New Perfume Review Frassai Cuir Pampas and Rosa Sacra- Open Spaces and Rain Forests

When I first started Colognoisseur January was a desert of new perfumes to write about. In the last few years that has changed. The last quarter of the year has been the time I receive the most new releases. It is overwhelming in a good way. I now look forward to January to allow me to backtrack and fill in some blanks. I feel strongest about doing this when I get a new collection and there is one which clearly needs to be written about first. When the others are also quite good but don’t necessarily do something so different as the one standout.

Which was where I was when receiving the three perfumes which make up Frassai’s El Sur collection. Creative director Natalia Outeda working with perfumer Irina Burlakova produced a nice set of fragrance. The thing was El Descanso immediately marked itself out as one of the best perfumes of the year. Which doesn’t mean the other two, Cuir Pampas and Rosa Sacra, also have their charms; just ones I’ve seen before. Because they are good, I don’t want them to get lost. I’m going to do short reviews of both today.

Natalia Outeda

Cuir Pampas is meant to evoke the gauchos of Argentina. These are the South American counterpart to the American cowboy. They both wear leather and roam the wide-open spaces. The biggest difference which is referenced in Cuir Pampas is their hot beverage of choice. Mme Burlakova uses that difference to add a gaucho spin to the story of the trail rider.

It opens with the smell of well-worn leather and the bite of green mate tea. That is the warmth that wakes a gaucho up. It also is what wakes up the early going in Cuir Pampas. That bitterness is a compelling foil to the leather. This dynamic remains in place for a while as if it takes some time for our metaphorical gaucho to get his horse outfitted while finishing his tea. What comes next is sunrise on the grass fields known as the Pampas. The whole construct opens up through vetiver, hay, and labdanum. This is the joy of being born to ride.

Cuir Pampas has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Irina Burlakova

Rosa Sacra also has some words meant to connect back to Argentina. In this case I didn’t find them to be particularly adept at describing the perfume. What Mme Burlakova creates is a tropical rose.

Using the spicy Ottoman rose as her core floral she dusts it with baie rose. The latter has an ability to accentuate many of the aspects of this rose. The herbal nature picks up the spices in the middle. It also has a fruity scent which deepens the floral quality of the rose. Also as part of this there is a humidity where I can almost hear the plink of droplets from the canopy raining on the bloom. It takes a decidedly woody turn with palo santo forming the base. The more subdued sandalwood-like nature of palo santo works especially well here. It supports and buoys the rose without overwriting it. What it leaves is a rose blooming deep in the rain forest.

Rosa Sacra has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

The entire El Sur collection is another creative triumph for Sra. Outeda. All three deserve some praise for her seeing her vision to fruition.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by Frassai.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review L’Artisan Parfumeur Passage D’Enfer Extreme- Exposing New Beauty

There are moments through my early perfume exploration when I smelled something, and it connected intensely. I was excited as I entered the L’Artisan Parfumeur boutique within Henri Bendel in NYC. In those early days L’Artisan was one of the brands which had drawn my attention. I was looking forward to trying what I had not previously been able to. One reason that I had become so attracted to the brand was perfumer Olivia Giacobetti was doing a lot of work for them. She remains one of my favorite perfumers.

On that day at Henri Bendel I was looking to fill in some blanks. Top of my list was one named Passage D’Enfer. In those early days I was very into incense scents. I had been told this was Mme Giacobetti’s take on incense. When I tried it on the strip I was taken aback because what I smelled first was the coolness of lily. But as if there were incense sticks burning below skirls of smoke began to impose their presence. Passage D’Enfer remains one of those outliers of an incense perfume in that it has a delicacy to it. Which was why a perfume called L’Artisan Parfumeur Passage D’Enfer Extreme had me concerned that would be lost.

Olivia Giacobetti

That Mme Gicobetti was behind the wheel allayed much of that concern. In a weird way it made me more interested. I wondered what she would choose to emphasize. When I received my sample it turns out that it is a more layered incense effect where the lily appears from through the smoke. It also provides a sturdier base which is where the “extreme” really appears.

In this new version the incense comes first. This is that slivery metallic version which seems austere. To roughen it she adds just a pinch of black pepper. This picks up that undertone in incense and brings it forward. It is done so she can then create a second slightly smoky incense layer. Embedded within is the lily for this version. The pepper makes an ideal contrast to the freshness of the lily as the incense flows around it. At this point I would have said “extreme” is not the adjective running through my head. The original base was an unobtrusive cedar. For this Extreme she chooses a much deeper base accord of sandalwood and vanilla. It causes this to take on a sacred shrine vibe as it all comes together over sweet woods.

Passage D’Enfer Extreme has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

The original Passage D’Enfer is one of my favorite summer incense choices. Passage D”Enfer Extreme is going to be what I reach for in the other months. Mme Giacobetti is the daughter of photographer Francis Giacobetti. He achieved much of his fame through his use of lighting. I’ve always thought she has the same ability to use ingredients in the same way to expose new facets of ingredients. As I enjoyed Passage D’Enfer Extreme I thought this was her taking the original and changing the lighting and shading. It also exposes a new beauty.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from L’Artisan Parfumeur.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zara Hip Hop Red Apple- DJ Jo’s Apple Remix

One of the benefits of being part of the online fragrance community is sometimes I get a needed reminder. The latest version happened because of the crazy avalanche of samples I received over the last twelve weeks of the year. I prioritized the best I could, but I was bound to forget something. A week ago I got a nudge from one of my Facebook perfume groups to go back and find the recent Zara releases. Thanks to them I found Zara Hip Hop Red Apple waiting for me.

I mentioned last year that I think of Zara as one of those great bargain perfume finds at the mall. The brand works with top-notch perfumers and regularly releases good things. In 2019 they started a collection called Emotions where they worked with independent perfumer Jo Malone. Yes, that Jo
Malone. She has been back to making perfumes on her own. The first grouping was eight numbered perfumes of which No. 7 Fleur de Patchouli was a good example of the aesthetic. Here she blended fresh peony over an earthy patchouli with cedar frame. It was simple and refreshing. Which is a good way to describe all of them.

Jo Malone

Last fall they added five new fragrances to the Emotions collection. Three of them were made with a fruity giggle. It seemed this time the brief was “summer fun”. Ms. Malone delivered that especially in Hip Hop Red Apple.

What drew me to Hip Hop Red Apple over the others was apple. Any time I can enjoy a different fruit as a focal point I’m going to gravitate to it. DJ Jo mixes three different apple beats on her perfume turntable.

The entire progression is through different crispness of apples. She begins with the tartness of green apple. There is a distinctive snap to the early going. The second apple to appear is a less tart yellow apple given some contour through berries. The berries create a more recognizable fruity heart accord. Over time out of that rises a juicy red apple which is what predominates over the final hours.

Hip Hop Red Apple has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I didn’t notice it but there is a candy-like quality because on the days I wore this Mrs. C said she smelled apple hard candy. I found the entire trio of apples emotionally buoying. They exude the idea of running around outside. All the Emotions collection seem like Ms. Malone is enjoying herself. Hip Hop Red Apple is DJ Jo’s remix of apple.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples I received from Zara.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Essential Parfums Bois Imperial- How to Construct a Deconstructed Perfume

A couple years back the perfume buzzword was deconstruction. Throughout most of that time I heard Inigo Montoya saying, “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.” Or maybe more accurately their idea of deconstruction didn’t match my perception of what it should be. What I wanted was a perfume that took a well-known ingredient and using other ingredients to form an accord without any of it present. When it has been done in that style it provides a different perspective on the what it is imitating. Essential Parfums Bois Imperial does exactly this for sandalwood.

Essential Parfums is a unique brand in the way they give the perfumer the freedom to create as they wish. Because of that they also put the name of the perfumer right on the label. This is becoming a small vital piece of the niche perfume sector. Giving talented perfumers the chance to go their own way. The only restriction is that can only use sustainable materials.

Quentin Bisch

That last is particularly apt when it comes to sandalwood as over harvesting severely damaged it in some places in the world. Perfumer Quentin Bisch has decided not to worry about that as he forms his deconstructed interpretation in Bois Imperial.

The core piece of this is the biological degradation of patchouli called Akigalawood. I have written about this in the past as a more versatile fraction of patchouli where a spiciness reigns over a lighter earthiness. It is an ideal foundation to build upon. In the early going he uses two Asian herbs in Timut pepper and Thai basil. Both carry a noticeable citrus piece to their scent profile of grapefruit and lemon, respectively. Those provide a bit of sparkle, but it is the spiciness of the pepper and green of the basil which begin to flow into the Akigalawood. He uses a Givaudan muguet synthetic analog called Petalia to add a fresh green to things. When I first notice it, I am not sure what part it will play. The remainder of the deconstructed sandalwood comes through vetiver and another woody synthetic Ambrofix. The latter is a less monolithic version of the well-known Ambrox. As these notes blend in the Petalia reveals its reason for being here. The grassiness of vetiver and the woodiness of Ambrofix need something to push back against their sharper edges. The Petalia is that. Once it is all together it is a fresher version of sandalwood than anything you can find in nature.

Bois Imperial has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

This perfume is one of the best deconstructions I have encountered all without anyone on the creative team using the word. The next time I do hear someone use it I’m going to point at Bois Imperial as how you construct a deconstructed perfume.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Atelier Materi Poivre Pomelo- The Last Shall Lead

When I get a sample set of a new perfume brand, I play a mental game. Before looking at anything else I try and decide which one I’ll like best by the name. It is not a reliable process. Very rarely is it the name I like best which also corresponds to the pick of the group.

When I received the five-perfume sample set from Atelier Materi, Cuir d’Iris was the one I went to first. It is leather and iris capably executed. Then it was Cacao Porcelana but it wasn’t as gourmand as I was expecting. Peau d’Ambrette was likely to appeal because of the botanical musk and it did. Santal Blond is a lively take on sandalwood. I stared at the final sample Atelier Materi Poivre Pomelo expecting little only to find my favorite of the set.

Veronique Le Bihan

Atelier Materi was founded in 2019 by Veronique Le Bihan. Like many new brands she was interested in sustainability of the ingredients they used. Being based in Grasse blessed them with a plethora of incredible local ingredients. Mme Le Bihan has achieved much of what she wanted according to the website. Poivre Pomelo is composed by perfumer Marie Hugentobler.

Marie Hugentobler

What struck me about Poivre Pomelo is the use of a variant of Szechuan pepper called timut pepper. Timut pepper has a scent profile with the inherent contrast of hot pepper and grapefruit. Mme Hugentobler uses that to create a spiced citrus given life through a sharp green base accord.

It opens with a big blast of grapefruit. It is at the concentration I enjoy because it also allows some of the quirkier nuances some more presence. Because of that as the timut pepper comes forward it has multiple places to interact. In the first moments it is an amplifier for the grapefruit. Soon after the spiciness interjects itself. Because of the time of year I was trying it I found it a weird variant of a clove orange. A pepper grapefruit perhaps? The base accord is composed of vetiver and mate tea. Both of these are known for being sharply green. Many perfumers will try to ameliorate that. Mme Hugentobler pushed it to the forefront. As these lances of green pierce the pepper grapefruit it expands into a fascinating whole.

Poivre Pomelo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Even though I am a little late in finding Atelier Materi I feel as if Mme Le Bihan has a good idea of what she wants. I look forward to what is next. Maybe the last won’t lead then.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Anatole Lebreton Fleur Cachee- The Space Between

There are a lot of ingredients which are tailor-made to dominate a fragrance. Any number of big florals or the synthetic woods. One thing those all have in common is once they reach high concentrations, they tend to wear out their welcome. The proverbial case of the perfume wearing you. One way to make it interesting is to take that power and look for the fissures within. If you make smart choices, you can create something memorable like Anatole Lebreton Fleur Cachee.

Vanilla is one of those notes which can become monolithic at high concentrations. It can cause an olfactory cavity because it is so sweet. What I have found in the past is if a perfumer chooses to, they can turn that flaw into an advantage. Most don’t make the effort because it isn’t easy. Independent perfumer Anatole Lebreton takes the time to provide something which benefits from the effort.

Anatole Lebreton

One of the interesting things that M. Lebreton has been doing is he has been asking for creative direction from his fans. He created Fleur Cachee as a crowdfunded project. He told his funders he wanted to make vanilla perfume featuring two different sources a CO2 extraction and the absolute. They suggested ingredients to play off the vanillas and they also came up with the name. I’m not usually a fan of focus groups but this one succeeds because of the shared passion.

The perfume opens with timut pepper as the first ingredient to interact with the vanilla. Timut pepper has a pronounced grapefruit scent profile with a spicy cinnamon-like undertone. In the early moments it starts to take the vanilla towards warm cinnamon custard. At this point I expected a typical gourmand progression. This is where the focus group creative directors and M. Lebreton came up with a smart thought. Go in a different direction. It is accomplished by using turmeric and fenugreek. The turmeric moves the hint of dessert back towards a different vibe. It picks up the citrusy part of the timut pepper and turns it towards a greener spice blend. As the fenugreek adds in its dried grass quality the gourmand is left behind. It then takes this vanilla with veins of ingredients shot throughout and places it on a rich sandalwood platform. Just as with the vanilla M. Lebreton finds the proper balance to keep everything in play.

Fleur Cachee has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

M. Lebreton turns Fleur Cachee into an example of how to find and fill the spaces in between of a seeming monolith. The resultant perfume is a glimmering gem of complexity.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review The Nue Co. Forest Lungs- Breathe Deep

I’m going to share a secret. When I get a box of new samples if you have a catchy name, I am going to try you sooner than others with more pedestrian ones. When I received my winter box from Nordstrom, and I ran across The Nue Co. Forest Lungs sample it was prioritized.

Jules Miller

I spent a lot of my childhood among the Florida pines. I spent a fair amount of my adulthood hiking the mountains out west among the majestic fir trees. Whenever I was out among them there was a moment when I would stand still while taking a deep breath. The scent of the pines would fill me with the happiness I sought while walking outdoors. This is the peace which always drew me to hiking.

Guillaume Flavigny

The Nue Co. came to my notice last year with the release of their first fragrance Functional Fragrance. Founder and creative director Jules Miller has built her full-service beauty brand around the products adding to your well-being. The fragrances are no different. Ms. Miller looks to find scents which can lessen stress. Functional Fragrance was a simple combination of green cardamom and palo santo for a meditative woody effect. Forest Lungs is the follow-up. Working with perfumer Guillaume Flavigny, Ms. Miller again keeps it simple. This time it works a little better on a fragrance level.

  1. Flavigny uses only a few ingredients. It starts with an accord of pine and cedar. A lot of time pine smells like a Christmas tree. M. Flavigny uses the cedar to make it more expansive. Like that scent of the forest as you walk through it. As you trek you also release the earth beneath your boots. M. Flavigny takes patchouli leavened with vetiver. The latter adds the green connectivity between the patchouli and the woods. The final little surprise is a bit of benzoin to represent the droplets of sap on the trunks.

Forest Lungs has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

I don’t have many pine trees near Colognoisseur HQ. After wearing Forest Lungs I now have some of them on my desk in the sample. All I have to do is spray some on and breathe deep.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Di Ser Kagiroi- Field to Fragrance

I have been giving some thought to what it is that sets small independent perfumers apart from their slightly bigger niche cousins. The one thing which I’ve spoken of consistently is for the smaller brands they can work with hard-to-source unique materials. It is what makes many of the best creations. The other thing I noticed when looking at this is a good percentage of them make their own oils from indigenous sources near their home. It also allows the perfumer to dial in a specific effect as they are the source. One of my favorite brands in this style has released a perfect example in Di Ser Kagiroi.

Yasuyuki Shinohara

The perfumer behind the brand is Yasuyuki Shinohara who lived and works on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. He works with an all-natural set of ingredients which he makes himself. He sources the raw material which he then extracts. Many of them come from the surrounding countryside. Which is one of the special joys of a new Di Ser perfume. I am usually introduced to a new ingredient from Shinohara-san.

Kagiroi is meant to remind the wearer of watching the shades of the sky change at dawn. Shinohara-san seems to have three hues in mind as Kagiroi unfolds on my skin.

It opens on the familiar and the unfamiliar. The former is the citrus of yuzu which is in a more closed off version. Usually the lemony quality of yuzu is sunny and bright. Here Shinohara-san uses this introverted form to capture the potential of that light of the sun on the dawn horizon. The new features come through a Japanese citrus called shikuwasa. According to the internet it is called Okinawa lime. I am guessing this is part of what is forming this contained citrus accord. The other piece of the top accord is sansho seed. Sansho is the Japanese analog to Szechuan pepper. That ingredient has become one of the more versatile in mainstream perfumery. The sansho variant also seems to have a similar malleability. Early on it acts as an herbal complement to the greener compact citrus. Over some time it imparts a deeper bitter/tart quality to the overall accord. As it continues to evolve the spiciness of the sansho finds new partners in coriander and shiso. This forms a more overtly herbal accord. The base is made up of the Japanese cedar variety of hinoki, oud, and vetiver. The oud is exactly what I am speaking of when I mention Shinohara-san’s ability to find the right shade by making his own. The oud is a lighter version which is given back some of its rougher edges through the vetiver. The clean meditational lines of hinoki provide the center for both.

Kagiroi has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage in this parfum concentration.

There is a type of foodie cuisine called farm to table. A reviewer of Kagiroi on Luckyscent described it as “farm to bottle”. Which I think is appropriate, but I’d like to refine it a bit. Whenever I wear a Di Ser scent, I always see Shinohara-san with a basket walking through the Hokkaido countryside harvesting the flora. Which makes me think of Kagiroi as a field to fragrance experience.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review By Kilian Roses on Ice- Eau de Hendrick’s

Regular readers of my Sunday Magazine column know my favorite spirit is gin. Much as my perfume habit accelerated after I discovered niche something similar happened with gin. It was when I tried Hendrick’s Gin. That is what is called a botanical gin, given the sobriquet “Old Tom”. Prior to that day I had been exposed to dry gin. After that I discovered a whole new world of gin replete with botanical ingredients distilled into it. There is a Venn Diagram overlap here with perfume as these gins are much more fragrant. Hendrick’s adds cucumber and rose to it. By Kilian Roses on Ice is the perfume version.

Kilian Hennessy

Roses on Ice is the partner to Angel’s Share as the debut releases in The Liquors collection. Founder and creative director Kilian Hennessy collaborates with perfumer Frank Voelkl on this. The brief is exactly what it seems, a gin on the rocks fragrance. Except it appears they were thinking about Hendrick’s and not the typical dry gin.

Frank Voelkl

That impression is immediately apparent as cucumber and juniper berry are what I first notice. The watery vegetal quality of the cucumber finds an austere platform in the acerbic juniper berry. To complete the Hendrick’s accord a dewy rose is infused into things. Mr. Voelkl finds just the right balance between the three ingredients. He then takes a dry sandalwood given some life through a few musks. As it all came together, I often thought I was drinking from an exotic wood tumbler.

Roses on Ice has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

It is a little early to be thinking of spring rose perfumes. I wanted to make sure to write about this now before I get deluged with the coming spring rose tsunami. Roses on Ice is the kind of fragrance I am talking about when I ask for an alternative to boring debutante rose styles. Mr. Voelkl uses that same rose but by floating it in gin it gives it a more adult spin. If you’re thinking about your spring perfume you should try Roses on Ice or as I call it Eau de Hendrick’s.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by By Kilian.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review: Parfums de Marly Greenley- Developing Fresh

There needs to be brands who gently coax along a mainstream perfume consumer down the niche rabbit hole. One of the most effective ways to achieve that is to give that person something like what they find at the mall but made with more imagination. This has been what Parfums de Marly seemingly have been happy to do. Their latest, Parfums de Marly Greenley, takes fresh up a level, or two.

Julien Sprecher

It has been thirty years since the fresh trend of perfume began. The desire of the mainstream customer for this style has never waned. One thing I have learned over time is what the independent and niche perfume community offers is a variation on those trite styles. Creative director Julien Sprecher has always had a good sense of how to do this. In Greenley he produces a riff on the ubiquitous “freshie”.

Most of these fragrances lean hard on the same set of ingredients to produce fresh. For Greenley the choice is to find a new source of fresh. To achieve this they take a trip to the apple orchard.

As someone who smells my share of the mainstream fresh perfumes the opening of Greenley is a refreshing change. It opens with the crisp tartness of green apples given some support through a diffuse citrus. This is just the kind of change this brand excels at. They also seem to know that their customers also want woods with their fresh. Using two synthetics, Cashmeran and Amberwood, a warm long-lasting woody accord forms the second half of Greenley.

Greenley has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I like this because it doesn’t allow the woods to obliterate the fresh green apple accord. Because of that it is going to be a great choice as we begin to transition from winter to spring. Parfums de Marly adds to their repertoire this time by letting Greenley develop a better fresh.

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

Mark Behnke