New Perfume Review Paco Rabanne Phantom- The Sum of Fractions

One of my favorite moments of my perfume blogging life happened about 10 years ago. I was invited to Robertet. As I sat there, they introduced me to the idea of fractionation as it applied to perfume ingredients. Because I am a chemist, I understood the process immediately. The idea is when you are distilling an essential oil you collect it, as an example, over a ten-degree range. That’s the full spectrum stuff. The question that was asked was what if you took smaller pieces of that temperature range. Collect only the first two degrees, then the next two, and so on. They showed me what that looked like for ylang-ylang. I was blown away. There was a fraction which smelled like lily, another which was intensely fruity, it was like seeing the layers of fragrance nature used to create the scent.

Ever since I’ve been fascinated with the use of fractions of all the main perfume ingredients. Each of them can smell entirely different than the parent. When I received the new Paco Rabanne Phantom there were three fractions which show off the best part of why you use them. Luc Dong, Anne Flipo, Juliette Karagueuzoglu, and Dominique Ropion form the team of perfumers working on their fractions.

It begins with the brightness of lemon. The perfumers use the old-school synthetic ingredient styrallyl acetate to add fruity green to the citrus. This is where the first fraction appears. It is from patchouli, and it carries an apple piece of its scent profile. This finds its partner in the synthetic green which also has an apple piece to it. It forms a hinge point where the lemon sits between.

The next fraction arrives, and it is one of vetiver. This captures all the green freshness with only a hint of the deeper woodiness of the full version. It adds another hinge point as there is a slight woodiness to the patchouli fraction. What comes to sit in between those two pieces is a fraction of lavender. This has a stronger green profile closer to the grassiness of the vetiver than the herbal-ness of the full extract. The perfumers add back small amounts of lavender to create an echo of it. It is as if the floral-herbal piece is coming from a distance. Some vanilla adds depth and warmth to the smooth lavender accord.

Phantom has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Phantom is a fun summer fling. What makes it engaging is the sum of its fractions.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Armani Prive Ikat Bleu- Before the Spring

It is always a conundrum that the perfume world puts me into spring while there is still snow on the ground. During the month of February I get swamped by the releases of all the new spring florals. Which means my desk smells like April, but it is the weeks away from that. Which is why when I get a sample of a new floral which has no interest in being a harbinger of greener days to come it breaks through as Armani Prive Ikat Bleu has.

Armani Prive as the up-scale luxury fragrance offerings of Giorgio Armani has had a checkered run ever since its first release in 2004. I own many of them but there is an equal amount that are too easily forgettable. It always is an element of uncertainty when I receive a new sample. Ikat Bleu is part of a pair, with Ikat Rouge, in the Fashion Collection sub-group within the brand. That indicates a more haute couture sensibility with the perfume. I don’t detect that level of envelope pushing that portends. What does come through is a use of some higher quality materials. For Ikat Bleu perfumer Juliette Karagueuzolglu carries out that part of the line with aplomb.

Juliette Karagueuzoglu

Ikat is an Indonesian dyeing technique where different yarns are dyed in tied-up bundles to form a pattern which is then used as part of a greater whole. Ikat roughly translates as “to bind”. Mme Karagueuzolglu employs a fragrance equivalent as she ties together orris and patchouli in the center of Ikat Bleu.

This is a pretty simply constructed perfume. It begins with orris and baie rose. For a few moments, the powdery nature of the orris is coaxed to the foreground. A bit of incense keeps it from getting too out of control. A deep dark patchouli comes next as its earthiness calls forth the similarly styled rooty quality of the orris. Spring may be coming but this is reminiscent of the damp soil just after the snow has melted. A smoky vanilla layers in a sweetness underneath the fertile earth to finish this.

Ikat Bleu has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

There are weeks until the world catches up to the pile of perfume on my desk. Ikat Bleu is a reminder the scent of those days is just as enjoyable.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Paco Rabanne Invictus Aqua 2018- A Quick Return

The perfume business is a strange beast. Here’s the latest exhibit. Paco Rabanne’s fragrance releases have been solid mainstream offerings over the past few years. For my tastes I keep finding myself drawn to one of the flankers over the original pillars. One of those flankers was Invictus Aqua which was released at the beginning of 2016. Composed by perfumer Anne Flipo this was a nice take on the masculine aquatic which stood out among the other choices at the mall. Then inexplicably it was removed off the perfume counter in 18 months. I was fascinated to find out why because I wanted to use the story as a Dead Letter Office column subject. As I shot off emails and made phone calls trying to ascertain the reason; I was contacted by the PR company representing the brand. I was told Invictus Aqua was going to be re-released early in 2018 followed by the offer of a press sample. I took them up on it and waited for my opportunity to review it; which is here.

Invictus Aqua 2018 Perfume Team

Before we go too far I will say that Invictus Aqua 2018 is overall fresher than Invictus Aqua 2016. I do think they are similar enough that you probably don’t need both in your collection as they both cover enough of the same ground it would likely seem redundant. Besides the scent profile the perfume was composed by a trio of perfumers who joined Mme Flipo; Nicolas Beaulieu, Juliette Karagueuzoglu, and Dominique Ropion. It seems like a lot of firepower for the slight difference on display.

The biggest difference I found shows up in the first few moments. Aqua 2016 opened on a sunny citrus mix before the typical ozonic aquatic accord arrived. Aqua 2018 opens with that set of aquatic notes making the first few seconds slightly sharper. When the grapefruit comes forward in Aqua 2018 it begins to dovetail with the previous version more closely. From here until the finish the two perfumes are on the same track but when wearing them side-by-side the Aqua 2018 always felt a little cleaner and a little lighter than Aqua 2016. So, the green violet leaves, the light woods, and the synthetic amber are close enough.

Invictus Aqua 2018 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage. The sillage is another difference from the Aqua 2016 version; 2018 has a bit less of it.

I think Invictus Aqua 2018 takes its place on the department store counter in the same place it was when it left as one of the better aquatics in that sector.

Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Paco Rabanne.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review L’Artisan Parfumeur Un Air de Bretagne- The Rocky Coastline

When I first moved to New England and the Florida boy was grumping about the lack of beaches; I was told that I would come to appreciate the rocky coastline. In the height of summer that was never exactly true. I wanted soft grainy sand to lay out on not craggy outcrops. Where it became true was when we would venture out late in the fall, north towards Maine. With some chill in the air as we would walk along the rocks, hopping from one to the other, there was a complex scent in the air as the minerality of the rocks mixed with the sea spray. Along with bright late fall sunshine this was an aquatic kind of perfume I could want. Just as I headed into the fall of this year I received my sample of L’Artisan Parfumeur Un Air de Bretagne which reminded me of those rocky coastlines.

Un Air de Bretagne was based on what I think is the French equivalent to Maine; the Brittany coast. Perfumer Juliette Karagueuzoglou uses many of the popular ingredients you fine in the aquatic style of perfume but she manages to give them a little more heft evoking the fall rather than the apex of summer.

Juliette Karagueuzoglou

The best example of her adding something to the ordinary comes right at the beginning as Calone is part of the sea spray accord. Calone is this classic ingredient but in Un Air de Bretagne M. Karagueuzoglou wants to capture a more kinetic crash of big waves against the algae covered boulders. So, she adds some of those green algae-like accords along with a kind of iodized note. It takes the Calone and transforms it into something different than almost every other fragrance which relies on it. There is more energy to it as the melon-like quality is covered over by the green and mineral aspects. She perfectly captures that fall day when the spray hangs heavier in the air. A softer style of green comes as neroli comes out of the sea spray and sends the perfume towards a base of ambergris and cedar.

Un Air de Bretagne has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I have mentioned many times how much the aquatic genre has evolved, especially over the last three or four years. Un Air de Bretagne is one of those next generation aquatics. I have become a fan of the genre again because some of our most talented perfumers are finding new ways to display old tropes. M. Karagueuzoglou has shown that there is still plenty to explore on the rocky coastline of Un Air de Bretagne.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by L’Artisan Parfumeur.

Mark Behnke