New Perfume Review AllSaints Concrete Rain- The Joy of Rain

Recent times have seen the rise of fragrances which essentially do one thing. They are essentially an accord masquerading as a perfume. One thing I’ve learned is simple sells. When clothing brand AllSaints expanded into fragrance in 2018 I found their debut collection of three to be what I described. They were interesting because the accord was one I liked. In subsequent releases I was less engaged. The most recent release AllSaints Concrete Rain is built around one of my favorite real scents.

Nathalie Benareau

If you’ve lived in a city there is that moment just as the rain begins to fall. The first droplets steam off the hot pavement and concrete. It produces that scent I referred to. I always think of it as the scent of the big city. As rain washes things clean this fills the air with an odd reminder of the concrete.

Carlos Vinals

As I learned more about perfume I found out there is a name for the molecule, petrichor. There is a town in India which actually harvests the rain and this scent. Perfumers are able to construct an accurate accord. Which is what the perfumers here, Nathalie Benareau and Carlos Vinals do.

Concrete Rain is all about the rain accord. The perfumers build it around some petrichor while also adding in some of the metallic chrome of the cityscape. As the rain washes through a powdery orris dusts it with a softly clean effect. It finishes with a set of synthetic dry woods and musks.

Concrete Rain has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

One of the things I liked most about Concrete Rain is it is different than the previous releases for the brand. The others all were a popular accord which the consumer enjoys. Concrete Rain introduces that demographic to the joy of rain in the city.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Anatole Lebreton Racine Carree- Square Roots

I was one class away from having a double major in mathematics. There has always been a part of me that enjoys a field of study which usually ends up in an answer. Chemistry has been less reliable in that regard. I don’t often get the opportunity to pull from what now seems like ancient knowledge. When I saw the label for Anatole Lebreton Racine Carree my atrophied math geek took notice. The label is the name of the brand under a square root symbol. It is an oddly fitting choice for this perfume.

This is a fascinating fragrance built around perfume ingredients which are roots. M. Lebreton was going to use vetiver as the focal point. His idea was to create something which reflects the earthiness of that undertaking. He uses carrot, celery, orris, cypriol, and licorice. The fragrance that results from this is not mathematical but something of Nature.

Anatole Lebreton

The vetiver used here is a deeper version. He eschews the fresher facets to highlight the earthy aspects. To keep it from becoming too intense he uses the vegetal freshness of celery. This is a fascinating surrogate for the grassiness of most vetivers. It adds some uplift while still staying attached to the soil.

Orris comes next. This is the classic rooty ingredient. Just as with the vetiver the choice it to tilt it towards the rhizomal over the powdery. To accomplish this carrot is used as a complement to drive the orris in that direction. It makes it sweeter in the way carrot is.

The final piece is the combination of licorice and cypriol. Licorice as used here is not the candy you eat at the theatre. It is the herbal version popular in Europe. Cypriol adds its own roughness to that. Clary sage acts as an enhancer of the herbalness.

The final piece of is chamomile. It is the linchpin to all three of the accords as it has a scent profile built to tie it all together. When that happens you are surrounded by the root of it all. Ambrox is used to add a dry woody finish to all of it.

Racine Carree has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is my favorite perfume M. Lebreton has made. He has always been an interesting creative perfumer. In this case he has found a mathematical balance to make a perfume as elegant as a square root.

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

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: For those of you interested in the nuts and bolts of perfumery. M. Lebreton offers a Racine Box on his website. It contains 7.5mL of the perfume and 10 X 2.5mL vials of the ingredients used.

New Perfume Review Etat Libre D’Orange The Ghost in the Shell- Eau de Airlock

So much of the perfume I receive is designed to be a pleasant companion. Which is why when the few provocateurs in perfumery choose to go a different direction it is welcome. One of the premiere creative directors practicing this type of creativity is Etienne de Swardt of Etat Libre D’Orange. There are many things to say about the 15 years and 45 perfumes overseen by him. One is the belief that perfume can challenge the way you see the less pleasant pieces of the world. He has balanced this collection between the utter confrontation of Secretions Magnfiques to the modern gourmand standard bearer of Like This to the idea of the scent of popcorn heralding the apocalypse in La Fin du Monde. From the moment I received the press release for Etat Libre D’Orange The Ghost in the Shell I was expecting something equally interesting.

Etienne de Swardt

M. de Swardt is inspired by both the Hyperion novels of Dan Simmons which were the basis for the Japanese Manga of Masamune Shirow where the name comes from. The Manga version focuses on a cyberpunk world of the near future following a law enforcement group as they do their job. Ghost in the Shell was one of the first crossover successes in the US ad Shirow-san’s art painted in equally vivid hues paired to the dialog. For the perfume he asked Shirow-san to assist in the creative direction. Julie Masse was the perfumer who would work with both.

Julie Masse

When I read the description, I was kind of hoping for a fragrance of chrome and electricity. When I read cyberpunk there is the scent of heated wiring and hot metal in my mind’s eye. When I sprayed it on I received a different vision. It made me think of the sci-fi concept of long-haul travelers exploring new planets. My imagination took me to the return of one of the explorers to the airlock as they re-entered their ship. The transition from sterile space suit back to the environment of the ship.

It begins as you break the seal on your helmet. The sharpness of aldehydes honed through tart fruits stings your nose on first breath. Mme Masse uses the synthetic Aqual and its slightly aquatic aldehydic profile along with a tart yuzu and the synthetic green apple of hexyl acetate. It marks the beginning of the transformation back to human.

As you peel the suit off the stretchy material clings to your skin. The scent of clean sweaty skin mixes with the jasmine soap you used. The material always has an odd scent of milk as you hang it to dry. Mme Masse uses jasmine as the floral focal point. It is in a higher concentration than my fanciful imagination intimates. What she does is give it an artificial sheen through Mugane along with some freshness. The set of skin musks and the milk accord slide pleasantly into the jasmine forming the heart accord.

As you pull on your regular clothing before re-entering the interior of the ship. The sweet scent of your body greets you. The base accord flows in a soft comforting construction of the slightly vanillic Vinyl Gaiacol, the dry musky woodiness of Orcanox, and the soft green of moss. With that you open the second door and walk into the ship.

The Ghost in the Shell has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

While it wasn’t what I expected what I received was better. I enjoyed imagining the way a futuristic explorer might smell after an expedition. I didn’t get Eau de Cyberpunk. I got something like Eau de Airlock, which I found more engaging.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Etat Libre D’Orange.

Mark Behnke  

The Sunday Magazine: The Horror Movies of October

I realized a couple years ago that as much as I enjoy watching Christmas themed movies in December, I also enjoy scary movies in October. The advent of Halloween at the end of the month always seems to make me want to watch my favorites. Here is a list of some of the ones I am likely to watch this month.

The Exorcist is my favorite horror movie ever. The idea of evil in a young girl doing battle with a pair of flawed priests is perfectly played. Through the first two acts where the reality of the situation sinks in until the third act battle in the bedroom tension slowly ratchets up. The pyrrhic victory is a classic horror twist from the days of Poe. I’ve watched this movie over a hundred times and when the possessed little girl talks in Father Damien’s deceased mother’s voice the hair rises on my neck, every time.

Fright Night captures the hybrid comedy horror genre which was popular in the 1980’s. The story is of a vampire who moves in next door to a teenager in suburbia. Charley tries to get people to believe a vampire is killing people. He turns to the local host of the late-night horror television show. Through the first half it is all played for laughs. It shifts when the vampire sees Charley’s girlfriend who is a dead ringer for his long-lost love. Things become decidedly tense as Charley and the tv host try to save her.

The Hunger is the most mature vampire movie I’ve seen. This is not the teenage angst of the Twilight vampires. This is the seduction of a sophisticated vampire. Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie and Susan Sarandon turn this 1983 tale into an erotic horror movie. Director Tony Scott marries stunning visuals to it all.

The fist time I saw Rosemary’s Baby as a teenager I realized what a perfect horror movie it is. Told from the perspective of a young woman who has moved to New York City with her new husband. As she interacts with the oddly attentive neighbors, she senses something is not quite right with her pregnancy. This all leads to a final act where a mother’s love overcomes the horror of the situation.

As October ends, I watch the movie which bridges my two movie seasons, The Nightmare Before Christmas. From the delightfully twisted mind of Tim Burton this is a tale of both Halloween and Christmas. Every holiday has its own town. The head of Halloweentown Jack Skellington discovers Christmastown. He decides he wants to take over Christmas this year. After kidnapping Sandy Claws he stamps a spooky spin on Christmas. It is a movie which celebrates the inherent joy of both holidays. A perfect end for October and scene setter for December.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Take 2

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I started Colognoisseur on February 1, 2014. One of the rules I made for myself was to publish a new piece every day. I did that until I didn’t. On September 16 events caused me to miss my first day of posting. Those circumstances kept me from doing this for a week and a half. When life forces you to take a pause it allows for some reflection.

After about a week I began to think I wouldn’t start again. I spent a day asking myself, “why do I do this?”. Without my knowing, the world of fragrance was out there encouraging me to get back up. The most important answer to that question is I am still fascinated by perfume. The ability to write about it is my way of collecting my thoughts into a thesis for each piece I write. Through every word I learn something more. As a scientist that is as much a reason to keep going as any.

What else was happening is my desk was filling up with some great perfumes. I was still smelling because my curiosity was still intact. Whenever I smell something I like for the first time the very faint outlines of what I’m going to write form in my head. If I stopped, there was a lot of amazing perfume which I was never going to write about.

I was surprised when a couple of perfumers reached out to ask what was going on. They encouraged me to get back to it. I wasn’t surprised when a couple of my most faithful readers knew something was off right away. That I have an audience that enjoys what I write is another reason. It isn’t why I do it but its nice to be appreciated.

As you know I made the decision to start writing again at the beginning of the week. What I found when I sat down to write the first review it was like meeting an old friend after a separation. I was back into it with the same enthusiasm I had previously had. Writing about perfume still provided the same joy it always had.

The short answer is I am going to keep writing about perfume. The difference is I might take a day off here and there. One thing I learned was that initial rule of publishing every day was adding a little bit of stress. I have removed that from my way of thinking about the blog. I’m going to write when I have things to write about. Which will be close to every day anyway. For Colognoisseur Take 2 I’m going to give myself permission to take a break or two.

I am happy to keep writing for all of you who spend a couple minutes of your day reading what I write. I appreciate you all more than I can say.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Commodity Milk- A Happy Return

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I’ve done this long enough to have seen many brands come and go. There are some which go because they are built upon an unfocused idea. I don’t miss those, usually. The ones I feel a little sad about are those which seem to have a good idea executed well. Which was why in 2019 when Commodity abruptly closed, I gave a sigh. This was a collection which I felt was one of those great bridges between mainstream and niche. The perfumes were simple without necessarily following trends. Instead offering the mall consumer something different at a modest price point. The reviews I made of the perfumes are some of my most read so I was kind of dumbfounded when it all disappeared. Then a white knight rode in to save the day.

Vicken Arslanian

The brand was acquired by the head of the fragrance distribution company Europerfumes, Vicken Arslanian. He believed the brand still had some life. One of the more interesting pieces of the buyout was Mr. Arslanian was also going to step up as creative director. I think someone who has been involved in the niche perfume business is an ideal person to oversee the making of new ones. I’ve been waiting to see what the first new release under new management would be like. The answer has arrived in Commodity Milk.

Christelle Laprade

One of the earliest successes for Commodity was their odd gourmand Gold. It was also one of the most popular within the collection. For the comeback Milk is also a gourmand but it is a more traditional example of the style. Working with perfumer Christelle Laprade they produce a sweet comfort scent.

Creating milk accords has been a tricky thing. Some of them can have a funky scent profile that is distracting. Some can just feel like you’re coated in sweet cream. In between there is a version which is like the scent of milk slowly warming on the stove. That’s what the accord Mme Laprade creates here. It finds an engaging middle ground. To it some marshmallow is added. This also adds in a very subtle muskiness as the sweetness rises. Mme Laprade keeps everything balanced. The sweetness doesn’t overtake the milk accord it harmonizes with it.

Tonka bean provides a transition to the woody base where an interesting choice is made. A tendril of woodsmoke flits over the top. It is as if you’ve taken your mug of warm milk with marshmallows outside and the breeze brings a scent of a far-off fire burning. The comfort rises as benzoin along with the tonka begin to shift this to a warm blanket to snooze the winter night away under.

Milk has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Based on this first example it seems as if Commodity is back thanks to Mr. Arslanian. Which is a great sign that quality can still win the day.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Shalini Fleur Japonais- A Vision of Cherry Blossoms

One of the joys of visiting an art museum is to see the world as interpreted by creative minds. I don’t go to see a subject captured in a realistic way. Artists look at the world and see it through a different lens. It is what makes the greatest pieces of art memorable. They give the viewer a new perspective on something simple.

Perfumery in the hands of the most creative people can do the same thing. There are plenty of perfumes which attempt to photo realistically re-create something from nature. Depending on the subject it is great to have that when I want it. But I prefer when perfume interprets a subject in a way that gives you something to think about as Shalini Fleur Japonais does.

Shalini

This is the seventh perfume from the team of creative director/fashion designer Shalini and perfumer Maurice Roucel. They have formed one of the best collections of perfume because they aren’t trying to make a simulation. They are trying to look for deeper beauty.

Maurice Roucel

Fleur Japonais is inspired by the Japanese name for the cherry blossoms of every spring called “Sakura”. This year has seen a trend of cherry blossom centered perfumes. Almost all of them have tried to be transparent florals. That is not the kind of artistry I seek. What this creative team finds is the almost religious awe with which the Sakura are held in Japan. That doesn’t lend itself to opacity. It asks for something more profound. The solution is to place a weightier cherry blossom on a wooden altar surrounded by purifying incense.

The lighter cherry blossom is where this begins. M. Roucel weds it to a creamy magnolia. He isn’t content to have an ephemeral cherry blossom. This accord is like a hybrid cultivar of the two florals. It is mostly the sweetness of the Sakura, but it is given substance through the magnolia. It is not a breath of spring it is a reminder of Nature’s beauty.

The counterbalance is a fabulous silvery frankincense. This is an austere church-like version of the resin. It fits here because this is a fragrance which sees the Sakura as an object of worship. The frankincense takes you to that place as it surrounds the cherry blossom-magnolia duo. Together it forms a transcendental interpretation of cherry blossom. M. Roucel places it all in a shrine built of sandalwood.

Fleur Japonais has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage in its parfum concentration.

This is a fascinating perfume to wear as we transition from summer to fall. There are times it seems like a callback to the spring. Most of the time it feels like a sacred experience through an artist’s vision of cherry blossoms.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Margiela Replica Autumn Vibes- Ode to Dead Leaves

I call brands out for names which have nothing to do with the perfume. I should equally laud those who have names which absolutely describe what the fragrance smells like. The Maison Margiela Replica collection means what it says when it names its releases. The most recent, Maison Margiela Replica Autumn Vibes provides exactly what you might expect.

The first twinges of fall have arrived at Colognoisseur HQ. Now on my morning walks there are some fallen leaves beginning to accumulate on the side of the path. In another couple of weeks with a stiff wind or two and a storm those piles of leaves add a distinctive scent to the season. It isn’t as pleasant as pumpkin spice, but it is characteristic of this time of year. It is a dry slightly spicy odor. It also has that oddly sweet sense of the early stages of decay. Autumn Vibes captures all of that.

It begins with a light bit of berries to provide that surrogate for the decay. Cardamom is that slightly chilly breeze of the season. This is an engaging opening where it draws you deeper into the woods. What you find there is that dry woody scent of the piles of dead leaves. There seems to be a cocktail of woody ingredients formed into this pile of leaves accord. For much of the time this is on my skin it is held at this slightly piquant woody phase. Over time moss softens this into a hazier woodiness.

Autumn Vibes has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

One of the things I appreciate about this was the choice not to add any woodsmoke-like piece. I found it made for a purer experience to focus on the dead leaves over the fireplace. Much like the poodles I walk with, I suspect Autumn Vibes is going to be a pleasant companion throughout the season.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Diptyque Venise- Retaining Relevance

One of the things I’ve noticed over time is brands begin to reach middle-age and settle for a consistent aesthetic over anything else. It makes me a bit sad when a brand which began with fresh ideas and directions reaches this stage. They begin to look like that person who doesn’t realize they’re not young and hip anymore. There are exceptions some of the seminal brands which provided the foundations of niche perfumery have managed to not lose their youthful vision while getting their senior citizen discount.

One which has lived up to keeping it going has been Diptyque which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. It has been a reminder of what this brand has stood for. Diptyque Venise is emblematic of this.

Creative director Myriam Badault wanted to capture the gardens of Venice. If you’ve ever visited a private residence in the Italian city behind the walls are these gorgeous gardens/courtyards. When I’ve visited sitting outside hearing the water traffic while sipping wine among the flowers is as good as life gets. Mme Badault wasn’t thinking of a flower garden for her Venetian fragrance. She was thinking about what an Italian might grow to use in their kitchen. Working with perfumer Cecile Matton they create just that. This results in a very green and vegetal perfume.

Cecile Matton

It begins with a green Bell pepper accord. If you’ve ever sliced a green pepper, there is a pungency as you slice through it. Mme Matton captures the entirety of that. A citrusy accompaniment adds an extra bit of sharpness. The heart of Venise is tomato particularly the vines they grow on. Tomato leaf has become a popular ingredient. Here it is given more room to spread out intertwining with the green pepper on the vine next to it. Through it all runs an herbal thread of basil. This is the garden part.

The water part comes in the presence of vetiver. There are vetiver fractions which have a subtle aquatic undertone. I am guessing that is what Mme Matton uses here. The grassy green of vetiver softens some of the sharper edges of the garden trio. While that subtle watery aspect reminds you where you are.

Venise has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Venise is the sixth release in this anniversary year. It is an ideal place for Mme Badault to take a curtain call on her ability to keep things relevant for this long.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Le Labo Cedrat 37- Diffuse not Transparent

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I am continually struggling with the current trend of designing transparent fragrances. While I fully understand the consumer market desires this style. It reminds me of the days when everything was “fresh and clean” twentysomething years ago. If the needle gets too stuck in a single direction mediocrity sets in. There is no room for innovation just minute iterations upon a singular theme. Which is why I am probably splitting ever diminishing hairs when I try and make a distinction to make some releases more palatable.

The way I think about it is there is “transparent”. That’s where everything is so volumized the fragrance is ephemeral, barely there. There is an “emperor’s new clothes” aspect where I wonder if these are even perfumes. I know they are but in some cases the level of lightness makes it seem as if these are made for someone who likes the idea of wearing perfume without really wearing it. This is the heart of my struggle which I suspect will never fully resolve.

The other category is “diffuse”. These have just a touch more presence. They have some nice phases of development while they stick around. They are still very light, but I enjoy them more because it feels closer to my concept of perfume. One of the latest I received in this category is Le Labo Cedrat 37.

Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi

Cedrat 37 is the latest city exclusive from the brand for the Berlin stores. Creative directors Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi haven’t actually tried to have these releases approximate their cities. Tabac 28 was one of the exceptions. When I think of Berlin the idea of citrus doesn’t exactly spring to mind. What is in the bottle is an example of a diffuse citrusy fragrance.

It is a simply constructed perfume based early on around the lemony scent of cedrat and the zinginess of ginger. A lot of time with the lemon citrus analogs there is a piercing level in the early going. In this case the cedrat is softer, hazier. I think there are some lighter musks creating this effect. The ginger has a transforming quality as we go from yellow haze to candied citrus. If you’ve ever eaten those jelly candies coated in crystals of sugar that’s what this reminds me of. It even has a kind of crunchiness of the sugar cracking between my teeth. While the sweetness level goes up the opacity stays constant. It is at a nice level without feeling inconsequential. It finishes on what is becoming a common woody musky base accord characteristic of the brand.

Cedrat 37 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am probably searching for places to allow my sensibilities some traction. Cedrat 37 allows me to choose diffuse over transparent.

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

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: As of the date of this post there is a week left in the annual September availability of the city exclusives worldwide.