Colognoisseur 2015 Hopes and Wishes

After spending the last three days looking back over 2014 it is now time to turn our attention from over our shoulder to the far horizon. For the first day of 2015 I have a few things I hope and wish for to have happen over the next 365 days.

olivier and jacques polge

Olivier (l.) and Jacques Polge

I really want Chanel to make another great perfume. The last one which was at this level was 2008’s Sycomore for the Les Exclusifs Collection. For a brand which is one of the pillars of modern perfumery that is far too long. I hope Polge Pere et Fils collaborate on something which reminds all of us that this is one of the great perfume labels.

I hope Estee Lauder treats its new properties, Le Labo and Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, with the respect they showed by wanting to acquire them. I believe they are going to do a good job with them. I hope I am right twelve months from now.

I am extremely curious to see the first perfume Christine Nagel produces for Hermes. I think she will be a worthy successor to Jean-Claude Ellena. I hope her first effort confirms that.

I want a big crossover success for an independent perfumer. When Tauer L’Air du Desert Marocain was the first to do this in 2005 it seemed like we were on the cusp of perfume by the little guys making as big an impact as the conglomerates. Since then we have not seen a success of that magnitude. There is too much talent out there right now and the Estee Lauder acquisitions has brought attention back to the niche and independent perfume sector. I know one of you has something in your creative imagination that can do this. I wish for everyone to know how good you are.

I hope the second edition of The Art + Olfaction Awards continues to grow and nurture the independent perfume community. The huge jump in submissions for the upcoming edition tells me this is more of a certainty than anything else on this page.

Elements

I hope Elements Showcase returns to New York this year. As the only US example of the great European fairs like Esxence and Pitti Fragranze I have always wanted it to succeed. As of right now they haven’t announced plans for 2015. I hope it isn’t too far into the year that I have some dates to put on my calendar.

I wish for less new releases in 2015. I also wish for a world free of hunger. Both of these wishes have about the same chance of happening.

One non-perfume hope is for the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens to be the Star Wars movie I’ve been waiting thirty years for. I think JJ Abrams is the man who can actually pull that off.

high dive

Finally, I wish for a very happy and healthy 2015 to all the readers of Colognoisseur. One year ago I was looking off the edge of the high dive deciding if I wanted to do my own blog. It took me a month to finally get the nerve to take the leap. For all of you looking from the edge of your own platform at that water way down there, I hope you decide to take the leap.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2014 Year-End Review Part 3- The Top 25 New Perfumes of the Year

Once again I tried to smell every new perfume that was released in 2014 and like Wile E. Coyote chasing The Road Runner, I failed. I did smell more this year than I ever have, 614 new perfumes. Unfortunately as of this writing there were 1614 new releases in 2014. I only missed by a 1000. I think we can all agree that there is just too much new product which just smells too similar. The 25 perfumes I highlight below managed to stand out from everything I tried this year.

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Vero Kern

Top 5 (Fragrance of the Year Candidates)

5. Amouage Sunshine Woman– Creative Director Christopher Chong and perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur have created the most un-Amouage Amouage perfume in Sunshine Woman. With Mr. Chong’s hand on the creative wheel Mme Lancesseur guided Amouage into sunnier places than Amouage usually travels. That they accomplished this without using the typical sparkling ingredients from the perfumer’s palette makes it all the more remarkable. I still don’t think I do justice describing this in words other than it is one of the best perfumes of the year.

4. Maria Candida Gentile Leuco– When I attended Pitti Fragranze I must have tried thirty tuberose perfumes each more boringly generic than the next one. Until Maria Candida Gentile handed me Leuco. As part of her Il Volo del Calabrone (Flight of the Bumblebee) collection she has made a tuberose that does not seek to club you over the head. In Leuco, Sig.ra Gentile has combined it with French beeswax to create a shimmering powdery tuberose perfume.

3. Aedes de Venustas Copal AzurAfter writing about Bertrand Duchaufour and his time as my self-proclaimed High Priest of Resins during the early 2000’s I received an e-mail telling me he was working on a perfume which had more incense in it than ever before. When I smelled Copal Azur I realized M. Duchaufour still had some more resinous wizardry up his sleeve. By pushing to a 30% concentration of incense raw materials it takes Copal Azur right up to the edge of where it might be unpleasant but M. Duchaufour knows how not to cross that line. Creative Directors Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner are surely fashioning a line of perfume as finely curated as their NYC boutique is.

2. Bogue Profumo Maai– The absolute best surprise of all of 2014 for me. I had heard a little bit of independent perfumer Antonio Gardoni. I didn’t expect such an assured piece of perfumery from a self-taught artist on his third release. Maai feels like a perfume of yesteryear that could be found in the glove compartment of a Tesla. When I speak of Retro Nouveau, if you need an example, try Maai and I think you’ll instantly understand what I mean.

1. Vero Profumo Rozy Voile d’ExtraitFor much more on why I picked this read Part 2 of my Best of 2014. For the purposes of this article it is simply the best post-modern rose perfume ever.

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Mandy Aftel (Photo: Foster Curry)

Here are the rest of the Top 25 in alphabetical order:

Aftelier Palimpsest– Natural Perfumer Mandy Aftel is a national treasure as she continues to branch out. Her book Fragrant is the best volume on perfume in years. She also released a transcendent perfume named after the technique used in medieval times of writing over already used parchment. Palimpsest the perfume also has layers upon layers which reward my attention every time I wear it.

Ann Gerard Parfum Rose CutAnn Gerard came to perfumery from designing jewelry. Her fourth collaboration with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour is a bright shining diamond that smells like a rose.

aromaM Camellia– Indie Perfumer Maria McElroy makes what I think is her most personal perfume to date. Camellia takes you more than skin deep right to the soul of a geisha in a subtle floral constructed around the titular note.

Arquiste The Architects Club– My Creative Director of the Year Carlos Huber obviously had a great 2014. The Architects Club is the crown on that year as a clash of uptight architects and flappers in 1930 London turns into a citrus, gin, and vanilla laden party. I keep going back to perfumer Yann Vasnier’s fragrant soiree for more.

By Kilian Intoxicated– If you felt that By Kilian has been off on a bit of a tangent you should come back and try the perfumes in the new Addictive State of Mind Collection. Intoxicated is a perfumed take on Turkish coffee by Calice Becker. She combines green cardamom and coffee into something I never want to see in a Starbucks cup but I want to wear over and over.

Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones Wisteria Hysteria– There was no sequel I was more wary of than the second collaboration between Comme des Garcons and milliner Stephen Jones. Perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer created something akin to a new hat. You have to wear it a few times before it really fits. If you give Wisteria Hysteria time you will find a perfume with more subtlety and nuance throughout than almost any other release in 2014.

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Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

DSH Perfumes Seve de PinDawn Spencer Hurwitz finds inspiration in so many places. Once she found Eric Bresselsmith of House of Aromatics and his 50-year old resin crystals in pure pinion oil she turned it into a photorealistic pine perfume like nothing I have ever smelled in this genre. Rocky Mountain high, indeed.

Etat Libre D’Orange Rien Intense Incense– Creative Director Etienne de Swadt asked perfumer Antoine Lie to create an “intense” version of the already intense 2006 release Rien. This could have gone wrong in so many ways but M. Lie created a flanker that is better than the original.

Hiram Green Shangri-LaHiram Green was inspired by the alpha chypre, Chypre de Coty, to make his own version. His version may not be as groundbreaking as to create a whole new fragrance category but it as good as modern chypres get. Mr. Green has established himself as a new perfumer to watch in just his second release.

Le Labo Geranium 30– I wanted to not like this. A limited edition of only 100 bottles by perfumer Barnabe Fillion in collaboration with lifestyle store Opening Ceremony with added creative direction from floral designer Thierry Boutemy. I wanted to dismiss this, I really did. I can’t. It is the best Le Labo floral since Rose 31. There is no reason for this to be so limited because of some rare ingredient so maybe the new masters at Estee Lauder can release it widely in 2015, y’know as a goodwill gesture.

Map of the Heart Black Heart v.2– If you, like me, have wondered just how dark a perfume can get and still remain wearable this will test that. Perfumer Jacques Huclier makes a perfume that has not even one tiny point of light. If you’ve craved an olfactory heart of darkness, here it is.

Masque Milano Russian Tea– I’ll admit I wasn’t as big a fan of the initial three releases from Masque Milano in 2013. It couldn’t be a more different story in 2014. The second release for 2014, Russian Tea, is fabulous. Perfumer Julien Rasquinet, in the last perfume of his independent career, realized creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi’s brief of having a potent cup of tea on a winter’s day in St. Petersburg.

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Naomi Goodsir

Naomi Goodsir Or du SerailNaomi Goodsir and Renaud Coutaudier are two of my favorite creative directors because they are uncompromising in waiting until they get the modification they want. For Or du Serail they pushed perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour into creating one of his best and most textural perfumes of the last couple of years.

Neela Vermeire Creations Mohur ExtraitNeela Vermeire let me have a tiny taste of this over a year before it was finally released. It was a very frustrating secret to keep because Mohur Extrait is the best of this line to date. Mohur Extrait is a quantum leap better than the very good parent Mohur EdP all while staying very personal.

Olfactive Studio Ombre Indigo– The blue liquid in the clear flacon is visually striking all by itself. The photographic inspiration by Gustavo Pelizzon is a study in shadow. The perfume by Mylene Alran under owner Celine Verleur’s creative direction is a study in chasing perfumed shadows cast by tuberose and vetiver. I still haven’t tired of it.

Olivier Durbano Promethee– Experiencing Olivier Durbano’s development as a perfumer for nearly ten years didn’t prepare me for this fully realized creation based on the mythological character Prometheus. It feels like M. Durbano has offered a smoldering firebrand announcing his arrival as one of our best perfumers.

Parfumerie Genrale 7.1 Grand Siecle Intense– Pierre Guillaume has been going back and making variations on his earlier Parfumerie Generale fragrances. This re-working of Cologne Grand Siecle felt like he finally completed that perfume, adding in a proper heart and base to what was, and in 7.1 still is, one of the most brilliant lemon accords I have ever smelled. This was my favorite perfume of the summer of 2014. I really hope he keeps making it.

roja dove

Roja Dove

Roja Parfums Nuwa– There are sometimes I want my perfume to be big as it can be. Say what you will of Roja Dove but he has no fear of going as big as you can. Nuwa is that philosophy applied to a classic chypre.

slumberhouse Sadanne– Perfumer Josh Lobb released this in the summer and I have spent the rest of the year enjoying every time I wear this. Mr. Lobb has created a perfume of abrupt tonal shifts from gourmand to prickly floral to feral beast. This is probably too much for many. I can’t get enough of it.

Tauer Perfumes Cologne du MaghrebAndy Tauer decides to take cologne and make it something completely Tauer-like. Hr. Tauer challenged himself to create an all-natural, all-botanical cologne. The result was a wonderful bit of inspiration and imagination.

Ulrich Lang New York ApertureUlrich Lang has been making a habit of flying below the radar. If I had an award for most underrated perfume brand his would be one of the front runners. Aperture is another example of why this brand should be more lauded. Hr. Lang was inspired by an amazing photograph by Olivia Bee. The perfume captures all that the picture promises. This might be one of the harder perfumes on this list to find. Make the effort, you will be well-rewarded for it.

The Final Cuts: The 18 Which Just Missed the Top 25- Aedes de Venustas Oeillet Bengale, Atelier Cologne Blanche Immortelle, Bottega Veneta Knot, Comme des Garcons Pharell Williams Girl, Dior La Collection Privee Cuir Cannage, Grandiflora Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine, Jardins D’Ecrivains Junky, Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt, Juliette Has a Gun Moon Dance, Le Galion Whip, Masque Milano Tango, Mona di Orio Myrrh Casati, Ormonde Jayne Black Gold, Parfum D’Empire Corsica Furiosa, Parfums de Nicolai Cuir Cuba Intense, Parfums DelRae Wit, Providence Perfume Co. Violet Beauregarde, and Richard Luscher Britos 14oS48oE.

That’s it for 2014. Most of you will be reading this on New Year’s Eve and I want to wish all of the readers of Colognoisseur a happy and healthy 2015. I’ll be here exploring fragrance with you throughout the upcoming year. ACME just delivered my rocket-powered sneakers so maybe I'll be able to keep up this time.

Part 1 of my 2014 review on the trends and news of the year can be found here.

Part 2 where I name the perfume, perfumer, creative director and brand of the year can be found here.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2014 Year-End Review Part 2- Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, & Brand of the Year

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One of the reasons I think 2014 was a very good perfume year was I had so many candidates to choose from for what I think are the best perfume, perfumer, creative director, and brand of the year. I have changed my mind numerous times, revisited the perfumes all had created this year, and considered other metrics. In the end I finally settled on a list I think shows off why this year has produced some great perfume.

rozy vde

Perfume of the Year: Vero Profumo Rozy Voile d’Extrait– When I sat down with independent perfumer Vero Kern in Milan she had had a bad fall and was sporting a black eye hidden behind, her always stylish, trademark eyeglasses. As she handed me the strips of her newest creation my mind was not on sniffing but concern for one of the truly great people I have met in perfume. I was still asking her if she was okay as I lifted the strip to my nose. From the moment I inhaled my focus shifted immediately to what I was smelling.

Mark and vero

The Very Moment I Describe in the Paragraph Above (Photo: Sarah Colton)

There have been a lot of perfumes which have professed to be a post-modern rose. Rozy Voile d’Extrait lives up to that description better than any other which has made that particular claim. By using honey as a sticky bit of texture to pull in all of the other notes it creates unbelievable expansiveness at the same time. Rozy VdE also has some rough edges courtesy of a brilliant addition of labdanum. This rose has not been stripped of all of its thorns. Inspired by Italian actress Anna Magnani, Rozy VdE reminded me of the throaty laugh of a beautiful intelligent woman much like the perfumer who made it.

vero-kern

Perfumer of the Year: Vero Kern– Yeah it seems obvious if Vero Kern made the perfume of the year she should be perfumer of the year. That’s generally not the way I work as I look for a body of work when making this particular decision. One of the things I admire about Ms. Kern is she takes her time perfecting her creations and that has resulted in what I consider to be one of the greatest overall collections by an independent perfumer. Which usually means one release per year and heading into the final part of the year I did not have Ms. Kern on my short-list.

Then I received my sample set of the Richard Luscher Britos Terroir Perfumes. Ms. Kern was responsible for the one called 14oS48oE which were the coordinates of an ylang-ylang plantation in Madagascar. For the second time in 2014 a perfume demanded every bit of my attention as the heart of this perfume has what I would consider a near perfect heart accord consisting of ylang-ylang, evergreen, pink pepper, and mimosa. I had an inkling that Ms. Kern had a bit of a challenge working with an entirely natural palette and in some correspondence after I reviewed it she confirmed that to me. This is exactly what does comprise a perfumer of the year one who is willing to work outside of their comfort zone and still be able to produce something instantly gorgeous. For Rozy Voile d’Extrait and Richard Luscher Britos 14oS48oE Vero Kern is my Perfumer of the Year for 2014.

Runner-ups: Maria Candida Gentile, Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Josh Lobb (slumberhouse), Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, and Cecile Zarokian.

Carlos Huber1

Creative Director of the Year: Carlos Huber of Arquiste– I was given the opportunity to introduce Carlos Huber on Sunday of Sniffapalooza Fall Ball 2014 in October. Part of that introduction was my lauding Mr. Huber at creating a distinctive brand identity for his perfume line Arquiste. I believe that too many new brands skip this step to their detriment. From the beginning Mr. Huber has had a clear vision on what he wanted his brand to be. He has worked exclusively with perfumers Yann Vasnier and Rodrigo Flores-Roux on putting this vision into a perfume bottle. That process resulted in two outstanding additions to the Arquiste line in L’Etrog Acqua and The Architects Club. Lots of Creative Directors had multiple good releases.

What elevated Mr. Huber to Creative Director of the Year was the collaboration he did with J. Crew. He created two perfumes for J. Crew which also carries the Arquiste brand; Arquiste for J. Crew No. 31 and No. 47. By working with J. Crew’s Creative Director Jenna Lyons they made two perfumes which were not wholly of either brand but an excellent introduction to each brand to those who like one or the other. Only a Creative Director confident in the concept of his brand can easily do that. Confident and assured describes Carlos Huber my Creative Director of the Year for 2014.

Runner-ups: Christian Astuguevieille (Comme des Garcons), Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner (Aedes de Venustas), Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi (Masque Milano), Christopher Chong (Amouage), Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel (Atelier Cologne).

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Brand of the Year: DSH Perfumes– As I was looking back over the list of things I reviewed this year there was one brand which kept popping up time and again, DSH Perfumes. Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz had a prolific year as she released two collections The Cannabis Culture Collection and The Brilliant Collection. A very personal re-interpretation of Jacques Fath Iris Gris called Scent of Peace. A masculine perfume, Metropolis. Her Holiday release, Vanilla Bourbon Intense. Three perfumes for The PLP Project. Finally, my favorite of all of these Seve de Pin.  There was so much here that reviews of The PLP Project and The Brilliant Collection will be coming early in the New Year. Normally this kind of profligacy leads to less than thrilling results. One of the things I have come to realize about Ms. Hurwitz is when she is inspired she is a force of nature. I think 2014 saw her as inspired as she has ever been. She is also inspired by so many different influences but yet manages to make each new release another brick that fits in the entire DSH Perfumes brand pantheon. For all of that DSH Perfumes is my Brand of the Year for 2014.

Runner-ups: Aedes de Venustas, Arquiste, Comme des Garcons, Etat Libre d’Orange, and Masque Milano.

Tomorrow in Part 3 I’ll reveal my top 25 new perfumes of 2014 and give a little love to the perfumes that were runner-ups to Rozy VdE.

Part 1 was my overall take on 2014’s trends and news.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2014 Year-End Review Part 1- Overview

I start as I do every year by saying I thought 2014 was a great year for perfume. I say this despite that for the third year running there were over 1600 new releases. If you just look at that number and sigh it could be expected. I wasn’t able to try all of them, obviously, but I did sniff over 600 of them. The most I’ve ever tried in a year. Out of those that I managed to try I found some truly stellar work which I believe is as good as anything perfume has produced in recent times. It is easy to focus on the all too large number but let me see if I can remind you of that which did make 2014 a year worth remembering.

One of the things that stood out for me was creative direction for perfume came from all different directions. Facebook groups like Peace*Love*Perfume, and their founder Carlos J Powell, worked with a group of independent perfumers on The PLP Project. Blogs like CaFleureBon, and their Editor-in-Chief Michelyn Camen, collaborated with both Shelley Waddington and Tanja Bochnig among others. The perfume event Sniffapalooza birthed its own perfume. Passionate enthusiasts like Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes turned his passion into action. Stores like Aedes de Venustas added two new releases and MiN New York released Vol. 1 of Scent Stories. Even the decant site Surrender to Chance got in on the action working with AbdesSalaam Attar on their two jasmine perfumes. Many of these surprised me with the final result as they showed good perfume can come from almost anywhere.

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This was also one of the strongest mainstream years in a long time. In recent years it has been very easy to ignore the mass-market offerings. In 2014 there are a dozen which really stood out. Among them Narciso, Bottega Veneta Knot, Kenneth Cole Mankind, B. Balenciaga, and Cartier La Panthere. The department store had plenty to enjoy, and recommend, when I was there.

map of the heart v2

My attendance at Elements Showcase in NY in February, Esxence in Milan in March and Pitti Fragranze in Florence in September exposed me to lots of new brands. Among the deluge of new releases it is much harder to find these new brands that is where blogs provide their service as they can point perfumistas in the direction of something good. Some of the brands I thought deserved some exposure this year were Bogue Profumo, the re-launch of Le Galion, Peccato Originale, Map of the Heart, and ZarkoPerfumes.

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There were some truly spectacular limited editions starting with slumberhouse Zahd, Le Labo Geranium 30, and Guerlain Terracotta Le Parfum. Cannabis notes showed up in By Kilian Smoke for the Soul and DSH Perfumes The Cannabis Culture Collection. A new sustainable source of oud dubbed “white oud” debuted in three perfumes this year; EHR1012 DeadofNight, Agonist White Oud, and Comme des Garcons Wonderoud.

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Christine Nagel

We saw the beginning of the changing of the guard at Hermes with Christine Nagel beginning her tenure as Jean-Claude Ellena starts to end his. Chanel decided to keep their changeover a family affair as Olivier Polge takes over from his father Jacques Polge. I think both changes can be very positive for both brands especially the one at Chanel who has played it much too safe over the last couple of years.

The biggest buzzkill of this year was the long arm of the EU and IFRA legislating out ingredients from perfume. The lack of any common ground for the perfume producers to agree upon ended up leaving a fragmented unfocused response which lacked impact. There are lots of ideas but very little agreement about the best path for the most people to respond. If I have any wish for 2015 it is for the majority of the industry to get behind some common response.

There are some who see Estee Lauder’s acquisition of niche brands Le Labo and Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle as a disaster in the making. I think it has the chance to show that niche has arrived and can take its place at the counter next to the big brands. By this time next year we’ll have a better idea on which way the wind is blowing for both of these brands.

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Finally I want to mention Saskia Wilson-Brown and the Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles. In 2014 they established the first meaningful award for the independent perfume community. It gave me so much joy to see Neela Vermeire, Tanja Bochnig, Amber Jobin, and Yosh Han honored for their work in 2013. The second edition just closed submissions for 2014 and there was a 35% increase in entries. I predict winning one of the IAO Golden Pears is going to be as prestigious as winning a Fragrance Foundation award very soon.

Tomorrow I will continue in Part 2 by naming my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year for 2014.

On Wednesday Part 3 will be my Top 25 new perfumes of 2014.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: My Favorite Non-Perfume Things of 2014

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We have now arrived at the time of year when we all make lists of the Best of 2014. I will be spending the next three days expounding on the year in perfume. Just as I have for the rest of the year Sunday is for non-perfume things and I have some non-perfume things I’d like to mention which helped me enjoy this year.

Favorite Movie: Guardians of the Galaxy– Movie going is supposed to be fun. The most fun I had in a movie theatre this year was watching director James Gunn bring to life a group of Marvel Comics D-List characters and turn them into stars. Prior to its release if you had said “I am Groot.” You would have received a blank stare in return. Now you’ll get a knowing smile. This movie provided lots of those for me.

war-on-drugs

Favorite Album: The War on Drugs “Lost in the Dream”- Now this probably should have been “Too Bright” by Perfume Genius; which also got a lot of play in my headphones. “Lost in the Dream” could have also been called Lost in the 80’s because it unabashedly co-opts many of that decade’s tropes and riffs. Adam Granduciel somehow makes them not seem dated. There were many flavors of the month throughout 2014 but I kept coming back to this after those faded away.

Favorite Single: “I Wanna Get Better” by Bleachers– The best singles lodge themselves in your head and refuse to leave. I spent a large part of the summer singing in the car at the top of my lungs, “Hey, I wanna get better!”

Favorite Television Show: The Good Wife– I am a sucker for lawyer shows. This particular lawyer show is elevating the genre. The pay cable shows with more buzz have a freedom of not being so tied to ratings that they can take many more risks. Co-writers Robert and Michelle King take all the same risks on a broadcast network offering. Almost every action these characters makes has consequences and when it is so easy to just hit a reset button and start over next week this show rarely does that.

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Favorite Book: The Witch with No Name by Kim Harrison– In the conclusion to her popular The Hollows urban fantasy series Ms. Harrison not only sticks the landing she scores a perfect 10 from the fans. All of the varied characters have endings which felt earned from all that had come previously. As many authors have found out finishing is not as easy as beginning. Ms. Harrison made it look easy

Favorite New Spirit: Barr Hill Honey Infused Gin– I found out about this early in the year and even now at the end of the year I am still finding new ways to take advantage of this completely unique take on gin.

Favorite New Bargain Wine Region: Chile’s Colchagua Valley– This region in Chile is becoming an incredibly reliable producer of Cabernet Sauvignons which are ready to drink right away. The 2011 vintage was one of the best in the region and these stunning red wines go for less than $20 and more often for right around $15.

Favorite New Flavor: Trader Joe’s BBQ Rub and Seasoning with Coffee and Garlic– I picked this up totally on a whim during a weekly shopping run. It turned into something which found its way onto many of the things that I cooked on the grill. According to the side of the can there are a dozen ingredients all of which were better balanced than 95% of the perfumes I tried this year. This made everything I put it on better. I think I put it on almost everything.

All of these things put a smile on my face for 2014.

Disclosure: I purchased all of the products mentioned

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Zoologist Perfumes Beaver, Panda, & Rhinoceros- Mr. Wong Bought a Zoo

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One of the things 2014 is going to be remembered for is the number of different places which fostered perfumes. Victor Wong of Toronto,Canada is a good example of this. After staying at a hotel and becoming enamored of their bath products he threw himself headlong into studying perfume and how that scent came to be. Earlier this year that led him to found Zoologist Perfumes. Mr. Wong would ask two very different independent perfumers, Chris Bartlett and Paul Kiler, to help him realize his vision of his first three perfumes: Beaver, Panda, and Rhinoceros.

Victor Wong

Victor Wong

As you can tell by the name of the perfumes and the brand itself Mr. Wong wanted to create animal inspired perfumes but with the added degree of difficulty of using no animal-derived products. This posed a challenge to both Mr. Bartlett and Mr. Kiler. I can say both found ingenious solutions to the restriction placed upon them.

Chris Bartlett

Chris Bartlett

Beaver was signed by Mr. Bartlett whose own line of perfume is called Pell Wall. There is a line on that website that describes his creations as, “fragrances that some people will love, rather than perfumes everyone will like.” Beaver lives up to that motto as in consultation with Mr. Wong they wanted to capture the smell of the beaver lodge. The remains of the smell of the animal itself among the trees used to build the lodge. In most cases Mr. Bartlett would just reach for the actual raw ingredient from a beaver, castoreum, and go from there. This time he had to create a castoreum accord. This results in a truly fascinating beast which is completely animalic but it has a bit of complexity and flexibility real castoreum just doesn’t have.  A matador-like bit of citrus reveals linden underneath. The castoreum accord comes next and it is dark and clean at the same time. It also goes really well with the musks Mr. Bartlett chose. Those musks add a bit of wateriness before a set of woody notes make you realize you’re surrounded by chewed down trees. Beaver might be the best animalic perfume for those turned off by civet and real castoreum because by creating an accord using non-animal ingredients it makes it more approachable. It also makes it more interesting. Beaver has 6-8 hour longevity and modest sillage.

Paul Kiler

Paul Kiler

Panda was signed by Mr. Kiler who also has produced a number of perfumes under his PK Perfumes label. Instead of reproducing the animal Mr. Kiler instead chose to focus on the surroundings of a typical Panda in China. He would assemble a grouping of Asian raw materials like bamboo, zisu leaves, Sichuan pepper, pemou root, and Buddha’s hand citron. Mr. Kiler sends you on a journey into the Chinese countryside in search of a Panda but along the way you are instead captured by the natural beauty surrounding you. It opens with a misty green accord courtesy of bamboo, citron, and zisu leaves. It is the brilliant green of a stand of bamboo. Mr. Kiler then weaves in osmanthus and orange blossom. The orange blossom is just the right floral foil for the green opening. Osamnthus’ leathery quality makes you believe the panda you seek might have just been here. You finally end in a forested grove of sandalwood and pemou trees. Pemou is a creamy balsamic raw material and when blended with sandalwood you get a lovely soft accord. A spiral of incense skirls across the woods at the end. You may not find the panda you were looking for but sometimes the journey can be the goal. Panda has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Rhinoceros was also signed by Mr. Kiler and it is my favorite of the first three. One of the reasons is this is much less a perfume about a rhinoceros or where you find a rhinoceros. It is instead a perfume which is an abstraction of the size and power of the titular beast. Mr. Kiler brings together vibrantly overt notes like rum, tobacco, and leather. He doesn’t let them charge across the savannah at you. He allows them to come together in the knowledge that they could send you flying but from a distance they exude a presence. Rum, lavender, and sage form the opening salvo. Mr. Kiler has balanced them expertly and the booziness on top of the sage and lavender forms a drunken greenish accord which I really enjoyed. Tobacco holds the heart together and it is surrounded by some immortelle to make the tobacco sweeter. Pine and cedar form a frame to hold the tobacco within. Leather is the base note over which Mr. Kiler layers amber, smoke, and vetiver. This could have been a smoky animalic miasma but Mr. Kiler keeps control of all of the ingredients so they come off in their best light. Rhinoceros is my favorite because it was more representation than reality and I like my imagination to be part of the perfume wearing experience. Rhinoceros has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

My hat is off to Mr. Wong, Mr. Bartlett, and Mr. Kiler on a very impressive debut. I hope that 2015 sees an expansion of the olfactory menagerie begun here.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Isabey Lys Noir- Noir Done Right

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One of the most used words in perfume names is “noir”.  According to Michael Edwards’ Fragrances of the World there are over 150 perfumes with the word in their name. I feel very Inigo Montoya-like, from “The Princess Bride”, when I use his quote, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” What Noir should be is something with depth and perhaps a bit of intrigue and danger. What happens all too often is the perfume rounds up a bunch of heavy notes slams them together and points and says, “Noir!” I do not think it means what you think it means. When I receive a sample with noir in the name it almost immediately brings out my inner Inigo Montoya. When I received my sample of the new Isabey Lys Noir it turned out my inner skeptic would be shelved for a perfume which absolutely understands what noir is.

Isabey was a perfume house which had its heyday back in the 1920’s. It was a much desired brand for the socialite set and especially Gardenia left its mark. After the Great Depression Isabey was much changed and eventually was discontinued. In 2002 Panouge acquired the brand and re-released Gardenia. Perfumer Jean Jacques would do a creditable job and over a number of limited releases Gardenia would sell out time and again. Panouge then began, in 2009, allowing M. Jacques to start adding to Gardenia by reformulating more of the classic Isabey perfumes. Lys Noir is the fourth of those perfumes to be released. Lys Noir was first released in 1924 and in that time frame art deco and noir originated and became inextricably linked. M. Jacques has done a fantastic job at re-creating a perfume which captures both of those influences.

jean-jacques

Jean Jacques

In those noir fragrances I derided in my opening paragraph a note like black pepper would be used because black=noir in the pedestrian mind. In Lys Noir, M. Jacques uses black pepper as an opening bit of punctuiuation.  A leading exclamation point. Black pepper can be such a vibrant note when done right and here is it exactly that. It leads into one of the best white flower hearts I’ve smelled in a long time. The lily that is in the name is there but the real stars of Lys Noir are tuberose and narcissus. These are notes which act like flappers of the time period; free spirited, assured along with a bit of attitude. M. Jacques get the balance just right here as the tuberose and the narcissus meld together like old friends. The lily tints it slightly green and heliotrope adds some high harmonics. This is where M. Jacques gets noir right. At this point Lys Noir feels very retro, it also feels like it might be right on the edge of getting out of control. There is also a narcotic quality to white flowers in high doses and that is also present. The base doesn’t disappoint as it transitions to a dark mahogany wood accord. If you’ve ever smelled a fine mahogany piece of furniture oiled and polished this is the wood accord which forms the base of Lys Noir. Some patchouli and musk round it out.

Lys Noir has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

For one of the very few times a perfume with noir in the name gets it right. Lys Noir is a brilliant perfumed time capsule which reflects the sensibilities of its time frame beautifully.

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

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Gingerbread

Ever since I was a child gingerbread has inextricably been associated with Christmas. As an adult Starbucks has only confirmed this association with my favorite coffee drink, Gingerbread Latte, only offered during the Holiday season. On Christmas morning the Colognoisseur house will be filled with the smells of gingerbread baking. It should then be no surprise that I will also be wearing a gingerbread focused perfume on Christmas Day. There aren’t a whole lot of gingerbread perfumes and I find I like all of them for the variation the perfumers brought to their interpretation. Here are my five favorite.

Every year Christopher Brosius puts out a yearly version of CB I Hate Perfume Gingerbread. Mr. Brosius has an uncanny ability to bottle real-life smells in perfume form. Gingerbread is unique because it isn’t the smell of the finished product. Instead it is the smell of the ingredients you use to make gingerbread; nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, and a particularly potent ginger. As I am whisking these ingredients together I am always amazed at how well Gingerbread the perfume captures this. The yearly variations are like the difference from batch to batch of your own gingerbread.

un crime exotique

Pierre Guillaume has a well-earned reputation as one of the best perfumers in the gourmand category. The reason he is so good is he doesn’t just serve up the focal note without adornment. It is precisely the notes he chooses to adorn his central note which turns it into something memorable. Parfumerie Generale Un Crime Exotique is his take on gingerbread and M. Guillaume chooses osmanthus as its partner. The apricot quality of the osmanthus coalesces with the ginger and the leather uplifts the sweeter bread-like qualities. There is also a bit of mate tea to give the overall effect of sitting at a table looking out on the snow holding a gingerbread man cookie over a cup of mate on a December morning.

A more formal version of tea and gingerbread comes courtesy of perfumer Christopher Sheldrake in Serge Lutens Five O’Clock au Gingembre. This is high tea in a salon decorated for the holidays. The pot of Earl Grey tea is steeping right next to cakes fresh out of the oven. The smell of the wreaths and the Christmas tree are underneath it all. M. Sheldrake has created a gingerbread perfume as fragile as a crystal tree ornament. It is so full of subtlety and nuance it catches my breath every time I wear it. Also the more I wear it the more I think this might be one of the best perfumes M. Sheldrake has done in his tenure with Uncle Serge. It is the most sentimental of the perfumes on this list which makes it perfect for the season.

When perfumer Claude Dir was asked to design Bond No. 9 Manhattan there are many smells I associate with NYC but I didn’t expect gingerbread to be one of them. M. Dir has a different view and the heart of Manhattan is a chocolate covered gingerbread paired with jasmine. This heart rises out of a spice filled opening like the ingredients all come together to form the gingerbread. A beautiful sandalwood closes it out. As with the osmanthus in Un Crime Exotique the jasmine illuminates the gingerbread with a different floral contrast.

dinner-by-bobo

One of the nice offshoots of moving is I had to pack all of the bottles of perfume and it allowed me to find a long-lost gem, Dinner by Bobo. Yes it is a silly name but perfumer Sylvie Jourdet serves up a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party of citrus, jasmine, ylang-ylang, patchouli and gingerbread. Surrounding it all is the slightly sweaty smell of the Mad Hatter rushing around as a very light application of cumin and musk over incense and vanilla remind you there is someone else at this party. As I wrote this I did a cursory look to see if this was still available. I think it is and I hope I am not setting off a chase for something impossible to find. I have been enjoying this Dinner a lot over the past two Holiday seasons.

Merry Christmas to all and if you need a gingerbread lift for Christmas in July the five perfumes above should provide that.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

‘Twas the Night Before Vintage Christmas 2014

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As has become a Holiday tradition for me I feel an unnatural urge to mangle the classic Seasonal poem by Clement C. Moore, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” For 2014 I am going for a vintage vibe. Join me for a Christmas Eve with some of the greatest perfumers ever, hauling Scent Nick around the world on Christmas Eve.

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through Poodlesville
Not a Colognoisseur was stirring, not even a mouse.
The vintage flacons were arranged by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Scent Nicholas soon would be there.

The poodles were curled all snug in their beds,
While visions of bones danced in their heads.
And Mrs. C in her bandana, and I in my fedora,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I and the poodles sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window we flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

coty xmas ad

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of crystal to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight vintage reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be Scent Nick.
More rapid than eagles his perfumers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Daltroff! now, Desprez! now, Carles and Beaux!
On, Guerlain! On, Coty! On, Almeras and Roudnitska!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As modern frags that before the vintage hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the perfumers they flew,
With the sleigh full of fragrance, and Scent Nicholas too.

caron xmas ad

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little boot.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Scent Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of perfume he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a sales associate, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like La Rose Jacqueminot, his nose like a Chypre de Coty!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a Crepe de Chine,
And the beard of his chin was as Tabac Blond as the snow .

The bulb of an atomizer he held tight in his hands,
And the sillage it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he spritzed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old perfumista,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

chanel xmas ad

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled the room with scent, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the remains of an eau de cologne.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

It is with a very full heart that I wish a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all the readers of Colognoisseur. Starting my own blog this year and having you here to share it with me has been a year-long present.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Keiko Mecheri Embruns- Crashing Surf

Every day is an opportunity to learn new things. A recent new thing I learned was co-incidentally the name of a new perfume release. When I eagerly received the new Keiko Mecheri Embruns I thought the name was a take-off on embers and so I was expecting smoke and incense. I was so very surprised to find something entirely different. It turned out the word embruns has nothing to do with smoke or fire. It actually has something to do with the ocean and the waves. Embruns is the French word for the spray which comes off the crashing of waves against the shore. It turns out to be an apt word which does match the perfume inside the bottle.

keiko mecheri

Keiko Mecheri

In the press release Embruns is described as “water for a Japanese eccentric literati”. Embruns does use an ethereal sea spray note early on but it eventually leads to a floral heart before turning into clean woods and a bit of sweet. It is a concept of austere controlled masculinity with only the sea spray allowing any entropy to decay the order.

Embruns takes that typical aquatic accord and turns it sheer and slightly opaque. In other compositions this accord would make you feel like you were standing right on the beach. In Embruns it is more like you are looking down from a cliff at a distance as the waves pummel the rock face. The wind carries the spray to you from afar. What is also here is the Japanese citron called Yuzu. It adds a citiric foundation for the sea spray to settle upon. This is a finely honed opening where getting the right balance had to be very difficult. The heart is a little easier as orris transitions from the yuzu and sea spray into a sturdy floral heart. The orris sets the stage for a very refined leather accord to join it. Leather and orris are becoming one of my favorite perfume pairings as they seem to complement each other very nicely. Here after the orris is present the leather provides a richness that turns the iris into something quite virile. The base notes go woody with sandalwood picking up on the creamy qualities of the leather and the cedar cleanly framing the orris. A pinch of vanilla makes it a tiny bit sweet, too.

Embruns has 10-12 hour longevity and modest sillage. This is one of those fragrances that you will think is gone only to have someone comment on how nice you smell.

You might think after so long Ms. Mecheri might have little new to say. Embruns is evidence to the contrary. It shows a creative effort that has done nothing but become more sophisticated over time.

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

Mark Behnke