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.

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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.

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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.

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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

New Perfume Reviews Amouage Myths Man and Myths Woman- Real Surrealism

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As Amouage moves further into its “second cycle” creative director Christopher Chong is deliberately evolving the aesthetic of the brand. I believe this firmly began to take place with the pair of Fate releases which marked the end of the “first cycle”. Those perfumes felt like a capping of the aesthetic that had been built over the first six years of Mr. Chong’s oversight. Amouage had begun to move from a purely Middle Eastern aesthetic to a melding of European panache becoming a characteristic. The two Fates showed a brand in balance between the two. In the “second cycle” it seems as if the European is gaining the upper hand over the Middle Eastern. The pair of Journey releases from last year began the definition of this new formula. Now with the release of Myths Man and Myths Woman the evolution continues.

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Christopher Chong

Myths Man was composed by perfumers Daniel Visentin, Dorothee Piot, and Karine Vinchon-Spehner. This is perhaps the most morose perfume ever released by Amouage. There is a bit of a wag within me that wants to call this Mr. Chong’s Elegy. In the press materials both Myths are inspired by surrealism. If I can unmoor my association of the fresh florals which open Myths Man from the funereal I find it easier to see the surrealism underneath. I just found it very difficult to do that because the floral accord is so realistic I can almost smell the air conditioned air of the funeral parlor. The rest of the development does move away from that but not for an hour or two.

The perfumers use chrysanthemum, orris, and rose as their floral opening. It is so real as if it was a bouquet containing all three notes which I can move my nose from bloom to bloom. The chrysanthemum is the most prominent and that is what sets off the sad association in my head. Having smelled way too many chrysanthemums in too many funeral homes. It is enhanced a little more with the addition of a leather accord. This again imparts weightiness. It isn’t until the rum, elemi, and vetiver decide to break out into an old-fashioned Irish wake that the mood lifts making the last few hours a party instead of a funeral.

Myths Man has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am not sure others will retain the sad aspects I associate with the early development. It will be easy for many to home in on a fresh floral top accord leading to leather and rum. I think those people are going to like Myths Man a lot. I like it a lot but it also has such an emotional impact on me I’m not sure I’m going to wear it often.

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Nathalie Lorson

Myths Woman was composed by Nathalie Lorson. This is the promised surrealistic fragrance. It is a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces seemed forced together. Except the picture that is represented has an unexpected power for its discord. It has a kinetic resolution to it which can be wearying or exhilarating. I found it to be the kind of perfume thrill ride I want to take.

Mme Lorson begins with galbanum and violet leaf. This is a green scalpel honed sharp as it takes precise cuts throughout the early moments. It almost begs to be buried within an earthy matrix which Mme Lorson provides with a rich patchouli. Concurrent with that comes a leather accord. Here is one of those forced jigsaw pieces I am referring to. The leather and the green patchouli accord go together but there are places where they just don’t seem to mesh. This sets up that kaleidoscopic development which begins to try and resolve the differences without ever really achieving it. Carnation adds a fresh floral aspect to this perfume-in-motion making it even more unruly. Some order is retained as moss, ambergris, and musks present a more conventional finishing accord.

Myths Woman has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

This is the third perfume from Amouage which has contained this phase of moving parts that maybe grind their gears a bit. It is going to be too much for some and for others, like me, just right. Few brands would take this step. It speaks volumes that Mr. Chong does not step back from that challenge. Instead he leans in to it. Which is why Myths Man and Myths Woman provide real surrealism without compromise.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles of each perfume provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Yves St Laurent Black Opium- Death by Focus Group

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If there is anything which is going to harm perfumery in the long term it is not going to be the usual suspects of draconian regulations or astronomical prices. The death of perfume is going to come with the incessant homogenization going on in the mass-market sector. The perfume business which is making new perfumes in this sector has shunted aside creativity and promoted the focus group. By gathering average perfume wearers and letting them in to the creative process they end up creating perfume afraid to be anything but not to offend any sensibility. It also has the effect of making all of them smell the same by recycling older tropes from more ambitious earlier releases. The final decision on what goes in the bottle is not coming from a creative director with a specific vision. It is instead coming from averaging the results of questionnaires and picking the one which appeals most broadly. Except every great perfume which has ever existed has always made a bold statement about what it was and dared an audience to come to it instead of the other way around. One of the first perfumes I can remember doing that was 1977’s Yves St. Laurent Opium. If there was a perfume of the disco era Opium was it. Because so many women wore it there were many mornings following a night out where I could easily pick up the sweet vanilla laden base notes on my clothes. Opium was a trendsetter for years.

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Now in 2015 there is a new flanker of Opium called Black Opium. The press release claims it is an Opium for a contemporary Rock Chick. The ad campaign features model Edie Campbell looking very Joan Jett while spraying on Black Opium. Except while I know the younger generation makes a habit of looking unimpressed about anything the look on Ms. Campbell’s face borders on apathy. It’s almost like there should be a thought bubble above her head going, “This is a quick buck.” When I received the press materials prior to receiving my sample I found it all very incongruous. Within days something even more ominous would create more concern. Creative Director of Yves St. Laurent Hedi Slimane posted on Twitter, followed up with a press release, disavowing any involvement in the creation of Black Opium. Who was minding the store? I am not sure but after wearing Black Opium it feels solidly like the product of a thousand focus groups.

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The Creative Directors? (Photo: From the TV Series "Mad Men")

A group of four perfumers are credited with Black Opium, Honorine Blanc, Olivier Cresp, Nathalie Lorson, and Marie Salamagne. That is a great team of artists who if left to their own devices under appropriate creative direction could make a great “Rock Chick” perfume. What they have produced is something generic with aspects of hundreds of fruity florals and gourmands of the past all smooshed together into something afraid to take a stand on anything for fear of offending.

Black Opium opens with pink pepper, very sweet manadarin, and crisp pear matched with mimosa. It is modern fruity floral territory being trod upon for the umpteenth time. It eventually evolves towards a bland attempt at coffee, vanilla, and patchouli over cedar. Clean woody gourmand territory, encountered many times previously.

Black Opium has 10-12 hour longevity and prodigious sillage, probably the only thing it shares with the original.

Black Opium is not a bad perfume. It is a safe perfume. It is a perfume engineered through social means to appeal to many. It is devoid of character and as boring as Ms. Campbell looks in the advert. If the creative directors for the designers don’t have the opportunity to apply their brand vision to the perfumes which carry that designer name this will work like Continental Drift, in reverse, and every new release will eventually smell the same creating an olfactory Pangea. As one who loved the way the original Opium defined a moment in time via scent it is sad to see an opportunity for Black Opium squandered for safety’s sake.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Yves St. Laurent Beaute.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Rouge Bunny Rouge Silhouette & Tundra- Tales Told Well

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Rouge Bunny Rouge the English beauty line overseen by Alexandra de Montfort has two fragrance collections that they offer. The Fragrant Confections Collection has not really resonated with me although I think they are well-done. The other collection Provenance Tales has been a complete success for me. I really enjoyed the three initial releases and now they have been followed up by two new releases, Silhouette and Tundra.

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Nathalie Lorson

Both perfumes were composed by Nathalie Lorson under Mme de Montfort’s creative direction. Both fragrances share a spicy opening but then head in different directions. Silhouette is a rose leather fragrance; Tundra is woods and vetiver. Mme Lorson has done a really nice job with both of these.

Silhouette opens with a nice coriander and nutmeg pairing. The greener aspects of coriander are enhanced by the sweeter aspects of nutmeg. From here the rose really takes a hold and it is a delicate fragile rose. The note is called rose petals in the press release and it does feel like a gentle wash of petals flowing over my consciousness. Sandalwood provides a sweetly woody foundation to the rose. The leather accord comes next and this is modern refined leather, like the kind you smell in the leather department at a store. A touch industrial, a touch animalic. Ambergris and musk provide the final touches.  Silhouette has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

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Alexandra de Montfort

Tundra is a fabulous woody fantasia which also begins in the spice cabinet. Here Mme Lorson takes pink pepper along with nutmeg, as well. Just as with Silhouette they form a spicy harmonic which is then enhanced with juniper. The juniper adds a superb bit of sharpness from a different vector. Patchouli holds the heart along with violet and elemi. The early moments of the patchouli seems sort of common. That changes as vetiver insinuates itself within the patchouli and eventually overwhelms it. Mme Lorson has a particularly dexterous hand when it comes to using vetiver. In Tundra she turns it into an unusually soft presence which tames the patchouli leaving a velvety green effect behind. Moss keeps the green beat going before cedar adds its deeply clean woody individuality. It really adds a distinct frame to all that has come before. Tundra has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Rouge Bunny Rouge has really made a splash in the overall beauty sector over the last year. That they are not leaving their fragrances to secondary afterthoughts is to be admired. The Provenance Tales Collection is just getting better and Tundra and Silhouette continue the trend.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples from Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar Bentley for Men Intense- Driving Madame Lorson

In Under the Radar I want to highlight a recent release, within the last 18 months, which I think has not received enough attention. In the never ending flow of new releases it is not hard to believe one can miss something good, perhaps even something great. The explosion of blogs is supposed to help this not happen but even with over 1,000 blogs devoted to perfume and fragrance there are still those which manage to slip through the cracks.

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Nathalie Lorson

Bentley for Men Intense was released in April 2013 and was signed by Nathalie Lorson. I got a preview sniff at Esxence in Milan last March but I didn’t receive a sample until a few weeks ago. I think smelling something in the middle of one of the biggest perfume expos in the world is never ideal. As I spent some quality time with Bentley for Men Intense I really came to realize this is one of the best designer fragrances of the last two or three years and it just might be the best car inspired fragrance ever.

Mme Lorson particularly thrills me when she works the deeper notes of the perfumer’s palette. In Bentley for Men Intense she makes it feel like I am in the back seat of Bentley surrounded by the smell of leather seats and polished wood paneling. Winding in and out among the luxurious facets are resins and spices. It feels opulently decadent.

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The opening moments of Bentley for Men Intense are clove-like geranium, pepper, and clary sage on a swirling spiral of rich sweet incense. The heart is a rich leather accord refined and plush. There are no sharp edges this is a debonair dashing leather like Charles Lindbergh’s flying jacket. The base notes are a mix of cedar and sandalwood over patchouli. As with the leather the wood feels like it has been polished to a high gloss, shimmering with cedar’s cleanliness and sandalwood’s creamy nature. The patchouli adds depth to the woods.

Bentley for Men Intense has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

For those who love fragrances with spices, resins, woods, and leather Bentley for Men Intense is as good as it gets. When it comes to designer fragrances with cars in their name this is simply the best in class like the car it shares its name with.

Bentley for Men Intense can be found online at a number of places. It widely available in Europe. I was told they expect to have a US point of sale soon.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I obtained from Surrender to Chance.

Mark Behnke