New Perfume Review Rasei Fort Cielito Lindo- Gourmand Home Run

As much as I ask for independent perfumers to take risks. I also will damn them with the faint praise of them being “hit or miss”. If you’re truly going to take risks, you must be willing to miss so that you eventually hit. Perfumer Rasei Fort is one of those artists whom I have said this about in the past. A year ago he had his biggest artistic hit with a perfume called Kolonya. An intricately complex re-imagining of the classic fragrance genre. It was one of the best perfumes of last year. He is back with Rasei Fort Cielito Lindo to take another swing.

Rasei Fort

If Kolonya took on the oldest fragrance genre, Cielito Lindo works in the newest genre, gourmand. Mr. Fort wanted to make a perfume which would evoke Mexico. He used a story of tragic lovers Maria Gonzalez and Juan Hernandez. Juan was from the wrong side of town, but he would sing to Maria when she was at church praying. She could hear Juan crooning “Cielito Lindo”. When she was forced into an arranged marriage Juan tried to convince her to run away with him. Only to find she had killed herself before he could get to her. He sings “Cielito Lindo” one last time.

From that Mr. Fort uses the classic Mexican dessert, dulce de leche, as the heart of his gourmand. This is a confection found throughout Latin America. Every country has its variation. In Mexico it comes with a bit of cinnamon on top. Along with the dessert he adds in some tequila. Perhaps as the figurative way Juan tries to forget his love.

It opens with that caramel dusted with cinnamon. This is rich caramel but as a custard-like version not the treacly ooze it often is in perfume. This is achieved by a precise amount of tonka bean to thin it out. It still has power except the cinnamon adds the sizzle of spice across it. It takes a while for the other ingredients to pierce this. Each new addition adds to the pleasure. The tequila accompanied by vetiver and labdanum arrive as the heart accord. Tequila has that bitter alcoholic sweetness the vetiver acts as the olfactory lime to go with the shot. The green of it reminds me that it comes from agave. Throughout this time a swirl of spices continues to increase in intensity. A bit of Szechuan pepper adds the fire of the Mexican cuisine. The base is a lover’s requiem of rose and ambergris. The salt of tears on a spicy rose.

Cielito Lindo has 18-24 hour longevity and average sillage.

I adored Cielito Lindo from the first time I smelled it. This is the potential of what gourmand fragrances can be. They don’t have to weighed down in sugary waves. They can soar to unforeseen heights if only a perfumer is willing to risk a miss. Mr. Fort hits a gourmand home run with Cielito Lindo.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fort & Manle Meraki- Nombre Not!

There is an unfortunate hubris among many independent perfumers to decide they can re-create, re-invent, re-interpret, even re-vitalize a masterpiece of the past. They are almost always wrong. It compares very unfavorably. It also has another blowback of just trying to make the same masterpiece perfume of the past with different materials. Like a paint-by-numbers picture where you choose to change the colors called for and them stand next to it going, “Voila!” If you have talent, and experience, you can do this as a singular study for yourself to learn how those classics were built. The commercial impulse usually finds a way to expose these silly comparisons as it has with Fort & Manle Meraki.

Rasei Fort

Rasei Fort has been almost maddeningly inconsistent in the perfumes he has released. Earlier this year Kolonya was one of the first perfumes I reviewed in 2019 and it remains one of the best releases of 2019. It shows all the promise of the independent mindset creating something new. Kolonya stands out for its originality. Meraki stands out because it attempts to be something it is not. Mr. Fort says on his website that Meraki is inspired by the unicorn masterpiece of Serge Lutens and Jean-Yves Leroy; Shiseido Nombre Noir. He further states that he owns a sealed box of Nombre Noir but that he has never opened it to smell it. He also says he is not trying to re-create it. Followed immediately by saying, “based on the notes, I endeavoured to create a vintage-inspired white floral”. Based on that Meraki is a new perfume inspired by a list of ingredients of a vintage perfume Mr. Fort has never smelled. It’s ridiculous. Here is the real punchline Meraki is a good perfume on its own merits without inane callbacks to something it doesn’t resemble in any way. As part of Mr. Fort’s recent portfolio it is another beautiful floral centered on the duality of osmanthus.

Meraki opens with a strong cocktail of aldehydes atop a fuzzy peach. It is a nice textural top accord. Osmanthus rises to use its apricot side to meet with the peach. Rose adds deeper floral tones while honey converts the fuzziness of the peach to a sticky golden viscosity. As the leathery nature of osmanthus is teased out with patchouli an intense sandalwood completes the base accord.

Meraki has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Also on the website there is a definition for “meraki” as “to put something of yourself into your work”. Mr. Fort has done that with this perfume. This is of a continuity of what came before which feels wholly of Mr. Fort’s creativity. If you’ve liked the previous darker perfumes within the collection, you’ll like Meraki. If, on the other hand, you’re drawn in by the comparisons to Nombre Noir; don’t bother. Mr. Fort is not able to come within any distance of the creativity of that perfume. It is a cynical commercial ploy. From that perspective Meraki is Nombre Not!

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fort & Manle Forty Thieves- Alternative Oriental

There are certain motifs which crop up in perfumery over and over. The inspiration of the desert. The story of “One Thousand and One Nights” is a particularly fertile vein of inspiration. I’ll admit when I see something attached to either, or both, I know an Oriental perfume is in the bottle. As a classic fragrance form plowing the same row so many have traveled before asks the new perfumer for something outside of what has come before. In Fort & Manle Forty Thieves I found that.

Rasei Fort

Fort & Manle is the line of perfumes from independent perfumer Rasei Fort. He released his first perfumes in 2016 but I only had the opportunity to try them a little over a year ago. Mr. Fort has impressed me with each successive release. One thing I mentioned in the previous reviews is since he is self-taught, he isn’t as beholden to the “rules”. Over the last three releases he is turning that into a feature of his fragrances. For Forty Thieves he moved away from the soft spices to be replaced with a sharp herbal accord. It is a great alternative.

That top accord starts with a healthy dose of baie rose. Many perfumers don’t up the concentration of this ingredient because after a certain point it adds sharp herbal-ness to the scent profile. Mr. Fort pushes it right to the place where it might be unpleasant for some. I have come to enjoy the unique way baie rose acts, especially as a top note. Here it captures the aridity of the desert. Mr. Fort then pierces it with the bitterness of petitgrain and bergamot. Labdanum transitions the top accord into a honeyed floral heart of orange blossom and rose. This is more traditional Oriental territory. It ends on the classic Oriental base of sweet ambered woods.

Forty Thieves has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Particularly over the two previous releases and Forty Thieves Mr. Fort is beginning to solidify an ability to find new ways to see classic styles. In this case it was by plowing outside the well-worn furrow. In Forty Thieves he steals away the traditional Oriental architecture for something more modern.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Rasei Fort Kolonya- Stream of Consciousness

Cologne is the most venerable fragrance form there is. Ever since Jean Marie Farina translated his alpine walk into perfumed water, cologne has been a part of perfumery. As much for its history as the new ways modern perfumers choose to interpret it. It is one of my favorite genres. It means I am always interested to see how each new perfumer chooses to create their own cologne. Rasei Fort Kolonya is a fun example of an independent perfumer’s perspective on the form.

Rasei Fort is the perfumer behind the Fort & Manle. He is self-taught and sometimes that quality can be nakedly apparent. It also means that sometimes he can go where his vision takes him not knowing, or caring, if he is conforming to the norm. I’ve been impressed with his later releases as it shows the comfort he is finding with making perfume while still retaining that indie mindset.

Rasei Fort

For Kolonya Mr. Fort says on his Instagram account that it “is a retrospective work of my first olfactive experiences.” It is clear from that statement this is the chance to look back as a stream of consciousness style of fragrance capturing those moments of childhood.

It is only the very first moments when I am reminded of the classic cologne recipe. Mr. Fort uses the traditional citrus opening except it isn’t one kind of citrus it’s a whole basketful. If there’s a citrus note in perfume it is seemingly here. In what will become the trend for Kolonya Mr. Fort adroitly acts as traffic cop keeping everything in its lane. This continues as we move through each layer. The spices come next followed by florals, resins, and woods. It is a fascinating wave of layers which manage to keep from devolving into chaos. The progression from the spice layer of clove, nutmeg, and rosemary uses galbanum as a green escort to the floral layer connecting to geranium and lavender before the other florals take the baton. The fluidity of each exchange makes Kolonya an ever-changing fragrance on my skin.

Kolonya has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Kolonya has the effect of feeling like I’ve sat down with Mr. Fort over coffee and when I asked him about his childhood he didn’t speak. Instead he handed me a bottle and said the story is in there.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fort & Manle Impressions de Giverny- Quick Learner

Self-taught perfumers are a mixed bag to be sure. By not knowing the “rules” they break them. The great majority of the time it leads to reinforcing why the “rules” exist. Much more rarely there is a new perspective revealed. On the plus side the more common result is time learning through trial and error leads to a true independent interpretation of the “rules”.

Towards the end of 2017 I was introduced to the line of perfumes done by self-taught perfumer Rasei Fort called Fort & Manle. Over seven releases the ups and downs of being self-taught showed throughout. There were nice glimmers throughout, but it seemed like the florals were the weakest entries in the group. Mr. Fort couldn’t seem to get the style right. When the follow-up Impressions de Giverny arrived, I wasn’t expecting much when I ordered a sample. Maybe it took the process of releasing some clunky florals previously but this time everything I found lacking is gone leaving a beautiful spring floral behind.

Rasei Fort

The name tells you Mr. Fort was inspired by Monet’s garden which was the muse to his paintings. Mr. Fort wanted to capture “Monet’s vision for a Japanese garden in the heart of Normandy”. This leads to layered effects which surprised me at every turn.

The opening duet of yuzu and red apple was my first indication this was going to be better than the previous florals. You might think that is odd but in the previous releases Mr. Fort would have an idea like this but unbalance it; not here. The tart citrus of the yuzu is contrasted with the crisp sweetness of the apple. Before heading into the floral heart, a watery green intermezzo provides a separation. The first layer of florals is led by a delicately sweet magnolia also supported by orange blossom. It is a transparent accord. Over time tuberose and rose add some structure to the lilt. Throughout there is a subtext of green herbal background vocals to all the florals. Hours in, this settles into an excellent benzoin and musk base accord.

Impressions de Giverny has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Impressions de Giverny is one of those perfumes which got much better in the trip from strip to skin. It became more expansive on the days I wore it. It was hard for me to wrap my mind around how much better Impressions de Giverny was versus all the previous florals. I kept waiting for the flaw to appear; it never did. I ended my first review of the brand believing better days were ahead. I didn’t count on Mr. Fort being such a quick learner that it would be the very next release.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fort & Manle Bojnokopff- Abracadabra!

This is something I shouldn’t admit but sometimes the name of a perfume is enough to give it some slack when I try it. I’ve mentioned in the past how much I like the way some words feel when I say them. When I received the seven samples of Australian perfume brand Fort & Manle there was always one, based on the name, which I was going to be drawn to; Bojnokopff.

Fort & Manle is the brand of self-taught perfumer Rasei Fort. The first six releases were debuted in 2016 with an additional release last year. The entire collection just became available in the US and I ordered a sample set. In trying all seven I see some of the issues that comes with being self-taught. There are ingredients with which Mr. Fort has more feel for than others. This is particularly evident in the more floral entries where all of those felt like there was a gap or an awkward transition as he is unable to strike a balance. The best ones are those which tilt more towards an Oriental style of which Bojnokopff is one.

Rasei Fort

Bojnokopff was one of the original six releases and it had a much longer name; Mr. Bojnokopff’s Purple Hat. The decision to shorten the name worked for me because I was enticed by Bojnokopff which the longer name might not have achieved. Mr. Bojnokopff was a nineteenth century fin de siècle illusionist in Saint Petersburg Russia who used his purple hat as part of his act. Mr. Fort imagines a hat where smoke billows out of it after placing some perfume ingredients within.

The first ingredient into Bojnokopff is lavender. As I first tried this I expected a descent towards typical fougere territory. With the style of a magician’s misdirection instead of pulling a fern from the hat a resinous oud appears. The fresh herbal nature of lavender on top of oud was a neat trick which made me smile. Next out of the hat comes chocolate. The chocolate is paired with enough vanilla to make this not a bitter dark chocolate but a rich milk chocolate. This is another good choice as the sweeter creamier version provides contrast to the lavender and oud. Cedar and vetiver are the base accord for the three keynotes to finish upon.

Bojnokopff has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Fort & Manle like many of the large collections from the self-taught has its ups and downs with the high points all on the darker side of the spectrum. Bojnokopff is a signal that it is going to be interesting to see what comes next.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke