New Perfume Review Redbrook Parfums Underground- The Joy of Partnership

If you want to know what video reviews looked like prior to YouTube you need to go back to 1977. That year a show on PBS called “Sneak Previews” featured two movie critics from rival Chicago newspapers debating a new movie and giving their opinion. What made it work was the difference in perspective about movies. Each of them had preferences they were happy to share even if the other disagreed. It is one of my favorite forms of criticism. Two opinions from different positions found in one place. That dynamic has continued into the world of video reviews on the internet.

Carlos J Powell, Jean-Claude Delville, Steven Gavrielatos (l. to r.)

One of the fragrance equivalents were the shared reviews of YouTubers Redolessence and Brooklyn Fragrance Lover, Steven Gavrielatos and Carlos J Powell respectively. They would travel back and forth to each other’s home studio and would provide reviews together. These are some of my favorite perfume video reviews because they both had different tastes which they would use to form their opinions. They also clearly enjoyed their partnership. There was a warmth which came through the screen when they were together. It is not surprising that they decided to extend their collaboration into creatively directing a perfume. To achieve this they worked with The Society of Scent and perfumer Jean-Claude Delville. Together they would distil the give-and-take of their perfume tastes into a satisfying fragrance called Redbrook Parfums Underground.

The name of the brand is a portmanteau of their YouTube channels. Underground represents the amount of train time spent traveling between their homes to achieve their vision. One of the videos about the creative process shows both Mr. Gavrielatos and Mr. Powell in the courtyard at The Society of Scent with lots of strips to smell. You can see a vigorous conversation happening between the two creative directors and the perfumer. I smiled at that thinking the creative tension would produce something memorable.

It begins with a fresh top accord of citrus and ginger. Ginger has become the contemporary way to add fresh. The equally modern choice for herbal effect is baie rose which is also present in the opening of Underground. This is the appetizer of what is to come. Underground travels down parallel tracks for a bit as patchouli and vetiver runs next to a rich gourmand vanilla and chocolate. They come together through that overlap of the chocolate in patchouli. Together they sped on an express track right to its destination.

Underground has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

As many may know Mr. Powell would pass away just as Underground was on the verge of being released. I know what a personal dream it was for him to have this opportunity. To share it with his best friend added more to it. What remains is a fitting perfume which represents the joy of partnership between the two men and the perfumer who helped it happen.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle provided by Redbrook Parfums.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Navitus Parfums Part 2 Intimus, Navus, Oud Imperium, and Oud Luxuria- By Taking Some Risks

Continuing the overview of Navitus Parfums I began yesterday in Part 1. The remaining four perfumes in the inaugural collection are by perfumer Christian Carbonnel. Creative Director Steven Gavrielatos shows an interesting difference between the four constructs. The duo without oud in the name, Navitus Parfums Intimus and Navus, continue the aesthetic begun in the three perfumes from yesterday. The two with oud in their name, Navitus Parfums Oud Imperium and Oud Luxuria, those take some exciting risks. First the non-oud two.

Intimus is the fruity floral of the bunch. To Mr. Gavrielatos’ credit he gives it some verve by choosing different fruits and florals for Mr. Carbonnel to combine. The fruity part comes through a tart pairing of crisp apple and sunny lemon. It has a snappy attention getting quality which sets the stage for the green lily-of-the-valley to provide the floral. Baie rose acts as a bridging note between the tarter fruits and the greener muguet. This is a light-filled spring fruity floral at this stage. It takes on some shadows in the later going as patchouli and oakmoss provide some shade. It ends with a dry woody framing.

Intimus has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Navus is my favorite of these two because it is a brilliant citrusy style of perfume overflowing with exuberance. Grapefruit holds the center of the top accord complemented by bergamot, orange, and neroli. It is a compact citrus accord until Mr. Carbonnel pierces it with baie rose and juniper berry. It takes what starts off as closed in and explodes it across my skin in shards of gin and herbs within the citrus. This is the most kinetic of the Navitus releases especially in these early moments. Ylang-ylang provides a tropical contrast before vetiver and cedar round out things.

Navus has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Steven Gavrielatos (l.) and Christian Carbonnel

As I say often expectations are a funny thing. Having explored the other five Navitus Parfums I thought the ones with oud would be typical smooth oud accord fragrances. Mr. Gavrielatos and Mr. Carbonnel shredded those ideas with two perfumes which embrace every edgy piece of oud in two perfumes not meant to be for everyone. Oud has two nominal descriptors; “medicinal” and “barnyard” each of these picks one and elaborates upon it.

Oud Imperium goes for the “medicinal” vibe of oud. More accurately the bandages scent oud sometimes possesses. There is a dichotomy of dirty wound underneath clean bandages. It is the push back of the cleaner notes against that medicinal scent which makes Oud Imperium so interesting. The oud is right there and is first resisted by apple and lavender. The former does a better job of holding its own. Muguet also picks up on the apple and contrasts with green floral. Just as it seems the oud is ascendant tonka bean comes forward to add a warm toasted quality as complement. It softens the edges of the oud especially over the later stages moving it from confrontational to comforting.

Oud Imperium has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

That leaves the “barnyard” for Oud Luxuria. This is my favorite of the inaugural seven because it takes the parts of oud which are the most difficult to work with and creates a fantastically layered perfume. It opens with that slightly fecal barnyard scent of oud. Mr. Carbonnel rolls out two florals to work with that in rose and osmanthus. Rose is the traditional partner to oud. The choice of osmanthus is excellent because the leather apricot duality works ideally against an oud of this kind. As the florals settle into the oud it flowers into something very compelling. Mr. Carbonnel uses a deft amount of spices as saffron and cinnamon add a simmering warmth. It all turns very resinous in the base as silvery frankincense pushes onto the scene. The austerity of good frankincense as contrast to the dirtiness of good oud is balanced perfectly here. It stays right in this sweet spot of rose, osmanthus, frankincense, and oud for a long time.

Oud Luxuria has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

The five non-oud Navitus releases are well-done versions of niche styles. Mr. Gavriealtos made some inspired choices by asking his perfumers to work on the fringes of those styles. It has formed a coherent collection which colors within the lines while pushing at the edges of them, too. The two oud ones, those rip the page out of the coloring book and crumple it up. They are audacious in their use of oud. This is probably the right mix of a debut collection to show what your new brand is all about. I am excited to see Mr. Gavrielatos successfully make the transition to creative director. I see the potential for some excellent perfumes to come.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample set provided by Navitus Parfums.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Navitus Parfums Part 1 Absolutio, Primas, and Virtus- Doing It Correctly

The last year have seen a lot of those who comment on perfume making the leap to making perfume. It is not a natural transition. Just because you can speak about perfume it does not guarantee you can create perfume. Of the people I admire who have successfully completed this change it is the ones who have a passion for it. It is that which I believe is the most critical ingredient. If you come at it from a cynical perspective, you are no better than the large brands working on creating fragrance via focus group. There are plenty of success stories to emulate; Zoologist, Eris and Arielle Shoshana began as perfume writers before becoming creative directors who make great perfumes. I have a new name to add to that list Steven Gavrielatos of Navitus Parfums.

Steven Gavrielatos (l.) and Jorge Lee

Mr. Gavrielatos is better known by the name he has produced videos on YouTube under; Redolessence. He has been one of the longest running video reviewers. He was approached to take over the creative director duties for a new brand midway through 2018. If you have the inclination to want to do this, you could not ask for a better situation. With the money to back him Mr. Gavrielatos could take the time to find the right perfumers to collaborate with. He would settle on Jorge Lee, Bertrand Duchaufour, and Christian Carbonnel. Together they would produce a debut collection of seven perfumes. It spans a wide spectrum of styles. It also shows a sense of direction from someone who is making perfume for his own enjoyment. Over the next two days I am going to do reviews of all seven of the inaugural releases because it is a line which has done things correctly.

Navitus Parfums Primas is the “freshie” in the collection. There is a shorthand in the video reviewing community for the fresh and clean style of fragrance. Mr. Gavrielatos asks Jorge Lee for some different interpretations of fresh within Primas. It starts right away as grapefruit is given an enhancement via green mango. This isn’t the ripe mango seen in other fragrances. By using the green version it does make for a fresh citrus with a tropical twist. An airy jasmine intermezzo leads to an earthier base than I was expecting. Patchouli and oakmoss don’t go for that chypre vibe. Instead they find a fresher harmonic which labdanum also supports. The final part is cedar and synth woods for a long lasting dry woody finish.

Primas has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Steven Gavrielatos (l.) and Bertrand Duchaufour

The next two perfumes were composed by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour. As much as I facetiously call him the “High Priest of Resins” for his ability with incense perfumes. I could also give him a similar sobriquet for his use of spices in his perfumes; the “Sultan of Spices”?  Both Navitus perfumes show how he can use them differently.

In Navitus Parfums Absolutio it is through the use mainly of saffron. M. Duchaufour merges it with almond in the early going. This gives the almond a toasty feel as the saffron wraps it in a golden glow. It gives way to a fascinating heart accord of caramel apple. The carnival treat is brought to life with the crisp apple under a gooey caramel. All around this is the warmth of the saffron. This is a gorgeously realized transition. As Absolutio develops the gourmand style deepens from caramel to chocolate. Mr. Gavrielatos also seems to have decided to not let this go full-on gourmand. It is a lighter style of gourmand than I usually encounter. The use of woody ingredients in the base keep the touch lighter through to the end.

Absolutio has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

If I was wanting a full-on gourmand from M. Duchaufour it was waiting in my sample of Navitus Parfums Virtus. If Mr. Gavrielatos was reining him in on Absolutio; Virtus is what it is like to let him run free. Virtus is a howlingly good gourmand because it is so unrestrained. Another thing M. Duchaufour does well is to balance the ingredients in perfumes with a list of ingredients longer than a shopping list. In Virtus he directs each of the ingredients to their proper place within the whole. It opens on a spicy mix of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and saffron. This is that spice cabinet accord I enjoy as each ingredient swirls around and through each other. As it moves into the heart the spices come to settle on a sage scented honey accord. This is that sweet-savory dichotomy which can be so satisfying. It is given a creaminess through fig and beeswax. It goes deeper as tobacco picks up the sweetness of the honey and carries it downward into a place where vanilla is combined with a chocolaty patchouli to complete this full-spectrum gourmand accord. It rests again on a dry woody base.

Virtus has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Tomorrow I will return with the final four releases from Navitus along with some closing thoughts on the line as a whole.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample set provided by Navitus Parfums.

Mark Behnke