Under the Radar: Kinski- The Reality of Depravity

As I spend my days trying new perfume there are typical parameters the great majority of them fall within. Only rarely do I come across a perfume which gleefully colors outside the lines. It will never be a fragrance which imparts comfort or prettiness. It is a perfume meant to confront the wearer’s idea of what perfume is meant to do. If it succeeds at doing this it almost by definition is going to be Under the Radar; this month’s choice Kinski is an example of that.

Kinski was released by perfumer Geza Schoen in 2011. He timed it to coincide with the 20th anniversary of actor Klaus Kinski’s death. Klaus Kinski was a towering personality which transferred to his acting where he portrayed larger-than-life characters. He was loved by the media because he enjoyed displaying an engaging kind of oddness. His most famous quote is a good indication, “One should judge a man mainly from his depravities. Virtues can be faked. Depravities are real.” When it came to be designing a fragrance to represent that personality Hr. Schoen came up with a larger-than-life enchantingly odd celebration of fragrance depravity.

Geza Schoen

Kinski is one of Hr. Schoen’s most densely constructed fragrances of his career. It starts with deep accords and spends the next few hours diving deeper. Any perfume which opens with castoreum in the top accord should give you a sense of that.

Besides castoreum there is schinus molle, juniper berry, and blackcurrant bud. Each of these pungent pieces are balanced into a fantastic top accord. The near urinous aspect of blackcurrant buds the gin-like aspect of juniperberry and the herbal-ness of schinus molle combine into a swaggering effect. As it moves to a heart of familiar florals a marijuana accord finds Kinski toking in the flower garden. By the time the base of costus, patchouli, benzoin, and styrax over woods arrive we are knee-deep in something depraved.

Kinski has 24-hour longevity and average sillage.

Kinski is a perfume of strong emotions. It is probably why it isn’t mentioned more often. It is one of the most unique creations in Hr. Schoen’s career. So much that I wonder whether this is him telling us some truth about what is “real”.

If you are a fan of bold perfume Kinski should be on your radar.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Rouge Bunny Rouge Embers- The Scent of a Smoky Eye

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Now that the holidays are past my winter fragrance selections shift a bit. I mainly wear resins and woods with some spice. As I was rearranging the perfume shelf to bring that group of perfumes to the front, I found an ideal candidate for this column; Rouge Bunny Rouge Embers.

The readers who wear makeup will immediately recognize the brand. Rouge Bunny Rouge is a successful cosmetic brand known for its fun attitude. What is much less known is the fragrance selections that were produced from 2012-2015. Founder and creative director Alexandra de Montfort decided to add fragrances to the repertoire at that time. Mme de Montfort created two collections the “Fragrant Confections” and the “Provenance Tales”. For all the perfumes that were produced she worked with excellent perfumers.

Alexandra de Montfort

The Provenance Tales collection was meant to be a selection of elemental perfumes. Embers is meant to represent fire. Working with perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu they came up with a fragrance which glows on my skin.

Shyamala Maisondieu

Embers opens with a top accord focused on clove. This is the kind of clove which trends towards an incense-like scent profile. Baie rose and nutmeg provide some support, but the clove carries most of the early moments until a steely eyed incense arises out of it. This forms an intense accord as the clove and incense combine. Mme Maisondieu shrouds it with fresh florals of jasmine and freesia to bank the roaring fire. What remains as the base accord comes in to play is the glowing embers. They are kept pulsing a gentle orange using sandalwood, styrax, and peru balsam. By these end stages Embers lives up to its name.

Embers has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

As I mentioned in the opening this is a perfume collection which flies under the radar because it generally is only found at the Rouge Bunny Rouge cosmetic counters. It is a shame because all six of the Provenance Tales are excellent choices for men. The only way they are going to find them is to be there with a woman in their life and notice the perfume bottles. To get the Rouge Bunny Rouge on your radar it might require you to brave the land of the smoky eye to find a scent which Is definitely worth that trip.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Majda Bekkali Mon Nom est Rouge- My Kind of Rose

For those of you who put up with my annual grumpiness over the deluge of spring rose perfumes it would probably surprise you to know one of my very favorite perfumes is an unabashed rose perfume. I would further mention that you might expect it isn’t a typical rose perfume which I would hold in such high esteem. It is also typical that it would come from a small niche brand along with being composed by one of my favorite perfumers. All the above means it is a perfect choice for this column. The perfume I am describing is Majda Bekkali Mon Nom est Rouge.

Mon Nom est Rouge was released in 2013 as part of the second set of releases for the brand. Majda Bekkali was working with many established names in the early days. The perfumer for Mon Nom est Rouge was a young woman, Cecile Zarokian, who used the opportunity to create one of the most memorable perfumes I own.

Cecile Zarokian

The name comes from the novel by Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk. The story takes place with the miniaturists in the Ottoman Empire. The story is also one of those fractured narratives where dead people narrate and others are imperfect witnesses. The perfume reflects all of that as even though it is one of her earliest perfumes it is also one of Mme Zarokian’s most precise constructs. It also is a fractured rose perfume where it isn’t just presented as a pretty piece of fragrance. In Mon Nom est Rouge it passes away only to arise again.

The perfume opens with a fantastic accord of aldehydes wrapped around a shiny metallic accord. The hair spray quality of the aldehydes fits right in with the chrome-like accord. Out of this arises a Turkish rose as if it is chrome covered itself. This is followed by the heat of spices as Mme Zarokian precisely uses cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, baie rose, pepper, and ginger to scour that chrome off the rose to lay bare the flower itself. It then combines with tobacco, incense, sandalwood, and musk for the base accord.

Mon Nom est Rouge has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mon Nom est Rouge is the perfume I turn to when the deluge of spring rose perfumes has me at my grouchiest. It reminds me that in the hands of a skilled artist like Mme Zarokian rose still has relevance. If you need a reminder of that Mon Nom est Rouge needs to be on your radar screen.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: CB I Hate Perfume Burning Leaves- Autumn Evenings

There is a type of perfume which attempts to capture a natural scent not in abstract ways but as a photorealistic composition. One of the most accomplished perfumers at doing that is Christopher Brosius. At the beginning of the niche perfume expansion he helped create this, first at Demeter before founding his own line in 2004; CB I Hate Perfume. The name is Mr. Brosius’ succinct raison d’etre. He has created over forty perfumes which do not smell like what most people think is perfume. Over the past few years he has not been as visible as he was. One of my favorite perfumes by him is Burning Leaves which I bring out every October.

On the website Mr. Brosius tells of his distaste of autumn raking as a child. The silver lining was the burning of the leaves after they were finished. Watching them go up in flames while breathing in the smoke is what is captured in the bottle.

Christopher Brosius

What has always impressed me about these photorealistic perfumes by Mr. Brosius is they are constructed in such a complete fashion. Manty perfumes in this style allow you to feel the assembly of the accord as the different pieces fit together. Almost all of Mr. Brosius’ perfumes come out pre-assembled while maintaining their cohesion throughout the time on my skin.

In Burning Leaves that means a couple of things. First this is burning leaves not burning wood. That means a lighter scent of smoke. Not the cade oil sledgehammers you find in other smoky fragrances. It also means the leaves we are burning are maple leaves. Mr. Brosius adds in a thread of sweet dried leaves before they catch fire. There is an intriguing mixture of intensity and fragility throughout the time I am wearing Burning Leaves.

Burning Leaves has 6-8 hour longevity and wears close to the skin with little to no sillage. Burning Leaves comes in a water-based formulation. It generally has the effect of making these perfumes last a shorter time on my skin while also limiting projection.

Mr. Brosius is one of our most gifted independent perfumers. There isn’t anyone who does what he does in fragrance. If you haven’t discovered his perfume you are in for a treat. They definitely deserve to be on your radar. Burning Leaves is a great place to start.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Etro Messe de Minuit- Autumn Incense

One of my favorite ingredients in perfumery is incense. I’ve never done the formal analysis, but it is my suspicion that there are more incense fragrances in the Colognoisseur Collection than any other. It is such a favorite that I have difficulty putting them away for the summer. Fall is here and now I start looking for some incense choices for the cooler days. It is such a popular ingredient that all major designers have an entry. For this entry of Under the Radar I wanted to choose one from a lesser known designer and fragrance brand; Etro Messe de Minuit.

Etro is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018. It started as a textile printing company. Their iconic paisley designs began here. Etro has managed to continue to find new ways to innovate that paisley throughout its line. Etro is unusual that it came to fragrance before fashion. The first perfumes were released in 1989 seven years before the first runway show. With few exceptions the Etro perfumes have been designed by perfumer Jacques Flori. Particularly the early entries from 1989-1999 form a beautifully coherent collection. Messe de Minuit falls right in the middle of this run.

Jacques Flori

Messe de Minuit translates to Midnight Mass. You might think church-style incense and that isn’t quite descriptive enough. Although the first half of the development does carry an indelible Christmas vibe. It is the back half where M. Flori softens some of the sharper edges of the incense via the use of some different resins.

The top accord is like one of those warm holiday punch bowls where citrus fruits and cinnamon rise in steamy waves off the surface. The cinnamon provides the metaphorical heat to the lemon and orange. The incense imposes itself upon the festivities. In the early moments the incense carries a hint of metallic shimmer. M. Flori uses myrrh as a warming resinous complement. They absorb the spices to form a delightfully deep incense accord. Labdanum and patchouli provide a different style of warmth which harmonizes with the incense over the final hours.

Messe de Minuit has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Etro is not easily found in stores. I rarely see it anymore. It can be more easily found online. It is worth seeking out and ordering a sample set, especially the early releases. The entire line is under the radar but starting with Messe de Minuit you should consider putting it on yours.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Bois 1920 Agrumi Amari di Sicilia- Embracing the Bitterness

One of the fun things of owning too much perfume is discovering something I haven’t worn in a while. It’s like finding something new all over again except since I bought it I must have liked it. This summer I reacquainted myself with Bois 1920 Agrumi Amari di Scicilia.

Bois 1920 is an Italian heritage brand. While the idea of heritage brands has expanded greatly in the last couple of years; in 2005 it wasn’t common. The story from the brand says Guido Galardi opened his perfumery in Florence in 1920. It was not a roaring success and would close just five years later. It also didn’t inspire Guido’s son Renato to want to give it a second try. That would take eighty years and the grandson of Guido and son of Renato, Enzo to attempt. He still had the old family perfume recipes and wanted to give it a go in this new world of niche perfumery.

Enzo Galardi

Bois 1920 opened with a debut collection of eight releases. In writing this I realize I own five of those eight. I was attracted to this Italian style of perfume making that Sig. Galardi was producing. It may not have succeeded in 1920 but in 2005 it was another reason for the expansion of niche perfumery.

Agrumi amari translates to bitter citrus. That is one of the things I never understood about citrus perfumes having grown up among citrus trees. They mostly exude a bitter fragrance. For Agrumi Amari di Sicilia Sig. Galardi embraces that bitterness.

That bitterness coalesces around a core of grapefruit. When you use grapefruit in a high concentration there is a slightly sulfurous quality present. Petitgrain provides guardrails for this grapefruit to travel down. Then what I love about the top accord here is the figurative pinch of cumin that is used. That elongates that sulfurous thread from the grapefruit as orange, and lime chime in to finalize the bitter citrus accord. The transitional note to the floral heart is blackcurrant buds in their sticky green incarnation. It is a bitter green all on its own. Lavender and jasmine make up the heart with the former on top. The base is a typical earthy patchouli and musk.

Agrumi Amari di Sicilia has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Sig. Galardi has already made it further than his grandfather as the brand enters its fourteenth year. I want to not only bring Agrumi Amari di Sicilia from Bois 1920 onto your radar but those other four from the debut collection I own are also worth seeking out. Those are Real Patchouly, Sandalo e The, Sushi Imperiale and Vetiver Ambrato. Give them a try.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Providence Perfume Co. Moss Gown- Bayou Fairy Tale

I have too much perfume. I know it and there are things I own which get lost in the back of the shelf. Things I absolutely adore. A few weeks ago, while trying to excavate a bottle of something else I discovered my bottle of Providence Perfume Co. Moss Gown. When I know something has truly connected deeply is as soon as I saw the bottle I remembered the scent immediately. I was thinking if this had fallen off my radar since it got pushed to the back of the shelf it was time to give it some attention.

Providence Perfume Co. is the brand of all-natural perfumer Charna Ethier. Ms. Ethier is one of my favorite independent perfumers because of her attention to detail plus her delight in using unusual ingredients. The attention to detail comes from sourcing and producing some of them. Moss Gown is an education on doing this.

Charna Ethier

The name of the perfume came from a story by the same name Ms. Ethier read to her daughter at bedtime. It is at its core a Bayou re-telling of Cinderella. As I imagine any perfumer does when interacting with another art form she began to wonder what it smelled like. Which then propelled her to her studio to figure out how to realize it. What comes out of the finished product is one of the only perfumes I know which captures the smell of watery vegetation and wood in the height of the summer.

If you’ve ever spent time in the Everglades in Florida or the bayous of Louisiana or the Okefenokee Swamp on the Georgia-Florida line on a summer trip you will recognize Moss Gown from its first moments. Ms. Ethier uses sunflower essence as one of her keynotes. This has a bamboo-like watery quality. She supports it with chamomile. This gives the vegetal green part of the bayou accord. There is also a part of this milieu which is the scent of natural decay. Ms. Ethier uses boronia to capture this. Boronia Is not used often because of this character in Moss Gown it completes the stage for the appearance of our Bayou Cinderella. A duet of mimosa and rose crowned with cedarmoss provides the floral accord which captures the fairy tale in the swamp. It all finishes on a lovely creamy sandalwood.

Moss Gown has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

One of the reasons I pulled Moss Gown off the shelf is it has been a while since we’ve seen a new release from Ms. Ethier. Doing my research to make sure Moss Gown was still available I found there was a new release I missed, Vientiane. Which goes to show even perfumers I admire can fall off my radar. Take the opportunity to put Providence Perfume Co. on your radar you will be delighted to find one of the best independent natural perfumers we have. If you need proof get a sample, or bottle, of Moss Gown.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Huitieme Art Manguier Metisse- Ripe Mango

I have received a couple of new perfumes featuring a ripe mango ingredient. I have enjoyed this when it is used because that is how I remember the mangos I picked off the tree in our yard as a child. I’m not sure it is the beginning of a trend, but it reminded me of the first time I encountered it in a perfume; Huitieme Art Manguier Metisse.

In 2010 independent perfumer Pierre Guillaume had become fascinated with all of the new isolation techniques which were opening up new design possibilities. To fully explore them he created a new brand, Huitieme Art, which would feature one of these as the keynote in a minimalist form. These weren’t necessarily soliflore-like because M. Guillaume found notes which more often formed an accord with the featured ingredient. Manguier Metisse created a mango tree with ripe fruit hanging from the branches.

Pierre Guillaume

Prior to Manguier Metisse when mango was listed it was a greener tarter version. What was shown in Manguier Metisse for the first time was a ripe juicy mango. M. Guillaume uses the new mango extract as the nucleus around which a few well-chosen notes literally flesh it out into a pulpy lush accord.

The mango is there from the first second to the last one, hours later. Frangipani provides tropicality by adding an exotic vibe. M. Guillaume uses black tea, rose, and patchouli in small judicious amounts. Each of these provide depth and texture. Within minutes I am surrounded by the smell of ripe fruit bursting with juice.

Manguier Metisse has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Manguier Metisse has remained one of my favorite perfumes by M. Guillaume because he so successfully re-created the smell of many summer afternoons tearing into a ripe mango. If the Huitieme Art collection has fallen under your radar I highly recommending obtaining a sample set. I especially think the original eight releases show M. Guillaume’s prescience at which new isolates would find new creative uses. If you need to try one before diving in start with Manguier Metisse.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Mark Birley for Men- Pierre and Frederic’s Excellent Perfume

The fin de siècle of the past century was a time of transition in perfume, too. As the 1990’s gave way to the 2000’s the rise of niche and independent perfumery was shaking things up. If you look at the period just prior to this, you begin to see the elements we might take for granted twenty years later. At that time, they were riskier attempts to create something different for an audience that might not have existed with no internet to provide word-of-mouth. Many of the people who have become the standard bearers released some amazing perfumes which deserve to be known now when the concepts they represent have a receptive audience. This month in Under the Radar I introduce you to Mark Birley for Men.

Frederic Malle is much of the reason I write about the perfumers behind the fragrances. Prior to him putting their names on the bottles in his Editions de Parfum Frederic Malle brand they were ghosts. Now they are known personalities. M. Malle transitioned into creative direction after working at Roure Bertrand Dupont. He would collaborate with perfumer Pierre Bourdon on Mark Birley for Men. M. Bourdon was the unsung creative behind classics such as Creed Green Irish Tweed, Yves St. Laurent Kouros, and (in collaboration with Christopher Sheldrake) Shiseido Feminite du Bois. These two would create perfume which redefined masculine trends going for sophistication over the prevailing fresh and clean.

Frederic Malle

Mark Birley was a British proprietor of multiple members-only nightclubs throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. His was a name which conjured velvet rope elegance. When he put his name on a perfume that sense of private club sophistication was exemplified by not hewing to the popular trends. Messrs. Malle and Bourdon chose to subvert them instead.

Pierre Bourdon

The perfume opens with a very typical lemon top note. A sunny lens flare which is tamped down with subtle applications of pineapple and melon. The melon gives a smirking call back to the Calone used in M. Bourdon’s aquatics. The pineapple makes the lemon acerbic instead of tart. This falls into a floral heart accord of violet and iris. More violet than iris although a detectable powderiness does arise. Carrot seed provides a rooty sweetness in complement to the iris. The base eschews the sweetness working for a desiccated woodiness via sandalwood, vetiver, and patchouli overlaid with sharp silvery incense and green woody cedar.

Mark Birley for Men has 6-8 hour longevity and average silage.

The seeds of Frederic Malle’s brand were probably planted with Mark Birley for Men. M. Bourdon had the freedom to show off. Together Pierre and Frederic made an excellent perfume which deserves to be lifted from Under the Radar.

Disclosure: This review based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Bruno Acampora Musc- New Signal on the Musk Radar

I probably don’t say this enough, but I adore my readers. I’ve always wanted this blog to be a place to have a discussion. After my Discount Diamonds column on Kiehl’s Musk one reader contacted me through Facebook and asked if I’d ever tried Bruno Acampora Musc. I told her I had not. Then she put me in contact with the brand and they sent me a whole package of samples. It turns out she was absolutely correct about this being another perfume which should be known by those who love full-spectrum musk fragrances. Which means it was a natural to be this month’s Under the Radar choice.

Musc was the inaugural perfume in the Bruno Acampora brand. Founded in 1974 there has been a consistent output of new releases over time. Exploring a brand like this with forty-plus years’ worth of experience it allows me to see Sig. Acampora’s aesthetic through a time-lapse. It is interesting to notice that Musc turns out to be a sturdy platform from which the rest of the collection grows outward from.

Musc opens with not the fierce animalic musk I expected. Instead Sig. Acampora goes for one which evokes rich earth full of decaying humus.  This is a style of musk not often used because it is the furry and feral version which is seemingly more popular. It is a reason why Sig. Acampora’s version stands out. Then like a riotous early spring garden tiny shoots of rose and jasmine provide tiny floral highlights. Clove props up the forest floor aspect. An equally earthy patchouli doubles down on that vibe. A creamy sandalwood provides the base.

Musc has 12-14 hour longevity as a perfume oil. In that form it has little sillage almost entirely a skin scent.

Bruno Acampora is an example of why I want to do this column. A brand working within the independent sector with a definable aesthetic. This is the kind of excellent perfume which gets lost in the clutter of new brands. It shouldn’t. It took a reader to point out my musk radar screen had a new signal. I am extremely grateful to her for making sure I pulled Bruno Acampora Musc up from Under the Radar.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bruno Acampora.

Mark Behnke