New Perfume Review A Lab on Fire Hallucinogenic Pearl- Bringing Back De Laire Bases

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One of the more exciting things to a perfume nerd like me has been the final acquisition of the De Laire perfume bases by Symrise. Unless you read a lot of history that sentence probably underwhelms you. Let me see if I can get you interested. De Laire was a producer of perfume bases in the first half of the 20th Century. The concept was to take the new synthetic fragrance molecules and make them into pleasant accords meant to provide the foundation for a perfume to be built upon. Edmond Roudnitska began his career at De Laire making bases. One of the most famous De Laire bases, Prunol, is married to his use of it. Others you might have heard of are Mousse de Saxe, Amber 83, or Coroliane. These are the foundations of many of the most famous vintage perfumes. Now that Symrise has cleared all the legal hurdles to put these bases back into their perfumers’ rotation I was waiting for someone to use it in a modern perfume. A Lab on Fire Hallucinogenic Pearl is the first I am aware of to do this.

One of the great things about A Lab on Fire is the creative freedom granted their perfumers. Creative Director Carlos Kusubayashi has elicited some of the most innovative work from some of our best-known perfumers. Hallucinogenic Pearl freed Symrise Master Perfumer Emilie Coppermann to look for one of the classic De Laire bases to incorporate. She decided to use Iriseine.

Emilie Coppermann

Mme Coppermann opens with the botanical musk of ambrette paired with baie rose. The gentle herbal nature of the baie rose provides just the right amount of texture to the light musk. One of the things about ambrette is it can be so light as to be too fleeting. By adding in the baie rose it adds more presence. Then the heart begins with a fabulous violet which is everything I enjoy about this in a fragrance. This is where Iriseine comes forward providing iris as the leading edge of the base. What is also here is gorgeous depth courtesy of using a base instead of the iris by itself. For those familiar with the vintage perfumes like L’Heure Bleue which feature the same duo of violet and Iriseine this is many levels softer. It is what I mean when I say I want to see what a modern perfumer can do with a classic base like Iriseine. It is a modern evolution of what a De Laire base can achieve. It finishes with light woods and some synthetic musks recapitulating the ambrette from on top.

Hallucinogenic Pearl has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

The use of this historical base in a modern composition delighted me on every level. Just the shading of the Iriseine and violet would have made the perfume nerd happy. What really made me happy was in the hands of our most talented perfumers it seems like the De Laire bases are back to be used.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by A Lab on Fire.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Parfums Quartana Les Potions Fatales (Part 4)- Lily of the Valley & Poppy Soma

Continuing my reviews of the new Parfums Quartana Les Potions Fatles with Lily of the Valley and Poppy Soma.

nathalie benareau

Nathalie Benareau

When I was looking through the names of the different perfumes in this collection there was one which seemed too common to be included; Lily of the Valley. The rest of the collection features less ubiquitous focal points. When I saw Lily of the Valley I thought to myself this is meant to be the safe haven. Creative director Joseph Quartana and perfumer Nathalie Benareau do provide probably the least adventurous entry within the Les Potions Fatales but they make sure to add one twist to keep it in alignment with the rest of the collection. What that means is Mme Benareau takes the innocence represented by the floral and dresses it up in a black leather biker jacket.

The early moments of Lily of the Valley are very straightforward as the titular flower is supported by neroli, rose, and jasmine. These are all mostly indole-free versions of these flowers so the purity of the lily of the valley is preserved. Until that leather jacket accord comes forward. At first it seems incongruous but Mme Benareau adds in sandalwood, labdanum, and vetiver which help our innocent discover her wild side.

Lily of the Valley has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Lily of the Valley is the most accessible of the Les Potions Fatales. It is the shallow end of a pool which contains much more interesting things in the deep end.

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Emilie Coppermann

One of those interesting things is Poppy Soma composed by Emilie Coppermann. One of my favorite movies is “Once Upon a Time in America”. The movie opens with Robert de Niro’s character heading to an opium den to hide from the police. This particular den has a shadow puppet theatre out in front. One of the fun debates about the movie is whether the movie which follows is an opium dream or reality. I have always wanted a perfume which captures that milieu of the wooden shadow puppets mixed with the sweet smoke of the opium. Mme Coppermann has delivered that to me with one of my favorites of this collection.

Mme Coppermann uses gardenia as her nucleus of the sweet opium accord. This is a gardenia in all of its fully narcotic grandeur; which seems appropriate. To add in a touch of acrid to represent the smoke she employs Szechuan pepper, curry leaf, and red pepper. These overlay the gardenia with piquant pungency which adds texture to the intensity of the floral. Once the opium has taken hold Mme Coppermann plunges us into a floral fever dream consisting of jasmine, rose, and tuberose. All of these are given enough room to be as expansive as they can be. Over time as we come down the incense stick burning nearby provides a focus for reality. Labdanum, styrax and musk provides a bit of a reminder that we have been sweating while tripping.

Poppy Soma has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I mentioned that this is one of my favorite Les Potions Fatales I will take it a step further and say it is one of my favorites by Mme Coppermann. I have admired her work for many years but Poppy Soma seems like an artistic breakthrough for her personal portfolio. She has made a joyfully exuberant perfume which still has the ability to ensnare you in its depths.

I will finish my reviews tomorrow with Part 5 on Mandrake and Wolfsbane plus some concluding thoughts.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Parfums Quartana.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Grace by Grace Coddington- CdG Rose?

There is an adage which says you should never meet your idols; you’re bound to be disappointed. I’ve had that opportunity a few times and I can say I have had more live up to my expectations rather than live down to them. On the perfume front I have been sorely disappointed by many of the perfumes of the people I consider most inspirational in fashion. The latest perfume to try and break this streak is Grace by Grace Coddington.

Most people became aware of Ms. Coddington through the 2009 documentary “The September Issue” which chronicled the production of the September 2007 issue of Vogue. Ms. Coddington had been creative director at Vogue during that time. In the movie Ms. Coddington has her work removed from the issue by Anna Wintour. In the clip from the movie above she mentions how hard it is to see your work removed and to move on. As of January of this year Ms. Coddington has moved on to doing her own thing while still retaining the title of Editor-at-Large at Vogue. For Grace by Grace Coddington she turned to Comme des Garcons as her collaborator to bring her vision to life.

Christian-Astuguevieille 

Christian Astuguevieille

Ms. Coddington worked with Christian Astuguevieille who was co-creative director for the fragrance. Ms. Coddington wanted a light rose. M. Astuguevieille wanted to give that rose the Comme des Garcons twist. Emilie Coppermann was the perfumer they chose to see things through. Together they succeeded in their aims.

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Emilie Coppermann

Despite Ms. Coddington’s affection for the English Tea Rose the rose source chosen for Grace by Grace Coddington is the Moroccan version. The reason for this is I think the Comme des Garcons aesthetic was going to arrive in the form of herbal notes of mint and basil. A more delicate rose would have been steamrolled by the herbs. In the early moments it is rose and peach in a perfectly respectable fruity floral opening. Then the mint and basil come in. The basil is a great choice to partner the mint as it provides some ability to temper the more common aspects of mint. Mme Coppermann strikes the right balance and the green pushing back against the peachy rose is very nice. I ended up being a bit disappointed in the generic nature of the base accord which is a combo of cashmeran, a few white musks, and a pinch of amber. It keeps things soft but it is so pedestrian.

Grace by Grace Coddington has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Grace by Grace Coddington is definitely a Grace Coddington inspired creation with a Comme des Garcons flair. I liked it but on the days I wore it I kept wondering if it couldn’t have been something more. I also wondered if my admiration of Ms. Coddington was tinting that perception. I also wonder if the virtual avalanche of light rose releases in the last few months also added to that. Of all of that light rose noise which has ended up on my desk Grace by Grace Coddington has enough signal to rise above. I think this is much more a perfume to recommend to those who can’t get enough rose than it is to Comme des Garcons fans.

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

Mark Behnke

Under The Radar: The Different Company South Bay- Citrus Wow

One of the purposes of Under the Radar is to give me a chance to extol the virtues of a fragrance which might have fallen through the cracks. I’m also using it to make sure the fragrances that got bumped and moved off the review schedule get a second chance to be discovered. I really enjoy the opportunity I have to try new perfumes but sometimes their getting into my hands can be a story in and of itself. The three The Different Company L’Esprit Colognes, South Bay, Kashan Rose, and White Zagora seemed like they were never meant to be in my hands. The initial samples were lost in transit then I couldn’t seem to get a sample from the stores carrying them. It wasn’t until meeting creative director Luc Gabriel at Esxence that I finally had the set to try. It turns out that was the first fortuitous event in this complicated tale.

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Emilie Bevierre-Coppermann

The L’Esprit Cologne collection are all signed by perfumer Emilie Bevierre-Coppermann and it is one of the best nouveau cologne collections of the last couple of years. Of the new ones Mme Bevierre-Coppermann has added to the original three and helped define the evolving new aesthetic for the lowly cologne. The one which does this the best is South Bay.

In South Bay Mme Bevierre-Coppermann chooses to turn in a very citrus focused fragrance over an intense bed of woodiness. There is a floral transition within the heart where South Bay transforms from fresh citrus into clean woods. Throughout the development South Bay is energetic and sunny.

south bay

South Bay uses grapefruit as the main citrus note and Mme Bevierre-Coppermann takes mandarin leaves to add leafy green and to accentuate the sulfurous aspects of the grapefruit. Tamarine base provides the juicy sweetness of tangerine and clementine. This a gorgeous citrus fantasy and I enjoy this opening so much it almost beckons me to re-apply often, which I do. Grapefruit wood begins the transition to the base and it is joined with freesia and a very mannered application of Eglantine Rose. That very sweet rose contrasts the grapefruit and complements the Tamarine with the grapefruit wood completing the transition. The base of South Bay is simply sandalwood and vetiver. The sandalwood is dry and creamy and the vetiver is woody with a green tint. There is nothing terribly groundbreaking here. Sometimes a perfumer needs to know when to keep it simple and Mme Bevierre-Coppermann has made the correct choice here.

South Bay has 6-8 hour longevity on me and average sillage.

I just returned from my summer beach vacation and South Bay was frequently my scent of the morning, afternoon, and evening. As I mentioned above, the opening is enchanting and topping it up multiple times a day allows me to keep enjoying it. The rest of the development is no slouch, as well. The opening is just magical for me. If you’re looking for a new summer fragrance don’t overlook South Bay even though it has been around for a year.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by The Different Company at Esxence.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Serpentine by Comme des Garcons

The newest fragrance from Comme des Garcons is another artistic collaboration following directly after Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones Wisteria Hysteria. This one is in conjunction with the Serpentine Galleries which are located in the Royal Park of Kensington Gardens in central London. British artist Tracey Emin was commissioned to design the bottle for, Serpentine by Comme des Garcons, and the graphics on the box. Creative director Christian Astuguevieille tapped perfumer Emilie Coppermann in her first fragrance for Comme des Garcons.

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Tracey Emin

Ms. Emin has on the side of the bottle the phrase “The Grass. The Trees. The Lake. And You.” The first two parts of that phrase describe Serpentine pretty succinctly as there is a pronounced greenness to it before the trees turn things woody. M. Astuguevieille wanted Serpentine to capture “Nature in a City”. The smell of green and growing things surrounded by the smell of the asphalt of the roads encircling the park. Mme Coppermann does a tremendous job of getting this brief and executing it admirably.

emilie coppermann

Emilie Coppermann

Mme Coppermann takes some green notes and adds a pollen accord consisting of galbanum and iris leaf to make the open park feel come alive. This is the nature part of “Nature in a City”. For the city part an asphalt accord of black musk and nutmeg is amped up with an ozonic group of notes which add that slightly frenetic city vibe to the natural green of the opening notes. The final dollop of city comes from a pollution accord of benzoin, juniper wood, and gaiac wood. Some labdanum and smoky cedar add a bit more context to the city smells.

Serpentine has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Serpentine is going to be a divisive bit of perfumery I think with as many detractors as supporters. You can count me in the supporter’s camp as I appreciate the skill of Mme Coppermann in adding a lot of notes meant to disrupt one’s enjoyment of the beautiful sward of the city park. The belch of a taxi, the heat of the motorway, the slightly dirty smell of the air itself. What is so very well accomplished is the ability to call up all of the smells of the city without ever overwhelming the smell of the park. All the way through Serpentine the green opening is there and the city odors layer themselves on top but they never end up victorious as nature manages to keep the city at bay. As a first effort for Comme des Garcons Mme Coppermann shows she definitely understands the brand aesthetic and continues the current winning streak, for me, of excellent releases from Comme des Garcons.

Disclosure: This review based on a sample provided by Dover Street Market New York.

Mark Behnke