New Perfume Review Ermenegildo Zegna Elements of Man Passion- Grab a Snifter

As the weather cools off some of my evenings are spent with a snifter in hand sipping either a 15-year Rhum Barbancourt or Louis Royer Force 53. These appeal because they provide an inner warmth underneath my sweater. Like wine, fine liquor also has a scent and a nuanced flavor like any of my favorite perfumes. Which is why I tend to gravitate towards perfumes with boozy hearts. When I received samples of the five perfumes which make up the new Ermenegildo Zegna Elements of Man it was the one which felt like it belonged in a snifter which was my favorite, Passion.

Trudi Loren

The fragrance side of Ermenegildo Zegna has been a story of fits and starts as they search for a perfume identity as tailored as a Zegna suit. For most of their history they have kept it simple; often too simple. Focusing on something that stripped down there needs to be a lot of care taken to not have something dissonant within. That has been the story and it continued as I was initially trying the Elements of Man collection. A couple of classic citrus in Wisdom and Talent.  A fougere, Integrity; and a smoky tobacco oud in Strength make up four of the five. In each case there was the familiar experience of finding something not quite coming together. Only in the last one Passion does it.

Ilias Erminidis

When Ermenegildo Zegna allied with Estee Lauder creative director Trudi Loren was asked to oversee it. She has consistently asked for quality keynotes and worked with some great perfumers. There are some signs that Elements of Man might be a slight change in direction. For Passion Ms. Loren works with perfumer Ilias Erminidis. Together they create a collaboration of rum and cognac I almost wanted to drink.

If there is an advantage to the style of fragrance represented by the brand they cut right to the chase. For Passion that means it is awash with rum and cognac. Great cognac has a deep molasses facet, rum has caramel on the nose. Passion leads with both as molasses and caramel come forward in a rich accord that carries a 90-proof pop underneath as it swirls in the nose. M. Erminidis then uses a few complementary notes to make this all glow. It starts with a toasty saffron continues with amber and really pulses with resinous olibanum in place. This all comes together rapidly and lingers over many hours; as if it is being sipped by my nose.

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

Wearing Passion, I ended up having a two-fisted drinking night as I poured a bit of Barbancourt and Louis Royer to see if they could be layered into something resembling Passion. They don’t really approach the richness of Passion. When I wore Passion all I wanted to do was grab a snifter and sit back and luxuriate in my senses.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Ermenegildo Zegna.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Calvin Klein Obsessed for Men- A New Obsession?

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When I’m asked about where my interest in writing about perfume began one of the perfumes which launched my curiosity is Calvin Klein Obsession for Men. It was what I considered to be my first “grown-up” perfume. It was also the first step to discovering these other perfumes from Europe which also smelled like this. In the thirty years since I bought my first bottle I am now on my third bottle as I still find it deeply satisfying. I’ve always felt it was a generational fragrance for the men of a specific time. It was why I was very interested in the new releases from Calvin Klein; Obsessed for Women and Obsessed for Men. I was wondering if these might become the same kind of defining fragrance for this generation.

Raf Simons

One thing I learned from my press package is Calvin Klein very much wanted to make sure the connections were obvious. There are so many callbacks to the original pair of Obsessions I cynically wondered why not call it Obsession 2 and be done with it. This even includes the advertising campaign where they are recycling photos shot for a 1993 advertising effort for Obsession.

Obsession for Men Ad from 1993 featuring Kate Moss as photogrpahed by Mario Sorrenti

That campaign was to send model Kate Moss and her then boyfriend Mario Sorrenti alone to a secluded house in the Virgin Islands where just the two of them spent 10 days together while Mr. Sorrenti photographed Ms. Moss. It led to a set of provocative pictures of Ms. Moss which probably sent sales soaring.

Obsessed for Men Ad from 2017 featuring Mario Sorrenti as photographed by Kate Moss

Raf Simons who creatively oversaw the new perfumes went back through the photo files from that effort. What he saw was an opportunity to connect Obsession to Obsessed visually while also indicating something new. For Obsessed for Men Mr. Simons uses pictures of Mr. Sorrenti as shot by Ms. Moss in the inevitable turnabout which would have to happen over 10 days together.

Ilias Erminidis

Mr. Simons also wanted what he described as a role reversal in the two Obsessed fragrances. So, for Obsessed for Men he asked perfumers Christophe Raynaud and Ilias Erminidis. In Mr. Simons estimation, he sees vanilla as an ingredient which exhibits a “feminine melodiousness” which makes it the heart of Obsessed for Men.

Christophe Raynaud

The perfumers take that vanilla and put it in a wooden box made up of cedar and ambox. Those intensely woody notes have the effect of ameliorating much of the warm sweetness. The vanilla has much less presence than it normally does and Obsessed for Men really is much more an ambrox fragrance with some cedar and vanilla along for the ride.

Obsessed for Men has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am not the generation who will gravitate to Obsessed for Men. I have plenty of other ambrox heavy fragrances this doesn’t stand out sufficiently from those. I am more interested to see if there are twentysomething men who will be shopping and, like I did in 1986, stop in their tracks because Obsessed for Men is the scent of how they want to smell. Women’s Wear Daily is estimating upwards of $50 million in retail sales this year, for the pair. If that is prescient then Obsessed for Men will be a new Obsession for a new generation.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Calvin Klein.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Eric Buterbaugh Florals Nick’s Sunflower- Milliner’s Abstract

Those of you who know me have rarely seen me not wearing a hat. I have worn and loved hats most of my life. Which means when others aspire to other expensive purchases, like shoes, I want a hat. Whenever I am in Barney’s there are a brand of fedoras I just want. They are made by Venice Beach, California fashion designer Nick Fouquet. They are gorgeous amazingly made hats which have one consistent detail, a matchstick somewhere on the brim. It acts as Mr. Fouquet’s logo. There have been several milliners who have successfully collaborated on a fragrance. Mr. Fouquet decided to team up with Eric Buterbaugh to creatively direct Eric Buterbaugh Florals Nick’s Sunflower.

Nick Fouquet (l.) and Eric Buterbaugh (Photo: Eric Minh Swenson)

Mr. Buterbaugh really enjoys the creative process which he starts by going through proposals with different perfumers. Last year’s Kingston Osmanthus grew out of a discussion with perfumer Alberto Morillas when he spoke of his affection for osmanthus. This year Mr. Buterbaugh and Mr. Fouquet got more abstract as they began to imagine what a flower without a scent should smell like if it had one; sunflower. They asked the perfumers Mr. Buterbaugh has worked with in the past to give their impressions of what a sunflower should smell like. Perfumer Ilias Erminidis would be the one who convinced Mr. Fouquet and Mr. Buterbaugh he had the right vision for Nick’s Sunflower.

Nick Fouquet Sunflower Top Hat (Photo: Eric Minh Swenson)

We grow lots of sunflowers and have for years. I can attest to the lack of scent from the flower. The stalk has a strong green vegetal scent. Which I expected to be a part of Nick’s Sunflower. Except Mr. Erminidis wasn’t trying for realism he was more interested in interpreting the way the flower looks as fragrance. Which means Nick’s Sunflower is a perfume of sunlight on the corona surrounding a darker center without ever being too dark.

Ilias Erminidis

It is with the brilliant yellow petals where we start. Mr. Erminidis uses lime blossom, quince, lychee, and nectarine to create a sweet solar flare. Then to remind us this is a flower a delicate application of narcissus leads us into the next circle of muted yellow made up of disc florets. Mr. Erinidis interprets this as a diffuse floral of tiare and jasmine. The tiare is an excellent choice because it adds a summery freshness over the remains of the narcissus along with the jasmine. As we move into the cluster of seeds at the center osmanthus, muscenone, and ambrox form that accord. Ambrox provides the hint of the coating of the seeds while osmanthus adds its leather face; maybe the figurative matchstick? Muscenone is one of my favorite musks because it carries a suppleness to it which Mr. Erminidis uses here to soften the final phase.

Nick’s Sunflower has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Nick’s Sunflower is an ideal summertime floral perfume. It was at its best on an over 90-degree day I wore it on. It is definitely going to be something I wear throughout the upcoming summer. Mr. Fouquet and Mr. Buterbaugh collaborated successfully in bringing their vision of a sunflower to a perfume. My only question is where is the matchstick on the bottle?

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Eric Buterbaugh Florals.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Elisire Elixir Absolu, Eau Papaguena, and Ambre Nomade

I am so happy to see a new perfume brand which manages to limit their first releases to only five, I realize how much things have changed. The latest collection of only five came from a brand called Elisire. The founder Franck Salzwedel spent a large part of his childhood in Asia before attending fashion school in France. He would go on from there to work on helping fashion designers navigate the world of fragrance. He would jump to New York where his career in the visual arts as a painter would take off. Like many who share the experience of painting and fragrance together M. Salzwedel sees fragrances as colors. The desire to capture that vision in a perfume led to the founding of Elisire. All five of the first collection are worthy of mention and I will do short reviews of all five over the next two days.

 PierreNegrin

Pierre Negrin

One of the perfumers M. Salzwedel chose to work with was Pierre Negrin who did two of the five fragrances. The prevailing color for one of them, Eau Papaguena, is undoubtedly green. M. Negrin opens on an herbal version of the color as tarragon and basil provide the pungent start. A well-balanced use of spearmint adds a bit of lift to the herbs. It leads to a really delicate orange blossom heart which shades the green a couple hues lighter. The colors deepen in the base with vetiver, cypress, and incense heading for the center of the color wheel. I really like the shift from transparent to something which has a bit more presence by the end. If you like green fragrances this should be on your test list.

The other one by M. Negrin shares a kinship to the other but Ambre Nomade is like a glowing ember of pulsing orange. This also starts with an herbal duet of rosemary and sage but they are joined by a crisp apple, an energetic ginger, and a green lavender. This forms that glowing warmth which is banked a bit by some ylang-ylang in the heart which provides a bit of yellow shading. The base truly pulses with contained energy as M. Negrin combines patchouli, olibanum, vanilla, and musks to form the glowing ember. There are so many perfumes with amber in the base which are too timid. Amber Nomade is a bold exploration of amber as good as any I’ve tried recently.

ilias_erminidis

Ilias Erminidis

Perfumer Ilias Erminidis has done some tremendous work on the mass-market fragrances he has contributed to. M. Salzwedel gives him the chance to work towards a more niche aesthetic. As a result M. Erminidis takes the opportunity to create an olfactory mosaic of some of the best florals in perfumery in Elixir Absolu. It all starts with a fairly usual citrusy bergamot opening. What comes next is less common as he layers floral after floral to create a heart which always seems in motion as another floral arrives. Freesia starts it, then orange blossom, tiare, magnolia, ylang ylang, jasmine, and rose. These florals form a cohesive accord that is beautifully constructed. From this fantasia M. Erminidis goes for vanilla and sandalwood forming a comforting base note. It is the collage of florals in the heart which makes this one memorable.

I’ll conclude tomorrow with the two perfumes composed by Alberto Morillas.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Osswald NYC.

Mark Behnke