New Perfume Review Unum Notre-Dame 15.4.2019- Hope Shines Through


There are events which bind us as a planet. Last April the world watched as the fire which consumed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was one of those. The heroic efforts of the firefighters kept it from being a total tragedy. The building stood at the end of the day. On the day it welcomes people back through its doors will be a moment of completely overcoming adversity. That day is far off with much effort to be put into achieving that end. A year after the fire I was expecting to get a progress report though a news outlet. It turns out perfume provided the best version in Unum Notre-Dame 15.4.2019.

Filippo Sorcinelli

Unum is the brand of independent perfumer Filippo Sorcinelli. The scent of churches has been a recurrent theme ever since his first release Lavs. Sig. Sorcinelli has connections which allowed him to tour Notre Dame more thoroughly than a normal tourist. After the visit he decided to report on it via perfume. He has composed a fragrance of hope among the wreckage.

If you’ve ever gone someplace after a fire the early moments of Notre-Dame will reach that memory. It is the scent of charred wood which has been water-logged. What Sig. Sorcinelli adds to this is the stone of the cathedral. Impervious to the flames with water impregnated in the porous surface. I am not entirely sure how he achieves this but the wood smells old in this accord. Maybe its my imagination but it feels as if I am looking up though the open roof and a sunbeam shines down as a citrus and ginger accord provides the purity of sunlight where it hadn’t touched for centuries. It provides a hopeful contrast to the charred wood. What comes next reminds me of the photo of the altar cross which survived the fire; sticking up above the timbers which fell from the roof. A blessed floral trinity of muguet, iris, and geranium provide a garland for the resilient altarpiece. It ends with a reminder of the incense as if from afar atop the crystalline green of galbanum and the earthiness of patchouli. They promise that the future will eventually see the cathedral rise anew.

Notre-Dame 15.4.2019 has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is one of Sig. Sorcinelli’s most emotional compositions. In the past when we ventured into the church through his perfumes, it was as a penitent. In this one we are pilgrims looking for resurrection and better days ahead. A perfect message for these days.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Unum But Not Today- Art Before Commerce

I want perfume brands to take risks. I want independent perfumers to find their creative frontier. I want perfumes which challenge my notions of what it means to be a perfume. I don’t get many of these fragrances because they are naturally going to be divisive. If you’re going to follow that recipe, I laid out at the beginning of this paragraph, an artistic vision is not necessarily going to lead to a best-seller. I’ve spent a lot of time with Unum But Not Today because it is one of those perfumes.

Filippo Sorcinelli has been a perfumer who has let his artistic vision shine throughout his three brands; Unum, Extrait de Musique, and Nebbia. It has formed a collection where there are some that I think are fantastic and others which fail. When Sig. Sorcinelli makes something new I know I won’t be bored. But Not Today might be the most interesting perfume he has made.

Filippo Sorcinelli

The perfume is inspired by the film “Hannibal” by Ridley Scott. This is the sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs”. Sig. Sorcinell wants to capture the duality of the protagonists. The serial killer Hannibal Lecter and the FBI agent Clarice Starling. What this presents as a matter of architecture is setting up an oil-and-water kind of separation between the floral accord which represents Clarice and the animalic accord which represents Hannibal. They don’t ever really mesh, they push up against each other throughout the time I was wearing it.

But Not Today opens with a metallic-tinged leather it is easy to think of it as blood-soaked leather but it isn’t. This is a feral accord of leather with a metallic sheen of a cutting implement over the top of it. This is more the promise of violence than the aftermath. A floral accord which is meant to be reminiscent of Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps which was established as the perfume Clarice wears. Very cleverly it is given a hint of corruption around the lilting edges. Those aspects appear with an indolic core swathed in powdery florals. The leather on top is going just as strong. These accords don’t find common ground as much as they stand their ground. The base accord is a set of synthetic woods over the darkness of oakmoss.

But not Today has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Like any fragrance which aspires to something as bold as But Not today this will not be widely liked. It will find admirers for whom this is what avant-garde perfume should be. Others will recoil. I’m in the middle more towards the liking it side. I’ve spent a lot of time with But Not Today to better understand it. What is great about But Not Today is there is something to try and understand. To see if it is what you want from perfume.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Sauf Contre Bombarde 32 “Organ”-ic Incense

I love incense fragrances from the very first moment I found my first one. It is by far the largest category within my collection. One of my favorite recent additions was Unum Lavs. The creative director behind that brand, Filippo Sorcinelli, started a new brand late last year called Sauf. The bottles are shaped like organ stops from the Grand Organ found in the Cathedral at Notre Dame. Each of the first three releases for the brand, Plein-Jeu III-IV, Voix Humaine 8, and Contre Bombarde 32. What is unique about organ stops is they are there to produce specific harmonics representing strings, reeds, flutes, or principals. While I was trying these perfumes out it struck me that this is not unlike the creation of perfume accords. As a set of ingredients are used to emulate something else.

If there has been a consistent theme to Sig. Sorcinelli’s fragrances to date is that simpler is better. For two of the three they end up striking a sour note of discord because they are too overstuffed. Plein Jeu III-IV would have been better served if everything but the mimosa, jasmine, incense, balsamic notes had been left. In its current form, there are other notes which distract from the core notes. Voix Humaine 8 was going for a more fragile interpretation but it fell apart when a few too many heavy notes disrupt the delicacy. Contre Bombarde 32 is the only one to get the evocation of the organ stop and the evolution of incense fragrances right.

Filippo Sorcinelli

The Contre Bombarde stop on an organ produces a sound of deep reeds combined with a high brassy sound. Contre Bombarde, the perfume, gets that dichotomy correct by sticking to only a few key materials.

The high brassiness comes from elemi resin which is helped along by bitter orange to accentuate the slight lemony aspect and juniper berry’s astringency to begin the lower resinous chord. That depth is pierced by a fanfare of a very sharp cedar. I like the use of it here because it becomes a kind of separator as Contre Bombarde 32 heads into a well-done caramel gourmand accord. There is some vanilla for the sweet with amber to provide that sense of aged wood. There was a moment on the days I wore this that I envisioned a sticky soft caramel squished onto a polished church pew.

Contre Bombarde 32 has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I really like the concept behind Sauf and look forward to seeing what further fragrances the grand old instrument from Notre Dame will inspire. Contre Bombarde 32 shows that there is beautiful perfumed music to be found there.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Unum Opus 1144- Jurassic Goth

With new perfumers there are times they want to just turn the volume up and see where it leaves them. Most of the time it leaves a poorly constructed mess akin to too many people talking at the same time all trying to gain your attention. That style of perfumery wears me out. Less of the time the balance is struck precisely right and I walk away thinking that shouldn’t have worked but it did. Even more rarely is a perfume which teeters on the edge of olfactory cacophony and perfumed precision managing to stay poised on the knife edge of good and bad. The second release from Unum called Opus 1144 is one of those balancing acts.

When I reviewed the first Unum perfume LAVS I praised perfumer and owner Filippo Sorcinelli for keeping it simple. In Opus 1144 Sig. Sorcinelli is anything but unassuming in his construction. Opus 1144 is over stuffed with ideas. Sig. Sorcinelli wanted to reach back to the beginning of Gothic architecture and culture’s beginnings in 1144. The result is a fragrance full of detail some of which almost makes no sense only to find its place in time.  

Filippo Sorcinelli

Filippo Sorcinelli

The opening is as soft as Opus 1144 gets as Sig. Sorcinelli uses bergamot, tangerine, elemi and vanilla to sweeten the citrus. It makes it reminiscent of a candy cream felling almost gourmand-like very early on. That gets washed away on a tide of intense amber and Cashmere woods, actually not exactly as the vanilla hangs in there making this a very sweet amber for a long while in the heart. These early moments tread up to the limit of my sweetness tolerance. I imagine for some it will cross that line. If you allow just a little more time Sig. Sorcinelli abandons the sweet and goes for the animalic as musks and leather are combined with benzoin and ambergris. It forms an accord full of life pulsing with its own heartbeat. The dramatic switch from sweet to animalic is one of my favorite parts of Opus 1144 because it is done with a subtle shift of components and not a whiplash inducing snap.

Opus 1144 has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Opus 1144 has one of the characteristics I look for in perfumes; the ability to change dramatically over the hours I am wearing it without feeling like it is just going through the motions. I felt the real shifting of notes as they would move towards their next stage of development. This is what I was talking about in the first paragraph in a different perfume all of this would’ve felt like a mess. In Opus 1144 it feels like a huge homage to all things Gothic.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received at Esxence 2015.

Mark Behnke