The Sunday Magazine: My Favorite Non-Perfume Things of 2019

For those of you looking for my top 25 new perfumes of 2019 it will be posted tomorrow. Today I take a break and list some of my favorite non-perfume things of 2019. There is a small devoted following to this column which has always made me happy which is why I like to have a year-end list for them, too. There is more to life than perfume here are some of the things which make it better for me.

Favorite Movie: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”- I am an unabashed fanboy of director/writer Quentin Tarantino. I think this might be the best movie he has made. It is his version of 1969 Hollywood part reality, part fantasy. It has been an interesting aspect of the recent films by Mr. Tarantino in that he likes to imagine some “what-ifs” then plays them out within his films. This movie captures the moment where the lines between movie stars and tv stars started to blur. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are fantastic as an action movie star and his stunt double. They are the core of the movie. What elevated the entire movie was the performance of Margot Robbie as actress Sharon Tate. When she goes to a movie theatre to see her own performance, with an audience, she exudes the joy of seeing herself on screen. Mr. Tarantino has always worn his love for movies and moviemaking on his sleeve. This movie was a big valentine to all of it.

Favorite TV Show: “Watchmen”- Oh boy did I expect to find a god-awful mess in this update to the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Damon Lindelof, who oversaw this, is a creative mind who sometimes finds a way to sabotage his own good work with endings that don’t hold together. None of that happened here. Mr. Lindelof honored the source material while spinning it in an entirely different direction. It gave new perspective on the original while telling its own new story. This time the ending was perfect with a final shot I have been thinking about since the screen faded to credits.

Favorite TV Episode: Season 3 Episode 10 of GLOW “A Very GLOW Christmas”- Before Watchmen appeared GLOW season 3 was going to be my favorite show of the year. There are times when a series finds everything that makes a show special and wraps it up into a gift to its fans. That was the way this season finale played out. With the framing device of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling putting on a version of “A Christmas Carol” in the ring. The characters are each given moments to find their truths. The final one coming on an airplane jetway between the main female protagonists was brilliantly done because of the acting of Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin saying the words of Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch. The show premiered in August, but I re-watched this just before Christmas and it was even better.

Favorite Album: Vampire Weekend “Father of the Bride”- It had been six years since the band released anything new. I have enjoyed the previous releases because they have felt like an extension of early bands like The English Beat. In this latest album the continuing evolution of that sound surprised me with its poignancy. The music still makes me want to move but the lyrics keep my feet on the ground.

Favorite single: “Hallelujah” by Haim– It has been a fun year to be a fan of the sisters Haim. They didn’t release a new album. Instead we got new releases via YouTube drops out of the blue. The last one of the year, came just before Thanksgiving. “Hallelujah” was inspired by the loss of Alana Haim’s best friend to a car accident when she was 20. The song builds to her verse as each sister finds the thankfulness for their bond before Alana closes with words to her friend. “Hallelujah” has become the new song added to my Holiday playlist even though at first glance it might not seem to be one. For me it is this time of year when we do remember to say Hallelujah for our friends and family.

Favorite Book: Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James– This is the best introduction to an epic fantasy series in years. Marlon James tells a story from the perspective of a character who might be an unreliable narrator. There are all the accoutrements of classic fantasy. The difference is this ability of the reader to know whether they are being given the whole truth. My understanding is the remaining two books of the trilogy are going to be the same events narrated by a different character in each book. Mr. James has hit upon a fascinating way to tell a story. I can’t wait for the other two books to complete the story.

Favorite Comic Book: House of X/Powers of X– I’ve lost count of how many times they have rebooted The X-Men over the last twenty years. For the first time writer Jonathan Hickman has made me interested enough to become a consistent reader of the X-books again.

To all the readers of this column thank you for reading throughout the year. Happy New Year to all of you.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2019 Part 2- Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

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In Part 1 I took a wide view of the year in perfume that was 2019. Today I get very specific naming the very best of the year in four categories.

Perfume of the Year: Chatillon Lux Weinstrasse– Last year when I was doing my end of year summaries I had never heard of St. Louis-based independent perfumer Shawn Maher and his Chatillon Lux brand. I would catch up over 2019. Mr. Maher is representative of what makes independent perfumery special. He creates perfumes which reflect his hometown’s history and geography. I have enjoyed everything he has released this year. It was his last release of the year Chatillon Lux Weinstrasse that captured my attention most fully of any new perfume I tried this year.

One of the things which has drawn me to Mr. Maher is he shares his process through posts on the Chatillon Lux website. What these entries reveal is a perfumer who understands the materials he is using. He goes deep into the effect each ingredient has on the finished product. You can read the one for Weinstrasse here.

Weinstrasse was inspired by the Germans who migrated to St. Louis and began vineyards. What Weinstrasse captures are the smells of the late harvest. It begins from a clever accord of grapes on the vine using green cognac oil and blackcurrant bud. One thing I marvel at each time I wear Weinstrasse is the way Mr. Maher captures the glow of a late autumn sun. Many perfumes inspired by wine have a claustrophobic feeling. Mr. Maher creates a perfume with a golden glow of muted sunlight. It opens up the entire composition. In that blog post Mr. Maher wanted Weinstrasse to be his version of a fougere. The base is an overdose of the ingredient which defined the beginning of modern perfumery; coumarin. It adds that classic fougere-ish vibe without going fully into it. It fits surprisingly well with everything that has come before.

I believe Mr. Maher is a special talent who is only at the beginning of creating his perfumes. He will have a difficult time making a better perfume than Weinstrasse my choice for Perfume of the Year for 2019.

Perfumer of the Year: Cristiano Canali- Perfumer Cristiano Canali provided brilliant bookends for 2019. In January I was enthralled with Rubini Tambour Sacre only to be equally engaged by Zoologist Bee in December. Sig. Canali is not one of the most prolific or well-known perfumers. He has a layered style of making perfume that requires the right concept to allow it to flourish.

Working with Andrea Rubini and a talented creative team at Rubini Sig. Canali translated the sound of sacred drums from the Horn of Africa into a gorgeous composition in Tambour Sacre. Collaborating with Victor Wong of Zoologist for Bee he created a perfume of multiple layers of honey without falling into the places where honey can be difficult. He successfully traveled the tightrope necessary to make Bee memorable.

This became an easy choice because he was the only perfumer to create two of the ten perfumes I was considering for Perfume of the Year. That is why Cristiano Canali is the Perfumer of the Year for 2019.

Runner-Ups: Mandy Aftel, Antonio Gardoni, Olivia Giacobetti, Christophe Laudamiel, and Shawn Maher.

Creative Director(s) of the Year: Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi of Masque Milano– There have been no creative direction in all of perfumery better than that provided by Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi of Masque Milano. For the past six years they have followed a formula of working with the best young talented perfumers. Also giving them a brief and the latitude they wouldn’t find elsewhere to create one of the best collections you can find. The two perfumes released in 2019 continued that. Early in the year they worked with Vanina Muracciole to create a reconstructed chypre in Kintsugi. At the end of the year perfumer Caroline Dumur produced an elegiac rose rife with poignancy in Love Kills. Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi have consistently pushed independent perfumery to new heights while serving the young rising stars. For this and the perfume they oversaw in 2019 they are the Creative Directors of the Year for 2019.

Runner-ups: Christian Astuguevieille of Comme des Garcons, Etienne de Swardt of Etat Libre d’Orange, Jan Ewoud Vos of Puredistance, and Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes.

Brand of the Year: Zoologist Perfumes– It is a modern miracle what Victor Wong has achieved with his brand Zoologist Perfumes. He is another creative director who seems to get the most out of his collaborators. In 2019 he worked with Joseph DeLapp on Dodo, Daniel Pescio on Chameleon, Celine Barel on Squid, and Cristiano Canali on Bee. No two of those perfumes are like the other. Mr. Wong has created a brand which has consistently impressed but 2019 was the best year they have had creatively. That is why Zoologist Perfumes is the Brand of the Year for 2019.

Runner-Ups: Aftelier Perfumes, Chatillon Lux, Comme des Garcons, and Masque Milano.

Part 1 is my broad overview of 2019.

The Top 25 will be published on Monday December 30.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2019 Part 1- Overview

This past year in perfume was a great one. One of the best since I have been writing about perfume. Part of the reason is what I wrote about in the prologue yesterday. It was the best year ever for independent perfumery. I tried 734 new perfumes in this calendar year. When I look at the bottom of my spreadsheet to see that number it kind of chills me to realize I smelled that many. I knew it was a great year when I put together my first draft of perfumes I wanted to consider for these columns. I ended up with 75 fragrances on that list. 10% of everything I tried was memorable. It speaks to the quality that is out there to be found.

When I say this was the best year for independent perfumery it does not meant that it was a bad year for the mainstream. On the contrary there were some amazing releases from the big brands. Regular readers are tired of my extolling Gucci Memoire d’une Odeur for its fearlessness, but it deserves the recognition. Hermes Un Jardin sur la Lagune stood out for the change in style as Christine Nagel created a more introverted garden which appealed to me. Olivier Polge extended the Les Eaux de Chanel with Paris-Riviera. Thierry Mugler Angel Eau Croisiere is the kind of crazy summer flanker I wish we saw more of. Finally, Guerlain has their yearly reminder they aren’t a spent creative force with the magical Embruns D’Ylang.

Christian Astuguevieille

To my great pleasure Comme des Garcons laid down a fantastic reminder of why they haven’t lost their innovative style after 25 years of doing fragrance. The fall saw six new Comme des Garcons releases under the creative guidance of Christian Astuguevieille. They were a reminder of everything this brand continues to do well. From the collaboration with Monocle for Scent Four: Yoyogi. To the neon pink of Odeur du Theatre du Chatelet. The three new Series 10 Clash perfumes, each a study in synthetic contrasts. Ending with the metallic chameleon of Copper. So many of the brands which sparked my interest in artistic perfume have lost the plot I am thankful M. Astuguevieille hasn’t.

Barbara Hermann

This year saw the ultimate transformation of bloggers into creative directors. I think it is easy to convince yourself that if you write about perfume it is a small step to creating it. There have been a few examples this year of how untrue that is. The three who succeeded put in the hard work necessary to see their vision through to a perfume. Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes released four in 2019 all wildly different. Barbara Hermann evolved her brand Eris Parfums into her best release to date Mxxx. Arielle Weinberg has made the transition from blogger to store owner to creative director putting in the time to make each endeavor succeed. Arielle Shoshana Sunday was part of a new breed of gourmands for 2019.

The new gourmands all seemed to be inspired by hot beverages. Arielle Shoshana Sunday by matcha horchata. Floral Street Ylang-Ylang Espresso is an exotic drink of dark coffee and exuberant floral. Ineke Jaipur Chai finds the gentle harmony in the blend of ingredients in chai as a perfume. Cocoa plays a starring role in Curata Dulceo and Eris Parfums Mxxx.

Caroline Dumur

I met fantastic new perfumers for the first time through their work. Caroline Dumur did two of the new Comme des Garcons; Odeur du Theatre du Chatelet and Clash: Chlorophyll Gardenia. Along with her work for Masque Milano Love Kills she has become one to watch. Scottish perfumer Euan McCall impressed me with his work for Senyoko. La Tsarine is a perfume unafraid to go deep into carnality. Contrast that with his work on Migration de L’Arbre which captures the outdoors vibrantly. Shawn Maher of Chatillon Lux was another new name who impressed me with his skill at evoking all that his St. Louis home can give to perfume.

Michael Edwards

Of everything I experienced this year it was a book which has altered my perspective most. Michael Edwards released Perfume Legends II in September. I devoured it over a week. Mr. Edwards has spoken publicly that the revered perfume houses like Guerlain, Chanel, or Dior were the niche perfumes of their day. Though the 52 perfumes covered in the book you realize the era of modern perfumery from Fougere Royale to Portrait of a Lady has always reflected the best of what perfume has to give. It made me view perfumery with a new foundation. It is why I think 2019 has been so good.

Join me tomorrow as I name my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year.

Sunday, I make a list of my favorite non-perfume things of the year.

Monday, I will have the Top 25 new perfumes of 2019.

Tuesday, I look forward to what I hope to see in 2020.

Until then.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2019 Prologue

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I’ve been spending most of the month considering the “Best of 2019” selections. It is an interesting process which serves to bring the entirety of the year into focus. The more I did this the more I realized there was one topic which was going to hog my traditional overview of the year. It has been at the top of my mind from the moment I had my shortlist of the best of the year assembled. So I’m going to get an early jump on the year-end festivities with a prologue. It is based on this statement which will be part of the next few days of accolades; 2019 was the best year for independent perfumery ever.

"The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks." ~ Christopher Hitchens

Before I give some context for that statement, I want to define the term as I see it. Independent perfume is that which wants to be different than the mainstream. It is a broad term which captures a diversity of ways of making perfume. Any perfumer who owns their own brand while creating for themselves is part of my version of independent perfumery. Any creative director who works with a perfumer while giving a unique version of direction is also part of that. For the first you can think of creatives like Mandy Aftel, Charna Ethier, or Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. For the second Victor Wong of Zoologist, Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi of Masque Milano, or Mert Guzel and Murat Katran of Nishane are what I am talking about.

"Small is the number of them that see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts." ~ Albert Einstein

I also think it encompasses a way of viewing ingredients. Independent perfumers can work with small batches of ingredients they make. If you’re not trying to make thousands of bottles the time it takes to source a rare ingredient or show the patience for a tincture is another hallmark. Limited editions like Bogue Profumo 0,7738 or Hans Hendley for American Perfumer Bloodline illustrate that.

"If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun." ~ Katharine Hepburn

My final criteria are to take a style of perfume and truly push at the common perception of what that is. It can be taken apart and put back together again as Providence Perfume Co. Drunk on the Moon does with tuberose. Rogue Perfumery Chypre-Siam imagines Francois Coty’s seminal perfume as if it was created in a Thai restaurant. Zoologist Squid, Chatillon Lux Admiral, and Monsillage Route du Quai redefined the idea of aquatics. This is where independent perfumery stakes out its territory as created for those who love perfume and want something more. Over the next few days you will see examples across the board on why this has been the best collection of creative independent perfumery ever.

As part of this I also began to wonder why this has all come together in the way it has. It might be nothing more than a confluence of coincidence. That is the most reasonable explanation via Occam’s Razor. I have another hypothesis I would like to share based on what might just be a different interpretation of events as they happen to me.

After writing about perfume for over ten years now my year has a kind of predictable rhythm. January is a desert of new releases while the new spring florals start arriving around the end of the month. Through the spring it is fresh florals then the advent of summer gives me new aquatics and citrus styles. Things get quiet for the dog days only to pick up with a rush for the fall and Holidays as everyone tries to get in on the shopping season. What was different this year was I got a rush of independent perfumes from the middle of November until just about ten days ago. This didn’t make a lot of sense as they were all bound to get lost in the Holiday shopping rush. Plus it made my life difficult because so many of them were excellent. Every time I got a new e-mail telling me something was on its way, I was shaking my head. Then it occurred to me it might not be the shopping season they were concerned with. Maybe it was December 31 they were thinking of.

I am thinking it is because these perfumers knew they had made something good enough to be entered in this year’s Art & Olfaction Awards. Maybe the impact founder Saskia Wilson-Brown was hoping for has arrived. Like what happens with movies making sure they make the qualifying dates to be considered for Academy Awards. Were the independent perfume community doing the same thing? Maybe being nominated for these awards has attained a status which has pushed these artists to creative heights.

What I can say is I have enjoyed the diversity of the best perfumes from these amazing artistic teams all year. You will see how much as I go through my usual progression over the next few days recapping the year in perfume.

Prologue over, it all begins tomorrow with a more standard overview followed by the naming of Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year. It finishes with the top 25 new perfumes of the year. I hope you join me for some of it.

Mark Behnke

My First Perfume Christmas Gift

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It was only recently that I was reminded that the first perfume I owned was a Christmas gift. I’ve spoken, in previous Christmas Day columns, of my days as a child and the place perfume filled with my parents in the Holiday season. I thought this year it was time to talk about my first feelings towards perfume along with why I wanted a specific one under the tree for Christmas 1973.

In the fall of 1973 I had made the rite of passage of starting high school. I was still trying to figure it all out in those early days. Part of that was trying to come up with a personal style. One component were big flaring bell bottom jeans. Mine were so large you couldn’t see my feet when I was walking. There was a store in our local mall called The Jean Connection. I had them order me the biggest flared bell bottoms they could find. I still remember them as the most comfortable jeans I ever owned. My shirts were these popular pull over shirts from a brand called “Hang Ten”. I liked them because they had a lot of brightly colored stripes. Taken all together they were pieces of my aesthetic, all my own, while still being like what others were wearing.

I wanted to add perfume to it all. My father wore all the standard men’s fragrances of the day. He had Dana Canoe, English Leather, and Hai Karate. I wore them a bit, but I had decided if I was going to wear something it was going to be my own thing. That’s when I saw the advertisement below in a magazine.

I’ll happily admit the lines about arousing female “animal desires” was not lost on my adolescent mind. Although it was the line on the back of the box which really sold me on it; “A no-nonsense scent all your own”. I wasn’t going to smell like my father. I was going to have my own, wait for it, signature scent.

When it came time to be making a list for Christmas, Jovan Musk Oil for Men was at the top. I got a little bit of pushback. Dad told me I could use any of his colognes I wanted. Mom thought I was growing up too fast, “why do you want to start wearing perfume, honey?”. I was 14 damnit! Not that I said it out loud. I used my subtle persuasive ways to push that it was the main thing I wanted. I went into Christmas morning confident I had succeeded.

When we woke up and gathered by the tree each person had their presents in a pile. Mine was a pyramid of larger rectangular boxes on the bottom, clothes. A few flat squares on top of that, records. A couple of smaller rectangles, books. On top like my own personal glittery Christmas star was a tiny rectangular box wrapped in red paper with a gold ribbon around it. When it was my turn to open my present, I snatched it off the top. As soon as I unwrapped the ribbon one peek underneath the paper showed the orange color of the box within. Yes!

From that day until today I have always owned a bottle of Jovan Musk Oil for Men. Did it get me girls? I don’t think so. I did have many of the girls I dated say I smelled nice. I think it was doing what perfume should do; add to one’s personal style. It is perhaps as close as I’ve come to having a signature scent as we define it. Ten years on I would be down the rabbit hole and the bottles on my dresser would begin to multiply. For the years prior it was pretty much a bottle of Musk Oil for Men which was my scent. For my parents it was another sign I was closer to leaving home. It was probably a bittersweet moment amidst my excitement at having the gift I wanted. It was another step towards forming the adult I wanted to eventually become. All of that happened on Christmas morning 1973.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review House of Cherry Bomb Iris Oud- Harmony in Contrast

It is the nature of the endeavor when two creative minds create as one, I want to try and figure out who did what. I remember doing this when two of my favorite horror authors, Stephen King and Peter Straub, wrote “The Talisman” in 1984. It is a fool’s errand. It sets one off in a direction of searching for trees instead of seeing the glory of the forest. If two collaborators truly succeed there will be something different than from either one alone. It is how I have finally begun to experience the perfumes made by independent perfumers Alexis Karl and Maria McElroy for their shared brand House of Cherry Bomb.

Maria McElroy (l.) and Alexis Karl

Both women working together has such distinct aesthetics when making their own perfumes it always makes me smile to find a third different one while working together. It is particularly true in the Atelier Perfume collection. The previous six releases are each memorable combinations of titular notes; Tobacco Cognac and Cardamom Rose are my favorites. They have now added a seventh to the group; House of Cherry Bomb Iris Oud.

Iris and oud are two of the most variable perfume ingredients you can use. Iris can have the delicate powdery face or the doughy rooty version. Oud covers the gamut from exotic to barnyard. In many ways a combination of both seems like a perfume Tinder date destined to go bad. Except in the hands of smart perfumers who look for the opportunities for harmony in contrast. Then you get a perfume like Iris Oud.

The perfume opens with iris showing off its powdery nature. Violet is used to keep it from becoming too much a powderpuff. A smart use of jasmine turns the powder towards the rootier quality. Then the oud arrives. This isn’t just pure oud; it is an accord which contains oud. The distinction is the perfumers can tame the more obstreperous qualities to create the effect they want. In this case they use a selection of darker materials to provide guardrails, so the oud comes off as a fascinating visitor. This ends on a honeycomb of beeswax adding subtle animalic sweetness. There is also an array of balsamic notes to create an enveloping warmth for the iris and oud accord.

Iris Oud has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Ms. Karl and Ms. McElroy have once again found a new synergy in their creativity. It allows them to find the same in two ingredients like iris and oud.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by House of Cherry Bomb.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Arquiste Misfit- Modern Bohemians

As so many things are in the jargon of perfume “independent perfume” is an inexact phrase. There is a baseline agreement, that is probably shared by most who view that, as fragrance that does not want to be influenced by the mainstream. To a deeper degree I think it also must indicate a specific mindset. You can be “independent” because you refuse to go with the flow. What I think is the best practitioners are those who lead with their heart before the head ever becomes involved. At its best is when that passion is shared by congruent visions as has been the case with creative director Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux. They have produced 19 of the 22 releases for Sr. Huber’s brand Arquiste since the first collection in 2011. These perfumes have always been about their shared heritage along with a unique perspective; their latest is Arquiste Misfit.

Carlos Huber

I have known both men for almost ten years now. I have mentioned this in previous reviews, but I will repeat it again. When I first moved to the Washington DC area Srs. Huber and Flores-Roux were invited by the Mexican Embassy to make a presentation of the new, at the time, Arquiste perfume collection. To see these sons of Mexico in the presence of the dignitaries that were there that night was a joy to behold. Their smiles showed their pride. In these early days of the brand I remember one quote from that night every time I receive a new Arquiste, “I like to put a little bit of Mexico in every perfume I make.” It has served them well.

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Misfit has as its brief the typical historical timeframe of September 1877 in Marseille, France. Sr. Huber chose this date because it was after the exotic patchouli-scented Kashmiri shawls had fallen out of favor with the well-to-do. At this time they had fallen to the shoulders of the misfits; the bohemians and prostitutes. The scent of patchouli would become associated with those. Ninety-ish years later it would also find its way to the bohemian misfits of the 1960’s as patchouli would become the scent of the flower children. Patchouli would continue to have poor public relations for many years with many mainstream perfumes shying away from using a lot of it for fear of being seen as a “head shop” fragrance.

As we turned the corner into a new century patchouli became rehabilitated through science and creativity. The first came about as the chemists at the large perfume oil producers began experimenting with different ways of distilling the essential oil. They would find that you could collect fractions of the whole which would give you very different scent profiles. Patchouli was one of the ingredients which benefited the most from this. Perfumers could now tune a patchouli effect to any profile they chose. The creativity came about because those who wear independent perfumes are their own kind of misfit choosing to wear what they like without following the crowd. For Misfit Srs. Huber and Flores-Roux combine three fractionated sources of patchouli to stitch together a modern Kashmiri shawl of the way patchouli smells now.

The other well-known scent of the free spirits of the late 19th century was lavender. That is where Misfit begins. It is made into a fascinating accord as Sr. Flores-Roux coats this flower in seeds. The rooty sweetness of carrot seeds primarily. The botanical musk of ambrette seeds is matched with the less musky herbal quality of angelica seed. It tilts the lavender towards a more herbal presence just in time for the first piece of patchouli to arrive. Akigalawood is a biological degradation of patchouli. What remains is a spicy woody version. As it appears in Misfit a Bulgarian rose rises to meet it. It is a modern re-telling of rose and patchouli. It gets more contemporary as two fractions of patchouli are combined in the base. Sr. Flores-Roux embraces all the problematic history of this ingredient by combining two of the earthier versions. It makes for an interesting contrast to the Akigalawood where all of that is missing. To offset the earthiness, tonka bean provides a toasted quality while tolu balsam picks up on the woody aspect of the Akigalawood which elongates it into the base. This is where Misfit transforms into a Kashmiri shawl for 2019. It has a contemporary feel without losing that earthy patchouli quality.

Misfit has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you’re looking for that bit of Mexico in Misfit I imagine it comes from all of the different botanical seeds in the top accord. If you wear independent perfumes you probably like living life at a different rhythm than those around you. If you are that person Arquiste Misfit is there to give you one option to be your own modern bohemian.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: It’s A Wonderful Life

Every year as I share my odd Holiday traditions in this column, I inevitably receive an e-mail which asks if I do anything classic. I generally answer there are a lot of things happening in Poodlesville that are going on in other homes. I just like writing about my peculiar choices because I enjoy sharing them. As we get closer to the actual day, I have a set of traditions that are similar to many. One is on the final Saturday shopping day of the season I sit down to watch the 1946 movie “It’s A Wonderful Life”.

“It’s A Wonderful Life” is the movie counterpart to Charles Dickens’ novel “A Christmas Carol”. Both show the main protagonist what their life could be had they made different choices. In the case of “It’s A Wonderful Life” it shows the difference one selfless man makes. That man is George Bailey of Bedford Falls. He has become so despondent he considers suicide. Then an angel named Clarence arrives and shows George how different things would be if he had not been around.

Jimmy Stewart plays George Bailey and it his performance that sells the entire movie. It is especially amazing as Clarence is briefed before he goes down. We are shown George’s life. How he has always sacrificed his ambition for the greater good. When Clarence finds George at the bridge ready to jump Mr. Stewart sells the man who feels he has lost everything. There is a moment when director Frank Capra closes on Mr. Stewart’s face; without a word the anguish and despair is conveyed through facial movements. It is what sets an actor apart from one who recites lines.

As Clarence arrives, he shows George what life would have been like if he had never been. This part of the movie is as dark as any movie you will see. That Mr. Capra would take a Holiday movie, especially of that era, down this dark path is remarkable. The eventual epiphany followed by the happy ending is pure Holiday gold.

“It’s A Wonderful Life” is also a movie which has had an outsized influence. There are countless episodes of tv series which show the difference one character makes. It usually carries a title with a riff on the movie like sitcom “Married With Children’s” episode “It’s a Bundyful Life”.

By the time you read this I’ll have watched “It’s A Wonderful Life” for this year. It always reminds me, even when we think we are only a small piece of the universe, we are all important.

To those who only show up once-a-week to read these columns; Happy Holidays!

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Imaginary Authors Telegrama- Modern Clubman

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When I was a young boy my hair was styled into a crew cut. I never remember dreading my trips to the barber. When the day would come around for my father and I to head out I enjoyed the entire experience. This was another place where the smell appealed to me. One of the reasons I enjoy lavender perfumes as much as I do is probably because I associate it with these walks to get my hair cut. There was also another scent in the air on those days, the talcum powder used to brush off my neck and face to remove the stray hairs. To this day when my barber brushes me off with the talc infused brush it is a sensory end to the monthly ritual. When there are perfumes which assay the barbershop, they too often leave that talc part of the experience out. Imaginary Authors Telegrama puts it back in.

Josh Meyer

The talc I have most smelled throughout my life is the one from Clubman. It is a sturdy scented powder ideal for a place frequented by men. Josh Meyer the independent perfumer behind Imaginary Authors wanted to create a version of talc in Telegrama which was inspired by those vintage aftershaves. What makes Telegama so interesting is when talc is used in other fragrances it has a delicacy to it. It is used as a gauzy veil. The one Mr. Meyer uses wears flannel and perhaps chops down trees. At the very least it stands with arms crossed across its chest with confidence. This is no filmy powder, man. What comes after is the creation of a modern barbershop with flat screen tvs and comfortable leather barber chairs surrounded by polished wood paneling.

Telegrama opens with the classic duet of talc and lavender. The talc has such an early presence it pushes the lavender to the background for a few minutes. The lavender finds a balance soon after. A clever filament of black pepper gives a sense of the heat of the electric razors humming. The polished woods are represented by teak and amyris. The slightly lemony quality of amyris makes me think they use citrus scented wood polish. As I settle back in the chair a fresh apron is snapped over my head as I am surrounded by a set of linen musks.

Telegrama has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mr. Meyer has created a modern version of that old Clubman Talc. It is another example of how the imagination of the best independent perfumers take something ubiquitously mundane and turn it into something completely engaging.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes MaccaBees (Holiday No. 19)- Hanukkah Contemplations

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There are only a tiny few perfumers who have earned enough trust with me to hold a spot during the final weeks of December. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is one of them. One reason I will always do it is she has been producing a Holiday perfume for nineteen years. Ms. Hurwitz has found the scent of the season in so many ways she has very often provided new perspective to a part of them for me. That is true of her non-Holiday perfumes, too. They provide the kind of insight that can only come from an independent mindset. For this year she looks at the origins of the most famous symbol of Hanukkah in DSH Perfumes MaccaBees (Holiday No. 19).

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

If there is one thing people who aren’t Jewish know about Hanukkah it is the menorah with its candles burning bright. Half of my family by choice is Jewish. Their actual families always welcomed me; along with my irritating questions. I always liked when Hanukkah was early because it felt like I could enjoy both parts of the Judeo-Christian Holiday Season with my best friends. The years when it is together, like this one, I felt like I missed out on something. Not really it was just more intense. I always enjoyed watching the beeswax candles burn when they got low. Casting warm flame colored light upon the metal of the menorah. There was a comfort to it all. That is the type of perfume MaccaBees is; a contemplative comfort fragrance.

The name comes from the 200 BC revolt led by Judah Maccabee against the Romans in Judea. The new rulers had seized the temple; turning it into one dedicated to the Roman gods. The Maccabees revolted taking back the temple. During the rededication the menorah only had enough oil to burn for one night but instead burned for eight nights in total. This is the foundational event for Hanukkah and the menorah as its symbol.

Ms. Hurwitz has worked previously on making perfumes based on ancient Egyptian formulas. There is a touch of that here as she relies on some of those traditional fragrant oils from the time period. The name with the capitalized “B” in the middle is to clue you in there is some honey trapped in those beeswax candles. It flows together into a classic Holiday perfume.

It is the candles we start with. The beeswax is given a gentle coating of honey. The overall effect is more candle than honeycomb. Ms. Hurwitz finds a lovely replacement for a sweet viscous liquid as she uses the maple syrup quality of immortelle. Immortelle is a much easier sweetness to control. It also carries a slightly smoky quality which captures the swirls coming off the flame tip as they rise away. This is all built upon a foundation of resins. Myrrh, oppoponax, frankincense, and oud. This forms that warmly contemplative accord to finish things.

MaccaBees has 10-12 hour longevity and is a skin scent as an oil.

Ms. Hurwitz was reminding us of her past eighteen Holiday scents on her Facebook page. As I looked back, I realized MaccaBees might be the most traditional of them all. There is everything right in finding a perfume which makes remembering the reasons why we celebrate.

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

Mark Behnke