New Perfume Review Jo Malone Cypress & Grapevine- An Afternoon in Babylon

As we enter fall, I start to take out my green scents which evoke foliage. As the air becomes crisper, I find that the natural smells of undergrowth finds its time to appear. I think without all those fancy flowers to compete with ivy, moss, and the like get their chance to display a vegetal version of beauty. Over the past few years there have been a proliferation of fragrances which have married woods and green to evoke this. Jo Malone Cypress & Grapevine is the most recent example.

Celine Roux

Creative director Celine Roux collaborates with perfumer Sophie Labbe on this addition to the Cologne Intense collection. The idea was to capture the smell of an afternoon in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Surrounded by cypress trees and vines. As have most of the entries on this collection it stays focused on the two ingredients on the bottle.

Sophie Labbe

Cypress comes first as Mme Labbe wraps it with an herbal lavender. This opens the way for the green foliage accord. This is that slightly piquant vegetal scent I find. It uses the herbal part of lavender as the connection to the cypress. A pinch of geranium gives a veil of floral quality. The vegetation is diffused through the softness of moss. This is where what is promised on the bottle is realized. Patchouli and a synthetic wood are the final ingredients.

Cypress & Grapevine has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is a simple perfume done well. It is not particularly groundbreaking, but it arrived at the right time of year for me. I could feel as if I were spending a day in ancient Babylon which sometimes is just enough.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Lacoste Match Point- Green Sport

If there is a perfume category almost guaranteed to elicit a rude remark it is the Sport style. I’ve never understood the concept for a fragrance to wear while playing sports. It took off as a genre in the 1990’s. Almost all of them are insipid constructs. I am always open to someone to try something different to liven it up. Lacoste Match Point is the most recent to make a case.

Lacoste has been making perfume since 1984. While they don’t use the word Sport in the name of any of their releases it is an unsaid part of their aesthetic. Over the years they have comfortably filled this space. It is fitting for a fashion brand born on tennis courts to embrace it. When I received my sample of Match Point, I expected to find another example. This time the perfume was surprising in the choice of ingredients and style.

Sophie Labbe

Perfumer Sophie Labbe takes Match Point to a different place for a Sport fragrance. Most of the genre is based on the long-time “fresh and clean” trend. It is awash in aquatics for the most part. Match Point goes for a different interpretation of that. Mme Labbe uses some very intensely green notes to provide a new perspective on fresh.

What caught my attention when I sprayed this for the first time is the use of gentian. This is an intensely bitter green ingredient which is oddly refreshing. Any perfume that starts with this is something to pay attention to. She pairs it with a tart grapefruit to soften the edges while also deepening the bitterness. Another oddly refreshing herbal ingredient comes next, basil. The pungency of this herb finds a fascinating harmony with the gentian. The final piece is vetiver which slides into this party like a champ. Cashmeran adds a crisp woody finish.

Match Point has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Match Point is such a different Sport perfume it makes me soften my criticism of the genre. It shows smart artists can take the most generic types and breathe new life into them. Mme Labbe makes Match Point the Green Sport.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Gardenia & Oud Absolu- Smoky White Floral

Every creative director would probably like to leave a lasting mark on any brand they oversee. I have creative director and brand associations which define the way I see those fragrances. One of the most recent examples has been the tenure of Celine Roux at Jo Malone. Ever since she took over the brand has been reinvigorated. If there will be a legacy of her time it might be the Absolu Series. The new Jo Malone Gardenia & Oud Absolu shows why.

Celine Roux

Mme Roux debuted this series two years ago with Rose & White Musk Absolu and followed up last year with Violet & Amber Absolu. The press releases of those previous fragrances had a lot of babble about adding the Jo Malone freshness onto a Middle Eastern aesthetic. I never understood that. Both perfumes were more intense than the typical Jo Malone releases but that never felt region specific. There was a satisfaction to seeing Jo Malone in a deeper way.

Sophie Labbe

Gardenia & Oud Absolu follows up on all of that. Except this time there is an obvious Middle Eastern connection with the presence of oud. It does feel like this is a Jo Malone via that part of the world. Mme Roux asked Sophie Labbe to be the perfumer behind Gardenia & Oud Absolu. They produced a smoky white floral fragrance.

Mme Labbe starts with the gentlest of the white flowers, orange blossom. It captivates during the early moments. Before too long the gardenia arrives. This is a much more intense floral with prominent indoles. It also shows off the green streak apparent in high concentrations of gardenia. It is that quality which makes a gardenia perfume. It gives a verve to it all. Some jasmine adds shadow and depth without taking away from the gardenia. The oud rises like wood chips from a brazier in swirls of smoky resinous woods. It catches on the petals of the fulsome gardenia finding an unusual pairing which works better than I though it might. It forms a smoky floral accord which is given a bit of expansiveness and lift by a judicious use of white musks. It keeps that central accord from becoming too claustrophobic giving it just the right amount of space for the titular notes to shine.

Gardenia & Oud Absolu has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I really enjoyed my time testing this. If you’re a man looking for a rugged floral you should give this a try. I am again inspired by the perfume being overseen by Mme Roux. Jo Malone has become one of the best perfume lines because of her. Gardenia & Oud Absolu is a good example of why.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Jo Malone.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bulgari Splendida Tubereuse Mystique- Creamy Tuberose

Tuberose is one of the most powerful ingredients in all of perfumery. It is the queen of the white flowers. it is also a versatile ingredient having many aspects for a perfumer to seize upon. One of those aspects which has been seeing more presence lately has been the creamy nature. This is because of the newfound popularity of floral gourmands. One which does it well is Bulgari Splendida Tubereuse Mystique.

Sophie Labbe

The Bulgari Splendida collection began in 2017. I found last year’s Magnolia Sensuel to be a particularly nice study of that floral. What I liked most about it was the use of a high concentration of the floral keynote. That is repeated in Tubereuse Mystique. Perfumer Sophie Labbe takes that concentration and then finds the right ingredients to find the creaminess at the core of tuberose.

Mme Labbe lets her tuberose take center stage. In the early going she uses blackcurrant bud to strum the green chord within. Just as quickly vanilla comes along to allow the cream to rise to the foreground. It keeps it at that level while davana adds a subtle woodiness. The final ingredient which makes this come together is the resin myrrh. As the myrrh oozes into the accord it tunes the sweetness to a warmer level while the vanilla keeps it traditionally sweet. A lot of times myrrh can make a sweet perfume seems medicinal, like cough syrup. Mme Labbe finds the balance which keeps it far away from that.

Tubereuse Mystique has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you like your tuberose sweet and creamy this is a perfume you should try. Mme Labbe manages to tease out all of those facets while still retaining a bit of the green and indolic nunaces. It makes for a different take on tuberose.

Disclosure; This review is based on a sample supplied by Bloomingdale’s

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone White Moss & Snowdrop- Early Present Under the Tree

I continue to extol the creative direction of Celine Roux at Jo Malone because her tenure has seen the first part of her title return to one of the original niche brands. One of the things which has seemingly been a part of this is Mme Roux’s habit of working with a single perfumer for five or six releases. Over the last two years it was Mathilde Bijaoui and Yann Vasnier. Her current partner in perfume is Sophie Labbe. The holiday 2018 release is their third collaboration; White Moss & Snowdrop.

Celine Roux

If there is one release every year that I look forward to it is the Holiday release from Jo Malone. I realize I own almost all of them. The brand has excelled at releasing a festive style of perfume just in time for the season. The two releases from this summer from Mmes Roux and Labbe, Tropical Cherimoya and Catlleya Flower Mist, were tropical floral styles ideal for the summer. White Moss & Snowdrop is a winter floral wrapped in green garland shot through with sparkles of light.

Sophie Labbe

The perfume opens with the lemon tinted zest of cardamom over orange and petitgrain. As an admirer of cardamom heavy top accords this is top of my list. Mme Labbe uses the cardamom as a chill breeze over the citrus elements. The fruit and the tart never take the lead. They are there as a way of enhancing the inherent citrus in the cardamom. The balance achieved here is beautifully realized. Neroli rises out of this. it is the greener neroli which has been appearing a lot this year in perfume. The chilly effect is provided by the titular snow drop although this remains more neroli than snowdrop on my skin. This is the kind of connective note which captures the transition from top notes to base notes. Those base notes are surrounding a key note of white moss. I wanted to determine if this white moss was the same ingredient used in Estee Lauder Private Collection Jasmine White Moss. After many days of comparison my answer is I’m not sure. I also think the comparison maybe overshadows what is here. The moss note in White Moss & Snowdrop has that pillowy green effect of moss but continues the slight chill carried on from the top and heart. Mme Labbe uses a bit of tonka and amber to leaven the white moss a bit but this is where things come to an end.

White Moss & Snowdrop has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

The overall effect from this perfume is that of green holly garland wrapped in white lights on the fireplace mantel. It is an ideal Holiday style of perfume. So much so I felt like my sample of White Moss & Snowdrop was like an early present under my tree.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Elie Saab Girl of Now Shine- Floral Gourmand Balance


Floral gourmands are one of the styles brands have decided will be popular with a younger perfume consumer. Particularly over the last two years there have been an increase in these kinds of fragrances. For the most part they have been on the lighter, more transparent side of the spectrum. One of the outliers was last year’s Elie Saab Girl of Now. That chose to leave the transparency behind, going for a fuller gourmand accord. In that case I felt like a groom whom the bride had smushed a particularly fine pistachio vanilla cake up his nose. It was a case I wondered if it would benefit from some of that opacity so many others were using. I guess the same idea occurred to the people at the brand because we now have Elie Saab Girl of Now Shine.

Sophie Labbe

Most of the time I am going to complain when a flanker rehashes an original with a couple of changes. This is one of those infrequent cases where that all worked to the better along with a lighter tone overall. Perfumers Sophie Labbe and Dominique Ropion re-team, after composing the original, for Girl of Now Shine.

Dominique Ropion

What I didn’t care for in the original was it was so aggressively cake-like. It was cloying in every bad definition of that word. Girl of Now Shine captures the earlier iteration of that cake as it is being baked. It is much airier, and that expansiveness allows more room for the florals to find some balance; all for the better.

The note added to Girl of Now Shine is pineapple. Despite my antipathy to the note in general the perfumers use it as an alternative sweetener. Like using fruit juice in an actual cake recipe. It underpins a crisp pear. If there was one thing I really liked about the original it was the use of pistachio. It adds an unusual roasted nutty quality. It is again given a prominent place in Girl of Now Shine. As it begins to combine with the fruit the florals in the presence of jasmine and orange blossom provide a lilting white flower duet. Vanilla provides the finishing amount of traditional gourmand sweet. It is used in a much lower amount than in the original. It closes out a perfume which is much the better for the restraint.

Girl of Now Shine has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is the aesthetic I prefer when it comes to floral gourmands. It allows for the florals to shine alongside the gourmand aspects. Finding the right balance means this is a better perfume than the original.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jo Malone Tropical Cherimoya- Summer Beach Bag Spritz

I write often about how growing up in South Florida in the 1960’s and 70’s was such an advantage. As a melting pot of many different Latin American cultures it also was a gateway for me to experience culinary delights from the region, too. Most of that came through my friends’ mothers who would serve us different snacks when visiting. When I was at my friend Herbie’s home his mother, Sra. Lopez, brought out this hard-looking scaly fruit. I was too young to make the comparison at the time but as an adult it looked a bit like one of the dragon eggs from Game of Thrones. Sra. Lopez cut it in half and scooped out the flesh. The taste was amazing. Sweet, tart and a hint of milkiness. It is that latter quality which gives it the name of “custard apple”. Whenever they show up in my local market I always buy a couple because there is nothing like it.

Celine Roux

I was very interested when I received my sample of Jo Malone Tropical Cherimoya if they could capture the kind of multi-sensorial taste of cherimoya in a perfume. Creative director Celine Roux teams up with perfumer Sophie Labbe to make the attempt.

Sophie Labbe

The perfume opens with a very crisp and green pear. It captures the tartness of cherimoya. A set of sweet fruity notes provide the main cherimoya accord in the top. Mme Labbe uses a thread of passion flower to pick up both the green and to accentuate the tropical character. The base opens with a bit of tonka bean standing in for the “custard” although it feels more toasted on my skin. it all ends on a soothing copahu balm base.

Tropical Cherimoya has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I enjoyed this perfume interpretation of cherimoya quite a bit. I thought Mme Labbe succeeded by not trying to make a photorealistic recreation but by using a set of ingredients to form a similar set of layers as in the real thing. Tropical Cherimoya is going to be an ideal summer beach bag spritz.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Valentino Uomo Noir Absolu- The Exceptional Exception


If there is something I feel very sure of is that when a perfume I didn’t care for in its first release reaches its fourth iteration; I am not going to feel any differently. Of course, I wouldn’t be starting with that sentence if I hadn’t found an exception. This exception is particularly noteworthy because the version that was released just a few months before it was particularly wretched. This exceptional exception is Valentino Uomo Noir Absolu.

Valentino began their Uomo collection in 2014 with a particularly pedestrian interpretation of the masculine iris fragrance. Last year was an equally uninspired Uomo Intense. At the beginning of this summer Uomo Acqua was described in the press release as evoking the “fading grandeur” of an Italian palace. This had nothing grandiose about it as it was a harsh mixture of aromachemicals that was repellant. When I received my sample of Uomo Noir Absolu I remember thinking, “It couldn’t be worse.” I was right; it was amazing because they chose to go for a real Oriental instead of the faux attempts which preceded this.

Sophie Labbe

Perfumer Sophie Labbe has been responsible for the Uomo collection after Olivier Polge did the original. Mme Labbe breaks through with Uomo Noir Absolu because she actually goes for a darker opulent style of perfume which is diametrically opposed from any other perfume with Valentino Uomo on the bottle. This works by diving straight away to the essence of an Oriental, the base accord.

A spicy duet is the opening movement as Mme Labbe combines cinnamon and black pepper. They are combined in an accord which has presence while also conveying a simmering heat. Incense swirls through this as it is particularly good with both top notes. I’ve always found the combination of black pepper and incense to work together but the cinnamon is also lifted by the resin as well. The iris, which is the connective tissue within the collection, shows its face here as the rootier less powdery version. It is not a focal point but it is also not a complete background player either. It rests on a rich woody base of sandalwood lightened with guaiac wood.

Valentino Uomo Noir Absolu has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Uomo Noir Absolu is one of the best mainstream fragrances of 2017. It is the ideal perfume for scarves and sweaters as the air turns colder. I should have been able to ignore this collection but Mme Labbe has turned out an exceptional exception of a fragrance.

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

Mark Behnke