The Sunday Magazine: The Nose- Searching for Blamage

The very last event I attended at Esxence 2014 was a screening of the documentary “The Nose-Searching for Blamage”. Director Paul Rigter followed perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri of Nasomatto around as he designed his tenth, and final, Nasomatto fragrance. Sig. Gualtieri wanted to call this last fragrance Blamage which is loosely translated as mistake. The opening of the movie shows Sig. Gualtieri talking about how some of the more famous perfumes in history were improved by adding too much or too little of an ingredient. For this last fragrance in the Nasomatto line he wanted to leave it all up to chance what he would use to create Blamage. He had his assistant blindfold him with a plaster blindfold and then walk him over to his wall of raw materials where six random ingredients were selected. These would form the core of Blamage.

gualtieri motorcycle

After the blindfold was removed and Sig. Gualtieri saw what he had chosen he exclaims, not for the last time, “Cazzo!” The subtitle translates it as “shit” and for the rest of the film when the word is used it goes unsubtitled. What is great about the way Sig. Gualtieri uses the word is its meaning is all dependent on the tone of his voice. When he is looking at sandalwood in Delhi, India it is said with weary disgust at the cheap materials. When he is smelling one of the mods of Blamage it is said with a smile and suppressed laugh as his task at meshing these six disparate notes is proving difficult but also fun.

Throughout the almost one-hour running time we watch Sig. Gualtieri as he visits Milan for Esxence in 2012 and goes throughout the city leaving little altars of scent, as seen in the clip above. His visit to Delhi, India on a search for raw ingredients has a funny turn as he walks by a store with a knockoff of his Black Afgano. His reaction is priceless as the artist assesses the knockoff.

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By the end of the year Mr. Rigter had to stop filming before the final version of Blamage was finished. At Esxence 2014 the bottle was on display and at the movie showing a bottle was given away to a lucky attendee who was surrounded by many to get a chance to smell the result of this intentional mistake. Mr. Rigter has captured much of what is special about Sig. Gualtieri in the world of perfumery. His irreverence coupled with his serious love of making unusual fragrances comes through via Mr. Rigter’s lens.

For anyone who loves Nasomatto I think The Nose-Searching for Blamage will make you appreciate the perfumer behind your favorite perfume. If you’ve never tried a Nasomatto fragrance I’d be surprised if you aren’t a little interested in trying one after spending an hour with Sig. Gualtieri on film. The Nose- Searching for Blamage is a wonderful insight into one of our most iconoclastic perfumers.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: The Nose- Searching for Blamage will be shown at the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto, Canada on Apr 26, 27, and May 3, 2014. For more info click on this link.

The Sunday Magazine: Veronica Mars

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When it comes to television it seems like I am the patron saint of shows which are canceled fairly quickly. There are many shows through the years which I have really enjoyed which were canceled within their first year or two. Firefly, Pushing Daisies, Freaks and Geeks, Twin Peaks, Profit, Rome; even the original Star Trek could be included on my list. What is also great about these shows I’ve listed is even though they are gone they connected with a fairly passionate fan base who keep their memories alive with websites and forums dedicated to them. A common theme you will always find on these forums is the desire to somehow someway get the beloved show back into production. Almost all of the time because these shows are owned by studios who see no profit in bringing back a failed series this is all wishful thinking.

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In March of 2013 I logged into my e-mail to find a message from the “Veronica Mars” fansite urging me to go contribute to the Kickstarter campaign to get a Veronica Mars movie made. I read this with the same amount of skepticism one reads e-mail from a Nairobi Prince trying to share his fortune with you. I headed over to Kickstarter to see which starry eyed dreamer was trying to raise money to convince the studio to bring Veronica back. Imagine my surprise that it was the creator/writer Rob Thomas and the star Kristen Bell with the blessing of the studio Warner Brothers. If they could get $2 Million dollars in 30 days they could make a movie. Well this wasn’t fanciful thinking this was a plan. Over the next thirty days I and 91,584 other fans donated enough money to go well past the target to end up gathering $5.7 Million. I felt great. I felt like we the fans had actually brought something back to life that I never thought to see again. Then I started to worry that it would be bad as Mr. Thomas tried to satisfy 91,585 fans/backers and it would be another failed attempt to broaden the audience.

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One year after donating my money I sat down and watched “Veronica Mars” unspool before my eyes and when it was done I was smiling ear-to-ear. It was perfect as it was everything I had loved about the writing, the characters, and the actors who played those characters. Mr. Thomas  made a movie with lots of hidden layers in throwaway lines of dialogue which made us long-time fans giggle but never making it so much of an inside joke that others couldn’t find something to laugh about, too.

As of the writing of this I don’t know whether Veronica Mars was a success at the box office and frankly I don’t care. With the help of a group of other fans we were able to get another installment of something we all connected with years after we thought it was gone. Obviously I am hoping some of the other shows I named also have the opportunity to find their way back through a Kickstarter campaign. The success of Veronica Mars will be closely watched and imitated if it is a success.

Which leads me to wonder if there isn’t a perfume brand that faded away before its time which could be Kickstarted back to life. I do have a line I would be thrilled to see return to production and I would contribute to a Kickstarter campaign to finance it. So Victoire Gobin-Daude if you’re out there and want to bring back your original collection of Gobin-Daude perfumes I’ll be the first to contribute.

Mark Behnke

My Desert Island Perfume: Frapin Caravelle Epicee

Probably the question anyone who writes about perfume gets most is to name your “Top 5 or 10 or 25” Perfumes of All-Time. For those of us who spend our time trying everything new we can get our nose on as well as find times for our favorites it is an impossible question. I usually say something like I have enough trouble naming my Top 25 for a given year much less the Top 25 ever. This elicits a mix of reactions but mostly disappointment that I can’t point them to the absolute best perfume in the world. Heck maybe I’m a little disappointed I can’t do it either. There is a different version of this question though which I have had an answer for since 2007, “What is your desert island fragrance?”

To me this is a much different query than name the best fragrances ever. When asked what I would want to wear on a desert island it means to me a fragrance that would not be boring as I wore it every day. A fragrance that would be comforting and energizing. A fragrance which would be an olfactory Friday to my Robinson Crusoe or Wilson to my Tom Hanks. A fragrance which would remind me why I wanted to get off the island. For me that fragrance is 2007’s Frapin Caravelle Epicee.

I learned about Caravelle Epicee one morning in 2007 when a Basenotes member “Two Roads” listed it as his Scent of the Day followed by the note list: coriander, cardamom, clove, cumin, nutmeg, allspice, thyme, gaiac wood, patchouli, sandalwood, amber, and tobacco. He generously sent me a sample and a few days later I would wear it for the first time but not the last time.

Jeanne-Marie-Faugier

Jeanne-Marie Faugier

Jeanne-Marie Faugier is the perfumer under the Creative Direction of Frapin’s David Frossard. Caravelle Epicee translates to Spice Ship and I have always seen it as an olfactory landscape of the hold of a 17th Century Dutch East India Company ship just after it has unloaded its cargo after returning to its European port from a trip to the Indonesian Spice Islands. As you can tell from the list of notes above this is a veritable smorgasbord of spice. Mme Faugier is able to keep what could have been an unruly cacophony instead tuned to politeness with an almost genteel façade. This is why I describe it as standing in the hold after it has been unloaded because the spices seem to reach a certain level and then never get much more intense. After the spices there was obviously some tobacco also in the hold and then you smell the wood of the ship as the patchouli, gaiac, and sandalwood combine to give that accord. I also always get a tiny hint of an aquatic accord which captures the water just on the other side of the hull.

Caravelle Epicee has all-day longevity and average sillage.

There you have it and finally I have put this down in print so the next time I get asked this question I can just forward them this link.

Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle of Caravell Epicee that I purchased.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten

I was very fortunate when I started my first job, in Connecticut, to have one of my best friends from college, Joe, living in Manhattan. I was able to spend numerous evenings and weekends in New York City experiencing much of what the big city had to offer. One of the things both of us enjoyed was great food. Our birthdays are eight days apart in October and we would celebrate on the weekend in between by working our way through the four-star restaurants in the City. Whenever we talk about the best meals we ever had we always agree that our 1989 birthday dinner at the Lafayette Hotel was probably the best of them all.

Baeckoffe at JoJo 2012

Alsatian Baeckoffe as served at Jojo in 2012

Earlier that year, Joe told me when I arrived on a mid-week night we were going to try some Alsatian food at this restaurant around the corner on Third Avenue called Brandywine. Brandywine was an aging NY Steakhouse and was undergoing a menu overhaul to start serving Alsatian food. I ordered the classic Charcroute which is a traditional dish of sauerkraut and various meats. What I had served to me was something so above what one would expect from sauerkraut. It was crunchy and tart and the meat was lamb, pork, and veal. It was luscious. Towards the end of the meal a man in chef’s whites walked over to us to ask what we thought. In my usual effusive way I gushed at how fresh the sauerkraut was and how do you make it not mushy. I received a smile and an explanation along with an introduction to Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten who was consulting on the menu revamp for Brandywine. A few months later we would be sitting at a table in his four-star restaurant in the Lafayette Hotel and he dazzled us with the tasting menu. This meal was full of the things he has come to be known for. Fragrant broths, poaching in juice, and herbal concoctions. It transformed traditional French cuisine into a comprehensive sensual experience.

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Peekytoe Crab Tempura at Jean-Georges

The use of lighter alternatives to traditional sauces add a visual component of vibrant color. Then, fragrance fans, it is the aroma of these dishes that was really enhanced by the use of these preparations. There was a cloud of culinary sillage wafting off every dish which was put in front of us. Sweet juice cut with herbal contrasts all blended as skillfully as our most accomplished perfumers. There is no chef who uses ingredients that perfume the air above his dishes as adeptly.

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Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Since that meal in 1989 Chef Vongerichten has become one of the Emperor Chefs who has exported his way of cooking to a number of restaurants world-wide under his imprimatur. The flagship restaurant in New York City is the eponymous Jean-Georges which is one of seven restaurants in NYC to receive three Michelin stars. Even though it has been twenty five years since the meal at the Lafayette Hotel the cuisine at Jean-Georges remains as exciting and evolutionary as it was then.

If you want a meal which is satisfying to both palate and nose look for a restaurant that Jean-Georges has opened up, near you or in a city you are visiting, and treat yourself to a singular aromatic culinary experience.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Monastrell Wine from Jumilla in Spain

The first thing I think I really strived to learn about experientially was wine. When I was in college there was an upscale mall near campus that had a by the glass wine bar in it. It also had Paul who would become my guide to the wide world of wine as I sat at the bar. Every other week my friends and I would let Paul pour us a few glasses of wine and tell us where they came from. Those were the first steps on my way to becoming what my friends call a wine snob. I love being called a wine snob because I take it to mean this, I won’t drink bad wine. I would also happily embrace the phrase perfume snob, for the same reason.

One of my rules of being a wine snob is it has nothing to do with price it has everything to do with quality. That was something Paul taught me over and over again. One of my favorite wines he served us was one of the least expensive. It was this full-bodied red wine as powerful as the California Cabernets or French Reds but it came from Spain. The wine was called Monastrell and it was from a region in Spain called Jumilla. I loved these wines and the added bit of interest was that they had a flaw that I actually liked. The grape used in the Monastrells is called Mouvedre and it is more widely known as the grape used in jug and box wines. When grown under the particular climate in Jumilla these bland grapes take on an unexpected power. Another reason they aren’t used more widely is they have that flaw I mentioned called reduction which gives it a gamey quality. In perfume terms it is like the L’Artisan Parfumeur Dzing! of the wine world.

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Phylloxera infesting a vine

The reason you haven’t heard much about these wines is because in 1989 the entire region was struck by an infestation of an insect parasite called phylloxera which destroys the vines. As a result all of the vines in the region had to be destroyed as a firebreak to keep it from spreading to the rest of the wine regions in Spain. While this was a disaster it had a silver lining which would take twenty years to become apparent. As the vineyards replanted they used the newer hybrid versions of the vines. This would make the vines a little more pest resistant and even though the vines were new, the soil and the climate remained the same.

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When I went to my wine store in 2012 and saw this old familiar silver label in the Spanish section I was very excited. The Monastrell Paul served me back in 1979 was from Juan Gil and there it was again. When I took the bottle home I was so pleased to see that nothing had really changed. Better vines and better winemaking methods have made for a better wine but the same characteristics remained.

Jumilla Monastrells are available for less than $15 and they are one of the best bargains in the wine section if you want a big red wine. It is a perfect companion for barbecued ribs, and more obviously gamier meats like lamb, rabbit, and pork. I like grilling steak with some olive oil and sprinkled with rosemary and opening a Monastrell to go with it.

Here are some labels to look for at your local store:

Bodegas Juan Gil

Bodegas Tarima

Bodegas Olivaros Altos de la Hoya

Casa Castillo

Bodegas Volver

These wines benefit from being opened and allowed to breathe. Which means not just opening the bottle it means pouring it into another container. I use an old-fashioned milk bottle as my everyday carafe.

If you’re looking for the next great red wine bargain in your wine store head over to the Spanish section and give the Jumilla Monastrells a sip.

Mark Behnke

How to Prime Your Skin for Best Longevity of Your Perfume

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I am often asked why I include a sentence about longevity in all my reviews. One of the reasons is I think there are many who equate the length of time a perfume hangs around as a signal of quality. I don’t particularly subscribe to that sort of thinking but I understand where it comes from. Longevity is more closely related to perfume oil concentration as, probably, the biggest single reason a perfume lasts for many hours. When it comes to what’s in the bottle there is very little any of us can do about that. What we can do, is make our skin the best canvas it can be for our scent of the day.

preparing-canvas-for-oil-paint

When a painter gets a raw canvas the first thing they do is coat it with a substance called gesso. It is meant to make the canvas more absorbent to the paint to be applied. It also has a secondary effect of adding a bit of texture for the oil or acrylic paint to “bite” on to the surface. This provides a uniform surface which allows for the best display of the artist’s materials.

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When it comes to applying fragrance there are two things you can do which similarly make your skin uniform to allow for the best chance at longevity. The first is to exfoliate the skin you apply your perfume to. I’m not suggesting you go out and buy some expensive beauty product. I am suggesting you use a loofah or a rough washcloth whenever you shower or bathe. That will remove the top layer of dead skin cells and allow for a clean uniform skin surface. Now you need to help the perfume “bite” on to your skin and for that you need to moisturize prior to applying perfume. The idea is that by adding a layer of unscented moisturizer your skin is busy absorbing that, instead of the perfume you will be applying after that. If you just remember to exfoliate and moisturize you should see a marked improvement in the time your perfume hangs around.

If you want to take it one step further I’m going to share one of my secrets to perfume application which again is based on a painting technique. After a painter has gessoed their canvas they will often add a monochromatic covering called a colored or toned ground. The idea is this basic light color can be used to add subtle shading in the spaces underneath the primary application of the paints.

I’ve come up with my own method for creating a toned ground for my skin. When I get ready to moisturize after my shower I take a small paper cup and add a palm sized amount of my unscented moisturizer. Then I take my perfume for the day and give it two good sprays. I then take a finger and swirl it around mixing in the perfume with the moisturizer. Then I apply it to my arms, neck, and chest which is where I apply my perfume every day.

I don’t have any large pool of data to rely upon to say whether this works for everyone. What I can say is that everyone I have told to do this, when asked about perfume longevity, has reported back to me that it helped.

One final note is there are now a few commercial skin primers saying that they extend the longevity of a perfume. On the surface the claim is true they do work in making a perfume last longer on anyone’s skin. The price you pay is it alters the development of the perfume distorting the normal progression of the pyramid. It causes some notes to stay longer than the perfumer intended and it causes some of the heavier base notes from appearing until much later than the perfumer intended. Bottom line on these primers is if you just want the smell to last longer they will do the trick but it will be like looking at the fragrance in a fun house mirror; recognizably similar but fatter in some places and thinner in others. It is up to you if added longevity is worth the different profile.

Like everyone who loves perfume we all want it to stay around as long as possible. I think if you use the simple suggestions above you’ll find you get a little more time to spend with your favorite fragrances.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Fashion of Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford- Fall 2014

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As fragrance fans we eagerly look forward to the next perfume release from Marc Jacobs or Tom Ford. Both of these, now, ubiquitous names started with their fashion lines before expanding into the accessories and beauty sectors. The fragrance calendar goes all year long but the fashion calendar is pretty much concentrated on two times of the year, February-March and September-October, when fashion designers show their latest couture in runway shows. The shows happen about six months before the season they are meant to be worn in. Thus the February shows are for Fall of that year and the September shows are for the Spring of the following year. It is also a traveling circus as there are fashion weeks starting in New York, then London, followed by Milan, and finishing up in Paris. For the current cycle, fall 2014, we are about halfway through with New York and London finished and Milan ongoing.

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Marc Jacobs (l.) and Tom Ford aking bows at their Fall 2014 Runway Shows

My interest in fashion is similar to my interest in the great perfumers. Both endeavors are highly informed on what has gone before with the best designers and perfumers using things from past creations as the launching point for the future. Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford are perhaps two of the savviest at doing this. Their designs are based on classic lines but always there is a bit of a modern or retro-modern twist apparent. It is a big reason why they are the most anticipated runway shows at New York where Mr. Jacobs is the closer with the last show; and London where Mr. Ford moved his shows to from New York a year ago.

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Marc Jacobs' "Cosmetic Colors" (l.) and Tom Ford's Jay-Z Knockoff of a Knockoff

(Photos George Chinsee/WWD (l.) and Giovanni Gianonni/WWD)

One of the things I always find fascinating is how each season forms its own zeitgeist as all the designers seem to work towards the same big ideas. Halfway through the Fall 2014 offerings the colors seem to contain more pastels than you see in the Fall. Spring is usually where the pastels fill the runway. These pastels are of the cooler variety. Mr. Jacobs described them as “cosmetics colors” when describing his collection. Both designers brought in sportswear themed flourishes with the most talked about of those Mr. Ford’s knock off of a t-shirt Jay-Z has been wearing on stage when he performs his hit “Tom Ford”. The sequined couture version will carry a price tag, 100 times more than the $65 t-shirt, which has its own shade of social commentary underneath.

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Marc Jacobs Fall 2014 (Photo: George Chinsee/WWD)

Marc Jacobs’ Fall 2014 collection was all about soft colors and fabrics to go with it. It was almost as if the Marc Jacobs Blush fragrance could’ve been the tagline for the fashion. There were lots of examples of great separates the best which was the chunky knit look with its own slouchy vibe to it. All of this was brought together in one look as a sparkly stunner.

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Tom Ford Fall 2014 (Photo: Giovanni Gianonni/WWD)

Tom Ford’s Fall 2014 collection was less pastel and his color palette was more focused on black, navy, and red. In a collection of dark looks it was the reds which provided impact as either a red crocodile skirt suit or a luxurious velvet dress both of which are the kind of aspirational couture Mr. Ford does so well. The middle look above represents where hemlines will be next fall as it looks like the knee and lower will be on trend.

By the time fall rolls around I am sure we will be getting new fragrances from both designers to match the looks above.

Mark Behnke

My Scent Memory: Fairchild Botanical Gardens 1969- Anya’s Garden Fairchild

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It is a common experience of most who love perfume that certain fragrances conjure up strong memories. Sometimes it is the scent of a specific place or an occasion and the fragrance you wore to it. When fragrance works on this level it is about its ability to truly lodge itself within your conscience. One of my favorite fragrances which does this for me is Anya’s Garden Fairchild.

Fairchild was inspired by the Fairchild Botanical Gardens in South Florida. Ms. McCoy has magically created a steamy summer day at these gardens perfectly. My review for CaFleureBon can be found here. Every time I wear it I think of these gardens. There is also one special memory which almost always comes to mind when I wear Fairchild. It was of a late August day in 1968 as my grandfather taught me not to be afraid of change and to judge people by their actions and not their appearance.

Mark L. Harned

Mark L. Harned in 1969

I am named after my grandfather Mark Harned and he had returned to South Florida after his retirement. One of our favorite activities was to walk through Fairchild Botanical Gardens and enjoy the beauty of all the tropical foliage and the smell of the ocean brought to us by the sea breeze. Granddaddy Harned would always punctuate these walks with tales of his travels all over the world. I blame these talks for my wanderlust which has taken me from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego in this hemisphere. One thing he never spoke about was his time in World War II. Until this day late in the long hot summer of 1969.

That summer was a moment of tumultuous American history as protests against the Vietnam War and long simmering racial divides finally boiled over in many US cities. Miami wasn’t an epicenter of this kind of activity but there was a moment where the African-American sections of the city set some fires and threw some things at passing cars it was mild compared to what was going on in Chicago or Berkley. As a precocious 9-year old I was a little unsettled especially because I was going to be sharing school with children of another skin color as desegregation was starting with my grade school. I was nervous about what the new school year would bring. My grandfather sensed it and after asking me I told him I was worried “they” wouldn’t be like me. That was when he launched into the only story he ever told me about his service in World War II.

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Map of Ledo Road (in bright green)

My grandfather was a civil engineer in the Army Corps of Engineers and he was flown to India in the Far Eastern Theatre to begin the work on building what would come to be known as the Ledo Road. The Allies needed an alternative overland supply line to the more well-known Burma Road which was in Japanese controlled hands. If the Allies were going to engage they would have to build their own supply line. Construction began in December of 1942 and in just under two years it would be finished and all war materiel would flow down the Ledo Road.

What my grandfather told me next was what was important for me to learn as a young man. Almost all of the labor that worked on the Ledo Road were African-American. My grandfather told me of the construction work performed by these soldiers. He told me of the pride in their work as the progress they made was faster than the commanders had expected. He told me how the work was in brutal heat and brutal cold as they were working at mountainous altitude and then down in tropical jungles in the valleys. I asked him if there were problems like what we were seeing. He looked at me with a smile and said to me something I have always remembered “Marcus always judge a man on his heart and soul, never on the color of his skin. Good and bad exist beneath the skin not because of it.”

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It was a powerful moment for me and it was these words which drove me to start talking to Rodney whose desk was next to me in Mrs. Dundee’s Fifth Grade class. I realized very quickly that Grandaddy Harned was correct as Rodney and I would team up on the basketball court and watch each other’s back at dodgeball. When I got off my bike in the morning I was as happy to see Rodney as I was the friends I had been in school with previously. Our parents, unfortunately, were less evolved and we were never invited to each other’s house. Although in the spring of 1970 Granddaddy Harned chaperoned a field trip and I introduced him to Rodney. My grandfather shared one of those special smiles with me as I introduced him which told me he thought I might just have learned something.

Everytime I wear Anya’s Garden Fairchild I am back in Fairchild Gardens with Granddaddy Harned filled with pride to share his name.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: HBO’s True Detective

I have often said we are living in a Golden Age of Perfumery because of the sheer breadth of artists working on making fragrance. When there are over 1300 new releases a year the chance for true artistry to exist within that large number is high. I also think we are living in a Golden Age of Television Drama for many of the same reasons. With 500 channels, and counting, to fill up with content; not including the streaming services like Netflix the chance for true artistry and vision to exist is high. Just before sitting down to write this I looked at my DVR to see the list of shows I record currently: The Walking Dead, The Good Wife, Masters of Sex, Homeland, Mad Men, Sherlock, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, The Americans, not to mention the recently completed Breaking Bad. Even with all of that I haven’t caught up to others which have been highly praised like Orange is the New Black and Boardwalk Empire. It feels just like the effort I have to make to keep up with new perfume releases, there just isn’t enough time to catch it all. If you are a fan of the great television currently going on I want to alert you to a fantastic new series on HBO called True Detective, it is among the best acting, writing, and directing on television I have ever seen.

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Woddy Harrelson as Marty Hart (l.) and Matthew Mcconaughey as Rust Cohle in 1995

True Detective is meant to be a seasonal anthology series like American Horror Story with each season containing one complete story. For this first season writer and creator Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Joji Fukunaga have created a story of two very different men and how the ritual murder of a woman affects them individually and as a team. The two actors at the heart of True Detective are giving stellar performances. Woody Harrelson as family man Marty Hart is about as far from his dim but lovable bartender on “Cheers” as can be. Matthew McConaughey is man with a past Rust Cohle newly assigned as Hart’s partner which is about as far from his happy stoner in “Dazed and Confused” as can be. Both actors have turned in memorable dramatic performances in the past but together in True Detective they are truly stepping it up to new heights.

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Nic Pizzolatto (Photo: Luis Sinco)

The story goes back and forth from Louisiana in 1995 as Hart and Cohle investigate the ritual murder of a young woman and 2012 where two new detectives interview them separately about the case. In 1995 both men are trying to find that common ground necessary to work together and having difficulty doing that. Hart is almost the clichéd family man detective having an affair but Mr. Pizzolatto has more to say about that as we see more of the underlying needs that make Hart tick. The reason that we see that is because Cohle unsettles him on multiple levels. He is smarter, is a better detective, and the only thing Hart has that Cohle doesn’t is a family.

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Mr. McConaughey as Cohle in 2012

The physical differences in Cohle as a younger man and older man are striking. As the 1995 Cohle Mr. McConaughey is gaunt and unrecognizable as the 2005 People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive. The 2012 version is a bit of Dazed and Confused Danny Wooderson, if viewed through a dark prism. The physical changes signal something different in the two time periods for Cohle. Woody Harrelson is physically unchanged but psychologically as different as Cohle looks physically. Mr. Harrelson lets that show in a wonderfully nuanced performance especially in the 2012 interview scenes.

Director Cary Fukunaga arrives at "Celebrate Sundance Institute" the Sundance Institute's inaugural benefit in Beverly Hills, California

Cary Joji Fukunaga (Photo: Reuters/ Gus Ruelas)

Halfway through the eight episodes True Detective has the atmosphere of the movie “Se7en” if it was seen as a Southern Gothic thriller. Mr. Fukunaga has used his framing to make some things uncomfortably close and other times the atmospherics seem as much a character as the protagonists. At the end of the fourth episode there is a six minute single take shot, called a tracking shot, of Cohle escaping a shootout that is as technically difficult to achieve as it sounds. One mistake and you have to go right back to the beginning; only the most skilled and confident attempt such a thing.

This group of four amazing artists are creating something memorable in this halcyon era of fantastic television. If you love great acting, writing, and directing add True Detective to your DVR or Netflix queue this is as good as it gets.

Mark Behnke

Providence Perfume Moss Gown Ad

Editor’s Note: I have been wearing a dab of Charna Ethier’s Providence Perfume Company Moss Gown to give me a bit of an olfactory soundtrack to go with the visual.

The Sunday Magazine: Salinger (The Documentary)

One of my favorite parts of the Sunday newspaper is the magazine section. I have been lucky to live in great newspaper towns where this Sunday section was a weekly omnibus covering the world. While I want Colognoisseur to be focused on the World of Fragrance Monday through Saturday, on Sunday I want to share with my readers some of the other things I am passionate about. What you will see through all of these is my fascination with the creative process. For this first Sunday I want to talk about the recent documentary on J.D. Salinger.

Shane+Salerno

Shane Salerno

At the end of January PBS’ American Masters aired their 200th episode, the documentary Salinger directed by Shane Salerno. Mr. Salerno is best known as a screenwriter for the movies “Armageddon” and “Savages”. His current gig is co-writing “Avatar 4” with James Cameron. Mr. Salerno’s fascination with author J.D. Salinger came about after he optioned the film rights to Paul Alexander’s “Salinger” biography back in 2000. He wanted to see if he could attract Daniel Day-Lewis into playing Salinger and had heard that Mr. Day-Lewis wanted to have as much research on the real life subjects he would play before considering a role. This was what started Mr. Salerno down the path of gathering information about the notoriously reclusive author.

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J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger is known to almost all who passed through American High Schools and Universities as the author of “Catcher in the Rye”. It is an evergreen classic and I mark it as one of the best written books I have ever read. “Catcher in the Rye” was published in 1951 and it made Salinger into a star of the literary world. He would release a couple of short story collections and with the publication of the novella “Hapworth 16, 1924” in The New Yorker he stopped publishing. In 1953 he bought a farmhouse in Cornish, New Hampshire and after that last story in 1965 that was where he lived out his life until his death in 2010.

J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger writing "Catcher in the Rye" Photo: The Story Factory/Paul Fitzgerald

Mr. Salerno’s documentary fills in many of the blank spaces in Mr. Salinger’s life. Starting with his experiences in World War II.  As part of a counter-intelligence division he landed on Normandy Beach on D-Day, was part of the notorious firefights at the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. In the documentary there is a description of him hugging a tree during the latter battle while explosions and bullets rained down around him. By the latter days of the war his division would liberate one of the Dachau sub-camps. During all of this he was writing “Catcher in the Rye” in the down times. The documentary shows the only known picture of him writing on a portable desk while in uniform. The documentary proposes that by the time Salinger returned to the US he was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in a time where that term hadn’t yet been coined. One of his comrades in arms was interviewed for the documentary and he said that there are still days for him where artillery goes off in his front yard or living room. Considering he shared Salinger’s experiences it is reasonable to expect Salinger was also traumatized.

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The way this played out in Salinger’s life was his unhealthy obsession with very young girls, teenagers. The documentary spends time with two of these girls; the more well-known Joyce Maynard who wrote a book about her time with Salinger and Jean Miller who he began a relationship with when she was 14 and he was 30. The common threads to both stories were chilling and I found myself seeing Salinger almost as predatory. Ms. Maynard described, as her time was waning, Salinger had started the same pattern with a young au pair which made her know the end was near. This reminded me of the description of Lyndon Baines Johnson by the biographer Robert Caro as having a tapestry in which the brightest threads were laid next to the darkest threads. Salinger was a brilliant writer with a darkness that played out in his obsession with teenage girls.

The other constant throughout the documentary was that Salinger was writing every day for all of these years. Some of the interviewed subjects saw finished manuscripts. At the end of the documentary it claims that starting in 2015 we will be getting five new works by Salinger. One of them will flesh out the Holden Caulfield family history and another the Glass family featured in “Franny & Zooey”. The one I am most interested in after seeing the documentary is a World War II based novel about a counter-intelligence agent’s war experiences. Salinger also was an adherent to Vedanta and one of the new novels is said to be a story-driven manual of Vedantic principles and finally a novella about Salinger’s war experiences. One of the people in the documentary says if these do get published they would go right to No. 1 on the best seller lists. As if to prove this point two days after this documentary aired on PBS “Catcher in the Rye” shot to No. 1 for the first time.

I admire Mr. Salerno’s persistence in tracking down many of the people who Salinger knew and to get them to speak on the record. His reward was a chance to actually see Salinger when he was told to be in Cornish at a specific place and time. The video they took was of a white-haired man smiling and laughing behind a car window. I hope Salinger had finally found some peace in the final days of his life. I know I am very much looking forward to these new works and will be one of those lining up to read them as soon as they are released.

Salinger is available through Netflix or check your local PBS Station Listings for a replay of American Masters.

Mark Behnke