New Perfume Reviews Parfums Quartana Les Potions Fatales (Part 5)- Mandrake, Wolfsbane, & Conclusions

Concluding my reviews of the new Parfums Quartana Les Potions Fatales with Mandrake and Wolfsbane.

carlos vinals

Carlos Vinals

Most people are familiar with Mandrake as the squalling magical plant in the Harry Potter novels and movies. This comes from Wiccan beliefs that the roots emitted a fatal scream when dug up. Creative director Joseph Quartana working with perfumer Carlos Vinals wanted to mix both the fictional qualities with the reality of the plant. What they came up with was a fragrance which evokes a plant firmly rooted in the soil which after you unearth it might just have a magical scream waiting for you.

Mr. Vinals was inspired by the smell of actual Mandrake which has an uncanny resemblance to apples. So he uses a classic red apple accord. He surrounds the crisp fruit with the off-beat green of rhubarb, cardamom, along with birch leaf and birch root. This creates a really interesting fruity foliage accord when it all comes together. That apple is ever present but the two sources of birch provide the leafiness and the sense of the soil it is growing in. This eventually slides into a leathery woody finish around leather, sandalwood, and patchouli. To represent the magical shriek Mr. Vinals adds a sharp synthetic contrast which has an air of being too sharp. I would have liked less of this as the fragrance at this point didn’t need that kind of grace note added. On the days I wore it I found it distracting.

Mandrake has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I like everything about Mandrake except for that final bit of artistic flair. It was what kept it from being my overall favorite.

philippe paparella-paris

Philippe Paparella-Paris

That goes to Wolfsbane. When I was sitting with Mr. Quartana in Milan as he explained the collection to me I was already imagining a fragrance which was found deep in a wood full of supernatural influences. Probably for the best Mr. Quartana only gave in to that most obvious of impulses only once with Wolfsbane. Working with perfumer Philippe Paprella-Paris this is that walk through a mystical wood holding tight to your wolfsbane in the hope it will defend you from the beasts in the shadows. M. Paprella-Paris wants you to feel that there is something just outside your vision but not beyond your sense of smell.

This opens with an absinthe-laden top accord. M. Paparella-Paris realizes a wee bit of The Green Fairy might be necessary to step into the woods at night. The other aspect is the wormwood within the absinthe also gives off a senses of ancient decay. To heighten that M. Paparella-Paris uses angelica root, fig, ginger and most importantly cumin. That cumin is what portrays nervousness with the sweaty character that normally comes with it. In combination with the ginger it also creates a simmering kind of kinetic energy. As you move deeper into the woods castoreum brings the scent of whatever stalks you to your nose. Night-blooming tuberose seems less innocent and more threatening all of a sudden. Patchouli, tobacco flower, prunol, and benzoin evoke the forest floor you are moving through at a renewed pace. Somewhere you smell the truffles present in the ground but you need to keep moving as the woods seem to close in with vetiver becoming ever stronger along with the whatever is right behind you.

Wolfsbane has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Wolfsbane is my very favorite of the Les Potions Fatales. It has the most dynamic evolution of any of these debut fragrances. It never failed to make my days better when I wore it.

When it comes to large collections like this I am usually dismissive of them. My biggest irritations are no real lack of cohesion matched with cynical box checking. Let me assure you that Mr. Quartana has overseen a true collection in every way that word should apply to fragrance. He also never, not for one moment, diminished his artistic vision of what this collection was going to be. No box checking going on here. One other thing I would like to mention is the use of a different perfumer on each fragrance. Granted he chose to work with the roster of perfumers at Symrise which truly showed their versatility throughout this collection. But getting a cohesion from different artists even being directed by a single creative director is not easy. I think this is a collection which should be sought out by those who enjoy something different in their perfume.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Parfums Quartana.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Parfums Quartana Les Potions Fatales (Part 4)- Lily of the Valley & Poppy Soma

Continuing my reviews of the new Parfums Quartana Les Potions Fatles with Lily of the Valley and Poppy Soma.

nathalie benareau

Nathalie Benareau

When I was looking through the names of the different perfumes in this collection there was one which seemed too common to be included; Lily of the Valley. The rest of the collection features less ubiquitous focal points. When I saw Lily of the Valley I thought to myself this is meant to be the safe haven. Creative director Joseph Quartana and perfumer Nathalie Benareau do provide probably the least adventurous entry within the Les Potions Fatales but they make sure to add one twist to keep it in alignment with the rest of the collection. What that means is Mme Benareau takes the innocence represented by the floral and dresses it up in a black leather biker jacket.

The early moments of Lily of the Valley are very straightforward as the titular flower is supported by neroli, rose, and jasmine. These are all mostly indole-free versions of these flowers so the purity of the lily of the valley is preserved. Until that leather jacket accord comes forward. At first it seems incongruous but Mme Benareau adds in sandalwood, labdanum, and vetiver which help our innocent discover her wild side.

Lily of the Valley has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Lily of the Valley is the most accessible of the Les Potions Fatales. It is the shallow end of a pool which contains much more interesting things in the deep end.


Emilie Coppermann

One of those interesting things is Poppy Soma composed by Emilie Coppermann. One of my favorite movies is “Once Upon a Time in America”. The movie opens with Robert de Niro’s character heading to an opium den to hide from the police. This particular den has a shadow puppet theatre out in front. One of the fun debates about the movie is whether the movie which follows is an opium dream or reality. I have always wanted a perfume which captures that milieu of the wooden shadow puppets mixed with the sweet smoke of the opium. Mme Coppermann has delivered that to me with one of my favorites of this collection.

Mme Coppermann uses gardenia as her nucleus of the sweet opium accord. This is a gardenia in all of its fully narcotic grandeur; which seems appropriate. To add in a touch of acrid to represent the smoke she employs Szechuan pepper, curry leaf, and red pepper. These overlay the gardenia with piquant pungency which adds texture to the intensity of the floral. Once the opium has taken hold Mme Coppermann plunges us into a floral fever dream consisting of jasmine, rose, and tuberose. All of these are given enough room to be as expansive as they can be. Over time as we come down the incense stick burning nearby provides a focus for reality. Labdanum, styrax and musk provides a bit of a reminder that we have been sweating while tripping.

Poppy Soma has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I mentioned that this is one of my favorite Les Potions Fatales I will take it a step further and say it is one of my favorites by Mme Coppermann. I have admired her work for many years but Poppy Soma seems like an artistic breakthrough for her personal portfolio. She has made a joyfully exuberant perfume which still has the ability to ensnare you in its depths.

I will finish my reviews tomorrow with Part 5 on Mandrake and Wolfsbane plus some concluding thoughts.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Parfums Quartana.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Parfums Quartana Les Potions Fatales (Part 3)- Digitalis & Hemlock

Continuing my reviews of the new Parfums Quartana Les Potions Fatales collection with Digitalis and Hemlock.


David Apel

Digitalis is well known to me in my day job in drug discovery. It is used to treat heart arrhythmias. Although patients have to be careful not to take too much or the toxic nature can overwhelm the therapeutic one. Creative director Joseph Quartana, working with perfumer David Apel, were focused on the lore around the more colloquial name for digitalis, foxglove. Foxglove is an attractant for faeries in folklore. Mr. Apel composed a perfume which captured the glittery trails left by the fairies as they flit among the trumpet-shaped blooms. When I think of fairies I think of silver winged sprites trailing fairy dust in a sparkling trail behind them. Mr. Apel pulls together a group of ozonic and metallic trending notes to create a perfume which evokes this sparkling flight.

Digitalis starts with the aromachemical floralozone as the linchpin of the ozonic accord on top. All of these notes provide lift. Matched to them is the metallic nature of violet leaf and silver iris. These provide an austere floral nature. These combine to form the wings full of dust. A very green phase comes next with galbanum, basil, cucumber, and coriander. It grounds the high flying sprites as they alight on the foxglove. The smell of the flowers are represented by a mixture of violet, rose, neroli, and jasmine. Mr. Apel lets the florals provide a contrast to the more strident ozonic and green accords which came prior to this. The base becomes a little more like damp soil as incense, fern, and moss provide that accord.

Digitalis has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

While Digitalis didn’t necessarily set my heart a-flutter it is an excellent interpretation of the brief by Mr. Apel.

Christelle Laprade

Christelle Laprade

If I asked you to name a poisonous flower chances are Hemlock would be one of the ones you named. Famous for being the method of execution of Socrates for corrupting the young men of Athens. The perfume Mr. Quartana collaborated on with perfumer Christelle Laprade is meant to carry a bit of that corruption the philosopher was imparting so long ago. Mme Laprade starts with an accord which reminded me very strongly of when I used to open a new vinyl record and the smell of the fresh-pressed plastic would arise from the sleeve. Other corrupting influences like leather and rum show up as well.

Hemlock opens with that fantastic fresh vinyl accord. I was enchanted by this from the first time I smelled it through to every time I wear it. Mme Laprade then adds a coterie of spices with clove, cinnamon, and pink pepper transforming it from synthetic plastic to something more vital. A rum accord is next which is melded with a synthetic white floral accord. There is nothing natural about the florals at the heart of Hemlock. It is an appropriate progression from the vinyl to in essence synthetic flowers. This heads into a leather and patchouli base sweetened a bit by vanilla and benzoin.

Hemlock has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Hemlock is one of my favorites in this collection, The embrace of the unnatural carries a large amount of appeal for me.

In Part 4 I will review Lily of the Valley and Poppy Soma.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Parfums Quartana.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Parfums Quartana Les Potions Fatales (Part 2)- Midnight Datura & Venetian Belladonna

Continuing my reviews of the new Parfums Quartana Les Potions Fatales collection with Midnight Datura and Venetian Belladonna.


Lisa Fleischman

Midnight Datura is named after the genus of night blooming vines which are called moonflowers. Creative director Joseph Quartana collaborated with perfumer Lisa Fleischman on the most floral entry in this collection. Midnight Datura is a mixture of ten floral notes among the same number of supporting non-floral notes. There is another name for the moonflower called Devil’s Trumpet; Midnight Datura could easily be re-named Flower’s Trumpet.

When you have a perfume as densely constructed as Midnight Datura is; subtlety is left to the side. The opening moments are like opening a powder box and having it explode into the air. The early moments are intensely powdery. Your tolerance for that quality is what will make or break your desire to wear this. I am not the most ardent admirer of powdery florals in this concentration. This was the last one of the collection I tried because of that. It was much less incendiary on my skin as the powder softened somewhat but it still retained a lot of that. Ms. Fleischman has used all ten florals to create this. Eventually sandalwood, amber, and musk provide a foundation for the cloud of powder to settle upon.

Midnight Datura has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Overall the Les Potions Fatales display their poisonous nature in differing ways. For Midnight Datura it is being consumed by a cloud of powder.


Pierre-Constantin Gueros

Venetian Belladonna was composed by perfumer Pierre-Constantin Gueros under Mr. Quartana’s creative direction. Belladonna was considered a “woman’s poison” as the wives of Roman emperors Augustus and Claudius used it to kill their husbands. It was also used as eye drops by women in historical societies because it would dilate the pupils which was seen as a desirable and sensuous effect. Venetian Belladonna is definitely going for that seductive quality as it kind of stalks the wearer.

Venetian Belladonna opens with a nice riff on fruity floral. M. Gueros employs a very transparent violet which overlays the much more aggressive fruitiness. The core of that is a Symrise molecule called Sultanene. This is a tropical fruit cocktail aromachemical. To keep it from tilting too tropical cassis and plum are used to bring it away from that. The heart becomes more floral with iris, tuberose, and jasmine. This kind of intensity is necessary to match the fruitiness of the top accord. The base becomes more animalic as the botanical musk of ambrette seeds mixes with a leather accord. There is also a lovely honeyed cognac which also appears simultaneously. This is almost as if I am being offered a drink and a wink from a wide-eyed Venetian witch. Before I fall under the spell vetiver, patchouli, and sandalwood form the base accord.

Venetian Belladonna has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I really enjoyed Venetian Belladonna and fruity florals are not one of my favorite styles of perfume. M. Gueros managed to find a different path through this overexposed sector.

If you missed Part 1 which introduced the line you can check it out here.

I’ll continue on Thursday with Part 3 reviewing Digitalis and Hemlock.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Parfums Quartana.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Parfums Quartana Les Potions Fatales (Part1)- Introduction & Bloodflower

As I was walking back to my hotel room in Milan during Esxence 2016 I ran into Joseph Quartana in the lobby of the hotel. Mr. Quartana was co-founder of one of my favorite independent brands Six Scents where they took up-and-coming fashion designers and paired them with perfumers. The results were never less than fascinating as the fashion designers and the perfumers came up with their olfactory designs. I asked him if there was going to be more. He shook his head negatively. He told me he was doing something else. I stopped to sit down and hear about it. Mr. Quartana told me he was developing a line based on poisonous flowers. He had some for preview in Milan but I just couldn’t make it over to the hotel where he was at during the show. I followed up on our return to the US and received sample of all nine of the new line called Parfums Quartana Les Potions Fatales.

Joseph Quartana

Joseph Quartana

Mr. Quartana decided to work with the very deep roster of perfumers at Symrise. Each of the nine has a different perfumer. This is in keeping with the way Six Scents also operated. I am a big proponent of the idea that a single collaboration between creative director and perfumer produces the best results. Except Mr. Quartana keeps providing me with data points which are in conflict with that hypothesis. For Les Potions Fatales it makes each one of these first perfumes feel like its own discovery with the concept being the connective tissue rather than an aesthetic or particular style. I am going to spend most of this week introducing you to this very good collection of perfumes. Today I start with Bloodflower.

alexandra carlin

Alexandra Carlin

Bloodflower is most known as the preferred food of Monarch butterfly larvae. In the places where bloodflower grows its sap is used to poison the arrows of the indigenous primitive peoples who live there. I knew this history so I was surprised that the perfume based upon it was something quite different. Perfumer Alexandra Carlin and Mr. Quartana wanted to go for a “haute Goth” style of fragrance. The nod to the plant was to mimic the transformation of the larvae into the butterfly having a metamorphosing style throughout. It does capture what they wanted.

Bloodflower opens with the first syllable, a blood accord. I have always loved the description of the smell of freshly spilled blood as smelling of freshly sheared copper. That imparts the concept of a chilly metallic accord. Mme Carlin assembles just that. The early moments have a clean metallic edge to them, almost like a used scalpel would smell like. The first transformation occurs as the blood changes into a licorice laden mix meant to emulate Sambuca liqueur. As with the top accord Mme Carlin also captures the sugary sweet quality of the liqueur as well as its viscosity as it feels like this oozes over the blood accord. In the base the flower part shows up as a very deep rose is made even deeper with clove and patchouli. This is a Goth black rose to finish upon.

Bloodflower has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I will be repeating myself a lot over the next few days but Mr. Quartana did a fantastic job as creative director. Bloodflower shows how he was unafraid to move away from slavish devotion to the name of the collection with a willingness to end up someplace different. Bloodflower is a great example of everything that is good about this collection.

Tomorrow I am going to review Venetian Belladonna and Midnight Datura.

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

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: Mr. Quartana plans on producing and directing original videos for all of the perfumes within the collection. Bloodflower is one of the ones which already has one. You will see Mr. Quartana has a similar adventurous nature in his filmmaking as in his perfume making. The link is here.