New Perfume Review Van Cleef & Arpels Oud Blanc- Into the Smoke

The origin of the name perfume as derived from the Latin “per fumus” has always seemed right to me. The history of adding scent to a person came through capturing the smoke in your clothing. We no longer must stand over a brazier to add fragrance to our lives. I am atavistically attached to the concept. When a perfume attempts to evoke it, I am happy to experience it; Van Cleef & Arpels Oud Blanc achieves this.

Anne Flipo

Oud Blanc is part of the Collection Extraordinaire subset of the brand. It is a companion to the earlier release this year of Santal Blanc. In that case the wood was surrounded by white linen as the source of “blanc”. Perfumer Anne Flipo chooses a set of white musks for her “blanc”.

Oud comes to the perfume world from the practice of burning it in Middle Easter households. It has become a more familiar scent to Western audiences through its use in perfume. Most of the time it doesn’t try to go back to its original use. Mme Flipo wants that to be the oud she represents here.

The opening is a dried fruit ingredient of dates. Mme Flipo uses it so that it feels like it has a scented chewiness to it. It also is a fruit indigenous to the region where oud has come from. The oud comes next in persistent waves of smokiness. Oud can have some rough edges. In this case Mme Flipo has rounded off many of the sharper ones. It leaves something which moves in slow waves across the dates. Then the white musks and aldehydes appear to blow things up. They add an expansiveness to the oud. Simultaneously vanilla partners the dates to create a sweet gourmand-like baseline underneath the cloud of oud.

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

I enjoyed this interpretation of oud quite a bit. I think it is because Mme Flipo took me into the smoke as it was in the beginning.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Neiman-Marcus.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Tahite Sel_Vanille- Does Three Make a Trend?

Regular readers know I enjoy looking for trends in perfumery. They also know I really enjoy it when a new type of perfume architecture begins to show up. I have enjoyed the growth of the gourmand fragrances over the past few years because it is one of the genres which has a lot of room for innovation. One part of that is taking other styles and fusing them to a gourmand sensibility. The current trend of floral gourmands has grown out of that. Over the last year there might be a new fusion beginning to emerge. Maison Tahite Sel_Vanille might be the confirmation of that.

Maison Tahite is a new brand which is committed to supporting sustainability with their fragrances. It seems based on the first collection they will feature a single keynote interpreted in different ways. For these first five that choice is vanilla. If you are someone who enjoys vanilla perfumes this entire debut collection is worth sampling. There is an inherent comfort to it which makes it easy to enjoy any of them.

David Maruitte

Sel_Vanille caught my attention because it is an aquatic gourmand. The third I have tried in roughly the last fifteen months. I find the contrast of the overused aquatic palette has been given some new energy when paired with gourmand ingredients. The savory or sweet contrast to that ocean spray is something I didn’t know I wanted. David Maruitte is the perfumer behind Sel_Vanille. He forms a savory crème brulee served oceanside.

The earliest moments are the classic but trite through overuse seaside accord. There are the ozonic notes paired with the salt spray of the waves crashing. Jasmine completes what has become so familiar. What comes next changes everything. First a very herbal sage comes out with a deep rich vanilla. It forms a savory-sweet combination. As it inserts itself into the beach mise en scene it becomes buoyed by the lift which comes as part of the aquatic accord. I kept thinking of this as a sage infused crème brulee. Some cedar forms the base and the clean lines of the wood provide a nice frame for everything.

Sel_Vanille has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Ever since wearing this I’ve been asking myself does three different perfumes from different brands make a trend? Probably not. It likely means that I am hoping it might eventually become one. If it does, I will look back to Sel_Vanille as one of those that was there at the start.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bortnikoff Oud Loukoum- Simple is Better

One of the current trends in independent perfumery is that of the artisanal distiller as nose. An interesting group of these came to the forefront about three or four years ago. Like many I was enchanted by discovering the new materials they were bringing out. These were small-batch completely unique ingredients. I am susceptible to falling under the spell of a new ingredient. It took me about a year but because of the amount that was being released I began to form a hypothesis. That while they were gifted distillers, they weren’t necessarily perfumers. Over the past few years I’ve still been impressed at the ingredients they produce but they don’t rise to what I would categorize as perfume.

That’s very broad. What I have noticed is when they overstuff things with too many ingredients it becomes like static. It adds an olfactory hiss which is distracting. The simpler they keep things the closer they get to being a perfume. Bortnikoff Oud Loukoum is one which manages to do this.

Dmitry Bortnikoff

Dmitry Bortnikov is the man behind the brand. He has been producing fragrance from his base in Thailand since 2018. In just two years he has released 25 limited editions. All of them have at their heart something unique. Which is the appeal. For Oud Loukoum he is inspired by the Turkish confection of the same name.

Loukoum is also known as Turkish Delight. It is a chewy sweet exotic candy. I prefer the ones which have nuts as their main flavoring but there are many varieties. Oud Loukoum is a full-on gourmand style of fragrance which captures this.

It opens with a stewed fruits accord which is very appealing, especially in the cooler weather. Ylang-ylang acts as the floral contrast. The flower has an oiliness which adds a richer depth to the fruits. It is here where a selection of ouds forms the gourmand accord. If they were left to themselves it wouldn’t have come together. A slightly fruity tobacco pulls the fruit and oud together into a perfume version of loukoum. It remains in its candied form for hours with only some balsam sliding in later.

Oud Loukoum has 24-hour longevity and average sillage.

This is not an indicator of a change in aesthetic. The other nine perfumes from 2020 all have the same things which keep me from embracing them fully. I still would love to bring these distillers and their materials into partnership with my favorite perfumers. I believe there would be something amazing which could come of that. Until then when they do make something like Oud Loukoum I can appreciate it for what it is.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Montale Oud Tobacco- Two Great Smells

For those who grew up in the 1970’s you’ll probably remember this. In those days Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups had an ad campaign where someone eating chocolate would bump into someone eating peanut butter. They would then exclaim, “You got peanut butter on my chocolate” or “You got chocolate in my peanut butter.” Before the announcer would break in with the tag line, “Two great tastes which taste great together.” There are a few perfume brands which tend to live by this motto. Montale Oud Tobacco is a good example.


In the case of Oud Tobacco there actually is more that just the two named notes. It is a couple of those which improve this greatly. After a swiftly dissipating citrus top note I get the animalic sweaty scent I expected to get from oud only to realize it is cumin. That spice forms the early contrast to the rich tobacco. At this point there is an orange blossom which adds creamy vanilla-like depth to it. That is picked up by tonka bean. It isn’t until here that the oud makes its presence known. This is the smell I associate with oud chips burning in a brazier. It is as if puffs of oud smoke are being wafted through the tobacco and cumin. It is all the better for being an unexpected way to use it.

Oud Tobacco has 24-hour longevity and average sillage.

There are times when the longevity of Montale perfumes wears out their welcome. Oud Tobacco was not one of those. If there was a commercial to go with it, I could see it going like this. Hey, you got oud in my tobacco. No you got tobacco in my oud. Voice over says two great smells which smell great together. There would be some truth in that advertising.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Christian Louboutin Loubirouge- Here We Go Again

It has been awhile since I received an envelope containing a large collection of new releases that made me sigh with frustration. I couldn’t get out of 2020 without having one. Shoe designer Christian Louboutin has decided to double down and repeat some of their previous missteps on a larger scale.

It always surprises me when a creative director who is so smart in their field seemingly loses that when they move to perfume. In 2016 the brand released their first three perfumes. They were mostly dreary utilitarian tropes done competently. I liked Trouble in Heaven best because it was the only one which had a glimmer of imagination. I pretty much thought that was going to be it for Christian Louboutin fragrance.

Unfortunately, they are back with the same boring attitude with seven new perfumes in the Loubiworld collection. This time the bottles seem to be the selling point because they are easily the most interesting thing about all of them. Glass bottles in Louboutin red topped with fanciful silver ornamental caps. The perfume inside. Want a faux-oud? You have two choices Loubicroc or Loubicrown. Want a rose fruity floral? Choose from Loubidoo or Loubifunk. As boring a white floral as you can imagine? Loubikiss will make you yawn. Loubiraj is the functional lipstick iris. Despite my collective shoulder shrug I did find one which wasn’t bad, Christian Louboutin Loubirouge.

Marie Salamagne

Perfumer Marie Salamagne is behind Loubirouge. Probably why I like it more than the others is it falls into the floral gourmand trend which hasn’t been repeated incessantly into meaninglessness. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing unusual in the way the perfume is built. It is just a good example in a perfume style that isn’t played out.

It opens with that green cardamom which has a nice combination of the citrus and herbal. Some coriander gives a hint of woodiness. Iris comes with its rooty and powdery aspects on display. It is the former which merges with a rich vanilla to form a tasty gourmand accord. Leather surrounds that with a reminder of exactly what the designer makes. Eventually the monolith of ambrox sweeps it all away.

Loubirouge has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

For a perfume line based on one of the most iconic shoe designers Loubirouge is the only one to have just a hint of leather in it. Someday a marketer is going to have to explain to me why these kinds of decisions are made. As you shop this Holiday season these bottles are going to undoubtedly catch your eye. Just think of them as ornaments for your dresser. If you must buy one to wear Loubirouge is your best option.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Juliette Has a Gun Musc Invisible- A Real Clean and Fresh

When I first started writing about perfume, I was not a fan of white musk. It too often acted like the fragrance equivalent of nails across a blackboard. It would always irritate me to have it show up later in a perfume I was otherwise enjoying. My attitude would change as perfumers found new dimensions for these ingredients. While I found a single white musk unpleasant it turns out that more was better. Recent compositions have learned to layer these ingredients in a way which takes them from discordant to pleasantly soft. Juliette Has a Gun Musc Invisible is one of these.

Romano Ricci

Another term for white musk is laundry musk. It is because these types of ingredients come from the fragrances added to laundry detergents. They have the tendency to capture that freshly cleaned scent of cotton perfectly. Romano Ricci chooses to make Musc Invisible that style with a jasmine fabric softener along for the ride.

Musc Invisible is a linear fragrance, it all comes together rapidly and lingers for hours. It is a simple note list of jasmine, cotton flower, and white musk. The cotton flower provides the fabric which has a kind of starched quality. The white musk and the jasmine provide the freshly cleaned aspect. Even though this is a laundry musk it is not soapy. It is the epitome of clean so many perfumes attempt to find. Musc Invisible inhabits that with ease. The jasmine is one of the indole-free synthetics. Which is why I think of fabric softener. As it comes together it is a favorite white t-shirt which you take off the clothesline just as it has finished drying. Musc Invisible is what it smells like as you pull it over your head.

Musc Invisible has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

There are few perfumes which are as easy wearing as this. Some of it is because of the familiarity we all have with the scent of clean laundry. I also think it is the simplicity of a real clean and fresh which truly makes this stand out.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Molton Brown Juniper Jazz- Chilled but Not Frozen

Despite having grown up in Florida I have come to enjoy the bite of winter. There is always a moment as the days become shorter where the air seems pregnant with ice crystals. I’m not talking about snow. There is a climate condition where I can smell the amount of ambient water in the air right on the edge of freezing. Mrs. C laughs at me because I describe this as “chilled but not frozen”. It is a cold with purity. Molton Brown Juniper Jazz also shares that quality.

Nathalie Koobus

According to the press release Juniper Jazz is inspired by the 1920 Galaxy Ball. This was a London Holiday Gala where the décor and fashion was silver while the jazz flowed as freely as the gin. I could describe this based on that because it is a silvery gin-based perfume. Except perfumer Nathalie Koobus also finds a chill to the entire fragrance which is even more appealing.

That comes through a metallic accord which smells the way I think cold metal does. Mint is used to add a bit of frost over the drier coolness. The juniper berry provides the callback to the gin the designers desired. I found it to be an alcoholic iciness to complete the supercooled top accord. Over the top of this a light powdery iris snowfall adds a light coating. It is as if snowflakes of powder drift in lazy swirls over a crystalline icy surface. It goes a bit warmer as sandalwood comes to form the base before a whoosh of white musks bring back the ice.

Juniper Jazz has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Juniper Jazz is a cool perfume in every meaning of that adjective. The frozen effect that winds through this is really compelling. It’s because Mme Koobus is able to impart her own interpretation of chilled but not frozen.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Abel Cyan Nori- Ambrette Roll

One of my favorite winter soups is a potato and nori combination soaked in garlic and ginger. During preparation when I open the package of nori, I bring it to my nose to sniff. The vegetal musky briny odor which comes from the bag is satisfying. I’ve never thought to experience it in a perfume until I received my sample of Abel Cyan Nori.

Frances Shoemack

Abel is one of the best new perfume lines to spring up in the last few years. Founder and creative director Frances Shoemack have worked exclusively with perfumer Isaac Sinclair since 2016. Their ethos is to work only with natural ingredients. From the beginning they have created a brand aesthetic which has shown off the best of what all-natural perfumery can be. Mr. Sinclair is another of the rare creatives who can extract the hidden power of the ingredients he chooses. What makes them more laudable is they are thoroughly modern in aesthetic. Cyan Nori might be the pinnacle of both.

Isaac Sinclair

In the press release they talk a lot about using a plant derived musk. Longtime readers and perfume lovers know about ambrette seed because it is an amazing source of musk. Ms. Shoemack and Mr. Sinclair don’t skimp on its use in Cyan Nori. It is the linchpin to something special.

It begins with a fruity duet of tangerine and peach. This bursts off my skin with a fresh energy. With most fruity top accords they weight too heavily for my taste. This one is at just the right level. Now is when the ambrette comes in. This source of musk has just a hint of the hibiscus flower it is harvested from when used at this concentration. It adds a subtle floral to the fruits until the muskiness takes over. This is not that furry growling animalic musk. This is a sleeker version with vegetal facets. Which sets up nicely for the seaweed in the base. The ambrette seems tailor-made to go with it. There is a briny part to go along with the glistening green. This is all kept at a pleasant level throughout as the nori wraps the ambrette in a perfumed sushi roll.

Cyan Nori has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

The precision of ingredients used by Mr. Sinclair is remarkable. There is an excellent balance achieved the entire way. I also keep returning to just how pleasant it is to wear this. It might be because it reminds me of one of my favorite recipes. It is more likely because it is refreshingly unique.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Eau D’Italie Jasmine Leather- Saddle Up with Flowers

My mind is an unruly accrual of odd information. The worst part of it is I don’t remember where my tidbits come from. There are times I feel like I am relating something I read in a novel instead of non-fiction. This applies to what I write next. I heard that early leather workers would use crushed flowers to soften their products. Is this true? I can’t find a confirming source on the internet. Is it in a piece of fiction? I am long past remembering that. It is a description which has stayed with me. It is also something I would think could be a great perfume. Eau d’Italie Jasmine Leather produces something like what I think it might smell like.

Sebastian Alvarez Murena and Marine Sersale

Husband and wife Sebastian Alvarez Murena and Marina Sersale were also thinking of the past when they began this. The press release mentions the habit of Renaissance women scenting their leather gloves with flowers. This is a fact confirmed by histories. Working with perfume Amandine Clerc-Marie that was what they wanted. I get the inspiration, but the leather here seems sturdier than glove leather. I couldn’t get out of my head that it was closer to boot or saddle leather. It is a subtle difference, but I think the resulting perfume is better for the added intensity of the leather.

Amandine Clerc-Marie

Both named notes are apparent right from the start. For a short period of time the jasmine is on top. Elemi adds in its citrus-tinted complement. As the jasmine is rubbed into the leather accord it becomes the leader. Saffron adds a burnishing effect to the leather. This is what keeps the leather accord from becoming a more refined glove leather. It keeps it just a notch or two away from that. Mme Clerc-Marie further deepens the leather through patchouli until a clean cedar adds in the final piece.

Jasmine Leather has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This lived up to what I believe my imaginary floral rubbed leather might smell like. The reality of Jasmine Leather is I am happy to swing into a saddle scented with jasmine.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Eau D’Italie.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bogue Douleur!2- Risk as Reward

Blessed are the risk takers. The corollary to that is “damned are the risk takers”. If you decide to create a challenging perfume you are putting yourself on a high wire without a net. I always admire the effort. Last year one set of risk takers who were blessed were perfume Antonio Gardoni who collaborated with Freddie Albrighton on Bogue Douleur! It was an edgy homage to the ingredient rose oxide. They are back to further explore that ingredient in Bogue Douleur!2.

Antonio Gardoni

Last year the first release by these two surprised me because it went in different directions than I expected. This time around some of what the two creatives enjoy most find a place in the sequel.

Freddie Albrighton

While Sig. Gardoni and Mr. Albrighton like certain ingredients some of them are problematic for me. a year ago I likened the opening of Douleur! to chewing tin foil. In Douleur!2 the opening is tough for me again. It is a mixture of a watery vegetal ingredient along with mint, tea tree oil, and something which smells like low tide. There is “oyster” listed as a note, so I am guessing this is it. This forms a miasmatic accord that was tough to work through.  This is as if the mint and tea tree oil are camouflage for decaying things. I kept thinking of a bottle of tea tree mint air freshener sprayed over the tidal flats after the sun has decayed what has left behind.

Last time I wanted something to take over from the rose oxide. This time the rose oxide was a lifeline. It is met with a synthetic white floral. Over the final phases Douleur!2 takes on the appearance of a vintage-like base with a mix of animalics and resins. The rose oxide is what keeps this from going fully in that direction. The metallic nature ensures it.

Douleur!2 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This time around the opening accord was more difficult for me to put behind me. It colors my overall feeling about this. I do think the composition and risks taken make sense given the design. This is a perfume that I believe achieves what these two wanted. Which is why it is a fantastic artistic achievement worthy of praise. Just don’t ask me to wear it again.

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

Mark Behnke