New Perfume Review Strangelove NYC fallintostars- Quality Over Quantity

I admire purity of vision in all the arts. One of the ways that manifests itself is producing that art on the artist’s time scale. It exists in perfumery as it does elsewhere. It happens when a new brand releases too many perfumes in a debut collection. As a result muddling their aesthetic. It happens when a new brand rushes their next releases after a successful introduction. They forget those first perfumes came from an extended time of development. Changing that will lead to compromises. Then there are the outliers. The creative teams who have faith in their process. One of those teams is the one behind Strangelove NYC. Founder Elizabeth Gaynes, creative director Helena Christensen, and perfumer Christophe Laudamiel have produced one of the best collections in all of perfumery because they don’t stray from their core principles. The latest example is Strangelove NYC fallintostars.

Elizabeth Gaynes (l.) and Helena Christensen

The first of these principles is to use high quality natural materials as the keynotes. Ms. Gaynes has proven to have an outstanding instinct about which ones to feature. In many ways fallintostars comes full circle back to the first release, deadofnight. Their commonality comes from the use of real oud as the heart note. deadofnight was a modern version of the classic oud-rose duet. fallintostars returns to the oud while surrounding it with a new ensemble of supporting ingredients.

Christophe Laudamiel

When M. Laudamiel is left to his own devices he will find every rough edge within oud and amplify it. Ms. Christensen provides the direction to allow for him to go just far enough with as fractious an ingredient as oud.

For fallintostars M. Laudamiel created a special cocktail of different sources of oud. It is like a kaleidoscope in the way it subtly shifts as it is on my skin. I don’t know how many ouds are here, but I suspect four or five because I believe I detect at least four. M. Laudamiel masterfully combines them into an uber-oud accord. It is present right from the first moments. Early on he gives it a sunny glow via saffron and ginger. The ginger flits through the early moments like a will of the wisp. It sets up the floral contrast which is jonquil nectar. This adds a honeyed jasmine-like floral to the oud. It oozes over the top of the oud, filling in spaces. It is complete when the green vein within jonquil seals this with an almost audible click. The base is a mixture of Peru balsam and benzoin. This gathers up the resinous character of the oud and gives it a warm foundation.

fallintostars has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Over five releases Ms. Gaynes, Ms. Christensen, and M. Laudamiel have created perfume of the highest quality. There is not one misstep within this collection. They have remained true to their core artistic beliefs. Which means fallintostars is another example of how quality wins over quantity, every time.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Hendrick’s Gin

When it comes to spirits gin is my favorite. One reason is it comes closest to perfume in its use of botanical ingredients. Even in its dry form gin has an aroma of juniper, coriander, and citrus. Over the last ten years there has been a rapid expansion in small-batch distilleries featuring Old Tom gin containing a higher quantity of botanicals. I have lots of them and use them in all kinds of different gin-based cocktails. All of these new gins to discover have had the same effect new perfume does; it pushes to the rear of the cabinet the originals which formed the foundation of my affection. Towards the end of this past summer I was reminded of the first botanical gin which started all of this; Hendrick’s Gin.

Hendrick’s was the British response to the dry gin so popular for decades. The founders wanted to make a gin that oozed British garden parties. They decided to add cucumber and rose petals to the distillation process. That process is two-stage. The first producing the typical dry gin while the second adds in the unique botanicals.

I became aware of Hendrick’s when the mixologist at my local bar asked me if I wanted to try something new in my pre-dinner martini. When I lifted it to my nose and caught the scent of roses I was intrigued. The taste which hit my tongue was totally different. I would spend that summer trying it in different gin cocktails learning the advantages to having a botanical gin as the main ingredient.

As I mentioned the sexy new bottles on the block eventually eclipsed the elegant black bottle on my spirits shelf. Until I was reminded a few weeks ago it is every bit as good as these contemporary interlopers.

It started when I forgot my cocktail box on a long weekend trip to a friend’s beach house. At first, I was annoyed at myself. We stopped at a liquor store on our way but the only botanical gin they had on their shelf was Hendrick’s. I was a touch disappointed, but I knew it was a good gin.

What happened over the next few days was I reacquainted myself with the original botanical gin. I was reminded that latest does not necessarily mean better. Hendrick’s was more than a stand-in it was the star of the weekend. I was surprised at how many had never tried it. When I served them their gin and tonic with a cucumber instead of a lime, I got a quizzical look until they took a sip.

It is another reminder to look back to the originals because they are where trends begin.

Disclosure: I purchased the bottle written about.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ariana Grande Thank U, Next- Next!

As one who tends to sneer at celebuscents you would be interested to know how much I was looking forward to the release of Ariana Grande Thank U, Next. The reason for that anticipation was that last year’s Ariana Grande Cloud impressed me by interpreting the transparent gourmand trend in a compelling way. I would have been interested to see where this would go in any case. When I found out perfumer Jerome Epinette was involved my interest was further piqued.

Jerome Epinette

Thank U, Next is named after the song by Ms. Grande after her recent break-up. Not someone who follows the ins-and-outs of her life I am not sure if I can find an overlap between song and fragrance. What I do find is another different transparent gourmand than Cloud which is equally as good.

I’m not sure if this is intentional or not but Thank U, Next has a similar trio of pear, coconut, and white musks as Cloud does. M. Epinette tunes them to different effects than in Cloud yet there is enough similarity this could be a flanker of Cloud.

That pear is paired with raspberry to give a sweet fruity top accord. Just as it was in cloud this is kept at such an opaque level it is appealing instead of overpowering. The heart accord is coconut cream leavened with a fresh rose. This is a contrast of the fresh floral with the more substantial coconut cream. It is like finding an exotic dessert of rose petals atop a coconut custard. If you are left thinking of that dessert M. Epinette places a coconut macaroon right next to it as a sweet dough-y complement. It all ends with a clean cocktail of white musks to add lift to it all.

Thank U, Next has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

For everyone who was a fan of Cloud Thank U, Next should be next to try. It has everything that made that perfume stand out while having its own personality. I am again quite amazed at how well this creative team is doing in this new fragrance space. It has me in my own way saying, “thank you, next!”

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Ulta.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Acqua di Parma Osmanthus- The Fruit to Leather Pivot

Soliflores are hard. You’ve heard me say that before. When I received my samples of the new Acqua di Parma Signatures of the Sun collection it seemed like they were following the recent trend of luxury soliflore collections. What I was pleased to find was a group of perfumes which might only have one ingredient name on the label but were much more than that.

Signatures of the Sun is a ten-fragrance collection consisting of one ingredient on the label. All ten were composed by perfumer Francois Demachy. Instead of a group of single keynote fragrances each perfume uses the titular note as a large piece of a greater whole. I am still working my way through the complete collection but as usually happens one leapt out at me from my initial assessment; Acqua di Parma Osmanthus.

Francois Demachy

As osmanthus is one of my favorite ingredients it is unsurprising that it would make an impression. What really made it rise is a single ingredient which is used in overdose. It turns this into a fantastic perfume study of this flower.

When I sprayed the perfume what I first notice is deep neroli supported by baie rose. The herbal slightly fruity nature of the baie rose provides the bridging note to the osmanthus in the heart. The neroli and baie rose tease out the apricot character creating a unique fruity floral accord for the early moments. Eventually the leathery nature of osmanthus also appears. What speeds that process along is the use of ambrette butter in the base. Ambrette is the botanical source of musk, it usually has a dry presence. In this case it has a lusher feel with more depth than I usually experience from ambrette. A small amount of patchouli adds some earthiness to the ambrette. It allows for the osmanthus to pivot from fruit to leather as Osmanthus develops.

Osmanthus has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I am generally impressed with the Signatures of the Sun collection and I’m sure I’ll review a couple more. None of them will be better than Osmanthus.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by Acqua di Parma.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Byredo Slow Dance- First Contact

The ritual of the school dance is where most of us have our first close encounter with someone we are attracted to. It was 1971 and I was attending my first junior high dance. I had decided not to be one of those who sat in the bleachers; I wanted to dance with someone. The girl who had caught my attention had done so for the most pedestrian of reasons, her shampoo. If you grew up in the 1970’s the scent of Clairol Herbal Essence shampoo was amazing. Even 50-years later I still lean into a woman who walks by wafting it from her hair.

Ben Gorham

In 1971 it was brand new and there was only one girl in our school who used it. I had decided I was going to ask her to dance. Once the music started, I waited for a song I thought I could move somewhat gracefully to. I walked over to the group of girls. In a firm voice I asked Debbie if she would like to dance. She smiled and said, “yes”. It broke the ice in her group and soon we were all on the dance floor. One fast song after another we were having a great time. Then the DJ changed things up as “How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?” by the Bee Gees came on. A slow dance! I looked at Debbie and reached out. She responded by putting her arms around my neck. As we swayed and twirled in a small circle, we progressively got closer until she rested her head on my chest. This was the moment of human contact which remains so precious. Byredo Slow Dance wants to capture that magic in a perfume.

Jerome Epinette

Creative director Ben Gorham and perfumer Jerome Epinette collaborate once again. This is a fragrance where the meeting of two people on a dance floor comes through.

It opens with the gorgeous invitation offered by opopanax. It is the hand offered to the potential dance partner. The remainder of Slow Dance is a juxtaposition of a feminine accord of flowers and a masculine accord of patchouli. The floral accord is geranium and violet supported by labdanum. It isn’t Herbal Essence shampoo but it is a compelling accord all its own. The patchouli fraction, which is the earthier musky version, is sweetened with a little vanilla. Together these two accords sway their way through the night entwined with each other.

Slow Dance has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is a beautiful fragrance just right for the upcoming fall days. If the name and the perfume can take you back to a dance floor of your youth all the better.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Byredo.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Jardins D’Ecrivains Orlando- Shoulder Season Staple

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For most people their perfume choices are split into warm-weather and cold-weather fragrances. A perfume dork like me has to create more categories than that. One part of the year I look forward to is what I call “shoulder season”. This comprises the transition between summer-fall and winter-spring. More practically it means days which start out cool become pleasantly warm at midday to return to cool after sunset. I have a group of perfumes which have a dynamic evolution on my skin which makes them ideal shoulder season perfumes. One of those is Jardins D’Ecrivains Orlando.

In 2013 Anais Biguine debuted her new brand Jardins D’Ecrivains, garden of writers, with five singular perfumes based on famous authors, or their works. The original debut collection of five is exceptional in the way Mme Biguine successfully realized her vision. This wasn’t a brand which played it safe as each fragrance had a few twists and turns to them which made them stand out. Orlando was perhaps the twistiest of the original releases.

Anais Biguine

Based on the novel by Virginia Woolf and further made familiar by the 1992 movie starring Tilda Swinton it tells a story of gender roles. Elizabethan Lord Orlando falls asleep only to wake up as Lady Orlando a century later. Book and movie have lots to say about the fluidity of gender which seems particularly apt today. Mme Biguine produced a perfume which captures her subject matter in three accords.

The top accord is a vibrant concoction of ginger, baie rose, and orange. This is an unsettled opening much like the protagonist it is meant to portray. The perfume leans into its inspiration as each ingredient pinballs off the other not finding a harmony. It is something I find unusually beautiful when I wear Orlando. The heart is amber and patchouli containing a touch of clove which represents our Elizabethan Lord in act two. The final act of lighter woods transforms it into something more contemporary with gaiac, musk, and peru balsam. As our heroine wakes up in a new time.

Orlando has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Orlando is a bit of an acquired taste, but it is my favorite of the Jardins D’Ecrivains perfumes. Especially in my shoulder season. If Orlando sounds a bit too challenging for you there are others within the collection worth exploring that are less experimental. In any case this is a brand that deserves to be on any perfume fan’s radar.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Masque Milano Kintsugi- Reconstructing Chypre

There are times when the name of a perfume describes what is in the bottle perfectly. This is the case with Masque Milano Kintsugi. Kintsugi is the Japanese art form where broken pottery is repaired with lacquer infused with precious metals. It takes something which was ruined and reconstructs it with valuable materials making for an improvement. If there was an analogous effort to be made in perfumery it would be in having a chypre without oak moss. Could a creative team reconstruct chypre using unique materials to bring new life to the form?

Riccardo Tedeschi (l.) and Alessandro Brun

If I was asked which creative teams I would like to see take this on, surely one of my top answers would be Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi of Masque Milano. They have been one of the top creative directors in all of fragrance especially over the last few years. They mix an unapologetic willingness to take risks while using young rising perfumers who also want to push at the boundaries. For Kintsugi that ascending star is perfumer Vanina Muracciole. What they have achieved is to take the wreckage which is oak moss-free chypre and put it back together with unique materials for a completely modern chypre.

Vanina Muracciole

It starts off in the depths of creamy magnolia and powdery Rose de Mai. This forms a rim of the bowl etched with these flowers intertwined. It transitions through an ambery suede accord in the heart. This provides the canvas upon which to assemble the pieces for a nouveau chypre. The heart of the accord will be the heart fraction of patchouli. This is the concentrated earthiness of this well-known ingredient. It has become a favorite fraction because of the feeling of putting my nose in the dirt and inhaling. Mme Muracciole then uses violet leaves and raspberry leaves to add back the greener facets of the patchouli while adding in a shimmer of metal and hint of leather, respectively, to elongate the leather in the heart through to the base. Ambrinol adds the briny muskiness of an ambergris substitute. Benzoin provides the bite of a good chypre accord while a touch of vanilla smooths it all out.

Kintsugi has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Kintsugi is a monument to everything right about the philosophy behind Masque Milano and why they are one of the best perfume brands in the world. They are fearless in taking a shattered form, like chypre, and gluing it back together into a thing of new beauty.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Mizensir For Your Love- Passionate Ambery Musk

There are perfumers I associate with specific types of ingredients. It is because I think they have a deeper understanding of how to get the most out of them. When I think Alberto Morillas, musk jumps into my mind right afterward. M. Morillas is much more than a one-trick pony yet he has opened my eyes to the potential of the synthetic musk alternatives more than any other perfumer. His latest lesson comes via Mizensir for Your Love.

Mizensir is M. Morillas’ own brand. I have hypothesized in previous review it is a place where he can truly explore the boundaries of the synthetic palette without a client getting in the way. Each release seems to highlight a couple of the well-known synthetics. In For Your Love it is the synthetic musk Exaltone and the synthetic ambergris Cachalox.

Alberto Morillas

The brief M. Morillas gave himself was the “scent of a kiss”. I had to laugh when I smelled For Your Love because of what I think is meant to stand for the lipstick; raspberry. It might make you think of a pre-teen peck but once the musk and ambergris surrogates get going it isn’t chaste anymore.

The raspberry is the first thing I notice before the animalic muskiness of the Exaltone rises. An advantage of a synthetic like Exaltone is it exudes more warmth. It is more like warm skin. There is a sensual quality to it as used here. That gets enhanced as the Cachalox chimes in with a warm ambery effect. Together they create a pulse racing accord of anticipation as two pairs of lips reach towards each other. The warmth is echoed with a fractionated heart of patchouli and benzoin in the base. This is the denouement of that kiss carrying a small smile from each person.

For Your Love has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

There is a subset of perfume fans who decry the use of synthetics. M. Morillas is amassing a potent counter argument to that with each successive Mizensir release. For Your Love is the one where a potent ambery musk steps forward.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Mizensir.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Dwayne Johnson

There are actors I root for because I think they are decent people while also making things I like to watch. One of those is Dwayne Johnson. I’ve been impressed to see him make the successful transition from professional wrestling to action movie franchise star. It reminds me a lot of how Arnold Schwarzenegger made the same jump from bodybuilding to the movies. There is one commonality to both of their rises; a work ethic off the charts.

Mr. Johnson rose to fame as the professional wrestler known as “The Rock”. From the mid 1990’s until the 2000’s Mr. Johnson would hone this persona through the various professional wrestling promotions. By the time he would become World Champion, for the first of many times, he was one of the most popular wrestlers.

Dwayne Johnson

He would make the move to movies as The Scorpion King in the “Mummy” franchise, appearing in 2001 and 2002. Much as he did in wrestling Mr. Johnson made the putative villain interesting due to his charisma and screen presence. He would work consistently throughout the first decade of the new century. None of these roles would prove to be that breakout moment; until 2011.

In 2011 he joined the “Fast & Furious” franchise as agent Luke Hobbs. He would again turn the role into a part of the franchise going forward. He has just appeared in a spin-of of the series featuring his character “Hobbs & Shaw” this past summer. It seems like these appearances have taken Mr. Johnson to a new level. The last eight years have been the most successful on the silver screen for him.

Where I am really rooting for Mr. Johnson is for some writer-director to find a breakout dramatic role for him. The evidence that he can do it is in his HBO series “Ballers”. The third season saw his character return to painful memories in his hometown of LA. Over the last couple of episodes he made me think he is just one movie away from making this breakthrough.

Until then he will remain one of the most watchable action stars we have.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Christina Aguilera Xperience- Vegas Baby

One of the interesting aspects of living in a small town is people learn about you over time. Many in town know I write about perfume. During the summer we have Friday events on our town green. Which is where I can sometimes have interactions on perfume. A little over a month ago during “Wine Down in the Park” I was sipping with one of my neighbors who smelled good. It was a sparkly floral which also seemed to have some depth. I asked her what she was wearing. Which caused an amusing reaction from others who were surprised I didn’t know what it was. I knew it had to be commercial because there were a lot of synthetics but there was also this unexpected sparkle which usually doesn’t come out in a perfume like this. Given the spotlight my neighbor told me she got it on her recent trip to Las Vegas after she saw the show in residence by Christina Aguilera. There is a perfume to go with it called Christina Aguilera Xperience. My neighbor let me make a sample from her bottle. Under further scrutiny it turned out there was a reason it stood out.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

That reason is perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux. Sr. Flores-Roux knows how to squeeze the most out of the budget for a mainstream commercial fragrance. In the past he has told me one technique he uses is to add a tiny amount of the actual essential oil of a floral ingredient to the more economical synthetic equivalent. It has the effect of adding subtle nuance to those ingredients giving a fuller floral experience. I don’t know for sure if that is what he did here, but this seems so much more than what its ingredients say it should be I’ll be surprised if he didn’t.

Xperience opens on a floral pairing of plumeria and orange blossom. These seem much brighter than they usually are in mainstream releases. There is a sparkle and kick in their step. Sr. Flores-Roux uses a set of other florals to support things, but it is mostly these two florals for the early going. The base is a warm woody accord around balsamic components and amber. It gives off a warmth to add something more to the florals on top.

Xperience has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you are looking for a fall floral for cool mornings and warm afternoons Xperience is a great mainstream choice.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I made from a bottle owned by a friend.

Mark Behnke