New Perfume Review Louis Vuitton Etoile Filante- Confounded Expectations


Much of the fun of continuing to write about perfume is my confounded expectations. There are times that I think I am getting something only to find I am not. There may be no perfume brand which has done this more to me than Louis Vuitton.

For a long time I was told there was a perfume coming from the luxury leather brand. Finally in 2016 it happened. I remember getting my discovery set of samples in anticipation of a refined leather perfume, or two, or more in that box. Only to find none. Those who read my early reviews of those fragrances must have become weary of my “where’s the leather?” every time I wrote about it. Over the course of time they would provide me what I wanted. I finally realized there was an interesting non-leather aesthetic growing here.

Jacques Cavallier

Perfumer Jacques Cavallier has been behind every Louis Vuitton release. When his creations have worked for me it is when he subtly plays with existing styles and forms. Which brings me to the latest Louis Vuitton Etoile Filante. I get the press release days before I receive the sample. This press release told me this was a strawberry and osmanthus fruity floral. Before the perfume arrived, I was already planning on not writing about it. Once I received it, I found something very different than my initial thoughts.

Osmanthus is one of my favorite florals in perfumery but it has been recklessly crushed in too many fruity florals as perfumers seek to use the apricot nature of the floral to full effect. It usually makes me hold a test strip at arm’s length. I knew something was different when I first sprayed Etoile Filante. It wasn’t a fruit bomb. It was something I couldn’t have anticipated.

The difference comes in the first seconds. The strawberry M. Cavallier is using is not the ultra-ripe over-the-top version. This is the smell of slightly unripe strawberries. It reminds me of the ones I pick and let ripen a week or so on my kitchen counter. There is the characteristic strawberry scent, but it has a tarter slightly greener overall quality. This is the kind of fruit at the opening of Etoile Filante. When osmanthus meets up with that the apricot is given space to mix in a jammy kind of fruitiness. The leatheriness of osmanthus also provides a nice contrast. A creamy magnolia and fresh jasmine turn the overall floral effect into a spring-like accord. That is reinforced through a suite of white musks which add a lot of expansiveness to it all.

Etoile Filante has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am not a fan of fruity florals, yet this one was enjoyable on the days I wore it. Just another confounded expectation. Par for the course.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Louis Vuitton Meteore- Upping the Quality

I have difficulty when I receive a fragrance which has quality ingredients with boring architecture. Am I to point out the step up in materials or the fact it is the hundredth iteration of a style? There is a place for well-made perfume which seeks to be nothing more. Louis Vuitton Metore is just this kind of scent.

Jacques Cavallier

The concept of better ingredients and common genres has been a lot of the raison de etre of the Louis Vuitton perfume collection since its inception in 2016. Perfumer Jacques Cavallier has been behind the entire set of which Meteore is number 24. As it has developed there have been some excellent original releases but those seem to be the exception. I am guessing there is a guiding principle of playing it safe while upping the quality. I think that’s a tough line to walk because if the consumer doesn’t pick up on it then they think it just smells like everything else. Meteore is a crisp citrusy vetiver ideal for fall days which stands out because of the ingredients.

It begins with a juicy citrus given shape though neroli and cardamom. A lot of time the crisper citrus effects come through the evocation of the rind. M. Cavallier goes for the pulp relying on the floral and herbal guardrails to keep it on the straight and narrow. Nutmeg provides a connection between that and the amazing Javanese vetiver in the base. This kind of vetiver carries a significant smoky piece to it. It is like that hint of woodsmoke in the distance while on a fall walk. The vetiver used here is mutli-faceted reaching out to both the citrus and nutmeg. Its greener facets play off them before letting the woodiness of it carry the latter stages.

Meteore has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you are a fan of this variety of vetiver Metore features it in a way you can really enjoy it. If you want a fall weight vetiver Meteore will also fill that need. There is nothing new to see here but what is here is a better than average version of it.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Louis Vuitton Nuit de Feu- A Night at the Brazier


Ever since the introduction of oud into western modern perfumery I have been interested in how it is used in the Middle East. According to what I have read oud chips are placed in braziers and allowed to add their scent to rooms as they burn. As a perfume ingredient it is one of my favorites because of the complexity of the scent profile. I have spent years buying small vials of different sources of oud. My wooden box which contains the vials is one of my most cherished fragrant possessions. While I am pretty sure Mrs. C would frown upon me ordering some oud chips and setting them on fire in a brazier in Poodlesville. I think I’ve found the next best thing in Louis Vuitton Nuit de Feu.

Jacques Cavallier

In a touch over two years the luxury leather brand Louis Vuitton has jumped feet first into fragrance. Nuit de Feu is the fifteenth release of this collection. Perfumer Jacques Cavallier has been the perfumer behind all of them. This has been an uneven collection with hits and misses but more in the squishy middle of they’re okay. Until I got my hands on a sample, I expected Nuit de Feu to be one of the latter.

Nuit de Feu translates to “night of fire” I wouldn’t call this a dark style of fragrance. M. Cavallier provides a more transparent framing that the ingredients might lead you to believe. All three keynotes are pitched at a lighter level than I usually encounter them.

It opens with the smoky austere resin of Somalian incense. This always feel like tendrils of fragrant smoke whenever it shows up in a perfume. No different here. It is this which sets the idea of a brazier burning. Over the next few minutes a classic refined leather accord worthy of Louis Vuitton meshes with oud. If you’re expecting powerhouse dial it back by half. It isn’t ethereal but it isn’t bowl you over either. As these three keynotes come together it is how I imagine a brazier in the Middle East to smell. It ends with a gentle suite of animalic musks picking up on all three of the keynotes.

Nuit de Feu has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I think some will be disappointed that an incense-leather-oud fragrance isn’t a sledgehammer. If you give it a chance you might come to find the same joy in a subtler combination of the same notes. M. Cavallier does a nice job in providing an alternative. I am just happy I can imagine myself spending a night at the brazier while wearing it.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Louis Vuitton California Dream- Sunset on Sunset

I am slowly coming around to the idea that perfumes which bear the name of Louis Vuitton do not have to be leather related. A year ago the first release of the LA collection, Cactus Garden, helped get me to that mindset. The latest addition Louis Vuitton California Dream continues my evolution.

“Sky Backdrop” by Alex Israel

California Dream is the fourth of the set of perfumes inspired by Los Angeles. Along with perfumer Jacques Cavallier, artist Alex Israel has been providing visuals to go with it. Mr. Israel’s vision has been inspired by California. The inspiration piece (shown above) is called “Sky Backdrop”. It is part of a series where he interprets a Cali sunset. M. Cavallier took the colors of this rendition and turned it into California Dream.

Jacques Cavallier

M. Cavallier looks for the same hazy layering of colorful effects. There is a simple progression which finds the soft interfaces between them as the colors do in the inspiration painting.

It opens with a blast of mandarin which I think represents that clear blue in the upper right of the painting. This is that sunny citrus effect so commonly found in this style of perfume. M. Cavallier uses a bit of pear to provide a softening effect. This is where that flows into the lighter shades of pink through the middle of the piece. Here the botanical musk of ambrette seed imparts the softer muskiness that this source provides. It ghosts through the mandarin. This moves towards the brighter pink in the bottom third of the painting. When I looked at it, I was thinking it looks like it is lit below by twilight neon. Which made me imagine this sunset was taking place over Sunset Boulevard. The base accord of vanilla infused benzoin has a bright sweetness of resin and confection. There are moments I felt like it might be pink neon.

California Dream has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am a bit sorry to see the end of the LA phase of LV perfumes. I’ve enjoyed all of them. Maybe I’m finally just looking forward to the next perfume from Louis Vuitton as I enjoy this olfactory sunset.

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

Mark Behnke

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