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

New Perfume Review Acqua di Parma Colonia Pura- This Old Colonia

There comes a moment for perfume brands to examine when it feels right to design to a younger generation of perfume lovers. The last two years have seen many of the original niche houses making different choices about when to make their play for the new demographic. For Acqua di Parma they have decided to go back to the beginning to try and capture the future with Colonia Pura.

Acqua di Parma has become a successful niche brand by using the seed of the original Colonia created almost a one hundred years ago. As the brand became a player in the 21st century they gave that Colonia architecture to some of the greatest perfumers working to develop their versions. It has been a mostly successful collection overall. Starting in 2014 perfumer Francois Demachy became the creative force behind the new versions of Colonia. During this time, he has been focused mainly on adding in a particular note or accord and adapting the existing formula so it fits. With Colonia Pura M. Demachy is re-imagining Colonia for today.

Francois Demachy

Colonia Pura opens on the classic citrus except orange and petitgrain are given a lighter feeling. This allows a sea breeze accord to lift them up in an expansive way. M. Demachy is seemingly trying for a transparent version of Colonia; the early moments are the bellwether for this. The floral heart is completely different. Remarkably M. Demachy can take the usually very deep power of narcissus absolute and turn it into something less substantial. The technique used is to have jasmine provide an underpinning which like the ozonic notes in the top provide a similar expansiveness. As patchouli and cedar begin to form the base accord I expect this to get a little more grounded but M. Demachy unleashes a suite of white musks to again lift and expand over the final hours.

Colonia Pura has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

There is a television show called “This Old House” where a team of workers completely re-do an old classic home of around a hundred years old. As I wore Colonia Pura this felt like M. Demachy was making a perfume version, “This Old Colonia”. Where he takes the venerable old mansion that is Colonia and spruces it up so a new fragrance fan can be lured to Colonia Pura.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Acqua di Parma.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Christian Dior La Collection Privee La Colle Noire- Rose de Mai Overdose

If there is any one perfumer who could break me out of my first half of 2016 funk over the amount of pretty, demure roses it would be Francois Demachy. Certainly the sugar coated Rose de Mai he did which was Poison Girl offered me something different than everyone else was doing this year. I have to admit though when I saw the description for the latest Christian Dior La Collection Privee was meant to be a paean to the “flower queen, Rose de Mai.” I was prepared for La Colle Noire to be disappointing. When I finally got the chance to try it when visiting the boutique at Bergdorf Goodman during Sniffapalooza Spring Fling the first sniff did not draw me in. Except the longer I held the card the more I kept coming back to it. La Colle Noire was a pretty, demure rose that was growing on me. After wearing it for a couple of days it finally broke through my general level of disdain for this style of perfume, this year.

The name La Colle Noire comes from the chateau Christian Dior purchased in 1951 not far from the rose fields of Grasse. Grasse is where the Rose de Mai is cultivated. It has become the standard bearer for pretty florals everywhere. There is a part of me that sees its overuse as devaluing what makes it special. M. Demachy wanted to remind me why this particular rose is so prized as a raw material. To do that Rose de Mai is used in overdose and it is practically all you smell for a very long time. La Colle Noire does eventually evolve but if you aren’t a rose lover I don’t think you’ll have the patience to get to where things eventually change.


Francois Demachy

La Colle Noire feels almost like a linear rose perfume for about an hour on my skin. It is nothing but Rose de Mai. I suspect there is some other source of rose, otto or centifolia, underneath it all. There are moments where there were some facets not generally present in Rose de Mai. Or maybe this is just what you get when there is so much and there is nothing else to distract. At this concentration Rose de Mai loses a little bit of its politeness. Reminded me a bit of a Southern Belle saying, “bless your heart”. It sounds mannered but there is a definitive edge. Eventually the mix of sandalwood and white musks find some traction and begin to add some much needed harmonies. The sandalwood is typical woody contrast. The white musks provided some softening of the overall effect. For much of the last hours I wore La Colle Noire it was much less pronounced than earlier on.

La Colle Noire has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage especially early on.

In the end I feel La Colle Noire is a fragrance primarily for the rose lovers out there. M. Demachy’s presentation of one of the finest sources of rose is worth it for those who can’t get enough rose. It would also be a really fine choice for someone who wanted an excellent representation of Rose de Mai. La Colle Noire stands out for me for the sheer extroverted quality M. Demachy brings to the fore. It took an overdose to get me interested again.   

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Bergdorf Goodman.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Dior Poison Girl- Whither the Millennial?

As I’ve looked back over the history of perfume; one of the reasons changes in styles come about is because of societal changes. I’ve written about the change in buying habits as women moved into the workplace during the 1970’s. I am wondering if we are not on the cusp of another change currently. One harbinger of this change came in an article from the information company The NPD Group which gathers data on many different consumer sectors. In a post from earlier this month The NPD Group said that Millennials are now outspending Baby Boomers in the prestige beauty sector for the first time. Furthermore, that younger generation is spending more on fragrance than skincare. Both of these factors are driving the perfume industry to begin to cater to these young fragrance consumers. Already in 2016 I have seen a number of press releases and campaigns with that group in mind, sometimes just flat out saying that. It is interesting because of these perfumes supposedly designed for Millennials I have not detected a common theme. Each company is trying to divine what they want. Dior is no different. Their entrée into the chase for the Millennials is called Poison Girl.

francois demachy 1

Francois Demachy

Putting aside the pursuit of the twenty-to-thirtysomethings a perfume called Poison Girl is going to have my attention. The follow-ons to the 1985 Edouard Flechier classic Poison have been uneven but there have been some winners, namely Hypnotic Poison. Perfumer Francois Demachy said in an interview for DiorMag, “For Poison Girl, I wanted a slightly different kind of gourmand. There are flowers at the center of all Dior perfumes, and I thought about a sweet treat from my childhood in Grasse, where rose petals were soaked in sugar. So I tried to capture this sugared rose in perfume, but with that intense, radical Poison composition.” In M. Demachy’s estimation sugary florals is what a Millennial is looking for. He is a man of his word as Poison Girl is accurately described by him.

Dior poison girl camille rowe

Model Camille Rowe as part of the Dior Poison Girl ad campaign

Poison Girl opens on a bitter orange and almond accord. In a sense it is a callback to both Poison and Hypnotic Poison respectively. When anyone, including M. Demachy, is talking about “that intense, radical Poison composition” they are talking about the dense spiced floral heart of the original. The room filling accord that had some restaurants include “No Poison” alone with “No Smoking” in the late 1980’s. For Poison Girl M. Demachy dials down the sillage while retaining the power using both Turkish rose and Rose de Mai. The inherent spiciness of the Turkish rose captures some of the spicy character of original Poison while the Rose de Mai lightens the mood without banishing the shadows entirely. As I wore Poison Girl I definitely felt the connection between the heart accords. Then M. Demachy douses the rose in vanilla and tonka bean. This is where I would have like the rose to have more presence and the sweetness be a little more attenuated. It pushes my personal line of becoming cloying never fully crossing it but it tiptoes right up to my tolerance. A nice sandalwood base is the final piece of Poison Girl.

Poison Girl has 10-12 hour longevity and slightly below average sillage. Hard to believe there is a perfume with Poison in the name which doesn’t leave a vapor trail.

The race is on for what appeals to Millennials and the rest of us who love perfume will be dragged along in their wake as this generation becomes the trendsetters. If I had to choose a style for them to latch on to I think floral gourmands wouldn’t be a bad one to have win the hearts and noses of this group. As a designer perfume goes I think Poison Girl is a solid effort which upholds the name on its label.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Acqua de Parma Cedro di Taormina- Underneath the Volcano

When I was writing my Perfume 101 on Acqua di Parma I had my little collection all sitting in front of me. As I was looking at it I realized that I had neglected the little collection of blue bottles with Blu Mediterraneo written on the label. As I reacquainted myself I was once again struck by the nice balance this set of fragrances strike hovering between an eau de cologne and eau de parfum concentration. I was also reminded of what a nice job these do with the title note. It was funny when a few weeks later I received the latest Blu Mediterraneo release Cedro di Taormina. I was excited to see what could be teased out of cedar.

The Blu Mediterraneo series is meant to not only feature a note but also capture a place in the Mediterranean. In this case we are in the Sicilian beach town of Taormina on the east coast of the island. Taormina features Mt. Etna rumbling off to its west while you look out upon the Ionian sea. Perfumer Francois Demachy wanted to capture some of the fire of the volcano along with the freshness of citrus and cedar. In the end Cedro di Taormina takes you from shore to caldera and back again.


Francois Demachy

When M. Demachy is working at his best he takes specific pairs of notes to create memorable chords. The opening and heart accords of Cedro di Taormina show this ability. The opening is the lighter citrus feel of citron paired with basil. Because citron is a lighter less tart version of lemon it allows the herbal aspect of basil a little more traction. M. Demachy keeps this opening as light as a Mediterranean breeze. Not so as we move into the heart as lavender and black pepper capture the heat of Mt. Etna. The heart is mostly black pepper and the lavender is pushed into the background. Even though it only exerts a minor presence it is an important modulator keeping the black pepper from being too strident. The lavender also pulls the basil in with it to help keep the pepper well behaved. This volcano is not quite ready to erupt. The base is the promised cedar but it once again picks up a breeze of cistus and vetiver to help cool down the warmth from the heart.

Cedro di Taormina has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

After having found my Blu Mediterraneo collection I know I will be wearing these a lot for my weekend morning jaunts. Cedro di Taormina is going to go right into that rotation.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Acqua di Parma.

Mark Behnke

Chanel 101- Five to Get You Started

There is no single perfume which is ingrained in popular culture more than Chanel No. 5. It has come to represent luxury, style, aldehydes, heck even perfume itself. I’ve left giving Chanel the 101 treatment for so long because of that elephant in the perfumed parlor. The question I kept asking myself was would I introduce someone just beginning to explore perfume to Chanel No. 5 as the first Chanel to try. After almost two years of thinking about this I think the answer is Chanel No. 5 is best appreciated if you come to it after having tried many other perfumes. Below are the five Chanel fragrances I think are the best place to start learning about the perfumed side of Chanel.

ernest beaux

Ernest Beaux

Ernest Beaux was a genius and that is borne out because he followed up Chanel No. 5 with a string of successful fragrance one after the other. Bois des Iles was M. Beaux’s ode to sandalwood. Before you get to the sandalwood in the base you go through a phase of coriander and petitgrain followed by a floral mix of jasmine, rose, and ylang-ylang. When you get to the sandalwood it is strengthened with ambrette seed along with other musks. A judicious use of vanilla brings out the creaminess of sandalwood. If you own Bois des Iles you pretty much don’t need another sandalwood perfume in your collection.

Cuir de Russie was M. Beaux’s entry into the leather perfume category. He would create one of the most redolent leather accords using birch, styrax, and cade wood. If this was all there was to Cuir de Russie it would still be good. What makes it a classic is the opening of orange blossom which transforms into jasmine before the leather gallops through the garden. One of the earliest leather perfumes and to this day still one of the greatest.

jacques polge

Jacques Polge

In 1981 perfumer Jacques Polge would begin his time as in-house perfumer at Chanel. He would bring the perfumed side of Chanel back to life in a big way with Coco. M. Polge worked in a diametrically opposite way from M. Beaux. Coco is a perfume so filled with concepts and flourishes it is like trying to follow a Fourth of July fireworks show on your skin. M. Polge refines the concept of fruity floral by adding in peach to the lightly floral frangipani and mimosa. This top accord is what every fruity floral since has tried, and mostly failed, to achieve. M. Polge mixes clove with a beautiful Rose Otto with jasmine also present. It provides a sultry floral heart. The base is mainly patchouli but with a number of grace notes surrounding it with musk being the most prominent. Coco comes in both Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum. It is the Eau de Parfum you should seek out.

If I was going to pick one perfume to introduce someone to Chanel it would be Coco Mademoiselle. Seventeen years after the creation of Coco M. Polge collaborated with Francois Demachy with whom he co-authored many of the best Chanels during this time period. Coco Mademoiselle as the name portends is the younger fresher cousin to Coco. It is a marriage of orange followed by rose and jasmine before heading to a base which is a bit like a faux chypre. Patchouli and vetiver create a chypre-ish vibe as a cocktail of white musks keep it on the clean side. Coco Mademoiselle is the most accessible of the entire brand.

M. Polge would create a contemporary chypre with 31 Rue Cambon. When Chanel launched the Les Exclusifs M. Polge showed he could make a classical perfume with the best of them. 31 Rue Cambon is a chypre which seduces with softer lines than usual in this style of perfume. It still carries the strong green nucleus but M. Polge blurs the edgy qualities and turns it into something more meditative. It is M. Polge’s modern interpretation which makes it something amazing.

Chanel has become such an iconic perfume brand because it has never rested on its reputation generated by Chanel No. 5. For almost 100 years it has stood for some of the best perfume you can experience. The five above are good places to begin.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Dior Sauvage- Rocky Horror Perfume Show

There is nothing which exemplifies the principle of “it is so bad it is good” than the 1970’s cult movie “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. It was one of the earliest examples of a bad movie kept alive because some people found something lovable about a film containing time-traveling transvestites from the planet Transylvania. One of the things which makes it endearing is the filmmakers just couldn’t stop themselves adding in one more thing to the mix. It means that somewhere within the running time of the movie there is at least one thing which will make you smile. That is the hallmark of most of the movies which fit the “so bad it is good” category; lots of recognizable bits and pieces jammed together.


Francois Demachy

I was thinking a lot about the “so bad it is good” concept while trying the new mass-market release Dior Sauvage. Francois Demachy who has been in charge of all things fragrant at Dior has made the Dior version of the perfume for a man who only has one bottle of perfume on his dresser. As with many other brands it requires M. Demachy to mash together a number of popular masculine perfume tropes into his own version of a “greatest hits” perfume. That there is a market for this kind of perfume I have no doubt. Other brands have proven there is. When I received my sample and tried it the first time. I immediately dismissed it as boring and derivative. Then I went about my evening cooking and doing blog things. Lo and behold I kept pulling the patch of skin with Sauvage on it back to my nose fairly frequently. If it was so boring and derivative why couldn’t I completely ignore it? I felt I needed to try wearing it at least one day, which turned into two days. Yes I’ve smelled all of this before. Yes it is as unoriginal as it sounds. But I couldn’t stop myself from enjoying it.


"The Time Warp" from Rocky Horror Picture Show

If there is going to be one thing which keeps people at arm’s length it will be that Sauvage wears its synthetic heart on its sleeve. Without doing a thorough analysis I am pretty sure there is only one naturally sourced ingredient in the formula. That ingredient is Szechuan pepper and it is one of four notes which provide a chaotic start to Sauvage. M. Demachy takes geranium, the aforementioned pepper, bergamot, and elemi and smooshes them together. With this he begins to check off boxes; citrus (It’s just a jump to the left), spice (and then a step to the right), masculine floral (with your hands on your hips), and light woody resin (you bring your knees in tight). He adds in synthetic ambroxan (but it’s the pelvic thrust), safe base notes of patchouli (that really drives you insane) and vetiver (let’s do the Time Warp again).

Sauvage has 18 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Sauvage is as fun as doing the Time Warp at a showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Just like that kind of thing you might feel a little guilty for enjoying it so much. Better yet just embrace Sauvage and take a jump to the left.

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

Mark Behnke