Under the Radar: Chanel Allure Homme Edition Blanche- Shoulder Season Standout

This is the time of year referred to as shoulder season. Not quite full spring with reminders of winter still present. Just as you wear a sweater or jacket in the morning only to be carrying it on your arm in the afternoon. There are a select few perfumes I enjoy wearing on these variable days. They are among the best constructed perfumes I own because they must be versatile enough to handle the variability of the day. From the moment it was released in the spring of 2008 Chanel Allure Homme Edition Blanche has epitomized the ideal shoulder season perfume.

Chanel has always been blessed with incredible in-house perfumers. Enough that it would be difficult to parse which is better. When it comes to a set of masculine perfumes it would be hard to argue that Jacques Polge and Francois Demachy set the standard for twenty years at Chanel. Allure Homme Edition Blanche would add the exclamation point to this era.

Allure Homme Edition Blanche succeeds by being what I call a high-low style of perfume. Something which starts out light and ends up deep. The original Allure Homme was a soft fresh citrus woody perfume. Even though it shares the name Allure Homme Edition Blanche is entirely different.

It is apparent right away with one of my favorite lemon top accords. This is bright sunshine for a spring, or fall, day. Sun hanging lower in the sky still brilliant but a little softer around the edges. This lemon infuses the perfume with energy which carries into the heart where sandalwood and tonka await. The sweet of both ingredients cover the lemon. Adding more depth without completely overwhelming the citrus. The base uses vetiver and vanilla to provide the final rounding. Vetiver takes the sandalwood to a more traditional woody direction. The vanilla harmonizes with the tonka for a comforting accord. All while the lemon pulses in the middle of it all.

Allure Homme Edition Blanche has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

While I am lauding this for being perfect in spring or fall it is also just as good in the summer as an alternative citrus cologne. There are few better men’s fragrances out there than this. If you’ve come to Chanel because of Bleu de Chanel; Allure Homme Edition Blanche should be another bottle from the brand you add to your radar screen, or dresser.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Acqua di Parma Sakura- Cherry Blossoms at Dawn

Living in the Washington DC metro area this time of year means cherry blossoms. The entire city celebrates these harbingers of spring. Mrs. C and I visit every year but we like going in the odd hours when there are less crowds. I’ve written in the past about visiting the charry blossoms by the light of the moon. My other favorite time is at sunrise, as the sun crests the horizon making the delicate pink petals glow with light. Acqua di Parma Sakura reminds me of this.

Francois Demachy

Sakura is part of the 10-member collection called Signatures of the Sun released last fall. I previously reviewed Osmanthus when I received them. Perfumer Francois Demachy is the perfumer behind all of them. By seeing the single ingredient names you could be expecting soliflores. He has done something slightly different. The name on the bottle is the focus, he just chooses some back-up singers who also make their presence felt. Over the months I’ve had the collection it has impressed me for the delicacy of the compositions. Sakura is the best example of it.

The opening of Sakura is similar to all the other Signatures of the Sun fragrances; citrus as interpreted via Italian aesthetic. It has almost become the signature of Acqua di Parma. For Sakura M. Demachy employs a mandarin orange given a green herbal shading through baie rose. Citrus is easy to compare to sunlight. This is one of those accords as the orange is that glowing sun just on the horizon while the baie rose is reminiscent of the dewy grass. The cherry blossom accord at the heart of this is delicate given expansiveness through the support of jasmine. When you are amidst the cherry blossoms at dawn there always seems like a moment, as the sun’s rays hit them, they release their scent in greeting. That is what this smells like. A series of white musks continue to add an airiness to the overall effect throughout the remainder of its time.

Sakura has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I don’t know if they have cherry trees in Italy. If they do, I imagine this is what a Mediterranean Sakura smells like at dawn.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Dior Homme Eau de Toilette- Shaking My Head 2.0

In the early 2000’s it was so interesting to watch the mainstream brands try and incorporate some of the independent perfume aesthetic into their releases. One of the greatest successes was 2005’s Dior Homme. Perfumer Olivier Polge and creative director Hedi Slimane collaborated on what might be the most successful masculine floral ever released. By taking iris and wrapping it up in cacao, amber, leather, and patchouli they made florals appropriate for even the alpha males. It is a modern masterpiece which Dior treated as such in the subsequent flankers which weren’t called Dior Homme Sport. There hasn’t been a Dior Homme release since 2014’s Dior Homme Parfum.

The current state of Dior has been chronicled extensively as a brand which has replaced class with crass. It seems every move they make is saturated in cynicism. When I heard there was going to be a new Dior Homme Eau de Toilette early in 2020 I wondered what it would be like. Would this regain the classicism of the Dior Homme releases of the past? Or would it take its place on the shelf next to Joy by Dior as a bottle of functional fragrance meant to appeal to people who don’t like perfume?  

Francois Demachy

My hope was raised by the participation of Francois Demachy who had been responsible for Dior Homme Parfum and a couple other of the flankers. I was worried because M. Demachy phoned it in with Joy by Dior. Unfortunately Dior Homme Eau de Toilette left me shaking my head in sadness in the same way Joy by Dior did.

Dior Homme broke barriers as a masculine floral. Dior Homme Eau de Toilette wants to smell like every other woody fragrance designed for blockheads. I laughed at the PR description of “a new, masculine sensuality”. There is nothing new here. The original Dior Homme was the antithesis to bland things like Dior Homme Eau de Toilette. This is the same Iso E Super, patchouli, and vetiver in hundreds of other perfumes marketed to men.

Dior Homme Eau de Toilette has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I can’t explain the choice at Dior to just give up on creativity in their fragrance offerings. It is like they are actively trying to push away those of us who love the history of Dior fragrance. Things like Joy by Dior and Dior Homme Eau de Toilette are made for people who desire bland inoffensive fragrance. Now when I tell someone that Dior Homme is one of the best perfumes of the last twenty years I’m going to have to put in a disclaimer. I walk away shaking my head at the ongoing decay of the House of Dior.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Christian Dior Rouge Trafalgar- A Fun Fruitchouli

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One of the styles of perfume I enjoy least is the fruity floral. Only in a few cases does it not end up as a fruit salad overturned on a vase of flowers. What I find funny is I like them by themselves just fine. I have lots of floral perfumes I enjoy. I have lots of fruity perfumes I like. Especially the class given the portmanteau “fruitchouli”. If you give me fruit salad and overturn onto an earthy patchouli it turns out I find that pleasant to wear. Which is why Maison Christian Dior Rouge Trafalgar tickles my fruitchouli bone.

It was two years ago when the Dior Collection Privee re-branded itself as Maison Christian Dior. I didn’t have an issue with the name change. It was the simultaneous release of 18 new perfumes; all but a couple of them mediocre and forgettable. Ever since the regrettable perfume dump the brand has seemingly gone back to the two new releases a year formula which was what we had prior. It has also lifted itself out of the doldrums as the fall release of Spice Blend was better than the 18 perfumes released before it. Rouge Trafalgar finds a way to also be better than those.

Francois Demachy

All the Maison Christian Dior come from Francois Demachy. Rouge Trafagar is no exception. M. Demachy has shown the ability to take trite styles and find something different. Rouge Trafalgar isn’t quite as interesting as M. Demachy can be. He does manage to produce a better than average fruitchouli.

Rouge Trafalgar opens with the sweetest of the red berries; strawberry and raspberry. Just for extra red fruit emphasis M. Demachy layers in a cherry. It reminds me of those squishy fruit candies which have a liquid center, so it squirts when you chew it. Rouge Trafalgar squirts with juicy fruits when you spray it. M. Demachy then attenuates that with three great choices. First grapefruit can be its tartest semi-sulfurous self. Blackcurrant buds provide a sticky green contrast. The key to my enjoyment of it all is M. Demachy’s use of violet leaf. It carries a sharp slightly sweet green piece. The violet leaf is the linchpin which turns it into a nicely balanced fruit salad just waiting to be overturned on the patchouli. That patchouli is an earthy classic type of that ingredient. Once it is all together this is a fun fruitchouli.

Rouge Trafalgar has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’m still not sure if Maison Christian Dior will find its way back to the great perfumes prior to the name change. If they don’t at least releases like Rouge Trafalgar don’t make me wish they had stopped making an exclusive collection.

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

Mark Behnke

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

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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

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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