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

Roger & Gallet 101- Five to Get You Started

What if I told you there was a perfume brand which had some of the greatest perfumers designing fragrances for them. What if I further told you that brand would also be considered a Discount Diamond as the entire line can be had for $50 or less. You would think that brand would be front and center at the local mall. Instead that brand, Roger & Gallet, can be frustratingly hard to find. It is extensively available at multiple online sellers. If you’re looking for a great value perfume purchase here are five to start with.

Roger & Gallet was founded because they were the exclusive producer for the Eau de Cologne invented by Jean Marie Farina. Now called Jean Maria Farina Extra Vieille it is perfume history in a bottle as the original eau de cologne formula of lemon, neroli and rosemary is faithfully recreated. This is as close as you get to owning the alpha perfume.

Until 1990 Jean Marie Farina Extra Vieille was the only real fragrance the brand produced. There were a couple of attempts in the !970’s and 1980’s but it wasn’t until 1990 when the fragrance arm was really expanded. In 2003 Eau de Gingembre was released by perfumer Jacques Cavallier. This is a natural follow-on to Extra Vieille as it is the cologne structure fused with the gourmand note of gingerbread. When you first smell it the neroli is very cologne-like and then the bake shop where the gingerbread is cooking comes in behind that. Ambrette seeds provide a very light botanical musk to finish it. This is one of those early gourmand experiments which works on every level.

r&g bambou

Bambou was released in 2007 by perfumer Alberto Morillas. It is also another one which builds upon the cologne ancestry of the brand. M. Morillas works a different set of ingredients as grapefruit segues into the green damp woodiness of the bamboo accord before turning more aggressively green with vetiver in the base. Bambou is a fresh woody perfume ideal for warmer days.

My favorite perfumes by perfumer Dominique Ropion are many of his more intense compositions. Which was why I was shocked to find out he was responsible for 2009’s Bois D’Orange. M. Ropion fashions a cheery voluptuous citrus fragrance. It is very reminiscent of the smell of the orange orchard as it captures the fruit the leaves and the trees. A fun perfume from a perfumer who is not necessarily thought of that way.

The most recent release is 2013’s Fleur de Figuier by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian. M. Kurkdjian wanted to also capture the entire fruit tree experience. This time it was fig. One of the reasons I enjoy this perfume so much is he uses caraway instead of bergamot with his citrus in the top notes. I have long thought caraway could be a great substitute for bergamot. In Fleur de Figuier it shows how good it can be as a replacement. This leads to a fig accord of the still-ripening fruit on the tree amidst the leaves. M. Kurkdjian in fact lets the fig leaves dominate for much of the middle part of the development enhancing the green of the unripened fig. This gives way to a creamy woody effect as cedar stands in for the trunk of the tree. I still think this is one of the best perfume bargains out there as it is some of M. Kurkdjian’s best work of the last few years at a very affordable price.

As I mentioned above these fragrances can be difficult to find but when you do these five will make the reward worth the hunt.

Disclosure: I purchased bottles of all the perfumes reviewed.

Mark Behnke

Santa Maria Novella 101- Five to Get you Started

One way I hope these Perfume 101 posts get used by the readers is when they find a line they’ve never heard of before. Hopefully they will find these articles on their smartphone and they’ll dive in. One brand which is somewhat difficult to find just anywhere is Santa Maria Novella. When you do find it you are faced with a collection which numbers almost fifty bottles staring back at you. This is one of the most underrated collections out there. There are incredibly beautiful compositions covering nearly every style of fragrance. In the end you have to start somewhere; here are the five I think are good choices.

Santa Maria Novella was founded in the 13th century by Dominican friars starting with soaps. In those days it took a few hundred years for word to spread. Eventually people started to travel to Florence for the friars’ products. At some point the evolution to producing perfume occurred. Many of the perfumes on sale today purport to be made with the same recipe and care as they were a few hundred years ago. There is a definitive classic, some might call it old-fashioned, style to the ones which are traced back to the beginning. One of the best examples of this is Iris. The Florentine Iris is to this day one of the most sought after and precious raw materials in perfumery. The friars perfected the formation of an iris concrete which is the star of Iris. It is a very straightforward presentation moving from citrus, some lighter florals before the iris comes out. This is the perfume that taught me the best iris does not just smell of powder it smells of earth, too. Hay, oakmoss, and amber provide the base accord for the iris to shine like a precious jewel upon.

Patchouli is also a formula from the friars. This was equally eye-opening to me. Whenever someone visiting speaks about patchouli smelling like a head shop this is one of the perfumes I present to them to change that thought. Patchouli like the Iris above really enhances the earthy nature of the material. It also uses a gentle application of rose and jasmine to add sophistication. Rosewood and sandalwood provide the woody base.

smn ginestra

The entire collection is full of perfumes with the name of a specific note on the bottle. All of them are well done studies. Ginestra is one which is probably unfamiliar to most. Ginestra is also known as broom. Broom in the wild has a honey-like floralcy. Ginestra captures that with a cross of hay and neroli. It forms a sweetgrass kind of accord. From the lightness Ginestra heads into the depths as oakmoss and birch form a biting base accord.

In 2006 Santa Maria Novella began working with perfumer Fabrizio Morgenni. The final two choices come from those he has added to the friars’ work.

Citta di Kyoto was the first Santa Maria Novella perfume I tried. Expecting some spare Japanese aesthetic I was faced with a lush iris and lotus. Sig. Morgenni opens with a bit of orange before allowing the iris and lotus to float serenely on a sandalwood base. This is Kyoto as seen by Florence.

Tabacco Toscano is the best of these modern releases. Sig. Morgenni opens with the animalic sweetness of refined leather which he pairs with a green tinted tobacco. This isn’t the dried narcotic leaf. This is the fresh picked version still carrying earthiness and sharp green facets as well as the nicotinic depth.

If you come across Santa Maria Novella I hope you have the chance to let these five introduce you to this brand.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Maison Francis Kurkdjian 101- Five to Get You Started

Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian is one of the elite perfumers working currently. He burst upon the perfume scene in 1995 as one of the perfumers behind Jean-Paul Gaultier Le Male. His career would only trend upwards from there. M. Kurkdjian has made a large number of perfumes I think rank among the very best. In 2009 he started his own line, Maison Francis Kurkdjian. From the initial seven releases to a collection which now numbers twenty-seven fragrances it is one which has always had my attention. I have realized over the last couple of years that it is with this brand where I will start somebody off who is dipping their toe into the niche perfume sector. The perfumes which make up the collection carry a baseline classicism which I think is why they are such appropriate entry level choices into niche. These are the five perfumes I usually take someone through when introducing them to this brand.

One of the first seven releases Aqua Universalis lives up to its tag line of a “A scent for all things”. This is the best clean musk perfume I own. M. Kurkdjian uses a selection of citrus matched to lily of the valley as his come-on. The base has a few sheer woods along with a blend of white musks that M. Kurkdjian has become known for. In Aqua Universalis it all comes together. When I am showing this brand to someone new to niche this is the bottle that most often is purchased.

The masterpiece within the Maison Francis Kurkdjian collection is Absolue pour Le Soir. That is not where someone new to the brand should start. Instead the precursor release Cologne pour Le Soir is a great introduction to themes which will be intensified in the later release. Absolue pour Le Soir is an animalic feral beast with honey. Cologne pour Le Soir is a domesticated feline with honey. From a spicy opening into a lilting incense heart down to cedar sweetened with vanilla. In the original seven this was the one which captured my attention the most.

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Francis Kurkdjian

In 2012 the oud craze had reached its heights. Every time I saw oud in a new release I inwardly said, “Please no more”. The problem was the early oud fragrances were using oud as something to represent exoticism. 2012 would see the end of that as some of the best perfumers began to use oud in constructs which showed its versatility. The simply named Oud was one of those. M. Kurkdjian has a way of tweaking something classic and making it seem contemporary. With Oud he was able to take a note which had usually been used as a wrecking ball, transforming it in to something less pulverizing. By using saffron, cedar, and patchouli along with a Laotian oud which imparts a more delicate profile; containing interesting grace notes which M. Kurkdjian teases out. Oud will make you believe the wrecking ball has become a brilliant fragile crystal ball.

Masculin Pluriel is the best example of M. Kurkdjian’s way of re-interpreting classical styles. Here he takes the fougere and makes it his own. It starts with a single source of lavender that is herbal and green as well as floral. It is so good M. Kurkdjian keeps the rest of the development simple. Cedar, patchouli, and vetiver are the usual fougere components. The fabulous leather accord also present is not. It is that which contemporizes Masculin Pluriel.

When I tried the original 2013 release Aqua Vitae I wanted it to have more heft. Two years later M. Kurkdjian granted that desire with Aqua Vitae Forte. A fabulous mixture of spices, citrus, orange blossom, sandalwood, and vetiver. It is as easy to wear as an old pair of jeans. As I have only had a year to introduce this to people when I take them through Maison Francis Kurkdjian it seems like Aqua Vitae Forte is finding as many admirers from the novice niche users as Aqua Universalis.

These five are where I think you should start but this brand has many more advanced delights once you delve deeper. It is one of the stronger collections currently on the market.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Penhaligon’s 101- Five to Get You Started

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There are very few perfume brands which span the history of modern perfumery. If asked, I am pretty sure most of you reading this could name the usual suspects. I would be surprised if more than a few of you thought of Penhaligon’s.

Penhaligon’s is one of the original perfume brands from England. Started in 1872 by barber William Penhaligon his first scent was called Hammam Bouquet to reflect the hammam which was next door. The line would last for almost 100 years until in 1976 it started creating new releases again. Sheila Pickles would begin the revitalization of Penhaligon’s overseeing the creative direction from 1976- 1999. Current creative director Nathalie Vinciguerra took over in 2008. Both of these women made sure Penhaligon’s continued to evolve throughout the years. It is an underrated brand. If you have never tried them here are the five I would suggest you begin with.

Hammam Bouquet is where Penhaligon’s began but it is the third release Blenheim Bouquet which I think is better. Wiiliam Penhaligon uses lemon and lavender in what would define that as a classic combination. The use of black pepper was way ahead of its time. It would be nearly a century before it showed up prevalently. Here it is an accent note to the woody pine and a few other spices. This is a perfume from 1902 which has no problem being relevant in 2016.

In 1999 Love Potion No. 9 for Men would provide a counterpoint to Blenheim Bouquet. Perfumer Christian Provenzano designed a spice-laden soft Oriental. It opens with rosewood and citrus underpinned with some green. The heart is where cardamom, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and rosemary form a downy soft spicy core. The base is all warm amber, sandalwood and patchouli. In an era when the masculine oriental was on trend this was, and still is, one of the best.

penhaligon's elixir

One hallmark of Ms. Vinciguerra’s creative influence was she brought some of the best perfumers working to create at Penhaligon’s the next three choices reflect that.

Elixir, released in 2008, was created by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti. It seems unlike most of what Mme Giacobetti was releasing around this time. I think it is why Elixir appeals to me so much. She works in three distinct phases. Top is a spicy mix enhanced with a pinch of eucalyptus. One of my favorite opening to any of Mme Giacobetti’s perfumes. A lilting floral intermezzo of orange blossom leads to a base of incense, sandalwood, and vanilla. One of my favorite perfumes for colder weather.

When you think of English products perfume may not be high on the list but tailoring and men’s suits surely is. Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour captures the smell of a Savile Row tailor expertly in 2010’s Sartorial. M. Duchaufour moves from accord to accord capturing the smell of the fabric, the leather of the showroom, and the steam of the iron. A fragrant still life of the tailor’s milieu.

A ballet studio might not be seen as especially English either. Perfumer Alberto Morillas in 2013’s Iris Prima uses Hedione and Paradisone to create an expansive jasmine heartbeat around which orris, leather, and sandalwood finish the fragrance. One of my favorite perfumes of the last few years.

If you’ve resisted trying Penhaligon’s because you thought it might be old fashioned let these five try to change that opinion.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Perfume 101: M. Micallef- Five to Get You Started

There are perfume brands which wear their country of origin on their sleeve. One of the brands which carries its French origins in an impeccably sophisticated style is M. Micallef. Since their first release in 2002 owners and creative directors Martine Micallef and her husband Geoffrey Nejman have worked exclusively with perfumer Jean-Claude Astier. Together over greater than 65 releases they have fashioned a particularly elegant brand which is full of amazing fragrances. If you’ve never tried the brand here are the five I would suggest you start with.

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Martine Micallef and Geoffrey Nejman

If you want an example of what I mean by a very French brand all you need to do is to try 2004’s Aoud which has been now renamed Homme. M. Astier takes the classic rose-oud combo and stuffs it with spices. Cinnamon, saffron, and clove primarily. They fill a gap between the spicy core of the rose and the resinous core of the oud. Together they sing La Marseillaise in three-part harmony. Patchouli and sandalwood provide the bass line.

The first M. Micallef perfume I ever tried was 2005’s Gaiac. After a lilting floral opening of jasmine suffused with clove it transitions into one of the best uses of gaiac wood in a fragrance. M. Astier brackets the gaiac with vetiver to bring out the greenish cedar-like quality and vanilla to enhance the underlying sweet quality. The gaiac sits perched atop those two notes precisely balanced. One of the best light woody perfumes I own.

2009’s Mon Parfum is most likely the crown jewel of the entire collection. In other brands I would hesitate to recommend what I consider to be the best because those usually carry some unique aspects not ideal for discovering something new. Mon Parfum is not that kind of masterpiece. It is the essence of being French and wearing perfume. Equal parts sophistication, glamor, and passion. M. Astier starts with a citrus top accord into a passionfruit and vanilla heart accord. The base is patchouli, musk and a bit of caramel. Mon Parfum moves confidently through its paces like a Parisienne. Just sit back and admire its haughty walk.

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Jean-Claude Astier

2012’s Ylang is another treatise on how to take a particular floral focal point and drape it in the French flag. M. Astier uses a couple of herbal notes in rosemary and sage to spice up the citrus. This leads into a heart of ylang-ylang surrounded by geranium, muguet, magnolia, and rose. The first two pick out the green parts of ylang-ylang. Magnolia the slightly woody nature. Rose provides complimentary floralcy. Amidst all of this is a tiny bit of mint to capture and allow the bit of camphoraceous quality to be noticed. This heads into a base of sandalwood, moss, musk, and vanilla. A classic soliflore.

I finish with Note Vanillee which was discontinued until the past year when it was brought back. On the shelf where the perfumes I wear instead of taking Prozac or having a drink; Note Vanillee sits right in front. It is one of my favorite comfort scents because M. Astier has composed one of the warmest vanilla perfumes I own. Opening on a citrus accord which has a bit of jasmine added in. The heart is a softly glowing honey accord which provides a burnished sweetness to compliment the vanilla to come. The vanilla arrives on a wave of sandalwood enhanced with just a bit of licorice. It is that licorice which adds yet another version of sweet as you experience the honey-vanilla-licorice triptych. This is vanilla perfume as good as it gets.

I think M. Micallef is one of the great underrated brands on the market. Give these five a try and see if you want to dive deeper.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles of all five that I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Acqua di Parma 101- Five to Get You Started

There are brands that are sold in so many places they almost begin to blend in to the background. Which makes them go unnoticed and unloved. Acqua di Parma is one of those brands. You can find it on sale seemingly everywhere. Ever since this house has returned in 1998 it has worked with some of the greatest perfumers who have produced some of their most distinctive work. If you’re ready to give them a second look here are the five I think you should start with.

Then entire Acqua di Parma brand began with a Cologne which was made in Parma in 1930. In 1998 it was the first perfume released to announce the comeback. Just five years later they would decide to make the modern version called Colonia Assoluta. They would also employ one of the most interesting duo of perfumers to compose it; Bertrand Duchaufour and Jean-Claude Ellena. The top accord feels like M. Ellena’s deft touch with a breezy sheer citrus snap underpinned with spicy facets of cardamom, allspice, and baie rose. The heart and base feel like M. Duchaufour’s habit of wringing every nuance out of deeper notes like ylang-ylang and jasmine followed up by cedar, incense, and amber. There is also a layering of white musks in the base which seems very Ellena-like to me. This might have been better if one or the other was in charge but the tension of different aesthetics makes Colonia Assoluta fascinating.

Another high powered pairing of perfumers would work on Iris Nobile. Francoise Caron and Francis Kurkdjian combined their efforts on this. This is not truly an iris perfume as it is only present in any meaningful way in the drydown. Iris Nobile is one of the best white floral chypres you can find. Mme Caron and M. Kurkdjian definitely found a meeting of the minds as it is not so easy to say this is Kurkdjian-like or that bears Mme Caron’s fingerprints. After an opening accord of anise, tangerine, and bergamot the florals assemble in the heart. Orange blossom in one of its most expansive uses reminds you it is a white flower. Ylang-ylang provides that oily unctuousness to bring even more depth. Then a brilliant choice of cumin and peach to create a fierce fruity floral. The bite comes courtesy of a perfect chypre accord. If you’re looking for the iris it shows up here hours into wearing this one. Don’t worry the rest is so good you won’t miss it.

fico di amalfi

There is a collection within Acqua di Parma called Blu Mediterraneo. The concept was for a lighter breezier set of perfumes. Heftier than colognes but not as heavy as an Eau de Parfum. The next two choices come from there.

Fico di Amalfi was composed by Michel Girard around the idea of fig trees growing on the Amalfi Coast. It captures the smells of a fruit orchard in the height of ripeness. The citrus trees scent the air with grapefruit the closest to you. The leaves and the wood of the trees is also found. Jasmine and the ripened flesh of fig make up the heart before giving way to a woody finish. An intense figgy experience.

You ever wonder what it would be like if bergamot was made the focal point of a perfume? Bergamotto di Calabria is the answer courtesy of perfumer Francois Demachy. You’ve been told bergamot is a bitter orange. M. Demachy uses enough to make you feel that edge. Citron delineates it even further. The bergamot is always on top and it is supported through the rest of the time by ginger, vetiver, and cedar. This is a simple perfume but it shows how interesting bergamot can be if allowed to stick around for a while.

Profumo is a floral chypre from the early days as, supposedly, the original formula was brought forward to the current day. I’ve smelled both vintage and current and I am sure there was someone who was responsible for the re-formulation but I can’t find who. The current version of Profumo has a more distinctly powdery chord than the original did. I think it makes it a better balanced fragrance but it is not the same. The current version opens with beautifully rich ylang-ylang. It only gets richer as orris powders over Rose de Mai and jasmine. This is a perfect example on how to balance three of the most powerful florals into an achingly beautiful accord. It ends on a very classic ambergris, patchouli, and oakmoss chypre accord. One of the greatest chypres ever.

If you’re looking for something new to try here are five which have probably been right under your nose every time you go shopping.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Caron 101- Five to Get You Started

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When it comes to the great maisons de parfum if there is one overlooked member of this category it would be Caron. I am not sure why this is the case. They have a history around one of the greatest perfumers of the early days of modern perfumery Ernest Daltroff. The body of work is as impressive as the other great perfumers which shared the timeframe. Maybe it is the urns from which these perfumes are dispensed. When you choose one of the perfumes which make up the collection it is dispensed from a Baccarat crystal urn into the bottle you have chosen. It is one of the best ways to sell perfume in my mind because you can take as little or as much as you want. For those of you who have never considered Caron here are the five I would suggest you start with.

If there is a flagship perfume in the collection it would have to be 1919’s Tabac Blond. Tabac Blond is simply one of the greatest Oriental leather perfumes ever. M. Daltroff working in post-World War I time was looking for something to appeal to the French women who were just taking up smoking. His concept was a sophisticated leather accord matched with orris and ylang-ylang in the heart landing on a classic vanilla tinged Oriental base. The tobacco is an accord of the leather along with vetiver, and linden. I almost always just notice the leather and the tobacco occasionally surprises me. Tabac Blond is one of the most sophisticated leather perfumes you can experience.

Nuit de Noel was released in 1922 for the Holidays. It isn’t particularly evocative of the scents associated with the Holidays. Instead it is a simple construct of jasmine, sandalwood, amber and the base Mousse de Saxe. It is the Mousse de Saxe which makes Nuit de Noel unforgettable. In a time where the bases perfumers devised would make or break a construct Mousse de Saxe was one of the most versatile; somewhere between chypre and leather but not quite either. It has a shimmering quality in M. Daltroff’s hands. The jasmine adds a floral oomph and the sandalwood and amber provide warmth and creamy woodiness. Nuit de Noel is a great perfume no matter whether it is the Holidays or not.

caron pour un homme

One of my favorite recommendations for a man just starting out in expanding his fragrance wardrobe is Caron Pour Un Homme. Again M. Daltroff keeps it simple using lavender as the focal point and sweetening it slightly with vanilla before amber and musk make sure to give it a manly heft. If you love lavender, no matter what gender you are, Caron Pour Un Homme is one of the best.

When Caron was resuscitated by the Ales Group it commissioned a new masculine take on lavender from perfumer Akiko Kamei. The idea was to make a contemporary lavender as an alternative to Caron Pour Un Homme. Mme Kamei offers a spicy and floral enhanced fougere in Le Troisieme Homme. The lavender is paired with geranium and then coated in clove, tarragon, and coriander. These enhance the herbal nature of the lavender while the greranium adds its green tinted floralcy. Vetiver and oakmoss form the base accord. There was a long time where I thought if I only had to own two fragrances it would have been this and Caron Pour Un Homme.

Parfum Sacre is another of the modern Caron releases. Composed by perfumer Jean-Pierre Bethouart in 1991. It is one of the more comforting floral perfumes I own. It has the ability to be a fragrant version of a Snuggie in front of a roaring fire. M. Bethouart takes a trio of spices in coriander, cinnamon, and black pepper. He then used an expansive rose for them to push against. The base notes are sweet myrrh, vanilla, and ambrette. This is where you take the spicy rose and cuddle in tight while the fire burns.

As I mentioned above Caron is a forgotten brand and it shouldn’t be. If you haven’t considered them these five will show you why you they should be on your list to try.

Disclosure: this review is based on bottles of the perfumes I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Chanel 101- Five to Get You Started

There is no single perfume which is ingrained in popular culture more than Chanel No. 5. It has come to represent luxury, style, aldehydes, heck even perfume itself. I’ve left giving Chanel the 101 treatment for so long because of that elephant in the perfumed parlor. The question I kept asking myself was would I introduce someone just beginning to explore perfume to Chanel No. 5 as the first Chanel to try. After almost two years of thinking about this I think the answer is Chanel No. 5 is best appreciated if you come to it after having tried many other perfumes. Below are the five Chanel fragrances I think are the best place to start learning about the perfumed side of Chanel.

ernest beaux

Ernest Beaux

Ernest Beaux was a genius and that is borne out because he followed up Chanel No. 5 with a string of successful fragrance one after the other. Bois des Iles was M. Beaux’s ode to sandalwood. Before you get to the sandalwood in the base you go through a phase of coriander and petitgrain followed by a floral mix of jasmine, rose, and ylang-ylang. When you get to the sandalwood it is strengthened with ambrette seed along with other musks. A judicious use of vanilla brings out the creaminess of sandalwood. If you own Bois des Iles you pretty much don’t need another sandalwood perfume in your collection.

Cuir de Russie was M. Beaux’s entry into the leather perfume category. He would create one of the most redolent leather accords using birch, styrax, and cade wood. If this was all there was to Cuir de Russie it would still be good. What makes it a classic is the opening of orange blossom which transforms into jasmine before the leather gallops through the garden. One of the earliest leather perfumes and to this day still one of the greatest.

jacques polge

Jacques Polge

In 1981 perfumer Jacques Polge would begin his time as in-house perfumer at Chanel. He would bring the perfumed side of Chanel back to life in a big way with Coco. M. Polge worked in a diametrically opposite way from M. Beaux. Coco is a perfume so filled with concepts and flourishes it is like trying to follow a Fourth of July fireworks show on your skin. M. Polge refines the concept of fruity floral by adding in peach to the lightly floral frangipani and mimosa. This top accord is what every fruity floral since has tried, and mostly failed, to achieve. M. Polge mixes clove with a beautiful Rose Otto with jasmine also present. It provides a sultry floral heart. The base is mainly patchouli but with a number of grace notes surrounding it with musk being the most prominent. Coco comes in both Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum. It is the Eau de Parfum you should seek out.

If I was going to pick one perfume to introduce someone to Chanel it would be Coco Mademoiselle. Seventeen years after the creation of Coco M. Polge collaborated with Francois Demachy with whom he co-authored many of the best Chanels during this time period. Coco Mademoiselle as the name portends is the younger fresher cousin to Coco. It is a marriage of orange followed by rose and jasmine before heading to a base which is a bit like a faux chypre. Patchouli and vetiver create a chypre-ish vibe as a cocktail of white musks keep it on the clean side. Coco Mademoiselle is the most accessible of the entire brand.

M. Polge would create a contemporary chypre with 31 Rue Cambon. When Chanel launched the Les Exclusifs M. Polge showed he could make a classical perfume with the best of them. 31 Rue Cambon is a chypre which seduces with softer lines than usual in this style of perfume. It still carries the strong green nucleus but M. Polge blurs the edgy qualities and turns it into something more meditative. It is M. Polge’s modern interpretation which makes it something amazing.

Chanel has become such an iconic perfume brand because it has never rested on its reputation generated by Chanel No. 5. For almost 100 years it has stood for some of the best perfume you can experience. The five above are good places to begin.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke