Histoires de Parfums 101- Five to Get You Started

If there is one person who has been one of the stalwarts of niche perfumery from the earliest days who doesn’t get enough credit it would be Gerald Ghislain. M. Ghislain created one of the first niche brands in 2000 called Histoires de Parfums. This has been one of the most successful brands over the long haul. It has also become impressive for the ability to change with the trends. Histoires de Parfums is one of those brands it is easy to overlook because you have always seen the bottles on your favorite website or in your favorite boutique. I am hoping I can get you to stop and try these five because Histoires de Parfums is worth it.

Gerald Ghislain

My first encounter was in a New York city store. When the sales associate told me that 1740: Marquis de Sade was a combination of immortelle and leather I was already sold. Up until recently the sole perfumer for Histoires de Parfums was Sylvie Jourdet. I am a big believer in how that continuity between creative director and single perfumer can be critical for creating a brand identification. M. Ghislain and Mme Jourdet laid down an early marker as to what that aesthetic would be. 1740 transitions quickly through an iris dominated beginning until Mme Jourdet brings together her leather accord with amber, at first, followed by immortelle. It is one of the great niche perfumes of this century.

Mme Jourdet used amber in its more traditional base component in 1740. For Ambre 114 she serves it up as the core of a luscious gourmand. Using nutmeg early on to set the gourmand style she moves through a floral intermezzo down to a mixture of sandalwood, amber, benzoin, tonka bean, and vanilla. Together it forms an abstract “warm cookies from the oven” accord. It takes amber from Oriental standard to yummy.

Sylvie Jourdet

1969: Parfum de Revolt was meant to evoke the Summer of Love in San Francisco. What I’ve always found here is another more modern take on the gourmand with cardamom and coffee forming that aspect. Before we get there Mme Jourdet opens with a rambunctious peach from which the coffee and green cardamom bubble up from. Patchouli and chocolate provide the finishing touches.

In 2011 M. Ghislain created the Editions Rare collection within the brand. The first three releases were amazing but I am recommending Rosam for the contemporary take Mme Jourdet gave to the staid rose and oud combination. Oud on its own provides an exotic vibe. Mme Jourdet adds to it by using saffron as companion to the rose. Incense completes Rosam with a resinous kick.

A year later another trio was added to Editions Rare of which Vici was the floral part of the triptych. Mme Jourdet used osmanthus and iris as her focal point. Surrounded on top with aldehydes, cardamom, and galbanum. In the base musk, cedar, and patchouli give the woody foundation to Vici.

M. Ghislain has continued to produce perfume and even though this list doesn’t have any of the most recent releases they are worth experiencing, too. These are just the five I think will entice you in to one of the pioneers of niche perfumery.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Arquiste 101- Five To Get You Started

Arquiste is another one of those perfume brands which I consider to be “mine”. The criteria to be considered “mine” is that it started about the time I started to get serious about writing on perfume. I’ve been trying to remember the first time I met Carlos Huber the owner/creative director of Arquiste. While I don’t remember the place Sr. Huber is one of the most genuine personalities in perfumery. He came to perfume from training as an architectural historian. Every Arquiste perfume starts with a brief which describes a place and time period. He then managed to find two perfumers with whom he has exclusively worked with by themselves and in tandem; Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier. Together since their debut in 2011 they have created a brand aesthetic which now announces itself with each new release. Obviously, I think this is a fragrance collection worth checking out; here are the five to start with.

When you get around other perfume lovers and you both really like the same perfume there is a combination of sounds and facial expression which convey the emotions. A fluttering of eyelids over rolled back eyes. A low semi-guttural purr combined with a tilt of the head to one side. Long-time friend Ida Meister and I did this when we both tried one of the first Arquiste releases called Anima Dulcis. The fragrance was set in 1685 Mexico City as cloistered nuns developed their concoction of hot cocoa and chiles. M. Vasnier and Sr. Flores-Roux capture the simmering heat of the chiles in juxtaposition to the cocoa. Cinnamon, clove, jasmine, and sesame provide texture and detail to one of the best gourmands I own.

L’Etrog is another co-production by M. Vasnier and Sr. Flores-Roux. It is at the cologne end of the spectrum as the perfumers imagine the scent of 1175 Calabria, Italy as the local species of citron known as Etrog provides the early citrus brightness. In the background are the very light smells of the flowers around the Calabrian milieu. Vetiver provides the green contrast in the base.

For Boutonniere No. 7 Sr. Huber asked Sr. Flores-Roux to imagine a group of young men at fin de siècle France in the lobby of the Opera-Comique in Paris. Their lure is the gardenia in their lapel. Sr. Flores-Roux captures the gardenia as it scents the air to capture attention. Using lavender to evoke the cologne the dandies would be wearing then a perfectly balanced gardenia accord, lush and green. It all ends on an expertly formed accord of a freshly ironed suit. Boutonniere No. 7 is a fabulously different take on gardenia.

The Architect’s Club is the Arquiste which most acts as a time machine. Set during 1930 Happy Hour at an elegant Mayfair club of the same name in London. Some of the Lost Generation burst into the room livening up the stuffy atmosphere. It opens with spice and wood paneled drawing room accords before M. Vasnier unleashes the gin-toting wild things into the mix. Things just pick up steam from there. M. Vasnier keeps the frivolity under control to make The Architect’s Club the best party in town.

Nanban is an East meets West fragrance set on a Japanese sailing ship in 1618 returning from their first contact with Mexico. Sr. Flores-Roux and M. Vasnier create a construct where osmanthus pushes against the spices of the New World. Myrrh and sandalwood provide serenity which is disrupted by coffee and leather. It ends as the ship sails into the harbor of home as the fir trees and frankincense welcome the crew home.

Arquiste is one of the best new brands of the last few years well worth the time to explore. Start with these five.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Xerjoff 101- Five to Get You Started

The ultra-luxe sector of perfume really came into being in the early years of the 2000’s. Brands with high price tags were usually comprised of artistic bottles and high-quality raw materials. When I was first considering whether consumers would see perfume as being this kind of commodity I concurrently wondered which of these brands would last for ten years. The answer is that there are consumers who gravitate to this kind of ultimate fragrant luxury. There are also some which have lasted for over ten years. One of them is Xerjoff.

Sergio Momo

It was early in my blogging efforts that I was sent a sample set. I thought the early fragrances were elegant simplicity. Owner and creative director Sergio Momo had his best success in the early collection with simple floral-focused constructs. Working with perfumer Jacques Flori for much of the collection it is only in recent years that the brand has begun using other perfumers. Throughout Sig. Momo has had a clear vision for his brand and it has not wavered for more than ten years, now. If you are looking for some suggestions about where to start here are five good entry points to Xerjoff.

When the first three fragrances were released there was Elle, Homme, and the shared XXY. The first two were a little too overstuffed and the best parts of each of Elle and Homme could get lost in the traffic.

XXY was different and for the most part provided the template for which Sig. Momo would use to build his brand going forward. XXY was at the time what I felt was a gold-plated fruity floral. M. Flori used grapefruit and peach as the fruit to contrast with powdery iris, unctuous ylang-ylang, and indolic jasmine. A lush sandalwood, patchouli, and vetiver base complete the perfume.

When the follow-up perfumes showed up a couple years later Irisss was the standout. As you can impute from the name it is an iris soliflore. Except it is a crazy good iris at the heart as M. Flori uses iris butter. This source really keeps the powder at bay while bringing forth the earthiness of the root that iris, as a raw ingredient, is isolated from. Starting with the off-kilter sweetness of carrot seed the iris comes to the foreground. This iris butter glitters like a fine jewel set off with some grace notes of violet and jasmine. This is all framed by a cedar and vetiver combination.

If there is a single ingredient many would associate with Xerjoff it is oud. There are a lot of different flavors of oud in the collection but Kobe was one of the earliest. Here M. Flori goes with the classic floral contrast to the rough-edged oud. Except instead of using the traditional rose he uses a fantastic neroli. The green facet present in high-quality neroli is a better complement to oud than the more typical rose. That is mainly what Kobe provides with some styrax and tonka to sweeten up the oud in the final stages.

I have written before how much I like Richwood. I think it is the best of the entire Xerjoff line. M. Flori takes a limited quantity of Mysore sandalwood and then uses different notes like blackcurrant buds, rose, and patchouli to illuminate and explore every facet of this precious perfume ingredient.

Oud Luban can cheekily be described as Kobe 2.0 because the same neroli and oud is at the heart. Except it is made rougher through black pepper in the top. More resinous with silvery frankincense in the base and cleaner with cedar and vetiver in the base. Perfumer Christopher Maurice has produced my favorite of the recent releases.

If you’re wondering where you should start with a luxurious brand like Xerjoff the five above provide a good idea about what Sig. Momo’s vision is all about.

Disclosure: This review is based on decants I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Robert Piguet 101- Five To Get You Started

Right now, there are heritage brands springing up seemingly every month. I don’t know if Robert Piguet was the beginning of this trend because it never went entirely away. Something somewhat worse happened. The massive tuberose fragrance Fracas created in 1948 by Germaine Cellier would be re-formulated, as ingredients became prohibited, died a slow death. Then in 2006 perfumer Aurelien Guichard became the caretaker of Fracas and the brand overall. He brought back one of the greatest perfumes ever made to something that lives up to that description. Over the next few years M. Guichard would go the same for some of the earlier Robert Piguet compositions with the same care. Plus, the brand would also begin making new fragrances also under M. Guichard’s talented nose. For this edition of Perfume 101 I want to point out five other Robert Piguet perfumes you should try besides Fracas. Because everyone who loves perfume should try Fracas.

Aurelien Guichard

After taking care of Fracas M. Guichard spent the next five years doing the same kind of restoration to six other Robert Piguet originals. Three of them show what a creative brand this had been.

Bandit was the earliest perfume created by Mme Cellier for Robert Piguet. It foreshadows some of what will show up again in Fracas but for Bandit she constructs a white flower accord but she tempers it with a rich leather accord. The leather picks up on the indoles beautifully. It subsides onto a patchouli, vetiver, and oakmoss base. The current formulation is wonderfully faithful to the original.

Visa is the under the radar fragrance of the early Robert Piguet catalog. As M. Guichard presented the reformulation to me it was a radiant proto-gourmand. From a fresh peach and pear opening into an immortelle dominated heart down to an Oriental base of sandalwood, leather, and patchouli flavored with healthy amounts of vanilla. That picks up the maple syrup sweetness of the immortelle forming a gourmand accord.

Calypso is like the lost original Robert Piguet. It was one of a handful of perfumes released after Robert Piguet’s death in 1953. Perfumer Francis Fabron would compose the original formulation which M. Guichard modernized. This is the anti- white flower Robert Piguet what it retains of the past is the green vein of stemminess which is attached from galbanum through to the leather in the base. What comes between is a powdery orris, and rose heart. If the perfumes have sounded too much, so far, Calypso is much lighter in style.

In 2011 Robert Piguet would start releasing new fragrances. These would be designed with a less overtly floral nature to appeal to perfume lovers who wanted something more mannered.

Bois Bleu is a citrusy mix which segues into a fabulous violet heart which is paired with nutmeg. Clary sage and lavender provide underpinning but this is one of the best violet hearts of any violet perfume I own. A very straightforward woody base of cedar and sandalwood finishes things.

I had admired everything M. Guichard had accomplished but when I tried Knightsbridge at Esxence in 2013 I knew this was the modern masterpiece that was worthy of bookending Fracas. It was based on the simplest of briefs; “Imagine what Harrod’s smells like at 2AM.” M. Guichard’s interpretation are three phases of fabulously realized duets. Starting with rose and nutmeg to orris and sandalwood, ending on leather and tonka. Each harmonizes in distinctly engaging ways. One of my favorite perfumes of the last five years.

If all you knew of Robert Piguet was Fracas take another look at these five; there is much more to see here.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

By Kilian 101- Five to Get You Started

There was a real inflection point for niche perfume in the years 2005-2008. There were several fully realized brands which sprang up during that time. The successful formula consisted of a consistent vision, beautiful packaging; in some cases, luxury pricing and if you could get it a personable spokesperson. One of the brands which checked off all of these boxes was By Kilian. Fronted by the scion of a famous cognac family, Kilian Hennessy, By Kilian led with a luxurious vibe. M. Hennessy also had a vision of deeper fragrant experiences which has played out throughout most of the collection. One reason for that coherence is he has worked with a small roster of perfumers and one, Calice Becker, has been a de facto in-house perfumer for the brand. Many of her best perfumes reside within the By Kilian collection. She has done such excellent work that all five of the perfumes I am recommending as starting points below are composed by Mme Becker.

Kilian Hennessy

From the initial collection of six perfumes the one which exemplifies the brand best is Love: Don’t Be Shy. One of the hallmarks of the brand is unique gourmand fragrances. Love set that in motion right from the start. Mme Becker recreated an accord of rose water infused marshmallow. Redolent of orange blossom in the heart before tailing off into a sensual caramel and musk finish.

Another hallmark is the use of oud resulting in a series of multiple oud fragrances. The second one released, Rose Oud, is the easiest to start with. Mme Becker takes the classic rose and oud pairing breathing new life into it by using an oud accord of cedar, cypriol, and saffron. By using an accord, it allows for a more approachable oud experience. Spicing it up with cardamom and cinnamon before allowing a Bulgarian rose to capture the oud accord makes this one of the most easygoing oud perfumes out there.

Calice Becker

The perfume which I think is the modern masterpiece within the collection is Back to Black. As with the oud in Rose Oud in Back to Black Mme Becker constructs an exquisite tobacco accord. In the early going you can detect the individual blocks as things like chamomile, cardamom, and coriander begin to be enveloped by other notes until like a magic trick a rich honeyed tobacco appears and stays for hours. Then over the last few hours it deconstructs on the skin leaving an amber and vanilla base as the final memory.

A return to the gourmand comes in Intoxicated. The off-beat gourmand is on display as Mme Becker takes a Tuurkish coffee accord of cinnamon, nutmeg, and spun sugar over coffee and adds in a sticky green cardamom. It makes this an exotic coffee perfume.

There is also a collection which was meant to appeal to Eastern tastes. It was more austere and simply constructed than the rest of the line. Most of the time it concentrates on a single raw material. Sacred Wood is the best of these as Mme Becker again uses a Mysore sandalwood which she surrounds with carrot, cumin, elemi, and a hot milk accord. That latter piece truly makes the sandalwood creamy in every sense of the word.

By Kilian is a brand which has broken out of the niche pack by staying true to its vision, The five fragrances above are a good introduction to that.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Le Labo 101- Five to Get You Started

Two years ago, Le Labo was acquired by Estee Lauder. The brand started in 2006 by Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi had grown into such a presence within the niche sector it wasn’t really a surprise. Le Labo made a mark in the burgeoning niche market by being unafraid to do something daring. The name of each perfume has a note and number. The digits represent the number of different ingredients. The note; well sometimes it is what you smell and other times it is just a supporting player. This is a brand which I have enjoyed from the moment I first tried them ten years ago, the distribution of Le Labo is beginning to expand a bit because of the new partnership with Lauder. Thus, I thought because they are going to become more readily available it was time to let you know which five should get you started.

Before I start the list I am not going to include the city exclusives. Le Labo has perfumes which they only sell in a particular city. The Tokyo release Gaiac 10 would have been a cinch to be on this list but because of the exclusivity I am not going to add it.

Ambrette 9 composed by perfumer Michel Almairic is sometimes called Baby Ambrette 9 because it is so pure and simple it could be used on a baby. This time the botanical musk of ambrette is front and center. It was my experience with this perfume which opened my eyes to the soft beauty of ambrette. M. Almairic uses pear and other synthetic white musks to get up to nine. When they call something baby soft this a fragrance which exemplifies it.

le-labo-iris-39

Iris 39 by perfumer Frank Voelkl is an example of where the other 38 notes create something quite different than a perfume named Iris 39 should smell like. M. Voelkl wanted to remove the powder and accentuate the rootiness. The main ingredient he uses for this is patchouli. The full-bodied patchouli provides the earth that the iris rhizome is buried in. A bit of lime brightens the early moments while a mix of civet and musk take Iris 39 deep into the topsoil. If powdery iris has always turned you off let Iris 39 provide a fresh perspective.

Santal 33 also by perfumer Frank Voelkl is one of the flagship perfumes of the brand. It was meant to evoke the rugged Marlboro Man of the cigarette ad campaign of the 1970’s. It is a primary mixture of leather and sandalwood. Ambrox and cedar pull the woody aspects. Iris, cardamom, and papyrus layer the leather. By the end, it is the Ambrox and sandalwood which remains. Santal 33 is a perfect example of what Le Labo Is all about.

Lys 41 also composed by M. Voelkl is not a lily fragrance it is a duet around jasmine and tuberose. Most of the lily character comes from the inclusion of Tiare which has the ability to twist the boisterous white flowers into a simulacrum of lily. The base accord is built around a very comforting vanilla surrounded by woods. There are other stronger florals within the line Lys 41 is the gateway to discovering them.

I finish with the other flagship scent of the brand Rose 31 by perfumer Daphne Bugey. I hesitated to include this because Rose 31 is a masterpiece of perfumery but it is not as welcoming as the other four on this list. I decided to include it because there is no Le Labo perfume which captures the brand aesthetic better. I like describing Rose 31 as an English Tea Rose who falls in with a group of bad influences which leave that rose taking a walk of shame the next morning. Mme Bugey opens with that dewy rose until cumin, oud, and vetiver invite her out for a spin. By the time she returns home she has transformed in to a Bulgarian rose trailing the spices of the night before as she stumbles in the door. Rose 31 is one of the great perfumes of this century which is why you should allow it to be one of the perfumes which opens the door to the brand.

Take these five out for a sniff when you see them on a shelf near you.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Ormonde Jayne 101- Five to Get You Started

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British perfumery has a long distinguished history. It makes England one of the great perfume-making countries in the world because of it. Like everywhere else in the world the beginning of niche perfume also had its early pioneers in the UK. One of those brands was Ormonde Jayne.

Ormonde Jayne was started in 2002 by Linda Pilkington. Ms. Pilkington left her career in the agrochemical business to start her fragrance career. As she put together the brand she also found the perfumer that she has worked with for the entirety of the Ormonde Jayne collection, Geza Schoen. Many of the Ormonde Jayne fragrances are among the best that Hr. Schoen has composed. Here are the five I would suggest you start exploring the brand with,

My introduction came from Ormonde Man. It was the overall sixth release from the brand in 2004. When I first tried it this was one of the first perfumes which really brought home to me why niche was different. This was one of the most sophisticated masculine perfumes I had ever smelled at that time. Hr. Schoen would take a spicy top of cardamom, coriander, baie rose, and juniper berry segueing into a heart of hemlock and oud before alighting on a sandalwood and musk base. To this day this is one of those perfumes which I wear for formal occasions. It always makes me feel like the kind of man I want to see myself as.

ormonde-jayne-orris-noir

The sophisticated style of the house would continue with the release of Orris Noir in 2006. Iris is used as a powdery foil to several darker notes as myrrh, patchouli, incense, and coriander swirl around it. Orris Noir is a study in contrasts beautifully played over three acts on my skin.

One of the things Ms. Pilkington has made part of her brand DNA is sourcing great versions of raw materials. Nowhere is that more evident than in the 2009 release Tiare. This is as close as Hr. Schoen is going to come to a soliflore as he allows the sparkling tiare form the central accord supported by jasmine and iris. Lime on top; sandalwood and patchouli on the bottom set the titular note out to be admired.

Ta’if was released at the same time as Ormonde Man in 2004 but it took me a few years to give it a try. Here Hr. Schoen makes a great floriental using saffron, broom, and peach as contrast to Turkish rose and orange blossom heart. The real star here is the stewed fruit sweetness of dates providing depth to the florals.

In 2014 Black Gold was a return to the style of Ormonde Man but this is a more casual version. Here Hr. Schoen starts with an herbal citrus top accord. The floral heart of carnation is one of the best I have ever encountered. The base is sandalwood and the botanical musk of ambrette. Labdanum brings this all home. Black Gold shows how much Ormonde Jayne has evolved over the past 14 years.

If you never explored Ormonde Jayne here are the five you should start with.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Heeley 101- Five to Get You Started

One of the fantastic things about observing perfume over the last few years has been the rise of the auteur independent perfumer. They are intuitive about making perfume without formal training. One of these whom I have followed since 2006 is James Heeley. Mr. Heeley came to perfume making after attaining a degree in Philosophy and Aesthetics from King’s College, London University. Both of those disciplines has led to the simple brand Heeley having the aesthetic of being free to create. That’s because Mr. Heeley’s philosophy is ever evolving when it comes to perfume. This is a perfume line that is all the more interesting because of it. Here are five to get you started exploring Heeley.

James_Heeley

James Heeley

Cardinal was the perfume which introduced me to the brand it was the fifth release in 2006 although the brand debuted in 2004. It is one of my very favorite incense perfumes because while the incense heart accord is photorealistic the top accord of aldehydes and the base accord of vetiver and patchouli provide some abstraction. If you love incense fragrances Cardinal is one you need to try.

In Cuir Pleine Fleur the opposite occurs as an abstract version of leather is seen through a floral haze. The florals of acacia flowers, rose, mimosa, hawthorn provide a blooming riot of an accord. The leather delicately intercalates itself within these boisterous blooms. Then Mr. Heeley burnishes it with glowing drizzles of honey, some cinnamon, and cedar. All before finishing on a real animalic high as castoreum makes the leather stand up and be noticed.

heeley-sel-marin

By 2008 the idea of another aquatic was about as welcome as a case of sunburn. I had become exhausted with the banality of the form. Sel Marin is a good example of how Mr. Heeley can transform the common into something worth trying. The way he achieves it is to have really well-chosen partners to the tried and true. So the sunny lemon is made green by beech leaves. The ozonic briny accord is made greener by a seaweed accord. Finally, the clean cedar and vetiver finish is roughed up by birch. If you think aquatics are boring this will change your perspective.

When it comes to patchouli many perfumes struggle with trying to elide the “head shop” vibe out of it. With the appropriately named Hippie Rose Mr. Heeley embraces it and makes it elegant. He does this by sandwiching that patchouli between moss, rose, vetiver, and incense. It could be the Summer of Love in a bottle.

Last year’s Chypre 21 is a great example on how to construct a modern chypre without the full-fledged oakmoss. Start with rosemary and lemon, then bring in a Bulgarian rose. Lay all of that on top of a nouveau chypre accord of patchouli, sandalwood, low-atranol oakmoss, white musks and dust all of it with saffron. One of the better versions of extrapolation of a venerable form to the current day.

If you have not tried the Heeley perfume line these five will give you a great idea of what Mr. Heeley’s philosophy and aesthetics of fragrance are all about.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Memo Paris 101- Five To Get You Started

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As I survey my desk filled with samples it is amusing to remember a time when that was not the case. As recently as four years ago I was using every connection I had to source a full set of samples from Memo Paris. Back then it was not a sure thing to get European-only releases. Over those four years Memo Paris has become available everywhere. I have also met the husband and wife team behind the brand. John Molloy takes care of the business side of things and Clara Molloy takes care of being the creative director for the brand. Mme Molloy has worked exclusively with one perfumer throughout the entire Memo Paris collection, Alienor Massenet. Over their collaboration they have designed a brand aesthetic while branching out into three collections within the brand. Memo Paris is one of my favorite brands there aren’t any which I have not enjoyed. If you have seen the display of the collection and wanted to know where to start here are my five suggestions.

john and clara molloy

John and Clara Molloy

The very first Memo Paris fragrance I tried was Inle. When I first reviewed Inle I described it as a tea dyed osmanthus. The creative team uses a focused tea accord, right down to a sprig of mint, to float osmanthus upon. It is framed out in clean lines of cedar and white musk. So often a perfume works to enhance the apricot leather duality of osmanthus. Inle decides to just let it be.

The perfume which made me mad for desire to acquire all of them was Shams Oud. The opening is a spicy glow of the sun setting on the desert. Ginger, saffron, and pepper form that dry desert breeze. As the oud becomes more apparent the three spices find their spot and form a fabulous oud chord. Later on it transitions through a green phase of papyrus and vetiver before letting birch and balsam provide the final notes. Shams Oud is still one of my very favorite oud perfumes.

Aliénor Massenet 2

Alienor Massenet

Manoa is the iris fragrance for the brand. Starting with ginger and citrus a powdery iris sets itself upon a foundation of opoponax, vanilla, and labdanum. Probably the most simply constructed perfume in the entire collection it still carries that Memo Paris vibe.

Quartier Latin also trends a bit simpler in architecture too. It reminds me of walking outside of a nightclub passing through a group smoking Kretek clove cigarettes straight into a wood-paneled room. Mme Massenet chooses clove leaves instead of just clove to add a bit of green which threads itself through the very dry woods of cedar and sandalwood. The desiccated quality is relieved a bit with tonka and amber. The balance in Quartier Latin shows off what a fine technician Mme Massenet is.

There have been four leather perfumes within the Cuirs Nomades collection. The one which you should try first is African Leather. This opens with a slightly different African breeze than Shams Oud. Using cardamom and cumin to go with the saffron this time it has a more primal energy to it. The leather accord in the heart feels as if it is alive and stalking you. Vetiver and patchouli provide a sunbaked earth accord for the base. This entire Cuirs Nomades have been good but African Leather is the current crown jewel.

This is a niche line which carries my highest recommendation. I think most perfume lovers will find one or more which speak to them. Try these five as a start.

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

Mark Behnke

Byredo 101- Five To Get You Started

Byredo is a brand which has a very distinctive aesthetic which has been in place from their very beginning in 2006. Founder and Creative Director Ben Gorham wanted to make understated fragrances which use top-notch raw materials. Over the past 10 years and 29 releases working with perfumer Jerome Epinette they have created a recognizable Byredo-ness for every new release. When faced with choosing five to start with it was a difficult choice. One reason is there might not be a line I’ve done Perfume 101 for which has entries which might be called Perfume 201 because they are very good but I think not good entry points. That group includes some of my favorites from the line: Pulp, M/Mink, and Black Saffron. They are impressive to me because while staying true to their desire to keep it lighter those have undeniable strength. Those are not where one should start. The five below are where I think you should begin.

ben gorham

Ben Gorham

Encens Chembur was one of the inaugural releases. M. Epinette was able to provide one of the most transparent incense-centered perfumes I own. Through a veil of lemon buttressed with elemi he combines a mannered ginger with an opaque frankincense. It all ends with a sheer amber and musk base. This is one of the few incense perfumes I wear in the summer.

Bal D’Afrique was inspired by a romanticized version of Africa as seen through Parisiennes of the 1920’s. The fragrance is also an impression as if M. Epinette watched a few National Geographic specials on Africa. A beautifully lilting neroli is contrasted with a shot of astringent marigold. Buchu leaves take up the case with the marigold turning it greener. Before this gets too strident a floral heart of jasmine, cyclamen, and violet bring things back to a floral heart. The base is vetiver and cedar classically framing this picture of Africa.

Baudelaire might be my favorite of all the perfumes M. Epinette has made. Inspired by the poet of the same name; M. Epinette compose a three stanza perfumed poem of his own. Starting with a fabulous duet of juniper berry and black pepper. The second verse is led by hyacinth caressed with incense and caraway. The final part is the beginning of a style which will reappear frequently in other Byredo releases as M. Epinette creates an arid desiccated accord of papyrus, patchouli, and amber.

Jerome-Epinette

Jerome Epinette

When I first tried Sunday Cologne the name on the bottle was “Fantastic Man”. I laughed out loud at that name feeling like I should put my hands on my hips and jut my chest out while saying it. Thankfully Byredo also realized the name was silly and in less than a year changed it. The new name describes it perfectly; a cologne for a lazy Sunday. It is a classically constructed lavender cologne tuned to the Byredo transparency. Starting with a breath of cardamom into lavender and incense followed by patchouli and vetiver.

Bullion is another Byredo which takes one of my favorite notes, osmanthus, and shows how it can be made more interesting for having it used with a lighter hand. The osmanthus is the focal point. M. Epinette uses plum in the top notes to blend with osmanthus’ apricot nature. He then doubles down on the flower’s leather character by adding in even more. It all rests on another arid sandalwood foundation.

There are some who find the lightness of the line to be an issue. I appreciate it because it allows me to wear some of my favorite notes on the hottest of days. Give the five above a try and see what you think.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke