When It All Goes Pear Shaped- The Case of Penhaligon’s Tralala

One of my favorite British terms is describing a situation as having gone “pear shaped” which means it has gone terribly wrong, usually from good intentions. This phrase is particularly apropos when it comes to the latest release from Penhaligon’s called Tralala.

penhaligons-tralala

Penhaligon’s is a venerable old school English perfume line and in the last five years or so has really reclaimed a vital spot in the niche world. Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour has been creating new perfumes and reformulating some of the historical ones. It is in my estimation a great success story but the latest release is a good example of when a brand forgets what makes it special and attempts to reach out for a different audience.

For Tralala Penhaligon’s wanted to up their hipster credibility and the first step to doing that was asking fashion designers Meadham Kirchoff to act as creative directors. Penhaligon’s has scented their runway shows at London Fashion Week and so they had some familiarity with the line. The latest collection for Fall 2014 recalled prewar Parisian fashion. M. Duchaufour has a way with Retro Nouveau fragrances. Seems like a team made for success, except for the name. The name is where it all begins to go south.

last-exit-brooklyn-leigh

Jennifer Jason Leigh as Tralala in Last Exit to Brooklyn

In an article in Cosmopolitan announcing the fragrance Meadham Kirchoff alluded to the name being taken from the character in the movie “Last Exit to Brooklyn”. For those unfamiliar with that movie or the character Tralala, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, ends up in a horrific plight and it is something nobody would want to associate with perfume. If you need to know more check out the Wikipedia entry for the novel and under synopsis read the description for Tralala. This is where the attempt to reach for that desired hipster credibility fell apart around them. I am pretty sure they just saw a picture of Tralala like the one above and thought “Yeah there’s our poster girl.” Until people started mentioning this after the Cosmopolitan article came out. On both Now Smell This and Basenotes, Matthew Huband of Penhaligon’s PR department went into spin mode and released this statement; "Hello all, I’m the head of marketing at Penhaligon’s, We’d just like to clarify that the name Tralala is simply an innocent and musical expression which reflects the fragrance. The perfume is rich, whimsical and nostalgic in Penhaligon’s best tradition, as you’d expect.”

Except I’ve smelled the fragrance and “rich, whimsical, and nostalgic” doesn’t accurately describe it. The adjectives I would use are “dangerous, edgy, and retro”. Which is where the disconnect happens; this fragrance clearly is going for this danger as whisky, leather, and patchouli are not the ingredients of nostalgic whimsy. They are exactly as was stated the milieu of Tralala, the fictional character.

This is what happens when a brand forgets about its brand identity and heads off into uncharted territory. All too often a trap door is lurking and everyone involved falls through looking foolish. The most successful perfume brands know that too many missteps like this turn their customers off and I’m pretty sure Tralala will disappear with as little notice as can be managed. I hope that the next time someone at Penhaligon’s wants to go for hipster cred they just remember that isn’t where their success lies.

Mark Behnke

Bottles That Fascinate: Vintage Gucci perfume flask

I am not a bottle guy and many of you who know me know that if it smells good it could come in a Mason jar. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a pretty flacon. My friend, and fellow blogger, Vivian Kelly of The Fashion Examiner is much more interested in the bottle that holds the juice and from time to time she is going to talk about particular bottles and their significance. The series starts with a find at an antiques store. -MB

IMG_2499

The moment I spotted the vintage buff colored box at McGeorgie’s Antiques, I was hooked. I didn’t care what was actually INSIDE, I had to own that box. Similar to people who buy mass fragrance at counter, it was the packaging that pulled me in. It was mine, for a mere $25.

Fortunately, this Gucci box had something equally worthy inside – a 1980s oval GG flask on a chain that instantly reminded me of the vials Studio 54 partygoers wore in the E! Channel documentaries I never tire of watching.

I took the mini flask to the experts at Circa Jewels to verify its provenance. Buyer, Thuyvi Tran, confirmed that the item was an authentic Gucci piece, and determined that the item was very likely manufactured in the 1980s. 

We brainstormed about where we had seen an item like this before until we hit on it. “Kathryn Merteuil”, Sarah Michelle Gellar, wore a flask from which she sniffed cocaine to help her keep her frozen smile in place in “Cruel Intentions” [1999], a clever remake of “Dangerous Liaisons” [1988] that was set in the present day Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Thuyvi recommended I have the piece dipped in 18 karat gold to restore it back to its original glory; the process would run between $50 – 80.

Once that is done, I’ll have Jimmy at Golden Paradise [589 Eighth Avenue, NYC] remove the keychain links. The last step would be to string it on a 1950s plated gold chain purchased at Audrey Road, from owner Danielle Virrilli’s excellent vintage collection.

Once the piece is ready, my next challenge will be to find a fragrance I love enough to carry on me day and night. Suggestions are welcome!

Vivian Kelly, Editor-in-Chief of The Fashion Examiner

My May Day Fragrance: Jean Patou Vacances

The calendar tells me that spring begins at the end of March with the vernal equinox. Emotionally spring begins for me on May 1 or May Day. May Day in most of the world, except the US, is celebrated with wonderful spring traditions. May Queens and May Poles all celebrate the burgeoning life as the world begins to transition from the grey of winter into the verdancy of spring. In France, lily of the valley is given as a token on May Day; not to mention the fragrances this tradition has launched. For many perfumistas that means the great lily of the valley fragrances are brought from the back of the wardrobe to the front. For the tenth year I will be spending May Day in my favorite green perfume of all time, Jean Patou Vacances.

lilac

Vacances was released in 1936 by perfumer Henri Almeras who would go on to be the perfumer behind all of the early Jean Patou fragrances. M. Almeras is also the nose behind Elizabeth Arden Bluegrass although back then it was for Fragonard. For Vacances M. Almeras composed a fragrance to celebrate the advent of mandatory paid vacation. Vacances means vacation and I read that this was supposed to be a summer fragrance. I have to disagree as Vacances is the softness of new growth on top of the fragile temporary beauty of lilac in the spring. This is all on top of what would become M. Almeras’ signature musky base for much of the collection.

Before we get to that base we start on top with hyacinth and hawthorn. Hyacinth has an opaque purple quality and hawthorn is sweet with a woody character on the periphery. Lilac arises out of this as the purple becomes less translucent. Mimosa shrouds it in bright highlights. Galabanum adds the green but this galbanum is so silky soft while still containing the oomph it is a miracle of perfumery. The final phase is this skin accord M. Almeras is so good at by blending different musks together.

Vacances has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Vacances has been out of production since its appearance as part of Ma Collection in 1984. When I spoke with Thomas Fontaine at Esxence earlier this year he told me he is currently working on reformulating Vacances to be released again. M. Fontaine has a deft hand with this kind of olfactory restoration project which makes me more hopeful for the new version of Vacances to be worthy of the name. When I wake up this morning my art deco bottle will be waiting for me to practice my personal rite of spring.

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

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Sandalwood

6

For this installment of My Favorite Things I’m going to name my five favorite sandalwood perfumes. Sandalwood as a fragrance note is one of the more frequently used ingredients especially as a base note. Most of the sandalwood you encounter in these fragrances is synthetic. There original source of real sandalwood oil in the mid-20th century was from Mysore in India. It was sadly over harvested and is now protected. This caused perfumers to work with both synthetics and alternative sources of sandalwood from Australia and New Caledonia. Nothing has adequately replaced real Mysore sandalwood but the five fragrances below are special sandalwood perfumes on their own basis.

bois des iles

Chanel Bois des Iles– When Ernest Beaux originally created Bois des Iles in 1926 I am reasonably certain it was full of Mysore sandalwood. When Jacques Polge brought it back for the Exclusif line it is said there isn’t a drop of sandalwood at all in the reformulation. I’ve smelled vintage and the Exclusif side by side and accounting for age M. Polge has pulled off one of the great olfactory illusions, ever.

Diptyque Tam Dao– Perfumers Daniele Moliere and Fabrice Pellegrin create a sandalwood fragrance in three acts. Act one is sandalwood and rosewood which is liltingly fragile. The second act adds clean cedar to make the sandalwood equally delineated. Act three takes ambergris as a foundation to accentuate the sweet qualities of sandalwood. For many people this is the gateway to loving sandalwood as a fragrance.

Dries-van-noten-frederic-malle-3

Dries van Noten par Frederic Malle– Frederic Malle claimed in the press materials that this is the same species of sandalwood as Mysore but grown in a sustainable way. I have my doubts but perfumer Bruno Jovanovic keeps it simple using saffron, jasmine, and vanilla to frame the sandalwood gorgeously. Who cares where it came from?

Sonoma Scent Studio Cocoa Sandalwood– Perfumer Laurie Erickson wanted to make an all-natural perfume for her line and Cocoa Sandalwood was the first in this series. She takes New Caledonian Sandalwood and wraps it in spices and dusts it with arid cocoa powder. When people tell me natural perfume can’t have depth and richness I hand them my bottle of this to end that conversation.

Xerjoff Richwood– When I want my sandalwood straight with no chaser this is the one I reach for. Perfumer Jacques Flori uses real Mysore sandalwood at the heart and cassis, rose, and patchouli are present. Those three notes really just serve to draw out the complexity of the real thing. I think it is the single best sandalwood fragrance I own.

These are a few of my favorite sandalwoods but there are a couple I would have included if they weren’t discontinued; Crabtree & Evelyn Sandalwood and Amouage Sandal Attar. If you love sandalwood both of these are worth the effort of seeking them out through online sources.

Mark Behnke

Olfactory Chemistry: Nitro Musks- From Boom to Musk

4

There is no ingredient more ubiquitous, and important, in perfumery than musk. The uses of all of the chemical derivatives of musk have resulted in the expansion of the perfumer’s palette dramatically. From a chemist’s point of view the story of the evolution of the synthetic musks is a still developing chemical tale which has now spanned three centuries of chemistry and the inherent advances in new ways to put together molecules. It almost seems that with every new advance in chemistry it wasn’t too long before someone found a way to make a musk aromachemical with that new methodology.

musk_deer

Musk Deer

The reason for needing synthetic musks is because the natural source is a living animal, the musk deer. For many years these animals would be hunted and the glands used to secrete the natural musk would be removed from the animal, killing it. The collected tissue would be dried, then opened to harvest round fatty nodules which would be tinctured. To get one kilogram of these nodules it could take as many as 50 musk deer to be killed. Musk grains were worth twice their weight in gold and because of this value the hunting of the musk deer drove them to the brink of extinction until they were placed on the international protected species list in 1979. There is still a legal quantity permitted to be harvested but it is of such a small amount that perfume use is not high on the list for it.

musk 1

Even though harvest of natural musk wasn’t outright banned until 1979 the cost of it would cause early aromachemical experimenters to look for more cost-effective replacements. In 1888 the first synthetic musk was discovered but Albert Bauer wasn’t looking to make an aromachemical he was looking to make an explosive. There is perhaps no single molecule which has led to more rapid advances in chemical synthesis than tri-nitro toluene or as it is more familiarly known, TNT. From the moment of its discovery in 1863 organic chemists were looking to make changes to make a better molecule to go boom. Hr. Bauer was no different and as you can see in the diagram above he made one change to TNT and found something that did not explode, except in your nose. I am always amused when I read the 19th century chemical literature because contained within the experimental descriptions is how a molecule smells, and often, how it tastes. There was no OSHA back in 1888 to protect Hr. Bauer from himself. Because Hr. Bauer followed his nose he realized he might have found a different lucrative market instead of ammunition. By improving the synthesis he could produce what would come to be called Musk Bauer for about $500 per kilogram.

musk 2

Hr. Bauer would spend the next ten years perfecting three other musks; musk xylene, musk ketone, and musk ambrette. This class of molecules would come to be known as nitro musks. Each of these had different scent profiles and would be used as the predominant source of musk in perfume for almost 100 years. In 1921, Ernest Beaux used a cocktail of nitro musks, but primarily musk ketone, in Chanel No. 5. Musk ambrette is the key note in Francis Fabron’s original formulation of Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps, in 1948. Throughout most of the 20th century the number of nitro musks proliferated and were used extensively in not only perfume but soaps, detergents, and air fresheners.

The time of the nitro musks would come to an end in 1981 because of suspected neurotoxicity. For perfume there was also another reason as these molecules were very sensitive to light and under prolonged exposure to sunlight the nitro musks would decompose. It was probably the decomposition of nitro musks that has led to the concept of perfume “going bad”. As a medicinal chemist when I first looked at these molecules I wasn’t surprised as, by 1981, it was well-known in the pharmaceutical community that these molecules produced significant side effects in clinical trials of molecules that contained them.

Obviously that isn’t the end of the story of musk, just the nitro musks, and in next month’s Olfactory Chemistry I’ll pick up the tale as chemistry reacted and came up with a new class of musk.

Mark Behnke

Perfume Review Amouage Farah Attar- Gotta Collect ‘Em All

3

When it comes to perfume I certainly have a few obsessive tendencies, which is stating the obvious. One of those is my desire to have everything in the lines I admire most. Amouage is one of those lines and I do own all of the releases most are aware of. Then in 2010 I was in a shop and noticed a much smaller bottle with the familiar Amouage logo. I asked what that was and the next words began a quest which only recently has successfully ended. What was in that bottle was Amouage Tribute Attar which I would find out was a follow-up to Homage Attar which was released the previous year. So I ended up buying both of those and erroneously thought I still had a complete Amouage collection. Then a correspondent from Oman told me about the 20 other attars in the Amouage flagship store. Now I had to try each and every one.

Over the last few years using all of the ways one can employ using the internet I have managed to collect samples, and bottles, of all but one of them. Then just after the New Year my final quarry was in sight and I captured my final Amouage Attar. The last one for me to try was, I believe, one of the first produced Farah Attar.

attars-degs

Traditional Attar Distillation Apparatus called Degs

For those unfamiliar with attars they are extremely concentrated perfumes where the distillate, usually of a flower, usually rose; is added directly to an oil base of sandalwood and/or oud. That’s it there is no alcohol or water added to dilute it. Attars are like the fine wine of perfumery as they actually age and the attar evolves over time. I’ve only owned my attars for a few years so I take that last bit on faith but it makes sense to me. What I do know through my own experience is attars are the most revelatory experiences within perfumery. Because these are combinations of unadulterated oils as close to being “fresh from the still” there is a vitality to the attars that I find nowhere else in fragrance.

modern attar distillation

Modern Attar Distillation apparatus

Farah Attar is about as traditional an attar as it gets as all of the key ingredients are here; rose, oud, and sandalwood. Even if it was just that it would be wonderful but what makes the Amouage Attars stand out is there is always a bit of a twist to add even more complexity. While this could be gilding the lily it actually works to soften the focal points and to allow the wearer the opportunity to approach them from a different perspective. In Farah the group of extra notes are saffron, amber, and a spice mélange. They add depth and grace to the traditional trio that form the spine of Farah Attar.

All attars have multi-day longevity from just a drop but they are very much skin scents. When I wear one it is one drop to the hollow of my throat and it is really only for my enjoyment for the next couple of days.

One of the reasons I wanted to write about Farah Attar was because it looks like these attars might be the first casualty of the IFRA/EU regulations. Kafkaesque covers the issues on her blog post at this link. At this moment it seems like the attar factory in Oman is not operating and all that is out there to be purchased is the remainder of the stock. I hope this turns out to have another reason behind it but Kafkaesque’s research seems to indicate otherwise.

These Amouage Attars are among the most priceless jewels in my perfume collection and the thought that other perfume lovers will not get the chance to experience them is heartbreaking to me. So if this has made you want to go exploring you will need to get moving before your quarry is extinct. I now sit with the satisfaction of having captured all of them. My little box of attars will provide pleasure for as long as I love perfume.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Amouage Farah Attar I purchased.

Mark Behnke

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

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

etienne_de_swardt

Etienne de Swardt

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

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

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

Tilda-Swinton-ELO

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Behnke

How Do We Honor Our Own?

Just as there is awards season for the performing arts we are smack dab in the middle of awards season for the olfactory arts. On Thursday night the French Fragrance Foundation awards were handed out and the following day in New York City The Fragrance Foundation announced their finalists and the winner of the Indie Perfume of the Year. There is an organization of French bloggers who give out the Olfactorama Awards. The new kid on the red carpet is the Los Angeles-based The Institute for Art and Olfaction Awards.

logo Fifi Awards 2014

Each of these awards have their own personality and the winners can be schizophrenic and you wonder how, in the case of the French Fragrance Foundation, Jour D’Hermes (Best Feminine Fragrance in Selective Distribution) shared a podium with Invictus by Paco Rabanne (Best Masculine Fragrance in Selective Distribution). The Expert’s Award choices, from a committee of people from throughout the industry, honored Comme des Garcons Black and Tom Ford Private Blend Tobacco Oud. This kind of dichotomy gave rise to the Olfactorama Awards as a group of French bloggers thought they could do better and here is the list of perfumes they honored: Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin, Hermes L’Eau de Narcisse Bleu, Vero Profumo Mito Voile D’Extrait, and Le Labo Ylang 49.

I look at those winners and can say that each list of winners represents its organization’s view point and as it is with the performing arts I am happy there are writer’s awards as there are industry-based awards. In my opinion the French Fragrance Foundation Expert’s Award is the one I respect the most because they really go the extra kilometer to gather a representative panel who all work very hard to come to consensus. The last two years has seen them honor fragrances I think would not have received any accolades at all.

cropped-bird_mainlogo_left_330pxwide2

Which comes to the independent perfume movement particularly in the US. Ever since I have published a yearly Top 25 new perfumes list there have never been less than five indie perfumers represented on that list. The Fragrance Foundation made an attempt to recognize that community but through three iterations of that award it has gone, respectively, to Odin 06 Amanu, By Kilian Amber Oud, and this year to By Kilian Playing with the Devil. I like all of these perfumes but The Fragrance Foundation and I have very different ideas about what an indie perfume is. Which is why I am excited about the new The Institute for Art and Olfaction Awards which will name their winners on April 25, 2014. They have two categories with ten finalists in each. The Independent Category which honors privately-owned brands operated with the owner’s direct oversight and often employing professional perfumers.  Included in this year’s nominees are brands: Neela Vermeire Creations, Charenton Macerations, Friedemodin, and Yosh. The Artisan Category honors a perfumer-led business where the perfumer does everything from A-to-Z. The nominees are again another fine list which include Olympic Orchids, April Aromatics, Aether Arts, Imaginary Authors, and Mikmoi. All of the nominees are finally going to receive some attention that has been a long time in coming. The entire list of nominees can be found here.

If I was comparing these awards to those given out for motion pictures I would do it this way. The US Fragrance Foundation Awards are the Oscars. The French Fragrance Foundation Awards are the BAFTA’s. The Olfactorama Awards are The Golden Globes. The Institute of Art and Olfaction Awards are the Spirit Awards. What I believe is this kind of breadth of attention paid to the best of olfactory art Is a good thing and every perfume on any of the nomination lists as well as the winners should bask in the glow of the recognition of a jury of aficionados finding their perfume to be among the best of 2013. Just as it is with the movie awards I have my favorites I am rooting for but 2014 is the first year where every perfume I think was award worthy had a place where that could actually come true. That makes the entire perfume community winners.

Mark Behnke

That Unattainable Object of Desire: L’Air de Panache by Mark Buxton

After writing about the Wes Anderson movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in this week’s The Sunday Magazine I got a lot of questions about the fragrance inspired by the movie. To answer those questions not only have I smelled it but perfumer Mark Buxton gave me enough of a sample of it to wear. After wearing L’Air de Panache and seeing the movie I have to say that Mr. Buxton given the freedom of composing what amounts to a bespoke perfume delivered a true fragrance experience every bit as indie as the movie it is based upon.

lairde panache gustave h.

Gustave H''s Wardrobe

L’Air de Panache is the signature scent of the protagonist of the movie Gustave H., the concierge at The Grand Budapest Hotel. As played by Ralph Fiennes, Gustave H. is a consummate concierge and the master of his universe. L’Air de Panache is how people know Gustave H. and it consistently keeps appearing throughout the film.

air-de-panache-nose-nicolas-mark

Mark Buxton (l.) and Nicolas Cloutier (Photo: makemylemonade.com)

When they were filming they, of course, used water. For the World Premiere Mr. Anderson wanted to turn L’Air de Panache into a reality to be given as a present to the cast and crew. For this very special project he would turn to the Paris fragrance boutique Nose to bring the fictional fragrance to life, in six weeks! Nicolas Cloutier would act as creative director to perfumer Mark Buxton as they sought to make a perfume which would live up to what we saw in the movie. Because this was a very small batch release, not intended for sale, it freed Mr. Buxton to use any ingredient on his perfumer’s palette. I would also comment that the short time frame forced Messrs. Cloutier and Buxton to trust their instincts and I think the end result is all the better for that. L’Air de Panache is a definite throwback cologne but, cleverly, throughout its development there are nods to the events of the film.

boy with apple

Boy with Apple

Gustave H. is known for his excellent personal service to the aging, blonde they must be blonde, women who come to the hotel. The beginning of L’Air de Panache pays homage to them with a fleeting aldehyde opening which is the hairspray version of those ingredients. They dissipate as quickly as a cloud of Aqua Net to reveal underneath a rich citrus opening made modern by the addition of basil, instead of the more traditional rosemary. The other note is green apple and that nods to the McGuffin which propels the caper part of the film, a painting simply named “Boy with Apple”.  A stunningly complex jasmine sambac holds the heart of L’Air de Panache it is as elegant as Gustave H. as he strides the halls. This all gives way to a well-mannered jungle cat of a base as Mr. Buxton lets L’Air de Panache off the leash to growl with musk, castoreum, amber, oakmoss, and patchouli. This is Gustave H. behind a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the room of one of his paramours.

L’Air de Panache has 4-6 hour longevity and prodigious sillage. Which is why Gustave H. is always topping it up and everyone knows where he’s been.

For this series the fragrance I am writing about will truly be nearly impossible to find. In the case of L’Air de Panache I am hopeful this might not always be the case. To be clear right this moment there are only a few bottles of it in existence and they are all in the hands of the people who made the movie. Except if you find yourself in Paris and visit Nose they have a bottle for you to experience this quite amazing fragrance. Because of the top shelf ingredients used I suspect a bottle would carry a fairly hefty price tag but if it does come to pass that it is for sale one day I’ll be first in line to buy it. For now I have enough left to allow myself to feel like the master of my own universe for one day of my choosing; it is enough.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided to me by Mark Buxton.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Juicy Couture Dirty English-Claude Dir Brings Niche to Mainstream

1

There are times I need a lot of encouragement to overcome an erroneous snap judgment I have made. One of those instances was back in 2008. On Basenotes there was a lively discussion about this new mainstream fragrance from Juicy Couture called Dirty English. Now this, at the time, nearly 50-year old man was not going to wear any perfume from Juicy Couture. I remember being quite vocal about it on the forum, too. All of this was without ever having tried it. Then I was in my local department store and a sales associate approaches me with a bunch of strips in her hand and hands one to me. As I sniff the strip picking out caraway, cardamom, leather, sandalwood, and oud. I was running through which niche house this could have come from. Then the rep told me what it was. Yes you guessed it this was Juicy Couture Dirty English and my jaw had disengaged itself from my face and was dusting the floor.

There have been a few valiant attempts to bring a niche aesthetic to the department store counter, Dirty English was the attempt for 2008. So far there has not really been a breakout success for any of these and this is why Dirty English is easy to find at the discount fragrance purchase points. I have regularly found it for less than $30 for a 3.4 oz. bottle.

claude dir

Claude Dir

Claude Dir was the perfumer behind Dirty English and this was in keeping with his very mainstream career to this point in 2008. He had made one of my favorite mainstream fragrances, Zaharoff pour Homme a few years earlier. Later on in 2008 he would start working on the niche side of the street when he composed Bond No. 9 Andy Warhol Lexington Avenue (now just called Lexington Avenue). With hindsight one can look back at Dirty English as the real start of M. Dir’s niche values.

Dirty-English-Juicy-Couture

Dirty English mixes pepper, cardamom, and caraway. The caraway adds an exotic tenderness to the spices and again I wonder out loud why this isn’t used as a substitute for bergamot more as a top note. All of the spice dusts the light woodiness of cypress. M. Dir then uses a leather accord called Santal Fatal which uses sandalwood, vetiver, and cedar to form the leather accord. M. Dir makes a fascinating choice of using marjoram as an herbal contrast to the Santal Fatal. He then uses the combination of nagarmotha and patchouli to make an oud accord and right here with the combination of all of these components you would be hard pressed not to feel this was a top of the line niche fragrance. In the end a very close-wearing musk finishes this one off.

Dirty English has about 4-6 hour longevity and above average sillage. This makes it an ideal evening out scent.

I was, and continue to be, impressed with the choices M. Dir made for Dirty English. If he was less disciplined with the choices he made this could have easily turned into a mess. Instead he turned out a fragrance I still look to wear for an evening out. I still can’t believe there is a Juicy Couture anything I like as much as this.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle of Juicy Couture Dirty English I purchased.

Mark Behnke