Discount Diamonds: Clinique Happy- How Women in the 90’s did Fresh

I’ve written many words on this blog about the effect Davidoff Cool Water had on fragrance designed for men. I’ve received a few e-mails from women readers asking if there was a similar women’s fragrance which exemplified the fresh style for that gender. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it to finally arrive at a conclusion. It wasn’t the first; but it was, and continues to be, the best-selling of this style released in the mid 90’s. It is also the answer I most receive from men in their 40’s when I ask what the women in their life wear. The perfume is Clinique Happy.

In women’s fragrances throughout the 1970’s and 80’s the trend was deep chypres and boisterous florals. It was the gender equivalent to the men’s powerhouse leathers and uber-fougeres. As the 90’s dawned the time for a course correction was due. The generation which came after the Baby Boomers, Gen X, wanted a style to call their own. Those who loved perfume also wanted to find new styles to explore. By the latter half of the decade two new styles would provide the change; fresh was one of them.

Evelyn Lauder (l.) and Raymond Matts

For men fresh was synonymous with aquatic. For women it wasn’t as simple. There was a large selection of fresh linen style perfumes centered around the laundry and linen musks. The style Happy fits into is the other major one, the fresh floral. It is also the first credited perfume to Rodrigo Flores-Roux who collaborated with Jean-Claude Delville. The creative team, Evelyn Lauder and Raymond Matts, was also early on in their influential term. Clinique was created by Ms. Lauder; by 1997 she became more dedicated to the fragrance part of the brand. She would work with some of the best perfumers early in their careers spotting talent before others. Mr. Matts would also become one of the most influential creative directors but at the time of Happy he was also just starting down that path. With Happy they designed a perfume which exemplifies fresh and floral.

Jean-Claude Delville (l.) and Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Happy opens on a, I have to say it, happy mixture of citrus. It is difficult to not smile in the early going because this is a sun-kissed grapefruit top accord. It leads to fresh jasmine scrubbed clean of indoles. This is a slightly dewy version of jasmine. It is expansive and transparent. Magnolia will eventually take the lead while retaining the same opacity. A similarly transparent synthetic wood is the final ingredient.

Happy has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Happy is successful because it does everything perfume is supposed to do. The citrus is uplifting. The florals are lilting. The woods are simple and light. It is why Happy is successful because it is so easy to be the perfume for a woman who only wants a couple bottles on her vanity. It continues to be a best-seller because even after twenty years few do it better.

Happy is another of the cases where its longevity is why it is a Discount Diamonds choice. It can be purchased from 10mL rollerball up to 100mL for anywhere from $4.99- $34.99 respectively. Heading into the summer if you want something fresh to add to your holiday overnight bag Happy is as good as it gets within the style it helped start.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Huitieme Art Manguier Metisse- Ripe Mango

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

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

Pierre Guillaume

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: The Summer Perfume Playlist

As Memorial Day approached last week I was busy refurbishing my summer music playlist. The songs have to be light fun and made for singing at the top of my lungs in the car. It gets a little longer every year as a couple of songs from the previous summer are added to my evergreen collection of songs I associate with long sunny days. At about the same time I was arranging the perfume on my shelves to get the ones I like on my perfume playlist out in front. As I was looking at them I realized that there is also a group of five I like wearing every summer because they are part of what makes the season for me. I thought I’d share my summer perfume playlist in this month’s My Favorite Things.

It might be the alpha perfume, or more accurately the alpha cologne, but there is nothing I enjoy more than spraying myself with a healthy coating of Roger & Gallet Jean Maria Farina Extra Vieille. Reputedly the original cologne recipe: lemon, rosemary, and orange blossom. It lasts for a short time, but it refreshes just as much as any three-chord rocker like “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” by The Ramones. Gabba Gabba Hey.

When I want something as bright as the noonday sun I choose Chanel Allure Homme Edition Blanche. Perfumers Jacques Polge and Francois Demachy open with a fantastic shiny fanfare of lemon before heading to a lightly woody base. I seem to hum “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves when I wear this.

Summer isn’t summer unless you spend some time at the beach. The Different Company Sel de Vetiver captures the smell of salt water on skin matched with vetiver and grapefruit to capture the dune grass and the sun. Perfumer Celine Ellena makes a fragrant version of “Surfin USA” by The Beach Boys.

What might be the omega cologne, Thierry Mugler Cologne, is one of the best reinterpretations of a classic fragrance style that exists. Perfumer Alberto Morillas uses the same lemon and orange blossom seen in many colognes but by threading a lot of white musks through that duo he creates something brilliant. This is the summer perfume I wear when I want to smile like “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.

I discovered Diptyque Philosykos near the end of a particular summer. It conjures end of season memories for me with perfumer Olivia Giacobetti’s transparent fig providing the coda to the summer before fall arrives. Just like “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley.

For the next three months all five perfumes and five songs will be on heavy rotation. See if you want to add them to your summer playlist.

Disclosure: Reviews based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Giorgio Armani Sensi- Can We do Niche?

I have no idea if this first paragraph carries a grain of truth but in hindsight I think it might. As fragrance crossed into the 21st century the uprising of interesting perfumes willingly marching out-of-step with the mainstream were creating a movement. The large corporations behind the mainstream had to be looking at this wondering how they could turn this to their ends. I don’t think they were any more successful at identifying and defining niche than I can twenty some years on. It still makes me think that at some boardrooms there was a conversation which began with the question “Can we do niche, too?” I think this led to a lot of poorly thought out perfume, but here and there that concept found its place. That mainstream audiences weren’t ready for that is why Giorgio Armani Sensi is this month’s Dead Letter Office subject.

Harry Fremont

Giorgio Armani began their fragrance line in 1982. It would become incredibly successful with the back-to-back releases of Acqua di Gio and Acqua di Gio pour Homme in 1995 and 96 respectively. They became exemplars of the prevailing trends on the men’s and women’s fragrance counters of the day. To this day they remain big sellers. By 2002 Armani wanted to release another pair of perfumes. The men’s one was Armani Mania pour Homme which was a typical masculine woody. Sensi would be released six months later and it was not typical.

Alberto Morillas

Perfumers Harry Fremont and Alberto Morillas collaborated on Sensi. What they produced is a fragrance of nuance which charms because of its complexity. They used some interesting ingredients which give textural effects not usually found at the mall. Which might be why its no longer for sale.

Sensi opens with a laser beam of lime. It is focused, delineated, and clean. It is an attention getter before the florals arrive. The floral accord is primarily jasmine and mimosa. It is a gorgeous accord with some of the indoles present instead of being scrubbed away. Then the first bit of texture arrives with barley providing a “grain” to the florals. It comes off as a slightly toasted almond effect which meshes with the florals in a fascinating way. Throughout this phase it is like there is a kinetic accord subtly shifting moment by moment. This moves to a kind of gourmand-like vanilla and benzoin accord. I say gourmand because the barley also interacts with these to form something which feels gourmand. Except as it also interacts with the florals it provides a warming depth. As it moves into this phase I am again met with a perfume which continually shifts. Some palisander wood provides a woody base for this to end upon.

Sensi has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Even now there are almost no perfumes in the department store which display the subtle charms of Sensi. It never caught on with consumers. Although those who did find it have become fanatic about it. It is one reason you see the bottles go for high prices on the auction sites.

So if there is any accuracy to my first paragraph the answer to the question “can we do niche?” was answered with an enthusiastic “Yes!” by Sensi. That it was received somewhat less enthusiastically by the buying public is why it is in the Dead Letter Office.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by a generous reader.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Marc Jacobs Daisy Love and Thierry Mugler Alien Flora Futura

As I finish clearing my desk of the spring releases of 2018 I wanted to mention a couple of the flankers which were better than most of the others released in these early days of 2018.

Marc Jacobs Daisy Love

If there has ever been a brand which has overplayed a flanker, it is Marc Jacobs and Daisy. The original released in 2007 is one of the top tier mainstream perfumes. The thirty-two flankers in the last eleven years are mostly forgettable. Some flankers even spawned their own flankers. It became easy to ignore the entire mess. I wanted to write about Daisy which made me pick up flanker thirty-two, Daisy Love. It turned out there was some connectivity back to the original which made it better than most of the other Daisy flankers.

First connection was perfumer Alberto Morillas returning to make a variation on the original he created. The original was a strawberry fruity floral; for Daisy Love M. Morillas fashions a less fulgent strawberry by using raspberry and cloudberry to result in a greener, almost unripe, strawberry. It is tart more than sweet. M. Morillas then actually uses the title floral to provide a lighter floral effect than in most of the collection. It all ends on generic synthetic woods and musks. I wouldn’t throw over the original for this but it does enough different, without throwing out the whole playbook, that it could be a nice companion for the summer.

Daisy Love has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Thierry Mugler Alien Flora Futura

Thierry Mugler has only been a touch less aggressive in producing flankers to 2005’s classic Alien. Thierry Mugler has delighted in producing perfume which engenders “love it-hate it” responses. Alien is an excellent example. One could even say that the 21 flankers since its release are attempts to convert the “hate it” crowd. For Alien Flora Futura it lightens up some of the heavier aspects for the set of people who found it too heavy.

Perfumers Dominique Ropion and Jean-Christoophe Herault make this lighter by switching the ingredients while still retaining the Alien vibe. It starts very un-Alien-like using a bright sparkling citron. Citron has a fuller feel to me than lemon although they are similar. The real alteration comes in the heart as the perfumers substitute jasmine with cereus flower, also known as the queen of the night. Cereus has a similarity to jasmine but also a fresher quality. It works nicely with the citron. It eventually slides into the Alien amber focused base accord but in keeping with everything else a touch lighter. If you love Alien I imagine this will feel like Diet Lemon Alien to you. If you hated Alien because it was overwhelmingly aggressive Alien Flora Futura might turn you into a lover.

Alien Flora Futura has 14-16 hour longevity an average sillage.

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

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Elizabeth Taylor Passion for Men- The Scent of a Man La Liz Style

The branding of perfume by celebrities was not as common as it is today. It wasn’t until the late 1980’s where celebrity and perfume became the brand instead of the promotion. One of the earliest to step up with a celebrity brand was actress Elizabeth Taylor. Prior to Ms. Taylor’s entry the results were mixed. After the success of her third fragrance White Diamonds there was a line of celebrities wanting to put their names on a bottle. I became acquainted with the brand through their first masculine release Passion for Men in 1989.

Ms. Taylor was one of the earliest celebrities writ large often referred to as La Liz. In a day when there was no internet every move she made was scrutinized and reported upon. Her love life, the jewelry, the movie set contretemps, and her fashion. I was always enthralled by her eyes with their one-of-a-kind violet color. Seeing them on a 70mm movie screen they were mesmerizing. The color became one of Ms. Taylor’s hallmarks as she used violet throughout her life. When she released her first perfume Passion in 1987 it was in a violet colored bottle. I had a close friend who wore Passion from nearly the first day it was released, it was her signature scent for twenty years. When I smell it I automatically think of her. Because she knew I liked perfume she gifted me a bottle of Passion for Men in 1989. It would remain in my small early rotation of perfume until I discovered niche over ten years later.

Rene Morgenthaler

Passion for Men was composed by perfumer Rene Morgenthaler who was a stalwart perfumer in the commercial sector at this time. M. Morgenthaler was a technician working on the familiar perfume templates. Passion for Men was going to be a masculine Oriental except there was a fabulous little indicator of where men’s perfume would head more firmly twenty years later. M. Morgenthaler would design a spicy woody version of the classic architecture.

Elizabeth Taylor in 1985

Passion for Men begins with bergamot supported by ginger. This begins to be subsumed by spices as clove, cardamom and primarily nutmeg carry things forward. Vetiver sets itself up as the nucleus in the heart. This is a woodier version of vetiver. M. Morgenthaler really pushes it to the foreground to mesh with the nutmeg. The bit of innovation here is he adds in a vector of vanilla at the same time patchouli comes up. This tilts in a kind of gourmand style, years before that would come to be a thing.

Passion for Men has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I still wear Passion for Men at least once a year, it has classical style which does not feel dated. This can be had for $10-15 at most of the perfume discounters. Its longevity has really turned it into a Discount Diamond.

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

Mark Behnke

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

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

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

Frederic Malle

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

Pierre Bourdon

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

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

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

Disclosure: This review based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Up In The Air

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There is an increase in stories in the news about people who wear perfume in the same way people talk or play music too loud; as if the world wants to share in their magnificent taste. The latest story comes from a poll on the travel site Expedia. In their annual Airplane and Hotel Etiquette Survey here were the top five annoying travel behaviors:

The Seat Kicker- 51%

The Aromatic Passenger- 43%

The Inattentive Parent- 39%

Personal Space Violators- 34%

Audio Insensitive- 29%

I winced when I saw the number two response.

Image via Quora.com

One of the reasons I was dismayed is because it is exactly this kind of insensitivity to others by perfume wearers which allows for office-space bans. In any enclosed space if you’re going to wear perfume you should be considering the same thing you do when you fire up your music player or take a phone call in a shared space.

I love perfume, but I do not wear it while traveling because I don’t know if the person sitting next to me will be as enthralled with the effervescent citrus woody perfume I am wearing. What I do is choose something from my group of smaller travel sizes or samples of perfumes I own. Put them in a zip-lock bag. Keep them in my carry-on. When I hit the restroom at my final destination then I give a single spray to the base of my throat. I have never found the occasion where wearing perfume onboard a plane is a necessity. I’ve actually found when flying overnight flights my single spray can be a bit of a tonic after the long flight.

I think this is not done in a conscious way by many whom this critique is named for. I think they apply what they normally apply without thinking they are going to be in a plane for a few hours with others. This dovetails with the correlation between strong sillage equals quality to a lot of fragrance consumers.

I’m asking all of us who wear perfume to think about whether wearing it while traveling is a necessity. So many flights are only a few hours it isn’t that much of a sacrifice. I am hoping that the 43% number can be reduced over time because I know I don’t want to be an “Aromatic Passenger” up in the air.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Strawberry

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As I mentioned a year ago, when the subject of this column was rhubarb perfumes, this time of year has a natural partner to rhubarb; strawberry. By the time I write this column a month from now it is likely a strawberry-rhubarb pie will be cooling on the counter. Strawberry in perfume has a quality that sometimes can come off as adolescent in nature. There are a few which manage to take that ingredient and make something more sophisticated here are five of those.

Back in 2006 when Romano Ricci debuted his new perfume brand Juliette Has A Gun one of the two releases, Miss Charming, featured strawberry. Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian called it “wild strawberry’ which meant a strong green component to the sweet berry. It rests on top of a velvet rose where an interesting use of lychee tones down the typical flamboyance of rose. A swirl of musks finishes this off with an expansive air. This was one of the first times I noticed strawberry in a positive way in a perfume.

Wild strawberry would return in Marc Jacobs Daisy in the fall of 2007. Perfumer Alberto Morillas uses it as part of a grapefruit-strawberry top accord. Violet leaves pick up the green more efficiently leading to a gardenia and jasmine heart while the violet flowers alongside them. A typical woody-vanilla base round it out. This has been one of the great mainstream successes of the last ten years and much of that is due to M. Morillas’ touch with the modern fruity floral.

My favorite straight out strawberry perfume is Montale Mukhallat. Done in the brand’s unabashedly bombastic style the strawberry is matched with almond, vanilla, and balsam. This is like a freight train with the strawberry in the cow catcher position. When I feel like catching a ride on the Strawberry Express this is what I reach for.

I adore the opening of slumberhouse Sadanne as it always smells of candy apples flavored with strawberry. This seems like perfumer Josh Lobb’s commentary on fruity floral fragrance. This becomes clearer in the heart as the florals are purposefully made somewhat sour so that they contrast with the sugary sweetness of the top accord. Then it heads to dirty musky territory which scares off all the fruit and flowers. One of my favorites from the brand.

Imaginary Authors Cape Heartache finds a unique partner for the strawberry, pine. Perfumer Josh Meyer shows that coniferous berries are the pairing I didn’t know I wanted. They each manage to attenuate the other leaving a middle harmonic which works. A bit of woodsmoke skirls through as if the smoke from a bonfire is caught in the boughs of the tree. It is a midnight in the forest scent with a bit of strawberry along for the ride.

Strawberry doesn’t always have to be childish these five show that to be true.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Nina Ricci Signoricci 2- Twin Sons of Different Mothers

One of the easier to explain reasons for a perfume ending up in the Dead Letter Office is a brand which fools with the names of their perfumes. There are many enduring lessons where the moral of the story is not to confuse the consumer. This month’s entry Nina Ricci Signoricci 2 is one of those tales.

If I was asked to make the case for a post-War perfume brand which has been lost in the shuffle of the Grand Maisons I could make a compelling case for Nina Ricci. L’Air du Temps is one of the great early perfumes to arise after World War 2 ended. If you judge this on the modern formulation I hope you have an opportunity to try an earlier version where the floral heart is among one of the most beautiful in all of perfume. The fragrance side of the brand was overseen by Robert Ricci for forty years which saw a signature style of sophisticated fragrances released. Many are also in the Dead Letter Office and the survivors have been reformulated into ghosts of themselves.

Robert and Nina Ricci

Most of the fragrances from this period were marketed to women. It wouldn’t be until 1966 that they entered the masculine market with Signoricci. It was primarily a citrus with a bitter green core which even for someone who enjoys green found it distracting in its intensity. Ten years later the sequel would arrive, Signoricci 2.

Signoricci 2 was composed by perfumer Raymond Chaillan. The first thing he seemingly chose to do was to retain the citrus style but to excise the overt green. M. Chaillan’s vision was to produce a sophisticated citrus with a much more understated green component.

Raymond Chaillan

The opening is a sharper version of lemon with petitgrain providing a more focused effect. The floral heart of carnation and jasmine is lifted by a set of expansive aldehydes. This creates space for a thinner green thread to snake through the perfume. Basil, vetiver, and moss take care of this. It becomes very warm as amber, patchouli, and tonka form a comfy base accord.

Signoricci 2 has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Signoricci 2 fell square into the mid 1970’s powerhouse men’s perfume style. I have treasured my bottle because I think it is one of the best “formal” citrus perfumes I own. It always seemed to me that Signoricci 2 should have had the opportunity to be reformulated to death as the rest of the brand had been.

Except they decided to choose to confuse their consumer. Soon after Signoricci 2 was released they decided to discontinue Signoricci. At the same time, they then decided to drop the “2” from Signoricci 2. Imagine how this worked over the next few years. Someone who finished a bottle of Signoricci who loved the intense green nature goes to the mall and sprays “Signoricci” on a strip sees the green is gone and walks away. The person who bought Signoricci 2 and enjoyed it, as I did, finishes their bottle. Goes to the mall to replace it only to find “Signoricci” minus the “2”. Walking away they wonder what happened to their sophisticated citrus. I have never understood these kinds of decisions because it leads right to the Dead Letter Office.

There is a part of me that would like to see the two descendents of both of the creatives; grandson Romano Ricci and son Jean-Marc Chaillan collaborate on Signoricci 3. Until then Signoricci 2 will do.

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

Mark Behnke