Colognoisseur at Esxence 2014

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I am on my way to Milan to attend Esxence 2014 and Colognoisseur will be covering it from top to bottom. I will be posting a daily wrap-up of everything as I interact with many of the most prominent players in niche perfumery. Lots of new releases from old friends and the excitement of discovering something new make Esxence special.

You will find the streaming Esxence player here on Colognoisseur and it will be running daily from 5:30AM-1:30PM EST. You will see live coverage of the panels and in between interviews with the exhibitors and others.

I am particularly pleased to be interviewing Michael Edwards as we celebrate the 30th Edition of Fragances of the World.

Please check in daily from Thursday March 20-Sunday March 23 for my reports right here on Colognoisseur.

Here is the panel schedule (All time EST)

Thursday March 20. 2014

7:30AM Artistic Perfumery: on the Links between Art & Perfumery with Prof.Claus Noppeney, Bern University of theArts / Bern University of Applied Sciences

10:00AM Book Presentation IGiardini di Saffo by Prof. Giuseppe Squillace, Universita della Calabria

11:30AM Presentation Conversation about the Images with Mustafa Sabbagh interviewed by Ermano    Picco, LaGardeniaNellOcchiello.com

12:30PM Perfumed Cocktail Polysensorial journey inside the Perfumes of Edmond Roudnitska presented by Marika Vecchiattini,  BergamottoeBenzoino

Friday March 21, 2014

5:00AM Workshop- From Conflict Management to 'Pas de Deux': Towards a Harmonious Niche Fragrance Brand/Retail Interface- Chairman: Sarah Colton,ThePerfumeMagazine .com and Beauty Fashion Magazine.

7:30AM Workshop- Artistic Perfumery in Middle East (R)evolution Parfumee- Chairman: Alireza Khazal, LuxAssist  & Co

9:30AM Conference- The Chemistry in Perfume: Source of Creativity with Bernard Bourgeois, Osmotheque

11:30AM Lecture- Smells of Saudi Arabia with Nicola Pozzani, S Sense The Senses of Perfume

1:00PM Olfactory Tasting- Amarone: Smell and Taste the Great Red Italian Wine and its Perfumed Notes- Danilo Della Mura, Confraternita dell'Amarone and Stileltalia.tv

Saturday March 22, 2014

6:00AM Book Presentation- Michael Edwards – the Man behind Perfume Legends, Fragrances of the World and the Fragrance Wheel- Michael Edwards interviewed by Mark Behnke, Colognoisseur .com

7:30AM Workshop by Mouillettes & Co Olf'Evolution with Maria Grazia Fornasier and Emanuela Rupi

9:00AM Lecture- Scent Culture in East Asia with Chi Wai Tang, Fragrance Moment

10:30AM Presentation by Sultanate of Oman Tourism Office Fragrances and Myths of Arabia Felix:The Frankincense Route and the Roses Gardens with Wanda Benati, Nadia Bizzarro, Sara Cusma

12 Noon Presentation- Les Lignes de Parfumerie Alternatives Maisons de Luxe vs.Maisons de Niche- Carine Lanteri interviewed by Claudia Stagno, Export Magazine

Sunday March 23, 2014

5:30AM Tribute to Sandrine Videault with Michael Edwards, Saskia Havekes, Sabine Chabbert, Laurence Ferat and Silvio Levi

6:00AM Book Presentation- Parfums Rares- Sabine Chabbert and Laurence Ferat interviewed by Tessa Williams, Author, Cult Perfumes

9:00AM Contest -Award Ceremony-The Art of Scent

10:00AM Workshop by Mouillettes & Co Olf'Evolution with Maria Grazia Fornasier and Emanuela Rupi

New Perfume Review Neela Vermeire Creations Mohur Extrait- Love the One You’re With

One of the things that can be very difficult for a writer on perfume is when you get a sample and you are told to wait until it is released before writing about it. Last March, at Esxence in Milan, Neela Vermeire of Neela Vermeire Creations, spritzed a little of her more concentrated version of Mohur, simply called Mohur Extrait on the back of my hand. I was a big fan of the “rose in a fisted glove” intensity of the original Mohur Eau de Parfum where perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour took us through a spicy opening before rose and leather combined for that incongruous connection. As it goes with the best of extrait level versions M. Duchaufour doesn’t just up the volume with higher concentration he also varies the tune so Mohur Extrait is a much more intimate experience.

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Neela Vermeire

In the original EDP formulation the numerous ingredients all seemed very distinct and played their role to create a fantastic whole. In Mohur Extrait that is not the case. Now the carrot note is more prominent but as a modifier for the three rose sources used. In the EDP the spices breeze across the top leading to the rose. In the Extrait the rose is out in front with the carrot and it is very steadily changing on the periphery. The violet and the orris eventually take over turning things slightly powdery.

One of my favorite parts of the EDP was this almond milk accord M. Duchaufour uses which is sort of creamy and nutty at once. As in the EDP it is the bellwether to the arrival of the leather accord. One of the things about M. Duchaufour that has been fantastic to watch over the years has been his evolution of an accord. This leather accord he has been using recently is one of those where he has achieved a near perfect balance by itself and now depending on what it is paired with it feels like something new. If any single accord can be said to be a Bertrand Duchaufour signature this leather accord would have to be in the discussion. For Mohur Extrait it is very prominent and together the “rose in a fisted glove” is more nuanced while having greater depth. This is what I want in an extrait version and Mohur Extrait gives me all I could ask for.

Bertrand Duchaufour

Bertrand Duchaufour

The final phase of Mohur Extrait is where you find some of the spices that were up front in the EDP paired with some amber and other resins along with a tiny pinch of oud. The backloading of the spices works very well in this extrait version because the Turkish rose used has a prominent spicy character which is more pronounced later in this extrait version. All together it adds an extraordinary amount of warmth to the final stages of Mohur Extrait.

Mohur Extrait has overnight longevity and very little sillage. It is very much a skin scent and only you and those you allow to get close are going to notice it.

Mohur Extrait is a limited edition of 450 bottles that are sadly only available to those in the EU. If you want a bottle you need to contact Neela Vermeire through her e-mail found at her website and request a bottle. The price is 340Euros for 50mL.

Mohur Extrait is another example of the pleasures a higher concentration can reveal about a fragrance you thought you knew well. I wore Mohur EDP a lot and while it is still a wonderful fragrance I am all about “loving the one you’re with” and when I want Mohur these days it is always the Mohur Extrait I reach for. It is a fantastic perfume and easily my favorite of all of the Neela Vermeire Creations to date.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample of Mohur Extrait provided by Neela Vermeire Creations.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: Neela Vermeire Creations Ashoka is a finalist in the 1st “The Art and Olfaction Awards” in the Independent Category.

New Perfume Review Aether Arts Perfume Nude Moderne, Ginger Rose, Electrum

In the middle of 2013 I received the first three perfumes from independent perfumer Amber Jobin; A Roll in the Grass, Aether Argent, and Inuus. These were surprisingly assured fragrances for a first-time perfumer. One of the reasons that they are as finished as they are is Ms. Jobin has worked for, and with, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz as she learned the techniques of making perfume. These fragrances stood out from the many indie perfumes I receive in a year in the way they seemed polished to me. A downfall of many indie perfumers is to think they are finished without trying to improve the transitions from top to base. All three of the initial fragrances showed a sense of completeness to them. Ms. Jobin would follow this up with one of my top 50 new fragrances for all of 2013, No. 4 John Frum. With that she took an unusual note, Kava Kava, and created a tropical jungle milieu that combined intense florals, juicy fruits and the woods and foliage all with a palpable humidity. I was eagerly waiting for more. About a month ago I received the three latest Aether Arts Perfumes, Nude Moderne, Ginger Rose, and Electrum. Three more examples of a new star in the world of indie perfumes.

Amber Jobin

Amber Jobin

Nude Moderne is Ms. Jobin’s take on a skin scent in both meanings of that word. Nude Moderne is meant to evoke warm skin and it is also meant to wear very close to the skin of the person wearing it. Ms. Jobin shows her skill in balancing a number of synthetic musks to realize her warm skin effect. What she also does is to quite presciently add a bit of labdanum to ground this effect. Without that inclusion Nude Moderne would come off like a one-trick pony. With its inclusion it gives a bit of a spine for the musks to adhere to and to endure for a long time. While Nude Moderne may have very little sillage it persisted on my skin for well over 24 hours and through a shower. Because of the nature of the synthetic musks Ms. Jobin used there is an almost glacial kind of evolution to Nude Moderne allowing it to become sweeter as it lingers on. All of this is not an easy feat to realize and I am quite impressed at the surety with which Ms. Jobin produced it.

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Geraldine Doyle (The model for Rosie the Riveter)

Ginger Rose is meant to be a Nouveau Retro take on aldehydic florientals from the 1940’s-1950’s and Ms. Jobin shows the research she put into designing her modern version of a vintage perfume. She said she made up a personality, Miss Ginger Rose, as she composed this fragrance. In her mind’s eye Miss Ginger Rose was an up-and-coming starlet or a debutante. When I was letting my imagination run away with the same idea I saw Miss Ginger Rose as a woman who had taken over many of the traditional male roles during World War II and as the boys have returned home a bit of her favorite perfume reminded her of being a woman again but one who discovered a little power underneath the surface femininity. Ginger Rose the fragrance is like that as it starts off with a fusillade of aldehydes fizzing off the skin along with the energy of ginger. Often ginger adds the effervescence to a fragrance but here with the aldehydes adding the carbonation the ginger is a little more refined. This all leads to a fabulously dense floral heart of rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, and heliotrope. It is pretty and multi-faceted throughout. The base is where a bit of the steel of Miss Ginger Rose arrives as Ms. Jobin adds indoles and beeswax to bring out the animalic heart of jasmine and add a bit of growl to the florals. The growl becomes a knowing resinous smile as frankincense, myrrh, and sandalwood provide a sensual end to Miss Ginger Rose’s olfactory journey.

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Ancient Greek Electrum Coins

Electrum is the classical name for amber which according to myth came into being when Phaeton’s, son of Helios, sisters turned into poplar trees and cried tears of amber. Electrum is also a naturally occurring alloy of silver and gold used in ancient coins. Ms. Jobin wanted to capture both meanings as she fuses the silvery scent of pine needles with the golden glow of amber. Those silvery pine needles are right there at the top but they are joined with an inspired choice of rosewood. The rosewood adds a subtle bit of odd woodiness underneath the sharper facets of the pine needles. As the amber begins to intensify the needles still retain their edge and that edge keeps the amber from being too warm to start. Once the tobacco arises the more traditional warmth of amber also comes to the foreground. The mix of tobacco and amber along with some vanilla turns this sweet until a bit of Africa Stone turns the amber towards the animalic.

All three of these have incredible longevity and moderate sillage except for Nude Moderne which as mentioned above almost has none.

Ms. Jobin has been deliberately putting together a very worthy collection of perfume which I am finding belie her relative newness to perfumery. These first seven fragrances and especially these last three show a combination of technical skill and aesthetic vision that is all too rare in the indie community. I can’t wait to see what is next.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Aether Arts Perfume.

Mark Behnke

Editor's Note: Aether Arts Perfume No. 4 John Frum has been named a finalist in the 1st "The Art and Olfaction Awards" in the Artisan Category.

The Sunday Magazine: Veronica Mars

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When it comes to television it seems like I am the patron saint of shows which are canceled fairly quickly. There are many shows through the years which I have really enjoyed which were canceled within their first year or two. Firefly, Pushing Daisies, Freaks and Geeks, Twin Peaks, Profit, Rome; even the original Star Trek could be included on my list. What is also great about these shows I’ve listed is even though they are gone they connected with a fairly passionate fan base who keep their memories alive with websites and forums dedicated to them. A common theme you will always find on these forums is the desire to somehow someway get the beloved show back into production. Almost all of the time because these shows are owned by studios who see no profit in bringing back a failed series this is all wishful thinking.

Kickstarter_Logo

In March of 2013 I logged into my e-mail to find a message from the “Veronica Mars” fansite urging me to go contribute to the Kickstarter campaign to get a Veronica Mars movie made. I read this with the same amount of skepticism one reads e-mail from a Nairobi Prince trying to share his fortune with you. I headed over to Kickstarter to see which starry eyed dreamer was trying to raise money to convince the studio to bring Veronica back. Imagine my surprise that it was the creator/writer Rob Thomas and the star Kristen Bell with the blessing of the studio Warner Brothers. If they could get $2 Million dollars in 30 days they could make a movie. Well this wasn’t fanciful thinking this was a plan. Over the next thirty days I and 91,584 other fans donated enough money to go well past the target to end up gathering $5.7 Million. I felt great. I felt like we the fans had actually brought something back to life that I never thought to see again. Then I started to worry that it would be bad as Mr. Thomas tried to satisfy 91,585 fans/backers and it would be another failed attempt to broaden the audience.

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One year after donating my money I sat down and watched “Veronica Mars” unspool before my eyes and when it was done I was smiling ear-to-ear. It was perfect as it was everything I had loved about the writing, the characters, and the actors who played those characters. Mr. Thomas  made a movie with lots of hidden layers in throwaway lines of dialogue which made us long-time fans giggle but never making it so much of an inside joke that others couldn’t find something to laugh about, too.

As of the writing of this I don’t know whether Veronica Mars was a success at the box office and frankly I don’t care. With the help of a group of other fans we were able to get another installment of something we all connected with years after we thought it was gone. Obviously I am hoping some of the other shows I named also have the opportunity to find their way back through a Kickstarter campaign. The success of Veronica Mars will be closely watched and imitated if it is a success.

Which leads me to wonder if there isn’t a perfume brand that faded away before its time which could be Kickstarted back to life. I do have a line I would be thrilled to see return to production and I would contribute to a Kickstarter campaign to finance it. So Victoire Gobin-Daude if you’re out there and want to bring back your original collection of Gobin-Daude perfumes I’ll be the first to contribute.

Mark Behnke

My Desert Island Perfume: Frapin Caravelle Epicee

Probably the question anyone who writes about perfume gets most is to name your “Top 5 or 10 or 25” Perfumes of All-Time. For those of us who spend our time trying everything new we can get our nose on as well as find times for our favorites it is an impossible question. I usually say something like I have enough trouble naming my Top 25 for a given year much less the Top 25 ever. This elicits a mix of reactions but mostly disappointment that I can’t point them to the absolute best perfume in the world. Heck maybe I’m a little disappointed I can’t do it either. There is a different version of this question though which I have had an answer for since 2007, “What is your desert island fragrance?”

To me this is a much different query than name the best fragrances ever. When asked what I would want to wear on a desert island it means to me a fragrance that would not be boring as I wore it every day. A fragrance that would be comforting and energizing. A fragrance which would be an olfactory Friday to my Robinson Crusoe or Wilson to my Tom Hanks. A fragrance which would remind me why I wanted to get off the island. For me that fragrance is 2007’s Frapin Caravelle Epicee.

I learned about Caravelle Epicee one morning in 2007 when a Basenotes member “Two Roads” listed it as his Scent of the Day followed by the note list: coriander, cardamom, clove, cumin, nutmeg, allspice, thyme, gaiac wood, patchouli, sandalwood, amber, and tobacco. He generously sent me a sample and a few days later I would wear it for the first time but not the last time.

Jeanne-Marie-Faugier

Jeanne-Marie Faugier

Jeanne-Marie Faugier is the perfumer under the Creative Direction of Frapin’s David Frossard. Caravelle Epicee translates to Spice Ship and I have always seen it as an olfactory landscape of the hold of a 17th Century Dutch East India Company ship just after it has unloaded its cargo after returning to its European port from a trip to the Indonesian Spice Islands. As you can tell from the list of notes above this is a veritable smorgasbord of spice. Mme Faugier is able to keep what could have been an unruly cacophony instead tuned to politeness with an almost genteel façade. This is why I describe it as standing in the hold after it has been unloaded because the spices seem to reach a certain level and then never get much more intense. After the spices there was obviously some tobacco also in the hold and then you smell the wood of the ship as the patchouli, gaiac, and sandalwood combine to give that accord. I also always get a tiny hint of an aquatic accord which captures the water just on the other side of the hull.

Caravelle Epicee has all-day longevity and average sillage.

There you have it and finally I have put this down in print so the next time I get asked this question I can just forward them this link.

Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle of Caravell Epicee that I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Opus VIII- The Light’s Winning

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The Library Collection from Amouage started in 2010 with the release of Opus I-IV and has released a new volume every year since. 2013’s Opus VII was an excursion into darkness which asked a wearer to gaze into the equivalent of an olfactory abyss. It was one of the more fascinating releases of last year because of the introspective nature of going for that level of depth. One of the hallmarks of the Library Collection is that it is a more experimental creative process than the paired “Man & Woman” annual releases of the main Amouage line. Creative Director Christopher Chong has urged the perfumers he has hired to realize his visions to push the limits in their designs. I imagine working for Mr. Chong has to be a fantastic experience as I’m sure there are few creative directors who believe enough in their customers that they will follow anywhere they are taken. Opus VII challenged that with its downward spiral of the heaviest notes in perfumery. For 2014, Opus VIII is the opposite as it glows with a gauzy sunlight although that gauziness is the remnants of some of those dark notes from Opus VII.

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Christopher Chong

The perfumers for Opus VIII are Pierre Negrin who participated with Alberto Morillas on Opus VII and Richard Herpin who is composing his first fragrance for Amouage. M. Negrin also did the exquisitely constructed Interlude Man in 2012. M.Herpin, like M. Morillas, has spent much of his time working on the more commercial side of the business. This sets up an interesting dynamic as these two come together to realize the brief that Mr. Chong asked of them, “an evocative exploration of the subconscious dialogue between illusion and reality.” What this translates to is an incandescent opening of jasmine followed by a transition of light and dark in the heart before the darker notes bring down fragrant twilight.

The opening of Opus VIII is jasmine sambac, ylang ylang, and orange flower. The early going is all about the jasmine, it floats off my skin like a heat mirage. The ylang ylang and orange flower shimmer as energetically but from a more distant perspective. Each is used to enhance a different part of the jasmine, the ylang pulls the sweetness to the foreground while the orange flower adds a slight bump to the indolic heart. Messrs. Negrin and Herpin make this glow like a golden halo. The florals are then subsumed by a wave of saffron, ginger, and incense. The lighter notes of ginger and saffron have a more prominent part of the heart but the incense slowly increases in character until the base notes start to arrive. Bay, benzoin, and balsam signal the lessening of the light. As I said earlier this is a gauzy kind of darkness as it sort of lays a film of these notes over the jasmine, which is still going strong, and its light can’t be put out by these intruders. A solid application of vetiver turns the later phases of Opus VIII distinctly woody but the jasmine still refuses to give way as its glow remains even as darkness threatens to descend.

Opus VIII has overnight, and then some, longevity and above average sillage.

cohle light winning

As I wore Opus VIII over the last week I was reminded of the final line from the recently completed HBO series “True Detective”. After one of the main characters has survived his encounters he talks about the night sky and how there is an awful lot of dark between the light. The other detective replies that everything used to be all black and the existence of the stars show that the light is winning. This is what I thought of as I wore Opus VIII the light at the heart of this fragrance continues to shine even though the black attempts to overwhelm it. Opus VIII is another bright star for both Amouage and The Library Collection.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Opus VIII provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Stop the Clock! I Have Seen a Great IDEA

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Just before Valentine’s Day a set of recommendations were presented to the European Union (EU) by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) to ban or restrict 23 fragrance raw materials. A few days after that I wrote an editorial about the lack of scientific rigor that was applied to that decision and asked for a real scientific clinical study with appropriate controls to be performed to truly determine the real potential of these materials to produce an allergic effect. About a week after that editorial I was pointed to a website called IDEA (International Dialogue for the Evaluation of Allergens) and once I spent some time reading what was there much of my concern for the future of raw materials has been alleviated.

IDEA was formed in May of 2013 and has had four separate workshops since then about how to classify, test, and unequivocally determine which materials are allergens. Their Annual Report (click here to read it) was released a week after the SCCS made their recommendation to the EU. While the SCCS recommendations caused a lot of people, I included, to exercise our best Chicken Little impressions. After spending the last couple days reading the IDEA Annual Report I am no longer worried.

IDEA has representation from every stakeholder in this; IFRA, SCCS, EU, the big perfume firms, the big perfume producers, and particularly important dermatologists and clinicians. They have been spending this first year doing workshops with participation from all involved and they are evolving an action plan which will once and for all determine in a scientific and statistically sound manner whether any specific material is an allergen. This is what any of us who have looked at this data from a scientific point of view have asked for and it is now happening.

Chicken-little

I also spoke with a few of my contacts within the industry and they all seem to think that if the EU takes any action at all in May, when the 90-Day comment period is up, it will be increased labelling. Something which alerts a consumer to the presence of a potential allergen without making it seem like the Surgeon General’s warning on a pack of cigarettes.

A month after I was busy running around yelling “The Sky is Falling!” it looks like the solutions are all in place to make sure that only the best scientific data will eventually determine which raw materials will be banned or restricted and that is the best outcome I could have asked for. Which leaves perfumery, like Mark Twain, to say, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Mark Behnke

Boot or Reboot: Yohji Homme 1999 & 2013

It seems like some of the greatest discontinued fragrances have been reformulated in the last twelve months. Much like the reformulation of Patou pour Homme I approached the new version of Yohji Homme with some concern.

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The original Yohji Homme was released in 1999; it was signed by Jean-Michel Duriez just at the moment Proctor & Gamble had acquired Jean Patou. When I smelled Yohji Homme I was swept away with this spicy licorice and lavender concoction. It was clearly not a success as it would disappear from shelves within three years. In that endless internal conversation about the best masculine perfumes ever Yohji Homme is right there in the mix. Late in 2013 the newly reformulated Yohji Homme was released with perfumer Olivier Pescheux taking on the task. He consulted with M. Duriez but this was a difficult task because a few of the ingredients had been restricted by IFRA regulations and a couple others were from the resources M. Duriez had while at Patou.

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Jean-Michel Duriez

The 1999 version of Yohji Homme started with one of the best lavenders I have ever encountered in a fragrance it is so close to the real lavender that grows outside my house. It pushes right to the edge of being unpleasant because of its strength. M. Duriez then wraps this intense lavender in strands of black licorice. It is a bold beginning and it becomes even bolder as coriander and cinnamon are joined by geranium and carnation to form a spicy floral heart which slithers underneath the lavender and licorice insinuating itself within the slight olfactory space available to it. After about an hour on my skin these notes combine to produce a singular accord like nothing else in my experience. If that was all there was Yohji Homme would have been great but the base adds in a rum-soaked leather and things take a quantum leap forward. It never fails to be a fascinating ride and a perfume which delivers time and again.

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Olivier Pescheux

M. Pescheux in the 2013 version of Yohji Homme is really trying to do this with one hand tied behind his back while jumping on one foot. Because of the lack of availability of the restricted and proprietary ingredients M. Duriez used in the original, M Pescheux was forced into Hobson ’s choice time and again. When it comes to the lavender used it is in no way close to the quality from the original, the same goes for the licorice. The leather is tamed instead of wild. The cinnamon lacks the same bite. The same progression as the original is there but the new version sort of lurches through its transitions. I almost smell an audible clunk as the less strident lavender and licorice seem to just get out of the way of the spice and florals in the heart. By the time the base notes of leather and rum show up they seem too polite. This new version feels like recreating the Eiffel Tower in wood. It looks like the same thing but it lacks in majesty and power.

It is obvious that the Reboot comes nowhere near the Boot and that’s a shame because it feels like in 1999 the perfume world was not ready for Yohji Homme but in 2013 it is less of an outlier. If you had never tried the original I think many will be enchanted by the new version as all of the important beats are there and it is still a unique fragrance. M. Pescheux did a great job considering the straitjacket he was bound in. One other difference between the two is the original is a powerhouse which lasts all-day the new one barely made it through the workday. The new Yohji Homme has been exclusive to Selfridge’s in the UK and is expected to be released wider by the end of 2014.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles of both versions of Yohji Homme I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Creed 101- Five To Get You Started

The House of Creed is one of those perfume producers which elicits strong opinions for and against. What is not up for debate is it is one of the best-selling niche fragrance houses in the world. Creed is many perfumista’s entrée to the world of niche perfume and it instills an unusual loyalty to those who admire the brand. One of the things detractors point to is the reliance on the celebrated history of the Creed brand and unashamedly talking about the trendsetters who have supposedly worn the brand over the years. Olivier Creed is the current head perfumer the sixth generation to have that position. He is also currently training his son, Erwin, to become the seventh generation, assuring the continuance of the brand for years to come.  Creed perfumes are easy to find but because of their popularity there are many counterfeits out there. If you are going to dip your nose into Creed it is best to start by trying from a reputable source.

olivier and erwin creed

Olivier and Erwin Creed

Green Irish Tweed was released in 1985 and could be said to be the fragrance which would begin this current phase of popularity Creed enjoys. It really lives up to the green in its name especially in the early phases of development as lemon, verbena, and violet leaves combine to form a clover soft accord. The heart is a much understated orris which is more opulent than floral. This leads to what is pretty much a signature base note accord to many Creed fragrances with ambergris and sandalwood. Green Irish Tweed is a quiet fragrance and often when wearing it I will think it is gone only to have someone comment on how nice I smell. Of anything I own Green Irish Tweed is one of those few which elicits spontaneous compliments.

In 1987 Bois du Portugal was released and it is one of my very favorite woody lavender perfumes I own. Creed says in their press release that this was Frank Sinatra’s signature fragrance. Whenever I wear it I always get a very 60’s vibe to it. In my imagination this is the fragrance I expect Don Draper of “Mad Men” to be wearing. It is simple as bergamot and lavender are the opening notes and the Creed ambergris and sandalwood base is tweaked with a healthy addition of vetiver. Bois du Portugal is a great perfume and very close to my favorite in the line.

Love in White was released in 2005 and the very first bottle was gifted to then-First Lady Laura Bush; the current occupant of the White House, Michele Obama, is also said to wear this. This is a fresh bouquet of three of the best floral ingredients of orris, jasmine, and rose. They are kept light and not as bold as they can be in other fragrances. The base is, again, the Creed ambergris/sandalwood signature with a bit of vanilla and cedar to complete this variation.

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Millesime Imperial was released in 1995 as aquatic perfumes were ascendant. Millesime Imperial shows a pedestrian genre like aquatics can be infused with a bit of class. The citrus opening of Millesime Imperial is lemon and orange and each of these notes is distinct in the way they display themselves. The overplayed ozonic notes, which exemplify the aquatic, is swathed in a decadent orris. It could have come off like putting designer lipstick on a pig; instead it is like draping a tuxedo jacket over a t-shirt elevating the common to something less so. The base is the same as the others before but with a bit of musk to add a bit of animalic growl to the signature sandalwood and ambergris.

In my opinion Creed has been on a bit of a roll over the last three years or so. With the release of Aventus in 2010 that roll was just beginning. Meant to evoke the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, Aventus has a unique progression of notes. An unusual fruity opening of blackcurrant, apple and surprisingly prominent pineapple are combined in a very pleasant olfactory fruit salad without ever getting out of control. The heart of jasmine rose, birch, and patchouli twist the floral stalwarts with traditional woody contrast. The base is not the Creed signature as ambergris is there but this time oakmoss and musk round out the final phase. Aventus breaks the Creed mold in every way and that has continued over the last few releases.

Creed is such a popular house becase the great majority of their perfumes smell great and whether you buy the PR or not I know I always feel a little more elegant when I’m wearing Creed.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of these perfumes I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Suleko Albho, Vy Roza, Djelem, and Baba Yaga-Tales of the Russian Woods

When there is a close relation between creative director and perfumer, working in tandem, is often when magic happens. At the recent Elements Showcase I found another example of this thesis to be true. I am a big fan of perfumer Cecile Zarokian and believe 2014 is poised to be a breakout year for her. When I met her at Elements she introduced me to Anastasia Sokolow the owner and creative director of Suleko. Together they told me the story of creating four fragrances to reflect Mme Sokolow’s Russian heritage and one for each season. When I was talking with both of these talented women and hearing their description of each fragrance it struck me how this was a true match of equals. Each brought their passions to bear and together have created a beautiful collection of four special fragrances.

anastasia sokolow

Anastasia Sokolow

Albho represents winter and the name comes from the Indo-European root for the Russian word for swan, Lebed. The concept for Mme Zarokian was to evoke “strength and power, but at the same time calm and gentleness”. When I tried Albho on a strip at Elements it didn’t show off all of those charms but I had a feeling once I wore it there was a chance I would feel differently. Albho captures the feel of that icy inhalation on a winter’s morning, if it is adjacent to a stand of sentinel pine trees. Mme Zarokian begins with that frigid pairing of mint and eucalyptus. It is vaporous and frosty as the eucalyptus in particular sets the winter milieu. Then a frigid pine note arrives. By framing this pine note in cedar Mme Zarokian makes it feel separate, much as smells in the cold feel detached. The eucalyptus and pine form a winter’s breath accord that lingers for a good while. Eventually one has to warm up and the base notes of benzoin, labdanum, and tolu balm provide the olfactory heat.

Vy Roza comes from Pushkin’s novel, Eugene Onegin where the heroine Tatiana is referred to as “Vy Roza belle Tatiana” (You are a rose, beautiful Tatiana). Vy Roza is meant to evoke spring and it does so be being a “beautiful rose”. Mme Zarokian surrounds the central rose with some other spring-like floral compatriots and finishes back in the woods. The opening of Vy Roza takes lilac and muguet which form a slightly green very fresh floral duet. The rose combusts to life like a phoenix rising as it takes over and dominates. Vy Roza ends with a series of woody notes but it takes hours before you notice anything but the rose.

Cecile Zarokian1

Cecile Zarokian

Djelem refers to the name of the song which became the anthem of the Gypsies in 1971. Mme Sokolow wanted the fragrance to capture all of the freedom loving proud impulsive pride of the gypsy spirit. To do this Mme Zarokian created a fragrance which captures a summer night around a gypsy fire. As you sit down you smell the hay field around you freshly threshed. Then the music of spicy carnation is deepened even further with cloves and made slightly sweet with a bit of immortelle as it begins to swirl around. The base is the ambery warmth of the fire as only glowing embers are left. Djelem seems as persistently variable as a gypsy song, at turns joyous and solemn. It felt like it was in constant motion during both days I wore it.

Baba Yaga is the Russian child’s boogeywoman. She is the witch of the forest, all that makes up the darkness. When I think of storybook witches I think of a swirl of cape with a lot of flying about accompanied with magical gestures. The witches of our dark tales always seem to have a physical power equal to their magical ones. Mme Zarokian captures that feel of power waiting to be unleashed with a gesture and a cackle of glee in Baba Yaga. When I tried this at Elements the kinetic nature of the notes swept me away. Baba Yaga opens with a furious rush of red berries, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper. All of these notes seem to orbit and fly past each other as you sense the berries, then the pepper, then the cinnamon, then the nutmeg. Like gathering the strands of a spell that just won’t come together. In the heart a core of darkness arises with a deep patchouli trying to form a focal point as you sense the earth in the dark forest. Finally the base notes of leather, cade, and moss combine to form a powerful completion to this olfactory witches’ brew.

All four Suleko fragrances had above average longevity and above average sillage.

The ceramic sculptures which hold the atomizers for each of these fragrances were designed by sculptors Joelle Fevre and Alain Fichot. They add a very unusual visual element to each of these fragrances.

This collection truly does carry through the thread of Mme Sokolow’s Russian heritage with a seasonal aspect. Mme Zarokian listened carefully and skillfully translated the words into perfume. Baba Yaga is my favorite for all of its kineticism but Albho really runs a close second for all of its chilly charms. Taken together this is another example of creative director and perfumer working together on the same wavelength to produce beautiful olfactory music.

Disclosure: this review was based on sample provided by Suleko at the Elements Showcase.

Mark Behnke