The Sunday Magazine: Dear George

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There is a hazard to knowing too much about the process of writing that goes into releasing a popular book. The rapid, and insatiable, information flow doesn’t allow an author to hide away and finish their book. The more popular the author the worse this is. It is something which is never mentioned enough when discussing J.K. Rowling. Writing the most popular book series in the entire world she managed to finish all seven books in ten years. Especially after the third one was released, for the last four books, through the incessant nattering and theorizing Ms. Rowling found the ability to stay on schedule providing readers with a complete story.

George R.R. Martin

The more typical timeline is what we see with author George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series which is the inspiration for HBO’s “Game of Thrones”. He released the first book of a planned seven in 1996 and we’re still waiting for book six 22 years later. This is also an atypical situation because his story has gotten beyond the books in the television series. Which means the visual version is going to tell us how it all ends before Mr. Martin has the opportunity to do so.

Because of the popularity of these books he also is facing the issue of people who will not allow him to live his life on his own terms. Whenever he posts on his official blog there are always a few responses along the line of; “would you get back to work on the book”. I was going to add the word “please” but these requests are rarely that polite.

There is an even more worrisome level of commentary on the speed of Mr. Martin’s writing that includes the concept that he won’t live long enough to finish as he will turn 70 this September. There is some precedence for this worry because author Robert Jordan did not live long enough to finish his “Wheel of Time” series. I didn’t care because he told a young author, Brandon Sanderson, everything that was going to happen, bringing the series to a satisfying conclusion.

I don’t worry about Mr. Martin’s health. But I think some of getting the ending right might be part of his delay in writing. About a year from now the final season of “Game of Thrones” will have aired. At that point we will know who wins, and loses, the Game of Thrones. It will be the same ending as in the books because Mr. Martin shared it with the producers. I think that has to be monumentally difficult for Mr. Martin. Some of the biggest twists in the story have been shown visually before hitting the printed page. I imagine how much different it is to write out a delightful twist knowing you are the only one who knows it and can’t wait to see how the readers will enjoy it. In the current book he is writing we’ve probably already seen every major twist on the TV screen. He has become a kind of appendix to his own series as the book fills in background and provides texture, but the plot has passed it by. Doesn’t mean I won’t devour it when it comes out, but I will know what’s going to happen; at least the big things.

Which leads me to a short open letter to the author.

Dear George,

Put down the book and leave it alone. Come back to it later; or never. Your story is going to be finished on the screen. Thrill me with something new. Something which excites you to write. Not something which I believe has become an onerous chore. You have one of the most amazing imaginations in fantasy literature. Having it chained to filling in backstory for the next few years is a waste.

I will get your ending on the screen in a year. Make me a new beginning. Just don’t sell the film option until you are done.

Your reader,

Mark

Mark Behnke

Arden, Lauder, Lauren: Red (Door), White (Linen) and (Polo) Blue

It’s July 4th in the US; the day we celebrate our declaration of independence from England in 1776. When it comes to perfume American perfumery didn’t have to declare independence; but it surely had to distinguish itself from the French, English, and Italian brands which founded modern perfumery. I thought I’d spend this Independence Day celebrating three of the foundational brands of American perfumery with one each for the colors of the US flag.

Elizabeth Arden Red Door

Born in Canada but emigrated to the US after dropping out of nursing school. When she got to New York City the young Florence Nightingale Graham created her brand name Elizabeth Arden. She would found her beauty salon called Red Door which had one you entered through. As she expanded her beauty empire through the first half of the 20th century that symbol became synonymous with a sophisticated style of beauty.

Ms. Arden made a moderate attempt at adding fragrance to the brand prior to her death in 1966 but they never caught on. It would be in 1989, under the Revlon acquisition of the name, that Elizabeth Arden would make its mark on perfume with Blue Grass and Red Door.

Perfumer Carlos Benaim created an opulent floral bouquet with a little bit of everything. What made it interesting was the use of honey to coat those florals before finishing on a chypre-ish base. This is a product of its time with a blowsy over-the-top style. In truth, it’s also American in its desire to stuff everything in.

Estee Lauder White Linen

When it comes to American Perfumery it is really all about Estee Lauder. Her introduction of Youth Dew in 1953 would begin the change of American men buying perfume for women to women buying for themselves. Ms. Lauder presided over one of the great fragrance brands. Estee Lauder has become one of the largest sellers of perfume in the world. It could arguably be said that it was the success of the Estee Lauder brand from 1969 until 1978 that set the standard for what was to come. White Linen was the perfume which finished that early run.

White Linen was brilliantly imagined as the smell of fresh-laundered sheets drying on a clothesline on a sun-filled day. Perfumer Sophia Grojsman would harness all of the fresh notes in the perfumer’s array at the time. It would begin the trend of fresh and clean perfumes popularity which still exists forty years later making it a perennial bestseller. All for the memory of a summer day on the grass watching the sheets be hung under the sun; perfectly American.

Ralph Lauren Polo Blue

Ralph Lauren has been one of the leading American fashion designers since he started selling his ties in 1967. One year later he would introduce his first menswear line with the iconic logo of a polo player at full gallop. In 1978 he would put that logo on a green bottle of men’s perfume called Polo. That has become one of the greatest selling men’s fragrances of all time. Which of course led to numerus flankers. The one released in 2002 was called Polo Blue.

Polo Blue was composed by original Polo perfumer Carlos Benaim working with perfumer Christophe Laudamiel. By the time Polo Blue was released the aquatic craze was in full swing and this was the Polo version of it.

What makes Polo Blue stand out is there is a lot of the herbal quality of the original added to the fresh aquatic accords. It made it less generic even though it seemed like a hybrid of two different men’s styles. It is a surprise to me how well it works. Then again Mr. Lauren has always been happy to give American men what they want.

Disclosure: These reviews are based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

The Scent of Christmas Past

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One of the things those of us who love perfume talk about are “scent memories”. The concept that a smell can connect with a memory and bring an entirely personal subtext to fragrance. One ingredient which does this for me is gardenia. My grandmother had fresh-cut gardenias floating in bowls of water spread throughout her gardenia bush-surrounded Florida pine house. I can’t smell a good gardenia without hearing her voice and seeing her face.

Then this summer, as part of a project I am working on, I was going through vintage formulas of different Guerlains. When I hit the late 1950’s version of Mitsouko Eau de Cologne I had something more than a memory wash over me. I was transported fifty years backward so strongly it felt like a virtual reality had settled over me. What I was remembering so vividly was getting ready to go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve sometime in the late 1960’s. It was so vital I stopped what I was doing and wrote it all out before it faded away. Even thought it was the middle of July I realized I had written my Christmas Day 2017 post.

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I stood at the doorway to my parent’s bedroom. In my hand was my first real tie. My excitement on attending Midnight Mass was making my fingers fumble the perfect Windsor knot. As I looked in my mother was seated at her dressing table. She had some candles lit while she peered into the halo of electric light around her mirror. For a moment I was watching her without her knowing. My mother was always one of the most assured people I knew. She made decisions without ambivalence. She also stood up and took responsibility for poor choices. As I had a few seconds to look at her I felt like she was thinking deeply about something. She was coming to a conclusion about something. Before the process completed she looked up.

All children will tell you the smile of a parent happy to see you is a joyous thing. On Christmas Eve that smile feels like a gift. As I received this present I held out my hand with the tie. The smile widened a bit and she said, “Let me finish here and I’ll help you.”

She was still in her pink terrycloth robe and I had caught her at the end of her preparation. All that was left was adding her perfume. My mother only wore two perfumes for as long as I’ve known her. Guerlain Shalimar and Guerlain Mitsouko. She owned the round “bull’s-eye” bottles; red for Shalimar and green for Mitsouko. They had crystal pointed stoppers which were picking up the candlelight behind them. As she reached for the one with the green circle she tipped it, so it would get some on the stopper. She pulled the stopper. On the end was a drop of liquid picking up facets of flame and filament. She drew it to the hollow of her neck where that drop spread onto her skin. She rubbed the stopper against both wrists then returned it to its resting place in the neck of the bottle. She closed her eyes while taking a breath. When they opened a smile accompanied it. She beckoned me over.

She sat me on a stool in front of her chair as we looked into her vanity mirror. She leaned forward as we drew the tie around my upturned collar. I was surrounded by the love of my mother and the scent of Mitsouko. My turn to close my eyes and breathe in.

My mother could have tied the tie for me but instead she carried me through it with her voice. I got it right on the first try. With a final smile at me in the mirror she sent me off to wait for her to finish getting dressed. While I was waiting I realized a bit of the Mitsouko from her wrist had made it onto the tie. It seemed perfect.

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That’s what came from my Mitsouko fever dream. I loved going to Midnight Mass with my family. The smell of the incense off the censers. The fanfare from the trumpets. The Latin words said in such a rhythm I knew what was being said without knowing the language. Underneath it all I would be sitting on my knees in the pew under my mother’s arm surrounded by Mitsouko most of all.

This is what makes me continue to love perfume.

Mark Behnke

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas: The Last Flacon

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My Christmas Eve tradition over the last eight years has been to put a perfumed point atop Clement Clarke Moore’s “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”. Two years ago, I was inspired by the recent Star Wars release to make a kind of quest out of it. This year I am again inspired by this most recent Star Wars entry and imagine a perfume to be the spark which lights the fire.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Episode VIII

The Last Flacon

It is Christmas Eve in Poodlesville.

Colognoisseur has lost his mojo.

He has found his inspiration in scented things to be at an all-time low. He knows he is just one brilliant perfume away from finding the way back to his joy. As he looks to the skies with a silent plea he heads to bed….

Walking through the silent house I looked at the stockings, hung so neatly. As I turned off the bubble lights on the Christmas tree I smiled at the poodles curled up, breathing deeply. Mrs. C sleepily adjusted her kerchief. I had just removed my fedora wondering if there was something out there which would return my passion to me; when an incredible racket was heard outside.

I rushed to the picture window to see a silhouette pass across the full moon. I rubbed my eyes because it couldn’t be what I thought it was. All doubt disappeared as a hearty voice called to the reindeer pulling the sleigh. Scent Nick called out, “Now Shalimar! Now, Fracas! Now No. 19 and Chergui! On Rose 31! On Caravelle Epicee! On Mugler Cologne and Sel de Vetiver! Head for the roof!”

The Last Flacon

As I heard the hooves settle on the roof, I looked at the fireplace. Scent Nick whooshed into existence in front with a balsamic air about him. He was dressed as expected in a red coat and pants trimmed with white fur. The pack on his back seemingly was full of bottles as they tinkled against each other. His eyes sparkled like the finest jasmine. His dimples were as merry as lilacs in May. His cheeks were twin spots of Damascene rose. His nose a ripe raspberry. He looked at me with a smile surrounded by a beard as white as snow.

Hope was rising within my battered soul as he pulled the pipe from his mouth and let out a belly laugh which pulled from the tips of his toes to the top of his cap. He was saying “Ho, ho, ho!” but my ears were hearing “Eau, eau, eau!” As our eyes connected I could feel magic thickly swirling around us. He reached into his pack and pulled out a simple crystal flacon which hummed with potential. My eyes looked at it with hope.

Was this it? Was this The Last Flacon? The perfume to bring me back? He swiftly dashed the stopper off and poured it over my head. I was surrounded by hints of every perfume I’ve ever loved in a scented whirlwind of joy.

We hadn’t said a thing and before I could break the silence he was gone up the chimney. With a whistle the reindeer launched into the air. I watched them fly away. Then before he disappeared completely he exclaimed, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” With a heart filled with joy I laid down next to Mrs. C happier than I had been in a long time.

First, there is nothing about the malaise in this story that is true. My daily writing for Colognoisseur continues to be one of the great joys of my life. My interactions with readers fill my heart on a near daily basis. As I finish my fourth year I am more grateful than I can ever express.

As always to everyone I wish all of you the most magical of Holiday seasons. If you’re finding yourself in need of a little lift keep an ear peeled for Scent Nick he might have a Last Flacon for you, too.

Mark Behnke

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