Discount Diamonds: Kate Spade Live Colorfully- Niche Me, Kate!

There have been several attempts to bring those who have been innovators in niche perfumery into the mainstream market. I would say they have been a mixed bag as far as success in the marketplace has gone. From the perspective of translating the creativity of niche that success has been more easy to discern. One of the earliest examples of this effort was Kate Spade Live Colorfully.

Kate Spade is a fashion brand established in 1993 selling handbags. Less than ten years later they were rapidly expanding in to other areas; one of which was fragrance. The first release in 2002, Kate Spade, was a pretty floral fragrance around muguet. It was discontinued about the same time the second fragrance, Twirl, was released in 2010. Twirl was an aggressive fruity floral which put me off for that forward nature.

Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi

Because of the uneven success of the first two releases the brand made a decision to try something different. For Live Colorfully the two creative directors from Le Labo, Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi, were joined by putative “lipstick queen” Poppy King. Working with perfumer Daphne Bugey they together worked on a mainstream perfume that could carry some niche sensibilities along with the safer aspects. What they produced was a fragrance more recognizably mainstream than niche but in a couple of places the independent streak peeks out.

Daphne Bugey

Live Colorfully opens with a pairing of mandarin and star anise. Mme Bugey allows mandarin the lead role but the star anise adds an odd complementary sweetness. The real niche aspect comes in the floral which opens the heart; as waterlily is set afloat on a pond of coconut water. It is the kind of accord you find in niche regularly. Here it is an outré watery floral accord. The perfume quickly gets back into safer waters as orange blossom and gardenia form the floral accord which is where Live Colorfully spends most of its development. Mme Bugey finishes this with a warm amber and vanilla accord.

Live Colorfully has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Live Colorfully has become a standard presence on the discount perfume points of sale usually going for around $25. It is a good spring perfume at that price.

I would have liked to been in the room as the decision on the final form of Live Colorfully was decided. I would be surprised if there wasn’t one version which was more niche-like. The final decision probably came down to a brand which wanted the opportunity to create a tentpole fragrance which is what Live Colorfully has become spawning two flankers in the last two years. Even with that said Live Colorfully still has those moments of rebellion within its typical architecture.

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

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

Under the Radar: Ineke Field Notes from Paris- A Warm Tobacco Sweater

It is a given I have too much perfume. There are some silver linings to it as I spend time moving seasonal appropriate things forward I sometimes bump into something which has fallen off my radar. Back in the fall when I was doing this I reacquainted myself with Ineke Field Notes from Paris.

San Francicsco-based Ineke Ruhland began her eponymous brand back in 2006 with four releases. Her concept was she was going to use the alphabet as the source of her names thus her first four releases were After my Own Heart, Balmy Days & Sundays, Chemical bonding and Derring-Do. That took care of A-D. From there the next four came out over the next few years with Hothouse Flower being the last in 2012. I know I & J are near completion and release but so far there has been nothing officially announced. Which means the brand has probably fallen off many perfume lovers’ radar. I think Ms. Ruhland has produced one of the best independent perfume collections and when the new releases are out I suspect these older releases will also be discovered all over again. If you’re in the mood to get ahead of the curve the 2009 release Field Notes from Paris is a good example of everything Ms. Ruhland does well.

Ineke Ruhland

The brief for Field Notes from Paris was, “sweet-scented Paris afternoons, life measured out in coffee spoons.” That phrase might lead you to believe this is a café au lait kind of perfume but that is not the case. This perfume is that cold afternoon where you put your sock-covered feet under a warm blanket on a leather sofa while wearing your favorite cashmere sweater with a humidor of tobacco nearby. I know that last part seems incongruous but this is how Ms. Ruhland works she takes something which should be a square peg in a round hole and finds a way to turn it into something which does fit.

Field Notes from Paris is constructed on an axis of orange blossom and tobacco. In the very early stages it is just the orange blossom paired with a very green coriander. The tobacco comes up right away and it is the coriander which performs the introductions. Ms. Ruhland has a skill at finding these kinds of notes which help two disparate ones find common ground. This all floats over a fantastic leather accord. It reminds me of the smell of a new leather sofa. There is a freshness to the leather prior to being broken in and that is the leather accord at the heart of Filed Notes from Paris. The base becomes all sweet vanilla comfort with tonka and vanilla in a beeswax matrix finishes this off.

Filed Notes from Paris has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Ever since finding Field Notes from Paris back in the fall this has functioned like my favorite perfume sweater throughout the colder months of this year. There are many joys to be found within the entire Ineke collection you just have to put it on your radar.

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

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Lemon

Every spring I get overwhelmed by the number of new rose releases for spring which pile up on my desk. I have become openly grumpy about this and hope every year for something different to show up as the weather begins to warm up. Last year I realized I was wearing several specific perfumes as a palate cleanser versus those rose fragrances; lemon focused perfumes. I made sure to remember when this time came around this year to share my favorites. Here are five which I love.

One of my favorite summer treats is to take a cold lemon and cut it into wedges and coat it in sugar. Then I bite into the wedge for a cold sweet and sour treat. When I want the same effect, I turn to Fresh Sugar Lemon. Perfumer Cecile Krakower mixes two sources of lemon and adds it into a heart of orange blossom, lychee flower and ginger. Those three ingredients provide the sugar part of the equation. It is one of the interesting aspects of perfumery that I can tease apart the strands but it is when I stop doing that the sugary effect is balanced contrast to the lemon. The base is found in caramel tinged sandalwood. Sugar Lemon is an example of how simple can be very good.

Diptyque Oyedo is a true melange of all citrus; especially in the very early going. The lemon rises out of the crowd as the herbal green of thyme along with apricot lift it up above the other citrus ingredients. As it was with Sugar Lemon the base is a mix of wood and gourmand as cedar and a praline accord take on that role. Of all of the perfumes on this list this is the most dynamic.

It is a very rare thing where I think the flanker is way better than the original; Chanel Allure Homme Edition Blanche is one of those. The original Allure Homme was composed by Jacques Polge and Francois Demachy in 1998. Ten years later the same team of perfumers reworked the original formula by replacing the original softer citrus opening around mandarin with one centered on a burst of lemon. The heart is a sandalwood and tonka down to a very different base of vetiver, cedar, amber, and vanilla from the original as the latter two notes take over from the first two.

One of the best recent variations on lemon has been Atelier Cologne Citron D’Erable. Perfumer Jerome Epinette splice lemon onto a fabulously rich maple syrup accord. By trapping the exuberant citrus in the sticky syrup, he creates a true shoulder season citrus which is at its best on cold mornings followed by warm afternoons.

I finish with what I consider to be one of the greatest rich citrus perfumes ever and it is all about lemon; Balmain Monsieur Balmain. Originally composed by Germaine Cellier and brilliantly re-worked by Calice Becker in 1990 this is what I think a spring fragrance should be. Three styles of lemon are combined in the top with lemon, petitgrain, and verbena. They are given lift by a brilliantly restrained use of mint. Then herbal thyme, rosemary, and sage along with ginger and nutmeg swaddle a spicy rose which provides deeper harmonies for the bright top accord. It all ends on fabulously constructed light chypre accord.

If you want something to freshen up your days as things begin to thaw try these five lemon perfumes to provide some light.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottle I 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

Robert Piguet 101- Five To Get You Started

Right now, there are heritage brands springing up seemingly every month. I don’t know if Robert Piguet was the beginning of this trend because it never went entirely away. Something somewhat worse happened. The massive tuberose fragrance Fracas created in 1948 by Germaine Cellier would be re-formulated, as ingredients became prohibited, died a slow death. Then in 2006 perfumer Aurelien Guichard became the caretaker of Fracas and the brand overall. He brought back one of the greatest perfumes ever made to something that lives up to that description. Over the next few years M. Guichard would go the same for some of the earlier Robert Piguet compositions with the same care. Plus, the brand would also begin making new fragrances also under M. Guichard’s talented nose. For this edition of Perfume 101 I want to point out five other Robert Piguet perfumes you should try besides Fracas. Because everyone who loves perfume should try Fracas.

Aurelien Guichard

After taking care of Fracas M. Guichard spent the next five years doing the same kind of restoration to six other Robert Piguet originals. Three of them show what a creative brand this had been.

Bandit was the earliest perfume created by Mme Cellier for Robert Piguet. It foreshadows some of what will show up again in Fracas but for Bandit she constructs a white flower accord but she tempers it with a rich leather accord. The leather picks up on the indoles beautifully. It subsides onto a patchouli, vetiver, and oakmoss base. The current formulation is wonderfully faithful to the original.

Visa is the under the radar fragrance of the early Robert Piguet catalog. As M. Guichard presented the reformulation to me it was a radiant proto-gourmand. From a fresh peach and pear opening into an immortelle dominated heart down to an Oriental base of sandalwood, leather, and patchouli flavored with healthy amounts of vanilla. That picks up the maple syrup sweetness of the immortelle forming a gourmand accord.

Calypso is like the lost original Robert Piguet. It was one of a handful of perfumes released after Robert Piguet’s death in 1953. Perfumer Francis Fabron would compose the original formulation which M. Guichard modernized. This is the anti- white flower Robert Piguet what it retains of the past is the green vein of stemminess which is attached from galbanum through to the leather in the base. What comes between is a powdery orris, and rose heart. If the perfumes have sounded too much, so far, Calypso is much lighter in style.

In 2011 Robert Piguet would start releasing new fragrances. These would be designed with a less overtly floral nature to appeal to perfume lovers who wanted something more mannered.

Bois Bleu is a citrusy mix which segues into a fabulous violet heart which is paired with nutmeg. Clary sage and lavender provide underpinning but this is one of the best violet hearts of any violet perfume I own. A very straightforward woody base of cedar and sandalwood finishes things.

I had admired everything M. Guichard had accomplished but when I tried Knightsbridge at Esxence in 2013 I knew this was the modern masterpiece that was worthy of bookending Fracas. It was based on the simplest of briefs; “Imagine what Harrod’s smells like at 2AM.” M. Guichard’s interpretation are three phases of fabulously realized duets. Starting with rose and nutmeg to orris and sandalwood, ending on leather and tonka. Each harmonizes in distinctly engaging ways. One of my favorite perfumes of the last five years.

If all you knew of Robert Piguet was Fracas take another look at these five; there is much more to see here.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Prince Matchabelli Aviance- Superwoman of the 1970’s

There are perfumes which make it in to the Dead Letter Office because the times have just passed them by. During the early 1970’s the way perfume was marketed and bought was undergoing a significant change. I have heard Michael Edwards mention many times that prior to the mid-1970’s most perfume was purchased by men as a gift for the women in their life. As women entered the workforce earning their own income that would change as women took as much control of the fragrances they wore as they were doing with the rest of their life. During this time there was also a concerted effort to market fragrance to this new female worker. One of the mantras at this time was women who could “have it all”. What that meant was work all day take care of the home all night. It reflected the changing society that women were exhausting themselves trying to live up to this. Unsurprisingly there was a perfume which was being marketed for these superwomen of the 1970’s: Prince Matchabelli Aviance.

One thing that Prince Matchabelli knew how to do was to market their perfumes. They also were one of the earliest brands to use television extensively. If you are a Baby Boomer know the jingle to many of the Prince Matchabelli fragrances. Wind Song not only stayed on your mind but it was an earworm before that term existed. The ad campaign for Aviance also has a memorable tune. In the commercial a woman sings the lyrics “I’ve been sweet and I’ve been good/ I’ve had a full day of motherhood/ But I’m going to have an Aviance night!” As she sings she changes out of her house cleaning jeans, kerchief, and untucked shirt into something more appealing looking. As she finishes the line above a man in a suit and tie responds “Oh yeah, we’re going to have an Aviance night.”

Perfumer Betty Busse working off this idea of a perfume for the woman trying to have it all decides to make a floral aldehyde variant. It kind of mirrors that concept of streamlined green for the office, traditional florals for the housewife, and musk for the evening to come.

Ms. Busse opens Aviance up on a very green aldehydic top accord which carries a bit of muguet along with it. These early moments are reminiscent of many current green muguet scents of the present. It does try to be that safer office style of fragrance. The heart is that traditional bouquet of jasmine and rose with little surprise. The base accord is surprising because Ms. Busse really goes for a musky green effect. Vetiver and moss provide the green tint to the animalic. A smart use of tonka picks up and amplifies the sweeter facets of the musk really adding to its sensuality.

Aviance has 18-24 hour longevity and above average sillage.

In the 1970’s there were three “working woman perfumes” only Revlon Charlie still exists today. The other two Revlon Enjoli and Aviance were sent to the Dead Letter Office because women became more savvy about everything in their lives including perfume.

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

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

Discount Diamonds: David Beckham Instinct- Bend It Like Cologne

My disdain for celebrity perfumes is well established. There are some good ones but it is a sector mostly populated with bad fragrance. The concept behind a celebrity perfume is the person whose name is on the box is someone you like and that affection will allow you to forgive the dreck in the bottle. For too many years this has been successful. I’ll even admit when I receive a sample from a celebrity I like I hope it will be better than I think. Then there are the ones which have names of celebrities I don’t care for; those I hope are bad because my childish impulse wants them to fail at something.

I have written in the past that I am a long-time supporter of Arsenal Football Club which means that there are some natural rivals whom I have a severe antipathy towards. One is Manchester United. From 1996-2003 the star player on those Man U teams was David Beckham. In 1999 he curled in a ridiculous goal in the FA Cup Final against Arsenal when he was able to “bend it like…..you know”. He would cause me heartburn a few more times over his career. While most of the world sees him as this elite athlete generally thought of as a nice guy; I see someone I dislike. When I saw he had decided to release a fragrance in 2005 I wanted it to be gasoline in a bottle. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. I actually liked David Beckham Instinct; darn it!

Beatrice Piquet

The early 2000’s was really the height of the celebrity fragrance boom. Anyone who had name recognition was going to produce a perfume. Because there was so much it is why the ones which have survived could rise above the noise. I have always surmised that the celebrity had little to do with the composition. I suspect their input was choosing between two or three finalists. The churlish part of me doesn’t want to give Mr. Beckham any credit but I have no idea his level of involvement. What I do know is perfumer Beatrice Piquet made an above average spicy citrus woody fragrance.

Instinct opens with a crisp citrus accord comprised of orange, mandarin, and bergamot. Mme Piquet then uses cardamom and star anise to provide a spicy complement. It is this interaction which starts to raise Instinct above its competitors. What seals it is the use of very green vetiver with a darker patchouli. So many masculine fragrances go for the cedar-sandalwood duo as its woody base. Mme Piquet using vetiver and patchouli provides a clear difference to other mainstream fragrances of the time.

Instinct has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Bottles of Instinct can regularly be found for less than $20 at almost any perfume discount point of sale. Today there are more mainstream perfumes which have traveled similar paths. Instinct is still one of the better versions even after all these years. I just wish I didn’t see a soccer ball bending into the top corner of the goal every time I wear it.

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

Mark Behnke