New Perfume Review Jul et Mad Acqua Sextius- Love Story Part IV

There are so many inspirations which turn into perfume but the story behind Jul et Mad is, I think, unique. Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard are the owners and Creative Directors of Jul et Mad which comes from the abbreviation of their first names. The first three fragrances followed the pair from Lexington Avenue in NYC to a café in Paris and left us with them on a palazzo in Venice. For the fourth fragrance in the Histoire D’Amour series, Acqua Sextius, our lovers travel to Aix-en-Provence where they will wed.

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The Real Jul et Mad

For Acqua Sextius perfumer Cecile Zarokian was asked to be the interpreter of chapter four.  The name comes from the original name given Aix-en-Provence by Roman consul Gaius Sextius in 123 BC. The Acqua is particularly appropriate as Aix-en-Provence is now known for its over 100 fountains and its famous thermal springs. Mme Zarokian captures the green vitality of a summer day in the South of France at the same time there is a very clever watery theme running throughout. This turns Acqua Sextius into a sort of green aquatic although it often times feels in a class of its own.

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Cecile Zarokian

Mme Zarokian wakes us up with a sparkle of sunlight streaming into our bedroom; she combines a citrus trio of lemon, orange, and grapefruit with a translucent veil of green notes as if one was looking at the sun through gauzy green curtains. This is a wonderfully executed opening which brims with the potential of the day ahead. In a nod to the thermal baths a bit of eucalyptus and mint deepen the green and an application of ozonic notes give the impression of a spa bath. A bouquet of floral notes centered on mimosa make up the heart of Acqua Sextius. Mme Zarokian keeps them light and playful and as we head outside a fig tree adds in its luscious creamy greenness. Mme Zarokian uses labdanum to deepen the green theme as we are now walking in green fields. Ambergris carries the smell of the nearby Etang de Berre. For most of the time Acqua Sextius is on my skin this is where things stay; as a pleasant mix of aquatic, floral, and green. Many hours after applying it everything turns lightly woody with cedar and gaiac mixing with a light sheer musk which is the perfect easy way to end our day in Provence.

Acqua Sextius is an Extrait de Parfum and despite its ineffable lightness it lasts overnight on my skin. The sillage is also more than one might expect from an Extrait de Parfum but you won’t be leaving a vapor trail in your wake.

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Fontaine de la Rotonde on the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence

One of things I am coming to admire about the way Mme Zarokian composes her fragrances is deftness of precision which places each note in its proper place. I also admire that even though she works for many different brands her style does not impose its will upon each brand's characteristics. Acqua Sextius is clearly a Cecile Zarokian fragrance but it is even more importantly a Jul et Mad fragrance and I am sure that is due to a very close working relationship throughout the process of finishing Acqua Sextius. For me the fragrant wedding of one of my favorite perfumers and favorite creative directors is a complete success. I will be wearing Acqua Sextius throughout the upcoming summer pretending my backyard is a field in Provence.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Acqua Sextius provided by Jul et Mad at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Suleko Albho, Vy Roza, Djelem, and Baba Yaga-Tales of the Russian Woods

When there is a close relation between creative director and perfumer, working in tandem, is often when magic happens. At the recent Elements Showcase I found another example of this thesis to be true. I am a big fan of perfumer Cecile Zarokian and believe 2014 is poised to be a breakout year for her. When I met her at Elements she introduced me to Anastasia Sokolow the owner and creative director of Suleko. Together they told me the story of creating four fragrances to reflect Mme Sokolow’s Russian heritage and one for each season. When I was talking with both of these talented women and hearing their description of each fragrance it struck me how this was a true match of equals. Each brought their passions to bear and together have created a beautiful collection of four special fragrances.

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Anastasia Sokolow

Albho represents winter and the name comes from the Indo-European root for the Russian word for swan, Lebed. The concept for Mme Zarokian was to evoke “strength and power, but at the same time calm and gentleness”. When I tried Albho on a strip at Elements it didn’t show off all of those charms but I had a feeling once I wore it there was a chance I would feel differently. Albho captures the feel of that icy inhalation on a winter’s morning, if it is adjacent to a stand of sentinel pine trees. Mme Zarokian begins with that frigid pairing of mint and eucalyptus. It is vaporous and frosty as the eucalyptus in particular sets the winter milieu. Then a frigid pine note arrives. By framing this pine note in cedar Mme Zarokian makes it feel separate, much as smells in the cold feel detached. The eucalyptus and pine form a winter’s breath accord that lingers for a good while. Eventually one has to warm up and the base notes of benzoin, labdanum, and tolu balm provide the olfactory heat.

Vy Roza comes from Pushkin’s novel, Eugene Onegin where the heroine Tatiana is referred to as “Vy Roza belle Tatiana” (You are a rose, beautiful Tatiana). Vy Roza is meant to evoke spring and it does so be being a “beautiful rose”. Mme Zarokian surrounds the central rose with some other spring-like floral compatriots and finishes back in the woods. The opening of Vy Roza takes lilac and muguet which form a slightly green very fresh floral duet. The rose combusts to life like a phoenix rising as it takes over and dominates. Vy Roza ends with a series of woody notes but it takes hours before you notice anything but the rose.

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Cecile Zarokian

Djelem refers to the name of the song which became the anthem of the Gypsies in 1971. Mme Sokolow wanted the fragrance to capture all of the freedom loving proud impulsive pride of the gypsy spirit. To do this Mme Zarokian created a fragrance which captures a summer night around a gypsy fire. As you sit down you smell the hay field around you freshly threshed. Then the music of spicy carnation is deepened even further with cloves and made slightly sweet with a bit of immortelle as it begins to swirl around. The base is the ambery warmth of the fire as only glowing embers are left. Djelem seems as persistently variable as a gypsy song, at turns joyous and solemn. It felt like it was in constant motion during both days I wore it.

Baba Yaga is the Russian child’s boogeywoman. She is the witch of the forest, all that makes up the darkness. When I think of storybook witches I think of a swirl of cape with a lot of flying about accompanied with magical gestures. The witches of our dark tales always seem to have a physical power equal to their magical ones. Mme Zarokian captures that feel of power waiting to be unleashed with a gesture and a cackle of glee in Baba Yaga. When I tried this at Elements the kinetic nature of the notes swept me away. Baba Yaga opens with a furious rush of red berries, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper. All of these notes seem to orbit and fly past each other as you sense the berries, then the pepper, then the cinnamon, then the nutmeg. Like gathering the strands of a spell that just won’t come together. In the heart a core of darkness arises with a deep patchouli trying to form a focal point as you sense the earth in the dark forest. Finally the base notes of leather, cade, and moss combine to form a powerful completion to this olfactory witches’ brew.

All four Suleko fragrances had above average longevity and above average sillage.

The ceramic sculptures which hold the atomizers for each of these fragrances were designed by sculptors Joelle Fevre and Alain Fichot. They add a very unusual visual element to each of these fragrances.

This collection truly does carry through the thread of Mme Sokolow’s Russian heritage with a seasonal aspect. Mme Zarokian listened carefully and skillfully translated the words into perfume. Baba Yaga is my favorite for all of its kineticism but Albho really runs a close second for all of its chilly charms. Taken together this is another example of creative director and perfumer working together on the same wavelength to produce beautiful olfactory music.

Disclosure: this review was based on sample provided by Suleko at the Elements Showcase.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Laboratorio Olfattivo Kashnoir- Orange Blossom Takes a Trip

I think that every perfumer I have met has made something that I truly adore. There are a select few of them though that just seem to create perfume that never fails to make me smile. One of the perfumers in that category is Cecile Zarokian. She is early in her commercial career but she is slowly but surely building an impressive portfolio. The latest entry is also the latest fragrance from Laboratorio Olfattivo called Kashnoir.

Laboratorio Olfattivo is an Italian brand which is dedicated to artistic perfumery. They give the perfumers who work for them a lot of leeway when they are creating a fragrance for them. It has really brought out the best in many of the perfumers who have created fragrances for them. Mme Zaokian is just the most recent to join those who have enjoyed the freedom to create without a marketing group overseeing everything.

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Cecile Zarokian

According to the press kit Kashnoir is inspired by “narcotic flowers, psychotropic herbs, and haunted spices”. There is also a lot of description of it being similar to a search in the East for a mysterious and lethal drug. This is what is wrong with reading the words first as I was expecting something like opium den chic. Mme Zarokian had something much different in mind. She takes an ingénue of a floral note in orange blossom and sends her on a psychedelic trip.

Kashnoir starts off very innocent and bright with a halo of lemon and lavender over the genteel orange blossom. This is something we’ve experienced many times before. Coriander signals the change to something a little more “noir”. This is also a greener coriander than I’m used to in a fragrance. It gives it even more of a roughhewn quality than it usually adds to a fragrance. A ridiculous amount of patchouli and benzoin take the orange blossom even deeper into unusual territory. This combination of deeply resinous notes almost seems to bring out the indolic qualities of the orange blossom to a more pronounced level. It is more likely that it is the only thing left to stand up to this set of powerful notes. I often remind people that orange blossom is a white flower and does contain an indolic core. With Kashnoir I think I can actually have a fragrance to show the truth of that. Heliotrope and vanilla combine to give a soothing almond milk like finish to this trip.

Laboratorio Olfattivo Kashnoir has overnight longevity and above average sillage.

Cecile Zarokian has done a masterful job of taking orange blossom and finding a way for me to view it in an entirely different way. It is a trip well worth taking.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Aus Liebe zum Duft.

Mark Behnke