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

Jo Malone 101-Five to Get You Started

You have probably walked by the display of bottles in your local department store. Dozens of clear bottles with a black and white label on them with the name of Jo Malone. There is a simple elegance in the display but you look at all those bottles and wonder where to start. This edition of Perfume 101 will give you some suggestions on just how to do that with one of the best bang for the buck brands in the department store.

Lime Basil & Mandarin– This wasn’t the first Jo Malone fragrance, that was 1990’s Nutmeg & Ginger. It was the second one and it has become the flagship fragrance in the line. Back in 1991 the idea of taking strongly herbal notes like basil and thyme while matching them with citrus on top over a woody base was not as common as it is 23 years later. Perfumer Lucien Piguet would take the citrus cornucopia centered on mandarin and juxtapose it with a heart of sage and basil along with iris. It all ends with a lilting amber, patchouli and vetiver base. There is a reason this perfume has lasted so long it really is a new classic.

Amber & Lavender– In 1995 very few people knew who Bertrand Duchaufour was. Jo Malone tapped him to make Amber & Lavender. It was his first signed fragrance. These kind of time capsules in perfume form are interesting. Amber & Lavender shows M. Duchaufour’s desire to use contrasting notes to form texture and depth was there right from the start.  He sort of condensed the core of Lime Basil & Mandarin into the top notes of Amber & Lavender as petitgrain along with basil and rosemary give the herbal and citrus tension. The heart takes a Provencal lavender and allows it to be a little more herbal in character. This opens space for spices like cinnamon and nutmeg the opportunity to flow in around the floral nature. The base is vetiver, oakmoss, amber, and musk which provide a dark green finish. This was where M. Duchaufour started and you can see, in hindsight, some of his favorite techniques in play already.

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Dark Amber & Ginger Lily– By 2008 Jo Malone had created an impression that they were all about making lighter brighter fragrances. Dark Amber & Ginger Lily would shatter that impression as perfumer Andrea Lupo would compose a gorgeous woody gem. Dark Amber & Ginger Lily opens with ginger and in 2008 there were so many poor uses of ginger in perfumes. Here it was used as a foundation for cardamom and pink pepper. The lily comes in the heart and it carries a watery quality. The floral character is enhanced with a bit of jasmine and rose. This all leads to an as advertised dark amber made even darker with leather, patchouli, and sandalwood added in. I remember getting this sample back then and I just couldn’t believe it was Jo Malone. This would start a trend of having some deeper compositions every year.

Vanilla & Anise– I am a sucker for vanilla and licorice and 2009’s Vanilla & Anise gave me both. What perfumers Celine Barel, Clement Gavarry, and Pascal Gaurin created was a perfume featuring both vanilla and licorice but the most transparent perfume featuring these notes I own without sacrificing one iota of depth. Fennel and star anise provide the lighter licorice quality in the top notes. A floral intermezzo of vanilla orchid and frangiapani usher this in to a rich musky vanilla base with a grace note of clove to add an exotic fillip to keep it from being too vanilla.

Sakura Cherry Blossom– I live near Washington DC and when the cherry blossoms herald the coming of spring I revel in the delicate scent as I walk along the Tidal Basin in the snow of petals falling around me. In 2011 perfumer Christine Nagel made one of the only perfumes I think captures the inherent fragility of the cherry blossom. By opening with a bergamot and cardamom zephyr into an even more opaque cherry blossom accord. It all ends on an equally transparent base of rosewood and musk. It is one of my very favorite perfumes by Mme Nagel.

I hope this guide gives you a reason to stop by the Jo Malone counter next time you walk by it.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Amouage 101- Five to Get You Started

Amouage is an ultra-luxe perfume brand which was founded in 1983, in Oman, to create modern perfumes in the Omani tradition. The original two perfumes created for the brand by perfumer Guy Robert, Gold Man and Gold Woman, would set the brand DNA for the next thirty years. Amouage really transformed itself in 2006 when it hired Christopher Chong as creative director. Mr. Chong has made Amouage into one of the most consistently artistic of any perfume house you can name. The fact that Amouage doesn’t make perfume for the lowest common denominator is something to be commended. I often refer to many Amouage releases as graduate level perfumery. Even though I believe Amouage puts out some of the most spectacularly intricate fragrances it doesn’t mean there aren’t some good introductory courses in Amouage perfume before taking on the more advanced offerings. Here are the five I would suggest starting with.

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Christopher Chong

Jubilation XXV by Bertrand Duchaufour was one of Mr. Chong’s first releases in 2007. It is in my estimation one of the finest incense perfumes ever made. M. Duchaufour takes everything he had learned about making incense perfumes and creates a modern masterpiece. Jubilation XXV caresses you with a swirl of resinous smoke that comforts.

Reflection Woman by Maurice Roucel is fresh the Amouage way. Most fruity florals which can also be described as fresh are light. Reflection Woman is not light but it also not as powerful as most of the other Amouage perfumes. M. Roucel takes an aquatic green accord and mixes it with violet and watermelon. The notes complement each other quite nicely.

Memoir Man by Karine Vinchon-Spehner was the pine fragrance I had been waiting for. Mme Vinchon-Spehner starts with an absinthe top surrounded by herbal notes. A fabulous camphor laden heart carries into a mix of vetiver, oakmoss, and sandalwood. This is all kept surprisingly light like walking through the woods on a winter’s day.

Opus V by Jacques Cavallier is part of the Amouage Library Collection it replaces rose with orris as the partner of oud. It works so seamlessly you wonder why it isn’t used more. M. Cavallier also uses a very boozy rum accord with the orris early on before letting ambroxan turn it austere and dry by the end.

Homage Attar is one of the easier to find attars by Amouage. This is what Amouage stood for when they were founded to revive the Omani tradition of perfumery. Amouage has a selection of incredible attars which are straight distillations of an essential oil into an existing woody base. In the case of Homage Attar it is rose distilled into a base of oud and sandalwood. Attars are among the most concentrated forms of perfume there are and a drop or two goes a long way. Attars also wear very close to the skin making this a perfume that exists for you and those you allow to get close. If you’ve ever been curious about attars this is the best place you could start to explore them.

These are the introductory perfumes but if you find you like these great pleasures await you in the advanced levels.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I own.

Mark Behnke

Sonoma Scent Studio 101- Five to Get You Started

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So far in this series I have been concentrating on niche lines. A reader sent me an e-mail which made me realize independent perfumers also have large collections and some advice on where to start there would also be appreciated. The reader requested some insight into one of my very favorite independent perfume brands Sonoma Scent Studio.

Sonoma Scent Studio is the indie label that perfumer Laurie Erickson founded in 2004. Ten years later it is one of the premiere independent perfume labels out there. Despite there being twenty-one choices on her website she creates her perfumes at a sedate pace. I have been pleased to act as tester during the process a few times over the years. Ms. Erickson takes the time to source just the right raw materials, a trait common among the best indie perfumers. As a result the entire collection is one worth trying but if you need a place to start here are the five I would begin with.

laurie ericksonLaurie Erickson

Champagne de Bois– Ms. Erickson wanted to capture the effervescence of champagne and to do this she selected a number of aldehydes to provide the sparkle. This was paired with a spicy woody base Ms. Erickson had developed containing sandalwood and vetiver which are kicked up a notch with clove and amber. I’ve always felt this captures the fizz of fine champagne which tickles the nose before the wine refreshes the palate.

Tabac Aurea– There is the most photorealistic tobacco perfume I own. Ms. Erickson captures the smell of a tobacco leaf curing barn as you stand within breathing deeply of the drying tobacco leaves. It captures the narcotic sweetness of tobacco leaf by using a judicious amount of tonka and musk. Cedar brings home the wood of the barn. This all ends on a sweet amber and vanilla mix.

Wood Violet– I am not a fan of fruity florals but Ms. Erickson balances her mix of violet and plum so efficiently it even makes a grump like me smile. She wraps the core notes in cedar and sandalwood along with a spicy duo of cinnamon and clove. As much about the spice and woods as it is the plum and violet which is probably why I like it so much.

handsSMS(Photo: Avis Mandel)

Velvet Rose– There are few fragrances which capture their name better than Velvet Rose. Ms. Erickson makes a tactile rose of crushed red velvet. She keeps it very simple using a Damask rose as the center of her fragrance. She uses violet leaf and carnation to add green facets and a bit of clove-like floralcy, respectively, to surround the rose in the early going. In the base a fabulous patchouli provides depth and detail while the musk provides strength.

Cocoa Sandalwood– Ms. Erickson started her all-natural line with this stunning creation which does exactly what is advertised. Ms. Erickson takes cocoa and coffee absolute combined with cinnamon to create a deep dark cacao accord. This coats a renewable New Caledonian sandalwood. The absolutely brilliant choice to add peach lactone to keep this from being too desiccated is perfect. One of the finest natural perfumes I own.

Sonoma Scent Studio is a brand well worth the effort to seek out and she does offer a sample program so you can try before buying. The five choices above are a gateway to one of our best independent perfumers.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased of these perfumes.

Mark Behnke

Parfumerie Generale 101- Five to Get You Started

Pierre Guillaume has been producing perfumes since 2001 when he releases his first fragrance under his Parfumerie Generale label. That first perfume PG02 Coze was my introduction to this idiosyncratic perfumer. M. Guillaume is a perfumer who works on the more ethereal side of the perfumed spectrum. Many of his perfumes have an opaqueness to them that sets them apart from many other lines. That gauziness can be seen as a drawback by those who like a lot of oomph in their perfume. I find it draws me in close; to lean in to gather up the delicate tendrils with care. Over the past fourteen years the collection has grown to over 30 perfumes. Here are the five I would suggest are a good starting place.

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Pierre Guillaume

PG10 Aomassai– M. Guillaume has a reputation for composing great gourmand perfumes. In my opinion Aomassai is the greatest within the collection. A roasted hazelnut accord is decorated with caramel, cinnamon, licorice, and herbs. This is not an opulent gourmand it is a droll gourmand.

Querelle– This is the fragrance which makes me ask over and over why caraway is not used as a topnote alternative to bergamot. In Querelle M. Guillaume uses black caraway and sweet myrrh to draw you into a heart of rose and vetiver. Frankincense and ambergris finishes this which is my favorite of the entire Parfumerie Generale line.

L’Ombre Fauve– Even though I’ve said M. Guillaume likes to keep it lighter L’Ombre Fauve shows what he can do when he turns to the dark side. I have seen some of the more intense entries in the Parfumerie Generale line described as having a “furry” quality. L’Ombre Fauve might be the most prominent of the “furry” PG’s. Intense red amber, civet, and a cocktail of woods keep it simple but incredibly animalic.

24-papyrus-de-ciane

PG24 Papyrus de Ciane– M. Guillaume is a student of the history of perfume and for Papyrus de Ciane he wanted to use the classic Mousse de Saxe base that forms the foundation of the great Caron perfumes. M. Guillaume takes that starting point and imposes his style upon it. A veil of green galbanum, a watery green accord, and incense set up the darkness of the Mousse de Saxe. The success of this perfume is I never think of the original source of Mousse de Saxe I just enjoy a modern take on a classic base.

PG25 Indochine– M. Guillaume’s inspiration was a sepia toned photograph of the Mekong River. Indochine is a perfume of tints. A bit of pepper is cooled off by a breeze of cardamom. Rich honey is drizzled over a woody thanaka accord. Benzoin is the final ingredient. Indochine feels like it is unstuck in time both vintage and contemporary at the same time.

Parfumerie Generale is a line I often recommend and it has become much easier to experience as it is more widely available these days. Give these five a try and if they appeal to you there are many more worth trying.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke