New Perfume Review Cartier Carat- ROYGBIV

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When you are a child, teachers provide all kinds of mnemonics, so you can remember things. One which has stuck with me for almost my entire life is the one used to remember the colors of the rainbow or a spectrum; ROYGBIV. That translates to red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Even though I learned it at six it helped when I was faced with the idea of infrared or ultraviolet at later age. It even helps when I want to get the layers of a rainbow cake in the correct order. I hadn’t thought to apply it to perfume until I received my sample of Cartier Carat.

Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent wanted to translate the colors of the refracted light through a diamond, the spectrum, into a perfume. She would go so far as to assign each ingredient a color. The easy one is violet for violet. The others are more interesting analogies; lily for indigo, hyacinth for blue, ylang-ylang for green, narcissus for yellow, honeysuckle for orange, and tulip for red. Mme Laurent doesn’t make a perfume of ROYGBIV hers is a creation VIBGYOR or an inverse spectrum. It is a much more dynamic perfume than even that implies.

Mathilde Laurent

Many of the large mass-market perfume companies have made a concerted effort to produce a transparent floral fragrance. This is done to capture the new young generation of fragrance enthusiasts. As I’ve observed this over the past couple of years there have been nicely constructed perfumes but the move to transparency has left me wanting for a richer complexity. Which does not seem to be what the mass-market desires. Mme Laurent puts that to rest because as much as Carat is a transparent floral it is also as intricately constructed a perfume as I could desire.

This rainbow comes together a few colors at a time. Right away there is a watery green accord of violet and lily. Mme Laurent uses both notes tilted towards the green facets. The next color is the unctuousness of ylang ylang. This is so precisely applied it never gets out of control while providing a spine for the rest of the spectrum to hang upon. Hyacinth and narcissus provide the deeper colors in this spectrum, A captivating honeysuckle and a recapitulation of watery floral with the tulip complete the spectrum. Here is where Carat stands apart. Just as you look at light being refracted through a diamond; as you turn it certain colors flare to life momentarily. That is how Carat spends its time on my skin developing as if I was rotating a precious jewel through a beam of light. A bit of narcissus transforms to honeysuckle to violet to ylang. It stays with the same seven ingredients but it sure as heck isn’t linear.

Carat has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Carat is a marvel for its kaleidoscope-like construction while retaining a transparent nature. Mme Laurent has reaffirmed my belief that she is the best of the current in-house perfumers. So many of her contemporaries have taken a swing at this to strikeout completely or hit an uninspiring single. Mme Laurent hits a rainbow arc of a home run to produce the best mainstream perfume of 2018.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Burt Reynolds

One of the reasons my first car was a Chevrolet Camaro was because of Burt Reynolds. I always hoped to have a fast-American car. I wasn’t interested in a Maserati I wanted a V-8 that roared. I also believed in my mind’s eye I would take it on adventures on two-lane blacktops with the speedometer pegged to its limit. That was all Mr. Reynolds’ fault.

Mr. Reynolds was one of the few actors who made movies about running from the authorities in fast cars. The first movie I remember seeing like this was 1973’s “White Lightning” Nearly the entire last act of the movie is an extended car chase. Mr. Reynolds made it look fun. Whenever I would be sitting in the car parked in the driveway I was pretending to be Gator McKlusky on the run from the law.

Because of Mr. Reynolds’s charisma these movies found a wider audience than expected. Throughout the 1970’s he would build a larger-than-life persona as a “mans’ man”. It was not only evident on the movie screen. It showed up in riotous appearances with Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show”. It put on display the mischievous streak which always played throughout his characters during this era. It would reach its height with 1977’s “Smokey and the Bandit”. If the earlier films had a specialized audience, this was the movie that broke through. For the next six years there was a movie, or two, which featured Mr. Reynolds behind the wheel of a car.

Burt Reynolds

By the early 1980’s the fast car movies had run their course. It would open a new phase of his career as he began to take on more dramatic parts. There was a wide belief that he might not be up to the task. It turned out there was something underneath it all. His Oscar nominated role in 1997’s “Boogie Nights” where he portrayed porn impresario Jack Horner is the best example. As I have re-watched the movie over the years I came to realize how important his performance was. It is the hub through which much of the plot travels.

It would re-energize his career for the final part of his life. It wasn’t a great movie but watching him play Boss Hogg in the 2005 “The Dukes of Hazzard” movie remake seemed like his movie career had come full circle.

I now drive an SUV but occasionally, on a clear day, my mind’s eye transforms things. I am behind the wheel of a muscle car where the sound of the engine rumbling and the tires squealing through the turns is a perfect soundtrack. Hopefully that is what Mr. Reynolds has found in the afterlife.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Etro Messe de Minuit- Autumn Incense

One of my favorite ingredients in perfumery is incense. I’ve never done the formal analysis, but it is my suspicion that there are more incense fragrances in the Colognoisseur Collection than any other. It is such a favorite that I have difficulty putting them away for the summer. Fall is here and now I start looking for some incense choices for the cooler days. It is such a popular ingredient that all major designers have an entry. For this entry of Under the Radar I wanted to choose one from a lesser known designer and fragrance brand; Etro Messe de Minuit.

Etro is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018. It started as a textile printing company. Their iconic paisley designs began here. Etro has managed to continue to find new ways to innovate that paisley throughout its line. Etro is unusual that it came to fragrance before fashion. The first perfumes were released in 1989 seven years before the first runway show. With few exceptions the Etro perfumes have been designed by perfumer Jacques Flori. Particularly the early entries from 1989-1999 form a beautifully coherent collection. Messe de Minuit falls right in the middle of this run.

Jacques Flori

Messe de Minuit translates to Midnight Mass. You might think church-style incense and that isn’t quite descriptive enough. Although the first half of the development does carry an indelible Christmas vibe. It is the back half where M. Flori softens some of the sharper edges of the incense via the use of some different resins.

The top accord is like one of those warm holiday punch bowls where citrus fruits and cinnamon rise in steamy waves off the surface. The cinnamon provides the metaphorical heat to the lemon and orange. The incense imposes itself upon the festivities. In the early moments the incense carries a hint of metallic shimmer. M. Flori uses myrrh as a warming resinous complement. They absorb the spices to form a delightfully deep incense accord. Labdanum and patchouli provide a different style of warmth which harmonizes with the incense over the final hours.

Messe de Minuit has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Etro is not easily found in stores. I rarely see it anymore. It can be more easily found online. It is worth seeking out and ordering a sample set, especially the early releases. The entire line is under the radar but starting with Messe de Minuit you should consider putting it on yours.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Providence Perfume Co Lemon Liada- What Modern Perfumery Is

The origins of perfume were using what was available to add to your body to smell nice. When the era of modern perfumery began in the late 19th century the combination of new synthetic materials along with the advent of efficient extraction processes changed things. It allowed for such an expansion of ingredients perfumers had new versatility. It allowed for artists to think in abstract terms. They could re-create a natural smell through a combination of synthetic molecules and natural sources. Some of my favorite perfumes are when there is an ingredient in the name and it is nowhere to be found within the note list. The ones I like best are from the perfumers I think most highly of; Providence Perfume Co. Lemon Liada is a new addition to my list.

What I enjoy so much about perfumes like Lemon Liada is when a perfumer, in this case Charna Ethier, allows me to reconsider my thoughts on what is being abstracted. For Lemon Liada Ms. Ethier wanted to create a summery eau de cologne. Lemon is a great place to begin when you are doing that. Ms. Ethier took a different tack. How about a lemon eau de cologne which has no lemon in it? How about a true abstract of lemon? How about a lemon perfume which lies about having lemon in it? That’s what Lemon Liada translates to.

Charna Ethier

If you’re going to achieve this, you will rely on the lemon-like ingredients within your palette. Ms. Ethier does that with three of these sources; verbena, petitgrain, and citron. The verbena and citron come together to form the frame of the lemon effect in the early moments. My childhood days of picking lemons off the tree smells a lot like this, a combination of external rind and green leaves. The next two part of this are petitgrain and mimosa. The mimosa is the key ingredient to the success of Lemon Liada as it imparts a gauzy veil over the entire construction. The petitgrain provides a brilliance atop that. At this point the lemon accord is complete. The final phase of Lemon Liada is where a bit of powdery iris and watery lotus provide some contrast as the accord begins to fray over the final hours.

Lemon Liada has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I don’t know why I am always so enthralled by these kinds of olfactory illusions. One reason is they don’t come around that often. Another reason is they often don’t hold together. When I encounter one as good as Lemon Liada it reminds me what modern perfumery is.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Providence Perfume Co.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review House of Cherry Bomb Pussy and Resist- Step Up, Speak Up, Scent Up

Ever since we moved to the greater Washington DC area I have been surprised at how much politics is woven into the fabric of the region. Even out in Poodlesville which is 18 miles from the front gate of the White House the feel of living in the Nation’s Capital is different from everyplace else I’ve lived. Over the last seven years there have been moments where the voice of protest has been raised up. To see the numbers of people who gather on the Mall to speak up about their issue almost every month is something which makes me happy to be an American where this takes place. It is the essence of being a vital Democracy; the opportunity to step up and speak up. Independent perfume brand House of Cherry Bomb has decided to add scent up to that with the release of Pussy and Resist. Perfumers Alexis Karl and Maria McElroy have composed what they call “Revolution Perfume” as they capture the idea of this current generation of protest.

Maria McElroy (on steps) and Alexis Karl

On January 21, 2017 the world became acquainted with the pink knitted cap known as a “pussy hat” as millions of women worldwide stepped up and made their voices heard. Pussy is a perfume meant to capture that sense of women’s advocacy. The perfumers choose to display that by using a deep floral accord clenched in a leather fist.

Tuberose comes right to the foreground as fig and honey accentuate this forceful floral. The leather accord comes forward and wraps itself around the tuberose. Encasing it in an animalic frame. The animalic part intensifies over the final stages with amber and musk abetting that.

Resist is an homage to the last fifty-plus years of active non-violent protest in the US. Every march has taken place on the streets. The smell of the urban landscape is what the perfumers capture by using sets of accords meant to capture pieces of that.

Resist opens with a duet of metal and cement; a true cityscape in scent. This is marching among tall buildings hearing your voices amplified against the facades. This scent then shifts to a small hopeful jasmine before the march becomes more active as smoke and oud show resistance does not mean unopposed.

Pussy and Resist have 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Of the two perfumes Resist works best for me as both statement and as a perfume. The smell of the streets is nicely captured which is where most resistance takes place.

If you’re interested in adding “scent up” to those moments you want to stand up and speak up these two perfumes might be the right choice.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by House of Cherry Bomb.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Suzanne Thierry Ondine- Niche Before Niche Existed

Niche perfumery became a thing right around 2000. There were some brands which were offering alternative styles of perfume that were recognizably niche in the 1990’s. Acceleration of the prominence of independent brands doing things differently happened in the new century. Anything has its beginnings even further back. Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s there were brands which created a single perfume as an alternative to what was the current trend. There was no name for them but in hindsight these were the earliest stirrings of what would become niche. One of the examples of this is Suzanne Thierry Ondine.

Not only is it a proto-niche perfume it is also a celebrity-inspired scent, as well. In 1954, actress Audrey Hepburn pulled off a rare double. She won a Tony for her Broadway performance in “Ondine”; co-starring with her future husband, Mel Ferrer. She would also win a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her star turn in the classic “Roman Holiday”.  Suzanne Thierry was inspired to create a perfume to capture Ms. Hepburn.

Suzanne Thierry

Mme Thierry was certainly the creative director for Ondine. My only question is was she also the perfumer? It seems unlikely. Which means she worked with someone to produce Ondine. I am interested to discover who this was because Ondine is a response to the big aldehydic florals of the day. Don’t get me wrong it isn’t something I would describe as transparent. It is a fresher composition then something like Madame Rochas which was released around the same time.

Suzanne Thierry selling Ondine

This freshening appears from the first moments as the aldehydes are kept on a firm leash. I have a feeling the choice of which aldehydes to use was something that took time. It is supported by a set of spices; cardamom, clove, and coriander are what I smell. The florals at the heart are the typical rose, jasmine, and ylang-ylang. If you pick up any of Ondine’s contemporaries you will smell an overpowering mixture of these obstreperous floral ingredients. It is a necessity to break through the clouds of aldehydes of those fragrances. In Ondine this is a style of floral accord that will become very popular in 35-40 years. Each floral ingredient is given room to expand into space without crowding the others. Even in a sample over 60-years old there is a still a reminder of what this must have smelled like fresh from the bottle. The chypre-ish base is patchouli and oakmoss. This is where Ondine does emulate its contemporaries as there is a heavier tone in the final stages.

Ondine has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Ondine was an example of making perfume which was an alternative to the other perfumes available at the time. It was relatively popular as Mme Thierry made publicity tours in the US into the late 1960’s. She would sit behind a table showing off her perfume. Sound familiar?

Ondine was discontinued sometime in the late 1970’s. It is still available here and there at the online resellers. It was interesting to see the concept of niche in one of its earliest incarnations even if it ended up in the Dead Letter Office.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample supplied by a generous reader.  

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tiffany & Co. Eau de Parfum Intense- Missing the Sweet Spot

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Of any review I have written on Colognoisseur in four and a half years the one which has garnered the most outright disappointment within the comments has been Tiffany & Co. The comments are very disappointed in another perfume called Tiffany which has replaced the original. As I pointed out in that review I believed it was Tiffany’s desire to make a perfume for a younger demographic than those who remember the original Tiffany perfume. It was much more transparent trending towards an iris soliflore. Over the year since I posted that review the lovers of the original have made their voice heard; they don’t like this new perfume. Because of that I was quite interested in the new flanker Tiffany & Co. Eau de Parfum Intense. Could this be the bridge?

Going in to trying this the press release carries this line, “A richer, deeper version of the original signature scent. Tiffany & Co. Eau de Parfum Intense echoes facets of the original composition” It does revive some of the original Tiffany ingredients, but I think this probably misses the sweet spot it was looking for.

Daniela Andrier

Perfumer Daniela Andrier is taking her iris soliflore of last year’s model and adding some character in the accords which surround the iris as the sole floral in the heart. This is the biggest difference between old and new; a single floral in the new versus a bouquet in the older version.

Mme Andrier opens with the green mandarin she used last year but this time blackcurrant buds and baie rose are added. The changes the opening into a greener more herbal citrus. It is much more complex than the soliflore. Iris is allowed to flower, again, in a rootier more earthy style; the powder is kept under control. The base is all about sweet resinous warmth as amber and benzoin are sweetened by vanilla. It is comforting like the sandalwood, vanilla, vetiver, and amber of the original.

Tiffany & Co. Eau de Parfum Intense has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Do I think Tiffany & Co. Eau de Parfum Intense is going to win over those who miss the original Tiffany? No, I think this could make the loss keener because there are more recognizable pieces but not near enough to hold a candle to that perfume. Do I think the person who liked last year’s Tiffany & Co. will be excited to wear this flanker? Probably not because this crosses the line from transparent to something heavier in effect. The marketers say those who like the transparent simplicity of Tiffany & Co. should not want anything to do with Tiffany & Co. Eau de Parfum Intense. What about me? I liked it, probably more than either of the two groups outlined above. This was less of a trifle than last year’s model. They may have missed the sweet spot they were aiming for, but they found mine.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Tiffany & Co.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Kilian My Kind of Love Collection- Sympathy for The Kilian

Independent perfumery is made up of memorable characters. The more memorable the character the more likely you are to try their perfume. In 2008 I was introduced to one of the best at employing this principle; Kilian Hennessy. M. Hennessy was debuting a deluxe luxury brand called By Kilian. He was a spectacular spokesman for his fragrance brand. He would use that to go from the original six fragrance collection to becoming one of the largest niche brands in the world. Two years ago, this kind of success was noticed by the large cosmetics companies and Estee Lauder acquired Kilian.

This kind of acquisition is met within fragrance circles with suspicion. We worry that the big company will perform all kind of depredations upon the beloved brand. The funny thing is what it has really brought to the brand is more visibility. When I get e-mails from readers who don’t live near big cities it is difficult to tell them where to go see if they appreciate the difference in fragrance between niche and mass-market. Estee Lauder has been taking different approaches at broadening the availability of their recent niche brand acquisitions. A new initiative is exemplified by the four fragrance Kilian My Kind of Love collection.

The concept is simple broaden the distribution by releasing a Sephora collection. Have M. Hennessy add his trademark double entendre names. Then instead of creating a full-on mutli-faceted Kilian style of perfume; create a single multi-layered accord. The collection is clever enough at doing that if someone was to tell me they liked one of these four I could easily point them to one in the main collection.

The names are where the flirtatious puns exist and each perfume in the collection is a sentence unto itself. For example, Bad Boys Are No Good But Good Boys Are No Fun which is shortened to Boys. I am going to use the shortened names, but you can see the longer names in the header picture if you’re interested. Also, despite my best efforts I was unable to track down the perfumers but most of the perfumes in the Kilian collection have been composed by Calice Becker or Sidonie Lancesseur I am betting one or both were involved. A reason I think that, is each of these perfumes feel like the heart accord of a larger Kilian perfume.

Kilian Hennessy

Boys is meant to provide a cola accord and it does; a Diet Coke with a lime. Boys opens as you squeeze the lime into your drink and then the scent of the cola mixes with it. The accord is made up of cinnamon, nutmeg, and caramel. It spends more time on the spicy citrus side than the gourmand sweet soda side.

Adults is a luxurious fig scent which starts with a ripe creamy version of that ingredient. Vanilla enhances the creaminess while cedar provides a clean woody contrast. All together it is a rich fig perfume.

Princess takes one of the most memorable pieces of one of the first By Kilian releases, Love, and weaves a simpler perfume around it. It starts with a springy duet of green tea and ginger before marshmallow rounds it out. The marshmallow is an example of bringing a niche style to a simpler construct which works well here.

Kissing is my favorite of these four because it is the most obviously gourmand. It starts with a green lily of the valley which is dropped upon a pool of sweet milk. The green floral threads of the lily of the valley cut through the vanilla and warm milk accord in a very pleasant way. This will find its way into my fall rotation when I want a nice milky gourmand.

All four perfumes have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Those of us who have enjoyed Kilian perfumes for the past ten years know M. Hennessy’s persona very well. I am thinking when there are big pictures of his come-hither gaze and unbuttoned shirt you can almost hear him singing, “Please allow me to introduce myself; I’m a man of wealth and taste” We can call this Sympathy for The Kilian as it spreads out to every mall. I think the My Kind of Love collection is a good way to introduce the Kilian style to a wider audience.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: HBO’s Sharp Objects

One reason I enjoy the limited series on the premium cable networks is it allows for an actor room to add nuance that can’t often be squeezed into the running time of a movie. An actress who has had my admiration for a long time has been Amy Adams. Her performances are the reason I am drawn to watching things. When she was announced as the star of the HBO limited series “Sharp Objects” I knew I’d be watching.

Going into the series I was in an unfamiliar position as I have usually read the source material if it has existed as a book, previously. I don’t know why I never downloaded it because author Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” was so enjoyable. Having read that though it made me distrust the stories that every character was spinning. That put me on a foundation of sand in trying to figure out who to root for; which turned out to be a lot of fun.

The story is a traditional Southern Gothic set in the town of Wind Gap, Missouri. Ms. Adams plays the central character of Camille Preaker. Camille grew up in Wind Gap leaving to become a reporter in Saint Louis. She is sent back home on assignment to cover the murder of a teenage girl. Camille is fighting the current demon of alcoholism, pouring vodka into empty water bottles. Only to return to a place she escaped to deal with the unresolved demons left behind. Ms. Adams performance clues the viewer in on how difficult this is for her. Over the course of eight episodes she shows a woman barely holding it all together until the final revelations lead her to an act of slow motion suicide.

Amy Adams as Camille Preaker

The best episode comes in the middle named “Closer”. Taking place on Calhoun Day where the town celebrates the rape of a 13-year old girl by Union soldiers. She is lauded for not giving up the location of the Confederate men in town. That they recruit the local high school kids to re-enact this is creepy enough. Within the framework of the murder mystery it carries the subtext of what people will endure in silence. Before attending this though, Camille’s mother Adora wants her daughter to wear a dress. Taking her to the town clothing store she steals Camille’s clothes attempting to force a decision. When Camille walks outside of the dressing room in bra and panties displaying the reason why she won’t be seen in a dress it is Ms. Adams who exudes shame and anger until she gets her clothes back. After she returns to the dressing room she lets out a gut-wrenching scream of frustration.

This is where a story told over eight hours gets to explore everything more thoroughly. It was a slow build to this moment. It becomes a turning point on everything which will be revealed.

“Sharp Objects” in true Southern Gothic style comes to a deeply disturbing ending which can come off as gimmicky to some. I found it true to the form while being completely surprised. The last whispered line made the hair on my neck stand up.

Ms. Adams is the reason to watch “Sharp Objects” but the story is satisfyingly told around her.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Clinique My Happy Blue Sky Neroli- Nice Bang For The Buck

It is one of the more frequent conversations I have with husbands about their wives’ perfumes. They ask me to recommend something. I respond, “What do they wear now?” Probably the most common answer I get is “Clinique Happy”. Happy has found the right combination of easy-to-wear along with modest price. As a fragrance brand it has been content to soldier on with flankers for twenty years. It has been so long since something with Clinique on the label has caught my attention; until a recent visit to Ulta.

There was a grouping of six brightly colored tall thin bottles which caught my eye. When I got to the display I saw they were part of the Clinique My Happy collection. The concept was to make these six perfumes “layerable” in such a way that you could create your own version of My Happy. I am not a fan of layering because I expect my perfumes to stand, or fall, on their own. Plus, when I see “layerable” it usually is synonymous with linear. Meaning you need to buy a few to have a perfume which actually develops over time. As I sprayed each of them on a strip in the store I was pleased not to find linear fragrance in search of being a perfume but actual perfumes in each bottle.

Celine Barel

Cocoa & Cashmere sprinkles cocoa on an expansive synthetic jasmine. Lily of the Beach loads a pile of salicylates on top of florals to create a light beach style fragrance. Peace & Jasmine uses green tea as the contrast to fuller jasmine. Peony Picnic is a fun fruity floral with plum providing its part of the equation. Splash is a citrus floral that is a clear relative of Happy minus the woody base. You might notice that is only five. The sixth, Blue Sky Neroli, is the one I purchased and took home; along with a sample set.

Blue Sky Neroli is exactly what you expect from a name like that. Perfumer Celine Barel uses the commonly used ingredients to create her effect, but it works very well.

It opens with a mixture of ozonic fresh air ingredients brightened with lavandin, cardamom, and citrus. It is the judicious use of those last three which provides some texture to the same old blue-sky accord. The same happens in the heart as neroli finds some rose support. The base is a fresh vetiver riding on a white musk accord.

Blue Sky Accord has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

The whole My Happy collection is moderately priced, and you can get a sample set for the same price as a bottle. It makes these perfumes great bang for the buck for being well executed perfumes. When you’re out and about give these a try you might end up with one in your shopping bag like I did.

Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle and samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke