New Perfume Review Maher Olfactive Sun Soaked- Walking on Sunshine

No one who reads this site will be surprised to hear I have a huge iTunes playlist of my favorite summer songs. If is use the play count as a metric to determine my favorite summer songs coming in at #2 would be 1983’s “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves. Even when I don’t have the headphones in the song plays in my head as I take the dogs for an afternoon walk. There is something summery about it that just feels right. Independent perfumer Shawn Maher has given me a perfume to accompany this in Maher Olfactive Sun Dazed.

What is inspiring about Sun Soaked is it has sunshine to spare. If it had just stayed with the accord which represents this it would have been great. What has made Mr. Maher such an interesting artist to me is he always finds a depth to even the lightest subjects he undertakes. In this case he adds an earthy gravity which holds it all together. As I do whenever I review Mr. Maher’s creations if you’re interested in the nuts and bolts of designing perfume you should begin by reading his “Scent Notes” blog on this.

Shawn Maher

If I ever do play a word association game with scent the smell of neroli and citrus would make me say “sunshine”. Perfumers have used these to create a brilliant accord almost from the beginning of modern perfumery. What Mr. Maher does is to take neroli and pair it with bitter orange. Then instead of getting lost in sunbeams he consciously grounds it through an ingredient which I would associate with “fertile earth”, narcissus.

The neroli opens things and the bitter orange joins it right away. This is a classic pairing. The quality of the specific ingredients used adds wonderful grace notes. One of the things Mr. Maher lets us see in his blog is how precise use of complementary notes can take something shopworn and give it new life. He uses a suite of smart choices to delineate every drop of light in the keynotes. From the moment I spray it on it is high noon even if it is morning.

The effect of the narcissus is amazing. At first it is that earthiness I enjoy about it so much. It exerts a pull on the top accord without dulling it. Then just the right amount of blackcurrant bud coaxes the floral part of narcissus to the foreground. This finds harmony with the neroli in beautiful ways. It finishes with an amber accord built around some of the more animalic musks and some Iso E Super. It is dry as a patch of summer ground.

Sun Dazed has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Every time I look at my sample of Sun Dazed Katrina sings to me “and don’t it feel good?” Yes, yes it does.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Shawn Maher for American Perfumer Benton Park- Nature Through Perfumery

I have always enjoyed the way my love of perfume has allowed me to see the natural world differently. It also flows the other way. This happened most remarkably when I encountered tuberose in its natural state. After all the mid-century perfumes which featured this overheated flower, I expected to smell it from yards away. Instead I found something that was much greener, almost mentholated. When I returned home and picked up a couple of those vintage classics that green thread leapt out to me. It was as if it took smelling the real thing to unlock the part of my mind that perceives tuberose. Shawn Maher for American Perfumer Benton Park searches for that natural scent of tuberose.

This is the second perfume Shawn Maher has composed for the limited editions of Dave Kern’s store American Perfumer. These perfumes have been some of my favorites every year. One is because Mr. Kern has found some of the best American independent perfumers and asked them to create without restrictions. For a creative mind this is a blessing. Benton Park was born from discussions around the way tuberose smells in the wild.

Shawn Maher

Mr. Maher always lets us into his creative process through his Scent Notes blog on his website. He mentions that he did some research to find out the headspace analysis for tuberose. This is the scent of the flower as analyzed scientifically to determine its composition.

The other piece of Benton Park is vetiver, Mr. Maher and Mr. Kern talked about how different vetiver’s scent profile is depending on which part of the world it comes from. Two different sources add in their differences as complement to the tuberose accord.

Benton Park opens with a sprightly green mixture around limonene and a set of mint-like ingredients. Regular readers know I have a bug about mint. Which is why I use mint-like to describe it. These are fresh green ingredients closer in scent to mint than anything else I can think of. When you smell natural tuberose there is a mentholated chill that fizzes through your nose. This accord captures that. Mr. Maher then rounds out the accord with some of the more recognizable pieces of tuberose. This is where using an accord rather than tuberose oil itself is a huge improvement. It allows for a precise tuning of the accord to a specific effect. Once it is together it is the natural inversion of the green over the narcotic floral.

Waiting for it is the vetiver accord. Mr. Maher takes a foundation of double distilled vetiver. To that he adds vetiver from India and Haiti. Vetiver has a sharp green grassy piece and an earthy woody piece. The Haitian version has the green out front while the Indian one has the woody part. As they interact with the foundational vetiver it forms a rounded vetiver accord which is ready to meet its tuberose partner.

When it happens the icy green of the tuberose adds a fall morning chill to the grassy green of vetiver. I almost checked to see if I could see my breath. It is a fascinating interaction. The chill felt great on a blazing hot day I wore this on. A set of musks provide the grounding the keynote accords need to complete things.

Benton Park has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is one of the most unique interpretations of tuberose I have encountered in perfumery. It is nature through perfumery.

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

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: These limited editions have proven to be extremely popular, selling out very quickly. Mr. Kern, to make it more equitable uses a lottery system. There are 25 signed and numbered bottles for sale. The lottery is scheduled for May 29, 2021. If you are interested you can send your name, phone number, and address to dave@american-perfumer.com to be entered. Or you can supply the same info on the Instagram page @theamericanperfumer via message.

New Perfume Review Chatillon Lux Sunrise on LaSalle- The Morning Reset

For anyone who has ever lived in a big American city there is usually a special place which inhabits the hours around dawn. Every city I’ve lived in has one. It is the morning market. If you know of it, you can mingle with the chefs and stylists of your town. I’ve always thought of these markets as the demarcation between days. Once these arrive the morning reset has taken place. The scents are equally indelible. The one which always made me smile was walking through the fresh fruit into the section where the flowers were. I’ve always found that natural fruity floral more compelling than any perfume version. The latest to try and find that balance is Chatillon Lux Sunrise on LaSalle.

In his Scent Notes blog post accompanying the release independent perfumer Shawn Maher was inspired by his own early morning market in St. Louis. It is a flower market on LaSalle Avenue. Mr. Maher takes us on a stroll through it via perfume as a new day begins.

Shawn Maher

I am not sure if there is a fruit market as part of the flower market. I believe it must be so because Mr. Maher opens this with a densely intertwined pear accord. A lot of times pear is either fleshy or crisp. What he does is to create a fleshy core around which he wraps crisper, more focused sources of pear. He uses that juicy part first. Then he uses a couple of the aromachemicals which have extremely focused pear effects. To make them even more defined he wraps geranium, mint, and a fruity rose. Each of these amplify the crisper pieces. Together it is like picking up that nearly ripe pear from the vendor and bringing it to your nose. This is not to mean it is photorealistic. Mr. Maher is more impressionistic in the way he imagines this accord.

The flowers come next. He uses the expansive airy versions of jasmine. It is just the scent of flowers on the morning breeze. It as if you are at the entryway breathing in all the color on display. He adds some heft through clearwood. Making sure this doesn’t float away on a floral cloud. It comes together with clean cedar and fresh musks. These continue to add volume to everything. One of the wonderful surprises that happened late in the days I wore this was a lovely tea note peeks out around the flowers and fruit. It made me think of sitting at my kitchen table afterwards with my wrapped flowers and mesh bag of pears next to my freshly brewed tea.

Sunrise on LaSalle has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you just take a cursory sniff of this, you will miss a lot of the nuance Mr. Maher has built into it. Sunrise on LaSalle releases its pleasures gradually. If you wait for them, you will find an uncommon fruity floral waiting. Because this had me thinking of all the early morning markets, I’ve been to I also realized something else. For perfume lovers wearing fragrance is our morning reset. Sunrise on LaSalle is a great way to start the day.

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

Mark Behnke

The Perfumers Who Saved Christmas

Back in March when I wrote an editorial on “Perfume in the Time of Coronavirus” I was enjoying the quarantine. I expected it to end in a few months. I was taking the opportunity to enjoy my favorite perfumes with abandon. Each one gave me a shot of needed joy.

As we got to the summer and I was still inside I needed a different kind of booster through fragrance. That came as I spent ten days participating in the Pierre Benard Challenge. This was a big change in perspective for me as I hadn’t examined my connection to scent as deeply. I’m always looking for new things to try. For two weeks I stopped and smelled the world.

Then we got to the fall and the end was not in sight. It was wearing on my mental state. I felt like things would never return to normal. Then a magical thing happened courtesy of some of my favorite independent perfumers. They got me out of my funk because their new releases connected with great memories of my past. I was no longer hemmed in by the four walls of my house.

Frassai El Descanso reminded me of my first cross-country drive as I experienced the wheat fields of the prairie.

DSH Perfumes Tea and Charcoal brought me back to when I discovered a coping mechanism as a child.

Aether Arts Perfume Dia de Muerto had me trick or treating on a tropical S. Florida night.

Maher Olfactive Orris Forest had me hopping over rocks on a hike through the forest.

DSH Perfumes Adrenaline and Scorched Earth put me back on the hiking trail in Yellowstone.

Maher Olfactive Tempo Rubato reminded me of a music lesson in a St. Louis jazz club.

Masque Milano Le Donne di Masque Madeleine had me sitting at a tearoom with cakes and hot chocolate.

Imaginary Authors A Whiff of Wafflecone had me in a specialty ice cream shoppe

DSH Perfumes Couverture d’Hiver had the Florida boy remembering his first New England snowstorm.

All of these and more took me out of my quarantine and into the world through the trigger of perfume. It isn’t the design of a perfumer to make their customer find joy through memory. Although it isn’t an undesired side effect.

Now that we do see the beginning of the end, I am full of hope for the next year. If it weren’t for Irina Burlakova, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Amber Jobin, Shawn Maher, Fanny Bal, and Josh Meyer this would have been a dreary Holiday season. They were the perfumers who saved Christmas for me.

I extend my wishes to all my readers for a Merry Christmas. That I have you is another reason this Season remains merry for me.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maher Olfactive Tempo Rubato- The Orris Butter Blues

On one of my visits to St. Louis for a scientific meeting we spent an evening out listening to jazz. Along with me was an old friend and his wife. She is a professor of music who I affectionately call Dr. Rubato. The nickname came out of this evening thirtysomething years ago. One of my favorite jazz songs is “St. James Infirmary Blues”. If the band is taking requests, I always ask for it. On this night we were treated to a fantastic rendition. The stand-up bass player was the one who really stood out. In my amateurish way I said I really enjoyed the way he altered the rhythm during his solo. My learned musical friend said that was called tempo rubato. She explained to me it is a section of music where the soloist has the freedom to create their own tempo; faster, slower or both. As I’ve mentioned there are words and phrases which just feel good while I pronounce them. Tempo rubato allowed me to elongate the vowels, roll the r, separate the syllables. Performing my own linguistic version of the term. Independent perfumer Shawn Maher wanted to make a perfume based on this. Maher Olfactive Tempo Rubato is the result.

Shawn Maher

Mr. Maher lives in St. Louis which gives my opening story a bit of resonance to the perfume he created. He was also jazz inspired but his is the vocals of Billie Holiday as he relates in the accompanying Scent Notes blog post. Her vocal range allowed her to really employ tempo rubato in a singular way. He wanted to use the multi-faceted ingredient of orris butter to fashion a perfume of varying moods. He seems to be having a lot of fun playing with different shadings of his ingredients. Like an improvisational perfumer performing to his own tempo.

He begins with his main theme a floral accord built upon the orris butter. If you read the blog post, you will see all the nuance he builds into this. For me it is primarily the orris and narcissus which take the lead. There are a lot of other floral ingredients, but it is galbanum which provides a solid green backbeat for the orris and narcissus to improvise against. Jasmine adds a bass line to the green floral accord. Out of this a fabulously odd apricot comes out in a solo which captures the attention of the rest of the combo. A leather accord picks up the tune while stretching the beat out just a little. This is another accord built upon many precise pieces as Mr. Maher moves up and down his perfume keyboard finding just the right note. As it fully forms you have the orris-narcissus-galbanum accord finding harmony with the leather accord. Both play together until it all fades away.

Tempo Rubato has 16-18 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I’ve glossed over a lot of the work Mr. Maher put into his accords. For those who are interested in the way perfume accords are built I refer you again to the blog post. One of the reasons I didn’t get lost in all of that is because the perfume is like listening to my favorite jazz. I just want to sit back and let it wash pleasantly over me. Although I have given this perfume my own name because Dr. Rubato has already taken the one on the bottle. I call it “The Orris Butter Blues”.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maher Olfactive Orris Forest- Hopping from Stone to Stone

When it comes to aquatic scents they are almost always set at a beach on the ocean. Perfumers have explored every variation, and then some, of this. It has always seemed curious to me why so few have tried to make a freshwater version. I’ve spent my share of time next to lakes and streams as well as beaches. There is a scent to both places. It is up to the independent perfume community to satisfy my desire for this. One who has already provided it previously is Shawn Maher. He is back with a different take in Maher Olfactive Orris Forest.

The previous aquatic by Mr. Maher which I enjoyed was Chatillon Lux Admiral. That was a perfume of the Mississippi River which flows through his hometown of St. Louis. For Orris Forest he turns inward to the smaller creeks that feed the larger.

Shawn Maher

In the accompanying Scent Notes post for Orris Forest Mr. Maher is inspired by childhood visits to his grandmother. She lived outside of the city in a place where the country has overtaken the urban. He tells of the joys of youth climbing hills and stomping through the brooks. The ingredient which provided the stimulus to send his mind back was orris butter. It is an unusual association and one I have never made. Mr. Maher saw the nucleus of a contemporary fougere in it.

To do this he focused on the carroty-earthy nature of orris, which is the way I see it. He looks at that and sees the foundation for a fougere accord. To fully form that he uses a set of ingredients to create a watery lichen on wet stone scent profile. He lists a dozen pieces but violet leaf and cypriol are the linchpins. He uses a couple of orris synthetics to ground the natural material more firmly in the earth. When it comes together this is the scent of my hiking boots hopping from green encrusted stone to the other across a brook. Once I reach the other side Mr. Maher delicately inserts the berries, flowers, and woods. There is a hint of raspberry. A more present set of florals in jasmine and lavender. The woods come through a richly terpenic pinon oil. This calls back to a similar undertone in the opening accord closing the loop.

Orris Forest has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mr. Maher has now made his second iteration of a freshwater aquatic. This is as fresh and clean as any one set at the beach. I prefer being reminded of crossing a flowing stream from one stepping stone to the next surrounded by an entirely different aquatic perfume experience.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chatillon Lux Confluence- When Three Become One

I have a whole list of favorite words that I like using. One of them is confluence. I use the phrase “confluence of events” a lot. Maybe too much, I’ll have to ask Mrs. C. I like the flow of the word in my mouth as the hard first syllable flows into the other two. Which means when I received my sample of Chatillon Lux Confluence I was hooked already.

Shawn Maher

Shawn Maher the independent perfumer behind Chatillon Lux has always used his St. Louis home base as inspiration. For Confluence he uses its reason for being as the place where the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers come together. This is the definition of confluence as two flowing water sources merge into one. One of the most memorable ones I have encountered was while rafting the Grand Canyon. Where the Little Colorado River meets the Colorado River there is a fascinating effect. The bright turquoise water of the tributary plumes outward into the dark green of the main artery. The place of meeting is a kinetic experience. Mr. Maher makes Confluence brim with that same energy.

As he says in his Scent Notes post on his website, he was looking to marry incense and conifers. He does this through a series of scented confluences as two primary sources of each become one. It makes Confluence a perfume of hard and soft syllables finding a flow.

It first comes to life with an energetic citrus accord. The “con” syllable. Mr. Maher uses ginger to tap the citric tuning fork of his ingredients. It forms an accord with a buzzing harmonic. The “flu” syllable comes through a set of two types of frankincense. To allow them to come together he uses elemi to smooth the transition. It also allows it to connect to that citrusy first syllable. “Ence” comes from a mixture of woods mainly black spruce and fir balsam. Juniper is the chaperone at the conjunction of both. Again it helps to call back to the previous two syllables. After they are all together citrus, resins, and woods form their own confluence.

Confluence has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mr. Maher has made everything about this perfume the definition of its name. Each accord flows into itself until they all form a beautiful whole. That’s what happens when three become one.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maher Olfactive Treachery- A Weighted Blanket

The prevalence of weighted blankets has taken off. The idea is the feeling of light pressure underneath a soft blanket is comforting. It is the weight itself which adds the security. There is something to the hypothesis that heavier is more soothing. The same holds true for perfume. When you think to yourself which perfumes provide a cozy feeling they are centered around the heavier perfume notes. The latest from independent perfumer Shawn Maher, Maher Olfactive Treachery, explores this.

Shawn Maher

I think for the first time the name has nothing to do with his St. Louis home. In his Scent Notes column he says the name came from the painting by Rene Magritte; “Treachery of Images”. That piece is the depiction of a pipe with the phrase “this is not a pipe”. Mr. Maher wanted to name this perfume that, but it had already been used by another perfume. He ended up going back to the name and just using Treachery. I don’t think the name does it justice. In his column about Treachery he says, “I wanted something comforting” That is a better introduction to the perfume in the bottle.

He starts with two of the most classic perfume ingredients known for being comfortable, vanilla and tobacco. He uses a rich tobacco absolute which captures you in its narcotic embrace as vanilla absolute soothes your brow. Whenever I cook with vanilla, I am struck by the boozy scent of it. Mr. Maher amplifies that with a barrel-aged whisky accord to pick that up. He then changes the tobacco from the dried leaf in the barn to a fruit-flavored version from the tobacconist. An infusion of berries creates a pouch of decadence. This gets pushed even further in that direction with a cocoa powder to dust the entire thing. This is the slightly bitter analog to Dutch Process Cocoa used to bake with. At this point you are enveloped in pipe tobacco, vanilla, a glass of whiskey, and a bar of chocolate. My kind of comfort. There are some woods later on, but they mainly provide framing.

Treachery has 24-hour longevity and above average sillage.

Treachery belongs to my “wall of scent” category. It doesn’t so much develop as erect a structure which holds together for hours. This is one of those perfumes that will stay with you for more than a day. It is a good thing that being surrounded by Treachery is the same as being under a weighted blanket, happy comfort.

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

Mark Behnke

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

1

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