New Perfume Review Bulgari Splendida Tubereuse Mystique- Creamy Tuberose

Tuberose is one of the most powerful ingredients in all of perfumery. It is the queen of the white flowers. it is also a versatile ingredient having many aspects for a perfumer to seize upon. One of those aspects which has been seeing more presence lately has been the creamy nature. This is because of the newfound popularity of floral gourmands. One which does it well is Bulgari Splendida Tubereuse Mystique.

Sophie Labbe

The Bulgari Splendida collection began in 2017. I found last year’s Magnolia Sensuel to be a particularly nice study of that floral. What I liked most about it was the use of a high concentration of the floral keynote. That is repeated in Tubereuse Mystique. Perfumer Sophie Labbe takes that concentration and then finds the right ingredients to find the creaminess at the core of tuberose.

Mme Labbe lets her tuberose take center stage. In the early going she uses blackcurrant bud to strum the green chord within. Just as quickly vanilla comes along to allow the cream to rise to the foreground. It keeps it at that level while davana adds a subtle woodiness. The final ingredient which makes this come together is the resin myrrh. As the myrrh oozes into the accord it tunes the sweetness to a warmer level while the vanilla keeps it traditionally sweet. A lot of times myrrh can make a sweet perfume seems medicinal, like cough syrup. Mme Labbe finds the balance which keeps it far away from that.

Tubereuse Mystique has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you like your tuberose sweet and creamy this is a perfume you should try. Mme Labbe manages to tease out all of those facets while still retaining a bit of the green and indolic nunaces. It makes for a different take on tuberose.

Disclosure; This review is based on a sample supplied by Bloomingdale’s

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Fall TV 2019 Preview

I have always enjoyed the first week of the new television season. Ever since I was a kid, I would hustle to the grocery store to pick up an issue of the oversized TV Guide Fall TV Preview. I would read about every new show coming and decide which ones sounded interesting. Of course in those days I had to make a real choice if there were two on in the same time slot. No way to time shift then. As much as I miss that TV Guide issue I adore not having to make choices. Which means after the first week of the new season I have sampled the new shows and here are my impressions after one episode.

Bob Hearts Abishola (Mon CBS)- I like everyone involved with this sitcom from the producer Chuck Lorre to the actors. The previews had me interested as I saw them all summer. After the first episode I was underwhelmed. The leads weren’t as dynamic together as I’d hoped. I’ll be watching another few episodes, but this was my biggest disappointment of premiere week.

Bluff City Law (Mon. NBC)- I am a sucker for Jimmy Smits playing a lawyer. He was a favorite on LA Law and this feels a bit like the same character transplanted to Memphis. He is the head of a famous law firm who convinces his daughter to return home to practice even though there are unresolved personal issues. A show like this succeeds on the strength of its characters and its cases. The latter was a suit against a pesticide company as well as one which feels like this show’s version of “The Making of a Murderer” as it looks to be a case which unspools over multiple episodes. This was the biggest surprise of premiere week for me.

Emergence (Tue. ABC)- I don’t know I think I’m just burned out on weird conspiracy theory shows. The first episode was nice enough but it all felt like been there done that. I don’t think I’ll be back for episode two.

Stumptown (Wed. ABC)- Based on a great indie comic by Greg Rucka I was worried this was going to get dumbed down for television. The first episode alleviated my concerns as Cobie Smulders plays Dex Parios perfectly. The show will not be hemmed in by the comic material because there are only a few issues. I do hope they incorporate most of what is in those issues over the season. The first episode was as much fun as the comic.  

The Unicorn (Thur. CBS)- This was another one which had my hopes elevated because of the actors involved. In this case they delivered a snappily written half hour of comedy. This is getting a season pass on the DVR

Perfect Harmony (Thur. NBC)- This was the surprise because of how much I liked it even though it draws on such obvious beats. Southern church choir picks up a new director, Ivy League trained, and they learn from each other. You’ve seen it a million times. When the actors involved commit it doesn’t matter. I was completely into the final act even though I knew how it was going to come out. On at the same time as The Unicorn, thank heaven for DVR.

Evil (Thur. CBS)- Another obvious concept carried off by the two stars and the writing team behind them. A priest seeks out the help of a scientist to help him determine if miracles, possessions, etc. are real. Like The X-Files prior to this the early fun is the banter between the skeptic and the believer. Also like The X-files there seems to be a larger conspiracy behind the scenes. If that conspiracy can be kept to the background for a long time while the core concept remains primary, I’ll like this show more. After one episode I want to see more.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Apple

One of the major scents of October for me is the smell of apples. I will be spending a lot of time in local orchards picking apples for use in making pies. When it comes to perfume apple is one of several fruits common to the fruity floral genre. For this edition of My Favorite Things here are five apple perfumes which fit in with my October activities.

I have been asked over the years for apple pie perfumes. Until 2015 my answer was Boss Bottled. After 2015 it was Boss Bottled Intense. In one of the rare occurrences where the flanker was much better than the original. Annick Menardo, who did the original, created a more fully rounded apple pie effect using orange blossom as a floral contrast that fits surprisingly well. I’ve been on a visit to the orchard and walked by someone who remarked, “ooh I can smell the pies out here.”

Another staple of the fall are caramel apples and there is a perfume for that too; Nina by Nina Ricci. This is a forerunner of the current floral gourmand trend as perfumers Jacques Cavallier and Olivier Cresp create a caramel apple central accord given a fresh floral contrast in peony. It is a little more substantial than the current transparent floral gourmands, but it makes it nice to wear in the fall.

When you just want your apples straight no pie spices or caramel covering. In that case DKNY Golden Delicious is for you. If there is a reason apple is a featured ingredient it is probably due to this DKNY Delicious collection. Each and every one features apple. Why I appreciate Golden Delicious is it captures the richness of the real thing. Perfumer Jean-Marc Chaillan puts the lush juicy apple out front and surrounds it with a bouquet of florals.

There are a few niche examples of apple perfumes both of which evoke apple pie in different ways.

Creed Spice & Wood uses apple as the crisp fruit in the top accord before delving into the spices. The lead spices are allspice and nutmeg. It reminds me of when the apples are all freshly sliced and tossed in the spice blend before being put in the pie shell.

Hermes Hermessence Ambre Narguile is another abstraction form perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena. It is a swirl of the steam rising from fresh baked apple pies. It is made more compelling because it is so transparent it is like you want to lean into the pie you think is nearby.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chatillon Lux Weinstrasse- Late Harvest

As we are on the cusp of October, we firmly begin harvest season. Besides all the pumpkin flavored things which most people associate with this time of year I have a different one. For me the smell of the apple orchard with apple pie spices and apple cider are one pillar. The other revolves around my love of wine. On a mid-October trip to the Finger Lakes region many years ago I was present for a late harvest at one of the vineyards. The reason for late harvest is to have grapes where the sugar is a bit more concentrated due to the added length of time on the vine along with the cooler temperatures. In this region of the US they are known for some of the best late harvest wines in the world. The wines are elegantly sweet with a flowery nose. I hadn’t expected a perfume to capture that until I received my sample of the extraordinary Chatillon Lux Weinstrasse.

Shawn Maher

Shawn Maher is the independent perfumer behind this Saint Louis-based perfume brand. He has always looked to his locality for inspiration. In the case of Weinstrasse he wanted to pay homage to the Germans who emigrated to the area and set up vineyards on the slopes of the Missouri River. As I’ve mentioned in the past Mr. Maher often has a post on his website about the creation of his perfumes; here is the link for the one on Weinstrasse. In that post he mentions that he wanted to try and re-imagine the classic fougere through a vinous lens. He succeeds.

The top accord is those bunches of grapes hanging on the vine on an October morning. The ingredient he uses for his grape effect is green cognac essential oil. To capture the green foliage of the vine blackcurrant bud adds in its fruit tinted leafiness. This is those grapes as they are about to be snipped in the low autumn sunlight. The brightness of this top accord is that low horizon sun which glows. The heart of Weinstrasse is a mixture of sweet floral notes. If you’ve ever drunk a great late harvest muscat this accord in Weinstrasse is that scent of the wine amplified. Mr. Maher uses a nucleus of immortelle made sweeter by pairing it with a honeysuckle accord. The green parts of the top accord reach down into the florals to provide some contrast to the overall honey and floral scent. To make sure this finishes with as much brio as it has opened with Mr. Maher goes full classic fougere with an overdose of coumarin. It harmonizes with the florals beautifully while providing some grounding to allow the rest of the base accord to evolve. That comes through a creamy sandalwood and oakmoss providing a furry green complement. It all ends back in the earth with patchouli and a few musks reminding us where this late harvest day began.

Weinstrasse has 14-16 hour longevity.

Weinstrasse is a brilliant perfume. It is one of the very best perfumes of this year, or any year. That it comes from a perfumer as new to the field as Mr. Maher is incredible. Part of the joy of writing about perfume is experiencing a new talented nose. Over this past year Mr. Maher has impressed me repeatedly. I can’t think of another independent perfumer who has had this strong of a start in many years.

Weinstrasse displays everything which sets him apart. His careful choice of materials. His clear understanding of the history of perfume matched with a vision of what he wants to change. The updated fougere which is Weinstrasse is as good as it gets. Finally there seems to be a passion to get it right. The beauty of Weinstrasse lies in how throughout Mr. Maher infuses that autumn sunlight through everything. It is a subtle shading that only very few can achieve. Weinstrasse is the very best of what independent perfumery can be.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Widian New York- Big Apple Spring

Every great city I’ve visited has its own scent profile. They are specific to the season and the locale. One of my favorite cities and seasons is spring in New York City. In those days the city emerges from its hiding indoors during the winter to get back on the street. What that means is as you wander around the city there is a freshness attendant to the new growth on the trees. Blossoms fall in a gentle cascade if the wind blows. Street vendors are selling their wares. When I received my sample of Widian New York it reminded me of all of this.

Ali Aljaberi

Widian is the re-branded name of the former AJ Arabia line of perfume. Ali Aljaberi is the creative director overseeing it all. The early perfumes from 2014-2018 were all Middle Eastern inspired styles. I tried some here and there and thought the quality was high, but the perfumes never connected. That changed a year ago when there was a change in inspiration.

Mr. Aljaberi retained the quality and decided to use the great cities of the world as the briefs for the Sapphire Collection. London was an interesting oud-y fruity floral that was different than what came prior to that. New York is the follow-up to London.

Jordi Fernandez

The perfumer for New York is Jordi Fernandez. It is not surprising that I was reminded of springtime in the Big Apple because that was the brief behind New York. One of the things I didn’t think they would be able to capture is that sense of overlapping smells enveloping you as you stand in midtown on a sunny day. Mr. Fernandez captures this by using a spine of baie rose, the patchouli analog akigalawood, and a warm amber. On this he hangs all the things which make a spring day in NYC fun.

It opens with a flash of citrus sunlight as lemon beams out. Underneath it is the herbal, slightly fruity green of baie rose. To that Mr. Fernandez captures the early green of spring as coriander, juniper, and geranium rise to meet it in an accord of new growth. This is where the spicy woody akigalawood finds its way to the foreground. It carries a bouquet of flowers as rose, lavender, and jasmine create a rich floral harmony. As we move to the base a bit of the grit of the city comes through as ambrox and cypriol provide an edge. It becomes sweeter as we pass a street vendor making caramel covered nuts. There is a gourmand caramel accord here which Mr. Fernandez keeps from being too sweet or overpowering. The final touches are a set of warm ambers as we pull our sweaters close on our way home.

New York has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

This change to city inspired fragrances has changed the way I look at Widian. New York is another in a positive new direction.

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

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Kenneth Cole Mankind Legacy and Dior Sauvage Parfum

This month’s Flanker Round-Up I look at new releases from two masculine fragrance lines. One which has become a big seller and another which I consider to be an underappreciated mass-market gem.

Dior Sauvage Parfum

The original Dior Sauvage Eau de Toilette was released in the fall of 2015. It has become one of the perennial men’s fragrance best sellers ever since. Its appeal lies in the way perfumer Francois Demachy smooshed together most of the popular masculine perfume tropes into a monolithic whole. It works because there is something to appeal to everyone. The only thing I didn’t care for was the wall of Ambrox at the end of it all. With Sauvage Parfum M. Demachy remedies that.

Sauvage Parfum is a much sweeter fragrance without having that sledgehammer of Ambrox waiting at the end. A juicy mandarin and cardamom comprise a citrus top accord which moves toward a creamy sandalwood heart. This finishes with vanilla and cedar providing twin amplifiers of the sweet and woody aspects of the sandalwood. I can see Sauvage Parfum becoming an excellent winter alternative for fans of the original. It isn’t exactly the same, but it is recognizable as a kissing cousin.

Kenneth Cole Mankind Legacy

I think the Kenneth Cole Mankind series of perfumes is better than most of what is found on the men’s fragrance counter in the mall. In 2014 perfumer Claude Dir was ahead of the curve using some of the more contemporary men’s trends before they became trends. For Mankind Legacy perfumer Stephen Nilsen creates an herbal green woody fragrance.

It opens with a pairing of nutmeg and clary sage. The sweetness of the nutmeg is a nice contrast to the dry green of the sage. Baie rose and rosemary shade the herbal quality a bit deeper. A rich fir and cedar provide the woody foundation for a bridging vetiver to unite the herbs and the woods. I like Mankind Legacy as a weekend hiking kind of perfume. Almost feels like a flannel shirt should come as a gift with purchase.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Sarah Baker Charade- Movie Star Chypre

One of the things about perfume I adore is the sense of social history within. I know I am probably hypersensitive to this after reading Michael Edwards’ Perfume Legends II. When you think of all the classic perfume styles, they reflect the times they were released in. It tends to allow those of us who wear perfume the luxury of choosing an era to spend the day in when choosing one for the day. There is something about the extroverted perfumes of the 1950’s and 1960’s which carry an appeal to me.

Sarah Baker

It was a time when the world was expanding again post-World War 2. It was time when the style was driven by celebrities using the visual medium of movies and television. You dressed up to go out. that meant a jacket for men and a dress for women. For certain men and women it also meant perfume. Those perfumes carried the same dressed up aesthetic. I was reminded of all of this by a new perfume from an independent brand, Sarah Baker Charade.

Sarah Baker is an independent perfumer who released her first perfumes in 2016-2017 collaborating with perfumer Ashley Eden Kessler and Sarah McCartney on two each. I admired the line for an immersive style of perfumery. This is not transparent constructs for those who don’t enjoy bold fragrances. At the time they reminded me of those fragrances which seemed as classic as a blue blazer for men.

Andreas Wilhelm

When I received the newest four releases that aesthetic has been more firmly refined. All four still have an immersive quality where you sink into the perfume. They are all worth seeking out if you enjoy that style of perfume. For me, Charade was always going to be the one which I gravitated towards because Ms. Baker called out Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. It is the style they represented as the inspiration for perfumer Andreas Wilhelm to use for Charade.

If you’re going for that old school style you almost must think chypre. Hr. Wilhelm uses some of those classic ingredients of the fragrances I think of from that era. Predominantly tuberose and leather along with the chypre accord.

Charade opens with tuberose in all its extroverted charm. Hr. Wilhelm ups the ante, using ylang-ylang to add a fleshy supporting floral while he drenches it all in a sticky matrix of honey. The heart is a rugged leather accord given a polish through styrax and benzoin. The animalic aspect of the leather reverberates against the indolic heart of the tuberose. Hr. Wilhelm then puts together a chypre accord that carries all the dark green charm which makes it so compelling. Sandalwood, patchouli, and moss are all present. They are balanced into an excellent version of the chypre accord.

Charade has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

I admire Ms. Baker’s choice to make perfumes in this style. These are perfumes which carry an enveloping time machine quality without feeling dated. Charade makes me want to dust my blazer off and take Mrs. C out for dinner and a movie while being wrapped in a Movie Star chypre.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Love Mimosa- One More Step

Christopher Chong is one of the most innovative creative directors in perfumery. For the length of his tenure at Amouage he sought to define the edges of modern perfumery. It is why I eagerly await what is next for him. Until then we have his final two perfumes from Amouage to look forward to. The penultimate release Amouage Love Mimosa finds a perfume which embraces some of the most unique synthetic ingredients in combination with similarly versatile natural ingredients.

Christopher Chong

Love Mimosa is the final perfume in the Secret Garden collection. Through the first three releases I remarked on how it was the entryway to the wider Amouage aesthetic. Focusing on lilac, cherry blossom, and tuberose the first three were opulently designed florals carrying gourmand-y twists to match the floral keynote. Love Mimosa is not a floral gourmand instead perfumer Elise Benat was looking to highlight the synergy between some of the most dynamic synthetic ingredients and natural ingredients. Each phase of its development highlights this harmonic.

Elise Benat

The first phase matches violet leaf and the Calone analog Cascalone. Cascalone was developed by the chemists at Firmenich to remove the melon and low tide facets of the parent molecule. What is left behind is a purer sea spray effect. The violet leaf replaces the melon with a shimmering vegetal green piece of the top accord. This is a cool breeze off the ocean through the grass of the dunes. In the heart the mimosa shows up. In the early going some orris provides amplification to the powdery nature of mimosa. Mme Benat uses the expansiveness of the jasmine-on-steroids synthetic Paradisone to expand that powderiness into an opacity which allows the other half of mimosa to take precedence. That occurs as ylang-ylang brings out the richer slightly animalic quality buried underneath the powder. Ambrox is the synthetic in the base which acts as a late day sunbeam setting the mimosa aglow. The Ambrox is a catalyst to allow the deeper carnality of the mimosa to stand next to the powdery bubble created by the Paradisone.

Love Mimosa has  14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

If the first three Secret Garden scents were meant to entice someone into the Amouage aesthetic; Love mimosa asks them to step more fully into that. Love Mimosa doesn’t feel as much an introductory perfume but a place to go after that. The composition that Mme Benat achieves makes Love Mimosa an ideal fall floral. In one of his final statements, from his position at Amouage, Mr. Chong seems to ask you to come deeper into a different style of perfumery.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: House of X and Powers of X

If I can look back at a single comic book which defines the last nearly fifty years of comic books it would be “Giant-Size X-Men #1” in 1975. In a surprising way writer Len Wein would take a d-list superhero team and move it to the top of the list. Introducing a new team they battled a living mutant island called Krakoa. When the regular X-Men comic picked up on these events starting with Issue #94 a juggernaut of comic book publishing was gaining momentum. Writer Chris Claremont and illustrator John Byrne would set a new template for superhero stories. Unfortunately this kind of success leads to the comic publisher wanting to cash in. This led to multiple books being spun-off. Until the end of the 1990’s the number of X-Men related books seemed to know no end. It got messy.

In time-honored comic book fashion they decided a re-set was needed for the new century. For the last eighteen years they keep using time-travel, dimension shifting, etc. to keep changing the teams around and try and bring everything back to square one. This has been a failure for the most part as it felt like they were cannibalizing the plots of the past to try and retain interest. I would always dip back in when I knew one of these were happening only to leave disappointed after a few issues.

In July I heard another “re-launch” was happening. I added the new series “House of X” to my digital queue. Written by Jonathan Hickman it would also have a second series “Powers of X” also written by Mr. Hickman. If there was something I tired of as a part of the X-Men mythos it was all the long-time persecution. I always asked myself when they would take a piece of the earth and make it their own. Daring anyone to move them off it. Mr. Hickman has decided to go all the way back to the beginning to find that place, Krakoa, from Giant-Size X-men #1.

Over the course of the series so far Mr. Hickman has piece-by-piece begun to build a mutant home where they can stand as part of society instead of outside of it. This lays the groundwork for a new set of stories to be told where mutants must find their place in a society they are now part of.

I have already stopped reading almost any other iteration of X-Men by this point over the last few years. For the first time Mr. Hickman seems to have them on an exciting new path.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds Nautica Voyage- Fall Aquatic

Ever since I moved away from S. Florida I have come to enjoy the northern beaches in the early fall. Gone are the sunscreen and fruity drinks. Instead I walk the boardwalks in a sweater while the ocean carries more weight. For the most part the aquatic genre of fragrance wants to trend towards the summer party than the dour days of fall. There are exceptions, Nautica Voyage is one of them.

Nautica is one of the better discount lines of perfume. There are more than a few interesting takes on the aquatic genre. I have happily picked up many Nautica bottles out of my local discount shop without disappointment. One of the reasons I think they do a better than average job is they use some of the best perfumers. They allow them to move in unique directions. For Voyage it is perfumer Maurice Roucel at the wheel.

Maurice Roucel

If you’ve spent time on a New England beach in autumn, you will know there is a deep green scent to it. M. Roucel captures that in the early going as he has a green accord match with what is listed as a “sailcloth accord”. It reminds me of the canvas awnings of the boardwalk shops as a stiff breeze fills them from off the water. Instead of the typical suspects to create the water-like accord M. Roucel uses lotus and mimosa. This is the grey swells of the ocean after the summer crowds have left. It is a weightier water scent. Voyage finishes on a warm amber accord with hints of the green from on top in cedar and moss.

Nautica Voyage has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Voyage is a nice iteration of a popular fresh aesthetic. M. Roucel makes it enough different without completely breaking with the form. We are headed to the beach next weekend for the first weekend of fall. Nautica Voyage will be in my overnight bag.

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

Mark Behnke