New Perfume Review D.S. & Durga Crystal Pistil- Exercise in Delicacy

I’ve been open about my disdain for layering. If a perfume isn’t good enough to stand on its own it isn’t good. If it needs to have something else sprayed over the top of it, that exposes the flaws in the original composition. It is why I’ve never reviewed a “layering kit” because it seems like brand laziness. The last couple of years have seen a new version of this where a perfume is designed to be a companion piece to any other perfume. My objections to that are the same as above. Which is why when I received the press release in advance of a sample of D.S. & Durga Crystal Pistil I was dismayed.

David Seth Moltz (l.) and Kavi Ahuja Moltz

The brand owned by married couple by Kavi Ahuja Moltz (Durga) and David Seth Moltz (D.S.) is one of the most eclectic collections I know of. They have run the gamut from very odd to crowd pleaser. In all of them Mr. Moltz has approached his perfumes with a quirky aplomb. That is why when I read Crystal Pistil was meant to be a perfume to add to other perfumes, I was disappointed. I should have remembered Mr. Moltz has a different way of seeing that kind of endeavor. The best thing about Crystal Pistil once I had it in my hands is, I guess it can be layered. What I found was a gorgeously transparent perfume which stood all on its own.

My initial impression was a strong reminder of the Florida Water I grew up with in S. Florida. Mr. Moltz uses a very light amount of orange blossom which he keeps from floating away by pairing it with baie rose. The herbal aspects of that keep the orange blossom from dissipating. This leaves it out there for an equally airy jasmine to join it. Paradisone is used to give a powerful jasmine effect at the same time it is kept light. This is surprisingly balanced especially with an ingredient as portent as Paradisone. Based on the press release this is where I expected this to end. There was a surprise waiting with a slightly less opaque animalic base. Using Civettone, ambrette, and white musks, an expansive deep musk accord floats at just a slightly heavier level than the orange blossom and jasmine.

Crystal Pistil has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

For those of you who layer I’m happy if you find a perfume this works with. It would be like chocolate sauce from a bottle on top of an elegant souffle for me. This is such an exercise in delicacy I wouldn’t want anything to diminish that. Crystal Pistil is more than good enough to be admired for what it is.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by DS & Durga.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Lazarus Douvos Rose 1845- Rose of Assurance

Every spring I am inundated with debutante rose style perfumes. Every spring I ask myself does every woman want to smell like a fresh-scrubbed youth? I guess there is an appeal to trying to be the blushing rose. I am bored to death of this style of fragrance. That I have to subject myself to another couple dozen every year seems ridiculous. Shouldn’t there be rose perfumes for that debutante who turned into a stylish woman? Something that sets her apart as a person of assuredness. Lazarus Douvos Rose 1845 seems to want to be that perfume.

Lazarus Douvos has been an internationally recognized hair stylist for years. He has designed his own line of haircare products that are just the basics. A little over a year ago Mr. Douvos decided to add a perfume to his line. Most of the time this results in a collection of multiple mediocrities. Mr. Douvos chose a different path by only concentrating on one perfume. The other great decision was to choose Christophe Laudamiel as his perfumer.

Lazarus Douvos (l.) and Christophe Laudamiel

According to the press materials Mr. Douvos introduced himself over social media. After five tries M. Laudamiel agreed to meet with him. One of the reasons I adore M. Laudamiel is his ability to identify and use new sources of perfume oils. It is only for an independent operator like Mr. Douvos that he is going to be allowed to use them. There is plenty of rose to be found here but it is two ingredients from Tasmania that give this rose something extra.

  1. Laudamiel uses the classic debutante rose from Grasse, Rose de Mai. Instead of letting that lead the way he adds in an equal amount of Bulgarian rose. That has a velvet-like texture which immediately shrouds the innocence of the Rose de Mai in something more grown-up. This is still a fresher rose accord. It just isn’t an insipid teenager. It is a rose of elegance. M. Laudamiel then adds Boronia from Tasmania. Boronia has a prismatic floral scent profile. Which means the part of it which smells like rose comes together with the rose. The other parts which have the scent of osmanthus and immortelle provide a rugged quality of animalic and subtle sweetness. Myrtle from Tasmania pulls it all together in a floral ribbon tying the accord off. The base is a subtle woody mixture of cedar, tonka bean, and benzoin. Each finding facets to ground the floral accord in a satisfying finish.

Rose 1845 has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage. This is a powerhouse perfume, a little goes a long way.

I’ve been talking about Rose 1845 in terms of a woman’s perspective. I think this could also be worn by a man who likes darker rose perfumes. It isn’t as dark as many rose fragrances marketed to men but it sure isn’t some airy rose either.

Mr. Douvos designed a rose perfume that isn’t for those debutantes, or the senior citizens. Rose 1845 is for a woman who knows who she is and how she got there.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by Lazarus Douvos.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Acqua di Parma Sakura- Cherry Blossoms at Dawn

Living in the Washington DC metro area this time of year means cherry blossoms. The entire city celebrates these harbingers of spring. Mrs. C and I visit every year but we like going in the odd hours when there are less crowds. I’ve written in the past about visiting the charry blossoms by the light of the moon. My other favorite time is at sunrise, as the sun crests the horizon making the delicate pink petals glow with light. Acqua di Parma Sakura reminds me of this.

Francois Demachy

Sakura is part of the 10-member collection called Signatures of the Sun released last fall. I previously reviewed Osmanthus when I received them. Perfumer Francois Demachy is the perfumer behind all of them. By seeing the single ingredient names you could be expecting soliflores. He has done something slightly different. The name on the bottle is the focus, he just chooses some back-up singers who also make their presence felt. Over the months I’ve had the collection it has impressed me for the delicacy of the compositions. Sakura is the best example of it.

The opening of Sakura is similar to all the other Signatures of the Sun fragrances; citrus as interpreted via Italian aesthetic. It has almost become the signature of Acqua di Parma. For Sakura M. Demachy employs a mandarin orange given a green herbal shading through baie rose. Citrus is easy to compare to sunlight. This is one of those accords as the orange is that glowing sun just on the horizon while the baie rose is reminiscent of the dewy grass. The cherry blossom accord at the heart of this is delicate given expansiveness through the support of jasmine. When you are amidst the cherry blossoms at dawn there always seems like a moment, as the sun’s rays hit them, they release their scent in greeting. That is what this smells like. A series of white musks continue to add an airiness to the overall effect throughout the remainder of its time.

Sakura has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I don’t know if they have cherry trees in Italy. If they do, I imagine this is what a Mediterranean Sakura smells like at dawn.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Pierre Guillaume Anti-Blues- The Bitter End

I think it is a given that most people wear perfume to make themselves smell good. The group of us who enjoy different fragrant thrills are a small population. One type I enjoy is one which embraces the bitter ingredients. Pierre Guillaume Anti-Blues is this type of fragrance.

Pierre Guillaume

Anti-Blues is the first entry in a new series by independent perfumer Pierre Guillaume called “Confidentiel”. The construction is inspired by the paintings of Jacques Monory who was known for his blue tinted photography. M Guillaume is looking for the same effect where he adds a chilly blue over the top of some bitter ingredients. The keynote to it all is a frankincense which adds bitter simultaneously.

The first bitter is chocolate. This is the smell of high quality dark chocolate. To keep it from being too austere some saffron adds warmth. Grapefruit finds the bitterness within the chocolate and pings it like a tuning fork of acidity. This is a fantastic top accord full of gourmand-like facets while also having a distinct cool to it. The frankincense then spears it. This is the silvery church incense full of sharp edges. It at first softens the chocolate before slicing it open to find a softer bitter chord within. Vetiver adds in a sharp green which continues the bitter theme. Only in the base is there some relief as tobacco and vanilla form a richly comforting effect.

Anti-Blues has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I guess I would classify Anti-Blues a gourmand because of the prominence of the chocolate. My only hesitation to do that is it has such a bitter vein throughout that it doesn’t seem as edible as other perfumes in this style. It reminds me of the upper end of the high cacao content chocolate that is inedible because of its strength. Anti-Blues captures that all the way to the bitter end.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Gum Tree Cabin- The Tree Whisperer

My favorite independent perfumers have different strengths. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is one of the best at working successfully across multiple genres. Even though I have many of her varied creations there are two styles where she connects with me. One is her Japanese inspired fragrances. So many of them are among my favorite perfumes from anyone. The other place she excels is in perfumes which celebrate trees as DSH Perfumes Gum Tree Cabin does.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Ms. Hurwitz watched the fires in Australia and wanted to help. Her response was to create Gum Tree Cabin with 30% of the proceeds to be donated to the “Fire Relief Fund for First Nation Communities”. Based on this she chose a uniquely Australian ingredient as the keynote, eucalyptus leaves. It results in a singular woody perfume.

It opens with an herbal green top accord. Ms. Hurwitz uses a Spanish lavender which tilts more to the herbal as the spine upon which to append rosemary and clary sage. It forms a sturdy framework for the eucalyptus leaf to take residence in. That eucalyptus leaf is not the Vicks Vapo-Rub scent you might be expecting. It is a softer leafier smell with mentholated underpinnings. I’m not sure if I’ve ever smelled it at this concentration prior to this. I found it invigorating on these early spring days. The eucalyptus leaf stays front and center while the woody walls of the cabin go up around it. Fir, cedar, and sandalwood make them up. The joints are filled in with birch tar, tree moss, and Choya ral. The last ingredient provides the rustic charm of a cabin as construction is compete.

Gum Tree Cabin has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

From a perfumer who has been so prolific I don’t think I’ve ever smelled a perfume quite like this from Ms. Hurwitz. It is a distinct woody perfume where she uses the eucalyptus leaf to stitch together the three most prominent woody ingredients in fragrance. As part of her previous portfolio of woody scents like The Voices of Trees or last year’s Colorado; Gum Tree Resin cements Ms. Hurwitz as The Tree Whisperer of independent perfumery.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Loewe Solo Mercurio- The New Team


When perfume brands make big changes, I am always curious to see how it plays out. To be fair it takes a few releases to really know. To be unfair, as I will be here, I overanalyze the first release looking for differences that probably will not be true over the long term. Which is how I came to my sample of Loewe Solo Mercurio.

Jonathan Anderson

Loewe is a luxury leather brand from Spain. They got into the fragrance game back in 1972. The brand has gone through several fluctuating fortunes. One thing they did right was to name an in-house perfumer. Since the beginning of the 2000’s it has been Emilio Valeros. He oversaw one of the better eras of Loewe fragrance making. It got better when creative director Jonathan Anderson took charge in 2013. Mr. Anderson was a hands-on creative director for fragrance which resulted in a more cohesive aesthetic.

Nuria Cruelles Borrull

At the end of last year Loewe changed their in-house perfumer to Nuria Cruelles Borrull. This could define a new aesthetic for Loewe under Mr. Anderson’s guidance. Solo Mercurio was going to give me my first data point. Based on it I think Sra. Cruelles Borrull likes to create fragrance as dualities. It is certainly the way this perfume unfolds. It forms a nice give-and-take on my skin highlighting these differences.

Solo Mercurio opens on two contrasting accords a citrus one formed around tangerine and orange blossom. And a green one around geranium, fig leaf, and cardamom. Sitting in between as an arbiter is lavender. The tangerine has a fulsome citrus effect. The lavender uses its sweet floral nature to bring it closer. On the other side the lavender’s herbal nature summons the creamy fig leaf, breezy cardamom, and green floral geranium. Then over time as if the spear of lavender rotates each strand around itself until both are wrapped around it. This is a fantastic spring accord. It has some heft to it for the chilly mornings while feeling appropriate once things get warm in the afternoon. I liked all this but Sra. Cruelles Borrull sold me with a licorice tinted tobacco base that had me smiling. It gives a classy foundation to the overall accord that came before.

Solo Mercurio has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Based on a single perfume I am hopeful for Sra. Cruelles Borrull and Mr. Anderson to form a new team which takes Loewe to some interesting spaces. Solo Mercurio is a great beginning.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Dolce & Gabbana Fruit Collection Lemon- Joan Jett Perfume

I have a weird category of perfume I call a “Joan Jett”. If you’re familiar with the rock singer from the 1980’s you probably know where I’m going. If you don’t; one of her big hits was the song “I Hate Myself for Loving You”. I receive so many perfumes to try, occasionally, one captures my attention when there is no good reason for it to do so. There is nothing new or different. There are probably better examples. I’ll probably forget about it six months from now. And yet, for right now, Dolce & Gabbana Fruit Collection Lemon has gone all Joan Jett on me.

Jerome Epinette

Just from the press release I expected to ignore the three fragrances which make up the Fruit Collection. Each one has a cap in the shape of the fruit that is featured. They look like the perfume you buy at the airport on the way home from your island vacation. The other two, Orange and Pineapple, were every bit as uninspiring as I expected. Then I started sniffing Lemon with a jaundiced eye. When I held the strip to my nose it wasn’t as boring as I feared. I put some on skin expecting it to flatten out. I kept smelling the patch of skin I had put it on, my cynicism lightening with each sniff.

“I hate myself for loving you.”

One reason I might like it is because of perfumer Jerome Epinette. He is one of my favorites. Except he also did Orange which wasn’t doing it for me. Maybe in the early weeks of March I wanted some sunshine after the winter. Except we haven’t had much of a winter here at Colognoisseur HQ.

“Can’t break free from the things that you do.”

I think what it was is M. Epinette has just formed a zingy lemon perfume where each ingredient is sharply defined. The lemon is focused through petitgrain. A CO2 extraction of ginger provides sharp contrast with added energy. A woody green Haitian vetiver is the final piece. It all just feels great to wear.

“I want to walk but I run back to you, that’s why”

Lemon has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

There are lots of lemon-ginger-vetiver perfumes to be found. I can’t exactly pin down why this one has been so much fun to wear. If you’re looking for a spring citrus maybe you can go all Joan Jett with me.

“I hate myself for loving you!”

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Dolce & Gabbana.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Isabey Prends-Moi- First Kiss

Lots of perfumes are inspired by the passion between two human beings. Of all the parts that go into that the one precious moment you only get once in any romance is the first kiss. It is a beautiful thing when two people look at each other. Each giving the other permission to come closer. As you close your eyes and your lips touch it is magic. You can understand the power of a kiss in so many fairy tales. Isabey Prends-Moi is a perfume which wants to capture that magic.

Luca Maffei (l.) and Rania Naim

Creative director Rania Naim has shown the ability to translate perfumes of the past into today. Almost everything she has done with Jacques Fath is testament to that. Prends-Moi is the update to the original released in the 1930’s. I have never smelled the vintage, but I suspect this modern incarnation to be significantly re-worked. Mme Naim worked with perfumer Luca Maffei to find a contemporary version for the name from the past.

Prends-Moi is a tuberose perfume. It is a type where the tuberose doesn’t go all out obliterating everything around it. Nor is it part of that transparent trend where the qualities of tuberose are nearly lost. Sig. Maffei finds a lovely middle ground for a perfume ingredient which represents carnality. As the keynote for a perfume trying to represent a first kiss it feels like it is at just the right volume.

In the early moments it is like our couple is holding hands. Raspberry represents one of our lovers; baie rose the other. The raspberry finds the fruitiness hiding under the herbal green nature of the baie rose. as the two come closer a nice bit of tension is formed. As they look at each other a breeze of citrus-y cardamom ruffles their hair. They start to move towards each other as passion rises. Tuberose steps forward along with rose and iris. The iris captures the smell of lipstick and powder as you get close just before you kiss. The tuberose rises in enveloping swirls amidst all of this. As they move back lingering in the magic of the moment, a dry cocoa and sweet sandalwood represent our two lovers holding hands again. They walk with a different feeling now that the first kiss has passed.

Prends-Moi has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

As one who enjoys the fulsome tuberose perfumes Prends-Moi is better because of the restraint. The tuberose never felt like it was taking over. Sig. Maffei found a way to strike the correct balance to be able to imagine someone whispering “prends-moi (take me)” as a tuberose perfume.

Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle provided by Isabey.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review 4160 Tuesdays Meet Me on the Corner- Deep Connections

Independent perfumer Sarah McCartney has captured specific places in many of her perfumes. Her latest release, 4160 Tuesdays Meet Me on the Corner, captures a time in olfactory amber.

Sarah McCartney

Ms. McCartney grew up in Newcastle, England during the 1970’s. Meet Me on the Corner is named after the 1971 song by the band Lindisfarne. The name is also meant to capture a day before we were all connected via our digital networks. Back then you hung out at a predetermined spot. I knew the general area my friends would be on any given night. If I was going to interact with them, I had to get to where they were. In Ms. McCartney’s case it was the corner by the local firehouse. In my case it was a couple of friend’s houses. It required you to be out in the world. It was a less-connected time but the connections that were made were deeper. Those friends I hung out with in the 70’s are still my friends over forty years later. At a guess I would assume the same is true for Ms. McCartney. That is why I found Meet Me on the Corner a perfume of deep connections.

Ms. McCartney mentions on her website that she wanted to start with the citrus chypre style of perfume popular in the day. That is a tricky thing to pull off today because you can’t use some of the key ingredients that were used back then. What happens in the hands of a talented perfumer is to take something like citrus chypre and modernize it.

It opens on an expansive opening of fresh lemon given a transparency via the jasmine of Hedione. This opening is all 2020. It is the current trend of opacity to a tee. The floral quality deepens through magnolia. It makes for a more substantial floral effect as the perfume moves backward to those 1970’s styles. It completes the trip when violet tints it purple as if under a black light causing the magnolia to glow. Now we are on the corner hanging out. Listening to music on the radio not our phones. The chypre accord straddles both time periods. Moss, patchouli, and sandalwood are the traditional components, but these are modern versions. It makes for a chypre which remembers the 70’s but lives in the present day.

As I wore Meet Me on the Corner I wasn’t so reminded of the 70’s as I was the current day. This is a modern chypre no matter the inspiration. I also was thinking of those friends who have lived through the years with me. We’ve changed into modern versions with hints of what we used to be still apparent. Meet Me on the Corner captures that ideally.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review OK Fine Fragrance VBO Double Vanilla Bourbon- Breaking Away

When I bake with vanilla extract, I am continually struck by how boozy the scent of the unadulterated stuff is. As I put in my tiny bit it always has smelled like I am adding some exotic liquor to my cookie batter. My favorite vanilla perfumes accentuate that; usually by using it in high doses. I received a sample set from a new independent brand, within it I found OK Fine Fragrance VBO Double Vanilla Bourbon is my kind of vanilla perfume.

Michael Simpson

OK Fine Fragrance is the independent brand begun by industry veterans Michael Simpson and Steve DeMercado. When you read their story on the website, they have an insouciant attitude of “let’s blow this mainstream perfume world and go do things we like”. In the middle of last year they released their first five fragrances under their new brand. Their unique take is to macerate their perfumes in the same oak barrels used to age wine or bourbon. That is more of a gimmick. The perfumes show what happens when a mainstream perfumer like Mr. DeMercado is given the chance to make fragrance without mass-market shackles. The collection succeeds because of that. These are perfumes which are not for the masses. They seem to be for those who want something more to their fragrance. VBO Double Vanilla Bourbon is a good example of this.

Steve DeMercado

VBO Double Vanilla Bourbon is a mixture of multiple vanilla sources. It creates an uber-vanilla accord where I pick up pieces of the vanilla ingredients I am familiar with. Because this is done in small-batch the vanilla used can be of the higher quality natural sources than the usual vanillin found in most commercial perfumes. That blending of the natural sources is apparent from the first moments. The other thing which appears immediately is a soft suede leather accord. The vanilla and the leather fall together in a compelling accord of animalic and sweet. Mr. DeMercado uses tonka bean as a modulator to find the sweet harmony, bringing it into unison. It is here where the weeks being aged in a barrel come forward. The bourbon comes forward as a smoky undercurrent which takes the vanilla to its inherently boozy places. This is where VBO lingers for hours.

VBO has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

When you look at the website Mr. Simpson and Mr. DeMercado want to give off the vibe of being outlaw perfumers. The entire collection feels like something else to me. Two perfume people who have always wanted to create beyond the boundaries of the mall. VBO and the other four OK Fine Fragrance perfumes achieve that.

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

Mark Behnke