New Perfume Review Diptyque Eau Capitale- The Polite Chypre

As I’ve written about numerous times, the perfume style of chypre is tough to achieve currently. The ingredients which made up the classic chypres which defined it are proscribed. It means a modern chypre must make decisions at what they want to retain over what is difficult to achieve. What seems to be the hardest thing to do is to find the bite lost using the neutered low-atranol oakmoss. There are many good examples but there are many more which fail because they become unbalanced, too much or too little bite, drawing attention to the overall deficiency at the attempt. In more recent times there has been a more pronounced effort to find that velvety texture of the oakmoss, without the bite, in different combinations of materials. I think of these as “polite chypres”; Diptyque Eau Capitale is one of these.

Myriam Badault

Creative director at Diptyque Myriam Badault has been overseeing the brand since 2008. I can make the case that she has been the best creative director Diptyque has ever had. She has had a sharp eye towards the future since her tenure began. It has allowed the brand to stay relevant as it enters its sixth decade of producing fragrance. Over the most recent few years Mme Badault has been working exclusively with two perfumers. For Eau Capitale it is Olivier Pescheux who is collaborating with her.

Olivier Pescheux

Eau Capitale opens on a top accord dominated by the multi-faceted baie rose. It is slightly enhanced by bergamot and pepper, but it is all baie rose in its herbal fruity glory. A full Bulgarian rose meshes with the baie rose to form what is becoming a contemporary classic pairing. It is given a bit of a different spin as ylang-ylang slips through the side door in the heart. Now comes the part where they have to decide what to do to be a chypre. In this case M. Pescheux uses a trio of synthetics in akigalawood, georgywood, and amboxan. This forms a neo-chypre which does retain a bit of the mossy texture without any of the edginess of the vintage type. The spiciness of the akigalawood does its best to provide that but just provides a pleasant spiciness in the end.

Eau Capitale has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

The press materials call Eau Capitale “a lively chypre”. Perhaps so. I prefer thinking of it as polite.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Essential Parfums Divine Vanille- Holiday Cookie Making

Instead of getting run over at the mall I spend the days immediately after Thanksgiving baking cookies. I really only am motivated to make cookies during the Holiday season. I have my favorites along with recipes I’ve optimized to my taste. The kitchen counter is cleared of all unnecessary things as it becomes my surface to make my cookies. As much as the cookies are fun to eat, I noticed a couple years ago what a lovely scent the ingredients provide as I am working. Vanilla, spices, fruits, the wood of the rolling pin, and the muskiness of the effort. I was thinking what a nice perfume this would make. It seems like Essential Parfums Divine Vanille is that fragrance. 

Essential Parfums debuted last year with a set of five perfumes. It is an interesting brand aesthetic where the perfumer is given wide latitude to create. The only commandment is to use sustainable materials. It isn’t explicitly stated on the website but to keep it simple also seems to be important, too. I liked the original five quite a bit for their execution. Orange X Santal was my favorite but I felt they all would appeal to perfume fans who liked the ingredients named on the label. Perfumer Olivier Pescheux is given his opportunity with Divine Vanille.

Olivier Pescheux

The keynote sustainable ingredient is vanilla from Madagascar. M. Pescheux sets it up as the spine of this perfume. I bake with Madagascar vanilla. It always struck me as having a kind of boozy undertone to its scent in the bottle. M. Pescheux plays up that part of his ingredient which keeps this from becoming too food-like. The vanilla is there and M. Pescheuz surrounds it in cinnamon along with black pepper and clary sage. The cinnamon is the main player. It takes the sweet vanilla and gives it some verve. The clary sage teases out just enough green to remind you vanilla comes from an orchid. The black pepper acts like a bit of sizzle atop it all. As this moves to the heart the fruit takes over. The apricot nature of Osmanthus is combined with the fruity rose synthetic Pomarose. It gives a set of luscious fruitiness attenuated by the rose and leather dualities of the two. Cedar reminds me of the rolling pin nearby. Tonka bean adds a toastiness to the vanilla as we move to the base. Benzoin, patchouli and musk form a classic Oriental base. Which is the scent of myself under the blanket waiting for the timers to go off as the cookies bake.

Divine Vanille has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Divine Vanille is another simple construct from a brand which allows its perfumers to strike a different balance. It is an excellent addition to the collection particularly welcome for the Holidays.

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

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Paco Rabanne 1 Million- Seasonal Spice

This column is often dictated by my digging through the discount bins while Mrs. C is shopping elsewhere. While digging a few weeks a go I ran across some gold bars in the bin. Those bottles meant to look like gold ingots is Paco Rabanne 1 Million. Especially for this time of year it is a real Discount Diamond.

Paco Rabanne has been making perfume since 1969. Prior to the 2000’s those early perfumes were some of the best of their kind. After we entered the new century Paco Rabanne became a more aggressive mass-market fragrance producer. A pillar perfume followed by multiple flankers. While most of the flankers are easy to dismiss the pedigree of the brand shows up in the pillars. In 2008, 1 Million was the new pillar which illustrates the point. 1 Million was the fall release for the year. A team of three perfumers, Michel Gerard, Olivier Pescheux and Christophe Raynaud would combine for a rich Oriental style.  

1 Million opens with a chilled citrus accord composed of mandarin and spearmint. The mint is where the frost comes from. It is given a blast of spicy heat as cinnamon removes that icy coating. The cinnamon citrus accord is deep and satisfying. The perfumers then add in rose and leather. The leather is a soft driving glove type. It creates a trapezoid of animalic floral spicy citrus. This is where 1 Million smells as good as the name promises. It fades to a typical vanilla sweetened amber base accord.

1 Million has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

1 Million is the kind of fragrance that shines in the colder weather. It is versatile while adding a classic Oriental aesthetic to any dresser. If you come across a bottle in your local discount bin it is worth its weight in….well you know.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Montblanc Explorer- By Popular Demand

One of my favorite department store men’s perfumes to recommend as an office-ready scent is Montblanc Legend. It is an example of a mass-market release done right, without pandering, while intelligently choosing popular trends to include. I have no idea whether this is true, but this seems less perfume by focus group with more directed design at play instead. They followed that up with Montblanc Emblem in 2014. It again was nothing especially original put together in a solid crowd-pleasing way. When I went to my local mall for my unscientific crowd watching, the newest perfume for the brand was being displayed; Montblanc Explorer.

I’ve mentioned this before; my way of telling whether a new perfume will be popular is the garbage can extrapolation. I set myself up near the closest waste receptacle to where the sales associates are handing out strips. I keep a count of how many people get rid of the strip as quick as they can versus continuing to sniff it while they walk. A good score I’ve found is around 60% retention of the strip. On this visit Explorer had an 85% retention rate. It motivated me to get a sample and find out more.

(l. to r.) Jordi Fernandez, Antoine Maisondieu, and Olivier Pescheux

Anne Duboscq has been the creative director for Montblanc since the release of Legend. It seems like she has clear vision of the market the brand wants to serve. For Explorer she used a trio of perfumers; Jordi Fernandez, Antoine Maisondieu, and Olivier Pescheux. What I found interesting when receiving the press release is this set of Givaudan perfumers liberally laced a set of proprietary company ingredients throughout Explorer. Orpur versions of bergamot and vetiver along with Akigalawood. I always refer to the Orpur collection as the crown jewels of the company. As the creators of Akigalawood the Givaudan perfumers have more experience in using it. It adds a kind of high-class niche veneer to a mass-market fragrance.

The perfumers open with a lot of Orpur bergamot and pink pepper. What the pink pepper does is to provide an herbal contrast to the sparkle of the bergamot making for a tart green top accord. The green is intensified with the Orpur vetiver along with sage in the heart. The base is woody ambrox and the altered version of patchouli that is Akigalawood. The akigalawood adds in a spiciness to the ambrox to keep it from being as monolithic as it can sometimes be.

Explorer has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Besides my garbage can census another reason I predict Explorer will be a success is in a few steps I watched two men stop talking; turn around and each buy a bottle. This is not a perfume for those who have a diverse collection of niche perfumes. You will already have a better version of anything you might be drawn to in Explorer. What I saw on a Saturday afternoon in February is for those men who want an office-ready perfume Explorer is going to end up on a lot of dressers.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Diptyque Fleur de Peau- Axis of the Spring

There has been a refreshing new trend in spring florals this year; it has been more than rose. What has been amusing is several of this year’s seasonal releases have found a new choice, the classic ambrette-iris-musk axis upon which to have their perfume roll. The origins of this triad come from Chanel No. 18, for 2018 this has become the inspiration for many. One which takes it in a different direction is Diptyque Fleur de Peau.

It has been interesting to see new perfumes look for ways to make classic accords more transparent. I don’t think it works as much as it fails. What sometimes makes a classic accord has something to do with balance. If you’re going to re-interpret one you need to make sure you pay attention to that balance. Perfumer Olivier Pescheux takes this tack for Fleur de Peau.

Olivier Pescheux

One way to do that is to alter the botanical musk of ambrette with the synthetic musks in the base sandwiching the iris. M. Pescheux seemingly does this by reducing the concentration of the ambrette while adding in some fresher musks to the base. The iris in the heart is also a much opaquer version as well. Because M. Pescheux strikes the right proportions Fleur de Peau succeeds.

The opening reminds me of a fine milled soap as the ambrette is matched with baie rose. The baie rose picks up some of the slack for M. Pescheux backing off the concentration of the ambrette. The iris comes forward and it is a powdery version kept on the lighter side. It never intensifies to the Coty lipstick style of iris; it stays as a lighter dusting of floral. Some rose, again, picks up some of the heft for using a more expansive version of iris. It finally ends with the musks. There are some of the animalic musks but M. Pescheux also blend some of the linen musks in. It provides a cleaner accord without losing the growly musks entirely.

Fleur de Peau has 8-10 hour longevity with average sillage.

Fleur de Peau takes the axis of the past and transforms it into an axis of the spring. I’d much rather ride in this car than most of the other rose perfumes this year. If you’re looking for a fresh spring floral Fleur de Peau is worth a spin.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Diptyque Tempo- Patch Triple-Decker

2

Over the last fifteen years there has been a revolution in the way the traditional building blocks of perfume have been altered through the different ways of extracting them. Supercritical fluid, headspace, fractional distillation, enzymatic digestion, and a bunch of proprietary effects to each oil house. What this has meant is perfumers have a vast array of effects to choose from for even the most used perfume ingredients. It can make for a new perspective on the familiar. One ingredient which has been significantly differentiated by these processes is patchouli.

Fifty years ago, patchouli was the scent of the hippies during the Summer of Love. Strong, or overbearing, depending on your feeling about it there was one way to get it, as an essential oil. Come to the present day and the shelf which holds patchouli has an array of altered versions. That means the rougher edges can be softened or made more prominent. One of the new perfumes from Diptyque celebrating their 50th year of making perfume, Tempo, is made up of three different extractions of patchouli.

Olivier Pescheux

Givaudan perfumer Olivier Pescheux took advantage of his company’s plantation of sustainable patchouli in Indonesia. By having a consistent source, it allows for the company to experiment with different extraction methods. M. Pescheux has taken three of those methods to be combined as the keynote patchouli accord for Tempo. When I have been exposed to these methods I have always enjoyed comparing it to the original essential oil because they have odd little nooks and crannies for perfumers to insert other ingredients to replace what is missing. M. Pescheux does a wonderful job at choosing some interesting choices for those substitutes.

From the first moment I sprayed on Tempo the patchouli is front and center. Early on it feels like a version where the earthier qualities are minimized. It is soft and to replace that M. Pescheux steps forward with violet leaf. This provides a different kind of grounding through a green type of floral. A fuller patchouli starts to become apparent at the same time I also detect the appearance of pink pepper and clary sage. It is a strengthening but not overwhelming more like half an octave. At this point it is still a soft patchouli. The real strength shows up later as a very green leafy patchouli is made edgy with a shot of mate. Mate when it gets sharp usually bothers me but in this case,  it gives Tempo a bit of bite which I found I wanted after the softer two-thirds of the development.

Tempo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Tempo is a perfume for patchouli lovers, I would be surprised to see it change anyone who is not fond of the note into a fan. If you do enjoy patchouli Tempo provides a fascinating effect as the three extractions of patchouli form a kind of triple decker with enough space for other things to make it more complex.

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

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Montblanc Legend Intense- Second Bite of the Pineapple

On my latest scavenger hunt at the discount store I was surprised to see the subject of this month’s column, Montblanc Legend Intense, on the shelf. I had always seen this perfume as correcting all the flaws I found in the original Montblanc Intense which deservedly has been in the discount bin for years. Most of the times flankers are either cynical seasonal editions or complete re-workings. Montblanc Legend Intense was something different.

Montblanc Intense was released in 2011 by perfumer Olivier Pescheux. It was a wan attempt at a fruity fougere using pineapple and apple. The whole composition felt thin like it was missing something in support. It wasn’t anything I was going to remember until a couple years later while walking through the mall and being handed a strip. As I sniffed I thought this is very good, I asked the sales rep and she showed me the Montblanc Legend Intense bottle. I realized that this was the new and improved version of Legend. Now all the empty spaces were filled in to create something to remember.

Olivier Pescheux

In the original the opening of pineapple was given no help by the addition of coumarin and verbena. For Legend Intense M. Pescheux switches those out for cardamom and Pepperwood. What these notes do is lift up the pineapple into a crispness which was never apparent in the original. For the heart apple is again the keynote. This time M. Pescheux again goes for a crisp effect around the fruit using cedar, and the rose-apple aromachemical Pomarose. Everything about the opening is better it has clear delineated structure around a set of two fruit notes. The base is even better for the changes. This time M. Pescheux goes all in with a mixture of the most powerful woody aromachemicals mixing a potent cocktail of Ambroxan, Karanal, and Okoumal. These combine to form a long-lasting woody foundation.

Legend Intense has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.

I always think of Legend Intense as M. Pescheux’s second bite of the pineapple. I certainly believe it is a much better perfume in every way that I can quantify that statement. I had thought it to be a perennial best-seller but perhaps its days at the mall have passed. So much the better because it makes Legend Intense a Discount Diamond.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Diptyque Vetyverio Eau de Parfum- Back to Earth

Vetiver is one of the more common perfume ingredients. It is hard to find new perspectives when designing a vetiver-centric fragrance. It is one of my favorite ingredients because it displays a wide versatility; which should be obvious if it is used so often. One of the more interesting studies of vetiver was in 2010’s Diptyque Vetyverio.

Perfumer Olivier Pescheux took a solid axis of vetiver and on three different levels spun three sets of notes to shape the vetiver as it developed on the skin. At the time I first wrote about this I mentioned this was a lighter version than most vetivers where the higher harmonics were emphasized over the deeper ones. Vetyverio is one of those that is made for the warmest of days when fragrance verges on becoming an irritant no matter what. It has never made my personal top list because I have come to prefer my vetiver with some more pop to it. Apparently, I am not alone as there is a more concentrated version just released Vetyverio Eau de Parfum.

Olivier Pescheux

Befitting the overall style, the original was released in eau de toilette concentration. M. Pescheux returned to oversee the increase in concentration. As I say every time I review a different concentration it just can’t have the original ingredients modified to fit the new concentration. To be faithful to the original the perfumer must make some important decisions. In this case M. Pescheux has decided to strip the formula down to its essence. The original had twelve listed notes; the Eau de Parfum just four. If pushed to describe the original in a few words I would have said citrus-rose-grass. This time M. Pescheux changes the third part to earth as patchouli is used to take the same Haitian vetiver used before and ground it.

Vetyverio Eau de Parfum uses grapefruit as the citrus on top. The citrus was bright in the original. Here the grapefruit can display some of its sulfurous quality before the same rose as in the previous formulation picks it up. In a lighter formulation, you take rose and lift it up with pother florals. In this formula, you let the rose alone allowing it to radiate in all its Damascene glory. The vetiver concentration being upped means the woodier quality of the Haitian vetiver has more presence. Adding in patchouli drags it away from the fresher greener grassier elements and down towards the ground. This duet changes the comparison between what came before and now.

Vetyverio Eau de Parfum has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

The original formula was never going to really resonate with me because of the lightness of it all. Vetyverio Eau de Parfum does connect because it takes the vetiver and brings it back to earth.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Ex Nihilo Amber Sky- Do Robots Dream of Amber Skies?

I have been interested in the brand Ex Nihilo from when I first became aware of them a little over a year ago. The concept is they make a perfume and through the use of an instrument they call an Osmologue they add in a specific note of the buyer’s request. It creates a personalization similar to having a bespoke perfume made. As I tried all of the perfumes in the line I have always enjoyed the baseline perfume so much that the idea of adding something to it was not appealing. Even when visiting the brand outpost in Bergdorf-Goodman in NYC I tried the variations on some of my favorites in the line; always preferring the basic model. When I received my sample of the twelfth release Amber Sky I think I’ve found one that I might want to try adding something to it.

Ex-Nihilo-Team

Ex Nihilo Creative Team

Amber Sky is the third perfume by Olivier Pescheux under the Ex Nihilo creative team of Benoit Verdiere, Sylvie Loday, and Olivier Royere. It must be an interesting process to create a perfume made to be tailored at the final step to a personal taste. One of the reasons I haven’t been interested in changing from the perfume as bottled is all of the previous releases have distinct top, heart, and base accords I liked. Amber Sky is the first one which seems to have a missing top accord opening up the opportunity to add something in. The heart and base are lovely and so the opportunity to tune this perfume to taste really explores the entire Ex Nihilo hypothesis.

olivier pescheux

Olivier Pescheux

Amber Sky opens with a full geranium showing its greener qualities to their fullest. M. Pescheux support it with a couple of spices in coriander seeds and nutmeg. The nutmeg does a nice job of making the geranium softer; it adds a definite presence. The advertised amber arrives in the base lifted up by a duet of woods in cedar and sandalwood. This starts very dry until tonka and vanilla act, as the nutmeg did previously, as a softener of the amber-centric base accord.

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

I enjoyed what was here but I did really want more of a floral presence in the early going. This is where the Osmologue might be able to help me out. Of the choices that are available I would really like to see Amber Sky with orange blossom, rose, and jasmine added. When I visit NYC at the end of the month I am going to try it out and see. Amber Sky on its own is a simple amber perfume well-executed and if that is appealing you might not need anything added. I am interested in allowing the robot to dream of amber skies.

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

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office Lanvin Arpege Pour Homme- Too Powdery Masculine Floral

I was always a fan of the original Lanvin Arpege. The 1993 reformulation even felt very much like a perfume designed for men. It was with a great deal of interest when I found out that there was a Lanvin Arpege Pour Homme. I was wondering what Lanvin would consider a manly Arpege to smell like.

olivier pescheux

Olivier Pescheux

In 2005 perfumer Olivier Pescheux was chosen to compose this perfume. At this time in the brand history Lanvin was deep in the midst of a deep identity crisis. Arpege was one of the great perfume classics but they weren’t sure how to leverage that affection from the consumer into a brand-wide version. I could probably make the case that this is the current state of affairs at Lanvin, as well. I speculate that there was vigorous discussion taking place behind the scenes on how best to position Lanvin as a fragrance brand. One thing is for sure there was never any consensus reached even though the team of Creative Directors; Philippe Benacin and Anne Duboscq have been in place for the entire time. For Arpege Pour Homme it would be M. Benacin collaborating with M. Pescheux.

philippe benacin

Philippe Benacin

For almost forty years there were attempts to make the “masculine floral”. What this generally meant was a floral perfume wrapped up in enough hairy chested notes it wouldn’t be the perfumed equivalent of wearing a dress. The ones which had a little bit of traction were the rose versions because you could load them up with spice and drop it into a sandalwood base. For this time period there was no breakout successful “masculine floral”. This was the tack Messrs. Benacin and Pescheux wanted to take for Arpege Pour Homme. They wanted to use the iris of the original and sandwich it in between citrus and woods. Iris has always been a tricky ingredient to sell to men because it can be so reminiscent of the women in their lives iris scented cosmetic products. It made M. Pescheux’s task that much more difficult.

Arpege Pour Homme opens with a distinct citrus character from bitter orange sweetened just a little with mandarin and pink pepper. M. Pescheux sets the stage for the iris by using a bit of neroli to provide the transition. The iris comes next and it is reminiscent of those powders. M. Pescheux does his best to keep that quality under control with nutmeg and mate providing a sharper edge. It isn’t very successful. The powderiness doesn’t really become modulated until the sandalwood and patchouli of the base get a chance to add some presence.

Arpege Pour Homme has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

In 2005 Arpege Pour Homme had a bit too much of the cosmetic counter in it to find any real market share among men. The real death knell for this perfume was the release of Dior Homme in the same year. Dior Homme was the breakout “masculine floral” the market had been waiting for. To add insult to injury it was also focused on iris. The Dior Homme iris was paired with lavender and wrapped in chocolate and leather; with not a hint of powder to be found.

I think Arpege Pour Homme is underrated and an interesting counterpoint to Dior Homme. I’ll admit I wear the latter more than the former but there are days I can stand a little powdery iris to be part of it. Arpege Pour Homme is easily found online for pretty reasonable prices.

Sometimes the marketplace given two differing visions postmarks one for the Dead Letter Office which is what happened with Arpege Pour Homme.

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

Mark Behnke