Yann Vasnier 201

As I’ve been making my list of the perfumers, I want to cover in this column, I naturally trend towards my favorites. Yann Vasnier is certainly one of my favorites. He is a perfumer who has done some of his best work in partnership with Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Calice Becker, and Francoise Caron. He is unafraid to take risks which means some of his most daring work is discontinued. I could’ve made a list of Apothia L Apothia, Le Labo Aldehyde 44, Tom Ford Private Blend Urban Musk, Marc Jacobs Bang, and Tom Ford Private Blend Lavender Palm. If I had done that it would have been a column examining texture within perfume design. M. Vasnier is one of the few perfumers who is known to have designed an Axe spray; 2009’s Axe Essence. For this month’s Perfumer 201 I’m going to look at the development of M. Vasnier’s gourmand style over the years.

Divine L’Homme Sage (2005)- M. Vasnier’s first released perfume was 1986’s Divine with Yvon Mouchel who also came from M. Vasnier’s home of Brittany in France. M. Mouchel would work exclusively with M. Vasnier. L’Homme Sage has no sage in it. What caught my attention on the day I tried it was how it played with metamorphosizing syrup in the beginning and heart. It opens with mandarin encased in sweet lychee syrup. A beautiful use of the maple syrup quality of immortelle transitions that sweetness into a heart of resins and base of woods. It isn’t strictly a gourmand style of perfume but the early moments carry that feeling.

Keiko Mecheri Gourmandises (2004)- Keiko Mecheri wanted a perfume of the marketplace in Istanbul and its confections. Specifically rose rahat loukhoum. M. Vasnier chooses to eschew a photorealistic version in place of something abstract. He embeds a praline accord inside a jammy rose accord. Then he brilliantly attenuates the intense sweetness with the contrast of saffron. It turns it into something not of the bazaar but enticingly bizarre.

Parfums DelRae Panache (2010)- M. Vasnier has had one of his most creative partnerships with creative director DelRae Roth for her Parfums DelRae brand. Panache is a gorgeously dark rum top accord which flows into an equally rich floral heart of jasmine and ylang-ylang. Vetiver provides a support for the boozy florals. As in the previous two fragrances it is the viscous matrix of honey which makes Panache come alive. It oozes into the spaces left to it turning Panache into something lovely.

Arquiste The Architects Club (2014)- When Carlos Huber was starting his Arquiste brand of perfume he turned to two perfumers. M. Vasnier was one of them and his body of work here is among his finest. The Architects Club imagines a meeting between flappers and architects during 1930. The architects are represented by woods and vetiver. The flappers come in with gin martinis, citrus, and vanilla to liven things up. The gin accord is used as a disruptive force and it is one of the reasons, I enjoy this so much because of that energy. It is like The Wild Party goes on and on.

Frassai Blondine (2017)- Natalia Outeda also used M. Vasnier to create one of her debut perfumes for Frassai. Blondine was an early example of the transparent floral gourmand trend which has taken off in the last eighteen months. M. Vasnier takes an expansive floral accord. Then he precisely adds caramel and cocoa until they reach a place where they do not overwhelm the floral but make a sticky platform for them to rest upon. This is one of my favorites of this early floral gourmand style.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Costa Azzurra Acqua- Shore Pine Aquatic

I am always drawn to the ocean. Growing up in S. Florida imprinted it in my soul. I have been fortunate to expand my horizons. To stand next to the crashing waves on different shores than the ones of my youth. One which has become my second favorite is what I found on the west coast of the US. These are rocky coastlines which are edged with shore pine lined escarpments. The scent of the pines mixed with the cold brine of the ocean is amazing. There aren’t a lot of perfumes which go for this when they want to make an aquatic; Tom Ford Private Blend Costa Azzurra Acqua does.

Yann Vasnier

Back in 2014 as part of the first expansion of the Neroli Portofino collection in the blue bottles Costa Azzurra was released. I enjoyed it because it reminded me of summer days beachcombing as a boy. Five years later the same perfumer, Yann Vasnier, is behind Costa Azzurra Acqua. In the original M. Vasnier used a dry woody accord to represent driftwood. In this new perfume he uses the shore pine as his woody piece of the perfume. He also finds a chillier aquatic accord to represent the denser feel of the ocean when it is cold. This is what comes together in Costa Azzurra Acqua.

That colder accord is composed of juniper berry, lemon, and myrtle. Each ingredient is noticeable on its own until they mesh into this mineralic ocean accord. This is the smell of cold swells crashing against rocks. As you look up the slope you get a hint of the pines as the breeze brings a clean pine-tinted woodiness courtesy of cypress. As you get closer the sticky sap of the trees becomes more apparent as M. Vasnier uses mastic and labdanum to represent that. Everything comes together into a satisfying whole.

Costa Azzurra Acqua has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

I must mention this because I know it is important to some; this might have the least longevity of any Private Blend. I don’t care but this comes together in a fantastically realized accord which only holds together for a short period of time. It means I am going to go through my sample a lot quicker, but I am okay with that.

I usually don’t reach for aquatics in the cooler weather; Costa Azzurra Acqua was nice on the cooler days I tested it. Which I think means it will be a great winter-to-spring choice. I can imagine myself standing on a Pacific coastline as the shore pines scent the air.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Alexander McQueen Amber Garden and Dark Papyrus- The Fall Ones

I received the eight perfumes in the McQueen Collection just after Labor Day. As I recounted in my review of Sacred Osmanthus these were different than the previous fragrances from Alexander McQueen. The creative team of Sarah Burton and Pierre Aulas had a vision of eight soliflore-like perfumes composed by different perfumers. My first impression was favorable to most of the eight. As the weather turned cooler, I was drawn towards two of them; Amber Garden and Dark Papyrus.

Yann Vasnier

Amber Garden was created by perfumer Yann Vasnier. The keynote for this is benzoin. Benzoin is one of the perfume ingredients I frequently describe as warm. In Amber Garden M. Vasnier chooses to enhance that effect with spices and resins.

Benzoin has an inherent sweetness to it which is part of what contributes to its coziness. M. Vasnier wraps another layer of that around it as saffron, nutmeg, cardamom, and cinnamon provide a set of spices which each provide a different version of warm. The benzoin pulses like a glowing heart as the spices settle upon it. Labdanum and frankincense add resinous depth without overriding the benzoin. As this part of the perfume developed on my skin it felt a bit better defined.

Amber Garden has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Amber Garden has been the fragrance equivalent of a warm scarf for me this fall. This is how a soliflore is meant to function by cleverly burnishing the note on display.

Christophe Raynaud

Dark Papyrus was created by perfumer Christophe Raynaud. The focal point here is in the name; papyrus. Papyrus is a light green-tinted woody ingredient. For Dark Papyrus M. Reynaud makes an interesting choice to use blackcurrant buds as the harmonizing note. That ingredient is one which can easily get out of control. M. Reynaud makes sure that doesn’t happen. What comes through is an enhancement of the green with the fruity character conjoining with the woody part of papyrus. Ginger and cardamom are also present to pick up the leas prominent spicy character of papyrus. The final ingredient is a synthetic wood which keeps everything drier.

Dark Papyrus has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I don’t think I’ll be reviewing the other five from the McQueen Collection, but they all share the same aesthetic of a single note at the center. If you see a favorite ingredient in the name, I would suggest picking up a sample because all of them are well done. If you are looking for more immediate gratification give the two designed for fall weather a try.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Alexander McQueen.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Vanille Fatale- Sans Tobacco

In 2007 when the first dozen Tom Ford Private blend perfumes arrived they were a sensation. Tom Ford working with Karyn Khoury would create something unique within the niche perfume sector. So many of those originals were such groundbreaking constructs it was maybe too much to expect the Private Blend collection to keep up that kind of creativity over the long run. As we begin 2018 and a second decade of Private Blends it is fair to say the collection has become an elder statesman of the luxury fragrance sector. You might notice I left off niche because as the brand has matured it has also become less adventurous. Particularly over the past year or so there has been an emphasis on using top notch ingredients within familiar constructs. The latest release, Vanille Fatale, is a good example.

As the collection becomes safer the PR copy becomes ever more impenetrable. Here is a bit from the press materials for Vanille Fatale:

“Vanille Fatale is a force of nature personified. A beguiling tempest that takes over like a rush of blood to the head. The impossible becomes real, too good to be true becomes true. Her – or his – unrelenting hold is fixed, refined yet raw, polished yet primal.”

All of that for a fragrance which is a nicely formed vanilla perfume using a great source of the titular note.

Yann Vasnier

Perfumer Yann Vasnier uses saffron as an exotic opener which might give you the idea something more unique is coming. It isn’t. What is coming is one of the Givaudan proprietary Orpur ingredients. The Orpur version of Madagascar vanilla is as good as raw materials get. It has power and nuance. The green nature of the orchid runs through the sweetness like stringy veins. M. Vasnier chooses olibanum and myrrh to provide resinous contrast and depth. It all rests on a soft suede accord in the base. There are some floral notes and coffee listed in the ingredient list but over a couple days of wearing this none of those came through. This is primarily saffron-vanilla-incense-leather.

Vanille Fatale has 16-18 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

It is hard to not try a new Tom Ford Private Blend containing vanilla and not be reminded of one of those early trendsetters in the debut collection; Tobacco Vanille. I’ve heard many tell me the tobacco is too much in that one. For those, Vanille Fatale is Tobacco Vanille avec tobacco. This is a very luxurious high-quality vanilla perfume for which I think vanilla lovers will die for because of the Orpur vanilla. I fall in between wanting there to be some of the adventurousness of the early Private Blends but accepting an elder statesman needs to show some decorum. Vanille Fatale is a decorous vanilla perfume.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.

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

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Oud Wood Intense and Tobacco Oud Intense- Kissing Cousins

Tom Ford Private Blend new release names are starting to feel like challenges. The last one, Fucking Fabulous, led me to ask; “is it?” Now there are two more additions to the Tom Ford Private Blend collection what are going to beg the same question; Oud Wood Intense and Tobacco Oud Intense.

Intense is another of those names which often seems to mean more concentrated. When that is what it translates to in the bottle it isn’t that interesting. I was particularly concerned about a perfume called Oud Wood Intense. If there is a masterpiece in the Private Blend collection Oud Wood is in the running for that accolade. To go back and alter that was worrisome. Tobacco Oud Intense was less of a concern because I could see less destructive ways to make that intense. It helps that the original perfumers were involved in both. Richard Herpin returns for Oud Wood Intense while Olivier Gillotin gets an assist from Yann Vasnier on Tobacco Oud Intense. What both have produced are perfumes which are more like second cousins of each other there are some common blood lines but both are distinct from the other perfume they share a name with.

Richard Herpin

It doesn’t take any time at all to see the difference in Oud Wood Intense as the entire top accord is re-orchestrated. M. Herpin combines ginger, nutmeg and angelica root on top of the blond wood of cypress. There are faint echoes of the Szechuan pepper and cardamom opening of the original but this group of ingredients does create a top accord with more presence. M Herpin brings the oud to the forefront out of that top accord. He captures the rougher edges of oud by using sage, juniper berry, vetiver, and oakmoss. This is meant to make an oud accord which shows off some of the more difficult parts of oud. The base doesn’t let up as a huge slug of castoreum really doubles down on that. This creates an accord full of animalic depth which is probably not going to be to everyone’s taste. A clean woody base of sandalwood and patchouli finish this. Oud Wood Intense is that country cousin to the refined city cousin of Oud Wood. M. Herpin decided to let the deeper tones of oud free to make Oud Wood Intense.

Oud Wood Intense has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Olivier Gillotin (l.) and Yann Vasnier

Tobacco Oud Intense becomes the city cousin in this pair to the country cousin of Tobacco Oud. For Tobacco Oud Intense the perfumers work together to turn down the smoke while adding in gourmand aspects. The first of those is the near-signature Tom Ford addition of raspberry as the companion for coriander instead of the herbs of the original. Some Givaudan Orpur Olibanum sets the stage for the title notes. The purity of this Orpur version adds a level of refinement to the setting for the tobacco and oud to rise. As they do, this time they don’t smolder instead they become entwined with toasty tonka giving an entirely different style of heart accord from the original. Labdanum and patchouli provide the finishing touch for Tobacco Oud Intense.   

Tobacco Oud Intense has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am gratified to find both perfumes to not be more of the same but kissing cousins instead.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfumes Review Trudon Parfums Bruma and Mortel (Part 1)- Solstice Twilight

As I’ve mentioned multiple times I’m not a candle guy. Although because I write about fragrances I get a few sent to me anyway. Of all the ones I’ve received there was one which even I could tell was at the pinnacle of quality; Cire Trudon. I know at the time I wondered how interesting it would be for the creative mind behind the candles, Executive Director Julien Pruvost, turned to perfumes of the liquid kind. With the release of the first five perfumes in the Trudon Parfums collection we see if the waxen brilliance can be translated to something without a wick.

Julien Pruvost

A couple of things which pleased me before I even spritzed a drop. Mr. Pruvost kept the first set of releases to five. Another positive is there is no desire to make sure they check every box on the style of perfumes checklist. These five span the deeper part of the perfumed spectrum. Finally, he chose to work with only three perfumers. Lyn Harris did three; Deux, Mortel, and Olim. Those three have an interesting coherence when taken together which is why I’ll cover them in Part 2 tomorrow. For today I’m going to look at the other two; Bruma and Mortel.

Antoine Lie

Bruma was composed by Antoine Lie. Bruma is translated as “solstice” from Latin. Solstice is also either the shortest day or night of the year; Bruma looks for the light before the darkness arrives. M. Lie embodies his daylight with beautifully rooty iris without a hint of powder. It is kept illuminated by peony, lavender, and jasmine. It is that last ray of sun expressed in iris. The darkness comes forward in a gorgeously constructed leather accord it wraps the sunny florals in a cloak of twilight. Vetiver comes along to extinguish the light leaving the earthier aspects of the orris as the remains of the day.

Bruma has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Yann Vasnier

Mortel was composed by Yann Vasnier. M. Vasnier is also playing with themes of shadow and light but Mortel is more twilight than one or the other. It has been a long time since I have tried a new incense perfume as good as Mortel. It was my first love in niche perfumery which Mortel reminded me of. Great incense has a shimmery metallic covering over the resinous core. The incense M. Vasnier chooses is all of that. He spices it up with black pepper, nutmeg, and allspice. They blend in adding shadow to the slightly monolithic nature of the incense. That solidity gets broken down even more as the sweetness of myrrh and benzoin modulate the chilly frankincense into a softer warmer resin accord as the shadows deepen.

Mortel has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Both Bruma and Mortel are excellent fragrance representatives of this most esteemed of candle brands.

I’ll return tomorrow with reviews of the other three.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Trudon Parfums.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone English Oak & Hazelnut- Cerulean Oak

One of the things I get a kick out of is when a perfumer comes up with a new accord or the company they work for presents a new isolation of a well-known note. I always imagine it is like the charge painters received when the pigment Cerulean Blue allowed them to add blue to their palettes. Just like those painters who had ideas but were unable to express them because the material wasn’t there; when it does arrive, the imagination is unleashed.

Perfumer Yann Vasnier is one of those for whom there must be a myriad of these kind of “what if?” ideas. When Givaudan showed him Roasted Oak Absolute he saw it as an alternative to the ubiquitous cedar or sandalwood. Now where to use it? Jo Malone creative director Celine Roux upon smelling it wanted it because she had been wanting to have a “fall forest in England” style of fragrance in the collection. Once new ingredient, perfumer, and creative director intersected what came out of it is English Oak & Hazelnut.

Celine Roux

The Roasted Oak Absolute carries an interesting scent profile. There is a sharp woodiness inherent to oak. The roasted part is as if you took some cords of oak and put them in a drying shed. They would pick up some of the smoke of the low fire providing the heat. It would bring out a bit of inherent woody sweetness. This is what I encounter when wearing English Oak & Hazelnut.

Yann Vasnier

The fragrance starts with the hazelnut. If you’re looking for a similar roasted effect this is not that. M. Vasnier uses a green hazelnut. This is very reminiscent of walking through the forest and crunching raw nuts on the ground with your boots. It is a raw nutty quality along with a slightly sharp green component. It is paired with the citrus-tinted wood of elemi as contrast. Vetiver comes along to focus the greener facets and cedar begins the transition from raw nutty on top to the roasted oak in the base. The vetiver remains as the roasted oak gains presence. It is an interesting overall feeling as the vetiver sometimes shifts the oak more to the greener woodiness typical of simple oak absolute. Then the roasted oak pushes back and it gets warmer. This metronomic back-and-forth is where English Oak & Hazelnut comes to its end.

English Oak & Hazelnut has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

M. Vasnier and Mme Roux were so excited about the Roasted Oak they decided there needed to be another fragrance featuring it and English Oak & Redcurrant is the other half of the English Oak collection. I preferred English Oak & Hazelnut because it displayed the new material more prominently. In English Oak & Redcurrant it is overridden by the rose in the heart more than it is here. If you really want to experience the Cerulean Oak of the Roasted Oak I recommend English Oak & Hazelnut to get the full experience.

Disclosure: This review was based on sample provided by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Divine L’Homme Sage- The Wise Man of Perfume

1

I don’t remember which store it was in New York I tried Divine L’Homme Sage for the first time. I feel like it was either Henri Bendel or Takashimaya but I don’t know with any certainty. What I do remember was I mentioned I liked spices and immortelle. The sales associate handed me a bottle from a brand I had never heard of prior to that day. Once I had some L’Homme Sage on a wrist; by the time I went to sleep I knew I would be buying a bottle. That would begin my discovery of this independent perfume brand from France.

Yvon Mouchel

Divine was begun in 1986 by owner-creative director Yvon Mouchel. Based in the town of Dinard in Brittany M. Mouchel would enlist a fellow artist from the same region; perfumer Yann Vasnier. M. Mouchel would give M. Vasnier his first brief for the debut of the brand with the self-named Divine. For seventeen years that was it. M. Mouchel believes “A great perfume is a work of art” and so it seemed he had accomplished his goal. Somewhere during those years, he decided there was more he had to say. Starting in 2003 he reunited with M. Vasnier and would produce nine new Divine releases until 2014.  

It was that day in New York which brought me to the Divine story somewhat in the middle. L’Homme Sage was the overall fifth release; coming out in 2005. Because of that I had no sense of a brand aesthetic I just knew this particular one appealed to me. As I would come to experience the rest of the collection I would come to realize this was as much a part of M. Mouchel’s vision as the other ones were.

Yann Vasnier

If you read the name L’Homme Sage and are expecting clary sage to be found in the perfume you will be disappointed. L’Homme Sage refers to the “wise man” with sage being the wise part of the name. The perfume is a classy spicy Oriental with the formation of three distinct accords.

L’Homme Sage opens with mandarin coated in syrup. The syrup is provided by lychee. It diffuses the citrus allowing for cardamom and saffron the opportunity to find some space to form a spicy sweet citrus top accord. A transitional use of immortelle bridges the top accord to the heart of patchouli, balsam, and incense. This forms a resinous heart accord which provides warmth. The base is cedar and guaiac combined with cistus and styrax which continues the warmth. The final ingredient it the subtle bite of oakmoss.

L’Homme Sage has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

The point of this column is to shine the light on some great brands which are still out there but do not keep up a consistent release rate. M. Mouchel very much lives the credo that his perfumes should be a “work of art”. That means they do not arrive on a timetable but on a creative schedule. That is the brand aesthetic which can be discovered if you try any of the Divine perfumes.

L’Homme Sage has always been a part of my perfume rotation because it is exactly what I look for.

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

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Marc Jacobs Bang- Would You Like Some Pepper?

It is a funny thing that I enjoy not being part of the crowd. Yet I want the general public to admire what I admire. It makes no sense but I know it is how I feel. When it comes to fragrance I feel it most often when a mass-market perfume tries to bring a niche sensibility to a perfume being sold at the mall. The Dead Letter Office is full of these attempts because consumers usually don’t know what to make of these very different perfumes next to the safe fragrances they know right next to them in the department store. One great example of this is 2010's Marc Jacobs Bang.

Marc Jacobs advertising Bang

In 2010 consumers were given two very different choices when they showed up at the Men’s Fragrance counter. In the summer of that year Bang and Bleu de Chanel were released within weeks of each other. For the second half of 2010 there was a referendum on what comprised success in the masculine mainstream fragrance world. If you were going to play it safe Bleu de Chanel was a “greatest hits” collection of every popular masculine accord of the previous twenty years. Bang was going to see if you were willing to leave the well-trod road for something more adventurous.

Ann Gottlieb

Marc Jacobs had been producing perfume since 2001. As a brand it had been primarily focused on perfumes marketed to women. Only 2002’s Marc Jacobs Men was aimed at men. By 2010 Marc Jacobs has produced two huge mainstream women’s successes in Daisy and Lola. As Mr. Jacobs and co-creative director Ann Gottlieb considered a new masculine perfume they decided to go with one of the perfumers who worked on Lola, Yann Vasnier.

Yann Vasnier

M. Vasnier has been one of those perfumers who, when given the opportunity, will happily add in niche aesthetics to the mainstream. As we headed past Y2K in the niche world black pepper was having a moment. Black pepper had been used as a supporting ingredient especially with the spicy varieties of rose. Italian perfumer Lorenzo Villoresi released Piper Nigrum which was a shot of pure black pepper. Just as the internet perfume forums were forming Piper Nigrum was one of the most talked about fragrances in those early days. Black pepper would start regularly appearing as a focal point in fragrances like L’Artisan Parfumeur Poivre Piquant, Penhaligon’s Opus 1870, or Viktor & Rolf Antidote. For Bang M. Vasnier was going to see if a more general consumer was ready for some black pepper.

The opening of Bang is not simply black pepper as M. Vasnier uses pink peppercorns and white pepper as leavening notes to keep the black pepper from hitting like a sledgehammer. Even so that top accord carried a great deal of presence pretty much making a consumer confront their feelings on wearing black pepper from the first moment. Even the woods in the heart were led by the rougher edged birch which enhanced the piquancy of the pepper instead of toning it down. Only in the base was the transparently resinous accord where any measure of safety could be found.

Bang has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I have loved Bang from the first moment I tried it. Which is why that might be why it is in the Dead Letter Office. Bang was not a tiny step toward niche sensibilities it was more like being shoved through a door and having it locked behind you. Whenever I was out shopping during the 2010 Holiday season I recommended Bang time after time only to have those shopping with me pick up the Bleu de Chanel gift set.

Bleu de Marc Jacobs?

Bang was gone from the department stores by 2015 while Bleu de Chanel has become one of the best-selling men’s fragrances in the world. Marc Jacobs would even ask M. Vasnier to make another perfume a year later called Bang Bang, which was more Bleu de Chanel like. Even down to the color of the bottle. That had no more success than Bang. In 2010 when given a choice the public went with safe while Bang, and Bang Bang, was on its way to the Dead Letter Office.

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

Mark Behnke