New Perfume Reviews Chronotope Spite, Buen Camino, and Playalinda- Wrath, Pride, and Lust

Modern Perfumery is predominantly about nice, pleasant smells. That is certainly what sells. Yet if perfume is an art form it can’t solely be about the pleasant. It also must examine some of the other odors which comprise the world. This is the place where independent perfumery represents a unique opportunity to evolve an entire art form. Freed of most commercial pressures an artist who wishes to go in this direction can go there. It still doesn’t happen that frequently. Even when it does it can get out of control easily. It is why when I received my sample set of Chronotope perfumes by independent perfumer Carter Weeks Maddox I became excited.

Carter Weeks Maddox

Chronotope Spite

One thing I enjoyed about Mr. Maddox is his description of his perfumes. For Spite he says he was working on a vintage inspired rose which he couldn’t get to come together. In frustration he added high concentrations of two ingredients, one of which he says he hates.

First Spite is not a rose perfume. I don’t think there is any in the composition at all. What is there is orris and violet. These must have been the foundation of his vintage concept. The issue comes as orris has this powdery aspect and violet as used here has a watery quality. When you mix the two together you get clumps. Which is a bit how it begins. The florals cling to each other in an amorphous floral haze. The two ingredients he uses with wrath is an aromatic leather aromachemical and one of the maltol analogs for a burnt sugar effect. They break up the orris and violet into distinct parts as the leathery aromachemical wraps around the orris while the maltol picks up the violet. This creates a vibrant floral accord. It finishes on a sandalwood and incense foundation.

Spite has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Chronotope Buen Camino

Based on the description this was the perfume I expected to fall in love with. It was based on Mr. Maddox’s attempt to walk the 600-mile long Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain. He would complete it but at a cost to his body of severely damaged feet. Buen Camino is based on this experience including the bandages.

It is with those damaged feet we begin. Mr. Maddox uses immortelle and lavender to recreate what the nun who treated him gave him to smell while she worked. In the perfume this is the dried-out versions of both. The herbal non-powdery lavender matched to the burnt earth immortelle. Underneath is an amtispetic accord which reminds me strongly of one called Bactine I used as a kid on my scrapes. It has a pleasant, sweet smell to go with the bite of the disinfecting alcohol. I could feel Mr. Maddox getting back on his legs to finish the journey. The late stages flatten out into a hot concrete and dusty earth accord evoking the final steps.

Buen Camino has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Chronotope Playalinda

Playalinda is the one I enjoy the most. Not because it is the easiest but because it is the best constructed. It also looks, unflinchingly so, at the scent of sweaty sex on a beach.

It opens with osmanthus and jasmine given fruity intent through peach. It begins to skew as ambrette provides that botanical musk. It is the hint of arousal. Grapefruit, vetiver, and patchouli deepen this. Beginning to play with the earthier facets of all three as the ambrette weaves its way through it all. What comes next is an abstract accord of slick skinned copulation. Mr. Maddox uses a set of ingredients including indole, seaweed, and oakmoss. What completely cinches this accord is choya nakh. That ingredient is made of crushed seashells dried and distilled. It is the climax of this accord. It is sensual in its effect while also evoking the bodily fluids from the sexual act. It can create its own mood.

Playalinda has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you’re looking for an easy introduction to Chronotope and Mr. Maddox I would suggest Spite shows off his style with a lot less provocation. If you are looking for perfume which calls into question what you think perfume should smell like then Buan Camino and Playalinda provide that. It is a memorable debut.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Chronotope.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Midnight Musk & Amber- Holiday Party Reminder

Current events have had their impact on the fragrance industry, obviously. I was comparing my spreadsheet of perfumes I’ve tried this year to last year. The raw number is lower. Along with that many of the typical seasonal offerings were cut back. It looks like the calendar is beginning to reassert itself as I am starting to receive the Holiday releases for many of the brands. There are a few of them which have proven to be good most of the time. The latest for a brand like that is Jo Malone Midnight Musk & Amber.

Celine Roux

The Holiday offerings from Jo Malone have been consistently among the best. Under the creative direction of Celine Roux they have even stepped it up a little more. While Jo Malone doesn’t currently have an in-house perfumer Mme Roux is working with a small circle of perfumers. For this year’s Seasonal offering she tapped Anne Flipo.

Anne Flipo

When I think of the Holiday season a big part of it has been visiting friends. There is a scent to a Holiday party. A bit of alcohol, a bit of spice, a lot of warm bodies under sweaters. This is what Midnight Musk & Amber is all about.

It begins with gin-like juniper berry along with a twist of orange. Kind of like a gin and tonic with an orange wedge in place of the lime. The choice of citrus shifts the accord from summery to fall-like. A warmly spicy amber makes up the heart. This is the scent of the ingredients in Holiday baked goods. Mme Flipo adds a strand of neroli which elongates the orange from the top accord into the amber. The base is that musk on the label. There is this pleasant smell of humid humanity which fills the air at the height of a Holiday party. The musk is like that plus a little benzoin to add a sweet patina.

Midnight Musk & Amber has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I don’t know if there are going to be many Holiday parties to attend this year. If I need a reminder I can reach for my sample and close my eyes.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Boys

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There are times when I hear something is going to be adapted for television that I think will fail because it will never go as far as the source material. Even something as successful as “Game of Thrones” I had concerns because I expected them to not be as brutal as the novels. It was unfounded as the television team stayed true to that aspect faithfully. As I thought of this for getting ready to write this column, I realized in the days of streaming a series can go where it couldn’t if it was being broadcast. It has opened new chances for more extreme visions to find audiences. The one which was my most recent unnecessary worry was “The Boys”.

The comic inspiration ran from 2006-2012 written by Garth Ennis. It was a hysterical premise of what if superheroes were a commodity overseen by a corporation. In the books we meet that corporation Vought. They fund the superheroes in the world and use them to create content. They also send them out on exclusive contracts to be a specific city’s protector. The apex team is called “The Seven” which is run by a hero called Homelander who wears a red, white and blue costume with a star-spangled cape. He is not Captain America. Which is the anarchic fun of the premise. The heroes are marketed to the world, but they live and act way different than their public personas. The comic was packed full of biting social commentary about commercialism and hero worship.

The book follows the titular group as the counterbalance to this. They spend their time trying to expose the hypocrisy and rot underneath the shiny happy façade. As a reader we root for their success.

Now when I heard it was going to be a series on Amazon Prime I thought they will streamline this to its most basic story leaving out the insane things which happen in the margins. It turns out show creator and writer Eric Kripke not only want to include those margins he wanted to write in them too.

The series has been as gloriously unhinged as the comic. Mr. Kripke has shifted some story elements around not because of necessity or making it more accessible. It seems he just want to tell a slightly different story with the same sensibility. Which makes it fun for me as a watcher because the differences are enough that I am never 100% sure where the story is heading even though I generally have a hint or two.

Both comic and tv series are well worth spending some time with.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Estee Lauder Beautiful Absolu- Editing a Big Floral

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When I began my personal learning about perfume I asked lots of people for advice. One excellent piece I got was to go to the mall and spray a strip of all the classic perfumes. Then I would take that strip and put it in a small zip-lock bag. I was then able to take the masterpieces home with me to examine them more leisurely. I remember spraying Estee Lauder Beautiful Eau de Parfum as an afterthought one day. It turned out to be the strip I spent the most time trying to understand.

Created in 1985 Beautiful EdP was a big floral. That adjective should maybe be in all caps to accurately describe it. What fascinated me was within all that power there were distinctly recognizable strands. It was one of the earliest experiences I had in writing down what I thought I smelled. I still think of it as one of the great examples of this type of perfumery.

For it’s 35th anniversary we are getting a new flanker Estee Lauder Beautiful Absolu. When I received the press release at first, I thought this was going to be another riff on the original. Instead it was something quite different. It is as if the creative team imagined what Beautiful would be if it were being designed in 2020. That meant some editing was necessary. That all caps big had to be reduced to small caps or removed altogether. It results in a version which is just right for today.

I was unable to find out who undertook this task of editing the perfume made by Chant, Grojsman, Benaim, and Gavarry. I hope they step forward because it is a nicely done effort.

If there is a floral which stands out in the original, it is tuberose. There it is turned up to high volume. In Beautiful Absolu it is dialed way back. It enhances the creaminess of it. What is lost in bringing it back is the intense green which shows up at overdose. In this case of Beautiful Absolu lily is used as a softer surrogate. It forms a gentler tuberose accord. Then instead of the entire floral shelf of perfumer ingredients a small curated group of marigold, rose, jasmine, and ylang-ylang provide more flower power. It ends with the same sandalwood and vetiver base of the original but with the same care to keep it lighter.

Beautiful Absolu has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am fascinated to see how accepted this will be by today’s fragrance consumer. It has all the things which made the original Beautiful live up to its name. Except this version makes it much lighter. I like to think a new generation can be drawn to one of the great florals even if it has been edited a bit.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Macy’s.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Guerlain Iris Torrefie- I Still Get a Heartbeat

Guerlain is one of those decaying Great Houses of Perfume. More interested in churning out product while living off their past. Every arrival of a new insipid sample makes me sad. Yet in every year they remind me why I own so many of their classics. Last year it was the amazing Embruns D’Ylang. This year it is Guerlain Iris Torrefie.

Iris Torrefie is part of the L’Art et La Matiere collection. The same group which Embrun D’Ylang is also included. It seems like this is the last place where a creative thought can be expressed at Guerlain. Even though they are working within the current trend of floral gourmands this one has a larger presence than its competitors. Perfumer Delphine Jelk is given the reins.

Delphine Jelk

It is an interesting choice because 2007’s Iris Ganache is one of the best iris and chocolate gourmands out there. Mme Jelk moves from the chocolatier to the sidewalk café as she chooses to use coffee as the gourmand in Iris Torrefie. It is a compelling combination.

Mme Jelk places both core ingredients in place at the start. She also allows iris to display more of its dual nature of powder and root. The coffee is that bitter oily bean prior to roasting. That provides a marvelous counterweight to the two-faced iris. Squeezing between the two keynotes is green cardamom and ambrette seeds. They add an herbal tint and a soft botanical musk, respectively. They are important connective tissue to hold the main protagonists together. I am not sure how I would have wanted this to finish in my vision. In Mme Jelk’s mind it was time for the Guerlinade to come forth. I adore this in so many other Guerlains but in this case it feels like an intruder. I adore the first hours of this when the iris and coffee are percolating together. Once the Guerlinade appears it strips some of the vitality. It is not a terrible choice it just seemed to me like this deserved a more dynamic base accord.

Iris Torrefie has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Iris Torrefie is 2020’s proof there is still a heartbeat at the moribund brand Guerlain has become. I feel a bit uncharitable complaining about the signature accord of the brand not being enough. I also think I might come around to think that it works better than this first impression. Iris Torrefie is worth the price of admission for the iris and coffee on top, it is magical.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bastide Lavande in Love- Fall in the Lavender Field

I’ve mentioned a few times that I am fortunate to have a lavender farm nearby. I am extra fortunate that they let me irritate them with my questions. They get a return when they put me to work while I make my queries. Last fall I got an awakening while I was helping the owner prepare the fields for winter. Once you get to this part of the season the lavender is almost exclusively the green herbal scent with almost no hint of the flower. It was fun enjoying the natural base note of lavender without all that powdery flower power. I have probably spent more time talking about that since the experience tuned me into it. I haven’t been able to visit the farm this year, but Bastide Lavande in Love reminded me of last fall’s expedition.

Frederic and Shirin Fekkai

Bastide is the brand overseen by Shirin and Frederic Fekkai. Over the last few years they have created a nice line of perfume based on their home in Provence France. They are mostly sunnier styles of fragrance. For Lavande in Love they wanted to focus on lavender which is one of the famous exports of the region. The Provencal Lavender is highly prized in perfumery. What they achieve in Lavande in Love is to enhance that herbal nature.

The lavender is present right at the start and it has that slightly powdery floral quality intact. The rest of the development is the sequential diminishment of it to allow that herbal quality a chance to shine. The first modifier is lime. What comes with it is a hint that this lavender is in Provence not Maryland as a slight breeze of ozonic sea spray blows through. As it dies down the herbal piece is amplified through rosemary and clary sage. They create a vibrant green accord with the lavender holding it together.

Lavande in Love has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I feel certain this will be better in the warmer weather. Yet in these early days of fall it served to remind me of last year in the lavender field.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Neiman-Marcus.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Kristiansand New York- One Man One Bottle

One of the frequent questions I get is from a man who doesn’t want to own a lot of colognes. He ideally wants a single bottle that is versatile enough for all occasions. Even someone like me for whom the idea of one bottle sends a chill down my spine can appreciate the request. I was recently reminded on Facebook of a great example of this style of perfume that debuted ten years ago, Kristiansand New York.

I met the co-founders Britt Hovde Ross and Elisabeth Steen both of whom are Norwegian. They wanted to make a perfume that would capture the dichotomy of Norway and New York City. Together with perfumer Pierre Constantin-Gueros they create something which reflects both inspirations.

Elisabeth Steen and Britt Hovde Ross

It begins in Norway with a back to nature top accord of sage and green pepper. It is that second ingredient which has made this stand out over the last ten years. M. Constantin-Gueros uses it to give a vegetal undertone to the stridency of the sage. There are a lot of herbal beginnings to colognes this is unlike most of them. It gets more recognizable with a lavender and cedar heart. This feels like the transition between sophisticated NYC and Norway with the slightly powdery lavender portraying the former and the cedar the latter. It goes full Big Apple with a white musk and amber base accord.

Kristiansand New York has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I mentioned this is one of those extremely good choices for everything from office to gym to clubbing. It is also a nice choice if you want a good cologne that few others have. When I say this is Under the Radar it is deeply hidden. As far as I can tell it is for sale at only two places: the Kristiansand New York website and Beverly Hills Perfumery. It is a great choice for someone in the upcoming Holidays. Especially if you have one man who wants one bottle.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Rouge- Beet Red

Last year was the 25th anniversary for what I think of as one of the most influential perfume brands. It was a real festive end of 2019 which saw a half-dozen new perfumes. It was like a literal Holiday present for me. It has taken a year for the next new release, Comme des Garcons Rouge, to appear.

Christian Astuguevieille

I don’t truly think there is a signature to the brand. There is a commitment to experimenting around the edges of current trends. That kind of innovative thinking appears in Rouge. Creative director Christian Astuguevieille collaborates with perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto on a perfume of earth and incense.

Nathalie Gracia-Cetto

I am unsure why so many recent releases are using the color red as part of their inspiration. It is an odd coalescence in the fragosphere. For the Comme des Garcons version it is all about using beetroot.

This is only the second perfume I’ve tried with this in it. Beetroot adds an odd vegetal earthiness in both cases. It could verge a bit on unpleasant. In this case Mme Gracia-Cetto captures all of what I described plus the sweetness of the vegetable in a memorable way.

Rouge begins with that strong vegetation effect. Rapidly ginger and baie rose are employed as modifiers. These entice the sugar at the heart of the beet to the surface. It reminds me strongly of the crystallized sugar effect I encounter in violet in perfumery. This is like taking a shrubbery and adding some sugar to it. That might not sound pleasant, but it is a reminder of cleaning out the vegetable beds in these early days of October. It is a fascinating accord. As Rouge develops geranium adds a green floral quality as the bridge is made to a base of the patchouli analog Akigalawood. It is an interesting choice because this biological degradation of patchouli removes the earthiness. The beetroot more than makes up for it. It is like they are making a patchouli accord from the two. Now a beautifully serene incense begins to swirl in curls of smoke as if there are joss sticks in my empty vegetable bed. It increases in presence until it is the main scent over the latter phases.

Rouge has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Rouge is reminiscent of last year’s Copper in the way it changes shades throughout its development. It is one of the things I enjoy a lot in a perfume. It makes it a fantastic fall choice. I have enjoyed it immensely on these cool rainy days around my neck of the woods. If someone were to ask me for a shade of the titular color which describes this it would be easy, beet red.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Atl. Oblique Voodoo Flowers- Glamping

I feel certain there are times when I write about what a fragrance reminds me of which make the brands cringe. It is because the image the perfume creates in my head is as far from the one, I am reading in their press release.  Atl. Oblique Voodoo Flowers will be one of those.

Mario Lombardo

Atl. Oblique was founded in Berlin in 2017 by Mario Lombardo. Voodoo Flowers is one of two new releases which has served as my introduction to the brand. Their website say they believe in “the invisible language of scents”. They also believe in the tangible language of prose with purple tinted descriptions of their perfumes. For Voodoo Flowers here is their description “The scent spreads like the vibrating sound of a valve amplifier turned up to the maximum; it literally glows and screams at each rhythmic strike of the guitar string”. I guess on a different day in a different place I might have seen this that way. On this day what it reminded me strongly of was glamping.

Serge de Oliveira

For those unfamiliar with that term it is a portmanteau consisting of glamorous and camping. The idea was to get in touch with nature while someone is waiting to cook your dinner back at camp while putting a mint on your sleeping bag. The kind of ridiculous concept is to have a fine meal and a comfortable bed while being outdoors which you don’t have to lift a finger for. I saw one of these setups for myself a couple years ago and walked away shaking my head. Where Voodoo Flowers comes into this is a mixture of fizzy champagne and smoke conjure up the image of toasting with flutes instead of marshmallows adjacent to a campfire. Despite my different interpretation perfumer Serge de Qliveira has made a nice version of a smoky style of perfume.

It opens with a delightful effervescent accord made up of champagne and gin. Juniper berries and aldehydes do the heavy lifting. Some freshness comes through a tart lime. My imagination of the great outdoors is sparked by sage which reminds me of pine needles. A little night blooming jasmine forms the heart given some energy with ginger. The smokiness is provided by cade wood. This is a tough ingredient to use because it is the difference between having the wind blow the campfire towards you or away from you. M. de Oliveira finds the latter. This is a deep woodsmoke accord as styrax and vetiver give it that bite of freshly cut wood burning. It works surprisingly well.

Voodoo Flowers has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I mentioned there was another new release which is called Breton Brut. I liked this one too, but I also missed their imagery and substituted one of my own. The bottom line on that one is it is a concrete garden to my nose. Both have me interested in trying more from the brand. Even if I get glamping while they get Guitar Hero its still a good perfume.

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

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky

When it comes to the Dr. Who universe I am a bigger fan of the “Torchwood” spinoff than the main series. The idea of a team of agents investigating the unexplained happening on Earth appeals to me. Because I am a vocal fan on the sci-fi forums, I post on I received a book recommendation. I was told I might like “The Doors of Eden” by Adrian Tchaikovsky.

I had heard of Mr. Tchaikovsky through his award-winning novel “Children of Time” although the description didn’t draw me to wanting to download it. When I went to see the description for “The Doors of Eden” I was immediately enticed to press buy.

Adrian Tchaikovsky

The basic set-up comes through when a pair of monster hunters who are also lovers go hunting for the Birdmen on Bodmain Moor. When the night is done Lee is left looking for Mal who has disappeared. Four years later Mal returns. This sets up the events of the rest of the book. Lee must decide whether the Mal which has returned is the woman she fell in love with or something else. Mal’s return brings in a team of people interested in her. They are the other POV that the story is told through. MI5 agent Julian, scientist Dr. Khan and mercenary Lucas. There are a couple of other POV but those arise out of the story. The main team charged with figuring out what happened to Mal is the one described above. Their interaction does have a Torchwood-y feel but Mr. Tchaikovsky has a different tale in mind.

The story takes us to parallel earths through cracks which are forming causing overlaps. These parallel earths are not necessarily places where humans are the ascendant species. It is much of the fun of this novel when the heroes are faced with a world where something non-human is in charge.

Mr. Tchaikovsky intersperses the story of the book with sections written by a fictional professor who explains some of the scientific concepts which will come into play over the next pages. These felt like the distillation of the real-world research Mr. Tchaikovsky must have done to write this. As a scientist these were as enjoyable as the story.

It all coalesces into a satisfying conclusion. If you are a Torchwood fan, I can add my thumbs up to the idea you will enjoy this. After reading this I can see why Mr. Tchaikovsky has won awards he writes compelling passages which pulled me through the tale. I will probably go back and give some of his previous books a try.

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

Mark Behnke