The Sunday Magazine: State of Watchmen 2019

The end of 2019 saw the completion of two things I care about; Watchmen and Star Wars. The end of 2019 also showed the future of two things I care about; Watchman and Star Wars. I am going to comment on each of them over the next two weeks in this column. I will start with Watchmen.

Watchmen is the greatest graphic novel ever produced. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons wrote the perfect novel about superheroes and how they would influence society. From the way the comic was laid out through the way the story was told in comic panels plus text it continues to stand alone over thirty years since its publication.

Because of that there have been too many people who have chosen to try and take their turn at using the world created in Watchmen as the canvas for their own imagination. 2019 saw two versions of sequels come to life. One in comic form called “Doomsday Clock” along with one in visual form on HBO called “Watchmen”. The comic version was authored by Geoff Johns. The HBO version by Damon Lindelof. Both men are people I respect but I was unhappy they were going to take on Watchmen. I felt their previous proclivities would lead to unsatisfying endings. In one case I was right. In the other I was completely wrong.

Doomsday Clock is the failure. Mainly because it wants to squeeze in Batman and Superman among
Doctor Manhattan, Rorschach, and Ozymandias. It falls apart because it never seems like anything other than a dopey team-up series. Look Batman and Rorchach meet to compare vigilante cred. Lex Luthor and Ozymandias meet to see who the smartest person in the world is really. Superman and Doctor Manhattan meet to see who the uber-mensch is. It reads like the fan service it is. I found it degenerated into the typical multi-dimensional brawl which ends up changing nothing. This is exactly what I expected from the HBO version.

HBO’s Watchmen was so much smarter. Mr. Lindelof looked for the modern-day version of the Cold War which drove so much of the plot of the original. He settled on race as the equivalent divide. It works brilliantly. In the same way that the original comic veered back and forth in history while telling the individual stories of its protagonists the tv series does the same. There are episodes which are about specific characters and there are episodes that are not. Mr. Lindelof captured all of that. He used four original characters from the comic. Three of them you would expect. The fourth is the origin of the original Watchman, Hooded Justice, which sold me. In episode 6 Mr. Lindelof makes a significant extrapolation to the Watchmen universe by telling that story. It left me with my jaw slack throughout the episode. Until two episodes later in “A God Walks into Abar” he does it again with Dr. Manhattan. Mr. Lindelof decided to take big swings paying homage while also making brave changes to the original. It ends with the perfect final shot. He also found a way to use the text add-ons in a way to add to the tv series by having a website which was updated by one of the FBI agents in the show. It gave the viewer more depth to what was happening on screen. It also answered one last question from the series after it aired.

To be honest I don’t want anyone to go further. Doomsday Clock was a step above fan fiction. There is no reason to think they could do anything better with it. The final shot of Watchmen is equivalent to the final shot of the movie “Inception”. The ideal piece of ambiguity to conclude with. If they do more on HBO I will watch because they have earned my good will, but I would love to think they know they got it right the first time.

If you love the original, I highly recommend the HBO series. I think you will be rewarded for the time spent watching it.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Gucci Bloom Ambrosia di Fiori- One Flower Too Many

1

One of the things which makes perfume composition difficult is you can have too much of a good thing. It is easy to think a floral fragrance should have many of those included. The real effort is to choose the right two or three; striking a balance. A precise balance. It was what made Gucci Bloom stand out three years ago. A near-perfect recipe of four florals which stands for what seems to be the reinvigoration of the fragrance side of Gucci.

Alessandro Michele

Creative director Alessandro Michele and perfumer Alberto Morillas managed to follow that up with two excellent flankers; Bloom Acqua di Fiori and Bloom Nettare di Fiori. They did this by adding in something which created new compelling fragrances. A year ago they released Bloom Gocce di Fiore where they changed the concentrations of the original ingredients. It was terrible except as an example that they made the right decision in the choices made in the original. For the end of 2019 the most recent flanker, Gucci Bloom Ambrosia di Fiori, split the difference.

Alberto Morillas

M. Morillas is again behind the wheel as the original four florals; Rangoon creeper, jasmine, tuberose, and orris take their places. For this version the tuberose concentration is increased a lot. The extra flower added is Damask rose. There are lots of floral perfumes which feature Damask rose and tuberose. They are a classic floral pairing. They are also two of the strongest ingredients in perfumery. In the case of Bloom Ambrosia di Fiori they nearly overwhelm everything else. The only one of the other florals which gets a tiny foothold is jasmine. This is all there is on my skin, rose and tuberose.

Bloom Ambrosia di Fiori has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

This is not the train wreck last year’s Bloom Gocce di Fiore was. Instead it is an example of what happens when you add one flower too many to something that is great on its own.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bvlgari Man Wood Neroli- Out of the “Like” Box

2

There is a box on my desk which contains samples of perfumes I like and will review if I get the chance. January is usually that time. This is the month when there is the least amount of new releases to write about. Which means I rummage around in the “like” box looking for something. Ever since the summer there has been one sample which has been beckoning me because of a faulty sample sprayer. Because it leaks when turned on its side the “like” box has slowly but surely begun to smell like it. Which means it has also become the background scent at my desk. I think its time to get Bvlgari Man Wood Neroli onto the page.

Something that most of the samples in the “like” box share is they are good versions of common perfume types. There should be some attention paid to a perfume which is just well done without breaking any kind of new ground. Man Wood Neroli falls into this category.

Alberto Morillas

The entire Bvlgari Man collection since its debut in 2010 has been composed by perfumer Alberto Morillas. It is kind of an entire “like” box of fragrance. M. Morillas has previously plumbed the variations of woody oriental in the preceding eight releases. What makes Man Wood Neroli stand apart is it is a solid citrus woody instead of an oriental.

Man Wood Neroli opens with a great amount of neroli. It is a refreshing bitter green citrus top note. M. Morillas brings along the promised wood in the presence of cedar. The cedar used here is closer to raw green wood than the typical pencil shavings variety. It harmonizes well with the neroli through the shared green chord in both. It all ends on a swoosh of clean white musks.

Man Wood Neroli has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Man Wood Neroli stands out also for its projection. There were times I was reminded of classic citrus woody perfumes of the 1980’s because of the way this came off my skin. This is a nice change for the Bvlgari Man group of perfumes I’d like to see more of in the future. For now I was quite happy to get it out of the “like” box.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Anatole Lebreton Perfumista- The Way a Focus Group Should Work

1

One of the worst things about mainstream perfumery is the use of focus groups. I think they produce the lowest common denominator fragrance. Often so bland it is difficult for me to think of them as perfume. I have wondered what a motivated, educated, perfume-loving focus group could produce.
Independent perfume Anatole Lebreton seems to have answered that with Anatole Lebreton Perfumista.

Anatole Lebreton

In the middle of last year he asked a group of perfume fans to buy into The Perfumista Project. For the price of the eventual final product they would be brought along on a two-month journey to create a new perfume. By the fall Perfumista was the result of this process. I was not a participant but according to the website M. Lebreton introduced the members to the raw materials and the gradual development of the final perfume. The result is the same genre as many a larger focus group spits out; a fruity floral. The difference here is this kind of fruity floral is not the typical miasmic mediocrity found at the mall. This is the kind of fragrance which could give the class a good name. It shows what intelligent feedback can produce.

That shows in the fruity top accord. Raspberry is the keynote, but it is a juicy pear along with a plush plum that make this less irrelevant than the typical berry top accord. The shading the plum gives to the pear and raspberry is particularly appealing. The floral part is a magnificent nod to vintage perfume florals. An indolic jasmine meets a spicy Bulgarian rose. Whenever I encounter this it always seems like the two bad girl florals out for a good time. As the plum shadowed fruit inserts itself into the festivities this is where Perfumista shows off the potential of a fruity floral with intent. Fruity florals are my least favorite perfume genre. I could luxuriate in this fruity floral for days. The base accord provides a woody foundation for the fruity floral to rest upon. It is the least interesting part of Perfumista while still being quite good. Patchouli gives a dark earthiness for cedar and peru balsam to finish the construction.

Perfumista has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Perfumista is a fragrance developed by people passionate about perfume. The simple act of participation exemplifies that. The perfume that came out of this focus group is the way it should always happen.

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

Mark Behnke

How To Trust Your Perfume Reviewer

3

I feel fortunate that I have been writing about perfume long enough that I don’t think my motives are suspect to others. I have been concerned about some of the tough criticism that many of the young video reviewers have been receiving lately. There seem to be some common themes which recur. Many of them boil down to, “How can I trust this person?” I’d like to address the biggest thing people seem to be annoyed/worried about. Hopefully it will help.

That issue is the receipt of free perfume. If you work hard at giving yourself a presence eventually you will form a relationship with perfume brands. There is a difference between an independent perfumer who is working for themselves versus the large beauty companies. One is by nature more personal while the other is just publicity. With an independent brand you can find the fragrance creators out in the community. With the large brands you must keep knocking on the door until they let you in. It means that most of the reviewers in their early days spend their own money on the large brands while they might receive a free sample from an independent brand because they can make a more personal introduction. The biggest drive of commenting on perfume is content, having enough to make a video or blog post on. The more you do it the more you will start seeing brands reach out to you. This leads to the most important thing you must do; reveal the source of the perfume you are reviewing.

I believe this simple effort is the most important piece of building trust between reviewer and audience. Each person will decide on the style of their content. The fantastic thing is there is a reviewer out there who closely reflects a viewer’s perspective on perfume. I’ve seen a lot of people comment, “the reviewer got it for free they are just a shill.” I can see why that kind of comment makes people shy away from mentioning where the perfume they are talking about came from. It shouldn’t. First rule of doing anything; you can’t please everyone. Second rule; you shouldn’t tie yourself up in knots trying to.

The best reviewers come to it from a deep love of fragrance. That quality is obvious the more time you do it. Once you believe that, it shouldn’t matter where the perfume came from. As long as you share the source with them. That piece of information allows the audience to make up their own mind about whether you are influenced by something given to you for free. If you are genuine the audience will respond by sticking around. It takes a lot of hard work. Nobody builds an audience overnight.

Everyone who makes that first step should know it will get better the more you do it. If you feel like you have something to say about perfume you will be happy to find there are others out there who want to hear you. To build the trust you will need; be passionate, be honest, and have fun. If the reviewer you are watching is doing that. I think you can trust them.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bruno Fazzolari Corpse Reviver- Bride of Franken-gourmand

1

Three and a half years ago two of my favorite independent perfumers, Bruno Fazzolari and Antonio Gardoni, collaborated on a wild gourmand perfume called Cadavre Exquis. Through a fascinating creative process these two made a unique take on a gourmand perfume. When I reviewed it back then there was a sense that it was a monster of that style. I dubbed it Franken-gourmand. Mr. Fazzolari has decided to return to that earlier work while providing a new update to it on his own. We now have Bride of Franken-gourmand or as it should be called Bruno Fazzolari Corpse Reviver.

Bruno Fazzolari

Mr. Fazzolari has some new ideas to go with the previous ones. The one I am happy he retained is the use of camphor as a keynote. It was the brilliant heart of the previous perfume. In Corpse Reviver Mr. Fazzolari keeps the best of what came before while adding one excellent new ingredient; a whisky accord. If you look up the name on the interwebs you will be pointed to a “hair of the dog” hangover cocktail. It was such an anecdotal “cure” that there are multiple variations. To my surprise I could not find a whisky-based one. Which means the perfume becomes the first one of those. By adding in the boozy accord it changes everything while also reminding you of what came before.

Elsa Lanchester as The Bride of Frankenstein

The camphor is present right away, again. It is such an interesting way to start a perfume. It is contrasted with a similar array of citrus, herbs, and tagetes. At this point it made me feel we were back in the same gourmand laboratory as before. It all changes in the heart. The camphor is not as strong this time around which means the chocolate overwrites it a little more as it oozes into sight. What revives it is that whisky accord. Mr. Fazzolari constructs it from an oakwood absolute. This takes the chocolate in a woody direction. As the two ingredients mingle a slightly burnt caramel emerges where they overlap. As that happens the camphor returns as part of this sticky matrix. This is a dynamic powerful uber-accord. There was a set of dried fruits and civet which gave the sense of decay. That accord has been much more refined here. It is only fitting that you must get closer to The Bride before the sense of rot is noticeable.

Corpse Reviver has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I’ve tried both perfumes side-by-side and I prefer Corpse Reviver. There was a fantastic collaborative verve to the previous Franken-gourmand. With a little more experience Doctor Fazzolari has brought a more complete perfume to life.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Linari Drago Nero- Vetiver Chameleon

Heading into 2020 it seems like vetiver is having a moment; again. It waxes and wanes in popularity due to how ubiquitous it becomes. I’ve never tired of good vetiver fragrances because a good perfumer has many tools to make it feel different. Mark Buxton is a good perfumer which means Linari Drago Nero should be a good vetiver perfume.

Rainer Diersche

Linari is one of those underappreciated perfume brands. Creative director Rainer Diersche releases on an infrequent schedule which might be a reason it isn’t mentioned more. I have usually found the time between new fragrances has proven to lead to better results. For Drago Nero he again collaborates with Mr. Buxton. They have been working together on the last four Linari releases since 2012.

Mark Buxton

For this black dragon they chose to use two sources of vetiver. A cleaner grassier Haitian version and a smoky one from Java. They tend to provide the foundation between the early moments of Drago Nero and the latter stages.

When I saw the ingredient list, I saw pineapple listed which made me groan a little bit. Mr. Buxton instead uses a tart green apple to provide a crisp green fruit to complement the similarly clean green of the Haitian vetiver. There is also a citrus-like undercurrent in this vetiver. With mandarin that quality is given a bit more prominence especially in the earliest moments. A rich orange blossom provides the bridge between the two vetivers. The floral sweetness captures that citrus thread in the Haitian vetiver. The slight indolic core of the orange blossom grabs those tendrils of smoke rising from the Java vetiver. As Drago Nero resets itself a strong amber and woody mix shows the eventual destination. Sandalwood and Guaiac wood provide the woody part. Ambrarome gives a drier amber effect over the final phase.

Drago Nero has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Drago Nero is a different vetiver perfume for the shift which happens around the orange blossom. I liked the tonal change as it made me feel like I was wearing a different perfume than what I had put on in the morning. That made it more a shape-shifting vetiver chameleon than a roaring black dragon. If you are looking for a new vetiver for the spring Drago Nero is a good choice.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Jackson Year 3

I would like to believe that my readership has grown over the nearly six years I’ve been writing Colognoisseur because of my way of communicating about perfume. That is true for many of you. One thing I am sure there are a lot of readers who visit because of Jackson.

Jackson is our standard poodle we adopted three years ago on January 2. I’ve given a yearly update on him and it has become one of the most read things on the site. Along with the number of people I get communication from who ask about him along with perfume. Jackson is definitely one of the most popular things here. Time to give you the update for year three.

The biggest change in his life was the loss of his older poodle pack mate Henry in November. For most of the time Jackson has been with us it has been Henry who passed along the rules of Poodlesville. He taught him to bark at the twilight deer who walk through our front yard. He also showed him that all squirrels belonged in the trees in our fenced back yard. He also showed him how to butt his head under an arm for attention. Jackson has gotten very good at that one.

Mrs. C has been very wise in how we deal with the passing of a poodle in our house. We have always taken the survivor with us to the vet on the day. After the vet had administered the shots and Henry was gone, we let Jackson walk over to him. It allowed Jackson to register, however dogs do that, Henry was gone. It kept Jackson from looking for Henry. I wish it would’ve kept me from looking for Henry in all his familiar places right after.

It has been interesting watching Jackson get used to be an only poodle. When there was another dog Jackson would scarf up his food immediately. Now eating is a leisurely all-day affair. When Henry was here the order on our sofa was Henry, Jackson, Me, and Mrs. C. Now it has changed to Me, Jackson, and Mrs. C. It seems like he is doing okay without a wingman.

The other ongoing project is getting him to be less scared of the world outside of Poodlesville. That is accomplished by my taking him for walks where he runs right into the new sensations in his world. He still perceives anything new as a threat running to put me in between him and the new scary thing.

What has been very gratifying to see is his interaction with a family I play Pokemon Go with. They have a young daughter who has become the only other human being Jackson willingly goes to. Whenever Jackson sees her his tail wags while he cranes his head forward for the ear scratching she gives him. He likes her Mom and Dad, too. He doesn’t shy away from them if we run into them without their daughter. This is tremendous progress for a poodle who viewed every other person as something to be frightened of. When he slowly wags his tail while getting scratched by his little girl, I smile all over.

For all of you who have asked; Jackson is doing very well. He might not have another poodle to snuggle with, but I feel he knows he has a lot of fans out there. Thanks to all of you who care about him, too.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Jovoy Psychedelique- Sea of Brown Paisley

1

I’ll admit that the line-up for future Under the Radar columns comes from my standing in front of the shelf of perfumes I am currently wearing. As I look over that shelf, I think that one needs some exposure. January has always been a month where I break out my patchouli heavy hitters. I don’t know what it is, but I have come to like my patchouli-focused scents coming out of the Holidays. I think part of it is as a tonic to the deluge of spring rose perfumes that will be arriving soon. Many perfume lovers look to avoid some of the deeper shades of patchouli. I understand that. The beauty of modern perfumery is perfumers have such an expanded palette of patchouli-based materials there is a patchouli out there for most tastes. Right now I just want a patchouli perfume unafraid to lay it all out there. To draw me into its depths. That perfume is Jovoy Psychedelique.

Francois Henin

Currently the name of Jovoy and its founder Francois Henin are well-known among those who look for contemporary perfume. M. Henin has been one of the most committed promoters of the independent perfume movement. Opening stores in Paris to display the best of this sector of fragrance. To play it safe he decided he needed his own brand to make sure he had one he knew he could count on. Jovoy was founded in 2011 with an initial collection of six, five of which are still in production today.  I own three of them. Private Label was my first introduction to perfumer Cecile Zarokian. Amber Premier is one of the warmest ambers I own. Psychedelique is the one I spend the most time with; my eyes closed breathing in with a smile.

Jacques Flori

Psychedelique was composed by perfumer Jacques Flori. M. Flori uses a rich source of patchouli as the center of his fragrance. It can make it seem like Psychedelique is a brown paisley pattern where the supporting ingredients lighten or deepen the patchouli in the middle of it all. It is that sense of motion which makes Psychedelique stand apart.

Patchouli has two main aspects to its scent profile; a deep earthiness and a chocolate-like one. M. Flori shifts between the two as the perfume develops. At first it is that earthy quality, but it is kept at a slightly lighter level. A lovely flare of citrus provides points of light amidst the brown. The citrus turns to a dried fruit accord while the patchouli exerts its chocolate nature. This is the part of patchouli that doesn’t get used as much lately. I feel as if I’m sliding across a giant fondant. The earthiness returns for the base. This time it carries the slightly mentholated nature patchouli can show at higher concentrations. Amber and vanilla come to dry things out over the final stages.

Psychedelique has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

There will be a night, sometime soon, where after I’ve taken care of the Colognoiseur tasks for the day I will spray on some Psychedelique for the rest of the day and to sleep in. I’ll have dreams of being on a sea of brown paisley. If you want to join me put Jovoy Psychedelique on your radar.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Vetiver & Golden Vanilla- Cozy Green Blanket

As I start another review of a new Jo Malone fragrance, I am again going to laud Creative Director Celine Roux. With a brand as long-lived as this one there is a point where it can go in one of two directions. The more typical choice is to coast on a wave of self-referential mediocrity. Taking advantage of the initial goodwill built up. I’ve finally learned to just close the book on those brands. The way Jo Malone chose was to give Mme Roux a mission of reinvigorating the brand. She has done such a good job I look forward to every new release. Jo Malone Vetiver & Golden Vanilla is another extension of her tenure.

Celine Roux

The change had begun prior to Mme Roux’s arrival when Christine Nagel created the “Cologne Intense” sub-collection. These were richer deeper styles than previously found in a Jo Malone bottle. Since taking charge Mme Roux has put her own imprint on these more recent releases within this collection. Vetiver & Golden Vanilla is one of these.

Mathilde Bijaoui

Mme Roux has also seemingly been working with a small roster of perfumers she keeps returning to. For this one she collaborates with Mathilde Bijaoui. One of the advantages of building a working relationship with a perfumer is there is more congruity on what the perfume should smell like. That seems to be the case with these two. The concept behind this is to showcase two of the most famous ingredients from the island of Madagascar; the Bourbon varieties of vetiver and vanilla.

Before either of them show-up a fabulous top accord of cardamom, tea and grapefruit lead things off. The cardamom is the greener version, the tea is also green both combine to coax the green quality of grapefruit rind to join them. This is a smart way of tinting things a lighter shade of green before it gets down to business. That happens when the vetiver adds its grass-like green to it. Clary sage shades it deeper yet. Before this becomes too strident the vanilla appears. This is the vanilla orchid version giving a strong reminder that it is first a plant before a flavoring. It softens any of the slight edginess the vetiver supplies. The final effect is a plush comfort scent.

Vetiver & Golden Vanilla has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is another excellent perfume under Mme Roux’s oversight. If you’re looking for a little New Year’s treat snuggle underneath this cozy green blanket.

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

Mark Behnke