New Perfume Reviews Creed Acqua Originale Collection Aberdeen Lavender, Asian Green Tea, Cedre Blanc, Iris Tubereuse, & Vetiver Geranium

It has been a while since Creed has released a completely new perfume. Last year’s Millesime 1849 is the only new fragrance since 2011. 2014 will make up for that as Creed inaugurates a new collection, Acqua Originale, with five new releases: Aberdeen Lavender, Asian Green Tea, Cedre Blanc, Iris Tubereuse, and Vetiver Geranium. Olivier Creed is the perfumer for all five and he has created a collection of luminous perfumes which all exude a beautiful glow.

Aberdeen Lavender is a lavender but it is surrounded by a fantastic choice of notes by M. Creed. Before you get to the lavender in the heart the top notes of absinthe, rosemary, and lemon create a fascinating accord of herbal and citrus components. Once the lavender rises to prominence it is supported with orris and tuberose. The lavender and the absinthe seem like they were made to go together and I really enjoyed the moments they were both on top. This all ends with a suede leather accord along with patchouli and vetiver. Lavender is such a common perfumery note but M. Creed gives it a luxurious makeover.

Thankfully there are no truth in naming statutes for perfume. If there was Asian Green Tea would be arrested for false expectations. I have to say I was expecting another riff on jasmine tea or mate but M. Creed wanted to make an elegant citrus floral. The top notes are a brilliant collage of lemon, mandarin, petitgrain, and neroli. M. Creed lets these notes form a sunburst in the early moments of the development. Violet and sticky green blackcurrant buds form the heart. According to the note list there is supposed to be tea here but I don’t detect it at all. What is here is a dense green fruity floral heart. The base is a silky smooth mix of sandalwood and amber. The name aside this is a great fruity floral perfume among the best Creed has ever done. Just don’t look for the tea.

Olivier_CREED

Olivier Creed

Cedre Blanc is the most straightforward of the Acqua Originale Collection. It runs in a fairly straight line from a green top of galbanum and cardamom through a heart of geranium and waterliy down to a base of cedar and vetiver. It is very well composed but it really seems to me that only cedar lovers are going to want this one as it feels so boring.

Iris Tubereuse is anything but what I expected. I was ready for an olfactory tussle between iris and tuberose. Instead of conflict the purple flower escorts the white flower out in a surprising harmony. Orange and galbanum form an orthogonal pair of green and citrus into which violet is inserted. This forms a sort of iris accord which is more malleable and it expands to corral the tuberose in the heart. Very quickly this all comes together on my skin and the richness of the tuberose with the softness of the “iris” is quite pleasant. The base is a simple duo of vanilla and musk. It is that moment when the iris accord and the tuberose combine which makes this one magical.

Vetiver Geranium is my favorite of the Acqua Originales because M. Creed really gets imaginative with his composition. Lemon is on top again but it is paired with a marvelous Granny Smith apple. This makes the early moments feel crisp and tart. I enjoyed this opening so much I kept topping up on the days I wore this just to get a little more. The green tinted rose quality of geranium is front and center in the heart and here M. Creed dusts it with smoldering cinnamon. The spicy floral is dynamic and as lovely as the top notes. Patchouli and amber provide the foundation of Vetiver Geranium and it is simple and appropriately chosen.

The Acqua Originale Collection has 8-10 hour longevity and below average sillage. These are light compositions and they can seem to be gone when they are still there.

If you are interested in these perfumes I urge you to make sure you try them on skin. I sniffed them on blotters at Esxence and walked away unimpressed. Once I had the samples in hand and wore them over the last six weeks they are much better when on skin. Wearing each for a couple days completely altered my initial opinion of the collection. Particularly Asian Green Tea and Vetiver Geranium have risen very high in my estimation.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples I received at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Agonist Solaris- Midnight Sun

My only experience with the Midnight Sun came on my honeymoon when we cruised to Alaska, followed by a tour of the state. It was an experience which illuminated the effect daylight has on one’s emotional state. I would be happily moving along and would look at my watch to see it was 11PM when it felt like 4PM. The light was almost magical in the way it energized and sustained me. In conjunction with the extended daylight there was a great crispness to the air we were breathing which also seemed especially rejuvenating. I hadn’t considered the idea of a fragrance attempting to evoke the Midnight Sun. If I did give it some thought I would’ve imagined Niclas and Christine Lydeen, owners and creative directors, of Agonist to be capable of doing it. The ninth release Solaris is exactly this.

christine niclas lydeen

Christine and Niclas Lydeen

The Lydeens have forged a durable partnership with perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin and through the eight previous perfumes created a very Nordic aesthetic for the Agonist line. This aesthetic has a bit of an aloof personality and many find Agonist to be a perfume line which requires too much effort to get close to. I have always found that slightly chilly antipathy the perfumes tend to wear defiantly something which perversely makes me want to give them an extra spritz when wearing them. If you have found this style one you have had issues with in the past Solaris might be a great perfume to give it a try again. M. Pellegrin has made the easiest to wear Agonist to date by turning Solaris into an unnaturally long lasting citrus fragrance whose sun finally sets on the woods in the distance.

fabrice-pellegrin-firmenich

Fabrice Pellegrin

M. Pellegrin uses a veritable olfactory produce section of citrus notes with pink grapefruit, mandarin, lemon, and petitgrain combining to make a mega-citrus accord. To add some variation black pepper adds spice and black currant adds dark berry features. The pepper and currant have the effect of turning all that citrus into something less bracing and more diffuse in effect. It is a really beautiful combination. Galbanum anchors the heart with a green focal point. M. Pellegrin then uses peach, ginger, an ozonic accord, and litsea cubeba. That last note is an evergreen shrub found in Southeast Asia. Its essential oil is mostly the lemon scented molecule Citral. The rest of it is as you would expect from an evergreen, lighter greens and a very subtle floral component somewhere between iris and violet. It isn’t often used but based on Solaris I would like to see it used a little more. It is what extends the citrus vibe from the top notes. The peach and ginger balance it out with fruit and spice. The ozonic accord is that of a lungful of clear cool crisp air inhaled with gusto. The base notes are centered on labdanum. Tonka and benzoin add sweetness, patchouli and amber add depth. As befits a fragrance inspired by the Midnight Sun the base notes don’t show up for a long time and when they do they are there for a shorter time than normal.

Solaris has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I didn’t know I wanted a Midnight Sun perfume. Solaris has shown me the fallacy of that thinking. M. Pellegrin has made a fragrance of opaque strength which captures a feeling, a place, and the light just right

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

Mark Behnke

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

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

nathalie lorson

Nathalie Lorson

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

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

alexandra de montfort

Alexandra de Montfort

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

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

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review D.S. & Durga HYLNDS Foxglove- Oisin’s Grave

Brooklyn-based Independent perfume brand D.S. & Durga branched out in 2013 by producing the HYLNDS collection. The first four fragrances were evocations of the Highlands myths and folklore. The fifth release Foxglove continues that tradition as it is focused on the man who was considered the greatest poet of Ireland, Oisin. Perfumer David Seth Moltz was inspired by a visit to the gravesite. He says, “When I walked up to Oisin’s grave, I found one foxglove flower facing it 20 feet from the site. It was if Nieve was sitting watch over her lost love.”

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One of the characteristics of the HYLNDS collection of perfumes is they all have a distinctive sense of place within their composition. When I smell all of these fragrances I feel very much aware of the inspiration surrounding me. Foxglove does a fantastic job of fusing the legend of Oisin with the idea of standing near his grave on a damp moor with a single bloom in front of you. Mr. Moltz has chosen a slightly vegetal citrus top. Champaca absolute centers the heart. Leather combined with immortelle makes up the base. It is a fragrance of open green spaces.

david seth moltz

David Seth Moltz

Mr. Moltz uses citron peel, rosewood, and Queen Anne’s lace as his opening trio. One should always remember that Queen Anne’s lace is a member of the carrot family and as such while floral it also carries a significant vegetal quality. The citron is well-chosen contrast for that with the rosewood adding gentle woody aspects underneath it all. Champaca rises to the foreground next and it is buttressed with orris and neroli. The two supporting notes help the champaca from being overwhelming as they temper the more boisterous qualities of the absolute. We are standing near a grave and should show some respect. The base is my favorite part of Foxglove as Mr. Moltz starts with a smooth leather. This is the leather of a saddle ridden upon often, well-oiled, and taken care of. The leather accord has a wonderfully broken in feeling to it. The choice of immortelle is also a great decision and it blends well with the leather accord. The final two ingredients in the base are ambergris and peach. These shouldn’t be as good with the leather and immortelle as they are. Together this carries a hint of the sea, the dampness of the highlands, and the leather of a warrior poet. This last phase of Foxglove is what I look forward to whenever I wear it.

Foxglove has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I really believe this HYLNDS collection is the best most cohesive set of fragrances D.S. & Durga has produced. I am not sure if Mr. Moltz is just especially inspired by the subject matter or if this is just the evolution of his skills as an independent perfumer. Foxglove is my favorite of the five and it is because of that leather and immortelle base as it conjures up its location as well as a perfume possibly can.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by D.S. & Durga.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Serge Lutens L’Orpheline- Lost in the Light

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When a perfume brand evolves sometimes it evolves with the perfumista who loves it and sometimes it grows away. Artists have to be encouraged to follow their muse and that doesn’t always mean that old fans will remain fans and new fans won’t try the new direction. I am one of those who is having a hard time sticking with the new direction Serge Lutens has taken over the last three years. Ever since the advent of the L’Eau series M. Lutens has decided he wants to walk in the light. My problem is I don’t want to walk in his version of the light. The latest release L’Orpheline finally made me see the light.

serge lutens

Serge Lutens

M. Lutens has said in a few published interviews that many of his fragrances are meant to pay tribute to his mother who abandoned him during World War II. Without going all Sigmund Freud a perfume which translates as The Orphan is probably dealing with some of these issues. An artist’s life experiences often make for compelling art but L’Orpheline is just painful to me. When I received my sample of the spring release Laine de Verre I couldn’t bring myself to wear it. It was full of jagged aldehydes, an overdose of cashmeran, all over synthetic musks. The worst Serge Lutens fragrance ever. In L’Orpheline, perfumer Christopher Sheldrake, recycles the aldehydes and cashmeran and this time adds in incense in place of the musk. Which is an improvement because I at least was able to wear L’Orpheline for a couple of days and I couldn’t wear Laine de Verre at all.

Christopher-Sheldrake

Christopher Sheldrake

Those aldehydes are the beginning of L’Orpheline and for me it is a collection of all of the most unpleasant aldehydes. It is overtly metallic, unnecessarily sharp, and irritating. It is an example of all of the worst qualities aldehydes bring to a fragrance. At least in L’Orpheline the cashmeran is kept a little more under control but just as in Laine de Verre I am not sure what M. Sheldrake is going for in this aldehyde-cashmeran accord but I just don’t like where it takes me. It lingers around for way too long like this before I get some relief from incense and patchouli in the base; which actually serve to remind me of other perfumes from the brand I like better.

L’Orpheline has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Over the last three years only La Fille de Berlin has been the kind of fragrance I want and love about Serge Lutens. Everything else has been an attempt to take things in a different direction. If you have enjoyed the L’Eaus then I think L’Orpheline will be another which you will enjoy as it is that audience for whom it is made for. Alas I am not that audience.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aedes de Venustas Oeillet Bengale- This Rose is on Fire

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Every perfumer has a particular style that, in essence, becomes their signature on a fragrance they have composed. That doesn’t mean they can’t make perfumes outside of that but there is a sweet spot or comfort zone where these perfumers can seemingly make a memorable fragrance at will. Rodrigo Flores-Roux has a portfolio of many varied and fantastic perfumes. When he chooses to work on a floral centered fragrance that is where I think he has done his best work. The recent release Aedes de Venustas Oeillet Bengale is as good as Sr. Flores-Roux gets.

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Rodrigo Flores-Roux

One of the reasons I think he is so deft with florals is he spent a year in college before going to Versailles to begin his perfume training. That year at university in Mexico City he spent studying biology. In an alternative universe where he wasn’t accepted into ISIPCA to become a perfumer I imagine him becoming a botanist presiding over a magnificent greenhouse of the most unique, and fragrant, blooms. In the universe we live in Sr. Flores-Roux is a perfumer and he brings the observant eye of a scientist when he chooses to interpret a flower as a perfume. There is always an elegance of precision to Sr. Flores-Roux’s scents but when it comes to the florals it often seems like it is being dissected into its component notes to be put back together. Oeillet Bengale is a type of China rose and owner of the perfume boutique Aedes de Venustas, Karl Bradl, saw a still life of it and knew he wanted this to be the inspiration for their third fragrance. Without the assistance of the press materials I saw “oeillet” and expected carnation. What Sr. Flores-Roux has produced is a simulation of the China rose by using carnation as the foundation to create the accord. A number of spice notes have to be balanced exactly to bring to life the desired “fiery rose”. All of this is placed on a foundation of smoking incense.

Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner

Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner Owners and Creative Directors of Aedes de Venustas

The first few minutes of Oeillet Bengale show off Sr. Flores Roux’s highly evolved citrus accord. It is paired with herbs and a surprising bit of strawberry. Together it creates a snappy opening full of refreshing notes. The carnation comes up next and this is the current version of carnation stripped of its clove-like nature because that version is no longer IFRA-compliant. Sr. Flores-Roux puts back in what IFRA has removed by using his own mix of spicy notes; clove (of course), cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper return the spicy heart to the carnation and improves upon it. The heart of Oeillet Bengale really does feel as if it is a rose on fire as the florals and the spices feel right on the verge of spontaneous combustion. To add a calming effect Sr. Flores-Roux takes frankincense, labdanum, and tolu balsam to form a smoky resinous base to rest the smoldering bloom upon. For a long time on my skin this is where Oeillet Bengale lingers as the carnation and spices float on a resinous cloud of pungent vapor.

Oeillet Bengale has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Oeillet Bengale is one of the most compelling perfumes Sr. Flores-Roux has created and it takes its place among my favorites by him. This is my favorite of the three Aedes de Venustas fragrances released to date. I look forward to whatever Sr. Flores-Roux will release next but when he is in his floral sweet spot there is nobody better.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Soivohle Amun Re The Tears of Ra- Tracks of My Tears

Creative people are fascinating to watch especially those who have multiple outlets for that urge. Liz Zorn is one of those polycreative people. It is her perfumes that brought Ms. Zorn to my attention under her brand Soivohle. For the last few years her energies have been focused more on visual arts than olfactory ones. Thankfully she still returns to the perfume aspect of her artistry to occasionally produce a new perfume. Just recently she released Amun Re The Tears of Ra.

Ms. Zorn is one of my favorite independent perfumers because of the effort she puts into her raw materials. She often works with all natural materials and Amun Re is one of those instances. When Ms. Zorn chooses to work with an all-natural palette I am impressed with the textural effects she manages to weave into her fragrances. In Amun Re she was inspired by the story of The Tears of the Egyptian sun god Ra who was said to have cried tears of honey which as they fell turned to honeybees which upon landing on earth became the first men. Just thinking about the concept of tears of honey I envision viscous sweet droplets oozing down the side of a sweaty face picking up the tang of skin all along its track. The early moments of Amun Re are all about the viscosity and the gravity drawing it downward. The heart transforms to a flight of florals before ending with a botanical musk centered skin accord.

liz zorn

Liz Zorn

Amun Re opens with the welling up of that metaphorical tear of honey. The sweetness has a heft to it which Ms. Zorn cuts with a very light application of aldehydes. The spice of tears comes in a bit of cinnamon supported with citron as contrast. Together this makes for a beautifully complex opening as the honey is evolved into something almost tactile. The heart is focused on ylang-ylang in its more fleshy character. Opopanaz, hawthorn and linden assist in creating the floral heart of Amun Re. The final note in the heart is henna leaf and if you’ve ever smelled henna hair dye you know this smell. It is a fascinating choice and it really adds a great quality to the floral heart. The base goes sweeter as vanilla starts off followed by amber. Ms. Zorn’s botanical musk is the star of the base. Her version of an all-natural musk is really brilliant in its ability to feel completely animalic while not being of an animal. Ms. Zorn’s botanical musk is among the best I have found in the natural perfume community.

Amun Re The Tears of Ra has 6-8 hours of longevity and moderate sillage.

I have been enjoying seeing the paintings Ms. Zorn has been posting on her website but when I try something as good as Amun Re I can’t help but wish for more perfume. For now it is enough to let Amun Re cry my figurative tears for me. The real ones will only come if Ms. Zorn gives up perfume all together.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Amun Re I purchased from Soivohle.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Atelier Cologne Rendez-Vous- Softness of Purpose

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Atelier Cologne feels like such a mature perfume brand I have a hard time reminding myself that they are just under five years old. Creative Directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel were clear-eyed about what they wanted Atelier Cologne to be about. Over the last five years that clarity of vision has made one of the most consistently pleasing line of perfumes from any perfume producer going. They have taken a staid form of fragrance and re-invigorated it with their creativity. The latest release is called Rendez-Vous and as they have done so often they offer something new to the whole concept of cologne.

sylvie and christophe

Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel

Perfumer Jerome Epinette is back for his eleventh fragrance in the Atelier Cologne line. The keynote for Rendez-Vous is a Chinese osmanthus that carries a particular luminescence to it unusual in this floral note. The apricot and leather components of osmanthus are here but this has a sun burnished glow to it, as well. It makes it a different but wholly appropriate heart note to build a cologne around. M. Epinette takes traditional bracing elements on top and after the osmanthus appears he lets Rendez-Vous turn plush and soft as if you were sinking into a soft chair or a feather pillow. It is this overtly subdued finish which takes Rendez-Vous into unexplored territory within the cologne genre.

Jerome-Epinette

Jerome Epinette

M. Epinette begins in very familiar cologne territory with bergamot, lemon, and pink pepper as his opening stanza. This is classic cologne architecture. What comes next is not. The osmanthus comes to the foreground and as I mentioned above it is like it exists in its own private ray of sunshine. The remainders of the top notes almost act like dew being burned off by that sunbeam. The apricot quality comes out and it is rich and chewy. Orris combines with this to create a decadent duet, this is a fruity floral combination I can completely enjoy. As the osmanthus begins to shift towards the leathery qualities, violet leaves sharpen that transition with slightly metallic green borders. The base is an indulgent suede leather accord accompanied with a gentle white musk cocktail. All of this is as soft as a loved one’s caress. Rendez-Vous comes to an end in a most unexpected place, serenely.

Rendez-Vous has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Rendez-Vous is why I look forward to the latest release from Atelier Cologne. Every single release to date has been recognizably a cologne. Every single release to date has given me something new to consider on what that word, cologne, really means when I use it. Rendez-Vous fits right in with the family. I look forward to my next rendezvous with Atelier Cologne.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: Mme Ganter-Cervasel and M. Cervasel were married a few weeks ago and the picture above is from their wedding via their Facebook page.

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Wonderoud- The New Oud

The history of perfume raw materials has been a trail of tears when a unique natural ingredient is identified. The story of overharvesting Mysore sandalwood so that it now lives in protective custody of the Indian government is a cautionary tale. With the advent of oud-based fragrances, particularly over the last ten years, the old trees throughout its indigenous areas were being harvested at an alarming rate. Because oud requires time for the biological rot which forms the aromatic heartwood it looked like we were well on our way to another bad situation. Then scientists learned how to artificially induce and speed up the process. This lead to the growing of oud plantations and just this year the first harvests of this sustainable oud has found its way into perfumes.

Christian-Astuguevieille 

Christian Astuguevieille

It should be no surprise that a leader in using this new oud is Comme des Garcons as it is the centerpiece of their latest release Wonderoud. Creative Director Christian Astuguevieille worked with perfumer Antoine Maisondieu on creating a perfume which would display the new oud with the typical Comme des Garcons style. You might remember 2010’s Wonderwood and the intent here is similar. Antoine Lie was the perfumer for Wonderwood and it was an exploration of sandalwood which was layered with other woods. Over time I have come to think Wonderwood is an underrated sandalwood perfume. M. Maisondieu wants to take a different tack as he explores this new oud and uses herbal and spicy notes to capture the unguent nature of real oud in the early going before letting the woods come out to play in the end.

Antoine-Maisondieu

Antoine Maisondieu

M. Maisondieu lays down a pepper and thyme runway to start the journey in Wonderoud. The thyme adds rough green facets and the pepper grabs ahold of the decaying heart of the oud and brings out the beauty within the rot. M. Maisondieu also makes a stylistic decision to keep Wonderoud very dry. To accentuate this point he uses a fraction of Cedarwood from the Givaudan exclusive Orpur raw material collection. This cedarwood is as good as it gets and by choosing a fraction which picks up the greener woody aspects of cedar he makes an inspired choice. In my very limited experience with this new oud it shows its youth by being a bit greener and almost seems like it has a cedar component. It doesn’t but by using the cedarwood fraction it is made very apparent how this oud is different than others. Vetiver is the other keynote in the heart and it also works on both the green and woody parts of the composition in a supporting role. Australian sandalwood and synthetic sandalwood molecule Pashminol provide the remaining wood. Patchouli recalls the herbal beginning as it shows up at the end.

Wonderoud has 8-10 hours longevity and above average sillage.

sustainable oud harvest

The Harvested Sustainable Oud

Wonderoud is everything that is great about Comme des Garcons as they take the most ubiquitous perfume raw material of the past few years and find a way to make it new. It has been twenty years since the original Comme des Garcons fragrance was released. What Wonderoud displays is that Comme des Garcons still has the ability to be cutting edge without sacrificing approachability. Wonderoud is simply wonderful.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Comme des Garcons.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Scent of Hope- Jacques Fath Iris Gris Reincarnated

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Some of my favorite interactions in my perfume career are with independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. We have spent most of our time together walking, sniffing, and talking about perfume. We have chattered about the reality of vintage perfumes and which fragrances we think are the best ever. One we both agree belongs in that category is Jacques Fath Iris Gris. I know for myself it is the benchmark an iris fragrance has to live up to for me to think it extraordinary. Finding a bottle these days is a very expensive proposition.

One of the things I admire so much about Ms. Hurwitz is she spent the early part of her independent career reconstructing the great fragrances of the past. She is a believer in the adage that says to study an art form you must also try and reproduce it. That stage of her development is long past and now she is on the top tier of independent perfumers in the world. Earlier this year one of her clients who was fighting cancer asked Ms. Hurwitz to make an exception and to recreate Iris Gris for her. Through a happy confluence of events Ms. Hurwitz agreed. This has been named Scent of Hope.

Iris Gris_JacquesFath

Ms. Hurwitz has always let us into her creative process and for the task of making a new Iris Gris it was no different. On her blog DSH Notebook there are three parts about the whole process behind Scent of Hope and if you’re interested in the process I highly encourage you to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. The two things I took from those posts was how Ms. Hurwitz didn’t just take some of her original Iris Gris and get it analyzed. Instead she looked to two invaluable resources in the fragrant blogosphere; Barbara Herman and Octavian Coifan. Ms. Herman has been writing about perfume for many years at her blog Yesterday’s Perfume and she recently published a book “Scent and Subversion”. M. Coifan was the iconoclastic voice behind the now-defunct blog 1000 Fragrances. M. Coifan had exquisitely used his own nose to dissect Iris Gris and this gave Ms. Hurwitz a framework to start from. Ms. Herman has a way of using words to make a fragrance seem to arise from the computer screen. When I eventually try something she has described I find her description to be spot on. The second thing is Ms. Hurwitz let her nose and her client’s nose as well as their skin be their guide on when Scent of Hope was done. The scent strips were dispensed with and they let their feelings guide them to a final product.

DSH

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

How did they do? I’ll cut to the chase; fantastically well. It is only the use of a couple of modern equivalents which give away Scent of Hope’s contemporary birth. The genius of Iris Gris is the use of a particular aromachemical called aldehyde c-14 which is not an aldehyde but a different chemical class called a lactone. This lactone imparts a gauzy peach veil over the entire composition of Iris Gris and Ms. Hurwitz had to work with it in Scent of Hope. The trick is not to let the iris blunt this shimmering layer but to somehow support it as if you are looking at an iris through a peach colored scarf. If the balance is off the whole thing falls apart. Ms. Hurwitz’s previous experience studying the great perfumes had to come into play here because she manages this with what seems preternatural ease. Based on her blog posts she reached the finished product in very few mods.

I compare my bottle of Iris Gris and Scent of Hope and these are very close. The aging process has made the orris suppler in Iris Gris. In Scent of Hope it still has a lot of its chill and steel on display. What is absolutely identical is the use of aldehyde c-14 to caress and float above the iris. That is recreated perfectly. Scent of Hope lacks a bit of the animalic bite of the original mainly because those raw materials are no longer available. Even so Ms. Hurwitz has chosen a good group of modern musks to come very close. It is right here where the biggest difference between original and modern versions are apparent.

Ms. Hurwitz is a unique combination of passion and precision; both of those qualities were necessary to produce Scent of Hope successfully. This is a great iris fragrance and if you love iris you want to own this.

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

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: 30% of the proceeds of Scent of Hope will go to a Denver-area support center for those battling breast cancer called, “Sense of Security”.