New Perfume Review Lancome Idole- Basic Not Bland

I love great food. Yet there are days when the best thing you can put on a plate is a perfectly toasted grilled cheese sandwich. Nothing special about two slices of bread, cheese, and butter but there are moments when the simplicity appeals. I go through this thought process when I receive samples of the new commercial releases. I think to myself is this fragrance potentially a grilled cheese sandwich. The latest to give me this thought is Lancome Idole.

Zendaya is the Face of Idole

It was hard to want to review Idole because it was one of the dreaded scents by committee. It usually means it is also a perfume of focus group testing. Which usually means lowest common denominator style of perfume. The three perfumers credited, Nadege Le Garlantezec, Shyamala Maisondieu, and Adriana Medina-Benz are not here to push boundaries. Their task was to make a musky fruity rose that would ideally appeal to the younger fragrance consumer. To their credit Idole carries a touch more weight than most of the fragrances aimed at that demographic. It is one of the reasons it appealed to me. They didn’t sacrifice their ingredients on the altar of transparency although it is still on the lighter side of the spectrum.

Idole opens with a fruity top accord of pear and citrus. The pear imparts a juiciness which the citrus adds bright tartness in contrast. It is nicely balanced between the two fruity pieces. The rose comes around to form a typical fruity floral pairing. Where Idole stands apart, a little bit, is the way the perfumers use a series of white musks from here. It is like a set of those ingredients seep through the fruity floral as if they were tendrils of fog. It adds a lightly musky tone to the overall perfume without becoming screechy. It all comes together quickly and lingers for hours.

Idole has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Idole is a basic musky fruity floral. What makes it less bland than its counterparts on the department store counter is it has an idea of what it wants to be. A great grilled cheese sandwich.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Lancome.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Van Cleef & Arpels Santal Blanc- Milk of Sandalwood

Sandalwood is one of the more common ingredients in perfumery. Along with cedar it could be called the “safe wood”. The one that gets used because it is so likeable. I also think it gets used because sandalwood has multiple scent profiles to provide to the woody part of a fragrance. One type of sandalwood I enjoy is a creamier version. I like it because it is easy-going while providing a comforting scent to me. Van Cleef & Arpels Santal Blanc is a perfume designed around that.

Michel Almairac

Santal Blanc is part of the Collection Extraordinaire collection. This time perfumer Michel Almairac’s brief was in the name, white sandalwood. M. Almairac interpreted that in two ways. One is to amplify the creamy parts of sandalwood. Second it is to use a set of white musks to wrap it in crisp linen. It creates a compellingly simple woody perfume.

M. Almairac begins with fig. This is called “fig milk” in the ingredient list but fig on its own has a milky nature without creating something. That is the kind of fig M. Almairac uses here. It is joined straightaway by the sandalwood. Together this creates an opulently creamy sandalwood. A lot of times sandalwood can be dry. To prevent this from happening M. Almairac sweetens the woody accord with tonka bean. It adds a lovely roundness to the central accord. The base accord is something M. Almairac has become quite good at; a layering of white musks into a plush fabric-like accord. It all comes together in a precisely realized white accord.

Santal Blanc has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Santal Blanc fits in with the rest of the Collection Extraordinaire collection of luxurious versions of well-known perfume ingredients. In this case Santal Blanc felt less like “fig milk” and more like milk of sandalwood.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Neiman Marcus.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Gallivant Los Angeles- Hollywood Boulevard Nights

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I love neon signs. When I am in a place where there are great ones around, they impart a unique light, especially at night. Slashing bands of color reflect onto the asphalt or sidewalk. It transforms the mundane into something exotic. When I received my sample of Gallivant Los Angeles it reminded me of this.

Nick Steward

Gallivant was founded in 2017 and over the past two-and-a-half years creative director-owner Nick Steward has created a solid collection of fragrance. With each release Mr. Steward tells us what part of the city he wants to evoke. For Los Angeles he asked perfumer Karine Chevallier for a “shimmering Hollywood” neon floral. As soon as I read that, before smelling it, I was on Hollywood Boulevard in the height of the evening. When I tried my sample it seems like we were on the same wavelength.

Karine Chevallier

Hollywood Boulevard is one of my favorite places in LA because it feels like the crossroads of the entertainment industry and California cool. It is hard not to look down at the Walk of Fame tiles and not feel the history of the visual arts. At night the recently restored neon signs of the grand theatres glow above it all providing the perfect coloring for this part of town. On the street there are the examples of Cali car culture. Nighttime on Hollywood Boulevard is where it all collides. For the perfume based on this Mr. Steward and Mme Chevallier create bands of color all their own each representing part of the milieu.

The first band is cool green represented by eucalyptus and clary sage. This is the vegetal accord of LA. It gets matched with the garish yellow of pineapple. The fruit oozes over the top accord adding a sweetness which finds the right balance. The pulsating pink of tuberose sets the heart ablaze. Mme Chevallier also uses narcissus to create her neon floral accord. The tuberose is made less indolic so it can be opaquer. This isn’t transparent but it also isn’t the powerhouse tuberose can be. The narcissus also is balanced to a lighter effect as it provides a greener foundation for the florals to match the early notes. At this point Mme Chavallier reminds us that LA is on the ocean with a breeze of ozonic notes subtly riding over the floral heart. As it moves to the base the wind shifts from out of the hills; carrying the scent of smoke from the recent fires. It all ends with a clean woody base accord.

Los Angeles has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I really enjoyed spending a Hollywood Boulevard Night with Mr. Steward. If you like modern florals you might like spending some time underneath the neon.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Gallivant.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review K by Dolce & Gabbana- The Right Twist

Sometimes all I need to enjoy a new perfume in an overexposed style is just one twist. As I spend most of the summer releases smelling one fresh fougere after the other one, something different stands out. As I was wearing K by Dolce & Gabbana I was thinking this is the opposite of designing a summer flanker. Instead of shoehorning in summery ingredients K goes for something un-summery roughing up the staid fougere architecture.

Daphne Bugey

I am surprised perfumers Daphne Bugey and Nathalie Lorson could take that risk for a commercial release. They stay very true to the formula until they added one specific ingredient in enough concentration to make it noticeable. That ingredient is pimento. The way it is used here is like Buffalo sauce on chicken wings to provide a spicy kick to the bland.

Nathalie Lorson

K opens on a nice duet of blood orange and juniper berry. The tartness of the citrus and the bite of the juniper berry are a refreshing top accord. Then the pimento sizzles into view as lavender and clary sage give an herbal foundation for it. K really gets interesting as the patchouli enters the heart accord. The heat of the pimento and the earthiness of the patchouli are an ideal match. I liked this as the core of K because it had a little more heft then the typical summer fougere. A woody combo of cedar and vetiver make the foundation.

K has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

K is another recent commercial release taking a risk by using a heretofore “niche” ingredient in a mass-market perfume. I’ve seen more of this lately and I’m wondering why the brands have decided to start striking out by using some of these less safe ingredients. I am happy to find them because the right twist can make me enjoy the commercial releases so much more.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Dolce & Gabbana.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle The Moon- Fruity Floral Oud

When Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle released The Night five years ago I thought it would be the first time for many to smell real oud in concentration. At the time I wondered what the eventual concept was going to be. I now know The Night was the first of the Desert Gems collection celebrating oud as an ingredient. Since then there have been two other releases, Promise and Dawn. The latest addition to the sub-collection is called The Moon.

As in the previous releases The Moon is created around a focal point oud. Perfumer Julien Rasquinet takes the most rambunctious oud in the series, so far, out for a spin on top of a fruity floral set of ingredients. As I wore it, I realized The Moon was the stinky fruity floral I’ve always wanted.

Julien Rasquinet

I couldn’t find out the source of the oud being used here. Suffice it to say this is one of the more pungent varieties. If you like the qualities of oud described as “dirty gym socks”, “cheesy”, or “a touch fecal” this is your kind of oud. What I found interesting about what M. Rasquinet designs here is the genuine version of many department store fruity florals which have an oud accord. The accord is designed to be exotic and inoffensive. This specific oud can’t do anything but put your nose right into the heart of the real stuff while not caring a whit about being offensive.

The Moon rises with the scent of that real oud up front. M. Rasquinet uses raspberry as his fruity contrast. I think he also adds lychee to make the raspberry even sweeter so it can stand up to the oud. The classic oud ingredient pairing of rose follows given a resinous shine via olibanum and frankincense. The resins also gives the Turkish rose a little bit of an edge to push back against the oud. I’ve smelled too many raspberry-rose fruity florals; most of them eminently forgettable. The presence of the oud makes this one unforgettable. It provides a funky contrast to the classic fruity floral duet. It does it by picking up on the rose, finding the sour obstreperous parts of that ingredient and bringing them forward. M. Rasquinet uses all that this rose can bring to find new facets of the oud to highlight. There is a moment when the oud has that cheesy scent for the slightly sour rose and the sweet raspberry to contrast. It made me think The Moon was an outré gourmand. It isn’t because it is only a passing phase.

The Moon has 24-hour longevity and average sillage.

The Moon is first of the Desert Gems to really push the oud with one which contains a scent profile of its less crowd-pleasing qualities. For those who enjoy real oud The Moon is a treat as it takes an insipid form like fruity florals and gives it some soul.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Squid- Deep-Sea Aquatic

Anyone who has ever been in a boat on the ocean can tell you once you get out over deep water things change. The color goes from brilliant blue to deep indigo. If you dive underneath the water after a few feet you realize there is more below you than above you. There is also a scent to the ocean once you leave sight of shore. It has nothing to do with sea spray, suntan lotion, or tropical flowers. It is all about the briny depths. If you’ve ever wanted that in a perfume Zoologist Squid is here.

Victor Wong

Creative director-owner Victor Wong collaborates with perfumer Celine Barel. Their effort is to create an aquatic that represents the depths of the ocean. This an aquatic which is for those who don’t want the classic “fresh and clean” aesthetic characteristic of the style. Squid looks in the darker places far away from land. To accomplish that Mme Barel uses a couple of fabulously engineered accords she calls “black ink” and “salty”. The former is probably the factoid most people know about squid, they shoot ink to escape predators. In the case of a perfume accord I experienced it not so much as inky but as the deep indigo color of the open sea. The “salty” accord is, I think, an accumulation of the typical sea spray ingredients layered in a denser fashion. I believe I pick out things I recognize but there seems to be more weight to some of them. I would be interested to know how she decided to construct this.

Celine Barel

Squid opens on a top accord of incense and salicylates tuned by baie rose. It reminded me of the scent of the seaweed lines at the edge of the Gulf Stream. It is a green-tinted top accord which leads to that combination of “black ink” and “salty” accords. This is when Squid dives deep beneath the waves. It finds a weight to the typical aquatic style that is compelling. I could drift here for days in a salty pool of ink. Squid moves on with the most classic ocean perfume ingredient there is; ambergris. It provides the more typical style of brininess. In Squid it feels like I’ve surfaced from a dive to where the scent seems lighter. It is the only part of Squid which feels like an old-style aquatic.

Squid has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

The depths of Squid make for an aquatic that is going to be even better in the chill of fall and winter. Where most of my aquatics go into hibernation after Labor Day, Squid will still be prowling my perfume shelf as a deep-sea aquatic with legs.  

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Joy of College Football

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I have been a sports fan all of my life. It is really segmented into two groups. My love of the professional sport comes about because. I enjoy watching athletes in a team sport perform at an elite level. The drawback to that level of sports is you are rarely surprised. The best team almost always wins. You almost always know who the best team is before the game begins. Which is why the second group is the one which provides some uncertainty which makes it unique.

The second group is major college sports in the US; especially football and basketball. In a professional setting you have the elite athletes playing on that level. In college you have those athletes too but they’re more spread out. No college team has top to bottom future professionals on their roster. It is the last place where a good player can still play the game for the love of it. This is especially true for college football. It is also what makes it so much fun to watch.

I watched my first alma mater, University of Miami, rise from an afterthought to one of the best football programs in the country. When Miami made its first big step, winning a national championship, it was hard to imagine. I remember sitting in the Orange Bowl on a late September 1979 evening watching the team make a goal line stand at the end of the game to preserve a win over a lesser division team. A little over four years later I would be back in the same stadium to watch them beat a team many thought, at the time, was the best college football team ever. A team of ragtag players who believed in themselves proved that they were better than their hyped opponents.

When I moved to graduate school I went to a place with a much more impressive football pedigree; The University of Georgia. While here it was where I learned of the bond between the team and the community. I learned it on day one.

I had driven from Miami to Georgia all in one day and had got to my new apartment and collapsed on the floor to sleep. Imagine my surprise when I was awakened by the sound of people outside my window the next morning. I pulled on some clothes and went out to find out what was happening. I met the Floyd family who were setting up their gameday tailgate as they had done for three generations. After introducing myself it began a tradition which existed for the entire time I was in school. Game days started with the Floyds; eventually walking to the stadium together. In Georgia families grow up on the local team and throughout the South and Midwest it is true wherever you will go. No matter what the team was going through we always entered the stadium believing they would win.

That is where I will be for the next few Saturdays. Sitting on my sofa watching with hope as Miami and Georgia enter a new year where I hope for the best. No matter what the score is, the joy is in the story being told.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Le Beau and Bulgari Rose Goldea Blossom Delight

When it comes to summer flankers it usually means adding something tropical to the DNA of the brand. The majority of the time it feels awkwardly placed as well as being redundant or inconsequential. Of the flankers for summer 2019 I found two which did a nice job of adding a tropical attitude to their respective lines.

Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Le Beau

Jean Paul Gaultier adds a summer flanker to their Le Male line every year. As a whole this is one of the better summer flanker collections with many more successes than misses. For 2019 they created Le Male Le Beau by crossing the fresh aesthetic of the original through a fantastic coconut at the heart of it.

Perfumers Quentin Bisch and Sonia Constant collaborated on Le Male Le Beau. What they’ve produced is a perfume version of a summer book as a perfume. The freshness is provided by bergamot and they then use what the notes call coconut wood. It seems more like a mixture of coconut and wood. Tonka bean is also present to make that coconut sweeter and fleshier. So many coconut fragrances goo too far to the sweet. By using the wood to keep things drier the coconut has a better effect.

One caveat the name I gave you is what I was supplied by the brand. There are also other flankers which are Le Beau or Le Male. If this perfume interests you look for the exact bottle in the picture above.

Bulgari Rose Goldea Blossom Delight

The original Bulgari Goldea is one of the best commercial releases nobody talks about. The unfortunate upshot of that is Bulgari has become a flanker machine over the last decade. Their success rate is surprisingly low for all the effort they put into it. When they released Rose Goldea three years ago I thought it was a nice summery companion to Goldea which had some personality. For Rose Goldea Blossom Delight I can say the same thing.

Perfumer Alberto Morillas has been responsible for all the Goldea releases. Rose Goldea Blossom Delight is distinctly different from either of its predecessors. M. Morillas sets that difference right from the start with a green top accord made up of papaya and violet leaves. Papaya is a naturally musky fruit and M. Morillas uses that faux-muskiness to create a lightly fruity musky opening. It dovetails nicely into the rose in the heart and the amber in the base. This is a delightful end of summer choice that will also do well as the weather cools post-Labor Day.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Miller Harris Violet Ida- Iris Powder Snowfall

There are some fragrances which grab me just because of their name. Miller Harris Violet Ida is one of those. It was released in the spring in England and it took me a few months to get a sample sent to me. One of the reasons the name appealed to me was it was based on a character from a classic mystery, Graham Greene’s “Brighton Rock”. Ida Arnold is the ostensible detective who resolves the central plot in the book. She is the only “good” person in the novel. She also wears violets in her hair. When I heard this was the inspiration and based on the name, I wanted to try this badly because I was expecting a violet perfume. When I received my sample with the ingredient list that wasn’t what was in the bottle. It was so different that I put off really trying it. Then the “good” angel, or Ida, on my shoulder told me to give it another try minus the unrealistic expectations. This time I found a powdery iris fragrance that will be great as the weather gets cooler.

Mathieu Nardin

Velvet Ida is composed by perfumer Mathieu Nardin. This is a perfume which celebrates the powdery nature of orris. I mean really celebrates it. If you like powdery iris fragrances this is one for you. I prefer my iris rooty over powdery. What turned me around on Violet Ida is M. Nardin gave me just enough root before going all in on the powder.

That bit of rootiness comes with the presence of carrot seed in the top notes. It pulls out the rooty, slightly bread-like quality, of orris; for a short period of time. Like snowfall, grains of iris powder begin to fall almost immediately subsuming everything else. Eventually it is a giant powder drift of iris. It is warmed in the base with some amber and vanilla but only slightly. Once the powder takes hold it doesn’t let up.

Violet Ida has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you are excited about the potential of the name as a fragrance this is not the perfume you’re looking for. If you love powdery iris perfumes and can’t get enough this might be the perfume you’ve been waiting for.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chanel Gabrielle Essence- Having Your Cake

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When Chanel Gabrielle was released two years ago, I suspected this was a perfume meant to bring new consumers to the brand. Because it was a kind of introductory Chanel perfume it wasn’t well-liked by many of the long time Chanel aficionados. In conversations I had about it there were many who wanted Gabrielle to be just a little bit more of this or that. If that sounds like you Chanel Gabrielle Essence might be what you were looking for.

As one who looks for the deeper consumer message in releases from the great brands Gabrielle Essence strikes me as a response. One aimed right at those who dismissed the original as a trifle. One which seemingly wants the older perfume lover to be happy, too. I was one who admired the efforts of in-house perfumer Olivier Polge to position Chanel for a younger generation. With Gabriele Essence it seems like he wants to keep both the older and younger generations interested.

Olivier Polge

That Gabrielle carries a light transparency was ideal for a perfume capturing the woman who had yet to become Coco. Gabrielle Essence is that same woman with some more assurance. I’m not sure if it is supposed to evoke the moment Gabrielle became Coco but it comes close.

Throughout its development Gabrielle Essence is sweeter. That starts in the top as the citrus is amplified with a bunch of red berries. Right away I notice the increased level of ingredients. If Gabrielle is transparent Gabrielle Essence is much more substantial and it starts right from the top. It really shows in the heart as the same four flowers as in the original; tuberose, jasmine, orange blossom, and ylang-ylang are shuffled. In Gabrielle Essence the jasmine has a much more prominent placing. It is the equal of the tuberose. The orange blossom and ylang-ylang are along to add depth. It is here where I noticed the most difference between the two. Gabrielle Essence uses the florals in the heart in a sultrier way much as Gabrielle the person was probably coming to terms with the Coco which was on the verge of breaking out. The base is sandalwood again but given a much sweeter profile with a shot of vanilla added to things. It ends with a set of more palpable musks in the final moments.

Gabrielle Essence has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Gabrielle Essence seems like Chanel, and M. Polge, are trying to have their cake and eat it too. Nothing wrong with that if someone who is a fan of Chanel can find the right Gabrielle to suit themselves.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke