New Perfume Review Puredistance No. 12- Wait For It

I am inherently an impatient person. During the Holidays every gift under the tree which had my name on it was thoroughly analyzed. I wanted to know what was in the box…Now! I am no different at the other times of the year. Once I get an itch for something I want it to arrive yesterday. All this is meant to let you know that one of the worst four-letter words for me is, wait. Except the creative director at Puredistance instructed me to do just that when he sent me my sample of Puredistance No. 12.

Jan Ewoud Vos

Jan Ewoud Vos has given me advice throughout the years on the eleven previous Puredistance releases. All of it has been important to my understanding and enjoyment of the perfumes. When he sent me the box with No. 12 in it, he warned me it was going to get better if I could only wait. He advised waiting at least 30 days for it to settle into its best form. Well, I couldn’t do exactly as he suggested. I thought the opportunity to experience the maturation of a perfume was something I could not pass up. So, I peeked in weekly. Spraying some on a strip every Monday and some on skin. This began a fantastic experience as I really got to know this perfume from M. Vos and perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer as it evolved in the bottle.

Nathalie Feisthauer

It took nine weeks for my nose not to detect a difference between two consecutive wearings. In each of those peeks I experienced a maturation as it became more expansive and fuller. In the first couple of weeks the focal point powderiness was far less than it would be weeks later. The Ambrox in the base was much more prominent in the first weeks, enough so that I feared it was going to deleteriously shape my opinion of the entire scent. By the end it becomes an integral part of it all. One of the few times where it provides the briny surrogacy of ambergris it was created to be. As the powderiness expanded and intensified, the Ambrox receded and supported to comprise a fantastic new composition.

The opening never changed very much as the combination of cardamom and coriander gave a fresh herbal beginning. The descent towards the powdery floral starts with a fleshy duo of narcissus and ylang-ylang. This was another part which was much more evident in the early weeks. By the time I got to the end they are more subtle setting a stage for the heart. That heart is constructed around orris, heliotrope and orange blossom as the powdery warhead of No. 12. Some vintage-like contrast is present in rose and osmanthus. This was another set of two ingredients which changed over the weeks. Early on they were less present than they would be later. That’s because Hedione is used to turn this into a cloud of powder. A glorious fog of iris tinted with the rose and Osmanthus which add complementary sparkles inside the cloud. This is such a fun piece of this perfume. It was like waiting for a ticking clock to strike the hour when this finally came fully together.

The base is meant to be a chypre. For the first couple of weeks, I was dubious because the Ambrox was being its overbearing self. I could detect the pieces down there under the monolith, but I didn’t think they were going to be allowed out. This was the most dramatic part of waiting. Each week that chypre became more pronounced. The sandalwood, vetiver, oak moss, and patchouli slowly formed despite the Ambox. Then on week seven a funny thing occurred. As the powderiness reached its apex it reveled a briny aspect of the Ambrox. It transformed the base accord into a compelling briny chypre.

Puredistance No. 12 has 24-hour longevity and average sillage in its extrait form.

The last couple of months I’ve spent watching No. 12 unfold has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done as a perfume writer. I’ve never felt the vividness of the development of a perfume more clearly. All I had to do was to follow M. Vos’ advice and wait for it.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Crivelli Lys Solaberg- Late Night Lily in the Arctic

Good creative directors are rare. Great creative directors are even more precious. I think they are a critical piece of perfume making. Which is why I tend to get excited when I see a new great one emerging. Thibaud Crivelli is one I am beginning to believe in. His latest, Maison Crivelli Lys Solaberg brings things full circle for me.

Thibaud Crivelli

I tried the brand for the first time in 2019 but it had been around for a year before it got to me. When I was waiting for the sample set to arrive, I read about M. Crivelli’s desire to create texture and keynote. Almost every time this is a lot of PR double speak. Doesn’t mean the perfume will not be good but textural aesthetics are not easy. Coming from someone who was a neophyte at this I was not ready for what I would experience. The first five perfumes I received were exactly what he claimed them to be. My favorite was Absinthe Boreale for its absinthe on crystalline snow under the Aurora Borealis. The perfumer on that was Nathalie Feisthauer. Lys Solaberg takes the brand, and Mme Feisthauer back to the Arctic but this time in the summer. In the days of 20-hour sunlight nature runs riot over this time. For this perfume, a lily grows in the Arctic.

Nathalie Feisthauer

It begins with the crisp fruitiness of quince. This is a multi-faceted note which seemingly transforms minute-to-minute. From citrusy, to like a pear, to a crisp apple; back and forth. To try and fix it in place Mme Feisthauer drops it in a cognac accord. As the sharp boozy quality interacts it kind of holds the quince in place somewhere between apple and pear. It is as if the minute hand is held in place while the hour hand continues to move.

The lily appears next. It arrives as a flower found in a wetland. Calamus provides that sense of wet earth underneath the freshness of the lily. This is like squelching through the damp ground in a field of them. To continue the theme a carroty orris adds a bit of vegetal sweetness while the rhizome adds even more earth to it.

The smell of woodsmoke on the air swirls across the flower. The smoke comes from charred oak shaving absolute, mate, and tobacco. This is that textural piece M. Crivelli has become so adept at realizing. This acts as tendrils of smoke swirling in and around the lily. It adds a Great White North ruggedness to the usually polite floral. A bit of velvety oakmoss softens it just a bit. This all ends on an Ambroxan base accord. Mme Feisthauer keeps it from going monolithic while allowing the dry woodiness a place in the composition.

Lys Solaberg has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

My first experience with M. Crivelli’s vision was an Arctic nighttime. Lys Solaberg flips that. It is no less compelling to be spending summer among the lilies in the Arctic.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Sous le Manteau Poudre Imperiale- Love Potion

There are people I’ve met in my time in the perfume world who are inspiring. I am always drawn to the quick-witted dreamers. The ones who are looking left while most everyone else’s attention is on the other side. When I met Olivia Bransbourg it was like being a sprinter trying to keep up with a long-distance runner. As quickly as I would catch up to her, she would keep on running down her intellectual highway.

Olivia Bransbourg (Photo: Kanak Guo)

I received an email from a Paris reader who had attended the overnight arts festival called Nuit Blanche. She told me of this perfume booth where they were matching perfumes to people via a personality test. They further said each scent had come from an old book of love potion recipes that they had recreated. I was told they were going to market them. I thought it sounded interesting, but I had reservations about who was behind it all. I put it out of my mind until the end of last year. That was when I saw a similar description for a brand called Sous le Manteau. The story sounded the same. I contacted my previous correspondent who confirmed it. When I found out who the people were behind it my attention was fixed on getting samples.

Nathalie Feisthauer

Mme Bransbourg was the one who discovered a 19th century handbook of folk remedies. Among them were love potions. She contacted perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer to help her turn those recipes into perfumes. Which is what the first five releases of Sous le Manteau are based upon.

I was also able to take the questionnaire they used during Nuit Blanche which would select the one for me. I did it while waiting for the perfumes to arrive. My result was Poudre Imperiale. Just based on the name I wanted to go back and change some of my answers. Imperial Powder as my love potion, no way! In the immortal words of Wayne and Garth, “Way!”

After receiving the samples I was surprised to find out Poudre Imperiale has no powder in it regal or otherwise. What it does have is a slivery resinous serenity.

This is a perfume which rotates around an axis of incense and jasmine. Mme Feisthauer has used a church-like austere incense to wrap vines of jasmine around. In the early going black pepper and baie rose add some rough edges to the smooth accord. Ove the latter hours benzoin and tonka bean re-center the contemplative central accord with sweet thoughts. It all takes place in a hinoki wood temple as cedar forms the foundation.

Poudre Imperiale has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

The other four love potions are also very good. I don’t think there was going to be a wrong answer for me from the personality test. I probably would have chosen the more robust Vapeurs Diablotines if it were me just looking at things. Although I admit the quieter Poudre Imperiale does carry my idea of romance more accurately. I know you’re all wondering whether it really is a love potion. Gentlemen never tell although my sample is empty.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample set I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfums MDCI L’Aimee- Soft-Focus

There is a technique in film called “soft-focus”. The concept is to intentionally blur the image. When you see it in movies it can be used to indicate a flashback for a character. There is no equivalent in perfumery. Although there are perfumes which are easily described as soft. It doesn’t seem to be as desirable an attribute as others. When a perfume can produce this effect through the entire composition, I find it particularly attractive. Which is what I found in Parfums MDCI L’Aimee.

Claude Marchal

This is another release in “The Paintings” collection. The inspiration piece comes from painter Jacques-Louis David’s painting of his sister-in-law, Madam Serizat. While the painting is not in a soft-focus technique. The subject matter as translated to perfume is decidedly so. Creative director Claude Marchal teamed with perfumer Nathalie Fesithauer to create a perfume which amplifies the moments of softness within the painting.

Nathalie Feisthauer

This is on the surface a classic floral Oriental with a vintage vibe. Here is where the idea of soft-focus comes in. If Mme Fesithauer had used her keynotes more traditionally this would have felt like an anachronism in 2020. What she does is take a traditional expansive floral recipe and provides a soft-focus to tone it down. It also provides the kind of aching tenderness you see as Madam Serizat holds her child’s hand.

The softening technique appears right away. Mandarin provides a typically fruity start as Mme Feisthauer softens the edges through a precise use of blackcurrant bud. It causes a green tinted haziness to the typical sunniness of the citrus. This really comes alive in the heart which is predominantly orange blossom, rose, and orris. This could be a powerhouse but again she uses precise amounts of other florals to tamp it down. The ingredient list for this perfume is long. My assumption is these other ingredients are how Mme Feisthauer causes her blurring effect. It creates something softly compelling as if leaning into a caress from a loved one. As the base accord shapes up it forms around sandalwood, tonka, and amyris. This is that coumarin tinted woody base common in modern perfumery. Then it gets blurred through another set of ingredients which take this well-known accord someplace different. At this point it is like a flashback to a vintage perfume that never was. The final piece is the long drydown as this becomes drier. It is like watching a memory book version of a flower as it dries in time-lapse. By the end it whispers of what came before.

L’Aimee has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

L’Aimee is a tremendous technically proficient perfume. I think I could spend months trying to figure out all there is to learn from it. That’s the perfume geek in me. The Colognoisseur admires the ability to create a perfume which successfully softens the focus so beautifully.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Crivelli Absinthe Boreale- Aurora Fougere


All the way down here at Colognoisseur HQ we had a visit from the aurora borealis. Watching the undulating lights from my porch was a surprise. It was also serendipity as I was wearing a perfume inspired by that phenomenon, Maison Crivelli Aurora Boreale.

Thibaud Crivelli

I only recently obtained the collection of five perfumes released by creative director Thibaud Crivelli starting last year. One of the things that made me seek the brand out was the idea of combining texture and keynote. When a creative director seeks to add a conscious textural element it can elevate the fragrance beyond the ordinary. When I tried all five perfumes, I found M. Crivelli was not just writing press releases he was achieving his desired aesthetic. The one which captured my attention most fully was the brief of absinthe over snow colored by the aurora overhead. Working with perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer, M. Crivelli imagined a frosty fougere over which absinthe and shadow reigns.

Nathalie Feisthauer

Absinthe Boreale opens on an icy accord of artemisia, lemon, and geranium. That’s the chilly field of snow you stand upon. Mme Feisthauer finds a pleasantly balanced chill so that the lavender rises over it with an herbal-focused floral scent. It pulls at the geranium as along with the wormwood the sky begins to undulate in waves of glowing green. This is a wonderfully realized accord of shadow and light. Mme Feisthauer further adds texture with oakmoss representing the darkness of the night sky behind the aurora. The scent of the nearby woods adds the finishing touch.

Absinthe Boreale has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Absinthe Boreale is a great fall fougere. It complements the frost in the air with an olfactory version all its own. I would also encourage readers to try the other Maison Crivelli releases if you also enjoy textural perfumes. M. Crivelli is doing a great job of living up to his potential.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Nomenclature fluo_ral- New Life for an Old Nemesis

Everyone who loves perfume has at least a few ingredients they are not fond of. Some of it can just be that the ingredient just doesn’t smell great to you. I would venture to guess most of it is when an ingredient becomes overused. When it feels like every new release you pick up has it in it. What once might have been special has become trite. By the early 2000’s that ingredient was Calone for me. It was the keynote which launched the aquatic perfume genre in the 1990’s. As everyone scrambled to make their own, Calone was the keynote over and over and over. As much as I adored the early aquatics, I came to hate the ingredient over time. With this as background you will understand why I groaned inwardly when Nomenclature fluo_ral was going to feature Calone as the keynote synthetic.

Carlos Quintero (l.) and Karl Bradl

I have generally enjoyed the efforts Nomenclature creative directors-owners Karl Bradl and Carlos Quintero featuring some of the finest synthetic perfume ingredients in new ways. But Calone? Seriously? What were you going to show me here? Working with perfume Nathalie Feisthauer they did find a new angle which allowed me to appreciate this maligned ingredient from a different perspective.

Nathalie Feisthauer

How this is achieved is they return to the origins of Calone and when it was called watermelon ketone. Instead of seaside they went for a garden. Using a set of three vegetal notes to tease out that watermelon inside Calone.

Right from the start the Calone is there. Mme Feisthauer pairs it with baie rose in those early moments to set the stage for the green ingredients to come. The herbal-ness of the baie rose attenuates some of the wateriness. Then rhubarb, blackcurrant buds, and tomato leaves obliterate that beachy aspect in favor of the smell of the garden. Rhubarb provides an acerbic slightly sour contrast. The blackcurrant buds find a sticky green of dense foliage. While the tomato leaf provides the main contrast to the Calone with its vegetal quality. Once this comes together you will find the beach has been replaced by a lovely watermelon growing among the green things. It is a remarkable transformation. The base accord swirls some smoky frankincense and clean cedarwood among the vegetation to complete fluo_ral.

Fluo_ral has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I have found fluo_ral an ideal summer companion for its evocation of the garden milieu. I must commend the creative team for allowing me to find a new way to embrace an old nemesis.

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

Mark Behnke

Commes des Garcons Olfactory Library- The Return of the Trendsetters

When the discussion turns to what the first niche perfume was it has some different answers depending on who you ask. While the early pioneers started in the late 1970’s-early 1980’s I would say that niche perfume became defined in the 1990’s. I would further aver that one of the brands which did that was Comme des Garcons.

That started in 1994 when Comme des Garcons founder Rei Kawakubo had Christian Astuguevieille oversee the foundation of the fragrance section of the brand. From that moment M. Astuguevieille has developed what has become one of the most influential niche brands in the industry which continues to be influential today. One of the things that twenty-three years of perfume making offers is a chance for perspective. It is easier to know which perfumes within the collection have been those signposts.

Christian Astuguevieille

Why I am writing about this is Comme des Garcons is bringing back those early releases back to the market under the name of the Comme des Garcons Olfactory Library. As of June 19, 2017, you will be able to find ten releases of these seminal perfumes in the niche sector.

First and foremost, in the ten re-releases is the very first Comme des Garcons Eau de Cologne from 1994. Perfumer Mark Buxton would be one of the first to take a traditional fragrance architecture and turn it inside-out. What really blows me away is it still smells relevant today. This is no anachronism.

Three of the truly ground-breaking Series 6: Synthetic scents are part of this as Garage, Soda, and Tar make their return. When this was released, in 2004, it was marketed as “anti-perfume to the extreme”. What it asked was is there room in this new branch of artistic-minded perfumery for exploring real smells. All three of these are answers to that question.

The remaining six are two choices each from Series 1: Leaves, Series 2: Red, and Series 7: Sweet. Calamus from the Series 1: Leaves is one of perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour’s best green perfumes. He would return for Series 2: Red Sequoia with a booze-infused redwood forest; also included in this retrospective. Perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer did both Tar and Soda but if you want to see one of the forerunners of the gourmand style of fragrance Series 7: Sweet Sticky Cake provides that.

I’m leaving out expanding on Series 2: Red Palisander and Series 1: Leaves Lily and Series 7: Sweet Nomad Tea each of which also defined Comme des Garcons in the years of 1994-2005. Throughout there is the sure hand of M. Astuguevieille guiding Comme des Garcons to remain one of the leaders in a sector it helped broaden..

The overall concept of the Olfactory Library is for Comme des Garcons to continue to bring back the past in consistent sets of releases going forward. There are some amazing perfumes in that history to be given the opportunity to be discovered by this generation of perfume lovers.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aedes de Venustas Pelargonium- Still Life with Nathalie

When a store puts their name on a bottle of perfume they take a risk in potentially diminishing the overall brand. When a brand does it right it has the effect of burnishing the reputation of all involved. This has been the case in the line named for the iconic New York perfume store Aedes de Venustas. In 2012 when they released the first perfume under their name it was what I expected. A fragrance which was honed from decades of serving customers in the store and finding what styles leave lasting impressions. Owners Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner teamed up with Francois Duquesne as the creative directors. Over five more releases since that first one they have done nothing but confirm that initial impression. If there is an overall aesthetic to the line it is for richer, opulent constructions. The latest release Pelargonium adds in a formal elegance to that.

Karl Bradl (l.) and Robert Gerstner

Perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer was asked to work on Pelargonium. Her desire was to create a perfume which was like a still life painting done by a Dutch Master. Still Life as an art form was at its height during the latter years of the 1700’s. The name itself comes from an anglicizing of the Dutch word “stilleven”. The idea was to arrange common everyday objects and capture them using shadow, light, and color to provide new perspective. What it accomplished was to allow a viewer to see the everyday as something to appreciate. Mme Feisthauer takes one of the most common of floral notes, geranium, using it as the focal point around which she arranges the rest of her composition.

Nathalie Feisthauer

From the first days of my perfume obsession I have been very fond of geranium. The “green rose” effect it adds to a perfume has appealed to me. Only rarely is it allowed to stand out on its own. Mme Feisthauer chooses an Egyptian Geranium essential oil as the centerpiece of Pelargonium.

Before that geranium arrives Mme Feisthauer uses the lemon-tinted resin, elemi, as the opening. As the geranium begins to come forward so do a series of notes meant to surround but not override. Green cardamom and clary sage are used to support the green leafy nature of the geranium. Orris and carrot are here to give the rosy floral nature a bit of a modification. One of the reasons I think you don’t see geranium as a focus is it becomes very easy to experience it as a half-hearted rose. Which is why by using two rooty notes Mme Feisthauer turns that into something primitive and earthy. It also allows that green accord more traction, too. The earthiness is continued into the base with vetiver. The vetiver here carries a bit of smokiness with it which I liked more than if a straight vetiver was used. A little gaiac wood, moss, and musk round out Pelargonium.

Pelargonium has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

A Stiil Life is meant to find something beneath the common. Mme Feisthauer’s Still Life of Geranium does that. Every choice illuminates the focal point along with the other things in the picture. Pelargonium carries the elegance of a fine piece of art.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Opus IX- The Ragged Edge of Control


In music there is an elemental debate whether complete control and technical mastery is more important than a performance containing flaws but having more emotion. In jazz the mastery portion is represented by Wynton Marsalis and the emotion is exemplified by the late Dizzy Gillespie. One of my most treasured musical moments was seeing Wynton and Dizzy play at the Saratoga Jazz Festival together on Dizzy’s “A Night in Tunisia”. This was the two extremes brought into stark contrast as the technician and the emotive traded runs before coming together triumphantly. What I walked away from that night with was true emotion has to live on a ragged edge of control, unafraid to fall off. A recent perfume and its inspiration returned my thoughts to that as it pertains to perfume.


Maria Callas as Violetta in "La Traviata" (1958)

Creative Director Christopher Chong of Amouage is a man of many passions but one of his most long-lived ones is that of opera. For the latest release in the Library Collection, Opus IX, he drew on that. Opus IX is inspired by one of the great opera singers of all-time, Maria Callas. Mme Callas was a top coloratura soprano in the first part of the Twentieth Century. She was more Dizzy than Wynton. Her performances were so imbued with visible emotions it would cause a fraying of some of the notes as she would reach for them. Derided by the traditionalists she was loved by audiences because of that primal connection which was made. Mr. Chong has chosen a specific performance by Mme Callas of La Traviata in Lisbon during 1958 to inspire Opus IX. The perfume is composed by Nathalie Lorson and Pierre Negrin. I use the word composed a lot when referring to a perfume but in the case of Opus IX this does feel like something which has three very distinctive phases, or acts, as the press material maintain.


Christopher Chong

La Traviata is the opera composed by Giuseppe Verdi which tells the story of Violetta, the titular "fallen woman”. When we meet her in Act 1 she is one of the most famed courtesans in Paris. She throws a regular salon where the brightest lights of society attend. During the one depicted in La Traviata it is her first back after an illness. It is a room full of beautiful people harboring deep emotions. There is a duet between the young Alfredo and Violetta as he can for the first time try and show her the depth of his devotion. This song is called in English “Let’s drink from the joyful chalices”. The First Act of Opus IX feels very much like this duet to me. As Violetta represented by camellia is met on even terms by black pepper representing Alfredo. The camellia is also bolstered by jasmine to make it an incredibly heady floral. The perfumers have to use an equally intense amount of black pepper to find contrast. It is right up to the edge of being too much. Like Alfredo it runs the risk of taking its emotions too far. The perfumers are sure in their precision and it all stays brightly balanced like an operatic duet.nathalie lorson


Nathalie Lorson

Act 2 of the opera opens with Violetta and Alfredo happy living in the country outside of Paris. When Alfredo finds out Violetta is selling off her possessions to fund their country idyll. Events of the kind of missed communications rampant in most tragedies cause our lovers to end up at a party in Paris where their relationship is put to the figurative sword because of familial and societal pressures. It ends with Alfredo angrily throwing money at her feet in payment for her services. The early moments of idyll are shattered with naked emotions. The Second Act of Opus IX is a beautiful cacophony of notes delivered with all the messiness real emotions evoke. The perfumers employ gaiac wood, beeswax, and leather. These notes never seem to find a place to mesh appropriately. This kind of dynamism is going to be tough for some to take. It is very similar to the miscommunication of our protagonists. The smoke of the gaiac battles with a rich beeswax over a refined leather accord. The beeswax is the disruptor keeping apart the more easily paired gaiac and leather. It is the beeswax which maintains the separation.


Pierre Negrin

In Act 3 of the opera Violetta is dying and Alfredo has been given the missing information he needs to understand all of her actions were because of her love for him. He rushes to her deathbed and arrives before it is too late. They sing another duet mourning the death of Violetta so young. For a moment it seems as if love, and song, has saved the day, only for Violetta to abruptly pass away. The Third Act of Opus IX has dispensed with the discord of the Second Act and now looks for new found harmony. The perfumers use ambergris and civet to represent our lovers at the end. The civet is full of deep animalic emotion and it overwhelms the leather and beeswax of the heart to bring the deeper aspects of the base into something more harmonious. The ambergris provides a fragile partner sometimes reviving only to falter under the civet. It is a deeply emotional place to finish our olfactory opera.

Opus IX has 14-16 hour longevity and way above average sillage.

If you can bring yourself to get lost in the emotion on display in Opus IX you will have a unique perfume experience. There are very few fragrances on the market that would dare this. It is not going to be universally loved, for this open sentimentality is not for everyone. As one who loves living on the ragged edge of emotion I can add Mr. Chong to Dizzy and Mme Callas as artists unafraid to fall only so that they can soar.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones Wisteria Hysteria- Fascinating Fascinator


2013 was a comeback year for Comme des Garcons in my opinion. For what was seeming far too long they had not been the cutting edge fragrance house they had originally been. What I was most interested in was to see if they would continue the return. The first data point for 2014 was going to be a very challenging one. 2008’s Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones, by perfumer Antoine Maisondieu, vies for the title of best Comme des Garcons fragrance ever, with Comme des Garcons 2. The new Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones Wisteria Hysteria was going to have a mighty big atomizer to live up to.


Stephen Jones

Stephen Jones is a world-renowned milliner, or hat maker, who is known for his unique aesthetic and the technical expertise necessary to accomplish his vision. Mr. Jones even has a quote about the relationship between perfume and hat making, “Millinery, I think, is closer to fragrance than fashion. A hat, like a perfume, is an evocation of something nebulous, ephemeral, and other-worldly.”


Nathalie Feisthauer

How there came to be a Stephen Jones + Comme des Garcons has sort of become a tale of chance meeting leading to collaboration. The story goes Mr. Jones ran into Comme des Garcons designer Rei Kawakubo in the Anchorage, Alaska airport and struck up a friendship which turned into an alliance. Somewhere along the line Mr. Jones was introduced to Christian Astuguevieille, the fragrance creative director for Comme des Garcons and the first Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones fragrance was born. For the sequel the same creative team wanted to have something a little more multimedia. For the perfumer they chose Nathalie Fesithauer. To create a visual to go along with the fragrance they asked Henry Pincus to film a short clip. All of this was debuted at London’s SHOWstudio in March 2014.

The fashion film “depicts a woman discovering a new side of herself all while clad in L’Wren Scott and Stephen Jones.” The film depicts a classic set of contradiction as both the dark and light sides merge together by the end. For the fragrance Mme Feisthauer was also going for a struggle between light and dark but in the case of the fragrance the darker notes serve to define the lighter notes and while they never pull entirely free of the heaviness there is an off-kilter lightness of being that makes Wisteria Hysteria a fascinating perfume to wear.

The top notes of Wisteria Hysteria are a mélange of stimulating choices. Pepper, clove, and mate leaf form the opening accord and the mate is the keynote of the early going. The pepper and clove serve as framing notes to allow for the mate to display its fresh grass kind of character but the clove and pepper will make their presence known underneath the pastoral tableau. The heart is the promised wisteria but not anywhere near what I would call hysterical levels. Instead the wisteria is balanced with rose to create a spring fresh floral accord. To that Mme Fesithauer adds a silvery frankincense which adds a metallic edge to the florals. The base is a mix of white musks as sheer as the fascinator worn by the protagonist in the film. To ground them Mme Fesisthauer uses benzoin and amber.

Wisteria Hysteria has all-day longevity and average sillage.

Fascinator Mark

The Author avec Fascinator

I’ve had about a month to spend wearing Wisteria Hysteria and each successive wearing has allowed for me to appreciate the subtleties throughout its design. This is not a fragrance that will immediately display its charms to you. Like a hat I had to wear it a bit and break it in but once it found that sweet spot it is a perfume which rewards those with the patience to let it find the right balance between light and dark. Based on Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones Wisteria Hysteria I think Comme des Garcons’ 2014 on the fragrance side is off to a fantastic beginning.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Wisteria Hysteria from SHOWstudio.

Mark Behnke