New Perfume Review Henry Rose Flora Carnivora- Clean and Good


From the moment I started writing about perfume I was inextricably bound to the beauty industry. What that has meant is when I would attend a large beauty event there were lots of claims that made the scientist scream inside. The way I made up for that was to visit the booth and torture them over their lack of understanding. The most important piece of advice I can give is if they say there is some scientific reason for some positive effect, there almost surely is nothing.

Which is why I am skeptical of this “clean” movement in perfumery. There has always been an unreasonable amount of hysteria about the supposed bad things hidden in perfumes. The way it is thought of is when you see “fragrance” on the ingredient list on the label, somewhere in there is hiding a terrible toxin. Common sense should tell you that of the hundreds of thousands of bottles of any mainstream perfume sold in a year if that was true there would be higher percentages of something bad happening to perfume wearers. There aren’t and there isn’t. What “fragrance” is meant to protect is the composition of the oil itself. Which is around 10% of a bottle anyway.

Michelle Pfeiffer

What the “clean” movement has decided is to add more transparency to the ingredients used in perfume. This is not a bad thing. That it is seen as something “better” is where I draw my line. If a perfume brand wants to work more openly that is their choice.

Two years ago the actress Michelle Pfeiffer took this to an even stricter level. She wanted to work with the Environmental Working Group (EWG) an independent agency which monitors the ingredients in beauty products. She also wanted to only use only sustainably produced natural ingredients, collaborating with the organization Cradle to Cradle for that. Either piece is a significant hurdle. She found that the oil house International Flavor & Fragrance (IFF) was interested in working with her. They released a debut collection of five perfumes produced under this strategy.

Celine Barel

What I found was when you ask a perfumer to work with a radically reduced roster of ingredients you get something not quite what I would call a perfume. Many of them felt like accords in search of a structure. I forgot about them after this initial introduction.

I received a press release and sample for the latest release Henry Rose Flora Carnivora. This was supposed to be a white flower scent. Now this seemed to me like a bridge too far for this concept. Except I found that perfumer Celine Barel had an ingenious way around it. Creating a perfume that made me think.

What makes Flora Carnivora so interesting to me is Mme Barel is working in an accord of tuberose instead of the real thing. Orange blossom and jasmine are both sustainably grown and harvested. Tuberose is less so. So if you can’t use the real thing, make an accord. Mme Barel does that. It has the creamy quality of tuberose which adds a lovely piece to the mix of orange blossom and jasmine. It is completed with vetiver and cedar adding a fresh woody foundation. Over time it warms to a more ambery woody as the florals become less prominent.

Flora Carnivora has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is a much better perfume than any of the original five. It is also good enough that the provenance of the materials doesn’t concern me. What I do find is a creative perfumer using the restrictions to her advantage to make something good which is also “clean”.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Dragonfly 2021- The Surface of Water

There are pairs of creative director and perfumer that seem to understand each other innately. I think when that kind of artistic confidence arises both pieces of the collaboration have some freedom. When Victor Wong of Zoologist asked perfumer Celine Barel to create Zoologist Squid it felt like one of those moments. That fragrance was an aquatic of the depths of the ocean. The same creative team chooses to skim the surface of a pond in their second act, Zoologist Dragonfly 2021.

Victor Wong

I used to visit a Japanese Garden in S. Florida where I grew up. I found I could spend hours watching the dragonflies dart over the centerpiece lotus pond. The sun would be high in the sky adding a sparkle. The scent of the lotus and the surrounding gardens would mix with the water. Because this was S. Florida the scent of a thunderstorm on the horizon would also be part of the milieu. Mr. Wong and Ms. Barel capture this in Dragonfly 2021.

Celine Barel

Grapefruit and ginger evoke that afternoon sunlight in an energetic way. Angelica and basil give you a sense of the green of the garden underneath that sun. The scent of the pond comes through a set of watery florals and rice. The latter adds this layer of humidity over the citrus and florals. The floral presence coalesces through jasmine, mimosa, and rose. Along with this is the impending thunderstorm using petrichor. The ginger acts as the sizzle of the lightning in the thunderhead as the storm breaks.

The final stages are after the storm. There is a wet soil accord of patchouli and moss. Vetiver is the wet grass. The florals begin to rebound and reassert themselves. A hay-like sweetness of coumarin and benzoin gets dried out through cashmeran. The dragonfly flits across it all.

Dragonfly 2021 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am going to be interested to see how Zoologist fans categorize this.  The brand has long been seen as having “crowd-pleasers” and “challenging” entries. The fullness of the florals could put it in the first category. Once the petrichor breaks through there is a sharpness though the final stages that I could see being thought of as “challenging”. I think it is an example of a pair of creatives imagining what is on the surface of water.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Scents of Wood Oud in Oak, Oud in Acacia, Cedar in Acacia, Cypress in Oak, and Vetiver in Oak- Lightning Round

To conclude my overview of Scents of Wood I am going to do quick reviews of the remaining five samples I received. Owner-creative director Fabrice Croise has shown this collection can be more than just making wood more woody. The four I reviewed the last two days are my favorites. These five are also worth trying if the description piques your interest.

Fabrice Croise

Oud in Oak by Celine Barel– There had to be oud you just knew it. This one takes the classic pairing of oud and leather. Mme Barel finds all of the joy in that combination. A little safrron adds texture. Some spices add heat. The oak-aged alcohol adds an interesting veneer to the oud.

Yves Cassar

Oud in Acacia by Yves Cassar– In comparison tto the other oud above this is where you see the effect of the different wood-aged alcohol. This is a lighter version of oud and rose. Which the acacia-aged alcohol gives some lift to. Immortelle and Orris provide different floral interrogators for the oud before Amberwood dries it out over the final stages.

Cedar in Acacia by Pascal Gaurin– By the end of the summer this may become my favorite of the collection because it is so good in the warmth. M. Gaurin uses cypriol to form the core. The acacia-aged alcohol adds some expansiveness, Which then gets turbocharged by ginger while being made resinous through olibanum. This is a perfume for the dog days of summer.

Mackenzie Reilly

Cypress in Oak by Mackenzie Reilly– If you wonder if this type of concept can be made to be clean and fresh. Ms. Reilly answers in the affirmative. This is a beach where the cypress tress are the landward edge of the beach. Close enough to get the sea spray on them. This is full of all the tropes inherent in that most ubiquitous of fragrance styles. Yet it is made just different enough through the oak-aged alcohol along with the ethereal beauty of the cypress.

Vetiver in Oak by Celine Barel– Vetiver is probably the tailor-made keynote for this idea of making perfume. The green and the woody faces find a resting place in the oak-aged alcohol. Mme Barel adds the freshness of lime and baie rose. This forms another one which will be at its best in the summer sunshine.

I want to thank M. Croise for taking the time to speak with me and send me the samples of the different alcohols. They were great help in understanding the delicate effect they add. He has executed his vision pretty impressively so far.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by Scents of Wood.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Scents of Wood Sandalwood in Oak and Oak in Oak- No Gilding Here

Towards the end of last year I was contacted by Fabrice Croise about his new fragrance line. He enticed me with a set of three mystery vials containing perfumes for his Scents of Wood brand. They were all interesting to me. I spent some time learning about the brand on the website. As I read there seemed to be a gilding of the lily effect they were describing. The concept was to use alcohol aged in different types of wood barrels as the carrier for the perfume oil. I liked my blind samples, but I really wanted to understand if the alcohol thing was a gimmick.

Fabrice Croise

M. Croise jumped on a videocall to explain it to me. He sensed my skepticism and sent me a set of just the different wood-aged alcohols and just the fragrance before being added to the alcohol. I also received a set of the perfumes with labels, too. With all three forms I was able to detect the effect these wood-aged alcohols give.

The fragrance concept is to take wood-focused perfume oils and add them to the wood-aged alcohols. Thus each name is a keynote of the oil first followed by the type of wood used to age the alcohol. I have spent most of the first part of the year enjoying what was sent to me. I was really waiting for warmer weather because with only a couple of exceptions I expected them to be best in warm weather.

M. Croise then took the next step of collaborating with a set of talented perfumers. This has resulted in a collection of fragrance for those who can’t get enough wood perfume in their life. Instead of just clobbering you over the head each scent is a layered effect beginning with the alcohol out of which the perfume oil can rise in waves. Over the next three days I am going to give reviews to most of the current releases.

I’ll start with the ones which really seemed like they were going to be overkill but turned out not to be.

Sandalwood in Oak by perfumer Mackenzie Reilly– Prior to trying any of the perfumes my biggest concern was they were going to be too heavy. It seemed like it was unavoidable. One of the things I have admired about Ms. Reilly’s career to date is her ability to create a sense of openness even with the strongest ingredients. This is another great example of that.

This is a gorgeous sandalwood dry and austere. The oak-aged alcohol provides a subtle texture. Places for her to hang things on. Early on it is a set of discrete smoke in a burnt sugar accord and smoked sage. This adds an engaging odd contrast. It leads to a carrot-like iris and vanilla adding vegetal and baker’s sweetness to the sandalwood. It is another perfume which shifts its mood as it evolves on my skin.

Oak in Oak by perfumer Celine Barel– When I spoke with M. Croise he told me this was coming. It was impossible not to think about overkill. Then he told me Mme Barel was going to be the perfumer. She has a fascinating way of plumbing the depths of her keynotes. I was wondering how far down she would take us into the oak tree.

The oak-aged alcohol probably does the least here of any other perfume it is used in. That’s because the oak at the center of this is so rich. It is the reason the natural scent is so prized. She enhances it using incense and saffron early. They add a silvery resin and a golden glow to the wood. This is where the oak feels less dense without sacrificing depth. A precise amount of cumin and orris add in a textured earthiness as if the roots of the oak are speaking up. It turns back towards warmth as tonka adds the final piece.

Both have 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I will continue these reviews tomorrow with two of the most interesting designs in the collection, Orange in Chestnut and Plum in Cognac.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample set provided by Scents of Wood.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Squid- Deep-Sea Aquatic

Anyone who has ever been in a boat on the ocean can tell you once you get out over deep water things change. The color goes from brilliant blue to deep indigo. If you dive underneath the water after a few feet you realize there is more below you than above you. There is also a scent to the ocean once you leave sight of shore. It has nothing to do with sea spray, suntan lotion, or tropical flowers. It is all about the briny depths. If you’ve ever wanted that in a perfume Zoologist Squid is here.

Victor Wong

Creative director-owner Victor Wong collaborates with perfumer Celine Barel. Their effort is to create an aquatic that represents the depths of the ocean. This an aquatic which is for those who don’t want the classic “fresh and clean” aesthetic characteristic of the style. Squid looks in the darker places far away from land. To accomplish that Mme Barel uses a couple of fabulously engineered accords she calls “black ink” and “salty”. The former is probably the factoid most people know about squid, they shoot ink to escape predators. In the case of a perfume accord I experienced it not so much as inky but as the deep indigo color of the open sea. The “salty” accord is, I think, an accumulation of the typical sea spray ingredients layered in a denser fashion. I believe I pick out things I recognize but there seems to be more weight to some of them. I would be interested to know how she decided to construct this.

Celine Barel

Squid opens on a top accord of incense and salicylates tuned by baie rose. It reminded me of the scent of the seaweed lines at the edge of the Gulf Stream. It is a green-tinted top accord which leads to that combination of “black ink” and “salty” accords. This is when Squid dives deep beneath the waves. It finds a weight to the typical aquatic style that is compelling. I could drift here for days in a salty pool of ink. Squid moves on with the most classic ocean perfume ingredient there is; ambergris. It provides the more typical style of brininess. In Squid it feels like I’ve surfaced from a dive to where the scent seems lighter. It is the only part of Squid which feels like an old-style aquatic.

Squid has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

The depths of Squid make for an aquatic that is going to be even better in the chill of fall and winter. Where most of my aquatics go into hibernation after Labor Day, Squid will still be prowling my perfume shelf as a deep-sea aquatic with legs.  

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Clinique My Happy Blue Sky Neroli- Nice Bang For The Buck

It is one of the more frequent conversations I have with husbands about their wives’ perfumes. They ask me to recommend something. I respond, “What do they wear now?” Probably the most common answer I get is “Clinique Happy”. Happy has found the right combination of easy-to-wear along with modest price. As a fragrance brand it has been content to soldier on with flankers for twenty years. It has been so long since something with Clinique on the label has caught my attention; until a recent visit to Ulta.

There was a grouping of six brightly colored tall thin bottles which caught my eye. When I got to the display I saw they were part of the Clinique My Happy collection. The concept was to make these six perfumes “layerable” in such a way that you could create your own version of My Happy. I am not a fan of layering because I expect my perfumes to stand, or fall, on their own. Plus, when I see “layerable” it usually is synonymous with linear. Meaning you need to buy a few to have a perfume which actually develops over time. As I sprayed each of them on a strip in the store I was pleased not to find linear fragrance in search of being a perfume but actual perfumes in each bottle.

Celine Barel

Cocoa & Cashmere sprinkles cocoa on an expansive synthetic jasmine. Lily of the Beach loads a pile of salicylates on top of florals to create a light beach style fragrance. Peace & Jasmine uses green tea as the contrast to fuller jasmine. Peony Picnic is a fun fruity floral with plum providing its part of the equation. Splash is a citrus floral that is a clear relative of Happy minus the woody base. You might notice that is only five. The sixth, Blue Sky Neroli, is the one I purchased and took home; along with a sample set.

Blue Sky Neroli is exactly what you expect from a name like that. Perfumer Celine Barel uses the commonly used ingredients to create her effect, but it works very well.

It opens with a mixture of ozonic fresh air ingredients brightened with lavandin, cardamom, and citrus. It is the judicious use of those last three which provides some texture to the same old blue-sky accord. The same happens in the heart as neroli finds some rose support. The base is a fresh vetiver riding on a white musk accord.

Blue Sky Accord has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

The whole My Happy collection is moderately priced, and you can get a sample set for the same price as a bottle. It makes these perfumes great bang for the buck for being well executed perfumes. When you’re out and about give these a try you might end up with one in your shopping bag like I did.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aramis Modern Leather- What Powerhouse Means Today

When I was growing up in the 1960’s many of the men around me wore perfume which had a central leather component. If I had so desired I could have easily concluded that leather is what a man smells like. I can joke about it but there is a bit of truth underneath the humor. The mid 1960’s well into the 1970’s was the age of the powerhouse cologne marketed primarily to men. Because men were the target audience perfumers would have to sneak some notes, like flowers, considered feminine underneath the more stalwart suspects. One of the exemplars of this style of perfumery was 1965’s Aramis composed by perfumer Bernard Chant.

Aramis was a powerhouse leather mostly supported by herbs and spices led by thyme and clove. My very stylish uncle was an Aramis man. As I would begin to expand my fragrance horizons I would discover there was an entire collection under the Aramis name. As the niche explosion arrived the brand has been having some difficulty staying relevant. It was why when I received the press materials around the new release Aramis Modern Leather I was more interested than normal.

Celine Barel

According to the press materials Aramis Modern Leather was meant to be a modern re-telling of the original Aramis. I was wondering what the team at Aramis thought a twenty-first century powerhouse smelled like. The name clued me in that it was leather. What else did perfumer Celine Barel think makes a modern powerhouse? She returns to the herbal notes of the original but she also believes men are more comfortable with a floral heart fifty years later.

Mme Barel opens with thyme as the original started with. The main difference is basil overtakes it rapidly as if making the case for being the modern man’s herb of choice. Where the original dove deep into spices Modern Leather constructs a proper floral heart accord around geranium and orange blossom. Mme Barel uses some violet leaves to constrain the florals from becoming too expansive. The base contains the leather. Mme Barel’s leather accord is refined leather; very modern compared to the leather accord in Aramis. This one in Modern Leather is supple luxuriousness. The only attempt to put a tiny amount of edge into it comes from some vetiver and labdanum but they never really lay a hand on it.

Modern Leather has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Modern Leather posits the hypothesis that a modern powerhouse smells like this. It is a good version to see if there is a market for a fragrance like this. I can find a spot for it right next to its original stable mate.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Aramis.

Mark Behnke

Boot or Reboot: Norell (1968) & Norell New York (2015)- Requiem for an Original

If I was to offer up a pop quiz and ask this question, “Name the first American designer fragrance?” I bet, notwithstanding looking at the title of this article, few would come up with the correct answer. Norell was the first American designer fragrance. Charles Revson of Revlon and perfumer Josephine Catapano were the creative team behind the perfume representing fashion designer Norman Norell. Norell became the first perfume to feature a huge amount of galbanum in the top notes. It was a trailblazer in many ways. In 1968 it was debuted in the luxury department store Bonwit Teller. It sold $1 Million dollars in its first year. Today heavily reformulated it can be found in any drugstore franchise fragrance cabinet.

In 2015 it was thought the Norell name needed to be recaptured in the fragrance sector. Perfumer Celine Barel was asked to create a new version called Norell New York. Ms. Barel has made a perfume which definitely has some of the same components but they have been altered in strength and prominence to create something similar but different.

norell 1968


Norell (1968) opens with that blast of galbanum. Smelling it now that doesn’t seem to be different than many very green perfumes on the market. In 1968 this was a completely unique opening. The galbanum moves into a full floral heart of hyacinth, rose, and gardenia. Ms. Catapano adds the twist of using clove and cinnamon leaves to provide a long tail on the galbanum and a real accentuation of the spicy core of the rose. In many ways this is also the trendsetter for the spicy floral heart which will explode in the 1970’s. The base is another ahead of its time piece of work as it takes a large amount of oakmoss and softens it tremendously with sandalwood, vanilla and orris. It was a supple foundation which would also not become fashionable for another 10-15 years. If there is one word to describe Norell it is green.

norell new york 2015

That is not the word I would use to describe Norell New York (2015). This time I would say floral. Ms. Barel does hearken back to the original with a bit of galbanum in the top but it is matched with an equal amount of pear. The heart is floral dominated but instead of rose Ms. Barel uses jasmine as her focal point to which gardenia and peony provide the supporting roles. Here the green has been cut off at the pass and we are in more traditional fruity floral territory with the pear and florals interacting. The place where Norell New York most closely resembles the original is in the base as Ms. Barel uses sandalwood, vanilla, and orris. Her stand-in for the oakmoss is a particularly earthy patchouli. All together it is a really excellent re-creation of the original’s base.

One final experiment I performed with a strip of Norell and Norell New York was I gave it to a group of women who are similar in age to me in their late 40’s early 50’s; four out of the five preferred the older Norell using words like “classic”. I also tried the same exercise with five women in their late 20’s early 30’s and the result was the opposite; four out of five preferred the more recent version. Those women all had a strong reaction to the original calling it the dreaded “old lady” smell. I pointed out the base was similar in the new version but they all like the fruity floral opening so much that it seems that similarity didn’t matter.

If I was presented a bottle of the original Norell in a pristine well-preserved box I would obviously choose that. But the Norell which I find at my local CVS has been cheapened by reformulation so much that it has lost much of the original verve it had. Which is why I am pleased that Norell New York exists. By using a slightly different name and allowing a perfumer instead of an accountant to modernize the brand. The new release is a much more fitting representative of the first American designer perfume.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of the original Norell provided by an anonymous donor. The current Norell was purchased by me. Norell New York came from a sample provided by Bergdorf Goodman.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Diana Vreeland Perfectly Marvelous- Sort Of Original

One of Diana Vreeland’s quotable quotes was, “Style, all who have it share one thing: originality.” If you’re going to do a perfume line which carries the name of Diana Vreeland, originality should be a given. The new five fragrance Diana Vreeland line of perfumes which was creatively directed by her grandson Alexander Vreeland is almost entirely devoid of originality. Four of the five fragrances are routine reworks of popular styles of perfumes. Like a box checking exercise there’s an oriental, a rose, a tuberose, and an amber. They are all so forgettable and banal that it seems almost a crime they carry Ms. Vreeland’s name. They are all so unoriginal that as I started to try the fifth one Perfectly Marvelous I was already stifling my yawn. In a true contest of diminished expectations it is by far the best of a bad lot. As I wore it for a couple of days my attitude brightened somewhat toward it.

Perfumer Celine Barel was, according to the website, inspired by another of Ms. Vreeland’s quotes, “If it isn’t a passion, it isn’t burning, it isn’t on fire, you haven’t lived.” Mme Barel does not deliver a fire with Perfectly Marvelous but she does deliver something a bit different on a basic jasmine theme. She takes a few variations on well-understood tropes and makes Perfectly Marvelous the only one of this collection I could enjoy.

diana vreeland

Diana Vreeland surrounded by red

Ms. Vreeland’s favorite color was red and she was known for the red décor of her home and her red nail polish. Another of the descriptors from the website was for Perfectly Marvelous to evoke red lacquered sandalwood. In that desire I think Mme Barel comes closer to the mark. She starts with a soft swirl of spices centered on pimento. The pimento is probably the most original ingredient used in all five perfumes in the collection. Mme Barel doesn’t squander it as she uses jasmine sambac as floral contrast. This version of jasmine is the kind with the indoles mostly neutered. Every time I wore this I wondered how much better this might have been with a bit of feral indole in the mix. What is here is pleasant and in place of the indole she uses cashmeran to add its very polite muskiness along with sandalwood. The cashmeran feels too proper for a trailblazer like Ms. Vreeland.

Perfectly Marvelous has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Perfectly Marvelous suffers from a distinct desire to play it safe something which can be used to describe the other four perfumes in the line. At least in the case of Perfectly Marvelous Mme Barel was allowed one tiny moment to allow Ms. Vreeland to channel some originality her way. It makes Perfectly Marvelous sort of original which is a very sad thing to say about something which carries Diana Vreeland’s name.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples I received at Sniffapalooza Fall Ball.

Mark Behnke