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

Dead Letter Office Macassar by Rochas- The Twilight of the Powerhouse

I’ve written about a lot of perfumes in this column which were discontinued because of bad timing. I’ve never looked back, but I suspect that is close to the most common reason for a perfume to be put in the Dead Letter Office. There are a few which lived a healthy life cycle emblematic of the trends of their time followed by being discontinued when things changed. A good example of that is Macassar by Rochas.

Nicolas Mamounas

Macassar came out in 1980 as the second fragrance of four composed by Rochas in-house perfumer Nicolas Mamounas. Rochas was refreshing their perfumes from the classics released previously. They weren’t trying to re-invent the wheel. They looked around at the popular fragrances and tried to make their own version. In the masculine fragrance sector this was the time of the powerhouse colognes. These were the style of fragrance that gave fragrance a bad name. The caricature of the man with his hairy chest bared, draped in gold chains that was who Macassar was made for. I wasn’t exactly that guy, but I really enjoyed wearing the powerhouse masculines of the 70’s and 80’s. Macassar is one of my favorites from that time.

Macassar opens with a cocktail of green liquor and green woods as absinthe and pine form the top accord. The licorice-like quality of absinthe is a fantastic contrast to the camphor-like quality of pine. It is also softer than it might sound. The power begins to wind up as we move to the heart; geranium and carnation pick up on the herbal and the green from the top by amplifying those effects. Patchouli elevates all of it as the volume gets turned up. The base is where Macassar unbuttons its shirt right down to the navel as vetiver, oakmoss, and musk form the foundation for a powerful leather accord. This base accord is where things linger for hours, almost days.

Macassar has 24-hour plus longevity and way above average sillage.

Macassar had a good long shelf life as it would be another fifteen years until the demise of the powerhouse perfume in favor of clean and fresh. Macassar might have come around during the twilight of the powerhouse perfume but it was also one of its best.

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

-Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Whisky

One thing my rotation of different perfume styles based on the season has exposed that I do it for other things. I’ve been rearranging my liquor shelves too. The things I like to drink in the cooler months are the soliflores of the alcohol world. Whisky is one of them. There are also some great whisky perfumes in this month’s My Favorite Things looks at five whisky perfumes.

One of the most recent is Nasomatto Baraonda. Independent perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri returned to his flagship brand after a bit of a break with a bold whisky laden perfume. He hands you a snifter loaded with dried berries and synthetic musks. Sig. Gualtieri balances out all the rough edges into a smooth sipping fragrance.

One of the reasons I like Baraonda is it reminded me of the early releases from the brand. The same is true for By Kilian Single Malt. After a few years of going off in different directions Single Malt re-teamed creative director Kilian Hennessy and perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur. They created a beautifully constructed whisky accord which starts with plum slowly coming together via wheat, cedar, tolu balsam, and vanilla. Once it forms you have a fantastic whisky on your skin.

Thierry Mugler A*Men Pure Malt was the second flanker in what I consider the best flanker series in all of perfume. In these early releases original A*Men perfumer Jacques Huclier seemed to delight in adding in a new ingredient to show the versatility of the classic caramel, patchouli, and chocolate accord. In this case it is a whisky accord which teases out the caramel while amplifying the sweetness in all the best whiskies. I keep a little tin of high-quality caramel which I eat a bit of when I’m sipping whisky; it started here.

Another combination of sweet and whisky is present in Carolina Herrera CH Men Prive. Perfumer Christophe Raynaud uses whisky as contrast to the citrus opening of grapefruit, complement to the lavender in the heart and depth along with a black leather accord in the base. This is a rugged masculine perfume.

My final choice comes from a collaboration between independent perfumer David Seth Moltz (the D.S. in D.S. & Durga) and the scotch producer Glenlivet. Hylnds Spirit of the Glen wants to capture the bouquet of a Glenlivet 18. This is a complete experience of scotch in a perfume. Grassy fruity opening deepens into a hay and chamomile heart. When you get to the base with whisky malt and barley you are complete.

If you’re in a whisky mood but don’t feel like a drink, try these five perfumes instead.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Miu Miu Fleur D’Argent and Dolce & Gabbana The One for Men Grey

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One of the more typical approaches to flankers it to lighten them up. The idea being that removing the stronger ingredients might allow for someone who is not appreciative of them to find a version to their liking. This month’s Round-Up looks at two of those.

Miu Miu Fleur D’Argent

2015’s Miu Miu is a good example of why I don’t give up on mainstream fragrances. There is still space for creativity and commerce to co-exist. Miu Miu introduced most of the world to the perfume ingredient Akigalawood; an enzymatic degradation of patchouli. Perfumer Daniela Andrier has been exploring the interactions of different floral ingredients with it through each new Miu Miu flanker. With Miu Miu Fleur D’Argent we have reached the white flowers.

Fleur D’Argent opens with a lilting orange blossom. It isn’t left alone for long as tuberose and jasmine join the white flower party. There is a restrained elegance to this bouquet which Mme Andrier keeps on a tight leash. Akigalawood has a distinct peppery facet. In Fleur D’Argent it is reduced in effect because of the presence of the white flowers. That peppery part has been a deal breaker for some I’ve introduced to the original. I’ll be curious to see if they like this one better.

Dolce & Gabbana The One for Men Grey

Among the mainstream releases which I think are very well done is 2008’s Dolce & Gabbana The One for Men. When I’ve recommended something available at the mall this is one which has been well-received. Perfumer Olivier Polge composed an elegant Oriental around a spine of basil, cardamom, and tobacco. It has been such a best seller the brand hasn’t really attempted to produce multiple flankers. The same is not true for Dolce & Gabbana The One. The new flanker Dolce & Gabbana The One for Men Grey goes for a different lighter effect mainly by removing the tobacco while finding a different style of herbal top accord.

Grey opens with the familiar swoosh of grapefruit and cardamom. As I lean in waiting for the basil I get a mixture of clary sage and lavandin. The entire top accord of the original is altered as the grapefruit takes more of a leading role lifting the herbs up to a higher plane. The base is also a fresher non-Oriental accord of vetiver and ambrox. Typical masculine woody accord. If the original was too heavy I think The for Men Grey is worth giving a try as it keeps much of what I liked from the original.

While I like the more full-bodied originals, in both cases. These are good versions of fresher constructs worth giving a try if you prefer that.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Estee Lauder Cinnabar- From the Ashes

I devote one column a month to perfumes which have crashed and burned to end up in the Dead Letter Office. When I started Colognoisseur this month’s Discount Diamonds entry was scheduled to be part of that series. Then like a phoenix, Estee Lauder Cinnabar, rose from the ashes three years ago. It sits right on the edge of my $50 limit for this column. It is such a great fall perfume I’ve decided to fudge my criteria just a tiny bit.

Cinnabar was born to three influential perfume personalities. Estee Lauder was hands on, as creative director, in 1978. She asked perfumers Josephine Catapano and Bernard Chant to design an answer to the blockbuster Opium. Ms. Lauder wanted her own Oriental at a lower price point. They would form a softer Oriental which still retained a decent kick. Seems like a recipe for success. Except it failed. There are times when something permeates pop culture so thoroughly it removes all opportunity for competition. This is what caused Cinnabar to find its way to the discontinued shelf in the late 1990’s.

Then for some reason Estee Lauder, the brand, re-launched it in 2015. It is somewhat different than the original because of formulation restrictions. I’d really like to know who did the reformulation because I like it very much. It retains all of what I enjoy from the original. Just to be clear this column is describing the new 2015 version and not the original 1978 version.

Cinnabar is a simple construction of spices florals on top of a classic Oriental base. The modern version is the same with a lighter touch here and there which I only noticed when I had them on side-by-side. To my nose the differences are negligible.

It opens with what almost became a Lauder trademark of the time aldehydes and bergamot. There is a fizz across the early moments before the real business of Cinnabar appears. That is the heart accord of clove and rose. This is a big obstreperous accord full of 70’s attitude. It is balanced without going over the edge. It also really accentuates the spicy core of the rose. The currently available version of Cinnabar had to reduce the percentage of clove oil. The reformulator has found some neat tricks to get the volume back up where it was. The base is patchouli, sandalwood, and incense. It is the classic Oriental base, only thing missing is a touch of amber.

Cinnabar has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Cinnabar can be found right around the $50 a bottle limit. It is an excellent choice for fall if you want to add a new spicy Oriental to your rotation.

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

Dead Letter Office: Suzanne Thierry Ondine- Niche Before Niche Existed

Niche perfumery became a thing right around 2000. There were some brands which were offering alternative styles of perfume that were recognizably niche in the 1990’s. Acceleration of the prominence of independent brands doing things differently happened in the new century. Anything has its beginnings even further back. Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s there were brands which created a single perfume as an alternative to what was the current trend. There was no name for them but in hindsight these were the earliest stirrings of what would become niche. One of the examples of this is Suzanne Thierry Ondine.

Not only is it a proto-niche perfume it is also a celebrity-inspired scent, as well. In 1954, actress Audrey Hepburn pulled off a rare double. She won a Tony for her Broadway performance in “Ondine”; co-starring with her future husband, Mel Ferrer. She would also win a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her star turn in the classic “Roman Holiday”.  Suzanne Thierry was inspired to create a perfume to capture Ms. Hepburn.

Suzanne Thierry

Mme Thierry was certainly the creative director for Ondine. My only question is was she also the perfumer? It seems unlikely. Which means she worked with someone to produce Ondine. I am interested to discover who this was because Ondine is a response to the big aldehydic florals of the day. Don’t get me wrong it isn’t something I would describe as transparent. It is a fresher composition then something like Madame Rochas which was released around the same time.

Suzanne Thierry selling Ondine

This freshening appears from the first moments as the aldehydes are kept on a firm leash. I have a feeling the choice of which aldehydes to use was something that took time. It is supported by a set of spices; cardamom, clove, and coriander are what I smell. The florals at the heart are the typical rose, jasmine, and ylang-ylang. If you pick up any of Ondine’s contemporaries you will smell an overpowering mixture of these obstreperous floral ingredients. It is a necessity to break through the clouds of aldehydes of those fragrances. In Ondine this is a style of floral accord that will become very popular in 35-40 years. Each floral ingredient is given room to expand into space without crowding the others. Even in a sample over 60-years old there is a still a reminder of what this must have smelled like fresh from the bottle. The chypre-ish base is patchouli and oakmoss. This is where Ondine does emulate its contemporaries as there is a heavier tone in the final stages.

Ondine has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Ondine was an example of making perfume which was an alternative to the other perfumes available at the time. It was relatively popular as Mme Thierry made publicity tours in the US into the late 1960’s. She would sit behind a table showing off her perfume. Sound familiar?

Ondine was discontinued sometime in the late 1970’s. It is still available here and there at the online resellers. It was interesting to see the concept of niche in one of its earliest incarnations even if it ended up in the Dead Letter Office.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample supplied by a generous reader.  

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Clove

Fall is coming. Which means it is time to start thinking about my favorite spicy perfumes. One spice carries a fantastic character when it is used in fragrance; clove. It is an ingredient which can be tuned to feel like a bit of incense or tilted to a rougher edge. When used well it is imparts something different from the typical spices you find. Here are five of my favorites.

There was a Diptyque boutique on Newbury St. in Boston. It was always an experience in what niche perfumery was all about. Diptyque as a brand did that right from the start with Diptyque L’Eau. Based on an old English potpourri recipe the clove is the linchpin for all the spices in the top accord before going to a rose and sandalwood base. One of my favorite Holiday scents but I also wear it in October.

My first experience with the smell of cloves was at the end of French clove cigarettes called Kreteks. I was always drawn to it especially since it seemed to be a symbol of personal rebellion for those puffing on them. The perfume which captures this best is Ava Luxe Tabak Kretek. Indie perfumer Serena Ava Goode uses clove, tobacco, cinnamon, and cardamom to produce the scent of a Kretek which doesn’t make me have to inhale smoke.

Clove tends to show up more often in indie releases. Perhaps the best use of it came in Charenton Macerations Christopher Street. Creative director Douglas Bender and perfumer Ralf Schwieger use it to provide a clove orange effect in the heart. Orange blossom and cinnamon round it out. The tobacco on top and the musks below make it one of my favorite fall perfumes.

One of my all-time favorite perfumes is Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant. During the mid-1990’s creative renaissance at Kenzo this was the best of all of them. Creative director Celine Verleure and perfumer Dominique Ropion produced a luxurious spicy perfume by adding in the oiliness of ylang-ylang to an olfactory spice rack. The clove is one of the most prominent notes in this. This perfume is very close to being my all-time Favorite Thing because it is so good. It is one of my rituals to greet the first chilly morning in fall wearing this.

Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur is one of the best Oriental fragrances perfumer Maurice Roucel has produced. It has one of those outsized reputations which it lives up to. M. Roucel also goes the spiced citrus route. By using equal amounts of clove and cinnamon to liven up tangerine it is the more compelling part of the development. The base is sweet vanilla and sandalwood with subtle musk attached. The colder it is the more I smell the clove and cinnamon; which is why it is a cold weather staple.

Looking to add some spice to your fall roatation? Give these five clove standouts a try.

Disclosure: I purchased a botlle of each perfume.

-Mark Behnke

Independent Perfumery 2018

When I was really starting my descent into perfumed obsession in the early years of the 2000’s it started with the discovery of niche perfumes. What that meant to me were small brands with distinctive artistic aesthetics. Those early years of this century saw the rapid expansion of this style of perfume. Presenting themselves as an alternative to what was available at the mall. It was, and remains, part of the reason I enjoy perfume.

Then in 2006 on the blogs I follow there was mention of this new perfume from Switzerland. A young artist by the name of Andy Tauer had released a perfume called L’Air du Desert Marocain. My perfume world changed again. I discovered there was another world of fragrance makers who worked on their own; independent perfumers. It would be the acclaim for L’Air du Desert Marocain that pointed those who love perfume to a new place.

Every year I am struck by how vital this community is. What spurred me to write this column was my editorial calendar for the next week. One of many important lessons I learned from my Editor-in-Chief at CaFleureBon, Michelyn Camen, is the importance of keeping an editorial calendar. That means I have all the different days subjects planned out in advance. Sometime when I look at my white board I can see patterns which arise out of the list. Looking over next week’s list I saw six wonderful perfumes from six different established independent perfumers. It made me think about where we are now.

One of the things I write about a lot is the concept of a brand aesthetic. It should be easier when an independent perfumer is the only voice in the room. From experience I can tell you it is not. I try a dozen or so new independent brands a year. I provide private feedback which is just between the perfumer and I. One of the more common sentences I write is, “What are you trying to achieve besides smelling good?” The brands which have succeeded have almost always had a personal answer to that. The ones who ask me “What do you mean?” is probably a reason why they don’t succeed.

Proof this has succeeded is there is a part of Hr. Tauer’s perfumes which has been dubbed a “Tauer-ade”. There is a scented fingerprint which says where this perfume came from. The same can be said for Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Co. or Maria McElroy of Aroma M. I feel if I was handed any of these, and others, perfumes they are identifiable because of this. Independent perfumers can refine a personal vision over every release.

Mandy Aftel

Another more fractious aspect of independent perfumery is very few of them have any formal training. Like all artistic efforts there are the precocious few who are blessed with innate talent. For those the years spent making their perfumes provides its own kind of training; learning through trial and error. That same effort is also rewarded for those who learn entirely from that. Time can be a great leveler. Some of the early founders have become the teachers for those who are drawn to make their own perfume. Mandy Aftel has produced great perfume, under he Aftelier Perfumes label, and a wave of students from her California studio. AbdesSalaam Attar does the same in Europe.

One of the most important aspects of the current state of independent perfumery is the ability of the perfumers to use small batches of amazing ingredients. Particularly over the last few years there have been releases which are made from materials that have been gone from mainstream and niche perfumery due to the difficulty of sourcing enough to produce hundreds of bottles. The independent perfumer can produce tens of bottles if they desire. A good example are the perfumes of Russian Adam under his Areej Le Dore brand. He can source actual musk from the animal through a license he has. Other independent perfumers create their own tinctures, botanical hydrosols, co-distillates, or enfleurage. Each of these create magic. The botanicals sourced by Yasuyuki Shinohara from his home island of Hokkaido, Japan for his Di Ser line are what makes those perfumes unique.

The final thing which has made independent perfumery so important is it lives outside the geography of France, the US, Italy or Great Britain. For over 100 years that was where the perfume we knew came from. Independent perfumery takes place everywhere with the influences of location finding its way into the bottle. All four of the countries where modern perfume was born have their share of independent perfumers who have things to say about that history in their new perfumes. The perspective that comes from elsewhere is invaluable.

If you need the best argument for the importance of independent perfumer in 2018 follow along next week as the perfumes speak for themselves.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Jimmy Choo Man Blue and Ralph Lauren Polo Red Rush

When it comes to flankers the name is supposed to respect the traditions which have come before. This month’s Flanker Round-Up discusses a couple which seem to have not received the memo.

Jimmy Choo Man Blue

Jimmy Choo as a brand has confounded me ever since its debut perfumes in 2011. There has been consistent creative direction paired with some of the best perfumers which has not produced a clear fragrance aesthetic. Over twenty-plus releases I can’t begin to tell you what a Jimmy Choo fragrance should smell like. Which was why when I received my sample of Jimmy Choo Man Blue I expected an aquatic. That’s what “blue” usually means in the name. Of course, it wasn’t an aquatic it was a bone-dry woody perfume. The other difference was I liked it.

When it comes to the Jimmy Choo Man collection if there is one consistent ingredient it is black pepper. Perfumer Nathalie Lorson uses that in the top as support for an herbal clary sage. It leads to a subtle leather accord which is used as underpinning for sandalwood and vetiver in the base. This is a very desiccated version of sandalwood at the end. Jimmy Choo Man Blue isn’t an aquatic but it might be a piece of dried up driftwood; if it was a piece of sandalwood.

Jimmy Choo Man has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Ralph Lauren Polo Red Rush

Ralph Lauren Polo Red debuted in 2013 and has had two previous flankers before the release of Polo Red Rush. All three of those preceding perfumes were variations on woody perfumes. I enjoyed last year’s Polo Red Extreme more than the initial two Polo Red releases. I liked it for taking a different tack. I was curious to see if that would continue in Polo Red Rush. Of course, it is an herbal citrus cologne. Despite that it hit the spot in the summer heat better than a woody version would have.

Polo Red Rush opens with a wave of citrus focused on red mandarin. This is a tarter version of orange which is sharpened by some lemon and apple in complementary roles. Mint comes along to provide a freshness. I have a hard time with mint and this one tiptoes right up to the edge of my distaste for that ingredient. It is a fresh minty citrus mélange that might remind you of utilitarian fragrance versus perfume. It does stay just on the right side of that line for me. The base is clean cedar which has a bit of lavender and musk to accompany it.

Ralph Lauren Polo Red Rush has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

This time I was happier not to find what I expected at the end of my lasso for this month’s Round-Up.

Disclosure: This review is based on sample provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke