Discount Diamonds: Burberry Brit for Men- A Little Nutmeg on Top

Sometimes I don’t even know when a perfume I like has crossed over into Discount Diamonds territory. This happened recently when I received an e-mail from a reader asking for a recommendation for an affordable nutmeg forward perfume. I had one in mind almost immediately but I still thought it was a full-price around $50 bottle. The reader got back to me about a week later and told me they found a bottle for $20; now we were talking. The perfume was Burberry Brit for Men.

Most people know the British brand Burberry for their iconic trench coats and the equally recognizable check patterns. They are one of the more recognizable fashion brands which means they would eventually turn to fragrance. They did, starting in 1991, but they didn’t really hit their stride until 2000-2007. Over that time the brand was one of the most interesting mainstream perfumes in the department store. I still recommend many of the main versions from those years, often. Also during that time Burberry also became enamored of flankers which meant a consumer if they were looking for Burberry Brit could be faced with choosing from four or five different bottles with the flankers being almost universally worse than the parent. On the men’s side Touch for Men and London for Men are good with the latter being the first entry in this series.

Antoine Maisondieu

Brit for Men would be perfumer Antoine Maisondieu’s first brief for Burberry in 2004. Two years later he would do Burberry London for Men. What made Brit for Men stand out for me was there were a lot of perfumes extolling the use of ginger as an energizing element. Brit for Men was one of the first where I understood that connotation. It also shifted gears from that energy to a spicy rose into a tonka and wood finish. This was mainstream perfume which had a little more to say than others.

Brit for Men opens with a tart mandarin and that ginger note. Here it picks up the greener facets of the mandarin and bergamot adding a jolt to them. Whenever I spray this on it is an immediate pick-me-up. A fantastic mix of nutmeg and cardamom leads the way to sturdy rose. The star here is that nutmeg as it rises above everything. Cedar is the main wood in the base which is made slightly powdery with tonka bean. Although the sweetness of the tonka extends those same facets of the nutmeg through the later stages.

Brit for Men has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

These early 2000-era Burberry masculines form as good a mainstream set of perfumes as there are out there. I checked out the current versions and there doesn’t seem to be any excessive reformulation of any of them. Now that they are all Discount Diamonds you can buy all three for what one cost back then. That’s the essence of being included in this series.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Vert D’Encens- Pine-cense

The Tom Ford Private Blend collection has been releasing a collection within the collection over the last few years. For 2016 the four new releases are called Les Extraits Verts. When I heard the name I was looking forward to a Tom Ford take on green. When I received my samples a couple weeks ago I was surprised overall it wasn’t as vert as I was expecting. Although there was one exception Vert D’Encens.

Antoine-Maisondieu

Antoine Maisondieu

Vert Boheme missed the vert boat entirely as it was mostly citrusy floral before getting a bit musky at the end. Vert de Fleur did have the green going but it didn’t feel special to me. Vert des Bois was my second favorite of the four as perfumers Olivier Gillotin and Rodrigo Flores-Roux really added in some odd versions of green in olive leaves, and marigold along with some more traditional choices. It made for a really engaging development.

shyamala-maisondieu-1

Shyamala Maisondieu

Vert D’Encens was the one I spent some time with because it, too, was an off-beat green but with two very common ingredients; pine and incense. Longtime creative director Karyn Khoury oversaw a team of perfumers consisting of Antoine Maisondieu, Shyamala Maisondieu, and Yann Vasnier. The decision to combine a full body pine tree, including sap, to a full throated frankincense turned out to be just the green I was looking for.

yann vasnier

Yann Vasnier

In the early going the perfumers bring out a very traditional pine joined by lemon and lavender. In these very first moments Vert D’Encens is a little bit a like a lot of drugstore pine fragrances. It doesn’t stay that way long as a green cardamom and sage set the stage for a pine sap accord. That accord carries a tint of the camphoraceous quality which provides a lift as the pine intensifies with the sap accord and the pine from on top becoming stronger. Right as it seems like the pine is at its zenith a fine silvery frankincense cuts across it and embeds itself in the sticky pine. Together it forms what I thought of as Pine-cense. This is where Vert D’Encens stayed at for hours. Much later on cedar and vetiver add a bit cleaner green to close things out.

Vert D’Encens has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

What drew me in to Vert D’Encens over the other Les Extraits Vert was the simple combination of the pine and incense. The perfumers found a way to find just the right balance for me. It is definitely going to be another excellent choice as the weather gets cooler as fall arrives.

Disclosure; This review was based on press samples provided by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Black Pepper- Series 9?

My enthusiasm for new materials in perfumery is similar to my enthusiasm for a new release from Comme des Garcons. When they come together in the same package it is like a perfumed double rainbow. When I received my sample of the new Comme des Garcons Black Pepper dual arcs filled my personal headspace.

Black Pepper was composed by perfumer Antoine Maisondieu. M. Maisondieu has been one of the more consistent collaborators with Comme des Garcons over the last few years. I would say they return to him because he seems to have an innate understanding of the place this seminal niche brand occupies. He also takes the opportunity to try and do things with an eye toward innovation. With Black Pepper that comes from the other main ingredient besides the one listed on the bottle Akigala Wood.

Antoine-Maisondieu

Antoine Maisondieu

I became aware of Akigala Wood about a year ago. When I learned it wasn’t a wood but an enzymatic digestion of patchouli I was very interested. The reason is this is a very different process to altering the overall profile of patchouli essential oil. Distillation is a process of using physics. Enzymatic digestion is allowing enzymes to digest parts of the essential oil they find tasty. This leaves behind a patchouli altered by biology. When I had the opportunity to smell Akigala Wood it is only because I know it was once patchouli that I make the comparison. What the enzymes seem to be feasting on are the molecules within patchouli oil which impart the earthy herbal character of that oil. What is left behind in Akigala Wood is an enhancement of the spicy character in an undefined woody matrix. Which makes it a near perfect partner for the black pepper.

M. Maisondieu keeps the structure of Black Pepper simple. First the black pepper is present. It is very dry and austere. M. Maisondieu modulates it even more towards that spare quality by adding some white pepper. The early moments are so dry it might be too much for some. I really enjoyed it because I knew what was coming. The Akigala Wood turns that aridity into something almost oily in nature. The spicy woody nature of the Akigala Wood envelops the black pepper and almost feels like it rehydrates it. Now the pepper becomes much more expansive as if lifted by the spicy nature of the Akigala Wood. The woody nature of the material keeps things grounded along with cedar. The base adds a dollop of roasted sweetness with tonka bean and a little sandalwood before finishing with a flare of musk.

Black Pepper has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

From 2000-2008 Comme des Garcons released collections titled Series 1-8. Each had a specific focus. Each perfume within each series had a specific ingredient or accord to explore. Many of these are among my favorites in the entire Comme des Garcons line. On the days I was wearing Black Pepper it felt like it was maybe the first entry in a new collection Series 9: Spices. M. Maisondieu has made a perfume which is as exploratory as the best of those fragrances within the Series collections.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Comme des Garcons.

Mark Behnke

My Christmas SOTD Etat Libre D’Orange Noel au Balcon

Perfume wearing is not usually something meant to happen on a specific day. It is meant to be worn on many different days with the only sort of restriction based on the temperature outside. Then there are the exceptions. One of only two perfumes I know of with the French word for Noel in the name Etat Libre D’Orange Noel au Balcon is a beautiful Holiday perfume.

My getting my hands on Noel au Balcon was one of my first forays into having someone bring me back a perfume while visiting Paris. Noel au Balcon was released in 2007 exclusively to French Sephora. I would find out about it on the fragrance discussion boards at Basenotes soon after. After some piteous cajoling I was sent a sample by a kind soul. Which was the worst thing because it was what I was hoping it would be. I would spend the next year figuring out how to score a bottle which I did in the early fall of 2008. After the 2008 Holiday season it was discontinued. Until it returned in 2010 as part of the permanent Etat Libre D’Orange collection. This has become my Christmas scent of the day (SOTD) on either December 24th or 25th. This year it will be my Christmas morning scent.

Antoine-Maisondieu

Antoine Maisondieu

Noel au Balcon comes from the beginning of a French proverb, "Noël au balcon, Pâques aux tisons." This translates to "If the weather is mild at Christmas it will be cold at Easter". In Poodlesville it is unseasonably mild so maybe a cold Easter is on its way. Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu has created one of the most interesting gourmands I own redolent of the sweet treats, spices, and alcohol of the Season.

Noel au Balcon opens on a honey drenched fruit accord of orange and apricot. Whenever I spray this on I see a slice of candied apricot or orange covered in viscous honey. The more I have seen honey-based fragrances go off the rails I have come to appreciate the restraint M. Maisondieu uses. This restraint is further displayed in the heart as cinnamon provides spicy contrast with clove and cumin as its running mates. When you look at those three notes the heart of Noel au Balcon could be a strident muddle. M. Maisondieu uses the clove and cumin to keep the cinnamon from becoming too much like Red Hots candy while retaining the fiery nature. It is a one-of-a-kind cinnamon accord. The base returns to a little soothing sweetness with vanilla and musk which overlay a dark earthy patchouli. Once this all comes together I always feel like this evokes one of those sterling silver punch bowls filled with mulled wine complete with orange slices floating on top.

Noel au Balcon has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

As much as I enjoy Noel au Balcon on Christmas it is a year-round choice for me and you can even catch me in a Christmas mood wearing it out for the evening in July. Merry Christmas to all the readers of Colognoisseur and I hope you are wearing a perfume which will make the Holiday memorable for you.

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

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Gucci Rush for Men- Tom Ford’s Incense

As the calendar changed over to 2000 as a society we were warned of doomsday prophecies along with the collective meltdown of our computer infrastructure’s inability to deal with the changeover to Y2K. As we look back from the safety of fifteen years later without having lost the ability to look up Nostradamus via Google it is clear that the fin de siècle also had effects on different creative pursuits. It encouraged risk taking because there might not be another chance. At this time there was no bigger risk taker than Tom Ford.

Tom-Ford

Tom Ford

Mr. Ford had made a leap of faith when he joined Gucci in 1990 as the women’s ready-to-wear designer. That would be the start of meteoric rise as Gucci went from has-been to have-to-have all under Mr. Ford’s savvy direction. He dramatically expanded the brand into every sector of fashion and style. It is also where he would begin his fragrance career. In 1997 he would release Gucci Envy followed a year later by Gucci Envy for Men. They were typical Floral and Oriental fragrances of the time period and there was little of the signature style Mr. Ford would bring to fragrance. That would come with the next set of releases.

gucci rush ad

Gucci Rush Advertisement

In 1999 with the release of Gucci Rush Mr. Ford used his trademark mix of danger and sexuality for the first time in fragrance. The sexuality came courtesy of model Liberty Ross tinted red with a look of open-mouthed pleasure underneath the crimson. The danger came from the bottle which looked like an anonymous VHS rental tape box which would most commonly hold a pornographic movie. All of this is tame compared to what Mr. Ford has evolved into but it is all on display in its earliest incarnation. With Gucci Rush for Men the other thing Mr. Ford will become known for also displays itself for the first time; the use of an ingredient which would set the standard for fragrance from that point on. That ingredient in Gucci Rush for Men was incense.

Incense? Really incense hasn’t always been a thing? Incense had been used in perfumery as an accent note but very rarely as the focal point. In a mainstream designer fragrance? Not at all. Mr. Ford worked with perfumers Antoine Maisondieu and Daniela Andrier to create a typical masculine woody structure infused with a significant amount of incense.

Rush for Men opens with the light woodiness of cypress matched up with lavender. Cedar makes the woody quality cleaner while a very light application of patchouli tries to mar those sterile lines. This all transitions quite rapidly into the foundation of sandalwood, cade wood, and incense. The sandalwood is boosted with a suite of milky lactones so that it provides a creamier woody foil. I am guessing this was to allow the incense to not become too astringent in this first use of it. The result is the incense comes in with a translucent quality while also becoming the focal point.

Rush for Men has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

When you smell Rush for Men now it seems like a child’s version of an incense perfume. It is similar to what Mr. Ford would do with oud when he used it in YSL M7. You have to dole out the unusual in small doses before really letting them have it. Just as M7 would launch a thousand ouds; Rush for Men paved the way for the incense prominent perfumes, especially on the masculine side.

Based on the research I was able to do I was unable to find a reason for the discontinuation. Rush for Men sold quite well especially in the first couple of years. It was a viable alternative for the other styles of the time on the masculine side. The only reason I have found in a couple of places is purely anecdotal and sort of tin-foil hat conspiracy theory. The idea is Gucci was decisively cleaving itself from the Tom Ford era by discontinuing as much of it as they could after he left in 2004. Of course there is no hard evidence of this. Over time many have come to realize what a trailblazer perfume Rush for Men was and the price of a bottle has climbed pretty steeply over the past few years.

If you get the opportunity to try some it is really a time capsule capturing the early influences of Mr. Ford as well as showing the Y2K era as well.

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

Mark Behnke

Comme des Garcons 101-Five to Get You Started

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

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

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

Christian-Astuguevieille 

Christian Astuguevieille

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

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

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

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

Disclosure: I purchased bottles of all the perfumes mentioned.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Wonderoud- The New Oud

The history of perfume raw materials has been a trail of tears when a unique natural ingredient is identified. The story of overharvesting Mysore sandalwood so that it now lives in protective custody of the Indian government is a cautionary tale. With the advent of oud-based fragrances, particularly over the last ten years, the old trees throughout its indigenous areas were being harvested at an alarming rate. Because oud requires time for the biological rot which forms the aromatic heartwood it looked like we were well on our way to another bad situation. Then scientists learned how to artificially induce and speed up the process. This lead to the growing of oud plantations and just this year the first harvests of this sustainable oud has found its way into perfumes.

Christian-Astuguevieille 

Christian Astuguevieille

It should be no surprise that a leader in using this new oud is Comme des Garcons as it is the centerpiece of their latest release Wonderoud. Creative Director Christian Astuguevieille worked with perfumer Antoine Maisondieu on creating a perfume which would display the new oud with the typical Comme des Garcons style. You might remember 2010’s Wonderwood and the intent here is similar. Antoine Lie was the perfumer for Wonderwood and it was an exploration of sandalwood which was layered with other woods. Over time I have come to think Wonderwood is an underrated sandalwood perfume. M. Maisondieu wants to take a different tack as he explores this new oud and uses herbal and spicy notes to capture the unguent nature of real oud in the early going before letting the woods come out to play in the end.

Antoine-Maisondieu

Antoine Maisondieu

M. Maisondieu lays down a pepper and thyme runway to start the journey in Wonderoud. The thyme adds rough green facets and the pepper grabs ahold of the decaying heart of the oud and brings out the beauty within the rot. M. Maisondieu also makes a stylistic decision to keep Wonderoud very dry. To accentuate this point he uses a fraction of Cedarwood from the Givaudan exclusive Orpur raw material collection. This cedarwood is as good as it gets and by choosing a fraction which picks up the greener woody aspects of cedar he makes an inspired choice. In my very limited experience with this new oud it shows its youth by being a bit greener and almost seems like it has a cedar component. It doesn’t but by using the cedarwood fraction it is made very apparent how this oud is different than others. Vetiver is the other keynote in the heart and it also works on both the green and woody parts of the composition in a supporting role. Australian sandalwood and synthetic sandalwood molecule Pashminol provide the remaining wood. Patchouli recalls the herbal beginning as it shows up at the end.

Wonderoud has 8-10 hours longevity and above average sillage.

sustainable oud harvest

The Harvested Sustainable Oud

Wonderoud is everything that is great about Comme des Garcons as they take the most ubiquitous perfume raw material of the past few years and find a way to make it new. It has been twenty years since the original Comme des Garcons fragrance was released. What Wonderoud displays is that Comme des Garcons still has the ability to be cutting edge without sacrificing approachability. Wonderoud is simply wonderful.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Comme des Garcons.

Mark Behnke

Etat Libre d’Orange 101- Five to Get You Started

One of the perfume lines which lives up to the ideals behind niche perfumery is Etat Libre d’Orange. There is almost no other niche brand which so fearlessly pushes the boundaries. Owner and creative director Etienne de Swardt is audacious in the perfumes he oversees for his label. Right from the first eleven fragrances released in the fall of 2006 he laid down a marker that Etat Libre d’Orange was going to be very different. In those first releases is the perfume widely regarded as the worst smelling perfume ever, Secretions Magnifiques. Just do a search and you will see videos of people pulling horrified faces and blog or forum posts plumbing new depths of verbiage trying to describe the experience. I, personally, think it is a masterpiece of perfumery but it is really only for those ready to approach it on its own terms instead of as a rite of passage.

etienne_de_swardt

Etienne de Swardt

Because of Secretions Magnifiques there are many who are wary of exploring the other fragrances in the line and that is a shame because I believe Etat Libre d’Orange is one of the best niche lines on the market. There is not a boring fragrance in the collection and many of them are exciting for the singularity of their existence. If you’ve been wanting to give Etat Libre d’Orange a try and want to sort of slowly expose yourself to the aesthetic and attitude of the line I have five suggestions which might make things a little easier.

Fat Electrician was released in 2009 and was composed by perfumer Antoine Maisondieu. M. Maisondieu created a fantastically nutty vetiver by combining chestnut cream with the vetiver. It is bracketed by fulsome olive leaves on top and sweetly resinous myrrh and opoponax in the base. This is vetiver given a new twist.

Fils de Dieu was released in 2012 by perfume Ralf Schwieger. Hr. Schwieger created a Technicolor fragrance which pays homage to all things Southeast Asian. It percolates early with a palpable humidity which contains lime, ginger, shiso, cardamom, coconut and rice. By the end it turns into a sensual accord of leather, vetiver, and castoreum. One of my top 5 new fragrances in 2012.

Tilda-Swinton-ELO

Like This was released in 2010 by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui. Like This was Tilda Swinton’s celebuscent and she chose to collaborate with Etat Libre d’Orange. If every celebrity labeled fragrance was as good as Like This that segment of the market would be less looked down upon. Mme Bijaoui uses immortelle as the core of Like This and then proceeds to swaddle it in layers of ginger, tangerine, neroli, pumpkin, vetiver, and musk. This all comes together gloriously and Like This has been my Thanksgiving fragrance for the last three years.

Noel au Balcon was released in 2007 also by Antoine Maisondieu. Based on the name this is supposed to be for the Holiday Season but I wear it year-round because it is an easy to wear honey focused fragrance. M. Maisondieu uses the honey as a matrix to trap apricot and tangerine along with labdanum and cinnamon. It all eventually releases to vanilla, vetiver, and musk base.

Rien was released in 2006 by perfumer Antoine Lie. Of all of the very challenging Etat Libre d’Orange fragrances I think Rien is the most approachable. M. Lie created a dynamic intense fragrance which starts with the fizz of aldehydes which reveal a cumin and pepper-laced rose before ending on a leather and frankincense base. It is sharp and piquant and resinous and animalic and completely gorgeous. Of all of the first releases it was Rien which really sealed my enjoyment of the line.

M. de Swardt has a very arch sense of humor which plays itself out over the labels and names of the fragrances but if you can put aside your wariness because of Secretions Magnifiques and your raised eyebrows at the names and imagery an exploration of Etat Libre d’Orange is as good as it gets in niche perfume.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Velvet Orchid- The TF All-Stars Make a Fragrance

I’ve always wondered how a perfume with multiple perfumers attached to it actually comes to be. I’m not talking about a collaboration of two that I think I understand. There are a number of fragrances which seemingly take a village to create. The latest fragrance to have me considering this is the new addition to the Tom Ford Signature Collection, Velvet Orchid.

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The TF All-Stars (Clockwise from upper left: M. Vasnier, Mme Becker, Mme Maisondieu, M. Maisondieu)

Karyn Khoury is in her accustomed position as creative director and she decided to convene a supergroup of perfumers to compose this flanker to the original Tom Ford Signature Fragrance, Black Orchid. My weird imagination even sees them on a stage, as The TF All-Stars, introducing themselves. On top notes we have Calice Becker, holding down the heart notes it’s Yann Vasnier and covering the base notes we have The Maisondieus, Shyamala and Antoine. I am pretty sure this kind of perfume by committee is not accomplished by doling out phases but I do wonder how all of these very competent perfumers managed to come together and make pretty darn good perfume worthy of being added to the Tom Ford Signature Collection.

The original Black Orchid is one of those fragrances that, when it was released in 2006, was a true gender bender as there were many men who wore it even though it was primarily marketed to women. I am one of those men as the central orchid accord in Black Orchid is surrounded by a very restrained floral followed by patchouli and sandalwood in the base. For Velvet Orchid The TF All-Stars were asked to create a “corporeal flower accord” to complement the original orchid accord. This group doesn’t just stop there as on top a fantastic rum and in the base vanilla take on prominent roles with the familiar notes from Black Orchid. It makes Velvet Orchid a traditionally pretty floral fragrance which is very good.

The same mandarin that was present in the original is on top in Velvet Orchid but now it is drizzled with honey and doused with a rum note called succan absolute. This makes for a sweetly boozy opening and one I really enjoyed. It leads to the same orchid accord that made up the heart of Black Orchid. Here is where The TF All-Stars decided to really turn this Velvet Orchid into a power ballad of florals as on top of the orchid comes a series of floral duets starting with Moroccan and Turkish rose, hyacinth and heliotrope, jasmine and jonquil. Throughout the heart of Velvet Orchid it is like trying to follow three simultaneous guitar solos which are miraculously also harmonizing. For much of Velvet Orchid it remains in this powerful floral refrain. Over a few hours a very subtle sweetness begins to swirl into the melody. First myrrh and sandalwood start off; a very refined suede and peru balsam rough it up a little but it sets the stage for a perfect vanilla note to provide the finish. It adds up to a decadent sweetness to leave one wanting more.

Velvet Orchid has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

I have always admired the Tom Ford Signature Collection for pushing the envelope in the mainstream fragrance space. It is why Velvet Orchid is a bit surprising in how it displays itself as very traditionally floriental. It isn’t groundbreaking or unusual but in its nod to the traditional The TF All-Stars manage to find a way to leave their very talented impressions in all the small moments throughout. Even though you might have heard this tune before this supergroup of perfumers have found a way to make it feel new again.  

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Burberry London for Men- Drydown to Die For

The more invested one becomes in perfume the more one probably tends to be on the lookout for the next greatest thing. I am certainly guilty of that even though it is a large part of what makes me enjoy writing about fragrance. Now that I have my own blog I want to take some time to look back at some of my favorite fragrances from the past. In this series I am going to focus on those fragrances which are widely available for less than $50US. While you probably wouldn’t want a real diamond at discount prices these fragrances shine as brightly as others many times their price.

antoinemaisondieu

Antoine Maisondieu

Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu is one of my favorite perfumers and his recent 2013 output for Comme des Garcons Blue Santal and Monocle Scent Three: Sugi, Bottega Veneta pour Homme, and Tom Ford Private Blend Shanghai Lily show the diversity of his aesthetic. My introduction to him as a perfumer came with my discovery of the first Etat Libre D’Orange releases back in 2006. M. Maisondieu, Antoine Lie, and Nathalie Feisthauer were the three perfumers behind the original eleven with M. Maisondieu composing five including Jasmin et Cigarette and Encens & Bubblegum. While those are amazing perfumes it is his other release in 2006 which is the Discount Diamond, Burberry London for Men.

burberry-london-for-men

Burberry London for Men is one of my favorite cold weather fragrances it reminds me at the beginning of hot spiced mulled wine and while that is good by itself it is the drydown which makes this stand out for me. Whenever I answer an online poll about “your favorite drydown” Burberry London for Men is always one of my answers.

Burberry London for Men starts with a phase of lavender and bergamot which is quickly pushed aside by cinnamon, pepper, orange, and wine. I always see an imaginary warmed bowl of red wine with orange slices and cinnamon sticks floating on top when I wear this. A really nice leather accord signals the beginning of the transition to the basenotes. Tobacco, sweet and narcotic, is joined by guaiac wood, opoponax, and oakmoss. This combination just strums all of my pleasure centers and M. Maisondieu balances them precisely. It is in this last phase where Burberry London for Men lingers for the majority of the time I am wearing it.

Burberry London for Men has about 6-8 hours of longevity and below average sillage.

As I mentioned earlier this is one of my favorite sweater scents as it seems to really blossom underneath the wool covering as my body heat amplifies it. Burberry London for Men can be found for around $25US/ounce at a number of discounters.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle of Burberry London for Men I purchased.

Mark Behnke