New Perfume Review Atelier Cologne Oud Saphir- Never Say Never Again

I grew up on the James Bond films. I’m pretty sure there was a time in my adolescence I believed I could be James Bond. Throughout the 1960’s there was only one James Bond, Sean Connery. Mr. Connery did the first five 007 movies. Then he quit for 1969’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” only to return to do 1971’s “Diamonds are Forever”. After that movie was released he said emphatically that he would never play James Bond again. Until he did in 1983’s “Never Say Never Again”. One should always be careful about using the word never especially when speaking to people who will record those things. Certainly Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel co-owner and creative director at Atelier Cologne probably regrets the time she told me there would “never” be an oud perfume at Atelier Cologne.

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Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel

That assertion was made in the very earliest days of Atelier Cologne’s existence. One of the things I’ve admired about Mme Ganter-Cervasel and her partner in life, and business, Christophe Cervasel is the consistently evolving vision which has become a brand characteristic. Two years ago one of those evolutions was the creation of the Collection Metal. The idea was to work with rare materials and again re-define what it means to call something a “cologne”. It is only natural that an oud perfume fits in with this definition. The newest release is just that, Oud Saphir. If the brand has been ever-creating itself one thing which has remained a constant are the perfumers who create for Mme Ganter-Cervasel. Ever since the original five releases they have only used two. For this “never” perfumer Jerome Epinette signs his 15th perfume in the Atelier Cologne collection.

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Oud Saphir opens with the slightly twilight kind of citrus opening which has become a hallmark of the Collection Metal. In this case bergamot is given depth with ambrette and bite with pink pepper. It is shaded beautifully by M. Epinette as it sets you up for a deeper cologne experience than normal. Jasmine cut with the metallic green of violet leaves come next and they are placed on a plush leather accord. M.Epinette uses one of the most transparent leather accords I regularly experience and in Oud Saphir it is just the right amount of heft to support and not overwhelm the jasmine. This transitions into a base where M. Epinette wisely chooses to use an oud accord instead of the real thing. Honestly this is more the norm than not. In the case of trying to form a cologne around oud too much of the real stuff would have trampled this construction underfoot. By using an accord M. Epinette was able to again find the appropriate shading of oud to match the volume of the rest of the development. A bit of birch wood provides some of the more characteristic rough edges of oud without being oud. It all finishes with a light flight of vanilla over all of it.

Oud Saphir has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

As I wore Oud Saphir I started to realize it had some connection to my James Bond analogy. Oud Saphir is the most formal of the Atelier Cologne creations to date. When I’m looking at the perfume vault for something to wear underneath my tux during gala season I never even think about one of the Atelier Colognes. Oud Saphir has now filled this gap as I can definitely see myself wearing this under my formal wear, sipping a martini as I scan the crowd for enemy agents. I am very pleased that “never” has turned into Oud Saphir it is everything Atelier Cologne stands for.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Atelier Cologne.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Atelier Cologne Cedre Atlas & Figuier Ardent- Atelier Cologne 2.0 (Part 2)

Continuing my reviews of the new Atelier Cologne Collection Azur I take a look at Cedre Atlas and Figuier Ardent. One of these has become one of my favorites in the entire line.

cedre atlas picture

Cedre Atlas is composed by perfumer Jerome Epinette and it is going to be a personal litmus test on how much you like cedar. M. Epinette uses an overdose of cedar in the heart of Cedre Atlas making me feel like I was standing in a lumber mill slicing up cedar planks. Before I got to that heart a fleeting application of citrus flies by as quick as a matador’s cape evading the onrushing wooded bull. The note list claims lemon and blackcurrant but all I really detect is lemon and it is in a hurry to get out of the way. In what seems like seconds the cedar lands with an all-encompassing thud. The first time I wore this it was too much. Cedar has a distinctive profile most often described as pencil shavings. This felt like being trapped in a pencil sharpener. It was aggressive and borderline irritating. After about four hours I started noticing there was this beautiful fruity floral woody fragrance coming from the places where the cedar had previously been pushing me away from. That accord would further improve as vetiver and papyrus added a watery green tint to the final stages. The last few hours of Cedre Atlas were a real joy to wear. The first couple of hours taught me how much I like cedar; not as much as I thought. Cedre Atlas has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

figuier ardent picture

Figuier Ardent is composed by perfumer Ralf Schwieger and is one of the best fig perfumes of the last five years. Fig is one of those ingredients which has been interpreted in so many ways and I wasn’t expecting to find Hr. Schwieger’s version to be so compelling. He focuses on a green fig hanging on the tree not yet ripe enough to be picked. He places that fig in the center of a sirocco of spices chosen to enhance the central note. Bergamot and anise form the early moments of Figuier Ardent. Within an hour a fig leaf note carrying vegetal facets announces the arrival of the fig itself. This is a fig which is greener and a lot less pulpy than the riper version many perfumers tend to prefer. Cardamom is used to enhance the un-ripened nature of the fig as it complements the green. Black pepper is used as contrast to the almost salty character this young fig has. Then like a time lapse photo as Figuier Ardent moves into the base the green fig ripens into a mature fig. Hr. Schwieger uses iris and tonka bean as ripening agents. They transform the immature into the experienced over the course of hours. It is a fabulous olfactory illusion and it all finishes on a very lightly woody cedar foundation. Every day I have worn Figuier Aredent I have been more and more impressed at the effect Hr. Schwieger has accomplished here. This is a great fig perfume. Figuier Ardent has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

As I said in Part 1 yesterday the whole Collection Azur feels like the culmination of five years of experience by the Creative Directors/Owners Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel. They have applied that knowledge and are still taking Atelier Cologne in new directions. Figuier Ardent is proof that those journeys can end in paradise.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Atelier Cologne.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Atelier Cologne Mandarine Glaciale & Sud Magnolia- Atelier Cologne 2.0 (Part 1)

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As Atelier Cologne celebrates the end of its fifth year with the release of Pomelo Paradis to the original collection of colognes. They open the future with a brand new collection dubbed Collection Azur. As I experienced these new cologne absolues over the last few days I was struck that it feels a bit like Atelier Cologne 2.0. Five years ago Creative Directors and owners Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel knew what they wanted to achieve by exploring the boundaries of cologne. Over the last five years they have produced a collection which has hewed to that vision. Now just like when computer software gets updated the new four fragrance Collection Azur feels like the next evolution of Atelier Cologne. It also reminded me of the day five years ago when Mme Ganter introduced me to the line for the first time. I looked forward to seeing this line succeed and they have. I am going to review all four of the new colognes over the next two days. Today I’ll start with Manadarine Glaciale and Sud Magnolia.

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One of the unifying themes of the Collection Azur is that of citrus as all four have it featured in their development. Manadarine Glaciale, by perfumer Jerome Epinette, is the citrusiest of them all. Mandarine Glaciale opens with the mandarin along with lemon and bergamot. It is a snappy beginning but it also lives up to the second part of the name. There is a feeling like this is frozen citrus almost encased in a chilly block of ice. That effect is produced by M. Epinette using ginger and petitgrain. Often citrus colognes feel like a gentle slap on the cheek. The early going of Mandarine Glaciale feels like it has been hidden behind an opaque material as it works to break free. After a couple of hours when it finally sheds some of the chill jasmine emerges along with it. M. Epinette uses a well-behaved jasmine which adds a floral vector without getting too floral or feral. The base slides into vetiver over amber and white musk. As with the jasmine the vetiver is kept from being too influential and the citrus stays throughout the development. Manadarine Glaciale has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

sud magnolia picture

Sud Magnolia, also by perfumer Jerome Epinette, pins a flower to its citrus lapel. Over the last six months there have been a number of magnolia perfumes which have made it in front of my nose. I am not sure why the sudden increase but Sud Magnolia is one of the better ones, of this recent group. M. Epinette goes for a lip-puckering sour citrus top combining bitter orange and pomelo. He marries them to lush blackcurrant to further add some depth. This opening is all about getting your attention and it is hard to ignore when wearing it. I really like the enhancement of the sour over the sweet during the early going. This time the citrus is swept away by the magnolia and M. Epinette has found a really striking source of magnolia to use as a focal point. It is at turns creamy and woody while maintaining its floralcy. He supports this beauty by adding in rose and saffron. Together they make a floral accord that is just made for a garden party in the spring. It all finishes upon a foundation of sandalwood and cedar wood, more of the latter than the former. That makes the finish a bit more austerely woody than warm. Sud Magnolia has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I will conclude these reviews with Cedre Atlas and Figuier Ardent tomorrow.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Atelier Cologne.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Byredo Mojave Ghost-Desert Sunrise

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When I was hiking in the Desert Southwest of the US my favorite time of the day was just before the sun would come up. With false dawn providing a bit of diffuse light the desert never smelled so alive. This probably has something to do with it being the coolest part of the day. Before the sun and the harsh conditions bake everything to a crisp; in the hour just before sunrise the scent on the air reminds you that there is lots of life in the seeming lifelessness. Creative Director of Byredo Ben Gorham asked perfumer Jerome Epinette to make a perfume based on one of those flowers which survive in the desert, the Ghost Flower (Mohavea Confertiflora). The perfume is fittingly called Mojave Ghost.

Sapodilla

Sapodilla

When I received my press materials for this perfume that I expected to be about the desert there was listed an ingredient from the tropics which really upped my anticipation. This ingredient was Jamaican Naseberry or as it is called elsewhere, Sapodilla. I loved eating Sapodilla as a kid as it had the taste of brown sugar and cinnamon on a flesh which was apple-like. I always thought it was like getting cooked cinnamon apples off of a tree. When I would split the flesh of a sapodilla that mix of spicy sweet would meet my nose as I took my first bite. M. Epinette really enjoys using the entire arsenal of natural raw materials he has access to from Robertet and in Mojave Ghost he makes this tropical ingredient fit his desert milieu.

Jerome-Epinette

Jerome Epinette

If you have spent any time at all in the desert there is an indigenous slightly spicy smell to it. The closest I can compare it to is cinnamon but so ethereal as to be a ghost of it. This is where the sapodilla plays its part as the brown sugar and cinnamon quality are right on top and M. Epinette adds in ambrette seeds to give a natural muskiness underneath the spiciness. This is very close to that smell I get from the desert. The heart moves into a bit of astringent floralcy with magnolia and violet over sandalwood. M. Epinette keeps this very sheer keeping it wraith-like in nature as it almost feels insubstantial only to coalesce again and gather some more presence. The base is cedarwood, amber, and clean white musk. All of the base notes are also kept on the ethereal side as well.

Mojave Ghost has 8-10 hour longevity but it is so sheer you might think it has worn off when it hasn’t. Sillage is moderate as you might expect.

Mojave Ghost is such a transparent perfume that I think for those who aren’t fans of this kind of opaque construction it might be frustrating. I am a big fan of a perfume which acts as a ghost flitting in and out of my consciousness ever floating on the periphery. Mojave Ghost is that beautiful moment just before the sun explodes over the horizon in an orange fireball in the high desert except the perfume lasts well into the light of day.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Byredo.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Atelier Cologne Rendez-Vous- Softness of Purpose

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Atelier Cologne feels like such a mature perfume brand I have a hard time reminding myself that they are just under five years old. Creative Directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel were clear-eyed about what they wanted Atelier Cologne to be about. Over the last five years that clarity of vision has made one of the most consistently pleasing line of perfumes from any perfume producer going. They have taken a staid form of fragrance and re-invigorated it with their creativity. The latest release is called Rendez-Vous and as they have done so often they offer something new to the whole concept of cologne.

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Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel

Perfumer Jerome Epinette is back for his eleventh fragrance in the Atelier Cologne line. The keynote for Rendez-Vous is a Chinese osmanthus that carries a particular luminescence to it unusual in this floral note. The apricot and leather components of osmanthus are here but this has a sun burnished glow to it, as well. It makes it a different but wholly appropriate heart note to build a cologne around. M. Epinette takes traditional bracing elements on top and after the osmanthus appears he lets Rendez-Vous turn plush and soft as if you were sinking into a soft chair or a feather pillow. It is this overtly subdued finish which takes Rendez-Vous into unexplored territory within the cologne genre.

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Jerome Epinette

M. Epinette begins in very familiar cologne territory with bergamot, lemon, and pink pepper as his opening stanza. This is classic cologne architecture. What comes next is not. The osmanthus comes to the foreground and as I mentioned above it is like it exists in its own private ray of sunshine. The remainders of the top notes almost act like dew being burned off by that sunbeam. The apricot quality comes out and it is rich and chewy. Orris combines with this to create a decadent duet, this is a fruity floral combination I can completely enjoy. As the osmanthus begins to shift towards the leathery qualities, violet leaves sharpen that transition with slightly metallic green borders. The base is an indulgent suede leather accord accompanied with a gentle white musk cocktail. All of this is as soft as a loved one’s caress. Rendez-Vous comes to an end in a most unexpected place, serenely.

Rendez-Vous has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Rendez-Vous is why I look forward to the latest release from Atelier Cologne. Every single release to date has been recognizably a cologne. Every single release to date has given me something new to consider on what that word, cologne, really means when I use it. Rendez-Vous fits right in with the family. I look forward to my next rendezvous with Atelier Cologne.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: Mme Ganter-Cervasel and M. Cervasel were married a few weeks ago and the picture above is from their wedding via their Facebook page.

New Perfume Review Atelier Cologne Blanche Immortelle & Santal Carmin

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There are few brands I admire more for understanding both their brand identity and their customer than Atelier Cologne. In just four years the Owners and Creative Directors, Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel, have shown an innate knowledge of how to stay true to a vision and allow an audience to come to meet that vision. For those who are unfamiliar with that vision in 2010 they created a perfume formulation that they dubbed “cologne absolue”. The concept was to take classic cologne architecture and to increase the perfume oil concentration for a longer lasting experience. By doing this they also turned the idea of cologne from something fleeting and ephemeral to something with foundation and depth. Throughout the thirteen releases they have explored all manner of keynotes and how to create a cologne of lightness or darkness. There is no perfume line which I look more forward to trying what is next than this one because of this dedication to their ideals.

Jerome-Epinette

Jerome Epinette

I just spent the last week wearing the two new releases from Atelier Cologne, Blanche Immortelle and Santal Carmin. Both of these display all of the strengths of a brand operating at the top of its game. I also like that one is a crowd pleaser and the other takes a note that is less loved but both succeed brilliantly. Perfumer Jerome Epinette contributes his ninth and tenth compositions for Atelier Cologne and I believe that is another strength as M. Epinette intrinsically gets the concept of cologne absolue and executes it flawlessly.  

Blanche Immortelle is as the name promises White Immortelle. M. Epinette creates a softly glowing immortelle fragrance. Immortelle is a divisive note among perfume lovers as its characteristic maple syrup-like quality can be treacly and cloying in overdose. I am one who likes his immortelle as intense as he can get it but I was looking forward to seeing what M. Epinette would do. Immortelle is one of those notes that is fractious to work with because it is so easy for it to get out of balance. M. Epinette places it as a central pivot between a sunny group of top notes and a rich woody grouping of base notes and keeps it positioned perfectly as to intensity.

Blanche Immortelle opens with a burst of summertime light as bergamot, mandarin, and mimosa flare to life. This is as traditional a cologne opening as you could ask for. The immortelle arises and shreds tradition. Immortelle by itself often is too thin a note and it needs support from other floral notes it is that support which often makes it too sweet for many. M. Epinette uses jasmine and Turkish rose to support the immortelle but yet not so much that it ever becomes heavy. The immortelle darts in and out amongst the bright top notes like a buzzing bee with a bit of the same energy as that metaphorical bee. Here is where Blanche Immortelle remains for many hours on my skin. Very slowly vetiver, patchouli, and sandalwood exert their influence and turn Blanche Immortelle from sunny day into cool twilight.

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Christophe Cervasel and Sylvie Ganter

Santal Carmin is a pure crowd pleaser of a fragrance as M. Epinette takes a heart of sandalwood and as he did with Blanche Immortelle open with bright top notes and closes with deeper base notes. The difference is sandalwood as a cologne ingredient is better known. That means M. Epinette needs to add a bit of a twist to the phases that surround that more familiar heart.

Bergamot and limette comprise the first notes of Santal Carmin and then M. Epinette adds saffron which entwines itself among the citrus and turns it into something wholly exotic. He also does this without sacrificing the traditional bracing opening of cologne it just feels like something rare and precious. The sandalwood used in Santal Carmin is the variety harvested in New Caledonia and I like it for its desiccated quality over some of the creamier aspects of other sources of sandalwood. M. Epinette adds a white musk to define the aridity of the wood at the heart of Santal Carmin. The sweeter facets require some coaxing out and the use of vanilla in the base does bring out the inherent sweetness of the sandalwood and papyrus adds a bit of green to go along with the sweet which helps attenuate the extreme dryness of the wood.

Blanche Immortelle and Santal Carmin have 12-14 hour longevity on me and average sillage.

I suspect that Santal Carmin will be the more popular of these two new Atelier Cologne releases and it is a great cologne as the summer approaches. For me I am really looking forward to wearing Blanche Immortelle as I won’t have to wait until fall to enjoy one of my favorite notes. In any case if you have been a fan of Atelier Cologne they continue producing high quality perfumes. If you want a place to start this pair is a good place to discover a brand that has never wavered from their quality and their ideal.

Disclsoure: This review was based on press samples provided by Atelier Cologne.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Byredo Flowerhead- A Fruity Floral Indian Wedding

As we move into March you begin to feel like winter is on the run and just up ahead is spring. Along with spring comes the new floral perfume releases. For a spring floral to resonate with me it has to have a great amount of sheer floral quality. I want a lot of flowers but I don’t want to be consumed by them. Insert “Little Shop of Horrors” joke here. I want my spring florals to mimic that moment when I step out and it feels like everything is blooming. Last March perfumer Jerome Epinette provided that for me with his lily of the valley creation for Byredo called Inflorescence. Now one year later he is following that up with another amazing spring floral for Byredo called Flowerhead and this time the central note is jasmine sambac.

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Ben Gorham

Ben Gorham is the owner and Creative Director at Byredo and he wanted Flowerhead to speak to his mother’s, and his, Indian heritage. According to an interview in Cosmetics Business he related the story of giving his cousin away at a traditional Indian wedding. This is what he said he wanted Flowerhead to represent, “This fragrance was about capturing that idea of an Indian bride, rather than just the wedding and I called it Flowerhead, because it was really the fictional memory that I can imagine from my own Indian wedding. The idea of marrying someone you don't know was very interesting. There's anxiety and excitement. And I described this person as a 'flowerhead', because the bride is completely covered in floral hair arrangements.” Flowerhead captures that sense of heady anticipation as you cover yourself in floral garlands of jasmine, rose, and tuberose.

Jerome-Epinette

Jerome Epinette

M. Epinette starts Flowerhead off with a tart combination of lemon, cranberry, and ligonberry. Citrus and berries is not unusual fruity floral territory; these three notes together are. They provide a lip puckering pop to the initial moments that I wish would last a little longer, but we have a wedding to get to. Now M. Epinette starts adding the floral lei to Flowerhead. The jasmine sambac is the star of the perfume and it is a complete jasmine fully displaying its indolic nature. With all of that the skank is more hinted at than allowed to become too pronounced. Part of the reason is the other two lei of rose and, in particular, tuberose amplify the sweeter floral nature. The indoles add depth and hint at the bride underneath all of the flowers. The base of Flowerhead sneaks up on you with a soft suede leather and an even softer and warmer amber. Together they add a refined filigree to the base notes to go with all of the fruity floral pyrotechnics previously.

Flowerhead has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

Like most I look to the return of the robins and the appearance of green buds on the trees to let me know spring is here. Now, for the second year in a row M. Epinette has provided another signal for me to look for as Flowerhead is a perfect perfume for new beginnings.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from Barney’s New York.

Mark Behnke