New Perfume Review Memo Corfu- Overstuffed in all the Right Ways

There are moments when I receive an ingredient list that cause me to stifle a laugh. Two dozen listed ingredients. It makes me look for the kitchen sink accord. In the great majority of these types of releases it is an unfocused cacophony of scent. Everything crashing into everything else. Rarely one of these comes along which shows this is not a lost cause if the intent is there to see it through. Memo Corfu sees it through.

Clara Molloy

Creative director Clara Molloy and perfumer Philippe Paparella-Paris want to form a modern chypre to represent the Greek island. Corfu is part of the ongoing Graines Vagabondes collection which are perfumes inspired by places. This is the scent of a summer day enjoying all that a Mediterranean island has to offer.

Philippe Paparella-Paris

Corfu succeeds because while there are lots of ingredients, they really form three distinct accords. The only difference is every piece of each one is listed. A lot of time I am making my best guess. This time Ms. Molloy and M. Paparella-Paris remove the mystery.

The top accord could be called “Greek sky”. It is formed around a set of citrus notes, orange, lemon, and grapefruit. The latter is given the prominent placement. Rhubarb adds the connection between the citrus and the greener pieces of this accord, basil, and blackcurrant buds. The basil adds in a freshness that I have only recently come to appreciate from its use.

The heart accord is a fruity floral accord around peach and jasmine. M. Paparella-Paris deftly juggles other parts of this as raspberry, rose, muguet all find some space. Titrated into this is the botanical musk of ambrette seed. This is that slightly sweaty skin musk threaded through the fruit and flowers. This completes the “stop and smell the flowers” accord.

The base accord is his interpretation of a modern chypre. Sandalwood patchouli and atranol-free oakmoss form the foundation. A healthy set of animalic musks are what he uses to create the intensity. Amber brings back some of the bite. It is all made to be very austere which works. It seems stripped down even though it really isn’t.

Corfu has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Once I came to the understanding two dozen plus ingredients represented three accords, I found Corfu to be overstuffed in all the right places.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: David Jourquin Cuir Altesse- Strong Enough for a Man, Made for a Woman

There are a bunch of great collections which hum along in the background of perfumery. One of my favorites are the perfumes of David Jourquin. He creatively directed a set of seven fragrances from 2011-2016. All of them are different variations on leather in perfume. M. Jourquin’s first two releases were a set designed for daytime and nighttime wear by men. He worked with perfumer Cecile Zarokian for both of those. Three years later he would again collaborate with her on a similar pair designed to be worn by women. It contains my favorite of the collection David Jourquin Cuir Altesse.

Regular readers know I am not swayed by whatever the brands tell me about the gender of a fragrance. I can make up my own mind. Back in 2014 As I tried both of these, I kept thinking of the old Secret deodorant commercial’s tagline, “strong enough for a man, made for a woman”. It is a dopey concept to be sure. Cuir Altesse may have been imagined achieving that. It is as much a shared perfume as any I own.

It opens with one of my favorite cardamom centric top accords. Mme Zarokian uses orange and baie rose as the other pieces. The fruitiness of the baie rose and the juiciness of the orange form the underpinning of the cardamom giving it depth and presence. As it heads to the floral heart, I guess the jasmine was supposed to be the focal point of it all. Except this is where the idea of assigning a perfume to a gender goes sideways. The jasmine is indolic and she ladles in cumin to resonate. This is the sweaty cumin many are wary of. She quickly counters with rose and patchouli which tames the cumin while allowing it to delightfully strum those indoles of the jasmine.

All these perfumes are built on a leather accord in the base. The one fashioned by Mme Zarokian uses vanilla and benzoin to pick up on the sweeter aspects of refined luxurious leather. It makes it softer until a bit of amber and oakmoss add some texture in the final stages.

Cuir Altesse has 12-14 hour longevity and average siullage.

Before writing this column, I confirmed that the entire line is still available to be sampled. This is an example of the amount of great perfume which fell through the cracks in the deluge of releases the last decade. All the David Jourquin perfumes deserve to be on your radar, especially if you like leather.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Synthetic Jungle- 1970’s Abstract

One of the things that has happened over the last twenty years is I have become a fan of green perfumes. What that means is intense biting fragrances featuring vegetal smelling ingredients. The perfume I credit with putting me on this path is Chanel No. 19. The mixture of florals and green remains one of my favorites. It was with interest when I was watching the video announcing Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Synthetic Jungle that perfume was mentioned as a starting point. Creative director Frederic Malle uses Chanel No. 19 and Este Lauder Private Collection as inspirations for this new fragrance. He asked perfumer Anne Flipo to find the best of those and use it to synthesize a new modern green perfume.

Frederic Malle

What the video goes onto say is M. Malle wanted a perfume of galbanum and sap like those two earlier perfumes. What Mme Flipo took was to make that fresher in effect. More akin to 2021 trends instead of the 1970’s when both of the inspirations were released.

Anne Flipo

The concept of galbanum and sap comes right away. Using galbanum and blackcurrant bud. The latter has a very sticky green reminiscent of sticky sap. It also is an ingredient which perches on a knife edge at the concentration where that becomes apparent. When it goes just a bit too far it smells like a well-used urinal. When it is just right as it is here it exudes this green matrix for others to imprint themselves upon. Mme Flipo slides an equal concentration of galbanum into it. This would be extremely intense if not for the third piece of the top accord. Basil adds its own vegetal verve as it lightens up these intense greens with its own unique freshness.

The heart accord of florals is led by the fresh green of muguet. This carries an expansiveness which contrasts the darker green of the top accord. It is made fuller by adding in some jasmine and ylang ylang. Muguet can be inconsequential sometimes. The supporting florals provide some spine to it, allowing it to stand up to the top accord. At this point I compared it to the inspiration perfumes. Synthetic Jungle is fresher and lighter. Not transparent just a lot less intense than those 1970’s powerhouse florals.

The base accord required a shift of thinking because Mme Flipo couldn’t create the leathery chypre of the inspirations. There are two choices use the atranol-free oakmoss and add something back to create the lost bite. The other option which she chooses is to create a modern chypre using the modern source of oakmoss and patchouli. This creates an abstraction of a chypre accord. It was here where this made me realize the entire composition was an abstraction of those 1970’s inspiration.

Synthetic Jungle has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

While I have enjoyed many of the current releases from this brand it has been years since I have been as engaged as I was with Synthetic Jungle. It does exactly what they wanted by taking the best of the past to make a perfume of today.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fenty- Rihanna Unleashed

I don’t have explicit proof of the statement I am about to make. I believe most mass-market celebrity fragrances are bad because they aren’t made to be good. They’re made to cash in on the popularity of a celebrity. It is why celebuscents are such a wasteland. The celebrity can go promote it, but it doesn’t make it good. A piece of this desultory process is the perfumers they hire are given a bare bones budget to work with. Nobody involved really gives a damn about perfume just cashing checks. Pop star Rihanna was part of this meat grinder as she had her name on eleven perfumes between 2011-2018. They were examples of everything I just wrote. They’ve been consigned to the discount bins where they still just take up space. I have often wondered if the celebrity didn’t just license their name whether it would be different. In the case of Fenty I get a partial answer to that.

Rihanna

Fenty Beauty was founded at the end of 2017 by Rihanna. She had distinct ideas about making a cosmetics brand which catered to all skin tones. It has become an unqualified success since then. Rihanna has expanded the offerings in a deliberate expansion. Once she turned her eye towards fragrance I was wondering if she would do better now that she had some skin in the game.

Jacques Cavallier-Belletrud

To create Fenty she spent time in Grasse with perfumer Jacques Cavallier-Belletrud. She picked the perfumer. She collaborated on the final result. She put her own company’s money in. what would come of this?

The answer is a fuller style of perfume than I expected. Fenty Beauty appeals to the generation of perfume lovers who seem to prize lightness and transparency. Fenty is a full floral perfume that is neither light nor opaque. It doesn’t take any risks, but the quality of materials used make it a more interesting fragrance because of that.

The top fruity accord is a mostly blueberry accented beginning. There are some citruses in the background but this is mostly the berry. A Bulgarian rose rises to meet it with its spicy core and jammy floral nature. They form a pleasant fruity floral harmony. A sensual musk anchors the base accord given some incense and patchouli to add depth to the later stages.

Fenty has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Fenty is better than any fragrance with Rihanna’s name on it previously released. An increased creative direction and budget makes for a better fragrance. Fenty Beauty has been so successful by catering to underserved beauty customers I can hope that if there is a second Fenty perfume she might move in that direction. What this perfume shows is that when Rihanna is unleashed to make her own decisions they are mostly good ones.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Hot Ones

There is one passion of mine that I haven’t really written about in this column. I adore spicy food and hot chili peppers. For most of my life I have sought out the hottest most spicy sauces and peppers. In Colognoisseur HQ I take ghost peppers and infuse them into my olive oil. It adds a kick to everything I make using it. My favorite is it turns boring old popcorn into my kind of popcorn without having to sprinkle anything on it. There are shelves of bottles of hot sauce. I use sriracha instead of ketchup. All of this makes me sad to say I didn’t discover the YouTube show Hot Ones until eighteen months ago.

That happened as I had a clip from “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” where he and Priyanka Chopra Jonas sat across from Sean Evans as he had them eat increasingly spicy chicken wings. Their reactions were what you might expect as the wings got to the far end of the heat scale. This made me seek out Mr. Evans’ show.

The premise is like the clip I found. Mr. Evans has a celebrity sit at a table with him as they eat increasingly spicier chicken wings. After each wing he asks a question, and they give a reply. The fun kicks in around wing 6 for most installments. It is there where the heat of the sauce moves into territories most people do not eat.

The difference in reactions run from DJ Khaled having a meltdown in season 1 to the recent season 15 appearance of singer Lorde who barely reacted. What you find in the middle is once the heat level rises the interview subjects have funny reactions to the queries.

Through it all Mr. Evans is a genial enabler convincing them to keep going past their tolerance levels until they reach what is called “The Last Dab”. An off the charts specially made sauce just for the show. There are now over 200 episodes and only a baker’s dozen has failed to make it all the way to the end. That is due in part to Mr. Evans. He is the overlooked secret ingredient in the show’s watchability. He is never mean. His staff finds some great interview questions which are not the typical celebrity Q&A’s. I am not sure if it would be as successful with any other host.

If you need to find a quick bite of video fun, start queuing up episodes of Hot Ones. You’ll keep going long after episode 10.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Dragonfly 2021- The Surface of Water

There are pairs of creative director and perfumer that seem to understand each other innately. I think when that kind of artistic confidence arises both pieces of the collaboration have some freedom. When Victor Wong of Zoologist asked perfumer Celine Barel to create Zoologist Squid it felt like one of those moments. That fragrance was an aquatic of the depths of the ocean. The same creative team chooses to skim the surface of a pond in their second act, Zoologist Dragonfly 2021.

Victor Wong

I used to visit a Japanese Garden in S. Florida where I grew up. I found I could spend hours watching the dragonflies dart over the centerpiece lotus pond. The sun would be high in the sky adding a sparkle. The scent of the lotus and the surrounding gardens would mix with the water. Because this was S. Florida the scent of a thunderstorm on the horizon would also be part of the milieu. Mr. Wong and Ms. Barel capture this in Dragonfly 2021.

Celine Barel

Grapefruit and ginger evoke that afternoon sunlight in an energetic way. Angelica and basil give you a sense of the green of the garden underneath that sun. The scent of the pond comes through a set of watery florals and rice. The latter adds this layer of humidity over the citrus and florals. The floral presence coalesces through jasmine, mimosa, and rose. Along with this is the impending thunderstorm using petrichor. The ginger acts as the sizzle of the lightning in the thunderhead as the storm breaks.

The final stages are after the storm. There is a wet soil accord of patchouli and moss. Vetiver is the wet grass. The florals begin to rebound and reassert themselves. A hay-like sweetness of coumarin and benzoin gets dried out through cashmeran. The dragonfly flits across it all.

Dragonfly 2021 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am going to be interested to see how Zoologist fans categorize this.  The brand has long been seen as having “crowd-pleasers” and “challenging” entries. The fullness of the florals could put it in the first category. Once the petrichor breaks through there is a sharpness though the final stages that I could see being thought of as “challenging”. I think it is an example of a pair of creatives imagining what is on the surface of water.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Chipmunk- From Modest Beginnings

I “know” a lot of people within the perfume fragosphere. I’ve never breathed the same air, but we surely have burned a lot of bandwidth. It has given me a great deal of joy to watch two of those people evolve into part of the industry. Victor Wong as owner-creative director of Zoologist and perfumer Pia Long of Olfiction have followed their nose to individual success. When I found out Mr. Wong had asked Ms. Long to collaborate on Zoologist Chipmunk this felt like it was destined to be.

Victor Wong

The idea was to create a perfume which captures the final days of autumn. As the chipmunk is frantically grabbing the fallen nuts to help survive the coming winter. Chipmunk is a woody fragrance built around that.

Pia Long

From the start a sweet hazelnut is present. Ms. Long sweeps a fruity layer of quince and mandarin over it as if the autumn sun is low in the sky. A set of spices start to inch hazelnut towards Nutella territory. Before that happens the roughness of oak turns it back into an acorn. This forms what becomes the central accord of Chipmunk.

It plants its roots into a loamy-scented earth while existing among the firs. The high and low of both explore different pieces of the core. Ms. Long adds in chamomille in its dried floral spiciness to provide even more texture. It is one of those things I really enjoyed as I wore this.

We make it back to the animal’s hiding place as it unloads the acorns it just picked up with. This is realized with a furry base accord given depth via vetiver, benzoin, and opoponax. As this comes together it feels like a contemporary interpretation of the masculine woody fragrances of fifty years ago. It isn’t as loud, but it has presence like those old powerhouses.

Chipmunk has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am going to wear the heck out of Chipmunk this fall. It is that scent of woods after all the vegetation has disappeared in preparation for winter. Mr. Wong and Ms. Long have created a successful modern woody perfume. It makes me smile to think of how this came from those modest beginnings so long ago.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Milano Fragranze Basilica, Brera, La Prima, and Diurno- The Highlights

Whenever I’ve traveled, I have a travel guide in hand. Before I get to my destination, I have the plan of what attractions to see. They’re mostly the famous ones, the usual suspects, the highlights. Creative director Alessandro Brun also must give perfume lovers the highlights of Milan in his new fragrance line Milano Fragranze. I look at the remaining four perfumes I didn’t cover yesterday: Basilica, Brera, La Prima, and Diurno. The first three are composed by Violaine Collas and the last by Julie Masse.

Alessandro Brun

The churches of Milan are both historical and sacred. In Basilica Mme Collas leans more heavily on the latter. This is a classic church incense type of fragrance. It opens with herbal notes of thyme and rosemary wrapping themselves around the frankincense. Both sources of green roughen the smoothness of the resin. There are times incense feels like a silvery monolith. The herbs break that up a bit. It leads to a woody base of sandalwood and cedar. These represent the polished wood of the benches and the sturdiness of the rafters.

Violaine Collas

La Prima represents the singular highlight of Milan, the opera theater of La Scala. Even an opera dilettante like me had to visit. Sig. Brun envisioned a beautiful woman in the audience on an opening night. Mme Collas interpreted that as a woman who would wear a fragrance as smart as her clothing. This has an intricate interaction of ingredients especially in the early development. Cardamom, orange blossom, osmanthus, jasmine, and davana are the notes of the scale leading to an engaging aria. Each of those ingredients wax and wane in a delightful way for a long time. It comes to an end when a gentle animalic accord sweetened with vanilla signals the end.

The art galleries of Milan is another highlight. Brera imagines the dreamy concept of the paintings coming to life after closing. When you’re the first visitor of the morning the scent of their cavorting hangs in the air. This results in a powerful shaded rose from Mme Collas. She uses two sources to form an uber-rose effect. The glow of saffron and the heat of chili pepper adds some texture. Patchouli and labdanum provide some shadows among the rose petals.

Julie Masse

Mrs. C is a mosaic artist and her desire to visit them has taken me to some fantastic, unexpected places. On our first trip to Milan one of her highlights was to visit Albergo Diurno Venezia. This was the Art Deco designed place to be treated to a bath in a private bathing room. There was also a barber shop to get a shave. As we walked through, I felt as if the Lost Generation echoed through the now dilapidated structure. Diurno is inspired by this place which is now being renovated.

Diurno is my favorite of this debut collection. The reason comes from the first second. Mme Masse has fashioned a brilliant amaretto accord. So many perfume versions are syrupy sweet almond. She remembers that amaretto translates to “a little bitter”. This almond doesn’t ooze it bites. Some sage sharpens that. Lavender and geranium offer a floral contrast without blunting the bitterness. A suite of green notes from balsam, vetiver, and moss adds a terpenic bitter harmonic to the amaretto.

Sig. Brun has put together a beautiful tour of Milan. All he asks is for you to follow your nose.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample set provided by Milano Fragranze.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Milano Fragranze Cortile, Naviglio, Galleria, and Derby- Moellhausen Milan

The new collection of fragrance from creative director Alessandro Brun is called Milano Fragranze. Sig. Brun’s simple concept is to translate different places in Milan into fragrance. Just as the name says. Another thing which has always set him apart is his eye for young perfumers. When I received my sample set of eight releases, I saw the name of two perfumers who were unfamiliar to me, Michelle Moellhausen and Dominique Moellhausen. Sig. Brun asked them each to take on two of his Milan neighborhoods. For me it was a journey of discovery of a city through one of its natives but also two new perfumers. The two by Michelle Moellhausen are Cortile and Naviglio. Dominique Moellhausen is responsible for Galleria and Derby.

Alessandro Brun

Cortile translates to courtyard. The brief from Sig. Brun is to imagine the end of a summer day. Sipping espresso as the white flowers scent the air. Mme Moellhausen opens with a bitter coffee accord. It captures the oily bitterness of the un-roasted bean. Some violet leaf and cinnamon give it a bit of cappuccino froth. This courtyard is covered in jasmine vines. They settle heavily on the humid air. Mme Moellhausen stiffens the jasmine with tuberose and ylang-ylang. This forms an equally rich floral accord to match the espresso one. For much of the early going the coffee and the florals switch back and forth. Eventually the espresso is drunk, and the jasmine remains. The base accord is of warm amber and sandalwood.

When I read the description of Naviglio I expected it would not be for me. Sig. Brun wanted to turn the work of the washermen of the Vicolo del Lavandar into perfume. Which means soapy, something I don’t usually appreciate fully. Mme Moellhausen made me reconsider that. It begins as soapy as can be. It is the smell of a freshly unwrapped bar of soap. In this case carrying a bit of neroli along with it. The heart is what transforms it. As the soap is used to wash the fine linen shirts. A trio of lavandin, petitgrain, and vetiver provide a fantastic fresh place for that soapiness to float. The powdery lavender the green vetiver and the stern petitgrain combine into a morning of happy scented labor. In the base the scent of the water and the expansiveness of white musks provide the final touches. This is a smartly constructed perfume featuring soap.

Dominique (l.) and Michelle Moellhausen

Galleria is meant to evoke the Salotto di Milano where travelers used to come to purchase leather goods. This is a fabulous depiction of being in a fine leather store. It begins as the store owner invites you into a showroom and serves you a cup of espresso. Polished fruits mingle with the coffee. Unlike her sister the coffee is complementary to the davana and berries which take the lead. It is the heart where the luxury appears as iris pallida and a refined leather accord build a presence. Some carrot seed allows for the rhizome to peek out around the powder of the iris. A gentle caress to the leather. As this moves to the base patchouli deepens the leather accord. Sandalwood provides a lovely woody foundation.

One thing Derby proved to me is the scent of horse racing might be a constant. I grew up near a racetrack. Sig. Brun wants this to replicate the racetrack in Milan. I can tell you if this is accurate, Florida and Milan are not so different. As you watch the trainers taking their steeds out for an exercise run on the turf is what this perfume smells like. A slug of galbanum and the herbalness of lavender form that dewy smell of the grass before the horses are set loose. Mimosa adds in a hazy sunny floral, but things remain firmly on the green. The base accord is the scent of the earth as the horses run by. Vetiver, oakmoss, and patchouli form a “churned-up grass” accord that had me looking for a horse in my vicinity.

As much as this collection is Sig. Brun showing off the scent of his hometown it is also an opportunity for others to interpret his passion. Mmes Moellhausen have made these four pieces of Milan their own.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample set provided by Milano Fragranze.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Macaque Yuzu Edition and Macaque Fuji Apple Edition- Monkey Business

1

If you’ve ever traveled to a part of the world where monkeys are free in the wild you know you can get lost watching them. All species of monkeys are fascinating in their antics. If you sit somewhere observing them long enough you pick out distinctive coloring or markings, individualizing them. They are still the same type of primate they just now have some separation. That same concept has been applied to perfumery in Zoologist Macaque Yuzu Edition and Zoologist Macaque Fuji Apple Edition.

Victor Wong

If you visit the temples of Asia, you will often find a colony of Macaques as the treetop guardians. Creative director Victor Wong imagines this setting with two different monkeys present. Collaborating with perfumer Mackenzie Reilly each edition carries a different top accord over the same heart and base accords. As you might surmise the top accord of Yuzu Edition is built around that Asian citrus and the same occurs with the Fuji Apple Edition. The accords are so different that they interact in their own way with the remaining foundational accords.

Mackenzie Reilly

Yuzu Edition is not the crisp lemon-y scent you might be expecting. It is instead a diffuse version of yuzu lilting among the hinoki wood of the surrounding forest. It isn’t a great analogy, but it reminds me a bit of the traditional Onsen bath taken by Japanese on the winter solstice. The hot water makes the citrus less brilliant while giving it more expansiveness. This is what Ms. Reilly achieves here. She has a deft way of creating space in her compositions. The way the yuzu spreads out forms a place for the remainder of the development to interact with. There is a soft resinous accord which forms a lovely harmonic. As the base accord appears it has the effect of focusing things. Olibanum does this with the resins. Oakmoss gathers up the yuzu, adding it to a soft green carpet. An austere sandalwood adds a roundness to the stern hinoki.

Fuji Apple Edition is the crisp scent you might expect. Just like the snap of biting into an apple. The apple used here is that crisp fruitiness I prefer. What comes next this time is the silvery shine of olibanum. It adds a different type of crisp. The same hinoki continues the theme of delineated pieces. It begins to become a little less OCD as the same soft resinous accord in Yuzu Edition softens things in this version. The oakmoss provides another softer contrast of green. Only that sandalwood continues the theme of austerity from the top.

Both Yuzu and Fuji Apple Editions have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

While these are technically flankers, they are different enough that I think I’ll be wearing them both. Yuzu Edition over these final days of summer. Fuji Apple Edition is going to be my scent for apple picking in the fall. Which Macaque will you take home? I am quite curious to see if one prevails.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Zoologist.

Mark Behnke