New Perfume Review Louis Vuitton Cactus Garden- Get Over It

For many years I waited for the entry of one particular luxury brand into the fragrance sector; Louis Vuitton. From almost the beginning of niche perfumery there was one rumor or the other that it was coming. It didn’t happen until 2016 when perfumer Jacques Cavallier began producing perfumes under the Louis Vuitton brand. I have mixed feelings about the first fifteen perfumes released over two years.

It is apparent that M. Cavallier is not finding himself bound to my expectations of fragrances which represent the brand. There are only two leather-focused perfumes, Dans La Peau and Nouveau Monde. The majority of the first fifteen have been high quality examples of safer perfume styles. Which is to say when I received the press release for the new collection called “Les Colognes” I was expecting more of that safe style of perfume.

Jacques Cavallier

M. Cavallier was inspired by Los Angeles and wanting to capture the sunny nature of Southern California. He partnered with LA artist Alex Israel for the packaging. In the press release M. Cavallier mentioned he wanted to make a fragrance with an “airiness”; which he does in all three. Sun Song is a blast of citrus expanded into that airy quality via white musks. This is a nicely done luminescent citrus perfume. Afternoon Swim also is expansive citrus over ginger and ambergris for the swim part of the equation. It is a nice aquatic which doesn’t rely on Calone. The one which I really enjoyed is Cactus Garden.

Many people think of the beach when it comes to thinking of LA. I am more drawn to the desert and Palm Springs. Cactus Garden is a fragrance which captures pool society in the desert. To do this M. Cavallier wanted to set up the dryness of the desert with the wet pulpy inside of the cactus. When I’ve been hiking in the desert scooping out the pulp of a cactus is refreshing. It is a contrast to the aridity of the atmosphere. Cactus Garden reflects this.

Just as the other two Les Colognes it opens with citrus, a big dose of bergamot. What comes next is that aridity in the ingredient of mate tea. This ingredient carries that kind of sharpness to it that I get from breathing in low humidity desert air. Along with that also rides a spiky green which is an ideal representative of the outside of the cactus. The pulp comes from the use of lemongrass. The slight citrus and green aspects tie back to both the bergamot and the mate tea as it all comes together beautifully.

Cactus Garden has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’ve probably been unfairly maligning this Louis Vuitton perfume collection for what it is not. I am coming around to believing that there are some really good perfumes which have nothing to do with leather. Cactus Garden has me channeling Glen Frey in his song “Get Over It” I just have to stop “all this whinin’ and cryin’, and pitchin’ a fit” and get over it. Cactus Garden makes it easy to do that.  

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Louis Vuitton.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Louis Vuitton Attrape-Reves- Crepitating Floral Gourmand


I have been wondering when the luxury brands were going to start jumping on the floral gourmand bandwagon. In the mainstream sector this has become one of the more consistent styles meant to appeal to younger perfume aficionados. For the most part the independent and luxury niche market has shrugged in response. It looks like Louis Vuitton Attrape-Reves is going to go first.

The Louis Vuitton fragrance foray has been too safe in my opinion. They have done some nice versions of styles without finding anything new. When the recent set of five was released Nouveau Monde provided me what I expected from the Louis Vuitton brand; a fabulous leather. Everything else in the collection has been transparent. I presume also to woo upscale younger consumers. Attrape-Reves is in this vein. The difference is the floral gourmand style has not been around that long allowing for something different. Which allows for it to stand out.

Jacques Cavallier

I also have to say that I don’t usually expand my vocabulary due to the press release but in this case perfumer Jacques Cavallier described the perfume like this, “It’s a dialogue between precious ingredients that, in theory, have no reason to cohabit. And yet, on the skin, they converse, crepitate, and command attention.” Crepitate? I had no idea what that was. Turns out the definition is “to make a crackling sound”. Turns out that is a good description as M. Cavallier sets up some nicely orthogonal accords which sort of crackle into each other.

That is where Attrape-Reves starts with ginger and lychee forming what reminded me of an Asian restaurant accord. It is like the scent of those ingredients are lifting off a dish containing both. This isn’t as humid as that description might portend. It is delineated as the zestiness of the ginger interacts with the off-beat sweetness of the lychee. This leads to the heart where a peony accord bolstered by Turkish rose crackles against cocoa flower. The freshness of the floral wrestles with the attempt to be coated in the chocolate. There really is a bit of give and take more than a harmony. Patchouli brings it home with a less earthy fraction continuing the opaque style until the end.

Attrape-Reves has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

It is a curious effect of this transparent floral gourmand style that the quality of the ingredients doesn’t make as much of an impact. There are some great ingredients here but because M. Cavallier is keeping them at such a lighter level some of the deeper complexity is lost. I am left wondering if this style will translate to the luxury side so easily because of this.

I do like Attrape-Reves quite a bit for being a floral gourmand with style. If you’re looking for a step up from the mainstream floral gourmands, this is worth trying. You might enjoy having some crepitation happening on your skin.

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

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme- Aquatic Trendsetter

I have mentioned this before, but I sometimes look at the fragrance bargain bin at my local discount store mournfully. This happens not because of the selection but that there are some of the original trendsetters of perfumery in there. I get over it because it means those are accessible to many more people because of the modest price. Which is also the point of this column. This past month the summer allotment of the fresh aquatics must have arrived because the bin was covered in a layer of bottles of L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme.

Chantal Roos

In 1992 as Issey Miyake began their fragrance brand, creative director Chantal Roos and perfumer Jacques Cavallier would define the brand. In these early days Mme Roos decided the new aquatic style was what would set Issey Miyake, as a brand, apart. It was a shrewd play and when 1992’s L’Eau D’Issey was released it made a splash, literally. Two years later the same creative team released the masculine counterpart L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme.

Jacques Cavallier

When I try a perfume like L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme I always place it in context of where it began. If I received a new release aquatic which smelled like this I would dismiss it. Yet back in 1994 the aquatic fragrance for men was just getting started and L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme is one of those that cemented the popularity of the style. It is also a great perfume to wear in the summer.

L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme opens on a Calone-centered top accord matched with yuzu. Back then Calone was something new. This is the typical aquatic top accord we now know very well. From here M. Cavallier makes some clever choices starting with geranium and cinnamon in the heart. The slightly spicy contrast to the fresh seaside accord works really well before heading to a sandalwood and vetiver base.

L’Eau D’Issey Pour Homme has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

There might be a hundred clones at the mall right now but if you go to the local discount bin you can find one of the originals for a fraction of the cost. That is what Discount Diamonds are all about.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Louis Vuitton Nouveau Monde- What I Wanted


The path to having a Louis Vuitton branded perfume was a long and winding road. In 2016 it finally came to fruition with the release of seven perfumes. As a collection I had a difficult time embracing them. They all seemed to tilt towards the prevalent trend of simplicity paired with transparency. Perfumer Jacques Cavallier had created a collection which was missing what makes Louis Vuitton famous, the leather. When I heard of the collection I was hoping for something which captured all of the faces of leather in perfume. M. Cavallier has produced brilliant leather accords in the past surely there would be one in a Louis Vuitton collection. Except there wasn’t. As close as it came was Dans La Peau which captured the smell of the store as the collection of leather goods scent the air. Except that was not what I wanted. I wanted a Louis Vuitton that was L-E-A-T-H-E-R damnit! When I heard there were five new perfumes being released in 2018 I was hoping it might be there. I am delighted to say that Nouveau Monde is what I wanted.

The other four releases; L’Immensite, Au Hasard, Le Jour se Leve, and Orage are similar to the original seven. They share the same light and opaque quality with a slightly more masculine vibe. When I visited the Louis Vuitton store the day after release I tried all five. Going in I was most excited to try Nouveau Monde because based on the ingredient list it had potential. As soon as the sales associate sprayed it on a card I had already received a hint this was what I was looking for. I became a pest after the visit to receive a sample which I did. After wearing it for two days now I have what I wanted.

Jacques Cavallier

Nouveau Monde is at heart a linear leather accord. It is not blessed with lots of development. It is blessed with the presence of L-E-A-T-H-E-R damnit! M. Cavallier uses only a few ingredients to form his accord and it snaps together within the first moments.

Those three ingredients are saffron, oud, and cocoa. It is simple but at the heart there is a mixture of real oud and an oud accord along with the saffron and cocoa. That oud accord allows for M. Cavallier to dial in a specific effect which would not be possible by just relying on only a natural version. The presence of the natural oud is what gives this accord its animalic depth. It also provides the flip side to Dans La Peau’s civility as the leather in Nouveau Monde is way less polite. The accord is gorgeous in its depth. Over the time I’ve been wearing Nouveau Monde there is a lot of nuance provided by the cocoa. It provides that unique sweetness underneath every motorcycle jacket. The saffron provides a hint of the human being inside of that garment. After many hours Nouveau Monde dries down to a synthetic incense and woods duo which makes me miss what came before.

Nouveau Monde has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Nouveau Monde was exactly what I wanted from a Louis Vuitton perfume. Forget the simple transparent constructs I want L-E-A-T-H-E-R damnit! Nouveau Monde gives me just what I wanted.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bvlgari Magnolia Sensuel- A Spring Alternative

January is a cruel month for me as my mailbox fills up with all the new spring releases; most of them rose focused. Longtime readers will be familiar with this perennial complaint from me. There are other flowers that could be used. To which I usually hear my internal voice say, “Oh yeah smarty what’s your alternative?” Truth be told I just want something different, but I am not sure what it is until I encounter it. When I received my sample of Bvlgari Magnolia Sensuel I realized this could be one.

Last spring Bvlgari premiered their Splendida Collection focused on floral compositions. Those first three releases focused on rose (Rose Rose), jasmine (Jasmin Noir), and iris (Iris D’Or). They were nice but those are probably three of the most ubiquitous flowers in perfumery. There are not a lot of different themes to be explored. Magnolia Sensuel uses a flower not so common.

Jacques Cavallier

Magnolia is mostly used as a supporting floral. It is because it has a dual floral and citrus scent. It makes it an ideal note to underpin either of those qualities. Perfumer Jacques Cavallier uses a Chinese version of magnolia which really displays both splendidly.

M. Cavallier brackets the magnolia with citrus and jasmine as supporting notes in a reverse of the usual relationship of these three notes. The magnolia bursts out of the first moments with a freshness from the inherent tartness and the floral nature has an outward expansiveness more typical of synthetic ingredients. The mandarin gives a sweet citric interstitial note while the jasmine provides more of a base than I think the magnolia would have had without it. This is a fresh spring scent as the magnolia feels sunny and floral simultaneously. The base accord is musk with a hint of vanilla and patchouli.

Magnollia Sensuel has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Wearing Magnolia Sensuel weeks away from actual spring arriving; it makes me believe it is closer than it is. I don’t know if it is prohibitive to use magnolia in this concentration regularly but the next time I’m having an argument with myself over a spring alternative; Magnolia Sensuel is going to be the answer.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bulgari Aqua Pour Homme Atlantique- Warm Woody Aquatic

Bulgari Aqua Pour Homme is one of the best aquatic perfumes I own. Released in 2005 by perfumer Jacques Cavallier this was an attempt to add something more to the fresh and clean aquatic by adding something a little less so. With a heart of chamomile and seagrass there was something here that wasn’t so readily available in the other blue bottles in the department store. As it is their wont to do Bulgari had M. Cavallier spin out numerous flankers over the years. Some are recapitulations of the original formula with a note or two added. Those are uninspiring and have never matched the original. In the examples of 2008’s Aqua Pour Homme Marine and 2013’s Aqua Pour Homme Amara M. Cavallier could continue to evolve this particular vision of the aquatic genre. It was in the latter case where he added a warm base of patchouli and olibanum as foundation to the traditional citrus and sea spray. As I spent time with Amara I was wondering what it would be like if M. Cavallier married the heftier aquatic accord of the original with the warmth of the base in Amara. The new Bulgari Aqua Pour Homme Atlantique is my answer.

Jacques Cavallier

I’m not sure who writes the press copy but the idea of a perfume which will be “exploring the most powerful ocean in the world” makes me giggle a little more than this kind of press copy usually does. As one who spent a lot of time in a boat on the Atlantic it just doesn’t exactly fit. Especially because the perfume that goes with it is so brilliant in its citrus opening before heading into its warmth in the base.

M. Cavallier retains the lemon-focused opening but this is lemon instead of the petitgrain used in the original. It provides a sparkly quality to go on top of the oceanic aquatic accord in the heart. The first few minutes are this glimmering zestiness. Then ambrox acts as a stand-in for ambergris. It subtracts the brininess but streamlines the rest. Then in the base sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver, and benzoin form a warm and woody base accord. The sparkle of the early notes still twinkle like lens flares on the periphery of the base but this transitions to almost entirely woody by the end.

Aqua Pour Homme Atlantique has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Atlantique is my favorite of the flankers because it isn’t a straightforward flanker. It is instead more inspired by the original than something in a direct line. In this case that is a good thing because Atlantique can stand on its own.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample from Macy’s.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Louis Vuitton Dans La Peau- Luxe in Flux

It has become so common for luxury brands to have a fragrance as part of their portfolio it is more surprising when one doesn’t. The luxury leather goods brand Louis Vuitton has taken their sweet time about entering the fragrance market. There have been a few fits and starts which never made it past the early development stage. Earlier this year it became apparent that Louis Vuitton had made their decision on how to make their entrance. They decided on a seven fragrance collection in the exclusive category. Initially available only in Louis Vuitton boutiques before slowly becoming more available.

When I received the collection I spent a lot of time with them on strips. The perfumer behind all of them was Jacques Cavallier. All of them are part of this current trend of simpler and lighter fragrances, presumably targeted at a younger fragrance buyer. Except I have never viewed Louis Vuitton as a place where that demographic shops. I was surprised that with seven fragrances there weren’t a couple that went for something bolder. None of them do. Even more confusing to me was leather was only a keynote in three out of the seven. When I imagine the fragrance which embodies Louis Vuitton lily of the valley or orange blossom don’t even come close to being on top of the list but Apogee and Contre Moi are limpid versions of those florals. Even when having the chance to take some luxurious ingredients like orris and rose in Rose des Vents or narcissus and oud in Matiere Noire they come off less opulent than they should. Which leaves the three leather fragrances; Turbulences pairs tuberose with it while Mille Feux is a typical osmanthus and leather mixture. The only one which actually gave me some feel of being a perfume which was a Louis Vuitton aesthetic was Dans La Peau.

jacques cavallier

Jacques Cavallier

Dans La Peau is no more complex than any of the other members of the collection. What enticed me to wear it for a couple of days was the very nice luxury leather accord M. Cavallier employed. This is what a leather goods store smells like. This is closer to what a Louis Vuitton fragrance should smell like.

Dans La Peau opens with the leather accord right there as if you have entered an LV boutique and breathed deep. M. Cavallier then uses three florals to nice effect as complements to the leather. First a very light narcissus adds a bit of floral astringency. Magnolia adds a bit of creamy floralcy. Jasmine is the main floral in Dans La Peau. M. Cavallier combines two sources from Grasse and China. Both are jasmine scrubbed mostly free of indoles. There are some and they make sure never to get too obstreperous. I wanted more tension between the jasmine and leather instead of the generally genial way they are in Dans La Peau. It finishes with a suite of musks but again the safer less animalic synthetics which confirmed that I wanted more of that, too,

Dans La Peau has 8-10 hours longevity and average sillage.

As the perfume brands look to be more enticing to a younger fragrance audience it seems like simple and light are the current choices. The entire Louis Vuitton collection hews to that. In a luxury market which has thrived on fragrances which carry something exclusive along with their brand I wonder how these Louis Vuitton fragrances will fare. Luxe is in flux and Louis Vuitton has placed a wager on simple and light.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Louis Vuitton.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Versace Blue Jeans- The Start of Something Good

When I first discovered the discount fragrance collection at my local TJ Maxx it was like my own personal treasure hunt. If it only cost $9.99 it wasn’t much of a risk to buy one and see what I thought. Most of the time I would understand why it ended up at the discounters. The fun of the whole process was finding the ones which fell through the cracks. One rule of thumb I had was if it was in every discount bin it was probably not that good. Which is why it took me quite a while to finally buy a bargain bottle of Versace Blue Jeans.

versace blue jeans

In 1989 the fashion brand Versace wanted to really make a mark in fragrance. Since then Versace has consistently released a few perfumes every year. Versace is one of those brands which has staked out the department store sector as where their fragrance customer is found. It has been a successful enterprise over time but those early years were a bit bumpy as Versace was searching for their perfume style. In 1994 they really pushed all in with a pair of massive new releases Blue Jeans for men and Red Jeans for women. These were everywhere that holiday season and they never really caught on. Which then saw them slowly make the descent to the discount bins. They had produced so much of it that it was everywhere. When I finally purchased my bottle I found a fresh Oriental which was quirkily interesting.

jacques cavallier

Jacques Cavallier

The perfumer behind Blue Jeans was Jacques Cavallier fresh off of his L’Eau D’Issey success. With Blue Jeans it was like he was attempting to graft some of that fresh onto an Oriental foundation. It ends up coming off like a perfumed mash-up of a top 40 pop song and a baroque string quartet.

Blue Jeans starts with that populist aesthetic right away. M. Cavallier uses grapefruit, geranium, and juniper berry to provide that fresh opening accord. Iris, lavender, and violet tint the heart a shade of purple. Nutmeg provides a nice contrast. The base is all woody Oriental as cedar, sandalwood, vetiver, and amber all take their proscribed places within a very recognizable base.

Blue Jeans has 10-12 hour longevity and way above average sillage. This is one you only need a spray or two of.

The Versace aesthetic would come alive with the release of 1996’s The Dreamer. Blue Jeans is that interesting signpost pointing to better days to come. It is still one of those fragrances I turn to for hot days followed by cooler nights.

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

Mark Behnke

Perfumer Rewind: Jacques Cavallier 1998-2004- Postmaster General of the Dead Letter Office


For all of the series I have on Colognoisseur there is a long list of potential subjects which I choose from when I am ready to write a new entry. For the series called Dead Letter Office which is about discontinued perfumes which I think are incredible pieces of olfactory art I recently noticed an interesting thing. When I started the blog in February of 2014 I made up a list of discontinued perfumes and the perfumer for each. When I look over the list of about thirty there is one perfumer who is responsible for five of the entries. All of them were released from 1998-2004. All of them were composed by perfumer Jacques Cavallier who I now dub the Postmaster General of the Dead Letter Office.

Those five perfumes are Issey Miyake Le Feu D’Issey, Yves St. Laurent Nu, Yves St. Laurent M7 (co-created with Alberto Morillas), Alexander McQueen Kingdom, and Boucheron Trouble. If there is any similarity between the perfumes it is that they failed for being out of step with the prevailing perfume trends at the time of “fresh and clean” or fruity floral. None of these followed those trends and thus the marketplace rejected them to eventually be discontinued. If you think M. Cavallier himself was out of step that also isn’t the case as he is the perfumer behind Issey Miyake L’Eau D’Issey which could be said to be the standard bearer for “fresh and clean”.

jacques cavallier

Jacques Cavallier

The reason M. Cavallier is associated with these discontinued perfumes is because the Creative Directors for each of them was willing to take a big risk. These are all perfumes which flew in the face of the market forces attempting to shift the trends onto something different. Those two visionary Creative Directors were Chantal Roos and Tom Ford who are responsible, in part or together, for the creative direction of all five. If there is anything I repeat over and over is I want a brand to take a chance on breaking away from convention; these perfumes do that.

M. Cavallier has provided truly unique aspects to each. The raw coconut milk accord of Le Feu D’Issey. The cumin based human musk of Alexander McQueen Kingdom. The fantastic green cardamom of YSL Nu.  The contrast from lemon meringue to wood infused vanilla in Boucheron Trouble. Finally, most famously, the first prominent use of oud in western perfumery in YSL M7.

This is the soul of creativity and what turns a perfume from fragrance to olfactory art. That M. Cavallier can seamlessly create mega-hits like L’Eau D’Issey and any of these five perfumes mentioned above shows how talented he is. Even if he does spend an inordinate amount of time in the Dead Letter Office.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of all of the fragrances which I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office Alexander McQueen Kingdom- The Vagina Monologues

One of the most cutting edge fashion designers of the last fifty years was Alexander McQueen. His was a life of vibrant imagery crossed with internal demons which would lead to him taking his own life in 2010 at the age of 40. Like many who have their brilliance tempered with something entirely the opposite it leaves behind a glittering trail like a shooting star across the sky.


Alexander McQueen

Mr. McQueen by 2003 at the age of 34 had been named British Designer of the Year four times. Like all designers with that much success it was time to branch out into other areas. Of course one of those areas was fragrance. The first perfume was released in 2003, Alexander McQueen Kingdom. Of the many designers who release their first signature perfume Kingdom might have been the most emblematic of the fashion that the name on the bottle portended it to be.

jacques cavallier

Jacques Cavallier

Mr. McQueen would team up with Chantal Roos, as Creative Directors, to perfumer Jacques Cavallier for Kingdom. Mr. McQueen was known for going for the dramatic on his catwalk shows. Kingdom was going to do the same. M. Cavallier while producing many mainstream fragrances was also having a creative streak with lots of different fashion designer brands. I think most of those fragrances in the latter category are part of the most impressively creative collection by a single perfumer. That most of them will be subjects of this series tell you they really were for only a precious few. Kingdom was no different M. Cavallier was creating a perfume that was meant to shock and the note he was going to use to shock and awe was cumin.

alexander mc queen kingdom advert

By the time I got my opportunity to try Kingdom that cumin note was all anyone was talking about. Remember in 2003 the predominant perfume aesthetic was the fresh and clean. Cumin was not fresh and clean it was filthy dirty. When I was talking about it with a couple of other perfume lovers they told me it was disgusting that it smelled like, as they lowered their voices, “a vagina”. This became a pervasive label for Kingdom and it is at least partially responsible for its demise. It was out of step with the current trends and the whisper campaign did it no favors.

I love cumin in perfume and one of my most favorite Ditpyques, L’Autre, was loaded with cumin. It was also one of the perfumes I had to be careful to choose my moments on when to wear it. Hearing Kingdom was similar had me smiling in anticipation. So imagine my surprise when I finally get a bottle that the first thing I smell is orange. M. Cavallier takes bergamot, neroli, orange blossom, and mandarin to create this gauzily beautiful citrus opening. It is gorgeous and it is shredded in the next phase as a spicy rose and indolic jasmine form the layers that the cumin would perch between. the indolic jasmine was the perfect floral to go with the cumin to form a deeply human accord. The rose is not as prevalent as you might think as it creeps in and out with a waxing and waning effect. This all finishes on a base of Copahu balm, sandalwood and myrrh. After the heart this serves to soothe the nerves set jangling with the confrontational heart.

Kingdom has 12-14 hour longevity in the EDP concentration and above average sillage.

This is one of my most cherished bottles because I think the entire creative team achieved the perfume they wanted to make. That they had the fortitude to release it into a world which, at the time, was not ready for it was also impressive. I end many of these by saying if it was released today it would find its audience. Not in this case. Kingdom was a unique evocation of a particular designer’s aesthetic written in bold olfactory strokes. This was never going to be a commercial success. It is a spectacular piece of olfactory art that I have continued to enjoy for many years now.

Disclosure: this review was based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke