New Perfume Review Fzotic Pantoum- Goodbye to a Friend

Life is full of comings and goings. When a long-time friend makes the choice to move far away it is bittersweet. You are happy that they are moving towards something they desire. You are sad because the person who was always there for you won’t be. Your life shifts around as an important person leaves to pursue their path. The final act is the going away party. This is where you get to let the person know they will be missed while sending them forth on a wave of goodwill. Fzotic Pantoum was born of this.

Independent perfumer Bruno Fazzolari was inspired to create Pantoum as part of an LA exhibit “The Going Away Present” at the Kristina Kite Gallery. It was done in honor of 30-plus year resident of LA, Bruce Hainley. He is a poet and art writer who is moving to Houston. The degree to which he will be missed was expressed through this installation. Mr. Fazzolari contributed Pantoum to the party.

Bruno Fazzolari

Pantoum refers to a style of poetry where the second and fourth lines of a stanza become the first and third lines of the next. According to Mr. Fazzolari on the website it “is a metaphor for new beginnings”. I was curious about the poetry produced from this process and looked a few up online. The best ones use the construct to capture an evolution of syllables through the piece. I was wearing Pantoum on the night I was enjoying finding them. Because of that it struck me that this was like the evolution of a perfume as the opening accords give way to the heart only to come back again before interacting with the base. This is how I experienced Pantoum.

One thing I noticed was how bright the early stages of this are. Mr. Fazzolari is not necessarily a perfumer who shies away from it. Yet the early moments of mandarin, grapefruit, and neroli are probably the most luminous accord he has made. I don’t know if it was intentional, but it is reminiscent of the citrus groves of California. The place which is being left behind.

The heart looks forward through a magnolia centered accord. Magnolia has a creamy scent with a woody underpinning. Mr. Fazzolari uses cedar as an amplifier of that. I know cedar is native to Texas so perhaps this is meant to be the transition from citrus groves to the plains of the Lone Star State.

When I read the pantoum poetry I found they all had a bit of melancholy to them. As the clever wordplay runs its course it is like when the going away party winds down. There are the heartfelt hugs. The promises to keep in touch. The knowledge it won’t be the same. These are captured in a surprisingly emotional oakmoss in the base. This is not a chypre because the oakmoss hides underneath the floral and citrus for a long time. It is only as they fade that it becomes apparent. It carries the soft bite of regret that maybe you forgot to say something.

Pantoum has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Pantoum feels like it contains much of Mr. Fazzolari’s emotions about Mr. Hainley’s departure. I think it is the most exuberant perfume he has made. Which is only fitting when saying goodbye to a friend.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Henry Rose Flora Carnivora- Clean and Good

From the moment I started writing about perfume I was inextricably bound to the beauty industry. What that has meant is when I would attend a large beauty event there were lots of claims that made the scientist scream inside. The way I made up for that was to visit the booth and torture them over their lack of understanding. The most important piece of advice I can give is if they say there is some scientific reason for some positive effect, there almost surely is nothing.

Which is why I am skeptical of this “clean” movement in perfumery. There has always been an unreasonable amount of hysteria about the supposed bad things hidden in perfumes. The way it is thought of is when you see “fragrance” on the ingredient list on the label, somewhere in there is hiding a terrible toxin. Common sense should tell you that of the hundreds of thousands of bottles of any mainstream perfume sold in a year if that was true there would be higher percentages of something bad happening to perfume wearers. There aren’t and there isn’t. What “fragrance” is meant to protect is the composition of the oil itself. Which is around 10% of a bottle anyway.

Michelle Pfeiffer

What the “clean” movement has decided is to add more transparency to the ingredients used in perfume. This is not a bad thing. That it is seen as something “better” is where I draw my line. If a perfume brand wants to work more openly that is their choice.

Two years ago the actress Michelle Pfeiffer took this to an even stricter level. She wanted to work with the Environmental Working Group (EWG) an independent agency which monitors the ingredients in beauty products. She also wanted to only use only sustainably produced natural ingredients, collaborating with the organization Cradle to Cradle for that. Either piece is a significant hurdle. She found that the oil house International Flavor & Fragrance (IFF) was interested in working with her. They released a debut collection of five perfumes produced under this strategy.

Celine Barel

What I found was when you ask a perfumer to work with a radically reduced roster of ingredients you get something not quite what I would call a perfume. Many of them felt like accords in search of a structure. I forgot about them after this initial introduction.

I received a press release and sample for the latest release Henry Rose Flora Carnivora. This was supposed to be a white flower scent. Now this seemed to me like a bridge too far for this concept. Except I found that perfumer Celine Barel had an ingenious way around it. Creating a perfume that made me think.

What makes Flora Carnivora so interesting to me is Mme Barel is working in an accord of tuberose instead of the real thing. Orange blossom and jasmine are both sustainably grown and harvested. Tuberose is less so. So if you can’t use the real thing, make an accord. Mme Barel does that. It has the creamy quality of tuberose which adds a lovely piece to the mix of orange blossom and jasmine. It is completed with vetiver and cedar adding a fresh woody foundation. Over time it warms to a more ambery woody as the florals become less prominent.

Flora Carnivora has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is a much better perfume than any of the original five. It is also good enough that the provenance of the materials doesn’t concern me. What I do find is a creative perfumer using the restrictions to her advantage to make something good which is also “clean”.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Michael Kors Super Gorgeous!- The Flip Side of Forgettable

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When I first started paying attention to the world of fragrance, I carried a healthy disdain for flankers. I saw them as money-making efforts meant to keep a consumer buying the same perfume over and over. Like many of my initial impressions the more I experienced the more I learned that all flankers weren’t cynical cash cows. There are the ones which illuminate exactly what a difference a few exchanged notes can do to my enjoyment. Michael Kors Super Gorgeous! is a much better version of the original because of this.

Nicolas Beaulieu

Gorgeous! was one of the first new perfumes I received for 2021. I found it to be a mostly forgettable mainstream release. The heart of tobacco and tuberose was nice, but it stayed on the safe side not allowing it to fully develop into something more interesting.

Anne Flipo

I received my sample of Super Gorgeous! just after Labor Day. When I sprayed it on a strip, I found a perfume which was much more to my taste. Three of the original group of perfumers, Nicolas Beaulieu, Anne Flipo, and Laurent Le Guernec make some critical substitutions which create a better experience.

Laurent Le Guernec

There remains a citrus opening focused on mandarin. What makes it better is the baie rose in the original which added nothing is changed to myrrh. This begins to form an ambery through line which will persist to the end.

The tobacco and tuberose are relegated to supporting players. The perfumers focus their floral heart on iris and jasmine. These two florals form a nice give and take between the rhizome and the night-blooming stalwart. This time the tobacco and tuberose fit themselves into the spaces between the lead florals. In this role they continue that ambery thread.

In the base that amber spreads out into a stronger presence. It is paired with the dry sandalwood of New Caledonia. I found this much more appealing than the slightly leathery accord from the original. Once it is all together it forms a woody ambered floral which is ideal for fall.

Super Gorgeous! has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

It just reinforces how much a few integrated choices can take something from forgettable to the opposite of that.

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

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: For the month of October in the US in support of Breast Cancer Month there is a special bottle with a pink ribbon. 10% of all sales from that will be donated for cancer research.

New Perfume Review Heeley Athenean- What If?

As I’ve watched the best independent perfumers over the years there has usually been a learning curve. The earliest creations are good but as time passes, they become more assured in their ability. There is usually what I call an inflection point where an indie brand goes from being good to great. It is one of the things I enjoy most about trying new perfume to see that process happen. I’ve always wondered what would happen if one of these perfumers went back and reconsidered their earliest creations. What would they do differently? Perfumer James Heeley has decided to do this with his latest Heeley Athenean.

Mr. Heeley began his brand back in 2004 with his first release Figuier. He wanted to create a classic fig-based Mediterranean style perfume to start his independent career. That one wasn’t my first introduction to the brand it was the other debut fragrance, Menthe Fraiche. For all that I complain about mint in perfume that one remains one of the few I really enjoy. It was a super green interpretation of mint. This was what made me keep my eye on what followed.

James Heeley

In 2021 I have consistently found Mr. Heeley to be one of the more interesting independent perfumers. When I received the press release for Athenean it said that he was returning to reinterpret Figuier. In this case he was going to focus on the wood of the tree over the leaves and fruit. The other difference is he significantly ups the presence of the Mediterranean than was present in Figuier.

Figuier began with the soft grassy green of oximes. Athenean begins with the crystalline sap-like green of galbanum. The new fragrance is green with a more focused intent. What is done to smooth out some of those edges is the use of aquatic notes. This is where the sea below the cliff is more detectable. As part of these aquatic ingredients there is some melon which comes with them. Before that becomes distracting, he balances that with some green fig. It has a less effusive scent profile while still retaining some of the creaminess of the riper version. Sandalwood picks up that aspect and resonates with it as it forms the scent of the trunk of the fig tree. Some synthetic woods and white musks add in the sun-warmed feel of the wood and the breezes off the Mediterranean.

Athenean has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Comparing his first perfume with his twenty-sixth is an interesting exercise. The most obvious difference is how adept he has become with his use of different perfume ingredients. Many of these ingredients were present in those first two releases seventeen years ago. Now he knows exactly what he wants to achieve when using them. Which answers the “what if”.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Juliette has a Gun Lili Fantasy- Double Bubble

Some of the most exuberant ingredients in perfume tend to defy description. That’s not really true. What I mean is the biggest powerhouses can smell different depending on who is encountering it. One ingredient I have heard the most different descriptions for is the queen of white flowers, tuberose. This kind of malleability can be used to the advantage of a perfumer.

Romano Ricci

I had never noticed it until another perfume lover pointed it out to me. Tuberose can smell a bit like a stick of bubble gum. Once that thought was planted in my head, I have been open to experiencing that when the floral is used. Most of the time it is a facet which is not deliberately enhanced. Juliette has a Gun Lili Fantasy decided it was time to give it a try. Romano Ricci has never shied away from making these kinds of confrontational choices from the beginning of his brand. In this case he creates a bubble gum accord to go with tuberose.

If you’ve ever unwrapped a piece of bubble gum it is coated in a sugary powder. You get the confectionary scent underneath. M. Ricci fashions a realistic version of this. From out of the candy comes the tuberose. It is as if you were holding a piece of gum and a flower blooms from inside of it. Because of the bubble gum accord a lot of the other pieces of tuberose aren’t prominent or even noticeable. As it develops one of the hallmarks of the brand is its use of ambrox. Because he has relied on it so often M. Ricci has become adept at using it. In this situation it adds an ambery wrapper for the candy.

Lili Fantasy has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

There is a brand of bubble gum called Double Bubble. As I wore Lili Fantasy I kept thinking about that. The only thing missing was the comic which accompanied the real thing.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chatillon Lux 1904- Meet Me in St. Louis- The Coffee Midway

Independent perfumer Shawn Maher has been an olfactory tour guide and historian to his native St. Louis. He has exposed those who try his fragrances to everything he finds special about his city. From the first time I tried them I wondered if he would eventually get around to one of the few things I knew about St. Louis, the 1904 World’s Fair. Granted my knowledge comes from the 1944 movie “Meet Me in St. Louis”. It also comes from an article I read which described it as the world’s first food court.

The 1904 World’s Fair was credited with the creation of the waffle cone, peanut butter, iced tea, cotton candy, Dr. Pepper, and puffed wheat cereal. In most of those cases the truth is that they were given their first exposure to a large audience for whom it was the first time for these delicacies.

I wondered what Mr. Maher would decide was the scent of it all in Chatillon Lux 1904. What makes him so interesting is he doesn’t go for any of that list of food scents I listed above. He focuses on the number of local coffee roasters who were established along the mile-long food court. Manty of those are the continuing reminders of the Fair as they continue to thrive in modern day St. Louis.

Shawn Maher

As he mentions in his Scent Notes blog post accompanying the 1904 release, he started with coffee. What happened along the way was he shifted it from the focal point to what I call the linchpin. Lots of fragrances find an ingredient which binds together individual accords because it interacts with all of them. In this case he began with a CO2 extraction of coffee which removed the bitter oiliness. What he adds back is a softer nuttiness. It verges a little bit like hazelnut during some parts of the evolution.

Where this begins is at the Turkish Pavilion with a fresh cup of cardamom coffee. I have a Turkish friend who serves this when I visit. The early moments of 1904 are the scent of the actual cup I have had in the past. It adds a fresh zestiness over the depth of the coffee.

As this moves into the heart of jasmine and lime it picks up on the cardamom and coffee. When I visited Guatemala I had jasmine coffee. So I imagine we have moved further down the midway to the Central American Pavilion where they serve this. The sweetness of the jasmine and the nuttiness of Mr. Maher’s coffee accord are melded using strawberry furfural. The subtle fruitiness ties the flower and bean together in a red bow. The lime and the cardamom form a tart contrast.

Finally, we reach the American Pavilion where there is the classic coffee with cream. In this case the cream comes through a sandalwood accord designed to accentuate that quality of the wood. Underneath it Cashmeran adds woody lift and expansiveness to the entire perfume.

1904 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is another excellent example of Mr. Maher’s thoughtful approach to perfume making. The never-ending inspiration he finds from St. Louis is always enjoyable. In 1904 you get to stroll down the coffee midway of the 1904 World’s Fair.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review AllSaints Concrete Rain- The Joy of Rain

Recent times have seen the rise of fragrances which essentially do one thing. They are essentially an accord masquerading as a perfume. One thing I’ve learned is simple sells. When clothing brand AllSaints expanded into fragrance in 2018 I found their debut collection of three to be what I described. They were interesting because the accord was one I liked. In subsequent releases I was less engaged. The most recent release AllSaints Concrete Rain is built around one of my favorite real scents.

Nathalie Benareau

If you’ve lived in a city there is that moment just as the rain begins to fall. The first droplets steam off the hot pavement and concrete. It produces that scent I referred to. I always think of it as the scent of the big city. As rain washes things clean this fills the air with an odd reminder of the concrete.

Carlos Vinals

As I learned more about perfume I found out there is a name for the molecule, petrichor. There is a town in India which actually harvests the rain and this scent. Perfumers are able to construct an accurate accord. Which is what the perfumers here, Nathalie Benareau and Carlos Vinals do.

Concrete Rain is all about the rain accord. The perfumers build it around some petrichor while also adding in some of the metallic chrome of the cityscape. As the rain washes through a powdery orris dusts it with a softly clean effect. It finishes with a set of synthetic dry woods and musks.

Concrete Rain has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

One of the things I liked most about Concrete Rain is it is different than the previous releases for the brand. The others all were a popular accord which the consumer enjoys. Concrete Rain introduces that demographic to the joy of rain in the city.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Anatole Lebreton Racine Carree- Square Roots

I was one class away from having a double major in mathematics. There has always been a part of me that enjoys a field of study which usually ends up in an answer. Chemistry has been less reliable in that regard. I don’t often get the opportunity to pull from what now seems like ancient knowledge. When I saw the label for Anatole Lebreton Racine Carree my atrophied math geek took notice. The label is the name of the brand under a square root symbol. It is an oddly fitting choice for this perfume.

This is a fascinating fragrance built around perfume ingredients which are roots. M. Lebreton was going to use vetiver as the focal point. His idea was to create something which reflects the earthiness of that undertaking. He uses carrot, celery, orris, cypriol, and licorice. The fragrance that results from this is not mathematical but something of Nature.

Anatole Lebreton

The vetiver used here is a deeper version. He eschews the fresher facets to highlight the earthy aspects. To keep it from becoming too intense he uses the vegetal freshness of celery. This is a fascinating surrogate for the grassiness of most vetivers. It adds some uplift while still staying attached to the soil.

Orris comes next. This is the classic rooty ingredient. Just as with the vetiver the choice it to tilt it towards the rhizomal over the powdery. To accomplish this carrot is used as a complement to drive the orris in that direction. It makes it sweeter in the way carrot is.

The final piece is the combination of licorice and cypriol. Licorice as used here is not the candy you eat at the theatre. It is the herbal version popular in Europe. Cypriol adds its own roughness to that. Clary sage acts as an enhancer of the herbalness.

The final piece of is chamomile. It is the linchpin to all three of the accords as it has a scent profile built to tie it all together. When that happens you are surrounded by the root of it all. Ambrox is used to add a dry woody finish to all of it.

Racine Carree has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is my favorite perfume M. Lebreton has made. He has always been an interesting creative perfumer. In this case he has found a mathematical balance to make a perfume as elegant as a square root.

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

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: For those of you interested in the nuts and bolts of perfumery. M. Lebreton offers a Racine Box on his website. It contains 7.5mL of the perfume and 10 X 2.5mL vials of the ingredients used.

New Perfume Review Etat Libre D’Orange The Ghost in the Shell- Eau de Airlock

So much of the perfume I receive is designed to be a pleasant companion. Which is why when the few provocateurs in perfumery choose to go a different direction it is welcome. One of the premiere creative directors practicing this type of creativity is Etienne de Swardt of Etat Libre D’Orange. There are many things to say about the 15 years and 45 perfumes overseen by him. One is the belief that perfume can challenge the way you see the less pleasant pieces of the world. He has balanced this collection between the utter confrontation of Secretions Magnfiques to the modern gourmand standard bearer of Like This to the idea of the scent of popcorn heralding the apocalypse in La Fin du Monde. From the moment I received the press release for Etat Libre D’Orange The Ghost in the Shell I was expecting something equally interesting.

Etienne de Swardt

M. de Swardt is inspired by both the Hyperion novels of Dan Simmons which were the basis for the Japanese Manga of Masamune Shirow where the name comes from. The Manga version focuses on a cyberpunk world of the near future following a law enforcement group as they do their job. Ghost in the Shell was one of the first crossover successes in the US ad Shirow-san’s art painted in equally vivid hues paired to the dialog. For the perfume he asked Shirow-san to assist in the creative direction. Julie Masse was the perfumer who would work with both.

Julie Masse

When I read the description, I was kind of hoping for a fragrance of chrome and electricity. When I read cyberpunk there is the scent of heated wiring and hot metal in my mind’s eye. When I sprayed it on I received a different vision. It made me think of the sci-fi concept of long-haul travelers exploring new planets. My imagination took me to the return of one of the explorers to the airlock as they re-entered their ship. The transition from sterile space suit back to the environment of the ship.

It begins as you break the seal on your helmet. The sharpness of aldehydes honed through tart fruits stings your nose on first breath. Mme Masse uses the synthetic Aqual and its slightly aquatic aldehydic profile along with a tart yuzu and the synthetic green apple of hexyl acetate. It marks the beginning of the transformation back to human.

As you peel the suit off the stretchy material clings to your skin. The scent of clean sweaty skin mixes with the jasmine soap you used. The material always has an odd scent of milk as you hang it to dry. Mme Masse uses jasmine as the floral focal point. It is in a higher concentration than my fanciful imagination intimates. What she does is give it an artificial sheen through Mugane along with some freshness. The set of skin musks and the milk accord slide pleasantly into the jasmine forming the heart accord.

As you pull on your regular clothing before re-entering the interior of the ship. The sweet scent of your body greets you. The base accord flows in a soft comforting construction of the slightly vanillic Vinyl Gaiacol, the dry musky woodiness of Orcanox, and the soft green of moss. With that you open the second door and walk into the ship.

The Ghost in the Shell has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

While it wasn’t what I expected what I received was better. I enjoyed imagining the way a futuristic explorer might smell after an expedition. I didn’t get Eau de Cyberpunk. I got something like Eau de Airlock, which I found more engaging.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Etat Libre D’Orange.

Mark Behnke  

New Perfume Review Commodity Milk- A Happy Return

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I’ve done this long enough to have seen many brands come and go. There are some which go because they are built upon an unfocused idea. I don’t miss those, usually. The ones I feel a little sad about are those which seem to have a good idea executed well. Which was why in 2019 when Commodity abruptly closed, I gave a sigh. This was a collection which I felt was one of those great bridges between mainstream and niche. The perfumes were simple without necessarily following trends. Instead offering the mall consumer something different at a modest price point. The reviews I made of the perfumes are some of my most read so I was kind of dumbfounded when it all disappeared. Then a white knight rode in to save the day.

Vicken Arslanian

The brand was acquired by the head of the fragrance distribution company Europerfumes, Vicken Arslanian. He believed the brand still had some life. One of the more interesting pieces of the buyout was Mr. Arslanian was also going to step up as creative director. I think someone who has been involved in the niche perfume business is an ideal person to oversee the making of new ones. I’ve been waiting to see what the first new release under new management would be like. The answer has arrived in Commodity Milk.

Christelle Laprade

One of the earliest successes for Commodity was their odd gourmand Gold. It was also one of the most popular within the collection. For the comeback Milk is also a gourmand but it is a more traditional example of the style. Working with perfumer Christelle Laprade they produce a sweet comfort scent.

Creating milk accords has been a tricky thing. Some of them can have a funky scent profile that is distracting. Some can just feel like you’re coated in sweet cream. In between there is a version which is like the scent of milk slowly warming on the stove. That’s what the accord Mme Laprade creates here. It finds an engaging middle ground. To it some marshmallow is added. This also adds in a very subtle muskiness as the sweetness rises. Mme Laprade keeps everything balanced. The sweetness doesn’t overtake the milk accord it harmonizes with it.

Tonka bean provides a transition to the woody base where an interesting choice is made. A tendril of woodsmoke flits over the top. It is as if you’ve taken your mug of warm milk with marshmallows outside and the breeze brings a scent of a far-off fire burning. The comfort rises as benzoin along with the tonka begin to shift this to a warm blanket to snooze the winter night away under.

Milk has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Based on this first example it seems as if Commodity is back thanks to Mr. Arslanian. Which is a great sign that quality can still win the day.

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

Mark Behnke