New Perfume Review Ariana Grande God is a Woman- New Direction, Same Quality

Over the last three years the fragrances with Ariana Grande’s name on them have been surprisingly good for celebuscents. One reason is the creative team, who I am still frustratingly unable to identify made a smart move. They hopped on the transparent floral gourmand bandwagon right away. Starting with Cloud and followed by Thank U Next and REM they produced three of the better examples of the trend. They also chose to house them in eye-catching bottles which for a change weren’t the only creative thing on display. I was wondering if they were going to keep on working the trend or if they might make a change. Ariana Grande God is a Woman signals that maybe a new day has begun.

Perfumer Jerome Epinette is behind this new perfume. He was the composer of Thank U Next. His general style fits the transparent goals of the brand. That characteristic remains. What is different is instead of floral gourmand, God is a Woman is a fruity floral. Some might think that is an undetectable distinction. The three earlier releases while being sweet used cookie or pastry-like accords to partner the floral. Here it is a recognizable fruit in pear.

Jerome Epinette

The pear is what begins this. Now this is probably the creative team jumping on another trend. Especially in the mass-market sector it seems like there was a sale on the pear perfume ingredient. I feel safe in saying I have received a perfume featuring pear at least once a week this year. That doesn’t make it good or bad because it is the rest of the fragrance which determines whether it is enjoyable.

In this case M. Epinette takes the botanical musk of ambrette seed and wraps it around the pear. Having this up front gives the pear a subtle shading so that the fruitiness doesn’t blare off the skin. It diffuses it until its floral partner arrives. Iris comes forward in a way I don’t usually get in a mass-market release. He uses the powderiness which is usual. It adds to the hazy fruit. What also comes out is the rootiness in the carrot-y way iris sometimes has. It harmonizes especially well with the ambrette seed. This is an unusually kinetic accord for this kind of fragrance. A little vanilla adds some extra sweetness like a spritz of whipped cream on top.

God is a Woman has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

The creative team behind these Ariana Grande perfumes is doing a fantastic job. They are choosing good perfumers while allowing them some freedom to design differently. While I have no idea of the gender of God, I do know this creative team knows what they’re doing.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Floral Street Sunflower Pop- What They Should Smell Like

Where we live there are huge sunflower fields. At this time of year there is a constant question on our local Facebook page, “Are the sunflowers in bloom?” Ten days ago the answer was yes. Mrs. C, the poodles and I headed out to walk through the gloriously vibrant fields. Every year I am always struck at the lack of scent of these happy flowers. It feels like Mother Nature left something out. A flower which is meant for observing and not smelling. Of course perfumery is not bound by the laws of Nature. They are free to imagine what a sunflower should smell like. Floral Street Sunflower Pop tries.

Michelle Feeney

Floral Street has been one of my favorite new brands because creative director Michelle Feeney has overseen an excellent collection. One piece of it is working exclusively with perfumer Jerome Epinette. His minimalist style is an ideal match to Ms. Feeney’s vision.

Jerome Epinette

Another thing that has happened is she also looks for opportunities to collaborate with outside interests to bring scent into new venues. For Sunflower Pop the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is the partner. Ms. Feeney is tasked with creating a perfume which captures the vibrancy of sunflowers in the wild and on canvas.

When you’re standing in a field of actual flowers or gazing at a Van Gogh still life the one thing which leaps out is the intense yellow of the corolla. A citrus mixture of bergamot and mandarin represent that brilliance. Of course there is the dark center and so M. Epinette adds in a touch of passionfruit to create a deeper shading to the citrus. Instead of sunlight it seems more attuned to the yellow petals.

It is the heart where the “pop” in the title occurs. M. Epinette constructs a Bellini accord with peach lactone and aldehydes. This is a fizzy piece of fun. The smile that looking at sunflowers brings to your face. Plum blossom and orris add the same kind of depth that the passionfruit did in the top accord. Together the citrus and Bellini make as audible a pop as the prosecco used to make the cocktail.

The base is focused on the sweetly animalic honey. M. Epinette uses just enough so that the subtle growl is apparent. Some musk and amber make sure it doesn’t disappear. This is that moment as the sunflower is past its peak when the snap of the early color has given way to slightly droopy gold.

Sunflower Pop has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Given the freedom of imagination Ms. Feeney and M. Epinette have created a lively vivid example of what a sunflower should smell like.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Les Soeurs de Noe Call Me Iris- Meditation Iris

Now that there has been about five years of this trend of transparency, I have some preferences. I still have issues with a fragrance designed to be so light it is barely present. Those always seem like perfume made for people who don’t like perfume. There is a level where things become just a little opaquer. As difficult as it has been to embrace this style it is these types of constructs which I can find some pleasure in. Les Soeurs de Noe Call Me Iris fits right into what I like.

Nadia Benaisa

I discovered Les Soeurs de Noe two years ago with their debut release of five fragrances. Founder-creative director Nadia Benaisa wanted to design perfumes which reflected her Belgian and Moroccan world where she grew up. The first releases were smart combination of Eastern and Western influences. She worked with perfumers Jerome Epinette and Pierre Wulff to create one of my favorite discoveries of 2019. The same creative team is in place for Call Me Iris.

Pierre Wulff (l.) and Jerome Epinette

The Eastern and Western pieces here are frankincense and iris. I have lots of perfumes which have these two ingredients as their nucleus. What makes Call Me Iris different is the transparency without becoming ephemeral. Here those two ingredients knot them selves together like two silk scarves as the wind blows underneath.

Orris and frankincense come together immediately. In the early going it is as if the incense is coated with a fine dusting of iris powder. I’m not usually a fan of the powdery part of orris. In this case the opacity works to make it more interesting. A lemon zephyr blows in adding a hint of citrus luminescence. Baie rose asks for that rhizomal side of orris to come out. As that happens the frankincense also slightly shifts from soft to a silverier scent. The base has vanilla waiting to interact with the orris and fir balsam to add to the frankincense. As this comes together, they add an extra layer to both keynotes.

Call Me Iris has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am quite pleased to see that Mme Benaisa has returned with all the things which made me so happy about her first releases. Call Me Iris has been a wonderful companion on these summer days because it is as transparent as it is. I have found myself closing my eyes and letting the scent take me to a different place. It has become my meditational iris.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Hollister Mandarin + Honey- Après Beach

When I was sharing a beach house the most hectic time wasn’t the morning. It was when everyone returned from their day. That was when there was a wait for the shower as everyone traded swimsuits for shorts. This was when the house was at its liveliest. Music would be playing. Dinner was being cooked or pizza was being ordered. Everyone was talking to each other. There is a term for this when people do it after snow skiing called “après ski”. I always thought there should be a summer equivalent for the laid-back evenings called “après beach”. Hollister Mandarin + Honey would fit right in.

Jerome Epinette

It seems I am being repeatedly shown there is perfume life at the mall where I don’t expect it. The most recent place to find interesting economically priced perfumes is the California-based beachwear brand Hollister. They have been a brand which plays it safe with some flashes of inspiration. For Summer 2021 they have released a five fragrance Juice House collection. These are the equivalents of a summer beach novel. When I received my sample set, I thought they would be simply what was on the label. It turned out all five had much more depth than that. Coconut + Lime, Lemonade + Pink Pepper, Strawberry + Acai, and Watermelon + Mint do more than just give you that simple equation. I think all five are a cut above most of what you find at the mall. The one I like best is Mandarin + Honey.

The perfumer for this is Jerome Epinette. What drew me to it more than the other four is this had that après beach vibe I described. This felt like the one I would wear on one of those evenings. M. Epinette makes it much more complex by enriching each of those ingredients.

The top accord is not just the juicy citrus of mandarin. It is also the tropicality of passionfruit. The sweetness of peach and the softness of plum blossom. It makes a fruity accord which feels like sunset to me. The other half is built around the viscosity of honey which he uses the rooty type of iris to give real depth to. Amber and a set of the slightly heavier musks bring out a hint of that hidden animalic piece of honey.

Mandarin + Honey has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I know everyone is just getting back to shopping. I just want to make sure you know there are some excellent perfumes waiting in unusual places like the Hollister store.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Room 1015 Cherry Punk- Punk in Places

There is a large part of my personality I define as punk. When I first learned of the music in the late 1970’s it fit my idea of what rock and roll should be. The sneering take no prisoners attitude appealed to me too. In those days it was slam dancing in front of screaming guitars and vocalists.  I’m over 60 but that part of me still peeks out from behind the gray. Because it is important to me when a perfume brand claims to want to take it on, I am suspicious. As I was when I received my sample of Room 1015 Cherry Punk.

Dr. Mike

Room 1015 was founded in 2015 by Michael Partouche aka Dr. Mike. His aim has been to make perfumes which capture the era of the 1970’s rock and roll scene as fragrance. I love the idea, but the execution has not always been as emblematic of that era in music. Maybe it is because I lived it, I have a different perspective. I want rougher edges around something full of life. The other new release from the brand called Sweet Leaf might be the politest marijuana perfume I’ve ever smelled. It should have had tendrils of lung tickling smoke. Instead it comes straight from a modern-day apothecary. It is a nice cannabis perfume, but it is not 70’s rock and roll. Cherry Punk hits closer to home despite my initial skepticism. Dr. Mike works with perfumer Jerome Epinette for the third time.

Jerome Epinette

The cherry comes from a maraschino-like version. Except it is roughed up with Szechuan pepper and saffron. If you have ever ground up a cherry pit this is what this accord reminds me of. The syrupy fruitiness is present but the pepper and saffron dial that sweetness way back. The heart is a powdery mimosa which also has a counterbalance in violet. One of my best friends who shared my punk passion chewed violet scented gum. It may not mean anything to anyone who didn’t have a friend like that. For me, the violet toning down the powdery mimosa felt right. It leads to a battered black leather jacket accord. This is that jacket which has been on tour. There are some slices in the hide and some studs on the collar. Maybe the name of your favorite band painted in red on it. It is a barely refined accord. The birch tar in it has a great bite which is when this feels the most punk to me. A classic 70’s head shop patchouli completes everything.

Cherry Punk has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Cherry Punk isn’t as much a representative of that 70’s music scene as I’d like. It also has enough of the punk attitude in places that it doesn’t feel like a sellout. It at least brings back some good memories of those days.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Room 1015.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Byredo Open Sky- Spring Green?

Now that we have hit the middle of May in the US, this is when I observe a shift in spring. The early days are about new growth rising out of the soil. As we move through April into May that growth is mostly green. For all that spring is associated with florals I think of it as two halves. The back half from mid-May through June is when the flowers sing. Right now it is the vegetation which has the lead. Byredo Open Sky is a perfume of that first half of spring.

Ben Gorham

Byredo has been one of the success stories of independent perfumery since its inception in 2007. Over the last fourteen years founder and creative director Ben Gorham along with perfumer Jerome Epinette have formed a distinct brand aesthetic. The evolution of that through the longtime collaboration of just two people is something I appreciate. They’ve not kept things at a static level. Over the years they have responded to changing trends with their own interpretations. Open Sky feels like their response to the idea that a spring fragrance should also be floral.

Jerome Epinette

Mr. Gorham nods to the effects of being quarantined during the pandemic has had for our desire to be out in the open sky again. I get that but this feels closer to grass between my toes rather than blue skies overhead.

It begins with a textured citrus and black pepper. This has become one of those accords I am encountering a lot in this spring of 2021. I like it a lot, but I wonder why it has started to be used by so many different fragrances. M. Epinette’s version is the tart grapefruit roughened up by the pepper. It at times reminds me a bit of rhubarb. The source of green is two-fold. The first is hemp. This is not the scent of marijuana or cannabis. If you’ve ever picked up the stalk of a hemp plant and shredded it then smelled your hands this is the green at the core of Open Sky. It is a fibrous green scent profile thick with vegetal facets. To pair with it, vetiver is used. This is the sharp grassy vetiver which softens some of the green stridency while simultaneously sharpening other aspects. As the vetiver and hemp find an equilibrium I am reminded of my own backyard as it exists today. A soothing woody palo santo provides the foundation.

Open Sky has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

This is a very nuanced homage to the part of spring which hasn’t had the flowers bloom. I’m not sure what to call it. Maybe a spring green? It is a different way of embracing spring as a perfume.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Byredo Mixed Emotions- No Ambivalence Here

One silver lining about being at home is I’ve had more substantial perfume conversations than I have in a while. The connectivity of the online messaging world provides the mechanism for it. When I posted my review of Byredo Tobacco Mandarin I got a message asking if it was different enough from the rest of the line. It led to a discussion of the Byredo expansively minimal aesthetic, my words versus transparently bland, his words. I’m sure I didn’t change his mind. What it did for me was to make me think about why this type of opacity appeals to me. The latest release Byredo Mixed Emotions offers me a chance to write about it.

Ben Gorham

It seems like a good place to do it since Mixed Emotions is the 50th release since the brand began in 2007. One of its strengths is the relationship between creative director Ben Gorham and perfumer Jerome Epinette. Together for all 50. This seems like one of those collaborations where both men were interested in what you could do with a minimalist mindset. Over the years the answer has been to create expansive versions of ingredients known for their weight. It is that quality which draws me to this collection.

Jerome Epinette

Mixed Emotions is an on-point example because of the way birch is used here. Usually the foundation of a leather accord. In this perfume it is given a quite different profile. M. Epinette turns it into something delightfully airy.

It starts with a smoky fruity accord. Combining blackcurrant bud and two teas, black Ceylon and mate. Blackcurrant bud can be a problematic note when concentrated. Used in a more open way it just carries a lilting berry scent. The two teas rise up in steaming spirals to surround the fruit. The black tea adds the hint of smokiness. The mate adds back some of the green the blackcurrant bud would have displayed if denser. As an accord it is an abstraction which allows for a desired effect to be achieved. Papyrus and violet leaf add back some deeper shading to the green. Then we come to the birch. I am not sure how he did it, but this is not the biting proto-tar of most birch in fragrance. It is the scent of birch trees in winter carrying a slightly mentholated quality with the clean woodiness. I don’t recall finding a birch displayed in a perfume in this way. It is what makes this great.

Mixed Emotions has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mixed Emotions is everything Byredo does well just refined after having done it 49 previous times. The name may portray ambivalence, I don’t share it. Mixed Emotions is an ideal reason why Byredo remains one of my favorite perfume brands.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Kierin NYC Rose Ink- Midnight at the Tattoo Parlor

Because Mrs. C is a tattooed person, I’ve spent my share of time in tattoo parlors. They are some of my favorite places to be in the hours just after midnight. In that time it is often when someone has finally screwed up the courage to get their first. We were in NYC one night because a famous artist from out West had come to visit. It was a few hours after midnight when a young woman walked in. She was by herself and she told the owner of the shop she would like to get a rose on her shoulder. He gave her the book to settle on a design. As she looked, she was asking questions. She didn’t see anything she really liked when the visiting artist quickly knocked out a freestyle rose on paper. She had been listening to the young woman and seemingly knew exactly what she wanted. The owner took the design and an hour later the woman had her first tattoo. When I received Kierin NYC Rose Ink it brought me back to that night.

Mona Maine de Biran

I received the debut four brands from Kierin NYC a little over a year ago. I was impressed with the quality of the collection. Creative director-owner Mona Maine de Biran has decided that the brand should keep it simple. Counting on well-done fragrances to find an audience. Ms. Maine de Biran is taking an interesting tack to engaging that audience. She is heavily using social media to get the word out about her brand. It includes reaching out to reviewers to also do their part. I am happy to do it because the brand has been making good perfume.

Jerome Epinette

Rose Ink like all the fragrances in the collection take a location in NYC as a starting point. Here it says, “Tattoo Parlor, East Village New York” The only thing I would add to that is “after midnight”. Perfumer Jerome Epinette finds the vibe I remember of that milieu.

The source of the named floral is the Damask version. This is the spicy sturdier rose. This isn’t that debutante rose dressed in pink. This is a rose dressed in a biker jacket. To add the hint of that M. Epinette uses saffron as a leather substitute. It creates the scent of leather which lingers on skin after you’ve taken the jacket off. The other keynote is blackcurrant bud. This is an ingredient which requires a steady hand. M. Epinette adds it in to give a hint of the greensoap used to wash the hands and skin to be tattooed. It also adds a subtle metallic shine to the rose. As if it isn’t in a vase but in the tip of the tattoo needle to be transferred onto skin. Cedar provides a clean woody finish.

Rose Ink has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Rose Ink should be a great choice as the weather gets cooler. This is a rose with presence just in case you want to check out a tattoo parlor after midnight.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle provided by Kierin NYC.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: Because I am part of that outreach effort I spoke of Kierin NYC has provided a code you can use to get 10% off any purchase on the website. The code is: COLOGNOISSEUR10.

New Perfume Review Sol de Janeiro Cheirosa ’62- Bum Bum to Perfume

There is a part of the world where fragrance is an important part of the culture, but it remains separated. In Brazil perfume is a part of society. The business of it is also a large part of that. It includes all the big oil houses which have a presence down there. There are many releases which are for that market exclusively. Which means I am unlikely to try them. It is my belief that fragrance in Brazil is where a lot of innovation happens. When a perfume makes the jump to more general distribution, I look forward to trying it. Sol de Janeiro Cheirosa ’62 has made its way north.

Jerome Epinette

Cheirosa ’62 is, according to the website, based on Brazilian Bum Bum Cream. Which is exactly what it sounds like. Like I said fragrance is a big deal in Brazil; in every product. The basis for this is a gourmand style fragrance. Perfumer Jerome Epinette was asked to turn it into a perfume. Sol de Janeiro also makes the Bum Bum Cream so I was able to compare the scent of each. The perfume is different because it isn’t part of a thick cream it is by nature more open. It follows the transparent trend of perfume currently popular. It makes for one of the better fragrances in this style.

It begins and ends with gourmand aspects. On top is a nutty accord of pistachio and almond. It is more of the former with a rawer type of nuttiness as opposed to being toasty. Heliotrope captures the almond and connects it to an opaque jasmine. It then goes more fully gourmand with a caramel accord in the base oozing over a bit of sandalwood.

Cheirosa ’62 has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I continue to point out, it is this style of transparent floral gourmand which is where I find my greatest pleasure within the current trend. Cheirosa ’62 is one of the good ones. It lasts only a short time on my skin. I have yet to determine whether that is a flaw or feature for the consumer this is meant for. I don’t care because I am not averse to spraying a second, or third, time through the day. I think for those who wanted the scent of Bum Bum to become a perfume Cheirosa ’62 does a great job of that.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Byredo Tobacco Mandarin- Spiced Citrus Bliss

Every niche perfume brand thrives on its evolved aesthetic. When they want to color outside the lines their recourse is to release a new collection. In 2015 Byredo creative director Ben Gorham wanted to make a set of perfumes which had more presence in an extrait de parfum concentration. The Night Veils collection was born. Byredo Tobacco Mandarin is the seventh member.

Ben Gorham

Much of Byredo’s general aesthetic is built on a more expansive scaffolding. What sets the Night Veils releases apart is they are much more compact. That leads to fragrances which feel like a more personal experience from the brand. Perfumer Jerome Epinette can translate the aesthetic he has helped build with Mr. Gorham into something which simmers. Tobacco Mandarin is a riff on the spiced citrus style popular in the fall. M. Epinette wraps it in tobacco and oud.

Jerome Epinette

The spiced citrus is the titular mandarin along with coriander at first which gives it some initial life. That doesn’t last long as cumin comes around to blunt that. The cumin here carries that dirty sweat scent profile. With the fruit and coriander it forms a slightly odd version of a clove orange. I smell the cumin and coriander when I pay attention, but they also do a creditable imitation of clove when I’m not focused on it. The tobacco comes next in its extraordinarily rich narcotic form. It must be this way because the spicy citrus needs an equal to stand up to it. To give the dried leaf some support M. Epinette tunes an oud accord towards the slightly medicinal profile of oud. A resinous woody base comes through olibanum and sandalwood.

Tobacco Mandarin has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Tobacco Mandarin was a great choice for me to wear on these early chilly mornings. The spiced citrus accord and frost on the pumpkin seem made for each other. There is also that contained feel which is quite appealing as well. Tobacco Mandarin feels like a perfume equivalent of a comfy wool sweater, one that is a little scratchy.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Byredo.

Mark Behnke