New Perfume Review Chatillon Lux La Petite Prairie- The Scent of Wide-Open Spaces

It should be no secret at this point how impressed I am by independent perfumer Shawn Maher. Over the last year, or so, I have found each new release by him to be a joy to experience. Looking back I think there are two significant parts to his vision. One of them comes from where he lives. All his perfumes have come from the local history surrounding his home of St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Maher has taken the classic tropes of modern perfumery and translated them through a Midwestern prism. The other component is his knowledge, and use of, his perfume ingredients. With each new release Mr. Maher allows anyone who is interested to understand the interaction and purpose of the pieces within the fragrance they have in their hand. In Chatillon Lux La Petite Prairie vetiver is given the chance to be re-conceptualized by Mr. Maher.

Shawn Maher

My first encounter with vetiver as a perfume had me swooning over the green grassy piece of the multi-faceted ingredient. It is an ingredient that also carries a specific profile due to where it comes from. It is also surrounded with a number of synthetic alternatives. It allows for a perfumer willing to experiment the opportunity to create a vetiver accord which carries a singular effect.

La Petite Prairie is named for a piece of rolling farmland and grasslands on the edge of the city. When I visited the great prairie on my cross-country drives, I was struck at how the grass smelled different. There was a sharper edge to the green along with a flintier earthiness. As I was thinking about La Petite Prairie, vetiver is an ideal ingredient to capture this quality of terroir indigenous to St. Louis. I again provide the link to Mr. Maher’s Scent Notes on this perfume for those who want to know more about its construction.

Mr. Maher constructs a vetiver base accord of Haitian and Javanese natural vetiver. He then titrates in precise amounts of synthetic vetiver sources. It creates what I would dub a “prairie accord”. More grassy then woody. It is evident from the first moments. In the top accord a citrusy rhubarb picks out the same quality in the natural vetivers. It acts like the reflection of sunlight off the prairie grass. The green is picked up by two green florals in geranium and carnation. I adored the contrast. It reminded me of the classic vetiver perfumes that define this style of fragrance. In the later stages that flinty earth is represented by Iso E Super over a resinous trio of elemi, myrrh, and styrax.

La Petite Prairie has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

For anyone who loves the classic vetiver perfumes of the past this is a must try. You will find aspects of many of them given a new perspective. It is a gift Mr. Maher has, to achieve this time and again. I also want to speak to the community of wetshavers out there, too. This is a fantastically bracing vetiver. The shaving line of this scent will be coming soon. I will definitely be adding it to my shaving cabinet. It is just the tonic I crave after shaving. It provides the scent of wide-open spaces.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maher Olfactive Crystal Moon- Under the Pale Moonlight

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The joy of writing about perfume is I never know when I will find a new voice. A little over a year ago I was sent a perfume by independent perfumer Shawn Maher. Over the ensuing months I have come to believe he is one of the best young perfumers we have. There is a dedication to formulating his compositions that is admirable. You can enjoy his perfumes because they smell great. If you are a perfume geek, he will give you a peek behind the curtain with his extensive blog posts about his perfumes. He offers you his fragrances to enjoy at the level you choose. His brand has been Chatillon Lux since the beginning but that is about to change. On April 28th, his birthday, a new brand Maher Olfactive will debut.

Shawn Maher

Maher Olfactive is the place where Mr. Maher will work in smaller batches with more precious materials. When he told me about this at the beginning of March I was quite enthused. Coming on the heels of his limited edition for American Perfumer, Madame Chouteau, this sounded like an extension of that. To further sharpen my expectations he told me the first new release was going to feature osmanthus. Long-time readers will know my affection for that. I began heading to the mailbox hoping the sample would be there. When Maher Olfactive Crystal Moon arrived, I was given a new perspective on a favorite note.

As always Mr. Maher has published an extensive Scent Notes column which you can find here. His inspiration came from the story of Princess Chang’e who was banished to a crystal palace on the moon. Her companion was gardener Wu Gang who had the never-ending task of trimming back the osmanthus tree next to the palace to keep it from overgrowing it. Mr. Maher uses that inspiration to form a perfume where the osmanthus is impaled on a shaft of moonlight.

Osmanthus is a two-sided ingredient one side is apricot-like the other is leathery. It is just this which causes my affection for it. In the hands of my favorite perfumers I enjoy seeing which part they amplify. In the case of Crystal Moon it is the apricot side which rises.

To achieve this Mr. Maher uses a set of fruity complements. From the early moments the apricot nature of osmanthus is given a more expansive presence through these ingredients. While I always mention the apricot, osmanthus is also a flower. Mr. Maher reminds us of that with a lavender oil made only of the flowers. jonquil adds more flower power. It makes for a rounding effect even while the apricot stays on top. Now the moonlight glows by creating an expansive amber accord the keynote of which is a patchouli synthetic derivative called Clearwood. It forms an accord of diffuse luminescence which adds an appealing opacity overlaying the osmanthus. The base is a clever accord of hinoki, galbanum, juniper, and tincture of Yirgacheffe coffee. This provides an incense-like effect as if a brazier is burning in the crystal palace as we keep up our battle with the burgeoning osmanthus tree. It is a lovely reminder of the inspiration for the perfume.

Crystal Moon has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Crystal Moon will take its place next to two earlier Chatillon Lux releases, Nefertiti, and Santal Auster, as the founding collection of Maher Olfactive. All three display Mr. Maher’s precocious talent. None better than the osmanthus under the pale moonlight of Crystal Moon.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Shawn Maher for American Perfumer Madame Chouteau- St. Louis Sister

If there was one thing I wanted from a store dedicated to American independent perfumery it was limited editions. When owner Dave Kern contacted me two years ago to announce he was opening American Perfumer in Louisville, KY it was the first thing I asked him. He politely replied it was in his plans but first he had a store to open. It didn’t take long. By the end of 2018 he had released two limited editions from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and Maria McElroy. Ms. Hurwitz’s perfume, Colorado, won the 2019 Art & Olfaction Award for best independent perfume. Hans Hendley followed with last year’s ode to his Texas home, Bloodline. One commonality of all three was the use of a special rare ingredient. Long time readers know how much I enjoy the aspect of independent perfumery where a one-of-a-kind ingredient leads to a singular perfume. The oil Ms. McElroy used to build her entry Desert Flower let her connect the desert near Marrakech and the one she grew up near in Utah. All these first three releases were perfumes tied deeply to the perfumer’s heritage and location. Of the newer American independent perfumers Shawn Maher of Chatillon Lux has been designing his entire brand around his roots in the St. Louis, MO community he lives in. Mr. Maher has been one of the most exciting new perfumers I have encountered in years. You can imagine my excitement when just after the New Year Mr. Kern and Mr. Maher contacted me to announce the upcoming release of Shawn Maher for American Perfumer Madame Chouteau.

American Perfumer in Louisville, KY

Mr. Maher when left to his own vision has delved deeply into the history of his hometown. As he spoke with Mr. Kern they remarked they both live in cities named after French King Louis. There is a pervasive French style underpinning this area of the country the US had to eventually purchase from France. Madame Chouteau pays homage to one of the founders of the city of St. Louis with a perfume which calls back to the classic French origins of modern perfumery through an American perspective.

Shawn Maher

Madame Chouteau would co-found the trading post which would be the cornerstone of the city with Pierre Laclede Liguest. She lied about being a widow so she could have the standing in male society it provided, which was little. It was enough for her to use what she had to get what she wanted.

Mr. Maher releases a Scent Notes column on his website for most of his releases. The one on Madame Chouteau, linked here, mentions how he would construct a perfume using ingredients he was using for the first time. It is a fabulous peek behind the curtain for those who want to know more.

Madame Chouteau opens with an exquisite apricot accord. Most of the time apricot appears as a dried fruit in perfume. Mr. Maher rehydrates his apricot with the use of the aromachemicals which provide rose their depth, damascenones. This turns the early moments into a photorealistic apricot. This is the American perspective on the French traditions I mentioned. This is an apricot which is full of life instead of abstractly desiccated. Jasmine provides the floral counterweight as Mr. Maher combines three natural sources with a Hedione analog for lift. It is the expansiveness from that which gives the jasmine a weightlessness that allows them to float above the apricot while still retaining the complexity of the natural oils. The French-American collaboration reaches its zenith in what Mr. Maher calls his “Mousse de Saint Louis” base. Inspired by the classic Mousse de Saxe base. To go from Saxe to Saint Louis he adds a dirtier vanilla to act like the muddy Mississippi running through the atranol-free oakmoss with orris and leather completing it. The final ingredient is genuine Mysore sandalwood in all its gorgeous glory providing the proper pedestal for Madame Chouteau to stand upon.

Madame Chouteau has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I was such a lazy writer that my reviews of the previous American Perfumer limited editions came after they were sold out. Not this time. At 3PM EST this Saturday February 15 the 25 bottles of this amazing perfume will go on sale. It is another outstanding entry in this series.

As I learned more of Madame Chouteau, Annie Lennox’s voice through the Eurythmics song “Sisters are Doin’ it for Themselves” played in my head. I especially heard the couplet, “Standin’ on their own two feet/And ringin’ on their own bells”. The perfume in her name does just that. With a French accent and an American fist in the air Madame Chouteau was a St. Louis Sister doin’ it for herself.

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

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2019 Part 2- Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

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In Part 1 I took a wide view of the year in perfume that was 2019. Today I get very specific naming the very best of the year in four categories.

Perfume of the Year: Chatillon Lux Weinstrasse– Last year when I was doing my end of year summaries I had never heard of St. Louis-based independent perfumer Shawn Maher and his Chatillon Lux brand. I would catch up over 2019. Mr. Maher is representative of what makes independent perfumery special. He creates perfumes which reflect his hometown’s history and geography. I have enjoyed everything he has released this year. It was his last release of the year Chatillon Lux Weinstrasse that captured my attention most fully of any new perfume I tried this year.

One of the things which has drawn me to Mr. Maher is he shares his process through posts on the Chatillon Lux website. What these entries reveal is a perfumer who understands the materials he is using. He goes deep into the effect each ingredient has on the finished product. You can read the one for Weinstrasse here.

Weinstrasse was inspired by the Germans who migrated to St. Louis and began vineyards. What Weinstrasse captures are the smells of the late harvest. It begins from a clever accord of grapes on the vine using green cognac oil and blackcurrant bud. One thing I marvel at each time I wear Weinstrasse is the way Mr. Maher captures the glow of a late autumn sun. Many perfumes inspired by wine have a claustrophobic feeling. Mr. Maher creates a perfume with a golden glow of muted sunlight. It opens up the entire composition. In that blog post Mr. Maher wanted Weinstrasse to be his version of a fougere. The base is an overdose of the ingredient which defined the beginning of modern perfumery; coumarin. It adds that classic fougere-ish vibe without going fully into it. It fits surprisingly well with everything that has come before.

I believe Mr. Maher is a special talent who is only at the beginning of creating his perfumes. He will have a difficult time making a better perfume than Weinstrasse my choice for Perfume of the Year for 2019.

Perfumer of the Year: Cristiano Canali- Perfumer Cristiano Canali provided brilliant bookends for 2019. In January I was enthralled with Rubini Tambour Sacre only to be equally engaged by Zoologist Bee in December. Sig. Canali is not one of the most prolific or well-known perfumers. He has a layered style of making perfume that requires the right concept to allow it to flourish.

Working with Andrea Rubini and a talented creative team at Rubini Sig. Canali translated the sound of sacred drums from the Horn of Africa into a gorgeous composition in Tambour Sacre. Collaborating with Victor Wong of Zoologist for Bee he created a perfume of multiple layers of honey without falling into the places where honey can be difficult. He successfully traveled the tightrope necessary to make Bee memorable.

This became an easy choice because he was the only perfumer to create two of the ten perfumes I was considering for Perfume of the Year. That is why Cristiano Canali is the Perfumer of the Year for 2019.

Runner-Ups: Mandy Aftel, Antonio Gardoni, Olivia Giacobetti, Christophe Laudamiel, and Shawn Maher.

Creative Director(s) of the Year: Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi of Masque Milano– There have been no creative direction in all of perfumery better than that provided by Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi of Masque Milano. For the past six years they have followed a formula of working with the best young talented perfumers. Also giving them a brief and the latitude they wouldn’t find elsewhere to create one of the best collections you can find. The two perfumes released in 2019 continued that. Early in the year they worked with Vanina Muracciole to create a reconstructed chypre in Kintsugi. At the end of the year perfumer Caroline Dumur produced an elegiac rose rife with poignancy in Love Kills. Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi have consistently pushed independent perfumery to new heights while serving the young rising stars. For this and the perfume they oversaw in 2019 they are the Creative Directors of the Year for 2019.

Runner-ups: Christian Astuguevieille of Comme des Garcons, Etienne de Swardt of Etat Libre d’Orange, Jan Ewoud Vos of Puredistance, and Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes.

Brand of the Year: Zoologist Perfumes– It is a modern miracle what Victor Wong has achieved with his brand Zoologist Perfumes. He is another creative director who seems to get the most out of his collaborators. In 2019 he worked with Joseph DeLapp on Dodo, Daniel Pescio on Chameleon, Celine Barel on Squid, and Cristiano Canali on Bee. No two of those perfumes are like the other. Mr. Wong has created a brand which has consistently impressed but 2019 was the best year they have had creatively. That is why Zoologist Perfumes is the Brand of the Year for 2019.

Runner-Ups: Aftelier Perfumes, Chatillon Lux, Comme des Garcons, and Masque Milano.

Part 1 is my broad overview of 2019.

The Top 25 will be published on Monday December 30.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2019 Part 1- Overview

This past year in perfume was a great one. One of the best since I have been writing about perfume. Part of the reason is what I wrote about in the prologue yesterday. It was the best year ever for independent perfumery. I tried 734 new perfumes in this calendar year. When I look at the bottom of my spreadsheet to see that number it kind of chills me to realize I smelled that many. I knew it was a great year when I put together my first draft of perfumes I wanted to consider for these columns. I ended up with 75 fragrances on that list. 10% of everything I tried was memorable. It speaks to the quality that is out there to be found.

When I say this was the best year for independent perfumery it does not meant that it was a bad year for the mainstream. On the contrary there were some amazing releases from the big brands. Regular readers are tired of my extolling Gucci Memoire d’une Odeur for its fearlessness, but it deserves the recognition. Hermes Un Jardin sur la Lagune stood out for the change in style as Christine Nagel created a more introverted garden which appealed to me. Olivier Polge extended the Les Eaux de Chanel with Paris-Riviera. Thierry Mugler Angel Eau Croisiere is the kind of crazy summer flanker I wish we saw more of. Finally, Guerlain has their yearly reminder they aren’t a spent creative force with the magical Embruns D’Ylang.

Christian Astuguevieille

To my great pleasure Comme des Garcons laid down a fantastic reminder of why they haven’t lost their innovative style after 25 years of doing fragrance. The fall saw six new Comme des Garcons releases under the creative guidance of Christian Astuguevieille. They were a reminder of everything this brand continues to do well. From the collaboration with Monocle for Scent Four: Yoyogi. To the neon pink of Odeur du Theatre du Chatelet. The three new Series 10 Clash perfumes, each a study in synthetic contrasts. Ending with the metallic chameleon of Copper. So many of the brands which sparked my interest in artistic perfume have lost the plot I am thankful M. Astuguevieille hasn’t.

Barbara Hermann

This year saw the ultimate transformation of bloggers into creative directors. I think it is easy to convince yourself that if you write about perfume it is a small step to creating it. There have been a few examples this year of how untrue that is. The three who succeeded put in the hard work necessary to see their vision through to a perfume. Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes released four in 2019 all wildly different. Barbara Hermann evolved her brand Eris Parfums into her best release to date Mxxx. Arielle Weinberg has made the transition from blogger to store owner to creative director putting in the time to make each endeavor succeed. Arielle Shoshana Sunday was part of a new breed of gourmands for 2019.

The new gourmands all seemed to be inspired by hot beverages. Arielle Shoshana Sunday by matcha horchata. Floral Street Ylang-Ylang Espresso is an exotic drink of dark coffee and exuberant floral. Ineke Jaipur Chai finds the gentle harmony in the blend of ingredients in chai as a perfume. Cocoa plays a starring role in Curata Dulceo and Eris Parfums Mxxx.

Caroline Dumur

I met fantastic new perfumers for the first time through their work. Caroline Dumur did two of the new Comme des Garcons; Odeur du Theatre du Chatelet and Clash: Chlorophyll Gardenia. Along with her work for Masque Milano Love Kills she has become one to watch. Scottish perfumer Euan McCall impressed me with his work for Senyoko. La Tsarine is a perfume unafraid to go deep into carnality. Contrast that with his work on Migration de L’Arbre which captures the outdoors vibrantly. Shawn Maher of Chatillon Lux was another new name who impressed me with his skill at evoking all that his St. Louis home can give to perfume.

Michael Edwards

Of everything I experienced this year it was a book which has altered my perspective most. Michael Edwards released Perfume Legends II in September. I devoured it over a week. Mr. Edwards has spoken publicly that the revered perfume houses like Guerlain, Chanel, or Dior were the niche perfumes of their day. Though the 52 perfumes covered in the book you realize the era of modern perfumery from Fougere Royale to Portrait of a Lady has always reflected the best of what perfume has to give. It made me view perfumery with a new foundation. It is why I think 2019 has been so good.

Join me tomorrow as I name my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year.

Sunday, I make a list of my favorite non-perfume things of the year.

Monday, I will have the Top 25 new perfumes of 2019.

Tuesday, I look forward to what I hope to see in 2020.

Until then.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chatillon Lux Weinstrasse- Late Harvest

As we are on the cusp of October, we firmly begin harvest season. Besides all the pumpkin flavored things which most people associate with this time of year I have a different one. For me the smell of the apple orchard with apple pie spices and apple cider are one pillar. The other revolves around my love of wine. On a mid-October trip to the Finger Lakes region many years ago I was present for a late harvest at one of the vineyards. The reason for late harvest is to have grapes where the sugar is a bit more concentrated due to the added length of time on the vine along with the cooler temperatures. In this region of the US they are known for some of the best late harvest wines in the world. The wines are elegantly sweet with a flowery nose. I hadn’t expected a perfume to capture that until I received my sample of the extraordinary Chatillon Lux Weinstrasse.

Shawn Maher

Shawn Maher is the independent perfumer behind this Saint Louis-based perfume brand. He has always looked to his locality for inspiration. In the case of Weinstrasse he wanted to pay homage to the Germans who emigrated to the area and set up vineyards on the slopes of the Missouri River. As I’ve mentioned in the past Mr. Maher often has a post on his website about the creation of his perfumes; here is the link for the one on Weinstrasse. In that post he mentions that he wanted to try and re-imagine the classic fougere through a vinous lens. He succeeds.

The top accord is those bunches of grapes hanging on the vine on an October morning. The ingredient he uses for his grape effect is green cognac essential oil. To capture the green foliage of the vine blackcurrant bud adds in its fruit tinted leafiness. This is those grapes as they are about to be snipped in the low autumn sunlight. The brightness of this top accord is that low horizon sun which glows. The heart of Weinstrasse is a mixture of sweet floral notes. If you’ve ever drunk a great late harvest muscat this accord in Weinstrasse is that scent of the wine amplified. Mr. Maher uses a nucleus of immortelle made sweeter by pairing it with a honeysuckle accord. The green parts of the top accord reach down into the florals to provide some contrast to the overall honey and floral scent. To make sure this finishes with as much brio as it has opened with Mr. Maher goes full classic fougere with an overdose of coumarin. It harmonizes with the florals beautifully while providing some grounding to allow the rest of the base accord to evolve. That comes through a creamy sandalwood and oakmoss providing a furry green complement. It all ends back in the earth with patchouli and a few musks reminding us where this late harvest day began.

Weinstrasse has 14-16 hour longevity.

Weinstrasse is a brilliant perfume. It is one of the very best perfumes of this year, or any year. That it comes from a perfumer as new to the field as Mr. Maher is incredible. Part of the joy of writing about perfume is experiencing a new talented nose. Over this past year Mr. Maher has impressed me repeatedly. I can’t think of another independent perfumer who has had this strong of a start in many years.

Weinstrasse displays everything which sets him apart. His careful choice of materials. His clear understanding of the history of perfume matched with a vision of what he wants to change. The updated fougere which is Weinstrasse is as good as it gets. Finally there seems to be a passion to get it right. The beauty of Weinstrasse lies in how throughout Mr. Maher infuses that autumn sunlight through everything. It is a subtle shading that only very few can achieve. Weinstrasse is the very best of what independent perfumery can be.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chatillon Lux Admiral- Riverboat Aquatic

One of my favorite new independent brands and perfumers of this year is Shawn Maher’s line, Chatillon Lux. Lot of perfumers choose to evoke their surroundings. Few have done it as well as Mr. Maher has taken on his St. Louis home. It is difficult to know what direction his perfumes will take when reading the accompanying text. For his latest he wrote that it “an homage to a mid-century modern steamboat that was an icon of the Mississippi”. You might read that more carefully than I did but in my mind’s eye I saw one of those paddle wheelers where a poker game was taking place. Imagine my surprise when I saw the ship, he was designing a perfumer to, below. It sure as heck isn’t my grandfather’s steamboat. This looks like something out of a futuristic movie. A classic Art Deco design. A twist on what a riverboat suggests. Which also means Mr. Maher would make a perfume which reminds you of something classic but gives it a newer sleeker design. That is what you will find in Chatillon Lux Admiral.

The Admiral

In every review I’ve done I’ve pointed you to Mr. Maher’s “Scent Notes” column on his website. For those who have been following independent perfumery for a long time it reminds me of the early columns by Andy Tauer; providing similar insight into how Mr. Maher makes perfume. In the column about Admiral he speaks about how he is not a fan of aquatic perfumes. Yet he was going to make a perfume about a riverboat. Because of the milieu he wanted to evoke he was already ahead of the game. Almost every aquatic wants to capture the beach mise-en-scene. Mr. Maher wanted Admiral to be a Mississippi River aquatic. That means no salt air or sea spray. A river is in motion, but it doesn’t generally have waves crashing on the shore. Mr. Maher was going to have to concoct a watery accord which captured the difference. That he does it so well is what makes Admiral stand out.


Shawn Maher

If you’ve ever stood on a riverbank with a bamboo fishing rod in hand the top accord will take you back. Mr. Maher uses a diffuse set of citrusy ingredients without getting too focused. It is a hazy sunshine of a humid summer day. He constructs it around orange blossom and verbena primarily. Some blackcurrant bud and clary sage provide a sharper vegetal green to the overall accord. This floats like a raft on Mr. Maher’s perfumed river. The aquatic accord here is fantastically engineered to give that flowing river instead of crashing waves effect. That Mr. Maher uses some of the most common synthetics all precisely balanced to pull this off is noteworthy. His accord is made up of Calone, Ambroxan, Iso E Super, and Helional. He takes these in judicious amounts and stirs them together with seaweed absolute to provide a sense of the riverbank. It results in an aquatic accord I can almost guarantee you’ve never tried before. Finally he creates a soft smoke accord to represent the Admiral itself. So many independent perfumers go wrong when using cade oil. Mr. Maher has learned just a little, as part of a larger accord, has a much more dramatic effect than just smoking the place out. Here he counterbalances the cade with vanilla and tonka bean over a light leather. This is what a smoke accord should be.

Admiral has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mr. Maher said he wanted to make a different aquatic. All he had to do was go down to the river in his hometown and watch the Admiral to create a riverboat aquatic.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chatillon Lux Nefertiti- Ancient Jazz

I enjoy all forms of music. There is one I enjoy but I can’t say I understand it; jazz. I know the basics of variations on themes circling around. If I focus, I can hear it. Unlike almost any other music I listen to I tend to let jazz flow through me. Because of that it is one of the reasons I am not as experienced an enthusiast as I am at other things. I have been fortunate to have seen most of the jazz greats in concert including Miles Davis. No this isn’t a column on jazz, but it does lead to a new perfume.

I became acquainted with a new independent brand earlier this year, Chatillon Lux. The creative force behind it, Shawn Maher, sent me Lamplight Penance. I was impressed with his ability to take his sense of place in Saint Louis and fuse it into perfume. I was so interested I requested a set of samples which Mr. Maher sent to me. I found as I worked my way through what was sent a perfumer who exemplifies his locale with beautifully constructed accords to achieve a well-thought out effect. If you have not discovered this line yet it is one of the best of the young independent perfume lines I have experienced in the last couple of years. Mr. Maher is the real deal. His latest Chatillon Lux Nefertiti confirms that.

2018 Ooh St. Lou Studios

Shawn Maher

Most of the samples have easy to see connections to Saint Louis. As I looked at the one labeled “Nefertiti” I was thinking, “How does that connect to Saint Louis?” Thankfully Mr. Maher is a throwback to the kind of perfumer who takes us inside his creative process through “Scent Notes” posted on his website. As soon as I saw this the connection was made clear; jazz. Specifically the jazz piece named “Nefertiti” by Miles Davis. As he points out in his article this was one of the foremost jazz innovators at the beginning of a new way of doing things.

Of course Nefertiti also refers to the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti who reigned over one of the golden ages of ancient Egypt with her husband, Akhenaten. Their years in charge saw the revolution of moving to a form of monotheism with the worship of the sun god Aten. Mr. Maher wanted to capture these two envelope pushers with a perfume worthy of all that.

The way this is achieved is by looking into the history of Ancient Egyptian perfumery and fusing it with a set of jazz beat accords. That is what Nefertiti becomes.

Where this all begins as a perfume is Mr. Maher found out Queen Nefertiti was said to wear a perfume of honey and orchid leaf. Nefertiti opens on that. The honey comes from beeswax absolute. This gives it a restrained sweetness. To up that quality he uses an indolic jasmine. This is the call back to the jazz as it slides across the beeswax in a glissade-like effect. The orchid leaf accord is constructed of citrus and floral pieces. It provides contrapuntal percussion to the honey while also calling back to the Queen. The heart is an interpretation of the ancient Kyphi incense. Mr. Maher came up with his own idea of what ancient resins should smell like. This produces a kind of rough trade incense. It pushes up against the smooth top accord with an improvisational verve. It meshes with the jasmine and honey as they form a potent trio in the middle of the development. For the final movements we return to a smoky Saint Louis jazz bar. Mr. Maher wants to capture the smoke hanging in the air as the spotlight captures it swirling around the players. He creates an abstract cannabis accord by focusing on the terpenes within cannabis. This becomes complementary to the orchid leaf accord as it draws it through into the latter stages. The final part is to take that honey of the top accord and transform it into a sweetly animalic base accord of Cambodioan oud and immortelle. This is a cruder honey effect given vibrancy by adding in the animal musks of castoreum and civet.

Nefertiti has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage. It is at extrait strength.

Jazz can be described as thoughtful improvisation. Mr. Maher can be described as a thoughtful perfume maker. The improvisation is achieved by making Nefertiti a perfume of Ancient jazz.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chatillon Lux Lamplight Penance- Memories of Exploration

When I tell people I write about perfume to say I get odd responses is an understatement. When I give my inevitable explanation on why I think perfume is a subject worth writing about there is one thing which rings true. I will respond by asking them, “is there a smell which reminds you of a place, time or person?” Almost every time I get an affirmative answer. I ask them to describe it. Then I tell them they’ve just described the outline for a perfume. What sets independent perfumery apart is someone is inspired to take that kind of thinking and turn it into something that goes in a bottle. The past as seen through the haze of memory is where Chatillon Lux Lamplight Penance begins.

Shawn Maher

A new independent perfumer, Shawn Maher, has used his hometown of South Saint Louis City as his inspiration. Mr. Maher has particularly focused on the history of his part of the city. The name of his brand, Chatillon Lux, comes from Henri Chatillon. Mr. Chatillon was a trapper and guide during the early to mid-19th century. He was the guide who is featured in Francis Parkman’s 1849 book “The Oregon Trail”. What sparked Mr. Maher’s perfume is the finding, in 1967, of some of Mr. Chatillon’s belongings underneath some attic floorboards. What was found was a rifle wrapped in an oil painting of Mr. Chatillon and his first wife the Oglala Sioux, Bear Robe. In his “scent notes” on the brand website he says, “Lamplight Penance seeks to re-create Chatillon’s later years as he retired to a life of creature comforts……while, by the lamplight, secretly yearning for the trail along with his past life and past love, neither of which he could manage to forget.”

Painting of Henri Chatillon (l.) and wife Bear Robe found in 1967

His brief was Mr. Maher imagining Mr. Chatillon ascending to the attic with a glass of bourbon in one hand and an oil lamp in the other to look at the picture of he and his first wife; while his current spouse slept below. As he opened a window the scents of the garden below would mix with the memory of the trail.

Mr. Maher opens Lamplight Penance with the pastoral smells of that garden. He visited the grounds of the mansion and found berry bushes and peach trees among the daffodils. That is the top accord with peach playing a leading role. This is the fleshy kind of peach which is sweetened by the berries. The green acerbic quality of the daffodils provides a contrast. The heart is where Mr. Maher lights his oil lamp and pours a few fingers of bourbon. So many young perfumers rely on birch tar or cade to provide a smoke effect. I was impressed when Mr. Maher explained he chose not to use either of those. Instead he reached halfway around the world for a mixture of Himalayan cedar and the harvested resin of the Sal tree called “choya ral”. This captures the smokiness he wanted while also adding in a textural component for the bourbon to attach itself to. This is surrounded by the wood of the attic as he opens the cedar chest where his keepsakes are stored. A puff of leather comes along with the woods. As the choya ral, leather, and bourbon settle in to roam the trails of memory.

Lamplight Penance has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mr. Maher has mined his local history to produce a perfume which captures the gentility of fond memories. There is a softness to Lamplight Penance that is not apparent if I tell you this is a bourbon, leather, and smoke perfume. I look forward to the next time Mr. Maher want to translate more of Mr. Chatillon’s life into perfume.

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

Mark Behnke