New Perfume Review Strangelove NYC fallintostars- Quality Over Quantity

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

Elizabeth Gaynes (l.) and Helena Christensen

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

Christophe Laudamiel

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

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

fallintostars has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

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

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

Mark Behnke

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

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

Jerome Epinette

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Behnke

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

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

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

Francois Demachy

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

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

Osmanthus has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

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

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Byredo Slow Dance- First Contact

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

Ben Gorham

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

Jerome Epinette

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Masque Milano Kintsugi- Reconstructing Chypre

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

Riccardo Tedeschi (l.) and Alessandro Brun

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

Vanina Muracciole

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

Kintsugi has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

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

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Mizensir For Your Love- Passionate Ambery Musk

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

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

Alberto Morillas

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Christina Aguilera Xperience- Vegas Baby

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

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

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

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

Xperience has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

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

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Les Soeurs de Noe (Part 2) Amazing Jade, Bohemian Absinthe, and Jardin de Macarons- Evolving Transparency

In Part 1 I introduced owner-creative director Nadia Benaisa along with perfumers Jerome Epinette and Pierre Wulff who produced the first five releases for Les Soeurs de Noe. Today I will finish with reviews of the remaining three; Amazing Jade, Bohemian Absinthe, and Jardin de Macarons.

One of the things I have been hopeful for from this trend towards transparency is the opportunity to find a new style. Two which seem to have become more prevalent have been gourmands and floral gourmands It is in those areas where Les Soeurs de Noe really takes off.

Amazing Jade is the gourmand one of the three. I was caught right from the top as the perfumers used pistachio and hazelnut as their top accord. They create a toasted nutty effect that is ideally realized. I don’t have too many perfumes which have such an enticingly nut-based opening. They then encase those nuts in swirls of incense and a supple opaque leather accord. The nuts find a harmonic with the leather that was a joy all day. It all ends on a musky base. This is a remarkably light perfume despite the presence of things like leather and incense. I think once the weather turns a tiny bit cooler, I will really find the spot where this perfume excels.

Amazing Jade has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Bohemian Absinthe is the fruity floral member of the debut collection. It is not a typical version of that style as the perfumers pair the tart juiciness of kumquat with the gentle floral quality of apple blossom. Where this begins to feel different is through the mentholated verdancy of eucalyptus adding lift to the fruit and floral. To provide contrast a base accord which grounds this comes courtesy of sandalwood, leather, and vetiver. The woodiness is bracketed with a smoky version of vetiver to give texture while leather provides a more refined effect. This is another which will be fantastic in the cooler weather

Bohemian Absinthe has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

That leaves my favorite of these initial releases, Jardin de Macarons. This is the floral gourmand I mentioned earlier. What makes this style the right choice for transparent aesthetics is by keeping both the floral and the gourmand on the opaquer side it gives more room for both sides of the coin to shine. In the case of Jardin de Macarons it is the combination of rooty orris with a sugary candy floss which holds the center. Prior to that a luscious plum lead into it while an earthy patchouli and sweet woody palo santo support it. All of that is great but it is the sugared orris which takes this to a new level. It felt like I was trying a gourmet macaron of orris all the while I had this on my skin.

Jardin de Macarons has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I said in Part 1, I am looking for those brands and creative teams who will grab this transparency aesthetic and find ways to make it their own. Mme Benaisa has done this through her first five releases. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Les Soeurs de Noe.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Les Soeurs de Noe (Part 1) Mitsio Vanille and Oud Rose- The Right Opacity

We are a couple of years into this widely held belief that transparency in fragrance is the desired aesthetic. During the coalescence around this hypothesis I have found the ones which miss the mark are the ones who become so light they become an anti-perfume; afraid to have presence. There have been exceptions to this. It is why I have hope there is some greatness to be found within this trend because there are too many good people who should know how to make it relevant. I was surprised earlier this summer to find much of what I am looking for in a new brand; Les Souers de Noe.

Nadia Benaisa

Les Soeurs de Noe was founded and is creatively directed by Nadia Benaisa. Mme Banaisa spent her childhood between Belgium and Morocco. For her perfume brand she wanted to find the overlap between the Europe and Orient. To achieve her vision she worked with perfumers Jerome Epinette and Pierre Wulff on her first five releases. It has been a long while since a debut collection has captured my attention as fully as this one has. Her choice to work with M. Epinette is a great choice as he is a perfumer who excels in this space of transparent fragrance.

Pierre Wulff (l.) and Jerome Epinette

I am going to spend the next two days writing about all five of the original releases. Today I am going to start with the two which are the most typical styles in the collection; Mitsio Vanille and Oud Rose. Tomorrow I will follow up with the three gourmand inspired perfumes.

Mitsio Vanille is a vanilla-centric perfume which remembers the source of vanilla is the pod of an orchid. The perfumers spend the early moments discovering the orchid in a tropical milieu. This is a fresh green world of freesia and the botanical musk of ambrette seeds. The orchid hangs suspended with a strong floral quality provided by lilac. This vanilla orchid accord especially paired with the ambrette is gorgeously realized. The base deepens the vanilla as if we were making an extract of the pods we harvested. Along with the vanilla the muskiness also becomes a bit more pronounced retaining that duet by giving it some depth in the end.

Mitsio Vanille has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Oud Rose is the classic pairing of Europe and the Orient, Mme Benaisa had to include it. The challenge for the perfumers was to find a way to lighten it up. It is accomplished by using Rose de Mai as the rose counterpart to the oud accord. Both choices allow for a more transparent construct. Oud Rose steps through the classic paces of this kind of fragrance by opening with the golden halo of saffron floating on smoky tendrils of incense. The stars show up as the fresh Rose de Mai and the finely constructed oud accord create a modern version of this ancient pairing. It goes through a leather and patchouli base at the end.

Oud Rose has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

You might not think of Vanilla and Oud as candidates for a transparent perfume, usually they are not. In the hands of this creative team they capture just the right amount of opacity to keep them from being irrelevant.

In Part 2 I will examine the remaining three releases which is where this creative team really hits their stride.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample set provided by Les Soeurs de Noe.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Christian Dior Spice Blend- Lightly Spiced

I have been openly disappointed in the direction of the Christian Dior fragrance releases. There seems to have been an internal agreement to aggressively target those who prefer transparent styles of fragrance. I believe they think that translates to a younger demographic. I haven’t seen the proof for that hypothesis yet. Dior isn’t waiting. My issue comes with the near dismissive destruction of what came before. If this had just remained on the commercial side of the equation, I would have been less frustrated. Unfortunately this has taken over the what used to be the brilliant La Collection Privee and replaced it with Maison Christian Dior. The change happened last year, and the twelve new members of this re-named collection displayed a wide range of quality with only a couple standing out. Which makes the moment when I receive a new release less of a celebration. It becomes more a moment of nervous anticipation as it was when I received Maison Christian Dior Spice Blend.

Francois Demachy

One of the reasons I remain hopeful is the presence of perfumer Francois Demachy behind this line. I have this belief that he can be one of those who finds a way to make this transparency trend less a passing fancy. I always think that it is within this collection that I might see the first signs of it. Spice Blend is probably not the harbinger of better things to come. It is a transparent spicy perfume which is going to be great for the transition between summer and fall. While the title correctly implies this will be a spice-filled fragrance it leaves out it will also be floating on a snifter of rum.

It opens with that rich boozy rum infused with ginger. You might read that thinking there is intensity here. M. Demachy is layering semi-opaque levels of ingredients; even things like rum and ginger. The promised mélange appears next with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and baie rose the standouts. I do admire the ability to keep an accord of those ingredients on the lighter side. As I wore this, I thought I’d be left wanting more but the right balance is struck. It all finishes on a set of synthetic woods.

Spice Blend has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

For something as light as this is it lasts much longer than I expected. While I don’t think Spice Blend does anything more than offer a lighter alternative for those who enjoy spicy perfumes it does that well. I am sure I’ll wear my sample again on a cool early fall morning, but I am still waiting for something better from Maison Christian Dior.

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

Mark Behnke