New Perfume Review Atelier Cologne Collection Orient Poivre Electrique- The Return of Bruno

I have mentioned how I believe Atelier Cologne has done one of the best jobs at building a brand of any of their contemporaries. I have also believed a key part of that was the use of only two perfumers on nearly all of the previous thirty releases. Perfumers Jerome Epinette and Ralf Schwieger have provided the olfactory DNA which has define Atelier Cologne. Particularly over the last year I began to wonder if there was room for a new collaborator who could also add a different genetic makeup to this brand.


Bruno Jovanovic

When I received my five press samples of Collection Orient I have become so used to the styles of M. Epinette and Hr. Schwieger that I felt like four out of the five felt like M. Epinette’s work. When I sent off the e-mail to Atelier Cologne to get confirmation I asked if the fifth perfume, Poivre Electrique, was maybe a new perfumer. When I received my response I was delighted to find out it was Bruno Jovanovic.


Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel

M. Jovanovic was the one perfumer outside of Atelier Cologne who I admired for also working on modernizing the cologne architecture. In 2012-2013 he made five fragrances which showed his version of contemporary cologne. The three releases he did for Thirdman, A Lab on Fire Almost Transparent Blue, and Dries van Noten for Frederic Malle. If there was a signature to his style of cologne it came in the more transparent use of woody notes in the base accord. The five fragrances I named above sit in the same space as all of my Atelier Cologne bottles because that is where I feel the future of cologne exists. I don’t know the story behind M. Jovanovic being brought in to the Atelier Cologne Perfume fold. I can say that I am delighted that creative directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel reached out to him.

poivre electrique montage

For M. Jovanovic’s first brief he was tasked with using black pepper as a keynote in Poivre Electrique. Black pepper has been a fantastic note in perfume when used correctly. It has been an overbearing presence when used inappropriately. There are more examples of the latter. M. Jovanovic I believe recognized this. He uses black pepper as the replacement for the traditional herbal component of the cologne top accord. It is a beautiful beginning to what turns in to a spectacular new cologne.

Poivre Electrique opens with the black pepper front and center. It holds all of my initial attention until bitter orange eventually adds in the citrus piece of the cologne design. M. Jovanovic keeps this pepper set at a steady burn without crossing over into searing. The pepper continues as the heart notes begin to become more apparent. Rose and incense make up the duet along with pimento carrying on with the fading pepper in adjacent to it. In a set of perfumes dubbed as from the Orient this is the one phase where I felt like I was in a Pasha’s Palace. Myrrh warms the incense. Then M. Jovanovic provides his signature as sandalwood and cedar provide the translucent woody veil over the heart accord.

Poivre Electrique has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.

Poivre Electrique is my favorite of the new Collection Orient. I admire much of the risk taking evident in the other four releases but Poivre Electrique combines that adventurousness with a set of incredibly pleasing accords. I suppose it could just be that The Return of Bruno to making new cologne in a place where it feels like he should always have been, being a match made in Heaven.

Disclosure; This review is based on a press sample provided by Atelier Cologne.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Atelier Cologne Collection Orient Tobacco Nuit & Philtre Ceylan- Cumin Nights

Cumin is one of the more divisive materials used in perfumery. To some it smells strongly of unwashed perspiration. To others it is a vital piece of depth and texture as part of a whole composition adding in a level of spice only cumin can bring to a fragrance. Two of the new Collection Orient from Atelier Cologne, Tobacco Nuit and Philtre Ceylan, contain prominent cumin notes. It is an interesting evolution of the brand. Creative directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel take Atelier Cologne to a whole different scent space than they have in all of the previous releases. One smart thing to do is to take along a collaborator in perfumer Jerome Epinette with whom you’ve had a long fruitful relationship. Together this creative team successfully takes some risks.

tobacco nuit

Tobacco Nuit is an example of when the Cologne Absolue design is pushed to its limits because of the use of more intense ingredients. I have always enjoyed where M. Epinette chooses to alter his interpretation of cologne. With Tobacco Nuit this really does feel like a night inspired cologne.

M. Epinette starts with a true original take on the citrus-herbal traditional opening of cologne. He combines the intense tartness of clementine with coriander and cumin. This is a fabulous variation as the cumin and coriander provide a rough-hewn quality to press against the clementine. The nice thing is if it isn’t something you enjoy as much as I do it moves along quickly into the heart of tobacco flower, incense, and labdanum. Again the conventions of cologne are being stretched. The tobacco flower, instead of a full tobacco leaf accord, keeps the tobacco from being that rich narcotic version. It is a shade or two lighter. Which allows the silvery incense and the earthy labdanum an opportunity to form a heart accord which goes very deep but also stays quite opaque. Patchouli picks up on the earthiness of the olibanum, cedar adds a subtle complement to the incense and vanilla sweetens the tobacco flower for the final phase of development. Tobacco Nuit has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.

philtre ceylan

Philtre Ceylan actually is the first Atelier Cologne release which feels like it has truly reinvented the form. There are the very sketchy outlines of cologne present. Philtre Ceylan is much more interested in being a spicy tea fragrance than in being a cologne. Vive la difference!

If there is any part of Philtre Ceylan that feels cologne-like it is the opening where bergamot and cardamom are first to impress. No sooner do you get a handle on that than M. Epinette twists the screw by inserting a fresh spearmint. It blows up that opening completely. What reassembles starts with a rich strong tea accord equal parts black tea and green tea. Again M. Epinette adds in a note to impose itself upon that accord as a powdery iris forms a veil over the tea. It comes together surprisingly well. The cumin shows up in the base and in Philtre Ceylan it sticks around for a long time. It forms a foundation for the heart accord adding particular contrast to the iris. The light woodiness of gaiac and the similarly weighted green of papyrus round out Philtre Ceylan. Philtre Ceylan has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.

There has been no shortage of darker versions of cologne in the Atelier Cologne collection. Tobacco Nuit and Philtre Ceylan provide the deepest nights yet all through the use of cumin.

Disclosure: This review was based on press samples provided by Atelier Cologne.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Atelier Cologne Collection Orient Encens Jinhae & Mimosa Indigo- Go East Young Colognoisseur!

Atelier Cologne is one of my favorite brands because they continue to test the boundaries of what can be accomplished with a cologne architecture. For this latest five fragrance collection the creative directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel have looked Eastward for inspiration to result in the Collection Orient. This is almost a natural as the ingredients those of us in the West associate with the East lend themselves to a cologne-type fragrance. I will review the entire collection over the next three days. Today I begin with Encens Jinhae and Mimosa Indigo.

encens jinhae

Encens Jinhae is by perfumer Jerome Epinette. It combines incense and cherry blossom. The Jinhae in the name refers to the South Korean town where the most famous Korean celebration of the cherry blossom takes place. I have always associated both of these ingredients with Japan. Growing up in S. Florida there was this small Japanese Garden on one of the causeways linking Miami to Miami Beach. Whenever I visited as a child there was a cone of incense burning. Miami was too warm for cherry trees. For that it is my current home in Washington DC which provides me the spectacle of the cherry blossoms every spring. Encens Jinhae melds both of these memories into one.

M. Epinette opens Encens Jinhae with pink pepper and nutmeg. This is one of the rare occasions where the top accord has not appealed to me. I felt like the nutmeg and the pink pepper never found an equilibrium making it feel more discordant than I would have preferred. Thankfully all of that moves away as the heart of incense and cherry blossom blooms. Cherry blossom is a tough floral to work with because it carries a very slight scent profile. M. Epinette uses rose to add some of the depth nature left out. Because of that fragility the use of the incense also has to be carefully modulated. If I thought the top accord was off-kilter the heart accord is almost perfectly balanced. Since that is where most of my time wearing Encen Jinhae was spent it made me smile a lot. The base is a combination of sandalwood, elemi and a patchouli fraction. This provides an opaque woody foundation. Encens Jinhae has 12 to 14-hour longevity and average sillage.

mimosa indigo

Mimosa Indigo is also composed by M. Epinette. Encens Jinhae felt like a fairly straightforward paean to the Orient; Mimosa Indigo is a very conscious melding of East and West. M. Epinette works towards a heart of mimosa and leather. It leaves Mimosa Indigo as something straddling two worlds.

Mimosa Indigo’s East-West divide is illustrated by mandarin and saffron in the top notes. The mandarin provides the juicy citrus to the exotic nature of the saffron. I wouldn’t have expected these two to go together as well as they do. I was sort of sorry to see them move out of the way for the heart notes. The mimosa is beautifully realized. M. Epinette also chose to use lilac to up the floralcy because his white leather accord has some oomph to it. This leather accord is not so refined to be described a suede nor is it so animalic to be thought of as raw. It falls closer to suede than unrefined but this is no ultra-refined version of leather. This is why the lilac is necessary otherwise this would just be a heart of leather. The final mix of the mimosa and the leather is fascinating. The base is again sandalwood but made sweeter with some vanilla over a few sheer musks. Mimosa Indigo has 16 to 18-hour longevity and average sillage.

In both of these Orient Collection releases it is the floral heart accord which make them stand out.

I’ll review the remaining three entries over the next two days.

Disclosure; This review was based on press samples provided by Atelier Cologne.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Seanan McGuire’s October Daye Series

Long before binge watching television became a thing I practiced the habit with serial fiction. Once I finally graduated college and had time to begin reading I knew I wanted to catch up on some of the great mystery, science fiction, and fantasy series. I had one rule I wouldn’t start reading book one until I had a stack of all the entries that had been published in a stack ready to follow. Reading these series, which took the author years to write, were excellent insights into how a writer would evolve and develop. I talk about it all the time with perfumers as the inflection point. That moment when an artist, through experience, breaks through into a new refined level. When I am reading an established series it is fun to see when the cornerstones of the series’ hallmarks begin to form. Like episodic television there should be a familiarity with the characters without it feeling like things are being churned out in a similar manner. Then there are those who don’t follow this while creating something wholly fascinating. My binge reading over the Holidays was author Seanan McGuire’s October “Toby” Daye series. Ms. McGuire throws every genre imaginable into her world while successfully creating an indelible character I want to follow.


Seanan McGuire

The series is one of the Faerie realm and the Fae who inhabit it. Fertile ground for many of these urban fantasy series. Also common is to have our main protagonist be half human half fae. The final common trope on display in the first book, “Rosemary and Rue”, is our heroine is a Private Investigator. The first book pulls her back into Faerie politics when one dies in San Francisco and as she dies she curses Toby to investigate her murder and solve it or die. As a first book this does the necessary pieces of introducing the recurring supporting cast while Toby works to solve the mystery. As a first book it was good but not so different to be great. That would come a few books later, that inflection point I mentioned.

Over the next two books, “A Local Habitation” and “An Artificial Night”, Ms. McGuire picks up many of the threads laid down in the first book while developing the supporting cast. What I liked especially about “An Artificial Night” was it was as pure a Fantasy novel. minus the urban as could be, with the heroine on a Quest where the consequences lead to book four, “Late Eclipses”.


In “One Salt Sea” there is that moment when it felt like Ms. McGuire completely had a handle on her world and her characters. It is also where her prose also leapt to a new level. Less repetitive passages matched with a better sense of humor, sometimes gallows humor, but humor nonetheless.

The next four books in the series build on this momentum until as I finished the most recent release, “A Red-Rose Chain” I was impressed at how much the author has developed along with her characters. In a very crowded urban fantasy field Ms. McGuire has risen to be amongst the best. If you are interested in the genre and need something to get you through these final weeks of winter get acquainted with Toby Daye.

Mark Behnke

The Gold Standard: Patchouli- Chanel Coromandel

There are materials in perfumery which are damned by a couple of words. When it comes to patchouli the phrase “head shop” is the one. It refers to the endemic scent of the shops which sold paraphernalia for smoking marijuana that popped up in the 1960’s. There are all kinds of anecdotal stories for why patchouli was so prevalent. It was used to mask the pot smell. It was used to mask the unwashed smell of the clientele. It smelled cool. There is no clear cut answer to why. The downside is patchouli has lost some of its panache when it is associated with the bohemian.


I admit I carried this prejudice with me when I first started my perfumed path. I wanted to wear fragrance to add a touch of class not have it be the perfume of the plebian. Over the years I learned how versatile patchouli was as an ingredient. At turns herbal, earthy, resinous while being playful or serious. There is a reason it shows up in so many compositions. When it comes to The Gold Standard the perfume I consider to be the baseline for patchouli is Chanel Coromandel.

jacques polge

Jacques Polge

Chanel Coromandel was released in 2007 as part of the Chanel Les Exclusifs collection. It was one of the inaugural releases in this collection. Chanel in-house perfumer Jacques Polge collaborated with perfumer Christopher Sheldrake in designing it. This was interesting because at this point M. Sheldrake had become the de-facto in-house nose at Serge Lutens. In that capacity he had recently designed in 2005 an intense chocolate patchouli gourmand; Serge Lutens Borneo 1834. That was a patchouli of darkness and mystery. Working with M. Polge on Coromandel the patchouli is less of an enigma. What makes Coromandel stand out is it embraces the bohemian and the chic nature of patchouli in one fragrance.


Christopher Sheldrake

Coromandel opens with a bit of citrus and a bit of jasmine. It is a simple one-two before the patchouli arrives. When the patchouli does come in it is the non-head shop version. It is that cool green slightly camphoraceous version of patchouli. The perfumers add a little pine to frame these characteristics. This is a classical feeling vintage-ish perfume aesthetic. This is the patchouli I learned about smelling other perfumes. The base turns it into that head-shop accord as frankincense, benzoin and amber give anyone who lived in those times a flashback. Despite my dismissal of this as plebian previously; in Coromandel it has been elevated because it comes after the more refined heart accord. It makes it easier to enjoy the full patchouli experience the perfumers have provided.

Coromandel has 18-24 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I am usually critical of fragrances that try to have things both ways when it comes to designing around a specific material. It is a measure of why Coromandel is The Gold Standard for patchouli because it is one of the rare ones which succeeds at doing that.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Yves Saint Laurent Caftan- Oriental Trapeze

There was a time when the seeing the name Yves Saint Laurent on a perfume bottle was a reason to smile. Over the last five or six years it has become a reason to frown in confusion as to how this groundbreaking brand could be turned into something so banal. The nadir of this was last year’s release of Black Opium. That was so flawed that I thought there was no hope. Then of course hope reared its head.

I received a press release at the end of last year announcing the release of a five fragrance collection called La Vestiaire des Parfums. This seemed like an attempt by Yves Saint Laurent to release an exclusive collection like many of their contemporaries. The inspiration was five trendsetting fashion styles associated with M. Saint Laurent. I think I was equal parts anticipation and dread when trying the samples. The majority of the collection felt like it was less inspired by the fashion of the past and more likely driven by the need to check boxes. One citrus, one white floral, one oriental, one woody, and one floriental. The same desire to play it safe permeates the collection. With all that, there was one which was pleasant enough to warrant wearing it for a couple of days.

ysl trapeze dress

Satin Trapeze dress from the 1958 Dior collection

Caftan is inspired by M. Saint Laurent’s 1958 haute couture Trapeze Collection. Working as the successor to Christian Dior, M. Saint Laurent was inspired by the oriental caftan and adapted it into what would become the forerunner of the A-Line silhouette. The Trapeze dresses were constructed like caftans close to the shoulders that flared dramatically outward in an unstructured silhouette. As this evolved over time into the A-Line the volume of the flare reduced dramatically and narrowed considerably.

calice becker

Calice Becker

Caftan the fragrance mimics the idea of adapting oriental designs into western aesthetic. Perfumer Calice Becker produces a soft voluminous oriental to pay homage.

Caftan opens with a tart citrus and baie rose accord. This heads into a resinous heart of benzoin, styrax, and incense. Mme Becker has become expert at using these particular notes to a particular effect. In Caftan she is going for something more expansive and soft. She achieves this as this feels like the wide flaring fabric heading down from the fitted shoulders. It ends on a combination of labdanum and musks to give a skin scent accord to let you know there is a woman underneath all that fabric.

Caftan has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Caftan is a nicely crafted oriental that doesn’t smell a lot different than many others out there. I feel like Mme Becker faithfully adhered to the brief but wonder if there were some other more interestingly constructed mods which were rejected. For a line of fragrance which celebrates all of the risk taking of M. Saint Laurent it feels contrary to that mindset. If you want a serviceable plush oriental fragrance Caftan would check that box.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Yves Saint Laurent.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Euphorium Brooklyn Chocolatl- Cocoa Komodo

One of my favorite new brands of 2015 was the delightfully off-beat multimedia circus Stephen Dirkes is assembling at Euphorium Brooklyn. I have likened it to a serial novel being told via perfume. The story is of the three men who founded the Euphorium Bile Works in 1860; Christian Rosenkreuz, Etienne Chevreuil, and Rudolph Komodo. We are now at the part of the story where each of our protagonists gets a chapter to themselves. Petales was M. Chevreuil’s and 100 Tweeds Hr. Rosenkreuz’s. Which leaves the latest release, Chocolatl, to focus on Mr. Komodo.


Rudolph Komodo

Part of the fun of this is to go to the website and read through the story there which accompanies each new release. I will relate a condensed version here. This is the story of Mr. Komodo’s love of chocolate from his childhood in Indonesia to his time in Amsterdam where he observed the Dutch cocoa ceremony. He would eventually travel throughout Central and South America refining and expanding his knowledge of chocolate. At the end of this time in a rundown villa in Mexico City the foundation of the euphoria-inducing Komodo Effect was begun. It is the Komodo Effect which makes the perfumes produced by the Euphorium Bile Works boys the creations they are.

Chocolatl came from days spent at the Bile Works “in an opiatic haze” being covered in cholcolate while “receiving honeyed fruit massages and spiced incense stimulation.” Once Mr. Komodo returned to reality the foundation of the Komodo Effect was in place.

Despite the fun being had in the text the perfume is also described well within the prose of “fruit massages” and “spiced incense” and of course the chocolate. It makes Chocolatl a rich spicy gourmand.

Chocolatl opens up with both black pepper and Szechuan pepper. It has the nose tickling quality of the black pepper married to the simmering heat of the chili pepper. Added to all of this is the green sappy fruitiness of blackcurrant buds. Here is your fruit massage with the warm friction of the pepper matching the cassis. The spiced incense starts with cardamom, cinnamon, and clove. The resins chosen are benzoin and copahu balm. It is a well-matched set of notes which form the desired accord with the proper amount of “stimulation”. It takes a while to get to the star of the show but the chocolate does show up. It is given a swirl of caramel as complementary sweetness but it is the bit of animalic castoreum which accentuates some of the deeper facets of the cocoa in the base.

Chocolatl has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Chocolatl is perhaps the most comforting of all of the seven Euphorium Brooklyn releases so far. It also has that delightfully off-kilter construction I have enjoyed without going too far into the weird. It makes Chocolatl the part of the story where the Komodo Effect is coated in cocoa. Euphorically so.

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

Mark Behnke

Editors’ note: For those in the New York City on February 12th, 2016 at Twisted Lily they will be having a Euphorium Brooklyn event titled Voluptuary. Stephen Dirkes will be on hand from 6-9PM. Besides showcasing Chocolatl they will also be a set of 3X 8ML bottles of Clilice, Petales, and Chocolatl in a special Voluptuary Set. These are three of the best in the collection so it is a great introduction to the brand. Stop in at the Twisted Lily website for more information at this link.

Under the Radar: Costume National Scent- Hibiscus Happiness

One of the fun things about having amassed so many bottles of perfume is when I run across a bottle I have not thought about for a while. In the week between the Holidays and the New Year I was doing some rearranging of the perfume vault. While doing this I came across a rank of squat bottles in different shades of color. I smiled and thought to myself, “Ah Costume National I had forgotten about you.” Part of the reason for that is there hasn’t been a new release in eighteen months. Which is a far cry from the beginning of the brand which those bottles I had rediscovered represent.

costume national scent

Costume National was the Italian fashion version of rockstar couture. In 2002 it was riding high as one of the hip new brands. Founded by Ennio Capasa, in 1986, these were the clothes the cool kids were wearing. As they made the move in to fragrance Sig. Capasa was going to also want to make the perfume for those same cool kids. His choice of perfumer was Laurent Bruyere who was also an artist coming into his own in 2002.

Over the next two years Sig. Capasa and M. Bruyere would collaborate on the simply names Scent collection. The five releases: Scent, Scent Intense, Scent Sheer, Scent Gloss, Scent Cool Gloss comprise one of the most coherently designed sets of fragrance I own. Having the chance to look back at them I realized the one which drew me the strongest was the first one, Scent.


Laurent Bruyere

The idea behind Scent was to make a radiant floriental. What made it very interesting back in 2002 was the choice of the floral keynote of hibiscus. Hibiscus is an odd floral to work with. It is most well-known in its tea form. M. Bruyere uses that form before introducing us to the flower itself. The transparency with which the hibiscus is presented is what makes Scent as interesting to me.

M. Bruyere opens Scent up with the hibiscus tea with some cardamom added. The hibiscus tea accord has a bit of berry-like tartness. The cardamom provides a bit of the same from the spice rack. The heart is where the hibiscus itself comes out. It has a fairly thin scent profile but what is there is the same sort of snappy floral quality and the aforementioned berry facet. By itself it would be less interesting. M. Bruyere makes sure not to let that happen by using jasmine and rose to supply the depth Mother Nature did not. This is as light as a silk scarf. It is a beautifully realized heart accord. The base accord consists of ambergris, sandalwood, and vanilla. This is kept at the same intensity of what came before which means it is still gauzy and expansive.

Scent has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Over the next four releases in the Scent collection M. Bruyere would further explore the nature of the floral heart accord trying different variations; all of which succeeded to me. After finding the bottles I spent the rest of the day wearing Scent. It made for a day of happiness in my cloud of hibiscus.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review By Kilian Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi- Pretty Girl not Working Girl

Sometimes the name and the press release throws me for such a loop I can’t give a perfume a proper assessment. Last fall’s By Kilian Voulz-Vous Coucher Avec Moi caused me this confusion. It has taken a few months for me to return to it with less personal baggage. What I found was a pretty faux-white floral.

Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi is the fifth perfume of In The Garden of Good and Evil collection. With a name like that I expected a collection of dangerous seductive fragrances. For the most part they have been more PG than R-rated. This latest release was maybe going to embrace those qualities I was looking for. Perfumer Alberto Morillas was present to follow-up his previous entry in this collection, Good Girl Gone Bad.


Alberto Morillas

The name comes from the song “Lady Marmalade” sung by Patti LaBelle in 1975 and done by the quartet of Christina Aguilera, Lil Kim, Mya and P!nk. The song is about a New Orleans prostitute. Her come on; Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi is repeated throughout the song. It translates to “Do you want to sleep with me tonight? It became the one French phrase armchair Lotharios added to their come-on in the 1970’s. It is almost impossible not to hear the song while wearing and writing about the perfume. Which was my mistake. The song and the perfume have nothing to do with each other.

Furthermore, the imagery on the By Kilian website has women also looking seductively in to the camera. All together with a note list featuring tuberose and gardenia I wanted a fishnet wearing sassy lady of the evening daring me to take her on. M. Morillas has composed something which is more about the demurest of the white flowers, orange blossom. The gardenia and tuberose are only there for support and not to be the focal points. Which makes the perfume more a pretty girl than a working girl. That was what I had to wrap my expectations around.

Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi opens with a lovely mandarin which disappears as the orange blossom arrives. The keynote in the heart is ylang-ylang in all its deep floralcy. The other floral is a Bulgarian rose which adds a pinch of spiciness. Not enough to make this even the slight bit sultry. In the base M. Morillas pulls out the vanilla. The overwhelming sweetness is cut a little bit by cedar but the end is very sweet. Very late on the softer white musks make an appearance.

Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi has 18-24 hour longevity and average sillage.

Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi is best described as a softly sweet floral. I wonder how different this would be had M. Morillas unleashed a gardenia and tuberose indolic swagger but that is a different perfume. The one which is here is a nicely constructed floral perfume which will only call to mind innocent beauty.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Vilhelm Parfumerie The Oud Affair- Ava and The Bullfighter

Most perfumes are inspired by places, a particular note or accord, or a specific style. Not a lot of them choose to take a real life person or event as a place to inspire a new perfume. Jan Ahlgren of Vilhelm Parfumerie uses the affair between film star Ava Gardner and Spanish bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguin to create the latest release The Oud Affair.

jan ahlgren

Jan Ahlgren

The Oud Affair is the first new release after the original eight releases from last year. Of those original eight release I really fell for Black Citrus. I have not had enough opportunity to spend time with the others but all of them seem to form a very strong debut collection based on some smelling on a strip and a little patch of skin. There was an oud focused entry in there called Smoke Show. It definitely skewed towards the smoke promised in the name and was a smoky oud. The perfumer for all nine perfumes released so far has been Jerome Epinette.


Jerome Epinette

The 1954 affair between Ava Gardner and bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguin took place while Ms. Gardner was married to Frank Sinatra. She had fallen in love with Spanish culture including Flamenco as well as bullfighting while filming the 1951 movie “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” there. Through her friendship with author Ernest Hemingway she would be introduced to the bullfighters while Mr. Hemingway was writing the series of articles for Life Magazine that would eventually make up the book “The Dangerous Summer”. When she was introduced to Sr. Dominguin they would begin a tempestuous short-lived affair. Sr. Dominguin would describe Ms. Gardner, in his biography, as; “I had a very fierce wolf in a cage.” Messrs. Ahlgren and Epinette try to capture that volatility and passion in The Oud Affair.

hemingway gardner dominguin

From l. to.r: Ernest Hemingway, Ava Gardner, Luis Miguel Dominguin. (Photo: Marcel Mitrani 1955)

I couldn’t find anything within the press materials which named which of the two focal points of the perfume were meant to represent which personality. Wild honey and oud form the core of The Oud Affair. It would be easy to say honey for Ms. Gardner and oud for Sr. Dominguin. I actually think it is probably the other way around as Ms. Gardner was known for her fractious oud-like personality. In reading about Sr. Dominguin I gather he was quite the smooth-tongued ladies’ man. Sweet words of seduction dripping like honey from his lips.

The Oud Affair opens with a golden sticky honey accord enhanced with a bit of ginger. The ginger adds a bit of verve to the viscous sweetness. This leads to the heart of oud and it is an oud with many of its more difficult characteristics on display. Except the honey does the job of sweetening those almost like the comforting hug of a lover trying to impart some serenity to an agitated partner. I found it really interesting and because of the real life inspiration I was always mindful of the tension between the honey and oud. The basenotes are a mix of tobacco and vanilla. I guess the metaphorical happy ending which didn’t happen in reality. It is a nice accord but it is very familiar plus it dominates the later phases of The Oud Affair on my skin leaving the much more interesting earlier notes behind.

The Oud Affair has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

I think I bought in to the story behind The Oud Affair so much that the tobacco and vanilla finish left me slightly disappointed. I enjoyed the honey and oud interaction so much I wanted more. Which probably makes me more like Sr. Dominguin as his fierce wolf slipped her cage to run off into the night wanting more but leaving only sweet memories.

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

Mark Behnke