Friday, August 23, 2013

Biehl Parfumkunstwerke GS03: fragrance review

GS03 for Biehl Parfumkunstwerke is the acronym for perfumer Geza Schoen's third composition he signs with his initials for the quirky and arty niche brand hailing from Hamburg, Germany by way of New York and more ways than one stands as the distilled signature of his mature work passed down in flying colors. Everything is there: the copious amounts of Iso-E Super (a synthetic material he is famous for using in his work), the airy modern feeling like ambient music, the legibility and at once the wearability of the composition by man, woman or animal (well, I made the last one up, but you know what I mean). The scent gains in warmth and sensuality as the body heats up, the hallmark of a good "skin scent". Like plexi-glass bricks letting sunlight traverse through them, it only looks artificial first time around; familiarity gets it ingrained fast.

photo of Geza Schoen provided for PerfumeShrine use

For Geza, a molecular wizard who questions the very nature of fine fragrance, scent works like an invisible mantle, at once enhancing the wearer's "super powers," the way Superman's cape allows him to reach his flying potential, and creating an enigma as to their definite source (May we recall here his infamous Molecule 01, "an agreeable ambient presence which plays peek-a-boo with my nose" as Katie Puckrik said). Schoen doesn't like the modern approach of mass fragrance anyway: "Fragrance these days is all about naked women on the beach, naked women on the sofa, naked women in the arms of naked men—it’s so boring", he states in no uncertain terms.

For GS03 the concept was a totally modernized, galvanized Cologne, not a rehash. The classic of old, the Eau de Cologne formula (citrusy effervescence with herbal-aromatic accents and a very faint musk in the base) stands for the contentment of cleanliness, since it is routinely splashed on after a bath, but also of exhilaration and total body & mind detoxing; a simple message printed in thick, header bold: spray it on and just feel good about yourself! With a history of more than 3 centuries on its back it also risks coming across as "granny-ish" or maudlin. To avoid that Schoen and art director Thorsten Biehl worked on incorporating contemporary elements and a modern structure. The result reads as unisex, because there are no traditionally very feminine, dainty, pretty-pretty notes, nor heavily burly chest-thumping and gravelly-voiced masculine ones.

pic of Geza Schoen & Thorsten Biehl at work, provided for PerfumeShrine use

The top note of Biehl Parfumkunstwerke GS03 fragrance is as clear as a church bell pealing on a mountain top in the Alps, but at the same time quite soft and soapy-smelling, comprised of a pink pepper note (allied to what can only come across as sweet lemon to my nose) which reveals a less sharp than citrus, slightly fruity-rosy scent carried far by the scent of the alcohol carrier. The rejuvenating scent of juniper gives an herbal accent that recalls the bracing feel of downing a good gin. The lemony touch just aids in bringing forth the herbal aspects of juniper berries. The trick of juniper is clever; it has provided that contented, in-the-know smile I recall from wearing Angeliques sous la Pluie (Jean Claude Ellena for Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle) and Juniper Sling (Olivier Cresp for Penhaligon's). The gin & tonic combination is as perennially pleasing as a button-down oxford shirt in white; it just works in any situation, on any wearer. It's also effortless, even if you're using Hendrick's. It seems to me that there is also a bitterish artemisia hint in GS03, a tickling of the sinuses which aids the pungent freshness (and some hedione); it would serve as both a contrast and a modifier, rendering the juniper fresher and the rest fruitier by contrast. The anchoring elements consist of the potent musky, cedar-like hum (Iso-E Super) which we have come to associate with Geza Schoen, with an added layer of castoreum, just enough to give interest.

pic of Geza Schoen & Thorsten Biehl provided for PerfumeShrine use

The projection of Biehl GS03 is mild: I catch whiffs now and then and if I lean over the spots I sprayed it's most definitely there, but it doesn't come across as "you're wearing perfume!" (Come to think of it, should anything?)

GS03 is available from the Biehl site, at Scent Bar and on Luckyscent.


  1. Anonymous15:29

    I received a sample last week and it was like a refreshing rain in the desert of the actual mainstream and niche perfumery...
    It will be my signature for spring summer.
    Vielen dank GS..

  2. GS,

    you're most welcome!! Glad you enjoyed and thanks for letting me know about it.

  3. I also just received my samples last week and hadn't gotten to trying them yet. Seeing your post made me excited to smell while I read. So much fun! I wish that could be a regular thing, like book of the month clubs, only everyone gets to smell at the same time and comment.
    Anyway, I am loving GS03. This is not something I would wear out, but is something I would like to wear in the morning to invigorate. I guess very much like a cologne. I really wish that fruity rosy part in the opening lasted longer. That actually stopped me in my tracks so that i could inhale just a little deeper to appreciate what I was smelling. Lovely.

  4. KK,

    glad you're enjoying!!

    Your idea is just lovely, wonder how it could be done. Stay tuned, will think of something. ;-)


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