New Perfume Reviews Parfums Quartana Les Potions Fatales (Part 5)- Mandrake, Wolfsbane, & Conclusions

Concluding my reviews of the new Parfums Quartana Les Potions Fatales with Mandrake and Wolfsbane.

carlos vinals

Carlos Vinals

Most people are familiar with Mandrake as the squalling magical plant in the Harry Potter novels and movies. This comes from Wiccan beliefs that the roots emitted a fatal scream when dug up. Creative director Joseph Quartana working with perfumer Carlos Vinals wanted to mix both the fictional qualities with the reality of the plant. What they came up with was a fragrance which evokes a plant firmly rooted in the soil which after you unearth it might just have a magical scream waiting for you.

Mr. Vinals was inspired by the smell of actual Mandrake which has an uncanny resemblance to apples. So he uses a classic red apple accord. He surrounds the crisp fruit with the off-beat green of rhubarb, cardamom, along with birch leaf and birch root. This creates a really interesting fruity foliage accord when it all comes together. That apple is ever present but the two sources of birch provide the leafiness and the sense of the soil it is growing in. This eventually slides into a leathery woody finish around leather, sandalwood, and patchouli. To represent the magical shriek Mr. Vinals adds a sharp synthetic contrast which has an air of being too sharp. I would have liked less of this as the fragrance at this point didn’t need that kind of grace note added. On the days I wore it I found it distracting.

Mandrake has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I like everything about Mandrake except for that final bit of artistic flair. It was what kept it from being my overall favorite.

philippe paparella-paris

Philippe Paparella-Paris

That goes to Wolfsbane. When I was sitting with Mr. Quartana in Milan as he explained the collection to me I was already imagining a fragrance which was found deep in a wood full of supernatural influences. Probably for the best Mr. Quartana only gave in to that most obvious of impulses only once with Wolfsbane. Working with perfumer Philippe Paprella-Paris this is that walk through a mystical wood holding tight to your wolfsbane in the hope it will defend you from the beasts in the shadows. M. Paprella-Paris wants you to feel that there is something just outside your vision but not beyond your sense of smell.

This opens with an absinthe-laden top accord. M. Paparella-Paris realizes a wee bit of The Green Fairy might be necessary to step into the woods at night. The other aspect is the wormwood within the absinthe also gives off a senses of ancient decay. To heighten that M. Paparella-Paris uses angelica root, fig, ginger and most importantly cumin. That cumin is what portrays nervousness with the sweaty character that normally comes with it. In combination with the ginger it also creates a simmering kind of kinetic energy. As you move deeper into the woods castoreum brings the scent of whatever stalks you to your nose. Night-blooming tuberose seems less innocent and more threatening all of a sudden. Patchouli, tobacco flower, prunol, and benzoin evoke the forest floor you are moving through at a renewed pace. Somewhere you smell the truffles present in the ground but you need to keep moving as the woods seem to close in with vetiver becoming ever stronger along with the whatever is right behind you.

Wolfsbane has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Wolfsbane is my very favorite of the Les Potions Fatales. It has the most dynamic evolution of any of these debut fragrances. It never failed to make my days better when I wore it.

When it comes to large collections like this I am usually dismissive of them. My biggest irritations are no real lack of cohesion matched with cynical box checking. Let me assure you that Mr. Quartana has overseen a true collection in every way that word should apply to fragrance. He also never, not for one moment, diminished his artistic vision of what this collection was going to be. No box checking going on here. One other thing I would like to mention is the use of a different perfumer on each fragrance. Granted he chose to work with the roster of perfumers at Symrise which truly showed their versatility throughout this collection. But getting a cohesion from different artists even being directed by a single creative director is not easy. I think this is a collection which should be sought out by those who enjoy something different in their perfume.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Parfums Quartana.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Dana Valor- My Heritage Brand

Over the last couple of years we have seen a number of older, mostly French, perfume houses be revived. These have been called heritage brands. Certainly every brand that existed in the early part of the 20th century is part of the heritage of perfumery. When it comes to my heritage the roots of my love of perfume come from what my father wore, Dana English Leather. If you speak to almost any baby boomer about what fragrance their father wore English Leather would be mentioned a lot. For me it defines a certain particular American aesthetic in the post-war years.

dana valor

After 2007 it seemed like Dana had stopped making new fragrances. The tentpole perfumes which created the brand still were available but it seemed like management had thrown in the towel as far as being competitive. Even I had forgotten they existed. Then I saw the list of this years Fragrance Foundation nominees and in the category Fragrance of the Year Men’s Popular there was listed Dana Valor. I wanted to find out more. As luck would have it I met Terrence Moorehead the CEO of Dana at the Fragrance Foundation Finalists breakfast. After speaking with him I really got the sense of a man who wants to make Dana a player in their sector of the market. I was given a sample of Valor and I was hopeful it would be good. It’s not only good it feels relevant.

Carlos Vinals

Carlos Vinals

Perfumer Carlos Vinals was the man behind Valor. The brief was to make a fragrance which “celebrate(s) our troops and champion(s) the American dream for a new generation.” Mr. Vinals decided a slightly boozy citrus Oriental composition would fit the bill.

The early moments of Valor have some similarity to the early moments of English Leather as lemon, bergamot and lavender are up front for both. Mr. Vinals makes sure to take a quick left turn away from too much similarity and to that end he adds a crisp green pear to it. It adds some sharper lines around the citrus and makes it pop a little more. As we move into the heart a swoosh of cardamom leads into a bourbon accord. This is not a full on alcoholic haze, it is much lighter in feel. It has the bite of a good bourbon without leaving teeth marks. The lavender remains and this mixture of the cardamom, and bourbon with it is quite enjoyable. Valor heads into a typical Oriental finish with patchouli, amber, cashmeran, and vanilla combining to create a warmly bolstering foundation.

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

When speaking with Mr. Moorehead I know there is more to come from Dana. Valor is a great first step at putting a quintessential American perfume brand back on every perfume lover’s radar.

Disclosure: this review was based on sample of Valor provided by Dana Beauty.

Mark Behnke