Flanker Round-Up: Kenneth Cole Mankind Legacy and Dior Sauvage Parfum

This month’s Flanker Round-Up I look at new releases from two masculine fragrance lines. One which has become a big seller and another which I consider to be an underappreciated mass-market gem.

Dior Sauvage Parfum

The original Dior Sauvage Eau de Toilette was released in the fall of 2015. It has become one of the perennial men’s fragrance best sellers ever since. Its appeal lies in the way perfumer Francois Demachy smooshed together most of the popular masculine perfume tropes into a monolithic whole. It works because there is something to appeal to everyone. The only thing I didn’t care for was the wall of Ambrox at the end of it all. With Sauvage Parfum M. Demachy remedies that.

Sauvage Parfum is a much sweeter fragrance without having that sledgehammer of Ambrox waiting at the end. A juicy mandarin and cardamom comprise a citrus top accord which moves toward a creamy sandalwood heart. This finishes with vanilla and cedar providing twin amplifiers of the sweet and woody aspects of the sandalwood. I can see Sauvage Parfum becoming an excellent winter alternative for fans of the original. It isn’t exactly the same, but it is recognizable as a kissing cousin.

Kenneth Cole Mankind Legacy

I think the Kenneth Cole Mankind series of perfumes is better than most of what is found on the men’s fragrance counter in the mall. In 2014 perfumer Claude Dir was ahead of the curve using some of the more contemporary men’s trends before they became trends. For Mankind Legacy perfumer Stephen Nilsen creates an herbal green woody fragrance.

It opens with a pairing of nutmeg and clary sage. The sweetness of the nutmeg is a nice contrast to the dry green of the sage. Baie rose and rosemary shade the herbal quality a bit deeper. A rich fir and cedar provide the woody foundation for a bridging vetiver to unite the herbs and the woods. I like Mankind Legacy as a weekend hiking kind of perfume. Almost feels like a flannel shirt should come as a gift with purchase.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Acqua di Parma Osmanthus- The Fruit to Leather Pivot

Soliflores are hard. You’ve heard me say that before. When I received my samples of the new Acqua di Parma Signatures of the Sun collection it seemed like they were following the recent trend of luxury soliflore collections. What I was pleased to find was a group of perfumes which might only have one ingredient name on the label but were much more than that.

Signatures of the Sun is a ten-fragrance collection consisting of one ingredient on the label. All ten were composed by perfumer Francois Demachy. Instead of a group of single keynote fragrances each perfume uses the titular note as a large piece of a greater whole. I am still working my way through the complete collection but as usually happens one leapt out at me from my initial assessment; Acqua di Parma Osmanthus.

Francois Demachy

As osmanthus is one of my favorite ingredients it is unsurprising that it would make an impression. What really made it rise is a single ingredient which is used in overdose. It turns this into a fantastic perfume study of this flower.

When I sprayed the perfume what I first notice is deep neroli supported by baie rose. The herbal slightly fruity nature of the baie rose provides the bridging note to the osmanthus in the heart. The neroli and baie rose tease out the apricot character creating a unique fruity floral accord for the early moments. Eventually the leathery nature of osmanthus also appears. What speeds that process along is the use of ambrette butter in the base. Ambrette is the botanical source of musk, it usually has a dry presence. In this case it has a lusher feel with more depth than I usually experience from ambrette. A small amount of patchouli adds some earthiness to the ambrette. It allows for the osmanthus to pivot from fruit to leather as Osmanthus develops.

Osmanthus has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I am generally impressed with the Signatures of the Sun collection and I’m sure I’ll review a couple more. None of them will be better than Osmanthus.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by Acqua di Parma.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Christian Dior Spice Blend- Lightly Spiced

I have been openly disappointed in the direction of the Christian Dior fragrance releases. There seems to have been an internal agreement to aggressively target those who prefer transparent styles of fragrance. I believe they think that translates to a younger demographic. I haven’t seen the proof for that hypothesis yet. Dior isn’t waiting. My issue comes with the near dismissive destruction of what came before. If this had just remained on the commercial side of the equation, I would have been less frustrated. Unfortunately this has taken over the what used to be the brilliant La Collection Privee and replaced it with Maison Christian Dior. The change happened last year, and the twelve new members of this re-named collection displayed a wide range of quality with only a couple standing out. Which makes the moment when I receive a new release less of a celebration. It becomes more a moment of nervous anticipation as it was when I received Maison Christian Dior Spice Blend.

Francois Demachy

One of the reasons I remain hopeful is the presence of perfumer Francois Demachy behind this line. I have this belief that he can be one of those who finds a way to make this transparency trend less a passing fancy. I always think that it is within this collection that I might see the first signs of it. Spice Blend is probably not the harbinger of better things to come. It is a transparent spicy perfume which is going to be great for the transition between summer and fall. While the title correctly implies this will be a spice-filled fragrance it leaves out it will also be floating on a snifter of rum.

It opens with that rich boozy rum infused with ginger. You might read that thinking there is intensity here. M. Demachy is layering semi-opaque levels of ingredients; even things like rum and ginger. The promised mélange appears next with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and baie rose the standouts. I do admire the ability to keep an accord of those ingredients on the lighter side. As I wore this, I thought I’d be left wanting more but the right balance is struck. It all finishes on a set of synthetic woods.

Spice Blend has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

For something as light as this is it lasts much longer than I expected. While I don’t think Spice Blend does anything more than offer a lighter alternative for those who enjoy spicy perfumes it does that well. I am sure I’ll wear my sample again on a cool early fall morning, but I am still waiting for something better from Maison Christian Dior.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Christian Dior Holy Peony- Sifting Through the Wreckage

I would not say 2018 will go down as a creative apex for the fragrance side of Christian Dior. My thoughts on the travesty of Joy by Dior are well-known. The brand’s insistence on releasing new perfumes which smell nothing like the old perfume while retaining the name; another peeve. In the past I’ve overlooked these because of the La Collection Privee. That was where the soul of Dior fragrance lived. If in-house perfumer Francois Demachy was making that collection with the creativity that was apparent, I didn’t care what was going on at the mall. Then they had to complete their wrecking ball of 2018 and ruin that.

In the middle of 2018 they replaced La Collection Privee with a new collection folding some of those into the Maison Christian Dior collection. This was twelve new releases plus the holdovers from La Collection Privee. It was overall a mess. Proving even a talented perfumer like M. Demachy does not have an endless well of creativity. There were some bright lights but compared to the earlier collection they seemed less substantial in a every meaning of that word.

Francois Demachy

In the past as my desk starts to become covered in upcoming floral spring releases, I would look for a sample of the new La Collection Privee to lift my spirits. I stared at the sample of this year’s Maison Christian Dior Holy Peony with apprehension; equal parts hope and dismay. The reality falls somewhere in the middle.

Like all the new Maison Christian Dior releases, heck all the recent Dior releases; M. Demachy has embraced the trend of transparency. In most of the cases in the Maison Christian Dior collection that produced insipid perfume. in the too rare cases where it did come together the result was slight without becoming complete. Holy Peony manages to find a better finish to a transparent fruity floral.

Holy Peony is a mix of berries combined with apricot rose. It comes together in a familiar fruity floral accord. What sets it apart is a suite of synthetic woods and musks are used to expand that accord. The base notes provide a warmth while attenuating the fruity floral-ness by inflation. Using those synthetic base notes are what make Holy Peony a better than average spring floral.

Holy Peony has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

These past few months have felt like I am sifting through the wreckage of a once great maison de parfum. That there are still some things worth the effort stand for something.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Christian Dior.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Fan di Fendi pour Homme- Picking the Hits

1

There are designer labels that just can’t seem to find their way in the fragrance world. One of those would be Fendi. As a brand they had two distinct eras of trying to become a successful perfume provider. The first era ended in 2004. That was despite producing one of the best perfumes of the last 25 years in Fendi Theorema. That it was a previous entry in this column shows the struggle Fendi had. After 2004 they pulled back and rethought their approach.

Francois Demachy

If the originality of something like Theorema was not going to draw consumers maybe there was a different tack. When the brand returned to making perfume in 2010, they put Francois Demachy in the position of fragrance creative director. Then they seemingly decided that originality was not going to be a priority. Instead they became a fragrance version of a greatest hits record. All the perfumes with Fendi on the label from 2010-2015 were made up of successful accords and tropes from other best-selling perfumes. The idea seemed to be if we can just take a little bit from the other perfumes on the perfume counter, we will find an audience. That I put a date up there to the end of this era is a giveaway to how successful it was.

Benoist Lapouza

Fendi is far from the only brand happy to mash-up the kind of accords which consumers desire. It is a too common way to produce perfume. The thing is if they pick the hits you like the most you will probably enjoy the tune even if it reminds you of other things. For me the right set of tunes showed up in Fan di Fendi pour Homme.

Delphine Lebeau-Krowiak

M. Demachy chose to work with a team of perfumers for all the Fendi releases in this second era; Benoist Lapouza and Delphine Lebeau-Krowiak. Usually this is my recipe for success with a consistent creative team. The strength here was they were all on the same page just figuring out how to balance the styles they were combining into something nice. For Fan di Fendi pour Homme they hit the right accords.

It opens on a mixture of herb and spice with basil and cardamom mixed with citrus. It is a sturdy opening; one which will remind you of many other perfumes. It switches to the men’s style of florals as geranium provides the heart. It picks up the green parts of the herb and the spice. It ends with a leather accord made deeper with patchouli before cedarwood provides the woodiness necessary in a “pour homme” perfume.

Fan di Fendi pour Homme has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I like Fan di Fendi because it fills in on a day when I don’t want to wear one of the many perfumes, of which I smell pieces of, within it. It has become a reliable weekend fall choice. It has just been recently discontinued so this, and any of the second era Fendi perfumes, are still out there to be found.

Fendi has now failed in two different approaches to fragrance. Will there be a third? Is there a path between originality and greatest hits? It will be interesting to see the answer if there is a return in a few years. The Dead Letter Office has two relics of the first two eras whether they are the final representatives of the Fendi fragrance output will only be seen with time.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review: Joy by Dior- Shaking My Head

25

When it comes to my favorite dead brand, Jean Patou, I am a bit like Charlie Brown and Lucy when it comes to her holding a football for him to kick. Every time I think I will get some gratification only to find myself on my back looking at the sky. About a month ago I read that Jean Patou had been acquired by LVMH. What was odd was it had been done in such a way that people only learned of it well after the fact of the acquisition. Why was that? The press release announcing it was appropriately hopeful about giving the brand an elevated profile. Then the truth came about two weeks later when I got a press release announcing the new release from Dior; Joy by Dior. They acquired Jean Patou so they wouldn’t have to have any problems with the name of their new perfume.

Jean Patou Joy is one of the acknowledged masterpieces of perfumery. It is seen as one of the greatest perfumes ever. Because Patou has been so decimated as a brand it is not as cherished as its other contemporaries. Which is why it is puzzling why Dior would make the decision to produce a new perfume with the same name of a masterpiece. The cynic in me says because they’ve unleashed their market research staff and found out most consumers have no idea there is a previous classic perfume called Joy. Which fits with the perfume that has been produced. Joy by Dior is a good perfume put together via the perfume assembly line of focus groups and market research; as cynical as it gets in other words.

Francois Demachy

Francois Demachy the in-house perfumer at Dior is responsible for Joy by Dior. It is very simple, very fresh, and very derivative. M. Demachy chose to create a mash-up of two huge best-sellers. The citrus opening is straight out of Chanel Allure and the floral heart is Dior J’Adore. In other words, it is just a re-tread. This has become a disturbing trend that has bled over into niche perfumery (Try the new Serge Lutens for an example). If you want a crowd-pleasing top seller just combine some of the best accords from your past, or another brand’s, and toss them together into a “new” perfume. Count on the consumer to just go with the happy flow. Voila! You have Joy by Dior.

The top is citrus. Studies say everyone loves citrus. M. Demachy blends a slightly bitter orange version. Flowers, everyone loves flowers; especially rose and jasmine. Yes, but don’t make them too heavy that makes people uncomfortable. It also might remind them of that other Joy. So, make sure the rose and jasmine are composed of expansive synthetic versions. What's the safest base we can use? Oh yes, another synthetic sandalwood wrapped in linen musks to make this as soft as can be. Because above all we want you to feel comfortable with your purchase.

Joy by Dior has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Of all the big brands Dior has been the one which has been the most openly cynical about the mass-market consumer. The whole Miss Dior Cherie-Miss Dior debacle is a prime example. Joy by Dior joins that list of dubious distinction.

Bottom line, Joy by Dior is going to sell like crazy. It is a perfume for people who don’t like perfume but still want to wear perfume. It is going to find its way into Holiday presents galore. If it isn’t the best-selling new perfume this upcoming shopping season, I’ll be shocked. It is why I’ll be shaking my head every time I smell it in the mall for the rest of the year.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Christian Dior Balade Sauvage- Fig Tree Meditations

Patience is not a virtue of mine. Especially when it comes to perfume from brands and perfumers I admire. Which makes it frustrating when there are perfumes I am very interested in trying that are out of reach. When it comes to the work done by Francois Demachy for the Christian Dior Collection Privee there is so much that I admire. Starting in the fall of 2017 I heard rumors of a release of multiple Collection Privees coming as Dior sought to expand this collection. As 2018 began I received a preview of one Souffle de Soie with the information more were right on the horizon. Within a month I received press releases on the other eleven new releases along with a new name for the overall collection; Maison Christian Dior.

Francois Demachy

Even with a brand I admire I was taken aback by twelve new releases. It turns out four of them are very slight soliflore-like constructs. All four failed to connect which reduced what was left down to seven for me to explore. One of the things I mentioned in my previous review of Souffle de Soie is M. Demachy is working on a more transparent aesthetic across all of his Dior creations in the last year or two. This style is going to be part of what will make or break your affection for many of the new Maison Christian Dior releases. I am not a fan, in general, but M. Demachy seems to find a level in the ones I do like of providing just enough structure underneath that it draws me in. The best example within these new releases is Balade Sauvage.

According to the press materials M. Demachy wanted Balade Suavage to evoke sitting under the shade of a fig tree on a coastal cliff overlooking the Mediterranean. Taken at face value what that means is far-away impressions of everything mentioned in that. To his credit he succeeds.

The opening is that ripe fig but dialed way down when compared to other perfumes which use this as a keynote. Then a listed “sea breeze accord” arrives simultaneously. This is the typical ozonic notes but this time with just a hint of the ocean and best of all a hint of the stone of the cliff we’re sitting upon. It also brings a bit of the citrus groves it has blown through on its way to me sitting under the tree. The creamy woodiness of the fig tree itself starts to arise. It all ends on a base of labdanum and light airy musks.

Balade Sauvage has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Balade Sauvage translates to “wild ride” this is not truth in advertising. The perfume with that name is more akin to an afternoon spent under a fig tree meditating.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Acqua di Parma Chinotto di Liguria- Another Winner

Every year as the weather gets warmer a little row of blue colored cylinders form a line at the front of a shelf. Every year I am reminded at the success of the Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo collection at producing compelling fresh, often citrus-based, colognes. Over the next six months or so all the eight bottles I own will allow me to wear something in the heat of the summer that refreshes without boring me. When I made my trip to Bloomingdale’s a month ago to pick up my samples from the fragrance counter I noticed a box with the familiar blue packaging and a new name on the label; Chinotto di Liguria.

Francois Demachy

One of the things I like about this collection is having such a Mediterranean-style focus it doesn’t lend itself to overwhelming exploration of the aesthetic. Since its inception in 1999, Chinotto di Liguria is only the ninth release in almost twenty years. They have also used one of the great perfumers for the last four, including Chinotto di Liguria, Francois Demachy. The Blu Mediterraneo perfumes he has composed all display his ability at finding two-note accords defining top, heart, and base. Chinotto di Liguria is another example.

The note being explored is a rare Mediterranean citrus called Chinotto. To be honest it smells like a greener version of bergamot. I have never encountered the fruit in real life so this might be an accurate description of it. This has more sweetness for the green to contrast. Matched to it in the top accord is a marine note capturing the crashing sea spray on the beach. This is a typical Mediterranean accord M. Demachy uses with a detectable shading on the citrus. The heart accord is a continuation of the green through cardamom and rosemary with jasmine. My favorite part of this perfume is as the cardamom and rosemary intertwine they ride on an expansive bubble of jasmine. It is airily beautiful. This is where it feels like a beach walk between ocean on one side and orange trees and jasmine vines on the other. The expansiveness remains as white musks do the same to the patchouli in the base.

Chinotto di Liguria has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I returned to Bloomingdale’s to buy a bottle after wearing through my sample. It would have been a surprise not to add to my row of blue bottles. There is nothing groundbreaking here but if you want excellently designed warm weather colognes you can’t make a bad choice within this collection including Chinotto di Liguria.

Disclosure: This review based on a sample provided by Bloomingdale’s and a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Cartier La Panthere Eau de Toilette and Dior Sauvage Eau de Parfum

When it comes to flankers one of the most common efforts is to go from eau de toilette to eau de parfum or vice versa. There have been two recent flankers which each went in either direction around a pillar for the respective designer brand. That they are overseen by two of the best in-house perfumers also makes them stand out.

Cartier La Panthere Eau de Toilette

The original Cartier La Panthere was released in 2014 as a gardenia chypre. Because it was mainstream the elements which might have given it bite were defanged a bit. It still was clearly a chypre after a floral opening which won it many admirers, including me. Now perfumer Mathilde Laurent really files down the panther’s fangs. For the Eau de Toilette it is all transparent sparkle.

Mme Laurent opens with a wispy gardenia given some points of light through bergamot. A set of white musks add even more opaqueness along with expansiveness. Then in place of the modern chypre a very light sandalwood takes its place.

It is hard not to see this Eau de Toilette version as a play for younger consumers who seem to want this style. I found it better than a cynical flanker as Mme Laurent does a significant re-work. It is not for me but if you found the original “too strong” this should be just right.

La Panthere Eau de Toilette has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Dior Sauvage Eau de Parfum

Dior Sauvage Eau de toilette was releases late in 2015. It is what I call a mainstream perfume for the man who only wants one bottle on his dresser. In-house perfumer Francois Demachy wrung out many of the greatest hits of masculine fragrance tropes into a single bottle. Despite all that Sauvage remains one of my guilty pleasures. It isn’t directed to a consumer like me, yet it still connected. If there was anything about the Eau de Toilette that I would’ve changed it was the slightly chaotic opening. In the Eau de Parfum M. Demachy meets my request.

Eau de Parfum opens with the same bergamot and Szechuan pepper but nutmeg and star anise smooth things out. This is the smoking jacket version of Sauvage as opposed to the Eau de Toilette’s jogging suit. From the opening the Eau de Parfum dovetails closely with the Eau de Toilette transitioning through the same safe accords finishing with Ambroxan.

The Eau de Parfum seems like a play for fans of the Eau de Toilette to add a second bottle to their dresser. It is seemingly meant to be a nighttime style of Sauvage. If you like the original I believe the Eau de Parfum will also be to your liking especially if you do want a slightly deeper version.

Suavage Eau de Parfum has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Both of these are better than average flankers worth seeking out on your next visit to the mall; especially if you liked the originals.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by Cartier and Dior respectively.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Christian Dior La Collection Privee Souffle De Soie- A Silken Caress

If there is a predominant emotion I have when seeing the name of a perfume it is bemusement. Sometimes I am happy that the name matches what’s in the bottle. In very rare cases the name has nothing to do with the ingredients, but it completely captures the fragrance. The latest addition to the Christian Dior La Collection Privee, Soufflé De Soie, is one of those.

Soufflé De Soie translates to “breath of silk”. When I read that I envisioned a soft transparent construct which has the inherent strength of silk. I am not surprised at the transparent aspect because in the perfumes Francois Demachy is composing for Dior recently he has been working on the opaquer side of things. What I was quite interested in was how M. Demachy would transform three powerhouse florals; jasmine, tuberose, and rose into something delicate.

Francois Demachy

The opening whisper of breath is a gorgeous trio of lemon added to the herbal notes of basil and tarragon. I adore the tart citrus over the green. This is a veil which whispers across my senses. Clove is used as piquant transitory note to take you into the floral heart. This is a bit of the kind of alchemy I find appealing from M. Demachy. Jasmine comes out first along with some peach underneath. In a typical perfume this would slowly climb in volume. In Souffle De Soie what happens is the tuberose and rose come in at the same intensity. Just as this seems like a typical fruity floral accord costus provides a funky depth without making it stronger. The costus is joined by a set of musks to finish the effect.

Souffle De Soie has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

There has seemingly been a race to see who can make the least obtrusive, or noticeable perfume. Most of the time that transparency is equivalent to insipidness. Soufflé De Soie is the first of these which is anything but that. There were times while I was wearing it I felt as if I was trying to catch a will o’ the wisp with my nose. Because of the quality here that was not as frustrating as it has been for other perfumes designed in this style. In this case it was a positive as I wanted to chase this silken sprite throughout the day. In the end it disappeared with a silken caress after hours of enjoyment.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Christian Dior.

Mark Behnke