New Perfume Review Hedonik Divine Perversion- Lusty Fun

It took me a while to appreciate what independent perfumer Francesca Bianchi was doing with her perfumes. I have found a frame of reference which has found me eagerly looking forward to her releases. Her latest, Hedonik Divine Perversion is her thoughts on leather.

Sig.ra Bianchi created a new brand, Hedonik. Here she would marry her fragrance aesthetic to her design of wearable leather. What makes this early collection interesting is it is all accessories. Leather studded with metal and crystals meant to create a versatility described on the website as, “pop-fetish, dark, rock, punk, fun.” They allow you to let any or all those aspects to be on display or hidden away. There is something great about hidden desires or extroverted challenge.

Francesca Bianchi

Sig.ra Bianchi also had to add a perfume to this debut collection. Divine Perversions also finds a line where darkness is hidden and displayed. It fits ideally the way she has designed her fragrance aesthetic over the last couple of years. She has found a fascinating balancing point where she is on the verge of going too far without going too far.

The leather accord she creates is at the center of this. It is a rough-edged leather which is given some refinement in the early going through orris. She adds a light layer of iris powder over the animalic accord. Some rose also acts to soften the accord.

In the earliest moments a sense of flirtatious gourmand-like fun reigns. Some raspberry and baie rose push up against the leather with a berry infused sweetness. What comes next is called “caramel” in the note list. What I perceive is a gooey hot fudge. Warm thick chocolate sauce covering the fruit and the leather. This is especially apparent as the tarry pieces of the leather accord grab the chocolate right down into the grain. This is the Divine

As this develops the gourmand pieces are washed away with something lustier. She is using some of the animalic musks to take that leather accord from Divine to something more enticingly sensual. This is where that approach to the edge of excess occurs. Those animalic pieces take this from fun to something which might have the snap of a leather crop. She completes her base with an exuberant amber which pushes all this deeper towards Perversion.

Divine Perversion has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Sig. ra Bianchi captures the fun and lustiness of her leather creations perfectly within the fragrance inspired by them. This is another great perfume from her.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Francesca Bianchi Luxe Calme Volupte- Recalibrating First Impressions


There is an old saying that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. As a perfume reviewer who smells hundreds of new releases a year, I think that can be a double-edged sword. Especially in the independent perfumer space. I write all the time about consistent improvement before finding an inflection point where the creativity soars. If my first impression doesn’t allow for that to be seen it is my shortcoming. When it comes to independent perfumer Francesca Bianchi, I think I deprived myself of this pleasure because of that. Francesca Bianchi Luxe Calme Volupte allows me to continue to fix it.

I’ve mentioned this in my reviews, and I think this is why it is such a difficult brand for me. Sig.ra Bianchi makes perfumes I would describe as on the edge of excess. She stands right on a line where just a little bit is going to be too much versus getting the balance just right. Also that line is not the same for every perfume lover. Which is why I applaud her for making the perfume she wants and lets the rest of us decide for ourselves.

Francesca Bianchi

Luxe Calme Volupte is a repeated line from the poet Baudelaire. It translates to Luxury Peace Pleasure. She has created another voluptuous perfume. One which I found full of anticipatory sensuality. It also sits perched on an emotional edge of excess. I see this as a perfume of lovers.

To begin they are feeding each other tangerines. Sig.ra Bianchi uses a very juicy citrus here. This is a wedge shared between two mouths the juice drips onto each person’s chin. Anticipation is built through the insistent green pulsing of galbanum underneath the fruit. It is like a slowly deepening heartbeat. Other fruits are threaded through the early going but it is the citrus and galbanum which are on top.

The heart is all ylang-ylang. I adore this floral for the sensuality it carries. Most perfumers neuter it or restrain it. Whenever I smell my vial of pure essential oil it just oozes carnality. Sig.ra Bianchi is using this type of ylang-ylang. It slinks through the top accord while some orris provides even more depth. This is that moment when you have your hand on the midsection of a lover waiting for permission to move it lower. The anticipation is delightful.

The base accord is a luxurious resinous aftermath of whatever happened before. Benzoin and opoponax sit atop a creamy sandalwood. Vetiver recapitulates the green from the top while harmonizing with the wood in the base. Languidly sprawled in the middle is a sated floral.

Luxe Calme Volupte has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Over the last four releases I have come to realize that Sig.ra Bianchi is among the best independent perfumers we have. I have gone back to re-try her previous releases and learned that I need to pay closer attention to those working at the edges. Given time they might prove to develop into something special. I need to make sure a first impression is not permanent.

As for Luxe Calme Volupte if you are looking for an unabashedly sexy perfume this is it.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Francesca Bianchi Tyger Tyger- The Edge of Excess

One of the great things about independent perfumers is they aren’t always trying to find the most crowd-pleasing perfume. They are willing to design to a smaller audience that wants a more expressive fragrance experience. There is a design difficulty in deciding how big to go. For a perfume where the motto is “more is more” you can have too much. Yet you must find that line where a balance is struck versus producing a headache from going too far. I like the perfumers who are willing to work right on the edge of excess. Francesca Bianchi Tyger Tyger knows how to toe this line.

The first rule of working like this is being willing to end up on the wrong side of the line. Over the last four years Francesca Bianchi has seemingly enjoyed designing right at it. Which means sometimes it is just where I want it to be. Sometimes it crosses that line. I’d rather have a perfumer who enjoys playing with this aesthetic over playing it safe.

Francesca Bianchi

Tyger Tyger is part of the first line of the poem “The Tyger” by William Blake. Knowing the poem I was thinking a classic chypre-like construct. Then I read her mindset as she began to design it. She wanted a post-Apocalyptic aesthetic of “Beauty and Terror”. She imagined a survivor wearing haute couture within the smoking rubble. She also thinks Mr. Blake was describing the same duality in his poem about the feline predator. I agree she has created a fragrance of two contrasting accords. I also agree with the beauty for one half.

That half is formed around white flowers. I have been so disappointed in perfumes which feature these neutering their power. The white flowers are the ingredients which ask to be seen none more so than tuberose which leads this accord. She unleashes it with most of the other ingredients which make up this section of the perfumer’s palette. To up the intensity honey and peach are added. It is reminiscent of so many of the early white florals of modern perfumery. What I like about Sig.ra Bianchi is she completes her accord without making me think of them. Just the aesthetic it represents. This is that figure wearing an elegant dress in the apocalypse.

The other accord is that chypre I was expecting. Except this is a chypre of the smoking crater. She uses the classic triptych of patchouli, sandalwood, and oakmoss. To it she adds leather and oud. That’s the smoke rising from what is left. No matter how much I am asked to see this as “terror” I see it as being a survivor saying “I’m still here!”.

Tyger Tyger has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Tyger Tyger feels like what a survivor of an apocalypse would wear. Especially when they wanted to let the others know they were ready to take charge. They would stand right on the edge of excess with their fist in the air.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Francesca Bianchi Sticky Fingers- Rock-and-Roll Gourmand

As we undergo the definition of the gourmand style of perfume there is still much to come from the ingredients which launched the genre. Dark deep patchouli can be the source of chocolate in a fragrance. I think it is easy to believe that there is nothing new to find. I found Francesca Bianchi Sticky Fingers had something to add.

Francesca Bianchi

Francesca Bianchi has become an independent perfumer I have begun to pay closer attention to. Last year’s The Black Knight was one of my favorite perfumes of 2019. She has a refreshing perspective on traditional perfume conventions. When I received my sample of Sticky Fingers I was taken, by the name, to where she wanted. The 1971 album of the same name by The Rolling Stones. I was expecting a rock-and-roll black leather perfume inside the vial. In this case the titular digits are sticky from dipping them in chocolate. There is leather here along with some other clever choices, but the star of this perfume is patchouli in all its gourmand-like glory.

Before the patchouli shows up Sig.ra Bianchi creates a spicy tobacco with cinnamon dusting the dried leaf. This on its own carries a gourmand feel to it. The cherry-almond like facets of heliotrope tilt things more firmly in that direction. This is a rich fruit scented tobacco accord. Now the patchouli reaches its treacly paws into this and coats it in chocolate. It is subtle at first, increasing in intensity over time. As it begins to take precedence that rock-and-roll leather comes out. The final stoke is to add the carrot-y nature of orris butter. Another odd gourmand choice which works. The patchouli takes over completely just in time for castoreum to turn the leather a bit more dangerous, a bit more subversive. Sandalwood provides the woody foundation of all of it.

Sticky Fingers has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

I adore this perfume even in the heat of midsummer for its rock-and-roll gourmand style. I suspect once I try the last of my sample out in the fall it is going to be even better. If you think you’ve tried a chocolate patchouli allow Sig.ra Bianchi to show you differently.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Francesca Bianchi The Black Knight- Knightly Valor

The whole idea of Medieval knights has been an object of personal interest for as long as I remember. I eagerly devoured stories of Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. I would read histories about the real ones which made them a touch less noble, but their bravery was enhanced. The tragic story of the ascetic knight Lancelot from the King Arthur mythology was of a man pure of purpose transformed by love. The real knights were less likely to be moved off their chosen path. The famous ones all lived sparse lives committed to their cause.  One of those real-life knights is the inspiration behind Francesca Bianchi The Black Knight.

Francesca Bianchi

To most when you read Black Knight those are villains in stories. The actual Black Knight was Giovanni Dalle Bande Nere; that translates to John of the Black Bands. His oath was given to the Medici family of Florence, Italy. He lived his life as a Spartan in armor. He spent his time in the field instead of at court. Sig.ra Bianchi casts The Black Knight in its own minimal terms accentuating the camp life milieu of a soldier.

One of the reasons I sought The Black Knight out was Sig.ra Bianchi uses caraway as her top note. It is one of my favorite ingredients in all of perfumery Sig.ra Bianchi uses it beautifully. The caraway carries a freshness tinged with shadow. It is an interesting way of evoking the life of the knight. A more traditional knightly accord comes next with the scent of saddle leather. Sig.ra Bianchi uses beeswax to mimic the sheen of tack impeccably taken care of. This is a glossy leather scent cleverly supported with a touch of rose and iris. It makes me think a couple of favors given at the last joust were kept in his saddlebags. The florals provide a delicate effect in contrast to the leather. We then get to the campfire carried forth by smoky vetiver. The Black Knight closes with another ingredient I enjoy; the vetiver which has a significant smoky character. Sig.ra Bianchi uses patchouli and cedar to find the earth and trees surrounding the camp.

The Black Knight has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

It’s enough past Halloween I shouldn’t be playing make-believe. The Black Knight is such a nice perfume to wear on cool days it is hard for me not to get lost in a reverie of a valiant ascetic knight.

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

Mark Behnke