New Perfume Review Ariana Grande REM- Still Topping the Charts

Pop music is full of artists who find their style and thrive within it. Perfume brands do the same thing. I write about brand aesthetic as an important part of success in fragrance. One of the most interesting emerging brands comes from a pop star. Ariana Grande REM is the third excellent release in a row.

Two years ago I was impressed with the great transparent floral gourmand of Cloud. To prove it wasn’t a fluke Thank U, Next followed a year later further expanding on the genre. REM proves that someone on the creative side is intent on making this the kind of fragrance this brand becomes known for. I would really like to know who those people are. For the past two I found out the perfumers. For REM I don’t know that. What I do know is this is another great transparent gourmand.

REM was inspired by Ms. Grande’s ideas of what space should smell like. She wasn’t after the burnt circuits and metal of sci-fi. REM is the dreamscape of flying through the stars trailing rainbows behind you. The perfume based on this captures that exuberance.

The gourmand aspect is apparent from the start as caramel is the keynote. It is given lift through the twin fruits of fig and pear. It is a creamy caramel accord with a fruity center. The fig’s inherent creaminess works particularly well. Lavender is the floral and it is a backseat driver to the caramel accord. The creamy quality is amplified through sandalwood and tonka bean before some white musks provide lift off into orbit.

REM has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is the third release in a row from Ariana Grande perfumes which has stuck to its established groove. I expect it will top the best-seller lists wherever it is sold.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Shalini Iris Lumiere- Iris by Moonlight

I have always enjoyed being outdoors late at night when the moon is effulgent. The silvery moonlight changes the way things look. It provides a new perspective over the light of day. Just walking around my yard seeing what is illuminated by the moon is fun. There are lots of perfumes which also want to capture this effect. Most of them miss something. Shalini Iris Lumiere gets it just right.

Shalini

Shalini is an Indian-born fashion designer who entered the fragrance game back in 2004. Her first perfume, Shalini, remains one of the best tuberose interpretations I own. She worked with perfumer Maurice Roucel and has continued the partnership with Iris Lumiere representing their fifth fragrance together. Through all the pieces of this collection there has always been an haute couture sensibility with which Shalini has found a willing interpreter in M. Roucel. Iris Lumiere represents the pinnacle of their collaboration.

Maurice Roucel

Iris Lumiere is a luxurious version of the named flower. So often a perfumer chooses the powdery part or the rooty part of this dual-faced ingredient. M. Roucel discovers a new face by interrogating his iris with two intensely green questioners. What they wring out of iris is unique.

Iris Lumiere opens with a large overdose of orris absolute. Before it can dissolve into powder or become earthy an equal amount of galbanum appears. The intense crystallinity of that encases the iris causing it to have to rise up to be noticed. In that early struggle there is that new face of iris. This seems to me like the smell of what a freshly harvested rhizome of iris would smell like. The green leaves are what you notice because the root needs months of drying to transform itself into the perfume ingredient. If the galbanum was allowed to stand alone this would have become strident. M. Roucel adds in a softening source of green in muguet. It smooths out the rough edges polishing the galbanum to a glittering shine. It also imparts a slight chill. This gets picked up as the moon rises and its representative frankincense covers it in silvery light. The resin adds waves of argent moonbeams. It is an ideal compliment as it adds a soft light to the iris encased in green crystal. It forms an amazing accord that lasts.

Iris Lumiere has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I have enjoyed all the perfumes Shalini has produced. Iris Lumiere is on its own level. It is the best perfume of the brand and among the very best perfumes I’ve smelled this year. Of all the florals iris is one of my favorites. I don’t remember having smelled anything like this before. To create a new way of seeing this floral the creative team just had to present iris by moonlight.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Christian Siriano Ooh La Rouge- New Beginnings?

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Ever since fashion designer Christian Siriano appeared on Project Runway I have rooted for him. He was one of those reality show contestants who was easy to like. He used his victory to launch his own line which has thrived for over ten years. It was only a matter of time until he would begin to expand into fragrance. As much as I wanted to like the perfume with his name on the bottle, they’ve mostly been unimpressive in their lack of originality. Chasing trends without finding a way to make them stand out. The latest release Christian Siriano Ooh La Rouge still is chasing trends but this time there is a bit more there.

Christian Siriano

Mr. Siriano has been the creative director for the fragrance line. When it began in 2014 with Silhouette, he worked with perfumer Christelle Laprade. It was a transparent jasmine and praline accord with a jarring apple note which threw it off. This would become a common theme in the successive releases. There was something nice which would be offset by something that seemed out of place. Mme Laprade returns for Ooh La Rouge and they find the right partner for the jasmine and praline.

Christelle Laprade

The better choice is a sharp grapefruit. The citrus adds some points of light to the jasmine. This is that non-indolic jasmine given a transparent shine. The grapefruit is what adds in some edginess through its tartness. The praline accord from six years ago returns with a lighter more balanced appearance. These three keynotes are expanded through some musks to the desired opacity of the current consumer. A synthetic wood ingredient completes the composition.

Ooh La Rouge has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

While I was wearing Ooh La Rouge I dug out my old sample of Silhouette. It probably isn’t a flattering thing to say but Ooh La Rouge feels like the perfume they’ve spent six years making better. It isn’t distinctly a flanker, but it shares the important set of core ingredients. I am hopeful that this might mark a new beginning for Christian Siriano perfumes.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by Macy’s.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review NEZ Folia- The Beauty of Decay

Perfumery is full of examples of pleasant smells. Yet that is not what makes up the entirety of the scent spectrum. Odd odors and strangely compelling things we sniff furtively because they shouldn’t appeal are also part of it. There have been precious few perfumes which attempt to travel this path of fascination with the possibility of finding beauty from the outré. NEZ 1+1 Folia looks for it in the decaying vegetation of a damp forest floor.

Julien Rasquinet (l.) and Eva Jospin

Folia is the second within the 1+1 collection from the perfume magazine NEZ. It can be included in the order for the latest issue, #9, if you order from their website. The idea of the collection is to take a perfumer and add them to an artist from a different discipline as inspiration and creative director. For Folia, the perfumer is Julien Rasquinet. The artist is French sculpture artist Eva Jospin who uses cardboard as her medium. Based on the story in the magazine the place where their experiences intersected was where a small brook has collected dead leaves atop some wet stones and roots. This is reminiscent of what you find in the early spring as the snow has almost all melted. A compact sense of dank vegetal decay.

The scent of damp rotting leaves is where Folia begins. If you’ve ever been in the woods in early spring, you will recognize this. It has an unusual sweetness that isn’t unpleasant, but I wouldn’t ever define it as pretty. It sets you up for the remainder of the development. The dampness is intensified as violet leaf and a mineralic accord provide water and stone. There is also a chill which runs through it at this point. It goes very earthy and mushroom-like as geosmin, patchouli, and vetiver form the base accord. This is that slightly stinky wet earth waking from underneath the snow. I like the oddity of it all when it comes together. They say there is a tiny hint of orange blossom in here. You have a better nose than I if you find it. Maybe it is there in what I describe as the sweetness of the decayed leaves, but I can’t say for sure.

Folia has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I enjoy the audacity of making a perfume which embraces these kinds of weird scents. It seems a natural as an add-on to a magazine for perfume lovers like NEZ. I loved being asked to consider the beauty of decay.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Baruti Onder de Linde and Voyance- Bottle Rockets

As mentioned in yesterday’s reviews Baruti is Greek for gunpowder. While the perfumes don’t smell like it, they do remind me of many of the properties of the volatile substance. The two perfumes I am reviewing today, Baruti Onder de Linde and Baruti Voyance remind me of bottle rockets. They rapidly ascend to a sharp explosion. Spyros Drosopoulos forms his fireworks around linden and vetiver, respectively.

Onder de Linde according to the website is inspired by Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting “Melkmeisje” which translates to The Milkmaid. When you read that you might be expecting something creamy gourmand-like. Onder de Linde is nothing like that. Dr. Drosopoulos forms an exuberant fruity floral that pops.

The first moments are the thrust of a juicy pear carrying the fragrance upward. When it reaches the right height the honeyed floral of linden blossom comes out. A lot of perfumers hold the concentration of this ingredient down because it might be thought cloying. Dr. Drosopoulos leans into it as he deepens the effect with orris and honey. This is a lush midsummer floral quality that is intoxicating. The base accord is sandalwood and vetiver which is where the sparkles of this bottle rocket return to earth.

Onder de Linde has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Spyros Drosopoulos

Voyance is made up of tuberose, vetiver, and musk. If I asked you which of the ingredients was the payload of this perfume bottle rocket, I bet many would choose tuberose. Dr. Drosopoulos completely inverted my expectation as it is tuberose which provides the lift to an incendiary vetiver.

Voyance is the simplest of the current Baruti fragrances yet it still retains the depth because of Dr. Drosopoulos’ ability to coax so much out of his three keynotes. That starts with the tuberose which gets a few minutes to take the lead as it rises. As soon as the vetiver appears it steps to the background. I enjoy vetiver for its dual woody and green nature. In Voyance they are both accentuated in unique ways. The green thread within tuberose finds the grassy part of vetiver. The animalic musk captures the woody nature giving it some texture instead of being monolithic. Voyance sizzles for the entire time it is on my skin until it all fades away.

Voyance has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Taken together the four Baruti perfumes I have reviewed over these two days are emblematic of what independent perfumery stands for. Bold singular artistic statements full of power.

I am not done with this brand, but the remaining five perfumes require the chance for me to wear them in some cooler weather. I’ll return in a few weeks to complete the collection.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples supplied by Baruti.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Baruti Tindrer and Indigo- Lighting the Fuse

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I like to believe I am out on the edge of new perfume discovery. It is probably good to learn that I miss as many as I find. That lesson was learned anew when I reviewed Zoologist Koala by independent perfumer Spyros Drosopoulos. I had never tried the perfumes he made under his own brand. Many of my readers wrote to tell me how much they liked them. After receiving a sample set, I shared their enthusiasm. There are currently nine Baruti perfumes and I’m going to spend the next couple days with the ones which are best in the warm weather. Next month I’ll follow up with the ones which should be better in the fall. To start I chose Baruti Tindrer and Baruti Indigo.

Spyros Drosopoulos

Prior to receiving the perfumes I read through the press materials. There I learned Baruti means gunpowder in Greek. It is an apt description of this collection. Although it represents different forms of that material. The two perfumes today remind me of when I peeled open firecrackers to expose the gunpowder. I would make a long line on the sidewalk and light one end. Watching the sparkling crackling glow travel the length was the power of gunpowder given light. Tindrer and Indigo feel like this type of gunpowder to me.

Tindrer is a perfume of walking in the forest after a summer thunderstorm. Dr. Drosopoulos forms a humid hike through the tree canopy. It opens with a set of green notes; grassy oximes, lemon-tinted verbena, and buchu leaves. The final ingredient is what provides the damp vegetation effect to the other two. This is that scent of damp enclosed greenery. The heart is a beautiful overload of violet peeking out from between the trees. The violet is an ideal contrast to the green of the top accord. It takes a bit of the edge off while making its own presence felt. The trees as represented by fir balsam comes next along with a bit of wet soil accord. It leads to an opening in the forest coated in soft green moss. As pillowy as the opening is not.

Tindrer has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Indigo is that rare feat of perfumery; a summer weight amber. I only own a few in this category to which I will be adding this one in the future. The effort is to keep the heavier ingredients in a place where they aren’t weighty but are given some lift. Dr. Drosopoulos finds that balance. He opens with a fresh rose which is joined apace by a creamy sandalwood. All the fireworks take place in the base. By using the freshness of the rose he can layer in an edgy amber without it becoming too much. The keynote in the base accord is mastic. Its balsamic effect is lighter in nature which also allows for some lift. A high-quality silvery frankincense completes things. This is that slightly metallic resinous version. It snaps into place to form an amber which glowed in the summer sun.

Indigo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’ll review Onder de Linde and Voyance tomorrow.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Baruti.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Laboratorio Olfattivo Mandarino- Italian Citrus Joyride

When Jean-Claude Ellena retired as in-house perfumer at Hermes it seems he didn’t understand the term. Particularly over the last eighteen months he has been as prolific as he has ever been. There is also enough data on the type of fragrances he is making these days to think he has entered a new phase. Lately he has been composing perfumes which focus on a single keynote which is tied to a geographic location. The results have been some remarkable solitaires of perfume ingredients put into settings where they shine. The newest of these is Laboratorio Olfattivo Mandarino.

Jean-Claude Ellena

Mandarino is the second perfume M. Ellena has done for the brand. Last year’s Baliflora was orange blossom and Bali within this new oeuvre. Mandarino is the start of a new collection called Viaggio in Italy. It is meant to capture a trip around the country. Mandarino is a summery stop in a grove of mandarin oranges somewhere in Italy.

Roberto Drago

Creative director Roberto Drago has been one of the earliest influencers in this new Renaissance of Italian perfumery. He has helped refine this style through the years at Laboratorio Olfattivo. In asking M. Ellena to find Italy in its indigenous ingredients he is evolving the brand yet again.

Mandarino opens with a huge amount of mandarin. I am not sure if this is a single source or a mixture of different types. What I experience in the first few moments is a full spectrum sweet citrus. The tartness of the rind, the sweet juice, and the squishy pulp all are represented. It is a citrus lovers dream. The first ingredient to be added is blackcurrant which provides a different type of fruity contrast. I think there might be some blackcurrant bud here too because there is a subtle green harmonic which thrums underneath the fruits. The berry provides the setting for the mandarin to glitter within. A set of white musks are then used to add a lot of expansiveness. In the early going the concentration of the mandarin might feel claustrophobic to some. In a short period of time the white musks provide a lot more space for it to exist in.

Mandarino has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

For those who are looking for a long-lasting citrus perfume Mandarino is one of the more tenacious ones I’ve tried. Mandarino is a gorgeous example of the beauty a single keynote can provide. I am not sure what the next destination in their trip of Italy is. I only know I want to ride wherever Sig. Drago and M. Ellena want to take me. I’ll even ride in the back seat.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Goutal Le Temps des Reves- Summer Dreams

As we enter the figurative final weekend of summer represented by Labor Day in the US it feels melancholy. The summer has always represented a time of free-spirited exploration. More than any other season it carries a hint of laughter with it. The first verse of Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” captures the loss of it, “Nobody on the road/Nobody on the beach/I fell it in the air/The summer’s out of reach”. This is where perfume steps in to save the day with a fragrance which captures the summer in a bottle. Goutal Le Temps des Reves does this nicely.

Camille Goutal

Camille Goutal has done an admirable job transitioning the venerable line for a new generation. She made the conscious decision to make perfume to appeal to a twentysomething European woman. For the last four years she has been more successful than most in achieving this. I have found the releases since this change to be of the kind of style within this trend that appeals to me. Le Temps des Reves continues this.

Mathieu Nardin

Perfumers Mathieu Nardin and Julie Masse were asked to design a perfume which captured their memories of summers in the South of France. It is composed of classic Mediterranean ingredients with one clever twist.

Julie Masse

The ingredient which they use as their keynote is orange blossom. Before it arrives the unique twist, I mention comes first. In the wine country of France there is a kind of green vegetal undergrowth called garrigue. The perfumers wanted to add an accord of that which is where this begins. Using bergamot and myrtle they form the kind of undergrowth you tramp through on the way to the orange grove. When you break through the scent of orange blossom is there to greet you. This is the joy of a sunny day as the mellow floral comes to greet you. Sandalwood represents the wood of the trees. A set of white musks then add the expansiveness to it all to find the transparency desired.

Le Temps des Reves has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is my favorite of the recent transparent Goutal creations. It has a sunny disposition to spare which just says summer to me. In a few weeks when it seems the summer’s out of reach Le Temps de Reves will let me dream it is still here.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Francis Kurkdjian L’Homme A la Rose- Masculine Rose?

There is a sub-genre of fragrance which has a difficult task to achieve. Many brands attempt to make a “masculine floral”. Now I am firmly in the camp of perfume is genderless. If it smells good on you who cares if it says “for her” on the bottle. I am also aware that the rest of the world hasn’t entirely come around to that way of thinking. I can appreciate the effort to make florals appeal to men. As the name portends Maison Francis Kurkdjian L’Homme A la Rose is one of those.

Francis Kurkdjian

The original A la Rose released in 2015 was a gorgeous interplay between Damascena rose and Rose de Mai. Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian found an ideal balance which I admired. This was an effusive rose perfume. It is a best-seller because of this. M. Kurkdjian must have considered what needed to be altered for L’Homme A la Rose. Based on the result the answer was to remove many of the supporting florals and replace them with citrus, herb, and woods.

The first one up is the use of grapefruit. This is a blast of grapefruit and it is paired with the Damascena rose. It is a kinetic opening as the amount of grapefruit contrasts the rose with vigor. It takes a little time for an equilibrium to be reached. Things get much better from there. The gentle Rose de Mai appears, escorted by clary sage. The acerbic herbal nature of the sage gives the rose a different texture. A bit rougher than I usually find this specific rose. The grapefruit and Damascena rose are still here and together they reinvent the central duo of A la Rose with a rugged feel. A set of synthetic woods make sure this never goes anywhere near being thought of as for the other gender.

L’Homme A la Rose has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

L’Homme A la Rose was excellent in these later days of summer. The warmth really allowed the grapefruit and sage to shine. I suspect it will also be as good as the weather cools. When I get the inevitable response where a reader asks me if this is a good “masculine floral”. My answer will be an enthusiastic, “yes!”

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Le Labo Citron 28- Lemon Tinted Jasmine

As September appears on the calendar there is one thing I look forward to. The opportunity to buy the Le Labo city exclusives. One of the most frustrating things about this brand in the early days were they released some amazing perfumes exclusively to one city in the world only. Many of my favorites are city exclusives. A few years ago they changed the practice to make every September the chance to buy any city exclusive without paying for a plane ticket. Usually to coincide with that there is a new one. For 2020 that is Le Labo Citron 28.

Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi

Citron 28 is the city exclusive for Seoul, South Korea. Creative directors Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi asked perfumer Daphne Bugey to interpret this Asian metropolis. That’s a bit of false advertising. If there is anything the city exclusives aren’t, is emblematic of the cities they are sold in. They are mostly extensions of the typical Le Labo aesthetic. Rule Number 1 of that is don’t expect the ingredient on the label to be the keynote. Which is the case here.

Daphne Bugey

In the press release they mention they codenamed this “Citrus Boheme” which captures what they have created more accurately. The star of this perfume is jasmine and musk. It is the first Le Labo to attain this transparent floral trend which prevails currently. Mme Bugey creates a beguilingly opaque floral.

It begins with a matador’s wave of lemon as it is rapidly joined by jasmine. This is the non-indolic type of jasmine. It has a sunnier disposition which allows for the lemon to shade it with a bit of citrus energy. The primary partner to the jasmine is ginger. I enjoy when a perfumer uses it in a way which imparts energy without chaos. Ginger has easily taken a perfume off the rails as much as it turbocharges it. In this case Mme Bugey focuses that quality into the jasmine giving it more life. It is as if the ginger has replaced the indoles going from growl to giggle. The final piece is a suite of musks that is well blended. There are a few animalic versions underneath more of the expansive white musks. This time the lift provided has a bit of fur underneath.

Citron 28 has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

This is the most transparent Le Labo they’ve made. It is a big change. If you are thinking Citron 28 will be similar to Mme Bugey’s earlier Bergamote 22; they are not. They are opposite in design and intensity. Citron 28 is something new as the brand asks what you think of a light lemon tinted jasmine. I enjoyed it a lot in these late days of summer.

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

Mark Behnke