New Perfume Review Amouage Love Mimosa- One More Step

Christopher Chong is one of the most innovative creative directors in perfumery. For the length of his tenure at Amouage he sought to define the edges of modern perfumery. It is why I eagerly await what is next for him. Until then we have his final two perfumes from Amouage to look forward to. The penultimate release Amouage Love Mimosa finds a perfume which embraces some of the most unique synthetic ingredients in combination with similarly versatile natural ingredients.

Christopher Chong

Love Mimosa is the final perfume in the Secret Garden collection. Through the first three releases I remarked on how it was the entryway to the wider Amouage aesthetic. Focusing on lilac, cherry blossom, and tuberose the first three were opulently designed florals carrying gourmand-y twists to match the floral keynote. Love Mimosa is not a floral gourmand instead perfumer Elise Benat was looking to highlight the synergy between some of the most dynamic synthetic ingredients and natural ingredients. Each phase of its development highlights this harmonic.

Elise Benat

The first phase matches violet leaf and the Calone analog Cascalone. Cascalone was developed by the chemists at Firmenich to remove the melon and low tide facets of the parent molecule. What is left behind is a purer sea spray effect. The violet leaf replaces the melon with a shimmering vegetal green piece of the top accord. This is a cool breeze off the ocean through the grass of the dunes. In the heart the mimosa shows up. In the early going some orris provides amplification to the powdery nature of mimosa. Mme Benat uses the expansiveness of the jasmine-on-steroids synthetic Paradisone to expand that powderiness into an opacity which allows the other half of mimosa to take precedence. That occurs as ylang-ylang brings out the richer slightly animalic quality buried underneath the powder. Ambrox is the synthetic in the base which acts as a late day sunbeam setting the mimosa aglow. The Ambrox is a catalyst to allow the deeper carnality of the mimosa to stand next to the powdery bubble created by the Paradisone.

Love Mimosa has  14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

If the first three Secret Garden scents were meant to entice someone into the Amouage aesthetic; Love mimosa asks them to step more fully into that. Love Mimosa doesn’t feel as much an introductory perfume but a place to go after that. The composition that Mme Benat achieves makes Love Mimosa an ideal fall floral. In one of his final statements, from his position at Amouage, Mr. Chong seems to ask you to come deeper into a different style of perfumery.

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

Mark Behnke

2019 First-Half Report

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I always like to look back at the first half of the perfume year every July. I enjoy trying to pick out the emerging trends and to give the best releases of the first half of the year some more love.

Christopher Chong

Before I get to that though the biggest news of the first six months of 2019 was the departure of Christopher Chong as Creative Director at Amouage. At this time it isn’t clear what that means for the brand or where Mr. Chong will eventually be making perfume again. If both resolve over the next six months those will probably be headlines for my end of year wrap-up.

I feel like I’ve found more new brands to be impressed with over these past six months. Maison Violet is a heritage brand doing it well. Chatillon Lux and the perfumer behind it, Shawn Maher, have an incredible collection already of which Lamplight Penance is one of the best of the year. Ryan Richmond Rich Mess was far from that description; it was a crazy thrill ride of a perfume.

A couple of brands followed up strong 2018’s with even better releases this year. Marc-Antoine Barrois Ganymede is a lightweight leather that I enjoy the more I wear it. Goldfield & Banks Velvet Splendour is a mimosa fragrance I have also spent a few summer days wearing.

There were two very limited editions, which sold out in hours, which are among the best of the year. Bogue 0,7738 is Antonio Gardoni at his best. Hans Hendley for American Perfumer Bloodline is an homage to the perfumer’s Texas heritage via a red cedar oil from his home.

Two brands which I haven’t heard from for awhile made impressive returns. Rubini Tambour Sacre re-assembled the creative team from the debut Fundamental. This time they found the sacred rhythm of excellent perfume. Dannielle Sergent took her Cognoscenti brand in a layered floral direction with Warrior Queen.

Finally there are three perfumes which are at the top of my list for the first half of 2019.

Hiram Green Lustre is a breathtaking rose soliflore on an all-natural palette.

Nishane Ani takes what you think you know about vanilla in perfume and evolves it.

Talc de IUNX is as good as it gets from Olivia Giacobetti. I’m always pleased to get something new from her this time I can’t forget about it.

The fall releases are starting to show up in my mailbox. Based on early returns I am expecting the last half to be as good or better than the first half of 2019.

As always thank you for reading.

Mark Behnke

What Comes Next at Amouage?

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For those of us who love perfume there was a significant bit of news earlier this month; Christopher Chong was leaving his post as Creative Director at Amouage. Over this past decade of top tier perfumery Amouage was right at the top of the list because of the artistic direction of Mr. Chong. His vision also helped to establish the ultra-luxe perfume sector. Amouage was worth the extra expense because there was extra effort going into making the perfumes. I’ve always thought Amouage was perfume made for those who really want to find artistry within smelling good. I will have more to say about Mr. Chong when I review his last (?) duo of perfumes for Amouage next week. What this column is about is what comes next at Amouage.

As of the end of June 2019 there has been no official announcement of a replacement for Mr. Chong at Amouage. We talk about the difficulty of replacing in-house perfumers but there are only a few brands where the vision was so strongly communicated from the creative director as at Amouage. Whomever would be asked to step into this post would find it very challenging to follow the decade of perfume Mr. Chong oversaw. Which means we might not see a replacement at all. Maybe Amouage stays with the collection they have and continue on. I think that would be fine.

My concern comes from another well-known ultra-luxe brand which went the cynical route; Clive Christian. For those who don’t know Clive Christian was purchased by EME Investments in 2016. They then proceeded to flood the market with new Clive Christian releases at the same price point. They dumped a torrent of mediocre to poor product with tenuous connections to the previous perfumes under the old regime. It killed everything Clive Christian represented as a brand. It would be a crime if the same thing happened to Amouage. If we had inflicted upon us Jubilation XXV Intense or Opus V Legere. It would do what happened to Clive Christian and destroy what Amouage stands for.

I have no special insight to know anything about the decisions made at Amouage. Which means everything above is pure speculation. What has me worried most is when a true artist leaves without any mention of what comes next. That’s where we are right now. Hopefully in the not too distant future we will hear what Amouage plans to do.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Opus XI- Orientalist Oud

One of the things I’ve enjoyed when looking at older paintings is these were the social media of the day. There were no photographs to convey what far-off lands and peoples looked like. Western civilization saw the rest of the world through the interpretations of a painter. One movement which began in fin de siècle 18th century is grouped as the Orientalist paintings. These were fascinating because there were artists who would make the arduous journey to the Middle East and paint from experience. Then there were others who would create from the tales told to them without ever leaving home. Creative director at Amouage Christopher Chong was interested in converting this dichotomy into a perfume; Opus XI.

Christopher Chong

In the press release he likens the Orientalists who never visited the country as the first example of “fake news”. How do you turn that into a perfume? The answer is you get perfumer Pierre Negrin to do the same trick with perhaps the most Middle Eastern perfume ingredient there is; oud.

Pierre Negrin

In perfumery there is an Orientalist separation of real oud and oud accord. Real oud speaks for itself. Oud accords represent themselves as “real” oud in many fragrances. Instead they are comprised of a few well-known ingredients which create an oud accord without ever using a drop of real oud. The purpose of making an accord is you don’t have to work around the more irascible qualities of the real thing. In Opus XI M. Negrin juxtaposes authentic oud with an oud accord.

Opus XI opens with the real oud as M. Negrin particularly enhances one of those difficult aspects of its scent. To do this he uses the unusual perfume ingredient of marjoram which has a soft green herbal-ness. It acts as a magnifier of the medicinal qualities of the real oud used in Opus XI. There is a richness to it while the medicinal effect is made prominent. Now that you’ve traveled to the real source M. Negrin then creates a parallel oud from styrax and a Firmenich exclusive Woodleather. The latter comes from a suite of recently synthesized molecules designed to have an oud-y scent profile. This is the real oud scrubbed of its problematic medicinal facets. Leaving behind a dry oud-like woodiness. To add back a metered amount of the rougher edges is where the styrax comes in. M. Negrin roughs up the Woodleather to a facsimile of the marjoram and real oud. What you get is a compelling perspective on oud as the two versions harmonize.

Opus XI has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’m not sure but this might be the shortest ingredient list for an Amouage perfume. It is no less interesting for that. The idea of having a discussion of Orientalism through perfume via oud is outstanding. I have spent many weeks enjoying and thinking about Opus XI. If you love oud this perfume is one you must try.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Imitation Woman and Imitation Man- Two Bites of The Big Apple in the 1970’s

I made my first trips to New York City in the 1970’s. I experienced a very different Big Apple. There was uptown and there was downtown. In between was the insanity of Times Square which was crammed with sex shops and porn theatres. You didn’t stop to take pictures bathed in neon back then. If you moved uptown there were the museums and upscale shopping. Downtown was the grungy counterpoint. The beginnings of punk rock were emerging in a place which embraced it. Moving between them was like traveling between two worlds. Anyone who experienced this carries an inward smile at how this has all been tamed with retconned history. While at the same time being turned into another roadside attraction. This was my experience as a young man.

Christopher Chong

The two new perfumes from Amouage, Imitation Woman and Imitation Man, are based on Creative Director Christopher Chong’s visit to New York City in the same time. It was the first time he would see snow. He observed the cultural melting pot as his family moved from uptown to downtown. In the press materials he says, “Imitation is a personal account of how one moment and one experience can alter a child’s perception of the world.” Working with perfumer Pierre Negrin for Imitation Woman and Leslie Girard for Imitation Man it fells like they encapsulate Mr. Chong’s reminiscence with two very different bites from The Big Apple circa the 1970’s

One thing about both perfumes is they function as a pair which felt to me as Uptown and Downtown. Except quite cleverly the perfumers made sure to put a little of the other in each. If Imitation Woman takes you to the Upper East Side it makes sure to thread a bit of the Bowery through it. The converse is true for Imitation Man.

Pierre Negrin

Imitation Woman opens on a blast of hairspray aldehydes over a floral trio of rose, orange blossom, and jasmine. It is the scent of perfectly coiffed society woman. Then M. Negrin sneaks in a bit of the Battery with a duet of licorice and blackcurrant bud. The latter is amplified to its sticky urine-like level while the licorice acts like a punk walking on Madison Avenue. It all returns to the wood paneled safety of sandalwood and patchouli.

There was a cocooned decadence which defined Uptown NYC in the 1970’s. It was over-the-top with no risk. Imitation Woman gets that as the exuberance is on display but within there is a reminder it isn’t as safe as you think.

Leslie Girard

Imitation Man is rough around the edges right away. Black pepper and nutmeg create a piquant reminder you aren’t Uptown anymore. You shrug your shoulders into your black leather jacket. Mme Girard infuses it with castoreum to make it seem like the snarl from any Punk waiting for a show in the Bowery. Then some of those Upper East Side “tourists” come slumming, trailing their floral smells of rose and powdery orris; trying to live life on the wild side for a night. The real scents of the area return with vetiver and patchouli leading the charge. Underneath it all is a simmering myrrh, a resinous bit of rebellion in progress.

At this point the Punks were just finding their footing as Downtown was about to put its Doc Martens footprint on the music scene. Imitation Man captures the burgeoning scene just before it is discovered.

I like both versions of Imitation, there is an authenticity which tracks with my memory of NYC in the 1970’s.

Disclosure: this review is based on press samples provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Figment Woman- Aria in the Key of Tuberose

Tuberose has been having a moment in perfumery over the last eighteen months. Most of those fragrances have concentrated on reining in the most boisterous of the white flowers. Finding ways to make it less extroverted to appeal to a wider swath of fragrance consumers. Thankfully Amouage operates under a different set of principles. Under the creative direction of Christopher Chong, the perfumes under his guidance do not want to be introverted. The ethos of the brand has almost been, “Where’s the line? Okay let me take one step over it.” It makes Amouage near the top as a brand which stands for a specific aesthetic. Figment Woman displays this using tuberose.

Christopher Chong

I was surprised that Figment Woman is only the fourth Amouage perfume to contain tuberose. The others are: Ubar, Opus I, and Honour Woman. In those tuberose is but a contributor. Figment Woman is all about the tuberose. Collaborating with perfumers Dorothee Piot and Karine Vinchon-Spehner; Mr. Chong has realized an aria in the key of tuberose.

Dorothee Piot

Using an opera term for known aficionado Mr. Chong is easy but when I wore Figment Woman it was the strong voice of tuberose which sings throughout the day. The perfumers have sourced a full spectrum tuberose allowing it all the room in the world to fill up. It is so overbearing if you spray it on paper that is all you will think is here. It isn’t until it was on my skin that I realized there were some supporting singers for that tuberose diva.

Karine Vinchon-Spehner

Upon first applying Figment Woman it is another white flower which provides the warm-up; gardenia. The perfumers choose to take the strong green thread within the gardenia and bracket it with saffron and Szechuan pepper. It provides an entry point for the diva to take the stage and with a deep breath she begins to sing; right from the top of her range. This is a gorgeous tuberose absolute that ripples with indolic energy. An array of other florals tune the effect as jasmine, orange blossom, and ylang-ylang provide some background vocals. Then the sticky green blackcurrant bud latches on to the green of the tuberose and elevates it. What is waiting to meet it is iris and papyrus. The orris makes it earthier while the papyrus provides a veil of green in a higher octave. It all ends as patchouli and incense provide a foundation.

Figment Woman has 24-hour longevity and above average sillage.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy the unfettered power of tuberose mainly because everyone seems to be running away from it. Thankfully Mr. Chong’s Amouage would rather provide a stage for tuberose to perform upon.

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

-Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Figment Man- Studying Serenity

There are several inspirations which crop up again and again in fragrance. One of the more common ones is the fictional city of Shangri-La from the 1933 book by James Hilton and the movie of the same name by director Frank Capra four years later. It is suggested that it is somewhere in the area adjacent to Tibet in the Kunlun Mountains. That’s from the book. There are many other places which claim to be the inspiration for Mr. Hilton. I am happy that there is no one earthly place which can be pinned down as the definitive source of Shangri-La. Shangri-La should always be a concept embracing the ability to find true serenity which doesn’t require a physical presence; the idea is enough.

Christopher Chong

Amouage creative director Christopher Chong recently visited Bhutan coming away with the inspiration for the latest duo of releases; Figment Man and Figment Woman. Don’t read “figment” as containing fig read it as figment of imagination. Much as seeing Shangri-La would be. I’ll be reviewing both but I’m going to start with Figment Man.

Annick Menardo

Mr. Chong collaborates with perfumer Annick Menardo for Figment Man. Figment Man is part of the “second cycle” of Amouage. Now that we have a few releases in this group there is beginning to be a developing aesthetic which seems to delight in developing large themes on a broad canvas. Some of this is the brand aesthetic of Amouage. Most of it is Mr. Chong’s desire to create fragrance with an operatic wingspan. I have been enjoying this overt style through the first few releases of the “second cycle”. Mme Menardo is fluent in this kind of design making her a good partner.

The nucleus of Figment Man is sandalwood. Sandalwood is one of those smells which I associate with meditation. It is the clean slightly sweet woody scent I use as my olfactory mantra as I breathe in and out in search of center. Mr. Chong and Mme Menardo are looking to make that search a bit more challenging. Requiring an inward examination of the air, the earth, and the body.

Figment Man opens with a cleansing breath of lemon, baie rose, and geranium. This is that deep breath on a cool morning you feel it all the way to the base of your soul. The sandalwood then appears holding the center; focusing my attention. Vetiver covers it with a grassy veil which takes my focus elsewhere. Then Mme Menardo uses what is described as an “animalic note”. It is surely not a single note but a mixture of modern synthetic musks. It resolves into a clean skin accord which brings me inward. Next, I am drawn in the opposite direction as Mme Menardo creates an “earthy accord” this is a wet soil accord carrying the after the rain quality of geosmin. It intertwines with the animalic forming a duet of earth and soul on a sandalwood focal point. This is a fabulous point in the development and where Figment Man spends most of its time on my skin. After many hours guaiac wood comes along to allow me to re-establish the woody focus I started with.

Figment Man has 24-hour longevity and above average sillage.

Figment Man is everything that I respect about the current version of Amouage. Mr. Chong directs his perfumer collaborators to push to the edges of what it means to design perfume. It means Amouage is nothing less than fascinating. Figment Man uses the idea of the fictional serenity of Shangri-La to ask a perfume lover to study their idea of what an olfactive version might entail. I might not find the mythical city but the reality of Figment Man will allow me to study serenity anytime I want.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Blossom Love- Come On In!

Amouage is one of my favorite perfume brands. Creative director Christopher Chong has made it the epitome of what artistic perfumery should aspire to. His visionary art direction has consistently taken risks. He has made Amouage stand for a particular exploratory place in the fragrance world. All that makes it a difficult brand to recommend because the collection is so unusual. Last year it seems like Mr. Chong also realized having a more welcoming entry point to the Amouage aesthetic would be helpful. The result was Lilac Love the first scent in the Secret Garden Collection. I thought Lilac Love succeeded in being a gentler version of the Amouage aesthetic more easily accessible. This has been borne out through the last year as I successfully recommended it many times with very positive feedback for doing so. Amouage has now expanded the Secret Garden Collection with Blossom Love.

Christopher Chong (photo: Ben Rayner)

As much as I complain about too many rose fragrance releases in the spring; in 2017 I received a few excellent cherry blossom focused new perfumes of which Blossom Love is one. Lilac Love was a floral gourmand composed of lilac accord, orris, and chocolate. The same perfumers, Elise Benat and Nathalie Lorson, repeat the floral gourmand style for Blossom Love. This time the trio of notes are a cherry blossom accord, amaretto accord, and vanilla.

Elise Benat

Most cherry blossom fragrances start gently but the perfumers open Blossom Love with a bit more volume. Their cherry blossom has depth provided by a syrupy rose which elegantly supports the gentle blossoms. It gives the early moments the presence familiar to Amouage fans without also adding in the also typical complexity. This is why I see Blossom Love as something more easily accessible as any perfume lover can just sink in to the cherry blossom without complexity getting in the way. Next the amaretto accord appears and it is more almond and less boozy than I expected. There is a subtle hint of alcohol but it is the sweet almond which arises to meet the cherry blossom. It is a soothing duet of ingredients kept at a moderate level; anymore and it would become cloying but the perfumers have pitched it correctly. Comforting vanilla bolstered by toasty tonka are the final part of Blossom Love. In the last hours, it has firmly become a cherry almond vanilla dessert fragrance.

Nathalie Lorson

Blossom Love has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I was already excited at the prospects of being able to use Lilac Love to introduce Amouage to perfume lovers. Blossom Love will be just as affable an introductory experience. Step into the entryway to one of the best perfume brands out there.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Bracken Woman- Mud Season

We are in mud season here in Poodlesville. The rains are moving through on schedule the trees are nearly full of leaves while the dead wood is being broken up to be burned in the fire pit. There is a smell to this time of the year. Mud is sharper than moist soil. Conversely the green is softer. Breaking up damp wood releases this wet woodiness. It is an odd accord and it is one which you might not expect to make a fragrance around. Amouage Bracken Woman shows there is a perfume within.

Christopher Chong

One of the reasons I have consistently enjoyed Christopher Chong’s creative direction for Amouage is this ability to find beauty from things like mud season. Mr. Chong is one of the premiere perfume creative directors because he truly does think “out of the box” followed by working with perfumers who bring that vision to fruition. For Bracken Woman he works with two of his more recent collaborators as Dorothee Piot and Karine Vinchon-Spehner return as the perfumers.

Dorothee Piot

Bracken Man which came out previously was a Fougere, capitalization intentional. Bracken Woman pulls back on the intensity while still providing an alternative interpretation of green. From a very green opening Bracken Woman segues through leather which in conjunction with some florals form a wet mud accord to my nose. Before ending with my damp wood by the fire pit.

Karine Vinchon-Spehner

The perfumers open with a much softer green opening reminiscent of new leaves. Galbanum, violet leaves, and fern form the green which have a pinch of berries to remind one of the early fruit growing on runners underneath the green. Early in the transition to the heart a smoky slightly unrefined leather accord sets the stage for the mud. Narcissus provides an indolic modulation which begins the transition from animalic to sharp earthiness. Lily adds back the green while chamomile attenuates the overall effect. The base is my favorite part of Bracken Woman as the perfumers use birch, vetiver, and patchouli to form a damp wood accord. When I am breaking up the dead branches there is an expansive woodiness form the particles being captured in the air which is contrasted by the heavy dampness of the large pieces I’m stacking up. The perfumers capture this as the birch evokes the solid wood while the vetiver is the airier woods. Patchouli adds a lighter version of wet earth for this final phase of Bracken Woman.

Bracken Woman has 24 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’ve had my sample of Bracken Woman for a couple of months. I was so intrigued by this “mud season” perfume I wanted to compare it to the actual thing. I also always enjoy spending extra time with an Amouage release; Bracken Woman was one which paid back that time. As for how close it is to the smells of my backyard right now; I am thrilled to have mud season all year round.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Lilac Love- Start Here!

It is always interesting to me to watch perfumers construct accords for that which they cannot extract from their real sources. As I’ve mentioned many times a leather accord can act almost as a signature as each perfumer will generate their own version slightly different than others. While I am a big fan of leather the other more common fragrance note which cannot be extracted easily, and in quantity, from nature is lilac. You might think that odd to hear since the tiny flowers have such projection and presence in nature. There have been many perfumers who have taken on creating a lilac accord for a perfume which would feature it. The most recent is Amouage Lilac Love.

Christopher-Chong-Amouage-Creative-Director

Christopher Chong

Amouage creative director Christopher Chong is usually a man who likes to probe the boundaries of what modern perfume can be. Lilac Love is not one of those fragrances. It is the most straightforward Amouage perfume, I think, ever. Lilac Love is a soft floral gourmand with nothing very surprising in the overall architecture. Despite saying this, it is undeniably an Amouage perfume but one which is also moving further towards a European aesthetic while leaving some of the Middle Eastern part of that equation behind.

nathalie-lorson-1

Nathalie Lorson

Mr. Chong worked with two perfumers, Elise Benat and Nathalie Lorson, on bringing Lilac Love to life. The lilac accord is fresh but with one key point of abstraction which is what gives it its brand identity. Chocolate and vanilla provide the gourmand part of the classification.

Feature-Photo-blog-Elise-Benat

Elise Benat

The perfumers choose a fascinating group of floral notes to construct their lilac accord: gardenia, heliotrope, jasmine, peony, and rose. This produces a slightly dewy version of lilac as all of these notes get into place over the first half an hour or so. Once they come together this is where you get the Amouage touch as a very powdery orris presents itself as it coats the lilac in a fine layer. While the powderiness is most apparent there is also a strong rhizomal nature also here and it is what connects to the chocolate which is now arriving. It adds an earthy element to the sweetness of the cocoa bean. That rootiness also connects to the patchouli in the base. Sandalwood and vanilla are the finishing notes and they work as expected; the vanilla adding more sweet to the chocolate while the sandalwood pulls the patchouli back from being quite as earthbound.

Lilac Love has 16-18 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I have said it in previous reviews Amouage is a perfume brand which is best appreciated by those who love experiencing perfume. Mr. Chong has overseen a brand which has never shied away from taking multiple risks. Lilac Love feels like it should be the perfume which is in every Amouage display having a little red arrow pointing to it which says, “Start Here!” It is a fantastic introductory scent into what Mr. Chong has developed while being something a more casual perfume lover can access. I would also mention that this is a lilac that will do well in colder temperatures because it is supported by so many other powerful notes. In other words, if you need a reason to wear, or try, an Amouage, “Start Here!”

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

Mark Behnke