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

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Neroli Portofino Acqua & Neroli Portofino Forte- Fino Flankers

On the surface if you tell me that there are flankers within the Tom Ford Private Blend collection I would be against it. In an already voluminous line of perfumes taking up space with flankers seems wasteful. Except when it comes to Neroli Portofino; creative directors Karyn Khoury and Tom Ford have found a way to do it thoughtfully. That starts with using perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux who composed the original to also be the nose behind the flankers. The first flanker was last year’s Fleur de Portofino which was much more floral than its parent. Now that is followed up by two more flankers Neroli Portofino Acqua and Neroli Portofino Forte.

When it comes to the names of these it is exactly what it promises on the label. Neroli Portofino Acqua is a very light eau de cologne version. Neroli Portofino Forte is a fortified version a little heavier than the original. What it seems like to me is they have now created a Neroli Portofino for all seasons.

tom fors np acqua

Neroli Portofino Acqua is constructed with the same framework of orange and orange blossom on top combined with a warm amber base. It is the middle accord that imparts the sense of airiness which gives Neroli Portofino Acqua its style. The opening is the same citrus mélange of orange, lemon and orange blossom. It is in these opening moments where Neroli Portofino Acqua is the most similar to Neroli Portofino. Then, where the original gets more floral, Acqua rises on a fresh breeze from the sea. It picks up the citrus accord and carries it to the amber base. This again is much lighter in feel than it was in the original. If there was anything you disliked about the original Neroli Portofino because of concentration I think Neroli Portofino might be the right concentration for you. Neroli Portofino Acqua has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

tom forsd np forte

Sr. Flores-Roux makes many more changes to Neroli Portofino Forte. The similarity to Neroli Portofino is definitely there but is feels much more like Fleur de Portofino did in its ability to stand apart. The first change is to switch the orange out for blood orange. This adds a contrasting tartness which is then shaded green with an herbal chord of basil, rosemary, and tarragon. Forte stays much more herbal and green as the orange blossom shows up as a much less influential note than in any of the other three flankers. Sr. Flores-Roux then adds in a smooth refined leather accord along with sandalwood. This is where the warm amber accord of Neroli Portofino again arises but as with the orange blossom it is other notes which are in the foreground. Some muscone in the final phase of development turns the last moments more animalic. Neroli Portofino Forte is a version to be worn in those chilly shoulder seasons around summer. I have been wearing it during these days of chilly mornings and temperate days and it is perfect. Neroli Portofino Forte has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

When a set of flankers is reimagined with the flair that Sr. Flores-Roux brings to this collection it is hard not to be impressed. I know Neroli Portofino Forte has definitely replaced the original as my favorite of the four. If you’ve ever wanted a blue bottle Tom Ford Private Blend on your dresser one of these four should definitely do the trick.

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

Mark Behnke

Header photo from groomingguru.co.uk

Discount Diamonds: Zirh Corduroy- Stocking Stuffer

At this time of year I get a lot of questions about what perfume I would suggest to give someone as a gift. First I frown on fragrance as a gift and my method for giving it as a gift can be found at this link. Even when I say that people still want an answer and not wanting to be a snobby Grinch I have a couple of suggestions in my back pocket. One of my favorites is Zirh Corduroy.

Zirh is a maker primarily of men’s skin and hair products. They have a small selection of four branded fragrances. In 2001 they released Zirh by perfumer Delphine Terry which was a safe traditional lavender focused fougere. Corduroy was the second release in 2005 by perfumers Jacques Huclier and Rodrigo Flores-Roux. Corduroy was meant to be the yin to Zirh’s yang as it was designed to be a darker oriental. I’m not sure of this but I am thinking Corduroy was meant to be the cold weather complement to Zirh. I know I tend to wear it in the colder months.

zirh corduroy

Corduroy opens with a surprisingly sophisticated citrus top accord. Mandarin is the nucleus for the perfumers to build upon with grapefruit, cardamom, and lavender. There is another listed ingredient called aquacoral but I have never been able to consciously detect it. It sounds like it should add some kind of aquatic character but that is not what I experience in the opening of Corduroy. What I get is citrus combined with an herbal lavender and cardamom. The spice cohort changes fairly rapidly as cinnamon eventually rises up. The presence of nutmeg is what eventually becomes the more extroverted note and it lies over a very delicate application of a suede accord. Corduroy eventually heads to a woody base of sandalwood, cedar, gaiac; sweetened with a bit of vanilla.

Corduroy has 14-16 hour longevity but very low sillage for a commercial release. It is that restraint which is part of the reason I recommend it as a gift.

Corduroy really is one of the best bang for your buck perfumes out there you can regularly get 100 or 125 mL size for under $15. I bought my 125 mL for $9.99 at a local discounter. If you need a stocking stuffer or you just want a little something extra for the perfume cabinet Corduroy is an excellent choice.

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

Mark Behnke