New Perfume Review Scents of Wood Orange in Chestnut and Plum in Cognac- Fruity Woody

The way owner-creative director of Scents of Wood, Fabrice Croise chose to engage me was to send me three mystery samples. It worked. I was interested enough to want to know more. One of the three stood out because instead of wood the keynote was orange. After receiving other samples it seems as if the use of fruit is where M. Croise’s concept really rises. Both Scents of Wood Orange in Chestnut and Plum in Cognac show it off.

Fabrice Croise

The second half of each name is the type of wood-aged alcohol used to host the perfume oil featuring the keynote from the first half. In both of these cases that extra layer of scent adds a lot. Another thing that has an effect are the perfumers M. Croise chose. They clearly had fun employing this alcohol as part of their design.

Carlos Benaim

Orange in Chestnut by perfumer Carlos Benaim– This would have been on my Top 25 list of last year if I knew what it was. It’s likely to be on it for this year. What is so appealing is M. Benaim takes an uber-orange accord and contrasts it with a very dry woody accord. In between the two is the chestnut-aged alcohol.

That orange accord is made up of bigarade, neroli, and orange blossom. This is a lush mostly citrus given softness through the floral components. Early on that subtle chestnut reminds me of the trunk of a summer-warmed orange tree. In counterpoint are austere ingredients of cedar and amber xtreme. The latter can just obliterate everything else in a perfume. M. Benaim keeps it on a tight leash. Turning the the wood accord into a hot desert wind cutting through the orange grove.

Pascal Gaurin

Plum in Cognac by perfumer Pascal Gaurin– This is the one which really shows off the possibilities of this approach to making fragrance. This isn’t truly a woody perfume. It is a syrupy boozy gourmand with wood highlights. M. Gaurin uses the cognac wood-aged alcohol as a piece of the boozy pool upon which his fruit floats.

This opens with a rum-infused plum. It has a fruity narcotic scent profile. In the early moments a spicy swirl of cinnamon forms a spiced fruit cocktail. The rum has a richness to it which I am ascribing to the presence of the cognac wood-aged alcohol. This is full-bodied perfume making. It finishes with a warm accord of vanilla and vetiver.

Both have 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

It was these two perfumes which removed my thoughts of M. Croise’s idea being a gimmick. These are some of the best perfumes I’ve smelled this year or last. I didn’t know that fruity woody was what I desired until now.

Tomorrow I will do a set of quick reviews of the remaining samples I have.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples supplied by Scents of Wood.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Ralph Lauren Polo Cologne Intense and Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb Nightvision EDP

When flankers come out of what I consider the pillars of masculine marketed perfume I look closely. These can be signposts of how the mass-market brands view the current market. They count on the affection for the original to get a consumer to try a new version. This is the reason for the existence of flankers. This month I am going to look at the new flankers Ralph Lauren Polo Cologne Intense and Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb Nightvision EDP.

Ralph Lauren Polo Cologne Intense is the latest flanker to the masterpiece Polo released in 1978. The brand has not been shy about releasing flankers of this. There are years where there are multiples. The quantity makes it a hit-or-miss effort. Polo Cologne Intense is a hit.

Perfumers Carlos Benaim, who did the original and Pascal Gaurin take the strong herbal woody leather of the original and interpret in a lighter form. Even though it is labeled “cologne intense” this is a classic cologne construct using the ingredients from the original which fit the theme. What that means is a citrus top of grapefruit. It means an herbal piece of clary sage and thyme. It ends on the modern equivalent of woods ambroxan. This is a nice warm weather version of Polo without slavishly nodding to it.

Polo Cologne Intense has 12=14 hour longevity and average sillage.

While I know calling Polo a masterpiece finds wide agreement, I am not sure how many thinks 2012’s Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb is. I think it is the 21st century equivalent to Polo. The brand here has been much more judicious in releasing flankers. When they released the Eau de Toilette (EDT) version of Spicebomb Nightvision in 2019 I was disappointed. This was a lighter version, but it lost a lot of the DNA of the original. This recent Spicebomb Nightvision Eau de Parfum (EDP), by perfumers Pascal Gaurin and Nathalie Lorson finds the middle ground closer in style to the original.

Spicebomb Nightvision EDP retains the spicy core of the original as the hot pepper is part of that. In this case it is used to coalesce around grapefruit. The differences come in an herbal lavender meshing with all the spices and a mixture of balsamic notes in the base in place of the leather. This all adds up to a darker shaded version of the original which is a nice change of pace without straying too far astray.

Spicebomb Nightvision EDP has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Giorgio Armani My Way- This Week’s Grilled Cheese

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Long time readers know I have a grilled cheese category of fragrance. What that means is it is as simple as that venerable sandwich but satisfying anyway. These aren’t perfumes which surprise in any way, but they are better than most of their peers on the department store shelves. The latest addition to this category is Giorgio Armani My Way.

Carlos Benaim

Giorgio Armani mass market releases are as hit or miss as any other brands. What puts a perfume on my figurative plate is finding some energy in the routine. For My Way perfumers Carlos Benaim and Bruno Jovanovic collaborate for a simple white flower fragrance.

Bruno Jovanovic

My Way is aimed right at the younger perfume demographic which means transparent. The perfumers make sure that the white flowers here, orange blossom and tuberose, never get too rambunctious. It also benefits from a classic high-low top and base accord around them.

What caught my attention when I tried this the first time was the bergamot. So often it is just an amuse bouche of an ingredient. Here it is given a lot more to do. It provides the typical sparkle that it is known for. The other part is it adds a citrus harmony to the orange blossom which I found nice. The tuberose when given this level of opacity can sometimes remind one of bubble gum. That bergamot also helps keep that from happening. Vanilla adds warmth in the base which helps give some expansion to the florals. Cedar is the final piece of My Way with a clean woody framing of it all.

My Way has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

You’ve smelled many perfumes similar to My Way. You might even own a couple. My Way is worth giving a look because it does those things you enjoyed before with just that little bit more which makes it slightly better.

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

-Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Calvin Klein Eternity for Men- Casual Classic

There was a time in the 1980’s-90’s that Calvin Klein was one of the best brands in perfumery. Those days were kind of their moment in the spotlight. The perfumes from that time also carry a reminder of the changes that were taking place in consumer trends within perfumery. By 1989 Calvin Klein’s fragrance creative director Ann Gottlieb was looking to catch on to the wave of fresh scents that were just beginning their moment. Calvin Klein Eternity for Men is one of those.

Ann Gottlieb

Part of the appeal of this fresh tend in men’s fragrance was they also carried a casualness. It was meant to be the perfume equivalent of a white t-shirt. Ms. Gottlieb would ask perfumer Carlos Benaim to turn Eternity for Men into that.

Carlos Benaim

M. Benaim is an interesting choice because he had defined a type of powerhouse masculine woody ten years earlier with Ralph Lauren Polo. Eternity for Men feels as if he wanted to try and do the same with fresh and clean.

It opens on a fresh suite of herbs lifted with citrus. When you smell this now it is generic, but this was one of the earlier examples. M. Benaim adds an expansiveness that is the opposite of what he did with Polo. Geranium is the floral heart note used here in its traditional green rose role. The herbs provide a deepening of the floral while retaining that fresh quality. Vetiver is used in its typical summery way. The grassier citrus-like aspects are picked up by the herbs as well. It ends on a light woody accord of sandalwood.

Eternity for Men has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I forgot how well this achieved its goals. It is a great casual fougere ideal for wearing out for a day of chores. Perfume would come to perfect this casual vibe over the next few years. Eternity for Men is one of the first. It is available in most discount bins I dig around in as well as almost every online discounter for under $25US. A true Discount Diamond.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ralph Lauren Polo Deep Blue- The Fizz of the Waves?

If you’ve ever spent time on an ocean beach there is a part to the crash of the waves that doesn’t get mentioned. After the wave has crested and crashed on the beach there is a coating of bubbles on top of the water which fizz and pop. It is one of those scents of the beach which hasn’t made it into a perfume. Ever since I heard of a new aromachemical from IFF called CristalFizz I was wondering if that was going to bring that to fragrance. Ralph Lauren Polo Deep Blue is my first chance to see.

Carlos Benaim

Polo is perhaps the most venerable men’s fragrance brand ever. It has spawned numerous flankers ever since its debut in 1978. I’ve lost count. There is a durability to the basic structure that perfumer Carlos Benaim created back then which has been ripe for creating new versions from. In 2016 an aquatic version Polo Blue was released. It was exactly that; aquatic facets added into the herbal core of the original. As Polo flankers go it was above average. With the release of Deep Blue, a flanker of a flanker, I probably would have paid cursory attention but for the presence of the novel CristalFizz. M. Benaim incorporates it into another aquatic take on Polo.

I’ve never smelt CristalFizz by itself so I’m unsure how much of the top to attribute to it. What is there around a tropical mix of grapefruit and green mango is a fresh aldehydic scent. This is a different effect than Calone which is the standard aquatic ingredient. There is a hint of that real-life fizz because it reminds me of the typical way aldehydes act in a perfume. There is an airy lift to the fruit which I am going to attribute to the CristalFizz. From here the traditional Polo DNA appears clary sage doing the herbal part over the fir balsam. Some ambrox and patchouli make it contemporary feeling.

Deep Blue has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is also a better than average flanker of Polo. If you’re looking for a different type of aquatic to add to your warm weather rotation this might fit. I was looking for the fizz of the waves. I almost found it.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Ralph Lauren.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Yves Saint Laurent Libre- Powdery Lavender

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I’ve mentioned that Colognoisseur HQ is out in farm country. One of those farms grows lavender. You will be unsurprised to learn I have become great friends with the owners. I taught them my lavender lemonade recipe and one summer day all about the great lavender perfumes. If you’ve read my reviews of lavender-centric perfumes you will know I like the ones which feature the herbal quality as much as the floral. When I had a table full of different lavender perfumes among a group of people who grow it, I noticed an interesting trend when I asked them to pick their favorite. It split almost perfectly along gender lines with the women all choosing the powderier versions while the men went for the ones with the herbal quality. I remember thinking on the way home that a powdery mainstream lavender might be a big seller. Yves Saint Laurent Libre has arrived to test that hypothesis.

Anne Flipo

Usually when the press releases drifts into gender nonsense I tune it out. In this case when they were mentioning that the intent was to have Libre be a feminine fougere I had two reactions. One is I am surrounded by women who regularly wear fougeres in the spring and fall; that kind of assignation seems arbitrary. Then I thought back to my experience at the lavender farm and wondered if Libre was a fougere which would go powderier because it was meant to appeal to those who like that. Perfumers Anne Flipo and Carlos Benaim succeed at creating the latter.

Carlos Benaim

Libre opens on a juicy citrus accord of mandarin given focus with petitgrain. The lavender here is supposedly a Yves Saint Laurent proprietary ingredient called “diva lavender”. Seems like a lot of hype over what seems like a fraction of lavender which has removed almost all the herbal character. The citrus provides an active light contrast at first. As that recedes orange blossom and blackcurrant bud provides an abstract green floral replacement for the missing herbal part. It makes this a lighter fresher lavender accord overall. It ends with a clean mixture of cedar and white musks.

Libre has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am heading over to the lavender farm in a couple weeks and I will have Libre with me to do my own market research. I predict it will be a hit at the farm and the mall.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Ralph Lauren Polo- The All-American

It’s July 4th and in the US that means we celebrate Independence Day. A day of flag waving, picnics, and fireworks. I thought I’d do a special Fourth of July edition of Discount Diamonds on a fragrance I consider to be the All-American men’s cologne; Ralph Lauren Polo.

Polo the cologne was introduced in 1978. Ralph Lauren had taken the fashion world by storm in 1968 with his American fashion design. The logo was that of a polo player in full gallop. By the time they were going to branch out into fragrance it made sense to put that logo on a bottle and name a men’s fragrance after it. From the day Polo was released it has been a perennial best seller. Even though it has a dated style of leather powerhouse it can still be found almost anywhere that sells fragrance.

Carlos Benaim

When this came out perfumer Carlos Benaim wanted to capture that rugged vibe of the polo player. To do this he would start with an herbal top accord of thyme, basil, and coriander sitting among the branches of a spruce tree. It is a powerful green opening which even at the time of its release was on the upper end of intensity. That remains to the present day but after forty-plus years I find it oddly comforting. This all transitions to a foundation of leather, tobacco, oakmoss, and patchouli. As distinctive as the top accord is, when I think of Polo it is this base which comes to mind. That base has been the essential DNA of Polo and most of the flankers over the years.

Polo has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Polo has surprisingly survived the ravages of reformulation quite well. The brand has taken care to not lose what makes Polo, Polo. Polo is such a classic that if you are interested in trying the vintage formulations those bottles are also out there to be found.

A word of caution even though I write about this on a midsummer’s day this is not a warm weather fragrance. I’m not suggesting you wear some in celebration. On the other hand if you find yourself shopping over the weekend and find that gold polo player staring at you, you might want to pick up a bottle for the fall.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Dunhill Century- Buried by the Flood

There is too much perfume being produced. There is no sector of perfumery that is not flooded with releases. One question I have always had is whether there is enough shelf space for it all. If there isn’t it is only logical to expect some good perfumes will get crowded out. If you need a recent exhibit, I give you Dunhill Century.

Dunhill has been a real under the radar brand. They haven’t had a consistent presence while not releasing a lot of new perfume. For those who read about perfume, earlier releases; Dunhill Signature and Dunhill Icon, have found their fans. I own both and find them to be excellent examples of mainstream perfume.

Carlos Benaim

Dunhill is a British brand and has been released there first with it usually making its way to the US in 4-6 months. At the end of the summer of 2018 I saw that Century had been released. The British bloggers/vloggers covered it. It made me want to find a sample. When my European buyer was putting together my autumn list, I asked her to see if she could find me a sample. A few weeks later there were two samples in with my order. I’ve been sitting on them since then because Century is a warmer weather style. I thought I’d review it when it released in the US. Imagine my surprise when it never made it to the mall it went directly to the online discounters.

I had been asking since the first of the year about it to my contacts at all the department stores. No knowledge of it. When I was doing some research on prices for a Discount Diamonds column I go to the new arrivals and see Century. I was floored it didn’t even get a season in the mall. It isn’t a rare event, unfortunately, but it is sad to see something of the quality of Century never get the chance to find its audience.

The perfumer behind Icon, Carlos Benaim, returned to compose Century. It is a simple spicy neroli over musky woods. It is another above average mainstream perfume.

Century opens on a typical citrus accord which falls away quickly. What comes next is neroli and cardamom. M. Benaim finds a beautiful balance between the floral and the spice. Then to transition to the base incense adds in a resinous connector. Sandalwood and cypriol form a fresh woody base.

Century has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

The market forces have consigned a good perfume to the discount websites. That might be a win. I worry that this is just another exhibit that even quality can get buried under the tsunami of new releases. If you’re looking for a great spicy woody neroli for the warmer weather do a search for Dunhill Century.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Edward Bess Last Night- Rose’s Night Out

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Timing is everything. After I’ve spent weeks smelling one debutante rose fragrance after another; the first to offer something different is sure to get my attention. This year’s refreshing slap came from Edward Bess Last Night.

A little over two years ago Edward Bess began to expand into fragrance with an initial collection of three perfumes. Working with perfumer Carlos Benaim they created a min-max group of simple ingredients chosen for big effects. I was drawn to them for this quality although it was the one which had more subtlety, La Femme Boheme, I enjoyed most. When I saw another spare ingredient list for Last Night I wasn’t sure which way this would go.

Edward Bess (Photo: Ruven Afanador)

One of the things about the previous three releases is M. Benaim takes these chosen ingredients and gives them space to fill. I like it when there is more overlap amongst them. Last Night finds a lot of overlap between the three ingredients of rose, leather, and smoke.

Carlos Benaim

After being fed a steady diet of gentle rose having a diva like Bulgarian rose out in front was the right antidote. This is a rose that wants to be the belle of the ball. She wants to be remembered. She is curved in all the right places with insouciance to burn. When she shows up at the party wearing her biker jacket around her all eyes turn. That is the opening salvo of Last Night as M. Benaim surrounds Bulgarian rose in a leather jacket accord. It is where things pause for a bit before a layer of smoke inserts itself. It is not exactly wood smoke and it isn’t quite cigarette smoke. I’m not sure the source but I think one of the synthetic woods with a prominent smoky scent profile is what M. Benaim is using. This is an abstract smoke effect which I sort of liken to the morning after as our rose, still in her leather jacket, wakes up with a patina of smoke.  

Last Night has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Last Night has more of what I like from this style of perfume making by Mr. Bess and M. Benaim. They seem to have an agreed upon aesthetic which Last Night executes as rose spends the night out.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Dawn- Desiccated Oud

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Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle has been one of the most innovative brands in perfumery. One of those innovations was the release of The Night in 2014. Working with perfumer Dominique Ropion they produced a perfume which used a large concentration of Indian oud. This was unapologetically oud-y displaying all the power and nuance of this now famous ingredient. For many who tried this I suspect it was the first time they had encountered the real thing over a manufactured accord. Four years later it is time for the flip side of The Night with the release of Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Dawn.

Frederic Malle

M. Malle has tapped perfumer Carlos Benaim to collaborate with him on Dawn. One of the things which Dawn mimics The Night in is as a simple composition around oud mostly and rose. Where it differs is M. Benaim adds in a set of ingredients which serve to take Dawn in a different direction.

Carlos Beniam

The source of the oud in Dawn is a Laotian version. Of the oud oils I own the Laotian version is my favorite. I find it the most versatile of the sources of oud because it never is too confrontational in its less pleasant aspects. That is a matter of taste because I like the more stinky parts of oud. Dawn is a perfume where those aspects are attenuated by using a set of notes to dry it out.

The early moments of Dawn is that Laotian oud paired with a very judicious amount of baie rose. Baie rose adds a catalytic amount of herbal-ness. What this achieves it to bring out the greener pieces of the Laotian oud along with a greater presence of the floral undertones within this type of oud. The rose comes next. As in The Night this reinforces why rose is such an ideal floral counterpart to oud from its earliest times. What changes here is M. Benaim uses an assortment of resins and ambrox-based woods to dry things out. When I say that I’m talking about dry as a desert desiccated. Over the middle phase of Dawn these ingredients mummify the Laotian oud to such an extent that if I hadn’t smelled it early on, I wouldn’t believe this is it. One of the things I missed was this kind of aridity also removed much of the grace notes which make oud such an interesting ingredient. This drying out creates an ashy kind of oud.

Dawn has 24-hour longevity and average sillage.

This is another high-quality oud perfume from the brand. I think for those who want their oud tightly controlled this will be a winner. As I wore Dawn this was one of those times where I wondered if an oud accord would have been better. Dawn dries things out so much it elides away some of what makes genuine oud so fascinating. If M. Benaim could have used an accord, I wouldn’t be missing what I know to be buried under the resins and synth woods. If you want your oud as dry as it can be Dawn is the desiccated oud perfume for you.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle.

Mark Behnke