The Sunday Magazine: Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Band Aid

I remember the Holiday season of 1984 for many reasons. It was the first Holiday where I had a job. I was able to have a giant Christmas tree because my townhouse had a cathedral ceiling. The other thing I remember was hearing on the radio that something had happened over in England on Thanksgiving weekend that was unheard of musically. That thing has been the foundation for much of the giving back to society that popular music has been responsible for since.

I remember being out getting that giant Christmas tree. On my way back I heard on the radio that some of the most popular English musicians were getting together to do a song. Pushed by Bob Geldof, the lead singer of the band Boomtown Rats, it was something to generate funds to battle famine in Ethiopia. Mr. Geldof used his clout, at the time, to enlist every famous musician in the country to join his group Band Aid. One of his criteria for asking someone to participate was the level of their fame. He wanted this to be a huge event of the most popular musicians of the day. One of the great stories is to get Boy George of Culture Club they had to fly him, via Concorde, back to the UK because the band was on a US tour.

It came together very quickly as Mr. Geldof only had the use of the recording studio for 24 hours. He had already written the lyrics and Midge Ure of Ultravox had added the music while also producing. Over the course of November 25 the studio filled with the A-list musicians. It was reported on the network news here, an ocean away. The song was then released as a single on December 3, 1984. I made my friend in NYC wait as I stood in line at the Astor Place Tower Records to purchase a copy.

The song itself, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” has become a Holiday staple on the radio. It has a permanent place on my Holiday playlist on iTunes. It is a simple song yet when they hit the final all-star choir singing “Feed the World/ Let them know it’s Christmas time again” I’m as happy to sing that as I am to bellow “Jingle Bells”.

It was a turning point in the concept of philanthropic musical efforts. In the thirty-five years since, music has found its standing as a societal influence much more surely. Every Holiday season I am reminded that back in 1984 the idea of making a song in a day to feed starving children is exactly what the Season should be about.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Victoria’s Secret Bombshell Holiday 2019- Surprise Package

When you exchange gifts during the Holidays there is an occasional moment when you receive an unexpected present. It’s nice because it reminds you there is still a magic to this time of year in its ability to surprise you. The crusty perfume reviewer is having his own overflowing desk of presents this Holiday season. There has been an increased amount of new releases in these final weeks of the year. It makes me want to find the ones which are easy to dismiss. Except a week or so ago I got my own perfume surprise package in a sample of Victoria’s Secret Bombshell Holiday 2019.

Victoria’s Secret has been selling fragrance next to their lingerie for thirty years. It has always been a brand which follows trends. They are a classic example of safe fragrance meant to be purchased as an impulse while shopping in their stores. Ever since the launch of Bombshell in 2010 they’ve been releasing seasonal flankers two or three times a year. I’ve always categorized them as good functional perfumes. This year they decided to release their first Holiday edition. This is still a fruity floral, but it has a much different personality than any other Victoria’s Secret perfume I’ve ever tried. I don’t know who the perfumer is, but I am going to keep trying to find out because they did a fantastic job.

The fruit being used is pomegranate. It is given an icy chill to the point that it reminded me of having a pomegranate snow cone. The coolness complements the tartness of the fruit nicely. There is a much more transparent version of jasmine providing a floral veil instead of the usual strident presence I’m used to finding. It is like the pomegranate can radiate through the jasmine. The base is the very unusual choice of birch. Most of the time these perfumes end on a clean woody accord of synthetic woods and cedar. That the slightly acrid birch is allowed to finish this off is against nearly everything that has come before. This is another winter-like wood effect. The birch has a bitter woodiness which is allowed to pick up the cold tart of the pomegranate to create a gorgeous Holiday harmonic.

Bombshell Holiday 2019 has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I know that I never expected my surprise package this Holiday to be from Victoria’s Secret. Bombshell Holiday 2019 has reminded me how much fun it can be to be surprised.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Victoria’s Secret.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Essential Parfums Divine Vanille- Holiday Cookie Making

Instead of getting run over at the mall I spend the days immediately after Thanksgiving baking cookies. I really only am motivated to make cookies during the Holiday season. I have my favorites along with recipes I’ve optimized to my taste. The kitchen counter is cleared of all unnecessary things as it becomes my surface to make my cookies. As much as the cookies are fun to eat, I noticed a couple years ago what a lovely scent the ingredients provide as I am working. Vanilla, spices, fruits, the wood of the rolling pin, and the muskiness of the effort. I was thinking what a nice perfume this would make. It seems like Essential Parfums Divine Vanille is that fragrance. 

Essential Parfums debuted last year with a set of five perfumes. It is an interesting brand aesthetic where the perfumer is given wide latitude to create. The only commandment is to use sustainable materials. It isn’t explicitly stated on the website but to keep it simple also seems to be important, too. I liked the original five quite a bit for their execution. Orange X Santal was my favorite but I felt they all would appeal to perfume fans who liked the ingredients named on the label. Perfumer Olivier Pescheux is given his opportunity with Divine Vanille.

Olivier Pescheux

The keynote sustainable ingredient is vanilla from Madagascar. M. Pescheux sets it up as the spine of this perfume. I bake with Madagascar vanilla. It always struck me as having a kind of boozy undertone to its scent in the bottle. M. Pescheux plays up that part of his ingredient which keeps this from becoming too food-like. The vanilla is there and M. Pescheuz surrounds it in cinnamon along with black pepper and clary sage. The cinnamon is the main player. It takes the sweet vanilla and gives it some verve. The clary sage teases out just enough green to remind you vanilla comes from an orchid. The black pepper acts like a bit of sizzle atop it all. As this moves to the heart the fruit takes over. The apricot nature of Osmanthus is combined with the fruity rose synthetic Pomarose. It gives a set of luscious fruitiness attenuated by the rose and leather dualities of the two. Cedar reminds me of the rolling pin nearby. Tonka bean adds a toastiness to the vanilla as we move to the base. Benzoin, patchouli and musk form a classic Oriental base. Which is the scent of myself under the blanket waiting for the timers to go off as the cookies bake.

Divine Vanille has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Divine Vanille is another simple construct from a brand which allows its perfumers to strike a different balance. It is an excellent addition to the collection particularly welcome for the Holidays.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfum D’Empire Immortelle Corse- Summer in the Maquis

If you imagine the environment which might produce someone interested in scent Corsica would be one. The small island of France is known for its geography known as the Maquis. It is a mixture of scented herbs and flowers which give Corsica the sobriquet, “The Scented Isle”. One of the pioneers of modern perfumery, Francois Coty, was born there. One of the best current practitioners of modern perfumery, Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, is also from the island. He has released a few perfumes inspired by his home; Parfum D’Empire Immortelle Corse is the most recent.

Marc-Antoine Corticchiato

M. Corticchiato picks out immortelle as the component of the maquis to feature here because that is what surrounds his place there. I adore immortelle on the rare occasions it is featured as a keynote. The reason it is rarely showcased, I presume, is it has a strong maple syrup-like quality which might not be pleasing to some. It is exactly that which draws me to it. As I’ve become more familiar with the ingredient, I’ve learned it is more than that syrupy scent. M. Corticchiato used it as a keynote in his take on an aquatic last year, Acqua di Scandola. It was one of the few times I found the immortelle distracting as it seemed forced to compete with a mineralic oceanic accord without finding any harmonic. In Immortelle Corse that is all dispensed with in a simple construct where the immortelle is featured in all its midsummer glory.

If its summer the sun is high in the sky. In a perfume of that time of year lemon evokes the sunshine which is where we start. A bracingly tart lemon is given a sweet patina. It reminds me of the sugar covered lemon wedges called lemon drops. The fruit changes to a more burnished gold as apricot takes over from the lemon. It is here where the immortelle makes its first appearance. The apricot embraces the syrupy nature. It makes the immortelle seem to be bursting at the seams. The thing that I’ve come to notice about immortelle is a hay-like quality underneath the sweetness. M. Corticchiato uses saffron to tease out that thread while amplifying it. It gives a wide-open space feel to Immortelle Corse. A final bit of velveteen moss adds a plush green base to finish this summer walk on the Maquis.

Immortelle Corse has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I’ve never been to Corsica but M. Corticchiato has been familiarizing me with the scent of place through his Corsica inspired perfumes. Of all the ones he has done it is wherever in the Maquis the immortelle blooms so fully to inspire Immortelle Corse I would want to visit first.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Cognoscenti Wild Child- Green Within The Black

It is fun for me to experience the evolution of independent perfumers. It becomes most interesting when their muse shifts dramatically. It is a way to see if a perfumer is more than their earlier work indicated. Dannielle Sergent is in the midst of having a conversation with a new inspiration. In the beginning of her brand, Cognoscenti, Ms. Sergent created fragrance around the interplay between two keynote ingredients. Then earlier this year she made a dramatic shift.

Dannielle Sergent

Ms. Sergent decided to start creating a new perfume not from the choice of two ingredients but the interpretation of her own paintings. She called her two inspiration pieces “Dark Lovelies”. Earlier this year Warrior Queen was the first to be released. It was a maximal style of perfume composition as Ms. Sergent layered florals into a satisfying portrait. The companion piece has now arrived; Cognoscenti Wild Child.

When I looked at the inspiration piece, above, the first thing I noticed was all the black space. It looked to me like there were tendrils of green and florals attempting to pierce that darkness. It is an apt description of Wild Child as Ms. Sergent sets up a dark accord which has a primary green antagonist. Once Wild Child completely comes together it displays the tension of that struggle fully.

The blackness is represented by a fabulous licorice accord. This is not sweet Twizzlers-like licorice this is the herbal original version. It carries a darkness like a black hole with an herbal event horizon. It drew me in with its depth. To make sure I don’t get subsumed completely a lifeline of green strands begins to assemble. Tarragon provides the central filament. It resonates against the herbal quality of the licorice Braided around that tarragon is vetiver, cedar, and moss. As I grab hold a deep rose provides a floral direction for me to climb. Once clear I fall into an earthy dark patchouli my journey complete.

Wild Child has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Wild Child is a fitting companion to Warrior Queen although it is more introverted in its construction. Wild Child is given the ability to find the darkness through a green contrast. I am unsure if this is a complete change in direction for Ms. Sergent. I have thoroughly enjoyed both the Dark Lovelies. They show a confident perfumer evolving her aesthetic. I’d like to see more.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ineke Jaipur Chai- A Quiet Morning

I have always found the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day to be the most hectic of the year. Until we are a day or two into 2020 it is time to go, every moment of every day, to stuff in everything. I used to get terribly run down on these weeks leading to a bad head cold for the first part of the new year. I learned an important lesson that it was critical to take a little time for myself to sit quietly. What that means is I make something warm to sip while I watch the poodle run around the backyard just after dawn. The early morning I have found is that place where the demand for your time is almost non-existent. The loss of an hour, or so, of sleep is well worth it. On these mornings I am sitting next to our Christmas tree with a vase of roses somewhere nearby. The cup in my hand can be a chai latte. The smell of tree, rose and chai is therapeutic it re-charges me. I don’t really need the reminder to capture some quiet time but if I do Ineke Jaipur Chai will certainly do so.

Ineke Ruhland

Independent perfumer Ineke Ruhland is one of the best artists creating perfume out there. Her last release, Idyllwild, was my Perfume of the Year for 2017. I own a bottle of her entire collection. She works at her own pace in a deliberate manner. Each perfume begins with an ordinal letter of the alphabet. As of 2019 we have reached “J”. Ms. Ruhland describes Jaipur Chai as her first gourmand. I would agree with that but as I spent time with Jaipur Chai I was more focused on an Oriental kind of structure; which the spices early on enhance. It doesn’t fully come together as the chai latte part until later. It is a comforting change.

Jaipur Chai opens on the mélange of spices inherent in chai. There is the moisture of the black tea hydrating the dry spices of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, clove, and black pepper. This is the smell as you plunge your measuring spoon into the chai. Ms. Ruhland designs a spicy confluence which forms an accord of serenity instead of one less smooth. To that moment she adds a rose. This is a full bloom rose exuding the peak of its scented beauty. The spice accord swirls around it seemingly attaching itself to the dewy petals. Ms. Ruhland frames this with cedar to provide clean delineation. Just in time for the steamed milk to bubble up. A subtly sweet milk accord given a golden glow with honey along with the odd sweetness of a suede leather accord. This is where the chai latte, and my quiet morning, converges. The scent of the spices with the sweet milk as the scent of a rose and the wood of the tree fall into each other create the final tableau.

Jaipur Chai has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Jaipur Chai is a perfume of subtlety that I worry many will miss the intricacy of it all. To have all this flow so seamlessly is not easily achieved. It is what sets Ms. Ruhland apart. If this Holiday season gets too hectic I might just spray some Jaipur Chai as a substitute for my quiet morning.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Puredistance Gold- A Persistent Glow

Whenever I see a pile of gold in the movies it always seems to be kissed by flames somewhere in the vicinity. There is a reason for that because flame seems to make the cold metal glow. The flicker causes shadow to flit across the metallic surface. It takes something static and turns it into something languorously kinetic. I hold my wedding ring up to the fireplace to be caught by the same effect. Puredistance Gold does the same thing as a perfume.

Jan Ewoud Vos

Puredistance creative director Jan Ewoud Vos has always been inspired by art for his perfumes. M. Vos was captivated by a black, white, and gold Mondrian-like visual. He had previously released Black and White. Now it is time for Gold to complete the picture. He collaborates with the same perfumer behind the previous two, Antoine Lie. This is the larger squares of gold as the perfume has a large presence. It uses big keynotes given shadow by the complementary ingredients surrounding them.

Antoine Lie

Gold starts with the tart citrus of green mandarin. This is a powerful fruity start which M. Lie uses three spices to give texture to. The herbal floral quality of baie rose, the green rosemary and the piecing scent of clove. It forms an elegant version of the Holiday staple of a cloved orange. This is a dynamic opening. It shifts to a floral heart dominated by jasmine. For this M. Lie dusts the white flower with cinnamon and swirls of labdanum. This is those flickers of heat atop the floral foundation. The base gets green at first as vetiver and patchouli form the nucleus. M. Lie then adds in shadows of sweet with vanilla and myrrh contrasted with styrax and benzoin. This forms a simmering Oriental base which gets more animalic as castoreum becomes apparent.

Gold has 24-hour plus longevity and moderate sillage due to being at extrait strength.

Gold combines the tobacco warmth of Black with the exuberant floral quality of White to provide the large space in between with a persistent golden glow.

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

Mark Behnke

Remembrance of Gaia Fishler The Non-Blonde


I always smile when people can’t believe there are readers for a blog about perfume. I know I was one of them for a long time. Then in 2006 there was a group of online pioneers who started writing about perfume. I’ve always called them “The Original Five”. These blogs were the entry point for so many of us who love perfume. A week ago we lost one of those women who had the drive to start writing about perfume, and make-up, in a public way; Gaia Fishler of The Non-Blonde.

I ran into Gaia at different New York City functions for a few years. We would exchange words once I began writing for Fragrantica and CaFleureBon. In those early short exchanges she answered my questions graciously. She confirmed my belief that 400-500 smartly chosen words was better than two or three times that.

It wasn’t until a party in 2013 that we became friends. It started with perfume. We started talking about unicorns; those perfumes that are discontinued but are incredible. She was the only reviewer who had written about a brand called Gobin Daude. They were only in production a short time. She was the only person I could have a deep conversation about those with. What was amazing was her depth of knowledge as she compared them back to other perfumes. I kind of felt like a student in a private master class. Which was one of the great things about Gaia; in a room full of people she could make it seem like you were the only conversation that mattered.

We would meet again a few months later and she would hand me a vial. This was the other perfume we talked about that night; Tauer Orris. That I don’t own and only had a precious few drops. She changed that giving me a sample that has lasted me until today. When she gave it to me, I experienced something she freely bestowed on most who crossed her path; a smile. This is not just teeth and upturned lips. Gaia’s smile was a benediction. She was glad to see you; even happier to give you something that gave you pleasure.

Gaia was also the final push out of the safety zone I had created for myself to start Colognoisseur. I had been thinking about it and she asked me why I hadn’t done it. I had a lot of reasons, but it was mainly I thought it would be too hard being on my own. She looked at me intently and said, “Do it.” I’ve always likened taking a big step to standing at the edge of the high dive and convincing yourself to jump. Gaia was standing at the side of the pool telling me to step off the platform. She was there to support me as she put my blog at the top of her blogroll with “New” next to it. For the first year and a half I got most of my new readers from that. You might be one of them.

I can hear Gaia telling me, in my head, “over 500 words wrap it up.” I smell the drop of Orris on my wrist, I can see her smile. Goodbye Gaia.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Holiday Perfume Buyers Guide 2019 Part 3- Cyber Monday

The last part of the Holiday Perfume Buyer’s Guide is for those of you who like to do your shopping online. Cyber Monday has become the day when this hits its peak as online retailers offer online-only deals. Buying perfume online is an especially tricky business. For this piece of the Buyer’s Guide I am going to suggest a couple things which are easier to get online.

The first suggestion is what I think is the absolute best gift for anyone in your circle who loves perfume. Michael Edwards the man behind the perfume database Fragrances of the World released a new book this fall; Perfume Legends II. It is a large format coffee table book. It tells the history of modern perfumery in 52 bottles from the first, Fougere Royale, to 2010’s Portrait of a Lady. What makes this so fascinating is Mr. Edwards also examines the impact of perfume societally as he moves through each successive chapter. He accompanies each entry with archival photos and pictures of the bottles, of course. It is as beautiful to look at as it is educational to read. For Cyber Monday and the entire Holiday season I have a discount code which will allow you to take 10% off the price if you enter COL19 at this link.

The other great online choice for anyone interested in perfume is a subscription box. These are services which send you monthly selections to try and eventually buy if you like them. My favorite of them is Ofactif. You can take a subscription for as little as a month or as long as a year with almost any fraction available. For the term of your subscription you will receive a box containing three samples of niche perfumes. Each has cards accompanying it telling you about the creative team, style of perfume, and the note list. Each sample is enough for anyone to wear the perfume for a few days. This has been one of the best ways for small brand independent perfumes to be available to those who aren’t in large urban areas. For Cyber Monday they are offering across the board discounts on their website.

My final suggestion is for a copy of the perfume magazine Nez. Published twice-a-year it is a compendium of many great articles, interviews with perfume makers, and perfume reviews.
Each issue is the pinnacle of perfume editorial content. On their website you can buy a subscription or an individual issue.

I hope everyone has a fabulous Holiday Season and something I have suggested ends up in someone’s hands.

Disclosure: I was given a copy of Perfume Legends II from the publisher. I subscribe to Ofactif on my own. I have purchased the issues of Nez I own.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Holiday Perfume Buyer’s Guide 2019 Part 2- Support Your Local Perfumery

One of my favorite initiatives for Holiday shopping was begun in 2010. The brainchild of the American Express company it was meant to turn the day after Black Friday into something local; Small Business Saturday. It is meant to encourage shoppers’ attention to the small shops in their local area and to spend the day shopping there.

For perfume lovers these are the stores which give shelf space to the most creative independent brands. Almost always owned by people who also adore perfume. These are the ambassadors who show people there is more to perfume than the mainstream. For this year’s buyer’s guide I am going to focus on some stores which produced their own perfumes. Along with some other independent brands which have produced notable new releases this year.

The Creative Director as Store Owner

For a column like this I am going to start locally with Arielle Shoshana Sunday. Owner of the shop Arielle Shoshana in Arlington, VA Arielle Weinberg oversees her second collaboration with perfumer Cecile Hua. This time they make a one-of-a-kind gourmand around a pairing of matcha tea and the Mexican drink horchata.

Dave Kern has been releasing limited editions under the name of his perfumery American Perfumer in Louisville, KY. He won an Art & Olfaction Award for last year’s collaboration with perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz; Colorado. These are limited editions which have generally sold out. This year’s version with perfumer Hans Hendley, Bloodline, was gone in a day. Mr. Hendley has other perfume which is more available. Hans Hendley Bourbon captures the sweetness of whiskey encased in woods. It is an ideal Holiday season style of fragrance.

I only recently tried the perfumes overseen by owner Nir Guy of the store Perfumology in King of Prussia, PA. This year’s release Perfumology L’Ima continues his work with perfumer Justin Frederico. A fantastic mixture of the smell of the summer garden. Tomato leaf, citrus, florals, and warm amber capture the milieu.

Other Great Indie Perfume of 2019

You should be able to find these perfumes at smaller boutiques all of which usually have online sales.

Bogue Douleur! takes you from metallic rose to strawberry cotton candy.

Dasein Winter Green is a Holiday mixture of mint and Christmas tree.

Hiram Green Lustre is an all-natural rose soliflore of uncommon quality.

Maison Violet Un Air d’Apogee is a tobaccoed floral which captures the retro nouveau aesthetic.

Marc-Antoine Barrois Ganymede is an amazing lightweight leather.

Masque Milano Kintsugi reconstructs the broken chypre into a new modern form.

Monsillage Route du Quai is a unique take on the aquatic which captures the flow of a large freshwater river.

Providence Perfume Co. Drunk on the Moon is a slightly boozy tuberose from one of the best indie perfumers.

Roberto Greco Oeilleres is a throwback style of perfume which uses an overdose of chamomile to make an artistic thesis.

Rogue Perfumery Chypre-Siam is an old-school chypre as filtered through a Thai restaurant.

Rubini Tambour Sacre captures the rhythms of the Horn of Africa in golden tones.

Ryan Richmond Rich Mess is anything but a mess; it is a mesmerizing kinetic blend.

Get out and shop this Saturday and every other shopping day. It is the support of local perfume lovers which keep these stores going.

Disclosure: All the perfumes mentioned provided samples from the brand.

Mark Behnke