New Perfume Review Montale Arabians- Subtle is a 4-Letter Word

As much as I enjoy intricate perfumes full of nuance there are times when I just want it given to me straight; like a hard right-hand to the jaw. When I’m in this mood there is a line of small metal containers which contain this style of fragrance. All of them have the name Montale on them. Montale is one of the more prolific brands and many of their perfumes are variations on specific themes. It allows for someone who like the style to find one which is just right. Many of their perfumes are oud based. Despite the amount of perfumes that have been released I was always looking for a Montale leather full of attitude. The new Montale Arabians finally gave me my leather I was looking for.

Despite being a fragrance brand, which is very Middle Eastern in aesthetic, the Arabians in the name refers to Arabian Horses. The preferred steed of desert raiders, the breed has become one of the most versatile equine lines in the world. The perfume inspired by them is the leather of the saddle, the musk of the horse. And the smell of the floral garland of the Winner’s Circle.

The opening is an overdose of thyme and cardamom. So often both are used as supporting notes. For Arabians they come right to the front dragging a reluctant lavender with them. This is one of my favorite opening of any Montale I own; it is that sharp herbal green enhanced by the cardamom and supported by the lavender. Rose holds the heart for a little while before patchouli comes along to pump up the volume. The leather accord comes next and this is the classic saddle leather version. It is rich with a hint of saddle soap. A full serving of musk provides the scent of the horse before oud reminds you that this is an Arabian we’re talking about.

Arabians has 20-24-hour longevity and above average sillage.

Every time I wear a Montale I like I imagine there is a sign somewhere in the design studio, “Subtle is a 4-letter word”. Arabians like every Montale I own is not subtle. Yet this raw power carries an attraction because it doesn’t pull its punches. The caveat is you must like what is being produced. If you are looking for a powerful leather Arabians might just have you saying some positive 4-letter words.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Miu Miu L’Eau Rosee- Fresh Lily

As you all know I am getting buried under the new spring rose releases. There are some good ones in there, but most are just so generic. When things show up in the mailbox I tend to go with a brand which I think might have a different take on it all. When I received my box from Sephora there was one in there which I thought might be that rose fragrance; Miu Miu L’Eau Rosee. If you look at that name you expect a light rose perfume. I certainly did. When I sprayed it on and didn’t get even a hint of rose I thought I picked up the wrong sample. What was incorrect were my impressions based on a name.

L’Eau Rosee is the third Miu Miu perfume all of them composed by perfumer Daniela Andrier. The original was one of the best designer releases of 2015. It was mainly focused around keynotes of lily of the valley and a new ingredient akigalawood. The first follow-up came last spring and was called L’Eau Bleue. This was that rose alternative I was looking for as the lily of the valley was given the dewy treatment. L’Eau Rosee is the simplest of the three Miu Miu fragrances which means the lily of the valley and the akigalawood have more prominence. Mme Andrier allows them to have a fresh impact and she surrounds them with cassis and musks to create the freshest of the Miu Miu collection.

Daniela Andrier

Cassis can be a tough ingredient to keep from tripping into harsh green territory. Mme Andrier uses a light hand in L’Eau Rosee. She wants there to be just enough green to lift the lily of the valley without getting sticky. That’s what happens. As the lily of the valley comes forward the cassis takes its place underneath enhancing the green freshness of the floral. Then akigalawood provides the same depth as it has in the previous two with its light spicy woodiness. The difference for L’Eau Rosee is the accord of laundry musks Mme. Andrier constructs as the base accord. I have found in the past that once you use enough of these types of synthetic musks you move past the scratchy fresh cotton to something resembling a high thread count Egyptian cotton linen. Mme Andrier takes one of those musky accords of soft sheets and envelops the entire thing in a final fresh embrace.

Miu Miu L’Eau Rosee has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

This is the kind of fresh spring fragrance I have wanted for years. Like many other perfumes released at this time of year it isn’t terribly original. What it does bring is a different look at the supposedly desired aesthetic by focusing on fresh lily instead of dewy rose. I’ll probably take L’Eau Rosee over anything which has rose in it this year.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Areej Le Dore Atlantic Ambergris- It’s The Real Thing

Back in the 1970’s Coca Cola came up with a slogan “Coke, it’s the real thing.” I think of it a lot in reference to perfumery. Especially with synthetic alternatives for raw materials like musk, oud, or ambergris. Perfumers can be magicians in forming an accord which performs the illusion of the real thing but once you experience it you always know where the gaps are. Because of that I obtained real samples of musk, oud, and ambergris. When it came to musk and ambergris I thought you have one kind you’ve got them all. At least in the case of ambergris I should have considered my oud experience. My little precious case of ouds covers different geographies and years of aging. My first clue my education in real ambergris was lacking came courtesy of Areej Le Dore Atlantic Ambergris.

White Ambergris via Pat Lillis of Celtic Ambergris

I have a tiny pea shaped amount of solid ambergris which sits in a sealed vial like a black stinky pearl. When I open it for a sniff it is briny with a pronounced funk to it. I also own an ambergris attar from Amouage and it is what I expect a tincture of that odiferous pearl to produce. I thought my knowledge base was complete. When I read the review of Atlantic Ambergris on Kafkaesque there was a primer on the spectrum of ambergris to introduce the review. Kafkaesque turned to Pat Lillis of Celtic Ambergris to provide the explanation for what causes the different scent profile for any chunk of ambergris. If you’re interested I urge you to go read it. The short form is the longer a chunk spends floating in the ocean the more bleached it gets providing a softer scent profile while the chunks that spend more time on shore in the sand get blacker, and funkier. Russian Adam obtained a quantity of white ambergris, from Mr. Lillis, as the keynote of Atlantic Ambergris.

Russian Adam describes the scent profile of the white ambergris in Atlantic Ambergris this way, “It’s aroma is pristine, fluffy, silky, slightly powdery, sweet and earthy, with a bottomless oceanic depth that is truly unique.” I agree with that statement entirely but what really struck me was the last part of it. Growing up in S, Florida there were days where I was out on the ocean water skiing or just leaning over the side of the boat as it headed home at speed. There was a smell of the ocean that went beyond sea spray to something with more weight to it along with a briny depth. As the white ambergris rises I was vividly reminded of this smell.

Atlantic Ambergris is a Russian Adam perfume which means it is full of other interesting notes besides the white ambergris. He chooses to take his unique keynote and float it upon a sea of spices; cardamom, clove, and nutmeg. This is a powerful wave of spices which are meant as contrast to the deep ocean quality of the ambergris. I am a fan of all three of these spices and I am given full servings of all of them. As the chunk of ambergris approaches the shoreline the wind brings the smell of the pines and the tropical flowers of jasmine and ylang ylang. This all transitions into a base accord which I think is funnily enough Russian Adam’s concept of an oud accord. From a perfumer who has consistently used exquisitely sourced ouds it seems like he didn’t want to step on the beauty of the ambergris. This gives an oud-like foundation which because it is an accord he can tune it to exactly the desired effect.

Atlantic Ambergris has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage. Also this is the version of Atlantic Ambergris released in October of 2017

If you’ve never smelled the real thing, when it comes to ambergris, Atlantic Ambergris provides an opportunity. I know that there is a wide world of ambergris to explore now but it will be hard to be better than Atlantic Ambergris.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Sarah Baker Perfumes Tartan- True Cedar

My days of chopping wood are long behind me but on the few occasions that I did take on that task there was a scent which I enjoyed. When you take pieces of wood which you will be drying out and quarter them with an axe there is a smell I would call “raw wood”. It still has some life to it which means there is some green quality. There is also a kind of mentholated grace note which also arises off the wood. It has a kind of energetic scent of wood. Weeks later when I would go get the dried-out pieces there was hardly anything of that left until it got tossed into the fireplace which released just the woods. The smell of a fireplace is why we still set a fire or two here in Poodlesville. There aren’t a lot of perfumes which remind me of both the raw wood and the fireplace, but Sarah Baker Perfumes Tartan manages to complete that.

Sarah Baker

Sarah Baker is a London-based artist who expanded to perfume releasing her first two in 2016 working with perfumer Ashley Eden Kessler. In 2017, she would team-up with Sarah McCartney to add two more to the line. The entire line shows a creative direction of immersion into specific themes. When I say immersion, I mean it. These are all big evocative fragrances which are geared to those who enjoy the keynotes. Tartan attracted me with its overdose of cedar. Ms. Baker and Ms. McCartney are looking for a Scottish Highlands feel but my overwhelming evocation was sitting in a leather chair next to a fieldstone fireplace.

Sarah McCartney

It is cedar which opens Tartan as Virginian and Atlas cedarwoods are combined. In this kind of concentration, it passes through the more common comparisons of pencil shavings into something with more character. I like it when cedar is used in this way. To give that raw wood feel Ms. McCartney threads through some cedar moss. After the first blast of cedar that moss forms a green network within the cedar. Then as it dries out and the cedar begins to lose some of its fresh-cut quality, leather and tobacco provide some of the fireside milieu. The cedar logs burning return with a slug of timbersilk which causes the cedar to flare up yet again as the flames rise high. A bit of labdanum provides a hint of smoke.

Tartan has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Tartan is a perfume for those who love cedar. Ms. McCartney manages to explore all there is in cedar in Tartan which turns it into a true cedar experience.

Disclosure: This review was based on sample provided by Sarah Baker Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bvlgari Magnolia Sensuel- A Spring Alternative

January is a cruel month for me as my mailbox fills up with all the new spring releases; most of them rose focused. Longtime readers will be familiar with this perennial complaint from me. There are other flowers that could be used. To which I usually hear my internal voice say, “Oh yeah smarty what’s your alternative?” Truth be told I just want something different, but I am not sure what it is until I encounter it. When I received my sample of Bvlgari Magnolia Sensuel I realized this could be one.

Last spring Bvlgari premiered their Splendida Collection focused on floral compositions. Those first three releases focused on rose (Rose Rose), jasmine (Jasmin Noir), and iris (Iris D’Or). They were nice but those are probably three of the most ubiquitous flowers in perfumery. There are not a lot of different themes to be explored. Magnolia Sensuel uses a flower not so common.

Jacques Cavallier

Magnolia is mostly used as a supporting floral. It is because it has a dual floral and citrus scent. It makes it an ideal note to underpin either of those qualities. Perfumer Jacques Cavallier uses a Chinese version of magnolia which really displays both splendidly.

M. Cavallier brackets the magnolia with citrus and jasmine as supporting notes in a reverse of the usual relationship of these three notes. The magnolia bursts out of the first moments with a freshness from the inherent tartness and the floral nature has an outward expansiveness more typical of synthetic ingredients. The mandarin gives a sweet citric interstitial note while the jasmine provides more of a base than I think the magnolia would have had without it. This is a fresh spring scent as the magnolia feels sunny and floral simultaneously. The base accord is musk with a hint of vanilla and patchouli.

Magnollia Sensuel has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Wearing Magnolia Sensuel weeks away from actual spring arriving; it makes me believe it is closer than it is. I don’t know if it is prohibitive to use magnolia in this concentration regularly but the next time I’m having an argument with myself over a spring alternative; Magnolia Sensuel is going to be the answer.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Bvlgari.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fort & Manle Bojnokopff- Abracadabra!

This is something I shouldn’t admit but sometimes the name of a perfume is enough to give it some slack when I try it. I’ve mentioned in the past how much I like the way some words feel when I say them. When I received the seven samples of Australian perfume brand Fort & Manle there was always one, based on the name, which I was going to be drawn to; Bojnokopff.

Fort & Manle is the brand of self-taught perfumer Rasei Fort. The first six releases were debuted in 2016 with an additional release last year. The entire collection just became available in the US and I ordered a sample set. In trying all seven I see some of the issues that comes with being self-taught. There are ingredients with which Mr. Fort has more feel for than others. This is particularly evident in the more floral entries where all of those felt like there was a gap or an awkward transition as he is unable to strike a balance. The best ones are those which tilt more towards an Oriental style of which Bojnokopff is one.

Rasei Fort

Bojnokopff was one of the original six releases and it had a much longer name; Mr. Bojnokopff’s Purple Hat. The decision to shorten the name worked for me because I was enticed by Bojnokopff which the longer name might not have achieved. Mr. Bojnokopff was a nineteenth century fin de siècle illusionist in Saint Petersburg Russia who used his purple hat as part of his act. Mr. Fort imagines a hat where smoke billows out of it after placing some perfume ingredients within.

The first ingredient into Bojnokopff is lavender. As I first tried this I expected a descent towards typical fougere territory. With the style of a magician’s misdirection instead of pulling a fern from the hat a resinous oud appears. The fresh herbal nature of lavender on top of oud was a neat trick which made me smile. Next out of the hat comes chocolate. The chocolate is paired with enough vanilla to make this not a bitter dark chocolate but a rich milk chocolate. This is another good choice as the sweeter creamier version provides contrast to the lavender and oud. Cedar and vetiver are the base accord for the three keynotes to finish upon.

Bojnokopff has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Fort & Manle like many of the large collections from the self-taught has its ups and downs with the high points all on the darker side of the spectrum. Bojnokopff is a signal that it is going to be interesting to see what comes next.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Hiram Green Slowdive- A Tobacco Pearl Through Honey

1

When I was a child one of the odder television commercials was for a brand of shampoo called Prell. They would show some pretty people lathering up with the product and at the end they would show the bottle of green shampoo and a hand would drop a pearl into it which would very slowly head towards the bottom as the commercial ended. I never understood what a pearl falling through shampoo had to do with anything. I admit it was a neat visual which has stuck with me probably fifty years after I first encountered it. What is interesting is a dense solid object with character slowly descending through a thick intensely colored liquid carried a contrast which was evident to my child’s eye. The new perfume from Hiram Green called Slowdive got me thinking about that.

First, let me get this out of the way; Slowdive does not smell of shampoo or pearls. I don’t suspect this is a theme Mr. Green is interested in exploring. It certainly isn’t anything I’m overtly interested in smelling either. What has me thinking of Prell shampoo is Mr. Green has taken a container of honey and dropped a figurative pearl of tobacco flower into that. Slowdive is the slow evolution as those two ingredients continually interact while Mr. Green surrounds it with a fascinating choice of supporting ingredients.

Hiram Green

From the beginning the honey is there in a quite concentrated form. Mr. Green manages to make it thick without enhancing some of the less desirable character of honey as a perfume ingredient in high concentration. Then he takes his tobacco flower and drops it onto the surface. As it first appears it gains a bit of traction over the honey. Once it begins to sink a little beneath the surface a dried fruit accord cuts across the combination of narcotic sweetness; amplifying the latter nature. This might be a place where those who aren’t so fond of sweet in their fragrance might have some issues. The next phase, as the tobacco flower drifts lower in the honey, coalesces around orange blossom and tuberose. If you see that and think, “white flower explosion” it is much more restrained than that. The orange blossom is a typical kind of honey flavoring and it intersperses itself as grace note with that in mind. The tuberose takes the tobacco into a deeper place using its own narcotic quality to add to it. As the tobacco flower reaches the bottom a group of resinous notes await it as a resting place completing the slowdive.

Slowdive has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage. This is an easy perfume to overspray which can have an impact on how much you enjoy wearing it.

Slowdive is another fantastic perfume from Hiram Green. Working from an all-natural palette it consistently amazes me the power he extracts from these. It is becoming a signature of his, after four releases. This time Slowdive allows the wearer the opportunity to luxuriate in the glory of a tobacco shaped pearl slowly falling through honey. I don’t know if that represents quality anymore than the Prell commercial did but in this case, it should.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Couteau de Poche Fumabat- Modern Moss

One of the things which makes each new independent perfumer interesting is how they will approach a fragrance which will have their name on it. When it is a modern artist who is branching out I look to their art and see if it somehow appears in their perfume. Brooklyn artist Parid Cefa created Couteau de Poche Fumabat in a way that hews true to his contemporary aesthetic by using a vintage ingredient.

When I read about this perfume prior to ordering a sample the three notes listed in the top of green tea, mint, and galbanum almost made me not add it to my order. Mint is a tricky ingredient for trained perfumers to get right. I was skeptical a neophyte would use mint absolute appropriately. It turns out the entire note list was something which didn’t necessarily appear. Mr. Cefa turned Fumabat into a very green perfume with moss as its keynote.

One of the things which I like about moss when it is given a chance to be out front is it has a sharp quality. This is where Mr. Cefa begins as the moss interacts with galbanum. This forms an accord befitting a brand which translates to “pocket knife”. I detected no tea or mint just the galbanum and moss. Pine comes along to add a different shade of green before carnation adds a slightly powdery veneer. There is a point about an hour in where this smells like a luxurious moss-scented hand-milled soap. It eventually transitions into a base where vetiver provides a fuller green tinged with subtle smoky accents. Leather and patchouli provide the foundation from which all of this sits on top of.

Fumabat has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is a perfume for those who enjoy their scents green. It also carries a vintage style to it because of the amount of oak moss which is present. It was such an important ingredient of those bygone fragrances that experiencing it in this concentration can’t help but make it feel older. By using the moss as the axis of Fumabat Mr. Cefa does make something modern out of something old.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Vanille Fatale- Sans Tobacco

In 2007 when the first dozen Tom Ford Private blend perfumes arrived they were a sensation. Tom Ford working with Karyn Khoury would create something unique within the niche perfume sector. So many of those originals were such groundbreaking constructs it was maybe too much to expect the Private Blend collection to keep up that kind of creativity over the long run. As we begin 2018 and a second decade of Private Blends it is fair to say the collection has become an elder statesman of the luxury fragrance sector. You might notice I left off niche because as the brand has matured it has also become less adventurous. Particularly over the past year or so there has been an emphasis on using top notch ingredients within familiar constructs. The latest release, Vanille Fatale, is a good example.

As the collection becomes safer the PR copy becomes ever more impenetrable. Here is a bit from the press materials for Vanille Fatale:

“Vanille Fatale is a force of nature personified. A beguiling tempest that takes over like a rush of blood to the head. The impossible becomes real, too good to be true becomes true. Her – or his – unrelenting hold is fixed, refined yet raw, polished yet primal.”

All of that for a fragrance which is a nicely formed vanilla perfume using a great source of the titular note.

Yann Vasnier

Perfumer Yann Vasnier uses saffron as an exotic opener which might give you the idea something more unique is coming. It isn’t. What is coming is one of the Givaudan proprietary Orpur ingredients. The Orpur version of Madagascar vanilla is as good as raw materials get. It has power and nuance. The green nature of the orchid runs through the sweetness like stringy veins. M. Vasnier chooses olibanum and myrrh to provide resinous contrast and depth. It all rests on a soft suede accord in the base. There are some floral notes and coffee listed in the ingredient list but over a couple days of wearing this none of those came through. This is primarily saffron-vanilla-incense-leather.

Vanille Fatale has 16-18 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

It is hard to not try a new Tom Ford Private Blend containing vanilla and not be reminded of one of those early trendsetters in the debut collection; Tobacco Vanille. I’ve heard many tell me the tobacco is too much in that one. For those, Vanille Fatale is Tobacco Vanille avec tobacco. This is a very luxurious high-quality vanilla perfume for which I think vanilla lovers will die for because of the Orpur vanilla. I fall in between wanting there to be some of the adventurousness of the early Private Blends but accepting an elder statesman needs to show some decorum. Vanille Fatale is a decorous vanilla perfume.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Marlou D’Ambiguite- Acquired Tastes

In any sensorial experience there are parts of it which are “acquired tastes”. What that phrase generally identifies is something that is going to challenge most who participate in said sensorial experience. Perfume is no different and if there are two ingredients which are widely accepted as acquired tastes it would be cumin and castoreum. Cumin when used as a keynote smells like unwashed armpit. Castoreum is the secretions from the anal glands of a beaver. If you tell most people a perfume is going to start with armpits and anal glands I suspect, they will politely decline. Whenever I have shared the fragrances in my collection which feature these I have watched people recoil from the strip. I love them. These are some of my favorite perfumes in my collection there is a vitality to them which burrows deep inside as I surround myself with the scent of life.

Cumin Seeds

Marlou is a small artisanal brand based in Grasse, France. The perfumer has not been identified but they have released two perfumes in the last year or so. Last spring L’Animal Sauvage felt like it was going to offer me what I craved. When I received my sample, there was some impressive animalic aspects but it felt like it was just a more concentrated version of other musky perfumes. I felt like if the Marlou team let it all hang out they would have something that would make some beautiful music. That perfume is D’Ambiguite.

Picture from [Emt]snopes

D’Ambiguite is cumin and castoreum in full throated harmony laying down a bass line. As you might already have guessed a well-blended version of just those two notes would have pleased me. Except D’Ambiguite layers on another challenging ingredient, costus. We’ve had a couple corpse flower bloom nearby and we visited. I was struck that it is an overwhelming waxy and fatty smell. Costus is like that but subtler. By subtler I mean ball peen hammer versus sledgehammer. As this fatty meat encased in wax intersperses itself between the armpit and the anal glands I was in my glory.

D’Ambiguite has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

When I say this is an acquired taste I really mean it. If you have any interest, please make sure you get a sample and try it first. You’re as likely to think it smells like a dirty diaper pail as something gorgeously animalic. It was exactly what I wanted to spend a couple of weekend days in the New Year with.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke