New Perfume Review Chopard Black Incense Malaki- The Mistress’ Hand

I’ve been observing and writing about perfume long enough I can recognize a change in aesthetic at a brand. Most of the time this change is due to consumer preferences. That is usually predictably boring. The one which interests me is when a new creative director comes in to oversee things. The result can be a brand which bears watching. Chopard Black Incense Malaki seems to be asking me to pay attention again.

Caroline Scheufele

Chopard is a Swiss-based luxury jewelry and watches manufacturer. They got into the fragrance business in 1985 and have intermittently been very active followed by a few gap years. Starting last year I noticed a change with the release of the Chopard Collection. There was a clear change to richer more powerful fragrances. That continued into this spring’s release of Love Chopard which was a very classic rose with gourmand highlights. I wondered about the change and was told Artistic Director Caroline Scheufele was now overseeing the fragrance side as well as the rest of the brand. Based on the recent releases she is not following the current trends. She is working on perfumes which have presence. All the most recent releases have been composed by perfumer Alberto Morillas. Black Incense Malaki is their boldest statement yet. To be clear there is incense here but it is in service of a raw dark leather accord which is the heart of this perfume.

Alberto Morillas

When it comes to leather accords most perfumes go for a refined softer version. Those of you who own a black leather biker jacket will be familiar with the real smell of a new one. A slightly pungent gasoline scent overlays the processed cowhide. This is the accord M. Morillas brings to life in Black Incense Malaki.

In the earliest moments, an herbal lavender is surrounded by a swoosh of cardamom. If you’re drawn to incense, for a fleeting moment it is detectable before the rest of the leather accord assembles around it. Cumin and clary sage provide the herbal component. The ingredients of a medicinal oud accord created from nagarmotha, patchouli, and labdanum form the spine of the leather accord. Amber fleshes it out. when it all comes together this is a leather accord which is what niche perfumery is about. It has a high-octane scent with a bit of burnt rubber. As if my biker jacket is on an actual motorcycle peeling out of the gas station. A bit of cedar provides some woody relief in the end.

Black Incense Malaki has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

This is a powerfully projecting fragrance with an unusual accord. It feels like it belongs from a few decades ago. But that is a bit unfair of me because this is just the kind of envelope pushing fragrance I plead for. If you like unusual leather accords this should be given a try. What I take from this is it is time for me to pay attention to Chopard again. Especially if the mistress’ hand stays on the creative wheel.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Bitter Peach- Chairoscuro Peach

If there is anything designer Tom Ford is known for is his ability to push at the limits. It has been as true in the fragrances he has designed as it has for the fashion. Lately that has taken its turn in the names of the exclusive perfume collection. They are sniggering double entendres which don’t necessarily pair to the perfume behind the label. Tom Ford Private Blend Bitter Peach takes its turn.

This trend in the Private Blend collection began with 2017’s Fucking Fabulous. It was the second, Lost Cherry, in 2018 which returned a much-needed jolt of originality to the brand. Bitter Peach is closer to Lost Cherry than Fucking Fabulous in originality.

 Aldehyde C-14

Peach has been a staple of the perfumer’s palette ever since the discovery of aldehyde C-14 early in the 20th century. Although it says aldehyde it is actually a lactone known for its creaminess. Bitter Peach seems to have a lot of this to provide the title note. This can be a tough ingredient to wrangle because at high concentrations it can smell like shampoo. Which is not a vibe a luxury perfume is looking for. Bitter Peach manages to stay on the right side of that line.

It opens with that peach lactone at overdose. To keep it under control cardamom and davana provide some contrast pulling it back from becoming utilitarian. There is a tiny hint of rum; not enough to make it boozy. Just a pinch to add some richness to the peach. Jasmine then flows into it creating a fleeting fruity floral intermezzo. Cashmeran adds a synthetic link between a dark patchouli and resinous benzoin. This inserts itself into the peach adding shadows to the fruitiness.

Bitter Peach has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I cautioned with Lost Cherry if you are not a fan of peach in perfume Bitter Peach is unlikely to make you a convert. It does share the same feeling as that earlier release of adding some shade to the fruit. Bitter Peach doesn’t go as far but it is for the best. What is here is a chiaroscuro peach ripe enough for fall.

Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Nasomatto Fantomas- Unboxing the Banal

As much as I enjoy many of the video perfume reviewers there is one part that escapes me. The unboxing part of the video. A lot of them spend time taking the cellophane wrapping off. Opening the box and displaying the packaging. They are popular so I feel sure I am in the minority. I was strongly reminded of this by a perfume, Nasomatto Fantomas.

Alessandro Gualtieri is the mastermind creative force behind his Nasomatto brand of perfume. He has always staked out his own section of fragrance space where few others go. Everything he has done for the brand has a madcap energy that makes for a collection of love them or hate them releases. I admire his risky approach too much to be as reductionist as that. I would say there are Nasomattos I happily wear and others that are best on a strip. One thing to be sure is they are never boring.

Alessandro Gualtieri

Fantomas based on the accompanying video on the website seems meant to be a mysterious protagonist hidden in the fog. I know enough not to expect the visual to be too informational on the scent. When I received my sample, I was surprised to find the perfume equivalent of a cellophane wrapper containing two of the most ubiquitous ingredients in perfumery.

Sig. Gualtieri does not release lists of ingredients so what follows is my best guess. It opens with a plastic accord which reminded me strongly of cellophane. One of his signatures is the ability to add texture into his accords. The reason I think of cellophane is there is a crinkliness to the way this tickles my nose. It also reminds me of those industrial smells we find kind of pleasant. This is the scent of sweet plastic behind every cellophane wrapper. Now that we have taken the covering off, what is inside Sig. Gualtieri’s box? Two ingredients, or their analogs, known to every perfume lover; Calone and Ambrox. For the Calone he accentuates the melon-like quality. It is what makes me think this might be an analog created to do this. The briny undercurrent is also here which Is why I think Calone. I have been bored to death with this ingredient but here, wrapped in sweet plastic, the syntheticness of it all is pleasant. This is reinforced through the addition of a set of synthetic woods from the Ambrox family. These provide a monolithic profile which usually unbalances things. In Fantomas they are here in force but not enough that it the only thing you smell. Once it comes together with the other two ingredients it is surprisingly good.

Fantomas has 24-hour plus longevity and way above average sillage. If you spray this on fabric be prepared to live with it for a few days.

Fantomas should be a celebration of everything that bores me about contemporary perfumery. Instead Sig. Gualtieri decided to unbox the banal to show me that isn’t always the case.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Crivelli Iris Malikhan- Textural Iris

I tend to have reservations with fragrances which state they aspire to be textural. The way that translates is abrupt shifts in tone in the ones I think fail. Texture as it is applied to perfume is a more subtle effect in my experience. The perfumes I would describe as doing this well create the olfactory experience of a tactile effect. There is a new perfume brand which has stated this as their desired aesthetic of which Maison Crivelli Iris Malikhan is the latest evidence.

Thibaud Crivelli

Creative director Thibaud Crivelli stated in 2018 that he wanted the Maison Crivelli collection to be a collection of textural accords. I have found that they have hit the mark admirably through their initial releases. For Iris Malikhan perfumer Marc Zini begins with a keynote which already carries its own bifurcated texture of powder and root. What I found interesting in the way M. Zini approached this was he inverted the usual progression of iris if both faces are featured. Usually the powder precedes the root; the opposite happens here.

Marc Zini

Before the iris arrives cypress and baie rose provide the first impression. Then the rooty face appears through a layer of lentisk and galbanum. This creates a glossy silky effect. Like feeling it slip through your fingers. Through a heart of cinnamon and blackcurrant buds the iris morphs into its powdery face. Now this is an odd animalic gourmand accord as leather and vanilla interact most prominently. The vanilla along with the cinnamon forms a bakery confection dusted with iris powder. While a rich leather contrasts the gentle powder. M. Zini finds the place where this pleasantly harmonizes.

Iris Malikhan has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Iris Malikhan lives for its tonal shifts. It makes it quite dynamic on my skin. It ends up in a quite different place than where it starts. It is because the creative team knows what they mean when they use the word texture.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Cypress & Grapevine- An Afternoon in Babylon

As we enter fall, I start to take out my green scents which evoke foliage. As the air becomes crisper, I find that the natural smells of undergrowth finds its time to appear. I think without all those fancy flowers to compete with ivy, moss, and the like get their chance to display a vegetal version of beauty. Over the past few years there have been a proliferation of fragrances which have married woods and green to evoke this. Jo Malone Cypress & Grapevine is the most recent example.

Celine Roux

Creative director Celine Roux collaborates with perfumer Sophie Labbe on this addition to the Cologne Intense collection. The idea was to capture the smell of an afternoon in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Surrounded by cypress trees and vines. As have most of the entries on this collection it stays focused on the two ingredients on the bottle.

Sophie Labbe

Cypress comes first as Mme Labbe wraps it with an herbal lavender. This opens the way for the green foliage accord. This is that slightly piquant vegetal scent I find. It uses the herbal part of lavender as the connection to the cypress. A pinch of geranium gives a veil of floral quality. The vegetation is diffused through the softness of moss. This is where what is promised on the bottle is realized. Patchouli and a synthetic wood are the final ingredients.

Cypress & Grapevine has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is a simple perfume done well. It is not particularly groundbreaking, but it arrived at the right time of year for me. I could feel as if I were spending a day in ancient Babylon which sometimes is just enough.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Louis Vuitton Meteore- Upping the Quality

I have difficulty when I receive a fragrance which has quality ingredients with boring architecture. Am I to point out the step up in materials or the fact it is the hundredth iteration of a style? There is a place for well-made perfume which seeks to be nothing more. Louis Vuitton Metore is just this kind of scent.

Jacques Cavallier

The concept of better ingredients and common genres has been a lot of the raison de etre of the Louis Vuitton perfume collection since its inception in 2016. Perfumer Jacques Cavallier has been behind the entire set of which Meteore is number 24. As it has developed there have been some excellent original releases but those seem to be the exception. I am guessing there is a guiding principle of playing it safe while upping the quality. I think that’s a tough line to walk because if the consumer doesn’t pick up on it then they think it just smells like everything else. Meteore is a crisp citrusy vetiver ideal for fall days which stands out because of the ingredients.

It begins with a juicy citrus given shape though neroli and cardamom. A lot of time the crisper citrus effects come through the evocation of the rind. M. Cavallier goes for the pulp relying on the floral and herbal guardrails to keep it on the straight and narrow. Nutmeg provides a connection between that and the amazing Javanese vetiver in the base. This kind of vetiver carries a significant smoky piece to it. It is like that hint of woodsmoke in the distance while on a fall walk. The vetiver used here is mutli-faceted reaching out to both the citrus and nutmeg. Its greener facets play off them before letting the woodiness of it carry the latter stages.

Meteore has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you are a fan of this variety of vetiver Metore features it in a way you can really enjoy it. If you want a fall weight vetiver Meteore will also fill that need. There is nothing new to see here but what is here is a better than average version of it.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Louis Vuitton.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Etat Libre D’Orange Exit the King- Clean and Fresh Chypre

One of the changing of the guards as it relates to perfumery took place from the 1980’s into the 1990’s. It was when the era of burly chypres gave way to clean and fresh fragrances. By the time the century turned the takeover was complete as fresh linen and sea spray dominated the scene. Inspired by a Hollywood photo creative director Etienne de Swardt asks if there isn’t a place where they meet in Etat Libre D’Orange Exit the King.

Etienne de Swardt

M. de Swardt saw a picture of Rock Hudson shaking hands with Michael Jackson while the latter was working on his “Thriller” video. It was a meeting of then and now icons of their time. When M. de Swardt saw this he got the idea to create something which took the same then and now mentality and translate it to fragrance. He asked perfumers Cecile Matton and Ralf Schwieger to interpret his vision. What comes from this is an oddly compelling juxtaposition of fragrance styles.

Cecile Matton

One piece of this was they didn’t go for the clean and fresh of the 90’s. They went for the more recent iteration centered around clean smelling soapy skin. There is a fabulous soap accord at the beginning of this that sets up everything that comes after.

Ralf Schwieger

That soap accord is where Exit the King begins. It seems to be a collection of synthetic musks, aldehydes, and floral fractions; I think. I’ve spent a lot of time smelling it trying to pick it apart that’s my best guess. What it smells like is a lathered-up cotton washcloth with the best bar soap you can find. Microscopic bubbles tickle my skin and nose while I am surrounded by the smell of clean soapy skin. This is a marvel of the perfumer’s art of accord building in getting this right. The clever intent continues as a mixture of baie rose and Timur pepper provide just a bit of green contrast to the soap accord. Think of the soap foam having a faint green tint to it. The remainder of the development will be in deepening that until it is nothing but green. That is accomplished in steps as muguet shades it a few degrees deeper before oakmoss and patchouli complete the transition with the classic chypre base duet. The perfumers allow the lighter musks from the soap accord to replace the traditional animalic versions. This is where the interface of clean and chypre come together. I found this to be a mesmerizing experience where I kept wanting to smell it after it all comes together. Sandalwood provides the final piece, but I hardly notice it.

Exit the King has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I know there are readers who dislike soapy fragrances and might think this is not for them. I would suggest you try it when you have the opportunity. The creative team came up with a way of making the soapiness a virtue rather than a flaw. For those who are fans of this brand this is one of the best perfumes they’ve released because it is so creative. Only M. de Swardt could convince me I wanted a clean and fresh chypre.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chloe Rose Tangerine- Short-Term Pleasure

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When I receive my samples and am prioritizing them, I’ll admit a favorite perfumer name will move it towards the front of the line. It isn’t foolproof. The marketers and focus groups can dumb down the best. Even against those powerful tides I have a trust in the perfumers I admire to push back a little bit. Which is what I experienced with Chloe Rose Tangerine.

Michel Almairac

Ever since 2018’s release of Chloe Nomade it seems like there is a new team overseeing the perfumes. They have stopped being minimal variations on rose. That history made me wonder if a perfume called Rose Tangerine was a return to that. The perfumers which had me hoping for more are Michel Almairac and Sidonie Lancesseur. What they produced was a variation on rose but something more substantial in keeping with the more recent releases.

Sidonie Lancesseur

This is a perfume where you definitely get what is advertised. The tangerine effect is that of the fruit itself. It is given lift through the precise use of blackcurrant bud. This is where the imprimatur of my perfumers I admire is probably being seen. By adding this in underneath a juicy citrus it adds a subtle fizz. Not aldehydic but kind of like a mimosa where the champagne has gone a bit flat. It provides just a bit of expansiveness to the tangerine. Which allows the very fresh rose to fill those spaces. It comes together in a lovely fruity floral accord. Some more synthetic musks and woods add more opacity over the final stages.

Rose Tangerine has 4-6 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

If you are someone who bases your fragrance buying on how long it lasts and how far it blasts, Rose Tangerine is low on both scales. This is one of the shortest lasting mainstream perfumes I’ve tried. I topped it off twice after initial application on the days I wore it. It makes it a short-term pleasure I was happy to repeat on those days.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Perris Monte Carlo Mimosa Tanneron- The Hills are Alive with Mimosa

Outside of the stalwarts there are ingredients which seem to have their moment for a few years. I’ve never understood if it was consumer preference or a new source of the ingredient which causes this. Probably some of both. The yellow puffball flower mimosa has been having its moment recently. Perris Monte Carlo Mimosa Tanneron adds to it.

Jean-Claude Ellena

This is the fourth entry in the Les Parfums de Grasse collection. All of them have been composed by perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena under the creative direction of Gian-Luca Perris. The three previous releases focused on the three famous florals to be found in Grasse. To feature mimosa they must go about 16km southwest to the Massif du Tanneron. It has been described as something magical to see the mountainside covered in the yellow flowers in spring. The previous entries in this series have been based on M. Ellena’s memories as youth in the fields of Grasse. It is not so hard to believe he also spent more than his share of spring days running on the Massif. All the perfumes have been soliflores and this does not break the progression. This shows off the titular note with a couple smartly chosen ingredients meant to display its versatility.

Gian-Luca Perris

Mimosa has a sunny powdery disposition. It is the latter M. Ellena displays first. One’s tolerance for this in perfume will be tested because there is a high concentration of mimosa to start. It is as of the trees of flowers are raining down their scent upon you. To ameliorate this hawthorn adds its honeyed growl to shift the perception. Now the sunny golden heart of mimosa is captured in the slightly sweet slightly animalic hawthorn. The final piece is a set of white musks to capture the cool wind rushing down the Massif from on high. It gives an airiness to the overall composition.

Mimosa Tanneron has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

For this moment mimosa is having M. Ellena finds the hills alive with it. That vitality is what makes this stand apart.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Le Labo Bigarade 18- Citrus Glass Skyscraper

Because it is September, I was able to get a sample of the one Le Labo city exclusive which had eluded me. I appreciate the yearly effort to make these geographic limited editions more widely available. Le Labo Bigarade 18 was one of two released in 2019.

Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi

Bigarade 18 is the exclusive to Hong Kong. I have never visited the city, but I have seen pictures of the soaring skyline of glass skyscrapers. The depiction seems like there is more square footage vertically than on the surface of the island. Hong Kong has always seemed like one of those fantastical metropolises. For a perfume to capture that creative directors Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi turned to the perfumer who has become their semi-regular composer, Frank Voelkl. Mr. Voelkl has worked on eight of the thirteen releases since 2011. Bigarade 18 extends both numbers by one. I would guess one reason they ask him so often is his perfumes have a precision to them which work especially well within the well-defined Le Labo aesthetic. What they came up with for Hong Kong as represented by Bigarade 18 was a brilliant citrus reflected in the sleekness of the glass skyscrapers.

Frank Voelkl

Mr. Voelkl uses a set of synthetic musks throughout as the architecture of this perfume. In the early going it provides some expansiveness to the citrus accord. Even though this is called bigarade the citrus is a mixture. The titular note is there but not in any way dominant. It is just its own glint of reflected sunlight off the high-altitude glass. Neroli comes next and it comes with its own synthetic musk along for the ride. It provides a delineation to the neroli which is usually more diffuse. It allows it to also be its own sunny point of light. The rest of the musks come together in a compellingly contemporary way as they add height to this tower of fragrance.

Bigarade 18 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

The creative team captures a trip from the ground floor to the penthouse in a high-speed glass elevator on the outside of a skyscraper in Hong Kong. Just the kind of thrill ride I look to Le Labo For.

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

Mark Behnke