New Perfume Review Cra-Yon Sand Service- Breaking Out of Their Niche

Three years ago when I wrote my review of Agonist White Lies I had an inkling that creative directors Christine and Niclas Lydeen had tired of being the odd artistic perfume. From the moment they created Agonist it was a perfume line which stood for some of the edgiest fragrances I would try. They would even be housed in equally imaginative containers. Everything about Agonist was out on the edges of what artistic perfumery stood for. I adored the line and the Lydeens. Their vision was engagingly off-kilter. Which leads back to White Lies. That perfume was the most normal they had done. I noted that in the review even wondering whether they wanted to try for something more mainstream. I just got my answer in Cra-Yon Sand Service.

Christine and Niclas Lydeen

The Lydeens have released three perfumes in their debut collection for Cra-Yon. This is the antithesis of the fragrances they did for Agonist. All three are versions of well-known genres. Passport Amour is a rose, oud, amber perfume. Vanilla CEO is a citric vanilla amber. The bottles are not objets d’art. They are utilitarian containers. When I tried the first two, I was a little sad to see these creative people take such a hard turn towards the generic. Even Sand Service is not that far away from other recognizable styles. It is the only one of the three where a bit of the Agonist heritage shows for just a tiny moment.

When you go to the Cra-Yon website there is a different vibe to the way the perfumes are presented. This line has no pretensions. It wants to be a crowd-pleasing type of fragrance. Sand Service achieves it through a central axis of violet leaves, papyrus, and leather.

It is in the early stages where that previous niche aesthetic peeks out. it comes through the sharpness of the violet leaf. Supported by cardamom this is an extroverted green which is bolder than anything else I encountered in these debut releases. It is rapidly controlled via the watery green of papyrus and the powder of iris. A soft leather accord given some woody partners in sandalwood and cedar is where this closes.

Sand Service has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Sand Service and the rest of the first Cra-Yon releases are simple fragrances at their core. The Lydeens have successfully broken out of their niche they previously inhabited. Time will tell if they can find the same pleasures in the pedestrian. Sand Service is a decent start.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Agonist White Lies- Normal is Overrated

Sometimes, a brand which has been about being totally different must feel like throwing in the towel. These brands probably tire of writers, like me, saying I admire the perfume but I wouldn’t wear it. The Swedish perfume brand Agonist has a lot of these kind of perfumes. Despite my wariness to spend more time with them I have admiration for their ability to make fragrance on their own terms. When I write that I want something different it should be right on the bleeding edge of being wearable. Which made the latest release White Lies perplexing because this is a fairly straightforward niche spring floral.

The Agonist creative team of husband and wife Niclas  and Christine Lydeen  continuing to work with perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin decide to create a snappy white flower dominated fragrance. There is nothing here which is dramatically different from many other spring florals. Which makes it stand out among the Agonist collection while not necessarily among the overall niche fragrance sector. All of that might lead you to think I didn’t care for it but I did for a couple of reasons. The use of boisterous white flowers as the centerpiece of a spring floral is different from the plethora of roses. The other reason is there is a quite zippy fruity top accord that I enjoyed much more than I usually do.

Christine and Niclas Lydeen

White Lies opens with a tart sparkly lemon, a juicy raspberry, and sweet lychee. This forms a fruity accord of contrasts that was like a gourmet Sweet Tart. Then the white flowers arrive with jasmine and tuberose taking the lead. They are well-balanced within White Lies. The nice choice is to add heliotrope to provide a powdery softening of the two co-stars. The base is a standard patchouli, ambrox, and vanilla ending. Woody with a touch of sweet.

White Lies has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

If Agonist was planning on White Lies being their “normal” fragrance within the collection; they succeeded. The only thing that is bad about it is despite enjoying it I’m just as unlikely to wear it as some of the more avant-garde offerings. Not because it isn’t good but because it isn’t different enough. I understand the desire to just give the consumer what they want. Hopefully the next Agonist release will go back to giving the customer something to think about.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Agonist Nordic Noir- Too Real to Enjoy?

There is a small sub-category of niche perfumery which encompasses the ability to capture a scent from real life which might be unpleasant or harsh. These are hard perfumes to review because while I admire the technical effort and skill required to create the smell I struggle with seeing it as something I want to wear. The very few brands, which almost defiantly stride into this area; ask of a perfume lover to consider if something sort of difficult can eventually be something you would still find time to wear. One of those brands is Agonist and its latest release Nordic Noir fits into this category.

christine niclas lydeen

Christine and Niclas Lydeen

I was first introduced to Nordic Noir at Pitti Fragranze in Florence last September. One half of the creative team behind Agonist, Niclas Lydeen, was there to tell me about it. He wanted Nordic Noir to represent that biting cold breath of air taken in extreme cold. The one where the frigid air interacts with the warm skin in your sinus passages. It stings a little. It can cause an uncomfortable pressure. It also smells incredibly clean. Not sterile; frostily clean. Mr. Lydeen and his wife Christine Lydeen again collaborated with perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin as they have for all of the eleven Agonist releases so far. M. Pellegrin gets this exactly right with it all being so true to life that I found it tripped over into unpleasant for me at first blush.

I left Florence with a sample and it has taken a few months for it to finally hit the shelves. That time allowed me to approach it in a much more cautious manner than most perfumes get from me. I loved the realism but wearing it for a couple of days? That would take some working up to. In the end I am happy I did wear it, funnily enough on one of the coldest days of the year with a blizzard to match and on a temperate winter day.

fabrice pellegrin

Fabrice Pellegrin

M. Pellegrin chooses a very interesting pair of notes to open Nordic Noir; cardamom and rosemary. There has been a lot of the greener version of cardamom in use lately. M. Pellegrin returns to the less green version which has a chilly demeanor to it. The rosemary adds back the green with an herbal aspect. The bite of the ice comes courtesy of spearmint, ginger, and heliotrope. M. Pellegrin pushes the concentration of all three. They aren’t present in overdose but they surely are here to make an impression. Spearmint and ginger form the stinging core of which the heliotrope ups the intensity. It is this accord which is the one I have to almost steel myself for. Orris comes along to add a rooty earthy quality of frozen tundra. When I first tried this the mint was too much and the ginger just annoyed me. After some time, I grew to enjoy the stiff breeze they represent here. The blond Nordic woods are represented by a very strong cedar made slightly sweet by vanilla.

Nordic Noir has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Like almost everything which carries the Agonist name Nordic Noir is not a perfume for the faint hearted. The Lydeens have shown a real commitment to their brand aesthetic and it not being for everyone. What Agonist has come to represent is it is a brand which will give the person who tries them something unique. Nordic Noir does this with the icy blast of a Nordic snow field.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Intertrade Europe.

-Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Agonist Solaris- Midnight Sun

My only experience with the Midnight Sun came on my honeymoon when we cruised to Alaska, followed by a tour of the state. It was an experience which illuminated the effect daylight has on one’s emotional state. I would be happily moving along and would look at my watch to see it was 11PM when it felt like 4PM. The light was almost magical in the way it energized and sustained me. In conjunction with the extended daylight there was a great crispness to the air we were breathing which also seemed especially rejuvenating. I hadn’t considered the idea of a fragrance attempting to evoke the Midnight Sun. If I did give it some thought I would’ve imagined Niclas and Christine Lydeen, owners and creative directors, of Agonist to be capable of doing it. The ninth release Solaris is exactly this.

christine niclas lydeen

Christine and Niclas Lydeen

The Lydeens have forged a durable partnership with perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin and through the eight previous perfumes created a very Nordic aesthetic for the Agonist line. This aesthetic has a bit of an aloof personality and many find Agonist to be a perfume line which requires too much effort to get close to. I have always found that slightly chilly antipathy the perfumes tend to wear defiantly something which perversely makes me want to give them an extra spritz when wearing them. If you have found this style one you have had issues with in the past Solaris might be a great perfume to give it a try again. M. Pellegrin has made the easiest to wear Agonist to date by turning Solaris into an unnaturally long lasting citrus fragrance whose sun finally sets on the woods in the distance.


Fabrice Pellegrin

M. Pellegrin uses a veritable olfactory produce section of citrus notes with pink grapefruit, mandarin, lemon, and petitgrain combining to make a mega-citrus accord. To add some variation black pepper adds spice and black currant adds dark berry features. The pepper and currant have the effect of turning all that citrus into something less bracing and more diffuse in effect. It is a really beautiful combination. Galbanum anchors the heart with a green focal point. M. Pellegrin then uses peach, ginger, an ozonic accord, and litsea cubeba. That last note is an evergreen shrub found in Southeast Asia. Its essential oil is mostly the lemon scented molecule Citral. The rest of it is as you would expect from an evergreen, lighter greens and a very subtle floral component somewhere between iris and violet. It isn’t often used but based on Solaris I would like to see it used a little more. It is what extends the citrus vibe from the top notes. The peach and ginger balance it out with fruit and spice. The ozonic accord is that of a lungful of clear cool crisp air inhaled with gusto. The base notes are centered on labdanum. Tonka and benzoin add sweetness, patchouli and amber add depth. As befits a fragrance inspired by the Midnight Sun the base notes don’t show up for a long time and when they do they are there for a shorter time than normal.

Solaris has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I didn’t know I wanted a Midnight Sun perfume. Solaris has shown me the fallacy of that thinking. M. Pellegrin has made a fragrance of opaque strength which captures a feeling, a place, and the light just right

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

Mark Behnke