New Perfume Review Aether Arts Perfume Daydream in Blue- Fulfilled Desire

On my recent visit to Boulder, Colorado I finally had the opportunity to spend some time with independent perfumer Amber Jobin. We have corresponded digitally over many years. This was the first time we were in the same place where we could relax. One of the things about independent perfumery is that through an artist’s perfumes you can get a picture of who they are. Ms. Jobin exceeded what I expected to find.

Ms. Jobin has come to perfumery through the crucible of the yearly Burning Man event. She has attended for several years and began offering custom fragrance blends as part of her contribution to the temporary society the event represents. She also creates a distinct “Burner” perfume each year based on the theme of the given year. It was through these early fragrances I became aware of her. As a student of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, and now a colleague in her Essense Studio, Ms. Jobin was uncommonly polished in her early work. If there is a common aesthetic that ties her perfumes together it is curious intelligence; which might be redundant. Ms. Jobin has been able to distill the abstract into perfume. At its base it is what all perfumers are doing. It is just Ms. Jobin does it with a little more verve. Of her most recent releases Aether Arts Perfume Daydream in Blue displays this.

(l. to r.) Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Me, Amber Jobin

The perfume was inspired by the song “Daydream in Blue” by the band I Monster. Ms. Jobin realized it was a song about daydreaming while in a field of wildflowers, but this reverie is a sexual one. It is unrequited because the dreamer’s partner is only present in the imagination. Ms. Jobin imagines the dreamer having an actual partner for whom that desire can be acted upon amongst the literal birds and bees doing their work pollinating things. She says in her press release, “I loved the idea of a pretty experience wrapped around a deeply erotic one.” This is exactly that.

The early moments of Daydream in Blue set the stage with a gentle floral accord matched with some of the grassy ingredients. It is a sun dappled meadow. Through an incredibly constructed accord Ms. Jobin captures the entire experience of making love outside. Her main accord is comprised of deer musk, civet, and costus. It is the balance she achieves with that last note that brings the whole thing together. Costus is a tricky note to get right. For Ms. Jobin she actually wanted to capture a fully realized erotic moment which means the smell of semen on sun warmed skin. I can hear some readers thinking that doesn’t sound great. Ms. Jobin has an ability to find beauty out of what I described. It especially comes home when the florals and grassy notes reappear around that animalic accord as nature returns after passion.

Daydream in Blue has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is what sets independent perfumery apart. The ability for a perfumer to take on a subject like this. I giggle to myself when I imagine one of those people spritzing perfume trying to describe this as they hand a strip to a mallgoer. This is perfume for those of us who see it as an art form as well as something to make us smell pleasant. Daydream in Blue succeeds on both of those levels. I adore much of what Ms. Jobin has created over the years but this one has also exceeded my expectations fulfilling desires of all sorts.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfume.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review aroma M Geisha Botan- Geisha at Work

More than their commercial counterparts, independent perfumers are storytellers. Through their creations you also get glimpses into personalities and histories of the artist behind them. Having a story underneath what you’re wearing adds something to the experience. One independent perfumer whose story I have connected with is Maria McElroy of aroma M.

Ms. McElroy lived in Tokyo, Japan in the 1980’s. That Japanese aesthetic has been the foundation upon which she has built her brand. Many of her perfumes carry the word “geisha” within them. As I have tried each one I have imagined the story of a fictional geisha. It has become part of the anticipation of any new release that I will have an opportunity to allow my imagination to travel to visit this lady of perfume. aroma M Geisha Botan is the latest chance for me to do this.

Maria McElroy

In the press release accompanying my sample Ms. McElroy tells of her affection for pink peonies that she acquired during her time in Tokyo. Botan is the Japanese word for peony. We have our own pink peonies which burst to life each spring along our front walkway. I share Ms. McElroy’s fascination with the flower. The dense layered flower which will eventually open to reveal a fuller beauty is like a geisha of the floral world; only when you get to know it better does it truly reveal its charms.

Geisha Botan uses rose to support the peony in the early going. It gives some heft to one of the more delicate floral ingredients. It also allows it to float upon the pool of sandalwood and vanilla which make up the heart. Over time an earthy quality slowly intersperses itself into the construct. A final dollop of animalic musk finishes everything.

In her previous releases my imaginary geisha has been enjoying some time off. With Geisha Botan it feels like she is back at work. As I’ve done in the past I will weave a description of the perfume within a little story.

It was nice to have spring back. Walking by Ueno Park and seeing the peonies in full bloom made her smile. As she entered the okiya she decided would use her special botan formulation to scent herself for the evening. She had worked on it for years finding the right rose to provide depth to her peony extract. To find the right balance was a tricky thing but it was worth it. Her client for the night always smiled when he picked up the top accord as she served tea to him. The peony tattooed on her forearm just visible under her sleeve as she offered the bowl to him. He breathed in followed by a nod. “Your perfume is more intoxicating than the tea.” As I played the samisen for him I observed him breathing deeply as the vanilla and sandalwood comforted him along with the music. By the time he was ready to leave the slightly musky scent remianing heightened the anticipation for our next meeting.

Geisha Botan has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Ms. McElroy has become a much more assured perfumer over the years. Geisha Botan is among her best work. The mixture of spring-like florals on top of vanilla and sandalwood is going to make this an ideal fall perfume as the air begins to cool. You can take my imaginary geisha along with you.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by aroma M.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aftelier Perfumes Antique Ambergris- Perfume Scrimshaw

We did one of those trips through New England when I was a young boy. One of the destinations I was looking forward to was Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. While most of my friends were big on dinosaurs; I was all about whales. Ever since the factoid of the blue whale being the largest animal on Earth lodged in my head that was my giant animal of choice.

Mystic Seaport is a museum dedicated to the New England whaling business. As we walked through the grounds there were two things which caught my attention; scrimshaw and ambergris. Scrimshaw was engraving done on the ivory they harvested from the whales they caught. I was transfixed by an innate ancient quality of the pieces on display. The etching was fabulously intricate in depicting the ships they were on. I would buy a silver ring with a small piece of scrimshaw in it. It was my first piece of jewelry. The second thing was exactly the thing that would intrigue a young boy when I was asked if I wanted to smell whale vomit. “Yes, please” as I waved my hand frantically. I don’t know what I expected but what I smelled was something which smelled of the ocean more than upchuck. Although it was plenty stinky enough to satisfy my adolescent anticipation. When Mandy Aftel contacted me to tell me her latest perfume, Aftelier Perfumes Antique Ambergris, was on the way my now more mature anticipation was piqued.

Mandy Aftel

Ms. Aftel is one of the crown jewels of the American independent perfume community. She was one of the first. She has been giving, as a teacher and a writer, of her knowledge. She also runs the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents. One of the stars of that collection is a 100-year-old bottle of antique Ambreine. Now you might think that’s a typo, but it isn’t. Ambreine is the chemical which makes up the floating piece of whale excretion which becomes ambergris. Ambreine in its pure form has no scent. Once it is set forth to float upon the sea, exposed to sun, and eventually to beach itself; the molecule is designed to undergo multiple chemical reactions as the ambreine reacts in multiple directions. The longer it is exposed the more complex the mixture. Once you smell a long-aged sample it will draw you in with its kaleidoscopic nature.

At the request of Ms. Aftel’s best friend, who had fallen hard for the old bottle of ambreine, she decided to create a perfume. This is what has become Antique Ambergris. I also love the idea of a perfume which is based on ancient ingredients is produced as a solid perfume. Ms. Aftel is one of the few producing solid perfumes and I find the tactile quality of smearing a dab very sensual. I know they are difficult to do but for this perfume it fit so well.

After spreading some Antique Ambergris on my skin, the aged ambergris Ms. Aftel uses floats to the top. This is not the century old version from the museum, but it is plenty old enough to be compelling. What is amazing about older perfume ingredients like this is the multitude of grace notes which surround them. Ms. Aftel calls them “phantom notes” but these are way more substantial than flitting wraiths They provide shading impossible to be replicated without having aged. This kind of experience is tripled by her adding in antique civet and aged cypress absolute. As these all come together the essential quality of ambergris, civet, and cypress are there, but it is the grace notes which provide the joy of Antique Ambergris as it develops over hours on my skin. These three notes are supported by a sturdy coumarin but it really is just a pedestal for the stars of the show.

Antique Ambergris has 10-12 hour longevity and low sillage.

Antique Ambergris is an example of what the best independent perfumers can produce with small batch ingredients. There is almost nowhere else something like Antique Ambergris could come from. Ms. Aftel captures the ancient art of scrimshaw with an exquisite perfume etching of antiquity.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Imaginary Authors Sundrunk- Summer of 69

When you are a child the summer months are a treat. There is no school only the horizon of how far you can travel on your bicycle. Growing up in South Florida it seemed like the world was just in front of my handlebars. The best part was being joined by your friends. By the time August rolled around our skin was tanned and our hair was sun bleached. For some reason several of my friends had birthdays in August. In 1969 that was a big year we were moving from the single digit of nine to the vastly mature double digits of ten. This was also the summer when I had my first kiss. I remember leaning forward into it at a birthday party game of Spin the Bottle. There was one girl I was beginning to notice. When she spun the bottle and the neck pointed at me. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it right. As we leaned into the center of the circle the sun glinted off the bottle. It felt like I was surrounded in a bright light. When our lips met, at first softly, before we pressed together with a little pressure I felt a whirl of emotion. I leaned back with a smile as the girl smiled back. Her lip gloss remained on my lips. I was light headed. I never had a word for this but now I do courtesy of Imaginary Authors Sundrunk.

Josh Meyer

I have enjoyed watching independent perfumer Josh Meyer develop into one of the best we have.  Over the seventeen perfumes he had released prior to Sundrunk he has continually refined the Imaginary Authors aesthetic which was in place from the beginning. I think he has come close to perfecting it over the last couple of years producing some exemplary fragrances. Sundrunk is a bit of a departure. It might be amusing when I say it is Mr. Meyer’s most light-hearted perfume to date. Especially on a brand which uses imaginary prose from imaginary writers to create very real fragrance. Sundrunk departs from the previous formula because it is such an innocent days of summer style. There is a simple pleasure to everything about it.

Sundrunk starts off with an orange sherbet accord. Neroli and rhubarb are sprinkled with orange zest to form a crystalline delicate orange scented accord. It is like having a sugar cone with a couple scoops perched on top. It is simply beautifully achieved. Mr. Meyer then adds in a watery floral accord of honeysuckle and rose water. This is the sweet scent of nature wrapping itself around the frozen treat. I would have been thrilled with this, but Mr. Meyer adds in a “first kiss” accord. This is a very gentle sun-warmed skin musk. As sensual as that first touch of lips over a sparkling empty soda bottle.

Sundrunk has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Every time I’ve worn Sundrunk I am on my Spyder three-speed in the summer of 1969. On my way to a birthday party where I will experience my first kiss. Any perfume that can take me back to that moment is magical.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Imaginary Authors.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfums Jazmin Sarai Nar and Mare- Arabic not Oriental

I remember meeting independent perfumer Dana El Masri at one of the Elements Showcase events in New York City in the early 2010’s. We sat next to each other in the lounge area and began to talk. There are moments when I meet people who exude passion for perfume; this was one of them. Our conversation ricocheted through many subjects. It was so interesting that we had forgotten to say what we were doing there. I introduced myself as a blogger for CaFleureBon. She told me she was an independent perfumer looking to make connections. I thought to myself if she can channel her passion into a perfume it will be something great. Her brand Jazmin Sarai made its debut in 2014. The perfumes she has released have lived up to my expectations. I received her latest two releases, Nar and Mare, with anticipation.

Dana El Masri

When it comes to independent perfumery Ms. El Masri carries a couple different perspectives into her fragrances. One is formal training. She graduated from the Grasse Institute of Perfumery in 2010. The second is she is one of only a few Arabic women making perfume I am aware of. This is critical to these two new perfumes which she calls The Tarab Duet. When this part of the world is interpreted by Western perfume brands it is through the eyes of travelers to produce Oriental type perfumes. When Ms. El Masri works on an Arabic perfume it is inspired by her genetics. Pair that with perfume training to produce something authentically Arabic.

All Jazmin Sarai releases are based on musical themes. For Nar it is the music of Ms. El Masri’s grandparents’ wedding day. On that occasion the bride requested of singer Abdel Halim Hafez to sing Hobak Nar (Your Love is Fire). She works only with five ingredients to capture the call and response of this type of Arabic singing. The call throughout its development is an ever diminishing “burning embers” accord. The response is formed in three different stanzas.

Nar opens with a swirl of smoke. This is where the training of Ms. El Masri shines brightly. Many independent perfumers when they add a smoke effect it comes off like sitting next to a campfire when the wind shifts in your direction. This is a smoke accord of diffusion. The first time it calls out, the woody herbal-ness of coriander responds. The second call finds a clean woody riposte of cedar and guaiac. The final iteration finds a warm amber complementing the cooling embers. It is the kind of simple construction which belies its complexity because of Ms. El Masri’s skill.

For Mare the inspiration is one of the most famous Arabic singers Fairuz. She is also a favorite of Ms. El Masri’s father. The song is Shayef El Bahr Shoo Kbeer (See the Sea). It refers to the strand in Beirut, Lebanion. This is an oceanside which has mountains running right up to the beach. It is still a Mediterranean style of perfume just one from the Arabic side of the Sea.

Mare opens with a classic Mediterranean accord of lemon and neroli. To this she sends a strong sea accord breeze. This is where it is different. It is more expansive as the sea breeze rides up the nearby slopes to curl back down with a bit of chilliness. The other touch of the Beirut mise-en-scene is the licorice booziness of the Lebanese ouzo analog, Arak. It provides a tiny bit of bite to the airiness of the top accord. Fig returns Mare to a more traditional Mediterranean construction before finishing with the cedar tree in the center of the Lebanese flag.

Both perfumes have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

One of the beautiful things about independent perfumery is it allows each artist to explore their influences. Ms. El Masri is emblematic of that. For Nar and Mare she allows us to experience Arabic perfume not Oriental.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Jazmin Sarai.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Summer Cologne- The Joy of Cologne

When did cologne became a bad word? It is like the dirty secret of fragrance. There are perfume brands that turn up their nose at making a “cologne”. There are consumers that don’t want to buy a “cologne”. There are bloggers who won’t write about “cologne”. I suspect one reason is our male family members and friends wore too much perfume in the 1970’s and 80’s. The unfortunate part was anything a man wore in those days was called “cologne”. There are still some vestiges of that attitude floating around which has manifested in the I don’t make/buy/cover “cologne” constituency. Its too bad for them because especially over the past five or six years we have seen the humble cologne formulation be dramatically altered while still remaining true to being a cologne, without the quotes. Unfortunately, many independent perfumers shy away from cologne.Because of this most of the innovation has happened in a few specific brands. Selfishly I want some of my favorite small brands to take a shot at a cologne; DSH Perfumes Summer Cologne does that.

The very origin of cologne comes from an Alpine walk of the creator Jean Marie Farina. He wanted something he could splash on which would be as refreshing as a walk through a mountain meadow. The very simple formula of citrus, floral, and herbal components has been a staple of perfumery. Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, who is also a lover of perfume history, has made Summer Cologne a perfume of summer activity, as well. Except she isn’t going for a walk in the Rockies around her Boulder, Colorado studio. She is working in the garden with her tomato plants. She uses tomato leaf as the keynote around which she builds her version of cologne.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

It opens with a traditional citrus trio of bergamot, lemon, and bitter orange. This is a time-tested top accord. Ms. Hurwitz adds a bit of ambrette seed for a bit of muskiness underneath; it picks up on the clean sweat ideal of working in the garden. The tomato leaf steps forward in place of the typical herbal part of the traditional cologne recipe. It still carries a greenness along with a tart acerbic quality. She uses judicious quantities of vetiver and blackcurrant bud to buoy up the tomato leaf. The orange blossom which has become synonymous with cologne provides the floral part. This is also supported with a nice neroli to provide a thread of green to connect back to the tomato leaf. The final part is to stake all of this into an earthy patchouli in the base.

Summer Cologne has 6-8 hour longevity and low sillage.

Summer Cologne remedies that bugaboo of filling up a room with your fragrance; it is a real skin scent. It was my personal perfume on the summer days I wore it. It was the ideal companion in the heat, refreshing without being overwhelming. If you are one of the people who are not interested in “cologne” give Summer Cologne a try you might find some joy in an unexpected place.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Imitation Woman and Imitation Man- Two Bites of The Big Apple in the 1970’s

I made my first trips to New York City in the 1970’s. I experienced a very different Big Apple. There was uptown and there was downtown. In between was the insanity of Times Square which was crammed with sex shops and porn theatres. You didn’t stop to take pictures bathed in neon back then. If you moved uptown there were the museums and upscale shopping. Downtown was the grungy counterpoint. The beginnings of punk rock were emerging in a place which embraced it. Moving between them was like traveling between two worlds. Anyone who experienced this carries an inward smile at how this has all been tamed with retconned history. While at the same time being turned into another roadside attraction. This was my experience as a young man.

Christopher Chong

The two new perfumes from Amouage, Imitation Woman and Imitation Man, are based on Creative Director Christopher Chong’s visit to New York City in the same time. It was the first time he would see snow. He observed the cultural melting pot as his family moved from uptown to downtown. In the press materials he says, “Imitation is a personal account of how one moment and one experience can alter a child’s perception of the world.” Working with perfumer Pierre Negrin for Imitation Woman and Leslie Girard for Imitation Man it fells like they encapsulate Mr. Chong’s reminiscence with two very different bites from The Big Apple circa the 1970’s

One thing about both perfumes is they function as a pair which felt to me as Uptown and Downtown. Except quite cleverly the perfumers made sure to put a little of the other in each. If Imitation Woman takes you to the Upper East Side it makes sure to thread a bit of the Bowery through it. The converse is true for Imitation Man.

Pierre Negrin

Imitation Woman opens on a blast of hairspray aldehydes over a floral trio of rose, orange blossom, and jasmine. It is the scent of perfectly coiffed society woman. Then M. Negrin sneaks in a bit of the Battery with a duet of licorice and blackcurrant bud. The latter is amplified to its sticky urine-like level while the licorice acts like a punk walking on Madison Avenue. It all returns to the wood paneled safety of sandalwood and patchouli.

There was a cocooned decadence which defined Uptown NYC in the 1970’s. It was over-the-top with no risk. Imitation Woman gets that as the exuberance is on display but within there is a reminder it isn’t as safe as you think.

Leslie Girard

Imitation Man is rough around the edges right away. Black pepper and nutmeg create a piquant reminder you aren’t Uptown anymore. You shrug your shoulders into your black leather jacket. Mme Girard infuses it with castoreum to make it seem like the snarl from any Punk waiting for a show in the Bowery. Then some of those Upper East Side “tourists” come slumming, trailing their floral smells of rose and powdery orris; trying to live life on the wild side for a night. The real scents of the area return with vetiver and patchouli leading the charge. Underneath it all is a simmering myrrh, a resinous bit of rebellion in progress.

At this point the Punks were just finding their footing as Downtown was about to put its Doc Martens footprint on the music scene. Imitation Man captures the burgeoning scene just before it is discovered.

I like both versions of Imitation, there is an authenticity which tracks with my memory of NYC in the 1970’s.

Disclosure: this review is based on press samples provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Essential Parfums Orange X Santal- Simple Summer

We are now at the point of the summer where my fragrance desires regress to simplicity. It is ironic as my mailbox fills up with new fall releases which are not simple. When I received my sample set of the debut collection of Essential Parfums I was happy to find a brand which embraces simplicity.

Essential Parfums is a new brand where the creative direction is given over to the perfumer partnered with. They are choosing well with whom they asked to deliver a perfume to make their first impression. The only “rule” they asked of the perfumer was to rely on sustainable ingredients. What has resulted is a nice coherent collection which focuses on that. The perfumes are simple constructs allowing for the keynotes to shine individually. The one which fit my summer need of a cool linen suit, in perfume form, was Orange X Santal.

Nathalie Gracia-Cetto

Perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto states that she wanted to realize what is on the label; a cross of bitter orange and sustainable Australian Sandalwood.  If it was just that it wouldn’t be so interesting but Mme Gracia-Cetto adds in a refreshing suite of three green ingredients to form a chypre-ish tonic.

It opens with the orange which early on isn’t as bitter as expected. It comes off sweeter in the first moments. That is remedied by adding in basil. The intense green of that ingredient teases out the bitterness of the orange. As it does that it overwrites the juicy quality with one of orange zest. Australian sandalwood comes next. This is a creamy smooth version of sandalwood which returns to a sweetly woody effect. Then as with the orange Mme Gracia-Cetto transforms that with cedar and oakmoss. The cedar is that fresh cut slightly mentholated version. The oakmoss is a bitingly green version. This adds a kind of green sappy quality to sandalwood as if it was harvested young and raw.  The total effect of herbal orange crossed with sappy sandalwood is lovely.

Orange x Santal has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Essential Parfums is another new brand worth seeking out especially if you want something well-made around a few ingredients. If you look through this first collection and see a list of ingredients you enjoy I’ll bet the perfume does, as well. Orange X Santal is a good example of everything this brand is doing right at the start.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jusbox Perfumes Black Powder- Rebel’s Leather

When I hear of European-only perfume distribution I must decide how much I want to try it. Which was why when I read about a new Italian brand, Jusbox Perfumes, I decided not to chase it down. The main reason; it was another collection inspired by rock and roll. This is a common well of non-creativity that too many new brands choose to lean on. Because of previous brands which have been unable to successfully capture the essence of what ever rock artist or genre they are touting; I passed. The other good thing I find is if it is better than I think it eventually finds its way to North America. This just happened for Jusbox Perfumes. That meant I finally had a sample set to try.

V Monkeys: Andrea and Chiaro Valda

The creative directors are a brother-sister team, Andrea and Chiaro Valda, who go by the name V Monkeys. Born in Milan they are a good example of the kind of perfume coming out of Italy. When they started the line with four perfumes in 2016 they worked with perfumers Antoine Lie and Dominique Ropion; who each did a pair. Those first four perfumes each covered a decade. They were where I started learning from my samples. I was impressed that it wasn’t as trite as I feared. After those first four I was wondering where the leather jacket rebel was. I found it in the last sample I tried, Black Powder.

Julien Rasquinet

If there is a single scent which connects to rock and roll it is the smell of the black leather jacket. When I was a young man spending evenings standing in front of a stage losing my hearing a guitar riff at a time it was what I wore. So did everyone around me. The smell of overheated humanity underneath a leather jacket is my Eau de Rock and Roll. Perfumer Julien Rasquinet does an excellent job at coming very close with Black Powder. M. Rasquinet does this by taking a very supple suede leather accord and breaking it in with some interesting choices of ingredients.

Black Powder opens with the first seconds having a too tame suede leather. M. Rasquinet begins the process of roughing it up with allspice, blackcurrant buds, and apple. The more you wore your leather jacket there was always a subtle spiciness imbued into it. The allspice produces that. The blackcurrant is at that kind of urine-like sticky green level. Which works because the smell of overworked restrooms was also a scent of many clubs in the 80’s and 90’s. Tobacco plays up the inherent sweetness of leather. Incense tans it with resins. Sandalwood provides a foundation. Patchouli adds a bit of earthiness. Once it comes together it is that black leather jacket I was searching for.

Black Powder has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

If I was designing this style of perfume the only thing which was missing was that musk of sweaty skin. What is here in Black Powder is enjoyable. I can say that about my early impressions of the rest of the Jusbox Perfumes collection. They have just become available in North America and are worth giving a try. I will probably do mini reviews of the others after I spend some time with them.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Bloomingdale’s.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Diana Vreeland Staggeringly Beautiful- DV, Are You in There?

If a perfume is going to carry the name of someone I admire I expect it to live up to that. For the past four years one brand has tried mightily to disappoint me; Diana Vreeland. When I tried the debut collection of five I was crushed at their lack of originality. A perfume carrying the name of the woman who said, “Style, all who have it share one thing: originality” should above all be original. Unfortunately, it seems like that genetic spark has missed her grandson Alexander Vreeland who is the creative director behind the brand. It became more apparent over time as I received each subsequent release wondering where the soul of DV was in these limp perfumes. I keep hoping to find her. When I received the sample for the fifteenth release, Staggeringly Beautiful, it seemed like there might have just been a tiny bit of her there.

Diana Vreeland

One of the things Ms. Vreeland was known for as Editor-in-Chief at Vogue was finding originality in the oddest places. Every morning she began the day by sending a memo to her editors. Mr. Vreeland, before he picked up the perfume business, collected all of them in a book. One in the summer of 1967 shows this as she writes, “I am extremely disappointed that no one has taken the slightest interest in freckles on the models…” She then urged her photo editors to make sure the applied freckles did not “look like black holes instead of pale red freckles”. It was her ability to see style in the perceived flaws; transforming them into fashion in the pages of her magazine. What drew me to Staggeringly Beautiful is I detected some freckles on this perfume that were not black holes.

Pascal Gaurin

Mr. Vreeland has been working with excellent perfumers; as he does this time with Pascal Gaurin. For Staggeringly Beautiful he chooses to use the classic Mediterranean mixture of fig and citrus. Where the figurative freckles appear is in the choice of daffodil as the floral component.

The perfume opens with a flare of stemone for the fig leaves. M. Gaurin tempers it with some other green notes. A ripe fig accord emerges through the green along with a bit of bergamot. At this point I was not impressed. Then the daffodil shows up in a significant concentration. Daffodil is a version of narcissus but not quite as narcotic. It is a smart choice by M. Gaurin because it captures the green theme while tilting it to a slightly less heady floral nature. Daffodil is not used often in perfume but as a partner to a full fig accord it comes together in a very pleasant way.

Staggeringly Beautiful has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Staggeringly Beautiful is still not the kind of originality I would like to see from a perfume carrying Ms. Vreeland’s name. It is the most original of the fifteen releases to date; which is faint praise. At least this time I was able to see a bit of DV in the fragrance.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by Neiman Marcus.

Mark Behnke