New Perfume Review Dear Rose Mentha Religiosa- Minty Herbal

Before niche really took off just after the year 2000 there were a few creative directors who were working on the early outlines of a niche aesthetic. One of those was Chantal Roos. From 1992-2002 she was among the most creative creative directors in perfumery. Because of that ability to challenge the status quo many of those fabulous perfumes were discontinued and are now highly sought after. Most recently she has been working with her daughter Alexandra Roos on their own perfume brand Dear Rose. I met both of them in Esxence in Milan in March. Soon after I returned I received a package of samples of all eight Dear Rose releases since its inception in 2014. Joining them in this endeavor Is perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin who has composed all eight. M. Pellegrin has worked a lot with the elder Mme Roos on other brands so it is natural to believe they had built up a rapport. What is refreshing about the entire Dear Rose line is these are not box checking easy fragrances. These are complex constructs which reward the time spent with them. The most recent release Mentha Religiosa is a good example.

alexandra-and-chantal-roos

Alexandra and Chantal Roos

Mentha Religiosa is loosely translated to religious mint. How the creative team has interpreted this is to combine mint with church-like frankincense. Now that combination sounds like there was a collision as a dental products truck ended up in the apse of an old church. I have very little affinity for mint in fragrance because it is so fresh. Especially when I take a leaf of peppermint and slowly crushing it in my hand it doesn’t release treacly insipid sweetness but an herbal green matched equally with the sweet mint. This is the mint M. Pellegrin serves up with Mentha Religiosa.

fabrice-pellegrin-firmenich

Fabrice Pellegrin

How M. Pellegrin goes about doing that is to take peppermint essential oil and combine it in equal parts with petitgrain and a very bitter version of bergamot. The petitgrain adds back the green and the herbal bitterness as contrast. The bergamot adds a different kind of bite but one which creates that minty herbal accord. The very austere frankincense comes next. Together they form a delightfully quirky duo. I don’t think this is going to appeal to everyone but for me it was so off-beat I got lost in its oddness. A bit of iris tries to attenuate that but it isn’t until cedar and patchouli really grab ahold in the base that it becomes a bit more approachable.

Mentha Religiosa has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I enjoyed getting to know all eight fragrances in the Dear Rose line because the entire creative team of The Roos and M. Pellegrin seem to want to make perfume interesting again. If you need to know what that smells like pick up some Mentha Religiosa.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Dear Rose.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Esxence 2016 Final Wrap-Up Part 1- People, Trends, and Teases

Esxence is always a joy for the opportunity to spend some time with my fragrant friends in real life. One of the early joys of Esxence 2016 was the time I spent with my fellow judges of The Art & Olfaction Awards. The conversations I had with Antonio Gardoni of Bogue Profumo and Sherri Sebastian of Sebatian Signs were mentally stimulating. We are all dedicated to helping these awards be the best they can be. It makes these opportunities when we can get together and talk all the more valuable.

I was once again the roving reporter for the Esxence 2016 video. It is an interesting perspective from which to observe the exposition. I had the opportunity to meet attendees from every continent on the planet. It showed me the breadth of communication fragrance can have without barriers of language or culture.

I also had the opportunity to meet someone I have wanted to for a long time. The more I do my Dead Letter Office columns the more I realize creative director Chantal Roos was ahead of her time. To finally have the opportunity to speak with her was a personal highlight for me.

Another personal highlight was meeting Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison who was attending as Managing Editor of Fragrantica. In his earlier incarnations as the male perfume critic at Now Smell This in 2005 until he founded one of the first solo fragrance blogs by a man, The Perfume Critic, he was an inspiration as I was just starting to write about perfume. It is rare to get the opportunity to thank one of those who inspired me to start writing.

Esxence 2016 entryway

When it came to trends at Esxence 2016 it seems like the Arabian market must be booming because there were multiple brands dedicated to appealing to it. The only problem is the great majority of these brands are using oud-centric fragrances. There has to be a real effort made to differentiate themselves. As I was going through the scent strips I brought home with me I had a hard time figuring out from a quick sniff which brand was which. This kind of anonymity by ubiquity does not bode well for these brands unless there is an insatiable appetite in the Middle East for these kind of fragrances.

The leather trend I noticed at Pitti last September seems to be continuing onward as there were a number of leather based new releases. This mini-trend of new gourmands was also showing up a little more.

I end as I always do with some blind items where I share some sneak previews coming later this year or next year missing some critical information.

-Snap! Crackle! Pop! One brand will be getting down with the Marquis de Sade.

-One brand will be telling a family love story of a love at first sight encounter.

-One perfumer is glowing with anticipation over his next release.

-One Creative Director is looking to head to the Far East for her next brand.

-This brand is going to re-invent its past.

-One of my favorite young guns is about to step up to a major label release.

That’s it for Part 1. I’ll be back tomorrow with Part 2 where I name the 10 best new fragrances I tried.

Mark Behnke

Perfumer Rewind: Jacques Cavallier 1998-2004- Postmaster General of the Dead Letter Office

1

For all of the series I have on Colognoisseur there is a long list of potential subjects which I choose from when I am ready to write a new entry. For the series called Dead Letter Office which is about discontinued perfumes which I think are incredible pieces of olfactory art I recently noticed an interesting thing. When I started the blog in February of 2014 I made up a list of discontinued perfumes and the perfumer for each. When I look over the list of about thirty there is one perfumer who is responsible for five of the entries. All of them were released from 1998-2004. All of them were composed by perfumer Jacques Cavallier who I now dub the Postmaster General of the Dead Letter Office.

Those five perfumes are Issey Miyake Le Feu D’Issey, Yves St. Laurent Nu, Yves St. Laurent M7 (co-created with Alberto Morillas), Alexander McQueen Kingdom, and Boucheron Trouble. If there is any similarity between the perfumes it is that they failed for being out of step with the prevailing perfume trends at the time of “fresh and clean” or fruity floral. None of these followed those trends and thus the marketplace rejected them to eventually be discontinued. If you think M. Cavallier himself was out of step that also isn’t the case as he is the perfumer behind Issey Miyake L’Eau D’Issey which could be said to be the standard bearer for “fresh and clean”.

jacques cavallier

Jacques Cavallier

The reason M. Cavallier is associated with these discontinued perfumes is because the Creative Directors for each of them was willing to take a big risk. These are all perfumes which flew in the face of the market forces attempting to shift the trends onto something different. Those two visionary Creative Directors were Chantal Roos and Tom Ford who are responsible, in part or together, for the creative direction of all five. If there is anything I repeat over and over is I want a brand to take a chance on breaking away from convention; these perfumes do that.

M. Cavallier has provided truly unique aspects to each. The raw coconut milk accord of Le Feu D’Issey. The cumin based human musk of Alexander McQueen Kingdom. The fantastic green cardamom of YSL Nu.  The contrast from lemon meringue to wood infused vanilla in Boucheron Trouble. Finally, most famously, the first prominent use of oud in western perfumery in YSL M7.

This is the soul of creativity and what turns a perfume from fragrance to olfactory art. That M. Cavallier can seamlessly create mega-hits like L’Eau D’Issey and any of these five perfumes mentioned above shows how talented he is. Even if he does spend an inordinate amount of time in the Dead Letter Office.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of all of the fragrances which I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office Alexander McQueen Kingdom- The Vagina Monologues

One of the most cutting edge fashion designers of the last fifty years was Alexander McQueen. His was a life of vibrant imagery crossed with internal demons which would lead to him taking his own life in 2010 at the age of 40. Like many who have their brilliance tempered with something entirely the opposite it leaves behind a glittering trail like a shooting star across the sky.

alexander-mcqueen-1

Alexander McQueen

Mr. McQueen by 2003 at the age of 34 had been named British Designer of the Year four times. Like all designers with that much success it was time to branch out into other areas. Of course one of those areas was fragrance. The first perfume was released in 2003, Alexander McQueen Kingdom. Of the many designers who release their first signature perfume Kingdom might have been the most emblematic of the fashion that the name on the bottle portended it to be.

jacques cavallier

Jacques Cavallier

Mr. McQueen would team up with Chantal Roos, as Creative Directors, to perfumer Jacques Cavallier for Kingdom. Mr. McQueen was known for going for the dramatic on his catwalk shows. Kingdom was going to do the same. M. Cavallier while producing many mainstream fragrances was also having a creative streak with lots of different fashion designer brands. I think most of those fragrances in the latter category are part of the most impressively creative collection by a single perfumer. That most of them will be subjects of this series tell you they really were for only a precious few. Kingdom was no different M. Cavallier was creating a perfume that was meant to shock and the note he was going to use to shock and awe was cumin.

alexander mc queen kingdom advert

By the time I got my opportunity to try Kingdom that cumin note was all anyone was talking about. Remember in 2003 the predominant perfume aesthetic was the fresh and clean. Cumin was not fresh and clean it was filthy dirty. When I was talking about it with a couple of other perfume lovers they told me it was disgusting that it smelled like, as they lowered their voices, “a vagina”. This became a pervasive label for Kingdom and it is at least partially responsible for its demise. It was out of step with the current trends and the whisper campaign did it no favors.

I love cumin in perfume and one of my most favorite Ditpyques, L’Autre, was loaded with cumin. It was also one of the perfumes I had to be careful to choose my moments on when to wear it. Hearing Kingdom was similar had me smiling in anticipation. So imagine my surprise when I finally get a bottle that the first thing I smell is orange. M. Cavallier takes bergamot, neroli, orange blossom, and mandarin to create this gauzily beautiful citrus opening. It is gorgeous and it is shredded in the next phase as a spicy rose and indolic jasmine form the layers that the cumin would perch between. the indolic jasmine was the perfect floral to go with the cumin to form a deeply human accord. The rose is not as prevalent as you might think as it creeps in and out with a waxing and waning effect. This all finishes on a base of Copahu balm, sandalwood and myrrh. After the heart this serves to soothe the nerves set jangling with the confrontational heart.

Kingdom has 12-14 hour longevity in the EDP concentration and above average sillage.

This is one of my most cherished bottles because I think the entire creative team achieved the perfume they wanted to make. That they had the fortitude to release it into a world which, at the time, was not ready for it was also impressive. I end many of these by saying if it was released today it would find its audience. Not in this case. Kingdom was a unique evocation of a particular designer’s aesthetic written in bold olfactory strokes. This was never going to be a commercial success. It is a spectacular piece of olfactory art that I have continued to enjoy for many years now.

Disclosure: this review was based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke