentum in years. Not only were these the first new perfumes I would start 2015 with they show the nearly fully formed artist Ms. Jobin has become in just two short years. I am going to review all three of the new perfumes today and tomorrow. I’m going to start with Holy Hemp! because it follows on her previous exploration of the use of the cannabis note in her other perfumes A Roll in the Grass & Burner Perfume No. 5-Incense Indica. It also is very illustrative of why Ms. Jobin has stood out among the newer independent perfumers.

Particularly for a lot of the new independent perfumers who send me samples that I don’t end up reviewing the main reason is they have combined a bunch of nice smelling ingredients into something that smells nice but has no soul. Ms. Jobin has spent time studying perfumery under the tutelage of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. What that means is really understanding not just how to build a perfume around a specific note but how to shape that note to achieve a desired effect by altering the concentration and/or the accompanying notes. This process requires patience and a clear vision. Ms. Jobin seems to have both of these attributes.

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Amber Jobin

Her first cannabis perfume A Roll in the Grass concentrated on the way cannabis smells when it is smoked the skanky smoky smell was front and center. Ms. Jobin paired it with a fresh cut grass accord as contrast and it made the name of the perfume a double entendre. In Incense Indica Ms. Jobin imagined the sticky concentrated smell of the buds as a substitute for frankincense or other resins. She allows the resinous quality to rise from out of the smoke and Incense Indica pivots beautifully about a third of the way through its development. Holy Hemp! is the smell of the entire plant as not only the leaves and the buds but also the stalks. There is a wonderful vegetal quality underpinning the rest of what is a very luminous green perfume.

Holy Hemp! opens on an herbal note of Holy Basil also called Tulsi. The Holy Basil adds that vegetal foundation I was speaking of. Ms. Jobin bleeds in just the right amount of galbanum to support that accord of green and growing things. She chooses to add Cananga which is a fruity floral oil obtained when the flowers which produce ylang-ylang oil are distilled. Cananga is a much more transparent version of ylang-ylang as it is both less floral and a bit fruitier. In Holy Hemp! it provides a focal point to find the fruity facets within cannabis. Once you’re led in that direction by the Cananga you almost can’t help but smell it. This all comes to an end with a balsamic base.

Holy Hemp! has 8-10 hour longevity and very little sillage because it is at extrait strength.

Holy Hemp! completes a trinity of cannabis perfumes by Ms. Jobin; but most importantly it shows a young independent perfumer working with an assured artistic aesthetic rare within this community.

Duisclsoure: This review was based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Yves St Laurent Black Opium- Death by Focus Group

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If there is anything which is going to harm perfumery in the long term it is not going to be the usual suspects of draconian regulations or astronomical prices. The death of perfume is going to come with the incessant homogenization going on in the mass-market sector. The perfume business which is making new perfumes in this sector has shunted aside creativity and promoted the focus group. By gathering average perfume wearers and letting them in to the creative process they end up creating perfume afraid to be anything but not to offend any sensibility. It also has the effect of making all of them smell the same by recycling older tropes from more ambitious earlier releases. The final decision on what goes in the bottle is not coming from a creative director with a specific vision. It is instead coming from averaging the results of questionnaires and picking the one which appeals most broadly. Except every great perfume which has ever existed has always made a bold statement about what it was and dared an audience to come to it instead of the other way around. One of the first perfumes I can remember doing that was 1977’s Yves St. Laurent Opium. If there was a perfume of the disco era Opium was it. Because so many women wore it there were many mornings following a night out where I could easily pick up the sweet vanilla laden base notes on my clothes. Opium was a trendsetter for years.

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Now in 2015 there is a new flanker of Opium called Black Opium. The press release claims it is an Opium for a contemporary Rock Chick. The ad campaign features model Edie Campbell looking very Joan Jett while spraying on Black Opium. Except while I know the younger generation makes a habit of looking unimpressed about anything the look on Ms. Campbell’s face borders on apathy. It’s almost like there should be a thought bubble above her head going, “This is a quick buck.” When I received the press materials prior to receiving my sample I found it all very incongruous. Within days something even more ominous would create more concern. Creative Director of Yves St. Laurent Hedi Slimane posted on Twitter, followed up with a press release, disavowing any involvement in the creation of Black Opium. Who was minding the store? I am not sure but after wearing Black Opium it feels solidly like the product of a thousand focus groups.

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The Creative Directors? (Photo: From the TV Series "Mad Men")

A group of four perfumers are credited with Black Opium, Honorine Blanc, Olivier Cresp, Nathalie Lorson, and Marie Salamagne. That is a great team of artists who if left to their own devices under appropriate creative direction could make a great “Rock Chick” perfume. What they have produced is something generic with aspects of hundreds of fruity florals and gourmands of the past all smooshed together into something afraid to take a stand on anything for fear of offending.

Black Opium opens with pink pepper, very sweet manadarin, and crisp pear matched with mimosa. It is modern fruity floral territory being trod upon for the umpteenth time. It eventually evolves towards a bland attempt at coffee, vanilla, and patchouli over cedar. Clean woody gourmand territory, encountered many times previously.

Black Opium has 10-12 hour longevity and prodigious sillage, probably the only thing it shares with the original.

Black Opium is not a bad perfume. It is a safe perfume. It is a perfume engineered through social means to appeal to many. It is devoid of character and as boring as Ms. Campbell looks in the advert. If the creative directors for the designers don’t have the opportunity to apply their brand vision to the perfumes which carry that designer name this will work like Continental Drift, in reverse, and every new release will eventually smell the same creating an olfactory Pangea. As one who loved the way the original Opium defined a moment in time via scent it is sad to see an opportunity for Black Opium squandered for safety’s sake.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Yves St. Laurent Beaute.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Raymond Matts Jarro & Sunah- The Aura of Persistence

The new Raymond Matts perfume line calls their fragrances “aura de parfum”. The phrase does a really good job of describing some of the entries in the collection. With Jarro and Sunah the name is not only a descriptor but the perfumes themselves formed a transparent aura around me as I wore them. In an e-mail exchange with Raymond Matts he described the way he works with his perfumers, “I never brief perfumers actually! When I start a fragrance I sit with and go over sensations, emotions, experiences, textures with colors I want the fragrance to be. We then will discuss notes and will create three different accords representing top, middle and back.” Then he told me they will go through 200-300 modifications searching for just the right balance to realize the shared vision. This shows the dedication of both creative director and perfumer as trying to find that perfect balance between the synthetics and natural ingredients can be difficult and I think many other brands would have given up earlier and accept a less-than-perfect formula. Both of these show the dedication to quality and collaboration.

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Christophe Laudamiel

Jarro is signed by Christophe Laudamiel. If I asked most to describe M. Laudamiel based on his perfumes in one word I am guessing I would get a lot of variations on edgy or dark. I knew he was the perfumer behind three of the seven entries in the collection. If I was asked to pick the three he worked on blindly Jarro would not have been one because it seems too light. Mr. Matts also addressed that in his e-mail and said, “Christophe and I have been working together for many years. He is dark and I'm not so this makes for interesting collaborations.” Jarro is a burst of optimism wrapped up in green brilliance. M. Laudamiel constructs complex accords and Jarro opens with two of those. The citrus one is that bit of sunshine in a jar as there is a complement of citrus facets all shining like sunbeams. Matched to this is a green aquatic accord composed of calone and labdanum among other ingredients. This is one of those classic perfume accords but M. Laudamiel puts his spin on it by keeping it on the light side. The green deepens with muguet as the focal point in the middle part of Jarro’s development. M. Laudamiel enhances the hidden spiciness of muguet by using it in significant quantities and complementing it with other spices so it can’t be overlooked. The base is Ambrox and woods; and in keeping with the whole tone of the construction it stays lighter. Jarro has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

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Jean-Claude Delville

As Mr. Matts mentioned he has worked with M. Laudamiel for many years. I think he has probably worked with perfumer Jean-Claude Delville for a shorter period of time. One of the pieces of information that tells me this might be the case is Mr. Matts shared the number of modifications that went into refining the concepts that would eventually become Sunah; over a thousand. If I admired the stick-to-it-iveness of 200 modifications more than a thousand had to be frustrating until the right one emerges out of the pile of flawed vials. What caused all of this olfactory angst was an attempt to make a saffron focused perfume which also was soft. M. Delville opens with a contrast of tart and crisp with citrus and apple. It is a high-pitched downbeat which then rises up the scale as mimosa forms an opaque fruity floral early phase. Sunah transforms as the saffron rises to prominence in the heart. M. Delville allows the saffron to eventually exude an exoticism at the middle. M. Delville then chooses a mix of woody synthetics which are layered precisely to effect a pillow soft base for this intense saffron to lay upon. It is this which must have have occupied Mr. Matts and M. Delville during many of those one thousand modifications. To get this just right. To keep the synthetics all purring together without one rising up to be disruptive all while the saffron still exudes its influence. This effort really shows as Sunah moves from the fruity floral into this exotic end phase and it is completely fascinating to wear. Sunah has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I really like both of these for the effort the perfumers put in with Mr. Matts. In both cases I think that effort shows in the finished product. Sunah especially for the effect of saffron on top of soft woods is brilliantly realized.

Discalosure: this review was based on samples provided by Raymond Matts.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews DSH Perfumes The Brilliant Collection- A History of Scent and Sparkle

One of the best perfumed collaborations of the past few years has been the work perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has done in conjunction with various exhibits at the Denver Art Museum. For these shows she creates a collection of perfumes to go with what is being displayed. This time the exhibit which inspired the perfume is “Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century”. Perhaps more than any exhibit she has been asked to make accompanying scents for this one tickles two of Ms. Hurwitz’s creative zones. The idea of capturing jewels as fragrance is a long standing inspiration for perfumers. Ms. Hurwitz is also a jewelry designer herself. I know that the history of both of her creative outlets has always been a foundation for her to create contemporaneously. For The Brilliant Collection both sets of design skills as perfumer and jeweler come together. Three of the four perfumes are inspired by pieces and the women who wore them from the exhibit. The fourth is a bit of fantasy but still remains on theme.

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Deco Diamonds was inspired by the Flamingo Brooch seen above worn by Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor.  Ms. Hurwitz goes with the set of hairspray aldehydes cut with galbanum and peach. This all leads into a white flower fusillade of indoles with jasmine, gardenia, and tuberose providing deep floral flares. It all ends on a chypre base of oakmoss, vetiver, civet, and ambergris. All together Deco Diamonds delivers on having a real Art Deco feel. Ms. Hurwitz knows how to channel the great perfumes of the 1920’s as she creates new perfumes nearly 100 years later.

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Rubis Rose was inspired by the necklace above given to Elizabeth Taylor by Mike Todd. When he gave it to La Liz she had no mirror so she leaned over the pool to see the reflection. The perfume is more of a study of just the rubies as Ms. Hurwitz equates rose with the red gemstone. She pairs her rose with a deep raspberry note sticking with the red theme. It is those two notes which predominate throughout most of Rubis Rose’s development. There is a bit of pink pepper on top and there is a bit more incense and gaiac in the base. This is more evocative of the lavender-eyed beauty than any of the perfumes which bear her name.

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Jacinthe de Sapphir was inspired by a flawless blue sapphire worn by Queen Marie of Romania in 1922. As with Rubis Rose Ms. Hurwitz is working on a perfume equivalent of matching colors. This time she is using hyacinth as the central note. The opening is the smell of fresh earth just after the winter thaw as spring finally takes hold. Then like a time-lapse film she zooms us forward a few weeks to the hyacinth in full bloom accompanied by rose de mai, tuberose, and narcissus. This is a deeply mesmerizing floral that feels like you are falling in to that sapphire pictured above. A balsamic finish with some civet added rounds it off perfectly.

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Gold Smoke by etafaz

Fumee D’Or is what Ms. Hurwitz imagines a Paris goldsmith’s workshop should smell like. This is my favorite of the four because Ms. Hurwitz pulls together a disparate number of some of my favorite materials. On top a leather accord is combined with the more metallic aldehydes. The early going has an almost dangerous sensuality to it making me think this goldsmith has an interesting private life. The core of the leather accord is a huge amount of birch tar. This is a throwback to the great leather perfumes of the past. She them picks a skanky jasmine to pick up the lascivious leather from the top notes. She finally brings it home with civet in the base. There is never a moment during this where it doesn’t feel like Fumee D’Or is not oozing a kind of unctuous carnality. This is the least evocative of jewelry but I think that was what Ms. Hurwitz was going for.

All four of The Brilliant Collection perfumes have 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

As she has done in the past Ms. Hurwitz has provided a fantastic scented tour through an exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. The Brilliant Collection lives up to its name on every level.  

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by DSH Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Ephemera by Unsound Bass and Drone- Does it Feel Good?

I started my reviews of the new Ephemera by Unsound line with Noise because it is going to be the easiest of the three to approach. That doesn’t mean the remaining two, Bass and Drone, aren’t as good because they are. Perfumer Geza Schoen continued to use music as his brief for the perfumes and MFO provided video interpretations. In the continuation of the conversation I began in the Noise review Bass and Drone live right on the edge of what is commonly considered pleasant smells. This is why these might be less easy to initially embrace. I think these are perfumes worth the effort because once they invade your consciousness they are darn hard to shake.

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Geza Schoen

Bass was founded on a piece of music from Kode9 aka Steve Goodman. He titled the music “Vacuum Burn”. It is his earliest olfactory memory of a vacuum cleaner which emitted a burning smell. Hr. Schoen goes for that odor of burning electronics, dust, and hair. That smell is going to be seen as flat-out unpleasant by many. I once responded to a forum thread on weird smells you like with hot electronics and the smell of hair burning. For me this means Bass accesses that affection for odd smells. Hr. Schoen does a fantastic job at bringing this to life. How he achieves this effect is to take woodsmoke and combine it with rum. The rum stands out very early on but eventually the smoke shrouds it and this forms the burning hair accord. The heated electronic accord consists of a combination in the heart of leather and black tea, on a platform of mastic. Hr. Schoen takes the mastic and uses it as a foundation to build this accord. The base notes are a rich animalic castoreum matched with oakmoss and a couple other musks. It forms a very human final accord as it reminds you there is a young child accessing a unique smell for the first time. Bass has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

The video of Bass, above, captures the sense of heat and burning but the music especially does an amazing job of this. There is a sound of crackling burning punctuated with an irregular mouse click. When I wore Bass and listened to the track I saw the image of the vacuum on overload. I spent my whole hour commute one day listening to Vacuum Burn on repeat with my eyes closed breathing deeply the evolution of Bass. The time flew by.

The piece of music Tim Hecker supplied Hr. Schoen is the antithesis of the name, Drone. It is a languidly swelling soundscape. Early on I lean in to hear the opening notes; by the end it has me sitting back in my chair. Mr. Hecker wanted “a speculative Day-Glo incense from rituals where long-form sound induces levitation.” Hr. Schoen starts with us up in the air as he uses a different set of aldehydes and ozonic notes than he used in Noise. In Noise these ingredients radiated cold. In Drone they do almost the opposite as they convey an expansive openness. This is a fabulous example of what a very talented perfumer can do with primarily the same sets of raw materials. By balancing and combining in just the right way Hr. Schoen produces two very different effects. These early moments of Drone make me feel like I am gliding a few hundred feet above the ground. The heart notes bring me in for a landing in the middle of a stand of pine trees. Fir and juniper are the heart notes but this is mostly fir with the juniper adding in depth. As I continue to take in the airy opening accord over the fir Hr. Schoen pulls out a wonderfully weird synthetic vetiver which begins to insert itself in between the other notes oozing into the spaces and creating a new fragrant accord. The base notes are patchouli and ambergris and they form perhaps the most traditional accord of any of the three fragrances in the collection. Drone has a lot of unusual angles and shifts to it to the point that on first sniff I wasn’t excited. I wore it a lot and the combination of sound and visual really drew me in. Drone has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Drone was the complete package for me. The music by itself was the one I liked the best and the one which has made it onto a playlist with other non-perfume music. This time the video captures the smell and the sound perfectly. There is a moment in the video at the 1:14 point which visualizes the way I smell the vetiver combining in the scent as the music hits the crescendo it has been building towards. This is the perfect combination of sight, sound, and smell. Because of all of this Drone has become my favorite.

Now let me return to the thesis I brought up in the review of Noise, does a perfume have to smell good? I can see showing someone these three perfumes and they can’t find anything within them that smells good. That is judging them solely on a superficial level. What I think all three of the perfumes in this collection exemplify is if you have the vision to go more than skin deep and attempt to connect with more than just the sense of smell there is something beyond the purview of simple questions like “does it smell good?”. Instead the question becomes, “Does it make me feel good?” Where the answer to the first question might be variable; if you allow these perfumes and the music and the visuals the opportunity I think the answer to the second question is something much more affirmative. If you have any interest in the potential of what perfume can do this is a collection you need to try.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ephemera by Unsound Noise- Does It Smell and Sound and Look Good?

Whenever I try a perfume which is attempting to be avant-garde I always think of the words of the late perfumer Guy Robert. He said famously, “A perfume above all must smell good.” I think many of us who love fragrance would take this as a truism. I also think if we want to believe that there is such a thing as olfactory art then there has to be room for a perfume which can audaciously explore the line of what smells good. The last part of 2014 and the first part of 2015 has been an opportunity for me to explore this concept in a brilliant new collection, Ephemera by Unsound, from perfumer Geza Schoen as part of the Unsound Project.

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Geza Schoen

The Unsound Project debuted a collaboration between Hr. Schoen and three electronic music artists Ben Frost, Tim Hecker and Kode 9. This was all further accompanied by three videos by MFO. Each was inspired by the other. Hr. Schoen took his brief from the music especially composed for each fragrance. MFO created visuals which capture the music and the perfume. I have heartily dug into this experience as I have spent time just listening to the accompanying track on my headphones on the days I’ve worn each. I’ve sat in a darkened office with the visuals playing and the music at high volume coming from the speakers. This is as complete a multimedia experience as I can remember experiencing with perfume at the center of it all. It is this satiation of so many of my senses at the same time which makes this as memorable as it is for me.

We return to the central thesis though, “Does it smell good?” I am going to share my opinion on that over the next couple of days as I review each of the three perfumes Noise, Bass, and Drone on all of the levels that I experienced them on.

Noise as a perfume is a fragrance about chilly components. Hr. Schoen wanted to capture some touchstones from Mr. Frost’s olfactory memory. Mr. Frost asked for Australian brushfire, the showering sparks of an arc welder, church on Sunday- cold stone and frankincense, the bed of a pickup truck with the remnants of the tools of the hunting party. These are the kinds of things Hr. Schoen has captured in liquid form in the past. For Noise he boldly displays them as a fragrance equivalent of an Ice Princess. The beauty draws you in but if you stay too long the frostbite will devour you. He opens this perfume with a cocktail of aldehydes and ozonic notes. You’ve smelled all of these individually in hundreds of perfumes over the last few years. Like a music producer laying down tracks Hr. Schoen drops one aldehyde and another, then an ozonic note, then another aldehyde and so on until a bright olfactory harmonic is achieved. A slug of black pepper adds orthogonal spice. This moves into a heart of woody tinged florals. The note list says it is magnolia and orchid. I smell a bit of linden also and, as in the top, saffron is used as contrast. By using the woodier floral notes it keeps Noise aloof never allowing a full defrost to occur. The base returns to the metallic themes of the top notes but this time there is the hint of smoke in the distance and the smell of grinding gears. Hr. Schoen uses frankincense, amber, labdanum, cedar, and leather together to form this base accord. Noise assessed solely as a perfume is everything I can ask for of a fragrance willing to push my limits of what smells good.

When I just listened to Noise by Ben Frost while wearing the perfume I can’t say I found as much of the influences cited in just the auditory portion of this installation. What did pull it all together is the video above. The visuals capture my experience of the perfume as if they were pulled from my head by MFO. As I sat in my office surrounded by the music at high volume, pulsating, and the video occupying my entire visual field; right there this project came to life in a way I’ve rarely experienced with the multimedia explorations including perfume.

Noise has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I will come back to answer the question of whether it smells good after I have reviewed Bass & Drone. On a more reductive scale Noise is one of Hr. Schoen’s most complete compositions ever. From a perfumer who excels in exploring the borders of perfumery Noise is perhaps the best example of avant-garde in his repertoire.

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

Mark Behnke

Reviews of Bass and Drone can be found here.

New Perfume Reviews Raymond Matts Tsiling and Tulile- Declaration of Intent

I am not sure when I met Raymond Matts for the first time. I am sure about the where, at a Sniffapalooza lunch during a Spring Fling or Fall Ball. He gave a talk which spoke to the room about the state of perfume at that moment in time. He boldly declared perfume blogging as irrelevant. I was just starting to write and I wondered if he was right. Here was a man with a wealth of experience from nearly thirty years in the fragrance business. I like people who take provocative stances and I listened to all he said and considered his hypothesis.

raymond-matts

Raymond Matts

Mr. Matts has shown the same surety whenever our paths have crossed in the years since. Late in 2014 I found out he was going to have his own brand of perfume. Like so much about Mr. Matts these perfumes are declarative statements of intent. In my initial testing I have found all seven to have distinct pleasures. I want to really give all of them a little more time than I would normally and so my reviews of the entire line are going to happen in a series over the next few weeks. For this first installment I am going to focus on Tsiling and Tulile.

 olivier-gillotin

Olivier Gillotin

The names of all of the fragrances are made up words meant to convey something about them. In the press materials it is said they are meant to smell the way they sound. More than any other Tsiling lives up to this. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin was given a brief to capture a plastic flower which exudes a natural scent. This makes Tsiling a lively exercise with M. Gillotin having to strike just the right balance between the artificial and the natural. His choice is to start with the natural and allow for the artificial to provide the finish. The top notes are a mix of an aquatic accord, some green notes, and pear. The pear is most prominent and the other notes provide the more natural watery green of nature. As you move into the heart orris comes first and it is a rooty version. After M. Gillotin adds honeysuckle and what is named as rice notes the whole thing seems to plasticize in a time-lapse fashion. It just goes from natural to unnatural over the course of an hour or so. Then for the majority of the time I wore Tsiling it smells like a plastic flower scented with natural oils. Very late a bit of patchouli comes out but it is very minimal in nature. Tsiling has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

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Christophe Laudamiel

Lots of perfumes marketed to men are said to be bracing. That usually means loud and overpowering most of the time. For Tulile Mr. Matts asked perfumer Christophe Laudamiel to create a masculine perfume which was embracing, instead. It starts off with a traditional zing of citrus over some aquatic notes. This is a common trope for men’s perfume. M. Laudamiel then starts to shift the paradigm as he uses lily of the valley as the floral heart of Tulile. This is a very floral muguet which combines very well with the watery citrus. It is because the citrus sticks around that Tulile doesn’t become overtly floral. For the base notes M. Laudamiel mixes two woody aromachemicals, Polywood and Ambrox. There is an interesting effect I have found with synthetics like both of these. By themselves they often irritate me. But if they are the right two synthetics they form an accord which is very pleasant. In the case of Tulile the Polywood and Ambrox form an opaque woody accord which is surprisingly soft for something composed of synthetic components. Tulile has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I’ll be back over the next few weeks with reviews of the other five perfumes in the line.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Raymond Matts.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews DSH Perfumes Peace, Love, and Perfume- Serious Fun

I think there are times I probably attach too much importance to the business of perfume. It is why I am glad there are opportunities to shake off the self-important stance and remember that perfume is fun. An ongoing opportunity for me to do this has been The PLP Project created to celebrate the third anniversary of the Facebook group Peace-Love-Perfume, or in this world of abbreviated terms, PLP. The originator and ringmaster of the group, Carlos J. Powell, reached out to a number of perfumers to create a perfume. One of the perfumers he contacted was Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes. He gave her a simple brief for each of three perfumes, one for each word in the group name. He asked for Peace to be “a meditative incense fragrance.” Love to be “a sexy animalic fragrance.” Perfume to be “a traditional cologne with a twist on the concept.” Ms. Hurwitz loves these kind of open-ended concepts and I suspect it is because she has fun just letting it rip. One of the things I admire about her is that while these might have a bit more light-heartedness to them they are never anything less than perfumes with Ms. Hurwitz’s consummate skill on display.

plp project

When asked for a meditative incense fragrance as Peace Ms. Hurwitz decides she isn’t just going to rely on the classics like frankincense and myrrh. Nope she throws in a bit of Laotian oud, Bakul attar, and Choya Ral. On top a bit of green champaca leaf and a pairing of rose de mai and orris adds some floralcy but this is the promised incense fragrance. My only quibble is with it being meditative. Peace is a resin lover’s house party. It is so full of interesting resins and combinations I am sure I could never just contemplate a single point while wearing this. It is just like the best gatherings with way too many interesting people around you can’t stop for fear you might miss something. Each time I wore Peace the resins presented themselves slightly differently and that increased my enjoyment immensely.

When Ms. Hurwitz is asked for an animalic fragrance as she was for Love I know I am in for something memorable. Ms. Hurwitz and I have spent a lot of time talking about the great perfumes of the past. When asked to go animalic I knew she would be thinking about those classics. As she did with Peace she makes sure Love is not going to be lacking and so she takes musk, civet, castoreum, and ambergris which are the foundation of those mid-twentieth century perfumes and then twists it with a combination of more contemporary botanical animalics, ambrette, labdanum, and hyracium. This is all matched with a fantastic indolic jasmine and gardenia. This is so over-the-top it reminded me of Norma Desmond and a line she never said, “I am big. It’s the perfume that got small.” Love does feel a bit like an unearthed relic of a few decades ago but it is a delightful riff on perfume from that time period as only a student of those perfumes could accomplish.

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Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

As regular readers know I love this renaissance of cologne we are currently in. By asking Ms. Hurwitz to deliver a twisted cologne in Perfume I was very excited.  The first twist begins by using a large dose of rhubarb paired with grapefruit. There is a wonderful synergy between these two notes but the real twist comes when she soaks them in a jigger of cognac. This rapidly flows in to an herbal heart of basil paired with fruit and a jasmine-like pittosporum. The transition from the top to the heart is not as abrupt as it might sound. Ms. Hurwitz has smoothed the transition out so it is more gradual than it might seem. Ambrette and vetiver provide a traditional finish to Perfume but there were plenty of twists and turns before allowing us to catch our breath at the end.

Peace and Love are extrait strength and last for 12-14 hours on my skin with minimal sillage. Perfume lasts for 6-8 hours with average sillage.

All three perfumes show Ms. Hurwitz at her best taking a very broad brief and composing three perfumes with a joyful abandon which permeates every moment of Peace, Love, and Perfume.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by DSH Perfumes.

Mark Behnke