New Perfume Review Ellis Brooklyn Bee- Compelling “Clean”

One thing I have missed over the last year are my visits to the mall to torture the sales associates when asking them to define one of their buzzwords. Prior to the pandemic the responses I received when I asked them to tell me what makes a “clean” beauty product were priceless. One way I know a word is all-hype no substance is the people selling it can’t explain it succinctly. They expect the consumer to imprint their belief of what the word means on to it. That way they make a sale without any fuss.

It doesn’t mean there isn’t a concept there. For those trying to make a “clean” product it has more to do with removing some of the ingredients in perfume which are seen as problematic. As a disclaimer, there isn’t any compelling clinical evidence that any of these supposed bad players have a health effect. Cynically it is used as a marketing ploy. Recently I’ve been asked to comment on this “clean” trend. After giving any questioner the same introduction I just gave, I recognized something. I do think there are a precious few brands who are trying to create good perfume within these boundaries. One of them is the brand founded by Bee Shapiro called Ellis Brooklyn. The newest release Ellis Brooklyn Bee is a departure from the previous releases.

Bee Shapiro

If there is a commonality to fragrance in this space it is they are also part of the transparency trend. That also isn’t on face value a bad thing. I have enjoyed the earlier releases from the brand because they seemingly have an aesthetic, which they are working with despite latching on to trends. When I saw the press release for Bee, I expected this was named after the founder. I didn’t expect them to try a honey perfume. Trying to make that transparent is difficult. When I got the sample it turns out that it is a honey focused fragrance and is a lot less transparent than the other releases. I had to recalibrate my expectations.

That new perspective comes with the first moments as a boozy rum accord and honey present themselves. Given this blind I would never guess this as part of this brand. The early moments are a sweet alcoholic buzz with some presence. If you adore the brand for the transparency you will need to brace yourself for the first phase to settle down. Once it does a well-curated selection of supporting ingredients add to the two central ingredients. The spicy heat of cinnamon fizzes across the rum and honey. A grainy bran absolute adds a wildflower texture to the honey and a distillery vibe to the rum. A dusting of cocoa absolute moves it deeper into chocolate-like gourmand territory. An austere synthetic sandalwood provides the base.

Bee has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Besides being a few notches less transparent this is also the closest wearing Ellis Brooklyn perfume. I’ve been wearing it as winter just doesn’t want to let spring take over. It was ideal for this shoulder season. It is also an example of how “clean” doesn’t have to equate with cynical it can also be compelling, in the right hands.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ellis Brooklyn Salt- Twilight Surf Casting

My childhood in South Florida contained many simple pleasures. One of my favorites was biking to my secret fishing spot on a secluded beach. I would try to be in place about an hour before sunset. Which meant I had to get on my bike an hour prior to that. Every fisherman has their special place. Mine was on the back side of Key Biscayne. It was secluded because I had to hike out into the water to get around some of the thicker foliage to find the beach again. It was a place to go when you wanted solitude. Or as I figured out a place for couples to enjoy themselves. I ran into more than a few of those wearing smiles heading home as I headed for my spot.

Surf casting consists of taking advantage of the feeding schools of fish just offshore. With an extra-long rod I would get a running start and with a two-handed technique fling my line out beyond the breakers. It was typically good fishing where I would get a nice size mackerel or two.

Bee Shapiro

While waiting for a bite as the day cooled there were night-blooming flowers which grew at the edge of the sand. The sun was behind me so I couldn’t see it on the horizon. The way I tracked time was the increase in the floral scent as I would sit on a chunk of driftwood. I hadn’t thought of this for years until I received my sample of Ellis Brooklyn Salt.

Bee Shapiro has been overseeing one of the best new brands. Her aesthetic is simple which she has turned into some of the better examples of the current transparent perfume trend. Salt is another extension of that.

When I see a perfume called Salt, I am expecting aquatic. When I sprayed it the first time, I was surprised at the white flowers which came first. Tiare and magnolia are given support through ylang-ylang. A bit of violet leaf gives a hint of green. The white flowers sparkle while the ylang-ylang adds a tropical fruit undertone as banana and coconut seem to come from it. It ends on a mixture of sandalwood and ambergris capturing the driftwood and brine of my fishing spot.

Salt has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I have been looking for a new weekend morning running errands scent. I view these as the equivalent of jeans, t-shirt and flips. Salt is a wonderfully easy-going fragrance I think it is going to be accompanying on my current fishing expeditions….at the fish market.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ellis Brooklyn West- Summer Cooler

One of the trends of the last year or so which I have been happy to see is the mass-market perfume executed with niche independence. What I mean by that is there are a few brands which are being distributed at the mall which have partnered with top perfumers and allowed them some freedom to create. The results of this has been some very good perfume; Ellis Brooklyn West is a good example.

Bee Shapiro

Ellis Brooklyn was founded by Bee Shapiro who is a beauty editor at The New York Times. In that position she must have had an insight on where she could create a different mass-market fragrance. Over the last two years the perfume she has produced has borne that out. Ms. Shapiro has made her own space in a crowded marketplace.

Jerome Epinette

For West the press release trumpets this as the “first citrus” for Ellis Brooklyn. I could quibble with that because citrus ingredients have played a prominent role in previous releases. What this translates to me is West is the first summer style of perfume for the brand.

Perfumer Jerome Epinette uses some interesting ingredients to form West. It starts right at the top with the choice of blood orange. Blood orange has been having a moment this summer as I’ve encountered it a few times so far this year. A big reason for that might be because it carries a less exuberant effect than orange. There is a slight bitterness underneath the pulpy sweetness. M. Epinette uses basil to give that an herbal veil. In the heart he employs water lily as a dewy floral to give that refreshing quality of misted water. The base is the fresh green of vetiver warmed with a touch of amber.

West has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

West is one of those perfect beach bag perfumes to take on a summer weekend away. It is the kind of perfume companion which adds to the pleasure of taking some time off. I will be putting a sample of this in my perfume fridge as a summer cooler for the upcoming ravages of midsummer.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ellis Brooklyn Fawn- Summer Sun Dress

During the summer there are few things more attractive that a tan young woman in a sun dress. The simplicity of the sun dress. The expanse of bronze skin. Sun bleached hair. The smile made carefree by being free of responsibility. When I was a young man many summer evenings were spent in the company of women like this. It was what being young was all about. Even thinking about from forty years later I can see some of them in my mind’s eye. As often happens it is a perfume which triggered the reminiscence. This time it came from Ellis Brooklyn Fawn.

Bee Shapiro

Ellis Brooklyn is the brand founded by Bee Shapiro in 2016. Over the course of 2017 through the releases of Rives and Sci-Fi Ms. Shapiro refined the brand aesthetic. Ellis Brooklyn has become one of the new brands I want to keep an eye on because I believe in the potential I see.

Pascal Gaurin

For Fawn Ms. Shapiro collaborates with perfumer Pascal Gaurin. They wanted to create a summer perfume focused on summertime fun. They produce something which is all of that.

Fawn opens with a sturdy neroli at the center of the top accord. Bergamot teases out the citrus quality through the early going. It gets more floral as lily of the valley picks up on both the green and floral characteristics. M. Gaurin then adds in the suntan lotion staple of coconut. It comes in as the remains of the day’s application; transparent and light. The neroli is on top. Vanilla significantly sweetens the coconut along with a musk accord of warm skin. I enjoy immensely when this kind of skin musk appears in a perfume like Fawn. M. Gaurin has designed one which also carries a hint of soap to it. It all comes together in a beautiful overall accord.

Fawn has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I have received a number of summer perfumes this year which are meant for that time after the sun goes down. Ellis Brooklyn Fawn is among the best of them.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Sephora.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ellis Brooklyn Sci Fi- Amazing Stories

I think often of how the genre of science fiction has matured over the one hundred-odd years it has been around. In its earliest days it was almost entirely literary. It was also almost entirely short stories. This was the fuel of the magazines like “Amazing Stories”. Many of the greatest authors within the genre would start by publishing short form science fiction in a magazine. In the current times it has morphed into multiple websites allowing aspiring writers of the fantastical the opportunity to dazzle with fewer words than a novel. I am one who enjoys this kind of economical storytelling. It gets in, does its thing, and moves on. A perfume inspired by all of this, Ellis Brooklyn Sci Fi, feels like its own version of something found in Amazing Stories.

Bee Shapiro

Ellis Brooklyn is one of the best new perfume brands of the last year. Bee Shapiro founded it in 2016 and in 2017 really stepped things up. The early release Rives was a fantastic classic fougere. Sci Fi was the end of year release and it is also excellent. Ms. Shapiro is a beauty writer at the New York Times and, at some point, she must have crossed paths with perfumer Jerome Epinette. However they teamed up M. Epinette has been an ideal partner for Ms. Shapiro. Sci Fi is another example of it.

Jerome Epinette

So far for his work on Ellis Brooklyn M. Epinette works by framing a strong central note within a frame of notes which allow it to expand only within the confines of that frame. The keynote for Sci Fi is vanilla which is framed by citrus, green tea, freesia, and cedar.

Sci Fi opens with a tart citrus accord where the bitter orange nature of bergamot is enhanced. I admit I was expecting the vanilla to rise to form a creamsicle kind of feel. Instead M. Epinette adds the other two legs of his frame as a transparent green tea and fresh floral freesia flank the citrus. Then the vanilla comes forward and interacts with all three simultaneously. Taking what could have been a nondescript orange vanilla perfume into something with verve, from the tea and freesia energizing it beyond that. A synthetic cedar closes the frame providing a clean woodiness for the previous accord to rest upon.

Sci Fi has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am again impressed at the work Ms. Shapiro and M. Epinette are producing. While Sci Fi might not seem futuristic it is an Amazing Story of how to do excellent perfume.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ellis Brooklyn Rives- Framing Lavender

Going fragrance shopping at the mall used to be a terribly depressing experience. It seemed like all the fragrance counters were covered in the same brands and bottles. Sometime in the last couple of years something changed and a few of the stores decided to strike out in a different direction. One of those stores is Sephora. Just about three years ago they expanded by adding in some carefully curated well-known niche brands. This has been followed with expansion into some equally well-chosen independent brands. I don’t know for sure who is doing the selection but that person, or persons, deserves a round of applause. I receive a quarterly box of samples from Sephora. It is one of my most eagerly awaited arrivals because there seem to be new discoveries within, every three months. In my midsummer box one of those discoveries was the new brand Ellis Brooklyn.

Bee Shapiro

Ellis Brooklyn was founded about a year ago by New York Times beauty writer Bee Shapiro. As a professional she had a deep knowledge of whom she might like to work with on her perfume line. She probably couldn’t have made a better choice than perfumer Jerome Epinette. One reason for that is M. Epinette is perhaps the best perfumer to help build a distinctive brand aesthetic. Ms. Shapiro wanted her line to be “fresh”. Fresh can be one of those descriptors which has become sort of meaningless because of its overuse. What I can say through the first five Ellis Brooklyn releases is Ms. Shapiro and M. Epinette have a better understanding of the word than most.

Jerome Epinette

Fable crackles with green floral energy and woods. Myth does the same with white flowers. Raven takes rhubarb and patchouli without becoming weighted down. Rrose is a crisp vanilla rose which seems like it shouldn’t ever come together, but it does. I have liked all of these but it is the newest release Rives I have fallen for.

Rives is a fresh fougere in what is becoming the Ellis Brooklyn style. What I mean by that is M. Epinette draws distinct boundaries with specific notes to allow other ingredients to expand within. For a crisp fougere the expansive ingredient will be lavender. The four sides of the frame to contain it are petitgrain, neroli, cashmeran, and a suede leather accord. The lavender pushes up against the neroli and petitgrain in a typical fougere opening phase. It gets less typical as the opaque suede accord arrives. As with Rrose and the vanilla the leather is something which could weigh everything down. M. Epinette manages to make these heavier notes retain their strength without overwhelming. The cashmeran is its characteristic blond woody self as the frame around the lavender snaps into place.

Rives has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I recently took someone on a perfume sniffing trip to the mall. I was excited to take someone who is just discovering the wide world beyond the department store into Sephora. She went home with a bag of samples. The one bottle she bought was Ellis Brooklyn Rives. Ms. Shapiro has provided yet another reason why fragrance shopping in the mall is much less of a wasteland.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Sephora.

Mark Behnke