Chandler Burr on Creative Directing Etat Libre D’Orange You or Someone Like You

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At last October’s Sniffapalooza Fall Ball Chandler Burr showed up with a surprise on Sunday. He revealed that he had been working as the creative director on a new fragrance and wanted to share a sneak preview. The new fragrance is Etat Libre D’Orange You or Someone Like You.

The press release for You or Someone Like You gives you an idea of what Mr. Burr was looking for:

“There is an Englishwoman who doesn’t exist. Her name is Anne Rosenbaum, and I created her in my novel “You Or Someone Like You.” She lives, with her movie executive husband, in a house high in the blue air of the Hollywood Hills, just off Mulholland Drive, overlooking Los Angeles above the 101.

I’m fascinated by LA, this strange dream factory that exists in its eternal, relentless present tense, its otherworldly beauty both effortlessly natural and ingeniously artificial. A movie that makes movies. Palm trees, the symbol of LA, aren’t natural there. They were imported, placed in the hills, “but then,” Anne observes to you, “so was I.”

Los Angeles’ smells mesmerize, the astringent mint/green of eucalyptus, wild jasmine vines unselfconsciously climbing the stop signs, catalyzed car exhaust, hot California sun on ocean water (although “You” contains no jasmine or eucalyptus; if you need to know what it’s made of, “You” is not for you).

When Etat Libre d’Orange approached me about creative directing, my perfumer Caroline Sabas and I created not a “perfume” — people in Los Angeles don’t wear perfume – but a specific scent, the scent someone like Anne would wear, an Angelino Englishwoman high in the hills in the blue air.”

I had the chance to get a little more information from Mr. Burr on the perfume he calls “You”. First, I asked the obvious why did he choose now to take on creative direction. He responded, “The moment I started at the New York Times I was frequently asked, "Are you going to creative direct/ create a scent/ collection of scents/ perfume brand?" The Times would have, correctly, forbidden it had I asked, but I had no intention — I was a critic. Frankly I didn’t have any interest. My focus was and is the scent artists. And for years I never wanted to creative direct a perfume. I was while working at the Times getting to know the Etat collection, which I found and find just extraordinary, along with the Comme des Garcons collection the most daring, aesthetics-forward, balls out art-centric scent works in the world. Tilda Swinton's agent called to say Tilda was interested in creative directing a scent, and Etienne was the instant and most natural person to put her in touch with. and I talked on and off about working together somehow. But then I was at the Museum of Arts and Design as a scent art curator, and for obvious ethical reasons it was still off the table that I'd direct a scent.

After I'd left MAD, Etienne called and said he's read my novel You Or Someone Like You, that he liked the title, and proposed we create a scent using the novel's title. That I creative direct it. The concept came instantly. My novel's narrator is a woman named Anne. She's an Englishwoman who long ago married an American guy, now a movie studio exec. They have one son, Sam. She has a Ph.D. in Romantic Literature and is a voracious reader. Anne is extremely private, reserved. She's perceived as a cool customer by most people, and she is with everyone not her husband and son. She lives in the Hollywood Hills — on Macapa Drive, if you want to google map it — above the 101 and overlooking the city. She lives in contemporary Los Angeles. What my (brilliant) perfumer Caroline Sabas has created is the scent Anne would wear.”

Mr. Burr has described fragrances throughout his career as belonging to different schools. When I asked what school, he was aiming for he said, “Luminism, Minimalism, and contemporary Romanticism. I started with exactly this aesthetic mix in mind.”  

This lead me to asking what perfumes inspired “You”, and you, in the process which lead into his long-held belief (one I disagree with) that discussing notes devalues the art, “Of course– Mugler Cologne, Calyx, Jardin sur le Nil are probably the most important. There are others, but their names mention raw materials, and I really–really–am not going to go anywhere near this fucking reductionism of scent works to their materials. It's extraordinarily stupid. You don't give a sense of a new musical work, say something by Max Richter, by saying "It's in D major, 4/4 time, it has among other instruments oboes and violins and violas and flutes, and the notes include D, E, F#, G, A, B♭, and C." That would be idiotic. We say, "It's contemporary Minimalism that draws on Glass and, more, Reich, but Richter is also strongly influenced by the minimalist Romanticism of Satie." If we're going to describe fragrances in a truly intelligent, sophisticated way rather than the reductionist "This building has cement, steel, glass, plastic", it's going to be by using intelligent analogies.”

I finished my interview with a question I am always interested in, how did he know they were finished? “"Finished" is equal to "perfect," which you rarely get to. The mod of "You" that we chose was one that Caroline, our Givaudan evaluator Audrey Barbara, Etienne, and others at Etat loved. My personal favorite was slightly different in one specific way. But we had a long conversation about it, and I trust them, so I decided that we'd go with that one. It doesn't bother me because, I don't know, I guess I just don't think in this case that my perception and taste is perfect and mandatory. Part of it was that Etienne really felt the mod we chose had an Etat aspect to it. He's the creative director of the collection, so that's a pretty compelling reason from my point of view.”

I am looking forward to wearing “You” and should have a review up soon. My thanks to Mr. Burr for taking the time to answer my questions.

Mark Behnke

If You Like Creed Aventus Will You Like This?

In the corner drugstore near where I grew up the fragrance selection was populated by a bunch of similar looking aluminum canisters. The only thing which differed were two words the rest was the same. What was there was “If you like Fahrenheit You’ll love Celsius” or something like that. I don’t know if they exist anymore but I have been reminded of them often because if there is a frequent e-mail I receive is if I think a particular perfume is similar to Creed Aventus.

Among a group of perfume lovers Creed Aventus is the equivalent of Love Potion No. 9. If you read through the posts on the forums you might also think the same. I can’t think of any other currently produced perfume which is as analyzed as Aventus is. There are whole posts on the variations in different lot numbers. I’m not sure the Rosetta Stone has been as intently studied as much as Aventus has.

I am a fan of Aventus it is one of the few Creeds of which I own a bottle of. I think it stands out among the other Creed releases as being unique which might explain some of its popularity. One of the reasons that people want to know if there is a knockoff of Aventus out there is Creed is a luxury line with a price tag to match. If you could find a perfume which was close enough for a fraction of the price that would be great; which is why I get e-mails. Which is why I am doing this post. Because I just want to point to the link from now on. Here is my Buyer’s Guide on the Creed Aventus clones I am aware of.

Al Haramain L’Aventure is the one with the name that reminds me the most of those old drugstore canisters. As far as Aventus goes it must replace higher quality natural materials with cheaper alternatives, which is true of all of these. For L’Aventure the black currant is here but the pineapple and apple are replaced by a lot of lemon. Then smoke careens through the heart down to a very generic finish. Verdict: If you like Aventus, You Won’t Like L’Aventure.

Photograph by Daisuke Takakura

Armaf Club Nuit de Intense is a better version as the apple and pineapple are present but to keep costs down the concentrations are also minimized. If I spray a lot it is almost similar enough in the early going. The use of the smoky synthetics is better blended here but the floral contrast in Aventus is missing in action in da Club. The base is, actually, a pretty good simulation. The biggest drawback is the lack of longevity as it was gone from my skin in less than six hours. Verdict: If you like Aventus, You Might like Club Nuit de Intense. Especially if the florals in Aventus aren’t your favorite part.

Afnan Supremacy Silver throws a matador’s flag at the fruity opening with a top accord that is barely there. It goes to a faithful reproduction of the rose-jasmine and birch-patchouli heart. The base is also close to the original, too. Verdict: If you like Aventus, You Might Like Supremacy Silver. Especially if the fruity top notes in Aventus aren’t your favorites.

Parfums Vintage Pineapple Vintage gives you a clue where they are going within the name. It is my favorite of these four because of the incredibly vibrant pineapple note in it. That pineapple is the star of the early going and only after a few minutes does the apple, black currant, and apple show up but because of the strength of the pineapple they are significantly dialed down. The smoke is barely present here while the rose and jasmine go well with the juicy fruitiness. The sweet base also fits well. Verdict: If You Like Aventus, You Might Like Pineapple Vintage. Especially if the birch notes in Aventus aren’t your favorite part.

Final Verdict: There is nothing in the list above which is a fraction as good as Creed Aventus. They are credible clones accentuating different aspects of the Aventus architecture. If I had to pick one, it would be Pineapple Vintage because it was the best overall perfume of the four.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Creed Aventus I purchased and samples of the other four also purchased.

Mark Behnke

What Do We Know and When Do We Know It?

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I have just completed my job as shortlisting judge for The Art and Olfaction Awards Independent Category. I spent a month evaluating a few entries at a time each day. The process was blind as all the fragrances were in identical glass vials. I put some on a strip and some on a patch of skin and worked my way through all of them. Just like last year sniffing perfume stripped of context was an interesting exercise. I put down a score for each entry before I read the supplied description. I would then sniff it again and what was funny was with that bit of information my perception was changed a bit. Over the month, I was struck by the impact the words could have on my perception. The scores I handed in were the blind ones but there were several moments where what I thought I had perceived turned out to be something else. One of the things I love about science and scientists is these questions can be shown to exist, or not, by a properly constructed study.

That study was published in September 2016 from the team of Dr. Camille Ferdenzi at the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center in France. (Camille Ferdenzi et.al.; Chemical Senses, 2016; bjw098 DOI: 10.1093/chemse/bjw098 ) In her study she was looking for cultural and semantic links. To achieve this, she gathered two sets of 20 subjects (10 men/10women) from Quebec and France. That was the cultural part French speaking groups from North America and Europe. After being connected to many devices to determine their physical reactions the group was given a set of six essential oils. Two of each which were hypothesized to be culturally relevant to each group and two which were culturally neutral. They smelled each set one time without being told what they were and another time after identifying each oil. They smelled them for 60 seconds each from the same distance. The choices were for Canada-specific: maple and wintergreen; for France-specific: lavender and anise; the neutral choices were strawberry and rose.

Dr. Camille Ferdenzi

The cultural component had some interesting results. Wintergreen was seen as pleasant by the Canadians reminding them of candy; for the French it reminds them of medicinal products. Anise was identified as such by the French but the Canadians called it licorice and again associated it with candy because in North America that is the most prevalent example of anise. The maple was more favorably rated by the Canadians as was the lavender by the French but not by big margins. The rose and strawberry achieved similar scores from both groups. These are interesting preliminary findings on the cultural aspect.

What I found most interesting was the effect knowing what it is you’re smelling had on all the subjects.  In the unlabeled experiment the subjects sniffed much more deeply; taking in more sniffs. Once the oils were identified that process was significantly curtailed as the subjects now had a name on which to thang that smell. The researchers mention that once identified there needed to be less information gathering via smell. The other physical reaction was a decrease in heart rate between the two samplings. The researcher’s hypothesis is the desire to identify the unlabeled samples causes an increase to the autonomous nervous system which is reflected by the increased heartbeat. Once the subjects knew what they were smelling they relaxed into enjoying the pleasant smells reducing their heart rate.

I did not have any monitoring of my vital signs while judging this year but I would not be surprised to see similar results if I had been. What this brings up is the way we use note lists as perfume lovers. Those become the identifiers for us to relax and look for as we experience a new fragrance. After judging this year and now considering the study above I think what we know and when we know it influences how much we enjoy a new perfume.

Mark Behnke

Perfume for Uncertain Times

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I am not sure if there are ever “Certain Times” but I am surely acquainted with “Uncertain Times”. One of the things that happens to everyone is that in those moments of uncertainty we look to create certainty in the things which give us pleasure. For me the last few months have had a high amount of variability. Many of the relationships in my life are changing; for better for worse it is too early to know. All that I know is that there are more question marks then there have been for a while.

As I said this is when that which gives me pleasure is meant to be balm for the turbulence. That has seemingly changed too. In the past, I’ve managed to use my love of games, literature, or music to pick me up. This time those aren’t working as well as they have previously. What has been doing the trick has been perfume.

I’ve never really relied on perfume for this kind of comfort before. Yes, there are snuggly comfort scents which are similar to a fuzzy blanket but that is just feeling warm not necessarily less stressed. What allowed me to let perfume to soothe my soul was a classic aromatherapy formula for relaxation, lavender.

I had been having trouble sleeping waking up after three or four hours and staying awake until dawn. As part of a project I was spending an evening with Guerlain Jicky. When I say spending an evening I mean anointed with many sprays looking for nuance by overdosing myself with it. Like the idea of virtual reality I was inside an invisible orb of scent. Poking around with my senses as fascinated with the template of one of the earliest modern perfumes as I would be with a video game. Then covered in Jicky I went to sleep and slept for eight solid hours for the first time in weeks. I awoke refreshed with the remnants of the perfume the first thing I smelled in the morning.

Since that evening, I have been spending more intimate, contemplative time with my favorite perfumes. I have realized that the comfort I am looking for comes from the great perfumes. I’ve spent more time trying to understand the subtler construction techniques that my favorite perfumers use. What I’ve also learned is that everything eventually falls apart. The question is can it be used to build something new? I’m not sure I have that particular answer yet. What I do know is the art of perfumery is providing a place for me to elevate my psyche and calm my furrowed brow. That is as a good a prescription for the present as I can ask for.

Mark Behnke

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas Vlogger Style

It has become an annual tradition for me to take the classic “Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore and twist it into a better smelling version. For the end of 2016 I have imagined a summit of some of my favorite perfume video bloggers in the same house awaiting the arrival of Scent Nick bearing new things for them to review in 2017.

 

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a vlogger was stirring, not even a mouse;
The cameras were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Scent Nick would leave a video there;

Nick and Pia were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of next year’s videos danced in their heads;
Sebastian was sleeping great in his cap, and Al in off the street,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
They sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window they flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be Scent Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Carlos! now, Maximilian! now, Redolessence and Dracdoc!
On, My Mickers! on Daver! on, Max Forti and robes08!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of fragrance, and Scent Nick too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Scent Nick came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of perfume he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a sales associate just opening his pack.

His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like Rose Pompon, his nose like a Cherry Musk!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a Bowmakers,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the Siberian Snow;

The atomizer of a flacon he held tight in his grip,
And the sillage it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he spritzed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old colognoisseur,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled the room with scents; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the final base note.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!

If you are looking for some video diversion this Holiday weekend click on any of the links above to check out the vloggers mentioned.

As I reach the end of my third year of doing Colognoisseur I want to wish every one of my readers the Happiest of Holidays. The fact that you have been so loyal has been the present which keeps giving back to me.

Mark Behnke

 

Where is the Great Sci-Fi Perfume?

I spent last weekend at New York Comic-Con. As I walked around the show floor looking at everything for sale my mind wandered to my other avid interest. Despite the stereotype of the typical Comic-Con attendee as some unwashed misanthrope; as I was pressed way too close to many people I caught trails of many of the more popular fragrances out there. Which got me wondering why there is no niche perfume inspired by the numerous sci-fi sources out there.

There are the cheap knockoffs as both Star Wars and Star Trek perfumes based on characters from the perfumes. I know that a perfume named Jedi shouldn’t smell of waterlily. Furthermore, a fragrance called Shirtless Kirk should swagger instead of be a pedestrian woody citrus. Both of these are real releases from the brands Star Wars Perfumes and Genki Wear. They count but they really don’t because these have the same craftsmanship as a typical Axe body spray. So why hasn’t one of the creative minds behind perfume taken a sci-fi movie or book and turn it into a brief.

shirtless-kirk

Can't We Do Better?

The answer might be simple as the rights fees are unavailable or exorbitant. If that is the case, then it makes sense. For the purposes of this though I am going to assume that you could get the permission and propose some of my favorite sci-fi sources I think could provide a place to start.

I’ll start with a book which has always had its own internal scent track as I read it: Dune by Frank Herbert. If a story where the struggle over a substance called spice is not a natural. The reliance on water on a desert planet matched with the rubber of the suits could provide something fascinating like a cross between Bvlgari Black and Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb.

The material called “ice-nine” from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle is another thing which I smell in my imagination. Ice-nine is a form of water which can immediately freeze water around it. Whenever I smell the perfumes which give off an icy quality I wonder what it would be like if a perfumer really went for broke with a perfume which would freeze my sinuses.

The world brought to life in The Matrix movies also feels like it could inspire a fragrance of circuits juxtaposed with animalic facets.

What about an Inception perfume with layers within layers?

For a really weird inspiration I point towards Robert Sheckley’s novel Crompton Divided where the protagonist has become the premiere composer of “psychosmells”. Perfume which strums the pleasure centers.

I am by no means a creative director but I want someone who is or an independent perfumer to take up my challenge and find a piece of sci-fi which you can make into a great perfume. Give me something to wear to next year’s Comic-Con.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office Lanvin Arpege Pour Homme- Too Powdery Masculine Floral

I was always a fan of the original Lanvin Arpege. The 1993 reformulation even felt very much like a perfume designed for men. It was with a great deal of interest when I found out that there was a Lanvin Arpege Pour Homme. I was wondering what Lanvin would consider a manly Arpege to smell like.

olivier pescheux

Olivier Pescheux

In 2005 perfumer Olivier Pescheux was chosen to compose this perfume. At this time in the brand history Lanvin was deep in the midst of a deep identity crisis. Arpege was one of the great perfume classics but they weren’t sure how to leverage that affection from the consumer into a brand-wide version. I could probably make the case that this is the current state of affairs at Lanvin, as well. I speculate that there was vigorous discussion taking place behind the scenes on how best to position Lanvin as a fragrance brand. One thing is for sure there was never any consensus reached even though the team of Creative Directors; Philippe Benacin and Anne Duboscq have been in place for the entire time. For Arpege Pour Homme it would be M. Benacin collaborating with M. Pescheux.

philippe benacin

Philippe Benacin

For almost forty years there were attempts to make the “masculine floral”. What this generally meant was a floral perfume wrapped up in enough hairy chested notes it wouldn’t be the perfumed equivalent of wearing a dress. The ones which had a little bit of traction were the rose versions because you could load them up with spice and drop it into a sandalwood base. For this time period there was no breakout successful “masculine floral”. This was the tack Messrs. Benacin and Pescheux wanted to take for Arpege Pour Homme. They wanted to use the iris of the original and sandwich it in between citrus and woods. Iris has always been a tricky ingredient to sell to men because it can be so reminiscent of the women in their lives iris scented cosmetic products. It made M. Pescheux’s task that much more difficult.

Arpege Pour Homme opens with a distinct citrus character from bitter orange sweetened just a little with mandarin and pink pepper. M. Pescheux sets the stage for the iris by using a bit of neroli to provide the transition. The iris comes next and it is reminiscent of those powders. M. Pescheux does his best to keep that quality under control with nutmeg and mate providing a sharper edge. It isn’t very successful. The powderiness doesn’t really become modulated until the sandalwood and patchouli of the base get a chance to add some presence.

Arpege Pour Homme has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

In 2005 Arpege Pour Homme had a bit too much of the cosmetic counter in it to find any real market share among men. The real death knell for this perfume was the release of Dior Homme in the same year. Dior Homme was the breakout “masculine floral” the market had been waiting for. To add insult to injury it was also focused on iris. The Dior Homme iris was paired with lavender and wrapped in chocolate and leather; with not a hint of powder to be found.

I think Arpege Pour Homme is underrated and an interesting counterpoint to Dior Homme. I’ll admit I wear the latter more than the former but there are days I can stand a little powdery iris to be part of it. Arpege Pour Homme is easily found online for pretty reasonable prices.

Sometimes the marketplace given two differing visions postmarks one for the Dead Letter Office which is what happened with Arpege Pour Homme.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (To Sell Perfume)

One of the standard Holiday songs is “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” most often sung by Andy Williams. The lyrics talk about the time around the holidays being the “hap-happiest season of all”. Nowhere will you find mention of shopping. For most retailers this time of the year represents the biggest sales of the year across almost any sector you can name Perfume is no different. I have seen various numbers representing the sales anywhere from 20-30% of the entire year’s fragrance sales from Black Friday to the New Year.

One of the ways I am always reminded of how much fragrance is sold in December is I see television commercials. Over the recent past some of the biggest stars show up in them. This year Johnny Depp for Dior Sauvage was the most prevalent new face. I saw him digging in the desert way too many times. The ad by Giselle Bundchen for Chanel No. 5; Charlize Theron for Dior J’Adore, Julia Roberts for Lancome La Vie est Belle, and Natalie Portman for Miss Dior were the holdovers. Selling a perfume via a visual is always an odd choice for me. Having a strip in a magazine makes much more sense but they must work.

Dior-Sauvage

Evidence of this was a recent Women’s Wear Daily article in which Muriel Gonzalez the executive vice president of cosmetics, fragrance, and shoes for Macy’s cited the best sellers of the season heading in to the last week of 2015 sales as Dior Sauvage, Ralph Lauren Polo Red Intense, and Armani Acqua di Gio Profumo for men. The women’s perfumes which have been selling are Gucci Bamboo, Chloe Love Story, YSL Black Opium, and Versace Eros pour Femme. I have seen many ads for five of those seven since Thanksgiving. Polo Red Intense and Chloe Love Story must have some excellent sales teams and attractive looking gift sets.

Those gift sets are another reason I think perfume sales are so brisk. They seem like a great deal as you get some additional scented product to go along with the perfume, usually for a very slight price increase over just the bottle of fragrance by itself. When I am observing the sales at the local mall I definitely see consumers opting for the gift set more often than the bottle when they are choosing to buy.

As I’ve written in the past I am always cautious about buying perfume for someone else because it is such a personal choice for most who wear it. That reticence does not expand to the general population as the sales prove that. I do wonder how many of these bottles purchased as a gift end up gathering dust because the recipient doesn’t feel it is right for them. Probably right next to the sweaters in the wrong color at the back of the closet.

What I do take as a huge positive with the emphasis on how much fragrance is sold at this time of year is it is one of the times of the year when perfume is seen as something desirable; and giftable. There are a lot of external factors adding pressure to the fragrance business. Thankfully the year ends on an up note as those who sell fragrance can be heard humming the Andy Williams tune as they enter the New Year.

Mark Behnke

Pierre and Andy’s Excellent Adventures- Pierre Guillaume Lumiere Fauve & Tauer Perfumes Dark Mysterious Woods

Even the scions of independent perfumery must bow a little bit to creating with an eye towards sales. The advantage is an independent perfumer has a much smaller bottom line than a conglomerate. Even so by the very nature of being outside of mainstream business forces you still have to keep the ship afloat. Two of the most successful independent perfumers are Pierre Guillaume and Andy Tauer they have made Parfumerie Generale and Tauer Perfumes the examples for those who have followed. Their success is because they provide a different fragrant experience to perfume lovers. But even they want to break free every once in a while and give in to a creative urge they feel might not be worth including in their brand offerings. M. Guillaume and Hr. Tauer have each made a recent one-off experimental fragrance. Both have in common a challenging nature asking the wearer to embrace the near un-embraceable.

Hyraceum

Hyraceum (Photo via africanaromatics.com)

M. Guillaume’s inspiration for Lumiere Fauve which he made in a small batch to giveaway at Pitti Fragranze 2015 was an online criticism. It was a short pointed comment saying, “Your perfume is shit.” This inspired M. Guillaume to actually make a shit perfume. More precisely a perfume based on hyraceum. Hyraceum is the solidified extract of urine and feces of a small South African mammal called the Hyrax. I can’t even begin to imagine who first thought this would be a good perfume ingredient. M. Guillaume allowed me to smell the unadulterated raw material and it smelled like what it looked like. I nearly gagged because I took in too deep a breath. Like other ingredients like indoles which at 100% also induces revulsion once it is reduced it becomes more palatable. M. Guillaume didn’t want to reduce the hyraceum to too low a level. He wanted a shit perfume wrapped up in beauty. In this case a floral bouquet wraps itself around the hyraceum making it more approachable. I love perfumes like this but even wearing this for a whole day was a bit of an experience. It reminded me of The Elephant Man as there is a fierce intelligence under a disfiguring surface.

tauer dark mysterious woods

Painting by Andy Tauer to accompany Dark Mysterious Woods

Hr. Tauer I think wanted to live down his “nicest guy in perfumery” label with Dark Mysterious Woods. I think he left out an adjective, dangerous. When wearing Dark Mysterious Woods it made me edgy as if there was something out there in the moonlight. Hr. Tauer’s choice for these woods are none of the usual soothing choices like cedar or sandalwood. Nope this is all the villains of the woody end of the perfumer’s palette. Because there was no place for me to find a place of comfort I let the mystery sweep me away. It means Dark Mysterious Woods evokes emotions I probably don’t want provoked on a regular basis. The day I wore it I thought of the movie The Blair Witch Project as it felt like there were things out there in the dark. The more I tried to find them the more lost in the forest I became. Dark Mysterious Woods was unsettling in the most pleasant of ways like an olfactive haunted house.

I suspect we will never see either of these for sale as they are meant more as single experiences. I do think we will see some of the themes that each of these perfumes contains to be worked into a future release. I won’t be surprised if M. Guillaume takes his hyraceum and spins it into gold. Hr. Tauer might take the rougher dangerous woods and use them as contrasting foundation for a more traditional beautiful opening reminding us there is danger underneath the fairest of them all. I thoroughly enjoyed being taken on two such excellent adventures by Pierre and Andy.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Pierre Guillaume and Andy Tauer.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bruno Fazzolari Seyrig- Big Aldehydes

It will come as no surprise to anyone that the chemist loves aldehydes in his perfumes. I like the versatility they bring. I like that they make an impression and then get out of the way for the rest of the perfume to develop. Like an opening act sometimes it sets the stage and sometimes it steals the show. When I received my sample of the latest perfume from Bruno Fazzolari, Seyrig it was right there in the intro; “inspired by the aldehydic motifs of the late 60’s and early 70’s”. This was going to be fun.

Those motifs that Mr. Fazzolari is trying to capture was the perfume industry trying to be mod during the era when being that was desired. I think the aldehyde behemoths of those years came about because perfumers could use them to give a kind of counterculture riff to a traditional construction. Like looking back over forty years later what was once edgy is now dated. Miniskirts and hippies seem like the latter half of the twentieth century companion to flapper dresses and the lost generation. In the eye of time it just seems quaint.

bruno_fazzolari

Bruno Fazzolari

Mr. Fazzolari did have an aim in mind when wanting to go big with his aldehydes. He wanted to make Seyrig an “artistic impression” of the Syringa flower which can’t be extracted. Syringa is a lilac variant and its natural smell is also similar to what we think of as lilac. It carries a more metallic edge than traditional lilac and that’s where Mr. Fazzolari probably decided to go round up the aldehydes to provide that character. Aldehydes have many faces to show and the ones in Seyrig are very soapy early on before settling down to the more hair spray-like version most often associated with the era Mr. Fazzolari is trying to emulate. Underneath is a mix of florals to help assemble the Syringa accord.

Seyrig opens with those aldehydes sizzling off of my skin. Underneath is a pretty rose de mai and red mandarin. For the first half an hour this smells like a sophisticated French milled rose and citrus soap. It isn’t until that time passes that the soapier aldehydes are gone and what is left now encases the rose and mandarin in a cloud of Aqua Net. This is what I like my aldehydes to be. As this accord settles in ylang ylang and orris join it. Then like an apparition a lilac accord arises which with the top accord still present creates the Syringa facsimile. It is exceptionally done as Mr. Fazzolari gets it just right. The base notes are the greenness of oakmoss in contrast to the aldehydes and a musk cocktail which complements the aldehydes.

Seyrig has ridiculous longevity. It lasted well over 24 hours and I think without a shower it might have lasted another day. The sillage is also prodigious.

Seyrig is not perfume for the masses it is a fragrance for those who are already converts to the unusual. It delivers on capturing that late 60’s early 70’s vibe. It equally delivers on creating a different kind of lilac accord. Finally it delivers as another example of Mr. Fazzolari’s artist’s eye as applied to the olfactory. It makes Seyrig one of the most interesting perfumes of the year.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Luckyscent.

Mark Behnke