New Perfume Review Roja Parfums Sweetie Aoud- AbFab Oud

There are times I find it hard not to giggle when I hear the names of upcoming perfumes. I had a large case of the giggles when I heard the  names of the three perfumes which made up the Roja Parfums Tutti Frutti collection; Candy Aoud, Fruity Aoud, and Sweetie Aoud. Based on those names I was expecting a mixture of extreme sweetness matched with the pungency of fine oud. Roja Dove the creative mind behind these perfumes had something else in mind.

None of the three entries in this collection adhere to what my pedestrian mind was thinking. None of these would I describe as sweet. Also none of these has an incredibly prominent oud note in it. The sweetest is Candy Aoud which is surprisingly where you find the fruit. The oudiest, and it isn’t that oudy, is Fruity Aoud. Which leaves the one I am reviewing today which is Sweetie Aoud.

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Roja Dove

When I heard the name my mind kept rolling back to the BBC comedy series Absolutely Fabulous. In that series the lead characters greeted each other with the phrase, “Sweetie Darling!” That series was about a pair of women who worked in the London fashion industry. It would be safe to say the lead characters’ better days were behind them although they were oblivious to that fact. While I was wearing Sweetie Aoud I realized it was also a bit of an illusion as well. It starts with the oud because I am pretty sure it is an oud accord and if there is any real oud in the formula it is very buried. I suspect the use of the accord over the real thing is intentional because of the three perfumes in this collection Sweetie Aoud has a more delicate framework that real oud most likely would have impacted negatively. What is here is a slightly gourmand-like fragrance much more transparent than most of the other entries from Mr. Dove.

The early development of Sweetie Aoud is a fast moving affair as it transitions rapidly into its central accord. A whiff of artemesia, a drive-by rose and we arrive at the business end of Sweetie Aoud. This fragrance settles into a very interesting spice cake accord for a large part of its development on my skin. Cardamom is the flavor of this cake as it sets itself upon a yeasty foundation. It is then placed within a wooden cabinet lined with gaiac, cedar, and juniper. These add a crisp clean framing device to the gourmand accord within. At this point is when the oud accord begins to very lightly make itself known. It adds a bit of contrast without becoming too strident. This is where Sweetie Aoud remains on my skin for hours. Very late on patchouli becomes more noticeable but it is this spice cake, framed by wood, hazed by an oud accord which is what Sweetie Aoud is all about.

Sweetie Aoud has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Sweetie Aoud is one of the lightest fragrances in the entire Roja Parfums line. This is more a description which holds within the brand. Comparing Sweetie Aoud to other brands known for their transparency and it is much more substantial than those. I just want those who love the more powerhouse Roja Parfums to be aware Sweetie Aoud is not like that. I found the switch to be very enjoyable and especially easy to wear in these last days of summer. I think it is going to be a great choice for the fall, too. So Roja Sweetie Darling I loved this new Sweetie Aoud thing. I could do with a few more in this style.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Osswald NYC.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Roja Parfums A Goodnight Kiss- It Started with a Kiss


Roja Dove is one of the biggest personalities in all of perfumery. He is also one of the most ardent ambassadors for olfactory art there is. He believes in the power that perfume can have on a person. For many years when I have seen Mr. Dove speak he has related the story of when he also learned of the intimate connection fragrance can make. That was condensed into a paragraph in the press release, for his new perfume, by Mr. Dove to read as, “I remember vividly being about 6 years old and seeing my mother standing in the doorway of my bedroom wearing a gold lame cocktail dress, the light from the landing coming over her as if she had a corona around her. Enchanted by this vision, as my mother came and kissed me goodnight, her scent together with the smell of her face powder pervaded me. Her scent, intertwined with that image, will always stay with me.” The most recent recitation of this story was at the recent Sniffapalooza Spring Fling as he was the final speaker of the morning. By the time he was done the entire café was in tears. One of the great attributes of Mr. Dove is you can tell he feels perfume and when he talks about perfume his audience also feels it. With all of us brushing tears away he presented the perfume based on that Roja Parfums A Goodnight Kiss.

As he spoke about the fragrance he mentioned that this was a perfume he had to be convinced to make. It was his belief that this was a singular experience for him personally and not easily translatable. Thankfully he decided to risk putting a personal olfactory statement like A Goodnight Kiss out. It was released on January 6, 2015; his mother’s birthday and immediately sold out. It has taken until now for it to be available again. It is intensely personal but it is also a shared experience as I also treasured my mother’s goodnight kiss and much of what Mr. Dove captures here is that idealized version of all mothers as they look in on their children before sleep.

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Roja Dove

A Goodnight Kiss is meant to be a perfume reminiscent of another time. It opens on a classic aldehydes and bergamot piece of elegance. Because so many of the great classic perfumes start with this it almost acts as a mental placeholder preparing me for something similar for the rest of the way. The heart is a convocation of florals as jasmine, rose, carnation, ylang-ylang, violet, and orange blossom rise out of the top notes. It is rich and opulent and as a guess this is meant to recreate the perfume Mr. Dove’s mother was wearing that night. The florals are very powerful but underneath there is a bit of real delicacy to be found. I am not sure I would have found it if Mr. Dove hadn’t shared it with me. There is an orris scented rice powder accord which forms a transparent shell around the floral heart. Once I was clued in to its presence it was as noticeable as the powerhouse florals. To me this is the kiss as a powdered cheek leans close. The remainder of A Goodnight Kiss is to create a leather accord like the purse his mother carried to hold all of the fragrances of perfume, powder, and lipstick. At this point A Goodnight Kiss almost turns photorealistic as it smells a lot like my mother’s purse which contained all of these as well. The leather accord is joined by cedar and musk, primarily, to provide the final moments.

A Goodnight Kiss has 14-16 hour longevity and prodigious sillage.

That Mr. Dove succeeded in turning these primal emotions into a fabulously representative perfume is to be applauded. It is difficult to put your heart on display. Thank you Roja it is now A Goodnight Kiss for all of us who love perfume and what it can do.

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

Mark Behnke

Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2015 Wrap-Up- Karens in the Sky with Diamonds

To make it through the year with all of my enthusiasm intact I need spaced out booster shots of time with other people who love perfume as much as I do. My end of spring burst comes courtesy of Sniffapalooza Spring Fling every May. Once again the best smelling group of olfactory glitterati convened in New York City for a weekend of perfumed experiences. This year’s edition was loaded with some of the biggest names in perfumery and some really special new releases just for this event.


Roja Dove

It always starts early on Saturday morning in the café at Bergdorf Goodman’s. I was especially pleased this year to have the opportunity to introduce John Molloy of Memo Paris who after four years was finally showing his excellent line of perfumes to an American audience. For me there were two other releases which caught my attention at breakfast. The new Brioni creatively directed by Raymond Matts and composed by Frank Voelkl is a beautifully done masculine perfume. It is every bit the singular fragrance as a Brioni suit is. Roja Dove finished the morning program. My favorite story he tells is of this goodnight kiss his mother gave him which set him on the path to being Roja Dove. He has captured that moment in a perfume called A Goodnight Kiss. As he finished the story about the perfume there wasn’t a dry eye in the place including Mr. Dove’s.


Takasago Presentation boards for lunch talk

After two hours of power shopping the Bergdorf’s Beauty Level we all headed to lunch. I am used to being the speaker on Sunday but this year I was also asked to introduce Colognoisseur to the Saturday crowd, too. The highlight of the lunch were the presentations from Kelly Jones of Takasago and perfumer Christophe Laudamiel. Mr. Dove had passed out strips of the raw materials he uses in his perfume at breakfast. Ms. Jones who was accompanied by Kent Lombard took us through the citrus raw materials from the Takasago orchard in Florida. Christophe Laudamiel was promoting the Academy of Perfumery & Aromatics. To that end he shared a sniff of vintage L’Air du Temps with the crowd. I have become more interested in both the history and the building blocks of perfume. These lunch presentations fed my appetite for that.


Robbie Wilson of Orlov Paris (l.) and Karen Dubin

The final event of Day One was the premier of the Orlov Paris line of five perfumes complete with caviar and champagne at Black Label Wine Merchants. Robbie Wilson introduced the line in a wonderfully opulent setting which showed off the diamond inspired perfumes like the jewels that they are.

Day Two opened at the Birchbox store downtown with a presentation from Harvey Prince on their line of fragrances and ancillary products. Afterward we wandered on Elizabeth St at Le Labo and Atelier Cologne.


Mark Crames and Miriam Sangster presenting Tomboy

We headed for lunch and a very special line-up. Usually when I emcee the Sunday lunch it is all about new perfumers and their emerging brands. Not this year, I was handed an all-star lineup. Sue Phillips of Scentarium introduced her fragrance kits so you can have the custom perfume making experience Ms. Phillips provides at her Scentarium space in your own home. I had never met Mark Crames of Demeter prior to Sunday and he along with artist Miriam Sangster presented their combined visual and scented installation called Tomboy. Ms. Sangster challenged Mr. Crames to capture her Tomboy which was inspired by a clip from the cartoon Powerpuff Girls. Next up was Irina Adam of Phoenix Botanicals as she presented her latest release Ella. She also shared some vintage raw materials she had obtained with the audience. As they were passed around I was sitting with the next speaker Christophe Laudamiel and we were intrigued at the quality of these very old ingredients. M. Laudamiel again promoted the Academy and tried in vain to share an even more vintage version of L’Air du Temps than he had the day before.


Jacinta Bunt aqnd Michael Edwards (r.)

The final speaker of the day on Sunday was Michael Edwards of Fragrances of the World. I had the pleasure of doing a Q&A with him. He spoke about how his reference book came to be and how it has grown over the past 31 years. I asked him if the word Niche was still relevant. In his guide he has already decided it doesn’t and has now come up with four categories which cover what we called Niche previously. At the prodding of Karen Dubin he gave some personal non-perfume details. He likes Italian food, attending art exhibitions, and working through his Netflix queue. It is always a pleasure to hear Mr. Edwards speak and it was the perfect way to end the 2015 version of Spring Fling.

As always thanks to the Karens for allowing me to participate in this year’s events. I am already looking forward to October and Fall Ball.

Mark Behnke

All photos by Karen Adams from the Sniffapalooza website.

New Perfume Review Roja Parfums Lily Extrait- From Funereal to Fun

They don’t make them like they used to is a familiar refrain. It usually is shorthand that quality has taken a backseat to function. It is why when there are those who are uncompromising in the quality of their work it can often be described as old-fashioned or retro. Roja Dove is devoted to making the perfumes which bear his name on the label the epitome of quality. That quality does have a collateral effect of feeling like something from a bygone era. The excellent thing is that era is when men dressed for dinner and women wore gloves and pearls. We may live in a world where casual prevails but I know I want to occasionally wear something that makes me feel like Cary Grant rather than Brad Pitt. Mr. Dove does just this with his perfumes. A particular part of his collection which is truly magnificent are his extraits. Each of the previous five extraits; Bergamot, Gardenia, Lilac, Neroli, and Vetiver take the idea of soliflores to an entirely new level.

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Roja Dove speaking at Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2014

When I met Mr. Dove at the recent Sniffapalooza Spring Fling he told me his goal is to make his extraits, especially his florals, so real you can’t tell the difference from the real thing. He achieved this with Gardenia Extrait when he offered a blindfolded subject a real bloom and a strip of the extrait and the person said they couldn’t tell the difference. I personally believe the Extraits are really the soul of the Roja Parfums line. They are beyond photorealistic as they also ask the wearer to explore all the nuances of the featured note. All of this is why I was so excited to receive to receive a sample of the new Lily Extrait. Lily is a bloom with unfortunate funereal references but I have always loved the heady narcotic beauty and the spicy heart of the real thing. Other fragrances work very hard to scrub out that spicy core and leave a clean floralcy which frankly does seem lifeless to me, perfect for last rites. With Lily Extrait Mr. Dove creates a lily soliflore that is as vivacious as Mr. Dove himself.


The opening of Lily Extrait is a pinprick of sunlight from bergamot and lemon to awaken the flower. The lily heart uses muguet as the nucleus to then add in precise amounts of rose, ylang ylang, jasmine, carnation, and tiare. Each of those floral notes form a supporting cast for the muguet which uses the carnation to support the green facets and the jasmine and ylang ylang to complement the sweetness. Rose adds the hint of the spicy heart of the real thing. Clove picks that up and carries it deeper and this is where if blindfolded I think I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the real thing and the perfume. Like a coloratura soprano hitting her high notes Lily Extrait holds this singular beauty for hours. Over time a bit of vanilla, wood, and musk provide some contrast as the lily eventually fades.

Lily Extrait has overnight longevity and modest sillage.

Most modern lily perfumes try to hew to the current clean aesthetic to, in my opinion, their detriment. Real lily is meant to exude the same bit of spice in the core as great rose perfumes do. Lily Extrait stands out because it produces a fully alive lily and in that ineffable effervescence turns it from funeral to fun. In an incredible collection of exquisite perfumes Lily Extrait is the best of them all.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Osswald Parfumerie NYC.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Roja Parfums Nuwa- Chypre Redux


Roja Dove is a tireless ambassador for all things fragrance. For over thirty years he has promoted the beauty of fragrance. He often tells the story of his mother kissing him goodnight, prior to going out for the evening, dressed in her cocktail dress and the sillage of her fragrance remaining in his room long after she left, comforting him. Over the last few years as he has produced his own line I always get the feeling he is attempting to make fragrance which will leave a lasting impression, too. The newest Roja Parfums Nuwa is Mr. Dove’s aesthetic writ large with supreme confidence.


Roja Dove at Osswald Zurich

Mr. Dove’s beginnings were from 1981-2001 as Global Ambassador for Guerlain. He was immersed in what it meant to be Guerlain even without the surname. As I have experienced his own line, Roja Parfums, there are times you feel that it is Mr. Dove who is the standard bearer for interpreting and modernizing the classic perfume styles, arguably, Guerlain created and refined. Never has that felt as apparent to me as it does with Nuwa. Nuwa is a chypre, all in caps followed by multiple exclamation points. It is perfumery not often seen these days, unafraid to push limits and to pay homage to the past while challenging the wearer to embrace change.

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Nuwa Creating Man

The name, Nuwa, comes from multiple ancient Chinese texts where she is alternatively creator, mother, or goddess. In the press booklet Mr. Dove chooses the creator version where she is responsible for creating woman and man along with imbuing them with creativity and wisdom as well as introducing them to the arts. For the fragrance I interpret the name to mean a rebirth of the chypre using the experience and creativity of his lifetime to form a new chypre that feels old and new at the same time.

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Nude Couple by Lucien Clergue (1989)

Nuwa opens on a bergamot and lemon point of light. Enjoy it for the few moments it is there because the light is subsumed by deep notes and accords as Nuwa takes you into a fabulous darkness not for the timid. Rose holds the middle, in the heart, but the pungent blackcurrant bud and the maple syrup-like immortelle pierce the rose like twin blades. The blackcurrant bud takes the spicy facets and turns them a shade of deepest sticky green. The immortelle takes the sweetest floralcy and gives it a tactile depth not usually felt from rose. The heart oozes sensuality and it sets you up for the base which realizes it in carnality. Vetiver and oakmoss setup the classic chypre foundation over which Nuwa lays a lusty leather accord and full doses of cumin, black pepper, and clove. Together they combine to feel like the olfactory version of human consummation. This is what sexy means in a fragrance to me.

Nuwa has overnight longevity and above average sillage.

I think it will be easy to try Nuwa and think it smells like other classic chypres because it does hearken back to the traditional forms that is an all too easy surface impression. If you have the opportunity to spend a few days with it I think you will find the genius on display is not in the broad strokes but in the shading in between. Nuwa is so powerful it is easy to miss these subtleties. Like the goddess it is named after it is what comes after the creation that makes life worth living. Nuwa is everything that makes me love fragrance all over again.   

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Osswald NYC.

Mark Behnke