If you want to know what video reviews looked like prior to YouTube you need to go back to 1977. That year a show on PBS called “Sneak Previews” featured two movie critics from rival Chicago newspapers debating a new movie and giving their opinion. What made it work was the difference in perspective about movies. Each of them had preferences they were happy to share even if the other disagreed. It is one of my favorite forms of criticism. Two opinions from different positions found in one place. That dynamic has continued into the world of video reviews on the internet.
Carlos J Powell, Jean-Claude Delville, Steven Gavrielatos (l. to r.)
One of the fragrance equivalents were the shared reviews of YouTubers Redolessence and Brooklyn Fragrance Lover, Steven Gavrielatos and Carlos J Powell respectively. They would travel back and forth to each other’s home studio and would provide reviews together. These are some of my favorite perfume video reviews because they both had different tastes which they would use to form their opinions. They also clearly enjoyed their partnership. There was a warmth which came through the screen when they were together. It is not surprising that they decided to extend their collaboration into creatively directing a perfume. To achieve this they worked with The Society of Scent and perfumer Jean-Claude Delville. Together they would distil the give-and-take of their perfume tastes into a satisfying fragrance called Redbrook Parfums Underground.
The name of the brand is a portmanteau of their YouTube channels. Underground represents the amount of train time spent traveling between their homes to achieve their vision. One of the videos about the creative process shows both Mr. Gavrielatos and Mr. Powell in the courtyard at The Society of Scent with lots of strips to smell. You can see a vigorous conversation happening between the two creative directors and the perfumer. I smiled at that thinking the creative tension would produce something memorable.
It begins with a fresh top accord of citrus and ginger. Ginger has become the contemporary way to add fresh. The equally modern choice for herbal effect is baie rose which is also present in the opening of Underground. This is the appetizer of what is to come. Underground travels down parallel tracks for a bit as patchouli and vetiver runs next to a rich gourmand vanilla and chocolate. They come together through that overlap of the chocolate in patchouli. Together they sped on an express track right to its destination.
Underground has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
As many may know Mr. Powell would pass away just as Underground was on the verge of being released. I know what a personal dream it was for him to have this opportunity. To share it with his best friend added more to it. What remains is a fitting perfume which represents the joy of partnership between the two men and the perfumer who helped it happen.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle provided by Redbrook Parfums.
I met Carlos J Powell the way most of us met him. It was when we got an invitation in 2011 to join a Facebook Group called Peace, Love, & Perfume. For almost ten years Carlos has been one of those central figures in the perfume community online.
Peace, Love, & Perfume was one of the earliest and would grow to one of the largest Facebook Groups dedicated to perfume. Carlos was the ringmaster. If I wanted to find out the pulse of the perfume lovers, this was the place I could do it. There are so many people I would encounter for the first time through a discussion there. These are relationships which endure because Carlos created the type of environment in which they could take root.
We would meet in real life a few months after I joined at an event in New York City. It was here where another piece of Carlos’ ability to capture a moment appeared. When I met him, he introduced me to three other guys with him. They all smiled and said they called themselves the “GoodSmellas”. I remember laughing in appreciation. A few months later they would be the subject of an article in “Elle” magazine on guys wearing perfume.
Where he really made his mark on the perfume fragosphere was as a video reviewer on his YouTube channel Brooklyn Fragrance Lover. He has grown that into one of the top tier perfume video sites on YouTube. One of the ways he accomplished his success was breaking out of his home studio.
When we had a conversation on one of my visits to NYC I told him that he had the ability to be the perfume chronicler of one of the perfume capitals of the world. I am sure it wasn’t just my advice because Carlos had an innate ability to find new ways to present his videos. One of them was his visits to different stores to film remote reviews. Another was for him to bring some of his co-workers into a video to rate different perfumes. These were always fascinating peeks into what the non-perfume public thought about fragrance.
Another development was his alliance with fellow video reviewer Steven Gavrielatos and his Redolessence channel. The two of them had an instantaneous chemistry which allowed for them to provide different perspectives on a single perfume. I have always enjoyed this in the other arts. Carlos and Steven would do it for perfume.
Through it all Carlos did this with a happy energy fueled by his love of all things which smelled good. I hope he is at Peace on a cloud of Love from those of us who miss him which were brought together through Perfume.
I think there are times I probably attach too much importance to the business of perfume. It is why I am glad there are opportunities to shake off the self-important stance and remember that perfume is fun. An ongoing opportunity for me to do this has been The PLP Project created to celebrate the third anniversary of the Facebook group Peace-Love-Perfume, or in this world of abbreviated terms, PLP. The originator and ringmaster of the group, Carlos J. Powell, reached out to a number of perfumers to create a perfume. One of the perfumers he contacted was Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes. He gave her a simple brief for each of three perfumes, one for each word in the group name. He asked for Peace to be “a meditative incense fragrance.” Love to be “a sexy animalic fragrance.” Perfume to be “a traditional cologne with a twist on the concept.” Ms. Hurwitz loves these kind of open-ended concepts and I suspect it is because she has fun just letting it rip. One of the things I admire about her is that while these might have a bit more light-heartedness to them they are never anything less than perfumes with Ms. Hurwitz’s consummate skill on display.
When asked for a meditative incense fragrance as Peace Ms. Hurwitz decides she isn’t just going to rely on the classics like frankincense and myrrh. Nope she throws in a bit of Laotian oud, Bakul attar, and Choya Ral. On top a bit of green champaca leaf and a pairing of rose de mai and orris adds some floralcy but this is the promised incense fragrance. My only quibble is with it being meditative. Peace is a resin lover’s house party. It is so full of interesting resins and combinations I am sure I could never just contemplate a single point while wearing this. It is just like the best gatherings with way too many interesting people around you can’t stop for fear you might miss something. Each time I wore Peace the resins presented themselves slightly differently and that increased my enjoyment immensely.
When Ms. Hurwitz is asked for an animalic fragrance as she was for Love I know I am in for something memorable. Ms. Hurwitz and I have spent a lot of time talking about the great perfumes of the past. When asked to go animalic I knew she would be thinking about those classics. As she did with Peace she makes sure Love is not going to be lacking and so she takes musk, civet, castoreum, and ambergris which are the foundation of those mid-twentieth century perfumes and then twists it with a combination of more contemporary botanical animalics, ambrette, labdanum, and hyracium. This is all matched with a fantastic indolic jasmine and gardenia. This is so over-the-top it reminded me of Norma Desmond and a line she never said, “I am big. It’s the perfume that got small.” Love does feel a bit like an unearthed relic of a few decades ago but it is a delightful riff on perfume from that time period as only a student of those perfumes could accomplish.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
As regular readers know I love this renaissance of cologne we are currently in. By asking Ms. Hurwitz to deliver a twisted cologne in Perfume I was very excited. The first twist begins by using a large dose of rhubarb paired with grapefruit. There is a wonderful synergy between these two notes but the real twist comes when she soaks them in a jigger of cognac. This rapidly flows in to an herbal heart of basil paired with fruit and a jasmine-like pittosporum. The transition from the top to the heart is not as abrupt as it might sound. Ms. Hurwitz has smoothed the transition out so it is more gradual than it might seem. Ambrette and vetiver provide a traditional finish to Perfume but there were plenty of twists and turns before allowing us to catch our breath at the end.
Peace and Love are extrait strength and last for 12-14 hours on my skin with minimal sillage. Perfume lasts for 6-8 hours with average sillage.
All three perfumes show Ms. Hurwitz at her best taking a very broad brief and composing three perfumes with a joyful abandon which permeates every moment of Peace, Love, and Perfume.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by DSH Perfumes.
The Brooklyn section known as DUMBO (Down Under The Manhattan Bridge Overpass) has become a vibrant creative nexus in Brooklyn. There have been a couple of perfumers who have gotten their start in this section. Maria McElroy of Aroma M perfumes and Alexis Karl of Scent by Alexis work on their own creations in their ateliers in Brooklyn. What has come to be special is when Ms. McElroy and Ms. Karl decide to collaborate for their shared brand House of Cherry Bomb. While their first two releases Truth or Dare and Rebel Angel were constructed for a different perfumista than I there was a great energy in those compositions. Last year’s Cardamom Rose and Tobacco Cognac were very much constructed for a perfumista like me. That energy I detected in the first two fragrances was even more assured here. It seemed like Ms. McElroy and Ms. Karl had really found a collaborative harmonic from which more perfumes would come. That next perfume has come and it is called House of Cherry Bomb Pink Haze.
Pink Haze is part of The PLP Project. PLP stands for the Facebook perfume group Peace-Love-Perfume started by Carlos J Powell, also known as YouTube reviewer Brooklyn Fragrance Lover, three years ago. For this third anniversary Mr. Powell has reached out to the perfumers who are part of the community to help celebrate by making perfumes in celebration of PLP. Pink Haze is more about Brooklyn than the Facebook group but that seems right as that is where Mr. Powell calls home, too. On the House of Cherry Bomb website Pink Haze is described as “the scent of tree lined Brooklyn streets, of stone buildings, both old and new, and of the hot metal of subway cars.” Pink Haze is the smell of midsummer twilight in DUMBO as the sun hits the horizon. The stone of the bridge and the smell of the sun charged aluminum on the side of the subway train roaring past all the while the summer flowers release their natural fragrance into the cooling air. Pink Haze paints a perfect Brooklyn still life on a summer evening.
Maria McElroy (l.) and Alexis Karl
Pink Haze opens underneath the Manhattan Bridge as the smell of the stone is juxtaposed with the smell of hot aluminum. Ms. McElroy and Ms. Karl have created an authentic city accord as the stone has the feel of seeing the heat shimmer in waves off of it. The same holds true for the hot aluminum which also feels like it is radiating its scent in heated pulses off of its surface. I was drawn in by this opening and I think it takes a city dweller to get this just right and the Brooklynites nail this. As the stone and aluminum cools in the night the florals begin to come out and on this street lilac, muguet, and gardenia are what is growing. The muguet leads the way and the lilac and gardenia come a bit later. The strength of these are kept well-modulated and that help keeps Pink Haze more true to its name. A bit of cedar provides the base note for the end of Pink Haze.
Pink Haze has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
Pink Haze is the best perfume by House of Cherry Bomb to date. I think that is because this was a very personal project. Not only to evoke the place where they create but to also celebrate the online place where they congregate. Taken all together Pink Haze is a celebration of Peace-Love-Perfume and Brooklyn.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Carlos J Powell.
Editor’s Note: For more information on all of the perfumes that are part of The PLP Project check out the Facebook link here.