Discount Diamonds: Avon Little Black Dress- Modern Versatility

For those of us who are of the Baby Boomer generation one of your earliest encounters with perfume might have come with the visit of an Avon Lady to your home. I remember the visits of our local Avon Lady as my mother would look through the offerings. When it came to perfume Mom was a Guerlain Girl forever. The representative still tried to entice her with the new perfumes. The living room filled with scent.

Isabel Lopes

Isabel Lopes

I had forgotten about Avon as a perfume brand until reminded about it two years ago. An old friend from high school is now an Avon Representative. She sent me a box of the latest releases from 2014. I was very impressed at what was being achieved on a budget which allowed these perfumes to be sold so modestly. Once I delved further I discovered a creative director in Isabel Lopes who believes great perfume can be designed without a large price tag. First step is to enlist some of the greatest perfumers working currently. Almost every great perfumer you can name has done a perfume or two for Avon. One of those perfumers who impressed me with my first visit to the modern world of Avon fragrance is Rodrigo Flores-Roux.

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Rodrigo Flores-Roux

After I reviewed his 2014 Avon perfume Flor Alegria I had the opportunity to ask him how different it was to create on a budget. What I love about Sr. Flores-Roux came through in his answer, “Not difficult at all.” When I asked how he got such a rich floral bouquet from the rose synthetics he let me in on a perfumer’s technique. He told me there is the equivalent of a drop of high quality rose essential oil there which is used to release the synthetic. I asked him if this is like what a single drop of water does to good scotch, it opens it up. His broad smile was all the answer I needed.

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Ever since my friend has been sending me samples of the latest Avon releases my level of respect has grown the more I encounter what can be done. In the beginning of April I received the latest release from Avon by Sr. Flores-Roux called Little Black Dress. I have spent the last three weeks smiling at how good this is.

Little Black Dress is an updating of a prior 2001 release. Sr. Flores-Roux was tasked with modernizing that structure. He decided to go with a classic silhouette comprising a citrus neckline, a floral waistline, and a woody hemline. Onto that basic figure he adds some detailing to give this Little Black Dress some character.

Little Black Dress starts with a neckline of ebullient lemon. The bit of solid braiding Sr. Flores-Roux adds to the lemon is pink peeper and plum. The tiny noticeable bit of plum adds opulence to the brightness of the lemon. It is an excellent way to start. The waistline of jasmine is where I think Sr. Flores-Roux might have added some jasmine essential oil to whichever version of jasmine synthetic he used. Peony and rose also help to create a more natural smelling jasmine accord than would be achievable otherwise. The hemline is sandalwood made a little asymmetrical with the addition of vanilla and a whole bunch of white musks. This creates a plush woody base accord that lasts an extremely long time.

Little Black Dress has 18-24 hour longevity and average sillage.

Sr. Flores-Roux is one of my favorite perfumers. With these Avon releases he reminds me a bit of the construction paper nudes of artist Henri Matisse. A great artist does not need the finest materials to move someone who appreciates art. Their creativity with working in any medium confirms their passion for it all. The amount of very good perfume being produced under the Avon brand, via Ms. Lopes vision, is remarkable. Little Black Dress is better than very good it is superb. If you haven’t considered Avon in a while, or at all, Little Black Dress might open your eyes. At $25 for 50mL it is hard to beat that price for this kind of quality.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle provided by Avon.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Le Galion Cologne and Cologne Nocturne- Classic v. Contemporary

I have long had a fascination with the contemporary evolution of the cologne. The whole Nouveau Cologne movement over the past five years has shown how much creativity can be applied to one of the most basic of fragrance architectures.

Another recent development that I have also enjoyed has been the re-emergence of Le Galion as a vital brand. Owner and Creative Director Nicolas Chabot first reminded us of these lost perfumes by the great perfumer Paul Vacher two years ago. Over the last year M. Chabot has been working with some of the best perfumers out there in realizing new perfumes in the style of M. Vacher. Now the latest step forward comes as M. Chabot collaborates with perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux on two very different colognes called Cologne and Cologne Nocturne.

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Nicolas Chabot (Photo: Sylvie Mafray)

Cologne is an imaginary meeting between M. Vacher and Sr. Flores-Roux in the gardens attached to the Le Galion mansion. Sr. Flores-Roux is a perfumer with whom I have had many discussions about how the heritage of the past can be reflected today. Thinking about these two perfumers having this conversation I would imagine it to be one on the classic form of cologne. Cologne provides that kind of experience.

Cologne opens on a fully realized orange blossom dominant accord underpinned with citrus. Sr. Flores-Roux has always had a deft touch with floral accords. This one is so basic yet somehow there is unexpected depth to the early moments of Cologne. It is softened in the heart with a bit of angelica root before heading to a green base of galbanum and clary sage. This is classical cologne distilled through that perspective using modern materials to add complexity. Cologne has 8-10 hours of longevity and average sillage.

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Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Cologne Nocturne is everything I enjoy about Nouveau Cologne. Sr. Flores-Roux creates what he calls an “amber water”. This is not the usual construction for cologne as the base is usually not the star. In Cologne Nocturne Sr. Flores-Roux has opened it up with traditional cologne components before turning it on its head in the base to realize his vision.

Cologne Nocturne starts with lemon and bergamot. It is a typical breezy cologne opening. The heart early on also stays firmly in the traditional as lavender is matched with herbal notes of rosemary, sage, and thyme. Then the modern aspects begin to arrive as a spice laden accord sweeps the herbs away to combine with the lavender. I don’t know if it is just the newness of it all but I prefer when the spices are ascendant with the lavender. These spices live on as a parade of woody notes begin to form the amber water accord. Sr. Flores-Roux takes what could become a very heavy finish and manages to keep it lighter. This is how he gets to his vision of “amber water”. Cologne Nocturne was one of my most anticipated things to try at Esxence 2016 and it did not let me down. It is a brilliant Nouveau Cologne. Cologne Nocturne has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I have to reiterate my admiration for the way M. Chabot is working so hard to keep it from being a relic and making sure it stays relevant. It is a difficult balancing act between the classic and the contemporary. Le Galion with Cologne and Cologne Nocturne continue to navigate these tricky waters creditably.

Disclosure: This review was based on sample provided at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Neroli Portofino Acqua & Neroli Portofino Forte- Fino Flankers

On the surface if you tell me that there are flankers within the Tom Ford Private Blend collection I would be against it. In an already voluminous line of perfumes taking up space with flankers seems wasteful. Except when it comes to Neroli Portofino; creative directors Karyn Khoury and Tom Ford have found a way to do it thoughtfully. That starts with using perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux who composed the original to also be the nose behind the flankers. The first flanker was last year’s Fleur de Portofino which was much more floral than its parent. Now that is followed up by two more flankers Neroli Portofino Acqua and Neroli Portofino Forte.

When it comes to the names of these it is exactly what it promises on the label. Neroli Portofino Acqua is a very light eau de cologne version. Neroli Portofino Forte is a fortified version a little heavier than the original. What it seems like to me is they have now created a Neroli Portofino for all seasons.

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Neroli Portofino Acqua is constructed with the same framework of orange and orange blossom on top combined with a warm amber base. It is the middle accord that imparts the sense of airiness which gives Neroli Portofino Acqua its style. The opening is the same citrus mélange of orange, lemon and orange blossom. It is in these opening moments where Neroli Portofino Acqua is the most similar to Neroli Portofino. Then, where the original gets more floral, Acqua rises on a fresh breeze from the sea. It picks up the citrus accord and carries it to the amber base. This again is much lighter in feel than it was in the original. If there was anything you disliked about the original Neroli Portofino because of concentration I think Neroli Portofino might be the right concentration for you. Neroli Portofino Acqua has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

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Sr. Flores-Roux makes many more changes to Neroli Portofino Forte. The similarity to Neroli Portofino is definitely there but is feels much more like Fleur de Portofino did in its ability to stand apart. The first change is to switch the orange out for blood orange. This adds a contrasting tartness which is then shaded green with an herbal chord of basil, rosemary, and tarragon. Forte stays much more herbal and green as the orange blossom shows up as a much less influential note than in any of the other three flankers. Sr. Flores-Roux then adds in a smooth refined leather accord along with sandalwood. This is where the warm amber accord of Neroli Portofino again arises but as with the orange blossom it is other notes which are in the foreground. Some muscone in the final phase of development turns the last moments more animalic. Neroli Portofino Forte is a version to be worn in those chilly shoulder seasons around summer. I have been wearing it during these days of chilly mornings and temperate days and it is perfect. Neroli Portofino Forte has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

When a set of flankers is reimagined with the flair that Sr. Flores-Roux brings to this collection it is hard not to be impressed. I know Neroli Portofino Forte has definitely replaced the original as my favorite of the four. If you’ve ever wanted a blue bottle Tom Ford Private Blend on your dresser one of these four should definitely do the trick.

Disclosure: This review was based on press samples provided by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke

Header photo from groomingguru.co.uk

Discount Diamonds: Zirh Corduroy- Stocking Stuffer

At this time of year I get a lot of questions about what perfume I would suggest to give someone as a gift. First I frown on fragrance as a gift and my method for giving it as a gift can be found at this link. Even when I say that people still want an answer and not wanting to be a snobby Grinch I have a couple of suggestions in my back pocket. One of my favorites is Zirh Corduroy.

Zirh is a maker primarily of men’s skin and hair products. They have a small selection of four branded fragrances. In 2001 they released Zirh by perfumer Delphine Terry which was a safe traditional lavender focused fougere. Corduroy was the second release in 2005 by perfumers Jacques Huclier and Rodrigo Flores-Roux. Corduroy was meant to be the yin to Zirh’s yang as it was designed to be a darker oriental. I’m not sure of this but I am thinking Corduroy was meant to be the cold weather complement to Zirh. I know I tend to wear it in the colder months.

zirh corduroy

Corduroy opens with a surprisingly sophisticated citrus top accord. Mandarin is the nucleus for the perfumers to build upon with grapefruit, cardamom, and lavender. There is another listed ingredient called aquacoral but I have never been able to consciously detect it. It sounds like it should add some kind of aquatic character but that is not what I experience in the opening of Corduroy. What I get is citrus combined with an herbal lavender and cardamom. The spice cohort changes fairly rapidly as cinnamon eventually rises up. The presence of nutmeg is what eventually becomes the more extroverted note and it lies over a very delicate application of a suede accord. Corduroy eventually heads to a woody base of sandalwood, cedar, gaiac; sweetened with a bit of vanilla.

Corduroy has 14-16 hour longevity but very low sillage for a commercial release. It is that restraint which is part of the reason I recommend it as a gift.

Corduroy really is one of the best bang for your buck perfumes out there you can regularly get 100 or 125 mL size for under $15. I bought my 125 mL for $9.99 at a local discounter. If you need a stocking stuffer or you just want a little something extra for the perfume cabinet Corduroy is an excellent choice.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review John Varvatos Dark Rebel- With a Rebel Yell

When I am asked to name a mainstream perfume brand I admire one of my answers for the last couple of years has been John Varvatos. There are a couple of very good reasons for this. One of these is consistency. Since the very first release of John Varvatos in 2004 every perfume has been composed by the same perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux. That kind of long-term relationship is common in the niche sector but far less likely to happen in the mainstream perfume market. It is why flankers are usually so bland compared to their original. From the first John Varvatos straight through to the newest, and twelfth, release Dark Rebel this has been a brand which has thrived on being an outlier in the department store.

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John Varvatos (Photo: Richard Phibbs)

In reading eleven years of press notes, as I receive each release, it is evident that Mr. Varvatos is not an absentee creative director. As a result I think it allows for Sr. Flores-Roux to develop a deeper understanding of what a John Varvatos fragrance should smell like. Many of these press releases of the past have mentioned rock and roll; Dark Rebel is no different. What is different is this one is the closest to capturing that experience of wearing my leather jacket to hear a band at my favorite club. Sr. Flores-Roux captures the bar, the leather jacket, and the cigarettes as I wait for the music to begin.

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Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Sr. Flores-Roux opens with a very boozy rum sweetened with sugarcane. It has a bit of a kinship to a daiquiri. The spices which come next keep it from being overly sweet. Cardamom and clary sage, especially the latter, add a real edge to this rum cocktail. More spices continue this direction as black pepper and a beautiful nutmeg provide the transition to the leather accord at the heart. Every black leather jacket I have owned has had the same smell; animalic with a bit of oiliness. Sr. Flores-Roux captures this perfectly with fir and styrax providing the enhancement to the excellent leather accord. The base opens on a lovely golden tobacco which is roughened up with cade wood. The foundation is the new Akigalawood which is the biologically obtained fraction of patchouli which has stripped away the earthiness leaving the herbal and spicy facets. In Dark Rebel it closes the loop from the spices earlier to the leather in the heart. I think we are going to see a lot of Akigalawood especially in men’s designer releases over the next year.

Dark Rebel has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

From a line I have liked a lot over the past ten years Dark Rebel is easily my favorite as it finally gets the rock and roll vibe right. Both days I wore this I was channeling my inner Billy Idol curling my lip and singing “With a Rebel Yell more, more, more”. Please Mr. Varvatos and Sr. Flores-Roux; more, more more.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Arquiste Nanban- The East Comes West

One of the more interesting periods in history was when western sailing ships discovered Japan. The very insular society was shaken to its core as evidence of other civilizations were uncovered. The resulting culture clash as Western attitudes and Eastern honor clashed is the subject of much popular culture in books and film. Even though it wasn’t as well-known there was the reverse as Japanese sailing ships made their way west. The first diplomatic mission from Japan to Europe via Mexico took place from 1611-1618. Carlos Huber the creative director behind Arquiste uses this historical trip as the inspiration for the new Arquiste Nanban.

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Carlos Huber

Nanban in its first usage in 16th century Japan referred to the visitors from Portugal and Spain. It has evolved over time to come to mean Japanese art of that time period which has obvious Western influences. This is fertile ground for Sr. Huber to mine as he has done with historical touchstones for the previous nine releases in the line. He has employed his team of perfumers in Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier to collaborate together for the third time. This is another example where the teamwork between this team leads to extraordinary results. There is a clear bond between all of them whenever I have met them. I think that shows in the perfume they produce. While all three worked on the preliminary concept it would be Sr. Huber and Sr. Flores-Roux who would carry it to the finish. The idea was to have Nanban be the view of the West this Eastern diplomatic mission would bring back home.

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Rodrigo Flores-Roux

The story Nanban tells is of a Japanese delegation who has been away from home for too long. When they arrived in Mexico I can imagine they must have been very happy to see the familiar osmanthus flowers greeting them after the long ocean crossing. This is where Nanban starts. The perfumers then dust it with black pepper, infuse it with black tea, and cloak it in saffron. All of the Western influences are imposed on the Eastern floral. The feel of culture clash is vividly on display. In the heart sandalwood and myrrh provide a meditative core of resinous woods. That calm is shattered with the new Western influences of coffee and tanned leather. The tug of war begins in earnest as the coffee and leather are in direct opposition to the sandalwood and myrrh. This is a civilized struggle as on my skin it was a vigorous negotiation as to which would eventually have the upper hand. Over time the coffee and leather win out. By the time we get to the heart the members of the mission breathe deeply of the forest adjacent to the harbor. The woods of home embrace them upon their return. Cade wood, copahu balm, and frankincense provide the structure of the homecoming.

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Yann Vasnier

Nanban has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

The best Arquiste fragrances are descriptions of the everlasting change history provides. Nanban is one of the liveliest discussions to take place so far. On the days I wore Nanban I found myself engrossed in the voyage it took me on. It also made me consider what it must have been like for the crew of the Japanese ship alone in the West trying to build a bridge. I can’t ask more from a perfume than to engage my intellect as well as my emotions, The Arquiste team has once again put time in a bottle, making it beautiful.

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

Mark Behnke

Header photo by Hisao Oka and Edwin Pabon

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Fleur de Portofino- Summer Garland

I am always pleasantly surprised when I get a new release from a brand I think I know well to find that there is something different. The most recent release in the Tom Ford Private Blend collection did that. Fleur de Portofino is part of the Neroli Portofino sub-collection signified by the blue glass bottles. When you look at them you are almost drawn to expect something aquatic or cologne-like. Through the first three releases that has definitely been the case. Fleur de Portofino is something entirely different a summer-weight floral.

The longtime creative team of Karen Khoury and Tom Ford collaborated with perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux for this perfume. What I like very much about this is when we think of Mediterranean inspired perfumes we usually expect herbal facets, a bit of citrus, and some florals; usually in the back seat. Sr. Flores-Roux puts the floral notes firmly in the driving seat for Fleur de Portofino.

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Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Fleur de Portofino does start off with the expected citrus mélange of tangerine and bitter orange. Right away Sr. Flores-Roux is working the flowers in as a bit of lilac and violet leaves begin the transition. The lilac lilts very transparently as the violet leaves provide a bit of green earthy contrast. Then the florals start coming with a flourish. Acacia, jasmine, magnolia, orange blossom, rose; it is like having a fabulous florist’s arrangement for my nose. Sr. Flores-Roux balances this so amazingly well it stays at a moderate volume throughout even though there is so much to experience. It heads into a light honey and woody base. The honey adds a golden patina over the florals capturing them in a slightly sticky matrix. Tolu balsam provides the woody aspects. Very late on there is a touch of animalic musk as the final notes.

Fleur de Portofino has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am very pleased that the decision was made to go for something less aquatic and cologne-like with this latest release. It makes me look forward to the next blue bottle to be released. Until that time I will content myself by wearing Sr. Flores Roux’s olfactory summer garland while the sun is shining.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Avon Flor Alegria- Pretty Simple

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I have an old high school friend who lives in Pennsylvania and she is an Avon salesperson. She asked me if I had an opinion on the recent Avon perfumes. I told her I hadn’t given them a thought in years. As we corresponded I realized how shortsighted that view was. Many of my favorite perfumers work on briefs for Avon. Just in 2014 here is the list of perfumers who have composed perfumes for Avon: Laurent Le Guernec, Harry Fremont, Frank Voelkl, Alberto Morillas, Calice Becker, Pierre Negrin, Nathalie Lorson, and Rodrigo Flores-Roux. Pretty impressive lineup for perfume which runs about $20-30 a bottle.

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Rodrigo Flores-Roux

For that price we are not talking about perfumes which are loaded with essential oils these talented perfumers are employing the cost-efficient synthetic ingredients on their perfumer’s organ. You could make the case that these are more difficult to compose with and tease nuance out of. In response to my lack of knowledge my friend sent me a huge box of many of the current Avon perfume offerings. After spending a few weeks with them I was very pleased to find there were more than a few which rose above the others. Tomorrow in Discount Diamonds I will give a bunch of short reviews of my favorites but for today’s column I want to focus on the one which was hands down my favorite in the box Flor Alegria.

Isabel Lopes

Isabel Lopes

Flor Alegria was composed by Rodrigo Flores-Roux under the Creative Direction of Isabel Lopes. Ms. Lopes recently took over the creative direction for the fragrance division and one thing I can state assuredly Ms. Lopes has a consistent aesthetic she is asking for from the perfumers she oversees. For the women’s perfumes pretty and light. For the men’s colognes bracing and woody. Nobody should expect anything different from a mass-market brand like Avon but just as with any niche brand which has an active creative director who keeps true to the brand, Avon is no different. Just a different audience and by this point in time they should have a good idea what sells to that audience. As I tried these perfumes what I kept coming away with was simple does not have to be uninspiring. Sr. Flores-Roux puts a strong exclamation point on that thought with Flor Alegria.

Flor Alegria inhabits one of the styles of perfume I always have difficulty with, fruity floral. What I liked about it was Sr. Flores-Roux was able to balance these synthetics, which can be harsh in excess, and in the case of Flor Alegria turn them into a perfume that was pillow soft.

The top notes are citrus and passionfruit. When it comes to citrus in a perfume Sr. Flores-Roux knows how to use it to precise effect. He wants the passionfruit to be the top but if it was left alone it probably would have become cloying and overwhelming. By using citrus to curtail some of that exuberance he strikes a perfect balance. The heart is rose in all of its powdery sweet floral glory. Here he has to be careful to not let the powder get out of control because his base of iris could’ve doubled down on the powderiness. Instead the iris provides a bit of powder but it is complementary to the rose. The overall effect is a downy fruity floral that was very pleasing to wear.

Flor Alegria has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

The whole Avon collection I tried was much better than one might expect for perfumes costing $20. On the other hand talent is talent and if Sr. Flores-Roux is making a fragrance he can probably make a good one from sealing wax and twine. Flor Alegria is an example of Sr. Flores-Roux working at the top of his game to make a pretty fruity floral and sometimes pretty is all you need.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Avon.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aedes de Venustas Oeillet Bengale- This Rose is on Fire

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Every perfumer has a particular style that, in essence, becomes their signature on a fragrance they have composed. That doesn’t mean they can’t make perfumes outside of that but there is a sweet spot or comfort zone where these perfumers can seemingly make a memorable fragrance at will. Rodrigo Flores-Roux has a portfolio of many varied and fantastic perfumes. When he chooses to work on a floral centered fragrance that is where I think he has done his best work. The recent release Aedes de Venustas Oeillet Bengale is as good as Sr. Flores-Roux gets.

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Rodrigo Flores-Roux

One of the reasons I think he is so deft with florals is he spent a year in college before going to Versailles to begin his perfume training. That year at university in Mexico City he spent studying biology. In an alternative universe where he wasn’t accepted into ISIPCA to become a perfumer I imagine him becoming a botanist presiding over a magnificent greenhouse of the most unique, and fragrant, blooms. In the universe we live in Sr. Flores-Roux is a perfumer and he brings the observant eye of a scientist when he chooses to interpret a flower as a perfume. There is always an elegance of precision to Sr. Flores-Roux’s scents but when it comes to the florals it often seems like it is being dissected into its component notes to be put back together. Oeillet Bengale is a type of China rose and owner of the perfume boutique Aedes de Venustas, Karl Bradl, saw a still life of it and knew he wanted this to be the inspiration for their third fragrance. Without the assistance of the press materials I saw “oeillet” and expected carnation. What Sr. Flores-Roux has produced is a simulation of the China rose by using carnation as the foundation to create the accord. A number of spice notes have to be balanced exactly to bring to life the desired “fiery rose”. All of this is placed on a foundation of smoking incense.

Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner

Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner Owners and Creative Directors of Aedes de Venustas

The first few minutes of Oeillet Bengale show off Sr. Flores Roux’s highly evolved citrus accord. It is paired with herbs and a surprising bit of strawberry. Together it creates a snappy opening full of refreshing notes. The carnation comes up next and this is the current version of carnation stripped of its clove-like nature because that version is no longer IFRA-compliant. Sr. Flores-Roux puts back in what IFRA has removed by using his own mix of spicy notes; clove (of course), cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper return the spicy heart to the carnation and improves upon it. The heart of Oeillet Bengale really does feel as if it is a rose on fire as the florals and the spices feel right on the verge of spontaneous combustion. To add a calming effect Sr. Flores-Roux takes frankincense, labdanum, and tolu balsam to form a smoky resinous base to rest the smoldering bloom upon. For a long time on my skin this is where Oeillet Bengale lingers as the carnation and spices float on a resinous cloud of pungent vapor.

Oeillet Bengale has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Oeillet Bengale is one of the most compelling perfumes Sr. Flores-Roux has created and it takes its place among my favorites by him. This is my favorite of the three Aedes de Venustas fragrances released to date. I look forward to whatever Sr. Flores-Roux will release next but when he is in his floral sweet spot there is nobody better.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Arquiste L’Etrog Acqua & The Architects Club- Italian Orchards & Art Deco Club Kids

One of my very favorite recent new perfume lines is Arquiste. In 2011 there were six debut releases and one year later a seventh was added. What I like so much about Arquiste is it is a tight knit team behind all of the fragrances. It starts with owner and Creative Director Carlos Huber who has taken his training as an architectural historian and restorer and applied that to the world of fragrance. So far for all of the Arquiste line he has exclusively used two perfumers, Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier, separately or in tandem. Arquiste is an example of passionate creativity and friendship leading to a collection which is excellent from top to bottom. Because of this admiration I was really looking forward to seeing Sr. Huber at Esxence because I was hoping for something new after over a year. I wasn’t disappointed as he presented two new fragrances, L’Etrog Acqua and The Architects Club.

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L’Etrog Acqua is a continuation of the story begun by one of the original six, L’Etrog and how it came to be is a funny story. Sr. Huber was visiting with Sr. Flores-Roux and as he got near he realized he sort of smelled L’Etrog but it was different. When he asked about it, Sr. Flores-Roux said he wanted a more “summer” version and so he ditched most of the notes in the heart and base and what was left was a very Mediterranean cologne. Sr. Huber agreed and now we can all enjoy the summer version of L’Etrog.

L’Etrog Acqua has exactly the same opening notes as in L’Etrog but they are more pronounced without as much underneath to start pushing them to the side. For almost the entire time I wore L’Etrog Acqua these were the notes which were on display; cedrat, lemon, mandarin, petitgrain, and myrtle. With the original those would give way to an intense dried fruit accord down to the vetiver, orris and patchouli base. All of that is gone and all that remains in L’Etrog Acqua is cedar, vetiver, and labdanum. Without the darker contrasts the top notes get to frolic more freely and the base notes really just sort of join in. For a straightforward citrus fragrance L’Etrog Acqua kept going strong for over 8 hours. Sr. Flores-Roux does capture the flip side to L'Etrog, a summer morning in an Italian citrus orchard. I know this will be worn a lot this summer by me.

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The Architects Club is a more typical Arquiste fragrance complete with appropriate scene setting by Sr. Huber. All of the fragrances have a time and place assigned to them as a brief. For The Architects Club it is Dusk, March, 1930, Mayfair, London inside an Art Deco smoking room. A group of architects settle into the warm interior of dark woods, leather, and velvet. A group of London’s bright young things burst in to the room frosted martinis in hand, surrounded by a cloud of laughter, white smoke, and fine vanilla.

I love the whole Lost Generation era and I was excited to see what M. Vasnier came up with as a perfume to match the described tableau. What he did was make a group of architects’ notes; woods, vetiver, amber, and spices. A group of notes representing the flappers; citrus, gin, and vanilla. Let them crash together and watch the interaction. This turns out to have all of the attributes of an impromptu party in fragrant form.

The Architects Club starts with the spice and woods of the boys out in front and then very quickly the gin and citrus energy of the girls destroy the serenity. M. Vasnier has produced as quickly a developing first few moments of perfume that I have encountered in recent memory. When Sr. Huber gave me the strip after hearing the brief I immediately got the men’s club vibe and just as I was about to say, “nice”, the ladies had started a party on my mouillette. Wearing this for a couple of days this animated opening is even more appealing on my skin. Once everyone is in the midst of having a good time the gin accord and the spices really dominate the early going and they are also having a good time getting to know each other. As this party rages on the vetiver and vanilla make sure the shank of the evening still holds some interest. I can’t remember when an opening of a fragrance has made me say “wow” as much as The Architects Club did. The rest of the fragrance is also very good but there is a wonderful rush I get from the first few moments of this one each time I’ve worn it and it is intoxicating. The Architects Club has all-day longevity and modest sillage as it is at 25% perfume extract concentration. There may be a party going on but only those you let close will know about it.

I’ll be wearing both of these for the next few months but once fall comes The Architects Club party will continue to play on because, as you know, nothing stops a great show.

L'Etrog Acqua will be available in June and The Architects Club will be released in the fall wherever you find Arquiste for sale.

Disclosure: This review was based on press samples provided by Arquiste at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke