New Perfume Review Ideo Parfumeurs Tarbouch Afandi- You Say You Want a Revolution?


About six months ago I discovered a new brand based in Lebanon. Ideo Parfumeurs is a husband and wife operation of Ludmila and Antoine Bitar. M. Bitar is the creative director or as he refers to himself “the storyteller”. He weaves a descriptive paragraph from which Mme Bitar composes each new release. Another aspect they manage to achieve in every release so far is a mixture of cultural influences. Based in Beirut they are trying to capture the crossroads character of a major Middle Eastern city. For the latest release Tarbouch Afandi there are French and Middle Eastern influences throughout.

The story M. Bitar uses for Tarbouch Afandi goes like this, “Leon left the French club in Marrakesh. He loved these casual meetings amongst gentlemen. The bridge game had been tough, and the subtle smell of the cigars lingered on his summer shirt. The times were certainly dangerous, but Morocco in the 1930s was probably the safest.  Next week he was leaving for Cairo. The scent of the honey-tobacco chichas would replace the cigars, and the locals would call him Afandi, a sign of respect. They feared him, but little did they know about his real plans. On his way back to Europe, he would pass by Beirut, and meet his mistress. He loved how she smelled a mix of cedar-wood and violet leaves. She was sensual and playful. She would place the local tarbouch on his head, smile, laugh and drink mandarin liquors all night long. Planning revolutions had its benefits.”

Antoine and Ludmila Bitar

The way Mme Bitar uses that is to create three distinct city-hopping phases as our erstwhile revolutionary stays on the move. Marrakesh, Beirut, and Cairo are all represented in much the same way they appear in M. Bitar’s story.

While the story begins in Marrakesh the perfume opens with the scent of Beirut as described. A syrupy mandarin leavened by the right amount of peppermint and pine. Both can have unfortunate household cleanser associations but here Mme Bitar employs them as lift to the mandarin. The perfume then moves to a rich tobacco as we end up in Cairo but with memories of the woman he left behind in Beirut. She is represented by violet, cedar, and the clove smell of her Kreteks. He finally gets home to Marrakesh where the tobacco is twisted much sweeter using benzoin. Patchouli and vetiver provide the Oriental foundation for the full story to rest upon.

Tarbouch Afandi has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

So far I have enjoyed everything M. and Mme Bitar have produced storyteller and perfumer have formed a fruitful artistic collaboration. Tarbouch Afandi is evidence it is still growing.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle provided by Ideo Parfumeurs.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2016 Year-End Review Part 1- Overview


2016 will probably go down as a pivotal year in the perfume business. As an observer of much of the field this year I have seen change in almost every place I can see. Which leads me to believe it is also taking place behind the scenes where I am not able to know the entire story. Change like this can be unsettling which has made for some worrying trends but overall I think it has contributed to another excellent year. I smelled a little less this year than last year; 680 new perfumes versus 2015’s 686. Surprisingly the amount of new releases has also plateaued with 1566 new releases in 2016 versus 1676 last year. Maybe we have defined the amount of new perfume the market can bear. Over the next three days I will share my thoughts on the year coming to an end.

We are told in Ecclesiastes, or by The Byrds if you prefer; “To every thing there is a season” and so it is in perfume as the season of the Baby Boomers has ended and the Millennials have taken over. This younger generation is now larger, has more discretionary income, and is spending more on perfume than the Boomers are per multiple sources. While the public at large was made aware of it this year the industry could see the change coming a year, or more, prior. What that meant for 2016 as far as fragrance went was every corporate perfume entity was on a fishing expedition to see if they could be the one who lured this group of consumers towards them. The drive for this is huge because lifelong brand loyalties can be formed right now within this group. Certainly, the enduring trends of the next few years in fragrance will be determined by where they spend their money. All of that has made 2016 fascinating because at the end of the year that answer is no clearer than it was at the beginning. The prevailing themes, based on what was provided to them, is they want lighter in sillage and aesthetic, gourmand, and different. That last category is the ephemeral key I think. The brand which can find them in the place where they Periscope, Snapchat, and Instagram is going to have an advantage.

Christine Nagel (l.) and Olivier Polge

There was also generational change taking place at two of the most prestigious perfume brands, Hermes and Chanel. The new in-house perfumers for both took full control in 2016. Christine Nagel released Hermes Eau du Rhubarbe Ecarlate and Galop D’Hermes. Olivier Polge released Chanel Boy and Chanel No. 5 L’Eau. This shows both talented artists know how to take an existing brand aesthetic and make it their own.

Cecile Zarokian, Quentin Bisch, Luca Maffei (l. to r.)

The next generation of perfumers exemplified by Cecile Zarokian, Quentin Bisch, and Luca Maffei loomed large this year. Mme Zarokian did thirteen new releases in 2016 all of them distinctively delightful from the re-formulation of Faths Essentials Green Water to the contemporary Oriental Puredistance Sheiduna. M. Bisch brilliantly reinvented one of the masterpieces of perfume in Thierry Mugler Angel Muse. Sig. Maffei released ten new fragrances with Masque Milano L’Attesa, Laboratorio Olfattivo MyLO, and Jul et Mad Secrets du Paradis Rouge showcasing his range. 

There were also fascinating collaborations this year. Antonio Gardoni and Bruno Fazzolari contributed Cadavre Exquis an off-beat gourmand. Josh Meyer and Sam Rader conspired to create a Northern California Holiday bonfire in Dasein Winter Nights. Victor Wong the owner and creative director of Zoologist Perfumes was able to get the most out of independent perfumers like Ellen Covey in Bat and Sarah McCartney in Macaque.

Some of the independent perfumers I look to surprisingly released perfumes which did not please me. Thankfully there were new ones who stepped up to fill in the gap. Lesli Wood Peterson of La Curie, Ludmila and Antoine Bitar of Ideo Parfumeurs, and Eugene & Emrys Au of Auphorie did that. Chritsti Meshell of House of Matriarch made an ambitious economic move into Nordstrom while producing two of my favorites from her in Albatross and Kazimi.

The mainstream sector had another strong year as the mall continues to have diamonds hidden amongst the dross. In 2016 that meant Elizabeth & James Nirvana Bourbon, Alford & Hoff No. 3, SJP Stash, Prada Infusion de Mimosa, Thierry Mugler Angel Muse, and Chanel No. 5 L’Eau were there to be found.

If the beginning of the year was all about rose the overall year was a renaissance for neroli perfumes. Jean-Claude Ellena’s swan song for Hermes; Eau de Neroli Dore. The afore mentioned Green Water along with Jo Malone Basil & Neroli and Hiram Green Dilettante showed the versatility of the note.

The acquisition of niche brands continued with Estee Lauder buying By Kilian and L’Oreal doing the same with Atelier Cologne. The acquisitions of Frederic Malle and Le Labo, two years ago, seem to have been positive steps for both brands. Especially seeing Le Labo in my local mall getting such a positive reception made me believe that if the good niche brands can become more available the consumer will appreciate the difference.

Tomorrow I will name my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

The next day I will reveal my Top 25 New Releases of 2016.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ideo Parfumeurs Prison Blues- The Gilded Cage


I really enjoy receiving my packages from Europe which have new brands within. It is always an exciting moment when I try something entirely new to me. I received my sample set of the new Ideo Parfumeurs line about a month ago. The four initial releases surprised me.

Ideo Parfumeurs are the creations of husband and wife Antoine and Ludmila Bitar. M. Bitar is described as “The Storyteller” on the website less prosaically he is the creative director. His stories provide the inspiration for Mme Bitar to create the fragrance as the perfumer. Their heritage plays into this brand as he is Lebanese and she is Algerian. They are based in Beirut which they see as a “gateway” city to multiple cultural influences. One of the things which stands out upon trying their perfumes is this idea of fusing differing influences into one. It is most apparent in London to Mumbai where they mix a very proper British lavender-based fougere with an Indian tuberose and cinnamon heart. It could just be a clash but it works; perhaps better than it sounds. Malika’s Temptation takes a fabulous praline accord and drops it into a woody base accord dominated with oud. Weekend a Fontainebleau is the most typical as it is a riff on a floral chypre. The one which enchanted me right from my first sniff was Prison Blues.

antoine and Ludmila bitar

Antoine and Ludmila Bitar

To get an idea of the storytelling as brief that M. Bitar uses here is the description of Prison Blues from the website, “Inside a tent in the desert, Khan is sitting on his Kilim, a rugged sabre on his knees. A woman serves his cardamom rice. The young man smiles, but his thoughts are elsewhere. He remembers his daring escape from the palace of the governor. At regular times, the incense blended with the agar wood walls. The aromas diffused in the air, and mixed with the patchouli and geranium radiating from the clothes of the governor’s wife. She often watched him from a small pit in her maid’s room. Khan escaped, but he somehow misses the aromas of his luxurious prison.”

Where Mme Bitar goes from that is to use cardamom, geranium, and oud as the keynotes. With the cardamom she adds in a humid effect to mimic the rice from the brief. That dish is also spiced with bay leaves and pepper in tiny but noticeable quantities. I love cardamom and this steamy effect is marvelous. Using the green hued rose character of geranium along with a spiral plume of incense the oud has partners to work with as it comes to the foreground. The three notes from the exotic walls of the gilded prison. The base accord is patchouli, labdanum, and musk. All of these deepen the trio at the heart of Prison Blues.

Prison Blues has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am impressed with this debut collection. M. and Mme Bitar have done a creditable job in their first attempts as an independent perfume brand. If their future releases are similar to Prison Blues I’ll happily stay in this fragrant gilded cage.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Ideo Parfumeur.

Mark Behnke