As a child one of the few alcoholic things I begged for from my parents was Crème de Menthe. I would ask to have a drizzle on my ice cream or to sip a small amount over crushed ice. I craved the coolness of the mint over cold things. To eat, or as part of a cocktail, I still enjoy mint. I even drizzle some Crème de Menthe on my Ben & Jerry’s. (Pro Tip: put it on Chocolate Fudge Brownie) I don’t know why it is such a problematic ingredient in perfume for me. It is one of those ingredients which needs to find the right concentration. Alternatively it can be part of an interesting effect which was what I found in Diptyque Eau de Minthe.
As soon as I saw the name, I recoiled a bit. This was going to be a perfume which featured mint as a keynote. I expected not to enjoy what perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin had put in the bottle. The press release mentions the name comes from Greek mythology. Minthe was a water nymph who was having an affair with Hades; until Persephone found out. As is the norm in these tales poor Minthe was turned in to the herb mint. When I read that I’m thinking some classic type of perfume. Which shows why press releases are not predictors of the perfume they promote. Eau de Minthe was much more sci-fi than mythology.
One of the tends in perfumery is to try and smell “natural”. I put that word in quotes because it is also mainly PR speak. I understand what it means. What it translates to are perfumes which do not embrace the overtly synthetic. Eau de Minthe chooses an un- “natural” approach.
The boogeyman I was worried about most wallops me right out of the sprayer; mint. This is the mint scent of every antiseptic you’ve ever smelled. It is the kind of mint which usually has me looking for a cosmetic wipe. Except M. Pellegrin embraced those hard aspects and encased them in a synthetic heart of rose oxide and geraniol. He turns the mint from mouthwash to something subtly metallic and even more stridently green. I liked it. This was the mint of the android coolly calculating possibilities. The final ingredient is a patchouli fraction which also fits in to the whole synthetic vibe. An engineered version of a common perfume ingredient.
Eau de Minthe has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I suspect there are going to be people who try Eau de Minthe and keep it at arm’s length. This is not really a crowd pleaser type of fragrance. There are going to be a few who will love the sleek modernity of it all. I admire the choice to go in this direction by Diptyque., While this might sound like damnation via faint praise; M. Pellegrin got me to enjoy a perfume with a high amount of mint in it. There is a part of me that want this Termin(t)ator to tell me “I’ll be back!”
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Diptyque.
I am not an atheist despite being a scientist. I will always take facts over the fantastic, yet I also believe there is a spiritual component to my life. I was taken through the Catholic Church all the way to Confirmation. The scientific mind driving the older priest crazy while the younger one, Father Leonardi, seemed amused. He took me serious enough to answer instead of bluster. The part of me which is still Catholic, is because of him. I am happy to commune with the higher spirit in my own way while respecting all who choose a different path.
I was reminded this week as Passover and Easter fall on the same weekend that my horizons were broadened in high school because of my friends I call my “family by choice”. The one I was most temperamentally like was Rich. We could bounce off each other until our friends would yell at us to “Shut Up!”. Which would achieve the desired effect while we cackled. Fifty years later we still try our loved one’s patience.
I spent a lot of time at my friend’s homes. Rich’s parents were the ones most likely to engage us in conversation. One of the key conversations I had in my life on bigotry was Rich’s dad showing me the pamphlets which were passed around about Jews by white supremacy organizations. It was eye-opening on how easy it was to demonize another race. It is one of the earliest conversations I remember having with an adult on a serious subject. I can say the foundation of my beliefs on that subject were formed that day.
I don’t remember when exactly that conversation took place but upon the next Passover, I was invited to the family Seder. It was a chance to see something more of the Jewish faith other than the Bar Mitzvahs I had been to. Rich’s dad and grandfather took us through all the ceremony explaining everything to me. It was something I soaked up greedily. Along with the food. I am not a good singer and while part of a Passover Seder is singing songs, I kept my voice down. Until we sang Chad Gadya. It was the last song of the night and I decided to give it my all pitching my voice low for the three syllables in the title.
I’ve been to both of Rich’s children’s Mitzvahs. I mentioned my enjoyment of that earlier conversation with Rich’s dad. As a teenager I didn’t have the perspective to know how important it was. It was nice for me to let him know how his words shaped the adult I became.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about where I do place my faith. One of those places is in the friendship of my family and friends. It may not be a church, but it is where I feel the spirit the most.
As much as I spend the first few months of the year complaining about the avalanche of new spring rose perfumes; I’ve been asked if there is a men’s corollary. The answer is, kind of. As Father’s Day in the US gets closer, I get a significant increase in colognes from the big perfume brands. The reason it doesn’t bother me as much is there are more variations within a cologne architecture. Most of them are flankers of established best sellers which try to freshen and lighten things up. Boss Bottled Infinite and Givenchy Gentleman Cologne are two recent examples.
Boss Bottled Infinite
Hugo Boss has surely milked the popularity of 1998’s Boss Bottled. Boss Bottled Infinite is the thirteenth flanker. I was not one of the fans of the original. I felt perfumer Annick Menardo overloaded things. I was in the minority as it has been a consistent best seller. Usually a flanker keeps much of the original formula while adding in a couple new ingredients. Which is a description of most of the Boss Bottled flankers. What made me give Boss Bottled Intense a second look was that it went in the opposite direction by stripping it down to the essential keynotes. Mme Menardo was again behind the wheel for the new flanker.
For this new version the top accord is simplified to mandarin and apple, with the citrus out front. Cinnamon and sage form the heart with some lavender as underpinning. This is more spicy than previous versions without becoming heavy. The significant change is olive wood for sandalwood. What that adds is less dry woodiness. It has a richer quality which complements the early accords nicely. If you’re a fan of the original I believe this will be a nice summer alternative.
Givenchy Gentleman Cologne
The Givenchy Gentleman released in 1974 is one of the masterpieces of that decade of perfume. When Givenchy decided to release a new perfume with that name in 2017, they did it in Eau de Toilette concentration. I was not happy it shared nothing of the sophistication of the original; it was a mess. A year later they released an Eau de Parfum version. This felt like the heir to the original I was looking for. When Givenchy Gentleman Cologne arrived it fell in the middle but closer to the Eau de Parfum side.
Perfumers Olivier Cresp and Nathalie Lorson continue to design the new Givenchy Gentleman collection. They keep it simple, too. In the Eau de Toilette there was a pear note on top that really turned me off. For Cologne the top note is a brilliant lemon in high concentration. It is a summery blast of sunlight. Some rosemary provides the herbal component of the cologne recipe. The perfumers substituted iris for the more typical lavender. It is a fantastic choice. The early moments are as good as it gets. My only drawback is a high concentration of synthetic woods. It lands like a sledgehammer. The lemon and iris nearly get obliterated holding on by a thread. If there was a bit better balance to the base, I would have liked this as much as the Eau de Parfum. Whether it is for you will come down to your tolerance for the synthetic woody in high concentration.
Disclosure: These reviews are based on samples from the manufacturers.
There is too much perfume being produced. There is no sector of perfumery that is not flooded with releases. One question I have always had is whether there is enough shelf space for it all. If there isn’t it is only logical to expect some good perfumes will get crowded out. If you need a recent exhibit, I give you Dunhill Century.
Dunhill has been a real under the radar brand. They haven’t had a consistent presence while not releasing a lot of new perfume. For those who read about perfume, earlier releases; Dunhill Signature and Dunhill Icon, have found their fans. I own both and find them to be excellent examples of mainstream perfume.
Dunhill is a British brand and has been released there first with it usually making its way to the US in 4-6 months. At the end of the summer of 2018 I saw that Century had been released. The British bloggers/vloggers covered it. It made me want to find a sample. When my European buyer was putting together my autumn list, I asked her to see if she could find me a sample. A few weeks later there were two samples in with my order. I’ve been sitting on them since then because Century is a warmer weather style. I thought I’d review it when it released in the US. Imagine my surprise when it never made it to the mall it went directly to the online discounters.
I had been asking since the first of the year about it to my contacts at all the department stores. No knowledge of it. When I was doing some research on prices for a Discount Diamonds column I go to the new arrivals and see Century. I was floored it didn’t even get a season in the mall. It isn’t a rare event, unfortunately, but it is sad to see something of the quality of Century never get the chance to find its audience.
The perfumer behind Icon, Carlos Benaim, returned to compose Century. It is a simple spicy neroli over musky woods. It is another above average mainstream perfume.
Century opens on a typical citrus accord which falls away quickly. What comes next is neroli and cardamom. M. Benaim finds a beautiful balance between the floral and the spice. Then to transition to the base incense adds in a resinous connector. Sandalwood and cypriol form a fresh woody base.
Century has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
The market forces have consigned a good perfume to the discount websites. That might be a win. I worry that this is just another exhibit that even quality can get buried under the tsunami of new releases. If you’re looking for a great spicy woody neroli for the warmer weather do a search for Dunhill Century.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Dunhill.
The Colognoisseur Home Office is in a large agricultural area zoned to encourage farms. Ever since we moved here, I have tried to take as much advantage of the local farms as I can. One part of that which I enjoy quite a bit is berry picking season. It starts at the end of May with strawberries and ends when the raspberries appear at the end of the summer. Each time I go I enjoy the natural scent of the task. The green of the leaves. The smell of the berries on my fingers. The honest sweat of exertion. As I drive home that is the scent profile of my car. L’Occitane Herbae is reminiscent of the days I go picking blackberries.
Nadege Le Garlantezec
First let me get the misnomer on the label out of the way. When I received my sample I was looking forward to a celebration of green growing things. If you also look at that name and think that; you will be disappointed. This is a wild fruity floral that has zero to do with herbs of any kind. If that sounds good even with the silly choice of name keep reading.
Perfumers Nadege Le Garlantezec and Shyamala Maisondieu teamed up to create Herbae. I must believe they weren’t given a brief with the name attached to it. On the other hand if they were told the name they happily ignored it. Herbae is a fragrance of mid-summer in the blackberry field.
The only slight bit of herbal character comes from the early use of baie rose matched with the botanical musk of ambrette. It is an accord of a hot summer day. As I walk into the fields the blackberries ripening in the sun reach my nose. In Herbae the perfumers also bring the blackberry forward. It is given some contrast using rose and sage. When I focus, I find the rose, but the overall effect is vegetal green as a grace note to the blackberry. As I get up from having filled my containers, I have the smell of a clean sweat coming through my t-shirt. A combination of linen musks, honey, and coumarin form a nice sweaty cotton accord as the base of Herbae.
Herbae has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
While I would still like a L’Occitane fragrance which was all about herbs, Herbae was still a pleasure to wear. It makes me look at the calendar waiting to go pick some blackberries.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by L’Occitane.
I’m not sure what has changed recently but since the first of the year I have been getting sent proposals to take on perfume jobs I don't feel qualified to do. The first line always has some variation in which they call me an “expert”. When it comes to that word there is only one area in which I consider myself an expert; the organic chemistry of drug discovery. I was trained to do it. I’ve spent my life doing it. I’ve been pretty good at it. Someone calls me an expert at that I thank them for the compliment. When I’m called that in relation to perfume, I try and correct the terminology. I have always considered myself an experienced enthusiast.
To my mind it means I have had no formal training. It means anything I think I know about perfume has come from personal experience. It means I am only as insightful as the extent of that.
I started writing about perfume as a member of the forums at Basenotes. Somewhere along the line I started writing a paragraph or two on my impressions on the Scent of the Day I was wearing. That started right around ten years ago give or take a few months. I enjoyed giving my opinion and expected I would stay there for years. Then as I became a writer for Fragrantica, followed by the managing editor at CaFleureBon, and then starting Colognoisseur; things changed slightly. The feeling of being an ambassador for the things I think are wonderful about fragrance is what makes me sit down and write every day.
You’ll notice nowhere in that timeline is I went to a perfume school. Nowhere in there is I attended a perfume class. I have received none of the training I believe to be an important part of being an expert.
What I have replaced it with is the amazing opportunities I have had to meet the people who make perfume. I have been given so many chances to ask questions. The answers lead me to new questions and different thoughts about perfume.
When people find out I write about perfume they can’t imagine there is enough to write about. I always think there are too many things I want to write about. The whole reason I started adding a couple paragraphs to my Scent of the Day is I wanted to share my enthusiasm for the perfume I was wearing. That has evolved into what I try to do at Colognoisseur every day. Share with my readers the things I think are cool about cologne. Just don’t call me an expert.
When I began working in a chemistry lab, I tired of people walking in and saying, “It stinks in here!” It took me a few years to come up with my standard response, “I’m sorry. You needed to take a left if you were looking for the bakery.” Even so one of the foundational reasons I love perfume is my time in the lab working with the organic chemicals which do not stink. I was always fascinated with how one additional atom could change the smell of something completely. If there was a time when things came closest to smelling like a bakery it would be if my starting materials were esters. Esters are one of the largest chemical classes used in perfumery. Many of the fruity notes are esters.
I once had a project which required a large amount of the ester molecule, amyl acetate. Amyl acetate smells just like a banana. Even more it smells like an overripe banana. As I learned more about the ingredients that go into perfume, I learned about isoamyl acetate. This is the predominant compound isolated from bananas. When I had the opportunity to experience the two side-by-side the isoamyl acetate was much subtler than amyl acetate. Less overripe. It was years later when I was speaking with a chemist at IFF when this subject came up. He told me that the major fruity scent from jasmine is due to isoamyl acetate. I retreated to my home-grown lab set and did the comparison. When placed next to each other it is easy to detect. I always thought a perfume which took advantage of this overlap could be interesting. I no longer must hypothesize about this as L’Artisan Parfumeur Bana Banana is here.
Jean Laporte arrived at the same hypothesis from an entirely different starting point. As he was founding L’Artisan Parfumeur, which was one of the first brands of niche perfume, he got a request. A friend wanted a banana perfume to round out his Folies Bergere banana costume. M. Laporte thought to macerate banana and jasmine together and “Et voila!” Except it wasn’t. This became a story shared among perfumers. Through telling it to Jean-Claude Ellena it would find its way to his daughter Celine Ellena. It stuck in her mind and she wanted to make a real effort to make perfume taking advantage of the overlap between banana and jasmine in perfumery. That is what Bana Banana is.
I don’t know which of the banana-like esters Mme Ellena chose. I suspect there are at least three to four here. She puts them together into a curvy banana accord. Then because this is meant to be more than a single note perfume, she spices it with a lot of nutmeg and a pinch of pepper. The nutmeg imparts a creaminess to the fruit. It is just the right complement to add. The pinch of pepper sets up the arrival of violet leaves to provide the subtle greenery of the wide banana leaves. Then the jasmine comes in as if flowers bloomed from the banana splitting the peel as they unfurl. That these two ingredients were meant to be together chemically, and aesthetically, comes to life. Tonka bean, amber, and musk provide a comforting base accord to end this.
Bana Banana has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I admit I adore this perfume because it confirmed my thought of how good banana and jasmine would be together. I think this is a perfume which is a cut above the typical fruity floral fare even with my predilection to liking it. I have also enjoyed wearing it in the early spring because it is so exuberant. Mrs. C laughed at me on the mornings I applied this because I breathed deep and said out loud “Hail esters!”. Give Bana Banana a try and you might join me.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by L’Artisan Parfumeur.
When it comes to the tropes of gender in perfume there is a question I am asked frequently. Is it too floral for a guy? This is hardly a new question it has been around for as long as I have worn fragrance. Even I was a bit susceptible to it when I made the decision to wear a “feminine” floral perfume out into the world many years ago. I survived. Now I wear what smells good to me. Even though the occasional co-worker will ask me if what I’m wearing on the day isn’t too floral for me. Over the years florals have been a hard sell on the masculine side of perfume. What has also interested me is the floral partner in many perfumes marketed to women is fruit. For some reason a fruit forward style of fragrance isn’t seen as only for women. I’m happy that this is true because there have been many excellent masculine fruity perfumes to which I can add Parfums MDCI Bleu Satin.
Owner-Creative Director of Parfums MDCI, Claude Marchal, has released a new three perfume set called “The Paintings Collection”. Each of the three fragrances has a famous painting reproduced on the label of the bottle. They are all varying interpretations of leather colognes. I’m reviewing Bleu Satin first because it is much more fruit than leather.
M. Marchal collaborates again with perfumer Cecile Zarokian. The clever decision made by the creative team is to infuse a kind of classic drugstore leather perfume of the 1970’s with a contemporary fruity counterpoint. To up the degree of difficulty they chose watermelon as the fruit.
I don’t know whether watermelon as a perfume ingredient is difficult to work with. I do know for my sensibilities it is hard to find the balance between fresh sweetness and kid’s sugar candy. Mme Zarokian finds the sweet spot as she surrounds it with a throwback leather perfume my father would have owned.
Bleu Satin opens with a green tinted citrus accord. Mme Zarokian keeps it fresh. Then the fruit comes as the watermelon supported by blackcurrant forms a lusher fruitiness. This is a lively opening set of ingredients. An indole-free jasmine expands the fruity accord into something opaquer. Then the classic cologne leather accord appears. To give it some more polish Mme Zarokian infuses it with saffron. This ups the sophistication level from the drugstore to the atelier. It ends with a mix of woods which also hearkens back to the classic leather colognes of yesteryear.
Bleu Satin has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Even though Bleu Satin has some of that powerhouse leather cologne heritage in it Mme Zarokian keeps the volume turned down. You won’t be leaving 100-yard sillage behind you. Bleu Satin is more personal than that. I enjoyed Bleu Satin on the two spring days I wore it because it wasn’t so “loud”. Bleu Satin is another fruit forward perfume I think a lot of men are going to enjoy.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Osswald.
When I saw the trailer for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker something hit me. 2019 will be the final year in whatever this geek pop culture renaissance comes to be called. Starting tonight with the premiere of the final season of “Game of Thrones” through to Avengers: Endgame in two weeks until The Rise of Skywalker at Christmas. Three huge properties will finish the ambitious stories they took on.
The progenitor of all of this was Star Wars in 1977; what would come to be Episode IV A New Hope. The phenomenon which would spring out of its success is the spark which lit the geek pop culture renaissance on fire. What I would also say is things didn’t really kick into high gear until we made the turn towards the new century. Studios had no idea how to transform the subject matter at the comic book shop or the sci-fi/fantasy book store. It produced mostly okay to bad attempts with the best being things which weren’t adaptations. No fans to disappoint. No material to stay faithful to. Star Wars returned in 1999 with Episode I: The Phantom Menace. George Lucas was given the complete creative control he wanted. I like Episodes I-III more than most because it always felt like Star Wars. This would become the blueprint for what came next.
If there was a consistent issue with all the adaptations prior to 2000 it was the studios didn’t trust a creative team which loved the material as much as the audience. When Peter Jackson was allowed to film the three movies adapting JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” all at once; it was a huge risk for the studio. The success of those movies showed first priority, to adapting things, is to get someone who is also into it.
In 2008 a producer named Kevin Feige and director Jon Favreau took one of the biggest home run swings ever when they combined to film Iron Man. If there was something I wanted to see it was a great superhero movie. I thought Robert Downey Jr. was the right choice to play Tony Stark. I wondered whether anyone knew who Iron Man was. Shouldn’t they have gone with a more recognizable hero? The answer turned out to be no. What became even better was this added scene at the end of the credits when Nick Fury revealed the Avengers Initiative to Tony Stark. I was ecstatic that Mr. Feige was going to try and re-create the interconnectedness of the Marvel comic book universe in movies. That this first 22-chapter story will come to an end with Avengers: Endgame is all due to Mr. Feige. He has hired the right directors and writers who have hired the right actors to turn the comic book panels into movie frames. Every one of these directors respected the properties they were filming. They made it their own.
The other big change has been the rise of the premium cable channel and streaming services. Even with “The Lord of the Rings” nine hours wasn’t enough. HBO agreed. They saw the popularity of a new fantasy series by author George RR Martin. Two young producers who loved the books; see a trend, approached HBO to create a multi-season adaptation of the series. This was despite the fact the final books hadn’t been written. David Benioff and DB Weiss were given the green light. “Game of Thrones” had great source material given the time to breathe this sprawling story filled the small screen. It probably didn’t hurt that televisions were getting bigger and bigger. By the time dragons were burning things up I could watch it on my 60-inch television. The final six episodes begin tonight.
Which brings me back to Star Wars and the man who brought it back to life; JJ Abrams. It is still too far off to know more than a two-minute trailer for The Rise of Skywalker can tell me. Other than the way Mr. Abrams began his creative process on this final trilogy by asking the question “What happened to Luke Skywalker?” That’s a fan question by someone who had the chance to answer it with a movie. When I settle into my seat for The Rise of Skywalker that will be the beginning of the end.
What comes next is where you go when The Rise of Skywalker really signals the end of the beginning.
I remark often on how the gourmand style of perfume is one of the most exciting to me. One reason is it isn’t even thirty years old. It means unlike every other perfume genre it carries around much less history. I have found recent versions of gourmands very interesting because they are not following an existing set of rules. As it is in the third decade of the style the same was true of the very earliest entries, they were defining the boundaries. This month’s Discount Diamonds choice, Givenchy Pi, was one of those.
In 1998 the early gourmands had all gone with deep dense aesthetics. As Givenchy thought to enter the fray Creative Director Francoise Donche decided a different tack would be taken. Their gourmand would focus on one sweet note with less of a heavy presence. Perfumer Alberto Morillas would be given the job of creating Pi.
The idea was to make a gourmand focused on vanilla. The easy way would have been to use the synthetic source of vanilla, vanillin. One of the reasons to decide against it is vanillin is one of the most common ingredients in all of perfumery. It also can become overwhelming as the concentration gets to higher levels. M. Morillas made an intelligent choice to go with a vanilla accord made up primarily of tonka bean and benzoin. It turned out to be brilliant.
Pi opens with a green prologue of rosemary, pine, and mandarin. It carries a freshness which will eventually be overwhelmed by the vanilla. That vanilla shows up subtly at first as tonka bean is the keynote in the heart. Tonka is a natural source of coumarin which has a kind of vanillic scent profile along with a sweeter hay-like component. By itself it would never become vanilla. M. Morillas uses benzoin to combine with the coumarin to form the sweet vanilla accord. What makes this so different from just using straight vanillin is it is a crisper form of vanilla. Most often vanillin diffuses until it becomes powdery. By using tonka bean and bezoin this doesn’t happen. Which means the vanilla lasts and lasts. The light woodiness of guaiac is the final piece of Pi.
Pi has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
If I were to ever write a column on the perfumes I wear which never fail to generate a compliment Pi would be one of the two no-brainers on that list. It is one of those perfumes which breaks through because of the way it is constructed. The advantage of being over twenty years old is it is easy to find bottles for less than $30. Because the ingredient list is so small it has easily weathered any reformulations. Gourmands might be all the rage currently, but Givenchy Pi was one of the first to try something new in the genre.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I own.