New Perfume Review Eris Parfums Mx.- Fluid Dynamics

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I have written many times that I think the best perfumes arise from a creative dynamic between a creative director and a perfumer. A creative director with a clear vision paired with the ability to articulate it can give a perfumer the guidance they require to put together a memorable fragrance. It really is akin to a movie director getting the right emotional performance from the actors. A good perfume creative director does the same thing with the perfumer they work with. Most of the time I come to meet the creative director long after I have tried their perfumes. Except recently some of the people with whom I have shared the perfume blogosphere with have made the leap to creative direction of their own brand of perfumes. Now these are creative directors who have written many words about what perfume should be. As best as one can, I “know” them through their writing.

Barbara Herman

One who has done this is the writer of the blog “Yesterday’s Perfume” and the book “Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume”; Barbara Herman. A little over a year ago she debuted her new brand, Eris Parfums, with three extremely well-done releases. Her creative direction was integral to achieving her fragrant vision. In perfumer Antoine Lie she found a collaborator who understood it. This is an easy thing to write; this is not an easy thing to achieve. Ms. Herman and M. Lie created a diverse collection capturing many of the principles Ms. Herman had written about. One of those is the idea that “scent is subversive”.

Antoine Lie

In a recent local appearance, she read from “Scent and Subversion” focusing on one of the dynamic ways scent works beneath the surface; as a commentary on the fluidity of gender. She, like me, gets lots of questions of whether this is a “woman’s” or “man’s” perfume. The correct answer is if it smells good on you it is “your” perfume. The first artificial constraint of designing a perfume, by deciding which gender it should appeal to, is already confining. After her reading was over Ms. Herman introduced us to her fourth release Mx.

Mx. is the non-gender title created in England during the 1970’s. It is meant to impart nothing about gender. With the current social dynamic in flux the term has come back to the fore. Ms. Herman and M. Lie chose it as the inspiration, and name, because as a perfume it is meant to capture that kind of flow as things shift without ever rising to being of a specific gender.

If the first three Eris Parfums were meant to be perfume the way they used to make them; Mx. represents the idea that this is the way we should make them now. The idea that something gender neutral means neutral in composition is discarded by Ms. Herman and M. Lie. Their thesis, in the guise of Mx., is true gender neutral must stand for something. In this case it is a sandalwood-centric construct from which they can elaborate upon in ways which hew to neither side of the gender divide.

Mx. opens on an accord of spice over the sandalwood. In the very first seconds a sizzling ginger fizzes across my consciousness drawing my attention to the sandalwood. As the ginger dies down what is left behind is a plush pillow of saffron and incense. Saffron has a softening effect which is what happens here. Out of that some black pepper provides some texture in the early moments. The spices and sandalwood take their time evolving towards the base accord but eventually vetiver heralds the transition to a base of patchouli. At first it is turned slightly gourmand with cacao before growing some claws with castoreum.

Mx. has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate silage.

One of the things Ms. Herman mentioned in her reading was the concept of the inoffensive office scent. Mx. is an office scent for those who are not interested in bland inoffensive perfume. It is a scent which plays subversive commentator on the societal fluid dynamics of whether a fragrance is a “woman’s” or a “man’s”. In the case of Mx. it is “mine” and that is all that matters to me.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Eris Parfums.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Eris Parfums Ma Bete and Belle de Jour- Something Old, Something New

Making the transition from perfume enthusiast to brand owner and creative director is much easier to write than it is to achieve in reality. In my review of Eris Parfums Night Flower I previously recounted the story of how Barbara Herman has done this. Working with perfumer Antoine Lie she produced three debut releases. Today I am going to review the remaining two; Ma Bete and Belle de Jour.

Barbara_Herman

Barbara Herman

Ms. Herman’s passion for vintage perfume would be what eventually drive her to trying to make them like they used to. Ma Bete is the one of these first releases which wholeheartedly embraces a vintage aesthetic. If there is anything most modern perfumes shy away from it is the animalic. For a perfume which translates to “My Beast” this is not going to hold back in any way.

For a fragrance which wants to be “perfumed fur” M. Lie makes a smart choice to lead with a healthy dose of neroli lifted on the classic mix of aldehydes with a pinch of nutmeg. Neroli has become so safe in recent years. M. Lie reminds us that it has a feral nature all its own with its indigenous indoles. The neroli is here in such a concentration that the indoles provide the low growl, warning of the animal in the shadows. In the heart that stylish brute presents itself in a cloud of M. Lie’s “animal cocktail’. Pinned to its lapel is an iris which floats over the animalic nature. Patchouli and cedar provide the base accord with the patchouli in the ascendance. Ma Bete is a reminder that modern brands can still make them like they used to if they have the courage to do so. Ma Bete has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

antoine lie

Antoine Lie

If Ms. Herman and M. Lie had just decided to do two more vintage smelling perfumes to finish this first collection it would have been redundant. Night Flower was an exercise in taking the long-lost ingredients of the past and finding a contemporary way to display them. Belle de Jour displays that there is a way to create a contemporary perfume using modern ingredients which can still carry the presence of vintage perfume.

Belle de Jour begins with a lovely juxtaposition of coriander and orange blossom. Baie rose complements the pungent coriander. The unusual pairings continue in to the heart as Egyptian jasmine is matched with pimento. This is not a vintage accord but it has a faux-antique feel to it. I’m not sure if I would have necessarily gone there if I wasn’t sort of trending towards it but when I was wearing Belle de Jour it was how it felt to me. The base accord is where the present day really arrives as M. Lie uses seaweed absolute as his keynote with musk and cedar. This is a domesticated kitten compared to Ma Bete. The animalic is present but it is also given a fresh twist with the seaweed absolute. I really enjoyed the final hours of Belle de Jour as I wore it. Belle de Jour has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

These three debut scents as a collection are a laudable effort from Ms. Herman and M. Lie. It seems like the enthusiast has completed the transformation from enthusiast to creative director,

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Eris Parfums.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Eris Parfums Night Flower- The Consequence of Vintage

For those of us who get serious about acquiring perfume there are many stages. One of the later stages is after you have devoured what is current someone presents you with a discontinued vintage fragrance. What tends to happen after that is there is a lot of conversation about how they don’t make perfume like that anymore. Eventually you start scouring online and actual auctions looking for these elusive treasures. Anyone who has many bottles in their collection inevitably has a few which are older than they are.

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Barbara Herman

Barbara Herman was one who went through this phase too. Except she harnessed the fervor and expressed it in some very different ways. One of those ways was the blog she founded in 2008 called Yesterday’s Perfume. Over the last eight years she has written about the classics of the past. She would then take that drive a step further and authored a book called “Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume” which she published in 2013. One significant thesis in both her blog and her book is Ms. Herman believes the mainstream perfume industry has abandoned the pursuit of both art and commerce in favor of solely the latter. So she took it one step further if the mainstream wasn’t going to do it; she was.

antoine lie

Antoine Lie

In 2014 she got started with an Indiegogo campaign to design and produce a single scent with perfumer Antoine Lie. After making her goal she began the process of turning her design into a reality. A funny thing happened on that path the single release turned into three releases. Earlier this year she released three perfumes under her new brand Eris Parfums. I really like all of the three debut releases but the one which really dug itself deep was Night Flower.

One of the great tragedies of contemporary perfume is the cleaning up of the majority of it. The strong components that make vintage perfume so unique have been waylaid. It is a casualty of focus groups who associate those stronger notes and accords as being synonymous with their grandmother. It Is the one thing Ms. Herman and M. Lie got spot on as they dust off those powerful ingredients and bring them back into play. For Night Flower the three notes are birch tar, tuberose, and leather.

Where Night Flower captured me was from the top accord of bergamot, cardamom, and birch tar. Every time I wore Night Flower this early stage felt like the most exotic tar baby imaginable. The heart is a soft leather accord mixed with a very restrained tuberose. I wonder how many mods there were with different volumes of tuberose before deciding on a less exuberant effect. The reined in tuberose is the most contemporary part of Night Flower. An earthy effect is created in the base by patchouli, tonka, and musk.

Night Flower has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I want to comment a bit on the sillage. In most vintage perfumes they are very likely to leave a vapor trail. All of the Eris Parfums, but especially Night Flower, have a much quieter demeanor. They are not skin scents but you also won’t leave a reminder of where you’ve been walking behind you.

I have a great deal of admiration for what Ms. Herman has achieved here. Lots of people talk; few actually do. Ms. Herman has done what all of us who have fallen in love with vintage perfume say we want to do. She has made one like they used to in Night Flower.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: If you live in the Washington DC Metro Area Ms. Herman will be making a personal appearance at Arielle Shoshanna (2920 District Avenue Fairfax, VA 22031). She is having a trunk show displaying all three of the Eris Parfums line on Saturday June 11 from 1-5 Pm and Sunday June 12 from 12-4PM. It is a great opportunity to meet Ms. Herman in the intimate setting of Arielle Shoshanna.  

Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2016 Wrap-Up- Profumo Comes to the Perfumed Apple

I attended my first Sniffapalooza in October of 2010. For this edition Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2016, my twelfth, it was the most unique of them all. The reason was in addition to the usual strong lineup of American perfume brands; Europe sent some of their best too. It made the entire weekend feel like it was a summit of perfumery.

spring fling 2016 mark eric stamatis

Mark and Team Twisted Lily (Photo: Brooklyn Fragrance Lover)

In what is starting to become a tradition Twisted Lily owners Stamatis Birsimijoglou and Eric Weiser invited the early arrivers to a party on Friday night. Inside the best smelling storefront in Brooklyn we mingled and enjoyed wine and camaraderie. Amongst hugs there was sniffing as attendees discovered the latest additions since last fall. We all headed home prepared for the next two days.

Saturday morning began on the Beauty Floor at Bergdorf-Goodman. The hot new addition to the store was The Fragrance Kitchen. Just the week before there was an SRO party to celebrate its arrival. It is an extensive line but it seems like Bergdorf’s managed to convince them to provide one of the best exclusively to them called A Rose With a View. It is a very NYC modern rose. The brand has been around since 2012 but sold exclusively in Kuwait. Now Sheikh Majed El-Sabah is looking to expand to the US and Europe.

I also got the chance to try the new Ex Nihilo Sweet Morphine and Christian Dior La Colle Noire. I liked both quite a bit. Next it was off to lunch at Brasserie 8 ½.

Stefania Squeglia sniffa

Stefania Squeglia presenting a Spring Fling 2016

The presentations began with the owners of Masque Milano Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi representing Associazione Caterina. That group is about the heritage and future of Italian perfumery. Over the next hour they took us on a journey from the Roman origins of perfume to the present day. Which turned out to be a perfect segue as Stefania Squeglia of Mendittorosa was one of the later presenters and she represents the current exciting state of Italian perfumery quite well.

Holding up the American end of things Barbara Herman introduced her new perfume brand Eris. Ms. Herman has moved from writing about perfume in her blog Yesterday’s Perfume and her book Scent and Subversion to collaborating with perfumer Antoine Lie. My first impression was they managed to find that tricky balance of vintage aesthetic with a contemporary feel.

A drizzly Sunday morning found us in the Annick Goutal store downtown. Annick Goutal is one of those early pioneer brands in the niche space and it is nice to see it continuing to thrive as the market has diversified around it. It was nice to be reminded of that.

Mary and Cecile of Puredistance

Mary Gooding (l.) and perfumer Cecile Zarokian presenting Puredistance Sheiduna

After some more wandering around downtown we arrived at lunch where I was the MC. I thought this year’s group was the strongest of all the years I have been doing this part of the weekend. It started with Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi finally representing their own brand Masque Milano. Both of the newest releases Romanza and L’Attesa were revealed. Mary Orlin of Wine Fashionista gave a fabulous presentation tying together the aromas of the wine we were drinking to perfume. A real treat was the European brand Puredistance was presented by Mary Gooding accompanied by perfumer Cecile Zarokian where they told us all about this fall’s new release Sheiduna. The first Oriental for the brand. I had it on my forearm for the ride home and kept returning to it for the rest of the day. Irina Adam presented her Art & Olfaction Finalist Phoenix Botanicals Peach Tree Garden. Paula Pulvino is translating the perfume recipes of her Italian grandmother into her new brand Villa of the Mysteries. The final presenter was mad impresario Stephen Dirkes of Euphorium Brooklyn who took us inside his creative process for Cilice.

It seemed appropriate to finish with a Brooklyn-based brand so we sort of ended where we started.

As always it was another fun, and exhausting weekend, in NYC. Thanks to Karen Adams and Karen Dubin for putting it all together.

Mark Behnke