New Perfume Review Tauer Sundowner- A Holiday Perfume for the Rest of Us

As I begin to sort through the new perfume, I receive at the end of the year there is a category that ties to the Holidays. Many of those which fall into this are designed to be so. They are limited editions carrying Holiday themes on their sleeves. There are always a couple that aren’t meant to be seasonal releases, yet they fall ideally into the themes of this time of year. I think of them as Festivus scents. Festivus is an alternative to the commercialism of Christmas popularized in a Seinfeld episode. It also doesn’t want to be part of the season while still being part of the season. Tauer Sundowner is in this category.

Andy Tauer

Independent perfumer Andy Tauer wants Sundowner to represent a sunset cocktail on the Nile River. If I received this perfume in June I could easily have been transported there. Receiving my sample in the middle of November this had me in a Holiday mindset from the first spray. Even though a tobacco centered scent is not necessarily seasonal, Sundowner is full of those type of accents around the focal point.

Right away the tobacco is present. It is a nice leafy slightly narcotic version. No sooner do you experience it then some carolers show up in the presence of orange peel and cinnamon. These are Holiday stalwarts which Hr. Tauer gives a significant presence. The orange peel is an especially intense version of the citrus carrying a bitterness to tamp down the inherent brightness usually present. The song these three notes sing is pleasant. Made even better when rose adds a floral harmony to it.

As it develops the tobacco begins to be steered in a slightly gourmand direction. He used cacao and patchouli to add a chocolate complement to the tobacco. This is not a gooey chocolate it is subtler. He finds those inherent candy facets in the tobacco and picks out those strands delicately with the cacao and patchouli. It never really turns fully gourmand. Which has me thinking there must have been a preliminary version where it was more chocolaty which was dialed back to what is in Sundowner.

It finishes on an accord of cypriol and sandalwood forming an oud-like woodiness. It is sweetened with tonka bean and vanilla. Again, there is the hint of a gourmand buried deep but Sundowner never takes that path.

Sundowner has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Sundowner is not meant to be a seasonal fragrance. Which doesn’t mean it isn’t. I know I’ll be wearing this a lot over the next weeks. It’s a Holiday perfume for the rest of us.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Seahorse- Tropical Reef Technicolor

Growing up in S. Florida I became certified to scuba dive as soon as I was able. With access to a boat there were lots of reefs easy to get to. I had a favorite one called Hens and Chickens. I spent a lot of early mornings motoring out there just after sunrise. By the time I would get anchored and into my gear the sun would just be above the horizon. This would give that effect you see in many photographs where there are shafts of light spearing through the clear water. I would dive down to the bottom and sit still. It would take a few minutes before all the denizens of the reef would return to their morning activities. I would add to their scavenging with a piece of bread I would break up. That brought many of them right in front of my mask for a show more colorful than the best cartoons. When I think back on many things of pleasure from my past there are distinct scents associated with them. Except for this. The only actual smell was the rubber of the mask and a bit of the ocean. It was a disconnect from the vibrant colors and life right in front of me. I’ve wondered what a perfumer would do if I asked them to interpret that as a scent? Somebody else had a similar thought which has led to Zoologist Seahorse.

Victor Wong

That somebody else is Victor Wong the creative director-owner of Zoologist. He has become one of the best creative directors in independent perfumery because he asks questions like what does a reef smell like? It all must be based on what you think bright colors smell like. For Seahorse he asked perfumer Julien Rasquinet to collaborate on this idea. The result is an extremely clever mix of abstract and realism.

Julien Rasquinet

When you see the colors of the fish on the reef you see neon yellows, flaming pink, deep azures, and outrageous orange. For Seahorse M. Rasquinet translates those into cardamom, tuberose, clary sage, and neroli. They are the imagined tropical fish darting around.

He places them in a fantastically realized oceanic accord of fennel, ambrette, ambergris, and seaweed. This is the water the fish swim through. The use of the fennel is particularly inspired as it is what M. Rasquinet seemingly uses as the linchpin for his oceanic accord.

Seahorse comes out of the bottle fully formed on my skin. The sun-streaked ocean is filled with vibrantly scented colors. It always felt as if I was noticing the “fish” at different times throughout the days I was wearing this.

Seahorse has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is another exceedingly smart aquatic from Mr. Wong. Squid was an aquatic of the ocean depths. Seahorse is one which represents the shallower part of the ocean. The Technicolor riot of the tropical reef.

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

=Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Sarah Baker Loudo- A Cherry Cordial Goes Trekking

One of the things which most interests me about perfumery is watching its evolution. Probably my favorite perch is observing the continuing expansion within the gourmand genre. It is the newest genre of perfumery which means it is the least bound by tradition and history, which makes it fertile ground for those who want to think outside of the box. The easy gourmand is to take vanilla give it a sugary boost to make a fragrant sugar cookie then add a topping of fruit or nuts. Even though this has now become a standard I find I haven’t become bored with it, yet. If the genre is truly going to take its place with the other historical types it is going to need to become broader then just the bakery or the candy shop. Alternatively, it can think about exporting those experiences into previously unimagined places as Sarah Baker Loudo does.

Sarah Baker

Sarah Baker the London-based artist is the creative director behind her eponymous brand. What I have admired ever since she arrived in 2016 is the immersiveness of the style of fragrance which represent her. She is happy to move to the other end of the spectrum of the current transparency trend. It makes receiving a sample a reminder there is still beauty in weightier fragrance subjects. Because I have become so interested in the gourmand genre, I spend a lot of time talking to perfumers about it. One of the things I ask is why isn’t oud used more as an evolution from the way patchouli was employed in the earliest ones. Some of it is expense. Some of it is the difficulty of sourcing one which will behave the way a creative team wants it to. If patchouli is the perfect house guest, oud is the one you call a cab to the airport for. Ms. Baker had to select a perfumer well-versed in disciplining the delinquent. Her choice for Loudo is perfumer Chris Maurice.

Chris Maurice

The source of oud comes from two places. My favorite native version from Laos is one. The other is an agarwood tincture hand-made by Mr. Maurice. My understanding of tincturing is it allows a specific scent profile to be dialed in. What I experience in Loudo is a complex oud full of nuance without many of the off-putting aspects it has become known for. This carries a chewy resinous energy he uses to build the rest of the fragrance around.

The oud is present right from the start. Early on it is given a floral contrast through neroli. It is used to pick up the similar piece of the scent profile of Laotian oud. What happens next is a chocolate cordial accord is built in parallel to the oud. Using cherry, chocolate, vanilla, and orange blossom to construct it. Once it forms besides the oud a fabulously different type of gourmand comes forth. Some amber adds warmth to the final stages.

Loudo has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage which is impressive for an extrait concentration.

Loudo expands the gourmand genre by taking a cherry cordial out for a walk in a Laotian forest. For those looking for a new type of gourmand you should take a trek with Loudo.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Sarah Baker.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maher Olfactive Sagan Dalya- Shawn’s Holiday Card

Some of my favorite interactions with perfumers begins with them telling me about a cool ingredient they are using for the first time. In the creative mindset the shuffling of concepts a new vector creates is powerful. Many of these discussions are the perfumer realizing what new combos can be realized. It is more vital the more talented the artist. Independent perfumer Shawn Maher is one of the best. When he discovered a new ingredient, it lead to Maher Olfactive Sagan Dalya.

Shawn Maher

This is a departure for Mr. Maher who has delighted in telling fragrant stories of his home town of St. Louis. It has given his scents an unusual perspective. For Sagan Dalya he becomes enthralled with the essential oil of Siberian rhododendron. In the accompanying Scent Notes blog post you can find here he talks about why. In short it is because of the unique scent profile. What he found so interesting is a crisp fruitiness meshed with an evergreen pine-like terpenic foundation. If you read his blog post, you see where it sent his imagination.

His first thought was to take the Siberian rhododendron and combine it with marigold absolute. This is another dual faced ingredient with a crisp apple over an astringent herbal greenness. He accentuates the apple to form a more balanced duet with the rhododendron. It might be the time of year, but this reminded me of the early part of the holidays as we have a lot of fresh apples and an equally new Christmas tree. I hadn’t made this connection until the day after Thanksgiving as we were placing our tree in the stand as we brought in the bags of apples from our local orchard. It took me a minute to figure out where I had experienced it previously.

He takes this a level deeper with immortelle and tobacco. These are the same type of partners the rhododendron and marigold are. They have similar profiles where their differences complement each other. They add a wonderful richness without overwhelming the fruity Christmas tree on top.

It finishes with a snuggly warm ambery base of two types of labdanum, essential oil and absolute. Mr. Maher cleverly uses a couple of ingredients to delineate the lines between the two to form a distinct base accord.

Sagan Dalya has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

In the blog post Mr. Maher mentions this needs to be experienced on skin. I completely agree. This perfume smells entirely different on paper and skin. It is much more expansive in its warmth.

While I was wearing Sagan Dalya I kept thinking how appropriate it is for the Holidays. He isn’t marketing that way, but I kept thinking this was Shawn’s perfume Holiday card for 2021. Maybe St. Louis made it into it after all.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Maher Olfactive.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Ganja- Sticky Buds

I have a close friend who has a thermidor of fine cigars. She doesn’t smoke. She has them so she can take one out to feel the texture on her fingers, the smell through her nose. She has a quite a collection of tobacco perfumes which I have helped her grow over the years. I don’t share her love of tobacco, but I have a similar attitude towards marijuana. Now that there are legal dispensaries I really enjoy going in and smelling the different offerings. The deeply herbal green sappy scent of the different breeds of cannabis all has their own scent profile. They also have a sticky tactile touch when you buy a spiky bud and roll it in your fingers. That leaves a different scent on my fingers. There are many perfumes which have sought to capture this. The latest is Comme des Garcons Ganja.

Christian Astuguevieille

Over the last three decades Comme des Garcons and creative director Christian Astuguevieille have sought to give fragrance enthusiasts a different perspective. Their appreciation for finding the beauty in the unusual is what has made this brand the premier creative perfume brand of this time period. Ganja is another example of that. Perfumer Caroline Dumur was tasked with the job of realizing it.

Caroline Dumur

What has always made this brand so interesting is they rarely try to create just a photorealistic recreation of their focus. They also don’t go into a fully abstract rendering where the wearer is filling in the blanks in their perception of it. Their signature is to find a middle ground between reality and imagination for their perfumes to reside in. Ganja might be the best they’ve ever done at this.

It opens with a funky sappy green accord consisting of cumin, mate tea, black pepper, and mastic resin. This is the reality of that scent I get when opening a container of cannabis buds at the dispensary. Mme Dumur finds a fabulous balance of the sweatiness of cumin, the sharp green edges of the mate, the tickle of the black pepper and the sap of the mastic resin. This could have been a perfume with just this. Except that is not where this brand exists.

The base is that abstraction of marijuana to act as contrast. Here she uses frankincense, patchouli, and guaiac wood. The richness of the resin and patchouli form an imaginative bud where the guaiac wood and some of the elements of the earlier accord provide the sticky sap.

Ganja has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I haven’t enjoyed a cannabis inspired perfume like this in many years. The journey from real life to abstraction is fascinating. It is everything I have come to expect from the perfumes of Comme des Garcons.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I received from Comme des Garcons.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Silver Oud- All About That Base

Perfume dork that I am there are things which happen in my head as I try perfumes. One of them is when I encounter a particularly intriguing base accord the internal jukebox in my mind begins playing the 2014 pop song by Meghan Trainor “All About That Bass”. The song is speaking about the bass line to a song especially as it pertains to dancing. It is the reason I have bass enhanced headphones so I can make my music all about the bass if I want to. There is something satisfying about a depth which resonates deep in the belly and spine.

I also hum this song when giving advice to fledgling indie wanna-be perfumers. The great majority of the time what is lacking in their earliest attempts is the base accord. This is not so different than the bass line in a song. In perfumery the base is what you build upon, it is foundational. It is often where the soul of perfume resides. It may be covered in all matter of fabulous other accords and ingredients but without it there is nothing. What happens when a professional perfumer decides to make it all about the base? You get something like Amouage Silver Oud.

Renaud Salmon

Creative director at Amouage, Renaud Salmon is early in his time there. He is beginning to create a set of perfumers he believes can realize his vision for the brand. One of them seems to be perfumer Cecile Zarokian. Mme Zarokian is one of the best perfumers as well as one of my favorites. A couple of her earliest fragrances are among my personal faves. She has only become better over time. In recent years she has been the perfumer closest to pushing the gourmand genre into something grand. Earlier this year Amouage Material is an example of this. When I reviewed that I mentioned I wanted more from her and M. Salmon in Silver Oud I am getting that.

This is inspired by Stendahl’s 19th century novel “The Red and the Black”. I’ve never read it, but Wikipedia tells me it is a tale of a young protagonist rising above his modest beginnings only to be brought low by his passions. To that end there are three titled accords in Silver Oud; confusion, passion, and destruction. I’ll allow someone who has read the book to weigh in on those themes as the heart of the novel. I encountered the perfume based on them quite differently as I was brought to mind of a clever rumination on oud in modern perfumery.

Cecile Zarokian

This is a perfume which is three distinct base accords, but they are presenting how oud is perceived in Western perfumery. The early part is an oud accord. Mme Zarokian weaves a classic patchouli, cypriol and cedar version. Most of the oud in fragrance is this kind, an accord given some life with a tiny amount of the real thing. In this case what comes first is a reminder of what those accords represent. Not quite the real thing but close enough to be part of a bigger construct. Here it is given some time to itself. This is much better than many of the commercial oud accords because of the quality of the patchouli and cedar used here. They bring in some of the rougher edges these type of accords usually lack.

In the heart real oud from Assam, India pushes through the simulation with authenticity. This is that full-throated oud which has medicinal, barnyard, and resinous aspects in its profile. Most of the time a perfumer will look for a complement. Mme Zarokian chooses a contrast, a slightly smoky vanilla from Madagascar. This isn’t a gourmand accord yet her facility in that genre allows her to find a sweet smoky contrast. The vanilla smolders its way through the oud. It is what those who love real oud are looking for. A simple pairing which brings out the best in both.

The final piece is a strong smoked amber accord. This is one of those tricks some brands like to play when they say there is oud in their perfume. They create a strong amber layered with ingredients which add smokiness. It is why so few perfume lovers ever know the real thing. Mme Zarokian creates a version of this which is better than almost all the ones trying to confuse perfume lovers. It creates its own version of an oud accord around amber, guaiac wood, and castoreum. The smoke comes courtesy of birch. She smartly keeps it at the level where a comparison can take place. The real oud paired with vanilla versus the smoked amber simulation. It is a fascinating debate which took place on my skin.

Silver Oud has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Silver Oud is as good as Material was earlier in the year. M. Salmon and Mme Zarokian are forming a creative partnership which might be the core of what this phase of Amouage is all about. The absolute fun of wearing this and having the history of oud in Western perfumery play out is fantastic. Then again that’s because this is a perfume which is all about that base.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Ebene Fume- Smoke Gets in My Perfume

I remember going to my local Neiman-Marcus one day in 2007. The head of the fragrance department was excited to see me because she had a new line to show me. I was taken to a counter where a row of brown bottles with round gold-colored orbs on top. This was my introduction to Tom Ford Private Blends. It is hard to underestimate the influence this would exert over the fragrance market. It defined the ultra-luxe sector. They also defined a Tom Ford fragrance aesthetic. As he and Karyn Khoury would creatively direct a kind of boldness which would become a defining trend of the noughts. Over time I would own all those initial releases and many of the ones which followed.

Karyn Khoury

Like many brands the most recent releases have shown an evolution. I like many of them. Lost Cherry is a good example of how that early aesthetic remains in place without becoming stale. There have been attempts to reach out to the newer perfume consumers who perhaps enjoy a lighter style. Even those still had that Tom Ford-ness present. When I received my sample of Tom Ford Private Blend Ebene Fume it felt like the past and present were in the bottle.

One of the things that was great about the early releases was the highlighting of an ingredient that was given a luxurious setting. In Ebene Fume perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux features the wood of palo santo as the focal point. This wood has seen some popularity in niche perfumery over the last few years. It has a scent profile which is like sandalwood. In the areas where it is indigenous it is seen as an instrument in religious rituals. Sr. Flores-Roux sees the parallel between burning palo santo and incense to create the nucleus of this.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Both are present in the beginning. Twin spirals of resin and wood which form a central double helix. In the earliest going there is a subtle theme of green running through things. Thyme, papyrus, and violet leaves add a noticeable accentuation to the main ingredients. Osmanthus serves as a bridge to a sturdy leather accord. The palo santo and incense swirl around it. Then a simple piece turns this transcendent.

Cade oil is a perfume ingredient I usually curse inwardly when I see it on an ingredient list. In the hands of amateurs, it is a headache inducing sledgehammer which obliterates anything it is around. Sr. Flores-Roux is a maestro who knows the right amount can change everything. In this case the cade oil acts as the flame underneath a pyramid of palo santo and incense. I could imagine flames licking at the woods and resins. This is all perfectly balanced. It is this single addition which elevates Ebene Fume.

Ebene Fume has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

This will make long time Private Blend fans think of the past and there is some of that. There is also a dose of the present as a more modern ingredient is given the Private Blend treatment. What it confirms is after fourteen years and seventy perfumes there is no lack of imagination here.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Marseille and Mirror X KAWS- Series: Laundry Room

One of the earliest examples of independent perfumer thinking came through a set of perfumes by Comme des Garcons. Over a course of years, they released successive “Series” focused on a theme. The most well-known and revered is the Series 3: Incense collection. In 2002 they released five very different interpretations of incense perfumes. I own all these perfumes from every series because they are brilliant thoughts on a theme as expressed through scent. The most recent was 2019’s Series 10: Clash which I thought was another triumph within the series. My affection for these sometimes makes me try and imagine my own series. Two recent releases Comme des Garcons Marseille and Comme des Garcons Mirror X KAWS had me thinking about the laundry room.

Quentin Bisch

Marseille is inspired by the soap called Savon de Marseille. Creative director Christian Astuguevieille asked perfumer Quentin Bisch to put this together. One of the things I find often causes a soapy scent to fall apart for me is it gets lost in the lather. Anyone who has opened a fresh bar of hand-milled soap knows it is akin to that new car smell, it is at its best before it is used. M. Bisch turns Marseille into that moment.

This soap is neroli scented. M. Bisch uses a greener version of neroli. It has a slightly vegetal undercurrent which reminds me of the vegetable oil used to make the soap. This is surrounded with a lanolin accord which forms the soapy piece. Right from the start the scent of a good bar of soap predominates. As you bring it close to your nose there is a powdery feel along with a slightly sweet and floral support for the neroli. There is also a slight muskiness present in the heart. This is that new bar of soap accord completed. I kind of wish this had stayed here. It ends on a lot of an ambrox analog which overwhelms the subtle joys which came before.

Marseille has 10-12 hour longevity although the great soapy piece is gone rather quickly and the majority of the development is just the ambrox offshoot.

Nicolas Beaulieu

Mirror X KAWS sees the return of KAWS to collaborate with the brand. He designed the bottle for Pharell Williams’ collaboration Comme des Garcons Girl. Now he takes a turn as creative director for this perfume. Along with perfumer Nicolas Beaulieu they create a scent which embraces clean linen.

It also uses neroli as its focal point. The difference is this neroli is much softer with barely a tint of the green which is more present in Marseille. M. Beaulieu then goes up the scale adding in a soft orange blossom along with a set of clean musks. At this point there is a strong reminder of fabric softener, The remainder of the development is the soft sheet the laundry product was used on. A base accord of Cashmeran, Benzoin, and the synthetic Sinfonide. The last ingredient adds a powdery sheen which reminded me of shaking out a freshly washed sheet to make my bed.

Mirror X KAWS has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I said it is a stretch to call these Series: Laundry Room but because I was wearing them a day apart, I went there. They both do what any of the Series fragrances of the past do; provide a perfume insight into the smells which surround us.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Comme des Garcons.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Rubini Nuvolari- Grand Prix

It was New Year’s Day 1967. One of my Christmas presents was tickets to the new Cinerama movie, Grand Prix. In those days going to these event movies required buying tickets in advance as you would to attend a play or concert. We only had one Cinerama screen in the area. It is where my love of movies was born. Going to see these movies in this larger-than-life curved screen environment was exhilarating. Which was why for my birthday, and Christmas I always asked for tickets to whatever was playing. I was generally too young to really understand what I was seeing, I just knew it was going to be gigantically entertaining.

Movie poster image

On January 1, 1967 the film we sat down to see was Grand Prix directed by John Frankenheimer. It was a story of a racer who was trying to gain success played by James Garner. The story is a typical sports movie where the hero eventually triumphs. What was memorable to me in this movie were the racing scenes. The movie had received permission to rig a car with cameras and drive it at speed on the actual Grand Prix tracks in the movie. These scenes gave you an incredible sense of speed especially because the curved screen was at the edge of your peripheral vision. While focused on the center of the image the sense of speed being implied from the sides made you feel as if you were in the cars. From this day on I was a fan of racing.

In March of 1975 I was invited to go see the endurance race in in nearby Sebring, Florida. There was where I became familiar with the scent of the racetrack. As I was given access to the garage area the smell of burnt rubber, motor oil, and gasoline permeated the air. This was the missing piece from my previous movie experience. Anyone who has attended any motor sports knows this scent. I have always found it one of those comforting unusual scents of the world which captured what was happening in the moment.

Andrea Rubini

Which brings me to the release of the third perfume from Andrea Rubini, Rubini Nuvolari. Sig. Rubini has surrounded himself with his own version of a perfume pit crew. He has perfumer and engineer Cristiano Canali. Materials expert Francesca Gotti, and inspirational influence Ermano Picco. With Sig. Rubini behind the wheel the first two perfumes they collaborated on Fundamental and Tambour Sacre are among my favorites of the respective years they were released. One of the reasons I enjoy them is there is no hesitancy to create an accord on its own which might sound unpleasant only to find it as part of a pleasing whole. The greasepaint accord in Fundamental is a prime example of this. Nuvolari does it better by creating racetrack accords.

Cristiano Canali

Nuvolari is named and inspired by Italian racer Tazio Giorgio Nuvolari. Sig. Rubini wanted a fragrance which captures the essence of racing. The rest of his team helped bring it to life.

I’ve found the smell of gasoline enjoyable. When I have inadvertently spilled a bit on my finger while filling the car, I tend to smell my finger afterwards. The opening of Nuvolari is centered around a gasoline accord. Sig. Canali isn’t looking for photorealistic but something which is reminiscent of petrol in the air. The fuel accord has that petroleum smell which he ameliorates with black pepper and lemon. The latter gave it a sense of flammability to me. As if it was just waiting to ignite within the engine.

The heart is that sense of being on the track. Making the driving decisions at high-speed. Here the motor racing accord is composed of rubber and motor oil. They are not elevated to extreme levels. Sig. Canali keeps a firm hold of this steering wheel keeping the perfume on track. A tiny piece of mint represents the adrenaline of racing. There is a sense of heated metal here which the press notes seem to claim comes from the neroli. It feels more reminiscent of rose oxide to me. It adds the danger of being in a car which is hot and fast.

Finally the race is run, and you lean down to kiss the track upon winning. The base is built around an asphalt accord. This has a similarity to the way any roadway smells in the heat of summer. There is a burnt scent in the air. This is given texture by some Laotian oud and Haitian vetiver. When both come to the fore, I am reminded a bit of creosote, too. Ambroxan adds the final piece to this trip around the track.

Nuvolari has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

On the days I wore this I so wanted to be that child back in the theatre. So I could’ve added the missing piece of scent to the movie experience by wearing Nuvolari.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Crivelli Hibiscus Mahajad- Gemstone Floral

As I watch new brands begin to define their aesthetic some common themes come up. Most often a creative director will choose to work with a small set of perfumers, one to three to help in the early days. I am a proponent of this especially for new brands. Defined working relationships can lead to consistent results. What is surprising are the outliers. Creative directors with such clarity of vision they can work with any perfumer. The ability to coax exactly what you want from a perfumer is the essence of the best creative directors. In just a couple of years Thibaud Crivelli has shown he is one of these. Maison Crivelli Hibiscus Mahajad shows another side of his vision.

Thibaud Crivelli

M. Crivelli from the beginning laid out his desire to have textural perfumes. Before I ever tried one, I was skeptical he could do it. Fromm the first set of five through to this, his eleventh he has achieved it. He has done it working with a variety of perfumers. Quentin Bisch who he collaborates with here is the eighth different nose in eleven releases. The other change is to create a fragrance at extrait strength. Working at new concentration and with a new perfumer should be difficult. The result makes it look easy.

Quentin Bisch

Hibiscus Mahajad is inspired by “hibiscus tea in a gemstone market”. That description describes the idea trying to be realized. A floral steamy accord over harder glossier ingredients. It is achieved through two separate accords.

The choice to use a hibiscus accord is an interesting way to allow for the texture to be engineered through balancing the pieces. In this case three interesting ingredients comprise the accord. First is Ebelia which carries a dewy cassis-like scent profile. Also present is the lily surrogate Nympheal which also has a dewy floral quality more green than typical lily. The third piece is Rose NeoAbsolute this is a recent addition to the perfumer’s palette. It is achieved by taking the rose petals which have been distilled once for their essential oil and doing it a second time. It forms a fascinating rose with deeper facets. Together these are what forms the hibiscus accord. The dewiness is what will add the steam to form the hibiscus tea.

It is this accord where the perfume opens. Added to it is a sprig of herbal spearmint and a stick of cinnamon. These coax out some of the greener and spicy subtleties lurking in the hibiscus accord. Which allows for the second half of this to come together.

Vanilla leads the way adding just the right amount of sweet counterbalance to the top accord. Ambrette forms a bridge to the leather accord waiting. A warm amber comes along with the leather to create that glossy surface. Prodded by the description I was thinking about topaz as I wore this. A deeper colored gemstone to complete the initial vision.

Hibiscus Mahajad has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Having this at extrait concentration is an added benefit. All of what I described isn’t propelled off your skin. It rises in undulating waves like swirls of steam off the cup of tea as you look at a topaz through a loupe. Because it is concentrated it is going to be a great floral choice for the upcoming colder months. It will be enough to tide me over until M. Crivelli is ready to give me something new.

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

Mark Behnke