New Perfume Review Maison Francis Kurkdjian Ciel de Gum- From Russia With Love

With the Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia seemingly on every channel I feel immersed in Russia and all things Russian. One thing very Russian is the GUM department store which celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2013. For the occasion perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, under his Maison Francis Kurkdjian line, designed a GUM exclusive fragrance in honor of that milestone, Ciel de Gum.

Goum_1893

GUM Building in 1893

Ciel de Gum is another perfumer’s take on what a store’s characteristics are turned into fragrant form. The press materials that go along with this say it is meant to be “a creation worked like haute couture”. I actually thought of it in a different light going back to the beginning of GUM. GUM wasn’t a department store at its beginnings, in 1893, but was instead the GUM building which housed numerous independent stores selling everything a Nineteenth Century fin de siècle shopper could want. GUM at this point was more like a modern shopping mall on three levels than a department store. Ciel de Gum captures a number of the different smells I imagine might have drifted from the different sellers. A bit of spice, some fresh roses or a jasmine scented eau de parfum, some leather goods, a sweet vanilla from a bakery.

francis kurkdjian

Francis Kurkdjian

M. Kurkdjian opens Ciel de Gum with cinnamon and pink pepper which instead of working together to amplify the piquant nature of both instead seems to have the opposite effect. Both the cinnamon and pink pepper seem like they are shadows of their normal self found in many other fragrances. It adds a delicacy to both notes that isn’t normally found. I found it had the effect of drawing me inward until I found something with some more heft to it. In Ciel de Gum that brings you to a duet of jasmine and rose in the heart. The rose is the anchor for the jasmine which is what eventually predominates although early on they are more equal in impact. A leather accord arrives after the florals and eventually it settles down to a beautiful amber warmed vanilla.

Ciel de Gum has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

When it comes to these, in essence city exclusives, I really don’t want to start a desire for most who can’t get access to them. The unfortunate truth is Ciel de Gum is the best Maison Francis Kurkdjian release since 2012’s Oud. It shows all of the best qualities of M. Kurkdjian’s skills as a perfumer. This is so good I waited to write about it until it became available through some of the reputable decant websites. I have been wearing Ciel de Gum on and off for the last six weeks and it is one of those fragrances I think is worth the effort to try especially if you are a fan of M. Kurkdjian’s style of perfumery.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample sent to me from Russia. I have recently bought a decant from Surrender to Chance.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Profvmvm Sorriso- Brevity of Expression

2

Economy of expression can be a difficult trick for most anyone. When it comes to perfumery the Durante family knows how to consistently make fragrances which sing with three to four notes. Their line of perfume is called Profvmvm and it has produced thirty of these minimal note/maximum enjoyment perfume since their first releases in 1996. The thirty-first release is called Sorriso and continues this style of perfume making.

Sorriso means smile in Italian and it made me smile as one who loves chocolate and orange together. Orange and dark chocolate are my favorite combination as the sweet of the orange contrasts with the bite of the higher concentration cacao chocolate to make for a savory combination. The note list for Sorriso is brief as always; bitter orange, bitter chocolate, exotic woods. When I read that I expected my candy bar to materialize from the atomizer. That isn’t what happened and it made me give up my mental image and really pay attention to what was there.

sorriso bottle

Despite the listing of bitter chocolate it really seems like it is more cocoa powder on display in Sorriso. It is cocoa powder lavishly spread over a tray of orange wedges. Despite the note listing describing both the chocolate and orange as “bitter” I found them to be on their best behavior, more optimistic than jaded. The orange was juicy with a pronounced sweet over the tart. The cocoa powder adds a desiccated quality with a smooth chocolate sweetness with only the slightest hint of an edge. Chocolate in perfume can sometimes be a bit overwhelming and the choice to stay more towards the cocoa powder kind of chocolate makes Sorriso a little more approachable, I think. The woods come into play very late and they sort of sneak up on the orange and chocolate. Both times I wore Sorriso it felt like they just sort of arrived out of nowhere but they keep things soft and tilted towards the sweeter, creamier side of woods.

Sorriso has all-day longevity and moderate sillage.

In a world where communicating in 140 characters is lauded so should Profvmvm and the Durantes be praised for also making a complete olfactory statement in three to four notes. Sometimes that is all you need to make someone smile with delight. Sorriso does just that especially for those who like a little orange with their chocolate.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample purchased from Surrender to Chance.

Mark Behnke

Boot or Reboot: Patou pour Homme 1980 & 2013- Taking on a Classic

2

 

The world of movies and television is full of what are called reboots where a beloved older property is given a fresh interpretation by a new set of creative minds. An excellent example of this is the television series of the 60’s Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry and the fantastic re-imagining of that universe in 2009 by J.J. Abrams and the movie version of Star Trek. Both retain the essential soul of the creation but each set of artists imparts their own sense of style to things. Particularly over the past few years the perfume world has seen a number of cherished “out of print” vintage fragrances get a modern reboot. Sometimes the results are similar to the Star Trek experience where both retain the essential soul but differ in fascinating ways. Other times one is clearly better than the other and not always in the original’s favor. In this series I am going to examine both the original (boot) and the reformulated version (reboot) and give you my opinion on both of them.

Jean Kerleo

Jean Kerleo

Of all the purely masculine marketed fragrances to have ever been released 1980’s Patou pour Homme by the perfumer Jean Kerleo is one of those Holy Grail type fragrances. When the discussion of what the best masculine fragrances ever created are I have never not seen Patou pour Homme not make the short list of contenders and is often the winner of many of these olfactory beauty contests. It has created a hunger for the vintage bottles which show up on auction sites and estate sales with bottles fetching between $500-1000 regularly. For me personally it is not just Patou pour Homme but the entire output of Jean Patou which is priceless and they are the most prized parts of my perfume collection as I think they are the very pinnacle of what perfume can be. Patou pour Homme is just one of those which sits very high in my personal esteem.

thomas_fontaine

Thomas Fontaine

Over the past fifteen years I have watched as numerous business entities have taken a run at reviving the house and reformulating these classic fragrances. All throughout the process I was simultaneously rooting for its success and fearing the worst. Finally in 2013 Jean Patou was bought from Proctor & Gamble by a British firm Designer Parfums, Ltd. They hired perfumer Thomas Fontaine to oversee the resurrection of these perfumes. In the second half of 2013 they released their first three recreations, Chaldee, Eau de Patou, and Patou pour Homme.

pph ad

Patou pour Homme 1980 was groundbreaking for its day as Jean Kerleo used a mix of pepper, lavender, clary sage and tarragon to create a shimmering heat at the beginning. Patchouli, cedar, and vetiver took the traditional triptych of men’s fragrances and moved it up the pyramid into the heart. The finish was a lavish amount of oakmoss, labdanum, and sandalwood. The synergies and interplay has always made this one of the most fascinating fragrances that I have ever worn and M. Kerleo’s skill at keeping this as kinetic as a kaleidoscope is not to be underestimated. This is a fragrance which lives up to its hype.

pph2013

Patou pour Homme 2013 has a couple of difficulties for M. Fontaine right from the start. First he has to comply with IFRA restrictions and so the oakmoss is out. The shimmering heat effect also was going to be difficult to replicate. M. Fontaine consulted with M. Kerleo and worked from the original recipe as he composed this modern version. The top notes are much brighter as bergamot and lemon partner the tarragon and galbanum is added to the top notes to try and create that shimmery effect. The effect it gives is a deeper richer citrus accord but the stunning piquancy of the original is gone. Instead of having a two-step of very intense notes M. Fontaine crafts an intermezzo of jasmine, violet, and rose which partner the top notes quite pleasantly. The base is clearly a bit of inspired perfumery as since he can’t use oakmoss he goes for a raw leather accord, olibanum, patchouli, and ambergris. While it misses that “je ne sais quois” of the original it really works at the end of the brighter less extreme lead up of this modern version.

I think it is obvious that the winner of this battle is the original Patou pour Homme but that really is unfair to the newer version. M. Kerleo had a fuller palette to work with than M. Fonatine did and he used that to his advantage. The fragrance that M. Fontaine has created is very good and maybe the real disservice is calling it Patou pour Homme. If it was named Patou pour Homme II I think many would think it was much better than they are going to with it having the same name. If you have never tried the original, the new Patou pour Homme is very good without being compared to one of the great perfumes of the last 35 years. If you’re looking for that experience you’ll still need to haunt the internet and auctions to get your fix.

In this case I would say Boot is the winner but the Reboot deserves its own amount of attention because M. Fontaine has made me believe he is the right person to oversee this revival of Jean Patou.

Disclosure: Thie review was based on a bottle of Patou pour Homme (1980) that I purchased and a sample of Patou pour Homme (2013) I received from Aus Liebe zum Duft.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Laboratorio Olfattivo Kashnoir- Orange Blossom Takes a Trip

I think that every perfumer I have met has made something that I truly adore. There are a select few of them though that just seem to create perfume that never fails to make me smile. One of the perfumers in that category is Cecile Zarokian. She is early in her commercial career but she is slowly but surely building an impressive portfolio. The latest entry is also the latest fragrance from Laboratorio Olfattivo called Kashnoir.

Laboratorio Olfattivo is an Italian brand which is dedicated to artistic perfumery. They give the perfumers who work for them a lot of leeway when they are creating a fragrance for them. It has really brought out the best in many of the perfumers who have created fragrances for them. Mme Zaokian is just the most recent to join those who have enjoyed the freedom to create without a marketing group overseeing everything.

cecile zarokian

Cecile Zarokian

According to the press kit Kashnoir is inspired by “narcotic flowers, psychotropic herbs, and haunted spices”. There is also a lot of description of it being similar to a search in the East for a mysterious and lethal drug. This is what is wrong with reading the words first as I was expecting something like opium den chic. Mme Zarokian had something much different in mind. She takes an ingénue of a floral note in orange blossom and sends her on a psychedelic trip.

Kashnoir starts off very innocent and bright with a halo of lemon and lavender over the genteel orange blossom. This is something we’ve experienced many times before. Coriander signals the change to something a little more “noir”. This is also a greener coriander than I’m used to in a fragrance. It gives it even more of a roughhewn quality than it usually adds to a fragrance. A ridiculous amount of patchouli and benzoin take the orange blossom even deeper into unusual territory. This combination of deeply resinous notes almost seems to bring out the indolic qualities of the orange blossom to a more pronounced level. It is more likely that it is the only thing left to stand up to this set of powerful notes. I often remind people that orange blossom is a white flower and does contain an indolic core. With Kashnoir I think I can actually have a fragrance to show the truth of that. Heliotrope and vanilla combine to give a soothing almond milk like finish to this trip.

Laboratorio Olfattivo Kashnoir has overnight longevity and above average sillage.

Cecile Zarokian has done a masterful job of taking orange blossom and finding a way for me to view it in an entirely different way. It is a trip well worth taking.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Aus Liebe zum Duft.

Mark Behnke