New Perfume Review Paco Rabanne Phantom- The Sum of Fractions

One of my favorite moments of my perfume blogging life happened about 10 years ago. I was invited to Robertet. As I sat there, they introduced me to the idea of fractionation as it applied to perfume ingredients. Because I am a chemist, I understood the process immediately. The idea is when you are distilling an essential oil you collect it, as an example, over a ten-degree range. That’s the full spectrum stuff. The question that was asked was what if you took smaller pieces of that temperature range. Collect only the first two degrees, then the next two, and so on. They showed me what that looked like for ylang-ylang. I was blown away. There was a fraction which smelled like lily, another which was intensely fruity, it was like seeing the layers of fragrance nature used to create the scent.

Ever since I’ve been fascinated with the use of fractions of all the main perfume ingredients. Each of them can smell entirely different than the parent. When I received the new Paco Rabanne Phantom there were three fractions which show off the best part of why you use them. Luc Dong, Anne Flipo, Juliette Karagueuzoglu, and Dominique Ropion form the team of perfumers working on their fractions.

It begins with the brightness of lemon. The perfumers use the old-school synthetic ingredient styrallyl acetate to add fruity green to the citrus. This is where the first fraction appears. It is from patchouli, and it carries an apple piece of its scent profile. This finds its partner in the synthetic green which also has an apple piece to it. It forms a hinge point where the lemon sits between.

The next fraction arrives, and it is one of vetiver. This captures all the green freshness with only a hint of the deeper woodiness of the full version. It adds another hinge point as there is a slight woodiness to the patchouli fraction. What comes to sit in between those two pieces is a fraction of lavender. This has a stronger green profile closer to the grassiness of the vetiver than the herbal-ness of the full extract. The perfumers add back small amounts of lavender to create an echo of it. It is as if the floral-herbal piece is coming from a distance. Some vanilla adds depth and warmth to the smooth lavender accord.

Phantom has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Phantom is a fun summer fling. What makes it engaging is the sum of its fractions.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Costume National Homme Parfum- Parfum Does Not Mean Denser

When a brand is deciding to make a different concentration version of a previous perfume they can’t just dilute or add more to the existing recipe. That becomes a disaster as the balance necessary for a successful perfume gets thrown off as ingredients get lightened or darkened. A perfumer must identify what it is about the original that makes it what it is. There is a significant effort required as rebalancing takes place. It is painfully evident when it goes poorly. It is just as apparent when it goes well as it does in Costume National Homme Parfum.

Dominique Ropion

This was a doubly difficult effort because the 2009 Costume National Homme EDP is one of my all-time favorites. The original perfumer Dominique Ropion was back to oversee this version. Homme EDP is a cold-weather staple for me. As my sample was making its way to me, I was wary of testing it in the middle of summer. If a lighter concentration was ideal for winter, I expected a parfum to be more so. That turned out not to be so.

The main reason for that is M. Ropion changed the keynote in the top accord and switched out the source of green in the heart. Both are fresher choices which is why this feels so different to me.

It begins with a cardamom heavy top accord with the same grapefruit as before. The cardamom acts as a freshening breeze as it rises in intensity. The grapefruit rides in its slipstream. Cinnamon joins it as this recapitulates much of the opening of the original. I was pleased at the effect of the increased presence of the cardamom. The other improvement is there was an oily interlude in the original after the top accord. That has been removed in Homme Parfum. Now it just moves into a heart of grassy vetiver. This is the other bit of freshening I mentioned. This is that zingy green version of vetiver. Along with it is a fraction of patchouli which delineated the woodiness in vetiver without having it predominate over the greener pieces. The base is the rich sandalwood and labdanum accord I remember from the original.

Homme Parfum has 16-18 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I wore this on two somewhat warm days. It turned out to be a great choice. I think I’m going to be wearing this in fall and spring quite a lot. Sometimes parfum does not mean denser.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ralph Lauren Ralph’s Club- Millennials Only?

I have spent the last five years watching almost every major fragrance brand make their play for the millennial consumer of perfume. We are now at the point in the process where the trends are probably clear, especially to the mass-market brands. For those late to the game it is time to make their play. Which is what Ralph Lauren Ralph’s Club feels like.

Dominique Ropion

Ralph Lauren has never been an intentional trendsetter in fragrance. That Polo has become one of the undeniable classics of masculine perfume seems more happenstance than intent. As the other brands have pushed aggressively towards the more transparent style Ralph Lauren stayed the course. Over the last five years they have made flankers of Polo which acted as if they wanted to be opaquer. Except they almost always never went as far as their contemporaries. With Ralph’s Club it seems like they are ready to strike out in a new direction following behind what everyone else has been doing for the last few years. They turned to perfumer Dominique Ropion to create a semi-transparent woody.

All you have to do is to experience the first few seconds of Ralph’s Club and compare it to Polo. The same keynote of clary sage is in both. The concentration and effect are completely different. In Ralph’s Club the herb is in support of lavender. It gives some depth to the herbal aspects of that well-known floral. It is kept on the clean side of things with cedar. Vetiver adds in its grassy-woody profile to complete the composition.

Ralph’s Club has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I enjoyed wearing this on these summer days. If there is an issue it feels like there are pieces of their competitors throughout. While it is an original perfume it also feels like they picked and chose from all the current best sellers for men. It is a versatile choice for the man who only wants one bottle on their dresser. Coming as late to things as they have, I am curious if Ralph’s Club can generate a clientele to join up.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Givenchy Irresistible Eau de Toilette- The Other Mod

When a perfume is being developed it goes through an iterative process. The perfumer presents their interpretation of their instructions. Usually more than one. The client who has hired the perfumer gives input. The perfumer goes back altering those initial attempts based on the notes. Back and forth until they get to a final decision point. Each vial along the way is called a mod, short for modification. There is no magic correct number to get the best result.

One of the things I’ve often thought is that mainstream perfumes make their initial choice. Perhaps from two different styles. There are times when a few months later another version of fragrance with the same name appears smelling entirely different. I have no way of knowing of course but I snarkily think this was “the other mod” or the path not taken. This is what Givenchy Irresisitible Eau de Toilette made me think of.

One of these leads to the other mod

Irresistible Eau de Parfum was released last year about this time. It was not what I enjoy. It was an overwhelming fruity floral at volume. I remember thinking this flies in the face of the current trend towards transparent florals. It was so loud the strip on my desk overpowered things. I had to remove it from the office. When I heard Irresistible Eau de Toilette was heading towards me I was expecting something lighter.

The same perfume team of Fanny Bal, Anne Flipo, and Dominique Ropion worked on both. That is where the similarity ends. Every place where the Eau de Parfum was gratingly loud the Eau de Toilette is enticingly discrete. This is all done with an entirely different set of ingredients.

It begins with blackcurrant buds showing off the fruity side of its scent profile. This can be a sticky green effect a lot of the time. Here it is a fizzy cassis floating on top of a pool of rose water. This is a typical fruity floral pairing given some life through a lighter hand. This extends to the clean cedar which provides the woody foundation.

Irresistible Eau de Toilette has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This Eau de Toilette version is so different in temperament it feels like it had to be “the other mod”. It is a much better version of a spring transparent fruity floral than last year’s version.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Nordstrom.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Laboratorio Olfattivo Vanagloria- New Things About an Old Friend

1

I’ve mentioned in the past that there are cornerstone ingredients in perfumery. These are widely used keynotes across all sectors of the art. They are beloved by those who wear fragrance. Vanilla is one of these because it imparts a sense of fun when it is on its sweet side. It is also a snuggly warm ingredient made for comfort. I have come to enjoy the opportunity to be reminded of its tropical origin as an orchid. The latter has only come as newer extraction techniques have appeared. Laboratorio Olfattivo Vanagloria displays that.

Roberto Drago

It has been eleven years since I discovered the brand for the first time. Owner-creative director Roberto Drago has always had an experimental vision for his “olfactive laboratory”. Over the years when it is at its best it uses a keynote in different ways. For Vanagloria he asked perfumer Dominique Ropion to tinker with vanilla.

Dominique Ropion

The core of Vanagloria is a CO2 extraction of vanilla by Laboratoire Monique Remy (LMR). This way of extraction has been around many years now. How it works is you take a raw material and immerse it in liquid carbon dioxide at high pressure. Unlike other extractions using heat and organic solvents this way captures a more nuanced version of the material. In this case there is a leatheriness which you don’t usually encounter with vanilla. This is what M. Ropion uses to design his perfume around.

When I took my first sniff of Vanagloria I thought we were headed towards pina colada territory. M. Ropion uses a pineapple accord which reminds me of pineapple juice. Not sugary and more representative of the fruit itself. The idea of cocktails is swept aside as saffron teases out that leathery facet of this vanilla. It acts as a fleeting paso doble as the saffron and the leather piece move back and forth. What breaks them apart are swirls of incense which finds that sweetness so familiar to vanilla lovers. This combination of resin and vanilla has come to be among my favorite iterations. Here it has a hushed sacred effect. That is transformed through the coumarin of tonka bean. This forms that golden glowing comforting version of vanilla. Now it hugs you like an old acquaintance. A final addition of musk rounds out everything.

Vanagloria has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

What is achieved here is a perfume which finds ways to display all the lovely nuance of this LMR vanilla. It gives anyone who enjoys the ingredient the chance to learn new things about an old friend.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle provided by Laboratorio Olfattivo.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Armani Code Eau de Parfum and Yves St. Laurent Y Le Parfum

If there is a masculine counterpart to the ubiquitous spring rose it is lavender. I have noticed that more of the spring men’s releases rely on this floral recently. I received two flankers where its addition is a positive.

Armani Code Eau de Parfum

Ever since its release Armani Code has acted as a cash cow for the brand. They would pump out releases which were uninspired copies. Something changed a couple years ago as the last couple of Armani Code flankers have been much more interesting. Some of that might have something to do with Antoine Maisondieu being involved or maybe being given the ability to color outside the lines. The New Armani Code Eau de Parfum benefits from whatever the reason is.

What is nice is at every phase there is a substitute for the original. It starts as lemon replaces grapefruit. This is a very warm lemon instead of bright. The floral herbal piece of this Eau de Parfum version is lavender and rosemary. Each is a change from the original while still cutting close enough to feel like part of the family. The base accord has a higher concentration of tonka bean which adds in another warmer ingredient. Overall it confirms that warmth a parfum version would likely have. I also think this is a good choice for the spring and fall.

Armani Code Eau de Parfum has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Yves St. Laurent Y Le Parfum

I have been mostly disappointed in the last few years at YSL. The original release of Y Eau de Toilette is an example of fragrance by focus group. It works for people who don’t really like perfume. Just like Armani Code, YSL has cranked out multiple flankers all of which retained that lack of ingenuity. By featuring lavender among many other changes, perfumer Dominique Ropion has made the best version of Y yet.

The opening is a collision of tart fruit in grapefruit and green apple. The tartness is a nice opening for the lavender to walk through. The floral is kept more on its herbal side with a little sage making sure of that. It closes on a sweetly woody accord of cedar and tonka bean.

Y Le Parfum has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Olfactive Studio Rose Shot and Iris Shot- Two From a Dynamic Duo

I have been waiting for years to have creative director Celine Verleure and perfumer Dominique Ropion work together again. The three latest releases for Mme Verleure’s brand Olfactive Studio is that reunion. Yesterday I reviewed Violet Shot. Today I am going to cover Rose Shot and Iris Shot.

Celine Verleure

As always, the perfumes are based on a photographic brief. This time by Roberto Greco. For Rose Shot in the photo below you see a dewy rose. M. Ropion delivers a perfume of depth around this classic floral subject.

Rose Shot (photo: Roberto Greco)

The core is a rich Turkish rose. In the beginning baie rose and elemi create that freshness the drops of dew in the photo portend. Things shift with a set of creamy lactones adding to things. There is a moment when this forms an accord of the finest French milled rose soap. That transitions to something slightly woody. The light woods have an unusual focal effect. As they come forward it seems to intensify the rose. A bit of velvety moss adds the foundation.

Rose Shot has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage in extrait strength.

Dominique Ropion

Iris Shot is my favorite of the three new Sepia Collection releases. I am always drawn into a great creative take on iris. This two deliver that creative synergy I expected for this one. What makes iris an interesting perfume ingredient is it is so malleable in relation to the other ingredients. A perfumer can push and pull to realize myriad subtle shadings. Iris Shot is full of them.

Iris Shot (photo: Roberto Greco)

It begins with the powdery iris being caught up in a whirlwind of aldehydes and cardamom. That might sound vintage-like but it is the opposite. This has a clean contemporary architecture which turns the powdery part into a livelier version of itself. As we move to the heart the doughy rooty part of iris is used to make a fantastic faux-gourmand accord. Using carrot seed and almond a floral croissant is cooked up. Over the final stages the dryness of Ambroxan is leavened with vetiver to create a less stentorian woody accord than if the Amboxan was on its own.

Iris Shot has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage and is also in extrait strength.

My wait was worth it. All three of these perfumes display the creativity I expected from this Dynamic Duo.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples supplied by Olfactive Studio.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Olfactive Studio Violet Shot- Creativity Renewed

If you look at almost any piece of writing on this site it should be obvious the esteem I hold creative directors in. I think the rare ones among them are as important as the perfumer. For some brands I would say it the predominant artistic vision. Once the names of the creative directors and perfumers began to become known I searched to find out what I could find out about my favorites. It took me a long time, but I figured out the creative team behind Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant. Celine Verleure and perfumer Dominique Ropion.

Celine Verleure

Since 2011 Mme Verleure has overseen her own brand of perfume Olfactive Studio. It has become one of my favorite lines of fragrance. Her creative direction using a photograph as brief has been shown through each successive release to be outstanding. From the first perfume I kept thinking she would collaborate with M. Ropion early on. Then it seemed like it wasn’t going to happen. Mme Verleure came to visit our local perfumery and she brought with her the next three releases in her Sepia Collection. When she told me M. Ropion was the perfumer for all of them I finally got my wish.

Dominique Ropion

There is an ease of creativity between these two artists. It shows in all three of the new perfumes. I am going to spend today and tomorrow reviewing all three. I begin with Violet Shot.

Violet Shot (photo: Roberto Greco)

As I mentioned each perfume is accompanied by photograph. For these three Roberto Greco took still lifes of each of the florals featured. For violet there is the bloom, but the leaf is equally prominent in the frame. M. Ropion creates something green and then floral.

That green is the scent of fresh cut grass. Perfumers have the tools to create a photorealistic version. This the path M. Ropion takes to begin. Some baie rose is used in a small quantity to further deepen the grass through its herb-like nature. A swoosh of citrus also rides across the smell of the greensward. The violet comes next and it is tilted towards the greenness of the leaf. Over some time the floral peeks out as it seems as if it sits on a leather panel. This is an exceptionally light leather which gives way to patchouli and vanilla creating a sweet earthy foundation.

Violet Shot has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage because it is at extrait strength.

Violet Shot reminds me of those times you run into an old friend you haven’t seen in years. Yet when you find yourself together it is as if no time has passed. For Mme Verleure and M. Ropion Violet Shot seems like their creativity works on the same principle.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Armani Prive Jasmin Kusamono- Perfumed Kusamono

The Aramni Prive collection is so interestingly inconsistent I always look forward to trying what is new. It is because at its best it produces some of my favorite perfumes. Last summer was one of those high points with the release of Orangerie Venise. Perfumer Dominique Ropion provided a fascinating riff on a neroli soliflore. To begin 2020 M. Ropion returns to do the same with Armani Prive Jasmin Kusamono.

Dominique Ropion

Jasmin Kusamono is one of four new additions to the “Les Eaux” collection. Gardenia Antigua, Rose Milano, and The Yulong, are the others. This has been a series of perfumes highlighting a single ingredient with unique contrasting counterweights. The other part of the name, kusamono, gives an idea of what M. Ropion is attempting. Kusamono is a Japanese compound word of “grass” and “thing”. It is an artistic floral arrangement meant to capture a specific season. It tries to also evoke a specific kind of natural milieu. M. Ropion seems to be looking toward spring on the ocean.

One of the trends of 2019 I liked a lot was this idea of deep-water aquatics. None of the sea spray freshness but a deeper briny quality. It is that unique contrast to the jasmine that M. Ropion weaves into his composition.

The perfume starts with a mix of pear and pink pepper. This is a nice way to add some texture to a juicy pear. The saltiness of the ocean begins to leak into the scent as the jasmine seems to float upon it. This is fresh but not “fresh!”. What I mean is there is a cleanliness to the fruity floral atop the deep-sea swells without going into generic fresh territory. This is also a very light perfume. It has a feeling of delicacy to it in these early moments. As it evolves there is a stronger saltiness which begins to crystallize on the floral. It finds it’s footing on a base of cedar and sandalwood. Again, not in a heavy way.

Jasmin Kusamono has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I have been looking for perfumes which are part of the popular transparency trend that I can embrace. Jasmin Kusamono is one which I can happily hug to me. M. Ropion has practiced his own form of kusamono via perfume.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Giorgio Armani.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Armani Prive Orangerie Venise- Not Your Typical Neroli

Ever since its beginning in 2004 the exclusive line for Giorgio Armani fragrance, Armani Prive, has been a love it or yawn at it proposition. I have some of my favorites in the distinct bottles with the faux-stone top on them. There are others I couldn’t remember their name unless I looked it up. It does make for an interesting time whenever I receive a new sample. Turns out the latest, Armani Prive Orangerie Venise, is a love it one.

Someone is going to have to explain to me why there have been so many good neroli perfumes over the last couple of years. I wonder if there has been a new source or just a general drift towards similar themes. Whatever the explanation I have greatly increased the neroli section of my perfume collection. One of my favorites was last year’s neroli and cumin combination in A Lab on Fire And The World Is Yours. Perfumer Dominique Ropion has made one of the most indelible neroli perfumes I own. When I discovered he was the perfumer for Orangerie Venise I suspected I would get the flip side of that earlier perfume, something more genteel. Orangerie Venise does fit that description but it does not mean it doesn’t contain its own compelling moments.

Dominique Ropion

M. Ropion uses bitter orange to focus the top accord with hints of other citrus, grapefruit and lemon mostly, to provide a rounder top accord. The neroli arises out of that with a gorgeous luminescence that M. Ropion amplifies with the remnants of the citrus. Then instead of using cumin M. Ropion contrasts the neroli with the sticky green of buchu leaves. Buchu has a deeply verdant scent profile which adheres to the green quality inherent in the neroli. It offers significant push against the floral beauty of the neroli. M. Ropion further tunes this green by using moss to add shadows to this accord. All together this is a vibrant neroli accord which is where Orangerie Venise spends most of its time. It eventually moves on to a base of cedar and ambrox.

Orangerie Venise has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

The joy of this perfume is that M. Ropion has taken another difficult ingredient, buchu, and made it find a place with the neroli. It makes it not your typical neroli.

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

Mark Behnke