New Perfume Review Houbigant La Belle Saison- Back to the Summertime Garden

Sometimes when I receive a new perfume it illuminates something about the current trends in perfumery. I have been noticing a simplification in form. This has become particularly noticeable with floral perfumes. Many of the new releases for the last year have had a primary floral focal point. It isn’t good or bad because there have been plenty of perfumes like that I have enjoyed. It takes something which goes a different way to remind me of an alternative. Houbigant La Belle Saison does that.

Gian-Luca Perris

The big powerful florals of the first half of the 20th century wasn’t one flower they were lots of flowers. The original 1925 version of La Belle Saison was one of those. Under the creative direction of Gian-Luca Perris, Houbigant has been using its past as inspiration. He asked perfumer Celine Ellena to make a 21st century version of La Belle Saison.

Celine Ellena

The name translates to “summertime”. Most perfume wearers shy away from floral perfumes in the heat because they believe it will be too much. As mentioned in the press materials it is an odd way of thinking because it is during the height of summer that flower gardens are bursting with color and scent. It is one of the indelible smells of this time of year. Mme Ellena seemingly imagines this kind of milieu as she creates a bouquet of three complementary florals in her perfumed garden.

It opens with a softly diffuse apricot and baie rose. In the one family I knew which had an extensive flower garden there was a scent of the green foliage and dirt. This has a little bit of the same effect. It leads into this garden where muguet, mimosa, and orange blossom are in bloom. This is a smart choice of florals. The green veined chill of the muguet is warmed up by the powdery puffballs of mimosa all while given sparkle through orange blossom. They are precisely balanced with each having space to be noticed. This is a glorious realization of summer among the flowers. The base accord is sandalwood providing a sturdy foundation.

La Belle Saison has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’ve never smelled the 1925 version, but I suspect I would like the 2020 one better. The interaction of the flowers at the heart of this is compelling. It also wasn’t too heavy for me to wear it on two days with temps over 90 degrees. La Belle Saison took me back to a summertime garden.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review L’Artisan Parfumeur Bana Banana- Hail Esters!

When I began working in a chemistry lab, I tired of people walking in and saying, “It stinks in here!” It took me a few years to come up with my standard response, “I’m sorry. You needed to take a left if you were looking for the bakery.” Even so one of the foundational reasons I love perfume is my time in the lab working with the organic chemicals which do not stink. I was always fascinated with how one additional atom could change the smell of something completely. If there was a time when things came closest to smelling like a bakery it would be if my starting materials were esters. Esters are one of the largest chemical classes used in perfumery. Many of the fruity notes are esters.

Jean Laporte

I once had a project which required a large amount of the ester molecule, amyl acetate. Amyl acetate smells just like a banana. Even more it smells like an overripe banana. As I learned more about the ingredients that go into perfume, I learned about isoamyl acetate. This is the predominant compound isolated from bananas. When I had the opportunity to experience the two side-by-side the isoamyl acetate was much subtler than amyl acetate. Less overripe. It was years later when I was speaking with a chemist at IFF when this subject came up. He told me that the major fruity scent from jasmine is due to isoamyl acetate. I retreated to my home-grown lab set and did the comparison. When placed next to each other it is easy to detect. I always thought a perfume which took advantage of this overlap could be interesting. I no longer must hypothesize about this as L’Artisan Parfumeur Bana Banana is here.

Celine Ellena

Jean Laporte arrived at the same hypothesis from an entirely different starting point. As he was founding L’Artisan Parfumeur, which was one of the first brands of niche perfume, he got a request. A friend wanted a banana perfume to round out his Folies Bergere banana costume. M. Laporte thought to macerate banana and jasmine together and “Et voila!” Except it wasn’t. This became a story shared among perfumers. Through telling it to Jean-Claude Ellena it would find its way to his daughter Celine Ellena. It stuck in her mind and she wanted to make a real effort to make perfume taking advantage of the overlap between banana and jasmine in perfumery. That is what Bana Banana is.

I don’t know which of the banana-like esters Mme Ellena chose. I suspect there are at least three to four here. She puts them together into a curvy banana accord. Then because this is meant to be more than a single note perfume, she spices it with a lot of nutmeg and a pinch of pepper. The nutmeg imparts a creaminess to the fruit. It is just the right complement to add. The pinch of pepper sets up the arrival of violet leaves to provide the subtle greenery of the wide banana leaves. Then the jasmine comes in as if flowers bloomed from the banana splitting the peel as they unfurl. That these two ingredients were meant to be together chemically, and aesthetically, comes to life. Tonka bean, amber, and musk provide a comforting base accord to end this.

Bana Banana has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I admit I adore this perfume because it confirmed my thought of how good banana and jasmine would be together. I think this is a perfume which is a cut above the typical fruity floral fare even with my predilection to liking it. I have also enjoyed wearing it in the early spring because it is so exuberant. Mrs. C laughed at me on the mornings I applied this because I breathed deep and said out loud “Hail esters!”. Give Bana Banana a try and you might join me.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by L’Artisan Parfumeur.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fragonard Pivoine- The Non-Rose

As the calendar flips to February my mailbox fills up with the current year’s spring releases. Way too many of them are sweet debutante-fresh rose perfumes. I like rose but there are other spring flowers which could be used in their place. Every year I hope for a ripple of rose resistance to show up. So far, every year I am still sniffing one rose after another. When I complain about this within earshot of a person instead of my computer screen I am often asked, “What other choices are there?” One of my stock responses is peony. It has the same dewy freshness of rose with a discernably different scent profile. Seems like the team at Fragonard might also feel the same way as their spring release for 2017 is called Pivoine; which is French for peony.

Peony is often mistaken for rose by many. One reason is peony in fragrance is an accord, as extraction of the petals does not result in an essential oil which can be isolated in quantity. Like the process which brings lilac into perfumes it is up to the creativity of the perfumer to furnish an accord which smells like the real thing. Even more important when your perfume is named after the flower. For Pivoine Fragonard invited perfumer Celine Ellena to take on the job. Mme Ellena has been one of my favorite perfumers who I wish worked a little more often. I was excited to see how she would take on the task of making a peony perfume.

Celine Ellena

Pivoine opens with a currant and rhubarb accord. Mme Ellena uses that tart nature of the rhubarb to keep the berries from being too saccharine. Right from the beginning these are spring milieu scents but not the typical ones. In the heart comes Mme Ellena’s peony accord. One thing which has kept people away from peony in fragrance is these accords can often be easily detected as the stitched together accumulation of aromachemicals that they usually are. Mme Ellena is also relying on the same suite of ingredients but she is also using a bit of olfactory plastic surgery in the use of mimosa and jasmine. What this forms is a spring fresh floral accord with a watery floralcy that is pleasing. The base is formed around iris, amber, and musk to warm up the sunny peony in the final stages.

Pivoine has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

When I am looking for an alternative to spring themed rose perfumes Pivoine is a good example of what I am talking about. It acts as the ideal spring non-rose which is one reason I enjoyed it so much. The other is Mme Ellena’s fine working of a peony accord which is as good as these kinds of effects get. All together if you want something that is not rose this spring give Pivoine a try.

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

Mark Behnke

The Different Company 101- Five To Get You Started

The primary goal of this series is to allow someone new to the fragrance world a starting place with many of the extensive lines out there. A secondary goal is to give some attention to great fragrance collections which might not be as well known, but should be. This month I am going to introduce some of you to The Different Company.

The Different Company was founded in 2000 by Thierry de Baschmakoff and Jean-Claude Ellena. In 2003 M. de Baschmakoff would work with perfumer Celine Ellena for the next year before giving way to current creative director and CEO of the brand, Luc Gabriel in 2004. Mme Ellena would continue the collaboration until 2010.  Since 2011, M. Gabriel has brought in Emilie Coppermann for the cologne collection and Bertrand Duchaufour has contributed to the Collection Excessive. These consistent partnerships between creative director and perfumer has led to a house style which has been in place from the very first perfume released. Here are the five I would suggest to get you started.

Bois D’Iris composed by Jean-Claude Ellena was one of the first releases of The Different Company. The name promises Iris Woods and that is exactly what M. Ellena delivers as orris is surrounded by cedar. With M. Ellena it is always the grace notes which make his perfumes memorable and for Bois D’Iris it is the narcissus, vetiver, and musk which make this one of the best florals ever made by M. Ellena.

TDC_90ml_Sel de Vétiver

Sel de Vetiver composed by Celine Ellena is one of my favorite vetiver perfumes. It might be the perfume I have written the most about over the ten years I’ve been writing about fragrance. The reason for that is Mme Ellena creates an accord of drying salt water on sun-warmed skin which is combined with three different vetiver sources. I have used this perfume as the introduction to vetiver for so many.Those who like it, like me, will never be without it.

De Bachmakov composed by Celine Ellena is a transparent fragrance of winter vistas. It was inspired by the tundra of M. de Baschmakoff’s Russian heritage. Mme Ellena captures the bite of winter air by using the sharply green shiso. Coriander, nutmeg, and cedar come together to form a frozen earth accord. This is one of the best examples of minimalist perfume composition that I own.

Aurore Nomade composed by Bertrand Duchaufour marked a different aesthetic at play. M. Duchaufour in contrast to Mme Ellena is not a minimalist. It could be said he is a maximalist very often as his perfumes can seem overstuffed. Aurore Nomade is one of those perfumes overflowing with ideas. To M. Duchaufour’s credit it holds together to form an accurate evocation of the Spice Islands. With spices like cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg along with a bit of tropical fruit cocktail all with a shot of rum swirling around; M. Duchaufour uses every bit of the potential of ylang-ylang as the central note in Aurore Nomade. It is over the top in a very good way.

Une Nuit Magnetique composed by Christine Nagel is a perfume of magnetic attraction and repulsion. Mme Nagel creates a fragrance which comes together only to be forced apart. In the top ginger and bergamot have their harmony disrupted by blueberry.  In the heart she uses prune to break up a collection of floral extroverts. The way that Une Nuit Magnetique is in constant flux on my skin has always magnetically drawn me in.

If you’re new to the brand these five will give you a good introduction to The Different Company.

Disclosure: this review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke