New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Oud Wood Intense and Tobacco Oud Intense- Kissing Cousins

Tom Ford Private Blend new release names are starting to feel like challenges. The last one, Fucking Fabulous, led me to ask; “is it?” Now there are two more additions to the Tom Ford Private Blend collection what are going to beg the same question; Oud Wood Intense and Tobacco Oud Intense.

Intense is another of those names which often seems to mean more concentrated. When that is what it translates to in the bottle it isn’t that interesting. I was particularly concerned about a perfume called Oud Wood Intense. If there is a masterpiece in the Private Blend collection Oud Wood is in the running for that accolade. To go back and alter that was worrisome. Tobacco Oud Intense was less of a concern because I could see less destructive ways to make that intense. It helps that the original perfumers were involved in both. Richard Herpin returns for Oud Wood Intense while Olivier Gillotin gets an assist from Yann Vasnier on Tobacco Oud Intense. What both have produced are perfumes which are more like second cousins of each other there are some common blood lines but both are distinct from the other perfume they share a name with.

Richard Herpin

It doesn’t take any time at all to see the difference in Oud Wood Intense as the entire top accord is re-orchestrated. M. Herpin combines ginger, nutmeg and angelica root on top of the blond wood of cypress. There are faint echoes of the Szechuan pepper and cardamom opening of the original but this group of ingredients does create a top accord with more presence. M Herpin brings the oud to the forefront out of that top accord. He captures the rougher edges of oud by using sage, juniper berry, vetiver, and oakmoss. This is meant to make an oud accord which shows off some of the more difficult parts of oud. The base doesn’t let up as a huge slug of castoreum really doubles down on that. This creates an accord full of animalic depth which is probably not going to be to everyone’s taste. A clean woody base of sandalwood and patchouli finish this. Oud Wood Intense is that country cousin to the refined city cousin of Oud Wood. M. Herpin decided to let the deeper tones of oud free to make Oud Wood Intense.

Oud Wood Intense has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Olivier Gillotin (l.) and Yann Vasnier

Tobacco Oud Intense becomes the city cousin in this pair to the country cousin of Tobacco Oud. For Tobacco Oud Intense the perfumers work together to turn down the smoke while adding in gourmand aspects. The first of those is the near-signature Tom Ford addition of raspberry as the companion for coriander instead of the herbs of the original. Some Givaudan Orpur Olibanum sets the stage for the title notes. The purity of this Orpur version adds a level of refinement to the setting for the tobacco and oud to rise. As they do, this time they don’t smolder instead they become entwined with toasty tonka giving an entirely different style of heart accord from the original. Labdanum and patchouli provide the finishing touch for Tobacco Oud Intense.   

Tobacco Oud Intense has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am gratified to find both perfumes to not be more of the same but kissing cousins instead.

Disclosure: This review is based on press samples provided by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aerin Linen Rose- Hamptons Rose

It is difficult being the second act to a legend. When it comes to American beauty brands Estee Lauder is one of the great All-American success stories. From the foundation of the brand in the 1950’s into the business juggernaut it is currently she has defined beauty for over sixty years. One great aspect of that rise is fragrance was not relegated to being a bit player. It was a critical piece of the overall empire as it grew. There was a time when it looked like there was not going to be a next generation Lauder to carry on because she had two sons. Her younger son Ronald Lauder would provide the genetics when his oldest daughter Aerin would join the company where she is currently the Style and Image Director. In 2013 Aerin Lauder would follow her grandmother into the fragrance part of the business with her own brand called simply Aerin.

Aerin Lauder

The Aerin perfumes have been, by design, a collection of mostly light-hearted floral perfumes. There are a few exceptions but it is flowers which are the inspiration. Even then the flower most represented is rose. One of the first set of spring roses I received samples of for 2017 were the three new releases; Bamboo Rose, Garden Rose, and Linen Rose. If I have an overarching impression is these are nice high quality versions of simple floral constructs. Ms. Lauder has been working with Karyn Khoury as co-creative directors and they have worked well together with a coherent vision which has been consistent throughout the previous releases. What will always make a difference for me even in a fragrance which is not original is when it sets off a scent memory for me. When I got to Linen Rose it reminded me of the summers I spent on Shelter Island, NY which is why I enjoyed it so much. I came to find out when I got to the press materials Ms. Lauder was inspired by her rose garden in the Hamptons just a ferry ride away from Shelter Island.

Richard Herpin

I have come to like the rose perfumes which have a seaside theme of which Linen Rose is. If it is done well, as it is here, it captures the salt spray, the grass growing in the dunes, and the rose overriding it all. Working with perfumer Richard Herpin this is exactly what Linen Rose delivers.

Mr. Herpin opens on a citrus mixture of lemon leaves and orange all of which is inflated on a bubble of Hedione. One of the things which drew me to Linen Rose was Mr. Herpin dispenses with the typical suite of oceanic notes. He employs coconut water and vetiver to create the dunes and waves milieu. This is subtle and Mr. Herpin uses the Hedione as the expansive element along with those two notes. It works quite well as an alternative. The roses come in on this and they are there in all their typically powdery and spicy nature. It all heads down to a warm amber, vanilla, and benzoin finish.

Linen Rose has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Ms. Lauder is admirably creating her own version of the Estee Lauder legacy with this line of perfumes. I suspect that before too long there will be something special from this team. Linen Rose is maybe the first harbinger of that.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Aerin.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Badgley Mischka- Deep Cuts

1

Where does imitation begin and inspiration end? Of the many perfumes to end up in the Dead Letter Office the ones that try to mimic a popular style deservedly find their spot here. Even to this there are exceptions. Although the perfume which I think is the anomaly has also found its way into the Dead Letter Office; for maybe the same reason.

Badgley+Mischka

Mark Badgley and James Mischka

In 2006 fashion designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka were riding high. They were one of the go-to designers, under their Badgley Mischka label, for the red carpet crowd. Their sleek silhouettes were made for the Hollywood elite to be seen in. Like so many other designers before them their expansion into fragrance was a fait accompli.

richard-herpin

Richard Herpin

They would partner with perfumer Richard Herpin on their first release, Badgley Mischka. The stated desire was to make a perfume which was glamorous and refined. Lots of perfumes want to achieve this. I was expecting the designers of clothing who seemingly effortlessly captured this aesthetic could find the same in a fragrance.

Bagley Mischka is labeled as a floral chypre in its own classification. Which is one part of the reason I think it failed. If you spray a strip of Badgley Mischka for anyone and ask them to describe it the first word out of their mouth will be “fruity”, this isn’t just fruity it is massively so. It is so strongly fruity that you have to go on a search party in the fruit bowl to find the florals. They are there and they are critical to the overall effect but they are not as prominent as floral chypre would lead you to believe.

The other reason I think Badgley Mischka faded was it was a greatest hits collection of other perfumes on the same counter. It contains a strong gourmand facet. It is a fruity floral. It is a modern chypre. The problem comes when the scions of those styles are sitting right next to the bottle on the same sales counter. Why not take the original over the mash-up?

classic-deep-cuts-638w

To extend my music analogy further, while M. Herpin was making a pastiche of popular styles what he used in Badgley Mischka were the album tracks that were not hits, the deep cuts. The fruitiness is so unrestrained it is a syrupy expansive version of that. The gourmand is that caramel confectionary accord also matched with a lactonic milkiness which reminded me of those caramels with a cream core. The chypre exists without the bite of the oakmoss but the patchouli makes up for it.

Badgley Mischka opens up on that fruity accord I have mentioned. Berries in abundance explode around me. I feel like someone who has gorged myself at a raspberry pie eating contest with the evidence all over my face. The caramel accord comes next with peach lactone providing the creaminess. This is the opposite of the other gourmands of the time, quieter; kept in check by the berries. The floral accord of jasmine, osmanthus, and peony provide an important pivot point. Each of the florals provide something different than usual. Overwhelmed by the fruit and caramel the jasmine seems more indolic, the osmanthus leatherier, and the peony more astringent. It is what is needed to transition to the chypre accord. That accord is primarily patchouli and sandalwood. Some white musks are there to provide the rest of the chypre effect.

Badgley Mischka has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I am usually dismissive of these kind of greatest hits perfumes. Except Badgley Mischka connects with me because while it is following the leader it is marching to its own beat. Clearly the perfume buying public did not share my sentiment. Badgley Mischka was sent to the Dead Letter Office a few years ago. It is not one of those highly sought after discontinued fragrances. You can find it for a modest price at the discounters and online auction sites. That is if you’re looking for a fruity gourmand chypre that reminds you of something else you own.

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

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Tommy Bahama Set Sail St. Barts for Men- Guilty Pleasure

No matter what it we enjoy there is always a part of it that a person likes that is usually not shared by others. These are usually called guilty pleasures. They are the bad movie you love, mine is “Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension”. At least for me, almost all of my guilty pleasures are overstuffed packages trying to do too many things at the same time. In fragrance I have them and they are definitely found in the discount bins. My favorite perfume guilty pleasure was found in the perfume equivalent of flipping channels at 2AM, digging through the perfume bin at my local discounter chain. As I was doing that one day I came across a blue bottle with a bit of rope wound around the cap. I looked at the name and had remembered a spirited discussion on a couple of the forums saying this was better that you might think. That was enough for me to liberate it from the olfactory hinterlands and bring it home with me. That perfume is Tommy Bahama Set Sail St. Barts for Men.

tbsetsailstbarts

Tommy Bahama is best known for the Hawaiian shirts which carry the brand but over time it has branched out into other areas. In 2005 the released a pair of Tommy Bahama perfumes one for men and one for women. Every year for the next five years they would release a pair of men’s and women’s perfumes. The third set was released in 2007 and called Set Sail St. Barts. Perfumer Richard Herpin was asked to employ a tequila accord in both the men’s and women’s perfumes. This pair is a good example of how things can go right and how they can go wrong.  In Set Sail St. Barts for Women M. Herpin tried to mix the tequila with some strong tropical florals on top of a musk cocktail. It was like waking up in a flower shop after having had a few too many tequila shots. As a floral mixed with tequila it just didn’t work. For Set Sail St. Barts for Men M Herpin got rid of the flowers and replaced them with aquatic and fruit notes. This time everything works as it felt like sitting in a beach chair under a palm tree with a bunch of lime, a bottle of tequila, and tropical fruit.

richard-herpin

Richard Herpin

Set Sail St. Barts for Men opens with the bite of lime on top of an ozonic accord mixed with aquatic chords. It is a typical aquatic opening matched with citrus. A bit of wet green comes next as the kelp floating on the water’s surface comes to the foreground. Then a really lush tequila accord which contains a rough synthetic edge to it. This is raw unrefined tequila bought from the local market. M. Herpin matches it with a juicy tropical fruit synthetic. He calls it guava in the note list I get more mango or papaya from it. A woody base note reminiscent of a coconut palm heated by the sun anchors the base with some white musk and vanilla thrown in to add some depth.

Set Sail St. Barts for Men has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage. People will know you are wearing this.

There is nothing terribly original about this fragrance but it tickles me in some undefined place. I wore it for the first time this year over the past Memorial Day weekend and just like seeing the opening credits to Buckaroo Banzai it brings a loopy smile to my face, even if I’m the only one grinning.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Patchouli Absolu- Clear Patchouli

One of the first Tom Ford Private Blend perfumes released in 2007 was Amber Absolu. For many, including myself, it is one of the best entries of the Private Blend collection. By giving perfumer Christophe Laudamiel the direction to create a study in amber creative directors Tom Ford and Karen Khoury would repeat this starting with Oud Wood. The latest release, Patchouli Absolu, is another exploration of one of the most used notes in all of perfumery.

For this they turned to the same perfumer behind Oud Wood Richard Herpin. What made Oud Wood work so well was M. Herpin’s ability to surround oud with a set of notes not containing rose which allowed the full versatility of this, at the time, unusual perfume note to be displayed. With Patchouli Absolu his job is much different as he has to take a note probably every person who has any interest in fragrance is familiar with and make it different. He accomplishes this by making a refined version of patchouli. You could even say it is a patchouli which has been to a Tom Ford Men’s Store and fitted for a tux. It has the power you are familiar with but it is now refined and elegant as well.

richard-herpin

Richard Herpin(r.)

One of the ways M. Herpin does this is by using patchouli flower as one of his top notes. Patchouli comes from extraction of the leaves and the flower is not used very often because it is a more ephemeral version of what you get from the leaves. M. Herpin can do this because he matches it with a new aromachemical called Clearwood from Firmenich. Clearwood comes from a fermentation of sugar cane. Firmenich describes clearwood as a “Soft, clean version of patchouli without the earthy, leathery, and rubbery notes found in the natural oil.” It is this clearer version of patchouli which allows the patchouli flower to add back the parts that are missing but with a degree of subtlety. This opening sets the tone for the rest of the development as this patchouli is tamed. Even when after an herbal intermezzo of bay and rosemary the patchouli which comes from the leaves arrives it is also more controlled in every way like the man who has his name on the bottle. The base segues into a leather and woods finish surrounding the patchouli in a luxurious frame.

Patchouli Absolu has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

The funny thing about Patchouli Absolu is when you try it at first it seems very simple, maybe too simple, especially on a mouillette. I really didn’t find Patchouli Absolu compelling until I wore it. Once it was on my skin it became more expansive exponentially. On the strip is was all closed up; on my skin the very intricate opening truly comes to life. The use of Clearwood was a very smart choice by M. Herpin and it really showed once I was wearing it. Patchouli Absolu is a Tom Ford patchouli and that gives it a degree of luxury this ubiquitous note rarely finds.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Opus VIII- The Light’s Winning

2

The Library Collection from Amouage started in 2010 with the release of Opus I-IV and has released a new volume every year since. 2013’s Opus VII was an excursion into darkness which asked a wearer to gaze into the equivalent of an olfactory abyss. It was one of the more fascinating releases of last year because of the introspective nature of going for that level of depth. One of the hallmarks of the Library Collection is that it is a more experimental creative process than the paired “Man & Woman” annual releases of the main Amouage line. Creative Director Christopher Chong has urged the perfumers he has hired to realize his visions to push the limits in their designs. I imagine working for Mr. Chong has to be a fantastic experience as I’m sure there are few creative directors who believe enough in their customers that they will follow anywhere they are taken. Opus VII challenged that with its downward spiral of the heaviest notes in perfumery. For 2014, Opus VIII is the opposite as it glows with a gauzy sunlight although that gauziness is the remnants of some of those dark notes from Opus VII.

CHRISTOPHER_CHONG

Christopher Chong

The perfumers for Opus VIII are Pierre Negrin who participated with Alberto Morillas on Opus VII and Richard Herpin who is composing his first fragrance for Amouage. M. Negrin also did the exquisitely constructed Interlude Man in 2012. M.Herpin, like M. Morillas, has spent much of his time working on the more commercial side of the business. This sets up an interesting dynamic as these two come together to realize the brief that Mr. Chong asked of them, “an evocative exploration of the subconscious dialogue between illusion and reality.” What this translates to is an incandescent opening of jasmine followed by a transition of light and dark in the heart before the darker notes bring down fragrant twilight.

The opening of Opus VIII is jasmine sambac, ylang ylang, and orange flower. The early going is all about the jasmine, it floats off my skin like a heat mirage. The ylang ylang and orange flower shimmer as energetically but from a more distant perspective. Each is used to enhance a different part of the jasmine, the ylang pulls the sweetness to the foreground while the orange flower adds a slight bump to the indolic heart. Messrs. Negrin and Herpin make this glow like a golden halo. The florals are then subsumed by a wave of saffron, ginger, and incense. The lighter notes of ginger and saffron have a more prominent part of the heart but the incense slowly increases in character until the base notes start to arrive. Bay, benzoin, and balsam signal the lessening of the light. As I said earlier this is a gauzy kind of darkness as it sort of lays a film of these notes over the jasmine, which is still going strong, and its light can’t be put out by these intruders. A solid application of vetiver turns the later phases of Opus VIII distinctly woody but the jasmine still refuses to give way as its glow remains even as darkness threatens to descend.

Opus VIII has overnight, and then some, longevity and above average sillage.

cohle light winning

As I wore Opus VIII over the last week I was reminded of the final line from the recently completed HBO series “True Detective”. After one of the main characters has survived his encounters he talks about the night sky and how there is an awful lot of dark between the light. The other detective replies that everything used to be all black and the existence of the stars show that the light is winning. This is what I thought of as I wore Opus VIII the light at the heart of this fragrance continues to shine even though the black attempts to overwhelm it. Opus VIII is another bright star for both Amouage and The Library Collection.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Opus VIII provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke