Welcome to the Colognaissance!

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One of my favorite pop culture terms is the one used to refer to actor Matthew McConaughey’s reinvention of his acting career which lead to him winning the Best Actor Oscar, for Dallas Buyer’s Club, a month ago. The term for the winning streak he has been on is “McConaissance”. I like it because it succinctly describes how this lightly regarded romantic comedy actor more known for being People’s Sexiest Man alive in 2005 has become this respected dramatic actor without really changing much of anything but the acting roles he has chosen.

As I was walking around Esxence 2014 I began to realize there is a sort of a fragrance equivalent going on. It started to hit me after spending time with Luc Gabriel of The Different Company talking about the seven fragrances which make up the L’Esprit Cologne Series. It became a little more solid while chatting with Jean-Christophe Le Greves of Thirdman. It finally became a fully formed idea when Etienne de Swardt of Etat Libre D’Orange showed me his new release titled simply Cologne. Yes I’m going there; we are in the midst of a Colognaissance.

matthew mcconaughey stetson

For far too many years cologne was seen as the perfume equivalent of wine in a box. No discerning lover of fragrance would be caught wearing a cologne. Those were the out-dated smells of our fathers who likely wore too much of something like Faberge Brut or Dana English Leather. The cologne was turned into a trifle and a punchline and it pretty much stayed that way for forty years in the US. Even Mr. McConaughey was enlisted as the celebrity face behind Stetson Cologne. This devaluing of cologne never seemed to take place anywhere else in the world. Things got so bad that cologne became synonymous with cheap fragrance. What was needed was a group of creative minds to turn this around.

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Christophe Cervasel and Sylvie Ganter

Just as Mr. McConaughey found a way to be cast in roles with more heft Creative Directors and owners of Atelier Cologne, Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel, created a “new” version called cologne absolue. The cologne absolue was a higher concentration version, pushing 20% perfume oil. What this addressed was one of the perceived issues around colognes, their lack of longevity on the wearer’s skin. By upping the oil percentage and finding a way to retain the cologne architecture and balance Atelier Cologne rapidly began to pick up converts. Atelier Cologne has continued to push the envelope on what a cologne can be, even choosing heavier keynotes like leather or amber and still managing to make a fragrance identifiably a cologne.

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Thirdman Cologne

Perfumer Emilie Coppermann working under Luc Gabriel’s creative direction took some of the finest ingredients never found in colognes previously and throughout the seven L’Esprit Cologne Series showed they could be turned into luxurious luminous compositions. Jean-Claude Ellena at Hermes has added four new Eau de Colognes to the original Eau de Orange Verte. Each of these explore a specific duality of two notes and are among some of the best work M. Ellena has done while at Hermes. One of the most recent lines to join the Colognaissance has been Thirdman, under the creative direction M. Le Greves, which has made completely modern colognes meant to be splashed on liberally and often. I kept my bottle of Eau Monumentale in the refrigerator so I could catch a cool splash in the summer.

All of these lines are worth exploring if you have not tried them up until now. I have all of them on permanent rotation once the mercury soars as they all refresh the spirit as a good cologne should do. What is nice is that along with the refreshment there is also a wonderful spread of styles and aesthetics to choose from. As we finally leave winter behind start thinking about joining the Colognaissance the choices have never been better.

Mark Behnke

Perfume Mythbusters Love Potion No. 9?

One of the more pervasive fallacies when it comes to fragrance is the idea that there is a magic elixir that when worn will cause the object of your desire to fall madly in love with you, or in lust with you. I can’t say I am immune to the sentiment as the first bottle of perfume I owned was Jovan Musk. Why? Because at the age of thirteen the ads intimated that women were crazy about men who wore musk. Of course Hai Karate intimated I would need a black belt to fend off the women if I wore that. What I found out pretty quickly was it wasn’t the way I smelled that lead to success with women it was a lot of other things of which fragrance was just a component.

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For many years this always seemed like a concept held exclusively by men, and women were above this kind of simplistic thinking but the recent release of Le Premier Parfum changes that. Le Premier Parfum allows the chakra associated with sex to open and in their press materials they flat out say, “Le Premier Parfum is not merely a fragrance, but an aphrodisiac.” So much for the more evolved gender. The two women behind the brand have been giving interviews urging women to, “wear it responsibly.” I guess that is their version of safe sex. This is as nonsensical as the idea of Creed Aventus causing women to lose their senses and drape themselves on the man wearing it.

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The truth of this is there is not one scientific study which has ever shown any particular scent to immediately cause the object of one’s desire to go weak in the knees and let their chakras do the talking. A lot of the confusion comes from the idea of pheromones. In the insect world pheromones have been well studied and proven to exist. These substances are used to convey a lot of specific primal information from alarm, to a trail to follow back to food, and yes, sex. So because the bees do it the suggestion is so should we humans. Except there has never been any human pheromone identified to do what it does in the insect kingdom. Of course that doesn’t stop perfumes from claiming they have the magical non-existent pheromone in their fragrance. The bottom line is there has been no unequivocal scientific proof that a human pheromone exists and there are certainly none in the fragrances which claim to have them in them.

When it comes to scent and how we perceive others there have been some interesting studies which show when a woman wears grapefruit fragrances she is perceived as much younger. A very recent study has shown the smell of cedar has the opposite effect when it comes to men with people seeing a man as older than his age when wearing a cedar fragrance. The real point is that fragrance does have the ability to shape our opinion of others but not to cause them to go all googly eyed and become one’s fawning acolyte for a night. That is why when searching for the mythical Love Potion No. 9 instead look for the fragrance which complements your personal style. It is the complete package which is the real attraction between people and your fragrance is part of that package but most of the rest of the work is up to you.

Mark Behnke

Boot or Reboot: Yohji Homme 1999 & 2013

It seems like some of the greatest discontinued fragrances have been reformulated in the last twelve months. Much like the reformulation of Patou pour Homme I approached the new version of Yohji Homme with some concern.

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The original Yohji Homme was released in 1999; it was signed by Jean-Michel Duriez just at the moment Proctor & Gamble had acquired Jean Patou. When I smelled Yohji Homme I was swept away with this spicy licorice and lavender concoction. It was clearly not a success as it would disappear from shelves within three years. In that endless internal conversation about the best masculine perfumes ever Yohji Homme is right there in the mix. Late in 2013 the newly reformulated Yohji Homme was released with perfumer Olivier Pescheux taking on the task. He consulted with M. Duriez but this was a difficult task because a few of the ingredients had been restricted by IFRA regulations and a couple others were from the resources M. Duriez had while at Patou.

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Jean-Michel Duriez

The 1999 version of Yohji Homme started with one of the best lavenders I have ever encountered in a fragrance it is so close to the real lavender that grows outside my house. It pushes right to the edge of being unpleasant because of its strength. M. Duriez then wraps this intense lavender in strands of black licorice. It is a bold beginning and it becomes even bolder as coriander and cinnamon are joined by geranium and carnation to form a spicy floral heart which slithers underneath the lavender and licorice insinuating itself within the slight olfactory space available to it. After about an hour on my skin these notes combine to produce a singular accord like nothing else in my experience. If that was all there was Yohji Homme would have been great but the base adds in a rum-soaked leather and things take a quantum leap forward. It never fails to be a fascinating ride and a perfume which delivers time and again.

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Olivier Pescheux

M. Pescheux in the 2013 version of Yohji Homme is really trying to do this with one hand tied behind his back while jumping on one foot. Because of the lack of availability of the restricted and proprietary ingredients M. Duriez used in the original, M Pescheux was forced into Hobson ’s choice time and again. When it comes to the lavender used it is in no way close to the quality from the original, the same goes for the licorice. The leather is tamed instead of wild. The cinnamon lacks the same bite. The same progression as the original is there but the new version sort of lurches through its transitions. I almost smell an audible clunk as the less strident lavender and licorice seem to just get out of the way of the spice and florals in the heart. By the time the base notes of leather and rum show up they seem too polite. This new version feels like recreating the Eiffel Tower in wood. It looks like the same thing but it lacks in majesty and power.

It is obvious that the Reboot comes nowhere near the Boot and that’s a shame because it feels like in 1999 the perfume world was not ready for Yohji Homme but in 2013 it is less of an outlier. If you had never tried the original I think many will be enchanted by the new version as all of the important beats are there and it is still a unique fragrance. M. Pescheux did a great job considering the straitjacket he was bound in. One other difference between the two is the original is a powerhouse which lasts all-day the new one barely made it through the workday. The new Yohji Homme has been exclusive to Selfridge’s in the UK and is expected to be released wider by the end of 2014.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles of both versions of Yohji Homme I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Creed 101- Five To Get You Started

The House of Creed is one of those perfume producers which elicits strong opinions for and against. What is not up for debate is it is one of the best-selling niche fragrance houses in the world. Creed is many perfumista’s entrée to the world of niche perfume and it instills an unusual loyalty to those who admire the brand. One of the things detractors point to is the reliance on the celebrated history of the Creed brand and unashamedly talking about the trendsetters who have supposedly worn the brand over the years. Olivier Creed is the current head perfumer the sixth generation to have that position. He is also currently training his son, Erwin, to become the seventh generation, assuring the continuance of the brand for years to come.  Creed perfumes are easy to find but because of their popularity there are many counterfeits out there. If you are going to dip your nose into Creed it is best to start by trying from a reputable source.

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Olivier and Erwin Creed

Green Irish Tweed was released in 1985 and could be said to be the fragrance which would begin this current phase of popularity Creed enjoys. It really lives up to the green in its name especially in the early phases of development as lemon, verbena, and violet leaves combine to form a clover soft accord. The heart is a much understated orris which is more opulent than floral. This leads to what is pretty much a signature base note accord to many Creed fragrances with ambergris and sandalwood. Green Irish Tweed is a quiet fragrance and often when wearing it I will think it is gone only to have someone comment on how nice I smell. Of anything I own Green Irish Tweed is one of those few which elicits spontaneous compliments.

In 1987 Bois du Portugal was released and it is one of my very favorite woody lavender perfumes I own. Creed says in their press release that this was Frank Sinatra’s signature fragrance. Whenever I wear it I always get a very 60’s vibe to it. In my imagination this is the fragrance I expect Don Draper of “Mad Men” to be wearing. It is simple as bergamot and lavender are the opening notes and the Creed ambergris and sandalwood base is tweaked with a healthy addition of vetiver. Bois du Portugal is a great perfume and very close to my favorite in the line.

Love in White was released in 2005 and the very first bottle was gifted to then-First Lady Laura Bush; the current occupant of the White House, Michele Obama, is also said to wear this. This is a fresh bouquet of three of the best floral ingredients of orris, jasmine, and rose. They are kept light and not as bold as they can be in other fragrances. The base is, again, the Creed ambergris/sandalwood signature with a bit of vanilla and cedar to complete this variation.

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Millesime Imperial was released in 1995 as aquatic perfumes were ascendant. Millesime Imperial shows a pedestrian genre like aquatics can be infused with a bit of class. The citrus opening of Millesime Imperial is lemon and orange and each of these notes is distinct in the way they display themselves. The overplayed ozonic notes, which exemplify the aquatic, is swathed in a decadent orris. It could have come off like putting designer lipstick on a pig; instead it is like draping a tuxedo jacket over a t-shirt elevating the common to something less so. The base is the same as the others before but with a bit of musk to add a bit of animalic growl to the signature sandalwood and ambergris.

In my opinion Creed has been on a bit of a roll over the last three years or so. With the release of Aventus in 2010 that roll was just beginning. Meant to evoke the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, Aventus has a unique progression of notes. An unusual fruity opening of blackcurrant, apple and surprisingly prominent pineapple are combined in a very pleasant olfactory fruit salad without ever getting out of control. The heart of jasmine rose, birch, and patchouli twist the floral stalwarts with traditional woody contrast. The base is not the Creed signature as ambergris is there but this time oakmoss and musk round out the final phase. Aventus breaks the Creed mold in every way and that has continued over the last few releases.

Creed is such a popular house becase the great majority of their perfumes smell great and whether you buy the PR or not I know I always feel a little more elegant when I’m wearing Creed.

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

Mark Behnke

Wetshaving: The Three T’s

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Every morning I go through three levels of fragrance. The first is the soap or shower gel I use. Knowing what perfume I am planning to wear influences what I choose in the shower as I try to match one of the base notes of my upcoming scent of the day. The second level of fragrance comes between my shower and applying my perfume.

Around ten years ago I made switch away from the commercial multi-blade shavers and returned to the traditional double-edge shaver my dad taught me to shave with. As I discovered the joys of what is called wetshaving I also embraced the joy of adding a new fragrant phase to my morning routine with the shaving cream I would use.

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Part of what I like about wetshaving is the reminder to slow down a bit in the morning and take care of yourself. Even though I can go pretty fast now it still takes longer to make four passes with my single edged blade than it would to do one pass with a multi-blade razor. I have learned to relax and breathe in the scent of my shaving cream and enjoy the feel of the brush lathering up my face.

When it comes to which shaving creams to use there is a simple rule to start with, “go with the three T’s”. Just like midtown New York perfume shoppers know the three B’s; Bergdorf’s, Barney’s, and Bendel’s; wetshavers usually start with the creams of Geo F. Trumper, Taylor of Old Bond St., and Truefitt & Hill. I have three that I use in heavy rotation although all of the creams from these three producers are great places to add a bit of extra fragrance to your day.

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Geo F. Trumper Violet Shaving Cream is probably my favorite of all the creams I own. It is a deep purple solid in the pot which lathers to the very faintest tinge of lavender as I apply it to my skin. The smell of violets surround me and it is as good as any violet fragrance in a perfume bottle. It wasn’t until Atelier Cologne Sous le toit de Paris that I found a fragrance which matched this perfectly. When I want to have a violet day it is this pair which is my go to combo.

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Taylor of Old Bond Street Avocado Shaving Cream is one of the most uniquely smelling shave creams I own. One characteristic of all Taylor’s shaving creams is their exceptional lathering ability. With the Avocado version it is so rich I often think I’m slathering white guacamole on my face. I use this as a companion to a lot of my lighter fragrances and as a base to slumberhouse Pear + Olive, the connection is sublime.

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Truefitt & Hill Sandalwood Shaving Cream is the most fragrant of the three T’s especially the Sandalwood version. The creamy sweet woodiness feels like it seeps into my pores. Even when I’m rinsing it off I feel like it has lingered longer than most of the other shave creams I own. I always shave with this before wearing Diptyque Tam Dao or Chanel Bois des Iles. It lays down a bit of sandalwood foundation for those fragrances to build upon.

Even if you don’t want to go full wetshave and still want to use your modern multi-blade definitely meet the movement halfway by adding a tub of one of the three T’s and a shaving brush to your shaving routine. If you love fragrance it truly adds an extra bit of it to every morning.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Rochas Tocade- Maurice Roucel’s Turkish Delight

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Maurice Roucel is one of our greatest perfumers and he just as easily produces a fragrance for Victoria’s Secret, 2012’s Simply Gorgeous; as he does for Frederic Malle, 2000’s Musc Ravageur. There is a broad spread to the perfumes he makes. From a gourmand like 2004’s Bond No. 9 New Haarlem to a fruity floral like 2006’s Guerlain Insolence there is always a dashing sense of style underlying all that he creates. M. Roucel feels like one of the last of the old school perfumers just turning out things that smell good. One of my favorites by M. Roucel is also one of the best perfume bargains you can find, one of the best perfumes you can buy; Rochas Tocade.

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Maurice Roucel

M. Roucel created Tocade in 1994 and it was one of his earliest forays into what would eventually become the gourmand style of perfume. For Tocade which translates to “whim” he centers the perfume on two notes, rose and vanilla. Vanilla had been used in a more restrained way with rose in many previous fragrances but the change here was to really up the vanilla and that in turn makes Tocade feel like an olfactory version of Turkish Delight. It is a typical Oriental and in that way it carries a heft to it appropriate for the confection it imitates.

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Tocade opens with a bit of light green aspects from bergamot and geranium. It gives way to a transparent rose which is given some structure with iris as support. Through the first few moments, all of this is fairly traditional pretty rose. It all changes as the vanilla makes its presence known. M. Roucel pulls off a fabulous effect with his vanilla as it never tilts into a pedestrian kind of vanilla. It never seems to get sweet and buttery, or saccharine and sugary. Somehow it straddles a knife’s edge of balance between the two. Because of the translucence of the rose it comes off almost watery. It is difficult to say M. Roucel has a signature move but if there is one this watery sheer floral effect is probably it. Once the vanilla rises fully Tocade feels like a beautiful sticky piece of Turkish Delight. To further deepen the comfort aspects amber and benzoin add a softly sweet resinous complement while a bit of musk adds a twinge of animalic contrast.

Tocade has average longevity and above average sillage.

Tocade has survived the ravages of reformulation pretty much intact for twenty years. I picked up a 1Oz. bottle for $9.99 at my local TJ Maxx to compare to my original bottle and the only difference is in the very top notes as the new bottle feels a little brighter for those first few minutes; which is probably to be expected. Once Tocade gets down to its rose and vanilla business my mid 1990’s bottle and the 2014 bottle are identical on my skin. As I mentioned above this perfume is easily obtainable from a number of sources for less than $20/Oz. I think Tocade is one of the great perfumes of the last thirty years and the fact that it isn’t more well-known is a shame; the price certainly shouldn’t be a barrier. This is an example of a master perfumer fashioning a simple construction which contains subtle shadings and brushstrokes to take it far above being a simple rose and vanilla perfume. For $10 how can you go wrong?

Mark Behnke

Olfactory Chemistry: Ionones, Irones, and Methyl Ionones- Purple Rain

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Two of my favorite notes in perfumery are violet and iris. The molecules which provide the smell of both of these notes are from a family of closely related molecules called ionones and irones. As you can see below the structures are amazingly similar:

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By just adding the CH3 group (in red), what we call a methyl group, to the ring of ionone you get alpha-Irone. If you add the methyl group to the end of the string of atoms to the right of Ionone you get alpha-methyl ionone.

The ionones, irones, and methyl ionones are arguably the second set of synthetic molecules to mark the beginning of modern perfumery. The use of synthetic coumarin in Fougere Royale in 1882 is the acknowledged beginning of modern perfumery. The three molecules above would be isolated in 1893 and have formed the building blocks of many of the synthetic aromamolecules in the 121 years since their discovery.

The olfactory differences in these three molecules are dramatic considering the tiny change in their structure. Alpha-Ionone gives off a woody violet quality with a bit of raspberry to it. Alpha-Irone is the smell of iris. Alpha-Methyl Ionone is softer and imparts the powdery quality to iris. If it was just these three molecules that would be more than enough but the reality is far richer as you can see below by just moving the double bond in the lower half of the molecule you create a new set of molecules called beta or gamma-Ionones and the analogous irones and methyl ionones.

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Beta-Ionone has a fruitier and woodier quality compared to the alpha-Ionone. Gamma-ionone is the standard violet you find as an aromachemical.

This all leads to a discussion I had on one of my Facebook perfume groups. One of the members asked about the difference between orris and iris when listed in the perfume notes. The difference is orris is a natural source of irones. Orris is the dried root of iris and contains six of the Irone variations described above. The idea is that the combination of all six naturally occurring Irones present in the root together forms that complex iris effect so prized by perfumers. Because of the need to dry the root for five years after harvest makes orris one of the costliest ingredients in all of perfume. This is why you will usually only see it on the more expensive niche brands note lists. It provides a singular effect but at a high cost. As a result when a perfumer wants a bit of iris character in their fragrance without breaking the budget they will turn to the isolated synthetic molecules like alpha-irone and use that as it is much less costly than orris concrete or orris butter.

In the past thirty years these molecules have been the starting point for the discovery of numerous synthetic molecules which have seen widespread use like Norlimbanol and Iso E Super.

So when you smell a bit of purple in your fragrance it is likely due to one of the molecules related to the ionones, irones, or methyl ionones.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Incense

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I often get asked to name my top 10 fragrances and of all the questions I get asked this is probably the most difficult for me to answer. There are so many perfumes out there I admire and I always fret I’ll miss one when making any list of any kind. Now that I have my own blog I feel like I should try and sort of answer the question. So once a month I’ll share my favorite things and the five I think are the best examples of that note or style. For the first version I’m going to tackle incense fragrances.

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Frankincense

Saying incense fragrances can be problematic all on its own but what I mean are fragrances where the incense note is prominent throughout. The five choices below all hit the spot when I’m craving an incense perfume.

Amouage Jubilation XXV- I have facetiously named Bertrand Duchaufour the “High Priest of Resins” as over a five year period starting with 2002’s Comme des Garcons Series 3: Incense Avignon & Kyoto he would refine his incense accord until it all came together in this brilliant luminous incense fragrance, in 2007.

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Juozas Stakevicius (aka Joe Stat)- There are a number of perfumes which capture the church incense vibe with cold stone walls and smoky censers, none of them do it better than this one by perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Passage D’Enfer– Most of my incense fragrances are on the heavier side and I rarely take them out as the weather turns warmer. Passage D’Enfer is the exception to that rule as perfumer Olivia Giacobetti turns in an incense that feels like it is miles away even though it is right underneath my nose. It is like an optical illusion as I expect it to get stronger every time I wear it but it just stays sheer and gorgeous.

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Serge Lutens Encens et Lavande- This was the Serge Lutens fragrance which made me find a way to get a bell jar flown back here to me. From the first moment I smelled the lavender, sage, juniper berry, rosemary, and incense core I was, and am continually, in love with Christopher Sheldrake’s ability to make all of that work.

Sonoma Scent Studio Incense Pure– Independent Perfumer Laurie Erickson has captured a cross between campfire and incense as Incense Pure has a glowing heart of frankincense, smoky cistus, and myrrh. This is the most comforting of my favorite incense fragrances and it immediately makes me feel better every time I wear it.

This is one of those categories where others could come up with their top five and it would be entirely different than mine and I would admire all of the choices in that list. If you need a place to begin your exploration the five above are a good place to start your own list of your favorite things.

Mark Behnke

Perfume Mythbusters: The Silence of the Molecules

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There are some widely held ideas out on the interwebs and some of them even came from before we had this worldwide connectivity. For some of these I am going to become an olfactory version of Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman television’s Mythbusters. Imagine I have replaced my regular fedora with a beret like Jamie’s and off we go.

As a research chemist one of the funniest things I have heard over the years from Sales Associates after applying perfume to the wrist pulse points, “Don’t rub your wrists together you’ll bruise the molecules.” Now I know most people have a natural reticence when it comes to chemistry and all those atoms and molecules. Certainly the frequency with which I am greeted with “I hated chemistry in school.” when I tell people I’m a chemist lets me know the majority aren’t so jazzed to know about the molecules in their everyday life. So when you’re told that rubbing your wrists together somehow hurts the molecules some can think, maybe it could be true. The main reason that people have believed this to be true is that when you rub your wrists together you are changing a couple of things about the way the perfume is meant to be experienced but trust me you’re not bruising the molecules, you’re not even making them uncomfortable.

If you wanted to bruise a molecule what you’re really saying is you want to break the bonds between the atoms that make up that molecule. When I want to do that in the laboratory it takes energy, actually it relatively takes a lot of energy. I have to use heat, other chemicals, ultraviolet light, even microwaves sometimes; to break open a molecular bond so that it is available to react with another molecule. The amount of friction you would have to apply by rubbing your wrists together would probably damage your skin before the first molecule even felt a little queasy.

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Why this myth persists is that the perfume does develop differently when you rub your wrists together but it has nothing to do with molecular mauling. It has more to do with the physical effect of evaporation.

The perfume pyramid in a very, very basic way is just an arrangement of molecules with different evaporation rates. The term for that is called vapor pressure. Vapor pressure is reported in Pascals abbreviated Pa. To give you some idea of the ranges of vapor pressure; the molecule which makes up antifreeze, ethylene glycol, has a vapor pressure of 500Pa; water’s is 2300, and the propane gas in your gas grill 1,013,000 Pa. The higher the number the faster it evaporates. This is the basis for arranging notes from top to heart to base as differing vapor pressures means notes like aldehydes which have vapor pressures in the 10,000’s fly off first and the big synthetic molecules like Iso E super generally have vapor pressures in the 1,000’s. Now this is a simplistic comparison and the molecules which are used in perfumery also have other qualities which can make them persist a little longer than straight vapor pressure. For the purpose of this discussion the notes in perfume evaporate at different rates which form the development of a perfume on your skin.

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Water Drop by John Kane

When and how you apply perfume will have a very large effect on how this evaporation occurs. If you add a single drop to each wrist it is in a concentrated spot and the evaporation will take place slower causing a slightly longer development of the perfume on your wrist. Now when you take your wrists and rub them together taking that drop and smearing it into a thin film you are now speeding up the evaporation much as when you spread out water when you mop the floor. A thin widely applied film evaporates much quicker. So as you rub your wrists together the combination of body heat and dispersion makes, especially the top notes, evaporate all that much quicker.

The molecules aren’t so much bruised as excited to get out into the atmosphere a lot quicker now that you’ve made it easier for them to escape. The difference in the way a perfume smells when applying to a wrist and rubbing has nothing to do with brutalizing the molecules.

So if you’ve refrained from rubbing your wrists together because you think you're abusing the poor molecules in your perfume don’t worry they are fine. The only thing you do when you rub your wrists together is alter the evaporation profile in favor of the lower vapor pressure components. Which if you aren’t fond of the top notes of a particular fragrance might be a benefit.

So much as Hannibal Lecter asked of Clarice Starling at the end of “The Silence of the Lambs” I hope you no longer hear the cries of the molecules the next time you rub your perfumed wrists together.

Mark Behnke

That Unattainable Object of Desire: Andy Tauer’s Orris

There are fragrances out there that are among the best that you can get but they are limited in availability. These are the true quarry of the fragrant treasure hunters out there. Through fortune and the good graces of many in the perfume community I have been able to find many of these and have rarely been disappointed in the effort needed to procure them. While I don’t want to start a longing for something one can’t have I also want to let people know when you come across an opportunity to try one of these do not pass it up.

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I have been thinking about Andy Tauer’s 2006 limited edition release Orris as I have just received my bottle of Josh Lobb’s equally limited edition slumberhouse Zahd. There are a lot of similarities between the two. Both Hr. Tauer and Mr. Lobb are fiercely independent perfumers uncompromising when it comes to their perfume. They both communicate in sporadic pictures and words about their creative process. I would say when I discovered Hr. Tauer’s blog back in 2006 it was eye-opening in the amount of insight he would provide on his creative process. It has always been a lot of fun to read Hr. Tauer’s posts leading up to eventually wearing one of his releases. In both perfumer’s cases it is much of what fuels my passion to cover perfume because their creativity is so approachable.

Andy-Tauer

Andy Tauer

One of Hr. Tauer’s early posts in July 2006 described a limited edition he was working on called Orris. To read about it go this link and scroll down to the July 21, 2006 entry “layers and appearances”. In that post he explains that Orris is “like a facetted piece of jewelry, reflecting in all colours of the light”. It is that quality which makes Orris such a genius piece of perfumery. As he also mentions within that blog post Orris is one of the most mutable fragrances I have ever encountered as each person seems to pull their own unique version of it. Here’s what it does on my skin.

Orris opens with cinnamon, black pepper, and grapefruit which rapidly comingles with rose and orris. This is a fabulous beginning with the spices floating on top of the florals and the citrus adding some light. The orris is carried along with the cinnamon into a heart of frankincense. This is that very beautiful almost metallic frankincense and with the orris and cinnamon it is a marvelous combination and it is on this chord where Orris lingers for the longest time on my skin. Every time I wear it I realize there is nothing like it in my collection of iris fragrances. Once Orris does begin to head towards the base notes they are also a collection of rare woods: real Mysore sandalwood along with real oud and Australian sandalwood. Because of Hr. Tauer’s blog post this was one of the first times I was able to tease apart the two different varieties of sandalwood. Also remember that in 2006 oud was rarely used in fragrance so all of this added a level of uniqueness to the base of Orris. What I find interesting is even when I revisited Orris in 2014 to write this the entire composition still retains its singularity there has still been nothing like it.

Orris has all-day longevity and below average sillage.

When you are fortunate enough to find a young independent perfumer who you admire and they mention they are making a fragrance with one-of-a-kind ingredients; don’t think about it too long and buy it. I dithered over Orris and was never able to acquire a bottle. The small amounts I have are the generous gifts of fellow bloggers and perfume lovers. I have never seen an official number of how many bottles were produced but I do know Hr. Tauer is regularly asked whether he could reproduce it and he always politely replies, “No, the raw materials are unobtainable or too expensive now.” What is out there is all there is. Thankfully what is out there is a glorious fragrance experience amongst my very favorite ever from one of the very first independent perfumers.

Mark Behnke