New Perfume Review Zoologist Snowy Owl- The Quiet of Snow

If you’ve ever done any snow shoeing or cross-country skiing you’ve probably noticed something. The way the snow adds a sonic damper to the world. When you’re out trekking through a wintry landscape there is a quietness to things. Whenever I stop for a drink of water that quiet never fails to soothe me. it is part of the reason I’m out moving through the cold. To find a world where things are reduced to a few elements. Zoologist Snowy Owl celebrates this.

Victor Wong

I have been excited about this before I heard the name of the animal because two of my favorite people in independent perfumery were teaming up. Zoologist founder-creative director Victor Wong and perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz are my idea of a dream team. I have given both my year-end awards multiple times. They exhibit everything I think is right about this sector. They are passionate perfume lovers who make perfume it is as simple as that.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

I was curious to see what animal they would work together on. The Snowy Owl seemed perfect for a fragrance meant to capture that quiet of snow I spoke of. Ms. Hurwitz is based in Boulder, Colorado in the Rocky Mountains. This experience can be found just outside her front door. Together they create a beautiful contemplative winter inspired perfume.

I wondered what the snow accord would be made of. When I first smelled it on receiving my sample, I thought it was perfect at capturing the watery nature of snow melting in winter sunshine. When I turned my focus on what made this up, I found two ingredients that are not on my favorites list. Ms. Hurwitz uses Calone and mint with an assist from muguet and coconut water. The first two ingredients I mentioned are part of so many pedestrian fragrances I am amazed at their use here. The watery melon-like quality of the Calone is given lift through the mint. The muguet adds a soft floral verdancy while the coconut water adds the dampness. It is a compelling opening.

It gets better as galbanum gives the green of the muguet a boost. Orris adds an earthy piece while an austere frankincense recapitulates the cold air. It ends up coalescing around a musky base built around ambrette and civet. The woods are represented via cedar and oakmoss. Once it is all in place a soft scent of silence appears.

Snowy Owl has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Snowy Owl feels like a partner to last year’s Musk Deer in the way they project a softness. This has more of a wintry bite, but I would still describe it as soft. There was a point in every day I was out in the winter woods where the sun informed me it was time to turn for home. Most of the time I did that with the desire for more time to spend outside in the stillness. Now Snowy Owl brings the quiet of snow home to me.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by Zoologist Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison d’Etto Noisette- Riding in the Pyrenees

There are new brands that just feel like they are built for long-term success. There are some things I look for which help buttress that intuitive thought. One of them is a clear vision of what you want to be. When I received my sample set of Maison d’Etto last year there was a clear coherence to the collection. It came from founder Brianna Lipovsky. She decided to base her perfumes on horses she had known. It translated into fragrance which moved as if on horseback. It had my attention. I was curious to see what direction she would take with her next fragrance. Maison d’Etto Noisette provides some clues.

Brianna Lipovsky

If the first collection was about the horses this new one is about where you end up while riding them. It is called “Connection to Nature”. The memory she had in mind was when she and her husband were attending a wedding in France. She found some time to go riding because that’s what horse people do. She found Noisette at a local farm. Her ride would take her up into the Pyrenees Mountains. She would remember the scent of the lavender all around her.

Pascal Gaurin

When she met perfumer Pascal Gaurin, she mentioned this to him. They had decided to collaborate then. When they came back together M. Gaurin showed he a new version of lavandin from the IFF labs. Created organically through enfleurage it was produced with an eye towards enhancing the relaxing quality of lavender. it is this ingredient which is the star of Noisette.

The beauty of this lavender comes through its airy balance between the herbal and floral nature of it. It is the horse this perfume rides in on. In the early moments, a creamy magnolia draws your attention to the floral part. A rich orris concrete in the heart then takes you over to the herbal side. Ambrette reminds you through the botanical musk that you’re on a horse. An expansive set of notes provide the vault of the sky and the moist green of the ground.

Noisette has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

The clarity of Ms. Lipovsky’s vision is apparent once again. I can feel the moment of looking up at the sky as the horse beneath rests in a field of lavender. I don’t know where Ms. Lipovsky intends to take me riding next. I only know I want to be along for the ride.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Maison d’Etto.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Philosophy Amazing Grace Jasmine- Adding Some Spring to a Classic

Every year I go through my Seasonal Rose Curmudgeon Disorder. It’s because the lack of imagination in spring florals bothers me. There are a ton of fresh florals other than rose. There are lots of examples of amazing fresh florals which do not rely on rose; 2004’s Philosophy Amazing Grace uses muguet. It is one of my favorite perfumes to recommend because it is super easy to wear on a spring day. This year it gets some competition from in-house with Philosophy Amazing Grace Jasmine.

Perfumer Cecile Hua-Krakower was behind the original Amazing Grace and she has returned for this new version. What she does is do a subtle reworking of ingredients as jasmine takes precedence over the muguet. She also adds in a new ingredient which makes this even better.

Cecile Hua-Krakower

The sunny citrus top accord remains. This is that feeling of standing in your door as a sunbeam hits you in the face. Lemon has an uplifting effect as it does here. Now we get to the floral core. Jasmine, muguet, and orange blossom made up the heart of the original. They also comprise the heart of this new one. The difference is Mme Hua-Krakower amplifies the jasmine while still giving significant roles for the other two florals. The transparent jasmine is given more substance as the orange blossom adds a deeper tint of white flower. The muguet is used for a fresh green grounding of the accord. It is a beautiful evocation of spring. Then Mme Hua-Krakower adds in a splash of coconut water. It is a surrogate for the watery dewy accords found in less engaging spring florals. Here it adds a dew with a slight tropical kick finding a partner with the jasmine. It all finds itself on an expansive flying carpet of white musks adding lift to everything.

Amazing Grace Jasmine has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

For anyone to whom I have told to give Amazing Grace a try. You should give this a try for this spring. It is different enough to justify owning both. For anyone looking for my 2021 answer to what spring floral can I get without rose. Your answer is right here.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Shelley Waddington for American Perfumer Pythia- Know Thyself

One of the things I enjoy most about independent perfumers is they tend to be broad in the perfumes they produce. At least the best of them is. When I think of the list of my favorites the maxim “stay in your lane” does not apply. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lane I prefer. Perfumer Shelley Waddington is one of those eight-lane freeways of fragrance. I’ve changed lanes with her numerous times, but it is when she travels in a deeply vintage-like direction I enjoy traveling with her the most. Shelley Waddington for American Perfumer Pythia is just that type.

Pythia is the latest in the limited editions offered by Dave Kern’s American Perfumer store. He has worked with some of the best independent perfumers in the country. He encourages them to work with rare ingredients or difficult to produce versions. So far this has produced a magnificent collection of limited editions which have allowed these artists to blossom in new ways. Ms. Waddington uses a classic perfume structure to depict a classic figure from ancient Greek history.

Shelley Waddington

While the name Pythia might not ring a bell her other title, Oracle of Delphi might. As the High Priestess of Apollo she shared his divine words to those who visited. The perfume is meant to be the scent of Pythia to a supplicant. What they would smell while waiting for her words.

To achieve this Ms. Waddington reached back to a way that fragrance was used in ancient times, as unguents. There was no distillation of alcohol to carry scents. So they were infused into a fatty matrix with which they could be rubbed on the skin. She created a set of them to form the foundation of Pythia.

As the Oracle leans down to speak lemon and rosemary whisper from her hair. The interplay of bright citrus and earthy herbal feels appropriate. As I hand the rose to her in offering over the smoky brazier she leans back. Ms. Waddington does an excellent job keeping the smoke from billowing in choking clouds. She keeps it at just the right level to remind me of a hazy Greek temple. After I make my request of the Oracle, she circles me with her scents enveloping me. There is civet, ambergris, musk, sandalwood, and balsam. They are a heady mix I breathe them in greedily taking it all in. This is where the hand-made unguents are present. There is a gorgeous depth to all the ingredients I mentioned. When they all come together in the base it is mesmerizing.

Pythia has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I stand looking expectantly at the Oracle, she points to the column at the entrance. “Know Thyself” is inscribed upon it. As always, the answers are within. It also applies to Ms. Waddington as an artist. To be a great independent perfumer you must know and understand your strengths. Pythia is testament that she does.

Mark Behnke

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by American Perfumer.

Editor’s Note: These limited editions have proven to be extremely popular, selling out very quickly. Mr. Kern to make it more equitable uses a lottery system. There are 25 signed and numbered bottles for sale. The lottery is scheduled for February 27, 2021. If you are interested you can send your name, phone number, and address to dave@american-perfumer.com to be entered. Or you can supply the same info on the Instagram page @theamericanperfumer via message.

New Perfume Review Cartier V L’Heure Osee- Not as Punk as It Could Be

Of the exclusive lines at the designer brands I have held a minority view. I think the Cartier Les Heures de Parfum is the most artistic collection of them all. In-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent created eleven perfumes representing the hours on her thirteen numbered clockface. It has been six years since there was a release. Which had begun to make me wonder if the absence of five and nine had a grander meaning. I expected Mme Laurent to someday tell us why those two were never interpreted. Looks like my answer is she had been intending to complete her perfume clock after all. Cartier V L’Heure Osee takes care of one of those.

It is a surprising entry because it comes along with two other rose perfumes by Cartier and Mme Laurent. She says in the press release she wanted to explore the more empowering qualities of this ingredient. She calls L’Heure Osee her “punk rose”. I had all of that at the front of my mind when I received my sample. The artistry of the collection with an aggressive mosh pit rose. That is not what I got. I am not sure if calling this a “punk rose” does it any favors. As I became acquainted with it, I came around to my own rationalization of the description.

Mathilde Laurent

Of the many thigs punk rock stood for one of them was a return to the basics of early rock and roll. Fast songs done with guitars, drums, and maybe a keyboard. By the late 1970’s there were touring rock bands that had orchestras on stage. I hated that. It was not what I believed rock and roll to be. As the bands rose up it was this return to the basic structure of rock and roll which was what made me a punk. What it seems like L’Heure Osee is trying to do is also to return to the simple basics of making a rose perfume without becoming a simpering debutante version.

It is an exceedingly simple version of rose. Mme Laurent seemingly mixes some synthetic and essential oil versions of rose. There is a sturdiness to it which is usually lacking from most spring rose perfumes. There is some of that spicy core from the non-tea rose family. I think there is also a minimal amount of rose oxide which adds a subtle metallic edge. The green of the leaves around the blooms is also present but, in a perfume, labeled as a “punk rose” the thorns are missing.

L’Heure Osee has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

If my interpretation of “punk” as a return to basics is correct L’Heure Osee delivers on that. If this was meant to be a rose in fishnets and Doc Martens with a sneer; it is way wide of that mark. It is mostly an alternative to the typical blushing spring rose with something a bit more assertive on its mind.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Neiman-Marcus.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Immortal Hulk

Like many others I am in the middle of enjoying the ongoing WandaVision tv series. I will have much more to say about it once it finishes up. What makes that tv show engaging is seeing these Marvel movie characters in a wildly different environment. It turns out the same formula works on the comic book page as the “The Immortal Hulk” series proves.

This was one of those series I ignored when it first appeared in 2018. It wasn’t until they incorporated the character into the Marvel mobile game, I play that I became a little more interested. One of the cross-promotions within the game is when a new character appears, they allow you to download a few issues to familiarize yourself with them. The in-game description was more enticing than the online one for the comic. I downloaded the first six issues. Then I downloaded all the rest of them.

Al Ewing has been the writer behind the series since issue 1. He has created a version of Hulk who is probably the most powerful iteration. The same Jekyll-Hyde struggle at the core of the character as Bruce Banner and the monster are often at odds. The same being chased by a version of the military for their own purposes is another constant piece to the Hulk mythos. It is the other part which adds the new stuff.

This Hulk comes from the netherworld. The extra oomph to his power also comes from the same place. As the title suggests he can’t be killed in Hulk form. What Mr. Ewing does with this is to examine the entire history of the Hulk. As Banner or Hulk run into things from their past which have more power to bring them down than the military chasing them.

Mr. Ewing has seemingly delighted in using deep cut characters a long-time fan will smile at. But he has effectively used the major nemeses from the canon to be the main antagonists. I like my villains with a history. The ones chosen here all have that.

Of all the Marvel comic series, Hulk was the first one which I slowly stopped reading. There just wasn’t anything new under the sun. Mr. Ewing has brought me back to being a regular reader by taking it to the underworld.

Mark Behnke

Pierre Benard Challenge Continued: Ice, Ice, Baby

1

It wasn’t until I was 22 that I first encountered ice through weather. I had lived in Florida my entire life until then. At grad school in Georgia I walked out to my car one morning. I started it up and turned on the windshield wipers to remove the dew on the windshield. Except it didn’t move the wipers skidded uselessly over it. Of course my Florida trained mentality leapt to the right conclusion. I thought someone had put white spray paint on my car window. As the edges began to melt the actuality came through. There was ice on my windshield. After almost forty years in the parts of the world where ice is a part of the natural order of things, I am more used to it. It has now evolved to the way the ice on my lawn and trees smells.

The smell of freezing precipitation has always fascinated me. just like a summer rainstorm presents itself in ozone and petrichor the colder version does the same. This past week we have had a lot of ice freezing on surfaces in Colognoisseur HQ. As I watched the dogs in the backyard the scent of the world was like a giant ice cube. A little more liquid as the icicles had a drop of water on the ends. What also stands out is the way the ice adds a barrier to all the other natural odors. The only thing I smell is this crystallized humidity.

We’ve also had some snow. That has a different profile to my nose. There is an apocryphal tale that Eskimos have 50-plus words for snow. When it comes to my perception of the world covered in snow there is just a chilly sterility with crunch. As I walk through it the auditory sound of my boots along with what I breathe in seem to go together. The snow doesn’t add as perfect a barrier as the ice. It allows some of the woods to join in.

There are two excellent perfume equivalents to the way I think of snow. One is Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle L’Eau d’Hiver by Jean-Claude Ellena. This is a breathy whisper behind mittened hands in the snow. The other is the more recent Maison Crivelli Absinthe Boreale by Nathalie Feisthauer. She captures the crunch of the snow as I sip absinthe while watching the aurora borealis.

It might be easy to think of snow as odorless. Reality and perfume have taught me differently.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons x Stussy Laguna Beach- Return to Cali

A little over four years ago when Comme des Garcons collaborated with Gosha Rubchinskiy on a perfume I wondered aloud about it being made for a younger audience. It seemed on brand for Comme des Garcons to work with someone who came out of the skateboard culture if that was the intent. The releases over the intervening years have not seemed to be as interested in that demographic. Until I received my sample of Comme des Garcon x Stussy Laguna Beach.

Christian Astuguevieille

Back in the 1980’s when founder Shawn Stussy was selling his designs out of the back of his car, he hit a perfect alignment for his success. The surfers, skateboarders, punks, and hip-hop kids all wanted to wear his things. Over thirty years on it still retains that street cred even though you can buy it at the mall. Which makes the decision by Stussy to branch out into fragrance an interesting choice. If this is meant to aim at the twentysomethings it is the right brand to get their attention. Creative director Christian Astuguevieille knows how to make oddly unique perfumes. He asks perfumer Nisrine Grille to create it.

Nisrine Grille

A perfume named after a California beach is almost by necessity an aquatic. What makes it Comme des Garcons is the use of some synthetic expansive florals over that. Those take things in a different direction.

The opening is a salty ozonic marine accord which is commonplace. Mme Grille captures that sea air on the open beach. What comes next seems like a layered effect of some synthetic expansive florals. The current trend for younger perfume fans is to keep it transparent. Most perfumes accomplish that with a synthetic expansive version of a well-known floral. Hedione does this for jasmine as the best example. Mme Grille seemingly adds multiple versions of these types of materials. It has one advantage in making the floral accord not as opaque as it usually is. It also creates a soap bubble which has whirls of different floral sources on its surface. The sea breeze accord gently nudges this fragile orb along. In the base cedar adds a woody foundation. It has a more pronounced green quality as if it is raw wood being cut.

Stussy Laguna Beach has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

It has taken four years for Comme des Garcons to return to Cali and the skateboarders. Just as before they offer something different to an age group that doesn’t usually experience it in their fragrances.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Comme des Garcons.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review NEZ Ambre A Levres- Memories of our Families’ Lipstick

One of the best things to come out of 2020 was a new perfume series from the magazine NEZ. At the beginning of the year they began what they call the 1+1 series. The idea is to take an artist from outside of the fragrance business and pair them with a perfumer. Both of last year’s editions made my best of the year list. Watching to see the perfume result of two artists in collaboration is even better than it sounds. The third 1+1 is here in NEZ Ambre a Levres.

Marjane Satrapi

In the first two cases I was unfamiliar with the artist asked to be creative director. Not this time. Marjane Satrapi was the artist and writer behind the graphic novel “Persepolis”. It is an autobiographical story of her early life surviving in Iran after the Islamic Revolution. Mme Satrapi pulls the reader in through sharply drawn black-and-white panels to tell her story. It is one of the great graphic novels of all time. The final sentence has always stayed with me “Freedom has a price.” It was with great anticipation I awaited what she and perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui would come up with.

Mathilde Bijaoui

Where it began was the memory of Mme Satrapi’s aunt. She had a wide array of beauty products. The one which drew the attention of the 6-year-old Mme Satrapi were the lipsticks. The concept of perfume inspired by lipstick is nothing new. The question is how you can add an interpretation which gives it new life.

As Mme Bijaoui and Mme Satrapi began to work together they homed in on the nature of the lipstick accord. No rose. Only a specific ionone instead of all of them. And iris. What sealed the collaboration was a combination of Mme Satrapi’s current use of amber perfumes. Mme Bijaoui presented a leathery amber accord for the lipstick to rest upon. Once the pieces were there all that was left to bring them together in Ambre a Levres.

In the early moments this reminds me of the perfume on a stylish lady’s vanity and not the lipstick. It is because iris is out in front carried by a set of aldehydes. There was a mélange of scent from the different cosmetics on my mother’s vanity. The very first moments remind me of that. Then methyl-ionone comes forward. Because it comes from iris it is almost as if the rhizome exudes only the one specific version. The lipstick accord attains a waxiness as the intensity increases. Now the second half comes.

My grandmother kept her lipsticks in a leather cosmetics bag. As much as I associate violet with lipstick, I also think of leather from the bag they were kept in. The inclusion of Suederal has more to do with Mme Satrapi’s enjoyment of its leathery ambery quality. Before it comes into play in Ambre a Levres vanilla connects the lipstick accord to the Suederal. A suite of musks add an animalic diffusiveness to the final stages.

Amber a Levres has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is a fantastic interpretation of the lipstick accord given new life through the vanilla and amber in the base. Both Mme Satrapi and I have the fragrance we need to remember our family members for whom the right lipstick was essential.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: i Profumi di Firenze Brezza di Mare- Aquatic from the Flood

When I started widening my fragrance horizons, I had some stupid rules. One of them was I didn’t want to try any aquatics. Through the nineties and early oughts that seemed to be the only masculine style mainstream brands were interested in. During these early days I became a regular at the perfume purveyors in Boston. One of my favorite sales associates was Roberto at the Copley Place Barney’s New York. I liked him because he paid attention while also nudging me towards things I wanted to ignore. He also knew I liked hearing the stories behind the brands. One afternoon he showed me i Profumi di Firenze Brezza di Mare and my dopey rules became moot.

The story behind the brand is fabulous whether it is true or not. The tale begins with the once in a century 1966 flood of the Arno River in Florence. After the waters receded brand founder and perfumer Dr. Giovanni di Massimo began looking through the wreckage. He found in a sealed basement the perfume recipes of Caterina de Medici from the 16th century. Dr. di Massimo would take one of those recipes and release the first perfume named after Sig.ra de Medici. For over twenty-five years the brand has been making excellent fragrances.

Brezza di Mare managed to break through my resistance to the aquatic genre despite using one of the keynotes of it. Dr. di Massimo overwhelms that Calone in enough other attention getting notes I didn’t mind its presence.

One of the hallmarks of my favorite aquatics is a heavier concentration of the ozonic sea spray notes. Growing up on the beach the scent of my sun-warmed skin with a crust of salt from the dried sea water is where I want a perfume to go. Brezza di Mare begins with that. It always makes me smile when I wear it because of it. The Calone comes next but not by itself. A full bouquet of white flowers come along for the ride. Calone usually has a strong watery melon quality. Because of the white flowers that is swept up in their exuberance. It attenuates the things I am not fond of while letting the things I do predominate. From here it takes a warm turn with vanilla and white musk forming the base. This is what really makes this so appealing. As the vanilla finds the white flowers it turns those typical aquatic pieces into something cozier. It isn’t so deep as to become gourmand-like. It is just enough different sweetness to resonate with the florals.

Brezza di Mare has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you also are down on aquatics give this a try. I would also urge anyone who is intrigued by the history of the house I described to also put it on your radar. It is one worth spending some time with.

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

Mark Behnke