Memo Paris 101- Five To Get You Started

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As I survey my desk filled with samples it is amusing to remember a time when that was not the case. As recently as four years ago I was using every connection I had to source a full set of samples from Memo Paris. Back then it was not a sure thing to get European-only releases. Over those four years Memo Paris has become available everywhere. I have also met the husband and wife team behind the brand. John Molloy takes care of the business side of things and Clara Molloy takes care of being the creative director for the brand. Mme Molloy has worked exclusively with one perfumer throughout the entire Memo Paris collection, Alienor Massenet. Over their collaboration they have designed a brand aesthetic while branching out into three collections within the brand. Memo Paris is one of my favorite brands there aren’t any which I have not enjoyed. If you have seen the display of the collection and wanted to know where to start here are my five suggestions.

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John and Clara Molloy

The very first Memo Paris fragrance I tried was Inle. When I first reviewed Inle I described it as a tea dyed osmanthus. The creative team uses a focused tea accord, right down to a sprig of mint, to float osmanthus upon. It is framed out in clean lines of cedar and white musk. So often a perfume works to enhance the apricot leather duality of osmanthus. Inle decides to just let it be.

The perfume which made me mad for desire to acquire all of them was Shams Oud. The opening is a spicy glow of the sun setting on the desert. Ginger, saffron, and pepper form that dry desert breeze. As the oud becomes more apparent the three spices find their spot and form a fabulous oud chord. Later on it transitions through a green phase of papyrus and vetiver before letting birch and balsam provide the final notes. Shams Oud is still one of my very favorite oud perfumes.

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Alienor Massenet

Manoa is the iris fragrance for the brand. Starting with ginger and citrus a powdery iris sets itself upon a foundation of opoponax, vanilla, and labdanum. Probably the most simply constructed perfume in the entire collection it still carries that Memo Paris vibe.

Quartier Latin also trends a bit simpler in architecture too. It reminds me of walking outside of a nightclub passing through a group smoking Kretek clove cigarettes straight into a wood-paneled room. Mme Massenet chooses clove leaves instead of just clove to add a bit of green which threads itself through the very dry woods of cedar and sandalwood. The desiccated quality is relieved a bit with tonka and amber. The balance in Quartier Latin shows off what a fine technician Mme Massenet is.

There have been four leather perfumes within the Cuirs Nomades collection. The one which you should try first is African Leather. This opens with a slightly different African breeze than Shams Oud. Using cardamom and cumin to go with the saffron this time it has a more primal energy to it. The leather accord in the heart feels as if it is alive and stalking you. Vetiver and patchouli provide a sunbaked earth accord for the base. This entire Cuirs Nomades have been good but African Leather is the current crown jewel.

This is a niche line which carries my highest recommendation. I think most perfume lovers will find one or more which speak to them. Try these five as a start.

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

Mark Behnke

Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2015 Wrap-Up- Karens in the Sky with Diamonds

To make it through the year with all of my enthusiasm intact I need spaced out booster shots of time with other people who love perfume as much as I do. My end of spring burst comes courtesy of Sniffapalooza Spring Fling every May. Once again the best smelling group of olfactory glitterati convened in New York City for a weekend of perfumed experiences. This year’s edition was loaded with some of the biggest names in perfumery and some really special new releases just for this event.

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Roja Dove

It always starts early on Saturday morning in the café at Bergdorf Goodman’s. I was especially pleased this year to have the opportunity to introduce John Molloy of Memo Paris who after four years was finally showing his excellent line of perfumes to an American audience. For me there were two other releases which caught my attention at breakfast. The new Brioni creatively directed by Raymond Matts and composed by Frank Voelkl is a beautifully done masculine perfume. It is every bit the singular fragrance as a Brioni suit is. Roja Dove finished the morning program. My favorite story he tells is of this goodnight kiss his mother gave him which set him on the path to being Roja Dove. He has captured that moment in a perfume called A Goodnight Kiss. As he finished the story about the perfume there wasn’t a dry eye in the place including Mr. Dove’s.

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Takasago Presentation boards for lunch talk

After two hours of power shopping the Bergdorf’s Beauty Level we all headed to lunch. I am used to being the speaker on Sunday but this year I was also asked to introduce Colognoisseur to the Saturday crowd, too. The highlight of the lunch were the presentations from Kelly Jones of Takasago and perfumer Christophe Laudamiel. Mr. Dove had passed out strips of the raw materials he uses in his perfume at breakfast. Ms. Jones who was accompanied by Kent Lombard took us through the citrus raw materials from the Takasago orchard in Florida. Christophe Laudamiel was promoting the Academy of Perfumery & Aromatics. To that end he shared a sniff of vintage L’Air du Temps with the crowd. I have become more interested in both the history and the building blocks of perfume. These lunch presentations fed my appetite for that.

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Robbie Wilson of Orlov Paris (l.) and Karen Dubin

The final event of Day One was the premier of the Orlov Paris line of five perfumes complete with caviar and champagne at Black Label Wine Merchants. Robbie Wilson introduced the line in a wonderfully opulent setting which showed off the diamond inspired perfumes like the jewels that they are.

Day Two opened at the Birchbox store downtown with a presentation from Harvey Prince on their line of fragrances and ancillary products. Afterward we wandered on Elizabeth St at Le Labo and Atelier Cologne.

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Mark Crames and Miriam Sangster presenting Tomboy

We headed for lunch and a very special line-up. Usually when I emcee the Sunday lunch it is all about new perfumers and their emerging brands. Not this year, I was handed an all-star lineup. Sue Phillips of Scentarium introduced her fragrance kits so you can have the custom perfume making experience Ms. Phillips provides at her Scentarium space in your own home. I had never met Mark Crames of Demeter prior to Sunday and he along with artist Miriam Sangster presented their combined visual and scented installation called Tomboy. Ms. Sangster challenged Mr. Crames to capture her Tomboy which was inspired by a clip from the cartoon Powerpuff Girls. Next up was Irina Adam of Phoenix Botanicals as she presented her latest release Ella. She also shared some vintage raw materials she had obtained with the audience. As they were passed around I was sitting with the next speaker Christophe Laudamiel and we were intrigued at the quality of these very old ingredients. M. Laudamiel again promoted the Academy and tried in vain to share an even more vintage version of L’Air du Temps than he had the day before.

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Jacinta Bunt aqnd Michael Edwards (r.)

The final speaker of the day on Sunday was Michael Edwards of Fragrances of the World. I had the pleasure of doing a Q&A with him. He spoke about how his reference book came to be and how it has grown over the past 31 years. I asked him if the word Niche was still relevant. In his guide he has already decided it doesn’t and has now come up with four categories which cover what we called Niche previously. At the prodding of Karen Dubin he gave some personal non-perfume details. He likes Italian food, attending art exhibitions, and working through his Netflix queue. It is always a pleasure to hear Mr. Edwards speak and it was the perfect way to end the 2015 version of Spring Fling.

As always thanks to the Karens for allowing me to participate in this year’s events. I am already looking forward to October and Fall Ball.

Mark Behnke

All photos by Karen Adams from the Sniffapalooza website.

New Perfume Review Memo French Leather- Before Sunrise

I don’t know why I am having such strong evocations of some of my favorite movies as I smell new perfumes lately. Get ready the latest release from Memo called French Leather has me seeing a particular movie every time I wear it. The seeds of the connection were planted when I was speaking with John Molloy, the co-founder of Memo, at Pitti Fragranze in September. He only had enough for me to test on a strip and a bit of skin. As we spoke we came up with the idea of a young Parisienne walking along the Seine late at night in a leather skirt holding a rose she received earlier in the evening. French Leather was the scent of a young sophisticate who has things to say while looking equally as fashionable. Even as I sniffed at my wrist throughout the day at Pitti I knew there was someone in my memory banks trying to claim this fragrance as her own. It wasn’t until I actually had a sample and wore it for a day that it finally made itself clear to me. French Leather is the scent of Celine of Art Linklater’s 1995 movie “Before Sunrise”.

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Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in "Before Sunrise"

For those unfamiliar with the movie an American, Jesse, and Celine meet on a train. Jesse is heading to Vienna to fly back to the States. Celine is returning to Paris to continue her university studies. Jesse convinces her to stay with him in Vienna, until his flight leaves the next morning, and they spend the night walking and talking. Actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy portray two adults still trying to figure out what their future holds for them. Both of them speak as only a scriptwriter can provide for them. Even so the actors are so charming it has always been a favorite movie of mine. Celine is a young woman who enjoys her youth while still holding on to a romantic ideal of what her future might be. French Leather is that mix of the insouciance of youth over the development of a sophisticated adult. Creative Director Clara Molloy and perfumer Alienor Massenet have made a rose and leather perfume that exudes playfulness and elegance in equal measures.

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Alienor Massenet

Few notes will do a better job of providing a bit of fun than the lime note which opens French Leather. After speaking with M. Molloy lime was not what I expected to be the first thing I smelled. Mme Massenet’s lime is that quirky smile from a smart woman who clearly has a sense of humor. It is made even more vibrant by the addition of juniper berry and pink pepper. They provide the intelligence underneath the laughter. The heart is the passion of our imaginary young woman as a full-blooded rose wears itself on its sleeve. It is very extroverted as it is expansive and for a good while it is the rose which you smell. Eventually you find a bit of herbal green quality which comes from clary sage. The sage is an announcement that the leather is on its way.  Mme Massenet uses a refined leather accord, the kind which would be used to make an article of clothing like a skirt. She then uses styrax, vetiver, and musk to provide textural contrast. The rose is still going strong as the leather accord takes some time to resolve itself and eventually stand tall. The last few hours are the smell of the rose and leather together.

French Leather has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Memo is one of my favorite perfume lines because Mmes Molloy and Massenet have formed a fabulous partnership which has created one of the standout collections in all of perfumery. French Leather is another excellent addition to the brand.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Memo Paris Kedu-Sesame for Buddha

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For the great majority of the time being in the US gives me the opportunity to try things first. In the perfumed world though that isn’t always the case and often there are releases that take over a year to find their way to America. Usually patience wins the day except in the case of the few lines I like very much which haven’t found their way across the pond, yet. Very top of that list is Memo Paris. For a few years I used a Paris shopping service to get my bottles back to me then I found that Colette, the French Department Store, had worldwide shipping. Over time I have struck up a relationship with John Molloy who is the husband of Creative Director, and co-owner, Clara Molloy. When I was in Milan for the most recent Esxence I had the opportunity to meet with Mme Molloy about their newest release Kedu which is part of the new Graines Vagabondes series, inspired by seeds.

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John and Clara Molloy

When we began to talk about Kedu, Mme Molloy handed me a coffee table book with the Middle-Earth-like name of Borobudur on it. It didn’t turn out to be the long lost home of the dwarves but instead one of the great Buddhist temples located in Central Java, Indonesia. It is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and a pilgrimage site for Buddhists on the holiday of Waisak, more prosaically known as Buddha’s Birthday. As an act of purification you burn one sesame seed for every passion, I would hold up the line if I did this. What is unique is on Waisak the smell of burning sesame arises all around the area. This is what Mme Molloy wanted to capture with Kedu and she asked her longtime collaborator, perfumer Alienor Massenet, to compose the fragrance around a central note of sesame.

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Borobudur in the Mist

One of the special joys of my meeting with Mme Molloy was she offered me the opportunity to smell the three linchpin notes for the top, heart, and base of Kedu. On top was a grapefruit oil which was as bright a grapefruit as I have ever smelled without a hint of the sour or sulfurous facets sometimes present. The base note was a white musk which was silky smooth without the screechy irritating quality some white musks have for me. Those I had smelled versions of before. The sesame absolute was something new for me and it was absolutely glorious. This was a flame kissed seed with all the rich viscosity of a sesame oil. I spent most of the evening returning to the strip to experience it over and over. At this point I couldn’t wait to see how Mme Massenet put this all together.

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Alienor Massenet

If I hadn’t smelled the building blocks before trying Kedu I would have said it was a typical grapefruit opening complete with the sour and sulfurous facets, but I knew that wasn’t true. Mme Massenet lets the sesame absolute substitute for those facets. Once I tuned into that I realized this was a very different grapefruit accord as instead of sulfurous it was really sort of toasted  and instead of sour it was slightly piquant; both of those courtesy of the sesame. A slight floral interlude courtesy of rose and peony set the transition to the heart of where the sesame truly takes center stage. On a strip it was great, on my skin it was better. It lingers at this stage long enough for my own personal passions to take their time burning away. When the sesame does dissipate what is left is the very smooth white musk with a bit of moss thrown in for texture.

Kedu has 6-8 hour longevity and modest sillage.

The sesame absolute has also shown up in two other of my recent favorite fragrances, Arquiste Anima Dulcis and Etat Libre D’Orange La Fin du Monde, but it is not as prominent as it is in Kedu. Kedu allows me to revel in the swirling smoke of the immolating sesame seeds and it is an exciting beginning to the Graines Vagabondes series. I am really hoping that caraway is one of the seeds on the drawing board because I would really like to see what the Memo team would do with that. I do know that if I find myself at Borobodur during Waisak there will be one seed named Memo Paris that I feed to the fire. Kedu is another passionate entry in the Memo Paris catalogue.

Disclosure: this review was based on a press sample provided by Memo Paris and Campomarzio 70.

Mark Behnke