New Perfume Review Maria Candida Gentile Lankaran Forest- Azerbaijan Tour

I say it incessantly but one of the things I love about independent perfumers is their willingness to make their own raw materials. The ability of someone who is working for themselves to make the effort to create the perfect ingredient. One of the best at doing this is perfumer Maria Candida Gentile. When I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with her she usually has a vial or two of the accords she is using in the latest release. I was unable to attend Pitti Fragranze this past September but ever since receiving a sample of Maria Candida Gentile Lankaran Forest I realized I missed the opportunity to try another amazingly realized accord.

Lankaran Forest was actually released in 2015 as a limited edition at the 2nd Buta Festival of Azerbaijani Arts in London. It was used as the scent of a gallery within which was an artist’s depiction of the forests near the Azerbaijan city in the name of the perfume. To prepare for this Sig.ra Gentile took a trip to the place in the name. While there she was taken by the immense ironwood trees. She would also go visit a citrus orchard and a tea plantation nearby. Together she used all of these inspirations to create the new fragrance.

Maria Candida Gentile

It is those citrus orchards which come out early on. Bitter orange and petitgrain form a tart accord which is given energy by the addition of ginger. For a perfume with forest in the name this felt more like the beach. It begins to get a little more arboreal with the arrival of a black tea accord. Lankaran black tea is renowned for its floral nature over the deepness of the tea leaves. That mix of floralcy and dried tea leaves is an interesting transition from the brighter top notes. Then we finally arrive at the edge of the forest looking up at the ironwood trees and here is where Sig.ra Gentile’s touch with an accord comes into play. She creates a mélange of dry woods with hints of moist lichen clinging to it. There are also grace notes of moist soil here too. It is complex with lovely subtleties I discovered on every day I wore this.

Lankaran Forest has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Most of the time when you see forest in a fragrance name you are expecting soaring woods, big balsamic notes and lots of green. Lankaran Forest is none of that. It is less focused on the forest and more on the whole of a city named Lankaran from orchard to tea to tree. It is one of Sig.ra Gentiles most nuanced perfumes which drew me in even further as I wore it. I believe if I ever make it to Lankaran I already know how it will smell.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Maria Candida Gentile.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maria Candida Gentile Rrose Selavy- Rolling Your R’s

It has been a funny 2016 for me and new rose perfumes. Early on when I was receiving a lot of the spring releases I was bored to tears at the lack of variability. I sent out a silent plea for someone to do something different. I guess pleas, silent or otherwise, can be heard. Over the next month or so I have received some different takes on rose. Which put me in a receptive mood upon visiting with independent perfumer Maria Candida Gentile as she presented her new Rrose Selavy to me at Esxence 2016.


Photo of Rrose Selavy by Man Ray (c.1921)

Sig.ra Gentile was inspired by the Man Ray photographs of artist Marcel Duchamp dressed as a woman in the 1920’s. These founding members of Dadaism were close friends. These photographs led to the alter ego of M. Duchamp called Rrose Selavy. If you say it with the rolled r’s out loud it is meant to sound like “eros ces’t la vie”. Mme Selavy would be a consistent presence as she would sign some paintings and author some articles. I’ve seen the picture above when I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I find the soft focus doesn’t necessarily mask the man underneath but rather makes it more prominent. Which is what I believe Sig.ra Gentile is doing with Rrose Selavy. By using multiple sources of rose she produces a softness which allows for deeper consideration of this most ubiquitous of perfume florals.

mcg in her studio

Maria Candida Gentile

Rrose Selavy is a series of different layers of rose layered on top of each other. Sig.ra Gentile starts with two versions of rose we are familiar with as Rose Damascene and Rose de Mai provide the early moments. Rose Damascene is the version with spicy undertones. Rose de Mai is the fresh soft rose. Together they provide the double r at the beginning of this perfume. Then Sig.ra Gentile starts adding in different rose sources. The woody stems and green leaves fill in some of the gaps left open by the florals. Along with those the commonly sold Michelle rose provides a sort of flower shop accord. There are other sources of rose here as well including an accord designed by Sig.ra Gentile. The r’s keep rolling along the longer you wear Rrose Selavy.

Rrose Selavy has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I often talk about ingredients being used in perfume in overdose. A single ingredient or two pushed to a high concentration. It has the effect of allowing that extroverted raw material the opportunity to elicit subtleties not always apparent if used at a more normal level. Rrose Selavy is just one huge overdose of rose all by itself. Except instead of one ingredient Sig.ra Gentile uses multiple sources which add up to the overdose. When I wore Rrose Selavy it was interesting what would stand out from one moment to the next. There were times it was honeyed while at others spicy or green or ethereal. I put out a request to the universe for a different kind of rose; Rrose Selavy seems to be my answer.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Maria Candida Gentile at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maria Candida Gentile Elephant & Roses- A Rose Grows on the Serengeti

One of the things I like so much about the independent perfume community is when a perfumer is working from a very personal inspiration something interesting follows. It is among the advantages of being on your own. You don’t have to live by the lowest common denominator as you design the releases for your brand. You generally can’t have a brand full of challenging perfumes; but when the mood strikes you it can allow for a freedom more mainstream brands aren’t allowed to have. The downside is when a perfume is this personal the circle of those who also share the desire to share that vision is most likely smaller than something safer. It is certainly never going to be described as boring. It is going to present itself in defiant terms forcing the wearer to embrace it or to turn away. While I was at Pitti Fragranze 2015 I discovered the new Maria Candida Gentile Elephant & Roses is one of these kind of perfumes.

When I sat down with Sig.ra Gentile she told me the story of how this perfume came to be. She was working on an animal accord; attempting to capture the smell of an elephant. While she was concentrating on her task she had a strong vision of a fuchsia pachyderm tattooed with roses trampling a full field of roses. This was her brief for Elephant & Roses.

maria candida gentile

Maria Candida Gentile

Over the last few years as I have come to know Sig.ra Gentile I have learned the care she takes in constructing her accords. It is one of the things which sets her brand apart as when she uses them as the foundation for her perfumes it provides a signature quality to them. The animal accord used in Elephant & Roses is that closed in smell of a circus tent or even a horse barn. It is the smell of a living thing in motion leaving its personal sillage in its wake. The roses are provided by two different Turkish rose formulas.

Elephant & Roses opens with a very herbal accord on top dominated by thyme. That thyme is going to be an early deciding point for manty if you want to continue this safari or not. Usually thyme is used in more measured doses. In this perfume Sig.ra Gentile does not want measured she wants power and the thyme delivers it. Instead of trying to ameliorate it she twists it on a bed of costus and osmanthus. As with the thyme the amount of costus used is more than you would usually find. When costus is used in this quantity it takes on an animalic character. This is the bellwether for the elephant’s arrival. Before that we find the field of roses growing on the savannah as the Turkish rose accord sets itself up in the heart. The thyme and costus are still there but the roses are ascendant through the middle part of the development. Then from out of the brush comes the fuchsia protagonist of this perfume as the animal accord crashes like a wave over the roses. The mix of thyme, costus, rose, and the elephant accord is where Elephant & Roses stays on my skin for many hours. It eventually dries down to vetiver and sandalwood much later.

Elephant & Roses has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Elephant & Roses is going to be a fragrance of divided opinions. For many the thyme, costus, and elephant accord are not going to please. I think there will be many, like me, who will willingly place themselves in the path of this rose covered elephant. Even though it might rough you up a little more than the typical fragrance I think the trip is worth it.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Maria Candida Gentile at Pitti Fragranze 2015.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Maria Candida Gentile Kitrea, Synconium, & Leuco- Mind Your Beeswax

Over the last couple of years I have had the opportunity to sit down with perfumer Maria Candida Gentile as she takes me through the raw ingredients in her perfumes. Her method of seeking out unique materials and crafting a fragrance around them is the epitome of what independent perfumery is all about. At Pitti Fragranze I got another master class from the master perfumer on the terroir of a particular raw material. For her latest collection of three fragrances, Kitrea, Synconium, and Leuco she has grouped them as her “Flight of the Bumblebee” (Il Volo del Calabrone) collection. Which makes sense because the linchpin ingredient in all three is beeswax with the accompanying honey. Sig.ra Gentile chose a specific source from a different country for all three perfumes. What I find particularly interesting is the beeswax sources are not interchangeable and each of these fragrances were constructed from the foundation of the particular beeswax.


Kitrea uses an Italian beeswax which Sig.ra Gentile found to have an aromatic balsamic character. From that she builds a structure of citrus and ocean. Kitrea opens with a brilliant flare of lemon and bergamot which softly settle down onto the foundation of honey and beeswax. The balsamic tinged quality forms a perfect pivot point for Sig.ra Gentile’s aquatic base. As it was with Finesterre her deftness with her marine accord gives Kitrea a wave tossed finish. Kitrea is a skillful mix of citrus and ocean all encased in a honeycomb.

Synconium uses a Spanish beeswax which carries a fabulously rich gourmand character of almond and vanilla. Sig.ra Gentile chooses to match a keynote of fig to go with this beeswax. This time the honey and beeswax are on top and they add a velvety smoothness. The gourmand qualities arise out of the treacle just in time for a very ripe fig accord to come forward. As the fig and the beeswax almost melt into one another it feels like Synconium is becoming a decadent fig tartine. Synconium stays right here for a very long time before allowing soft sandalwood to be the final addition. Synconium is a gourmand fig that is delicious and savory.

mcg in her studio

Maria Candida Gentile in her studio

Leuco uses French beeswax and this source imparts a powdery softness to the honey. This is a critical pairing because Leuco is a tuberose perfume. The French beeswax does a fantastic job of taming the tuberose; transforming it into a lush narcotic white flower which allows the wearer to come to it instead of the other way around. The honey and beeswax are on top again and the powdery aspect of the French beeswax also gives the honey a bit of unusual sweetness. The early going made me think of a pot of honey which was left next to a powder puff. The tuberose starts to meld with this and it does so brilliantly. Often when I start to smell tuberose I metaphorically plant my feet for the onslaught to come. I did the same the first time I smelled Leuco but the tuberose never became that all-encompassing floral note. Instead the French beeswax refines it and turns it into this shimmery white floral note. This has to be one of my favorite tuberose perfumes ever because of the unique way it is presented. Leuco is the best perfume Sig.ra Gentile has ever made; it is an example of a master perfumer, and an independent perfumer, working at the peak of her skill.

All three perfumes have 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Once again Sig.ra Gentile has opened my eyes to the potential of using just the right ingredient in the right place. All three perfumes are beautiful but Leuco is among the best new perfumes I’ve tried this year.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Maria Candida Gentile at Pitti Fragranze.

Mark Behnke

Pitti Fragranze 2014 Day 1 Wrap-up- Old Friends, New Tricks, and a Mozart Ball


Buongiorno Perfumistas!

Every perfume event I go to it seems like the first day is all about checking in with those who have become friends over the years. This began on the sidewalk outside the Stazione Leopolda in Florence, Italy the site of Pitti Fragranze 2014. Francois Duquesne emerged from his cab and I asked him if there were any new Aedes de Venustas fragrances coming. He pulled out a sample vial of Copal Azur the new release coming in the fall. This is composed by the man I call The High Priest of Resins, Bertrand Duchaufour. Copal Azur is one of the most resinous fragrances I have smelled in a long time and it is tuned expertly by a perfumer who seemingly can do this at will.

They finally let us inside and I began by walking the entire room to see what is here. After my reconnaissance was done and many hugs and handshakes exchanged I stopped to introduce myself to Andy Tauer who I met in person for the first time. We discussed the Sotto La Luna line and I asked what was next and he told me the formulas for the next two are finished. We have Sotto La Luna Hyacinth and Sotto La Luna Tuberose to look forward to. Based on our conversation I am particularly excited to see how Hyacinth is realized.

Next stop was with Jeroen Oude Sogtoen who was presenting the new bottle designs for Mona di Orio Perfumes. One thing I was delighted to see was Oud has been renamed Oudh Osmanthus. Mme di Orio used osmanthus as the perfect unusual floral foil to oud at a time when too many perfumes were just throwing it in to fragrances with no thought. Oudh Osmanthus showed there was a different, and better, way to go. The new bottles feel like they were designed to nestle in your hand perfectly. Finally I had the opportunity to try the new release Myrrh Casati by perfumer Melanie Leroux. Mme Leroux captures the shadow play Mme di Orio was known for and this looks to be a worthy continuation of the legacy. One last thing for those who were missing the original fragrances Lux and Nuit Noire are now both available again in the new packaging.

As I walked into the next room the team from Masque Milano were standing in front of a giant samovar. It will be no surprise to you that the fifth fragrance from Masque Milano is called Russian Tea. The perfumer is Julien Rasquinet who made this his last work as an independent perfumer before accepting a job at IFF. While I fully expect M. Rasquinet to produce more great fragrances Russian Tea was a great one to finish this phase of his life as a perfumer. It is smoky and it has a surprising grace note of mint which works surprisingly well. I kept returning to this strip throughout the day and the development and the way it evolved rewarded me every time. I am looking forward to wearing this on my return home.


I then attended two presentations in the conference hall that were back to back. The first was from Mane all about their supercritical fluid extraction technique named Jungle Essence. This form of extraction gathers all a natural source has to give without having to be heated up. There is a video they used to show this process that I hope I can share with you in the future because it did the best job of showing how the process works. The best part was they passed around examples of raw materials captured via Jungle Essence and more traditional ways. It was striking how much more nuanced the Jungle Essences were, especially when comparing side by side. For me the most surprising was the difference between cardamom absolute and cardamom Jungle Essence. The absolute has a raw green quality which the Jungle Essence has but it is much softer.

The second presentation was by perfumer Maria Candida Gentile who presented the three fragrances in the “Il Volo del Calabrone” (The Flight of the Bumblebee) collection. Using three different versions of beeswax form three different countries she complemented each one with different notes. In Kitrea it is lemon. In Leuco it is tuberose. In Synconium it is fig. The different style of honey is apparent on first sniff, it really adds a dimension to a note which can be difficult to balance.

On my way down the hall I met the lovely Valerie “Cookie Queen” Sperrer. Now you would think I would say she gave me a cookie but she also had some new tricks to share and instead I got a Mozartkugel or as we call it in English a Mozart Ball. It was yummy after dinner tonight. Thanks Valerie.

Final stop of Day 1 was to meet the team at Grossmith and try the new Fortnum & Mason exclusive, Sylvan Song which is a fabulous floral fantasy as only Grossmith can do as they continue to create perfumes which feel like classics reinvigorated. I think I might have to arrange for someone to visit Fortnum & Mason for me as this is truly exclusive and will not be sold anywhere else.

It was off to dinner as I rode into a beautiful sunset over the Arno river.

I’ll be back tomorrow as I concentrate on the section of the exposition called Spring which has gathered a number of new brands.

Until then Ciao Perfumistas!

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Maria Candida Gentile Finisterre- An Aquatic of a Different Stripe

There are times when a new release comes out and it is just the wrong time of year to be fully appreciated. In October of 2013 one of these instances occurred when I tried the new fragrance Maria Candida Gentile Finisterre. I met Sig.ra Gentile at Twisted Lily as she debuted Finisterre. She shared with me some of the raw materials and accords she used. Every so often I have the opportunity to smell one of these accords which just illustrate what skill a master perfumer brings to their art. As Sig.ra Gentile passed me the marine accord she used in Finisterre I was struck by how photorealistic it was. Finesterre refers to Cape Finisterre a rocky peninsula in the Galicia region of Spain. Finisterre is a way station for pilgrims on the Way of St. James. They traverse the path along the water with the waves crashing against the cliffs. The marine accord Sig.ra Gentile is the smell of brine and wet rock as the ocean water sluices out of the honeycomb of rocks in between waves striking the cliff face. This single accord is turbulent and earthy. Even now over six months after encountering it I pull my little envelope of the strip with it on it to regularly re-experience it.


Cape Finisterre

Sig.ra Gentile wanted Finisterre to represent the worshiper’s journey along the coastline. To the marine accord she adds immortelle and pine to evoke the trees and brush growing on the path. All together this is an Atlantic seaside olfactory pastiche, it could be a still life in smell of this milieu. There is a spirituality and humanity I rarely find in a fragrance.

maria candida gentile

Maria Candida Gentile

Finisterre opens up with those waves crashing against the cliff face. There is a mix of ozonic notes, a hint of the seaweed left hanging on the wall, the fizz of the foam, and finally the mineral feel of the rock. This is unquestionably an aquatic accord but it is like no aquatic accord I have tried previously. Instead of sea breeze this is the power of waves and stone in constant opposition. From here the immortelle adds its unique character to the construction. If it wasn’t listed I would probably have thought this note was genet but once clued in the characteristics of immortelle are there to be experienced. Then the pine trees on the landward side of the path make their presence known as the sea breeze soughs through the branches. It is gently green adding a tinge of pine instead of a more focused version. The base is a mix of ambergris and sandalwood as we return to the ocean for the final moments.

Finisterre has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.


There has been no fragrance I have been looking more forward to wearing once the weather got hot than Finisterre. Over this past weekend I finally had the chance to do just that. As I suspected on a hot day Finisterre explodes to life, it was good in the winter but in the summer it is glorious. If you tried Finisterre back when it came out last fall make it a point to give it another try now in the season it was really made to be worn in. You will find what I think is the best aquatic fragrance released in the last five years.

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

Mark Behnke