Pierre Benard Challenge Day 9- Leather

If there is anything I associate as the scent of luxury it is leather. Leather always seems like an upgrade. Ricardo Montalban would tell me soft Corinthian leather was part of the luxury of the automobile he was hawking. The pieces of leather I’ve owned all seem like some of the most high-end things I own. Part of that is the smell of leather. There is something primal and opulent about it.

Leather has been a staple of modern perfumery since the 1927 release of Chanel Cuir de Russie by perfumer Ernest Beaux. Here is the thing there is no such thing as leather essential oil. When you smell leather in a perfume it has to be a created accord by the perfumer to smell like leather. When I learned this I realized whenever I smelt leather in a perfume, I was encountering a perfumer’s signature.

Bertrand Duchaufour

Because there is no one recipe every perfumer creates their own version of the accord. M. Beaux would use one of the materials used to tan leather, birch tar, as the foundation for the one in Cuir de Russie. Ever since, each perfumer has had the opportunity to evolve the making of their accord as more and more ingredients became available.

This has resulted in perfume with differing leather effects. They can be subtle as a driving glove to as robust as that original saddle leather. Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour would make different leather accords for different compositions. He combined styrax and birch tar for the classic leather vibe. Frankincense, davana, cistus, and saffron form a piquant version. Angelica seed, blackcurrant bud, and tomato leaf form a raw untanned scent. My favorite is his combination of castoreum and ambergris. There is just the right balance of refined and animalic that is near perfect.

Quentin Bisch (l.) and Marc-Antoine Barrois

A recent pair of releases shows the difference ways a leather accord can be tuned to very different styles of perfume. Perfumer Quentin Bisch working with Marc-Antoine Barrois. Released their first perfume based on a leather accord called Marc-Antoine Barrois B683. This is that luxurious leather accord I spoke of at the beginning. This leather caresses and envelops me in all the things which make leather great. They would return a year later with Marc-Antoine Barrois Ganymede. This time the leather accord is used in a near transparent way allowing immortelle to tease out the ambergris I am pretty sure is there. This makes it that kind of salty animalic that I enjoyed so much by M. Duchaufour.

Leather is one of the most important accords in all of perfumery. It also allows the perfumers an opportunity to append a scented signature to their works. This is why I adore it.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Eau D’Italie Jardin du Poete- Herbal Spring

With some time I can look back and point at some incredible perfumery. One of the things new independent perfume brands did a lot of in the mid-2000’s was to rely on one perfumer to help refine the desired aesthetic. Spouses Sebastian Alvarez Murena and Marina Sersale wanted to create perfumes based on their hotel La Sireneuse on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. They turned to perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour to help create their line of perfume. From 2004-2011 he created the eight perfumes which would set the template for the brand to thrive. Those eight perfumes when seen together show the artistry of the entire creative team. I own all of them and they are pinnacles of what independent perfumery stands for. It is this kind of perfume brand I like to highlight in this Under the Radar column. Today I will focus on the last of the perfumes M. Duchaufour did for the brand Eau D’Italie Jardin du Poete.

Regular readers will not be surprised to know the scent I associate with spring has nothing to do with rose. I am a fan of the greener herbal perfumes for this season. Jardin du Poete is one of those with a fantastic pivot at the end that I never tire of experiencing. Jardin du Poete captures a springtime dawdle in a garden near La Sireneuse.

Bertrand Duchaufour

It opens with a typical Mediterranean cocktail of citrus. In this case M. Duchaufour captures the bitter side of these fruits. Using grapefruit and bitter orange this is isn’t the juicy ripe citrus of a summer scent. It is more closed in as the sulfurous quality of the grapefruit and the bitterness of the orange create a citrus accord of fruit not quite ripe enough to eat. M. Duchaufour then adds in an overdose of basil. This pungent green herbal note accentuates the greener qualities of the citrus. Baie rose adds in more herbal support. The basil and baie rose form an abstract tomato leaf accord over time on my skin. Then the pivot I spoke of happens as the maple syrup scent of immortelle flows over the herbal nature. Immortelle can dominate the fragrances it is used in. M. Duchaufour uses it here in one of the most transparent ways I have encountered it. It forms a rugged green garden accord as the immortelle reminds me more of broom flower or hay as the basil provides the green beneath. A grassy vetiver brings it all full circle.

Jardin du Poete has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

These early perfumes of Eau D’Italie are all worthy of being on your radar. If you need to find one appropriate for spring Jardin du Poete is a good place to start.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Navitus Parfums Part 1 Absolutio, Primas, and Virtus- Doing It Correctly

The last year have seen a lot of those who comment on perfume making the leap to making perfume. It is not a natural transition. Just because you can speak about perfume it does not guarantee you can create perfume. Of the people I admire who have successfully completed this change it is the ones who have a passion for it. It is that which I believe is the most critical ingredient. If you come at it from a cynical perspective, you are no better than the large brands working on creating fragrance via focus group. There are plenty of success stories to emulate; Zoologist, Eris and Arielle Shoshana began as perfume writers before becoming creative directors who make great perfumes. I have a new name to add to that list Steven Gavrielatos of Navitus Parfums.

Steven Gavrielatos (l.) and Jorge Lee

Mr. Gavrielatos is better known by the name he has produced videos on YouTube under; Redolessence. He has been one of the longest running video reviewers. He was approached to take over the creative director duties for a new brand midway through 2018. If you have the inclination to want to do this, you could not ask for a better situation. With the money to back him Mr. Gavrielatos could take the time to find the right perfumers to collaborate with. He would settle on Jorge Lee, Bertrand Duchaufour, and Christian Carbonnel. Together they would produce a debut collection of seven perfumes. It spans a wide spectrum of styles. It also shows a sense of direction from someone who is making perfume for his own enjoyment. Over the next two days I am going to do reviews of all seven of the inaugural releases because it is a line which has done things correctly.

Navitus Parfums Primas is the “freshie” in the collection. There is a shorthand in the video reviewing community for the fresh and clean style of fragrance. Mr. Gavrielatos asks Jorge Lee for some different interpretations of fresh within Primas. It starts right away as grapefruit is given an enhancement via green mango. This isn’t the ripe mango seen in other fragrances. By using the green version it does make for a fresh citrus with a tropical twist. An airy jasmine intermezzo leads to an earthier base than I was expecting. Patchouli and oakmoss don’t go for that chypre vibe. Instead they find a fresher harmonic which labdanum also supports. The final part is cedar and synth woods for a long lasting dry woody finish.

Primas has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Steven Gavrielatos (l.) and Bertrand Duchaufour

The next two perfumes were composed by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour. As much as I facetiously call him the “High Priest of Resins” for his ability with incense perfumes. I could also give him a similar sobriquet for his use of spices in his perfumes; the “Sultan of Spices”?  Both Navitus perfumes show how he can use them differently.

In Navitus Parfums Absolutio it is through the use mainly of saffron. M. Duchaufour merges it with almond in the early going. This gives the almond a toasty feel as the saffron wraps it in a golden glow. It gives way to a fascinating heart accord of caramel apple. The carnival treat is brought to life with the crisp apple under a gooey caramel. All around this is the warmth of the saffron. This is a gorgeously realized transition. As Absolutio develops the gourmand style deepens from caramel to chocolate. Mr. Gavrielatos also seems to have decided to not let this go full-on gourmand. It is a lighter style of gourmand than I usually encounter. The use of woody ingredients in the base keep the touch lighter through to the end.

Absolutio has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

If I was wanting a full-on gourmand from M. Duchaufour it was waiting in my sample of Navitus Parfums Virtus. If Mr. Gavrielatos was reining him in on Absolutio; Virtus is what it is like to let him run free. Virtus is a howlingly good gourmand because it is so unrestrained. Another thing M. Duchaufour does well is to balance the ingredients in perfumes with a list of ingredients longer than a shopping list. In Virtus he directs each of the ingredients to their proper place within the whole. It opens on a spicy mix of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and saffron. This is that spice cabinet accord I enjoy as each ingredient swirls around and through each other. As it moves into the heart the spices come to settle on a sage scented honey accord. This is that sweet-savory dichotomy which can be so satisfying. It is given a creaminess through fig and beeswax. It goes deeper as tobacco picks up the sweetness of the honey and carries it downward into a place where vanilla is combined with a chocolaty patchouli to complete this full-spectrum gourmand accord. It rests again on a dry woody base.

Virtus has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Tomorrow I will return with the final four releases from Navitus along with some closing thoughts on the line as a whole.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample set provided by Navitus Parfums.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Crivelli Citrus BatiKanga- Hot Citrus

Citrus perfumes are for hot weather is as much an axiom as not wearing white after Labor Day. To any informal rule there are reasons as well as exceptions. The reason for the citrus rule is most perfumes which feature it have a chilly overall feeling. Ideal to wear on a hot day. The exceptions are when a perfumer decides to find the deeper quality to these inherently sunny ingredients. That is what occurs with Maison Crivelli Citrus BatiKanga.

Thibaud Crivelli

Maison Crivelli was founded by Thibaud Crivelli at the end of 2018 with the release of a debut collection of five. Citrus BatiKanga is the first addition since then. I was interested in this brand initially because M. Crivelli spoke about how he wanted to make fragrance with texture. The first five all lived up to that. For Citrus Batikanga, working with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, it continues that aesthetic.

Bertrand Duchaufour

M. Duchaufour uses an interesting counterbalance to the citrus; red chili. Hot oily red chili. I wasn’t sure what this would be. Turns out a little heat for my citrus is good.

Citrus BatiKanga opens with bergamot, pomelo, and orange forming the citrus accord. M. Duchaufour supports this with a bit of rhubarb and cardamom. It creates a less effulgent citrus. It still seems sunny but more similar to sunset than high noon. This is where the chili oil comes in. There is this quality of repressed heat in the chili oil used here which forms that textural contrast M. Crivelli desires. Red sunlight and red chili oil work together nicely. Vetiver uses its citrus-like grassy high harmonics to bring the fiery citrus down into the its woody embrace. It finishes with the soothing sweet resins of myrrh acting as if to quench the fire.

Citrus Batikanga has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Citrus BatiKanga is a great cooler weather citrus scent. I wore this on warmer than normal winter days and it didn’t seem like it was struggling to be sniffed. I think on those cool spring mornings coming up this is going to be just the ticket.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Olfactive Studio Chypre Shot- Keeping Chypre Alive

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When the restrictions on oakmoss absolute were announced a few years ago I thought to myself that was the end of the chypre. It has turned out to be as inaccurate a prediction as I could have made. What the loss of full spectrum oakmoss has done is to give a few perfumers the challenge of making a modern chypre without the oakmoss. They have some help because there is a version of oakmoss where the problematic component, atranol, has been greatly reduced. This low-atranol version caries much of the mossy softness of oakmoss. The only thing I find lacking is the bite. Of course it is that bite which defines a good chypre to me. Which means if you’re going to make a modern chypre for my tastes you need to find a way of restoring that. If there is one perfumer who has excelled at this, it is Bertrand Duchaufour. His collaboration with creative director Celine Verleure adds another chypre to his portfolio with Olfactive Studio Chypre Shot.

Celine Verleure

Chypre Shot is part of the three fragrance Sepia Collection which was released at the end of the winter this year. Having a collection of three perfumes all at once is a departure for Olfactive Studio. It is even more difficult when all three are good. Chypre Shot captures everything that is great about M. Duchaufour’s examination of creating modern chypres.

Bertrand Duchaufour

Chypre Shot opens with a strong cardamom gust flanked by the golden aura of saffron. It leads to a fascinating interlude of black tea, coffee, and peony. This is like floating a fresh floral on top of a cup of half tea half coffee. The coffee begins to provide some of the bite I want with an oily bitterness. The real purveyor of that comes as the oakmoss arrives. Black pepper infuses itself throughout the low-atranol oakmoss. It sets up the last part of the chypre accord, patchouli, to come forward and complete the effect. Some amber warms things up in the late going but it is that modern chypre accord which holds the focus for most of the time.

Chypre Shot has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage. All the Sepia Collection releases are extrait strength making them closer wearing.

One of the reasons Chypre Shot delights me so is M. Duchaufour continues to show he will not be limited by ingredient restrictions. He has continued to lead the way in making sure chypres remain a vital perfume style, no matter what.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Cipresso di Toscana- Acquisition Phase

I think everyone who becomes a perfume lover goes through the same phases. The most fevered one is after you’ve discovered the internet resources. Once you realize there is more perfume than is what is available at the local mall you start figuring out how to try it. This is the time when many people go from a few bottles to filling a bookshelf with fragrance. When it happened to me, I called it “acquisition phase”. I would read abut a perfume somewhere on the internet and then figure out where I could buy it. This happened in the early 2000’s. Just like finding a favorite musician or artist I would then find a perfumer I liked and wanted to try anything by that perfumer I could get my hands on. The perfume which introduced me to Bertrand Duchaufour has just recently been re-issued; Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Cipresso di Toscana.

Bertrand Duchaufour

Cipresso di Toscana was the first release for the Blu Mediterraneo collection. I’ll admit the first day I noticed it was because of the blue bottle. Once I finally bought the bottle I was already hooked. It was one of those times where I kept smelling the patch of skin I sprayed the tester on. It has always been one of my favorites in this line and I was sorry to see it discontinued in 2012.It has just returned in time for summer of 2019. What attracted me then still appeals to me today Cipresso di Toscano is a fresh herbal pine fragrance. M. Duchaoufour weaves herbs through a woody matrix.

Cipresso di Toscano opens with a citrus flare of grapefruit and petitgrain. It is a classic citrus top accord. It gives way to a set of herbs as clary sage leads a parade of coriander, rosemary, and basil to surround a deeply resinous pine. This is an exhilarating pine which the herbs make sure to keep that way. The woodiness of the cypress grows through this accord providing a blond wood spine to let these ingredients hang out upon.

Cipresso di Toscana has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage in its current formulation.

There is only one tiny change I detected when comparing my old bottle with a new sample. There was a touch of oakmoss in the original which I don’t detect in the new version. It was a grace note then and I don’t think it makes the new version significantly different. Which is great because I suspect there are some new perfume neophytes who will be following in my footsteps.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle of the original I purchased and a sample of the new version from Sephora.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Pont des Arts A Chaque Instant- Chypre Bridge

As we enter the final weeks of summer this is my chance as a reviewer to start plucking samples out of the “maybe” box. These are the reviews which keep getting bumped because something newer arrives that captures my attention. One chance is for me to re-visit a new collection where I only reviewed a single release. Today I am returning to review Pont des Arts A Chaque Instant.

Geraldine and Bernard Siouffi

Geraldine and Bernard Siouffi founded Pont des Arts in 2018 with a debut collection of three perfumes. Named after the famous pedestrian bridge over the Seine, the Siouffis want these perfumes to be very French in style. They turned to perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour to realize that vision in A Chaque Instant.

Bertrand Duchaufour

A Chaque instant is meant to be a modern chypre. M. Duchaufour is one of the few current perfumers who has successfully created contemporary versions of this venerable fragrance style. The reason for that is his ability to find overlaps between ingredients which provide the depth and bite of the classic chypre. For A Chaque Instant those overlaps are found in spices, florals, and resins.

A Chaque Instant opens with an overdose of baie rose. In this concentration the green herbal quality is much amplified. Some galbanum hones that to a sharper edge. Angelica provides a more vegetal green to this super-green top accord. The heart accord is comprised mainly of jasmine and tuberose. They come together in white flower harmony that is enhanced by M. Duchaufour’s use of beeswax as the connecting note. It provides a matrix for the white flowers to push back against the green. What remains is the chypre accord. That comes from the low atranol version of oakmoss given a resinous polish via myrrh and benzoin. Vetiver provides the bite the loss of the atranol removes. Patchouli finishes this with an earthy grounding.

A Chaque Instant has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

You might not be feeling a green floral chypre with the midsummer sun beating down. Keep this one in mind once we move into the cooler months. It is going to be a great addition to any chypre lovers collection.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Olfactive Studio Leather Shot- Spicy Iris Leather

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I am a long-time admirer of Celine Verleure. Her days as Creative Director at Kenzo perfumes produced fragrances that were trendsetters. Ever since she started her own brand, Olfactive Studio, in 2011 she has reaffirmed my belief that she is one of the elite Creative Directors in all of perfumery. She has practiced a particularly interesting form of artistic direction with Olfactive Studio. Instead of a brief for the perfumer consisting of words; she has chosen a photograph. It has resulted in one of the top niche perfume collections.

Celine Verleure

At the end of last year she tried something a little bit different in overseeing the three perfume Sepia Collection. She worked with the same photographer and the same perfumer. It has been one of the things which has made the brand so vibrant that it has been a different photographer and mostly a different perfumer. For the Sepia Collection she chose the photos of Martin Hill who along with his wife, Philippa Jones, create natural temporary sculptures out of the geography and what is available nearby. His photographs are all that preserves the work.

Bertrand Duchaufour

Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour is one of the most prolific independent perfumers we have. That amount of output naturally has its ups and downs. If there has been any pattern to his better perfumes, I would posit that a strong artistic vision from the brand which doesn’t compromise is the best barometer for success. In 2017’s Woody Mood Mme Verleure showed she could bring out the best in M. Duchaufour.

Photo by Martin Hill

I will eventually review all three Sepia Collection perfumes but as usual there was one which needed to be worn first, Leather Shot. If you look at Mr. Hill’s picture, above, used as the brief you will be surprised at what you find in the bottle. Leather Shot is a spicy iris leather construct.

It is the spice and iris where Leather Shot opens. This is the high quality rooty iris with its carrot-like earthiness ascendant. M. Duchaufour uses a high-low combination of spices as cardamom cools things down while cumin heats things up. This is a compelling opening which swirls with complexity. It requires an equally intricate leather accord to stand up to it. One of the things I have lauded M. Duchaufour for is the flexibility of his building block accords. His leather accord might be his most adaptive. In Leather Shot he lets the animalic roughness come from the cumin. The actual leather accord has a supple refinement while the cumin provides the bite. It settles down into a desiccated woody accord.

Leather Shot has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

All the Sepia Collection releases are extrait strength. In the case of Leather Shot the more constricted expansiveness is a plus. This is better for it being so concentrated. This arrived just at the right time as winter turned to spring. The cool mornings felt just right for Leather Shot.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Pont Des Arts A Ce Soir-Repurposing Bertrand

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Bertrand Duchaufour is one of the most prolific perfumers of the past ten years. That he is also among our best perfumes while being this productive is also something to admire. It is now getting to the point where it becomes difficult not to see pieces, or accords, of previous compositions within new ones. That could be seen as a flaw, but I don’t think it is as easy as picking one from Column A then B then C, et voila! I choose to see it more as a concept we use in drug discovery known as repurposing. When there is a new drug which works via a new biological mechanism there is an effort to see if there are older drugs which might combine with it to make it work better.  M. Duchaufour is responsible for two of the three debut fragrances for a new line called Pont Des Arts. I received a sample of A Ce Soir in a subscription box. As I tried it out it was hard not to think that M. Duchaufour was repurposing some of his best accords to create a new effect.

Geraldine and Bernard Siouffi (via Pont Des Arts Facebook page)

Based on the website husband and wife, Bernard and Geraldine Siouffi, are designing fragrances meant to be Parisian in style. Which is why the brand is named after the famous bridge which until recently was covered in locks which represented lovers’ commitment to each other. They also want perfume to be a bridge of the senses as the Pont des Arts is the only dedicated pedestrian bridge over the Seine. They only used French perfumers for their debut collection which made M. Duchaufour almost a shoo-in to be asked.

Bertrand Duchaufour

I found it interesting that in the accompanying brochure in the subscription box that the writer describing A Ce Soir also found echoes of previous releases by M. Duchaufour calling out L’Artisan Havana Vanille and Penhaligon’s Ostara. Which makes it interesting to bring back pieces of those now-discontinued perfumes. There are similarities, but I found a stronger through line as I wore it which knitted this together more seamlessly than a collection of pieces.

A Ce Soir opens with a lens flare of lemon and mandarin. Then a slowly intensifying thread of green begins with bamboo providing the first hues. One of the things M. Dcuhaufour has become very good at is a boozy top accord. Here the rum slowly decants itself over the citrus. Cinnamon provides warmth to the alcoholic nature. The green is notched up another level via blackcurrant bud. This leads to a fantastically narcotic floral heart accord centered on narcissus. Narcissus is made more sensual by swirling in ylang-ylang. M. Duchaufour has made these kinds of carnal floral accords in the past; this is another one. Then like sharing a dessert after the carnality the base accord is all comfort as rich vanilla is used surrounded by benzoin and amber. Vetiver completes the green thread as it anchors the entire effect.

A Ce Soir has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I think you can focus on what A Ce Soir reminds you of from M. Duchaufour’s past. I think that does this a great disservice as M. Duchaufour has blended his past into something entirely new, well worth enjoying on its own terms.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample received in a subscription box.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Neela Vermeire Creations Niral- Silken Flow

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One of the great success stories in independent perfume has been that of Neela Vermeire Creations. The success is borne from its namesake Neela Vermeire. As an Indian living in Paris the hallmark of her brand has been the fusion of a French and Indian aesthetic. Mme Vermeire has chosen to work exclusively with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour. The original three releases, Trayee, Mohur, and Bombay Bling laid down this marker in 2012. Over the ensuing years it has become more assured in its execution. The latest release, Niral, is another outstanding perfume from this creative team.

Neela Vermeire

Mme Vermeire looks for her inspiration this time to Sir Thomas Waddle. Sir Waddle was the first to figure out how to dye the silk harvested from the silkworms of India; known as Tussar silk. This silk was prized for its texture, but it was resistant to the typical dying procedures in the 1870’s. Sir Wardle would attend the Paris Exhibition, in 1878, with a full-spectrum of dyed Tussar silk. It was such a breakthrough Sir Wardle was not only knighted he was also appointed a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in France. Mme Vermeire evokes this colored textured fabric as a perfume in Niral.

Bertrand Duchaufour

M. Duchaufour uses a fantastic opening accord of spicy green angelica paired with a champagne accord. The champagne accord has a slight fizz of aldehydes which effervesce through the slightly musky green of the angelica. This captures that textural golden sheen endemic to Tussar silk. The raw material becomes dyed with iris and black tea. Every bit as compelling as the opening accord; the shimmery powdery iris crossed with the pungent tea is another textural pairing. M. Duchaufour uses one of his subtler leather accords to provide a transparent animalic effect underneath the heart notes. This all comes to rest on a woody base of cedar and sandalwood.

Niral has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is the most assured perfume for this brand to date. There is not a piece out of place. It flows like a bolt of fine silk over the skin. I have worn it three times and each time I find more nuance to admire. It is my favorite new perfume of 2018, so far. It is the culmination of everything Mme Vermeire and M. Duchaufour have been doing for the last six years.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Neela Vermeire Creations.

Mark Behnke