New Perfume Review Fusion d’Issey- Fusion not Feu

One of the great unicorns in perfume is 1998’s Le Feu D’Issey. A perfume which was too far ahead of its time it was a huge commercial failure. It was also seen as an artistic success. A fragrance which seemingly wanted to push at multiple boundaries simultaneously. If there is one piece of that experience which has been most divisive it is the raw coconut milk accord. Even I have days when I’m not in the mood for it. It is part of the dichotomy of Le Feu D’Issey is it can be polarizing and transcendent. Imagine my surprise when I see the brand try again with that coconut water ingredient in Fusion d’Issey.

Nathalie Lorson

Modern perfumery ingredients have come a long way in twenty years. There have been many successful coconut milk accords because of new ingredient options for perfumers to use. I was curious to see what perfumer Nathalie Lorson might try for here. It is a mixed bag of some imaginative choices early on before coalescing around a bland finish.

Mme Lorson opens with a modern version of that coconut milk accord. It is a much more accessible version that the one presented twenty years ago. This carries a suntan lotion vibe. To keep it from going too far in that direction lemon provides a citrusy contrast. A bit of fig leaf makes the coconut trend towards its creamier side. A fantastic heart accord of cardamom, geranium, nutmeg, and eucalyptus give a spicy energy around the floral core. It picks up on that same energy from the lemon in the top accord. At this point Fusion d’Issey is a well-done different summer refresher of a scent. Then the synthetic woods arrive. The press release has a lot of talk about mineralic effects. In this instance they come through that hard-packed dusty earth the synthetic woods bring. Ambrox is the named ingredient but I think there are at least a couple more to refine that mineral quality. The problem is it throws the balance off as these powerful ingredients overwhelm everything else.

Fusion d’Issey has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

I know they wanted the mineral effect based on the brief, but it is all you smell after a few short hours. I wish there were a way the nicely done earlier accords could have found some space to linger. If you also look at an Issey Miyake perfume with coconut milk in it and think to yourself, “Le Feu?” it isn’t that. It is a Fusion all its own.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Violet Nuee Bleue- A Blue Cloud, Indeed

As the number of heritage brands continues to expand there is a burgeoning road map on how to succeed. The best path is to apply a modern sensibility to the aesthetic of the heritage perfume. That is the one chosen by Paul Richardot, Victorien Sirot, and Anthony Toulemonde with Maison Violet. That they learned about the brand while in perfume school gives them a little more freedom to experiment. Many of the heritage brands are in descendant’s hands making it feel like a family decision. The Maison Violet team was driven by their own vision of what a modern heritage perfume should be. Throughout the first four releases there was an admirable attempt to provide a vintage-y undercurrent. Maison Violet Nuee Bleue is a flag planted firmly in the 2020 world of modern perfumery.

(l. to r.) Paul Richardot, Anthony Toulemonde, and Victorien Sirot

As the trend towards transparency has taken hold, I have been most interested in perfumes which take classic sets of ingredients while imposing this new aesthetic upon them. Perfumes from the time of Maison Violet’s previous heyday were not delicate. Nuee Bleue is something much opaquer, suitable for the present day.

Nathalie Lorson

Perfumer Nathalie Lorson is again behind the composition of Nuee Bluee; as she was for the previous four new releases. Working with the creative directors it took them over two years to finalize a formula, according to the website. The original Nuee Bleue was the last release of Maison Violet before it disappeared. The new version is the last release looking back towards the origins of Maison Violet. As such it signals a new direction.

Mme Lorson uses iris and orange blossom as the heart of Nuee Bleue. If there is anything which has a callback to the past perfumes it is the way she uses lemon as a whetstone to sharpen the iris into a silvery floral scalpel. There was a time when this kind of sharp iris was all the rage. Mme Lorson takes that sharp iris and softens those edges by making it more expansive. A series of white musks don’t allow those edges to cut. It creates a lightness to it all which is immensely appealing to me. The airy citrus tinted iris cloud lives up to the translation of the name, blue cloud. A sturdy sandalwood keeps the cloud from drifting away.

Nuee Bleue has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Nuee Bleue is a remarkable re-interpretation of that classic vintage iris and orange blossom heart of many perfumes of the early 1900’s. The creative team has modernized it by hewing to the current trend for opacity while keeping it from falling into insipidness. Lots of time I think the name of a perfume has nothing to do with the liquid inside the bottle. This time the perfume allows to me ride on a scented blue cloud all day.

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

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Hugo Boss Deep Red- The Simple Gingerbread

I love gingerbread; it is one of my favorite parts of the Holidays. It was one of the first My Favorite Things columns I did after starting Colognoisseur. All the ones I chose were higher priced brands. I received an e-mail a year later asking if there was a less expensive gingerbread perfume choice. Because I enjoy the scent, I have a lot of them. I looked at the shelf where they are all clustered and I noticed a tall red bottle that I thought might fit the bill. It is a great choice for a Discount Diamonds column at the beginning of the Season. That fragrance is Hugo Boss Deep Red.

Of course large perfume brands being large perfume brands Deep Red was released in the middle of the summer in 2001. It also came out when ginger was not as commonly used in perfumes, especially mainstream ones. A trio of perfumers Alain Astori, Nathalie Lorson, and Beatrice Piquet decided to take that ginger and transform it into gingerbread.

Deep Red has a seasonal feel right from the top accord. The perfumers take the rich tartness of blood orange and give it a more intense fruitiness via cassis and clementine. It is like that orange potpourri which scents many homes this time of year. The ginger appears first in its most recognizable energetic version. Ambrette adds in a subtle muskiness before the ginger gets folded into a gingerbread accord as vanilla and sandalwood make a soft gourmand base accord. It gets softer as cashmeran and musks form a pillowy foundation for it.

Deep Red has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Deep Red is available from most discounters for less than $25. If you are similar to me and want to be swathed in gingerbread; Deep Red offers a modest way to achieve that.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review K by Dolce & Gabbana- The Right Twist

Sometimes all I need to enjoy a new perfume in an overexposed style is just one twist. As I spend most of the summer releases smelling one fresh fougere after the other one, something different stands out. As I was wearing K by Dolce & Gabbana I was thinking this is the opposite of designing a summer flanker. Instead of shoehorning in summery ingredients K goes for something un-summery roughing up the staid fougere architecture.

Daphne Bugey

I am surprised perfumers Daphne Bugey and Nathalie Lorson could take that risk for a commercial release. They stay very true to the formula until they added one specific ingredient in enough concentration to make it noticeable. That ingredient is pimento. The way it is used here is like Buffalo sauce on chicken wings to provide a spicy kick to the bland.

Nathalie Lorson

K opens on a nice duet of blood orange and juniper berry. The tartness of the citrus and the bite of the juniper berry are a refreshing top accord. Then the pimento sizzles into view as lavender and clary sage give an herbal foundation for it. K really gets interesting as the patchouli enters the heart accord. The heat of the pimento and the earthiness of the patchouli are an ideal match. I liked this as the core of K because it had a little more heft then the typical summer fougere. A woody combo of cedar and vetiver make the foundation.

K has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

K is another recent commercial release taking a risk by using a heretofore “niche” ingredient in a mass-market perfume. I’ve seen more of this lately and I’m wondering why the brands have decided to start striking out by using some of these less safe ingredients. I am happy to find them because the right twist can make me enjoy the commercial releases so much more.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Dolce & Gabbana.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Violet Tanagra- Personal Grace

When it comes to heritage brands if they are working for a retro nouveau style they sometimes lean too hard on the retro. To be relevant in today’s market I think a heritage brand has a challenge to keep the past as part of the future. Easier to write than achieve. One which has done it is Maison Violet. I was quite impressed with their first three releases for finding this sweet spot. It made me look all the more forward to trying their fourth release, Maison Violet Tanagra.

(l. to r.) Paul Richardot, Anthony Toulemonde, and Victorien Sirot

The same creative team has returned for Tanagra. The three Parisian perfume students who acquired the name, Paul Richardot, Victorien Sirot, and Anthony Toulemonde, collaborate with perfumer Nathalie Lorson. Because the creative team never found any of the Maison Violet perfumes to smell themselves, they combed the newspapers and magazines of the time to get an idea of what the original was like. For Tanagra what they found it was named after small statues of Ancient Greece which celebrated femininity. This provided a wide-open opportunity to compose something for Tanagra which captured that.

Nathalie Lorson

What I wasn’t prepared for was Tanagra is a skin scent. It is a risky play for consumers who desire projection. After wearing Tanagra I can’t imagine it any other way. Mme Lorson creates a beautifully subtle floral surrounded by fruit and wood also dialed way back.

It is those fruits which show up first. Mandarin and pear form a delightful juicy pair. Out of that a shimmering iris shaking powder off itself arises. That is supported by fresh floral notes of freesia and peony. Jasmine provides a little depth. It finishes on a clean foundation of cedar and vetiver.

Tanagra has 10-12 hour longevity and very little sillage. On the days I wore it Mrs. C thought I wasn’t wearing anything.

I know many are not fond of close wearing scents. Tanagra might change that notion for some. If it was more intense the gorgeous grace inherent would be lost, I think. As I walked around wearing it, I felt like I had my own bit of personal grace with me.

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

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Boss Bottled Infinite and Givenchy Gentleman Cologne

As much as I spend the first few months of the year complaining about the avalanche of new spring rose perfumes; I’ve been asked if there is a men’s corollary. The answer is, kind of. As Father’s Day in the US gets closer, I get a significant increase in colognes from the big perfume brands. The reason it doesn’t bother me as much is there are more variations within a cologne architecture. Most of them are flankers of established best sellers which try to freshen and lighten things up. Boss Bottled Infinite and Givenchy Gentleman Cologne are two recent examples.

Boss Bottled Infinite

Hugo Boss has surely milked the popularity of 1998’s Boss Bottled. Boss Bottled Infinite is the thirteenth flanker. I was not one of the fans of the original. I felt perfumer Annick Menardo overloaded things. I was in the minority as it has been a consistent best seller. Usually a flanker keeps much of the original formula while adding in a couple new ingredients. Which is a description of most of the Boss Bottled flankers. What made me give Boss Bottled Intense a second look was that it went in the opposite direction by stripping it down to the essential keynotes. Mme Menardo was again behind the wheel for the new flanker.

For this new version the top accord is simplified to mandarin and apple, with the citrus out front. Cinnamon and sage form the heart with some lavender as underpinning. This is more spicy than previous versions without becoming heavy. The significant change is olive wood for sandalwood. What that adds is less dry woodiness. It has a richer quality which complements the early accords nicely. If you’re a fan of the original I believe this will be a nice summer alternative.

Givenchy Gentleman Cologne

The Givenchy Gentleman released in 1974 is one of the masterpieces of that decade of perfume. When Givenchy decided to release a new perfume with that name in 2017, they did it in Eau de Toilette concentration. I was not happy it shared nothing of the sophistication of the original; it was a mess. A year later they released an Eau de Parfum version. This felt like the heir to the original I was looking for. When Givenchy Gentleman Cologne arrived it fell in the middle but closer to the Eau de Parfum side.

Perfumers Olivier Cresp and Nathalie Lorson continue to design the new Givenchy Gentleman collection. They keep it simple, too. In the Eau de Toilette there was a pear note on top that really turned me off. For Cologne the top note is a brilliant lemon in high concentration. It is a summery blast of sunlight. Some rosemary provides the herbal component of the cologne recipe. The perfumers substituted iris for the more typical lavender. It is a fantastic choice. The early moments are as good as it gets. My only drawback is a high concentration of synthetic woods. It lands like a sledgehammer. The lemon and iris nearly get obliterated holding on by a thread. If there was a bit better balance to the base, I would have liked this as much as the Eau de Parfum. Whether it is for you will come down to your tolerance for the synthetic woody in high concentration.

Disclosure: These reviews are based on samples from the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Violet Un Air d’Apogee- Walking the Line

I’ve written often about the rise of Heritage brands. When done with respect I’ve generally found the result to be better than the average new perfume brand. It is most interesting to me when I have no knowledge of the brand being revived. It leaves me to assess the new perfumes without referring to the past. Then the question becomes; has the new creative team effectively designed a retro nouveau style?

There was an example I was eager to try. Early in 2018 I learned of the new Heritage brand; Maison Violet. The name cam from the founder M. Violet and not the flower. Founded in 1827 M. Violet would scent the royalty of the time. In 1867 under the creative directorship of Louis Claye, Maison Violet was awarded at the World’s Fair in the same year. This would allow Maison Violet to thrive for decades until World Wars would find the perfume house one of its casualties.

(l. to r.) Paul Richardot, Anthony Toulemonde, and Victorien Sirot

Most of the time a Heritage brand returns because someone who is related to the family decides to become involved. Maison Violet was lost to history unto three students at the Paris perfume school, Ecole Superiure de Parfum discovered it. While studying how to make perfume they spent their effort learning about the history of the brand.

Paul Richardot, Victorien Sirot, and Anthony Toulemonde would go through the legal effort to acquire the name so that they could bring Maison Violet back. They would then turn to perfumer Nathalie Lorson to produce their first three perfumes.

Nathalie Lorson

I spent most of last year trying to source a set of the perfumes they produced. That effort finally realized in a package arriving after the first of the year. Of the three perfumes I found Sketch and Pourpre D’Automne more vintage-y in their tuberose and fruity chypre constructs, respectively. The one which really captured the retro nouveau style was Un Air d’Apogee.

That this is more modern comes from the name as it refers to one of the later releases of Maison Violet; 1932’s Apogee. Un Air d’Apogee lets you know it is meant to be a flanker eighty-seven years later. That undersells what the creative team has done here. None of them had ever smelled a single Maison Violet pefume of the past. All their information came from combing through the media of the time. What drew me to it is the two phases this perfume goes through with both accords excellently constructed.

The first phase is composed of mimosa, orris, and sage. This is a gorgeous accord of the sensual sweetness of mimosa over the rooty scent of orris and the green herbal-ness of sage. This is one of the things that marries vintage style with modern sensibilities. Mme Lorson creates an effusive effect without becoming overwhelming. As much as I thought it was going to be disappointing when we moved to the tobacco-focused base it turned out to be equally adept at capturing a modern vintage effect, too. A gentle suede leather accord moves across the top accord followed by the dry woodiness of ambrox. They act as dividers of a sort. Out of that rises a honeyed tobacco infused with all the sweetness of the dried leaf. Mme Lorson adds in two clever choices to tune the sweetness in different ways. Hay adds in a dried sweetgrass to the dried leaf. A filament of gingerbread inserts a subtle spiciness. This base accord is as compelling as the top accord.

Un Air d’Apogee has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’m not sure what the eventual plan for Maison Violet is. While trying to get the first three they released a fourth, Tanagra, which I am hopefully getting faster than I did these three. I hope they will continue to create perfume in this style. The first efforts show they understand how to stride the retro nouveau line.

Disclosure: This review is based on a travel sprays I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Lalique Encre Noire- Masterpiece Vetiver

With so much perfume released every year it becomes easy to forget about those which were released a short while ago. One of the goals of this column is to take advantage of that as the discounting cycle is also accelerated. Throughout the nearly five years of writing Discount Diamonds this is the first entry which I think is a modern masterpiece; Lalique Encre Noire.

Vetiver has become a staple ingredient of perfumery in the 21st century. Prior to that it was two perfumes which were the standard bearers for the ingredient; Guerlain Vetiver and Givenchy Vetyver. They were the perfumes which introduced my generation to vetiver. As we crossed into the new century the independent perfume market began to expand rapidly. That meant there were new perspectives provided on previous keynotes. Vetiver started off with a pair of perfumes, once again, leading the modern interpretation. One of those is Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire. I don’t think that one is ever going to be a Discount Diamond. Lalique Encre Noire is the other one and it has become a fit subject for this column.

Nathalie Lorson

Encre Noire was released in 2006. Lalique’s fragrance business was looking for a way to join in on this new way of making perfume. Perfumer Nathalie Lorson would help as she composed three perfumes for the brand from 2006-2007; Perles de Lalique, Amethyst, and Encre Noire. It was a statement of intent to try for something different.

The original vetivers were citrus affairs with the vetiver providing an acerbic green contrast. More interested in the higher register effects. Encre Noire was going to go for a different style; plumbing the woody depths underneath the green. What was also so interesting about doing that was there was a smoky quality just waiting to be separated and amplified. Mme Lorson finds that.

The opening of Encre Noire is the classic grassy green of old-style vetiver. Mme Lorson uses cedar to find the woods inherent within vetiver. She uses two sources of vetiver in Encre Noire, Haitian and Bourbon. The Haitian vetiver I have come to know has a quite prominent smoky character. By blending the two versions Mme Lorson tunes the smoke to a soft level. I used to burn pine needles as a boy and whenever I wear Encre Noire the smoky nature reminds me of this. The Bourbon vetiver brings a spicy complement to the Haitian smoky version. The base is a cocktail of sensual musks which really represent the “noire” in the name.

Encre Noire has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I consider Encre Noire to be one of the best perfumes of this century. That you can buy a bottle for under $30 makes it a steal. There is no other Discount Diamond which will shine brighter.

Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Jimmy Choo Man Blue and Ralph Lauren Polo Red Rush

When it comes to flankers the name is supposed to respect the traditions which have come before. This month’s Flanker Round-Up discusses a couple which seem to have not received the memo.

Jimmy Choo Man Blue

Jimmy Choo as a brand has confounded me ever since its debut perfumes in 2011. There has been consistent creative direction paired with some of the best perfumers which has not produced a clear fragrance aesthetic. Over twenty-plus releases I can’t begin to tell you what a Jimmy Choo fragrance should smell like. Which was why when I received my sample of Jimmy Choo Man Blue I expected an aquatic. That’s what “blue” usually means in the name. Of course, it wasn’t an aquatic it was a bone-dry woody perfume. The other difference was I liked it.

When it comes to the Jimmy Choo Man collection if there is one consistent ingredient it is black pepper. Perfumer Nathalie Lorson uses that in the top as support for an herbal clary sage. It leads to a subtle leather accord which is used as underpinning for sandalwood and vetiver in the base. This is a very desiccated version of sandalwood at the end. Jimmy Choo Man Blue isn’t an aquatic but it might be a piece of dried up driftwood; if it was a piece of sandalwood.

Jimmy Choo Man has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Ralph Lauren Polo Red Rush

Ralph Lauren Polo Red debuted in 2013 and has had two previous flankers before the release of Polo Red Rush. All three of those preceding perfumes were variations on woody perfumes. I enjoyed last year’s Polo Red Extreme more than the initial two Polo Red releases. I liked it for taking a different tack. I was curious to see if that would continue in Polo Red Rush. Of course, it is an herbal citrus cologne. Despite that it hit the spot in the summer heat better than a woody version would have.

Polo Red Rush opens with a wave of citrus focused on red mandarin. This is a tarter version of orange which is sharpened by some lemon and apple in complementary roles. Mint comes along to provide a freshness. I have a hard time with mint and this one tiptoes right up to the edge of my distaste for that ingredient. It is a fresh minty citrus mélange that might remind you of utilitarian fragrance versus perfume. It does stay just on the right side of that line for me. The base is clean cedar which has a bit of lavender and musk to accompany it.

Ralph Lauren Polo Red Rush has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

This time I was happier not to find what I expected at the end of my lasso for this month’s Round-Up.

Disclosure: This review is based on sample provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds Moschino Cheap and Chic- But Not Easy

There is something about understated elegance. Or to put it another way, to be chic while also being cheap. This is a concept much easier to say than to accomplish. It is also an unspoken goal of a lot of mainstream perfumes. It is also easier attempted than produced. I am always reminded of it when I try Moschino Cheap and Chic. Not only do they put it on the label, but they also live up to it.

It is a story I’ve told many times especially in the 1990’s as fashion brands added fragrance to their offerings. Moschino was no different. They started with Moschino and Moschino pour Homme in 1987 and 1990, respectively. Moschino pour Homme was one of those underrated men’s colognes which got washed away by the tidal surge of the fresh and clean trend. Neither were particularly popular and Moschino retrenched as they decided what was next.

The choice was to make a perfume which dovetailed with their women’s fun line “Cheap and Chic”. This clothing collection was always about youthful exuberance. When this collection was on the runway you might see the models wearing crowns and miniskirts or vibrant prints and lei. It was decided a perfume to match that irreverence was going to be the third try at fragrance for the brand. Perfumer Nathalie Lorson made Cheap and Chic perfume all of that.

Nathalie Lorson

When you go to a Cheap and Chic fashion show you feel like you’re at a party. The perfume feels like the fragrance you should wear to that party. Mme Lorson goes for a traditional citrus floral. She changes it by using some different versions which makes it feel unique without feeling odd. When it is all put together it lives up to its name.

Cheap and Chic opens with the greener lemon of yuzu. Petitgrain is used to push the lemony part a bit more to the forefront. It all leads to a floral heart which I enjoy every time I wear this as violet and peony form the perfect sunny floral duet. Mme Lorson deftly titrates in some of the bigger florals of jasmine and rose but they are there to provide some longevity and depth not to be the focus. It ends on a sweet woody base accord of sandalwood, vanilla, and tonka bean.

Cheap and Chic has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Besides living up to its name Cheap and Chic was the first fragrance success for Moschino. It has become a legacy brand for many young perfume lovers who discover it in their teens and early 20’s. The brand has produced a consistent output over the past twenty-plus years but Cheap and Chic has survived because it does exactly what it promises. Just don’t think it comes easily.

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

Mark Behnke