Book Review The Ghost Perfumer by Gabe Oppenheim- The Emperor Exposed


I’ve written about perfume for over ten years. For all that time I’ve been aware of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” aspect of the brand PR machines. An endless litany of BS encapsulating supposed celebrities who wear the fragrance. Or long pedigrees all the way back through every king and queen since Julius Caesar and Cleopatra. Blah, blah, blah, yadda yadda, yadda, who cares; just let me see what the perfume smells like. Where I draw the line is when the perfumer, the artist behind the juice is hidden to inflate someone else’s ego. This type of dishonesty is whispered about behind the scenes, but nobody has been strong enough to point out these would-be Emperors are naked in public. That changes with the publication of the book “The Ghost Perfumer” by Gabe Oppenheim.

Gabe Oppenheim

Mr. Oppenheim takes writing about perfume in an entirely different direction. For the first time an author takes on the darker side of the business. Now twenty years on after the revolution in thinking about perfume it is long past time for truth-tellers to begin examining things. The Ghost Perfumer starts this with an explosive expose on one of the biggest perfume brands in the world Creed.

Creed has been one of the leading luxury brands of fragrance. The putative story is they are a brand which has been worn by celebrities while also being “royal perfumers” for over a century. For anyone who cared to, that kind of nonsense was easily exposed if anyone thought about it. That is not what this book is about it is the con game run by the man behind the brand which drives the narrative.

For as long as I’ve written about Creed the story has been Olivier Creed is the whole deal, creative director and perfumer. When I’ve e-mailed asking for confirmation of this that is the story they tell me. It always seemed unlikely. Mr. Oppenhem exposes it as a sham.

The book tells the story of M. Creed and how he created the concept of Creed fragrance. The more important piece of this book is the perfumer behind the perfumes which established this mega-brand is identified, Pierre Bourdon.

Olivier Creed (photo:Fred R. Conrad for The New York Times)

If there is anything about the last twenty years of perfumery the ability of perfumers to take their rightful place as artists and authors has been emblematic. M. Creed took the concept of a silent perfumer a.k.a. a ghost to an extreme. He took advantage of a creative mind who didn’t believe in himself in M. Bourdon while taking credit for it all.

Mr. Oppenheim tells the story of these two men from their beginnings until today. He writes in an engagingly easy to read style. When I received my advance copy, I couldn’t put it down. His chapters end like your favorite streaming shows. He leaves you saying, “I’m going to read just one more chapter” until you find yourself at the end.

For anyone who loves perfume and owns any of the Creeds this is a mind-expanding story. Thoroughly researched to completely explain the personal and perfume dynamics of these two men. It ends with the sale of Creed for $1 billion in March of last year. Olivier cashing in on his grift. The coda takes place as Mr. Oppenheim and perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu visit M. Bourdon at his home in France. This is where an artist at peace with his place in this story resides.

Besides the story of Messrs. Bourdon and Creed Mr. Oppenheim shows how the scam continued with new perfumers. The perfumer behind Aventus, Jean-Christophe Herault gave a single interview before being shut down. Julien Rasquinet who composed Royal Oud and others never found the courage to speak with the author. In the end it is M. Bourdon safely retired who can finally have the last word.

Pierre Bourdon (from the book The Ghost Perfumer)

There is a passage towards the end of the book which encapsulates my thoughts after finishing it, “But I like to imagine the dynamic thusly: Since Olivier’s installation in a kind of fragrance industry throne was the result of his own agitprop, its debunking will force his metaphorical step-down- will thereby render his long reign in that chair mere seat-warming, a preparation for the rightful occupant to assume the spot. It will be Pierre’s seat…because it always has been.” This is the real punchline here. M. Bourdon’s reputation is enhanced while the ersatz Emperor seeks the egress albeit with a $1B check in his pocket.

Since the title page says this is “Part 1” I believe we are going to have this new vital perspective Mr. Oppenheim brings to the observation of the industry for a few more installments. We need a voice willing to do the legwork to expose the other Emperors while elevating the Artists. He seems poised to be that.

Disclosure: This review was based on an advance copy supplied by the author.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Creed Viking Cologne- Is It As Good As?


I wonder how frustrating it must be as a perfume brand to always have to be compared to one perfume you released years ago. For the last ten years anytime I have reviewed a fragrance from Creed I get a bunch of messages. All of them the same. They ask me, “Is it as good as Aventus?” If I get it as a reviewer, I must believe every point of sale is asked the same thing every day. The oversized affection for Aventus has reduced all other releases to afterthoughts, which is unfair.

The brand itself tried to answer it with the 2017 release of Viking. It was a nicely executed spicy rose. Which when the inevitable question came my way, I replied it was a different, more spicy style of fragrance. In many ways it has become the underachieving sibling to its ultra-successful forerunner. It looks like they are trying again with Creed Viking Cologne.

Olivier Creed

First this is an entirely different construct than the original Viking. I am not sure why they are even calling it this. There is almost no relationship to the earlier release. Second this also seems like an attempt to appeal to a younger perfume wearer who enjoys lighter styles. Olivier Creed delivers a classic citrus cologne.

The opening of this is the sunny brilliance of lemon and petitgrain. This is a rich version of this opening. It has a little more bite because the petitgrain gets precedence over the lemon. In traditional colognes what should follow is herbal. Which is what comes next through rosemary and sage. Then lavender completes the classic recipe. This is where it changes from something familiar into something Creed. A silvery frankincense coats things. Patchouli and sandalwood provide the opulent base without becoming too heavy. This is when Viking Cologne finds its own way

Viking Cologne has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Let me say this; Aventus is a once in a generation perfume for Creed. It is unlikely to be supplanted anytime soon. Which doesn’t mean the other things from the brand are not worthwhile. It would be nice to see the question change from “is it as good as?” to “is it any good?” In the case of that last question in regard to Viking Cologne the answer is yes.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Creed Green Neroli- Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

When I receive a press release there are certain ingredients which heighten my anticipation for receiving the sample. The converse is true too. When I received the copy for Creed Green Neroli I saw that two of the three keynotes were among my favorites and one was among the list of those I’m not fond of.

Green Neroli is part of the Acqua Originale collection. Green Neroli is the eighth fragrance to be added to it. These have all had a lighter aesthetic while still feeling like a Creed. It was that part which I was going to help me get through my adversarial relationship with the ingredient I wasn’t fond of.

Olivier Creed

That is mint. Mint has a difficult time making me not think of the smell of dental products. It is especially problematic when it is featured in a luxury perfume. It cheapens it because of my mental association. Olivier Creed had two other ingredients with which to keep that attitude at bay. Neroli has become one of my very favorite florals recently. There is an attractive combination of green and flower which does the trick for me. Caraway has been one of my favorite underused ingredients. It has an herbal freshness like bergamot but with more presence. I have long wondered why it isn’t used more. It gets a star turn in Green Neroli.

That mint I was concerned with greets me right away. Thankfully so does a set of lemon and petitgrain which bring a brilliant tart contrast. It sets up the arrival of the neroli. This is everything I enjoy about it with the green finding harmony within the mint and the floral piece reaching out for the caraway. The caraway energized the floral quality forming an expansive neroli effect. Rosemary and tarragon are also around to make sure the green piece of this is not just the mint.

Green Neroli has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is a perfume of fleeting pleasure. Mr. Creed has managed to make a fragrance which is packed with refreshing turns, even the mint. I wonder if the overall effect could have been achieved without it. As I’ve been told by the lyrical poet Meat Loaf, “Two out of three ain’t bad!”

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample supplied by Creed.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Creed Aventus Cologne- Sequel-itis

There are a few acknowledged blockbuster perfumes and one of them is Creed Aventus. It has attained a legendary status among those who enjoy it. There are whole discussion groups set up around the variations in different lot numbers. It is easily one of the most imitated perfumes of the last few years. If you are Creed how do you follow that up? For many years I expected them to stay above it all and let Aventus stand on its own sturdy reputation. I even scoffed at the beginning of the year when I heard there were rumors of a new version of Aventus. When I received notice of that from my Creed contact, I was interested to try Creed Aventus Cologne.

Olivier (l.) and Erwin Creed

Aventus Cologne is not the first flanker. In 2016 Creed released Aventus for Her. I thought that was a misnomer because it really had little similarity to Aventus. I felt it added unneeded baggage to what was a nicely constructed fruity floral. The remaining question is where Aventus Cologne would fall. The answer is for Olivier Creed to make a lighter, fresher version of the original.

The most distinctive difference appears right at the top as the characteristic pineapple of Aventus is gone. Replaced by a zesty ginger. This is the freshening aspect I mentioned. The prominent fruit in this version is a juicy mandarin. A pinch of baie rose stitches the ginger and mandarin together. The fresher initiative continues with vetiver in the heart. The stalwart ingredient gets tinted a couple shades darker by patchouli. The base is formed around sandalwood and musk with birch and styrax applying the slightly darker effects.

Aventus Cologne has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Aventus Cologne does show some connection back to the original. Although if Creed had released this under another name, I’m not sure it would have made me think of Aventus. It is a good warm weather fragrance as I wore it on two very warm days; something I would never do with the original. It is that performance which makes me feel like it was meant to be a lighter alternative to the original. Like many flankers I’m not sure if this is going to have as many fans as Aventus. I think it will appeal to those who were not fond of the pineapple in the original or the overall darker tone. Sequels rarely out-do their predecessors and Aventus Cologne has a little bit of sequel-itis.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Creed Viking- Nordic Lightning?


There are many perfumes which have outsized reputations. One of those is Creed Aventus. Aventus has defined the masculine offerings from The House of Creed ever since it was released in 2010. There was a part of me that wondered if they would ever try and capture that lightning in a bottle again. I received an e-mail a few weeks ago answering that question as I was offered a preview sample of their new masculine perfume Creed Viking.

Viking is inspired by the voyages of the Viking longships as they discovered the new lands within their ability to sail there. Viking surprisingly coalesces around a rose heart. A spicy rose is a common theme for masculine florals. I wanted a bit more of the ocean here but there is nothing of that to be found. If Aventus is the perfume for date night; Viking is the perfume for the office. Perfumer Olivier Creed does an admirable job trying to follow up a sensation.

Olivier Creed

Viking opens with a focused charge of lemon. When lemon is done well it pops; in Viking it pops. Mr. Creed then uses the herbal baie rose to pierce that brightness. The first few minutes are full of energy. The rose in the heart starts to come forward. This is a Bulgarian rose which is very deep displaying the spicy quality this rose has within. Mr. Creed then brackets it with hot and cold. Pepper is the hot and peppermint is the cool. The pepper sinks into the spices inherent to the rose bringing them to the foreground. The peppermint exhales an icy breath across all of it. This is a nicely achieved rose heart accord. A bit of lavender begins the transition to the woods in the base. Sandalwood and vetiver provide the foundation. A rich patchouli carries the depth of the rose in the heart to the woody foundation.

Viking has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Let’s get the overarching question out of the way; is Viking as good as Aventus? No, but I think Aventus is one of the best perfumes Creed has ever made. Viking is not in that league. It is a Creed masculine in the same vein as their classic Green Irish Tweed. I think Viking will have a group of admirers of its spicy rose. It might be enough to even bring some admirers closer. Viking is a good Creed perfume it is not Nordic lightning.

Disclosure: This review is based upon a preview sample provided by Creed.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Creed White Amber- More Jasmine!

Creed is a perfume house which prides itself on its luxury. It is one of the few brands which lives up to its reputation. There is a certain style of sophistication baked into every Creed release. Even when it is a simple perfume the creative team at Creed knows how to create this effect. The latest release in the Les Royales Exclusives collection, White Amber, displays what I am writing about.

The Les Royales Exclusives are an ultra-luxe collection within Creed where Erwin and Olivier Creed are making it even more Creed than the regular line. Of the previous five releases I am very fond of Spice and Wood as well as White Flowers both of which I think, creatively, achieve what the Creeds wanted from this collection. White Amber, from the name, had me expecting a fresh take on amber. Instead it is a very open floral featuring one flower, jasmine.

Olivier (l.) and Erwin Creed

As I wore White Amber I was reminded of one of the most famous sketches from Saturday Night Live. In the sketch, a documentary is being filmed on the making of a classic rock song. The cowbell player is feeling extra feisty to the annoyance of the band. The producer walks into the studio after the first take and asks for “more cowbell”. It leads to more fun as the cowbell player follows orders. When I was wearing White Amber I had a thought of father and son smelling a mod of White Amber and saying to each other “more jasmine”. I highly doubt that is what happened but they did decide to make a huge jasmine soliflore out of White Amber.

If you’re looking for the amber advertised on the label make sure you enjoy the first few minutes of White Amber because it is the only place it is detectable. It is contrasted with a bit of vanilla along with blackcurrant bud but this accord is only temporary. The jasmine arises early on and keeps rising. There are multiple sources of jasmine here. The only commonality is the indoles have been stripped out of them; perhaps this is the white part. What they are replaced with is benzoin. This removes skankiness in favor of resinous warmth. When I smelled it on a strip I didn’t care for the exchange. When I was wearing it, my opinion changed as the benzoin adds a comfy quality to the jasmine. The jasmine never stops radiating and the only modulator over the end of White Amber is some sandalwood.

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

I came to like the benzoin and jasmine combination much more on my skin than on paper. It is a caution that if you are interested in White Amber to spray some on before making a decision; I found a significant difference. If you are someone for whom the idea of “more jasmine” is appealing I think this is a good interpretation of a jasmine soliflore from Creed.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Creed Aventus for Her- A Creed Fruity Floral

When it comes to the ultra-luxe perfume brands there is none which wears its history more patently than Creed. I would have said that history got a little bit in the way as we moved into the new century. The perfumes seemed to be too obviously looking to the past for inspiration. By the time 2010 rolled around I was wondering where the brand was headed. I received a preview sample of Aventus which immediately caught my attention. Olivier Creed had developed a masculine fruity floral using apple and pineapple in the opening. I consider the top accord of Aventus one of the most innovative choices made for a perfume meant for men. I remember wondering if this was going to do well with that desired demographic. Six years later Aventus is the best-selling perfume in the entire Creed line of perfumes. It has become a legendary perfume for guys who will tell you about its ability to charm women who smell it on them. I think it tells a woman this is a man who isn’t afraid to stand out because Aventus stands out among fragrances marketed to men.

Now Creed has decided it is time to give Aventus a feminine counterpart, Aventus for Her. The original fragrance was an homage to Napoleon Bonaparte. I expected Aventus for Her to be Josephine. In the press release it is meant to be more generic than that as it “is inspired by some of history’s most powerful women-royalty, artists, writers, and visionaries-whilst heralding the strong, modern woman of today.” It is that desire to encompass many instead of one which probably doesn’t provide an advantage for Aventus for Her . A strong primary focal point might have been a better choice. Because of this Aventus for Her is not as innovative as Aventus while still being quite charming.


Olivier Creed

M. Creed chooses to repeat the apple he used in Aventus for this distaff version. It is surrounded with the usual suspects of many fruity openings as pink pepper, cassis, lemon and red berries all form an accord that is familiar with only the apple adding something marginally different. It settles into a beautifully composed floral accord in the heart as rose leads the way supported by ylang-ylang, lilac, and violet. The last two tint the rose ever so slightly purple. The base is sandalwood as the core around which M. Creed adds patchouli, styrax, and musk. It makes for a sweetly woody finish.

Aventus for Her has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am not sure Creed did this perfume any favors with its name. The similarities are not so apparent. It is also lacking in the special qualities which makes Aventus stand out. My first impression was full of comparisons which really weren’t fair. Aventus for Her is a Creed fruity floral which trends feminine which I think is as good as many of the recent releases. This does not feel like Creed is looking to the past it does feel forward looking for the brand. On the days I wore this I found myself enjoying it quite a bit. If you temper your expectations I think you might also find Aventus for Her to be worth your while.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Creed Acqua Originale Collection Aberdeen Lavender, Asian Green Tea, Cedre Blanc, Iris Tubereuse, & Vetiver Geranium

It has been a while since Creed has released a completely new perfume. Last year’s Millesime 1849 is the only new fragrance since 2011. 2014 will make up for that as Creed inaugurates a new collection, Acqua Originale, with five new releases: Aberdeen Lavender, Asian Green Tea, Cedre Blanc, Iris Tubereuse, and Vetiver Geranium. Olivier Creed is the perfumer for all five and he has created a collection of luminous perfumes which all exude a beautiful glow.

Aberdeen Lavender is a lavender but it is surrounded by a fantastic choice of notes by M. Creed. Before you get to the lavender in the heart the top notes of absinthe, rosemary, and lemon create a fascinating accord of herbal and citrus components. Once the lavender rises to prominence it is supported with orris and tuberose. The lavender and the absinthe seem like they were made to go together and I really enjoyed the moments they were both on top. This all ends with a suede leather accord along with patchouli and vetiver. Lavender is such a common perfumery note but M. Creed gives it a luxurious makeover.

Thankfully there are no truth in naming statutes for perfume. If there was Asian Green Tea would be arrested for false expectations. I have to say I was expecting another riff on jasmine tea or mate but M. Creed wanted to make an elegant citrus floral. The top notes are a brilliant collage of lemon, mandarin, petitgrain, and neroli. M. Creed lets these notes form a sunburst in the early moments of the development. Violet and sticky green blackcurrant buds form the heart. According to the note list there is supposed to be tea here but I don’t detect it at all. What is here is a dense green fruity floral heart. The base is a silky smooth mix of sandalwood and amber. The name aside this is a great fruity floral perfume among the best Creed has ever done. Just don’t look for the tea.


Olivier Creed

Cedre Blanc is the most straightforward of the Acqua Originale Collection. It runs in a fairly straight line from a green top of galbanum and cardamom through a heart of geranium and waterliy down to a base of cedar and vetiver. It is very well composed but it really seems to me that only cedar lovers are going to want this one as it feels so boring.

Iris Tubereuse is anything but what I expected. I was ready for an olfactory tussle between iris and tuberose. Instead of conflict the purple flower escorts the white flower out in a surprising harmony. Orange and galbanum form an orthogonal pair of green and citrus into which violet is inserted. This forms a sort of iris accord which is more malleable and it expands to corral the tuberose in the heart. Very quickly this all comes together on my skin and the richness of the tuberose with the softness of the “iris” is quite pleasant. The base is a simple duo of vanilla and musk. It is that moment when the iris accord and the tuberose combine which makes this one magical.

Vetiver Geranium is my favorite of the Acqua Originales because M. Creed really gets imaginative with his composition. Lemon is on top again but it is paired with a marvelous Granny Smith apple. This makes the early moments feel crisp and tart. I enjoyed this opening so much I kept topping up on the days I wore this just to get a little more. The green tinted rose quality of geranium is front and center in the heart and here M. Creed dusts it with smoldering cinnamon. The spicy floral is dynamic and as lovely as the top notes. Patchouli and amber provide the foundation of Vetiver Geranium and it is simple and appropriately chosen.

The Acqua Originale Collection has 8-10 hour longevity and below average sillage. These are light compositions and they can seem to be gone when they are still there.

If you are interested in these perfumes I urge you to make sure you try them on skin. I sniffed them on blotters at Esxence and walked away unimpressed. Once I had the samples in hand and wore them over the last six weeks they are much better when on skin. Wearing each for a couple days completely altered my initial opinion of the collection. Particularly Asian Green Tea and Vetiver Geranium have risen very high in my estimation.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples I received at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

Creed 101- Five To Get You Started

The House of Creed is one of those perfume producers which elicits strong opinions for and against. What is not up for debate is it is one of the best-selling niche fragrance houses in the world. Creed is many perfumista’s entrée to the world of niche perfume and it instills an unusual loyalty to those who admire the brand. One of the things detractors point to is the reliance on the celebrated history of the Creed brand and unashamedly talking about the trendsetters who have supposedly worn the brand over the years. Olivier Creed is the current head perfumer the sixth generation to have that position. He is also currently training his son, Erwin, to become the seventh generation, assuring the continuance of the brand for years to come.  Creed perfumes are easy to find but because of their popularity there are many counterfeits out there. If you are going to dip your nose into Creed it is best to start by trying from a reputable source.

olivier and erwin creed

Olivier and Erwin Creed

Green Irish Tweed was released in 1985 and could be said to be the fragrance which would begin this current phase of popularity Creed enjoys. It really lives up to the green in its name especially in the early phases of development as lemon, verbena, and violet leaves combine to form a clover soft accord. The heart is a much understated orris which is more opulent than floral. This leads to what is pretty much a signature base note accord to many Creed fragrances with ambergris and sandalwood. Green Irish Tweed is a quiet fragrance and often when wearing it I will think it is gone only to have someone comment on how nice I smell. Of anything I own Green Irish Tweed is one of those few which elicits spontaneous compliments.

In 1987 Bois du Portugal was released and it is one of my very favorite woody lavender perfumes I own. Creed says in their press release that this was Frank Sinatra’s signature fragrance. Whenever I wear it I always get a very 60’s vibe to it. In my imagination this is the fragrance I expect Don Draper of “Mad Men” to be wearing. It is simple as bergamot and lavender are the opening notes and the Creed ambergris and sandalwood base is tweaked with a healthy addition of vetiver. Bois du Portugal is a great perfume and very close to my favorite in the line.

Love in White was released in 2005 and the very first bottle was gifted to then-First Lady Laura Bush; the current occupant of the White House, Michele Obama, is also said to wear this. This is a fresh bouquet of three of the best floral ingredients of orris, jasmine, and rose. They are kept light and not as bold as they can be in other fragrances. The base is, again, the Creed ambergris/sandalwood signature with a bit of vanilla and cedar to complete this variation.


Millesime Imperial was released in 1995 as aquatic perfumes were ascendant. Millesime Imperial shows a pedestrian genre like aquatics can be infused with a bit of class. The citrus opening of Millesime Imperial is lemon and orange and each of these notes is distinct in the way they display themselves. The overplayed ozonic notes, which exemplify the aquatic, is swathed in a decadent orris. It could have come off like putting designer lipstick on a pig; instead it is like draping a tuxedo jacket over a t-shirt elevating the common to something less so. The base is the same as the others before but with a bit of musk to add a bit of animalic growl to the signature sandalwood and ambergris.

In my opinion Creed has been on a bit of a roll over the last three years or so. With the release of Aventus in 2010 that roll was just beginning. Meant to evoke the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, Aventus has a unique progression of notes. An unusual fruity opening of blackcurrant, apple and surprisingly prominent pineapple are combined in a very pleasant olfactory fruit salad without ever getting out of control. The heart of jasmine rose, birch, and patchouli twist the floral stalwarts with traditional woody contrast. The base is not the Creed signature as ambergris is there but this time oakmoss and musk round out the final phase. Aventus breaks the Creed mold in every way and that has continued over the last few releases.

Creed is such a popular house becase the great majority of their perfumes smell great and whether you buy the PR or not I know I always feel a little more elegant when I’m wearing Creed.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of these perfumes I purchased.

Mark Behnke