New Perfume Review Maison Martin Margiela Replica Music Festival- Get Your Lighters Out

There is so much new perfume it is hard to keep up with some of the best collections out there. One which I think is getting overlooked is the Maison Martin Margiela Replica series. Since 2012 the Replica series has been a set of fragrance meant to evoke a time and place. Over the seventeen releases since it has a very high batting average; succeeding way more than it doesn’t. One thing which surprises me about this success is it comes as part of one of the large fragrance conglomerates; L’Oreal. I usually associate those with the desire to focus group a perfume to its detriment. The remarkable thing about the Replica collection is there is little sign of that. Almost like the perfumers are given a name and told to go off and bring it to life. I am reasonably sure that is not true; yet these are fragrances produced by one of the largest fragrance companies in the world in a way I don’t usually expect. There are three new additions and the one which I like best is Music Festival.

Music Festival connects with me because I spent some time in my younger days at my share. It is why I’m writing about it over the other two which I want to quickly mention. Sailing Days is a fabulous twist on the aquatic style of perfume by Violaine Collas. After the typical ozonic aldehydic opening she juxtaposes sweet salicylates against a briny seaweed and ambergris base. If you like different aquatics it is worth trying. Wicked Love by perfumer Amandine Clerc-Marie has a fun top accord of basil, watermelon and green pepper which forms a sweet vegetal herbal accord that is unique before heading down to a floral woody finish.

Honorine Blanc

When I spent my youth attending rock festivals they were interesting affairs from a scent perspective. In the afternoon, it was the smells of a summer day and a lot of sun-warmed skin with a haze of smoke over it all. After the sun went down it was the combined warmth of the crowd as things became cooler which formed a kind of different group scent. Perfumer Honorine Blanc has spent some time in a field listening to music for a day too as she captures this completely.

Mme Blanc first sets the pastoral scene with the green of violet leaves and the apple trees ringing the stage. The apple and violet leaves provide that crisp sunshine. The next part of this music festival are the haze hanging above as tobacco, cannabis, and incense form what so reminds me of the persistent cloud it could be called a “Woodstock accord”. The base accord is getting right down into the crowd as patchouli has a musky skin accord paired with it. As the evening cools, it gets warmer and some cedar becomes evident.

Music Festival has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Music Festival is one of the best of what I have already mentioned is one of the best overall collections out there. Cue up your favorite live performances on your music player, get your lighter out and hold it aloft for Mme Blanc’s performance.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Maison Martin Margiela.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Figment Woman- Aria in the Key of Tuberose

Tuberose has been having a moment in perfumery over the last eighteen months. Most of those fragrances have concentrated on reining in the most boisterous of the white flowers. Finding ways to make it less extroverted to appeal to a wider swath of fragrance consumers. Thankfully Amouage operates under a different set of principles. Under the creative direction of Christopher Chong, the perfumes under his guidance do not want to be introverted. The ethos of the brand has almost been, “Where’s the line? Okay let me take one step over it.” It makes Amouage near the top as a brand which stands for a specific aesthetic. Figment Woman displays this using tuberose.

Christopher Chong

I was surprised that Figment Woman is only the fourth Amouage perfume to contain tuberose. The others are: Ubar, Opus I, and Honour Woman. In those tuberose is but a contributor. Figment Woman is all about the tuberose. Collaborating with perfumers Dorothee Piot and Karine Vinchon-Spehner; Mr. Chong has realized an aria in the key of tuberose.

Dorothee Piot

Using an opera term for known aficionado Mr. Chong is easy but when I wore Figment Woman it was the strong voice of tuberose which sings throughout the day. The perfumers have sourced a full spectrum tuberose allowing it all the room in the world to fill up. It is so overbearing if you spray it on paper that is all you will think is here. It isn’t until it was on my skin that I realized there were some supporting singers for that tuberose diva.

Karine Vinchon-Spehner

Upon first applying Figment Woman it is another white flower which provides the warm-up; gardenia. The perfumers choose to take the strong green thread within the gardenia and bracket it with saffron and Szechuan pepper. It provides an entry point for the diva to take the stage and with a deep breath she begins to sing; right from the top of her range. This is a gorgeous tuberose absolute that ripples with indolic energy. An array of other florals tune the effect as jasmine, orange blossom, and ylang-ylang provide some background vocals. Then the sticky green blackcurrant bud latches on to the green of the tuberose and elevates it. What is waiting to meet it is iris and papyrus. The orris makes it earthier while the papyrus provides a veil of green in a higher octave. It all ends as patchouli and incense provide a foundation.

Figment Woman has 24-hour longevity and above average sillage.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy the unfettered power of tuberose mainly because everyone seems to be running away from it. Thankfully Mr. Chong’s Amouage would rather provide a stage for tuberose to perform upon.

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

-Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Andy Warhol’s You’re In- Getting Past the Velvet Rope

When I first got to New York City in the mid 1980’s it was the heyday of the exclusive clubs. Clubs like The Palladium or Area were where you went to be seen. If you were a known NYC scenester you were on the guest list. If you weren’t you lined up behind a velvet rope hoping for the doorman to look at you and say the magic words, “You’re In.” As you approached the door the expectation of magic present behind it would give way to the fact that it was another club with some more famous people in attendance then the one closest to you. It still was a lot of fun to share the dance floor with a celebrity.

"You're In" by Andy Warhol (1967)

If you were to look for the beginning of this velvet rope segregation you might look back fifteen years or so to the world Andy Warhol created in NYC. That was another scene where your entry was predicated on adding something to the overall milieu. As with so many things from Mr. Warhol he was eerily prescient on where these nascent trends would end up. One piece of art he did, in 1967, was called “You’re In” where he painted a case of iconic glass Coca-Cola bottles silver and supposedly filled each bottle with toilet water. That’s water from the toilet not eau de toilette. The idea to poke fun with the homophone of the name of the piece. The soda maker was not amused and hit Mr. Warhol with a cease and desist. It also was revealed that it wasn’t toilet water but a cheap drugstore cologne the color of urine inside. Exactly what made Mr. Warhol interesting.

Christian Astuguevieille

Fifty years later Comme des Garcons wanted to re-visit this in their own homage to it. Lead by Creative Director Christian Astuguevieille they created a set of six silver cylinders each with its own Warhol quote on it encased in a carboard facsimile of the yellow wooden crate of the original piece of art. One thing I was sure of was M. Astuguevieille was not going to be putting toile water inside. What is inside Andy Warhol’s You’re In is a clever twist on the ubiquitous cheap citrus eau de toilette of the 1960’s. This is a citrus eau de toilette given a Comme des Garcons twist.

The top accord is bitter orange within a cloud of aldehydes. I laughed a bit because where aldehydes often remind people of hairspray these aldehydes reminded me of the smell of the fog machines at those velvet rope clubs of the 80’s. It is an odd set of aldehydes also containing a metallic edge as well. Pittosporum with its hybrid scent of orange blossom and jasmine bridges the citrus to a fuller jasmine. It is a classic floral citrus accord adequately achieved. Coriander bridges this into a synthetic woody base. Later on, the metallic effect from the top accord returns along with a bit of white musk.

Andy Warhol’s You’re In has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is a project where the Comme des Garcons style was a perfect match for looking back at Mr. Warhol to synthesize a 2017 interpretation. I felt like I was allowed past the velvet rope of creativity both brands stand for with Andy Warhol’s You’re In.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Comme des Garcons.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jul et Mad Mon Seul Desir- Osmanthus Warp, Oud Weft

1

Mrs. C is a cross-stitcher which means she is a lover of the textile arts. Which further means I’ve spent my share of museum time looking at tapestries. It is an art form which I have come to appreciate for the subtle effect just a few strands of different colors have overall. The ability to get close and see these strands is like getting close to a color television and seeing the pixels. You have a better experience standing back and taking it in its entirety; not in its micro form. Perfumery has its own way of practicing the weaving of notes into their own olfactory tapestry. Jul et Mad Mon Seul Desir is inspired by a famous tapestry while also weaving its own magic.

"La Dame a la licorne"

The latest three perfumes from Jul et Mad have been using famous works of art as part of their brief. For Mon Seul Desir the tapestry “La Dame a la licorne” (“The Lady and the Unicorn”) in the Musee national du Moyen Age in Paris. It is the final piece in a series of six tapestries where the first five each depict a lady accompanied by a lion and a unicorn in interpretations of each of the five senses. In the final tapestry, the lady stands under a canopy with the words “mon seul desir” on it. The words mean “my sole desire”. Creative directors Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard collaborated with perfumer Stephanie Bakouche.

Madalina Stoica-Blanchard and Julien Blanchard

For Mon Seul Desir the perfume is primarily an osmanthus and oud construction. I have come to appreciate this pairing more than the more classical rose and oud. The dual nature of osmanthus’ fruit and leather finds a way of making oud leatherier itself which is where Mon Seul Desir spends most of its time.

Stephanie Bakouche

Mon Seul Desir is begun by building a frame of nutmeg, baie rose, and coriander. The baie rose provides an herbal component which the nutmeg and coriander gives a kind of faux woodiness to. Then Mme Bakouche gets down to weaving as the osmanthus warps itself over the weft of oud. Always the osmanthus is on top the apricot quality floating above the leathery. The oud picks out the leather threads and attaches to them as it keeps to the background. It all evolves into a final weave of amber, benzoin, and musk; warm and comforting.

Mon Seul Desir has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

In tapestry, the warp covers the weft. It is the same effect here as the osmanthus is the focal point while the oud supports in the background. You can get close enough to pick out the threads but it as an accord that it appeals. Mme Bakouche shows she can handle the fragrant loom to get the most out of her threads making Mon Seul Desir as beautiful as its inspiration.

Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Jul et Mad.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Mona di Orio Dojima- Origami Shadows

When Mona di Orio passed away at the beginning of December 2011 it was reasonable to expect her style of perfume construction would pass with her. Sure, there were probably a couple of fragrances finished at the time of her death but if you had asked me if I’d be talking about Mme di Orio six years later; my reply would’ve been, “unlikely”. It is because of one person that the conversation has continued until today; Jeroen Oude Sogtoen.

Jeroen Oude Sogtoen

M. Sogtoen was Mme di Orio’s partner. When she was gone he refused to let her perfume brand and her chiaroscuro aesthetic go with her. He would release the last of her creations but he would also look to continue the brand. It took him a bit of time to find the new in-house perfumer Fredrik Dalman. That he was the right choice was confirmed by his first perfume for the brand Bohea Boheme. Much of the time I wear that it feels like a perfume which had to have been started by Mme di Orio for M. Dalman to finish. It isn’t. Which makes M. Dalman’s work more impressive. For this year there have been two new releases. For Suede de Suede, M. Dalman displayed more of his signature by taking his leather accord and modifying it throughout. When I first sniffed the other release, Dojima, I again felt the spirit of Mme di Orio as channeled by M. Dalman.

Fredrik Dalman

Dojima’s name comes from the Rice Exchange in 17th Century Japan. Dojima wanted to capture the powder version of the grain, which it does, but then M. Dalman in a Monaesque fashion shades that powder into something darker as the light fades and the shadows come out to play.

Dojima opens with that delicate rice powder floating like a cloud above it all. This is seemingly fragile accord only to see it stand up to the other notes which begin to appear. First, is a combination of clary sage and nutmeg as they provide a bit of fleeting duskiness. The rice powder becomes a bit more of a familiar powder as the iris creates a more typical powder accord. This all heads towards a base of sandalwood warmed with the botanical musk of ambrette seeds and labdanum.

Dojima has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Dojima is a seemingly fragile construct which always seems on the edge of being overrun by one ingredient or another. To M. Dalman’s credit it never happens. These notes interweave themselves through the powdery nature early on and along with the sandalwood towards the end. I was reminded of the Japanese art of origami where a beautiful piece of paper is transformed into an animal by a series of folds. Dojima is an example of taking a powdery heart and folding in deeper notes to create origami shadows.

Disclosure: this review is based on a press sample supplied by Mona di Orio.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bottega Veneta Eau de Velours- Authenticity Is Not Easy

There is nothing so frustrating for me as a fragrance line which carries a designer name seeming disconnected from the brand aesthetic. I am aware that fragrance is often an undiscovered country for many brands when they decide to make the move to expand into it. I have observed that a creative director who really takes the time to understand the design concepts behind fragrance can then successfully translate them into liquid form. One of those is Tomas Maier of Bottega Veneta.

Tomas Maier

Hr. Maier would lead the expansion into perfume with the simply named Bottega Veneta in 2011. The seemingly facille decision to create a leather artisan shop’s accord with some flowers growing just outside the window captured the essence of hand-made luxury. It was one of the best perfumes of 2011 and the best designer release of that year. They have continued to release some excellent mainstream designer perfumes ever since. Bottega Veneta Eau de Velours is another one.

Michel Almairac

If the original was a floral leather chypre the new one is a fruity floral leather. Perfumer Michel Almairac collaborates with perfumer Mylene Alran in this evolution of the original which M. Almairac was responsible for. The original had a lovely lilting plum blossom amidst the leather and oak. For Eau de Velours the blossom has become the fruit and no longer lilts; it leads the way. There is also an intent to simplify some of the lines of the original to give more prominence to the fruit, the floral, and the leather.

Mylene Alran

That design intent is evident from the beginning as the ripe plum has moved to the front of the line. It has some support from bergamot and baie rose but this is a plum just as it ripens. It is not sugary sweet but that mix of restrained sweetness tempered by a bit of tart freshness. It is that latter effect the baie rose sharpens the focus upon. Then very deep Damascene rose pairs with the plum in a classic fruity floral accord. The inherent spiciness of this breed of rose is lovely contrast to the plum. It gets better as the leather accord begins to weave itself within it. It is like tendrils of smoke as the first few strands start to become detectable. Over time they eventually weave a complete leather enclosure around the fruity floral. This effect is ably abetted by patchouli slowly adding to the volume of the leather accord.

Eau de Velours has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I again give a hat tip to Hr. Maier for retaining his vision of how fragrance represents the brand. Eau de Velours shows authenticity might not be easy but it is worth the effort.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aramis Modern Leather- What Powerhouse Means Today

When I was growing up in the 1960’s many of the men around me wore perfume which had a central leather component. If I had so desired I could have easily concluded that leather is what a man smells like. I can joke about it but there is a bit of truth underneath the humor. The mid 1960’s well into the 1970’s was the age of the powerhouse cologne marketed primarily to men. Because men were the target audience perfumers would have to sneak some notes, like flowers, considered feminine underneath the more stalwart suspects. One of the exemplars of this style of perfumery was 1965’s Aramis composed by perfumer Bernard Chant.

Aramis was a powerhouse leather mostly supported by herbs and spices led by thyme and clove. My very stylish uncle was an Aramis man. As I would begin to expand my fragrance horizons I would discover there was an entire collection under the Aramis name. As the niche explosion arrived the brand has been having some difficulty staying relevant. It was why when I received the press materials around the new release Aramis Modern Leather I was more interested than normal.

Celine Barel

According to the press materials Aramis Modern Leather was meant to be a modern re-telling of the original Aramis. I was wondering what the team at Aramis thought a twenty-first century powerhouse smelled like. The name clued me in that it was leather. What else did perfumer Celine Barel think makes a modern powerhouse? She returns to the herbal notes of the original but she also believes men are more comfortable with a floral heart fifty years later.

Mme Barel opens with thyme as the original started with. The main difference is basil overtakes it rapidly as if making the case for being the modern man’s herb of choice. Where the original dove deep into spices Modern Leather constructs a proper floral heart accord around geranium and orange blossom. Mme Barel uses some violet leaves to constrain the florals from becoming too expansive. The base contains the leather. Mme Barel’s leather accord is refined leather; very modern compared to the leather accord in Aramis. This one in Modern Leather is supple luxuriousness. The only attempt to put a tiny amount of edge into it comes from some vetiver and labdanum but they never really lay a hand on it.

Modern Leather has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Modern Leather posits the hypothesis that a modern powerhouse smells like this. It is a good version to see if there is a market for a fragrance like this. I can find a spot for it right next to its original stable mate.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Acqua di Parma Colonia Pura- This Old Colonia

There comes a moment for perfume brands to examine when it feels right to design to a younger generation of perfume lovers. The last two years have seen many of the original niche houses making different choices about when to make their play for the new demographic. For Acqua di Parma they have decided to go back to the beginning to try and capture the future with Colonia Pura.

Acqua di Parma has become a successful niche brand by using the seed of the original Colonia created almost a one hundred years ago. As the brand became a player in the 21st century they gave that Colonia architecture to some of the greatest perfumers working to develop their versions. It has been a mostly successful collection overall. Starting in 2014 perfumer Francois Demachy became the creative force behind the new versions of Colonia. During this time, he has been focused mainly on adding in a particular note or accord and adapting the existing formula so it fits. With Colonia Pura M. Demachy is re-imagining Colonia for today.

Francois Demachy

Colonia Pura opens on the classic citrus except orange and petitgrain are given a lighter feeling. This allows a sea breeze accord to lift them up in an expansive way. M. Demachy is seemingly trying for a transparent version of Colonia; the early moments are the bellwether for this. The floral heart is completely different. Remarkably M. Demachy can take the usually very deep power of narcissus absolute and turn it into something less substantial. The technique used is to have jasmine provide an underpinning which like the ozonic notes in the top provide a similar expansiveness. As patchouli and cedar begin to form the base accord I expect this to get a little more grounded but M. Demachy unleashes a suite of white musks to again lift and expand over the final hours.

Colonia Pura has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

There is a television show called “This Old House” where a team of workers completely re-do an old classic home of around a hundred years old. As I wore Colonia Pura this felt like M. Demachy was making a perfume version, “This Old Colonia”. Where he takes the venerable old mansion that is Colonia and spruces it up so a new fragrance fan can be lured to Colonia Pura.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Acqua di Parma.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Diptyque Vetyverio Eau de Parfum- Back to Earth

Vetiver is one of the more common perfume ingredients. It is hard to find new perspectives when designing a vetiver-centric fragrance. It is one of my favorite ingredients because it displays a wide versatility; which should be obvious if it is used so often. One of the more interesting studies of vetiver was in 2010’s Diptyque Vetyverio.

Perfumer Olivier Pescheux took a solid axis of vetiver and on three different levels spun three sets of notes to shape the vetiver as it developed on the skin. At the time I first wrote about this I mentioned this was a lighter version than most vetivers where the higher harmonics were emphasized over the deeper ones. Vetyverio is one of those that is made for the warmest of days when fragrance verges on becoming an irritant no matter what. It has never made my personal top list because I have come to prefer my vetiver with some more pop to it. Apparently, I am not alone as there is a more concentrated version just released Vetyverio Eau de Parfum.

Olivier Pescheux

Befitting the overall style, the original was released in eau de toilette concentration. M. Pescheux returned to oversee the increase in concentration. As I say every time I review a different concentration it just can’t have the original ingredients modified to fit the new concentration. To be faithful to the original the perfumer must make some important decisions. In this case M. Pescheux has decided to strip the formula down to its essence. The original had twelve listed notes; the Eau de Parfum just four. If pushed to describe the original in a few words I would have said citrus-rose-grass. This time M. Pescheux changes the third part to earth as patchouli is used to take the same Haitian vetiver used before and ground it.

Vetyverio Eau de Parfum uses grapefruit as the citrus on top. The citrus was bright in the original. Here the grapefruit can display some of its sulfurous quality before the same rose as in the previous formulation picks it up. In a lighter formulation, you take rose and lift it up with pother florals. In this formula, you let the rose alone allowing it to radiate in all its Damascene glory. The vetiver concentration being upped means the woodier quality of the Haitian vetiver has more presence. Adding in patchouli drags it away from the fresher greener grassier elements and down towards the ground. This duet changes the comparison between what came before and now.

Vetyverio Eau de Parfum has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

The original formula was never going to really resonate with me because of the lightness of it all. Vetyverio Eau de Parfum does connect because it takes the vetiver and brings it back to earth.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Mizensir Elixir de Musc- The Musks of Summer

When a perfumer begins their own line you get to see some of the personality unaltered by creative directors or PR campaigns. When designing for themselves they can be indulgent. The brands which succeed understand the difference between that and self-indulgent. It is what makes the Mizensir fragrance collection by Alberto Morillas such an interesting experience.

I consider Sr. Morillas the best perfumer in the mainstream sector of perfume. When he began Mizensir in 2015 I was interested to see what the direction of the brand would be. With these latest three releases, bringing the number up to 19, the data set is large enough to see patterns. One of the more obvious ones is Sr. Morillas could take some of his favorite notes and accords and push them a little further than the typical mainstream release is likely to tolerate. It is making the Mizensir collection a stepping stone to the niche perfume side of the fragrance aisle.

Alberto Morillas

Sr. Morillas is known for many things but if there is one note which lingers in my consciousness it is musk. He championed the use of white musks. He has been instrumental in delineating the uses of many of the popular synthetic versions. It was why when I got the press materials with my samples the one I was most interested to spend time with was Elixir de Musc.

Sr. Morillas wanted Elixir de Musc to represent sun-warmed skin, an accord he has done many times. The difference is he also wanted this to be more concentrated befitting the name, a true elixir of musks. As such there is no real pyramid here. Instead Sr. Morillas presents a brew of three of Firmenich’s finest synthetics: Cetalox, Limbanol, and Iris Concrete. Cetalox is a lighter version of the more well-known Ambox. Limbanol is the same kind of lighter version of the more ubiquitous Norlimbanol. Iris Concrete is a synthetic recreation of the precious natural ingredient orris concrete. Into this mixture Muscenone and Habanolide provide the musk component.

Form the first moment I sprayed this on it strongly reminded me of warm skin. It is the smell of a day at the beach as the breeze carries the smell of your skin to your nose. It is clean but the musk keeps it from being insipid. It is a gorgeously realized accord.

Elixir de Musc has 24-hour longevity and average sillage.

There is another thing Sr. Morillas is doing within the Mizensir line; he is showing the versatility of the synthetic ingredients available in 2017. Throughout the collection there are numerous examples of it but Elixir de Musc stands apart as the pinnacle of this kind of construction. In this case he has created a perfume of the musks of summer.

Disclosure: This review based on a sample from Mizensir.

Mark Behnke