New Perfume Reviews Raymond Matts Jarro & Sunah- The Aura of Persistence

The new Raymond Matts perfume line calls their fragrances “aura de parfum”. The phrase does a really good job of describing some of the entries in the collection. With Jarro and Sunah the name is not only a descriptor but the perfumes themselves formed a transparent aura around me as I wore them. In an e-mail exchange with Raymond Matts he described the way he works with his perfumers, “I never brief perfumers actually! When I start a fragrance I sit with and go over sensations, emotions, experiences, textures with colors I want the fragrance to be. We then will discuss notes and will create three different accords representing top, middle and back.” Then he told me they will go through 200-300 modifications searching for just the right balance to realize the shared vision. This shows the dedication of both creative director and perfumer as trying to find that perfect balance between the synthetics and natural ingredients can be difficult and I think many other brands would have given up earlier and accept a less-than-perfect formula. Both of these show the dedication to quality and collaboration.

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Christophe Laudamiel

Jarro is signed by Christophe Laudamiel. If I asked most to describe M. Laudamiel based on his perfumes in one word I am guessing I would get a lot of variations on edgy or dark. I knew he was the perfumer behind three of the seven entries in the collection. If I was asked to pick the three he worked on blindly Jarro would not have been one because it seems too light. Mr. Matts also addressed that in his e-mail and said, “Christophe and I have been working together for many years. He is dark and I'm not so this makes for interesting collaborations.” Jarro is a burst of optimism wrapped up in green brilliance. M. Laudamiel constructs complex accords and Jarro opens with two of those. The citrus one is that bit of sunshine in a jar as there is a complement of citrus facets all shining like sunbeams. Matched to this is a green aquatic accord composed of calone and labdanum among other ingredients. This is one of those classic perfume accords but M. Laudamiel puts his spin on it by keeping it on the light side. The green deepens with muguet as the focal point in the middle part of Jarro’s development. M. Laudamiel enhances the hidden spiciness of muguet by using it in significant quantities and complementing it with other spices so it can’t be overlooked. The base is Ambrox and woods; and in keeping with the whole tone of the construction it stays lighter. Jarro has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

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Jean-Claude Delville

As Mr. Matts mentioned he has worked with M. Laudamiel for many years. I think he has probably worked with perfumer Jean-Claude Delville for a shorter period of time. One of the pieces of information that tells me this might be the case is Mr. Matts shared the number of modifications that went into refining the concepts that would eventually become Sunah; over a thousand. If I admired the stick-to-it-iveness of 200 modifications more than a thousand had to be frustrating until the right one emerges out of the pile of flawed vials. What caused all of this olfactory angst was an attempt to make a saffron focused perfume which also was soft. M. Delville opens with a contrast of tart and crisp with citrus and apple. It is a high-pitched downbeat which then rises up the scale as mimosa forms an opaque fruity floral early phase. Sunah transforms as the saffron rises to prominence in the heart. M. Delville allows the saffron to eventually exude an exoticism at the middle. M. Delville then chooses a mix of woody synthetics which are layered precisely to effect a pillow soft base for this intense saffron to lay upon. It is this which must have have occupied Mr. Matts and M. Delville during many of those one thousand modifications. To get this just right. To keep the synthetics all purring together without one rising up to be disruptive all while the saffron still exudes its influence. This effort really shows as Sunah moves from the fruity floral into this exotic end phase and it is completely fascinating to wear. Sunah has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I really like both of these for the effort the perfumers put in with Mr. Matts. In both cases I think that effort shows in the finished product. Sunah especially for the effect of saffron on top of soft woods is brilliantly realized.

Discalosure: this review was based on samples provided by Raymond Matts.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews DSH Perfumes The Brilliant Collection- A History of Scent and Sparkle

One of the best perfumed collaborations of the past few years has been the work perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has done in conjunction with various exhibits at the Denver Art Museum. For these shows she creates a collection of perfumes to go with what is being displayed. This time the exhibit which inspired the perfume is “Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century”. Perhaps more than any exhibit she has been asked to make accompanying scents for this one tickles two of Ms. Hurwitz’s creative zones. The idea of capturing jewels as fragrance is a long standing inspiration for perfumers. Ms. Hurwitz is also a jewelry designer herself. I know that the history of both of her creative outlets has always been a foundation for her to create contemporaneously. For The Brilliant Collection both sets of design skills as perfumer and jeweler come together. Three of the four perfumes are inspired by pieces and the women who wore them from the exhibit. The fourth is a bit of fantasy but still remains on theme.

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Deco Diamonds was inspired by the Flamingo Brooch seen above worn by Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor.  Ms. Hurwitz goes with the set of hairspray aldehydes cut with galbanum and peach. This all leads into a white flower fusillade of indoles with jasmine, gardenia, and tuberose providing deep floral flares. It all ends on a chypre base of oakmoss, vetiver, civet, and ambergris. All together Deco Diamonds delivers on having a real Art Deco feel. Ms. Hurwitz knows how to channel the great perfumes of the 1920’s as she creates new perfumes nearly 100 years later.

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Rubis Rose was inspired by the necklace above given to Elizabeth Taylor by Mike Todd. When he gave it to La Liz she had no mirror so she leaned over the pool to see the reflection. The perfume is more of a study of just the rubies as Ms. Hurwitz equates rose with the red gemstone. She pairs her rose with a deep raspberry note sticking with the red theme. It is those two notes which predominate throughout most of Rubis Rose’s development. There is a bit of pink pepper on top and there is a bit more incense and gaiac in the base. This is more evocative of the lavender-eyed beauty than any of the perfumes which bear her name.

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Jacinthe de Sapphir was inspired by a flawless blue sapphire worn by Queen Marie of Romania in 1922. As with Rubis Rose Ms. Hurwitz is working on a perfume equivalent of matching colors. This time she is using hyacinth as the central note. The opening is the smell of fresh earth just after the winter thaw as spring finally takes hold. Then like a time-lapse film she zooms us forward a few weeks to the hyacinth in full bloom accompanied by rose de mai, tuberose, and narcissus. This is a deeply mesmerizing floral that feels like you are falling in to that sapphire pictured above. A balsamic finish with some civet added rounds it off perfectly.

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Gold Smoke by etafaz

Fumee D’Or is what Ms. Hurwitz imagines a Paris goldsmith’s workshop should smell like. This is my favorite of the four because Ms. Hurwitz pulls together a disparate number of some of my favorite materials. On top a leather accord is combined with the more metallic aldehydes. The early going has an almost dangerous sensuality to it making me think this goldsmith has an interesting private life. The core of the leather accord is a huge amount of birch tar. This is a throwback to the great leather perfumes of the past. She them picks a skanky jasmine to pick up the lascivious leather from the top notes. She finally brings it home with civet in the base. There is never a moment during this where it doesn’t feel like Fumee D’Or is not oozing a kind of unctuous carnality. This is the least evocative of jewelry but I think that was what Ms. Hurwitz was going for.

All four of The Brilliant Collection perfumes have 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

As she has done in the past Ms. Hurwitz has provided a fantastic scented tour through an exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. The Brilliant Collection lives up to its name on every level.  

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Ephemera by Unsound Bass and Drone- Does it Feel Good?

I started my reviews of the new Ephemera by Unsound line with Noise because it is going to be the easiest of the three to approach. That doesn’t mean the remaining two, Bass and Drone, aren’t as good because they are. Perfumer Geza Schoen continued to use music as his brief for the perfumes and MFO provided video interpretations. In the continuation of the conversation I began in the Noise review Bass and Drone live right on the edge of what is commonly considered pleasant smells. This is why these might be less easy to initially embrace. I think these are perfumes worth the effort because once they invade your consciousness they are darn hard to shake.

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Geza Schoen

Bass was founded on a piece of music from Kode9 aka Steve Goodman. He titled the music “Vacuum Burn”. It is his earliest olfactory memory of a vacuum cleaner which emitted a burning smell. Hr. Schoen goes for that odor of burning electronics, dust, and hair. That smell is going to be seen as flat-out unpleasant by many. I once responded to a forum thread on weird smells you like with hot electronics and the smell of hair burning. For me this means Bass accesses that affection for odd smells. Hr. Schoen does a fantastic job at bringing this to life. How he achieves this effect is to take woodsmoke and combine it with rum. The rum stands out very early on but eventually the smoke shrouds it and this forms the burning hair accord. The heated electronic accord consists of a combination in the heart of leather and black tea, on a platform of mastic. Hr. Schoen takes the mastic and uses it as a foundation to build this accord. The base notes are a rich animalic castoreum matched with oakmoss and a couple other musks. It forms a very human final accord as it reminds you there is a young child accessing a unique smell for the first time. Bass has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

The video of Bass, above, captures the sense of heat and burning but the music especially does an amazing job of this. There is a sound of crackling burning punctuated with an irregular mouse click. When I wore Bass and listened to the track I saw the image of the vacuum on overload. I spent my whole hour commute one day listening to Vacuum Burn on repeat with my eyes closed breathing deeply the evolution of Bass. The time flew by.

The piece of music Tim Hecker supplied Hr. Schoen is the antithesis of the name, Drone. It is a languidly swelling soundscape. Early on I lean in to hear the opening notes; by the end it has me sitting back in my chair. Mr. Hecker wanted “a speculative Day-Glo incense from rituals where long-form sound induces levitation.” Hr. Schoen starts with us up in the air as he uses a different set of aldehydes and ozonic notes than he used in Noise. In Noise these ingredients radiated cold. In Drone they do almost the opposite as they convey an expansive openness. This is a fabulous example of what a very talented perfumer can do with primarily the same sets of raw materials. By balancing and combining in just the right way Hr. Schoen produces two very different effects. These early moments of Drone make me feel like I am gliding a few hundred feet above the ground. The heart notes bring me in for a landing in the middle of a stand of pine trees. Fir and juniper are the heart notes but this is mostly fir with the juniper adding in depth. As I continue to take in the airy opening accord over the fir Hr. Schoen pulls out a wonderfully weird synthetic vetiver which begins to insert itself in between the other notes oozing into the spaces and creating a new fragrant accord. The base notes are patchouli and ambergris and they form perhaps the most traditional accord of any of the three fragrances in the collection. Drone has a lot of unusual angles and shifts to it to the point that on first sniff I wasn’t excited. I wore it a lot and the combination of sound and visual really drew me in. Drone has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Drone was the complete package for me. The music by itself was the one I liked the best and the one which has made it onto a playlist with other non-perfume music. This time the video captures the smell and the sound perfectly. There is a moment in the video at the 1:14 point which visualizes the way I smell the vetiver combining in the scent as the music hits the crescendo it has been building towards. This is the perfect combination of sight, sound, and smell. Because of all of this Drone has become my favorite.

Now let me return to the thesis I brought up in the review of Noise, does a perfume have to smell good? I can see showing someone these three perfumes and they can’t find anything within them that smells good. That is judging them solely on a superficial level. What I think all three of the perfumes in this collection exemplify is if you have the vision to go more than skin deep and attempt to connect with more than just the sense of smell there is something beyond the purview of simple questions like “does it smell good?”. Instead the question becomes, “Does it make me feel good?” Where the answer to the first question might be variable; if you allow these perfumes and the music and the visuals the opportunity I think the answer to the second question is something much more affirmative. If you have any interest in the potential of what perfume can do this is a collection you need to try.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ephemera by Unsound Noise- Does It Smell and Sound and Look Good?

Whenever I try a perfume which is attempting to be avant-garde I always think of the words of the late perfumer Guy Robert. He said famously, “A perfume above all must smell good.” I think many of us who love fragrance would take this as a truism. I also think if we want to believe that there is such a thing as olfactory art then there has to be room for a perfume which can audaciously explore the line of what smells good. The last part of 2014 and the first part of 2015 has been an opportunity for me to explore this concept in a brilliant new collection, Ephemera by Unsound, from perfumer Geza Schoen as part of the Unsound Project.

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Geza Schoen

The Unsound Project debuted a collaboration between Hr. Schoen and three electronic music artists Ben Frost, Tim Hecker and Kode 9. This was all further accompanied by three videos by MFO. Each was inspired by the other. Hr. Schoen took his brief from the music especially composed for each fragrance. MFO created visuals which capture the music and the perfume. I have heartily dug into this experience as I have spent time just listening to the accompanying track on my headphones on the days I’ve worn each. I’ve sat in a darkened office with the visuals playing and the music at high volume coming from the speakers. This is as complete a multimedia experience as I can remember experiencing with perfume at the center of it all. It is this satiation of so many of my senses at the same time which makes this as memorable as it is for me.

We return to the central thesis though, “Does it smell good?” I am going to share my opinion on that over the next couple of days as I review each of the three perfumes Noise, Bass, and Drone on all of the levels that I experienced them on.

Noise as a perfume is a fragrance about chilly components. Hr. Schoen wanted to capture some touchstones from Mr. Frost’s olfactory memory. Mr. Frost asked for Australian brushfire, the showering sparks of an arc welder, church on Sunday- cold stone and frankincense, the bed of a pickup truck with the remnants of the tools of the hunting party. These are the kinds of things Hr. Schoen has captured in liquid form in the past. For Noise he boldly displays them as a fragrance equivalent of an Ice Princess. The beauty draws you in but if you stay too long the frostbite will devour you. He opens this perfume with a cocktail of aldehydes and ozonic notes. You’ve smelled all of these individually in hundreds of perfumes over the last few years. Like a music producer laying down tracks Hr. Schoen drops one aldehyde and another, then an ozonic note, then another aldehyde and so on until a bright olfactory harmonic is achieved. A slug of black pepper adds orthogonal spice. This moves into a heart of woody tinged florals. The note list says it is magnolia and orchid. I smell a bit of linden also and, as in the top, saffron is used as contrast. By using the woodier floral notes it keeps Noise aloof never allowing a full defrost to occur. The base returns to the metallic themes of the top notes but this time there is the hint of smoke in the distance and the smell of grinding gears. Hr. Schoen uses frankincense, amber, labdanum, cedar, and leather together to form this base accord. Noise assessed solely as a perfume is everything I can ask for of a fragrance willing to push my limits of what smells good.

When I just listened to Noise by Ben Frost while wearing the perfume I can’t say I found as much of the influences cited in just the auditory portion of this installation. What did pull it all together is the video above. The visuals capture my experience of the perfume as if they were pulled from my head by MFO. As I sat in my office surrounded by the music at high volume, pulsating, and the video occupying my entire visual field; right there this project came to life in a way I’ve rarely experienced with the multimedia explorations including perfume.

Noise has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I will come back to answer the question of whether it smells good after I have reviewed Bass & Drone. On a more reductive scale Noise is one of Hr. Schoen’s most complete compositions ever. From a perfumer who excels in exploring the borders of perfumery Noise is perhaps the best example of avant-garde in his repertoire.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample set I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Reviews of Bass and Drone can be found here.

New Perfume Reviews Raymond Matts Tsiling and Tulile- Declaration of Intent

I am not sure when I met Raymond Matts for the first time. I am sure about the where, at a Sniffapalooza lunch during a Spring Fling or Fall Ball. He gave a talk which spoke to the room about the state of perfume at that moment in time. He boldly declared perfume blogging as irrelevant. I was just starting to write and I wondered if he was right. Here was a man with a wealth of experience from nearly thirty years in the fragrance business. I like people who take provocative stances and I listened to all he said and considered his hypothesis.

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Raymond Matts

Mr. Matts has shown the same surety whenever our paths have crossed in the years since. Late in 2014 I found out he was going to have his own brand of perfume. Like so much about Mr. Matts these perfumes are declarative statements of intent. In my initial testing I have found all seven to have distinct pleasures. I want to really give all of them a little more time than I would normally and so my reviews of the entire line are going to happen in a series over the next few weeks. For this first installment I am going to focus on Tsiling and Tulile.

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Olivier Gillotin

The names of all of the fragrances are made up words meant to convey something about them. In the press materials it is said they are meant to smell the way they sound. More than any other Tsiling lives up to this. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin was given a brief to capture a plastic flower which exudes a natural scent. This makes Tsiling a lively exercise with M. Gillotin having to strike just the right balance between the artificial and the natural. His choice is to start with the natural and allow for the artificial to provide the finish. The top notes are a mix of an aquatic accord, some green notes, and pear. The pear is most prominent and the other notes provide the more natural watery green of nature. As you move into the heart orris comes first and it is a rooty version. After M. Gillotin adds honeysuckle and what is named as rice notes the whole thing seems to plasticize in a time-lapse fashion. It just goes from natural to unnatural over the course of an hour or so. Then for the majority of the time I wore Tsiling it smells like a plastic flower scented with natural oils. Very late a bit of patchouli comes out but it is very minimal in nature. Tsiling has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

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Christophe Laudamiel

Lots of perfumes marketed to men are said to be bracing. That usually means loud and overpowering most of the time. For Tulile Mr. Matts asked perfumer Christophe Laudamiel to create a masculine perfume which was embracing, instead. It starts off with a traditional zing of citrus over some aquatic notes. This is a common trope for men’s perfume. M. Laudamiel then starts to shift the paradigm as he uses lily of the valley as the floral heart of Tulile. This is a very floral muguet which combines very well with the watery citrus. It is because the citrus sticks around that Tulile doesn’t become overtly floral. For the base notes M. Laudamiel mixes two woody aromachemicals, Polywood and Ambrox. There is an interesting effect I have found with synthetics like both of these. By themselves they often irritate me. But if they are the right two synthetics they form an accord which is very pleasant. In the case of Tulile the Polywood and Ambrox form an opaque woody accord which is surprisingly soft for something composed of synthetic components. Tulile has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I’ll be back over the next few weeks with reviews of the other five perfumes in the line.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Raymond Matts.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews DSH Perfumes Peace, Love, and Perfume- Serious Fun

I think there are times I probably attach too much importance to the business of perfume. It is why I am glad there are opportunities to shake off the self-important stance and remember that perfume is fun. An ongoing opportunity for me to do this has been The PLP Project created to celebrate the third anniversary of the Facebook group Peace-Love-Perfume, or in this world of abbreviated terms, PLP. The originator and ringmaster of the group, Carlos J. Powell, reached out to a number of perfumers to create a perfume. One of the perfumers he contacted was Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes. He gave her a simple brief for each of three perfumes, one for each word in the group name. He asked for Peace to be “a meditative incense fragrance.” Love to be “a sexy animalic fragrance.” Perfume to be “a traditional cologne with a twist on the concept.” Ms. Hurwitz loves these kind of open-ended concepts and I suspect it is because she has fun just letting it rip. One of the things I admire about her is that while these might have a bit more light-heartedness to them they are never anything less than perfumes with Ms. Hurwitz’s consummate skill on display.

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When asked for a meditative incense fragrance as Peace Ms. Hurwitz decides she isn’t just going to rely on the classics like frankincense and myrrh. Nope she throws in a bit of Laotian oud, Bakul attar, and Choya Ral. On top a bit of green champaca leaf and a pairing of rose de mai and orris adds some floralcy but this is the promised incense fragrance. My only quibble is with it being meditative. Peace is a resin lover’s house party. It is so full of interesting resins and combinations I am sure I could never just contemplate a single point while wearing this. It is just like the best gatherings with way too many interesting people around you can’t stop for fear you might miss something. Each time I wore Peace the resins presented themselves slightly differently and that increased my enjoyment immensely.

When Ms. Hurwitz is asked for an animalic fragrance as she was for Love I know I am in for something memorable. Ms. Hurwitz and I have spent a lot of time talking about the great perfumes of the past. When asked to go animalic I knew she would be thinking about those classics. As she did with Peace she makes sure Love is not going to be lacking and so she takes musk, civet, castoreum, and ambergris which are the foundation of those mid-twentieth century perfumes and then twists it with a combination of more contemporary botanical animalics, ambrette, labdanum, and hyracium. This is all matched with a fantastic indolic jasmine and gardenia. This is so over-the-top it reminded me of Norma Desmond and a line she never said, “I am big. It’s the perfume that got small.” Love does feel a bit like an unearthed relic of a few decades ago but it is a delightful riff on perfume from that time period as only a student of those perfumes could accomplish.

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Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

As regular readers know I love this renaissance of cologne we are currently in. By asking Ms. Hurwitz to deliver a twisted cologne in Perfume I was very excited.  The first twist begins by using a large dose of rhubarb paired with grapefruit. There is a wonderful synergy between these two notes but the real twist comes when she soaks them in a jigger of cognac. This rapidly flows in to an herbal heart of basil paired with fruit and a jasmine-like pittosporum. The transition from the top to the heart is not as abrupt as it might sound. Ms. Hurwitz has smoothed the transition out so it is more gradual than it might seem. Ambrette and vetiver provide a traditional finish to Perfume but there were plenty of twists and turns before allowing us to catch our breath at the end.

Peace and Love are extrait strength and last for 12-14 hours on my skin with minimal sillage. Perfume lasts for 6-8 hours with average sillage.

All three perfumes show Ms. Hurwitz at her best taking a very broad brief and composing three perfumes with a joyful abandon which permeates every moment of Peace, Love, and Perfume.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Zoologist Perfumes Beaver, Panda, & Rhinoceros- Mr. Wong Bought a Zoo

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One of the things 2014 is going to be remembered for is the number of different places which fostered perfumes. Victor Wong of Toronto,Canada is a good example of this. After staying at a hotel and becoming enamored of their bath products he threw himself headlong into studying perfume and how that scent came to be. Earlier this year that led him to found Zoologist Perfumes. Mr. Wong would ask two very different independent perfumers, Chris Bartlett and Paul Kiler, to help him realize his vision of his first three perfumes: Beaver, Panda, and Rhinoceros.

Victor Wong

Victor Wong

As you can tell by the name of the perfumes and the brand itself Mr. Wong wanted to create animal inspired perfumes but with the added degree of difficulty of using no animal-derived products. This posed a challenge to both Mr. Bartlett and Mr. Kiler. I can say both found ingenious solutions to the restriction placed upon them.

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Chris Bartlett

Beaver was signed by Mr. Bartlett whose own line of perfume is called Pell Wall. There is a line on that website that describes his creations as, “fragrances that some people will love, rather than perfumes everyone will like.” Beaver lives up to that motto as in consultation with Mr. Wong they wanted to capture the smell of the beaver lodge. The remains of the smell of the animal itself among the trees used to build the lodge. In most cases Mr. Bartlett would just reach for the actual raw ingredient from a beaver, castoreum, and go from there. This time he had to create a castoreum accord. This results in a truly fascinating beast which is completely animalic but it has a bit of complexity and flexibility real castoreum just doesn’t have.  A matador-like bit of citrus reveals linden underneath. The castoreum accord comes next and it is dark and clean at the same time. It also goes really well with the musks Mr. Bartlett chose. Those musks add a bit of wateriness before a set of woody notes make you realize you’re surrounded by chewed down trees. Beaver might be the best animalic perfume for those turned off by civet and real castoreum because by creating an accord using non-animal ingredients it makes it more approachable. It also makes it more interesting. Beaver has 6-8 hour longevity and modest sillage.

Paul Kiler

Paul Kiler

Panda was signed by Mr. Kiler who also has produced a number of perfumes under his PK Perfumes label. Instead of reproducing the animal Mr. Kiler instead chose to focus on the surroundings of a typical Panda in China. He would assemble a grouping of Asian raw materials like bamboo, zisu leaves, Sichuan pepper, pemou root, and Buddha’s hand citron. Mr. Kiler sends you on a journey into the Chinese countryside in search of a Panda but along the way you are instead captured by the natural beauty surrounding you. It opens with a misty green accord courtesy of bamboo, citron, and zisu leaves. It is the brilliant green of a stand of bamboo. Mr. Kiler then weaves in osmanthus and orange blossom. The orange blossom is just the right floral foil for the green opening. Osamnthus’ leathery quality makes you believe the panda you seek might have just been here. You finally end in a forested grove of sandalwood and pemou trees. Pemou is a creamy balsamic raw material and when blended with sandalwood you get a lovely soft accord. A spiral of incense skirls across the woods at the end. You may not find the panda you were looking for but sometimes the journey can be the goal. Panda has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Rhinoceros was also signed by Mr. Kiler and it is my favorite of the first three. One of the reasons is this is much less a perfume about a rhinoceros or where you find a rhinoceros. It is instead a perfume which is an abstraction of the size and power of the titular beast. Mr. Kiler brings together vibrantly overt notes like rum, tobacco, and leather. He doesn’t let them charge across the savannah at you. He allows them to come together in the knowledge that they could send you flying but from a distance they exude a presence. Rum, lavender, and sage form the opening salvo. Mr. Kiler has balanced them expertly and the booziness on top of the sage and lavender forms a drunken greenish accord which I really enjoyed. Tobacco holds the heart together and it is surrounded by some immortelle to make the tobacco sweeter. Pine and cedar form a frame to hold the tobacco within. Leather is the base note over which Mr. Kiler layers amber, smoke, and vetiver. This could have been a smoky animalic miasma but Mr. Kiler keeps control of all of the ingredients so they come off in their best light. Rhinoceros is my favorite because it was more representation than reality and I like my imagination to be part of the perfume wearing experience. Rhinoceros has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

My hat is off to Mr. Wong, Mr. Bartlett, and Mr. Kiler on a very impressive debut. I hope that 2015 sees an expansion of the olfactory menagerie begun here.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Isabey Lys Noir- Noir Done Right

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One of the most used words in perfume names is “noir”.  According to Michael Edwards’ Fragrances of the World there are over 150 perfumes with the word in their name. I feel very Inigo Montoya-like, from “The Princess Bride”, when I use his quote, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” What Noir should be is something with depth and perhaps a bit of intrigue and danger. What happens all too often is the perfume rounds up a bunch of heavy notes slams them together and points and says, “Noir!” I do not think it means what you think it means. When I receive a sample with noir in the name it almost immediately brings out my inner Inigo Montoya. When I received my sample of the new Isabey Lys Noir it turned out my inner skeptic would be shelved for a perfume which absolutely understands what noir is.

Isabey was a perfume house which had its heyday back in the 1920’s. It was a much desired brand for the socialite set and especially Gardenia left its mark. After the Great Depression Isabey was much changed and eventually was discontinued. In 2002 Panouge acquired the brand and re-released Gardenia. Perfumer Jean Jacques would do a creditable job and over a number of limited releases Gardenia would sell out time and again. Panouge then began, in 2009, allowing M. Jacques to start adding to Gardenia by reformulating more of the classic Isabey perfumes. Lys Noir is the fourth of those perfumes to be released. Lys Noir was first released in 1924 and in that time frame art deco and noir originated and became inextricably linked. M. Jacques has done a fantastic job at re-creating a perfume which captures both of those influences.

jean-jacques

Jean Jacques

In those noir fragrances I derided in my opening paragraph a note like black pepper would be used because black=noir in the pedestrian mind. In Lys Noir, M. Jacques uses black pepper as an opening bit of punctuiuation.  A leading exclamation point. Black pepper can be such a vibrant note when done right and here is it exactly that. It leads into one of the best white flower hearts I’ve smelled in a long time. The lily that is in the name is there but the real stars of Lys Noir are tuberose and narcissus. These are notes which act like flappers of the time period; free spirited, assured along with a bit of attitude. M. Jacques get the balance just right here as the tuberose and the narcissus meld together like old friends. The lily tints it slightly green and heliotrope adds some high harmonics. This is where M. Jacques gets noir right. At this point Lys Noir feels very retro, it also feels like it might be right on the edge of getting out of control. There is also a narcotic quality to white flowers in high doses and that is also present. The base doesn’t disappoint as it transitions to a dark mahogany wood accord. If you’ve ever smelled a fine mahogany piece of furniture oiled and polished this is the wood accord which forms the base of Lys Noir. Some patchouli and musk round it out.

Lys Noir has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

For one of the very few times a perfume with noir in the name gets it right. Lys Noir is a brilliant perfumed time capsule which reflects the sensibilities of its time frame beautifully.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Keiko Mecheri Embruns- Crashing Surf

Every day is an opportunity to learn new things. A recent new thing I learned was co-incidentally the name of a new perfume release. When I eagerly received the new Keiko Mecheri Embruns I thought the name was a take-off on embers and so I was expecting smoke and incense. I was so very surprised to find something entirely different. It turned out the word embruns has nothing to do with smoke or fire. It actually has something to do with the ocean and the waves. Embruns is the French word for the spray which comes off the crashing of waves against the shore. It turns out to be an apt word which does match the perfume inside the bottle.

keiko mecheri

Keiko Mecheri

In the press release Embruns is described as “water for a Japanese eccentric literati”. Embruns does use an ethereal sea spray note early on but it eventually leads to a floral heart before turning into clean woods and a bit of sweet. It is a concept of austere controlled masculinity with only the sea spray allowing any entropy to decay the order.

Embruns takes that typical aquatic accord and turns it sheer and slightly opaque. In other compositions this accord would make you feel like you were standing right on the beach. In Embruns it is more like you are looking down from a cliff at a distance as the waves pummel the rock face. The wind carries the spray to you from afar. What is also here is the Japanese citron called Yuzu. It adds a citiric foundation for the sea spray to settle upon. This is a finely honed opening where getting the right balance had to be very difficult. The heart is a little easier as orris transitions from the yuzu and sea spray into a sturdy floral heart. The orris sets the stage for a very refined leather accord to join it. Leather and orris are becoming one of my favorite perfume pairings as they seem to complement each other very nicely. Here after the orris is present the leather provides a richness that turns the iris into something quite virile. The base notes go woody with sandalwood picking up on the creamy qualities of the leather and the cedar cleanly framing the orris. A pinch of vanilla makes it a tiny bit sweet, too.

Embruns has 10-12 hour longevity and modest sillage. This is one of those fragrances that you will think is gone only to have someone comment on how nice you smell.

You might think after so long Ms. Mecheri might have little new to say. Embruns is evidence to the contrary. It shows a creative effort that has done nothing but become more sophisticated over time.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Memo French Leather- Before Sunrise

I don’t know why I am having such strong evocations of some of my favorite movies as I smell new perfumes lately. Get ready the latest release from Memo called French Leather has me seeing a particular movie every time I wear it. The seeds of the connection were planted when I was speaking with John Molloy, the co-founder of Memo, at Pitti Fragranze in September. He only had enough for me to test on a strip and a bit of skin. As we spoke we came up with the idea of a young Parisienne walking along the Seine late at night in a leather skirt holding a rose she received earlier in the evening. French Leather was the scent of a young sophisticate who has things to say while looking equally as fashionable. Even as I sniffed at my wrist throughout the day at Pitti I knew there was someone in my memory banks trying to claim this fragrance as her own. It wasn’t until I actually had a sample and wore it for a day that it finally made itself clear to me. French Leather is the scent of Celine of Art Linklater’s 1995 movie “Before Sunrise”.

before sunrise

Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in "Before Sunrise"

For those unfamiliar with the movie an American, Jesse, and Celine meet on a train. Jesse is heading to Vienna to fly back to the States. Celine is returning to Paris to continue her university studies. Jesse convinces her to stay with him in Vienna, until his flight leaves the next morning, and they spend the night walking and talking. Actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy portray two adults still trying to figure out what their future holds for them. Both of them speak as only a scriptwriter can provide for them. Even so the actors are so charming it has always been a favorite movie of mine. Celine is a young woman who enjoys her youth while still holding on to a romantic ideal of what her future might be. French Leather is that mix of the insouciance of youth over the development of a sophisticated adult. Creative Director Clara Molloy and perfumer Alienor Massenet have made a rose and leather perfume that exudes playfulness and elegance in equal measures.

alienor-massenet-parfumeuse_787253

Alienor Massenet

Few notes will do a better job of providing a bit of fun than the lime note which opens French Leather. After speaking with M. Molloy lime was not what I expected to be the first thing I smelled. Mme Massenet’s lime is that quirky smile from a smart woman who clearly has a sense of humor. It is made even more vibrant by the addition of juniper berry and pink pepper. They provide the intelligence underneath the laughter. The heart is the passion of our imaginary young woman as a full-blooded rose wears itself on its sleeve. It is very extroverted as it is expansive and for a good while it is the rose which you smell. Eventually you find a bit of herbal green quality which comes from clary sage. The sage is an announcement that the leather is on its way.  Mme Massenet uses a refined leather accord, the kind which would be used to make an article of clothing like a skirt. She then uses styrax, vetiver, and musk to provide textural contrast. The rose is still going strong as the leather accord takes some time to resolve itself and eventually stand tall. The last few hours are the smell of the rose and leather together.

French Leather has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Memo is one of my favorite perfume lines because Mmes Molloy and Massenet have formed a fabulous partnership which has created one of the standout collections in all of perfumery. French Leather is another excellent addition to the brand.

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

Mark Behnke