Flanker Round-Up: Marc Jacobs Daisy Love and Thierry Mugler Alien Flora Futura

As I finish clearing my desk of the spring releases of 2018 I wanted to mention a couple of the flankers which were better than most of the others released in these early days of 2018.

Marc Jacobs Daisy Love

If there has ever been a brand which has overplayed a flanker, it is Marc Jacobs and Daisy. The original released in 2007 is one of the top tier mainstream perfumes. The thirty-two flankers in the last eleven years are mostly forgettable. Some flankers even spawned their own flankers. It became easy to ignore the entire mess. I wanted to write about Daisy which made me pick up flanker thirty-two, Daisy Love. It turned out there was some connectivity back to the original which made it better than most of the other Daisy flankers.

First connection was perfumer Alberto Morillas returning to make a variation on the original he created. The original was a strawberry fruity floral; for Daisy Love M. Morillas fashions a less fulgent strawberry by using raspberry and cloudberry to result in a greener, almost unripe, strawberry. It is tart more than sweet. M. Morillas then actually uses the title floral to provide a lighter floral effect than in most of the collection. It all ends on generic synthetic woods and musks. I wouldn’t throw over the original for this but it does enough different, without throwing out the whole playbook, that it could be a nice companion for the summer.

Daisy Love has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Thierry Mugler Alien Flora Futura

Thierry Mugler has only been a touch less aggressive in producing flankers to 2005’s classic Alien. Thierry Mugler has delighted in producing perfume which engenders “love it-hate it” responses. Alien is an excellent example. One could even say that the 21 flankers since its release are attempts to convert the “hate it” crowd. For Alien Flora Futura it lightens up some of the heavier aspects for the set of people who found it too heavy.

Perfumers Dominique Ropion and Jean-Christoophe Herault make this lighter by switching the ingredients while still retaining the Alien vibe. It starts very un-Alien-like using a bright sparkling citron. Citron has a fuller feel to me than lemon although they are similar. The real alteration comes in the heart as the perfumers substitute jasmine with cereus flower, also known as the queen of the night. Cereus has a similarity to jasmine but also a fresher quality. It works nicely with the citron. It eventually slides into the Alien amber focused base accord but in keeping with everything else a touch lighter. If you love Alien I imagine this will feel like Diet Lemon Alien to you. If you hated Alien because it was overwhelmingly aggressive Alien Flora Futura might turn you into a lover.

Alien Flora Futura has 14-16 hour longevity an average sillage.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Elizabeth Taylor Passion for Men- The Scent of a Man La Liz Style

The branding of perfume by celebrities was not as common as it is today. It wasn’t until the late 1980’s where celebrity and perfume became the brand instead of the promotion. One of the earliest to step up with a celebrity brand was actress Elizabeth Taylor. Prior to Ms. Taylor’s entry the results were mixed. After the success of her third fragrance White Diamonds there was a line of celebrities wanting to put their names on a bottle. I became acquainted with the brand through their first masculine release Passion for Men in 1989.

Ms. Taylor was one of the earliest celebrities writ large often referred to as La Liz. In a day when there was no internet every move she made was scrutinized and reported upon. Her love life, the jewelry, the movie set contretemps, and her fashion. I was always enthralled by her eyes with their one-of-a-kind violet color. Seeing them on a 70mm movie screen they were mesmerizing. The color became one of Ms. Taylor’s hallmarks as she used violet throughout her life. When she released her first perfume Passion in 1987 it was in a violet colored bottle. I had a close friend who wore Passion from nearly the first day it was released, it was her signature scent for twenty years. When I smell it I automatically think of her. Because she knew I liked perfume she gifted me a bottle of Passion for Men in 1989. It would remain in my small early rotation of perfume until I discovered niche over ten years later.

Rene Morgenthaler

Passion for Men was composed by perfumer Rene Morgenthaler who was a stalwart perfumer in the commercial sector at this time. M. Morgenthaler was a technician working on the familiar perfume templates. Passion for Men was going to be a masculine Oriental except there was a fabulous little indicator of where men’s perfume would head more firmly twenty years later. M. Morgenthaler would design a spicy woody version of the classic architecture.

Elizabeth Taylor in 1985

Passion for Men begins with bergamot supported by ginger. This begins to be subsumed by spices as clove, cardamom and primarily nutmeg carry things forward. Vetiver sets itself up as the nucleus in the heart. This is a woodier version of vetiver. M. Morgenthaler really pushes it to the foreground to mesh with the nutmeg. The bit of innovation here is he adds in a vector of vanilla at the same time patchouli comes up. This tilts in a kind of gourmand style, years before that would come to be a thing.

Passion for Men has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I still wear Passion for Men at least once a year, it has classical style which does not feel dated. This can be had for $10-15 at most of the perfume discounters. Its longevity has really turned it into a Discount Diamond.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Mark Birley for Men- Pierre and Frederic’s Excellent Perfume

The fin de siècle of the past century was a time of transition in perfume, too. As the 1990’s gave way to the 2000’s the rise of niche and independent perfumery was shaking things up. If you look at the period just prior to this, you begin to see the elements we might take for granted twenty years later. At that time, they were riskier attempts to create something different for an audience that might not have existed with no internet to provide word-of-mouth. Many of the people who have become the standard bearers released some amazing perfumes which deserve to be known now when the concepts they represent have a receptive audience. This month in Under the Radar I introduce you to Mark Birley for Men.

Frederic Malle is much of the reason I write about the perfumers behind the fragrances. Prior to him putting their names on the bottles in his Editions de Parfum Frederic Malle brand they were ghosts. Now they are known personalities. M. Malle transitioned into creative direction after working at Roure Bertrand Dupont. He would collaborate with perfumer Pierre Bourdon on Mark Birley for Men. M. Bourdon was the unsung creative behind classics such as Creed Green Irish Tweed, Yves St. Laurent Kouros, and (in collaboration with Christopher Sheldrake) Shiseido Feminite du Bois. These two would create perfume which redefined masculine trends going for sophistication over the prevailing fresh and clean.

Frederic Malle

Mark Birley was a British proprietor of multiple members-only nightclubs throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. His was a name which conjured velvet rope elegance. When he put his name on a perfume that sense of private club sophistication was exemplified by not hewing to the popular trends. Messrs. Malle and Bourdon chose to subvert them instead.

Pierre Bourdon

The perfume opens with a very typical lemon top note. A sunny lens flare which is tamped down with subtle applications of pineapple and melon. The melon gives a smirking call back to the Calone used in M. Bourdon’s aquatics. The pineapple makes the lemon acerbic instead of tart. This falls into a floral heart accord of violet and iris. More violet than iris although a detectable powderiness does arise. Carrot seed provides a rooty sweetness in complement to the iris. The base eschews the sweetness working for a desiccated woodiness via sandalwood, vetiver, and patchouli overlaid with sharp silvery incense and green woody cedar.

Mark Birley for Men has 6-8 hour longevity and average silage.

The seeds of Frederic Malle’s brand were probably planted with Mark Birley for Men. M. Bourdon had the freedom to show off. Together Pierre and Frederic made an excellent perfume which deserves to be lifted from Under the Radar.

Disclosure: This review based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Up In The Air

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There is an increase in stories in the news about people who wear perfume in the same way people talk or play music too loud; as if the world wants to share in their magnificent taste. The latest story comes from a poll on the travel site Expedia. In their annual Airplane and Hotel Etiquette Survey here were the top five annoying travel behaviors:

The Seat Kicker- 51%

The Aromatic Passenger- 43%

The Inattentive Parent- 39%

Personal Space Violators- 34%

Audio Insensitive- 29%

I winced when I saw the number two response.

Image via Quora.com

One of the reasons I was dismayed is because it is exactly this kind of insensitivity to others by perfume wearers which allows for office-space bans. In any enclosed space if you’re going to wear perfume you should be considering the same thing you do when you fire up your music player or take a phone call in a shared space.

I love perfume, but I do not wear it while traveling because I don’t know if the person sitting next to me will be as enthralled with the effervescent citrus woody perfume I am wearing. What I do is choose something from my group of smaller travel sizes or samples of perfumes I own. Put them in a zip-lock bag. Keep them in my carry-on. When I hit the restroom at my final destination then I give a single spray to the base of my throat. I have never found the occasion where wearing perfume onboard a plane is a necessity. I’ve actually found when flying overnight flights my single spray can be a bit of a tonic after the long flight.

I think this is not done in a conscious way by many whom this critique is named for. I think they apply what they normally apply without thinking they are going to be in a plane for a few hours with others. This dovetails with the correlation between strong sillage equals quality to a lot of fragrance consumers.

I’m asking all of us who wear perfume to think about whether wearing it while traveling is a necessity. So many flights are only a few hours it isn’t that much of a sacrifice. I am hoping that the 43% number can be reduced over time because I know I don’t want to be an “Aromatic Passenger” up in the air.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Strawberry

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As I mentioned a year ago, when the subject of this column was rhubarb perfumes, this time of year has a natural partner to rhubarb; strawberry. By the time I write this column a month from now it is likely a strawberry-rhubarb pie will be cooling on the counter. Strawberry in perfume has a quality that sometimes can come off as adolescent in nature. There are a few which manage to take that ingredient and make something more sophisticated here are five of those.

Back in 2006 when Romano Ricci debuted his new perfume brand Juliette Has A Gun one of the two releases, Miss Charming, featured strawberry. Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian called it “wild strawberry’ which meant a strong green component to the sweet berry. It rests on top of a velvet rose where an interesting use of lychee tones down the typical flamboyance of rose. A swirl of musks finishes this off with an expansive air. This was one of the first times I noticed strawberry in a positive way in a perfume.

Wild strawberry would return in Marc Jacobs Daisy in the fall of 2007. Perfumer Alberto Morillas uses it as part of a grapefruit-strawberry top accord. Violet leaves pick up the green more efficiently leading to a gardenia and jasmine heart while the violet flowers alongside them. A typical woody-vanilla base round it out. This has been one of the great mainstream successes of the last ten years and much of that is due to M. Morillas’ touch with the modern fruity floral.

My favorite straight out strawberry perfume is Montale Mukhallat. Done in the brand’s unabashedly bombastic style the strawberry is matched with almond, vanilla, and balsam. This is like a freight train with the strawberry in the cow catcher position. When I feel like catching a ride on the Strawberry Express this is what I reach for.

I adore the opening of slumberhouse Sadanne as it always smells of candy apples flavored with strawberry. This seems like perfumer Josh Lobb’s commentary on fruity floral fragrance. This becomes clearer in the heart as the florals are purposefully made somewhat sour so that they contrast with the sugary sweetness of the top accord. Then it heads to dirty musky territory which scares off all the fruit and flowers. One of my favorites from the brand.

Imaginary Authors Cape Heartache finds a unique partner for the strawberry, pine. Perfumer Josh Meyer shows that coniferous berries are the pairing I didn’t know I wanted. They each manage to attenuate the other leaving a middle harmonic which works. A bit of woodsmoke skirls through as if the smoke from a bonfire is caught in the boughs of the tree. It is a midnight in the forest scent with a bit of strawberry along for the ride.

Strawberry doesn’t always have to be childish these five show that to be true.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Nina Ricci Signoricci 2- Twin Sons of Different Mothers

One of the easier to explain reasons for a perfume ending up in the Dead Letter Office is a brand which fools with the names of their perfumes. There are many enduring lessons where the moral of the story is not to confuse the consumer. This month’s entry Nina Ricci Signoricci 2 is one of those tales.

If I was asked to make the case for a post-War perfume brand which has been lost in the shuffle of the Grand Maisons I could make a compelling case for Nina Ricci. L’Air du Temps is one of the great early perfumes to arise after World War 2 ended. If you judge this on the modern formulation I hope you have an opportunity to try an earlier version where the floral heart is among one of the most beautiful in all of perfume. The fragrance side of the brand was overseen by Robert Ricci for forty years which saw a signature style of sophisticated fragrances released. Many are also in the Dead Letter Office and the survivors have been reformulated into ghosts of themselves.

Robert and Nina Ricci

Most of the fragrances from this period were marketed to women. It wouldn’t be until 1966 that they entered the masculine market with Signoricci. It was primarily a citrus with a bitter green core which even for someone who enjoys green found it distracting in its intensity. Ten years later the sequel would arrive, Signoricci 2.

Signoricci 2 was composed by perfumer Raymond Chaillan. The first thing he seemingly chose to do was to retain the citrus style but to excise the overt green. M. Chaillan’s vision was to produce a sophisticated citrus with a much more understated green component.

Raymond Chaillan

The opening is a sharper version of lemon with petitgrain providing a more focused effect. The floral heart of carnation and jasmine is lifted by a set of expansive aldehydes. This creates space for a thinner green thread to snake through the perfume. Basil, vetiver, and moss take care of this. It becomes very warm as amber, patchouli, and tonka form a comfy base accord.

Signoricci 2 has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Signoricci 2 fell square into the mid 1970’s powerhouse men’s perfume style. I have treasured my bottle because I think it is one of the best “formal” citrus perfumes I own. It always seemed to me that Signoricci 2 should have had the opportunity to be reformulated to death as the rest of the brand had been.

Except they decided to choose to confuse their consumer. Soon after Signoricci 2 was released they decided to discontinue Signoricci. At the same time, they then decided to drop the “2” from Signoricci 2. Imagine how this worked over the next few years. Someone who finished a bottle of Signoricci who loved the intense green nature goes to the mall and sprays “Signoricci” on a strip sees the green is gone and walks away. The person who bought Signoricci 2 and enjoyed it, as I did, finishes their bottle. Goes to the mall to replace it only to find “Signoricci” minus the “2”. Walking away they wonder what happened to their sophisticated citrus. I have never understood these kinds of decisions because it leads right to the Dead Letter Office.

There is a part of me that would like to see the two descendents of both of the creatives; grandson Romano Ricci and son Jean-Marc Chaillan collaborate on Signoricci 3. Until then Signoricci 2 will do.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Philosophy Amazing Grace- Muguet For All

As we approach May Day and the traditional sprig of lily-of-the-valley (muguet) worn in celebration of spring becomes a natural theme for many perfumes. Most are limited editions, and most are kind of pricey. Like anything there are exceptions. One of the most economical perfumes which features muguet is Philosophy Amazing Grace which means it is an appropriate choice for this month’s Discount Diamonds.

Philosophy was founded in 1996, as a beauty brand, by Cristina Carlino. As the brand gained a foothold she decided fragrance should become part of it in 2004. That led to two debut releases Amazing Grace and Pure Grace. Amazing Grace was the one which featured muguet.

Cecile Hua-Krakower

Ms. Carlino founded Philosophy with a concept focused on skin care. By the time she turned to perfume she wanted her fragrances to be uplifting in style accompanied by its own credo on each bottle. For Amazing Grace it says, “in the end it all comes down to one word, grace” right on the bottle. For Amazing Grace, Cecile Hua-Krakower was the perfumer asked to create something which lived up to that. The result is a soft floral as the muguet is nestled within a bed of white musks.

What you first notice though is sparkling grapefruit for the first few minutes. This is a sunny citrus which sets up the appearance of the muguet. Muguet can be very green; Mme Hua-Krakower uses a set of other floral notes to dampen the green while amplifying the floral. Which means before the greener facets can be found jasmine, freesia, and orange blossom run interference. It makes the muguet slightly powdery. Mme Hua-Krakower then layers a number of white musks to form a downy foundation. I have always enjoyed this effect of these style of musks as they become softer than I would have anticipated. By the later stages it is this musk accord which is what remains.

Amazing Grace has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Amazing Grace is one of those kinds of easy-to-wear perfumes I could describe as akin to your favorite t-shirt. Amazing Grace can be found in small bottles for around $20. If you want to wear some lily-of-the valley on your skin instead of pinned to your hair Amazing Grace is a muguet for all.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Bruno Acampora Musc- New Signal on the Musk Radar

I probably don’t say this enough, but I adore my readers. I’ve always wanted this blog to be a place to have a discussion. After my Discount Diamonds column on Kiehl’s Musk one reader contacted me through Facebook and asked if I’d ever tried Bruno Acampora Musc. I told her I had not. Then she put me in contact with the brand and they sent me a whole package of samples. It turns out she was absolutely correct about this being another perfume which should be known by those who love full-spectrum musk fragrances. Which means it was a natural to be this month’s Under the Radar choice.

Musc was the inaugural perfume in the Bruno Acampora brand. Founded in 1974 there has been a consistent output of new releases over time. Exploring a brand like this with forty-plus years’ worth of experience it allows me to see Sig. Acampora’s aesthetic through a time-lapse. It is interesting to notice that Musc turns out to be a sturdy platform from which the rest of the collection grows outward from.

Musc opens with not the fierce animalic musk I expected. Instead Sig. Acampora goes for one which evokes rich earth full of decaying humus.  This is a style of musk not often used because it is the furry and feral version which is seemingly more popular. It is a reason why Sig. Acampora’s version stands out. Then like a riotous early spring garden tiny shoots of rose and jasmine provide tiny floral highlights. Clove props up the forest floor aspect. An equally earthy patchouli doubles down on that vibe. A creamy sandalwood provides the base.

Musc has 12-14 hour longevity as a perfume oil. In that form it has little sillage almost entirely a skin scent.

Bruno Acampora is an example of why I want to do this column. A brand working within the independent sector with a definable aesthetic. This is the kind of excellent perfume which gets lost in the clutter of new brands. It shouldn’t. It took a reader to point out my musk radar screen had a new signal. I am extremely grateful to her for making sure I pulled Bruno Acampora Musc up from Under the Radar.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Bruno Acampora.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Opoponax

I’ve probably put off doing this specific ingredient because I’m not fond of spelling it. An extra “p” here an “o” turns to an “a” there. Before I get done writing this I’ll probably correct a dozen or more misspellings. Opoponax is one of the linchpins of Oriental perfumes. It is one of the critical components of three of the classic perfumes of all-time; Guerlain Shalimar, Yves Saint Laurent Opium, and Dior Poison. They owe much of what makes them so special to opoponax. It is used extensively as an earthier more balsamic alternative to myrrh. It also carries with it a sizeable powdery component which makes it especially amenable to providing the grounding for those kinds of ingredients.

I would wager most who love perfume don’t know what opoponax smells like although there are probably multiple perfumes on the shelf which contain it. I’m starting this month’s list with three different versions of the ingredient surrounded by benzoin and sandalwood. Each of them is slightly tuned differently around the opoponax. The most straight-forward is Santa Maria Novella Opoponax the benzoin and the sandalwood provide subtle foundation. It is the most unadulterated version of these three. The benzoin rises to be a more equal partner in Les Nereides Opoponax. It ends up also tilting a bit sweeter because some vanilla leads it that way to give a warmly satisfying sweetly resinous hug. Von Eusersdorff Classic Opoponax adds a floral shine on top via rose and a bit of animalic purr via castoreum but it is still primarily opoponax, benzoin, sandalwood. Once you’ve introduced yourself to opoponax here are three more where it stands out.

Diptyque Eau Lente was one of the original releases from the brand in 1986. Perfumer Serge Kalougine wanted to create an opoponax perfume as they imagined it might have been used by Alexander the Great who scented his cloaks with the smoke from burning the resin. What M. Kalougine does is to take an equally fantastic cinnamon as a partner to the opoponax. The cinnamon heats up the opoponax making it less viscous that it is by itself. While being one of my favorite opoponax perfumes it is also one of my favorite cinnamon ones, too.

Carthusia Ligea unleashes the powdery nature of opoponax more fully. Perfumer Laura Tonatto transitions from a crisp citrus opening into softer mandarin which accentuates the powder in the opoponax. Over time patchouli and benzoin find and magnify the more balsamic elements.

Before perfumer Mona di Orio’s untimely passing she made several incredibly artistic perfumes; Mona di Orio Cuir is among the best of those. Mme di Orio uses opoponax in conjunction with castoreum to provide a thoroughly engaging base underneath a smoke-laden leather accord. One of the best examples of the chiaroscuro style of perfume Mme di Orio practiced.

If you love perfume you’ve definitely worn a perfume with opoponax; now try one of these to try a perfume which features it.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased of all the perfumes mentioned.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Geoffrey Beene Bowling Green- The Overlooked Sibling

One common theme in the Dead Letter Office is that when a designer creates a classic the poor fragrances that follow have a hard time breaking through. Like the younger sibling to the brilliant older one. You might be every bit as good, perhaps better for some, but you will never get noticed. That is the story of Geoffrey Beene Bowling Green.

The brilliant older brother is 1975’s Grey Flannel. That was the first perfume from the brand and it has become a classic. One I admire and recommend to those looking for something different from fresh for an economical price. Bowling Green was the follow-up released almost twelve years later. Like all neglected younger siblings much of the creative information has been lost. All I could find was something within the press release which mentioned it as being “developed personally by Mr. Beene”. Sounds like pr more than actuality especially since there is also no perfumer accredited. It is too bad because Bowling Green is a style of perfume which would be relevant in today’s fragrance world. It has many of the green trends along with being more transparent than most of the other 80’s masculines.

Geoffrey Beene

What strikes you right out of the bottle is a focused burst of verbena. The lemony quality combined with the green is kept tightly constrained. To that lavender and a bit of mint add some detail. The lemon becomes more present as some petitgrain teases it away from the verbena. The mint slides away in the face of more savory herbs like sage, basil, and rosemary. Over all of this crests a wave of cardamom recapitulating the lemon thread from the top. There is some pine to play around with a terpenic green contrast, but the middle part of Bowling Green is cardamom. As it recedes what remains is a mixture of synthetic woods representing sandalwood, fir, and cedar; most predominantly that last note. The cedar provides a clean woody foundation to close things out.

Bowling Green has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Bowling Green never came close to being the sales equal of Grey Flannel. To their credit the brand did not pull the plug quickly as it lasted well into the 2000’s before finally giving up. I think they just tired of promoting a perfume which was never going to catch on. I think Bowling Green is as good as Grey Flannel, but that opinion never found wide agreement which is how it ended up in the Dead Letter Office as the overlooked sibling.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke