New Perfume Review Aftelier Perfumes Curious- Another Roadside Attraction

The essence of curiosity is to look around the corner, walk through the door, open the book, or look inside the drawer. A life where one avoids these things is one where something inspiring is most likely missed. When we went on family road trips I had some of my most fun poking around in the roadside shops. The ones which had signs like “If you break it, you bought it.” Each place was an undiscovered country where possibility could present anything to me. I still have some of the items from those road trips on my desk. Those early discoveries remind me of what I might still find today.

Mandy Aftel

I wonder if the curious, today, spend too much time swiping and clicking their way through the electronic roadside shops. A step away from experiencing things on the electronic highway is something perfumer Mandy Aftel just opened recently.

Ms. Aftel has been a consistent source of reference for perfume lovers. Her first book “Essence and Alchemy” was one of the earliest essential fragrance references. Through her work with the Natural Perfumer’s Guild, in its early days, along with the classes she has taught her knowledge has been easily shared with many who want to try their hand at perfume making. I have no interest in making perfume myself although Ms. Aftel, through her books, has explained the basics I should be aware of. What all of you who have read my words know has been a consistent fascination for me are the ingredients. The Aftel Archive of Curious Scents is a museum of over three hundred natural sources of perfume ingredients. I don’t know how or when but I am going to go spend an hour inside this magnificent collection.

Until then I have to satisfy my curiosity with Ms. Aftel’s latest perfume inspired by her museum called, Aftelier Perfumes Curious. The idea behind the perfume is what it might smell like if you stood in the middle of The Aftel Archive of Curious Scents and inhaled. What comes to life in that breath is a mixture of smoky muskiness contrasted by spicy citrus.

Curious opens with a full-spectrum orange accord. Ms. Aftel combines the green leaf with a bitter orange. In the sour, the green finds some purchase to form an accord which feels rounded out. It gets roughed up a bit with some spices cutting through the citrus. The heart is smoke over wood. The wood is identified as Siam wood. It smells like an exotic hardwood after being charred a bit. This is a light smoke not the obtrusive kind you more often find. Out of the smoke comes tobacco absolute. Ms. Aftel calls it the ultimate botanical musk. I have never looked at it from that perspective. It is made more malleable by also using hay absolute as a catalyst to spark the development.

Curious has 8-10 hour longevity and minimal sillage.

Come Inside My Friends To the Show That Never Ends….

Curious is like the carnival barker enticing you closer to the attraction just through that door over there. Like those family road trips, I want to take a drive to Berkeley to visit this newest of roadside attractions wafting Curious the entire way.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Aftelier Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Prada Candy Gloss- Cherry Baby

When it was released in 2011 I thought Prada Candy was one of the best mainstream fragrances released in a few years. In-house perfumer Daniela Andrier composed a perfectly pitched gourmand fragrance for the masses. It continues to be a big success and that of course means flankers must surely follow. The first couple kept the caramel core in place but last year’s Candy Kiss signaled a move away from that as vanilla was the gourmand note. The 2017 flanker, Candy Gloss, finishes the move towards a more transparent gourmand; which is only part of the story of what Candy Gloss provides.

This lightening up of perceived heavy accords is presumably to lure younger perfume lovers to the brand. What is particularly interesting in Candy Gloss is that the path to that is also inspired by notes and accord also seemingly favored by the young. It comes together in one of the best mainstream releases of this year, so far.

Daniela Andrier

The simple description of Candy Gloss is cherry, orange blossom, and vanilla; which is accurate. If you read that note list and think giggly thoughts you might be surprised at what unfolds once you wear Candy Gloss. One of my favorite soda drinks is a Cherry Lime Rickey. It is made with cherry syrup which is what Mme Andrier evokes here. It also has the effervescence of that drink in the early stages before the floral and gourmand phases arrive.

The cherry syrup is apparent in the first seconds. What Mme Andrier does with that is to take the slightly sour green of blackcurrant buds with a tiny amount of peach lactone to give it much more structure than just sticky fruit syrup. The choice of the blackcurrant twists the cherry into a near sour cherry accord and probably would have if not for the peach lactone pushing back. The orange blossom comes in and it reminds me a bit of the orange blossom water used in European versions of marshmallow. That is confirmed as the vanilla-almond-cherry nature of heliotropin mixes in with the orange blossom. Using heliotropin allows for the cherry to return in the later stages with a lighter presence. The warm benzoin which has been the connective tissue of all the Prada Candy fragrances is combined with a few musks to provide a warm embrace at the end.

Candy Gloss has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you get the impression I think Candy Gloss is a fun fragrance you would be correct. I don’t want to lose the fact that Mme Andrier has done a fantastic job at choosing her notes in-between to make this a fragrance of fun but one also constructed as solid as they come. It also brought back my memory of an old song of the 1970’s “Cherry Baby” by Starz. On the days, I wore this I couldn’t help myself humming the chorus of that classic while jonesing for a Cherry Lime Rickey.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Oud Minerale- Oud Tide

It is difficult to find some new way to present oud in fragrance. It was with some interest when I received my press sample and press packet for the new Tom Ford Private Blend Oud Minerale that they promised me something never been done before. It is a bit of classic PR overreach to say this is the first to graft oud on to a marine style fragrance in all of perfumery. As far as mainstream releases go it might be more accurate. It is certainly not a style done to death and it has not produced a memorable incarnation either.

Karyn Khoury

Tom Ford Private Blend creative director Karyn Khoury collaborates with perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu on Oud Minerale; the fourth in the Private Blend Oud collection. One of the most interesting aspects of the four Oud collection releases is all of them rely upon an oud accord to provide the titular note. Oud Minerale almost has to employ an oud accord because anything approaching the real stuff would have run roughshod over the rest of the fragrance. You can even say that this is why there are not a lot of oud marine perfumes because that balance would be very difficult to achieve using the real thing. Mme Maisondieu is able to take the flexibility using an accord gives her to find a place for oud to insert itself without being overwhelming.

Shyamala Maisondieu

The opening of Oud Minerale is one of the more accurate marine accords I’ve tried in quite a while. Mme Maisondieu uses a mixture of baie rose and seaweed. It evokes the clean smell of low tide in the early morning or twilight. There is a damp green vegetal note sharpened by the herbal focus of the baie rose. I found it natural as it grabbed in all of the seaside milieu. A bit of fir captures seaside pines while ambergris accord provides the briny ocean as it recedes. The entire marine effect is now assembled for Mme Maisondieu to take a mixture of salicylates, the synthetic aromachemical Pepperwood, and cypriol to form her oud accord. It uses the spiciness of the pepperwood to imitate the bite of real oud without it turning into something threatening. Once everything is in place the combination is expansive as being outside; it fills up all the space in a transparent overall effect. It rests on a base of vetiver, cedar, patchouli, and ambroxan which provide some depth to the oud as it lets go of the marine accord over time.

Oud Minerale has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Oud Minerale is a departure from the other members within the entire Tom Ford collection. It is a fresh take on oud which is perfect for the remaining summer months.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Naomi Goodsir Nuit de Bakelite- Artistry Rewarded

There are moments when I just feel that a creative project is going to be magnificent. I’ve recently received the proof that one of those has come to fruition. When I first met the creative team behind the Naomi Goodsir fragrance brand, Naomi Goodsir and Renaud Coutaudier, I felt like they were artists who had a real vision. Not only the vision but the determination with which to keep working at something until that vision was achieved. The other thing happened at that first meeting was they were telling me what they were working on. From the moment, I heard the name and the perfumer I knew this was something I could not wait for, but I would wait for over three years. The name was Nuit de Bakelite and the perfumer was Isabelle Doyen.

Just the name was going to draw me in because we had a whole stack of old Bakelite cooking dishes. The smell of those dishes all stacked up was fascinating to me in the way other industrial smells were. Bakelite was also used as costume jewelry from the Art Deco period until the mid 1970’s. It was in those later years that a group of free spirited women I was spending time with wore each wore a set of matching Bakelite bracelets which I associated with a certain type of experimental thinking. The sound of the bracelets coming together fell in between plastic and metallic. It was another unusual sound in which I found beauty.

Isabelle Doyen

Mme Doyen has been a pillar of the artistic niche perfumery sector since its beginning. She has been known mostly for her work with one brand, Annick Goutal. It is a body of work which shows what niche perfume can be. What has always set Mme Doyen apart for me is the more artistic experimental work she has done. Nowhere was that more evident in the three vetiver variations she produced for The Turtle Project. Those three perfumes are some of my favorite for the complete creative freedom they showed.

I also must mention Ms. Goodsir and M. Coutaudier. There are only a few creative teams in the niche perfume world who do not bow to the pressure of making perfume on a timetable. In many discussions with them they stress to me that they won’t release a perfume until they feel it is what they both want it to be. As a result, the entire Naomi Goodsir collection stands out for this dedication. Heaven knows I bugged them enough times about when Nuit de Bakelite was going to be released.

When I finally received my sample in the mail I was a bit afraid to tear in to the package and try it. There was so much that could be wrong. It sat on my desk for a full day before I finally did. What greeted me was a green tuberose. Once I sprayed it on I understood what Mme Doyen when she said, “Nuit de Bakélite evokes to me, a tuberose sap, peeled tuberose, tuberose in a cage made of green and leather, a focus on the small peduncle that connects the flower to the stem, the sound of plastic when several stalks of tuberose tangle, the wild majesty of the Persian tuberose.” I have always found there to be a strong plastic undercurrent beneath tuberose. That is captured here, it is the Bakelite part of Nuit de Bakelite. The tuberose here is not the flower, per se, it is the stem and sap primarily. You can’t really keep a note like tuberose down but you can find a way to display it differently which is what the creative team has done here.

Nuit de Bakelite opens with a strong green pairing of angelica and galbanum. It leads to an accord which evokes the green camphoraceous nature of tuberose along with the Bakelite plastic note. Bakelite is made from a reaction including aldehydes. There is an almost faux-aldehydic lift happening in this transition from the sharp green of the top to the more floral heart. Here Mme Doyen chooses a source of tuberose essentially scrubbed clean of the indoles. That has the effect of enhancing the buttery aspects of tuberose a skillful use of orris provides depth in place of the indoles. Over time a base of leather and tobacco provide the final brushstrokes. Most often these can be afterthoughts, not here. The tobacco softens the floral accord while doubling down on the natural narcotic quality of tuberose. The leather is a playful reminder of the vintage tuberoses which finished with a swaggering version. This is a hipster version hanging on the sidelines only interacting intermittently; when it seems right.

Nuit de Tuberose has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Although I’ve just spent a lot of words writing about Nuit de Bakelite I could go on and on. This is a concept which has been brilliantly realized using a focal point in a modern retelling of a vintage era. There are a few brands I point to when I want to exemplify all that artistic perfume can be; Naomi Goodsir continues to hold that place as Nuit de Bakelite is artistry rewarded.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Naomi Goodsir.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Anya’s Garden Strange Magic- Tincture Thaumaturgy

Natural perfumer Anya McCoy and I share a bond of geography and perfume. Ms. McCoy lives in South Florida where I grew up. The fragrance connection is obvious. Ms. McCoy is one of the people who tirelessly support the art of natural perfumery. She has been the long-time head of the Natural Perfumer’s Guild which I previously thought kept her from being as prolific as I might wish. When I received her latest creation Anya’s Garden Strange Magic I was perhaps given an alternative reason for so much time between perfumes; she doesn’t do it the easy way.

Anya McCoy

A consistent theme I take up when writing about the smaller independent perfumers is they can source and use materials a larger brand could never imagine using. Ms. McCoy has regularly sourced many of her focal points in her fragrances from a material of her own making using the traditional extraction methods like enfleurage or tinctures. That is one or two ingredients, out of many, but just that provides nuance because of the non-destructive extraction method. For Strange Magic, she decided to really go all in as 95% of the materials used are from tinctures she made herself.

I am going to give a quick primer on tincturing; if you want more I have included the link to Ms. McCoy’s story on how she tinctures here. What it is in the simplest of terms is placing a botanical material in cold alcohol and allowing it to sit at room temperature. After a few days, you remove the extracted material and recharge with new material. You keep repeating until the desired strength is achieved which can also be altered by allowing some evaporation, too. In any case this is not a process you do over a weekend, or a week, or even a month; it takes months to do correctly. Ms. McCoy explains on her website that she sees using tinctures as a more sustainable way of using natural ingredients. In theory, you can have tinctures going of everything you grow in your garden; recharging when the next set of flowers bloom.

White Champaca Tincture

Another oddity of tincturing is the color of the tincture doesn’t always match the color of the flower. On her website, she mentions the inspiration for Strange Magic began with her tincturing of white champaca flowers. As they were placed in the alcohol it didn’t stay colorless it instead turned a light shade of pink growing deeper in shade with each recharge. The picture above is from Ms. McCoy’s website. From there she decided to concoct a floral fantasia of tinctures.

What this results in is a symphony of floral notes carrying a different presence than you might normally encounter when they are used as essential oils. The first thing I noticed was how soft the entire perfume was. It is like the tincturing process removes any sharp edges. It is not that there aren’t moments of green or indoles shot throughout; it is just that they don’t blare and bully. Instead they hum at a moderate volume with a sustained presence. The other thing I noticed is Strange Magic doesn’t really have a top, heart and base pyramid; it is all there at the beginning and the end. The real magic is in seeing these very hard-won ingredients interact with each other to create a memorable floral natural perfume.

Strange Magic has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Strange Magic is a perfume only an independent perfumer could make which makes it stand out more. Ms. McCoy has become the patron saint of tincture thaumaturgy in the 21st century. I am happy to wait to see what’s next while Strange Magic tides me over.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Anya’s Garden.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Tsukiyo-en- Magic by Moonlight

Especially with independent perfumers I feel there is sometimes a more personal connection which adds to the pleasure when things click. For as long as I’ve been writing about perfume independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and I have clicked. Her aesthetic along with the meticulous style of composition has always brought a lot of joy to me. Even within the collection of someone like Ms. Hurwitz there are still things which really resonate. It was only recently that I realized my very favorites are ones in which she is inspired by Japan. Bancha has always been the one which would be my “desert island” DSH Perfumes choice. Earlier this year she released the first in her Haiku series Gekkou Hanami which captures cherry blossoms in the moonlight. This has also become a favorite in a short time. In my most recent package of samples there was no doubt I was going to go straight for the latest Haiku called Tsukiyo-en.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

For this second Haiku the theme of nature under moonlight is still present. This time we are in a Japanese garden lined with bamboo as we sip tea while the moon above provides light and shadow. In Gekkou Hanami Ms. Hurwitz captures spring. Tsukiyo-en evokes the middle of summer with everything in full bloom. Walking through a garden at night is a different experience as the humidity of the day dissipates, a little bit. The scent of some of the flowers remains as memory of the daytime while the night-blooming varieties begin their ascendance. On the cusp between waxing and waning floral motifs is where Tsukiyo-en balances itself.

Our walk opens with a Japanese variant of mandarin orange called mikan. It has a bit less of the sugared effect while still being recognizably citrus. The watery green woodiness of a bamboo accord comes next. It captures the cooling of the day with a hint of dampness. The light green wood which is the focus of the accord acts as a frame for the nighttime scents to be contained within. The moonlight effect comes as certain notes seem to be caught in a moonbeam only to retreat into shadow. There is a specific herbal mint note that acts as a will o’the wisp throughout the middle phase of Tsukiyo-en. The floral notes of the garden all lilt softly and transparently. I found jasmine, champaca, violet, and rose most prominently but there were others acting similarly to the way the mint did. A delicate white tea accord provides a centering place among the flowers. It is joined by an earthy patchouli to represent the soil.

Tsukiyo-en has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Tsukiyo-en has been a perfect choice for the summer. I have spent a few nights on the deck at Chateau Colognoisseur lost in meditation; gathering in the magic by moonlight. I am hoping fall and winter have some moonlight haiku to come.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Olibere Savannah’s Heart- Blixen’s Heart

The idea of visiting Africa is one of those bucket list items I have yet to cross off. Ever since seeing Born Free in 1966 the idea of the wide-open spaces of Africa have held my fascination. Alas it seems my experience will remain through documentaries and writings. Like many one of the most vivid descriptions comes from Karen Blixen’s book “Out of Africa” which should not be confused with the movie of the same name. The movie focused on Ms. Blixen’s romantic entanglements against an African backdrop. The book tells of the day-to-day lessons she learned while operating a coffee plantation in Kenya. The stories related there have an authenticity of someone who lived there while trying to understand that which was surrounding her. The new perfume Olibere Savannah’s Heart reminded me of the book.

Marjorie Olibere

Marjorie Olibere began her fragrance brand in spring 2015 with five releases. I’ve only recently spent some time with those early releases. My favorite of those was perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour’s Balinesque. A mixture of spice, bamboo, ocean, flowers, and woods. It is a fast-moving aquatic Oriental. Mme Olibere showed within the debut collection her desire to give her creative team a lot of freedom. When it works there is much to admire and when it doesn’t quite come together it is a noble attempt to not be like everything else.

Luca Maffei

For Savannah’s Heart Mme Olibere collaborates with perfumer Luca Maffei. Sig. Maffei forms a fragrance which captures the way my imagination thinks the coffee plantation from “Out of Africa” smells like.

Savannah’s Heart opens on a strong combination of labdanum through which rhubarb provides an equally strong contrast. The rhubarb comes off as slightly sour and less earthy than in other applications. That acerbic nature sets the stage for the focal note of Savannah’s Heart, Arabica coffee Jungle Essence. I have spoken in the past about the supercritical fluid extraction technique used by Mane for their Jungle Essence raw materials. In this case it is like a laser cut version of coffee. Strong, slightly oily, a bit sour, and very rich. To add an even sharper perspective Sig. Maffei surrounds it with Norlimabnol. The dry woody aromachemical lifts up the coffee while making it more diffuse. It rests on a sandalwood and vanilla foundation. Both provide some alternative to the sour facets which had preceded them.

Savannah’s Heart has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I applaud Mme Olibere and Sig. Maffei for finding a unique take on the African experience that it could have easily been called Blixen’s Heart too.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Vilhelm Basilico & Fellini- Summertime Fun with Fellini

There are many perfume brands which use artists’ histories as a jumping off point to create perfume. There are more than a few who do it in a way where the connection to the past is more PR than perfume. One brand which has done an excellent job of turning these stories into fragrance is Vilhelm Parfumerie. Owner-creative director Jan Ahlgren seems to have a passion about classic film and the people who made those movies. For the latest release, Basilico & Fellini, he looks to a tidbit about the legendary director Federico Fellini.

Federico Fellini cooking pasta

The maybe true factoid cited by Mr. Ahlgren is that Sig. Fellini “requested extra basil with his meals for its aphrodisiac effect.” Some of what makes it more rumor than fact is a story written by Germaine Greer for The Guardian in 2010. In her writing about her visiting the set and spending time with Sig. Fellini during his filming of “Casanova” she speaks of the first night he visited her. She relates, “I would have made supper, but Federico was even more fussy and valetudinarian than your average Italian man, and insisted on making himself risotto bianco with only a single leaf of basil to flavour it.” That does not sound like a man who was had a strong belief in basil as an aphrodisiac.

Jerome Epinette (l.) and Jan Ahlgren

Working again with perfumer Jerome Epinette, Mr. Ahlgren wanted to create a green perfume of seduction. In some ways that sounds like a contradiction in terms considering that many green notes carry more than a little bite to them. With Basilico & Fellini three separate duets throughout the development result in a sensual green fragrance.

Basil as a focal point had me thinking of earthy herbal types of accords. What has made many of the Vilhelm releases so enjoyable is Mr. Ahlgren and M. Epinette like to color outside the lines of those expectations. There is basil right from the moment you spray it on. What is surprising is the way it stays at a kind of lush state. The ingredient M. Epinette uses for this effect is dragon fruit. Dragon fruit when you eat it is sort of bland along the lines of a kiwi. As an essential oil it also provides little strong presence. Instead it modulates the basil from getting so in control you would smell nothing else. It also provides a nuanced sweetness, too. As much as I like the opening the heart pairing of green fig and violet is what really pulled me in. The creamy green fig supported by violet is fantastic, it arises from trailing a tiny amount of the basil along with it before becoming violet and fig alone. The base is vetiver and what is described as “green hay”. Which might be as simple as vetiver lending some of its grassiness to coumarin but it seems like there is also something else besides those familiar notes. Because the hay does seem less dried out than it normally appears.

Basilico & Fellini has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I tested Basilico & Fellini on some very warm days and it was delightful under those conditions. This is another excellent addition to the Vilhelm Parfumerie collection. One which promises some hot fun in the summertime.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Vilhelm Parfumerie.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Thierry Mugler Aura- Romancing the Millennial

Thierry Mugler fragrances have a dear place in my fragrance library. A*Men and many of the outstanding flankers, the proto gourmand Angel, and the proto Cologne Nouveau Thierry Mugler Cologne. Any single brand which claims these kind of innovations is one to look for as the new generation of fragrance buyers look for one of the fragrances which might define them. The answer from this brand is the new pillar perfume Thierry Mugler Aura.

When I saw the bottle for the first time I was reminded of the emerald they were searching for in the 1984 movie “Romancing the Stone”. You can see them side-by-side above. Longtime Thierry Mugler fragrance creative director Pierre Aulas assembled a team of Firmenich perfumers; Daphne Bugey, Amandine Clerc-Marie, Christophe Raynaud, and Marie Salamagne.

Pierre Aulas

Aura comes off as a bit of an experimental fragrance as two Firmenich exclusive materials are used one called Wolfwood and the other given a code name of Tiger Liana. Wolfwood has little information available beyond it is a woody aromachemical. Tiger Liana on the other hand sounds much more interesting. According to Firmenich it is extracted from the root of an unidentified Chinese medicinal root. It is described as smelling “botanical, animalic, and smoky”. I was going to have to figure out what these new ingredients to me were adding in the spaces between the other listed notes I know.

I have mentioned in the past that most of the brands have made an early determination that millennials want a light floral gourmand. The Aura creative team provides exactly that. What makes it stand out is the inclusion of the new materials. I will be guessing what exactly they bring to the overall experience but they have a profound effect.

The first thing I notice is a slightly cleaned-up orange blossom. The indoles are kept to a level such that they are a background hum underneath the transparent floral quality. What is paired with it at first is a tart rhubarb. This rhubarb accentuates the green tinted citrus nature and the sulfurous quality, like the indoles, are pushed far to the background. Then a humid green note intersperses itself; based on the description I am guessing this is the Tiger Liana. It smells like damp green foliage, at first, in a good way as it adds some weight to a fragrance which has been very light to this point. Then beneath the green the promised animalic and smokiness is also simmering beneath it all right next to the indoles and sulfur. It is a clever way to add in a deep set of notes to provide detail without giving them the room to be more pervasive. The smokiness gets more pronounced which I think might be the Wolfwood. It could be how Tiger Liana develops too. A haze of smoke is what leads to the base of a rich opaque vanilla on a woody base. It is a comforting finish.

Aura has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I must give M. Aulas and the team of perfumers credit they have made a perfume that is indelibly Thierry Mugler that has a great opportunity of romancing the millennials to the brand.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bogue Profumo MEM- Words Fail Me

1

Occasionally, I am exposed to a perfume which questions what I believe about fragrance. It comes around and taxes my ability to describe it in words. I also know that others are having very different experiences with the same fragrance. There are some reasons which I think this is happening and I wonder whether it is deliberate or indicative of something else. I have spent a lot of time with Bogue Profumo MEM and I will try to describe my experience with it.

The independent perfumer behind Bogue Profumo is Antonio Gardoni. Sig. Gardoni has come to perfumery from a self-taught perspective. It has allowed him to make his own set of principles of composition which hew only to his artistic vision. Maai was his most successful fragrance because he started with a vintage aesthetic which he transformed into something dramatically different. One of the things that is different about MEM is it seems he started with a well-known ingredient, lavender, and again wanted to transform the recognizable into something unique. Sig. Gardoni was also going to feature uncommon sources of lavender from different isolates and species. He says in the description of MEM there are four lavenders in MEM. The one that appears first is the most interesting and is part of the most fascinating part of the development of MEM. The others end up becoming foils for other stronger statements but more in support than as the focal point. I’m going to describe my experience with MEM and then follow that with some mentions of other reviews and what I think it says about MEM when taken together.

Antonio Gardoni

I like lavender but as I have smelled it more and more I really enjoy a source of lavender which accentuates the herbal nature over the air freshener character. The source of lavender at the beginning of MEM is wonderful as it is not only herbal but also earthy. It conjures up a vision of sprigs of purple covered in dark topsoil. Then fascinatingly Sig. Gardoni decides to give it a beer as it becomes malted which matches the earthiness of the lavender. I kept thinking during these early stages this was some kind of craft lavender summer ale. There are hints of citrus on the periphery of the early moments but it is this unique lavender which carries the day. Which makes the transition into the floral heart so disappointing is it becomes an overwhelming bouquet of everything but lavender. If there was something about the lavender used here it was subsumed by rose, muguet, jasmine, and ylang-ylang. Then it switches to a truly animalic base of civet and musk which again swamps the lavender. It was frustrating for me because I could detect it but it was like it was banging on the glass trying to get in.

MEM has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.

I recommend two other reviews to read and I am going to mention some of what they wrote to make a larger point about MEM. In Kafkaesque’s review Kafka also mentions the early going reminding Kafka of a summer ale. Kafka also gets a much subtler development throughout the hours. Kafka corresponded with Sig. Gardoni and he claimed there are 86 ingredients in MEM.

Lauryn Beer reviewed MEM for CaFleureBon she experienced all the nuance of the different lavenders Sig. Gardoni employed comparing it favorably to one of the baseline lavenders, Guerlain Jicky. These are two reviewers in whom I respect their views. So why the difference? I have a hypothesis.

Also in the Kafkaesque review, it was mentioned Sig. Gardoni sent out an early version of MEM to some. Kafka thought its evolution into the current version was for the better. Based on Kafka’s words it sounded like it was a simpler version which set out to display the different lavenders more distinctly. There is a habit of the most artistic independent perfumers not to know when to stop tinkering. There can be a moment when they keep adding to the basic concept until they hit 86 ingredients. For me, in the case of MEM, that was probably fifty or sixty too many. Especially because the early moments are amazing only to get lost as the olfactory traffic jam builds up.

I think MEM is an almost fascinating Rohrshach test of a perfume because in all of the online reviews no two people have described it the same way with the only overlap happening in the early stages. In the end, I want to embrace MEM but at this moment my admiration and my words fail me.

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

Mark Behnke