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

New Perfume Review Alford & Hoff No. 3- Do You Wanna Build a Perfume?

There are many ways to construct a perfume. A few complementary notes. A single soliflore. A set of complex accords. Then there is the fragrance version of a pizza with everything on it, including extra cheese. I can make the argument that getting something with many competing ingredients to sing in unison is as difficult as it gets. When a perfume has so much going on it also runs the risk of spiraling out of control with just one wobble of the madly spinning construct. There are a few perfumers who have mastered this style of perfume making; one of them is Rodrigo Flores-Roux. His latest release for Alford & Hoff the aptly named Alford & Hoff No. 3 is a fantastic example on how to do this.

Alford & Hoff is an All-American lifestyle brand founded by former athletes Barry Alford and Jefferson Hoffman. They branched out in to fragrance in 2009 with the original Alford & Hoff which was a nice osmanthus centered Oriental. In 2015 they followed up with Alford & Hoff No. 2 which I found much more interesting as a mélange of spices and herbs over woods in their take on a sport fragrance. Sr. Flores-Roux has been the perfumer for these previous releases as well as this latest.

Alford & Hoff No. 3 is described as an “ultra-contemporary aromatic scent” which is one of those infrequent occasions where I agree with this description. Sr. Flores-Roux designs a fragrance of three distinctive precisely constructed accords each with a pivoting keynote which provides this contemporary effect.

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Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Nowhere is this more evident than in the way Sr. Flores-Roux constructs his top accord. He starts with a familiar citrus effect in cedrat and matches it with cardamom. He provides a rich boozy contrast with absinthe amplified with angelica root and angelica seeds. This is all nice but it is the introduction of the set of hair spray aldehydes on a flying carpet of rhubarb which transforms this entire opening into something quite amazing. The aldehydes sharpen the citric while the rhubarb turns the absinthe more vegetal all while simultaneously creating an expansiveness. This is what Sr. Flores-Roux does so brilliantly when he works on this scale. He repeats the same with the heart accord. Clary sage and nutmeg work with a Kadota fig accord the transformative note here is a full on rooty iris. A little geranium also helps modulate the iris from getting powdery. The base accord is centered around a mixture of three isolates of vetiver. Cedar picks up the woody nature. The synthetic Belambre warms it with a hybrid ambery-woody effect. What pulls it all together is a motorcycle jacket leather accord which picks up on the other notes in the base as the iris and aldehydes did in the earlier phases.

Alford & Hoff No. 3 has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is one of those reviews which cannot do justice to all that is going on within the construction of this fragrance. This is just a fantastic technical example of how to build a complex perfume. This is on top of it being one of the better mainstream perfume releases this year. I am hoping Mr. Alford and Mr. Hoffman ask Sr. Flores-Roux if he wants to build a perfume over and over again if they give him this kind of latitude.

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

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: John Varvatos Dark Rebel Rider & Alaia Paris Blanche

My feelings about flankers is well-known. I mostly dislike them. There is also a different situation which crops up with some of the better versions, though. Not all flankers are cynical marketing exercises some of them are different takes entirely. Those are flankers I want to approve of. Except when they are not to my personal taste, what then? This was the situation I found myself in with the release of two flankers of two of my favorite mainstream perfumes of last year. I think while they are not for me they are good enough that they might be something that will be adored by someone else. So, I am doing another round-up on John Varvatos Dark Rebel Rider and Alaia Paris Blanche. One caveat these did not get two days of wear as other perfumes I review do. Each of them got a liberal application to one arm on a weekend afternoon. I will say they did not go together all that well and the clash of both caused me to end the experience after a few hours. Even so I think I can share some broad experiences which might let a reader know if these are worth them seeking out.

varvatos-dark-rebel-rider

The John Varvatos brand of perfume is one I laud, especially in the department store. The same perfumer has composed all of them, Rodrigo Flores-Roux. While there are flankers within the collection Sr. Flores-Roux always makes systematic changes to the original. The same effort is made with the follow-up to last year’s Dark Rebel; Dark Rebel Rider. Dark Rebel caught the smell of a well-worn leather jacket along with some rum and spicy wood. For Dark Rebel Rider Sr. Flores-Roux lightens up the beginning before returning to a different leather accord in the base.

Sr. Flores-Roux opens with bright citrus accord made expansive on a bubble of aldehydes. It leads into a floral heart of iris and violet. In the final third a birch tar-like Russian leather appears supported by balsamic notes along with incense and some smoke. The bright citric floral is an interesting contrast to the rougher leather in the base. Just not for me.

Dark Rebel Rider has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

alaia-blanche

The first perfume under the label of fashion designer Azzedine Alaia, Alaia Paris, was not just one of the best mainstream perfumes it was just one of the best perfumes of last year. Perfumer Marie Salamagne captured this duality of high and low with ozonic notes contrasted with musks. It was a vibrant silhouette. Alaia Paris Blanche is all powder, overwhelmingly so. Mme Salamagne makes a cloud of almond scented facial powder.

Alaia Paris Blanche lacks that silhouette that so enchanted me with Alaia Paris. Instead Mme Salamagne combines almond, heliotrope, vanilla, and a different suite of white musks. It is completely well-balanced as each ingredient contributes to the entire effect. It was just so powdery I couldn’t allow myself to relax in to it. If you are a lover of powdery fragrances I think Alaia Paris Blanche might be the ticket. I’m not interested in taking this trip, though.

Let me be clear though I think both are above average perfumes. They suffer by comparison to their predecessors which both made my year-end top 25. My personal antipathy to what each of these perfumers have successfully achieved should not keep you from lassoing a sample or two to give them a try if the descriptions above intrigue you.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by John Varvatos and Alaia Paris.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Arquiste El and Ella- Mirror Ball Fragrances

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Perfume has a habit of triggering memories of places, to be sure. Sometimes it can even pull you back to a specific time, too. Carlos Huber the owner and creative director of Arquiste is one who regularly does both. His career in architectural restoration has combined with his passion for fragrance to make sure the brief for his perfumes come from a specific time and place. Up until now those times and places have not been during my lifetime. The newest pair El and Ella become the first.

Sr. Huber grew up on the stories his parents told him of the Acapulco disco Armando’s Le Club. In the early 1970’s Acapulco was the hip destination in Mexico and where the jet set could be found was dancing the night away at Armando’s Le Club. It was a resort version of Studio 54. The only difference here is the party moved from the pool in the daytime on to the dance floor at night. Disco and Acapulco were meant to be together and Armando’s Le Club was its intersection.

Sr. Huber wanted to capture a feminine and a masculine take on this particular setting. He enlisted regular collaborator Rodrigo Flores-Roux to complete this vision. They decided to name these creations El and Ella (he and she in Spanish). They are each meant to pick up on a part of the experience in 1972 at Armando’s Le Club. Sr. Flores-Roux creates two distinctly gendered personalities in each of these perfumes.

arquiste ella

Ella is the scent of the woman who has finished her sunbathing for the day and has nipped up to her room to slide into a Halston sheath. The neckline plunges as the sheen of perspiration forms droplets which disappear further down. Ella is this woman who stalks the pool deck imperiously only to prowl the dancefloor looking for her equal.

Ella opens with that scent of clean sweat beaded skin. Sr. Flores-Roux uses angelica root and carrot seed to form this accord. We then follow one of those beads of sweat as it coalesces at the waist. Rose coated with cardamom and honey. This is the scent of seduction as Ella puts out her lure. It all heads into a magnificent animalic chypre base composed of patchouli, vetiver, and civet. The last little bit of dazzle is a cigarette smoke accord which swirls very lightly throughout the base. This is so perfectly balanced to not disrupt the overall mood but to capture a time when smoking was what was hip.

arquiste el

El is the scent of that man who also enters Armando’s Le Club. He is dressed for the evening wearing a Nik-Nik shirt unbuttoned down to his navel. There is gold around his neck, more than one, but not too many. There is also a sheen of perspiration underneath his chest hair. He is an El looking for his Ella and across the dance floor that might be her standing there.

El opens with a 1970’s power herbal chord of laurel, clary sage, and rosemary. This is so typical of powerhouse men’s fragrances of the time it is almost the equivalent of “I am Man hear me roar”. It would have been so easy to let that beast out. Instead Sr. Flores-Roux works at making this a man of intellect as he uses cinnamon leaves to twist that herbal opening into something fantastically satisfying. Cinnamon leaf is an ingredient almost used as an afterthought. Not here. Sr. Flores-Roux uses it as a harness to keep the rampaging herbs from being too strident. It has to be done because the same cardamom and honey that we met in Ella are also here. This is the heart beating underneath the hirsute chest and gold chains. For El, Sr. Flores-Roux fashions an animalic fougere base. Vetiver and patchouli are transformed with a double dose of animalic as castoreum and civet provide the fur. Oakmoss provides the toothy smile. It is that moment when El sees Ella and passion takes over the night as the music and lights swirl around them.

Both Ella and El have 12-14 hour longevity. El has a little more sillage than Ella but neither is something I would consider quiet.

In every disco of the 1970’s a mirror ball held central position over the dance floor. The ability to reflect the light in many directions feels very similar to what El and Ella achieve. Through their collaborative efforts Sr. Huber and Sr. Flores-Roux have made two fragrances which contain a mirror ball of cardamom, honey, and civet within. The reflection of the other notes in both El and Ella are what makes them distinctive. El and Ella have reached a new pinnacle for Arquiste. These are both amongst the best this brand has to offer.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tommy Hilfiger The Girl- Finding the Edge

Twenty years ago a perfumer displayed her early talent with the release of Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl. The perfumer was Calice Becker. I’ve always considered Tommy Girl to be one of the new classics of perfume. When I received my press sample and press release for the new Tommy Hilfiger The Girl I had a concern that we were seeing more reformulation trying to capture the Millennials. It didn’t take long for me to see that wasn’t the case. I am pretty sure Tommy Hilfiger The Girl is trying to entice the Millennials to give it a try but not by making some lighter version of Tommy Girl. This is different than that.

calice becker

Calice Becker

One difference is Mme Becker is not working alone as she is joined by her Givaudan colleague Rodrigo Flores-Roux for Tommy Hilfiger The Girl. I have never found it easy to determine which perfumer is responsible for what part of the construction. If I am guessing here the floral heart seems very Sr. Flores-Roux’s style. The sharp green top accord seems Mme Becker-like. This is just me trying to perhaps figure out something which is not even a thing. There is a sharpness to Tommy Hilfiger The Girl which has been different than the approach taken by other brands in trying to capture the younger generation.

rodrigo_flores-roux2

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Tommy Hilfiger The Girl opens with a triad of sharp green leafy notes; violet leaves, fig leaves, and shiso leaves. In between all of the leafiness is a crisp green pear note. Despite the presence of the pear to try and help dull the cutting edge of both the violet and shiso leaves it never really succeeds. The shiso in particular seems to want to assert itself. This feels like a very niche aesthetic early on because of the aggressiveness of the green. The floral accord in the heart picks up the green and these notes do find a way to soften the edge. Jasmine is the keynote but it is surrounded by a couple of green hued ingredients in muguet and a synthetic from Givaudan called Karmaflor. These provide the green transition and the jasmine does the rest. It settles on to a pretty standard cedar and amber base accord.

Tommy Hilfiger The Girl has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Tommy Hilfiger The Girl is the first of the Millennial trending releases which hasn’t been afraid to show some edge. All of the earlier attempts by other brands seem to want to be crowd pleasers first and foremost. The creative team behind Tommy Hilfiger The Girl are placing their bets on something different. I like Tommy Hilfiger The Girl so it is a bet I can easily get behind and hope they are correct.

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample from Tommy Hilfiger.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Avon Little Black Dress- Modern Versatility

For those of us who are of the Baby Boomer generation one of your earliest encounters with perfume might have come with the visit of an Avon Lady to your home. I remember the visits of our local Avon Lady as my mother would look through the offerings. When it came to perfume Mom was a Guerlain Girl forever. The representative still tried to entice her with the new perfumes. The living room filled with scent.

Isabel Lopes

Isabel Lopes

I had forgotten about Avon as a perfume brand until reminded about it two years ago. An old friend from high school is now an Avon Representative. She sent me a box of the latest releases from 2014. I was very impressed at what was being achieved on a budget which allowed these perfumes to be sold so modestly. Once I delved further I discovered a creative director in Isabel Lopes who believes great perfume can be designed without a large price tag. First step is to enlist some of the greatest perfumers working currently. Almost every great perfumer you can name has done a perfume or two for Avon. One of those perfumers who impressed me with my first visit to the modern world of Avon fragrance is Rodrigo Flores-Roux.

rodrigo flores roux

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

After I reviewed his 2014 Avon perfume Flor Alegria I had the opportunity to ask him how different it was to create on a budget. What I love about Sr. Flores-Roux came through in his answer, “Not difficult at all.” When I asked how he got such a rich floral bouquet from the rose synthetics he let me in on a perfumer’s technique. He told me there is the equivalent of a drop of high quality rose essential oil there which is used to release the synthetic. I asked him if this is like what a single drop of water does to good scotch, it opens it up. His broad smile was all the answer I needed.

avon little black dress

Ever since my friend has been sending me samples of the latest Avon releases my level of respect has grown the more I encounter what can be done. In the beginning of April I received the latest release from Avon by Sr. Flores-Roux called Little Black Dress. I have spent the last three weeks smiling at how good this is.

Little Black Dress is an updating of a prior 2001 release. Sr. Flores-Roux was tasked with modernizing that structure. He decided to go with a classic silhouette comprising a citrus neckline, a floral waistline, and a woody hemline. Onto that basic figure he adds some detailing to give this Little Black Dress some character.

Little Black Dress starts with a neckline of ebullient lemon. The bit of solid braiding Sr. Flores-Roux adds to the lemon is pink peeper and plum. The tiny noticeable bit of plum adds opulence to the brightness of the lemon. It is an excellent way to start. The waistline of jasmine is where I think Sr. Flores-Roux might have added some jasmine essential oil to whichever version of jasmine synthetic he used. Peony and rose also help to create a more natural smelling jasmine accord than would be achievable otherwise. The hemline is sandalwood made a little asymmetrical with the addition of vanilla and a whole bunch of white musks. This creates a plush woody base accord that lasts an extremely long time.

Little Black Dress has 18-24 hour longevity and average sillage.

Sr. Flores-Roux is one of my favorite perfumers. With these Avon releases he reminds me a bit of the construction paper nudes of artist Henri Matisse. A great artist does not need the finest materials to move someone who appreciates art. Their creativity with working in any medium confirms their passion for it all. The amount of very good perfume being produced under the Avon brand, via Ms. Lopes vision, is remarkable. Little Black Dress is better than very good it is superb. If you haven’t considered Avon in a while, or at all, Little Black Dress might open your eyes. At $25 for 50mL it is hard to beat that price for this kind of quality.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle provided by Avon.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Le Galion Cologne and Cologne Nocturne- Classic v. Contemporary

I have long had a fascination with the contemporary evolution of the cologne. The whole Nouveau Cologne movement over the past five years has shown how much creativity can be applied to one of the most basic of fragrance architectures.

Another recent development that I have also enjoyed has been the re-emergence of Le Galion as a vital brand. Owner and Creative Director Nicolas Chabot first reminded us of these lost perfumes by the great perfumer Paul Vacher two years ago. Over the last year M. Chabot has been working with some of the best perfumers out there in realizing new perfumes in the style of M. Vacher. Now the latest step forward comes as M. Chabot collaborates with perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux on two very different colognes called Cologne and Cologne Nocturne.

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Nicolas Chabot (Photo: Sylvie Mafray)

Cologne is an imaginary meeting between M. Vacher and Sr. Flores-Roux in the gardens attached to the Le Galion mansion. Sr. Flores-Roux is a perfumer with whom I have had many discussions about how the heritage of the past can be reflected today. Thinking about these two perfumers having this conversation I would imagine it to be one on the classic form of cologne. Cologne provides that kind of experience.

Cologne opens on a fully realized orange blossom dominant accord underpinned with citrus. Sr. Flores-Roux has always had a deft touch with floral accords. This one is so basic yet somehow there is unexpected depth to the early moments of Cologne. It is softened in the heart with a bit of angelica root before heading to a green base of galbanum and clary sage. This is classical cologne distilled through that perspective using modern materials to add complexity. Cologne has 8-10 hours of longevity and average sillage.

rodrigo flores roux

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Cologne Nocturne is everything I enjoy about Nouveau Cologne. Sr. Flores-Roux creates what he calls an “amber water”. This is not the usual construction for cologne as the base is usually not the star. In Cologne Nocturne Sr. Flores-Roux has opened it up with traditional cologne components before turning it on its head in the base to realize his vision.

Cologne Nocturne starts with lemon and bergamot. It is a typical breezy cologne opening. The heart early on also stays firmly in the traditional as lavender is matched with herbal notes of rosemary, sage, and thyme. Then the modern aspects begin to arrive as a spice laden accord sweeps the herbs away to combine with the lavender. I don’t know if it is just the newness of it all but I prefer when the spices are ascendant with the lavender. These spices live on as a parade of woody notes begin to form the amber water accord. Sr. Flores-Roux takes what could become a very heavy finish and manages to keep it lighter. This is how he gets to his vision of “amber water”. Cologne Nocturne was one of my most anticipated things to try at Esxence 2016 and it did not let me down. It is a brilliant Nouveau Cologne. Cologne Nocturne has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I have to reiterate my admiration for the way M. Chabot is working so hard to keep it from being a relic and making sure it stays relevant. It is a difficult balancing act between the classic and the contemporary. Le Galion with Cologne and Cologne Nocturne continue to navigate these tricky waters creditably.

Disclosure: This review was based on sample provided at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke