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.

Pitti Fragranze 2014 Day 2 Wrap-up- The Heart of Perfume

Buongiorno perfumistas!

On day 2 of Pitti Fragranze the public is invited to attend. This gives a different energy to the fair from Day 1 which is industry only. It is enjoyable to watch young perfumistas discovering brands and meeting the perfumers behind them. Their attendance today will light a fire in their heart which will burn for many years to come. I still had some work to do catching up with some of my favorite brands and exploring some new brands.

I didn’t recognize Pierre Guillaume with his new short haircut and as a result I kept looking past the tall man standing next to his display. Maybe because it was first thing in the morning but I finally realized that tall man was M. Guillaume. Another perfumer who I had never met in person before. He showed me his latest release for his Huitieme Art Parfums line Liqueur Charnelle. This is a rich cognac perfume that made me feel as if I needed to be wearing a velvet jacket next to a fireplace. I also got a preview of the next new release Mojito Chypre. You might think the name tells you all you need to know but M. Guillaume includes a wonderfully surreal strawberry note in between the lime and the chypre. This felt like perfume made with a wink and a smile.

Perfumer Cecile Zarokian has been having a tremendously successful year and I was able to try her two latest releases; Laboratorio Olfattivo Patchouliful and Jacques Zolty Van’lle. The press art for Patchouliful captures a king sitting on a throne in shorts and flip flops. It is an apt description for a fragrance which uses patchouli in a lighter opaque application. It is another example of Mme Zarokian’s ability to find new ways to interpret notes we all think we know. Jacques Zolty is meant to be an entry brand into niche with a bit of niche sensibility. Easy to wear but with some unique aspects added to it. Van’lle is just that a rich light amiable vanilla. It doesn’t cloy it swaddles you in sweet comfort.

I also connected with Olivier Durbano and tried his tenth release, Promethee. M. Durbano delved into the Greek myth of Prometheus. My first impression is this might be the best fragrance M. Durbano has released. Promethee captures the fragrant touchstones of the myth and it is housed in a temple of resinous components. This is confident perfume made by a perfumer who has developed over the last ten years into one of the best independent perfumers we have working.

John Molloy of Memo walked by and asked me when I was going to drop by and get a sneak preview of the next release from them. Before I sprayed it on he told me to imagine a woman dressed in a leather skirt who carried that ineffable air of a Parisienne wearing rose perfume. The upcoming French Leather is that rose and leather combination with the style of Paris imposed on it. It will be released early in the fall.

ChandlerBurr_RobertGerstnerFragranze12_027Chandler Burr (l.) and Robert Gerstner

Time for the presentation by Chandler Burr interviewing Robert Gerstner and Miguel Briceno of Aedes de Venustas in New York City. For the first part of the interview the talk centered on how the selections in the store are curated and what it takes to have the full package necessary to be included in the store. They figure they get approached by one new brand a day and over the course of a year they might only find one or two which they would like to add to the inventory. It was a fascinating candid look behind the scenes in a premiere niche perfumery and how decisions are made.

Now I went to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the section called Spring for new fragrances by small independent brands. I saw most of them and there were two which stood out to me.

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Peccato Originale is an inventive brand which bases their packaging, perfume names, and inspirations on old pharmacy artifacts. What you see above is a first aid kit from sometime in the 1920’s. Two new fragrances were introduced at Pitti, Tintura Spiritosa and Antidoto. Silvia Monti has taken her previous life as a pharmacist and used it to make perfumes which feel like blend of old style chemist and new style perfumer. Antidoto is my favorite of the two new releases as it has a very long-lived top note combination of intense citrus. It takes hours before mate tea followed by rum push it out of the way. This kind of juxtaposition was really interesting to wear and I enjoyed the languid development which is still continuing twelve hours after I applied it.

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The best new brand I have seen through the first two days of the show is Map of the Heart. Pierre Dinand designed heart shaped bottles which look like they came out of the television show Once Upon a Time. These fragrances are no fairy tale as the three fragrances Clear Heart, Black Heart, and Red Heart form a diverse collection from Clear Heart’s easy wearing affability through to Red Heart wearing its tuberose on its sleeve. The one real stand out of not only the line but the entire show is Black Heart. This is a descent into all of the dark places most perfumes fear to tread. It is not for those who like their fragrances lighter. Black Heart is simply fascinating to wear.

One day left and eight hours to try and cover everything I haven’t so far. See you tomorrow.

Ciao perfumistas!

Mark Behnke