Discount Diamonds: Hugo Boss Deep Red- The Simple Gingerbread

I love gingerbread; it is one of my favorite parts of the Holidays. It was one of the first My Favorite Things columns I did after starting Colognoisseur. All the ones I chose were higher priced brands. I received an e-mail a year later asking if there was a less expensive gingerbread perfume choice. Because I enjoy the scent, I have a lot of them. I looked at the shelf where they are all clustered and I noticed a tall red bottle that I thought might fit the bill. It is a great choice for a Discount Diamonds column at the beginning of the Season. That fragrance is Hugo Boss Deep Red.

Of course large perfume brands being large perfume brands Deep Red was released in the middle of the summer in 2001. It also came out when ginger was not as commonly used in perfumes, especially mainstream ones. A trio of perfumers Alain Astori, Nathalie Lorson, and Beatrice Piquet decided to take that ginger and transform it into gingerbread.

Deep Red has a seasonal feel right from the top accord. The perfumers take the rich tartness of blood orange and give it a more intense fruitiness via cassis and clementine. It is like that orange potpourri which scents many homes this time of year. The ginger appears first in its most recognizable energetic version. Ambrette adds in a subtle muskiness before the ginger gets folded into a gingerbread accord as vanilla and sandalwood make a soft gourmand base accord. It gets softer as cashmeran and musks form a pillowy foundation for it.

Deep Red has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Deep Red is available from most discounters for less than $25. If you are similar to me and want to be swathed in gingerbread; Deep Red offers a modest way to achieve that.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Hermes Elixir des Merveilles- Holidays with Jean-Claude

I have a whole set of perfumes I wear during the Holiday season of Thanksgiving through the New Year. This is the time of year which seems a natural fit for the gourmands in my collection to make their appearance. As I begin to sort them to the front of my shelves, I am reminded of those that helped define the genre in the early days. This year I looked at the tilted round bottle of Hermes Elixir des Merveilles and thought this might be a Holiday gourmand that flies Under the Radar.

Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena spent over ten years as in-house perfumer at Hermes. His earliest creations of the first Hermessences, the first two “Un Jardins” and Terre D’Hermes would set the aesthetic which would be refined throughout his tenure. Tucked in this same time period is Elixir des Merveilles. It never felt like part of that minimalist aesthetic. As a guess it always felt to me as if it was M. Ellena’s response to the bombast of the alpha gourmand; Thierry Mugler Angel. While Elixir des Merveilles doesn’t get quite as transparent as the other perfumes M. Ellena made for Hermes it is more than a few notches less effusive than Angel.

Jean-Claude Ellena

The original Eau des Merveilles was an homage to ambergris. M. Ellena imagined Elixir des Merveilles to take that ambergris and float it on a chocolate ocean. Before we get there, a fabulous spiced orange accord begins things. Then the chocolate rises accompanied by warm balsamic notes, cedar, and ambergris. This is the amazing gourmand heart which engages me time after time. To give it that final Holiday twist M. Ellena creates a sugar cookie accord fresh from the oven.

Elixir des Merveilles has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I was thinking about writing this, I realized that while Elixir des Merveilles does not rise to the transparency of the current trend of gourmands it feels like a forerunner. I always facetiously imagine it is what the Holidays at Jean-Claude’s house must smell like. I’m sure I’m wrong but it is what the Holidays in Poodlesville smells like on the days I wear it.

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

Mark Behnke

Do You Want To Build A Perfume?

There have been several recent perfume vloggers moving from talking about perfume to making perfume. It is an interesting thing to watch as people so love perfume they want to participate beyond commentary. I think all the recent efforts have done things properly. Acting as creative director and not perfumer. They’ve all hired professional perfumers to collaborate with.

It is also a rewarding effort when your fragrance ideas connect with an audience. I know that Barbara Herman went from writing about vintage perfume on her blog to producing a fabulous collection which represents much of what she wrote about. Arielle Weinberg has also moved from her blog to shop owner to creative director. Her perfumes are recognizably extensions of her writing and experience behind the cash register. There are other success stories which point out that it isn’t a ridiculous idea.

While I look on in admiration for those who make this leap; I don’t want to do it. I feel a bit like Elsa in “Frozen” with people asking outside my closed door, “Do You Want to Build A Perfume?” It is an easy answer to say no.

The first reason is I don’t have a fantastic idea for a perfume. There isn’t something lacking in the fragrance world which I believe I have some unique perspective on. It is something I think is common to those who do take this step. They have something they want to express through fragrance based on their experience as a consumer/commentator. I once told a dear friend when asked about creating something, “I think I just want to sit and sniff.”

That’s the other big reason. I think if I tried to make a perfume, I would lose some of my enthusiasm for writing about it. Sitting at my computer sharing what I think I know about perfume gives me a great deal of joy; even after ten years of doing it. I always go to sleep at night with a sense of satisfaction that I have written a new post. I still find that every new perfume I receive adds more to my experience. I would hate to start looking at other perfumes as competition for my creations.

Which means when the world sings to me, “Do You Want To Build A Perfume?” I sit contentedly at my keyboard and reply, “No.”

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office Rochas Audace- A Quiet Chypre

In the history of modern perfumery perhaps the most influential outside event was World War II. Just as the great European perfume producers were hitting their stride everything changed. When peace was declared modern perfumery would be just another, albeit minor, thing which would need to be rebuilt. Of the brands which would make a mark post-war one would be Rochas with the release of Femme. It was one of the ways perfumery was able to say “I’m still standing”.

Femme would be the return to perfume for Rochas which prior to the war had sold three perfumes, Air Jeune, Avenue Matignon, and Audace. All three perfumes were never produced again after the war. Rochas would largely rely on Femme as the flagship fragrance for twenty-five years. By the late 1960’s Rochas wanted to get back into the fragrance game with attention getting perfumes. Monsieur Rochas and Eau de Rochas would signal that return. The perfume which was meant to cement it was the 1972 version of Audace.

Guy Robert

This version of Audace was not a reformulation as much as a reinterpretation by perfumer Guy Robert. The original Audace was said to be a full-bodied floral chypre. M. Robert, perhaps in a nod to changing trends, composed a version of Audace which I think of as a quiet chypre. This was the 1970’s so quiet is a relative term. If you were to compare Audace to the classic green chypres of twenty years earlier, it is much easier to see what I mean. Compare it to the modern chypres of today and quiet would probably not be the adjective which springs to mind. Even so I find the less extroverted style to be almost more engaging.

Audace opens on an acerbically green duet of juniper berry and pine needles. M. Robert finds a stained-glass effect of refracted light through these two ingredients. As the oakmoss rises so does a combination of florals headed by carnation. M. Robert uses a judicious amount of galbanum to extend the green effect from the top accord downward to join the oakmoss and the florals. The choice of the lightly spicy carnation gives the florals some ability to push back against the green without becoming overwhelming. Sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver and musk are all waiting for the oakmoss to complete the chypre base accord. M. Robert’s ability to keep this at a middle level of intensityis impressive.

Audace has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage in its extrait version. 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage in its Parfum de Toilette version.

Audace was released with great fanfare by Rochas in 1972. It spawned a dress and a hairstyle at the same time. It was removed from the market six short years later. It seemingly did not find an audience for its subtle beauty.

As I look back at Audace it makes me think about walking in to an imaginary party where all the mid-century chypres were there. As much as the more flamboyant extroverts draw the eye the quite elegant one on the edge of the circle is the one which makes the biggest impact by being the quiet chypre.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample of the extrait I received from a generous reader and a bottle of the Parfum de Toilette I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Paco Rabanne 1 Million- Seasonal Spice

This column is often dictated by my digging through the discount bins while Mrs. C is shopping elsewhere. While digging a few weeks a go I ran across some gold bars in the bin. Those bottles meant to look like gold ingots is Paco Rabanne 1 Million. Especially for this time of year it is a real Discount Diamond.

Paco Rabanne has been making perfume since 1969. Prior to the 2000’s those early perfumes were some of the best of their kind. After we entered the new century Paco Rabanne became a more aggressive mass-market fragrance producer. A pillar perfume followed by multiple flankers. While most of the flankers are easy to dismiss the pedigree of the brand shows up in the pillars. In 2008, 1 Million was the new pillar which illustrates the point. 1 Million was the fall release for the year. A team of three perfumers, Michel Gerard, Olivier Pescheux and Christophe Raynaud would combine for a rich Oriental style.  

1 Million opens with a chilled citrus accord composed of mandarin and spearmint. The mint is where the frost comes from. It is given a blast of spicy heat as cinnamon removes that icy coating. The cinnamon citrus accord is deep and satisfying. The perfumers then add in rose and leather. The leather is a soft driving glove type. It creates a trapezoid of animalic floral spicy citrus. This is where 1 Million smells as good as the name promises. It fades to a typical vanilla sweetened amber base accord.

1 Million has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

1 Million is the kind of fragrance that shines in the colder weather. It is versatile while adding a classic Oriental aesthetic to any dresser. If you come across a bottle in your local discount bin it is worth its weight in….well you know.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Knize Ten- My Old Leather Jacket

We’ve just had our first cold mornings here. Which means I reached into the closet for my leather jacket. I’ve owned it for over twenty years. I don’t remember exactly when I purchased it, but it is old and I’m happy it still fits. When I slip it on the first time two things always happen. I smile at the history that jacket and I have lived through. Then I walk back to the perfume collection and find my bottle of Knize Ten.

Knize Ten is the one of the original leather perfumes, created in 1925. Joseph Knize was a Viennese tailor who had royalty for clients. He wanted to offer a fragrance for his male clients which was not the typical floral constructs favored by the dandies of the day. He enlisted perfumers Vincent Roubert and Francois Coty to formulate that alternative. They landed on leather as the style of perfume they would create. This time in modern perfumery it was the birch tar laden Cuir de Russie-type leathers which were in vogue. Messrs. Roubert and Coty had a different vision while creating Knize Ten. What they made was a mannered leather fit for Hr. Knize’s clients.

Knize Ten opens with a bracing citrus focused top accord around petitgrain. The perfumers use tarragon and rosemary as herbal interrogators of the green within petitgrain. It turns decidedly spicy as cinnamon and clove enter the picture. All of this is prelude to the leather accord. At first it has a powdery effect enhanced by iris. It is an interesting part of the development. It seems like the perfumers maybe wanted to entice the dandies in with iris before unloading with a full leather. That full leather comes next. Early on I read someone’s description of this as the smell of an oil change in a garage. Every time I wear it, I see this. There is a greasiness to the early stages of the leather. It continues to intensify at the same time sandalwood arrives. As it settles in for the long haul it is the scent of my well-worn leather jacket.

Knize Ten has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

I have always considered Knize Ten as a timeless leather perfume. Almost one hundred years after it was first released it still holds up. Just like my leather jacket.

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

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Apple

One of the major scents of October for me is the smell of apples. I will be spending a lot of time in local orchards picking apples for use in making pies. When it comes to perfume apple is one of several fruits common to the fruity floral genre. For this edition of My Favorite Things here are five apple perfumes which fit in with my October activities.

I have been asked over the years for apple pie perfumes. Until 2015 my answer was Boss Bottled. After 2015 it was Boss Bottled Intense. In one of the rare occurrences where the flanker was much better than the original. Annick Menardo, who did the original, created a more fully rounded apple pie effect using orange blossom as a floral contrast that fits surprisingly well. I’ve been on a visit to the orchard and walked by someone who remarked, “ooh I can smell the pies out here.”

Another staple of the fall are caramel apples and there is a perfume for that too; Nina by Nina Ricci. This is a forerunner of the current floral gourmand trend as perfumers Jacques Cavallier and Olivier Cresp create a caramel apple central accord given a fresh floral contrast in peony. It is a little more substantial than the current transparent floral gourmands, but it makes it nice to wear in the fall.

When you just want your apples straight no pie spices or caramel covering. In that case DKNY Golden Delicious is for you. If there is a reason apple is a featured ingredient it is probably due to this DKNY Delicious collection. Each and every one features apple. Why I appreciate Golden Delicious is it captures the richness of the real thing. Perfumer Jean-Marc Chaillan puts the lush juicy apple out front and surrounds it with a bouquet of florals.

There are a few niche examples of apple perfumes both of which evoke apple pie in different ways.

Creed Spice & Wood uses apple as the crisp fruit in the top accord before delving into the spices. The lead spices are allspice and nutmeg. It reminds me of when the apples are all freshly sliced and tossed in the spice blend before being put in the pie shell.

Hermes Hermessence Ambre Narguile is another abstraction form perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena. It is a swirl of the steam rising from fresh baked apple pies. It is made more compelling because it is so transparent it is like you want to lean into the pie you think is nearby.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Kenneth Cole Mankind Legacy and Dior Sauvage Parfum

This month’s Flanker Round-Up I look at new releases from two masculine fragrance lines. One which has become a big seller and another which I consider to be an underappreciated mass-market gem.

Dior Sauvage Parfum

The original Dior Sauvage Eau de Toilette was released in the fall of 2015. It has become one of the perennial men’s fragrance best sellers ever since. Its appeal lies in the way perfumer Francois Demachy smooshed together most of the popular masculine perfume tropes into a monolithic whole. It works because there is something to appeal to everyone. The only thing I didn’t care for was the wall of Ambrox at the end of it all. With Sauvage Parfum M. Demachy remedies that.

Sauvage Parfum is a much sweeter fragrance without having that sledgehammer of Ambrox waiting at the end. A juicy mandarin and cardamom comprise a citrus top accord which moves toward a creamy sandalwood heart. This finishes with vanilla and cedar providing twin amplifiers of the sweet and woody aspects of the sandalwood. I can see Sauvage Parfum becoming an excellent winter alternative for fans of the original. It isn’t exactly the same, but it is recognizable as a kissing cousin.

Kenneth Cole Mankind Legacy

I think the Kenneth Cole Mankind series of perfumes is better than most of what is found on the men’s fragrance counter in the mall. In 2014 perfumer Claude Dir was ahead of the curve using some of the more contemporary men’s trends before they became trends. For Mankind Legacy perfumer Stephen Nilsen creates an herbal green woody fragrance.

It opens with a pairing of nutmeg and clary sage. The sweetness of the nutmeg is a nice contrast to the dry green of the sage. Baie rose and rosemary shade the herbal quality a bit deeper. A rich fir and cedar provide the woody foundation for a bridging vetiver to unite the herbs and the woods. I like Mankind Legacy as a weekend hiking kind of perfume. Almost feels like a flannel shirt should come as a gift with purchase.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds Nautica Voyage- Fall Aquatic

Ever since I moved away from S. Florida I have come to enjoy the northern beaches in the early fall. Gone are the sunscreen and fruity drinks. Instead I walk the boardwalks in a sweater while the ocean carries more weight. For the most part the aquatic genre of fragrance wants to trend towards the summer party than the dour days of fall. There are exceptions, Nautica Voyage is one of them.

Nautica is one of the better discount lines of perfume. There are more than a few interesting takes on the aquatic genre. I have happily picked up many Nautica bottles out of my local discount shop without disappointment. One of the reasons I think they do a better than average job is they use some of the best perfumers. They allow them to move in unique directions. For Voyage it is perfumer Maurice Roucel at the wheel.

Maurice Roucel

If you’ve spent time on a New England beach in autumn, you will know there is a deep green scent to it. M. Roucel captures that in the early going as he has a green accord match with what is listed as a “sailcloth accord”. It reminds me of the canvas awnings of the boardwalk shops as a stiff breeze fills them from off the water. Instead of the typical suspects to create the water-like accord M. Roucel uses lotus and mimosa. This is the grey swells of the ocean after the summer crowds have left. It is a weightier water scent. Voyage finishes on a warm amber accord with hints of the green from on top in cedar and moss.

Nautica Voyage has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Voyage is a nice iteration of a popular fresh aesthetic. M. Roucel makes it enough different without completely breaking with the form. We are headed to the beach next weekend for the first weekend of fall. Nautica Voyage will be in my overnight bag.

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

Mark Behnke

Book Review: Perfume Legends II by Michael Edwards

I was busy queuing up my Labor Day weekend binge viewing when a delivery truck arrived. Little did I know the next two weeks I would be binge reading what was in the box.

For perfume to be fully embraced as the art form I believe it to be we need to have the history of modern perfumery chronicled somewhere. I have always known it existed within the mind of Michael Edwards. Having had the fortune to hear him speak as well as spend time with him he has been the conduit to much of what I understand about the art of modern perfumery. I have spent hours listening to him and always left wanting more. He has now granted my wish by publishing “Perfume Legends II”.

Michael Edwards

If you are wondering where “Perfume Legends I” is you missed it, most likely. Mr Edwards published the first edition in 1996. It came out right as the independent niche perfume trends were arriving. Publishing “Perfume Legends II” twenty-three years later has allowed for the perspective of that growth of independent perfumery to also be included. All the content from the first edition has been further researched and elaborated upon. Along with the addition of the more recent legends.

“Perfume Legends II” covers the entire history of modern perfumery from the first modern perfume 1886’s “Fougere Royale” through to 2010’s “Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady”. Sandwiched in between are fifty more perfumes. Each chapter covers the time of when the perfume is released, the composition of the perfume, and the creation of the bottle as well as the reason it is a legend.

It is a remarkable collection of the history of perfume in one place. Each chapter feeds off what came before. It displays the evolution of perfume as a commercial product as well as a reflection of society. One of the most fascinating parts of the book was the history of the bottle. I have said many times I don’t care about the bottle just give me the perfume. After finishing the book I have a new appreciation for the container.

The most fascinating of these was the fraught creation of the bottle for YSL Opium in 1982. Bottle designer Pierre Dinand would be challenged to accommodate changes requested by Yves St. Laurent as they were nearing release. Once you read the story you will never look at a bottle of Opium the same way. It is true of most of the bottles written about. I still care more about the perfume but I have newfound respect for the bottle.

If there is a drawback it is that the volume is focused on French perfumes. It really isn’t one because Mr. Edwards is able to make his larger point within the smaller dataset. It also becomes less French and more global as the Legends reach the 1970’s and beyond because of the global reach of the brands.

I presume anyone reading this blog is a perfume lover. You need to put a copy of “Perfume Legends II” on your bookshelf. It will give you a deeper belief in the artistry behind modern perfumery.

Disclosure: this review is based on a copy provided by the publisher.

Mark Behnke