New Perfume Review Kenneth Cole Mankind- Department Store Differencemaker

About once a month I take a field trip to the local mall and stroll through the fragrance counters at the major department stores. It is a valuable experience for me to find out what is selling, to see the influence of trends, and to try whatever is new since my last visit. The department store fragrance counter has become a fairly monolithic collection of fruity florals and sport fragrances. The sales associates are pretty used to my blank stare as I am handed a strip and smell the tropes that are endemic to this segment of the market. It is because of this sameness to the fragrances being sold which makes something different stand out. So when I went on my field trip at the beginning of this month I was surprised to find the new Kenneth Cole Mankind is one of those which separates itself from the crowd.

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Claude Dir

Perfumer Claude Dir under the creative direction of Jennifer Mullarkey has somehow created a department store fragrance which trends towards being as quirky off-beat as any niche entry. If I handed you this note list: cardamom, pineapple, ginger, cinnamon, tarragon, sandalwood, vetiver, oakmoss, tonka bean, and musk; I would bet the department store isn’t where you would look first. Ms. Mullarkey is one of the more accomplished creative directors in the masstige area because she isn’t afraid to take risks in a risk averse situation. For Mankind she collaborated with M. Dir on a top notch fragrance that feels like an oddity with its weird green quality and spice.

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Jennifer Mullarkey

Mankind follows the blueprint of many commercial fragrances to grab you with the top notes. M.Dir using cardamom and ginger, while not common, has shown up here and there. The pineapple is what really makes the opening feel not quite as boring as most of its neighbors on the fragrance counter. The cardamom persists and the cinnamon intensifies the spiciness and then the tarragon completely transforms Mankind. It adds a really deep herbal green quality which along with the spices turns the middle development into a different shade of green than you normally find here. This stays on my skin like this for a long while and it seems to have a number of subtle qualities which are nudged along by vetiver and oakmoss for a while. It finally settles down into that typical combo of musks and woods typical in this sector.

Mankind has all day longevity but the interesting parts last for about 4-6 hours. The sillage is above average.

Mankind is a surprising department store fragrance and worth a try. It is definitely one of the best new things I’ve tried an all of my field trips for this year, so far. Next time you’re in your local mall give it a try I think you might be surprised at what you find.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Macy’s

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews CB I Hate Perfume Rare Flowers Narcissus, Jasmine Sambac, and Tuberose- Soliflores Unplugged

2014 will be a year of change for perfumer Christopher Brosius and his CB I Hate Perfume brand. The biggest change is a change of location; still in Brooklyn and a little further east. Mr. Brosius has been busy getting everything back together in the new shop but not so busy that there isn’t something new to try.

The first releases of 2014 are a collection of six soliflores called Rare Flowers. Mr. Brosius says about the collection, on his website, “In all fairness, I cannot claim responsibility for these fragrances. Nature provided these gems. I merely polished and set them.” The concept is each one is a single floral absolute which has been isolated by enfleurage or solvent-extraction. Both of these processes are lengthy efforts requiring patience and skill to pull off. What has ended up in each bottle is a soliflore which allows the wearer rare insight into the floral notes they might think they know so well. For me the most illuminating experience came from three of them: Narcissus, Jasmine Sambac, and Tuberose. These are among my favorite floral notes and the opportunity to try them on their own opened my nose to nuances I hadn’t previously been aware of.

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Christopher Brosius

Narcissus is probably second only to violet as my personal favorite floral fragrance. Narcissus is the keynote of many of my very favorite perfumes and this was the Rare Flower I was most excited to try. What I smelled at first was damp earth. I almost thought someone had switched bottles with Mr. Brosius’ Dirt he did for Demeter. This was not what I expected. The soft green quality that seemed to come next was what I expected as it is that quality of narcissus I like so much when part of a perfume. By itself the green is more astringent but the softness is apparent the longer it stayed on my skin. It eventually matures into its full floralcy and that is the narcissus I am most familiar with.  

Jasmine Sambac is a very familiar, and ubiquitous note, in perfumery. I personally like it when it is at its most natural with the “dirty” smelling indoles allowed to contrast with the sweetness of the bloom. This Rare Flower is all that I just described as the skanky indoles swagger off my skin before the beautiful floral quality catches up. But instead of the freshness taking over a natural balance is struck and both co-exist in a twitchy harmony. Jasmine Sambac was the most like wearing a perfume as there was a real sense of development to this on the days I wore it. 

If when I say “Tuberose” your answer is “Eek!” it is not surprising because it is the keynote of some of the bawdiest white floral perfumes on the market. When I smelled the Rare Flower Tuberose I think I expected this olfactory explosion but I got exactly the opposite. Tuberose comes off so very restrained in this form. I have always thrilled to the mentholated quality tuberose has in those perfumes where it is featured and in this soliflore that quality is here but it carries a fragility to it that was wholly unexpected. The same goes for the rest of the experience as Tuberose as a Rare Flower is much more of a wallflower requiring you to come draw her out to discover her pleasures.

The experience of smelling the Rare Flowers collection reminded me of the old MTV show “Unplugged” where an artist would perform their songs acoustically stripping away all of the sound effects and leaving the listener to consider the real heartbeat of the music. In the case of Narcissus, Jasmine Sambac, and especially Tuberose I have listened to their heartbeat through an olfactory stethoscope. It will make me consider them differently the next time I encounter them in the body of a fragrance.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples from CB I Hate Perfume.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: for those in the New York City area the Grand Opening of the new CB I Hate Perfume Studio will take place Saturday April 26, 2014 from 2-6PM at 318 Maujer St, Brooklyn, NY. If you go to the new studio everything will be 10% off that day, only in store.

New Perfume Review Etat Libre d’Orange Cologne- The Nice Side of The Rogue

One of the great pleasures of the recent Esxence in Milan was my first opportunity to meet Etienne de Swardt, the owner and creative director of Etat Libre d’Orange. As he calls himself on the website “Troublemaker & Perfumer”. He is most definitely one of the Bad Boys of perfume and that is his charm. While speaking with him I felt there was always a barely suppressed laugh behind his smile. He is definitely in on the joke, he is actually the joker incarnate. As we sat down for him to show me the latest releases I was ready for the typically double entendre name followed, usually, by a perfume that is very good to spectacular. He slid across the table a brochure which had this on the front, “We’ve given you decadent, we’ve given you outrageous and now we give you nice.” This is the tag line for the new Cologne (A Nice Scent).

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Etienne de Swardt

M. de Swardt told me this was the fragrance he would like to use as the gateway fragrance to the rest of the collection. Because of the style of that collection this is not a trivial task. He asked perfumer Alexandra Kosinski to collaborate with him on Cologne. As I’ve written about previously we really are in the middle of a Colognaissance and Cologne fits right into this reinvention of the venerable form. Mme Kosinski goes with a spine of citrus/floral/animalic but it is done in a very Etat Libre d’Orange way. Yes Cologne is nice but way down underneath it all lurks the rogue who sticks his head up at the very end.

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Alexandra Kosinski

While cologne as a perfume architecture is pretty straightforward what separates the newer modern colognes is the choices made to fill out that architecture. For Cologne Mme Kosinski makes an inspired choice to start with blood orange supported by bergamot. Blood orange adds a tinge of bitter underneath the juicy sweet and it really is made to be a cologne ingredient. The heart is a floral transition of orange blossom and jasmine. Mme Kosinski keeps the florals on the light side but what I liked was she didn’t use versions of these notes that were bereft of their indoles. Beneath all that loveliness there is just a tiny hint of something less wholesome. This leads to a base which is definitely meant to let the more primal urges become more apparent as Mme Kosinski combines a leather accord and wraps it in musk. It is not a boisterous version of these notes but it picks up on the indoles and shows that even A Nice Scent can be a little dangerous.

Cologne has 4-6 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am looking forward to this summer to let many of these new colognes I’ve been reviewing the chance to come out and play in the heat. I’ve been sending some time arranging all of them on a shelf for the sunny days to come. When Cologne (A Nice Scent) becomes available in June this will go right to the front of that shelf. M. de Swardt and Mme Kosinski have succeeded admirably in adding to the burgeoning Colgnaissance and to creating the perfect introductory fragrance for Etat Libre d’Orange.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Etat Libre d’Orange at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s note: If Cologne (A Nice Scent) makes you want to explore the line more check out my Etat Libre d’Orange 101 article for five I think you should start with.

New Perfume Review Eau D’Italie Graine de Joie- Vivacious Pomegranate

It seems like every trendy thing eventually finds its way into fragrance. For that reason it should be no surprise that pomegranate seems to be showing up in a few 2014 fragrances I’ve tried. There’s nothing wrong with that and it is interesting to see how different perfumers choose to use it. For the eleventh fragrance from Eau D’Italie, Graine de Joie, the creative directors Marina Sersale and Sebastian Alvarez Murena asked perfumer Daphne Bugey to create a fragrance to “conjure(s) up the irresistible light-headedness of when you fall in love.” Mme Bugey decided that pomegranate was the keynote to create this feeling.

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Sebastian Alvarez Murena and Marina Sersale

I always hesitate to describe a fragrance in terms of age but Graine de Joie seems like a bubbly ingénue laughing at the world and joyous at having found love. Mme Bugey assembles an array of fruits along with a critical linchpin of praline before ending on a soft sheer white musk. Graine de Joie is effervescent in its joie de vivre.

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Daphne Bugey

Mme Bugey trots the pomegranate out right away but in truth pomegranate does not have the heft to really carry off a fruity opening by itself. Therefore Mme Bugey adds apple as a framing note to help define the unusual fruitiness and to add foundation. As the fruitiness attenuates a breezy, slightly watery freesia arises to combine with the pomegranate. The combination is like a sunny smile and it here where Graine de Joie really comes together. The next transition is really the most interesting part of Graine de Joie. At first I think I’m detecting wood but then it turns into a nutty quality and then there is a dusting of cocoa. Finally it all coalesces into a praline accord as Graine de Joie takes on a very unusual gourmand aspect for just a short period of time. Eventually it ushers in cedar and a collection of white musks to impart a soft sheer musk accord to the final moments.

Graine de Joie has 6-8 hour longevity and below average sillage.

For most of the first fragrances of Eau D’Italie there was almost a seriousness that belied the passion behind the brand. Starting with 2012’s Un Bateau Pour Capri there has been a noticeable lightening in tone. Graine de Joie is the most ebullient example of this lighter tone and it is that which makes it so easy to wear. I think when one says a fragrance is easy to wear it also becomes easy to dismiss and in the case of Graine de Joie that would be an error. That praline transition in the heart definitely rises above a fragrance that just wants to smell good. Mme Bugey’s skill at adding that into a fruity floral construction without making it intrusive was more impressive each time I wore it. I know for me I experience something much larger than a grain of joy every time I wear Graine de Joie.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Eau D’Italie at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Masque Milano Tango- The Dance of Attraction

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One of the more well-received lines of 2013 was Masque Milano. The three releases generated a lot of buzz and Montecristo ended up on many year-end “Best of 2013” lists. I was not one of those who was similarly impressed. I liked what I smelled but I wasn’t moved to write about them. I was optimistic that Alessandro and Riccardo, the owners and creative directors behind the brand, would produce something I would really like. It only took them one more try to meet that expectation.

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Alessandro and Riccardo

Masque Milano presents their fragrances as Acts from an opera and for their fourth fragrance, Tango, we are at Act III Scene IV. In the story they describe a party where our male protagonist is enjoying the smell of the night blooming jasmine while drinking Ron y Miel honey rum from the Canary Islands. He meets the gaze of a woman, the music swells with a distinctive rhythm. The drink has loosened his inhibition, the music propels him through the wooden tables surrounding the dance floor. He holds his hand out and they connect. The dance of attraction begins, again.

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Cecile Zarokian

When I read this description I was very intrigued because I had a good friend, as a young man in South Florida, who was from Tenerife. He always scoffed at the rum from the Caribbean Islands as lacking in imagination. I didn’t understand what he meant until he came back from a trip home with a bottle of Ron y Miel. Aged rum is blended with indigenous honey to create a singular liquor. I had forgotten about it for many years until seeing the description for Tango. Perfumer Cecile Zarokian was asked to create a fragrance which captured “A mid-summer night. The bower in full bloom, large wooden tables, a liquor; and music.” Mme Zarokian captures all of that along with a smoldering depth that is entrancing.

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Tango Argnetino II by Pedro Alvarez

Mme Zarokian chooses to start with the citrus-like breeziness of cardamom set off against black pepper and cumin. It is like a sea breeze on a summer’s evening over the sweat coming off those sitting outside. Cumin and pepper produce the sweaty accord. Jasmine sambac with all of its indolic character on display catches the flowers growing on the perimeter. Mme Zarokian adds a bit of Rose Damascene to keep the indoles from getting too rambunctious too quickly. Patchouli allows for the indoles to gain some traction as Tango begins the final bit of development. The Ron y Miel accord is created from vanilla, sweet clover, benzoin, and tonka. It is rich and compelling like the real thing. Finally we end up with leather, amber, and musk as the passionate dance commences.

Tango has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

Where Tango resonates for me is that this seems the most complete Masque Milano fragrance to date. Every phase of the story presented is represented throughout the development. The first time I sniffed it and wore a bit of it I didn’t have the story and was still impressed with the seamless development. Each note and accord builds upon the others and my dance of attraction with another perfume begins, again.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Masque Milano at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review By Kilian Sacred Wood & Imperial Tea- Mysore Sandalwood and Jasmine Tea Simulations

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It seems like it was only a few days after I editorialized about the failure of perfume lines at cracking the Eastern aesthetic that I received the two latest attempts from By Kilian. I was not a fan of the three previous Asian Tales fragrances and will admit I was expecting more watered down ideas masquerading as perfume. They say there is an exception to every generality and it seems as if Sacred Wood and Imperial Tea are going to make me eat some of my words as perfumer Calice Becker takes on sandalwood and tea, respectively.

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Calice Becker

One of the assumptions is that Asian tastes want fragrances similar to their architecture with clean lines and simple construction. If you are going to work in that direction there are probably few better choices to take as a focal point than sandalwood and that is what Mme Becker chooses as the wood in Sacred Wood.

All of the great sandalwood perfumes of the past contained a version of sandalwood from the Indian region of Mysore. Unfortunately human nature and developing nation economics led to the over-harvesting of Mysore sandalwood and there is no longer anymore being produced from Mysore. As a result perfumers have searched for more renewable sources of sandalwood but none of those had the complexities of Mysore sandalwood. Which has then caused the perfumers to take these newer sandalwood sources and try to “Mysore” them up by trying to add in what is missing. It is from Mme Becker’s attempts to do this that Sacred Wood sprung to life. It was her intent to create a sandalwood base she could use on her perfumer’s palette that would allow her to add her engineered Mysore sandalwood to anything she was working on. Except when she was done she realized it was pretty good all on its own and creative director Kilian Hennessy agreed.

Sacred Wood is kin to other sandalwood “soliflores” like Diptyque Tam Dao but here the effect is to take it and allow the character of the sandalwood to slowly erode down to its most basic nature. On top Mme Becker adds a steamed milk accord to create the characteristic creamy quality of Mysore sandalwood. In the real thing that never leaves but in Sacred Wood it persists for a while. Carrot and elemi turn the cream into sweet but not sugar sweet. This is a sweetness of wood and vegetable; it works very well together. For me one of the hallmark characteristics of Mysore sandalwood is what I describe as an “ashy” quality in the heart of it. It smells to my nose like it has been through a fire and this is the remains of it. I think Mme Becker also smells this and so she uses cumin to add that quality to Sacred Wood. In the end cedar with all of its very straightforwardness turns Sacred Wood to just wood over the final few hours.

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Kilian Hennessy

Mme Becker’s very first signed fragrance was Tommy Girl and the combination of tea and florals was groundbreaking in 1996. Eighteen years later it is a little more common but Mme Becker wanted to create her version of a definitive tea fragrance. She chose jasmine tea as the target for her to create a perfume simulacrum of. My experience with jasmine tea is as dragon pearls where these tightly wound balls of tea unfurl upon exposure to hot water into floral looking blooms which release the tea within. It is this tea which is the sole reason we own a clear tea pot so I can watch the languid opening of the pearls as the tea steeps. This tea also has a fantastic smell of the jasmine rising through the humidity of the steaming liquid. In Imperial Tea Mme Becker has created that jasmine tea effect.

The key to Imperial Tea is using the right source of jasmine as the core. Mme Becker uses a lightly indolic version of jasmine sambac. It is absolutely the right choice. A clean non-indolic jasmine would have been too clean. A heavier indolic jasmine would have been jarring and lacked serenity. The jasmine sambac here is kept feather light. Mate provides the base of the tea and it is kept from being too grassy by the inclusion of guaiac to keep it more towards the tea side. There is a great violet note to prop up the jasmine and that is really it. Imperial Tea is as light as the steeped tea it is re-creating and that lightness might not be, ahem, everyone’s cup of tea. In my opinion it has to be this light and it is what allows it to succeed so well.

Sacred Wood has all day longevity and modest sillage.

Imperial Tea has 4-6 hour longevity and modest sillage.

Every generality needs a contradiction and in Sacred Wood and Imperial Tea By Kilian proves to me that a fragrance targeted to the Eastern markets doesn’t have to be uninspiring. As both sandalwood and tea fragrances they stand among the upper echelon in each of those categories.

Disclosure: This review was based on press samples provided by By Kilian PR in the US.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews David Jourquin Cuir de R’Eve & Cuir Altesse- The Women’s Leather

David Jourquin released his first two fragrances in 2011, Cuir Tabac and Cuir Mandarine. I only became aware of these fragrances in the middle of 2013. The main reason I sought them out is they were leather fragrances and I like leather fragrances. M. Jourquin asked for a pair of leather based fragrances for a man to wear, one for the day and one for the evening. Cuir Tabac was a well-composed straightforward leather and tobacco composition. Cuir Mandarine showed off a bit of insouciance. With the titular mandarin a fizzy champagne accord was added and if your nose didn’t tickle enough a bit of black pepper was added for good measure before leather and tobacco form the base again. Now three years later M. Jourquin has asked perfumer Cecile Zarokian for two more leather fragrances but this time for a woman and again one for daytime and one for nighttime. The daytime fragrance is called Cuir de R’Eve and the nighttime one is called Cuir Altesse.

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David Jourquin

Cuir de R’Eve is, I believe, Mme Zarokian’s first fruity floral and it opens with a load of fruit but before it gets too sweet Mme Zarokian takes clove and pink pepper to add a bit of orthogonal spice. The fruit is ascendant but the spices make it more interesting. The heart is a pairing of orris and patchouli; some heliotrope adds a bit of bright floralcy especially for a daylight fragrance. The leather arrives with running mates of vanilla and musk. The vanilla is an interesting counterpart to the tobacco in the previous fragrances as it adds a similar sweetness without the bass lines tobacco adds. There is a pleasant lightness throughout the construction which seems appropriate considering the brief.

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Cecile Zarokian

Cuir Altesse kept reminding me of the old advertising tag line for Secret deodorant, “Strong enough for a man, made for a woman”.  Cuir Altesse was designed to be worn by a woman in the evening but this has everything in it this man could desire in a leather fragrance, from my first sniff I was smitten. Since wearing it a couple of times I am no less enamored of it. I think if I was ever to ask for a bespoke perfume from Mme Zarokian the structure of Cuir Altesse is where we would start. Cuir Altesse starts with cardamom bolstered with orange and pink peppercorn. The cardamom is what stands out and it leads down into a heart of mainly jasmine and cumin. The jasmine is indolic and the cumin is its usual pungent self. Together this should be a nightmare but instead all of these rough edges turn into a sweet dream. By using rose to pick up more of the floral character of jasmine and patchouli to blunt some of the sweatiness of cumin the heart of Cuir Altesse is alluring. Vanilla partners the leather again but this time benzoin and amber add a bit of resinous sweetness; oakmoss adds the final grace note to everything.

Cuir de R’Eve and Cuir Altesse have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mme Zarokian premiered many new fragrances at Esxence and what I am truly admiring is, as I get to know all of them in the weeks since the expo, her breadth of composition. The work she is doing for David Jourquin is a great example of her ability and the development of a very talented young perfumer.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by David Jourquin at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review The Different Company Nuit Magnetique- Christine Nagel’s Magnetic Theory

I thought when I was reviewing the three new Jo Malone London Rain fragrances by perfumer Christine Nagel those were going to be the last new releases before she took up her new position at Hermes. It turns out that my assumption was in error. When I met Luc Gabriel owner and creative director at The Different Company I learned that Mme Nagel had one last fragrance to do before she started with Hermes. According to M. Gabriel the final version of her new fragrance for The Different Company, Nuit Magnetique was delivered on March 4th and she started her collaboration with Jean-Claude Ellena as co-in-house perfumers at Hermes two days later.

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Christine Nagel (Photo: Matthieu Dortomb)

For her first fragrance for The Different Company she wanted to create both magnetic attraction and repulsion throughout all of the phases of Nuit Magnetique. Mme Nagel explains it in the press release as, “I created this perfume thinking about the physical principle of the magnet. The raw materials that I chose get married by affinity and get repelled by contrast inside a magnetic field whose olfactory nucleus is an amber-woody accord.” It sounds a lot like typical PR copy but Mme Nagel actually pulls this off as the top and heart exemplify this dual magnetic push and pull before getting pretty normal with the promised amber-woody base.

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The attraction pair in the top notes is ginger and bergamot. Together there is a great vivacious quality which gets separated by a blueberry note that feels like it cleaves them apart. The blueberry has a slightly astringent nature to it which helps it split the happy couple up. The heart is a group of heavy hitter florals, jasmine, rose, and tuberose which Mme Nagel tames in her trademark way of not letting the more boisterous ingredients get out of balance. The orthogonal note here is prune in all of its concentrated dried plum glory. The use of dried fruit in fragrances has become more prevalent but in the use of prune as contrast to the florals it gives an atypical energy to it. Instead of weighing things down it adds a luscious underpinning which allow the florals something to push off of. The base is, as promised, a combination of amber, benzoin, and woods. It is so normal it almost doesn’t feel like it fits but that perhaps is the final bit of magnetic repulsion on display.

Nuit Magnetique has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

I didn’t get around to trying Nuit Magnetique until my last day at Esxence. I was so entranced with the ginger and blueberry along with the florals and prune I spritzed a little on my wrist for the plane flight home. It turned out to be a more delightful companion than my seatmate. I, like many others, are looking forward to what Mme Nagel will bring to Hermes. My expectation is she will be a smashing success because all of the broad creativity necessary to succeed in that position have been on display for many years now. With Nuit Magnetique she left us one final reminder of just how innovative she can be.

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by The Different Company at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones Wisteria Hysteria- Fascinating Fascinator

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2013 was a comeback year for Comme des Garcons in my opinion. For what was seeming far too long they had not been the cutting edge fragrance house they had originally been. What I was most interested in was to see if they would continue the return. The first data point for 2014 was going to be a very challenging one. 2008’s Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones, by perfumer Antoine Maisondieu, vies for the title of best Comme des Garcons fragrance ever, with Comme des Garcons 2. The new Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones Wisteria Hysteria was going to have a mighty big atomizer to live up to.

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Stephen Jones

Stephen Jones is a world-renowned milliner, or hat maker, who is known for his unique aesthetic and the technical expertise necessary to accomplish his vision. Mr. Jones even has a quote about the relationship between perfume and hat making, “Millinery, I think, is closer to fragrance than fashion. A hat, like a perfume, is an evocation of something nebulous, ephemeral, and other-worldly.”

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Nathalie Feisthauer

How there came to be a Stephen Jones + Comme des Garcons has sort of become a tale of chance meeting leading to collaboration. The story goes Mr. Jones ran into Comme des Garcons designer Rei Kawakubo in the Anchorage, Alaska airport and struck up a friendship which turned into an alliance. Somewhere along the line Mr. Jones was introduced to Christian Astuguevieille, the fragrance creative director for Comme des Garcons and the first Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones fragrance was born. For the sequel the same creative team wanted to have something a little more multimedia. For the perfumer they chose Nathalie Fesithauer. To create a visual to go along with the fragrance they asked Henry Pincus to film a short clip. All of this was debuted at London’s SHOWstudio in March 2014.

The fashion film “depicts a woman discovering a new side of herself all while clad in L’Wren Scott and Stephen Jones.” The film depicts a classic set of contradiction as both the dark and light sides merge together by the end. For the fragrance Mme Feisthauer was also going for a struggle between light and dark but in the case of the fragrance the darker notes serve to define the lighter notes and while they never pull entirely free of the heaviness there is an off-kilter lightness of being that makes Wisteria Hysteria a fascinating perfume to wear.

The top notes of Wisteria Hysteria are a mélange of stimulating choices. Pepper, clove, and mate leaf form the opening accord and the mate is the keynote of the early going. The pepper and clove serve as framing notes to allow for the mate to display its fresh grass kind of character but the clove and pepper will make their presence known underneath the pastoral tableau. The heart is the promised wisteria but not anywhere near what I would call hysterical levels. Instead the wisteria is balanced with rose to create a spring fresh floral accord. To that Mme Fesithauer adds a silvery frankincense which adds a metallic edge to the florals. The base is a mix of white musks as sheer as the fascinator worn by the protagonist in the film. To ground them Mme Fesisthauer uses benzoin and amber.

Wisteria Hysteria has all-day longevity and average sillage.

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The Author avec Fascinator

I’ve had about a month to spend wearing Wisteria Hysteria and each successive wearing has allowed for me to appreciate the subtleties throughout its design. This is not a fragrance that will immediately display its charms to you. Like a hat I had to wear it a bit and break it in but once it found that sweet spot it is a perfume which rewards those with the patience to let it find the right balance between light and dark. Based on Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones Wisteria Hysteria I think Comme des Garcons’ 2014 on the fragrance side is off to a fantastic beginning.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Wisteria Hysteria from SHOWstudio.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Velvet Orchid- The TF All-Stars Make a Fragrance

I’ve always wondered how a perfume with multiple perfumers attached to it actually comes to be. I’m not talking about a collaboration of two that I think I understand. There are a number of fragrances which seemingly take a village to create. The latest fragrance to have me considering this is the new addition to the Tom Ford Signature Collection, Velvet Orchid.

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The TF All-Stars (Clockwise from upper left: M. Vasnier, Mme Becker, Mme Maisondieu, M. Maisondieu)

Karyn Khoury is in her accustomed position as creative director and she decided to convene a supergroup of perfumers to compose this flanker to the original Tom Ford Signature Fragrance, Black Orchid. My weird imagination even sees them on a stage, as The TF All-Stars, introducing themselves. On top notes we have Calice Becker, holding down the heart notes it’s Yann Vasnier and covering the base notes we have The Maisondieus, Shyamala and Antoine. I am pretty sure this kind of perfume by committee is not accomplished by doling out phases but I do wonder how all of these very competent perfumers managed to come together and make pretty darn good perfume worthy of being added to the Tom Ford Signature Collection.

The original Black Orchid is one of those fragrances that, when it was released in 2006, was a true gender bender as there were many men who wore it even though it was primarily marketed to women. I am one of those men as the central orchid accord in Black Orchid is surrounded by a very restrained floral followed by patchouli and sandalwood in the base. For Velvet Orchid The TF All-Stars were asked to create a “corporeal flower accord” to complement the original orchid accord. This group doesn’t just stop there as on top a fantastic rum and in the base vanilla take on prominent roles with the familiar notes from Black Orchid. It makes Velvet Orchid a traditionally pretty floral fragrance which is very good.

The same mandarin that was present in the original is on top in Velvet Orchid but now it is drizzled with honey and doused with a rum note called succan absolute. This makes for a sweetly boozy opening and one I really enjoyed. It leads to the same orchid accord that made up the heart of Black Orchid. Here is where The TF All-Stars decided to really turn this Velvet Orchid into a power ballad of florals as on top of the orchid comes a series of floral duets starting with Moroccan and Turkish rose, hyacinth and heliotrope, jasmine and jonquil. Throughout the heart of Velvet Orchid it is like trying to follow three simultaneous guitar solos which are miraculously also harmonizing. For much of Velvet Orchid it remains in this powerful floral refrain. Over a few hours a very subtle sweetness begins to swirl into the melody. First myrrh and sandalwood start off; a very refined suede and peru balsam rough it up a little but it sets the stage for a perfect vanilla note to provide the finish. It adds up to a decadent sweetness to leave one wanting more.

Velvet Orchid has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

I have always admired the Tom Ford Signature Collection for pushing the envelope in the mainstream fragrance space. It is why Velvet Orchid is a bit surprising in how it displays itself as very traditionally floriental. It isn’t groundbreaking or unusual but in its nod to the traditional The TF All-Stars manage to find a way to leave their very talented impressions in all the small moments throughout. Even though you might have heard this tune before this supergroup of perfumers have found a way to make it feel new again.  

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke