New Perfume Review Burberry Her- Fruity Musk Meringue

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Whenever I make my periodic field trip to the local mall, I sometimes see how out of step I am with the typical perfume consumer. I had already gone in and collected a bunch of strips of the new releases. I then play a little game. I can sit in a comfortable sofa just outside the entry to the fragrance department to a big department store. From there I watch the stream of people taking strips from the sales reps handing them out. The other thing which is next to me is a garbage can which is the first opportunity for anyone walking to discard the strip if they don’t like it. This becomes my very unscientific research on what new fragrances are making an impression. When I sit down having smelled the offerings for the day, I make my choice on which I think will not end up in the garbage can. Over the past year or so I have seen a distinctive trend towards lighter airier constructs being the strips which keep getting sniffed. On this recent trip it was one of the lightest of the day which I was surprised was the winner; Burberry Her.

Francis Kurkdjian

Burberry Her is another of the recent new releases to go after a more transparent fruity gourmand. Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian was asked to compose this perfume. M. Kurkdjian is one of the perfumers who understands the use of all the musks at a perfumer’s disposal to create the effect he wants. For Burberry Her he uses a successive layering of musks to provide an expansive meringue-like lightness to which he adds a bounty of berries. The official note list mentions florals here but I have to say that if there is jasmine here it is one of the synthetic expansive versions which becomes part of this airy transparent bubble at the center of Burberry Her.

The opening of Burberry Her is those berries. If you are a fan of berries in perfume almost all of them are here. If M. Kurkdjian was not going to lighten them up this would rapidly become too much. What keeps that from happening is this expanding transparency courtesy of the musks. Just as the berries begin to concentrate into something strident the musks spread them out increasing their opacity. There is a point where I would have liked to have the opportunity to stop this effect from going as far as it does. That is when the fruit still has a presence with the musks inflating them. It is only for a short time as the eventual end point is a shimmering globe of light berries which is where this stays for the duration.

Burberry Her has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

On my afternoon at the mall Burberry Her was the runaway winner as I observed people handing the strip to others they were walking with. My guess is there is a market for this style of perfume among more casual perfume wearers. Within those boundaries Burberry Her is one of the better ones.

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

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Mr. Burberry Indigo and Azzaro Wanted by Night

Sometimes it is hard to tell what the reason is for a flanker’s existence. The two choices in this month’s Round-Up do not suffer from that.

Mr. Burberry Indigo

I think the marketers have decided that the word “sport” added to a fragrance name is no longer a sales aid. What they have seemingly settled upon in its place are colors. The sport style of fragrance definitely has a place and within the Mr. Burberry line of perfume Indigo is code for “sport”.

Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian freshens up the Mr. Burberry style with a traditional cologne duet of rosemary and lemon. It diverges with a heart of mint and violet leaves. It comes off as a cool heart accord. Just the thing after a workout. What makes me like this the best of the Mr. Burberry releases is the use of oakmoss in the base which provides a more aggressive green to offset the heart accord. Some amber and musk combine with the oakmoss to finish this off. This is the kind of versatile perfume which is a good choice if you’re looking for a “sport” perfume.

Mr. Burberry Indigo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Azzaro Wanted by Night

When I reviewed Azzaro Wanted last year I remarked that it was an outlier in the idea that consumers wanted something lighter. It was closer in style to the original hairy-chested Azzaro pour Homme. If you had asked me to guess which direction a flanker of that would take I would have said lighter. Well Azzaro Wanted by Night goes way in the other direction in what almost seems like a throwback to the masculine powerhouses of the 1970’s.

Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin completely reworks the pyramid in Wanted by Night. This is less a flanker than a different perfume which shares a name. Cinnamon provides a simmering heat right from the start. A nice parade of ingredients follow that up, as cedar and tobacco take the lead. The cinnamon doesn’t get lost as cumin gives it a boost to match the other two. I have to mention this is a huge powerhouse of a men’s perfume. It seems out of place in today’s market. There’s a lot of press nonsense which came with my sample claiming this to be a “seduction perfume”. Not sure about that unless you catch a DeLorean ride back to the 70’s.

Azzaro Wanted by Night has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by the manufacturer’s.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Elie Saab In White- Spring Wedding Scent

As the mass market perfume aesthetic seems headed towards an overall lightening I worry a bit that something will be lost. The gist of my concern is the stronger notes within the perfumer’s organ will be shunned. One of the things which is making me feel more optimistic is there have been a handful of mass market releases which are using lighter isolates of those notes. Now the perfumer has access to way more than just the essential oil. Those versions can be lighter accentuating only a couple of facets of the ingredient. Elie Saab In White is one which achieves this.

Elie Saab has been producing perfume since 2011 almost all of them done by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian. While the work he has done for the Essences and Cuirs collections I have enjoyed; the mainstream selections have left me unimpressed. Some of what has bothered me is M. Kurkdjian seems more restrained when it comes to the mass-market releases. They came off too safe for my tastes. When I received the sample for Elie Saab in White I was brought up short this was different from what has preceded it.

Francis Kurkdjian

What caught my attention was M. Kurkdjian was using a more expanded ingredient list while still retaining the transparency. It was also of interest to me that the base was kept to that style by using what I believe is a fresher patchouli isolate which really works here.

In the past the Elie Saab fragrances have relied on orange blossom as a keynote in the top. Elie Saab in White lets it mature into the citrus itself with orange holding the center. Light applications of pear and blackcurrant bud come together in a dynamic top accord. Jasmine has been the heart of nearly every one of this brand’s fragrances but usually in a obtrusive way. I think M. Kurkdjian is using one of the more expansive jasmine synthetics which provides an airiness to the middle part of the development. Then we get to the base where a patchouli which is almost herbal without carrying the heavier qualities is surrounded by a swirl of a few white musks. M. Kurkdjian is one of the perfumers who knows how to layer musks to gain exquisitely beautiful effects. This is what happens in the base here. The musks provide elevation as the fresher patchouli is lifted to the jasmine and orange.

Elie Saab in White has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Elie Saab in White, by the name, was designed with brides in mind. It would be a good choice for that, I think. It is also a good choice for those looking for a nice spring floral to wear to those upcoming seasonal weddings.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Elie Saab.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood Extrait- Pump Up The Quality

Extrait versions of perfumes that I already think highly of fall into two categories. One just gives me a higher concentration of that which I already like. That can be seen as the easier way but upping the strength without unbalancing the whole is trickier to achieve than it seems. The other way is to reinterpret the original version shifting a few critical notes while upping the concentration. This is the walk across a tightrope as everything you change has an effect on the overall construct potentially just losing its balance and disappearing into the mist below. Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian chose this second way with his Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood Extrait.

When it comes to working with oud I believe M. Kurkdjian is the best at it. If you look at the breadth of oud fragrances he has released across all the brands he works for you will see every shade possible. The pinnacle of this was the Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Mood collection. Within that each mood was named after a fabric. M. Kurkdjian would create a tactile version of oud to match the textile inspiration. My favorite oud perfume M. Kurkdjian has ever done was the fourth release Oud Satin Mood. One reason was he turned the fractious oud into satiny smooth exotica. Using Laotian oud he has made one of the great oud perfumes by rounding off the edges with resins and roses.

Francis Kurkdjian

My affection for that perfume had me wondering what the Extrait version would be like. I had been warned the composition was altered with the resins removed. I was conflicted about that but my faith in M. Kurkdjian was such that I knew the changes would ring true. They do.

As in the original version we begin with candied violets and Laotian oud. Laotian oud has an inherently floral undercurrent. That floral nature is brought to the forefront due to the concentration. The violet intersperses itself in crystalline nuggets throughout. The mixture of Tunisian and Turkish roses partners this oud. They arrive with a swoosh enveloping the oud and violet before uncovering the oud again minus the violet. Now a classic rose oud lingers for a moment before the oud gains ascendency again. What helps is a simmering cinnamon and amber duo which replace the benzoin from the original. Extraits when they are at their best are banked fires holding their energy within glowing coals of intensity. The cinnamon and amber make those embers glow white hot. Benzoin I don’t believe could’ve had this effect. It all culminates in fabulously sweet vanilla recapitulating the candied violet at the top with a deeper sweetness.

Oud Satin Mood Extrait has 24-hour longevity and average sillage.

I got my sample of this at the beginning of the summer and I was patiently waiting for some cool rainy days to wear it because I thought it would have not impressed in the heat. On two very cool days it did more than impressed it outdid the original. I have already picked out the scarf which will have this applied to as I enter the fall and winter. M. Kurkdjian didn’t just pump up the volume but the quality too.

Disclosure: this review was based on a press sample provided by Maison Francis Kurkdjian.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Elie Saab Essence No 10 Amande Tonka- Understudies Step Forward

One of the emerging trends of the last 12-18 months has been that of lighter gourmand fragrances. I have hypothesized that market research has provided some insight that this is the kind of perfume the younger fragrance consumer will be drawn to. I have been generally happy with this because lightweight gourmand perfumes are not an overplayed sector. Which makes it a bit of an undiscovered country for some of our best perfumers as they begin to work on briefs in this genre. Francis Kurkdjian has provided his entry with Elie Saab Essence No. 10 Amande Tonka.

M. Kurkdjian has been the perfumer behind all the Elie Saab fragrances since they began in 2011. If there is a thread running throughout the overall collection it is an expansive luminosity. In the exclusive Essence Collection it is even more pronounced as each of these releases have focused on single-notes. Now that it has entered double digits maybe they are going to become duets. For Amande Tonka it is a true meeting of equals.

Francis Kurkdjian

Tonka is one of the most versatile ingredients in modern perfumery. Having a high concentration of coumarin a perfumer can choose which version they want to have in their perfume. Almond, like tonka, is most often a supporting note to provide a bitter nuttiness. It makes Amande Tonka an opportunity for the understudies to step forward.

The amande is what you first encounter as for a few, too-short, minutes you get a concise nutty quality with a slightly bitter edge. The tonka arrives on a cloud of whipped cream. This is the toastier version of tonka allowing the vanilla to take up the slack on the sweetness. Once the title notes are together it forms a warm almond cream accord that is as light as a meringue. An equally transparent sandalwood with just a hint of vetiver provides the foundation to keep the titular notes from floating away.

Amande Tonka has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

M. Kurkdjian continues to provide these open style fragrances in his work for Elie Saab. Amande Tonka is all the better for him taking on a genre known for its intensity and finding a way to have it lighten up. All he had to do was bring a couple understudies out of the wings and give them a chance.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Elie Saab.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Cool Water Wave and He Wood Cologne

As I work my way through giving a try to everything which makes its way to me there are times some of the flankers command a little more attention than usual. When I think they’re really good I’ll do my usual wearing of them for their own review. When I think they might be above average and worth my mentioning I do one of these Flanker Round-Ups. As I was testing the summer releases for 2017 I was intrigued that two of the original mass-market brands turned out something more than the run of the mill. A caveat to this I only wore each of these on one arm for a weekend morning making these less informed reviews than I normally write.

Cool Water Wave

I think Cool Water is one of the great perfumes ever made. When Pierre Bourdon essentially created the aquatic genre of perfume in 1988 it truly was an inflection point for the industry. Davidoff has ever since used that phenomenon to create yearly flankers of Cool Water. Most of the time they don’t present much of anything different this year’s version Cool Water Wave does.

I smelled Cool Water Wave before knowing who the perfume team was behind it. My first impression was a modern take on the classic fougere M. Bourdon originally created. When I learned the perfumers behind it were Antoine Lie, Francis Kurkdjian, and Jean Jacques it was easy to see where that modernity came from.

Cool Water Wave begins with grapefruit and Sichuan pepper. The choice to allow the spicy pepper to point towards the sulfurous undertone of grapefruit is what first caught my attention. This is followed up with the rough green of birch leaves over the chill of gin-like juniper berry. These early phases are what is worth giving Cool Water Wave a try. It ends on a generic sandalwood which does nothing but act as an ending place.

Cool Water Wave has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

He Wood Cologne

In 2007, He Wood was released and immediately became a big seller. My explanation for the popularity of this perfume is when someone wanted a woody perfume you can’t go wrong with one which has the word in the name. Perfumer Daphne Bugey combined fir, cedar, and vetiver into something for the man who wanted wood and nothing else. I was not that man. Whenever I have subsequently received other releases over the years it was almost always described on my spreadsheet as,” wood and lots of it”. Nothing wrong with a fragrance that lacks nuance; there is obviously a market for it. Which was why when I tried He Wood Cologne in celebration of the 10th anniversary I expected to do the same.

Except the strip I sprayed it on had more than wood and lots of it. There was a citrus cologne top and the violet heart has some room to make an impression. The same thing happened when it was on my skin. Mme Bugey got the opportunity to find more than woods in He Wood Cologne.

The biggest change is a snappy citrus accord of lemon, orange, and ginger which immediately provided a cologne-like feel. The fir that the original opened with is still here but the citrus is on an equal footing and both are kept at a way softer volume than the original. That is what I think allows the violet to breathe some life into this as it makes an impression before the cedar and vetiver remind you what this perfume is the cologne version of.

He Wood Cologne has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you’ve walked away when seeing a new Cool Water of He Wood on the department store counter stop and give these a try on a strip. You might be surprised, too. Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Davidoff and He Wood.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Nina Ricci L’Extase Rose Absolue- Three is a Magic Number

Schoolhouse Rock and De La Soul tell me three is a magic number. In perfumery that sometimes proves to be the case. Nina Ricci L’Extase Rose Absolue is another data point to prove this.

Nina Ricci has been producing perfume since 1948 starting with the classic L’Air du Temps. Over the decades since, the brand has had broad ups and downs. In recent times, it has become a steady European masstige brand. Because of my affection for the brand I always track down samples of the latest releases. Like all mass-market fragrances, Nina Ricci has started releasing a yearly spring rose fragrance. It started with 2015’s L’Extase which was just another forgettable rose even though it had rose damascene at its heart instead of the typical debutante rose. Last year it was L’Extase Caresse de Roses. This was no debutante rose either but it was also disappointingly linear as it was just rose and a whole lot of laundry musk. The perfumer for these L’Extase fragrances is Francis Kurkdjian who has become expert on how to create a tentpole collection within a brand but the first two L’Extase were missing something.

Francis Kurkdjian

When I received my sample of this year’s version, L’Extase Rose Absolue, I wasn’t excited. Then I looked up the description online and found out M. Kurkdjian meant for this to be the rose for evening wear. That made me go dig the sample out and give it a try. It turns out this is a more formal rose with more depth than either of the two other members of the collection.

Rose can be a bombastic note but early on M. Kurkdjian decides to allow it to simmer a bit. It is still out front but in the early going black pepper and raspberry provide an interesting spicy fruity floral top accord. As it simmers there it eventually concentrates down to a more focused rose which is paired with orange blossom. Unlike the top accord the orange blossom is there for nuance; not really meant to be an equal partner. The base is formed of a woody duet of cedar and sandalwood. To this some vanilla, to add some light sweetness, along with some musk to provide some sensuality.

L’Extase Rose Absolue has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

This time three is a magic number as L’Extase Rose Absolue is much better than the other two L’Extase fragrances. It is much more than a spring rose as this would be great any time of the year. If you’re looking for a good evening rose three will be a magic number for you, too.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review: Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Celestia- Mimosa Cirrus

Before coming in to write this review I was looking at the high wisps of cirrus clouds in an otherwise cloudless sky. They are so high and thin it is easy to see them as inconsequential to the more substantial cumulus clouds. Today I was struck by the beauty of the white brushstrokes upon the blue sky. I then realized what I was wearing was like those cirrus clouds as a perfumer has performed delicate wispy brushstrokes of fragrance on a persistent background. That perfume is Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Celestia.

The brand was also thinking along the same lines as their press release describes Aqua Celestia as forming, “a seamless bond between the blue of the sky and the blue of the sea.” Aqua Celestia is the third in the Aqua series for Maison Francis Kurkdjian. Aqua Universalis was part of the debut collection in 2009 and Aqua Vitae followed in 2013. Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian designed this series to be very expansive and light. It is no surprise to me that Aqua Universalis is one of the best sellers within the brand. It is exactly what M. Kurkdjian does quite well. By anchoring Aqua Universalis in a familiar version of synthetic musk like those used in laundry detergent it allows for someone to latch on to the familiar while giving them something different with a very green muguet to go with it. It is simple but brilliant in tone. Aqua Celestia shares all of that.

Francis Kurkdjian

For Aqua Celestia M. Kurkdjian chose a different kind of white musk as his source of the sky. It is still a fresh musk like what you experience with a freshly laundered piece of clothing. There is a reason these kinds of musks are so ubiquitous because of their tenacious pleasant quality. What M. Kurkdjian does is to elevate them above the mundane which is what happens in Aqua Celestia.

Aqua Celestia opens on a bracing combination of lime, cassis, and mint. You might think that smells like a cheap version of a mojito but instead this carries a much more ethereal quality. The notes have a presence but they also seem less sharp than they could be. The real star of Aqua Celestia comes next as mimosa becomes the keynote with which the musk will pair. This is an expansive mimosa which sits upon the overarching presence of the musk like those cirrus clouds. The musk is what you experience but these wisps of mimosa peek through delicately. It is like pulling a clean shirt out of the dryer and holding it to your nose.

Aqua Celestia has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I expect that eight years after the release of Aqua Universalis M. Kurkdjian has created the next iteration in Aqua Celestia. I also suspect it will become one of the best sellers for the brand because of it. There are times fragrance can be cirrus clouds and Aqua Celestia is one of them.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Elie Saab Cuir Patchouli- Russian Leatherpalooza

The earliest leather accord was the classic “Cuir de Russie” or Russian Leather accord. It is the origin of all leather perfumes which have followed for over a hundred years now. It is so much a foundational piece of perfumery it seems like there comes a time for a perfumer to attempt their version. Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian takes his turn with the Elie Saab Le Collection de Cuirs.

M. Kurkdjian wanted to really explore all the ways this rich Russian Leather could be presented. In a quite unique twist it starts with Cuir Absolu which is just the Russian Leather accord by itself. What is in Cuir Absolu will provide the focal point for the other three perfumes in the collection; Cuir Ylang, Cuir Bourbon, and Cuir Patchouli. Cuir Ylang was my least favorite because for some reason M. Kurkdjian chose to not let the ylang be an equal partner. Instead he made incense and birch the more prominent partners yielding a refined grainy leather accord. Cuir Bourbon was much better as the Bourbon Vanilla teases that inherent sweetness out of the leather accord as a bit of saffron and musk add contrast and detail. Cuir Patchouli was the one I decided to spend some time with mostly because it reminded me of my black leather jacket from my punk rock days.

francis kurkdjian 2

Francis Kurkdjian

I think everyone who owns a leather zipper jacket they wear all the time knows that smell of the jacket material mixed with the sweat of your body permeating the lining. That is what M. Kurkdjian gets out of this version of his Russian Leather accord in Cuir Patchouli.

Cuir Patchouli is a rapidly evolving fragrance. While I am going to call out distinctive parts of the evolution; when I put it on my skin it ended up as a perfectly formed accord within fifteen minutes or so. Right as I spray it on cumin and cinnamon leaves evoke that smell of last night’s sweat as I pick the jacket up off the chair it has been hanging on overnight. A fantastically chosen patchouli which I think is a fraction accentuating the earthier nature blends with the stale sweat accord freshening it up a bit. Then the Russian Leather accord comes into play. I think there is a bit of labdanum here which also pushes the complete fragrance more towards that broken-in leather feeling.

Cuir Patchouli has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you are one who enjoys leather in your perfume you should give all four of the Elie Saab Le Collection de Cuirs a try. If nothing else trying Cuir Absolu gives you the opportunity to smell M. Kurkdjian’s interpretation of the classic accord. I think all three of the perfumes he built upon that foundation are well done but it is that old punk rock jacket I want to wear most often in Cuir Patchouli that will be the one I return to

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Elie Saab.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Maison Francis Kurkdjian Petit Matin and Grand Soir- Dawn to Dusk

The transitions between light and dark that happens twice every day carry a special magic to them. Folklore would suggest that magic is literal in those moments. Perfumer Francis Kukdjian was looking for perfumed inspiration from those same times. He has released two new fragrances from his Maison Francis Kurkdjian brand Petit Matin and Grand Soir.

Petit Matin (Little Morning) is inspired by that moment when the sun has cleared the horizon and its light fills the world with brilliant points of light as it reflects off windows, water and buildings. There is that moment in every early morning where it is pure light. That is the effect M. Kurkdjian goes for with Petit Matin.

Petit Matin opens with two sources of lemon. One is a typical lemon essential oil. The other is an evergreen shrub called litsea cubeba. Litsea cubeba is made up mostly of the lemon scented molecule citral. That gives the essential oil a really different scent profile of bright lemon along with an undertone of green shrubbery. Together they provide that mixture of doubled up lemon brightness with the green providing the smell of dew-coated leaves. The heart is when the flowers of the day wake up as M. Kurkdjian combines orange blossom hawthorn, and lavandin. The lemon remains as the flowers peek out. It comes together in a sun-drenched floral accord which is where this morning stays for hours. It eventually moves along to a starched white linen mix of musks with ambrox.

Petit Matin has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

francis kurkdjian

Francis Kurkdjian

Grand Soir (Big Evening) is that moment just after the sun has set and the dark takes hold. There is that anticipation of what the night can bring. This is the moment when the moon provides the shadows and light works hard to find purchase.

Grand Soir is a tightly composed mix of just four notes: benzoin, labdanum, tonka bean, and vanilla. In the early moments it is the benzoin which predominates. This is a high quality benzoin which displays its vanilla character. Which allows the actual vanilla and tonka something with which to form a particular vanillic chord. The labdanum picks up on the resinous aspect of benzoin forming an incense-like vibration. Together they form the anticipation of an evening swathed in vanilla and incense.

Grand Soir has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I give a hat tip to M. Kurkdjian for accurately capturing these magical times of the day in both Petit Matin and Grand Soir. Petit Matin is my favorite by just a bit because when it all comes together with the citrus and the floral notes it is expansively beautiful and luminous. Grand Soir is going to be a great fall choice as the air chills and the nights get longer. In any case you can wear this pair from dawn to dusk.

Disclosure: This review was based on press samples provided by Maison Francis Kurkdjian.

Mark Behnke