Dead Letter Office: Tom Ford Private Blend Lavender Palm- Too Contemporary?

Ever since its debut in 2007 the Tom Ford Private Blend collection has been one of the most successful expansions of luxury niche perfumery into the marketplace. They represent one of the defining brands of that style. They were the first perfumes I would review where I would be asked, “Are they worth it?” The answer to that is always an individual choice. What was undeniable was the collection was representing some of the best-known ingredients in high quality forms where the difference was noticeable.

Tom Ford

Tom Ford and Karyn Khoury creatively directed each perfume to provide a singular luxurious experience. That so many of them are on “best of” lists show their success. They have been so successful that there is debate to whether they should even be referred to as niche anymore. I think they still retain a niche aesthetic while having a wider distribution than most other fragrances referred to with that adjective. Over the first three years of existence they cemented their style over 21 releases. Then 2011 happened.

Karyn Khoury

This is conjecture on my part, but it seems like they had tired of hearing how “safe” they were. If you were to try the three releases from 2011 it feels like they wanted to have the word contemporary be part of the lexicon when describing Tom Ford Private Blends. Jasmin Rouge, Santal Blush, and this month’s Dead Letter Office entry Lavender Palm succeeded. What separated them from the rest of the collection was they took the keynote in their name off in very different new directions. All three have been among my favorites within the entire line. For some reason Lavender Palm was discontinued after only two years. I’ll provide my hypothesis for that later.

Yann Vasnier

Lavender Palm was released early in 2011 as an exclusive to the new Beverly Hills Tom Ford boutique followed by wider release a year later. Perfumer Yann Vasnier was asked to capture a Southern California luxury vibe. He chose to use two sources of lavender wrapped in a host of green ingredients.

The top accord uses the more common lavandin where M. Vasnier adds citrus to it. The whole opening gets twisted using lime blossom which teases out the floral nature of the lavender while complementing the citrus. This is an opening with snap. The heart coalesces around lavender absolute. Here is where things take that contemporary turn. M. Vasnier uses clary sage, aldehydes, moss, and palm leaves to form a lavender accord that is at turns salty and creamy. It seemingly transforms minute-by-minute. It remains one of the most unique lavender accords I have experienced. A soft resinous base is where this ends.

Lavender Palm has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Lavender Palm became widely available in the beginning of 2012 and was discontinued by the end of 2014. I think the reason might be this was the only one of the three 2011 releases which unabashedly altered the previous style of the collection. There aren’t many Tom Ford Private Blend releases to be found in the Dead Letter Office; Lavender Palm might have got there by being too contemporary.

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

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Sun and Marc Jacobs Daisy Love Eau So Sweet

When a trend begins to filter down into the flankers, I presume that means it has been a best seller. Over the past two years transparent floral gourmands have become a persistent trend especially on the mainstream side of the fragrance world. For once this is a trend which I am fully behind as it isn’t an area where a lot of perfume has been created. It doesn’t feel to me like we’ve had that great version which will be the benchmark within the genre yet. In the meantime this style continues to expand and in this month’s Flanker Round-Up I look at Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Sun and Marc Jacobs Daisy Love Eau So Sweet.

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Sun

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue was launched in 2001 and has been one of the best-selling perfumes since then. This year’s summer flanker Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Sun tweaks the formula a bit more than the typical flanker without going too far away from what works. Perfumers Olivier Cresp and Alberto Morillas team-up to find a way to insert a gourmand element into the Mediterranean feel of the original.

The citrus top accord has always been a part of the Light Blue DNA the perfumers add in a crisp apple note to add a snap to it. Then a very light use of coconut inserts itself between that focused top accord and the jasmine in the heart. This is where the floral gourmand comes to life as the apple and citrus along with the coconut and jasmine form a summery accord at just the right intensity. The base is bit of vanilla sweetened cedar also kept light. One note there is also a Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Sun pour Homme. This is not a review for that.

Marc Jacobs Daisy Love Eau So Sweet

Here is the insanity of flankers as Marc Jacobs Daisy Love Eau So Sweet is the flanker of 2018’s Daisy Love which is a flanker of 2007’s Daisy. I can’t even keep up. Perfumer Alberto Morillas was there in the beginning and is here for Daisy Love Eau So Sweet. Last year Daisy Love went for floral gourmand territory, but it left the transparent part out. For Daisy Love Eau So Sweet M. Morillas adds that back into the mix.

The same berry top accord is back from Daisy Love but pitched in a much lighter shade of fruitiness. The floral heart is also equally expansive. Then as the fruity floral accord settles in; a wash of sugar and white musks adds a whole new level of expansiveness. It does it so ingeniously that it goes from being sugary sweet to almost fresh in the way it rises off my skin. It is just this happy sugar coated fruity floral bubble to spend a summer’s day within.

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

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Liz Claiborne Curve for Men- Perfume in a Can

When I first started diving into perfume I wanted to know as much as I could. I was also willing to ask someone what they were wearing if I thought it smelled good. This opened so many interesting doors for me. I was at a professional conference taking a short course and the man next to me smelled fantastic. I was well-acquainted with the more popular perfumes at the mall and this wasn’t one of those. Towards the end of the day I inquired what he was wearing. He told me, “Curve”. I filed it away for my next shopping trip to the mall. Except I encountered it much sooner when I was filling a prescription at the drugstore. Killing time while waiting I was browsing the locked fragrance cabinet. My eyes landed on this lime green colored can. I focused on the name and there it was Liz Claiborne Curve for Men. It was really well-priced; I summoned the keymaster to unlock the case and pull out a can for me. That was twenty years ago. Curve has been one of my favorite warm-weather perfumes since then.

Liz Claiborne was a perfume brand which existed primarily in drugstore fragrance cases. In 1996 they released a pair of new perfumes, Curve for Men and Curve for Women. In that time period the desired consumer was a young person who wanted to smell good. If you need a current equivalent it would be the person who buys Axe body spray. What sets Curve for Men apart is there are the earliest examples of ideas which would be improved upon in some of the best niche perfumes years later. Perfume Jean-Claude Delville put together a classic fougere with little touches here and there which make it more than the sum of its parts.

Jean-Claude Delville

M. Delville opens with a set of green grassy notes and fir. This is a refreshing cool opening. The coolness is added to as cardamom breezes across the top accord. There is a sharpening of the green as it becomes more crystalline. Lavender arrives to provide the floral heart. It becomes a traditional fougere at this point tinted a bit greener. Sandalwood provides the keynote in the base around which a pinch of black pepper and vetiver swirl.

Curve for Men has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Curve for Men is one of the perfumes I wear which almost always does for me what it did for my colleague at the short course; garners a compliment. There is an easy-going quality to Curve for Men which seems to draw people in; even if it is a perfume bottle in a can.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Maison Martin Margiela Untitled- Layers of Green

I have always been interested when a fashion designer I admire ventures into fragrance. It can be difficult to translate an aesthetic from the runway into a perfume. Some brands eschew it altogether defining a fragrance aesthetic apart from the fashion one. The ones I like best are the ones who take this problem on. This month’s Under the Radar choice did just that; Maison Martin Margiela Untitled.

Nowadays Maison Margiela, the Martin has been dropped, is known for the very good, and popular, Replica collection. This is where they divorced themselves from trying to mimic the fashion. In 2010 when they were entering the perfume sector Untitled was trying to capture the asymmetric layering of M. Margiela in a fragrance. The perfumer they chose was Daniela Andrier.

Daniela Andrier

Somewhere along the line the vision of Untitled became layers of green; focused, diffuse, and subtle. The creative team added in fascinating grace notes to each of these layers as if they were detailing a fashion design. It has always been one of my favorite spring perfumes to wear because it captures green as a concept so well.

The first layer of green is a crystalline galbanum glittering with verdant intensity. This is a powerhouse of an opening and if you are not fond of galbanum you will be put off immediately. I adore this kind of concentrated effect especially with what Mme Andrier does with it. She takes a harmonic of bitter orange to come alongside the galbanum. It focuses the green effect while softening it slightly with the citrus beneath. The second layer comes as the galbanum becomes more diffuse. The crystal matrix implodes as it is speared by an indolic jasmine. The indoles keep this from becoming a comfort scent. It retains some of the green edginess of the top accord. This then ends on a green cedar focused base accord. Mme Andrier uses the inherent greenness of cedar while swirling it among incense and white musks. It ameliorates all the early green into something subtle by the end.

Untitled has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

As mentioned above the opening moments are challenging for those who are not fond of galbanum. I can’t even advise you to wait it out because while it gets less intensely green it is still intense hours in. Untitled is a perfume for those who enjoy an unapologetic galbanum. As spring gives way to the heat of summer this is one of my favorites because the layers of green are so good. Next time you’re checking out the new Maison Margiela Replica releases at the mall give the first perfume from the brand a try.

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

Mark Behnke

Calice Becker 201

They say the test of time is one of the measures of great creativity. They also say that vision is instinctual. The memorable artists have it from the moment they take their first steps in their chosen form. Perfumery has more than a few for whom these statements are true for. One of them is Calice Becker.

Ever since perfumers have become more known Mme Becker has been the quiet rockstar perfumer. She continues to advocate for the future since she was named the head of the Givaudan Perfumery School in 2017. Her twenty-plus years as a perfume has seen her create pillar perfumes for some of the largest mainstream brands while finding a willing partner in creative director Kilian Hennessy to allow her to explore the niche perfume side of things. That partnership has produced some of the greatest niche perfumes, ever, since they started working together in 2007. She is a consummate professional who has produced some of the best that perfume has to offer. For this month’s Perfumer 201 I’m going to focus on the pillars of her career, as I see them.

The first commercial brief for Mme Becker was Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl. Tommy Hilfiger wanted a perfume to capture his All-American fashion aesthetic. It always makes me smile that he turned to a perfumer of French and Russian heritage. The perfume shows what will become one of Mme Becker’s signatures; exquisitely balanced accords. The top accord here is of a vast green lawn of freshly cut grass. Spearmint is used to provide an expansive quality to the heart of the grassy accord. A fresh floral accord of honeysuckle gives way to a clean cedar and sandalwood foundation. When you smell this today it needs to be said this was one of the first perfumes of its kind when released in 1996. By a perfumer who was unafraid to follow her instincts to produce something different for the brief she was given.

If anyone was inclined to think that was a fluke, she would follow up three short years later with another blockbuster of a fragrance; Dior J’Adore. This time the green in the top is a sinuous ivy. It leads into a brilliant floral accord in the heart of champaca, jasmine, and rose. To this she adds an “orchid accord”. So often in one of Mme Becker’s compositions there is a linchpin which snaps things together. In J’Adore the orchid is that. It provides the stitching together of the floral leads while also providing subtle dewiness which makes it memorable. She then grounds it with a set of fruits, Damson plum to add a juicy tartness with an accord of blackberry and an animalic musk. This is what every fruity floral since J’Adore has failed to achieve.

Mme Becker would burnish her reputation for trendsetting mainstream perfume with 2003’s Estee Lauder Beyond Paradise and 2009’s Marc Jacobs Lola on which she worked with Yann Vasnier. Like many of the mainstream perfumers of the time as we crossed into the 2000’s they wanted to jump aboard the niche perfumery trend. Mme Becker found the right place for her to make that leap.

By Kilian Back to Black would be the sixth perfume Mme Becker would make for creative director Kilian Hennessy’s luxury niche brand. To this point M. Hennessy had only worked with two perfumers for his brand. Mme Becker has mentioned in multiple interviews how difficult it is to get a realistic version of a natural effect using just the essential oil. The building of accords is what can provide the nuance which captures what is missing. Nowhere is this more evident than in the tobacco accord she assembles in Back to Black; without a drop of tobacco essential oil. It is one of my favorite party tricks to spray some Back to Black on a strip and ask people to smell it hours later. It is only then that the components have begun to unravel enough to understand that the lush slightly mentholated tobacco you smelled earlier was an olfactory illusion. I have always considered this to be the best perfume in the entire By Kilian line.

Mme Becker’s work for By Kilian has shown her creativity is boundless. In 2014’s By Kilian Intoxicated she produced a coffee gourmand that was compelling. Her inspiration was spice laced Turkish coffee. To her rich coffee accord which captures the oily bitterness along with the roasted nature of coffee she mixes in a sticky green cardamom. Nutmeg and cinnamon arrive soon after but Intoxicated is the dark coffee accord and green cardamom. You won’t find it at your local coffee shop, but it is one of my favorite coffee perfumes.  

Technology moves forward and Mme Becker moves with it. Givaudan came up with a new technology called Freeze Frame. This is where they take a source, like lime, freeze it in liquid nitrogen, then as it thaws do a headspace isolation. What this produce is an HD version of lime to place at the center of Ralph Lauren Collection Lime. Because the new technology has supplied her with what she usually created through accords she only uses two additional ingredients; bergamot and lavandin with the Freeze Frame lime. It is a simply marvelous near-photorealistic lime as perfume.

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

Mark Behnke

Am I An Influencer?

4

For all that I miss not attending Esxence this year for once I was okay with it. Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones took priority over perfume in the Colognoisseur home office. That didn’t mean I wasn’t aware of what was happening in Milan. When I am not able to be there, I have a lively conversation over the internet with those who are. The previous times this has happened the back and forth has been entirely about perfume. This year it changed. Based on some of the other reports and videos coming out a week later this was something which seemed to show up largely, for the first time, this year; “the influencer”.

For those unfamiliar with the term an influencer is a person who does videos and/or writes on a subject in such a way that their audience is energized to seek out the product being featured. In the larger worlds of fashion, video games, cooking, and motherhood there are acknowledged people who have an effect on their audiences. Which of course means brands seek these people out because they have proven themselves. It is where the term was coined as brands called them influencers. What has happened more recently is anyone who posts a video or writes a blog post calls themselves an “influencer”. They are probably not. This year at Esxence the behavior of some of the self-named “influencers” was horrendous bordering on unethical.

Because I Say So!

I heard of many of them only agreeing to meet with brands if they would give them a full bottle. This was the least of it. One brand had a price list shoved in their face over what they would get for what they were charged. As I was reading texts the whole exercise seemed like a giant scavenger hunt to see who could score the most free stuff. That impression has only been reinforced by early videos highlighting just how much perfume they came home with. I will note that in a couple of the videos there isn’t even a mention about the perfume just the glee at having scored a full bottle.

When the brands asked me what to do, I told them to make them prove their audience listened to them. Tell any of them as a start to ask their audience to e-mail the brand and they would receive a sample. If that showed the brand there was a level of support, they could discuss where to move from there. When the price list “influencer” was given this as a proposal they walked away. That is the crux of the problem very few of the self-named influencers know if they have any impact at all. They assume it but they have never measured it.

I have never measured any supposed influence I have because I don’t care. I write about perfume because it is fun. I have an audience of readers who share that with me. I have never asked a brand for a full bottle of anything. I only request samples because that is enough for my needs. I have received bottles because there are brands who are that generous. As a reader you know when that happens because everything I have ever written has a Disclosure line above my signature at the end where I mention the size and source of the perfume I am writing about.

This does not mean that there are not people in the perfume world who I don’t think are influencers. In general those aren’t the people who have to tell you they are. Those are the people who have proven over time through their actions that they are. The fragosphere is better for their participation. If you have to tell someone you’re an influencer you’re probably not.

I am on the flip side of that I am not an influencer and happy to be just a writer about perfume.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Baie Rose

I was only a couple years into writing about perfume when I asked to visit one of the big perfume oil houses. What drew me to request a visit was the chemist in me had heard about this new way of isolating new perfume materials via supercritical fluid extraction. I got my invitation along with a demonstration. The material they extracted for me were pink peppercorns. I was told prior to this; traditional methods of extraction were unsatisfactory due to yield and scent profile. When we finished the demonstration, they gave me some of the finished product to try. It was an herbal, slightly piquant slightly flowery soft scent. I took home a tiny vial. I didn’t really need to because this has become one of the most used ingredients in all of perfumery over the last ten years or so. I can honestly say a week does not pass where I do not smell a perfume which does not contain it. There is some confusion about the name because you will see it listed as pink pepper, pink peppercorn, Schinus mole, and the name I use for consistency, baie rose. Despite its ubiquity some of the earliest uses were the best at displaying all the facets of this dynamic perfume ingredient. Here are five of my favorites.

If there is any perfumer, I would label a maestro of baie rose it would be Geza Schoen. Over the years he has plumbed the depths of its use. He also was the forerunner of using it as he made it a keynote of many of the perfumes he made for Linda Pilkington’s brand, Ormonde Jayne. I could fill this list with five favorites, but I’ll stick to my very favorite; Ormonde Man. The baie rose is the linchpin for the fantastic spicy top accord as Hr. Schoen sets coriander, cardamom, juniper berry, and hemlock into orbit around it. This remains one of the most compelling spicy accords of a perfume I wear. It is balanced with a set of woods, but it is that spicy accord which lingers for hours which was my introduction to baie rose.

Another early use came in Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Angelique Sous La Pluie. Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena would use it as the counterweight to the angelica root in the heart. There is a terpenic piece to baie rose and that matches the more pronounced terpenes in angelica root. For those who enjoy M. Ellena’s style this is one of the perfumes where his sets of minimal perfume ingredients which overlap in olfactory Venn diagrams is at a pinnacle.

Of anything which captures the minimalism of Coco Chanel’s fashion aesthetic the perfumes in the Chanel Les Exclusif collection are it. One of the most compelling, 28 La Pausa, features baie rose as part of a three-ingredient set along with the keynote of iris and vetiver. The baie rose is used as a modulator to extract the chilly silvery rooty quality of the best iris. It does it brilliantly. 28 La Pausa is close to my favorite iris soliflore because perfumers Christopher Sheldrake and Jacques Polge embraced the “less is more” philosophy.

For once Le Labo Baie Rose 26 actually featured the ingredient on the label. It is not a common event within the line.  In 2010 as baie rose was gaining popularity so were the woody aromachemicals represented by Ambrox. Perfumer Frank Voelkl pairs baie rose with spicy rose in the heart. It produces a fascinating effect which is able to stand up to the monolithic synthetic wood of Ambrox. It also makes for one of the most contemporary uses of baie rose I own.

My favorite mainstream use of baie rose is in the first perfume released by Bottega Veneta in 2011. Used as the tip of a triangle with jasmine sambac and patchouli it forms an earthy floral effect which rest on a leathery chypre base. Perfumer Michel Almairac use the baie rose to get the most out of the jasmine and patchouli. They form a floral accord the equal to the base accord.

If you love perfume you smell baie rose everywhere. Here are five worth seeking out in the madding crowd.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Weil Kipling- Actions and Reactions

There are shelves in the Dead Letter Office which contain too many from the same brand which are amazing. The Weil shelf is one of those. The brand itself was one of the earliest brands of modern perfumery. Created by three brothers, in 1927, they came to fragrance as an accessory to their main business of selling fur coats. Their first perfumes were meant to be worn on their fur coats to camouflage the smell of the skins. When I’ve smelled Zibeline from this period it is hard to see it as masking much of anything. It seemed like it would amplify the furry quality. They would graduate to making perfume to be worn as perfume. That ended abruptly as World War 2 broke out and they fled their factory for the US. The family would return post-war and pick up the pieces. The best of that time period was Antilope.

That was the extent of my personal knowledge of Weil until my reader who gifted me with the box of discontinued samples appeared. As part of what was sent there was almost an entire set of Weil releases. I finally got to experience Weil de Weil and Eau de Fraicheur. As I mentioned every one of these perfumes are on a shelf in the Dead Letter Office. As part of my treasure trove I ran across a Weil I hadn’t heard of previously; Kipling. I was always going to write about Weil and this group of perfumes which have been discontinued. The four I mentioned to start are the acknowledged gems. I will probably return to them another time for future columns. As I learned of the current history of the brand Kipling felt like a good representative.

Where I left off in the brand history was as the family returned to Paris post-war. They would continue to make perfume until the early 1960’s. Then would begin a merry-go-round of different owners. Each owner wanted to capture the glorious past, but their vision was less assured when it came to new perfumes. When it hit; as in 1971’s Weil de Weil it was great. When the next owners took over, they wanted to put their stamp on the brand. Through the last part of the 20th century the brand always seemed to be a tiny step behind sometimes seeming like a reactive brand instead of a trendsetter. Weil de Weil was released soon after Chanel No. 19 as an example.

When the chairs stopped in 1986 Fashion Fragrances oversaw Weil. These were the latter days of the masculine leather fougere powerhouses. There seemed to be a desire to do a fuller version of that style. Kipling was going to be a reaction that upped the elegance of the style. Perfumer Jean-Pierre Mary oversaw realizing that brief.

When I smell Kipling now it seems part of that period in masculine perfumery. By itself I didn’t rate it as something different. It wasn’t until I pulled some of its contemporaries off the shelf that what M. Mary did was more evident. The trend in the late 1980’s for this kind of perfumes was to be drier. For Kipling, M. Mary added back something more rounded.

That shows right away with a mixture of lavender, juniper, and artemisia. The latter two ingredients accentuate the herbal-ness of the lavender. The licorice quality of the artemisia meshes beautifully. A green intermezzo of basil and pine leads to a heart dominated by geranium. M. Mary adds in a tiny amount of clove to accentuate that part of geranium’s scent profile. It lands on a classic base of leather supported by oakmoss, and patchouli. Both of those elevate M. Mary’s leather accord.

Kipling has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Why did Kipling end up on the Weil shelf in the Dead Letter Office? The ownership wheel spun again. As had been done during other changes last in was first to go. There was a market for this kind of stepped-up spicy leather fougere. Weil just didn’t have the stable ownership invested enough in making Kipling one of those. As before the reaction instead of the action ends up in the Dead Letter Office.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample sent to me by a reader.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Boss Bottled Infinite and Givenchy Gentleman Cologne

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.

Mark Behnke

Experience not Expertise

1

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.

Mark Behnke