The 2017 Midterm Review

We’ve reached the midway point of 2017 which causes me to pause and take stock of what the year has been like in fragrance so far. In very general terms I think it has been the best year at this point since I started Colognoisseur in 2014. Here are some more specific thoughts.

Many of the leaders of artistic perfumery have stepped up in 2017. Alber Elbaz par Frederic Malle Superstitious is an example as perfumer Dominique Ropion working with the other two names on the bottle created a hazy memory of vintage perfume. Christine Nagel composed Hermes Eau des Meveilles Bleue a brilliant interpretation of the aquatic genre. Clara Molloy and Alienor Massenet celebrated ten years of working together with Eau de Memo; it turns into a celebration of what’s right in this sector.

The independent perfumers have continued to thrive. In the independent sector, very individual statements have found an audience. Bruno Fazzolari Feu Secret, Vero Profumo Naja, Imaginary Authors Saint Julep, and Tauer L’Eau. Plus, I have another four I could have added but I haven’t reviewed them yet. My enthusiasm when I do will give them away. There is a bounty of creativity thriving on the outskirts of town.

Standing out on their own. Two perfumers I admire struck out on their own establishing their own brands. Michel Almairac created Parle Moi de Parfum. Jean-Michel Duriez has put his name on the label and opened a boutique in Paris. Both show each perfumer allowing their creativity unfettered freedom to some great results.

-Getting better and better. I look to see if young brands can continue the momentum they begin with. The two Vilhelm Parfumerie releases; Do Not Disturb and Harlem Bloom, have shown this brand is creating a deeply satisfying collection. Masque Milano is also doing that. Their latest release Times Square shows creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi are unafraid to take risks. In the case of Times Square, it succeeds. Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes keeps trusting his instincts while working with some of the best indie perfumers. He and Shelley Waddington got 2017 off to a flying start with Civet.

-Mass-market has been good but not great. I have found much to like at the mall in the first half of this year. Much more than last year. My problem is I think I’m going to have to remind myself about these perfumes a year from now. I think they are trying to take tiny steps towards something new. It might even be the right choice for this sector of fragrance buyer, the exception is Cartier Baiser Fou. Mathilde Laurent’s evocation of fruit flavored lip gloss; that I’m going to remember.

The Teacher’s Pets are Rodrigo and Luca. Rodrigo Flores-Roux has always been one of my favorite perfumers. For 2017 he has returned to his roots in Mexico where he produced two collections of exceptional perfume. For Arquiste Esencia De El Palacio in conjunction with Carlos Huber they created a luxurious look at the country of their birth. Sr. Flores-Roux then collaborated with Veronica Alejandra Pena on a new line based in Mexico City; Xinu. These were perfumes which allowed him to indulge an indie sensibility. It all came together in Monstera a crunchy green gem of a fragrance. That leaves out the three Black Collection perfumes he did for Carner Barcelona; and those should not be left out.

Luca Maffei is one of the many reasons for the Renaissance of Italian Perfumery. In 2017, it seems like he is trying to prove it all on his own. He has been behind eleven releases by seven different brands. Taken together they show his exceptional versatility. The one which really shows this off is the work he did for Fath’s Essentials. Working with creative director Rania Naim he took all his Italian inspiration and transformed it into a characteristic French aesthetic. Nowhere is this more evident than in Lilas Exquis.

I am glad I still have six months’ time to find some daylight between these two for my Perfumer of the Year. Right now I’d have to declare it a tie.

My overall grade for Perfume 2017 at the midterm is a solid B+ there is much more to be admired than to make me slap my forehead. I am looking forward to the rest of the term to finalize this grade, hopefully upward.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Xinu Monstera- Rodrigo y Veronica’s Laboratorio (Part 3)

In Part 1 of these series of reviews on the Mexico City-based perfume brand Xinu I posited that the perfumes might have represented what it might have looked like if perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux began his career as an independent perfumer in Mexico. There are moments within the other three I’ve written about but it is the brand-new release Monstera which really put this idea in my head.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

The biggest divergence between independent perfumery and niche perfumery is in the former there is a much more personal vision on display. In niche perfume, there is a more business-like approach to what is released. Which is what can give independent perfumes their vividness. There are more than a few occasions where niche and independent priorities can mesh. Monstera is one of those times.

Monstera deliciosa

Monstera refers to the giant leafy fruit-bearing plant of Central America. Its botanical name is “monstera deliciosa” The giant leaves are the “monstera” part. The “deliciosa” part is the ripe fruit which is a variation of pineapple when ripe; a little tarter but as sweet. I ate a lot of them during my time and they are deliciosa. What this means for the fragrance named Monstera is Sr. Flores-Roux has created a magnificent perfume of tropical greenery and fruit which almost magically transforms into leather by the end.

If you have spent time in the tropics there is a smell to the dense green leafy things in the high humidity. It has a weighty vegetal quality. Sr. Flores-Roux captures that in the early moments of Monstera. The vegetation is dense and moist the fruit is tropical and slightly tart. This is the monster plant accord beautifully realized. Then over the course of an hour or so that vegetation slowly turns leathery. I had never considered how close densely vegetal is to raw unrefined leather. As Monstera makes that transformation it is something that becomes as plain as the nose on my face. This slightly verdant leathery accord is where Monstera stays for hours.

Monstera has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

After trying these initial four releases from Xinu I must commend Veronica Alejandra Pena in realizing her vision of capturing the botanical bounty of the Americas. By allowing Sr. Flores-Roux to be her partner it has also seemingly allowed him more latitude to compose in some different ways. Monstera is certainly one of the best perfumes Sr. Flores-Roux has made. I am hoping that Rodrigo y Veronica will spend many more years in their Mexico City Laboratorio.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Xinu Copala and OroNardo- Rodrigo y Veronica’s Laboratorio (Part 2)

Soon after I discovered the existence of Mexico City-based perfume brand Xinu I was busy exploring their website. One of the things which interested me was the layout of the boutique. Dominated by a long central table filled with sculptural interpretations of fragrance and botany. As you can see below it looks like a steampunk botanist’s laboratory. As I tried the fragrances this image was floating in my head as I imagined owner Veronica Alejandra Pena and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux discovering new ways to extract and combine those oils into unique perfumes. As I continue reviewing the first releases from Xinu I take on Copala and OroNardo.

One of my first experiences with fragrance came during one of my summers sailing through the Caribbean. I don’t remember where but I found an oblong piece of sticky amber colored glassy material. I loved the texture of it and it became my worry stone in my pocket. I would notice my fingers always had a pleasant smell on them after rubbing the material. I would learn many years later it was most likely copal resin. It was used as incense is used for sacred ceremonies among the Mayan peoples. Sr. Flores-Roux uses copal as the focal point of Copala. One of the things about copal is like the natural material it has an amber glow to it as opposed to the silvery metallic sheen of good frankincense. Sr. Flores-Roux uses that pliability to make Copala a soft resinous perfume.

Copal Resin

In the opening, he uses baie rose to go with the copal resin. For Copala Sr. Flores-Roux enhances the herbal quality of baie rose to match the resinous heart of the copal. Mesquite wood provides an acerbic bite in contrast to the mellow opening. It returns to the mellow as fine Mexican vanilla forms a sweetly resinous final accord.

Copala has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Tuberose

I always think of Sr. Flores-Roux as a master of the floral perfume. His schooling in botany and growing up in Mexico has always made me feel it is in his blood. What is surprising is the flower most known in perfumery which comes from Mexico has not been interpreted many times by Sr. Flores-Roux. With OroNardo his mastery of the floral fragrance is front and center.

Tuberose is indigenous to Mexico and if you’ve ever spent a night in Mexico it is what you smell on the nighttime breezes. In Mexico, the flower is called nardo and thus OroNardo is gold tuberose. Sr. Flores-Roux combines five floral ingredients as he gilds the tuberose in gloriously decadent floralcy. OroNardo is the smell of the night-blooming flowers.

A deep full-spectrum tuberose in the nucleus of OroNardo. In includes the indoles, slight camphor-like green, along with the sweet floral nature. Mock orange is used as the first added floral. The pineapple tinted orange blossom makes this the right kind of opening. “Queen of the night” brings its jasmine-like nature to bear as it forms a sweet floral duet taking on the high notes. Marigold finds the green mentholated vein and exposes it. Oleander provides a gently powdery finish.

OroNardo has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I thought this was where I was going to end but I was also sent a sneak preview of the newest Xinu release Monstera. So I am going to do Part 3 tomorrow reviewing that along with some closing thoughts on Xinu.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Xinu Aguamadera and Introduction- Rodrigo y Veronica’s Laboratorio (Part 1)

There was a time when the centers of perfumery were easy to name. While that history is the foundation of today it was very typically French, American or Italian. What is fantastic about the state of fragrance today is there are many more countries showing off their heritage, creativity, and aesthetic. This is the soul of artistic independent perfume in 2017. As one who has to keep track of all of this it does make my life somewhat difficult but then I find something which combines everything I find fascinating within the world of fragrance in one place.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

I regularly search my favorite perfumers to see what their most recent releases are. On a January afternoon, I typed in Rodrigo Flores-Roux. As I scrolled through the list there were things I knew were coming but as I got to the bottom of the list I saw a brand with three releases from December I had never heard of, Xinu. After doing a search I found a Now Smell This announcement which linked the homepage of the brand. As I read through the website I became more and more interested in the Mexico City-based brand because much of what was written on the web page were things that Sr. Flores-Roux has spoken to me of when we talk about how he approaches perfume making.

Owner Veronica Alejandra Pena asked Sr. Flores-Roux to achieve their shared vision of, “a reflection of botanical richness, artisanal mastery, cutting edge design, and olfactory delight.” I want to point out that second phrase “artisanal mastery”. Sr. Flores-Roux has worked for all kinds of clients over the many years he has been a perfumer. For what might be the first time the collection of three perfumes he did for Xinu give me some insight into what path Sr. Flores-Roux might have taken if he was born twenty years later. I can see him starting his own independent perfume brand highlighting the best Mexico and Latin America has to offer. The collection for Xinu is much more polished than that but there is a bit of an indie perfumer vibe lurking in the background of these perfumes. I am going to review all three of the debut collection over the next two days. I will start with Aguamadera.

Blue Agave Harvest

Aguamadera is a shank of summer fragrance centered around citrus and woods. The indigenous ingredient used in Aguamadera is agave. For those who drink tequila, which is distilled from agave, you have an idea of the bitter nature of it. What is missing in its essential oil incarnation is there is also a briny character as strong as the bitter part. It provides a different version of the aquatic sea spray accord without relying on the typical ingredients used to create that effect.

The opening of Aguamadera is tart astringent lime paired with the bitter salinity of agave. It gives the sense of walking a beach in the sunshine as the spray from the waves dampens your face. The woods used to frame the lime and agave are cedar and guaiac they continue that fresh feeling all the way until the end.

Aguamadera has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’ll be back tomorrow with reviews of Copala and OroNardo.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Arquiste Esencia de el Palacio Magnolios- Cinco de Magnolia

Arquiste owner-creative director Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux are men for whom their heritage is reflected within their artform. Nowhere has this been reflected as potently to me as it has been while experiencing the Esencia de el Palacio collection they produced for the Mexican upscale department store El Palacio de Hierro. The three perfumes produced were meant to provide interpretations of modern Mexico, Azahares; the future of Mexico, Vetiveres; and the Mexican past, Magnolios. I’ve gone about this in a very random order starting with Azahares followed by Vetiveres and now finishing with Magnolios. Yet ending with Magnolios is a contrast to what had come before.

Carlos Huber

Most Americans will associate magnolia with the South. It has been a symbol of that part of the country since the beginning. The blooming of the magnolia trees is the harbinger of spring for US Southerners. In Mexico, the magnolia grows throughout the country. It is thought by some botanists to be the first indigenous flowering plant in North America. When Sr. Huber and Sr. Flores-Roux say they are going back they probably don’t mean that far back. Magnolia by itself tends to carry with it a sense of history because it defines its geography.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

For Magnolios Sr. Flores- Roux creates a floral celebration of Mexican history around a central keynote of magnolia. Magnolia works as the centerpiece of any fragrance because it also carries a noticeable citrus character along with the creamy floralcy. Magnolios explores all aspects of the magnolia throughout its development.

The magnolia core is supported using the magnolia leaves to provide a full-spectrum effect. In the early moments, the flower, the woody bark of the tree, and the green of the leaves are like watching a magnolia develop via time-lapse. Then sweet orange teases out the citrus within the bloom. Early on it smells like fresh orange juice. Cardamom begins the transition into the next phase with its lemony and green duality. This evolves into something greener as the magnolia leaves are emphasized by galbanum. Sr. Flores-Roux then adds in something which takes the breath away, eucalyptus. The mentholated scent of it adds a lung-filling vibrancy while also hewing to the green effect. Cedar is the woody foundation upon which Magnolios rests.

Magnolios has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

They will have to speak for themselves but I feel a passion, from Sr. Huber and Sr. Flores-Roux, underneath all three Esencia de el Palacio fragrances. Which is understandable when these were designed to be sold exclusively in Mexico maybe they felt they could allow their heritage a little more room to express itself. I do have a wish that at some point all three of these excellent perfumes are added to the main Arquiste collection. Magnolios as well as the other two deserve to be celebrated around the world.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Arquiste Esencia de el Palacio Vetiveres- Mexican Summer

I have been a soccer fan for many years. It is funny to think how far things have come. Now I can watch and follow my favorite players and teams effortlessly. In 1986, I couldn’t know this future was coming. With the World Cup in Mexico that summer I decided to go follow the whole tournament since I believed it was the best chance I would have to see the players I had only read about for real. For nearly a month I traveled from stadium to stadium trying to see all 24 teams. I spent many nights sleeping outside. Most mornings the scent of the air which woke me had this great vegetal tang. There are many perfumes which have had a passing resemblance to that but it was only recently that one absolutely captured what I remember; Arquiste Esencia de el Palacio Vetiveres.

Creative Director Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux have collaborated on a collection of fragrances exclusively for an upscale Mexican department store; El Palacio de Hierro. Both men have roots in Mexico and all three of these perfumes feel like perfume love letters to what the country means to them. Vetiveres is meant to be representative of the future. The perfume that has resulted is a fantastic interpretation of vetiver where the greener aspects are amplified.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux (l.) and Carlos Huber

In the last few years vetiver-centric perfumes have become much more versatile because there have been more versions of this raw material to use.  Sr. Flores-Roux now has such an array of choices it allows him to create almost any shade of vetiver. What he does for Vetiveres is form a dense vegetation accord. There is a smell to the dense jungle in the tropics when the summer sun is high in the sky. The nucleus of Vetiveres is the mixture of dense growing green things with a bit of the woods way underneath.

In the early moments, I think the vetiver used is a fraction where the woodiness is very attenuated. To combine with that Sr. Flores-Roux caresses the vetiver with myrtle and artemesia. This forms that scent of the morning I spoke of in the first paragraph. It is recognizably vetiver but it is different in presence, pleasingly so. In the heart the vetiver begins to deepen. Here Sr. Flores-Roux chooses to bracket it with incense and labdanum. It elongates the green in what I found surprising. The resins almost step in for the typical woody underpinning of vetiver. Cedar and guaiac provides the woods that have been missing and patchouli bring the earthy aspect. The longer Vetiveres goes on the vetiver expands its presence until at the end it is beautifully displayed.

Vetiveres has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I believe that Vetiveres not only represents the future of Mexico as much as it represents the future of what a vetiver perfume can be. As I wore Vetiveres I realized it had been a while since I wore a vetiver perfume which engaged me as much as Vetiveres has. Maybe it is because it is a scent memory of my summer of 1986. More likely it is because Sr. Flores-Roux has found something new within vetiver.

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

Mark Behnke

Arquiste 101- Five To Get You Started

Arquiste is another one of those perfume brands which I consider to be “mine”. The criteria to be considered “mine” is that it started about the time I started to get serious about writing on perfume. I’ve been trying to remember the first time I met Carlos Huber the owner/creative director of Arquiste. While I don’t remember the place Sr. Huber is one of the most genuine personalities in perfumery. He came to perfume from training as an architectural historian. Every Arquiste perfume starts with a brief which describes a place and time period. He then managed to find two perfumers with whom he has exclusively worked with by themselves and in tandem; Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier. Together since their debut in 2011 they have created a brand aesthetic which now announces itself with each new release. Obviously, I think this is a fragrance collection worth checking out; here are the five to start with.

When you get around other perfume lovers and you both really like the same perfume there is a combination of sounds and facial expression which convey the emotions. A fluttering of eyelids over rolled back eyes. A low semi-guttural purr combined with a tilt of the head to one side. Long-time friend Ida Meister and I did this when we both tried one of the first Arquiste releases called Anima Dulcis. The fragrance was set in 1685 Mexico City as cloistered nuns developed their concoction of hot cocoa and chiles. M. Vasnier and Sr. Flores-Roux capture the simmering heat of the chiles in juxtaposition to the cocoa. Cinnamon, clove, jasmine, and sesame provide texture and detail to one of the best gourmands I own.

L’Etrog is another co-production by M. Vasnier and Sr. Flores-Roux. It is at the cologne end of the spectrum as the perfumers imagine the scent of 1175 Calabria, Italy as the local species of citron known as Etrog provides the early citrus brightness. In the background are the very light smells of the flowers around the Calabrian milieu. Vetiver provides the green contrast in the base.

For Boutonniere No. 7 Sr. Huber asked Sr. Flores-Roux to imagine a group of young men at fin de siècle France in the lobby of the Opera-Comique in Paris. Their lure is the gardenia in their lapel. Sr. Flores-Roux captures the gardenia as it scents the air to capture attention. Using lavender to evoke the cologne the dandies would be wearing then a perfectly balanced gardenia accord, lush and green. It all ends on an expertly formed accord of a freshly ironed suit. Boutonniere No. 7 is a fabulously different take on gardenia.

The Architect’s Club is the Arquiste which most acts as a time machine. Set during 1930 Happy Hour at an elegant Mayfair club of the same name in London. Some of the Lost Generation burst into the room livening up the stuffy atmosphere. It opens with spice and wood paneled drawing room accords before M. Vasnier unleashes the gin-toting wild things into the mix. Things just pick up steam from there. M. Vasnier keeps the frivolity under control to make The Architect’s Club the best party in town.

Nanban is an East meets West fragrance set on a Japanese sailing ship in 1618 returning from their first contact with Mexico. Sr. Flores-Roux and M. Vasnier create a construct where osmanthus pushes against the spices of the New World. Myrrh and sandalwood provide serenity which is disrupted by coffee and leather. It ends as the ship sails into the harbor of home as the fir trees and frankincense welcome the crew home.

Arquiste is one of the best new brands of the last few years well worth the time to explore. Start with these five.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Carner Barcelona Black Calamus- Rodrigo Makes His Point

Fair, or not, I have perfumers categorized in certain categories in my head. I use these imperfect classifications as foundations from which to observe their latest work. When it comes to Rodrigo Flores-Roux I think of him as one of the greatest floral perfumers working today. I can’t remember the review but it was a fragrance which was primarily incense. I made the comment within that piece that Sr. Flores-Roux rarely worked with the resinous end of the palette. He, rightfully, reminded me that there were plenty of examples from his portfolio. Even then the stubborn persistence of Sr. Flores-Roux as a floral specialist remained in my faulty reasoning. With Carner Barcelona Black Calamus Sr. Flores-Roux makes his most compelling argument to date on how poor that line of thinking is.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Black Calamusis part of the three fragrances within the Black Collection, all composed by Sr. Flores-Roux. Creative director Sara Carner wanted the perfume to represent, “The bright sweetness of calamus…..sumptuously blending with exotic resins and balsams.” Using the cinnamon-like core of calamus as a platform for spice and resins seems like a natural fit. Sr. Flores-Roux proves that assumption to be correct.

Sara Carner

Black Calamus opens with the title note present. Calamus has spiciness most often compared to cinnamon. I also see a bit of ginger lurking underneath. Coriander and pepper seem to elicit a little more of that ginger character. It provides a lively opening before the woods and resins come to the foreground. There is a fleeting floral intermezzo of osmanthus and rose before labdanum leads the resinous charge. A silvery high-grade frankincense joins in. Then Sr. Flores-Roux constructs an oud accord. Most of the time these accords are there to add in a tamer version of oud. Sr. Flores-Roux goes the other way by using cade oil to add some of those rough edges back to the oud accord. Some vanilla smooths out the latter stages but for the most part Black Calamus is frankincense and oud for many hours.

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

I am happy to be proven mistaken in my presumptions. With Black Calamus Sr. Flores-Roux makes his point to me that he is not just a specialist in florals; he is just a special perfumer who can do it all.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Carner Barcelona Black Collection Sandor 70’s- Barcelona Meets Mexico City

There are some perfume brands which take pride in the city where the creative director comes from. There are some perfumers who are almost inextricably bound to their heritage when composing perfume. The creative director at Carner Barcelona, Sara Carner, has taken perfume lovers on a tour of Barcelona over seven fragrances since 2010. Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux is a proud Mexican from whom Mexico City makes it into many of his perfumes. Sra. Carner and Sr. Flores-Roux have teamed up for a three-fragrance collection called the Black Collection in which the melding of both creative inspirations takes place.

Sara Carner

I will eventually review all three of these fragrances because they all are worth my spending the time with. When I first tried them, there was one which immediately grabbed me; Sandor 70’s. The name comes from a legendary bar in Barcelona which was the pace to be seen in the 1970’s. It was a place where patrons puffed cigars while sitting in leather chairs. What Sra. Carner and Sr. Flores-Roux designed was a modern chypre with a heart of tobacco and leather with one specific keynote from Mexico which knits them together.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

There is one thing I admire with Sr. Flores-Roux and it is his way of sometimes inverting the pyramid. With Sandor 70’s before getting to the club he provides a mesmerizing floral accord consisting of an aged jasmine absolute, osmanthus absolute, and Bulgarian rose. The osmanthus holds the center as it has the leathery quality which will provide the transition to the heart. It is that vintage jasmine which has a soft fierceness to it which harmonizes with the spicy rose. This ability of Sr. Flores-Roux to find the intersections of different notes, especially florals, is one of the things which sets him apart. The heart is that leather chair with a Cohiba in hand. The leather accord is a refined animalic leather. The tobacco accord is more sweet than narcotic. The connective note that is used is Mexican vanilla which, as in the top accord, elevates all of this when it is together. The vanilla picks up the inherent sweetness of both leather and tobacco making it glow like the ember on the end of the cigar. The base is a modern chypre accord of patchouli, vetiver, oakmoss, and frankincense.

Sandor 70’s has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Sandor 70’s is one of the best perfumes within the entire Carner Barcelona collection and my favorite of the three Black Collection releases. The reason is it is the one where Barcelona meets Mexico City inside a club in 1970’s Barcelona.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Arquiste Esencia De El Palacio Azahares- Mexican Flower Power

When I first moved to the Washington DC area I had the opportunity to attend a fantastic event at the end of October 2012. There was a reception for two of the men behind the perfume brand Arquiste; owner-creative director Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux, at the Mexican Embassy. The night was about how these proud Mexicans love to add a little of their home country to every perfume they collaborate on. That sentiment is best represented by a quote from Sr. Flores-Roux on that night, ““Maybe I can cite a Mexican poet, Carlos Pellicer, who always praised the beauty of the Mexican tropics: the Mexican people have two obsessions: we are interested in death and we are in love with flowers. And as a Mexican flower lover, I always like to put a bit of Mexico in every perfume I make. It's not an accident I studied biology, specifically botany, and understand the secret language of flowers. It's also my last name!”

Carlos Huber (l.) and Rodrigo Flores-Roux at the Mexican Embassy October 2012

Ever since that night I have always looked for that bit of Mexico in the perfumes Sr. Huber and Sr. Flores-Roux have composed for Arquiste. At the end of last year Sr. Huber told me of a new collection Arquiste was releasing in conjunction with an upscale department store in Mexico; El Palacio de Hierro. Three perfumes all composed by Sr. Flores-Roux. This was something I very much wanted to try but I couldn’t buy it off the website. I then had to cast a wide net to find someone who could bring me back a bottle of the one I was most interested in, based on the description, Esencia de El Palacio Azahares. I was successful towards the end of the year with the bottle arriving soon after the New Year.

The concept behind the perfumes was for them to represent the past, present, and future of Mexico. For more about that you can follow this link to the website in Spanish. Magnolio is meant to be the past. Vetiveres is the future. Azahares is meant to be modern-day Mexico. The concept is nice and I have no idea about the success of the other two at evoking the desired feel. I do know that Azahares is a fabulous contemporary floral full of the flora of Mexico.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux (l.) and Carlos Huber collaborating in the lab

Sr. Flores-Roux is an extremely versatile perfumer and I believe he can make a perfume out of paste, vinegar, and yeast; if he had to. Yet as the quote I used above illustrates there often seems to be a more intimate style of composition when he works with flowers. Azahares is Sr. Flores-Roux working at the top of his game with the ingredients of a “Mexican flower lover”.

Azahares is made up of three phases all with a floral at the core of the accord. In the top it is orange blossom which he swaddles in a blanket of lemon balm, orange, and lemon leaves. The citrus is present without becoming overwhelming. This allows the orange blossom a chance to peek out and assert a bit of its indolic core. Also, a bit of its green which the lemon leaves amplifies a bit. As Azahares transitions to the heart cassis forms the connection as the green facets from the top are carried forward to a deep lavender. That floral is accentuated with clary sage which with the cassis provides a stronger green but as with the citrus in the top Sr. Flores-Roux makes sure the flower does not get obliterated. The final accord is a deeply beautiful iris which Sr. Flores-Roux grounds in a botanical musk accord of ambrette and angelica. That natural musk opens up the earthy quality of the iiris.

Azahares has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I wore Azahares I realized that it is the culmination of the pride of two Mexican artists which has overflowed into a beautiful representation of the country they love.

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

Mark Behnke