Flanker Round-Up: Boss Bottled Infinite and Givenchy Gentleman Cologne

As much as I spend the first few months of the year complaining about the avalanche of new spring rose perfumes; I’ve been asked if there is a men’s corollary. The answer is, kind of. As Father’s Day in the US gets closer, I get a significant increase in colognes from the big perfume brands. The reason it doesn’t bother me as much is there are more variations within a cologne architecture. Most of them are flankers of established best sellers which try to freshen and lighten things up. Boss Bottled Infinite and Givenchy Gentleman Cologne are two recent examples.

Boss Bottled Infinite

Hugo Boss has surely milked the popularity of 1998’s Boss Bottled. Boss Bottled Infinite is the thirteenth flanker. I was not one of the fans of the original. I felt perfumer Annick Menardo overloaded things. I was in the minority as it has been a consistent best seller. Usually a flanker keeps much of the original formula while adding in a couple new ingredients. Which is a description of most of the Boss Bottled flankers. What made me give Boss Bottled Intense a second look was that it went in the opposite direction by stripping it down to the essential keynotes. Mme Menardo was again behind the wheel for the new flanker.

For this new version the top accord is simplified to mandarin and apple, with the citrus out front. Cinnamon and sage form the heart with some lavender as underpinning. This is more spicy than previous versions without becoming heavy. The significant change is olive wood for sandalwood. What that adds is less dry woodiness. It has a richer quality which complements the early accords nicely. If you’re a fan of the original I believe this will be a nice summer alternative.

Givenchy Gentleman Cologne

The Givenchy Gentleman released in 1974 is one of the masterpieces of that decade of perfume. When Givenchy decided to release a new perfume with that name in 2017, they did it in Eau de Toilette concentration. I was not happy it shared nothing of the sophistication of the original; it was a mess. A year later they released an Eau de Parfum version. This felt like the heir to the original I was looking for. When Givenchy Gentleman Cologne arrived it fell in the middle but closer to the Eau de Parfum side.

Perfumers Olivier Cresp and Nathalie Lorson continue to design the new Givenchy Gentleman collection. They keep it simple, too. In the Eau de Toilette there was a pear note on top that really turned me off. For Cologne the top note is a brilliant lemon in high concentration. It is a summery blast of sunlight. Some rosemary provides the herbal component of the cologne recipe. The perfumers substituted iris for the more typical lavender. It is a fantastic choice. The early moments are as good as it gets. My only drawback is a high concentration of synthetic woods. It lands like a sledgehammer. The lemon and iris nearly get obliterated holding on by a thread. If there was a bit better balance to the base, I would have liked this as much as the Eau de Parfum. Whether it is for you will come down to your tolerance for the synthetic woody in high concentration.

Disclosure: These reviews are based on samples from the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Violet Un Air d’Apogee- Walking the Line

I’ve written often about the rise of Heritage brands. When done with respect I’ve generally found the result to be better than the average new perfume brand. It is most interesting to me when I have no knowledge of the brand being revived. It leaves me to assess the new perfumes without referring to the past. Then the question becomes; has the new creative team effectively designed a retro nouveau style?

There was an example I was eager to try. Early in 2018 I learned of the new Heritage brand; Maison Violet. The name cam from the founder M. Violet and not the flower. Founded in 1827 M. Violet would scent the royalty of the time. In 1867 under the creative directorship of Louis Claye, Maison Violet was awarded at the World’s Fair in the same year. This would allow Maison Violet to thrive for decades until World Wars would find the perfume house one of its casualties.

(l. to r.) Paul Richardot, Anthony Toulemonde, and Victorien Sirot

Most of the time a Heritage brand returns because someone who is related to the family decides to become involved. Maison Violet was lost to history unto three students at the Paris perfume school, Ecole Superiure de Parfum discovered it. While studying how to make perfume they spent their effort learning about the history of the brand.

Paul Richardot, Victorien Sirot, and Anthony Toulemonde would go through the legal effort to acquire the name so that they could bring Maison Violet back. They would then turn to perfumer Nathalie Lorson to produce their first three perfumes.

Nathalie Lorson

I spent most of last year trying to source a set of the perfumes they produced. That effort finally realized in a package arriving after the first of the year. Of the three perfumes I found Sketch and Pourpre D’Automne more vintage-y in their tuberose and fruity chypre constructs, respectively. The one which really captured the retro nouveau style was Un Air d’Apogee.

That this is more modern comes from the name as it refers to one of the later releases of Maison Violet; 1932’s Apogee. Un Air d’Apogee lets you know it is meant to be a flanker eighty-seven years later. That undersells what the creative team has done here. None of them had ever smelled a single Maison Violet pefume of the past. All their information came from combing through the media of the time. What drew me to it is the two phases this perfume goes through with both accords excellently constructed.

The first phase is composed of mimosa, orris, and sage. This is a gorgeous accord of the sensual sweetness of mimosa over the rooty scent of orris and the green herbal-ness of sage. This is one of the things that marries vintage style with modern sensibilities. Mme Lorson creates an effusive effect without becoming overwhelming. As much as I thought it was going to be disappointing when we moved to the tobacco-focused base it turned out to be equally adept at capturing a modern vintage effect, too. A gentle suede leather accord moves across the top accord followed by the dry woodiness of ambrox. They act as dividers of a sort. Out of that rises a honeyed tobacco infused with all the sweetness of the dried leaf. Mme Lorson adds in two clever choices to tune the sweetness in different ways. Hay adds in a dried sweetgrass to the dried leaf. A filament of gingerbread inserts a subtle spiciness. This base accord is as compelling as the top accord.

Un Air d’Apogee has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’m not sure what the eventual plan for Maison Violet is. While trying to get the first three they released a fourth, Tanagra, which I am hopefully getting faster than I did these three. I hope they will continue to create perfume in this style. The first efforts show they understand how to stride the retro nouveau line.

Disclosure: This review is based on a travel sprays I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Lalique Encre Noire- Masterpiece Vetiver

With so much perfume released every year it becomes easy to forget about those which were released a short while ago. One of the goals of this column is to take advantage of that as the discounting cycle is also accelerated. Throughout the nearly five years of writing Discount Diamonds this is the first entry which I think is a modern masterpiece; Lalique Encre Noire.

Vetiver has become a staple ingredient of perfumery in the 21st century. Prior to that it was two perfumes which were the standard bearers for the ingredient; Guerlain Vetiver and Givenchy Vetyver. They were the perfumes which introduced my generation to vetiver. As we crossed into the new century the independent perfume market began to expand rapidly. That meant there were new perspectives provided on previous keynotes. Vetiver started off with a pair of perfumes, once again, leading the modern interpretation. One of those is Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire. I don’t think that one is ever going to be a Discount Diamond. Lalique Encre Noire is the other one and it has become a fit subject for this column.

Nathalie Lorson

Encre Noire was released in 2006. Lalique’s fragrance business was looking for a way to join in on this new way of making perfume. Perfumer Nathalie Lorson would help as she composed three perfumes for the brand from 2006-2007; Perles de Lalique, Amethyst, and Encre Noire. It was a statement of intent to try for something different.

The original vetivers were citrus affairs with the vetiver providing an acerbic green contrast. More interested in the higher register effects. Encre Noire was going to go for a different style; plumbing the woody depths underneath the green. What was also so interesting about doing that was there was a smoky quality just waiting to be separated and amplified. Mme Lorson finds that.

The opening of Encre Noire is the classic grassy green of old-style vetiver. Mme Lorson uses cedar to find the woods inherent within vetiver. She uses two sources of vetiver in Encre Noire, Haitian and Bourbon. The Haitian vetiver I have come to know has a quite prominent smoky character. By blending the two versions Mme Lorson tunes the smoke to a soft level. I used to burn pine needles as a boy and whenever I wear Encre Noire the smoky nature reminds me of this. The Bourbon vetiver brings a spicy complement to the Haitian smoky version. The base is a cocktail of sensual musks which really represent the “noire” in the name.

Encre Noire has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I consider Encre Noire to be one of the best perfumes of this century. That you can buy a bottle for under $30 makes it a steal. There is no other Discount Diamond which will shine brighter.

Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Jimmy Choo Man Blue and Ralph Lauren Polo Red Rush

When it comes to flankers the name is supposed to respect the traditions which have come before. This month’s Flanker Round-Up discusses a couple which seem to have not received the memo.

Jimmy Choo Man Blue

Jimmy Choo as a brand has confounded me ever since its debut perfumes in 2011. There has been consistent creative direction paired with some of the best perfumers which has not produced a clear fragrance aesthetic. Over twenty-plus releases I can’t begin to tell you what a Jimmy Choo fragrance should smell like. Which was why when I received my sample of Jimmy Choo Man Blue I expected an aquatic. That’s what “blue” usually means in the name. Of course, it wasn’t an aquatic it was a bone-dry woody perfume. The other difference was I liked it.

When it comes to the Jimmy Choo Man collection if there is one consistent ingredient it is black pepper. Perfumer Nathalie Lorson uses that in the top as support for an herbal clary sage. It leads to a subtle leather accord which is used as underpinning for sandalwood and vetiver in the base. This is a very desiccated version of sandalwood at the end. Jimmy Choo Man Blue isn’t an aquatic but it might be a piece of dried up driftwood; if it was a piece of sandalwood.

Jimmy Choo Man has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Ralph Lauren Polo Red Rush

Ralph Lauren Polo Red debuted in 2013 and has had two previous flankers before the release of Polo Red Rush. All three of those preceding perfumes were variations on woody perfumes. I enjoyed last year’s Polo Red Extreme more than the initial two Polo Red releases. I liked it for taking a different tack. I was curious to see if that would continue in Polo Red Rush. Of course, it is an herbal citrus cologne. Despite that it hit the spot in the summer heat better than a woody version would have.

Polo Red Rush opens with a wave of citrus focused on red mandarin. This is a tarter version of orange which is sharpened by some lemon and apple in complementary roles. Mint comes along to provide a freshness. I have a hard time with mint and this one tiptoes right up to the edge of my distaste for that ingredient. It is a fresh minty citrus mélange that might remind you of utilitarian fragrance versus perfume. It does stay just on the right side of that line for me. The base is clean cedar which has a bit of lavender and musk to accompany it.

Ralph Lauren Polo Red Rush has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

This time I was happier not to find what I expected at the end of my lasso for this month’s Round-Up.

Disclosure: This review is based on sample provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds Moschino Cheap and Chic- But Not Easy

There is something about understated elegance. Or to put it another way, to be chic while also being cheap. This is a concept much easier to say than to accomplish. It is also an unspoken goal of a lot of mainstream perfumes. It is also easier attempted than produced. I am always reminded of it when I try Moschino Cheap and Chic. Not only do they put it on the label, but they also live up to it.

It is a story I’ve told many times especially in the 1990’s as fashion brands added fragrance to their offerings. Moschino was no different. They started with Moschino and Moschino pour Homme in 1987 and 1990, respectively. Moschino pour Homme was one of those underrated men’s colognes which got washed away by the tidal surge of the fresh and clean trend. Neither were particularly popular and Moschino retrenched as they decided what was next.

The choice was to make a perfume which dovetailed with their women’s fun line “Cheap and Chic”. This clothing collection was always about youthful exuberance. When this collection was on the runway you might see the models wearing crowns and miniskirts or vibrant prints and lei. It was decided a perfume to match that irreverence was going to be the third try at fragrance for the brand. Perfumer Nathalie Lorson made Cheap and Chic perfume all of that.

Nathalie Lorson

When you go to a Cheap and Chic fashion show you feel like you’re at a party. The perfume feels like the fragrance you should wear to that party. Mme Lorson goes for a traditional citrus floral. She changes it by using some different versions which makes it feel unique without feeling odd. When it is all put together it lives up to its name.

Cheap and Chic opens with the greener lemon of yuzu. Petitgrain is used to push the lemony part a bit more to the forefront. It all leads to a floral heart which I enjoy every time I wear this as violet and peony form the perfect sunny floral duet. Mme Lorson deftly titrates in some of the bigger florals of jasmine and rose but they are there to provide some longevity and depth not to be the focus. It ends on a sweet woody base accord of sandalwood, vanilla, and tonka bean.

Cheap and Chic has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Besides living up to its name Cheap and Chic was the first fragrance success for Moschino. It has become a legacy brand for many young perfume lovers who discover it in their teens and early 20’s. The brand has produced a consistent output over the past twenty-plus years but Cheap and Chic has survived because it does exactly what it promises. Just don’t think it comes easily.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Maison Lancome Iris Dragees, Oranges Bigarades, and Santal Kardamon- Straightforwardly Good

One thing I try to do is not get enchanted with the new shiny object in my writing about perfume. I try to remind myself that even when I try a new release and it is a simple soliflore or duo there can still be something which is worthy of comment. This is basic perfumery which is no less enjoyable for being simple and straightforward. Back at the end of winter I received a sample set of these kinds of perfumes from Lancome. I put them aside because all three seemed like they would be better in warmer weather. That has turned out to be the case for the three new releases for the Maison Lancome Collection; Iris Dragees, Oranges Bigarades, and Santal Kardamon.

Nathalie Lorson

The Maison Lancome Collection has been in existence since 2016. It has landed on an aesthetic of two keynotes with a few modulators for each release. There is not a poor perfume in the entire bunch. They’re just straightforward what you see is what you get fragrances. The three I’ll do short takes on are not really different than the previous eight. They all are worth seeking out if you particularly enjoy the two listed keynotes on the bottle. It is certainly the case that one of the new releases fits that bill for me which led me to write about them.

Iris Dragees is composed by perfumer Nathalie Lorson. This is a combination of iris and sugared almond. One of the things that sets this collection apart is the perfumers tend to use multiple sources of the listed keynotes. In this Mme Lorson gilds orris with a more traditional iris source. As it is combined with the sweet almond it forms an odd powdery iris macaron accord. This really bloomed in the warmer weather.

Christophe Raynaud

Oranges Bigarades is composed by Christophe Raynaud. This is a combination of orange and black tea. Here M. Raynaud combines the bitterness of bigarade with a juicier sweeter orange. By adding in the black tea it provides a kind of luxurious contrast to the citrus by inserting itself betwixt the two orange sources.

Amandine Clerc-Marie

Santal Kardamon is composed by perfumer Amandine Clerc-Marie. This is the perfume which caused me to write about Maison Lancome. Sandalwood and cardamom are two of my favorite perfume ingredients. Mme Clerc-Marie uses two different sandalwood extracts which she chooses to combine with the stickier green cardamom. Together it forms my kind of simple perfume with two ingredients I can’t have enough of. It has been fantastic as a summertime perfume.

All three perfumes have 8-10 hour longevity and average silage.

If you are looking for a nicely executed perfume around two of your favorite perfume ingredients and you see them listed on a Maison Lancome bottle; give it a try. Santal Kardamon does the trick for me.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Lancome.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Givenchy Gentleman Eau de Parfum- A Remembrance of Masculine Elegance

Givenchy has been one of the most recognizable fashion brands in the world almost from their beginning in 1952. Much of that can be laid at the feet of the recently deceased Hubert de Givenchy who defined the sophisticated aesthetic that has lasted over sixty years. It was a frustration that it never fully translated over into the fragrance side of the brand. This is another case of masterpieces among mediocrity. It makes it difficult to generate brand loyalty.

Olivier Cresp

One of those I consider a masterpiece of the past was 1974’s Givenchy Gentleman. Composed by perfumer Paul Leger is one of the best examples of a masculine powerhouse of the 1970’s. I would have preferred the brand did not attempt to revisit it. They felt differently and last year released Givenchy Gentleman Eau de Toilette. I was not fond of it. It barely felt like it shared anything of the same brand genetics. When I received my sample of Givenchy Gentleman Eau de Parfum I was expecting to feel similarly. I ended up feeling like this was the way a modern version of Givenchy Gentleman should be.

Nathalie Lorson

When the original was released Hubert de Givenchy wanted a perfume to define “masculine elegance” to go with his new men’s ready-to-wear boutique. At that time that meant woody, vetiver, leather hairy-chested perfume. This was the style that gave “men’s cologne” a bad name when men wore too many sprays. If you move to the current day one of the styles of fragrance that has risen to the level of “masculine elegance” has been an iris focused perfume. That is what perfumers Olivier Cresp and Nathalie Lorson deliver.

Gentleman Eau de Parfum opens with a nose-tickling black pepper. Used like this it also carries a bit of a woody character along with the spiciness. Then the perfumers use a full-blown iris concrete which means the powdery aspect of iris is almost completely deleted. A bit of lavender makes sure it has no chance to catch any traction. A warm balsamic patchouli leads to a gorgeous rich vanilla base.

Givenchy Gentleman Eau de Parfum has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Givenchy Gentleman Eau de Parfum captures both the current trends of iris and vanilla at the men’s fragrance counter. The perfumers have done an excellent job at adding in the pepper and balsam to make them sufficiently different than their brethren on the department store counter. This feels like the closest rendition of “masculine elegance” from Givenchy in years. Hubert de Givenchy would have been proud.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I received from Bloomingdale’s.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Oriflame Sublime Nature Tuberose- Sunrise Tuberose

Oriflame has been one of my favorite low-price perfume brands. The Swedish-based company has excelled at producing economically priced perfumes which can be very good. Another aspect of these brands is the desire to step up a tier; perhaps thinking a little more budget along with a slightly higher price will being in a different consumer. These kinds of initiatives mostly seem to not produce the desired effect. Even with the miserable track record it seems every brand needs to try for themselves and Oriflame is doing this with the Sublime Nature collection. They have hired perfumer Nathalie Lorson to compose the first two releases. I have received a sample of Sublime Nature Tuberose and expect the second release Sublime Nature Tonka Bean any day now.

Nathalie Lorson

Sublime Nature Tuberose gets the full treatment on the website with Mme Lorson talking about her inspirations. 2017 has been a year for many iterations of tuberose. Perfumers have several new isolates to choose from which helps tilt the overall aesthetic of the composition. Mme Lorson chooses a CO2 version of tuberose as she aims to capture it at sunrise coated with dew before it has fully unfurled itself.

By choosing the CO2 version she has found a form which accentuates the greener facets without getting the overexuberant floral nature at full volume. I have always liked that green thread which runs through tuberose which makes this isolate something I am attracted to. Mme Lorson swathes the early going with that watery nature of dew drops among the green and the floral. In the very early moments the dew drops are on top. As the sun rises and starts to burn them off the tuberose becomes much more pronounced. This is where the beauty of this version of the tuberose ingredient can exist as a soliflore. Eventually sandalwood and tonka provide the woody base accord which over time overwhelms the tuberose.

Sublime Nature Tuberose has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

In a year of tuberose Sublime Nature Tuberose is among the better versions. It comes down to letting a perfumer choose the best ingredient she has and finding the right combination to evoke tuberose at sunrise, Mme Lorson succeeds on all counts.

Dsiclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Oriflame.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Blossom Love- Come On In!

Amouage is one of my favorite perfume brands. Creative director Christopher Chong has made it the epitome of what artistic perfumery should aspire to. His visionary art direction has consistently taken risks. He has made Amouage stand for a particular exploratory place in the fragrance world. All that makes it a difficult brand to recommend because the collection is so unusual. Last year it seems like Mr. Chong also realized having a more welcoming entry point to the Amouage aesthetic would be helpful. The result was Lilac Love the first scent in the Secret Garden Collection. I thought Lilac Love succeeded in being a gentler version of the Amouage aesthetic more easily accessible. This has been borne out through the last year as I successfully recommended it many times with very positive feedback for doing so. Amouage has now expanded the Secret Garden Collection with Blossom Love.

Christopher Chong (photo: Ben Rayner)

As much as I complain about too many rose fragrance releases in the spring; in 2017 I received a few excellent cherry blossom focused new perfumes of which Blossom Love is one. Lilac Love was a floral gourmand composed of lilac accord, orris, and chocolate. The same perfumers, Elise Benat and Nathalie Lorson, repeat the floral gourmand style for Blossom Love. This time the trio of notes are a cherry blossom accord, amaretto accord, and vanilla.

Elise Benat

Most cherry blossom fragrances start gently but the perfumers open Blossom Love with a bit more volume. Their cherry blossom has depth provided by a syrupy rose which elegantly supports the gentle blossoms. It gives the early moments the presence familiar to Amouage fans without also adding in the also typical complexity. This is why I see Blossom Love as something more easily accessible as any perfume lover can just sink in to the cherry blossom without complexity getting in the way. Next the amaretto accord appears and it is more almond and less boozy than I expected. There is a subtle hint of alcohol but it is the sweet almond which arises to meet the cherry blossom. It is a soothing duet of ingredients kept at a moderate level; anymore and it would become cloying but the perfumers have pitched it correctly. Comforting vanilla bolstered by toasty tonka are the final part of Blossom Love. In the last hours, it has firmly become a cherry almond vanilla dessert fragrance.

Nathalie Lorson

Blossom Love has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I was already excited at the prospects of being able to use Lilac Love to introduce Amouage to perfume lovers. Blossom Love will be just as affable an introductory experience. Step into the entryway to one of the best perfume brands out there.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Lilac Love- Start Here!

It is always interesting to me to watch perfumers construct accords for that which they cannot extract from their real sources. As I’ve mentioned many times a leather accord can act almost as a signature as each perfumer will generate their own version slightly different than others. While I am a big fan of leather the other more common fragrance note which cannot be extracted easily, and in quantity, from nature is lilac. You might think that odd to hear since the tiny flowers have such projection and presence in nature. There have been many perfumers who have taken on creating a lilac accord for a perfume which would feature it. The most recent is Amouage Lilac Love.

Christopher-Chong-Amouage-Creative-Director

Christopher Chong

Amouage creative director Christopher Chong is usually a man who likes to probe the boundaries of what modern perfume can be. Lilac Love is not one of those fragrances. It is the most straightforward Amouage perfume, I think, ever. Lilac Love is a soft floral gourmand with nothing very surprising in the overall architecture. Despite saying this, it is undeniably an Amouage perfume but one which is also moving further towards a European aesthetic while leaving some of the Middle Eastern part of that equation behind.

nathalie-lorson-1

Nathalie Lorson

Mr. Chong worked with two perfumers, Elise Benat and Nathalie Lorson, on bringing Lilac Love to life. The lilac accord is fresh but with one key point of abstraction which is what gives it its brand identity. Chocolate and vanilla provide the gourmand part of the classification.

Feature-Photo-blog-Elise-Benat

Elise Benat

The perfumers choose a fascinating group of floral notes to construct their lilac accord: gardenia, heliotrope, jasmine, peony, and rose. This produces a slightly dewy version of lilac as all of these notes get into place over the first half an hour or so. Once they come together this is where you get the Amouage touch as a very powdery orris presents itself as it coats the lilac in a fine layer. While the powderiness is most apparent there is also a strong rhizomal nature also here and it is what connects to the chocolate which is now arriving. It adds an earthy element to the sweetness of the cocoa bean. That rootiness also connects to the patchouli in the base. Sandalwood and vanilla are the finishing notes and they work as expected; the vanilla adding more sweet to the chocolate while the sandalwood pulls the patchouli back from being quite as earthbound.

Lilac Love has 16-18 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I have said it in previous reviews Amouage is a perfume brand which is best appreciated by those who love experiencing perfume. Mr. Chong has overseen a brand which has never shied away from taking multiple risks. Lilac Love feels like it should be the perfume which is in every Amouage display having a little red arrow pointing to it which says, “Start Here!” It is a fantastic introductory scent into what Mr. Chong has developed while being something a more casual perfume lover can access. I would also mention that this is a lilac that will do well in colder temperatures because it is supported by so many other powerful notes. In other words, if you need a reason to wear, or try, an Amouage, “Start Here!”

Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke