Guerlain 101- Five to Get You Started

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I’ve now reached the point in this series when it is time to take on the Grand Maisons of perfumery. First up is Guerlain. This is going to be difficult because these are iconic brands with well-known best sellers. I’ve been wrestling with my thought process on how to pick five from a perfume brand which spans nearly a century. Shalimar and Mitsouko have been the standard bearers for Guerlain ever since their debut. The more I think of those particular perfumes they aren’t where I would send someone to start. Here are the five Guerlain releases I think provide the best introduction to the line.

We start with the very first release from Guerlain, Jicky. Created in 1889 by Aime Guerlain it is one of the seminal perfumes of the modern perfume era. M. Guerlain elaborated on the embryonic fougere architecture by expanding the florals in the heart. The base also is a bit of a nod to the future as Jacques Guerlain will take this base accord and eventually evolve it into the trademark Guerlinade which is the fingerprint which runs through the brand.

It would be eighty years later when Jean-Paul Guerlain would create a crisp green perfume called Chamade. It is mainly a hyacinth, jasmine and sandalwood construct. M. Guerlain takes these very powerful notes and in the eau de toilette concentration turns them into something which crackles with floral energy without shocking the senses.

GUERLAIN-habit-rouge

Four years prior to Chamade Jean-Paul Guerlain created one of the greatest masculine fragrances of all time, Habit Rouge. It was my first exposure to a very spicy perfume which comes after a brilliantly balanced citrus mélange on top. Cedar, patchouli, amber, vanilla, and leather finish this as fantastically as it started. This is one of those perfumes which never fails to make me feel dressed up even in jeans and a t-shirt.

Just after the turn of the 21st century perfumers who did not carry the surname of Guerlain were asked to create for the brand. In 2006 perfumer Annick Menardo composed one of the most transparent incense perfumes on the market, Bois D’Armenie. Based on Papier D’Armenie which is scented paper burned to add fragrance to a room. Bois D’Armenie sets its incense atop guaiac wood, benzoin, copahu balm. This is so light but at the same time so complex. It is the perfume I use to get people who have a resistance to the brand, because their mother wore one of the perfumes, to give it a try. Like the Mad Hatter this turns many into believers.

If Bois D’Armenie doesn’t pique an interest in Guerlain I pull out my secret weapon, Spiriteuse Double Vanille. Composed by Jean-Paul Guerlain it is a rich boozy vanilla which is like a warm drink on a cold night. It is my ultimate comfort scent. Way too many of my scarves still carry the smell of Spiriteuse Double Vanille.

Guerlain is a Grand Maison and even these five could be followed up by another five or ten or fifteen. The point of this series is to give you a foothold to start your exploration. If you start with these five I promise you will start one of the great perfume experiences there is to be had as you explore Guerlain deeper.

Disclosure: This review based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Atelier Cologne 101- Five To Get You Started

There are certain brands which I feel are “mine”. What I mean by that is once I started writing about perfume more seriously, and regularly, there were some brands that were starting out at the same time. I and those brands have grown-up together so they are “mine”. Most of those won’t be ready for the 101 treatment for a few years; Atelier Cologne is.

sylvie christophe

Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel

Atelier Cologne started in 2010 with five releases. Creative director/ co-owner Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and co-owner Christophe Cervasel have created a brand which has flourished in the last five plus years. The concept was simple to up the perfume oil concentration in a cologne architecture to create long-lasting colognes which they call cologne absolues. They have worked exclusively with two perfumers Jerome Epinette and Ralf Schwieger. As I constantly mention, that kind of consistent creative relationship can be very good for a brand. It creates a signature which a buyer can come to rely upon. There are few brands who have defined themselves better than Atelier Cologne. I think they are one of the best current examples of how to start and grow your perfume brand. With the release of Musc Imperial they have released 25 perfumes in just under six years. If you need a place to get started here are the five that should be top of the list.

When I met Mme Ganter-Cervasel for the first time she stuck a strip of Orange Sanguine by Hr. Schwieger under my nose. It was probably the moment the mix of orange and blood orange hit me that this line imprinted itself on my consciousness. If you want a citrus perfume which lasts all-day this is the one as it moves through a floral intermezzo of geranium before ending on sandalwood. All kept at a perfect pitch throughout.

It would be a year later with Vanille Insensee by Hr. Schwieger where Atelier Cologne would show even the deeper notes in perfumery could be given the cologne absolue treatment. Hr. Schwieger creates a fantastic transparent vanilla which opens with lime and coriander to jasmine and vetiver down to oak and vanilla. A strong green thread runs throughout and by the time the sweet of the vanilla shows up in the base it seems like it should always have been the basis for a cologne.

atelier rose anonyme

Rose Anonyme by M. Epinette might be the best single fragrance in the entire line. He uses one of the best rose raw materials I have experienced as the centerpiece. Ginger on top provides the intro to the rose and an earthy accord of patchouli, bezoin, and papyrus give you the sense of the plant growing in the soil. In a field as crowded as rose perfumes this one is in the very upper tiers of that category.

M. Epinette would again display another set of fantastic floral raw materials in Silver Iris. A Florentine orris and mimosa from Grasse form the crisp floral heart. A “kir royale” accord comes before getting to that. This provides the chill snap of fizzy fruity champagne. The florals provide a pillowy contrast to that. It all ends with patchouli and tonka singing a sweet lullaby.

I really love fig perfumes but there hasn’t been a good one in the last few years until earlier this year Figuier Ardent by Hr. Schwieger was released. This all starts with a green fig swathed in cardamom, anise, and pepper. Like a time-lapse photo the fig ripens on my skin into a lush rich creamy experience surrounded by orris, tonka, and cedar. This is the best fig perfume of the last five years.

A final note on this brand. I am often asked for “office-friendly” suggestions. Atelier Cologne is right at the top of my list for those recommendations. Because these are cologne constructs they don’t overwhelm in any way. The higher perfume oil concentration just makes them last all-day and then some. I think if you haven’t introduced yourself to “my” line the five above are a good place to start.

Disclosure: This review based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

The Different Company 101- Five To Get You Started

The primary goal of this series is to allow someone new to the fragrance world a starting place with many of the extensive lines out there. A secondary goal is to give some attention to great fragrance collections which might not be as well known, but should be. This month I am going to introduce some of you to The Different Company.

The Different Company was founded in 2000 by Thierry de Baschmakoff and Jean-Claude Ellena. In 2003 M. de Baschmakoff would work with perfumer Celine Ellena for the next year before giving way to current creative director and CEO of the brand, Luc Gabriel in 2004. Mme Ellena would continue the collaboration until 2010.  Since 2011, M. Gabriel has brought in Emilie Coppermann for the cologne collection and Bertrand Duchaufour has contributed to the Collection Excessive. These consistent partnerships between creative director and perfumer has led to a house style which has been in place from the very first perfume released. Here are the five I would suggest to get you started.

Bois D’Iris composed by Jean-Claude Ellena was one of the first releases of The Different Company. The name promises Iris Woods and that is exactly what M. Ellena delivers as orris is surrounded by cedar. With M. Ellena it is always the grace notes which make his perfumes memorable and for Bois D’Iris it is the narcissus, vetiver, and musk which make this one of the best florals ever made by M. Ellena.

TDC_90ml_Sel de Vétiver

Sel de Vetiver composed by Celine Ellena is one of my favorite vetiver perfumes. It might be the perfume I have written the most about over the ten years I’ve been writing about fragrance. The reason for that is Mme Ellena creates an accord of drying salt water on sun-warmed skin which is combined with three different vetiver sources. I have used this perfume as the introduction to vetiver for so many.Those who like it, like me, will never be without it.

De Bachmakov composed by Celine Ellena is a transparent fragrance of winter vistas. It was inspired by the tundra of M. de Baschmakoff’s Russian heritage. Mme Ellena captures the bite of winter air by using the sharply green shiso. Coriander, nutmeg, and cedar come together to form a frozen earth accord. This is one of the best examples of minimalist perfume composition that I own.

Aurore Nomade composed by Bertrand Duchaufour marked a different aesthetic at play. M. Duchaufour in contrast to Mme Ellena is not a minimalist. It could be said he is a maximalist very often as his perfumes can seem overstuffed. Aurore Nomade is one of those perfumes overflowing with ideas. To M. Duchaufour’s credit it holds together to form an accurate evocation of the Spice Islands. With spices like cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg along with a bit of tropical fruit cocktail all with a shot of rum swirling around; M. Duchaufour uses every bit of the potential of ylang-ylang as the central note in Aurore Nomade. It is over the top in a very good way.

Une Nuit Magnetique composed by Christine Nagel is a perfume of magnetic attraction and repulsion. Mme Nagel creates a fragrance which comes together only to be forced apart. In the top ginger and bergamot have their harmony disrupted by blueberry.  In the heart she uses prune to break up a collection of floral extroverts. The way that Une Nuit Magnetique is in constant flux on my skin has always magnetically drawn me in.

If you’re new to the brand these five will give you a good introduction to The Different Company.

Disclosure: this review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

L’Artisan Parfumeur 101- Five to Get You Started

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At this point niche perfume has become a fact of life. The discussion has even moved along to whether niche has any meaning anymore. In 1978 the phrase niche perfume didn’t exist. It took the creation of the brand called L’Artisan Parfumeur by perfumer and creative director Jean Laporte to require a way to describe this collection of perfumes that were different. On that day in 1978 when M. Laporte released the initial seven perfumes, perfumery changed. L’Artisan Parfumeur has continued to thrive for the last 37 years. One of the reasons is two of our greatest perfumers, Olivia Giacobetti and Bertrand Duchaufour, produced some of their earliest and best work for the brand. One thing to admire about the brand is it covers the entire spectrum of the fragrance spectrum. There are over 50 fragrances to choose from. To help you here are the five I would start with.

Only three of the original seven releases are still available. Mure et Musc co-signed by Henri Sorsana and Jean Laporte feels as contemporary as it did back in 1978. The herbal citrus open which moves into one of the best fruity floral accords I’ve ever smelled as the perfumers combine jasmine and blackberry. This all rests on a bed of white musk supported by patchouli. Every time I wear this I think to myself this is where niche began.

Olivia Giacobetti would be the perfumer behind most of the releases between1994-2000. Her first release Premier Figuier is what most cite. I actually think her most accessible work for the brand came as she returned in 2001 with Tea for Two. It has Mme Giacobetti’s trademark transparency but the wonderful smoked tea heart makes this a classic. It opens almost boringly with neroli but it quickly heads to the tea room. In the heart smoky tea leaves are crushed with cinnamon, anise, and ginger. This is my favorite tea accord I wear. A honey and vanilla base finishes this version of olfactory tea service. Tea for Two was discontinued for a time but it was brought back in 2014.

Fou-dabsinthe

The other perfume by Mme Giacobetti is 2006’s Fou D’Absinthe. In this perfume she works with a little less opacity. Fou D’Absinthe might be one of her more strongly constructed fragrances. She chooses to take redolent wormwood and make it even greener with blackcurrant buds. The heart is a swirl of spices on top of the absinthe accord. It finishes with a resinous pine accord. When people tell me Mme Giacobetti makes her perfumes too light this is where I send them.

As Mme Giacobetti left Bertrand Duchaufour would take up the reins and be primarily responsible for the next ten years 2000-2010. M. Duchaufour’s collection within L’Artisan is impressive and at the time of this writing my favorite, Vanille Absolument, is discontinued. What is left to bring you into the L’Artisan fold is what might be perhaps M. Duchaufour’s greatest perfume, Timbuktu. M. Duchaufour wanted to capture the smells of the African bazaars. During 2004 he had become a master at working with incense. For Timbuktu he used a smoky incense as his nucleus to build the bazaar milieu around. He would add cardamom and mango to represent the spices and fruit for sale. Patchouli, vetiver, and benzoin provide the sultry warmth of the desert.

My final choice, Caligna signed by Dora Arnaud, shows M. Laporte’s vision is still as vital today as it was in the beginning. Caligna is a completely unique mix of fig, jasmine, and olive wood. Mme Arnaud turns her fig herbal by matching it with sage. This makes the fig greener and less ripe. The heart is dominated by a “jasmine marmalade” accord. This takes jasmine and suffuses it with more sweetness without sacrificing the indolic core. In the base she uses a uniquely sourced olive wood to provide an unusual woody finish.

If you love perfume and particularly the current crop of independent niche perfume brands you owe it to yourself to become familiar with L’Artisan Parfumeur. So much of what I think are the core principles of what niche perfume means to me came from this brand. Try the five suggestions above and find out why I believe this.

Disclosure: this review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Christian Dior La Collection Privee 101- Five to Get You Started

Christian Dior was late to the trend of creating an exclusive niche line of fragrances apart from their mainstream offerings. They really didn’t jump into it wholeheartedly until 2010. Prior to that there was a collection of three fragrances only available at Dior Homme boutiques. In 2010 Francois Demachy took two of those perfumes and added seven new perfumes he composed to create the La Collection Privee. In just five years the collection has grown to 20 perfumes. This is one of the great underpublicized collections in all of perfumery. If you haven’t tried any of them here are five to get you started.

Bois D’Argent by perfumer Annick Menardo is probably my favorite honey perfume of all time. After smelling this I made a special trip to Las Vegas to buy a bottle. Mme Menardo keeps a light tone throughout as she starts with a transparent incense into a fabulous heart of orris, honey, and myrrh. It all ends with a soft leather and patchouli base. The whole composition is so opaque it defies the weight of the components.

Eau Noire by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian is one of the more fascinating studies of immortelle on the market. M. Kurkdjian uses it as the spine of Eau Noire. Clary sage on top turns it herbal and incense-like. Lavender enhances the floralcy of it in the heart. In the base vanilla brings out the inherent maple syrup sweetness. Immortelle can be a hard note to love but Eau Noire makes sure you experience everything immortelle can bring to a perfume.

cd mitzah

Mitzah by perfumer Francois Demachy is a fabulous resinous rose Oriental. M. Demachy uses a spice swathed rose as foil to a very concentrated frankincense. A bit of vanilla and patchouli add some nuance but this is the rose and incense show all the way.

New Look 1947 also by M. Demachy takes an expertly balanced heart of three of the heaviest floral notes and makes something powerfully heady. Jasmine, Turkish rose, and tuberose form a heart that one can get lost inside of. A pinch of baie rose on top and some benzoin and vanilla in the base provide some contrast.

Oud Ispahan also by M. Demachy takes the classic rose and oud combination and gives it a Dior spin. This is a Western version of that classic Eastern staple. M. Demachy keeps it simple. Allowing the rose and oud to carry on throughout the development. They are pitched at a much lighter level than most of the other ouds on the market and it allows for the labdanum, patchouli, and sandalwood to provide some texture to the power duo.

As I mentioned this is not the easiest of collections to find. If you do find it the five choices above are great places to start.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Diptyque 101- Five to Get You Started

It wasn’t my first niche fragrance but it was the first perfume which burrowed deep into my consciousness and wouldn’t let go. Around the year 2000 I would have a sales associate spray a patch of skin with Diptyque Philosykos. This lead to many many visits to the Diptyque boutique as I slowly explored this exemplary line of perfumes. Over the forty-plus years Diptyque has been making fragrance they have produced one of the best collections available as well as working with some of the best perfumers available. Diptyque has stood for quality within the niche sector for as long as it has existed. If you haven’t tried the line here are five to get you started.

Philosykos by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti is a brilliantly transparent fig perfume. It is one of the greatest perfumes created in the last twenty-five years. Mme Giacobetti captures every part of a fig tree from the leaves to the wood finally landing on the fruit itself. It made me love fig-based perfumes and simultaneously set a ridiculously high bar for every one which has come after.

What Mme Giacobetti did for fig; perfumers Daniel Moliere and Fabrice Pellegrin do for sandalwood in Tam Dao. Tam Dao is an exploration of sandalwood in three acts as you move from top through the heart to the base. At each part of the development there is something which draws your focus to a different perspective. It has the same kind of sheer quality as Philosykos which makes it a versatile fragrance for all occasions.

diptyque leau de tarocco

I have hundreds of citrus perfumes in the vault but there are only a few which have truly risen above the mob. One of them is L’Eau de Tarocco by perfumer Olivier Pescheux. The opening is one of the juiciest citrus accords in my collection. M. Pescheux transforms it from sweet sun into smoldering spicy rose as saffron and cinnamon add to the rose. This ends on a fantastic musk and frankincense base. One of the few citrus perfumes which can be worn in the cold as well as the warmth.

Vanilla is just so vanilla it is difficult to make it interesting. Perfume Fabrice Pellegrin manages to do that with Eau Duelle. By using two sources of vanilla a light and a dark one. He creates Tao-like duality which M. Pellegrin cleverly uses throughout the entire composition as spices like cardamom and saffron find space next to tea and cypress wood. A fantastically complex vanilla perfume.

Fabrice Pellegrin was also responsible for Volutes. The more I wear Volutes the more I realize I underestimated how good this was in my early testing and wearing. Given the perspective of time I realize M. Pellegrin has created one of the best tobacco scents I own. Immortelle and Orris provide the opening through which the narcotic richness of the tobacco swirls through. Myrrh and styrax provide a base of resinous depth.

The entire DIptyque line is worthy of exploration especially because besides these five there are some advanced style of perfumes which will surprise and delight any perfume lover. Before you get to those start with these five they will introduce you to one of the original niche perfume brands.

Disclosure: Reviews based on bottles of each fragrance I purchased.

Mark Behnke

DSH Perfumes 101- Five to Get You Started

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One of the great things about the early days of perfume blogging was that they were introducing small lines to their readers. It was 2006 when I was doing my daily read of Now Smell This when Robin introduced me to perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and her brand DSH Perfumes. Reading that review of Cimabue I ordered a whole lot of samples. Ms. Hurwitz is one of those people in perfumery who has me looking forward to whatever she is doing next. If you have never tried any of her perfumes here are five suggestions on where to start.

Cimabue– Based on that review this was the first perfume by Ms. Hurwitz I tried. I am pretty sure I had never tried a full-on saffron in a fragrance at the point I tried Cimabue. Ms. Hurwitz not only introduced me to the note she set it atop a pyramid of spices on a foundation of vanilla and sandalwood. When I look to perfume to act as a comforting safety blanket Cimabue is one of the few which fits that bill for me.

Viridian– Ms. Hurwitz has had a longtime association with the Denver Art Museum. Many of her most interesting fragrances are the result of that collaboration. The first of these projects happened in November of 2007 and was called the CHROMA Collection. Of the ten perfumes she made for this Viridian is the most vibrant. Ms. Hurwitz wanted a deep green and she seemingly employs every green shade on the perfumer’s organ. The mix turns into a trip down the pine tree lined road to the Emerald City on a galbanum bricked road.

Sienna– I love cinnamon in perfume but there are only a few which do it well. Also part of the CHROMA Collection Ms. Hurwitz places the cinnamon on top of one of my favorite accords she has ever created, a steamed basmati rice. This feels like opening a rice steamer and having cinnamon rise up to you in a humid cloud. It settles on to a honeyed wood base note but it is that steamy spicy opening which makes Sienna unforgettable.

DSH

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Bancha– My favorite of everything Ms. Hurwitz has ever done. I remember thinking this would be her take on green tea fragrances which were all the rage in 2010 when this was released. Bancha is instead one of my cherished spring stalwarts. From a citrus opening phase to a brilliantly chosen basil at the heart which marries the floral and coniferous notes through to a spirit centering sandalwood base Bancha is perfection.

Mata Hari– Ms. Hurwitz has been a ready participant in the numerous projects which have proliferated over the years. In 2010 there was a project via The Natural Perfumers Guild called Outlaw Perfume. The concept was to use the list of IFRA banned ingredients to create “outlaw” fragrances. By the very nature of the project Ms. Hurwitz took the opportunity to make a perfume the way they used to make them. Ms. Hurwitz designs an animalic chypre that oozes sensuality and intrigue. An intensely floral heart gives way to a carnal base of musk, civet, and leather. Ms. Hurwitz has spent years studying the great perfumes of the past. Mata Hari shows what a good student she was.

Along with Andy Tauer it is Ms. Hurwitz who is responsible for my love of independent perfumery. They were the figurative mother and father who introduced me to this world of fragrance that existed away from the store counter. Ms. Hurwitz is one of the true treasures of the independent perfume community and these five are a great place to start your own discovery.

Disclosure: This review based on bottles which I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Hermes 101- Five to Get You Started

If you say Hermes to most people they will respond with Birkin Bag or Scarves. While the leather and silk are what Hermes is more famous for; among perfume lovers it also produces some great fragrances. Since 2003 Hermes perfumes have become almost synonymous with in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena. M. Ellena has produced an impressive body of work but there were some other Hermes perfumes worth remembering from before his tenure. If you’re looking to dive into the brand here are five I think would be good starting points.

My introduction to Hermes came in a shower at a luxury resort in the mid 1980’s. There was this striking colored miniature blue bottle with my toiletries which had this incredible smell of oranges. After asking I found out it was Eau D’Orange Verte. Perfumer Francoise Caron makes a perfume which lives up to its name with a fabulous orange and for the verte, lily of the valley and oakmoss. I still wear this a lot every summer because it is so good.

In 2004 perfumers Nathalie Feisthauer and Ralf Schwieger would collaborate on a more briny take on citrus with Eau des Merveilles. Opening on a blast of orange and lemon which lead to an ambergris accord. It all settles on a balsamic vetiver base.

un jardin sur le nil

One of the great collections within the Hermes brand is the Un Jardin Collection composed by M. Ellena. Of the five in the collection my favorite is Un Jardin Sur Le Nil. This is M. Ellena at his most evocative as he captures a night spent next to the Nile. The top notes of grapefruit, tomato leaf, and carrot are still one of the most unique accords I’ve encountered. Together they form a vegetal green accord with a hint of sulfur. The heart is the smell of the river from lotus and calamus paired with the lush fruitiness of mango. The base is the best part as M. Ellena captures the smooth river stones as incense skirls across the wet surfaces. Every time I wear this I feel transported.

In 2006 M. Ellena created one of the great masculine perfumes of the 21st century in Terre D’Hermes. He placed a tart citrus top into a woody heart to end on another brilliantly constructed mineral accord. The grapefruit is rich and tart. The woodiness comes through a high percentage of aromachemical Iso E Super. This all ends on a parched earth accord. Terre D’Hermes was an instant classic from the very moment it debuted.

The other great collection within Hermes is M. Ellena’s Hermessences. These have often been described as M. Ellena’s olfactory haiku. He manages to create perfume with impact using a much abbreviated set of raw materials. That simplicity makes every one of the collection worth experiencing but the place to start is with 2011’s Santal Massoia. For this entry M. Ellena takes a candied coconut on top which segues into a creamy heart before getting to a transparent woody base of sandalwood and massoia wood.

Hermes is one of the best of the designer houses when it comes to perfumes and has shown their commitment to quality over the years. There is plenty to enjoy after trying the five above.

Disclosure: This review based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Comme des Garcons 101-Five to Get You Started

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When you ask the question about where niche perfume started there are historical time-based answers. If you ask me when niche started I would answer it began in 1994 with the release of Comme des Garcons. For the last twenty-one years Comme des Garcons has continued to be the trendsetter within the niche perfume sector. A very large reason for this is the same Creative Director, Christian Astuguevieille, has over seen every fragrance with Comme des Garcons as part of its name. Part of what makes his approach so successful is he also seeks out interesting co-collaborators to add fresh new vision leading to unique perfumes. If you think about many of the long-standing trends in the independent/niche perfume area Comme des Garcons and M. Astuguevieille were there first. It is why every new release is anticipated for the possibility that the beginning of what is next has arrived. It is a huge line of nearly 100 releases. Here are five which will give you an idea of what this brand is all about.

Perfumer Mark Buxton did the original Comme des Garcons in 1994. Five years later he would compose Comme des Garcons 2, which I believe to be one of the greatest perfumes of the last 50 years. Mr. Buxton took the set of aldehydes deemed unpleasant. By placing those in a matrix of equally quirky notes he created a perfume equivalent of “Revenge of the Nerds”. The ear wax smelling aldehydes, cumin, coriander, mate, and angelica. These unloved notes came together in an accord of intense beauty. A swirl of spices as cinnamon, nutmeg, and bay leaf transition to a base of dark notes meant to convey a feeling of inkiness. In 2015 this seems like a normal set of notes. In 1999 it was an act of bravado by Messrs. Astuguevieille and Buxton. If I am right about niche starting in 1994 with Comme des Garcons it was Comme des Garcons 2 which displayed its potential to be something amazing.

Throughout the Naughts Comme des Garcons released series exploring themes and by 2007 they wanted to do an exploration of “luxe”. Luxe: Patchouli by perfumer Antoine Maisondieu is the best of this. M. Maisondieu chooses to explore every facet of patchouli. Early on a collection of vegetal notes, fenugreek and parsley, enhance the herbal nature. Oak and opoponax the slightly resinous facet. Finally a base of sandalwood and vetiver take it into the deep woods of high quality patchouli. I dare anyone to say this reminds them of Woodstock ’69.

Christian-Astuguevieille 

Christian Astuguevieille

Over the last few years M. Astuguevieille has reached out to all manner of collaborators to create perfume co-productions. Early in 2008 he collaborated with Monocle publisher Tyler Brule to oversee Commes des Garcons X Monocle Scent One: Hinoki. Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu created the perfect Japanese aesthetic of a meditative perfume. Hinoki is really a study of woods of all kinds. From freshly cut pines releasing a camphor-like scent into the air. Clean hinoki wood provides a lilting heart before a sturdy base of vetiver and incense. All of this is kept transparent and incredibly engaging for being so light. I liked it fine when I first tried it but it has risen greatly in my estimation over the years and is another huge artistic success for the brand.

As much as I like Hinoki later in the same year Commes des Garcons X Stephen Jones by Antoine Maisondieu, yet again, would be even better. The press materials described it as “a violet hit by a meteorite”. That kind of description is made for eye rolling and derision. Instead M. Maisondieu not only realizes it but he makes one of the best modern violet perfumes ever. This is a perfume of accords. A hot mineral accord to evoke the meteorite. The smell of burning plastic and wood to evoke the house it has crashed into; and a ridiculous abstract violet accord at the heart for all of this to cling to.

M. Astuguevieille wanted to make a perfume which captured the British fashion icon Daphne Guinness. Ms. Guinness was a friend of the late Alexander McQueen. M. Astuguevieille would ask perfumer Antoine Lie to capture this bigger-than-life personality as a perfume called Daphne. This was the beginning of the Retro Nouveau trend and Daphne is right there at the leading edge of it. M. Lie mixes bitter orange and incense into a heart of rich orris and tuberose. The base uses oud, patchouli and vanilla. When I first tried Daphne it felt like a perfume from 70 years ago but it also smelled like a perfume from today too. This is what Retro Nouveau means.

An exploration of the Comme des Garcons perfumes is almost a perfume education all by itself. I think it is almost required reading if you love perfume. The five above are a great place to start.

Disclosure: I purchased bottles of all the perfumes mentioned.

Mark Behnke

Perfume 101: Tauer Perfumes

I always admire the pioneers. The ones who do something different that a few years later becomes the norm. Swiss perfumer Andy Tauer is one of those rare individuals. He started his independent Tauer Perfumes label in 2005. With no resources for advertising Hr. Tauer turned to the internet and started reaching out to the nascent perfume blogosphere. He started a blog, which continues to this day, and started letting us in in what it took for him to create a perfume. For ten years he has continued to be one of the most successful independent perfumers in the world. His line of perfumes has grown to 20 which makes it a perfect candidate for Perfume 101. If you’ve never tried any Tauer Perfumes here are five suggestions on where to start.

Andy-Tauer

Andy Tauer

L’Air du Desert Marocain– This might be the most famous independent perfume ever. It received a 5-Star rating in Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez’s “Perfume: The Guide” in 2008 and the secret was out. I D’Epicediscovered it in mid-2006 and it was like Alice going through the looking glass. The perfume is a beautiful jasmine tinted breath of desert air. It is ethereal and strong in equal parts. From this single perfume I discovered Hr. Tauer’s blog, the world of independent perfumes, and how much I wanted something more than what the mainstream perfume brands were offering. Ten years on and all of these things still thrill me.

Incense Rose– In 2008 Hr. Tauer released two incense based perfumes. I preferred Incense Rose over Incense Extreme precisely because of the rose in the name. In both he uses a sumptuous frankincense but it is Incense Rose which uses the rose as a more endearing partner.

andy tauer rose

Une Rose Chypree– Hr. Tauer has explored rose extensively throughout his career and there are more perfumes within the collection which feature that note than any other. Une Rose Chypree is a good place to start the rose portion of the Tauer Perfumes experience because it is the most approachable of all of them as it is what it is advertised as a rich chypre featuring rose. If this becomes one of your favorites you will have a wonderful time trying the other takes on rose by Hr. Tauer.

Eau D’Epices– Another recurring theme of Hr. Tauer’s is that of orange blossom and/or orange married with spice. In Eau D’Epices the usually demure orange blossom is taken for a ride by orris and jasmine. By the time she gets home she’s learned a few spicy new tricks as she reeks of cinnamon, clove and cardamom. Eau D’Epices is my second favorite of Hr. Tauer’s perfumes.

Cologne du Maghreb– Born of a discussion on his blog which asked out loud if he could create an all-natural all-botanical cologne. He did but at first it was a tiny batch that only a few got to try. In 2014 he made a larger amount and released it to the public. This perfume is a testament to the imagination and creativity of Hr. Tauer. It also shows that almost ten years on he still has the same drive he started with.

Hr. Tauer is one of the great people in all of perfumery. I only met him in person for the first time this past September at Pitti Fragranze. He is everything in person I have been corresponding with for ten years. Give the five perfumes above a try they are some of the best that independent perfumery has to offer.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke