New Perfume Review Carner Barcelona Megalium- The Gifts of Balthazar and Gaspar

In these days between New Year’s and the Epiphany I always think about The Three Wise Men. Following a star to Bethlehem to behold the newborn Savior bearing gifts. The gifts are well-known; frankincense, gold, and myrrh. Each king carried one. What has captured my attention as I’ve written about perfume is two of the three are classic components of perfumery. What we know of ancient perfume making is they were also important ingredients there. I’m not sure if it is my inner Magi but resins, woods, and spices are my preferred fare in January. Thankfully I am not out searching for a prophecy. I am on the search for another perfume for this time of year. In Carner Barcelona Megalium I found it.

Sara Carner

Creative director Sara Carner was inspired by the ancient perfume of the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Greeks called it Megaleion while the Romans called it Megalium. According to The Perfume Handbook by Nigel Bloom it consisted of “cinnamon, cassia, and myrrh” in the Greek version while the recipe for the Roman version was, “balanos oil, balsam, calamus, sweet-rush, xylobalsam, cassia, and resins”. Sra Carner asked perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux to make a modern reformulation of this ancient recipe. Sr. Flores-Roux takes inspiration from both Greek and Roman versions to form the framework of this new Megalium.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Sr. Flores-Roux opens with the cinnamon. He uses calamus as the source of the spiciness which he deepens by using cinnamon leaves adding a shade of green. The spices broaden out with pimento, nutmeg, and white pepper adding some zest to the cinnamon. Sr. Flores-Roux then provides a thoroughly modern riff as a spicy Bulgarian rose finds some space among the cinnamon accord. The base accord arrives with styrax providing the connective ingredient before the sweetness of myrrh and the austere frankincense come forward. The resinous foundation is given additional oomph with olibanum and opoponax.

Megalium has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

It is easy to see back to ancient times while wearing Megalium. I can even imagine Balthazar and Gaspar; the Magi with myrrh and frankincense gifts wearing the ancient form while on their travels. This new version is a perfume of kings made from the gifts of the Magi.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Carner Barcelona.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Rebatchi Bois D’Enfants- Dia de los Reyes

As a child growing up in South Florida there were so many things the Cuban exile community added to our lives in the 1960’s. One of my favorites was that the Holiday season ended a week later. Not until the Dia de los Reyes happened on January 6 did we consider taking down the decorations. It was always the kind of mellow after-party to the hectic Christmas/ New Year’s shuffle. The mothers of my Cuban friends would give us Anglos a stocking stuffer while their kids usually got one last “big” present. My family was always invited to dinner. The traditional dessert is called “king cake” which didn’t interest me that much. What interested me was the home-made flan my friend’s mother would make. The caramel covered custard is still one of my favorite desserts. I would sit in their living room with the Christmas tree, wreath and roping breathing in the combination of pine and sweets. I didn’t expect to find that in a fragrance until I tried Maison Rebatchi Bois D’Enfants.

Mohamed Rebatchi

Maison Rebatchi is the new line from owner- creative director Mohamed Rebatchi. Who debuted four perfumes at Pitti Fragranze in 2018. Each of them is inspired by M. Rebatchi’s life. The story attached to Bois D’Enfants is summer walks through the woods of where in France he spent his summer. From the moment I tried it I saw the pine tree focused early going as a Holiday style of perfume. When the flan accord came together in the base that made me think January not July.

Karine Chevallier

M. Rebatchi collaborated with perfumer Karine Chevallier on Bois D’Enfants. I can see the summer walk through the pine woods if I choose that perspective. It is much easier to see it as the final days of the Christmas tree adding its scent to the wood-paneled family room. A hint of scent from the Holiday flowers coming through. As I drag my spoon through the caramel and custard of flan.

Mme Chevallier uses baie rose to open with a green freshness tilted to the herbal side. The pine comes next uplifted by an austere incense. The piney nature intensifies with fir balsam mellowing the sharper camphoraceous aspects. A powdery veil of iris and rose also shows up during this. What comes next is an amazing construction of a gourmand accord using sandalwood, vanilla, and musk. I’ve seen these ingredients come together as a praline accord but here this is combined as rich caramel custard. I’m not even sure I’ve got all the ingredients that Mme Chevallier uses because this is a solid accord which I found difficult to analyze completely into its components. Once the accord is in place you have a creamy gourmand counterpoint to the resinous pine.

Bois D’Enfants has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Bois D’Enfants translates to “wooden children” it definitely connects with my “enfant” but not in a wooden way. It takes me back to the final days of my childhood Holidays on the Dia de los Reyes.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Maison Rebatchi.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Arquiste Esencia de El Palacio Vainillas, Resinas, and Nardos- Aromas del Otoño

When it comes to perfume the cities of Paris, Milan, or New York have all the fun as it is where perfume is debuted. That has become less true over the last few years as other cities are joining in by having their own special perfume character. Mexico City is one of those. It arises from a partnership between the luxury department store El Palacio de Hierro and the creative director Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux of the brand Arquiste. Two years ago, they released a trio of perfumes under the Arquiste Esencia de El Palacio name.  2017 has seen the spring release of Guayabos and Limoneros now followed by the release of three more for the end of the year; Vainillas, Resinas, and Nardos.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux (l.) and Carlos Huber

The concept of these perfumes are meant to capture the indigenous botany of Mexico. Both Srs. Huber and Flores-Roux have used this collection to shine a fragrant spotlight on their Mexican heritage. All three of these perfumes display Mexican twists to well-known perfume ingredients.

One of those ingredients is vanilla. Did you know that vanilla originated in the Papantla region of Veracruz? The Aztecs were the first to use it as a flavoring. Once Cortez took it back home it spread all over the world. The Papantlan version of vanilla is used in Vainillas.

The vanilla is partnered with a tart citron in the top accord. The citrus adds contrast to the vanilla. Sr. Flores-Roux tells me Papantlan vanilla is called “blackened vanilla” by flavorists. It seems like he wanted to create a fragrance version of that. The vanilla accord here comprised of Papantlan and Madagascan versions in overdose have a darker edge than most vanilla in perfume. As it progresses Sr. flores-roux sticks to those darker tones with benzoin, amber, and the animalic musk of civet. It is this darkness on the edge of the usually sweet vanilla which makes Vainillas stand apart.  

Resinas also takes a traditional ingredient of Mexico and combines it with sources from other places more known for it. A perfume called “resins” is going to be a festival of incenses. Sr. Flores-Roux wanted an accord which captured the resin of the Ocote pine used for fire-starting. He wanted to find the clean quality along with a bit of the burnt.

Resinas opens with the ocote alongside Peru and Tolu balsams. A classical Middle Eastern frankincense joins in. this forms a very dry incense accord. The hint of smoke keeps it from going too far in that direction. Myrrh and patchouli add even more depth pulling away from that early austerity. Overall I found Resinas to provide the kind of perfume experience most often described as a “church incense”. It has been a great companion over the Holidays for that quality.

If there is a scent I associate indelibly with Mexico it is tuberose. Called “nardos” it was inevitable that this collection would also have an entry called Nardos. Tuberose is one of the keynotes of floral perfumery. My experience of nardos flowers were sitting outside in the evening drinking while enveloped in the heady scent of the blooms. The perfume version manages to also find some tuberose a seat at the bar to create a memorable version of this white flower.

In the early going of Nardos the outsized creamy slightly mentholated tuberose is all that is on display. It is a gorgeous version of tuberose but far from unique. That happens next as the swagger of a boozy escort intersperses itself into things. The accord is called “essence of cognac” but Sr. Flores-Roux told me it actually comes from an essence distilled from the residue of wine-making called “lees”. There is an earthiness which exists as an undercurrent to the alcoholic nature. Sr. Flores-Roux uses sugar cane to tilt the wine residue back towards the top shelf liquor it is trying to emulate. This forms an intoxicated, and intoxicating, tuberose accord. If this was all there was, I would have enjoyed Nardos; but there is more. One thing about tuberose is it is so expansive it tends to overwrite almost anything else in the perfume. What can happen is after a few hours of wearing a high concentration tuberose perfume like Nardos you get something entirely different over the last few hours. As the tuberose loses its intensity immortelle provides its maple syrup-like sweetness. As much as I liked the rowdy tuberose of the first part this immortelle pairing is near-perfect. The syrupy quality of the immortelle adds a compelling contrast. It becomes even more enjoyable as castoreum and oak provide wood and animalic to the final stages. It is this part of Nardos which elevates it.

All three perfumes have 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Srs. Huber and Flores-Roux have continued their story of Mexico told in perfumed chapters by spending the three latest based on the scents of autumn or more appropriately, “aromas del otoño”.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples supplied by Arquiste.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chanel 1957- A Tower of White Musk

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When there are perfume ingredients I’ve become exhausted by, there comes a point where I can’t take one thin mint more. Even if it is wafer-thin. The set of synthetic musks given the sobriquet “white musks” had been one of those. Imparting a laundry fresh scent to the foundation of seemingly thousands of perfume; it was becoming too much for me. The fragrance oil producers were rapidly synthesizing bigger and fresher versions. An oxygen molecule here, a double bond there, and it was a new fresh muskiness in the latest perfume. I was more interested in the synthetic chemistry than the scent. Over the last twenty or so years the shelf of white musks has expanded rapidly.

In the last few years it turns out the solution to my boredom, perversely, was not to dial them back. Instead, in the hands of a skilled perfumer, it was to layer them. Overlap them. Building a tower of white musk which once it was erected formed this unexpected softness. Like diving into a pile of fluffy white down feathers. I’ve come to look forward to these kinds of perfumes. The latest of them is Chanel 1957.

Olivier Polge

In-house perfumer Olivier Polge was asked to create a new perfume for the Les Exclusifs collection to celebrate the re-opening of the Chanel flagship store in NYC on 57th Street. For now, it is only available there with wider release coming in Spring 2019. The name also refers to the year Coco Chanel was given the “Neiman-Marcus Fashion Award”. It seems an odd choice to highlight something like that. The press release follows that with this, “Now world-renowned for her creative talent she drew upon rare, carefully chosen ingredients to reveal and exalt them.” Part of that sentence is accurate when describing 1957; the part about exalting carefully chosen ingredients. The “rare” part especially when referring to white musk not so much. M. Polge has done a fabulous job of elevating the common white musks to something compelling.

1957 opens with a green herbal accord of baie rose and coriander. This acts as a palate cleanser setting up what is to come as it fades rapidly into the background. The first layers of white musk along with neroli begin to rise. In contrast to these clean white musks the indoles of the neroli stand out. It adds some grit to the overall effect. Iris adds a dash of powder as the white musk continues to intensify. There is a momentary sharpness within the white musks which the iris serves to soften. Then the tipping point is passed and now the plushness of a multi-layered white musk accord appears. M. Polge adds a thin veneer of sweet honey. It adds a dash of contrast as the indoles of the neroli did earlier. The tower is now complete and M. Polge flips the lights on providing an inner glow stoked by the neroli and honey. The final effect is gorgeous.

1957 has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is probably the most modern perfume released by the fragrance side of Chanel. It can be dismissed as another floral musky perfume. It can also be loved for the same quality. I appreciate the engineering effort of M. Polge to create his tower of white musk to overcome any kind of snap judgement.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Pekji Odoon, Battaniye, and Zeybek- Woods, Wool, and Barns

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Continuing my reviews, begun yesterday, of the debut releases from Pekji by independent perfumer Omer Ipecki. Today are the remaining three; Odoon, Battaniye, and Zeybek.

Omer Ipecki

As I mentioned yesterday, I received some early efforts by Mr. Ipecki; Odoon was one of them. In its earlier form it was a monolith of wood. Like getting clubbed by a caveman. In the time since Mr. ipecki has taken that unapproachable piece of wood as if he was a sculptor. Discovering shades and texture while carving out a new perfume. In the current form of Odoon Mr. Ipecki has made a perfume of wood in which you can see the individual trees in the woods.

What Mr. Ipecki does is to build a pedestal for this wooden sculpture made of frankincense and fenugreek. The woods within that form are ash, cedar, sandalwood, oak, and pine. What is beautifully realized here is Mr. ipecki makes this as kaleidoscopic as multi-floral perfumes. As Odoon develops on my skin each of those woody ingredients peeks out. They rotate on that framework of maple-syrup tinted resin from the fenugreek and frankincense. This is a simply constructed perfume with a prismatic effect one you rarely encounter in a woody perfume.

Battaniye continues the theme of finding new perspectives for well-known fragrance types; in this case it is amber perfumes. This is an amber perfume, but it is also equal amounts of wet wool and earth. There is a part of Battaniye that reminds me strongly of the wool blanket my mother would wrap me up in when caught in a Florida thunderstorm. Wet wool has a subtle soapy scent from the lanolin which remains after the processing. Mr. Ipecki finds that subtlety with the use of floral ingredient Aurantiol.

Battaniye opens with the honeysuckle quality of Aurantiol infusing a wool accord. It produces a unique animalic effect. Just as I did as a child, I want to pull it closer. When I finally get my nose out of the wool accord what is waiting is dark earthy patchouli along with a simmering amber accord. Musk adds a tailing effect to the animalic aspect of the wool into the amber and patchouli. The base is a set of vetiver and labdanum. Battaniye is a perfume of coziness wrapped in a wool blanket.

These all leads to what I think is the best perfume in the collection; Zeybek. Everything else in the inaugural Pekji collection is Mr. Ipecki altering traditional perfume architectures. In Zeybek he builds a structure all his own; a horse barn. There have been barnyard-style fragrances before. None of the ones I’ve tried has successfully captured the entire milieu so successfully.

It opens with a bunch of sweet hay. Followed by lavender enough to remind one of a fougere. Before that thought can really take hold a mixture of floral and horse-like scents come forward. Mr. Ipecki told me that it is a mixture of cresols which are known for that hint of horsiness. Mr. Ipecki amplifies that while allowing the floral nature of the cresols he is using to provide the contrast. If I needed confirmation of how skilled Mr. Ipecki has become it is finding this balance. Cresols can get easily out of control. It takes a sure hand to make them behave. Mr. Ipecki shows that. The barnyard never overwhelms it finds just the right amount of dirt, hay and horse to become not only pleasant but compelling. There is a strong sea breeze running through this making me imagine this stable is on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean.

Odoon, Battaniye, and Zeybek all have 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mr. Ipecki is a new vital voice in independent perfume. He can reinvent the traditional or build something all his own. The success of his first five releases lays down a significant marker for the future.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples I received from Pekji.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Pekji Ruh and Eau Mer- New Rose Oriental and Aquatic

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I get a lot of early versions of perfumes by aspiring independent perfumers. I try to spend enough time with them to give relevant feedback. Most of the time when I am being asked, the perfumer has already committed to their concept. Infrequently I’ll receive perfumes where they really are early efforts. I enjoy these because I tend to have a good feel for whether the person behind the fragrance has something to say. Almost five years ago I received the early perfumes of Omer Ipecki. There was a real sense of talent not quite ready for prime time.

Mr. Ipecki continued to work on his perfumes. In 2015 there was a kind of beta test of the five perfumes which have become the debut collection released this year. When I tried those versions of the perfumes, they displayed the maturation of what I had experienced eighteen months prior. I found them almost there. There was some blurriness around the progression, but the concepts were solid. They were better than many other independent releases. The finished products released this year have produced something which stands out among the best perfumes of the year.

Omer Ipecki

I am going to review all five of the Pekji perfumes over the next two days. Today I start with the two which represent some of the most overused styles in all of perfumery. Mr. Ipecki injects new life into the rose perfume and the aquatic perfume in Ruh and Eaumer, respectively.

Ruh is a rose-focused Oriental. That is as trite a style of perfume as it comes. If there was something which stood out in Mr. Ipecki’s early efforts was his desire to rearrange the components of that which had become generic. In Ruh he adds a fresh perspective to give rise to something all his own.

Ruh opens on an afternoon break around coffee and cardamom-laced milk tea. The acidity of the coffee is closer to roasted oily beans then the brewed version. The milk tea is a gentle green tea loaded with green cardamom. That version of cardamom has stickiness to it especially in this concentration. The combination of bitter oiliness and steeped green vegetal stickiness is sublime. One thing I must warn people about is this top accord. If you try it on paper it never releases as fully as it does on skin. Ruh is at its best on skin. What you do smell first if you try it on a strip is the heart combination of saffron and rose. Just as with the cardamom Mr. Ipecki uses a high concentration of the saffron. That makes it more of an equal partner instead of a modifier as saffron usually interacts with rose in an Oriental construct. This carries an outsize effect over the top of an opulent Turkish rose. The saffron forcibly extracts the spicy core of the rose bringing it to the front of my senses. The cardamom and the coffee make a return to amplify the spiciness. This is where Mr. Ipecki has changed the Oriental by taking the traditional top notes of spices which become secondary to the rose; he uses those early spice notes to turn the heart of the rose inside out giving the spices primacy. The saffron remains the keynote as its leathery nature interacts with the traditional Oriental base accord to finish things.

The most complete perfume of the early versions Mr. Ipecki sent me was one he called Eaumer. He wanted to take the overexposed Calone infused fresh perfumes which exemplify the style to a more real place. If you’ve ever spent anytime around a marina getting ready to head out in a powerboat you will recognize Eaumer.

It is very easy to say “I want to make a Calone-free aquatic”. The worthy goal is harder to realize. To capture the smell of the water lapping up against the hull of the boat and the wood of the dock is not easy. It was why in that early version of Eaumer I was convinced Mr. Ipecki had talent. The aquatic accord of lime and herbs were there. I wanted a bit more green. Mr. ipecki provided it. There are herbs standing in for the algae clinging to the pilings on the dock as you get an intermittent whiff every time they are exposed to the air. The other new thing added in is the smell of gasoline on the water as the engine is refueled it leaves a prismatic slick on the water. You might be thinking algae and gasoline don’t sound pleasant. Mr. Ipecki uses them as atmosphere for where Eaumer is eventually heading; out on the open water. That is represented by a fantastically balanced accord of ambergris and Haitian vetiver. The brininess of the ambergris along with the freshness of the vetiver is the sense of sea spray breaking over the bow as you open the throttle up.

Ruh and Eaumer have 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Tomorrow I will finish the rest of the Pekji line with reviews of Odoon, Battaniye, and Zeybek.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Hiram Green Hyde- I Instead of Y

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Leather has become such a common luxury fabric I think most forget it is treated cowhide. Perfume has captured that process throughout its history. Leather accords have stood as identifiable signatures of certain perfumers. When I heard the new perfume from Hiram Green was going to be focused on leather, I wondered which direction he would take.

The new perfume is called Hyde. When I saw the name, I was first thinking of Mr. Hyde the alter ego of Dr. Jekyll. Once I received my sample it turns out it was more like a non-existent British spelling of the word “hide”. Mr. Green has made one of the deepest rawest leather accords I have ever experienced.

The magic ingredient here is birch tar. It was one of the key components of the classic “cuir de Russie” leather accord in the early days of modern perfumery. Birch tar as a component of a leather accord always has a hint of the smudge pot to me. Hyde is a celebration of birch tar which Mr. Green allows to take a place of prominence.

Hiram Green

Hyde begins with a blink and you miss it flare of citrus. If you’re of the name coming from Mr. Hyde those citrus notes are the last vestiges of Dr. Jekyll. The birch tar is there within seconds of application. It is there in such a concentration that it is like standing downwind of a road crew repaving the road. Pungent semi-medicinal waves of tar radiate off my skin. I don’t recall noticing the medicinal quality of birch tar in the past. In this kind of concentration, it shows new faces. In these moments it is tar and not leather. The transformation to leather happens with cassia flower. That ingredient begins to reach into the bubbling stew of birch tar and start pulling out pieces which refine the tar into leather. This is where Hyde turns the corner for me. The early going of birch tar soliflore pushed at the edge of my tolerance. Once this starts to become a leather accord through the cassia flower, at first, things become more mobile. Cassia provides a green effect as if it is botanically taming the birch tar. As it finally takes hold it becomes a raw untanned style of cowhide. This still retains the intensity. This takes a couple of hours. Over the next twenty-four hours that cowhide becomes more tanned. Oakmoss smooths out the green of the cassia blunting the woodsmoke scent from the birch tar. Labdanum takes it a step towards further refinement. The final ingredient is malted vanilla providing that inherent sweetness of tanned leather.

Hyde has 24-hour plus longevity and above average sillage.

Mr. Green has accomplished all this working with an all-natural palette. His entire collection is refutation of the canard that natural perfumes are weak and fleeting. There is nobody who will encounter Hyde and have either of those adjectives pop into their head. There is also a criticism of natural perfume at being kind of a blurry mush of ingredients. Hyde puts the lie to that, too. This slow-motion evolution of the leather accord is like watching a time-lapse of the processing of a cowhide. That’s what I walked away from after wearing Hyde. A remarkable experience in perfume composition which further confirms Mr. Green as one of the great talents of independent perfumery.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fath’s Essentials Tempete D’Automne and Red Shoes- Scent of a Muse

In yesterday’s review of Fath’s Essentials Le Loden and Velours Boise I mentioned this has been a heritage brand which has drawn from its history to make contemporary perfumes. In the perfumes composed by Luca Maffei he focused on the materials designer Jacques Fath would become known for. The other two of the new Fath’s Essentials releases, Tempete D’Automne and Red Shoes, focus on the muse of M. Fath.

Bettina in the 1950 September Issue of Vogue as photographed by Irving Penn

Today you aren’t an elite model until you are known by one name. That trend was begun in 1946 by M. Fath when he met Simone Micheline Bodin. He already had a model named Simone so he called her “Bettina”. She was his muse the apex of his designing career. The perfumes celebrating her are composed by Cecile Zarokian. Tempete D’Automne celebrates the short haircut inspired by M. Fath’s American trip where he was enamored of the crew cut look he saw. Red Shoes are from that iconic Irving Penn photo above from the 1950 September Issue of Vogue.

In Tempete D’Automne Mme Zarokian was looking to fuse the personality of Bettina with her androgynous look in the new haircut. It makes for fragrance of two phases. The first I think of as the bright laugh of someone who is enjoying herself. A giggle of citrus and baie rose turns into a full-throated laugh of cinnamon and coriander contrasted with lavender and ylang-ylang. The opening moments of Tempete D’Automne are kinetic. This is a joyful style. Mme Zarokian grounds it in a creamy sandalwood sweetened with tonka bean. This makes it an especially sweet version of this woody ingredient. A set of animalic musks with a leather accord rounds out everything.

Cecile Zarokian

It is exactly that picture above that Mme Zarokian used as her muse for designing Red Shoes. The top accord is meant to capture that blue stole. Mme Zarokian blends a mixture of aldehydes over grapefruit and berries. This is that sharp contrast of blue against red in the photo. The aldehydes act as if they are swirling around it all like the stole does. The dominant color of it all comes in a vibrant Rose Damascene absolute that explodes through the aldehydes as ginger and baie rose launch it upward. This is one of Mme Zarokian’s best rose accords. It is expansive along with a weight that doesn’t usually accompany that adjective. This is matched with a powerful patchouli which provides the grounding for that rose which preceded it. Once this all comes together it makes an impact; just as Bettina did.

Tempete D’Automne and Red Shoes have 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Red Shoes is among the best perfumes Mme Zarokian has made. What shouldn’t get lost is the more genteel charms of Tempete D’Automne which is a wonderful cozy sandalwood.

Creative director for Jacques Fath fragrances Rania Naim has allowed both of the perfumers to find what makes the brand unique and successfully translate it into perfume.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Jacques Fath.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fath’s Essentials Le Loden and Velours Boise- Wool & Velvet

There are several heritage perfume brands, now. This effort has seen a mixed record of success. Most of them either concentrate on modern re-formulations of the past or new perfumes inspired by the past. Very few try to do both, although I think it is essential to attempt it. A brand can’t live entirely in the past and a brand can’t choose not to evolve. It has been what has kept many of the heritage brands from flourishing. One which has become one of the leaders in how to do what I’ve described is Jacques Fath under Rania Naim.

Rania Naim

Mme Naim has looked back to the past beautifully recreating Green Water and Iris Gris; the great Jacques Fath perfumes of the past. The new versions have been overseen by someone who wants to get it as right as she can. Which I believe she has done. I cherish both new versions as I do the originals. She has also sought out young exciting perfumers on the new perfumes. For the Fath’s Essentials collection she has worked exclusively with Luca Maffei and Cecile Zarokian. They have delivered a series of fragrances which I have found true to the Jacques Fath heritage while also carrying the mark of Mme Naim and the perfumers. For the end of 2018 four new Fath’s Essentials have been released. Two by Sig. Maffei and two by Mme Zarokian. Today I am going to review the ones by Sig. Maffei followed by Mme Zarokian’s tomorrow.

Luca Maffei (l.) and Rania Naim

The two perfumes by Sig. Maffei were inspired by two fabrics used by Jacques Fath in his clothing designs. He takes that concept and creates two textural constructs.

In Le Loden he takes the heavy woolen fabric known for its use in coats and uses three sources of vetiver as his olfactory equivalents to the fabric.  He opens with Haitian vetiver in the background of a top accord focused on the energy ginger adds. This makes the Haitian vetiver a bit greener in effect which is kept that way by using baie rose’s herbal quality along with a green mandarin teasing out the citrus quality of this style of vetiver, too. In the heart the traditional Bourbon vetiver steps to the foreground. Some geranium picks out the floral quality. Juniper berry and raspberry leaves find the more obvious citric nature of this kind of vetiver. In the base the earthy Java vetiver uses patchouli to add to that quality while a bit of smoke seeps in around the margins. I found the intelligent use of the “heavy” vetiver ingredients similar to the way M. Fath took the heavy woolen Loden in creating something contemporary.

Luca Maffei

If there is a fabric M. Fath is known for it is velvet. Many of his iconic evening gowns were made of this material. I’ve always loved the tactile feel of the material it has always felt plush to me. Sig. Maffei, in Velours Boise, wants the same feeling for his “wooden velvet”. The wood he chooses to mimic velvet is one of the newer sustainable sandalwood extracts from New Caledonia. These have always struck me as softer than the original Mysore variety, but velvet-y is not how I would describe them. Sig. Maffei takes the sandalwood and finds a way to turn it into the fabric he’s trying to emulate.

It opens with the sandalwood in the central position. In the top accord Sig. Maffei chooses a couple of ingredients to sharpen the woodier nature with mate tea and davana. The softening process begins with a clever pairing of immortelle and carrot seed. These botanically sweeter ingredients flow across the creamy woody nature of the sandalwood. This is where the velvet effect comes to life. Over the base accord Sig. Maffei adds some whisky for a boozy contrast which retains the warmth. Some amber further deepens that. I have a scarf which I’ve turned into woody velvet by spraying it with a lot of Velours Boise.

Le Loden and Velours Boise have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’ll finish tomorrow with the two by Mme Zarokian.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Jacques Fath.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ralph Lauren Collection Saffron- Soft Soliflore

Ever since the success of the early designer luxury brands it was only a matter of time until they all ended up producing a collection. What was surprising was how long it took one of the most successful mainstream designer collections to catch up to its peers. In 2016 the Ralph Lauren Collection was released with ten perfumes. The decision was to create soliflore style perfumes based on a focal point, named on the label, supported by two other notes. Like any debut collection of that many entries it was uneven but when it worked the potential was there.

One from those initial ten which worked was Oud by perfumer Carlos Benaim. By going with the smoky quality of the title note it stood out for having a rougher style than the others. It turned out that the concept was a bit flawed when observed over ten perfumes. To their credit unlike some other of their contemporaries they didn’t follow up with multiple releases every couple of months. They waited two years before adding the eleventh entry; Ralph Lauren Collection Saffron.

Carlos Benaim

M. Benaim was asked to be the perfumer behind Saffron. If what I liked about Oud was the rougher edges; in Saffron he impresses me with the opposite. He creates a plush transparent Oriental style of fragrance. One of the other big differences was there are more than three ingredients. It carries a large effect producing a more pleasing experience.

I knew I was going to experience something different when I smelled the top accord; it had three notes all on its own. The citrus of grapefruit, the spiciness of cardamom and the piquancy of black pepper. This was a delightful combination of three of my favorite top notes. M. Benaim allows the cardamom the place of prominence, but the grapefruit captures the citrus-y character of cardamom while the black pepper provides texture. Saffron has a warm sweet botanical leathery effect when used at a higher concentration as it is here. M. Benaim provides an herbal contrast in davana, adding a bit of bite. It continues a languorous development into a full-fledged suede accord in the base. It ends on a synthetic woody base which keeps things on the light side over the final hours.

Saffron has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Saffron is by far the best in the Ralph Lauren Collection. One reason might be there was a two-year gap between ten releases and one. The other one might be to relent on the concept of three ingredient perfumes. Whatever the reason, the original ten were easy to dismiss. You might even be walking by them in your local store thinking you know what’s there. Next time see if there is an eleventh bottle and give Saffron a try. You might join me in looking forward to what comes next.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bergdorf-Goodman.

Mark Behnke