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

New Perfume Review Nest Wisteria Blue- The Garden District

If you do any traveling in the southeastern part of the United States, you will find that all the older cities have what are called Garden Districts. What that means is they are areas where the grand old Southern-style mansions are located. If you look at that name and expect manicured gardens it turns out to be different than that. The garden part is most often comprised of soaring trees draped with moss and lichen along with climbing vines with colorful flowers clinging to the wrought iron and pillars of the antebellum houses. One of the most common of the colorful climbing vines is wisteria. Nest Wisteria Blue is inspired by these old vines.

Laura Slatkin

Creative director of Nest Fragrances, Laura Slatkin, was on a walk in the Garden District of Charleston, South Carolina where she came across a house covered in blue wisteria vines. Her desire to make a perfume which captured that was born in that moment. She would turn to perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux to help achieve that. According to the press release Sr. Flores-Roux has an essence of wisteria extracted from the blooms at Marie Antoinette’s home at Versailles, Petit Trianon. The scent of the flower falls somewhere between lilac and freesia. It is a delicate smell that could easily get overrun by more powerful florals. In Wisteria Blue Sr. Flores-Roux makes sure his singular essence does not get lost.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Wisteria Blue opens on that lilting floral nature of the wisteria which in the early moments floats like a veil. Then a watery accord reminiscent of water dripping off the flowers after a hard rain. It provides a place for the wisteria to get a bit stronger in presence. That amplification continues as jasmine and rose uplift the wisteria on their shoulders. Sr. Flores-Roux keeps this in balance throughout which I don’t think is as easy as it is for me to write it.

Wisteria Blue has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Ms. Slatkin has realized her vision of a Garden District in a fragrance as Wisteria Blue captures a sunny stroll down a street where the flowers are clinging to the architecture.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Sephora.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Frassai Blondine and Verano Porteno (Part 2)- Fairytale and Tango

Yesterday I introduced Natalia Outeda the creative director-owner behind the jewelry and fragrance brand Frassai. I also reviewed Tian Di. Today I am going to cover the remaining two releases from the debut collection Blondine and Verano Porteno.

Yann Vasnier

For Blondine Sra. Outeda collaborated with perfumer Yann Vasnier. The name of the fragrance refers to the heroine of a 1920’s French fairytale. I’m not familiar with the story but the musky floral gourmand Sra. Outeda and M. Vasnier have created reminds me more of Hansel and Gretel. As mouth-watering food elements draw you closer.

M. Vasnier opens with a walk among the flowers and trees with ashok flower and tiger lily giving spicy floral touches while pear leaves provide some green with hints of fruit. It isn’t a forest per se, but it is an outdoors floral accord. Then from a distance caramel and cocoa entice you towards a house that exudes a fabulous gourmand accord. M. Vasnier finds a nice balance in something that could have been overwhelming. This is a recurrent theme in the entire Frassai debut collection on not going as far as the ingredients will let you. Instead Sra. Outeda goes for an opaquer aesthetic. It works to the advantage of the gourmand heart in Blondine. The musks come forward and they provide an animalic contrast which works.

Blondine has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

If there was one I was looking forward to from the press materials it was Verano Porteno by perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux. Sr. Flores-Roux is one of my favorite perfumers because of his passion. The idea of having him assay a summer evening in Buenos Aires was always going to be special. The keynote is a gorgeous Imperial Jasmine around which the other notes dance with gusto.

Sr. Flores-Roux again displays his deft touch with citrus as he blends bergamot, clementine, and cedrat. The clementine carries the focal point but the tart nature of the other two keep it from being as ebullient as it could, which I liked. A very green intermezzo of mate tea and cardamom transition from the citrus to the jasmine. This is an impressive jasmine kept light but not neutered as the indoles purr underneath. The base is the botanical musk of ambrette and woody vetiver.

Verano Porteno has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Natalia Outeda

I must compliment Sra. Outeda on the aesthetic she imposed upon her three perfumers. It produces a coherent collection of familiar ingredients used in a lighter way than expected. I think all three are worth sampling but I know it will be my sample of Verano Porteno which will be empty first.

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

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2017 Year-End Review Part 2- Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, & Brand of the Year

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Yesterday, in Part 1, I took a broad view of 2017. Today I take a very focused look at the year naming my best of the best.

Perfume of the Year: Ineke Idyllwild– I met independent perfume Ineke Ruhland in April 2009. My editor at the time Michelyn Camen would introduce me to her in the perfume department of Takashimaya in New York City. She had just made one of the best perfumes I had tried in Field Notes from Paris. I was doing a bit of fanboy gushing. She smiled, listened to my insensate gibbering; then after I calmed down we began to connect. Ms. Ruhland has been one of my very favorite indie perfumers ever since I discovered her Alphabet series. It is a near-perfect collection of perfume. She continually produced releases until 2012 and then nothing. Two years ago at Pitti in Florence she had a stand where she was showing the next two letters in the Alphabet Collection “I” & “J”. “I” was one of my favorites of the entire exposition. I excitedly waited to write about it when it was released. And I waited. And I waited. Almost exactly two years later Idyllwild was released.

Ineke Ruhland

Idyllwild is emblematic of why I admire Ms. Ruhland as she takes a classic perfume style, fougere, then transforms it into something contemporary. From the typical lavender and citrus opening through a pine tree heart to delicate tendrils of smoke this is expertly blended. Supporting notes of green cardamom, rhubarb tea, and a fabulously delicate oud accord for her smoke show her skill. Ms. Ruhland combines the technical expertise with the artist’s soul to make Idyllwild my Perfume of the Year.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Perfumer of the Year: Rodrigo Flores-Roux– I can’t remember the first time I met Sr. Flores-Roux but the one thing I know with certainty he was smiling. While I don’t remember the first time, my most memorable meeting took place in October 2012. Sr. Flores-Roux along with Arquiste creative director Carlos Huber were presenting the new brand at the Mexican Embassy’s Cultural Center. I have never forgotten the following quote from his remarks 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 Mexican Embassy Cultural Center October 2012

That quote is an apt epigraph to sum up his 2017 perfumes where there was more than a little Mexico in them. It was literally a travelogue as no less than eight different perfumes had distinct Mexican inspirations. The three Arquiste releases for the Mexican department store El Palacio de Hierro were the best examples of his ability as a “Mexican flower lover”. Azahares is perhaps his best pure floral perfume ever. He would exercise his indie sensibility in the four perfumes he collaborated on for the small line called Xinu. Monstera is a raw green vegetal perfume which almost magically transforms to leather. This is the botanist at play. His final trip comes from the mainstream release, John Varvatos Artisan Pure. Here he uses a less complex palette to create the summer hillsides of Xalapa. That it is every bit as compelling as the other seven mentioned is a testament to the breadth of perfume he produced this year.

I’m not even including the three Carner Barcelona Black Collection perfumes, his continued work for Tom Ford Private Blend, and his three Palindromes for Santi Burgas. Every one of these confirms my choice.

I think Sr. Flores-Roux has been a runner-up every year I have made this choice. I am happy to name him Perfumer of the Year for wearing his love of Mexico in his perfume.

Runner-ups: Luca Maffei, Jerome Epinette, Bruno Fazzolari, Daniela Andrier, and Antoine Lie.

Jerome Epinette (l.) and Jan Ahlgren

Creative Director of the Year: Jan Ahlgren of Vilhelm Parfumerie– When I am asked, “What’s the brand nobody is talking about?” My answer for the last couple years has been Vilhelm Parfumerie. Ever since it’s founding in 2015 Jan Ahlgren has transformed his love of classic Hollywood, the places he loves in the cities he has lived in, and a generally contemporary aesthetic into a fantastic collection of nineteen perfumes. The 2017 releases of Do Not Disturb, Harlem Bloom, and Basilico & Fellini are some of the best in the collection he oversees with perfumer Jerome Epinette. That choice of working with a single perfumer has resulted in a creative ability to build upon each previous release. When I read the inspiration for a perfume in a press release I am way too frequently left scratching my head. That Mr. Ahlgren can translate his vision into a perfume which doesn’t do that is why he is the Creative Director of the Year.

Runner-ups: Frederic Malle (Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle), Etienne de Swardt (Etat Libre D’Orange), and Christian Astuguevieille (Comme des Garcons).

Brand of the Year: Comme des Garcons– If there is a pillar of the niche perfume sector it is Comme des Garcons. That they continue to innovate twenty three years after releasing their first perfume is amazing. In 2017 they opened with a reminder of their past as they released ten of their previous trendsetters in the Comme des Garcons Olfactory Library. I write Comme des Garcons is ahead of its time; the re-releases ask if time has caught up. The three new releases: Concrete, Andy Warhol’s You’re In, and Vogue 125 all show this is a brand which still has much to say. The past might have been amazing but the present is glorious which makes Comme des Garcons my Brand of the Year.

Runner-ups: DSH Perfumes, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Vilhelm Parfumerie, A Lab on Fire, and Parfums de Marly.

Part 1 was my broad overview of 2017

Part 3 is my Top 25 New Perfumes of 2017

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review John Varvatos Artisan Pure- Mexican Hillsides

When I was beginning to start thinking about writing perfume reviews I was deep in my “niche is best” phase. I would happily debate with those who would insist there was good perfume at the mall with a very pithy “Nuh-uh!” There would be a few which would shake my narrow world view. One of those was 2004’s John Varvatos. If there is a reason I make sure I survey the department store offerings the John Varvatos line is one of them.

John Varvatos

John Varvatos has been a successful men’s fashionwear designer since the mid 1980’s creating some of the most iconic styles for both Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. He would begin his independent career with his own label in 2000. One of the things I like about Mr. Varvatos is we share a similar rock and roll musical taste. He used to do a radio show on SiriusXM where he would play some of his favorite songs. Plus, he is the current tenant of the storefront which was CBGB in NYC. Unlike many who put their name on the bottle it is clear to me that his is not a licensing deal but an active creative partnership.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

That partnership has been with perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux. I think Sr. Flores-Roux also gets the Varvatos rock and roll aesthetic. He has translated it successfully over fifteen releases into what I would consider the best department store brand from top to bottom. Not only do they share passion, but Sr. Flores-Roux brings his artistic perspective even to the most modest briefs he receives. This is another reason the John Varvatos collection stands out among the other bottles on the counter. Artisan Pure is the most recent release.

Artisan Pure is the fourth member of the Artisan sub-collection. It was inspired by hillsides of Xalapa in Sr. Flores-Roux’s birthplace of Mexico. 2017 has been a year of Sr. Flores-Roux stepping forward with many looks at Mexico. Artisan Pure captures those hillsides when the orchards and coffee fields are in full bloom.

Artisan Pure opens with a citrus accord that rings with the clarity of pinging a finger off a crystal wineglass. Lemon, bergamot, and clementine form a juicy pulpy chord. Petitgrain provides the focus that turns it into a crystalline citrus accord. It also makes this one of the longer lasting citrus accords because of that. The green of the hillsides is captured by herbal notes of marjoram and thyme. Ginger provides a zingy intermezzo to a heart of orris root. This is the kind of non-powdery iris I find wonderful when paired with citrus. This is where Sr. Flores-Roux understands a little bit of an expensive ingredient helps lift the overall above the ordinary. The base accord is woods and amber over some musks.

Artisan Pure has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Artisan Pure is yet another example of why John Varvatos is the best of the department store. There are so many brands which phone it in at this point. That Mr. Varvatos and Sr. Flores-Roux continue to produce this kind of quality is remarkable.  

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Hilfiger Woman Candied Charms- Holiday Clafoutis

I write often in my The Sunday Magazine column how much I enjoy all the sweet goodies around the Holidays. One I haven’t written about is Clafoutis a kind of fruit infused version of flan baked in a pie dish. The first time I had it cherries were the fruit. Once I learned how to make it I decided I didn’t want to spend time pitting cherries and so in Poodlesville our Clafoutis is made with raspberries. It is that ridiculously sweet dish which only seems appropriate during the holidays. It seems like the Tommy Hilfiger fragrance brand wants to try the same thing with perfume in Hilfiger Woman Candied Charms.

I am pretty sure if this perfume crossed my desk at any other time of the year I would have dismissed it. Arriving just as Thanksgiving hit its timing was perfect. The flankers of 2010’s Hilfiger Woman have been steadily moving towards a sweeter style Candied Charms might be the end of that evolution as it is the sweetest of the bunch. Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux goes full-on gourmand which turns out to be just the right choice. It is a fruity floral clafouitis fragrance.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Sr. Flores-Roux takes a crisp pear and mandarin as a fruity attention getter before dunking it in heavy cream scented with jasmine. It is the creamy aspect which predominates as the jasmine swirls throughout. The sweetness intensifies over time. A bit of fig provides some respite but only fleetingly. There seem to be a full suite of salicylates floating throughout adding more depth to the sweetness. Vanilla eventually adds in the final amount of gourmand-y fun.

Hilfiger Woman Candied Charms has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Having spent time with Sr. Flores-Roux I can almost feel his infectious laugh bubbling through Candied Charms. This is a real perfume but composed with the fun of baking in an olfactory kitchen. If sweet or gourmand are not your style, then this is something to avoid. On the other hand, if you want some sweet foodie perfume that is probably not good for you spray some Candied Charms on and join the party.

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

Mark Behnke