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

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


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

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

New Perfume Review Montale Velvet Fantasy- Floral Gourmand Extreme

Regular readers know of my struggles with the current trend towards transparent fragrances. It is the majority of what I receive from the mainstream brands these days. After a few days of this style I yearn for something with more presence. There is one brand which will never let me down. Montale Velvet Fantasy provided something like the current trend without the opacity.

What I have enjoyed from today’s perfumery is the rise of the floral gourmand. Velvet Fantasy is that style of fragrance done with presence. It helps answer a question I’ve been asking myself. Would I like a full-throated floral gourmand as much as the airier versions I’ve been getting? This does answer that because in the higher concentrations it allows for subtle nuances to appear that would not in a more expansive construct.

It opens on a trio of fruit scents through citrus, berries, and apple. The citrus and berries are juicy effects while the apple provides a crisp tart contrast. It sets up violet to come next. That floral in this concentration carries a candied profile in which the crystals of sugar crunch within the floral. This is where the gourmand pieces start to appear. A caramel-like accord is sweetened with vanilla and leather. You might no think of the latter as something which belongs in a gourmand accord. It reminded me of the slightly burnt smell of the caramel when I’ve made home made versions. The base is a rich amber and white musk duo.

Velvet Fantasy has 16-18 hour longevity and above average sillage.

It turns out that I do enjoy a more powerful floral gourmand. This would not have been as enjoyable if the violet were not as present. It is the piece of this which elevates the whole experience for me. It also serves to provide the needed change before I am inundated with the lighter versions again.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Kierin NYC Rose Ink- Midnight at the Tattoo Parlor

Because Mrs. C is a tattooed person, I’ve spent my share of time in tattoo parlors. They are some of my favorite places to be in the hours just after midnight. In that time it is often when someone has finally screwed up the courage to get their first. We were in NYC one night because a famous artist from out West had come to visit. It was a few hours after midnight when a young woman walked in. She was by herself and she told the owner of the shop she would like to get a rose on her shoulder. He gave her the book to settle on a design. As she looked, she was asking questions. She didn’t see anything she really liked when the visiting artist quickly knocked out a freestyle rose on paper. She had been listening to the young woman and seemingly knew exactly what she wanted. The owner took the design and an hour later the woman had her first tattoo. When I received Kierin NYC Rose Ink it brought me back to that night.

Mona Maine de Biran

I received the debut four brands from Kierin NYC a little over a year ago. I was impressed with the quality of the collection. Creative director-owner Mona Maine de Biran has decided that the brand should keep it simple. Counting on well-done fragrances to find an audience. Ms. Maine de Biran is taking an interesting tack to engaging that audience. She is heavily using social media to get the word out about her brand. It includes reaching out to reviewers to also do their part. I am happy to do it because the brand has been making good perfume.

Jerome Epinette

Rose Ink like all the fragrances in the collection take a location in NYC as a starting point. Here it says, “Tattoo Parlor, East Village New York” The only thing I would add to that is “after midnight”. Perfumer Jerome Epinette finds the vibe I remember of that milieu.

The source of the named floral is the Damask version. This is the spicy sturdier rose. This isn’t that debutante rose dressed in pink. This is a rose dressed in a biker jacket. To add the hint of that M. Epinette uses saffron as a leather substitute. It creates the scent of leather which lingers on skin after you’ve taken the jacket off. The other keynote is blackcurrant bud. This is an ingredient which requires a steady hand. M. Epinette adds it in to give a hint of the greensoap used to wash the hands and skin to be tattooed. It also adds a subtle metallic shine to the rose. As if it isn’t in a vase but in the tip of the tattoo needle to be transferred onto skin. Cedar provides a clean woody finish.

Rose Ink has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Rose Ink should be a great choice as the weather gets cooler. This is a rose with presence just in case you want to check out a tattoo parlor after midnight.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle provided by Kierin NYC.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: Because I am part of that outreach effort I spoke of Kierin NYC has provided a code you can use to get 10% off any purchase on the website. The code is: COLOGNOISSEUR10.

New Perfume Review Sol de Janeiro Cheirosa ’62- Bum Bum to Perfume

There is a part of the world where fragrance is an important part of the culture, but it remains separated. In Brazil perfume is a part of society. The business of it is also a large part of that. It includes all the big oil houses which have a presence down there. There are many releases which are for that market exclusively. Which means I am unlikely to try them. It is my belief that fragrance in Brazil is where a lot of innovation happens. When a perfume makes the jump to more general distribution, I look forward to trying it. Sol de Janeiro Cheirosa ’62 has made its way north.

Jerome Epinette

Cheirosa ’62 is, according to the website, based on Brazilian Bum Bum Cream. Which is exactly what it sounds like. Like I said fragrance is a big deal in Brazil; in every product. The basis for this is a gourmand style fragrance. Perfumer Jerome Epinette was asked to turn it into a perfume. Sol de Janeiro also makes the Bum Bum Cream so I was able to compare the scent of each. The perfume is different because it isn’t part of a thick cream it is by nature more open. It follows the transparent trend of perfume currently popular. It makes for one of the better fragrances in this style.

It begins and ends with gourmand aspects. On top is a nutty accord of pistachio and almond. It is more of the former with a rawer type of nuttiness as opposed to being toasty. Heliotrope captures the almond and connects it to an opaque jasmine. It then goes more fully gourmand with a caramel accord in the base oozing over a bit of sandalwood.

Cheirosa ’62 has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I continue to point out, it is this style of transparent floral gourmand which is where I find my greatest pleasure within the current trend. Cheirosa ’62 is one of the good ones. It lasts only a short time on my skin. I have yet to determine whether that is a flaw or feature for the consumer this is meant for. I don’t care because I am not averse to spraying a second, or third, time through the day. I think for those who wanted the scent of Bum Bum to become a perfume Cheirosa ’62 does a great job of that.

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

Mark Behnke