New Perfume Review Byredo Mixed Emotions- No Ambivalence Here

One silver lining about being at home is I’ve had more substantial perfume conversations than I have in a while. The connectivity of the online messaging world provides the mechanism for it. When I posted my review of Byredo Tobacco Mandarin I got a message asking if it was different enough from the rest of the line. It led to a discussion of the Byredo expansively minimal aesthetic, my words versus transparently bland, his words. I’m sure I didn’t change his mind. What it did for me was to make me think about why this type of opacity appeals to me. The latest release Byredo Mixed Emotions offers me a chance to write about it.

Ben Gorham

It seems like a good place to do it since Mixed Emotions is the 50th release since the brand began in 2007. One of its strengths is the relationship between creative director Ben Gorham and perfumer Jerome Epinette. Together for all 50. This seems like one of those collaborations where both men were interested in what you could do with a minimalist mindset. Over the years the answer has been to create expansive versions of ingredients known for their weight. It is that quality which draws me to this collection.

Jerome Epinette

Mixed Emotions is an on-point example because of the way birch is used here. Usually the foundation of a leather accord. In this perfume it is given a quite different profile. M. Epinette turns it into something delightfully airy.

It starts with a smoky fruity accord. Combining blackcurrant bud and two teas, black Ceylon and mate. Blackcurrant bud can be a problematic note when concentrated. Used in a more open way it just carries a lilting berry scent. The two teas rise up in steaming spirals to surround the fruit. The black tea adds the hint of smokiness. The mate adds back some of the green the blackcurrant bud would have displayed if denser. As an accord it is an abstraction which allows for a desired effect to be achieved. Papyrus and violet leaf add back some deeper shading to the green. Then we come to the birch. I am not sure how he did it, but this is not the biting proto-tar of most birch in fragrance. It is the scent of birch trees in winter carrying a slightly mentholated quality with the clean woodiness. I don’t recall finding a birch displayed in a perfume in this way. It is what makes this great.

Mixed Emotions has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mixed Emotions is everything Byredo does well just refined after having done it 49 previous times. The name may portray ambivalence, I don’t share it. Mixed Emotions is an ideal reason why Byredo remains one of my favorite perfume brands.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Kierin NYC Rose Ink- Midnight at the Tattoo Parlor

Because Mrs. C is a tattooed person, I’ve spent my share of time in tattoo parlors. They are some of my favorite places to be in the hours just after midnight. In that time it is often when someone has finally screwed up the courage to get their first. We were in NYC one night because a famous artist from out West had come to visit. It was a few hours after midnight when a young woman walked in. She was by herself and she told the owner of the shop she would like to get a rose on her shoulder. He gave her the book to settle on a design. As she looked, she was asking questions. She didn’t see anything she really liked when the visiting artist quickly knocked out a freestyle rose on paper. She had been listening to the young woman and seemingly knew exactly what she wanted. The owner took the design and an hour later the woman had her first tattoo. When I received Kierin NYC Rose Ink it brought me back to that night.

Mona Maine de Biran

I received the debut four brands from Kierin NYC a little over a year ago. I was impressed with the quality of the collection. Creative director-owner Mona Maine de Biran has decided that the brand should keep it simple. Counting on well-done fragrances to find an audience. Ms. Maine de Biran is taking an interesting tack to engaging that audience. She is heavily using social media to get the word out about her brand. It includes reaching out to reviewers to also do their part. I am happy to do it because the brand has been making good perfume.

Jerome Epinette

Rose Ink like all the fragrances in the collection take a location in NYC as a starting point. Here it says, “Tattoo Parlor, East Village New York” The only thing I would add to that is “after midnight”. Perfumer Jerome Epinette finds the vibe I remember of that milieu.

The source of the named floral is the Damask version. This is the spicy sturdier rose. This isn’t that debutante rose dressed in pink. This is a rose dressed in a biker jacket. To add the hint of that M. Epinette uses saffron as a leather substitute. It creates the scent of leather which lingers on skin after you’ve taken the jacket off. The other keynote is blackcurrant bud. This is an ingredient which requires a steady hand. M. Epinette adds it in to give a hint of the greensoap used to wash the hands and skin to be tattooed. It also adds a subtle metallic shine to the rose. As if it isn’t in a vase but in the tip of the tattoo needle to be transferred onto skin. Cedar provides a clean woody finish.

Rose Ink has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Rose Ink should be a great choice as the weather gets cooler. This is a rose with presence just in case you want to check out a tattoo parlor after midnight.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle provided by Kierin NYC.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: Because I am part of that outreach effort I spoke of Kierin NYC has provided a code you can use to get 10% off any purchase on the website. The code is: COLOGNOISSEUR10.

New Perfume Review Sol de Janeiro Cheirosa ’62- Bum Bum to Perfume

There is a part of the world where fragrance is an important part of the culture, but it remains separated. In Brazil perfume is a part of society. The business of it is also a large part of that. It includes all the big oil houses which have a presence down there. There are many releases which are for that market exclusively. Which means I am unlikely to try them. It is my belief that fragrance in Brazil is where a lot of innovation happens. When a perfume makes the jump to more general distribution, I look forward to trying it. Sol de Janeiro Cheirosa ’62 has made its way north.

Jerome Epinette

Cheirosa ’62 is, according to the website, based on Brazilian Bum Bum Cream. Which is exactly what it sounds like. Like I said fragrance is a big deal in Brazil; in every product. The basis for this is a gourmand style fragrance. Perfumer Jerome Epinette was asked to turn it into a perfume. Sol de Janeiro also makes the Bum Bum Cream so I was able to compare the scent of each. The perfume is different because it isn’t part of a thick cream it is by nature more open. It follows the transparent trend of perfume currently popular. It makes for one of the better fragrances in this style.

It begins and ends with gourmand aspects. On top is a nutty accord of pistachio and almond. It is more of the former with a rawer type of nuttiness as opposed to being toasty. Heliotrope captures the almond and connects it to an opaque jasmine. It then goes more fully gourmand with a caramel accord in the base oozing over a bit of sandalwood.

Cheirosa ’62 has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I continue to point out, it is this style of transparent floral gourmand which is where I find my greatest pleasure within the current trend. Cheirosa ’62 is one of the good ones. It lasts only a short time on my skin. I have yet to determine whether that is a flaw or feature for the consumer this is meant for. I don’t care because I am not averse to spraying a second, or third, time through the day. I think for those who wanted the scent of Bum Bum to become a perfume Cheirosa ’62 does a great job of that.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Byredo Tobacco Mandarin- Spiced Citrus Bliss

Every niche perfume brand thrives on its evolved aesthetic. When they want to color outside the lines their recourse is to release a new collection. In 2015 Byredo creative director Ben Gorham wanted to make a set of perfumes which had more presence in an extrait de parfum concentration. The Night Veils collection was born. Byredo Tobacco Mandarin is the seventh member.

Ben Gorham

Much of Byredo’s general aesthetic is built on a more expansive scaffolding. What sets the Night Veils releases apart is they are much more compact. That leads to fragrances which feel like a more personal experience from the brand. Perfumer Jerome Epinette can translate the aesthetic he has helped build with Mr. Gorham into something which simmers. Tobacco Mandarin is a riff on the spiced citrus style popular in the fall. M. Epinette wraps it in tobacco and oud.

Jerome Epinette

The spiced citrus is the titular mandarin along with coriander at first which gives it some initial life. That doesn’t last long as cumin comes around to blunt that. The cumin here carries that dirty sweat scent profile. With the fruit and coriander it forms a slightly odd version of a clove orange. I smell the cumin and coriander when I pay attention, but they also do a creditable imitation of clove when I’m not focused on it. The tobacco comes next in its extraordinarily rich narcotic form. It must be this way because the spicy citrus needs an equal to stand up to it. To give the dried leaf some support M. Epinette tunes an oud accord towards the slightly medicinal profile of oud. A resinous woody base comes through olibanum and sandalwood.

Tobacco Mandarin has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Tobacco Mandarin was a great choice for me to wear on these early chilly mornings. The spiced citrus accord and frost on the pumpkin seem made for each other. There is also that contained feel which is quite appealing as well. Tobacco Mandarin feels like a perfume equivalent of a comfy wool sweater, one that is a little scratchy.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Byredo.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Byredo Lil Fleur- Growing Pains

I was asked recently how I manage to keep trying rose perfumes when I complain about them so much. I admit that of any perfume ingredient rose is the one which most often provokes a yawn. Despite that the new ones keep coming. Byredo Lil Fleur is one which caught my attention because of the desired effect they were trying for.

Ben Gorham

Ben Gorham of Byredo is a creative director who has defined the brand aesthetic from day one. Along with perfumer Jerome Epinette I would describe it as sophisticated simplicity. Which was why the description of Lil Fleur seemed out of place. I am told this it is meant to be “a modern scent, that evokes all the ups and downs of teenage years”. I don’t have an easy description for that, but sophisticated simplicity is not one which comes to mind. They succeeded in making an anomaly for the brand, but it never feels young; it mostly just feels brash trending towards loud.

Jerome Epinette

That undesired volume comes with the tangerine and cassis this opens with. The citrus and the green crunch against each other like the growing pains of an adolescent. They are both at higher concentrations, so it can’t be ignored.  Rose comes out quickly but it doesn’t soothe things it makes it more dynamic. This early part feels like an olfactory temper tantrum. It isn’t until a subtle leather inserts itself that things take a turn for the better. The refined accord wraps all the discord in a soft embrace. It all smooths out and becomes more pleasant. The base also keeps things on the calm side with light woods and vanilla adding in the final pieces.

Lil Fleur has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Lil Fleur seemingly succeeds at its desired goal. It is a rollercoaster kind of perfume from highs to lows. I wonder how many perfume lovers want to go through a reminder of their growing pains because that is what Lil Fleur is.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Floral Street Arizona Bloom- Creature of the Desert Night

The desert is one of my favorite places to be. Despite having lived my whole life near the east coast and the ocean I would be happy spending the remainder in the desert. The time there was a reminder that even in the seemingly barren places beauty is found on its own terms. My favorite activity at night when camping is to use my binoculars to stargaze. With little light pollution no fancy telescope is necessary to view the majesty of the galaxy. One night the desert put on its own show for me. As I was looking up this gorgeous scent began to wind around me. I kept looking around to figure out where it was coming from. Finally I put the binoculars down and searched for the source. A few yards away was a stand of cactus with a bunch of white flowers on top. I spent the rest of the night perched on a boulder nearby enjoying the conjunction of heavens and earth.

Michelle Feeney

The flower I would learn is called Queen of the Night and blooms for one night every year; usually during the fall. It comes from a variety of cactus called a vanilla cactus. There have been a few perfumes which have evoked this flower mainly using vanilla. Floral Street Arizona Bloom takes a different tack which I think comes closer to what I found that night.

Jerome Epinette

Floral Street is the British brand begun and creatively directed by Michelle Feeney. Arizona Bloom is her tenth release in three years. All the fragrances have been composed by perfumer Jerome Epinette. Ms. Feeney works by giving M. Epinette a moodboard accentuating a few phrases as his brief. Because of the success of many of these perfumes I would very much like to see one of these because they hit the mark so often. For Arizona Bloom the phrase was “total freedom and high-octane living”. M. Epinette delivers something which captures that energy.

Previous attempts at capturing an accord of Queen of the Night have used vanilla. M. Epinette goes for a surprising surrogate, coconut. Using two different ingredients he converts that beachy ingredient into the Queen of the Night. This accord building happens as soon as you spray it on. The two key pieces are black pepper and low-atranol oakmoss. Black pepper is perfect because the desert has a spicy scent in the evening and this captures it. It also attenuates much of the umbrella cocktail nature of coconut. The pepper cuts it so far back it does resemble vanilla but much less confectionary-like. Then the oakmoss, missing the bite of the atranol, provided a plush green vegetal carpet for the coconut and pepper to rest upon. This is remarkably close to the scent I remember that night in the desert. M. Epinette adds in the warmth of the boulder via amber and the vault of the sky through some white musks.

Arizona Bloom has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Arizona Bloom is a classic piece of perfume accord construction. All the pieces being used come together in something almost supernatural in its beauty. Ms. Feeney and M. Epinette have created a creature of the desert night.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Floral Street.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Zara Cool Heights- The Best Diamond Mine at the Mall

The essence of this column is meant to remind you there are some great perfumes of past years that are now available for a modest price. There is a rarer source of fragrance for this column which is produced at a modest price from the beginning. They are generally not found in the most obvious of places. To find this month’s pick you would have to walk into a Zara menswear store at the mall. When you find the shelf holding the fragrances you will have found one of the best Discount Diamond mines at the mall.

Zara has been making perfume since 1999. They have consistently worked with some great perfumers who have made excellent perfumes. I didn’t discover it until one day in 2010 when I tried Zara Man Gold. I found a fascinating gourmand in a place I didn’t expect, for a price I didn’t expect. It became a regular stop on my mall visits, for the perfume.

I don’t know what caused the change but in 2018 Zara began producing perfume at a faster pace. It has continued ever since. I was concerned that the quality would drop with the increase in quantity. To my delight it didn’t. There were still jewels to be mined. I found Zara Cool Heights on my first visit after the New Year. It is an example of what exists within the collection.

Jerome Epinette

The perfumer behind Cool Heights is Jerome Epinette. M. Epinette has been behind many of the Zara releases. He is a perfumer who effortlessly achieves interesting perfume even on a small budget. Cool Heights is a citrus leather amber beauty.

The top accord is built around the versatility of Szechuan pepper. M. Epinette uses grapefruit and rhubarb with their sulfurous aspect to create a unique citrus accord that is nose catching. The leather accord at the heart is that scent of leather shoes polished to a high gloss. Not quite patent leather or leather jacket but something almost halfway between the two. The base accord is a warm amber given some sweet through tonka bean.

Cool Heights has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Cool Heights has been great throughout the spring as I’ve worn it a lot. It is a great thought for the upcoming Father’s Day if perfume is on your list for dad. Or you can give him a Zara gift card and let him go find his own Discount Diamond. This is a great place to find one.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Dolce & Gabbana Fruit Collection Lemon- Joan Jett Perfume

I have a weird category of perfume I call a “Joan Jett”. If you’re familiar with the rock singer from the 1980’s you probably know where I’m going. If you don’t; one of her big hits was the song “I Hate Myself for Loving You”. I receive so many perfumes to try, occasionally, one captures my attention when there is no good reason for it to do so. There is nothing new or different. There are probably better examples. I’ll probably forget about it six months from now. And yet, for right now, Dolce & Gabbana Fruit Collection Lemon has gone all Joan Jett on me.

Jerome Epinette

Just from the press release I expected to ignore the three fragrances which make up the Fruit Collection. Each one has a cap in the shape of the fruit that is featured. They look like the perfume you buy at the airport on the way home from your island vacation. The other two, Orange and Pineapple, were every bit as uninspiring as I expected. Then I started sniffing Lemon with a jaundiced eye. When I held the strip to my nose it wasn’t as boring as I feared. I put some on skin expecting it to flatten out. I kept smelling the patch of skin I had put it on, my cynicism lightening with each sniff.

“I hate myself for loving you.”

One reason I might like it is because of perfumer Jerome Epinette. He is one of my favorites. Except he also did Orange which wasn’t doing it for me. Maybe in the early weeks of March I wanted some sunshine after the winter. Except we haven’t had much of a winter here at Colognoisseur HQ.

“Can’t break free from the things that you do.”

I think what it was is M. Epinette has just formed a zingy lemon perfume where each ingredient is sharply defined. The lemon is focused through petitgrain. A CO2 extraction of ginger provides sharp contrast with added energy. A woody green Haitian vetiver is the final piece. It all just feels great to wear.

“I want to walk but I run back to you, that’s why”

Lemon has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

There are lots of lemon-ginger-vetiver perfumes to be found. I can’t exactly pin down why this one has been so much fun to wear. If you’re looking for a spring citrus maybe you can go all Joan Jett with me.

“I hate myself for loving you!”

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Dolce & Gabbana.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Byredo Sellier- Soft Leather

As we enter midwinter my black leather jacket begins to get used a lot. I’ve owned this jacket for well over twenty years. It is beyond broken-in it has become a tame cowhide over the use of decades. Of all the leather pieces of clothing I own the scent of my leather jacket is one that pleases me most. The reason is that smell has become as soft as the leather itself. Instead of the oily strong typical leather odor, I now have something much subtler. Byredo Sellier also wants to be this kind of soft leather.

Ben Gorham

Sellier is part of the Night Veils collection. It is the seventh release within the collection. It follows the last three released in 2016 all of which had a leather keynote as well. I own a bottle of La Botte because it captures a sexy leather boot. In that fragrance long time collaborators creative director Ben Gorham and perfumer Jerome Epinette designed a leather of sharp lines. Sellier moves in a more diffuse direction.

Jerome Epinette

That effect of diffusion comes right at the start with a top accord of black tea and cashmeran laid over the leather accord. The cashmeran flows across the leather while the tea provides a tannic complement. Tobacco provides a multiplier for the sweetness at the heart of any good leather accord. M. Epinette is using these complementary notes to expand the leather effect. A figurative breaking-in of his leather accord. In the base he adds an accord made up of birch and oakmoss. The birch gives back the bite to the low-atranol oakmoss. It also provides echoes of the birch tar it could become as if a cuir de Russie was off in the distance. When it is all together it is a soft leather spreading out.

Sellier has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Sellier is an extrait strength perfume. I think this wouldn’t have been as pleasant if it was at a lower concentration. The way it is now makes it more personal just like my well-loved leather jacket.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Floral Street Ylang Ylang Espresso- Bitter Floral

Back in August I received a discovery set of a new perfume brand, Floral Street. I was impressed by the overall set of perfumes. I felt like there were going to be a couple that would be better for me to try in colder weather. Floral Street Ylang Ylang Espresso turned out to be one of those.

The current trend of floral gourmands is producing surprising intersections of ingredients. Ylang ylang is one of those multi-faceted ingredients which practically begs for a similarly versatile partner. I wouldn’t have thought coffee would be that kind of ideal companion. In the hands of perfumer Jerome Epinette it is.

Jerome Epinette

It is my guess that M. Epinette is using a set of ylang ylang fractions in this fragrance. The reason is the inherent salicylates which tend to give a banana-like piece of the scent profile seem almost non-existent. Instead we are left with the floral sweetness which carries a subtle freshness with it. This is still the sexy ylang ylang I like just without the fruit salad hat. M. Epinette then contrasts it with a roasted coffee bean. This is a rich coffee scent given a healthy dose of bitterness capturing the oils on the surface of the roasted bean. Together these two ingredients rock back and forth in a pleasurable teeter totter. M. Epinete sweetens things up with a dusting of cocoa powder over light woods in the base.

Ylang Ylang Espresso has 12-14 hour longevity.

This is one of those style of perfumes you haven’t smelled everywhere. The balance of floral and coffee is exactly what I am hoping for as this floral gourmand trend continues to expand. It is these kinds of unusual pairs which will lead to this trend going far beyond its simplistic description. Ylang Ylang Espresso is one which is going to be a trendsetter for the trend.

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

Mark Behnke