New Perfume Review CB I Hate Perfume M6 Do Not Ask Me Why- Opium Den

One of my favorite movies is Sergio Leone’s 1984 release “Once Upon a Time in America”. In the director’s cut version of the movie the lead character Noodles played by actor Robert De Niro retreats to an opium den after a tragedy. The final shot of the movie is of Noodles in that opium den with a smile on his face. One interpretation of the movie is everything we see in the movie from the point Noodles starts puffing on the pipe is his hallucination. The power of opium to inspire artistic endeavors is well-known. Perfumer Christopher Brosius was fascinated with how opium while destructive to the person using it might also inspire an open creativity. Jean Cocteau struggled with an addiction to opium throughout the 1920’s and that experience would inform much of his output for the rest of his life.  In the press materials Mr. Brosius asks the obvious question: “Why would an artist choose so destructive a medium to enable such visions no matter how fabulous or sublime? Why is a poet compelled to write or an artist to create? Cocteau himself best answered that question in the subtitle of his final work: Do not ask me why.” Mr. Brosius wanted to make a perfume which captures the reportedly “hauntingly beautiful” smell of opium smoke and it is the sixth entry in the Metamorphosis series M6 Do Not Ask Me Why.

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Christopher Brosius

Mr. Brosius is at his best as a perfumer when he chooses to try and interpret something as unusual as opium smoke. M6 Do Not Ask Me Why works as a simple construction of narcotic white flowers over spice and smoke. If opium smoke does carry a floral scent to it, and neither I nor Mr. Brosius has experienced the real thing, using white flowers seems almost logical. I refer to the depth of many of these as narcotic all the time. It is because they are strong but also mesmerizing in the way they display unseen levels beneath the obvious floralcy. By using a grouping of white flowers the central floral accord is never identifiable as just one. Instead it forms something it is difficult to tear your attention away from. I think that there is jasmine, narcissus, and tuberose in this accord. There might be more but this is what I think I detect. Mr. Brosius has balanced whatever the notes used so well it seems supernatural, almost its own opium dream of a hallucinatory flower. The remaining notes are a very ephemeral foundation of smoke and spice. After having this on my skin for a few hours like intermittent puffs the spicy smoke glides across the florals only to seemingly disappear again. Only very late in the development do they have enough presence to stick around on a more permanent basis.

M6 Do Not Ask Me Why as a water perfume has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mr. Brosius has lived up to his self-imposed goal of making a “hauntingly beautiful” floral perfume. I don’t know if this is what opium smoke really smells like. I only know that this is something I do want to smell like. Do not ask me why.

Dsiclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews CB I Hate Perfume Rare Flowers Narcissus, Jasmine Sambac, and Tuberose- Soliflores Unplugged

2014 will be a year of change for perfumer Christopher Brosius and his CB I Hate Perfume brand. The biggest change is a change of location; still in Brooklyn and a little further east. Mr. Brosius has been busy getting everything back together in the new shop but not so busy that there isn’t something new to try.

The first releases of 2014 are a collection of six soliflores called Rare Flowers. Mr. Brosius says about the collection, on his website, “In all fairness, I cannot claim responsibility for these fragrances. Nature provided these gems. I merely polished and set them.” The concept is each one is a single floral absolute which has been isolated by enfleurage or solvent-extraction. Both of these processes are lengthy efforts requiring patience and skill to pull off. What has ended up in each bottle is a soliflore which allows the wearer rare insight into the floral notes they might think they know so well. For me the most illuminating experience came from three of them: Narcissus, Jasmine Sambac, and Tuberose. These are among my favorite floral notes and the opportunity to try them on their own opened my nose to nuances I hadn’t previously been aware of.

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Christopher Brosius

Narcissus is probably second only to violet as my personal favorite floral fragrance. Narcissus is the keynote of many of my very favorite perfumes and this was the Rare Flower I was most excited to try. What I smelled at first was damp earth. I almost thought someone had switched bottles with Mr. Brosius’ Dirt he did for Demeter. This was not what I expected. The soft green quality that seemed to come next was what I expected as it is that quality of narcissus I like so much when part of a perfume. By itself the green is more astringent but the softness is apparent the longer it stayed on my skin. It eventually matures into its full floralcy and that is the narcissus I am most familiar with.  

Jasmine Sambac is a very familiar, and ubiquitous note, in perfumery. I personally like it when it is at its most natural with the “dirty” smelling indoles allowed to contrast with the sweetness of the bloom. This Rare Flower is all that I just described as the skanky indoles swagger off my skin before the beautiful floral quality catches up. But instead of the freshness taking over a natural balance is struck and both co-exist in a twitchy harmony. Jasmine Sambac was the most like wearing a perfume as there was a real sense of development to this on the days I wore it. 

If when I say “Tuberose” your answer is “Eek!” it is not surprising because it is the keynote of some of the bawdiest white floral perfumes on the market. When I smelled the Rare Flower Tuberose I think I expected this olfactory explosion but I got exactly the opposite. Tuberose comes off so very restrained in this form. I have always thrilled to the mentholated quality tuberose has in those perfumes where it is featured and in this soliflore that quality is here but it carries a fragility to it that was wholly unexpected. The same goes for the rest of the experience as Tuberose as a Rare Flower is much more of a wallflower requiring you to come draw her out to discover her pleasures.

The experience of smelling the Rare Flowers collection reminded me of the old MTV show “Unplugged” where an artist would perform their songs acoustically stripping away all of the sound effects and leaving the listener to consider the real heartbeat of the music. In the case of Narcissus, Jasmine Sambac, and especially Tuberose I have listened to their heartbeat through an olfactory stethoscope. It will make me consider them differently the next time I encounter them in the body of a fragrance.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples from CB I Hate Perfume.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: for those in the New York City area the Grand Opening of the new CB I Hate Perfume Studio will take place Saturday April 26, 2014 from 2-6PM at 318 Maujer St, Brooklyn, NY. If you go to the new studio everything will be 10% off that day, only in store.