Discount Diamonds: John Varvatos Cologne- Best in Class

Designer fragrances are a dime a dozen; most ending up not being worth a dime. It is why when there is a designer collection which stands out it really stands out. That is the case with the fragrance side of John Varvatos.

John Varvatos is an American fashion designer known for his rock and roll aesthetic. In 2004 he wanted to branch out into fragrance. From here the story usually goes this way; brand name turns over creative control to big cosmetics brand who produce an insipid fragrance. When there are successes within the designer area of perfume it almost always comes because the name on the bottle gets involved in the creative process. Mr. Varvatos was one of those. That would lead to some other anomalies to the way John Varvatos developed as a brand. The most important is he worked with the same perfumer, Rodrigo Flores-Roux, exclusively for the first fifteen perfumes. This kind of partnership is common in the niche community; much rarer in mainstream. Over the years they have developed one of the very best fragrance collections you can find at the department store. They have been at it so long that the early releases are now easily found in the discount bins. While I whole heartedly recommend almost everything released by Mr. Varvatos and Sr. Flores-Roux for this month’s Discount Diamonds I’m going to start at the beginning with John Varvatos Cologne.

John Varvatos

At that time for men’s fragrance they made a couple of interesting choices. One to eschew all the fresh and clean competition. Second to work with some unusual ingredients. In that first press release they would tout four ingredients being used for the first time.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

John Varvatos Cologne opens with the sweet dried fruitiness of medjool dates. This provides a unique kind of sweetness which is kept from getting to be too much by using rosemary and tamarind leaves to wrap it up in notes of herb and vegetal forms of green. The herbs continue into the heart with clary sage, coriander, and thyme. At this point there is a lot of similarity to the stewed fruit accord which would become popular in niche perfumery. In the base they use a couple of woody synthetics, Eaglewood and Auramber. This gives an intensely woody accord with an amber finish.

John Varvatos Cologne has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

What you see above would be repeated time and again as Mr. Varvatos and Sr. Flores-Roux seemingly improved release after release. It has been one of the most remarkable collaborations in all mainstream perfume.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Elie Tahari- Perfume Power Suit

When a fashion designer launches their first perfume I am always curious to see what direction they take. For Elie Tahari if it was going to be inspired by his designs there were two possibilities. It could be a throwback to the emergence of his line in the 1970’s when his dresses were seen on many disco dance floors. It could also be an homage to the women’s power suits he championed in the 1980’s where his fashion found its place along with the women who wore them in a business milieu. If I’m going to say what I think Elie Tahari, the perfume, hews closest to it is those power suits with a bit of Mr. Tahari’s travels thrown in for good measure.

Elie Tahari

He couldn’t have chosen a better team of perfumers in Nicole Mancini and Rodrigo Flores-Roux as his partners for his debut fragrance. Mr. Tahari wanted a fragrance which “reminds me of my summers past”. The perfumers translate that into a fruity floral design.

Nicole Mancini (l.) and Rodrigo Flores-Roux

The perfumers open with a fulsome pear kept in check by using the silvery green of violet leaves. This is a more refreshing accord than I usually experience with pear focused beginnings. The heart is where I was connected as the perfumers balance creamy magnolia, green figs, and tea blossoms. They find that creamy overlap between the magnolia and the figs which benefits from the tea blossom adding contrast as it intersperses itself between the two. It finishes with a mixture of woods, amber, and musks providing a warm base accord.

Elie Tahari has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Elie Tahari perfume is an above average fruity floral mainly because of the different choices in floral ingredeients in the heart. This should be an all-season kind of perfume; much like Mr. Tahari’s power suits.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Macy’s

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Carner Barcelona Megalium- The Gifts of Balthazar and Gaspar

In these days between New Year’s and the Epiphany I always think about The Three Wise Men. Following a star to Bethlehem to behold the newborn Savior bearing gifts. The gifts are well-known; frankincense, gold, and myrrh. Each king carried one. What has captured my attention as I’ve written about perfume is two of the three are classic components of perfumery. What we know of ancient perfume making is they were also important ingredients there. I’m not sure if it is my inner Magi but resins, woods, and spices are my preferred fare in January. Thankfully I am not out searching for a prophecy. I am on the search for another perfume for this time of year. In Carner Barcelona Megalium I found it.

Sara Carner

Creative director Sara Carner was inspired by the ancient perfume of the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Greeks called it Megaleion while the Romans called it Megalium. According to The Perfume Handbook by Nigel Bloom it consisted of “cinnamon, cassia, and myrrh” in the Greek version while the recipe for the Roman version was, “balanos oil, balsam, calamus, sweet-rush, xylobalsam, cassia, and resins”. Sra Carner asked perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux to make a modern reformulation of this ancient recipe. Sr. Flores-Roux takes inspiration from both Greek and Roman versions to form the framework of this new Megalium.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Sr. Flores-Roux opens with the cinnamon. He uses calamus as the source of the spiciness which he deepens by using cinnamon leaves adding a shade of green. The spices broaden out with pimento, nutmeg, and white pepper adding some zest to the cinnamon. Sr. Flores-Roux then provides a thoroughly modern riff as a spicy Bulgarian rose finds some space among the cinnamon accord. The base accord arrives with styrax providing the connective ingredient before the sweetness of myrrh and the austere frankincense come forward. The resinous foundation is given additional oomph with olibanum and opoponax.

Megalium has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

It is easy to see back to ancient times while wearing Megalium. I can even imagine Balthazar and Gaspar; the Magi with myrrh and frankincense gifts wearing the ancient form while on their travels. This new version is a perfume of kings made from the gifts of the Magi.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Carner Barcelona.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2018: Part 2- Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

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Part 1, yesterday, was my look back at the year in broad terms. Today in Part 2 I get specific naming the best of the year in four categories.

Perfume of the Year: Arquiste Esencia de El Palacio GuayabosArquiste Creative Director Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux began their exclusive collection for luxury Mexican department store El Palacio de El Hierro in 2016. As of the end of 2018 they have released eight perfumes exploring the botany of Mexico in a set of “tree stories”. Both creative minds behind this collection have always put a little bit of their homeland of Mexico in every Arquiste release they have collaborated on. Saying that, this collection feels like there is heart and soul, along with the country, within each of these excellent perfumes.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux (l.) and Carlos Huber

During the summer I received Guayabos which immediately connected with me. I have worn this weekly since I received it. I’ve sprayed my bed with it. The poodles have inadvertently ended up smelling like it. It is one of the very best perfumes ever made by Sr. Flores-Roux.

I scheduled a call with him at Givaudan to find out how this came together. The concept was to create a guava perfume which captured the ripe guava in his house as child. As an adult the perfumer had to undertake headspace analysis of green guava, ripe guava, and guava blossom. This would lead to a layered effect which captured the esencia of guava. Jasmine and osmanthus provide the perfect floral companions over a clean woody base accord.

Guayabos is my perfume of the year because it was an obra de amor (labor of love) for Srs. Flores-Roux and Huber.

Charna Ethier

Perfumer of the Year: Charna Ethier– 2018 is going to be memorable for the excellent independent perfumer releases. The independent perfumer who had the strongest year was Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Co. She has been one of the most consistently innovative perfumers I encounter. 2018 is the year where that quality overflowed in three spectacular releases. The first was Vientiane a study in sandalwood which was elevated by a jasmine rice tincture. Next came Lemon Liada an abstraction of lemon eau de cologne with no lemon used as an ingredient. Sedona Sweetgrass captures the scent of the American desert southwest in a photorealistic manner.

The breadth of these three perfumes is not only testament to why the indies rocked 2018 but more specifically why Charna Ethier is my Perfumer of the Year.  

Runner-Ups: Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Maria McElroy, Cecile Zarokian, and Sarah McCartney

Rania Naim

Creative Director of the Year: Rania Naim– How about this for a to-do list for 2018? Take on the reformulation of one of the great historic perfumes. While doing that create four new contemporary perfumes honoring that history. That would sink most creative directors. That Rania Naim succeeded makes her the easy choice as Creative Director of the Year.

The first part of the year was given over to completing the new formulation of Jacques Fath Iris Gris. Mme Naim oversaw a painstaking effort to achieve something amazing in L’Iris de Fath. She would end up trusting a young creative team to accomplish this; which succeeded spectacularly. The decision to trust in young creative perfumers extends to the Fath’s Essentials releases where perfumers Cecile Zarokian and Luca Maffei produced two perfumes each under Mme Naim’s direction. All four exemplify the creativity still able to be found in the niche sector.

Capturing the past while living in the present means the future is all that is left to Rania Naim; my choice for Creative Director of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Carlos Huber (Arquiste), Victor Wong (Zoologist Perfumes), and Celine Roux (Jo Malone)

Brand of the Year: A Lab on Fire– If other brands weren’t going to show me something different Carlos Kusubayashi allowed perfumer Dominique Ropion to capture “The Morning After” winning an Academy award in And The World Is Yours. A long night into day encapsulated by neroli and cumin. This was followed up by perfumer Emilie Coppermann combining violet along with the De Laire base of Iriseine in a gorgeous purple flower melody called Hallucinogenic Pearl. Mr. Kusubayashi has never been afraid to release what comes of giving perfumers the space to create freely. In 2018 it makes A Lab on Fire my Brand of the Year.

Runner-Ups: DSH Perfumes, 4160 Tuesdays, Arquiste, Jacques Fath, and Jo Malone

Part 1 was my broad overview of 2018

Part 3 is my Top 25 New Perfumes of 2018.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Arquiste Esencia de El Palacio Vainillas, Resinas, and Nardos- Aromas del Otoño

When it comes to perfume the cities of Paris, Milan, or New York have all the fun as it is where perfume is debuted. That has become less true over the last few years as other cities are joining in by having their own special perfume character. Mexico City is one of those. It arises from a partnership between the luxury department store El Palacio de Hierro and the creative director Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux of the brand Arquiste. Two years ago, they released a trio of perfumes under the Arquiste Esencia de El Palacio name.  2017 has seen the spring release of Guayabos and Limoneros now followed by the release of three more for the end of the year; Vainillas, Resinas, and Nardos.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux (l.) and Carlos Huber

The concept of these perfumes are meant to capture the indigenous botany of Mexico. Both Srs. Huber and Flores-Roux have used this collection to shine a fragrant spotlight on their Mexican heritage. All three of these perfumes display Mexican twists to well-known perfume ingredients.

One of those ingredients is vanilla. Did you know that vanilla originated in the Papantla region of Veracruz? The Aztecs were the first to use it as a flavoring. Once Cortez took it back home it spread all over the world. The Papantlan version of vanilla is used in Vainillas.

The vanilla is partnered with a tart citron in the top accord. The citrus adds contrast to the vanilla. Sr. Flores-Roux tells me Papantlan vanilla is called “blackened vanilla” by flavorists. It seems like he wanted to create a fragrance version of that. The vanilla accord here comprised of Papantlan and Madagascan versions in overdose have a darker edge than most vanilla in perfume. As it progresses Sr. flores-roux sticks to those darker tones with benzoin, amber, and the animalic musk of civet. It is this darkness on the edge of the usually sweet vanilla which makes Vainillas stand apart.  

Resinas also takes a traditional ingredient of Mexico and combines it with sources from other places more known for it. A perfume called “resins” is going to be a festival of incenses. Sr. Flores-Roux wanted an accord which captured the resin of the Ocote pine used for fire-starting. He wanted to find the clean quality along with a bit of the burnt.

Resinas opens with the ocote alongside Peru and Tolu balsams. A classical Middle Eastern frankincense joins in. this forms a very dry incense accord. The hint of smoke keeps it from going too far in that direction. Myrrh and patchouli add even more depth pulling away from that early austerity. Overall I found Resinas to provide the kind of perfume experience most often described as a “church incense”. It has been a great companion over the Holidays for that quality.

If there is a scent I associate indelibly with Mexico it is tuberose. Called “nardos” it was inevitable that this collection would also have an entry called Nardos. Tuberose is one of the keynotes of floral perfumery. My experience of nardos flowers were sitting outside in the evening drinking while enveloped in the heady scent of the blooms. The perfume version manages to also find some tuberose a seat at the bar to create a memorable version of this white flower.

In the early going of Nardos the outsized creamy slightly mentholated tuberose is all that is on display. It is a gorgeous version of tuberose but far from unique. That happens next as the swagger of a boozy escort intersperses itself into things. The accord is called “essence of cognac” but Sr. Flores-Roux told me it actually comes from an essence distilled from the residue of wine-making called “lees”. There is an earthiness which exists as an undercurrent to the alcoholic nature. Sr. Flores-Roux uses sugar cane to tilt the wine residue back towards the top shelf liquor it is trying to emulate. This forms an intoxicated, and intoxicating, tuberose accord. If this was all there was, I would have enjoyed Nardos; but there is more. One thing about tuberose is it is so expansive it tends to overwrite almost anything else in the perfume. What can happen is after a few hours of wearing a high concentration tuberose perfume like Nardos you get something entirely different over the last few hours. As the tuberose loses its intensity immortelle provides its maple syrup-like sweetness. As much as I liked the rowdy tuberose of the first part this immortelle pairing is near-perfect. The syrupy quality of the immortelle adds a compelling contrast. It becomes even more enjoyable as castoreum and oak provide wood and animalic to the final stages. It is this part of Nardos which elevates it.

All three perfumes have 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Srs. Huber and Flores-Roux have continued their story of Mexico told in perfumed chapters by spending the three latest based on the scents of autumn or more appropriately, “aromas del otoño”.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples supplied by Arquiste.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Frassai A Fuego Lento and Teisenddu- Precious Jewels

When I reviewed the three debut scents from Frassai earlier this year I stated that they all displayed the kind of style which comes from a jeweler’s eye. The two latest releases, A Fuego Lento and Teisenddu, continue to show what an asset that is.

Natalia Outeda

Frassai was founded last year by Argentinian-born Natalia Outeda. She has shown her experience in fragrance by working with some of the best perfumers. Then from the perspective of an artist who sets each jewel in its place, she asks her perfumers to do the same with their ingredients.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

For A Fuego Lento Sra. Outeda collaborates with perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux for the second time. The name roughly translates to simmer. Sr. Flores-Roux starts things off at a boil before getting to that state. That energy comes from a pairing of white flowers; orange blossom and jasmine sambac. Rich indolic white flowers. These are like a pair of brilliant white diamonds at the center of the setting. What is placed around them are a ring of emeralds. First Sr. Flores-Roux uses a smooth suede leather accord to take a bit of the brilliance off the florals. This is followed by flouve odorante. This is an ingredient I facetiously call CoumarinMax. It is a natural source of the hay-like sweetness of coumarin but amplified many times. It doesn’t just complement the suede it stands right next to it in the setting attracting the same attention. The base finishes with civet providing an echo of the indoles from up top and Tolu balsam adding in a sturdy woody base.

A Fuego Lento has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage, especially early on.

Roxanne Kirkpatrick

For Teisenddu Sra Outeda turned to the perfumer who did some of her candles, Roxanne Kirkpatrick. Ms. Kirkpatrick is just beginning her fine fragrance career and I believe Teisenddu is her first professional brief. I think the jeweler in Sra. Outeda knows when she has found a precious gem; Ms. Kirkpatrick seems to be the perfume version of that.

The inspiration for Teisenddu was the pastry the early Welsh settlers brought with them to Argentina. This translates into a modern style of gourmand where the foodie notes are the heart of things, but they don’t clobber you over the head. Teisenddu is a slow burn from top to bottom.

It begins with a waft of spice from nutmeg wrapping around bitter orange. Then in a funny twist the name of the boat the Welsh settlers sailed on was called The Mimosa so naturally mimosa is one of the ingredients in the heart. The other is a deep rum. It provides an odd boozy sweetness. This is further amplified by a “dark sugar crystals” accord. The base is a nicely constructed leather accord. Teisenddu is an impressive debut for Ms. Kirkpatrick.

Teisenddu has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

These two latest releases along with the three from earlier in this year makes Frassai the best debut perfume line of 2018.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Frassai.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Arquiste Sydney Rock Pool- In the Golden Hour

For most people the smell of the beach is a combination of salt spray, suntan lotion, and fresh air. Growing up in South Florida there is another ingredient I have always added to that; the smell of damp coral. At the edge of my bicycle range as a child was a public beach called Matheson Hammock. The main feature of this beach was a natural atoll pool. This was a natural saltwater pond which was refreshed as the tides came and went, ringed with coral. Everything at Matheson Hammock was made of coral; the snack bar, the picnic canopy, you name it. It was as present as the ingredients I mentioned above in my memory of the beach. There have been a few perfumes which have added a bit of stony minerality to the beach scene, the latest is Arquiste Sydney Rock Pool.

Carlos Huber

The name indicates what part of the world inspired this perfume. Creative director-owner Carlos Huber released Sydney Rock Pool exclusively to Australia earlier this year. It has just become available worldwide. The perfume grew out of a private release to Conde Nast VIP’s. Sr. Huber continued to develop it with perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux into what has become Sydney Rock Pool.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

There is a time and place represented by every Arquiste perfume for this one it is the “Golden Hour” in 2016. For those who don’t know the phrase “golden hour” it represents the final hour of the sun in the sky every day. For me the golden hour was the natural signal to head home while there was still daylight to ride my bicycle. As an adult it has become one of my favorite parts of the day as it closes with a palette of colors across the sky; sometimes finishing with a flash of green.

On the days I was at Matheson Hammock as the sun reached a low position I had salt dried on my skin from swimming in the atoll pool. The remains of my suntan lotion were on its last legs. The sea breeze was switching directions bringing the smell of the flowers growing on the land to me. The wet coral was mingling with the scent of the warmed trunks of the palm trees. This is what Sydney Rock Pool smells like.

Sydney Rock Pool begins with a suntan lotion accord represented by coconut on top of salt spray dried on skin. I remember looking down at my chest and seeing white trails. Some of which were dried sea water and some were the places where suntan lotion remained. It would take a touch to see if it was oily or flaky to determine which was which. The scent is reproduced here uncannily by Sr. Flores-Roux. A mineralic accord that rises underneath this is the smell of wet coral. The scent of the flowers behind me come as jasmine and frangipani provide the tropical style botanicals. Sr. Flores-Roux use a thread of narcissus to stitch them together into a late afternoon early evening style of floral accord. The narcissus provides some weight without overwhelming. A healthy dollop of ambermax captures the smell of drift wood and palm trees warmed by the day’s sun.

Sydney Rock Pool has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I suspect that some where Down Under there is a young child on a bicycle standing atop an atoll pool who is a twin to myself fifty years ago and a world away. Sydney Rock Pool connects us via the scent of the golden hour no matter what the map says.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle supplied by Arquiste.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Arquiste Esencia de El Palacio Limoneros and Guayabos- Tree Stories

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I am fortunate to have the connections to try almost any perfume I hear about. I keep my eye out looking for some of the interesting new places to find fragrance. One place I discovered last year was the collection being produced by Arquiste for the upscale Mexican department store El Palacio de Hierro. Creative director Carlos Huber working with longtime collaborator, perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux, produced a trio of fantastic perfumes under the Esencia de El Palacio label. I wasn’t sure if that was going to be it. A few months ago, I received a notice that there were two new releases coming. I couldn’t wait to try Limoneros and Guayabos. I was not disappointed as both of these are among my favorite new releases of 2018. Because I was so taken with them I arranged a phone call, to Givaudan, with Sr. Flores-Roux to get some background which you will find sprinkled throughout the remainder of the review.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux (l.) and Carlos Huber

Sr. Flores-Roux told me that he and Sr. Huber had agreed that they wanted to continue the collection’s focus on the indigenous botany of Mexico. This is apt because Sr. Flores-Roux was in school studying that subject when he was called away to begin his perfume career. When speaking with him he mentioned that along with Azahares and Magnolios from the first trio; Limoneros and Guayabos add to the “tree stories” they are trying to tell. The thought was to go into these two new perfumes focusing on the Mexican version of lemon and guava respectively.

When I first tried Limoneros I was strongly reminded of a lemon-lime soda I grew up with in S. Florida. I can’t find the name, but this was not Sprite or 7-Up it was a Cuban version. It was much tarter with an ebullient effervescence. I just described Limoneros to you. Sr. Flores-Roux was also inspired by a lemon-lime soda of his youth in Mexico. When his family would visit Acapulco there the soda the kids drank was called Yoli. Made of the Mexican limon it is not the traditional Italian lemon most Americans know. It is a lemon which is closer to lime. Srs. Huber and Flores-Roux wanted Limoneros to be the smell of squeezing that Mexican limon, into your bottle of beer or over your fish taco, on your hand. Along the way a bit of the Yoli inspiration found its way into the final Eau Fraiche composition.

That Mexican limon is what greets you straightaway. It is tarter than typical lemon in a perfume. There is a significant green quality added in. Cardamom is part of the formula of Yoli soda and it finds its way in the top accord of Limoneros. This captures the smell of freshly squeezed limon on my fingers. Then via the use of ginger a kind of effervescence bubbles up from underneath the limon accord. Right here is where Limoneros most closely resembles Yoli. It is full of life. It rests on a light summery base of vetiver, patchouli, and iris.

One of the great things about Sr. Huber is he knows when Sr. Flores-Roux is inspired and needs to just be left to his own devices. Such was the case for Guayabos. Sr. Flores-Roux returns to his childhood where ripe guava was in his house. He very much wanted to capture that for Guayabos. To accomplish that he undertook headspace analysis of green guava, ripe guava, and guava blossom. This would lead to three sources of guava in the final version.

It is those three layers of guava which open Guayabos. Sr. Flores-Roux wanted to make sure to capture the cinnamic spicy nature of the guava. By combining the three guava sources he finds it in the place where they come together. Guava is an odd tropical fruit and you’ll know if you like it right away in Guayabos. I don’t just like it; I swooned for it. There is a vividness to the guava in the top accord that made me feel like I should be able to reach out and take a bite. Guayabos could stay here but Sr. Flores-Roux is better than that. He uses jasmine to moderate the guava blossom into something more traditionally floral. Osmanthus provides a leathery botanical rind to encase the fruit within. It rests on clean woods of cedar and cypress.

Both Limoneros and Guayabos have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Guayabos is my favorite new perfume of 2018, so far. From a perfumer who I have admired this is a tour de force for him. It shows why Sr. Huber letting him follow his inspiration leads to something amazing. I’m not sure if Guayabos didn’t exist I wouldn’t be saying Limoneros is my favorite perfume of 2018. I’ve been wearing both of them so much they are going to be reminders of the summer of 2018. Taken together the tree stories of the Esencia de El Palacio collection are as good as perfume gets for me. Thankfully it was confirmed there are more to come. I know as long as Sr. Huber and Sr. Flores-Roux continue to tap into their shared Mexican heritage they can’t go wrong.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Arquiste.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Clinique Happy- How Women in the 90’s did Fresh

I’ve written many words on this blog about the effect Davidoff Cool Water had on fragrance designed for men. I’ve received a few e-mails from women readers asking if there was a similar women’s fragrance which exemplified the fresh style for that gender. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it to finally arrive at a conclusion. It wasn’t the first; but it was, and continues to be, the best-selling of this style released in the mid 90’s. It is also the answer I most receive from men in their 40’s when I ask what the women in their life wear. The perfume is Clinique Happy.

In women’s fragrances throughout the 1970’s and 80’s the trend was deep chypres and boisterous florals. It was the gender equivalent to the men’s powerhouse leathers and uber-fougeres. As the 90’s dawned the time for a course correction was due. The generation which came after the Baby Boomers, Gen X, wanted a style to call their own. Those who loved perfume also wanted to find new styles to explore. By the latter half of the decade two new styles would provide the change; fresh was one of them.

Evelyn Lauder (l.) and Raymond Matts

For men fresh was synonymous with aquatic. For women it wasn’t as simple. There was a large selection of fresh linen style perfumes centered around the laundry and linen musks. The style Happy fits into is the other major one, the fresh floral. It is also the first credited perfume to Rodrigo Flores-Roux who collaborated with Jean-Claude Delville. The creative team, Evelyn Lauder and Raymond Matts, was also early on in their influential term. Clinique was created by Ms. Lauder; by 1997 she became more dedicated to the fragrance part of the brand. She would work with some of the best perfumers early in their careers spotting talent before others. Mr. Matts would also become one of the most influential creative directors but at the time of Happy he was also just starting down that path. With Happy they designed a perfume which exemplifies fresh and floral.

Jean-Claude Delville (l.) and Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Happy opens on a, I have to say it, happy mixture of citrus. It is difficult to not smile in the early going because this is a sun-kissed grapefruit top accord. It leads to fresh jasmine scrubbed clean of indoles. This is a slightly dewy version of jasmine. It is expansive and transparent. Magnolia will eventually take the lead while retaining the same opacity. A similarly transparent synthetic wood is the final ingredient.

Happy has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Happy is successful because it does everything perfume is supposed to do. The citrus is uplifting. The florals are lilting. The woods are simple and light. It is why Happy is successful because it is so easy to be the perfume for a woman who only wants a couple bottles on her vanity. It continues to be a best-seller because even after twenty years few do it better.

Happy is another of the cases where its longevity is why it is a Discount Diamonds choice. It can be purchased from 10mL rollerball up to 100mL for anywhere from $4.99- $34.99 respectively. Heading into the summer if you want something fresh to add to your holiday overnight bag Happy is as good as it gets within the style it helped start.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Elizabeth Arden Green Tea Fig- Darn Good

I was in Macy’s a few weeks ago and I was talking with the fragrance manager. In a not uncommon occurrence for me there were a group of three young women trying something on their skin. As the scent made its way to me I realized I liked it. Once the women moved on I asked what it was. When I read the name on the bottle I realized I had been ignoring a line of flankers I probably shouldn’t have been. Elizabeth Arden Green Tea Fig is going to fix that problem.

In 1999 when the original Elizabeth Arden Green Tea was released it was an example of what the brand does well. Catching a hold of a trend and making it fresh and sparkling. This was also one of perfumer Francis Kurkdjian’s early examples of the aesthetic we would come to know. Starting in 2001 there has been an annual flanker which has added a new ingredient into the mix. I can’t remember trying any of those. I had become a horrible niche snob by that point, so I probably turned my nose up at them and moved on to something I thought was more interesting. Until my recent visit to the mall.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Since 2008 perfumer Rodrogo Flores-Roux has overseen the annual Green Tea flankers. I can’t speak for what has been done previously but for Green Tea Fig the mention of the fig is not just a throwaway gesture in the name. In this case the fig stands up and makes this stand out.

Sr. Flores-Roux opens with the fresh citrus top accord like the original. The fig makes its presence known soon after. There are many types of fig accords in perfumery. The one used here is a green fig. It has more of the leafiness and less of the pulpy lushness of the riper accord. It is the right choice to harmonize with the green tea accord in the heart. This is what caught my attention across the fragrance counter. The unripe fig and the astringent green tea are lovely together. Sr. Flores-Roux adds in grace notes of almond and clary sage to provide a connection to the soft woody finish along with some musks.

Green Tea Fig has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I need to keep reminding myself that in the more moderately priced sector in the department store there are some well-executed examples of perfume. They may not be trendsetters, or terribly original, but they can be darn good; Green Tea Fig is a reminder of that.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I received from Macy’s

Mark Behnke