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